THE AMAZON QUEEN
Part XV: Legacy
by L.M. Townsend (e-mail: QueenLaese@aol.com)
DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Cyrenê, Virgil, Meg, Autolycus, Joxer, et al (meaning anyone else I didn't list and should have.) are the property of MCA, Universal, and Renaissance Pictures and anyone else who has a legal claim (thanks for letting the girls come out to play!) The character of Hercules, although a mythical/historical figure in his own right, for the purpose of this story, also belongs to them. Melysë and The Amazons belong to themselves, (and I dare any man to say different!)This story is mine, though, and written just for fun, not profit.
Subtext? Subtext? - YES, though nothing explicit.
Violence: Hm, well, yeah - there is a war, after all.
Language: Where there are warriors....I do try to keep it semi-"clean", though.
*Spoiler Alert - several references to various episodes throughout the history of the show.
Arynë and Tecmessa rode into Hattusas, the capital city of the Hittites. Melysë had written a letter of introduction for them - just in case the messenger birds shed also sent hadnt arrived. Mother leaves nothing to chance, thought Arynë, grinning. Wonder if she picked that up from Xena?
Other than a few bandits, easily dispatched, the journey had been quiet, but rewarding. Both malatyra felt the renewal of their bond and laughed easily with one another.
The Amazons made their way through the throng, Tecmessa a little nervous at the crowds. Arynë smiled encouragement to her.
"Amazons!" they heard, Arynë turning in the saddle towards the voice. They saw a young man, dark with black hair and deep brown eyes which twinkled. He rode towards them and saluted.
"Are you Arynë of Aemetzainê?"
"I am," said Arynë.
"Welcome, Cousin," said the young man, grasping her forearm in a warriors greeting and grinning. "I am Taru - the king has been eagerly awaiting your arrival since he received Queen Melysës message."
"Thank-you, Taru," said Arynë, returning his easy grin. "This is Tecmessa, my partner."
"Welcome, o, lovely one," said Taru, bowing. "Truly, though my cousin is named for our Sun Goddess, surely you shine golden as she."
Arynë frowned, then shrugged. Must just be his way - or maybe its a Hittite thing, she thought. Either way, unless Tecmessa complains, Ill let it go. "Are we truly cousins, Taru?" she asked.
"Yes, my princess - your father is my fathers brother," said Taru. "Will you allow me to escort you both to the palace?"
"The palace?" said Arynë, frowning. "I thought I would see my father..."
"Ah, your highness, your father is now our king," said Taru. "Sadly, Mursilas has crossed over and happily your father, Telepinu is now our king - and I am his heir."
"Oh, wow, Ryn," said Tecmessa, smiling. "That makes you doubly a princess."
"I suppose so," said Arynë frowning. "Sure, Taru, take us to the palace."
Once again her cousin bowed and led the way.
Telepinu, King of the Hittites, sat in state on his throne, awaiting the arrival of his Amazon daughter and her companion. Since receiving the message from Queen Melysë, he had posted scouts along the route from Aemetzainê to Hattusas to watch for them. Now he saw with his own eyes the only child he had fathered thus far, despite a vast harem of wives and concubines. And he was pleased.
Her Amazon blood was evident in her height and bearing, and Melysës dark green eyes looked steadily into his own. In truth, the princess was very nearly the exact image of her mother, save Arynë s golden complexion which bespoke of a life in the sun, and her strength was evident in her bare arms and legs. Telepinu remembered Melysë as pale and slender - bookish and scholarly. This girl was quite evidently a warrior in her own right. Telepinu thanked his hundreds of gods that he had agreed to the liaison with the Amazon Priestess-Queen which had resulted in this wonder of a warrior-daughter.
Arynë gazed steadily at the man who had sired her, her frank curiosity refreshing to the king, who was accustomed to the jaded politeness of his court. He rose as she approached and extended her arm in greeting. The king embraced her in a fatherly embrace - which Arynë, after a moments hesitation, returned.
"Greetings, Your majesty," said Arynë in clear, if accented, Hittite.
"Welcome, my daughter," said the king, smiling broadly. Not only a warrior, but intelligent, too! The language of my people is not an easy one to learn. Yet she seems to have mastered it.
"My mother sends her greetings as well," said Arynë, warming to his open smile. "And her wishes for your continued health and long reign." Well, Melysë had sent that message to King Mursilas, but she hadnt known that Telepinu was now king. It wouldnt matter, Arynë decided, if she passed this on to Telepinu - no doubt her mother would have meant it, too. The Priestess remembered Telepinu with a gentle fondness.
"He was...kind - and he gave me you," the priestess had said, smiling gently.
"Your mother always was most gracious," said Telepinu, smiling. "You must forgive me - I seem to have forgotten hospitality - let my servants show you to your rooms where you may refresh yourselves. I have arranged a banquet in your honour - tell, me, do you like chariot races?"
"I dont know," said Arynë, considering. "Ive never raced one before."
Telepinu laughed, though not unkindly. "Well, perhaps you shall enjoy merely watching one or two before you decide to participate."
Arynë smiled relieved. "Yes, I think Id like that," she said. Now, for the real test, she thought. "Sire, this is my malatyr - Tecmessa."
"I am honoured," said Telepinu, still smiling and bowing slightly, as Tecmessas eyes widened, and she extended her arm to grasp the kings wrist, remembering at the last minute the words of her teachers for as long as she could remember, An Amazon bows to no man, be he king or god.
The servants took them a suite of rooms remarkable for their opulence. Tecmessa looked around in wonder.
"Wow, Ryn, this is even more....splendid than Themiscyreia!" she said. Arynë looked around, appraising with a critical eye. As Xena had taught her, she looked for the exits - and possible hidden entrances, the safety of her companion ever in the front of her mind. At last, satisfied that the chamber was secure, she wandered through the other rooms with the same critical inspection. Finally, satisfied with the defensibility of the place, she settled down next to Tecmessa and began to unpack.
They were interrupted by a knock on the door and servants entered with bath water and clean clothes.
"The King bade us attend you for the feast," said one of the women, bowing low.
"Oh, Goddess! Get up, will you?" said Arynë, ever impatient with formality.
"Thank-you, but we wont need any help," said Tecmessa, glancing at her malatyrs scowl. More of Xena than Queen Melysë in her here, thought Tecmessa. Gonna have to watch that.
"Im sorry, your highness," said the servant, eyes still cast down as she rose. "If you are displeased with me for any reason, perhaps I could send another to - "
"No," said Arynë, firmly. "I dont...um, I have Tecmessa to attend me. Its Amazon custom, only another Amazon may assist the princess to bathe and dress."
"Oh," said the servant brightly, looking up with relief. Tecmessa stared, wide-eyed at Arynë.
"So, uh...dismissed...ok?" said Arynë, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes, Your Highness," said the servant as they all bowed and left the Amazons.
"You just made that up," Tecmessa hissed after the door closed behind them.
Arynë grinned at her, gathering her in her arms and holding her close. "So? You think I want all those women gawking at you in the tub? This way, Ive guaranteed our privacy."
"Oh," said Tecmessa, blushing a little. "I hadnt actually thought of that."
"You havent?" said Arynë, raising that eyebrow again and grinning. "I must be doing something wrong, then. And you what Xena says, Practice, practice, practice..."
Melysë chuckled, watching Xena struggling to get up from playing on the floor with their youngest daughter, Neiromei. She went over and grabbed both of the Warrior-Queens hands, bracing herself and pulling.
"Come on," she said, grinning.
"Hey, you shouldnt be - " began Xena as she came to her feet.
"Oh, you hush," said Melysë, smiling and capturing her warriors lips with her own. "Youre bigger than I am - and you shouldnt be getting down on the floor anymore, either."
"Heh, thats true," said Xena, returning the kiss, as Romy launched her little body into both of her mothers, wrapping both small arms around their legs.
Melysë bent and picked her up, to Xenas raised eyebrow. "Lysë, you know what Hypsyple told you," said the Warrior Queen.
"Xena, I know my limits," said Melysë, tucking the toddler onto her hip and going to the kitchen, Xena close behind.
"Yeah, I know you know your limits, but - " said the Warrior, suddenly hushed by another kiss.
"Xena, Im fine," said Melysë, gazing into the blue eyes of her heart-mate. "Please believe me - Ill stop when I have to - you know me. Besides, Gabrielle told me you fought off Zeuss elite guard minutes before Eve was born - I can certainly lift a tiny child."
"I was fighting for my life and the life of my unborn child - I didnt have much choice," said Xena, placing gentle hands on her priestesss shoulders. "And you and I are two different people - youre...."
"Im what?" said Melysë, smiling and placing her hand on her other hip.
"Um..." said Xena, tying to think of the safest description.
"Hello?" Xena looked up at the sound of the familiar voice and sighed her relief. There goes Gabrielle, saving my backside again!
"Come on in, Gabrielle," said Melysë, smiling at her sister-queen, then turning her eyes back to Xena. "Well?"
"Well, what?" said Xena, pretending to forget the question.
"Somebodys busted," chuckled Gabrielle, taking Neiromei from Melysë and cuddling the little girl, who absolutely adored her tanti Gabrielle.
"Hm," said Melysë, smiling that smile she saved only for her heart-mate. "Well discuss this later."
Unless I can make you forget about it, thought the warrior, smiling back.
"I just came by to...oh, Hades, I miss you both and just wanted to see you," said Gabrielle, sitting with Neiromei, who tucked her little head against Gabrielles chest, snuggling.
"Well, Im glad," said Melysë, smiling and sitting beside her. "This whole confinement thing is way over-rated. Ive never felt better. And Im just about bored silly."
"Lysë, Hypsyple said - "said both Xena and Gabrielle.
"Enough of what Hypsyple said," said Melysë, grinning. "I know what she says. I have to take it easy, I cant lift Neiromei, I cant ride, I cant use my powers, I cant this, I have to that, yadda, yadda, yadda. Believe me, I know the rules. Im behaving."
"With a lapse here and there," said Xena. "You do realise that we love you and thats why were so worried?"
"Yes, I do," said Melysë, smiling. "But I have things to do at the Temple and - "
"Melysë, dont you even think about using your powers!"
The three queens looked up to see Melysës sister, Aphrodite, standing there, hands on slender hips, frowning.
"Dite, nice to see you," said Melysë.
"Yeah, me too," said Aphrodite. "I mean, you, too. I dont know what I mean."
"Whats wrong?" asked Gabrielle.
"Oh, Ares is up to his old tricks - again," Said Aphrodite.
"Oh, no!" cried Melysë, distressed by the news.
"Oh, its not that bad," Aphrodite hastened to amend. "Its just, well, he still keeps his eye on things like battles and wars and conflicts and stuff - you know?"
"Yes," said Xena, grimly. "I know. So whats he up to now?"
"Well, Pharaoh is planning an attack on the Hittites and - "
Suddenly, Melysë was no longer fine, and Xena moved swiftly to catch her as she fell in a faint.
"Aphrodite," growled the warrior. "Ryns visiting her father - the Hittite?"
"Oh, no!" cried the goddess of love, dismayed. "I didnt know! Is she okay?"
"Yeah, shell be fine," said Xena, gently settling her heart-mate into a chair as the priestess came around.
"Xena, we have to - " Melysë began, trying to rise and very gently restrained by Xenas hand on her shoulder.
"We dont have to anything. Ill take care of this - Ill go and get Ryn and Tecmessa," said Xena.
"Theres no time for that," said Aphrodite. "Pharaoh is marching on Hattusas right now."
Xena looked at Melysës stricken face and scowled at Aphrodite. "So what does Ares have to do with all this?" she asked.
"Well, he hasnt actually done anything- yet," said Aphrodite. "But hes been like, talking about it, you know? Like about how much he misses the clang of swords and the warriors shouting his name and stuff. And hes got this look in his eye - like he used to get sometimes, you know?"
"Yeah," said Xena, quietly. "I do know. Ares is deciding which side to back."
"Xena - hes going to relapse back into his old ways - hell lose everything hes worked so hard to gain," said Melysë, struggling to rise. "I have to help him - and Ryn and Tecmessa."
"Lysë," said Gabrielle. "Why dont you let Xena and I get Ryn and Tecmessa - Aphrodite, will you take Melysë to Olympus to talk to Ares? If anyone can get through to him, its Lysë."
"Yeah, Sweet Pea - thats a great idea!" said Aphrodite, brightening.
"Thank-you, Gabrielle," said Melysë, smiling in relief. "But I dont know how you two will get to Hattusas before..."
"Oh, Ill do it," said Aphrodite. "Ill send you two there whenever youre ready."
"Thats great," said Gabrielle, smiling at Xena.
Xena nodded her assent. "Lysë, be careful - I worry about you, you know," she said.
"I worry about you, too - both of you," said Melysë, smiling gently, rising slowly from her chair.
"Im...uh...going to back to the Lodge and, um, get some things together - for the trip," said Gabrielle, grinning and handing Neiromei off to Xena. "Come on, Dite - I need your expertise in fashion - what are the Hittites wearing this season, anyway?"
Aphrodite looked at her sister and Xena, giggled, then linked arms with Gabrielle and left the cottage. Neiromei, her eyes wide watched as her two favourite tantis left, her mother was starting to cry, and she sensed Xenas bewilderment. So, the toddler did the only thing she could think of - she started laughing, hugging her warrior mother with all her strength and reaching for her meia at the same time.
"Gods, I love this kid!" said Xena, holding the child close for a moment before handing her over to Melysë.
"Romy loves meias," said the little girl, snuggling up with her meia, but still maintaining contact with Xena by cling to her arm with one small hand.
"And meias adore Romy," said Melysë, smiling. "Romy, youre going to primeias house for a little bit - Meias have to go bye-bye for a little while."
"Go get Ryn n Tmessa?" said the little girl, looking hopefully at her mothers. "Romy misses Ryn."
"Yes, Little One," said Xena, stroking the childs dark curly hair. "Im going to go and get Ryn and Tecmessa while your meia goes to help tandos Ares."
"Blessed Goddess!" said Arynë, struggling with the unfamiliar Hittite gown. "Thats it! Im wearing my leathers!"
"Ryn, no," said Tecmessa, gently refastening a complicated tie on her malatyrs gown. "There. Come on, Ryn - theyre trying to be nice, loaning us these clothes so we dont feel...awkward."
"Oh, please," said Arynë, rolling her eyes, but grinning. "Believe me, Id feel great deal less awkward in my leathers - or a simple tunic - what is the point of this, anyway?"
Tecmessa shrugged at the proffered shawl. "If youd just have let those women assist us, wed be dressed and probably eating dinner by now," she grumbled, her stomach echoing.
"Youre always hungry - just like Tanti Gabrielle," said Arynë, smiling at her, her cross mood temporarily lifted. Suddenly, she stripped the offending dress off and pulled on her best scarlet tunic and midnight blue trousers, cinching the tunic about her slender waist with a zona of beaten copper. "You wear what you want - Im not going down there in that...thing."
Tecmessa giggled and followed suit, replacing the Hittite clothes with a rose tunic and dark brown trousers. "Youre right - this does feel a lot less awkward. But what will your father say?"
"The King?" said Ryn, raising an eyebrow. "I dont know, but we are Amazons - we cannot be expected to dress like court-harlots."
"Well, okay - but leave the sword here, huh?" said Tecmessa, grinning.
"Id planned on it," said Arynë, slipping a small dagger in her boot. Xena had taught her never to be without a weapon if she could help it - especially in unfamiliar territory; and Arynë found Hattusas to be the most unfamiliar territory shed ever encountered. "Come on - lets go feed you," she said, wrapping an arm around Tecmessas shoulders and walking her to the Feast Hall.
The trip to Olympus was swift. Melysë walked through the quiet Halls of the Olympians, looking about with interest at the various statues and tapestries. Aphrodite pointed out some of them - including one of Zeus.
"That one looks the most like him," she said, wistfully.
"Dite, you loved our father, didnt you?" said Melysë, quietly.
"Yeah, I did," said the goddess, with a sigh. "I mean, he spoiled me rotten, you know? But I could tell he loved me, too. He wasnt like, just trying to buy my love - he did it cause he didnt know any other way to show me how he felt."
Melysë nodded, silently, still gazing at the effigy of her sires face. "I didnt know him at all," she said, quietly, lightly running sensitive fingers over the cool marble. "I wonder if I would have liked him?"
"Probably," said Aphrodite. "He would have liked you, too - his mortal children were sort of his favourites."
"You couldnt tell it by me," sighed the Amazon. "Oh, well. Whats passed cant be changed. Where is Ares?"
"Hes in Zeus study - right through that door," said Aphrodite, pointing the way. "Ive got to go - call me when youre ready to go home, okay?"
"Thanks, Dite," said Melysë, quickly hugging her sister, then she turned and went to the door.
"Go away!" was the reply to her knock.
"Ares, its me, Melysë," she called, and suddenly the door swung open and Ares stood there, grinning.
"Lysë!" he said, picking her up and twirling her around, gleefully.
"Im really glad to see you, too, Brother," said Melysë, as he set her down. "Youre unusually exuberant - whats up?"
"Oh, Lysë, everything!" cried the former god of war. "Whoa - hey, you got bigger!"
"Ares, Im pregnant," said Melysë, slightly annoyed.
"Again? Damn, what is that - five, now?" said Ares grinning.
"Six - Xenas pregnant, too," said Melysë, wearily, looking around for a chair.
Ares whistled appreciatively. "Whoa - between the two of you - population explosion - dont you two ever give it a rest?"
"Ares," warned Melysë. "Whats going on?"
"Oh, yeah, come on in - you have got to see this!" said Ares, ushering her in and closing the door behind her. "Aphrodite just doesnt understand things like this, but you will. Remember when I told you Dad never left anything tangible behind except - "
"I remember, Ares," said Melysë, sighing as she slowly lowered herself into a chair.
"Yeah, well, boy, was I wrong!" said Ares, his eyes lighting up like a small boy on Solstice morning. "Come here, Lysë, and take a look."
Melysë awkwardly pulled herself from the chair and went to a large table. Its top resembled a gameboard, save a map of the known world was etched into its surface. Several tokens in the shape of people were strewn about, and Melysë noticed two large armies set up on it.
"This is how Dad controlled mortals," said Ares, reverently.
"And what are you doing with it?" Melysë asked quietly, looking intently into her brothers eyes. "Ares, are you playing with the lives of mortals?"
"No! Thats the beauty of it, Melysë - not only did Dad use it to, ah, alter things, he could also just watch what was going on - I swear, I didnt set up the armies. I wouldnt have put the Egyptian cavalry here, Id put it - "
"Ares!" said Melysë, sharply. "Please - dont move them around. Arynë and Tecmessa are in Hattusas right now. And probably Gabrielle and Xena, too, by now."
Aphrodite brought Xena and Gabrielle to the palace in Hattusas. The place was in tumult, servants and courtiers running back and forth in a panic. Xena snagged a maid as she was running past.
"Whats going on?" she asked the terrified woman.
"Oh, Pharaoh is marching on us and hes got the King Telepinus daughter, holding her hostage!" cried the woman. "Only his majesty doesnt know it yet - everyones too afraid to tell him."
"What!? King Telepinu?" said Xena, shaking the woman. "Youd better take us to the King - now!"
The maid, trembling, led the three to the Great Hall, where Xena could see the King, pacing back and forth, shouting orders and receiving reports. Xena nodded in approval at his leadership, and approached.
"What is it?" asked Telepinu, seeing the maid leading the three women. His voice was not harsh, despite the situation, but Gabrielle could see he was impatient to get their business with him done and get back to the task at hand.
"Sire," said the maid, falling face down to the floor in obeisance.
"For the gods sakes, woman, get up," said Telepinu, impatiently. Xena raised an eyebrow in recognition.
"Your Majesty? King Telepinu?" she said. "Im Xena."
Telepinu allowed relief to cross his face. "Thank the gods! Can you get them out of here? Were about to go to war," he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Gabrielle.
"My daughter and her companion came to visit - damn it, why did this have to happen while she was here?" said Telepinu, sadly. "Can you get her to a safe place?"
"Your Majesty, Ryn is a warrior in her own right - she wouldnt appreciate being bundled away like a village maiden," said Xena, wryly. "Like as not shed prefer to fight at your side. But thats not important right now - one of your servants just told us Pharaoh has her."
With a roar of agonised rage, Telepinu, dashed from the chamber, the Amazons close behind as the king bounded up steps. Gabrielle, breathless, had to stop, but motioned for Xena to keep going.
"Its okay," said Aphrodite. "Ill stay with her till we catch up." Xena nodded and followed the king to a heavy wooden door at the end of the corridor. He knocked loudly and Arynë opened it, hopefully.
"Tecmessa?" she said. "Oh, Sire - Xena!" She ran into Xenas arms, weeping. "They took her, tanti-meia! Tecmessas gone!"
"Ryns in Hattusas?" said Ares, frowning, then he grinned. "Hey, no problem!" He moved to sweep away Pharaohs army from the board, but Melysë stayed his arm.
"No, Ares, we cant," she said, painfully. "We cant ... interfere. We cannot destroy an entire army of people to suit our own needs - thats the mistake our father made. There has to be another way."
"Aw, Lysë," said Ares, disappointed he was going to be permitted to play with his new "toy". "Cant I just - ?"
"Ares, no," said Melysë, firmly. "We just have to trust Xena and Gabrielle - and Aphrodite - to get to them in time - and let this battle play out as it will."
"Well, okay," said Ares, sitting down to watch. "At least I get a battle out of this."
Melysë sighed, and sat beside her brother to watch and hope.
"Sh, Ryn, itll be okay - well get her back," said Xena, stroking the girls dark hair soothingly. "Now what happened?"
Arynë pulled out of the warriors embrace and began pacing. "Arynë!" cried Xena, at the sight of blood on her own tunic - it hadnt been noticeable on Arynës scarlet and dark blue clothing.
"Its okay - its not mine," said Arynë, wearily. "I got one of the bastards who grabbed Tecmessa, but there were just too many. And the worst of it is, they think shes me!"
"Relax - we can probably turn that around to our advantage," said the warrior, thoughtfully. "What are the terms of her release?"
"They want Kadesh," said Arynë, miserably.
"Never!" cried Telepinu. "Kadesh is Hittite land - we wont capitulate - well fight them!"
"In the meantime, what about Tecmessa?" said Arynë looking up her father.
"Shes safe - they wont harm one they think is my daughter - it would defeat their purpose," said the King, more gently.
"Because while they have her, they still have hope youll give in," said Arynë, nodding, calmer.
"Exactly," said Xena, looking at her heart-daughter, proudly.
"Im going after her," said Arynë, stubbornly. "I only came back here to get my sword."
"I would advise against that," said Telepinu.
"Im going anyway," said Arynë, her jaw firmly set.
"Gods!" said Xena, exasperated. "Youre just like your mother - stubborn! At least let me come with you."
"Xena youre pregnant," said Arynë.
"And?" said Xena, raising an eyebrow. "If you go, I go."
"Xena, if youre trying to get me to change my mind, it wont work," said Arynë, determined, sheathing her sword on her back and pulling bracers on over her long sleeves. "If it were Mother or Gabrielle - wouldnt you do the same?"
Xena sighed, defeated. "Yeah, I would," she said. "Okay - well wait here for you. If youre not back by nightfall with Tecmessa, though, were coming after you - understood?"
"Yes," said Arynë, smiling slightly. "Thank-you, tanti-meia. Im really glad youre here."
"Me, too, Ryn," said Xena, hugging her one more time before she bounded down the stairs and out of the palace.
"Ares, whats that?" said Melysë, pointing to one of the tokens moving on the board. Ares squinted at the tiny figure, then looked at Melysë and grinned.
"Thats your daughter," he said. "Looks like shes going off to kick a little Egyptian - "
"Blessed Goddess!" said Melysë, looking closer. "It is Ryn! What in the hells is she doing?"
Arynë commandeered one of her fathers smaller chariots and drove off toward the Egyptian camp. She had never travelled so swiftly and under other circumstances would have enjoyed it immensely, but now her thoughts centred solely on her malatyr.
She could feel Tecmessas fear as her own, but was relieved - that meant Tecmessa was still very much alive and probably fine, despite her fear. Arynë focused on the reins and the terrain - as fast as she was driving, it would be really bad to tip the chariot.
At last she got close to the camp. She unhitched the horse from the chariot and tethered him to a tree near some grass. Then, crouching low, she slipped up to the perimeter and began to watch. Just as Xena had taught her, she quickly learned the patrol schedule of the sentries. Too predictable, she critiqued in her mind. But that works to my advantage.
Slipping silently past the sentries, Arynë employed everything Xena taught her. She sought out the tent where she could feel her malatyrs presence. Making herself all but invisible, keeping to the shadows, Arynë crept up behind the tent and listened. She heard Tecmessa weeping quietly, but no one seemed to be in the tent with her. Taking her dagger from her boot, she cut a small slit in the fabric of the tent and peeked inside. Sure enough, Tecmessa was alone.
Arynë cut the slit larger and silently slipped into the tent herself, keeping low so the sentries wouldnt see her shadow through the tent walls. Quietly, Arynë cooed like a dove, warning Tecmessa of her presence. Tecmessa, not wanting to alert the sentries looked up and smiled brightly at Arynë, who grinned back and motioned with her head for Tecmessa to follow, which she did.
They got out of the camp, Arynë thanking the Goddess for Tecmessas tracking skills to avoid making any noise, and back to the chariot. "Get in and hang on," said Arynë, grinning, as she started driving back to her fathers palace.
"Goddess!" Melysë cried, watching the movement of the tiny tokens on the board. Her hand itched to grab the one representing her daughter, racing across the plains at breakneck speed, but she dared not interfere.
Ares sat beside her, jumping and cheering at the battle raging around Kadesh as Pharaohs chariots and foot soldiers met Telepinus in combat. Melysë cringed at the number of warriors who fell that day.
"Aw, come on, Lysë - you cant be that squeamish - youve fought - and killed," said Ares, thrilled. "Besides, its not the deaths - its the ones coming out of this alive that tickles me!"
Melysë frowned. "You dont like the deaths, either," she mused.
Ares shrugged. "Why would I?" he said. "Deaths a waste of a warrior - ah, but the ones who survive to fight another day! Stronger, more skilled through their experience - oh, yeah - theyre a joy to watch in action!"
"Thats interesting," said Melysë. Suddenly, she paled as something caught her eye. "Ares, look!"
Arynë dropped Tecmessa off at the palace and raced towards the sounds of battle. She raised her sword and uttered a war-cry all her own, yet not unlike Xenas. Arynë found herself hampered by the unfamiliar chariot and leaped out of it to join the foot soldiers. She saw Taru, sweat and blood pouring from his handsome face as he strove against Pharaohs warriors. Arynë jumped in, fighting beside him, and he spared her a bright grin before returning to the task of combat.
Arynë was a skilled fighter and she blooded several opponents before coming face to face with an oncoming chariot. Quickly, she leapt out of its way, then screamed as she saw that her cousin was not as swift as she in her escape. Taru lay, broken and bleeding and Arynë rushed to his side, weeping.
"No, oh, no!" she screamed, as suddenly, thinking the weeping girl fair game, several grinning Egyptian warriors advanced. Arynë felt the grief and the rage rise within her, then suddenly, she leapt upon the nearest man, her sword forgotten, tearing at flesh with teeth and nails. At the first taste of blood, she changed. The warriors of Pharaoh, gasped and fell to their faces uttering one name "Sekhmet!"
Arynë heard nothing but her own roars, commingling with the roar of blood in her ears and ripped and tore savagely at any who dared near her. Snarling, the great golden lioness, stopped, looking about for any other threat to her pride. She went to Taru, sniffing the blood and began cleaning his face with her great pink tongue.
Abruptly, she stopped with a roar of pain as an arrow pierced her flank. Mad with pain, the lioness looked about for the attacker as a hail of arrows flew towards her....
Ares reached over, bumping the table, as Melysë fell into a faint at the scene before her. Quickly and deftly catching his sister with one hand, he righted the table with the other, then whistled in appreciation at what lay before him...
Xenas chakram neatly knocked the arrows from the air before they sank into the lionesss flesh, then the Warrior Queen herself ran out into the fray to her heart-daughter. The young woman lay still and pale, wounded by an arrow in her side. Xena looked around at the fleeing warriors from both sides.
"Pathetic," she muttered, then turned her eyes to Arynë. "Come on, Ryn, get up - you cant be hurt - come on! Your mothers really gonna be mad at us - I was supposed to keep you safe - Arynë!"
Awkwardly, the pregnant warrior bent and lifted Arynë as if she was still a small child and carried her, tears streaming from her dark blue eyes, to the palace. She laid her on the bed in her suite, Tecmessa hovering tearfully.
"Tecmessa, gods know I love you, but get the hells out of here so I can work," said Xena, more calmly than she felt. Suddenly Gabrielle was at her side.
"Xena, is she - ?"
"No!" yelled the warrior queen, fighting her own tears. Gabrielle, understanding gently placed a comforting on Xenas shoulder. "Shes alive - Gabrielle - you know what I need."
"Right," said Gabrielle, running to get the necessary supplies.
Xena raised her eyes. "Lysë, gods, Im so sorry," she said. "If you can hear me up there on Olympus - please help me save our daughter."
"Okay, Melysë, you can open your eyes - Xena stopped the arrows," said Ares, alternating his attention between the table and his sister. "Uh - Lysë - come on - please wake up - I think we got a problem, here."
Melysës dark green eyes fluttered open. "Ares - Arynë - is she...?"
"I dont know - Xena stopped the rest of the arrows - shes working on her now," said Ares, staring at the table. "Under the circumstances, shes in the best possible hands. We have another problem, though. When you...uh...fainted, I accidentally bumped the table. Theres a very interesting lava eruption over here, but I think its gonna really mess up this little island here."
"Oh, no!" said Melysë, turning her attention to the table. "Ares, what we can we do?"
"Hey - youre the one who said no interference, remember?"
"This is different - this was an accident we caused - we have to make it right," said Melysë, staring intently at the table.
"Well, we cant stop the eruption," said Ares. "But we can play with that little island, maybe just a few little tremors - nothing too devastating - which one is that, anyway?"
"Thera," said Melysë, absently. "Okay - how do we play with it?"
"Apollos not going to like this," chuckled Ares.
"Well, if he doesnt like it, he can talk to me," said Melysë, firmly.
"Ooh, I like that!" said Ares, grinning. "And I bet you could take him, too, Sis! Even pregnant."
"I doubt that will be necessary," said Melysë, then she smiled to her brother. "On the other hand, he is an arrogant little ass, isnt he?"
"Oh, yeah," chuckled Ares.
"Hm, maybe later, if I have time," said Melysë, smiling at her brother. "Meantime, we have the population of Thera to rescue."
"Okay, Sis," said Ares, rubbing his hands together. "Heres how we do it...."
"Come on, Ryn," said Xena. She had managed to remove the arrow and cauterise the wound - fortunately, it hadnt penetrated very far. Telepinu stood silently, watching the warrior with Arynë. "Arynë, please open your eyes."
Suddenly, green eyes did flutter open and Arynë whimpered. "Meia?" she said, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings, finally alighting on the deep blue of her heart-mothers eyes, welling with tears. Arynë sighed with relief. "Xena-meia, thank the Goddess." Xena grasped the girls hand in her eyes, openly weeping, Gabrielle beside her, also tearful. "Wheres Tecmessa?" asked Arynë.
"Shes right here," said Gabrielle, gently bringing Tecmessa to Arynës side as she and Xena stepped back to allow the two a little privacy.
"You have performed a miracle right here in my very palace," said Telepinu, bowing low to Xena.
"Uh, not really," said Xena, uncomfortably.
"Oh, but you have - you restored my daughter," said the king, rising. "I would ask one thing more of you."
"Yeah?" said Xena.
"My heir, Taru - he lives, but..." began the king.
"Of course," said Gabrielle, looking to Xena.
"Take me to him," said the Warrior Queen, one last glance at her daughter easing her mind and heart.
"Okay," said Ares. "The population of Thera is saved. What else can we do Sis'? This is fun - I could work with you all day."
Melysë smiled. "Actually, Ares, Id like to check on Ryn," she said.
"Oh, right," said Ares. "You want me to take you?"
"Yeah, thatd be great," said the priestess, wearily. "Since Im not allowed to use my powers..."
"Whos dumb enough to tell you what to do?" laughed Ares.
"Uh, well, Xena, for one, the Amazon healer for two..." began Melysë.
"Oooh, forget I asked," said Ares, wincing.
"Wed better put this somewhere for safe-keeping first," said Melysë, eyeing the table.
"Uh, yeah - after seeing that lava pit erupt, I dont think I want to play with it anymore," said Ares, locking the door behind them.
"Im very proud of you, you know," said Melysë, reaching up to hug her brother, who scowled, though he was secretly pleased.
"Ah, quit it," he growled.
Xena looked down at he injured young man with little hope. Several bones were broken - including his spine, Xena suspected. He was bloody and bruised, his breathing shallow. She looked at the king and sadly shook her head, then suddenly, she broke into a beautiful smile, her eyes focusing behind the king.
"Melysë!" she said, rushing to enfold her priestess in her arms.
"Xena - Ryn - is she...?" asked Melysë, turning worried green eyes up to the beloved face of her heart-mate.
"Shes fine," Xena assured. "But he..."
"Come on," said Melysë, smiling gently, and taking Xenas hand, leading her back to the bedside of the injured young man. "Gabrielle, you, too - if we combine our power, we can do this."
Together, the three Amazon Queens, linked hands, touching Taru with the other ones. A pale blue glow suffused the four of them and Tarus limbs straightened, bruises fading, and his breathing evened out. He relaxed into a deep, healing, natural slumber.
Telepinu approached them and knelt before Melysë. "Truly you have grown into a goddess, my Queen," he said. "No words can express my gratitude - both for this and for the beautiful daughter you have presented to me. Bless you."
Smiling gently, Melysë bade him rise. "My friend, Arynë was a mutual gift for which I can never repay you," she said.
"I was going to acknowledge her at a banquet tonight and offer her all the rights and privileges of a Hittite princess," said the king, sadly. "Now I must postpone my gift to her."
"Perhaps," said Gabrielle, smiling at her best friends narrowed blue eyes. "But Ill bet shell appreciate knowing what you had planned."
"You have saved my heir," said Telepinu. "What gift may I offer you?"
"None," said Xena, shortly.
"Telepinu, this healing was a gift from the Great Goddess - please offer your gifts to Her," said Melysë, tempering her heart-mates abrupt answer, squeezing Xenas hand reassuringly.
"As you wish," said the king, noticing the exchange with a smile. "You are all welcome, of course, to remain until such a time as Arynë is recovered enough to attend the banquet in her honour."
"Thank-you," said Gabrielle, graciously.
"Yes, thank-you," said Xena, smiling at Melysë, calmed by her priestesss silent reassurances.
"Excellent! I shall have rooms prepared at once," said the king, leaving them.
"Xena, I really need to see Ryn," said Melysë.
"Come on," said Xena, leading her to their daughter.
Melysë knocked on the door and entered to her daughters invitation.
"Meia!" cried Arynë, half sitting up as Tecmessa gently pushed her back down.
"Good luck," said Melysë chuckling and winking at her warrior. "You wont keep her still for long - I ought to know." Xena merely looked ta her and raised an eyebrow.
"Um, can I just talk to Mother - alone - for a few minutes?" asked Arynë, looking pleadingly at Tecmessa, who smiled and squeezed her hand.
"Sure," said Gabrielle, smiling and patting her gods-daughter shoulder as the others left.
"Whats up, Ryn?" asked Melysë, sitting on the side of the bed, tenderly smoothing her daughters hair away from her face.
"Meia - Mother - I ... killed today," sobbed Arynë. "Ive never done that before. I knew someday I would probably have to if I continued to be a warrior, but I didnt know it feel this ... awful."
"Oh, my Love, I know, I know," said Melysë leaning down to hold her daughter, stroking her dark hair, so like Melysës own.
"I was ... the Lioness," said Arynë, as her mother wiped the tears from her eyes, a look of gentle compassion and love - and understanding - in her eyes.
"I know," said Melysë, smiling proudly. "That was rather...unexpected, wasnt it?"
"Yeah," said Arynë. "It sure was. But now, do I have to worry about her taking me over every time I go to battle? Because if I do, I just dont think I can be a warrior anymore."
"Arynë, it was the same for me," said Melysë. "I can teach you to control your gift - just as I have learned to control mine. Then you can call the Lioness to you, at your will - but dont forget to speak with her even when you dont need her - shes a very important part of you, and she deserves the acknowledgement."
"But Mother, the Snow Leopard comes to you every time you go to battle," said Arynë.
"Yes, but I am no warrior, like you, Ryn," said Melysë, smiling gently. "I dont have your skills and talents and so I need her assistance - you dont."
"I imagine your emotions were running pretty high at the time, what with Tecmessa being captured, then seeing your cousin - Taru will be fine, by the way," said Melysë.
"Mother, I saw him - theres no way he could even survive those injuries, let alone be fine," said Arynë.
Melysës smile grew broader. "Ah, you underestimate the power of the Triune Amazon Queenhood," she said.
"Especially when one of them is a goddess?" said Arynë, one eyebrow raised.
Melysë sighed. "Arynë, today I acknowledged my fathers legacy," she said. "Now Im asking you to do the same. Telepinu wants to acknowledge you as his daughter and to offer you full rights and privileges as a Hittite princess."
Arynë frowned. "I am an Amazon," she said. "Amazons dont acknowledge the father - "
"Arynë, thats only partially true," said her mother. "Your father is a good man - and a good king. What he does, he does with the good of his kingdom ever in mind - I should know. I must always do the same. Even on Olympus, watching you in that chariot - and then seeing you get hit with that arrow and all those others flying at you..." Melysë shuddered. "But I couldnt intervene, no matter how much I desperately wanted to. I think you should accept your fathers gift, even as I did. That doesnt mean youre no longer an Amazon."
"What about Xena?" asked Arynë. "Shes my other parent. She raised me and loved me as her own."
"Ryn, this takes nothing from Xena," said Melysë. "She will always be your other mother. Just as Lyssë and Hypolite were both my mothers, even now that I have claimed my fathers legacy. Nothing can change that - for me or for you. Tell you what, talk to Xena. I have no doubt shell tell you the same thing."
"Thats a good idea," said Arynë, sighing wearily.
"You rest now, my Love," said Melysë, rising. "Ill send Tecmessa to you."
"Thank-you, Meia," said Arynë. "Im really glad youre here. I..I needed you."
"I know," said Melysë, smiling, as she left her daughter to the care of her malatyr, joining Xena and Gabrielle in the corridor.
"Well?" said Xena, raising an eyebrow.
"First kill," said Melysë, with a sigh. "And first time with the Lioness taking over."
"Oh, gods," said Xena, shaking her head. "Ill never forget..."
"Me, either," said Gabrielle, sadly.
"I know," said Melysë. "I still have nightmares, myself. But shes handling it. She knew it was inevitable if she continued on this path, and I think she was better prepared for it than any of us. Id worry more if it didnt bother her."
"Thats true," said Gabrielle, thoughtfully.
A servant approached and led them to their rooms. Melysë sighed and lowered herself into a comfortable chair.
"Oh, Goddess, this feels good," she said. Xena, grinning, came up behind her and began kneading her shoulders. "Oooh, that feels even better."
"By the gods, Love," said Xena, frowning. "What have you been doing? Youre all knots."
"Controlling the world," chuckled Melysë.
"You are joking, right?" said Xena, as the kneading turned to stroking and caressing.
"Hmm, almost," said Melysë, closing her eyes and leaning back against her heart-mate. "Ares found this...thing. Zeus used to use it to alter the course of mortal lives, but it makes a great scrying tool, as well. We...um, sort of had an accident and had to rescue Thera before it was destroyed by a lava pit eruption."
"Thera! Which lava pit erupted?" said Xena, alarmed, dread in her deep blue eyes. Melysë told her. "Oh, gods, no! Not that one!"
(To be Continued)
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