Indeed, the mysterious island contained many buildings with ornate columns like those found in Ancient Rome. Aquaman’s keen eyes detected a few figures crossing the streets on a hill that rose up in front of them. They were the togas and tunics of the Roman Empire era.
“I can’t see how such a place could fit with the herbs I seek or the origin of said herbs in a pre-Atlantean culture,” said old Jason Deaver. “Have we gone back in time?”
The young Aquaman shook his head. “No, I think not. Rather, I see this lost island as being somehow locked in terms of development in the era of the Caesars.”
Deaver shook his head wearily. “This is the right location. Shall we still venture ashore?”
They moored the boat in a small cove and climbed up the rocky shore to the outskirts of the city, where a massive gate loomed above them.
“The Latin inscription reads New Discovery Island,” said Aquaman. “This is very odd!”
“We’re under attack!” Deaver cried out as a group of warriors dressed like Roman legionnaires rushed out to surround them.
“We come in peace,” said Prince Arthur, “but if it is war you want, then you shall have it!” He dodged a spear thrust and ripped the weapon out of the hands of the soldier who had threatened him with it. Spinning around, he smashed it across the brow of the soldier and shoved him crashing into his allies. Arthur jumped forward and used his sea-born strength to send the group tumbling across the shore.
Deaver had also approached the dynamic-looking woman who apparently led the troops. She was a tall, attractive blonde with a golden breastplate, armored skirt, and sandals. She was getting ready to hurl a net around Arthur’s broad shoulders when Deaver shot her with a small, concealed gun. She fell into his arms, and he dragged her down the shore.
“Get back to the boat, laddie!” he yelled to Aquaman.
Arthur punched a soldier in the chin and followed the old man. As they boarded their boat and departed from the shore, Arthur confronted his friend. “Why did you abduct their leader?” he demanded. “I was winning the battle! Though I do like such tactics as you used, for that gun was no ordinary weapon. You also seemed to suddenly forget your desire to find the herbs that will heal you.”
Deaver grinned suddenly. “About the herbs, I fear I lied to you. I am not ill, and all I want from this little quest has been achieved. I wanted this girl and you. Of course, I intend to kill you both, but that will happen soon enough now, eh?”
Aquaman moved toward the grinning old man, who seemed entirely different in manner than he had before. No longer was he the paternal old salt. Now he smirked with a cocky bravado that seemed to rid him of the years of age and reveal him as a much more fit and deadly type than he had appeared.
Before Arthur could reach him, a blinding pain surged through his head, and he collapsed on the deck before Deaver.
“My little device, here, is set to the exact frequency you and your old man use to control the fish,” boasted Deaver. “It lets me cripple you before you can touch me!”
Aquaman groaned in pain. “Who are you? You are no friend of my father’s!”
“Aye?” said Deaver. “I am not his friend, but we are old acquaintances. He knew me as Black Jack, the Pirate King. Now he’ll know me as the man who killed his son!”
Later, Prince Arthur opened his eyes to find himself bound to a weird wheel. His head ached, and he could sense nothing from the sea life that had to be somewhere around the large cavern in which he was imprisoned. He heard a soft moan from the other side of the wheel, and he noticed the scent of an exotic perfume.
Apparently, the woman Black Jack had taken from New Discovery Island was bound to the other side of the wheel, another victim of the villain’s madness. Arthur cursed himself for being taken in by the old rogue. He had been so very eager to connect with his father’s heroic youth that he had allowed the cunning pirate to trick him completely. Jack had made the second Aquaman an unwitting ally in an abduction scheme.
“Can you hear me?” he said. “I am not your foe. I was tricked by the old man into helping him. I am sorry that I was to blame for your abduction. I shall make amends, or die trying!”
“Your good intentions mean no more to me than your claim to be a mere dupe,” said the blonde woman. “How may I place any trust in your ability to save me when you clearly are a dolt and dullard, if I may believe your claim of innocence?”
“I am a prince of the proud realm of Atlantis,” he said. “My word is ever my bond. I am Arthur, son of he who once was famous as Aquaman!”
She laughed a rather girlish giggle of amusement. “And I am to be comforted by the fact that your father was a capable hero?” she said. “Many noble parents have oafish offspring. Still, I believe in the value of good breeding. My father is Imperius, ruler of New Discovery Island. I am Imperia. I have heard of your father, and he is rumored to be related to my own father.”
Black Jack entered the cavern. He was still clean-shaven, but he wore a more colorful costume that was based on the clothing worn by pirates of the past.
“Aye!” he said. “It matters little to me who you two are, except for the fact that your fathers each thwarted me years ago. I never forget a slight or fail to avenge m’self on a foe. My employer wants you two to die for her own reasons, and Black Jack, the Pirate King, is all too happy to oblige!” He laughed.
Aquaman struggled with his bonds, but he could not break them. “My father never spoke of you,” he said. “I had heard of you only from the accounts of others. I know he beat you countless times. I shall carry on the tradition with pleasure. I do not like being used!”
“Nay?” said Black Jack. “You’ll forget the pain when my mistress slays you both.” He gestured to a woman who approached them from the shadows.
She was tall and striking, and Aquaman felt a bit of a chill when she drew closer. She seemed oddly familiar to him, though he had never met her. Her ornate green and gold gown, piercing eyes, and flowing blonde hair made her unforgettable. Yet he felt some type of connection to her.
The woman smiled and laughed as she placed one hand against his cheek. “You feel as though we have met?” she said. “Is that not the sensation you are experiencing? I am Alanna. Some have called me the Sea Witch. You may call me kinswoman, since I gave birth to your father. He and I met but once, and he fought my efforts to use his life’s blood to restore the ancient race called the Nyal-Amen. He was a bit upset when he learned that I only used his father in order to create a hybrid of surface-dwellers and Atlanteans to use as a sacrifice in the ritual dark lore claims will usher in the dominion of the Nyal-Amen! They were banished from this dimension long ago, but I serve them, and it was such loyalty to them that led to my banishment from my home and the loss of my royal title.”
Arthur gasped in shock. He could not believe what the woman said, and yet he felt she spoke the truth. Her Atlantean ancestry would have explained his father’s powers far more convincingly than any scientific process created by his human father.
“I am my father’s son,” said Arthur. “Thus I have naught but contempt for you. I will not be the means by which you free your unholy masters. I defy you, and I shall triumph thusly!”
Aquaman snapped the bonds that held him and freed the woman called Imperia as well. As she fell to freedom on the far side of the ceremonial wheel, Arthur grabbed it and hurled it at the Sea Witch. She fell beneath the heavy wheel and screamed in pain. The very magicks that had bound Arthur to the talisman also wounded her.
“You defy me?” she said. “How pretty a notion! I have waited in torment at the hands of my displeased masters since your father fought my efforts. I waited until he had produced heirs whose blood could serve as well. Though your own blood lacks the mix of surface- and water-dweller stock in the proportion his own did, I had planned to double the potency by using my other heiress, Imperia, to add to the ceremony. Her father was my child as well.”
Imperia tossed back her blonde hair and drew a sword. “You are not my grandmother. I also will fight your foul magic!” she cried.
She charged Alanna as the Sea Witch fought her way free of the wheel. She danced aside as Black Jack raised his weapon again. She spun around and kicked the gun out of his grip before bringing the flat of the blade down on his skull. “You shall not touch me again, you villainous cur!” she said proudly.
Aquaman grabbed Alanna even as a black energy began to crackle around her. “I broke free of the wheel’s magic,” he said. “I can stop this mad spell as well!”
Alanna cursed as he resisted her spells, smiling bitterly at the irony. Her own blood apparently gave her heir some resistance to magic. “Arthur, do you not see that your only reason for existence was to bring forth my masters?” she said. “That was why I seduced your grandfather. Why fight destiny?”
Arthur groaned as the black fire burned at his skin. He was in pain, but pain was something he could stand. He was a hero and the son of the legendary Aquaman. He twisted away, shoving Alanna across the cavern.
She landed hard but jumped up and said, “Perhaps I should count you a loss. Your pretty sibling should suffice!”
“No! You won’t hurt Mina!” vowed Aquaman as he rushed forward with Imperia close behind him. “This ends now! I will bring you to justice at last!”
Before they could reach the Sea Witch, the cavern crumbled around them as a weird craft like a distorted submarine smashed through the cavern. A red ray-beam burst from the hull and brought the roof down around them.
Aquaman grabbed Imperia, who struggled in his arms. “Unhand me!” she shouted. “I am not some decorative plaything to be rescued by you!”
He swam to freedom at top speed, ignoring her shouts as they vanished beneath the waves. She breathes underwater, too, he mused. I guess she really is Alanna’s grandchild. They came out near the submarine, and he saw Black Jack’s battered body being hauled inside by a dark-haired woman in leather.
“You Atlanteans and your mad schemes,” she shouted. “This time you almost killed my father. I won’t forget that. He swore to kill your family, and I vow to carry on his work!”
The Pirate King choked and fought for air. He finally smiled his old grin and said, “Aye! My Black Jacqueline shall make her old man proud and kill you and your sister one day!” He disappeared in the craft as his daughter piloted it away.
Aquaman turned to Imperia. “The cave buried Alanna inside. I fear she may be dead.”
Imperia smiled. “If the body is not found, then her magic saved her. We may hear from her again.”
Aquaman shook his head. “I hope so. I would like to force her to reveal the truth about my father’s origin. Is she truly his mother?”
“She claimed to be my own father’s mother as well,” said Imperia. “We are related distantly. Perhaps I could forgive your earlier foolishness. Shall we get acquainted on the trip back to New Discover Island?”
Arthur smiled at the blonde. “Imperia, I should like some good to come from this day. I should like that very much.”