Undeniable by Rachel Hahn
by Rachel Hahn

Chapter 2

"Damn!" yelped Shayla as the post lashings came loose once again. "Carenna, get your feathered butt over here and hold this for me will ya?"

"Sure thing." she replied shoving the post back into it's position. "Why are we doing this again?"

"Because I have a big mouth, that's why. So just shut up and grab that end there." replied the blonde, finally getting the knot tied securely. Blowing her bangs out of her eyes she continued, "How was I supposed to know it'd be this much work? There...it's done." She stepped back a few paces and admired the now neatly assembled stage.

"Well I sure hope this crazy plan of yours works, otherwise you are not going to be a very happy Amazon when half the village decides to skewer you." The redhead chuckled.

"It'll work...it'll work. Heck it HAS to work or we're all in major trouble." She frowned. "I don't know about you, but I've had enough of getting my backside whooped."

Carenna laughed. "Agreed. Do you think Eve will come to the festival?"

The blonde grinned knowingly. "Oh she'll come alright. I was there when Varia got the latest scroll from her, and let me tell you Car the look on her face spoke volumes. Those two are definitely hot for each other." She turned and put her hands on her hips. "C'mon, let's go round up the benches for the musicians."

"Ok." replied the redhead. As she was picking a piece of bark off her skirt, she caught sight of Cassandra walking towards them. "Uh oh...lookie there..." she pointed.

"Oh great, just what I needed right now." commented Shayla, her eyes following the weaponmaster's advance. "Another bossy Amazon telling me how to do things!" She snorted.

This caused Carenna to nearly bust out of her leather boustier with laughter. "Oh yeah! As if you weren't filling those boots already!"

Shayla took a moment to smack her friend in the arm. "You're asking for it." She grinned at the redhead as Cassandra finally reached them.

"How goes it Shayla?" inquired the auburn-haired vessel of intimidation.

Shayla squinted. "Not bad. Stage is done."

"Good...good." She casually wiped a bead of sweat off her forehead. "They should be back in two days, I think we'll be ready."

"I sure hope so." replied Shayla, reaching in and pulling a long strip of cloth from her belt pouch. "Here.." she handed it to Cassandra.

"Thanks." said the weaponmaster, taking the cloth and tying it around her head. She grinned at the duo. "So has the village been notified of our little plot?"

"Heck yeah!" replied Carenna. "We sent Tomasina on that mission."

"Tomasina?" Cassandra laughed heartily. "Well I have to give you credit, you picked the perfect person for the job."

Shayla smirked. "Who better than the biggest gossip in town? The choice was obvious."

"Indeed! Well done." She cast a glance skyward. "Time for my next class to start. Catch you guys later." She turned and strode off to the training field.

Carenna turned to face her friend. "That wasn't so bad." she said.

"Nope." replied Shayla. "Do you think I'll ever get my bandana back?"

"Nope." replied the redhead. "Not a chance."

Immersed in laughter, they headed off to the storage facility to round up the rest of the materials for the festival.


Varia's eyes dropped down to the plate of food in front of her. "I wish your parents would quit staring at us." she whispered out of the corner of her mouth.

"Yeah I know." replied Eve. She spiked a stray pea and stared at it.

"Do you think they know?"

Eve shook her head. "Oh yeah...they know." She glanced up only to find the aforementioned parents grinning back at her. "I feel like a two-eyed cyclops."

Varia caught the slight flush edging its' way onto the princess's features, and grinned at just how cute that was. "Don't worry." she said as her gaze ran around the table and it's occupants, "Not everyone is staring." Indeed, Magdelena's mouth was hanging agape as she bore witness to the Queen's voracious appetite. Varia had to laugh.

"What's so funny?" inquired Eve, laying a hand on Varia's arm.

"Oh nothing, just watching Mags' reaction to Gabrielle's eating habits." replied the warrior, giving Eve's hand a slight squeeze in return.

"Uh oh...Mother just noticed your friend staring at her wife." She grinned and nodded towards the other side of the table. "This won't be pretty.."

Varia shook her head sadly. "Oh well, it's not like I didn't warn her."

They sat there calmly and watched as Xena slowly reached out to the fruit plate, grabbed a nice ripe olive and examined it closely. She then nestled it between her thumb and middle finger and nonchalantly launched it in Magdelena's direction. Their eyes followed the path of the fruit through the air and watched amazingly as it landed square in the open mouth of a suprised Mags. The poor woman's face went quite pale as she tried to get air, so Varia reached a long arm out and whapped her soundly between her shoulder blades. The offending olive shot out and splattered harmlessly on the nearest wall.

Xena casually leaned back in her chair and draped a well-muscled arm around her precious bard as the table roared with laughter.

"That'll teach ya!" said Varia through fits of laughter.

Magdelena was now turning three shades of embarassed and wished she could just crawl into a corner and disappear. The laughter eventually quieted down, and soon she was able to look up again as the conversations resumed. Peering warily through her dark bangs, she stole a glance at the Warrior Princess. Doh! Xena was staring right back at her...a curious looking smile on her face. She grinned sheepishly and went back to finishing her meal.

Varia suddenly stopped chewing and spoke. "Eve! Oh my gods I forgot to tell you why I was here!" She laughed at herself as she pulled a scroll from the backpack at her feet and handed it to the princess.

"What's this?" inquired the brunette.

"An ivitation." Varia replied. "To the Festival of the Muses. Marga would like you to judge the music competition if you can get away."

Eve smiled warmly at her lover. "I wouldn't care if I was judging a horse manure gathering competition if it means I get to spend time with you."

"That could be arranged." Varia's hand slid under the table and squeezed Eve's gently.

"When do we leave?" inquired the princess.

"Well it starts in two days, so tomorrow would probably be good." She scratched her chin. "Afternoon." She grinned slyly.

Eve pondered the implications in her warrior's tone of voice and decided it was all fine with her. "Great! Do I need to bring anything special?"

"Nope." replied Varia. "I was given specific orders to attend to your every need."

"Really hmmmmmm..."

Varia smiled. "Yes." Noticing that most everyone had finished their meals, (except Gabrielle of course, but that shouldn't suprise any of you...) Varia nodded her head in the direction of the hall's doorway. "Wanna take off?" she asked coyly.

"I thought you'd never ask." replied Eve, allowing Varia to stand and offer her arm. She took it and they casually strolled outside, away from prying eyes.

The moon was bright overhead as they walked a while in silence. They took in each other's presence, carrying on a kind of conversation in which there was no need for words, no need for anything but the knowledge that they were there together.

It was Varia who finally broke the spell between them. "Were you serious today?" Eve glanced her way and raised an eyebrow in question. "You really were never with a woman before?"

The princess smiled. "I was serious." she replied with an endearing blush.

"Coulda fooled me." Varia chuckled as she wrapped her arm around Eve's shoulder.

"You're different." she replied.

"Different? How so?" was the honest inquiry.

"Well..." Eve blushed a little darker. "It just felt...oooooh I can't explain it except that when you kissed me that first time, I wouldn't have cared if you were a mule."

Varia couldn't contain herself and burst out laughing. And when she began adding some hearty 'hee-haws' in, Eve nearly fell to her knees.

A few moments passed while they composed themselves, holding their stomachs to try and make the pain of strained muscles dissipate faster. "I'm sorry, but that picture you painted was just too much!" commented Varia, wiping a tear from her face with the back of her hand.

Eve smiled. "I just speak the truth." A small yawn escaped her. "Wow, must be late..."

"You mean early." Varia glanced at the sky. "Ready to call it a night?"

"Yes." She yawned again. "It's been a tiring day."

Varia pulled her lover closer as they turned around and headed back towards the village. "Indeed it has." She leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Eve's cheek. "I love you."

Eve blushed and Varia thought it was once again 'just too cute' as they walked along the forest path arm in arm...in silence.


"And then, the cyclops says to the giant....'Now who left that slingshot there!!!' " The amazons gathered around the table burst into raucous laughter, causing many heads to turn in startlement. Ephiny laughed right along with them, since it was her favorite joke to tell after all. Suddenly, her eyes went wide and her hand went to her abdomen, feeling a very sharp pain there. "Uuummmmmm..." she managed as she felt a wetness down her legs. "Alloryn?"

The young amazon stepped closer. "Yes my Regent?"

"Go get Xena..." The recruit turned to leave. "HURRY!" yelped Ephiny as a new and different kind of pain overtook her senses. "Oh gods...." She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes tight, a grimace coloring her noble features.

Not two shakes of a centaur's tail later, the Warrior Princess came barreling thru the door, throwing those unfortunate Amazons who just happened to be in her path to the wayside. She reached Ephiny and kneeled down next to her. "When."

"Just a few moments ago."

"Can you walk?"

"I-I don't know..." She gathered her strength and tried to stand, but to no avail. "Nope."

"You." said Xena, pointing to a slight, auburn haired young amazon. "Go find Callisto NOW, and tell her to meet me at the healer's hut." The young woman took off at a dead run. ('Gotta remember to make sure that one enters the foot races this year...' thought Xena idly as she scanned the gathered.) "You." She pointed again. "Go find Queen Gabrielle and tell her the same." The amazon shook her head. "MOVE!!!" Barked the warrior, and the poor girl took off at speeds only fear could drive a person to. She returned her attention to the Regent. "I'm gonna have to carry you Eph, so don't even bother trying to argue with me." This got a nod from the blonde. "Good." She reached down, grabbed Ephiny's arm and draped it over her own shoulder. Then she slipped an arm up underneath her load, followed by one below her knees. Xena grinned. "Up we go!" she said, lifting the regent with ease.

"Now I know how Gabrielle must feel when you sweep her off her feet Xena." Ephiny chuckled and wrapped her other arm around the warrior's neck. "You are just an incredible woman."

Xena blushed slightly as they made their way to the healer's. "Awwwwww..." she drawled, "I bet you say that to all the women who carry your pregnant butt all the way across the village." She smirked.

Ephiny couldn't help her laughter. "Since you are the only one who has ever done it, then I would have to say 'Yes I do.' And I am enjoying every minute of it." Her mirth was cut short as another contraction wracked her body. "Gods! Hurry Xena!" she half-grunted out, unwittingly tightening her grip around Xena's neck. "Ack! Ephiny!" yelped a startled warrior as her air flow began to quickly lessen. This made her decide that running might be a pretty good idea right now, so she took off at a fast clip, making sure not to jostle her precious cargo too much. They rounded the corner to the healer's and Xena burst through the door, hurrying to deposit the Regent onto one of the pallets. Standing, she tried to rub the soreness out of her neck as she began to bark out orders. "No one is to enter this hut except Queen Gabrielle. When Callisto shows up, come in and get me." The two guards saluted and went outside to guard the doorway. No sooner had Xena turned around to tend to Ephiny, than she heard voices being raised outside. "Oh oh.." she said to Ephiny. "I may have seriously underestimated Cal's reaction to this moment.." She grimaced as two bright bolts of light flashed outside the hut window, followed with a tousled-looking blonde goddess storming into the room, a bard hot on her heels. "Eph!" said her lover. "Are you ok?"

Ephiny smiled as Callisto kneeled next to her, taking her hand. "I'm ok." She felt another pain coming on. "Mostly." She grimaced.

"I'm here...I'm here. I am not going anywhere, I don't care what Xena says either." She turned around and shot a defiant stare towards the warrior princess. Xena held her hands up in defeat. "Nooooo problem here. Right Gabrielle?" Xena nudged the bard gently.

Gabrielle looked up, startled a bit out of her interest in the situation before her. (Births never ceased to amaze her, the wondrous beauty of it all. She had tried once to put the feeling down on paper, but it was never good enough...there seemed to be no human words to describe the emotions one felt inside when bringing another life into the world.) "Right." she answered. She whispered to her warrior, "Maybe we should wait outside Xena."

She surveyed the situation and decided the bard was right. "Yeah. We'll just hang around in case of emergency." She cleared her throat, got Callisto's attention, pointed to herself and Gabrielle, then to the door. Cal shook her head in understanding, and the bard and warrior slipped quietly out.

"Now we wait." Xena said, taking a seat on the bench just outside the entrance. Gabrielle smiled and took a seat next to her, snuggling up close as the warrior draped a long arm around her shoulders. "Shouldn't be too much longer..."


It was dark now...and twelve candlemarks since they had come to sit on this bench. Xena's eyebrows furrowed as yet another cry of pain, followed by two grunts reached her sensitive hearing. Her gaze dropped to the snoring blonde head that was currently drooling all over her shoulder. How could Gabrielle sleep through all this??? She shook her head, stifling a chuckle. Callisto's soft words of comfort floated through the air. Callisto. Wow, what a turnaround. She once again lowered her gaze to her bard's lovely features. "You are amazing Gabrielle." She smiled and placed a small kiss on the blonde's forehead. Gabrielle stirred a bit but didn't awake. She heard the regent cry out in pain, and then...the sound of a baby crying. She smiled. Life was good. She nuzzled the lump on her shoulder and was rewarded with one sea-green eye peeling open slowly. Gabrielle gazed up at her groggily. "Did she..." Xena stopped her with a soft kiss. "Yes." she said between smooches. "Just a few moments ago." Gabrielle's other eye finally shot open. "Wow!" she exclaimed. The blonde tried to rise from her seated position, but found herself firmly rooted by a pair of very strong arms. "You aren't going anywhere my inquisitive little bard. Give them some time will ya?"

"But Xena!"

"No buts Gabrielle....how would you feel if everyone and their sisters had barged in on us?" replied Xena with a slight grin.

Gabrielle huffed a bit. "They did Xena." She grinned. "Or did we forget about the whole Zeus episode?"

This got a playful slap on the tummy from the warrior. "Point taken Gabrielle." grinned Xena. "But I would really like us to give them time to get aquainted...alone."

Gabrielle pouted and crossed her arms. "Alright." She certainly didn't like being made to wait, especially when she was just absolutely DYING to meet the newest aquisition to her tribe. How could Xena defy her Queen like that? She spared a glance into those impossibly blue eyes and melted where she sat. 'That's how.' she thought.

Xena was just about to ask her bard what she was thinking about to make her flush that way when the door opened and Callisto's head popped out. Bard and warrior turned anxiously to her for the news.

Callisto was all smiles as she stepped outside. "It's a girl." She said beaming from ear to ear.

Gabrielle could restrain herself no longer and jumped up to enfold the goddess in a bone-crunching embrace. "I'm so happy for you both!" she cooed as she hugged the thin blonde. "Can I..."

Callisto caught Xena's wry grin. "Sure Gabrielle...go on in. Ephiny's been expecting you for the last five minutes." She and Xena joined in a good laugh as the bard disappeared through the doorway. She turned towards Xena. "How did you keep her out so long?" she inquired.

The warrior grinned. "Weeeeell..." she drawled, "I really didn't have to. Old Morpheus did the work for me." She stretched long, tanned legs. "And I was never one to expend extra energy when a god is willing to do the work for free."

"Remind me to send him a thank you letter." replied Callisto with lopsided grin. "Why don't you come in and see our new addition?"

"Certainly." replied the warrior, stepping through the doorway and into the birthing room. Her eyes nearly teared up at the sight before her. There was her bard, cradling the newborn baby like it was her very own. She looked exquisitely radiant, her blonde locks cascading down her shoulders as she traced a finger along the baby's small arm.

"Xena!" said Ephiny. "Come...meet our daughter."

The warrior crossed the room to kneel beside Gabrielle and the baby. Slipping her arm around the bard's waist she whispered softly into her ear..."Is this what you've been wanting to talk to me about for the last three weeks Gabrielle?"

The bard flushed as she turned her head and met the eyes of her beloved friend. "Yes." she whispered back softly. "I just..." She couldn't tear her eyes from the squirming little bundle in her arms.

"Gabrielle..." purred the warrior, her breath brushing gently across the bard's ear, "I've been thinking about it too."

Gabrielle's face looked nearly shocked for a moment. "Really?"

Xena smiled warmly. "Yes...really."

"Alright." The bard replied. "Then you had better get used to this again Warrior Princess..." Turning slowly she laid the baby gently in Xena's arms. Studying the picture in front of her, she decided it was definitely cute. It had been so long since they had a child of their own, and unbeknownst to Xena, (so the bard had thought at the time anyways) she had been longing for it more than anything.

Callisto's voice interrupted her musings. "We have chosen a name for her. Would you like to hear it?" Two heads shook up and down enthusiastically. The goddess glanced toward her wife and smiled. An identical one answered her. "Her name is...Kara."

"That's a lovely name." replied the bard.

"Thank you." replied Ephiny. Little Kara chose this moment to begin wailing relentlessly, making small talk impossible. Ephiny smiled. "Give her here Xena, she's probably quite hungry."

Xena grinned sheepishly as she handed the squirming baby over to her mother. "Yes of course." said the warrior, feeling a pang of sadness at having to give back the warm bundle. She sighed. 'Well mighty warrior...soon you will be cursing the moment you thought these thoughts.' She chuckled slightly. "We're going to take off and leave you to your new family." She smiled at the happy couple. "Besides..." she nodded to her bard. "We need to get working on one of our own." She turned herself and the bard towards the door, grinning broadly as she watched the shock register on Gabrielle's face.

"You are definitely a very bad girl." said the bard once they were out of the hut, "Now the whole village is going to know we're trying!"

Xena smiled slyly. "So?"

The bard's smile lit up the darkness. "You aren't the the Queen everyone is going to be nagging until it happens Xena." She slid her hand down from the small of Xena's back to let it rest on her butt. She squeezed it. "But that's alright, I'll deal."

Xena's eyebrow raised as she felt the pressure. 'Well.' she thought, 'Things can't get any better than this!' She pulled the bard closer, and they headed off to the Temple of Artemis to leave their token.


"You know, I'll never get used to all this bravado." commented Eve, her eyes scanning the fully decked out royal guard that surrounded them as they rode along.

"You do get used to it." Varia cast a sidelong glance at the brunette. "Pretty soon you learn to just tune them out." She smiled as their eyes met.

Eve was completely blown away as she stared deeply into her lover's eyes. She tried to sort out all the feelings that were going on inside her...admiration, appreciation, lust, nervousness, love. Yes definitely love. Her eyes swept over the Amazon slowly, taking in every single detail and allowing them to be imprinted forever in her mind. The way she sat in the saddle, holding the reins in her right hand, her left draped casually over a muscular thigh...how her hair blew back in the gentle summer breeze. Her eyes traveled back up to meet Varia's and she freely fell into the penetrating gaze of her lover. "You are so incredibly beautiful." tumbled from her lips before she even knew she said it. "But I'm sure I'm not the first one who has told you that."

Varia blushed a deep crimson. "Thank you." She smiled shyly now. "Coming from them, it meant nothing. Coming from you, it means the world."

Eve smiled and turned her eyes back to the dusty road ahead of them. "I was wondering..." she began, "If you weren't busy tomorrow night if you would be interested in being my escort to the festival?"

"Have you forgotten already that I am your personal guard? I thought it was a given I'd be escorting you." Varia's brow furrowed in confusion.

"Well yes, I know but..." Eve fiddled with the saddlehorn as she tried to explain, "I was hoping you would go as my date, not as my bodyguard."

Varia chuckled. "Your date huh?" Eve shook her head. "I would be honored Princess." She dipped her head for effect, a sly grin on her face. "Besides, I think you're in pretty safe company when you're surrounded by a couple hundred Amazon warriors."

"That's what I keep telling Gabrielle, but she insists on having someone keeping a watch on me all the time. It's annoying to say the least." Eve flipped her hair back with a toss of her head.

Varia knew exactly how she felt. She hated it too, but she had finally accepted that this was how it was always going to be, and just bitten the bit. "You look so cute when you do that hair flip thing, you know that?" Varia smiled at the ensuing blush. Lowering her voice, she said, "Wanna do something crazy?"

Eve's eyebrow went up in interest. "Such as?"

Varia grinned hugely. "Follow my lead..." Moving her horse a bodylength away from Eve's she yelled "RACE YA!" at the top of her lungs, kneed her horse and shot ahead down the straightaway towards a far off stand of trees.

"Oh no you don't!" giggled Eve as her mount surged forward in answer to the challenge. They sped off down the road, leaving nothing but a trail of dust and five grumbling Amazon warriors behind them.


Sarina smiled to herself as she observed the two women ahead of her. They rode close together as they talked, barely a hairsbreadth apart. Varia seemed to utterly adore Eve, her eyes never left her, and a permanent smile graced her features. She looked radiant. A soft sigh of regret escaped Sarina as she watched Varia reach over and brush a stray strand of Eve's hair away from her face. The slim brunette basked in the attention, leaning her head into the hand of the warrior that so obviously owned her heart. She had to admit...they were a perfect fit.

"The look on your face was priceless when Ephiny handed you the baby Varia." Eve giggled a bit. "I wish you could have seen it!"

Varia frowned as she blushed. "It's not funny you meanie. I'm just not so great with kids, and that took me completely by suprise!" She put a gauntleted hand on her hip. "Was TOTALLY unfair of her!" A pout began to form.

"Sweetheart, come on now. Aren't you being a little hard on yourself about that whole thing?" Eve questioned. "I mean, it wasn't you that made the baby cry, she probably was hungry or had a wet diaper or something." She smiled encouragingly at her lover. "I'm sure that when the time comes, you'll make a great mom."

Varia glanced up from where her head had been hanging in despondency. "You really think I would?"

"No." replied Eve. "I know you would."

Varia smiled as she gazed at the woman. "Has anyone ever told you that you're great for the ego?"

Now it was Eve's turn to smile as she remembered a certain conversation with a pretty cool bard she knew. "As a matter of fact, someone has, but I much prefer feeding your ego rather than Gabrielle's."

They enjoyed a short laugh before Varia sensed something amiss. Her head whipped from side to side, scanning the area with her senses...willing the out of place to be shown.

"What is it?" whispered Eve.

Varia's nose caught it...the slight puff of air out of the ordinary, and it carried the scent of..."Smoke!" She cried. "North!!!" She glanced quickly at Eve. "My village..."

Eve's eyebrows shot up in alarm as it registered. 'Oh no...' she thought sadly. "Arm up! We ride!!" She gathered her guard together and motioned for Magdalena and Varia to join up. Her stallion pranced in anticipation as the other horses formed on either side of her. Raising her sword above her head she spurred her mount and let out her battle cry. They surged forward as one, the fear gripping their hearts nearly tangible in the air. They rode fast and hard, an army of seven, deadly, leather-clad amazons and foaming horseflesh tearing across the countryside. Eve and Varia were the first to crest the last rise that led down into the amazon valley, and the sight that they beheld made them reign their horses in violently. Varia's horse reared in annoyance.

"Oh my gods..." she said softly.

Her eyes swept over what was left of her village. Curls of smoke rose from nearly every building, creating a surreal aura of peacefulness that seemed to stifle her ability to breath. She heard a gasp and turned to see Eve's hand rise to cover her mouth in shock. A tear formed and slid slowly down Varia's cheek as their eyes met.

Eve's eyes narrowed to become mere slits as her gaze traveled back to rest on the destroyed village. Turning in the saddle, she addressed the other five women in the party. "Alright, we're going down there. Be on your guard." Glancing to her lover she asked, "Ready?"

Varia took a deep breath and nodded her head. "Ready. Heeeyaaaaa!" She slapped the reins down hard on her horse's neck and he took off like a rocket, flying down the hill at breakneck speed.

"Yaaaaaa!" Eve followed suit, and her guard fell in behind her. Why did things always have to be like this? The Amazons had become a peaceful nation under Gabrielle's reign, resorting to violence in defense's name only. So who was behind this? Hmmmmm. They must have been watching the village for a long time, since they seemed to pick the perfect time to attack...during the festival preparations when perimeter guards were in fewer numbers. She shook her head to clear it. Well, she could think about that later, right now there were more pressing matters to attend to. The smoking village loomed ominously ahead, and Eve wished she could turn back time and start this day all over again. This was not going to be fun.


They rode solemnly through what was left of the village, looking for any signs of life, but the dead were everywhere. Varia willed the tears back, pursing her lips tight and raising her head high. She recognized some. Tasha...Elenis...Arnethia....they had all been her friends, and now they were gone. She spared a glance at Eve and their eyes met. Unable to hold it back anymore, her eyes brimmed and one single tear gained its freedom to fall silently down her cheek. In one quick movement, Eve had dismounted and was by her side, pulling her gently from the horse's back and into her arms. "I'm so sorry Varia." she said as a dark head burrowed itself in her shoulder. Wrapping her arms around the warrior, she held her tight until her sobs became only small sniffles. "Sshhhh..." she whispered. "It'll be alright sweetheart." Her attention was drawn to Magdalena, who was gesturing frantically at her from across the square. "Sarina, could you come here for a second?" The blonde came hurrying over. "Yes, what's up?"

"Would you sit here with Varia for a moment? There is something that needs my attention, and it can't wait. Make sure she drinks some water." Eve handed the waterskin to Sarina. "I'll be right back V, will you be ok?"

Varia shook her head. "Yeah. Just need a few moments to get myself together."

"Alright." Eve jumped on her horse and took off in the direction Mags had headed. She turned around a line of trees and entered a clearing, finding the girl standing in front of a large elm. Her eyes traveled upwards and she gasped out loud as she recognized the strung up body of Queen Marga. She quickly turned her eyes away as the sight was nearly too much for her stomach to handle, took a few deep breaths and calmed herself before she rode over to where Magdalena was standing.

"I didn't think it was a good idea for Varia to see this right now." said Mags from somewhere underneath her bangs.

"I agree." She gestured around her. "Any idea when all this happened?"

Mags shrugged. "Not really sure." She squinted at the sun's position in the sky. "My best guess is sometime this morning." She raised her eyes and pointed to where her queen was pinned to the tree. "This however...was more recent. Not more than a couple candlemarks ago."

Eve shook her head in acknowledgement. Sliding her hand to her waist, she pulled her dagger, reached up, carefully cut loose Queen Marga's feathered rank adornment and stuffed it into her belt pouch. "I have to get back to Varia, and aside from that I don't want to be separated from the group right now."

"Right. Let's go." replied Mags as she turned her mount back towards the village.

Her mind raced wildly. Attacking an Amazon village was one thing, but torturing and sacrificially murdering their queen AND THEN pinning her to a tree for display was altogether another! Her jaw moved as she considered some facts. One, an army of mounted and heavily armed soldiers had done this...and two, they had scouted the village for quite some time undetected. This fact alone was unsettling. 'Then why?' she asked herself. They turned the corner into the village and Eve kicked her horse into a gallop, hurrying to Varia's side. Dismounting and kneeling next to her lover, she placed a hand on her cheek as she spoke. "Hey...you doin ok?"

Varia sighed softly. "No, not really." She raised her eyes to meet Eve's. "So what was all that about?"

The brunette gulped silently. "Ummmmmm, was nothing really...just some prints."

Varia's eyes narrowed. "I'm a big girl Eve, you don't need to keep anything from me."

"Who says I am?"

"I can see it in your eyes. Tell me what you found."

Eve's gaze dropped to the ground. "I don't know how to tell you." She glanced up into clear brown eyes and exhaled. "Alright. Alright." Taking a deep breath, she continued..."They killed Marga."

Varia nearly bit through the bottom lip she had been nervously chewing on while Eve had been gone. She became rigid as Eve's words echoed in her mind. "Take me." was all she said.

Eve really didn't want to do this, but one look at the grim set of Varia's jaw told her she really had no choice in the matter. Sighing, she replied, "This way."

They rode the short distance to the tree in silence. Eve knew exactly how Varia was feeling. How many times had she been in this situation herself? Countless. And it never got any easier either. No matter how battle worn you thought you were, losing friends always got to you. Eve stopped them at the edge of the clearing and nodded ahead. She watched as the warrior sat sternly in the saddle, her eyes filling rapidly as she gazed upon the body of her beloved queen.

"I vow to avenge you Marga." said Varia so quietly that Eve almost couldn't hear the words. "Your legacy will not die." She wiped her eyes clear with her forearm and turned to Eve. "At least half the village is missing." She sniffed. "Since they killed our queen, they were not after material things...which in turn means the amazons that escaped are in the caves regrouping." She turned her eyes to the not so distant hills and nodded. "We find them, and then we worry about finding out what happened."

Eve shook her head. "Agreed." She looked over at her friend. "Varia?"

The warrior turned back to her. "Yeah?"

Eve dug into her belt pouch and pulled out the Queen's feathers. "These are yours now."

Varia looked at the feathers, then looked back to Eve. "I guess they are." She reached out and accepted the adornment from her lover. "It's not the way I expected them to be passed to me though, you know?" She stifled a sniffle.

"Yes....I know." It was killing her inside to see her soulmate in such agony. She reached over and brushed a stray dark lock behind the woman's ear. The warrior looked up once more and her shoulders began to shake ever so slightly. Eve slid their horses closer together and wrapped an arm around the warrior, lending silent support and comfort to the grieving new queen. She knew her course of action now. It was very clear as she pulled her lover tighter. Whoever did this to your tribe Varia, is as good as dead. She closed her eyes because she suddenly couldn't see through her tears.


Cassandra's head was pounding madly as she tried to turn over onto her back. Unfortunately, the manacles binding her wrists were making that a little hard at the present time, and she found her left eye wouldn't open due to some pretty nasty-feeling swelling. Damn! Can my day get any worse? Just then she heard a jangle of keys, the lock on her prison clicked and the door opened, its' hinges squeaking loudly in protest. I had to ask... She grunted in pain as she was roughly hauled to her feet by two very large, very ugly men who probably hadn't had a bath in the last three moons. They dragged her out the cell door and all the way across the large camp, the weaponmaster grimacing with every jolt to her battered and bruised frame. Hurrying her into a large tent, (Obviously the big cheese's abode by the looks of it she thought.) the pair unceremoniously dumped her face first onto the dirt floor. She heard footsteps approach and lifted her head in time to see a boot come crashing into her forehead. She yelped in pain, the force of the kick lifting her clean off the ground and sending her sailing a few feet away where she landed with a dull thud. Stars were swirling in front of her eyes and she couldn't contain the groan of agony that escaped her.

"Like that Amazon? There's more where that came from."

She cracked open her good eye and tried to focus on the two-headed beast before her. The images merged together after a few moments and resolved into the visage of her captor. He looked to be a rather tall man, about thirty summers old, fairly good looking and impeccably groomed. His sandy blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail that hung nearly all the way down his back. Cassandra scrutinized the nuances of his face closely...piercing green eyes, high cheekbones, and a very evident long scar running from over his left eyebrow and halfway down his cheek. "What do you want with us?" she half whispered.

A harsh laugh cut the air. "It's not you I want." he replied. "You and your friends are merely the bait I am using to attain my true objective."

"Oh? and what might that be?"

"Why I'm suprised you haven't figured it out by now. I always thought Amazons were supposed to be so intellectually superior." He grinned as he stood and began to pace the floor slowly. "I guess that was also a myth, much like your fighting prowess, since it was so easy to destroy you."

Cassandra squirmed within her bonds and received a boot in her gut for her efforts. Raising her head, she glared at him. "You won't get away with this. My Queen will not rest until the lot of you are dead or worse."

He stopped pacing and kneeled down in front of her. Grabbing a handful of hair, he raised her head to look straight into her eyes. "Your Queeeeeen is dead I'm afraid." The weaponmaster's eyes went wide in shock. "Oh yes. Seems she managed to get herself stuck up in a tree...how sad." He let her hair go and her head fell to the floor with a loud smack. He stood again, crossed over to a chair and sat down, his eyes becoming cold and heartless. "She pleaded for all your miserable lives, said she would go with us willingly if I would just leave the village alone, but of course I had to turn her down."

"Y-you are a monster." hissed Cassandra through clenched teeth. "Your blood will stain the earth when Varia sees what has happened."

A psychotic smile appeared on the man's face. "Well let's hope for your sake she gets here soon eh? I have something special waiting just for her." He leaned back and crossed his arms. "But until she gets here, I have YOU...her little friend, to keep me occupied." That smile was back and Cassandra felt a cold chill run up her spine and back down again. This wasn't good at all...no no no. She ran through her options quickly and ultimately decided that she had none at the present time. She was just going to have to wait it out and watch for her chance. This is a fine mess you're in warrior. she thought as she watched him toy with a whip on the table next to him. Just how the heck are you going to get out of it? Her eyes fell to the ground as he stood and walked towards her. Have to get through this first tho... The whip came down upon her unprotected back, biting into her flesh and making her scream. Varia...please hurry...


Continued in Chapter Three