The sun shone brightly upon the beaches of Themyscira, the golden glow shimmering as though Zeus himself had struck the island with a lightning bolt. Diana stood to the side of the dock, arms crossed, watching women from the Scholar community trudge up the plank toward their ship, lugging bronze, copper, and silver trunks behind them. Just across from Diana stood the sea captain, who unfurled her map and scrutinized the coordinates that would lead them—and Diana’s best friend, Sakina—back to their home.
Diana swallowed. Just one week earlier, this very ship had unspooled its anchor into the sea alongside other vessels belonging to women from communities around the world: expert strategists, welders, artists, educators, even fellow warriors from distant lands. They’d descended from abroad to celebrate their cultures and share knowledge with one another at the annual Chará festival. During the day, they’d taught and attended classes ranging from pottery to painting to combat. Each evening, they’d laughed and chatted over lavish feasts, goblets of wine, and the steady hum of music and dancing. At night, Diana and Sakina had taken the Sky Kangas from the royal stables and soared over the island, beyond the looming statues of Aphrodite and Hera and Athena just outside the coliseum walls. They’d plucked the juiciest oranges they could find from Themyscira’s groves and then eaten the sweet fruit while standing on the island’s cliff-lined shores. Last night the girls had climbed onto the palace’s rooftop to gaze at the stars twinkling overhead. It had been the perfect ending to a dramatic week.
The festival had started off bumpy—to put it mildly—but matters had improved since Diana’s near-death adventure, which involved an escape from the island of Sáz and a demon who had wished to capture her. She’d not only saved an entire nation on the brink of destruction and woken the Amazons from an endless sleep but also finally convinced her mother to let her train as a warrior. So much had happened, but somehow it had gone by all too quickly.
“Finally!” a voice exclaimed.
Sakina was wheeling a steel trunk as she walked toward Diana. She wore a velvet tunic and gold leggings. Her long dark hair was tucked back in a twist.
“All packed, huh?” Diana said.
“Yep.” Sakina set the trunk at her feet. “It was way harder to stuff all my things back in. I had to jump on the trunk to make it shut!”
“Maybe because you picked up so many goodies along the way,” Diana teased. “I think—”
Suddenly Diana froze. She squinted as a flash of something burst beyond the woods leading toward her palace home. What was that? Diana wondered. She scanned the horizon, her heart beating quickly.
It’s nothing, she told herself. You’re spooked these days, that’s all. After what she’d been through, how could she not be?
But then the trees rustled in the distance, the branches shaking violently.
“Diana, what’s wrong?” Sakina asked.
Diana didn’t reply. Her eyes remained fixed on the swaying tree line. Leaves fluttered to the ground. Diana slid her hand to the sword at her waist. The demon had said someone was hunting for her—and that “he” would find her. Is this it? she wondered. Is he here? Diana took one careful step forward. Then another. And then—
Sakina’s snow leopard leapt down from a branch and nimbly planted herself on the ground. Binti, Diana’s wolf friend, emerged from the forest and ran into the clearing, playfully chasing the large cat. A rush of relief flooded through Diana. She loosened her hand from the sword’s hilt and unclenched her jaw. Everything was fine. The animals were friends. They were simply saying goodbye. Diana was safe.
“He’s not here,” Sakina said gently. She rested a hand on Diana’s arm.
“Right. Of course not,” Diana said. She shrugged unconvincingly. “Arya just caught me off guard, that’s all.”
“That’s why you sleep with a dagger under your pillow like it’s your security blanket?” Sakina raised her eyebrows. “It’s not exactly snuggly.”
Diana blushed. She hadn’t realized that Sakina had noticed.
“Fine, maybe it’s on my mind a little bit,” she admitted.
“I get it.” Sakina nodded. “I’m ninety-nine percent sure the demon was making it all up, but I still can’t help looking over my shoulder now and then.”
The knot of tension in the pit of Diana’s stomach eased. If anyone would understand, it would be Sakina. They’d gone through the harrowing ordeal that kicked off the Chará festival together. A boy, Augustus, who hailed from the Sáz nation of chariot makers, had found his way to Themyscira, though his presence was forbidden. A gifted potion maker, he’d enchanted the women on the island—guests and warriors alike—into an endless sleep and then begged Diana and Sakina to help him save his people from an evil demon. The demon had hypnotized Augustus’s people and threatened to burn their nation to the ground, all so he could capture Diana for a bounty set by a mysterious “him.” It had been the most terrifying ordeal of Diana’s life—but the three of them had made it through. They’d survived booby traps and lava rivers and violent, hypnotized villagers, and together they’d destroyed the demon. But what he’d said in his final moments wouldn’t leave her: He always gets what he wants.
The threatening words echoed through her mind. They haunted her dreams.
“Nothing’s happened,” Sakina said, as though reading Diana’s thoughts. “The women were woken up by the antidote, and the rest of the week was incident-free.”
“But Doom’s Doorway . . . ,” Diana added, hesitating. “It shook like an earthquake when we returned. That can’t have been a coincidence.”
“Even if it wasn’t,” Sakina said, “nothing happened, right? The door didn’t open all the way, and the rocks that fell from all the shaking sealed it shut from the outside. And look around—it’s not like the guards are taking any chances, are they?” Sakina gestured to the warrior women stationed along the island’s edge. The guard posts were often empty in times of peace, but each one was occupied today. The ladies wore white tunics and golden sandals that wrapped to their knees. More than twenty of them stood guard at designated posts around the island.
“Hey.” Sakina nudged Diana with her elbow. “If you had your pick of anyone to have your back, it would be the Amazons, wouldn’t it?”
“For sure.” Diana’s shoulders relaxed. Without the specific coordinates, her nation was, by design, untraceable. And even if someone managed to get around that, no one stood a chance against the women of her kingdom—of that much Diana was certain.
“So.” She turned to Sakina. “What was your favorite part of the week?”
“You mean other than saving a nation from the brink of destruction?” Sakina laughed. “Kind of hard to top that.” She thought for a moment. “I’d say welding was definitely my favorite class. Look at these wheels I added to my trunk!”
“I liked the workshop where we tried out rare weapons,” Diana said.
“Wow, shocker,” Sakina replied, rolling her eyes good-naturedly.
“It’s true, though. Can you believe they let us actually hold the Rinuni sword? It’s over two thousand years old.”
“That was cool,” Sakina agreed.
“And then, well, hanging out with you for a weeklong slumber party. That was definitely great,” Diana said.
“I am pretty awesome company, aren’t I?” Sakina grinned.
A fluttering in the corner of Diana’s eye caught her attention. The Scholars’ flag—embroidered with a quill and a scroll—had been unfurled and now flapped in the afternoon breeze.
“I’m going to miss you.” Diana’s smile faded.
“Me too,” Sakina said. “A once-a-year visit with your best friend just isn’t enough.”
“Mira’s great about whisking letters back and forth the rest of the time, but it’s not—”
“—the same.” Sakina shook her head. “No way.”
“Yeah,” Diana said. “But at least you have friends back home.”
“What do you mean?” Sakina said. “You have friends. What about Cylinda and Yen?”
She pointed to two women in the distance. Cylinda still had a cast on her arm from when she’d guarded Doom’s Doorway. The door had shaken the earth violently and caused rocks to fall onto the warriors stationed for duty. Yen still had a patch over her bruised eye.
“Of course,” Diana said. “They’re great.” She adored the women of her land—every last one. “It’s just that when you’re the only kid on the entire island, it can get a bit lonely.”
“Come visit me this year!” Sakina said suddenly. “It’s about time.”
“Yeah.” Diana laughed softly. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d try to convince her mother to let her visit her best friend. “Pretty sure we know how that request will go over with my mother. . . .”
“It’s simple. Take a Sky Kanga. If they can fly into the stratosphere and launch into space, they can definitely get you to my place in no time. Our lands aren’t even that far apart.”
“You know how overprotective she is. She’s never been keen on my leaving the island,” Diana said.
“But you did leave. Earlier this week,” Sakina pointed out. “And visiting me won’t involve burning bridges and lava and scary demons.”
That was true. Diana had proved she could handle herself, hadn’t she? Hope flickered within her.
“Sakina!” a voice interrupted. Queen Khadijah—Sakina’s mother—approached them from the docks. She wore a flowing jade-green gown, and her hair was wrapped in a cream scarf pinned with jewels. “Ready to get going? Once we get this trunk on board, we’ll be all packed.”
“I can help you carry it to the ship, Sakina,” Diana offered. “The dock is super bumpy; anything fragile could break.”
“Thanks. I should probably put my sword away, too—oh!” Sakina glanced down at her waist. “My sword! I left it on the nightstand next to my bed.”
“Be quick,” her mother said. “The wind is favorable and the seas are calm, so it’s best to get going soon.”
Diana and Sakina hurried toward the palace. They walked past the white tents that had shaded the merchant stalls all week. Those tents were now being pulled down and folded into squares, which would be tucked into waiting storage trunks. They wouldn’t see the light of day until the next festival, a year from now.
“I know how I’ll convince my mother,” Diana said as they jogged. “You learned so many awesome combat moves during Aunt Antiope’s training lessons, but you have to keep practicing, don’t you?”
“That’s true.” Sakina brightened. “And who better to learn from than Princess Diana?”
“Can’t argue with you there!” a voice called out.
Antiope! Diana slowed her gait as her aunt approached them.
“Though, I admit,” Antiope said, “convincing my sister will be a task far more complicated than any combat move.”
“Maybe you can help us?” Diana asked.
“I can try.” She smiled. “Diana, dear, a quick word?”
“I’ll grab my sword while you chat,” Sakina said. “Be back in a second.”
Sakina opened the golden palace doors and slipped inside. Diana turned to her aunt. Blond tendrils framed Antiope’s face as she studied Diana carefully.
“Are you all right?” her aunt asked, concern apparent in her green eyes. “With everything that’s happened, we haven’t had a chance to speak much.”
“I’m fine,” Diana said quickly. Her mother had only this week allowed Diana to begin her combat training. She didn’t want it sidetracked for any reason. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Antiope laughed a little. “You had a lot going on this week. And, well, I saw you earlier, when the animals were playing in the woods. You were so tense—your shoulders were hunched by your ears.”
“Oh.” Diana flushed. She hadn’t realized she was being watched. “That. Well, I just . . . thought I saw something . . . which I did . . . but . . .”
“It’s normal,” her aunt said. “You’ve been through so much. When something traumatic occurs, it can take time to move past it. Just remember: you are safe here.”
Diana bit her lip. She wanted to leave it at that, to accept her aunt’s assurance and let it go. But—
“Doom’s Doorway opened,” Diana said. “I know it was just a crack. But that’s never happened before. What if something got out?”
“We’ve inspected every inch of this land,” her aunt told her. “And you can see for yourself that we are still on high alert, constantly guarding the island to make absolutely sure. Truly, all is well. But . . .” She tilted her head and searched Diana’s expression. “In the meantime, would it help you feel better if we did some training later today?”
“Really?” Diana’s eyes shot up toward her aunt’s. “I would love that! Can we do the kita hold? And then I wanted to see how to get out of a double crossover switch. Serene looks like she does it without blinking.”
“Easy there.” Antiope laughed, holding up her hands. “Serene does it so effortlessly because she puts hours of practice into it. To be a true warrior isn’t for the faint of heart, and as exciting as it may seem from afar, it is going to be grueling and even a bit dull at times.”
“It could never be boring to me,” Diana said emphatically. “Can we start once Sakina leaves? It might take my mind off things and help me feel not quite as nervous.”
“So it shall be, then.” Her aunt nodded. “How about you and I head to the coliseum after cleanup?”
“Thank you.” Diana hugged her aunt tightly. With Sakina leaving, this was what she needed: something to look forward to. She rushed into the palace. She couldn’t wait to tell her friend.
“Sakina!” Diana called out. She took the marble steps two at a time to the second floor, toward her bedroom. “Guess what Aunt Antiope and I are planning to . . .”
Stepping through the bedroom’s open doorway, her voice trailed off. The mahogany shelves next to the windows were overturned. Books were splayed across the floor. Her plush white rug was askew. Necklaces, bracelets, and belts had fallen from their hooks along the wall and were strewn across the ground. Diana tensed. Sakina! Where was she? Glancing at the nightstand, Diana saw that Sakina’s sword was gone.
Just then, the door creaked behind her.
“Sakina,” Diana said with a rush of relief. “I was getting worried. Were you battling the books or something? Because—”
As Diana turned and faced the door, she felt the blood drain from her face.
It was not Sakina.
Instead a cloaked being stood just inside the doorway.
Silently, it watched her.
Before Diana could move a muscle, before she could say a word, the intruder made a sharp movement, and the door slammed shut.
WONDER WOMAN and all related characters and elements © and ™ DC Comics and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.Diana and the Underworld Odyssey
excerpt copyright © 2021 by DC Comics. Published by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
Copyright © 2021 by Aisha Saeed. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.