The faceless, formless masses of black-cloaked Majie
continued to follow Prince and Seriana as the horse galloped as
fast as he could -- which was rather quickly. Only Raven, Kaia's
horse, could match his speed when the urgency overcame him.
These Majie were nothing like what Samsara had seen before in
her short time. It's interesting how she was only eight summers
old and seemed, looked, and acted - sometimes - older than her
seasons and knew many things she would rather sometimes forget.
But it was no time to reminisce. She continued to scale the
canopy of trees as she raced toward Themiscyra. Maybe fear had
struck a chord in her, because she was unable to communicate
with Jadea. The ability is fleeting at times, but it exists. She
just couldn't access it now. The Majie were fast advancing.
She jumped down further ahead of them and put her hand up.
She concentrated and used all her and Ares' energies to shake
the ground violently, creating a vast chasm between her and the
assassins. But they crossed anyway.
She was frozen where she was. What now? She asked
herself. She had no choice. She pulled out her and Ares' swords.
"Father, don't fail me now," she said to no one in
particular. She twirled the weapons in anticipation.
Suddenly a circular blade sliced through the air, ricocheting
off of trees. The weapon whizzed back and suddenly, the trees
surrounding the chasm came crashing down, pulling the assassins
into the abyss.
Samsara's head was the only part of her body to whip to the
right, the direction from whence the weapon came. Her eyes
became tiny slits when she focused on the bearer of the weapon
and her body became rigid.
She sheathed the swords and pulled out her mother's. She kept
the weapon by her side, not in an attack position. "I had
them," she simply said.
"I'm sure you did. But they don't have time for
that," the raven-haired, fair-eyed woman responded.
"Besides, they aren't the only ones," the tall woman
indicated a shorter, fair-haired woman.
Samsara glanced at the blonde and her eyes widened slightly.
"I take it you're headed to Themiscyra?"
They had a ways to go.
Meanwhile, Ardra was waiting for a response.
Jadea smiled. She knew who should read it. Antigone,
she sent back.
Will do, the hawk responded.
"We are," said the blonde. "Who are you?"
Samsara raised her head a little, matching the posture of the
Warrior Princess. "My name is Samsara. I am many things,
not the least of which is that I am the daughter of your two
Xena cocked an eyebrow. "Are you?"
"But I am also the blood sister of your protectorate and
friend. She needs to get back to the village."
Gabrielle's mouth fell open as she looked at the translucent
figure slung across Prince's back. "By the Gods . . . Seri
. . . "
"Half of Seri," Samsara corrected. "She needs
to get home, as quickly as possible, to join with her other
"I knew we shouldn't have left her with Ephiny,"
Xena said under her breath. "All right, Samsara . . . let's
get her to wherever she needs to go, and then you and I can have
Samsara nodded. "I think that, all things considered,
that would be the wisest thing to do."
Begrudgingly, but knowing it was for the best, she let Xena
take Seriana in her arms. Samsara mounted Prince and glared as
the Warrior Princess moved to pull the shroud off of Seriana's
"Don't you dare," Samsara warned. "She doesn't
want anyone to see her face." Her look was fierce as she
kept her teeth rigid and a tight control over her temper.
She was mounted next to the woman who killed her mother! The
taste for revenge rose up like bile, but she sided with her
"better judgment" -- that being what's best for the
tribe -- and decided to deal with the Warrior Princess later.
The priority was her sister.
Meanwhile, Ardra circled the skies for the Amazon huntress
and found her cleaning her weapons by a plate of food.
Humans, the hawk buzzed. Always eating. Who do they
think they are? Me? She continued to circle the area until
she caught Antigone's attention -- which didn't take long in
fact, since Antigone had a good sense of things. Correction: a
great sense of things.
"You can drop that whenever you want," she called
to the red-tail.
If a hawk could raise its nose, that's what Ardra did. You
don't realize I could drop other things on you, but we won't get
into that. She swooped down and landed on the table. The
Huntress took the note and read, rising with urgency.
"We have the one we seek, he said.
If the other could smile, he did. "Yes."
"We need to keep the Goddess Amazon from reuniting the
forms of the Fire Demon."
"Perhaps it is for the advancement of our plan that the
Silver Hawk be reunited with her earthly form. Remember that we
have one of our own among their ranks. A Majie walks with them.
A Majie eats with them. A Majie sleeps in the same hut as they,
and looks, acts, feels, speaks like an Amazon. The plan seems
"Good observation. We shall see how this plays out. The
Goddess Amazon, this Kakistos, is a problem that must be
"She is too powerful," remarked the other.
"Perhaps we could use that, her hate, and her
unhappiness to our advantage."
Meanwhile, the three rode back to Themiscyra. Samsara
observed the two out of the corner of her eye. She could barely
get the image of Xena stabbing Callisto out of her mind, but she
did with all she could.
Themiscyran gates peeked out from the protection of the
forest. They were back. Samsara cried a birdcall and the gates
opened upon recognition.
"Xan!" she shouted as she dismounted. Without word
to Xena, she grabbed Seriana from her and ran to the Medic hut.
She burst into the doors and laid the translucent Seriana onto
her mortal body before Xanthea could do anything.
Xena and Gabrielle followed her in and watched as Seriana's
Samsara smiled. But that smile would not last for long. When
she realized that her sister still would not awaken, anger
overtook her. She rose from the pallet with a steel look and
gripped the hilt of Ares' sword.
Xena had noticed the unmistakable weapon when they met
earlier, but thought it to be a mistake. She’d had time to
study the hilt on their ride, and was now positive. Things to
deal with later, she thought.
Serena burst into the hut in her usual manner, followed by
her entourage of Imperial Guard. "Gabrielle," she said
with a strained voice.
The Goddess turned. "You know her?" she asked of
the both of them. She wasn't sure what to think. She knew damn
well with whom she was dealing. The question was incredulous and
although it would show one's lack of knowledge, that was not the
case here. Simply put, the fact that the Chief Elder of the
Teloan Council and the sitting Teloan Queen knew each other and
were together in Themiscyra only complicated matters.
Before Gabrielle could say anything, the Chief Elder snapped:
"We have no time for that. I only have time for you, Xena.
I don't like this plan you have."
Antigone had gotten to her and given her the note. The Teloan
Elder was not happy with it, and against the calmness of
Vorgeen, Celosia, and Medea, Serena intended to speak with the
Warrior Princess as soon as she arrived.
And speak they did.
Gabrielle was worried about Seriana. No matter how the Amazon
grew, the bard always saw her as a poor abused child. Xena went
off to deal with things - Serena, for one thing, and Samsara and
the Majie somewhere near the bottom of the list. Gabrielle had
every intention of letting Xena handle the politics while she
would worry about Seri. That was her job.
She was breathing easy, in a light but steady sleep.
Seriana's color was better, but she wasn't stirring. Gabrielle
sat on a stool near the bed and worried to her heart's content.
She jumped and scrambled for something to hold onto when, a
few minutes later, Seriana arched her back as hard as she could
and screamed loud enough to wake the dead. Gabrielle shouted for
someone to help her and attempted to hold down the thrashing
"Seri, wake up!" she ordered, shaking her.
"Come on, wake up!"
Seriana continued to scream for a few seconds before the
sudden burst of energy failed her. She fell limply to the pallet
and lay, her eyes still closed, breathing hard.
"The Queen . . ."
"Seri, can you hear me? Wake up; it's okay. Xena!
"I have to help the queen."
Gabrielle bent close to her friend. "What?"
"The queen . . . "
"Yes, Seri, the queen, I understand. But which queen?
And why do you need to help her?"
"She's here . . ."
"There's no one here but me, Seri."
"No, no, not here . . . here . . . with me . . . we
can't both of us fit in here."
"In my head . . . Celosia . . . she won't talk to me . .
. I don't think she's okay."
"Why not? What is she doing in your head?"
"I'm tired . . ."
Her breathing slowed abruptly and she went limp. Gabrielle
tried vainly to wake her up again, but had no success and a few
minutes later Xena came dashing in.
"She woke up!" Gabrielle announced. "She said
something about Queen Celosia needing help."
"What?" Xena knelt down and felt Seriana's
forehead. "Why would Queen Celosia need more help than
"Seri said Celosia was in her head."
Xena bit her tongue, but outwardly did not expose her worry.
"If Celosia's in Seri's head, then who's in Celosia's
"That's not the question," Samsara said. She'd come
in so quietly that nobody noticed. "The question is: if
Celosia is the Majie spy, how do we prove it? Only Gabrielle
heard this. Distrust is moving like fire through these camps.
Practically the only one that everyone will rally around is
Celosia -- how do we get anyone to believe that she isn't who
she says she is?"
The Majie spy quietly slipped away from the tent the Amazons
occupied. This was working perfectly, the three Amazons thought
Queen Celosia was the spy, and bringing up this news would only
lead to more distrust and breakage of the bonds between them. It
couldn't have gone better if they'd tried. The Majie smiled to
itself and walked back into the center of the village to blend
in with the crowd.
The tension mounted in the room as the three looked at each
So many things to deal with, but the priority is my sister,
Samsara thought. She was apprehensive about what Seriana had
said. Even she, who was more loyal to blood than anything else,
doubted what Seriana had to say, but having entered her head
earlier in the day, how could she?
The chants of Amazons worshipping the rise of Selene could be
heard inside. The sky was almost clear, light translucent clouds
skimming across the near full moon. Samsara ordered an attendant
to keep an eye on her sister as she and the others walked
"We need to go someplace where no one will listen in on
us," she commented to no one in particular. They made their
way to her hut and opened the door. Shutting it behind her, the
incense and the candles lit up almost immediately. The room
immediately smelt of sandalwood and jasmine.
The bard and the warrior took a seat on Samsara's pallet.
Samsara herself crouched down and supported her back against the
wall. If she could feel tired, that is how she would describe
the feeling racing through her body.
"This isn't precisely the way I wanted to meet,"
she said quietly.
Xena understood what the Goddess meant. Samsara had wanted to
confront Xena in battle. It's what she had always dreamed of.
"But we are here and we must deal with the circumstances
accordingly," she continued.
"I think we know that, Samsara," the raven-haired
woman said. "What do you know?"
Samsara begrudgingly filled them in on everything. She was
worried. What to do, what to do? She asked herself
desperately. She wanted more than anything else to use
"Callisto's sword..." she muttered.
Xena and Gabrielle looked at each other as the High Princess
stood up and rushed out the door. She knew exactly where Jadea
was. She had to ask questions.
Jadea wasn't in the first place Samsara had expected her to
be. In fact, she wasn't actually in the second place either. But
Samsara had immediately skipped that one and gone to the third.
Xena followed her and told Gabrielle to stay behind. The bard
was about to protest when Xena told her that she should send
Ardra if she needed her.
Samsara found her Aunt staring out into the darkness. She'd
met with Queen Celosia and Queen Vorgeen. The three had had a
private meeting, brief but meaningful. It was to be their last
together, the three of them.
"Jade?" The Goddess called out. She surprised
herself with how easily the name had flowed out from her.
The Sorceress Empress didn't move, though. She was feeling
her enemy ever closer and ever stronger. "Celosia tried to
help Seri. The Majie discovered the Queen's efforts and trapped
Well, that explains some things, Samsara thought to
herself. But she hadn't come to talk of that. And her mind was
spinning around one particular train of thought.
"Callisto's sword," she stated in a crisp voice.
Jadea said nothing and her niece had to fight back her anger.
She knew that yelling wouldn't get her what she wanted.
The Goddess cleared her throat, an unusual thing for her to
do. She saw the figure that was Callisto's sister standing so
still and firm, as though she were the most alone creature in
the world. What she couldn't see were the tears in Jadea's eyes.
"Calli-" Samsara began but the Sorceress Empress
cut her off.
"...sto's sword, I know. You want to know why it was
able to free Seriana."
Among other things, yes, Samsara thought to herself. She
was heedless of the fact that Jadea could hear her thoughts if
she so chose.
"Samsara," Jadea began and felt the weight of her
conscience press down upon her. "Your mother wasn't always
dark. But I wasn't always good, either. Years before Callisto
had you, before I even knew she was still alive..." Her
voice trailed off and she found that she couldn't finish.
The Goddess Kakistos had been listening, but she could take
no more of this. She was unaccustomed to seeing this side of
Jadea. The latter seemed vulnerable and unwilling to fight
anymore. But appearances can be very deceiving at times.
"Jadea, can you tell me why your sword could break the
Majie's chains?" Her voice rose and she was able to keep
the anger and frustration from resonating.
"Because Rumyna's powers became mine...and a time was
that I used them to do my will. Even though that has changed,
the power is still there - and its potential to be used for
evil. You're Callisto's daughter. But you have the Amazons'
goodness inside you. You also hold Ares mantle right now. All
that combined with my sword was able to slice their chains.
Samsara was taken aback by what Jadea had to say. She now
understood why she couldn't use the sword against the Majie.
"So if I turned on the Majie, I would really become--"
"Dark Samsara, yes."
"And Father's plan would come to fruition," she
Jadea stiffened up. There she went again with that
reference to Ares. She had no idea who Samsara's father was,
or even if Samsara had a sire. She shook off the thought and
returned to the issue at hand.
The Goddess failed to notice her aunt's physical response.
"So would this explain why you seem so drained these
Jadea chuckled despite her hidden tears. "I saw from
Olympus. Remember I saw how you could have died after that final
assault from Kakistos' army.
Jadea nodded. "Yes."
"Does my taking of Father's mantle have anything to do
with you becoming weaker?"
The Sorceress Empress thought of what to say. Samsara had to
weigh the advantages and drawbacks of a second Godhead. She knew
the truth would have no place here. Her niece had to decide of
her own accord if she wanted to keep the mantle or not. She
shook her head in response.
"If you're lying . . ." Samsara warned, her
sentence trailing off.
Little did she know that Jadea was. Samsara may be powerful,
but her aunt nearly always had the trump card.
The High Princess continued. "Once this mission against
the Majie is over, I'm going back to Olympus."
The flaxen-haired beauty turned. Her brown eyes flashed in
both horror and anger. "Why would you dare set foot back
there?" she demanded. "This is your home. Samsara, you
are an Amazon first and foremost. Nothing on Olympus will
provide you with the same care as here."
"I have things to wrap up," the raven-haired
beauty's answer was succinct.
Jadea stood up and walked past Samsara. "Then if you
must, you must."
The woman stopped dead in her tracks.
She shook her head and walked off. She knew the impending
So did Samsara.
On her way back to the Amazon queens, Jadea's path crossed
Antigone's. The latter noticed that what the former was still
missing. Jadea hadn't bothered to get her sister's sword back
from Samsara. She knew it lay in safe hands, and her plans would
rely on the powers she still had within her. After all, as
Rumyna had told her, "With or without your powers, Jade,
you are Amazon. And Amazons are nothing if not survivors. They
always have been, and they always will be."
The Sorceress Empress often remembered Rumyna's words at
times when she felt useless or powerless, as in this case. She'd
once questioned her mentor about something said about the
Amazons. Rumyna reluctantly confided a little known secret about
"The Amazons are the first true race of women. Some
tribes came about differently. For instance, a tribe in the Far
East was once a prosperous village of men, women, and children.
Then the province it laid within went to war, and the men left
the women and children behind to fight. Not one of them
returned. The enemy rode through and attacked the village. All
the male children were slaughtered. In the eyes of their enemy,
the boys would simply have grown up to become soldiers
embittered with their memories of the past. By killing them
while they were young, they'd saved themselves from having one
more enemy in the future. Little did they know that the village
women would prove to be just as strong, and just as deadly. You
see, to be Amazon is to have the Amazon spirit. Yet with that
spirit comes responsibility to one's self, one's Sisters, and
one's land. An Amazon must train to be able to endure life on
her own or with others. In your case, you will need both these
skills to meet and defeat your enemies."
That had been the only time Rumyna had made reference to the
Amazons of long ago. She seemed uneasy at talking about it, as
though the memory of the first Amazons was a painful one she
tried hard but could not forget - could not let go of, either.
Antigone read the sadness in Jadea's eyes. She sensed
something had gone wrong but felt hesitant to question her about
it. Instead, she tried an indirect approach.
"Queen Celosia has ordered a hunt to take place in three
hours time," she informed Jadea, hoping she might give some
"Oh?" The Amazon paused. "And will you going,
Antigone blinked. Okay, NOT the reaction I'd hoped. But
it's a start. Something's not right with her. She's been out of
sorts. I wonder how much of this has to do with... She let
the thought go unfinished, if for no other reason than she
didn't care to let herself think on the possibility. "I
suppose. Our Regent suggested that I head the team, but I don't
think I will."
Pssst. Jadea heard someone in her head and she jerked.
Antigone noticed the look. "What is it?" she asked.
Generally, Amazons can read when other Amazons have caught
"Umm, nothing. Just have a lot on my mind. With Seriana
and all," Jadea quickly shook her head and gave a stern
look. "You should go with them Antigone. You're one of the
best hunters and trackers we have."
Why in the blazes would Celosia order a hunt in middle of all
this? Jadea asked herself. She wasn't the only one who'd
been "out of sorts." Celosia had in the last several
hours become quiet, saying very little. What she did have to say
usually fell upon Vorgeen's, Medea's, or Serena's ears. She
spoke with Xena briefly, but even then seemed to have little
much to say.
Pssst! The sound entered her mind again with stronger
urgency. She glanced around and noticed Thalia hiding out of
view in squirrel form. Whatever bewilderment went through
Jadea's mind, she kept it well hidden. Antigone didn't seem to
"Thank you. I think I will. Are you sure you're all
right?" She asked one last time. She knew Amazons could be
stubborn about admitting when something's bothering them.
"I'm fine. Thank you for your concern," Jadea
answered and gave a smile for effect. It seemed to work, at
least. Antigone departed for a place unknown.
Jadea watched her go, then looked around. She peered through
some bushes. No Thalia. She began scanning around the huts. No
Thalia. Then a nut fell from up high and landed near her foot.
She jumped back in surprise before her head tilted up. There,
sitting on a high branch perched Thalia. She scurried along the
branch and down the base of the tree.
Follow me! She told Jadea, her tone leaving no room for
The Sorceress Empress followed her from a distance, making
sure to make it appear as though she knew where she was going
and intended her direction for her own reasons. Amazons tend to
be able to pick up on peculiar things, so she had to be careful.
She followed the squirrel through the camp and out the gates
into the forest.
Where in the Hades are we going? And you're still supposed to
be locked up, Jadea's voice was more flustered from her
confusion than it was really angry.
You said that this mark I bear implies death, right?
Thalia asked as she hurriedly jumped into some bushes and came
out the other side of them.
Jadea had to think. Her mind was muddled with too many
thoughts. Had she told Thalia that? Was that before or after
she'd touched her and brought her body back its strength? Yeah,
so? She said at last.
Yeah, so what if it doesn't mean death to us? What if it
means death to the-
Jadea cut her off. She'd caught up to Thalia's train of
thought, and the train was rolling on track. Majie?
Hmm...interesting theory. With one minor flaw, Thalia. I've seen
the sign before. The person who bore it died shortly after they
received the mark. She stated pointedly. She didn’t
mention that she wasn't telling the whole truth.
Jadea hadn't seen the mark herself per se. She'd used
a window conjured by magic to observe. What she saw through that
portal's eye was what she described to Thalia. And that had been
a one-time discovery. Her other dealings with the mark, though
few, hadn't exactly followed that situation.
Thalia fell silent and slowed down. Jadea rested against a
tree, appearing to be thinking to herself. She used some of her
remaining energy to conceal her counsel from her Sister. No
need to worry the many with the private concerns of one. Right?
Yeah, right, she thought.
Samsara is going to find out soon. I can just feel it. And
Seriana is going to wake up out of this to face a catapulted
fireball. She sighed. Her head hurt. It hurt from hurting
and it hurt from thinking.
How did things get so complicated, Rumyna? I mean, we had
things runnin' on course, didn't we? She asked rhetorically,
not expecting any sign or kind of answer. But things tend to
happen when we least expect them to, and from unexpected angles.
Thalia's voice entered her mind. We can straighten this
out, Jadea. We just need to get our Sisters focused. There's far
too much dissension flying around here.
As though he'd been listening and now felt it was time to
appear, a third voice joined itself to their mental
conversation. Evenin' Ladies. A bit late to be out here hidin'
by yourselves, isn't it?
Thalia fell utterly silent. She didn't know how the Celt,
Angus, knew someone was with Jadea. She didn't want to know,
"Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere else?" Jadea
questioned harshly. She hated when he snuck up on her like that.
He was one of two men who had the ability to do so and lived to
do it again...and again...and again. It was a wonder, especially
in the eyes of the other Amazons, that she didn't kill him just
for the sake of principle.
Ach, I thought ya'd never ask.
Elsewhere in camp...
"Regent Medea, may I have a word with ya, please?"
It was Vorgeen.
Of the Amazon leaders in Themiscyra at present, she had the
most tact. Even Xena, herself, had made a brief snap at Serena
who objected to sending out a hunting party with Majie predators
on the loose.
Medea had been busy with preparations. She'd been assigned
direction of who went where and did what. The plan was in its
first stages. Right now, three border patrols were told to
relocate half a mile inside Themiscyra's lands. It was a ploy to
make the idea of approaching their borders attractive to the
Amazon assassins. This went against one prime directive that
Amazons almost always followed - give up NONE of your land. Not
an inch, not a mile, nothing. At least, nothing more than you
have to. After all, fighting on home turf was usually a good and
effective tactic to winning a battle.
Still, Medea was willing to spare a couple of minutes. She'd
all but taken over Celosia's position. Her sister, she'd
noticed, was not herself. "All right, but make it
quick," she said in a moderate tone. The voice she used was
the closest she really came to calm and approachable.
"I'd like to know your thoughts on this plan. Do you
think it'll work?" Vorgeen asked and fiddled unconsciously
with the torque around her neck. If Medea had known the Highland
Queen better, she'd have noted the habit and realized that
Vorgeen was hiding something.
"Is Ares a worthless excuse for a God? Hades, yeah it'll
work! As long as that kittenish, stubborn-mule Teloan Elder
doesn't screw it up," she stated baldly. Truth was, the
Themiscyran Regent was hiding something from the Amazons. She'd
known that Samsara going off to get Seriana's spirit back
wouldn't bring Seriana back...not in the way they'd hoped. The
problem here was - Medea didn't know how she knew this, she
couldn’t explain it.
Vorgeen smiled. She couldn't help it. She saw a fire in the
Regent that she recognized. The Highland Queen had seen that
same fire before in someone she knew. She found it ironic that
in the past, that kind of fire prompted both zeal and fear in
her. Jadea had possessed such a flaming fire once. That was
before, though. Now, she had Samsara by blood and Seriana by
adoption. Now, the Sorceress Empress had something beyond
vengeance to live for. At times, though, both she and Vorgeen
missed that old flame. Neither ever admitted it, for the
thought, much less the feeling, was far too terrifying and
"I suppose ya're right. But ya've got to give Serena
credit in one respect," Vorgeen let herself pause for
"Oh? And what's that?" Medea's voice rose with
curiosity, as though she was about to clearly state her
opposition to whatever Vorgeen's response.
"The Amazon is tryin' to save her tribe and help
us," the Highland Queen's tone combined with her brogue
brought Medea to a silent accord. Vorgeen smiled. For, Medea's
agreement could only be read in her eyes. And then, she let it
remain just long enough for Vorgeen to understand.
"Is there anything else, Queen Vorgeen?" The Regent
asked in a voice that almost sounded kind. Inside, she was
relishing the day that she would be addressed, Queen.
"No, I suppose that was all. Thank you, Regent."
Vorgeen offered her hand and Medea gave a quick glance around
before clasping it.
The Majie's work to divide the Amazons was gradually
beginning to dissipate. Still, they had two key players in their
hold. One was Seriana. The other, Themiscyra's Queen. If events
surrounding those two Amazon women didn't change soon, Medea
would have to assume the role as Queen. And Seriana? Well, she'd
likely miss the final showdown.
She knew a hunt was happening and she wasn't surprised that
she hadn't been invited. It was Medea's style not to invite
people she didn't like. Samsara was well aware of this fact, but
she brushed it off. Ishtar, her guardian, always told her that a
good queen never excluded anyone.
Ishtar. The name fluttered into her mind again. She hadn't
thought of her guardian in seasons.
She had no time. She had to destroy these Majie and she had
to do it soon. She knew the intention of the hunt. She
understood the implications. She also thought the idea
foolhardy. She wasn't entirely confident that the Amazons in the
three hunting parties trusted each other. That was the staple of
the Majie plan. Once the Amazons trusted each other and truly
united, that would be the end of these assassins.
"Xena," she muttered. "You're going to get us
She shuffled to the Medic hut and visited her sister. Her
main focus was taking care of her sister. Xanthea made her
rounds, caring for other Amazons still injured from battle with
Kakistos. Samsara turned back to her sister.
I swear, she thought, when I get back to Olympus I
will set all of this right. We won't be the butt of tavern jokes
any longer. She gripped her hand tightly. Never again. We
will keep our land and we will prosper.
She knew something was wrong. Seriana was losing color again.
She motioned to Xanthea who rushed over and touched her face.
"She's as cold as ice!" the Amazon Healer gasped.
Samsara pressed her eyes shut. Something was tearing up
Seriana in her head. Samsara had to do something and she had to
do it now. "Care for her," she hissed, running out to
As soon as she was in, she shut the door and the sandalwood
and jasmine turned on instantly. She lighted the candles around
her and prepared her pallet. She knelt down on it, sitting on
her feet. She squeezed her eyes shut and she was instantly in
her sister's dreamscape. The looking glass was still there, the
fog still rose from the ground. She looked at herself in the
looking glass and was pleased. The hind's blood was
unfortunately gone, but her weapons were still in her
She turned around to face a Majie soldier. He was cloaked as
were the rest. Behind him was Seriana, again, tied up in the
same position she was in when Samsara first found her in the
Samsara pulled out Callisto's sword. If this broke the
chains, I can break you, she thought. My life for hers,
so be it.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" questioned the
Majie. "Your powers have no use here--"
"Although they are of use to you," her face was
like steel. She pulled out Ares' sword and twirled both around.
"Shut up and fight."
The Majie laughed. He suddenly stepped back and before him
appeared a fighter. "Before you can fight us," he
said, "you must fight the warriors. Only then, if we are
satisfied with your combat, will you get your chance."
"Fair enough," she responded.
"But, you cannot fight him with your swords."
Xanthea did as much as she could to keep Seriana warm. She
knew nothing of what was going on with Samsara. Only that the
Goddess had left suddenly and had not returned.
Gabrielle hadn’t chosen to go with the hunting parties, she
had stayed with her friend, helping the Healer to bundle the
girl with furs. She spoke to her but never expected a response.
"You'll be all right, Seri," she said. "We'll
defeat these assassins. I promise."
Xanthea offered her another fur. Gabrielle took it and
thanked her. "Where is Samsara?"
The Healer sighed. "I'm not sure, she just
The bard turned to the young one again. "I hope she
knows what she's doing."
Back in the dreamscape....
Samsara was faced with the first warrior. The particulars
were inconsequential to her: an enemy is an enemy no matter what
the dress. He carried a long dagger. She glared at the Majie and
as if he could read her mind he said, "Who said this was
going to be a fair match, Goddess Amazon?"
She snarled and waited for him to charge. Impatient, he did
and she threw him over her with a flip of her arms. He twirled
in the air and landed behind her, twisting to face her back as
"Ishtar, Mariko: don't fail me now," she whispered.
Her guardian taught her some martial arts. Mariko, a Japanese
woman Samsara protected against Uzbek the Khan in her travels in
the East, taught her the rest. He charged after her again, and
she jumped to avoid the swipe of his knife. She spotted her
staff nearby. She had no idea how it got there, but she dove for
it and picked up the weapon. She grabbed it and landed on her
feet, ready to strike the man down.
She charged at him and used her staff to elevate her body.
She positioned herself to hit him in the chest, but he dodged
her assault in the last second and twisted left with the knife
in his right hand to slice into her back. Having anticipated
this move, she twisted left toward his back. She jammed her palm
onto the upper part of his arm and reaching around to his wrist,
he maneuvered his hand so that the dagger sliced into his lower
left side, just above the hip.
The action from jump to stab was in slow motion. As he
stabbed himself, Samsara's momentum pulled them down, he on top
She landed hard on her side and the soldier was gone. The
Goddess grabbed her staff and scrambled to her feet.
"Well done," the Majie said. Suddenly the wind
picked up. The rolls of fog moved quickly past them as the scene
Samsara had no idea where they were. This time her staff was
not in her possession. It was on a wall tucked in two hooks. She
started toward it, but the Majie appeared before her.
"Do you recognize this place?" he said.
Annoyed, she looked around. Why yes, she did. Vines hung down
from the ceiling. Spikes adorned the bottom where these vines
fell. It was the cave of ambrosia. She groaned. Wonderful.
Before her stood Ishtar and Mariko. Seriana appeared again in
the same position. The Majie laughed. "If you want to save
your sister, you'll fight them."
How did these magic wielders know?
The answer is in the question.
Samsara knew she was trapped again. To kill your dead
guardian and your one-time mentor to save your sister.
She would have to survive against the two people who knew all
her moves. They would fight in tandem and one would take over
for the other when she was sure she could defeat the Amazon.
Her mouth mentally gaped open. This was something that
Seriana had no idea about. Samsara never told her much about her
guardian or the rout of Uzbek the Khan.
She solved the riddle.
The Majie were now in her head.
Seriana was becoming warmer, but she was still pallid.
"She’s getting better," Xanthea noted.
"Thank the Gods," Gabrielle answered. "But if
she’s all right, where’s Samsara?" She was worried.
This was nothing like she had ever seen before.
Samsara was still in her position in her hut. She was
concentrating very hard. Sweat was rolling down her face as she
fought the two women who had been her closest friends since
Not even Dachus knew all her moves and he had been her
general in all her battles thus far. He still led her units with
her godly blessing throughout the rest of Greece, defending
Amazons. She knew he would never turn on her so long as there
Ishtar and Mariko both put on an offensive to envy, but
Samsara's defensive was textbook. Then she decided it was time
for an assault. The combatants spoke little, the grunts of their
fighting filling the air around them.
The Majie merely watched, hoping their plan would work. If
Samsara killed either of her opponents, the Amazon would be
theirs. They had to counteract the Amazon’s unity. If the
Majie could keep them apart, their power would strengthen and
grow, instead of diminish and fade. Samsara was one of the
She knew she was making process. Her bloodlust rose, just as
the Majie had hoped. Her anger boiled and her hate for the
wrongs of her life burned. In the meantime, she had grabbed her
staff and her power doubled. It was still her talisman and it
was still valuable to her in more ways than one.
She pulled out Callisto's sword. My life for Seri's - so
be it. Mariko was winded. It was time for the kill.
She raised her sword as Ishtar seemed to stand and watch.
Samsara's mouth opened and her black eyes widened as she swung
down with the blade. The Majie waited in anticipation. Mariko
Samsara fell onto the pallet. She opened her eyes. Jade was
before her with a ball of energy ready in her hand. "WHAT
ARE YOU DOING?"
Around her neck, the Sorceress Empress wore one of the five
Majie warrior medallions. The emblem was identical to the one
Thalia bore. Angus stepped up behind her and heard the Goddess
of Destruction scream. His hand rested on the hilt of the sword
at his side.
"I just saved your life, and Angus just saved your
soul," she retorted, the circle of energy still in her
grasp. "You can thank us later."
Outside, the Amazons who remained in camp heard Gabrielle
scream suddenly. But her yell wasn't of panic. It was of
Did ya plan that, Jade? Or did we just get lucky? Angus
asked as he stepped aside for the action he anticipated.
Both, she returned.
Samsara's eyes had gone from her aunt to past her and Angus.
Quickly, the trio left the hut of the Goddess to answer the call
Jadea entered. Celosia and Vorgeen were already there.
Samsara immediately entered behind her aunt and then moved
around her to Seriana.
The Sorceress Empress noticed that Seriana's color had
returned, her natural temperature restored. She slowly opened
her eyes, scanning the faces around. When her gaze fell upon
Celosia, she rose up slowly and only mid-way. "Seize
her!" she cried out.
Samsara was instantly grabbing her sister and holding her
back. "Seri, it's all right. Seriana, listen!"
But the Amazon seemed incoherent as she stammered. "No,
you...you have to believe me! Listen to me! The Majie have her!
They're controlling her! The spy...he's using our Queen!"
Gabrielle looked wide-eyed at Celosia who, for the
accusations being thrown at her, remained quite calm. Eerily
The Highland Queen didn't like this and her instincts began
to kick in. Jade, what does she mean?
I told you before that there's a traitor in our midst.
Seriana believes that the traitor has a hold over Queen Celosia.
"Angus!" He immediately came in followed by three
Amazons. "Please escort Queen Celosia to the royal tent and
keep her there. Don't listen to her, and don't let her go!"
Oddly, Celosia didn't put up a
fight, and the Amazons obeyed the order. Once they departed,
Medea entered as though on cue. "I take it you found
something?" she asked sarcastically.
Using Vorgeen, Jadea had slipped Medea a message that hinted
to what might happen. The Regent was more than willing to help,
especially since she was now the acting queen for Themiscyra. Won't
Elder Serena like that? She mused.
Samsara got Seriana calmed down only after the Amazon saw
that Celosia was taken away and guarded. She'd been using calm
tones and trying to find answers.
"Indeed," Jadea answered Medea. "Gabrielle,
Vorgeen, Samsara, would you please rise to witness this?"
Confused and a bit reluctant, the three did so. Jadea turned to
Medea so that both of them were facing the others. "Regent
Medea, sister to Celosia, you are hereby instated all rights and
authorities as Queen of Themiscyra. This position will you hold
until the natural selected Queen can perform her duties."
It was short, simple, and technically unofficial. Still, it
was official in all the important aspects. "Queen Medea,
I'll leave you to attend to your new post," Jadea said and
exited without one word to Seriana. I'll apologize to her
when we have time.
But Samsara wasn't about to let things go so easily.
"I'll be right back, Seri," she said and felt her
sister grab her arm. "It's all right. I'm going to get you
something to eat." She kissed her sister on her forehead.
"Jadea! Jadea!" The Goddess was overcome with
anger. She used her godhead to make herself reappear in front of
Thalia, how's it coming? Jadea mentally sent her Sister.
She was immediately answered.
Got the last one placed. You wanted them on the borders of
our lands, right? Thalia sounded out of breath. Jadea knew
she'd been running.
That's my Sister. Now lay low. The fireworks are about to
Jadea eyed her niece. "When will you learn?"
Samsara shook her head. "What do you mean?"
"STICK to the situation and maybe we'll be rid of the
Majie. THEN you can go back to Olympus." Her tone was
acrid, the words scathing.
Samsara looked down. She was not used to reproach that she
couldn't fight. She couldn't fight her aunt. She knew the
Sorceress Empress was right. She knew that the only way to come
out on top was to unite, but she felt such urgency for her
sister. She hated sitting idly by while poison coursed through
her body. Samsara had to atone for almost letting her sister get
impaled on the spikes in the cave. She had to atone for causing
pain to her family. At least, that was the idea for all of her
"crusades": vengeance and atonement to some degree.
I know why they were in my head, she thought. They
want to destroy us any way they can. I can't let that happen. I
can't play into their game.
"We are gonna have to work together on this," Jadea
continued, in a softer tone. "We have to work with Medea.
You have to calm down and think rationally. Without that, we are
lost. Remember, we need you to locate the enemy."
"I don't like this plan Xena has. It's gonna get us
"Trust. Amazons Unite."
"Amazons Unite." Samsara shrugged. Trust.
They parted. Jadea to wherever, Samsara to get food for her
sister. Samsara wondered what Serena's reaction to Medea's new
Queenship would be.
Well now, that went well, an Amazon thought to
herself and adjusted her position to one more favorable for
In truth, even Jadea had her doubts about Xena's plan. The
Warrior Princess was relying heavily on Amazon loyalty and trust
- something the Amazons in Themiscyra seemed to be lacking. With
Seriana recovered...all right, awake and breathing at
least...the Amazons had one more advantage than before.
Thalia came striding up to Jadea, now in the form of a young
fox - poetic in its own way.
So, those medallions of theirs are going to...what now?
She asked and followed when the Amazon sorceress walked on.
Thalia, we're about to clear the camp with but a few
exceptions. You know that, right? Jadea asked of the small
red fox that scurried along with her. She neglected to answer
her Sister's question for reasons of her own.
Umm...NO! And pray when did this part of the plan crop up?
She nearly yelled back into her companion's mind.
Just then, Karyn and Alex walked up to Jadea, one slightly
behind the other. They stopped in front of her. Karyn averted
her eyes from Jadea. Alex spoke.
"Medea told us to report to you," she stated in a
voice that conveyed how she felt about taking orders from Medea.
Karyn elbowed her and Alex shot her a sidelong glance that would
have said, if spoken, "What?"
"Alex, Medea is acting Themiscyran Queen. It'll do us
all well to respect that and address her as such," Jadea
said, taking on a neutral but meaningful tone of voice.
"I understand," Alex replied, feeling a bit
ashamed. She knew the threat facing the Amazons, and she had no
desire to add to the problem. Still, it took time to adjust to
the idea of Medea being in charge.
Intentionally, Jadea made sure that it leaked out that
Celosia was under guard and Medea was now Queen. She had a plan
running along with Xena's. Only Jadea's plan was more covert.
Xena knew all that it entailed, and a few others knew at least
as much of it as they needed. The rest of the Amazons in the
Themiscyran lands were given enough detail to suffice their
parts of the war.
"Good. Now, Alex I want you and Karyn to remain in camp
until further notice. Understood?" Inside her head, Jadea
heard a sound resembling a stuttered gasp. Thalia was beginning
to have distaste for this.
Both Amazons nodded respectfully. "We understand,
but-" Alex started to question the reason, but Jadea cut
"You'll be told why when you need to know why and when
it's safe for you to be told. Not before," Jadea informed
and gave a brief pause. "Now, please...just have a little
It seemed a reasonable request. After all, Amazons are known
for being resilient and quite dangerous when crossed. It was
unthinkable that they would not come out the victors of this war
against the Majie.
Alex and Karyn departed together. They noticed the absence of
many of their fellow Amazons. There had been many more just an
hour earlier. Steadily, the Amazons were spreading out of the
gates and into the forest - dividing. It was the most unexpected
and uncharacteristic thing for the Amazons to do in a fight.
Something that wasn't widely known about the scattering of
the tribes in Themiscyra was that as far as the Amazons spread
out, they remained within the circle of the four medallions
Thalia had strategically placed within their borders.
The Sorceress Empress knew that the Majie would soon make a
move. A bold, daring, and perhaps desperate move. Why? To
retrieve their medallions. An item of power is a terrible
thing to lose, she thought.
Are you ever going to answer me? Thalia demanded.
As soon as I'm sure uninvited others aren't listening, yes,
the Amazon sorceress coolly returned. With Seriana recovering,
however slowly, some of Jadea's strength, both mortal and
mystical, was returning to her.
Pike stood outside of the Queen's hut. She detested the order
that Celosia be put under guard. More, she hated being the
Amazon that stood on guard. Still, what Seriana assigned, you
Across the campgrounds, Maylee was thinking much the same
while guarding Thalia. Even though she’d had some time off
while Dolphinea stood guard, it hadn’t eased the guilt she
felt for getting knocked out when Jadea had arrived. She had
been certain Seriana would assign her to patrol instead of guard
duty and had been surprised to learn she’d be back guarding
Of course, she had no way of knowing that she was guarding an
elaborate illusion. Dolphinea had taken the opportunity to sneak
Thalia out of prison and constructed the illusion so no one
would be the wiser. If she had known, she would have been sure
her time as a guard had come to an abrupt end.
Queen Medea was walking from hut to hut around trees, bushes,
and through the immediate area of the camp. She was taking a
headcount of who remained. In addition, she was looking for any
spies lurking about. She was so engrossed in her task that she
failed to hear Gabrielle's light steps behind her.
"Queen Medea!" The blonde warrior-bard called out.
Inwardly, Celosia's sister jumped as high as Mount Olympus is
tall. She whipped around but her demeanor changed when she saw
Gabrielle's startled and apologetic eyes.
"Seri's asking to see you. I know you and Xena are busy
with putting this plan into act-"
"I'll be right there as soon as I can. Thank you,"
Medea replied snappishly. When she noticed Gabrielle's
expression, she shook her head. "I'm sorry if that sounded
harsh. I'm just..."
Gabrielle nodded. She'd been seeing it in a lot of the
Amazons - particularly her best friend Xena.
"Restless," she finished the thought with a smile.
Medea gave her a genuine smile and nod.
Gabrielle departed. The truth was that while Seri had asked
to see Medea, Gabrielle's decision to fetch the new Queen then
had more to do with giving Samsara and her sister some space.
When the Goddess had returned with some food for Seriana, she'd
shot Gabrielle a silent look.
By the time Queen Gabrielle returned to the medic hut,
Samsara had departed. The Goddess left to once again meet with
her Aunt. She was feeling an itch, a sensation that she did not
like. Samsara didn't know it, but her mother had felt it before.
So had Jadea.
And now the daughter of Callisto was feeling it.
Angus ran across Garrett's path again. His friend was looking
well, one or two bandages remaining. The Amazons had allowed him
a small amount of freedom, although a guard trailed him at all
"Top o' the mornin' to ya, friend!" The Celt smiled
and gave a soft laugh.
Apollo's first light was barely reaching the outer regions of
Themiscyra. Still, torches remained lit in camp as the darkness
there had yet to be lifted. With daybreak fast approaching,
Queen Medea would have to insure that the last Amazons broke
camp and reached their positions. Darkness was their only cover
for this phase of the plan.
"And to you, Angus. Tell me, you haven't seen Thalia
lately by any chance, have you?" he asked hopefully.
Garrett wanted to see Thalia and talk to her more than anything.
He was only half-aware of what was going on with these women
warriors. Somehow the knowledge that Thalia had been put under
guarded custody had not reached him.
The Celt was faced with a dilemma. Lie to his new friend, or
risk Jadea's anger for divulging Thalia's whereabouts. Angus was
fond of Garrett, for there weren't many men in the camp. At
present count in fact, only two.
Sorry, my friend, but you don't know fear until you've
crossed someone like Jade, Angus thought to himself before
replying. "Ach, I bet she's around someplace. If I see her,
I'll tell her that you're lookin' for her. You know how Amazons
are, Garrett. Serious and focused and all duty when it comes to
Thalia's beloved fell silent for a bit. He was weighing his
thoughts and doubts. At last, he nodded. "I guess you're
right. Can I ask you something, though?" He questioned
Angus before the Celt had time to feel relieved.
"Aye, if ya like," he answered with a smile, though
Garrett's tone alluded to a solemn inquiry.
"Are you in love with that Sorceress Empress?"
Angus’ face registered shock and surprise. The Celt had
posed the question to himself many times, and he'd resisted
answering the question - or simply denied it. It was if Garret
had looked inside and seen the question written on his heart.
Still, some things were difficult to hide, especially from
someone who suffered from the same affliction. Garrett had seen
his new friend's affection for Themiscyra's Sorceress Empress,
and new it was similar to that of his affection for the Head
Angus chuckled softly. "Is it that obvious?"
Garrett laughed but shook his head and clamped a hand down on
Angus' shoulder. "Only to me, friend. Only to me."
Jadea refused to see Celosia. She knew Seri had been telling
the truth. She knew there was no sense in speaking to Celosia.
The Themiscyran wasn't in control of her own thoughts and
speech. Instead, Jadea headed for Xena herself. She found the
Warrior Princess with the Teloan Elder and the Highland Queen.
"All right, so we still have that catapult we captured
in the battle with Kakistos," Vorgeen stated in a serious
tone. It was last minute preparation time.
"A catapult's not going to get it done, Vorgeen,"
Serena was still less than thrilled with Xena and her plan.
She'd been cooperating, but her cooperation came with the price
of enduring her remarks. "And just what will get it done,
As the Highland Queen saw Jadea join them, she made a gesture
to the others that said she was departing the caucus. No
response recognizing this was made. It was simply understood by
Vorgeen's abrupt departure from the council hut ensured that
the Amazons kept a certain number of key players visible within
the camp and in the outer lands. This kept up the appearance of
dissension and suspicion in the camp, throwing the Majie off the
scent of their carefully laid plans. The Highland Queen would go
pick a fight with Medea and point a finger at some unsuspecting
Her departure also offset the unlikely, but possible, event
of the Majie launching a full-scale attack. With at least one of
the Queens out of the hut, Themiscyra wouldn't have all its
occupying leaders in one spot ripe for kill, despite the fact
that they'd all fight to the death.
"This," Jadea interjected and handed something to
The dark-haired warrior woman looked at the object. She
looked at Jadea, as did Serena. "I'd heard that we had one.
How did you-"
"What is it?" The Teloan interrupted to ask.
"It's a Majie power object," Jadea explained.
"You see, our enemies have two sides to them. First, they
are Amazon assassins. Secondly, they are darkly powerful
mystics. They all have an item that holds their power. While
they're very skilled in mortal combat, the power is for
insurance," she noticed the blank look on Serena’s face.
"Say one met Xena and they fought one on one. It probably
wouldn't take him long to realize that she's hard to kill,
especially if she got in a good blow or two. That's when they'd
resort to their black magic. If Xena didn't know they had this,
'ell even if she did, they could swiftly use it to disable her
long enough to make the kill." She took a breath.
Xena held up the object by its chain and spun it around with
her finger. This gave Serena a better view of it. For once, it
seemed, the Teloan Elder didn't complain.
"And we have more than one," the Sorceress Empress
Xena stopped the spinning movement. "I expected as much
when you showed it to us," she then proceeded to place the
chain over her head. The Warrior Princess was exceptional at
figuring things out, even the plans of the Sorceress Empress.
"Don't get too cocky with that thing," Serena
commented. Her initial whim had been to inquire just why Xena
was charged with wearing the Majie's medallion. The Teloan was
particularly biting with everyone because her authority had been
challenged and discounted several times in the last few hours..
Jadea! Your damn niece is combing Themiscyra looking for you!
It was Medea. The new Queen might not be able to hear the
thoughts of others, except on those rare occasions when she
couldn't explain it, but she was gaining more and more power to
effectively send mental thoughts.
The Sorceress Empress performed a similar gesture to the one
Vorgeen had previously made. Soon after, Queen Medea strode up.
What had just transpired was summed up for her, the important
parts were all she needed, and a few pieces to the plan were
Jadea made another sweep as she walked on toward the center
of camp. She found Thalia was performing a similar action, now
in falcon form. Jadea had enhanced Thalia’s abilities while
the biomorph sat in prison, and she'd become capable of many
transformations for longer periods of time. Thalia didn't
question this change. She simply intended to use it while she
had it to use.
The Goddess of Destruction found her Aunt before long.
Stopped a few feet outside the medic hut. "You're avoiding
me," she bitterly stated.
Jadea shook her head. "No, if I were avoiding you then I
wouldn't be standing in front of you now."
Samsara began to growl, but she stopped herself before the
sound came out of her. "Jade, can I use Callisto's sword to
kill the Majie or not?"
Jadea, growing ever impatient with her niece, took this to
mean that the Goddess had yet to locate the Enemy. "If
you kill the Majie with my sword, then the Amazons will have to
kill you. In their eyes, for all intent and purposes, you will
have become the enemy. I leave the choice to you, but choose
wisely. Vengeance is sweet, but its aftertaste is not. Just ask
Xena," she finished and started to walk past Samsara.
Jadea stopped about four steps away. She turned.
"Samsara, it will be light soon. I'd at least like to know
where the Majie are. If not that, at least who the traitor
The Amazon said nothing but made an indicative nod. The
Sorceress Empress entered the medic hut. She saw Seriana sitting
up and staring into the flame of a candle, an empty plate of
food on a table near her.
Her appetite's returned. That's good.
Seri looked up as Jadea took a few steps inside.
"Celosia needs our help. She can't do it alone. I tried to
help her, but I was too weak. Then Sami came to get me. I was
afraid they'd trap her too. The second time they didn't-"
"Really have your spirit," Jadea finished and added
softly, "I know. They used a ploy to get Samsara to return
so they might turn her dark."
Seriana made a slight nod, her eyes falling back to the
candle's flame. An odd link existed between Jadea's family and
fire. The same could be said for fire and all Amazons, including
those who may have feared fire. But the connection between fire
and Jade's kin was far more deadly and far more unusual than the
"We have to help her, Jadea. Queen Celosia will die if
we don't do something."
"No one's going to die!" A new voice declared. Seri
looked up just as Jadea made a small turn. Pike had entered to
check on Seri. She'd caught the last part of the conversation.
Her eyes looked deep in Jadea's.
"Celosia has ordered to have an audience with you,"
Pike reported and immediately saw Jadea's eyebrow raise at the
"Has she now?" Jadea returned back, a deep and
dangerous sarcasm in her tone.
Seriana caught it even if Pike didn't. She grabbed her Aunt's
arm. "Please, Jadea, no," the Amazon pleaded. It's
wasn’t in Seriana’s nature to plead; in fact, no Amazon
pleaded if they had other options.
Jadea quickly gave her niece a glance before meeting Pike's
stare. "I'll be there soon. Return to your post."
Pike hesitated, but left. Outside, Maylee watched the Amazon
woman angrily head for the Queen's hut.
"Seri, did Queen Medea come by and talk to you?"
Seriana nodded and released Jadea's arm.
The Sorceress Empress saw the pain and immense concern in
Seriana’s eyes. She came forward and gave the Amazon a
heartfelt hug. As she withdrew, she saw Seri's eyes had watered.
But the Amazon struggled to control herself. That made Jadea
feel for her all the more. She took the Amazon's hand and
"Amazons unite!" She said firmly.
Seriana nodded. "Amazons unite!"
She was hurt by the reference to Xena her Aunt made.
Well, the Warrior Princess just seems to know everything
doesn't she? She thought to herself. I should listen to
She ambled to her hut again, staff in hand. She opened the
door and shut it behind her. Her hut was her sacred temple that
few could enter. Celosia was always in-- she was Queen -- and
others had made appearances only upon invitation. Her hut was
where she kept rare poultices her guardian used when she was
still alive. Imagine that, a healer fighting. Well, Ishtar's
only known fight was when she died in combat defending Ephiny,
but that was another sad story for another sad day. She pushed
the thoughts aside.
She knelt down on the pallet again. She turned to the Mask of
the Wolf, her royal mask and closed her eyes. She placed the
staff crossways and pulled out Callisto's sword laying that
across the staff. She kept her eyes squeezed shut as she chanted
in ancient Teloan:
Artemis, give me the power to see further than I can, to know
more than I know, to lead my sisters to the Enemy...
She repeated the chant until she saw. And see she did.
She stood up and grabbed both weapons. She had to get to
Jadea and now.
She ran out of her hut and found her Aunt precisely where she
suspected. The Sorceress Empress was not hard to find if she
wanted to be found.
So I see my talk had some effect on her, she thought.
"I know where they are. I want to be on the front
lines," the Great Destroyer said firmly.
"Tell me and we'll see," Callisto's sister
Feminine laughter filled the cave and the entrance of a tall,
flaxen haired beauty followed the sound. Her eyes glittered
vibrantly as a genuine smile curved her sensuous lips.
"How did you - this is the - we are Majie, you can't
just -" the vixen gave her audience a chuckle and shook her
head. Her long hair tossed back. "There's a sentence in
there just dying to get out. I'm sorry for failing to knock
before I came in."
"A Sorceress," the taller figure spoke. He seemed
in less of a shock.
She scoffed somewhat. "Oh, I am more than a sorceress,
my foolish Majie friend. I am The Sorceress. And quite to the
contrary of what you Majie believe; sorcery and magic still
belong to the wicked. More to the point, to me."
The man raised an eyebrow and tempted his fate with the words
he chose. "You have no power here. So state your business
A far more dangerous laughter now echoed off the walls of the
cave. Flames danced in the sparkling light of her eyes. "I
had come to prevent the annihilation of the entire Majie. Yet
now I realize that you are too blind to see, too deaf to hear,
and too full of pride to accept help we you need it most. Very
well - the Amazons shall be your downfall." The strange
temptress turned and took a step. She was called back with one
A triumphant smile appeared on her face. She had them.
Turning around, she lifted an eyebrow as if to say,
"How can you help?" The older one asked.
She conjured up a window and played back the images of
Samsara entering the cave, retrieving her caste, and using her
Mother's blade to free her sister. The window then closed and
she spoke. "You Majie are wise to use division to defeat
the Amazons. They are strong even when they are alone, but they
are far more powerful when they are together. United, the
Amazons could conquer any land, any people, at any time they so
"So, then why haven't they? Or, why don't they
now?" The younger figure spoke. His eyes were gray and
misty, a sign of his novice stature among his kind.
"Because the Amazons do not wish to rule others. They
only desire to govern themselves and protect their lands and
each other. But you have made a crucial mistake. You target the
wrong Amazon. That will get you assassins killed. And once the
world sees that the Majie can be killed, that they have a
weakness...your enemies will come pouring out of the
"Then, pray tell, what should we do?"
"Seize what holds them together," she flicked her
hair again, pausing for effect. When she felt they would burst
unless she spoke, she did. "Their loyalty to each
"Yes, but how?" The younger one questioned.
"I cannot give you any more than what I have. Use what
you know now," she answered, irritation beginning to edge
into her voice. To this dark woman of black magic, it seemed
obvious what they should do. She turned once again and took
three steps before she vanished.
During this same time, in Themiscyra...
Jadea's footing faltered and Valkyra was first at her side.
"Easy, easy. What's wrong?" the Weapons Mistress
asked, her voice crystal in its concern.
"Someone's close . . . too close," Jadea murmured.
Loudly she said, "I – I’m fine."
Valkyra didn't appear convinced. She walked with her to the
They found Samsara fully enveloped in grief and worry over
Seriana. She was standing to one side with Serena and Xena,
demanding they go ahead with the plan. She was one moment from
pushing the Elder aside to demand an answer of why Seri wasn't
better when her Aunt arrived.
Desperation in her eyes, she pleaded with her Aunt to do
something. "I don't understand. I-I brought her back! Why
isn't she healed? Why doesn't she wake up?" The Goddess was
slowly losing a grip on her temper. Seeing Xena had snapped
something lose inside her. She'd been able to fight it back
because reason constantly reminded her that she needed the help
of the Warrior Princess.
It was Serena who answered with questions of her own. She was
against this foolish plan, and everyone in the room knew it the
minute she spoke. "Xena, you're the prime player in all of
this. This plan of yours is going to get us all killed!"
Serena's strong voice interjected, ignoring the exasperated
Goddess near her.
"Enough!" Jadea shouted and her word rang in the
minds of all the Amazons she spoke to. The Sorceress Empress let
her eyes meet Serena's. She gave the Elder a hardened glare to
show that she was now taking charge of this little act. Then her
eyes went to Xena who obviously would have preferred a
conference with the Amazon Queens. Her eyes next settled upon
her niece, who was still staring at her with a confused kind of
anger. "Samsara, she isn't waking up...because she can't.
Her spirit has been rejoined with her body, and she no longer
has the poison in-"
"Then WHY can't she wake up?" Samsara screamed, and
everyone in the Med hut turned in her direction, startled and
Jadea looked at the daughter of her sister helplessly. She
knew the reason, but she didn't know how to fix it. "Clear
this hut! Now!" She gestured to Xanthea to remove the
apprentices as well as herself from the room. "Xena, Serena
will show you to Celosia and Vorgeen. They'll fill you up to
date, and we can go from there."
When only about three Amazons complied immediately, Jadea
grew livid and conjured a fireball in her right hand. "I
Serena begrudgingly left with Xena and Gabrielle close
behind. The blonde whispered to her companion, "So, tell me
about this plan again. Because from what I've seen, we need to
Samsara neared Seri and took her hand. She looked back at
Jadea, her eyes repeating the question she'd so vehemently asked
"Samsara, someone is keeping Seriana asleep," Jadea
softly told her.
"But who? How?"
Jadea shook her head. "I don't know. Right now, Seriana
is in a state of slumber that requires no food or drink. Whoever
has done this knows they can't hurt her any more. It’s obvious
to me that they need her out of the way. That's why they've done
this," she stated and her eyes moved from Samsara to a spot
across the room. A glazed and distant look came over her as she
realized what it was. "A distraction. Something to make the
Amazons worry. Something to make them suspicious . . . angry . .
. divided. . ." The Sorceress Empress turned and
moved to walk out of the hut.
Samsara jumped forward and stopped her. "Wait, where are
"Thalia told me about the sign. She had to tell me the
story twice before I understood. And now this. You saw Serena's
reaction to Xena's plan, right?"
The Goddess nodded, but her expression conveyed that she
wasn't quite following.
"And Medea, our Regent, she picked a fight with you. She
blew up in front of Elder Serena of the Teloans. Medea has
always taken her position seriously. And we both know that she
feels some animosity towards Celosia for being passed over. But
Medea takes responsibly when she's at fault. None of us can deny
Samsara shook her head, feeling utterly lost in this now.
"What has that got to do with the price of papyrus in
"Don't you see? Divide and conquer. The Romans are
notorious for successfully using that method. They know that the
Amazon Nation was its strongest when every tribe was
united." A sudden flame sparked a fire in her eyes.
"But rogue tribes have broken off. And some Amazon tribes
were wiped out in wars with men and centaurs. So, now it's a
matter of dividing each tribe as they try to fight an enemy they
Samsara nodded. "Dividing us sure didn't take much. The
attack on Thalia, the poison Seriana drank, the suspicion thrown
on every Amazon..." Now that she understood, Samsara was
impatient to do something about it. "So, now what?"
"Thalia's sign. I've seen it before. Actually, I don't
know why I didn't think of it earlier. It's a mystical
emblem," she started, then paused, feeling reluctant to say
more. Jadea was unwilling to reveal all of her past, even to her
"All right, so what does it mean?"
"I can't give you a translation, per se. Essentially,
death is a result."
Samsara cocked a brow, "But Thalia isn't dead. She
hasn't even been sick."
"I only know part of the equation right now. And if we
don't keep our leaders and our Sisters from attacking each
other's jugular, we won't live to see the answer."
Across the camp a little while later, one of the Highlanders
noticed someone missing. She reported it to her superior, who
then relayed the message to hers, whom in turn told Queen
Vorgeen. Ah, bloody 'ell. She's not goin' to like this one
Having calmed her niece, Jadea came into the Council hut and
eyed Serena before she glanced at Vorgeen. I'm not going to
It’s Angus. He's taken a horse and gone off, the Amazon
Queen answered, anger lining her tone.
Oh, that. Don't worry about 'im. He's gone to play with our
meal, Jadea sent back to her with a tone rich in mischief.
She turned to the assembled elders and leaders of the tribes.
"Listen up, ladies! I know we're all at odds with each
other here. Many of us for sound reasons, and some for excuses.
But this is neither the time nor the place for such debates or
fights. Xena and Gabrielle have agreed to help us win this war.
By denying their aid and advice, we will be condemning all
Amazons to death."
In a distant valley...
"Let's see. There's five of you and one of me. Hmm, not
fair odds, is it? Oh well," a man shrugged and got off his
horse, fighting each attacker off with swift moves. Soon, his
sword was covered in their blood. As the last fell, the man
reached into his victim's robes and pulled out something - a
medallion. "Hmm, now where have I seen this before? Oh,
right! I have four others just like it. You boys won't be needin'
'em now. Tell Hades the Amazons send their thanks."
When Xena and Gabrielle finished their meeting with Celosia
and Vorgeen, they exited the hut and proceeded to their next
meeting with the other Amazons. As they were making their way
across the camp, a woman carrying plates and wineskins came up
to them. She said, "I am Valkyra and I know that ever since
you have arrived, you have not had a chance to stop and eat.
Here is some hot food and good wine for you to refresh
Xena smiled and said, "I suppose that our next meeting
can wait a few moments. Thanks, we haven’t eaten for a
"This venison and bread smells good. Thank you,"
said Gabrielle. "You said your name is Valkyra?"
"Yes, I am from the Rostovia Forest in the Caucasus
Xena asked, "What do you do around here?"
"Well, I am still relatively new to the tribe and I am
still not totally familiar with everyone’s background. But, as
of late, they have made me the Weapons Mistress," answered
"So, you’re a teacher in combat weapons? You must be
good fighter," commented Xena.
Valkyra replied, "So some have said, but I heard that
you are one of the best if not the best."
"I suppose that I have just been luckier than
Gabrielle added, "She’s just being modest. You should
see her in action."
"That I would like." Valkyra then asked, "I
understand that you, Gabrielle, are an Amazon, but that you,
Xena are not. They say that you have the traits of an Amazon,
but that you do not wish to call yourself one. Why is
"I don’t want to talk about it," Xena answered as
she put down her empty plate. "Now let’s see what you
have, Weapons Mistress!" Xena then pulled out her sword and
squared off against Valkyra.
"I do hope that this is a friendly spar," said
Valkyra as she took her blade out.
Gabrielle interjected, "Oh don’t worry; it is. Xena is
just restless from all the talking that has been going on since
she’s been here. She just needs to relieve her tension."
Valkyra had listened with great interest to details in the
many stories that were told of Xena fighting her enemies. She
knew that Xena, for the most part, would wait for her opponent
to make the first move. So, Valkyra did not give Xena that
advantage. She waited for the Warrior Princess to make the first
Fortunately she was able to defend herself against the strong
blow and counter with one of her own which was similarly
blocked. Blow after blow was exchanged between the two warriors.
Valkyra then felt Xena trying to knock her sword from her hand.
Xena would soon succeed if Valkyra didn’t do something to
Valkyra did a quick little dance step backwards and then
jumped sideways, forcing Xena to turn, thus distracting her just
long enough for Valkyra to slide her steel blade along the
underside of Xena’s and hook the handle.
Valkyra was just about to twist her sword, which would pull
Xena’s weapon out from her hand when Queen Celosia yelled out,
"Valkyra! Xena! Stop the swordplay! Now! We have more
important things to do!"
Out of breath, Xena said, "Valkyra, you are good."
Equally out of breath, Valkyra said, "You are quite
skilled yourself. No wonder you have such a reputation. I am
honored that we could have a go at each other."
"That was fun; I just hope that we will always be on the
same side," said Xena as she and Gabrielle walked off to
"Thanks for coming to help us against the Majie,"
Valkyra called after her.