Standing in the most prominent spot in the clearing near the funeral pyre, Sirisi began the ceremony, raising her mask after a few moments of ceremonially leaving it down to display her rank in the tribe by it's markings. "Mighty Artemis, Queen and Goddess of all Amazons, we release my sister from this world to serve you, and do your will in another life of your choosing".

Thalissia, brought there by two guards sent to retrieve her by the Queen, entered the clearing, and once again, all Amazons acknowledged her presence in the usual manner. Not able to see her arrival, Sirisi merely went on. Realizing this, Shantar put a hand to Sirisi's arm, and whispered to her, "Princess Thalissia has come, she is in front of you". "Hearing this, Sirisi quickly fell to one knee, and bowed as her status dictated, before the Princess. "Rise Sirisi, I didn't mean to disrupt the funeral for your sister". "No Princess, you are not a disruption. Forgive me for not bowing to you when you first approached, but I can't see you, and didn't know that you were here. Forgive me, I must learn to sense the presence of others more keenly now more than before as I can't see them".

"You have lost your sight? I was told that you had been poisoned and that you were dying, I had not been told that you had lost your sight". "Yes princess, it's because of the poison that I 've lost my sight. Xena's the reason that I am alive, I owe her a life debt, but until I 've learned to adapt to my blindness, I can't begin to repay her". "You owe me nothing Sirisi, I did what I could for a friend, that's all". "I owe you my life, and it will be repaid. When I am able to live and fight as a warrior again, I will repay my debt in some way". "First Warrior, we are losing the light" "Yes, of course. Clearing her throat, Sirisi rose to her feet, and began to sing "Burial"; Her voice nearly as beautiful as Xena's herself, and caused even the Warrior Princess to cry.

At the beginning of the song, the pyre was lit, and Jenara's body was given to the elements, the Amazons doing the Funeral Dance around it as it burned. Upon the last note, a tear fell from Sirisi's sightless eyes, her mind showing her the image she would have seen had it not been for Anemy's treachery. Her heart ached, as it never had before for the loss of her beloved sister; and yet she was happy knowing that Jenara was at peace in the Elysian Fields, waiting for her to join her when her time came. Suddenly, as she stood there, Sirisi's sight began to return to her, and everything went from non-existent, to blurry beyond recognition, to perfectly in focus.

She was about to announce the fact that she could see again, when a thought occurred to her. Continuing to behave as if she were unable to see, and keeping her eyes downcast and unfocused, Sirisi called to the two warriors who stood beside and just behind her. "Shantar, would you take my weapons please?" she asked, holding them in Shantar's direction. Shantar silently approached her and took her weapons from her; honored, and surprised that she had called upon her to take her weapons and not the warrior who was normally entrusted with her weapons.

It is an honor to be designated as the warrior entrusted with the safety and care of the First Warrior's weapons; she is the bodyguard to the Queen, she must have her weapons in an instant to defend the Queen if for some reason she is not carrying them. "Xena, will you guide me to Anemy please?" Fen asked of the Warrior, Gabrielle in her usual place beside Xena. Fen held her hand out, and Xena wrapped it around her arm, guiding her carefully to where Anemy was tied to a crucifix. Upon reaching it, Xena turned to face the crucifix so that Fen too would do so; "You're standing directly in front of her now". Xena attempted to remove Fen's arm gently from hers so that she could step back, but Fen held onto her arm.

The dancing had ceased and all of the warriors had come to stand near the crucifix to see what she would do to her sister's murderer. Still holding her eyes downcast as if still sightless; Fen requested in a loud, clear voice, "Release her and arm her, I will fight her in battle to the death, and give her the opportunity that she denied my sister; to die like a warrior".

The entire tribe gasped, and began to protest as a group, protesting that she couldn't fight; how could she fight when she couldn't even see her opponent? Shantar was the most vehement. "You can't fight her to the death, you can't even see her, how are you going to fight her? She'll kill you with the first strike". Turning to face Shantarwarrior, but not looking directly at her face, Sirisi responded, " Do you have so little faith in my fighting ability that you think that she could kill me so easily? Blind or not?" Fen, she's right, you can't see her, how are you going to know where she is and when she will strike?" "Xena's right Fen, don't risk your life unnecessarily, you said your sister told you that it wasn't your time yet".

Turning to Xena and Gabrielle, Fen whispered, "I have my sight, I see her clearly, I can fight", and looked them both directly in the eyes to assure them that she could see them just as clearly, and then "went blind" again. Wise to Fen's plan, Xena now began to play along with it, continuing to protest and try to convince her not to fight. Gabrielle went along with it as well, "Sirisi please, listen to us, you don't have to do this, find another way to make her pay for killing your sister, but to risk your own life this way when you can't see her in a battle to the death is suicidal. Your sister wouldn't want you to do this."

"My sister would applaud my courage, and be proud that I avenge her in this way despite my loss of sight." As this was going on, Anemy had been lowered from the crucifix, and was unbound, but was still fully restrained by two guards holding her arms immobile. "You are insane Sirisi, maybe the loss of your sister was just too much and it caused you to snap. You expect to retain your title and position when you're insane? " Drawing her sheathed dagger from it's place just inside her waistband, and holding it aloft in a throwing manner, Fen responded, "Shut up Anemy, or I swear to Artemis, I'll kill you where you stand." "And where is that oh mighty First Warrior?" Anemy taunted mockingly. "Directly in front of me in the center, just a hair to the left."

Sirisi was doing a very good job of "being blind" and not looking at the woman; not hard at all considering she had only recently regained her eyesight. Xena stepped up to Sirisi lending her support, "I wouldn't test her Anemy, she may be sightless, but she still has the reflexes that she's always had." To demonstrate Xena unhooked her chakrum, and swung it towards Sirisi's throat in one swift movement, only to have her arm caught and stopped at the wrist. She of course wouldn't have done this if she didn't know that Sirisi could in fact see, though she fully trusted Sirisi's reflexes. The demonstration served its purpose, the Amazons were impressed, Anemy awed, and Shantar stunned.

Allowing her wrist to remain in Sirisi's grasp, Xena asked, "Still feel brave Anemy?" From the look on Anemy's face, anybody would have said "No". Suddenly all of Anemy's bravado had gone, the courage gone right out of her. Sirisi released Xena's wrist, and lowered the arm that held the knife aloft as a challenge to Anemy. Silently, Sirisi took a few paces closer to Anemy and took a fighting stance. "I, Sirisi, First Warrior to Thalinna, Queen of the Forest Amazons do challenge Anemy, Warrior to Thalinna, to a death fight." This she spoke clearly so that all would hear the pronouncement, a formal declaration of battle. "She has committed murder by taking the life of my sister, Jenara, Second Warrior to Thalinna. I declare my intent to seek revenge for my sister’s wrongful death."

The Queen stepped forward as the other Amazons of the tribe stepped back, forming a semi-circle. Xena and Gabrielle also stepped back out of the way, but not too far; just far enough as to be out of the way, but close enough to intervene if anyone attempted to take unfair advantage of Sirisi in anyway. "Do you accept the challenge Anemy? Understand that it is a fight to the death. Once begun, it can not be called off " the Queen asked of Anemy formally. In a trembling voice Anemy responded, "I accept the challenge ", and drew her knife. "So be it", the Queen said backing up. The two Amazons circled each other like two wild cats about to tear into each other, which they did rather resemble.

When they were within whispering distance of each other, Sirasi looked Anemy directly in the eyes and told her, "I see you clearly Anemy. You will pay for the death of my sister, even if I have to die in the attempt." Sirasi saw Anemy shiver visibly just seconds before she controlled her fear, and tuned her senses to their most sensitive, preparing for the battle. Anemy proved more than an equal match for Sirasi with the knife, and more than worthy to be called an Amazon. In the end however, Sirasi won the battle with a stab to Anemy's stomach, assuring the kill with her trademark twist of the knife, and the upward pull after insertion.

Mind you, few women, Amazon or not, ever did this upward pull on the knife after stabbing their enemy as it took great arm strength. Sirasi however had superior upper arm strength. After she allowed Anemy to fall to the ground, Sirasi stood over her body and ceremonially announced, "My sister, Jenara, Second Warrior to Queen Thalinna of the Forest Amazon is avenged." And with that pronouncement, Sirasi gave her battle cry loudly, and with great victory and pride. Her fellow Amazons gave their battle cries in response, and support. "Bury her, and we will return to the village. Xena, Gabrielle, you are of course welcome to return with us." The Queen invited.

"Thank you Queen Thalinna". As the Amazons lifted Anemy to take her away to bury her, Sirasi commanded them to bury her outside of Sirasi's Paradise. "I want her no where near this place." "I'll go with them and make sure she's buried far from here in a grave indicating that she murdered her own kind. Softly to Xena, Gabrielle asked, "Aren't they going to cremate her?". "Your Amazons would Gabrielle, but these Amazons evidently have no intention of doing so because of the crime she committed against the tribe." "But still, it's the usual manner of releasing the spirit from the body after death." "Evidently not in this case Gabrielle. She killed the First Warrior's sister, a serious crime in the first place; but on top of that, the sister she killed died when she tried to kill the First Warrior."

"What? Anemy had been actually trying to kill Sirasi when she killed Jenara?" "Yes. Think about it Gabrielle, it's perfect timing. We were in the midst of a battle. What better time to kill the First Warrior than in the middle of a battle? If Sirasi hadn't helped her sister up at that moment, she would have been the one to die, not Jenara." As Xena said this, Gabrielle stood there picturing the battle in her mind. "Jenara killed her sister's would be attacker, the man who was laying at their feet when the battle stopped. Sirasi leaned down to give her sister a hand up". "And that put Jenara in front of her just as Anemy released her spear, but by then of course, it was too late to stop it." "Right, and that's why Sirasi feels doubly grieved by her sister's death."

"She thinks it's her fault that Jenara died even though Anemy is the one who threw the spear. But it's not her fault Xena, she couldn't have known." "No, but I could have warned them what Anemy was planning." Another Amazon walked over to them with a smooth, cat like gait, carrying her weapons, and lifting her ceremonial mask as she stopped beside Gabrielle. Gabrielle knew by the small pouches, and water skin the Amazon carried discreetly at her "belt" that this Amazon was planning on traveling for quite awhile. "I'm Selan, I was bond mate to Anemy, and I knew what she had planned, but I didn't think she would actually do it. Who would have though someone so gentle, and loving as Anemy could have done such a thing?"

"Gentle and loving? Are we talking about the same woman here?" Gabrielle intoned. "You didn't know the Anemy I knew. The Anemy she was before her obsession to become First Warrior changed her…forever." As she said this, Selan bowed her head in shame, then raised it when she spoke again. "The Anemy I once knew was gentle, loving, caring, tender, and couldn’t have hurt anyone or anything. That was what I loved about her. But then she changed. All she could think of was power, of taking Sirasi's place, and to do that, she had to either kill her, or challenge her for the position. She knew she was no match for her at combat, so her only other alternative…". "Was murder. And if she killed Sirasi, she would have had to kill Jenara as well because when Sirasi died, Jenara would have taken her place."

"She had no choice but to kill not just one sister, but both, Jenara had to die anyway according to Anemy's plans." "I can't live here any longer with the shame of what Anemy did. I could have stopped her, stopped Jenara from dying, and I didn't. I loved Anemy, despite what she had become, and prayed to Artemis that she wouldn't do what she said she was going to do." Xena and Gabrielle were glued to the spot, transfixed by what Selan was saying, the three of them now the only ones still in the valley. "I was wrong, and because I was wrong, Jenara is dead, and Sirasi nearly died. I can't live with that. I can't." After a moment of looking first Gabrielle in the eyes, and then Xena, Selan turned and walked away, leaving the only life she'd ever known, the only family she'd ever known, behind, forever.

The End?

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