FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV
PAIRINGS: B/H G/D
RATING: Let's say PG13-NC17
DISCLAIMERS: Mentions of Xena and Xena related things are not owned by me, some orther ass can take credit for the beheading. The characters from Birds of Prey, also owned by some other person. I own nothing but the slightly skewered ideas that Barbara could be an Amazon Queen.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Kelley, Alex and Enigma and every person who has gifted me with positive words and helpful suggestions. AS FOR SHIVA: - It is my personal belief that both the comic Lady Shiva and the TV Lady Shiva (Sandy) could have been good, given the right situation. So the way that I have portrayed her in this part is totally my own portrayal. So if you're a die hard 'kill em all' Shiva fan, you might want to skip the parts with her in it. She's really very nice in this fic, you just have to get to know her better.
FEEDBACK: can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org feel free to contact me. Abusive feedback will be ignored.
ARCHIVED: at Barbdheart's LJ
The dark haired slave girl stumbled slightly under the heavy weight of the recently killed deer hanging from her shoulders. She was due back at the kitchen's almost two candle marks passed and knew that if she didn't pick up her pace a strong hand would be her punishment. Sighing deeply she redoubled her efforts, keeping one eye on the path in front of her, another on her kill and her ears on her surroundings.
The sun sank lower on the horizon as the girl continued her steady walk through the increasingly darkened forest. Through the trees and the silence the girl managed to make out the childish screams of the young women in her village.
"You're late," a voice called from behind her. A quick spin on her heels sent the young slave into a defensive stance, the deer forgotten at her side.
A woman wearing tight brown leather silently dropped from the trees, a bow and quiver in her hands. She smiled warmly and shook her head, sending spirals of blonde curls into frenzy.
"Honestly Helena, who could get this far into Amazon territory without meeting a scout? Who would chastise you before they jumped down to kill you? You're to highly strung my young friend," the blonde said with another smile.
Helena shrugged innocently but didn't bother to return the blonde woman's easy mood. She turned, picking up the fruits of her hunt and deftly walked towards the large wooden gate into the Amazon village.
"The Princess will be pleased, it's been a long time since someone managed to capture and kill a deer for her dinner table," the guard continued as she followed her dark haired friend into the compound. "You might be rewarded, slave."
"What happened to the ease, guard? To good to call me by my first name when we're inside the walls of your Queen?" the dark haired woman snapped as she lowered the deer onto a wooden table for the others in her hunting party to clean and dress.
The other women stopped what they were doing to watch the scene unfold in front of them. Helena's snide comment earned her a sharp smack to the back of her head. She winched but didn't dare comment.
The blonde guard leaned down to the dark haired slave and whispered in her ear, "I find you amusing, I may even like you but when we are inside these walls you will treat me with the respect I deserve. Do you understand?"
Helena ground her teeth together and stared at the dirt covered ground in front of her. "Of course, I'm sorry, Royal Guard."
Turning her attention back to the women watching the spectacle the blonde guard growled softly. "Hurry with the deer, the Princess expects to eat before it gets too dark."
At the mention of their Princess the women were spun into action, rushing around the small clearing finding their knives, buckets and aprons. Helena sat on the dirt floor, ignoring the rushing women, trying desperately to regain her composure and control her temper. The last thing she needed was another public whipping.
"Nothing better than a good dose of public humiliation," she whispered to herself as she brushed off her knees and tried to avoid the eyes of the women working around her. "Just like old times."
Three Summers Earlier
"Amazon's approaching! All guards to the North gate!"
A round, balding guard almost fell from his perch when the warrior and conqueror herself appeared from her tent. Wearing long dark blue silk robes the beautiful woman seemed to float across the ground.
"Stand down," she yelled up into the walls of her castle, "the Amazon's approach for a negotiation with me. Open the gates."
As the large, heavy gates were slowly swung open by four men on either side a tall bald man appeared by the warrior's side. "Is this wise?" he asked gruffly.
The warrior didn't let her attention dwindle from the six horses and twenty or so women slowly making their way into her domain. "I have no doubts they will try something Philius. Sabotage is an Amazon's best weapon after all. Have my guards follow them. They aren't to be allowed to roam the castle and put extra guards outside their rooms. We take no chances."
The lieutenant simply dropped his head down a few inches out of respect for his leader and rushed off to organize his guards.
The warrior smiled as a redheaded woman wearing a ceremonial head dress and riding a beautiful golden horse stopped in front of her and dismounted.
"Queen Barbara of the Amazons, I presume?" The warrior smirked as the Queen lowered her mask and smiled confidently. "Conqueror," she acknowledged quietly and dipped her head slightly.
The conqueror's grin widened.
"I hope that we can agree to these negotiations pleasantly and quickly. I have a nation to run."
"Don't we all, my Queen," the conqueror said with a knowing grin then gently motioned to the castle doors with her left arm.
The Queen of the Amazons watched icy blue eyes as she was invited into the inner sanctum of her greatest enemy. She was never sure what to expect when she visited neighbouring kingdoms, some so destitute they could barely afford to rebuild their walls after attack, others richly surrounded in local culture and thriving with life.
She didn't expect to see the colourful tapestries and delicately weaved baskets that littered the Conqueror's home. She wondered how such an evil, heartless soul could possibly admire and appreciate the beauty of the art work she surrounded herself with.
"You must eat first, Queen Barbara. I had my servants prepare you all a meal. Then we can get on with the negotiations. Does this suit you?" The dark haired woman slowly spun to watch the Queen's face. A flicker of curiosity flared in green eyes but was quickly hidden with the blank expression of war.
"We really must be hurrying along, Conqueror."
"Helena. Please call me Helena." The dark haired woman slowly turned with her words and continued to short trip to her master dining room. "And please, I insist. You must join me."
"Well ..." the Queen started but turned to the curly blonde woman standing beside her. Helena watched as the young woman assessed her surroundings, obviously trained to see the smallest detail. The curly haired blonde nodded slowly and the Queen turned back to her hostess.
"We'd be glad to join you ... Helena."
With a slightly warmer smile the conqueror motioned towards the double doors leading to her dining room. "Your Amazons may go through there; I have requested a private sitting for you and I."
The Amazon Queen quickly dismissed that idea in her head. "There's no need, I will eat with my warriors."
The warrior rolled her eyes and paced down the hall. "As you wish, you may bring your Royal Guard if you feel your life may be in danger." Turning back to her guest the warrior smiled, "But I can assure you, my Queen, no harm will come to you while you reside inside these walls."
"This is nice," Queen Barbara commented as she held up part of a pheasant and waved it conversationally at the Conqueror. Although her guards were uncomfortable at her sudden urge to dine with her dark counterpart the Queen had made up her mind and followed. Gabby, one of her highly trusted royal guards had followed willing behind her without needing to be told.
"Hunted just this afternoon, this kingdom is nothing but the best and the freshest." Helena wiped her hands on her napkin and reached for the fruit.
"And is it fair?"
"Fair, my Queen?" Helena let a tiny smile flick at the edges of her mouth. "Is anything fair? The farmers think I'm cruel and heartless because I take their land. I only take their land for my armies so they're happy and continue to protect the towns around us. The thieves think I'm a murderer because I punish them for their crimes. And you, My Queen, why do you think I'm inequitable?"
Queen Barbara considered the young face before her. "I do not think you are inequitable, Conqueror, I think that you run a strong kingdom, it is understandable that you are tough on your citizens but you have proven to me that you are willing to compromise. But I wonder, do you feed the poor and dress the homeless?"
Helena crossed her legs as she bit into a pear. "That is not my problem Barbara. If they are capable of working but unwilling to why should I give them anything?"
"A valid point, Helena."
"Try the peaches, they're out of season but still very good," Helena purred and passed the strong wicker basket to her dinner mate. "What kind of a ruler are you, Queen Barbara?"
Barbara took one of the soft peaches and experimentally bit into it. "I hope I'm a fair ruler. I always consider the consequences of the crime and the punishment. I do not believe in punishment by ordeal, or mutilation, or death. I do however, believe in second chances and rehabilitation."
"Your prisons must be very full by now," the Conqueror said with a slight laugh.
"We do not have prisons in Amazonia, we have containment cells, but long term incarceration is not something I believe is helpful to anyone."
"Then how do you punish criminals?"
"Hard labour, you'd be amazed at how in grown thoughts can be changed by several weeks working in a cave, field or kitchen. People should pay for their crimes but they should not pay with their lives." The Queen placed her half eaten peach on her plate and looked up at the Conqueror.
"What about murderers?"
Queen Barbara crossed her arms across her chest and frowned. "It used to be my responsibility to punish murderers but ... I felt I could never understand the pain the family and friends of the victim."
"So I took it upon myself to write a new law, one where the family and friends decide how the murderer is punished."
"And if they decide on death?"
Barbara crossed her legs at the ankle and frowned slightly, "if they decide that is a fair punishment for the crime then I have to agree. It's Amazon law after all."
"And if it were one of your own guards that was the murderer ... let's take this young blonde girl here ... would you still agree?"
Barbara turned her head to look at her blonde guard, who stood stoic and strong next to the door. She was within easy reach of her sword, the Queen and the dead bolt on the heavy wooden door.
"Gabby understands if she murderers someone in cold blood she will be punished ... by whatever the family decides," Barbara finally stated calmly.
"Does she follow you everywhere?" Helena asked with a sarcastic tone to her voice.
"She does. Just as your guards follow you where ever you tell them too." Barbara picked up the last of her peach and ripped it in half. Offering half to Helena, Barbara dropped the other piece into her mouth.
"And is Gabby just a guard, Queen Barbara? She isn't `special'," The drawl of Helena's voice was unmistakable and Queen Barbara's face tightened.
"Gabby is a royal guard and a friend, nothing more," she insisted tersely. Proud of the way Gabby didn't flinch or jump at the bait laid by the sneering conqueror.
"Are you sure?" Helena asked as she picked up her goblet and took several graceful sips of wine. "Such a beautiful creature ... and you, My Queen, any woman would have to be blind, deaf and mute to turn down your advances."
"Gabby has her own personal life ... and she isn't significant to this conversation.
Helena nodded softly but couldn't help the gleaming glint of understanding at Barbara's defence of the young girl.
"What about slaves?" Helena asked as she accepted the peach.
"Slavery is a punishment not a trade," Barbara explained. "Although it is difficult to keep the illegal deals from being passed in the whole Amazonian Kingdom, it's a rather large place."
"So I've heard."
After a few moments of silence Helena nosily cleared her throat, catching the attention of the guards outside. "If you don't mind, Queen Barbara, I'd prefer to discuss our peace negotiations without an audience. Gabby can be escorted back to her quarters and her sisters."
Barbara nervously looked to the four armed men that had entered the room at the Conqueror's demand and her small, but lithe, guard.
"No harm will come to her, I can promise you that," Helena said softly at the panicked look on her guests face.
Barbara narrowed her eyes, "Nothing had better happen to her between here and her room or you will have the entire Amazonian nation to answer to, Conqueror."
"Ah, yes, that's quite a threat My Queen. Nothing is to happen to the girl, or be it on your heads; no one is to lay a single finger on her. Now go."
With a quick look to her Queen the royal guard flowed from the room, followed by the four guards. As the door slammed shut the Queen turned back to her hostess. "Now we are alone, maybe you'd like to start the negotiations."
With a soft smile Helena picked up her fruit basket and waved a peach in front of her guest.
"Or course, I'll trade you this peach for your army, how about that?"
Raising a lone red eyebrow the Queen frowned deeply. "I would appreciate your maturity in this situation, Conqueror."
"Of course, Queen Barbara," Helena said with a smirk. She pulled several scrolls from the table beside her and laid them out in front of her guest. "A peace treaty, I allow you to trade in my kingdom and you allow me to trade in yours. Livestock, farm lands and gold excavation is permitted in both kingdoms."
Shaking her head sadly Barbara folded her fingers together and fixed the Conqueror with a deadly stare. "You must think me stupid. I'm well aware of the gold in our streams and our fertile lands help breed some of the finest stock and cattle known to woman or man. I do not wish to trade with you, Conqueror. I simply want for our kingdoms to be open and peaceful."
"You mean to say there is nothing I can gain in this agreement?" Helena asked roughly.
"I mean to say that these negotiations were set up so that we could find an easy solution to all the blood shed we're been experiencing the last few months," Barbara reminded her stonily.
"And I need to gain something ..."
"Why? Why must everything be about personal or political gain?" Barbara asked tersely standing suddenly and marching across the room. She turned to the white gossamer curtains and stared as the sun set slowly behind the mountains of her birth lands.
"Are you so far encompassed in your own evil desires that you cannot see what is for the greater good?" she demanded as she marched back across the room, placing a hand on each arm of the other woman's chair and stared into bright blue eyes.
The Conqueror's startled expression lasted merely seconds before she regained her composure and replaced the look on her face with a seductive grin. "Not all of my desires are evil, My Queen," she purred.
Queen Barbara refused to be shocked by the young brunette's obviously lustful tones. She pressed forward with her best unimpressed mentor façade -- used on many students in her time as Queen - "Helena, Conqueror, you cannot surprise me or draw me to your bed."
"I can't?" Helena whispered, one hand slowly drawing up the smooth length of flesh keeping her locked in her chair.
An involuntary shiver crept along the Queen's limbs displaying her arousal and leaving her wide open for the Conqueror's advances. "It seems to me, My Queen, that I am completely able and willing to draw you to my bed."
"You ..." The Queen whispered softly, still captured by the deep blue of the Conqueror's eyes, "are a child. I punish people for what you are suggesting."
"I'm not a child. I rule this country. I am feared by the deadliest assassins and murderers in the known world. Does that sound like the life of a child to you, Barbara?" Helena reached up, lacing her fingers into long tresses of red hair.
"No, not a child," The Queen whispered as Helena slowly brought her head down, connecting their lips in a searing kiss.
Pulling away half heartedly Barbara tried to step back but found herself drawn to the heat of the strong body surging towards her. She knew she could call to the guards just down the hall but all possibility of speech left her as two strong, sun licked arms captured her shoulders and a soft mouth delivered soft kisses to her temples.
Lost in a haze of lust Helena didn't stop herself from ripping at the clothing of the beautiful redhead in front of her. Garments became loose as she backed her quarry towards the sleeping chambers and her soft bed.
As Barbara's calves hit a soft mattress she snapped herself back from the lust that had started to consume her very soul. "I can't. I'm here to negotiate not ... not ... well, not this."
"Just for tonight," Helena whispered, resting her chin on a strong shoulder and surrounding her senses in the musky smell of the Queen's skin, "Let's not be The Queen and the Conqueror, rulers looking for peace or retribution. Let's just be Barbara and Helena, two souls looking for comfort."
Resting her lips on the elegant curve of the brunette's neck the Amazon Queen sighed deeply. Strong fingers were making quick work of the mounds of leather and steel that were her royal garments. Piles of material landed beside her legs as the Conqueror shucked her blue silk robes and stood gloriously, uninhibitedly naked before her soon to be lover.
"You are ..." The Queen swallowed nervously and chuckled at herself as she trailed her fingers over a protruding collarbone and down to a shapely waist. "Stunning," she finished as she traced the curve of a lightly tanned leg, testing the wetness at the Conqueror's apex and bringing a moan to her lips.
"As are you, my beautiful Queen," Helena responded, bringing their bodies together quickly. Barbara groaned deep in her throat at the delicious feel of skin on skin, breast to breast.
"Oh sweet Zeus," Queen Barbara of the Amazons muttered softly as a ray of sunshine hit her directly in the face, "Who turned on the sun?"
A soft chuckle came from her right and she forced herself to open her eyes. When she gazed at the beauty lying naked beside her she smiled brightly. "Good morning Conqueror."
"Good morning, Queen Barbara."
"It certainly is," she agreed and rolled onto her stomach, stretching her neck out for a leisurely kiss. Helena leant forward granting her Queen a soft kiss to the lips. "Although," Barbara considered, "We never did figure out the rest of those negotiations."
"You can have what ever you want."
The Queen laughed at her blissfully calmed partner and rolled out of bed to gather her clothes and wash her face. "We must hurry now Conqueror, I need to be on my way back to the rest of my Amazons within the next few candle marks."
"I propose a peace treaty," Helena exclaimed from her bed, "An understanding that no one of my kingdom is to set foot on Amazonian land for any other reason than visiting family or legal trading, and the same for my kingdom. How does that sound?"
"That," The Queen said as she struggled into her tight leather top, "is all I ever wanted. Thank you."
Helena jumped from her reclining position and wrapped her arms around her bed mate's slender waist. "And I must thank you, My Queen, for I have never met anyone able to keep up with my passions as you did."
Barbara struggled out of the brunette's strong grasp, blushing and spluttering.
A sharp burst of laughter bought her attention back to Helena.
"A royal blush," the brunette giggled immaturely, "how quaint."
"The slave Helena returned to the village with a lovely young deer, Princess," Gabby, the royal guard, proudly told the young blonde woman in the bath tub behind her.
"Oh," the girl sighed deeply. "She's quite a good hunter isn't she. I'm surprised that Barbara hasn't put her on hunting detail yet. Surely she's served her mandatory sentence by now?"
"If I may, Princess?"
"Of course, you know you can, Gabby," the blonde woman said softly, motioning for her blonde guard to come closer. The guard picked up a yellow sponge, rolled her sleeves above her elbows and proceeded to wash the exposed skin in front of her.
"I believe that Helena hasn't been put on hunting detail because Queen Barbara is ... was, personally involved with her at some point."
"Barbara took a body slave?" the Princess asked purposely feinting surprise.
"Oh of course not, Princess, I believe that they were physically involved during the peace negotiations a few summers ago." "Really," the Princess muttered as she washed her arm and felt her guard run a cloth between her shoulder blades. "And you would know this how?"
The scrubbing stopped for a second. "I'm sorry Princess. I shouldn't have said anything. It was simply a rumour at the time, started by a castle guard. I'm sure it was just vicious talk. Some of her guards were rather ... crude."
"Yes, Princess?" Dropping her wash cloth to the floor beside her bathtub the Princess gracefully rose sending streams and drops of water trailing down her body.
"It's ok to call me Dinah when we're alone, you know."
Gabby smiled brightly and held a fluffy blue towel up to her blonde friend. "Thank you ... Dinah."
Sharing a brilliant white smile with the guard, Dinah wrapped the towel around her body tighter and walked into her dressing room to change before night came and she was summoned to the food tent for dinner.
Two Summers Ago
The dark haired conqueror smiled happily as a blur of red hair and feathers flew through her throne room, bypassing the commoners waiting patiently in line for their leader to pass judgement on their insignificant wants and needs.
"Queen Barbara," she exclaimed happily as the servants and peasants scrambled out of the Queen's way. She was furious, that much was clear to the woman sitting in the jewel and silk encrusted throne. "What can I do for ..."
"Silence, Conqueror! How dare you!" The royal Amazon stood still and strong as her guards caught up with her and filed behind her, watching the Conqueror's guards reach for their weapons at the ready.
"How dare I what?" The dark haired beauty seethed. She hated when people rushed into her castle throwing accusations around like dinars at a parade.
"You sent men onto our lands! You have violated the treaty we set last summer!"
The group of startled commoners around the fighting couple gasped, alerting their ruler to their presence. "Leave!" she screamed at them, trying not to smile at their retreating forms.
"You broke the treaty Conqueror," the Queen accused from between gritted teeth. "You decided to be the betrayer."
"My Queen, if you'll just listen for a few moments," The Conqueror insisted.
"No. The treaty is off. Gather your army, Helena Conqueror of Greece. Amazonia declares war." With a final flourish of feathers, leather and red hair the Queen of the Amazons stormed from the Conqueror's kingdom with her band of trusty guards following.
"Majesty, we received word from the town of Apolisis, they were ransacked early last week. Amazon's they say."
"Poliosis was attacked not four days ago; they're coming in from all directions. Something must be done!"
"Amphipolis is near ruins ... Xena isn't impressed, my Queen. She is threatening reprisals."
"Enough," the exasperated Empress finally called, placing her hands over her eyes. She had simply tried to help her counterpart. To send some men into her lands to protect the Amazon Queen from several rumored assassination attempts.
"The Queen has made her decision and she is executing it," she explained to the guards, messengers and advisors standing around her throne, cluttering her throne room. "We simply have to defend ourselves."
The chorus of affirmations echoed around the great hall, much to the Conqueror's disgust. "Perdicles, prepare the men for war, we leave at first light. Negotiations have taken us no where. We will force our way onto Amazon lands and take them as our own."
A series of cheers bought a smile to Helena's face. Her men were nothing if not ruthless in their own pride. It was rare to find a thinking man in her ranks; all of her soldiers were men of action. A fact she was proud of.
"Prepare my horse," she said to a young boy re-filling her wine goblet, "If my men are to fight the Amazon nation I will be there right beside them."
Gabby rushed from her post at the front gate where she had been awaiting news from an undercover sister in Greece. She ploughed her way through guards and doors to the centre of the palace, rudely interrupting her Queen who was in the middle of yet another war room discussion.
"Helena was seen entering Amazon lands just a few candle marks ago. She has her army with her, maybe seven hundred men, all well armed. She was headed straight for our village, My Queen," the blonde guard huffed as she tried to catch her breath, panic and exertion leaving her mouth dry and her heart racing.
"I see," the Queen said softly then turned back to her maps and began another round of arguments with her advisors on the benefits of taking Helena's army in a frontal or rear attack.
Helena rode slowly along a deserted trail not far from where her men were currently setting up fires, tents and food for the evening. She was barely a two candle mark journey from the Amazon village where Queen Barbara was staying.
Helena smiled as she contemplated sneaking into the compound and starting her own negotiations with the Queen. Her mind drifted to the last time she had `negotiated' with the Queen. An enjoyable time was had by all and the negotiations had been fair.
She should have kept her word to the Queen, she knew that now. Instead of intruding on the Queen's laws she should have sent a message, a warning to her friend and things would still be as they had been. Pleasant, secure, almost fun, Helena could invite her counterpart to diners again and they could tease the fashions of their neighbouring countries or complain loudly about the vintage of the wine, or how weak the mead was. Things would certainly be simpler, she was sure of that.
Her horse pawed nervously at the ground, his head bobbing up and down as if refusing to go any further. Helena petted the poor thing on its head and crawled down from her saddle. She wasn't ready to return to her men yet but her steed was undoubtedly tired after walking all day.
Tying her reins to a near by tree she let the animal much on the green grass by the side of the road and continued her solitary walk down the path. She would go as far as the small creek one of her men had said was at the end of the road.
She heard the creek before she saw it, the sounds of splashing and soft singing enough to send her senses into high alert. She crouched down low into the undergrowth around her and carefully picked her way through the piles of tree matter littering the forest floor. Slowly she made her way towards the gentle sounds of the river running over rocks in its path and the lapping of ripples against the banks.
Finding a large rock near the stream she levered herself up, careful to keep her body balanced and out of sight. Helena listened intently to the soft voice floating across the water to her and she wasn't at all surprised to see a beautiful naked blonde woman kneeling by the side of the creek.
For a second the woman stopped singing and held a white dress in one hand, a wash board in the other. Holding the material over her head to catch the light of the setting sun, the woman examined a faded green stain on the front of the garment before smiling and laying it on a rock to her side to dry.
Picking up her song once again the woman turned to her pack, retrieving a long blue dress and hair brush. She pulled the blue cloth over her head and settled it around her hips before lifting her arms and running her brush through her hair.
"Would you please come out now, it's awful unsettling having someone watch me bathe," the blonde woman whispered across the stream. The Conqueror stiffened in her hiding place, in the many years she had been in battle she had never been spotted or noticed while hiding. While pulling herself off of her hiding rock Helena suddenly decided that maybe she was getting old.
"I didn't realise anyone else would be here," the Conqueror told the woman.
The blonde girl simply smiled. "No bother. Actually this is a private stream, Amazon land, you understand. So it's fair to believe that no one would be here but ... well ... no harm done. I'm Dinah."
The young woman paddled into the stream and offered her hand to the leather clad woman on the other side of the stream.
Helena, for her part, hesitated. This was Princess Dinah of Amazonia.
"Uh ... Helena," the Conqueror stammered stupidly and gripped Dinah's forearm in a warrior's handshake.
"Oh," The blonde gasped as their hands and arms came into contact. A tiny sliver of fear entered her face as she realised she was talking to the woman responsible for putting her Queen in a right royal mood for the past few moons. This woman who make it so she had to bribe a castle guard to let her out onto the grounds of her own kingdom.
"Are you going to capture me and use me as leverage?" the Princess asked with a grin as she strode quickly back to her bag where her weapons were neatly tucked into the ground. Two sais' and a sword lay covered by leaf litter and dirt.
"If I was here to do that I would have done it already," the Conqueror laughed.
"What are you doing here, Conqueror?"
Dinah sat on the floor and crossed her legs gracefully as she picked up her clean clothing and started to fold it. She looked up, catching the dark haired woman's beautiful ocean eyes.
"I'm walking, Princess."
Helena marched across the stream and just as gracefully dropped herself beside the Princess to help her fold her laundry. The blonde caught her surprised expression before it was obvious to her impromptu guest.
"Don't you have servants to do this for you?" the dark haired woman asked as she folded a short white top with no sleeves and added it to the growing pile of shirts in front of the Princess.
"I have a maid. Her name is Pia. But I prefer to do my own laundry," the Princess said sternly.
"Oh, of course, Queen Barbara's negative views on slaves. A maid ... how nice. I suppose she's paid to work?"
"Of course she is," the Conqueror shook her head sarcastically and placed another shirt on the pile.
They sat quietly together, folding linens and watching the sun slowly sink along the horizon. Little more than a candle mark later Dinah shoved the folded piles into her bag, slung it onto her back and retrieved her weapons, securing her Sais in her boots and her sword on her hip.
She took a moment to look at her companion. "Why are you here?"
Helena stood, brushed the dirt from her leather and looked the Princess in the eye.
"I'm in love with your Queen," the Conqueror said flatly. She ignored the shocked expression on the blonde's face and continued hoping that Dinah would take the words back to her Queen.
"I simply sent my men into your lands because I heard of an assassination attempt on Barbara's life. I was trying to save her ... when I tried to explain the Queen would have none of it and she proposed war. I took her challenge and defended myself. I am only here today to see if we can come to an agreement, a treaty, a negotiation ... anything just so we don't have to fight."
"You love her?" the blonde mumbled numbly. She had forever been trying to convince her Queen to take a consort, or a lover. Dinah knew that all the time Barbara spent alone made her a bitter and lonely woman.
Dinah reached out, taking the Conqueror's hand in her own. The young woman stumbled backwards as an explosion of pure emotion and rehashed memories struck her. She had never seen Barbara happy ... except for the few days after she returned from the treaty negotiations with the Conqueror. Dinah smiled.
"Midnight is the change of guards, I can get you inside ... maybe you can talk to her."
Helena smiled brightly. "You won't regret this, Princess," she said happily as she bowed to the blonde.
Dinah giggled as she launched herself up into the trees and started the short journey back to her village.
Helena crept quietly along the north wall of Queen Barbara's residence. The castle loomed out from the centre of the court with a perfect view of Helena's men rowdily cleaning weaponry and telling cruel tales of past wars.
She rolled her eyes every time her sensitive hearing caught another bark of masculine laughter or a rowdy burst of song.
The dark haired woman watched as a curly haired guard stared out at her men with a wistful smile on her face. The young woman's lips moved every so often as if speaking to an imaginary friend. Helena almost laughed as one of her infamous sixth senses picked up on the lithe body securely resting behind the wall.
Princess Dinah rose from her sitting position and looked down the side of her castle's wall. She searched the darkness keenly looking for any sign of her guest. Only the slight movement of a shining sword gave her any clue as to where the dark beauty was waiting.
"Gabby," Dinah whispered seductively, moving closer to the guard. "It's almost change of guard. Take a few minutes with me, will you?"
Gabby, for her part, simply stared at the beautiful woman in front of her. As gob smacked as she was at the Princess' sudden urge to socialize she wasn't an idiotic woman, she saw her chance and readily took it.
Swinging the blonde Princess into her tight grip she moulded her lips to a long stretch of perfect neck and giggled softly. Dinah moaned as skilful lips played with her neck, her ears, her hair.
The Princess saw her own chance and greedily pushed Gabby against the wall, hindering her sight of the castle walls.
Helena took one look at the passionate couple and with extraordinarily powerful legs, leapt over the high castle wall into a pile of animal food. It stuck to her hair and clothes but she didn't stop to pull it off. Keeping her eyes on the guards and watching for any unexpected company she stealthily crossed the court yard and climbed the castle wall using a healthy vine as leverage. The Queen had mentioned her love of heights and views during one innocent conversation with the Conqueror so Helena knew to head to the highest possible vantage point and check as many rooms as she could.
From the roof she located four possible rooms and by lowering herself into windows she searched without having to enter the Queen's abode.
Trying to calm her desperate nevers after almost waking a room of servants Helena lowered herself onto the balcony in front of the third window. The Queen sat at a beautifully carved desk with a scroll sitting gracefully in her left hand, a quill in her right.
Helena smiled to herself. Even while alone the Queen was dressed immaculately, her royal garb perfectly pressed and cleaned. Her weapons merely inches away from her hands.
The young Conqueror stepped forward, careful not to catch her boots on any loose carpets or rouge stones and allowed the beautiful redhead to notice her presence.
"I could call my guards, you'd be thrown into the dungeons and this war would be over," the Queen said softly without looking up from her work.
Helena stopped cold. She nervously looked around the room and moved her hand slightly to the right so it grazed the hilt of her sword. "How did you know?" she demanded.
Still keeping her eyes on the parchment in front of her the Queen simply pointed to a small gold rimmed mirror hanging by her left shoulder. Helena looked from the mirror to the Queen and swore.
"Leave your weapons on the balcony," the Queen ordered as she stood from her chair and removed the feather ring from her head.
The dark woman struggled with her inner fears for a moment. She felt helpless without her weapons. Her senses screamed at her as she unbuckled her belt and dropped it to the floor. She left her breast dagger on the pile of worn leather.
"How did you manage to enter my castle alive, Conqueror?" Queen Barbara asked from her bed, where she was busily removing her confining leather boots.
"I had a little inside help," the dark woman answered honestly as she pulled her armour off and dropped it to the floor.
The Queen removed her leather halter top, pulling long sashes of feathers from her shoulders and considered the Conqueror's answer.
"Tell me who and they shall be punished," the Queen whispered hotly as the brunette ripped the leather skirt from her hips. Helena simply grinned, "My secret. Are these going to be as fun as our last negotiations?"
"Maybe," the Queen groaned as Cupid's bow lips covered her cheek bones and long finger explored her southern regions.
"You mean you may resist?" the Conqueror teased.
The Queen smiled. She let her guard fall, collapsing onto her back on the large four poster bed that took up most of the room in her private chambers. "You may ... need to ..."
Helena ran her tongue along the sweet white skin of the Queen's collarbone and smiled to herself. "Need to what, My Queen?"
Barbara groaned as Helena's hands worked harder to relieve their prisoner of the tension slowly building in her long, well muscled limbs.
"Divide and conquer," the Queen gasped as dexterous fingers delved deeply inside.
"How do you do this to me?" Queen Barbara asked softly as she watched the sleeping figure beside her. She brushed an errant piece of chocolate brown hair away from closed eyes and smiled as her bed mate's perfect nose wrinkled.
"Ticklish," the young woman mumbled in her sleep.
"Sweet torture," she whispered to her companion, pressing her lips to one smooth cheek.
The Conqueror's eyes flew open at the soft contact; she pushed herself forcefully up in the bed and nervously glanced around the room as if expecting an unseen attack.
"Hey there," the Queen whispered reaching out to grasp Helena's strong shoulder. "Lay back down, it's another hour until guard change ... of course I can't let you leave my castle but I can ... not hinder in your attempts."
"Oh," Helena muttered softly before flumping back onto the bed and curling herself around the strong body of her redheaded companion. "I'll just stay here then."
Barbara controlled her laughter at the near childish lint in the Conqueror's voice. She smiled instead, allowing herself to run her fingers through the silky crest of hair resting on her chest. Her smile faltered as she remembered that the woman sharing her bed was a murderer, and a thief who was actively trying to destroy her kingdom.
"Why are we doing this Helena?"
"Because you forced me too," was the frank reply.
The Queen sat up suddenly, sending the other woman into a quick sprawl to save herself from falling off the side of the giant bed.
"I forced you to?" the Queen almost yelled. "You are the one that send men onto our lands without my permission. You are the one that childishly agreed to a compromise and then foolishly spat on a signed agreement first chance you had!"
"Barbara, please, let me explain."
But the Queen simply shook her head, "There is no need Helena. I understand your motives to keep me on your good side. Tonight has proven that much at least. I am a proud woman, Conqueror. Leave before I call my guards."
With a strong push the brunette was thrown from the bed to the floor where her clothes waited. She grabbed at her battle dress and hurriedly put it on while trying to reach out to her lover.
"Let me have just ... please, My Queen let me explain." Helena didn't care that her voice neared pitiful, or that the woman in front of her was naked. She wanted to explain to the woman she loved why she had gone against their agreement.
Helena panicked, grabbing at her clothes and boots then sprinting towards the balcony where she hoped her weapons were still waiting for her.
She dove from the high barrier just as the Queen's door was sent crashing to the floor. With sure jumps she managed to make it across the court yard before the arrows started to crash down around her. She screamed for her blonde partner as fire began to rain down with the arrows and angry shouts were heard from the buildings.
As the Conqueror dodged an arrow she saw a flash of blonde from the corner of her eye. Dinah rushed from a small hut in the corner of the castle grounds, wrapping herself in a silk blue robe. She threw her hands toward the Conqueror and a flash of blue light sent the arrows flying in all directions.
"Run," she screamed.
The Conqueror smiled sheepishly at the blonde then jumped high over the castle walls and started running.
"Men!" Helena yelled as she re-entered her camp site astride a large black war horse. The horse stomped at the ground agitatedly as though sensing its rider's mood.
"Prepare for war! We attack at dawn!"
A huge cheer started in the back and slowly made its way around the camp as men jumped from their sleeping skins and rushed to find weapons and prepare attack manoeuvres.
A harried and angry Queen paced around her throne room. Her second in command, Princess Dinah, stood silently to her side awaiting the tongue lashing she knew she deserved.
The Queen stopped and turned to her blonde protégé.
"You let her escape."
Without hesitation the Princess held her head a little higher and met the Queen's angry gaze. "Yes."
"You let her enter the castle and roam around."
The Queen took a step forwards into Dinah's personal space and glared down at her. "Are you insane?"
Dinah smiled softly, "not nearly as insane as you, my Queen."
The Queen growled and stepped backwards, taking a seat in her throne.
"You were irresponsible, you will be punished."
The Queen rested her chin on her hand, her elbow on her chair and stared at the young Princess. She knew of Dinah's powers, her ability to see into people and to create blasts of pure energy. She also knew that if Dinah so wished she could over throw her Queen and rule the Amazon nation. She wondered if the girl was a demi-goddess.
Barbara was no village fool she knew how much respect Dinah held inside her small body.
"You knew before," the Queen suddenly realised out loud. "You knew you would be punished and you still allowed our enemy to enter the castle walls unescorted."
Dinah simply held her ground and nodded.
"I don't understand exactly why," the Queen stated then waited for her answer.
Dinah suddenly felt caught and things started to close in on her. The throne room could hold nearly a thousand people plus banquet tables during the solace seasons but to Dinah it felt like a small dog house. She was caught. She knew the Queen would punish her, she knew she would be disappointed but she wasn't expecting to be asked her reason.
"You. Are in love, Barbara," she suddenly blurted out, turning a bright shade of red as soon as the words left her lips.
Barbara's chin fell from her hand, her mouth hanging open in a very unflattering pose. "Excuse me?"
"You love the Conqueror."
Barbara just stared at her charge. She ground her teeth together then turned away from the blonde woman. "Get out."
"B .. But Barbara..."
Dinah lowered her head, dropped into a slight bow then rushed from the throne room never pausing, not even to wipe the tears from her eyes.
Barbara knew Helena's pride had been burnt. She knew that the Conqueror would not leave her alone until some form of revenge had been extracted. So she sat in her throne room, alone once again.
It had been seasons since she had shared any of her private thoughts.
Her war plans were laid solidly in her sub-conscious where no one, with the exception of Dinah, would even know their form until she declared them.
Seven long season cycles had passed since she had shared any of her plans, hopes or feelings with anyone other than herself. Dinah's mother, Carolyn of the Southern Amazons, had been a wonderful advisor to the Queen but after her death Barbara could find no one to plug the empty hole left inside her.
Until she had met the captivating dark haired woman who now held her village in a proverbial head lock.
Helena would attack, the Queen had no doubt that come sunrise Helena would storm her kingdom and take whatever she felt she wanted.
Helena of Greece was truly a wonderful tactician. The Queen almost laughed as she thought of all the dormant feelings the young woman had purposely drawn out of her. The lust and desire she though was long gone, again coursed through her body with a fiery vengeance.
And something else.
Some other forgotten feeling so pure and innocent that she couldn't recognise it at all, a feeling she was sure she had felt before but feared it was so long ago that she couldn't remember it. She thought it may be a mistake, a dangerous and life threatening mistake, to act.
The Queen knew that her Conqueror needed to learn many things before she could advance her holdings, before she could flow over the lands around her, securing properties and power by the town. She also knew that her young lover was in need of guidance. And who better to teach it than the Queen of the Amazons herself.
Barbara smiled to herself. She knew one day soon she would see the magnificent beauty of her lover in the firelight of her cabin. She would feel the strength of the dark haired woman's arms around her body and the surges of pleasure that seemed inevitable every time their eyes met.
Just as Barbara stood to retire to her chambers a loud, excited voice echoed around the castle walls.
"The Conqueror's men approach the north gates, Queen Barbara!"
"Conqueror, Queen Barbara of Amazonia approaches!" The shrill call from the perimeter guards brought Helena out of a particularly vicious dream of her redheaded love haplessly nailed to a cross by a sneering demon with bright blue eyes.
"Enter," she mumbled sleepily and climbed from her warm silk sheets, rubbing at her eyes she stumbled to her dressing area and splashed cold water over her face. She heard the entry flaps of her tent lifted and the soft pat of leather boots on the bare dirt floor. Sighing softly she wiped her dripping cheeks on a conveniently placed towel and turned towards her guest.
"Have you come to surrender, My Queen?"
"I come to ask your forgiveness," the Queen said softly, staring at her clasped hands which she held rigidly in front of her. "I acted rashly and I wish to negotiate peace."
"Is that your answer to everything?" the dark haired woman snapped as she pulled her sleeping shift over her head and reached for her leather battle dress. "Fight for a while until you're about to lose then come to negotiate peace? Maybe it won't work this time Barbara ... maybe I want you to surrender."
"Please ... Majesty, the Amazonian lands are great and vast we have much to offer you. Surely we are more valuable as a combined nation instead two single nations fighting each other," the redheaded woman begged, her eyes still firmly locked on her twitching fingers.
"And you become what? My regent? My consort? My body slave? Do you honestly think you could live under my ruling ... after so long as a Queen, do you think you could follow the orders of others?"
"I will follow you Helena."
The Conqueror stopped her daily preparations; she let her fingers fall from the buckles of her leather garments and turned to face the Queen. She could see such honesty in the beautiful green eyes that shyly turned towards her.
Taking a step forward the Queen rested her palm against Helena's warm cheek. "I'm an old woman, Helena," she admitted quietly, "And my replacement ... My Dinah, she has no desire to be a royal. She trains to take my place only because I ask it of her. If she had a choice she would rather follow Gabby into the forest and start a family, learn about healing, or become a musician ... like her mother. She's so young, so naïve ... but my sisters need a ruler, they need peace and I believe you will bring that to them Helena."
Closing her eyes against the onslaught of soft finger caressing her cheek Helena allowed herself to indulge in memories she was sure she had firmly locked in the deepest darkest corner of her mind. Lips on lips, skin to skin, their bodies moving together in the early morning light.
"But what of you, My Queen? How do you fit into all of this?" the Conqueror whispered as the body in front of her solidly pressed against her front and long fingers wound into the tresses of her silky chocolate hair.
"I will be loyal to you, my love. Always loyal to you," she whispered hotly into the delicate shell of her dark partner's ear, brushing her lips along a fleshy earlobe.
Helena's head swam with emotion; her eyes fluttered open and shut a few times. She didn't like the feeling of helplessness that was quickly settling over her body. Her legs became weak, her arms falling to her sides, unable to move anymore. Her head bobbed loosely on her neck.
"What ... what ... have you ...?" the Conqueror gasped.
"It was a simple sleeping draught in your wash water, Conqueror. I will never surrender ... it is you that needs to learn the value of trust, respect and good leadership, not I," the Queen whispered as she lowered the lithe body of the Conqueror onto the silk covered pallet in the corner of the tent.
A distorted owl call flew from the Queen's mouth, through the tent, out into the rest of the camp and with one raw of pure battle lust a young blonde Princess on a black war horse raised her sword above her head and lead a group of young, well trained Amazons into battle against the Royal Army of the Greece.
"Conqueror of what, the lower intestines of her hunt?" a burly, drunk Amazon laughed loudly as the `Conqueror' in question placed a plate heaped with food in front of her. Helena ground her back teeth together to stop herself from retaliating with some choice comments about the drunken Amazon's mother.
She instead swept around the room gracefully, refilling mugs, replacing plates and clearing spills from the tables of the dining hall. All the time purposely keeping her eyes in front of her, less she accidentally capture a look at the Queen seated at her high table at the head of the room. The Queen, for her part in the dangerous charade, watched the young woman bustle around the room; she noticed the weary limp in her prisoner's gait, her obvious attempts to keep her comments and eyes to herself. And she felt pity, and sorrow for what could have been. Then she felt guilt.
Helena was a born ruler, taken from her Army and from her kingdom then forced to serve the women who ransacked her villages, her camp, stole her livestock and murdered countless innocents in their thirst for complete freedom. Barbara knew she was no different to the ruthless Conqueror who had sent men into her lands so many summers ago. But she also knew that no matter how much evil she saw inside herself, or Helena, she would always atone for her crimes. She would continue to lead her sisters through their lives and keep them safe from outside forces.
Dinah appeared by the Queens side suddenly, startling the redhead out of her wool gathering.
"Great spirit tonight, My Queen," the young blonde said happily as she greedily started on a large hunk of meat in front of her. "I heard Helena had been hunting again but I wasn't willing to allow myself to believe it. I always feel so sad when they're just teasing me."
Biting down and chewing didn't stop the young woman from her monologue and the Queen had to watch carefully for escapee pieces of meat flying in her direction.
"I bet she seasoned and cooked it as well. She's such a wonderful cook. Why haven't you changed her to hunting or cooking detail yet? She'd make every meal this wonderfully I think. Or maybe you could have her put in charge of some of the young girls, they're about to start their training, she'd be a wonderful teacher."
Oblivious to the Queen's quiet interruption the Princess continued with her speech, carelessly waving a hand full of deer around her head.
"Or the carving students. She made the lovely inscriptions on the library door last month..."
"Dinah, please," the Queen tried again more forcefully this time. Sure that she had the young woman's attentions at last the Queen held eye contact. "I will allow Helena to become a part of this tribe when I feel the time is right."
Dinah gulped nervously before forcing a small smile to her face, "Of course, my Queen."
"How is Gabby?" the Queen asked, her attempt to change the subject and place a small amount of ease between herself and the blonde woman sitting beside her. The Queen almost regretted her words when a mouth full of meat and wine sprayed across the table and onto the woman seated below them.
"Gabby?" the Princess choked. "I don't know how Gabby is. Why would I know how Gabby is? She's just my guard, it's not like we're sleeping together ... I mean friends. It's not like we're even really friendly ... not close at all."
"Dinah," the Queen sighed exasperatedly, "she's spent the last six months in your sleeping quarters every night, do you expect me to believe you two aren't sleeping together."
Dinah's mouth fell open, revealing more chewed meat and swirls of red wine. Barbara grimaced and looked down at her own meal, which she was suddenly less eager to eat.
"Nothing goes unseen in this village by me and as for you taking a consort ... it wouldn't be such a bad idea. The Amazons don't need to see both their rulers left to a life of solitude and abstinence."
Dinah giggled nervously, "No problem in that area let me assure you."
Barbara grimaced. She could accept that her young friend was having an intimate relationship; she didn't need to hear the details.
"I'm happy for you, Dinah."
"Thank you," the young Princess smiled and turned back to her dinner. "But what about you, Barb?"
Dinah watched from the corner of her eye as Helena looked at the mess in front of the royal dining table, then to the redhead seated directly in front of it. The Princess smiled spitefully and dropped a half eaten potato to the floor in front of her. Helena scowled then moved forward slowly, out of the Queen's sight.
"You've been alone for a long time, don't you think it's time you went out and met new people," the Princess pressed as Helena stopped dead. The blonde smiled as her leather clad foot hit the soft side of the young server. Dinah nudged Helena's hip with her foot and Helena grabbed her ankle, holding it in place.
"I have no interest in any relationship, Dinah, you know that."
Helena froze as she listened.
"No one?" the Princess pushed. "Not even say ... a rather beautiful server girl with long shiny hair and sparkly blue eyes?"
Helena saw the Queen's foot stop tapping.
"This conversation is over." The Queen then pushed her chair back and stood, revealing a stunned Helena seated near her feet.
"What are you ..." The Queen's voice caught in her throat as the dark haired woman blushed bright red and tried to stutter an apology before rushing back towards the kitchen.
Barbara shook her head slowly, catching the eye of the guard standing behind her.
The Queen sighed deeply, "Have her bought to my chambers as soon as she's finished in the kitchen," she told the guard, then turned sharply on her heel and marched towards the library.
Gabby reached out slowly and swirled her fingers along the sharp collar bone of her bed companion. While her Princess was a woman of few words, her body language spoke volumes. Right now, Gabby could tell through the stiff stance of the blonde's shoulders, the creased forehead and pursed lips that her partner was deep in thought.
"Dinar for your thoughts," the curly haired guard asked softly as she pressed her lips to the shoulder in front of her.
"I think we should be bonded," her partner blurted out suddenly, as though waiting for the question to be posed.
Gabby almost laughed. She had been a witness to many of the Princess' sudden mood swings, fads and fashions, the weight loss phase had been one of the hardest on the guard.
"And why would you think that, Princess? I'm just your guard what possible use could I have as a royal," Gabby asked as she caressed Dinah's hip.
Dinah turned in her lover's arms, staring into the deep depths of her lover's eyes. "You're smart Gabby. Extra smart. They talk about you in the village, about your painting and writing, they talk about the way you can discuss authors and poets and philosophers with so much ease ... they're all jealous of your talents. You would be a valuable member of the royal court."
"Dinah ..." Gabby said warningly, "You know I can't."
Dinah's eyes displayed the hurt her heart felt at her friend's words. "Of course," the blonde blurted out as she stood from her bed and walked into the bathroom. "I'm probably not the only one you're seeing, someone as special as you. How could you love someone like me?!"
Gabby stared across the room as the naked figure disappeared into the bathing room. She could do nothing else as her heart broke and her eyes began to water. She let herself shed a few tears before she stood quickly and followed her Princess.
"You don't need to placate me Gabby, you may take your leave," the blonde woman said in an eerily dead voice as she wet a face cloth and roughly rubbed it across her face.
"I don't want to," the guard replied. She crossed her arms across her chest and stood tall, her chin pointing proudly to the ceiling.
"You leave now, guard, before I have you thrown in the stocks for insubordination," the Princess snapped.
"You can't do that," Gabby told her.
"I most certainly can," Dinah laughed evilly as she stormed across the room, putting her face to face with her guard.
"No you can't, Dinah. You can't throw your consort into the stocks just because you don't like what your hearing."
"You are no consort," Dinah snapped, her teeth grinding together in annoyance, anger and hurt. "You are a whore, guard, nothing more than a cheap whore."
"No, I'm not," the guard said confidently then wrapped her strong arms around her beloved and squeezed tightly, trapping the other woman close to her body. "I'm your consort, I'm your beloved and we will be bonded as soon as Artemis' moon shines down on us."
Dinah gasped as the arms around her threatened to squeeze the breath out of her. She smiled into the strong neck in front of her as tears started to course down her cheeks. "Even if Barbara can't be happy, at least I can," she whispered.
Gabby laughed gaily, "I think Barbara will be a lot happier than you think, my beautiful Princess."
Barbara spent as much time as she dared pestering the library assistant about the arrival of the newest scrolls from Rome. She was finally bustled from the room by the harried woman after a sly comment about the order of some of her more personal scrolls.
When the Queen arrived back at her chambers Helena was waiting on the balcony. The redhead watched the woman leaning out over the side of the building, possibly considering escape. Barbara smiled as she stepped into the room further and put several scrolls down on her desk for later perusal.
"I don't think they've installed escape ladders there yet," she whispered to the brunette.
Helena shuddered as the low voice made its way up her spine and into her brain. Short circuits fired as long repressed memories of the same voice whispering passionately to her surfaced. Reluctantly the brunette turned.
"I don't need a ladder to escape, My Queen," Helena answered as she sunk to her knees in a sign of respect for the royal standing in front of her.
The redhead nodded, licking her dry lips. "I've seen you in the practice yards. Your skills are quite supernatural. Are you a witch, Helena?"
Helena's eyes widened, all she needed was one Queen to call witch and she was burning faster than Cook's Sunday surprise.
"No, My Queen, my talents are simply a gift passed on from my mother's side of the family. Flexibility, strength, speed ... it's what made me such a good warrior."
"Made? Are you no longer a warrior?" The Queen asked as she sat at her desk and poured two mugs of wine from the pitcher by her bed.
Helena shrugged as she accepted the offered mug. "I'm simply a hunter, My Queen. I go into the woods and bring back food for the village."
"Yes, you do and you do it very well."
The brunette dropped back onto the floor, curling her legs under her to keep her rear end from the cold floor beneath her. "Thank you, My Queen. I do try."
Barbara smiled, "I have noticed you know. I notice all the work you do around here. It was you who fixed the hinges on the door to my chambers?"
A reluctant nod served as an answer.
"And the fences behind the healers hut? The loose scroll hooks in the library? And if I'm not wrong you are the one that keeps a watch over Princess Dinah when she disappears to the stream to do her laundry?"
"Sometimes I help her," Helena said with a smile.
"She respects you," the Queen observed. "She listens to you. She's come to me many a time with a pearl of wisdom or comment that's just a little to dark to be anything she could have read or heard from Gabby."
Helena lowered her head and stared at the floor. "I'm sorry, Queen Barbara, I'll stop talking to her if that's what you wish."
Barbara cocked her head to the side and studied the woman in front of her. She smiled to herself as she stood and walked across the room to the balcony. "Tell me something, Helena."
"Yes, My Queen?"
"If I were to release you, what would you do?"
Helena looked up from her position on the floor. Her eyes settled on the mirror leaning against the wall opposite her. She tilted her head to the side and caught a quick glance of the Queen's strong back in the reflection.
"I would visit my father," Helena answered honestly.
"And then what?"
"Well ... maybe if my father wanted me to stay for a short while I would but ..."
Helena dropped her head again. Her heart beat wildly against her ribs. Secrets she was sure she could keep suddenly bursting forth from her deepest parts and jumping madly at the front of her mind.
Taking a soothing breath Helena cleared her head of thoughts but continued to stare across the room, never turning to face her Queen.
"I would return here, My Queen. Even if I was only a servant I would come back to this village and serve in whatever capacity you would allow me."
The Queen smiled to herself again as she watched Gabby and Dinah exit the guard's hut, hand in hand and walk across the yard to a group of young rowdy Amazon's sneaking `samples' from the winter supply of mead.
"Even if you were only say ... a stable hand? Mucking out stalls and feeding animals ..."
"Yes, My Queen."
"Why?" The Queen asked as a loud cheer erupted from the group of Amazon's and Dinah was lifted onto someone's shoulders. She squealed delightedly as Gabby joined her on top of the group and they shared a kiss so passionate it could have melted ice.
"Because I would live my life in Tartarus if it meant I could look at you every day."
Barbara turned slowly. She believed what she heard. Helena had been nothing but devoted and trustworthy since she had stepped from her confinement tent and followed another prisoner to the kitchens.
"Do you remember the day you became our huntress Helena?"
The brunette chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully then nodded her head, sending strands of brown hair across her face which succeeded in hiding her fear laden eyes. "It was winter and a boar made it into camp and tried to hurt the children."
"Yes and then what happened?" The Queen pushed as she watched the cowering figure in front of her.
"I killed it."
"How did you kill it?"
Helena's eyes clouded with confusion but her heart knew to trust her Queen. "I broke its neck and then slit its throat. If I remember correctly we had a festival that night with its meat."
"Yes, we did. Why did you snap its neck? Why not break its front legs so it couldn't run at the children? Why not shoot it with an arrow?"
Helena crossed her eyes and thought back to her motivations at the time. "It was ..." the dark haired woman stumbled across her words, "It was the most humane way to kill it. It didn't know any better when it ran at the children, it was acting on instinct. So I killed it mercifully."
"You did. That's how I knew you were ready for a higher standing in our society. The Conqueror would have broken its legs, tortured it, played with it and revelled in its pain. But Helena didn't." Barbara reached down, running her hand along the brunettes sharp chin.
Blue eyes sparkled at the redhead's touch.
"Do you remember the day I rushed into your castle and claimed war against you Helena?"
The brunette simply nodded as she tried to keep her eyes from watering with tears.
"Do you remember trying to tell me about the men that were sent to assassinate me?"
Helena jumped and turned her head towards the Queen. "You knew."
Barbara smiled sadly, "There is no event, whispered rumour or secret on my lands that I do not know about. I knew that the men were coming to kill me."
"But you -
"Let me finish. I was rather surprised by your actions Helena. You've never struck me as being stupid. Outlandish, methodical and maybe a tad impetuous but never stupid, that's why I was very surprised that you would break the legal bindings of our contract just to stop three men from trying to assassinate me. I say trying, Helena, because they would not have been able to enter this village, I believe you know that now. Yes?"
The brunette nodded sadly and looked down at her feet, very ashamed by her less than elegant actions many summers before.
"I know now that there may have been certain ... feelings in you that made you act so out of character," the redhead stuttered.
Helena continued to stare at the floor near her Queen's feet.
"I believe that it is because of those feelings that you will always serve the Amazon Nation to the best of your ability so I believe that now you are ready to be free."
"Go visit your father and if you decide you want to come back after that I will be more than happy to give you a position here that will work well with your rather unique talents."
A single tear slipped from Helena's tightly closed eyes. "Thank you, My Queen, thank you."
Barbara turned away from the young girl and smiled to herself, "you are very welcome Helena and I've told you before ... you may call me Barbara."
Two Summers Earlier
The mumbled roar of anxious Amazons slowly grew as the first few riders of the Amazon war party cleared the outer boundaries of their compound. The women and children of the village waited for word of their sisters' efforts for nearly three candle marks before a lone messenger had raced to the guards to report minimal loss and a victory over the Conqueror of Greece.
Still the partners, mothers, and sisters waited anxiously to see if their family members had been a `minimal loss.' As the battled hardened Amazon warriors entered the compound a cheerful roar filled the compound, groups of Grecian warriors, the Conqueror's army, were securely tired and guarded amongst the victors.
Queen Barbara, her face covered in dirt and blood, stoically rode her horse through the crowds of celebrating women to a large ceremonial dais. She dismounted gracefully, if only a bit stiff in the limbs from a long ride with the unconscious Conqueror draped over the front of her saddle.
With heaviness in her heart that she had no expected the Queen placed the Conqueror on the steps of the dais where people hurried to catch a glimpse of the small woman who had almost destroyed their home.
"My people," the Queen called in a throaty voice, thick with the dust of travelling. Groups of warriors turned to watch their Queen as the other women around them silenced themselves and their children.
"Today we achieved a great victory that no lone man or woman has ever thought possible before. Today we faced the Conqueror of Greece and her army. Today we won!"
Women threw long streams of silk and leather into the air and screamed their happiness into the air.
"Today we have shown the world that the Amazon's are truly a force to be reckoned with!"
The crowd burst into enthusiastic applause and yells.
The Queen remained unsmiling as they crowds slowly settled again.
"And tomorrow, we shall show the world that Helena of Greece is simply a lost child, not fit for the crown! But tonight, tonight we celebrate!"
The queen smiled as she threw her arms into the air and a loud cheer flowed over her tired body. She was in no mood to dance or drink or sing, she simply wanted a long hot bath and some food before retiring to her chambers for a week to allow her aged body to recover.
As she dismounted the dais Queen Barbara directed two guards to secure the prisoners, including the dark haired brunette woman still propped against the stairs of the stage.
Dinah appeared at the redheads shoulder as she watched the guards roughly pass the Conqueror's body between them.
"I can't believe you killed her," Dinah whispered as tears coursed down her cheeks and mingled with the feathers of her battle dress.
Barbara turned her head to her young charge and smiled sadly. "I didn't," she reached up and brushed the blonde's tears from her face. "She's asleep. I'll deal with her in the morning."
"Oh," Dinah said with wide eyes as she watched the older woman limp towards her sleeping chambers. "That's ok then."
Dinah tossed and turned in her bed, the sheets and blankets winding themselves around her legs and assisting in making her less comfortable than she thought possible in the best bedding from Chin.
Within seconds she had given up, tossing her blankets to the floor she quietly slipped her warmest robe over her shoulders, slipped an apple into her pocket and crept out the door.
Gabby raised an eyebrow in question as the young princess entered the hall. Dinah simply smiled and crooked a finger at her friend to show her need for a guard.
Gabby let a capacious smile cross her lips as the Princess turned her back and headed for the door to the courtyard.
"Gabby, do you have your keys on you?" the Princess asked as she rushed quietly across the soft, dewy grass towards the prisons.
Gabby followed. A crease slowly knitted into her brow, "my princess, I know you like to ... in strange places. But the prisons?"
Dinah stopped and turned to her guard with a shocked look on her face. "Gabby!" she squeaked quietly then groaned and grabbed the guard by the wrist to drag her closer to the prison entrance.
"I want to see Helena not ... that."
"Oh!" Gabby muttered as she blushed and then rushed to open the door for the royal. "Are you sure?"
Dinah rolled her eyes and motioned for the guard to hurry.
Once inside Gabby turned her back to the rows of cells and stared out the window, keeping watch and giving Dinah as much privacy as possible.
"I didn't expect to see you here," Helena's throaty voice said from one darkened cell. Dinah had to squint into the darkness but she was sure she could see just a tiny sliver of light illuminating two dark blue eyes.
"Why not?" Dinah asked as she sat herself on an overturned water bucket in the corridor.
"I would expect Barbara to be angry enough not to let you out of her sight, especially after the other night."
"Barbara doesn't own me," Dinah snapped.
"Spoken like a true child."
"Look who's talking."
The blonde woman shifted backwards as an evil laugh filled the silence around them. "I'm no child."
"Maybe you've seen alot, Helena, but you're not half the leader Barbara is," the blonde said stiffly, "she's doing what is best, you'll do well to remember that when she comes to see you tomorrow to give you punishment."
"How did she punish you?"
Helena rolled her eyes and stepped out of the darkness into the only patch of moon light in her cell.
Dinah absently shuffled her pail backwards as she caught sight of the wild, almost feral look in the brunette's eyes.
"If your queen hadn't taken me surprise ... of all the stupid, immoral, un-warrior like things to do! A sleeping draught!"
"Helena! Please!" Dinah snarled as she stared at the woman in front of her, hard.
"What happened to my men? Why aren't they in here with me, you killed them didn't you?!" Helena's agitation slowly seeped from her skin as she started to pace the small cell.
Dinah watched the woman stalk in an animal like fashion. "Your men are fine. They're being held in the barn until we can ransom them back to the Grecian government," Dinah said softly, "There were very few casualties."
"How many?" the brunette demanded.
"Ten or twenty at most. You trained them to be good warriors Helena. They fought for a noble cause and they died believing in it. Their bodies will be sent back to their families - unharmed."
"And your warriors? How many Amazon bitches did we bring down?"
Dinah's head snapped back and her mouth creased into an ugly line. She closed her eyes momentarily then slowly climbed to her feet.
"I hope your attitude improves by the time Barbara comes to see you. If you decide to bad mouth our people in front of her she may not be as - lenient as I have been."
"Open the doors," Barbara demanded as she stepped into the empty jail and looked towards Helena's cell. It appeared empty but the queen knew better.
As soon as the strong bamboo and reed doors swung open a dark blur flew from the shadows of the cells walls and landed on Barbara, sending her backwards onto the ground.
The royal guards drew their swords and leapt for the two women struggling on the ground but before they could intercept a muffled order from their queen stopped them.
"Get out of here! Leave us."
The guards hesitated as they saw the Conqueror snarl and dive, almost as if to bite their queen. Slowly they backed their way out into the sunshine and stood guard at the door.
"Stop it Helena," Barbara grunted as she managed to bring her hand between their faces and grasp at the brunette's neck.
The Conqueror let out an unhuman howl as the queen pinched at the skin under her chin. With two quick movements of her arms the queen was back on her feet, holding two long bamboo sticks, towering over the younger woman.
"How -" Helena panted into the dirt, "How did you do that?"
"Simple instruction, using ones momentum, I'll be happy to teach you one day. You're to impetuous for your own good sometimes Helena. Sometimes the safest way to win a war is to deal with people gently."
"Liar! You're a liar and a coward, you wouldn't fight me, you were to scared," Helena snapped angrily as she held her arm across her middle and tried to stand.
Barbara reached out with her stick and rapped the side of the girls left knee sending her into the dirt again.
"For your safety and my own, I suggest you stay down while we have a little talk about what I'm going to do with you," the queen walked to the other side of the room and turned over a bucket to sit on. She watched as the young brunette struggled to rein in her temper and push her body into sitting position.
Once she was settled against the outside wall of her cell, Helena turned her bright eyes towards the quiet queen.
"Are you going to kill me?" the brunette asked angrily as she prodded at her own ribs to make sure none were cracked or injured in a serious way. She knew she couldn't rely on Dinah to assist her in an escape this time.
"I don't kill people, Helena."
"That's bullshit Barbara," Helena snarled, adding extra venom to the other woman's name. "Twenty of my men say otherwise."
"And nine of my warriors say you're a murderer."
Helena scoffed loudly, "Nine? Is that all? My men - "
"No, Helena," Barbara interrupted, "Nine of my warriors died by your sword alone. Your men injured my warriors at best, you're the one who showed no mercy and cut through them like they were merely a twig in your path."
Helena appeared momently shocked as the Queen stood from her makeshift chair and paced to the center of the prison.
"So what now," Helena spat as she watched the queen, "You kill me? Hang me for retribution?"
Barbara turned, her green eyes staring unblinkingly at the brunette, "All the time we spent together over the last year and you do not know me well enough to know that I do not kill."
"You rehabilitate," Helena moaned, spitting the words towards the woman sitting across from her, "I do not need to be rehabilitated."
"Yes you do. You're hot-headed, selfish and above all, you allow your emotions to dictate the way you lead. You'll learn," Barbara stood slowly and pressed down the front of her skirt.
Helena's eyes watched the redheads hands as they came to rest on the two long sticks she had left sitting next to the overturned bucket.
"You can make this easy on us Helena. You can go back in your cell and I can leave or you can make me put you back in there, your choice. How about a solid start to your recovery with the right decision?"
"If I don't, will you kill me?" Helena asked as she glared at the two long sticks, remembering just how much they hurt when contacting with her ribcage.
"I won't kill you," the redhead said as she twirled the batons through her fingers, "for the final time Helena, you are safe."
Helena glared, "You think you're so much better than me, don't you? Well you're not, your sword killed my men and I saw it. How does that make you any better than me?"
"I never said I was any better than you. I know, just as you do, sometimes to survive you have to conquer. Now, the easy way or the hard way?"
Helena sneered, her mouth curving evilly as her eyes glinted blue ice.
"I've never been one for the easy way," she gasped as she shoved herself to her feet and charged the redheads middle section.
"Do you think they're ok in there?" Dinah asked as she tried to peek past one burly guards shoulder. "I haven't heard any thumps or screams for a while."
"They're fine," Gabby assured the young blonde princess with a pat on her shoulder and a reluctant smile. "Barbara knows how to take care of herself."
"Are you sure?"
Gabby smiled, losing herself in the blue of her friend's eyes for just a few seconds.
Dinah blinked as a lock sounded and Barbara appeared from the prison, rubbing her long bamboo sticks between her hands.
"She's back in her cell. Make sure she has food and water. When she's ready to play fair with all the other kids have her sent to me. Dinah, you come with me."
The young blonde's eyes widened as she listened to the emotionless orders of her Queen and then the dead tone as she asked to be followed. She watched Gabby try to smile reassuringly but only manage a small grin.
"Your actions put every person in this village under threat!"
"I know I'm -"
"You acted recklessly, how can I trust you to take my throne when you cannot even show the smallest about of good judgement?!"
"Barbara please -"
"There is nothing you can do to make this better Dinah, what you have done is inexcusable. You are a royal, of high standard to this village, people look up to you."
Dinah dropped her eyes to the ground and silently willed herself not to cry.
"I have to admit that I'm finding myself rather perplexed by your attitude, if you mother was alive -"
Dinah's head snapped up and her eyes clouded over with rage.
"Ok fine, so maybe the whole queen thing skipped a generation or something because what I did made me like, the lowest form of human existence, obviously. But don't drag my mother into this."
"You used your powers on her," Barbara whispered bluntly in understanding finally.
"I wanted you to be happy Barbara; I thought if I helped her she'd be able to convince you of her reasons."
Barbara closed her eyes tightly and pinched the bring on her nose between her fingers, suddenly wondering why she had offered to take in an obviously gifted teenager to begin with.
"You may have been trying to help, Dinah, but your actions were uncalled for and out of line, I hope that you can learn from this experience."
Dinah stared at her queen, waiting for another form of punishment, mucking stalls, cleaning pots or hunting. It never came.
"Is that it? You're not going to punish me?"
Barbara sighed from her chair, "I don't think I could make you feel any worse than you do right now. You may leave."
Thoroughly humiliated and let down, Dinah sighed and walked from the room.
"I'm starting to wonder if you're worth as much trouble as you're causing."
Helena's head snapped up and peered through the tiny holes in the walls of her cell. She watched as Dinah nodded to her personal guard and smiled sweetly.
"You're hot on your guard. Very interesting. Does Barbara know?" Helena chuckled as she relaxed back against her wooden bed.
"Are you going to be nice? Because I have a pocket full of honeyed dates and I was looking to share them with someone ... if she was interested. But if you're going to be rude and threaten me I think I'll take my dates and leave."
Helena pouted and huffed slightly before crossing her arms across her chest and sitting silently.
"That's nice, here," Dinah reached through the doorway and handed the brunette a handful of treats, her short arms didn't quite reach so she stood. "If I open the door will you promise to be a good Conqueror?"
Helena licked her lips, her eyes darting from the blonde's hand to the pack of guards standing in the prison doorway. She sighed loudly and nodded her head.
Dinah reached out and slipped the lock from its holder, the door swung open and the blonde stepped inside the cell to hand the sweets to her friend. Dinah shrugged at the dirty floor then settled comfortably on the stiff pallet in the corner of the room.
"I could kill you, you know," Helena mused as she munched on a date.
Dinah laughed, "I was trained by the best. I could totally kick your ass."
"Yeah sure, maybe if I were drunk," Helena laughed.
The two women sat in silence as they consumed their treat and contemplated the conversation between them.
"I hear Barbara's putting you to work in the kitchens when you're ready," Dinah said conversationally, wanting to end the moment of awkwardness between them.
"When I'm ready," Helena snorted, "How is that supposed to be punishment? I could just decide to stay here for the rest of my life."
"Now who's acting like a child? Would you really be able to live your life in this tiny cell? Oh, I know, you could take the coward's way out and hang yourself with your blanket."
Helena narrowed her eyes, "I heard Barbara gave you the tongue lashing of your life."
Dinah stuck out her chin and grinned, "I could say the same thing."
She laughed at the shocked expression on the Conqueror's face. "Oh honestly, Helena! Barbara, Queen of the Amazon's, ever abstinent, doesn't involve herself in an elicit affair with the Conqueror and not have the entire village know when she returns."
Helena crossed her arms and stared at the side of the cell and scowled at no one in particular.
"Maybe you should try taking your punishment like an adult - Say! Like I did! Then getting on with your life."
Helena continued to scowl at the wall until she felt her anger die into the background of her mind.
"So you and Guard Vicious?"
Dinah rolled her eyes, "Has she hurt you?"
"Well ... no."
"Then how about just calling her `Guard' or `Gabby'?"
"Fine ... you and the guard?"
"It's not what you're thinking."
Helena grinned as she turned to look up at the blonde woman sitting beside her,
"What am I thinking?"
Dinah sighed deeply and stared at the wall opposite her,
"It's just men - they're - you know."
"Can't live with them, might as well beat the centaur crap out of them."
"Too true, my friend."
"So - what's up with you and the blue light show anyway?"
Dinah's eyebrow raised slightly,
"I'd assume the same thing that's `up' with your amazing ability to scour castle walls in a single bound."
Helena contemplated the date in her hand.
"Does this mean I'm forgiven?" she asked.
"We'll work on it."
Helena's horse was fitful and untrained, she was used to the well trained war horses of the Amazon village or the fast, sleek hunting steeds she was allowed to use on occasion. She had to use all her patience just to keep the animal from moseying over to the lush grass on either side of the road.
It was several candle marks before the woman finally gave up and jumped down from the tall animal. Walking to the front of the horse she pulled his head in tightly and looked deep into its brown eyes.
"Ok mister," she said in her most friendly of voices, "you may be used to the princess letting you get away with whatever you want or Gabby feeding you carrots when you do the wrong thing but I don't work that way. You're my war horse now, understand? And here in Helena's private army we have a high standard of soldier. So if you want to make it to Greece you'd better start paying attention to my commands. Are we clear?"
The horse stared at her for a few seconds, as thought sizing the human up, maybe preparing to run as soon as it was let alone to drink or eat. Then he whinnied softly and butted his nose into Helena's chest.
"That's a good boy," Helena smiled happily and petted the giant animal on his nose. "Now, we have a few more candle marks hard ride to make it to the city ... how would you like a nice warm stall and a thorough rub down when we get there?"
The horse flipped its head and started a fast trot down the road.
"Yeah!" Helena yelled happily.
"What have you done with Helena?" Dinah asked as a woman wearing purple held up a soft white silk for her to examine.
Barbara turned her head just in time to see Dinah select a bright yellow sash from the piles of linen and dress fabrics around her. The queen smiled to herself, Dinah was so engrossed in her upcoming commitment she had only just realised that her favourite forest guard was no where to be found.
"I went to find her today and everyone said she'd left the village ... which is utterly ridiculous of course," the blonde woman snapped as she picked up a see through material, mentally considered something then shoved it into the `no' pile.
"She's gone to visit her father," the queen said simply before turning back to her scrolls.
"Her father?" Dinah repeated to herself as she picked out a light blue material and several dark animal skins. "But she'll be back before my ceremony, right? I need someone to walk down the aisle at my side."
Barbara nodded to herself and smiled.
"Wait? She went to see her father? That means ... but that means ... you, her ... and her?" Dinah jumped from her seat, sending the materials around her flying, she embraced her older friend in a fierce hug.
"This is wonderful! You two finally ..."
"Whoa!" Barbara pushed at the young woman's shoulders, sending her stumbling back a few paces. "Nothing is happening. Helena is visiting her father then returning to work in the village."
"Oh," Dinah sighed, her disappointment evident in her voice and features. "So you're just ..."
"Just her queen, Dinah."
The blonde forced a smile to her face, "Of course you are." She fluttered her hands to her sides and returned to her material samples, finally deciding on a pale gold sash and holding it around her waist.
"Now that you and Gabby are bonding we should really talk about your position here," Barbara noted as she turned from her scrolls again and looked her Princess over, the gold bought out the blue in her eyes and made her hair glow in the bright light of the room.
"Do you want me to leave?" The blonde blurted out. "Renounce my crown?"
Barbara let out a long burst of laughter, sending her friend into shock. "Not at all Dinah, I was thinking that maybe it's time for me to step down, to let you have the mantle of queen. I'm sure you and Gabby could keep this place together."
Dinah rushed forward and dropped to her knees in front of her queen. "Barbara," the young blonde whispered as she stared into the dark green orbs of her mentor's eyes. "You couldn't possibly want to give up your throne; you've led this village through famine, war, disease. You are everything to all of the Amazons. Surely you must want to stay in your seat for a while longer."
Barbara sighed and shook her head, sending sprays of red gold around her face. "I'm an old woman Dinah. The Amazon nation needs fresh blood, someone who has fresh eyes and new ideas."
"And what makes you think I have those, my queen?" Dinah grinned at her friend playfully. "After all I was mentored and taught by the old woman you claims she has no fresh blood, eyes or ideas."
The queen laughed loudly and reached for the small hands in her lap. With a soft squeeze the queen turned away from her surrogate daughter, returning to her scrolls.
"Queen Barbara," Dinah said loudly as she turned back to her bonding plans, "I believe you do not want to give up your throne. I believe you just need someone to rule with you..." Dinah dropped her voice to a whisper so only she could hear, "and I have just the perfect solution."
Helena trotted her horse into her birth town just as the sun sunk below the horizon. She searched nervously for an inn, unsure as to wether she could find her way back to the house she had grown up in when there was no light to guide her.
She had just a few fists full of dinars to pay for her entire trip, the coinage just a small parting gift from her queen. The bronzed coins would barely cover a hot meal and room for the night but she realised if she was to see her father in the morning she should be well rested and clean.
A secret part of her upbringing danced joyously in her soul as she contemplated a warm, private bed instead of the cold hard planks that served as beds in the servant quarters where she spent her private time in the Amazon village.
Now that she was a free woman, she smiled in the growing darkness, maybe she could find a quiet spot in the village and build a small hut of her own design. The thought held much allure to the dark woman; she could have a place to call her own and a job to pay for it. Hard work, she had quickly learnt, earned a great deal of respect from the strong women that worked around her.
A flash of light in the corner of her left eye attracted Helena's attention as she rounded the first corner of the main street. A brightly lit window proclaimed rooms for rent. Helena quickly dismounted and hurried to escape the blinding cold of the night air.
The old door of the inn squeaked loudly as she pushed it open. It was apparently used as security because as soon as she stepped through the shadows thirty pairs of eyes looked straight in her direction. If it weren't for her pride she would have turned from the embarrassing scene and spent the night in the stables.
Instead she held her head high and walked through the silence to the bar.
"I'd like food," she said softly, "Drink and a bed for the night, if you have one?"
The bar keep narrowed his eyes at her, "You look mighty familiar young one. You ain't one of those wanted women now are you?"
Helena smiled, she was many things but wanted wasn't one of them. "No sir, I'm just here visiting family and I thought I shouldn't intrude on them the first night or they might throw me out of town."
The bar-keep visibly relaxed as he laughed gaily. The crowd seemed assured by the man's laughter and returned to their rambunctious conversations.
"There's a room, four dinars a night, third on the left up them there stairs," he told the stranger as she handed over the money. "Young Sandrais is cookin' tonight, you'll have to see her in the kitchens if yer want something ter eat. I've got port, ale and cider. One dinar a mug."
"Port please," Helena smiled as she handed over another of her borrowed coins.
"The cook," the man said as he handed over a heavy mug of the strong beverage. "She'll probably have sumfin' left over."
"Thank you," Helena mumbled again as she took a slurp of her drink and headed towards the back door the barkeep had pointed to minutes before.
The smells of fresh baked bread and stewing meat hit Helena's senses before she stepped through the doorway. But it was the sharp, familiar bark of an old friend's voice that surprised her as she stepped into the light and watched the flurry of activity as people added spices, mixed brews and tried to keep up with the orders from the dining area.
"That broth needs more pepper, Tidus," a slender dark haired young woman screamed as she rushed to a boiling pot and carefully sampled its contents.
The girl, seemingly lost in her preparations, didn't notice the dark woman rooted to the spot in her doorway until a loud clatter of pots caught her attention.
Helena almost swore as a server ran straight into her and spilled hot green soup down the front of her Amazon leathers. Feathers clung to her burning skin until soft fingers plucked them away.
"Helena?" the brunette softly whispered as she lifted her friends chin to capture the twinkling bright blue of her eyes.
Helena smiled. "Sandy, it's been a long time."
"Queen Barbara, I request a minute of your time."
The redhead jumped as the sweet voice of her chosen princess drifted into her thoughts. She had been so caught up in imagining Helena, alone, on horse back, riding towards her parents and further away from her queen that she hadn't heard the blonde girl enter her chambers.
"Why so formal, Dinah? Come in, take a seat," the redhead smiled, trying to cover her momentary lack of concentration.
"I'm here on formal business, Barbara," Dinah told her queen as she placed a thick scroll on the table between them. "I bring to you a proposition regarding the future ruling of the Amazon nation."
Barbara raised her eyebrow, she had been preparing for the day that Dinah would challenge her rule since she was barely out of her 20's. "Oh you do, do you? Well let's hear it."
The redhead tried to keep her face straight and professional but her pride and amusement threatened to spill over.
"The Amazons are a proud and loyal tribe, we pride ourselves on being smart, intelligent warriors but what isn't so obvious are the scholars and peacekeepers amongst us. That is why I stand before you today to propose a committee of the fairest, smartest Amazons to combine their knowledge and run our society as one."
"I agree Dinah. We do have some of the bravest smartest women amongst us, there is however a problem. What would happen if the committee could not agree to a decision? Who would have sway with them?" Barbara played along with the young woman's plan, one she had heard rumours about for days.
Dinah adjusted her posture, standing taller, "I would, my queen. Gabby and I will oversee the committee. Govern the people, I suppose you could say."
"Why would you have me sanction this law Dinah? What would it bring to the nation? Why aren't things good enough as they are?" Queen Barbara asked as she leant back in her chair and studied her charge.
"I never suggested that, my queen. But you said it yourself barely days ago, you have no will to continue to give every minute of your time to the Amazon Nation, with a committee we could divide the responsibility between many, we could have many fresh eyes and pig skins full of fresh blood."
Barbara rolled her eyes, "That's ... well ... something I'd expect Helena to say. Tell me Dinah, did she have anything to do with this?"
"No, my queen. This proposal was drawn up by Gabby and myself."
"Ah, of course."
The two women sat in silence for several heartbeats before their private contemplations were interrupted by a loud squeal of childish laughter.
"Queen Barbara is in deliberation, expect an answer to your proposal by the next new moon," the redhead said formally before standing and retiring to her quarters.
"How'd it go?"
Dinah flopped onto her feather filled mattress and looked up at her betrothed. "I'm not exactly sure how it went. You should have come with me I think."
Gabby scoffed, "I'm just a palace guard until you decide to make an honest woman out of me, remember?"
Dinah reached out and cupped her lover's cheek. "You're so much more than that, my love."
Gabby smiled. "So if she accepts the proposal when do you expect for the committee to take over?"
"Right away I expect. The sooner Barbara and Helena have some time together the better."
Gabby nodded as she rolled to lay on her back. "I'd say, Helena's been sending off the strangest feelings lately."
"She has?" Dinah questioned eagerly.
Gabby nodded, "it's strange. I get the same feeling around her that I do around the stallions during mating season. She's very ..."
"Thank you Dinah! Yes, horny, but violent and needy all at the same time."
"Creepy," the princess laughed. "I'm sure that as soon as she returns she'll head straight for the queen's bed then."
Gabby laughed until her stomach hurt and Dinah couldn't sit still any longer then she reached out and captured her lover in a tight hug.
"Our proposal will be a way for the Amazons to rule their own lives. It will be a revolution amongst our people," Dinah whispered to her love.
"Sure, if we can get up in the morning," Gabby teased
"Nothing. I say we rehearse the wedding night again."
Helena watched as her friend rushed around her, trying to find a clean shirt for her to change into.
"Here," the blonde woman finally huffed, holding out a clean white shirt for the girl to put on, "it's my husband's but I doubt he'll mind if you borrowed it for a while."
Helena nodded reluctantly and slowly started to pull off the various pieces of leather and bands of feathers from her body.
"Helena," Sandy whispered softly as the girl removed one of her larger arm bands showing a long white scar marring her perfect caramel skin. "Where have you been? The last I heard of you, you were presumed dead by your lieutenants and Greece was open to any warrior with a sword and the gall to take your throne. What happened?"
Helena shook her head and smiled softly, "I did something terribly stupid Sandy. I let my own power see past the power of others. I was captured by the Amazon queen and forced to do hard labour to repent for my crimes against her nation ... and her."
"She captured you?" The young woman's mother yelped. "I'll kill her! Hand me a knife, no one captures my friend and gets away with it!"
Helena sat very still for a second as the young woman attempted to storm around the room, presumably to find a weapon to dispose of the absent Amazon Queen.
Helena tried unsuccessfully to capture the raging woman's attention until she finally gave up and gripped her by the wrists.
"I'd rather you didn't kill her, if it's all the same to you, I'm rather ..." Helena blushed brightly, "I'm rather taken by her, actually."
Sandy stopped her fuming instantly, her eyes grew soft with love for her friend, despite her past.
"Oh my, of course you are. How does she feel about you?"
Helena frowned and sat back down on the soft bed behind her. "She's the Amazon Queen, she cannot afford to be compromised by a ... a ... criminal like me."
"Nonsense! She's lucky to have your love but you still haven't answered my question. Does she love you?"
Helena dropped her chin to her chest and let out an exhausted sigh.
"I do not know and right now I am much too tired to think about it. I need to feed and stable my horse, then bathe if possible. I have a room here. It's paid for so if you don't mind I rather stay here tonight and deal with father in the morning."
Sandy smiled sadly at the reminder of the awkward situation that seemed to pronounce itself when ever father and child were in the same room.
"I'll have someone see to your horse. The bathing room is just down the hall, make sure you lock the door behind you. There are some unsightly characters around here these days. I'll see you in the morning." Sandy dropped a quick kiss on the soft skin of her friend's cheek and rushed from the room to return to her almost forgotten duties in the kitchen.
Barbara rested her chin wearily on her hand, which she quickly propped up against her throne. The throng of complaining women had been small to start with. The usual theft and disagreements between family groups were easy enough for the queen to deal with but as the day wore on and more women poured into her hall, Barbara began to lose her patience.
Gabby could see the irritation in her queen's features. She noticed the slight tick in one green eye and the way plump lips slowly curled themselves into a sneer as the women in front of her raised their whiney voices.
The young blonde guard gulped. She had authority, she was the princess' consort, and she could request the company of the queen any time she deemed fit.
Taking a deep breath, Gabby opened her mouth and spoke.
"That's enough. The queen will retire to her chambers for a meeting with her committee, you will all leave."
The shocked silence turned to muffled grumbling as the women gathered their `evidence' and left the throne room.
"I knew you'd come in handy, Gabby," the queen smiled as she stood from her throne and stretched her sore and tired back muscles. "Thank you for getting rid of them."
"My pleasure," the curly haired guard said with a beaming smile.
"I'll see you in the morning," the queen whispered quietly as she rushed from the room.
She was tired, sore and her patience was paper thin. Barbara knew that her day could not finish the way she wanted it to. She would not be able to go to the dining tent and openly stare at the beautiful dark haired, ex-conqueror as she ate her meal and made quiet conversation with her princess.
As much as the queen loathed to admit it she realised that the young woman had managed to insinuate herself into the lives of all the Amazons, seemingly without meaning to.
Barbara of Gothomia, Queen of the Amazons, slept and for the first time since the day she had become royalty she smiled in her sleep, her dreams filled with piercing blue eyes and locks of silky dark hair.
Two summers earlier
"Queen Barbara, you have to see this!" Dinah yelled happily as she breezed through the outer doors to the queen's chambers.
Barbara almost jumped out of her chair as the young blonde entered her room quickly and rushed to her balcony to stare over the edge.
"What?" Barbara asked in a panicked voice as she joined the young woman on the balcony over looking the Amazon compound.
Dinah grinned happily and pointed to the entrance of the prison.
Barbara watched as a bleary eyed Conqueror stepped from the confines of the small room, her hands and ankles in chains.
"She's leaving of her own accord?" the redhead asked.
"Well," Dinah blushed, "I may have spoken to her a few days ago."
"Dinah," Barbara said tersely, her fingers automatically seeking to dislodge the comfort of an already painful headache.
"No, it's not what you think. I promise. I didn't use my power on her. We just talked about things. That's all. Amazon's honour."
"But she has agreed to work in the kitchen by her own choice?" Barbara asked as she stared at the lithe body of her part time - now ex - lover.
"Yes. But I think she'd serve much better at some other task that is more suited to her unique abilities," Dinah suggested with a lecherous grin.
"Oh yes?" the Queen asked, raising her eyebrow for the smart mouthed answer she was sure to receive.
"I think she's make a wonderful body slave for an old warrior like you," Dinah explained as she took two precautionary steps backwards.
Barbara burst into surprised laughter and half heartedly swiped at the young woman's shoulder. "Get out of here you impetuous child!"
Dinah grinned as she watched her queen sit on the end of her bed and laugh happily for the first time in many moons.
"Wake up sleepy head! There's someone here to see you."
Helena groaned and buried herself into the soft pillows of her bed. "No, it can't possibly be morning yet. I only fell asleep half ... oh my."
The dark haired woman slowly opened one blue eye to capture the equally blue eye staring at her with a surprised expression.
"Father," Helena noted solemnly as she pushed her blankets aside and stood to her full height, if only to be on the same ground as the man she had so fiercely pushed away many years before.
"Helena," he answered slowly, his eyes clearly inspecting the woman standing before him.
Sandy watched from the corner, a worried expression barely covered by her hopeful gaze. "I'll just nip down to the kitchens and fetch some breakfast for you. Have you eaten Mr. Bruce?"
The tall dark man barely shook his head at the girl before she was out the door, shutting it firmly behind her.
Helena stood, almost carefully, in her oversized shirt. She tried not to glance at the sword on her father's hip, or the array of weapons stashed in hiding places on his body that her trained eye couldn't miss.
"You look well," she offered hopefully to the last living person that she would still call family, how ever distantly.
Bruce narrowed his eyes at his daughter. He knew she was a fierce fighter, he knew she could hurt him if she decided she wanted to attack and he knew that she was inept at maiming people she didn't want to deal with. He also knew that when she was five she had spent days begging him to teach her how to ride the donkey.
However evil the villagers may think her, he knew that she was his daughter.
"I was worried," he mumbled as he reached out, not fearing for his own safety, and wrapped his arms around the shocked shoulders of his daughter.
Tense seconds passed before she relaxed and allowed herself to be enveloped in her father's arms. She too had been worried for her father, thought she would never admit it to anyone.
"Food!" Sandy exclaimed as she backed her way into Helena's room, she was prepared and willing to break any angry or bitter silence that may have begun in her absence. As she turned she noticed the tense embrace of long forgotten families and a tear slowly filled her eye.
She cleared her throat and dropped her serving tray to the table before rushing at the two dark warriors. "I just knew everything would be alright! I just knew it!"
Helena laughed nervously as she detached her friend from her waist and neared the table nearly buckling with the amount of food.
"Are you trying to feed an army?"
Sandy rolled her eyes and joined her friend in the fresh fruit on the plate. "I remember how you eat Helena."
Bruce laughed gaily at the old friends cheerful bantering.
Quietly the three companions started their meal and involved themselves in reminiscing and sharing joyful banter.
"I know that Sandy works here at the tavern but what have you been doing to keep the dinars coming in, Father?" Helena asked around a mouth full of warm bread.
Bruce sipped from his goblet and gave Sandy a strained look, as though seeking her permission. This was not lost on Helena.
"What is it?" she asked tersely.
Bruce cleared his throat and looked his daughter in the eyes. "I work as a mercenary, Helena."
"Oh," she whispered softly, "then I suppose for a while there you were working against me?"
The dark man slowly nodded his head, "I did not want to hurt my own daughter Helena, that was why Barbara -"
"Barbara?" Helena coughed around the half swallowed mouthful of bread and apple juice stuck down her throat. "What does Barbara have to do with anything?"
"Queen Barbara and I have been working together for many years," Bruce admitted, "you see it all began when I met your mother. She was a thief at the time, stealing to survive and feed her family. I convinced her that leading a life of thievery was beneath her, that she was destined for greater things, to protect the innocent using her ... special gifts."
Helena nodded as her eyes grew wide and she leant forward in her chair.
"So we were married and we travelled, searching for others like her to help us take down the scum and bigoted maniacs that roamed Greece torturing, pillaging and stealing. Along the way we met an amazingly smart redheaded Amazon," Bruce smiled at the memory of the hopelessly young and naive, yet smarter than most, redhead.
"At the time Barbara was a princess, she'd run away because her mother wanted her to rule the Amazons but Barbara," Bruce smiled at his daughter, "Barbara wanted to be a teacher."
Helena grinned; she often caught glances of the queen sneaking into the school house to bestow some pearl of wisdom to the young children learning inside.
"She decided that she would come along with your mother and help us until she could find her way to Athens and a teaching academy, but things soon changed. She involved herself in our battle, she learnt the way of war and soon she felt herself to heartless and ruthless to teach the young. So she returned to her village and began those first few steps to becoming one of the kindest and best rulers of the Amazon Nation."
"Does she still help you? I mean, is that why she didn't have me killed?"
Bruce shared another secret glance with the young cook sitting beside him.
"Barbara has never killed. She has fought and caused injury but she has never lost her blood innocent. However, in your case, I believe she wasn't thinking with the head of a ruler."
"What do you mean?"
"All in good time, Helena," Sandy spoke from the sidelines then motioned for Bruce to continue his story.
"When your mother and I found out she was pregnant with you we decided we should settle down in a small village, we didn't want to involve you in our quest until the time was right for you," he explained sadly. "But then when you were barely 10 winters old we realised that our past would soon catch up with us."
Bruce took a deep breath and let the memories of the last few years of knowing his wife and daughter wash over his battered emotions.
"A warlord by the name of Jokeris, found out about your mothers talents and decided to blackmail her into working for him. He told us that if Selina didn't do what he asked of her he would expose her. We had no idea how people would react to her, she never did have the best temperament in the world, we worried that people might think she was a demon sent by Hades himself."
"So she worked for him?" Helena asked as she emersed herself in her father's story.
The tall dark man nodded sadly, "For nearly six summers before -"
"He gutt shot her with an arrow," Helena whispered, the memories of holding her bleeding mother in the forest by her childhood home once again fresh in her memory.
Sandy shivered at the coldness of her friend's voice and smiled sadly at Bruce, if only to show her support.
"I looked for you when you left Helena, I looked everywhere but I didn't find you until you were firmly attached to the throne of Greece."
"And now?" his daughter asked in a hopeful tone.
"I am a renegade, a mercenary, known as the Dark Knight. Sandy and I work together with a small stringent of others trying to keep the warlords well away from our village."
"Sandy?" Helena laughed doubtfully, looking over at her stringy, underdeveloped friend.
"Now, now," the young woman yelped as she pulled three throwing stars from no where and sent them into the wood of the window frame behind Helena's head. "Looks can be deceiving, my friend."
Helena narrowed her eyes and pointed her finger, "Don't do that again."
Sandy gulped and nodded.
Helena raised her eyebrow, unimpressed. "Do you have a little name as well?"
"I'm Lady Shiva," the young woman said proudly.
"Shiva? Like the God? Isn't He a he?"
Sandy folded her arms across her chest grumpily and mumbled, "Hence the Lady."
Bruce chuckled to himself, catching the glare of his daughter.
"And Barbara? How does she fit into all of this?" Helena demanded.
"Since Carolyn died she hasn't felt compelled to help as much. Barbara works with us sometimes, she is much more committed to working with her Amazons and leading a strong nation but her fighting skills and hunger for knowledge have aided us many times," Bruce explained quickly.
Helena was puzzled but nodded anyway, she could soon enough find out how Dinah's mother fitted into the picture, "she is very smart, and has much more finesse than some of the warriors."
"Enough about us tell me, how did you become the Conqueror of Greece?" Sandy asked excitedly.
Helena blushed, "it's not an interesting story really."
"Pish," Sandy said with a wave of her hand, "I'm sure it is."
Helena sighed and resigned herself.
"I was barely sixteen summers old when mother was killed but she meant the world to me and I wanted revenge. I was so angry with you father, you refused to help me seek it, you spent all your time disappearing into the forest, it was like you never loved her at all."
Bruce stared down at his feet, shame evident in his eyes.
"I took it into my own hands to find whoever had shot and killed mother. I couldn't sit around and do nothing ... but I was young, and very stupid. I'd been on the road no more than a day when I was attacked by thieves. They took all my dinars, my horse and mother's whip. The dinars and the horse meant nothing to me, but the whip ... it was the last thing I had that belonged to her, so I followed them on foot. I must have walked for days before I collapsed under a tree. When I woke up I was in a healers hut. I couldn't believe that I wasn't dead, so I asked the woman who was trying to force water down my throat and she laughed at me and told me I was a very lucky girl to have passed out under the tree that the Queen of Greece decided to use as her restroom."
Sandy giggled but was quickly silenced with a look from Helena.
"I couldn't believe it myself at first until she came to visit me. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen, she reminded me so much of mother that I started to cry and she comforted me. I couldn't believe my eyes again, she wiped away my tears and sung to me as though I was just a five year old again ... and ... and she made me feel safe."
Bruce paid careful attention to the note of sadness and longing that filled his daughter's voice.
"She asked me if I had family and I told her that they wouldn't want me. To this day I do not know what possessed her to take me back with her, but she did. She let me live in her castle, she made sure I was called Lady Helena and that I learned all about the politics of running Greece. She taught me how to read and write herself ... and the king of Greece taught me how to fight."
Helena took a deep breath and a small sip of water.
"He and I never really got on as well as I did with her. He respected me for my talents and I respected him as my king. When he died I mourned with her and when she decided that I should take the throne from him I agreed. I realise now that my mistake was in my motives, I conquered in her name, I did it for the love I had for her. I didn't want Greece."
A single tear fell from Helena's sparkling blue eyes and without thinking Bruce brushed it away with his thumb, she smiled wetly at him and scrunched her nose.
"Then when she died I kept fighting all of those who thought they could take the last thing I had of hers. They kept coming and I kept conquering until there were none stupid enough to try. Then I met Barbara, did she tell you about me? Was she sent to spy on me?"
"Not at all," Bruce assured her in his softest voice, "Her meeting you was purely for her own purposes, she never even knew you were my daughter until four summers ago."
Helena nodded and brushed the rest of the tears from her eyes, "good. Good."
"She speaks of you often, though, she is the reason I knew you would be returning home and I rushed back from Amphipolis as quickly as I could."
Helena cocked her head slightly and grinned
"Amphipolis? Hey? Do you know Xena? ... That'd be so cool if you did."
"I guess it doesn't matter, it's not like she won't be ripping it off of me anyway ... I mean ... Hello Barbara!"
Queen Barbara stood very sill as she took in the sight before her. She could understand why Dinah would be having a private meeting with her personal tailor, the wedding she had planned so carefully was barely three weeks away. What Barbara couldn't understand was why Dinah would even bother having the fluffy pink night dress she was wearing fitted.
"What do you think?" Dinah asked as she twirled in a tight circle.
The Queen blinked and tried to shut her mouth, "It's very ... nice, sweetheart."
"Thanks, Gabby's going to love it." Barbara blushed and chuckled to herself, "I'm sure she will."
Barbara slowly walked to the other side of the tailors hut and poked through a small bin of long strips of leather, trying to find a replacement for the tie that had snapped on the front of her royal bodice while she dressed.
"Barbara?" the young blonde woman called from her perch on the tailors stool.
"Hmm?" the Queen responded as she continued to search.
"Do you think I should get this in yellow instead of pink?"
Without thinking Barbara laughed, "goodness no! You'd look like a canary!"
Dinah's mouth snapped shut and she stared at the back of her queen's head.
Barbara dropped the leather in her hands and stared at the wall in front of her face, absolutely mortified at the words that had so thoughtlessly left her lips.
"Its ok, Barbara," Dinah said softly as she plucked at the front of her nightgown. "You can say Carolyn and you can say canary without me going into shock or having a break down. I know my mother is looking over me ... and more important, when she was still alive she appointed you to take care of me, so I know she loved me ... and I know she loved you. It's time to let go."
"Let go," Barbara whispered under her breath.
"Helena's here now and when she returns from speaking with her father you aren't going to have any excuse to keep her away. She's a free woman, she can ... court anyone she wants to without your permission and without feeling as though she is doing the wrong thing," Dinah continued.
"I just wonder Barbara, when are you going to realise that its time you moved on and see what is right in front of you?"
The tailor returned to Dinah's side with several lengths of dark pink ribbon and a handful of pins to hem the long flowing dress she wore. The two women, held back by the presence of the third woman, simply held their tongues and returned to their own business.
Barbara fished out the first piece of semi long leather she could find and turned back to her princess. Dinah watched as Barbara tried to form words and then grinned when those words formed themselves as a picture in her mind.
"I don't think the Amazons would react negatively towards their queen finally settling down, Barbara," Dinah said with a wink, "I do think some of them will have to give up the hope of having you finally fulfil their masturbatory fantasies."
"Oh yes? And just how many of them?" Barbara sassed the young blonde.
"I'd say everyone, at some point."
"Everyone? Even you?"
Dinah closed her mouth and shook her head, "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not answer that question. Derogatory comments made about the queen are punishable by four hours in the stocks."
Barbara laughed gaily as she stepped from the tailors hut into the sun.
Helena mounted her jittery steed and smiled down at her friend and father.
"Are you sure you have to leave so soon? You'd be welcome to stay a few more days," Bruce said as she handed Helena a packed saddle bag.
Helena simply shook her head, "I received a scroll from a friend who's getting married, I'd like to be there for the ceremony, it should be interesting and my mind has a thousand questions to ask Queen Barbara."
Bruce frowned, "Now girl, don't you go ruining your first chance at happiness! You hear me?"
Helena shared a disbelieving look with Sandy, then rolled her eyes. "Yes, Father."
"And you make sure that when you two are ready to face the world together you bring old Babs to see your old Dad!"
"And be careful," he yelled as she turned her horse towards the main street.
"And watch out for bandits on the main road!"
"Be good," Bruce screamed out as his daughter spurred her horse into a fast gallop and disappeared from sight.
"She's coming back right?"
Dinah rolled her eyes in an exaggerated fashion and stared down at the blustered redhead slowly pacing around her. The young blonde woman had seen her queen anxious on exactly two occasions, the first was the night her mother had gone on a mission and never returned.
"Barbara! Sit down! The messenger said Helena was leaving her village and she'd return to us before the end of the week, she'll be here don't worry."
Barbara slumped into a near by chair and huffed. "How can you be so sure? Maybe she's decided that I'm too controlling and horrible. Maybe she's decided to go back to Greece and take her throne ... Great Gods what if she's evil?"
Dinah closed her eyes then very carefully placed her small hands onto her temples and took a deep breath. "Bruce would have sent notice if anything had happened. Look at it this way, maybe she's just releasing years of pent up ... aggression in the Amazon way."
Barbara's face paled magnificently, "you think she hit some man over the head and she's having her way with him?"
Dinah's mouth dropped open and she blinked like a startled owl. "Uh ... no, I was thinking more along the lines of a hard ride - I mean, horseback ride. Oh, um, or hunting. She knew the deer would be moving north, maybe she stopped along the way to bring back a fresh kill?"
"Maybe," Barbara muttered noncommittally. "I think I'll go get some fresh air."
As the redhead left her hut, Dinah slowly shook her head and allowed a small smile to grace her lips. She had never seen Barbara in love, but this was almost exactly what she had expected.
Helena rode into the Amazon camp just as the sun sent its last few splashes of gold over the far off mountains. Confident and happy, yet slightly amused at the kind and warm welcome she received as she passed the perimeter guard.
The first thing the young woman wanted to do was to find her queen and make sure she was still standing, then bombard her with questions about working together with her parents.
Unfortunately as the dark haired woman entered the barn she caught sight of two blonde heads running in her direction giggling hysterically.
"Helena!" Gabby yelled as she launched herself at her friend and hugged her tightly.
Helena gurgled as she was embraced by enthusiastic arms. Her shock slowly wore off and she politely removed the strong guard's arms from around her shoulders. "Gabby, please, not in front of the royalty," she joked half heartedly.
Gabby blushed and chuckled nervously, "Sorry, it's just that I can do that now."
"Hug me?" the brunette asked as she raised an eyebrow.
"Well ... yeah."
"The way I see it Gabby, you can hug me - but if you ever throw yourself at me, I'll have to hurt you. Sorry, it's just that I can do that now." Helena smiled to herself and turned back to her horse, quickly catching a glance of Gabby's surprised face and Dinah's barely contained giggles.
Very slowly, Dinah managed to control her internal laughter and petted her lover on the shoulder. "Helena, Gabby and I would like you to stay with us until you've sorted your housing arrangements out."
Helena picked up her grooming brush and slowly started to rub the dust and dirt from her horse's coat. "That's not necessary," she pushed herself to say. She would love to spend time in Dinah's warm company but knew she shouldn't impose on the two young lovers. "I'll stay in the slave's quarters."
"Helena," Dinah said in a rather demanding tone, one the dark woman had never heard from the young blonde before. "I'll not tell you again, you'll be staying in the Regent's quarters in my hut until you have your own home, no matter how long that is."
Helena closed her mouth and eyes and smile happily, "Y-yes my queen."
Dinah let a small grumble of success pass her throat then rolled her eyes, "I'm still just a princess."
"Never just a princess, Dinah," Helena whispered into the warm coat in front of her.
Dinah smiled then led Gabby from the stables.
"Is she here?" Barbara asked quickly as she stepped through the wooden door of her princess' hut and into the warmth her home offered.
Dinah nodded as she led the redhead to a large animal skin chair sitting near the fire.
Barbara fiddled with the gold bands encircling her wrist. Dinah watched with amusement as the queen petted down her hair and tugged at her leather skirt. It was when Barbara started to look for a shiny surface to check her teeth that Dinah decided to put her out of her misery.
"She's in the back bedroom with Gabby - I think I'll go hurry them along."
Within seconds Dinah pushed a squirming brunette through the back door of her hut and locked the door behind her, sealing queen and former slave into the room.
"That was mean," Gabby tutted sarcastically from behind the blonde.
"That, my dear, was necessary. Barbara can run really fast when she wants to."
Helena paced nervously from one side of the room to the other. Although, she wasn't sure whether her nervousness was because of the queen's complete lack of response to her entrance, or because it seemed she would have to begin the conversation between them.
"How's the village been running?" Helena suddenly asked, her response built on her need to run from dealing with emotion and suspicion and diving straight for pleasantries.
Barbara blinked as the young woman flopped herself into the chair opposite her. "Uh ... w - well, the hunts haven't been quite as fruitful, I believe because of your absence. But yes - things are ... running smoothly."
Helena grinned as her queen stuttered. Her nerves settling slightly as she realised she wasn't the only nervous one in the room.
"And you my queen?"
"I'm running smoothly," the queen answered without thinking.
Both women paused, sharing an amused grin.
But the moment was soon lost as Helena realised she was talking easily and immediately shut her mouth and Barbara noticed a large patch of skin on Helena's shoulder that looked rather kissable and blushed bright red.
"Erm -so, I suppose you'll be looking for a job ... and land, to build," Barbara asked as she purposely kept her eyes locked onto Helena's forehead and far away from any tempting exposed flesh.
Silence fell around the small room as the two women regarded each other.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" Helena blurted as she pulled at her collar, she didn't really think the room was all that hot but her body seemed to be reacting all the same.
"Uh, sure, yes, a walk would be nice."
Helena grimaced slightly as she watched the queen's nervous eyes flick towards the door.
"You won't run away ... right?"
Barbara blinked then laughed, "I promise."
"On the head of my first born."
"You talked to your father," Barbara suddenly blurted as she shut the door to Dinah's hut. She really hadn't meant to let her inner workings flow from her mouth so easily, but her curiosity was getting the better of her. Helena was yet to complain, scream, spontaneously combust, or otherwise, over her visit with her father.
"We chatted, and I met - oh what was her name? Shiva. Lady Shiva?" Helena grinned at the name and very nearly shook her head in disbelief.
"How is Sandy?" Barbara asked with a fond smile as she remembered the spry young woman from an unexpected visit to notify Bruce of Helena's position as she fast became the indestructible Conqueror of Greece.
"She's fine. She can cook so I guess she's earning and living well. Do you have one of those?"
"Names? I mean, Dark Knight, Lady Shiva, Black Canary, is that an Amazon thing or are you all named after animals? And what exactly is it that you do for them? And how come I never met you? And how long did you know my mother?" Helena stopped walking suddenly and glared at the redhead across from her.
Barbara smiled civilly, trying to hide the nerves making her arms shake.
"They call me `The Oracle' and they call me that because I am an information gatherer and keeper. I have many `friends' over the country who keep me up-to-date on all sorts of things."
"You're a spy," Helena muttered with a frown.
Barbara shook her head and turned to watch a rowdy group of Amazons try to mount horses.
"Not in the least, Oracle gathers information from people willing to help, I've not set foot outside of this compound to gather information in over eight years. You never met me because after I returned to the Amazons I didn't have the time to visit, and my mother frowned upon Selina. Apparently she was a bad influence," Barbara smiled at the dark haired woman's expression of pride.
"I knew your mother for a fairly long time. Long enough for me to call her sister."
Helena shook her head again and sat down on an over turned water barrel. "I still don't understand why you tried to save me."
"I did try, and I succeeded, if I do say so myself. Helena, look at me," Barbara hooked her thumb under the young woman's chin and smiled as blue eyes glanced nervously up.
"I cared very deeply about your mother, she was family to me, which made you family so I couldn't allow myself to live knowing that the daughter of Selina was living a life not meant for her, you were meant to be a hero not a ruler."
"How do you know?" Helena asked seriously.
"Because, mothers always get what they want and Selina wanted you to be a hero to the people."
Helena smiled, "Helena of Gothomia, Hero to the People, it has a nice ring."
"It certainly does but allow me something?"
Helena nodded slowly as she continued to watch the emotion filled green eyes peering at her nervously.
"Why did you become the Conqueror? What drove you to be a leader?"
Helena smiled sadly, "many reasons. My love for the Queen of Greece helped to place the idea firmly in my mind. My love for violence and the fight helped me to continue on the same path even after she died and I suppose ..."
"You suppose what?" Barbara prompted lightly.
"I'm not sure, honestly I'm not. There's just something about being ..."
"All powerful." The Queen suggested solemnly with an understand nod.
"You know something about it," the dark haired woman asked as she stopped walking and turned to her friend.
"It was a long time ago, another life. I fought at your father's side; we thought we could so no wrong. I watched as men fell to their graves on battlefields and I thought it was my destiny. I ... I enjoyed it."
"You aren't like that now, Barbara," Helena growled passionately as she gripped her companions strong shoulders and shook gently. "I'm proof Barbara, I'm proof that you aren't like that. You've saved me from a life of ... well only the Gods know. I'm here and I'm going to help people, I'm going to help this nation to the best of my ability and it was all your doing."
Barbara smiled softly as she looked up at the moon and stepped out of Helena's personal space. "But still ... I can almost feel it, what it's like to race across the treetops under the moon. I guess I haven't let go of what I was before."
Helena creased her head in though and smiled sadly. "You can't ever be what you were, so be yourself instead."
Barbara turned from the moon and looked her friend over, "that is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Wise words my friend."
"Ah," Helena blushed, "Actually I think Dinah said it to me once."
"Oh. Well, I won't tell."
"Just to be sure though ... we could kill her," Helena laughed as she started to walk towards the Queen's hut.
"We're the good guys, we don't kill innocent people. We don't kill anyone."
Helena grinned rapaciously at the redhead, "Speak for yourself."
"Helena!" Barbara yelled as the brunette started to run across the Amazon compound. "You're kidding right?! Right?"
"Where to put you," Barbara murmured as she watched the lines of women in front of her. "It wouldn't be fair to take Gabby's position from her, I believe she's more experienced than you anyway. She actually worked to get where she is."
"Hey!" Helena shouted indignantly, "I worked."
Barbara turned on her heel and grinned at the lanky brunette, "you didn't work like Gabby."
Helena rolled her eyes and crossed her arms across her chest. "Yeah, yeah, everyone loves Gabby."
Queen Barbara chuckled softly as she turned back to the Amazon's lined in front of her, she slowly stepped forward contemplating each with her gaze. None of them moved.
"No, I don't think your talents would suit my army, nor my guards. You'd probably end up doing something stupid and get yourself killed, can't have that," Barbara caught Dinah's eye and a spark passed between them.
Dinah stepped forward, placing a hand on her Queen's shoulder and turning to grin evilly at Helena.
"Oh, you're right my Queen," Dinah agreed with a lint of mystery and mischief in her voice. "Helena has many skills but when faced with a difficult situation those skills tend to follow the way of her ... loins."
A murmur of laughter flitted across the gathered Amazons as Helena scowled and pouted at the teasing comments.
"So that is why Helena, once she has finished receiving her rite of cast, will become an ambassador of the Amazon nation," Barbara watched that faces of her Amazons clearly show their shock, more than a few disgruntled murmurs were heard amongst the older women.
Dinah blinked twice quickly before slowly falling into step with her Queen's decision. "Helena will vowel to speak for the best interests of the Amazons. You need not worry."
"She's a murderer, a thief, how can we trust her not to run away and build her army again!"
Dinah glared at the beefy woman who was standing in the front of their parade being petted on the back by the other women around her. "Maleka, was it not four seasons ago that you came to us after murdering your husband?"
The hands stopped and the woman glared at the ground in front of her.
Helena raised her eyebrows and grinned happily.
"A new ambassador for the Amazon nation sounds like a good reason for a celebration!" Dinah waved her arms in the air and half a dozen women rushed to gather tables, ale and food while the rest cheered merrily.
"Need a partner?"
Helena jumped as a slim hand landed on her shoulder, she scowled in her head for letting someone sneak up on her and actually startle the great conqueror.
Barbara sat down heavily beside the brunette allowing herself a brief touch of their legs.
The dark haired woman glanced at the pale thigh rubbing against her own and grinned to herself. "I was just thinking, don't need any help in that department."
Barbara chuckled softly. "The great and might conqueror, simply thinking? I thought your body moved in sync with your mind. One can't survive without the other?"
"What are you suggesting?" Helena drawled, reaching out to trace the lines of her Queen's skirt.
"Sparring, why? Did you have something else in mind?"
Helena grimaced and pulled away, leaving a very amused Amazon queen trying to control her laughter.
"Will you teach me that move with your sticks that had me groaning every time I bent over ... for a week?"
Barbara laughed loudly and stood to retrieve the fighting sticks from her boots. "I'll teach you a few things if you like, seems that I owe you."
Helena's brow crinkled slightly as she stood and pulled a sword from the racks of weapons on the left side of the training field. "Sure, I can teach you a whole lot," the brunette drawled sarcastically.
"You can teach me to be surprising," Barbara suggested as she swung her batons to clamp down on the other woman's shoulders.
Helena parried with her sword and dropped under their combined momentum of the Queen's powerful blow.
Helena grit her teeth irritably, "That isn't something you can be taught."
Barbara pivoted and aimed several jabs at the brunette's knees, dropping the young woman to the floor again.
"You're out of practice."
"You've lost your edge," the Queen insisted.
"I haven't," Helena spat back through gritted teeth, still trying to regain her footing as the Queen easily predicted her moves and sent her grabbing at the dirt to steady herself.
"You have. You've been a slave too long. First thief or bandit you meet on your travels will send you to -"
Queen Barbara's words cut short as she watched two yellow eyes glare up at her from the dirt of the training field. A warm smile filled the Queen's face.
"Just like your mother."
The brunette growled softly and back flipped off the floor, her hands poised in front of her as soon as the Queen's baton moved in her hands.
Barbara struck first, aiming at the young woman's elbow, a spot which had always been a weak area on her mother. Barbara's pride was evident when the brunette took the hit easily, almost as if it were a fly bumping into her instead of hard, reinforced wood.
Helena smiled seductively as she pushed forward, pulling the redhead's arms above her head and sending them both off balance.
Helena smiled seductively as she pushed forward, pulling the redhead's arms above her head and sending them both off balance.
They lay silently for few minutes, staring into each others eyes. Neither having the courage to move, or breathe lest the spell between them be broken. The night sounds around them, the drums from the village, the young exuberant squeals of drunken Amazons, the night bugs slowly coming out for their dinner, all slowly died away as they shared their unbroken moment.
A silent pact, a quiet declaration of love.
"We should go inside," Barbara whispered huskily.
Helena blinked twice as she slowly came back to herself. She took notice of the hard body pressed deliciously beneath her. She laughed to dispel some of her hidden embarrassment.
"Right, can't have the Royal bottom bitten by bugs. What would Gabby say?"
"Actually," Barbara said softly as she stood and dusted her hands across her backside. "I was hoping the Royal bottom would be bitten by a rather insistent ex-slave bug."
Helena blinked owlishly as she watched the redheaded Queen laugh and run through the dark. Never one to lose an opportunity when it came to love or war, Helena raced after her.
Silence hung heavy in the muggy air of the late night.
"What was that?"
"I didn't say anything."
"Oh ... sooo ..."
"Oh for Gods sake ... " with an agile strength surprising even to herself, Queen Barbara jumped forward, securing her arms around her beautiful brunettes shoulders and pressing their lips together.
"Ok," Helena nodded as she reached up to place her hands around her Queen's waist and continue the delicious contact between their bodies.
"I don't know what it is about you Helena," the young redhead whispered huskily as she pushed away slightly and began to pull the layers of her Queenly garb from her slender body.
"You made me feel like a hormonal teenager again. You make the day seem a bit brighter. I'm rather embarrassed that it has taken me this long ... but I think I'm quite taken by you."
"Really? Same. I mean, with you, I'm not taken by myself - er - taken by you that is. You and your ... pers ... ect breast ... erm, I mean, personality," the brunette squeaked stupidly as she pulled at her own clothing.
"Ah," the Queen teased as she grabbed onto the post of her bed and spun in a tight circle giving her quarry a perfect view of her rear assets, "so you just wish to secure my bed and my body."
"And your heart."
Barbara smiled as she settled herself on her bed and crossed her legs, "Helena, when you want to you can be the most romantic person on the planet."
"You think?" the young brunette smiled thoughtfully as she tapped her lower lip in consideration.
"I suppose," she mused before throwing herself at the bed and the nude redhead perched on it.
Barbara couldn't help the startled giggle that escaped her throat as the fierce looking ex-Conqueror dove onto her body and placed soft kisses on her throat. She mumbled happily and petted at the long strands of hair tickling her nose, the soft curve of womanly curves and the dainty curl of perfect toes.
"Make me come Helena," Barbara whispered huskily to her dark lover. "Make me scream just for you."
The brunette groaned into the curve of perfect neck and skin near her mouth.
"Only for you," she whispered back as she ran her finger tips lightly over the well muscled and toned body beneath her.
Hands, lips and tongues scouted and teased as the two women shared secret smiles and loving words.
Helena growled as she continued to desperately press herself against the tease of her lover's fingers. The throbbing between her legs a constant remind of the ache she felt for the redhead to push just a little bit harder, rub just a little bit faster.
Barbara was relentless, teasing the thrusting hips higher as she let Helena come to her hand instead of giving in to the growing passion and running her fingertips through the warm wetness she was sure she would find between the brunette's legs.
"Oh no, you don't," the redhead husked as one of Helena's hand tried to smooth down her own stomach and get past the teasing hands keeping her at bay. "Only I'm allowed to touch."
Helena groaned deep in her throat and thrust her chest outwards, hoping for any kind of contact with her partner's sweet mouth. The intensity of her feelings pounded in her head, she was sure that if Barbara simply kept talking to her she would climax. She was also sure that if Barbara didn't touch her soon she would internally combust.
"Open your eyes," Barbara whispered. "Open your eyes. I want to see you."
Barbara gasped at the burning intensity she could see in the bright blue eyes that trailed over her face. They both pressed forwards, seemingly on their own but in their hearts they moved as one, their lips collided, seeking to share the passion each felt blazing inside.
The older woman slipped her hand between their sweat slicked bodies, flowing down the slopes and curves of the young body beneath her.
Helena whined as long fingers explored her wetness enthusiastically. Pressing softly at first but harder as the redhead decided there would be many times for soft, slow explorations later.
"Stop teasing," Helena ground out from between her teeth and reached for the redhead's hand, forcefully placing it over the centre of her need.
Queen Barbara smiled to herself as she felt slick wetness coat her palm. "I'm very glad you came back, Helena," she whispered sweetly into the conquered woman's ear.
Helena arched again, pressed as much of herself as possible into every available inch of the Queen's flesh. "I'm glad I came back too. I'm also very glad you decided I was worth keeping."
The Queen raised her eyebrow, "You're very talky for a naked person, has anyone ever told you that?"
Helena grinned without opening her eyes, "A couple of times, someone may have mentioned it."
"You're doing it again, shut up and kiss me."
Helena leant forward slowly, letting her lips closer and closer to the warm skin of her Queen's mouth. She let the sensations run through her every nerve and shivered against the cool air attacking any area that Barbara's warm body wasn't.
Dinah sighed into the chilly night air nipping at her nose and cheeks.
She couldn't help smiling as she heard a renewed bout of heavy breathing and screams from her Queen's bed chamber.
Her eyes widened as a sharp yell pierced through the yard. "Punish me, I've been a bad conqueror!!!"
Gabby giggled as she sidled up behind her love and wrapped her arms around her slender waist. "What are you doing out here listening to ... that?"
"I'm enjoying the fruits of my labour," Dinah smiled triumphantly.
"Oh, you're a bit of a voyeur?"
Dinah nodded slowly and turn to her curly haired companion. She ran her hands over the other girl's button nose and brushed at her hair.
"Come on, let's go. We've still got a few weeks until our celebrations start and we aren't left alone for a minute."
Gabby groaned happily, "I'm marrying a sex addict."
Dinah turned seriously to her partner, "worse. You're marrying a sex addict that can order you to strip. What are you waiting for? Strip!"
"That was interesting."
Helena frowned as she rolled over and wrapped her arm around her lover. "Interesting? What does that mean?"
"Well, you know," Barbara blushed as she snuggled into the warm embrace.
"Not really," Helena admitted as she reached up to stroke one strong shoulder, "That's why I was asking."
"Ok, not interesting."
Helena hid her smiling face in the pillows around her head, "so it wasn't interesting?"
"Oh! No, I mean it was wonderful! Amazing! Lovely! Really. It's just that I've never really thought of trying ... it ... like that."
"It?" Helena asked.
Barbara nodded and pursed her lips together, "You. Know."
Helena grinned again as she snuggled into the warmth and comfort of her lover's waist.
"Want to do `it' again?"
Barbara scoffed a few times before regaining her composure and poking at the brunette's waist. "I meant with the future, your future. When you go out and promote Amazon ways."
"Well," Helena said softly as she buried her nose into a particularly good looking piece of pale skin. "I think Helena of the Amazons: Hero to the People - has a nice ring to it. But then again ..."
"What?" Barbara asked as she reached down and gently rubbed her fingers across the skin at Helena's hip.
"Well, consort to the Amazon Queen doesn't sound so bad either."
Barbara's eyes slowly grew and her mouth dropped open.
"Er - well - yes. I like that."
"You do? It's ok?"
"Good," Helena hummed as she nestled back into her haven.
Barbara took a deep breath and let a giant smile cross her face.
"So, a hero name then?"
Helena pushed herself up onto her elbows and smiled, "The Huntress."
"How do you think Artemis would feel about that?" Barbara chuckled.
"I don't think she'll mind."
Barbara laughed loudly as she watched the brunette look up at the roof of the hut and grimace slightly.
Helena shifted on the bed and slowly lifted her leg over her lover's waist. "If I'm the Huntress -" Helena whispered slowly, rubbing as much of her skin as possible along the Queen and staring deeply into her green eyes.
"I guess that makes you the prey."