Mariko awoke with a start just before Apollo's rays reached Themiscyran territory. She dressed in a brown tunic and wide pants and quickly strapped her kens to her sides. She rushed out of Jadea's hut towards the gates of Themiscyra.


A whistle was heard.


"Hark!" cried Alex. She was on duty for the night. "Who goes there?"


"Iliana, envoy from the Teloan Amazons!"


"What seek you?" Alex demanded.


"I seek she who was the Boar and the Wildcat and most importantly of the Royal Teloan House of the Wolf," the envoy answered. "I have an urgent message for Samsara, High Princess of the Teloan Amazons."


Mariko sought her immediately. Samsara came running with the Eastern Woman.


"Iliana, what is it?" she demanded, alarmed. She was alarmed for good reason. A grey wolf accompanied the girl and walked to Samsara, sitting on its haunches. Samsara looked up at the envoy and knew immediately what was wrong. "No. This is a lie."


Iliana handed her the parchment.


"Seriana!" the High Princess called. Her sister appeared before her in an instant, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.


"Samsara, what is it?" Samsara handed her the parchment.


"Read what it says..."


Silver Hawk's mouth dropped. "To the High Princess Samsara, Princess Heiress to the Teloan Throne:


"The Teloan Pentad bids your return to take over the Affairs of Amazonia. It is our sad duty to inform you of the Passing of Queen Ephiny II and as part of the ruling House of the Wolf, you must return to Amazonian territory as soon as possible.


"The Undersigned, the Teloan Pentad Council."


Samsara looked at Seriana. The Amazons around them were stunned as well. The only audible sound was the panting of the wolf by the Goddess' feet.






When the news found Queen Regent Medea, the woman could not help but smile faintly at the thought of getting Samsara out of her way. The satisfaction was short-lived, however. Medea remembered that her Co-Queen had ordered Samsara to remain in Themiscyra. She shook her head to think of how the Sorceress Empress would take the news.


As it happened, Jadea knew of the news before the message had been brought to them. Samsara found her Aunt in the stables with Prince. She cleared her throat softly.


"You don't want me to go, do you?" The High Princess asked.


Jadea turned around, solace in her eyes. "I will not keep you from Amazon duty. You may go to Teloq...just not with Mariko." The Goddess' jaw dropped as she readied to protest. Jadea shook her head and firmly stated, "Mariko stays here."


Before Samsara could speak her mind, Valkyra stepped inside with her eyes scanning right to left as they settled on Jadea. The Weapons Master bowed her head slightly. "Queen Medea wants to see the both of you right away. She said she'll not allow Samsara to leave without a meeting."


Samsara mocked Medea. "...not allow Samsara to leave without a meeting." Jadea shot her a reprimanding look. In many ways, the young Goddess was still a child.


"Thank you, Valkyra," the Sorceress nodded. "After you, Sami," she said and waved her hand gracefully.


As the news of Samsara's ascension spread like wildfire through the camp, the reaction was split between those greatly saddened and those greatly uplifted.





Zia rode on horseback with her trusty horse, Midnight. She had arrived at the Amazon village at last. All the Amazons looked at Zia, wondering who this young Amazon was. Zia jumped off of her horse and stood on the tallest rock.


Zia shouted out, "My name is Zia. I am the daughter of Romelus, a most trusted solider to the late Caesar and of Kosha, a fellow Amazon warrior. You may think of me as you enemy because I am half Roman and many Romans have killed your loved ones, but let me assure you all, I am not a enemy. My mother died with a dream that I will live up to the destiny of being an Amazon. Now I am here as a young sister, who will live and die for our people."


Zia lifted up her sword into the sky. As the sun glittered against the sword, releasing a ray of light to the village, she let out a loud warrior cry.





Near the gates...


"She claims to be both Amazon and half-Roman," Thalia informed Valkyra who immediately ordered the stranger be brought in unarmed.


"What's her name?" The Weapons Master asked, wary about anyone with allegiance to Rome.


"Zia," Thalia answered in turn.


In Queen Jadea's hut . . .


Queen Medea and her Co-Queen spoke with Samsara.


The meeting was not going well. The High Princess of Teloq insisted upon leaving with Prince, Karma, and Mariko. She also indicated that Seriana would be going with her. Jadea was opposed to Mariko accompanying her, and Medea opposed to taking Karma out of camp.


"No! I won't permit it! Period!"


Samsara screamed frustrated. "You have NO say, Queen Regent Medea!"




"Queen Medea! Queen Jadea!" Valkyra stood in the entrance of the command hut.


The two women turned heads in unison. Samsara Athanase kept her eyes narrowed on the Queen Regent. "Report?" Medea prompted immediately, annoyed at the interruption.


"We have a woman we believe to be Amazon. She claims to have Roman blood but seeks admission into the tribe," the Amazon informed with a steady voice. She glanced from the two Co-Queens to the Goddess near the corner and back.


"Is she unarmed?" Queen Medea questioned. Her look conveyed that she disapproved of the inconvenience this imposed on her.


"We have disarmed her without protest, my Queen," she replied with a slight nod.


Before Medea could utter another syllable, Jadea interjected. "Very well. Hold her under guard until we come," she glanced to her Co-Queen Regent who looked upset but didn't counter her.


Valkyra nodded and turned to leave just as Samsara called out. "What's her name?"


The Amazon guard turned back. "Zia," she then left.


The three women exchanged looks. Their meeting was not over, but a new subject had been introduced which had the trio on a different train of thought. It didn't sway the Goddess, however.


"You can't keep me here!" Samsara growled and moved forward as though she might strike Celosia's sister.


"I wouldn't dream of it, you sniveling little-"


"Medea, that's enough!" Jadea yelled and threw a wave of energy towards both women, sending them backward.


The Queen was the first to get to her feet. She gave Jadea a scathing look that warned her she'd better not attempt the move again. The Sorceress Empress ignored her, looking instead at her niece as she stood up.


"Samsara, you will leave Themiscyra for Teloq with your Sister, Seriana. Both of you will take two of the horses in the corral. Prince will remain in camp where he can be defended if the gods decide to strike. Karma will also remain here for the time being. When you settle things in Teloq, you may send for her or come personally. Mariko will not be going with you to Teloq. She will not leave Themiscyra. And there will be no negotiations." Jadea's pendant filled with a burgundy hue and her eyes glistened with sparks of determination. She would not lose her family! The Sorceress Empress turned her head to look at Medea. "Queen you have any objections?"


The Amazon straightened up and shifted her gaze from her Co-Queen to the Goddess. "None to speak of."


"Good. Samsara, you'll want to pack some belongings as I suspect your affairs in Teloq will take some time. I'm sending one of the Highland Elders with you, as well."


Her niece opened her mouth to protest but found nothing came out. She had much to argue, she thought. So, just why was it that she could not defy Jadea?


The Teloan exited the hut, leaving the two Themiscyra Queens to look at each other.


"Don't you ever pull rank like that again!" Medea snapped sharply.


"Watch your tongue, Medea. I'm in a bad mood," Jadea left the hut with her Sister close behind her.


The Queen Regent soon strode beside the Amazon. "I don't like to be shown up, Jadea," her voice was calmer than it had been before.


"I know. Don't put me in a position to do it again. Sami is my blood, and I'll deal with her."


Silence passed between the two as they continued to walk, heading for where Amazon guards held Zia. When they were still yards away, Medea grabbed her Sister's arm and stopped.


"All right, look. I understand that you're going through something. This Celt we have in custody...he affects you, doesn't he? Don't try to deny it, Jade. We can see that he does. This Mariko obviously rubs you the wrong way, even though I think her heart's in the right place. And now, your nieces are about to leave for Teloq."


"What's your point, Medea?" The sorceress asked in exasperation.


" can I help?" She asked with a sudden sincerity and gentleness. That broke any defense Jadea had left to fight Medea with. She closed her eyes and sighed.


"I'm sorry," her voice whispered as her eyes reopened.


"Okay," Medea nodded. "Okay." She gave her Co-Queen a meaningful look and smiled.


"Okay." Jadea repeated with a nod. The two women then went to investigate their latest issue.




"You must be Zia," Medea stated as she stopped in front of the newcomer.


The woman bowed her head respectfully. When her eyes came back up, she noted that someone else stood beside the royal Amazon before her. Both women looked strong and intimidating, but something else suggested they held more authority.


"And you, Queen Medea," she returned quickly.


"You bear the markings of an Amazon, Zia," Medea noted with an enlightened tone, mildly sarcastic if you knew the Queen Regent well.


"I am Amazon, my Queen,"


"Yes, well, that name must be earned," the Queen countered pointedly.


"Medea," the sorceress said the name quietly. Celosia's sister turned her head and nodded.


Jadea stepped up to the stranger and placed a hand on her forehead. Zia's reaction was to close her eyes. She felt a light tingling sensation flow through her followed by a wave of warmth, as one might get from laying in the sun. As the Sorceress Empress lifted her hand, Zia's eyes opened.


"She's Amazon and Roman. I believe her heart rests with us," Jadea stated before promptly asking Medea an unexpected question. "Can you handle this?" Her tone implied she had something she needed to do, and that she'd like to tend to it.


"Not a problem," Medea responded confidently. She smiled as Jadea nodded, gave one last glance to Zia, and left.


As the Queen Regent turned her attention back to the new woman, she still held her smile in place. "That is the Sorceress Empress, Zia. She's acting Co-Queen of this tribe."


Zia gave a rather bewildered look. "How did she know I am Amazon-"


"And Roman?" Medea's smile beamed through her eyes. She displayed a strong sense of pride just then. "Because she knows Amazons and she knows Romans," the Queen Regent's composure changed in a flash, however. Her following words covered the secret she kept. "Come now! Let's talk!"




Alone in her hut, Jadea knelt down with closed eyes and conjured to mind the image of Celosia. She intended to brief her Sister on what all had happened since she'd left the village. The Amazon Sorceress never got the chance. For, the moment she'd forged the link between Celosia's mind and her own, a gentle tap came from outside.


"Go away!" Jadea shouted, desperately trying to keep her powers channeled.


"Jadea, it's me."


Seriana. And Jadea couldn't refuse her niece. With a heavy heart, she severed the link and stood up. Rather than invite her Sister in, her normal course of action, she stepped outside.  Seri jumped up and threw her arms around the woman. Her greeting nearly knocked her off her feet.


"I'll miss you!" She said through teary eyes.


Evidently, Samsara wasn't wasting time. She had herself, Seri, and the Sisters accompanying her all ready to go. The only thing that remained to be done were saying the goodbyes.


"Safe journey, Seriana," Jadea whispered. She had a quirk about the word goodbye - never say it unless you absolutely mean it.





Zia started thinking about all the events that had taken place since she entered the village. These Amazons could not believe that she was half-Roman and half-Amazon. But thanks to the co-Queen, they would all believe now.


"My mother Kosha would have been proud to see me taking her place and becoming the Amazon that I am deep inside," she thought.


She started thinking about Rome and how much Romans hated Amazons. She thought how Caesar had requested Amazon slaves for entertainment. She thought of the screams of those Amazons as they’d been separated from their sisters, sold into Roman households or sent to the arena.


If these Amazons had known that instead of sitting here in a hut, she was supposed to be married to Octavius, nephew of Caesar and next in line of Rome, they would probably not be as welcoming.


She knew that the Amazons wanted to kill every Roman, but she somehow had to prove to her sisters that not all Romans were bad. Octavius always talked about something called Pax Romana which would bring peace to every one, including the Amazons. She wanted to share that message with them, trying to solve the problems between Amazons and Romans.


While Zia polished her sword, she heard a fellow Amazon call to her. She went out to greet her new sister.





Samsara walked silently towards Seri and their Aunt. She carried a sleeping Karma in her arms. Medea chose that precise moment to walk out of the Queen's Hut. She observed the three women from a distance, quietly fearing the impact the separation would have on her co-Queen. As much as it pained her to admit it, Medea needed Jadea as co-ruler. What was more, she needed Jadea level headed and she was afraid that would be a grand task with her nieces leaving.


The Teloan Goddess kissed her child's head before handing the girl over to Jadea. She could not help but show wet eyes. The tears were not shed, but everyone watching the scene could tell they were there.


"By my sword and staff..." Jadea's voice streamed out into the air.


"By my dagger and wits..." Samsara added as she gave Silver Hawk a glance.


"Blood promise of life..." Seriana finished as each woman reached out an arm and laid hand upon hand.


I expect you both to return to us safely, the Sorceress Empress sent to her younger niece. Seriana had also heard her and both Amazons nodded with a faint smile.


Themiscyra's Sorceress watched as the Amazons mounted their horses. Medea pressed herself to see them off. She looked up at the Goddess, a woman she'd hated for a long time. "Don't do anything stupid," the Queen advised.


Samsara simply smiled sweetly. She understood that it was Medea's fashionable way of telling her to keep everyone alive and stay out of trouble. "I won't if you won't," she returned smoothly and kicked her horse before the Queen could have the last word.


Oddly, Mariko did not see her protégé off. It would be discovered hours later that Mariko was no longer in Themiscyra.




Medea's voice boomed inside the Mess hut where Pike and a sister Amazon had found the Queen and reported their findings. The younger Amazon jumped back a step, shuddering from fear. Pike held a more steady look, though she deeply feared Medea's temper.


"Have you ANY idea what Queen Jadea is going to . . ."


"What about Queen Jadea?" The soft hint of a Celtic brogue filtered into the hut as the Sorceress Empress stepped inside. She, like many other warriors in camp, the prisoner included, had heard Medea's indistinguishable scream. Like any good Co-Queen, or anyone with too much gall, she'd come to investigate.


Celosia's sister faltered from sight of her Co-Queen. She did something out of character, which was stutter a couple of times. At last, rising to her feet, Medea managed to find herself again. "Mariko isn't in Themiscyra."


Okay, NOW...would be the perfect time to run! The Queen thought silently. The reaction she received was nearly as shocking as the news Pike reported.


Jadea kept her eyes on Medea for a minute, silent and motionless as the information sank into her. Finally, her gaze shifted onto Pike, who'd been assigned with sticking to Mariko.


"Pike..." The Sorceress said the name slowly and deliberately.


Retaining a dignity that few could manage, the Amazon warrior walked up to Jadea and stopped in two or three steps. "Yes, Queen Jadea."


The Amazon ignored the title addressed her. She believed her role to be but a temporary one, which in essence was true.


"We are having an execution tomorrow. Find Valkyra and see to the preparations," Jadea instructed with such calmness that all witnessing Amazons feared a delayed eruption was inevitable.


"Understood," was Pike's only response. She made a hasty retreat, escorted immediately with her younger Sister.


"Medea?" The Amazon lifted her voice.


"Jadea," the Queen hesitantly answered.


"My hut. Now."


Perfect! That treacherous spawn of Tartarus isn't gone for one day and already her Aunt's claws are extended! I'll be relieved once she kills that pig. Might be just the medicine to cure her of this...this, whatever the HADES is she's going through!


To the Queen Regent's fortune, Jadea did not hear her Sister's thoughts this time.




About the only thing to have gone well that day was the arrival of Zia. Some of the Themiscyrans were wary of her, but others greeted her with open arms. Garrett and Thalia were among them, the former oddly being the introductory party between the Head Scout and Zia.


Many questions were left unanswered that day. And as the two Queens spoke together, both became aware of those questions. A specific one preyed persistently upon their minds. Where was Celosia, and what was she doing?


As they spoke, Jadea revealed Celosia's message to her when she was in Eire. She couldn't certain how Medea took the news. She seemed neither happy nor sad and as the news was a bit old, Jadea let it pass.


"Have you heard anything from her since?" the Queen Regent asked finally.


Her Sister shook her head. "No, but she can contact us anytime. She knows the Twilight Bark, now."


Silence passed between them for three or four moments. After which, Medea began to chuckle in her seat. Jadea's eyebrows raised curiously. She found herself smiling soon at her Sister's behavior. Medea's chuckle rolled over into a laughter that the Sorceress Empress soon joined.


"What do y- what do you think she'd...say if she found out we've got a Celt for a prisoner, a Roman for a Sister, and a Goddess who's just become Queen of another tribe...?"


Although that was not entirely true, Jadea couldn't help but shake her head and smile with amusement. Indeed, things had become chaotic since Celosia left her sister and her Sorceress Empress in charge. The situation resembled leaving an adolescent in charge of a family of children. Yet, to give the women credit - they'd obeyed Celosia's instructions...mostly. Strangely, the idea of how much trouble they'd be in when Celosia returned struck both women simultaneously. This got them to laughing riotously all over again.


At last, though, they each subsided with a long sigh. Queen Medea picked up the clay cup beside her and drank a hearty gulp before setting it back down. She looked across at Jadea and noticed the somber mood that'd overtaken her. "We'll find Mariko, Jade," she stated quietly, eyes remaining on the woman she spoke to.


"I know."


"They'll be all right, Samsara and Seri," Medea added instinctively. Again she heard the same response. The Queen understood Jadea's state. She felt it herself but for different reasons. Celosia's absence burdened her more and more each day that passed. To keep herself from dwelling on it, Medea tried her best to remain involved with something. A good strategy...and one that required little effort since some task or new predicament seemed to constantly sneak up and demand attention.


When Jadea would say no more, her Co-Queen found the silence to be unacceptable.


"I noticed you sent Akvoryai with them," she commented, her tone inclining for effect.


The Amazon's eyes came up. "She agreed to go."


Medea looked moderately suspicious. Akvoryai was a Highland Elder and the Queen Regent knew that the Elder wouldn't agree to go Teloq, another Amazon tribe, unless Jadea had a special task for her. Medea was right, only she had it the wrong way around.


"I had to promise I wouldn't kill Mariko before she'd go. She seems to be under the misguided belief that Mariko is somehow good for Sami."


Medea shrugged slightly. "She might be right." She found the Highland Elders to be quite different from her experience with Serena, the Teloan Elder. Queen Medea rather approved of the Highlanders, though she didn't admit it to anyone else.


Jadea shook her head. "I don't know. Since I met her, I've been feeling this strange vibe from Mariko. I think she means well. The woman is clearly a capable warrior."


Usually Themiscyra's Regent, but now Themiscyra's Queen Regent, Medea was unaccustomed to chit-chatting like this. She found the whole ritual to be...odd but strangely addictive. "Mariko cares about your niece. And Artemis knows that's not easy." Per her intent, Medea got a smile out of her Sister.


"True. I admit Samsara has faults. But which of us doesn't? Medea, we're not perfect. We're Amazon, yes. But we're not stronger because we are Amazon," Jadea met with Medea's eyes. The latter nodded once as she completed the thought. "We're Amazon because we're stronger," She smiled as the candlelight flickered against her cheeks.


"Among other things, yes," the Sorceress Empress added while rising to her feet. She walked five steps to retrieve an item. As her back faced Medea, the woman cleared her throat to question, "What about this...Bruce?" She asked reluctantly, not certain if she'd remembered the correct name. All of Jadea's implications suggested that "Bruce" was not the man's birth name. Although, then just what his birth name was...Jadea had not said.


Without turning around, she responded "He'll speak for himself tomorrow before he's executed."


Familiar with Themiscyra custom, Medea knew what question to follow up with. "Are you confident that no one will stand with him tomorrow?"


At this, Jadea did turn back around to face the Queen Regent. She seemed to be angry. If she was, her anger did not lash out. "Perhaps, your question should be 'stand for him'. And yes, I'm confident no Amazon will," she turned back around, skimming the words of a scroll on the table.


" there something about this man you haven't told me?" Without seeing her do so, Jadea knew that Medea had stood on her feet to ask the question. She paused before once again moving back to face her.


"Medea," the Sorceress spoke clearly but carefully, as if one mistaken word would upset the impression she desired to make. "That man is the reason an entire tribe of our Sisters is extinct. He betrayed me on the battlefield and nearly got me killed. He allied to Rome, sending half his army to them so they might devour more territory. He looked into the eyes of his own daughter - and because she was Amazon - he plunged his sword through her body. So, don't you dare question my motives for executing him in a camp of Amazon warriors!"


Medea, although deeply affected by what she heard, retained her stately composure. "So...there was something," she commented after awhile, long enough for Jadea's eyes to lose their look of fury.


The Sorceress broke the gaze for but a second. "More than I can say, my Sister. More than I can say. He must pay for his crimes! Our law demands it."


"Yes. Yes, it does. But we also demand justice. Just be sure that you know what you're doing...and why you're doing it." And with that, the Queen Regent gave a respectful nod before leaving.




Zia turned as she heard footsteps approaching her. "I thought you might be thirsty so I brought you this wine."


She smiled warmly and said thank you. She took the cup and drank it in one gulp.


"You know, many Amazons do not like you because you are Roman. Many Romans had killed our fellow sisters and many of us are still angered by it." Thalia said.


"I know how you feel, but there must be a way we can end this. Not all Romans are bad. I know a man who is actually a nephew of Caesar and he wants peace for the Amazons."


"But Zia, Caesar is still ruling. With him on the throne, all of us are in danger."


Zia glance at the fire and thought of this. "One day, this will all be over. Now I must get my rest. Goodnight..."


"Thalia is my name," Thalia responded.


"Goodnight Thalia."


Thalia walked away and Zia was still glancing at the open fire. If the Amazons only knew she was supposed to have been the next Roman Empress. But the draw of Pax Romana had been the better choice and she was now trying to pursue it.


She closed her eyes, but she heard loud moaning. She stood and followed the sounds, realizing that was coming from the jailhouse. Curious, Zia went inside.


She had been told by Medea that no Amazons were to go inside without the Queen's permission, but she had to find out where this noise was coming from. Inside, she saw a man tied up and moaning from pain.


"Bruce," Zia said. She smiled and began to chuckle. "You always were the type to get caught so easily. Caesar was foolish to give you a command. Then again, Caesar is foolish himself."


"How dare you speak of Caesar this way! You are Roman Zia, you can't deny it; you are one of us."


"Yes I am Roman, but I am not a heartless killer. I know what you did to your daughter, you bastard. For that, I will laugh at your face when my new sisters kill you at sunrise. I can only wish to kill you myself," she took her dagger and put it on his neck. “But I won't kill you like this. That would make me a heartless killer, just like you." Zia had an urge to push the dagger deeper, but she couldn't. "You will pay," she whispered. The sun began to rise and Zia left the jailhouse.





As Apollo's face began its first ascent into the sky, the two Themiscyran Queens were wide awake and preoccupied with various tasks. Pike had been up all night carrying out Jadea's orders. At last, she'd finished arranging drums and weapons, constructing the large make-shift arena in which a challenge might be fought...if someone chose to defend the prisoner.


With hands on hips and a clear expression of satisfaction, Jadea gave Pike a smile and a nod. "I commend you, my Sister. You've done tremendously well."


The Amazon warrior smiled, feeling the embarrassment sweep through her. She was unaccustomed to receiving such praise from the Sorceress Empress.


"Now go to bed," Jadea instructed in her most authoritative voice, despite the smile that remained on her face.


Pike opened her mouth to protest, but it was too late. Her Queen Regent had just walked up behind her and caught the last four words spoken. "You heard her, Amazon."


The woman in question hesitated, mild defiance in her eyes. Jadea knew the reason and responded before Medea had the time to reprimand the young Amazon. "I'll see that you're awakened in time for the event."


With reassurance like that, Pike had no choice but to comply. She made a respectful nod and left.


Jadea began to walk toward the guest hut where Zia had been accommodated for the present time. She dismissed the two guards outside, directing them to "go ingest something." With snickers and nods, both women departed.


"Zia, come out here, please," the sorceress called out. She became startled with Zia's speed when the young woman appeared in front of her almost instantaneously.


"Yes, Sorceress Empress?"


Knowing that her Sister Queen watched from afar, Jadea spoke to Zia with her back facing the Queen Regent. Although this annoyed Medea, she knew better than to accuse her co-ruler of intentionally blocking her from spying on them.


"I know there are Roman tribes of Amazons scattered throughout the Empire," Jadea stated in a neutral tone.


Zia simply nodded, though she was confused as to where this was going. "Yes, and Caesar has expressed his desire for peace with them." She managed to remark, still overwhelmed with the towering stature Jadea seemed to possess.


The Sorceress scoffed. "Caesar has killed more women than he's spared. Don't defend him to me."


Appearing to be ashamed and afraid, Zia stood in silence. She knew that in coming to the Amazons, she would face contempt from some of them. Yet, her heart told her that she stood precisely where she belonged - among her Sisters.


"How many tribes reside inside Rome's borders?" Jadea questioned, intruding into Zia's thoughts.


She thought, her eyes skyward for a few moments. "Um, about seventeen I think. Unless . . ."


"Unless they've been wiped out. Yes. I understand," Jadea interrupted, paused, and took a deep breath. "Very well. Thank you. Oh, will be attending today's ceremony, will you not?"


Zia nodded enthusiastically. "Yes, Sorceress Empress."


Jadea smiled and made a short nod. "Good." She then teleported directly into the cell.


"Top o' the morn' to ya, sunshine!" She called out cheerily to the startled man.


Bruce got to his feet, groaning once or twice in the process. "All these years...and ya still pull that same trick."


"Aye. And all these years later...and ya still fall for it." Her eyes beamed in pleasure. She lifted the spell off the cell and escorted him outside.


Bruce blinked as slivers of sunlight caught his eyes. He made the innocent act of glancing to his right. There he saw a face he recognized.







"Stand back," Jadea told an Amazon approaching her as she lead the prisoner across camp. The warrior halted her tracks and glared at the man.


"Where are we goin'?" He asked quietly, receiving a hard shove with his answer.


"Quiet!" The Sorceress snarled.


The two soon came upon the ring, and Bruce's eyes widened. He knew much of the Amazon ways - enough to know what his Jade had planned for him. The Sorceress Empress lead him to the center then took a step away from him.


"I, Jadea the Sorceress Empress of the Amazon Nation," her voice rang out into the air and gathered the attention of many a warrior. "Presiding as co-ruler with Queen Medea, do on this day challenge the warrior Bruce to a fight to the death! As an Amazon, I invoke this right!"


As if on cue, the Queen Regent stepped out onto the high platform used primarily for ceremony and keeping watch. Never before had Medea looked so regal. Her face was calm but eyes expressive. Her arms were bare as she sported a sleeveless top that just barely covered her midriff.


When she spoke, all heard her words. "I, Queen Medea, blood sister to Celosia, adhere to your right to challenge our enemy! Is there any Amazon present who wishes to counter Jadea's claim?"


Amazons had poured out of their huts and streamed into camp from the trees. Pike had managed to obtain a short nap before hearing the call. With a restless kind of invigoration, she took up her weapon and went outside.


Thalia found herself standing beside an awestruck Garrett. The crowd grew around the arena. A hushed silence and spread across the Amazons when Medea spoke. Xanthea watched from the side, unsure if this was the biggest mistake ever or not. Karon joined Antigone, Valkyra, and Pike. All had their eyes on the two in the center. For a few moments heads turned at angles, all searching for any signs that their Sisters might turn traitor and challenge Jadea.


Satisfied and anxious for the fight to proceed, Queen Medea drew her sword from its sheath and brandished it before all her Amazons. She opened her mouth to sound the order to begin. "Then, Jadea, Sorceress Empress . . ."


"Wait!" A voice suddenly shouted. Heads turned toward the sound and gasps were made. "I demand the challenge!"


Jadea's eyes moved through her Sisters and locked onto the speaker. The man beside the sorceress turned to see as well. His breathing raced when he saw who'd spoken. "Zia," he uttered under his breath.


"On what grounds?" Medea called down to young Amazon warrior. The Queen Regent knew full well that her co-ruler would soon strike Zia down if she didn't intervene.


Zia felt the angry looks from her Sisters. She fumbled for the words she needed to aid her. "On what grounds? On the...on the grounds that this man is not a Roman!"


Again, whispers flooded the crowd. All eyes, including the man in question, turned to Zia. Some then looked to Jadea.


Medea sensed the tension and recognized the possibility for a conflict between her Amazons. She flipped down with three turns and landed beside her co-ruler.


"Is this true?" She asked softly enough that only Jadea heard her.


"Does a man need to be Roman to slaughter innocent people?" Jadea returned somewhat defensively, her voice rising just high enough that the nearest Amazons overheard.


The Queen Regent fell silent for a moment. She noticed that the Amazons were quieting with anticipation of what the next order or action would be. Medea let her eyes slide off the warriors and met Jadea's gaze.


"What would you do in my place, Jade?" She asked with just a hint of desperation in her voice.


"Zia must know him. That's the only reason she could make that claim," the Sorceress responded quietly. She became still, her thoughts directing toward the man in question.


Who's your friend?


Bruce didn't answer immediately. For a second, he doubted he had heard her. The lightning flash look of her eyes told him differently.


No friend of mine. Just a Roman with a claim to the Empire's throne, his tone sounded apprehensive to her.


What are you talkin' about? She snapped instantly.


I've told you what I know. Given my predicament, why would I lie?


Although, Bruce seemed to have raised a point, the Amazon was ready with the answer to fight it. Because, the right lie just might save your sorry arse!


By this time, Medea had to make a move. "I, Queen Medea, revoke your challenge, Zia. his man has admitted his crimes, and he will fight the Sorceress Empress to the death! Sound the drums!" She yelled and made her way out of the arena.


As the fight commenced, the Themiscyrans forgot about Zia's rise to defend the Celt. Much to the young warrior's relief, as well as the relief of the two current Queens, the Amazons failed to hold the surprise objection against Zia.


Drums beat like death knolls. Jadea took a few steps from Bruce. "No powers. No tricks. Choose your weapon!" She offered with a sweet smile.


Bruce shook his head, his blue eyes sparkling in the morning's light. "I won't fight!"


Jadea smiled at him and arched her left eyebrow. "Won't you, though? Sword!" She shouted and instantly caught a thrown blade. Not just any blade, either, but Callisto's sword.


A second later another sword was thrown into the air. Because he refused to catch the blade, it landed near Bruce's feet.


"Pick it up, Bruce,” Jadea said in an all-too-calm tone. She stood several paces from him, looking like a kitten with a ball of string.


"I won't fight ya, Jade!" he answered, backing away from the sword and the woman both.


Various shouts ejected from the watching Amazons. Some simply gave whoops and hollers of encouragement. Others still looked on with silent suspense. Queen Medea had the nearest seat, accompanied by the Highland and Themiscyran Elders.


"That's what ya say, and that's what ya think..." Jadea commented slowly with a grin on her face. But we both know you want to fight me, Bruce. Come on, admit it! Ya've been dyin' to face me sword to sword for years, haven't ya? Haven't ya?


The Sorceress took deliberate but patient steps toward him. The very next thing to happen...would be the very last thing she could've anticipated.


Jadea, we've arrived in Teloq. I know you didn't want me to use my powers, but I had to hasten our journey. Seri's fine, just a little tired. The whole tribe is in mourning. Mourning...and confusion. I must go answer the call of duty again. Give Themiscyra my love.


The Sorceress Empress stopped short and shook her head. Those closest to the edge of the ring noticed something amiss. Medea resisted her impulse to physically intervene.


Jade? Bruce mentally questioned a split-second before Ardra. The hawk flew down from a tree and landed in front of Queen Medea.


"Oh! Uh, I wish you would warn me when you plan to do that," the Queen stated. She got a blank and somewhat innocent look from the hawk.


As distracting as the message from Samsara had been, it failed to deter Jadea from fighting Bruce. "Let us talk, shall we?" Her eyes came up with a bright expression. Jadea continued to edge near him and frequently changed her direction to keep him moving. He'd fight of his own will or be provoked into fighting of his own will, either way, he would fight.


"The Amazon tribe in Eire...the one ya ambushed and slaughtered? Did ya happen to know the tribe's name, Bruce?"


Wary of Jadea's style, the Celt kept his tongue silent. He unknowingly let his eyes answer for him. In truth, the question had been rhetorical.


"Vatrao, was it not?" She hid her emotion when she saw that the man neared the sword laying on the ground. "I've a secret to tell about that tribe. Did ya happen to know one of the Amazons named Deirdre?"


Bruce looked at her suspiciously, knowing that she had an angle she was playing but he didn’t know what that angle was.


From her perch in front of Medea, Ardra felt she might fall to the ground. Do not tell him, Jadea. Do...not...tell...him.


But Ardra's pleas went ignored as Jadea circled her enemy. "Ya'd remember this one, Bruce. She'd dark hair like yours and the deepest emerald eyes ever to be given a mortal."


The Celt now stood to the right of the sword. He'd stopped moving to counter Jadea's position. His crystal blue eyes began to darken as he listened. Word by word, Bruce began to put the pieces together. When the Sorceress continued, her blade was raised between the two of them.


"Her favorite weapon was a fightin' staff Vatrao's Amazon Princess carved and bestowed to her at her seventh Winter Solstice. She hated to kill, so she asked that she be trained to master all weapons she could for defense only. Her smile could light the goodness in the cruelest man. And her temper could bring the bravest warrior to tremble on his knees. She used to talk about everlasting peace between Eire and Britannia. Her Sisters loved to listen to her sing because she had the Muses blessing. And before she fell asleep each night, she'd hum that same lullaby you caught me singin' so many times," She paused, catching the flicker of knowledge in his eyes.


Although the two in the arena became oblivious to all others and all else excepting each other, Themiscyra was listening to its Queen speak. The Amazons were listening and watching. Most were too overcome with emotion to speak. Others found that they didn't speak for the disrespect involved.


The Celt bent down slowly with his knees and picked up the blade on the ground. His eyes never left the woman in front of him.


As he raised the sword, Jadea spoke again to him. "She was your blood. She was my blood."


"Nooooo!" An Amazon screamed out in agony, struck down by the horror of what she'd heard. Her two Sisters beside her caught her as she tried to lunge forward through them. The moment following her scream, Bruce charged toward Jadea and clashed his sword against hers in an attempt to hit her stomach.





Zia could not believe all the events that had taken place. She could not believe that she actually defended Caesar and Bruce, and yet she spat and cursed their names.


She decided to go into the forest and have some time to collect her thoughts. While Zia was walking deeper into the forest, she heard footsteps behind her. "I could have sworn I heard something. Maybe it is an Amazon or a animal after me," she thought.


Zia continued walking and the footsteps became louder. She quickly took out her sword and swung around. "I know you are there. Show yourself!"


A young man, no younger than the age of 18, walked out of the bushes and held his hand high in self defense.


"Octavius!" Zia shouted.


Zia ran to the young nephew of Caesar. They both held on to each other tight.


"I thought I would never talk to you again, and here I am," Octavius whispered.


Zia pushed back. "You have to get out of here. This is Amazon territory. I am now an Amazon and if I have to take you back to Caesar myself, then let it be."


"Zia, I have come to warn you and your Amazons. Caesar is going to send a troop of men. He might actually come with them, himself. He is going to talk to your Queen and try to make truce, but this is not his plan. Instead, he is going to attack the Amazons."


"Thank you so much for warning us, but you must leave," Zia insisted. "If my sisters find you, they will think you are an enemy and they will surely kill you. This is Amazon territory. Leave now! I will tell my sisters about this.” Zia hugged her friend and Octavius kissed her on the cheek.


"You know, you can still be a great empress of Rome."


"I rather be an Amazon and continue my journey as one. Get out now!"


When Octavius was about to run, a group of Amazons caught the two. "Zia, explain why this Roman is here!"





Ardra's noticed the new young Amazon as she left the fighting circle area. She was focused on the fight before her and paid little attention until two other Amazons decided to follow the Amazon. Then she decided she needed to show a little more interest and took to the sky. It wasn’t long before she hovered over them, shocked to see that they had captured a young man who presumably was Roman.


Neither Queen is going to like this, her mind raced to for a decisive course of action.


By luck, one of the Amazons at the man’s side happened to be Thalia. Her instincts alerted her to the hawk's presence.


"Please, let him go! He's no threat to us! I give my word as an Amazon!" Zia pleaded, unaware that Ardra recognized her friend.


Thalia, order his release. I'll follow him to see where he goes, Ardra's tone was deeply directive and dark.


The Head Scout shook her head. I can't. I have to let Queen Medea decide. Thalia looked from the boy to her youngest Sister. "You can explain this to Queen Medea after the fight. In the meantime, return to camp immediately or I'll have you detained."


"No, please. He just came to warn us that Caesar's men are marching toward us. Please, my Sister, he's done nothing wrong!" Zia's consistent anguish resounded through her voice and the look in her eyes. As she defended the young man, he stood silent and motionless, never once resisting the two guards beside him.


Thalia, Jade and Medea have enough to deal with right now. Let him go, and I'll see if he speaks true.


The Amazon fell quiet, weighing the arguments of either side. Her instilled code of conduct warned her not to break with procedure. Any interloper caught in Amazon territory was to either be killed or taken to see the Queen. And yet...and yet Ardra raised a valid point as well as offering some insurance lest blame should fall on Thalia.


"Take him to edge of our forest and release him," Thalia's command met with protesting looks. Her eyes hardened on her Sisters, and the order was obeyed.


Watch him like a hawk, Ardra, Thalia mentally sent the bird. She didn't like it one bit - not one bit.


You know I will, came her response.


Thalia, Liolanne, Martyka, and Zia returned to the arena. As the Head Scout moved back to Garrett's side, she got a questioning look from him. Before he could verbalize his inquiry, she stated, "I'll tell you later."


As it happened, Jadea seemed to have the upper hand in the fight. She'd nailed Bruce with her heel twice and barely cut his arm with her blade in a swipe initially meant for his chest. The Celt, on the other hand, had merely caused the Sorceress Empress to work up quite a sweat with frequent downward strokes and movement of his feet. Neither stood in the same spot for very long.


That's when it the Bruce knew it would. Jadea began to incorporate Amazon fighting techniques. Until now, she'd simply kept it simple. Backing away quickly she ran five steps and leapt up into the air, flipping over him and landing opposite of where she'd been. From the time her feet left the ground until the time they touched down again, she'd belted out the shrillest war cry the man had ever heard out of a woman's lungs. And he'd heard quite a number of terrifying war cries in his time.





Meanwhile things were just as exciting in Teloq.


Samsara and Seriana arrived at the gates followed by the Elder and the grey wolf. She sent her message to her aunt, just as precaution. She already knew various things were amiss. She sensed Mariko missing, she knew a band of Romans were intending on slipping by the defense her general had set up around the forest, and something told her that her reception wouldn't be entirely welcome in Teloq.


She whistled for the Guard to open the door. The response she got was... interesting to say the least.


"Uienes'q onse Stedesu?"


The language caught Samsara off guard. Seriana vaguely recognized it but knew not how to answer.


"Uienes'q onse Stedesu?" came the question again.


"Osmos Rincessapre Ieresshe Samsara Kakistos, Ishtarijah Amanesshe Ristesspe, n Rincessapre Seriana Ritani. Osotras'n enimosve ede Themiscyra astahe Teloq arape sumirsae al Ronat. Enimove on'c nua Elder Highlander." The words flowed from the Goddess' mouth like honey. We are Samsara Kakistos, daughter of Ishtar the Shammaness Priestess, and Princess Seriana Ritani. We go from Themiscyra to Teloq to assume the Throne.


The Highlander looked at Samsara. "That sounds vaguely familiar."


"It's High Amazonian. Hardly anyone speaks it anymore in this camp, just three of the Elders," she looked toward the opening gates. "There is something gravely wrong... Gravely wrong."


They trotted into the camp and were immediately taken hostage.


What in the Hades is going on? Samsara demanded of no one in particular. The Teloan Amazons trained their spears and crossbows on the three women and hound. What scared the women was that they recognized no one.


"Do you realize who I am?" she screamed. "Why do you train your weapons on us?" They were escorted immediately to the Queen's chambers. Or what had been Ephiny’s chambers.


Once inside, the woman at the other end of the room stood. She wore the Queen's mask of the Eagle, a sign that sickened Samsara, for the last time she saw it, one Amazon in particular was wearing it.


With a wave of her hand, the Elder was pulled out of the room. She turned to Samsara and Seriana, then looked down toward the hound. Slowly coming up again, she asked the same question:


"Uienes'q onse Stedesu?"


Samsara sighed, agitated. This was not how she was planning on returning to her homeland. Oddly enough, the two Amazons were not stripped of their weapons, but both knew they would be attacked should they turn to them.


"Samsara Kakistos Rincesspe Ieresshe lae Ronat Teloq, Ishtarijah. Laele Rincesspe Seriana, Ritani’ijah." She was not for questions, but if she was to get anywhere she'd answer.


"N uéqe eséasde Stedesue?" And what do you want? came the next sharp question. Seriana rolled her eyes. She had been at that camp and she knew they didn't speak that language out of necessity.


"Arape sumirsae al Ronat." To assume the throne.


The woman laughed a cold guttural laugh. Samsara stiffened. She knew the sound well. She had dealt with someone like this before. Again she waved her hand and the two were taken hostage.


"Chi’eh Samsara Kakistos Rincesspe Ieresshe umze Ronate Teloq!" The inflection of her voice was violent. "Chi’eh ügele iene!" She screamed in this second, more formal language: I am Samsara Kakistos, Princess Heiress to the Teloan Throne! I never lie! The women released them both.


"I see you also know the royal language of the Courts," the woman behind the mask said. She removed her mask. Her brown hair flowed down from a high ponytail divided into two separate braids. Her clear as water grey eyes bored into both sisters.


"Athenia," Samsara breathed. The two women stared at each other, the former with an angry look, the latter with a mixed look of disgust and lofty airiness.


"I see you haven't forgotten me either," came the woman's response. In the joust for High Guard, Commander of the Teloan Armed Forces in which Samsara ended up with the title of Princess-Heiress, the Goddess fought Athenia, a woman blessed with Athena's powers on occasion. Samsara won the joust and ever since Athenia had held a grudge, which came to a head today. "I'm so happy you are able to make a visit."


"I suggest you step down, Athenia, because I am Queen."


"And Gabrielle?"


"We both know that we fail to recognize the Pretender," Samsara then sent to her sister, Just politics... you know I don't hate her... "She is otherwise preoccupied in Libya as of yet. This isn't about Gabrielle."


"You're right, this isn't about the Pretender. This is about you and me and how I will ascend to the throne," she smirked.


"Athenia, you realize you wear the Mask of the Eagle..."


"Hence why I am to be Queen. It is time that we returned to the real line. Terreis was killed, and as such, Velasca - as the adoptive daughter of Melosa - should have become Queen upon Melosa's death. However, that sniveling Gabrielle took the rite of caste without ever becoming an Amazon. As Velasca's protégé, she would have given me her caste."


"For your information, honey," Samsara responded, "My sister Kaia Kakistos, former Teloan, would have received the title, AND since she is no longer an Amazon, the title would have defaulted to me. But why argue semantics? I defeated you in battle-"


"For a title that wasn't in play until the final joust."


"You will not ascend, Athenia. No you will not." She turned to the guards in the room with them. "Ehen'g Íes!" Leave! "I demand this on my Teloan rights!"


They looked at Athenia for approval, then left. Samsara then looked at her. "You will ascend upon the dead Royal House of the Wolf," Samsara vowed. "Concede."





The Amazons watched in awe as Jadea and Bruce were having a match to the death. The sounds of swords clashing was like thunder in the sky.


Jadea jumped over Bruce and kicked him in the head. He fell and grabbed his sword and almost stabbed Jadea in the leg, but she was too quick to easily get struck. She grabbed the end of her sword and smashed it against Bruce's cheek. Blood rushed against his face as he fell on the ground from exhaustion. Jadea grabbed his sword and faced it against his heart.


"Now you will pay for what you have done to the Amazon tribe. Your daughter will now be able to rest in peace knowing that her father, and murderer, is now dead," Jadea sneered.


Bruce looked at her with a look that could have been mistaken for fear in his eyes. "Even if you do kill me, you and your tribe will die very soon," he whispered.


"Tell Hades I said hello," Jadea said. With a loud Amazon cry, she struck his own sword against his heart. "Now your evil heart will no longer beat."


Jadea looked at her tribe. "Let Bruce be a reminder that no man can ever destroy our nation. We are Amazon!"


The Amazons cheered and preparations for a celebration were soon made. Jadea could not smile with them.


Thalia went up to Jadea with a look of worry. "I am sorry to be the one to destroy the celebration, but Octavius, the nephew of Caesar is here.”


"On Amazon land? How dare he!" Jadea shouted.


"No!" Zia ran up to the two. "He is no harm to us. He came to warn us."


"Zia, he is a Roman and the nephew of our enemy. I cannot make any decisions without speaking to him myself. Take me to the location that he is now."


Meanwhile, Ardra watched Octavius, just as she had been told. Octavius had a look of worry and anger in his eyes, but his thoughts were on Zia. What was happening to her?





As for Themiscyra's chief leader - she viewed Bruce's death with a kind of conflicted grief and satisfaction. What Queen Medea didn't know, however, was that her co-ruler had used the same type of trickery her niece had resorted to when "killing" Xena in the war against the Majie. For, before the Celt's second "death," he'd communicated once again with the Sorceress through mental use.


While you and I fight each other, Caesar marches against your tribe.


The following moment saw the Amazon strike her sword down again only to meet with his. Why should I believe you? Ya've lied before, and ya 'ave no reason to be truthful now!


He ducked, narrowly missed another swipe. From someplace in the recesses of Jadea's mind, she heard stray thoughts from several of her Sisters. While shaking her head to lose them, his voice entered her mind again.


My words will prove nothin' to you because you see me as the man I was - not the man I am.


She growled audibly and heard the cheers of her Sisters all around her.


Ya have ev'ry right to hate the man ya knew. He and I are not the same, but through your eyes - he never died.


Before she could respond with anything, the Sorceress Empress received a flashing image of Teloq. All she could make of it were the faces of both her nieces...and the guards on both their sides. Again, she loosely shook her head, eyes resting on the bloody man before her.


My Sisters hate you, Bruce! After but a second, she added, and I'm not too fond of ya meself.


Kill me, he sent directly back. The man's eyes lost their fire but not their strength.


Jadea didn't answer. Instead, she spat in his face thereby causing a large wave of enthusiasm from the audience.


What's thah matter, beloved? Has learnin' of your daughter made ya feel remorse? She acridly asked him, knowing her words wounded him more painfully than her sword ever could.


I'm not the man who murdered our daughter, Jade. I'd give anythin' to deliver 'er justice...even my life. After another silent moment, he repeated his earlier instruction. Kill me if ya will, but do ...and he wins.


She flipped again and grabbed the end of her sword, smashing it against his cheek. The blow surprised him greatly.


No, I've a better idea. I'll kill thah both of ya. That way, neither escapes Amazon justice. Oh, and Bruce... "Tell Hades I said 'hello'."


Jade, wait! He screamed and she hesitated.


Queen Medea rose to her feet. Her Amazons leapt to theirs as well.


In death comes rebirth. 'Til our lives meet again...


She struck her blade swiftly into his heart. As far as the Amazons were concerned, the man they knew as Bruce...was dead. Years would pass before the truth of the challenge's end was revealed.




When news of the Roman met with the Queens' ears, only one of them would investigate, leaving the other to perform the two actions which would cover her deceit. Jadea had come close to dying in the fight. But she knew what she'd seen in those blue eyes she knew so well. The man couldn't kill her. And it hadn't been his guilt which stopped him, though he felt remorse for his crimes. The one thing to stop him from pressing the single advantage he held during their combat and that one thing was something the Sorceress Empress had not seen in him for a long, long time.


By the time the Queen Regent, accompanied by several of her strongest Amazon warriors, reached the outskirts of their lands neither Ardra nor the Roman boy were found. She'd allowed him to leave and followed him closely.


So, when does Ardra's fun begin? Ahh, yes. Queen Celosia leaves Themiscyra and in her wisdom places her sister and my Mistress in charge. To honor her word, Jadea is forced to return to the Isles after Ishtar delivers her child into Samsara's care. I must be the only one left with a fully functioning brain.


The hawk swerved around a tree just as a sudden gust of wind carried her a foot or two higher. So far, this Roman seemed to heading back toward Rome via the most inconspicuous way he could find.


Ahh, and then we have Mariko. Truly an amazing woman, so naturally Jade is wary of her. And why not? She's wary of any power she is not familiar with. Although, I grant her that Mariko seems intent on reviving Samsara's old ways. Let us not forget, lest we should be untimely reminded in some horrid way, that Jadea brings her long former mate back to Themiscyra! The next I see of that blasted Conor, I'll tear his eyeballs out for lettin' her.


Engrossed with thinking to herself and tracking the young Roman, the hawk failed to realize that she was being tracked.


Thalia had slipped out in some of the confusion that proceeded the fight's conclusion. She chose this particular moment to alert Jadea's hawk to her presence. With a somewhat humored yet somewhat grim tone, she asked, Just what makes you think that Conor let Jadea do anything?


The clever Amazon had transformed into a moderate-sized, chestnut horse. She galloped at an easy pace, since neither the Roman nor Ardra seemed to be rushing nor crawling. When the Scout returned, the only thing that kept her from Medea's wrath, which would be aided by her Co-Queen, was Ardra.


As she passed Antigone, Thalia heard her Sister give her a warning. "Queen Medea is on the warpath. She's had our Sisters combing Themiscyra in search of you."


Thalia nodded and gave a look of thanks for the gesture.


"Thalia!" The Queen was on horse when she approached the warrior in a trot. Beside Medea, the Sorceress Empress and Zia were mounted as well. Both felt the need to keep the young Amazon warrior close by. Some suspicion circulated, and the two agreed on erring on the side of caution. First time the two women had agreed on anything, really.


I could use your help, Jadea, Thalia glanced from one to the other, finding the latter's expression to be nearly as dead set as the former.


Should have considered that before you disappeared, the Sorceress answered, then noticed the sudden presence of her hawk.


Jade, Zia spoke true. The Roman is heading back home through the old path used for traveling between temples. He's taken care to keep away from other travelers or villages.


Without an answer, the bird suddenly felt the impulse to ask a question on her mind. What happened? Her inquiry referred to the challenge, naturally. The Celt was nowhere around, to be sure. Yet, Ardra knew her Mistress could not have possibly killed him...or she'd for certainly felt the deed when it was done. This left her with a curious trepidation.


Take word to Dachus. Tell him to regroup and prepare for battle, Jadea instructed without conferring her partner-in-authority. The hawk left without either protest or response.


In the meantime, the Sorceress Empress turned to Zia. "Come with me." She nudged her horse and the young Amazon followed. Medea gave but a brief look of annoyance at Jadea's decision to depart. She felt a moment of abandonment before the sudden potential to rile Thalia came into her mind.


"I hope you enjoyed your escapade. You just earned a fortnight of mess hut duty, followed by another of night post!"




In Teloq...


I can't believe this is happening! I could wipe the ground with her in one movement! Samsara thought silently as she contemplated what to do next. Her eyes blazed angrily.


Athenia did not merely resent Samsara, she absolutely loathed the woman. In her contempt, the Amazon had lost the common sense which would have allowed to her be aware that Samsara, in most respects, was far more powerful than she.





"You will ascend upon the dead Royal House of the Wolf," Samsara vowed. "Concede."


Athenia laughed. "Never. I will ascend."


"We will take this to the Pentad Council."


At mid-afternoon the five Elders met in the square. The benches were set up on a raised platform reserved for ceremonies. It was the same platform Gabrielle stood on to accept her mask in Terreis' place. The only reason this "trial" of sorts was so public was to be sure that the person who wins the victory is not suspected of treachery.


Serena, Chief Elder, was not entirely pleased that Samsara Athanase was back, partly because of the utterance of her entire name. She never got it right. Samsara Athanase Achala Kakistos. It was the name given to her by her tribe. Samsara Immortal Indefinite Worst of the Worst - Kakistos being her mother's title. The Chief Elder never got the pronunciation of Achala correct. It was very back of the mouth and Serena hated it, but she accepted it. Ishtar had given Samsara that name.


"As the petitioner had decided to plead her case before the impartial Teloan Pentad Council - her Amazon right-" Serena began, "-the presentation of the case must be made in public."


Samsara and Seriana were on one side of the Pentad and Athenia and her supporters were on the other. Samsara be damned if she were to let Athenia take over the affairs of Teloq without her consent. Besides, if Athenia won the sisters' veil of protection would be blown. If anyone were to find out the secret they both knew, the family would be ripped apart. Seriana would no longer be afforded the protection of being a Princess, not that Samsara would be a Princess anymore herself. And if Samsara lost her claim to the throne, her entire purpose in Themiscyra - to learn her acts and labors necessary to become Queen - would be lost.


Both sides pleaded their cases on logic and family lines. Samsara stressed that the Pentad itself was the one to give her the title, while Athenia demanded a return to the old caste system.


After much consultation the Pentad reached a verdict. Serena stood. Her face was stone cold as she unrolled the parchment before her. She wore her red wrap with the Phoenix insignia around her silver toga. Her hair was in a long braid and fell across her left shoulder down her torso. Her crystal blue eyes read from the parchment and she voiced what she saw in a loud, booming voice:


"Se'e íede Inung'me Teloan Pentad: se'e íede öglich'unme inee Inung'me. Samsara Athanase Achala Kakistos uelledes Athenia Cordula Mellicent (Courageous Brave-Strength). Sundown. The Pentad has spoken."


Seriana looked at Samsara. "That isn't good is it?"


Samsara shook her head. "You know what it is, don't you?"


"You're fighting Athenia," Seriana recognized the word "uelledes". Joust. Death Joust.


"I don't want to fight for this," the Goddess responded. "That's why I wanted to go through the Pentad. I had hoped to get through them that way," she shook her head. "You realize she could kill me. Seriana, if she does, please, take my rite of caste." She took off her Phoenix feather and tried to press it into her sister's hand.


Silver Hawk shook her head. "Sami, Sami no. I won't take it. What use will it be?"


"NEVER refuse a gift from your sister, especially your Amazon sister," Athanase's words were stern. She was trying not to waver. Athenia was watching them from afar and she knew it. "You realize Athenia and I could both die? I'm a Goddess and she is empowered by Athena. This does not look too good at all. Seriana, take care of my daughter and assume my place as Queen Empress of this Tribe. Athenia ascends upon the dead Royal House of the Wolf and as far as I'm concerned it's guaranteed for another two generations."


"Sami . . . be careful."


"I know, Ser'. This doesn't look good at all." Samsara's face was wrought with worry as she contemplated what may happen. Mariko watched from the trees. She knew how to hide from the Amazons well.


"No it does not look good for you at all, mongrel. I will expose you and I will take back Rhea's Ruby once and for all," said Athena as she viewed from her bowl on Olympus. She smiled. She was going without Zeus' consent. She wasn't waiting for him to formulate his plan. She wanted that stone back and she was getting it anyway possible.





Caesar observed the map of Themiscyra. He was aware of the death of his most trusted solider, the Celt Bruce. "Another reason for the Amazons to pay," he sneered.


Caesar had thought that his nephew had been kidnapped, but instead, according to his guards on watch, he was with a group of Amazons. Not only that, but one of his people, Zia, was there. Caesar had never been this angry. Jarus, a soldier of his, came up to him.


"Emperor, the men are ready to go up to the Amazons. What shall we do?"


"We must not make it so obvious that we are going to attack. I will ride ahead and speak to their Queen. We will make it look as if this was a truce. Then, when they least expect it, we attack."


"Emperor, shall we kill them all?"


"No you fool," Caesar said. "Yes we will kill most, but we could use some slaves for the people of Rome. They will do just fine."


"And what about Zia?" Jarus questioned.


"Zia is a very clever girl. I do not think she will abandon her people so easily just to join a group of savages. I have many plans for her," Caesar whispered.


"And Octavius?" Jarus asked for one last time.


"I doubt that he has reached Rome yet. He must be in Amazon territory. I'll deal with him later."




Jadea looked at the young Roman boy from head to foot. Because of Caesar’s men surrounding the area, she did not want to let him go so easily. It could ruin their plan. Even though Zia told the truth, she was still cautious of having a blood of her worst enemy in Amazon territory.


"I doubt that he just has feelings of friendship for Zia," Thalia said. "It looks more like love."


"I know," Jadea said.


Zia was in her hut getting her sword ready. The battle of all battles was coming. As she was about to get out of her hut, Octavius, bumped into her.


"Hello Zia," he managed to say.


"Octavius, this is not a good time to talk," Zia said quickly.


"Oh. Zia, after this battle, why don't you become Empress of Rome? You and I, side by side. Wouldn't that be great?"


"Octavius, I already told you my reasons and I refuse to repeat them," Zia said and walked away.


She started thinking while she was taking a walk. Now is my chance to do what I must do. Kill Caesar, for the sake of my mother and father whom he slaughtered in front of the arena.


Zia let out a loud war cry that all the Amazons heard.


Questions Without Answers



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