Family Quarrels




If illusion is a dream.

Satori is also a dream:

Awakening from a dream

Is the beginning of life.

--Zen folk saying


Mariko took Karma as Samsara sat down on Jadea's pallet. She couldn't possibly understand what her Eastern mentor had to say. She played with her staff, balancing the wood upright on her palm.


"I hope that the news I bear you will believe," she walked around with the child. "And if you don’t, Rhea's Ruby will show you the truth."


Samsara looked at her. "How did you know..."


"I know. It's in your pouch. Where you kept the ambrosia you stole and subsequently lost."


Samsara touched her leather pouch. There it was, still hidden from view. "What do you want to tell me, Mariko?"


"When you learn, take the Rhea Ruby and watch the events. That way you will know that I speak the truth." She paused. She turned to her and looked right into her eyes. "Ares is not your father."


The sound of Samsara's staff falling out of her hands was the only sound to shatter the silence that immediately followed. Karma's smooth sounds of sleep continued.


"What?" she hissed, retrieving the staff from the floor. "I am blessed with the sad knowledge that Ares is my father. Why do you lie to me?"


Mariko's eyes turned to slits. "You know me better than that, Samsara."


The Japanese woman never called her by her given name. She was the only person who called her Kakistos -- Worst of the Worst as her mother was once called.


"I do. Why would you tell me this now?"


"Because you are to understand that this rage you hold inside of you is yours to control. This isn't the workings of Ares."


"And what am I to do? Who is my father, then, Mariko?" She picked up her staff and stood up.


"The Rhea Ruby will show you all you need to know,” she said, handing back the baby and walking out the door.


Samsara stood in the middle of her aunt's hut, cradling a child in one arm and holding her staff next to her body with the other. She decided to use the Rhea Ruby, but for other purposes....





Seriana, with her usual bad timing, chose that moment to rap on the door and step inside. "Sami, Jadea sent us a letter."


The letter, three sheets of folded parchment, was in her hand and she was reading it while walking. "Part of the tribe is safe back home. The rest are with the pirate Nebula."


She sat down on the floor and turned to the next page. "Have great hopes of our sisters joining us as soon as may be . . . much as I miss you all, it is good to be home again where no one has a Greek accent. Oh. Listen to this. 'To the astonishment of everyone, Angus . . . attacked me . . . shortly after we landed in Britannia. He protested that he was trying to save me, but the Queen has turned him out of the tribe and I have no idea where he's gone. Of course, it's never easy to get rid of Angus, but I am horribly worried about him, about the rest of my tribe at sea, and about you, my dear nieces, back in Themiscyra. I pray that all will be well as soon as ever it can. My dearest love to you both . . . Samsara, stay out of trouble. I remain always, your aunt by blood and sister by loyalty, Jadea, the Sorceress Empress.'"


Seri looked up from the writing. "I wonder what's gotten into Angus . . . Sami, are you all right?"


Samsara had her eyes fixed on the face of the child. "No," she said, quietly and with a strange sort of calm. "I am not all right."


"I saw Mariko coming out as I came in . . . did she say something to you? Come on, Samsara, I'm your sister. You can tell me."


Samsara shook her head. She looked a strange color and she would not lift her eyes from the child's face. "Let me alone."


"Samsara . . ."




Seriana, despite being the elder of the two, was still a bit in awe of her sister's complicated, violent existence. Not knowing whether interfering further would do good or ill, she judged it best to not press the matter.


"All right. If you need me, I'll be in my hut, any hour of the day or night. If you need me to take Karma, I'd be glad to."


"Maybe in a little while."


Hesitantly, Seri got up. "Please, Sami . . . trust me?"


Samsara ignored the question. "If you are going to write back to Jadea, make no mention of this. I would not have her know of it yet."


"Of course." Seriana folded the letter and left with it pressed tightly in her hands.




The large hawk migrated from tree to tree, taking in the actions of every Amazon warrior in Themiscyra. Peaceful wasn’t the most accurate word for Themiscyra's atmosphere, but it was close enough.


She noticed the tribe's Queen Regent Medea delving into her duties, leaving no task undone. The stables were cleaned. New bows, arrows, fighting staffs, and chobos were made. Regularly scheduled training was again practiced by each warrior. Hunting parties were sent out for food. Queen Medea saw to it that each of her Amazons were given sufficient leisure time without lessening the amount of work completed.


Outwardly, Medea was gradually more and more of her old self - authoritative, stubborn, and intimidating. Even so, fulfilling the role of Queen created a transformation in the woman. This was something Ardra had witnessed first hand.


It all began with the simple intention of locating Samsara, Jadea's niece. Medea intended the Amazon, mother or not, to do her share of the work. That she was not doing so was apparent, so she went looking for the Goddess. The Queen suspected Samsara to be in Jadea's hut. She was right.


Standing outside of the hut, Medea hesitated before entering. A kind of reservation prevented her from just charging in to demand Samsara to get her sorry, immortal butt to work. At the time this happened, Ardra was perched atop the nearest neighboring hut.


This is ridiculous! I am Queen! She is just an Amazon warrior! Why am I standing out here like I'm about to intrude? The Queen shook her head and stepped inside.


Ardra, out of curious nature, flew down onto the ground and remained near enough to overhear.


Samsara didn't look up to see who was there. She was aware someone had entered, but she didn't care. The Goddess kept hearing Mariko's words echo in her mind. "Ares is not your father."


She'd questioned whether Mariko spoke the truth. And finding that the woman couldn't or wouldn't lie to her, Samsara was swept into a whirlpool of maddening questions.


If Ares isn't my father, then who the Hades is? Does Ares even know he isn't my...did Callisto know? Maybe she lied. No, why give me to the Amazons with the note that Ares is my father? She couldn't have known. Do the other gods' know? I wonder if the Goddess of Wisdom even has the damn answer to this one!


In short, Samsara didn't know what to make of this news. She'd been blindsided by it and now her emotions were many. In many ways, Samsara felt betrayed. And yet...and yet had she been? If those surrounding her parentage, those nearest to her now even, if they did not know the truth, had they truly betrayed her?


Ardra could hear many of the questions rolling around in the Goddess' mind and she feared that the makings of a confrontation were present with the Queen Regent's thoughts set on putting the woman to work.


She sent a message to Thalia, who at the time was in the mess hut eating a snack after her training session. Thalia, would you please come to Jadea's hut? Ardra sounded unnerved.


Nothing had been said inside yet. The Queen simply stood, staring at the Goddess with her knees up to her chin as she rocked back and forth lost in her own thoughts.


What is it Ardra? Thalia questioned, a bit irritated at having her meal interrupted. She didn't mean to sound as harsh, quickly adding, I'm eating. Is something wrong?


A moment passed before Ardra answered. She was listening intently. I just need you to come in case I require back up. Please, Thalia!


At the urgency the Head Scout heard in her mind, she excused herself from her Sisters and left. About the time Thalia approached Jadea's hut, noting that Ardra sat on the ground nearby, Medea broke the silence within.


"Samsara? We need you out by the river," the Queen informed, though neglecting to say why the Goddess was needed by the river.


Samsara didn't look up. She gave no indication she'd heard her Queen. As the Goddess Kakistos, as the Worst of the Worst, Samsara had rarely felt helpless. The times she had, she'd never let it show and often found the feeling would pass once another village was taken or another army was destroyed. But now, the Amazon felt helpless and utterly lost as to what she should do. Well perhaps not utterly lost, the droplets of a plan formed inside her mind, circulating around giving Prince Rhea's Ruby.


"Samsara!" Medea repeated more strongly this time.


The woman looked up and met the narrowed eyes of the Amazon before her. "You do not need me, Medea," was all Samsara said before lowering her eyes once again.


Outside, Thalia looked from the hawk on the ground to the entrance to the hut. She had a confused "what the heck" look on her face.


Queen Medea's inside...with Samsara, Ardra explained.


And you called me? If those two get into it, you'll need more than just me to break them up, Thalia returned, absolutely sure of herself.


Have a little faith in yourself, Ardra countered before continuing to listen.


The Queen was perturbed at Samsara's familiar usage of her name, and her not using the woman's title. Ordinarily, this would've provoked an outburst from Medea, followed then by a fiercer one from Samsara, which would lead on until someone intervened or one outmatched the other. That didn't happen this time.


Medea looked at the Goddess and noticed something different. She realized that Samsara was not Samsara. The old Medea would have pounced on this opportunity like a lioness would upon a long sought after prey.


Instead, the Queen Regent looked down at the baby. She followed the line of vision straight to Sami's eyes. A second or two later, the Goddess began humming the same tune as before. Only this time, the sound was far more haunting than before. The Queen concluded that she was in the middle of something she didn't want to know about and decided it was time to leave.


She still had some parting words." Samsara...I don't know what's going on with you, but you're needed on the right bank of the river. They're waiting for you." Queen Medea stepped outside, her eyes first meeting Thalia. "What are you doing, Thalia?"


The bewildered Amazon shook her head and lied. "Nothing," she said and avoided implicating Ardra by looking at her.


"Then get to work! This isn't summer camp!" Medea snapped, more out of frustration from her awkward little exchange with Samsara.


Thalia didn't reply but immediately left.


During this time but many, many miles away...


"I dun understand what got intah 'im," Dolphinea was saying to her Empress.


The two women walked side by side, occasionally climbing a steep incline. They'd gone to pick some herbs which grew on the tops of certain hills. Jadea was grateful to be back home again. She was further grateful that of all the people mentioned in her presence, not a one was him. Even speaking of Angus was preferable. Not that she really desired to talk about him, but it was a more attractive topic than the said. "Men!" Jadea chuckled and shook her head. "Ya can't live with 'im."


The Highland Queen turned her head to the side, expecting an addition to the comment. When she got none, her own laughter broke into the air. "Ach, so that's all?"


Again Jadea laughed, nodding along as she did. "Aye. Why do ya think we don't allow them to live on our lands?" She sighed a bit, more out of content and irony than sadness, and offered, "O' they're good in moderation, and all."


Dolphinea bent over to examine a rare flower. After a moment, she stood back up. "If that's so, then why'd ya let Angus live with us in Themiscyra?"


The Sorceress Empress stopped her feet. For a second, Dolphinea feared she'd said something wrong. But her eyes quickly discerned the thoughtfulness in Jadea's demeanor.


"I s'pose I knew it'd be easier than tryin' to keep him away. He's all the gall and persistence of your average Celt...added to the fine influences of our world."


Dolphinea's laughter was sudden and somewhat nervous. She agreed with her Empress, but another thought had closed upon her mind.


Angus would return, she thought. Jadea was right about him. He was irritatingly stubborn at times. Once, going so far as to challenge Jadea in front of her former mate in order to prove that he wasn't afraid of fighting her. 


A foreign silence came between them, initiated by Jadea. Dolphinea chose not to bring up Angus again that day. Whether or not she'd planned on soon speaking to Jadea again about him, the Queen never got the chance.


As night fell upon the Island of Britannia, more pointedly upon the Highland Amazon camp, Jadea slipped out quietly by foot. When she reached their border, she disappeared.


Her sudden decision to leave without notice prompted Dolphinea to send out scouting parties. They discovered her trail and direction it lead to. When the report was given that Jadea's tracks ended at their border, Queen Dolphinea sighed. There was no way to know where the Sorceress had gone after that and no way to track her.


Angus could have told her where she'd gone, had he been allowed into the Amazon land. He'd known that the first chance she got, Jadea would go after her prey. Not only had he known, he'd tried to stop her from going. For his trouble, he'd failed in his task and was now unable to help the young Highland Queen.


Had Dolphinea known her better, she would have seen what Angus saw. That Jadea'd vehemently resisted the idea of going back to Celtia, but had gone because she'd been cornered into going. She'd been given no choice in her opinion. Had the Highland Queen known her better, she would have pondered, "Why would a woman who is so deeply linked and devoted to a land...not wish to return?" But the Queen Regent of the Highlands was not the Queen, Vorgeen, a lifetime friend; nor was she Angus, a scamp of a Celt male.


Jadea knew that the answer was simple - there was a man resided on Britannia's neighboring Isle - Eire. This man was of noble blood and was a Highland native, but had chosen to leave in order to raise an army. Which he had succeeded in doing. So successful was his campaign that when he and the Sorceress Empress crossed paths for the first time, the Celt commanded some 500 men and women. About half of these, however, were known mercenaries. Their loyalty came from knowing that their leader had wealth with which to pay.


This man was the only traitor Jadea had ever spared.


In her early days, Jadea had executed anyone who'd committed treason, even women. Not Amazon women, but women who were capable fighters and who could have chosen to be Amazons in their time, had they not betrayed her.


Jadea tended to trust women more easily than she trusted men, and thus was more vulnerable to them when they chose to turn on her. Once, Jadea nearly lost her life to one woman who attempted to sell her out. Luckily, or unluckily, the traitor was killed when she chose to protect Jadea from an arrow. The woman's last words were a plea for forgiveness from Jadea. The woman died with honor - and her granted request.


The Highland Queen knew nothing of all this, of course. All she knew was that Jadea had vanished from her lands.


"Should we send a search expedition?" One of the younger Highland lieutenants asked of her Queen.


Dolphinea shook her head. Jadea had left without giving anyone even the slightest indication, which meant she'd not let herself be found. No use in exhausting her trackers to seek out a nonexistent trail.


"No, we let her be. Return to your post," Dolphinea ordered.


She was angered by the thought that Angus had been right to try to subdue Jadea when he'd had the chance. More than that, she was angered that Jadea had been the one to make him right.


Returning to Themiscyra...


Having overheard the new mother and the new Queen, Ardra had a sneaky suspicion that Samsara knew something now which she hadn't before. The guardian hawk resolved to discover what it was. For this, she went to find Seriana in the hopes of learning the answer.





A fluttering of wings announced Ardra swooping into Seriana's hut and landing on the floor. Seriana, who was still absorbed in the embroidery of her cloak, looked up. "Hallo, Ardra. All well?"


You tell me, said Ardra solemnly. Samsara's acting awfully strange.


Seri let the heavy wool fabric fall into her lap. "I know. She wouldn't even look at Jadea's letter, and I know she misses her as much as the rest of us."


She knows something.


"Samsara knows a lot of things."


Yes, but she knows very few things that will send her into shock, and she's in shock now. Did she tell you anything? Did you guess anything?


"Why should she tell me anything?" Seriana shoved the cloak to the floor in frustration and cradled her head in her hands. "Just because we're sisters, and she's my only blood relation that hasn't either died on me or disowned me, why should that be any obligation of trust?"


Seri, you know that few people value ties of blood the way you do. That's not the question. The question is: what is wrong with Samsara?


"Ask that Eastern woman. Samsara told me nothing."


But you learned something. Few secrets stay totally hidden from a demigoddess.


Seri raised her head up. "That's true. There is one thing I noticed . . . she flinched at my use of the word 'sister'. But that could just mean I'm being possessive and she's sick of it. Or maybe she feels like I've abandoned her. I don't know! I hate life," She fell back onto her bed and stared at the ceiling. "Why do things have to be so confusing?"


Try being a telepathic bird sometime.


"Yes; I guess that's true."


After a moment of reflection, she rolled to one side and propped herself up on her elbow. "Does Jadea know anything about it? Has she told you anything?"


Nothing. If she knows anything about Samsara's strange behavior, or the cause of it, she didn't hear it from me and she hasn't told it to me.


"Samsara made me promise not to write her about it. But I've got to write something or she'll get suspicious, and all I can think about is Sami."


Tell her Thalia and Garrett are breaking the ice. Tell her Medea cut her finger yesterday and swore for ten minutes about it. Tell her it looks like rain. There are lots of things to chatter mindlessly about.


"But then I'll sound like an idiot."


It happens sometimes.


Seriana finally smiled a little. "I don't know what we should do without someone so sensible in the village."


Ardra flicked her head to settle the feathers back in place, then hopped to the windowsill and took off. Seri watched her until she was out of sight over the woods.





 The words echoed in her head, "Ares is not your father."


"She wouldn't lie to me, Karma," she said to the child. She was still asleep, the little angel that she was. "But, how can this be true? I'm cursed with the knowledge that Ares is my father. That he took Mother for his own pleasure and that I came from that act."


She shook her head as she pulled out Rhea's Ruby. "She told me to use this, but I got it for my horse." The stone glinted in the light that trickled into Jadea's hut. Samsara stood, child and staff in hand, and walked out of the tent toward her own.


Seriana had finished writing her letter to Jadea. She stepped out of her hut as well, letting the mid-afternoon sun beat down on her face. She was nearly done with her embroidery, the family insignia that would connect her, Samsara, and Jadea. She saw her sister walk out of her aunt's hut, still pallid, still strange in demeanor. She made a beeline right for her.


Samsara saw Seriana walk toward her. Oh, no she thought. I can't deal with this now "What is it, Ser'?"


"Just wanted to talk to you."


"You didn't mention any of this to Jade, did you?" she queried, eyeing the letter in her hand. Seriana shook her head. "Good, then we have nothing to talk about," she walked past her toward the stables.


"Samsara!" she yelled. She spotted Medea making a path right to the Goddess. "Samsara, listen to me..."


"Kakistos!" Medea called.


Samsara turned to her right. She slit her eyes and looked right at the royal Amazon as she headed right for her. "Did you need something, Regent?"


"I am Queen and you will address me as such," Medea raised her nose a little.


Samsara chuckled. "Yes, yes, they need me by the river. Medea, as far as you and I are concerned, we are of the same rank. I did catch a bit of your thoughts. I'm not just an Amazon warrior. I am an Heiress. And guess what? That makes my sister, Seriana, next in line after me."


"Seriana is a Themiscyran, first an foremost--"


"With an unbreakable connection to Teloq through me. So I don't want to hear of any antics concerning you and her."


Suddenly, Seriana threw herself on Medea, pushing the Queen Regent onto the dusty ground. Out of her pouch fell a parchment. The blonde writhed out of the other's grip and screamed like a banshee, pulling out her daggers. But where Medea had once stood, an arrow now buried itself in the ground.


The three looked at the arrow and froze. Medea followed the line of the shot and her eyes focused on the shooter. She snarled, standing up. "Garrett!" she screamed as a small crowd of  interested Amazons gathered.


Samsara meanwhile, reached for the note that fell out of Medea's pocket. She smiled. It was the note Queen Dolphinea had left for her. She opened the parchment and read. Karma was still asleep.


Garrett looked at the Queen in complete fear. Pike was with him.


Medea stalked to them, her face turning all kinds of red.


"WHAT are practice grounds for?" she demanded in as sweet a voice as she could muster.


Out of earshot, Samsara chuckled. She had a bit of trouble understanding Dolphinea's note as she spoke a much different dialect of Amazon and had trouble writing in standard Themiscyran. Still, it was probably the best news she had gotten in a while.


Garrett was startled by the confrontational nature of the Queen Regent. He had no idea what to say to her.


Samsara did. With the child at her bosom, she called Medea's attention. "You won't treat a guest of Themiscyra this way," she said.


Mariko walked from the palisade toward the scene. She could hear Samsara's voice boom.


Medea turned to the Goddess and laughed. "You know what, Amazon Warrior? I am Queen of this tribe, get it? I will do as I please and if it means stopping our guests from shooting arrows at me, then that is what it means."


"Well, that's funny. Because according to this," she waved the papyrus at her,  "Says that  Jadea left Celtia and as I am her closest living relation, I am now your co-Queen."




Samsara laughed. She slammed the parchment onto the Regent's chest and walked toward the stables. "You'll leave Garrett alone. He is Themiscyra's guest."


"You're wanted by the river, not the stables, Teloan!" Medea was spitting mad.


"Oh, that reminds me, since I can't leave the grounds, especially now, please see to it that preparations for Karma's naming and casting are attended to. After all, you are Queen by caste," she chuckled as she walked past the Amazons.


Seriana ran after her sister. She caught up with her in an instant as they entered the stables. "What in the name of Artemis was that?" she demanded of her younger, but older-looking sibling.


"Celosia gave her rite of caste to two Queens. Until she returns, the caste follows the paths it normally would. When one Queen leaves, the next in line takes on the caste. That would be me. That is what Dolphinea had to say,” Samsara said.


"You were reading for a while. What else is in there?" Seriana was good at picking things up.


She didn’t answer.


They walked toward Prince's quarter. The black stallion snorted as his mistress approached.


Samsara handed Karma over to Seriana so the Goddess could pet her horse’s nose.


This child is of no relation to me whatsoever, Seriana thought. How can she fit into all this? What was Ishtar's plan? Why did she bring the child back to life? Seriana knew that Samsara threw her sword away because of the child. She new that her demeanor had changed, that she returned to normal after seeing Ishtar. But a child? To bring a child into this? "What was it that that Eastern Woman told you?"


"Her name is Mariko, Ser'," Samsara responded, not turning from her cursory grooming of her horse.


"Mariko, whatever. What did she tell you?" she demanded.


They walked outside as the Goddess took her horse out. Samsara reached into her pouch and pulled out the ruby, placing it snugly in the horse's soft spot. A bright light surrounded the horse and suddenly, he was endowed with great black wings that were an extension of his magnificent body. She mounted the steed. She looked down at her sister and with an ear to ear grin, she said:


"Wanna come for a ride?"






"Oh that little--!!!" Medea swore creatively. She had style, she had flair. And she clearly had no knowledge of what the human body was capable of, because the threats she spat out were quite anatomically impossible. "ERGHH!" The spiky-haired Regent seethed, slamming her fist into a nearby hut. It dented.


"WELL!" she bellowed after a moment's awkward silence. The Amazons surrounding her took several steps backwards, giving her room. "Don't just STAND there! FIX THIS!" Three Amazons scrambled off to find the mending materials it seemed the village was needing more and more often as of late.


Thalia could barely contained her grin as she spoke to Celosia’s younger sister.

"Are you going to see to the arrangements for Karma then, My Queen?" she asked timidly.


"No Thalia, I am NOT seeing to the needs of that banshee's demon spawn!"


"Well, to be fair, it isn't really her child . . ."


Medea shot the biomorph a wide-eyed warning, and Thalia backed off. "Should I be heading back to the river to work then?"


The Queen nodded with a scowl. "Do that," she advised in a forcedly polite tone. The Head Scout retreated with a responding tilt of her head, grabbing other sisters by the arms as she went. If she read this right, and she was fairly decent at reading Medea, no one would want to be near the Queen Regent for the next few hours. Or days.


Medea stormed back to her own hut and immediately whipped a dagger at the wall.

Another repair. Third this week. Very Queenly, Medea.


"Shut up, brain," she growled under her breath and flopped down on the hard floor. She ripped the pouch she had received from Dolphinea from her belt. Carefully she undid the ties of the bag and slipped the twilight bark out. She turned the item over in her hands, rubbing the smooth sides almost in experimentation.


Artemis almighty! Samsara? My co-Queen is that rabid bitch? Oh gods, I've got to find a way to get Jadea back. If I call her and I tell her the nation's in trouble or something...


Medea shoved the bark back into the bag and whipped it across the room as if it were poison. A look of extreme anger settled upon her sharp features.


NO! she screamed at herself in the harshest scold. Her hands actually shook a bit. A strange woman who can intimidate herself. You can do this yourself! You actually considering asking for that loser sorceress back? What, do you MISS her or something?



The young woman sneered at herself. She refused to admit that it was a bit more forced than usual. "Of course not," she muttered under her breath.


Medea picked herself up and retrieved her dagger from the wall. Marching proudly back into the hot sun of another fine working day in Themiscyra, the Amazon Queen nodded to herself. "Of course not."





Seriana handed Karma up to Samsara, then mounted the back of the now-winged steed. The Goddess handed the baby back to her sister, and the three took off.


 Prince launched into the heavens quickly and gracefully. Although he’d never flown a day in his life before, had never spent one day aloft, his heart knew what his body did not. He flapped with strength and without fear and both women could feel the joy that sang through him.


The air was cooler the higher they climbed, but they were warmed by Prince’s body and breath. Samsara guided him toward the mountains, then toward a cave on a plateau. Prince landed, snorting as his hooves hit solid earth again.


He bobbed his head and suddenly Rhea's Ruby shined as if it were Apollo himself. The light was focused on something, so Samsara took a hold of his reigns and pulled him into the cave. Seriana, cradling Karma against her for warmth, followed behind them.


His light focused on a smooth wall.


Samsara had witnessed the scene before, but Seriana had never been exposed to it. She watched, curious, as the drama unfolded on the wall before her, the pictures lively and moving. Instinctively, she stepped closer to her sister rocking the baby slowly.


Seriana never knew the acts surrounding her sister's conception; had never experienced a man or the violence a man could do to a woman. When the events began unfolding before her, the older grabbed hold of the younger with one a hand, but this scene no longer phased Samsara and she shrugged away from the grip, stiff and unyielding.


However, there was something that only Apollo and his twin Artemis knew. Once the scene the two women saw was over, Apollo appeared. He looked at the wall, then to the horse, then to a seething and stunned Silver Hawk, until his eyes rested upon the docile Goddess Kakistos of Destruction.


"So glad to make your acquaintance again, Goddess Samsara," he said, lowering his head. He was the God that gave her the least trouble during her interlude on Olympus. In fact, so long as she didn't threaten to make night day and day night, he was content with whatever was going on. His main objectives were wine, women, and song.


"Hello, Apollo," she said, looking at the God with a cocked eye. "What brings you here? Taking in the sights?"


"I came to tell you the rest of the story, as there are other elements hidden from you. Samsara, Hestia took pity on your grandmother when she was killed. She was a devoted priestess of Hestia's until she was forced to marry. She loved your grandfather yes, but she loved the temple more and always revered Hestia by staying chaste unless they wanted children. Now, your grandfather understood and he loved her so much that he would never and never did stray. Before the fire overcame your grandmother, Hestia appeared and granted one of her devoted worshippers a wish. She wished that the child inside her would see life even if she weren't to.


"Twenty-some winters later, Ares came into Callisto's life again and intended to destroy her. I caught a glimpse of the happenings in Zeus' chamber and I immediately went to Hestia, hoping that by replacing Ares' conception with Callisto's mothers’, the world would be spared a monster. I took the soul and went to the Labyrinth of the Gods, cloaked in invisibility. I placed the soul in your mother and I intended to stop Ares, but I was called back.


"There is something you should know. We weren't sure if the plan succeeded until Aratus, son of Asclepius told us that your mother was ... barren. She couldn't have possibly concieved you from the act."


Samsara shrugged. "So Ares isn't really my father?"


Apollo, taken aback by the docile reaction of his niece, nodded. "He did sire you, but he is not your father. He is your symbolic father, let's put it that way."


Samsara smiled, then looked at Seriana. "She is still my blood sister. No matter what anyone says." She looked over at where Seriana cradled the babe in her arms. Karma slept. "Thank you for telling me the truth, Apollo. Do the other gods know this?"


He shook his head. "Only, my sister Artemis, Hestia, and I."


She nodded. "Good. It'll do you well to keep this a secret if only for now," Samsara and Seriana mounted Prince, who turned, trotted out of the cave, and took off to return to Themiscyra.




“WHERE IS THAT ARTEMIS-FORSAKEN-BRAT AND HER SISTER?” Medea demanded. The co-Queen was on the rampage.





Four men sat around a crude wooden table in an abandoned barn. Each of them were unarmed, per their agreement, and spoke in turn about a matter of which they all had shared interest.


"We must unite together!" One of them was saying. He'd a soft brogue and simple features. The others nodded with consent.


These four men were bitter rivals, each the head of his own clan. Never before had a group of men hated each other so. This was not the first attempt at a truce and alliance the men had made.


Without a warning, a stranger leapt from above and landed hard on the table. The men, weaponless, jumped back before their nature took over and lead them to attack. All four stopped short.


The figure mocked them. "Tsk tsk tsk. I'd have thought ya had more brains among ya." The voice was feminine but strong. She spoke as though she had nothing but disdain for her audience.


"Who are ya?" One of them asked angrily.


Another added, "Show your face!"


The woman's face hid within her hood. She slowly raised her hands to slide it back. The men gasped which caused the woman to smile. "I want ya to deliver a message for me." She said sweetly.


Within moments, all four men lay dead on the floor. Their bodies were sprawled out as if knocked by a great force.


The woman looked around with great satisfaction and amusement. "Let thah game begin!" She remarked and vanished.


The old barn burned to the ground, but the bodies within were untouched by the flames. It was a sign to him. To beware because she was back.




Jadea waited in a spacious cave carved in a hidden hillside. She waved her hand, opening a window through which to see Themiscyra.


To her dismay, the Sorceress Empress observed her Queen Regent in a dangerous mood. She panned across the camp to see her Niece. Unable to find Samsara, Jadea growled.


I can't have this right now, she chided herself and closed the window. Jadea'd allowed herself to see very little of the events in Themiscyra. She didn't want to be distracted.


He'd be coming for her soon. And when he came...she'd be ready for him.




A tall, dark-haired man with crystal blue eyes and a fair complexion walked among the charred rubble. He was attired in a warrior's clothing. Several men stood behind him, and others were searching the grounds for any tracks or clues.


At last, the leader's lieutenant walked up to him and grimly reported. "All four of them are dead. There's nothin'. Whoe'er or whate'er i'was left no trace."


His commander shook his head. "No trace is her trace," he answered, more to himself really. The blue-eyed warrior turned his head. "Move out!"




Jadea watched as her previous love took his men away. She smirked a bit. "Don't feel so sore. I couldn't send the message without killin' the messenger."


Again, she clutched her stomach. A sharp pain struck inside her, reminding her of those she left behind in Themiscyra. The guilt drove her wild, and her hand brought forth the window once more.


Medea charged into the stables, fire in her eyes. She felt that if she called upon Jadea to resolve this, she would look weak. "Samsara Kakistos of Teloq, I challenge you!"


Seriana looked wide-eyed. Samsara, Seriana, Karma and Prince had just arrived back at the stables when the Queen broke in. Medea didn't even stop to notice that Prince had become a Pegasus.


"Queen Medea, you can't do this!" Seriana said. Medea shoved her out of the way and she fell to the ground on her backside, choosing to protect the baby when she could easily have rolled out of the fall.


Slowly, Jadea shook her head. Don't do it, Medea. Medea, don't do it! But there was nothing she could do. The window abruptly closed. She jerked her head up and listened. "Ah, here comes trouble!" She laughed and left the seclusion of the cave.


Although her devotion to Themiscyra pulled at Jadea's heart, her mind was too far set on vengeance.







The best Defense

Against a thief is

Not a six-foot rod,

But poverty.

--Zen folk saying


Samsara looked down at her fallen sister, then back at Medea. "You challenge me to a duel?" Samsara threw her head back and laughed. "Funny you should challenge me now, Medea, but I threw my sword into the river."


"Wh-Wh-WHAT?" Medea screamed. She was incredulous. Samsara throwing away her sword? Preposterous.


"Yeah. No challenge, sorry," She said, pulling her sister and Karma up off the ground. She tossed her ponytail with a smile.


"You can't deny the challenge unless someone fights in your place," Medea seethed.


They were just outside the stables and again another crowd of more interested Amazons began to form. The Highland Elders were in the foreground, watching the display of an angry Queen versus an oddly quiet one.


Seriana nearly said something when Samsara cut her off. "I will accept no replacements, Medea. I will not accept the challenge either."


The Queen Regent scowled. "This is a royal challenge, Teloan. That is the first thing. You will accept or abdicate. And my title is Queen and you will address me as such."


"And on what grounds do you propose such a challenge, Queen Regent Medea?" Samsara kept her voice steady. As much as she wanted to fight Medea, it wouldn't work. It just wouldn't work. She held her staff before her. The wind picked up and threw her long black hair back. Medea's blonde spikes whipped around her face.


"I challenge your ascension."


It was all the Goddess could do but fall onto the ground and convulse with laughter. "You challenge my ascension to the Throne? Darling, I am merely interim as are you until Celosia returns. I have no claim to the Themiscyran throne. I have claim to the Teloan throne."


"At least you admit it."


"Rules of ascension dictate that when the Queen leaves, her heiress ascends. It applied in your case and it applies to me."


"Jadea never named an heiress."


"Celosia demanded two Queens. One being you, and Jadea to assist you and curb your otherwise violent tendencies. Jadea left without naming an heiress. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Tribes along the river have held that blood ties will dictate the heiress. Even the Thermodonians go by this and they do nothing but fight," Samsara stated calmly to Medea. She was hoping that if Medea could not succeed in agitating her, the Queen Regent would leave her alone and go off grumbling as she always did. "I'm sick of this. Unless the Highlanders have anything to say, I will be on my way."


Mariko looked on as Samsara turned to leave the stable. Watch out, she thought. Medea is going to attack you.


And that the Queen Regent did. Thankfully Seriana and Karma were out of the way. Medea jumped on the Goddess, but Samsara's lightning quick moves enabled her to throw Medea far over and ahead of her. Medea landed on her side, rolling until she got to her feet and she jumped in the air, twisting, then back flipping until she was within a meter of Samsara. She suddenly turned on her heel again and brought her right leg up behind her to connect with Samsara's nose. The Heiress crouched down and the Regent only pushed air. In frustration, the blonde pulled out one of her daggers from her left side and crouched down, jabbing the weapon at her enemy.


"Do you realize I can flatten you with one energy blast?" Samsara cried as she twisted back right from her assault.


"ACCEPT MY CHALLENGE!" Medea cried. She threw her left forearm back to connect again, but Samsara twisted the arm down behind Medea's back.


"I will do no such thing," she hissed, pushing her away. They now traded positions. Samsara twirled her staff and stood in a defense stance, left side poised in front, right foot back, left hand up before her and staff ready to connect.


"But you stand ready to fight," Medea said, charging again. Samsara grabbed her staff with both hands and swung the wooden weapon until it hit the back of Medea's knees. The Queen Regent crashed to the ground and Samsara slammed the butt end of her weapon onto Medea's back. "I stand ready to defend. That's a heck of a difference."


Medea grit her teeth in pain. She wasn't sure which hurt more: the back of her knees or her 6th vertebrae.


Samsara didn't care. She put her hand in the small of Seriana's back and steered her out of the stables and into the village. With a parting look at the Queen she said, "I trust this conversation is over?"






Medea snarled fiercely as she watched her new co-queen leave. Well, I challenged the walking power-trip. Jadea, you'd better have a pretty good explanation waiting for me, I haven't ached like this since I first started training.


The Queen Regent ran a hand through her sweat-dampened spikes. Her sisters braced themselves for the burning fury they all recognized flashing behind her icy eyes. When she merely cracked her back and shook off the defeat, no one was sure what to think. "Well then ladies, are you going to scurry off to work like good little Amazons, or do I have to get loud?" she queried breezily as she leisurely made her way toward her own horse's stall.


A tall elder, suspecting the young woman was going after Samsara, held out a hand to stop her. Not the smartest move. Medea glared up at her with a look that clearly displayed how close she was to snapping.


"Queen Medea, it is my advisement that a member of the royal family under such a circumstance should not-" the aged woman began.


"Oh shut it," Medea spat and pushed past her. The elder, greatly offended but not surprised, followed her. She stopped, watching as the Queen picked up a pitchfork. Studying the older woman, Celosia's sister picked up another and tossed it so it landed at the elder's feet.


"Listen, I'm not going anywhere, so you can relax. I'm not that stupid. However, with the brat and her lazy-ass sister not doing anything all morning, we're short-handed." The blonde grimaced and dug her pitch fork deep into the pile of straw-mottled waste on the floor.

A fly settled on her nose and she blew it away testily.


"In order to be time-efficient a couple of jobs are going to have to be doubled up. Everyone else is busy working on more important things right now, and that means I'm going to have to pick up the difference. However, I also had planned to mull a few things over with you this afternoon. The obvious solution?" She half smirked and heaved the load into a nearby wheelbarrow.


"Pick up that fork, Elder, we've got things to discuss."






She didn't want to, but she had to admit that Ean was starting to grow on her. His incessant chattering hadn't ceased, but he did know a lot about the Amazon tribes between here and Ephesus, so it was nice to hear about her sisters that she'd never met. He was also an excellent cook, grilling the fish and small game that Celosia caught with spices he gathered from surrounding shrubs. And while Celosia really hated to admit it, he was quite easy on the eyes. He was a head taller than her, broad shouldered, and muscular, but not obnoxiously so. He had an engaging smile and a charming manner, and Celosia found herself smiling back at him more often than she wanted to.


She was watching him as he went about cooking the large river trout Celosia had grabbed from the water earlier. He had removed his long sleeved shirt, as the fire was quite warm, and his muscles were jumping and leaping just under his skin as he went about setting up the spit and grill. While she had grown up among women, Celosia had encountered many men in her life. Ean was definitely one of the better specimen of that half.


"Hades," she muttered under her breath. He looked up at her, the firelight playing off his features. "Nothing," she said, waving a hand and standing up. She walked down to the river and stood facing the rushing water. It was colder down here, away from the fire and human companionship. She watched the water as it kicked and tumbled over the rocks worn smooth by years. Absently, she rubbed her shoulders, trying to ward off the chill that she was getting.


She heard him approaching behind her, felt him drape her blanket across her shoulders, and watched him as he stood next to her, staring into the river. "What's going on?" he asked.


Celosia sighed. "I don't know. I'm thinking about my tribe. I left my younger sister in charge, and well... she's a bit of a temperamental young woman. I did leave instructions for another sister, an older and more diplomatic one, as co-Queen with her. It's just that... I wish I could know how they were doing." Actually, knowing my sister, maybe I don't want to know, she thought to herself.


Ean nodded. "I know what it's like to be away from your family and loved ones. I haven't seen my sister in five years."


"Why have you gone so long between seeing her?"


He shrugged. "We used to meet twice a year after I left the Ephesians. But you know, she gets the caste for Queen, starts training, can't get away..."


"Your sister is Queen," Celosia asked, amazed.


Ean laughed. "Yeah. Surprised that someone I'm related to can maintain a responsible position?" He nudged her with his elbow as she rolled her eyes. Suddenly she stood a little straighter, and the laughter had faded from her face. "What's wrong?" he asked looking across the river.


"Don't bother," she whispered. "It's too late." She spun and ran up the embankment, Ean following on her heels. As they reached the top of the bank, they heard splashing sounds, as the people following them sprinted across the river rocks. Celosia reached the camp first and grabbed her two short blades and turned to face whoever was coming after them. Ean grabbed up his own sword, short seconds before being attacked from the tree front.


"They're on all sides," he yelled to Celosia, who had just engaged two cloaked figures rushing her. She swung with one blade, making them duck, then coming back the other way with her other blade. Her attackers both thrust their swords toward her, but she used her own blades to deflect them. By this time there were too many attackers, and they had already forced Ean's surrender.


"Celosia," he yelled. She sliced the triceps’ of one of her attackers and faced the direction his shout had come from, only to see him being held with an arm around his chest and a knife to his throat. Muttering an oath, she threw down her blades, and was immediately grabbed from behind. Their attackers were speaking in a language that was vaguely familiar to Celosia, but before she could figure out why, she was knocked out from behind.




When she came to, her hands and feet were bound and she was in a wooden cage, Ean stretched out beside her. She shoved off with her elbow and managed to sit up, and surveyed her surroundings. They were in the middle of a camp, and people were milling all around. They went about their business as if there weren't an Amazon Queen and a strange man in their midst.


She caught parts of their conversations.


"Kwa nak tsini, okt copen nee gred."


"Chi, poy naya wern."


She thought she recognized the language, but she had always liked learning languages and during her Queen training had learned many of them. Since she wasn't paying attention, she didn't notice the people coming into the cage and grabbing Ean until she heard him stirring and protesting. She turned, and lunged, throwing herself across his torso and yelling. "LEAVE US ALONE! WHAT DO YOU WANT WITH US?" Their captors merely pushed her aside and dragged him out of the cage.


Celosia watched in horror as he was hauled over to a platform, where a figure sat with an ornate headdress on a throne. The figure stood, and all the people quieted.


"Cha nee mana tokna," the figure began. Celosia knew these words, knew what was going on, but could not remember how or why.


She continued to work on deciphering the language as she watched the figure pull a gleaming silver dagger out of the folds of its robe. The figure drew the dagger first in a circle over Ean's bare chest, then a line down the middle. Raising the dagger to the sky, asking for an invocation, and then aiming the dagger straight for Ean's heart, the figure went about the motions of a sacrificial ritual.


"Nee oka rayza!" The figure froze in the process of bringing the dagger down, and Ean opened one closed eye as everyone turned toward Celosia.


It's ancient Amazon. These people must be descendents of Amazons. "Nee oka rayza. Nee oka ray-tana," Celosia shouted. I am Amazon. I am Queen.


"Chi onka nat vedelen," the figure asked. Celosia was relieved to hear a woman's voice, asking her what she was doing in their territory.


"Nee oka ten nok'tana. Ik too nach medelen," Celosia replied. I am on a journey. We were just passing through.


The woman threw back the folds of her robe, and Celosia saw the tail of the dragon circling her upper arm. Raising the ornate mask, the woman's curly red hair cascaded forward. "Chi onka ray-tana, nekee chi bonda ree?"


What am I doing with him? That's a good question. "Kree ika mika... chendo'wen."


The other woman smiled widely and nodded. As Celosia remembered more and more of the language, it was no longer foreign to her. "Kayree, release our visiting Queen and find a hut for her and her chendo'wen."


Celosia stepped away from the cage as the gate was swung open and two Amazons rushed in to remove the bindings. The leader jumped off the platform and strode to Celosia. Once the Themiscyran was outside the confines of the cage, the other woman stuck out her hand. "I am Tenga, Queen of the Neridian Amazons. I apologize for your treatment - had we known we had another Queen in our midst, you would have been treated with the respect you deserve."


Celosia rubbed her wrists and looked around the camp, as other women removed their masks. She looked at Tenga, and smiled warmly at the older woman. Grasping her forearm, she responded "I am Celosia, Queen of the Themiscyran Amazons. Do you always speak ancient Amazon?"


Tenga released Celosia's arm before replying. "No. We use it for ceremonies such as this. It has been our tradition to use the language of the ancients the entire day of a Krahn'kee ceremony."


"Krahn'kee? Are you having trouble with men attacking you then," Celosia asked, curiously. She noticed that Ean had been hauled up behind her, but she paid him no attention.


Tenga laughed. "No, not really. We've adapted the ceremony some from the way it was originally intended. Instead of asking Artemis to bless us in battle against men, we ask her to bless us with fertility when mating with them. There is a settlement of men, half a day's journey down the river, that we Neridians visit when we need." An Amazon called to Tenga in the Neridian language. Tenga gestured to Celosia, indicating that the other Queen should follow her.


"We have been engaged in skirmishes against a group called the Huns. Our numbers have dwindled somewhat as a result, and we need to mate successfully to bring them back up. Ah, here we are, your hut, Celosia," Tenga said, the Themiscyran name foreign to her tongue, making it come out differently than is normally said. "I am sure you want to rest. If there is anything you need, please, do not hesitate to ask us. We all speak the language of the ancients, and we apologize deeply for your mistreatment."


Celosia paused outside the opening of the tent. "There is no need to apologize so. I do realize that it was a misunderstanding. I do however, have one question. Why would you attack us with no warning?"


Tenga lowered her head, knowing that the Neridians had broken a cardinal rule, to signal an attack with a bird call so that other Amazons may know and call out prior to an attack. "The Huns had learned our calls. We did not know if you were stragglers or spies of theirs."


Celosia nodded. "So you took the risk. I understand. I think I would have done the same thing had I been in your situation." She reached back and grabbed Ean by the arm, and shoved him into the hut. "Thank you, Tenga, for your hospitality." The Neridian bowed and backed away, and Celosia entered the hut.


"What was all that?" Ean asked.


Celosia sat down on the slightly raised mattress. "That was the beginnings of a Krahn’kee, and you were to be the so-called sacrificial lamb."


"Ah. And by calling out in that weird language, you saved my life. My hero. Or heroine," he said sitting down next to her. At his sarcastic crack, she shoved him off the mattress.


"That weird language happens to be ancient Amazon. I'm sure your sister would know it," Celosia said.


"So what did you say?"


"I said I was an Amazon Queen, that I was on a journey and we were just passing through the territory," Celosia said, running her hands along the mattress. The Neridians had stuffed it with some soft material, and Celosia was quite tired from her journey and the travails of her journey.


"Uh huh and what did you say about me? It had to have been something good to get me off the hook," Ean crawled back onto the mattress as Celosia laid down on her side.


"Oh, you are chendo'wen," she said with a yawn. Ean looked confused, then leaned backward, so that he was propped up on one arm and leaning toward Celosia. He reached out to smooth her hair, but hesitated.


"And just what is chendo'wen," he asked, trying to get the foreign word out with the right accent.


Celosia laughed sleepily. "Your sister would not be pleased to know that her brother was another Queen's chendo'wen."


Ean quirked an eyebrow. "Just what is this chendo'wen?"


Celosia didn't answer. He gently nudged her. "Hm?"


"Chendo'wen? What is it?"


"Oh," Celosia answered, curling into a ball and preparing to fall asleep. "Love slave."





Evening in Themiscyra ...


The two sisters returned to their hut. Samsara took Karma into her arms with a warm smile. Seriana meanwhile, was extremely quiet still. Samsara looked up at her.


"I don't know what to say about..." Silver Hawk began.


"No need to say anything. As far as I'm concerned you are my sister and closer to me than any other Themiscyran or Teloan. There is no need to talk about this to anyone. There is no need for them to know, and I want to use it as leverage against... Ares," Samsara nodded and smiled, another devious plan forming in her mind's eye.


There was a knock at the door and Seriana opened it to find a tall elder. "Heiress!" she said. "Preparations for Karma's naming and casting according to the scrolls on the Teloans you left are currently underway."


Samsara smiled. "Good, good. I would also like to plan Seriana's casting."


Seriana stiffened. Casting? But I'm not Samsara's blood...


"By Teloan dictates, she is a Princess. I would like to be sure that our Queen knows whom to agitate and whom to leave alone."


"Yes, Heiress," the Elder was gracious and left the two.


"Samsara what are you doing?" Seriana hissed. "You heard what Apollo had to say!"


"Yes, I did. I'm Jadea's sister... or something. No need to discuss this further. As far as the Themiscyrans and all the other Amazons are concerned, you are my blood sister, and as such, you will be caste with the rites to Queen should I die and Karma not be old enough to rule. You are Teloan," Samsara's voice was oddly filled with reason.


"Teloan for the time I was there..."


"Teloan by relation as well," the younger reminded her. "Do you want to accept my charge or do you want to be undefended against every person who could possibly challenge our relation? Think of it like this, Seriana, this provides protection for the both of us. If Medea bothers you, you can issue her a royal joust. She knows how well you can fight and the only reason she bugs you now is because you won't fight back since you aren't of her caste. Now you will be and she will be less likely to do anything to you. If she's smart she'll go after me instead."


Seriana nodded. It was all becoming clear to her now. Things were going awry without the true Queen.




"SHE DEMANDS WHAT?" Medea cried as she stopped in mid-lift of a load of dry hay. The Elder, relatively young, in fact, was becoming worried about Medea's increasing "botherablity."


"A Ceremony of the Caste for her blood sister Seriana by the Teloan ritual," the woman repeated, this time a bit more quietly.


"Who in the Hades does she think she is?" she asked, laying the fork down.


"High Princess, Princess-Hei--"


"I know who she is!" Medea screamed. She caught a glimpse of said person's mentor approaching. "Fine, fine, get right to preparations for that lazy-ass Princess of hers. We will commence when the moon rises."


Mariko reached her as soon as the Elder left. "Queen Medea," she said softly.


Medea jumped, both at the sincerity of the title and the fact that Japanese woman stood behind her for a moment before saying a word. Medea was angry at herself for not noticing the woman standing by her.


"Appease the Goddess, Your Highness. So long as Samsara is satisfied, there will be no problems." She kept her hands on her hips, right where her kens -- her single edged swords -- sat in their scabbards.


Medea peered at her, then nodded. "You're right. Yes, you're right. If she has what she wants, she won't go after more." She picked up the fork. "Yes..."


Mariko smiled as Medea got back to work. She was slowly working on her. Making her a better queen.


It was almost time for the Ceremony of Caste.



The village garden, in grievous condition after all the Majie excitement, was where Medea found Seriana. She was on her hands and knees, using a metal digging-stick to remove the weeds from around the carrots. It was housework, to be done by those out of favor with the Queen, or as in the older tribes, by captive men. Still, there she was, her fingernails stuffed with dirt, working hard and being oblivious as she could to the tension stirring in the village.


"Are you sure you shouldn't assign Garrett to do that, Highness?" Medea asked.


Seriana sat back on her heels. "Your Majesty, as of this moment I am a warrior, a warrior that was raised as a kitchen-servant. Someone needs to do the job; I am doing it."


Medea snarled. "That's really irritating, the way when anything goes wrong you just look at people with those big blue eyes and ask 'What did I do?', while you send your sister to usurp my rule. The rule that Queen Celosia entrusted to me. The more Samsara does, the calmer and sweeter you act. Perfect, pitiable, helpless, abused little 'orphan'."


Seriana smiled, and it was not a very nice smile. "I behave myself when you are upset because it makes you more upset, and I quite enjoy watching that."


Medea smiled back. "I hope you do enjoy it, because one of these days it's going to be the last thing you see."


"My life belongs to the tribe, for my Queen to dispose of as she will."


"Got that right," Medea vaulted over the fence and approached Seriana. The latter put down the digging stick and got a hand on her dagger. "What's the matter, Warrior? Afraid of me?"


Seri nodded. "I am afraid of you. I'll admit it."


"Even though you are supposedly a Princess?"


The word 'supposedly' hit deeper than Medea realized. Seri knew every drop of blood in her veins, she knew every right it gave her . . . the right to be called 'Princess of War', the right to sit in the Olympian Council in her father's place, the right to take her mother's name as a title added to her own . . . but there was not a drop of it that declared her an Amazon Princess.


Medea’s presence proved that Samsara had a point. She needed protection from Medea; needed to be able to fight her and not be obligated to lay down her life. If she didn't take her sister's rite of caste, it would look suspicious to those who would use Samsara's true birth against her.


"Even though I am a Princess," she decided to say.


In her mind, she swore an oath. Artemis, I know what I am and I know what I am not. I am Samsara's sister, and will be forever, but I am no Amazon Princess. Change me into a vixen with the hounds on her heels if ever I dare to challenge Medea, who is rightful Queen, for my own gain. Upon my life and my humanity I swear I will not. My loyalty and my responsibilities must come before my hatred.


She got up out of the dirt, bowed to the Queen Regent, and returned to her hut. Her mask, carved as a hawk's head and decorated with the beads and feathers of an Amazon warrior, lay on her cot. Queen Ephiny the Second had bestowed it on her, along with the title of Silver Hawk.


She took the mask and went to participate in the ceremony.





Events in the Celtia Isles were a bit more gruesome.


Within five hours of arriving in Eire, the Sorceress Empress had taken the lives of four clan leaders - all of whom were her enemies in some form or another. She'd also reconciled with a man by the name of Conor, her old right arm in the days when she commanded her own legion. The hazel-eyed man greeted Jadea's return with great pleasure. Because of their renewed allegiance, Conor had taken the men and marched on the clans belonging to the dead leaders. Those who opposed his warriors died. The rest were kept under heavy guard.


The good noble General hadn't counted on Jadea having such a force to back her. When she'd left the Isles, the woman had forced her men to disband. Obviously, Conor at some point had rallied them and remained in charge of their activities. Perhaps, he anticipated that Jadea would one day return.


While prowling the lands on four wolf paws, the Sorceress heard word from Queen Dolphinea through the Twilight Bark. Word through the royal chain of command was that Samsara Kakistos and Seriana Silver Hawk had returned to Themiscyra. Word was that Samsara's new daughter was to receive her name and caste.


A sharp pain stabbed into Jadea's heart. You should be there! This is an important event for your Niece and her babe. You should be there with your Amazon Sisters! Not trekking after this ghost from your past!


Her heart was quite adamant. So persistent with grief and guilt, in fact, that Jadea decided a quick trip to Themiscyra would be all right. She'd simply make a discreet appearance and slip out after the ceremony.


Her vengeance was not to be denied. No, I cannot. Medea will surely be upset if I come back and leave again. I must take care of him first!


Jadea ran stealthily across the quiet valley. She felt her heart racing inside her chest. The unfettered freedom she remembered knowing so long ago came back to her. As a wolf, her senses were stronger, but so were her feelings. Soon, her feelings were of loss. The defeat of the battle she'd fought with this man still traveled with her, even now. Rumyna, Vorgeen, and Celosia had helped to ease her pain, to channel her anger and discipline the use of her powers. But nothing could compensate for the treasonous act he made against her.


Before Samsara was born, Jadea lived in Celtia. She had spent her time uniting many rival clans. Eire had been divided into two kingdoms with several provinces. The two kingdoms often clashed as disputes regarding borders and troops, even loyalty, drove many to despise anyone not from their kingdom. Jadea was one of the few things that both kingdoms agreed upon. She protected the Isle from Britannia, who occasionally felt the need to exert their forces or make an exhibition of how great and powerful they were. Jadea was the balancing power between both Isles, reminding them regularly of the common ground, and sea, they shared. She could make them see that they were neighbors and would make for better allies than enemies.


Jadea had not been Sorceress Empress then, of course, that had been Rumyna. The Sorceress did not live in Celtia but visited from time to time to check up on her protégé. During one such visit, she was unsettled to learn that Jadea had amassed a wide number of men - men who hunted, men who tracked, and men who fought. Simply put, Jadea had compiled herself quite the little army.


"Jade, why are there troops here? Why are there soldiers in your command?" Rumyna had asked her gravely.


"I need them to keep the peace," the young woman had told her as if it were obvious and logical.


"War does not create peace, nor does it keep it, Jadea," Rumyna told her.


The wolf put it the memory of her mind as she reached the camp where her men waited. She reverted to her old self in front of them, reveling in the amazed looks she received. One man quickly came up to her, placing a clenched fist over his chest.


"Conor has sent word that Inishmoor, Kilkenar, and Olrsha have been taken."


Jadea smiled, nodding. "Good, good. And what about Lagore?"


Her man froze at the word. She'd expected no less from any Celt loyal to her.




Jadea put up her hand to stop him. Her lips were curved, marking her amusement. "Don't worry 'bout it. I know, already."


Lagore. Jadea's men had lost that battle. Hit by a wave of terror and shock, Jadea would've committed her men to death had it not been for the fact that Conor had taken command and called a retreat. Angus had insured that the order was spread to the men and immediately carried out.


She remembered she’d still been grieving and overwhelmed with rage at the failed battle, the betrayal and the deaths when she had been given worse news. A tribe of Amazon women living in the northernmost region of Eire had been ambushed and not one Amazon lived; elder, maid nor child. Their animals had been slaughtered and the meat poisoned.


Angus had reported to her that the Amazons had been too strong and too wise to have been defeated so easily from the outside. When asked to explain himself by Conor, Angus had stated that someone must have tricked the Amazons. Someone they trusted had betrayed them and murdered them.


Only one answer presented itself to Jadea – the General. He'd betrayed her. They would have trusted him, she had thought, because of me.


The reality was far different. They’d known him before he’d led her army of “peace” and had aided the Amazons in battle before she’s recruited him. He had been more trusted under her command because the Amazons trusted her without question, true.


Still Jadea blamed herself for the deaths of every member of the Amazon tribe that had been slaughtered. She knew under Amazon law that she should be punished with death herself. But she was the only one who had thought so and although she asked the Amazons to punish her, they refused. That left her to carry out Amazon justice and she had been determined to do so.


She shook herself and returned to thinking about Lagore. In the present, it was simply land. Enough time had passed that the ground was no longer soaked with blood. The stench of decaying corpses had long since dissipated, and the wretched ugliness was replaced as Nature reclaimed the area. Still, it stood as a beacon in Jadea’s mind and she knew that it needed to be hers, as devoid of life as it was.


Conor soon returned by himself. His eyes lightened and his face smiled to see Jadea. She was just as he remembered her; fierce, strong and unyielding. "I've just conquered Kaythaia, my Empress!" He reported as his horse trotted up before her.


Jadea smiled with great approval. "Well done, Conor. I trust ya've told ya're men that they're not to harm the women and children?"


Conor nodded. "Aye, of course. Although, Jadea...some women are tougher than their men."


"Aye, I know that. Come down and walk with me."


Conor dismounted and handed the reins to one of his men. Jadea hadn't formally reclaimed her position as their leader and had no intention of doing so. Conor led the men and Jadea was happy to let him be their inspiration and their focal point. As long as she had control of Conor, the situation was fine with her.


Walking through the camp, Jadea began to feel strong again. She felt the old urges she used to feel when she commanded her men. Her blood began to lust for battle, and she found that the more time that passed the less she fought the feeling. Gradually, the influences of the Amazons on her motivations were beginning to unravel. In one brief moment, Jadea saw this with crystal clarity.


She suddenly felt weakened by the distance between herself and her Amazon Queens. Vorgeen had departed so suddenly and soon after, Celosia had chosen to leave. Dolphinea was miles off in the Highlands. Queen Medea was in Themiscyra and the Sorceress had left abruptly with little explanation, so Jadea was sure the woman would welcome a visit. There were Amazon tribes here in Eire, but Jadea had not been to see them in so long that she was uncertain of what welcome, if any, she might receive.


All in all, Jadea felt isolated from the Amazons. And while the return to her old life instilled a new kind of strength and passion in her, the longing for her Amazons ate away at her. She needed to go back, if only to cure the hunger she had. Perhaps, she thought, a “snack” would suffice.


Conor, ever astute to the moods of his commander, felt the shift of her mood. "Somethin' stirs ya, aye?"


Taking a deep breath, Jadea replied, "I'm leavin' for a quick trip."


The Sorceress had her doubts about returning to Themiscyra so soon after she'd left. The part of her that most desired revenge believed that if she went back to Themiscyra before completing her plan in Celtia, even for a short while, she would not have the strength to let leave again.


The Celt, who stood an inch or so taller than she, noticed the reluctance in her voice. She wanted to go, but she didn’t want to go. He didn’t want her to go, so he asked, "what for?"


"I've a matter to attend to," she answered. "Someone needs me." Jadea cleared her throat to stop the eruption of emotions she sensed were coming. "I want ya to kill the men of the villages we've taken after I'm gone. Take the women to the eastern Amazon tribe."


Conor nodded. He seldom if ever questioned Jadea on her orders. Generally, he understood them and her reason for giving them. Yet, whenever he did not - or the few times he disagreed with her - Conor could always tactfully voice his concerns. "And thah wee ones?"


"Thah gurls go with 'em." She answered, keeping her eyes straight forward. Jadea felt the look he was giving her.


Conor opened his mouth as though he might say something. He wasn't sure, though, if he wanted to inquire or state something. Finally, he asked her the question she knew he would. "And what about thah boys?"


"Thah boys go to 'im. Leave them in their villages. He'll soon sweep through with his men when word reaches of what's done. Any boy of fightin' age is tah be killed. Understood?" Conor faltered, which caused Jadea to stop walking. She looked at him intently. “Understood?"


He nodded upon seeing that she meant her words. In Celtia, a boy of "fightin' age" need only be seven. Generally, a lad began his training at seven years of age. Even those who farmed were taught some fighting skills. The men were taught to protect their clans, their mates, and their land. There was no excuse for a man who did not.


"Aye, Empress," he said. He grew silent, though as they resumed walking.


Conor began to fear Jadea's intentions. The killing of children had always been one of the absolute lines that Jadea had refused to cross, even in her darkest days. While he understood that if the lads lived they'd only grow up to hate her and become her enemy, he knew this was not Jadea’s way. Asking him to kill children worried him beyond measure.


After a few minutes, Conor asked her when she planned to return. He had concerns about her absence, since the General already knew she was in Eire. "Soon. If three days pass and I am not back, I want ya to take the men and flee to the Highlands. Send word to Queen Dolphinea before you arrive. I want her to know that you're not moving against her."


If Conor was not shaken before, he certainly was now. "Flee to the Highlands? Hide among the Amazons with Queen Dolphinea? Jadea, we cannot evade this war we’ve started!"


She stopped short and turned to him. "I've no bloody intention of evadin' this, Conor! I know full well what I must do!" Her voice rose angrily, and many of the men stared.


Conor was first to notice they had an audience. He looked at her with sudden calmness. "Aye, aye...all right, then." His voice was soft. For an instant, he sounded like Angus.


The Sorceress Empress shook her head, appearing apologetic. Her outburst was a clear sign that she was not her usual self. One of the virtues Jadea'd prided herself on was her ability to remain calm in front of her men. No matter the grief brought on by casualties or the frustration when trying to outguess and outmaneuver the opponent could shatter her outward appearance. This allowed her men to draw from her strength and find support in the way she handled herself.


She told him, "I don't want him goin' after ya without me here is all. He shan't e'en know I've left, Conor, but I want you safe until I get back to you and the men."


He could tell she wouldn’t be swayed, but he was satisfied that she wasn’t asking him or his men to cut and hide. He nodded to show he understood and they resumed walking.


Her mind went to Celosia for a moment, but she quickly turned it. While she wanted news of the Queen, to send her any kind of thought would deplete her powers and reveal her location to the man she hunted. She didn’t dare even think of her friend.


"When will you leave?" Conor's voice cut through Jadea's thoughts.


"No time like thah present," she replied and noticed the immediate expression on his face. He’d been hoping to change her mind in the coming days. Her head tilted to one side slightly, a smile curving her lips. "Ya'll see that my orders are obeyed?" He nodded.

"Good, then," she said and turned to go.


Behind her she heard the commander call out, "Safe journey!"




Jadea arrived in Themiscyra without arousing attention. She wanted to be at the ceremony and to attempt to conceal herself was ludicrous with that in mind. Still, the woman planned to reveal her presence to a select few, chiefly Queen Regent Medea.


As it happened, the Themiscyran sorceress appeared just in time.





The moment Jadea was on Themiscyra ground, Ardra knew of it. As guardian hawk, Ardra could sense Jadea as naturally as one breathes. She immediately drew attention away from Jadea's position, hearing her intent to remain hidden from most of the tribe. Squalling rather noisily, Ardra lead the Amazons toward the ceremonial grounds.


Medea, the Sorceress sent to the Queen Regent before approaching her. The woman was alone, but Jadea hadn't wanted to scare Medea with her presence.


The Queen Regent blinked in disbelief. Her eyes narrowed as she prepared to launch into a tirade with the Sorceress Empress. She was seconds away from spilling out every complaint she had; from the way Jadea had left her and tramped off to some Artemis forsaken land to the goddess bitch and her goody-two-shoes sister.


But Jadea was quick. With a swift motion of her hand and fingers she made Medea unable to speak. Medea launched into her discussion at the very top of her voice only to find that not a sound issued from her mouth. Her eyes widened with shock as her face contorted in anger at what had been done to her.


"Wait! Wait, please just listen, Queen Medea," Jadea pleaded quietly. Though no Amazons were nearby to hear her, she was paranoid of being found out. If word spread that she was back, there'd be no way she could leave again. “Medea," Jadea said sternly. The Queen made obscene gestures and looks at her, her only method of communication. "Me-Medea will you stop it? I've come back for the ceremony."


The Queen Regent rolled her eyes, her arms again conveying much of what she couldn't say aloud. Jadea was also catching most of the Queen's thoughts. They went something like this: Oh, how GRACIOUS of you to come back for that little BRAT'S CEREMONY! Have you ANY IDEA what that woman has done? Hades no! How could you! I mean you don't even care! NO! You just go abandoning your duties here to traipse across the land for islands unknown!


"Medea, I also came back to help you." Jadea's voice was solemn, her eyes showing Medea that she meant her words. The Queen motioned to ask Jadea to give her voice back.


"Do you promise not to scream or reveal that I'm here?"


Medea nodded and Jadea reversed the spell. The Queen Regent looked at her silently for a moment. "You're not staying, are you?"


"I wish I could," the sorceress replied, glancing at the ground. She was feeling deep guilt coming at her from all angles. By simply being here at all, she felt she was going back on her deal with Ishtar. Jadea also felt guilty for leaving Conor behind to deal with the trouble she'd started. And Jadea felt extremely ashamed for coming back home knowing that she was only going to leave once the ceremony ended.


Medea didn't say anything right away. Despite her fighting it, the woman was gradually becoming more and more the Queen her sister had wanted her to be. Medea was learning to try to understand the motivations of others. As Regent, she hadn’t cared that she didn’t care enough to try. "You came because you know about Kakistos and Seriana, don’t you?"


Jadea didn't answer, but she nodded.


"So how did that horse get wings?" Medea asked. She followed it with a long list of other questions she had. "Why the Hades wouldn't Samsara fight me? Where have you been and in the name of the gods, when are you coming back?"


As the Queen paused to take a breath before her next question, Jadea shook her head, raised her hand, and interrupted. "Queen Medea, stop. Listen, I understand you have questions. I understand you don't like this. I . . ."


"Wrong, I detest this!" Medea corrected.


"Yes, you detest it. So do I, believe me. Had I done what I should've when I had it to do, I'd not be faced with it now. Rest assured that when I am finished in Britannia, I will be back."


"Not if Samsara claims the throne," Medea shot in.


Jadea lifted her eyebrow but quickly shook her head. "Sami won't. Now, will you join me in going to the ceremony?" Medea gave her a look that she could easily decipher. "We'll talk in private afterward. You have my word."


With Jadea's word that she'd not leave until speaking to her, Medea nodded and the two headed toward the gathering. The Queen was quick to notice that nobody other than her could see Jadea. She also noticed that Jadea's steps were light and that the Sorceress made no noise.


What she didn't count on, however, was her Niece's ability to sense her.


Ardra observed from a high seat. She remained quiet, knowing that Jadea would send her thoughts if she wished. To ensure that she did not give away Jadea's position, Ardra avoided looking at her Mistress. Still, she kept an eye on her.


The feeling in Themiscyra was far different from what Jadea felt in Eire or Britannia or any Isle of Celtia. It filled her inside as the Amazon spirit often did. Words cannot do justice to how she felt as she heard one of her Sisters laugh, or the pride as she heard fighting at the Training Ground. The atmosphere was strong, and to an outsider it was intimidating and dangerous; to Jadea, it was home.


Jadea’s pendant had turned the hue of a gentle cream. Her mood was tranquil and solemn. Yet, she felt a sense of pride for her Sisters. And tonight, even more so for Samsara and Karma. She knew she’d made the right choice to come.


Leaving would be more difficult than facing down the Majie. For how do you fight those you love?





Just as Karma was receiving her name and all the rights and privileges that came with, the pendant belonging to the Sorceress Empress glowed with fire. She attempted to conceal it by placing her hand over it, but she was too late. The light had caught Samsara's eye. She stood on the platform looking as frozen as a deer hearing a hunter in the wood.


"Sami?" Seriana whispered softly. The Goddess didn't answer.


I know you're here, Jadea, she thought as her eyes focused on the area the light had come from.


Those watching looked from the platform to Queen Medea’s side and back again with curious confusion.


Oh, no you don't you wretched fool! If you blow this, Jadea will bolt! I know it! Medea reacted quickly and stepped into Samsara's line of vision.


The young Goddess lifted an eyebrow with suspicion in her eyes. Queen Medea played off the awkwardness with nonchalance. As she turned toward the gathering, Samsara looked again in the same spot as before. She was met with disappointment. Internally, Queen Medea sighed with relief to find that Jadea had both moved herself and brought her cloak around to cover the crystal's incandescence.


"Sisters of Themiscyra! I present to you-"


"JA..DE..A!" Samsara yelled suddenly, pronouncing each syllable with the sharpest precision. Her daughter remained quiet, but awake.


Even though none of the Amazons in Themiscyra held the knowledge of how to summon the Sorceress Empress, they didn't have to this time. Jadea appeared to the far left, set off from the others. She walked slowly towards them and heard the widespread gasp beat singularly within her.


Mixed emotions were had by all. Some were too stunned for words while others made quiet remarks, like "Artemis has safely returned her." As for the Queen Regent of the tribe, she closed her eyes and shook her head. No, no, no, no,! Medea opened her eyes and looked from Jadea to Samsara.


In the audience, Antigone exchanged looks with Valkyra. The two began to move through their Sisters toward the platform.


The Goddess held her child in her arms. Her expression was distraught but grim. She was not sure which emotion she wished to dominate her - her relief for her Aunt's return, or her anger for her Aunt leaving and not informing them that she was coming back.


Seriana stood to her left. She was surprised to be handed Karma as Samsara stepped down and prepared to confront Jadea. Medea was on her heels, and Valkyra soon stood near her Queen. As Samsara reached Jadea, Medea reached Samsara, and Valkyra reached Medea.


Antigone, meanwhile, swiftly made it to Jadea's left side. The Sorceress Empress appeared awfully calm for one so obviously caught being sneaky. Yet the Huntress knew that the Sorceress’ mood could change in a flash. She'd noticed before how she seemed able to assuage Jadea's temper so she stepped close in case she were needed.


Medea's fear was that if Samsara did or said anything to alarm Jadea, then the Sorceress would immediately leave. She’d made it clear to Medea that she'd left the Isles abruptly to attend the ceremony. This implied to her that Jadea had yet to conclude whatever business she had there.


Valkyra was concerned that Queen Medea might lose control of her temper and do something she'd regret. Such as beating the pulp out of Samsara.


Seri stood on the platform, holding the babe in arms protectively. She felt torn between the safety of the child and defending her Sister. Knowing that Samsara would want her to protect Karma from any fighting, the Silver Hawk stayed put.


"Kakistos, don't you-"


"Medea, shut up! Shut the Hades up!" Samsara snapped sharply.


"Samsara," Jadea said softly but stopped herself.


The Goddess took her eyes off her Aunt to turn halfway and look at the Queen Regent. "You knew she was here? By the gods, you did! You knew she was here! How long as she been here, huh? Tell me!" Samsara was livid. It had been painful enough thinking that her Aunt and Queen Celosia both were going to miss an important event in her life. To find out that her Aunt had returned to be there but had no intention of telling her? That was beyond acceptable.


Valkyra watched the Queen Regent closely, ready to intervene on a given moment. Antigone, too, readily stood to halt them. The High Princess, the Queen Regent and the Sorceress stood glaring at one another.


At last, Jadea snapped. " ALL RIGHT THAT'S ENOUGH!" Even the Amazons a hundred feet away jumped. Jadea's anger could rival Medea's own at times. This became clear each time she lost her cool. "Samsara, yes Medea knew I was here. I told her not to tell any of you."


She paused to take a breath, during which Samsara seized the opportunity to say, "But why?"


"I'm not even supposed to be here," Jadea's expression began to soften when she saw that Samsara looked ready to cry. Her Niece had just realized that Jadea intended to leave again. What tore at the Sorceress was knowing that she'd wanted to be present for this special Amazon rite, but her good intentions had only upset the whole event.


Of course, Jadea had also wanted to speak privately with Queen Medea. She knew Samsara was giving Medea trouble, and Jadea had planned to handle it for good.


"I came only to see Karma initiated into our tribe," Jadea remarked calmly.


"Then you're not," Samsara's voice cracked in the silence. "Then you're not staying?"


Jadea shook her head and stepped forward. She offered her hand to her Niece, and Samsara took it. The Sorceress pulled the woman to her and gave her a hug. Antigone and Valkyra looked at each other, each smiling a bit. For as sorrowful as it was, the scene was also warming to the soul.


The Goddess pushed back away just a bit. Jadea saw that Samsara had successfully fought her tears but didn't think she could much longer.


Until now, Medea had been quiet. "May we proceed with the ceremony, or are you two going to hold the rest of us up all night?"


Jadea chuckled, looking over Samsara's shoulder at the Queen, and nodded. "Yes, yes. Let's continue. Artemis knows it's getting late."


Jadea walked into the crowd of her Sisters and many of them clasped her hand and patted her shoulder while making comments and welcoming. All were silenced as Queen Regent Medea cleared her throat.


Ardra flew down and landed gracefully on her Mistress' arm. Jadea brought her arm toward her, stroking the hawk's feathers. You missed me too, huh?


The bird gave her attention to those on the platform, particularly to the child. She was barely heard when she answered, you've no idea.


By mid-morning, the Sorceress Empress left Themiscyra. She would leave behind three promises:


The first was to return as soon as her affairs in Britannia were completed.


The second was to resume her role as co-Queen, despite her absence. Samsara objected to this, but she had little vote. The tribal Elders and Queen Regent Medea agreed only to recognize Jadea as the sole co-ruler.


The third was harder for Jadea, but there was little choice. The Themiscyran Queen Regent would be able to communicate with Jadea anytime she wished. This would force Jadea to use much of her power in order to keep link open with Medea, but the cause was worth it. Keeping the link open would allow the Sorceress to hear any thoughts Medea sent to her provided that the Queen had the emerald with her at the time. After talking with some of her Sisters who also held knowledge of magic, Jadea decided that using a combination of the Twilight Bark in addition to her own sorcery would lessen the degree of power drain.


Before she left, the Amazon Sorceress also spoke with Medea in private as she'd earlier promised to.


"I'm not going to say that the camp is falling apart. It's not!" Medea said.


Jadea nodded, watching Medea pace back and forth while talking.


"It's just that . . ." Celosia's sister stopped and looked at her audience. "When you were here, things weren't so tense. Samsara didn't get in my way. Seriana was more respectful. I didn't have to look at that blasted Garrett!"


The Sorceress seemed more amused than she expected to be. This was as close as Medea would come to admitting she needed Jadea around. She refrained from saying so and instead said, "Medea, I will return. I'd not have left if I thought you weren’t capable enough to run things."


"So, I'm incapable?" Medea asked, taking the sentence out of context.


"No you're not. You're simply learning. And you'll continue to learn until you die. No Amazon Queen ever reaches a point where she knows all, feels all, and is all."


Medea looked away, appearing to be uncomfortable. "You know, you're starting to sound like Celosia."


Jadea chuckled. "I take it as a compliment." Her eyes sparkled for a moment before the glitter faded. She'd just let herself think about Celosia a second too long. Jadea missed the woman deeply. Celosia was the one Amazon to remind her of Rumyna the most. She rose to her feet just as Medea looked at her again. For a minute, neither seemed to say anything. At last, though, Jadea had to speak. "I must go. I've spoken to Samsara, and she's agreed to respect your authority on the condition that you do the same."


The Queen Regent stiffened with a growl. "Hey, who wanted who to challenge who, anyway?"


Oddly, Jadea'd understood her even if no one else could have. "Just don't pick a fight with her. I suspect there's a deeper reason for her behavior than just Karma."


"Oh yeah? Like what? Tainted blood?" She quipped sarcastically. Her words affected Jadea who grew eerily quiet and cold. "I didn't mean that," the Queen replied. Her co-ruler shook her head. "It doesn’t matter. I must go now. Keep things as peaceful as you can. I don’t think I’ll be away long."


With her final word, Jadea was gone. She did an unusual thing by teleporting directly to Eire. Such a task would weary even the strongest magician. She sought sanctity in the same cave as before. The privacy allowed her to weep, an act she'd not often done in life. The last time had been at the "death" of her beloved.




Rest did the sorceress a lifetime of good. She was soon in Conor's encampment. The men were relieved to see her as she walked through and looked each in his eyes.


"Rider!" A shout came from the far end of camp. The warning was soon followed by another in the ancient Erin tongue. The voice belonged to Conor himself. He trotted quickly through the ranks of men, stopping short in front of his Empress.


"Impressive timin', Empress. I've good news for ya! Thah General sent his personal messenger."


Jadea's eyes set with a tight suspicion. The warrior woman had anticipated this course of action, but it nonetheless displeased her. She watched as Conor dismounted and stepped up to her. He handed her a rolled parchment.


The Amazon needed only to glance at the script to know the writer was the General. He confirmed knowledge of what she'd done and requested to meet with her alone under a flag of truce. To ensure that no treachery could be done by either side, he offered that the two meet on neutral ground at a fairy circle.


Legend stated that any mortal who stepped within the circle of fairy stones would become unable to move from the spot. It also was said that that any two enemies who stepped inside at the same time would not be paralyzed, but would be able to reach compromise without threat from the other.


"So, are ya goin'?" Conor asked upon seeing that Jadea was silent.


"'Tis a trick," she stated.


Conor scoffed and nodded. "Aye, bloody sure! But are ya goin'?" He asked, seeming to disregard the knowledge that it was a trick.


Jadea shook her head a little. "I don't know. I've given me word that I'll end this quickly," she seemed to be speaking to herself.


No doubt, her commander wished to use the truce as a way to lure the General's men out and straight into an ambush. Jadea was not as eager for this.


Rumyna had once told her that the hardest thing to overcome is often the situation we least expect to be. She was, naturally, referring to those events in life we think we can handle but find are more strenuous or formidable than we first expected.


But Jadea hadn’t ever believed that facing her past love would be a breeze. She had known that the trial would be as much of the heart as it was of the mind. As determined as her mind was set upon revenge, her heart tended to waver every so often with the issue of him.


Finally, Jadea snapped out of whatever trance she appeared to be in. Her head came up as she looked at Conor. "What of my order before I left?" She inquired, having realized that no report of them had been given.


"All were followed, my Empress," Conor bowed his head. "The women were given ta thah Amazons with their daughters. The lads were killed. I oversaw their executions personally."


The Sorceress Empress nodded with satisfaction. "Good. Now assemble ev'ry last soldier and march them north. I'll meet with ya in one hour, do ya hear?"


"Aye, Empress," Conor nodded. Jadea turned from him and began to walk away. Conor called out. "How far north?"


Without turning around to answer, Jadea shouted, "When ya reach Lagore, stop!"


Conor watched the back of the woman who strode further and further away. Her plan suddenly blindsided the Celt.  Jadea meant to re-create the Battle at Lagore. Only, she planned to re-invent it in such a way that the results were different.


The realization terrified Conor to no end. He couldn't summon the nerve to betray Jadea, but his fear that her methods would get her killed almost overwhelmed him. It was madness…but a madness he would see through to the end.


The sorceress did not send a message back to the General. She scurried across the lush grass as a fox. Like her Sister, Thalia, Jadea enjoyed living as various creatures and animals. One's scope of life, their senses...all were quite different in another form.


She quickly morphed herself into a wolf, her fur a deep gray. Jadea brought her nose up and sniffed several times. On the last, she caught his unmistakable scent. A stray thought entered her mind.


I wonder how many of my Sisters would understand what I am doing? The unseemliness as well as the matter of the thought surprised Jadea. She chided herself for the distraction.


Jadea watched the General ride alone on his chocolate brown horse. He scanned the vicinity with a strange concentration. Lookin' for me, are ya? Jadea snickered in her mind.


With impeccable timing as only an Amazon Queen could have, Medea chose this particular moment to contact her co-ruler. Jadea, your Niece just slapped an Amazon for touching her horse. I hate to sound like a tattle-tale, but I can't have her abusing my Amazons and undermining my authority!


Truth was that Medea didn't sound like a tattle-tale to Jadea. But her timing could have been so much better. Let no one near Prince besides Samsara. Tell Samsara that you'll post two Amazon guards if she apologizes to the woman she hit. She'll agree because she has reason to want Prince safe.


And out of the gods' hands, Jadea added, but Medea didn't hear this thought. The Themiscyran Queen heard the irritation in Jadea's tone. She didn't argue or respond, so Jadea took that as a good sign.


The Amazon reverted to her human form, but cloaked herself from human sight. She walked straight toward the man as he dismounted.


Though the General could not see her, he felt her eyes watching him. His head turned, eyes again scanning around. Jadea froze in her tracks. For but a flash in time, she thought he'd spotted her as his eyes came in direct line with her own. Her heart pounded so loud that she feared he would hear and be able to discern where she stood. He did not. Instead, he tied his reigns to secure the mount he rode. Looking up once more, he moved toward the fairy ring.


Jadea appeared, but her voice first startled him.


"That'd be a mistake," she warned ominously. Strange how she'd just saved him from falling under the spell of the fairies. He'd been all of one step from inside the circle.


His blue eyes held her in a strong embrace. They'd always had power, for her, but the days where the magic of those eyes could paralyze and enchant her were gone. She broke the gaze and walked a bit further.


"You came," the man said softly.


"Ya knew I would," she replied, stopping.


His eyes fell to the ground. The man did not hold as much anger as she did. The Celt forced himself to look at her. "I trust ya wish to speak?"


"I wish tah kill ya, Bruce."


The man's eyes flinched while his heart stopped. Both resumed their natural function soon, however.


"Been years since ya've called me that," he commented and sounded half-amused and half-somber.


"Been years since I've called ya," Jadea quipped back. Her words stung they meant to, perhaps. She began to walk to her left but still forward toward the fairy ring. His eyes moved with her. She reached the edge of the stones and looked at him expectantly.


"Ya must trust me to have left your men," he raised his voice some to compensate for the distance. Also, he perhaps meant to instill emphasis this way.


"Ach, I don't trust ya as far as I can spit," she countered while meeting his gaze.


Part of the man wanted to smile, for she looked so sincere but her voice had held a bit of playfulness. He made no such expression. "Then why have you come?" He asked, his Highland accent invading his words.


"Are ya afraid to step inside thah stones, Bruce?"


That was the second time she'd used that name. To her, it sounded foreign on her tongue. To him, it sounded foreign only for the tone she used to speak it - so icy and full of contempt.


"No more than you," he answered in turn. Getting his cue from Jadea, he placed his right foot inside in time with hers. Both hesitated briefly before walking further inside.


The size of the ring was roughly equivalent to ten paces long and ten paces wide. It was neither a small nor a large circle in which to be trapped together.


"Ya destroyed those villages, killed their clan leaders," he stated rather pointedly.


"Aye," Jadea answered, then responded, "Ya wiped out an entire tribe of women, murdered their children, slaughtered their livestock, and left not a single soul alive." Her tone matched the one he used to declare what she had done.


"That was years ago," Bruce remarked.


No sooner had he done so than Jadea yelled sharply, "It was done! You gave the order! You lead the attack! You were supposed to be dead! You betrayed me!" With every accusation, every word, Jadea's voice rose and her vehemence heated.


"So that gives ya the right to kill those men? And what about thah lads, Jade? What about the la-"


"WHAT ABOUT THEM? They'd grow up to become like their fathers - like you! A pack of lyin', manipulative, evil bastards! What, did ya hope that they'd finish off the Amazons? Is that why their deaths vex ya so?" She questioned him coldly, neither caring for the answer nor really believing it was the answer. Jadea had not come to do this, really. She was simply giving Conor time.


With such a harshness such as Jadea'd not heard from him in many years, the Celt commented disgustedly, "I don't even know ya anymore."


Though the remark hurt, Jadea agreed. "That's thah first honest thing ya've said since ya entered my camp. Ya remember that day, don't ya Bruce?" Her eyes narrowed while she watched him shift his weight uncomfortably. Jadea made a kind of pleasing noise that he'd not heard before. "Aye, I knew ya did. Poetic, was it not? Ya die in battle, betray me, wipe out me Sisters, and then walk into my camp unarmed. Know how many Amazons wanted to bleed ya dry, Bruce?"


Again the man faltered to the impact of her words. She seemed to gain pleasure from watching him feel uneasy. "Ev'ry one of 'em. Seven years, and still not a single Amazon wanted ya tah live. Ach, but ya were such the bloody Thespian, Bruce! Half my camp wanted to tear ya limb from limb, the other half wanted to watch me do it. And ya played the part of the nobleman who'd wronged but now sought salvation and atonement!"


The Sorceress Empress was undoubtedly on a roll. So, 'tis no wonder that at this exact moment, Jadea got the very last thing she expected - word from Celosia.


Jadea, if you can hear me...I want you to know that I am safe. I have a traveling companion by the name of Ean. Not sure how long I'll let him trek with me on my journey, but worry not Sorceress Empress - he's a good soul, I think. Please give my deepest love to the tribe, and update me soon on my sister. Since I've not yet caught sight of Ardra, I trust that all is well in Themiscyra. This gives my heart tremendous relief. Be well, my Sister.


As Celosia's voice faded from her mind, Jadea became aware that the man could see the change of her state. He said nothing, though. For this, the Amazon was grateful. It would not do at all for her to look weak or vulnerable in front of him.


"This was a mistake," she said, turning to step out of the fairy ring. If her foot crossed over while he remained inside, the Celt would be frozen in place. Jadea stopped suddenly.


"Jade, betraying you was a mistake. It is one I pay each day, and will until I die - perhaps even after that," he said sincerely. As he spoke he was aware of his feelings for her. Her destruction of the four villages and the murders of the boys angered him beyond words, But the simple truth remained that he could see a glimmer of the woman he'd fallen in love with.


"Ya can't change what ya've done with words," she said, her back to him.


"No, but I can stop you from followin' my path," Bruce responded earnestly. He got her to turn around again and meet his eyes.


Shaking her head, Jadea stated, "You're too late for that."


Whether her tone, her eyes, or her current demeanor was responsible, something alerted the General and he quickly turned for his horse. Strangely, when he stepped out of the fairy ring and leapt onto his horse, no spell formed to paralyze Jadea. Perhaps her own magic helped to counter any enchantments incurred on trespassers of fairy circles. In any case, she stood where she was and watched him gallop away as if Tartarus were on his heels.


Once he was gone from view, Jadea vanished and reappeared beside Conor on the outskirts of Lagore.


"Ahh, I wish ya wouldn't do that!" He exclaimed suddenly caught by her appearance. Jadea chuckled and looked into the distance.


"I remember ya never did like me to pop in and out of camp." Humor poured out of her voice despite her recent engagement.


"Aye, but ya always did," Conor laughed slightly with her. "Why is that?"


"Mmmm, always keep your men on their toes, Conor. A warrior with his guard down will get 'imself or his comrades killed," she answered and turned her head.


"How many do we number?" Jadea asked, fearing she lacked the number she once commanded.


"About a hundred and fifty men."


"Total?" she asked. Jadea concealed her relief when she saw Conor shake his head.


"No, but that’s all we can bring here. I've two branches of men on loan in the Highlands, another legion deeper south, and one band on the sea."


The Sorceress was impressed. Conor commanded quite the army. Her concern still lay in not knowing if the number of soldiers she had presently would be enough for victory. Her answer would soon come.


Not disappointing her, Bruce's men soon appeared on a low ridge. On either side of the ridge were two small hills. Behind the hills were thick woods. Lagore, itself, was compromised of little flatness and more varying terrain. This was one underlying factor why Jadea's army had lost the battle.


"Conor?" Jadea asked, her voice rising.


"Empress?" He questioned, concern in his voice.


"Do the men know they will die today?" Her tone was eerily foreboding.


"Aye, they all know the risk. Why do ya ask?" He inquired a bit later.


"Because soon loyalty in your gender will be tested," came her reply.


The two watched as Bruce rode ahead of his men straight down and into the only flatness in the area.


"Shall I ride out?" Conor asked.


"No," Jadea said with her eyes locked onto the man still a span or so away. "He's mine." She whistled and a riderless horse came toward her. Jadea leapt onto the extraordinary animal while he still moved, and then charged through the trees into the clearing.


On her back, Jadea carried her old sword. At her side, the Amazon had Callisto's blade. She'd no intention of using her sister's sword this time. Slowing as she came dangerously near Bruce, Jadea noted that his sword remained sheathed at his side.


"We don't have tah do this!" He yelled, sounding out of breath. His eyes were wild, though, a clear sign that he wasn't going to leave Lagore without a fight. Conor had ambushed a unit of his men. All of them were dead, their weapons taken and bodies burned.


"Aye we do."


To Stop A Goddess

Questions Without Answers


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