Blok gripped the Hunter in a powerful wrestling hold that left the villain helpless and defeated. “Now he has been defeated!” declared Blok.
At that moment, magical energy struck Dawnstar and Element Lad and knocked them senseless to the ground.
“And so shall you all experience defeat!” cried the blonde witch as she appeared before them in a nimbus of fire. She moved with a sultry grace and allure that captivated the males, even as her palpable evil repelled them. She gestured, and a glowing cloud of energy imprisoned each Legionnaire like a spider’s web.
“You are going to have to kill us all before we’ll let you take Validus again!” cried Saturn Girl.
“I have no wish to take him or to kill him,” said the blonde woman. “It is enough for me to see him suffer in this form. It is a balm to my soul to witness his agony, as all oppose him and hunt him like the heartless beast he is! My satisfaction at seeing your own pain at his plight delights me as well!”
“What have you done to our friends?” Ayla Ranzz demanded as she glanced down at the fallen Element Lad and Dawnstar.
“I have stunned them so they will not hear our words,” explained the woman. “I have no desire to let the secret we all share about Validus spread to anyone else. It is enough that you all know the truth about him. It is enough that you will watch in silent sorrow as he lives a life of torment and rejection in his own near-mute manner!” She smiled and said, “The time for answers is here. I will reveal something about my sad history, and perhaps you’ll understand why I want nothing more than to see that monster suffer!
“My name is Ryssa of Titan!” she said. “It is a name that will gain notoriety in a few years. I was, or will be, born on Titan later this year. You see, I come from the future. I was plucked from the year 3005 by your foe, the Infinite Man. He sought to use me and other pawns ripped from the past and the future to do his bidding. I battled you on his behalf before your Brainiac 5 cured him of his own madness!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Has Anyone Noticed a Crisis Going On?” Legion of Super-Heroes v3 #18 (January, 1986).]
“We did face Jaxon Rugarth when the final effects of the Crisis reached our era,” said Blok. “Still, while that battle is recorded in our archives and in our memories, your role in it is not!”
Ryssa moved closer and ran one slender finger down Blok’s rocky face. “My magic enabled me to erase my role in that sad skirmish from your minds. I found myself here in an era before my own birth. When his other pawns were returned to their own eras after his defeat and cure, I found myself still here. I realized that fate had plans for me in a time before my own birth! I decided to make the best of my situation and gain revenge on one I hated above all others.”
“You come from the future?” said Saturn Girl. “That explains how you could hate us without our even knowing you. What is it we will do that makes you such a bitter woman?”
“You call me bitter?” cried Ryssa. “The pampered prize pupil of the Mind Institute deems Ryssa, the one child born on Titan without any power at all, bitter? Ironic, indeed! I will be born later this year, and I will grow up to be a figure pitied and scorned by all. You see, in my past as I recall it — in what to you will be the future — I led a life of isolation. I had no mental gifts, and your Institute saw me as a subject to be studied and examined and displayed like a circus freak. I was as one born without the proper senses, since I lacked telepathy or telekinesis or any similar power. When I reached my teens, I ran away from Titan and vowed to pay them all back for making my dignity of no value in comparison to their mocking curiosity. That is why I led Validus to Titan and made sure his rampage destroyed much of the Institute I hated!”
“You say you were born without mental powers, yet you clearly possess amazing levels of magic skill!” noted the White Witch.
Ryssa smiled and placed her hands on her hips in a gesture of pride and confidence. “It is so! I left Titan, and I sold myself in numerous ways until I had earned enough to reach my goal. I found a master of the dark arts far from Titan, and he trained me until I became his most cherished pupil. He made me a dangerous woman with magical gifts to rival anything the other Titan natives were born with! He made me what I am today — Ryssa the Mind Witch!”
“Your magic is familiar to me!” said Mysa Nal in a whispered gasp. “I know who trained you, or will train you in our future!”
“I am sure you do,” said Ryssa. “My teacher spoke of you and your own precious group of weak-willed mentors from Zerox. He mocked you all and vowed to see you all crushed beneath his heel someday! You know him, of course, as Mordru!”
“He is encased in earth on Zerox,” said Blok. “Surely this can’t mean that he will escape and resume his old crusade of terror!”
“When dealing with the future, anything is possible,” said Dawnstar.
“And yet I have said enough!” cried Ryssa the Mind Witch. “When I found myself in this era among those I have such cause to hate, I decided to use Validus to punish both the elders of Titan and to manipulate him into killing you all! That would taint his soul even more than it has been darkened already! Still, even hampered by the knowledge that you were fighting your own child, you triumphed over him! That leaves me no choice but to fulfill a secondary goal. If you will not battle him, then I must restore him in order that he may grow to accomplish in time a different destiny of my choosing! You see, I will return to my era, and in time I will reclaim him! This I promise you!”
Raising her arms, Ryssa shouted in an arcane tone. The wind howled and lightning flashed as the Mind Witch drew upon her arcane resources. “I free you from the spell Darkseid placed upon you! I free you so you may live as a human and come to know me again in time! I return the stolen power Darkseid used to its rightful owners, and thus do I redeem myself for past betrayals!”
The heroes watched in disbelief as Validus changed from sleeping monster to sleeping child. It happened in an instant.
However, her moment of triumph was short-lived. She shrieked in pain as an arrow struck her from behind. She clutched her chest and fell to her knees. “What have you done to me?” she cried.
Adam Orion, the Hunter, stepped forward and said, “I woke up. I heard you. You sounded like somebody who might be a threat to me. You see, I need to take that big monster’s head in order to become a very wealthy man. You sounded like you might be unwilling to let me do that little thing! I don’t know how you turned that thing into a baby, but you’ll bring him back as he was so I can collect my bounty, or I’ll kill you!”
The Hunter raised his bow again, but received a hard right cross from Timber Wolf, who had broken free when the energy holding the Legionnaires flickered away after Ryssa’s concentration was weakened by the arrow. “You’ve done your good deed — now go back to sleep!” said Timber Wolf with a grin.
As the freed heroes rushed forward, the injured and weakened Ryssa the Mind Witch shouted in fury. “This is not how I planned it! Fate owes me a better outcome!” she cried as her wound and the energies she had expended in the spell began to sap her strength.
The White Witch began to gesture and chant as her friends closed in on Ryssa of Titan.
Ryssa’s eyes widened as she heard the words of the spell. “By the darkness! You mean to banish me to my own era!” she cried. “That spell of dissimilarity would indeed send me back to my own time, but I am not ready to go yet! I resist you with all my power!”
Saturn Girl flew over to where the boy rested and clutched him to her body protectively. “He’s unhurt, thank goodness!” she sighed.
The Mind Witch faded from view with a look of anger and regret on her features.
Blok turned to Mysa and said, “You did it! She claimed she could resist your magic, but you triumphed!”
Mysa shook her head. “No. I failed. She was able to break my spell before it could work. She is very powerful. I was unable to send her anywhere! She was taken away, but not by me. She was speaking to someone else. She was fighting someone only she could see, perhaps even to the Infinite Man, though he is no more!”
“Jan and Dawny are still stunned,” said Ayla.
“I think it’s just temporary,” said Timber Wolf. “They’re breathing.”
Garth Ranzz rushed over to his wife and son. The child that had been Validus the monster was a lovely young child who was indeed a twin to their own Graym. He was perfectly normal physically, although he was nearly the size of a ten-year-old boy, and tears filled Imra Ranzz’s eyes as she held him.
“Thank goodness!” she said. “We have our baby back! I don’t know if any of that future Ryssa spoke of will ever be or not, but we have our son, and we can do everything in our power to prevent that fate from ever happening!”
Garth kissed her tenderly and said, “The Legion itself exists to fight such dark futures. I wonder if we’ll ever know why she hated us and our child so bitterly? Rejection by the elders of Titan seems like a petty reason to strike at us. What awaits our son and that woman in the future?”
Timber Wolf kissed Lightning Lass as well and said, “Ayla, all of this past year has made me think about a lot of things. We parted for no good reason. We’ve seen births and deaths and change, and it has all made me want to keep our relationship strong. Will you marry me?”
Ayla’s eyes widened, and she pulled away from his embrace. “Brin Londo! I know you lack people skills, but do you honestly think this is the right romantic moment for a marriage proposal?! You’re impossible!” she cried as she stalked off.
Timber Wolf shrugged and glanced from one friend to another. “What? I thought it was a great idea!”
“My friend, you should spend more time away from the gym,” said Blok. “Your understanding of human women is lacking.”
“You could give him lessons,” said the White Witch. “You know how a woman likes to be treated!”
A cry from Saturn Girl attracted all of them, even as Element Lad and Dawnstar began to stir slowly. “Imra, what’s wrong?” gasped Ayla as she rushed back to her friends.
Imra wept as she turned to the others. “Our son!” she cried. “He’s fading away like Ryssa did!” Lightning Lad reached out to his wife, but to his horror, their child vanished before his startled eyes. “She’s taken him!” she sobbed. “I can’t lose my child — not again!”
Garth held her and said, “We’ll find him! I promise we will!”
Yet all of the heroes felt the sickening sense of loss and fear as the truth became evident. The boy was gone, Ryssa the Mind Witch was gone, and the team was left with nothing but questions, fears, and doubts.
Back on Zerox, the Teachers of Sorcerer’s World searched their home with growing concern. The aged wizard with the withered blue skin was missing, and no trace could be found of the venerable mage.
Had they known to look inside the shroud of earth that formerly encased the captured Mordru, they would have found their peer, for he was now trapped within that earthen tomb.
Elsewhere, Ryssa the Mind Witch found herself back in her proper era at the moment at which she had first departed. She was now a captive of the Legion of Super-Heroes of that era, and she submitted to them willingly. She smiled as they led her away, for she knew that before leaving the past she had done much to make sure her future could indeed come about in time. Oh, she regretted the manner in which she had been forcibly returned to her own era before she had wanted to return, and she placed the blame for that on some fluke of the Infinite Man’s powers. She had cursed him as she faded away, but she was pleased with what she had done.
What had she done before she had been drawn back to her era? She had drained the magical energy that had made the baby a monster, and she had enabled those stolen energies to return to the ones who first possessed them before Darkseid took them. Some of the energy went to the enigmatic being called the Time Trapper, while the rest surged into the captive wizard called Mordru, and within seconds that dark wizard had used the magic do what he could not do before. He had used a simple magical transference to switch places with the elder Teacher. His deep fear of such entombment and the fact that his might had been stolen by Darkseid had prevented such a ploy until Ryssa had restored his might and added enough of her own to aid his escape.
In no way was it certain that a girl named Ryssa would be born powerless on Titan, nor could it be said that Mordru would become a mentor to her in time, but those events might still occur, and one certainty remained to color the Legion’s future in dark and somber shades: Mordru was free.