THE TRUE ENEMY
Disclaimers: Same as usual, yadda yadda yadda.
Violence: very little if any.
As she walked back to the campsite where she had left her sister's body, Sirasi suddenly felt an overwhelming muscular weakness, and fell to her knees, dropping the armload of wood she'd been carrying.
This was the same weakness she had felt when she had been pulling the travois carrying her sister to this place. "What's wrong with me?" she puzzled, as she recalled that she had felt the same weakness earlier too, a few days ago when she had been preparing for the journey. She gave herself a few moments to recover her strength and then tried to rise again, but found she couldn't do it. "What wrong with me?" she puzzled again, "Why am I so weak?"; as she lay there trying to move her arms, and not succeeding, she thought back to the battle. She recreated it in her mind step by step.
She played it forward In her mind up to the moment when she had been attending to her sister in the Healer's Hut, and Anemy had been daubing at her cuts with a salve, or was it salve? She had never heard of a salve that stung when applied as the one Anemy had used did. When she asked Anemy why it stung so, Anemy had explained it away saying "It is because you are so badly cut and wounded that it stings First Warrior. It means that the salve is working". Because she had been so preoccupied with Jenara's wounds, she hadn't thought anything of the explanation, and had accepted it, now she realized she should have suspected something.
Anemy had always seemed so subservient, so docile, a little too much so, but at the time, she'd though nothing of it, some Amazons were that way. Then it occurred to her as she struggled to her knees, then to her feet, that Anemy had been "watching her " for at least two, three days before the battle. About two days before Xena and Gabrielle had come to the village she noticed that Anemy had been watching her far enough away for her not to have seen her, or so she thought, but close enough for her to see Sirasi. Now she knew why she'd been watching her.
Sirasi couldn't outright accuse Anemy of having thrown the spear that had hit Jenara in the back, but she would have bet her best spear and dagger that it had been her, or someone she had enticed into doing it. But why would Anemy do it? She had never seemed to hold any animosity towards either one of them, why would she try to kill them? Or have them killed? As she began to slowly walk back to where she'd left her sister's body, Sirasi's mind worked triple overtime trying to work it out in her head. The only reason she could think of for Anemy to want to kill them is to get them out of the way so that she could take Sirasi's place in the tribe as First Warrior. By Tribal Law, the Queen's heirs inherited her title as Queen.
It was the same with her First Warrior. Sirasi and Jenara's mother had been First Warrior to the Queen's mother, and to THIS Queen when her mother had been killed in battle. Because Sirasi is the elder of the two sisters, when a warlord killed their mother, Sirasi automatically inherited the title. If Sirasi had had any daughters, which she did not, her eldest daughter would inherit her title and position. Because Sirasi had no daughters, if she had died first, Jenara would have inherited the title and position; but because Jenara had died first, Sirasi retained her title.
If Anemy succeeds in killing both, she can claim the title by declaring her intent to take it. If she is challenged to the position, then she will have to fight the challenger for it; if she wins, she attains the title. The Queen can also appoint a new First Warrior; being as this has never been done in tribal history, Anemy will have to wait and see. As she began to pile the wood for the pyre, Sirasi had to stop and rest again, the weakness once again overtaking her. "I don't have time for this, I have to build the pyre" Sirasi chastised herself.
She rose again to go and find more wood for the pyre, she felt lightheaded again; before she could take another step, she fell to the ground, unconscious.
On the trail, Shantar was still running, not having stopped at all much less slackened her pace, she wasn't even out of breath, she ran in a "Pacer's Jog", her mind and heart wanted her to run as fast as she could, but she knew better. If she continued to run this way, her endurance was far greater than if she just "flat out ran". When she came again to the place where she and Sirasi, had parted ways with Xena, she was surprised to hear a familiar voice call,
"Shantar! Shantar!" when she'd stopped, and turned around, she saw Xena and Gabrielle coming towards her. They greeted one another, and Shantar quickly filled them in. "I'll come with you, Gabrielle, you go to Sirasi, help her, try to get her to talk to you, she's really hurting right now. You're better at that than I am. I'll go with Shantar the rest of the way and bring the others back". Xena and Gabrielle parted ways, Gabrielle headed in the opposite direction looking for the trail marking Shantar had told her about in order to find the hidden place, and Xena going with Shantar to retrieve the other Amazons.
Time change: Roughly two candle marks later.
Gabrielle hurried as much as she could to the hidden paradise Shantar had told her about, and was halted in her tracks by the sheer peaceful beauty of it. As she stood there looking around at the sight, she spotted what looked like two bodies laying on the ground, A tremor of panic ran through Gabrielle as the thought that Sirasi may have killed herself in order to join her sister in death popped into her head. As she ran down to where she saw the bodies, Gabrielle prayed to the Gods that Sirasi hadn't committed suicide.
Just as she was coming up to the place, Sirasi began to come to, and began moving, and trying to get up. Gabrielle ran to her, and tried to help her up, but upon feeling hands on her shoulder suddenly when she knew she was supposed to be alone, Sirasi drew her dagger that she always carried in her belt. "Whoa, Sirasi, it's me, Gabrielle, are you all right?". Lowering her dagger, Sirasi allowed Gabrielle to come near her then put it up, certain that it was her, her head still not clear. "I don't know what's wrong with me, I'm so weak". "It's probably just all the strain of the last few days, it's finally caught up with you. You need to rest awhile".
"No, I can't, I have to gather more wood, I have to build the funeral pyre", "No, you sit here and rest, I'll do it". Suddenly, the realization that her sister was really dead, hit Sirasi, and for a few moments, she sat there just staring, and then spoke in a whisper more to herself than to Gabrielle: "She's gone…. (Sobbing) Oh Artemis, she's gone". Sitting on the ground, and coaxing Sirasi up into a sitting position enough for her to get Sirasi into a position where she could lean against her, Gabrielle tried to console the grief stricken Amazon.
"She's alive in your heart, and in your mind Sirasi. She knows how much you loved her, how much you will always love her. She's in the Elysian Fields, she's happy, and safe, and when you join her someday, you'll be able to hear her voice again. Don't think about how you've lost her, just think about the day when you'll see her again in the Elysian Fields, where you'll be together forever". Sirasi's crying had become less hysterical, and more, "normal", but still she cried; understanding her pain, Gabrielle just rocked her slowly, just holding her, and letting her grieve.
Meanwhile, Shantar and Xena were just entering the Amazon village, and were greeted by Thalissia sitting by the pond deep in thought. Her two bodyguards stand nearby protectively, watching their surroundings. After clasping arms in the Warrior's Greeting, Shantar explained to her what had happened after they left the village, and brought her up to date. "Go and tell the news to my mother" Thalissia instructed one of her guards. "Yes Princess, as you command" the guard said, as she put fist to chest and gave a curt bow of the head, then turned and run off to do a she had been bid.
"Go, and bring food and drink, I'm sure they are hungry" Thalissia bid the other guard, who hesitated for a moment. "Go, I'll be safe, Xena's here". Xena was amazed in the change in Thalissia since she had last seen her. Thalissia was no longer the shy, jumpy, skittish girl she had been when Xena and Gabrielle found her in Calistar. Now she stood tall, and straight and held her head up proudly; she knew who she was now, and it showed in her posture and in her behavior and attitude. As she stood there with Shantar, and Xena, Thalissia mimicked Xena's posture exactly, unconsciously copying her. "Where is Gabrielle Xena?" 'She's gone to stay with Sirasi".
"Has her sister, um, crossed to the other side?" Thalissia asked apprehensively. Sudden sadness crossed over Shantar's face as she answers Thalissia; "yes, she has." Sirasi is devastated, but she won't release the pain, she just suppresses it". "She and Jenara were so close" Xena interjected, "I've never seen two sisters so close before in my life. It was like they were perfectly in sync with each other". "They were. They had a bond that was stronger than even my bond to Sirasi. She loves me, I don't doubt that, but their bond was different, stronger, deeper, more loyal".
At this point the Queen, and two Amazons bearing fruit and dried meat, as well as Thalissia's personal guards, approached them. "That is because they were sisters, and because they had always been close, and because of the accident that took Jenara's voice from her. When she had to learn to communicate again, and they invented their own form of communicating, it brought them even closer, they needed each other even more than before". "My Queen" Shantar addressed her Queen and knelt and bowed her head in the submissive manner of the tribe.
"Rise my warrior" Shantar rose to her feet, keeping her eyes respectfully diverted as her position in the tribe dictated; As I said before, Sirasi, and Jenara had the privilege of looking the Queen in the eyes as "Near Equals" because of their ranks, Shantar does not. Shantar is third in rank to the two sisters; because of this, she does not have the privilege of looking the Queen in the eyes. Shantar took a piece of the dried meat and ate it as Xena did the same. "Your Highness, forgive my bluntness, but I have come home to get warriors to return with me to the place where First Warrior waits for our return while she builds the funeral pyre for Second Warrior".
"Ah, then her sister has passed to the other side?" "Yes, she passed sometime before we arrived in the Valley". "Then she never saw the place that she desired to die in?" "No my Queen, she held onto life as long as she could, but she didn't make it". "How Sad" "Yes my Queen, it is. But she will at least her soul will be released where she wished to be. When I think of all the times I when I saw them together, how much they loved each other, their deep devotion for to each other, and remember how jealous I would become, I'm ashamed". "That's all in the past now Third Warrior, it no longer matters" "It does to me. When this is over, I have to apologize to Sirisi, and to Jenara".
"You're human Shantar, we all feel jealousy at times, even me" "Yes, but I am her bond mate I should have known better. I had no reason to be jealous. Their love was sister love, and I should have never allowed myself to feel jealousy. She was right to love Jenara more'. "Yes, well, the others will be summoned and we will join you on the trail". "Thank you my Queen".
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