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My Writings Selections from my Work Amazonia
Queens of the Amazons .. Arta's Story From my Third Book; Second Chronologically
Chapter One It might have been the will of the Goddess or perhaps the feast of fresh caught fish combining with the heat of the sun. Whatever it was, as I rested in the quiet peace of that mountain valley, I felt a lethargy that made me put off the resolve to continue my journey. So, instead of leaving, I lay by the river bank, lazy, replete and lulled by the tinkling waters rushing by. My eyes closed and I found myself lost in a reverie of memories. As I lay there, reminiscing about what had brought me to this far corner of the world, time floated by unnoticed; not that I had anywhere to go that day or any time by which to get there. Wistfully I allowed myself to imagine what my parents and siblings would be doing during the long summer’s days; my younger sisters would be enjoying their freedom from school but my twin would be hard at her studies under the healer Iphitay. My parents though would be dividing their time between the demands of duty and the time they’d always shown to value with their family and each other. I missed them all! While my mind was so engaged, reviewing the reasons that had led me here, a jarring note found its insistent way into my consciousness. “Help!” The word was in a language I recognized which brought me from my lazy dreamlike state into the full alertness of the trained warrior. I sprang to my feet in one swift movement looking towards the direction from which the word came. There, running desperately from the surrounding trees, were two women each clutching a child. Behind them came the biggest bear I’d ever seen, looming gigantic, loping heavily but easily gaining on the encumbered women. I’d no time to think, just act. I stooped quickly grabbing one of the stones I’d used to contain my cook-fire and sprang, running towards the women and bear. Nearing them, I yelled, “Take the river; leave the bear to me!” Not knowing whether they heard or heeded, I threw the stone at the bear with all the force of long- trained muscles and veered off to its right. Whether the bear was hurt, startled or puzzled, it stopped it’s breakneck pace for a few precious seconds allowing me to place some distance between us. But my respite was all-too-short for now, with renewed vigor, it took off after what it saw as a new, more dangerous enemy. I will swear to my dying day that never ran a man more swiftly than I did then. As I ran though, I started to think, not just react. I was heading towards the trees now and thinking to my only weapon, my dirk, I cursed myself for not taking the time to pull my sword from its scabbard where it lay on the ground near the fire. But at least I had a weapon, sharp, iron hard, the best that came from the forges of our smiths. And it wasn’t a toy, fully the length of my forearm; it was every inch a weapon of pure lethality. At least it was, used against other humans; against the bulk that pounded after me I felt its inadequacy. As I passed the first of the trees I swear I felt the hot fetid breath overtaking me. I was looking for a particular tree and there it was; smooth barked, round as the breadth of a man and limbless to above my height. Given time I’d have climbed to some safety and hoped to fend off any attempt it made to follow with my dirk. Time I did not have; the animal would have me ere I’d got my two feet off the ground. Instead I swung my back to the tree, my dirk before me, and faced the onrushing monster. It did not stop or even slow but ploughed right into me rearing high as if to envelop me. As it bared its fangs and pushed its head towards my neck, it simultaneously anchored its claws into the wood of the tree and pulled itself into a hug that would squeeze the breath from any living being. I had planned for this as a stratagem of last resort; something of which one of the old Keltoi foresters had told me. I thrust my left forearm into the fetid maw that sought my throat, pushing back as far as I could to lessen the leverage its powerful jaws could apply. Meanwhile I held my dirk to the front and allowed the bear’s own power to push the blade deep into its chest. Time stopped as pain all but overwhelmed me. Then, hurt, deprived of breath and bleeding profusely from the torn flesh of my forearm, I collapsed onto the suddenly slack body of my late executioner. I awoke to the vision of one of Hera’s messengers. Dark tresses framed a face whose perfect features no earthy woman could possess. Clear brown eyes shone with compassion as I felt myself laid more comfortably on the soft grass. It came to me that the arms that moved me must belong to another and I turned my head to see who it was that handled me so strongly yet gently. Shavaska Herself, the Daughter, none could doubt that. Golden haired, tall and broad of shoulder, She was the Huntress, the Warrior; proud, strong and beautiful. At least my death had brought me the reward promised our heroes, taken to the Mother Herself, by Her own special escorts. But the pain in my chest, why did I yet feel pain? “Lie quiet, man, allow us to pay back in some part our debt.” The words were Greek but those that followed to her companion were not. “Do you think, sweetheart, that we can save the arm?” That language, I knew it; I’d heard it all my life between my mothers. Not the amalgam that our people normally used, the mix of Keltic and Amazon, but the pure words of my mothers’ race. I forced myself to speak then. “Save it if you can. I have in my pack a powder that our great healer, Iphitay herself, sent with me. It will cleanse the wound from impurities and give my arm its chance to heal.” Two startled faces swung their regard to me, questions visibly rising before being forced down in deference to my condition. Instead of voicing the query that had her immediate attention, the dark-haired beauty turned to her companion and suggested “Greta, go fetch his pack, and bring up the children for I think we must remain here this day. And fetch that horse, hobbled by the river, for it must be his. I’ll do what I can for now.” As the golden haired vision of the Goddess left, the one who’d spoken instructed me in turn, “Rest young man, you are sorely hurt but know that we will do all in our power to care for you. Don’t speak, save your strength, we will get to the bottom of this mystery when you are stronger.” I recalled little of the hours that followed except fitful snatches of roaring fire and soft bodies of unearthly beauty, of sweat and heat, and shivering cold, of anxious children’s faces and warm liquid being forced down my throat. At last I became aware of the sun on my face and turned my head away from its glare. My two nurses were sitting a few feet away, intent on cooking a joint of meat from which rose odors that reminded me that I felt ravenously hungry. My words though were weak and scratchy from the dryness of my throat. “Ladies, may I have some of that meat for I swear I could eat it raw; I am hungry beyond belief. And thirsty too; if you have a cup of water.” Never before, except from my parents, have I seen such unquestioning joy expressed on a face. “Thank Hera” echoed two voices and, with a grace that belied the speed of their reaction, soon had me sitting upright, supported against the golden haired huntress, and fed both meat and drink by the gentle dark-tressed beauty. While I was fed, slowly and with small portions, I caught the two children that I’d barely noticed before watching in fascinated anxiety. After, I sank back into sleep but this time it was the slumber of peace and rebuilding rather than the fevered restlessness of my fight for life of the night. It was full morning before I next awoke, this time as I grew aware that the dressings on my arm being changed by the dark-haired one. Recognizing her, I enquired after the first thing on my mind, “How does it look? Will I retain it do you think?” My nurse smiled and, instinctively knowing of what I spoke, replied “I think Hera has heeded our prayers and no doubt those of her daughter; for deeds such as yours would please her greatly. Yes, it heals well. Do you feel up to taking some meat and drink?” “Yes,” I replied “I could eat that bear I killed without even the benefit of the cooking.” She smiled in that way she had that already had me reacting like a mindless idiot and answered “That’s good for that’s the only source of meat we have, that and some journey bread and the Mother’s best wine from yonder stream.” “Well better him than me for I don’t doubt you’d find me stringy and tough. But it was a near thing which of us would eat the other.” Then, from behind, me I heard “Well that’s an awful shame for I was quite looking forward to eating you.” This last making me aware that the Goddess’s twin was around. “Greta!” exclaimed my nurse, glaring beyond my shoulder, before she lost control enough to allow her grin to surface. “Sorry!” came the errant one’s response with absolutely no credibility to the meaning of the word. Suddenly I felt myself back with my own people rather that the more constrained, stilted population of these southern lands. I grinned in appreciation and replied in kind to the opening presented me “Then my lady, I’d better recover my strength quickly for I’d hate for you to waste away from malnourishment. But then maybe I should instead be looking to feast on you for aren’t I the one most in need of sustenance?” Laughing and chuckling, an ease settled over us with a naturalness the belied the shortness of our acquaintanceship. So I ventured to ask, “I know Shavaska’s sister is named Greta, but what is your name, my raven-haired beauty? I am called Arta.” “I am Patsimeon and we are Amazons, but what are you? How come you speak our language as well as any of us? And that name, Arta, is known to us, but not without some misgivings.” Before I could answer, Greta added “And what magic do you work on us for I swear that never before have we encountered a man such as you that appeals in ways no man should?” ‘I think,” I attempted to explain, “that we are kin for the language we speak is that of my mothers. In fact they are Amazons by their own admission and as such joined with my father’s people the Keltoi. We call ourselves the Amazonians. “I am named in honor of my father’s cousin who carried forth the message that the Goddess entrusted to him and that, in part, caused my mothers to lead their people north to our lands and join with the Keltoi. As for magic, we know none, only that which Our Lady Shavaska herself ensnares us as I am thinking I might already be so afflicted.” Your mothers?” questioned Greta. “You say led rather than followed and you say it in the plural. Can it be that you mean the Princess Orthia herself and the Lady Melusa?” “Yes,” added Patsimeon, “tell us more; tell us everything for this is momentous news indeed." So I found myself telling the story of my mothers’ struggles to find a place for those they’d led from these southern lands to find the peace and security they needed. I told how, finally, they met up with my father’s people and together built a new nation that combined the best of each. I spoke about how that nation had grown in strength and prosperity and, in the freedom it granted its people, provided peace and security to all who sought them. In turn I learned that these two were the daughters of some of those that had remained behind. I learned that, true to their word, the old queens had led them further into the wild areas of the mountains where even now they maintained a secret city whose existence was a jealously kept secret. In answer to my question, Greta answered “These two young girls somehow wandered off from a party gathering berries and we went looking for them. It was as we found them that the bear appeared and we did the only thing we could, we ran. We owe you our lives, Arta.” “You owe me nothing! Does the warrior on the shield wall feel a creditor to the women who loose their arrows from the shelter he provides? No, amongst my people, each gives as he or she is able and counts it not a cost. But if you would do me a favor, I would meet with your queens, your people for I came here for that purpose.” It was Patsimeon who replied, “That we cannot do for, unlike in the past, no man is allowed to even see our city. Instead our women now must seek out fathers for their children by traveling as priestesses or traders.” “No!” interjected her companion. “No, for this is different. This man is our brother, born of the Amazons and one who brings great news. I say for him we make allowance!” “The Pentasilia has spoken!” laughed the other. “Well Arta, if Greta says so I am sure your grandmothers won’t object. And I expect they’ll be delighted to see you and learn of your mothers.” “Pentasilia,” I spoke, “I have heard that term applied to my mother Orthia so I know its meaning. I take it, Greta, you are yourself heir to the throne of those Amazons that yet live in these lands? You must be some cousin of mine then.” “Yes but not so close as to preclude love-making!” she grinned “Greta!” Broke in her partner, blushing deeply. “Honestly Arta, she isn’t normally this bad!” “And who, last night confided to me how she’d be more than willing to share her bed?” “Now Ladies!” I laughed, “I am flattered to be the object of your attention but remember I am not at my best. Now can I ask a serious question? Are you two betrothed?” My answer was a yes nodded in unison and I explained, laughing, “Then I hope you understand that when two women of my nation get serious about a man it’s become our custom for the two consorts to ask for the man’s hand in marriage.” They both laughed in turn and Greta informed me “Then we had better promise not to trifle with your affections, merely your body!”