Deep within the bowels of Erebus, Lyta Trevor, wearing the modified Wonder Woman costume and powered by Desira’s magic, had reached the heart of darkness. She pushed back her long blonde hair and called out, “Show yourself! I know you are here, Helena!”
She deliberately used the Greek woman’s birth name in an effort to reinforce her damaged sense of self. If I can just reach the heroine and scholar within the Fury magic, she thought, having located the ancient place faster than her mother and father, since she was not attacked by any minions of the mysterious Mistress.
A low, guttural laugh echoed in the limitless shadows. “Pretender to the name of Fury! Welcome to your final retribution!” growled a voice.
She spun in time to avoid narrowly raking claws and heated breath. She saw Helena Kosmatos, the original Fury, transformed fully into a bat-winged monster with red eyes and talons in place of hands. “You have my brother. I want him back!” declared Wonder Girl, as she’d styled herself for this personal case.
“Try to take him!” screeched the mad creature. “Foolish maiden! With your ivory skin and flaxen hair, you preen and pose and dub yourself Fury? The gall of such an act, the unyielding hubris, mocks us!” cried the monster.
“Listen, you should be the last person in this cave to offer a critique of physical beauty!” cried Lyta.
But she fell down hard as the leathery wings blew a gust of wind into her. Before she could move, the Fury was sitting on her with sharp talons closed across her face.
“We seek to protect the infant!” screeched Helena. “We will keep him safe from the spite of Aphrodite! We will raise him to carry our vengeance to the world above and to lofty Olympus itself!”
Her distorted face was inches away from Lyta’s own, and she struggled to breath beneath the weight of the beast and the pressure of the claws across her mouth and nose. She thought of her brother lying alone in the ebony vastness of the cavern, and she surged upward with both knees.
“Those wings look vulnerable! Let’s see how durable you Furies make your puppets!” she said, pulling with all her enhanced might and thrusting out a powerful leg to add leverage to her effort.
A shriek echoed through the blackness as the wing began to tear free from the fibrous ridge that held it to the shoulders of the altered woman. “You fight well! Mayhaps you could host us in the future in that nubile form!” cried the wounded beast.
“Don’t hold your foul breath!” cried Lyta. “I’ve had enough of being treated as someone’s plaything to be discarded when the mood hits him! I have a brain, desires, and feelings of my own! I do not need some partner or master to make me complete! I am a child of the Amazons… and we stand alone!”
She rolled across the cavern to see a rude cradle. “There’s a dear!” she cooed as she saw her brother Troy sleeping unhurt. “If there is any part of you that still feels what Helena Kosmatos felt when her mother was ripped from her by Nazi agents, then you’ll release my brother to his family’s care,” pleaded Lyta as she stood defiantly between the monster and the infant. “Tell us why the previously loving Aphrodite has pitched a hissy-fit like some harpy!”
The Fury shuddered. “A mother’s love! A mother’s loss! Those are feelings that touch us still! Perhaps those impulses led us to steal the boy to begin with!”
She screamed once, then fell to her knees in the form of the blonde and weary Helena Kosmatos. “Forgive me, please!” she wept.
Lyta helped her up and said, “Shhh! It’s over now. They have left you. Can you tell me why Aphrodite has turned so evil — why she wants my brother to die?”
“The Furies took me over to safeguard the baby from her,” said Helena. “They may have had their own bloody motives for doing so, but they acted to preserve his life — at the cost of my own self worth and sense of identity!”
Lyta gently picked up her brother. “But why does the so-called goddess of love and beauty suddenly pull a Cruella DeVille?” she continued.
“She acts as she does, because she has been robbed of all sense of her true self,” explained Helena. “She no longer knows how Aphrodite would and should act. She is under the foul spell of one who plans evil against the world, and most particularly against your parent!”
“You know all this from your communion with those Furies? Who is it that hates mother so — Mars?” asked Lyta as they huddled in the dark cavern.
“You misunderstand me,” said Helena. “It’s not your mother she hates. The parent she wants to destroy is your father!”
Above the ground, Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor reached the opening to the pit.
“We’ve arrived,” said Diana. “Below us is the abode of the Furies of old. Look — a swan craft! I fear Lyta disobeyed us, as usual!” Odysseus grunted in response, for that was who stood before the amazing Amazon — Odysseus, not Steve Trevor.
Before they could speak or descend, up came Helena, Lyta, and baby Troy.
“You rescued him! Praise Athena!” cried Diana as she helped the girl to the surface. She frowned briefly at the sight of Lyta’s revealing and familiar garb. “Wonder Girl?” she said quizzically.
“Hey! This was a family matter, and could you see me calling myself Fury under the current circumstances?” she said with a shrug.
“Hand me mine heir, girl!” demanded Odysseus.
“Daddy! Oh, no — he’s gone mental again!” said Lyta.
He stepped forward to hold the baby, and as he did, some light of reason, some will-o’-wisp of memory tugged at his troubled and clouded mind. “Thanks, honey,” he said softly.
Diana noticed the change and hoped it would prove to be a lasting one. She could not wrestle with the headstrong king of Ithaca and settle the madness of the goddess of love as well.
“Mother, Helena told me who is behind all this,” said Lyta. “An ancient witch who was spurned by the real Odysseus long ago seeks to turn father fully into the reincarnation of her old lover, and either seduce or kill him. This whole charade with the deluded Aphrodite has been a ruse to upset you both and trigger the change in him while occupying you. She cares nothing for the baby or the war that Aphrodite threatens to start! Those are merely side-effects of the spell she put on Aphrodite.”
“Hera guide me, I know who you mean!” breathed Wonder Woman. “We Amazons thought her banished to a world called Sorca long ago, but like all vile threats, she returns anew.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Secrets of Circe,” Wonder Woman #37 (September-October, 1949).]
Just then, a beautiful redhead appeared before them. Her violet eyes and long ringlet-styled hair marked her as an exceptionally beautiful woman. Her malice and sheer passion made her more of a peril than any cyclops or Fury.
“Circe!” said Wonder Woman as she stepped in front of her family to confront the witch.
“Yes, wench of Hippolyta, it is Circe! You know me as one whose ancient enmity your race of unnatural harlots provoked long, long ago,” whispered Circe. “It is of the smallest value to me that you were troubled by my wiles. I seek the same goal as always — vengeance upon the man who rejected my love long before!”
“You really are a witch!” said Steve Trevor. “Trust me, honey, you don’t want to see the real Odysseus! He has no regard for womankind. He’d just as soon as belt you one as look at you!”
Circe laughed. “You poor, pathetic, castrated Amazon eunuch! How little you comprehend what lies within you! ‘Twill be a sport to draw forth from those mortal loins the true warrior I once enjoyed!”
Diana slapped her to the ground. “I’d advise you to surrender now. We’ve seen through your web of deceit!”
Circe remained prone on the dirt. “You resort to the crude physicality of your man-hating breed. I need only make your outward form match the raging beast within!” She spoke in a harsh tone, and words of power crackled like fire in the air around them.
Diana transformed into a snarling dog for a few seconds before returning to normal. It appears as if this Desira-empowered form is immune to her magic, she realized. She hurled herself at the witch, only to be jerked upward by her hair. She struggled in a mighty grip and shuddered in realization of who held her. “Steve! Dear Aphrodite, no! Circe has enslaved you!” she said.
“Lyta, take your brother and Helena, and use the swan ship to get back to the isle,” commanded Wonder Woman. “Call the JSA, especially Doctor Fate if possible! This is my battle alone!”
Lyta heard her mother speak in the regal tone of a true warrior princess, and she obeyed, rushing off with Helena and the baby. “Mother, my prayers are with you!” she called.
She departed, and Circe laughed again. “You thought I would harm the maid?” she sneered. “I care naught for your kind. I want nothing more than my rightful mate. You may depart with the pain of knowing you were not woman enough to keep your mate!”
Diana fell as Odysseus shoved her down. He embraced Circe, and they kissed as Diana’s mind raced.
Queen Hippolyta was deeply shaken by all that had occurred. She had always had a strong faith in her Olympian goddesses. They had, in fact, carried her through the darkest of times. Now, when she realized that her patroness Aphrodite sought the death of her new grandchild, she was faced with a soul-shattering dilemma. Ultimately, there was but one course open to the woman.
She stood before her assembled subjects and spoke clearly and calmly.
“Sisters, I stand before you and openly say that my world has been altered irrevocably. Our goddess has spoken not in the honeyed tones of old, but with a bitterness and malice that wounds me and frightens as well. She has claimed that unless I surrender my newly born, newly rescued grandchild to her for execution, she will bring destruction upon us all. She also plans to lead us in a bloody war against the world without. I speak frankly when I say that I defy her. My family will not be sacrificed for such mindless hate. I suggest that she is under some spell or madness. I ask you all to stand with me in open rebellion against her decree. If you cannot do so, then I understand.”
The speech reached the ears of women who had dwelt in harmony on this isle for eons with the rule of a woman they loved and respected as no other mortal. Thus, when faced with a choice between love and unity and hate and civil strife, they as one voiced their devotion to their royal family.
Hippolyta smiled tearfully. She was thrilled and secretly moved by the loyalty her sisters displayed in open defiance of a powerful enemy.
She saw Lyta working frantically on a mental radio. She approached and placed one hand on the girl’s blonde locks.
“Grandmother, the Justice Society is occupied even as we speak. I fear, though they would willingly risk all for Mother, that circumstances prevent them from doing so,” she announced. “I also regret that my allies in Infinity Inc. are battling a menace as well. We are on our own!”
Hippolyta nodded. “I pray our resources shall prove enough.”
Mala, blonde, beautiful, and demure, gently rocked the infant son of her best friend, and prayed he would soon find peace in his mother’s arms.
Elsewhere, Wonder Woman descended in her invisible plane and walked across the fields of a small island. She found a rustic structure and noticed grazing animals all around.
She kicked the doors down and said, “Circe! Face me now!”
Circe was sitting on the lap of the mind-numbed Steve Trevor. “You dare challenge me again? I shall merely order your former lover to chastise you for me,” said the violet-eyed witch.
Diana charged Trevor and connected with a sudden right hook. As he staggered, she slammed her palm against his open mouth. He choked and swallowed the moley herb, as she had intended.
He gasped, and his eyes widened in awareness. “Angel! That witch had me under some spell!”
Diana smiled. “I know. I just freed you by giving you the same herb Odysseus used to thwart her magic long ago — moley!”
Circe stomped her foot and cursed. “You crafty sow! I may not use my magic upon you or your mate, but I can and will escape to plague you anew!”
But as Circe spoke her magic words, nothing happened.
Diana gripped her by her elaborate collar and said, “Did I forget to mention that I sprayed the entire hut with moley from my plane before entering?”
Steve grinned. “That takes me back to my old barnstorming days before I joined up.”
Diana twisted Circe’s lithe body around and pinned her arms. She bent a metal rod around the woman’s hands and said, “Now just to hold you safely while we talk.”
“So this moley stuff, which tasted horrid, I might add, stops her spells?” asked Steve. “I should recall that, but I don’t. I’m myself again!”
Diana carried the kicking Circe to a cot and tossed her down. “Yes, her powers are useless when faced with the moley herb. Now she’s going to tell us what she did to Aphrodite. Her powers, though vast, should not have affected the goddess at all.”
She looped her lasso over Circe’s head as the redhead scowled and shook her red ringlets. “What did you do to so derange Aphrodite?” she commanded.
“I substituted waters of Lethe for her scented bath waters, and her maidens used it upon her unwittingly,” explained Circe. “It being a river of Hades, its power could rob even a goddess of herself!”
Diana gasped. “The audacity! Lethe’s water causes amnesia!”
Circe laughed. “No! Translated exactly, it causes one to forget one’s self — to lose all morality, to act on baser impulses!”
Steve frowned. “Hey, that sounds like the Stream of Ruthlessness!”
Circe nodded. “A branch of the Hadean river flows through the dimensions to your world, and it has such a name in mortal language. It is less potent than at the Underworld source, of course.”
Diana nodded. “That explains both the origin of the stream that I once was altered by, and it reveals why the loving goddess now ruthlessly seeks gender separation and warfare between the genders instead of merely offering the ways of peace and love through example and dialogue.”
“You mean now she’ll make you love her or kill you!” said Steve. “I guess our son would seem like a betrayal of her old decree of isolation from males for the Amazons if she was drugged by such magic.”