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The following alt fanfic offering contains mature scenes of sex between consulting adults and as such is not suitable for those under 18 years of age, those with certain heart conditions, lovers of fine literature and the like. Read this at your own risk.
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By Pash O'Connor ©
Callisto was becoming more annoyed with each passing mile. She had been travelling for several weeks now and the whole experience was beginning to pall. Zeus had it in is power to set her down wherever he wanted to. Why didn't he just set her down at the foot of Forbidden Mountain and let her start her quest for redemption there. What was so liberating about travelling alone? Did he believe that the sight of ravaged villages would make her feel sorry for what she had done in her quest for revenge against Xena? The old fool clearly didn't realise that nothing could touch her now.
She had been hell bent on exacting revenge on Xena for the murder of her family but when the time came, it had been empty. If she killed Xena, where would that have left her, Callisto? She hadn't wanted to kill Xena deep down; she had wanted Xena to love her. This freaked her out every time she thought about it. Xena had murdered her family and all she wanted to do was have crazy passionate sex with her. She wanted them to love and fight for eternity. Xena wasn't going to have any of that and Callisto realised that eventually. Xena had Gabrielle and Callisto had no one.
Zeus was such a romantic. The stories of him changing into animals to visit upon and make love to mortal women was so clearly true she thought as she recalled the events that set her on this lonely road to Forbidden mountain.
Callisto opened her eyes to see the grey bearded man leaning over her, watching her intently.
"Who the hell are you? Am I in Tartarus?" She looked around at her surroundings. She was lying on a stone slab in what appeared to be a dark dungeon.
"I am Zeus and you my dear are on Olympus." He was softly spoken.
"But I died. Xena killed me with the dagger dipped in Hinds blood." Callisto babbled. She was totally confused. She had finally welcomed death and now here she was. The Hinds blood was guaranteed to work. She should know. Hadn't she taken Strife's life?
"You did indeed die Callisto but I chose to bring you back." Zeus explained in his calm way.
"How could that be possible? The Hinds blood kills gods. There is no coming back."
Zeus tapped the side of his nose and smiled. "I have such a hard job to do here on Olympus. Many of the gods war amongst each other vying for more power. I cannot trust anyone so; there are some things that I must keep to myself. Bringing gods back from the dead is one of those well-kept secrets. Come." He took her hand and helped her down from the stone slab.
"You must eat something to rebuild your strength." He led her out of the dark room into a magnificent well-lit hall. Callisto huffily plonked herself onto a couch. When Zeus handed her a jewelled dish of fruit, she snatched it realising that she was indeed hungry. Zeus smiled.
"You will find that your appetite has altered a great deal. Over the next few days, you will just want to eat everything in sight. This is a natural reaction after being changed from a god."
"What?" Callisto shouted. You mean I am no longer a god?" She rose to her feet quickly and started pacing, flinging disgusted looks at Zeus.
"Why the agitation" Zeus enquired. You didn't enjoy being a god. You didn't find the peace you wanted."
"Maybe not but, I had powers. No one could best me in a fight," she shouted.
"You will no longer need your powers to fight. I have plans for you that do not involve Xena or fighting."
"What plans could you possibly have for me, old man", she sneered. "I am not cut out to be a concubine and would rather be dead than indulge in anything so crude."
Zeus burst out laughing. Callisto glared at him but he continued to laugh. "I'm sorry," he said finally. "The thought of you as a concubine is highly amusing but, impractical. You are far too skinny and too disagreeable to be a companion to me." He indicated for her to be seated once more. Sullenly she obliged.
"I have watched your life Callisto from the time you set yourself up as Xena's shadow. There has been no pleasure in what you chose to do. More importantly there has been no love."
"Who needs love?" Callisto spat out. "It's a trick that….
"Yes, yes. I know your theory on love but without it, you are an empty shell. I have brought you back so that you may know what it is to be loved and to love in return." Now it was Callisto's turn to laugh.
"Old man you are wasting your time. I didn't have time for that before I died and I certainly am not interested now.
"I recall your last words before Xena killed you. You said that you had something to live for with Gabrielle gone. Did you not?"
Callisto eyed the old man wearily. What was he playing at? Did he intend that she would finally have Xena as her lover? No. He said his plans did not involve Xena. What then?
"Yes. I did say, that but I was teasing Xena. I wanted her to hurt?"
"No Callisto. You wanted to live. For a brief moment you imagined that you could be with Xena, despite knowing how futile this wish would be. Xena will never love you. There is someone else who can. Someone you can love in return."
"I never thought of you as a matchmaker old man. I thought that was Aphrodite's domain." She eyed him up and down contemptuously. "If you think that I am going to allow you to set me up with some rutting pig of a man, you had better think again."
Zeus laughed again. "Callisto my dear child. I am the Father of the gods; I pride myself on knowing a thing or two. I would never dream of setting you up with anyone, much less a rutting pig. No my dear. Love is waiting out there for you but it is up to you to find it. All I intend to do is to point you in the right direction with one warning. If you do not fall in love and have that love returned by the next spring, you will die."
"Why do you gods love to have strings attached to everything. Isn't there enough adversity in your lives? Why not kill me now. I am so screwed up who could love me." Zeus noticed the catch in her voice as she said those last words.
"You will find love Callisto, and you will love in return. Keep an open mind and allow life to happen to you. Don't hold back and try to enjoy the little pleasures in life. Forget Xena. Forget your family. You have died and this is your rebirth. Life is new, let the child in you experience it to the full."
Callisto hacked viciously at a stray branch with her sword. "Huh. Which child could fight their way through this god forsaken forest?" she mumbled.
Zeus had deliberately not equipped her with anything that she would need for her journey. She had worked to buy the horse that she was riding now. She had worked for food and lodgings. She had taken on menial work, farm work, helping out in taverns, watching sheep. Over the last few weeks she had done it all. It would have been easier and more pleasurable, to hire herself out as a mercenary but Zeus had warned her. Any fighting and she'd be back on Olympus quicker than she could draw her sword.
She'd allowed him to talk her into this whole trek not thinking it through thoroughly. He brought her back to life but did she really want to live? She remembered what she had said to Xena but she wasn't sure she had meant it. Her life had been pointless. She hadn't done anything of any consequence to be remembered for. Now Zeus expected her to change and to fall in love. She hadn't loved anyone but her family. When they died so did her ability and willingness to love.
Who could love her? Who could she love? She had never given relationships much thought. She wasn't even sure what type of person appealed to her. Well, except for Xena but that was too weird even to think about. Giving it some thought she decided she probably didn't go for blondes. Someone like Ares then? No. She had only done the deed with Ares to get her own way. There was no attraction there. She sighed deeply. Maybe this little adventure will be amusing after all.
"A journey to myself" she shouted up to the roof of trees.
Callisto slowly eased the horse down the side of the hill glad to be finally clear of the forest. In the distance she could see Forbidden Mountain. Closer still she could make out the lines of a walled city. She hadn't been in these parts for many years now but as she recalled there was never a city here. No one would build a city at the bottom of a volcano especially one that erupted so often. Callisto was intrigued.
Zeus hadn't told her who or what to expect when she got to Forbidden Mountain. She had thought it strange that he was sending her to a volcano but he'd given her no time to question him. It looked like a flourishing city. With a bit of luck she'd be able to eat some decent food. Her stomach rumbled to remind her that she had only been dining on berries for the last two days. She was almost at her destination but what was she supposed to do: walk in to town and declare to all that she was in search of love. She giggled to herself. She'd had long enough to think about the love thing and was almost looking forward to exploring the emotion. She just didn't want to be hurt ever again. Life involved taking chances, Zeus had told her. She put her horse into a gallop all set (but not so sure she was equipped) to take a chance.
It was late evening by the time Callisto rode through the opened city gates. She dismounted her horse and looked around. She wanted a Blacksmith and an inn. She sited the inn first; it stood almost directly opposite the city gates. Further up the dirt road a building set apart from every other identified itself as the Blacksmith's. Smoke billowed out of the chimney and a huge horseshoe hung above the door. Callisto headed towards it. The horse hadn't been the best she had ever had but, he'd got her here and he needed to be taken care of. She hadn't even given him a name she'd been so wrapped up in herself in the last few weeks. She pondered for a while. By the time she reached the Smithy she had decided to name the horse Cupid. She was still giggling to herself when she approached the Blacksmith.
Assured that her horse was in safe hands she headed toward the inn. It looked very impressive from the outside. It appeared to be more than large enough to provide lodgings. Once inside Callisto made her way to the bar. Inside was even more impressive than outside. It was certainly not the usual roadhouse she was used to. The barkeep stopped in front of her and asked what he could get her.
"I'd like some food, a large tankard of ale and a bed for a few days." She answered.
"In that order I take it?" the barkeep joked.
"Actually, I'll have the ale while I wait for the food. Have you got any stew?"
"We certainly have, and there's no waiting," he placed a large tankard of ale in front of Callisto then raised his hand to call a barmaid over from another part of the room. "One stew for this customer." Before he'd finished the girl had gone heading towards what must be the kitchen. Well the service is good, I just hope they don't put too high a price on it. Callisto thought weighing up how much money she had left. She would have to find some form of work here. It seemed to be a big enough city; there must be something she could do. She'd noticed there were a few farms surrounding the city. If all else failed she knew how to milk a goat.
"If you take a seat at that table your food will be brought over to you. When you're ready someone will show you to your room."
"Thanks" Callisto headed for the table at the other end of the bar. She took time to have a closer look at the people around her. The place was quite busy. Everyone seemed relaxed. No one seemed to pay much attention to her. At least they're not hostile, she thought. The same barmaid brought her food to her. She thanked her and tucked in immediately. She was famished. The food was good, the bread freshly baked. She could get used to this she thought, then remembered she had no choice. When she finished her meal the barmaid took her plate and at her request brought over another tankard of ale.
Whilst giving the occupants of the room another once over Callisto noticed a new arrival behind the bar. A woman with long dark hair was talking to one of the patrons. She appeared to be listening sympathetically to his problems. Callisto had learnt to enjoy reading people in the last few weeks. It helped to past the time and on occasion she had found herself to be right in her assessment of the situation. This particular barmaid seemed to draw people to her Callisto noticed as a few people left their tables to speak to the barmaid. Eventually the barmaid said something that made them all laugh, some shrugged their shoulders but, all left the bar looking sheepish.
The young barmaid who had been serving Callisto noted her interest and came over to speak to her. "She's just told them for the umpteenth time that city business should be discussed at the appropriate time and place." Callisto looked perplexed.
"It happens all the time," she went on. "People come in for a quiet evening but as soon as they spot Palmaya they try to bring her all their problems. They forget the rules about no city business to be discussed here. Palmaya is very good about it. No one ever gets upset when she reminds them."
"Why would they want to discuss city business with her anyway?" Callisto hadn't meant to say this aloud but, what the heck.
"Sorry. I forgot you are new here," the barmaid eyed Callisto sympathetically. "My name is Seska by the way."
"Pleased to meet you Seska" Callisto smiled. She's a talkative piece, she thought silently to herself.
Seska continued "Palmaya is the Founder of Forbidden City. Everyone who lives here has a say in how things are run. Nothing is done without a vote but everyone tries to get Palmaya on his or her side when they want things changed. If they but knew all she wants to do is run her inn in peace."
"That's quite a responsibility she has" Callisto mused.
"That it is" Seska called over her shoulder as she left to serve elsewhere.
Well as to who would be crazy enough to build a city at the foot of a volcano my question has been answered Callisto thought smugly. As to why, I'll have to wait until tomorrow; she stifled a yawn as she rose from her seat.
"Is the room to your liking?" the dark haired woman enquired. Callisto had been eyeing the woman surreptitiously as she had walked up the stairs ahead of her. She still hadn't figured her out by the time they got to the room. Deep in thought she had almost missed the question.
"Uh? Yes. The room is fine. Thanks."
Palmaya smiled, she had caught the stranger looking from the time Jed the barkeep had introduced them to one another. "The bed has just been freshly made. The washing facilities and water closet are behind that screen. I hope you sleep well and enjoy the rest of your stay here."
"Thank you." Palmaya was just about to walk out the door when Callisto asked, "Do you know of anyone in town who is in need of some hired help."
"There are a few people who come to mind. Are you planning on staying here long?"
"I'm seriously thinking about settling down somewhere, and here seems like a nice place." Callisto responded.
"I take it you don't know the story of Forbidden City? Why don't you get some rest and we'll talk about work in the morning. Goodnight Callisto."
"Good night Palmaya."
The following morning Callisto rose to the sun streaming through the window and the smell of bacon. "Good morning." Callisto blinked as she realised there was someone in her room. She looked up to see Palmaya smiling down at her a tray in her hand.
"I hope you don't mind. I thought I'd bring you up some breakfast before it was too late."
"I hadn't realised how tired I was. I hope I've not caused an inconvenience." She sat up and wrapped the sheet around her allowing Palmaya to lay the tray on her lap.
"It's no inconvenience. I didn't want you to miss breakfast and I didn't want it to be so over warmed that it was unappetising. When you're ready you can find me out in the garden. Enjoy your breakfast"
"Wait. If you're not too busy, maybe we could talk now." Callisto was surprised at herself. She had never openly sought company before.
"Okay." Palmaya acquiesced. Callisto patted a spot on the bed for her to sit down.
"So where shall we begin?" Palmaya asked.
"How about the history of Forbidden City? Why would someone want to set up home at the foot of a volcano?" Palmaya laughed a gentle melodic sound that set butterflies fluttering in Callisto's stomach. I'm just hungry Callisto shrugged the feeling aside.
"Everyone always asks that. It's quite simple really: I came here to die." She watched as Callisto's brows furrowed. "It's a long story but, if you want to hear it I'll tell it to you. Callisto nodded quickly her mouth too full to speak.
Chapter Three: Palmaya's Story
Palmaya watched in fear and anticipation as Hercules battled with the last Minotaur. She knew of all his heroic deeds, so knew that he had faced many a similar beast before. Never had she seen him so bruised and battered. She struggled to free herself hoping that in doing so she could be of help somehow. It was no use. The ropes were bound too tightly. They cut into her flesh deeper every time she tried.
She had been so foolish and trusting yet again. Palmaya and her companion Leto had been picking flowers in the meadow when the little girl had asked them to help rescue her brother from the caves. Palmaya had sent Leto back to get more help. The girl called herself Rebecca. She led Palmaya into the caves. Without warning Rebecca had turned into a slavering ape like creature attacking Palmaya until she had fallen unconscious. She woke to find herself bound to a stalagmite and surrounded by Minotaurs. The villagers had come to help but on seeing the Minotaurs they had run off in search of Hercules.
Hercules came after what seemed like hours. He fought the Minotaurs with his usual style but he looked the worst for it. This last Minotaur refused to be bested. Palmaya could watch no more. The Minotaurs had not harmed her. It was clear to see that this was yet another trap set for Hercules and that she had been the bait again. How many times since their childhood had she been duped into just such a situation? Hera had been using Palmaya all her young life to get to Hercules. Palmaya vowed there and then if Zeus would spear his life she would leave town and never see Hercules again. If she was away from him, Hera could not use her to get at him.
She had loved Hercules like a brother as they were growing up. When she came to be a woman she had loved him in another way. Hercules had always treated her like a younger sister and who could blame him. He had been forced to save her life on numerous occasions. All he ever said to her after rescuing her was to be careful next time. He knew that Hera was behind it all, but what could he do.
Zeus must have heard her prayer as the Minotaur at last fell dying. Hercules untied her and hugged her.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"Yes. I'm fine but look at you. We must get those cuts bathed."
"They'll be fine. Let's get out of here."
"I'm really sorry Hercules. I have tried to be so careful since I heard that you were home."
"Is that why I could never find you when I came looking for you? You've been avoiding me haven't you?" Palmaya looked sheepishly away.
"I haven't been avoiding you. I've been trying to avoid a situation like this one."
"Palmaya we have been friends since you were a little girl. Don't let Hera's threats spoil that. Unless..." he paused and looked into her sad eyes. "Unless you are afraid that one day your life will really be in danger."
"No. I'm not worried for myself. As long as Hera can use me as bait to get to you my life is quite safe".
He hugged her. "Come on you can bathe my cuts."
Two days later Hercules and Iolaus found Palmaya packing the last of her things into her wagon. They had heard talk in the village that she was leaving town but, couldn't believe it.
"Palmaya where are you going?" Hercules demanded.
"I have to leave Hercules. I prayed to Zeus that if he spared your life this time I would leave and never see you again. I have to keep my promise."
"Zeus had nothing to do with my killing that Minotaur, you should know better." He looked insulted.
"I can't be sure this time. That last Minotaur was pretty powerful, at one point I thought you would surely die. It doesn't matter anyway. I can't go through this anymore. I'm fed up of being Hera's play thing."
"Where will you go?" Iolaus enquired.
"That would be telling and defeat the purpose," she hedged.
"This is ridiculous." Hercules argued. "You're not going anywhere." He made to unpack her belongings but she stayed his hand.
"If you care about me you will let me go. I'm tired Hercules. I just want to be allowed to live in peace. Is that too much to ask?"
"When you put it that way, no of course it isn't."
"I'll miss you" she hugged him as tight as she could.
"I'll miss you too. Please take care of yourself and send word to let me know that you are all right. Promise?"
"I still don't understand why you came here." Callisto said.
"Like I said. I came here to die. I really loved Hercules he was like family. When my mother died he was all I had left. That village was all I had ever known. Leaving it broke my heart. I just wanted to die. I came here in defiance. I wanted to make myself such an easy target that my death would hold no pleasure for Hera. Instead she has had the last laugh from the day I stopped my wagon at the bottom of the mountain it hasn't made a sound." Her face held a look of derision.
"Can you believe that. A volcano that erupts at least five times in the four seasons has not even coughed in the five years that I have lived here. I lived out of my wagon for months until I got bored. First I built a small lean too against that mountain, then realising that the gods were mocking me once again, I built a house. People passing on their way to the other side of the mountain thought I was crazy but they managed to stop for refreshments and the rest as they say is history."
"Well that answers my question as to why you are here but, what about the others?"
"Everyone you see here has a story to tell. The city is filled with people who came here to die. Jed the barkeep lost his wife and children to the plague, he tried to go on but when he lost his farm he gave up and became a mercenary. He was just passing through and decided to stay."
"So, this really is the right place for me to settle down." Callisto declared more to herself.
"If you're willing to build a life in the knowledge that Forbidden Mountain could erupt at anytime then yes, this is a good place to settle. If you have hopes for the future then no. We take every day a step at a time here. If we wake up in the morning it means the gods have found sport elsewhere, we shrug and get on with the day."
"It sounds a bit soulless." Callisto admitted. "But there must be some hope, I saw children playing yesterday."
"I admit some people have found new lives and New Hope here. People meet and fall in love and defy the gods' even further by having children. They try to lead normal lives but in the back of their minds they know the risk they are taking.
"What about the children?" Callisto asked surprised at her own concern.
"We don't judge here. Everyone probably has their own views about the children but, things seem so normal here on the surface, it is hard make a judgement on whether or not people should bring children into such danger."
"As The Founder don't you have a say in this?" she asked.
"To tell the truth, I don't like to have a say in anything much that goes on here. People turn to me for guidance and it amazes me. I can't deny that in a place this big there must be law and order but, we have appointed people to deal with such matters and yet, they come to me for the casting vote." She looked out of the window deep in thought for a moment.
"I came here because I didn't want to be responsible for the evils that could befall one person and here I am having to take responsibility for a whole city."
"Can't you pass on the responsibility. I mean who came after you?"
"Jed. He is head of the council, yet even he looks to me for guidance." She sighed. "Listen to me bemoaning my fate to you. A fine welcome that is." Palmaya quickly rose to her feet. Noting that Callisto had finished her meal she took the tray and headed towards the door.
"When you're dressed we'll talk about finding you some work."
"Okay" Callisto gave her a smile. It was getting easier, smiling, being pleasant to people.
So that was Zeus' game. He was encouraging her to find love knowing that at any moment it could be taken away when the mountain blew it's top. She surely would rather die. But maybe he didn't mean for her to stay here. These people have come here to defy the gods, and here I am allowing Zeus to lead me around by the nose. She mumbled away to herself as she washed and dressed.
"Maybe I don't want to play your little game anymore Zeus," she said aloud. "Maybe I'll just climb to the top of that mountain and through myself in. How would you like that?" She didn't expect a response and she didn't get one.
There was no doubt that Callisto looked very becoming in leather Palmaya thought as she eyed her objectively. The leather trousers were a perfect fit and a lot more practical than the outfit she previously wore. Palmaya decided that as Callisto intended to stay in the City of Forbidden Mountain she may as well get to know her way around from the start. She also thought it a good idea if Callisto lost the warrior look.
She had traipsed Callisto all around the city introducing her to everyone who had a moment to spare. This was supposed to be the last stop before the midday meal. Callisto hadn't particularly wanted a new outfit but Palmaya had insisted. That morning she had told her of work going on a farm just outside the city. If she were to work there then she would need something more appropriate to wear.
"I'll take these trousers and those two shirts" Callisto decided. She didn't like to shop and although Palmaya had managed to inject some fun into the proceedings the experience was beginning to pall.
She eyed Palmaya defiantly, waiting for some sort of objection to her choice of clothing. Instead Palmaya smiled.
"Good choice. Leather suits you, as I'm sure you know."
"I'd never really given it much thought before" she admitted "but I do feel more comfortable in leather. I guess it suited my warrior image"
"Won't you miss being a warrior?" Palmaya asked as Callisto gathered up her bundles.
"I hope not, since I don't have much choice in the matter" she laughed.
"What do you mean?" Concern crept into Palmaya's voice.
"It's nothing. Just a promise I made to someone." She smiled bravely. "Come let's eat, I'm famished."
"Euripides is different from the rest of citizens of Forbidden Mountain in that he came here because he saw an opportunity for profit." Palmaya informed Callisto as they rode side by side to Euripides' farm. "Before he came here we had to buy our meat from a farm over 300 kilometres away. You may have passed it on your way here."
"Passed it, I actually worked there for a while", Callisto enlightened her. "That's pretty far"
"Exactly. Now Euripides is able to trade with all the cities and villages over the other side of Forbidden Mountain as well as the ones between here and the other farm. At first he was just going to stick to animals but the land is very fertile so he expanded."
"He had quite a lot of good farm hands up until a few months ago" she laughed to herself.
"What's funny about that?" Callisto enquired.
"The farm hands ran away when the mountain shook a little. I guess they just weren't used to it. It's okay." She saw Callisto's frown. "It doesn't' happen often. As I've said before, for some reason it amuses the gods to see us sit here waiting for our end."
"Does the job come with board?" Callisto asked changing the subject.
"It probably does. Why? Don't you like it in the city?" Palmaya sounded concerned.
"I'd prefer to stay in the City but, I can't just live at the inn. There didn't seem to be any other lodgings around."
"I admit, as soon as people decide to stay here they build there own homes. You don't have to stay at the inn, you can live with me."
"Don't you live in the inn?" she asked.
"No. I live in the house at the back. You might have noticed it this morning when we were in the garden. It's got plenty of room."
"Yes. I do remember seeing it."
"So? Will you live with me?"
"Yes. I think I'd much prefer it to a farm." She contemplated "And of course I'll pay my way."
"That's not necessary"
"Listen. I'm just getting used to the idea of fitting in with people, I want to do it properly."
"Okay" Palmaya conceded easily.
Euripides was more than happy to hire Callisto to work for him. He had been short of help for several months now and it was coming up to harvest time. They agreed payment whilst he showed Callisto around the land. Palmaya had chosen to stay behind at the farmhouse.
Euripides' cook and keeper of house Valene was with child. Talk in the village was that Euripides was the father. Both parties were keeping quiet on the subject. Perhaps Valene was waiting for Euripides to marry her before she said anything. Palmaya had not come to gossip. She wanted to make sure Valene was okay.
"What arrangements have you made for when the baby comes?" She asked Valene as she watched the other woman bustling about the kitchen. She was late with the mid day meal.
"Euripides has said that I can continue to live here when the baby is born as long as it doesn't interfere with my work"
"Surely you will not be expected to work straight after the baby is born?" Palmaya sounded surprised. "You will need to rest."
"The work isn't that hard. I'm sure I'll manage."
Palmaya sighed. "Well if you need any help, you be sure to send one of the farm hands to let me know."
"I promise" she smiled reassuringly. "Euripides is back with your friend" she pointed out of the window.
"He seems a fare man," Callisto reported to Palmaya as they made their way back to the inn. "He seemed a bit put out when I explained that I would be riding in every morning."
"Surely that shouldn't be a problem to him," Palmaya stated. "As long as you're early and you get the job done."
"That's what I told him. He took a bit of convincing though. Said something about loyalty."
"He believes that creating a family bond amongst his workers promotes loyalty."
"I bet you told him you weren't interested in anything but the money"
"No. Actually, I agreed with him." Palmaya looked surprised, then she realised that warriors must also have a similar code.
"I told him that I had already promised to stay with you but, that I may take him up on his offer if things don't work out." Callisto continued. "Don't look so stunned, I had to say something to get him to shut up. I have no intentions of living on his farm. I don't trust some of the men he has working for him." With that she urged her horse into a gallop.
Well, that's one way of ending a conversation, Palmaya thought far from pleased.
Palmaya sat in front of her mirror brushing her hair in peaceful thought. She found Callisto, who was newly settled in the room across the hall, intriguing. She could sense that Callisto was not used to being around people on a social level. Despite being a warrior, she was really quite inhibited. The conversation at dinner had been quite stilted. Callisto clearly admitted that the only thing she knew about was how to be the best warrior possible. Palmaya had prompted her to talk about her warrior days, but Callisto had not wanted to. Another time, she had promised.
From the first night of meeting her, Palmaya was certain that she had been chosen to look out for Callisto. No matter how accomplished she may have been as a warrior, Palmaya knew that Callisto needed her. She silently vowed to be the best friend she could be.
"Your hair looks beautiful tonight"
Palmaya swung around on her seat to look at the intruder draped gracefully across her bed.
"'Dite! What are you doing here?"
"I've missed you. I guess you haven't had a chance to miss me, what with your new friend and all." She said petulantly.
"Funnily enough, you've been in my thoughts today. I don't know why." Palmaya admitted.
Aphrodite had never been too far away. She had been Palmaya's companion on the road to Forbidden Mountain. Appearing ever so often to make sure she was all right. The first time she had appeared she had assured her that the trip she was taking was part of her fate.
Palmaya jumped about a foot off the board she was seated on. Her horse became skittish as he felt his reins slacken. Quickly Aphrodite regained control of the horse while Palmaya regained her balance.
"Dite." Palmaya shouted. "Don't ever do that again"
"My, my, we are jumpy," Aphrodite said flippantly. "Perhaps you need a travelling companion."
"No. What I need is for you to announce yourself in a less godlike way. My heart is racing" Palmaya shouted.
"I'm sorry love, I didn't mean to frighten you. I thought you needed some company, so I stopped by for a chat" she said apologetically.
"What I need is to be left alone. Where I'm going there won't be any company so I might as well get used to it from now."
"Don't give up hope love. I'll send you someone who will love you the way you deserve to be loved."
Palmaya laughed. "Dite. Don't you ever give up. I'm going to Forbidden Mountain to end my days, not to wait for love."
"We'll see," she said mysteriously. "Forbidden Mountain is the perfect place for you. The person I have in mind will find you there easily.
"Who is this person?" Palmaya couldn't hide her interest.
"Well" she began, making herself comfortable on the wagon bench beside Palmaya. "I've been giving this a lot of thought. You clearly can't have some insipid farmer or shopkeeper. Since you have spent most of your life lusting after my brother Hercules, your true love must be strong. Someone who can defend your honour if necessary." She gave Palmaya a knowing wink.
"I have the perfect person in mind. At the moment they are on a path to destruction but, all roads lead to you Sweet Cheeks."
"Dite, you know that I admire you. You are fun to be with but sometimes you just don't get it. I have no time for love. My life has gone from one misadventure to another, thanks to Hera. You Herc and Iolaus have been the only bright spots. I know you favour me because Hera uses me as a pawn in her games."
"That's not true." Aphrodite broke in. "I favour you as you say because I really like you. For a mortal you're pretty cool. This is the first time you've allowed Hera to beat you down. You're my friend and I won't just stand by and watch you give up your life for the sake of that evil old witch."
"So why aren't you trying to talk me out of going to Forbidden Mountain? You know what will happen."
"Yes I know but you don't. This is all part of your destiny."
"That's my line Hon" she chuckled.
"Oh. So I came at the right time. Is my honey missing her sugar?" Aphrodite said, crossing the room to stand behind Palmaya. She placed her hands on her shoulders and gently massaged the muscles there.
"Does this feel good?" she asked.
"Mmm" Palmaya moaned.
Aphrodite eased the shoulders of Palmaya's shift down to reveal her silky shoulders. She placed tiny kisses on each one before working her way up to her neck. Palmaya moaned softly.
"Come" Aphrodite took her hand and led her to the bed. "There is still so much I haven't taught you. Tonight I'm gonna rock your world" she smiled lasciviously.
Aphrodite had visited Palmaya at night regularly since she came to Forbidden Mountain. From the very first night when Palmaya had made her bed under the wagon, Aphrodite had come along and conjured up a tent for her filled with sumptuous silk pillows. She had wined and dined her as they stretched out across the pillows. Then she had made love to her. That night she assured her that she would always be there when she needed her. She had kept her word.
Aphrodite had claimed that she was preparing Palmaya for the time when the right person came along. It wasn't long before she admitted the truth. Palmaya had always intrigued her from the time she had fawned over Hercules. Aphrodite had become her friend in the hope that she would be able to one-day win her affections. It had taken a lot longer than she had hoped.
Palmaya gloried in Aphrodite's attentions but she wasn't a fool. She knew that once Aphrodite grew bored with her that would be the end of it. She chose to enjoy the relationship for as long as it lasted. She was secretly surprised at how long it had lasted. She had been lonely in the beginning; Aphrodite's visits had kept her going during some of the darkest moments. Aphrodite had comforted her and shown that she was truly the goddess of love.
"How d'ya feel?" Aphrodite asked smiling.
"Wonderful," Palmaya said dreamily. "You always manage to make it special."
"I aim to please." She bent over and kissed Palmaya swiftly on the lips. "I've gotta go, things to do." She jumped out of the bed and began to dress.
"So soon? I wanted to talk," Palmaya protested.
"I thought you wouldn't need me to talk to now that you've moved you friend in" Aphrodite answered. "Not that she's much of a talker."
"You're not jealous are you?" Palmaya sat up revealing her small firm breasts.
"Me jealous? Don't make me laugh. I know you're committed to me in every way so, I've nothing to be jealous about."
"You're too damned sure of yourself. What ever happened to that special someone that you promised me?"
"Let's not go there tonight sweet cheeks. I didn't come here to argue with you." She placed a finger under Palmaya's chin. "You know I'm crazy about you. Don't go getting all pouty on me" She pressed gentle kisses against Palmaya's tight lips until they eventually softened.
"That's better. Oh by the way. I'd watch out for that Euripides if I were you. He seems to have the hots for your new friend, and I'm pretty sure, she doesn't feel the same way."
"What are you on about." Aphrodite's tendency to move from one subject to another annoyed her sometimes.
"I was up at the farm today," she explained slowly as if to a child. "I saw the way Euripides was eyeing Callisto. She had better stay on the ball. Valene isn't with child from choice. It appears our little farmer can be a little bit forceful when he doesn't get his own way."
"Poor Valene. But why does she stay with him?"
"Because I've told her to."
"You did? Why?
"Don't you worry. Justice will be done. Just make sure Callisto stays on her guard. I don't want her killing him and spoiling my plans."
"Oh" that was all Palmaya could manage. She had long since given up on trying to fathom out the gods when they were planning and scheming.
Callisto laughed when Palmaya warned her against Euripides at breakfast the next morning.
"What makes you think he'll try to make a move on me?" she asked of her.
"I don't know. I've just discovered there's another side to him and I'm beginning to wish you weren't going to work for him."
"Listen Palmaya. I can take care of myself. Don't worry about me. If he tries it on with me I'll put him in his place"
"You mustn't kill him," Palmaya said anxiously.
Callisto frowned. "I won't kill him. I made a promise not to raise my sword again and I intend to stick to it."
There she goes with that mysterious promise again. Palmaya thought, one day I'll get to the bottom of that.
Callisto waved cheerfully to the people at work in the nearby farms as she rode to work. It was a glorious morning. The leaves had begun to fall from the trees and the sun had a job fighting its way through the clouds each day. Callisto marvelled at the way she had fitted in to this life. She owed her thanks to Palmaya. It had been several weeks since she first rode in to town. She was surprised at the subtle changes in her attitude to people and life in general. Palmaya insisted that they sit down to a meal together every evening. It was a ritual that Callisto looked forward to as she rode home after a long day at the farm.
It was difficult not to take an interest in what went on in the city; Palmaya always started the conversation off with the goings on of the city folk. She would then ask Callisto about her day. As Palmaya always cooked their meal, Callisto had taken it upon herself to wash the dishes and clear up afterwards. It was a simple ritual but it meant so much to her. She was constantly reminded of her family and how much she had missed interacting with people on this personal level.
After their meal, they would stroll over to the inn. Despite the long hours she worked in the day, Callisto found herself helping behind the bar. She never waited on tables though, that would have been too much. After only a few hours they would walk back home, conscious of the early start they both had each morning.
Ever since Palmaya had warned her about Euripides, Callisto had been on her guard. Euripides had made it clear from very early on that he was interested in Callisto. She could not fault his behaviour to anyone however because he was very subtle. Any on-looker would assume his attentions were that of a boss who was teaching the new help the ropes. Callisto was no fool however, she knew it was more than that. She had told Euripides from the beginning that she had farm experience. There was absolutely no need for him to be constantly overseeing her work.
The only reason she now looked forward to the day ahead was because the evenings followed. She had not told Palmaya of her problems with Euripides because she didn't want to worry her. Palmaya's warning not to kill him still rang in her ears from time to time. She had come to realise that there was nothing she would not do to protect Palmaya. The citizens of Forbidden Mountain demanded much of Palmaya's time and attention. Callisto would not add to her burdens.
As she approached the farm she noticed Valene in the distance feeding the chickens. She waved to her as she rode past on her way to the stables. Palmaya had asked Callisto to keep an eye on Valene. They both marvelled at the woman's stamina. Her child was due any day now yet, she kept on working.
As usual Euripides was waiting for her in the stables. Of all the places he could be Callisto had noted that he was always there to greet her.
"Good morning Callisto, and how are you this fine morning" he beamed at her whilst he struggled to wrest the reins from her.
"Good morning Euripides. I'm as well as ever." She replied allowing him to tether her horse for her. There were times when it was better to give in. The man was a pest and Callisto couldn't be bothered this morning.
"You'll be working near by today making hay," his wide lecherous grin was enough to turn Callisto's stomach. Luckily she knew exactly what he meant so there was no need to respond other than to nod in his direction and walk out of the stables.
Callisto quickly got into her work. She was fortunate that today Iloran, another one of the hands had been assigned to work with her. Usually Callisto found herself working alone on some remote part of the farm which made her a prime target for Euripides' suggestive remarks and unwanted attention. In another lifetime she knew she would have slit his throat the first time he stepped out of line. Only Zeus knew how tightly she was holding on to her control.
Iloran was a pleasant young man. He had been at the farm for several months now. Callisto liked him. He was shy when the other men were around but he got on well enough with Callisto. She believed it was because he felt less intimated by her, which amused her considering what she used to be. She had also noticed a bond developing between Iloran and Valene. He was always quick to help her with her chores whenever Euripides was out of site. He also complained regularly to Callisto about the many tasks that Valene was made to do despite being so heavy with child.
"Look at that" Iloran spat in disgust as he threw down his pitchfork. Callisto glanced over to where Iloran was now headed. Valene was on her way back from the well carrying two bucket's of water. She watched as Iloran relieved Valene of her burden. Shaking her head she continued to pitch the hay.
She was so caught up in her work she didn't hear Iloran approach. "It's meal time," he announced handing Callisto a plate of food and a mug of cider.
"I'm going to eat mine up at the farmhouse today. You don't mind do you? It's just that I can help Valene to serve the other men that way."
"Of course I don't mind." Callisto knew this was a very noble gesture on Iloran's part. He usually avoided eating with the men as they always managed to make him the butt of their jokes. She was quite content to be alone and made her way to a quiet corner of one of the hay barns. Finishing her meal quickly, Callisto laid back on a bale of hay. She lacked her usual energy today due to a lack of sleep the night before.
In the last few days she had noticed that the prospect of being alone with Palmaya every evening excited her. Last night was no exception. Palmaya had so many stories to tell. It wasn't the stories that Callisto enjoyed so much as the way in which Palmaya told them. Just the sound of her voice and her laughter made Callisto's heart beat faster. She enjoyed watching the expressions chase across her face. The way the firelight twinkled it's reflections in her large brown eyes. Callisto had been so busy savouring the joys of family life after such a long time alone that she was totally unaware of some of the changes she had been going through, until last night...
Palmaya had been too tired to go to the inn this evening. After spending the best part of the day in Council meetings she certainly couldn't face anymore talk tonight. Callisto had offered to go instead but Palmaya had insisted she take the opportunity to rest too.
"We don't often get a chance to sit quietly just the two of us. I must admit, there is so much more that I want to know about you Callisto. You did say that one day you would tell me about your time as a warrior."
Callisto welcomed the chance of spending an evening alone with Palmaya although she didn't relish the thought of telling her about her sordid past. The old wounds had just begun to heal. She didn't want to open them up again, and at the same time she didn't want to see the look of disgust that would be inevitable once Palmaya knew the truth about her. One thing Callisto had come to learn about her companion, she liked to get her own way. They settled by the fire with warm mugs of port and Callisto began to tell her shameful tale.
Callisto had watched Palmaya's face intently, waiting for the first signs that she no longer wanted to continue their friendship. The look never came. Instead she watched as the expressions of sadness and pity vied with each other. At one point tears welled up in Palmaya's eyes. She turned away so that Callisto could not see them. She prayed that Palmaya would not reject her.
Callisto could not bring herself to tell Palmaya the conditions under which Zeus had brought her back. Instead she told her that Zeus had been willing to give her another chance at life because she had finally realised how empty her life had been.
"What's Zeus like?" Palmaya enquired.
"Surprisingly, he's a really charming man." Callisto smiled. "I'm surprised you've never met him."
"It's not surprising really. He was never around for Hercules when he was growing up. When we were young Hercules played down the fact that he was Zeus' son but I felt his pain. I never really wanted to meet him.
Callisto stretched across the hearth for the poker just as Palmaya was about to do the same. Her rough warrior hands wrapped around Palmaya's soft one. Both laughed.
"You can do it" Palmaya conceded. Watching as Callisto coaxed the life back into the fire.
"So are you and Zeus close?" she asked
"No not really." Callisto wrinkled her nose. "
"What about Xena? Are you over her?"
Callisto tried to mask her look of surprise with an expression of indifference. "I can never forget what Xena did to my family, my village but, I have to move on with my life. I had the opportunity to confront her; I tried several times to kill her. In the end none of it brought me any satisfaction." For a moment Callisto had thought that Palmaya could see into her heart. If the thought of Callisto's many murderous deeds in the name of vengeance didn't turn Palmaya away, then the fact that she had lusted after Xena surely would.
"I've been given the chance of a new start and Xena plays no part in it."
"So the promise you made to end your warrior ways was to Zeus." Palmaya questioned.
"Yes." Callisto confirmed. There was no harm in admitting this much. She would not tell her the rest.
"I'm glad you were given this chance." Palmaya looked straight into Callisto's eyes. "I didn't realise how lonely I was until you came along. Thank you for being here with me" She reached out and briefly squeezed Callisto's hand.
"It should be me thanking you." Callisto held on to Palmaya's hand, liking the simple contact. "You have made the changes very easy for me."
"I can't take the place of your family but, I've come to think of you as a sister."
"Me to." Callisto said easily.
Later in bed Callisto's thoughts were far from sisterly. As soon as Palmaya had said those words Callisto realised that her feelings for the other woman ran a lot deeper than that. She was afraid but excited at the same time. Her mind was in turmoil. How could she know for sure whether these feelings were real, and if they were what could she do about them? She spent the night tossing and turning. In the morning she was no closer to a solution.
Callisto was woken from her preoccupation by the feel of a hot ale laden breath on her face. Quickly she rose from the bale of hay that she was lying on. A strong arm across her chest stopped her from standing up.
"I mean to have you Callisto so quit fighting me."
Euripides had crept up on her without her realising it. His persistence was beyond irritating. Callisto grabbed his arm and flipped him over. He landed on his back on the ground. Before he could rise Callisto jumped to her feet. Standing over him she placed a foot in his chest.
"This has gone far enough," she spat at him. "In another lifetime I would kill you without another thought."
"I know all about your other life Callisto. It must be lonely for you now, being away from your band of warriors. Having no one to comfort you at night. I figured I could satisfy your needs." As he spoke he struggled to get up. Callisto pinned him down with little effort.
"You obviously don't know enough about me you disgusting creature. I came here to work not to become your plaything. If you won't allow me to get on with my work, then I'll have to leave"
"I guess you'll just have to leave then."
"Why you…" Callisto pulled Euripides up by his neck. Holding him with one hand she raised the other to punch him. At that moment an excited and incoherent Illoran ran into the barn.
"Callisto. Valene. …. The baby. Quick." Pausing for breath Illoran took in the scene before him.
"Wh... What's going on?" he stuttered.
"She's trying to kill me" Euripides screamed. "Call the other men. Stop her."
"You lie." Still holding the farmer's neck Callisto shook him violently.
"Callisto no, he's not worth it." Illoran approached Callisto cautiously. "Let him go. I need your help. Valene has gone into labour"
"Well send for the midwife" Callisto snapped still holding on.
"I already have. I thought you could sit with her while she waits. Callisto let him go."
There was a long silence. No one moved. Callisto eyed Euripides up and down with disgust. Finally she pushed him away.
"You're not worth it" she sneered as he went flying to the floor once again.
Knowing that he was no match for her Euripides turned his anger on Illoran instead. He let out a wild burst of laughter as he rose to his feet.
"Such concern for poor little Valene," he said as he approached Illoran. "Anyone would think the child was yours. Is it yours?" He stood toe to toe with Illoran now.
"You know very well the child's not mine," Illoran denied stepping back. Euripides followed.
"How do I know? You're always sniffing around her every chance you get."
Illoran didn't want to lose his job but he couldn't allow Euripides to continue. "It's well known that you are the father of the child." He stammered.
Euripides' face grew dark with anger. "You lie. Who told you this? Has that slut been lying about me behind my back after all I've done for her? I'll kill her." He went to brush past Illoran.
"Forget it Euripides," Illoran grabbed the older man. "You're deluded if you believe the whole town doesn't know what you did to Valene." Those words stopped Euripides in his tracks.
"You don't know what you're talking about, but I'm gonna make sure you can't spread anymore lies," he went for Illoran knocking them both to the ground. Illoran struggled to get up but the older man had him pinned down.
Callisto ran to help. She grabbed Euripides from behind, dragging him off of the younger man. "You can't hurt him for telling the truth you fool."
"This seems to be an unfair fight, Euripides raised his arms backward sending Callisto flying. "Back off bitch." He lunged for Illoran once more.
Callisto's intervention had given Illoran enough time to arm himself. As Euripides came flying at him Illoran raised the pitchfork, lunging it deep into the other man's chest. Euripides gave a muffled scream and fell to the ground clutching the fork.
"It was self defence, it was self defence," Illoran yelled repeatedly.
"Calm down," Callisto said walking to where Euripides lay. She felt his neck for a pulse. "He's dead but don't worry it was self defence. I'll back you up."
"No we'll never get away with it. Who would believe us? You're a warrior with a bad reputation and I have feelings for Valene. No one is gonna believe us." Illoran was filled with panic. He paced up and down the barn before coming to a decision. "I've got to go."
"Illoran. No. Wait." Callisto called out. It was too late. Illoran ran without looking back.
"What the hell is going on here?" Palmaya shouted as she made her way through the crowds. She finally reached the guarded entrance of the gaol. "I've come to speak with the prisoner. In the meantime disperse the crowd. Send them home." The stocky guard nodded briefly as he opened the door. Palmaya stepped inside the building. Another guard led Palmaya along a dark corridor to the cells. There were only two of them and they were very rarely used. He stopped and pointed to the cell at the very end. Palmaya brushed passed him to stand at the doors of the cell.
"Callisto. What happened?" she asked, her voice filled with concern.
Callisto rose from the wooden bench she was lying on and crossed over to the iron door. She reached out to hold Palmaya's hands.
"I'm sorry to get you involved but, you have to believe me. I didn't kill him." She pleaded.
"I do believe you and I intend to get to the bottom of this." She motioned to the guard to let her into the cell. He wanted to protest but Palmaya gave him a withering look. She entered the cell and sat on the bench, patting a place beside her.
"Now tell me what happened"
Callisto told her story not leaving anything out.
"Why didn't you tell me that Euripides had been bothering you? We could have found you other work." She saw Callisto's look of exasperation and went on, "yes I know that has nothing to do with what eventually happened. Illoran must be found and quickly. Despite what Euripides has done to Valene the people still seem to want to see you punished for his death. It amazes me how easily these people forget where they are coming from."
"I'll send some food over for you. In the meantime don't despair I'll find Illoran even if I have to go searching for him myself." She smiled weakly.
"I don't want you doing anything that will turn the people against you. Do you hear?" Callisto urged.
"Don't you worry about me. These people can't even make a simple decision without me. They wouldn't dare go against me."
"I hope you're right. I've seen blood lust take over the most mild mannered of people. I've been on the receiving end of a lynch mob before." She gazed around her cell, "At least then I was guilty. This is a whole new experience for me. Who knows? Maybe this is what Zeus had planned for me all along. Oh the irony of it all." She managed a weak smile.
"Don't be silly. Where's the sport in this? From what you've said about him, I believe Zeus was being genuine with you. This is just an unfortunate misunderstanding. It will be put right. You'll see."
Palmaya was trying to hard to convince herself as well as Callisto. She really didn't believe that Zeus had a hand in any of this but there was another who might want to bring Callisto down. Quickly she hugged Callisto and gave her a brief kiss on the cheek. "
I'll be back to see you in the morning." As the guard let her out she gave another wave and was gone.
Callisto had watched intently as the emotions chased across Palmaya's face. She had become so dear to her in such a short space of time. She prayed that Zeus could see into her heart and know that she had found the love that he had sent her in search of.
"Keep her safe." She prayed silently.
On leaving Callisto's cell Palmaya headed for the guard's office at the front of the gaol. She ordered an immediate search of the city and surrounding land. Illoran must be found. Her instructions were not to leave a leaf unturned. Then she quickly headed home.
"Aphrodite" Palmaya stood in the middle of her room shouting the goddess's name. "Aphrodite you'd better show up now" she threatened. She waited. There was no response. She ran out of her room and raced down the stairs. She checked for the goddess's presence. Nothing.
"Okay. Have it your way." Palmaya ran from her home and down the street.
Let's see how quickly you show up now shall we," she muttered to herself as she ran on. The citizen's of the city worshipped many gods and built temples in their honour, Palmaya had only been interested in overseeing the building of one. Reaching Aphrodite's temple she burst through the doors and began screaming the goddess's name to no avail.
"Alright will you show up now," still yelling she picked up a bust of Aphrodite and raised it above her head.
"Give me that." Aphrodite appeared suddenly and began wresting the bust from Palmaya's hands. They struggled for a moment before Palmaya gave in.
"Where have you been? And why are you persecuting Callisto? How could you do this to me?"
"Whoa. Wait a minute." She cut Palmaya off in mid flow. "Firstly I've been busy clearing a backlog of work. I'm sure I don't need to remind you who I am and what I do," she scowled at Palmaya. "Secondly, I am not persecuting your little friend."
"I know you've got something to do with Euripides death." Palmaya accused. "It's all part of your plan for Valene's revenge."
"I admit, Euripides had to die but, Callisto was not meant to be involved. How was I supposed to know that Illoran had no backbone? I am deeply disappointed in that boy" she tutted. "So what are you going to do?" Palmaya asked.
"Do? What can I do?" realising that she still held the bust, Aphrodite made a show of putting it back in its place.
"You can bring Illoran back for a start and help me clear Callisto's name." Palmaya's irritation was apparent as she stayed Aphrodite's hand.
"I would if I knew where he was." She saw the disbelief in Palmaya's face. "No. We gods don't know everything. I wish you mortals could understand that." "Why do I find that so hard to believe? What is wrong with you?" Palmaya began to pace in frustration. "You've promised you'd be here for me and now you won't even help me."
"Listen hon, I am here for you but, I really don't know where Illoran is. You have to let this thing play itself out" she said mysteriously. "Illoran will return. I shouldn't be telling you any of this but, he has already sworn undying love to Valene. He's sworn to take care of her and her baby." Palmaya snorted in disbelief.
"Okay running isn't the best way to show he cares but, I believe he will return."
"What makes you so damn sure?" Palmaya questioned.
"He sent a love petition to me of course."
"Oh," was all Palmaya could manage.
"So you see things will work out just fine. All you need to do is keep your little people under control until he returns."
"That's easier said than done. I've never seen them like this. It's like being among strangers."
"I have faith in you. You'll pull through just fine. Now I've got to go." She blew a kiss in Palmaya's direction.
"Yeah. Whatever." Palmaya scowled.
Palmaya could not sit back and allow events to take place as Aphrodite had suggested. She was worried for Callisto. Despite being told that justice would be served, the citizen's lust for blood was still on the bubble. A messenger had been dispatched to the nearest large city to bring back a magistrate. Forbidden City had not felt the need for one of there own because crime had never been an issue before. They had never had problems with warlords or raiders. The only reason they had guards was because of the drunken brawls that occurred nearly every night. Perpetrators were usually escorted home with a warning. No one had ever been seriously wounded much less murdered.
Palmaya made a decision to join the search parties. She couldn't allow the town to be divided over this. She had ordered a search party to be despatched to Euripides' farm. If she were in Valene's shoes she may chose to hide her loved one. Palmaya decided to join the people searching in the surrounding forests.
They searched all night. Palmaya had long past the stage of tiredness, lack of sleep now had her on a strange high. When others headed back to the city she and a handful of people continued the search. It wasn't until she stumbled to the ground and could not get up without help that she decided to call an end to the search. By then it was dawn.
Every night for a week Palmaya joined search parties. During the day she visited Callisto, brought her food and told her cheerful stories. She barely had time for the inn and had to enlist the help of Seska's mother to do the cooking. Through all of it Jed was very supportive, he too believed in Callisto's innocence. He was of the opinion that the gods were finally showing their hand, giving Callisto the chance of a new life only to have her executed for a crime she was innocent of. Jed was very bitter where the gods were concerned. He had opposed the building of all temples. "What have the gods done for any of us" had been his argument but he had lost. People still needed to believe in something.
By the end of the week Palmaya started to show signs of exhaustion. Her eyes were dark rimmed from too many sleepless nights. Callisto had noted her flagging spirits the previous day. Today however Palmaya looked fit to drop.
"Have you been sleeping?" she asked as Palmaya rummaged around in the basket of food she had brought.
"Yes." She answered brazenly. Callisto held the other woman's chin and lifted her head for a closer inspection of her face. She raised a knowing eyebrow.
"Okay. No. I haven' t been able to sleep very well. I felt for sure that we would have found Illoran by now."
"You can't drive yourself so hard. I'm not worth it. You know what I was before. Maybe this is divine justice."
"Don't you ever talk like that again." Palmaya snapped. "This is not justice. You've changed so much. I don't know what you were like before; I don't care about your past. All I know is the woman I see before me now. You have become very dear to me. You are no longer the monster that Xena created. I believe that had the Warrior Princess not existed, you would have been a wonderful person from the beginning. You're charming and witty and I'm proud to have you as a friend. There is absolutely no way that I am going to stand by and see you tried for this crime much less executed for it."
"Palmaya. Don't talk like that." Callisto cautioned.
"I'm serious." She spoke calmly. "If Illoran isn't found within the next few days, we'll leave this place before the Magistrate gets here."
"I'm not going to listen to such talk. You are overtired and it looks like you haven't had a decent meal in a while. Come" she pulled Palmaya to sit closer to her. "Mm. What goodies have we got in here? Let me see." She said rummaging through the food basket. She took out some bread and cheese. Breaking it into bite sized pieces she began feeding her friend.
"Come on. Eat. For me, please." She cajoled.
Sighing, the other woman gave in and allowed Callisto to feed her. She giggled and almost choked on some bread. Callisto fed her some wine from the carafe in the basket. When she was done Callisto arranged herself more comfortably on the hard bench.
"Now you are going to get some sleep. Come. She cradled Palmaya's head in her arms and motioned for her to stretch out on the bench. Without protest Palmaya did as she was told. She was extremely tired and it felt good to be taken care of like this. With Callisto stroking her hair it wasn't long before she was asleep.
The sun shone brightly in the beautiful blue sky. Palmaya sat on the grass beside the mountain stream weaving a band of flowers together. When she finished it, she admired her work.
"That's pretty," a soft voice said from behind.
"I made it for you," Palmaya said smiling as she turned around. "Come. Let me so how it fits." She leaned over and placed the garland of flowers on Callisto's head. "Perfect fit."
"How do I look?" Callisto asked.
"You look beautiful."
"So do you." Callisto took Palmaya into her arms and kissed her deeply. "I love you."
"I love you too." Palmaya sighed.
Suddenly from nowhere a group of guards surrounded the two women their swords pointing at Callisto.
"You are under arrest for the murder of Euripides the Farmer." Said their leader.
"No. She's innocent you can't take her from me. Palmaya struggled as one of the guards held her captive. "Please don't take her. I love her."
"Hush. It's okay." Callisto soothed holding Palmaya tight. "It's just a dream." Palmaya raised her head from Callisto's lap.
"I… Oh." As she remembered her dream she couldn't help but stare wide eyed at Callisto. "Did I talk in my sleep?" she asked finally, fearful of the answer." Callisto wanted to lie to save Palmaya any embarrassment, but this was too important to her. She needed to know if Palmaya had been dreaming about her. The possibility that this woman might feel the same way about her made her heart skip several beats.
"Yes, you did. You put up quite a struggle too." She smiled hoping that the other woman would feel enough at ease to talk about her dream. She waited. It seemed like forever but was really only moments before Palmaya responded.
"I don't know what to say." She began, hear head bowed as she fumbled with her fingers. "I don't even know when it happened." Callisto couldn't wait for Palmaya to say the words that she had been longing to hear for so long. It didn't matter right now when it happened as long as it had happened.
"Palmaya my love," she cupped her friends chin and raised her head so that she could look deeply into her eyes. This was the first time she had seen uncertainty in the other woman's eyes, and something else akin to fear. "I don't know when it happened either but, I love you."
Palmaya's eyes widened. "You do?" As a friend right?"
"Oh. No. Nothing so simple." Callisto dismissed. "I *love* you," she emphasised.
Palmaya studied her friends' face. Was this true? Yes it was she saw it in her eyes.
"I love you too," she said shyly at first and then, "I love you." Callisto was the first one to make a move, reaching out to wind her arms around Palmaya. Their mouths met, gently and the exquisite sensations that this brought caused them both to murmur with pleasure.
Callisto's mouth flowed over Palmaya's, softening the flesh, heating it: her arms tightened, bringing Palmaya's breasts teasingly close to her own. Palmaya wanted to move closer, to be absorbed by the heat of her body but Callisto reluctantly ended the kiss. For a moment they had forgotten where they were. They sat in silence for a while gazing into each other's eyes and holding hands. Then Palmaya became agitated.
"I have to get you out of here." She said urgently. "I can't allow them to..."
"Don't start with that again. I am not going to allow you to endanger yourself. Aphrodite said that Illoran would turn up, we will have to trust that he will."
"But, when? For all we know he could turn up long after the trial has ended and you're dead."
"Stop." Callisto demanded. "Please." She said more gently.
"Let's just wait a few more days. Don't go scheming unnecessarily. Now that we've found each other in this way, I strongly believe that things will work out."
"You have more confidence than I do. Okay. I won't say another word on the subject." Palmaya finally conceded. "Just hold me again."
After Palmaya left, Callisto looked out between the bars of her cell. She couldn't see the guard anywhere. Occasionally who ever was guarding the cell would stop for a chat, but more often than not she was left alone until Palmaya returned. Satisfied that she was alone, she walked to the middle of her darkened prison. She knelt on the cold stone slabs and put her forehead to the ground in supplication.
"Zeus," she whispered. "I've never done this before. As you know I've never had much time for prayer since my family were cruelly taken away from me. I know that you have done a great deal for me already. You gave me the chance to start my life over. I admit I didn't believe that I could become accustomed to a normal life. I've been a ruthless warrior killing in cold blood and anger, I've been a god, and done the same." She paused. Her knees were beginning to hurt, shifting to ease the pain a little she continued.
"This normal life that you would have me lead has not been without its complications. I admit that I was tempted on more than one occasion to kill Euripides myself but I remembered your warning and I buried my anger. I don't know how long I am expected to go on burying my anger given the current situation. You sent me hear in search of love. I didn't know what to expect. If I had ended up as the surrogate daughter of a barren couple, I would have considered myself blessed. Yet I am luckier than I could ever have hoped. To find someone as beautiful, loving and giving as Palmaya goes beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I don't want to be on the run for this crime. Palmaya deserves more than that. She is a good person but I don't believe she will stand by and let events take their course."
"Zeus, I don't know if you have any further plans for me. I am in love and I am loved in return, I thought that that was the deal. If you've changed your mind, and I am to be punished for past crimes, I ask that you not involve Palmaya. She has suffered in the past because of her friendship with your son Hercules. Don't allow her to suffer further, even if it means wiping away all memory of me, I would rather that than to have her heart broken when I am gone." Callisto raised herself slowly, her limbs ached from the unnatural position they had been forced into. Standing on shaky legs she tried to rub some feeling back into her body.
Checking once more to ensure she had been alone she prayed that Zeus had been listening.
Sitting at the table with Jed beside her, Palmaya looked around the well-lit hall. The people were familiar but today she saw them through the eyes of a stranger. Jed had covered many meetings for her during the past week but this was one he could not get her out of. They were both required to be here to discuss the disposal of Euripides' estate, as he had no next of kin.
The majority of the Council felt that under the circumstances all his property should go to Valene, she was the mother of his child after all. Palmaya had imagined that the meeting would be over in a matter of moments. And it would been had there not been an outcry from the public gallery.
"How do we know that Valene did not hire Callisto to kill Euripides." Someone shouted upon hearing the motion carried.
That had been all that was needed to set others off. Palmaya watched from her seat as people shouted and raised angry fists in the direction of the table of Councillors. She watched as they disagreed amongst each other.
"Sheep," she thought. "You're all a bunch of sheep." She watched as the other Councillor's called for order to no avail. Palmaya rose to her feet and motioned to Jed to do the same.
"The meeting is over." She said to him. "We've done what we came to do. Let's leave them to it."
"Let's just hope they don't get out of hand." Jed said despondently. "We can't afford to have them rioting over this, we haven't got enough soldiers to handle them if they do." Palmaya did not respond, she was past caring about these people right now. "Sheep" she thought again.
One by one the other Councillors began to leave. There was an air of disbelief when the crowd realised that they were not getting the attention they craved. They quietened down waiting to see if this would bring them back. Realising that the meeting had come to an end people started to make their way to the entrance mumbling as they left.
In the peace and solitude of Aphrodite's temple Palmaya gave an offering of grain before falling to her knees in prayer.
"Aphrodite, I know how busy you are but I hope you find the time to hear me. You told me a long time ago that my love would find me hear at Forbidden Mountain. At the time I didn't care. When you took an interest in me I didn't need anyone else, I thought I was in love with you. Now I find that I am truly in love. I don't know if Callisto was the person you had in mind for me, if indeed you did have someone in mind for me, but now I a formally asking that you bless our love."
"Very formal." Aphrodite announced herself appearing on the altar before Palmaya. This time Palmaya was not startled by the sudden appearance of the goddess.
"It has to be formal so that you can take my request as seriously as you have taken Illoran's."
"I take every request seriously." She replied. "And how dare you insinuate that I had no intention of finding you someone. I'll have you know..."
"Dite." Palmaya interrupted, "I don't care. What I care about right now is whether or not you will bless my love." She stood hands on hips waiting for a positive reply. The possibility that Aphrodite may be jealous of her love for Callisto had crossed her mind.
"Of course, you have my blessing." Palmaya breathed a sigh of relief. "Had you allowed me to finish I was going to say that Callisto was the one I had chosen for you all along. Of course I don't expect you to believe that now."
"I'd like to believe you but, with Callisto in gaol at the moment, I can't see how our love was destined."
"If you cared to recall my words to you during your journey here, Callisto fits the description of the person I was talking about. She was on a destructive path which landed her right here."
Palmaya pondered this. It was a general description that could easily apply to number of people. It didn't matter anyway. All she wanted to know was that their love was not doomed. When she broke Callisto out of gaol, she needed to be sure that they would some how survive it. A blessing from the goddess of love would go some way to easing her mind.
"I've told you that things will work out and they will. Before you know it you and Callisto will be sitting down to dinner again and having your cosy fire side chats." Aphrodite said flippantly.
"I'll believe it when I see it."
"Gosh. Talk about bad karma. Don't be so negative," Aphrodite said concerned. "Just because you and Callisto are an item it doesn't mean we can't be friends." She approached Palmaya and put her arms around her waist. Palmaya tensed. "Easy. I'm not gonna bite your head off"
"I know. It's just that I don't think we should be doing this sort of thing anymore." Palmaya said honestly.
"Listen Honey, I expect you to be true to Callisto so, I'm not about to do anything that would go against that. There's nothing wrong with a hug for all times sake. We are still friends aren't we?"
"Yes of course we are," Palmaya said hugging Aphrodite.
"Good. And now you can forget any ideas you have about busting Callisto out of gaol. A life on the run won't suit you."
"How do you know?" Palmaya asked easing herself out of Aphrodite's embrace."
"I just do, but you can forget it. This is where you belong. If you leave here the City would be wiped out in no time. Nobody belongs here more than you do."
"I don't understand."
"Let me paint a picture sweetheart, As long as you or you descendants remain here the volcano sleeps like a baby. You go and puff lava balls will be busting out all over. Do get it now."
"Yes. I do."
Great. Well run along and try to get some rest, you look awful" she said bluntly.
"The gig's up son. You gotta go back." Aphrodite's approach startled Illoran so much he jumped up from the rock he was sitting on.
"I just can't get used to you doing that." He muttered.
"Well you don't have to, it's time to go back and face the music." She said whimsically.
"How can I go back now. No one is gonna believe I killed Euripides in self-defence now." Illoran became agitated. "If it hadn't been for you, I would have gone back the very same day. Now they'll hang me for sure."
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here. You're motives were in question from the moment you ran. I've been working my butt off down there making sure you get a fair hearing. I've kept you safe here and provided you with food. What do you think they would have done to you and Valene if they'd found you hiding in the farm house uh?"
"I'm sorry," Illoran said humbly. "It's just that I've been stuck in this crater for so long it's making me crazy. Every day I expect it to erupt."
"Well. Personally I thought it was an ingenious hiding place. No one looked for you hear did they?" Aphrodite was miffed at his ingratitude.
"I guess you're right? But what about Callisto? She could refuse to give evidence in my favour now. She's been stuck in that gaol because of me. She might want revenge."
"Don't you fret about Callisto, she's got bigger fish to fry and the sooner you give yourself up the better for her. Now off you go, and watch your footing as you go down, there's been a little rock slide." Aphrodite watched Illoran's face turn as white as a sheet. "Hey it's no biggy, you got up here okay didn't you."
"Couldn't you just wave your hand and you know, get me down there?" he asked hesitantly.
"I guess I could but, I'm not going to," she said airily. "Climbing down the mountain could be very character building. You'll be able to face anybody after that. Now off you go. I'm outta here." She disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared leaving Illoran to psyche himself up.
Climbing up the volcano had not been a problem. He hadn't questioned Aphrodite's plan. The fear of being caught had pumped enough adrenaline around his body to give him the courage he needed to scale the mountain. Now he needed something to get him down. He thought of Valene. How was she fearing? Had they given her a hard time he wondered? Did she think he had broken his promise to her? These thoughts spurred him on. The only way out of the cavern was up, without little effort Illoran scaled the cavern walls until he was at the tip. Swinging himself over the edge he found firm footing on the other side.
"Whatever you do, don't look down," he told himself.
The late nights and lack of sleep finally took their toll on Palmaya's body. She managed to make it home only to collapse in a chair by the fireplace. Sleep came in instantly. She was awoken by a loud tapping on the door after what seemed like moments but was in reality hours later. What now, she thought clearing the fog from her brain as she went to open the door. I must be dreaming she though blinking her eyes rapidly, then shaking her head when the vision in front of her refused to go away.
"Palmaya. Please forgive me" Illoran beseeched dropping to his knees in front of the bewildered young woman. His voice was enough to make Palmaya realise that she was not dreaming. Acting on instinct, Palmaya hauled Illoran up by the scruff of his shirt and was marching him down to the gaol before either of them could think clearly.
"What are you going to do with me?" Illoran babbled. "It was self-defence, Callisto must have told you that. I will get a fair trial won't I?"
"You will be treated the same way that Callisto was" Palmaya said through gritted teeth.
Illoran's babbling had attracted some attention. By the time the got to the gaol a sizeable crowd had gathered. Words like "coward," and "murderer's accomplice" assaulted his ears. Aphrodite had been wrong he thought as someone broke away from the crowd to attack him.
"Back off." Palmaya bellowed in a voice that was strange even to her own ears. Quickly the crowd moved away to form a semi-circle at the door of the gaol.
"Open up" she demanded of the guard. "Lock him up and release Callisto immediately."
"No." Someone from the crowd protested. "They're in it together." Others joined in.
"She's a murderer. She can't go free." Rage began to build up inside Palmaya. The bleating of the sheep was more than she could take right now. All she wanted to do was take the woman she loved in her arms and make up for the injustice that she had had to endure this past week. Yet, the sheep would have none of it. As she looked around more people had gathered around the gaol house. More sheep, more bleating.
Palmaya closed her eyes tightly blocking them from sight momentarily. Her hands curled into tight fists has she tried to control her anger.
"Listen." She shouted opening her eyes again. "Illoran has admitted that he killed Euripides in self-defence. Callisto played no part in it. There is no reason to hold her here. You all came to Forbidden City because you felt persecuted in one way or another. How quickly you all forget where you're coming from. How many amongst you have committed murder in cold blood and never been punished for your crimes. How many of you have killed for payment?" rage built upon rage as she spoke.
"There are a few among you who have killed in self-defence and ran away for fear of being disbelieved. Yet, here you all are ready to judge Callisto on her past deeds. You have no right do you hear me. You have no right!" As her voice rose the earth trembled slightly. People looked down at their feet, then at each other. The ground beneath them shook more violently. Buildings trembled but remained in tact.
"You have no right" Palmaya screamed again mindless of the threat. "See. Even the mountain agrees with me." She decided to use the tremors to her advantage anything to get through to their thick hides.
"Palmaya" a soft voice called to her. "It's okay." Palmaya turned to see Callisto standing behind her. Throwing her arms around the woman she loved she felt tension slowly ease from her body.
"Let's go home" she whispered in Callisto's ear. The tremors stopped as suddenly as they had started.
"No. I'd better stay here until the magistrate arrives."
"What are you saying?" Palmaya held Callisto at arms length searching for an answer.
"The only way to appease these people is to have a fair trial. The guard said the magistrate is due tomorrow. What's one more day?"
"I have to agree with Callisto." Jed had managed to clear a path through the crowd. He reached Palmaya just in time to hear what Callisto had said. "You are right, Callisto shouldn't be judged for her past deeds but, the only way to show these people that, is to allow them to judge her on her conduct now. By choosing to stay in gaol she is proving that she has nothing to hide." Palmaya could see the reasoning behind Jed's words. She looked at Callisto and saw the pleading in her eyes.
"I want them to accept me for who I am now. Let me do it my way." Callisto added more weight to Jed's argument. How could she refuse this request, of course they were right. Callisto had been accused of murder the fact that Illoran had turned up made no difference, she had to be cleared of the crime.
"Well, you can tell them what's going on, I've had enough of them." Palmaya said to Jed. Without even glancing in Callisto's direction Palmaya fought through the crowds to return to the sanity of her home.
Callisto didn't feel snubbed by Palmaya's actions. She understood her frustration. All she wanted to do was take Palmaya in her arms and make love to her ever, but there would be time enough for that. She allowed the guard to return her to her cell as Jed spoke to the crowd.
Chapter Ten "I never want to go through anything like that again." Palmaya admitted as she and Callisto walked away from council chambers.
The magistrate had been quick in making his decision and Callisto was cleared. Illoran on the other hand had been sentenced to serve thirty days in gaol for attempting to pervert the course of justice. His claim of self-defence had held up with Callisto's help. Palmaya secretly thought that Illoran should have got longer for the pain he had put her through, she realised it was unreasonable, but she couldn't help but be bitter. It was over now. She should be rejoicing.
"Didn't you think I'd get off?" Callisto teased, as they wound their way through the streets on their way home.
"I didn't know what to think anymore. Everything has just been going wrong for so long. And then you were so ready to accept your fate that made me so mad."
"I didn't want to accept anything but, I spent so many years pursuing Xena wanting her to be punished for all the crimes she had committed, I think the same rules should apply to me. You can't imagine how many people I have I killed in my ambition to destroy the Warrior Princess. I became no better than she was. The only thing is, I refused to see it for a long time. I believed I was doing it all in the name of justice. To tell you the truth, at one point I wanted to die because I really don't think I deserve to be with someone as wonderful as you."
"What changed your mind?" Palmaya asked, undeterred by the picture of evil Callisto had painted.
"I remembered what you said, maybe I would have been a different person had Xena not caused the death of my family. Living is the only way I'm gonna find out."
"I'm glad you've finally worked that out. I don't know what I would have done if Illoran hadn't returned."
Well. It's over now." She reached down and held Palmaya's hand. "To make up for all that you've been through, I'm going to cook dinner tonight."
"You?" Palmaya was dumbfounded.
"Hey, I can cook you know. You've never given me the chance. Today I'm going to wait on you hand and foot."
"This I have to see." Palmaya smiled.
"That was delicious." Palmaya pronounced pushing her empty plate away. "You can definitely cook more often."
"I forgot to say, this is the only meal I can cook well," Callisto laughed. "I'd better do the dishes."
"No leave them. I'll do them in the morning." Palmaya dismissed the dishes. "Let's sit by the fire."
"I've missed these moments." Callisto admitted as she stoked the fire. "It's surprising the things you can get used to in a short space of time." She turned to see Palmaya eyeing her intently.
"What are you thinking? She asked seating herself on the floor by Palmaya's feet.
"I never realised how lonely I was until you came along. " Palmaya admitted looking down into the face of her love. "I don't want anything to take you away from me again."
"Nothing will. I'll see to that personally." Callisto teased. Raising herself on her knees she gathered Palmaya into her arms. "I love you woman."
"I love you too," Palmaya breathed softly as their lips touched.
The kiss grew in power, causing a riot of sensation within Palmaya. Her breasts tingled and deep within her core an ache flared to life. She caught her breath, and as she did so her tongue withdrew and grazed the length of Callisto's. This time Callisto gasped, and Palmaya felt the muscles beneath her fingers contract one by one until she seemed carved from sun warmed marble. The pressure against her lips eased, as did the heady persuasion of Callisto's tongue, but the throbbing of her blood left her dizzy. Callisto placed her arms around her back and beneath her knees and gently placed her on the rug beside the fire.
"Let me show you how much I love you." She whispered into Palmaya's ear.
"Mm." That was all the response she needed as she pulled Palmaya closer reclaiming her mouth. Palmaya's mouth flowered eagerly, welcoming the invasion. Sampling at her leisure, Callisto investigated the warm cavern with slow, languid strokes that drew a soft purr form Palmaya's throat and quick short stabs that invited Palmaya to examine her in the same way.
A thousand sensual explosions blossomed within Palmaya. The heat of Callisto's mouth on her throat triggered a vibration, which ran the length of her body, and she tightened her arms around her love's neck. Callisto's arms consumed her; they alternately massaged and caressed every bit of her back, then lingered over the swell of her buttocks. Quickly and without much grace they undressed each other, their lips still locked in a passionate embrace. Callisto cupped Palmaya's breasts and stroked her nipples to life until she cried out softly.
She kissed her tenderly, the seductive stroke of her tongue an erotic counterpoint to the manipulation of her hands. Palmaya melted into her love, her body as malleable as hot wax as Callisto lowered them both to the ground. When Callisto started to withdraw Palmaya's tongue followed, teasing its way past her lips and in to her mouth. From deep in her chest came a groan of pleasure, a sound that invited Palmaya to venture further within.
Callisto pressed tiny kisses against Palmaya's collarbone. "I'm burning for you" Callisto husked as she bent to rub her lips against the globe of one of Palmaya's breasts. Palmaya caught her breath; her nails curled into her love's back and Callisto smiled at the tremor that ran through her lover.
"Callisto. Oh!" Palmaya's words died as her love's lips closed around her nipple and drew it into her mouth. Her back arched, bringing her closer to the source of such pleasure. Callisto licked her lovers nipple, then slightly scored it with her teeth. Palmaya gave a tormented whimper as Callisto diverted her attentions to her other breast and her hand slid down her stomach to the nest of black curls which guarded the juncture of her thighs.
Palmaya moved restlessly and Callisto stilled her by draping one smooth leg across both of hers. Her fingers penetrated a veil of curls to stroke apart the petals concealing the bud of Palmaya's desire. Her lover's body shuddered with pleasure as Callisto repeated her actions. Palmaya arched into her hand, allowing Callisto's fingers to slip lower, to find that part of that was hot and moist.
Groaning, Callisto raised her head from Palmaya's breast and took her lips in a long, searching kiss. Palmaya was alive in her arms, an abandoned creature that threatened Callisto's control. Twisting her legs beneath Callisto Palmaya invited her exploration. A wild desire burnt through Callisto and her fingers slid into the beckoning warmth.
All the strength seemed to leave Palmaya and she could do nothing more than cling to Callisto as she took her on a sensual journey. She felt weightless, disembodied, with Callisto's hands and mouth her only chains to earth. Palmaya gasped as Callisto's full weight covered her and her breasts were crushed into the fullness of her love's own. Callisto's hand withdrew from her and moved to curve around her hip, then on to the swell of her buttocks, and Palmaya murmured in protest.
Callisto's heart thudded painfully against her ribs as she kissed the line of Palmaya's throat. "Hush, there's so much more to come. Raise your hips my love." Her voice was hoarse, barely recognisable, Palmaya did as she asked and Callisto slid her hand fully beneath her. Should I have said something first, Callisto pondered as she held herself above her lover. What could she say? Palmaya I'm different. They had come too far, and Callisto was too caught up with passion to think coherently. There was only one way to do this. Carefully, slowly, she guided herself into Palmaya's hot and demanding body. She felt her lover tense beneath her.
"What?" Palmaya protested.
"Sshhh. It's okay." Callisto murmured breathlessly. "I won't hurt you." Palmaya was too caught up in the moment to think beyond Callisto's words. Callisto pushed her way deeper into the welcoming heat, she paused when she encountered a barrier. She felt Palmaya's fingers tighten on her shoulders as she gently pushed further. Quickly? Slowly? What to do. This was as new to her as it was to Palmaya. Her control slipped deciding the matter. Perspiration beaded her forehead. Gathering herself, Callisto rocked forward and felt immediately the sting of Palmaya's nails.
Palmaya cried out in sharp pain but Callisto's mouth was on hers, drinking the sound from her lips. She was embedded within and Palmaya could feel herself stretching to accommodate this alien presence. Aphrodite had not taught her everything she thought fleetingly. She tried to lever herself away but Callisto held her firmly in place.
"Wait," Callisto ordered in a voice that was both gentle and rough. "It will pass, I promise."
Palmaya opened her eyes and looked at Callisto's face, so close to her own. The pain began to ease; she raised her hand and brushed her fingers over Callisto's cheek.
"You could have said something my love." she admonished softly.
"I'm sorry. Does it hurt badly?" she smoothed a lock of hair away form Palmaya's temple, relaxing when she shook her head. She moved slowly testing Palmaya's reaction. Seeing her lover frown she bent to kiss her. She could feel the passion take control of Palmaya once more and began pressing warm kisses on her cheeks and throat. Palmaya tired to match her rhythm and Callisto held her hips in an effort to guide her.
A fierce heat consumed Palmaya as she found the rhythm. Everything faded except for the sensual curl of Callisto's tongue and the tension that heightened when her love repeatedly sheathed herself in her softness. There was a shifting within her, a pulsing that stole her breath and left her panting. Callisto's pace quickened and she followed, more than willing to go wherever she would lead. Higher she flew, and still higher, until that tension within her exploded and bathed her with a pleasure so intense she cried out.
At Palmaya's cry of fulfillment, Callisto cast aside the last ounce of control. Palmaya's legs tightened spasmodically around her waist, driving Callisto deeper as she reached her peak. She shuddered with the force of her release and her hands locked Palmaya's hips against her own. They lay there for a long time before Callisto became aware of the tight hold she had on her lover. Despite the gentleness of her withdrawal Palmaya caught her breath, Callisto rolled to her side and pulled her lover into her arms.
"I love you. Can you forgive me?" Callisto enquired carefully.
"My love there is nothing to forgive. There's more to you than meets the eye. I'll get used to it just don't spring anymore surprises on me. Okay?"
"There's just one more thing I have to tell you." Callisto started.
"My love I'm sure it's not as important as what I've just learnt" Palmaya pressed her fingers to Callisto's lips, "it can wait. Teach me about your body. Just how different are you?"
"That's the only difference. Other than that I'm the same as you."
"I think I'd like to find out for myself." Palmaya said as she ran her hand slowly along the length of Callisto's body.
"As you wish. I've decided never to make you angry."
"Mm. Why's that?" she wondered as her hand encountered the object of Callisto's uniqueness.
"I know you had something to do with the mountain almost flipping its lid yesterday. And don't pretend you don't know what I mean." She breathed heavily as Palmaya stroked the length of the object she had kept a secret from everyone when she had discovered that she wasn't the same as her sister or other little girls. Her parents had not treated her differently telling her that there were many people like her. She was to consider it a gift from the gods they had told her. Up until tonight she had seen it as an encumbrance. Now she could see that it had its uses. The organ came to life in Palmaya's hands as she stroked and caressed it. "Are you ignoring me my sweet?"
"Yes. This is much more interesting." Palmaya answered as she moved her hand further down to where Callisto's soft petals waited to be discovered. "Much more interesting." She murmured.
"Witch." Callisto breathed as Palmaya's fingers entered the hot welcoming passage.
"I think we work pretty well together" Aphrodite giggled. Punching Zeus on the arm. "I'll forgive you for meddling in the love business this one time because my girl is happy." They gazed at the lovers entwined in each other's arms asleep in front of the fire. If they had been awake they would not have seen or heard anything. Their visitors chose to remain invisible to mortal eyes.
"You have to remember, that without my meddling, Callisto would be dead and Palmaya would be alone with just you for company." Zeus responded.
"Yeah. I was having a hard time getting round that death thing." Aphrodite conceded. "I owe you one. "
"Just make sure you remember that when I come to collect." Zeus warned.
"No sweat. Ciao." She blew him a kiss before disappearing.