The battle had been swift, and though most of her warriors survived, there was a heavy price paid. Several of the Agooji were dead. Shateri lost an arm, and there were several others with severe wounds. The Yoruba Tribe was their greatest adversary, and they were attempting to take Dahomey territory. That was an act of war. Shateri lead her sisters into battle with a ferocity unmatched by the enemy. The battle was decisive. The Dahomey would not lose territory on this day. They bandaged the wounded, and the women warriors headed for home. Sera, the youngest of the Agooji, had a wound that would require weeks to heal They were still a full day’s walk from the village, and Shateri was sure others would die before they arrived. Shateri was leading the pack when they came to a sizeable area with less vegetation. They had been walking for several hours and she decided they should setup camp. Many of the warriors needed the rest and wounds needed to be re-bandaged.
“Chera take Urbi and Kibbi hunting to feed us for the night. Leyra take someone and gather wood to start a fire.”
Chera and her warriors gathered their things and disappeared in search of food. Leyra and her helper returned several minutes later with arms loaded with wood. Shateri looked down at her arm. The bleeding stopped, but she knew without the proper care it would get infected and she might lose her life to an infection. She looked at her sisters. They were all willing to die for the Kingdom of Dahomey and her. It was a burden she did not like, but she had proven herself to be the strongest among them, so it was her obligation and honor to lead the Agooji. Her mind drifted to who would take leadership if she fell in battle one day. Chera came to mind.
Zeta did not remember the day they found her sitting on the river bank. She she was a carefree child. She loved running and playing with the other children of the village, but what captured her attention the most was the training field where the Agooji trained. Jaffu and Silba, the parents who raised her, would watch as she emulated the moves of the Mino.
Silba sighed one day, “That one will not give us grandchildren, she has the ghosts of the Agooji riding her spirit already.”
“Yes, I see that. She is ten and already she is as tall as many of the Agooji and she moves as though she is as capable as they are,” said Jaffu.
Jaffu and Silba could not have children of their own. When the village doctor came to their door with a baby, it was an answered blessing from The Mother.
“We do not know where she came from, and since no one has claimed her in the last month, you can raise her as your own. Give her a name and may she bring blessings to your house,” said the doctor.
Overcome with joy, Jaffu and Silba had a child to share their love. They named her Shateri and life began anew for their home. When Shateri realized her new parents loved her she relaxed and accepted their love. In moments of excitement she would speak therosian to her family and friends and she would receive the weirdest stares. It made sense to her, but after a few years, the language faded from her memory. as time passed The Dahomey culture replaced all things therosian.
She forgot who she was.
Shateri was smart, very smart. She helped solve irrigation and other day-to-day problems around the kingdom. What stood out the most was how fast Shateri was growing. She was faster and stronger that the kids her age, many of the children, stopped playing with her. One afternoon she was sitting at the edge of the training field watching the Agooji train.
“You there, go find another place to loiter, we are busy and our training is not for prying eyes.”
“No! I am not interfering with you. I will sit her and watch,” replied Shateri!
The Agooji warrior took exception to being told no by a child. They earned the right of respect by the children of the village.
Shateri was sitting with her knees pulled to her chest. When the warrior got close to her, she attempted to kick Shateri in the side to teach her a lesson. Shateri caught her foot and shoved her back a few feet. The warrior stumbled and fell to the ground. She jumped up and drew her machete.
“You will pay for that, you little fool. I warned you to leave now you will pay the price for your rudeness!”
Shateri stood and watched the warrior approach. When the warrior swung her blade, she countered with the stick she always carried and deflected the attack and continued the motion of the stick and hit the Agooji in the back of the head and knocked her unconscious. Shateri sat back down and watched as a group approached her. They turned their comrade over and made sure she was breathing. She was. The only thing damaged would be her ego when she woke up.
“You are Shateri correct,” asked Kali?
Shateri looked up at Kali, “Yes.”
Kali was the leader of the Agooji. She eyed Shateri with skepticism. Had this child defeated an Agooji warrior with a stick without knowing what she had done?
“You know the training fields are private. We allow only the Agooji or the King to be present when we train. Why did you defy a direct order from a Mino?”
“If she asked, I would have removed myself. Instead, she was rude, and I found that unacceptable,” replied Shateri.
“You know who I am,” asked Kali?
“Yes, Kali, I know who you are. You lead the Agooji.”
“Okay. If I order you to leave the training field, will you defy my order also?”
“I would much prefer if you asked me rather than order me. I dislike being ordered to do anything,” said Shateri.
“Shateri, get away from the entrance to the training field or I will remove you!”
Shateri smiled, then she got a serious look on her face.
“No! Ask, or I will sit here until I tire of your ineffective battle formations. Then I will leave.”
Kali motioned for the Agooji warriors to move back.
“If our formations are so ineffective, show me how you would make them better child.”
Shateri stood and walked onto the training field for the first time. She didn’t know why, but she was not nervous. She didn’t know that the blood of warriors ran through her veins and her family, her birth family were warriors second to none.
At fourteen, she was all muscle.
“Give her a machete,” said Kali.
Shateri held up her hand, “No, I will use my stick.”
Kali looked at her.
“Begin when you are ready,” said Shateri.
Kali unleashed a wild attack on Shateri, who deflected her blows with her stick. She turned the stick enough for the blade to bounce off. Never letting the blade bite into the wood. After ten minutes Kali was getting tired. Her anger and belief of superiority had gotten the best of her.
Shateri had not broken a sweat.
“Now, I will show you what I mean by your tactics being ineffective.”
Shateri attacked with her stick and in seven moves she had disarmed Kali and had her pinned on the ground with her stick at her throat.
“Would you care to try again?”
Kali jumped up and attacked again. Shateri disarmed her in five moves and had her in a hold from behind with her stick around her throat.
“Are we done, or should I disarm you in one or two moves?”
“We are, for now. Who taught you to fight that way. No one in Dahomey has ever used such tactics?”
“I am not sure where I learned them. I see the formations in my dreams in a place that makes little sense, but they are effective moves and I practice them daily. I have overstepped my place. I apologize for having disrespected you. I will never speak of what happened here today,” said Shateri.
“Have you considered joining the Agooji,” asked Kali?
“The thought crossed my mind once, but I decided it would not be a suitable fit for me. I would want to change the style of fighting you use, and I know that could never happen.”
“After that demonstration, I should be angry and embarrassed. You wounded my ego, but I believe your time has come. You are the future of the Dahomey Amazons, sister. Perhaps you will not speak of this event, but I will. I will speak with the king and ask that he allow you to join the Agooji and teach us how to fight your way.”
The Agooji cheered for Shateri. She stood there, afraid her parents would punish her for being at the training fields. If they discovered she had been fighting, she knew there would be a price to pay. Her only hope was for the king to accept her into his ranks. Shateri did not know how powerful she was or what lay ahead in her future.
Zeta sat there looking at the wounded warriors as the smell of death permeated the camp. She knew one day she would return to The Mother, and she prayed the Agooji would remain strong and focused when that day came.
Chera was seventeen years old. Her mother died giving birth to her. Her father was on the tribal council, but he had no time or know how to raise a girl child. Chera was fortunate. In Dahomey, no child is an orphan. Chera was a playful child. She was always pulling pranks or disappearing for an hour while the village searched for her. One day she walked onto the training field and saw Shateri training alone. She picked up a stick and went through the paces. When Shateri noticed her, she walked over and sat down.
“You want to learn to fight?”
“I already know how to fight; I want to join the Agooji and defend the king!”
“Oh, said Shateri, you already know how to fight. Well, stand up and show me what you can do. Have you ever held a proper weapon?”
“Here, try this machete, I want to see if you can handle this one.”
“This one is good. Let’s go.”
Shateri looked at the lanky fourteen-year-old. She liked her confidence. They squared off in the middle of the training field. Shateri started and Chera was keeping pace with her. She sped up and tried a few more attacking techniques. Chera still kept up.
“Where did you learn to fight like this, asked Shateri?”
“Watching you train in the dark.”
Shateri smiled. Let’s try again.
This time the attacks came swift and hard, and Chera held her own until Shateri overpowered her with brute strength.
“You were born to be a Dahomey Amazon, said Shateri, when you are through with your practical jokes and games come and see me and your training will begin.”
“Shateri when I step on the training field all the games stop. In here I will learn to fight and honor the Agooji like so many before me. You will find no one who fights as fierce or who is more loyal to you.”
“You are not afraid of me are you.”
“I am Agooji Warrior, I am not afraid of anyone. I respect you, but no, I am not afraid of you.”
“Report to the training field at first light tomorrow. Your training will begin.”
Chera arrived at the training field at first light for the next three years. Zeta trained her. She saw something in Chera, and she wanted to make sure it thrived.
“This is your last training session with me.”
“Why, have I done something wrong?”
“No, the Agooji will test you. We will see if they accept you into the sisterhood. You are a better fighter than many of the Agooji, but they know you as a prankster. Perhaps you will not perform well under the pressure of battle. You are young.”
“I am young, but I am Dahomey and I was born to be Agooji. I will challenge anyone who stands in the way of my destiny!”
“We shall see little one,” said Shateri as she walked out of the training field.
She knew that one day Chera would be a force to reckon with, if she joined the Agooji. That kind of fighting spirit is not something you can hide away.
The next morning the Agooji were standing at attention when Shateri entered the training field. They greeted their general and awaited her instructions. Shateri looked over and saw Chera standing at the back of the field.
“We have a fresh recruit who wants to become Agooji. She has said she will challenge anyone who stands in the way of her destiny. She believes her destiny is to be Agooji.”
Shateri watched each step Chera took, and she exuded confidence. She could also see that Chera was sweating. She had been practicing. She wanted to be ready for this moment.
“Do you want to be Agooji?”
“Shateri, I am Agooji! Just as I love my king and each of the sisters standing behind me, I am Agooji!”
Shateri turned to the Agooji, “sisters, you are free to speak.”
“Why would you bring this child to us? She is like a dingo running wild and annoying everyone in the village. She is not worthy of being Agooji,” said Ashante.
“That remains to be seen,” replied Shateri.
“Ashante, when I am on the training field there is no room for jokes. I stand here ready to defend each of you in battle. I will live or die protecting the Mino of Dahomey!”
“Can you fight child,” asked Ashante?
“Is that a challenge,” asked Chera?
“Yes, it is child. You have no place among us!”
“Challenge accepted, prepare yourself. Shateri is this a challenge where we can cause harm?”
“This is a fight to prove your worth. There will be no death, but you are in battle!”
Shateri looked at Ashante as she turned to face Chera. She was a foot and a half taller and weighed sixty pounds more. Ashante was an excellent warrior and fearless.
The Agooji moved to the side of the field and the two women faced each other in the center of the field. Shateri blew her horn once, and the fight began with Ashante thrusting her blade at Chera’s face. Chera spun and resumed her ready position. With each attack, Chera dodged or deflected the attempted blows. Then Chera changed her stance from defensive and spun her machete in her hand. Ashante attacked and Chera deflected her blade and spun close to her and hit Ashante in the back of the head with her blade. As Ashante was spinning around, Chera was on her again and this time Ashante was defending a relentless attack. Chera was attacking every part of her body from her head to her feet. Chera attacked and spun to strike, but during the spin she tossed the blade to her other hand and when she executed the spin, her blade had drawn blood at the base of Ashante’s neck. It was just a nick which showed the control Chera had with the blade. She backed away from Chera and lowered her blade to her side.
“Forgive me, sister, I did not mean to cause you harm.”
Ashante placed her hand on her neck. There was little blood. She looked at the girl she thought unworthy. She turned to Shateri and bowed her head. Shateri bowed in response.
Ashante turned to the Agooji, “Sisters, what say you? Has Chera of Dahomey proven she is worthy of joining our ranks?”
The Agooji spoke amongst themselves for several minutes. When they turned back to Ashante, they let out the Agooji war cry. They looked at Chera and in unison, they shouted, “Welcome Sister!”
Ashante turned to Chera, “You are worthy of being Agooji. Welcome. I pledge to protect you with my life.”
She bowed to Chera.
“Big sister, you do not bow to me. I have a lot to learn. I learned to fight watching you and the Agooji practice. I should bow to you. I realize that being able to fight is not enough. I pledge to protect you with my life, and I ask that you and each of the Agooji will make me better?”
Ashante smiled, “We are family now. We will not let you fall.”
Zeta stood there amazed at the ease in which Chera had defeated Ashante. Perhaps one day she would lead the Agooji. Chera remained a dedicated soldier as long as they were training, but when they were not, she was back to her tricks. A month later, the Agooji had to defend the kingdom from a party of raiders hunting on Dahomey land. Shateri looked at Chera as they walked through the gates.
“Are you ready for this, asked Shateri?”
“I am ready.”
When the enemy was located, Shateri blew her horn, and the Agooji slid into their battle formation and attacked. It was a bloody battle, and it appeared the sheer number of enemies might defeat the Agooji. Chera picked up a second machete dropped by one of the Yoruba warriors who had fallen. She let out the war cry and charged into the middle of the battle and started chopping her way from the center out. She executed her spin moves with deadly precision. Heads were dropping as she cut a path through the invaders. When she reached the end of the battle she turned around and cut a path to the other side again. The battle went on for almost two hours. Chera never slowed down. It covered her in blood. When the last of the Yoruba warriors had fallen, Chera looked around and saw some Agooji dead or dying. Zeta walked over to her.
“You fought well. I think it has answered all questions about your abilities. Where did you learn to use two blades like that.? It looks like you are dancing?”
“It is a fighting style I have been practicing since I was a child. It is a natural thing now.”
“From this day forth you fight with two blades. Now, lets attend to our wounded.”
It was an amazing memory. Chera proved capable of leading the Agooji. When that time came.
An hour later, Chera and the hunters returned with two impalas. The fires were ready, and the impalas were cleaned and hung over the flames. Once the meat was cooking Chera started checking on everyone and making jokes about everything. It was a wonderful quality to have a playful heart knowing she was one of the deadliest soldiers in the group.
After the meal they made the wounded Agooji as comfortable as possible. Zeta had guards set up around the perimeter and tried to get some sleep. It was not a tranquil night. Her arm was throbbing and there was nothing to ease the pain. She unwrapped the bandage to see how bad it was. There was a jagged piece of bone protruding just below the elbow. She re-wrapped the arm. There was a strong possibility that the village doctor would remove the piece of arm at the elbow. That did not please her, but it would be better than losing the entire arm or worse, death due to infection.
When the sun rose. Shateri was standing at the edge of the camp, looking off in the distance. She felt there was something out there; she didn’t know what it might be.
“Shateri, we are ready to move, said Ashante, we should reach the village by mid-afternoon.”
“Good, send the scouts out ahead of us and let’s move,” said Shateri.
The walk home was uneventful. The Agooji sang their song of death as they mourned the dead they were carrying home. They would return the warriors to the mother with a tribal burial when they arrived. When the sun was halfway across the sky, they saw smoke from the cooking fires of the village. When they entered the gates, the people of Dahomey cheered their return. When they saw the wounded and the dead, they fell silent out of respect. Shateri dismissed the warriors and headed for the king to inform him of the battle and of the losses.
“Your Highness, we have returned. Our lands are safe, but we lost twelve Agooji and there are twenty-five wounded.”
“Shateri, they wounded you. This information could have waited,” said the king.
“Perhaps. I wanted to complete this task before I stopped. I will see the doctor now.”
Shateri turned and walked out. She was lightheaded. The infection was taking hold. She walked into the infirmary and collapsed on the floor.
Two of the Agooji rushed to her side and lifted her onto a bed. She was burning with fever. The doctor walked over and unwrapped her arm. He shook his head.
“Bring me a machete,” he commanded.
“Hold her legs, he told the two warriors, and I need two more to hold her arms.”
When the Agooji held Shateri tight, the doctor raised the machete and cut the arm off at the elbow. He reached over and pulled another machete from a fire. He placed the blade against the severed arm and all of them could hear the metal searing the flesh closed. The doctor forced medicine into Shateri to combat the fever. They used the Olea plant for thousands of years for that purpose.
Shateri lay in the infirmary for three days. When she opened her eyes Chera was staring in her face.
“Welcome back general, I have been at your side since they brought you in, It appears your fever has broken. You will be fine. The doctor cut off the piece of arm below your elbow and it is healing,” said Chera.
Shateri sat up. “Chera, help me to my home. I want to rest in my bed. Once I am there, please bring me some fruit, I am starving.”
“Yes general,” said Chera.
Chera helped Shateri by walking beside her. Shateri would not show any further signs of weakness. When she was in her home and comfortable, Chera headed to the market and grabbed a melon and a few mangoes and dashed back to her commander. Shateri meant everything to her. She felt as though she would be all alone again if Shateri died. She often wondered why Shateri never told the Agooji that she had trained her leading up to the day Ashante challenged her for her place in the Agooji. To Chera, Shateri was her mother figure, and she would sit at her side until she could do for herself again. A few days passed and Shateri was strong enough to attend to herself. She made Chera get the rest she needed. Chera was resisting, then Shateri gave her the command to leave. With reluctance, Chera dragged her feet out of the house.
A week later, Shateri stood on the cliff overlooking the land the Dahomey were guardians of. She stood there and her chest swelled with pride knowing the land remained theirs. Shateri closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she relaxed, she opened her eyes and glimpsed a bright light disappearing. She was not sure if she imagined it or not. Maybe it was the infection causing her to see things. Shateri stood there for a half hour more and started back to the village. She looked down at the wrapped arm and sighed a log deep sigh.
“What good is a warrior with one arm,” she asked herself.
She thought that perhaps she should step down as the leader of the Agooji. It was a decision to be made at a later time. She took another glance at the open expanse, turned and headed for home. She felt fatigued, and she knew she needed to sleep for her arm to continue healing. Shateri climbed into bed and fell fast asleep. Her dreams, once again, took her to a world that was familiar and yet impossible for her to believe could exist. She was running through the halls of a castle and no one had a face except the girl running beside her. She didn’t know it, but that girl would be the key to her accepting her destiny. Shateri slept through the night, albeit it was not restorative sleep. She awoke from powerful dreams throughout the night. She needed to get away from the village and think about their meaning, if there was one.
Shateri walked out of her home and headed for the river. It was beautiful, but in one spot she always felt anxiety. She wondered what had occurred here. She would walk the area with her hand on the hilt of her machete as if she was expecting something or someone to appear. She did not know it, but each time she visited the edge of the river, she always stood with at least one foot on the spot where they found her sitting as a child. It felt familiar, but frightening. She sat by the water for at least three hours and the only thing starting to tear her away were the hunger pangs that were growing. She stood and looked over the water and bowed to the mother for creating such a beautiful place. When she looked down at the water’s edge there were two faces staring up at her. Shateri jumped back a few feet and drew her blade. She inched her way back to the edge of the riverbank and peered into the water again. The faces were still there. They were staring back at her. When she looked closer, she saw love in the eyes of both people. Shateri noticed something else too. There was a white light underneath the images. She watched it fade from view. She looked at the faces and they were familiar, then they also faded into the darkness of the river. Shateri sat down. Perhaps she had not imagined the flash of light, but what did this mean? She rose from the ground and walked back to her home. Shateri was exhausted, but try as she might, sleep would not come to her that night. It was bothering her that the faces made her sad. What was the white light she had seen twice in the last two days? She also realized she had seen the round lights in her dreams. When the roosters crowed she sat up in bed and walked out into the morning air. She walked back into her home and strapped on her machete. The Agooji were off duty. She had no role to play in the day-to-day operations for the moment. Shateri headed back to the cliff and a white orb appeared just off the cliff’s edge; it emitted a beam of light that engulfed her body. The sensation was nothing she ever felt. A tingling that was almost painful.
Then she heard a voice, “you are the chosen, it is time you took your place as the rightful heir on the throne of Theros. We can no longer hide you from your enemies. It is time for you to stand and fight. Step into the orb.”
Shateri was not sure what to do but something in the voice was familiar. She stepped into the orb, and what she saw took her breath away. Standing at the edge of a cliff, as far as the eye could see was a sprawling city. Everything seemed to hum with power. She vibrated, a moment later she was standing in an enormous room full of soldiers. Her first reaction was to draw her sword, but the soothing voice assured her there would be no fight. The Orb floated across the room. Standing in front of Shateri, was a little man. She didn’t know if he was friend or enemy. He had no expression on his face.
“I am your friend and servant, your highness. I am Lar, your royal historian.”
“This is where you were born; we have fought many battles over the years to protect your identity. However, the time has come for you to take your place on the throne.”
Shateri stared at the little man. He was speaking, but his lips never moved.
“I have to get back to my village, I am not sure who you seek, but I am not her!”
“This is the world that you were born to rule, if you perish on earth, our race and the humans will perish.”
The orb floated to the center of the room and started emitting several colors, and the floor came alive with motion. Shateri saw her face as a child and watched as they placed her near the village, she thought was her birth home. It was not! She felt dizzy. How could this be, and why her?
“It was you because you are the last best hope to free both of your worlds from war and greed!”
Shateri spun on her heels, “Return me to my village, now!”
“You can return to your village, but as of today your life has taken on a new purpose, you will be Queen, or we will all die, starting with your warriors and the family you have grown to love!”
Shateri looked over her shoulder, and the little man was staring at her. His gaze was icy. Maybe that was because he communicated with his mind. There was no way to read his face as he spoke, and that left her at a disadvantage.
“Zeta, you will regain your powers once you accept your destiny, but until then you will walk the earth clueless like the rest of your adopted clan.”
“Zeta? Why do you call me Zeta? My name is Shateri, and I am a warrior of the Dahomey Amazons, it would do you well to remember that!”
“No, your highness, you are Zeta of Theros, said Lar. You are the firstborn of King Tril and Queen Tivah. You are the heir to the High Throne of Theros.”
“I want to go home, NOW,” shout Shateri!
“Yes, your highness.” Lar motioned for the Orb to return Zeta to Dahomey.
The vibration started, and Zeta was standing on the edge of the cliff in Dahomey once again.
Leyra rushed to her side, “Shateri, what happened; you disappeared for a few minutes.”
Zeta looked at her, it surprised her, “what do you mean a few minutes, it was two hours!”
Leyra looked at her in disbelief.
“No Shateri it was only a few minutes, look the sun; it is still high.” Shateri looked up. The sun was at the noon location. How could this be? Now she feared what the little man had spoken. If she was who he said, there was no way she could allow her people to die. Shateri would fight to save both, but how?
Lar chimed in on cue, “there is a war coming, and you will have to be ready. Until then, you need to rest. Your arm will itch tonight when you rise tomorrow, it will have regrown. The people in the village will not remember it was severed.”
“I cannot explain what happened, said Shateri. I thought it was hours and you say it was moments. Perhaps the answers will come for both of us.”
Shateri laughed to herself, “yeah right, there is no way to regrow a missing limb.”
It exhausted Shateri. She headed for her home. Just as she stepped through her doorway, the bloody nub itched.
Now, the little man had her attention. The night was full of dreams, known and unknown. While she slept the Orb appeared in her home and placed a small replication device on her arm. He came and left without a sound. There were memories of the land she saw after she stepped into the orb. There was a difference now. She saw more details than the fractured dreams she always had. Now she was inside the palace. She was running through the hallways laughing and playing with another child who also wore her face. It startled Shateri from sleep; she had a twin sister. A twin sister. But where is she? She was wide awake, and the memories were coming hard and fast. They were overpowering her mind. Perhaps her name was Zeta. Zeta. Zeta and Leta! Why was she here among these people? Shateri wiped her brow and took a deep breath. Then she realized she had wiped her forehead with the arm that was no longer missing. She stared at the arm in amazement. She was not born Dahomey. She needed more answers. Shateri got dressed and stepped out of her home. She needed some fresh air, and she headed for her favorite place. The doctor turned and looked at her arm; it surprised Shateri. Lar said no one would remember the missing arm.
The medicine man looked into her face and sent a telepathic message, “it is okay; I asked to come here many years ago to protect you, Queen Zeta, enjoy your walk.”
Shateri stared at the medicine man, shook her head, and headed for the cliff. This was unreal. The cliff was her sacred ground; it was where she went to look over the valley and appreciate the land the Dahomey people were guardians of. She did not realize that the view she so enjoyed also gave her a view of the space that Theros occupied. What was Theros, where was her sister, and what role did she have to play in this coming war? That she had her arm back was proof it was not a horrible nightmare. Everything she knew went up in smoke.
She sent a thought to the little man, and he answered, “I need to know everything from the beginning, and you can start with my sister.”
“I will start with your parents, that is where your story begins.”
My name is Lar, your highness! If it pleases your grace, I have no taste for being referred to as ‘little man.’ I have been counsel to your family for several generations, and I will serve you to the best of my abilities. The village member you call the medicine man is my brother. We are telepaths. He has kept me aware of your progress over the years. So shall we begin?
“Yes, let us begin, said Zeta, my sister’s name is Leta, isn’t it,” she asked?
“Yes, it is, how did you remember that,” asked Lar?
“I dreamed of us playing in the castle last night, and I remembered her name. Which means I am Zeta.”
“Yes, your highness.”
Lar instructed Zeta to step into the orb. The orb would return her to her place of birth. Zeta turned just as the orb materialized. She looked over the valley; it was land she loved to the core of her being. Zeta turned back to the orb and stepped in and found herself transported into an enormous hall. Everyone in the room was on one knee and bowing to her. Lar stepped into view, and he too bowed low.
It annoyed Zeta, “Why are you people bowing to me?”
Lar looked up at her, “you are heir to the throne, you were born first. Your parents are deceased, so you are Queen.”
Zeta stumbled back a few steps; she was lightheaded. How could this be? She discovers she was not born Dahomey? Her parents are dead, and she did not know where her twin sister was. There were far too many questions, and she had not gotten a single answer.
Zeta looked down at Lar, “where can we talk?”
“We can go into your council chamber, your highness.”
“My name is Shateri, Agooji warrior of the Dahomey Kingdom, and until you convince me, this is legitimate that is how you will address me!”
Lar looked at her and smiled, “yes, Shateri, as you wish.”
They entered the council room, and the door slid closed behind them. Lar walked over to a podium in the middle of the floor. He placed his right hand on the screen, and pictures rolled over the far wall. Two chairs slid across the floor to them, and Lar motioned for her to sit. Shateri sat and felt the chair fit the contours of her body. She remembered the chairs, but it also felt like something she dreamed. Lar directed her attention to the wall. There was a woman giving birth.
“That is your mother, Queen Tivah, and that is you.”
A few minutes later, the second child was born. Zeta jumped to her feet and stared at the screen. She had not cried in years, but watching her twin forced the emotions out of her. She watched as the midwife handed her to the most handsome man she had ever seen.
“That is your father, King Tril. He and your mother were wise and just leaders, just as his father and mother were before them.”
Shateri was concentrating on her sister. She was Zeta of Theros.
“Where is my sister, she asked Lar, and how did my parents die?”
Lar turned to Zeta. Your highness, you will know everything soon. Place your hand on the podium to unlock that information. Zeta stood and walked to the podium as it rose from the floor. She placed her hand on the podium, and her hand slipped inside the screen. Zeta’s instinct told her to pull her hand from the device.
Lar rushed to her side, “do not resist; the screen only accepts a hand into the podium if you are of royal blood. The device confirmed you are Zeta, Queen of Theros.”
Then the podium released her hand, and once it was free, the podium sank into the floor. Zeta looked at her hand. There was a device on her wrist.
She looked at Lar, “what is this thing, and why has it attached itself to my arm?”
Lar looked very pleased, “that is the weapon of Ultheria, only your fathers’ bloodline can wield it. It is one of two of powerful weapons in the universe.”
Zeta noticed that Lar turned away from her with that last statement. She walked over to him and positioned herself inches away from his face.
“What was that body language? Where is the other weapon?”
Lar looked her in the eye, “the other weapon is on your fathers’ wrist still.”
Zeta snapped upright, “you said my father is dead, so why would a weapon remain on his body after he is dead?”
“We buried your father without his arm. They removed it on the battlefield by General Kragin of Erdas order, so he could claim the weapon as a prize for his king. They could fire the weapon for a few days after they retrieved it, but when your father’s arm decayed, and the blood dried up, the weapon became dormant,” replied Lar.
“Let me guess; Leta’s disappearance has something to do with our father’s death?”
“Well, after your father died, we started getting major ground tremors emanating from across the border and deep into the planet. The only weapons capable of creating the pulse waves we were recording are the weapons of Ultheria.”
“Across the border, I thought Erda was another planet,” said Zeta?
“It is. We constructed a wall that allows us to cross into their world. We needed to see what they were doing and to see if Leta was alive.”
“Why didn’t my parents send my sister with me so she would be safe also?”
“In the history of your people, the royal family always gives birth to twins. The first-born child is heir to the throne. The second child is a decoy in times of war, so they hide the rightful heir.”
Zeta felt her blood rush to her head. How was this possible? Why was this possible! Zeta stepped towards Lar; her eyes were spitting daggers with each step.
“You are telling me you sacrificed my sister so I might live, and at what cost to her? Does anyone know what she has endured these last twenty-five years? How do I get to her?”
Lar was nervous; Zeta had her hand on the hilt of her sword. He watched her wage war in defense of the Dahomey Kingdom, and there was not anyone who could match her ferocity on the battlefield. Even when she lost her arm, she killed dozens of enemies with her other hand. He knew as she walked towards him, his life was in her hands. Zeta screamed at him, “HAS ANYONE SEEN MY SISTER?”
Lar cleared his throat, “Yes, we had spies on the enemy planet a few times. We sent many, but only two made it back. One of them died before he could utter a word. He had a pulse blast that had severed his leg at the hip. In his hand, he clutched a lock of hair. And when we analyzed it against your family’s DNA, it proved to be your sister’s hair. The last spy made it back with horrible wounds, but she could tell us that Leta was alive and a general in the Erdain army. She wears a device at the base of her neck, which we think controls her mind. When one of our spies got within 50 feet of Leta, the device would emit a high-pitched frequency and expose them. So we cannot get close enough to bring her home.”
Lar saw the tension on Zeta’s face ease, although he was still not sure if she might not take his head.
Zeta sat down on the floor, but before she could get comfortable, the stair rose and lifted her. It annoyed Zeta. She always loved to sit on the earth, so she could feel its coolness when she needed to think. This was not dirt, so she let it go.
Zeta took a deep breath, “how far away is my sister from here?”
“There are two answers to that question. If you want to cross the portal, you can do so in about five hundred yards from where you are now sitting. If you want to fly there from the earth, it is six light-years. The first will take you about 20 minutes, the latter three earth days.”
“Which is safer,” asked Zeta.
“The three-day trip is safer because we can land on an isolated part of the planet. Then make our way to the capital city where Leta is.”
“How many warriors do we have to attack the Erda forces?”
“We have about nine hundred trained soldiers. We have taken many casualties over the millennia. We have several thousand in training, but they will not be available for some time,” explained Lar.
The weapon on her arm vibrated; Zeta looked at Lar.
“What is happening,” she asked?
“The weapons communicate with each other when engaged, one thing we are hoping is you and Leta will speak using telepathy so you might help her disengage the device on the base of her neck, without killing her.”
Zeta stared at him with a look of disgust, “is there anything you are sure of?”
“Yes, your highness, you are Queen.”
That was almost amusing, or she would have taken his head where he stood. Zeta asked Lar to leave the room. She had a lot to process, and she was not sure if she was asleep or not. Lar left the room, pleased the Queen had returned. And if he knew her, based on the woman he had watched her become, she was about to make a splash in the universe.
Zeta watched the door close behind Lar. She burst into tears. She had come home to be alone. Her parents were dead, and an enemy was controlling her sister. Now she understood why she felt differently around the villagers she thought were her family. She was two-and-a-half feet taller than the other women warriors, and a few inches taller than most of the men. Her strength and agility were unmatched by anyone. Now she understood why. She was from another world. All the wild dreams, the sliding walls, the weapons that fired light. So many nights, she woke up screaming because monsters were coming for her. The words that would spill from her mouth when she became excited made no sense to anyone in the village, but now they made perfect sense to her. It all made sense now; she was speaking the language of her people, the people of Theros. Thousands of them had died to keep her secret safe, and her sister had paid a greater price. Zeta sent a telepathic message requesting to see the life she and her family lived until everything changed forever. The look on her sisters’ face when she stared across the room at her brought tears to her eyes. So much love and she had forgotten it all. She had grown into a protector, but she could not protect her sister or her parents. The images stopped. The podium appeared before her again. Then the deepest voice she ever heard boomed into the room.
“Zeta, if this recording has activated, it means you have returned to Theros. I know the news of our deaths must sadden you, since you did not remember we existed. Your mother and I had no greater joy than to bring you and your sister into the world. I never thought I could love anyone as much or more than I loved your mother. The two of you popped out, and I was in love. Your mother teased me about the tears I cried, which is fine; you are my baby girls. It brings me to the matter at hand. We have just taken you to planet Earth, so you will be safe from the war that is going on between Theros and Erda. It has always been a tradition in the royal family to protect the oldest child in times of emergencies, or threats to the throne. Your mother and I discussed it and decided that we would not sacrifice either of you. Either both of you would survive or neither of you would. When we entered the nursery to get Leta, her nurse was stepping into a portal and taking her to Erda. Your mother was inconsolable, and it killed her, her heart stopped beating, and so did my heart. She made me promise that I would get your sister and take her to you. I made that promise, but if you see this recording, I failed to bring her back. You have returned to Theros for two reasons, one to rule as the Queen of your people, and two, if your sister is alive, bring her home. You have the bloodline of warriors going back over three hundred thousand years. You can go through the archives and see the heroes who have worn our name. We have fought for justice and truth and challenged injustice anywhere. We have always lifted our swords to help those in need. Zeta bring your sister home. When the two of you are together, there is a gift, you share, and it will give you both the advantage you will need to escape from Erda. That is my message to you, my daughter. You have the codes to our armor room transmitted to your memory. You will know what to do if the codes are required. I wish I could see the woman you have become. If you are anything like your mother, you must be a fierce warrior to behold. Until we meet again, I love you. Kiss Leta for me when you bring her home and please tell her I tried to save her. I died with your names uttered with my last breath. I requested that Lar remove any video associated with the last battle if I fell, he was told to save only the video up to that point.”
The video ended; Zeta sat there seething for what seemed like hours. Zeta summoned Lar to return. He walked in and bowed low to greet his Queen.
“Lar, you do not have to bow to me,” said Zeta.
Lar looked at her, “Yes, my Queen, I do, though you may think it is unnecessary, your bloodline demands that it be so.”
Zeta had no answer for that response, so she asked what she summoned him for, “If I use the Mino Warriors for this raid, can you purge their memories after the battle?”
Lar looked at her; this was an unprecedented move to use humans to fight the enemy.
“Yes, we could erase the memories, but how will you explain the bodies not returned or the wounds they might incur during the battles?”
“If you could replace my arm, their wounds can heal also, correct? The dead is another matter. I will have to think about that. Do we know how many soldiers we will be up against?”
“About fifteen thousand, your highness.”
Zeta shot a sharp look at him for the “your highness” remark, but let it go.
“How many generals do we have to lead the troops?”
“We have one captain and four sergeants. Captain Lure is a phenomenal soldier, but we don’t have enough leadership for us to mount a massive attack.”
The wheels in Zetas’ head were turning at incredible speeds. The Mino Warriors would have to take leadership roles in the battle, leading some Therosian soldiers, and by her count, many of the platoons would be her warriors, anyway. Zeta knew there would be casualties. She also knew that there was no better group of warriors on any planet, and she would lead or follow them into the jaws of hell if she had to. Battles make Warriors. The Mino were born warriors, and they had proved time and time again that the only thing they feared was not dying an honorable death.
“I am returning to Dahomey, said Zeta, I am no longer Shateri of Dahomey. I am now Zeta, defender of two worlds. I will gather the army and tell them my story because that is what this has become. I will clarify that with anyone who wishes to volunteer any who do not, I understand. This fight is not their fight. Losing their lives for my cause is not the same as fighting for the borders of Dahomey. I will return to the village now, and I will summon the orb when I am ready to return.”
Lar looked at Zeta; something changed since she came back to Theros this time. She believed she was Zeta, and she walked more regal now. Zeta now believed she was a descendant of the royal line and she accepted the fact that it was up to her to save her sister, and neutralize the threat to her people, Theros and Dahomey. She stepped into the orb and vanished.
Zeta materialized in her home. That surprised her.
The orb spoke, “from now on; I will transport you to a secure place each time I transport you for your protection, my Queen.”
Zeta looked at the orb, “You are in on this Queen thing also?”
“I am your highness, I protect your bloodline, and as the true ruler of Theros, this is how I am to address you, at least until my death.”
Zeta looked at the orb again, “you can die?”
“Yes, my Queen, we are a sentient race of beings. We began serving your family thousands of years ago when one of your grandfathers came to our aid in a battle, and we would have lost had he not charged into the battle and defended our people. When he died, we returned his body to Theros and his people so he could have a proper burial among his ancestors. We have served your family since that day. They assigned me to you as you watched the video your father left for you.”
“You are not the orb I used before,” asked Zeta?
“That Orb is my… what you would call my uncle.”
Zeta stood there for a moment, thinking, “So, do you have a name,” asked Zeta?
“Yes, your highness, I have a name; it is Barin, your highness.”
“Okay Barin, and what does it mean?”
“Yes, it means Noble Fighter.”
It surprised Zeta, “you are a warrior Barin?”
“When I need to be your highness.”
With that, Barin transformed into a Therosianoid figure, equipped with swords and throwing knives. He stood about six- feet five inches tall. Zeta took a step back in amazement.
“Well Barin, welcome to the war.”
Barin bowed and transformed back into the shape of the orb.
“My Queen, I will be at your side from this moment forth, any harm that might come to you will have to go through me. I am sworn to die protecting you.”
Zeta turned back to Barin, “I would much prefer you live, protecting my people and me. I am honored to have you at my side.”
Zeta stepped out into the night air; it was peaceful. She worried she was about to ask too much of the Dahomey Kingdom, but if she did not, the war would come to earth. She stepped back into her home and slept. The sound of a rooster crowing woke Zeta. She jumped up and grabbed her Machete. She looked at her doorway and Barin was sitting in the entrance. He was protecting her. She rose from her bed and prepared to speak with the warrior women of Dahomey.
Zeta walked out into the morning air; the smell of the cooking fires had the air filled with the aroma of various foods. The villagers greeted Zeta as she walked towards the training grounds. She received a lot of respect for being the leader of the Dahomey Amazons. Their battles would remain the stuff of legends for centuries to come. Dahomey was a military powerhouse, and it turned out that the women were the fiercest members of the kingdom in battle. Once a member of the Agooji, they took a vow of celibacy. Their only commitment was in protecting the King and the kingdom.
Zeta walked into the center of the training field. She raised the little horn she carried on her hip and blew two quick bursts. The warriors stopped what they were doing and came over to Zeta. They all stood in formation, facing their general. She told them to relax and sit. They all took two steps apart and sat down. Zeta didn’t know how to begin the conversation; she was nervous.
One of her captains asked, “What is the wrong Shateri?”
Zeta looked at her first captain, Chera was second in command of the Mino Warriors.
“There is a battle coming Chera, and it does not involve Dahomey. The past few days, I discovered why I am different from all of you. As a child, they found me sitting on the shore of the Oue’me’ River. A hunting party was returning to the village and found me sitting there. One hunter looked around for any sign of my parents, but they found no one. They brought me to this village and raised me as one of you.
“They gave me the name Shateri. I have discovered my actual name is Zeta. I have never had a hard time telling you anything, and you all know I will fight to the death to defend each of you without question. I don’t know how to explain where I came from.”
At that moment, Barin interrupted her and offered to speak for her.
“Queen Zeta, may I speak for you?”
His interruption startled Zeta, but she agreed it would be far more effective if he told the story. The fact is, his presence alone would give life to the tale.
Zeta cleared her throat, “this is Barin, he is a guardian assigned to protect me, he will tell you what I am struggling to find the words for.”
When Barin appeared, all the warriors sprang to their feet with weapons at the ready. Zeta blew her horn again, and their attention focused on her.
“Sit down and listen, then I will speak with you.”
They all sat, but none of them loosened the grip on their weapons.
“My name is Barin, and I am from the planet Orb. We have been protecting the royal family of Theros for thousands of years. I will protect the Queen of Theros with my life, that Queen is Zeta. You have known her as Shateri.”
All eyes fell on Zeta; she stood there and scanned the eyes of her warriors; it confused them.
Barin broke the silence.
“Zeta and Leta were born to King Tril and Queen Tivah. They were a fortunate family. The kingdom was happy and prosperous, and all loved the royal family. There were signs a war was beginning with the planet of Erda. There were a pair of weapons gifted to the Therosian royal family. A race of beings called the Ultherians created those weapons. They designed the weapons with the DNA of the royal family, so they alone could wield the weapons. They gave them to the royal family because they were just and honorable. When the war broke out, the king and Queen decided they would bring both girls to earth and hide them in your tribe. They had Zeta in their arms and went to retrieve Leta from the nurse, who had gone to change her clothes. They reached the nursery and saw the nurse stepping into a portal. She disappeared with Leta. The king could not track the portal; there was no energy signature left behind. Queen Tiva collapsed on the floor of the nursery; she fell ill and never recovered. The royal family always delivers twins; it is part of their genetic code. The accepted rule until that point was to protect the firstborn, and the second born was a decoy. The King and Queen decided they would never sacrifice one of their children for any reason. So, the Erdains decided they would steal one child. They wanted to lure King Tril into battle and murder him. Then they would raise Leta to wield the Ultherian weapon the king wore on his wrist. This video shows Zeta and her family. She saw it yesterday for the first time.”
Barin projected the image of the video and waited for it to finish. When the video was over Zeta saw something she had never seen before. It upset the Agooji. That was unusual. Then she remembered she cried the day before.
Zeta stepped in front of the warriors. Her family, her friends.
“I have to ask you something. I need to find my sister and bring her home, but I do not have enough warriors on Theros to fight and win the battle.”
In the back of the regiment, one of the youngest members of the army stood up. She had a terrible wound on her side from the last battle.
“General, I will fight with you, we are sisters, and any battle you have is a battle I have.”
“The Yoruba wounded you in our last battle, Sera, but I thank you.”
“No, I am Agooji. A warrior you trained, you have saved my life countless times, my wound will not stop me from fighting for you, here or anywhere else!”
The young warriors’ commitment honored Zeta. The Yoruba wounded Sera in the last battle where Zeta lost her arm. It would take time for healing. She could not fight in that condition. She would address that later.
Zeta cleared her throat, “I am asking for volunteers to help me bring my sister home, I do not expect you to risk your lives out of obligation, this goes far beyond anything you will ever face on earth. You can speak amongst yourselves to determine what your decision will be. I will be at my home, find me there when you decide.”
Zeta turned to exit the training field, Barin was following close behind, he disappeared as he got closer to the exit.
Zeta spun around, “Yes?”
“When do we leave,” asked Chera?
They were all standing ready to give their lives for her, but this time it was not for Dahomey and her, it was for her and Leta, a sister she did not remember, a sister they had never met.
“We fight to protect this kingdom, but we also fight to protect each other. Your sister is in trouble, so then too, our sister is in trouble. We will fight to free her, or we will all die trying!”
Zeta looked at their faces. She dropped to her knees. Her warriors, her friends, surrounded her. There would not be a better moment until Leta was free. At that moment, she knew she had two families, and they would both love her forever.
Zeta and the women stayed there for a while. It was a testament to the love and protection they felt they owed each other. The commitment and evidence of admiration impressed Barin the women had for their leader. It was a display of loyalty that he had never seen before. He accessed the recorded files on Zeta. He scanned the videos of her and the women in battle. Wow, they were unmerciful when protecting their own. Zeta was a sight to behold; she was quicker and stronger than the enemies she faced. It was her DNA that made her superior, but she did not know that, and neither did her enemies.
They were sure of one thing. The woman was unstoppable. Even in the battle where she lost part of her arm, she was still a force of nature. She lost her arm going to the aid of Sera, who was being attacked by multiple Yoruba. She deflected the sword blow and did not see the other sword coming down behind her. Her arm lay on the ground. She looked at her arm on the ground, bent down and grabbed her sword with the other hand and killed the enemy who wounded her. She then dove into the midst of a sizeable group of her soldiers and the enemy. It was unbelievable that anyone could fight that way after such a severe wound. When the last of the enemies had fallen, or had run away, one of her medics came over and wrapped her wound. She sent the medic away to help the others. Zeta looked around and saw several Dahomey warriors lay dead. This caused her tremendous grief. Perhaps she had not planned the battle strategy well? However, if you asked anyone of her soldiers, that would never be a question. They knew Zeta prepared for battle better than any general who preceded her. Death is a part of war; warriors die; it is the price soldiers pay. They trained hard to face the enemy better than any army before them. They trained in every weather condition; they practiced running through acacia thorns without hesitation to reach the enemy. There was nothing they feared. Each of them would go into a battle with two comrades against a hundred. Those odds were good. They were the Dahomey Amazons, The Agooji, and the world they lived in brought fear to the surrounding kingdoms.
Leta cried out to her mother as the portal closed in around her. The last thing she remembered was the telepathic link broken between her and Zeta, her twin. Zeta felt the connection break too, and she promised her sister she would find her. That had been twenty-five years ago. Leta had seen none of her people since they kidnapped her. She grew angry because she did not know where her sister was. She did not know she had a sister who would move heaven for her. In Erda, they used that anger to turn her against her family and her kingdom. In Leta’s dreams, she still cried out for Zeta. Zeta was the other half of her, and it hurt not being near her. She did not know her father led a raid intending to bring her home. He intended to take her to Zeta, so they could both grow up in a safe place.
The general never told her about the bracelet she wore, the bracelet taken from her father’s severed arm, or that he died in battle trying to free her. No, they let her heart grow bitter thinking no one loved or wanted her. They wanted her to be the Erdain secret weapon, and one day soon, the intent was to destroy Theros and then enslave the people of Earth. Leta had grown into a superior warrior. The Erda soldiers that she trained with were often in fear of the strength she could unleash. She learned to fight and became unbeatable. This was a part of the general’s plan. He wanted her to destroy her people. The people who abandoned her.
Leta was taller than the Erdains, and they needed to control her physical strength and her thoughts. If the weapon she wore started communicating with her, and she learned the truth about her current state, she could destroy them all with a stroke of her arm.
The lead scientist created a neural device that he attached to the back of her neck, and into her brain stem. She would have no choice but to follow orders. Once they attached the device, Leta calmed down. However, the one thing that did not stop was her calling out for Zeta in her sleep. This baffled the scientists. The neural device should have eliminated any free thoughts, including her dreams. There was more to Leta than they had discovered. One scientist raised the possibility that Leta and her sister might have a telepathic link. If that was the case, when they were close to each other, the neural implant might fail, and Leta would receive a rush of actual information, and then they could have a problem. General Kragin had been listening to the scientist with much impatience.
“That is enough; there is no proof that her sister is still alive. There is no evidence, so there is nothing to worry about,” said Kragin!
Leta stepped from behind a wall, “My sister is alive,” Leta asked?
General Kragin jumped from his seat, “No, we were wondering if you had any family remaining, and if so, why they never tried to find you,” said General Kragin.
Leta walked out of the room; confused. Every night in her dreams, she saw a girl that with her face. Leta thought her mind was breaking, and it was hard not understanding why that thing was on the back of her neck.
Every time she started trying to figure some things out, the device would vibrate, and it would be a few days later before her mind drifted again. Leta could feel something inside fighting to be free, but it felt like her inner strength or will was not enough to get it done. The Erdaian’s thought she had forgotten about her family. They thought she hated them and would kill them if she could. There was no truth in that. The past three days Leta began getting images in her head, and she saw a woman attached to her somehow. She could not see her face, but she knew that woman loved her, and their minds kept trying to connect. When they felt the connection, the neural device got a little weaker. The link confused Leta, but she felt something was coming. That is why she trained so hard. She would to be ready to defend or assist anyone on the right side of justice, and right now she did not feel it was the people of Erda.
The earliest memories Leta had of Erda were of her waking in a stasis chamber. She was three years old and terrified. This was nothing like the childhood she remembered. The people here walked around in fear all the time. There seemed to be a danger that might erupt into violence at any moment. Then there was General Kragin. The way he looked at her was terrifying. Whenever he entered a room, if she was there, he would always make his way to her side. Leta could smell the lust pouring from his pores. It was clear he intended to bed her one day.
Kragin said to her, “thirteen is the age of adulthood on Erda, and I promise on that birthday I will give you the present of myself.”
He wanted to make her a woman and wife the same night. When he said those things, Leta had vomited on his shoes. It was by accident, but the thought of him on top of her made her stomach convulse. He raised his hand to strike her, but King Darcon ordered him to stand down. The look the general gave Leta told her everything she needed to know about the man. She heard stories from the ladies around the village about his abusive ways. Several girls disappeared after being taken to the General’s chambers. He was dangerous, and Leta had no intentions of ever being taken by that pig. Now that she was a woman and stood six feet five inches tall, just as her sister did. She had a well-muscled body that made her intimidating to all who encountered her.
When she was sixteen general Kragin forced his way into her chambers. He was drunk, and he was hell-bent on taking her virginity. Leta was no longer afraid of him; she already stood at six-foot-one inch, and her skills as a warrior had already become very formidable. The general attempted to corner her, but he was drunk, and she was as quick as a cat.
“I will take you tonight, with or without force, it does not matter to me,” said Kragin as he pulled his sword.
Leta looked at him and laughed, “you are not brave enough to take what you want, and even if you were, I would prefer to die before I let a slimy bastard like you to have me!”
General Kragin grunted in anger and charged at her, “I will kill you for speaking to me that way, do you know who I am?”
Leta laughed again, “you are the pathetic drunk who hurts girls for pleasure, well, I am not a frightened child so take me if you think you can, you sorry pig!”
Kragin looked at her, and he seemed to sober up a little as Leta hurled insults at him. He steadied himself and shouted, “I will KILL YOU LIKE I KILLED YOUR PATHETIC FATHER WHEN HE TRIED TO RESCUE YOU! HOW DO YOU THINK YOU GOT THE WEAPON ON YOUR WRIST; I TOOK IT FROM THE ARM I SEVERED FROM HIS BODY? NOW I will KILL YOU!”
Leta took a step back, “My father came for me, and you killed him? This is a weapon? So, everything you told me about my past has been a lie?”
General Kragin charged at her. Leta stepped to the side and thrust her hands into his side. He went sailing through the open window. The fall was only about ten feet. It did not kill him, but he would lay there for a few days suffering.
A chambermaid changing the linen in Leta’s room heard his moans coming from below the window. Another day and he would have expired.
King Darcon sent for Leta.
“What happened to the general?”
Leta straightened her shoulders and looked the old king in the eyes. That went against protocol.
“He came to my room and tried to rape me. I asked him to leave, and he would not. I told him he was not brave enough to have me, he became furious and attempted to kill, but not before telling me how he killed my father on the battlefield. He told me he severed my father’s arm to get this weapon. Is that true? Was I kidnapped and used, in the hope I would one day use this weapon for your purposes?”
The king sat back on his throne. He was trying to find an answer that would smooth this debacle over.
“Leta, your people abandoned you, we took you in because we did not want to see you perish. General Kragin never made it clear how you came to wear that bracelet. Do not find blame in us based on his actions.”
Leta took a step towards the king, “are you saying every painful act orchestrated by the general, he was acting as a renegade without your knowledge, is that what I am to understand?”
The king was sweating now, “why don’t we speak about this later?”
Leta laughed, “Yes, why don’t we? I’m sure the lie will be more amusing once you have time to come up with one.”
“How dare you speak to me that way, I am your king, I can have you put to death for your insolence!”
Leta turned to leave, but turned back, “You are not my king, my King was my father, and they have laid him to rest somewhere without his arm because you thought retrieving this weapon was worth his life. If you want to have me put to death, then do so, make sure you send whoever you think can bring you my arm. Oh, your device is getting weaker, and I think it is because my sister is coming.”
Leta did not realize it at that moment, but she was very much her parent’s daughter. She had just challenged the throne of Erda, alone; she had also just channeled her sister, the warrior Queen coming to set her free.
King Darcon slipped from his throne; his aides jumped to assist him. He screamed for them to get away from him. He needed General Kragin, but he lay dying in the infirmary. He was desperate. He needed a military tactician. Leta could be a force to reckon with if she became aggressive, and if her memory was coming back, the weapon might energize itself at any moment. They had brought it online when she was a child for a few training sessions, but she started having dreams about her home, and her sister. That was a recipe for disaster, so they made the implant to shield her thoughts and memories.
That was falling apart. He got up and sat on the throne. He was at a loss. He did not know how many troops her sister might have if she was coming. The thought she might bluff came to him. Then he felt deflated when he realized that she referenced the neural implant failing, and it was because of her sister. He remembered he had a favor he could call in from the Losian Empire. He supplied ships and supplies in their last war. They swore allegiance to Erda if we ever needed them.
King Darcon looked around, “Send a message to the Losians, ask them to be on standby in the event we need their help to defend against Theros!”
Leta walked back to her chambers; anyone who saw her would have thought she was in total control, but when she entered her room and closed the door, her legs gave out. Leta just missed hitting her head when her body collapsed. She lay there for about an hour, when she opened her eyes, she dared not move, for a moment Leta did not know where she was. She waited a little longer and then realized she was in her room. Most of her talk of her sister had been a bluff. She did not know if her sister even knew she existed, and least of all, alive. The sheer joy she got from watching Darcon squirm was worth everything she said. The part about soldiers coming for her arm scared her now, she had no clue how to use the weapon attached to her arm. Her fighting skills were better than good, but she was only one against the possibility of many rushing into her chambers and taking not just her arm but her life. She sat there and started running her fingers over the Ultherian weapon. There were no edges, it was smooth. Leta was looking for a place where she might get a fingernail wedged inside so she could open it. It felt like they attached the weapon to the bones of her wrist.
Leta felt lost and so alone. She needed someone who loved her.
“I wonder what my father or mother would do in this situation. If father came for me, then he must have been a brave man, and he loved me. He died for me.”
Leta chuckled to herself.
“Wow, I am sitting on my floor, talking to myself about a father I don’t remember. I have a weapon on my arm, and I don’t know what to do with it.”
There were tears building, but she shook them off. There will not be any more tears. If she had a sister. She had to escape this place, or she would die here. She tried hard to conjure an image of her parents, and just as she was sure the picture was building, the neural implant buzzed, and the thought disappeared. However, the memories were back in half an hour. The device was getting weaker. Though there was no way to know why, it felt like a positive omen. Leta took a deep breath and exhaled. It was from the tension-filled moments in the throne room.
The Ultherian weapon changed shape, it was in a full circle around her wrist with five prongs pointing around her hand. The artery was pulsing in her wrist and Leta thought it would fire. Then as quick as it opened, it closed. Leta’s’ heart was pounding. How in the hell had that happened? Leta felt her life was about to change for the better. She was right. But there was a battle coming first.
Zeta was sound asleep when the Ultherian weapon activated. She jumped from her bed as the weapon pulsed.
“Barin, what is going on? Why is the weapon activated?”
Barin moved closer to the weapon, “the twin to this weapon has just communicated with yours. That means only one thing, your sister is wearing the other one, and she and you are synchronizing. If you two can sync from this distance, there is something more going on here.”
The weapon then shifted back to its original state. Zeta felt a wave of emotion. Her sister was alive. Leta was alive! The Ultherian weapons had synchronized, and though it was brief, she prayed that Leta somehow knew she was coming. Zeta did not sleep again that night; there were too many plans to make. The numbers they would face was not her greatest fear. They encountered those numbers before, and they walked away victorious. She knew that part of their legend lent itself to frightening the enemy. That would not be the case this time. The Dahomey Amazons were going to wage war on a galactic scale, and there was no way to know if any of them would see their homeland again. And that saddened her. It was one thing to die fighting for your country, but it was an unfamiliar thing to fight and die on another planet. She would have to make sure they returned the bodies of any fallen Agooji to Dahomey, if she survived. She wanted was to see her sister’s face, to tell her she loves her and that she was sorry it took so long to come for her. She didn’t even know herself, much less that she had a sister. It was not her guilt to wear, yet; it draped over her shoulders like a weighted net.
Barin was sitting in a far corner watching Zeta, and her life signs were off the chart. This would be a hard battle. No one knew what to expect. Going into battle with that level of emotions running wild could be disastrous. He would speak with her when they walked to the cliffs she so loved. If she could not pull it together, perhaps she should not engage Erda. That would not be a welcome conversation, but it was a conversation to have if Zeta was going to lead the Dahomey Warriors into this battle. He watched as she slumped her shoulders. She had taken on the responsibility for her parents’ death and of her sisters kidnapping. Mixed into that was the guilt of asking the Agooji to aid her in a battle they might not win. It was his job to get her head clear, so she could perform at her best, or figure out how to stop her. Barin sighed out loud, and he looked at Zeta to see if the sigh had gotten her attention. It had not. He prayed he would get her to focus. Trying to talk her out of the mission might be a death wish.
“Your Highness would you like to walk to the cliff with me. It will help to clear your mind,” asked Barin.
Zeta raised her head and looked at Barin. Perhaps the walk and the view would ease some tension stinging her shoulders. It was her favorite place, but she had not faced a problem of this magnitude before. If she stayed on earth and did nothing, her sister and Theros would fall. If she went to Theros and failed earth would fall. All she could do was fight. Then there was the king. She needed to seek his permission before the rumors reached him. He was a fair man, but there was a right and a wrong way to do everything and speaking to the Agooji before speaking with him would not be acceptable. She needed fresh air.
“Okay, Barin, a walk it is.”
They walked in silence up the side of the mountain. Barin kept a close monitor on Zeta’s vital signs. They were still bouncing all over the place. The walk did not seem to have the effect he had hoped for. Maybe if she talked about it would help to put things into perspective. Although, her perspective was accurate at the moment. She was between a rock and a hard place, and it was getting tighter by the moment. Still, his job was advising her and help her see the logic in the situation. No matter how dire, he would do whatever it took to assist his Queen. For him, there was no other option, no matter where the war took place.
They were standing at the edge of the cliff. It was a magnificent view. Barin transformed into his therosianoid form.
“Barin, please call me Zeta or Shateri, but do not call me your highness. I am having a hard-enough time understanding the last couple of days. I am just a warrior. I did not ask to be queen. I don’t know if I have what it takes to pull this off.”
“Zeta, which part are you referring to?”
“Which part are you referring to, the part where you fight or the part where you have to sit on a throne and be responsible for your people?”
“Barin, I am not sure. I may fail at both. I am not sure how to face this enemy and I sure as hell know nothing about running a kingdom!”
“I will say this, my queen, no bear with me. I have watched the archives of your battles with the Agooji and I have watched the battles your mother fought during her crusades and you are as capable, maybe more so than she was. You are a warrior born. It is in your blood. The union between your parents was the first time both king and queen were proficient warriors. The enemy you might not defeat is yourself if you do not start looking at this as just another invasion on your homeland, because that is what it is.”
Zeta never looked at Barin. She knew he was right. It did not make it any easier to swallow, but she knew he was right. Her skills in battle had never been close to being tested. She lost her arm protecting one of her sisters. She decided right then on the spot. She would go to Erda and free her sister, and anyone who opposed her would die by her blade.
“You are correct, Barin. I find it so incredible to think three days ago I was Shateri of Dahomey, and now I am Zeta Queen Of Theros. You must admit, that is a stretch. Earth one day, Theros the next.”
“Yes Zeta, it is a stretch by the wildest imagination, but you must realize. You are also Queen of this planet. The people of earth result from your people wanting to create a race of free-thinking people who lived without conflict.”
“Well, they missed that mark. I have killed hundreds myself. How did this experiment fail if Theros is much more advanced? There are wars throughout this land daily.”
“Once the people of earth started grasping the concept of ownership, it disrupted harmony. There is still hope, but it is a long shot at this point. Perhaps the millennia will produce a man who is peaceful. One thing is for sure, if the Erdains have their way, the inhabitants of Earth will become extinct or slaves, and the same fate hangs in the balance for Theros.”
“Well, my friend, we cannot let either of my worlds perish.”
“Yes, you are my friend and I hope we share this friendship for many years to come,” said Zeta.
“In all the years we have served your family, no one has ever called one of us, friend. Thank you,” said Barin.
There was a sudden electrical charge in the air. Barin engulfed Zeta and dove off the cliff. He glided along the valley and then shot straight up into the air. Standing on the cliff was a gigantic animal. It was from a planet near Erda. Barin scanned the creature and discovered it was on a fact-finding mission. It was looking for any signs of Therosian life on the planet and it started in Dahomey.
Zeta could see the creature through a port Barin opened.
“What is that thing,” asked Zeta?
“That is a Cholar, from the planet Cresa. The entire planet is a game preserve. They are intelligent creatures used throughout the universe to hunt fugitives. They also act as mercenaries when needed. The hunt for Zeta of Theros has begun.”
The Cholar raised up on two legs and started a scan of the surrounding area. Barin closed the port Zeta was looking through and the scan passed around the shield he put in place.
“What is that beam of light,” asked Zeta.
“That was a scan in search of you, my queen, it is time we returned to your home.”
The next instance they were standing in Zeta’s house. She climbed into bed, her mind racing frantically. She was being hunted, and that would never do. Zeta drifted to sleep with her anger rising. Tomorrow would be an interminable day. She would speak with the king.
Zeta stretched as she stepped through her doorway in the low light of the morning. She looked around. The village was still quiet. There were a few of the elder mothers stoking the flames to begin the morning meals. She saw something move from the corner of her eye. She turned to see an envoy for the king coming towards her. She knew why he was coming.
“The king has requested your presence,” he said.
Zeta looked at him. He was nervous.
“Tell the king I will be along.”
The envoy headed back to give the message to the king. Zeta knew what was coming. She should have gone to the king first to request the aide of the Warriors. Now she would have to explain in an open session. The king would try to prove his dominance. To show he was the ruler of the Dahomey Amazons and that she was subject to his will and not the other way around. She knew the meeting was coming, and she was ready for it. She stepped back into her home. She might as well get it done. She laid her uniform on the bed and began undressing to chang her clothing. Barin came up beside her and placed the royal uniform of Theros on top of the Dahomey uniform. Zeta sucked in her breath; she remembered seeing her parents in full military dress as a child.
She looked at Barin, “Thank you, but I do not know if it is appropriate for me to wear that here.”
“You are a Queen! There is no place here or on Theros that you should not represent your parents or your people!”
Zeta looked at him and smiled, “you are correct; it is time the king met a Queen!”
Zeta stepped through the door, and the village became silent. She stood there for a moment. She wanted them to know that she was something more, more than just a warrior. From this moment forth, she was a Queen, and they would recognise her as a Queen. Although she knew in her heart she would always be Shateri of Dahomey.
Her uniform was a deep maroon with gold trim. It was loose around the waist and her breasts so it did not sexualize the outfit. She started her walk to the king’s court. As she moved through the village, the crowd started getting bigger. They all knew something was about to happen, and they wanted to be near whatever it was, even if they could not see or hear it.
She arrived at the king’s gate and soldiers led her into the throne room. Zeta walked through the door and the room fell silent.
The king looked up and grunted, “what are you wearing?”
Zeta squared her shoulders, “It is the military uniform of my people. I felt it best that I wear it to aid in making you understand what you are about to hear.”
The king bristled at her response, “you are my subject, remove that garbage now, or I will have it stripped from you!”
Zeta was so far beyond trying to sugarcoat the situation.
“I would not advise that it will not end well for anyone who attempts to remove my uniform!”
The king stood and started walking towards her. He pulled his sword, and it appeared he would strike her down. Zeta never moved. When the king was 10 feet away, she spoke one word.
Barin spun around in front of her and stretched to his six-foot-five-inch therosianoid form. He stood there with his weapons drawn.
“I would advise you not to approach my Queen with your weapon drawn, it will not end well for you!”
The king slid to a halt; his half-run walk towards Zeta ceased. He looked at Barin, then to Zeta.
“What manner of black magic is this?”
Zeta was not happy that it came down to this show of force, but the king would have killed her where she stood, or so he thought, for her insubordination.
“Sire, now that I have your attention, I do not mean you any disrespect, but I need you and the council to hear my story, not the story you think you know, but the story of my origin.”
“Barin, will you please play the video just before my birth up to the day Lar returned me to Theros?”
“Yes, my Queen.”
“Why does he keep calling you, Queen,” asked the king?
Barin looked at the king, “you are about to see why she wears that title.”
Barin projected Zeta’s life from the beginning and showed her and her sister enjoying the world they were born.
“A war broke out, and the king and Queen intended to send both daughters to earth for their protection. Unbeknownst to them, the Erdaians had a spy in the palace who kidnapped one twin. The strain was too much for Queen Tivah, and she died. King Tril went after his daughter, and he died in battle. The Therosians left Zeta where the Dahomey would find her, and they would raise her as a member of your tribe.”
Barin turned off the video.
“You have called her Shateri for the last twenty-five years, I present to you Queen Zeta of Theros.”
Zeta looked at the king, and he appeared to be more understanding. He had always been a fair and kind king. Zeta hoped he would understand and allow the Agooji Warriors to go with her, to save her sister.
The king looked at Zeta, “you have no right to ask this of Dahomey, since we just learned you are not one of us.”
Hearing that statement, some Agooji shouted their war cry. The king stopped speaking and looked around the room.
“Why should we fight your battle?”
Zeta was getting agitated. Barin could sense her vital signs starting to rise.
Zeta looked at the king, “I would think since I have fought battles for Dahomey for a long time, it would be acceptable for the Amazons to help me save my sister and make my home world safe again.”
The king looked at her, “my wives will never agree to go with you to another world and fight a battle that does not benefit our Kingdom.”
Zeta looked around; there were Amazons scattered throughout the crowd. They wore the same expressionless faces they always did. Zeta was not sure what effect the kings’ words would have on their decision to go with her. They understood loyalty, but their loyalty had always been to king and kingdom.
The king laughed, “I think you are going to standalone, Zeta of Theros.”
Now he was making a mockery of everything she stated.
Then Zeta heard the sweetest sound that ever pierced the silence of a room. There were two quick blasts from her horn. She reached for it on her belt, but it was not there. She left it with her Dahomey uniform. She looked over, and Chera was holding it. When she looked at the crowd again, the Amazons had taken up all the space in the room. When the king saw the Amazons, he realized what was about to happen.
He jumped to his feet, “I forbid any of you from going into this battle!”
Chera stepped forward, “we will fight with our Warrior Queen sister until the last of us drops if that is what it takes. Zeta has fought in front of us for as long as we can remember. We will not abandon her when she needs our help. We hope you will understand why we have made this decision. If not, perhaps the first battle will be on Dahomey land!”
Zeta looked at Chera. That was the warrior’s spirit she saw that first day she met her on the training field. She also knew the king could have her killed for such a display of defiance.
The king sat back with his mouth agape; this was not what he expected.
Then the general of the men’s army stepped towards Zeta. Barin went into protection mode.
“Barin, it is okay.”
Barin moved to Zeta’s side.
The warrior stopped in front of her, “it would be my honor to offer the services of the Dahomey men.”
“You may not offer your services, you answer to me,” shouted the King!
“Yes, we do, but I am curious to know where your honor is, your highness. If we do not fight for our own, then what purpose do we serve. Zeta has been our champion, and now we must honor her request for help, your highness!”
“She is not one of us,” shouted the king!
“Your Highness, she is more of us than some in this room. She is Dahomey no matter where she was born!”
The warrior never raised his voice and he did not make any outward movement at all. He never turned to face his king the entire time he spoke. He was looking in Zeta’s eyes.
“It will be an honor to serve you on your quest, your highness.”
He then turned and left the room. The Dahomey Amazons sensed that the decision was clear; they all thumped their spears on the ground and let out a war cry that froze everyone in the village in their tracks. They knew that cry.
There was a battle coming, and the Amazons welcomed it.