Later, Nightshade found herself being ushered into a magnificent castle that towered over a pleasant village. Neatly uniformed guards clad all in purple lined the passages below the one the creature led her through.
“Is it just me, or are you trying to keep me to yourself?” she asked.
The noble creature lowered his head sadly, saying, “I would never seek to separate the Princess from her loyal subjects. My mistress merely wishes your return to be announced to the people in a more formal manner.”
Nightshade smiled as she imagined how she looked. The battle with the tiger had torn her costume, her time in the troll hut had left her covered with cuts and dirt, and the mad rush through the jungle had left her black wig wildly disheveled. She had wanted to inquire just how the creature knew that she was a princess of the Land of the Nightshades, but she had decided to bide her time and hold her tongue. She might learn more by listening than by asking questions in this strange new world.
She was led into a heavily perfumed chamber where two women in lilac awaited her. The first woman was petite and slightly bashful as she smiled warmly and lowered her glance. The second woman, who was taller and had light brown hair and a lively manner, stared rather coolly at Eve before lowering her own eyes.
“Fauna and Laral will help you restore yourself,” said the gray being as he slowly backed away, bowing as he departed.
“Thank you,” called Nightshade.
Fauna, the shy one, said, “Let us draw your bath, Princess.”
“And we will remove the disguise as well,” said Laral. “You no longer need it here in your ancestral palace.”
Nightshade allowed them to remove her costume, wig, and equipment as she relaxed in a bathtub and tried to make sense of her adventure. This is not the Land of the Nightshades, she thought. It’s certainly not my ancestral palace. That is, not that I know of. I really know nothing of my mother’s past except that she was deposed from the throne of the Nightshade realm. Could she have originated here? I rather doubt it. Call it instinct, but I think these ladies have mistaken me for some other princess.
Emerging from the bath, she allowed the handmaidens to dry her and dress her in an elegant, if ethereal gown of pale lilac. Her long blonde hair was styled into an upswept hairdo, and gleaming bracelets were placed on each wrist. A tiara with a purple gem was placed on her head.
“You look beautiful,” said an astonished Fauna. Beside her Laral said nothing. Clearly she had some dislike for the new princess.
Eve thanked Fauna and followed the two as they led her into a spacious chamber nearby.
“Mistress will be with you soon,” said Laral. “She sends her love and promises that all will be made clear to you.”
The two started to walk away after bowing politely, and then Fauna stopped for a moment and said, “Welcome back, Your Majesty. We prayed for your return.”
Eve smiled warmly and said, “Thank you so much. Thank you both.” She had decided that in this other world there was no need to maintain her secret identity. Clearly the name Nightshade meant as little to them here as did her true name or appearance. Thus it was as the blonde Eve Eden and not as the goggled and bewigged Nightshade that she soon found herself facing an ancient woman in a golden robe and a tall hat.
“I am Lady Citrina,” said the woman. “I have long served the Royal Family who owned this palace. They are deceased, so I am all that remains to govern here for now. The true heir has long been away in the world beyond. As you may have anticipated, I have allowed my servants to assume incorrectly that you are that missing heir returned full grown.”
Eve was impressed by the regal little woman’s precise, yet benevolent manner. “I have the feeling that you already know my name and my nature. Am I right?” she asked.
Citrina took her hand and patted it with her own. “You are Princess Eve of the Land of the Nightshades, as well as Eve Eden, Nightshade of Earth. I know all about you. You were the child of Queen Magda of the Nightshade realm. Your mother was forced to flee her true dimension and seek shelter on Earth, where she posed as a normal woman and wed your father. You and your brother were born with royal blood, but you little dreamed that you truly came from a world beyond the one you knew. When your mother returned to her realm with her children, you learned the truth and lost her to her enemy the Incubus, who had stolen the throne, and who was later deposed by the Succubus. Your brother Lawrence was lost there as well. You escaped to Earth, and your father raised you without knowing the truth about his missing wife and son. (*) You have always sought a way to find Lawrence and depose the Succubus from your late mother’s throne.”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Image’s Idyl,” Captain Atom #87 (August, 1967) and “Poetry of Peril,” Captain Atom #88 (October, 1967).]
Eve Eden nodded, tears briefly filling her eyes. “Yes, that’s all true. Why have you brought me here?” she asked.
“My world is a magical dimension much like the realm your mother ruled, except this place is one in which science and magic both work. It is called Gemworld. During the Dark Ages on your Earth, several magical adepts fled from that planet to this dimension, because they sensed that magic was dying on the Earth. They settled here and established twelve domains, each named for the magical gemstone that embodied their respective powers. This is the domain of Amethyst, and it has been a noble house. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: This Gemworld is the Earth-Four version of the Earth-One Gemworld, as seen in the Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld series.]
“However, just as your late mother was deposed by the Succubus, each of the rulers of eleven houses were attacked by the evil ruler of the twelfth, who sought to either force them to become his slaves or die at his foul hand. I was not able to save the other rulers, but I did the best I could. I took the infant Princess Amethyst away before the oppressor could find her, and her brave parents died to buy me time to save their infant. I placed the princess on Earth, where she was found by Herbert and Mary Winston. They named her Amy.
“I have watched her grow to a child of five. Because time flows differently between Earth and Gemworld, were she to return here, she would be older due to the magical differences in time, but still a child would she be. Thus I have bided my time awaiting her to age enough so that the change would enable her to become an adult woman in this realm. She is still too young to do what she is destined to do — depose the man who killed her parents and the good nobles of the other houses.
“Although I thought I could wait, now we are faced with true peril. The tyrant Dark Opal, wicked ruler of the House of Opal, has found all the other heirs and imprisoned them. You see, the servants of the other gem houses failed to hide their charges as I did. He has also sent his lackey Sardonyx to acquire the gems of power formerly associated with each house. Those gems were scattered on your Earth. While Opal can’t leave this realm without losing his power, through his lackey Sardonyx he promised the Succubus an army to destroy her own foes in exchange for her services in finding the missing gemstones of power on Earth.”
“So you brought me here to stop the Succubus,” Eve said.
“No, my child,” said Citrina. “Others will see to her. It was her attempt to switch places with you that enabled me to bring you here. She has taken the true Princess Amethyst, but she will not harm her while the princess can be used to bargain with Dark Opal.”
“Wait,” said Eve. “You said you switched me with Amethyst when Succubus tried to grab me. How could you place your own princess, a mere child, in such deadly danger?”
Citrina furrowed her eyebrows and said, “I did what the Gemworld required of me. I serve it before I follow the desires of my own heart. Young Amy Winston could not help her world, but you can. You are needed to do what Princess Amethyst is still too young to do. We need you to rescue the imprisoned heirs and lead them against Dark Opal before he can use the recovered gemstones to become one with all that is Gemworld. The peril is too immediate for us to wait on Princess Amethyst to mature enough to fight.”
“So, since I’m an adult with experience and powers of my own,” said Eve, “you’ve brought me here to pose as this Princess Amethyst and beat Dark Opal?”
“Exactly,” said Citrina. “We needed a royal princess, and we found one with unique gifts all her own. You are a heroine, and only a true heroine may save the Gemworld.”
Nightshade nodded grimly. “I will help you,” she said. “If it will save lives and eventually bring down the Succubus, then I will be your Princess Amethyst for as long as it takes.”
Eve Eden was as good as her word. For the next few days she appeared throughout the Gemworld and began rallying the people to thunderous pledges of support and devotion. She was carefully costumed in one exquisite purple gown after another, but it was her passion and beauty that carried the day more than her sheer allure and glamor.
She was a capable leader, since she had conducted dozens of missions for the CIA, the OSI, Femme Force One, and the Sentinels of Justice over her twenty-year career. With the backing of Citrina, and the clothing, jewels, and manner of a true princess, for all intents and purposes Eve Eden truly was Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld.