Gathering Forces 




Indeed, Julius Caesar lived, yet to half of his army, he was no better than dead. Two companies of Roman troops occupied a few miles a mere five spans from Dachus and Samsara's men. The decoy had worked, compliments of a desperate and angry Zeus.


The Sorceress Empress knew that Julius Caesar still breathed and that he likely had put himself behind the safety of Rome's walls. She knew his time would come, though. Her patience dwindled as her mind repeated the haunting date she'd heard in her dreams - the Ides of March.


The Sorceress went to a far corner of Themiscyra, far away from her Sisters, and opened up a window between two trees. She caught a glimpse of Ares just as he left Caesar's Palace. Her tongue cursed him, not for the first time nor the last.


Ares had found an indirect way to meddle with the Amazons, thus circumventing the promise he'd made Jadea and her Sisters. She knew that it would vex Queen Medea. "I'd better go tell her, then," Jadea sighed as the window closed.





Seriana came into the room with a smile. "Sami, you look so much better!"


Samsara turned from the window slowly. Her mind had wandered to Dachus. She wanted to keep him from entering her mind, but he was doing so ever since he was by her side at Jadea's hut. His brown eyes, brown hair, muscular six-foot tall body. It was enough to make her swoon. BAH, she thought angrily to herself. I don't need him!


She blinked twice to see her sister dressed in lighter clothes. "Spring thaw," she said. "Come! Bring Karma with you!"


Karma of course, was wide awake in her crib. Her eyes darted from one part of the hut to another, out the window and all over wherever she could see. She was an extremely alert baby. Upon hearing Seriana's voice, she sat up slowly.


"OH!" exclaimed Seriana. "By the Gods!"


Samsara jerked violently to her daughter, who was making an expected attempt at rising. Suddenly, she plopped down onto her bottom and giggled. The Goddess placed a hand onto her mouth in surprise. "Sh-She..."


"STOOD! Oh... GODS! HAHAHA! I guess we are supposed to expect this now, b-but..." Seriana continued to stammer as a wide smile played on her face. She rushed to the girl and knelt down by the crib. Her eyes were wide as Karma attempted the movement again, only this time, she held onto the railings and hopped up and down, giggling beautifully.


Samsara scooped the babe into her arms and swung around. "You!" she squealed gleefully. "Oh, you little angel!" She lifted her into the air and spun her over her head, both mother and daughter swimming in each other's line of vision. She stopped and held onto her child tightly. Ser'! Ser', she stood! She did it twice! We have to tell the village!" She rushed out the door, her older sister hot on her heels.


The first person to see them was Thalia. She was a bit wary of Samsara since she had aided in letting Zia out. But the Teloan Queen fixed all that. Two Amazons had followed the pair and had brought Zia back to camp in the middle of the night. They had let Octavius go free as he hadn’t been their quarry, and had taken Zia right back to her cell.


Thalia met eyes with the Goddess and understood instantly that Samsara knew all she had done.


The Goddess sent her a message. I won't tell anyone. Just be careful of what you do and for whom you do it.


At that moment, Mariko met with the three. The Eastern Woman had been taking her time to win over the Themiscyrans. Although there were still some that avoided her, others had taken to her. Valkyra, for one, trained with the warrior when she could, learning more secrets of a Weapons Master.


"Come," Mariko said. They shrugged, then followed, wondering what the woman had in mind. Thalia was left confused.


They reached the stables. "Now, your Queen has left you with an order to remain within camp, however, I want you to ride your horses. A race, if you will. More of a celebration of your newfound health, Athanase." Outside the stables were many Amazons, most of which had taken a break from the day's chores to watch the race; Deinus, Seriana's war horse, versus Prince, Samsara's magnificent Pegasus.


Mariko leaned toward her protégé. "You can tell them your news of Karma standing once the race is over."


How Mariko knew no one would ask, but Samsara beamed with pride and joy as she handed the child to her mentor and mounted her steed.





Mariko issued the final instructions for the race, “Thrice around the camp with the finish here at the stable.”


The Amazons watching began to wager as to the results. Most were placing their bets on Prince since he was now a horse of the gods.


As Seriana tried to steady her restless Deinus, she said to Samsara, “Now remember, Sister, no magic; let the beasts do as they will and on the ground only.”


“I need no magic to beat you, dear Sister!” replied Samsara as she relished her renewed state of good health.


Mariko gave the signal and the contest was on. The two horses sprang into action with nearly the force of a just-released arrow. They bolted forward letting go of all their pent-up energy. To the Amazons watching, the horses were all but a blur. Within mere seconds it seemed that the first trip around the camp was completed. The shouts from the other Amazons spurred Seriana and Samsara on. As the two riders vied for the inside at the turns, they kept their steeds only a sword blade’s width apart. Samsara and Seriana did not look to one another, but they could each feel the trespassing nearness of the other. The second journey around the encampment was now over and the third and last was on. As the riders passed the swelling crowd of cheering Amazons, the smell of horse sweat was nearly overwhelming. Samsara and Seriana prodded the foaming animals to go faster. The last gallop to the finish line was neck in neck at first, but soon Deinus was outpacing Prince. The added friction of air on the Pegasus’s folded-up wings was at last becoming evident. By half a horse length Deinus quickly carried Seriana across the finish line.


Although she lost the race, Samsara did not care, for she was feeling too good to be disappointed. She knew that Prince needed to fly and so did she. She urged Prince to unfold his wings and take to the sky. Mariko thought that may have been a foolish thing to do.





Samsara knew Mariko didn't approve of her doing so, but she wanted her horse to fly. And fly he did around the perimeter of the camp and back. Although after a short flight, she coaxed her horse down. After landing, she looked at her sister and shouted: "REMATCH!"


Seriana accepted. Again they mounted their horses, ready for a different race. Maybe Deinus has the endurance over Prince now but did he have the power to defeat the horse in the short distance?


Both sisters mounted their horses and looked at each other with a smile.


"Perhaps the celebration will continue," Samsara responded. "I'm going hunting later today for a feast. Wanna come?"


Seriana smiled. "Let's see if you'll still want to, once I'm through with you and your Pegasus," she responded.


"Oooh"'s permeated the air.


"Dem's fighting words, you know," her younger sister remarked. "Let's see, do you want salt or Valkyra's cayenne pepper to garnish them when I feed them to you?"


Laughter was heard throughout the crowd. Seriana smiled. They may not be blood, but they will always be sisters in her eyes. Samsara felt the same way.


Samsara turned to Pike. "Let Zia out to watch. I think she needs to build relations with the rest of us."


"What about Queen Me-"


"Regent Medea can..." the Goddess began, then curbing her tongue. "Our most esteemed will agree with me that perhaps the girl needs some air. Bring her out here at once and give her a front seat so we can start this race!"


The change in Samsara's demeanor was apparent. Ever since Karma came to the camp a month and a half earlier, the Goddess Kakistos of Destruction was calmer, wiser, and stronger. It was also Mariko's training that helped greatly in Samsara's growth. Everyone could see that she had missed her mentor greatly, even if she had never spoken of her before.


Zia was brought out and kept under surveillance of two guards. They stepped to the front and when the Teloan Queen Empress was pleased, the race began.


Valkyra officiated the competition. She raised her hand and whistled, bringing her hand down roughly to start the race. Samsara and Seriana charged down the straightaway toward a red flag that hung down from a tree. The object was to snatch the flag before your opponent and return to the starting line.


Samsara's hair flowed far behind her ponytail as she raced her sister. Seriana's clothes flapped in the breeze as they both kept neck and neck. This was more a race of the horses' pride than anyone else's.


Zia watched them race and thought about Caesar. She was still under the impression that she had killed him, a stomach churning thought. She wondered why there was little celebration in camp about Caesar's death. You'd think that the Amazons would dance on his rotting Roman corpse.


And then it hit her. I didn't kill Caesar, did I? She shook her head and looked at Samsara, whom she remembered from somewhere. It makes so much sense to me now. So much sense! He would NEVER trust anyone that much. Ever! She looked at Samsara, who held the red flag up in the air with her right hand, Prince's hooves thundering onto the ground. Seriana was close behind, laughing. Then it dawned on her: Samsara reminded her of a masked warrior who raided a village on the outskirts of Rome, closer to Gaul. An Amazon-type warrior who rode with a staff or sword in her right hand, high in the air.


Samsara won the race by a hair. They both dismounted. "You were lucky, you know," Seriana said, breathing hard.


Samsara laughed. "It's all about those two inches of reach I have on you. Otherwise, anyone could have gotten it." She smiled greatly. Samsara was taller than her sister by an inch. "Valkyra! What's next?"


The Weapon's Master threw her royal staff. "How about a match with staffs? Show us what you've learned. Have we any volunteers to joust against Samsara?"


Zia stepped up. "I!" she shouted, determined to prove her worth.


Samsara cocked her head. "Looking for your Amazon colors early, I see?"


"I am an Amazon," she responded in her Roman inflection.


The Goddess Kakistos merely laughed. "That title must be earned, child, and you have yet to do so." Valkyra tossed the Roman a staff. "Let's see how you hold up against me." She stood in a defensive stance, ready to bait Zia in.


And in the Amazon Roman went. They fought hard and fast. Zia spun around and attempted to knock Athanase's knees from under her, but Samsara jumped high up in the air and flipped over Zia quickly, knocking her staff out of position. Zia faltered and immediately went for Samsara's head as she was turned around. Samsara instinctively bent forward and kicked behind her, bringing her leg up to Zia's ribcage.


She connected, sending Zia down onto the ground. Cheers were heard and words of encouragement for the younger and newer Amazon hovered over the din. With a newfound energy, Zia kicked her legs up and forced her body back into position, staff in hand. She charged for Samsara and attacked viciously, forcing the Goddess to use defensive moves. Suddenly the dynamic changed from a friendly joust to something more sinister.


With one move, Samsara knocked Zia's staff away. In that very second, the girl took out her dagger and swiped it at the Goddess. Her eyes wide and her heart flaming, she pushed her knife ahead, hoping to make contact.


Backed into a corner, Samsara had no choice but to retaliate. She brought her staff up to deflect another blow, then took the butt and slammed it into Zia's stomach, sending her flying back to the ground. She flipped until she caught up to her and slammed her staff onto her opponent's torso.


"WHO ARE YOU?" Samsara demanded.


"Don't you recognize me?" she shrieked angrily from her position on the dusty ground.





Thalia had been in the stables, brushing down the newest horses brought in earlier that month. This had been a good roundup, many of the horses were in great health with beautiful coats. She came to the last stall where there was a beautiful Appaloosa, only to jump back as the horse whinnied loudly and reared, nearly kicking her.


"Whoah, woah! Geeez, down boy!" Thalia held up her hands. The horse snorted angrily at her. "No one's going to hurt you, boy." Thalia reached for the horse's nose, but he tried to bite her hand. "Hey." She put her hands on her hips. "Do you want to be brushed down or what?"


The horse snorted again.


Thalia held up the brush. "Do you want me to get those burs out of your coat, or should I just leave you here dirty?" The horse eyed her. "All right. I'm going to try one more time. Either you let me brush you, or you can just stay in there by yourself and get messier."


As she approached, the horse eyed her, giving her a look that seemed to say "I'll let you do this ONCE." Thalia shook her head as she brushed the horse's beautiful brown and white spotted coat. He fidgeted a little as if to say 'that's enough'. He tried to bite her again as she edged out of the stall. She glanced back at him as he left, he really was a magnificent horse. Too bad he was so wild. Maybe she...


Suddenly, she heard shouting from outside. She exited to stable in the midst of a race between Samsara and Seriana. She edged through the crowd to the front, where Samsara crossed the finish line, a red flag clutched in her hand, a hair before Seriana.


She watched as Samsara asked for a challenger, and Zia stepped forth. hadn't Zia been under guard? Nonetheless, she watched as the fight escalated into more than a simple match. Zia was thrown to the ground, shouting to Samsara, asking if she recognized her. Thalia rushed between them lest Zia or Samsara try to attack again. "What's going on?" She demanded. She looked towards Zia. "We deserve an explanation."





Themiscyra's two Queens were aware but absent for the races. Around the time the joust began, Queen Medea had returned from yet another routine trip to the borders. She insisted on keeping an up-to-date report on the condition and goings-on of the mysterious medallions that guarded her lands. Whatever Jadea's reason for using their powers, it worked and Medea wasn't going to alter a plan that worked.


Yet again her Co-Queen was absent from the places she looked to find her. And so Medea came upon Samsara and Zia without the Sorceress Empress. Before Samsara could answer the question asked of her, the Queen swiftly made a motion to her archers who instantly shot three arrows. All three landed near the bodies of the two Amazon warriors. Samsara, being acquainted with Celosia and Medea's style of "one warning only," brought her staff away from Zia. However, the Goddess never took her eyes off the Roman Amazon.


The truth had blindsided Athanase in a flash. She didn't know why she hadn't remembered Zia's face. The bearing, the poise, even the voice. But, for whatever reason, Samsara hadn't remembered until now.


Luckily, Ardra was quick to inform her Mistress about the situation. Jadea appeared on the opposite side of Medea in her direct line of vision. Only the presence of her Co-Queen would keep the Queen Regent from launching the blame on Samsara.


"Guards, take Zia!" She shouted before Medea had given her order.


Samsara then turned her head to her Aunt. "No!"


This is not up for debate, Samsara, Jadea sent her without meeting the Teloan's gaze.


"Just who in the Hades ordered her release?" Medea snarled, glancing from Amazon to Amazon. "Jadea?"


"I wasn’t anywhere nearby, Medea, obviously. Please, allow me to handle this matter."


"Fine!" Celosia' sister yelled bitterly. She was feeling edgy, perpetuated by the turmoil her Sister Queen felt. "You deal with this! But I don't want anymore fights among us, or Artemis help me for what I'll do."


With a single nod to Jadea, however reluctant, Medea walked back to the Queen's hut.


Jadea turned to Samsara. Silver Hawk stood a few steps away. She looked about as worried as Valkyra and Antigone did, which said much considering the two women were among the few Themiscyrans who could keep their cool in any situation.


"Samsara, you're confined as well," She ordered with the slightest nod which gave some standing guards the order to escort her away. "As for the rest of you...this is a celebration! NOT A WAR! If any more fights break out, I'll contend them to challenges. As such, the involved parties will the death!" Jadea announced in a tone that resembled Celosia's when her tribe forced her to be harsh with her orders.


The Sorceress Empress immediately left thereafter, heading straight to see Zia. She was stopped rather unexpectedly by an intrusive voice.


Word through the Twilight Bark is that the Warrior Princess and the Teloan Amazon Queen have returned.


The brogue was too clear to be misunderstood. For whatever his reasons, Angus was helping Jadea from a distance. He was keeping in mind what she said she'd do if she caught him in Themiscyra. While he was a great many things, he was not a fool.


The festivities continued. Samsara was soon released, prompted by her sister's plea to Jadea. Zia was told she could leave the prison hut, if and only if she was guarded at all times. In addition, the young Amazon had to give a complete explanation, apology, and her word she'd not attack Samsara again. Jadea, herself, was witness to everything, including the exchange between Zia and her niece.




"I'll never understand why mortals lie." A young Jadea commented to Rumyna as she watched a village of men and women. Her powers were still growing and remained a little uncontrolled at times.


"They lie for many reasons, though their lies never last," Rumyna told her in a voice she only used with her protégé.


"Yes, but why? All lies do is cause pain. Worse, in some cases," Jadea had never lied. She'd not yet discovered the advantage one can sometimes have in lying to their enemy. In truth, the young woman had never been in a position where she had to lie.


"Lies can sometimes buy the time we need," Rumyna explained simply. She'd already come to foresee the day Jadea would lie to save an entire people. The knowledge gave her unsettled feelings about the use of Jadea's powers.


"Rumyna, have you ever lied?"


The question was not entirely unexpected but still a surprise. The Sorceress Empress did not answer right away. She needn't have said anything, though. Jadea could read the answer in her eyes when she looked up from the viewing pool.


"I've done things I never thought I would, Jadea." Her voice was solemn but also sorrowful in a sense, as though she hid some dark deeds from her protégé.


"Will I?" Jadea asked, her curious tone lilting with the two words.


"Perhaps." Was all her mentor had said to the question. She knew Jadea would, but how to tell her?


Rumyna would tell her, eventually; on the day the General betrayed Jadea. By then, of course, it had been too late.




Another day greeted Themiscyra. This one found both Queens together by the well. They spoke of political affairs in other tribes. The Nation's union would soon be underway, and both women were eager to act.


This day would also be a celebration. Not entirely peaceful...but not entirely uneventful either.





Themiscyra's Queen Regent roughly rubbed away the trail of water dribbling down her chin and turned her gaze to the sun, shielding her eyes with a well-calloused hand. She grunted, as if disappointed by what she'd seen. After a few moments of quiet brooding she turned to Jadea. "You know she should have sent word by now!" the spiky platinum blonde spat, hands on her hips.


Jadea lifted an eyebrow, deciding whether Medea was speaking of one of the Queens they had been discussing, or Celosia. The answer was obvious. "A Nok’tana doesn't have a time-limit, Medea. You know that."


"No, I don't know that, actually," the hot-headed teen snapped bitterly, rolling her eyes. "but how long could it possibly take?"


"Medea..." the Sorceress Empress gave her Co-Queen a droll look.


"Well come on! Do a little traveling, meditate a couple of times, figure out that you were better off at home, go back there. That takes--what, three days tops?"


"A Nok’tana is a spiritual journey, and I'm afraid they just aren't as simple as all that."


Medea scowled at her.


Now it was her turn to roll her eyes. I've got enough on my mind without your whining, Sister. "...if I didn't know better I'd think you weren't enjoying your term as Queen," the woman suggested airily. She hid her clever grin.


"Wha--No, it's not THAT! Is your head full of weeds? I was MADE to be Queen! It just doesn't seem right taking care of something this major without Celosia, is all. I wasn't trained for this kind of duty, Jade--Hades, our tutor kicked me out of our lessons half the time for fighting! These are some serious dealings we're talking know?"


Jadea nodded gravely. "Indeed."


"...and I'm not entirely comfortable with the tribes either. I mean, I don't mind the fact, know what? I like those fur-hauling ninnies. But the others...I don't trust them. I really don't trust them, Jade. And if Serena comes in here breathing down my neck again, I swear to Artemis, I will NOT be held responsible for my actions!"


"Mmm, Serena can be a times, can't she?" Jadea hummed, remembering the elder's last visit to the camp. "But she's no reason to get yourself up in arms." Medea's expression clearly stated her doubt. The Sorceress Empress shook her head. "Medea! Relax! We're going to handle this, all right? No problem! We're both qualified, able, authoritative--"


The was a loud crash followed by several shouts of annoyance.


"--overworked individuals?" Medea finished for her dryly.


The two Queens didn't have to wait to hear their names. The only thing becoming more common than hearing Celosia's sister curse these days was hearing the Co-Queens' names being hollered throughout Themiscyra, often at more than one location simultaneously.


More than a little exasperated at the continuing chaos of their camp, the women exchanged tired glances and walked begrudgingly towards the newest disaster area.





A couple of days passed and Samsara was still in extremely high spirits. Karma was growing at a fast pace, as any normal infant would, and Samsara was sure to have her time with her daughter, and was even more inclined to let Medea have her for a couple of hours.


Things were getting better between Samsara and Medea. Samsara had yet to fully recognize Medea's authority, and Medea secretly relished that Samsara would be Teloan Queen Empress only whenever Gabrielle was gone.


She remembered when Gabrielle had arrived at Themiscyra…


"RIDER!" called Antigone. "Identify yourself!"


The gates opened and in came Gabrielle accompanied by Xena. Seriana ran to them immediately and hugged her protectors tightly. "I've missed you both so much!"


Samsara stepped out of her hut to see what the interruption was. The woman was in such great spirits, the presence of the Warrior Princess did little do diminish them. She beamed with joy as she approached them, passing the gathering Amazons.


Gabrielle separated from Seriana and caught a glimpse of the smiling infant as her mother held her arms above her head. Karma hopped about with the help of the taller Amazon, cooing and laughing with glee. They soon reached the Queen and stopped, Samsara kneeling down to greet Gabrielle and to speak to the babe.


"Now, I know you can stand for her, right?" she whispered, letting an almost-confident Karma go.


The child steadied herself and looked up at the golden-haired woman in wonder. Her eyes widened and her mouth formed a perfect 'o' as she took in the breath-taking sight. Suddenly, she plopped down on her bottom and laughed, standing again.


Gabrielle knelt down. "And who are you, little one?" She looked up at Samsara. "Is this your heiress?"


The Goddess smiled a toothy one. "Yes, this is Karma."


"She's beautiful," remarked Xena. Those were the first words she uttered.


Samsara stood and looked at the woman, almost with a sinister look on her face. But the words that came out of her mouth did not match her visage. "I never thanked you for helping us against the Majie. I appreciate what you did to save us." Those were perhaps the hardest couple of sentences Samsara had to say, but as an Amazon it was one's duty to thank her enemy if she helped her at all.


Xena nodded. She knew they had their differences and she knew that some day, they would deal with Callisto's death. Some day.





Queen Medea came out a few seconds later, two guards walking behind her. Her Co-Queen, as usual, was elsewhere in camp and showed herself in fashionable lateness.


A short exchange was held between the Queen Regent and the Warrior Princess. Both leaders were aware of Amazon tribes on the move. It was also known through the Twilight Bark, that the gods' were planning to crash the union in retaliation for a list of grievances against certain Amazons.


"Leda! Pike!" She bellowed out sharply. Both warriors were soon present. "See their horses the to the royal stables and report back to your posts."


The women nodded and took the reins. Xena was reluctant to entrust her horse to anyone other than herself or Gabrielle. However, she allowed the Amazons to lead both horses to the royal stables, which were reserved solely for the horses of Amazons with royal blood in their veins or those who'd inherited the right of caste from royalty. Even the Sorceress Empress, until she was named co-ruler of Themiscyra, kept her five horses with the regular herd.


Hours later, Xena walked outside of the command hut. Following her, Gabrielle stepped out. The Elders were next to exit in line. Jadea and Medea remained behind for two minutes. A plan had been made.


"You really think this will work?" Medea asked uncertainly. She didn't feel quite as argumentative with her Co-Queen now. Jadea had promised to contact Celosia.


The Sorceress shook her head. "I don't know. I really think it's our best chance, though."


With another look of doubt, Medea glanced away and made something of a sigh. When she looked back, her eyes held determination. "Alright, then."





Zeus paced the halls of Olympus, hand cupping chin, eyebrows furrowed, lost in thought.


Hera sat in her place and called out to her consort. "Dear husband," she said. "Perhaps you should leave this alone."


The King of the Gods turned to her. "The mongrel has the Rhea Ruby. We cannot allow her to remain in possession of that, much less with it in the forehead of that accursed horse. You were to the one to rip his wings from him and send him hurtling down to the earth! There was a reason you did that and I would like to see to it that things remain as they were!"


"You realize how much power she has over us?" Athena added, entering the room. "She is Protector of the Blood, she has the Rhea Ruby, and she is Master of War! That War Academy she has makes me nervous because only Sun Tzu runs a comparable establishment. I say the best way to end this is to crush the Amazon Nations underfoot!"


"When they unite?" Zeus mentioned. The Goddess of Wisdom nodded.


"They are expecting such an attack," Hera countered. "And what of Artemis--"


"WHAT OF HER?" demanded a seething Athena. "Hera, Artemis has allowed her women to run amuck on my territories. She has never once stopped Samsara from ransacking half of Athens. She just as well deserves this just as the rest of those wretched women!"


"You realize that she will side with Samsara and the Amazons, then. I hope you also realize that Apollo and his followers will join them and Hestia's women will take to arms?" Hera was clearly against marching on Amazon territory. One mistake and Samsara would go to Olympus and finish them all. "Let sleeping dogs lie, Athena."


Discord appeared, angry. "Let sleeping dogs lie?" she cried. "MY DAUGHTER is a CHILD right now because of that half-breed and her aunt! I want my revenge!"


Athena turned to Hera again. "All right. We'll let it alone. But we move when the real Queen of Themiscyra returns. And once all the area Tribes are together..." She closed her fist violently.





Zia was locked up in a unknown place. The memory of the real Caesar being alive and being taken away was too much to remember. It happened so fast.


Zia had been taken and beaten. She was still weak from all the fighting, but this didn’t matter to her captors. Octavius was probably going through the same ordeal. According to Caesar, she was to fight in the Roman arena. The same way her parents died.


If Caesar thinks he is going to kill me, he has another think coming, Zia thought. She called out to Caesar and he came in.


"What do you want?"


"Let us make a deal, I will fight in the arena, and if I win the fight, Rome is mine. If I lose, my death should be a good reward for you."


"So be it," Ceaser said and left.


Octavius came in and felt sorry for his dear Zia, who was locked up and caged. He secretly came in to bring the leftovers of the guards. "Zia, what about your Amazons? I even heard that Xena was here."


"It is obvious that the Amazons do not know or maybe not even care that I am here," Zia said sadly. "Besides, I can handle myself. Why would the Warrior Princess even care about some poor teenage girl?" Zia said angrily. "I was born an Amazon, and I guess I will die as one."





"I was born an Amazon, and I guess I will die as one," were the last words that went through Samsara's mind.


"Hey!" shouted Seriana, snapping a couple of fingers in front of her sister's eyes. "Snap out of it! Sis, what's with you?"


Samsara shook her head and placed her hand on her temple. "These... thoughts... Zia's still in lock up, right?"


"Well, yeah, you haven't let her out since the joust and no one's gonna listen to either of us if we want her out."


They were sitting at a table in the Mess hut. Karma was playing with a toy since her aunt was done feeding her. She offered the toy to her mother and she took it with a loving smile.


"Sami," Silver Hawk interjected. "What is it you were thinking about?"


"Zia was in a prison, but she was challenging Caesar for rule of Rome. It doesn't make any sense to me." Karma cooed and made faces at an Amazon across the hut, sticking her tongue out and blowing a raspberry. "Karma!" she chided. "Don't do that; that's rude."


The child seemed to pout but listened to her mother.


"You, know, Mariko talked to me about that. You're having premonitions. We need to keep Zia on the right path so this doesn't happen."


"I realize that."


Seriana sighed. "The first thing is that someone has to tell her to stay in camp. If she insists on leaving, not only will Medea and Jadea have a fit, but Celosia may turn into a hydra herself when she finds out we took in an Amazon only to let her escape."


"I'm electing you," Samsara said, lifting her child into her arms.


"Wh-WHAT?" she stammered.


"You heard me, Sis. You go talk to the girl, you tell her to stick around in camp, and you start making friends with her so she doesn't feel the need to leave." She knelt and picked up Karma's blanket.


"Where are you going?" she demanded.


"I'm going to... I don't know," she said, furrowing her eyebrows and placing a fist on her hip. She sat back down for a second, then stood up quickly. "Rumor has it that the Thermodonians are coming up from their camp for a visit! You go talk to Zia now and you'll get to see some of the finest warriors as they roll into the gates." She walked out, leaving Seriana more than confused.


She shook her head as she stood and headed toward the hut where Zia was under guard. My…sister…sure does confuse me, she lamented.





Outside in the middle of the village as Gabrielle and Xena were wondering what came next, they saw another familiar face.


Valkyra approached carrying two plates of hot food and Xena said to Gabrielle, “Well, well, it’s Valkyra, the pretty weapons teacher.” Gabrielle gave Xena a jealous look when she heard the word ‘pretty’.


Xena then addressed Valkyra, “So, you bring us food again?”


“But of course, it’s seems as though no one else has made the effort,” answered a smiling Valkyra, “You can take a few moments to eat before you continue to talk of tribal unity and war with the gods.”


As Medea came out of her hut, she overheard Valkyra speaking. She widened her eyes as if to ask, ‘How did you know what we were talking about?’


Valkyra replied to the unasked question, “Well, some of us may not be privy to all the plans, but the topic of the discussion between leaders can be rather obvious. Everyone’s talking about it. Would you like something to eat as well, Queen Medea?”


The Queen Regent glared at Valkyra without answering.


Valkyra turned to Xena and said, “Maybe later before things get too serious, you can let a few of our over-confident warriors spar with you so you can show them that they do not know everything about fighting. When I defeat them, they do not always take it seriously since they know in advance that I will win. This way when you defeat them, they will realize that they still have much to learn.


Xena looked slightly puzzled. “I think that was a compliment…or was it?”


“It was a compliment and a tease,” interjected Gabrielle. “Valkyra likes and respects you.”


“I like and respect the both of you,” added Valkyra, “You are great fighters, you give help to those who need it and you are just.”


Xena smiled and told Valkyra, “I’ll be happy to take your brash students down a notch or two. And afterward, I can take you down as well. We never did have the chance to finish our spar the last time that I was here.”


Valkyra laughed and replied, “Yes, you and I can have a go at it with swords again, but I will be kind to you by not embarrassing you in front of everyone. We can battle where no one can see us.”


“I want to watch!” said Gabrielle beaming with delight at the challenge.


A laughing Xena took hold of Valkyra’s hand and said, “The loser buys the ale.”


“It’s a deal. I guess you had better get back to the Elders and the Queens. I am sure that they will want you to be in the foreground of any plans. Let me know if the food is too spicy.”





Festive feelings had died down quite a bit by the time afternoon came, though a bystander could still witness jokes being passed between Sisters. Even a light prank was pulled on one of the younger women who'd just come of age to be considered adult.


Periodically, the Sorceress Empress got the old familiar pricking sensation that warned her of a foreign presence. She made no indication that anything was amiss, and only Queen Medea knew that a distraction pestered the woman from time to time.


At present, Medea oversaw most of the warriors who stood on the training grounds. She ordered repetitions of certain moves, and tested each Amazon warrior for clearness in her calls. In battle, one of the worst flaws that can happen is to lose communication between your warriors. Each woman needed to know what to do, where to go, who needed help, or when their archers were about to fire a wave.


"Louder, Sayde!" She shouted at a particular Amazon, who then belted forth a strong growl. The Queen nodded with an approving smile. "Very good! Keep it up, Amazons!"


Jadea sat by herself in the Queen's hut. She'd spent the last half hour contemplating different strategies. They had a plan, but plans could turn quickly and she had gone over several possibilities and their outcomes with the other leaders.


One element still lurked around outside the Amazon territory. This one bothered the Sorceress Empress greatly because she could not predict his next move. He could go either way, and to wait and discover his next move was impossible given the time and resources available.


"Time?" She said aloud to herself, bolting out of the chair. "Oh, no!"


She vanished from the hut and appeared at Themiscyra's gates. The guards looked at her with strange faces, but none questioned her. "Come on out, Angus!" She yelled, pausing before she added, "I might let ya live!"


No sound nor movement was detected. Jadea turned around and nodded to one of the Amazons. The guard took her crossbow and readied. The Sorceress turned back around to try once again. "I know ya're out there, Angus! I'm down wind of ya!" She retorted in the hopes he'd appear.


Yet again - nothing stirred out of place. Just as she turned her body, the man in question jumped out suddenly several feet away.


"Now that hurts!" He said in his usual bantering manner. His eyes gleamed in humor though he attempted a very honest expression. "I mean, I come all this way to help ya and ya got tah go and say a thing like that!"


The Amazon questioned her orders at that moment. "Queen Jadea?"


"Standby," she answered quickly. Jadea had easily noted that the Celt was unarmed. It wasn't like Angus to be completely void of weapons.


"I never asked for your help, sir," She quipped acridly. The remark stung him, to be sure.


Angus did the last thing either Jadea or the Amazons that witnessed it could have expected. He knelt down upon one knee, his right arm crossed in front of him with his hand clenched, and bowed his head. With his eyes lowered, he clearly stated,


"Jadea, Sorceress Empress, I am reporting to you for duty! I offer my services and my life...and the lives of the thousand men and women camped inside Cirra Valley."


Wh-wha-what?! She screamed inside so strongly that Thalia, Samsara, and Seriana all heard her. They didn't know what was up, but they certainly had distinguished her voice.


The Head Scout swiftly dashed off the training grounds. Medea instantly yelled after her, but the Queen didn't give chase. A sharp flick of her wrist instructed one of the standing guards to follow the scout.


Angus brought his head and eyes up to Jadea, but he did not get to his feet. She looked at him through stunned eyes. He glanced quickly at the pendant around her neck that flickered sky blue. The Celt wisely kept himself from grinning. He knew she was baffled by his sudden humility, more so by learning he'd assembled troops and brought them from Celtia. What she didn't know at the time was that the majority of the "women" he mentioned were Highland Amazons. Only a skeleton crew had remained in the Highlands to keep the village safe.


"Queen Jadea?" The Amazon above her asked nervously. The Sorceress Empress seemed oblivious to her name. A second later, Thalia neared the scene enough to notice Angus on his knee before Jadea.


Jade? She cautiously sent. Thalia's voice in her mind seemed to awaken Jadea from her frozen state.


Her throat cleared and she stared at him hard. Angus met her gaze, knowing exactly what she was trying to do. Jadea had every reason to believe he was lying. Lying about his so-called commitment to serve under her. Lying about the troops he'd brought. Just lying in general. At the very least, she thought, he was baiting her into a trap. Sure, maybe he had brought soldiers back with him. And maybe he was offering to take orders from her as he done so when he served under her command before. And...maybe it was a trap to lull her back into letting her guard down. Trust, he'd learned, was both a necessity and a luxury.


"On your feet," she declared in her authoritative voice. "All right, you get one chance. Blow it, and you'll wish death had taken ya instead of what I've planned," Jadea told him. Her voice never wavered, nor did her eyes leave his.


Angus nodded before expectantly awaiting further orders. He knew the Sorceress Empress as well if not better than her Sisters knew her.


"Return to Cirra and remain with the men. I'll send a messenger when I want you to move out," She commented, soon noting the hesitance in his face.


"With all due respect, Sorceress Empress, I cannot comply with that order. Half of the men are on their way here," he informed.


"Queen Jadea?" The Amazon guard again asked for an order. She didn't like any of this one bit. Neither did Thalia or Jadea, for that matter.


"I see. And who ordered that?" The woman questioned with restrained anger.


The Celt's eyes fell to the ground for but half a moment before meeting the Queen's again. "I did, Queen Dolphinea's strong suggestion."

His voice did what it could to remain steady.


"Dolphinea?" Thalia spattered in disbelief.


Jadea didn't need long to recover and figure out the rest. "You brought the Highland Amazon Tribe here, didn't you?" She asked accusingly as her eyes narrowed. This had not been in the plan devised to unite the nation.


Angus slightly shook his head. "'Brought' is not the word, Empress. 'Twas more like...I escorted them."


Another Amazon guard scoffed at his correction. By this time, Queen Medea's impatience for a report had lead her to find the Head Scout at the gates. She'd arrived in time to hear a male voice say, "escorted them."


"Who escorted who to where, and why?" She had her sword drawn, expecting to find trouble, and now glared from the Celt to her Co-Queen. "What the HADES is going on here?"


Want me to tell her? Thalia offered.


Jadea rejected the idea. I want you free and clear of blame for this, she explained when the Scout gave her a complex look.


"The Highland Tribe awaits word as to when they are to join. I've just thanked Angus for the message," Jadea said calmly, glancing briefly to the other Amazon guards to insure their silence.


"The Highland Tribe? Are you sure?" Medea inquired, unbelieving that Amazons from Britannia and Eire could have arrived so speedily. After all, the plan had not been in place for long. A stray thought in the Queen Regent's head reasoned that it must've had something to do with the Twilight Bark.


"Quite, yes. Anyway, Angus has taken the courtesy of regrouping my men. They, too, stand ready for their orders on our behalf," Jadea explained a bit further, knowing the news would impact Medea. To veer the Queen's look, Jadea turned to Angus.


"The gods' intend to strike us soon. We need a diversion. Can ya handle it?" She asked him and received an immediate nod.


"How big a one would ya like?" He snickered mischievously in his old way. Jadea smiled wide.


"As big, hard, and long as ya can manage." She saw that he grinned but said nothing, for which she was grateful and added, "Just don't get anyone killed."


The last provision would limit the options available to him, but Angus didn't object. "Aye, it shall be done." He bowed his head and turned sharply to leave.


Medea called out. "Halt!" Angus stopped in his tracks, knowing he might be shot if he didn't. Jadea turned her head to Medea, wildness in her eyes again.


Antigone was impeccable with her timing. She flipped out of a tree and landed between the Queen Regent and the Sorceress Empress. The latter used the time to divert Medea's attention.


Angus, go, Jadea thought to him. Aloud she asked, "Antigone, when's the next hunt?" Her facial expression as innocent as could be.


The Huntress arched a brow but immediately took the lead. "About two hours, Queen Jadea."


She nodded and walked toward Medea. "I think it's time, don't you?"


Much to her discontent, Medea had to agree with Jadea. The former knew what her co-ruler referred to, and she'd practically spare the life of a captured Roman if it meant the chance to speak to Celosia.





A troubled Artemis stood in front a statuette erected in her honor. She knew what was taking place without even stepping foot on her lands or Olympus. On a whim, the Goddess of the Hunt decided to make a surprise visit to Themiscyra. She meant to speak to one Amazon in particular, the tribe's Weapons Master. Artemis knew of the Queens' plans, and she meant to help things along by giving them a little known secret. The only way she could do this without arousing suspicion was to make it look like one of the Amazons had learned it on her own.


The Goddess of the Amazons waited until Valkyra walked from Xena and Gabrielle, on her way through the forest. She watched as the warrior waded further into the trees. Valkyra customarily made trips through the forest.


Artemis appeared in front of the woman's path...





Meanwhile Alex' familiar shout signaled arriving visitors. Samsara was waiting for them, Karma and the hound as well.


When Serena told her she had to make her journey - to complete her acts and labors - she was hoping to go to Thermodon, the tribe of warring Amazons, but the Teloan Chief Elder would hear none of it. She sent her instead to Themiscyra. The last thing the Teloans needed was a hot-headed High Guard in Kaia with a trigger-happy Heiress for a sister.


The memories were prompted by the arrival of an Amazon Queen, Marcella of the Thermodon Amazons. Some of the nearby Themiscyrans dropped their tasks and made their way to the gates to see who was arriving.


Medea and Jadea were in the crowd, waiting for Queen Marcella to enter. Gabrielle and Xena weren't far off either and Samsara walked toward her aunt with her daughter on her hip. The Goddess beamed when she saw the gates open and a group of one hundred or so women entered led by Marcella who wore her mask of the Wildcat.


The Thermodonians had a different caste system than those of their neighboring tribes.

Blood had little to do with ascension, although it could help a candidate. Thermodon was a tribe of warriors and only someone who had proven herself in battle could ascend to the throne.


Marcella was a known name throughout Greece. Hailing from Thrace, she had been training since the age of 3 and had been known for her precision shooting and rough demeanor. When old enough, she'd challenged the Queen for rule and won. She tended to smile on Amazons who were loyal and would banish or dual those who committed crimes against the tribe. Her rule was harsh, but her Amazons were true.


She looked about the camp and raised her head. She observed the light skin of her counterparts and knew that warm weather would be coming soon. Thermodon was known for unseasonably warm weather all year around, and the women who lived there were tanned and bronzed from days in the sun.


"Welcome to Themiscyra," came Medea's voice.


Marcella lowered her head in respect. "You must be Queen Medea. I am aware that Themiscyra is the full of Queens at the moment. I hear you have two or four - depending on your count."


Samsara glanced at Gabrielle. The two Teloan Queens met eyes for a second and in that second dozens of feelings graced both. Respect, wariness, and some fear. Many things would have to be discussed and soon. Mariko looked on from her place.


"I also take it," Marcella continued, "that the Gods intend to strike and that more Tribes are coming?"


Jadea nodded. "That's right. But, let's talk later. I would like to see to it that you are all settled." She delegated tasks, some to take the horses and corral them, others to prepare their huts to share, and still others to prep for the festivities of the night. Before Jadea could continue, Marcella had a surprise.


"As a tribute to the Nok'tana journey of Queen Celosia and the superior fighting skills necessary to defeat the Majie as you have," the Thermodon Queen interjected, turning to her head huntress, "Halcyon and her huntresses have the finest game for a feast."


Antigone smiled when she laid eyes on Halcyon. They would share a hut and speak of their experiences.


Medea thanked Marcella and together they listed who would be living with whom.


Afternoon turned into evening and the feast began. The women danced together, learning the Thermodon ways of worshipping Artemis. The Queens sat at the head of the table - Jadea, Medea, Gabrielle, and Marcella. Samsara kept from that area as she was showing off Karma to the newest visitors. She looked at Marcella every so often and the Thermodon Queen watched the Goddess as she moved about with her daughter.


Valkyra returned soon after her quiet meeting with Artemis. The smile that played on her face was interesting and only some Amazons picked up on it. She walked to Xena and bowed her head in regard, then went to get a hot plate of food for herself.


Marcella broke from the crowd and went to the Great Destroyer, a smile playing on her face as well. Seriana was speaking with Mariko in the background and both caught a view of the exchange.


"What shall I refer to you as?" the Thermodon asked.


The Teloan turned around, knowing the question was to her. They were both of similar height and bone structure, lithe and muscular, tall and thin. "What do you mean?" she responded.


"You have many names. What do you go by?"





The Goddess glanced briefly at her aunt, who was engaged in yet another conversation with Medea and some Amazon Elders. Samsara was quick to turn back to Marcella. With a clear voice, she replied, "My name is Samsara Athanase." Her tone seemed to declare what she said as the undeniable truth.


Marcella raised her eyes at the answer. Her surprise at Samsara's lack of title showed on the woman's face. The Queen knew the Goddess had a handful of rightful names and positions.


A few yards away, Mariko grimaced but made no comment. The woman had reached an agreement with Jadea regarding Samsara's training. She had to allow Samsara her choice, but in return so did the Sorceress Empress. And for now, Samsara chose to be an Amazon warrior and Queen. Everyone knew that Gabrielle would leave with Xena once the Amazon Nation united and had accomplished its purpose. When that happened, Samsara would resume as Queen of Teloq. For now, everyone was content with their place.


Marcella smiled, nonetheless. She saw something in Callisto's daughter - something she recognized and admired. It was the same undefined something that usually prohibited Samsara's popularity among her Amazon Sisters. "As you wish, Samsara Athanase. Tell me, how old is your little one?" Marcella asked in a curious tone.


A bit of the old Samsara returned long enough to wonder if she sensed a hidden agenda behind the question. She found nothing apparent in the look the Queen gave her daughter. She smiled proudly in the fashion that mothers often can.


In the middle of a story Medea insisted upon sharing with her Sisters, Jadea stood up and left without excusing herself or offering an explanation. Samsara noticed and soon made her exit. The others continued chatting about every topic under Apollo.





Samsara caught up with her aunt just as they were outside of earshot of all the Amazons.


"I've been meaning to talk to you," Jadea said. "Seriana told me about these premonitions you've been having. I think Athena tried to poison you as well as Karma."


"This isn't news to me, Jadea. What do you want to know about these premonitions?" She crossed her arms.




Samsara related all to her aunt.


Meanwhile, Xena turned to Medea and talked shop with her. "I hear you have a Roman in your jail?"


Medea looked at the Warrior Princess curiously. "Yes, yes we do. And if she thinks I'm letting her out after the last time she was out, she's quite mistaken."



Coming Soon!


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