Showcase: Speedy: 1948: Transformations, Chapter 1: The Sons of Ares

by Libbylawrence

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Continued from The Star-Spangled Kid: Times Past, 1948: The Caveman Kid

In a small village called Potidaea, an old woman stood before an elevated wooden platform and stared numbly as flames consumed the body resting upon the bier. She did not truly watch the event as much as she merely stared vacantly at the scene with eyes too sore to cry and too numb to feel her pain. She did not really hear the high-keening song of mourning, nor did the acrid smoke odor reach her. She was lost in a world of her own, hidden within the protective shroud of memory, and she was in some ways merely an empty shell who stood at her husband’s funeral and felt nothing beyond the powerful pull of memories.

She remembered Samaceus when he was young and his eyes danced with a glimmer of pure mischief and wicked humor. She recalled how her late husband’s mouth would turn into a sly grin whenever some wild idea of manic humor crossed his mind, and she smiled as she saw in her mind’s eye how she herself would be hard-pressed to resist laughing at whatever crazy joke or idea had occurred to him. The laughter had been silenced now. She wondered if anything would ever strike her as being funny again.

The old woman did not hear when one of her friends came closer, whispering softly as they tried to lead her away from the scene of the final burning of the funeral pyre. She did not feel it when the other woman’s dark, spotted, callused hand touched her wrist. Her own hands were fragile and bent from years of use, and she had grown accustomed to feeling lingering pain in hands that once were supple and nimble. Yet her memory was still vivid, and the old woman’s agile mind did form the associations with things from long ago that she had not forgotten, nor would ever forget. A mother could not forget the smallest detail of anything connected with her children.

Thus, as her husband’s corpse burned, she noticed her neighbor’s hands and recalled the small-yet-graceful hands of their poor daughter and the slender, skilled hands of their stalwart son. Memory’s eye drew her back to a time long before when their family had been intact, if not completely happy. She remembered most of all how the masked bowman had changed everything forever.

***

She had been a hard worker, and her hours had been spent in useful activities that were necessary to securing the comfort and well-being of her family. Still, for all of the time spent working on their small farm and for all of her own sweat and toil, Thetis savored her life and relished the hours of the day when mealtime would bring her husband Samaceus in from the vineyard.

He would fill the small house with his vitality, and she would scold him for his wild humor and the way in which the rogue encouraged the children to emulate his mad actions. She almost choked the time he entered the house with a chicken resting serenely on his head, and he knew that behind her façade of stolid disapproval, she loved his every whim.

Samaceus would call out in his slightly reedy tone. He would say, “Come, children, your esteemed mother requires our presence at the royal repass, for Hermes himself awaits to whisk her back to her rightful place among the nymphs and dryads!”

Thetis would scold him and shake her head in mock annoyance at his wild comments as their bright young daughter Deinome and their rugged son Perditus would laugh in pleasure. Thetis would look at the pair with admiration. Perditus was so tall and strong and clever. In spite of his limp, he walked around their small property with the air of a young Apollo. He lacked that Olympian’s fabled gifts for music and poetry, but he did possess many skills in healing, and it was his talent to soothe and heal the wildest beast or help mend the normal injuries that working the land brought to the family. He also had an eye for the ladies, and Thetis hoped with all the earnest confidence of a mother that her son would eventually marry a neighbor girl who admired him and whose father owned a much larger farm. What a future they would have, and how handsome their children would be someday.

Deinome often scribbled ceaselessly on a scroll with tattered edges and little space. She was always composing some epic with dashing heroes and dire villains. Her future was less certain in the eyes of her mother, since Deinome seemed to be her father’s child in that she had inherited his romantic spirit and his love of things outside the traditional pale of village life. How would that girl find a husband when she only compared every suitor with heroes drawn from myth and her own cleverly told, if fanciful, stories? The spirited blonde girl was such a dreamer. If the tales were true, Hermes himself must have smiled upon her, since she had his legendary gift of gab.

“Deinome, move the stylus and scroll,” Thetis would say with a wave of her finger. “We need table space for the meal. Your father and brother are hungry from their work!”

The girl’s clear, innocent eyes would lose their dreamy nature, and she would jump up to gather up her precious scrolls and help set the table. She was a good daughter, but she did vex Thetis with her love of the fantastic.

“Deinome, did you know young Clamus is back in town? He rode by on a fine horse. He asked about you!” said Thetis.

Deinome nodded as she passed the bowl of figs and dates to her brother. “That’s nice. I wonder what types of things he saw and did when he was away?” she said as she stood up, and her eyes took on a faraway look. “Can you imagine if he actually saw some fighting? The gleam of light on a sword and the thunder of hoofs and the desperate heat of battle!”

Samaceus laughed and drew her down to the wooden bench with a gentle hand and an amused look. “Daughter, you can tell me how the war you’ve envisioned ends after we eat! Your mother needs the table, and things like blood and glory do leave such a stain!” he joked.

Perditus said, “You know, I’d like to see old Clamus in a battle. He’d run at the first sight of a blade!”

“It is not wise to jest of such things,” Thetis said. “The gods see and hear us and repay us with an irony beyond any we can imagine. I am sorry young men like Clamus must leave our village to drill with the militia. These warlords are becoming entirely too threatening. I thought our small village would be safe from their greedy plundering, yet in these days, how can anyone feel truly safe?”

Deinome had helped her mother clean up and had retreated to her favorite spot in the thick trees nearby. She liked to sit in a leafy tree, listen to the wind, and imagine the stories and the sounds carried on it as it passed across the whole of Greece.

***

That day, the girl spotted something in the woods and frowned. It was gleaming in the light even through the near dusky twilight of the heavily veiled forest. She climbed down and moved closer until she saw the source of the illumination. The light was hitting a strange object. It was an arrowhead on a shaft, and yet it was unlike any arrow she had ever seen. She had been to the marketplace at Amphipolus, and she believed that for a village girl she had a good understanding of what life was like in the cities and how many miracles awaited one just around a corner or down a dusty road. Still, as she picked up the arrow with the reflective head, she frowned in surprise. It’s a mirror! she thought. The arrow has a tiny mirror on its end. It must be used to signal a watcher from afar.

She pushed away the foliage and gasped as she uncovered a young man. He was wearing a vivid red costume, and a mask covered his closed eyes. His bow and arrows were scattered nearby, and he groaned softly as she tried to lift his head.

“G.A.! He’s going to release energy again!” cried the young man as he shook off her hands and sat up. He blinked and took in his surroundings with the keen eye of a detective or of a man born to the woods. “Where am I? Who are you? This sure isn’t the Himalayas!” he said.

He saw the pretty girl with her bright reddish-blonde hair and her innocent features, and he smiled at her. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you. Can you tell me where I am?” he said. She didn’t understand his language, and she shook her head and placed one hand on her lips. “Greek? It’s all Greek to me!” he punned as he realized her language was that of Greece. Still, some words meant nothing to him, and he wished that he had been more attentive to his mentor, Oliver Queen, when the older man had instructed him in the basics of many languages.

Roy Harper sat up, and he helped the girl rise. She was attractive, and he noticed this even as he looked around and tried to find his partner, the Green Arrow, or their friends from the heroic Seven Soldiers of Victory. We were fighting the Nebula-Man when he started to glow brighter than before, he recalled in his mind. I tried to jump free and fell down hard. I can only guess that his weird energies sent me far from the fight scene, perhaps even through time itself, judging by the girl’s clothing. G.A. and I have made a few trips back in time. We’ve always found ourselves being of use to the folks we met before we returned to our era. I guess I better just enjoy the time here and be ready for G.A.’s arrival. He’ll rescue me soon enough… somehow!

Deinome listened as the handsome young man spoke to her again. His words were odd, as was his accent, yet he was appealing, and she sensed that he meant her no harm. She could understand some of what he said in other ways as he gestured to his own mouth and stomach. He was hungry. She smiled and led him out of the woods, and she continued to talk at a rapid pace. He smiled to himself at her odd ebullience. She was charming, and he felt an attraction to her that belied how very little he knew her.

She brought him to her village, and he gasped as it became very clear to him that he was indeed in another era. He saw the wooden carts carrying farm goods, and he saw the wooden huts and simple stalls of the tiny marketplace.

“Ancient Greece! Well, we’ve been to Rome before, so why not Greece?” He marveled at how calmly he accepted his plight. He had led a remarkable life and had seen so very much. He had waged war on crime alongside his brilliant and valiant mentor Green Arrow, and he had seldom lacked for either excitement or the thrill of doing something heroic.

He smiled as he recalled his own youth back on Lost Mesa, where he had been stranded for years after his father’s plane had crashed. He had been taken in and trained by the Indians of that secret place, and his life had been one of wilderness and nature until the fateful day Oliver Queen had arrived and had changed his life even more dramatically than the loss of his own father had. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Birth of the Battling Bowmen,” More Fun Comics #89 (March, 1943).]

Queen had helped Roy defend the Lost Mesa from crooks, and he had taken the young man under his wing. It had been a true partnership, since for all of his archery skills, Queen lacked Roy’s wilderness skills and ability to adapt so easily to his surroundings. They had always learned from each other, and now he knew that Green Arrow would find him eventually. He had never failed him before.

Thus Roy was able to adjust to his circumstances with far less uneasiness than most people would have felt. That was a blessing, since he was able to take action when Deinome led him to her family farm, and he saw a scene of peril. Men on horseback were riding across the farm and breaking fences and property as they raised burning torches and threatened the family. Deinome screamed as she saw them grappling with her brother and saw her father fall before a burly attacker.

Speedy — that was the name Oliver Queen had first given Roy during their battle against the crooks that sought to plunder Lost Mesa. Speedy was an appropriate name, too, for the agile man was fast in both thought and deed. He whipped out his bow and fired three shafts in the time it would have taken other men to merely raise the bow.

The first arrow had a weird blunt head, and it slammed into the man standing over Samaceus with a stunning impact. He fell hard and did not get back up. The second shaft soared over the burning barn, releasing a spray that smothered the flames. The final arrow released a cable that wrapped itself around a beam, enabling Speedy to swing down across the farm to reach the spot where three other men were encircling Thetis. He said, “You boys need to learn to wipe your feet before coming inside! I’ll just have to wipe up the floor with you!”

He swung the bow and caught one man beneath the chin. As he choked, Speedy belted him with a right hook. He ducked a heavy sword and kicked it out of the other warrior’s hands. He spun to elbow the final man in the face before flipping him over his shoulder.

The final invader still sat upon his own horse. He was older than the others and wore his dirty hair pulled back tightly beneath a gleaming headpiece. His beard was greasy, and he scowled as his men fell before the battling bowman. “Retreat! I won’t let one stripling make us seem like fools in the eyes of the rabble!” he said.

As the men rode off, their leader turned and looked directly at Speedy, who stood defiantly before him with a raised bow. “I will see you sacrificed to mighty Ares!” cried the warlord.

Speedy’s expression became grim as he turned to help the others. Deinome had already rushed to the side of her father, and Thetis and Perditus were examining the damage.

“Those murdering fiends!” cried Thetis. “All we desire is to live in peace! I feared this day would come! Father Zeus defend us!”

Her husband held her as Perditus checked on their animals and Deinome gazed admiringly at Speedy.

“Young man, you have the eye of Apollo himself! I never saw such shooting!” said Samaceus.

Speedy clasped his hand and said, “I am glad I was able to help. Who were those thugs?

“You speak oddly, stranger,” said Perditus. “And a stranger you must be if you do not know that those men are the carrion who have been raiding villages all across this region. They are all disgruntled ex-soldiers who want to enrich themselves by plundering those who are too weak to stand against them. They are called the Sons of Ares after their patron, although there is nothing divine about them!”

Deinome gushed approvingly. “I found him in the forest. He is lost or has been separated from his friends. He needs shelter. Could he use the barn?

Thetis eyed the bowman and nodded. “Very well. We will not offend the proprieties of hospitality by turning away one in need. We could use his help should those jackals return!”

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