(Part One of “Weapons Quest”)

Lisa Lowell blinked back tears of fear as she strained against the ropes that encircled her limbs and the heavy gag that filled her mouth. With her shapely slender body, long legs and shimmering chestnut hair that fell to the small of her back, Lisa had been told many times that she should become a model. Instead, she had wanted to follow her family into the banking business. That decision had ultimately lead to her being here, tied and gagged on the floor of her bank while the man she’d been dating and three of his friends emptied the vault. Why did she trust Bob? Friends and family had told her that he was no good, but she said that he treated her like she’d never been treated before. Well, tonight he sure treated her in a way she’d never anticipated!

Suddenly, a circle of pure blackness opened in the center of the lobby, and a woman stepped through. She was a beautiful blonde with a voluptuous body encased in a skimpy yet elegant gold and brown mini-skirt and vest. As the circle closed, the woman spread her legs shoulder-width apart and put her hands on her hips.

“Excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, “but I think it’s a bit late to be making a withdrawal!” Lisa recognized her from the news. It was Golden Goddess!

Bob and his partners in crime stared at the heroine in shock for a second before Bob screamed, “Christ, don’t just stand there, blast her!”

As the men pulled out their gun, Golden Goddess held out her left arm and said, “Shield of Earth.” To her surprise, nothing happened! As the first criminal started to pull the trigger, the heavenly heroine sprang to one side, dodging the barrage of gunfire until she could back-flip behind a counter to give herself some cover.

“Shield of Earth,” she said again, to no affect. She decided to try her other weapons. “Sword of Fire. Bow of Water!” None of the mystic weapons appeared! They had never failed her before, what could be wrong? At least her doorway must still be working, since she had used it to enter the bank. “If that’s all I have to work with, so be it. Doorway of the Void!” Golden Goddess jumped through the black doorway, which reappeared a split second later above the heads of the bank robbers.

The heroine dove into the midst of her attackers, kicking and punching with her enhanced strength, knocking the criminals across the length of the room. It took only moments for her to disable the quartet of unprepared felons. Now, all she had to do was untie the girl and call the police. Then, she could get down to the business of learning what had happened to her weapons!

* * *

As she became used to the mystic energy that empowered her, and read the exploits recorded in the volume she’d recovered, Diane Carter was becoming more aware of the elements of Golden Goddess’ past. One of those elements was her Crystal Castle, accessible only through the Doorway of the Void. It was on a tiny island that floated on a sea swirling with rainbow colors. She didn’t know where it was, but she knew that it wasn’t on Earth.

She also knew that her other weapons – the Chariot, the Sword, the Bow and the Shield – were gifts from the four Elemental Queens. The only way the weapons could have been taken from her was if something had happened to the Queens. Golden Goddess had to journey to the elemental lands, something she could only do from her castle.

Golden Goddess studied the four archways before her. If she were going to undertake this quest, she would be doing a lot of travelling. It would be handy to have the Chariot, so she decided to make that her first priority. She touched the wall within the blue archway and said, “Doorway of the Void.” The Doorway opened up directly to the Land of Air, and Golden Goddess stepped through.

The land of air was full of mountain peaks that soared upwards and literally touched the clouds. Most of the inhabitants lived on these clouds, which were normally white and billowy in an azure sky, with soft breezes blowing and carrying the scent of sweet incense. Today, however, the clouds looked like an approaching thunderstorm, dark and foreboding. There was no breeze, and the air smelled and tasted stale. If the blonde beauty needed any more indication that something was wrong, she had it!

The nature of the land was such that no ordinary human would be able to travel far; the mountains were too steep and rugged. Only the Goddess’ supernatural strength and stamina carried her through now. It wasn’t long before she had topped Royal Mountain, and stepped onto the cloud island which held the castle of Queen Atma. The castle also seemed dark and devoid of life. This worried Golden Goddess. The elemental realms were closely connected with their queens and reflected their states. What kind of condition could Atma be in for the realm to look like this? And were her sisters in this much trouble, as well? She quickened her pace, further unnerved when she realized that the skies were empty, when they should be full of flying creatures.

No sooner had this thought crossed her mind, however, than she heard the sound of beating wings approach from the castle. Maybe Atma was sending help, she thought. But as the flyers got closer, she recognized them: vulture men! They seldom fought for the right side, and this was not a good omen. In seconds, they were upon the heroine, who fought back valiantly.

Golden Goddess tore a heavy limb from a nearby tree, using it as a club and wishing she had her sword! One after another, the vulture men fell before her might, but they gave as good as they got. Soon, the heavenly heroine was dazed; that was when the attackers dropped a heavy net over her, dragging her down and entangling her in the coils. Once she was so entangled that she could offer no more resistance, three of the winged men lifted her and carried her towards the castle. The heroine went limp, using the time to recover as she let her opponents carry her to where she wanted to go.

* * *

In the main room of the castle, Atma was not on her throne. In her place, was…well, Golden Goddess wasn’t she could call him a man. He has dark, thick, leathery skin, glowing red eyes and folds of skin beneath his arms that resembled bat wings. His ears and eyes were both pointed, and his teeth when he smiled were fangs. “Greetings, Golden Goddess,” he said as the netted beauty was dropped on the floor before him. “My brothers and I were expecting you, sooner or later. I feel honored that you chose me, first! I am Lord Tornakain!”

Tornakain! He and his three brothers were chaos demons who had ruled the elements at the dawn of time. Under their control, Earth would never have been able to support life. The Four Queens, with the help of their knight champions, had wrested control of the Elemental Lands from them. The champions then departed to carry the demons to be imprisoned in a distant realm before seeking new adventures. Now, they seemed to have somehow returned!

“How did you get here, Tornakain? And where’s Queen Atma?” The heroine tried to sound menacing, but she knew the power these beings wielded. If she couldn’t stop them, they could destroy the entire world!

The demon’s face clouded and he hurled a lightning bolt that landed within inches of Golden Goddess. “That’s LORD Torakain, wench! Remember, for all your power, you are merely a demigod! I was born with the universe itself! My brothers and I were freed from our prison and came to reclaim our rightful place on the Elemental Thrones. As for your so-called ‘queen’, well, see for yourself!”

He waved to the side of the room, and the heavy curtain that lined the wall opened. Behind it, in a small alcove was Atma! She wore her traditional short robes of blue and white, with silver sandals, jewelry and tiara. Her blonde hair, which usually glowed like the sun, seemed pale, and her blue eyes were clouded with pain. Even her colorful, butterfly-like wings drooped lifelessly. Being a creature of the air, it was torture for Atma to be confined in a small place such as the alcove. And she was definitely confined! She had been seated in a heavy stone chair that was too small for her to sit in comfortably, she must have been wedged in. Heavy ropes encircled her torso and legs, pinning her arms to her side and practically fusing her legs into one mass. On top of that, thick chains wrapped around her body, lap and calves, securing her to the chair. There was a leather gag covering the lower half of her face, from the nose to the chin. After a second, she saw and recognized Golden Goddess and squealed into the gag.

“Yes, my sweet,” Tornakain gloated. “I’m sure you and your sisters expected this foolish mortal to save you, due to the pact you’d made with her patron all those millennia ago! But that is not to be!” He turned back to Golden Goddess. “There’s an interesting thing about your power, my dear. If you were to die, the power of the Golden Goddess would die with you, for it resides in your body! Since Golden Goddess was partly responsible for our defeat, my brothers and I would LOVE to see that happen! And I get to do it! I can’t tell you how happy I am!”

Golden Goddess resumed her struggles against the net as the vulture men returned to drag her to her fate. “You’ll never get away with this, Tornakain! Your kind was defeated before, and you will be again!”

“Silence her,” the demon sneered as he got up to follow. One of the vulture men stuffed a rag in the attractive avatar’s mouth and then tied another cloth over it to silence her.

* * *

Deep within the bowels of the castle, the wind roared through the chamber. It was a strange sensation, hearing and feeling the wind in a closed room that had only two points of access: the door through which they came and the well-like hole in the center of the floor. The vulture men dropped Golden Goddess on the floor of the room and scurried back through the door. Only Tornakain stayed to gloat.

“This room, Golden Goddess, is the Chamber of the Winds. To rule the power of the elements, one must tame it. Within this room, the whirlwinds have been tamed. Soon, however, they will be coming forth to…exercise would be the closest human equivalent. And when they rise from that hole, anything in this room would be hurled about by their power, smashed again and again into the stone walls! And the only thing that will be in this room is you!” He laughed as the heroine’s eyes went wide. “Fear not, you won’t be the last. I plan to unleash this power on those humans you’re so fond of. We’ll see how great the strength of their airplanes and skyscrapers are when they face the undiluted power of the Air! Or, rather, I’LL see. You will be long gone!” The demon laughed as he left and closed the door, dropping the heavy bolt into place.

Golden Goddess looked around the room as the rushing sound of wind increased. The room wasn’t completely empty, as she had first thought. Small bits of debris were scattered around the perimeter of the floor. Her hands were tangled in the net, one behind her and one at her waist. She wondered if there was something that she could reach in that pile of stuff that could free her. She rolled and struggled over to the nearest wall, biting into the gag as she rolled onto her arm. Finally, she reached her destination, but it was no help. Everything there had been crumbled practically to dust by the power that was even now rising to destroy her. The winds had picked up even more, and Golden Goddess’ blonde mane was beginning to dance on the breeze.

“Okay, girl, you’re all on your own,” she thought. “You’ve got the mind of a scientist combined with the wisdom of a goddess! There’s got to be a way out of this; think!” The one thing working in her favor was the fact that she was trapped in the net, rather than being tied up. This gave her a little more freedom of movement than some of the situations she’d found herself in during her career! If only she had a little more slack, she might be able to wiggle free…

Golden Goddess’ azure blue eyes popped open. That might be her answer! The winds were now beginning to increase to the point that the rubble around the room was starting to fly around her. She squirmed over to the door, and straightened herself up to the door. She wiggled her face into position so that the edge of her gag was under the hinge, and began to wiggle it around, pulling the cloth from her face. Then she spit out the rag, and licked her dry lips before intoning, “Golden Goddess, be gone!”

Golden sparks flew off of the heroine’s body as the energy left her. Her form shrunk and her clothes transformed as her hair darkened. In a matter of a second or two, Golden Goddess had vanished to be replaced by Diane Carter. As she had hoped, the slender form of Diane wasn’t nearly as tangled in the tight net as the taller, more voluptuous Golden Goddess had been. Working quickly, the brunette beauty managed to unfasten the clasps holding the net tight and wiggled free. By now, the wind was whipping so hard that as Diane stood up, the net was torn from her grasp and carried around the room. She had to hold on to the door with one hand to keep herself from being carried away. The wind snatched the words from her lips as she said “I invoke the Golden Goddess” and the transformation came over her.

Golden Goddess planted her foot against the wall and pulled on the door with all her might, but it was too solid for her. Golden Goddess placed her hand on the door and spoke the summoning phrase, “Doorway of the Void.” The black circle opened and the winds practically threw the heroine into the inky void. The corresponding circle opened up on the opposite side of the door and Golden Goddess came sailing out. She smashed against the wall and was held there momentarily by the viscous winds until the Doorway closed. She sank to the floor, dazed, and paused to collect herself. Then she got to her feet.

“Okay, Tornakain, get ready for round two!”

* * *

The throne room was empty when Golden Goddess slipped in. She was glad. She planned to take care of him and make him pay for what he’d done. First, however, she wanted to free Atma. The queen of the element of air was suffering greatly by her imprisonment. Golden Goddess felt a twang of compassion for the four women who had given her the elemental weapons. She was sure that the other three queens were faring no better with their captors. She moved quickly and silently over to the alcove and pulled back the heavy curtain.

Atma looked weary and haggard in her bonds. It took her a moment to recognize her rescuer, and then her eyes brightened slightly with hope. Golden Goddess unbuckled the heavy leather gag and pulled it from the woman’s mouth.

“Golden Goddess! How did you escape from the winds?”

“I’ll explain later. For now I have to try to get you out of here.” She worked quickly on untying the ropes, but grimaced as she stroked the chains. “The Sword of Fire could cut through these like butter, but I’m don’t have that now. There’s got to be another way to get you loose!”

Though still shackled to the chair, Atma flexed her legs and stretched her arms. “By the Creator, even THIS much freedom feels wonderful! There should be an axe hanging on the wall behind the throne, see if that will cut the chains.”

Golden Goddess nodded and ran over to the throne. The axe was silver, like most of Atma’s belongings. She lifted it from the hooks that held it and turned back towards the alcove. “Damn!” she muttered at the sight that greeted her. Tornakain was standing there, with a group of the vulture men along side him. One of them had his taloned hand over Atma’s mouth, and held a knife to her throat.

“I must admit, I’m impressed,” Tornakain said. “It seems I underestimated you…both of you.” As he said this last, he glanced quickly at Atma. “In a way, though, I’m happy that the whirlwinds didn’t finish you off, Golden Goddess. This way, I can do it personally!”

Golden Goddess dropped into a fighting crouch, the axe in her hand held at the ready. “You’re welcome to try, Tournakain! I doubt Atma’s axe has tasted blood since the LAST time it was used in the battle against you!”

Tournakain grimaced. “Yes, I remember that axe, and you’re probably right. However, this time I have factors working in my favor that I didn’t before.” He motioned towards Atma and told the man holding her, “If our blonde friend here so much as twitches, slit the queen’s throat.”

Golden Goddess couldn’t believe the cold, unemotional way this command was delivered. “You’re a monster,” she said.

“Yes, my dear, I am. Now, why don’t you drop the axe and surrender to my men?”

The heavenly heroine narrowed her eyes and her mind raced, but she could see no way around it. She sighed as she placed the axe on the floor and raised her hands in submission.

* * *

“It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?” Tournakain said. “Don’t the humans have a saying about it being a good day to die, Golden Goddess? I hope you’ll agree!”

The chaos demon stood atop a cliff, surrounded by his vulture men. Golden Goddess and Atma stood behind him, their hands tied tightly behind their backs and their mouths gagged. A vulture man held each of the women by the arms. Nearby was Tournakain’s storm stallion, a large black beast that bore only a passing resemblance to a horse. It had six legs, bat-like wings and glowing red eyes. Small crackles of lightning flashed occasionally from it’s eyes and wing tips, and the breath that hissed from it’s nostrils looked like black smoke. A few feet away, was the Chariot of Air, or what it had become. The once beautiful conveyance was slender, wispy and dark, like a storm cloud that was fading before the sun. The evil elemental motioned towards the Chariot of Air.

“I assume this is what you came here looking for,” he said to Golden Goddess. “Honestly, I can’t imagine why. For all the power this thing is supposed to have, it’s shown me nothing! I guess it’s lost a good deal since the last time I saw it!”

Atma made angry “mmmmmphing” noises into her gag, and Tournakain, curious, pulled the cloth from her mouth. “The Chariot is as powerful as ever,” she said defensively. “But it won’t work for you! It is a tool of good, representing the focused use of the powers of Air. It won’t respond to the powers of Chaos!”

Tournakain sneered. “That’s an interesting theory, ‘your highness’, but then why is the damned thing practically fading away before our very eyes?”

“Because you’ve polluted everything it stands for. The power that holds the Chariot together would rather see it disperse than see it fall into your hands!”

“Bah,” Tournakain growled as the stuffed the gag back into Atma’s mouth and tied it behind her head. “I don’t have the time or the desire for this. Whatever is wrong with this pathetic Chariot will play nicely into my needs! Put them in,” he ordered his vulture men.

The monstrous creatures dragged the two struggling heroines over to the Chariot of Air and shoved them in, binding their ankles and then pulling the women’s limbs into a pair of hog-ties. As they performed this deed, Tournakain was fastening a long, stout chain from the saddle of his mount to the front of the Chariot in which the women lay. “It occurred to me, Golden Goddess, that since you came here for the Chariot, it would be cruel of me not to give it to you. So, it will be the means of your demise! When I’ve got you high enough, I shall release the chain and you two shall plummet to your doom.”

Golden Goddess and Atma struggled against the ropes that held them and tried to communicate through the gags that filled their mouths. Tournakain mounted his stallion and cracked a whip, causing it to leap skyward, pulling the Chariot of Air behind it. Golden Goddess judged the feel of the Chariot under her body as she struggled. It felt totally different to what she was used to. The body was soft, spongy, as if she might fall through it. As the stallion pulled it, the Chariot was dead weight, not the wind-fast vehicle she was used to. There was no way that it could support one person, let alone two, in it’s current condition.

They rose higher and higher, and Golden Goddess looked for some way, any way, to save herself and Atma. Suddenly, she was aware that they weren’t rising any more, and that Atma’s muffled cries seemed to be trying to attract her attention. She began to wiggle over to the elemental queen, just as Tournakain released the chain.

“Farewell, ladies,” he said. “Destroying you has been fun!”

Golden Goddess rolled towards Atma and inched her fingers towards her fellow captor’s face. She managed to pull the gag from Atma’s mouth. “Golden Goddess,” Atma said, “you must find a way to free me! My power can save the Chariot, and us! But I must be free to use it!”

The Chariot hovered for a few moments, then slowly began to drop. Golden Goddess wiggled as quickly as she could, until her face was up against Atma’s hands. The queen understood and pulled the gag from the heroine’s mouth. “I’ll see what I can do,” Golden Goddess said. She quickly attacked the knots on Atma’s wrists with her teeth. The Chariot was gaining speed as it fell. Golden Goddess did her best to ignore the peril, and concentrate on the job at hand. Finally, the knot came undone and Atma was able to slip her hands from the loosened bonds. She quickly rolled over and began to untie her ankles.

“Finally!” Atma cried as she kicked her ankles free of her bonds. She stood up and somehow managed to balance on the rocking, unstable Chariot. She spread her legs shoulder-width and threw her hands skyward. A strong wind kicked up and a mini-tornado surrounded Atma for a few seconds. When it faded, the elemental queen was clean and healed, and seemed to almost pulse with power. Energy poured from her hands into the Chariot. “Golden Goddess,” she said, “the Chariot is yours again. Summon the power!”

The ground was coming frighteningly close as Golden Goddess said, “Chariot of Air!” The wispy cloud that had been the Chariot swirled and reformed into an elongated “Roman chariot” shape with clouds where the wheels should be. The Chariot was a “mother-of-pearl” white with blue trim. At barely five feet from the ground, it pulled up, carrying the women skyward. “Untie me,” Golden Goddess said to her companion. “Tournakain has a lot to answer for!”

Atma nodded as she worked to undo the knots. “If you can keep him busy, I can rally my troops to end this.”

* * *

The storm stallion began to dip towards the castle, when a dark cloud streaked by. Tournakain looked up and saw, to his amazement, the Chariot of Air! Golden Goddess spun the Chariot back around and aimed at the chaos demon. “It’s over, Tournakain,” she yelled. “Atma and I survived, we’re free and the Chariot is mine again! Give up now!”

“Never!” Tournakain screamed. “Troops, attend me!”

Hordes of vulture men rose from the castle, weapons at the ready as they flocked to defend their master. Golden Goddess, however, was prepared for them. The Chariot smashed into Tournakain, knocking him from his mount, before continuing into the group of evil creatures, knocking them aside like tenpins. Several of the vulture men tried to grab the Chariot or pull Golden Goddess from it’s interior, but her frustration was released as she punched, kicked or swung them from her.

Tournakain had recovered by then, and raised his hands, summoning lightning from the clouds. Bolts flew all around Golden Goddess, barely missing her as she dodged in and out, sometimes using her enemies weapons against them as several of the following vulture men were struck down by lightning flashes meant for the heroine struck them, instead. Still, Golden Goddess knew that it was just a matter of time before a lucky blow landed. She did her best against the overwhelming odds as she waited for a miracle. Then, it happened.

The skies cleared; the dark clouds evaporating to reveal azure blue and a brilliantly shining sun. As the clouds vanished, they revealed the army that had been hiding behind it, and army of winged sylphs with Atma at their head. In her hand she held her axe, and her eyes blazed with fury.

“Tournakain,” she said, her voice dripping with venom, “you were sentenced to an eternity of imprisonment. My people and I are here to carry out that sentence. I would suggest that you surrender.”

“You stole my righteous place as ruler of this dimension,” Tournakain screamed. “I will see you dead and dance on your grave…both you and Golden Goddess! Destroy them, my minions!”

However, after eons of conditioning, the vulture men scattered before the forces of Atma. The sylphs peeled off in well-orchestrated movements as they flew after the opposing army. Tournakain soon found himself alone, except for Golden Goddess and Atma, who were on either side of the demon.

“Damn you,” he sneered. “Damn you both! I won’t let it end this way! If I can’t rule here, neither can Atma!” She soared up at the queen, tackling her as he took her by surprise. The axe flew from Atma’s hands as the demon drove her towards the ground, his claw-like hands wrapping around her throat.

Golden Goddess had been expecting something like this, however; she knew how desperate a being like Tournakain could be. She directed the Chariot towards the struggling duo. As she flew past Tournakain, she grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, ripping him from Atma. She hauled the villain into the Chariot. “You wanted the Chariot, Tournakain?” she said. “Here it is! Take it, if you want it!” She slammed his head into the floor of the Chariot, once, twice, three times before Tournakain pulled free from her grasp.

“I’ll be back,” he snarled through the blood on his lips. “And I’ll make you pay for this!” Before Golden Goddess could stop him, Tournakain dove over the side of the Chariot, into a black whirlpool that formed below him. Golden Goddess jumped over to follow him, but the whirlpool vanished before she reached it. The Chariot swooped around below her, catching her before she could reach the ground. It was just a matter of some minor mop-up, now, and the Realm of Air would be back to normal. Without Tournakain, the forces of evil should be easy to defeat. However, that was just the beginning for Golden Goddess. She still had three more weapons to reclaim, and she knew that Tournakain’s parting threat was not an idle one. He would do whatever he could to claim his vengeance. Golden Goddess just hoped that she would be ready for their next encounter.