As soon as the evil wizard had departed, the Legionnaires started to confer within their magical prison.
Invisible Kid pounded against the sphere of magical energy and shook his head sadly as his efforts produced no visible result. “I cannot place so much as a dent in this barrier!” he said.
Blok brought both fists down against the barrier and turned to face his smaller allies. “My own size and strength are equally useless against Mordru’s cage!” he said. “I fear we will only escape by less-obvious means! I fear Mysa’s jeopardy grows with every moment. Projectra seems to be completely under Mordru’s dark sway!”
“I’m not going to let my sister suffer a moment longer!” said Dream Girl. “Quislet’s power is of no use against that magical construction, but we have other tricks to try! Everyone, give me your flight rings now!”
The others obeyed Nura Nal’s rather commanding tone, and the platinum blonde from Naltor quickly placed the rings against the upper edge of the sphere that held them.
“Concentrate on your rings with all you will! Use them to exert force against the top of the prison! Dirk, Mysa, and I have all managed to move heavier objects via mental use of the rings than we ever could with only our physical strength!”
They obeyed readily and watched as the rings pressed ever tighter against the roof of their sphere, but failed to penetrate it.
“Thom, use your power against the bottom of the sphere!” said Nura. “Make it heavier, while we continue to focus on the top!”
Star Boy nodded and exerted his force against the bottom, but nothing happened, even after beads of sweat began to form on his brow. “It’s no use, Nura!” he said. “Mordru outfoxed us! I tried to bring the roof down on him when we first spotted him sitting on that throne, and nothing happened! I don’t mean that I failed. I mean that my power would not work! He knows I once buried him alive with my mass-increasing power, and he’s learned from that error. He has placed some kind of magical mental block on me! I can’t direct my powers against him!”
Dream Girl stomped her boot in frustration and then smiled as she returned the rings to the others. “You can’t direct your power against Mordru, nor can we break his sphere of containment, but the floor is a different story!” she said. “Make the floor super-heavy!”
Star Boy nodded, and slowly the stone floor broke beneath them, and they plunged downward within the unyielding sphere.
“Amazing!” said Blok. “The castle has caverns or dungeons that stretch far beneath the surface! We’re deeply underground now, but the sphere is as strong as before!”
“Keep increasing the pressure!” said Dream Girl. “The deeper we fall, the better!”
Star Boy nodded, and slowly the sphere continued to descend as its weight sunk into the ground beneath them.
“Nura, I think the sphere is fading!” said Shadow Lass. “My eyes are keener in the darkness than yours, and it looks as if the glow is getting fainter!”
Dream Girl smiled confidently and said, “Of course it is! Mordru’s power is fading as we get out of range! He still has that phobia about burial, and thus his spell does not extended beneath the surface. It could, if he would follow us down, but I’m counting on his fear to prevent that!”
Finally, Blok managed to punch through the sphere and hold it open with his massive girth, while the others slipped through. He followed, and the sphere closed behind him. “It did not fade away entirely,” said Blok. “Mordru’s power is nothing to take lightly.”
“Our powers aren’t so bad, either!” said Star Boy. “Tasmia, lead us through the caverns!”
Shadow Lass nodded and stepped forward in the stygian gloom of the cavern. “I can lead us out, but the going may be rough,” said Tasmia Mallor. “We’d better fly whenever possible.”
They flew down narrow passages as time passed, until finally, hours later, they managed to crawl out of a tight passage that led to the surface.
Star Boy, Invisible Kid, and Shadow Lass hauled Blok out as his huge form fought to fit through the opening. “My thanks, my friends!” he said as they stood again in the open air of a thick forest.
“Where are we?” said Dream Girl. “It felt as though we were crawling in that mud and dirt for hours!”
The Naltorian stepped out of the forest into a glade and turned to face her friends, when Tasmia hissed a warning to get back before she jumped forward and tackled Dream Girl around the hips. She shoved her down moments before the sound of footsteps echoed in the glade. They hid in the thick growth of plant life and old limbs that covered the floor, while the others remained in the shadows just beyond the glade. Shadow Lass generated a cloud of darkness that covered the area as she waited for the newcomers to come into view.
Soon, five figures emerged into the glade. The first man was an agile, handsome man with dark hair and the grace of a hunter or athlete. The man next to him wore heavy armor that concealed his features, even as the faint gleam of light on his metallic costume occasionally met the eyes of the watchers. The third man seemed to literally step out of thin air, so sudden was his appearance. He wore a brown tunic and hood. The fourth figure was a beautiful girl with blonde hair. She wore a tunic of blue with red slippers. Finally, a man in green brought up the rear. He wore a cone-shaped hat and carried a heavy sack across his back.
Shadow Lass gasped and stepped into their view as the others followed her lead. “By my ancestors!” she whispered. “Karate Kid, Ferro Lad, Invisible Kid I, Supergirl, and Chemical King!”
Star Boy rushed forward as the odd newcomers waited impassively on the Legionnaires. “Val, is that really you? Did you come back to our time to save Jeckie?” he asked as he approached the graceful figure who could only be the Karate Kid. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Legion of Super-Heroes: Die and Let Live, Book 2: Troubled Souls.]
“My name is Val but mine allies call me Liegeman,” replied the young man. “This is Paladin, Will O’ Wisp, Mighty Maiden, and Alchemist.”
Jacques Foccart grasped the hand of Will O’ Wisp and marveled at how much the man looked like the late Lyle Norg, the original Invisible Kid. “It is impossible!” he said. “Surely, we are victims of more illusions!”
“Sure and I be as solid as thou!” said Will O’ Wisp. “Mine enchanted cloak allows me to move unseen. Tis enough to startle many a good heart!”
Mighty Maiden smiled and said, “Do not be afraid! Our good lady told us to expect you! We are also dedicated to the defeat of the usurper!”
“Kara? Is your name Kara?” said Dream Girl.
The pretty blonde nodded and said, “I am Kara of Argo, daughter of Zorel. Although good spirits blessed me at birth with many gifts beyond those associated with maidens fair, I am a friend!”
Star Boy had exchanged greetings with the others, and he also was shocked by the sight of two men who looked so much like the late Ferro Lad and Chemical King.
“Come, we must not tarry in the Darksome Woods!” said Alchemist. “Dread Mordru’s guards patrol ere night fall!”
They followed the odd group until they came to a massive oak. Mighty Maiden casually lifted it with one hand, and the others crawled beneath it to find a tunnel that led to a hidden cave in the side of a hill.
“Well met, friends!” cried a familiar voice.
Dream Girl flew forward to embrace Mysa as the White Witch stepped forward to hug her. “Mysa, are you all right?” she asked. “What is the meaning of this?”
“Nura, I am well physically, but shaken in matter of the heart!” said Mysa. “Grimoire betrayed me! He was a pawn of Mordu’s! All along, his every attention to me was meant to disarm and distract me so that I might not become aware of Mordru’s magical manipulations! He sent you a false dream that led you all here and directed you away from his true purpose! He has claimed Projectra as his mate!”
“Mysa, we have learned as much ourselves,” said Blok. “How did you escape from them?”
“No sooner had I battled their enslaved guards to a standstill, than I was captured and tortured by Projectra,” explained Mysa. “She forced me to see how very alien and alone I am! My transformations have separated me from normal humanity! She would have won, had I not had something stronger to cling to!”
She placed one dainty hand on Blok’s chest. “Your loyalty and love anchored me when all else became deceptive! I resisted Projectra until Grimoire struck me from behind. When I awakened, I was in a cell beneath the palace. He came to me and made me a perverse offer. If I would be his mate and serve Mordru, he would free me. I refused, and he left me alone. These good friends freed me and hid me here until you came!”
“Mysa, you said I anchored you,” said Blok. “I feared you were in Grimoire’s power in more ways than one. I thought you were in love with him!”
“Oh, dear Blok! You need no illusion to be blinded!” said Mysa. “It is you alone I truly care for! Grimoire was nothing more than a flattering courtier. I liked his attention, but never felt more for him than friendship and physical attraction. Now, I feel only pity for him! He has sold himself to Mordru, and that means he has little soul to guide his course!”
“Mysa, who are these people who resemble dead Legionnaires?” asked Star Boy.
“Some truths may not be spoken at this time,” said Mysa. “You must trust that they are our allies, and the truth will out in time!”
“Mighty Maiden, you spoke of your good lady,” said Shadow Lass. “Who is she?”
Liegeman led a lovely woman out of the cavern’s rear at that moment. The heroes had already been exposed to some strange and unlikely sights, but not even the meeting with the dead or long-missing heroes from their past could compare to the sight of the mysterious good lady who ruled these odd allies.
She smiled a radiant smile beneath bright heavily lashed eyes and an upswept platinum blonde hairdo. She wore a brief blue costume with a pink cape and long white gloves.
“Well met!” she said. “I am Princess Projectra, rightful heir to the Orakills of Orando! I greet you and thank you for your help! Together, if the Orakills allow, we shall reclaim my throne from the usurper!”
Star Boy gasped and said, “What is going on here?”