Escape to Branwen (finale of Amazon Tale-Trilogy)

As summer trees changed color for fall, Tara prepared for travel to Sea Tribe. Diana had assured her Forest Tribe was prepared for a severe winter – they had stored ample food just in case.

She had an obligation to return Sea Tribe Warriors to their Great Queen Hypolyta. Sixty had survived the war with Bellophon, losing over half their original number.  Forest Tribe numbered at twenty five warriors, barely enough to guard their camp perimeter adequately. Support women, those who depended on their protection, were double their strength.

But Forest Tribe wanted to continue, and rebuild. Tara suggested rejoining Sea Tribe, worried that even a Warlord or small army could defeat them. Forest Tribe was adamant – they would not leave. Support women came forward, wanting to fill warrior roles and train in fighting skills. Even Janye, her beloved Healer, would train to fight.

Tara sent a scroll ahead of her with two Sea Tribe Warriors. Hypolyta should expect them within two days. Now she wrestled with another issue. Who should she make her Second?

Janye watched her pace the hut…feeling her conflicted thoughts. “Tara my love, you need to talk with Aceto. That will help you with this decision.” Tara met her eyes, so blue they still affected her strongly. “You are right, my love.” Tara took her hand and kissed it. Both caressed the other in thought, until Janye laughed and turned to leave. “I will fetch her before we get distracted.” Tara playfully pouted, but released her. Only a temporary delay my love.

Her love for Janye had been immediate, even when she was still Conori’s woman. And now, it seemed to deepen with each day. Before coming to Forest Tribe, she had not truly loved another. She didn’t understand Aceto’s constant need for romance – it seemed so fleeting, more of a biological need. But Cupid must have released an arrow…the minute she saw Janye.

Aceto interrupted her musings. “My Queen, you have sent for me and right before our dinner.” Aceto plopped down in a chair, smiling at her. Tara looked outside her hut, formerly Teneis’s, to see she had indeed interrupted the communal meal.

“I am sorry Aceto, but I must ask you something.” Tara wasn’t quite sure where to start, and paced the room as Aceto followed her with her eyes. Aceto helped her. “You wish to know if I want to be your Second. And we both know I am not the best choice. Elonia is.”

Tara was stunned – she had feared Aceto would be angry.

“I am your best friend Tara, but I do not wish to rule. I would rather fight at your side, not left behind in case you do not return from battle. And no, I do not wish to return to Sea Tribe.” Aceto was very pleased with herself, seeing Tara standing there in shock.

Tara sat beside her – placing a strong hand on Aceto’s shoulder. “Thank you my friend. I never wish to be without you. My life would get too boring – too dull.” Aceto laughed. “With Janye – it will Never be boring or dull.” Both laughed with understanding, and mutual affection.

It was Elonia’s turn to be stunned when Tara asked her to be Second. “I need you Elonia. Your Tribe needs you. You loved Conori as we all did, and I need your help to guide me. Rebuild the Forest Tribe with honor.” Elonia, slightly older than Tara at 34 turns, was brought to tears. “I am honored my Queen, and I will serve you and our Tribe until Artemis grants me paradise.” Leaving in a daze, she knew she had to find Justal, Athtar. They must know of this.

Janye entered as Elonia left. Stopping her, she gave her a hug. Both smiled as she did leave, almost overwhelmed with emotion. Janye carried a food basket, filled with roasted boar, rabbit, vegetables, bread and wine.

“Thank the gods. I am starving.” Tara unpacked the food, and poured the wine. Janye smiled as Tara ate with abandon, still standing and barely chewing her food. “I should bring a stomach potion now. You eat too quickly” Pulling a chair from the table, she sternly pointed to Tara to sit down.

She did, and watched in dismay as Janye moved the basket away. Janye put food on a plate, also sitting down. She filled a fork with food, a reasonable amount, and offered it to Tara. Playfully, Tara still gulped the food, opening her mouth for more and beeping as a baby bird. This made both women laugh until gasping for breath.

“I love you my little bird” Janye said, still laughing as she said it. Tara became serious in demeanor. “I doubt you should call me that in front of our Tribe.” Both again were reduced to hysterics.

Tara took the fork away, filled it again, and now offered it to Janye. “And I love you my Healer. More each day it seems.” Tara felt strangely vulnerable in saying this, and not sure exactly why.

Janye pulled her close, feeling her thoughts and insecurities. “I love you Tara. Can you feel what my heart is telling you?” She did; such warmth and tenderness, almost overwhelming. Returning the embrace, both now felt more. Desire.

Food forgotten, they kissed with passion, both rising from their chairs to touch completely. Janye was not shy with her need…undoing Tara’s shirt as she kissed her deeply. You must know how I feel Tara, and I will show you as well…Both stumbled onto their bed, their sleeping furs, to exhaust themselves with pleasure.

Chapter 2

General Tibor, the only surviving officer from Bellophon’s failed campaign, waited patiently. After all, Athens Senator Ropel was a busy man. He knew he was being avoided just after his return, but his persistence over three months had finally paid off.

At last escorted in by honor guard, Ropel greeted him warmly. “General Tibor, it is good to see you. I have heard of Bellophon’s defeat. I am glad, however, that you survived.” These words were well said, well polished in delivery.

“Thank you Senator. I wish to discuss an opportunity for victory, not a failed campaign led by a fool.” Tibor didn’t mince words….many Grecians died unnecessarily because of Bellophon’s incompetence.

Ah yes…thought Ropel…the need for vengeance. “You want to again attack the Amazons, and for what? A Forest no one would want to live in? I can not help you with this Tibor.” He wished this war monger would go away.

“No Senator, you do not understand. We almost succeeded in defeating two Amazon Tribes, one with a Sea port. Villagers joined them in battle at the last moment – flanking us. We have severely weakened them now. To allow them to rebuild, grow …what would stop them from uniting with more villagers, more enemies of Greece? We can not allow them this victory.”

Ropel listened carefully. It was indeed disturbing to learn that villagers had united with the Amazons. “Perhaps we should talk of this more – with the full senate. I can get you an audience Tibor, but I will not promise more than that. Many lost someone under Bellophon’s rule. We would not want their deaths in vain.” A Sea port – that would be valuable indeed.

Tibor bowed. “That is all I ask Senator. Not to miss this opportunity.” He knew he had Ropel’s attention, and why.

“Very well.  I will schedule you with the Senate. But now, let us drink to …opportunity.” Ropel beaconed to a slave to bring wine. A woman of 30 turns, whip scarred on one side of her face, filled two goblets. “Thank you Chyrese.”

She returned to the back of Ropel’s meeting room. Again…they plan to attack the Amazons. Chyrese had helped the Amazons before, contacting fellow slaves serving Bellophon’s army. She celebrated the Amazon victory, wishing somehow to escape bondage and join them. There had been opportunities to escape, yet somehow her courage always failed her.

As a younger woman, she had tried to escape. Touching her face scars, knowing her back had them as well, she paid a painful price. Many would have died after such a whipping, but Chyrese clung to life. Defiantly, she still helped anyone who hated the Athenians – any way she could. But she longed for more now, she wanted her freedom. She wanted to be an Amazon, even if that meant dying in battle. Imagining a world away from men would be her reward, even if brief in time.

Ropel finally dismissed her. He would dine with another Senator, and perhaps talk of Bellophon. Chyrese returned to the slave quarters, finding Admete and Delope, two slave women she trusted as friends. Chyrese waived them into a private room. “General Tibor seeks to attack the Amazons again. He sought support from Ropel.” Both women were shocked. “But Bellophon was beaten, ridiculed. How could this be?” Delope asked.

Knowing Ropel only too well, Chyrese had an answer. “He wants the Sea Tribe lands – their port.” Admete saw something in Chyrese’s eyes. “What are you planning?” Chyrese was quiet for a few moments, and looked around to make sure they were alone. “I will wait for opportunity to leave here, join the Amazons, and warn them.” Delope gasped, instantly fearful, but Admete was not.

“I will go as well. My life means nothing here.” Admete was younger at 24 turns, and been a slave since 16. Delope, almost 28 turns, was not as brave. “If I do not go, I will at least help you both escape.” The three women hugged, united in this goal.

Chapter 3

Queen Tara and the warriors camped on the boundary of Sea Tribe lands, and were met there by Barkita and Alexiares of Sea Tribe. Both women told Tara how excited their Queen was, planning a huge celebration. Janye was thrilled. She had heard of Hypolyta ever since becoming an Amazon, and looked forward to meeting her.

She would also visit their Sea, something she had never experienced except through Tara’s eyes. After all had eaten, Tara took Janye for a walk. Their camp was close to grassland, and the night was perfect to view the stars.

“Thank you my love – for bringing me with you, even though you had no choice.” Tara held her loosely, and kissed her forehead. “There was a time Aceto threatened to take you to the Sea, if I did not.” Jane laughed – she could hear Aceto saying something like that. “That is good to know…just in case you ever refuse.”

Tara started to tickle her. “Not without me…to protect Aceto from your charms.” Janye seized her hands and kissed them both. “So how many Sea Tribe women should I be jealous of?” Tara lifted her eyebrows innocently. “None that would claim me – now Aceto is another matter.”

Janye put her arms around Tara’s waist, drawing her close. “I doubt you were an innocent virgin before me. Did you console those who Aceto left behind?” Tara looked shocked as Janye laughed with glee. “Such words from my beloved Healer.” Tara kissed her…both women sending loving thoughts to each other.

Finding a fallen tree both sat and viewed flat grassland covered by endless stars. “Conori must have camped here, when she wasn’t riding straight through.” Tara nodded, but remained silent, not wanting to cause Janye any pain. Janye squeezed her arm. “Her death does not hurt me now. She has Cylene, and Teneis. I have you my beloved…and have never been happier.” These last words Tara needed to hear, although she would never admit it.

“I want your happiness before my own. Being Queen…does put our Tribe first.” Tara’s tone held a twinge of sadness. Janye’s hand caressed her face. “And being a Healer my Tribe comes first as well. But my heart is yours alone Tara.” They held each other close, enjoying this peaceful moment.

Aceto finally relaxed, seeing Tara and Janye walking slowly back to camp. Barkita had been watching her with amusement. Aceto can be serious after all. “Aceto you act as a mother hen. Your Queen is more than capable to defend herself.” Aceto shrugged then smiled at Barkita. ”When did I become you?” Both laughed, as Aceto sat next to her. “Perhaps you can tell me of new Amazons within Sea Tribe?” Barkita’s look was playfully stern. “There are plenty who already know of your charms…I am sure someone new would be warned of you.” Aceto’s smile dropped at that, but brightened again. “But also some happy to see me.” Barkita nodded. “Yes Aceto, that is true.”

Chapter 4

The following afternoon, Tara and the Amazons arrived at Sea Camp. Their greeting was joyous – many had left behind their loved ones to battle Bellophon. Janye was memorized by the Sea; endless water filled the horizon, salty air filling her senses and lifting her hair. Sea Tribe camp circled around the port, with the Queen’s palace on a high bluff…overlooking it all.

“Tara – how could you leave this place?” Her tone was one of amazement. Tara had been silently watching her…seeing Janye’s beauty with a backdrop of the Ocean. “I had to find you.” Janye beamed at her. You always know what to say my love.

Tara could see Queen Hypolyta outside her palace. “We should meet the Sea Queen.” Both women cantered up the hill, dismounted and saluted Hypolyta. “My truant Second, now Queen Tara, how I have missed you.” Hypolyta’s bear hug took away Tara’s breath. “And this must be Janye – the one who finally captured you.” Hypolyta hugged her as well – instantly liking her. “Come inside, I have an early dinner for you. Our celebration will be on the morrow.”

Barkita, Aceto and Alexiares soon joined them at dinner. A seafood feast of Lobster, Salmon, Crab and Whitefish was served, with side dishes, fresh bread and wine. Janye sat next to Hypolyta, eating until almost painfully full. They talked as old friends throughout the meal, merely catching up with passage of time.

Janye freely shared her tragic past; parents dying, Albus’s murder, how Conori saved her. Tara heard some things even she didn’t know, and flooded Janye’s mind with love. Hypolyta was deeply impressed with her. Such beauty and spirit, no wonder she captured two Queens. She has even captured me!

“Tara, your Janye is special. If I were a younger woman…and your Queen…I would send you away on long missions just to have her company.” Everyone laughed, and Janye blushed furiously. Tara looked surprised, and lifted both eyebrows. “But great Queen, as a warrior I need a gifted Healer, and her smile alone can heal some wounds.”

“This is true Tara. I would have Doris go with you. She smiles well enough.” This again brought laughter as Tara bowed in response. Taking Tara’s hand, Hypolyta’s voice took a serious tone. “If I had the love of a beautiful woman, new to the Sea, I would take a sailing boat…with food and wine. I would sail to the cliff caves.” Tara had heard of them, but never been there herself. Aceto tapped her on the shoulder. “I will tell you how to get there. In fact, I will take Janye if you are busy.” Tara punched Aceto in the shoulder as yet again everyone laughed heartily.

Retiring to a palace guest room, Tara took Janye in her arms. “My warrior skills must be used to keep others away from you.” Janye smiled, already sleepy from eating so much. “If I always eat such food, I would be too fat. No one would want me.” Tara playfully evaluated her figure. “Perhaps that would be a good strategy” Janye punched her as she did Aceto. Sensing her tiredness, and feeling the same, both women undressed and curled together in bed. Janye dropped off into slumber, as Tara held her close. She loved these moments, watching her sleep. Thanking Artemis for her blessings, Tara drifted off as well.

Chapter 5

Chyrese and Admete had a basic plan for escape from Athens, and a map showing the Black Forest. It would take several days of travel north to reach it. Delope had stolen three good sized travel bags from her master – she had decided to go as well.

The following evening, all of Athens would celebrate Fall Solstice. Wagons with food, wine would arrive, deliver, and leave the city. Admete knew one in particular that would suit their needs. “He uses a tarp. We can hide underneath it, and he travels north. Once all is quiet, we continue north on foot…off the main road.”

Chyrese nodded. “We steal food, water tonight. Tomorrow we gain our freedom.” All three knew it would be hard, and dangerous. Delope had also told her friends she could be with child. “But that is why I decided to escape. I want my child to have freedom as well.” Chyrese hugged her. “We will succeed Delope – all of us.”

At Forest Camp, Elonia worked closely with Diana, rotating their tribeswomen for guard duty, and planning training sessions for weapons. Their Healer Doris, now over 60 turns, wanted warrior skills as well. “There is no reason I can not fight, unless we have wounded.”

Everyone fully supported Elonia as Second, and thought highly of their Queen for her choice. Before leaving, Aceto toasted Elonia with the Tribe, and everyone knew she had her support as well.

Elonia modeled herself after Teneis, the most capable warrior she had ever known. She missed her and Conori as well. Working over her scroll in Diana’s hut, her black hair kept falling into her eyes. Annoyed, she pulled her dagger and roughly cut it away. Diana saw this, and picked up trimming shears.

“Elonia stop that. You look like an unkempt goat. I will trim it for you.” Elonia leaned back and relaxed. She knew not to fight against Diana once the woman had a mission. “Diana, no one cares about the way I look except you.” This was said as more a compliment than complaint. “Well you should care…many would consider you attractive.” Elonia shook her head, even as the scissors were cutting. “I am not Aceto, or lucky as Tara. And I have no time for foolishness.” She tried to sound convincing, but Diana knew better. Elonia was shy in matters of the heart. She had briefly been involved with Syrah, a woman expelled from the Tribe by Diana.

“Your time will come Elonia. Trust me in this, as an older woman.” Diana was lost in thought as she finished trimming her hair. It amazed her that the bravest among the Tribes seemed to lack courage in relationships, with Aceto being the only exception. Although, even Aceto, lacked courage in long term commitment. Diana wondered if anyone realized just how lonely Aceto really was.

Chapter 6

Their sailing adventure was romantic and peaceful. Hypolyta had a full food basket prepared and her own boat made ready. Tara included swimming instructions for Janye as well, showing her how to read currents and what to avoid. Dolphins traveled with them at times, making Janye’s day even more special.

Relaxing inside a cavern carved by the Sea, Janye was playfully covering Tara’s hand with sand, then digging it out again with one finger. Tara was fully reclined, content to watch her play. My Healer, you bring more happiness than I knew possible. Janye heard these thoughts, fully returning them as well. Removing her hand from the sand, Janye kissed it, and then climbed on top of her. “I have been so blessed by Artemis. Should I die tomorrow I would still be grateful.” Tara panicked at these words, hugging her painfully close. “Do not talk of leaving me Janye. I wish no life without you.” Their kiss was consuming, passionate, stirring desire in both.

“Then I should learn fighting skills my beloved.” Gasping as Tara gave her pleasure, her hands knowing where to touch. “Anything for you Janye. Anything.” The cavern walls echoed their lovemaking as nothing else mattered at that moment.

Sailing back to port, both could see the celebration had started early. Aceto met them at dock, already holding hands with Zerynthis, a pretty bar maiden from the Tavern. She had been drinking and obviously not lonely. “I see that the great God Triton has guided your way.” Both laughed as Aceto lost her balance, and Zerynthis pulled her upright.

“Yes my friend. And clearly Aphrodite has blessed you as well.” Tara playfully bowed to Zerynthis as she helped Janye onto the dock. Aceto now put both arms around Tara and Janye, propelling them forward. “The Tavern waits for us –they wish to hear Janye’s flute.” Janye had it with her, and loved to play in celebration. “I would be honored to do so.” The four women entered the Tavern, beginning a celebration that would last all night and forever in memory.

Two days later, Tara, Janye and Aceto departed Sea Tribe, with two additional horses loaded with gifts and supplies. “You must visit me twice a year Tara, with Janye, and I want regular scrolls from you.” Queen Hypolyta hated to see them leave, and showed her sadness. “Great Queen, I promise this to you. Janye will make sure of it.” Janye hugged Hypolyta, tears flowing freely. “Thank you.” Hypolyta kissed her. “Dear Child. It is I who should thank you. Go and be well.”

Camping at the Sea Tribe boundary, the weather was starting to turn. The sun hid behind dark clouds and the wind lashed them with cold. “It may rain either tonight or tomorrow.” Aceto looked at the sky with concern. Tara could feel the change as well. “We should tarp over the tents, and double tie the horses.” Janye started a fire and unpacked food, as the warriors prepared the camp. Retiring early, Janye snuggled into Tara as the wind howled. These storms made her fearful inside, almost as if Artemis herself was sending a warning. Tara soothed her as best she could.

Chapter 7

Chyrese urged the women on. “We should not stop this night. If we keep going – we will stay warmer.” Rain came down steadily now, as if the Gods themselves tried to prevent their escape. On this, their third day of travel, at least water was not a concern. Food was gone, however, and rain soaked clothing provided no warmth from the cold.

She could see the Black Forest from here, filling the horizon, taunting them by its darkness. They walked through sage, mud, jagged rocks, weeds and thickets…staying away from any road or path.

One of Admete’s sandals broke its ties. Hastily, she tore cloth from her own dress to tie it to her foot. Briefly, the women huddled under a tree, taking shelter from the rain. “We rest here, but not long. We must keep moving.” Both women nodded at Chyrese…too tired to talk. Chyrese searched the sky, and made her first prayer to Artemis. We need your help. To become Amazons, we must get there.

At dawn, the storm had finally passed. From a high tree Elonia noticed movement through the grassland. Calling to Akantha, she pointed to the area. Three figures were stumbling towards the forest, near exhaustion by their steps. Elonia lowered herself from the tree, whistling for others, and mounted her horse. Not waiting, she rode out to help.

As she approached them, the three women sank to their knees. Elonia dismounted, giving bread and water to Chyrese, who immediately gave both to Delope. Chyrese bowed low as Justal and Akantha approached as well. “Great Amazons. We are escaped slaves from Athens. We seek your mercy.”

Elonia also went to her knees, lifting Chyrese from her bowing position. “You are safe here. My name is Elonia. We will take you to our camp.” Holding out her hand, she helped Chyrese to her feet and put her cloak around her. Gesturing to the others, the Amazons each placed one woman on their horse, and rode double back to camp.

Inside the Healers Hut, Doris administered healing potions and treated the women’s cuts and abrasions. Diana brought food as well. “On foot all the way from Athens. Artemis must have guided you.” Doris’s kind voice brought tears from Delope, and soothed the others.

Elonia had questions, however. “Were you being pursued – followed?” Chyrese met her eyes. “We left before Fall Solstice, when everyone was busy. I doubt we were followed.” Elonia nodded. “I will double our guard…just in case.”

“There is more Elonia.” Chyrese told them all of Tibor and Ropel. “Tibor wants revenge and Ropel wants your port for his own. They plan to convince the Senate to send the Grecian Army.” Elonia sank into a chair…this was horrible news. Diana said the obvious. “If they send the full army, it would be in spring. Both our Tribes could not defeat them.”

Elonia looked again at Chyrese, seeing the whip scars on her face. “Thank you for your message, as unwelcome as it is.” Chyrese nodded, fighting off her own exhaustion. “We wish to join your tribe and become Amazons.” Elonia smiled. Such a brave woman. “Not the best time to become Amazon – with Athens wanting our death.”

Chyrese lifted her chin in defiance. “We would rather die free, fighting as Amazons, than live as slaves.” Elonia stood up, and gestured to Diana. “I leave our guests in your care Diana, Doris.” Turning, Elonia noticed Chyrese watched her closely – waiting for an answer. “Our Queen Tara will return this day. I am sure you will be welcomed into our Tribe. Rest now.” Elonia left the hut with Diana at her side.

“I will join Athtar for guard duty – maybe scout the grassland for intruders. Send word when our Queen arrives.” Diana smiled. She sounds like Teneis. “Tara will let them stay – I am sure of that.” Elonia paused, and then faced Diana. “Those women were Amazon as they left Athens. Chyrese – before that.” Elonia mounted her horse as Diana smiled knowingly. Glancing at the Healers Hut, then to Elonia leaving camp, she continued to smile. Wishful thinking perhaps, but maybe….

Chapter 8

Tara, Janye and Aceto arrived right before communal dinner. Elonia met them, spoke of their guests, and their message. Tara felt a chill inside – this had been a possibility all along. The four soon entered the Healers Hut. Diana formally introduced their Queen, Janye as Healer and Tara’s beloved, and Aceto. The three women already looked Amazon, thanks to Diana and Doris. New leather dresses, and moccasins of deer hide fit them well.

Chyrese was impressed with the Queen, although she was younger than expected. These women were beautiful and strong, courageous. Everything she hoped to be. Tara held Janye’s hand – clearly these two loved each other. Chyrese knew of such relationships, and now seeing one, it seemed perfectly natural to her.

‘As Queen, I welcome you to our tribe. Your courage of escape, and bringing us warning from Athens, will not be forgotten.” The three women smiled, finally realizing they could stay. “Thank you Queen Tara. As slaves we were not sure of welcome.” Janye caught Chyrese’s eyes. “I was a former slave. You are most welcome here.”

Diana herded them all to communal dinner. Tara introduced the newest Amazons, and told the tribe of Tibor and Ropel… the danger from Athens. All grew silent, knowing the only choice would be to flee. This was hard to accept, after so many had died defending their forest.

“My Tribe. This is not an immediate threat. The Athens Senate will debate it, then make a decision. We will have time to learn if the threat is real. And if we must retreat, they will pay a bloody price.” This brought cheers from the tribe, all knowing their Queen would make sure of it.

After the meal, Tara interviewed Chyrese at length in the Healers Hut, with Elonia and Aceto. Chyrese’s knowledge of Senate procedure was quite valuable – they would need to use it to their advantage. Discussions lasted for two hours, until Tara suddenly bolted upright. “My beloved Janye reminds me not to tire you tonight. Thank you Chyrese. Tomorrow we will build your home within our tribe.”

Tara and Aceto left the hut. Elonia looked at Chyrese, who was clearly mystified by Janye’s message. Elonia laughed, and then explained their Blood bonding. “So they can talk when not together?” Elonia nodded. “I think only when they want to …which is all the time. Their love is strong.” Doris watched the two converse – Elonia didn’t seem shy around her. Perhaps Diana was right about some attraction between them. Time would tell.

Aceto walked with Tara to her hut. “I know what you are thinking and you are not the one to go.” Tara stopped in her tracks – was she that easy to read. “Then who Aceto?” She was angry, but had learned to listen. “I should with Elonia, and maybe Chyrese. And the Sea Tribe women used before.” Tara ground her teeth in frustration. Sometimes she hated being Queen. “We will converse with Hypolyta by scroll, no one goes now anyway.” Tara’s hand touched Aceto’s shoulder. “Good night Aceto, and thank you.”

Elonia bid Chyrese and Doris good night, and walked to her hut. She found herself laughing at Chyrese’s expression when Tara received Janye’s message. She must think we are possessed. She liked Chyrese, but saw no chance of a romance. At least not for her.

Tara entered her hut, finding Janye practicing with a staff. Tara easily ducked a playful blow and disarmed her. “My Healer, you should stay with Doris.” Janye laughed, taking Tara into her arms. “But I have no defense from you.” Tara smiled, bringing Janye close to her. “This is welcome news.” Both women grew serious and held each other tightly. Janye’s blue eyes sought Tara’s. “And you are not the one to go beloved.”

Tara sighed and sat in a chair. Jayne removed her boots, and leathers. Massaging her shoulders, she released some tension there. Tara’s eyes closed in bliss. “Yes I know. That feels so good.” Janye made sure Tara was fully relaxed. “Come to bed. We bathe tomorrow, and then you write your scroll to Hypolyta.” Nodding wearily, Tara reclined in bed with Janye curled next to her. Both soon were lost to slumber.

Chapter 9

Justal and Akantha rode one full day and night to reach Sea Tribe the following day. In her meeting room, Queen Hypolyta took the scroll. Only bad news comes this quickly. Reading it – she handed it over to Alexiares and Barkita. “It is as I feared – Athens means to kill us all.” Hypolyta sat in a chair feeling old and tired. I can not fight, and too old to begin again.

Alexiares sat beside her. “It is a good plan to send spies to Athens. Aceto’s idea is a good one. Maybe the Senate will vote against it.” Hypolyta nodded. “Oh yes, it is. We send Agave, and the others that went before. With a wagon so they appear as Merchants. They should first go to Forest Camp, and leave from there.” Alexiares took her Queens hand, worried at her listless demeanor. “I will tell our tribe, and prepare Agave. Leave this to me.” Hypolyta squeezed her hand. “I will write a scroll tomorrow, when I have rested.” Hypolyta slowly walked to her bedroom and closed the door.

Forest Camp at dawn was already active. A large hut was being built for their newest tribe members. Warriors Elonia, Athtar, and Fiero placed it close to Diana, Elonia feeling they would work with her often. Chyrese insisted on helping, and asked about learning fighting skills. “I wish to fight Elonia. I am strong – I can learn quickly.” Elonia listened without responding, until Chyrese took her arm. “Please, teach me.” Elonia looked into her eyes, and then looked away. “Very well, we will start with archery this afternoon.” Chyrese moved so she could see Elonia’s face. “Thank you Elonia.” She wanted to say more, but wasn’t sure exactly what.

Diana brought sleeping furs to the hut, giving Elonia a welcome distraction. “We have a table, and chairs for you as well. Admete and Doris are bringing them now.” Elonia nodded. “Thank you Diana. I will tell our Queen the hut is complete.” Elonia left, feeling like an idiot in Chyrese’s eyes. The exact opposite was closer to the truth.

“Diana, can I ask you something?” Chyrese wanted to do everything the right way. “Of course Chyrese. Amazon life can be confusing to someone new.” Chyrese walked away from the others, with Diana at her side. “I have asked to learn to fight – be a warrior. Was I wrong to do so? Elonia seemed hesitant.” Diana smiled. “No, not at all. Elonia schedules all training, although our Queen helps as well.” Diana sat on a log, gesturing to Chyrese to join her. “Elonia can be shy – very quiet at times. In a way, it is a complement to you. She thinks highly of all three of you.”

Chyrese smiled at Diana. “Thank you. I feared I had said something that offended her.” Diana chuckled softly. “No – I doubt you could. But we need to change your clothes. You need to dress as a warrior. Come with me.”

Diana soon had Chyrese and Admete wearing tunics – Admete also wanting fighting skills. Delope opted to stay with Diana, after Doris confirmed she was with child. Doris was excited; she loved delivering children into the world. “You will have a beautiful baby…born free within our tribe.” Delope smiled, allowing herself some happiness as a mother to be. The father was a cruel palace guard, but her child would never know this. Her child would be an Amazon.

After mid-day meal, Elonia had six women, not used to combat, seeking archery lessons. Both Tara and Aceto joined her as Instructors, each taking two students. Stuffed straw men were placed as targets forty paces away. Each Instructor had one student fire three arrows, so by the third arrow improvement was already seen. Both Doris and Janye hit their targets with each arrow. Tara was impressed. “I think our Healers should change their calling Elonia. They are deadly.” Doris was especially happy – as the oldest she wanted to prove herself capable.

Kyme and Phillipis hit their targets by the third arrow. Elonia encouraged both of them. “You will improve with practice.” Aceto gave instruction flirtatious in manner, putting her arms around Admete and Chyrese to guide them. Admete loved the attention, and hit her target twice. Chyrese did not like it, and all three arrows sailed well beyond the target.

Elonia moved Aceto away, and stood next to Chyrese. “Take another arrow, and just do as I tell you. Your bow strength is good.” Following Elonia’s voice, her fourth arrow hit perfectly center – right where she aimed it. “Let me try again.” Chyrese’s fifth arrow again landed perfectly center – even grazing the previous one.

“Excellent Chyrese.” Elonia smiled at her as Aceto jokingly tried to take credit for it. Everyone laughed…it was obvious Chyrese had natural talent. Elonia encouraged everyone to keep practicing, returning to Kyme and Phillipis. Chyrese continued to hit well, and began targeting head and groin areas. Aceto complemented her. “You have a good eye. Move back ten paces.” Chyrese eventually moved back twice – at sixty paces she was still very accurate.

Elonia ended the session, telling everyone to practice the next few days. “The targets will remain up. Everyone has done very well.” Chyrese had more questions. Walking past Aceto she went to Elonia. “I missed my target, going lower, at sixty paces. What should I have done.?” Elonia lifted her bow and drew an arrow – explaining how she aimed. “My target will be your arrow.” Elonia’s arrow split hers into two pieces. “All you need is practice – to learn your bow.” Elonia took her practice bow, and gave her the one she used. “Try mine. It has a tighter string.” Chyrese did – knocking Elonia’s arrow off target.

“It is a fine bow.” Chyrese handed it back but Elonia shook her head. “You will do better with that one. I have another.” Chyrese tried to refuse, but Elonia was firm. “Please. It will serve you well.” Elonia walked away to retrieve undamaged arrows as Chyrese watched her.

Janye moved beside her. “Let me see it.” This was not a regular practice bow. Elaborate carvings of deer symbols and Celtic design had been carved in the wood. “She honors you – this is her favorite bow.” Chyrese was unsure – feeling unworthy of such a gift. “Should I accept it?” as she continued to watch Elonia. “Yes, unless it is too hard to use.”

Janye seemed to read her thoughts. Chyrese was still learning who to trust. “Elonia does not seek anything in return. She is not that way.” Chyrese dropped her head, embarrassed. “I am sorry…I am just not used to …” Janye softly touched her arm. “I know. I was a former slave as well, though not as long as you. Come with me – we should talk.” Janye began telling of her past in detail, including Conori, and her impressions of everyone in their tribe. “Elonia is the faithful one we have always relied upon. Before becoming Second she was always the one to turn to, for anything. She seeks nothing for herself, just to serve her tribe.” The women continued to talk, and grow in friendship.

Tara smiled as Jayne’s thoughts told her she was sharing her past with Chyrese. My Healer you are a blessing to us all. Joining Elonia as she threw useless arrows into a fire pit, she complemented her. “Your training session went well, but it cost you your favorite bow.” Elonia shook her head. “She will be better than all of us…she needed a good bow.”

“We may need her help in Athens. To learn of the Senate decision. Disguised, so she will not be recognized.” Elonia met Tara’s gaze. “I wish to go as well my Queen.” Both knew her fighting skills were needed. Tara sighed – she knew she could not go and it still irritated her. “We will send a group to blend in with Athens, and you and Aceto will go…since I can not go.” Elonia could see Tara’s frustration, but pleased she had her trust. And Aceto was a skilled fighter and cunning as well. They would make a great team.

Chapter 10

Communal dinner was lively that evening. Aceto was quite a Bard – spinning tales of adventure when she had battled viscous Pirates. Aceto kept everyone laughing as she frequently commented on saving Tara’s life. Janye laughed the hardest, knowing from Tara’s thoughts Aceto was not accurate – to say the least.

“Our Queen would not be here now, my Tribe, had I not thrown a boot knife into a pirate’s throat.” One foot from Aceto’s head, Tara’s boot knife struck a tree. “Was it that boot knife Aceto, or did you have your own then?” Everyone laughed as Aceto pulled the knife and carefully handed it back to Tara. “Perhaps I was incorrect – and you saved my life.” Tara laughed heartily and hugged her friend. “I am sure you remember better than I.” Janye kissed Aceto on the cheek. “Good night dear Aceto. Thank you.” Janye knew Aceto had in the past saved Tara, in many ways.

Everyone retired soon after. Admete walked with Chyrese, still smiling at Aceto’s story telling. “She is funny. I like her.” Chyrese smiled. “Yes she is entertaining. I learned more from Elonia, however.” The women entered their hut, finding Delope already asleep. Admete reclined on her bed. “I wonder what it would be like – sleeping with a woman. Someone like Aceto.”

Chyrese lifted her bow, again admiring its strength and beauty. Admete turned to face her. “I think Elonia likes you, but she will not admit it. She prefers her own company.” Chyrese placed her bow on a wall peg. “It does not matter. I do not want any relationship. Good night Admete.” Chyrese went to bed, still thinking of Elonia. She had not seen her at dinner. Checking the guard schedule, she noticed Elonia on a night shift. This means she trained us when she should have slept. Her admiration for Elonia climbed even higher.

At Dawn, Elonia was relieved to see the next shift riding through the trees. The last two hours had been difficult. I will sleep today and nothing will wake me. Climbing down the tree she found Tara and Janye. “My Second, we have put ourselves to work. You must sleep. If Justal returns this night we will met with her.” Elonia smiled wearily. “Thank you my Queen. Janye. I will I promise.” Elonia mounted her horse and moved quickly towards camp.

“My Second works too hard. I am glad Diana suggested we change the schedule.” Tara was angry at herself – she should have noticed Elonia’s long hours. Janye tied off her horse, formerly Conori’s white mare. “She seeks to be Teneis, and that is a great burden. Having more warriors will help.” Janye looked into a tall tree – seeing the rope she should use to climb. It looked intimidating. Tara laughed – reading her thoughts.

“Let me show you love.” Using the rope knots, she climbed using her feet to lift her weight. Janye had little trouble following her into the look out stand. “That was easy – those knots are useful.” The lookout stand had a peaceful view. Dawn was streaming over forest and rolling grassland. Tara unpacked food and water she brought with her. “The hardest part is staying awake, but I have the most beautiful Healer to share this duty today. I am blessed.”

Tara went to kiss her, but Janye playfully turned away. “I am a Warrior on duty my Queen. We must keep watch.” Tara sighed and kissed the back of Janye’s head. Taking a seated position, Tara also watched the horizon. Starting to smile, Tara remembered their sailing day at Sea Tribe. Do you remember the cave my love?

“You are being wicked” Janye’s tone was stern, but she smiled as well. Two can play at this game. Remembering the night at the waterfall, she sent these memories to Tara.

Tara’s eyebrows rose as she also smiled. “Who is wicked now?” Janye laughed, taking a seat next to her. “We should behave or Elonia will put us on opposite shifts.” Tara kissed her hand. “Not as long as I am Queen.” Both women focused on their watch as dawn continued to paint the landscape.

Elonia rode into camp, too tired to even bathe. Her black hair felt stiff with grime, but it could wait. She smiled seeing Chyrese already practicing with her bow. Her light brown hair weaved in a pony tail. She was beautiful in morning light. Riding over, she watched her striking the target. “You are very good with a bow.” Chyrese smiled, until she noticed the exhaustion lining Elonia’s face.

“I had a good teacher. I hope you are planning to sleep.” Elonia nodded, dismounting from her horse. “Just as soon as I take my horse to bed.” Chyrese reached for the reins. “Let me take her to Phillipis. You should rest before Diana sees you.” Elonia laughed as she could almost hear Diana scold her. “Thank you.” Both women looked at each other …Chyrese had a strong urge to hold her, but did not.

Pulling the reins with one hand, she used the other to tug Elonia along side. “I better make sure you can find your hut.” Chyrese put her arm through Elonia’s, slowly walking back to camp.

She couldn’t deny her feelings any longer, but they scared her as well. She had never been emotionally drawn to anyone. Reasoning with herself, she decided not to act on them. It was foolish – at thirty turns she was too old for romance.

Finally reaching Elonia’s hut, the women parted with Elonia thanking her for taking the horse. Elonia didn’t bother removing her clothing or boots. Once inside, she reclined and was asleep in five minutes.

Justal and Akantha rode through the night, stopping only for water or brief rest. Both women were tired, but the scroll they carried held the worse news possible. Queen Hypolyta was stricken with an illness, and Alexiares feared she was dying. She was found collapsed in her meeting room – still clutching a half finished scroll to Tara. Both Sea Tribe Healers could not awaken her. In a coma state, she breathed steadily but did little else.

They reached Forest Camp at mid-day, wakening Elonia from deep sleep. Justal told her the news, and Elonia vaulted onto her horse. “I will get Tara. Wait here.” Diana and many tribeswomen gathered in the common area, openly praying to Artemis for Hypolyta’s life.

Tara soon returned with Elonia, leaving Janye on duty with Fiero nearby. Going directly to Justal, she took both scrolls to the common area. Tara read them out loud. One was partially written by Hypolyta, the other by Alexiares telling Tara of her illness. Doris stepped forward. “I should go with you to Sea Tribe…maybe I can help.” Tara nodded. “We will leave at dawn.” Joining her tribe in prayer, Tara already started to grieve the loss of her former Queen. Our Nation must not lose you Hypolyta, not now. Unashamed, Tara cried silent tears in prayer.

Chyrese stood by Diana and Elonia. “What does this mean?” Diana was very solemn. “She is a great Queen – to lose her now will be hard on us all. Tara relies on her wisdom, and Sea Tribe has no one to replace her.” Elonia sat beside Tara. “My Queen, what would you have me do?” Tara placed an arm around her. “Rest today my Second. Until I return you care for our tribe…train others. Do not place yourself on guard duty. If I can message through Janye I will do so. At that distance, it is doubtful.”

Elonia was deep in thought. “I will draft some plans if we need to leave, and join you in Sea Tribe.” Tara was visibly relieved. “Yes Elonia, you are right. We should discuss this after communal dinner. But now, you need more sleep, and a bath. Maybe even food.” Elonia laughed as Tara shook her lightly.

Chyrese smiled. Tara is a good Queen. At least we have her, and Elonia. She noticed Tara urging Elonia to her hut, pulling her just like she did. Seeing them leave, she sought Diana.

“I wish to help. Can I at least be placed on guard duty?” Diana removed a posted schedule. “Lets see. Tomorrow morning I will put you with Athtar and Janye”. Diana lined out Tara, and also removed Elonia. “I will add Admete as well, please have her check the schedule.”

Elonia could not rest. Deciding to bathe, she picked up a bathing basket and fresh clothes. Usually the waterfall was open at mid-day, and Elonia relished privacy there. She found Admete just finishing, and Chyrese talking with her. Turning to leave, Admete saw her and called out. “Elonia I am leaving. It is yours now.” She had left the water, and pulled on a robe. Leaning over to Chyrese, Admete talked in a whisper.

“Talk to her after she is in the water, but do not look at her. She is shy.” Chyrese looked at her as though mad. “Why do you say this? I wish no involvement.” Admete smiled, “Then do not. But I think you should get to know her…as just a friend.” Admete knew better – she had seen Chyrese look at Elonia differently.

“I will walk back with you.” Chyrese’s voice was firm. Passing Elonia, they continued on the path. Hearing a splash, both women stopped walking. Admete smiled and gestured for Chyrese to go back. At last smiling at her, Chyrese turned around.

Elonia had just removed her wet clothes, and put soap in her hair, when she heard Chyrese’s voice. “Elonia, may I ask you about Sea Tribe?” Startled, she wiped her eyes and saw Chyrese sitting turned away, giving her full privacy. Thank the Gods. “Yes Chyrese – what would you like to know?” She responded with open questions; the history of Sea Tribe, Hypolyta, how Elonia became Amazon.

Speaking at length, Elonia relaxed and bathed, more rejuvenated by the water. Telling her everything she knew Elonia talked for close to thirty minutes. Chyrese could see Sea Tribe, and picture Hypolyta, through her words. So deep in thought, she didn’t notice Elonia standing beside her. She was now dressed in a clean white tunic, toweling her hair dry.

Chyrese looked at her…she seemed vulnerable and innocent with her short hair rumpled and wet. What is coming over me? “Have you eaten? If not, I could answer more questions over a meal. I am very hungry.” Elonia had not eaten for almost a full day.

Walking back, Elonia asked Chyrese of her past – how she became a slave. Chyrese told her of being sold into slavery at twelve turns, a cruel life she tried to escape – almost dying at twenty two turns from a whipping. She lightly described what evilness her life had been, not wanting to burden Elonia with the details.

“My scars made me stronger, and thankfully less attractive to my master.” Elonia listened with deepening compassion, now eating a stew Diana had given her. Both sat at the communal table. “But you are attractive.” Elonia said, looking at Chyrese – then dropping her eyes. Eating more stew, she avoided looking up again.

Chyrese smiled, seeing Elonia’s shyness again. “Perhaps to an Amazon such as Aceto.” She laughed saying this, trying to see Elonia’s expression. Elonia stared straight ahead. “Many in our tribe would find you attractive, because you are.” Chyrese touched her hand. “Do you… Elonia?” Elonia seemed to freeze inside, but she didn’t give in to it.

“Yes Chyrese. I find you very attractive.” Elonia finally met Chyrese’s gaze – both realizing they were drawn to each other. The moment was broken by Aceto and Athtar sitting beside them. “Elonia you look refreshed and clean.” Aceto was smiling, eating a piece of honey bread. “Of course, eating with a beautiful Amazon always helps refresh me.” Chyrese nodded at Aceto, secretly annoyed at the intrusion. Athtar clapped Aceto on the back. “You do not seem refreshed when I arrive.” This brought laughter…Athtar was almost manly in appearance, not feminine as Aceto obviously preferred.

Diana approached the table, and handed Elonia a revised guard schedule. “I have made changes. Everyone knows except you.” Elonia saw that Chyrese, Janye and Admete had been added, and her name removed. “You have placed good warriors with our newest – very well done.” Each shift was roughly six hours long, so guards would stay alert. Elonia had been doing double shifts often…seeing herself removed was strangely odd.

“Elonia” Diana’s voice was stern. “You must sleep before your next meal. Your eyes are barely open.” Elonia smiled, she was weary again, even though her mind raced because of Chyrese. “It was your stew. It was so good I ate too much.” Everyone laughed as Diana acknowledged the compliment. “Off with you Elonia – to dream of paradise.” Elonia rose as Diana took her bowl. Smiling briefly at Chyrese, she left.

Chapter 11

Janye and Fiero returned from duty, and Tara was waiting. Janye ran to her, both embracing. “My love… Our dear Hypolyta. You and Doris leave tomorrow.” Tara held her close. “Yes my love. I can not take you as well. I wish I could.” Janye already knew this, and also knew Doris was the best choice. “And leave Forest Tribe with no Healer? I will miss you beloved…we have not been apart since our joining.” Janye was worried. “I will still feel you – will I not?” Tara walked with her, taking her hand.

“I do not know beloved. Distance may weaken it. We will find out. Try not to worry if it is different.” Janye sought Tara’s eyes. “I will worry anyway my love, until you return to me.” Kissing, both women wanted more. Sharing the word waterfall in thought both walked down the familiar path. It was empty, as if waiting for them.

At dawn the next day, Janye, Diana and Elonia prepared three horses for travel. Tara and Doris hastily ate breakfast, as Aceto kept them company. “Are you sure I should stay here Tara?” Aceto wanted to go, but Tara was firm. “My friend, Elonia works too hard. I need you here. We discussed plans for camp retreat until late last night – both of you should review them again. And…” Tara leaned close into her ear. “You must take care of Janye. I ask this of you.” Aceto grew very serious. “Tara, I will make sure she is well. This I swear to you.”

Tara hugged Aceto close, as Doris grew teary at the exchange. Silly old woman – crying as a child. Then she noticed Tara was crying as well. “Thank you Aceto.”

Janye packed warm clothes for Tara, tying it to the third horse. She had heard Tara’s thoughts, and fought tears by keeping busy. Both Elonia and then Diana hugged her. “She will be fine Janye. Barkita waits for her at the Boundary.” This had been in Alexiares scroll.

“I know Diana. I fear losing her. I do not know if I could survive her loss.” Losing Conori had been hard enough, even with Tara’s love. Diana hugged her fiercely, remembering Conori after losing her bonded one, Cylene. “Have faith in Artemis. Your time together has just begun little one.”

Tara was then beside her, and held her close. “You will not lose me my Healer.” Both women shared loving thoughts as the others moved away. “You are my love, my life Tara. Remember that.” Kissing her again, Tara openly cried quiet tears. “And you are mine, since the first I saw you.” Releasing her, Tara mounted as Doris, using a rock, climbed on her horse. With one last nod to Elonia, and look at Janye, Tara and Doris left Forest Camp. Janye tried not to cry, but Diana hugged her close and the tears flowed freely.

Aceto joined Elonia, handing her some stone bread with goat cheese. Taking a bite, she noticed Aceto’s sadness. Aceto nodded, seeing her stare. “Yes I do get serious, though not often. Barkita called me a mother hen.”

Elonia smiled. “You have many roles to play Aceto. Did Tara tell you of our retreat plans?”

“She said we should review them. I have guard duty after mid-day…we should do this now. Probably with Diana and Janye.” Elonia gestured to Diana and Janye to join them as they headed for her hut.

Moving at a steady pace, Tara tried not to tire Doris. Although the Healer was a strong woman, she was unaccustomed to riding. “I can keep up Tara, do not worry.” But Tara did worry, mostly about Hypolyta and their future. She hated leaving Janye, a woman who always lost those she loved the most. Sending her love, she found it strongly returned. Amazing, they had already traveled several miles and could still communicate feelings, and awareness of each other. “I can still talk with Janye.” Tara stopped her horse, giving Doris a chance to rest. “I am not surprised. You have a strong bond.” Doris drank some water. How those Messengers ride day and night, I will never know.

Tara told Janye that Doris will never ride again after this trip. She felt her laughter as a response. Then love filled her mind. Oh yes beloved, I feel the same. “Doris, we are almost to the grasslands. It will be easier riding. Did you need to walk?” Doris looked mortified. “Oh no my Queen. I would never get back on again.” Tara laughed, and drank water as well. “We should continue then.” Both women moved at a slow canter.

Six Sea Tribe Warriors waited at their tribe’s boundary. The sun was already setting, painting the horizon flaming red. Warrior Otrera was concerned. “Queen Tara or her messengers should be here by now.” Otrera was in charge instead of Barkita or Alexiares, who would not leave their Queen.

Warrior Cleite was more serene. “There is still time. Perhaps they bring some supplies. I will guess that Tara comes as well. She loved our good Queen.” Otrera sat by her friends’ side. “If Hypolyta dies …Tara should be our new Queen. Alexiares does not have the strength, and Barkita has no wish to rule.” Cleite agreed, but was still hopeful Hypolyta would recover.

Warrior Adriane called out. “I see three horses.” All six Amazons saluted Queen Tara, and greeted Doris, who clearly was exhausted. “She will need help getting down.” Tara said, sliding off her horse before it stopped. “Otrera what word of our Queen?” Otrera’s face was lined with sorrow. “Not changed. She breathes but does not waken. A deep sleep.”

“Does she respond to light or sound?” Doris asked, now trying to walk. Her legs refused to stay together. “No” came the reply. Doris nodded – still forcing her legs to move. Tara unpacked their travel bags, already seeing two tents prepared for their use. Doris took hers and hobbled to a tent. “I will rest until the morrow.” Another warrior carried food and water to her tent. Within ten minutes, Doris’s snoring filled the air.

Without saying a word, several warriors moved Tara’s tent farther away from Doris. Tara bowed and smiled in quiet gratitude. Once inside her tent, Tara focused on reaching Janye, telling her where they were, and all was well. Janye’s relief and love flooded back as a response. It was harder to communicate but if she focused she still could. Thank you Artemis… for this blessing.

Chapter 12

At guard shift change, Athtar led Chyrese’s horse to the Healers Hut. One look told Elonia something was wrong. Running over, she helped Chyrese down from her saddle. “What has happened?” Elonia carefully touched her, seeing her face twisted in pain. Athtar approached, after calling for Janye. “She missed a rope knot coming down, and caught herself with her left arm.” Chyrese breathed through clinched teeth. “It is not broken, but my arm does not move.”

Janye reached them. “Bring her inside the hut.” Sitting her at a table, Janye cut Chyrese’s tunic at the seams – exposing her back and shoulder. Elonia saw her whip scars from long ago, crisscrossed on her back. By the Gods she has suffered. Janye examined her arm and shoulder…she had treated this before. “It is dislocated. I will need to put it back. You need something for pain.”

Athtar’s face went white. “I will care for the horses.” And she left quickly. Janye mixed a tonic, and had Chyrese drink it. “This will hurt Chyrese, but it must be done.” Chyrese understood, nodding her head.

Elonia felt useless, until Chyrese held out her right hand. “Please stay.” Her eyes pleaded as well. “I will not leave.” Elonia replied, wishing the tonic would block all pain. Janye felt Chyrese’s good shoulder, then again the other. “I will pull out, then over, when you are ready.” Chyrese closed her eyes. “Go ahead.”

Her painful cry was involuntary, and thankfully Janye felt the shoulder go back in. Chyrese collapsed forward into Elonia, her tears quietly flowing onto her neck and shoulder. “I am done Chyrese. It has gone back in.” Elonia continued to hold her gently, as Janye bound her left arm to her body. “This is my fault Chyrese  I …” Chyrese cut her off. “No, I had been up and down the rope twice before. I should have been more careful.” Chyrese straightened, taking a deep breath. Elonia wiped away her tears, her look very tender and soft.

Janye smiled as she watched her. She could see love there already. “Drink more potion Chyrese, it will relax you.” She did, and Janye moved her to a bed in the sleeping room. Chyrese reclined, and still held Elonia’s hand. “Thank you Janye, Elonia.” Closing her eyes, she released Elonia and drifted into sleep.

Both stayed until they knew she slept soundly. Going into the main room, Janye spoke softly. “She will sleep for several hours, and that is the best thing.” Elonia nodded. “When is your guard duty?  I will cover for you.” Janye shook her head. “Not until tomorrow. I can do my shift. Both Diana and Delope can watch her. I would like you to spend time with her as well.”

Elonia smiled and shyly dropped her eyes. “I am thankful. She is important to me.” Janye hugged her. “You will do more for her than I can Elonia. Go tell the others she will recover in time. Bring us dinner – she should be awake by then. Elonia left to find Athtar …she would inspect that rope and replace it if needed.

That evening, Diana and Elonia brought food to the Healers Hut. They found Chyrese sitting up in bed, and laughing with Janye.

“I have heard from Tara. They are with Sea Tribe at the boundary. Doris can not keep her legs together, and her snoring is keeping them awake.” They all laughed as Elonia placed a plate of food on Chyrese’s lap. “Thank you. I am not used to being served. This may be worth getting injured.” Again they laughed easily.

Elonia met her eyes. “Your rope had a bad knot. It has been replaced.” Chyrese narrowed her eyes – not truly believing her. Janye moved to the injured shoulder. “On the morrow, Diana and Elonia, you should massage her shoulder … like this.” Janye rubbed the muscles around the area, clearly somewhat painful to Chyrese. “Do not move the arm, just rub the sore spots.” Elonia sat next to Chyrese, watching Janye closely. She wanted to make sure she had the right technique.

Flinching, Chyrese leaned away from Janye. “You said that was tomorrow, not now.” Janye gave her a playfully stern look, but dropped her hands. “I will tell them to have no mercy.” Chyrese lifted her fork. “I will have weapons at the ready.” Janye smiled and backed away, and gestured to Diana to follow. “I will have you fight Elonia then. A fork does not scare her.”

Laughing at the exchange, Elonia encouraged Chyrese to eat. “You do not get to stab me until tomorrow.” Chyrese ate, noticing they were alone. “I will miss practice time with my bow. You will need to tutor me so I catch up.” Elonia dropped her gaze, and then felt Chyrese lifting her chin … meeting her eyes.

“Your shyness is attractive, but not necessary for me.” The kiss they shared was incredibly soft – barely touching. Chyrese brought Elonia closer, deepening the kiss and holding her, despite the pain. Elonia pulled away slightly. “Your shoulder – I will hurt you.” Chyrese kissed her again. “Lean closer then, please.” Her tone was sexy and pleading at the same time, sending shivers through Elonia’s body.

Distracted, Elonia toppled the plate of food on Chyrese’s lap. “Zeus I am a klutz.” Elonia was deeply embarrassed as she picked up the food. Chyrese smiled, her shoulder now painfully throbbing from leaning forward. Watching Elonia, she understood why poets wrote of love, and people fought and died for it. This joy is what love should be, not the cruelness she endured for so long.

Sheepishly, Elonia met Chyrese’s eyes. “You are in pain. I will get Janye.” Chyrese caught her with her good hand. “No, but I do need to rest. I do not want to …but I must.” Pulling her close again, Chyrese trailed light kisses on Elonia’s face. “I have never felt like this before…I wish to keep touching you.” Elonia understood. “I have not either…not like this.” Elonia moved a tray of food next to Chyrese’s bed. “I think one handed you can feed yourself better than I can.” Chyrese laughed softly and held out her hand, which Elonia took. “I will leave then, and return tomorrow.” Elonia kissed her hand, then her forehead and tried to leave. “One more Elonia, so I know this is real.” The kiss they shared filled both with passion, and Janye witnessed it from the doorway, a wide grin on her face.

As Elonia left the sleeping room, both Janye and Diana were seated at a table waiting for her. Both women stared at Elonia’s flushed face in obvious amusement. Straitening, Elonia tried to suppress the grin on her face.

“Diana, I think our Second has her own treatment for Chyrese, and it does well for her. She has good color.” Diana appraisingly looked at Elonia, then back at Janye. “I believe you are correct Janye.”

“Did I ever look like Elonia?” Diana laughed. “Oh Yes, several times, with two different women.” Janye smiled and nodded. “I have been blessed with two great loves – so very blessed.” Diana reached across the table, touching her arm. “Yes, and both blessed with you little one.”

Elonia sat beside Janye, relieved to be under less scrutiny. She hoped, however, that Conori’s memory didn’t bring Janye any pain. “I only think of Conori with gratitude my friends. She is with her Cylene…and I love Tara more than life.” Janye smiled at both women, especially Elonia.

“It grows dark. I need to check our camp. Good night Janye, Diana.” Elonia placed a hand on Janye’s shoulder. “Look after Chyrese…” Elonia paused, not knowing how to finish her words. Janye stood up and hugged her. “Do not worry. I will send for you if need be. I will expect you to treat our patient in the morning.” Diana also hugged Elonia – feeling like a proud parent. “We are happy for you both.”

Elonia left the hut. Walking through camp she felt buoyant – lighter than air. She had liked Chyrese from the start. Her courage and beauty had impressed her. But what amazed her to the core… Chyrese found her attractive. That surprised her. If anyone, she figured Aceto would probably win her affection in time.

In a daze, she almost ran into Aceto and Admete. Aceto was alarmed. “Elonia, has there been bad news. Is something wrong?” She feared Janye had heard from Tara. “Oh, no Aceto. All is well.” Elonia noticed Admete had her arm in Aceto’s. “You have seen Chyrese then? How is she?” Admete asked, already guessing why Elonia was distracted.

“She is resting. Her shoulder is still very painful. Diana and I will provide care when Janye has guard duty.” Aceto nodded, still worried about her friend. “Do you need me to double guard duty? I can do so.” Elonia nodded – she could always count on Aceto. “Good night.” Elonia reached her hut and went inside.

Aceto stood there, still questioning Elonia’s behavior, until Admete whispered in her ear. A knowing smile went across Aceto’s face. Aphrodite – you have bewitched Elonia. I did not think that possible. Reaching Admete’s hut, Aceto tried for a good night kiss. Admete dodged it, and hugged her instead. “I am not like your other conquests dear Aceto. I may not be worth your time.” Aceto was taken back. “Who has told you wickedness about me.” Admete laughed and bid her good night. Aceto shook her head in amazement. Elonia is having better luck than I.

Chapter 13

At dawn Tara was still smiling as she watched Doris painfully mounting her horse. “I can tell you something that will distract you.” Doris loved gossip, and hearing about Elonia would make her gleeful. “Please my Queen. It would be better than a tonic.”

“Elonia and Chyrese were kissing in your hut.” Doris smiled until she asked why they were there. Walking their horses, Tara explained the injury, and that Janye had fixed it. Doris smiled, thinking of her conversations with Diana. “Elonia and Chyrese. Yes they would be a fine match. Diana had said Elonia liked her…we were hoping…” Doris stopped, fearing Tara would think less of her.

Tara leaned closer to Doris. “Janye says they were kissing in the sleeping room more than we ever did.” Tara’s smile dropped when she saw Doris’s serious stare. I should not have said that – Conori was still her Queen, and trying to win back Janye.

“I did not realize the Healers Hut was a lovers retreat. Perhaps I should have more rooms.” Doris tried to look stern, but then started to laugh. Tara relaxed – thankful Doris did not bare any grudge. “Doris – we should quicken our pace.” The Healer nodded, and their group moved into a slow canter.

At dawn, Elonia bathed at the waterfall. The water was cold, almost icy, but Elonia did not care. She wanted to be clean and presentable for Chyrese. Hugging herself with cold, her thoughts lingered on Chyrese. She remembered when Chyrese had asked if she thought her attractive…she knew then Chyrese was at least interested in her. That had been dizzying enough, but that kiss, their first one, had rocked her.

Elonia had two previous lovers, and knew passion – especially with Syrah. But this was already very different. I love her…perhaps from the start when she kneeled in the mud…begging for my mercy.  Elonia was so deep in thought, she forgot if she had used soap, so she hurriedly washed again.

Janye woke early – hearing Chyrese moving in the sleeping room. She found her trying to brush her hair – standing at a mirror. “Oh no. You do not do this alone. I will help you get ready for Elonia. Please sit. I will bring hot water.” Chyrese’s gratitude was easy to see. “Thank you Janye.” Her shoulder ached with every movement, even though she didn’t use her left arm. Janye and Diana soon returned with water, soap, towels and a gown that buttoned in front. Diana smiled in greeting. “Give yourself a bath. When you are done I will wash your hair.”

Soon, Chyrese felt clean and presentable. Diana loved brushing her long brown hair, and left it down. “You are very pretty Chyrese. No wonder you captured the elusive Elonia.” Janye and Chyrese laughed in response. “She seemed to capture me…without trying.”

Her dazed smile made Janye almost forget the time. “My guard duty – I must leave now!” Janye dashed from the room, grabbing her quill and bow.

She almost ran over Elonia, hugged her, and ran to the stable. Elonia bid her good morning, and went inside. Diana greeted her and stepped aside. “I believe she waits for you.” Elonia entered the sleeping room, finding Chyrese standing there – smiling at her. They carefully embraced, kissed, with Elonia holding her around the hips.

“You are radiant Chyrese. Truly beautiful.” Chyrese ran her hand through Elonia’s dark hair. “I had help from Janye and Diana. I enjoy being waited on.” Elonia laughed, knowing she felt more pain than she would admit.

Diana loudly cleared her throat. “I have ointment and massage instructions from Janye. I will leave this with you Elonia. I must feed our Tribe.” Many other Tribeswomen actually prepared the food, but Diana personally supervised the activity and menu.

Elonia smelled the ointment, and made a face. Moving two chairs together, she sat down. “We need to do this three times today.” Chyrese sat gingerly into the other chair, dreading the pain but looking forward to Elonia’s touch.

Elonia handed the ointment to Chyrese, and turned her chair to face the shoulder. Chyrese kissed her, smiling when she realized Elonia would need to unbutton her gown. Elonia froze, realizing the same thing. “I will get a towel.” Chyrese stopped her. “No. Undo the buttons. It is okay Elonia.”

Elonia let the gown drop to her waist, keeping her eyes on Chyrese’s face and shoulder. Applying the ointment, she gently touched the sore areas. Chyrese kissed her nose. “I think you need to rub harder Elonia.” She did, feeling the swollen knots in muscle. Chyrese closed her eyes. “Yes …that is perfect.” Elonia stopped after a few minutes, hating the pain she knew Chyrese felt. She buttoned the gown quickly – keeping her eyes on Chyrese’s face.

Chyrese handed her the ointment. “Enough torture. I need soothing from you.” They kissed softly – leaning into each other. Again, both heard Diana clearing her throat, and pulled away smiling as if caught.

“I have food for both of you. Delope and Admete want to visit. I said yes – after Elonia has left.” Diana’s nose crinkled as she sniffed. “Those ointments always smell bad.” Chyrese and Elonia both laughed – both now smelled of it and agreed. Diana could see pain in Chyrese’s face. “You should recline and rest that shoulder.” Elonia stood up and took her hand as she did recline on her bed, pillows keeping her in a sitting position. “I will leave the tray. She must eat Elonia.”

“Thank you Diana. I will make sure.” Diana left as Elonia filled a plate. “You must eat all of this or I will have Athtar and Aceto feed you.” Chyrese gasped, stuffing food into her mouth. Elonia ate also, laughing as Chyrese showed her every bite going into her mouth.

Leaving with an empty tray, Elonia met Delope and Admete outside. Delope rushed to her. “Elonia how is she?” Elonia was reassuring. “She smells of ointment, and has eaten well. She is sore, but will get better. Go see her.” Both entered, with Admete smiling at Elonia.

Chyrese told her friends everything – Delope frequently gasping in delight. Admete added how Elonia was in a daze the night before – running into Aceto. Chyrese looked coyly at her friend. “You were out with Aceto? Tell us more.”

Admete gave them a sly smile. “I did not give her what she wanted. Aceto is not like Elonia. She is more difficult prey.” The women laughed. Admete would be a challenge for Aceto…that was certain.

Chapter 14

Tara and Otrera reached Sea Tribe by mid-day, leaving Doris and the others behind them. Feeling a sense of urgency, Tara had to move faster. Running to Queen Hypolyta’s bed chamber, she found her with eyes half open and trying to speak. Barkita and Healer Melousa were there. “She has improved, but speech is hard for her.”

Tara kneeled at her bedside, and took her hand. “I am here my Queen.” Hypolyta smiled and said one weak word. “Tara”. Her hand gripped Tara’s firmly. Thank you Artemis, she knows I am here. Hypolyta closed her eyes…drifting off to sleep. Barkita gestured for Tara to join her. “Just this morning she awakened, and has been in and out ever since. She had some broth but nothing else.” Tara noticed another sleeping bag in the chamber. “I would like to sleep here as well. Do you mind having company?” Barkita smiled. She had hoped not to leave her Queen, and Tara knew this. “I will have another brought in, and food as well.”


As Barkita left, Tara sat in a chair. She concentrated on a message to Janye. Sending simple messages, she waited for a reply.

Chapter 15

Senator Ropel returned home, pulling off his heavy cloak. Clearly it would be an early winter. He could feel the chill.

And still, no word of the missing slaves. He had been surprised Chyrese had gone, but noticed at times her look of hatred. They are most likely dead, or owned by a harder master.

Ropel had been busy, meeting with other senators to support another Amazon invasion. He clearly offered to lead the effort, out of respect for those who lost their lives. He made sure Bellophon was thought an idiot…and a weakened Amazon nation would fall quickly.

He was being looked at with new respect. The same respect that Bellophon had ultimately sought. Ropel could imagine returning to Athens in triumph, leading chained Amazons behind his horse. He would break them as wild horses…some would die of course, but others would serve him until death.

Ropel smiled at that. Nothing would be decided until the Spring Session, but by then the vote would be just a formality. He would have everything ready to begin the campaign. Pouring himself some wine, he reconsidered his plan. Why wait? A surprise attack during winter…he could have his Sea Port by spring. He would need to think on this.

Chapter 16

Tara tried twice more to send Janye a question, hoping to hear her respond. She received vague feelings only. Jayne was happy but missed her; the tribe was well, loving thoughts were constant. She had hoped for more but was thankful for what they had.

Queen Hypolyta had mostly slept. Doris and the other Healers gave her medicines and broth, even bathing her and brushing her hair.

Tara walked through Sea Tribe with Alexiares. “I know it is hard to wait Tara, but I think you should stay – at least two more days.” Tara stopped walking and faced her. “I will Alex. If she continues to improve I will stay even longer. We can not lose her now.” Tara remembered saying these words to Conori, as she lay dying.

Shaking her head, she drew a deep breath of Sea air. It had grown colder in the past two days. She ached with loneliness, missing Janye. Their bond was the only thing that kept her from sorrow, especially at night.

“You miss your beloved. I can tell.” Alexiares placed a hand on her shoulder. “I thank you for coming Tara. It makes this hard time easier for us all.” Tara nodded. “I owe our Queen so much. I pray she recovers – she must recover.”

Chapter 17

Both Elonia and Chyrese reeked of ointment after two more massage sessions. Chyrese admitted it was less painful, or perhaps Elonia provided a good distraction. Diana brought more food at mid-day, and Janye joined them after her shift.

Janye told them both Tara and Doris were at Sea Tribe. “I do not feel any change in Tara. I think Hypolyta still lives.” Trying to ignore the smell, Janye checked Chyrese for soreness. Gritting her teeth, she made no sound. “Janye, when can I move this arm?”

The frustration in her voice was obvious. Janye smiled knowingly. “In two more days, the binder comes off. Then you will really hate us.” Elonia agreed – she had seen others treated for this injury. Rebuilding the damaged tissue was painful.

“Can I at least walk around today – maybe try to escape?” This brought laughter from all four women. Janye stood up – hands on hips – and faced Elonia. “As your Healer, I will allow Chyrese to walk around camp. She must be kept under constant guard. Do you accept this responsibility?” Elonia saluted and bowed. “With my life noble Healer.”

Chyrese was already on her feet, and slipping on sandals. Walking to Elonia, she kissed her passionately as both Diana and Janye stood there. “We have one hour before staff practice and I wish to walk until then.” Both Elonia and Janye had forgotten the practice session. Janye narrowed her eyes. “You watch only Chyrese.”

“Very well. I will behave.” Elonia put a cloak around her. Although it was sunny a winter chill was in the air. Going outside, they held hands walking through camp. Elonia felt needed by someone, and proud of whom it was. Several tribeswomen greeted them both…smiling as they walked past.

“I believe they know about us, and I am thought of highly now.” Chyrese said, squeezing Elonia’s hand. Elonia faced her. “The reverse is true – they wonder how I am so blessed.” Chyrese kissed her, wanting so much more, yet knowing her injury prevented it. “By the gods, why now did this have to happen?”

Elonia seemed to read her thoughts. “You will get better soon.” Chyrese moaned with need as Elonia kissed her. “Must I wait…” Elonia smiled, leading her inside her hut. Making Chyrese recline, she undid her gown and made love to her. Pleasure she had never known consumed her, beyond anything else. After her needs were met, Chyrese pleaded with Elonia to show her how to please her. Elonia guided her, making sure Chyrese stayed reclined.

Soon, both women were blissful – lying next to each other. “Elonia, I have never felt like this. I am sure I love you. I am sorry if this scares you…” Elonia silenced her with a kiss. “I love you Chyrese and nothing about you scares me.” The women kissed, feeling indescribable closeness in heart and spirit.

Janye’s eyebrows raised when she saw Elonia and Chyrese join staff practice. Aceto had taken over as Instructor, since Elonia was elsewhere. Both women were flushed, and Chyrese’s gown buttoned incorrectly.

Elonia took a staff and stood next to Aceto. “Elonia and I will demonstrate a typical spar.” They began striking slowly to show the common moves. “This is how I want you to practice. Do not use power for now.” Kyme raised her hand. “Can we see you go full strength – just for fun?” The students all agreed, and both Aceto and Elonia smiled at each other. They were evenly matched…it would be a good contest.

Striking slowly at first, the pace soon quickened. This would have been a long battle, had not Janye dropped her staff and sat down – her eyes locked in concentration. Elonia, then Aceto noticed, and moved to her. “Something happens at Sea Tribe. Tara is excited.” Aceto pressed her. “Is that good or bad?” Janye closed her eyes, and those around her remained quiet.

Chapter 18

Barkita seized Tara with both hands. “Come quickly. She has written something.” Tara ran inside Hypolyta’s bedroom. Her Queen was still asleep, but clutched a scroll. Tara removed and unrolled it.

Ø     Q    Tara        Unite Tribes       Danon

 Tara and Barkita looked at one another. “Tara – she emphasizes the Queen symbol in front of your name. She has given you right of cast. You are Queen.”  Tara nodded. She knew that would be Hypolyta’s last wish. “But what of Danon, the Sea Merchant, …unless…” Tara’s tone became excited. “Unless she has already planned a retreat from the Grecian Army.” Barkita was stunned…she had not told anyone, even her, but met with Danon often. “I believe you are right Tara. She would keep these plans secret…not wanting to upset the tribe.”

“When is Danon due again?” Tara felt like hugging Hypolyta – her Queen was a crafty one. “Tomorrow Tara. He arrives with first tide.” Tara smiled and reached for an empty scroll. “We will meet with him. Bring more pens and scrolls. Our Queen must have them ready. I will write her one as well.”

Tara wrote in simple sentences. How much she loved her was listed first. She said they would meet with Danon tomorrow. She asked for confirmation on right of cast. Lastly, she pleaded for her return. I have more to learn from you my Queen.

Chapter 19

Queen Hypolyta refused to follow the light. Brilliantly attired in colorful robes, surrounded by swirling mist, her many friends urged her to follow. Conori stood next to her. “Great Queen, Tara will take care of the Nation – you have seen to that.” Teneis and Cylene stood by, smiling at her.

Hypolyta would not be convinced. “Dear Conori. I am thankful Artemis has blessed me.” Her tone became louder. “But I must answer this last scroll.” Hypolyta paced back and forth, clearly agitated. “You were allowed to say goodbye. Can I not at least write a reply? Who should I talk to…where is Artemis?” Hypolyta was now angry…ready to fight Artemis if she had to.

Teneis grabbed her arm. “Great Queen, we will talk to Artemis for you. Stay with her Cylene. Conori and I will handle this.” Conori hugged Hypolyta. “Wait here.  We will find a way.” Conori and Teneis walked into the light, with Hypolyta staring angrily after them.

She had praised Artemis almost her entire adult life. To die this way, of weakness instead of battle, was almost an outrage. She deserved more, at least a last scroll, or Artemis would hear about it throughout eternity. Cylene took her arm, laughing as she heard these thoughts. “Great Queen, Artemis will listen to Conori. Do not worry.” Hypolyta stopped pacing, and smiled at Cylene. “She better listen, or she’ll deal with me.”

Chapter 20

Tara meant to stay awake, after Barkita nodded off, but was unable. She had sent messages to Janye, and felt some emotions in reply. Exhausted, she drifted into sleep. Rising, she found several scrolls written by Hypolyta. Her shout roused Barkita.

Both women then noticed Queen Hypolyta was dead …with a smile clearly on her face. Barkita yelled for Healers Doris and Melousa, both in a near by room. Rushing in, both confirmed she was dead, beyond any treatment they could offer.

The first scroll was addressed to Barkita. Tara handed it to her, both women now crying silent tears. It thanked her for years of loyal service, and clearly gave Tara the right of cast. She would be Queen of both tribes. It ended “Prepare for adventure. My love follows always.”

One scroll was put aside for Alexiares, and also for Danon. The last scroll was for Tara. She opened it, hands shaking.

Dearest Tara. I fight Artemis for this time. Conori helps – You and Janye will have long, happy life. Conori thanks you.

Unite tribes now – Athens moves faster to defeat Nation. No need to send spies – Danon knows of Island – trust him.

Elonia has her beloved. Have two Seconds – Alexiares.

Conori and I guide your path. My love to you Tara…pray to Artemis and we will hear.

You are not rid of me.

The scroll stunned Tara beyond comprehension. Wordlessly – she handed it to Barkita. Tara went to Hypolyta’s bedside, and hugged her. She found she was no longer quite as sad. “It will be done my crafty Queen. I thank you. Praise Artemis.”

Alexiares entered, knowing by everyone’s expressions her Queen was dead. Tara handed her a scroll. She cried reading it, and kneeled to Tara. “Queen Tara. I am your Second Second” she smiled through tears saying this, “What is your command to me.?”

“Lead a party to Forest Tribe. I will send advance messengers as well. Forest Tribe returns...we unite as one Nation.” Tara brought Alexiares to her feet. “Alex – you do not kneel to me. We are a team.” This is what made everyone so loyal to Tara. She was one of them before all else.

“I will write a scroll to Elonia, for the messengers. Give me thirty minutes. Go now.” Alexiares left, blessing her Queen and Artemis in thought.

Tara turned back to Barkita, who stood at Hypolyta’s bed. “See how she smiles Tara.

She must have won her fight with Artemis.” Barkita’s tone was in awe as she handed

Tara’s scroll to Doris and Melousa.

Doris’s mouth dropped open as she read it. “She mentions Conori, even Elonia. They do watch us after death. Praise Artemis.” Tara smiled. “It is true. And we will make them proud of us. We owe Hypolyta, Conori, Teneis no less.”

Chapter 21

Janye focused so hard she could hear no one. Elonia sat at her side, waiting patiently. Opening her eyes, she started to cry. “Queen Hypolyta has died. She has written some scrolls. We are to unite. Messengers will come quickly.” She was exhausted with the effort. Aceto brought her water, which she gratefully accepted.

Elonia addressed the tribeswomen there. “We have some plans in place to join Sea Tribe. I will explain more at communal dinner. Aceto, we should return to the Healers Hut, and meet with Diana as well.” Elonia took Chyrese’s hand. “You can come if you promise to rest in bed.” Chyrese nodded, her shoulder was aching anyway. Rest would be welcome. Elonia picked up the planning scrolls inside her hut, as Aceto walked with Janye.

“Is there anything else Janye?” Aceto was already amazed at the messaging between the two. “The scroll holds more, and she is amazed by it. It is not clear to me. Tara is not sad by it…that is the only way to describe it.”

Reaching the Healers Hut, Elonia and Chyrese joined Aceto, Janye, and Diana. Elonia led Chyrese to the sleeping room. “I know you are in pain. Please get some rest.” Chyrese drew her close, kissed her. “I also have had more pleasure, more love today, than ever before. Because of you. Stay with me tonight.” Elonia held her face with both hands. “I will. I never wish to be apart from you. Rest now.”

Elonia returned and the group reviewed the plans, with Diana adding her input. “We can begin tomorrow, preparing the animals, and pack essentials. I am sure Tara will send more wagons as well.” The women discussed their plans, and then joined their tribe at dinner.

The tribe was told of Tara’s message. Several warriors, including Athtar and Justal, wanted to fight the Athenians. They agreed their tribe should join Sea Tribe, but the need to make Athens pay the price was there. Elonia was clear in her response. “We will fight my tribe, as Queen Tara has said before. But we will fight and stay alive as well.” Athtar started to smile – her specialty was planting traps.

Elonia saw this. “Oh yes Athtar – your skills will be put to use.” Elonia continued. “We begin preparations tomorrow, but we will wait for Tara’s scroll. Have faith my tribe. Artemis guides our path.”

Elonia returned to the Healers Hut. She had not told Janye she would stay there. She found that unnecessary. Diana had changed Chyrese’s bed into a double, and dinner was waiting as well. Janye was there, and had just massaged Chyrese’s shoulder. “Elonia, you need to make sure she eats, but no more massages are needed. At least with ointment.” Janye’s smile was sad. She grieved Hypolyta’s passing and missed Tara. Elonia hugged her. “You will see Tara soon Janye.”

Janye accepted the embrace. She always liked Elonia. “I stay in my hut tonight. You must care for our patient.” Elonia bowed to her, and impulsively kissed her hand. “Thank you.” Janye bowed in playful response, and left for her hut.

Elonia joined Chyrese at her bedside, rested now, and already eating dinner. “Join me El, I have missed you.” Elonia told her of the tribe meeting, and Athtar wanting to fight and set traps. “I wish to as well. My shoulder should be well by then. I can make use of your bow.” Elonia was fearful, leaning back in her chair. “Our tribe needs protection as well. I see no purpose in you battling against an army.”

Chyrese drew Elonia close with one hand. “I go where you go – do you understand?” Elonia did, and loved her even more for it. Their kiss ignited passion again, with Chyrese pulling Elonia on top of her. “We live or die together Elonia – nothing less.” Elonia stopped kissing her long enough to answer. “And so it shall be Chyrese. I promise.”

Chapter 22

Danon, the Captain of Triton’s Sea Colt, arrived at Sea Tribe the next morning. He had urgent news from Athens yet again. Seeing black flags being flown, he expected the worst. Hypolyta must be dead. He loved this woman dearly, and thought of asking for her hand in marriage. But he feared refusal so he kept his feelings to himself.

Tara met him at the dock and broke the news of her passing. Soon he was in Hypolyta’s meeting room, and handed a scroll addressed to him. He cried unmanly tears…she had expressed love for him as well.

“Danon, she spoke of plans. An Island. What can you tell us?” Barkita and Alexiares stood by as well.

Danon dried his eyes. “Yes – an Island to the South. It has water, forest, and a natural harbor. We discovered it during a storm. I took Hypolyta there two times. We released goats, pigs and horses to breed. Four turns ago.”

Tara smiled. She remembered Hypolyta sailing away with him, calling it her Sea adventure. You always think ahead great Queen. “Danon, can we relocate there without a trace, so Athens can not follow?” Danon nodded. “That was the plan. I will get her scrolls.” Danon walked to a tapestry and moved it aside. Taking off a false wall panel, he removed several scrolls and brought them to the table.

Unrolling them, Tara read through the plans. Tritons Colt would move livestock, and groups of Amazons would sail to the island in advance to prepare for relocation. Danon watched Tara closely. “I am at your service Tara. I loved your Queen, and support your Nation.” Danon was still very emotional – fighting his tears. Tara took his hand. “You will save us Danon – that will greatly honor Queen Hypolyta.” Danon gripped her hand in response. “We will set sail on tomorrow’s tide. To the Isle of Branwen.”

Tara had never heard that name before. “What does it mean?” Danon smiled. “Branwen is the Celtic Goddess of love and beauty. It will be your new home.” Danon took his leave – he would need to prepare his ship. Alexiares approached Tara. “Two messengers have left for Forest Tribe. Tomorrow I will leave with two wagons and twenty warriors to help with relocation.”

“Excellent Alex. I will have another scroll ready. We need to prepare our animals for sailing, and two of our ships as well. And decide who to send.” She knew Barkita would lead this first party…her great adventure.

She sent loving thoughts to Janye. It would still be several days until she would see her. But she comes and we will have a long and happy life. Smiling, she knew that message was from Conori. Her gratitude was overwhelming, and she prayed with thankfulness.

Chapter 23

At dawn, Elonia and Chyrese bathed together at the waterfall, laughing how she deliberately trapped Elonia– making her talk. “Admete encouraged me to turn around. I was not going to, but I did.” Elonia washed her back and kissed some of her scars. “I would love to kill everyone who was ever cruel to you.” Chyrese turned to face her. “That is the past El my love. When we see an enemy attacking our tribe…then we seek revenge.”

Elonia had a serious look that Chyrese could not read. It almost scared her.

“Senator Ropel, your master, wanted the port. Would he not choose to lead the Army?” Chyrese drew Elonia close to her. “And to leave him with nothing would be worse than killing him. Taking his life would be too merciful.”

“Can I at least maim him Chy?” Elonia asked playfully, now kissing her forehead. Chyrese returned the caresses. “I should do that to practice with my bow.” Both women smiled at each other.  Ropel would feel someone’s wrath…that was certain.

Returning to camp, Diana had almost everyone doing something. Wagons were being prepared, wheels greased, clothing looms tied on. Janye packed medicines and supplies, excited because it meant joining Tara. Kyme and Phillipis were checking livestock, trimming hooves and feeding them well.

Janye had already packed some cherished personal items; a leather necklace Conori had given her, her jade stag necklace that was now Tara’s, Tara’s blue cape, and a jade and crystal stone Tara had found in Teneis’s Hut. Janye remembered telling Tara she felt it was enchanted. “It is hard to explain, but I feel goodness, strength as I hold it.” Tara agreed, turning it over in her hand. “We will keep it always.”

Elonia could tell Chyrese was frustrated just watching. She wanted to help. “My love, you must do as Janye says, or you will not heal.” Chyrese sighed, but smiled at Elonia. “You should help then – I will go be useless.” Elonia chuckled as Chyrese walked to the Healers Hut. Turning back, she mouthed “I love you.” before entering the hut.

Attacking the wagons with gusto, Elonia packed items and tied them down. Athtar worked beside her, sharing ideas for booby traps. Elonia smiled – they would have many surprises for their friends from Athens.

At mid-day, Elonia wrote a scroll to Salmus and Timon, two friends near Gargarean. She warned them to stay away, and gave thanks for many years of friendship. She asked both to destroy the scrolls and deny ever knowing any Amazons. She would have Justal and Akantha deliver them, once Tara’s messengers confirmed they would leave.

Elonia walked with Janye to the Healers Hut. “We will move her arm today, not much, but enough to make her hate me. I may need your protection.” Elonia grinned. “And I have already packed my staff.” Both smiling, they entered the hut.

Chyrese knew she was in trouble. “You have new torture for me. I can see the gleam in your eyes.” Janye laughed. “And I thought they were an innocent blue – so I have been told.” Chyrese sat on a table, holding out her right hand to Elonia. “My dear El, you had best restrain me.” Janye loved how she shortened Elonia’s name. How cute these two are.

Undoing the strap, she supported Chyrese’s left arm. “Do not move it in any way. I will move it.” Supporting her arm, Janye moved it slowly…keeping it close to the body. It was tender but not unbearable. Moving it out slightly, Janye repeated the movement. As soon as Chyrese winced, she stopped. “That is enough today. You are healing well.” Re-strapping the arm, she gave ointment to Elonia.

“You get to massage her El.” Janye smiled, and left them alone. Chyrese kissed Elonia as she undid her gown. “Janye is a sweet woman even though she tortures well.” Elonia massaged a sore spot, kissing her at the same time. “Your touch brings such pleasure – even now.” Elonia felts shivers again – her voice alone could do that to her.

“Come to bed with me Elonia, now, please.” Elonia washed her hands quickly in a basin, as Chyrese’s good hand traveled over her body. Clean of ointment, Elonia embraced her. Moving to their bed, Elonia took off their clothes and they made love slowly, breathless with pleasure several times, until they slept deeply.

Chapter 24

Tara soon had Danon’s Triton Colt loaded with animals and supplies. Danon laughed as several cages with Hypolyta’s cats were placed in his cabin. He had given her two kittens long ago, remembering how joyful she had been. It seemed right to personally deliver them to Branwen in her memory.

Two smaller boats held the first Amazons for the Isle of Branwen. Twenty five from Sea Tribe, lead by Barkita, would start preparing their new home. Barkita was hesitant. “You may need my fighting skills, and some leaving run our daily operations.” Tara knew what she was doing, and reassured Barkita. “The first group is critical for Amazon survival. We must have a safe home. Without you, that does not happen. It will be a great adventure Barkita.” Both women shared a knowing smile.

Danon soon joined them. “We are ready. If we have good seas I should return in seven days. Do not worry if it takes longer.” Tara hugged both of them. “May Artemis and Triton guide your way.” The Tribe cheered as the three ships left port – heading South to the Agean Sea.

Sea Tribe messengers Kyseppe and Varia arrived at Forest Camp before communal dinner. Elonia read the scrolls to the Tribe, knowing these words affected them all. They confirmed Janye’s message from Queen Tara… Alexiares was coming with wagons to help them move. Elonia sent her scrolls to Timon and Salmus. She also told Athtar to plan her traps. “We will come back and set them, but you should write them down and mark map locations.” Athtar smiled eagerly…this helped take the sting out of retreating.

Elonia had one scroll for Janye. “Your beloved has written words just for you.” Janye took it as though it was pure gold. Breaking the seal, she read words of love from Tara …words she wanted to say as well. Crying happy tears, she gasped as she read Tara’s exact wording from Hypolyta’s scroll.

“By the gods. This is wondrous. Elonia, Diana come with me.” Going inside the Healers Hut, Janye read the message of Hypolyta’s scroll. Diana began to cry. “Praise Artemis…they look after us still. Hypolyta, Conori – all of them.”

Elonia sat in a chair. They had even thought of her. Chyrese joined them from the sleeping room. Seeing shock, Diana crying, she grew concerned. “What has happened?” Janye handed Chyrese the scroll and she too was stunned. Sitting next to Elonia, she took her hand. “Beloved, will you blood bond with me?” Elonia’s joy was easy to see. “Oh yes beloved. Just as soon as you can move your left hand.” Both Janye and Diana hugged them both, everyone now crying and praying to Artemis in gratitude.

The relocation took more than five days. The wagons and livestock had to move slowly, and both rain and light snow made it more difficult. Elonia and the other warriors constantly rode around their Tribe’s perimeter, making sure all was safe.

Janye worked on Chyrese’s shoulder along the way, and noticed her communication ability with Tara strengthened with every mile.

Aceto had time to reflect on her life. She had chosen not to pursue Admete, or anyone else for that matter. She wanted something more permanent in her life – someone to truly love and bond with. Hovering close to her campfire one evening, Diana approached her. “Aceto are you well? Tired perhaps?”

“Yes Diana. I am tired of being me. But I do not know how to change.” Diana nodded. She could feel Aceto’s loneliness …she almost ached with it. “Dear Aceto, you seek love not just romance.” Aceto smiled at her wise friend. “Yes. I must have grown up somehow. I see Tara and Janye, now Elonia, with such love. I have avoided love, and now I fear it avoids me.”

Diana looked at Aceto with soft eyes. “Aceto, is there no one who likes and loves you? Someone you have always turned to? Someone who accepted you as you are?” Aceto lifted her head – seeing something for the first time. “Yes Diana. She has always been there for me. Yes.” Diana smiled. “Then perhaps you should talk to her, and ask her why.” Aceto hugged Diana, happy once again. “I will Diana. I may have been a fool.”

Chapter 25

Tara could not wait any longer. Pulling her horse from the stable, she left Sea Tribe. She knew from Janye’s description they were just a few hours away. Janye knew she was coming, and waived Aceto over to her. “Tara is riding to us. I need your horse.” Aceto offered a stirrup and hand. “Not without me. Tara would have my head if something happened to you now.” Janye seated herself behind Aceto. Riding to Elonia, Janye explained that Tara was coming. “I must go Elonia – please.” Aceto leaned on her saddle horn – already knowing her answer.

“Go Janye, Aceto. Go with the wind.” Aceto urged her horse to run. They were already past Sea Tribes boundary, going through small trees and wild brush. Jayne shouted to Aceto as they rode along a trail. “Tara is two hours away.” It was mid-day. Aceto guessed Forest Tribe, even at their slower pace, should reach the Sea by evening.

This last day of travel had been with good weather. The mixture of snow and rain had stopped the day before. Aceto hoped for a warm bed at Sea Tribe, and hopefully not alone.

The next two hours went painfully slow for Tara and Janye. They constantly talked as time passed; Tara told her of the Island, Hypolyta’s burial at Sea, Barkita preparing their new home. Janye told her of Elonia and Chyrese, and their wish for blood bonding. “They have been together a short time my Healer.” Tara replied, wondering if they should wait. “But we have approval already my Queen – Hypolyta’s scroll.” Tara laughed – that was true.

Rising over a small hill, Tara could at last see them. Bringing her horse to gallop, she moved ahead quickly. Janye could see her clearly; a purple cape flowing behind her, her hair being whipped by the wind.

Aceto stopped her horse and lowered Janye to the ground. Janye ran forward as Tara slid from her horse before it stopped. They embraced and kissed. “By the gods Janye, never again. I will not be without you. Never again.” Janye held her tightly. “I never felt totally alone my love, but lonely. I have missed you so.” They kissed and held each other a long time, until Aceto cleared her throat. Tara finally released Janye, and hugged Aceto. “Dear Aceto, it is good to see you.”

Aceto had a comical reply planned, but seeing her friends reunited she was herself too emotional. “It is very good to see you as well.” Tara raised an eyebrow…something was different about her. Janye held Tara’s arm, keeping her close. “Aceto, Tara has me now. Are you riding to Sea Tribe?”

Shaking her head, Aceto grinned accusingly. “Diana has spoken to you then.” Janye placed a hand on her shoulder. “Zerynthis is at the Tavern, and will enjoy seeing you.” Tara now understood why Janye had asked about her. Aceto mounted quickly. “I will take my leave, dear friends.” They watched Aceto leave for Sea Tribe.

Tara began walking towards the direction of Forest Tribe, holding Janye next to her and leading the horse by the reins. “Our Aceto …is she finally captured by love?” Janye squeezed her around the waist. “I hope so. I truly do.”

Chapter 26

Encouraging everyone to quicken their pace, Elonia didn’t need to say why. Everyone wanted to reach Sea Tribe that evening. Warm beds, a hearty meal, provided plenty of motivation. Elonia placed Chyrese on her horse, in front of her, so she could hold her as well.

Chyrese no longer used a strap for her arm. Movement was still limited, but some of the pain had diminished. Elonia carefully moved the horse along anyway, and playfully nibbled her ear. “This is not fair. I can not reach you.” Chyrese kept pulling away, only to have Elonia move to her neck – her soft bites now making Chyrese groan. “If you do not stop I will make you suffer later…I swear this to Artemis.”

Elonia laughed, and offered Chyrese some water. Elonia’s joy was so complete; she didn’t care what others thought, seeing her this way. Chyrese was also blissful, fearing at times it was all a dream. She would soon awaken, with Ropel telling her to pour more wine. Hugging Elonia’s arms around her, she made sure it was real.

Akantha rode to her side. “Tara and Janye are ahead – riding together.” Elonia hurried ahead…eager to see her Queen. They soon clasped arms together, staying on horseback.

“My Second, you have done well. And you have a beautiful Amazon sharing your saddle.” Elonia blushed, but held Tara’s eyes. “Perhaps with the exception of you, I am the happiest person in all of Greece. Even the world.” Everyone shared a laugh – Chyrese leaning backwards into Elonia. Tara smiled…she liked seeing Elonia this way. “In two days, we will have a celebration. If you are ready, we could have a blood bonding ceremony.”

Janye squeezed Tara close, and both Elonia and Chyrese sat upright in the saddle. “Yes Queen Tara, Elonia and I will be ready. Thank you.” Elonia nodded, tears filling her eyes. Tara reached over and touched both of their hands. “It is your destiny, and I am honored to be part of it.”

Aceto entered the Tavern, terrified she would be too late. She saw Zerynthis serving drinks as usual, smiling as she served them. She was Aceto’s age, 34 turns, slightly plump with a beautiful smile. Her blond hair was braided, swinging loosely down her back. Seeing Aceto, joy radiated from her face.

“It is so good to see you. Are you well? Can you stay?” Aceto felt guilty …there had been times when she should have. “I want to stay, if you will have me.” Zerynthis searched her eyes. Was this Aceto? Something had changed and Zerynthis held her close. “As long as you want to, dear Aceto.” Aceto held her tight enough to make her breathing become shallow. “Forever my love.” Zerynthis held her, not caring about anything else.

The Tribes united that evening. It was close to midnight when everyone had eaten and animals were put to rest. Janye and Doris both exercised Chyrese’s shoulder, satisfied she could bond with Elonia in two days. Chyrese hugged them both. “I can not tell you how happy I am. There are no words to describe it.” Janye cried with happiness. “You do not need to … I feel the same.”

Tara put Elonia and Chyrese in Hypolyta’s meeting room, now changed into a bedroom. She had it decorated with vibrant colors, and a new soft bed welcomed them. Tara led Janye into the room they shared before. They made love passionately, and then slowly, until they lay intertwined in happy exhaustion. Their thoughts continued to caress each other even as they slept.

The following day, Queen Tara addressed the Tribe. “We are one tribe now. Our future is guided by Artemis, Great Queen Hypolyta, and Queen Conori. We are Sea and Forest, soon to be the Branwen Tribe. We are Amazon, and forever will be.” Cheers interrupted her. She raised one hand and continued. “Have faith in our future. Artemis guides our path.”

A shout was heard after all was quiet. “Do we make Athens pay a price for driving us away from our homes?” Tara pulled her broadsword and raised it above her head. “This is my answer.” The Tribe yelled a deafening war cry in response. Tara brought them to silence again. “We will make them pay, without losing even one Amazon life. I will not sacrifice our future fighting our enemy. My Tribe, are you with me?” Everyone yelled in reply, because Tara meant what she said.

Aceto smiled at her friend. You always inspire them. We will fight, but not as before. Brilliant. This pleases everyone. Aceto held Zerynthis’s hand, still affected by their night together. They talked for over an hour, both crying at times, and then made love until moon rise. Zerynthis couldn’t believe it still. She had always loved Aceto, never told her fearing she’d never see her again. “You were as a wild stallion,” she said, “and to tame you seemed wrong.” Aceto knew this was true love, caring for the other more than yourself.

“No one has loved me as you do Zerynthis. I am sorry it took so long for me to see it. I pledge myself to you only.” Aceto cherished her now, loved her more than she thought possible, and hopefully showed her as well.

Danon arrived the following morning. Tara and Alexiares met him at dock. “All is well my Amazon friends. Your Island has already impressed Barkita.” Tara was relieved. “That is good. She is hard to please. We will have a full shipment for tomorrows tide but we celebrate this evening. Danon and his sailors smiled. “We love your celebrations. I will miss Hypolyta …I loved her very much.” Tara smiled at him. “She knows this now, and is probably angry you did not tell her.” Danon laughed at this. “But she also now knows why.” Everyone laughed heartily, with Danon clapping Tara on the back.

Moving away, she left with Alexiares at her side. “Alex we need to send more Amazons to Branwen. Another twenty five. Most should be support women, Doris or even Diana. A few that can sail well.” Alexiares nodded. “I will make a list. We should review it before the celebration. I will prepare our ships now.” Saluting, she left as Tara smiled in amazement. She enjoyed having two Seconds. Thank you Hypolyta.

Elonia called to her from the village, with Chyrese at her side. Walking past the tavern and food buildings, they met at the communal meal area. They saluted her. “My Queen, what would you have me do?” Tara put an arm around her. “You should pack a food basket, and sail to the sea cliffs. Spend the day with your beloved. But return for your bonding.” Both hugged Tara, who then became more serious. “Soon winter comes, and we must prepare for Ropel and his army. Take this time now and be joyous.” Both saluted her again, thankful she knew they would want to fight Ropel.

Chapter 27

General Tibor felt he had been given his greatest gift. Ropel had called a special Senate session to discuss the Amazon issue. The Senate supported taking military action, concerned that regular villagers supported these pagan witches. He had been given support to mobilize before spring solstice.

Ropel could be very convincing. “These Amazons have been weakened now, and will have no defense in winter. I will personally lead this effort, and it will be a success.”

Still, Tibor worried about Ropel. He had no intention of sharing his victory with him, or giving him the sea port. Men die in war all the time. Even Senators. If the Amazons didn’t kill him, he would, using one of their arrows.

He watched the Athens Army at battle practice. Over two thousand strong; and itching to fight and avenge the fallen. Winter would make it more difficult, but would not deter them. The Amazons would feel their wrath, and submit to their desires, before death released them.

Tibor remembered the woman with the broadsword. Long dark hair, scar on her cheek, she had a savage beauty that filled his dreams. He wanted to match swords with her, and make her submit to him. He laughed, seeing her kneel before him…begging for her life. He prayed to Zeus to give him this, and his other victory spoils.

Chapter 28

Tara and Alexiares were seated in the Warriors meeting room, reviewing the list for Branwen. Doris was on this list, as well as Zerynthis. “I have Diana on the next sailing, so she can help us prepare the warriors for travel.” Tara agreed, they would need to leave soon to prepare for the invaders. “We should leave in three days…so we can send riders close to Athens and view troop movement.” Aceto entered the room, and Tara showed her the list.

Aceto dipped her head and sighed. “Yes, since I can not be with her I want her safe. She should go now.” Tara watched her friend closely. “Do you wish to go with her?” Aceto met her eyes. “You need my sword and bow. Until you sail – I do not sail.” Aceto was firm, and Tara was grateful. “I thank you my friend.”

The list was posted, and everyone leaving was told as well. Aceto told Zerynthis personally, and held her close. “Do not worry…I will be joining you soon.”

In the Healers house, Doris was fuming with anger, and told Janye to send Tara a message. “I want to see your beloved …our Queen. Where is she?” Janye frantically warned Tara, who replied she was on the way. “She comes Doris.” The older Healer would not stop pacing, her agitation was obvious. Tara soon arrived, putting just her head through the door to check for her safety. Janye laughed, but sobered instantly when Doris pulled the door the rest of the way open.

“I trained for hours Tara, with both a bow and staff. Why do I leave now?” Tara sat Doris in a chair, and joined her. “I need a Healer on Branwen, a Healer here, and Healers who can ride well. I need you at Branwen…making sure our Tribe says well.” Doris understood, feeling her anger subside. She was not a good rider, and knew this.  Tara sought her eyes, and then hugged her. “My friend, do not be angry with me.”

Doris was now embarrassed and said so. Reassuring her, Tara winked at Janye. I think she finally likes me a little. Janye smiled at her. She always has beloved. Janye placed her hand on Doris’s shoulder. “I will bring us some food and Healer Melousa so we can help you pack.” Tara stayed with Doris, making sure she understood her feelings were important. Janye’s thoughts caressed her. You make me love you more beloved. How can that be? Tara smiled, fully returning her thoughts.

The celebration began with Elonia and Chyrese’s blood bonding. Shaman Eriya completed the ceremony and everyone cheered the match. Aceto held Zerynthis next to her. “In one turn, I will ask for bonding with you.” Zerynthis still could not believe it – Aceto was hers alone. She felt dizzy with joy and told her so, over and over.

Tara tried to dance with Janye around the bonfire. Both laughed until gasping for breath – she still could not do it. Giving up, Janye played her flute as others, including Danon with Diana, danced around the flames. Elonia and Chyrese soon slipped away – they would share this time alone. Tara looked to the stars, thanking Artemis, Hypolyta, and Conori. My prayer is to make you proud of the Amazon Nation. Help me to make you proud. Janye put her arm around her. Beloved They already are.

The next morning came painfully soon for many. Danon, his sailors, and several Amazons had too much ale, and little sleep. Long time Amazon partners were being parted, some Warriors staying to fight the Athenians. Both Delope and Admete were leaving, and hugged Chyrese in parting. And Zerynthis, who cried as she held Aceto.

“This is strange, is it not? I am used to being without you, but now…” She couldn’t finish her words. Aceto hugged her tightly. “Do not worry my love. I will return to you.”

Doris hugged Diana and her Healers, saving Janye for last. “Join me soon. I will be very lonely.” Janye tried to be excited for her. “You will see our new home. Branwen. And soon we will all be together again.” Doris looked Tara sternly in the eyes. “Come home to us my Queen. Bring everyone home to Branwen.” Doris drew Tara into a crushing embrace. “I will Doris. I will.”

Three ships again set sail for Branwen with precious cargo. Tara brought together both Seconds, Diana, and Aceto. “We met mid-day in the Warrior’s meeting room. We must send riders close to Athens to obtain information, and warriors to prepare traps at Forest Camp. We need to have protection here. In eight days, Danon returns and more Amazons should leave. Eat well before this meeting – it will be a long one.”

Chapter 29

Although an icy rain fell steadily, many in Athens came to cheer the Army’s departure. Ropel was pleased – still picturing his triumphant return dragging half naked Amazons behind him. He would then tell the Senate of his noble decision. I will leave Athens and personally secure the Amazon lands, so we will never see their return. Naturally, he would take the Sea port as his own, and give the Black Forest to Tibor.

Ropel stopped his musings as Tibor rode next to him. “The ground is soft. The wagons will not move quickly. Maybe we should have taken the Fleet, Gone by Sea.” Ropel sighed…he needed Tibor but didn’t like him. “That would leave Athens unguarded from the Sea. Our Syrian enemies would attack. And think of the forest. We want to start there – driving the Amazons to the sea, not the other way around.”

Tibor nodded. That did make sense. He also knew Ropel would divide their army into separate legions, instead of repeating Bellophon’s fatal mistake. “Tibor, we will win this time. We have more men, a better battle plan, and a weakened enemy.” A crack of thunder seemed to challenge his words, spooking the horses slightly. “We should camp in a few hours, and hopefully this storm will pass.” Tibor hated these words…they should go longer and cover more ground.

“As you wish Senator.” This politician was no soldier. Still, there was nothing to gain by pushing the pace. He would meet with the other generals and coordinate their Legions attack plans. He would make use of the extra time.

Aceto, Justal and Agave rode through open grassland – parallel to Black Forest tree line. Tara and her group of forty Amazons were heading directly for Forest Camp.  Aceto’s group would travel towards Athens, riding close to the main road a large army would need to use. If they had already started their campaign, they would be seen. If not, they would seek information close to Athens.

All three were rain soaked and cold, and it would soon be nightfall. Justal shouted to Aceto through the wind. “Are you sure Tara said they would advance before spring?” Aceto leaned over “Yes – that was from Hypolyta’s scroll.” Aceto pointed to a high hill away from their path. The riders followed a deer trail through shrubs and small trees to the very top.

The entire Grecian Army was camped two miles away. The campfires seemed to light the entire horizon…too many to count. “By the Gods. Is anyone left in Athens?” Aceto was temporarily frozen by the sight. Justal grabbed her arm. “We need to ride and find Tara.” Aceto reined her horse around and all three galloped towards Forest Camp.

Aceto’s group reached Forest Camp by dawn. Athtar had kept the Warriors busy, poisoning and sealing wine bottles, planting spikes in pathways covered in brush, and soaking all burnable wood in bad smelling liquid. Many huts were burned, and others bobby trapped. Opening the door would release arrows at those who entered. Tara had never seen Athtar so happy – she loved being devious.

Aceto’s news meant they needed to leave, if they wanted to place more traps away from camp. Many took a last look at Forest Camp, especially Janye. Her adult life had truly started here, walking through the camp and watching the Amazons. Tara’s thoughts caressed her as she walked to her side. “My beloved, do you need a few minutes here?”

Janye smiled at her. “No beloved. But Chyrese and I should be left there.” Janye pointed to a rock formation a distance away. “We can send messages to you and Elonia when they arrive, and then join you.” Tara narrowed her eyes. “Not alone. Akantha and Fiero as well.” Janye took her hand. “We only stay until we see their advance party – no longer.” Tara nodded, already planning two lookout areas instead of one.

Tara found Elonia and Chyrese, and explained what they should do. Elonia nodded, but her thoughts told Chyrese she hated being separated. Chyrese held her – thankfully with both arms. “This is a good way to fight them. I can finally do something for our Tribe.” Chyrese kissed her and mounted as Fiero joined her. Riding to the rock formation, Chyrese and Elonia sent continuous messages of love. Their bond had been strong from the start, as both hoped it would be. Janye and Akantha rode to an old guard site, high in forest trees.

Tara kept Elonia with her, as they both rode away from their beloved. “Tell Chyrese and Fiero to rest – it will be a full day before even the scouts arrive.” Elonia did, and Chyrese replied they were eating and would rest. “It is done.” Elonia smiled – still marveling at their ability to communicate. Tara quickened the Tribes pace. They would need to hurry and set more traps.

At noon the following day, Chyrese could see Army Scouts slowly riding towards Forest Camp, swords drawn, carefully looking around them. She alerted Elonia, and heard her respond “Leave now my love. Fiero knows the path to take.” Janye also saw the Scouts, and left her post with Akantha. Unobserved, the four Amazons left quietly to join their Tribe.

Chapter 30

Ropel and Tibor were nervous. Both had expected some kind of resistance. Three Legions had entered the forest without one arrow fired in retaliation. Advance Scouts had been injured when their horses tripped but that could be expected. “Tibor, they have already fled to the Sea. They were so weak they left the forest.” Tibor nodded – that did make sense.

Arriving at their pitiful hut camp, Ropel almost felt sorry for them. I would have left this bleak place as well. The first Legion had found and started consuming the wine, before collapsing in agony. “The wine – it is poisonous.” The bottles were destroyed but not before ten soldiers were too sick to move. Others searching the huts screamed as arrows pierced their bodies.

Tibor ordered the huts burned, which released foul smelling thick smoke throughout camp. Ropel was not amused. “Tibor – we withdraw from here. These petty tricks are unworthy of us.” Ropel rode away from the smoke towards a clearing. Triggering a booby trap, two arrows released striking Ropel in the shoulder. He fell from his horse as it bolted away in fright.

Other soldiers helped him to his feet. The wounds were not serious, but painful never the less. “Bring me a Healer you fools. And clear an area for my tent.” The Amazons would pay for this outrage – he would skin one of them alive. Tibor had to fight a slight smile, watching Ropel red with anger. He cautioned his soldiers – they would need to move more slowly.

Aceto finally relaxed on her bedroll, seeing Janye and Chyrese had returned to camp. Coughing deeply, she tried to ignore how tired she felt. If I get some rest…I’ll be fine. Athtar had been keeping them all very busy – honing sharp points on small branches. She had designed a trap that would swing down a log lined with these spikes. She placed it perfectly in the trees, hidden by natural cover. Testing it, she made sure it would swing high enough to avoid hitting a horse. “They are not the enemy. Too many suffer from their idiot masters.”

No one had ever seen Athtar so gleeful. Her Tribe started calling her “Athtar the Impaler” or “Athtar the Merciless” in sincere complement. Many worked without sleep, especially Tara and Elonia who constantly rode the perimeter and scanned the forest.

Tara was unsettled, and waved over Elonia. “We are in-between storms now. We should ride to Sea Tribes boundary and rest there.” Elonia agreed, alerting the Tribe to mobilize. Chyrese couldn’t keep her eyes from her. El my love you are such a beautiful, brave Amazon. Elonia blushed hearing her thoughts. Dearest Chy, I wish we were on a sailboat now, just you and I. That day was very special for them, and ended with their bonding. Soon beloved, we will be.

Six hours later, they made Camp at Sea Tribes boundary. Two Warriors met them there, and Tara sent them with a scroll to Alexiares at Sea Tribe Camp. Aceto practically ordered Tara and Elonia to sleep. “Justal and I have rested, and will keep watch.” Too weary to argue, both retired and sought comfort from their loved ones.

Chapter 31

Alexiares read Tara’s scroll, and handed it to Danon. “The Athenians move quickly. This will be the last trip for the Sea Colt.” His ship was fully loaded with Amazons and the last of their animals. Danon walked over to his crew, and then helped untie the Colt, staying on the dock. Seeing Alexiares staring at him, he laughed at her. “My Second knows they way. I must guide the last Amazon fleet.” Four boats remained – just enough for those who needed to flee. Alexiares extended her arm to Danon. “We owe you so much good Captain.” Danon shook her arm. “I expect my reward from Hypolyta herself… wait – I have scrolls for you.”

Digging into his travel bag, he handed them to her. “These are from Barkita.”  Alexiares read them. She made Branwen sound like paradise, and included a map of the island. “I can hardly wait to get there, but first we must burn our camp.” Danon sadly nodded. They would destroy everything, even closing the well. Alexiares called to her five remaining Warriors. “Light the torches – we burn the palace first.”

At dawn, Tara and Aceto rode out into the grasslands towards the Black Forest. Cold wind signaled yet another rain storm and most likely snow as well. “Aceto, I am wrestling with a decision. As I warrior, I wish to fight them. But as Queen I should make sure our Tribe prospers.” Both sat on quiet horses staring at the horizon. The Athenian Army had still not left the forest.

Aceto understood, and turned her horse to face Tara. “Let us leave this place, and go to Branwen. Our new home.” Returning to camp, Tara called everyone together. Those who wanted to fight were tired and cold enough to understand her decision. Their survival was the ultimate revenge.

Four hours later, through driving rain, they entered Sea Camp. A blackened ruin acknowledged their arrival. Tara had prepared them for this, but even she sickened at the sight. Only the Tavern was left standing, and Alexiares and Danon greeted them outside.

Tara dismounted and hugged her. “You have done well. Are the boats ready?” Alexiares nodded. “Yes my Queen. And we have Danon to guide us.” Tara clasped arms with him. “Good Captain. Should we sail or wait for these rains to pass?” Danon’s eyes studied both sky and sea. “It could get worse.  We should go …the sea is still calm.” Tara nodded and led her horse a few steps away. Undoing the saddle and removing her pack, she spoke softly to the mare. “Loyal friend. You have served me well. I return your freedom – go far away.” Removing the bridle, she shied the horse away. The other Amazons did the same, some in tears as they galloped away.

Janye’s horse, formerly Conori’s white mare, refused to join them. Flinching slightly, ears pricked forward, she stayed with Janye. Hugging the confused horse, Janye cried quiet tears. “You must go. They need a wise lady to lead them. Make Conori proud.” Tossing her head, the mare backed away, and left with tail high at full gallop. Within minutes, all horses were gone. Tara embraced her beloved, as Danon threw their tack into the harbor. Others started to ignite the tavern as Alexiares made boat assignments.

Tara gestured to Athtar, Aceto and Elonia. “We need to destroy the dock, and swim out to the boats.” Danon joined them. “I have told Alexiares to wait at the point. I will help as well.” As soon as the boats were clear, the group set about their task. Athtar enjoyed destroying the port and harbor even more than setting traps. Safety anchored in their boats, forty Tribeswomen watched them burn and pull the dock apart. Throwing debris and rolling large boulders into the water, the harbor would be useless without extensive rebuilding.

Aceto felt her lungs tighten with every breath. She had started to sicken at Forest Camp, but continued to push herself as the others. This was not the time to catch a cold or give in to weakness. Now, she barely had the energy to swim back to Tara’s boat. She knew she had a fever, and the icy Sea felt good on her skin. She could rest on the boat, she told herself. She just had to get there.

As they rejoined the Tribe, Danon was clearly worried and shouted at the other boats. “We have little daylight left – we should leave quickly.” Tara pulled Aceto into her boat, not noticing anything unusual. Following Danon’s lead, the Amazons left Greece behind. Tara, Elonia, and Alexiares each helmed their own ship, following Danon into open Sea.

Chyrese held Elonia from behind, filling her mind with loving thoughts. “Beloved, are you sad to leave Greece?” Elonia’s thoughts caressed her, and she put an arm around her as well. “I have all I have ever wanted from Greece. You and our Tribe. Branwen is not even necessary.” Chyrese laughed. “I would like a bath and a warm bed, with you in it.” Elonia nibbled her ear, making Chyrese giggle and pull away.

They were battered by storms for two days in a row. Tara had Aceto take the helm when she rested, still unaware Aceto was gravely ill. Relieving her one evening, Tara watched horrified as Aceto collapsed and fell overboard when high waves rocked the boat. Janye did not hesitate, jumping into the waves after her. Several others jumped in as well but for several long moments neither Janye nor Aceto were seen. At last, Janye surfaced pulling Aceto behind her, and everyone climbed back on board.

“She is ill Tara. She has a fever.” Janye went through her Healers pack. She had more medicines for wounds than for illness. “We have got to hurry. She needs medicines that I do not have.” Janye firmly wrapped Aceto in blankets, and held her close. Tara joined her, having Athtar helm the boat. Tara watched Aceto thrash in fever, no longer aware of day or night.

They would sail for two more days, Janye doing what she could for Aceto. Tara took turns holding her as well, telling her to fight…they were almost home. At times Aceto would be conscious, struggling to breathe, and at others almost appearing too quiet.

Chapter 31

Ropel could not believe his eyes. Sitting cold and wet on his horse, he viewed the so called Amazon port. It held nothing of value. His shoulder throbbed with pain. It had become infected. He had not even seen one Amazon. No one to vent his rage upon.

Tibor and his men went through the burned out buildings. With the rain and snow, he could not tell if they left recently, during summer, or long ago. He knew this was a disaster …even the harbor would need clearing, dredging, for a small boat to use.

Ropel dismounted next to him. “This is your failure Tibor. I will make sure of that. These women have defeated you twice.” Tibor put his hand on his sword. He would love to kill him, but that would be too easy. Ropel should suffer this embarrassment as well.

“Good Senator, we have driven the Amazon from Greece. Is that not what we wanted?” Tibor smiled at him, knowing the Senator wanted so much more than that. “I will tell our men to make camp, and we return home on the morrow.” Tibor left his side, amused at Ropel’s rage. At least if he had nothing, no wealth or glory, Ropel was no better off.

Two of Ropel’s honor guard responded to his wave. “This night you will kill Tibor. Make it look as a suicide – he fell on his sword. Leave a scroll admitting his shame with his mark.” Bowing, both men would do as they were told.

Chapter 32

Carefully navigating around several huge rock formations, the harbor of Branwen was finally visible. Tara’s boat followed directly behind Danon, moving as quickly as possible. No one could see any kind of structure. Confused, several warriors openly wondered if they reached the wrong harbor. Athtar suddenly pointed to a high tree and rock formation on the left. Two figures were waiving lit torches, clearly signaling their arrival.

Danon was already bellowing loudly for a Healer. His voice echoed off the cliffs. Janye whispered to Aceto. “We are home. Zerynthis will be waiting.” Aceto didn’t respond, she had been mostly sleeping the past three hours.

Tara could finally make out some structures, other ships, and her Tribe along the tree line. The Harbor had a U shape, surrounded by pine trees and towering rock formations. Even a severe storm would not harm this harbor; it was so naturally sheltered by strong cliffs. Twenty feet of sandy shore separated the Harbor from the trees. Several Amazons waited on the dock, one being Doris waiting for her patient.

Danon reached the dock…quickly moving his boat down further so Tara’s could unload first. Tara, Janye and several warriors carried Aceto on a blanket. “Doris, Aceto has a fever, trouble breathing, the last three days.” Welcomes were muted after Janye said this, and Doris waved them to follow, with Zerynthis now holding Aceto’s hand.

Soon inside a spacious Healers Hut, Doris and Janye mixed potions and started a fire to boil water. Doris talked mostly to herself. “She needs a breathing potion, infection treatment, and steam.” Bringing the first potion over, Zerynthis carefully held Aceto up and Doris spooned down the liquid. Coughing slightly, Aceto opened her glazed eyes and looked around. Tara smiled at her. “Doris and Zerynthis have you now.” Aceto smiled, and turned her eyes to Zerynthis. “I told you I would return.” Aceto whispered, her voice barely audible. Zerynthis cried and kissed her forehead, “Yes you did. Rest now dear Aceto.” Aceto nodded, already breathing easier as she drifted into sleep.

Tara relaxed, seeing Doris giving Aceto even more potion. Looking around, she noticed the Hut was twice the size of her old one. Barkita entered, and stood beside her. “Doris, how is she?” Doris stood after administering the last of her potion. “I think she will be fine. We will treat her every hour until her breathing has improved.” Janye touched Tara’s arm. “I will tell you if something changes beloved.” Tara nodded. She had to be with her Tribe now, and Janye knew this. Thank you beloved.

Turning to Barkita, Tara put an arm around her. “Show me our new home.” Going outside Diana, and over eighty Tribeswomen waited for some word of Aceto. Tara briefed them; including Doris’s feeling that she would recover. Cheers erupted, and everyone began thanking Artemis for her blessings.

Barkita began touring Tara and the other newly arrived Amazons through the village. “Our Meal Huts are done, the Healers Hut, several dwellings, your home and meeting room.” Tara, Elonia, and Alexiares were impressed. Their village would be larger than Sea Tribe, and huts more thoughtfully spaced apart for privacy. Frowning, Diana was already sending warriors to their huts, seeing the obvious exhaustion on their faces.

Approaching Tara and Barkita, Diana took control. “I think the Tribe should rest until the evening meal. I will have it ready in three hours. My Queen – your home…” Tara waved her hand. “I will stay in the Healers Hut with Janye…until Aceto is well.” Tara turned to Elonia and Alexiares. “My Seconds, get some rest. We will tour Branwen on the morrow.”

Both women, and Chyrese, followed Tara anyway to the Healers Hut. Stopping at the hut entrance, Tara folded her arms across her chest. “We can not all stay here. Doris will want an even larger hut.” All laughing, Tara waived Diana over. “On my order, these three Amazons are restricted to their huts until you feed us.” Diana saluted Tara, and then turned to the others. “Follow me. No arguments.” Saluting, they had no choice but to follow.

Tara went back inside, watching Aceto being turned to face steam from a boiling kettle. Janye took her hand. “The steam will help her breathe. Here, eat some of this.” Janye handed her some honey bread, covered in goat butter. Pulling out two chairs from a table, she joined her, and poured two glasses of water. “Thank you Janye, I needed this.” Janye smiled, she already knew that. “How is she, really?” Tara looked deeply into her blue eyes – she needed to know.

Doris joined them at the table. “Her lungs are infected and filled with fluid. If she had gone a few more hours without treatment, she would be dead now. This night will tell if she will live.” Janye touched Tara’s face, seeing her eyes filling with tears. “She is strong and wants to live. We will not let her die.” Janye made Tara eat and join her on a bed. We rest now Beloved, so we can watch Aceto this night. Tara didn’t know how, but she managed to drift off into slumber.

At communal dinner, Tara told her Tribe how proud she was of being an Amazon. She acknowledged Danon and his sailors, Barkita, and every one of them for their bravery and self sacrifice. Lastly, she thanked Artemis for Queens Hypolyta and Conori, and bringing them safety to Branwen. The Tribe cheered after her speech, and continued when Tara announced they would celebrate the following evening.

Tara left as soon as she could. Elonia and Chyrese followed her into the Healers Hut, this time they would not be turned away. The three women sat around Aceto, joining Zerynthis, as Doris placed more steaming water next to her. Doris shook her head at them. “And Barkita asked why I needed a bigger hut.”

Diana entered, carrying two baskets with food. “Doris, I think you have been relieved. You should go eat.” Tara nodded at her before she could argue. “Very well. Janye, if you need me ...” Janye hugged her. “I will find you. And I have plenty of help.” Smiling, Doris had to agree.

Chapter 33

Just before dawn, Aceto awoke to find seven dear friends sleeping around her on beds and cots. I must have been bad, but not enough to keep them up. She was still sick, but at least she could breathe…remembering a feeling close to drowning before.

Seeing the humor in the situation, Aceto loudly exclaimed “When is breakfast?” Zerynthis bolted from her cot. “Dear Aceto – what can I bring you my love?”

Doris moved to the foot of her bed. “For scaring us you should be serving breakfast.” Both Janye and Doris checked Aceto’s forehead for fever, still finding her too warm. Janye brushed some damp curls from Aceto’s forehead. “You are better, but still too hot.” Aceto smiled weakly. “It is the company – all of these beautiful Amazons. Especially one.”

Diana handed Aceto some water. “Aceto…I am too old for you. Must I say it again?” Everyone laughed, which made Aceto start coughing deeply. Doris smiled. “Good. Bad as it sounds – it is a good sign.” Doris started mixing a potion, as Elonia and Chyrese stood next to Aceto. “We will take our leave Aceto. Chyrese says we need to bathe.” Chyrese promptly punched Elonia in the arm.

Aceto smiled. “Oh… I thought that smell was Doris’s potion.” Again laughter, as Tara hugged Janye from behind. She will live my Healer. Thank the gods. Janye smiled, returning Tara’s thought, and adding, A bath does sound very welcome.

The potion was soon ready, and Doris sat next to Aceto. Her patient’s eyes grew wide and found Tara’s. “Save me my Queen!” Tara laughed…shaking her head. “We take our leave as well Doris. I am sure you and Zerynthis can handle our friend.” Tara and Aceto exchanged a warm look, before Tara, Janye and Diana departed.

Dawn was beginning to lighten their quiet village. Diana left them to start the cooking fire pit … she would make tea and enjoy some quiet time. Tara walked with Janye, holding her hand. “My Healer, I have no idea where our hut is.” Janye laughed – she didn’t know either. Both women were wearing the same dirty tunics and pants for over five days. Janye held out one arm. “I think I will cut off and burn this will never be clean again.” Tara’s clothes were even worse and she silently nodded.

Almost as if summoned, Barkita saluted Tara and bid them both good morning. “May I take you to your home?” Janye clasped both hands in front of her. “Oh please Barkita…I beg you.” Barkita stifled a laugh and bowed. “Follow me.” Barkita led them up a gradual hillside close to the village. Close to the top was her Warrior’s meeting room. A combination thatch hut and log enclosed room, the side facing the village and harbor had removable walls, providing an excellent view. Its size could easily house thirty Amazons. “We are still working on furniture. Soon it will have a large table, and chairs.” Tara was impressed, and told her so.

Barkita smiled, clearly saving the best for last. Leading them higher, and along a cliffside path, it soon widened into their home…a combination log and cave dwelling. Two large rooms had been created; the first a meeting room with table, chairs, area for writing, and maps already on the wall. Oil lamps and candles were already in place for use. The second room was their sleeping area; mostly natural cave walls with wooden shelving for clothes and weapons, already in proper place. A natural opening had been partially enclosed with rock and clay to make a fireplace, already stacked with firewood.

“Tara …our own fire pit”. Janye touched it in wonder.

A large bed with sleeping furs faced their fireplace. Mewing softly at the intrusion, a small white kitten raised a sleepy head from the sleeping furs. She refused to open her eyes. “Tara, we have a guest.” Janye kneeled at the bedside, softly petting her head.

Barkita grinned as Tara joined her. “That one was born the day after we arrived. She feels the bed is hers alone.” Janye had never had her own kitten, and her joy was obvious. “We will name her Hypolyta. Lyta for short.” The kitten curled again into a ball, seemingly content with her name, and purring loudly.

Looking around their home… Tara was amazed, it had everything. Privacy, commanding view of her village and harbor, beauty. “Barkita, I am without words. You honor us.” Barkita saluted her. “My Queen, you have saved us and brought us here…to our own paradise. I honor you always.” Barkita’s sincere tone and watery eyes made all three women emotional.

Barkita walked to another door at the rear of the cave. “You have another path that leads to a waterfall and river. You can see its water run off the cliff forty paces down the path.” Pointing to the bathing baskets and clean clothes on a shelf, Barkita smiled. “I will have someone deliver a food basket to your table.” Barkita saluted to leave, but Tara stopped her. Both women hugged her, grateful beyond words.

Tara met her eyes. “I will meet you at mid-day. We should tour the Island before celebration.” Barkita nodded. “I will contact Elonia and Alexiares as well.” Barkita had barely left when Janye grabbed bathing baskets and clean clothes for them both. “Lets go find our own waterfall beloved.” Both soon found it, a twenty foot waterfall cascading down from a higher cliff. Surrounded by rock and lush fern, it pooled naturally at the base before gently running off the cliff into the Sea.

Peeling dirty clothes never to be worn again, Tara and Janye entered the cold pool. Soon they played as children – splashing and rubbing soap on each other, until the need for serious loving touch consumed them both. The first time they made love, it was at a waterfall, but in many ways this seemed like another new beginning. Their passion naturally led to more, and soon both were content to just hold one another close.

Their peaceful moment was interrupted by a loud grumble from Tara’s stomach. Janye laughed, climbing out of the pool and handing Tara a towel. “Your stomach is commanding to be fed little bird.” Tara swatted Janye with her towel, as her giggles echoed against the rock. Both now toweling themselves dry, they relished the feel of clean clothing, heavy cotton tunics and pants, going onto their clean skin. Once inside their home, a food basket was devoured, and both women slept on their bed, curled around each other. Lyta, after eating food as well, joined them.

Just before mid-day, Tara and Janye checked on Aceto inside the Healers Hut. She was sitting up in her bed, looking less pale, and being fed stew by Zerynthis. “Dear Aceto, I think you could get used to this pampering…” Tara stood at her bedside, eyebrows raised and arms crossed. “…even your Queen did not get food in this manner.” Janye punched Tara’s shoulder, then checked Aceto’s forehead. “I think your fever is down.” Doris joined them from another room. “She will be fit for duty soon. I think we have plenty of laundry she can wash for us.”

Aceto gasped and appeared to swoon. Janye smiled knowingly, eyes narrowed at Tara…she’d done the same thing with her. Tara dipped her head …returning the smile. “And I am sure your patient will recover very soon, she has able Healers.”

“I need at least a week with this fair maiden…total bed rest… in another hut.” Aceto’s tone was firm towards the end. Zerynthis just laughed, now holding Aceto’s hand. Doris smiled… that would almost be her exact prescription for recovery. “As soon as you can walk, I will allow you to leave under Zerynthis’s supervision.” Tara led Janye away, it was time to meet Barkita. “Rest my friend; we will check your progress later.” Aceto called out as they left. “I will be in Zerynthis’s hut.”

Tara and Janye shared a waiting horse, joining Barkita, Elonia with Chyrese, and Alexiares. Touring their island, with the exception of their harbor, Branwen was surrounded by sheer cliffs of rock that stood sentinel against the Sea. The interior was vast, and held both forest and meadow, perfect for all their animals. Hypolyta’s influence was obvious. She had planted fruit trees now matured over five years. The animals she released had thrived as well. Barkita added narration as they traveled. “This cleared area has planted winter wheat, just beginning to break soil.”

Now they faced a seventy waterfall flowing into a small lake on the far side of the meadow. Everything was incredibly green for winter, lush and beautiful. “We have several natural springs here. I believe this waterfall is year round.” Janye’s thoughts flooded Tara’s mind. I like our own much better beloved…more secluded.

Chyrese was also sending thoughts to Elonia. We should return tonight…just you and me. When everyone is at the Celebration. Elonia blushed furiously, as Chyrese’s thoughts went into detail. Pulling her close, she agreed. Anything for you Chy. Anything.

Returning to their village, the celebration was already starting. Two boars were being roasted in an open pit. Danon and his mean were basting it continuously. Delope, now obviously with child, was holding hands with one sailor. His name was Saul, and he liked her not caring about her condition.

Diana was very content, watching the riding party enter the village from her food hut. The Tribe would thrive here, thanks to Artemis and Queens past and present. Admete helped her making honey bread, and preparing white fish for cooking. Many other support women, including some warriors like Justal and Athtar, were preparing other food.

Looking out at the communal meal area, Diana noticed Alexiares sitting alone, watching the fire flames intently. Turning to Admete, she wiped her hands on a cloth. “Have you met Alex? She is very pretty, and single.” Admete smiled at the crafty woman, and watched Alexiares from a window. She had regretted not getting closer to Aceto, although she was happy Aceto had found true love.

“Perhaps I should meet her.” Smiling at Diana, Admete joined Alexiares on the sitting log. Soon, both talked as old friends, and left for a walk before the meal started.

There was still plenty more to be done at Branwen, but it already felt like a real home. Danon and his crew would leave with the morning tide, but would return as their custom. And each time they would celebrate, remembering to thank the gods and all those who guided their path.

Janye started playing her flute – a joyous tune she called Song of Branwen. Watching her, Tara humbly thanked Artemis for their many blessings. She felt content, blessed in every way possible. Elonia and Chyrese joined her, all three smiling as Aceto and Zerynthis walked slowly to the communal area.

The flute’s song continued to welcome them home.

**Irish Bard here.  Thanks for reading !   my email

( Next story– Danon’s Rescue – in the rough draft stage…perhaps first story of Amazon Tale-Branwen Scrolls ???)


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