Zatara's Guide to Mystical Artifacts: The Heart of Darkness
The Heart of Darkness was once an ordinary gemstone. In the 1680s, in a small port town in modern-day El Salvador, a tribe of indigenous people was slaughtered. Buried in unmarked graves, one of the natives was chosen to become the Spectre, the Spirit of Vengeance, decimating the town. The Spectre destroyed many towns around it, until the Spaniards summoned Eclipso, a being rivaling the Spectre in power but far more evil. The Spectre defeated Eclipso and encased it in the now-black colored diamond, which had come from the mines around the final battle. However, the Spectre was tired, and left the spirit of its Host before returning to the worlds beyond.
Today, the Spectre is best known for having possessed Jim Corrigan, a US Marines officer, and fighting alongside the Army for a short period of time, but the legend of the Spectre and Eclipso is still widely known among historians, a few of which having been able to connect the dots about the two incidents being connected. Today, the Heart of Darkness has bounced between owners, but is currently located at the National History Museum in Gothic Acres, a suburb of Gotham. Eclipso cannot be released from his prison within the crystal unless the Spectre, likely with a host spirit, is offered to reverse the imprisonment; however, aside from rumors that the Spectre possessed Green Lantern Hal Jordan shortly after his death, the spirit has not been seen since 1943.
Zatara Journal Entry, 20 July 2019
Today's show was another slow one. It's a lot harder to act, to say the words backwards with emotion, when there aren't many people watching you. August is always the most popular tourist season, so I am indeed hoping for a better turnout as the months go by. However, as this summer goes on I am plagued with the most remarkable feelings of dread, and I truly worry that in the future, not even a massive applauding crowd will be enough for me to enjoy performing these shows.
In particular, a few months ago I had heard that the Heart of Darkness was stolen. I told myself not to worry, as it was taken alongside several Egyptian and Indian figurines with no apparent magical power, but I still sent Spoiler to go out and investigate the theft. I still don't get why the only one of Gotham's crusaders who trusts me is a child. Batman has faced countless magical threats with the League, and yet, he still feels like I'm a crazy man with grand delusions of these spirits. And while I truly admire Stephanie's will to find out the truth--at times, indeed, she reminds me of my very own daughter--if I was forced to describe my experiences with her skills honestly, I would call them pitiful. Spoiler has not been able to find the Heart yet, but she has given me bits and pieces back--an auction in Gotham's underground, for example, that included many of the objects except for the Heart itself.
And while I know it's next to impossible for them to actually open the Heart, it still makes me fearful for everything that they are doing.
The gang that is behind the theft, Stephanie confirmed, was a small group of organized criminals known as the Greyscale Society. The area of Gotham they control is actually quite impressive for their size, but none of it comes even close to the edge of Gothic Acres. What they would be trying to do with the Museum's loot... well, I count only one object that's very valuable either monetarily or magically.
Anyway, as I write this journal entry, I have one more sparse crowd to please. I hope that there is some sort of deity I can read up on for putting on a better performance.
Zatara's Guide to Godly Offerings and Sacrifices: Zeus
Zeus is the King of the Olympian pantheon. As with many pantheon leaders--Odin and Atum-Ra, in particular, come to mind--Zeus must feel like he has a good reason to give you what you want. Many young magicians try to call to Zeus, or his Roman aspect Jupiter, to get power, and most of them don't notice any difference. In reality, unlike many other Greek gods and unlike himself from many years ago, Zeus will not simply smite you by turning you into a pig or a hare. These days, Zeus smites you over the course of many decades, and a young magician's plea to Zeus can be an old magician's undoing. Zeus is absolutely never a force that you would like to call on.
There is only one person I have ever met that has been successful in invoking Zeus and getting what he wants. Oftentimes, he does not get what he wants, but no typical signs of being smitten by Zeus have been observed of him. While I am not surprised that Zeus has taken kindly to this man, I still have several unresolved questions on how and why, but I understand that it is not my place to ask.
The man in question that I am talking about is my brother, eight years my junior, Maximilian Zatara.
Zatara Journal Entry, 23 July 2019
"Your meeting place of choice is obvious, as always," I said. "A Greek diner. I know that by your choice of deity to summon, I should not expect creativity from you, but I still am quite surprised."
My brother, Maxie, just let out a hearty laugh. "Again with your everything being a symbol mentality. I just like the chicken here. There is nothing symbolic about visiting the Hera diner for food, considering that Zeus and Hera are often at odds."
"Mhm," I sighed. "So how's Zachary doing?"
"An adorable young boy, as always," beamed Maxie. "Seems to sleep a lot more than I expected, but he's as precious as I would expect."
"And your wife is doing fine, I take it?"
Maxie's face got much less content. "Giovanni, we've been brothers for a very long time, and I know quite often when you're avoiding a topic. Whatever it is, I would love to hear your take on it."
I gulped, sighed, and began to speak. "Well, I heard from whispers on the street that you are involved with the Greyscale Society in a sort of--a sort of magical plan. One that involves the Heart of Darkness. And I know that--obviously, I've always known that--you've never been daunted by summoning or communing with a dangerous being, but the only being I know to be more dangerous than Eclipso is the being you need to capture to release him."
Maxie raised his voice. "You always, always, always seem to have a safety-first policy on magic that limits people so much that it's nauseating. Yourowndaughter has a mnemonic system for casting spells, and from what I can tell, she's deathly afraid to break it! This is what you do to people, Giovanni! Magic is a dangerous act in its very nature; you seem to simply be watering it down to the most obvious parts."
I snarled. Maxie would often get like this. "Let's forget about the risks of using Eclipso and the Spectre in any sort of plan here, then, and talk about the fact that you're summoning them for a ring of organized crime. What do you think Sionis and Warren plan to use Eclipso for? Do you care?"
"Giovanni, I'm sorry to tell you this, but not everyone has a daughter in the Justice League that they can use to base a magic show off of. Don't tell me that it wasn't your plan; the marketing team lists 'Father of Zatanna' in your posters, and you've never been the type to say your spells backwards when you're not on stage. I need to eat, to sleep, to care for Zachary, and this is my way."
I nodded, slightly in disbelief at my brother's words. "I will just say one thing more. Eclipso will cause untold destruction to the city, and if you don't get the Spectre in that crystal, he will do much greater destruction than we would imagine. If you've seen the areas in Hungary that Corrigan ravaged... you would need to have absolutely no compassion to do what you're about to do."
And that was when I stood up and walked out. I needed to do something, but I was at a loss for what I could do. I guess that this is one to be figured out.