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Once upon a time… a very long time ago… Amazons were much too busy being serious, no nonsense warriors to participate in anything as frivolous as a festival. But one day, a chance meeting between a young village girl and three, just as young, Amazons would change all that. This is that story…
Not long after daybreak, Micala slipped out of the hut she shared with her parents. She loved to start her day early while the village square was empty and only the cheerful songs of the morning birds broke the morning stillness. As she skipped across the village square to the path that led to the river, she thought about the coming day’s events.
Normally, there would be only a few villagers about at such an early hour and Micala would take her time to stop and visit with them. But today was different. Today, the square was buzzing with activity for today was the day the village would rejoice the end of another long winter and welcome the time for planting. It was an even more special day for Micala and she had much to do before the festivities began at mid-day.
Reaching the river bank, Micala paused to survey the spot she had specifically chosen to spend the next few hours. She was pleased to find the area deserted although that really didn’t surprise her as few ever ventured close to the river except for the men who kept watch on the fishing traps set nearer the village where the river was much deeper and the current more sedate. Where her beach was located, the river channel wasn’t so deep and was filled with boulders of all shapes and sizes. It was a perfect place for Micala sit and watch the water tumble over and around the rocks.
On occasion, if the spirit moved her, and even though her father forbade her from doing it, Micala would take off her sandals and venture out into the river to relish the feeling of the cold water swirling around her legs. And once, on a very hot day, she had stripped out of her clothes and swam all the way across the river to the opposite bank and back again. But she kept that happy memory to herself as there would be no end of trouble if anyone in her village ever found out.
With careful steps, Micala made her way down the steep bank to the sandy beach. She was glad the beach hadn’t been overrun by the river yet. In another few weeks, if not days, the snow covering the mountain peaks that encircled the valley would start to melt and the rising river would lay claim to the sandy beach. At least, until later in the year when the rushing water would again slow and recede back into its normal channel. But today her beach was waiting for her. And that was good because it was the perfect place to do what she had come to do.
As luck would have it, before Micala could begin, she was startled to hear voices and looked anxiously across the river where the sound was coming from. At first she saw no one, for unlike her side of the river where few trees grew, the valley on the other side of the river was thickly forested. Then, as her eyes scanned the wall of trees looking for any sign of movement, she spotted a trio of girls. Curious, she watched the girls walk out from the thick forest and head for the river where the trio carelessly bounded down the embankment to stand on a very large but rather flat boulder.
As they set their packs down on the boulder, one of them glared across the river at Micala. “Shouldn’t you be running back to your village?”
“Aren’t you afraid of us?”
“No.” Micala told the girl who didn’t seem much older than herself.
“You should be. Now, go away!”
Another of the girls brushed a lock of very curly, yet unruly, sandy blond hair away from her face. “Leave her alone, Pony.”
Micala giggled. “Pony? That’s a funny name. Is your papa a centaur?” she asked innocently.
“Why you worthless piece of centaur dung,” Pony bellowed pulling an arrow from the quiver on her back.
The blond girl grabbed Pony’s arm preventing her from notching the arrow on the string of her bow. “Leave her alone. She’s just a kid.”
“A kid with a big mouth,” Pony snarled.
“Her father isn’t a centaur,” the blond told Micala. “Her real name is Eponin but we call her Pony because it’s easier.”
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Ephiny. And that’s Solari,” the blond said pointing to her other companion.
Micala smiled. “Hi. My name is Micala. I live in the village. Where do you live?”
“In the forest,” Ephiny answered.
The girl gasped. “But the Amazons live in the forest. Aren’t you scared of them?
“We are Amazons,” Pony snapped.
Micala laughed. “You’re not Amazons. My papa says Amazons are very, very mean and you don’t look mean.”
Pony glared across the river. “We are Amazons and if you don’t go away, I’ll show you just how mean we can be.”
Micala intently studied the trio. “But you’re just girls… like me.”
Discouraged that her threat had not scared the village girl away, Pony shook her head and moved to a spot on the boulder as far from Micala and her annoying comments as she could get. She sat down on the hard stone then pulled her pack into her lap. Retrieving a long piece of vine she set about tying it to the nock of her arrow.
“What is Pony doing?” Micala asked when the young Amazon stood notching her arrow and pointing it down at the river.
“We’re here to catch fish,” Ephiny explained.
“Really?” Micala asked surprised by the odd assertion. “In my village, only papa and the other men catch fish. I wish he’d let me help but he says women aren’t good at such things.”
Standing on the opposite end of the boulder from Pony, Solari let an arrow fly at the river. “What a stupid thing to say,” she muttered retracting the vine to pull her arrow from the river, a trout wiggling futilely to free itself from the shaft.
Leaving the fishing to Pony and Solari for the moment, Ephiny sat down on the edge of the boulder directly across the river from Micala. “We don’t have any men in our village,” she said matter-of-factly.
“You don’t? But who hunts for you?”
Ephiny grinned. “As you can see, we get our own food,” she stated unassumingly. “We do everything that men do. We hunt and fish. We chop down trees to build our huts. And we fight. We don’t need men.”
“Are you going to talk all day, or what?” Pony grumbled.
“Hold your skirt on,” Ephiny snapped but she stood to join the others. “Sorry,” she told Micala, “but I have to help. We need a lot of fish for our village.”
“Are you celebrating, too?” Micala asked.
“Celebrating? What do you mean?”
“It’s the end of winter… and time to plant our fields. We have a party every year to celebrate Spring Solstice.”
“Party?” Solari asked. “What’s that?”
“Goodness, don’t Amazons have parties?”
Ephiny shrugged. “What do you do at a party?”
“Oh, they are so much fun,” Micala said excitedly. “Everyone in the village comes to the square. We have a grand feast. Papa killed the stag this year. Its already roasting… can you smell it?” she asked sniffing at the air. “I can. And I’ve been helping momma bake cakes and pies and breads. And we’ll have fish, too. Then after we can’t eat any more, a fire will be lit. Not like the cook fires but a big, big fire with flames so high that I think they’ll reach the clouds. Then we’ll dance.” She started to bounce up and down with anticipation. “It’s my first year to dance,” she told the other girls. “I can’t wait. That’s why I came here today. I want to practice so I don’t make any mistakes tonight.”
“Dance?” Ephiny asked. “What’s dance?”
Micala stared at the girl as if her head had sprouted horns. “Don’t you dance at your festivals?” she asked in amazement.
“We don’t have festivals,” Ephiny said.
Micala stared wide eyed at Ephiny. “But you have to have festivals. I’ve heard your drums. I dance to them sometimes. I’ll show you.” She ran away from the water toward the embankment where a tree had fallen the year before, its roots undercut by the raging water. Pulling two suitable branches from the debris, she started to beat them together mimicking a rhythm she had heard floating on the still air late at night. She smacked the sticks together and hopped around the beach, her feet matching the beats.
“Stop that!” Pony barked across the water.
Startled by the fierceness of the shouted command, Micala froze, the sticks dropping from her hands.
“Calm down, Pony,” Ephiny told her irate friend.
“She’s not Amazon,” Pony screamed. “That’s a song for warriors, not silly village girls.”
“I know that. But she doesn’t. It’s just something she’s heard. Go back to your fishing.” After Pony angrily moved away, Ephiny turned to face Micala. “It’s okay. It’s just… Our drums aren’t for dancing. We beat them to honor our warriors… or to prepare for battle. We don’t hop around like you were.”
“I’m sorry,” MIcala sniffled. “I didn’t mean to… I mean, I just liked...” With tears streaming down her face, she turned her back to the Amazons. “I better go back.”
“You big bad Amazon,” Solari teased Pony, “you made the kid cry.”
“Hey, don’t leave,” Ephiny called to Micala ignoring her giggling companions. “Come back. I won’t let them hurt you.”
Warily, Micala looked over her shoulder at Ephiny.
“Come on back. I want to know more about your dancing.”
“I don’t want Pony to yell at me,” Micala said tearfully.
“She won’t. I promise.”
Micala turned around but stayed where she was.
“Come on. I promised,” Ephiny urged the apprehensive girl to return to the river’s edge.
“What do you want to know?” Micala asked inching her way across the beach sand.
Ephiny settled back down on the boulder. “You said you had to practice your dance for tonight. Show me your dance,” Ephiny encouraged. “Please.”
Micala chewed on her lower lip for a moment. “Okay,” she finally agreed. Then she took a position in the center of the sandy beach. Breathing deeply, she stood motionless for a moment then, very deliberately, she balled her hands into fists and placed them on her hips forcing her elbows out from her sides. “The girls line up like this,” she told Ephiny, “and the boys line up like this.” She scooted to a position two strides in front of where she had been standing and spun about to face where she had just left; now her arms were spread out from her sides. “Then we do this,” she said moving back to her original position. She took a step forward then a step to the side and a step back. “The boys do the same,” she explained. “Then the girls turn around, like this.” She twirled around in a big circle. “And the boys clap like this.” She slapped her hands together in a slow but steady rhythm. “Then we do it all over again. Only we go faster.”
“Oh,” Ephiny mumbled unimpressed.
“It’s better with more people,” Micala said dejectedly. Then she suddenly brightened. “I know, why don’t you come over here and I’ll teach you the boy’s steps.”
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Pony grumbled after watching the demonstration.
“I can teach you,” Micala responded eagerly. “It’s really easy. I’m sure even you could learn to do it, Pony,” she innocently told the grouchy Amazon.
Solari burst out laughing when Pony was too flustered by Micala’s unintended insult to utter an appropriate retort.
“Maybe I’ll go over there and help the kid out,” Ephiny said.
“You can’t,” Solari protested.
“Oh, please,” Micala shouted excitedly as she jumped up and down. “I’ll teach you and it’ll be fun.”
“Why can’t I?” Ephiny asked Solari.
“Because, villagers don’t come on this side of the river and Amazons don’t go on that side.”
“Oh, I know papa says that too but you can come over here.”
“You know, I haven’t a clue as to why we aren’t supposed to cross the river,” Ephiny commented after much thought. “I know we’ve always been told not to but… why?” She twisted about to look questioningly at her companions.
“Solari shrugged. “Don’t know.”
“Because,” Pony informed her tenaciously.
“Not much of a reason.”
Ephiny laughed. “Pony, look at her. What could she do to hurt me?”
“You can’t go. There could be monsters in the river.”
“Oh, no,” Micala insisted. “I swam over there one day.”
Ephiny glanced down at the river then slowly raised her eyes to Micala. “You did?”
“Yes. And then I swam back. Oh, but don’t tell anyone because papa would be really mad.”
“We won’t tell,” Ephiny agreed as she started to pull off her boots.
“What are you doing?” Pony asked.
“I’m going,” Ephiny responded. “If she’s brave enough to swim the river then so am I,” she declared and before anyone could stop her she dove off the boulder into the river.
“I’m going, too,” Solari stated pulling off her boots.
“No you’re not!”
“What’s the matter, Pony? Are you afraid?” Receiving no response, Solari dropped off the boulder. With long powerful strokes she swam across the current and joined Ephiny on the other bank. “Come on, Pony,” she called back. “Don’t be a chicken.”
Pony glared at her companions. Then, grumbling under her breath, she pulled off her boots and dove into the river.
It didn’t take long for Micala to teach the Amazons the steps to her dance. And much to their surprise, Ephiny, Solari, and even Pony discovered that they quite enjoyed dancing the morning away.
Then sooner than expected came the time for Micala to return to her village. “I wish you would come with me,” she said.
“We can’t,” Ephiny said frowning. “We have to finish catching fish for our village.”
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Maybe… we come here to fish a lot. Maybe you’ll be here when we do.”
Astounding herself as well as her new friends, Micala quickly hugged each of them. Then, not wanted them to see the tears in her eyes, she spun around to scramble up the embankment. Reaching the top, she turned to give a quick wave before disappearing down the path as she ran back to her village.
“Dumb kid,” Pony muttered in a tone holding a touch of affection for the villager.
“I liked her,” Solari said.
“Too bad we can’t go see what this festival thing is all about,” Ephiny commented walking across the beach toward the river. “Sounded like a lot of fun.”
Solari followed Ephiny. “Sure did.”
“Are you coming?” Ephiny asked Pony after waiting several minutes for her to join them.
“Um… I was thinking…”
“Well, if everyone in Micala’s village will be at the festival…” Ephiny and Solari waited impatiently for Pony to continue. “If they will all be there, what’s to keep us from seeing what she was talking about?”
“You want to go to their village?”
“No. Just get close enough to watch for a while.”
“There aren’t a whole lot of trees to hide behind between here and the village,” Solari stated.
“We’re Amazons. We can hide behind a blade of grass,” Pony boasted.
“What do you think?” Solari asked Ephiny.
“I guess it can’t hurt to watch. But only for a little while,” Ephiny warned.
Solari and Pony smiled. “Agreed,” they said nodding.
The three young Amazons crawled up the embankment until they could peek over the top. Then moving as silently as an evening breeze, they made their way to a small rise that overlooked Micala’s village. From that vantage point, they watched enthralled as the villagers feasted and danced until almost dawn.
And from that day on, the Amazons held a festival each year on Spring Solstice to remember Micala, the girl who taught them how to party.Of course, it didn’t take long for the Amazons to realize that their annual festival was made even better if it included Amazon wine.