by D.S. Wynne and Doc Quantum
Eleven years later — 1986:
In the rear courtyard of the royal palace, one could hear the sound of wood striking wood. Upon finding the source of the sound, one could find two twelve-year-old girls dueling each other with staffs. Observing this was Ursula, the Captain of the Guard. As Celia and her best friend Drusilla fought each other, Ursula looked at their movements with a critical eye.
“That’s it, Celia,” Ursula said, “go for her shins!”
Celia swung her staff at her friend’s shins. Predictably, Drusilla blocked the blow, which was followed by a thrust to the head. Celia then swung her staff around to deflect the blow.
“Ha!” Celia exclaimed. “Thought you could get me on that one, eh, Dru?”
“I’m just getting started, Cee! Hiii-yah!”
The exchange of blows was fast and furious. Neither friends wanted to give an inch to the other; Celia didn’t want to let her adoptive mother down, while Drusilla didn’t want to lose to anybody.
“Break!” yelled Ursula. Seeing how the girls were taking their practice session far too seriously, she decided to end the session early, feeling that the break was in order. “Why don’t you two go inside for lunch while I evaluate your performances?”
“OK!” the two said in unison.
As the two went inside, they were being watched by two figures from a palace balcony. Ursula saw these figures and waved.
“As you can see, Your Majesty,” Xyleena said to Queen Lysippe, “Celia’s progress is proceeding quite nicely.”
“Indeed,” the queen replied. “However, don’t forget for a moment that I have not forgotten your dishonesty in all this.”
“But, Your Majesty…”
“Please, Xyleena. I need not hear your excuses on this matter. When I took Celia into my household, I did so because I cared about her welfare, not because of her destiny. I will see that she is prepared for her destiny. However, I will not see her harmed in any way. Is that clear?”
“Of course, Your Majesty.”
As the two girls ate their lunch in the main garden, Celia and Drusilla talked about the upcoming Rite of Ascension, in which all preteen girls would be tested to see if they were worthy to be called Amazon. This event was held over a seven-day period, which featured tests of athletics, crafting, debating, gliding, and wilderness survival. Celia and Drusilla were considered to be the best of this new generation of girls. However, they faced stiff competition from Flora and Greta of the house of Smyrna. Both prided themselves as the cream of the crop, and both would be very happy to see Celia and Drusilla lose.
“I tell you,” Celia began, “those two witches really bug me.”
“Yeah, I know,” Drusilla replied. “They only harass us because you’re the queen’s daughter, and I happen to be your best friend.”
“But I didn’t ask for this!”
“Nope, and it won’t get any better, either. Word has it that Flora and her sister are planning on doing something that could screw you up from becoming a full Amazon.”
“I doubt it, since even they aren’t dishonorable enough to do such a thing. However, I did hear that they have been training intensely under Lara the Fight Mistress.”
“Wow. Isn’t she the one that was rejected from joining the Guard because she was too violent?”
“Yes, she’s the one. Since Ursula is personally training you and I, Lara is personally training the Smyrna sisters as a way of getting even with the captain.”
“Hmm. Well, it looks like we’ll just have to train that much harder, huh?”
“Looks like.” Getting up, Celia gave her plate to her court attendant, Miriam, who had served lunch. “Race you back?” Celia said to her friend.
“Yes. Let’s,” Drusilla responded. With that, the two raced back to the royal courtyard.
Meanwhile, an important meeting took place beneath the sorceress Xyleena’s residence.
“Now that the gifts from our favorite deities have been acquired,” said Oracle, “we can complete Xyleena’s ritual.”
Lysippe stepped forward to the glowing blue sphere. She watched as Xyleena moved her hands around it, while she chanted unfamiliar words. Later, when asked what she had said, Xyleena would only reply that the language was a mixture of Minoan and ancient Atlantean.
“You… you may… submit your gift, My Queen,” said the struggling sorceress.
Lysippe took a ritual knife made of promethium from her oracle and pricked her finger with it. Then the queen pierced the orb with her bleeding finger. With conviction, Lysippe said, “Hear me! I grant my strength for this sacred pact, so says Lysippe, queen of the Amazons!”
From out of nowhere, a huge lightning bolt struck the sphere, shattering it. The bolt continued its course until it struck the rear wall. When the smoke cleared, the names appeared, having seemingly been etched in stone. What made the names more interesting, was the fact that, when aligned, the first letters of each name formed an unusual acronym:
“Look there, stranger!” Lysippe shouted as she pointed at the wall. “The task is done. Now go!”
The strange, phantom-like being merely nodded in reply before disappearing. Despite Xyleena’s assurances, Lysippe could not bring herself to fully trust the phantom, and didn’t like the idea of a man — any man, whether mortal or phantom — on her sisters’ island. Still, she knew how important his involvement in all this was, whether she liked it or not. Now that the pieces had been put into place, Lysippe had but to wait for her daughter’s destiny to unfold.
The Rite of Ascension was a time when young girls were tested to be worthy of being called Amazon. Each candidate had to be tested on horsemanship, athletics, academics, bowmanship, wilderness survival, and other Amazon skills. So far all the candidates, including Celia and her best friend Drusilla (and, unfortunately, Flora and Greta Smyrna as well), had passed most of the tests. Now, the candidates had to be tested in wilderness survival, where they had to prove that they could learn how to survive with very little. Each pair of girls would be accompanied by an assessor; in this case, Celia’s older sister Promethea would be their assessor.
Everyone gathered to the royal courtyard, where the last-minute instructions were to be given. From there, Xyleena would teleport the candidates to random locations throughout the island’s wilderness areas. While waiting for the event to begin, Celia and Drusilla got into yet another name-calling session with their rivals, Flora and Greta.
“Well, at least I don’t look like a Harpy!” yelled Drusilla.
“Hey, don’t pick on my sister, you butt-kisser!” yelled back Flora, who knew how sensitive her younger sister was about her rather homely appearance.
“Will you two stop it?” Celia asked. “I got to look over this map, and I can’t concentrate with you two yelling and stuff.”
“I didn’t start this, Cee! Greta did.”
“Hey!” responded Greta. “All I said was that we will win this round, and you will not. We win. You lose. Ha!”
“Will you four knock it off?!” yelled Athena Dare. “You guys can’t be left alone for a minute without getting into it.”
“Well,” began Flora, “if you’re good, why be humble? Besides, everyone knows that I look better than the little princess, here.”
“And I’m smarter than Celia, too!” interjected Greta.
“Yeah, whatever,” responded Celia. “Hey, Thena, where’s Thea? Isn’t she supposed to go over what we’re supposed to know before we begin?”
“That’s why I’m here,” responded Athena. “Mother needed her for something important, so she asked me to fill in for her.”
“Great,” said Drusilla.
“Hey! I’ll have you know that I earned top marks when I went through my own Rite of Ascension.”
“Perhaps, Thena,” responded Celia. “But you gotta admit that being the queen’s daughter helped, right?”
“True. But I still had to learn how to use skill to overcome the obstacles that I faced, which helped me a lot when I became a full Amazon warrior.”
“Anyway, I gotta go over this stuff with you two for the wilderness survival exercise. So listen up…”
Meanwhile, Queen Lysippe Hippolyta XXXIII and Princess Promethea were in the queen’s sanctum, where a new revelation was about to unfold.
“Promethea,” the queen began, “I know that we have not seen each other that often of late…”
“Yes,” responded Promethea. “You haven’t.”
“But you do understand my reasons for it, right?”
“Yes, Mother. I know that you are preparing Celia for her destiny, and all. Still, you need not have taken me away as her trainer now, of all times.”
Sighing, Lysippe continued. “What I am about to show you will explain my reasons for doing so.”
Queen Lysippe Hippolyta XXXIII opened a small wooden box; it was revealed to have contained a set of keys.
“Follow me,” said Lysippe to Promethea.
The queen and her daughter went to a hidden closet, which automatically opened at Lysippe’s touch. They went a long ways until they got to the end. There, they saw an elaborate-looking chest. The markings were slightly familiar to Promethea.
“Those are Minoan, Mother,” Promethea said while she pointed at the inscription.
“Yes, they are,” responded Lysippe. Then, after a moment of silence, she opened the chest. Inside the trunk were artifacts that Promethea had never seen before. There were twelve items in all.
“What are these things, Mother?” asked Promethea.
“Your inheritance… from your father.”
“My — my… father?! But how?”
Sitting down, Lysippe began her tale. “Have you ever wondered why, out of all the Amazon warriors of this generation, your skills and abilities come to you easily, with very little training? And why you equaled the skill of Athena at such a young age?”
“Umm, no. It just came naturally to me, I guess.”
“There is more truth in that than you know,” Lysippe said, smiling. “Promethea, your father was the Titan Prometheus.”
“What?! I know I was named after him, but I never dreamed–!”
“There is more. I am actually your grandmother. Your mother was my first daughter, Thermodosa.”
“Your first daughter? I thought Athena was your eldest daughter! Why haven’t I ever heard of Thermodosa before now?”
“You were far too young to remember her personally, child, as you were brought here as a newborn babe. Xyleena believes that Thermodosa knew she was going to die, which was why it was arranged for you to be brought to New Aretias just after her disappearance. Suffice it to say, it devastated me greatly when I lost her.”
There was a long pause before Lysippe continued. “When you were brought here, I rejoiced. You were the last remnant of my daughter. Your father doesn’t know, as far as I am aware, that his child has been born, since I have not heard anything to the contrary.”
“So does this make me a demigoddess?”
“Not quite. The spark of divinity is within you, but you were born as a mortal. For all intents and purposes, you are mortal like the rest of us.”
“Oh, I see.”
“However, there is one catch.” Picking up an elaborate-looking gauntlet, the queen tossed it to Promethea, who caught it easily. “These items are creations of the Titans. Normally, only other Titans and those who are freely given these things can harness their abilities. Since you are of Titan descent, you can use them, too.”
Pausing for a moment, Lysippe continued. “In your hand is the Gauntlet of Atlas. It will double the user’s strength and stamina.”
“That’s neat, Mother. But why are you telling me all this now?”
“Because,” Lysippe began sadly, “you will have to leave the island soon.”
“Me? But why?”
“Celia’s destiny has just come upon her.”