This issue we find out more about the mysterious Bana-Mighdall Amazons and their connection to Themysciran history.
This issue we find out more about the mysterious Bana-Mighdall Amazons and their connection to Themysciran history.
The long night of the savage moon has finally passed and the warrior women of Bana-Mighdall have traversed the mystical veil of swirling sands to return to their city. Nehebka relieves her troops after their hard fought battle the previous night and turns to Wonder Woman, who is astride a horse. She asks the Amazon Princess if she is alright and Diana replies that she survived the journey through the sandstorm unharmed – but she is certainly not alright! After all the insanity that has happened over the past few nights how can things ever be alright again? Nehebka replies that they had both got what they were after, which is all that matters.
Wonder Woman then asks if their Amazon principles have become so corrupted that they actually believe that last night’s massacre was justified? The Cheetah was the only person they were after – why did so many innocents have to die? She then curses herself for not getting to Syene Kesh sooner, as she might have been able to save more lives. Several of the Bana-Mighdall Amazons then step forward and thank Wonder Woman for saving as many of their warrior comrades as she did. They tell her they have never seen such healing abilities as the ones she possesses.
Wonder Woman responds coldly that what she had witnessed the night before were not the acts of warriors but of butchers and that they should spare her their appreciation of her efforts. She had tried to save everyone she could – Amazon or not – but the damage had been too great. They had seen to that! Her supply of medicinal herbs and salves were inadequate and she had realised she needed the help of a God. She had tried to pray to Lord Hermes but the strain of the past few drugged out weeks had finally taken their toll on her and she had collapsed. She had then been brought here by the Bana-Mighdall Amazons.
The Amazon Princess then turns to Nehebka and asks why she had not taken the opportunity to kill Diana while she had been unconscious and vulnerable. Nehebka replies that Queen Anahid’s last wish was that Wonder Woman’s life should be spared and that despite what Diana thinks, even “butchers” must follow a code of honour. Besides, there is still much they have to learn from her and if she wishes to remain alive, then Wonder Woman should co-operate. Diana tells her that threats are unnecessary as she agrees there is much they can learn from each other.
She asks Nehebka whether a message has yet been sent to her friends and family to assure them of her safety. Nehebka replies that it has been taken care of and the Amazon Princess wonders whether she speaks the truth. The Bana-Mighdall warrior suggests Wonder Woman could use her lasso of truth, but if they are to learn anything from each other then perhaps they first need to learn to trust one another.
Meanwhile in a small shop about five kilometers from the ravaged town of Syene Kesh, police are investigating a crime scene. A distraught woman sobs as she looks down at her dead husband lying on the floor, cursing the “she-demons” responsible. One of the police officers is skeptical of her story but another says that invading marauders are not common to this part of the desert. To poor simple folk such as she, barbarians could very well look like demons. Just then another officer shows him a torn photograph he has found beside the body. The policeman recognises one of the woman depicted as being Wonder Woman. He notices some numbers scrawled in one corner. The widow sees the photo and points to Wonder Woman, explaining that she was the one who had ended the bloodshed in the town by defeating the Cheetah-Woman. She had then tried to assist the wounded townspeople but had collapsed and had been taken away. The police officers look at each other, puzzled. “What the hell is a Cheetah-Woman?” they ask.
Back in Bana-Mighdall that very same Cheetah-Woman struggles vainly to free herself from her straight jacket while imprisoned inside a padded cell. She rants that she should be freed immediately or she will kill them all! Wonder Woman looks down on her foe from a viewing gallery as Cheetah demands to know where Chuma is, as she has need of him. The Amazon Princess remembers that Chuma had told her how Barbara was usually calm on the morning following the Blood Moon. But it has been hours since dawn broke and she still rages worse then ever. It is as if Barbara were still under the Cheetah’s maddening curse.
Wonder Woman asks forgiveness from the Gods of Olympus as her battle with the Cheetah last night had no longer been about retrieving Hestia’s lasso or to even protect the innocent villagers of Syene Kesh…she had wanted to kill the Cheetah…to utterly destroy her and to repay her for all the indignation heaped upon her these past few weeks. She had wanted revenge…pure and simple. As she looks into Barbara’s eyes now she can see the beast within her…as Barbara can in turn see the beast within Wonder Woman.
Just then an Amazon wearing an eye patch enters the room and snarls that Wonder Woman should keep her feline “accomplice” quiet before she slits her throat. Diana is surprised to hear she is being addressed in English and the surly Amazon introduces herself as Faruka, explaining that her language skills were why she was chosen by Nehebka to contact Julia in America. She then adds that she is also the former chief assistant to the High Priestess Kadesha Banu – whom Diana had murdered! Wonder Woman tries to explain that Kadesha had died through a tragic accident but Faruka is unconvinced and spits back “Spare me Ariadna!”.
Wonder Woman says that she has been referred to as “Ariadna” ever since she first arrived here and although it sounds so familiar she does not know what it means. Faruka unhelpfully growls back that she is “not a dictionary”, before turning her attention to the snarling Cheetah. She shouts down to Barbara that she should shut her mouth as she only lives in deference to Diana’s wishes. Cheetah rants back that she will tear Faruka’s other eye out and the Bana-Mighdall Amazon’s patience finally runs out. Faruka reaches for her revolver but Wonder Woman grabs her arm preventing her from doing so. An enraged Faruka tells her she is not on Themyscira now and she is no Princess here. Queen Anahid had decreed that Wonder Woman be spared only so she could be allowed to kill the desecrator of their Temple – which Diana had promptly failed to do! As far as Faruka is concerned the sacrilege is still not absolved!
Wonder Woman snaps back that if she wants to talk about sacrilege she should take a good long look at the Bana-Mighdall society itself. They make a mockery of all that the Golden Girdle of Gaea represents! She assures Faruka that Barbara Minerva will be punished – but not by the likes of them! This is a last request that she is duty bound to honour – the dying wishes of an old man called Chuma.
On hearing his name, Cheetah suddenly becomes even more agitated and begins to thrash around wildly. Wonder Woman instantly jumps down through the glass window and down into the cell. She grabs the out of control Cheetah, telling her nemesis that Chuma is dead. Barbara pitifully wails “No! Chuma! The Blood! Give Urzkartaga the blood!”. All the while Faruka coldly stares down from above…
Meanwhile in the town of Bahafara, ten kilometers north of Syene Kesh, Dr. Osman Suakin is being driven to the local police station in a jeep. His friend who is driving cannot understand why Osman is helping an American, but the arab replies that he owes Professor Kapatelis, who had opened his eyes to so many things in so many worlds. They arrive at their destination and Osman is greeted by police captain Hussain and his men. Osman tells the officers that he is here to get more information concerning the tragedy at Syene Kesh. The officers lead him to another large room where all the bodies have been stored and Osman is shocked by the sheer number. Hussain explains that these are all supposed victims of marauding “She-Devils”. He had thought the story ludicrous until he and his men had discovered several bodies out towards the Eastern Desert. They were women’s bodies…stripped naked and beheaded!
The horrified Osman asks Hussain about the torn photograph his men had discovered and Hussain holds it up to him. The police captain asks if he knows the woman standing next to Wonder Woman and Osman replies that she is Professor Julia Kapatelis from Harvard University. She is the reason he is here.
Some time later in his hotel room, Osman telephones Julia and tells her what he knows. So far not one of the severed heads has been discovered. Back in America, Julia’s heart sinks and she hesitantly asks him if he had seen any of the headless bodies. Could one of them have been Wonder Woman? He replies that all of the women had been dark-skinned and he is sure none of them had been Diana.
Upstairs in her room, Vanessa is listening in on the conversation via an extension. She hears a semi relieved Julia thank Osman for his help and the arab responds that he is honoured to help in any way he can. He then adds that the police had also found a man’s body in the desert – or at least pieces of one. He had been dismembered and fed to vultures so it is almost impossible to identify him. The only thing Osman was able to determine was that he was a pygmy of some sort. Julia realises Osman is referring to Chuma and says that she must hurry to catch her flight to Cairo. Osman says he will meet her there but advises her not to come. She is determined to go though and says her goodbyes before hanging up.
Vanessa comes down the stairs and asks if her mother is alright. Julia replies that their neighbour will be staying with Vanessa while she is away and asks her to be co-operative. Vanessa says she is scared and Julia hugs her daughter, saying that she is too.
Back in the city of Bana-Mighdall inside the sacred Atelier of Kadesha Banu, Faruka arrives with Wonder Woman and they are greeted by Nehebka. The Queen’s aide asks Diana if she is satisfied now that she has seen that the Cheetah still lives. Diana nods and notices a strange glow emanating from further within the holy chamber. She walks towards its source as if beckoned and sees the second Girdle of Gaea lying beneath a glass cover.
As Wonder Woman approaches the Girdle her own Magic Lasso begins to glow fiercely. She unhooks the golden rope and holds it against the glass. The two watching Bana-Mighdall Amazons are shocked to see the Girdle inside also begin to glow – almost as if the energies are embracing each other. Sweat pours down their faces as the whole chamber seethes, like a trembling Volcano about to erupt! Faruka furiously shouts at Wonder Woman to step away but Diana remains transfixed. Deciding to take matters into her own hands, Faruka rushes forward but before she can lay a hand on Wonder Woman the energy surrounding the Amazon Princess sends Faruka flying.
As guards rush in ready to tackle Wonder Woman, Nehebka orders them to stand down. She instructs them to take the Girdle back to the Temple where it belongs as Wonder Woman apologises for what happened to Faruka. Nehebka tells her it is even more reason to separate Diana from the Girdle and that she cannot take the risk of another such occurrence threatening the city and its inhabitants. Diana is a guest here and Nehebka expects her to live by their laws.
She then shows Wonder Woman a pile of books and magazines that had been discovered amongst Kadesha Banu’s possessions. Although the languages are unknown to Nehebka, the many images of Wonder Woman make their content clear. The Priestess had known about the Amazon Princess from the very beginning but had never told Queen Anahid. Under Bana-Mighdall law, possession of forbidden writings is punishable by death. It seems Diana had not been Kadesha Banu’s murderer after all – but instead her rightful executioner! Faruka seems unconvinced however.
Wonder Woman replies that she wants no reward but Nehebka insists that Diana will want this one – for Nehebka is going to reward her with answers! The secrets of the Bana-Mighdalls, their race, their holy treasure and their eternal crusade. Nehebka then begins to recount their origin story…
It began almost three Millennia ago in Athens. One fateful night in the city’s royal palace a sword fight took place between a distraught King Theseus and a young Amazon girl named Phthia. It took several guards to overpower the ferocious Amazon consort whose eyes were filled with rage and tears. The Captain of the guards and King’s son, Melanippus, tells his father that he had warned him about the Amazon. He then sees Theseus’ tears and asks what has happened. Before the king can reply the enraged Phthia yells that Theseus is a murderer and she will kill him. For his part, Theseus slowly points into the Queen’s Bed chamber and stammers that Melanippus will find the answer inside.
Although Melanippus had been born to a previous wife of the king and had never approved of Theseus’ current spouse, even he was shocked by the bloody sight in the chamber. Antiope, the Amazon Queen, lay dead, a royal dagger jutting from her butchered heart! Melanippus asks his father whether Phthia is responsible and the crest fallen king replies that he does not know. He had seen the shadow of a woman racing from the chamber and had then found his beloved Antiope murdered. He was so lost in grief he had not heard the nurse’s screams and raced here to find Phthia looming over his infant child Hyppolytus. It appeared she was preparing to cleave the child in two.
Phthia retorts that he is lying and that she was trying to shield the babe from the king, as it had been Theseus’ dagger that had slain Antiope. He had killed her because she had learned about the king’s affair with Phaedra and because Antiope would not let herself be cast aside like all his previous wives. Theseus tries to reason with the Amazon that he is innocent but she spits in his face and yells that he had always resented Antiope because of her power. He had also wanted to kill Hyppolytus to end her blood line. Theseus replies that if she honestly thinks that he is capable of such a thing, then perhaps Melanippus has been right about her all along.
Melanippus had then seen to it that Phthia was duly punished, as he hated all Amazons. She was thrown into the darkest, foulest, most pestilent dungeon beneath the city, where she endured tortures beyond comprehension. Phthia’s screams echoed from the craggy walls…cries of anger, hatred and vengeance but never surrender. It became clear to Melanippus that there was only one way to silence an Amazon.
He requests permission from his father to have her executed. Theseus assumes she has confessed but his son replies that she still asserts her innocence. However, her guilt is clear as she had always resented Queen Antiope’s love for Theseus. The king argues that Antiope was like a mother to Phthia since the young Amazon’s real mother had died. Melanippus agrees but adds that Phthia always blamed men for her mother’s death. She blames men for everything, just as she now blames Theseus. She is nothing but a man-hating wild beast!
Theseus tells him to hold his tongue as his beloved Antiope had been one of those “beasts” he refers to. Ever since he wedded their queen, the Amazons have been the Athenian’s staunchest allies in battle. He cannot jeopardise that now. Antiope’s death will be difficult enough to explain as it is, without executing another Amazon for the crime. If Phthia will not confess then they need someone who will!
King Theseus was a master of deceit and he searched for a scape goat the Athenians and Amazons would both be willing to condemn – someone with a motive. He eventually chose Ariadna, his former wife, whom he had banished from the kingdom so that he and Antiope could wed. But Phthia would not be a pawn in his lies and so Theseus kept her imprisoned in case she exposed his treachery.
Wonder Woman then interrupts Nehebka’s story, telling the two Bana-Mighdall Amazons that in fact Ariadnadid slay Antiope! Nehebka snaps “What? How dare you?” but Wonder Woman continues that Antiope was her mother’s sister – Diana’s own aunt. She has no reason to lie. She tries to explain that the sorceress Circe had sent Ariadna but Faruka is not prepared to listen anymore. Faruka snarls that whatever Kadesha Banu may have thought or said about Wonder Woman, Diana could not possibly be an Amazon. She is too young. How can she possibly be the daughter of a queen who had perished centuries ago? Their ancient writings had told how the Aegean Sea had swallowed up those Amazons too cowardly to join Antiope’s crusade of vengeance – including the unworthy Queen Hippolyta! Faruka adds that Diana is nothing more than a charlatan trying to topple Bana-Mighdall with her lies!
Nehebka orders Faruka to be silent but she refuses, stating that Nehebka is not the queen and that only the Tournament of the Crown can decide who will be Anahid’s rightful successor. As she storms out of the chamber, Faruka warns ominously that the new “Queen” will not be so forgiving towards Diana!
Wonder Woman apologises for provoking things and Nehebka replies that it is of no concern as she can handle Faruka. She then continues with the story…
The proclamation was announced by one of the Senators that Ariadna had been found guilty of both the murder of Queen Antiope and her consort Phthia! It was stated that Ariadna was executed for her crimes by Theseus himself. It was a neat deception except for a few flaws however. For instance, what had happened to Phthia’s body? How had Ariadna escaped from her exile on Naxos and entered Athens unseen? Each new question fanned the fires of suspicion.
The night of the proclamation was to have been Phthia’s last, as she was now the last loose end. But the Amazons did not tolerate being treated as fools and raided the dungeons to free their sister, slaying any guard that stood in their way. From that night forward they knew there would never be peace between Amazon and Man. Even if Ariadna really had killed Antiope, why did Phthia have to be punished? Ariadna could have professed either her own innocence or Phthia’s, but she chose to do neither. And for that she shared Theseus’ guilt!
For centuries her name has signified “Evil Intruder” or “One who must not be trusted”. This is why Wonder Woman has been called “Ariadna” ever since her arrival in Bana-Mighdall.
As far as the Amazons were concerned, Man would pay eternally for what they had done to the Amazon race. But first the warrior women had to reclaim what was rightfully theirs from within the Tomb of Antiope. They took back their dead queen’s body together with Gaea’s Girdle and lead by Phthia, vowed that only through Man’s conquest would the Amazons survive. Years later during the exhilaration of the blood drenched Trojan Wars, the crumbling walls seemed to echo the battle cry. At the forefront of the assault was a mighty Amazon captain. Her name was Penthiselea and she fought the advancing Greek troops being led by Captain Eteocles. When Penthiselea killed the Greek commander, the air filled with the Amazons’ cries of righteous vindication! Eteocles had been the son of Melanippus and he had been slain by none other than Phthia’s daughter! Vengeance had never tasted so sweet, even a generation removed!
Wonder Woman then says to Nehebka that she sounds so proud of the fact, as if the killing was justified. Diana reminds Nehebka that Penthiselea’s glory was all too brief. It was during the same campaign that she met her own death at the hands of Achilles, who then himself was felled with an arrow by Paris, who in turn was killed by Philoctetes…and so the cycle of death continued.
Wonder Woman states that War is not glorious – it is tragic. Nehebka smiles and acknowledges her words, replying that War is also profitable though. War was something the Amazons were very good at. Better than any other race. It was the one commodity they could sell. After the flames of her funeral pyre consumed Phthia’s body, a new direction was chartered for the Amazons. They became mercenaries battling alongside those who could meet the Amazons’ price. For centuries their ancestors spread out in all directions throughout the world, fighting many wars in many lands. Nehebka’s own tribe, honoured with protecting the Girdle of Gaea, came here and founded Bana-Mighdall – the “Temple of Woman”.
The dawn of Industrialisation however made warring far more complicated. To maintain their superiority the Amazons became unequalled in the art of sophisticated weapons-making. The dreaded Cobra-Dart for instance was developed by Kadesha Banu several years ago and symbolised the moment when Phthia had spat in the treacherous king’s face centuries before.
Wonder Woman asks Nehebka why, after all these years when they have everything they could wish for, do they still war. Nehebka replies that it is who they are. They have grown to love it – to need it!
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Temple, the Golden Girdle of Gaea which has been returned to its altar begins to pulse with light. Back in the chamber, Wonder Woman and Nehebka feel the whole room shake and they hear a terrible howling sound coming from outside. Nehebka says that it must be the mystic sandstorm. The winds are reversing and for some reason the storm is coming towards the city!
As the whirling currents blast Amazons from the parapets as if they are dolls, Nehebka points out of the window at a piercing light emanating from inside the storm. It must be the cause but what on earth can it be? Wonder Woman lets out a gasp as she recognises the form of Hermes advancing on the city! She tells Nehebka that she has never seen the Olympic God act like this before, as he announces to all in a booming voice that he has come to exact his wrath upon the blasphemers who have betrayed Olympus!
“Now shall you all die!”