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My Writings Selections from my Work Amazonia
Queens of the Amazons .. Orthia's Story From my Second Book; First Chronologically As described in the novels
Chapter One The sun felt warm on my back despite the wind blowing my chestnut hair back over my shoulders. I felt alive, one with my mount, as we flew eastwards towards Themiskira. Three days past I’d left Troy and, despite the centuries long closeness between out nations, I never felt comfortable in their midst. Although they’d always treated me with respect, I felt their restraint. Some of that no doubt was due to my size, for I was taller than most men with the broad shoulders and thick wrists of a sword fighter. Apart from that, I was bronzed from the sun and wind and walked with the unconscious swagger of one who’d spent too much time on horseback. I just did not fit their image of a woman. For the last few days, I’d planned on meeting with my consort Melusa in the vale of the Goddesses. There she daily led her young charges in instruction on the mysteries of Shavaska. I could see her clearly in my mind, stately and slender, her tanned face with those all-too-expressive eyes sending their smile my way. My eagerness to see her again in the flesh gave me the impetus to urge more speed from my horse. I had been away too long, visiting Troy, my mother’s ally against the incursions of the Greeks. As soon as I and my companions had entered again the land of the Amazons, I’d turned to them and announced my intention of picking up the pace. Great riders as were all Amazons, they and their mounts had not the mettle to match the speed of my Dinas. On him I merged into a centaur, no longer two separate beings but one; it was as if I floated above rather than sat a weight on his back. Each long stride had widened the gap until we’d lost our followers in the maze of rolling hills and vales. This was home, where I had spent my early girlhood wandering and exploring. It was as familiar to me as my own palm and ever a source of strength whenever I returned. I knew each winding track, each stream, and each knoll. And here waited the one I loved; ever hopeful of my return. Between us we had long surrendered self into a wholeness that transcended normal relationships. Even apart we remained one. As the sun passed its’ zenith, I neared the vale and slowed my mount in order to catch my breath and control my emotions. Savoring the precious moments soon to come, I kneed Dinas up the last slope. As we crested the rise I heard voices yelling; male voices! Blasphemy, men in her sacred valley! What evil threatened our land, my Melusa? With urgency, I stirred Dinas into a renewed canter and unhooked the bow from my back. The other side of the knoll, in the center of the Goddesses’ Vale I saw a sight that brought my heart to a standstill and bile to my throat. There, crumpled on the ground lay a bundle, tunic in disarray. The purple edging told me that it must be my Melusa. Around her on the ground lay other bodies but towering over her was a man, back to me and sword in hand. I already had an arrow nocked and without thought let it fly straight towards his back. Even before it had reached halfway between us, I had brought out a second arrow and let that join her sister in flight. The thick grass had muffled the sound of our approach and, so as not to alarm the man, I had slowed Dinas to a walk. Watching the arrows winging their way, I slid from the saddle. I couldn’t help but notice that the man was taller than I. That was surprising for I had met only two such previously, Hector prince of Troy and a Cimmerian I’d killed. Just before the first arrow sank into his unprotected back, the man whirled around suddenly and, swift as the strike of a hawk, the sword knocked aside the shaft. Using the swords own momentum, the man, or youth as I now saw, allowed it to dip and circle as he reversed the stroke and caught the second arrow on its return. At any other time I would have marveled at the skill and speed of the young man but then I was all too taken up with worry over Melusa and anger at he who had brought her low. By then I had my own sword out and fury lent wings as I rushed him. Notwithstanding the display of swordsmanship I had just witnessed, I knew my own skill and expected soon enough to dispatch this intruder. As we came together, he appeared surprised yet his sword met and held mine despite the power the run and my anger had lent it. I reversed the thrust, dropped the blade below his and attempted, with a twist of the wrist to jar it from his hand with an unexpected change of direction. Rather than falling from a weakened grip, his own blade matched mine in a circling dance. For the first time ever I began to question whether I could best an opponent. With every stroke I tried, every maneuver, every feint and thrust, he had a counter. We circled each other as I tried to find the opening that would end the fight. Watching him, I began to suspect he was playing with me for he seemed content just to counter my moves. I needed to keep my concentration to avoid giving way to anger and frustration and so allow him to disarm or kill me. I could not let that happen for who then would protect the one I loved? Yet as the fight continued I could feel my arms weaken. I had ridden long and hard and now, when I most needed my strength, I felt it ebb from me. Was this how it was to end, the glorious love we had for each other and the lives we had planned? I could almost feel the tears begin to form as I realized I would not be able to carry the fight much longer. But then I saw my three companions arrive at the crest. Renewed I forced myself to again carry the attack to him, making him concentrate on my sword and distracting him from seeing the new threat. Intent on my swordplay, I was unable to watch them and, until he suddenly collapsed in front of me, I was unaware of their actions. As he folded I saw three shafts protruding from his back. Had I not concern for my lover, I’d have collapsed on top of him myself. As it was I forced my trembling legs to take me to where she lay. As I approached, the dread that had me in its’ thrall dissipated as I saw her eyes fully open and her mouth moving, attempting to talk. Then I heard her: “Oh no Orthia, how could you?” I knelt and clasped her to me as she continued “How could you repay the debt we owe in this way; it is an ill thing we have done here.” Puzzled I asked her what she meant and then it was that I discovered the young man had appeared in answer to the cries of alarm as the raiders whose bodies lay about had surprised her and her charges. As she had urged her young girls to escape and faced the raiders alone, this youth had rushed in and, by her side, had helped her repulse the attack. The last she remembered, just when the final attackers were beginning to flee, was a hard blow to the head. Instead of an enemy, the young man had stood in the light and accepted the will of Hera. And now we had repaid his love with evil. How Zeus must have smiled! Melusa now demanded that I assist her with the youth. “He yet lives, aid me here, we must move him carefully lest the arrowheads cause more damage. We need your mother’s healer and fast.” Then it was that I brought myself back into action; “Leone, get you on Dinas and fly to the city, bring back Iphitay as fast as horse may travel. Kay, strip off the horse blankets and make a bed for us to lay him on and Pantara, start a fire and get water to boil for Iphitay will require such.” We knew enough not to risk damage by trying to ease out the arrows so once we had him on the blankets, there was little left for us to do. The wounds were hardly bleeding so no major artery was cut. Melusa had had me shake the witch-hazel powder on the wounds once we had cut away his tunic. Once that was done, all we could do was pray. As seldom before, I truly prayed with the fervor of guilt to my patron Shavaska as Melusa prayed to Hera. At that time I thought little of the symbolism of praying to the Goddess of Love and War for a man. If I had only known then what I was to learn later then mayhap I would have felt some concern. As it was I offered to her the contriteness of my heart and asked that she take from me whatever was necessary to repay the debt I owed this young man for the life of my lover. Little enough did I realize what that price would be. Finally I heard the snorting of hard ridden horses and, looking up from my devotions, I saw Leone, Iphitay, two of her helpers along with five of my mothers’ guards. For a woman in her sixties, Iphitay was sprightly of body and alert of mind, proving that by effortlessly slipping from her mount and quickly taking charge. \Nodding approvingly at the boiling water, she directed her attendants to collect her medicines and instruments while she examined her patient’s wounds. Then turning to me she said “Orthia Pentasilia, would you take your people and your mothers’ guards and stand back a little; this will be most difficult and I would avoid distraction.” Walking away, I gave instructions to the royal guards to collect the bodies and bury them away from this vale dedicated to our Goddesses. Then, for what seemed hours as the sun sank lower and my nerves grew tauter yet, I walked with Melusa in circles. From time to time we would crane our heads seeking to discern what Iphitay was doing and how our young man was coming. As we watched Melusa gave me more details about what had happened and how the young man had fought beside her. Hearing how selfless and gallant he had been I felt my guilt as a leaden weight. Had I not assumed, had I tried instead to talk with him instead of attacking him then my companions would not have seen him as an enemy. I knew now that, though he may have played with me, there was never any danger of my injury. I was honest enough to acknowledge his skill and finally accepted that he could have overpowered me early in the fight. Melusa though distraught at what had befallen, took pains to try to make me see that it was a natural mistake and, in my concern for her, I could hardly have been capable of clear thought. My companions kept a distance from us both to avoid catching any blame for what had happened and to allow us our privacy. Finally Iphitay called out and beckoned us over. “I will not promise that your young man will survive. The wounds are grievous and I had to cut most carefully to extract the heads without causing yet more damage. The worst was the one that entered here and sliced the edge of the lung. So far his strength has prevailed and he yet breathes, if raggedly. I will not risk moving him this day and would ask that you to have the guards raise a tent over him. Tonight I will stay, with my assistants, and do what I may to ease his sleep. I have given him the spirit of the poppy and he lies as easy as he can for now. The rest is in the hands of the Goddesses.” Melusa gripped my hand and I acknowledged her silent request and gave not only instructions for a tent for the patient and his physicians but one for the two of us also. With our decision, the guards and my companions, mindful of their duties, must also need camp on the spot. So all, save the one guard who I dispatched with the news to my mothers, made a cheerless bivouac that night.