At that moment, Paula entered and said, “Pardon me. I have activated the tracking device, and it has indeed located a source of Olympian magic. It is located on a spot with a significant role in the history of the Amazon nation. It comes from Themiscyra itself!”
Hippolyta frowned. “By Aphrodite’s girdle! This must be the one you seek. That was our ancient home!”
“I’ve summoned my robot plane already,” said Wonder Woman. “Wish me well, for I fight to save my friends to spite dread Mars himself!” Nubia leaped into the air and swung herself upward into the hovering, unseen plane.
Queen Hippolyta waved to her daughter as she flew off, and she remained watching the empty sky for moments before sighing and returning to the palace. “May Hera help my child! Mars robbed me of her once. I pray he shall not take her from me again. I’ve lost so much at his blood-red hands. Antiope left us to seek Theseus after he passed through our lands, and she perished in the outer world as one who lost her birthright. While it was her love for the hero that motivated her departure, it was his martial prowess that won her heart. I blame Mars still. Poor, bitter Penthesilea also fell victim to the siren song of our warlike sire. He must not harm poor Nubia!”
Nubia ordered the amazing plane to take her to the site Paula had indicated. She knew her past actions had clearly been observed by the Dark Commander, and she had little hope of surprising her foe. Still, she hoped that the sheer speed of the plane and her own resolve would help her encounter the woman before she could flee. Praise Hera! I see colorful figures below! she mused. One is surely the missing Sofia. Is it her stolen Sword that registered on Paula’s device, or could it be the armored figures beside her that caught its scope? She hurtled down to land gracefully on the shore as she confronted four odd figures.
Sofia Constantinos was holding the Sword of Artemis, and she glared at Nubia with pure hatred in her otherwise vacant eyes. “She wears the ceremonial battle garb that once was mine!” cried Sofia in a voice totally unlike her own.
A red-haired woman in armor smiled coldly and said, “This battle has delayed our departure. We did not seek to engage this stripling in combat as yet, but the Fates weave as they will!”
Nubia noticed the final two male figures were locked in a desperate combat. Each was tall and strong, and both of them possessed amazing strength. One of them was the man called Myrmidon, and the other was a bearded man who wore a golden cloak of magical power that ended in a ram’s head. A still body near the coastline caught her keen eye as she scanned the scene.
“Aegeus? By Athena, they’ve killed him!” she muttered.
“’Twas not by the gray-eyed goddess that he fell,” said the defiant, red-haired warrior woman. “’Twas clearly by the will of Father Ares!”
“Wonder Woman! Well met! I have longed to meet you ere now,” said the man in the cloak.
“I have heard of you from my friend Impala,” said Nubia. “You are the Global Guardian known as the Olympian.”
He nodded as he struggled to wrestle Myrmidon to the ground. “Aye! It is not the type of meeting I would have desired,” he said. “My powers led me here, and I saw these villains slay that fallen man!”
Myrmidon twisted and threw the slightly larger man to the ground. “It was not of my choice,” he said. “I regret Mourn’s actions, but I will never allow anyone to harm the one I love!”
The Olympian grunted and rose to his feet as Nubia charged toward the mocking redhead. “You have the bearing of an Amazon! Who are you?” demanded Wonder Woman.
Mourn smiled and said, “You may call me Queen Mourn, or better still, cry out my name as She Who Bested You in Glorious Battle!”
Nubia kicked out at her and said, “Sorry that’s a bit long for me. Let me just call you human target!” Mourn danced aside and dodged Nubia’s kick, spinning around to connect with one of her own. Nubia reeled and prepared to strike again. “You are swift as Hermes himself! Still, I shall triumph!” vowed Nubia. She punched out at Queen Mourn, who received the blow and laughed.
“Is that your best effort, little Amazon? You disgrace the name of Amazon. Still, such weakness was ever the way of your mother!”
Nubia scowled and swung again. Three more blows reached Mourn, but she seemed to feel nothing as she reached out and began to choke Nubia. “You fail to hurt me. I fear you are overmatched!” scoffed Mourn.
Wonder Woman struggled in the other woman’s grasp, beginning to grow weaker as she fought for air. She dropped to one knee as Mourn pressed her advantage.
Meanwhile, the Olympian dodged Myrmidon’s right hook and pummeled him ceaselessly. “You are very powerful!” he said. “Still, one who carries within him the gifts of Jason’s Argonauts is not to be dismissed out of hand!” Myrmidon said nothing. He merely grabbed the Olympian by his golden cloak and lifted him into the air.
“Clever! Still, by the power of Zetes, I can fly!” said Olympian as he prepared to use his newfound leverage to resume the fight. Myrmidon spun around and slammed him to the ground with stunning force.
“Flight is of no avail if a stronger force prevents you from employing your power,” he said, standing over the defeated Olympian, who stared up at him with surprise etched upon his face.
“By Zeus! Can it truly be?” he gasped.
Nubia saw Sofia watching with malice written upon her own distorted features. She was about to faint from lack of air when she hurled her tiara in Sofia’s direction. The gleaming circle knocked the Sword of Artemis out of the woman’s hand. Sofia’s eyes widened as she found herself freed from the mental domination of the magical sword and the spirit of its original owner. “Nubia?” gasped Sofia.
Mourn cursed and said, “Pick up your blade, loyal Artemis!”
Sofia hesitated, then as if she was fighting an inward struggle, she screamed, “No!” She hurled herself at Mourn and drove her back for a few brief moments.
“You posed as Athena and tricked me into stealing the sword!” she shouted. “That spirit within it possessed me! I won’t be used again!”
Mourn was clearly unhurt by the woman’s skilled-but-desperate attack. She swatted her aside with a casual disdain. Nubia gasped as she fell to the sand. She caught her tiara as it spun back into her hand.
“The Dark Commander would have us be about her business!” said Mourn. “Grasp the sword and come to my side, Myrmidon!”
Myrmidon glanced hesitantly back at the still-staring Olympian before jumping to Mourn’s side and vanishing with her in a nimbus of energy. He had clutched the Sword of Artemis before doing so.
Nubia allowed Sofia to help her to her feet. “Forgive me! I was helpless!” insisted Sofia. “They duped me. I did not betray your mother.”
“I heard enough to know that,” said Nubia, nodding. “I also saw how mesmerized and different you appeared to be while holding the sword. You are not to blame. You are free now. Olympian, are you hurt?”
“I am unhurt, but I am shaken to the very soul!” declared the Olympian. “I have never felt such raw power or seen such battle skill, except in one or two very unique beings. This Myrmidon is truly formidable. I must justify myself to two as fair as you ladies. I did not try to employ my full strength after he hurled me to the ground. Rather, I drew upon some more subtle talents that also came from my Golden Fleece cloak and the Argonauts who claimed it long ago.”
Nubia nodded. “I assumed as much. Say no more.”
“I must,” said the Olympian. “I was led here by a vision that came to me via the prophetic power shared by several of the Argonauts. It showed the women and Myrmidon, and something about them led me to seek them out. As you know, my powers come from the talents and skills possessed by the original crew of Jason’s ship, the Argo. One of them was the legendary Hercules, and I sensed something about Myrmidon relates directly to that hero. I cannot articulate it. I merely feel he has a connection to the man whose strength provides me with my own.”
Nubia nodded. “I also feel his fiery companion was not being figurative when she spoke of Father Ares. Can you add anything to what little we know?”
Sofia stood up from where she had been crouching over Aegeus. “Only that he still lives! Mourn’s blade was keen and her aim practiced, but perhaps some faint residue of magic still allows Nikos to survive. If we take him to medical care at once, I think my former ally may live.”
“I will draw upon the very speed and flight of Zetes to take him to proper care,” said the Olympian. “Wonder Woman, I would gladly learn more of our foes if you discover their secrets. I also offer you my aid if ever you need it. Your sister was a lovely woman and a noble ally.”
Nubia smiled and said, “Agreed! I will tell you what I learn. Thank you for your help.”
Sofia clutched Nubia’s arm. “Wait! I would go with you. My time under the spell of that cursed sword was much like a walking and waking dream. But I do know one thing. Artemis or her spirit wants a new body. She will try to take yours or another suitable one. Mourn spoke once of other sisters. I took that to mean she seeks other Amazons!”
Nubia scowled. “Mourn is clearly an Amazon. If she wants to provide the now-ghostly original Wonder Woman with a host body, then she may very well see her as a living embodiment of Amazon values. I fear she wants to use her to gain the services of other tribes of Amazons for conquest. The Dark Commander clearly serves Mars, and his keenest desire is to create war or bloodshed. I will not endanger you further. I will drop you off at Paradise Island.”
Sofia stood defiantly before Wonder Woman. “I fought for my adopted Amazon sisters during the Crisis, and I will not stand aside now when danger looms. I know where they may find these other Amazons. Take me with you, or I will not reveal it!”
Nubia frowned. “I do not submit to such extortion.” She moved suddenly and hogtied Sofia in the golden lasso. “You must obey me while bound in such a way. Where will I find the other Amazons you spoke of?” she commanded.
Sofia was helpless to resist the magic of the gleaming rope, and she revealed all she knew. “A group of Amazons who split off from the main tribe live in a dimension all their own. It may be reached via a portal in South America. Their ruler is named Atalanta.”
Nubia nodded and let the woman up. She freed her from the lasso and said, “I have no time for games. I am sorry for having to do that to you. If you remain here, I shall return for you when I complete my task.”
An angry Sofia said, “I will find my own way!”