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Ah- my little bard. Look at you, striving so hard. Cut, bruised and bleeding.

I shift on my black satin couch and frown at the mirror. Pulling the view back, I survey the Amazons' position. It's not great from a tactical standpoint but they have found the best of what little cover's out there. About thirty Amazons are crouched along the dune ridge, covered in blood and sweat, terror and rage. Their advance halted because of the ballista on the castle parapet. I cock my head and make note of the firing teams. They have uncannily accurate aim- I wonder if they've had help. Not that there are enough gods around right not to provide it.

And don't get me started on my brethren. I'm down there, being hunted and my brother, My Brother, is up here trying to figure out how to keep the sun shining- like that wasn't already his job? No time to spare to send a little ambrosia my way huh? I'm not blaming Persephone- she's got her hands full and more dealing with the Underworld alone. I AM a little ticked at Dite and Cupid, but I asked her and she said they were swamped too- just calming the mortals after the bloodshed. No- it's the rest of the family I blame. Demeter, Hestia- where were they??? Apollo's action's didn't surprise me and I'd be surprised if Hecate even noticed the hub-bub. Nevermind... this is getting me nowhere, as usual…

Another explosion and the screams that follow bring my attention back to the mirror. Another Amazon down. I feel her spark extinguish itself from my mind. What- you thought I didn't care? Isn't that half of what this fight's about?? But Bellerophon got it wrong. The tribes never abandoned Artemis. That was the one, the only thing actually, that me and that weird sister of mine agreed on. Always share the Amazons. Their fighting ability was pledged to me and half of the self-sufficient "I can conquer the world" attitude. Artemis gifted them with the forest knowledge and the other half of that attitude. And now I'm loosing more worshippers from my already low store.

A bright surge suddenly flows through me. Ahh, I can actually identify that spark and the one that follows it, almost a twin of the first one. Xena. Her fire burns deep and hot despite her rage and hate of me. And just because she feels that way doesn't mean I withdraw my gifts and my due. Where would all her good intentions get her without her fighting ability and THAT belongs to me. Now, Gabrielle has really turned into a surprising wellspring; from the nothing little tagalong to where she is now. I really should try to recruit her again. She's getting more and more ripe for it- if it weren't for Xena. And I bet Gabrielle would do an even better job of tempering my bloodthirstiness than Xena would.

I see Xena's joined them on the beach, adding her expertise to the fight for survival. That's where the surges came from. The two of them are just SO much stronger together… Oddly, just like my extraordinarily annoying half-brother and his friend. I actually miss those days. They've both retired now, out of the country and mostly out of my/our reach. I watch Xena and Gabrielle conferring, calling over the other Amazon queens to plan and then Varia returns to them. That one walks on the edge. The edge of life, the edge of sanity, the edge of compassion. What was I thinking? She's just not stable enough to lead without a council. But maybe eventually… Well, I've made worse choices. I shrug and rearrange myself again on my couch.

While I drifted in my thoughts, I almost lost Gabrielle to duplicity. I wonder if I would have done anything in retaliation? Xena certainly would have- she'd have gone back to whole-sale slaughter but I wonder if I would've sent my own lightning from a distance. They're getting ready to move. One of them runs on a suicide mission to draw the castle's fire. I send her soul with thanks and rewards down to Persephone. Hers and the three more I loose during their run, but the rest are in a better position now. Xena's doing, I'm sure. They'll wait till dark and retreat. It's their only option right now. Sometimes you have to realize that as a valid tactic. Retreat, regroup, reposition. I've done it countless times over the centuries and especially with Xena.

The withdrawal goes smoothly, though I was tempted to interfere with the shark- just send it elsewhere. The sea creatures have gone unchecked since Poseidon's demise- the rest of his family proving ineffective at covering a Seated god's tasks. On that brief note, I wonder who Persephone's drafted to help her down there. Charon perhaps? Resurrected Strife to help? Anyway…

Throughout the night, and the exhausted sleep that followed, I could feel them - thinking and planning. I applauded both Xena's efforts to end things and Gabrielle's realizations that the madman will never stop. Personally, in this case, even I would cut my losses. Give up the valley, save yourselves and your way of life to fight again. To return to strike at Bellerophon when he least expects it. When he's weak and you're strong.

But they didn't ask me. This one time- when asking your god, at least for advice if not help, would be in their best interests, they remained aloof and hating me.

I sigh and shake my head, sitting forward on the couch to rest my forearms on my knees. Despite that- I'm going to give them my support. A cushion to Gabrielle as she makes her morale lifting speech- while Xena cushions the other side. I split my attention now. Watching as the Amazons take to the trees, watching as Xena leads the arrogant pup from the safety of his keep. I shake my head. The good ones would NEVER fall for that trick.

With a thought and a flash I take myself to the ridge overlooking the ambush clearing. I watch as the soldiers dismount or are otherwise removed from their horses. I watch in complete disgust as they throw those fancy, body-covering silver shields to the ground to fight without them. I watch as the Amazons separate them and easily pick them off. Who's in charge of training these people? I haven't been gone that long. I turn my attention from them and they almost visibly falter. Some turn and run, Bellerophon, with his arrogance wrapped around him, trips over it and I mentally applaud when Xena takes his head off.

Nodding at a job well done, I flash back to my chambers. I have energy to spare at the moment and I need to redirect it to someplace that needs it more. I'll check back in on them later- after the funerals.

Ah- my little bard. Maybe I should have worked on you some more.

~End~