by D.S. Wynne and Doc Quantum
A thunderstorm brewed over New Aretias Isle. Lysippe Hippolyta XXXIII, the queen of the Amazons, was a stately woman of fifty who looked little older than thirty-five. This night the queen was concerned with the storm overhead. Can this be an omen from the gods? she thought to herself. Turning to her most trusted advisors, she asked this same question.
“As far as I can tell,” Oracle began, “the gods have not given me a sign that the storm is an omen. However, I will continue to commune with them by performing the Rites of Spiritus to see if this is the case.” Although she was referred to only as Oracle, this was actually not a name but rather a title that had replaced her former name when she became the official oracle. Upon completing the full rites and initiations, an oracle was traditionally required to never use her real name again.
Lysippe knew how dangerous that particular ritual was, since it meant that the initiator would perform an astral projection, during which time the astral traveler was vulnerable to attacks by beings from the ethereal plane. She also risked having her body taken over by these same beings. Nevertheless, the queen had to allow her oracle to do whatever it took to contact their gods. “Very well. But, Oracle, do be careful.”
After Oracle left, Lysippe turned to the others. “I would like to add that the storms can be controlled,” said Polydora, the island’s resident scientist. She had been fathered by a famous German physicist some thirty years earlier, and surpassed even his brilliance. “However, I cannot discover a solution without knowing the source of the problem.”
“If I may interject,” said Xyleena the sorceress, a middle-aged woman fathered by a Russian mystic. “I know what is causing these storms to rage.”
“Oh?” Polydora coyly asked. “What superstitious nonsense have you relied upon to help you in this matter?”
“The kind that will make your science insignificant compared to my art.”
It was no secret that Xyleena and Polydora were competitive toward each other. While Xyleena was a practitioner of magic, Polydora was a will-worker of science. Both of them saw each other as threat toward their own worldview, and took great pleasure in trying to outdo each other. Lysippe knew this, which is why she favored none of their accomplishments openly. Ironically, their competitiveness had benefited New Aretias and the Amazons greatly in recent years, having helped make the island a modern land of wonder. Still, the queen barely tolerated their antics. Perhaps the mystery at hand would give Lysippe the means to build a proverbial bridge between the two different ideologies.
“Speak, Xyleena,” said the queen. “What have you discovered?”
“The source of the storms is the Wall of Chaos.”
“Impossible!” Polydora exclaimed. “My findings indicate that the energies within the wall were stable.”
“Of course you would say that,” replied Xyleena. “Science can only measure that which is predictable. The primordial energies of the universe, the source of magic, cannot be measured by science because of its unpredictability. In other words, it ignores the laws of your physics.”
“Then how can you perform your ‘spells’ without rules?”
“Simple. My will forces the primordial energies to conform to my wishes. Even then, you must develop a system to help you to focus that will. Otherwise, that same energy will overwhelm you.”
Lysippe always enjoyed these types of conversations, more so whenever she attended the philosophical debates at the island’s academy. Still, there was little time for this, especially with the present crisis at hand. “So… what is causing the wall to misbehave?” the queen asked Xyleena.
“Of that, I do not know.”
“Ha!” Polydora mocked.
“However,” Xyleena added as she glared at the scientist, “I do know we can manipulate those same primal energies to control the wall.”
“Wait a minute,” said Ursula, the captain of the guard. Ursula, a dark-skinned woman fathered by a Zulu warrior, was in attendance to discuss what was being done in response to the storm and had been listening intently while waiting her turn to speak to the queen. “Would we not offend the gods by trying to control the wall? After all, they are the ones who put the barrier in place for us to guard in exchange for bringing our ancestresses safely to New Aretias.”
“If we do not find a solution soon, New Aretias will suffer from these storms,” said Xyleena. “I, for one, would like to act as soon as possible, with or without the gods’ approval. Besides, I think the gods are more impressed with those who help themselves than with those who solely rely on their help.”
“You presume much, witch,” Ursula said, never having trusted magic-users.
“Ursula, please!” Lysippe exclaimed. “Xyleena has my permission to speak her mind at this junction. Right now, I need to hear all opinions in order to make the right decision.”
Scratching her forehead for a moment, Lysippe continued. “While Oracle is in communal, you–” She looked at Xyleena. “–and Polydora will work together in developing a viable solution to the present crisis. So I want the both of you to set aside your egos. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” the two said in unison.
“Good. Now be off with you.”
Once Xyleena and Polydora departed Queen Lysippe Hippolyta XXXIII’s chambers, the queen began to confer with her captain to see if emergency preparations had been made.
A few hours later, Xyleena and Polydora (after much bickering) had developed a device called Apollo’s Song that would allow the Amazons to control the Wall of Chaos. Now, Lysippe went to the Temple of the Oracle to see what was the response of the gods to Xyleena and Polydora’s plan. With her was the Sword of Truth, which Lysippe planned on using if she suspected that Oracle’s body was being possessed (which was one of the risks of astral projection). While the oracle’s attendants prayed and chanted, the queen waited.
Suddenly, Oracle bolted right up. While her attendants attended her needs, Lysippe used the Sword of Truth on her oracle by placing the blade on her neck. Once Oracle’s identity proved valid, the queen asked if the gods approved the use of the device. Once her oracle relayed their gods’ approval, Lysippe relayed a message to Xyleena and Polydora that they were allowed to proceed with their plan. Crossing her fingers, something she learned during her own outer world sojourns in the ’40s and ’50s, the queen hoped for the best.
It was a clear and sunny early afternoon and had been a few days since Xyleena and Polydora’s device, Apollo’s Song, had given the Amazons control over the Wall of Chaos. With the crisis over, everyone was enjoying the day.
Meanwhile, in the chambers of the queen of the Amazons, Lysippe Hippolyta XXXIII was having some quality time with her brown-haired, ten-year-old daughter Promethea, by playing yet another round of chess, a game introduced to the island a thousand years previously. While some mothers would talk with their daughters on matters of the heart, Lysippe discussed with her daughters matters of philosophy and the historical records of the greatest military minds in the history of the world. After all, Lysippe had taken after Ares, her ancestor and the father of the Amazons. However, on this day, besides Promethea’s love for horses, the two were discussing the impending arrival of a beloved family member.
Athena Dare, Lysippe’s eldest daughter, was the product of a union between then-Princess Lysippe and an English pilot during the second of Lysippe’s sojourns in the 1950s. Every Amazon warrior left New Aretias a few times during her young adulthood — these were called sojourns — in order to learn the ways of the world, become educated in outer world schools, sow her wild oats, and find exceptional men to father her children. The Amazons were spread all across the world, as well, and this secret society with its contact network was invaluable in creating new identities for legal purposes, such as enrolling in universities and becoming citizens of various nations. Amazon children were always female and had been since the Renaissance, when they had discovered the process for ensuring the gender of the unborn child.
“So, when is Athena arriving?” Promethea asked as she moved her chess piece.
“Soon, Promethea, soon,” Lysippe replied as she moved her own piece in a countermove.
“Do you think she’ll bring something with her this time? The stories of her world travels are always neat, but I like it when she brings a souvenir from one of her adventures with her. So, is she bringing something with her this time?”
“Hmmm. As a matter of fact, she is bringing a ‘surprise’ with her. And, no, I don’t know what that surprise is.”
“Oh, I see. Check.”
“Not bad. However, you are still too young to beat me. Checkmate in three moves.”
“Oh, Mother!” Promethea exclaimed. “I thought I had you this time.”
“Actually, you almost did. You see…”
As Lysippe went on to give Promethea some pointers, the two failed to notice the arrival of the Amazon princess into the queen’s chambers. Princess Athena, a raven-haired adventuress in her early twenties, had just arrived on New Aretias and wanted to surprise the queen by asking the attendants not to announce her arrival. For one quiet moment, Athena simply watched her mother and youngest sister, reminding her of their time together during her youth. She remembered the times when she would play games with her mother. Family was important to her, and she felt that the queen was at her best when she played the role of parent.
“Thena!” Promethea exclaimed. “You’re back!”
Promethea got up from her chair and ran toward her elder sister. With a mighty hug, the two shared a moment of sisterly love. After the moment had passed, the two un-embraced. “Hi, squirt,” Athena said with a mischievous grin to her younger sister.
“Hiya, fly-girl,” said Promethea likewise.
“Now, now, you two,” Lysippe admonished. “I simply can’t put the two of you together without you teasing each other.” She rose from her chair. “Hello, Athena.”
“Hello, Mother,” Athena said as she gave the Amazon greeting to her mother, reserving her more formal tone for the queen. “I was informed of what had transpired here on the island. I look forward to the details.”
“I am sure that Ursula will give you the details.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Promethea said as she interrupted the two. “So, what did you bring with ya? Huh? Huh?”
“Well, since you’re so impatient, Thea, here is the ‘surprise.'”
At this point, Promethea noticed that Athena was holding a wicker basket. Handing the basket over to her mother, Athena presented it to Lysippe. The queen, her curiosity piqued, looked inside.
“A baby?” the queen asked, slightly dumbfounded as she saw within an olive-skinned toddler with black hair.
“Yes, Mother,” Athena replied. “Her name is Celia. Isn’t she cute?”
Handing the child over her youngest daughter, Lysippe took Athena aside. “Where did you get her, and why have you brought her here? I should hope you wouldn’t have waited until now to tell me she was yours!”
Athena laughed. “No, I haven’t gone down that road just yet, Mother. As unusual as this may sound, a strange phantom handed her over to me while I was traveling in Greece. He simply said that the child had a destiny to fulfill, and that I could help facilitate that. I couldn’t get a good look at the being, but I could tell that this stranger was more than he appeared to be.”
“But why here?” the queen asked her daughter. “Why not give her to a out-worlder family?”
“I did not consider it, because I felt that she would benefit by living here.”
“Very well. I will see if one of our sisters is able to become the child’s foster mother.”
“Actually,” said Athena, “I would like it if you become her guardian.”
“Me?” said the queen. “Explain.”
“You are the only one that I can trust to know what is best for this child. I would also want to know that her destiny is in good hands. Besides, did you not say that Promethea could benefit by having a younger sister to look after?”
“Hmm. Perhaps you are right,” said the queen. “Still, I just need to know if the child’s destiny does not include the destruction of the Amazon Nation.”
“It does not, My Queen,” said Oracle as she strolled into the queen’s chamber.
“Oracle!” exclaimed Athena. “How are you this day?”
“I am well,” Oracle said as she turned back to Lysippe. “The gods have ordained this day that you, queen of the Amazons, will become the guardian of this child.”
“I hate it when she gets so formal and stuff,” Promethea whispered as she sidled up to her sister.
“I know what you mean, kiddo,” replied Athena.
“Did you learn of this when you were in communal?” inquired the queen.
“Aye, Your Majesty. I apologize for not telling you of this edict sooner, but I was specifically forbidden to do so until this moment had arrived.”
“Oracle was the one who confirmed what the strange phantom had said of the child,” said Athena. “I wish that I was the one chosen for this honor.”
At this point, Lysippe barely heard any more of what was being said, for she was pondering what she felt for the child. On the one hand, she had successfully raised three daughters, though she could honestly ask if what had happened between her and her eldest could be called a success. Still, being a mother was special to her. Perhaps having a younger sister for Promethea would be a great benefit to all concerned.
Taking the child out of the basket, Lysippe started to cuddle her. Yes, the queen thought to herself. Maybe it is time to start again.
Meanwhile, Xyleena was observing what was transpiring by way of her scrying pool. While she hated spying on the queen in her very chambers, Xyleena needed to know if everything was proceeding according to destiny. Xyleena was not alone in wanting to know this as well.
“As you can see, phantom, Lysippe will take guardianship of the child.”
“Good,” the stranger replied. “The power must be wielded well and harnessed properly.”
“So when I can inform the queen of your intentions?”
“Soon. Though she will be angered by these orchestrated events, she will understand soon enough. Destiny is as important as duty, as the queen well knows. You will handle things from here?”
“Of course, phantom. Since when have I failed your expectations?” The stranger merely nodded and vanished.
Xyleena had so much work to do in the years to come. She could only hope that the queen could forgive her for this apparent manipulation.