Chapter 27 – Invasion
Consciousness returned to Clark, but he couldn't see anything. For a few confused moments, he thought he was in Bruce's Batcave: he heard dripping water, and he felt himself lying against hard stone, wet and cold, and slimy with algae. His senses suggested he was underground, near the ocean - he could hear the pounding surf.
Unsure, he stretched out his hands, groped for his surroundings but something restrained his movements. Something heavy clanked on his wrists and around his ankles and neck. He was shackled in chains, and also there was something stiff pulled down over his head. It stank of cured leather and prevented him from seeing or using his heat vision.
Memory suddenly crashed back into his mind as violently as a boom tube opening: Illythia and a pack of Amazons attacking him with magicked weapons; before he realized what was happening they had overpowered him and knocked him out cold.
Frantically he tried to pull free of the chains, but to his astonishment they held him secure – they must be magicked as well, and certainly not made of ordinary iron. He couldn't move more than a foot in either direction or stand upright; he was chained fast to the stone wall. His arms were secured to either side of him so he could not reach his head to pull the hood off.
Mocking laughter echoed throughout the cavern, coming from somewhere high above him.
"Not so impressive a god, and hardly even a mortal!"
"Who's there?" Clark shouted. "Illythia? What the hell are you doing?"
It was Illythia's voice for certain. He remembered that she was the one who had used the magick silver lasso on him.
"Just another man - weak and useless. I can hardly imagine why the Queen made such a fuss over you."
"Illythia," Clark took a deep breath, resisting the urge to cuss her out. It wouldn't help and would be counterproductive. "Let me go. I haven't done you any harm, so why are you doing this?"
"To make certain, foolish man, that you don't!" That mocking laughter again, and Clark thought she sounded as mad as Harley Quinn. "You won't be causing any trouble down there in your hole."
"Hippolyta promised me-"
"The Queen promised you would not be harmed or killed and you won't be. You'll just be out of the way while Diana whelps your brat. Then maybe she'll release you to crawl back to Man's World where you belong!"
The mere mention by this madwoman of his and Diana's child sent tendrils of alarm and anger into his heart, and he yelled back at her.
"Where's Diana? You know she won't tolerate this! Once she finds out what you've done I wouldn't want to be you!"
"Oh, really?" Illythia's voice changed from mockery to icy contempt. "Fool, do you really believe a Princess of the Amazons would break thousands of years of tradition for the sake of such as you? She says she regrets her misdeeds in Man's World, I've heard her often enough. Now she wants to redeem her errors. She will not lift a finger to help you."
"You're lying!" Clark shouted.
Illythia ignored him. "If the brat is a girl, she will be made into a proper Amazon, even if she is a halfbreed alien demon. If it is a boy, well, I'm sure you know what we do with them," An evil chuckle drifted down to him. "You really should thank us: I have heard that in your world men do not care to be single parents!"
Rage surged through Clark and he yanked at his chains.
"Do you really think these chains can hold me for long?" Clark threatened. "I will break free of this!"
Illythia laughed again. "You cannot break them, dog, those chains were forged by Hephaestus himself! Just in case we needed them, for a creature such as you. Make yourself comfortable, you'll be there for awhile yet. Behave yourself, and your confinement might be tolerable."
He heard footsteps departing. Clark bellowed after her, but to no avail. He was alone in this black cave. With all his strength Clark tugged at the chains, gritting his teeth and bracing his legs, trying again and again. Finally, hours later, he slumped down, exhausted and discouraged, his wrists and ankles chafing and sore.
Think, Kent, Clark forced himself to be calm. Use your brains not just your brawn, like Ma and Pa always taught you.
He considered how Illythia taunted him: he'd heard spite and jealousy in her voice, so he didn't believe a word of what she'd said about his wife. However he had no doubt that the decision to trap him here was Hippolyta's. Illythia didn't have the brains or guts to come up with a plan to attack and trap him. If this was all her idea there could be only one reason for it.
Sick fear filled Clark. If Diana had a male child, he knew Hippolyta would have it taken away, maybe even killed. That was why she wanted him out of the way.
No, Clark thought. Diana wouldn't stand for that. She must not know what her crazy mother's up to.
But a sickening seed of doubt still lay lodged in his heart, and he knew why it was there. It had been planted by all the times Diana avoided telling him of how the Amazons conceived children, or why there were no boys on Themyscira. Clark realized he had blinded himself, just as much as this damned hood over his face, by not asking the tough questions and demanding answers, as he should have done from the beginning.
Now, as a result, his child was in danger, and as for Diana – he couldn't believe she would just stand by and allow their child, no matter what gender, to be slaughtered. But here, on this island, isolated and surrounded by her mother and the rest of the Amazons…could it actually be possible she would even consider it? Clark knew she had no compunction about killing when she believed it to be absolutely necessary. A memory flashed into his mind of how she had beheaded Will Richardson back in Smallville.
No, he reassured himself. I won't believe it, I can't. She must not know, they've deceived her, or will try to.
Clark knew that there was only one way to ensure nothing terrible would happen, and that meant he had to break out of this prison. If the Amazons actually thought he was just some brainless animal, maybe that was a weakness he could turn to his advantage. If only this hood wasn't on his head, perhaps he could burn through the rock, unless that was magicked as well, he couldn't be sure. First, he would have to find a way to get this damned hood off, if he had to chew his way through it with his teeth!
Themyscira – One Week Later
Diana relaxed on the kline, reading from a papyrus scroll. It was a short history of the Amazons, written by Vanessa Kapatelis. She'd asked Diana if she would look it over and help correct any mistakes. Diana was no historian, but she really had nothing to do now that the Iron Rite was over (poor Lois! Diana hoped she wasn't too traumatized). It was better than doing nothing, other than waiting for Clark's return any day now. It had to be soon! She was tired of waiting. Anyway, Diana found Vanessa to be a wonderful writer, even better than her mother Julia (who Diana actually found rather dry). She felt as if she was reading her history for the first time.
The Amazons marched out to meet the army of Herakles on the plain between the ancient city of Themyscira and the Black Sea. Queen Hippolyta, accompanied by her Generals Philippus and Gorgo, was inclined to treat the barbarians (as they saw them) leniently; the Amazons were unaware that Herakles had already planned to take Themyscira through subterfuge rather than siege, an idea provided by King Theseus. Theseus was afraid the Amazons would retaliate for a siege by attacking Athens, which they'd nearly succeeded in taking years before, so his hope was that Herakles would be successful in destroying the Amazon nation.
A mysterious legend from this period claims that at least one Amazon had foreknowledge of Herakles' plot, through a secret liaison with his lieutenant Aldones, most likely a non-Greek attaché or an observer. According to this account, Cassilda warned Hippolyta of Herakles' plot, only to be rebuffed. In rage, Cassilda fled Themyscira that night, just as Herakles and his men were allowed through the city's gates, and she vowed that Themyscira would be cursed forever. Doom would follow the Amazons wherever they scattered throughout the world.
In my research I have learned that Cassilda is not a common name among the Amazons, and her story is not to be found in any of the official histories of Paradise Island. But the story of Cassilda does not end there. A second story describes Cassilda's flight, and her subsequent unprovoked murder of a shepherd. The story states that the shepherd was a devotee of an unknown agrarian cult, and that the cult's chief deity subsequently either abducted or took revenge upon Cassilda. One version of this second story has Cassilda returning as a type of supernatural monster wreaking vengeance against the Amazons.
A third and final story describes Cassilda as the immortal queen of the "cursed" city of Carcosa, dedicated to a deity known as either Assatur, Asrur, or Hastur, possibly the deity of the second legend. This particular legend became the subject of an extremely rare and hard-to-find 19th-century French play called "The King in Yellow," which was popular amongst fin-de-siècle occult circles in Europe. This play does not make reference to the Amazons, (the few scholars who are familiar with this play describe it as a transitional story between 19th-century Gothic horror and modern weird tales) so it is possibly not related at all to the first two Cassilda legends.
I believe that the legend of Cassilda is most probably a later and apocryphal addition to the myths surrounding the historical Amazons, perhaps provided as a supernatural reason why the Amazons disappeared from history…
Diana lifted her eyebrows at this. She certainly never heard this before! She'd have to ask Vanessa where she got all that from. It sounded interesting, if a bit disquieting with its story of renegade Amazons, unknown gods and supernatural vengeance. She too was inclined to think this story was spurious: if her mother had any suspicion of Herakles' deception, she certainly would not have let him inside the city! She wondered why Vanessa included it.
Diana quickly put the scroll aside as Selene walked in, and she asked in excitement:
"Is there any-?"
"No, my Lady," Selene already knew what Diana was going to ask. "No sign of his return."
Diana sighed and lay back in disappointment onto the kline. What was taking so long?
"Princess, Lois is here to see you. Shall I tell her you are too tired and send her away?"
"No, I will see her," Diana thought Lois' company actually sounded good, it would be better than moping around anyway. "Send her in."
Selene disappeared and Lois entered Diana chamber, dressed in a short peplos and sandals. She was now wearing the black bracelets all Amazons wore.
"Lois!" Diana stood up and embraced the reporter in the Amazon manner. "You look wonderful!"
"Yes, no thanks to your damned Iron Rite!" Lois complained.
"You did not enjoy it?"
"I wouldn't exactly use the word 'enjoy,'" Lois said frankly. "That was the single worst experience of my entire life…and, well, the-the most powerful, too, I guess."
"I'm not surprised," Diana poured and handed Lois a cup of red wine, and one for herself. "I told you, your life would be changed forever."
"Yeah, no kidding, I think I will need therapy for the rest of my life! Good thing I'm writing a book to pay for the bills."
Lois remembered everything vividly. It began like a celebratory party in the courtyard of the Temple of Artemis, with many Amazons dancing in circles and singing, pounding drums and shaking sistrums. Lois and her three companions were given the opportunity to show off their athletic and martial skills, to the cheers and applause of the Amazons. Even Amynta looked proud.
Hippolyta and Diana were seated in their curule chairs of rank, fully dressed in their royal robes. They looked magnificent. After the dancing, both of them rose and approached the visitors. Hippolyta spoke in a loud voice so all could hear.
"Sisters, today we admit four women from Man's World to our number. We do this so that the blood of Amazonia will never perish but endure. Sisters, shall this be so?"
Hundreds of Amazons were there, and they all shouted in the affirmative, so loudly the very ground seemed to shake. Lois and her friends stood there, overawed by the spectacle. Hippolyta solemnly turned to them and addressed each of them in turn.
"Lois. Marguerite. Shaniqua. Alicia. You four now join the ranks of champions! Step forward, kneel and receive the iron."
With butterflies in her stomach Lois hadn't felt since her college graduation, she did so with the others. She saw Diana bring forward the huge double axe of Amazonia which was Hippolyta's personal weapon, which Lois knew was some kind of symbol of state.
"Take this on your tongue, so that no man may say he drew first blood of an Amazon."
Diana stepped forward with the ax to the now-highly nervous women. As she bent down she whispered.
"Touch the edge of the blade with your tongue, just make a small nick, that is all that's needed."
Too nervous now to make a fuss, Lois did so, and she guessed the others felt the same. A deep hush now fell over the crowd as another of the Amazons, someone important from the High Council, Lois thought her name was Laodice, handed Diana a tall golden goblet.
"Now, take the sacred drink, and see our lives through our eyes," Hippolyta intoned, and the drums and sistrums sounded again, performing a more solemn ritualized beat. Lois was already starting to feel dizzy as Diana approached with the goblet. She glanced into it and saw a thick liquid that looked like a foamy latte.
"All you need to do is take a sip," Diana instructed, and then in a voice only the four could hear. "Remember, what you will see and experience is not real, only the past."
Before Lois could think of what she meant, she took a sip. Immediately she felt dizzy, and rather euphoric.
Wow, Lois thought, an instant high! Everything was getting a bit swirly, spinning, and she thought she blacked out for just a split-second. When her vision cleared, she realized she was still kneeling in the temple courtyard, but the Amazons were gone. In its place were flames, tall and raging and instead of the beautiful marble temple, its charred pieces were scattered everywhere. Screams and the sounds of running and fighting came to hear - they were frightening. They were the sounds of defeat.
Lois leapt to her feet and stared around her at the horrifying scene. What the hell was going on? What she saw were Amazons, lying prone on the ground, clearly dead, stripped naked, and those who were still alive…what happening all around her…oh my God...
Just then, Lois finally realized, as the Greek hoplites approached her and reached out their bloodstained hands to her, she screamed, realizing just what the Iron Rite was.
In the Iron Rite, one did not just learn the history of the destruction of the Amazon nation…they lived it, through the eyes of sisters past. The betrayal, the violence, and the violation…
"It felt so…so real," Lois muttered, gulping her wine. "Like it was happening to me! It was awful, then, when we – I mean, the Amazons back then – fought back, I could feel that too, the thrill of killing them, those bastards..." She clenched her fists and looked at Diana. "How could you endure all that?"
"Because my mother did, and my sisters," Diana explained simply. "Just telling a story doesn't cut it. Now you know why we have remained isolated here without men for centuries."
Lois nodded. "Much more intense than any movie! Still...you could have warned me!"
"Then it wouldn't be a secret rite, would it?" Diana said, then added firmly. "You know the rite is secret, and even if you put it in your book, Lois, no one would believe you!"
"I can't put mass gang-rape and slaughter in a bestseller, no one wants to read that," Lois muttered, then pushed the horrible memories from her mind, and looked at Diana pointedly. "On the other hand, something else people would want to know-"
Diana sighed. "Yes, Lois, the father is Superman."
Lois blinked. "Oh wow…I mean, wow, that's wonderful! Um...it is, right?"
"Oh it is, believe me it was no mistake!" Diana couldn't help but laugh at Lois' startled expression. "Did you think someone else was the father?"
"No! I mean, it makes sense that the two of you would, well, be together."
"We've been 'together' for quite awhile now, Lois. We haven't made it public yet, and," Diana couldn't help a little dig. "No one has found out yet," she added smugly.
Lois colored slightly. "Well, I have heard rumors. But then, there's rumors about everyone in the Justice League! But it does makes sense now."
"I thought I saw someone here, months ago, someone I knew," Lois said accusingly. "It turns out I was right all along!"
Diana paled. "Wait a minute, Lois…"
"Now that we're sisters, I think you should be straight with me!" Lois stood up and folded her arms. "I did see a man here didn't I?"
Diana leapt up from her couch. "I don't know what you mean!"
"Clark was here wasn't he? He was here to get the scoop about you and Superman!"
The way Diana stared at her only confirmed Lois' suspicions.
"So where's Clark now? In one of your dungeons? Or did you send him back to Man's World with a black eye?"
"There's no Clark here," Diana said carefully. "Not now, anyway." That part was true at least!
Now it was Lois' turn to grow pale. The idea of Kent returning with his own story, to see print before hers...dammit!
"So, then, where's Superman? He's not here with you is he?" Maybe she could interview him.
Diana relaxed. "No, not here in the Palace."
"But he is here, isn't he? He's somewhere on the Island? Maybe...up North?"
Diana whirled about, eyes wide. "How do you know that!"
Lois smirked. "You told me, just now."
Diana groaned and sat back down on the kline.
Fifty nautical miles off the coast of Themyscira the Alarian fleet, consisting of hundreds of sleek black ships, sailed relentlessly towards its destination. Aboard the flagship, by the prow, stood Bruce Wayne, or more properly Batman, since he was now fully clad in his Batsuit, his black cape billowing behind him in the ocean breeze. Although he appeared calm and composed, it didn't match how he felt.
Randolph Carter had announced his intention to invade Themyscira, but Bruce most certainly did not want to be part of an invasion and war, yet there seemed to be no other way for him to get to the island.
"I asked for your help in getting to Themyscira, not to invade it!" Bruce had raged at his relative, but the man was implacable. Even more infuriating, he didn't seem the slightest bit concerned. "I won't be a part of killing innocent people!"
"The Amazons are hardly innocent," Carter replied mildly. "You yourself discovered that. Even in your time, they routinely travel to what they term 'Man's World' to seduce and kill men. Granted, not the most admirable sort of men, but still, it's an outrage. They must be stopped, one way or the other."
"Don't use me as an excuse! What do you want from the Amazons?"
Carter looked at Bruce, and for the first time he saw something mysterious and dark in his relative's eye.
"Yes, that's right. There is something I want. I am not at liberty to discuss it with you just yet. But if it remains with the Amazons, then it poses a distinct danger, not only to our world but to yours too. Trust me on this."
"I will not be part of any killing."
"I'm not asking you to fight, dear boy. My army and Pickman's will do the hard work. Rest assured, my army is disciplined. There will be no rapine or torture, I can promise you that. It would not be true if the situation was reversed and Themyscira was invading Alar!"
That was the best Bruce could manage. Now, as he looked out over the ocean, he only hoped he could find Superman and Wonder Woman quickly, and somehow put a stop to this with their help.
He heard somebody approach him and he turned around. It was Carter.
"We are still a ways yet from Themyscira," Carter said amicably, his hands clasped behind his back and breathing in deeply, as if he was on a cruise around Martha's Vineyard. "We shan't see it for a bit."
"I hope you know what you are doing," Bruce growled. "I've seen Diana fight…"
"Oh yes, your friend, this 'Wonder Woman,'" Carter chuckled. "She sounds most fascinating! I hope I can meet her in person."
"I hope for your sake you don't."
Carter looked at him. "This Amazon who belongs to your 'Justice League?' If she is the noble person you claim she is, how is it she has never told you about the Amazons' unnatural practices?"
"I…don't know, " Batman admitted, looking down at the railing. "She must have her reasons."
Carter shrugged. "In any case, these practices shall be ended after today. Your 'Wonder Woman' can explain her reasons to you in person, once we've captured her."
Batman clenched his fists.
Vizier Titus joined them, along with Namash-Thah, the Alarian General. He was a bald heavyset man who looked a bit like a walrus on two legs, with an enormous handlebar mustache.
"It's time." Titus said
Carter nodded. "Then let's begin."
Batman stared. "Time for what?"
Vizier Titus raised his right hand. He heard a thin humming sound and Bruce saw the digits of his hand extend, then protrude out, longer and longer, until they waved in the air like the antennae of an insect. His eyes closed, and he seemed to be in deep concentration. The clouds above the fleet coalesced, and a fog began forming, becoming thicker and thicker, spreading out around and beyond them, enveloping them in an impenetrable mist.
"This is how we will approach Themyscira without being detected," Carter explained. "Until we are ready to strike, that is. Shouldn't be long."
Bruce stared at Titus and the growing fog. Whatever Titus was, he wasn't human, or completely. The feeling he had of some oncoming doom approaching was incrementally growing stronger, and he couldn't yet tell on whom it would fall.
"Kal-el is exploring Themyscira, to keep himself occupied," Diana explained, relieved at least that Lois still hadn't made the connection between Kal and Clark. "Although I expect him back any day now."
"Why doesn't he just fly back?"
"My mother doesn't want him to display his powers of flight," Diana grumbled. "So Vanessa went to fetch him by cart, a most time-consuming business."
Lois was puzzled. "Vanessa? Then Superman's back in the Capital?"
"No, I said she's on her way North."
"Wait...I saw her today, she was hanging out with Alicia and Shaniqua in our barracks."
Diana stared at her. "What? Here? But she was going to drive Clark back."
"Well maybe somebody else went instead?"
Diana sat back, thinking hard. Then, startling Lois, she shouted. "Selene!"
The Bodyguard appeared immediately. "Yes, m'Lady?"
"Vanessa Kapatelis is at the visitors' barracks, go bring her here." Diana ordered.
"Being a Princess has its privileges," Diana said to a still-confused Lois.
"I don't understand what you're getting at."
"Vanessa took Kal up north, she should have been the one to get him."
It didn't take long before Vanessa was ushered into the royal chambers. The red-haired grad student looked to Lois from Diana. "Yes, Princess?"
"Vanessa, what are you doing here?" Diana asked. "I thought you were going to go get Kal!"
"I was ordered to stay back and take care of the visitors."
Zeus' Cock! Diana thought in fury. Is poor Clark still stuck at Dierdre's farm then?
"So, when are you going to go?"
"My Lady, Illythia was sent north."
"What?" Diana leapt to her feet, furious. "That snake? There could be no worse choice! When was this?"
Vanessa looked even more nervous, if that was possible. "A week ago!" When she saw Diana's baffled face she protested. "Well, it wasn't my decision!"
"Who made the decision to send Illythia instead of Vanessa?"
"Princess, it was General Philippus." Vanessa stammered.
There were long seconds of ominous silence as Diana stood motionless, thinking. Lois and Vanessa exchanged worried looks.
"There's something wrong, isn't there?" Vanessa said nervously. "Why would she-?"
"Selene!" Diana roared, making both Lois and Vanessa jump, and as the Bodyguard reappeared she snarled. "Bring me Philippus!"
"What is going on?" Lois asked.
"I don't know," Diana growled. "But I'm going to find out."
Diana remained silent while they waited, pacing back and forth, while Lois and Vanessa just looked uncertain. They got the sense something was wrong.
The old General appeared shortly, looking formal and composed. There was none of the familiar warmth about her, Diana noted, and that alone was unsettling.
"My Lady summoned me?"
"Philippus, where is Illythia?"
"My Lady? Illythia is at her duties-"
"Don't play games with me, General!" Diana snapped, coming closer to Philippus. "I want to know-"
To everyone's surprise, Diana abruptly stopped, a strange look flitting over her face, as if she'd forgotten something.
"Wonder Woman?" Lois said, thoroughly bewildered. "Is something-?"
Diana bent over, one hand going to her stomach, the other reaching out for the kline. There was a splashing sound and they all saw a small puddle growing between Diana's feet.
"Oh, crap!" Vanessa gasped.
Lois leapt to her feet, nearly elbowed her aside. "Don't just stand there!" She shouted. "Grab some towels!"
"Don't gape, go grab something! Here, hang onto me, let's sit you down..."
Amidst the fussing, no one noticed the absence of Philippus and Selene.
Hippolyta was sitting at her writing desk, sorting through stacks of papyri. Eurydike across from her on the kline, taking notes from what her Queen was instructing.
"We have four candidates for the Sybil. They must be tested-"
General Philippus rushed in. Hippolyta looked up sharply, she knew it had to be a matter of the utmost importance if even her Master of Horse entered without announcing herself. As she saw her old friend's face, she knew it could only be for one reason.
Hippolyta rose from her chair, quickly. Eurydike did the same. "Is it...Diana?" The Queen gasped.
Philippus nodded. "She has cast out her water."
"But she is still not due for several weeks yet!"
"Babies follow their own schedules, not ours. Now it is only a matter of time."
Hippolyta took a deep breath to steady herself. This was the moment she had long-awaited…and dreaded.
"Send immediately for Cyanna," Hippolyta ordered. "Tell her to prepare the labor bed. I want my daughter attended at all times."
"Yes, Hippolyta. I shall fetch her after leaving here."
When the Queen spoke again it was in a low tone.
"Kal-el?" The Queen asked.
"He is still in the dungeon beneath Western Gate Cliff, secured by our strongest magic. He will cause no problems for us," Philippus paused. "Will you go to the Princess?"
"When the time comes, yes. Until then, ensure that you have all the proper… instruments. As soon as the gender is determined, we must act quickly."
Hippolyta turned and reached for a rectangular box on a shelf behind her. She carefully placed it on her desk and opening the wooden lid she withdrew a long dagger, strange markings etched on its black blade. With both hands, she held it out to Philippus.
"This blade is tempered in magick. Old friend, I trust you will use it swiftly and surely, should it be necessary."
"I will my Lady," Philippus tucked in within her cloak. "And…Diana?"
"Cyanna will prepare a sleeping powder to administer to her in her drinking water. She must not witness the deed. She will be told the baby was a stillborn."
Philippus nodded. "May the Goddess ever protect you, my Queen."
"And you too, my dear friend."
Eurydike looked grimly at Hippolyta once the old general left.
"Hippolyta, Diana will know what you did. You know she will never speak to you again if you do this. She will hate you for the rest of her days."
Hippolyta slowly resumed her seat, picked up her writing stylus. For a long moment she stared down at her papyrus in silence.
"Better she hate me," Hippolyta finally whispered. "I would rather have that, than for Diana to forever be a slave of her husband, then of her son, then her son's sons."
In a different tone of voice, she continued with her previous business, while Eurydike lowered her head.
"The candidates must pass certain tests..."
From a niche in the walls known to only a few in the Bodyguard, Selene overheard the conversation. She had no doubt as to the import of the words. Selene looked down at her bracelets, earned decades ago in the Iron Rite, and tested in battle.
She had never once ventured off Themyscira to conceive a child. The idea of lying with a man, even for such a vital function as procreation to increase their numbers, filled her with distaste. Her sisters who had done it had laughed and teased her that she was too soft, but it was not that at all. To Selene it seemed…wrong somehow, distasteful at the least, although she would never admit it aloud. Men were foul, she knew, but to lie with them and use them and discard them, it was not something she wanted to do.
When Princess Diana had returned with her man Selene had been confused why she brought him, this Kal-el with her. Selene could have understood if Diana wanted her own baby, even if she left him alive after the act, but to go against tradition, it offended her…at first. Then when she had met Kal-el, talked to him in person, he had not been what she expected at all, and now...
All her life, Selene had followed Amazonian tradition, and never questioned it. It had been her bedrock, her identity. She never desired any other life. Now...
She made her decision.
Back in her bedroom, Diana gripped the edge of the kline, her mind and body in turmoil as she experienced her first gripping contractions. All hopes she had of experiencing a painless childbirth, thanks to her superhuman condition, had promptly vanished like a soap bubble. She had never felt anything like this before! She knew it would only get more intense.
Lois thought Diana looked like someone had given her a good sock in the nose that she actually felt.
"I don't suppose you and Supes went to Lamaze classes," Lois remarked. "Oh well. Vanessa, do the Amazons have anything like an epidural?"
"Umm...uhh..." Vanessa looked more the one in shock if possible. Lois reached over and gave her a good pinch. She yelped.
"Don't flake out on me now, girl!"
"Oh! No...they have herbs, I should see if-"
All that stopped when Selene broke in. She was carrying a traveling cloak.
Diana raised her head and saw the Bodyguard's hand on the hilt of her sword. She tensed. She thought she knew what would come next.
"Princess," Selene said. "You must leave here right now."
"Now?" Lois stared at her. "Are you crazy? She can't go anywhere in her condition!"
Selene ignored her. "Princess, you must…if you want your child to live. Quickly, I know where to go."
Themyscira - The Cliff Lookouts
Ismene, on the second watch, was the first to note the incoming fog. It rolled in, thick and impenetrable, and it puzzled her. It was too early yet for the evening fog to appear.
Her companion, Penelope, joined her, wrapping her red cloak around her.
"Feels chill, eh? What say you and I share a cup of yourte to ward off the cold?"
Ismene shook her head. "I like this not, this fog has an odd feel to it."
Penelope shrugged. "It is only odd weather."
"A lot of odd things have happened recently. Old Menalippe dying so abruptly, for one. I have heard that Atalanta's horse gave birth to a two-headed foal. Strange births are bad omens. They all started after Diana brought her man to the Island."
Penelope's eyes widened. "Is he back in the Capital?"
"No I think he is still with the Getai, Hera help him."
"I have heard that when Diana went to visit him," Penelope said breathlessly, eager to share her latest gossip. "She caught him in the act of ravishing two Getai sisters! That is why she returned to the Palace! I heard this from a sister who heard it from a sister who traveled to the North and heard it from one of their sisters. They even have the bruises to prove it."
"What rubbish!" Ismene said. "If that were true the Princess would display his head on the highest point in the Capital!"
"Well, that's what I heard," Penelope pouted. "Look the fog is beginning to clear!"
The fog was dissipating but very slowly, the faint sunlight poking holes through the mist. They both found that strange also.
"Has something happened to the ocean?" Penelope whispered. "What is that?"
Ismene looked closely, following her friend's outstretched finger. As the mist slowly cleared, she saw what she was looking at. In the ocean were hundreds of black dots. At first she thought it was some kind of optical illusion, or perhaps it was flotsam which would wash up on Themyscira's shores. Then the mist further cleared and her mouth dropped open in disbelief.
Black Ships, hundreds of them, filling the sea beyond their Island. Their black sails were emblazoned with a warped, five-pointed star. The sigil of Alar.
Ismene's shock lasted only a few seconds. She whirled around to Penelope who was staring with saucer-wide eyes at the invasion force.
"Sound the alarm!" When Penelope didn't move, Ismene slapped her hard. "Now!"
They both rushed for the great bell that would alert Themyscira to the imminent danger.
The Alarian Fleet
"Pickman's ghouls will be our shock troops," Carter was explaining to Bruce on the deck of his flagship. "They will be dropped down in the city and its immediate outskirts. Our strategy will be to secure the Capital first. Once we take their Capital, perhaps they will be demoralized enough to talk terms."
"You sound very sure of yourself." Bruce said but he was staring at the city of Themyscira. Even from a distance it was incredibly beautiful and impressive. He could see why Diana always spoke lovingly of it.
And now he was with a force that planned to destroy it.
"Oh, I think my battle plan is sound enough. You forget, I fought in the Great War."
"Let me go there first," Bruce urged. "I can end this before there's any bloodshed. If I can find Wonder Woman..."
"This is not Gotham City," Carter replied firmly. "They would kill you before you uttered a single word. No, we must do this my way."
Vizier Titus turned to Carter. "The mist is clearing. It must be now."
"Very good. Open the holds."
Batman turned as he heard the covers opening. Out from the bowels of the ship came dozens of the winged creatures Carter had called night-gaunts, which eerily resembled Bruce in his Batman suit, only their faceless heads revealed no expression and they had actual batlike wings. Carter had told him they were intelligent, to a degree, and were in alliance with the ghouls.
The ghouls, those awful-looking creatures, were riding the night-gaunts like steeds, or were carried in their long, rubbery arms. More and more poured out of the hold.
One of them came close to Carter and Bruce, the thing bent down to them from the night-gaunt's back.
"We'll be first into the breech," Pickman glibbered, drool dripping him his muzzle.
"You'll have surprise on your side, but be careful, old friend," Carter said. "They will fight back fiercely, just as the men from Leng did, remember?"
"Oh, but I have such a surprise for them!" Pickman laughed, a sickly glubbing sound. "When they rally for the counterattack, then that's when we'll drop 'em!"
Carter waved to Pickman as the night-gaunt flew off with him into the sky. Bruce felt that this whole episode was surreal, but he couldn't deny its reality. The sky was filled with their hideous forms, even as the Alarian ships approached the cliffs.
"How are we going to land there?" Bruce demanded. "There's no beachhead."
"We don't need one," Carter explained. An Alarian aide approached, in a black Napoleonic-looking uniform with its tall shako. Carter took off his white turban, and put on a helmet, one that resembled a ancient Roman officer's only without the plumes. The aide handed him his belt with its long scimitar. "We''ll be going in like the ghouls, only we'll be going directly into the heart of the City. Are you ready, cousin?"
"What? I don't-"
Batman gasped as he felt the tickish, rubbery hands of a night-gaunt grab him, and lift him high up into the air. He saw that Carter likewise had mounted a night-gaunt. Even more of them were flying out, perhaps thousands of them, and now each one carried an Alarian Guardsman, every man armed with a crossbow that looked as if it could have been manufactured by Glock.
"We'll soften them up with a bombardment," Carter's night-gaunt flew closer to Bruce's. "Watch now."
As Bruce watched in horror, the night-gaunts swooped in closer and he saw the Guardsmen, sitting cross-legged on the backs of the night-gaunts, aim their crossbows in the direction of the Capital.
"First rank! Fire!"
Bolts that gleamed like white phosphorous rounds flew like tracer rounds through the sky.
"Second rank! Fire!"
The night-gaunts wheeled and others took their place, each Alarian calmly aiming and shooting his weapon. More glowing, white-hot bolts flew through the sky like meteors and he saw them strike. Already flames and smoke began rising into the sky. Bruce's amplified hearing picked up the sounds of screams and cries.
"Third rank! Fire! Repeat, fire!"
"A few minutes of this and we will drop in on the Queen in her Palace, if she should still be there," Carter said as calmly as if chatting about poetry in his salon. "With luck, you will have your chance to interrogate Wonder Woman as to your friend's condition, if he is still alive."
A nimbus of fire appeared over the city. As he and the Alarians flew towards the burning city, Bruce wondered if he would even get a chance to see Diana, if she survived this horror.
[AN: The invasion has begun and so has Diana's labor! What bad timing. Tune in next chapter for Justice League follies, battle scenes, birth scenes, and another cliffhanger! As always your reviews are appreciated!]