Secrets and Lies

 
Ollaea

Celosia came running, alerted by the sounds of battle, to where the incident had taken place. She surveyed the strange scene, wondering what could have happened. Blood dripped from Ollaea's mouth and Xanthea lay prone nearby, unmoving and still. Medea laughed and the sound sent a chill down Celosiaís spine.

"What are you doing, Medea?" she asked, looking at the strange vision of her now platinum-haired sister.

"Time to go!" the woman said. She twisted out in a flash of light.

Celosia, Haven, Alcina, Danae, Aurora and many other Amazons rushed to the side of the wounded women on the ground. Celosia and Aurora knelt by Xantheaís side and turned her over. Before either could get a read on her condition, they noticed something odd happening.

Xanthea's face and torso were no long visible. She was becoming transparent, the green of the grass could be seen through her.

"Her body is disappearing!" Celosia said in amazement. "Quickly, we must get her to the med tent!" She ordered Aurora. Each grabbed her shoulder, but their fingers slipped through as if Xanthea were mist.

"What in Hades?"

"Goddess protect us!"

Celosia turned to Haven and Alcina, who kneeled beside crushed and bloodied grass. They turned to the Queen.

"She just . . . disappeared!" Danae stated.

Pelee appeared before the startled group. She looked down at the imprints left by Xanthea and Ollaeaís bodies. Shaking her head, she vanished again.

Thalia

Meanwhile, in the woods, Thalia and Seriana stood in a small clearing, far from the temple of Artemis. The sun had set and darkness was settling over the forest. Thalia had sent Desdion to scout and make sure no one followed.

Seriana watched as Thalia gingerly inspected the deep cut the dagger had made.

Can I trust this woman? Where did she come from? She called me 'Seriana', is that my name?

She didn't know anything; not her name or why she was here. There was blackness in her mind, a dark cloud that refused to lift when ordered. Who were her friends and who were her enemies? Who would help her and who would hurt her?

She looked at the brown-haired Amazon again. The woman had spared her in the temple, could she be a friend? Or was she a foe trying to deceive her and lead her into a trap? If so, what kind of trap? Was she an important person worthy of assassination, or a thief caught again by her jailers?

Thalia tore a strip of leather from her tunic, wide enough to cover the wound. It left her garment ragged, but it would stop the bleeding. She looped the leather over her arm and then back up, holding it in the air with her teeth so she could bring her free hand back around and wrap the wound.

Seriana approached her and took the leather in her hands, tying it as tightly as she dared. Thalia winced as it was pulled tight. She looked up at Seriana. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," Seriana backed away from her, still wary.

"Listen," Thalia faced her, "I don't know how to convince you, but I'm a friend. I won't hurt you. I'm only here to help."

"Why do you want to help me?" Seriana held her stance. "What do you gain from it?"

Thalia rubbed her temple. Why were things always so difficult? "You're part of an Amazon tribe called Themiscrya. You rode up just a few days ago on your horse, Deinus. You asked Queen Celosia if you could join our tribe. And even though youíve just arrived, you're like a sister to me. Does this sound familiar? Themiscrya? Celosia?"

Seriana shook her head.

Thalia sighed. She glanced around at the little clearing they were in and at the remaining light in the sky. "We'll have to camp here for the night. I'll go catch us something to eat. Can you light a fire?"

After a moment of hesitation, Seriana nodded.

"Okay. Itís risky, but I donít fancy raw meat. Try and get one started, I'll be back in a little bit," Thalia headed off through the woods.

No bow and arrow or any weapon, I'll have to morph and catch something, she thought to herself.

Back in the clearing, Seriana bent low to the ground as she gathered sticks and for a fire. It didnít take long to amass a good sized-pile and begin sorting them into a pile to light. She was wondering how long it would take her to rub sticks together or find flint in the dark when she heard a twig snap behind her.

Leaping to her feet, she whirled around. Standing in front of her was a woman. Seriana squinted, but the woman was only outlined by the moonlight, she couldn't get a good look.

"You are in danger," the woman's voice was smooth and flowing. "The one who has befriended you, the one named Thalia, is your enemy. She leads you to a trap."

Seriana felt her blood grow cold. This was what she had feared. But who was this, some sort of guardian watching out for her? She obviously had some sort of power, she had appeared out of nowhere.

Still, the Amazon had done nothing to her. "B-but, she hasn't harmed me. She spared me in the temple," she said. She felt her body starting to ache from tension.

"She is wise in trickery and she means to fool you. Here, I will show you," the figure waved an arm.

A cold wind whirled around her and she found herself in a different part of the woods.

"Look ahead of you," the figure's voice whispered through the trees.

Seriana peered through the leaves to see Thalia walking through the woods. Looking around her, the Amazon closed her eyes and leaned over, becoming a gray-haired dangerous looking wolf.

Seriana clamped her hand over her mouth to keep from gasping. A second later she found herself back in the clearing.

"She is a demon, as you saw with your own eyes," the figure said, appearing before her.

"What . . . what do I do?" Seriana felt herself trembling.

"You must not let her know what you know. Act as if I have not been here tonight, but when the chance presents itself . . ." the figure pulled a dagger out of her cloak, "You must kill her."

"Kill her?" Seriana's heart was threatening to beat out of her chest. "I-I don't know if I can do that . . . "

"To save yourself and save many other innocents from harm? Why, it is your duty," the figure held out the dagger to Seriana.

Shining in the moonlight, it had a double edge with jewels studded in the hilt. Seriana looked closer and saw a small dragon carved into the handle. She looked back up at the figure. "I will do as you ask," she sheathed the dagger in her boot, well hidden from sight.

"Thank you, you do a service to all who live in these lands."

Before Seriana could blink, the figure had vanished into the shadows in a gust of wind.

Seriana stared at the air where the figure had been just moments ago. She looked down at the dagger before sheathing it in her boot, well hidden from sight.

A moment later Thalia reentered the clearing, "I got some dinner!" she called cheerfully, holding up a rabbit. "Is that fire ready yet?"

"Oh, I um . . . almost," Seriana hurriedly threw the sticks in a pile.

"Okay, good. I'm starved!" Thalia set the rabbit down on the ground and dropped down beside it. She pulled her carving dagger from the little sheath at her side. With practiced ease, she slit the rabbit up the center and began to peel away the fur and gut it. Looking up at Seriana she noticed the woman watching her, a sick look on her face. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, I'm fine, I-I'm just a little spooked, that's all," Seriana said quickly. "Not much light out, and unfamiliar woods . . . you know?" She forced a laugh.

"Itíll be better once the fire is lit," Thalia prodded. She knew it would take time to get the sticks to come to fire. "Youíll feel better then."

Sheís a good liar, Seriana thought to herself. Thaliaís suggestion came off as being friendly and helpful. If Seriana hadnít seen her change into a demon wolf with her own eyes, she'd have believed the Amazon was telling the truth. It's all a trick, Seriana reminded herself. It's what she does. I have to save all the other innocents and myself.

She'd watch Thalia and wait for the right time.

*****

Two pairs of eyes watched the Amazons in the clearing.

"It worked better than I could have even imagined," Medea's eyes lit up in glee.

"She believed every word that you said," Tern agreed. "Now we have a Themiscryan Amazon on our side. Medea, you're brilliant!"

A smile crept across Medea's face. "I know."

A cold wind swept through the forest, echoing their laughter.

Tern

Later that night, Tern stood on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Thermadon. Everything was going smoothly, according to her plan.

The dagger given to Seriana bore not just any dragon, but her dragon . . . recognizable only to Celosia and Pelee. Now, if the Amazon would just take it to Pelee and Celosia . . . they would understand everything.

If Tern's true mission were revealed or if it failed, the bloodshed would be irrevocable. Medea would be lost forever.

Somehow, some way, she, Artemis' Chosen, would have to find a way to prevent any more deaths.

****

Back at Themiscrya . . .

Celosia sat in her tent, meditating. The daysí events had frustrated her and she needed inner peace in order to lead the tribe. The Amazons were upset enough without her jumping down their throats.

A whirl of soft air and light whispered into the tent and formed into Pelee. It didnít take but a moment for the Queenís blade to be at the intruderís throat.

"Pelee," Celosia breathed. "This is not a night to be sneaking around." She sheathed the blade and returned it to her side.

"I cannot believe Tern would turn into an evil force," Pelee said, ignoring the Queen.

"LeeLee, you've heard the reports, seen the damage! Tern is capable of anything!"

"Which is why I know there must be more at stake here. For all her craziness, Tern is a loyal Themiscryan. Itís your sister Medea who is the loose cannon. Tern was chosen as Medea's mentor and teacher. If they're into something evil, there must be a reason."

"LeeLee, half my tribe wants both of their heads on spears. The other half is doesnít know what to believe."

"Donít lose faith in Tern," Pelee stood her ground.

"I have several Amazons out there, missing and possibly dead at their hands. Ollaea is one of Medeaís oldest friends. You know how close they are, how much trust and friendship there is between them. Yet you saw her lash out and knock Ollaea down, then all three vanished," Celosia sighed. "I don't know if I have time to trust Tern to bring her back."

Pelee laid her hand on her cousin's arm. "I have to leave. If I'm to stop whatever is about to happen, I can't be in Themiscrya. Please, take no action until I return. If Tern and Medea are captured, which I doubt, do NOT let them be punished until I return."

"Which will be when?" Celosia demanded.

"As soon as I get the answers I need," her voice lingered in the air as her body turned into light and winked out.

Seriana

The dagger seemed to burn against her calf as Seriana hesitantly put a little food in her unsteady but empty stomach. Kill her, whispered an angry and terrified voice inside her. Kill Thalia; be safe.

But even as the voice hissed, her stomach trembled at the thought of spilling blood. The food she had swallowed threatened to make itself known again. Mars had called her a warrior, but how could that be right when she became ill at the very thought of killing?

"What do we do now?" she asked hesitantly, brushing meat juices from her mouth.

Thalia poked the fire with a long stick and sighed. "Well, I can't see how we can do anything else now. I think the best option would be to go back to the village and try to explain all this to the Queen. I'm not exactly looking forward to that, but I don't see any other choice. We need to see if anything can be done for you . . . to help you remember."

Seriana reached down and idly touched the dagger just under the top of her boot. Would it be possible to fulfill her commission in a village full of Amazons? But what if Thalia was her friend?

There was no way to decide . . . not when she couldnít even remember her own name. If anything could be done to reverse that, maybe things would be clearer. "All right," she decided. "Let's go to the village."

Thalia banked the fire and stood up. "Well, then, let's go. Maybe we can even get some sleep once weíre there. If we're lucky."

"I can't remember when I slept last," said Seriana, smiling a little.

Medea

Medea paced. Talons clicking and wings fluttering, she paced. She was making a full transition. It seemed the foolish Amazons hadn't been so foolish after all; she wasn't just a goddess, as she had first thought. No, she was definitely something more than that. A demon, certainly, but the God-given power of deity still burned in her veins.

Demon Goddess, the words bloomed before her like crimson orchids. Well, it made sense, didn't it? Clawed hands, icy cat's eyes...That wasn't a normal part of the goddess transformation. Then there were the wings, fangs, and horns. No, this isnít normal. Ares must have done something . . . somehow tainted that ambrosia . . . somehow turned me into a half-demon and . . .

And it didn't matter. Medea's breath whistled from between her venomous fangs. It didn't matter. She loved what she was now. Loved the power, the rush. No one was angry when she thrilled in a kill now. No one would dare knock her in the dirt when she celebrated her blood lust now.

On a whim the demoness whipped a ball of crimson electricity at Aresí temple wall, shaking the structure from roof to foundation. In a corner she heard Xanthea whimper. A wicked smile blossomed on her lips and she slowly turned her pace towards the blond Amazon.

She'd been here two days now. Medea had been slowly sucking her dry of blood and slowly torturing the woman, delighting in her agonized moans.

The platinum blond ripped her claws across the pale woman's thigh and heard that moan again. It made her skin tingle, sending a chill down her spine that made the demon want to cry out in ecstasy. She closed her eyes, savoring that feeling before she approached the terrorized Amazon again.

Xanthea stared at her with tears in her eyes. She'd been tied to a beautiful little contraption Medea had invented. Leather straps bound her to the stone wall where two spikes cradled the sides of her neck. Her ankles, waist, and wrists bound to their positions by similar spikes and straps. This wouldn't cause too much pain, unless Medea felt playful and decided to experiment with the woman's pain tolerance. Its main purpose however, was one that served a much more practical and violating purpose.

"I'm hungry, little Amazon," Medea rasped, tracing her claw down the blondeís cheek. Her statement caused a tidal wave of fear to run through Xanthea, one that fogged the demonessí mind with an even stronger, more feral hunger.

"No Medea . . . Gods no, please . . ." tears ran fierce down the beautiful Amazon's face. She'd fought the first time Medea had tried to feed from her, and the second time, and the third. But she weakened each time, her life draining away into the demoness.

Medea licked her lips. The healer didn't have enough blood left to put up much of a fight. The most she could do was cry and make weak protests.

"Shh . . ." Medea crooned. She slowly pricked open the scars on Xanthea's neck. A painful breath escaped from the woman's lips and the demoness' blood was on fire. "I'll only take a little . . ." she whispered. "I want you to live . . .you're my favorite toy."

Lowering her head, she fed.

Xanthea screamed.

The platinum blonde stepped back before every drop was sucked from the Amazon. She kissed the wounds on the womanís neck and scabs formed, preserving the woman for the next meal.

Xanthea followed the demoness with her eyes, revolted by the sight of Medeaís blood stained face. Then something else began to happen to the demoness. "Y-your skin it's . . ." Xanthea's eyes were wide.

"What?" Medea demanded, pinning the woman to the wall with her gaze. Xanthea only shook her head, unable to answer. "What?" she bellowed. But no answer slipped past the healer's parched lips.

Medea turned to the pool of blessed water and stared at her reflection. She took stock of what she saw. Ebony horns, pearly fangs . . . she screamed.

The water froze through to the bottom then shattered into thousands of tiny splinters.

It couldn't be, not my skin! She'd changed in every other way, but not her . . .

"Still love being a demon?" Xanthea asked boldly, finding her voice.

Medea lifted a hand and threw a surge of bloody lightening at the Amazon. She watched the skin of her outstretched hand take on a greenish hue and become decidedly reptilian.

She and Ares would be having a chat.

Soon.

 

Chaos and Confusion

Friend or Foe?

 

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