Back on Earth within the headquarters of the Legion of Super-Heroes, a young man brooded in deep thought. He had yellow skin, pointed ears, and small antennae that marked him as a native of the planet Durla. Durla was a world shrouded in mystery and was strictly quarantined by the United Planets simply because the clans of Durlans lived by a savage code of tribal warfare and possessed the amazing power of altering their shapes. Paranoia motivated many worlds within the U.P. to look on Durlans as monsters who could hide themselves among any number of races and work for secret and diabolical goals all their own.
Reep Daggle, alias Chameleon Boy of the Legion, had first joined the team and departed from his harsh post-nuclear home in order to try to create a more positive public image of Durlans by showing that a Durlan could be a hero and could be trusted. Still, for all of his accomplishments, including a distinguished service record and permanent leadership of the team’s special Espionage Squad, Reep felt as if he had not succeeded in his goal.
Chameleon Boy was a capable hero, but he was a sensitive and shy individual, and he still retained some of his original reticence, even though he had matured over the years. He had been hurt by the prejudice other people often expressed for Durlans, and he had never truly forgotten that early pain.
A pretty girl with dark hair decorated by white hair bands entered the room and stopped as she noticed her teammate’s pensive manner. “Reep, cheer up! The polymer shield isn’t falling!” she said as she greeted him.
Smiling slowly, he nodded. “Good to hear, Tinya! Of course, if it did, you could just turn intangible!”
Phantom Girl laughed and said, “Well, that’s true, but my real point was that you should cheer up! What’s wrong? Do you miss R.J. Brande?”
She referred to the star-making billionaire who sponsored the Legion. Although a disease had trapped him in the form of an elderly Earth man, he was, in truth, a Durlan. To make the situation even more complicated, years after the founding of the team, Reep learned that Brande was, in fact, his true father. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Revelation,” Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #3 (March, 1981).]
“Of course I do miss him,” he said. “It’s a shame that his wanderlust drove him away when it did. He and I had managed to make up for lost time in many ways. We were becoming friends. Still, I respect his desire to experience a new life. I hope he’s doing fine.”
Phantom Girl, alias Tinya Wazzo, sat down beside Chameleon Boy and smiled radiantly. “I’m sure he is doing wonderfully well! With his keen mind and his… what did they call it — pluck? He could conquer a universe given enough time!” She laughed.
Cham nodded. “You’re right. I suppose I was indulging in a bit of self-pity. Sometimes, in spite of being a part of the team, I feel a bit isolated!”
Tinya placed one hand on his arm and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “I’m sorry. Being able to go home to my own planet so easily makes it hard for me to realize what living away from your home planet must be like for so many of you! Just remember that we’re all like a family now! Plus, you could always talk to Yera! She and Gim are living nearby, you know.”
Cham shook his head. “I know Yera was just an actress who was duped into posing as our own Shrinking Violet, but she did a lot of damage to the work I’ve done over the years to make the rest of the team think of Durlans as more than scheming shape-shifters from some old holo flick! Plus, even though she married Gim Allon, she comes from another tribe, and we both respect each other’s distance.”
Before he could continue speaking, a beautiful woman materialized before their eyes. “Elwinda!” he gasped as he recognized the Nadirian princess he had once fallen in love with during a mission to her other-dimensional realm.
She gazed at him with adoring eyes and pleaded for his help. “Reep, my love! I am in peril most dire! I have been imprisoned by enemies who serve some dark power! Through the kindness of the Fates, I have managed to find the magic to project this message to you from my cell! Come to me, my hero!” she begged before fading out of sight.
“Elwinda! Elwinda!” he cried.
“She’s gone!” said Tinya. “Forgive the irony of me saying so, but it’s like she was a ghost!”
“She was a magical projection,” he said slowly. “We have to rescue her. For years I tried to find the right kind of magic to get back to Nadir. You see, I was plucked from her other-dimensional home years ago after a case, and I’ve never been able to get back. (*) Much like Orando, Nadir lies behind some dimensional veil that we can’t penetrate!”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Execution of Chameleon Boy,” Adventure Comics #376 (January, 1969).]
“If she was able to send her message here, then perhaps something has changed!” said Tinya. “Mysa might be able to get us there!”
“Us?” said Cham. “This is personal. It really isn’t Legion business!”
“We’re friends,” insisted Phantom Girl. “We’re both on the Espionage Squad. Where you go, we’ll all go. Invisible Kid is away, and so is Sensor Girl, but Violet is working out in the gym. Let me get her and Mysa the White Witch. We can try to get to Nadir and help your lady friend!”
Cham nodded appreciatively. “Thanks, Tinya. That means a lot to me!”
Shortly thereafter, Chameleon Boy, Phantom Girl, Shrinking Violet, and the White Witch assembled in the mission monitor room, where the graceful beauty named Mysa Nal began to chant a spell of her own.
Shrinking Violet waited expectantly, eager for the mission to start. She had developed from a more demure “Shy Vi” into a confident young woman. She had few concerns, since she was secure now in her own abilities of mind and body. She combined a detective’s instincts with the body of an athlete.
She smiled slightly as she noticed Phantom Girl’s perpetual cheerfulness. They had been teammates for years, and she marveled at how little Tinya had changed over the years. She’s still the perpetual moopsball cheerleader! she thought. I’m shocked she hasn’t killed Jo Nah through her terminal perkiness by now!
The White Witch sighed deeply as her energies enveloped them. In moments they stood before a rocky hill, where an ancient castle rested ominously above.
“You did it!” cried Chameleon Boy. “We’ve breached the mystical barrier! We’re on Nadir!”
The White Witch nodded and said, “We are, indeed, but I must warn you all that my efforts to bring us here succeeded for reasons beyond my own awareness. I felt as if we were being helped from this side as well. If that had not been the case, I could have brought you back here to your princess before!”
“Elwinda must have helped in some way,” said Chameleon Boy.
“This could be a trap, Cham,” said Shrinking Violet. “I don’t want to dash your hopes with too much cynicism, but maybe the same enemy that imprisoned Elwinda wanted you to come here so he could get revenge on you, too. Didn’t you make an enemy here before?”
“Right,” said Cham. “A real creep who called himself the Black Vassal fought me last time I was here. He’d like to pay me back for his past defeat, but he had no magical resources.”
The White Witch placed one slender hand on his shoulder. “Reep, I sensed a darker aura to the message or sending of Elwinda that you saw before,” she said. “Such dark arts linger for a time.”
“Well, we’ve certainly been lured into traps before, but we’ve always come out on top,” said Phantom Girl. “Mysa, you aren’t a full-time member of our Espionage Squad, or you’d know we do a great job in such situations!”
“I have no doubts about your skills,” said the White Witch. “I merely sense that all is not as it seems. In any world so dominated by magic as Nadir is, anything may happen!”
Chameleon Boy changed forms and became a small bird. “Let’s scout around the castle and see what we can learn. Coming, Vi?” Shrinking Violet smiled and shrank down to a tiny scale before climbing atop his feathered form. “Tinya, you and Mysa sit tight while we look around,” said Cham. “Keep in touch via the flight rings.”
As he soared across the rugged terrain, Chameleon Boy glanced around him and tried to detect any obvious changes. “The place looks the same as it did before,” he said. “One thing I can attest to is that the world was more of a Dark Ages or pre-technological society before, but lacked any obvious magical characteristics. Mysa says the place now reeks of magic, and that may explain what peril Elwinda is currently in.”
Shrinking Violet, alias Salu Digby, held on to his feathers and enjoyed the ride even as her keen mind considered the possibilities. Cham’s a great Squad leader, but he’s also lovesick over Elwinda, she thought. I hope his thinking has not been clouded. We’re strangers on one strange world, and we can’t be too careful!
Chameleon Boy swooped inside an open window in his bird form and hid in the shadows of the rafters that lined the high roofs. Armored figures stood sentry duty along the halls, and an odd silence permeated the area.
“This certainly looks like a land in danger,” whispered Violet. “Notice how tight the security is? Intruders who lacked our special skills would be spotted before they had taken two paces!”
“That ornate chamber directly ahead is the royal throne room,” said Cham. “That crest on the door is the royal seal.”
Changing into the form of an insect, he slipped beneath the closed doors as Vi followed his example and reduced her own size until she could fly beneath the doors as well. They emerged within a splendid chamber whose pageantry made even Salu gasp in surprise.
I was always a mystery fan and never imagined myself as a fantasy princess, but the sheer grandeur of this place makes me feel a bit awed as well! she thought. Projectra’s place looked like a bad holo-vid compared to Nadir!
She saw an elderly man slumped on a grand throne. His eyes were dark and deep set within his furrowed brow. He stared vacantly into space as his court tried in vain to amuse him. Jugglers and dances and tumblers and jesters performed with a frantic energy, but he barely glanced up at their antics. King Artros of Nadir was clearly a monarch with a lot on his mind.
“That’s King Artros?” confirmed Vi. “He is Elwinda’s father and the ruler of the place, right?”
“Right,” said Cham. “He looks as if he has aged greatly since I last saw him.”
A burly knight with a red beard approached the throne and dropped to one knee. “Sire, I beg thee! Grant me the boon of questing for Princess Elwinda! I will give my life to rescue her from the foul monsters who took her from hearth and home!”
“Sir Fellas, your courage inspires me, but I will not risk yet another good man in such a perilous quest,” said King Artros. “My child is lost to me, and thus my grief is all-pervading!”
Chameleon Boy switched to his normal form, and the court gasped as he seemed to appear before them from out of thin air. “King Artros, I am Chameleon Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes!” he cried. “I have returned at last to Nadir after many futile attempts to do so in the past. Elwinda appeared to me in a vision, and I have come to rescue her!”
Vi nodded approvingly. Cham is a master at adapting his manner to his surroundings. He sounds like a knight, as is appropriate for this culture. She remained concealed below and watched from her hiding place.
“Tis the Changeling Knight!” cried King Artros as he stared at Cham in amazement.
“Sire, I know your daughter is in danger. Tell me more, and I will do all I can to save her!” said Cham with a sweeping bow.
Sir Fellas, the burly, red-haired warrior scowled and said, “King Artros, this creature has the look of the Faerie! Surely he is their spawn and thus a foe!” He drew a blade and rushed at Chameleon Boy, who shifted form and allowed the blade to clatter to the floor after striking the armored hide of the Rimborian rhinobore he had become.
The Legionnaire returned to normal and shoved the heavily armored knight backward. Sir Fellas cried out in anger and fell to the ground. Chameleon Boy placed one foot on the fallen knight and pinned him to the ground. “I have bested this knight,” he said. “Allow me to use my powers to save Elwinda!” Sir Fellas scowled again and stomped away in anger.
A young, handsome man with long auburn hair and a short beard stepped out of the crowd and laughed approvingly. “Well done, sir! King Artros, I think we may trust this astounding guest. He did save the kingdom before, when I was away at school. He has no aura of the dark arts.” He extended a hand and clasped Cham’s arm warmly.
“Well met, Sir Changeling! I am Grimoire, the nephew to King Artros and a man who relished seeing Fellas fall! His ego has long required chambers of its own in order to contain its mass!”
Chameleon Boy smiled and said, “Thank you, Grimoire! I do want nothing more than to help. I care for the Princess Elwinda greatly!”
“That is as may be,” replied the king, “but your love for her will remain a mere phantasm for a summer day unless you brave the Glade and bring her safely home!”
“The Glade?” said Chameleon Boy. “She is being held within some type of forest? Exactly who abducted her?”
Grimoire shook his head and said, “Not who, my new friend — what abducted her is a better question. You see, our world once contained many magical creatures. They vanished as man expanded his dominion. Recently, it would appear as if the old magic had returned, or at least it now fights to retain a fragile grasp ‘pon this world. The Glade is an ancient place full of natural wonders and many dark secrets. It is said that the Glade is the last resting spot for all the magic that once filled Nadir. None of our knights ever ventured forth to that dread spot until Elwinda vanished. I have devoted my time to studying magic or wizardry, yet I have much to learn. I am a novice. I sense that Elwinda is being held within the Glade. I have urged my good uncle to stop sending warriors there, since none of them ever return. I have pleaded with him to seek some accord with the changelings, fairies, goblins, and other creatures who have apparently made the Glade their home.”
“We have long considered Nadir to be our world!” said King Artros. “We have viewed it as being human or mortal territory. Facing the fact that legendary beings from out of infant tales exist in truth is not easy. Elwinda’s old nurse dabbled in such magic, but she was viewed to be nothing more than a good-natured eccentric. Now she looks to be far wiser than ever I assumed. I wish she still lived to offer me help. Grimoire’s studies are at an early stage, and we frankly need your aid most desperately!”
“I will go to this Glade if someone will direct me!” vowed Chameleon Boy.
Grimoire bowed low and said, “Tis my honor to do so! Let me show you that dread place.”
Shrinking Violet grimaced as she watched the exchange. Grimoire reeks of perfume, she thought. I think he would be more comfortable in a salon than in a forest. I also think Cham is being caught up in the pageantry. I’m glad he asked me to stay in concealment. Tinya, Mysa, and I may need to act as his back-up forces should something go wrong!
King Artros stood up and gestured with one sweeping movement of his arm. “So be it! Rescue my child, and you may wed her!” he cried. As he spread his arms, the king’s cloak parted to reveal his armored chest and a gleaming amulet that hung from his neck.
“Hidden armor,” noted Vi. “The king really is in fear of his life, even in the middle of a castle and armored guards! Or is he? Something makes me distrust everything I see!”