Friend or Foe?


As they quenched the fire and gathered their small belongings, the image of a dragon flashed inside Thalia's head.

What does this mean? She asked herself as another dragon appeared before her eyes. It remained in her mind longer this time, blocking out her view of the forest and sky. She shook her head to clear it and the clearing became visible again.

She glanced over at Seriana. Her friend was crouched over, checking the laces on her boots. One of the woman’s hands slid down and felt beneath the tip of her boot.

What has she got in there? Thalia wondered.

The dragon image flashed in front of her, a bright light outlining it. Pained from the brightness of it, Thalia leaned against a tree for support, clutching her head.


Tern knelt by the edge of the Thermadon River, praying to Artemis. A light piece of papyrus dropped down beside her. Curious, she picked it up and glanced at the drawing.

She saw the imprint of a dragon, very similar to her own dragon emblem. But it was not her dragon. In fact, it was in the complete opposite position.

Pelee's emblem, she thought. She shrieked for Medea.


Medea appeared in a flash of light. "What, what is it?" she demanded.

Tern pulled herself together. "Nothing. I-I thought I saw something," Tern lied. Medea frowned at her. Tern didn't lose her cool easily.

"I'm hungry," Medea announced. "Time for more of that tasty little prisoner," the teenager wandered back towards their hideout.

Tern stuffed the parchment into her magical cloak. Pelee understood. That was a good thing. Because she would need her sisters added strength to pull this off.

Artemis, walk with me, she thought to herself, careful to shield her thoughts. It wouldn't do for the plan to come unraveled now.


The dragon burned Thalia's mind, pulsing and glowing. What did it mean? Thalia leaned against a tree as the image shot sharp pains through her temples.

Seriana looked over to see Thalia steadying herself heavily against a tree. Her face was contorted, as if she were in pain.

"Are you all right?" Seriana stood up.

Thalia looked up quickly, as if startled by Seriana's voice. "I... um, I'm- I'm fine."

Seriana frowned. Thalia was hiding something, but what?

"I-I'm okay," Thalia straightened up, wincing slightly. What was going on? Why was this image burning in her mind?

Seriana watched the Amazon gather her things. A moment earlier she had considered finishing her task, but evil as the Amazon was, Seriana was not one to attack when the enemy's defenses were down. She could not bring herself to kill a defenseless person.

She sighed. She would have to wait. The longer she waited, however, the more nervous she became. What did Thalia have planned for her? Would she try to kill her?

Probably something back at the village, Seriana decided. She would have to make her move before the enemy surrounded her. She didn't know how strong they were, and would not underestimate them.

Feeling the tip of the dagger to make sure it was still there, Seriana picked up her pack. Turning, she spied a flash of black in black, a shadow moving in the darkness of the trees. A rustling followed.

"Thalia?" she asked, moving nearer to the Amazon. "There’s something out there."

The Biomorph pushed herself away from the tree, forcing the dragon image from her mind. She focused her senses on the forest.

The shadow moved and snorted.

Seriana got down into a crouch, her hand near the boot dagger. Thalia sniffed the air, then giggled. "It’s Deinus. He’s tracked you down."

"Deinus?" Seriana replied. "Friend or foe?"

The shadow stepped into the clearing, large and threatening. It came toward her and she heard the sound of four hooves. Stopping when it stood over her head, it whinnied and nudged her shoulder, toppling her over.

"Definitely friend," Thalia commented.

"A horse?"

"Your horse, Deinus. You don’t remember him either?"

Seriana shook her head, righting herself and gaining her feet. She put out a tentative hand and stroked the nose of the large black war-horse. It moved closer to her and she felt a bond between them.

Here at last was someone she could trust.

He was saddled and looked as if he’d traveled some way by himself to find her. She wondered where she had left him, and why. She bit her lip and looked at Thalia, who was whispering at the animal. She wouldn’t ask. It was too . . . humiliating.

"Let’s go. Now that we have him, it won’t take long to reach Themiscyra," the Amazon told her. "You first," she indicated the empty saddle.

Still apprehensive, Seriana moved to the side of Deinus and put her foot in the stirrup. With an ease that spoke of long practice, she hauled herself up into the saddle. It fit her like a glove, as if she’d sat in this place for many hours. She extended her hand down to Thalia.


Her opportunity had presented itself.

She reached down to Thalia and pulled the woman into position behind her. However, before the Amazon could grab her around the waist, Seriana kneed Deinus, causing him to lift his forelegs in the air. As the horse went up, the Amazon behind her went down, hitting the ground hard.

Seriana pushed the horse down and dropped to the ground, grabbing her dagger from it’s concealed place in her boot. She advanced on Thalia.

The emblem of the dragon exploded into Thalia's mind with surging power, blinding her.

Seriana moved to stand over the Amazon. She brought her arm down in a sweeping motion, intending to stab Thalia in the chest.

Her vision cleared just in time. Thalia rolled out of the way before the dagger came down into her. Then she kicked Seriana's legs from behind her, causing the dagger-wielding woman to fall. She slammed her foot down on top of Seriana to hold her down so she could not strike back.


Medea slowly circled Xanthea. She smiled as she neared, baring the ivory fangs. Lifting a finger, she extended a razor sharp claw. She traced some symbol in the air while Xanthea shook with fright.

Slowly, the demoness walked up to the prisoner. She picked out the freshly scabs wounds on her prey’s throat and flicked her claw across them. Blood trickled down the Amazon's fresh, white skin.

A smile curled across Medea's lips as she bent over the captive. She licked her lips in anticipation of the taste of the woman’s blood. Xanthea trembled, weak from loss of blood and constant fear.

"So luscious," the demoness whispered. Her tongue flicked out and licked the trail of blood down Xanthea’s neck. The Amazon shivered in revulsion and horror, closing her eyes against the sight of the mad woman she had once called friend feeding from her flesh.

She felt the teeth pierce her, felt her blood being drawn up and away and into Medea.

"Medea!" Tern’s voice echoed off the temple walls.

The demoness’ head snapped up from her victim, peering around. "What is it, Tern? I’m busy right now."

"Medea!" Tern’s voice was demanding. "It’s time!"

"At last," she breathed. Standing, she wiped the blood from her mouth. Without a glance to Xanthea, she briskly walked toward the location of Tern's voice.

As the demoness exited the ancient temple, an orange light quivered before Xanthea, and Pelee appeared.

She waved her hand and the manacles binding Xanthea to the wall released their tenacious grip. Xanthea fell forward, weak from loss of blood.

"Come," Pelee said with a smile. She helped the Amazon to her unsteady feet. The woman closed her eyes for a long moment, then jerked herself awake. She was closer to death than Pelee had anticipated.

I must get her out if Tern's plan is to work, she thought. She’s too weak to go by herself. I’ll have to take her. "Hold tight to me," Pelee cautioned her. Xanthea increased the pressure of her grip on the other's arm. Both faded out in a flare of bright orange light.


Xanthea and Pelee materialized in the center square of Themiscrya, near the large communal fire pit. Pelee unwound Xanthea’s arm from hers and the Amazon collapsed to the ground. Before anyone could stop her, the witch winked out again.


Amazons came at her from every side, shouting her name. She struggled into a sitting position, her back braced by the rock wall that had been built to keep the fire safe. She looked into several familiar faces, searching for one in particular.

Queen Celosia shoved the others aside as she came up to Xanthea’s side. "Thank the Gods!"

It only took her a moment to spot the scabs on Xanthea’s neck, the pallor of her skin, and the way the woman’s eyes rolled across all of them, seeing none. She looked up at the others. "Quickly! Get her to the med tent. I want those wounds bandaged and I want her safe in a bed in the med tent. NOW!"

Several Amazons moved forward and lifted Xanthea to her feet. They supported her, allowing her feet to drag behind them. It was only a short distance, but all were grateful to place the healer in her cot.

Celosia ordered the bulk of the concerned Amazons out of the tent. An apprentice to Xanthea remained, examining the wounds before starting a pot of water and gathering herbs. The Queen nudged a low stool over to the bedside and sat down.

"I know you need rest, Xanthea, but I must know what happened. Did Medea do this to you? Where did she take you? Did you see Thalia or Seriana? What has become of Medea and Tern?" the Queen asked.

Xanthea opened her mouth to answer, but her eyes rolled back in her head and she fainted.


"What is going on?" Thalia demanded. Seriana was pinned below her foot. What in Hades was Seriana doing?

Seriana's heart pounded desperately. What do I do now? The question exploded in her mind. She had to act before Thalia killed her. Surely she would now that Seriana had made the first move. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a flash of light . . . the dagger! Seriana lurched sideways and grabbed the dagger before Thalia could react.

Thalia cried out as a burst of pain exploded in her head. She fell to her knees as Seriana leaped to her feet. Seriana lunged for her and Thalia managed to roll out of the way before the dagger connected with her torso.

Thalia's head was clouded with the dragon. She could only just see beyond the image whereas Seriana was full of adrenaline. There was no way she could avoid her dagger-wielding friend for long.

Oh Gods, somebody help me! Thalia thought. Seriana lunged again, this time striking her in the shoulder before the Biomorph could get out of the way.

Oh Gods, oh Gods, Thalia clutched her shoulder. She didn't have the strength or concentration to morph and escape. The dragon was coming in stronger, obliterating her attacker. At the last second, she saw a blurry figure above her and felt a stab of pain as the dagger glanced off her other arm.

The dragon roared and angry fire enveloped her vision, burning one question into her mind.



Thalia squeezed her eyes shut. The dragon’s fire faded from her mind and the pain receded. Hesitant, she opened first one eye, then the other.

Seriana had flung herself onto the ground a few feet away, where she lay trembling and sobbing. "I can't! I can't!"

"Seriana?" Thalia asked quietly, afraid that she'd spark another attack.

"I can't, I can't," her friend sobbed. She looked over at Thalia with large, wet eyes. "Kill me fast, please, if that is your intention. But I just can't do it!"

"Seriana, it's all right," Thalia said. She got to her feet, cradling her wounded arm. She crossed over to where her friend sat. "I'm not going to kill you. I was only defending myself. But I won't hurt you if you don't make me."

"I'm such a coward . . . I'm so confused . . . I don't know who to trust . . ."

"Hush. Are you all right now? Can you walk?" She extended a hand.

Seriana nodded and took it, hauling herself up. After everything she had done, the Amazon still wanted to help her. "I’m sorry," she said.

Thalia ignored the apology. "Come with me back to the village. We’ll find allies there who can help us. You must trust me now," Thalia said.


The pair made their way back to Deinus. Seriana waited for Thalia to ask her about her motives for the attack, but the Amazon merely motioned for Seriana to mount Deinus.

She let out her breath. The time for explanation would come later.

She started to climb up on the animal’s back when she noticed Thalia wincing. She saw that her shoulder wound was bleeding freely, as was the stab wound in her arm. "Let me help you with those," she said.

Tearing more strips off her already torn shirt, Seriana wrapped the impromptu bandages around the fresh wounds. Thalia looked as if she’d had the worst of all the fights that long day, with three bandages decorating her. "That will have to do until we get back to the village. Until then, don't use your arm or you'll make it worse."

Thalia nodded and the two of them mounted Deinus and began to make their way through the forest toward Themiscyra.

A figure standing in the bushes nearby cursed harshly, before disappearing into the shadows.


Back at the village, Xanthea felt cool water being offered to her. She struggled to move into a sitting position so she could drink. Her head spun.

Gods, I’m dizzy. Why is that? She tried to remember what had happened to her, but the memories eluded her.

"Where am I?" she murmured. Her voice was scratchy and barely audible. "What happened? How did I get here?"

Celosia placed a cool, wet rag on Xanthea's head and tried to smile. For the tribal healer's sake, the Queen knew she needed to see calm reassurance. "That's what we were hoping you could tell us," she said.

Xanthea brushed back some of her chocolate brown hair. She saw the strands against her white hand and they were streaked with blood!

She panicked and pulled at her hair, intending to yank them from her head. Celosia pressed against her hand, forcing her to drop the hair.

"It’s all right," the Queen said softly.

Xanthea looked down at where her hair lay against the white sheepskin blanket, glinting with red highlights. It’s not blood, she thought. Just the color of my own hair in the candlelight.

"What happened to you, Xanthea?"

The healer took a deep breath and another drink of water. "I . . . I don't know," she finally said. "I don't remember."

Swift Blazer

The red head looked at the village ahead of her. Women came and went among the scattered tents and few wooden huts. She hadn’t seen a man yet, so she was hopeful.

She had spent months wandering around the continent, trying to find Themiscyra. Then, just as she’d finally begun to hear stories of the Amazons, a slaver had caught her.

It had taken another couple of months to escape her captors, after which, she’d headed in the wrong direction. Several weeks ago, a "kindly" old man had sent her in yet another wrong direction. Luckily, however, she had gotten lost in this large which brought her to her present location. Now she’d happened across this village of women.

She moved out into the cleared area, speaking to any deity who might be listening to her. "Please, please, please let this be Queen Celosia’s village! Please!"

Amazon guards surrounded Swift Blazer as soon as she stepped out of the protection of the trees. Several pointed weapons were aimed at her.

"State your business," one said.

"Hullo," she said. "I’d like to see Queen Celosia, if I may."

There was a pause. The guards sized her up, judging her ragged clothing and dirty hair. She wished she’d taken time to wash in the river before entering the village. She wasn’t making the right impression. "Please, she gave me permission to live among her fine people . . . quite some time ago. But I’ve been . . . lost a while, so I’m just arriving."

The guards didn’t move or say anything. Maybe they don’t understand me? She thought. No, they understand me fine.

"This is her village, isn’t it?"


"Yes, this is her village," responded one.

She was 5'7" and carried a heavily carved staff in her hand. She studied the redhead and was instantly struck by her. What is it about this girl, she mused. She must be special in some way. "What business have you here?"

The redhead looked at the speaker, assuming she was the leader of the Guards surrounding her. "I need her help."

The tall one looked at the redhead. "Come with me."

The other Guards were surprised and murmured protest. Themiscyra had been under recent attack and the Amazons were wary of any new visitors.

"Need I remind you of who I am?" the tall Amazon demanded.

"No, High Princess Samsara," they responded.

Samsara, Princess-Heiress to the Teloq tribe and daughter of Ares God of War and Callisto Warrior Queen, needed to remind nobody of her rank and position. They were all aware of it, very aware. However, she wasn’t afraid to use her name when reproached by those in her command.

"What is your name?" Samsara asked of the redhead.

"Swift Blazer," she responded as they entered the village. It was easy for Samsara to see that the girl was amazed by her surroundings. Her eyes lingered on the archers and guards strategically placed along the unfinished wood wall that would protect the fledging village from unknown attack and wanderers. Each Amazon they passed lowered their heads as Samsara went by, expressing their silent respect for her.

"Swift Blazer?" the Princess-Heiress responded. "Interesting name. What help do you desire?"

"If I could speak to Queen Celosia . . . you said this is her tribe?"

"You shall see the Queen when she receives visitors," Samsara responded. They walked into a newly finished hut. The High Princess closed the door and lit the candles, illuminating the room. The hut smelled of sandalwood incense. The walls were bare, as was the floor. "Now," Samsara said after a long pause. "What is it that you desire?"

Swift Blazer remained near the door. "I am here to warn Celosia of impending danger. Traders are coming . . ."

"Traders?" she answered. "And why would this be of importance to the Queen? This is a simple problem that I alone can solve. There is no need to disturb Celosia."

"Slave traders, High Princess," Swift Blazer stressed. "I was captured two weeks ago by them and they talked about wanting to trade in Amazons. They talked about killing Celosia and using the Themiscryans as a stepping stone against Teloq."

Samsara stood rigid. "And why did these slavers talk of their intentions while they had a live captive in their hands? They may have assumed you would . . ."

Her sentence was cut short. She stood at attention, listening intently. Swift Blazer was confused--she heard nothing. Samsara flew to the door and pulled Swift Blazer into the hut as she opened the door. "Stay here!" she commanded, slamming the door shut and bolting it from the outside.

"Hey!" the redhead yelled. She banged on the door from the inside. "What are you doing?"

Samsara paid no heed to the girl's screams as she sprinted to the gates. She cried shrilly, ordering the attention of all the Guards. The women jumped to their posts, knowing Samsara's cry well. There was an approaching band of raiders, possibly the slavers Swift Blazer had talked about. Samsara ran all the way to the stable, to get her horse, Prince. The jet-black steed neighed, knowing he was to ride into battle with his mistress...

Swift Blazer

Swift Blazer paced in front of the locked door. Well, this is an interesting way to treat guests. I wonder where the queen is.

She looked around the room, searching for another way out. There was a shuttered window on two of the four walls, but they were closed. She could sense they had been secured from the outside and would be as great an obstacle as the door.

She sighed and moved instead to the bed. Drawing her sword, she settled down on the bed, facing the door. She took a sharpening stone from her pack and began to run it up the blade, honing the weapon.

For now, she thought.


Secrets and Lies

Winning Isn't Everything


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