Disclaimers: See Chapter I
Growing Moon, 469 ACE. Amasia, Central Amazonia.
Alex shook her head. She still didn't understand how she managed to pass the Cadets, considering everyone at Fort Hartford thought she was the lousiest recruit to step foot in Amazonia since the Stone Age. From the angry Captain down to her own squadron, they all hated her incompetency, and constantly shamed her in front of her mother's memory.
She had a one month leave of absence before she was to report to duty as a full-fledged member of the Black Guard. She wore the stripe on her sleeve proudly; she no longer was condemned of the dots that screamed "wannabe." She wasn't sure why she returned to Amasia, but she was only going to stay a week. She didn't have anything to really go home for; her best friend from her schooling days was away training in The Fleet at Fort Westbury near Sinope, The Fleet's headquarters.
I guess I'll drop by Sinope some time I'm on leave and see how Lina's doing. Private Fletcher had planned on leaving Amasia at the first quarter, and travelling to Somerfield where her friend and comrade Private Jessie Hunter lived. Both womyn were sad to see they were assigned different divisions: Private Alex Fletcher was assigned to the seaside base of Fort Bradford, 10th Division, while Private Jessie Hunter was assigned to Fort Asbury, 9th Division, on the other end of the Amazonian coast.
She came to the white washed door in Northern Amasia, and rapped three times. A gray haired woman of seventy years greeted her. "Hello, Alexandra."
The woman let her in, and shut the door behind her. "So how are you doing, Alexandra?"
"Save your dark hair, you look more like the spitting image of my daughter every day."
They walked into the livingroom of the cottage, where dagguerrotypes hung upon the wall. The unique technology had been around for nearly a century; it was discovered by a Sinopian mystic who discovered a way of exposing images onto silverplated plates and then developing them into black and white photographs. The technology was considered a wonder to the Amazonian world, and it was the pride of every family to have their daughter's military picture hung above the fireplace for all to see and admire. Most people only had their picture taken once in their lifetime, mainly because the process was difficult and therefore the military had taken it into its specialization.
There was her great grandmother, Colonel Portia Garfield, a stately, fine featured woman, and her partner, Captain Arcadia Maxwell, a tall, well defined woman who after her stint in the military worked in her mother's forge and invented a new process of swordmaking that was in high demand around Amazonia. The blades were much stronger, and the Queen, seeing that it would pose a problem if the blades got out of Amazonia, hired her as a government contractor to make blades for the military instead.
The forge was passed on to the eldest daughter, Chava Maxwell, who expanded the forge to make more swords for the military and pioneered a new technique that was too time consuming to become popular. It was a technique where the sword was drawn out and then folded over many times until it was nearly unbreakable. These swords were often snatched by high military officers and even the Queen herself.
Gramma was the second daughter of Arcadia Maxwell. Colonel Daisy Maxwell had led a distinguished career; when the advancement to Lydia under General Renshaw turned sour, Colonel Daisy Maxwell managed to align the defenses to keep Bellophan's counteroffense from taking over Amazonia. Disgraced, Renshaw retired; the toll of fighting Bellophan's counteroffense had been heavy and Maxwell expressed no wish to assume the post of General.
Gramma had three children of her own: Geneva, Casey, and June. Geneva was the straight arrow of the family, June had a way of coddling children, but the middle child, Casey, was a rebel from the day she was born and was a handful to raise. Geneva served her time in The Fleet, retiring to Landsend on the eastern coast of Amazonia; June was a renoun cook in the 3rd Division. Many grieved her departure at the end of her seven year stint; she moved back to Amasia and was a chef at an upper scale restaurant.
Casey was career military. When she discovered the Black Guard uniform had womyn throwing themselves at her feet, she was hooked to the military glamor and went through a long list of womyn, using them as kleenex and then throwing them away. Gramma scolded her, saying that Aphrodite frowned upon reckless affairs that hurt the other parties involved, but Casey didn't listen until the end of her first term, when she settled down with a fellow Black Guard named Amara Fletcher.
Daisy Maxwell prayed that Casey's settling down and raising a family would diffuse offended Aphrodite's wrath. Her and Amara had two beautiful children, Alexandra Fletcher and Cassandra Fletcher. Cassandra was well muscled but short, with blonde, flowing hair and soft brown eyes, while Alexandra was tall, rather wiry, with a dark mane of hair and blue eyes like Casey's, full of mischief. Cassandra, the older one, was beloved by all, a sweet girl that never got into trouble. She accelled at all she did, and it appeared she would follow into her birth mother's footsteps of greatness.
Alexandra was the neighborhood hellion. She did the opposite of what she was told, and brought her great mother to tears many times. Gramma never met a more insolent child in her life and took her over her knee many times, the lesson never sticking long. To make matters worse, Casey encouraged her orneriness at times, much to their consternation.
Alexandra knew she was the black sheep of the family, the shame of their clan. Cassandra would grow up to be a good woman, Alexandra thought for certain she would be disowned. But one day the family's hopes were dashed.
Cassandra Fletcher was coming back from market one day when a runaway wagon plowed her over. She had no chance, the healer said. She was dead upon impact. Both the Maxwells and the Fletchers were determined more than ever to make little Alexandra, now fourteen, straighten up and fly right. Since her beautiful sister was dead, it was up to Alexandra to carry the family honor, and it would take a ruthless hand to shape her into something acceptable to both the families and society.
She was sent away to a school just south of Amasia, Stonebridge Academy. It had been a tearful parting for Amara Fletcher; little did either one of them know it would be the last time they saw each other, for soon after Captain Amara Fletcher was shipped out and killed in battle against the rebels.
465. A bitter day for all involved. Now in the hands of her grandmothers, the pressure to behave was more intense upon Alexandra, and under the orders of highly respected Amazons, her military superiors had continued to pressure and haggle her to live up to her mother's footsteps.
I don't know who they are trying to convince. When a legend is made, the daughter never comes up to par. I don't know why I just don't give up. I don't make trouble anymore, but it's never good enough. Never good enough. Never.
"Lieutenant Scott said you barely passed the Cadets," Gramma drawled. Alex felt her nerves stand on end. "Military runs in your soul. I don't know why you didn't pass with flying colors!!"
Alex turned around to face her. "Nothing is ever good enough for you. For anyone. Why can't you just get over it that Mom was a damn good Amazon and there's just no way in hell a person can surpass a legend!"
"Don't you take that tone with me!"
"I'm a fuck up! That's what you want me to say, don't you! That's what you think of me! I didn't come here to be told what a failure I am!!!!" She whirled about and her heels and ran.
I'm never going to be good enough. Why do I try? Why do I live through the pain? Why? Why?
One her path out of Amasia she saw the Temple of Athena. Maybe Nike Athena will hear my plight. She was the matron of my mother.
Doubt filled her mind. Mother was her favorite, not me. Who am I fooling?
It can't hurt. It can't hurt. It's all for nil otherwise. She slowed to a walk and entered the temple.
A statue of Athena stood before her, ten feet tall and decked in all her glory--her pelta shield, her trusty spear, her beloved sword by her side, sheathed. Priestesses tended the sanctuary, burning incense and keeping guard lest anyone try to defile the sacred ground.
She politely took her shoes off before entering the sanctuary. She walked before the statue, the earthly representation of the Mother of Warriors above, and prayed.
"O Athena, greatest of all warriors, hear my prayer. Let me be all I can be. I cannot fail my elders nor my nation. Bestow me with the military prowess my mother possessed. I shall remember you in battle, and thank you in victory, and feel blessed when I escape death in the eyes of defeat. I thank thee, O Great One, for your gifts. Thank you."
She stayed on her knees, concentrating. Perhaps the Mother of Warriors would take pity on her. Or maybe She would tell Alexandra that she was full of it. She wasn't sure. She felt the room become charged, and knew She was around.
"Why do you want your mother's gifts? You have been bestowed with your own."
"With what? I know not what I have then."
"You are destined to be a great warrior too. But not like your mother. Your mother's qualities were persistence, diligence, and thoroughness."
"What are mine?"
Alex couldn't think of any.
"Ask your friends. They know."
The air lightened, as Alex watched the Greatest of Warriors walk away, in her rich black cloak and gold breastplate.
"My friends know. I suppose I should ask Jessie then."
It was a good two days journey to Somerfield from Amasia, through the Amasian woods just north of the Great Capital of Athena, running alongside the the Greater Thermodon River before it branched out into the Iris River to the west and Lesser Thermodon River to the east. It met the coastal town of Milton, and she continued along the eastern coastal road until she hit the next town to the east, Somerfield.
The town was much smaller than the capitals, for the temple cities brought many pilgrims and merchants who wished to profit off of them. Without the pilgrims, the towns remained small, and even smaller villages, whose names were known only locally, dotted the surrounding countryside.
The houses in Somerfield were made of the brilliant red clay indigneous to the region. The bricks were a brilliant, crimson red, the color of healthy, vibrant blood on a beautiful spring day. The houses were expertly thatched, covered with a fire retardant substance the thatchers knew would immensely decrease the fire hazard of such a roof.
Alex continued walking down the main boulevard, a two way street with a large grass divider in the middle. Wagons and riders galloped down the road, stirring up dust, paying heed to the traffic directors who controlled the larger intersections. Smaller intersections were formed into a rotary, and yield signs given so pedestrians could cross during busy times without being trampled.
The four boulevards met in the center of Somerfield, where the town common was. The grass was a vibrant, nearly unreal shade of green as a result of the bountiful rainfall that befell the northern plain of Amazonia. Shops were lined up around the town common, ranging from the practical to the rather useless that catered to pilgrims on their journey to the Sacred Cities from the eastern towns and villages.
Jessie said her house was in the countryside to the north of Somerfield, and Alex took the road going northbound to go there. The directions said it was the house with the huge fir tree by the driveway, and Alex stood before the driveway.
"This looks like it," she muttered to herself. Two fir trees, one on each side, lined up like sentries on each side of the driveway. At the end of the driveway was a stately mansion, a two story brick house with square pillars as a support for the overhang that covered the front patio.
She figured the house must be Jessie's home, and turned down the driveway, admiring the horses that grazed in the adjacent field. Yes, horses. Something very necessary in a line of skilled hunters, huh?
She came up to the door, and swallowed. I hope this is the right house. She rapped on the door, and an older version of Jessie answered it. "Uh, I came to see Jessie?"
"She's out back." The woman turned around. "JESSIE!"
No response. "I think she's out back. Come on in."
The woman led Alex through the house to the back. "She's usually out by the stables." They walked down a little wooded path, until they reached the stables. "Jessie," the woman called, as they turned a corner.
In the corner, in the arms of another woman, was Jessie, obviously caught in an intimate moment. The smaller brunette sat in Jessie's lap, her arms around the tall blonde woman, who gently kissed her with a soulful passion, her eyes lidded with desire.
NO!!!! the voice hammered inside Alex, as she made a beeline out of the stable and into the countryside.
Why did I run like a coward? Alex berated herself, hiding in the patch of forest by a softly churning brook. She was my best friend, who stuck by me when the rest of the squadron gave me hell. Would she stand up for me now?
She picked up a stone and bounced it across the water, until it hit a clump of earth on the other side. Oh sweet Goddess, I think I fell for her. No!!!!!
She picked up a handful of stones and threw each one with full velocity across the brook. "NO!!!!!!!!!"
All good things must end...isn't that the title of a famous ballad? Yes, yes. She threw the last stone, tears running down her face. I bet Lina's found someone else too.
She rested her head on her knees, shaking it. Oh, the moments we shared. Our first kiss. Our first love. A sweet thing that doesn't exist any longer. She found someone better than me, a sweet thing like her doesn't stay single for long.
She wiped her eyes and stared across the brook. And the moments between Jessie and I--platonic, yes, but...ugh. I've lost her for good. She picked up another stone and hurled it across the stream at full force.
"Yow, watch out! You almost beaned me!" Jessie emerged through the woods, her tunic still undone a wee bit. "What's wrong?"
"FUCK OFF!" Alex screamed, before running off into the woods.
Jessie sat by the side of the brook, confused. "What the hell is going on?"