A handsome man in a red and blue costume and cape strolled regally though the town hall of New Venice. His long, auburn hair and confident manner drew attention, as did his colorful costume. The blonde girl by his side received more than her share of stares as well. She wore a blue bikini top and cutoff shorts. His name was Arion, and she was his daughter Mara, although many knew her by the name Dolphin. She was rather proud to be with her father, since she had lived without him for so long. She smiled demurely as a rugged man approached them.
“Ya must be Eric!” said the sailor. “Aquaman said you’d be comink! He don’ts hafta worry none about this place while we’re around. I owes my freedom to him!”
Arion smiled and said, “Actually, I am known as Arion, and you are Captain Horatio Strong. Aquaman holds you in high esteem, and I appreciate your welcome. My daughter, the Lady Mara, and I feel better knowing a man such as yourself guards this city in the absence of its champion.”
“Captain Strong,” said Dolphin, “Aquaman will be away for a while, so he wanted us to check in with each other to make sure both of his homes were protected.”
Arion enjoyed the life he had found since a combination of events had brought him to this bold new era. He now served as the High Mage of the city of Poseidonis, but he relished a chance to see more of the world as well. He gazed at his lovely daughter and remembered her mother. They looked alike. The first Mara had died shortly before he had fought his last battle against his hated brother. She had not been his first love, but he had found comfort in her arms after experiencing the loss of the woman who first claimed his heart. He wondered if he could ever find love again. He was still young due to the time-warping nature of the magic that brought him here.
A stately woman entered and stared at him with the look of one who had been suddenly rescued by a fabled hero. Her face was lovely, and her hair was blonde. She wore a gown of Atlantean material. She made a formal curtsey as she drew closer.
“High Mage Arion!” she said.
He gently took her hand and lifted her up again. “It is a pleasure to find one of such beauty here,” he said. “I see you come from the City of the Golden Gate! Your clothing and your accent reveal as much. I imagine you were one of those mariners trapped within the Sargasso dimension for many eons?”
She nodded and said, “Aye, ’tis so. My name is the Lady Atlena. My nephew is Arthur of Poseidonis.”
Arion smiled warmly. “Indeed? Aquaman’s aunt? He spoke of his joy in finding you, but little did I realize how enchanting you would be! Come, walk with me, and we shall bring back the lost wonders of our era in words, at least, if not in deed!”
“Perhaps the Captain would like to show me his house and his family?” suggested Dolphin.
Captain Strong grinned a crooked smile and said, “Sure! Me wife Olive and our wee lad would like ta see you. Walks this way!”
Arion said, “We shall return anon!”
Dolphin nodded. She hoped her father had found a new friend or perhaps more.
Meanwhile, in the city called Poseidonis, the recovered King Vulko sat upon his throne and prayed that the very precarious peace that currently existed between his city and their neighboring realm would hold. The city-state of Tritonis was ruled by the aggrieved and angry Iquila, who seemed to resent everything about Vulko’s home.
Vulko turned to the young couple who sat nearby. The young man was whispering in the ears of the girl who had flowing, waist-length blonde hair. His name was Garth, and she was Ulla Påske. They also had more colorful names: he was the New Titan called Aqualad, while she was Denmark’s champion, the Mermaid.
Garth’s keen gaze narrowed as his purple eyes caught Vulko’s frown. He stood up and said, “Vulko, don’t worry so much. Arthur will return with Mera, and everything will be fine. He never loses.”
Ulla nodded. “Have faith, Vulko. Aquaman’s vow to find his missing wife and their unborn child will see him through any peril.”
Vulko sighed. “I never doubt his courage or resolve. I merely wish he was back. He may find more than even he expected if his quest takes him very far!”
Aqualad remained quiet. He had argued with his mentor for what had seemed like hours but had lost. He had told him, “Take me with you. I want to help. I returned here to learn that Mera’s twin sister Hila had been posing as her for a long time now. I learned that Black Manta attacked and killed her in the mistaken idea that she was the real Mera. Then you told me that Arion insists the real Mera is alive somewhere. Well, I may have missed the shock of experiencing those events firsthand, but I know how they must have affected you, and I want to help.”
Aquaman had frowned and replied abruptly, “Thank you. I know I may always count on you. In this case, you can help me the most by playing backup. Stay here and help Vulko and Arion. If I fail to return, then you can search for me. That’s the way I want it.”
Now Garth held his new love Ulla and hoped his mentor would triumph as he always had before.
Aquaman had quickly reached the portal that connected his world with the aquatic dimension called Xebel. He assumed that the best place to begin his quest for his missing spouse would be in her homeland.
Mera and Hila both came from Xebel, and they were royalty there, he mused. Mera gave up her throne to stay with me; that gesture has always meant the world to me. Now, for some reason, Hila apparently abducted my pregnant wife. As her twin, she could easily duplicate Mera’s looks, but she had to use my own brother Orm to become pregnant. He never even knew she was not the true Mera. Now Orm is dead, as is Hila. I may never fully have the answers I need to explain what her motives were. She died saving me. She claimed to love me and wanted the best for me. I believe that much. Now I need to find Mera and settle this once and for all!
He frowned as a school of fish blocked the entrance to the dimension of Xebel. He gave the slightest mental command for them to move, but they ignored him. He concentrated, and they scattered immediately.
Odd! They ignored me until I asserted myself. Normally all sea life responds to my merest suggestion. Last time my fish rebelled it was because of the control of a fake Neptune. Of course, both the Marine Marauder and V’lana have used them against me before, too, he thought as he passed through the gleaming portal.
He knew Xebel lacked any form of aquatic life. The native humans lived alone in that watery world. He did not notice a sparkling wraith follow him through the portal. This ghostly figure had been haunting Aquaman’s home for some time now. He had been too absorbed in the tragedy and strife around him to even notice the faint and insubstantial form that hovered like a specter. This would change very soon.