THE PATH TO TEMPEST

The saga of Garth's journey of identity from being the young hero, Aqualad, to becoming the powerful sorcerer, Tempest, is a testament to strength, truth and a purity of heart rarely found among the costumed heroes of the world. Though much of the legend is revealed in the pages of "Tempest: Prophets And Kings," it actually began in the first issue of Showcase '96. The following is a synopsis of all five tales.

"Charted Courses," words: Phil Jimenez; art: Scott Kolins, from Showcase '96, #1:

Following a vicious life or death battle with his mentor, a reluctant Garth is told that his tutelage is over. Having trained the young hero in the arts of sorcery and psionic battle in his other-dimensional realm, Atlan directs him to return to the Earth via a shimmery passageway in a mystical grotto which leads to his own homewaters. Garth is patently unsure of himself, doubting that he knows enough about the wielding of his fantastic new abilities.

Atlan advises that Garth has no choice other than to accept a destiny laid out for him eons ago: to guard and protect the people of the seas, much in the way his mentor, Aquaman, protects the sea's creatures. Garth bitterly resents any assertion that someone else has "predestined" his future; he demands that only he can choose the path his life will take, and he refuses to leave. His tutor announces he is leaving this place, but if Garth insists on shirking his duty and remains behind, his life will be a hellish existence. Almost instantly, Garth comes under attack from a nightmarish robot called Thedirmon, in scenes reminiscent of the robot he fought in the Hidden Valley a few years prior, on the day he discovered his parentage.

While battling the monstrous machine, Garth realizes not only how much he's grown physically, but also emotionally, and he vows never to shirk his duty to himself or those he loves. Though angry when he finds that the robot was simply a device created by Atlan to allow him to see the wisdom in leaving, he accepts his duty under the understanding that only he can decide the direction his life will take. With that, he bursts through the passage, and in a cryptic verse his new heroic identity is revealed to all. He will be the calm in the eye of the storm, "a haven in the center of a swelling TEMPEST...!"

Tempest: Prophets And Kings: words and pencils: Phil Jimenez; inks: John Stokes

Act I : Dead Ringers

Garth returns to the city of his parents, Shayeris (nee Crastinus), for the first time since his recovery from a coma a few years before. (The events regarding his coma were revealed in New Titans #72 on and in the McLaughlin Aquaman series). As Garth and Atlan swim above the apparently abandoned city, they are attacked by decaying warriors adorned in all manner of battle attire from many different points in history. Though it was Atlan who directed Garth to return to Shayeris to uncover the secrets of his birthright, he is as confused as his pupil is at the site of their attackers. Garth wields the fire and ice of his new powers, deftly destroying these soldiers, and he frets when one of his power bursts seemingly goes too far and decimates one of these brutes. Along with Garth and Atlan: the merwoman Letifos, who aides the two mages in defeating the warriors, at least for a time.

Meanwhile, in another underwater realm, both Poseidon and Neptune are taken captive by a sinister but unrevealed figure who is able to trap them and chain them in a protective sphere. The evil entity watches Garth and Atlan in their travels while he taunts the two gods, and he reviews the events of Garth's life as he does.

Letifos and Atlan bicker over her presence, and Garth asks her to go home, releasing her of any guilt or responsibility for his "death." (See Aquaman #22). Her concern for Garth's safety makes Letifos stay, and she assists Atlan and Garth as yet more ancient warriors rise from their graves to attack them. From seemingly nowhere, another figure enters the fray: Tula, the dead hero known as Aquagirl. While Garth is distracted by this solid, flesh and blood return of the love of his life, Atlan is cruelly sucked through a curious vortex and pulled away into the lair of the unseen evil entity.

Act II : Blood And Ebony

Garth awakes from a horrible nightmare about betrayal and death, but he is only mildly comforted by the sight of Tula, who is awake and next to him in bed. This dream was one he will look back on as having been prophetic---a dire warning about the consequences of his ill-placed trust in the reincarnated Aquagirl. Sadly, this wasn't a dream at all, but a psychic projection sent as a warning from the bound and captive Atlan.

While Garth frets over the ritual he will later have to enact, Tula and Letifos decide to see the worst in each other, and they fight over the scroll containing the sacred verses. Tired of their bickering and nervous about the task at hand, Garth storms out of the bed chamber and into another in which he can be alone. A new identity calls for a new outfit, so Garth takes the huge bedcover from his parents' bed---a copy of the red and black flag of the Idylists---and he fashions a suit from it using his latent mystical powers fueled by his confusion and anger.

Watching all is his uncle, Slizzath, who is amazed at the vision of Garth accessing his hereditary powers even before undergoing the accession ritual. Once sufficiently prepared, Garth enters his father's inner-sanctum and begins the ceremony. He chants the sacred verses and then readies himself for the ultimate test of his suitability to accept the mantle of his predecessors. With the hilt of an ornate dagger in his grasp, he follows the prescribed rite of passage: he must plunge the blade straight through his heart, for only a heart completely devoid of hatred or malice of any kind will have room to accept the knife and suffer no wound.

As the blade enters, the powers of his forefathers begin to enter his body, mind and soul. The magiks swirl around him and through him, and as he absorbs these powers he does not see Tula, the tool of Slizzath, lying in wait. While still in the throes of a sacred rapture, Tula is directed to make her move. Her attack on him drains all of the mystical forces from Garth's body and siphons them into the horrid Slizzath, releasing him from the imprisonment imposed by Thar. Garth writhes on the floor as Slizzath howls with delight---he is free.

Act III: Dead In The Water; words and pencils: Phil Jimenez; inks: John Stokes with Keith Aiken and Phil Jimenez

Garth is a shadow of his former self, having suffered a horrible violation. The woman he trusted and loved more than life itself has betrayed him, for reasons he cannot yet discern. Trapped in a twisted reef of coral which attempts to hold him and force the life from him, he is visited by the rotting corpse of a dead soldier from eons ago, yet it chooses not to act against him.

Far away, in Slizzath's former other-dimensional prison, he revels in his trickery, and in his use of Tula to deceive and thwart his young nephew. He calls upon all the dead of the sea to pay homage to him, for he will recreate the undersea landscape in his own image and likeness, making it the dwelling of the living dead. The Hidden Valley, once the home of a beautiful landscape and architecture built by generations of pacifists, is now transformed into a fierce, horrible Necropolis, a true Valley of the Dead, as the corpses of shipwreck victims, sailors, soldiers and all manner of seafarers who have lost their lives to Davey Jones' Locker flock to Slizzath to pay tribute to their lord of the dead.

As Garth uses his last ounce of strength to free himself from his hateful barbed prison, the dead soldiers attack him, but they, in turn, come under fire from an unknown source. Tempest fights valiantly, but is subdued by a blow on the head; he later awakes in an unfamiliar cavern filled with people. To Garth's amazement, his rescuers are none other than a small band of Idylists, as he later finds out, a group which includes two familiar faces: Sett and Thoran, two members of the council who refused information to him several years prior during his search for his parents. As his people stand in awe of the boy who should be their king, a strange surprise awaits him in the wings---his long-unseen mother, Berra.

Feelings of joy, confusion, shock and eventually anger flood over Garth as he faces this stoic woman. He attempts to confront her about his abandonment as an infant, but Sett interrupts him to discuss the more urgent matter of what is to be done about Slizzath, advising that all will be revealed about Garth's past.

In Sett's narrative, Garth is astounded to find that most of what he'd learned about his father was a lie. Though King Thar was, in fact, murdered because of the weapons he'd amassed, he was not mad, as his son had been led to believe. Thar had armed his people to protect them from the threat of the evil Slizzath, a fact which they had discovered all too late. Berra had been exiled to prevent the heir of Thar from ever finding out that he was born to a legacy of sorcery, the same privilege to occult powers which could free the dreaded Slizzath from his prison. Berra willingly allowed the authorities of Poseidonis to sentence her son to death by exposure, believing it to be the only alternative to save her people and not (directly) have Garth's blood on their hands.

An angry Garth confronts his people, advising that their foolish behavior has, in part, created the climate which allowed for Slizzath to triumph, and that the only way to defeat him is to use the armory which Thar created to fight him. Yet few of the Idylists are willing to fight along side Tempest, including Berra, who cannot betray her pacifist beliefs, just as she could not do so to spare her own son's life. Armed with Thar's robot warriors, his weapons and his virtuous son, a small group of Idylists meet the challenge and swim off to fight to eliminate the threat of Slizzath once and for all.

Act IV: Requiem; ; words/pencils: Phil Jimenez; inks Keith Aiken and Phil Jimenez

Garth knows that his small group of followers have little chance to defeat the legions of the dead under the command of Slizzath. They know it as well, for they have seen many of their own families murdered by the same dead soldiers within the dwellings of the Idylists. These events coincided with Garth's return to his own dimension, following his tutelage by Atlan (see Showcase 96 #1). It is only now as they swim toward certain death in the lair of Slizzath that any of the prophecies regarding the purple-eyed child of Thar begin to make sense. The pacifists fight selflessly and valiantly, with Tula literally at Garth's throat, but they are badly outnumbered and poorly equipped against the army of the dead. And then, suddenly, a second flank appears: Letifos and her tribesmen.

As if to repay the harm they caused to Garth, Letifos and her people enter the fray, fighting along side the Idylists. Additionally, more volleys of particle energy are fired from another surprising source---Berra, and the other Idylists. They have also come to stand against the evil sorcerer and fight alongside the son of Thar. Many more Idylists die in the battle, including the secretive Thoran, Sett's life partner and a good and kind man; his lifeless body, as well as that of the great KingThar himself, are possessed by the cruel spell cast on the dead by Slizzath.

Atlan desperately tries to convince Garth, via telepathy, that Tula is the tool of Slizzath, but Garth's mind is still clouded by his love for this woman and will not listen. Realizing that Garth will die rather than see the truth about Tula, Atlan turns to Letifos, telepathically begging her to capture the sacred dagger of the Idylist, which is being held by Slizzath, and use it to wound Tula, for this is the only way to force Garth to see the truth. As Atlan creates a diversion, Letifos spirits the knife away, engages Tula in a fight and slices her open.

What is revealed is a horror to all, including Tula. Revealed within her body are the parasites of the underworld, for that is truly what she is made of, though she did not know this. Garth now knows what he must do, and as he and Tula express their undying love for each other, Tula begs him to put her out of her misery before Slizzath can use her again, and that he does. And then the chanting begins, as Garth takes the ceremonial dagger in hand and repeats the spell his father uttered long ago. Above the assembled masses, a black vortex opens and draws the hated Slizzath in. Though Garth could have struck his uncle down in rage, he does not, and the evil sorcerer is trapped in a vapid other-worldly prison once more.

And the aftermath: Letifos and her tribesmen return to their home in the Indian ocean. Atlan is free to once again spread his special brand of mischief; so too are Poseidon and Neptune, the gods whose powers were used to fuel the false Tula. Berra is reinstated as the Queen Of The Idylists after more than twenty years as a commoner; Garth is left to wonder whether or not they can ever have a true mother and child relationship, but he realizes that only time will tell. The Idylists are left with the job of identifying and burying the remains of the dead and ridding the ruins of Necropolis from their once fair city. And Garth reburies Tula in her proper grave, and he thanks her for the love she gave to him and the protection and guidance he trusts she will always give to him. And with that, he leaves to accept his new mantle, that of the protector of the sea's people.

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