Meanwhile, back in the Land of the Nightshades, King Lareden was watching in amazement along with the golden Melisaunde as the heroes acted upon Mark Merlin’s hastily explained plan.
“Amy, honey, you have some very special talents,” the sleuth of the supernatural said to the little blond girl. “You can do things nobody else can do. You ended up here when you made yourself go bye-bye from your home. You do that from time to time, right? You go to your secret place?”
Young Amy Winston frowned and pouted as if she was about to cry, when suddenly her eyes brightened, and she smiled playfully.
The Blue Beetle whispered to the Peacemaker as they watched, “Mark said he detected true magic in the little girl. He thinks she can get us to the place the magical gemstones were taken. I hope he’s right.”
“I agree,” said the Peacemaker. “I’d hate to think one little girl’s whim might land us all in some lost limbo.”
“Will you please take us all to your special place?” asked Mark. “Please?”
Amy smiled brightly, and the Sentinels of Justice and those that had traveled here with them vanished from view.
King Lareden turned to the beautiful archer Melisaunde and said, “That Merlin is brilliant. The magic he detected came not from the mysterious source he spoke of, but from young Amy. That child had the power to take them to the other-dimensional realm in which Eve is being held. She could make the journey and take them as well. How bizarre, since she seemed like nothing more than a frightened child.”
“And you long to be by their side,” said Melisaunde. “You would die for your sister, but duty calls to you. This poor liberated realm needs a king, and that dictates that you stay here while others fight your battles. It is the very fabric of the royal paradox. You rule others but may not exercise your own free will.”
Lareden kissed her hand and said, “Yes. I know, but I do not like it.”
In Castle Opal on Gemworld, Sardonyx and Carnelian watched uneasily as Dark Opal gloated on his throne. Two silent slaves standing at each side of him carefully placed an armored breastplate on their wicked master. This armored plate contained twelve gleaming gemstones arranged in a circle.
“Oh, I know what you two are thinking,” said Dark Opal. “I know you better than you know yourselves. Sardonyx, you are regretting giving me your own sardonyx gem. You worship power so much that you feel lost without the magic that is your own birthright. As for you, Carnelian, you are torn betwixt an impotent anger at me for deceiving you in the matter of Amethyst and a desire for power of your own. Never fear — while my order for you to hunt down the false princess was merely a ruse on my part to delude the woman while she watched us from the shadows, I will reward you when all that is Gemworld is under my thumb.”
“What will happen when you try to forcibly tap into the magical power of the united twelve gems?” asked Sardonyx. “Will such a tactic threaten the very fabric of this universe?”
Dark Opal smiled in a lupine manner and said, “What will that matter? I will be the very Gemworld itself, and the world will take the shape I choose for it to take.”
At that moment, Amy Winston’s magic transported the Sentinels of Justice and their fellow travelers into the throne room.
Black-armored guards rushed at them from all sides, and Booster Gold smiled as he felt his costume’s equipment come back to life once again. “Boosterrific! My gear is working again!” he said elatedly, holding Amy with one arm as he aimed a bolt of energy at the floor before the guards. The melted rubble stopped them cold as the heroes prepared for battle.
“We need to find the gems and Eve,” said Liberty Belle.
“Well,” said the Blue Beetle, “since ol’ blue-face over there is wearing them on his fancy armor, I’d say we’ve accomplished the first mission.”
“I know the girl lacks real experience with her magical powers,” said Felina, “but did she have to bring us right to the creep’s house?”
“Fifi, the gems are here,” said Belle. “I think that’s what Amy’s power reacted to.”
The Countess hissed as guards closed in on them. She assumed the form of a bat and soared over their heads even as the agile Felina bounded over the same startled guards.
Liberty Belle kicked out at Carnelian as the thief in red aimed a gun at her heart. “No magic, huh?” she quipped. “Don’t feel bad. Once we put you in the dungeon, you’ll have years to practice some card tricks.” Carnelian admired her beauty even as he tried to aim the gun. One swift kick sent it flying from his grasp.
The Peacemaker lived up to his one-man-army reputation as he found that his many weapons actually worked in Gemworld. He blasted away at the guards with concentrated plasma blasts that stunned but did not kill them. Nearby, Blue Beetle blinded others with strobes from his BB-gun. Felina, meanwhile, crashed into the guards and hurled them bodily across the room, clearly relishing her newfound powers. The Countess swooped down as a bat and drove back other guards as Liberty Belle and the Beetle lashed out at them with their own skills.
Lady Quark faced down Dark Opal himself. “You sit upon a throne, yet you demean the very ideal of royalty by your base and ignoble nature.”
“Really?” said Dark Opal, grinning. “That may very well be the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. I may make you my concubine once I teach you proper manners.”
Lady Quark’s eyes flashed as the energy crackled across her golden costume, and her power surged to fill the room. This power was soon halted when Dark Opal smothered it with one raised hand, causing black energy to surge through the hall. He laughed coldly as he watched the Sentinels collapse and fall as one.
“I am supreme here!” he cried. “You have brought the true Amethyst to me. I’ve already recovered the scattered gemstones, as you see, and I’ve added the amethyst to my breastplate. Now, while you watch in helpless fear, Dark Opal will become one with the Gemworld!”
Sardonyx watched nervously from the side. He had reluctantly surrendered his own gemstone to his evil master. With all twelve gemstones gleaming on his armored chest, Dark Opal was indeed powerful. Carnelian nursed the bruises Liberty Belle had given him, but he said nothing.
The Sentinels of Justice each knew that in some way the grinning fiend was about to become an absolute power in this strange dimension. They also knew that he would be unbeatable after that ascension, yet they still dared to challenge him.
As all of the gemstones began to glow brightly on his armor, Dark Opal smiled broadly. “Now nothing shall stop me!” he cackled.
Mark Merlin whispered furiously to Booster Gold, who had already handed Amy Winston over to Felina. Mark and Booster raced forward and shouted, “This might!” He hurled his cat pendant at Dark Opal, while Booster projected his force-field.
The field was not generated around his own body, but tightly contained Dark Opal’s form and the magic surging through his glowing body. As the raw power had no escape route, a brilliant explosion soon shook the room.
“Did he trap Opal within that dimension in the pendant as well?” asked Lady Quark.
Liberty Belle shook her head as the light dimmed and she saw a second figure fighting within the tightly constructed force-field. “No,” she cried, “but he’s freed the Succubus!”
Indeed, the black-and-white-striped woman loomed above them all as something in the contact between the pendant and the gems on Opal’s armor had released her from her prison.
Shocked, Booster Gold shouted, “Merlin, you blew it this time!”
Mark Merlin shook his head and said, “I know what I’m doing. Don’t you see? We couldn’t stop him, but she just might be able to do it for us.”
The Countess stomped both of her high-heeled boots and said, “Are you just stupid? If she gets all that power instead of him, she’ll crush us all like bugs!”
“One foe at a time is enough for me,” said Liberty Belle. “Look — she’s furious!”
The Succubus was radiating power of her own as she clawed at Dark Opal, shrieking, “You used me! You lied to me! You promised me an army, when all you wanted was for me to secure the gems for you!”
Dark Opal’s magical scars shined as power cascaded through his body. “Of course! That’s all I wanted. I am Dark Opal. What I want is of supreme importance.” The gems began to float off his armor and hover between them.
“Her magic is trying to steal the gems,” guessed Belle. “And she may just succeed.”
“That’s my purple necklace!” Amy Winston cried. “I had it for my birthday, and then it went away.”
“She means the amethyst,” said Felina. “She must have come in contact with the magical amethyst at some point.”
Booster Gold told the little girl, “Honey, I’ll buy you a whole jewelry store after I take down Mr. and Mrs. Warmth over there.” He cursed and said, “Merlin, I just lost my force-field. The energy’s been drained. Forget what I said before — I still trust you. Only, what’s the plan?”
“We let one of them access the power,” said Mark Merlin.
At that moment, Eve Eden rushed into the room and hurled herself in the direction of the struggling pair. When Dark Opal had received the rush of raw magical feedback caused by the combination of his spell, Mark’s pendant, and Booster’s shield forcing the energy back into his own body, he had lost control of the living castle.
Eve had led the other heirs to freedom. She was happy to see her friends, but her duty was clear. She had a plan, and she vowed to carry it out or die trying. As she reached the combatants, she shifted to semi-shadow form and then back again with each hand on one of their bodies. An explosion knocked her through the air as Succubus and Dark Opal, engulfed by magical fire, fell to the ground.
Lady Quark rocketed skyward and caught Eve in midair. “Are you hurt?” she inquired.
“My bruises have bruises,” said Eve, “but I’ll live. Thanks for the catch!”
Mark Merlin rushed over to retrieve the fallen gemstones. “These belong to you,” he said as he handed them out to the liberated royals.
Felina pounced on Sardonyx, knocking him to the floor. She sat on his back and pinned him to the ground with ease. “You don’t get your gem back, bud,” she said. “I mean, I assume that orange gem belongs with him. It goes with his outfit.”
Prince Topaz struck Carnelian flat and said, “My word, I’ve wanted to do that for ever so long.”
Citrina appeared in the room just as as Amy retrieved her own amethyst. “With Opal no longer in power,” the old woman said, “my own magic allows me entrance here. I will secure both him and the Succubus, and they will pay for their crimes. Perhaps Opal’s brother White Opal will return to claim this realm.”
She kissed Amy and said, “You will be fine, my child. We will return you to your home, and you will think of this as a dream. One day, when you are of age, I shall return and bring you back here, where you will fulfill your true destiny as Princess Amethyst.” Amy nodded sleepily, smiling as she held her necklace.
“You set me up,” said Eve. “You wanted me to end up here so Opal could get the gem. Why did you want him to get the twelve gems?”
“I can answer that,” said Mark. “She didn’t — she only wanted him to think he had them all. Your capture made that seem likely. See, he never had the real emerald. I left it on Earth when we first accompanied the Succubus to her realm. She was posing as you, and I sensed her true nature when our hands touched. Using an old stage trick of my Uncle Mort’s, I palmed the magical emerald and gave her an ordinary emerald pendant I’ve been carrying around with me since we left Eve’s apartment. I wanted the Succubus to try to tap into that power, figuring it would be like trying to run a machine with a missing fuse, which would short-circuit her. It did, which is why I didn’t mind if she or Opal tried their spell with what they thought were the real gems. I knew one was a fake.”
Mark turned to a ravishing woman with green hair. “Lady Emerald, I shall return your true gemstone,” he said with a courtly bow.
“Who are you?” asked Eve. “You remind me of someone I know.”
“I’m Mark Merlin,” he said, smiling warmly. “You knew me better as Memakata. It’s a bit of a long story.”
“Eve, with the Succubus down for the count, you can return safely to the Land of the Nightshades any time you want,” explained the Peacemaker with some satisfaction. “In fact, you have family there. We established your brother as the Nightshade realm’s new ruler. He’s a great guy, and he’s eager to see you again.”
Eve, whose eyes had begun tearing up as he told her about her brother, hugged him and wept softly. “I’ve prayed for a reunion for so long,” she said.
“My daughter,” said Citrina, “you have saved the Gemworld and truly deserve the title of princess royal. It was your quick thinking that defeated them both so completely.”
“Yeah, what did you do, Eve?” asked Booster. “I thought just tossing a house on them would do the trick.”
Eve smiled and said, “I tried to shove them both briefly into and out of the Nightshade realm. I couldn’t get there from here myself, but I figured forcing them into such an attempt might distract them long enough for all the magic they were channeling to stun them.”
The Countess turned to face Citrina and said, “What about me? I need you to change me back to my stunning self.”
“I am sorry,” said Citrina. “The magic that changed you is alien to my own. No one can restore you except for the Succubus, and we dare not allow her to access her former power. I intend to dampen her senses so I may contain her here with Dark Opal.”
The Countess gasped and said, “You mean I’m stuck like this?”
Felina bounded over and said, “It’s not so bad. Maybe we can join the Sentinels and see the world. We can even be heroines. We’ll get through it.”
“Countess, you’re a great actress,” said Booster. “You can play Countess Von Bludd on the big screen as well as the TV. I’ll buy the rights to her. Why, you could be another Vincent Price.”
She sniffed and said, “You mean, I could be a star again?”
Booster grinned and said, “Horror movies are big at the box office this year.”
Liberty Belle led Felina aside and asked, “Maddy, you really don’t mind your new look?”
The former supermodel Maddy Lopez smiled and said, “I love it. I feel so free, and I wouldn’t change back for all the swimsuit cover shots in the world.”
Citrina whispered to Eve as they prepared to leave, “I have rewarded you for your efforts, dear. The magical time-displacement between this realm and your Earth will be a boon to you. You will see.”
“I don’t think I understand, but thank you,” said Eve.