Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess who possessed grace in form and purity of heart. She lived in harmony with her father’s subjects, and she enjoyed a life of security and comfort. She existed in a casual acceptance of unchanging bliss, with only an occasional pang caused by the bittersweet memory of a lost love. Then, suddenly and without warning, the lovely young woman found her brightly illuminated life shadowed by sorrow and change. In the midst of the life-altering events, which swept over her like a terrible and unyielding wave, she found herself questioning not just what would become of her and of her father’s land, but why such a disaster had occurred.
She paced back and forth within the narrow confines of a cell. She knew each small detail of the prison, as she had been a captive for a long time. Indeed, she almost drew comfort from the texture of the worn bricks against her cheek or the stiffness of the straw that she used as her only available resting place. She paced and she remembered the life she had once enjoyed, or, perhaps more accurately, she recalled the life she had taken for granted.
Sighing, she sat down on the floor. If she heard the small sounds of a mouse in the shadowy corners of the cell or felt the dampness that clung to her now dirty and tattered gown, she gave no indication. Her beauty was intact, even though her hair now fell around her delicate features in disarray, and the only remaining curl lacked the vibrancy and style of the artificially created ones she had previously favored.
She laughed and considered the irony that she no longer even thought about such cosmetic changes. A girl who once would have scorned the idea of sitting on a wet floor or wearing the same gown more than once now accepted such trivialities of the body as mere commonplace circumstances beyond her control. She could not control her desires or her mind as easily. She remembered a gentle lover, and she wished for his return. She recalled the way he had rescued her world once before, and she pined for him again and again.
Finally, she remembered the words. She recalled the ancient, arcane words handed down from one wise woman to another for eons. She had heard them before in her childhood, and she had listened intently. She had been lulled to sleep by the sweetly moving sibilance of those magical phrases, and now, in some way beyond her understanding, she remembered them again.
“The magic words came back to me!” she said. “I must not lose them again! Praise Ramitar! I have the magic words again!”
She repeated them hurriedly, as if she feared forgetting them once more. Even as she spoke with an ever-greater urgency, the princess felt a tingling sensation that gave her hope and increased her haste.
Slowly, her blue eyes widened as the worn brick wall began to fade away from view. In truth, she knew that her body was still entrapped within the prison cell, but her essence was free. She could see the world she had once thought of as being so very secure and stable start to fade away, to be replaced by a more exotic world. “It is Earth — it is his home! How I have dreamed of seeing it and him again! I never knew those old words would return to my memory, but I will never doubt the mercy of fate again!”
She gazed at Metropolis, the sprawling city that dominated much that was Earth. She saw it from her cell, and she saw the gleaming structure that served as her lost love’s castle. “His Legion knights are based within yon palace!” she muttered. “I will appear to him.”
However, the brick wall appeared again to block out her vision, and with one fervent scream of despair, the princess sank to her knees on the wet floor and wept copious tears. The spell had failed, and her hero was still beyond her reach.
Her captor watched all of this from nearby, and as he caressed his Crystal of Seeing, he laughed. “Tis not yet time, little one!” said the regal figure who watched and relished her pain. “It shall come ere long, and you will be reunited with your changeling lover, for all the good his prowess will do you!”
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who possessed a keen courage and a strong will. She had known early sorrow for the loss of her mother in her infancy. She had known fear and pain as her grandmother instructed her in the lost arts and had never failed to display her own abiding dislike for the girl. She had endured the insults and the scorn. She had grown into a proud and regal young woman with a desire to serve her subjects and protect her world.
She had been brave enough to take the gifts she had been given and the ways of her ancient world with her into space itself. She had departed from a world with traditions based upon eons of practice and privilege for a world of change and excitement. The beautiful girl had left behind splendid gowns of glimmer silk for costumes designed for daring deeds and stirring hearts. She had joined her young champions, who were much like her sire’s knights in terms of their courage and loyalty.
She smiled sadly as she recalled the peers with whom she had first embarked upon her career as a member of the heroic law-enforcement team called the Legion of Super-Heroes. She had been one of four new additions to the fabled team. Princess Projectra, Karate Kid, Ferro Lad, and Nemesis Kid had joined at the same time. (*) She sighed and shook her head, sending a mass of elegantly curled ringlets cascading around her neck. She knew that the worlds in the so-called United Planets worshipped science and technology and scorned the magic that ran through her quickening blood and governed her lost home of Orando. Still, when she remembered the other three recruits who had departed from their own homes in order to join the Legion when she became a member, the princess called Projectra wondered if a grimly mocking fate had not sealed their destinies with a curse.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “One of Us Is a Traitor,” Adventure Comics #346 (July, 1966).]
Poor Andrew Nolan — Ferro Lad! He was a knight in metal armor with a heart as brave as that of any knight of old. He did what any warrior would gladly do. He gave his life’s blood for his liege or for the ideas his peers embraced! His creed was that of selfless courage. He died with honor, but he died too young!
She walked down the halls of Legion Headquarters in Metropolis on the planet Earth, and for a few moments she allowed the illusion with which she cloaked her lovely form to fade completely. While alone, the solitary Projectra could be herself in appearance and in manner. However, for most of her time these days she hid her platinum blonde hair and noble, if stubborn features behind darker blonde locks and a mask. She had returned to the Legion as Sensor Girl as part of the penance she had been ordered to perform after her role as a Legionnaire brought evil to Orando, changing her life forever.
Projectra stared up at a statue of Karate Kid, alias Val Armorr. The late hero had been her true love. He had joined the team at the same time she had. He had won her love, and they had married. She had known happiness that comforted her after the death of her own father. The princess had become a queen, but her rule was ended abruptly when the Legion of Super-Villains came to Orando.
They were led by the final person to join the Legion of Super-Heroes when she, Val, and Andrew had become members. The brilliant alchemist Hart Druiter, known as Nemesis Kid, had only joined the heroic Legion in order to act as a spy for the Khunds. He had then joined the evil Legion of Super-Villains in order to avenge his past defeats upon Karate Kid and Projectra. Nemesis Kid had almost killed her beloved Val before the noble hero had given his life in order to destroy one of the weapons the evil group planned to use against Orando. Queen Projectra had executed Nemesis Kid in her capacity as queen, and thus had ended the unlucky destinies of her three fellow applicants from long before. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Lest Villainy Triumph,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #4 (November, 1984) and “An Eye for an Eye, a Villain for a Hero,” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #5 (December, 1984).]
She turned to see the rocky figure of Blok, the Legion’s new deputy leader, enter the room. “I am sorry,” he said. “I did not mean to intrude.”
Projectra raised her eyes and stared at him briefly before saying, “You know that I was fully aware of your presence before you ever spoke. Still, your gracious manner is appreciated! You have mastered far more of the qualities you associate with humans than you realize. Blok, I am glad to see you.”
“May I help you in some manner?” asked Blok.
“As acting leader while Star Boy is away, you may grant me leave,” said Sensor Girl. “I wish to take a personal journey. I wish to return home for a time.”
Blok frowned and said, “Of course you may take leave. Will you be resuming your former role as queen of Orando?”
“Forgive the irony coming from one who can penetrate any illusion, but that remains to be seen!” said Sensor Girl. Smiling briefly, she added, “Farewell, Blok. I will see you anon!” She walked forward a few steps and then vanished, as if she had stepped into another world. In truth, she had done exactly that.
Projectra had not truly vanished into thin air. She had merely used her power to create illusions to make it appear as though she had done so. She had actually returned to her own private room within Legion Headquarters, and now she sat in front of a raging fire and chanted arcane words of power.
Slowly, the fire grew larger and crackled with intensity until a portal formed within the dancing flames, expanding until it floated out of the fire and hovered before Projectra. She stood up and stepped resolutely through the portal, then emerged in a massive palace of ancient stone.
She stood proudly and defiantly before a group of five imposing figures. They were cloaked and robed in purple, and they in turn stood before an ornate throne of burnished metal. Far above them loomed a carving that depicted the stern features of Roland, the ancient first high king of Orando. He stared down at the woman who carried his blood, and his somber features matched the tone of the high regent.
“Greetings, Projectra, she who was queen!” said the old man in purple. “We welcome you here! The Council of Regents and the Orakills rejoice to see you well!” Holding out a wooden staff, he gestured to indicate that Projectra should come forward.
She bowed to the floor, then stood up and said, “I have returned because I have completed the penance my past mistakes earned for me. I have reclaimed a heroine’s life, but without the title and power that is my birthright! I have returned now to accept your forgiveness and to grant you mine in return! As you know, I used the devices brought here by the Legion of Super-Villains to shunt our home into a dimension not of its origin. It has rested here safely since then, and it is my wish that it remains here. I tell you that immediately, so there will be no error.”
The old man frowned. “We have indeed followed your progress, and as Sensor Girl of humble or unknown birth, you did achieve the status of heroine once more. We welcome you back, and we are proud to announce that if you so desire it, the throne of your revered ancestors is yours once more.”
Projectra’s eyes blazed with emotion, and she pointed at him in a dramatic and defiant manner. “I have done my penance, and the throne is mine by right!” she said in a stately tone. “Do not mistake a desire to atone for what the Legion of Super-Villains did here with any suggestion that Queen Projectra needs your approval to rule as is her right by blood!”
The Council of Regents whispered among themselves, and then the old man bowed low. “It is as you say, milady! All hail Her Majesty, Queen Projectra!” he cried.
She accepted their homage and waited for a moment before she replied. “I thank you for your services to the throne, but I am not ready at this time to resume the ruling of Orando. I have suffered much, and I need time to come to terms with loss and regret. I have also come to view the trappings of royalty to be much less valuable in the scheme of things than ever I did before. With the power to see through illusions, I have also realized how hollow much I once valued truly is! Thus, I order you all to continue to act on my behalf until I choose to return. Rest assured that someday Queen Projectra will return and rule once again!”
The only female on the Council of Regents stepped forward and revealed scowling features etched with malice and envy. “Girl, you are still the spoiled, pretty plaything that so delighted your father Voxv!” she hissed. “Your whims will only lead us all to ruin! I regret that ever I wasted my time teaching you the ancient arts!”
“Hagga, you are my poor late mother’s mother,” said Projectra. “You were my teacher, but only because father demanded that you instruct me in the magic arts of illusion. You ever preferred my cousin, and that old spite still seethes within you. Still, ties of blood will not give you the right to speak so freely to she who is your queen. Hold your tongue. Mourn the loved ones we have both lost. Learn to let go of the seeds of hatred that are nurtured in your darkening soul.”
Projectra turned away and vanished through magical flames once more. She was a queen once more, but she was not ready to be more than a heroine at this time.
Hagga waited silently until the huge audience chamber no longer echoed with the clank of boots on stone. She gazed around the room and smiled as a man glared out from the shadows. “She did not detect you?” asked Hagga.
“Have you lost your wits, old crone?” he said. “Her powers can never part the veil of dark magic that I have cloaked myself within! Still, you have done well. As you predicted, your grandchild has departed for her earthly home without resuming her rule. Soon, I will be strong enough again to prevent her from ever returning here again. For now, all I can do is rest here and gather my depleted powers. Much of my terrible might has returned through the actions of a pupil I have yet to meet! Such are the vagaries of time! I shall soon have the energy I need to make this world my new dominion!”
He laughed madly, and as a storm raged beyond the castle walls, even the old witch called Hagga shivered in fear.