With the approval of Queen Hippolyta, her daughter Diana along with the Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz) set off to explore the caverns that lay beyond the Gates of Tartarus. There they believed they would discover the origins of the Amazons' technology.
Royal guard Aella, who had spent many years carrying out a vigil of the gate, warned them not to go, and told them that they would find shadows and flame beyond the gate. Her warnings went unheeded. After losing her temper, and embarrassing herself, Aella left the Queen's dining pavilion and went to a temple to pray to Hera.
After speaking with her sister Nione, a priest of Hera, Aella ultimately agreed to leave with a cohort of loyal Amazons and meet with Mala at the Gates of Tartarus.
Outside the gate Captain Mala and her troops guarded the entrance to the gate. In the distance they saw a group of unarmed Amazons, led by Aella, walking up the hillside. Mala, suspecting a trap, ordered her troops to unsheathe their swords.
When Aella's group got close, Mala ordered them to stop.
"Stop immediately and state your orders!", Mala called to them.
"We come to save the princess. She is in great danger", Aella replied.
"Of what do you speak?", Mala asked incredulously. "Tell us of the shadows and flame that lie beyond the gate Aella, and how you plan to fight without your sword", she added disdainfully. "Your yourself said that a warrior is nothing without a sword."
Aella guarded her anger from Mala. She replied, "I said is that a sword is nothing without a warrior's spirit."
"No doubt you have spirit, Aella", Mala replied, "but you still have no sword". Some of her warriors laughed at Aella.
Aella replied, "I have no sword, but I still have a warrior's spirit, and a warrior's spirit is what is needed to fight the shadows that lie beyond the gate".
"A warrior without a sword?", Mala asked suspiciously.
"A sword needs spirit, but the spirit loathes the sword", Aella said.
"Perhaps", Mala replied. "Tell us how you know of these shadows, Aella. Why should we trust you with the princess?"
"I have seen the shadows with my own eyes. I have ventured beyond the gate and fought them with my bare hands", Aella replied.
The Amazon soldiers gasped. According to their law only the royal family and court could venture beyond the gate under penalty of death.
"You are now my prisoner", Mala said. "You will lead me to the princess and the son of Ares immediately."
"And your swords?", Aella asked pensively.
"Our swords we will leave here so that we may fight these shadows", Mala replied impatiently.
"It would be better to toss them down the hillside", Aella added, "so that your spirits are free of them. And bring no fear of the shadows with you into the gate."
"Do as she says! And hurry!", Mala ordered her troops, but defiantly planted her own sword in the hillside. Mala pointed Aella and her companions to the gate and hurried after them into the darkness.
(Photos from right to left: actress Lucy Lawless from the TV show 'Xena: Warrior Princess' as "Aella"; actress