Secret Origins: Superwoman: No Sanctuary, Chapter 1: The Curse of Pandora

by Libbylawrence

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On Sanctuary Island, life had largely been unchanged for eons. The women who had retreated to that hidden isle eons ago had not aged, nor had their needs altered in all that time. The needs of their ruler, Queen Hippolyta, had never changed, either. She was a mother, and she felt the strong urge to deny, suppress, or forget this fact, because there was total estrangement between her and her lawless daughter, Diana. She was a proud woman, and it gave her pangs of regret and shame that she, of all the Amazons of Sanctuary Isle, should so fail in her duties as to produce a child who had no regard for the ways of the Olympians.

She sighed as she sat beside a device known as the magic sphere. It could reveal images of what occurred in the past or what might have occurred if history had taken a different course. Indeed, she had exhausted the sphere’s resources in many visions of what might have occurred if her daughter had embraced her ways.

“A heroine!” wept the queen in her solitary moments. “Diana could have embodied all that is noble and good in our teachings. She could have been a light to brighten the darkness of the outer world. Better still, she could have remained here and never entered that nightmare realm of male aggression.”

She recalled for the thousandth time how it had all begun long before. She gazed into the sphere and saw herself — proud, powerful, a daughter of great Ares. As the war god’s child, she possessed truly impressive martial prowess. She had rallied her sisters — other daughters of the Olympian war god — and they had become an invincible sisterhood dedicated to bloody combat and merciless conquest. That is, until the day in which Hippolyta had fallen under the teachings of Aphrodite, goddess of love, and had renounced her past. She had humbly sought the ways of love and peace and had eventually even won her sisters over to share her newfound ideals.

Why had she changed? She had once been as dangerous as her child would eventually become. The answer rested with the love of a good man. His name was Herakles, and his devotion to a selfless lifestyle based on sharing, helping, and protecting the weak had shaken her to the core. She had been reformed by his love and his example and had led her sisters to embrace such idealism.

She sighed as she recalled him while his image fill the screen. He had departed from her in time, since his ceaseless journeys could not allow him to ever settle in one locale for long. She sometimes wondered if she had made the wrong choice in not joining him. She had led her sisters away from the world of man and had journeyed herself — guided by Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of love — to an isle they named Sanctuary. A sanctuary was indeed what it became, as they hid from the outside world and its madness — a madness that would later be personified by her own child.

The birth of that daughter was a miracle in itself. She and her sisters had labored to build a true paradise on Sanctuary Isle, and they had devoted their time to noble efforts in preserving the arts, literature, and history of their culture. However, what good was a culture if it never matured, grew, or changed?

Thus, Hippolyta had longed for a child. She wanted to give the isle a princess to follow her example and embody all that she valued. She had hoped such a child could be kept free of any taint of her father, Ares. Thus, she would be even greater and more lovely than her mother.

The Olympians heard her prayers and granted her such a child. “Take clay of magic and shape a daughter. We shall give her life and gifts beyond those of any Amazon!” promised Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis.

However, one particular goddess was not invited to participate, and this spelled the babe’s doom. Iris, the goddess of discord, was never invited anywhere because she always lived up to her title by spreading spite, malice, and discord in her wake. Iris had been angered and hurt by the slight, and thus she secretly planned a revenge that was terrible in implication and perilous in its fruition. She switched the magical clay of Aphrodite’s design with clay from an older and darker source. She laughed bitterly as she mixed the clays and recalled the origin of the clay she added to that already present.

Long ago, when humankind was young, Zeus sought to punish man for the effrontery shown by Prometheus in stealing fire and giving it to mankind. He did so by ordering every Olympian to shower their gifts upon a woman of their devising. She would have the beauty of Aphrodite, the wisdom and battle prowess of Athena, the speed of Hermes, the agility of Artemis, and so on. She would be formed from magical clay. He also gave her a name that came from the surname of the earth itself. This was a final bit of irony that proved Zeus had his own sense of humor.

Thus the woman was named Pandora after Gaea Pandora — earth herself. She soon entered the lives of Prometheus and his sibling along with a special box that could never be opened. However, in time the box was opened, and from it spread every plague and menace that could create strife upon Earth. Thus Zeus gave mankind more than they bargained for, and Pandora became infamous for her deeds.

After her death, Pandora reverted back to clay, and it was from this tainted, evil clay that Iris took that which she mixed with the clay given to Hippolyta. Thus was created a daughter with all the gifts of the Olympians and all the evils of Pandora, their earlier creation. Hippolyta named her child Diana.

Princess Diana was everything the Amazons and her proud mother could have hoped for in a child, except for that fact that as an infant she had a terrible temper and never seemed to rest calmly like other babies were known to do. Perhaps that which was inside her — the curse of Pandora — drove her restless spirit even as a baby. When she was a child, Diana received all the attention of the Amazons. They taught her the arts and wisdom of their culture; however, she wanted more than what they could give her, and her attitude became that of a spoiled brat.

She also showed no respect to her mother, and — to Hippolyta’s concern — Diana neglected the worship of the Olympians. “Love? That’s another name for weakness! I scorn it and all of its dainty trappings!” she once said.

Still, the Olympians had given her good gifts, and she grew strong, swift, and beautiful. Yet one errant lock of her raven dark hair grew starkly white. This mark was the sign of Pandora’s touch, although no one knew this to be the case. She became solitary and avoided the others during long walks in the wooden glades around the city.

In truth, Diana secretly met mentors of various kinds. One was a witch known as Circe, who favored the girl with her attention and flattery and shaped her into a young woman with a hatred for the Olympians who made her.

Diana also met a man. The idea of any male setting foot on the sacred isle of women was shocking, and she relished knowing something that none of her sisters or even her mother knew. In the darkness of the glade, Diana met and loved a handsome youth. It was with perverse delight to her that she did the unthinkable — she took a lover.

Princess Diana of Sanctuary Isle was guided through her young womanhood by these two diverse spirits. Circe, a flame-haired beauty, whispered to her young pupil of the ways of evil and malice and scorn for the Olympians. “My child, they gave you gifts that partook of their individual essences — beauty, wisdom, speed, agility, and strength. Thusly, does it not follow that you are greater than all of them? You combined their best traits without their weaknesses. You surpass them all, and thus they restrict your freedom. They place you here away from the world so you cannot shame them in front of the real world beyond.”

Diana heard Circe’s words, and she indulged herself with them. They appealed to her sense of superiority and her ego, and she relished rebellion against those ideals her mother held sacred. She was also fed in this path by the curse of her birthright.

She learned more physical activities like swordsmanship, archery, wrestling, and combat from a striking youth named Gradiuus, the male whom she met in the same forest.

“Do not fear me, fair one,” he said. “I am a captive of your beauty and am subject to the mercies of one taken in combat most mortal.”

She smiled and said, “I fear no one. Who are you? What right have you to tread upon Sanctuary Isle?”

He smiled, and she drew closer. “I am Gradiuus, or so some call me. And surely you are Aphrodite herself.”

His appearance did not frighten her. She was attracted to him and became an eager pupil of all he could teach her. He gave no explanation of who he was or how he had come to the isle of Amazons. She suspected he was a magical being or perhaps an Olympian in disguise, and she fell in love with him, savoring his dark teachings. They met daily, and she mastered all her lover could teach.

In time, she was caught by her mother. Hippolyta shrieked and pulled her away from his embrace, for she saw through his guise and knew him by his more common name. She knew him to be her father himself.

“Ares! How could you do this?” she cried.

In truth, Gradiuus was Ares himself. Hippolyta’s father had longed for the chance to turn his grandchild to his violent ways, and he had succeeded beyond his wildest hopes, for Diana could fight like a fury.

Ares smiled the same seductive smile that had so attracted Diana. “My daughter, surely you would not deny me the right to nurture she who is flesh of my flesh, in a manner of speaking. Fair Diana, you are my heir in every way, and I salute you, daughter of Mars.”

Diana followed her mother and pondered the truth. She felt nothing but pride in that she had been both pupil and lover to Ares, also known as Mars — he whom even the other Olympians feared and despised. Hippolyta suffered much in silence, and yet she and Diana often came to words and even once to blows. The queen of the Amazons could not tame her wild child.

The morning light brought her new hope until a star fell and revealed itself to be not celestial in nature at all. It was a plane from the world beyond, and it would change Diana’s life forever.

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