Winter Solstice 2002

Each year Themiscyra celebrates the solstice. We do this in character as a tribe over the course of many days. The following is the text from our 2002 celebration.

Queen Jadea

Fog filtered into the Amazon village on the eve of Winter Solstice. The Amazon sorceress, Jadea, had slept for nine hours straight that night. She was unaccustomed to being dependent on the natural cycle of sleep, having learned to use her powers and the driving force of adrenaline to keep her active and alert.

Solstice Eve Day began like any other. Amazons attended their duties. Into the late evening, a translucent energy began flowing through the forest, penetrating each Amazon one by one. Winter Solstice was near at hand, and preparing for the festivities was a large part of the season.

Mid-day came before Queen Jadea made an appearance. She was spotted deep in the forests, alone and armed with Callisto's sword at her side.

The scout that spotted her? Thalia, of course. "I wonder what she's up to?" She didn't have to wonder long.

"I'm contemplating the proper punishment for spying on an Amazon Queen. Care to enlighten me as to what you're doing so far from the village?"

Thalia, being the dutiful Head Scout she was, cleared her throat and came down from the tree she'd been using. "I'm making the rounds, Queen Jadea," she said. "Regent Valkyra informed me of your instructions to tighten the security of our lands. I thought I'd come out to see if any trespassers were about."

"And have you found any trespassers?" Jadea's voice lilted some, her amusement slipping slowly out. By now, even Thalia had learned to discern many of the Cirran's tones and their complex meanings. The Queen wasn't truly upset with her for "spying" on her in the denser part of the forest. She was poking fun . . . in her own way.

"No, my Latra." Thalia shook her head, giving a slight smile before breaking her glance.

Latra. It was a word Themiscyrans had taken to calling the sorceress born in Cirra. She still hadn't managed to grow used to it, but Jadea allowed for it. In her heart, she still felt Celosia was the rightful ruler of Themiscyra. Similarly, there was a certain Highland Amazon Queen that felt the Sorceress Empress was the rightful ruler of Celcia. Both women, however, kept these beliefs to themselves . . . though one could, if careful and perceptive, see these hidden truths in the faces or eyes of the Amazon women themselves.

"Is something wrong?" The Head Scout asked, finally breaking a rather awkward silence. Awkward for Thalia, that is.

Jadea had been thinking . . . planning . . . devising . . . and she was nearer to a scheme that would shape the future of the Amazon world.

In two head shakes, Jadea gave her response. "No, I've been mulling over some undone affairs." She paused a moment. "You can report back to the Watchmistress and Regent Valkyra that you found their Latra and she'll return in a short hour."

The scout gave her Queen a rather peculiar look, then a smile and a nod. Thalia didn't know how much Jadea knew. She also didn't know how much the Sorceress Empress appreciated her . . . but then, Jadea was not one to often tell.

"As you wish, Sorceress Empress." Thalia promptly turned to go, not knowing that Jadea's eyebrows had raised the moment she heard what address she'd been called. The Head Scout was not usually among those to Jadea by that title, so it was rather . . . unexpected.

Just when I think no Amazon can surprise me. She made a slight shrug, walking along a path that only she could see.

In the village, the celebration had already unofficially begun. Ryka started cooking early that morning, stopping only for an hour in the late evening. She would not have taken a break, but for the direct command of Queen Cyane.

"I apologize, Queen Cyane, but would you hand me that jar of spices over there?" Ryka asked, glancing up with a polite smile. Currently, the rest of her staff was busily doing odds and ends . . . like trying to find some misplaced barrels of Jadea's famous wine. It turned out that Medea had hidden the extra supply her Sister had made two Solstices ago- she wanted to keep them for herself, and maybe have a re-match with the Sorceress Empress.

Queen Cyane lifted a brow, but she walked over to the indicated spot and picked up the jar. The label was written in Themiscyra's Amazon dialect. Reading aloud, she said, "Put in a pinch, or perhaps two. A pinch more will never do."

Ryka looked up when Cyane set the jar down near her. The Northern Amazon Queen had a curious expression on her face. She still had concern in her eyes, for Ryka was frequently wiping her forehead with a cloth, now.

"I didn't label that one," she explained, giving a chuckle. "I usually put in four pinches." A smile that was too priceless for words then curved her lips. "I've never had any complaints, and not one of my Sisters has been poisoned or killed by it."

The Northern Amazon Queen nodded, almost smiling. "Ryka, when you're through stirring that sauce- come see me."

Ryka would find Queen Cyane in her hut. The two talked for awhile before Cyane left the Amazon chef to her sleeping.

In Samsara's hut, there was quite a different scene.

"For Brigid's sake, just pick something!" Seriana cried, collapsing onto a giant pillow she had made one tedious rainy afternoon. There were things strewn about the room, and a trail of various weapons leading to other rooms.

"Well, it's not that easy, Ser," the Teloan called out, rummaging through a trunk of Amazon clothing. She found a particular item she hadn't worn since she was a small girl in Ishtar's care. It wasn't tossed aside like so many of her other clothes. Who knew she had this many?

"I swear if you make me watch you try on another boot or-"

"Quit whining like a mushia, and help me!" Samsara then vanished, reappearing in a new part of her hut. For the first time in ages, she had the entire hut to herself. Cassia was with Naiya down by the Thermadon, not swimming but helping to gather some river stones.

"I hate it when you ask for my help, then disappear!" Seriana marched through two rooms to find Samsara undressing hurriedly, throwing something new on.

"What do you think?"

"Fine. Great!" Seri had seen so many different combinations of attire now, she really didn't have much left in her to care.

It had started with something Jadea had said. She'd asked Seriana if either she or Samsara had a cape with the family crest sewn into it. Well, that did it. Seriana wasn't sure, for it'd been so long since the subject had been broached. Samsara swore that all three of them owned one, or perhaps something else with the crest embroidered on it, and Jadea . . . had to go be Queen of Themiscyra. Somehow, this had all lead to Samsara Athanase becoming unusually obsessed with what to wear during the first day of this year's Winter Solstice.

"I'll turn you into-"

"I'll summon Aunt Jade before you can." Seriana quipped, defiantly. There was a long pause.

"She hates to be summoned," Samsara said, picking up an ornamental dagger. It looked harmless enough, but the Amazons never carried a useless weapon. The particular appealing quality of this dagger, besides its intricate lines and shine, was that it was small with a long two-edged blade. The Teloan-Themiscyran Amazon admired it for several seconds before deciding that it wouldn't compliment her clothing-of-the-minute.

"She makes exceptions," Seri countered. The intensity of the argument had lessened, but momentum kept them bickering. Momentum . . . and tardiness. "Come on, Sami, I wanted to debrief my border patrols before-"

It was too late. Regent Valkyra, in her usual and amazing way, was on top of things. She had entered Samsara's hut unannounced, made her way through the debris of Amazon belongings, and now stood observing two of the most powerful and respected Amazons in the village as they bickered over what to wear and how late one was making the other.

"If you both spent half as much time training as you do quarreling, we'd be ahead of every kingdom on the continent." The message was clear to them both.

"Yes, Regent Valkyra." They said in unison. It was such a childish thing to do. But…it made them both laugh, then attempt to stifle their smiles.

Valkyra, who could be as stern or silly as any Amazon in Themiscyra, shook her head. "You have five minutes, Amazons," Without another word or look, she turned and left.

Silence. Then . . .

"Ya know, if you'd just told me which-"

"Oh, Artemis! Here we go again!" Seriana threw up her arms, rolling her eyes. "Just pick something. Anything, Sami! Just please choose something to cover your immortal skin and wear it!"

Silence. Then…

"Ya don't have to yell, ya know."

Seri shot her Sister a look that cannot be described here.

And in another part of the village . . .

"No, you can't put streamers on the catapults. Yes, I know Queen Jadea would appreciate the thought. No, there'll be no fairy dusting of the corrals. Any questions?"

And in yet another part of Themiscyra . . .

"Isn't anybody going to tell me what's going on here?"

"Why should you be the only one that knows what's going on?"

"Orane sumana."


The first day of Themiscyra's Winter Solstice had begun with a chilly wave sweeping through the forests, settling in the depths of the village. Consequently, many a torch and fire were blazing. Smoke ascended invisible steps toward the canopy.

"What do you mean 'we are out of the sacred wine'?" Jadea queried, irritation and disbelief in her voice.

"We've checked the supplies and the stock in the Mess hall. Four times. We're completely out, and unless you wish me to use the . . ."

The queen raised a hand, her eyebrows arched in a discouraging way. "Don't say it. Don't even think it." Jadea gave what sounded to Ryka like a growl.

"Your orders, my Queen?" She gently asked.

"Well, I'll just have to make more, won't I?"

"But I thought you said you had to . . ."

"You'll have the wine before the feast. We still have the fire ceremonies tonight."

An hour later . . .

"We moved the catapults. One to the north, and one to the south." Valkyra noted, standing beside her Queen who stood taking in the whole village scene by scene.

"And I believe Seriana wants to talk to you," she added, seeing that Jadea hadn't looked at her or given a hint that she'd listened.

"Seriana will have to wait. Look at the village, Valkyra," Jadea's eyes moved from hut to hut, Amazon to Amazon. "What is missing?"

Many seconds passed before the Regent answered. She looked around, observing a couple of Amazons helping each other. About nine yards from them were a mother and daughter, both dressed in festive and warm clothes. The little girl laughed. To the left of them sat a circle of Highland Amazons. Vorgeen, their Queen, stood in the middle, speaking to her Amazons in their native tongue. She told them stories of their ancestors, some that they'd never heard before and others they had heard many times.

Valkyra's head turned to see fires being lit, guards rotating shifts, and horses trotting with riders in decorative apparel. As she gazed around, she saw many sights that warmed and strengthened her heart. But it wasn't too long before she knew exactly what was missing. The Warrior Woman of the Caucasus Mountains rested her eyes on Jadea. Even without the sorceress' powers, without the gift of telepathy, Valkyra knew what her Amazon Sister was thinking.

"Celosia and Medea. Are you missing them, Jade?"

The Cirran nodded, still not looking at her Regent. She felt she would lose her composure if she met Valkyra's eyes. She drew in a breath. "I wonder why she's been away this long." Jadea said aloud, aware that some nearby Amazons could hear her.

"They say the nok'tana can be a long journey," Valkyra observed, looking outward then. She placed her hand on Jadea's shoulder, now looking at her. "Come. They'd want you to celebrate with them, not mourn for them."

The Queen nodded and allowed her self to be lead back into the center of the village. The time approached, and she would need to prepare herself for the oration.


The moon was high in a bright starless sky; starless but for one - the North Star. Four of Themiscyra's royal line dipped torches into oil and lit them. They approached the four sides of the bonfire and simultaneously lowered them to light the logs. The drums had been beating low, but their hearts began to thump louder now. They didn't stop when the Sorceress Empress walked through the lines of Amazons.

She wore a long thick cape, emerald green with silver lining. Her family crest marked the back of the cape.

The drumbeats sounded lower, but continued humming. This small but significant gesture was symbolic of the many hearts of the Amazon women - forever beating, forever strong…even if others couldn't, or wouldn't, hear them.

Jadea drew in a breath, having memorized her oration. She'd wavered on whether to speak in epic words, or to keep her part simple and short. The Queen thought it a pity that Rumyna, her former mentor, wasn't around to have given an answer.

"Amazons, hear these words. The flames of our fires burn brightly this night. Winter Solstice is here, and I invite each of my Amazon Sisters to spend this night with the fire."

She paused, casting a glance to the Queen Regent, Valkyra. The latter gave a slight nod.

Queen Jadea looked across the many faces of her tribe. She met many a warrioress in her eye.

"Life to life, and mind to mind. Amazons all, our powers unbind. Blood, we give. Land, we share. Let us live, both strong and fair."

She gave Valkyra a signal. Valkyra gave Yakut a signal. The Head Shamaness approached Queen Jadea.

"Yakut, Kuk'Tai Athelfi. Your return brings me great joy. Please accept the honor of being the first Themiscyran to stand before our fire."

But the Head Shamaness shook her head. "No, I cannot."

As if cued, the large gathering of Amazons sucked in a breath. It couldn't quite be heard, but the reaction was similar.

"And why not?" Themiscyra's Queen asked, sounding not at all angry.

Yakut smiled. "Because, by rite, you must be cleansed first." She paused, her smile never fading. "I shall go second," her eyes shifted to Valkyra, "if that is all right with Regent Valkyra."

The Regent nodded.

The Queen stepped down and neared the large bonfire. She had done this before, and she didn't know why this time felt different. Jadea's mind drifted forward, not backward, this time. She thought of her plan, daring and likely doomed to fail. The Cirran remembered each step of the scheme. She raised her hand, sending the flames higher.

"You seek guidance."

Not this night. Jadea answered the "voice" speaking to her.

"Your quest will end before it begins."

I'm not into predictions right now. She returned, defiantly.

"Beware your own blood."

I will fear no Amazon. I will lead them.

Before the "voice" had time to "speak" again, Jadea heard both Samsara and Seriana in her mind.

We believe in you, Jade. Seriana Ritani silently stood by and offered her strength.

Let the pain go, Jade. Samsara Athanase urged. Let it go, or you'll become like Mother.

Jadea heard Seriana's next thought…it made her smile.

You look wicked great in that cape, Jadea.

And the rest…was sweet.



After Queen Jadea turned and walked away from the fire, Yakut, the Head Shamaness made her way to the flames. She bowed her head and then raised her sacred staff with a chant in her voice. Yakut then stayed solemn by the fire for a while, deep in her thoughts. She then turned and walked away.

On this night of Winter Solstice, Valkyra, with a toss of the head, swung her long, flowing blond hair back over her shoulders and proudly walked toward the huge fire. She felt very magnificent in her new long winter dress of black, lined with splendid decorative red trim. Selena had made a wonderful creation. This outfit was very well suited for the Solstice rituals. It was very grand indeed. Valkyra especially liked the long wide sleeves. Earlier, when the Weyal Athelfi had presented the Regent with the fabulous dress, Valkyra knew that she had to wear her black leather Russian Mountain boots with it.

Her anxious breath frosted on the chilled night air as her just as anxious thoughts raced through her mind. The Regent approached the roaring fire with a certain trepidation just as she did years ago on her first Winter Solstice ceremony with the Themiscyrans. But, this night before the fire was a night of cleansing, so she knew that she must make the journey to the flames and reflect upon her deeds, her thoughts and her life.

The heat from the giant fire caused her lovely blue eyes to blink. She dared go no closer lest her fair skin burn. The red dancing fingers of flame triggered images of blood pouring forth from both her enemies and her friends killed in the heat of battle.

Why does this violence and bloodshed have to happen? She asked herself. The woman from the mountains embraced vivid scenes of her deadly sword running red with the spilt blood of her enemies. Would there ever be a world of peace? She wondered. How long must I go on using my sword? Valkyra cursed all the gods that allowed this horror to happen. Although the many gods existed, she had no faith in them. The Warrior Woman knew that there had to be something better, something or some one who would do their best to end the suffering of innocent people.

It was then that the north wind, crisp with the promise of winter, blew over her and cooled the punishing heat of the flames. Valkyra heard the soft feminine voice on the wind calling her, telling her that there was, one, out there somewhere who was trying to do her best to end the horror, to end the suffering. Valkyra looked to the night sky and to the moon, now very full and bright orange.

The soft voice then said onto her, This feminine entity of ultimate goodness, ultimate kindness, ultimate justice and ultimate love is to be called Fay of the Forest Primeval. She is not of this universe, but you shall know her by the song that she sings. And through her songs, she shall bring you peace.

The beautiful Valkyra smiled and rejoiced. She then proudly strolled away from the burning fires. She would sleep well on this night of Winter Solstice.


The dark sky was lightening far off to the west, a slate gray color chasing the dark blue from the horizon. It was time to begin the religious ceremonies.

Deoris, clad in the red fox fur-lined tunic and skirt she'd been given last year, moved to the edge of the blazing fire. Yakut motioned for her to move closer to the flames, performing the cleansing ritual one last time.

The flames whispered to her, her voice louder this year than in previous years. So much had changed in her, they said. So many exciting journeys of self-discovery this year, had it not all been wonderful? Her sight, returned; her sister, revealed; her strength, discovered; her purpose, renewed.

She agreed with the voice. All that had come to pass. She had questioned, and been answered, many times in the past year.

The flames danced before her. Greater revelations will come in the next year! It sang to her joyously.

Deoris couldn't tell if the voice was happy, or malicious in its happiness. She was grateful, she didn't want to know.

Yakut finished the ceremony and the voices left her, an echo of light and laughter remaining with her. It was time for Deoris to finish the Solstice rituals.

A few Amazons scattered as she took her place; those without religious ties to Apollo or Artemis, or those with grudges against them, considered the night finished. Deoris waited for them to scatter, understanding that the mysteries of Olympus were not for everyone.

Deoris stared down into the flames once again, calming her mind and stilling her thoughts. When she felt in harmony with the flames and with the rising sun, she began.

"I sorrow not, though the world is wrapped in sleep. I sorrow not, though the icy winds blast. I sorrow not, though the snow falls hard and deep. I sorrow not; this too shall soon be past."

Deoris raised her arms, and the fire leapt up in a shower of red sparks.

"We have made the fire in your honor, Artemis, Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt, To remind us the sun lives once again, That you will create life from death and warmth from cold. We rejoice in the power of Artemis!"

Lowering her arms, Deoris began a slow circle around the flames, from east to west. "The wheel turns; the power burns," she chanted as she moved. Three times she circled the flames; once for the past, once for the present, and once for the future. She stopped where she had stood before and raised her arms again.

"Great Apollo, God of the Sun, We welcome your return! May you shine brightly upon the Earth, Scattering seeds and fertilizing the land, Renewing all that is green and growing, and Bringing prosperity back to the earth. We rejoice in the power of Apollo!"

As she spoke, the sun flooded the gray sky with color and light.

"Tae'Nah apo Themiscrya orisate ba denuo sunnas!" Amazons of Themiscrya welcome the new season!

She lowered her arms and beckoned to Ryka. The Tropse Athelfi brought six of her apprentices, all laden with traditional feast items, carefully saved in the storehouse for this morning.

One held nothing save fruits; luscious grapes, pomegranates, figs, dates, oranges and apples. Another was laden with breads and biscuits, rolls and crackers. A third carried a wooden cask of sweet wine under each arm, one white and one red. The fourth and fifth carried a giant platter of roasted meats; duck and goose, chicken and beef and pig and goat. The sixth woman brought a sigh of longing from all those assembled, her platter piled with every sweet Ryka could think of; sugar almonds, baklava, cakes, cookies, pies, bars of solid sugar, and lemon and orange slices coated in honey.

"Sar qualaka, athelfi! Tamboo egkataleipo!" Eat well, sisters! Party with abandon! Deoris called out.

A great cheer went up as the Amazons mobbed the six feast-bearers. Laughter and light banished the shadowy celebrations that had marked the long night, reminding them all that a new year had begun.

Deoris smiled at her athelfi as they shared the feast. It certainly wouldn't be dull!



The Queen of Teloans kept her distance from the fire. She eyed it every so often to see if it was still lit. That it was. And it continued to flicker violently, beckoning to her. What would she do? When if at all would she reach for the flame?

She needed to. The Queen above all else needed to cleanse herself every year for the good of her Tribe. She could feel the glue connecting the Teloans crumbling away. She could hear Rumyna's prophecy echo in her head as well - She will bring destruction to her people. She hoped Rumyna had meant the Pantheon, but the implications were clear after careful reading of the impossibly coded text. She meant the Amazon Nation.

She had an inkling of a plan in her mind when she left Jade's hut that day, but it fizzled away. She had to involve Seriana somehow. She still had some thinking to go.

Bodhisattva pushed his nose to his master's side, urging her to go for the fire. The hound knew instinctively that she needed to cleanse herself. Samsara was guilty of many crimes that year and she had no choice but to atone for them. With her daughter's hand, she walked to the fire and knelt before it. Karma pushed her hand toward the flame as close as her Mama would allow her to. The little one also understood the impact of the ceremony. She had no sins to atone for, but she did it to help her Mama do the same.

Samsara put her palm just mere centimeters from the fire. She was known to bear it a bit better than the others, but she could not keep it there as long as everyone else could. In part it was because she had more to atone for than most and she therefore perceived this as more heat for her to endure. The fire this year was softer, however, despite what she was responsible for.

Her sins: Iona's condition; the burning of Ankara Palace; the blow to Vaughn's family; loving another than Dachus; Jenna; Njeri and Jabari's fate; giving in to Ares; killing another Amazon for power. She had no idea how much she would be responsible for the following year. Things would come to pass that could come close to destroying her.

She pulled her hand away and felt a little freer. She looked to her daughter who still had her hand there. She smiled. The flame was cool to her feel. Samsara hugged her and looked over her shoulder to see Jenna observing her from afar. She had been accepted into Themiscyra without trouble and she would be around to remind her that she was not perfect in any way.

Athanase lowered her head and carried her daughter back to their seat. The sun was rising and Ryka had arrived with a feast. Would she join in?


Seri was next to step forward to the fire, after glancing at various superiors to make sure it was all right. She approached it, wrapping her cloak tightly around her. It was a practical garment, heavy black wool, far less exotic and expensive than Jadea's silver-and-green cape, but had the same symbol embroidered carefully on the shoulder. She was buoyant and excited for the celebrations, but forced herself to be calm in respect for the Solstice bonfire. It was magical; it was sacred.

What do you have to show me, then? She asked the fire. It pressed hot against her face as the cold night scratched through her cloak and shirt to raise gooseflesh on her back. I have no past any longer to remember, no destiny to seek, no skill to achieve, no story to tell.

You have yourself, have you not? You always had that. Through the months of death and slaughter, the crazed and treacherous addiction to power you won't talk about, the lost wandering and the bewildering world of thieves, you still had yourself.

And what is that? What blessing does it bring to my sisters, another mouth to feed, another soul to bear up?

Look around you. Others need bearing up more than you. Jadea bears a royal mask, and though her head is high her neck is weary. Samsara exists in the future and in the past so that she forgets the present. They will need you, and you must be there, O Child of the Moment, O Princess of Grace.

Ares made me a princess. That I am no longer: he is gone from me. I am powerless, honorless. I am nothing.

He is gone from you, yes. But you are MORE than Ares.

Seri saw in the fire a reflection of her own face -- no, just slightly older, with finer features and a more solemn smile.

Are you not her daughter still?

Seri did not answer.

You have no powers, you have no weapons, but you have courage and love. That is what you can give, and you had best give it before your world falls apart around you. Stop pitying yourself and go to work.

Seri took hold of the embroidery on her cloak and grasped it tightly as she stepped back from the fire.


Ryka approached the fire. She raised her arms out to fully embrace the cleansing. A bead of sweat started to form on her forehead; the black leathers she wore were comfortable but very hot that close to the fire. Ryka closed her eyes and lifted her head listening with her heart, she heard . . .

You must fully embrace all of your sisters. Your Roman sisters need your acceptance.

"I accept them."

In your heart you think of the Roman soldiers that killed your mother. Let the pain of your past go. It was not your fault that you were not there to defend your mother Terentia. A small gesture will free you from your anguish.

Ryka turned around quickly and stumbled to the ground, Queen Cyane was near by she grabbed Ryka's arm and helped her up.

"Are you feeling well?" Cyan asked with a little concern in her voice.

"Yes, Queen Cyane. I'm just a little dizzy from the heat. Do you know were Zia is?"

"You mean Queen Zia. She is over on the other side of the fire."

"Thank you Queen Cyane."

Ryka, feeling a little unsettled, knew what she had to do. So, she walked around to the other side of the fire. Ryka looked up and saw Zia looking directly at her. Approaching Queen Zia, she knelt down on her left knee and pulled the polished Roman dagger from her right boot. Zia didn't stir or back away. The new Queen instinctively held her hands out in front of her.

Ryka stood, tears welling up in her eyes, and she placed the dagger in Zia's hands. "This is a gift I give to you as a token of my unwavering loyalty and acceptance of the Roman Amazons. Roman soldiers killed my mother and I swore to avenge her death. I seek vengeance no more. I now will fight by your side, if need be, for a peaceful Roma."

Ryka did not bow her head to the new Queen, but knelt down on one knee again with her fist to her heart and said, "To a Strong Amazon Nation." Ryka stood and took her leave.

As she walked away from the fire she felt as light as feather and as hungry as an ox.


Kneeling in front of the hot furnace of fire, Selena closed her eyes. Lowering her head, she listened to the crackling of the flames, until she heard a voice.

You seek to know of what your past held.

Selena nodded. Yes. I know not of my family- just of my name and an Amazon Nation.

The flames rose higher and Selena's reddish hair was picked up by the wind and swept back.

I speak of the future . . .your future. You search for the past and yet are in the present. You wish to know of the past and yet know more of the future.

Sighing, Selena opened her eyes and spoke into the flame. "What do I do?" The flame lowered once more, and Selena spread her arms out. "Speak! Will you not answer me?" Shaking her head in confusion, she then asked, "How do I know when to speak and what of?"

You will know . . . when the time comes. You will know.

Selena lowered her head once more, then stood and took a step back from the fire. The heat was beginning to make it unbearable to stand before the blazing fire. Selena turned to walk from the great fire.

Breathing deeply, she sat down at the feast table. She felt lighter, yes, but not free of her past that knew nothing of. It was impossible to think about, when all the smells of different foods floated to her nose.

Smiling, she waited to start . . . and the time that she would know when to speak.


Toria stood before the fire, head bowed. "Hmm, lets assess this shall we?" Toria mumbled to herself. "Well you're standing in front of a fire, talking to yourself. Great! I'm sure the mental healers in Athens would love to hear about this," Toria kicked a little dirt into the inferno before her.

"Hmm, better get on with this," Toria sighed and stood up straight, "I am thankful for my life in Themiscyra, thankful for my sister Dria. Um, in the next year, I would like to learn how to swim. Maybe I could . . . ah . . . learn not to be afraid of the dark. Sorry, this isn't working. Okay. Thing is, I don't really want anything. See it's really nice here in Themiscyra and I really don't think it needs to change. So, keep doing whatever it is your doing. You're doing a great job."

Toria turned to leave the fireside. "Oh, one thing though? Do you think there's any way you could teach the Amazons here about indoor plumbing? I know Rome isn't the greatest place on earth but at least there I didn't have to go in a terra-cotta pot. Thanks much, see you on the flip-side," Toria gave a little salute and walked to where Dria sat, a huge plate of roast pork and baked potatoes balanced on her knee.

"What were you doing?" Dria asked around a mouthful of sweet pork.

"Talking to the powers that be," Toria placed herself beside her twin helping herself to some potatoes.

"Oh, did they have anything interesting to say?" Dria asked.

"No, not really," Toria answered.

"Maybe next solstice then."



Sami waved the little ones over after the fire cleansing. Selena, having heard of the Teloan's abilities, asked her to give an oration to entertain the young ones.

"Interesting that a weaver of clothing asks me to weave a tale," she said in jest. "I'd be happy to tell them a story."

The Weyal Athelfi smiled. "Could I join the group?"

"I'd be honored. I usually have most of the Tribe come and this year the entire Nation might join. We should probably hold this in the Mess Hall since it looks like it might snow on us . . . and hard."

And so the two herded the children into the hall. They saw Ryka there, working on a baklava batter. "I'm adding a touch to the Regent's recipe," she explained, tasting a bit of batter on her finger.

"Take a break," Sami urged.

Ryka agreed. She had been up for quite a long time today. Slowly, more Amazons arrived, taking seats in the hut. Once everyone who was coming was present, Athanase cleared her throat to grab attention.

What tale would she tell on the spot? The pressure never changed from year to year. She only had to top herself. She decided to tell a story she somewhat knew, relying on her limited skills in the Hittite language to tell it correctly.

"I'm happy you've come." It was the only time of year, aside from Thanksgiving, when all the Amazons did not fear or hate her.

"Samsara," called a little one. "Do tell us a story!" The others chimed in as well.

She nodded. "All right, all right." She sat down on the bench with her daughter on her lap. The room was silent. One could almost hear Sami's heart thump. The beginning was the hardest part.

"This story comes from Mama's land," she said referring to Ishtar. "It is a true story about how the King - my grandfather - was changed for the better. It is a true story about a power of woman, how, even without swords or arrows, she could keep the Romans from overrunning the entirety of Ankara. She kept them from seizing control and guaranteed the King autonomous power. I wouldn't call this a Solstice Story, although I do ask that you remember the moral of it.

"The beggar woman's name was Gita and she was known for her golden voice, impeccable pitch, and an interesting instrument of string she carried by her side. She was more of a gypsy, really, traveling much of the known world before settling down in Ankara. She was worse for the wear, though, so no one would give her dinars except for the older citizens who stopped to hear her sing.

"One day, King Ibn and Queen Ankara toured the markets. Heavy guard accompanied them, as threats of Roman invasion were stronger than ever. The beggar woman approached them with a prophecy. The guards brushed her off saying she was rambling, but the King heard.

"Gita took her instrument and began to play a melodious tune. She plucked several strings at the same time and held down three or four to create chords. The music stopped many a shopper in their paths.

"You surround yourself with powerful walls Hoping to protect thyself from enemies tall King, thus realize, and heed my call Protection upon you it shall fall!

"Surround thyself with grass And sparkling jewels of the past Your kingdom yes shall last With the help of the weak in caste

"Understand my words, oh noble man For a treacherous group of trusted ten Will betray your royal will t'no end In your humble your rule shall extend."

"Many thought the King had not heard, but he knew he needed to see this woman again. Thus, in the middle of the night he snuck out of his temple with his most trusted of confidants, Hossam. He took no chances and took the one of the lowest caste and the most to lose in a coup. They found the beggar woman sleeping in the shadows, shivering from the cool air. The King gave her his black cloak to curl up in and some dinars for her survival and begged her to sing again.

"She sat up, pulled her instrument next to her, and began to play again. Prophesizing once again.

"Avarice, greed, corruption, pain Your most trusted your fall to blame Seduced by Roman Caesar's fame Will launch against you in a night of rain."

"'But what shall I do, Gita?' the King begged. He was a fair man and knew he did not deserve this, but it was even more reason for Caesar to advance.

"Gita had no response, but she did sing this:

"Your most powerful to help you'll not believe A sword in your defense the most beautiful will heave A copy of another in her place will go After this happens, the truth you shall know."

"'Now go, brave King,' she urged. 'And thank you for your good will.' She turned over once again and fell asleep.

"Hossam looked at his master and urged him to return to the palace before the traitors could notice his disappearance.

"The heavy guard launched their attack in the middle of the night, when it was pouring heavily. And when the Romans came and Ankara lifted a sword in selfless defense of her King, he knew. And when Ishtar went with them in place of her sister Isme, he knew. The guards betrayed him and their subordinates fought back. All Ibn could think of was surviving long enough to thank Gita. The victory was such that Caesar refused to send his troops there. The dictator knew a spell of bad luck would befall him if he were to try attacking. He left Ibn autonomous rule with the understanding that Rome reigned in the end. This meant that Ankara would live peacefully as a prosperous city without Roman occupation.

"After the incursion, the King toured the streets in search of Gita, but in the back alley where she lay were his cloak and the instrument she played. He preserved it and when I visited he gave it to me," Samsara said, pulling out the six-stringed instrument. She played a couple of notes and dazzled the crowd that convened to hear her story. "In her honor we shall call it the guitar. The moral of the story is - "

"That the most powerful can be the most humble!" shouted a young one.

"And that the most humble is the key to your survival. Good job, Laodake!" Athanase smiled. "I hope you enjoyed my story."

"More, please, more!" cried the children.

"Perhaps later," she responded, standing up. "Thank you for listening to me." She smiled warmly again and walked out to a round of applause that also warmed her heart.


Whispers filled the air that night.

By the Earth {ho i} that is my mother And the Waters that bring me life I speak this prayer in silence As it was done by my father {neho'eehe} and his father {heho} before him And as it was done by my mother {nahko'eehe} and her mother {heške} before her Show me the path that I must take Guide me through this unknown land ruled by women {hi I' yo ö} That I may better guide my charge

The man turned his whole body up towards the skies with his arms raised up high.

I Honiahaka seek your guidance

Honiahaka stood near the flames knowing that the Amazons would not see his spirit. The Amazons had one by one walked up to the fires and although these strange women did not believe in the Great Spirit he could see their Leader as a strong woman.


Morigan looked at the procession of Amazons that had walked up to the flames and wondered if Venlusia was going to take her turn. It was almost four seasons ago that she had joined the tribe and she knew that she was lucky that Kao' Hsin had told her to come here. Morigan missed her very much but she also missed Eire. After all, she was Celtic and she really wanted to celebrate her traditions with Venny and her friends.

She had watched her new friend Selena walk up to the fire. She knew that she would have asked about her past, so she didn't pursue it any further.

The air was strange that night and Morigan couldn't help but feel that if she walked up to the flames they would tell her to let go the hatred towards the Romans. She had nothing against the Roman Amazons, but the soldiers were a different thing. She was not willing to let that go, not yet anyway. She looked at Venny as she sat unusually quiet. Soraya was next to her watching the other Amazons talk.

"Ray, rayit tu tepae?" Are you okay? Morigan leaned forward to look at her carefully.

Soraya smiled and shook her head. "I have seen many rituals involving fire in my homeland. It just makes me a little nervous, that's all."

Morigan smiled back.

Soraya's green eyes were easily spotted by the contrast of her raven black hair and her eyes told of her emotions better than spells or talks with her ever could. She was nervous, but not only for the flames. She didn't want to give up her hatred towards Eric.

Morigan looked back at Venny who was now in full festive mood. "Vennsie, what am I going to do with you?" She laughed.

"Nothing, Just go with the flow sister, go with the flow," Morigan burst out laughing and shook her head.


Meanwhile . . .

The warrior walked around the camp looking at each warrior as he passed by.

The winds tell me of your bravery Your bravery within as well as in battle

He walked past the Queen who was looking at her Amazons as they approached the flames. Honiahaka passed his hand over the Sorceress Empress' head as a blessing he gave to who ever he respected.

May the Great Spirit protect you on your inner Quest.

Honiahaka left the Latra and went up to Morigan where he stood behind her as he would always do. He could feel his friend was anxious for her sister. He turned to Venny and laid his hand over Venlusia's shoulder.

From birth I was meant to guide Morigan and yet till only recent time she did not speak to me.

Maybe you, Venlusia, will be able to help her.

Help her understand that I am here for her . . . always.


Venlusia shuddered and turned to Morigan. "Is it me or is it getting cold in here?"

Morigan looked behind Venny. She couldn't see anything, but she knew someone was there. She got up and looked at her sister. "It's my turn!" Morigan went up to the flames as close as she could get and held her arms out.

I wish to be relieved from the nightmare that afflicts me every night.

A female voice came from the flames. You can only be released from your torment by facing it. Not all your family perished that day.

Morigan opened her eyes and stared at the flames. What do you mean? I saw them myself.

The voice was soft, but Morigan still felt a little fear. Within yourself you know the answer Morigan. You need not look further than your sight.

Morigan's arms fell slightly, for she had hoped that it meant someone else from her family was alive.

Listen to the voice that guides you. Listen to Honiahaka. He will be there for you.

Morigan was shocked by the response. She stepped back respectfully and headed back to Venlusia, Soraya and Selena who was now sitting with them.

"What did it say?" Venlusia's voice carried over the noise.

Morigan walked up to them and sat down.

"I'm not really sure at this moment. I need to reflect on it." She smiled at her friends, who had now returned to their festivities.

"Honiahaka Étatóne'xove?" How long has it been? Morigan whispered. "You are from a hidden land, far beyond the ends of the earth. You are not just a dream. Who are you?" A whisper came back to Morigan as an answer.

"Evo'êstaneheve!" He lives.

Venlusia looked at Morigan, as she whispered a strange language. "Morigan? Are you okay?

Morigan shook her head and smiled. "Yes, just dreaming." Morigan didn't seem to notice the strange language she was speaking.

Venlusia knew the language wasn't Norse. Even she could tell the difference. Venny turned back to her two friends that were now talking and teasing each other. She joined in. After a few seconds, so did Morigan.

Honiahaka smiled and decided to watch the women's rituals. They seemed strange to him, and he was curious to see what else these women would do.


Although the children enjoyed watching the Winter Solstice rituals, many of them were quickly bored. Even some of the adults became restless. So, when Samsara told her story, they were all thrilled, for Samsara's stories were relished with delight and anticipation. Her story was definitely one of the highlights of the Solstice celebrations.

After the Queen Empress of Teloans had finished her story and had left, the children wanted more entertainment. They turned to the Regent, Valkyra, who had been part of the audience as well.

The children ran to the Regent and one said, "Regent Valkyra, Empress Samsara left. So, could you tell us one of your stories, please!"

"Yes, you may as well sit and tell them a story. After all, the baklava isn't ready yet," added Ryka.

"Oh, all right, but it will not be as good as Samsara's," replied Valkyra. She turned to the Tropse Athelfi and asked, "Can we have some root beer all around first?"

While Ryka's helpers poured out the root beer, Phoebe stood up and said, "Several years before Valkyra joined Themiscyra Amazon Nation, she roamed the land, worked as a mercenary and had many adventures. Here is one of them . . ." she then turned to Valkyra.

The Weapons Master began, "I call this . . . Valkyra and the Slave Traders

"'No! No! Please don't take me!' cried the young woman as the slave traders took her down from the camel and tried to take her up the gangplank. 'I don't want to be a slave! Please! Let me go! Oh please!' Her crying and screaming fell upon deaf ears as the slavers continued their task. Soon the woman would join the others in the dank and dark hole of the slave ship.

"It was a beautiful spring day with the gulls flying overhead when Valkyra, Warrior Woman of the Caucasus Mountains, rode slowly along the docks of the seaport city of Sinope on the Black Sea, also known as the Euxine Sea. This seems to be a very busy city, she thought to herself as she observed everything going on around her. Valkyra was correct in her assumption of the city, for Sinope was the terminus of a great caravan route from the Euphrates. Many trade goods moved through the port city, including slaves.

"As the Warrior Woman came upon a ship sporting an unfamiliar flag, she heard a cry for help. 'Please! Let me go! Oh please!' cried the young woman as the men dragged her aboard the ship.

"Valkyra took in the situation and tried to devise a plan to help the young captive. She counted at least twelve men aboard the boat and they all carried swords, knives or clubs. I must not be too hasty in my rescue; most likely there are more slaves below deck that could easily be murdered while I am fighting some of the men topside, she thought to herself.

"After the screaming woman was taken below deck, Valkyra dismounted, and royally walked up the gangplank. The cutthroats at the top confronted her. 'And what might you want, my lovely wench?' asked one of the ruffians as he was entranced by the beautiful Russian woman.

"Valkyra half smiled and half sneered. She then said in the Greek language, 'The tavern owner over yonder said that you might be able to sell me some slaves before you ship out. I am willing to pay more than what you can get for them across the sea.' She then took out a small pouch and casually poured out a few diamonds.

"The men became wide-eyed at the stones' brilliance. 'I believe we can do some business, my Lady!' said the one who appeared to be the ship's captain. 'How many slaves do you want?'

"Valkyra, being careful not to turn her back to the men, replied, 'How many do you have?'

"'We have twenty on board at the moment,' answered the man who was now actually drooling over the diamonds.

"'Good! I shall take them all, providing the price is right.'

"As he gently touched one the diamonds, the slaver said, 'I'm sure we can agree on a fair price.'

"After a bit of barter, Valkyra soon had all of the captives leaving the ship while the slave captain held on to his pouch of precious stones. The Warrior Woman carefully watched the men, lest they try to kill her and recapture the slaves. She was concerned that their greed would get the better of them. Fortunately, everything went well until the last slave was off the ship.

"Just as Valkyra began to back down the gangplank, she saw the captain give a signal to another man who had a throwing knife. Valkyra quickly pulled the captain in front of her. The seaman's knife landed squarely into the slave captain's chest. Before the man could fall, Valkyra grabbed the pouch of diamonds and ran down the plank wishing for sea legs so as not to lose her balance. Once she was back on the dock, she turned, pulled her sword out and went into a fighting stance, and the freed slaves grabbed whatever was near by and reinforced Valkyra's position. The slavers who had started down the gangplank after her quickly changed their minds.

"The people that Valkyra had saved from slavery thanked her profusely and were soon on the way back to their normal lives. As the Warrior Woman watched them depart, she realized and was glad that she was able to help them by shedding the blood of only one man.

"That proved that some major problems can be solved with little or no violence."

When the Regent finished, her audience clapped and was soon eating Ryka's baklava.


Thalia took a deep breath feeling the energy of her sister as she stepped into the circle. The fire licked towards the sky, sending warmth through the biomorph and bathing her in an orange glow.

The Amazons; her sisters, her comrades . . . her friends. She'd been in the tribe for most of her life, and the only part of her life she'd care to remember. She drew on the strength of the tribe, their unity. The Amazons stand as one, divided they are vulnerable.

So much familiar . . . and yet so much had changed in these past few years. She never was one to deal well with change when it affected what she was settled into, but nevertheless, it is inevitable in any situations. Many times it is for the better.

Thalia closed her eyes, taking in the warmth of the fire and her surroundings. The cool air brushed by her face with a hint of evergreen. This was her time of reflection, to reflect upon the last year, upon her life with the Amazons. There was much to reflect upon on the surface... and much more underneath. Much more that was left unreflected and unresolved.

Thalia knew of her uncanny ability to push things aside to 'deal with later', and yet never come across the proper time for resolution. When was the proper time? Too many things pushed aside, pushed back, pushed away . . . sometimes she was too afraid to have anything close. Maybe now is the time to start to resolve, she thought to herself. But how? One step at a time. Easier said than done.

Her best forgotten past, her uncertain future, her . . . love? Garrett. A burden that sat heavily on her heart, pushed aside but always to return to its perch. He had gone off to deal with things on his own. What if he never came back? What if he did come back? Which was the lesser of two evils?

Thalia took a deep breath, blowing out softly. Now was the time to start healing, to start resolving. Slowly she opened her eyes, smiling as her eyes came to focus upon the Amazons gathered about the fire. Her companions in peace, war, and, with a glance in Seriana's direction, even mischief. She could feel the energies of her sisters. They needed her and she would be there for them. Always.

"A time of healing, and a time of giving. Amazons unite." She said softly to herself, before bowing and stepping back from the fire.


Coming Soon!


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