That night, Speedy sat with the family and tried to understand their words. He could see that his arrival had saved them from a terrible fate. He hoped that if it was for such a purpose that he had been brought to this ancient era, he could succeed in making their safety a certainty.
Perditus fingered Speedy’s bow and shook his head. “These hallow shafts contain many potions, like the one you used to douse our fire. I am eager to learn the healing arts. Could you teach me how to make such wonderful compounds?” asked the curious man.
“I could show you a few tricks,” said Roy Harper, “but we lack the resources to really make some of my arrows.”
Deinome sat close by, and her keen eyes seemed to be recording every word and movement from the young hero. “Tell me how you learned to shoot so well! Tell me of your past!” she begged.
He smiled and caressed her hair as he looked at her bright eyes in the flickering firelight, so like his girlfriend Rebecca’s back in his own time. “I don’t think I can explain my origin too clearly. I guess I could just say that several good men make me what I am today. Other heroic friends influenced me, too. In my home I try to keep peace. I try to use my gifts to make people feel safe.”
“I would love to see the world!” said Deinome. “I feel as if the entire world passes me by while I remain here in tiny Potidaea. I have always imagined that I could be more than I am now. I would like to use my words to capture for all time the deeds and the lessons taught by great heroes like yourself!”
“You could do that,” Speedy assured her. “You could see a lot and do many things. Don’t feel limited by what others see as your role. In my time — I mean, where I come from, there are many women who work and act in various ways that were once thought to be only fit for men. Some of them are pretty wonderful! You should use your talent to write and not let anyone’s doubts hold you back!”
Perditus had departed a while before, and now he worked in a quiet corner with one of Speedy’s fallen arrows. He was amazed by the futuristic science and wondered if he could ever create such a marvel.
The next day dawned bright and promised new opportunities. Speedy had asked Deinome to tell him where he could find the Sons of Ares, but she had refused to reveal their customary haunts unless he allowed her to go with him. “I could be of use to you,” she said. “I could tell you things you could not know otherwise. You still lack many of our words and ways.”
Speedy had sighed and thrown up his hands in mock defeat. “OK, OK, I’ll take you with me. Just stay behind me and do as I say.”
Deinome’s smile had flashed brilliant and open and eager to please. She took him to a grassy knoll that overlooked the sea, where a large structure loomed nearby. “That is their lair. They are staying there, although it used to be the home of a merchant. They just took it over, and we’ve always hoped they would confine their raids to the cities, but it looks like hard times have forced them to start striking locally, too. Once they would have turned their noses up at raiding small farms like our own.”
Speedy nodded. “You said there were border disputes going on across the land. I’d say they want to take advantage of the fact that many men are away or are occupied in those fights. In my home, many punks tried to use wartime as an opportunity to get rich.”
“I can see you in your homeland!” said Deinome. “No doubt you are honored everywhere as a mighty hero! I bet the bards sing your praises, and the people cheer at your passing!”
Speedy laughed. “Well, G.A. and I do make the news from time to time!”
Deinome leaned forward impulsively and kissed him. He smiled at her for a moment and then stepped away. “Deinome, you are a special person. You have the gift of always feeling at home with anyone you meet. You have the eye for detail, imagination, and discernment of a storyteller; however, that very same romantic impulse makes you see the world as you would like it to be and not as it truly is.”
She frowned and turned her back for a moment. He feared she was going to cry, but the plucky girl turned again and faced him with her eyes sparkling. “I see the world as we can make it! Each person can bring about much change! I believe that! We all may be transformed from what we are to what we should be! We don’t even have to have the magic powers of the Lady of Aeaea to alter what we are!”
Speedy said, “I agree with how each person can achieve far more than expected under the right circumstances. My buddy and I have spent our whole career defying odds. But just who is this magic lady you speak of?”
“Her name is not known,” she said. “They call her the witch of Aeaea Isle. It is not far from our coast. She is rumored to be the daughter of a god and to have mighty magic powers that can transform people in terrible ways!”
Speedy said nothing as he pondered the chances that a magic user could return him to his proper era after he took care of the Sons of Ares. “I want you to stay here,” he said. “I will head down there and check out their base. Don’t follow me!” She nodded reluctantly and watched as the skilled hunter disappeared into the forest and crawled through the high grass to draw closer to the old house.
Speedy waited like the trained tracker and hunter he was and watched the Sons of Ares pass in and out. He gathered information and became aware of their routines. Not too many of them, he thought. I guess their weapons and their horsemanship gives them the edge over timid villagers. Let me see if I can’t teach them all a lesson!
He moved silently through the grass and fired a cable-arrow over the looming statue of Ares on the roof. As the cable secured itself around the statue, Speedy swung across the area and climbed to the roof. “Deinome said this used to be some rich guy’s house. Looks like these thugs have redecorated heavily!” he said with a grin.
Making his way across the roof, he peered down through a section in which a reedy cover allowed a dim view of the interior. “This should be my point of entry,” he said.
He kicked against the reeds, and as they broke apart he fired an arrow into the midst of the startled group below. The flare-arrow exploded with a brilliant light that blinded the thugs. Speedy followed that shaft by dropping down and landing on a table below. He ran across the top of it and released two more arrows. An arrow sliced through the air in the middle of the group, and a high-pitched siren filled the room with its cry.
The Sons of Ares were now blinded and deafened, and Speedy took advantage of their plight by firing a gas-arrow that left them dazed and easily beaten. A glue arrow should hold their pals, too! he thought as he fired the arrow at the doorway. Sure enough, other raiders rushed in and soon became trapped or stunned.
He bound them all and was prepared to search the house, when a heavy weight hit his back, and he felt a man attacking him from behind.
“You dog! I warned you that I would give your life blood to the war god!” cried the brute. It was their leader, Draga, and he was furious.
Speedy knew he was no match for the man in terms of brute power, but he knew martial arts, and he used the warlord’s strength and momentum against him by spinning him to the ground. He kicked him aside and rolled away to rise up once more across the room.
“Now let’s see how tough you are when you face me on my terms!” he said as he fired a bolo arrow. The spinning ropes wrapped up the warlord and sent him crashing to the floor.
Speedy said, “The villagers summoned the local militia from the nearest camp. You boys will be arrested by some real soldiers.” Draga remained silent in his disgust and anger.
“You did it! Praise Athena! The day belongs to the valiant!” cried Deinome as she rushed inside.
Speedy frowned in mock disgust. “I told you to wait outside. You could have been hurt!” he said as the girl embraced him.
She laughed and said, “I had to see with my own eyes! I want to write the story of your noble deeds! You deserve to be honored in song!”
Speedy smiled and led her outside. Shortly thereafter, a troop of soldiers arrived and took the Sons of Ares into custody.
A burly soldier said, “We knew this group existed. They are all ex-soldiers with one form of disgruntlement or another. Had we expected them to turn into robbers, we would have looked into the matter earlier. The border troubles occupy us chiefly.”
Speedy said, “I’m glad I could help.”
That evening, as the family slept, Speedy walked away from their farm. He knew that if he had waited for dawn, Deinome would have insisted on joining him, and he could not justify including the brave girl in what might be a dangerous lifestyle should he remain trapped in the past. He certainly could not take her to the future with him, either.
Thus he left a farewell note on a scroll and headed for the nearest boat to the isle of Aeaea, where the lady of that isle could perhaps use her rumored magic to help him find his way back to his own era. Unknown to him, however, he would only find more danger there as the Lady Circe would use her magic not to help him, but to alter his body and enslave him along with other helplessly transformed beast-men until he was rescued by heroes from his own world and another.
But now, many years later, his ultimate fate was not on the mind of Thetis as she finally allowed herself to be led away from her husband’s ashes. The old woman remembered Speedy’s visit so long ago, and she remembered how his example had inspired Deinome to leave home in search of adventures and romantic fantasies that had ultimately led to her estrangement from her family.
She remembered how the inventive Perditus had continued laboring to create the wonderful chemicals and substances found in Speedy’s arrows, and how one such experiment had left the curious young man seriously burned. He had never married, and he had died much too soon. She and Samaceus had been left alone with little to laugh about and only sorrowful memories of what had been.
Thetis turned away from the scene of her husband’s funeral, and for perhaps the last time the old woman thought about how Speedy had changed their lives, and once more she cursed him by every god she could name.
To Be Continued in The Seven Soldiers of Victory: Times Past, 1972: The Nebula-Man, Book 2: Time-Lost Legionnaires