Chapter 50 – Magnum Innominandum
Themyscira – The Agora
"Tell me what, Mother?" Diana glanced at Hippolyta. The older woman did not return her questioning gaze. "I don't understand what she's saying. What does she mean by Car-"
"Do not say it!" Hippolyta cried out. "Do not dare to utter that cursed word!"
"Why not?" the Crone stood up and cackled humorlessly. "That was the curse laid upon this land was it not? Now, the curse has at last borne its fruit."
"What curse?" Superman stared at the old woman, fighting against the weariness that threatened to overwhelm him. "What are you talking about?"
"Themyscira is not only the 'Paradise Island' as we call it, it is also the gateway to other worlds..."
"This we all know already," Diana said. "The Amazons have always stood as guardians at the portal of Hades..."
"It is more than that, child! There are other worlds, and worlds we dare not imagine, praise the Goddesses for that! You think that Themyscira was a gift from the gods?" The Getai seeress again laughed mirthlessly. "The gods were never so kind and generous! No, this place is a curse…it is a curse upon your sisters for betraying the other Queen of the Amazons."
"What?" Diana was thoroughly mystified, as were the younger Amazons. "My mother is the only Queen!"
"She is speaking of the dual Monarchy," Eurydike explained in the uneasy silence that had settled over them; she now looked grim and frightened. "In the time before we came here, when we were mortal women like everyone else. When we lived in the first Themyscira, on the shores of the Amazon Sea. Then we had two Queens reigning over Amazonia. A queen for War and a queen for Peace. This was so a tyrant, even though she be woman, could never rule over us, or unilaterally make decisions for war. One to make and win wars, the other to preserve the peace that followed. Hippolyta was our Peace Queen."
Diana was astonished, but felt as if she'd heard this before...somewhere, but where. "Is this true, Mother?"
Hippolyta, standing still as a statue, gave only the barest nod. Boudicaa, standing beside her, watched the Crone gravely, but said nothing.
"Yes, Diana. My purpose was to keep the peace between the Amazons and the nations of men that surrounded us, then. The War Queen...she had another purpose."
"Queen Cassilda," Laodice murmured, her voice shaking. Some of the Amazons around grew still and grave, especially the older ones. "Could it be true?"
"Who is she?" Clark suddenly shouted, striding firmly towards Hippolyta. She didn't move to check him, nor did any of the Amazons, and he realized that most of them were as confused as he. "Enough secrets! I want answers! What does want from us?"
"Revenge, son of Man," the Crone explained patiently. "For being driven out of Themyscira, her only crime: warning the Amazons of the danger of Herakles."
"What?" Diana stared at the old woman.
"You don't know, child," the Crone insisted to a stunned Diana. "The legend of how Herakles and the Greeks tricked the Amazons into letting them into their city, under the pretence of peace, only to mislead the Amazons until they were off guard and attack them."
"I know this already!" Diana was impatient to get back to the Agora, find her baby, she didn't have time for this trip down memory lane. "This is not news!"
The Crone's ancient eyes glittered. "Ah, but did you know that your mother was warned beforehand that it was a trap? And that she still allowed the Greeks in...even after Cassilda's warning?"
In shock, Diana stepped back from the old woman, uncertain of what to think. When she glanced at her mother's face, it filled her with dismay, and more than that, she felt as if something was about to fall apart, something vital. She suddenly remembered, just before the baby was born, Vanessa's history scroll that she read...could it possibly be fact..?
"Mother," Diana said slowly. "Please tell me...what does she mean?"
"Princess, this is irrelevant!" Laodice burst out angrily. "We don't have time to be standing around talking history!"
"It is no longer history," the Crone mumbled. "This is the now. This is the real. Cassilda has returned to Themyscira to extract her vengeance. She has waited many years..."
Ismene stepped forward and glared at the old seeress. "I know nothing of prophecies, but this is not Amazon history! I have never heard of such a thing! What trickery are you Getai up to? Are you intending to take power here?"
There was an angry mumur among the other Amazons, and the Getai stepped forward to protect their seeress if any one tried to strike her again, but to everyone's surprise Hippolyta's voice rang out, stopping them.
Hippolyta slowly removed her helm and tossed it on the ground, where it rolled by Clark's feet. Clark stared at her, feeling, as his wife did, that something had changed about her. He felt as if he were trapped in some onrush of uncontrollable fate, but he had to halt its momentum, if only so he could get Diana and the baby to safety...whatever the Amazons were babbling about, he didn't understand and didn't care to, not right at this moment.
"No more deception, then," She looked at the gathered Amazons, those who had survived the battles thus far. They, including her daughter, were battered and wounded, and still the invaders were here. They had trusted her to lead them, and now...all this death and destruction.
"Yes, Cassilda was the War Queen the year Themyscira fell," Hippolyta began. "She wanted to renew the war against Athens that cost the lives of so many of our sisters. We broke faith with our allies, the Scythians of the North, when we decided to lift the siege and retreat from their walls. King Theseus had proven that the Amazons could be defeated. No one would trust us again. She wanted to avenge that dishonor. She had spies in the Greek city. When Herakles came with his offer of truce, she spurned it for the obvious ruse it was. But...I was the Peace Queen. We needed stability. It was my decision and my right, to decide against her and let the truce occur," Hippolyta's voice faded. "I thought I could trust Herakles...because I thought I was in love with him. When he returned my affections or pretended to...I thought that I had made the right choice...it was a choice made in love," She looked at Diana, as if pleading for forgiveness. "I was wrong, so wrong. I never wanted it to happen again, especially not to you!"
"Hippolyta," Laodice gripped her arm. "You needn't do this."
"But I must," the Queen insisted, shaking her friend's arm off. "Cassilda was my friend, my sister, and I betrayed her! I trusted to love rather than the counsel of a fellow warrior."
A ripple of astonishment and disbelief ran through the assembled warriors, Amazon and Getai alike. Diana felt frozen in place, unable to move or think.
"What happened to this Cassilda?" Clark finally asked breaking the shocked silence. It seemed no one else was able to speak.
"We argued," Hippolyta replied. "She tried to dissuade me but I would not listen. In my anger, I accused her of wanting to assume the sole monarchy. I accused her of treason."
"She would have led us into a war we couldn't have won," Laodice insisted. "We were right not to go to war against Athens again!"
"No! It should not have happened the way it did!" Hippolyta clenched her fists, the memories pressing upon her like a rush, after so many years suppressed. "I called her a liar, and that she would lead us all to Doom. You, all the Council, except Menalippe, backed me. We all wanted peace. So we stripped her of her Queenhood."
"Mother," Diana pleaded. Her mind was buzzing, but she tried to focus. "What happened to her? Where is she now?"
"When the Greeks entered the city, she fled," Hippolyta went on, as if she hadn't heard her. "She knew the fate that awaited us. She ran away that very night of the treachery, leaving us to our fate...our deserved fate. She cursed us, and all the Gods and Goddesses as she left, that they had all betrayed her, and led her people to ruin. What happened to her after that...we did not know for a long time. We had...other matters to think of. The Greeks nearly destroyed us as a people. The Amazons were wiped from the history of Man's World."
Laodice looked at the Princess defiantly. "But then the Gods led us to Themyscira, to this place of peace and safety! Your mother rallied us and led us. We would have vanished into history, sold into slavery like the other surviving Amazon tribes, absorbed into Man's World, if she had not done so! We owe everything we are to her!"
"But you all blamed Cassilda for the destruction, didn't you?" cried Diana, remembering Vanessa's writings. "You deliberately forgot her, all so that you could salvage your pride!"
Laodice was about to retort angrily, but Hippolyta interrupted her.
"Aye - we did. It seemed...easiest to do so. When she was not found among the dead, we knew she had abandoned us to our destruction, instead of staying to fight and help. Her name was forgotten and her memory erased."
Diana thought back to her memories of the Iron Rite. Was everything she had seen, the visions of the destruction, something that could have been averted? Was it all, everything she had been taught about Themyscira, a lie? She felt physically sick, but she had to continue to ask.
"You did not say what had happened to Cassilda. What was her fate? Did she die?"
There was a long silence among the older Amazons, the only sound the shuffling of their weapons and armor, and the crackling of fires.
"We saw her only once more," Hippolyta finally whispered. "On the way to this place, she appeared to us in a storm, descending from the clouds, a rent in the fabric of the sky itself. She was no longer the same woman we knew. She was...different. Changed, but how we did not know. She came writhed in a yellow light that was not of this earth, and promised that we would never rest easy in our new home. I still remember her words."
Hippolyta and the all the other surviving Amazons remembered it, those who were there, although they had tried their best to forget: The sky had turned dark. The stars had turned black, but continue to shine in the unnatural sky. Cassilda, pale as death yet glowing with an eerie life that wasn't life, appeared on the path before them.
"Begone, Cassilda!" Menalippe had shouted. "In the name of our Gods!"
Cassilda had only laughed a terrifying laugh that was half-scream half curse.
"I now serve the Magnum Innominandum. Your gods flee before him, they will never protect you. Queen Hippolyta: since you desired a king to rule over you, you shall have one, you and all the Amazons, yea, one day the entire world shall bow before him! His great city will overtake your pitiful human ones, and you all will be driven to DOOM."
"Menalippe, the Sybil, was able to dispel her, if that was truly her, although she was never the same afterwards. We settled on Themyscira, and created new lives. We never saw nor heard of her or her new god again, and we tried to forget. But before Menalippe died, she had a premonition of DOOM. Now it has happened, just as she said. That is all we knew...all we wanted to know"
Hippolyta fell to her knees, dejected, the Amazons and Getai alike looking on with stricken faces. Diana stared at her mother, feeling less than numb now. She had thought nothing could shock her more than losing her child, now she wondered if she would ever feel quite the same ever again. Perhaps the other Amazons felt that way, she didn't know. She realized, at that moment, how utterly alone she was.
Of all the people there, it was Clark who now approached Hippolyta. He grabbed her shoulder, an act which before would have had the Amazons howling with outrage, but no one spoke at all.
"Hippolyta," Clark said in a firm voice, yet loud enough for them all to hear. "Whatever...whatever happened back then, we have to do something about it now! We can't give in! I don't believe in curses, not when we can still fight!"
"What is there left to fight for," Hippolyta said raggedly. "We have lost, now that the King is here."
Clark pulled Hippolyta up forcefully from her knees, stared into her startled eyes.
"Steve Trevor, do you remember him? I saw him, here! Something's happened to him! What's happened to him?"
"Kal, what did you see?" Diana pleaded.
"I-I can't describe it," he blinked, trying to remember. "Do you remember what we fought in Smallville? It looked something like that, only with more form, but with Steve's face."
Clark let go of Hippolyta, and looked over all the startled Amazons.
"I'm not giving up! I will fight, to the last drop of my blood, to protect my child! Your grandchild! I don't give a damn about your ancient feuds! If you know anything at all that can help us - help you - you'd better say it now!"
"Clark is right," Diana stepped forward. "If it is Cassilda, then she is still an Amazon..."
"She is no longer an Amazon, she is now longer a human being," the Crone intoned direly. "We Getai know of old, of ancient powers and curses. Cassilda was taken up by one of the Outer Gods, alien gods so powerful they would make the gods of our earth seem as mere children-"
"Zeus' cock!" Diana snarled. "I don't give a damn for the gods! I will fight them all if I have to! I will fight this Cassilda too if need be!"
Before any of the Amazons could respond to Diana's unique blasphemy, a cry rang out.
"Superman! Wonder Woman!"
They whirled around to see Lois and her companions stumble into camp, exhausted and wounded.
"Lois!" Clark cried. "What are you doing here?"
"Never mind that!" Lois looked around them. "Batman is gone!"
"What?" Diana grabbed her. "What are you saying?"
"He said he was going after the baby!" Lois could barely get the words out. "He went into that glowing light!"
Dismay showed on the faces of Diana and Clark. But before they could even contemplate their next action, a thunderous BOOM! startled them all.
"Oh my God!" Lois shouted, pointing up at the sky. "It's Green Lantern!"
In Dim Carcosa
For a moment, Bruce thought he was back in Gotham City.
When he had passed through the portal of glowing light, he had nothing to reassure him that his physical body would not be blasted into a million component atoms, other than the tracking device which he'd planted on Clark and Diana's child, which told him the baby was still alive on the other end...of whatever. But he had taken many risky chances before, and this, really, was no different. So he had merely stepped through that scintillating doorway of light...and came out here, in one piece as far as he could tell. The glowing, blinding light behind him was immediately gone, and it took him a second for his eyes to adjust to the dimness. He looked behind him, but the light was only a faint circle hovering in the air.
He blinked, and he reassessed his surroundings. He was standing, very intact, on a city street, alone. It somehow reminded him of Gotham, but the streets were more like Alar with the long crooked cobblestone roads and the slightly crooked, top-heavy buildings, leaning in ominously towards him. There was a haze over everything, as if some sulpherous fire were burning in the distance, covering the city in a cloying yellowish London-style fog. He saw nobody around. Yet the place was disquieting, letting him know without doubt that this was no place on earth, or the earth that he knew. The black boarded-up windows of the looming buildings stared down at him like blind, empty eyes. He looked around, but there was nothing to give him a clue of where he was. Behind him to his left, he saw an empty intersection, and the sign on its dead lamppost read: Rue Barree. A French-sounding street name, but although he had been in Paris many times, he had never heard of that kind of name.
Cautiously, Bruce strode forward, looking for anyone. From time-honed senses, he knew he was being watched, although he could see and detect no one. His footsteps made no sound on the solid ground.
Focus Bruce, don't get distracted by the weirdness of the place!
Still, he knew that this place was unlike anywhere he had been before. He had best be on his guard.
You are in Carcosa now.
In the distance he heard a baby crying.
At the sound Batman rushed forward, running through the empty streets, leaving the glowing portal behind him. Nobody appeared or tried to stop him. He glanced at the tracker embedded on his gloved wristband. He was getting closer, and he could hear the crying grow louder. It should be closer, there, down the next cul-de-sac: a dead end. No matter, he would have to risk it.
You are in Carcosa now.
He turned, and as he expected, he saw the baby at the end of the dead-end street.
He also saw the Yellow King, in whose arms it rested.
Batman stopped cold, but the figure didn't move, just held the baby outstretched in his (its) cloaked arms.
"Trevor," Batman demanded in his raspy voice. "Give me the child."
"Take off your mask," Steve's voice was disembodied, coming from no mouth that Bruce could see although he heard him very clearly. "You are in Carcosa now."
"Take off yours," Bruce retorted. "Steve...what's happened to you? Who did this to you?"
"It's...funny," Steve's voice sounded muffled, disguised by the yellow strip of cloth over his mouth, but it sounded as if it was coming from a long distance, yet it was clearly his, Bruce recognized it from their many meetings together. "I didn't even think it was interesting. Frankly, Act One I thought was pretty boring."
"What are you talking about?"
"The French play, of course. The book Colonel Robardin gave me. Act I was just an introduction of main characters, there was no plot to speak of. But the more you read, rather, the more times you read it, the deeper you get drawn in. Until you just can't put it down. Then, you start to see and understand its real meaning..."
Batman watched Steve Trevor carefully. His yellow robes concealed his body, and most of his face, but there was something off, something about the proportions of it made him look taller than he knew Steve was, and it rippled and moved, although he felt no wind.
"Steve," Bruce interrupted. "Whatever happened, whatever you...read, it's done something to you, something terrible. You've got to fight it."
"There's nothing to fight," Steven replied calmly. "It's already happened. Carcosa is here. The King is here."
"This place?" Bruce demanded. "What are you doing this for? Revenge? Because Diana spurned you?"
At the mention of Diana's name, the form under the yellow robe seemed to tremble. With rage? Bruce watched closely, waiting for his chance.
"Revenge? Perhaps...at first I thought it was...yes, I wanted to see her suffer. After what I did for her, rescuing her really from her bitch of a mother...but I had a better idea...a suffering that would last an eternity...not for her but for all of you...so you would know what true pain is like. Pain that has no ending...to know that whatever you do is for nothing, that nothing you ever do will make the slightest bit of difference to the impersonal cosmos, or to the beings who dwell in it."
Steve's voice had changed as he ranted, and Bruce was certain that he was mad. Still, he slowly approached the figure.
"You think I don't know pain?" Bruce hissed. "You think I don't know suffering? I have had my fill of both...and I know that it will never end until I die. You have nothing to teach me!"
"Death is not the end," Steve whispered in a sibilant voice. "Rejoice, for you are in Carcosa, and death is not the end here. Not here."
"What is this place?" Batman repeated.
"Queen Cassilda desired - if such a being has desire that we can comprehend - a place to observe these things. It has seen a great deal, and wishes to observe more. You must understand these are just.."
"We're not playthings!" Batman growled.
"No, more like ants...or cattle."
"Give this up, Steve," Batman urged, preparing himself. "This is not who you are!"
"I never knew who I was," Steve replied, still in his maddeningly calm yet sibilant voice. "Not really, until I read the play. You should read it too, Bruce. We can act it out together."
"Give me the child. You don't need it..."
The form in the tattered yellow garments looked down at the child, as if it had only just now seen it.
"It's not I that need it. It's...him..."
In the distance, over the crooked buildings of the city, the clouds had started converging, spinning, that made Batman think of the moments before thunderclouds turned into tornados. Somehow, although he didn't know how, he knew that something was coming...the true danger here. The owner of this haunted, dark city.
"Magnum Innominandum," Steve whispered. "He comes..."
[AN: OK, we're coming towards the end (really)! It will all conclude (finally!) by the next chapter...of the next, plus the epilogue of course. But there will be no more than three more chapters to this story...then we start up all over again, lol! Thanks for reading and please review!]