Meda had been glowing with the news when she had rushed in this morning, to tell Molpe of a Tamer who was wandering their shores looking for a home.
It seemed too good to be true, and Molpe still maintained suspicion behind her smiles as she arranged to meet the woman. It may indeed be that she was a Beast Tamer, but what Tamer wandered unaware of territories?
It was in this mindset that she sat with Anikka, ready to receive the woman. Anikka’s intrigue showed clearly in her face, while Molpe tried to keep one of her mother’s impassive statues in mind as she waited.
She did not wait long, for Kallisto strode in, her dog loping gracefully alongside her. The hunting dog was a surprise, for it looked to be a Theranorian, which Molpe had only ever seen at councils when attending her mother with her other sisters. A rare sight indeed, and one which only raised more questions.
Kallisto herself exuded a confidence Molpe had not quite expected, and yet she stood in front of the throne as she was expected to do, her dog coming to heel behind her. She was a strong, poised woman, and the very picture of a warrior. Yet Molpe found her guard was still up as she took in the sight.
Rising from her throne, Molpe smiled politely at Kallisto.
“I have been told of you, but I am happy to see you in person. I must confess, however, that you have piqued my curiosity. A lone Beast Tamer wandering the islands, with a beautiful hound in tow…May I ask what led to this?”
“I cannot be the only Amazon to leave her home tribe.” Kallisto inclined her head in respect. “I sought to find more of a home for myself, but my reasons are personal on that matter. I hope you will allow me to join you and make one here, as I understand you have none like me.”
Molpe tried not to react as much as she would have liked to. It was true that if she did not accept Kallisto, she could not demand her story, but the subtle refusal to say more both intrigued and worried her.
“It is true that we are in need of someone with your training, but we are a small tribe, and certain restrictions do come with that.” Molpe sighed. “I would only be able to have the men build you a hut, but I could not spare you any to attend you for now.”
“I should not want them.” Kallisto gave a short, sharp laugh. “I work better with animals when left to myself, Queen Molpe. I certainly would not wish for some man to lumber about and frighten the poor creatures.”
So long as she accepted that, there was no reason for Molpe to turn her away. The queen smiled, and spread her arms.
“Then I must welcome you to Hesperia, as one of us. You shall take the oath tonight. I shall have to ask you to wait while we make you a shelter, but Gatherer Meda, the one who brought you, will share her quarters with you for the time being.”
“Our name for Andromeda,” Molpe said, a little less formally. “She prefers to be called as such.”
“She will make a fine companion, then!” Kallisto said, brightly. “I must thank you again, Queen Molpe. I have been searching for a place to belong for quite some time, now.”
“You must have travelled quite far,” Molpe said, quietly.
“Far enough, it seems.” Kallisto bowed. “I will take my leave, and return tonight. I must make sure that Meleagre takes her food before she sleeps.”
“Of course. Meda will be able to assist you with that, I am sure. If it pleases you, you may follow her back to her quarters until the time of your oath, and we shall speak then.”
Kallisto smiled, bowing again, and whistled to her dog, walking out of the doorway as confidently as she had walked through it. Anikka was still watching with wide eyes, and Molpe sat down in her throne with a sigh.
“Perhaps I am too cautious,” she murmured, only to sit up as her sister looked to her. Molpe pretended to clear her throat, and then looked towards the entrance again. She could not help but wonder what this woman might bring for them.
Sweetheart found herself busier than she’d ever been. Raising two babies wasn’t easy, and the twins were always everywhere, even if you thought they’d finally gone to sleep. She finally figured out that as long as you expected them to be there, you could focus on work without too much trouble.
Sammy was more curious than outright mischevious, and a little quieter still than his sister. He could be easily distracted, which was a blessing and a curse all at once. Still, he was a sweet little boy, and loved his mother and sister. He also got along wonderfully with Simeon, when they were able to see him.
Eliza was always full of energy, and always crept into Sweetheart’s room to wake her up once she was awake. She was bubbly, energetic, and filled their house with laughter. It was Eliza who had Sweetheart running around after her, and Eliza who got into the paints, and Eliza who had sung the same song for an hour at the top of her lungs.
Sweetheart loved them both dearly, of course. She had been watching them grow and change with some amazement, and she was happy that they got along well, too.
As for the other parts of her life, well…the neighbours still talked, but she didn’t mind that so much any more. Besides, it would have been hard to deny the truth of the rumours when both of her children looked so much like Geoffrey, who she hadn’t heard from still.
But that didn’t matter. She had Simeon now, who always called even when he was in the Realm for his studies. It was good to be able to rely on a partner, for once. It was even better when you were expecting your next child.
Simeon had been ecstatic, hugging her and excitedly talking about baby names. He wanted old-fashioned ones, of course. Probably because of his own, but she’d actually rather liked the name Arabella. Besides, it was easy to shorten it. They’d made lists together, but he’d been called back to the Realm again, as he usually was. With the old Sage retiring this year, there was lots to be done in the school of magic he was in, and all of them were taking care of things. He’d been very reluctant to go, but Sweetheart had urged him that he should.
“The next Sage will probably thank you,” she’d said, with a smile. “Who knows, you might be able to spend more time with me once this is all over.”
“I hope so. They still won’t say who the next Sage is going to be, and everyone’s going spare over it.” He sighed, deeply. “Sootie, I wish I could be here more. I feel like I’m missing out on too much.”
“I can handle things here, I promise.” She’d kissed his cheek. “It’ll be worth it in the end.”
She thought back on that conversation as she dug out some weeds with a trowel. She couldn’t help but think back on it with worry, although she had reassured him. The Realm was unpredictable, and she hadn’t seen him now for a good long while. She could only hope things would be better once the new Sage was announced.
As the sun rose over Hesperia, a woman looked around the beach she had found herself on after much travelling. She was a long way from the place she had previously called home, but she did not know yet whether she could stop and rest.
Beside her, her companion whined a little restlessly, and she smiled at her. If it had not been for the presence of Meleagre, this journey might have been much harder for Kallisto, and certainly she might have felt loneliness creeping in. Instead, she had found comfort in the company of her hunting dog, who had faithfully remained by her side and slept at her feet every night. Kallisto had raised her ever since she was a pup, after all, but it was still reassuring to have someone whose loyalty never wavered by her side.
However, she was starting to run out of energy to keep going. Perhaps it might be best if they were to stop here for a few days – it certainly had natural resources, and she could fish and find some food for both of them, though she was no Gatherer. Both she and Meleagre did need to rest, and there was an abundance of fish swimming around in the shallow waters of the beach. She was uncertain if they would find proper shelter, however.
“We may just have to hope it doesn’t rain,” she said to Meleagre with a smile. “It is not our first brush with the outdoors, is it, Mele?”
Meleagre whined a little, but Kallisto reached down to pet her, soothing her somewhat. Poor Meleagre had no idea why all this was happening, after all, and it was not as if Kallisto could explain it to her. She sighed, and tried to brush away the small pang of guilt.
Late in the evening, she was keeping watch when she sighted a woman with red hair wandering around. She was dressed in a way that Kallisto knew, and seemed to be looking for something, but when she spotted Kallisto, the two of them stared at each other.
Was even this Artemisian territory still? She supposed it must be Sirenian, for that was the biggest tribe she knew of in this area, and she did not know much of the smaller ones. And yet, that also did not make sense, for a large tribe would have left no doubt to their presence. She waited as the woman approached her.
“Who are you?” the woman demanded, instantly. Meleagre shifted uneasily, but stayed at the hand motion Kallisto gave her.
“My name is Kallisto. I am…travelling, but I did not know that I was intruding. Who are you, and to whom do these lands belong?”
Her politeness must have reassured the woman somewhat, for her shoulders relaxed a little.
“Forgive me, but I find it sensible to suspect anyone I do not recognise. My name is Andromeda, and I am a Gatherer.” She smiled, somewhat awkwardly. “You find yourself in the territory of Tribe Hesperia.”
“I have not heard of such a tribe,” Kallisto replied, slowly. “I do not wish to offend, but…”
“You do not. Perhaps that shows something lacking in me, but…” Andromeda shrugged, before looking between Meleagre and Kallisto. “You are Artemisian too, and yet you are traveling so far. Which tribe do you hail from?”
Kallisto knew she could not pause in her answer, and so returned the shrug. “None, now. We seek our home, wherever that may be. If you have supplies, I can trade for them, and then we shall be on our way.”
Andromeda looked between her and Meleagre, and then back again, frowning, before she finally spoke.
“How were you trained?”
Relieved that the other woman was not asking more about where she had come from, Kallisto answered immediately.
“A Tamer. I was trained by my mother, and Meleagre was trained by me.” She bit back a smile at her own joke. “She is a Theranorian hunting dog, and wonderfully well-mannered.”
“We have no Tamer here on Hesperia,” Andromeda said. “I shall let the queen know of your presence, of course, but if you truly are seeking a home, Kallisto, I am sure you may find it here, if that is all you seek.”
Though it was dark, it felt as though a ray of the sun had shone onto her face, filling Kallisto with hope. A small tribe, who needed a Tamer…it was everything she needed. She nodded quickly, and Andromeda bowed.
“I shall leave you now and return in the morning with the queen’s decision,” she said, formally, before smiling. “I hope to see much more of the two of you, however.”
Kallisto could only smile and bow back as she left, before letting Meleagre jump up, and almost dancing with her.
“We are home, Mele!” she told her, joyously. “Home at last!”
Kallisto and Meleagre both were made and given by MrsRacooney! Please check out her story, Daughters of the Warrioress here.
Callianassa had found herself in a new world, one more populated than she was comfortable with. At first, she had felt her anger rising at everything – her mother, the women who had taken them here, and everything that had happened. She had screamed out for her father as they left in the boats, but she had then been told of his passing. She had become hysterical after that, and a healer had come forward to help calm her. The success of that had been limited.
Her mother’s threats had finally come to fruition that day. Her father was dead, and nothing would bring him back. Slowly, she had learned that his being alive had been a law that her mother had broken, and her sister’s very existence was against the law. The women on the ships had looked at her with a mixture of pity and disbelief, and she had hated it.
Eventually, they had come to a large, sprawling city, and they had been led to a large stone building. Women in white dresses were waiting, and one gasped, looking between them. There had been talks, and an old woman had stepped sharply towards them, walking right up to the queen. The others had parted like the sea to let her through. Callianassa still remembered the way she’d raked her eyes over them, scowling, before talking with the queen, who spoke easily with them. Calypso had begun to cry then, and some of the younger women had come up, soothing her, assuring her that everything would be fine.
They had not seen their mother since then, and their father was dead. Callianassa still felt flickers of resentment, but in those two years, she had learned much more than she would have liked to. They were not princesses, but the daughters of a criminal, an exile. She had always thought her mother was not the queen she claimed to be, but she had not known how bad it truly was. Her love for her father still burned strong, and his memory was dear to her heart, however, and she found these things difficult. She was told in due course that her mother was imprisoned, as she could not even be trusted in exile now, and Callianassa and her sister were set to become Sisters of the Moon, those priestesses who dedicated themselves to the Goddess. Calypso had accepted it, and even made friends with the other novices, but Callianassa had stayed on the offensive. Eventually, that same old woman from before, Camilla, had declared Callianassa to be her personal apprentice.
Now, here they were, hiking in the mountains. Camilla had claimed that it was a good place to come to terms with the solitude that a priestess would need, and Callianassa maintained that it was a tiring, pointless exercise. Eventually, Camilla turned around to her, as her patience snapped. Callianassa had said something rude and offhand as her frustrations mounted, and Camilla had finally had enough.
“You foolish child!” she raged. “An opportunity has been given to you, and you are wasting it. You have been giving us trouble for two years, Callianassa. How long will you stay in the past?”
Her fury was terrifying, and Callianassa could not help but shrink back from it. Camilla had never shouted at her, not once – not when she had torn the clothes they had given her, not when she had refused to eat, not even when she had gotten into a fight with another novice. It had always been stern reprimands, but never this anger.
Camilla was not done yet, however.
“I will not stop simply because of a childish temper tantrum, no matter how long it lasts. You cannot behave so badly that we give up, Callianassa, and the sooner you realise that, the better. I have given you the space to heal, and I always will, for yours is not a situation any of us envy, but you have no right to punish us for what has been done to you. We are doing what we can to spare you from the wrath of the Goddess, and you are repaying us very poorly for every kindness we show you.”
“I never asked for your kindness!” Callianassa burst out, despite her fear. “I never asked for any of this!”
“Neither did we!” Camilla snapped back. “All of us are simply moving forward with what life has given us. You have been accepted into Sirena, into our temple, and I have accepted the charge of a petulant young girl despite having plenty of good novices who would make me a perfect apprentice. I am old, Callianassa, and I cannot train many more apprentices, but I am training you. I am giving you these gifts, and you are throwing them back in my face, because of your own hurt. Well, I am sorry for what you have gone through, and I am sorry for your sister as well, but I know that you have a mind behind all this anger, and I think that is perhaps what annoys me most of all!”
Hot shame washed over Callianassa, but she was not quite ready to back down yet.
“Then why not leave me to someone else, and have one of the others as your apprentice? Aristomache, or Doris?”
“So you do know their names, or some of them at least. I told you, Callianassa. I know you have a mind, and I wish to see it used for once. You have a heart, too, when you show it. I have seen you with your sister.”
The mention of Calypso made her hesitate, and Camilla stopped, sighing.
“Enough. Perhaps this was too soon, after all. I had hoped that being here would be better for you than being in the temple with the others.”
“It…it is.” Callianassa fought the admittance, a little, but something about the woman made her want to at least say as much. “It is not as though I like it here, but I would far rather be here than…”
She stopped, seeing a small smile on Camilla’s face.
“You may be difficult, but at least you are honest, when it comes down to it.” Camilla stopped walking, and sighed. “I have my reasons for choosing you, Callianassa. To give you that same honesty, I did not think many of my sisters had the patience to give you what you need. They are used to girls who they can choose, not those they cannot.”
“So you do this because you must?” Callinassa asked, frowning.
“I think I do this because you deserve an apprenticeship where you will be given what you need. I believe that hardship makes us determined to fight against those who would inflict it on others, in whatever way that would present itself. But perhaps that is a discussion for another day. For now, let me simply tell you that I was dedicated as a girl, much as you were.”
“You were?” Callianassa asked, surprised.
“Yes. I am not Artemisian born, you see. I was brought here in my girlhood by Queen Clio, the previous queen. She was new to the throne herself, and had not even borne an heiress, but she went to war. I doubt you will know of that, but…” Here, Camilla hesitated. “She found me, and my mother. We had been treated poorly by those she had fought against, and she tried to rescue us both, but…I was the only one who came here to Sirena.”
“I…I’m sorry.” Callianassa felt tears in her eyes. “I did not know.”
“How could you? I certainly did not tell you, and it is a story nearly as old as I am. Queen Clio herself is dead, of course, but Clodia has always treated me with respect, and I have had the pleasure of seeing her daughters grow up. I have raised apprentices, celebrated the birth of princesses, and my life has been a good one. I only wish my mother had been able to join me, but she was treated well for those last few days, and she knew I was in safe hands. I think she would have been happy to see how well I have been loved.”
Strangely, it made a sort of sense, and Callianassa was not sure what there was to say, but Camilla patted her on the shoulder.
“It took me many years to be able to see my life like this, Callianassa. I simply wished to let you know that I may be able to understand a little more than you might think. I must also apologise for my outburst.”
“I…suppose so.” Callianassa said, a little begrudgingly.
“Well, as an old woman, I think I am allowed one or two here and there.” Camilla chuckled, closing her eyes. “I think we should make our camp soon. I am feeling more than a little bit tired after all that.”
Hesperia had flourished, these past couple of years, and the children had flourished right along with it. Marcella in particular was growing ‘like a flower’, as Polgara put it, and though she had always looked like her mother as a child, these days she resembled her so strongly that it was a common joke amongst the older women to say that Diana had made her from clay before joining them.
In truth, Diana saw someone else from time to time in Marcella’s eyes, but she accepted the jest with a laugh each time, and marvelled at how her daughter could really be as old as she was. The tiny girl she had carried in her arms was now almost as tall as she was, and well into her apprenticeship with Polgara.
Her training as a Provider was going well, between looking out for Gorgophone, helping Polgara take care of Princess Thaleia, and listening to Polgara’s lectures upon childbirth. She would receive a more practical education in that soon, for Polgara was now halfway through her pregnancy, having chosen Theseus to father her child, and when she gave birth Marcella would need to be close at hand.
Polgara had confidence in the young girl, however. Already, she was carrying the little princess around so that Polgara would not need to strain herself too often, and doing her best to help where she could. Her kind heart made her an excellent apprentice, and she was a good listener. Princess Thaleia was fond of her too, often grabbing at her honey-blonde hair with her little hands and laughing.
The little princess was also much older now, speaking full sentences and walking on her own, though the women always found a reason to pick her up and hold her. She was perhaps the most fussed over child that the island had known, but where some children might have become spoiled, it instead had made her a quiet, relaxed little girl. Thaleia was quite at ease with everything that happened around her unless it sparked her curiosity, and then she would do her best to understand it. At four years old, she was a bright little girl, and adored by all the women around her.
One night, after Marcella had been sent to bed, Polgara was putting Thaleia to bed when the queen came in, smiling.
“I see the princess is still awake,” she said.
“Apologies, my queen. I had put her to bed, but she must have been disturbed by some noise. I was just settling her.”
“Do not worry, Polgara. I actually wished to speak to you about something. How would you say Marcella’s apprenticeship is going?”
These days, the queen was quite often direct, and so Polgara was honest in return.
“It goes very well, my queen. Marcella learns quickly, and I will be glad of her when my child arrives into this world. I think that she will make an excellent Provider once her training is complete.”
“I have been thinking on this, you see.” The queen looked directly at Polgara. “As queen, I have an obligation to the tribe, and as a mother, I have an obligation to my children.”
Molpe looked at Thaleia now, who was blinking sleepily already, and then turned back to Polgara.
“I know you understand what I mean by that. I want your advice on who should stay here when Marcella comes of age. If I choose you, you must let Marcella raise your child, and if I choose her, then she will be separated from Diana. It makes sense now for Diana to be in the Provider’s hut, for my sons are the only children there, and Gorgophone is receiving her training here, but…”
“Choose me.” Polgara smiled at Molpe. “My queen, I accepted this role when you asked me to care for your daughter. Marcella is more than capable of looking after any other children that we may be blessed with, and in truth, I believe she looks forward to seeing her mother as much as she looks forward to completing her training. I know that it is a difficult thing to ask me, but I knew what you were asking when Thaleia was born. I will not take from Marcella.”
“Polgara….” Molpe smiled, a little tearfully.
“Thaleia is my responsibility as Provider, and my child will be Marcella’s, in time.” Polgara found she could speak more firmly. “I will, of course, be able to visit my child.”
“Of course, there is no doubt of that.” Molpe reached across, and placed a hand on her daughter’s cheek. “May I help put her to bed? It is so rare a chance…”
“As my queen wishes,” Polgara said, gently, handing the little girl over to her mother.
Well, it was not as though she had been unprepared for this conversation. It made no sense to keep two Providers in the palace, especially with only Diana in the Provider’s hut. She felt a brief flicker, however, of regret. Sometimes, her sense and responsibility took precedence over her wants, and she felt a yearning towards the idea of returning to the hut with her child, but she herself had said that would not have been fair. She had taken on this duty, and now, she must fulfill it.
Though Glauce came from Tribe Juturna, the jurisdiction of the matter had been turned over to Queen Clodia, in the end. Queen Eurynome had admitted that it pained her to see what had become of an Amazon who grew up in her tribe, and so it was that Sirena would be dealing with Glauce and her outrageous actions.
It was early morning when they arrived at the island, with Clodia and Hebe taking the lead. The other women were to wait on the ships, or on the little beaches, for the island truly was minuscule, and at a word, the warriors would be able to come to their defense.
“Mother…” Hebe hesitated. “Are you sure you do not want to send in the Royal Warriors? We could have the child safely with us in minutes, and…”
“Quite sure.” Clodia’s voice was hard and cold. “I have promised to deal with this foolish woman myself, and I shall. She has broken the laws we must all live by, and I would rather she felt my wrath.” She went forward, and then stopped.
“Sao was wrong,” she said, immediately, her voice dropping to a whisper.
“What do you mean, Mother?”
Quietly, Clodia drew back a branch, motioning for Hebe to look through the leaves and at the little settlement. Sitting before them were three figures. A woman, who must be Glauce, was arguing with a girl in front of the fire, and had a sour expression on her face as the girl only argued further.
But sitting on the other side of the fire sat a nervous girl, whose eyes flicked between them, uncertainly.
“She would not…” Hebe whispered, horrified. The other girl seemed to be trying to defuse the argument, looking between the first child and Glauce pleadingly.
But both girls did resemble Glauce, and the longer Hebe looked, the more she could only realise that Glauce had not just broken the law, but had defied it openly. A wave of sympathy for the children crashed upon her, followed by absolute disgust for Glauce’s actions.
“She must have renounced the Goddess,” she whispered to her mother, hands to her mouth. “She cannot have done this, not otherwise. She simply could not do this.”
“If she has, they have no business living on our shores.” Clodia looked at her daughter. “You will keep the children from interfering, do you understand? No matter what happens.” Her voice was stern. “No matter what I do, you keep them from this.”
Hebe didn’t hesitate to answer, but tears formed in her grey eyes. “Yes, Mother. I understand.”
Her mother nodded, and then stormed from the bushes, walking up to the camp. One of the girls, the younger one, screamed in shock, and Glauce whipped around to stare with as much shock before she rose slowly from her seat.
“Queen Clodia…” The words came slow and wary from her mouth, but Clodia gestured to Hebe quickly, and turned back to Glauce.
“Have you renounced the Goddess on these shores?” she demanded. “These are Artemisian waters, Glauce, and I advise you to think carefully before you answer, for I am not in the mood for forgiveness.”
Glauce seemed only to hear half of Clodia’s words, eyes narrowing as she looked upon her. No, indeed, it was as if she looked down at her, and it was alarming for Hebe to see as she came towards the frightened girls, who Glauce seemed to not see.
“First, you invade Ogygia, and now you insult me? I see what lies behind the power of Sirena, Queen Clodia. I should have known that you’d be on your way to throw your weight around someday. Why, are you threatened by such a small tribe?”
“Answer me, Glauce!” Clodia clenched her fists. “Have you renounced the goddess? Have you another man on this island? Or are you living without the rules of the Goddess?”
“The Goddess is the one who took me in.” Glauce was visibly seething. “I am her chosen queen, the queen of Ogygia, and she has blessed me with this land–“
“You are in exile!” Clodia shouted back at her. “You have already broken one of the oldest Artemisian laws. Am I to understand that you have done so twice, or have you renounced the Goddess?”
“How dare you accuse me of turning my back on the Goddess?! You may be the queen of Sirena, Clodia, but here, I am queen, and you are not welcome here. In fact, you may leave at once. You are trespassing on my land!”
Hebe could hardly believe what she was hearing, but looked to the two girls. The younger one was sobbing hysterically, while the other had placed herself between her sister and Hebe defensively. It broke Hebe’s heart to see this child doing what Glauce should have done from the start.
“Who are you?” the older one snapped at Hebe. “Why are you here?”
“I…” Hebe hesitated, but drew on her strength. “We are here for your mother. She has broken the law.”
She could not yet tell them what might happen, but instead watched as the older ran to her sister, trying to calm her down. Clodia was still arguing with Glauce.
“Are you trying to claim you are a queen? You, who have no royal blood, no sanction for what you do, and who is breaking the most sacred of the Goddess’ laws? If those children have different fathers–“
“Where ought I to get a different father for them, oh mighty Queen Clodia? I needed an heiress, and I needed him to support us. And of course, I needed a second princess. You of all people ought to know that.”
Hebe gasped, but Clodia’s fury rose, unleashing itself upon Glauce.
“How could you do this to them?” she roared, with all the anger of a lioness. “How could you make them grow up on this miserable rock, and deceive the Goddess so? How could you do this to her? A Queen? Do not seek to make me laugh, Glauce! You are of no tribe, of nowhere, and you have only sunken further into madness! My only regret for you is that your delusions will harm you further than I ever could! All my pity goes to these poor children and the wretchedness you have brought them into.” Her words seemed to burn in the dark morning air. “You are no queen. A queen would make the correct choice. A queen would live alone with her child if she had to, a queen would choose the Goddess’ laws, and a queen would protect her people. You cannot even protect them from me.”
At this, Glauce flinched, as though sensing something had changed. For it had – there was no chance left for her, and she had admitted to the worst fears of Clodia and her heiress. She had borne two children by the same man, and he was not yet dead, when he ought to have given his life in balance after the birth of the elder.
“Where is he?” Clodia asked, with cold calm. “Where is this lover of yours?”
“He is no lover of mine!” Glauce spat. “He is confined to his hut, of course.” She pointed to the miserable shack next to the fire, and Hebe whipped her head around to see a slumped shape inside. She had not noticed him, but now she could see a man, staring out in terror at her.
“At least that will be easy,” Clodia said. Her icy calm was somehow worse than her fury, and even Hebe trembled in the face of it.
“What…what will you do?” Glauce asked, her voice cracking.
“You will be taken back to Sirena with us. Clearly, even exile puts too much faith in you. You are no longer a warrior, Glauce, and you were never a queen. You sully the title by wearing it so falsely. You will instead spend the rest of your life in a cell. I promise you it will be a long one, but I doubt you will be happy. As for your daughters–“
Glauce’s eyes bulged slightly. “They are the heirs to Ogygia!” she shrieked. “You will not do anything to them!”
The girls began crying, and Clodia looked at Glauce with contempt.
“Of course I will not, but they are heirs of nothing. Ogygia is nothing more than your own delusion, Glauce, and you will have time to realise that. Your daughters will be dedicated to the Goddess to atone for your sins.” Clodia raised one finger. “It is your own choices that have led to this, Glauce. It is your actions that have doomed your daughters. I am merely showing them a kindness and praying that the Goddess will not cast her judgement on the innocent!”
Glauce looked back at her daughters, helplessly. “But…But I am the queen!” she bleated. “They are princesses, you cannot make them…You cannot just…”
“Warriors!” Clodia commanded, instantly. A heartbeat passed, and then the women of Sirena stood forward from the bushes. The girls were nearly hysterical, but there was nothing that could be done there, despite Hebe’s best efforts to calm them. Glauce looked around, as if to escape, but Clodia motioned to her.
“Take her to the ships and restrain her.” She watched with cold eyes as Glauce began to scream and thrash, but the Royal Warriors held her firmly, dragging her away. Other warriors kindly escorted the panicked girls to the ships, looking between the two girls in shock.
Finally, Clodia turned to Hebe.
“I will ask you to do what must be done,” she said, quietly. “Their father is in that hut. Make sure that you bury him properly.”
“Me?” Hebe whispered.
“We have a rough task ahead of us, my dear. I am sorry, but as Heiress, you must help me with this. I must see to…to the girls, for the sake of my conscience.” A softer look crossed her face. “I have just destroyed their life as they knew it.”
“Mother, no…” Hebe started to protest, but thought of her own daughter, Europa, and how she might be scared in this situation. She swallowed, then nodded.
“I feel sorry for him, as strange as that is,” Clodia said, in that softer tone. “I do not think that Glauce has treated him well, and I think that Eurynome made a mistake in exiling them together. Now may not be the time to say as much to her, but perhaps Juturna may be persuaded to make an amendment to its laws to prevent such things in the future.”
“I will see to it he does not suffer,” Hebe said, quietly. “I am sure there must be something around here to ease his pain.”
“You are kind, daughter.” Clodia looked at Hebe, her face full of regret. “I only wish that such a kind heart did not have to make such decisions.”
With that, she began walking to the ships, leaving Hebe alone with the gruesome task ahead.
It had been a couple of weeks since the queen had sent Polgara and Meda to the market to fetch more men, leaving Marcella in charge of the little princess, with an envious Anikka still asking to go with them until the very last second. Molpe had refused, citing that Polgara was needed on this trip, but that Anikka had better things to do.
Meda had heard that argument begin, and had hidden her smile. Though the princess was now a young woman, she still showed flashes of the impatient girl she’d been when Meda and Polgara had first arrived, and it had seemed a pity to leave her out of the trip.
However, with Polgara’s assistance, Meda now had three men at the Gatherer’s compound, for Turnus and Theseus had joined Lukos, and all three were thankfully hard workers. She looked out over the garden and could see Lukos instructing them again. He had taken both of the younger men under his wing quite naturally, and it amused her to watch him do so, fussing over them like a mother hen with her chicks. Theseus laughed, making some joke to Turnus as Lukos raised an eyebrow at him.
Meda turned her attention away from the men, and towards the boat in the distance, where she could see Polgara and Gorgophone, with Magnus rowing. She smiled immediately, waving to her daughter, who waved back, shouting her greetings.
Only Gorgophone left the boat, and she ran up the beach to hug her mother.
“Gorgophone, it is so good to see you,” Meda said, immediately, returning her daughter’s embrace. “Is Polgara not coming with you?”
“She says she will be back for me later, before the sun sets, but I have missed you so much!” Gorgophone was jumping up and down slightly, and hugged her hard again. “Mother, I have so much to tell you!”
“And I you, though I suspect you may not think mine too exciting. So, tell me, how has life at the palace been treating you?” Meda drew back.
“I am to stay there!” Gorgophone looked happy beyond words. “Mother, I am to be trained as a Royal Warrior, and I will be the first one of Hesperia, the queen herself has said so! I have already begun to train a little bit, with Polgara, and Princess Anikka has been telling me all the duties of a Royal Warrior. She says that they guard the royal family for their whole lives, and so I shall be very important when I finish my training!”
Meda’s mouth hung open for a moment, and then she recovered herself. She had been expecting some news from her daughter, it was true, but this had not quite been what she had expected. In truth, she hadn’t known what to expect for her daughter’s training, although she had wondered if she would have to teach her how to be a Gatherer. This was indeed something very different, but at the same time, she could see how excited her daughter was. She reached out for a moment, and then let her hand drop back down.
“Gorgophone, I could not be prouder of you,” she said, sincerely. “The queen herself has picked out your training, and you must do your best. She has chosen to trust you, and you must show that you are worthy of that, but I have no doubt that you will.”
Gorgophone looked up at her for a moment, before nodding.
“I will, Mother, I promise–“
“Come now, little one. Let us go to my quarters.” Meda held out her hand to Gorgophone. “It will be cooler inside, and you may tell me everything that you wish to. Have you been keeping up with your studies?”
Gorgophone took her hand instantly, and together, they walked through the garden to the door of Meda’s hut.
“Yes, but it is so….I do not know, it just frustrates me when we have our Frankish lessons. Marcella speaks it so easily, and I can just speak it a little bit.”
“Well, Marcella is older than you. She has had more practice with it, and I am sure that you speak it well.”
Gorgophone made an irritated noise, shrugging. “I cannot tell, not when Marcella and Princess Anikka speak it so well. They can talk in Frankish with each other, and I do not understand them! It is not fair, Mother, but they always speak it slowly around me, and I do not like that either. They say it is so I may understand them, but I do not understand them at all.”
“Well, I do not speak Frankish well either, but I appreciate that Polgara does.” Meda smiled, trying not to laugh. “So, you get along well with the other young girls?”
“I suppose so,” Gorgophone admitted, a little reluctantly. “I like spending time with them, and Princess Anikka lets me borrow books from her sometimes, or she will read to us. If Marcella is busy, she will let me play chess with her, too, but usually those two play together if Marcella has the time.”
“I am sure you will find yourself just as busy when your training begins properly, Gorgophone.” Meda shook her head. “When I was trained, I missed those free hours I had before. I am sure you will be learning all sorts of interesting things, once you are in training.”
“Princess Anikka will be teaching me the Artemisian Laws. She says that Hesperia is too young to have any other laws, but that all tribes adhere to the Artemisian Laws…” Gorgophone pursed her lips. “It sounds very boring, and not at all like what I have been learning with Polgara. She has been teaching me how to spar with wooden daggers.”
“The Laws are necessary to learn.” Meda held up a finger. “You have your dagger, yes, but…” She flicked another finger up. “The Laws are like a shield, protecting every one of us. It is important that you listen to the princess when she teaches you about them.”
Once again, that begrudging expression agreement crossed Gorgophone’s face, and Meda bit her lip to keep from laughing. Her little daughter was so sweet, in her way, and she did wonder how smoothly this training would go, but she could see why Gorgophone would make a good Royal Warrior. Her pride in her daughter bubbled up once more in her chest, and she smiled at her.
“You will do your best, little one, I am sure of it.”
Polgara had been asked by Molpe to meet with her in the throne room that morning, and so she carefully left Marcella in charge of the princess with strict instructions to fetch her if Marcella became unsure of anything.
Downstairs, Molpe was waiting on her throne, and smiled as she saw Polgara coming down the stairs. She rose immediately, walking towards her.
“Polgara, I must thank you for putting aside the time to speak with me.”
“Of course, my queen. What did you need to speak with me about?” Polgara bowed her head, smiling.
“I wished to speak with you about Gorgophone’s training, as I have decided upon it, but I wanted to hear what you thought before I set things into motion.”
“I see…” Polgara hesitated. “Who is she to train under?”
“Well, I have decided that she is to be our first Royal Warrior. There is no one whose role she could inherit, but I think that as long as she works hard at her training, she would be well placed to stay here at the palace. Timandra does not think she would be suited to the role of priestess, you already have one apprentice to worry about, and her mother’s role seems…too isolated for her. But I wish to know your thoughts on the matter, as you do know her better than I do.”
Polgara hesitated for a moment, turning what the queen had said over in her mind. It was true that Gorgophone would not make a suitable priestess, and she could see why Timandra had refused to train the girl, and while she had thought that Gorgophone might need to step into her mother’s shoes, she could also see the queen’s point about it being an isolating role.
But a Royal Warrior…well, it was a role she had not thought of, simply because Hesperia had no Royal Warriors yet. She could see how the training would suit Gorgophone, once she was old enough, and how it might keep her close to the ever-busy palace.
“I agree, my queen,” she said, aloud. “Gorgophone would suit such a role, much better than any other we could offer her. But training for such a role without a mentor may be hard on her.”
“I intend to have most of us come together to train her, including my sister. She will not be left to flounder.” Molpe seemed satisfied. “If you agree with this, Polgara, I have no lingering doubts.”
Polgara held up a hand. “My queen, I did wish to speak to you about something, if you…well, if you do not mind it.”
“You may speak freely, Polgara. What troubles you?”
“It is not a trouble, but…I wonder if I might be granted your permission to bear a child. I have spent years now watching over the children of this tribe, and now I have two others who may help bear the weight of my duties. I wish to have a child, my queen, and I do not wish to interfere with any of your plans, but…”
“Of course you have my permission!” Molpe looked delighted. “Polgara, you may have your pick of any of the men you wish, once we have secured more. You have more than earned such a reward. Oh, it will be a blessing to see your child!”
With that, she moved forward, and Polgara found that the queen was embracing her tightly. She returned the embrace, and when they drew back, Molpe’s eyes were sparkling with happy tears.
“Polgara, you are raising the second royal child in your care, and the fourth young girl. You have done so much for this tribe, and I happily grant you the permission you seek.”
Polgara felt her own joy threatening tears.
“Thank you, my queen. I shall make my choice soon.” She wiped her eyes. “I only hope for the goddess’ blessing when I do.”
The weather was grey and foreboding in the lands of Sirena, rain clouds gathering above the small palace that the queen used for diplomatic meetings. Inside, Hebe, the tribe’s heiress, sat next to the young heiress of Juturna. Her name was Sao, and she seemed just as unsettled as Hebe felt.
“I must welcome you back to Sirena,” she said, formally. “My mother has bid me to wait with you until it is time for us to speak with them, but do you mind letting me know what has happened?”
“We have unpleasant news to pass on regarding an incident in our own tribe, and we believe it to be worth telling your mother about. I…cannot say more than that.” Sao shifted in her seat. “Tell me, how is Princess Europa?”
The mention of her daughter thankfully made things much less awkward for Hebe.
“The princess is very well, thank you. I still remember the two of you playing together when you were about her age, do you?” Hebe smiled at Sao. “It seems hardly possible that you are old enough to accompany your mother to these meetings.”
“I feel the same,” Sao sighed, and Hebe felt a pang of sympathy for the young girl. She knew her as well as she did most of the royal children of the surrounding tribes, and while they rarely saw each other, they were both Heiresses, set to inherit the responsibilities of their mothers. Hebe was already a mother, with a child of her own, whilst Sao was barely more than a child, but they shared the role and could empathize with each other well.
In the other room, Queen Eurynome of Juturna talked in hushed tones with Queen Clodia.
“My daughter will tell you what she saw, Queen Clodia, and it does not bode well. That woman sought to do harm to our tribe, and now…I had hoped that my ruling would give her the lesson she needed, but it seems to be a troubling situation.”
“This woman…” Clodia hesitated, looking concerned. “She is the same as before?”
“Glauce. She always was such a one. She claimed that she did everything for my sake, for the sake of the tribe, but that has never been her decision, and all her choices were ones I would never endorse. She is as poison in our waters. I had hope for her when she was younger, but…I have so many more to think about than just her.”
The heiresses entered quietly, and Hebe sat down near her mother, bowing to both queens. Sao stood in front of the throne, shifting from foot to foot.
“My daughter is tasked with patrolling outside of our territory, just a little further from it, so that she may see any danger and report back. However, she was tasked with also going past the islands where we left Glauce all those years ago this time, as we had reports of Frankish men sailing nearby.”
“I saw huts, Queen Clodia.” Sao’s voice was clear as she spoke, and she looked the queen in the eye. “I even saw a man walking around the island, and a young girl on the beach, though I doubt she saw me. Of course, she may have done, but Glauce seems to have built a small compound on that island, and…”
“It was the man we left her with, from my daughter’s description.”
Clodia’s expression changed, instantly. “She has…defied the Goddess?”
Sao bowed, sitting down, and Clodia’s expression was still shocked, as she processed the information.
“He lives yet, and the child was a young girl.” Queen Eurynome looked stern as she spoke. “She has broken a sacred law, Queen Clodia, she must have done, for they are the only ones who could be on that island. She draws the Goddess’ wrath to do this.”
“The laws are clear that the balance must be maintained, whether in exile from her tribe or not.” Queen Clodia looked to Hebe, and then back. “She is not breaking the rules of a single tribe, but the very code of the Goddess. Of course, killing the man would have restored the balance, but now… I do not know how the Goddess should be appeased, but she cannot keep living so close to us. We must remove Glauce from our shores.”
“It seems only fitting that she would continue to cause us trouble even now.” Queen Eurynome shook her head. “I only hope this can be resolved peacefully for the sake of her child. If she has care for the girl, perhaps that can be used to our advantage.”
Sao raised her hand. “Would the goddess be appeased if the child was dedicated to her?”
Queen Clodia blinked, and then smiled. “That may very well be the best course of action. I am sure that no blame could land on the head of the child, but I shall consult with my priestesses on the matter, as I am sure your mother shall with hers.”
“It is not a bad idea at all, dearest,” Queen Eurynome added, thoughtfully. “Though I question whether a child of Glauce would have the right temperament to be a priestess.”
Sao settled back in her chair as the discussion continued, satisfied at such a positive response. Of course, she felt truly sorry for the child she had seen on the shores of the island, for it could only be a miserable existence. But that would not continue for much longer. She could only give her own prayers that the matter would be resolved soon.
In the throne room, Marcella sat with Gorgophone, chatting idly back and forth.
“So, when do you think Princess Anikka will become a Scholar? Will she have to leave the palace?” Gorgophone asked.
“Oh, I think it should be soon! Well, soon enough, surely. The princess has been training on her own to become Hesperia’s first Scholar, and the queen has promised her that she should have her own quarters where she may study.” Marcella smiled back at Gorgophone. “It will be strange, once she is Scholar Anikka and not Princess Anikka, but then we have always known her as the princess.”
“It still feels strange to think about it,” Gorgophone sighed, before turning to Marcella properly. “You know, my grandmother was also a Gatherer, just like my mother is. Polgara told me that her name was Phoebe, and that she was an excellent Gatherer. I guess Mother is very much like her.”
“She must be on Metis, then.” Marcella tilted her head. “I wonder if we should ever be allowed to visit another tribe? I know that Queen Clodia of Sirena often does, because Anikka told me as such, but ever since my mother and I came here, I have not heard of anyone leaving Hesperia, not even once.”
“Well, Hesperia is much smaller than Sirena or even Metis. We could never spare two women to go join another tribe, not as we are now.” Gorgophone waved a hand loftily as she spoke. “Hesperia is still small by those standards, is that not right?”
“Yes, that is right, but no matter the size of the tribe, we are bound together by the fact we are Artemisian.” Marcella smiled at her. “By Sirena’s standards, Anikka tells me Metis is considered small, but they are still allied. We could not quite spare two women now, but we have been helped by three separate tribes now, and you must agree, that shows some sort of alliance.”
“What if they are waiting to ask favours in return?” Gorgophone challenged. “We needed their help, and now they can ask the queen for hers if they needed it.”
Marcella sighed, internally. Gorgophone was sometimes very cynical for someone her age, even though she seemed to enjoy these conversations.
Blissfully unaware of the discussions downstairs, Anikka was playing with her niece in the nursery. These days, Thaleia was no longer the babe in arms she had been, but instead, a sweet child who had inherited her father’s dark hair. Anikka often came into the nursery to spend time with her, and loved her dearly.
“Up!” Thaleia cheered, reaching out to her aunt, who could not help but smile. Really, her niece was the sweetest little girl.
She lifted her up, and immediately, Thaleia wriggled so that she had wrapped herself snugly around Anikka.
It would be a good day today, Anikka mused, as she held Thaleia. Molpe had managed to clear most of her tasks, and would be able to come visit the nursery, rather than overseeing the management of the tribe. She had recently been arranging for someone (preferably Meda) to go to the market, as at the moment only Lukos and Magnus remained of the men. There was also a more regular correspondence with their mother now that Thaleia had been born, which had been flying back and forth, and of course, the issue of Gorgophone’s training. Gorgophone would have ideally been apprenticing under her mother as a Gatherer, but her impatient streak had made Molpe hesitate on that count. Anikka knew that Molpe was finding it hard to place the girl well, especially after the discussion with Timandra, but she had tried not to let it colour her interactions with Gorgophone at all. It was for the best that Gorgophone did not know of the difficulties, and was only aware of the outcome when it was decided.
“At least your role is decided,” she said to Thaleia, cuddling her closer. Thaleia started to wriggle a little as she did so.
“Princess Anikka!” Polgara walked in with a smile as Anikka put Thaleia down gently. “It is good to see you here again. The princess is lucky to have such an attentive aunt.”
“Oh, Polgara! It is good to see you too. Has…has my sister spoken to you this morning?”
“The queen? Well, she told me she would be visiting Thaleia today. Why, is there something else she might have mentioned?”
Anikka shook her head, smiling a little awkwardly. “No, no. I just wondered if you knew of her visiting Thaleia, of course. I hope you do not mind that I came a little earlier than she did.”
“I never mind. Though I must admit, it is strange that you are nearly a warrior these days. I have such fond memories of the little girl I met when I first arrived.” Polgara’s eyes twinkled. “It seems incredible that Thaleia will only need a few years to be that same age, does it not?”
“I hardly believe my eyes with how quickly she grows already,” Anikka admitted. “It must be strange for you to have seen so many children grow older here.”
“It is part of my duties to watch children grow,” Polgara said, with a gentle smile. “And it is a wonderful duty, at that. You are growing to be a wonderful woman, Anikka, and I know that your sister is very proud of you. One day, you will be proud of Thaleia in the same way.”
“I will not be ready for that day,” Anikka said, immediately.
“None of us are, Princess Anikka. I know your sister–“
“Oh, Polgara!” Molpe said, from the doorway. “Are you talking of my sweet little apple growing up?”
“It is inevitable, my queen.” Polgara’s eyes danced again. “She will grow up, be a true princess and heiress…”
“Oh, no, not just yet.” Molpe walked between them, scooping her daughter up. “She is forbidden from being anything but the sweetest little baby I have ever seen!”
Anikka laughed, and Polgara did also, while the queen bounced Thaleia gently. The little princess giggled, reaching out for her mother with her hands.
Polgara looked between the princesses and the queen, and bowed her head.
“I shall go find Marcella and Gorgophone, my queen. If I am needed…”
“I shall send Anikka to find you,” Molpe said, with a smile. “But Polgara, I do wish to talk with you tomorrow, if you have the time. If you could ask Marcella to go on a walk around the grounds with Gorgophone whilst we talk, I would also be grateful.”
“I will watch Thaleia,” Anikka said, immediately. “I…I only mean that I…”
She stumbled over her words, and both Molpe and Polgara hid their smiles. Polgara made her bow, and then headed for the stairs. Anikka let out a small groan of embarrassment.
“Come now, sister, it is not so bad.” Molpe stifled a giggle. “Of course you may look after Thaleia for me whilst I talk with Polgara. Thaleia adores you.”
“I am the only aunt she knows, after all,” Anikka said, with an awkward smile.
“Oh, I am sure that even if she met any of her other aunts, you would still be the favoured one.” Molpe moved Thaleia so she was balancing on her hip. “Now, I shall tell you what I am to talk about with Polgara tomorrow, and you shall give your insight, if you have it further than you have already.” She lowered her voice. “It is about Gorgophone.”
Anikka nodded, also lowering her voice.
“It must be about her training. She will soon be of age, but you have not decided yet what role she must take…”
“Well, it gets easier these days. Unlike you, she is not suited to the role of Scholar, and has not the patience to train under Polgara, Meda, or Timandra. So, like you, she must be trained without a mentor present. I may even have to ask you to be the one who trains her. I was considering that her nature would be a good fit as a Royal Warrior, though that would require her training to start sooner.”
Royal Warriors were the warriors who were assigned directly to the royal family. They were both bodyguards and the ones who in case of misdeeds were tasked with sentencing the wrongdoers, and their decisions could only be overruled by the queen herself.
“Gorgophone?” Anikka asked, quietly. “You think she could?”
“She loves dearly. I think her fierce nature could benefit the tribe that way, and now with Thaleia, it is right to start thinking about protection and more active roles. We have a Provider, a Gatherer, and soon a Scholar, but we lack some of the protection I would like to have in place for Thaleia.”
Molpe’s words were persuasive, though Anikka still had a couple of remaining doubts, but the way that her sister had phrased things made Anikka look at Gorgophone from that angle. It was true – despite her impatience and prickly nature, that very defensiveness was an asset for a Royal Warrior. Besides, she was the only girl of age who could be trained as such.
“I think you may be right,” Anikka said, after a moment’s thought. “But you wish to consult with Polgara first?”
“Yes. She knows the girl best, after all, so I would value her opinion on the matter. But I believe I have found a solution to this problem now, and I hope that it will serve Gorgophone well also.” Molpe smiled at her sister. “This is for Thaleia’s sake, Anikka. Everything we do now is for her future.”