Wonder Woman departed in her invisible plane and smiled as the device Paula had given her flared slightly. “It now registers in South America! Queen Mourn and Myrmidon must be there, as Sofia deduced,” she noted.
Nubia sighed as she zoomed closer to the lush rain forest below. “Beautiful! It is a paradise of sorts in its own way! I must hurry if I am to reach the portal before it closes. My detector showed no sign of it in and of itself. It is only Mourn’s power that shows up on Paula’s device.” She soared through a faintly gleaming field of energy in which the barest outlines of a door or portal could still occasionally be seen in the sunlight.
She emerged over a valley with striking buildings whose design was not that different from the style found on Paradise Island. Warrior women unmistakably from the Amazon race, which she knew to be led by the warrior queen named Atalanta, stood assembled before the two foes she had been seeking. (*) Myrmidon stood silently by while Mourn spoke in animated tones, and a powerfully built woman nodded in agreement.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Amazons,” Wonder Woman #317 (July, 1984).]
“Sister Amazons, your own Queen Atalanta stands in agreement with me!” said Mourn. “She agrees with my demand that you follow me as we reclaim Paradise Island from the weak Hippolyta!”
A brunette spoke up hesitantly. She and the other members of Atalanta’s tribe seemed clearly confused at their possessed ruler’s behavior. “But surely in the cosmic crisis we made peace with that group. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder together against the shadow demons! (*) All enmity of the past has been forgiven!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Of Gods and Men,” Wonder Woman #329 (February, 1986).]
Atlanta, holding the mystical Sword of Artemis, was clearly under the spirit’s power and thus ordered her tribe to obey Mourn’s commands. “I will not accept such rebellion!” she cried.
Nubia darted forward and said, “Mourn, this ends here! I will thwart your schemes no matter where you hide! I am the one, true Wonder Woman, and you’ll find no impostor to help you best me!”
Mourn sneered coldly. “You are persistent. Still, all of your powers availed you naught when we last fought.”
The taller woman beside her clutched the Sword of Artemis, and she stepped forward menacingly. “I challenge you for the right to wear that costume and use that title!” she shouted. “I was the woman who first championed Amazon ideals, and I shall reclaim my rightful role. I now have an army of my own!”
The other Amazons cheered and pounded their fists against their shields in support of their possessed ruler, for it was their Queen Atalanta who now carried the Sword and spirit of Artemis. “So be it!” said Mourn. “I see no reason for you not to humiliate Hippolyta’s stripling. Father Ares wants her, but he can take her just as well after you humble her.”
Wonder Woman stood before them with her hands on her hips, her every movement displaying her confidence and ability. “You have my friends, or your mistress the Dark Commander does. I will free them, and you will lead me to where she holds them. This is a promise!”
Atalanta laughed, and the weird, unearthly voice of Artemis echoed through the warrior woman. “Bold words. Know this — my people departed because your Hippolyta was unwilling to allow any association with men. Her broken heart caused her to separate all Amazons from men. That was why we journeyed here eons ago!”
Nubia scowled. “That may be why this tribe came here, but you are not truly their Queen Atalanta. You merely wear her possessed body. You are a vengeful ghost who betrayed Hippolyta and all of your sisters by falling under the corruption of evil Mars! You were to be a champion, but never of his evil ways. You turned against Athena, and she destroyed your mortal body!”
The gathered South American Amazons whispered uneasily. Clearly, they had accepted their ruler’s demands and tolerated her new associates, but they knew her conduct was odd, to say the least.
Before they could react, Atalanta was attacking Wonder Woman with the very sword that now ruled her life. “You do move as Hermes himself. Still, you lack two things. I am driven like one Fury ridden by hatred and a desire to regain what should ever have been mine!”
Wonder Woman raised her own bracelets and caught the Sword of Artemis on them. She punched out suddenly and knocked Atalanta backward. “The bracelets resist your magic sword! I have other ways to beat you, too!” she said readily. Catching her foe’s arm, she wrestled furiously as they struggled back and forth before the crowd of Amazons. She dropped suddenly to the ground and lifted with her legs until she had flipped Atalanta over her head. She lashed out suddenly with her lasso and said, “Drop the sword, by the power of Aphrodite!”
Atalanta gasped as if suffering from some great pain as two powerful wills waged war for her body and soul, but in the end no spirit could match the power of the truth as created by the goddess of love. Atalanta released the Sword of Artemis and groaned in relief. “By Hera!” she cried. “I thought myself lost forever! Sisters, I order you to take those two fiends into custody!”
The women rushed forward to surround Mourn and Myrmidon. The man jumped forward to protect his lover as the fierce warrior women charged them from all sides. “Get behind me!” he said. “I won’t let them hurt you!”
Mourn touched his shoulders and smiled. “Fear not. While I had hoped to claim leadership of this tribe through use of Atalanta, I may still gain their respect by revealing my heritage!”
“You are a renegade Amazon who never made the journey to Paradise Island eons ago!” said Wonder Woman. “You sold yourself to Mars in exchange for youth!”
Mourn laughed a silvery laugh as she looked at her enemies with a fearless expression. “Nay, child! You do not know me yet? I fear the wisdom of Athena is lacking in you! Your mother Hippolyta had two sisters. Antiope fell in love with one of the males who accompanied Hercules when he took the golden girdle from Hippolyta. She followed Theseus and later died when he proved unfaithful to her. However, Hippolyta’s youngest sister was called Penthesilea. That, in ancient Greek, is roughly translated She Who Brings Mourning.
“She did accompany Hippolyta to Paradise Island but later departed to fight in the Trojan War. In one such battle, she fell at the hands of the invincible Achilles. He injured her but took pity upon her and tended to her. She recovered and later bore his child. Achilles himself died before the end of that epic war. Penthesilea raised their child and died of old age. However, her child had children and so on until I was born! I am Penthesilea’s heir and namesake. Queen Mourn is but a battle name. You and I are cousins of a sort! I also inherited the legendary invulnerability of great Achilles, and I carry within me a hatred for Hippolyta, who refused to send other Amazons to fight with my ancestor, her sister, in that struggle. I was visited by Father Ares who made me strong and taught me all I know! I serve him and the Dark Commander, and our goal is your defeat!”
“Though you be of blood royal, you will not sway us,” said Atalanta. “We made peace with Hippolyta’s tribe in the crisis.”
“By Hera, you are fueled by a misguided hatred that was misplaced eons ago!” said Nubia. “My mother sought only to protect her sister. She denied her permission to leave the isle. Penthesilea defied her to do so! Athena herself would not let Hippolyta follow or send help!”
Mourn, the modern-day Penthesilea, said, “Father Ares tells a different tale. I need no honeyed words from the likes of you!”
Myrmidon removed his helmet to reveal his handsome and intelligent features. “My Lady, I think her words have the ring of truth to them. Let us reason together and find the answers we need. I have ever distrusted Mars. My teachers made me wary of him.”
The red orb around Mourn’s neck flashed for a moment before Nubia sliced it in half with a toss of her tiara. As the gemstone shattered, Myrmidon clutched his head in both hands and said, “By Zeus! I feel as though my mind is clear for the first time in ages! Mourn, you bewitched me with that cursed gem! I was made to love you in spite of how your evil actions repelled me!”
“The Orb of Eros made you mine,” said Mourn. “It is true. Still, if you will join our cause, then all shall be well.”
Myrmidon shook his head and said, “I remember my youth and my training at the hoofs of noble Chiron, but I retain no sense of self. My name and my origin escape me, and I will take no action until I learn the truth.”
“You’ve lost another pawn,” said Nubia. “Run to Ares, or Mars, if you will. Tell him that I am coming for him next!”
“Defy me if you dare, but I shall not hear such words against my patron!” said Mourn.
Wonder Woman grabbed her by her red curls and hurled her across the shore until they stumbled into the river. She kicked her in the stomach and then dunked her head beneath the rushing waters. She straddled her fallen form and held her down. “Your ancestor Achilles was truly invulnerable, as are you,” she said. “Still, like that ancient hero, you also need to breathe! Let us see how much good it does you to be able to withstand my blows when you lack the air to breathe!” She held the struggling woman down and finally pulled her up out of the river and cast her on the shore.
“Atalanta, I know that cursed blade was behind your earlier warlike actions,” said Nubia. “I ask you to order your tribe to stand ready for any future schemes by my kinswoman, here, or Mars himself.”
“I am humbled by the manner in which she was able to possess me,” said Atalanta. “I vow that my tribe and I will be on guard and will ever be allies to your fair mother.”
“If I wrap my lasso around the sword, I may handle it without harm,” explained Nubia. “I shall take it and Penthesilea back to Paradise Island, where I hope to get the location of my captive friends and finally best the Dark Commander they serve.” She turned to the man called Myrmidon and said, “What of you? What do you plan on doing?”
He stepped forward, and with surprising sensitivity and intellect, the powerful young man said, “I feel as if I am destined to oppose Mars in all his schemes. If I was the kind of man who would have willingly served the war god, then Mourn would not have required a magical talisman to enslave me. I would accompany you and help you, at least until I learn more about myself.”
“I can tell you this much,” said Nubia. “You are somehow connected to the legendary Hercules.”
“I was raised near Mount Olympus and taught by the centaur Chiron,” he replied. “He also instructed Hercules, Theseus, and other heroes of the past. He never could tell me my origin. Myrmidon was just what you might call a name of affection or respect. My true name was not known to anyone. I was merely left with him, like many a youth. Mourn found me when I took a journey away from my home, and her gem must have robbed me of both discernment and will.”
“Come with me,” said Wonder Woman. “On Science Island we may learn more.”
Elsewhere, in the Dark Commander’s base, the armored woman watched all that occurred via a magical view-screen. She turned to the hulking form of the red-bearded Mars and raised her helmet-covered head. “Father, Nubia has bested Penthesilea, freed Myrmidon, and wrested the Sword of Artemis away from the Constantinos woman. Atalanta’s Amazons are no longer willing to invade Hippolyta’s isle. Yet all of our plans are going perfectly.”
Mars roared with laughter; the sound was like brittle bones snapping. “Truly, you are the daughter of my heart! You sense my true scheme down to the last nuance. While I did want Penthesilea’s dream of uniting the Amazon nations under my control to succeed, and something about her mighty lover Myrmidon made me eager to see him serve our cause, I truly wanted nothing more than to see Nubia return to my ways. With every battle, with the peril facing her friends and family growing, with every moment, she becomes more violent! Did you witness her treatment of Sofia Constantinos? Did you see her nearly choke the life out of Penthesilea? It warms my very heart to witness how my prize pupil has begun to resume the bloody ways that made her infamous.”
“You have done a wonderful job in leading her into one peril after another and exerting an unseen influence upon her very psyche,” said the Dark Commander. “Still, you must also credit my careful machinations, since it was entirely through my efforts that we have achieved so much.”