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Ananke's Children: Part 1
The fearsome Warrior Queen shivered and turned over in her bedroll, rubbing the last of sleep from her eyes. She awoke, as every morning for the last five days, to a thick, impenetrable fog that hung all around her like a shroud. She could see no further than a dozen horse-lengths in any direction. It was a new experience for her, this strange and pitilessly cold climate. Her companion had to explain that they were so high in the mountains they were actually inside the clouds. The concept seemed scarcely credible to Callisto, who had never before strayed so far from the warmth of her native land.
But in time she had grown to appreciate the chill, damp mist and the mantle of oblivion it threw over every creature, tree and landmark. She could hardy tell where they were, or in which direction they were headed. Most of the time, she had no idea how where the sun should be in the sky, or whether she was about to ride straight off a mountain ledge to her death.
The indifferent cruelty of the landscape somehow pleased and comforted her, made her feel strangely at home.
Propping herself up on one elbow and pulling her fur blanket tighter around her body, Callisto turned towards the sound of a crackling fire. Her traveling companion had risen early and re-kindled a small blaze. Callisto let her eyes rest on the only sight not obscured by the fog - the fire and the dark-haired warrior crouched on her haunches before it.
Feeling an unfamiliar glow of goodwill, Callisto allowed herself the luxury of running her gaze over the woman's full, impressive length. Strong thighs rose out of sturdy leather boots, partly concealed by a leather slip and an unbuttoned, floor-length fur coat. The slip hugged the gentle curves traced by Callisto's eyes as she passed upwards to the exposed cleavage where a fastening had been left untied. Above, long, dark hair hung over strong shoulders, the ends lifted and caressed by a light breeze. Finally, Callisto looked on that face and marveled yet again at her good fortune: those sculptured cheekbones and startling blue eyes could only be the painstaking work of the gods.
The muscular beauty stared into the flames, warming her hands against the mug of hot liquid cradled in her hands.
"Where's my tea, darling?" Callisto had recently become accustomed to waking up to a steaming mug next to her bedroll.
No answer. Her companion remained still, azure eyes staring resolutely into the fire.
The dark-haired warrior ignored her and took a swig from her mug.
"Is something wrong, sweetness?"
"Gods, I hate it when you sulk! What is the problem?"
The warrior was unruffled.
"Hmm, OK," Callisto's voice took on a girlish, sing-song quality. "So, I've obviously caused some offense. Let me see. The last thing I remember...hmm, yes, the last thing I remember from last night was cumming copiously all over your face. Guess I must have fallen asleep after that. Now, it can't be that you feel short-changed, after all, that was only after I'd fucked your fabulous, tireless body to at least three screaming climaxes, if I recall correctly."
She paused but the warrior continued to ignore her as she took another sip from her mug.
"So... I guess that's not it.... hmm. I know, did I fart in my sleep? No? Ok, or maybe you did and now you're too embarrassed to speak to me."
Callisto saw a suggestion of a grimace cross the warrior's face. She waited. At last her companion sighed.
"You called out her name," she said softly, not moving her gaze from the flames.
"Oh!" Genuinely shocked, Callisto contemplated this information as the warrior's warm, deep tones slowly evaporated into cold mist. "In my sleep?"
"When you came."
"Oh!.. Oh. Are you sure? I could've been shrieking complete nonsense."
"It was her name," the warrior repeated through gritted teeth. Still staring into the flames, she sighed again then mimicked a high-pitched, orgasmic Callisto. "Ohh, Xeeennnaah, I'm cumming! oh Xennaah, Xennaah, please!"
Callisto winced. "Did I really?" she asked quietly.
"Then you fell asleep."
They remained in silence for a few moments, the disclosure hanging heavily between them in the damp fog.
Callisto took a deep breath. "I'm sorry, darling. I had no idea," she said, genuinely contrite. "I didn't mean to. You know how I feel about her. It just comes out sometimes. I'm not even aware.."
"For Goddesses' sake, Callisto! You're obsessed!" Finally the woman turned to face the Warrior Queen. "You don't even see me do, you? I just remind you of her. That's why you want me to travel with you to Greece. Just so you can imagine it's her in your bed.
"No, no, darling! I promise. I promise, it's not like that," Callisto interjected quickly. "Well, I mean, you're right. I am obsessed with her. But when I'm with you, I mean, I know it's you." Callisto swallowed as she considered the gravity of what she was about to say. "Lycea, when I said to you I love you, I meant it. But I've been hating her and loving her for so long. You know, it's going to take me time. I need your patience."
Lycea swigged the last of the warm brew then stood up, throwing the mug to the ground. "I'm going to find the horses."
Callisto sighed as she watched the young warrior stomp off into the mist, fur coat flapping behind her.
Hades teeth! She needed to be more careful if she wanted to keep this young warrior-woman under her control. It would be alright this time, she thought. Lycea would calm down after a while. Callisto would take her back to bed and reassure her with gentle kisses and whispered declarations of love. They would fuck again with just as much raw passion and lust as last night, but this time Callisto would have the presence of mind not to call out another woman's name.
The blonde warrior queen cursed herself for her carelessness. She mustn't forget that the girl was young and relatively inexperienced. She may be a powerful and precociously murderous warrior, but beneath all that she carried the demanding ego and insecurities of a teenager.
Callisto sighed and rolled onto her back, looking up into the white nothingness where the sky should be.
For moons, Callisto had disregarded the reports that were brought to her by her men. Stories that had circulated in the taverns, gossip from the slavers who exchanged information and hard cash for prisoners. Tales of a great warrior in the north - some said it was Xena herself. The former Destroyer of Nations had reportedly abandoned her brief flirtation with protecting the weak. Instead she had set up base several hard days ride north from the far side of the impossibly high Apuseni mountains. Once more a ruthless warlord, Xena was said to be gathering an army to storm Greece right up to the gates of Athens.
Other sources said yes, there was a warrior-bandit in that land, but she was in fact a long-lost relative of the Warrior Princess. The likeness was uncanny, said the Greek merchants who claimed to have been robbed by her and yet who had somehow managed to escape her gang of marauders.
The stories were multiplying and spawning new tales of their own, yet all agreed on one fact: the mysterious warrior was not a native of that land.
Callisto was unimpressed, until one night her own trusted Theodorus came to her tent.
"My queen, the Macedonian mercenary who just joined us, he says he's seen her with his own eyes."
Bored and irritated, Callisto pulled the stopper from a wineskin with her teeth and propped herself up against the pillows on her bed. She waved an arm at Theodorus to carry on with his story if he must.
"Xantis was with a band of villains, nearly a moon's travel to the north of the Apuseni mountains."
Callisto waved her hand impatiently for him to hurry up and get to his point.
"Well, Xantis, he says when he first saw this warrior woman he was convinced it was her. He knows Xena well, he's fought with her and then against her when he rode with her former second-in-command, Dagnine. Then he realized this creature had to be at least ten years younger than Xena. But he said she looked so alike, the same face, blue eyes, dark hair and tall. Natives of that northern land are blonde and short compared with Greeks."
"So she's the spawn of some Greek traveling salesman..."
"But there's more, my queen," Theodorus insisted. "Xantis' band had been robbing villages in the area for a moon or so. They didn't realize they were trespassing on the warrior woman's territory until one day she rode up into their camp alone. She spoke to them in Greek, well enough for them to understand that she was pissed off. They told her to go fuck herself then all Hades broke out."
"He said she fought just like the Warrior Princess. Four, five, six experienced brigands at once were no match for her. She could leap the height of three men into the air, turn and slice a man in two as she landed on her feet. He said she was laughing as she slaughtered his gang almost single-handedly. He only got away by dropping his sword and running for his life."
Callisto sneered in derision and took another swig from her wineskin. "So, some cowardly mercenary needs a story to cover his incompetent butt."
"My queen," her colossal and devoted soldier took a deep breath. "Forgive me, but we've heard so many tales now about this warrior, this Xena of the North. If nothing else, she is a formidable and ruthless warlord and the stories say she has already conquered her own land, even before she has reached her twentieth year." He paused again, fearful of provoking his queen to anger. "They say now she is headed south to Greece. Some are even saying she has declared war on Xena. They say she will find her and kill her, then conquer Greece for her own."
Callisto snorted with impatience. "Oh what a load of centaur crap! So there's some kid who's handy with a sword and wants to make a name for herself. So what does she do? Of course she wants to link her name with the infamous former Destroyer of Nations. She probably started the stories herself that she's her long-lost sister or some such rubbish."
Theodorus frowned. "I agree my queen, it could just be that she's a big fish in a small pond. That part of the world is not known for its fighters. But..."
"But what?" Callisto's eyes flashed dangerously.
"Well, it just seems strange to me that someone in the north would want to link their name with the Warrior Princess. I mean Xena has never traveled that way herself and her name and legends are not known in that land. These stories are coming from Greek merchants who have returned from there and claim they've seen Xena's double. They say she didn't even know of Xena until the Greek travelers started remarking on the likeness."
Callisto sighed and took another draught without offering her wineskin to her lieutenant. "Well, either she's just an irritating small-time villain or.." she paused to wipe her mouth with the back of her hand before adding, "or the gods have a role in this somehow."
Theodorus shrugged and regarded his commander in silence. That was an unsettling thought.
Finally, Callisto sighed. "Find out from the mercenary where this Warrior Bitch was last sighted. I'll travel there myself and sort this out one way or the other."
"Should I prepare the men now, my queen?"
"No." Callisto said thoughtfully as she swilled the last of her wine around in the bottom of the skin. "No, I'll go there alone. I don't want to provoke unnecessary violence on someone else's soil."
"But it would take moons to get there, my queen. You would have to travel all the way around the mountains and then there is no telling where she might be."
"Well, you'll just have to amuse yourselves while I'm gone won't you?" Callisto sneered. "Try not to let my whole army desert, would you?"
"My queen," said Theodorus, affronted, "Your soldiers would gladly follow you to Tartarus. They will be here and better trained than ever by the time of your return."
It had taken Callisto nearly a moon just to travel around the mountains. Back then, she had accepted the common wisdom that it was impossible to go over them. Lycea had laughed at that. "You Greeks are so easily... she searched for the word... deterred. Just by a little mountain. Imagine?" she shook her head and grinned.
Lycea did not know it - and Callisto was careful to conceal it - but whenever the young warrior smiled Callisto felt cold breath prickle the hairs on the back of her neck and cum gush wet between her legs. She swore by Ares' sword, Lycea had Xena's exact same smile. That wolfish, heart-stopping smile that haunted Callisto's dreams and every waking moment.
When Callisto's journey across that remote northern land at last brought her to a sizable town, she made camp some distance outside the gates. She waited till nightfall then hid her sword and armor under a simple cloak before heading out to find a tavern.
Fortunately for Callisto, she heard Greek voices almost as soon as she entered the crowded, smoke-filled room. Despite her modest attire, the patrons' loud banter faded to awkward silence as she crossed the floor and took up position at the bar. She had hoped that with her blonde hair she would pass as a northerner, but clearly the women in this land were not expected to drink in taverns, accompanied or alone.
When she tried unsuccessfully to order a beer by jabbing her finger at the barrel behind the counter, a Greek textiles merchant stepped in to negotiate on her behalf. The merchant assumed she was a new prostitute in town and Callisto chose not to disabuse him. Instead, she decided to put up with his patronizing demeanor for the rest of the evening while she questioned him - in a studiously offhand manner - about the mysterious warrior.
"Oh, yes, yes, dear, everyone has heard of her." He lowered his voice. "Lycea is her name. There's hardly any village left around here that doesn't pay protection money to her gang. She's a real piece of work, that one. Dismembered corpses from here to the Urals."
"So who is she?" Callisto asked, trying to sound only half-interested. "Where did she come from?"
"She grew up a long, long way north of here, in a cold, barren place at the edge of the world. They say she was a child-slave of the Pazaryk tribe. They're a pretty fearsome bunch themselves. But it seems they got more than they bargained for - she mounted an uprising against them and formed her own army of slaves and villains. Since then she's gradually made her way south to more prosperous hunting grounds. She's barely more than a girl, but she's got a string of massacres to her name already."
"But she doesn't look like a northerner?"
"No she's not a Pazaryk by birth. Apparently, when she was a baby, she was given or sold by a Greek woman to a local family from somewhere in these parts."
"An unwanted daughter or something. No-one knows who the Greek woman was or why she was in this area. Perhaps she was a traveling merchant's wife who had enough children already. Either way, the family were a rough lot and they sold the baby straight on to slavers."
"Why do people say she's the sister of Xena of Amphipolis?"
"Oh you don't want to listen to that nonsense, dear!" the merchant hissed, gesturing to Callisto to lower her voice and looking nervously over his shoulder as if he half expected to find the Warrior Princess standing behind him. Callisto had forgotten how the very name still evoked terror in innocent hearts. "You see, this dark haired warrior, she reminds us Greeks of that murderous bitch. So the merchants in the taverns talk about the likeness and tell the locals the legends of the Destroyer of Nations. The stories must've reached Lycea's ears and so now she's modeling herself on Xena and telling people she's going to invade Greece. She's a nutter alright, but she's no Xena, thank the gods."
Downing the last of his ale, the man rested his hand on Callisto's knee and offered to get another round, even though the Warrior Queen had barely touched her mug.
"Blacksmith's Gargle was it dear? Pint?"
Callisto sipped her beer thoughtfully. Lycea - the female version of Xena's brother's name, Lyceus. A strange coincidence. Could the Greek woman possibly have been be Cyrene? Did Xena have a sister after all? But why would Cyrene be in these parts? She was a simple tavern owner and Callisto could not imagine her as a traveler, even in her younger days. And, anyway, how could this woman be such a great fighter unless, like Xena, she was Ares' spawn? This was making less and less sense. She needed to get to the bottom of this now. The merchant returned and set two full mugs on the table.
"Where can I find Lycea?"
"What? You don't want to even let people hear you ask that, young woman, don't be ridiculous... Hey!" The merchant was stopped mid-sentence by Callisto's sword which nicked into the skin of his throat causing an a oozing trickle of blood to stain his collar. "Hey! I...."
That night Callisto set out towards a large town some days' ride away. She hardly rested on her journey and arrived exhausted one evening, stabled her horse and headed straight for the town's only tavern.
TO BE CONTINUED...