Xyzandra flew us over Blue Valley. As we approached a large house, Todd and I knew where the lost Silver Phoenix ring was! But we couldn’t just barge in and throw things around looking for that ring. We had to be polite. So Xy flew off saying she’d return for us a little later. She didn’t want to scare anyone needlessly. Todd and I approached the door of the house, and I rang the doorbell.
We then saw the door open a couple moments later, and a young blonde woman who looked not much older than us, stepped out onto her patio. “Hello,” she said. “Why are you here?”
“We’re… looking for something of great personal value,” Todd said, fumbling.
“OK,” she replied with a quizzical look on her face. “Tell me about it, and I’ll see if I can help you find what you’re looking for. Oh, and by the way, I’m Frances Kane. You can call me Fran or Frankie,” she said. “What are your names?”
“Oh, sorry, we were impolite,” I said. “My name is Jennie-Lynn Hayden.”
I then gestured toward Todd, who said, “I’m Todd Rice. Nice to meet you, Frankie!”
We giggled at Todd’s familiarity, but as Fran reached up to cover her mouth, we noticed the Silver Phoenix ring on her right hand! We were completely cowed! How did some stranger get our ring?
Fran looked concerned and asked us, “Todd, Jennie, is something wrong? I know… this ring is a real beaut! I found it walking to town a few days ago.”
I stammered a bit, “Frankie, th-that’s what we’re looking for! We’ve been searching the world for days trying to find that ring!”
Fran then looked a bit cowed herself. She invited us into her home. “I think the three of us need to sit down and have a talk.”
We sat in her living room, and Fran brought us some lemonade. She told us of her ghostly encounter, and we were stunned. We asked her for a description of the ghost lady, and her info matched that of one of the Silver Phoenix sorceresses exactly. We told her that her visitors’ name was Ellen, and she was an ancestor of ours. We then told her the Reader’s Digest version of our last few days and why we were looking for the lantern and ring.
All of a sudden, both the ring on Frankie’s finger and the lantern, which Todd had placed on an end-table nearby, began to glow with silver flames. Flames then shot out of the lantern, engulfing us, and all three of us disappeared from where we were sitting.
We were transported back to our maternal family’s paradise.
“What happened?” Fran asked. “Where are we? Why are we here?”
“Ssshhh! Don’t worry, we’re safe here!” I said, trying to comfort her.
“Yeah, Frankie! This is Fairyland, just like in the kiddie stories! Isn’t it great?” Jen bubbled.
Fran looked around at the thornless roses at her feet and the crystal houses and palace. Truly, this did look to her like a child’s fantasy. Was someone playing around with our heads? Were we really safe?
After assuring Fran that we would be OK, I glanced back and saw Xyzandra, our friendly cat dragon, lounging in the field. Then our begowned ladies of magic approached. Our mother Rose was holding the lantern, which had transported itself as well as us back here.
“Hello, Frances!” our mother Rose said. “It’s nice to meet you!”
“I-I-I-I just don’t know why I’m here,” Fran replied. “First I find this ring, then meet Jennie and Todd, and now I’m standing in Wonderland! Why am I here? Why do you need me, of all people?”
Althea then responded to Fran’s pleas, “I’m sorry you are upset, Frances. There is much about you we’ve learned, things you need to know for the sake of your future.”
Fran then held up her right hand, “About the ring?” she asked.
“No, about something even more precious than that!” said Althea. “We’ve learned things about your family you must know.”
Jennie and I stood near Fran to serve as her anchors, but we were all stunned. None of our ancestors had bothered to mention anything about Fran prior to this. That made me concerned, but I didn’t express it, just listening along with my sister and new friend.
“Children, please listen closely,” Althea said. “Jennie, Todd, I know you’d recall how we told you a little about our ancient enemies — the evil mystics who called themselves the Black Shadow!” Todd and I nodded in agreement, while Frankie just listened along.
“Yes, they were the ones out to destroy us!” said Todd. “They made our mother into the Thorn for that purpose!” I scowled a bit. Mom looked concerned, as did Frankie.
“A group of us were searching for info on them in case they should ever rise again, and we stumbled onto something in the remains of one of their former outposts,” said Ellen, the one who had visited Fran prior to our arrival in Blue Valley. Frankie gawked at her a bit. All three of us noticed she was holding up a book with a tattered black cover that bore a fading, bright red inscription.
Ellen continued, “The title and much of the content of this book, a journal of experiments the Black Shadow mystics conducted, was written in a code they used for secrecy. We only recently found the cyphers to break this code! This book’s title is The Blood of Thorns. As you are aware, these monsters made poor Rose the Thorn in the hope that she’d kill our family line. Unfortunately for them, they feared they also rendered her essentially sterile. They felt her Thorn side would prevent her from ever being able to settle down and have a family.
“They needed to know if their Thorn experiment was fully successful, and the only way to prove that was to see if a child would inherit Rose’s curse. So after realizing they might have prevented poor Rose from having kids the natural way, they took matters into their own hands.”
Ellen cleared her throat, then continued, “They approached Rose as she slept one night and used a potion to make sure she stayed unconscious. They then harvested a number of her ova to create her children on their own. But that wasn’t everything. They took semen samples from a number of super-heroes in a similar fashion, because they felt it would be great to have an army of corrupt, controllable young people who just happened to have the blood of great heroes! They then used a mystical form of in vitro fertilization to create a batch of embryos, and they placed them in wives of infertile couples so that the people carrying the babies to term would be less likely to be suspicious of their blessings.
“But the experiment was botched!” Ellen said sadly. “Most of the children they created died, many through miscarriages, with a handful being stillborn. There was only one survivor.” Ellen glanced at Frankie and said, “We had no way to know exactly who the real fathers of most of those poor children were, but in Frances’ case we were able to read it off her soul. Todd, Jennie… Frances is your full-blood older sister!
“It’s ironic when you realize that a couple of years after they went through all that stress and strain to ensure Rose had a child, Rose was briefly married and conceived of twins on her wedding night!” continued Ellen. (*) “So, essentially their work became completely fruitless.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Green Dreams and Precious Illusions,” Infinity Inc. Annual #1 (1985).]
Frankie looked like she was going to collapse, and Todd and I were furious. “How can that be true? Is there any chance they were lying? We are talking evil, here, aren’t we?” I said.
“No, Jennie, we have no absolute way to prove this right or wrong for certain, but our intuition tells us it’s true.”
Ellen then approached Frankie, who had started crying, and tried to comfort her.
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard! Being a super-hero, you’d think I’d be able to believe and understand anything, but this really riled me up!
The revelation of this little secret had Fran in tears, and Jen and I left, confused and furious. With everything they had told us, why had they kept the truth about Fran from us? Couldn’t they have trusted us with that secret? Plus, poor Fran herself was caught in the middle, and I didn’t know how she’d be able to go on.
“Todd!” Jennie said as she caught up to me, nudging my shoulder. “It looks like Frankie is going to be OK. She’s stopped crying. I’d ask you for a penny for your thoughts, but I was able to sense them without any difficulty. I feel much the same.”
“Then it’s time I did something, sis,” I replied. Turning to the mystics, I asked them, “Why did you keep this from us? This is something we should’ve known before we saw Frannie! This makes me so–”
Then Mama cut me off. “Todd, Jennie, I’m terribly sorry it had to happen this way, but we couldn’t tell you about Frances ahead of time! We knew you wouldn’t hesitate to embrace her as your sister, but we had to gauge how she would handle the truth!” Mama frowned. “We knew both of you have had painful times in your lives. How would you have felt if you had approached Fran, knowing she was your sister, and she rejected you?”
“Like old home week!” I scowled, recalling how my foster mother had taken my younger brother and left me behind to be abused by a drunken father.
“Todd!” Jen shouted. “That was rude!” Then she looked embarrassed. “Sorry, twinnie, I fear this has taken a bit of a toll on all of us!” Jen nodded toward me and said, “We understand, Mama. Hopefully everything will come out of this OK.”
“But I know what will be the hardest thing of all,” I said. “How will we tell Dad about this one? He was willing to believe Mama’s story about us, as related by Molly, but this one is way out there!”
After taking Fran into her house and putting her down to rest, Ellen emerged, looking concerned. “This whole thing is a big mess, children. I feel terribly sorry for all of you,” she said.
“It’s not your fault,” said Jennie. “You did what you thought was best.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “But we’ll have to see how Fran, Dad, and Molly feel before we consider calling a lab for blood tests.”
“Oh, my God, this is going to make Dad faint!” Jen replied. “Learning about us is one thing, but learning about Fran… whoa!”
“No, it’s simple,” I replied. “We’ll just knock on his door and let Dad know he’s got a bouncing baby girl who’s a hundred and thirty-three pounds, five feet, seven inches tall, and twenty-six years old!” I, of course, was joking a bit to help lighten things up, and it worked! Everyone burst out laughing.
Fran woke up a couple of hours later and joined the rest of us for dinner. Afterwards, we chatted for a while and then went off to rest. Whatever needed to be done from here could be started in the morning.
The next day, the three of us decided it would be prudent to contact Daddy. So we returned to the apartment in New York that I’d begun renting when I started working with the JSA Reserves. We had ridden Xyzandra into the outskirts of the city, then traveled on our own from there.
“Goodbye, children, and good luck!” Xy shouted as she flew off.
“Thanks!” I shouted back, and all three of us waved as she flew away. We used our powers to get to my little apartment as quickly as possible. We were eager to tell Dad our news.
So I picked up my phone and dialed. Dad’s phone rang a couple of times before there was an answer. “Hello?” said Molly, sounding a bit worn down for some reason.
“Molly, it’s me, Jennie!” I replied to my stepmom. “Are you all right? You sound tired.”
“No, I am a little sleepy, but it’s OK,” Molly said. “Did you want to speak to your father?”
“Yes, thanks,” I said.
A moment later, Dad picked up the phone. “Jennie, is everything all right?” he asked.
“Don’t worry, Daddy. Everything’s great!” I said happily. “Todd and I just wanted to see you for a bit. When’s a good time for us to come over?” I asked.
“You can come for dinner. About six will be good,” he replied. “It won’t be anything fancy. Just pizza.”
“That’s great! I love pizza!” I shouted. Todd and Frankie laughed in the background at my enthusiasm.
“Plus, your timing is good, Jen. Molly and I have something we wanted to talk with you two about, also!”
Then I just realized I had almost forgot something, or perhaps I should say someone. “Oh, Daddy?” I asked. “Is it OK if Todd and I bring a friend for dinner?”
“Sure, hon!” he replied. “The more, the merrier!”
We then closed the call with a couple of I love you’s. But one thing I couldn’t help but notice was that Daddy seemed a bit more cheery than usual.