Thalia blinked as Seriana re-entered the Mess hut, fuming. She grabbed another tray, hurriedly putting more food on it, not exactly caring what she put where.

"Whoa, whoa, slow down!" Thalia placed her hand on Seriana's to calm her down and keep her from tossing the food around. "I heard Medea . . ."

"Everyone heard Medea," Seriana's nostrils flared. "What in Hades gives her to right to do that? Embarrassing me in front of my sisters! Honestly!"

"Seri," Thalia sighed. "There's no excuse for Medea's behavior. She's a bit . . . irrational sometimes, as you have seen. Celosia tries her best to keep her in check."

"Why won't she just leave me alone?" Seriana seethed. She picked up an apple; resisted the urge to throw it as far as possible. Her most favorable target being Medea's head.

"I . . ." Thalia trailed off. She never knew what exactly to do with Medea. "Well, I'll tell Celosia to keep a closer eye on her, and I'll watch her around you too. Maybe if you can avoid her for a while she'll cool off. Medea's not an easy person to get along with. I'll watch out for her if she comes after you again, okay?"


During Medea's tirade, Angus forced himself to approach Jadea. "Aren't ya goin' to do somethin' about it?" He asked her. It was obvious that she knew what he was talking about. Most of the camp knew. Hell, some of those out scouting or hunting probably had heard Medea.

"No. Medea won't kill Seriana. She'd be killed, herself, on the spot for doing so," Jadea replied, an unusual calmness in her voice. Angus was used to Jadea taking fights more seriously. Jadea didn't fear her Regent, she knew Medea's limits, but sometimes those she feared those limits.

"You're amazin', ya know that?" He asked sarcastically and left.

Leaving the pot and the table next to it, Jadea set off to find Seriana. She found her in the Mess hut. It was obvious she was angry and shaken from her discussion with the Regent, but that her friend Thalia was helping her move past it. Jadea left without saying a word to either.

Outside, she walked up to Medea, preparing herself for a confrontation. It wasn't an appealing thought, but something had to be done. "Medea, I'd like a word with you."


"What was that?" Everyone asked as Seriana returned to the tables. Seriana could feel herself going scarlet with humiliation.

"Nothing," she answered at last. "It was my fault. I provoked her. I must be tired. I'm sorry."

"Are you sure?" Thalia asked. "You know how she gets."

"I'm sure, I'm sure. I'm sorry for the disturbance, everyone."

"Seri . . ."

"What happened?" Celosia demanded. The Amazons parted to let her through, Medea followed in her wake, a smirk on her face.

Seriana felt a little twist of fear in her stomach. Taking a deep breath, she held her head up and met the Queen's eyes. "It was my fault, Majesty."

Celosia looked her shrewdly over. "Was it?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And why is it that I heard Medea shouting and not you, Seriana?"

"I provoked her, Majesty," Seriana insisted. "I challenged her authority. I was the one who stepped out of line."

"And do you excuse your behavior?"

"No, Majesty."

Celosia looked the two of them over again, and Seriana got the impression she was fooling no one. But if they trusted her they wouldn't question her motivations.

With a sigh, Celosia turned to Seriana again. "You brought a lot of trouble with you when you came to this tribe. We offered you the protection of a sisterhood. The title of Amazon Warrior is a privilege. Remember that, and remember your place in this tribe. I will let your behavior slide this once."

Seriana bowed her head. "It will not happen again." Looking at her boots, she turned away to return to her work. As the crowd and Queen turned to resume their previous activities, Medea stepped into Seriana's path.

"That was stupid."

"Maybe," the young warrior raised her head and met the Regent's eyes. "But I can defend myself. I am not a child, to call in my mother when I'm afraid."

"Oh, so you're afraid?"

"I am."

"Good." Medea reached onto the table and took a piece of baklava. "Now, get back to your work, warrior."

Seriana bowed a little, keeping the eye contact steady and strong. "As you wish, Regent."

Medea left and Seriana put her hand protectively around her dagger. It was made to kill quickly and quietly, to slice easy and stab deep.

There is a difference between fear and cowardice.

Seriana of Themiscyra was no coward.


Medea had ignored Jadea and walked from her to follow Celosia and eavesdrop. Jadea hated to be ignored. She followed the pair into the Mess hut.

Keeping silent, Jadea watched Seriana confess to an unjust fault. She kept silent as Celosia studied Seri's eyes. She watched as Celosia dealt with the matter as best she could, and when Queen Celosia departed, she kept silent as Medea used her natural ability to intimidate.

When Medea turned and walked off, Jadea was close by. Prepared to settle it with or without violence, the Sorceress Empress appeared directly in front of Medea, something she often did but had never before done to her Regent.

"That was unwarranted, Medea," she stated, a dangerous fire in her eyes.

Leave it be, Jadea, she heard Thalia's voice enter her mind, and knew that the Amazon must be watching.

Glaring, Medea retorted with an angry tone "It was none of your business. Stay out of it!" Medea stepped to the side to walk past.

Again, Jadea appeared in front of the Regent. This time, her temper caused her to raise her voice . . . and her sword. "Seriana is my business," she declared, the blade raised at Medea.

The Regent looked at the sword, half-smirking. She recognized it, now, as belonging to Xena's infamous mortal, and later immortal, enemy, Callisto. With one eyebrow lifted, Medea asked in a sweet tone, "Are you going to fight me?" The question stood as more of an admonishing remark than a true inquiry.

Just then, Queen Celosia arrived. Someone had informed her of the recent development. Celosia was anything but happy.

Seeing the Queen approach, Jadea backed away and lowered her sword. "I know Seriana is a traitor. So were you . . .once."

Jadea's last words then struck Medea off her guard. And suddenly the Regent was overcome with a curious suspicion. A suspicion that diverted her mind away from Seriana.

Just as she was about to respond, Jadea cut her off. "Stay clear of her, Medea. I mean it," She stated and vanished, reappearing in the stables.

There, she found Angus grooming the horses, hers among them. She aimed a finger and instantly one of the magnificent equines was prepared for a rider.

"Where are you goin'?" He asked, a bit more curious than Jadea'd expected.

"Out. Tell Vorgeen and Celosia I shall return by nightfall," she said and swung a leg over up and over the brown horse. Mounted, she added, "And keep an eye on Seriana."

She nudged the horse, but pulled back on the reigns a moment after. Looking down into his eyes, Jadea saw the familiar glimmer of the man she knew. "And by the way . . . thanks for reminding me how to fight like a banshee on a bad day," she smiled and he returned it with a grin and nod.

"My pleasure."

When the Sorceress Empress left camp, Ardra followed. The Gods know how she thought she'd be able to follow Jadea without her knowing it, but she thought it.

"Ardra, I know you're there. I'm going to see Samsara."

Samsara is on Olympus, isn't she? Ardra asked.

"She was. I bet I know where she went when she left," Jadea remarked, hoping that her instincts were right.

Meanwhile, back in camp...

"Medea, what was that about?" Queen Celosia asked, a stern tone warning that she wasn't in the mood for games or bluffs.


***Kaiaís Warning***

Samsara sat in her new temple and meditated. The sandalwood smoke rose from the floor as the room filled with white air. She was satisfied with yet another battle against another insolent enemy. She was very content with her life, despite the fact that she had to get rid of her sister and father somehow.

"Sam," came a voice.

The Goddess snapped out of her concentration. "Whoís there?" she demanded.

Kaia appeared from the cloud. She was pallid and in chains. Instead of her usual garb, she wore a robe in the fashion of a Roman toga. The rattling of chains disturbed Samsara from her calmness.

"Why are you wearing that? What is wrong with you?"

"Iím wearing the chains of my life, Sister," she responded, lifting a link. "This is the result of my life. You know: I tried for so long to make you into something you are not and never really will be. My entire life was devoted not only to making you suffer for being the good girl, but to turn you dark just as Daddy wanted. This made me destroy many lives, including two Amazon villages. Now that Iím gone, I have to face what Iíve created. Youíre right, when you destroy you create as well."

"Very true," Samsara agreed, standing up. "Why are you here? What do you want to tell me?" The Princess-Heiress was one to get to the point of any conversation.

Kaia sighed. "To tell you to mend your ways. Are you happy as the new Goddess of War, having sent everyone away, leaving your tribe?"

"Is this a selfish ploy to get you and Father reinstated? Everyoneís content without you, you realize this? With no Ares and Kaia Kakistos to wreak havoc, war will only happen for good reason."

"There is always a good reason for war, Sami," Kaia reminded. "If not to settle disputes which would be otherwise left unresolved, but to cleanse the earth and ensure survival of the fittest."

The Goddess Kakistos laughed. "Of course, Iím happy. And there never really is any good reason for war. You say it just so people can fill your temples with sacrifices of war. Humor me some more, would you?"

"Heed my warning, dear older sister," she responded, turning. Wind picked up mysteriously as she moved. "If you donít mend your ways you will become like me. Remember Kakistos, Samsara. Remember me." She walked away, beginning to disappear. "Remember me. Remember meÖ"

She became nothing more than the cloud of incense.

The wind died.

A man took her place.

***Ghost of Solstice Past***

"Who in the Hades are you?" Samsara demanded.

"Iím the Ghost of Solstice Past," responded the cheery figure. It was Dachus, her general, second-in-command of her army. He was dressed in peasant clothes, not in the plunder from the raids they went on together.

"Dachus?" She peered at him. "What are you doing?"

"Iím here to show you the past." He extended his hand. "If you would, miílady."

She scoffed. "What is the meaning of all of this? I am not going anywhere with you, darliní. Come Tartarus or high whatever, Iím not going anywhere with you."

He laughed. "Well, that Ė for once Ė is not for you to decide." He snapped his fingers and soon they were in a cavern. There was little light from the opening above. The shadows danced in the dark. They turned to the scene: a cooing baby in a wicker basket.

Samsara knelt down and looked at the child. "She is so beautifulÖ"

"She should be," he said, smiling. "She is you."

"Me?" she said, looking at Dachus. "She is me? Where is Mother?"

He pointed ahead of him. Callisto sat on a rock, holding her knees to her chest. She was rocking back and forth, her eyes darting from the wicker basket to the opening in the ceiling.

"MotherÖ" Samsara called. "Mother?" She started toward her, but Dachus stopped her.

"You canít go to her, you know. This is the past. These events have happened; you canít call for your mother because she canít hear you."

"She never held me, did she?"

"You werenít with her for long. She used all of her powers as an immortal to get you out," Dachus explained.

"SHUT UP, YOU SCREAMING BRAT! You screaming pathetic excuse for a warrior child!" Callisto had had enough. The baby stopped crying.

Samsara looked away. "I know Callisto never carried me. Iíve seen enough."

Dachus laughed. "We havenít even gotten started yet, hon," he said, snapping his fingers. They were in Teloq.

Samsara recognized the huts and smiled. "Home," she said, grinning. "Why are we here?"

"To see how you were as a young Amazon."

Little Samsara was attempting to work with nun-chucks and kept hitting herself when the weapon recoiled. She was practicing alone, not wanting to embarrass her guardian. Solari watched and laughed, unbeknownst to the young girl.

"That little girl was me, wasnít she?" Samsara said. "And that is Solari laughing at me."

The young girl realized who was there and began to cry. She ran away and the two followed her.

Ishtar came out of her hut, knowing her wardís cry. She knelt down, hugged the young girl, and wiped away her tears, telling her words of encouragement.

"She always helped me. She was there when my mother was notÖ" she observed.

"You must have loved her very much," Dachus said.

"I did. And she loved meÖ"

The scene was the funeral pyre. Young Samsara was standing, dressed in dark clothing and pulling back tears. "I shall never cry again."

"I never did," Samsara repeated.

"And you hid that as well as you could," the general continued. "You did all you could

to bury your pain."

Images of Samsara fighting against Solari crossed their eyes. "Solari was always the type to laugh at me. It was only fair for me to treat her similarlyÖ"

"You rose to a great position when Velasca left the tribe. You wielded your power like there was no tomorrow. Reminds me of when you first led the tribe. You bossed us around and made sure we knew who was the leader."

Samsara nodded.

"But you blackened your soul. You never realized who you hurt."

They were suddenly in Phaedraís hut. Solariís sister looked at the looking glass and cried.

"Whatís with her? Iíve always been nice to her!" Samsara exclaimed.

"Just listen in," the warlord said to her. They turned to observe more.

Phaedra wiped away her tears. "Will I ever be good enough for Samsara? If my sister is nothing to her, what can I be anything of worth?"

The Great Destroyer scoffed. "Excuse me? I affect her that much?"

"You affect many Amazon, Great One. They look up to you. Some worship your every step." Dachus chuckled. "Many want to be you!"

"Like Hades I have that much power."

***Ghost of Solstice Present***

"Ah, but, oh Great One, you do," said a woman. Samsara turned around.


"Yeah, yeah, itís me, and what?" asked Regent Medea. "Iím the Ghost of Solstice Present and I will show you around. "Iím not here for long, missy, so Iím gonna make this quick. So, how about it?"

"Fine," Samsara responded begrudgingly.

"Now, you know, the powers that be decided that I can only take you to one place and you know what? That one place is gonna be Ďhome.í Iím taking you to Teloq and you will see what youíve left behind. Now remember, this is the kind of mess youíll leave for me and Cel to clean up in Themiscyra, so youíd better clean up your act."

Samsara laughed. "You are telling me that I need to clean up my act? Well, then!" Sheesh, the Teloqian thought. Some people are just . . . UGH! Takes one to know one, huh?

"Hey," Medea responded. "I heard that. Donít try to put one over me now, all right? So, listen up, Ďcuz Iím only gonna say this once."

Immediately, they were in Ephinyís hut. Serena was with her and they were having a secret conference. "I donít know what to do about the young ones," Ephiny said to the Chief Elder. "They are surly and unruly and they wonít listen to reason."

Serena sighed. Her white hair was braided and fell down her torso to her waist. "If only the Princess-Heiress had been more . . . gentle with her words and actions. Now, we have a problem on our hands. How will we survive if they grow up like this?"

The Goddess laughed. "Youíve gotta be kidding me. You mean to tell me that by the way I "actedí these Amazon kids are disrespecting their elders? I never, ever disrespected anyone that didnít deserve it."

Medea chuckled. "Yeah, but you did rile Solari at every turn and that is what those kids saw all the time."

"Well, what about you, Missy?"

She snorted. "Well, excuse me, Hon. Those kids knew me to be this way. Iíve always been this way and itís never been without consequences. Besides, this isnít about me at all. This is about you. And if you donít shape up, Cel and me are going to have a huge problem on our hands. Kids take after their elders and if you donít fix your attitude then we are always going to be the butt of tavern jokes.

Samsara laughed. This is ridiculous, she thought. Kids acting like this just because I do? I donít affect people that much AT ALL.

She blinked. Medea was gone.

***Ghost of Solstice Yet to Come***

The Goddess turned around. A faceless figure, dressed in a black cloak, stood before her.

"Do you believe you can scare me with this get-up?" she demanded. "I am the Great Destroyer, Goddess Kakistos of Destruction! Itíll take more than that to intimidate me!"

The Cloaked Figure said nothing. With a wave of his pallid hand, he whisked them away. Seconds later, they stood at the head of a dinner table. All the Themiscyrans sat at the table and listened as Celosia spoke.

"We gather here in celebration of life," the Queen began.

"ĎCelebration of Ďlifeí?" the Goddess repeated. "Okay, excuse me, Cloaked One, but this is a death dinner? Is this why theyíre gathered like this?"

She got no response.

She returned to the scene.

"She was a true Amazon. Her family was slaughtered by a warlord and she could have easily turned evil, but she came to us and learned of the forces of Good, just the reason she was sent for . . ."

The Goddess blinked. "Excuse me? Iím . . . dead? No. No, I canít be! I am immortal. I am eternal! I am Samsara; I can never be completely broken! When I die, the world dies, you got that, Oh Great Cloaked One? Huh! I will always exist. I am here now, tomorrow, and forevermore!" Her face became flushed from the tension. The figure said nothing. She turned to the scene again.

Celosia continued. "Milaís death was unfortunate. Samsaraís blade was too quick for anyone to stopÖ"

"ĎSamsaraís bladeí? You mean, I killed Mila? NoÖ I am not my mother. I am not Callisto! I would neverÖ" she let the sentence dangle. She lost the power of her voice. The Cloaked Figure refused to respond. Her mouth dropped. She killed Mila?

"But in that act, Samsara died."

The Goddess stopped. Dead? How can it be?

"Artemis, using all her power, struck her down. Now we are less two wonderful Amazons and a matron," Celosia raised her goblet, as did the rest. "I raise a toast to Mila."

"To Mila," said the others in unison, drinking wine.

"Now, to Samsara."

Medea lashed out. "The day I raise a goblet to that wench is the day I betray every single one of you."

"Medea, please, I do believe you should toast," Celosia urged. "You arenít the only one sheís wronged."

"Yeah, but I was the only one to see it when she first set foot here. You know, I had a good mind to tear right into that witch, but I didnít. I should have!"

"Medea, please," Tern responded, motioning to her cup. "Take your chalice and toast. Itís Solstice-time!"

The Regent grumbled and raised her cup. "To Samsara."

Samsara frowned. "Okay, Iíve seen enough."

The Cloaked Figure raised a hand and they were away.

"Where in the Hades are we?" she demanded.

He said nothing. She looked about her and gasped. She was at her grave. She knelt down and touched the stone marker, wiping away the thin ice that was morning dew.

"Here lies the body of a heavenly spirit, woman, Amazon. Trained as a foot soldier; skilled in horseback, chobos, battle-axe, sword, crossbow, and royal staff. Fitted with the Phoenix feather and the skin of her first satyr. Orphan, ward of Ishtar, Shamaness Priestess. Appointed High Princess, Princess-Heiress, Warrior and Protector of the Teloq Amazons, here lies the body of Samsara the Great Destroyer. May Artemis hold her in her heart."

She looked up at the dark figure.

"This is my destiny?" she said, fearful. "This canít be! Oh, by the Gods, Cloaked One, I can change!" She fell onto her knees and gripped a section of cloth. The figure looked down at her and shook his head, turning away. "You donít understand! I canít be all bad if I realize the folly of my ways! I can change; I know it. You know it! You canít give up on me now." The Cloaked Figure walked away, leaving the Goddess to her words. "I can change," she whispered, grabbing blades of grass. "I can changeÖ"

***In the "Here and Now"***

Samsara opened her eyes. She was back in her temple. She knew what she had to do. She had Aresí Mantle. She had the power.

*Archivst note: You can view this story as the standalone offering "A Solstice Carol."


The Solstice was feasted in the traditional style, with much laughter, cheering, eating, drinking, toasting and blessing and celebrating. The only damper was felt by those who knew of the tension between Medea and Seriana. Others felt it, but ignored it: there was always tension between Medea and somebody.

Seriana left a little early and went to her hut. She had a small shrine of candles and incense set up on a shelf in the corner. Using a flint, her knife, and a long splinter of wood, she lit the shrine and watched the smoke waft around the hut.

"For my sister, my mother, my teachers, my friends, and my tribe. Amen."

Then she blew out the candles, stamped out the incense, and went to sleep with the sheathed dagger lying underneath her cheek.


The Sorceress Empress found the Goddess of Destruction right where she'd anticipated she would - a "former" temple belonging to Ares.

"Am I interrupting?" Jadea's voice preceded her entrance, thus making her presence a bit of a shock.

"No. I thought you might come," Samsara replied without any anger. She seemed to have been caught up in thought before her aunt arrived.

"Oh, and how might you have known that?" Jadea asked, a little aggravated at her niece.

"Your hawk came to Olympus," the Goddess remarked meaningfully.

"So she did," Jadea agreed softly, paused, and then asked, "Why are you here, Samsara?"

Of all the places to be, Jadea wasn't sure why her niece would pick a temple belonging to a MGIA (missing god in action). And of all the times, she wasn't sure why her niece had picked now.

"I knew you could find me here. I know how close you came to dying. I'm sorry I wasn't there," the Goddess apologized, speaking quite calmly.

"I understand. I don't blame you. So stop your sulking."

Samsara fell silent, and Jadea knew that something else was affecting her niece's mood. Something that she hadn't addressed, yet.

"Did you and my mother ever meet after Cirra?" She suddenly interrupted the silence to ask.

Flashes of Callisto began racing across Jadea's mind. The many villages her sister had wiped out, and the many battles her sister's legion had fought. "Yes," came Jadea's single-word reply. She couldn't manage to answer more than that. Some trace in her visage caused Samsara to think better of furthering it.

She could remember her sister's reaction to having a child. Callisto had been torn between wanting to protect and raise the child...and total disgust for her own offspring. The baby only brought back painful memories of Cirra. Many children had cried when Xena's army attacked and pillaged their home. Many parents and guardians of those children had shushed and made pleas to keep quiet.


Samsara's voice shook her awareness, and she looked up at her niece.

"We need to leave, Samsara. We're not doing any good here," Jadea declared, half-expecting her niece to immediately stand up and walk out with her.

"Why did my mother abandon me in a basket? If she hated me so much, why didn't she just kill me?" The Goddess asked, an eerie curiosity in her tone when she spoke. There'd been a brief but meaningful pause between Samsara's two questions.

"Your mother doesn't-" Jadea stopped to correct herself. This had not been the first time in the last few days that she'd accidentally slipped up her speech. "Your mother never hated you, Samsara. To her, you were the first good thing that had come in her life for a long, long time," Jadea answered in a voice that sounded as sincere as she felt. She then added, "She hated Ares, though."

"Father?" Samsara asked even though it wasn't much of a shock to her. She just had not thought too much on him in the past few hours. Meanwhile, Jadea bit her tongue at Samsara's reference to Ares.

Ardra waited patiently until at last she could wait no longer. Jadea, you are being asked for in Themiscyra. A certain someone has even threatened to summon you if your return is not soon.

The hawk's message could mean only one thing. And the mere idea that Angus would dare to summon Jadea riled her to no end. To summon a god, goddess, sorcerer, or sorceress, there were few ways, indeed. Of the few, not all were even known to man.

"Samsara, I must return to the Amazons. I will not force you to come." Jadea turned and began to walk out the temple doors.

Her niece's voice stopped her. "What must be done, shall be done. The war to come-"

"It shall be won," Jadea finished and turned to face her niece. She studied Samsara's eyes and nodded slightly. "I hope you're right. If not, the Amazons will be the ones to suffer the price. Kaia would've wanted that. The question you must answer is do you?"

And with that, the Sorceress Empress vanished. She appeared on the horse she rode, gave one last look to the temple, and left.

Samsara appeared at the entrance of the temple in time to see her aunt gallop away. What the Goddess didn't see was that Ardra remained behind as a look out.

Back in the Themiscyran camp...

Medea toiled with the idea of fighting Seriana. She remembered Jadea's warning quite clearly now, but that only made the thought of intimidating Seriana that much more appealing.

Valkyra made periodic rounds about the camp, checking to be sure that everyone remained in one piece and working on this chore or that. Truth was that Valkyra was restless for some action. Medea's skirmish with Seriana before the Solstice had awakened something within her. Part of the warrior wanted Medea and Seriana to fight. At least then she'd have something to do. Whether or not she'd break the fight up would have to be found once it happened.

The two Amazon Queens spent much time together, discussing military tactics or the history of their tribes . . . discussing just about everything. As irony, perhaps, would have it . . . the relation between two Amazon queens fell one of two ways - either a mutual respect or, as with Velasca and Gabrielle, contempt. In the case of the Highland Queen and the Themiscyran Queen, it was respect. The two Amazon women shared much in common yet had many differences between them as well.

For instance, Queen Celosia learned that Angus had once served in an army belonging to Jadea. When the latter disbanded her men, those that were alive, Angus refused to give up his position. He trailed Jadea to the Highlands. There he met with a wall of capable fighters - all of them women. The current queen was just about to authorize his execution, the fool had been ready to fight the Amazon guards that caught him, when Jadea stepped in and admitted who he was.

As for Queen Celosia, her tribe had many strange encounters with males, but none quite like that. Hence, the difference between the two Amazon Queens - and at the same time, the shared commonality.

On the training grounds, Vorgeen's lieutenant gave many of her warriors a hard time as they practiced new moves. Some of the more advanced techniques involved leaps or jumps that not every Amazon was capable of performing.

While their training exercises continued, Medea happened by and saw Seriana speaking to Thalia. It seemed too easy, the Regent thought. Even more so when she saw Thalia get up and walk away. She must have asked Seri if she wanted her to bring her back anything because a pause was made before Seriana finally nodded and gave an appreciative smile.

The Regent walked around the training women and straight for Seriana. Her heart pounded excitedly as she approached the Amazon. She could hear the Highland in charge shouting orders and critiquing Amazons on certain positions or postures and such.

Seri saw Medea approach from the corner of her eye.





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