Daughters of Hesperia – The Hidden Moon (1.36)

Anikka made her way quietly to her sister’s room as soon as she was dressed and ready, where Molpe waited with a smile on her face. As Anikka hesitated, Molpe nodded, and Anikka felt relief rush in.

“You’re with child?” she said, unable to keep the excitement from her voice.

“Polgara thinks so, and I intend to go to the temple today to consult with Timandra. I am also rather sure, having had two children before, and we may only hope for the Goddess’ blessing.” Molpe smiled. “But yes, it seems I must be.”

“Sister, this is wonderful news! Do you wish me to come with you to the temple?”

“No, but I must talk to you about Marcella. I have been thinking on her future, you see, and also on how to arrange things should we receive the blessing we need. Should I give birth to an heiress, I will need Polgara to come care for her here, and of course, that presents a problem. However, before we discuss that, I want to ask you if you think Marcella would make a good Provider in the future. You know her best, and I think you should have some say in the matter as such.”

Anikka was surprised by the idea. Marcella was still a child herself, surely, but her sister continued.

“If we are blessed, and Polgara is here, Marcella may do her training under her. She would be able to remain your companion, and she is reaching an age where her future must be decided upon. She is the oldest girl from the Provider’s hut, and I believe she must have picked up some knowledge, and she also speaks Frankish very fluently, which a Princess must be taught. But I do not wish to force her into something that would not suit her, so what do you say.”

“I think…I think she would make an excellent Provider. She remembers stories well, and is kind, and while she is young, you…you are right.” Anikka felt a lump in her throat. Somehow, it felt as though something had come to an end with this discussion, though she could not say what that was.

“Now, the only problem left is Gorgophone. I suppose she shall have to come to the palace with Polgara, for she cannot be left with Diana. I do appreciate her help, but…”

“Gorgophone must be raised by a Provider.” Anikka inclined her head. “I understand, sister, I do. But if you do bear an heiress, we shall have a baby, Gorgophone, and Marcella–“

“And yourself.” Molpe laughed a little. “Yes, we shall be a little crowded, but I believe that Marcella and Gorgophone can share the room upstairs, as long as you agree.”

Anikka smiled. “It is great fortune that you are blessed so, my queen.” Her use of the formal title was with a teasing tone, but she immediately seemed very excited. “I must record this immediately, that you are with child! The last thing I recorded was the completion of the temple. My writings go well, by the way, sister, and I have been trying to keep a journal each day.”

“When I get back from the temple, you may show me your writings, then.” Molpe smiled. “I am sure I shall enjoy that.”

At the temple, Molpe walked in through the archway to find Timandra waiting for her, smiling.

“My queen, I appreciate that you have come all this way. Are you alone?”

“I left Pallas at the foot of the path here. It would now not be safe for me to travel alone.” Molpe rested one hand on her stomach. “I am with child, Timandra. I wished to come see you.”

“My queen, please let me congratulate you. I was lighting the candles as you arrived, and now I must light the fire, if you would like to sit with me for my prayers. I am sure the Goddess would not mind in the least.”

“I wished to consult you, if that is possible.” Molpe hesitated. “Do you think, perhaps…”

“I cannot speak on what the Goddess chooses to do, my queen. I can only interpret what might best honour or please her, and spend my life worshiping her. But you have done that which was necessary, and this child will most likely be the key to separating yourself from these worries. Now, come, we shall sit, and you may talk to me about whatever you please.”

With that, Timandra turned around to light the bonfire, fiddling with a piece of metal for a few minutes, until the blaze picked up. The heat slowly started coming off of it, and she sat down on the bench besides Molpe.

“I will miss Pallas, I know I shall,” Molpe admitted, as she sat down. “I have known him all these years, and never questioned his loyalty.”

“To miss him is natural, my queen. You simply must recognize that you are doing what was intended.” Timandra gave her a very understanding smile. “But this is the necessary path, not the easy one. If it were effortless, it would not be such a big step.”

“I can only hope for the Goddess to bless me, Timandra, I know, but part of me wants to know for certain. I just feel as though I am walking into the darkness with no light to guide me, some days.”

At this, Timandra closed her eyes. “The moon’s light is always there. Even if you cannot see it, you can feel it, if you know what you are looking for.”

Molpe closed her eyes as well, trying to simply focus on where she was in the moment – the cold stone of the bench, the heat of the fire, and her own breathing. She opened her eyes after a minute or so, feeling more relaxed, and found Timandra sitting with her eyes closed still.

“My queen, we cannot always be certain of the outcomes of our decisions, but we can be certain of our reasons for making them. Trust in yourself, and trust that you are as loved as any other of the Goddess’ daughters.” She opened her eyes at the end of the sentence. “If you can build that trust, even a little bit every day, I am sure that peace will find you.”

Daughters of Hesperia – The Last Link (1.35)

Molpe anxiously waited for Timandra’s arrival, knowing that the priestess would be here soon. She had summoned her, after all, for this most important talk.

Still, her unease would not leave her. What if she were not blessed? Would she keep providing the tribe with sons? Would her sister have to become the next Queen once she had no chance of providing an heiress to her throne? Her thoughts raced, and tears formed in her eyes as she continued to worry.

Fortunately, Timandra arrived just as she was about to spring up and go back to her chambers to await her arrival, and was shown in by Marcella, who quickly scurried away. The priestess smiled after the young girl, and then approached the throne.

“My Queen, you asked for me?” she said, gently, seeing the concern on Molpe’s face.

“Timandra…we must go somewhere private for this discussion, if you do not mind walking with me. I must discuss this with you, for I…” She hesitated. “Come with me.”

The priestess bowed her head, and Molpe led them both from the palace, determined to find clarity once and for all.

“I have spoken with you before, but truly now I see I must try and bear a princess again. But I cannot see why the Goddess withholds her blessing from me, or what I must do to gain it. Our tribe needs a princess, and I do not wish to steal my sister’s future from her. So, as you have thought on the matter, please, tell me. What must I do?”

Molpe could hear the frantic note in her own voice, but thankfully, Timandra seemed calm.

“My queen, it has become increasingly obvious to me that there is something that should be addressed. You have taken to being the queen of this tribe wonderfully, and you have built it well. You have taken in a woman and a girl who arrived from the sea, you have accepted in many like myself, and you are doing everything you can, but at the same time, one thing is being held back. You were given three gifts by your mother, but have not used them all.”

“Three gifts?” Molpe asked, slowly.

“One, your sister was entrusted to you, and you have seen to her future splendidly, and let a Provider bring out her talents. You oversee her training, and are shaping her into a jewel for the tribe. Thus, you have used that gift well. Two, Septimus, as I believe he was called, who allowed you to bring forward your first child, and helped with the foundations of the tribe. You therefore used him, and exchanged his life for Odysseus’, as is custom. However, the third gift walks around, unused, and has not been used even by the women around you. How could he be, when his purpose is clear?”

Her meaning was clear, and Molpe felt a slightly cold sensation of shock.

“Pallas?” she whispered.

“I cannot vouch that his child would be a princess, for I would be a fool indeed to claim to know the future, but he is what still ties you to being a princess of Sirena. His potential is unused, and with him around, you are still partially what he once knew you as. To move forward, you must leave Princess Molpe of Sirena behind completely, and I would urge you to choose Pallas as the next man to father your child. You must completely become a queen, for only queens can bear a princess, and the tribe desperately needs its heiress.”

Her words did make sense, but Molpe still felt torn.

“What if I bear a third boy?” she asked, quietly. “My mother’s tribe never cast anyone out for that crime, but surely–“

“Some tribes may enforce that rule, but you do not. It is not for you to judge yourself for what the Goddess wills, my queen, but instead, you must keep moving forward. If Pallas’ child is a boy, he may be the boy who breaks the cycle, which in itself would be something to celebrate. You have asked for my advice, and I am giving it.”

They walked back soon after that, in relative silence. How powerful the words of a priestess were, how self-assured! Timandra had said all she needed, and clearly saw no need to say more, but her words had reassured Molpe, and she felt as though she had been shown onto a clear path. Once they reached the palace, Timandra bowed.

“Farewell, my queen. If you need my advice again, you are always welcome at the temple. May the Goddess shine her light upon you.”

With that, she strode off, and Molpe watched her go, the afternoon light making her white dress seem almost like a traveling star as she walked further and further away.

That night, Pallas was invited to Molpe’s chambers, and she knew that she must be completely honest with him, and explain things to him. When he walked in, he seemed hesitant, and she walked up to him, almost fearful.

But the future of her tribe had no time for her nerves.

She explained to him some of what the priestess had said, how he must be the one, how he was the last of what linked her to the former tribe. She made sure her voice was steady as she expressed her regret that he could not have been with her for longer, and as she almost lost that steadiness, he took her hand, squeezing it lightly.

“I understand, my queen,” he said, steadily. “I feel also that this must be the way forward, for I have found…that perhaps I miss Septimus too much these days, and it may be that I find my rest, but Timandra is right. I see you as my queen, but also as the princess of the tribe we both came from.” He stopped, but she knew then that the path was set.

She could only hope Timandra was right, and that the cycle would break.

Daughters of Hesperia – Troubled Waters (1.34)

To be queen was to know both the triumphs and the downfalls of your tribe, and to also shoulder the responsibility for both. Since the birth of Icarius, Molpe had feared that she might give birth to another son, and she had instead focused on the education of Anikka, and later Marcella. She had been so hesitant to even consider trying for another child, and worried for what might happen should she be unable to bear an heiress.

But that was not all, either.

The latest letter from her mother had been pressing her on the matter, asking when Clodia might congratulate her on producing an heiress for her tribe. Molpe had still not replied, but she knew that the correct thing to do now would be consult Timandra, and thus gain the blessing of the Goddess. Even so, there was the issue of inheritance if she was unable to produce a princess.

For the tribe already had a princess, who was set on her path, and who would be a wonderful Scholar were she able to do so. Molpe knew in her heart that if she could not produce an heiress, it would be Anikka who would have to give up her future and become Queen when Molpe died, and it would be Anikka who would have to bear an heiress. And even when Molpe did bear an heiress, it would be expected that she ensure at least one more princess for her tribe.

But she had to do what was expected, or it would be Anikka on the throne, robbed of her position as Scholar.

Unaware of her sister’s thoughts, Anikka was setting up the chess board to play a game with Marcella. Marcella had actually been improving in the game, and they usually spoke more frankly about deeper things during a game. It was something of a tradition, now.

Marcella arrived hurriedly from her own room, bowed, and took her place across the table.

“Are you ready, Marcella?” Anikka asked, in a teasing tone.

“Of course, Princess Anikka.” Marcella raised an eyebrow. “So…have you heard anything of interest from your mother, then?”

“Oh, nothing much. She simply reminds me of my duties as a Scholar – or rather, one training to be one – and she tells me that I must record in detail the birth of an heiress. To be honest, I look forward to the celebration when it happens.”

“What happens at a celebration?” Marcella asked.

“I keep forgetting that there are things you do not know! Well, every woman in the tribe is invited to a celebration, so that as sisters and warriors we may welcome in the new princess.” Anikka smiled. “And then the queen announces her name to all gathered, and the celebrations can last into the night. Molpe said that when I was born, she got to hold me for at least half the celebration, not any of our other sisters.”

“Sirena must feel so far away these days, now that you and your sister rule Hesperia.”

“Oh, well…I would not say I rule it in any way. Molpe is the one who sits on the throne and makes the decisions.” Anikka sighed. “I would not wish to do that, either. I mean, as a princess, I attend to show unity, but my opinion does not matter, much.”

Marcella frowned. “How so?”

“I am to be a Scholar, someday, but for now I am a displaced princess. I will not inherit, because Molpe will have a daughter someday, but I am still her sister and a princess of Hesperia. We have talked about this before, Marcella.”

“But as her sister, surely your opinion carries weight. You are the only sister by blood she has here, after all.” Marcella’s frown turned into a concerned expression.

Anikka paused, picking up a chess piece before moving it to take one of Marcella’s pieces.

“It is not as simple as that. She listens to me in private, and during our lessons, but on the throne her decision is what ultimately must go forward. Besides, for serious decisions, Timandra may advise her, too.”

Marcella seemed satisfied with this, and the conversation quickly moved on to a different subject, that of the returning Frankish merchants. Anikka had been trusted to go with the supervision of Polgara, and she had heard snatches of gossip about changing borders, and how the men at the port had grumbled about it affecting their business as they talked to each other.

“I wonder what it is all about? This Frankish nonsense has been dragging on and on, but at the very least, the traders are back and their prices are low for the moment. Polgara thinks we ought to get hold of supplies while we can, and of course, we have fewer men these days.”

Marcella sighed. It was true, of course, but she could not help but wonder the same. She had not told her mother what she knew, yet, but at the same time, yearned to ask her about the Frankish Empire and who she had been before now. But still, she knew her mother likely would not speak of it.

She wondered whether someday she would be able to go to market alongside Polgara or Anikka, and what it would be like. She had never been to the port before, but she knew that it was full of many merchants selling wares, and people outside of the tribe she had known all of her life. However, with the curiosity came a little fear, as Anikka had told her how many people there were – far more than she had ever been around, to be sure.

Molpe looked in her mirror as she heard the sound of Marcella and Anikka talking from upstairs. She was glad her sister had a companion, and Marcella was a sweet girl. It seemed only the other day that Diana had arrived with her, looking for sanctuary, but the girl was now a true Hesperian, and Molpe had started to think about her future.

Obviously, talking to the girl herself would be necessary, but Molpe thought that the girl might make a good apprentice for Polgara, in time. She was a naturally kind child, and her mother might never be a Provider, but even so, Diana had found a place in the Provider’s hut. Surely, Marcella would be happy there, and if Anikka became a Scholar, she would not need Marcella by her side constantly. That, or perhaps she might make a Tamer, but then Polgara did need an apprentice, one way or another.

In fact, were she to bear a princess and summon Polgara to the palace, it might work out nicely. Only if the Goddess were to bless her, of course, but then Marcella could train within the palace walls and then return to the Provider’s hut. It was certainly a good plan, but she had no idea if it would work out. She sighed to herself. If only the Goddess had blessed her sooner, she could be more certain of how to plan this future, but instead she found herself unsure, and a little afraid. A queen should always be certain, and yet here she was, doubting her own plans.

One thing was clear. She must speak with Timandra as soon as possible.

Daughters of Hesperia – Elsewhere, Again (1.33)

Princess Wilhelmina waited in the cold autumn air as the sun sank down over the horizon. She was waiting for him, before he led his men away to try and restore the borders of her country.

It should have been his father, not her Alexander doing this, but Mortemer had been badly wounded when he recovered one of the border towns. The people of his own country and hers hailed the man as a hero, but now Alexander must take his place as head of the Goethe family and ride out as the prince he was.

It seemed even more unfair that this should be on the hands of her sisters, and of course, she heard the whispers that were directed at her. The expectations that were laid at her feet, the way people looked at her, all of them because one sister had been seduced and the other had put them in danger. Her mother had quietly let her know that Antonia had been placed in a convent as its ward, but told her not to mention it to anyone. Instead, she was to pretend she had not been told, which she could understand.

As for Constantina, she truthfully did not know where she was, and neither did her mother. The girl she had left with must be a good deal older now, but even despite her mother’s best efforts, they had failed to find her. They knew she had left of her own volition, but her mother feared the worst, as she had written in her most recent letter.

The evening finally fell, and she heard someone behind her. She slowly turned around, to see Alexander there, looking far too solemn.

“My love…”

“Mina.”

It was the name only he used, these days, and she felt as though she might cry.

“I wished to speak to you before you left, Alexander. I want you to be careful out there”

“I worry about that myself. I know I am not the man my father is, but I must show the people our support and strength. But I promise you, I shall return to you.”

She felt uneasy, but shook her head.

“Alexander, you are every bit the man the people need you to be. You shall do perfectly well, but you must return to me.” She almost reached out to him, but knew she must focus on making him feel better. “When you return, I shall be waiting for you.”

“Do you not wish your betrothal was not made out of convenience?” he asked.

So that was what bothered him, or one of the things. She shook her head, immediately.

“Alexander, I have told you before that I love you. I do wish we could have a betrothal that took the regular course, but I would only ever wish to be betrothed to you. Besides, your forgiveness for the misdeeds of my sisters is a rare gem indeed, for most would consider the scandal reason enough to scorn me. You are courteous, kind, and a friend I have known all my life. You are the one I wish to be betrothed to, and who I have given my days to. Please, do not go off to battle without being reassured of my love for you.”

He seemed more reassured, but she could tell he still would not consider himself above his father. She walked forward, pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek.

“Return to me, Alexander. You must promise me.”

“I promise.” He caught her hand, pressing a kiss of his own to her wrist. “Mina, I promise you I shall return to you.”

Daughters of Hesperia – To Be Nobody (1.32)

It was another warm day in Hesperia, with the sun shining down brilliantly on the Provider’s hut and the sand that surrounded it. The waves were gently splashing against its sides, and on the shore, Odysseus, son of Molpe, was engaged in building a castle from the sand.

He had got most of his foundation, and he was enjoying the peace and quiet. Ever since his brother had arrived, his peace had been interrupted, and he was not quite sure yet that Icarius could do much beyond sleep, cry, and run around.

He sighed immediately as he heard his name called from inside.

“Odysseus!”

Diana’s voice, meaning that he could linger a little longer. He had not even managed to finish this castle yet, and it would have been so fun to build it properly. He stayed quiet, hoping she would not need him.

“Odysseus, come inside!” Diana was much louder this time. He abandoned his castle with a little pang of regret, and dawdled as much as he could walking back.

When he walked inside, Diana was holding his brother on her hip, but smiled as she saw him. He felt a little guilty for taking his time, but she didn’t seem to have minded.

“You should be careful outside, Odysseus. The sun is hot today, and you have no water.” As always, she spoke gently, and he felt a little bad for worrying her, but also happy that she had been worried. In her arms, Icarius wriggled about, and she shushed him gently.

“I was building a castle,” he explained, and she smiled, a gentle look on her face.

“Tell me about it, yes?” She waited, expectantly, and he felt a happy bubble rising in his chest. He liked Diana, because she always listened to him.

“I wanted it to be a big castle, a really big one. Maybe it could be as big as this hut!” He stretched his arms out, and let them drop back down. “And then we could all go inside of it, like the crabs do.”

She laughed, looking down at him. “That sounds fun! But now Icarius needs sleep, and you need water.”

With that, she walked with Icarius through to the room Odysseus and his brother shared, and he could hear her soothing Icarius’ fussing. He knew that know, he’d have to get some water instead of going back outside to play.

Begrudgingly, he fetched himself some, drinking slowly, and once finished, sat at the table. Behind him, he could hear stomping feet, and rolled his eyes slightly. Gorgophone, of course.

Odysseus was very glad he didn’t share a room with Gorgophone. She was demanding, often threw tantrums, and called him ‘Thee-uth’. Polgara and Diana doted on her, of course, though he couldn’t be sure why. Sometimes she made him wish he lived in the palace with his mother, his aunt, and Marcella, but he also knew that would never happen.

Gorgophone wandered up to him, imperiously. “Thee-uth! Play with me!”

“Gorgophone!” Polgara was immediately behind her. “No, you are not playing now. We have a small lesson, and then you can play. I am sure Diana will go on a walk with you.”

Gorgophone sat down with Polgara, who looked stressed. Probably because Gorgophone always ran off mid-lesson to do what she wanted, but then she was just a baby, after all, even if she was older than Icarius.

“Now, let us do this again. Who is the queen?”

“Molpe!”

“And how do we say queen like Diana does?” Polgara asked, with a smile.

Oh.

Odysseus didn’t like Gorgophone’s lessons, but he disliked these ones most of all. He had never been taught to speak Frankish, although he could listen in on these lessons and pick up bits and pieces. He knew he was not meant to, but he had never been given lessons like Anikka, Marcella, and Gorgophone all had.

He did know how to say ‘queen’ in Frankish, though, and some phrases and words, but he knew just as much as Gorgophone did, or maybe even less. Behind him, she clapped her hands, and Polgara praised her.

“Gorgophone, you are so clever! Now, how do we say ‘mother’ in Frankish?”

Mama!”

“Well done! Can you say my mother is Gatherer Meda?”

My mother is…” Gorgophone hesitated, and then beamed. “Meda! Mama is Meda!”

“Yes, just so!” Polgara smiled, and then scooped her up. “Come on, let us bring you to Diana. She will take you on a walk and play with you, little warrior.”

“Diana!” Gorgophone cheered, allowing herself to be carried away into the other room. Odysseus sighed, only to be surprised when Polgara came back to sit at the table, and smiled at him, while Gorgophone chattered loudly from Diana’s room. It was a wonder she did not wake Icarius up.

“So, Odysseus…how was your day?”

“I…am not sure,” he said, surprised. Polgara always took care of him, but her attention these days was mostly on the younger two. This was somewhat unusual.

“Well, I want you to know that you may always talk to me, when you wish to. You seem quieter recently.”

She must have noticed, then. He nodded, and she smiled in a friendly way, and then got up from the table, making the short walk back to her own room, although she still shared it with Gorgophone. He sighed, and very quietly practiced what he had learned.

“My mother is the queen.”

Daughters of Hesperia – Princess Anikka of Hesperia (1.31)

Two years later…

It was early morning, and Anikka was reading her latest book. Her mother had given it to her for her birthday, and it had been put together by one of the Scholars from home. A dedication from her mother was written in the front.

Truly, it was an interesting book, detailing the tales of ancient queens of Sirena, and the mythology surrounding the first queen, who was rumoured to be a nymph rescued from the advances of a god by the intervention of the Goddess. However, as the lineage had not always been recorded, the book simply stated that Tribe Sirena had given the Goddess many powerful queens since that time, culminating in the current queen, Clodia.

My mother, Anikka thought, smiling to herself.

However, she could not stay upstairs reading forever. These days, Molpe had her come down every morning for lessons and conversations, teaching her everything she had been taught in her day, from truths to stories that had been passed down. Today, Molpe was telling her about what had been in their mother’s latest letter to her, although Anikka of course got her own letters.

“Mother has told me that the Frankish unrest seems to have settled down now, after one of the other kingdoms announced the betrothal of their son to the youngest daughter of the kingdom. However, she tells me that the oldest daughter…well, no one knows what has happened to her. But she tells me to be vigilant, and train us all well.”

Molpe sighed, and Anikka tried to smile.

“I know that it must seem silly to you, Anikka, that such a thing might spark war. But certainly, we must be grateful to know such things.”

“I know that it has been going on for some time now, but it just seems to drag on and on!” Anikka shook her head. “Molpe, their wars make no sense to me. Why must it affect our tribe in any way?”

“Well, last year there were very few Frankish merchants to be found. If that had happened when we arrived here, it would have made things that much harder. As it was, we are lucky enough to be in the position that we are, with a temple completed, a priestess to help guide us, a newer generation…Though of course, we could always use more warriors.” Molpe sighed, before returning to her original point. “But we are lucky only to have been affected in such a way. Mother told you what happened when she was a young girl, yes?”

“Yes, the war that wound up on Sirena’s territory, and the bandits that tried to attack our home.”

Molpe shook her head. “During peace, you must always be prepared for anything. Be it a natural disaster, or one brought about by the folly of humans…and of course, we do not yet have our heiress.”

Molpe seemed more and more worried these days about that, but she had not made any further moves in that direction. Anikka did not quite understand it, but she did know that Timandra had counseled her sister on the situation, which seemed to have helped.

“And of course, we have had no new child since Icarius, but I do not wish to overwhelm Polgara and Diana in any way. And yet, I fear that I cannot turn to Meda again. Polgara tells me her mood is much improved these days, but…I feel responsible for what happened back then.” Molpe sighed heavily, and Anikka leaned across, squeezing her hand gently.

“Let us change the subject, sister. I have been going through my old notes, and translated Diana’s story into both Artemisian and Frankish. I think it would make an excellent gift for the Provider’s hut to transcribe it properly, if you could get me the materials. Perhaps this winter?”

“The Huntress’ Moon Festival would be an excellent time to give such a gift to Polgara and Diana. I am sure they would appreciate it, although it has its Frankish roots.”

“So does part of our tribe, Molpe.” Anikka smiled. “But Hesperia is not such a blank page these days. We have people to care for, and I have made clear that it is a tale told by Diana to her daughter. It does end well, after all.”

“Speaking of Marcella, where is she?” Molpe asked. “Is she not to accompany you after lessons?”

As she spoke, they heard hurried footsteps down the stairs, and shared a smile between them. Marcella, who these days was somewhat taller and growing quickly, hastened towards the throne, bowing quickly.

“My queen,” she said, a little out of breath. “My apologies for my lateness, princess.”

Anikka rose with a smile, stepping towards her friend. Though she was still younger than her, Marcella was a good friend still, and she appreciated her company.

“No need to worry. I must tidy up my quarters, first, but then we shall go on our walk, Marcella. Perhaps we shall visit the Provider’s hut and see your mother?”

Marcella brightened up, but bowed again, letting Anikka go back to her room alone. It was well known in the palace that Anikka was particular about who touched her things, especially her books, and this morning she had left the book she was reading on her bed.

She was proud of her collection, which had grown from a few books here and there to a notable collection. Some books, like her latest, were mythology, but she had many scrolls and volumes about the world, and the plants and creatures that inhabited it, plus her own notes from learning the Frankish language.

She looked up at the bookcase, feeling more than ever that she was closer than she had been to being a true Scholar. Molpe always told her that she would let her know when she was ready for the role, but in the meantime, Anikka trained hard every day. She simply wished that she would be given the title. Given that their tribe was new, her sister had told her there would likely be no test, but some ceremony instead. Most Scholars produced a book, detailing something to prove themselves, but Anikka would not be able to, in Molpe’s opinion.

Still, that was all Molpe would say. But Anikka knew that even know, she felt ready.

Daughters of Hesperia – Handmaiden (1.30)

Diana felt a glow of pride as she looked at her daughter, who looked between her and Polgara nervously. Such a meeting was indeed unusual, but then, the situation was unusual.

“Why did you wish to speak to me?” Marcella asked, looking nervous.

Polgara smiled at her. “No need to worry, Marcella. You are not in trouble – far from it, in fact. However, something important has been decided and we need to talk it over with you. You are aware that the priestess Timandra has joined our tribe, yes?”

Marcella frowned. “Yes…”

“Well, she also must act as an adviser to the queen, and she has suggested that you, as the oldest daughter of the tribe outside of the royal family, should become the princess’ companion. The queen thinks it a good idea, and…so do I.”

“But….what do you mean, a companion?”

“You would help the princess, but you would be there for her as a sister. It would also mean that you would move to the palace until such a time as your own training had been decided, or the princess is given the title of Scholar. Anikka is a little older than you are, but the two of you are friends already. You would no longer live with us, however.”

Diana had her own feelings about that, of course. Her daughter moving to the palace felt…well, she would miss her terribly, even if she could visit, but Marcella could not see her uncertainty. She had talked it over with Polgara before they had told Marcella, and they had decided between them that the final call should be up to Marcella.

But oh, it was hard, especially when she was still so young. She was so proud that her daughter would be chosen for such a role, but at the same time, she selfishly wished for Marcella to stay close to her.

“I think…I would like that.” Marcella nervously smiled at Polgara. “I do not know what it is I should do as the princess’ companion–“

“Nothing more than you have been doing, except to learn alongside her.” Polgara’s face turned serious. “But Marcella, you must be ready for this. We shall move forward, if you are sure, but…”

“I am sure. Anikka is my friend, and…” Marcella hesitated. “I want to help her, I do.”

Diana felt a lump rise in her throat. Her brave, honest daughter had chosen the path Diana had known she would, and she wished for just a moment that her father might see her, but she banished the thought quickly, brushing it away like a cobweb in her mind. It was better not to think on such things.

A week later, Marcella awoke in her room, which was next to that of the princess. It was far more luxurious than the room she had called her own before, and she lay still for a moment before she got up, marveling at her surroundings. She had arrived late in the evening, and been sent to bed early by the queen to prepare for the next day.

She then went through to the princess’ room, bowing as she entered. Anikka was sat on the bed, her eyes shining with excitement.

“Greetings, Princess Anikka.” Marcella giggled as she finished saying the formal greeting. “Oh, I cannot believe it!”

“Me either! Marcella, it is so wonderful! You will help me with my studies, and you will be here all the time!”

“Will you still take your lessons at the Provider’s hut? Or will that change now, too?”

Anikka brightened. “Well, I can practice my Frankish with you, of course! Molpe said that I still should take my lessons with Polgara, of course, and that you should come with me from now on. So things will be the same, I suppose, but still…”

“It is exciting. And when did you get that? Is it not new?” Marcella turned in admiration to the beautiful chess table that now sat upon the rug in the middle of the room.

“Mother sent it, because of my training! She said it helps keep the mind sharp, and my sister had the men carry it up so that I might teach you to play, as well. Of course, she has her own table and pieces, but this one is mine.” Anikka smiled widely. “We can play it once I am ready. I shall show you! Each of them is different.”

True to her word, once the princess was ready for the day, Anikka sat Marcella down, explaining the rules of the game. Some of them were hard to keep straight, but Anikka remained patient throughout.

Of course, Anikka won easily, but it was fun to move the carved pieces around, and Marcella found herself more sorry that it had ended than she was to lose.

“Now you must go get ready, Marcella, and then we may talk! Oh, it is so relaxing to have you here!” Anikka smiled as she shooed Marcella from the room.

Once she returned in her best clothes, the ones that her mother had packed and told her treat nicely, she found the princess had also changed into something different, brushing down her skirts.

“Marcella! I remembered – I am to take you around the palace somewhat today. Of course you know it, but my sister instructed me to make sure we spend the day together until you know your way around.”

“That looks much like your other…but different. Is it from home?”

“Yes! It has just a little silk tucked into the band, see? Because I am acting as Princess of Hesperia today, I thought I should wear it. The silk was a gift from my mother for my birthday, the year before we left.” She smiled as she stroked the silk. “Polgara has adjusted it so that it still fits me, for now.”

Marcella walked over, feeling somewhat out of place in her plain gown, though it had been made lovingly for her by Polgara and her mother. Still, she was not the princess, and could not as such be dressed like the princess. Anikka hugged her with a smile.

“You look wonderful, Marcella. Let me show you around, though…there is not much to show around, truth be told. Molpe thinks we ought to build the palace a little more once we have constructed the temple, but for now, it’s somewhat small.”

“It does not seem small to me!” Marcella followed after Anikka as they walked down the stairs.

“Here is Polgara’s old quarters, and through there, there is the royal nursery.” They heard murmurs, and Anikka seemed troubled by something for a minute. “My sister is taking care of Icarius, of course,” she said, briskly. “And next is my sister’s quarters, though you must not go in there.”

Marcella saw a flash of a grand bed, but averted her eyes as they proceeded down the next set of stairs. The long, echoing throne room stood before them, and she felt the clear memory of being in here as a child, not understanding anything of what was said.

“The throne room!” Anikka rolled her eyes. “It is all duty, there. Come on, I bet you shall prefer some fresh air.”

Marcella followed the princess out to the fire pit, where Anikka sat herself down, waving a hand at the palace.

“See, there was not much to show you there. Of course, the throne room is big enough for diplomatic meetings, but they are so boring! I shall be glad to have you there for them. My sister was saying that in Mother’s last letter, she mentioned that the north is experiencing more and more trouble. Apparently some Frankish kingdoms are fighting over territory, and one of them has sent both of its princesses away. Mother says we ought to get our supplies in while we can, and make sure we have enough for everyone, because we’re so small.”

Marcella blinked. “Why would they send their princesses away?”

“Molpe said it is in case their kingdom falls, to preserve the royal line. Polgara used to tell me the tale of the two sisters of the Ouroboros tribe, Orithia and Evadne. Their tribe was founded because the tribe they were born into was destroyed, so I suppose it must be somewhat the same. If the royal line is preserved, the tribe is not truly destroyed.”

Marcella gave a nervous smile. “Well, I hope that the princesses will be alright. It cannot be easy to leave your home.”

“But you and your mother did. Do you not remember it at all?” Anikka asked, curiously.

“No, not much. I think the only thing I remember is a lady with red hair, though I do not know who she is. I remember her playing with me in a garden full of colorful flowers, but I do not have any other memories, truly. I only remembered that recently, when Polgara took me to visit Gatherer Meda.”

“I wonder who she was?”

“I do not know. I asked Mother, but she said she did not know, either, and that is strange, too.”

Anikka frowned. “I suppose she must have been a servant or something, then. Polgara thinks your mother must have been a merchant’s daughter, or something of the sort, because her clothes were so beautiful when she arrived.”

Marcella nodded, eager to agree. “Yes, I think so. But Mother does not like to talk about it. Besides, I am Hesperian now, so it does not count.”

“Of course you are!” Anikka looked immediately guilty. “I did not mean to upset you, Marcella. You are of Hesperia now, and forever shall be.”

Reassured, Marcella let the conversation fall back to Anikka’s chattering, but her memory of the lady with red hair flickered into her mind again. She wished she knew who the lady was – if only she could remember her face.

Daughters of Hesperia – Timandra (1.29)

Molpe had laboured to bring this baby into the world, and it had taken a great toll on her. She had hoped so desperately that she would have the needed princess, and she had prayed to the Goddess that she would be so blessed.

But his name was Icarius, and he was her second son.

Still, she could not help but love him. He was a sleepy baby, and snuggled into her arms as she held him. She whispered soft, loving words to him as she held him, and tried to put off her worries for now. She just needed to focus on Icarius and herself for now, and recovering so that she could bear the princess when the time was right.

Vulmar, of course, was shown in, and stared in wonder at his son, reaching into the crib to hold him gently. She watched from the doorway, exhausted, as the two of them looked at each other and Icarius grasped his father’s fingers with his tiny hands. Vulmar looked back at her, showing her, and she smiled at him gently, too tired to talk much.

But it was clear that the Goddess had not blessed them, and she could only push away the thought for now.

A week later, the solution to the problem seemed to arrive, requesting an audience with the Queen of Hesperia. Molpe gathered herself, dressed formally, and had Anikka join her in the throne room before allowing the woman inside.

She was, to Molpe’s surprise, a priestess, with the paint and markings of the Goddess. A hawk spread its wings on her left arm, and she stood tall.

“Your Majesty, I am here to join you, if you will have me. I am Timandra, of Tribe Leto, though that will change according to your answer.”

Molpe smiled at her, unable to hide her happiness.

“You are a Sister of the Moon,” she said, frankly. “How did you learn of us?”

“Oh, it is no secret, really. The priestesses must know where trouble and new growth lie, so that we may make peace. I am newly qualified, of course, but we are encouraged to seek our own path, and I prefer relative solitude. Your Provider’s former tribe made mention of you to mine, and I had heard nothing of you having a priestess. I am here to connect you to the Goddess.”

“That would be wonderful.” Molpe raised a hand. “Approach the throne, Timandra. We would welcome you, of course, and I would welcome anyone who could perhaps secure the blessing of the Goddess. My tribe needs a heiress, but for now, my sister remains the sole princess.”

“It is important to keep your faith in the Goddess. She would never abandon her daughters, I promise you that. It may simply be that she is biding her time, as the moon waits to shine at full brilliance. Its darker hours do not mean that its fullness is gone forever.” Timandra smiled at the Queen. “I shall ask only that in due time, a small temple may be built, so that my solitude is preserved.”

“We have not yet had the time, but now that we have our first priestess, of course we shall! Timandra, you are of Hesperia now, and I will simply ask that you take the oath when you have settled in. We have great need of you.” Molpe felt a broad smile cross her face, and Anikka also smiled.

Timandra bowed her head. “The moon leads me where I am needed, my Queen. I am grateful that it led me to you.”

Daughters of Hesperia – Baby Steps (1.28)

It was the evening, and Gorgophone was demanding Polgara’s attention, grabbing at her and stomping her little feet. It had been a while since Polgara had dealt with such a child, but she did not mind, and instead crouched down to pick the girl up.

Meda had confided in her that Gorgophone might not take the move well, as she always seemed to want more of Meda’s attention, clinging to her legs and wailing if she were to be put down for a nap while her mother worked. But, as they both knew, this phase was usually just that.

Gorgophone snuggled happily into Polgara’s hair, clinging close.

“There, see? It is not so bad,” Polgara soothed, rubbing her back. “Now, you can come and be put to bed in my room.”

Gorgophone did not seem to pay much attention, and having worn herself out fussing, was easy to coax to sleep, for now. Polgara breathed a sigh of relief. This child would definitely be more taxing than the other two they were raising here.

Early the next morning, Diana heard a familiar whimpering as she drifted between sleep and wakefulness. She thought for a moment it might be Marcella, having woken to her daughter’s nightmares before.

But as she woke up further, she realised it could not be Marcella, for her daughter was too old to make a baby’s cry. She got up as quickly as she could, and hurried through to Polgara’s room, passing Polgara on the way.

“I must attend to Odysseus–” Polgara started.

“I shall see to Gorgophone.” Diana bowed her head, and Polgara gave her a thankful smile as she continued into Odysseus’ room.

They had decided to put Gorgophone’s bed in Polgara’s room, as she would disrupt Marcella’s sleep if they shared a room, and Diana’s room was not big enough for an extra bed. Polgara’s room had been the largest to start with, and it only made sense to let the trained Provider share a room with Gorgophone, who was the youngest of the children.

In the room, Gorgophone was wailing loudly.

“Ma-MA!” she cried out, her lip wobbling. “Mama, mama…”

Diana felt her heart fill up with sympathy for the little girl. She could remember a time when she had seen her sister go through the same thing, unable to understand where their mother was, and who these strangers were that were trying to take care of her.

So, she crouched down, trying to hug Gorgophone.

“It is alright–“

Gorgophone reeled back, shaking her head and pulling all of her limbs back. She looked, Diana thought, a little like a snail that retreated into its home.

“Want Mama!” Gorgophone demanded. “Mama!”

Well, that would be the problem, Diana thought ruefully. She was not Andromeda, nor could she lie and tell this little girl that Andromeda would visit today. Instead, she carefully stepped back, crouching in the doorway.

“I am Diana. I am your friend, Gorgophone.” She tried to think how better to say it in Artemisian, but smiled at the little girl. “Are you hungry?”

This seemed to calm Gorgophone down somewhat, and she blinked at Diana a little bit.

“‘Es,” she said, eventually.

“We can go eat with Polgara?” Diana offered, and this brought a smile immediately to the little girl’s face. She knew Polgara well, and nodded quickly.

When Diana came out of the room, trailed by Gorgophone, Polgara looked up thankfully from cleaning up Odysseus, who had clearly just been fed.

“Diana, you are such a help!” she said, immediately. “I am so sorry, but I could hear Odysseus crying and I must have woken up our little warrior. I did not mean to, but she was crying while I was sorting out Odysseus, and I could not bring him into my room.” She smiled down at Odysseus, who gave her a big, sunny smile back.

“It is good,” Diana told her, making sure that Gorgophone was alright before she sat down. The little girl ran over to Polgara, hanging onto her legs.

“Now, now.” Polgara knelt down, giving her a little cuddle before turning around. “I had better get you some food, hm?” She smiled down at her, walking away, which left the two toddlers staring at each other.

Diana was not quite sure why, but the two children did not play like Marcella and Odysseus had when they were young. Instead, it was like seeing two cats unsure of each other. Odysseus gave her a nervous look as Polgara came back with Gorgophone’s breakfast.

Gorgophone, for her part, was unusually silent, staring at Odysseus. She didn’t seem to know what to make of him, and was frowning at him with a serious little look on her tiny face. He looked back at her, unblinking, and then Polgara sighed.

“Gorgophone! Come here, your breakfast is ready.” She turned to Diana, shaking her head. “She thinks he is strange, I think. I cannot tell exactly what she is thinking, but they will get used to each other, I can only hope.”

Daughters of Hesperia – Royal Decrees (1.27)

Molpe smiled proudly as all three of the men gathered in front of her. All three looked nervous, but waited expectantly for the queen to speak.

“I have glad tidings for you all.” She smiled, looking at Vulmar. “I am expecting a child sometime this year, and I will need your help to make sure things run smoothly for the arrival of the baby.”

Vulmar looked proudly, while Magnus raised his eyebrows, smiling at his friend. The only one who did not react as much was Pallas, who had expected as much when Vulmar had begun staying late at the palace. It had only been a matter of time. Besides which, the queen’s stomach had begun to swell, just as it had when she had been expecting Odysseus.

As Molpe continued to talk of how they would need to prepare for the child, it felt as though it went over Pallas’ head. He thought of Septimus, and of Odysseus, who he now never got to see unless he was accompanying Molpe, which rarely happened. Instead, he seemed to be trusted with palace duties more than most, though it did mean he could help out with the princess’ studies and such. Even so, he wondered what this new child would bring to the tribe.

But this was both natural and practical. He knew that they still did not have an heiress, and that Molpe’s duty was to bear a princess to inherit the tribe.

A mirror of Pallas’ doubts plagued Molpe that afternoon as she sat down with her mother’s chess board, practicing one of the more complicated plays she’d been taught. Her sister had invited Marcella over, and their carefree laughter echoed down the stairs as Molpe narrowed her eyes at the board.

If she bore a girl, there would need to be changes. Polgara would need to come back to the palace, of course, as a trained Provider, and Diana, who at this point could be considered her apprentice even if she could never be anything more, could take care of the children. If she’d had more Providers, it would not have been an issue, but instead, here they were.

But, on the other hand…

If it were a boy, it would be Odysseus all over again, and she would still have no heiress. She tried not to feel that doubt, instead focusing on the measures a princess would need. Polgara could be moved to her old room next to the royal nursery, and Diana was more than qualified to raise the children. Besides, her Artemisian had come a long way, and Marcella spoke both Artemisian and Frankish quite fluently.

Upstairs, Marcella was telling Anikka all the news hurriedly.

“Gorgophone is old enough to come live with us! Polgara made the assessment the other day, and she has asked for Lukos to build what we need to be sent over. She is so sweet, too!”

“How do they grow so quickly?” Anikka asked, amused. It did not seem to her as though it had been that long ago that Marcella herself was Gorgophone’s age, but here she was, excitedly telling her everything.

“I do not know, but Meda said that she will bring her over herself! Oh, I cannot wait! Now, tell me your news.” Marcella looked expectantly at Anikka, who smiled.

“Well, as you know, my sister is to have a baby, but she has said that I may keep record of whoever arrives, and their line. I have already written down what I can, but even though I am not yet a Scholar, she is putting me in charge of this. Is it not wonderful? She says that she will choose my final project, just as Mother would do for a Scholar’s apprentice back home, but that is years away yet.”

“But then you are just like a real Scholar! Have you been writing about everyone? Have you written about me?”

Anikka sat herself down on her bed, gesturing for Marcella to follow suit.

“It is so exciting to think of, Marcella. Just think, one day I will become the person who writes of my sister’s reign, and I will train other Scholars…I may even be written about by them! I am the first Scholar of this tribe, or rather, I will be.”

“You will be the best, I am sure,” Marcella said immediately. “Anikka, this is wonderful! You must be so excited.”

“Well, of course I am!” Anikka giggled. “Molpe is already sending for more paper for me, and she has written to Mother to let her know I will be training as a Scholar. It is just a pity there is no one to train me, but my sister has been very kind and will make every accommodation.”

Anikka could feel her smile getting bigger as she talked. How exciting it was, knowing what she would be doing!