It is 1 a.m. Your mother pulls the book out of your grasp and you yell for its return. “Μην επιμένεις!" They are the same words you are scolded with again and again. Curiosity. Stubbornness. Insistence. You are taught that these are the traits that will lead you to strife when you are grown. And you must avoid such a thing. At all costs. So, at night, when the lights are switched off and your thoughts tick over and over and over, there is no comfort lying beneath the mosquito-net canopy of your bed. You burn with it. Passion. Restlessness. You need to move.

You want to know all that there is to know. You want to taste the world. You want to see its riches. You want to discover for yourself if the things that you hear, if the stories lifted from the heavy volumes of history are true still. You want to know mankind with every beat of your heart. You are seven years old, lying on a cot that is too small for you. It is all that your mother can afford. You hear the bustle in the Athenian streets below from your high rise apartment. The city is still awake. The windows are wide open to let in the cool night air. It is the height of summer and you want to peel your skin off. Your mother whispers a good night and kisses your cheek, settling in next to you.

The ceiling is low, but you close your eyes and you can see the stars behind them. The constellations that you know, that you have memorised. The sun god. Golden and beautiful. He shines high and proud. Boastful, really. You turn onto your side and see the holy icon of the Virgin Mother that watches over you. The relief shines with the reflections of night-time lightscapes. Protecting you. You wonder if the saints and the gods know one another. You bite your tongue in penance for thoughts so blasphemous and will yourself to sleep. Eventually, you succumb. Your eyes close and you dream. You do not know yet that in the morning, your mother will not wake.

-

The sound of wings, and a steady hand reaches forth to pluck a golden bow-string, loosing its arrow with a master's skill. The bird falls to the earth with pierced breast. It is dead. A second bow surrenders an arrow and another bird falls from the air. It is not so precise. The creature contorts in agony at the feet of the skilled archer, squawking and squealing.

The proud woman kneels, her doe-skinned boots pressing into wet earth as she observes the struggling bird, her brow furrows and she reaches out a hand. With quick fingers, she ends the creature's torment. Her expression is stern, as is accustomed to her now. It has been a long time since her belly has heaved with the thrums of laughter, since the lines on her face were carved deep with mirth. There are clues though, lingering behind clear blue eyes. They are kind eyes. There was once a time when this face used to smile every day.

But not today and for good reason.

“Come here, Diana," Antiope says, her voice low and authoritative, outstretching the same hand to usher you - her protege - to her side. Suddenly timid, you take a small step forward, watching the Amazon with clear intention, apprehensive that your tutor might find fault in you if you look to move too suddenly. You attempt to pace yourself and notice that she is still holding the bird. Her palm cradles its head, fingers brushing at the feathers of its breast, with your clumsy arrow shaft splintered at its side. Dark crimson blood wets the woman's fingers and extends out toward the wing of the dead passerine.

Her hands treat the creature with care, her fingers moving now to the arrow, breaking it with force and removing it from the bird. You hesitate, watching her method, startled when the bird twitches. For a fleeting moment, you are hopeful that it is still alive. Unharmed.

“Did I not tell you to come?" she says, but she does not draw her eyes over you, her voice is still hard. It is a warning now and you oblige, stopping short at her side. The woman finally looks up, eyes finding yours and leading your gaze back to the animal. It is still a fledgling, without all of its flight feathers. It's short life cut shorter by your carelessness.

“You did not remember your lesson," she starts, but her expression does not change. "What was done wrong? Can you tell me?" The question is asked simply. It hangs in the air for a moment and you feel your face flush with heat. You know that it must be burning red, betraying you. You fall to kneel by her side, your sandals upturning grass and sodden earth, observing the lifeless bird. You want to reach out, to stroke its plumage, the guilt brews inside you.

I am not worthy, you tell yourself.

“Aim," your voice is small. Your tutor says nothing. You clear your throat and begin again. “Aim. Not just the arrow, but of its purpose. To— to kill swiftly, without inflicting unnecessary pain," Your own answer does not entirely convince you, your thoughts searching for words of more significance, something more poetic - and your skin begins to prickle with the anticipation of the rebuke when you find nothing. Will you be scorned? Will she tell your mother? Will she cease your training, when it has barely even begun? Her eyes are too hard to read.

The Amazon lets her gaze flicker over you a moment, moving one hand to her knee. “Hunting is a skill and the bow is your tool, but you cannot forget why you do this. All beasts must hunt for their food, but Amazon and Man are the only creatures that do so with the knowledge of its cost. You must always ask yourself: What does it mean to take a life? What does it mean, to keep yourself clean? When you take another creature's life, you must honour it. A clean kill does this, since it does not allow suffering. But your arrow may not always strike true and if so, you must act swiftly to ease the pain of suffering. It is a cruel trick indeed to forget. This is why we do not hunt without purpose and never with greed. It is why precision is so important. Do you understand?"

You can feel tears welling behind your eyes. The shame hits you deeply. You cannot bear to look at her directly, but she will accept no less. Your voice disappears as you look over the bird once more. You manage a nod. You do not see that her expression changes, coloured now with compassion. Antiope does not tell you, but she is proud that this is your reaction. Remorse should always follow the loss of life.

“I understand," You answer.


-
Lyrics:
They did not ask if I wanted to be born, and I thought that they would sing me lullabies.

Translations:
“Stop persisting"

An elderly woman sat by the shore, a tunic folded over her lap, her head slumped forward against her arm as she napped in the vast sunlight, her fingers knotted, the knuckles twisted by a disease of the bone. The sun's light on the sea had lulled her heavy lids to close and brought with it a beloved reverie.

Metaxia dreamt of her childhood, of playing games in the mountains with her young brothers and hunting for wild hares in the forests of the great isle, long before they had grown up and long before they had joined the war effort. Ares.

It seemed that war was all young men were bred for these days, and she had long loathed the idea. War had taken her brothers and her husband. It had claimed four of her sons, three lost to death in fields of battle, the last, serving still as a renowned general in a far off land. It was a fate which Metaxia feared worse than death, for her son's duty could only mean one thing.

There would come a day, too soon, when her beloved grandson would join his forefathers and she would live out the remainder of her days, utterly alone. For now, however, she could delight in the time she spent with the young boy who was but a month shy of his fourteenth birthday and already too much for her to keep up with.

“Why are you sleeping?" spoke a breathless voice in her ear, and the old woman gave a muffled reply.

“I'm not sleeping. You've made sure of that," she opened a grey eye and looked up at the young face that stared back at her, unable to keep from smiling softly at the young boy who watched her with adult eyes and child-like curiosity. He was naked and sopping wet and she handed him his tunic, which he received with a grin. “Did you catch anything?" she asked, raising a quizzical brow at the face of the child caught between boyhood and manhood as he wrestled with his garment.

“Yes," he replied, tying a corded thong about his waist before he held up a large purple mass in front of her. The octopus was lifeless, but the old woman could not deny that it looked monstrous. It was the largest the boy had ever caught, that much was certain, and the wayward tentacles that grazed her arm as he held it there for her inspection gave her an odd sense of discomfort.

“It will…make a fine dinner," she remarked, easing away from the creature and the boy smiled widely.

“Good! Because this one is for us!" he smiled, flopping down next to her.

“This one? How many did you catch?" his grandmother said, unable to help herself from patting the top of his head gently, brushing back the wet curls that tangled against his crown. In time, he would be too old for this, for her affections.

“I seized three," he said with a shrug, trying to ease away from her caress, lest one of the other village boys saw them this way. Metaxia sighed. It was already beginning. The boy loved his grandmother dearly, but he was acutely aware of how close he teetered to the edge of ridicule in the eyes of the other boys.

“Three!" Metaxia exclaimed. “You were gone only..." the old woman tried to recall just how long she had dozed off for.

“A half hour!" he interjected, feeling rather proud. “I thought we might sell them at market. Perhaps we could get enough copper rings to buy a votive for the festival?”

Metaxia pursed her lips at the thought, but the youth did not notice. “You're going to the festival then?"

“Didn't we agree? You said if I finished my lessons and if I ploughed the field, and helped you tend the goats. I did all that didn't I?"

“You did. It was the first time you completed all your chores without a threat on your hide!" her face was stern, but her heart smiled within her. He was such a lovely, young boy.

“Then it's settled! We will keep the fattest one for dinner, and I'll take the other two to market right now!" he replied fervently and stood tall, grinning from ear to ear as Metaxia gave him her hand and he helped the old woman to her feet. “You should go have a swim, Granny. The water is so warm today," he said as they walked together.

“Oh no, precious one. I'm afraid these old limbs are quite useless against all the might of the Aegean," she said.

The boy chuckled loudly. "But Poseidon keeps it so calm today! Look at it,"

Metaxia looked, and indeed, the sight was beautiful. Great white gulls circled overhead, a good omen for the wayward sailor, and the sea itself seemed tranquil, but she could not look at it long, it was almost as if her gaze could not contain all of its majesty. A vast green ocean stretched towards the horizon, the froth of soft, lapping waves that skirted the beach spraying salt and sand against her face as she followed the boy towards the water. She watched as he took in the sight, a yearning deep in his eyes and her heart grew warm as she regarded him.

“Give me the octopodes," she said with a smile, a soft hand on his back. He had grown so tall over the last year that she could hardly reach his shoulder. “I will take them to market. You can go for a swim for me. After all, you don't have any chores left, do you?"

The boy turned, his grey eyes bright as he kissed the old lady's brow, squeezing her tightly. “Thank you, Granny! Thank you!" was the last Metaxia heard as he pulled off his tunic again and dashed straight into the water. It was only after he disappeared into the surf, that she allowed herself to take in the sight of red banners, of horses cresting the hill, heading to the heart of the city.

Ares had arrived.

-
Lyrics:
If you return, all my life will be a feast, and my heart and soul no longer orphans.

The sand had fashioned a resting place for the galley, its oarsmen lost to the rhythmic song of their captain as they brought the vessel to its berth, tugging at ropes to secure its place. A large brutish man with dark skin, The Captain wore a simple tunic tied together with leather thongs that skirted his back and sides and held a large, wooden drum in place before him.

The Captain’s thick, muscled arms fell hard on the skin of the drum, the ox-hide pulled taut, reverberating beneath his dexterous hands where warm boils had formed from the exertion. These did not weary him, the pain lost on a body that had toiled once in slavery and had grown strong because of it. Physical pain was of no consequence when his thoughts lingered on the task his crew had been charged with.

The Egyptian’s brow had merged as the sun dipped below the horizon, heralding the maudlin merriment of his oarsmen too long at sea. He would not join them ashore, preferring the slow rocking of the grounded vessel as his night companion in place of a giddy, inebriated mind or a giddy, inebriated whore. Atop the vessel, named Nefer for its striking beauty, The Captain felt at home and at peace, yet ever since she had departed their last post, a quiet anxiety had risen in him, and he had wanted to inspect her thoroughly for any damage, lest their task was compromised somehow.

The galley had remained intact for the most part and The Captain's only real concern had come from the youngest seaman who had decorated a section of the deck with his own bile three days out to sea. Now, the days had grown longer and his crew of thirty had been at sea a month, wearied by the task of ferrying precious goods across the Adriatic and the dizzying zest of triumph had been theirs as Golgos, the second-in-command had cried out at the sight of land two nights before. Their duty was almost done and rewards awaited them in place of their exertions, however, The Captain was still unsettled. This last voyage had seemed too simplistic and too untroubled, particularly for goods so valued and he was a cautious man.

“Beloved country! Beloved home!" Golgos had shouted, the spray of the sea lining his burly legs as he hoisted himself up onto the deck and came to stand by The Captain's side, his arm outstretched, pointing to a spot East of the galley. At such a distance, the island seemed nothing more than a fixed speck, but for those upon The Nefer, it was enough to stir the strength in their arms and the fire in their hearts. "It has been a lifetime since I last saw her! I tell you, I will kiss the ground when we reach land!"

“How many years has it been since you returned home, Golgos?" The Captain was pensive, his stern voice was soft and his gaze was lost on the white speck in the distance, his thoughts detached, wandering.

“It has been a long time. Too long. Twenty years. Thirty, perhaps. A lot longer than some of these termites have drawn breath!" Golgos had replied, a hearty chuckle resounding from deep within his throat. The Captain managed a smile and Golgos clapped him hard on the back. "It's a pleasant thought, isn't it?"

“It's a sobering one," The Captain said, his smile growing. “If my men were not here, you would be the one bringing Nefer in to port. All on your own," he added, clapping Golgos on the back in a similar manner, his expression grim for a moment before the smile returned.

“Should I go tend to the dogs in the hold then?" Golgos replied, his eyes bright, lips spread in mirth. It was a rare thing to see the Nubian smile, but Golgos had befriended him long before taking up the mantle of second and knew how to draw laughter from beneath his lips. The Captain gave a small nod, a thought passing through his mind, leaving his brow to furrow a moment.

“Check on the boy first. Make sure he hasn't fallen asleep at his post. Then make sure the rest are still capable of a day's labour. I would hate to have you squash out a mutiny this close to shore," his smile had disappeared. “And then tend to our cargo. No doubt she'll want to stretch her legs a little bit. Don't give her the chance,"

“Princess? Are you awake?" a man asked, his ear pressed up against the curtain that sealed off the royal quarters. He searched for a sound, his ears straining for a hint of her stirring, of the sound of her breath, of anything that might ease him, but he received no such pardon and he grew only more apprehensive. Lutus pulled himself away from the curtain and sat with his head in his hands.

“We will dock very soon, princess. We are not too far from shore, and soon, we will receive word from those that await you," he gave a sigh, his voice trembling. “I know it is not my place, princess...but will you not say a word? Truly? Surely nothing could trouble one so beautiful," Lutus' hands were shaking as he spoke, and he tried to steady them, but the silence he met with did little to comfort him. It had been long since he last indulged in the pleasure of female company, and he felt as terrified and as lost as a young child. Lutus sighed again, raking a calloused hand through his hair, becoming impossibly still when he heard something stir behind the curtains.

He saw a shape, an indistinct shadow emerging from the place he stared at now, and he felt his heart quicken its pace. For a long while, nothing happened, and instead, he stood, his heart pounding so hard against his chest he thought it might easily break through its ossified casing. Slowly, a jewelled arm reached forward and parted the curtain. Although her face was veiled, Lutus could not deny that this was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her eyes were piercing and held him trance-like for a moment, his throat dry.

“Princess," he said, breathlessly, trying to regain some power over his wits, before realising that her wrists were not jewelled, but shone like armour. Gauntlets. And then, he caught sight of a gold rope. Lutus froze. "You're not...!"

“No, I am not,"

-
Lyrics:
Fish don't live ashore and flowers do not blossom on the beach.

The song picks up speed and it gives you so much joy to behold the sound of music. Your unbound hair sails about you as you dance and your company beholds you, shouts of “Nymph!" and “Goddess!" meeting your ears in your native tongue. The locals urge you on with deafening cheers and much applause and you oblige them, gracefully weaving between them, your head held aloft, gay laughter raining from your lips as you dance. You twirl and you step gracefully, around and around them. Your eyes are bright with mirth as they catch his over the crowd of people. He offers up his glass to you. Whiskey. Neat. You would remember its taste.

-

His restraint fails him as he buckles and falls to his knees on the cobblestones. You smile and hold your hands out to him. "Come, young Dionysus. You're no match for the elixir of the gods," you tease, concern busying your brow as he stares up at you, suddenly awed and reverent. He takes your hands and kisses the palms both and you are struck by the fierce yearning you behold in his eyes.

“I think it's best we find you somewhere to rest, away from all this — merriment," your cheeks are flushed, from the ale or your own embarrassment, you could not say, but you find yourself kneeling by his side, taking his arm and rising with him. His weight has little effect on your countenance, and he opens a pretty blue eye, breath hot on your face as he calls you "fairest one" and crumples to a heap again at your feet. Drunk. He begins to snore on your shoe. Men.

-

She follows after you across the sand, red hair unbound, grinning at you. “I don't see the harm!" she calls out. Then, in her spritely way, she disappears into the surf, naked and pale in the moonlight. You kick off your sandals and cast yourself into the water after her, letting her guide you into the deep. The pair of you swim for a time and she rebukes you when you sidle up against her, tangled up in the fabric of your gown. She finds you wanting. Mera kissed you once. Your first kiss and you are sure that you will never taste sweeter lips. You urge her for another.

“Be patient, love," she grins, giggling and taking a deep breath, descending into the depths as the sun sinks further beneath the horizon. The island is bathed in light and its majesty is blinding, even to you. You follow suit, submerging yourself, catching her ankle on the way down, but she is too quick and slippery and evades you. You swim after her.

When she surfaces, she sits at the foot of a cave, brushing back long tangles of dark, auburn hair. You spend your first breath on a sigh, taking in your surroundings. It was exactly as you had imagined it from the stories that she told. "You're the first to set eyes on this place," she says, smiling as she catches the expression that creases over your face. Kneeling on the rock, she watches as you reach out to press your fingers against a stalactite. “It's wonderful,"

She tells you that it has become a refuge, as far back as her memory serves her. You serve the old gods with reverence, and they also reward you with powers and with empowerment that you will wield for good one day. Mera tells you that this haven has helped her to escape the fate of other young girls, cursed by beauty to serve ungrateful men. You swear that you will be a guardian of love for all mankind. But especially for women and children.

-

You amble behind without uttering a word, his uniform, creased along the back, across those strong shoulders to which you had held so tightly in the darkness. "Don't go," you had prayed silently, raking your body against his, but to no avail. You don't need saving. You can do this on your own. But he doesn't listen. He needs to be the person he believes himself to be too. You cannot stop him. When morning comes, he dresses and readies himself for your departure. To war. To Ares. He promised you will both return.

Steve.

-

Another uniform, but the insignia belongs to no King or Queen or god that you know. An S.

“I still have to keep secrets from everyone,"
“We're not like Zeus. But we're not like them either,"
“We're not like anyone,"
“Do you ever… feel alone?"
“I do,"

-

Gilded and ethereal, you see her. The goddess of love appears before you. Aphrodite wears silks, feather light, and you dare not look her in the eye. The goddess laughs, a sweet laugh, such cheer radiates through her melodious lilt, as sharp as knives. It is a sound you have never heard before. It is otherworldly. And you, weakened by your fever dream, reply with your throat ragged. There is pain. There is so much pain, in simply moving your lips. Your lips crack and bleed as they tremble to form words and sound.

“You laugh at me," you stagger and manage to rasp. “I am dying... and you laugh. You... are cruel,"

You would not dare offend a goddess, but there is no more that she can do to you now. There is no punishment worse than death. Nothing that comes out of annihilation. The laughter ceases, a head of golden curls thrown back, eyes shining a fierce grey. It is not the aphros she evokes, but the storm far out at sea. Your skin prickles.

“Hush, child. I cannot let you die. You are one of my treasures. You do not know of what you were made," she stares down upon you, and you scramble for the sheepskin covering, to shield your modesty as a terrible thought enters your mind. This creature has seen you, she has seen you before you were first formed, before you ever drew breath, before you ever saw light. There is a pain that forms in your stomach at the revelation and your hand moves there, pawing at your naked belly.

“You are young. My dear, you are so young," her words are meant to comfort you, to soothe her betrayal, but her light is so blinding, and when she reaches out a hand to touch you, you recoil.

“Where is she? Where is Mera?"

Her mouth tightens to a line. “Youth and beauty. Olympus openly mocks such things. And yet, so they covet it, most greedily. It is why I command you thus, child. Forget pain of body. Forget strained limbs. I will give you vigour. Love will give you strength, Diana,"

You feel a blow to the head, as though from a hard, heavy stone. A new zeal spreads from every limb of your body, and your eyes flutter open.

-

Theodora wakes, tangled up in bedsheets in the King sized bed of the master bedroom. Her heavy-lidded eyes move to the alarm clock, then to the empty side of the bed opposite her. Her eyes narrow as the dreams slowly drain away to oblivion and she resigns herself to sleep once more. Alone, as she has always been. As she has always preferred.

-
Lyrics:
Whose mouth warms your lips now? And what silence keeps them closed?

“If you ever find yourself caught in the jungle with a lion, a lawyer, and a gun with a single bullet, you should kill the lawyer. The lion you might escape.”

It is your father’s saying. It may be the best advice he has ever given you and you do not forget it when you enter the viper’s nest. It churns in your head as your clasp your hands together, entwining the fingers and placing them in your lap. It seems as though you hear everything as time slows to a crawl. You are not an impatient woman but this room has always unsettled you.

It happens in increments. Too small for you to notice. At first, you feel your skin growing warmer and wonder if the air conditioning unit has been tampered with. It would not surprise you if such trickery has been employed here. To make you sweat. Literally. It seems that your reputation precedes you and you are under no illusions when it comes to the ulterior motives of the secretary that stares back at you from across a long, polished table. If she is similarly affected, she does not show it. It is a silent battle of wills. A waiting game until her superior joins you.

He is purposely late. You would bet your life on it. The woman’s disapproving glare reaches the roots of her haphazardly dyed hair. You offer her a smile that is as poisonous as her own, your eyes darting to her widow’s peak as if to apologise for the inadequacy of her hair stylist. Her eyes narrow and you know you have hit your mark. The man you are set to meet continues to be late.

Mr. K. is an older man with certain ideas about the heights that women should reach and he has never made a point to conceal his opinions. And so you have loathed him since your very first meeting in this very office. Throughout the years, and in the most trying times, you have cursed his name and you have imagined the devils from your mother’s parables tearing him apart. You are not proud of these fantasies, but you have given yourself the justification with a decade of awful memories. He has kept you waiting for twenty minutes before he finally enters the room. It is customary that you rise in greeting. It is his first power play.

The second quickly follows when he addresses the man to your side before he acknowledges you, and you see Cooper’s eyes narrow. You have already spoken to him about the history you share with this ageing man. Mr. K. is not a friend. He is not an ally. He is a snake that must be handled with care. He is misogyny clothed in Armani. You are glad that your associate is as disappointed by this man’s presence as you are.

When Mr. K. finally acknowledges you, there is some solace to be found in his receding hairline and the protruding belly that hangs over his trousers. Today you wear a modest heel and you still tower over him. This is your power play, and you feel your jaw tighten as you nod your head curtly and take his outstretched hand. You wonder how hard you would have to squeeze to fracture the little bones of his fingers. Not much. The thought encourages you. Your father’s lawyer finally sits and procures a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. It is the same brand that he preferred ten years ago. His sole responsibility then was to bleed you dry. You see his face contort, and he addresses you with the epithet that you have always hated. Kορίτσι μου. It is a pet name, but when it spills from his lips, you feel your shoulders tense. Power play.

He is all smiles with you now. Ten years ago, when you were grappling for your right to a vast fortune, his tactic was very different; calling you and your mixed-race child all kinds of foul things in your mother tongue. He thought you could not understand. He called you Englishwoman to your face, and when he called you a whore behind your back, you held you tongue. But when he spoke words of your daughter, you lost all of your composure. You remember in vivid detail, how you took the marble bust of Pericles from his desk and hurled it through a window.

Your business is still a fledgling. It is not flesh and blood like your progeny, but it is just as precious and you feel just as protective. But you would guard the world from this man and he is the embodiment of everything you despise on this earth. Upon your father’s death, you could not understand how his most trusted adviser could be so callous and unfeeling. But you have lived enough to know that money has a powerful hold over certain kinds of men, and it is a kind of pity that you feel now, for your siblings that trusted him and for your father’s wasted legacy.

He lights his cigarette and you see his secretary rise, placing an ash tray before him before she exits. You reply to her forced farewell with another curt nod and hear her close the door on her way out. There is a rush of cool air that you feel against your back and you relax a little in your seat and your gaze passes over to Cooper. You explained as much as you were able to, but you knew he would have trouble with the language barrier, so you both agreed that you would do the talking and debrief later. Mr. K’s cigarette smoke reaches you and your nose scrunches at the scent.

He basks in the silence and you begin to feel sick. You have not noticed how your face has grown pale. Your have dismissed your rapid heartbeat as a precursor to the adrenaline that is flooding your system, at all the unspoken rage that you harbour for this man standing across from you. Mr. K. sits and you move to do the same. Before you do, the room spins and you slide out of your chair and crumple to the floor. You hear Cooper’s yell before everything goes dark.

There is fussing when you come to. You do not know where you are, but your shoes have been removed and there is a cold compress on your forehead. There is talk all around you and you do not recognise the voices that they belong to. “Zuri?” you say, opening your eyes as far as they will stand to go against the light, but your daughter is not near. It takes a little time for your memories to return and your senses to piece a narrative together from your unfamiliar surroundings. Faces come into focus. You hear fragments of conversation that makes no sense to you, but there are two words that stand out. They are being repeated again and again as concerned glances fall on you. A woman you do not know notices that you’re awake, and before you can even ask your terrified question, she smiles at you and offers you her congratulations.

The room spins again.

The two words echo in your mind.

Το μωρό.

-
Translations:
“My little girl."
“The baby."

Late nights were not uncommon for Theodora. In her opinion, idle hands really were the devil's work and her regimented lifestyle made sure she never succumbed to inertia, or worse, sloth. Dependent upon her own rigid expectations, the strict schedules that she put in place held her (and her household, by extension) accountable. She pursued opportunities that rewarded ambition and she had always encouraged her daughter to do the same. It was assumed in her previous line of work as a professor at the university of Boston. But it had been ingrained early on.

Autonomy and personal responsibility were touted throughout her years at her Swiss boarding school, but motherhood was the true enforcer of these ideals. The long, endless nights of waking up to nurse, of easing her daughter back to sleep and soothing the newborn when she was ill. It all required a resolve that was inviolable. It seemed like a lifetime ago now, when she'd held that tiny bundle in her arms, pressing her to her chest and smoothing back the dark, unruly hair at her crown while listening to her new baby coo.

The thought seemed bittersweet in that moment with how tense things had been with her daughter of late, silently musing on the current state of things as she traced a fingernail against the pattern of the teapot that Zuri had made for her as a Mother's Day gift. The little pot felt as fragile as her resolve, wanting to pick up the phone and enforce her maternal rights; to compel her child to speak to her.

She could already hear her reply in her head. “Mom, you're being so Greek right now,"

Theodora sighed.

When laughter seemed inappropriate, tea certainly helped, so Cooper, wearing empathy, had leaned against the kitchen counter as she finished preparing the infuser; filling it with peppermint leaves and chamomile flowers before she raised her eyes to meet his gaze. He had been treading carefully all evening, deliberating over his words, and she had wondered if she unnerved him. Even now. That morning, the question that had plagued them both had been answered and he knew now that he would be a father. The timing was still difficult to comprehend; that she could be so far along with his child, but she had spent enough time deliberating the outcome and refused to give it unnecessary thought. Adaptation was her strongest suit, so that was what she would do.

Cooper spoke again, and Theodora found herself warming to the sound of his voice as he questioned her about Zuri's whereabouts, smiling against her dismay. Without thinking, her hand moved to her belly, anchored there in an attempt to soothe another bout of nausea. “At her father's, or Nate's I suspect. I suppose, some distance every now and again is healthy,"

Theodora had been made to endure. In many ways, time had made her bolder. In others, she was still stuck on that rickety cot from her youth, feeling the warmth drain from her mother's lifeless form and feeling incredibly alone. It was a harrowing thought, but in those early days, with an infant Zuri cradled to her breast, she feared the same fate. Feared that she might be separated from her daughter, that death might take her and colour the rest of Zuri's innocent life.

Now that she was expecting another child, the fear had returned, and she discovered how much she felt she needed him. How his warmth could allay her terror. How his encouragement could give her comfort, and persuade her enough to let go. It had never been this way with Luke even though he had done his best, and given her the greatest gift, she had never needed him. Her eyes moved toward the stove as Cooper asked if she missed her daughter, and she swallowed against the lump in the back of her throat.

Reaching to pick up the kettle, she poured the water into the pot slowly, covering the leaves and flowers and allowed them to steep, feeling his eyes on her for a while before she answered, “Yes. I'm disappointed and angry, but I still want her here. I know it all must make little sense, but it all changes when you become a parent," He nodded, placing a hand over hers and squeezing it. It was almost as though he understood. It struck her that soon enough, he would.

Entering the living room, she held the mug between her hands and wandered to her desk, reaching toward the binder of a heavy legal document, forgoing her computer screen for something more tangible to read, something weighty against her lap as she tried to enjoy her tea. A month prior, she had been confined to bedrest and had loathed every moment of it. Now that she was no longer fatigued, the doctors had allowed her to resume some of her work. Some, they had advised, but all she had needed was an inch. Theodora saw him sit and frowned as he caught her gaze, shaking his head at her as she reached to touch the cover of the binder. 'Doctor's orders,' he mouthed across from her. Ruefully, she pulled her hand away from the folder, following after him as he patted the cushion by his side.

Each time she sat at her desk and saw him sink down into the cushions with his satchel and his papers, she felt something akin to guilt, watching him try to navigate his tall, muscular frame delicately to keep from upturning the coffee table covered in stacks of documents. If her own desk had not been buckling under the weight of heavy tomes and ledgers, she might have laughed at the display of this hulking figure attempting to make himself as small as possible because he was too polite to make a fuss. Now, it seemed like the reverse, as she saw the amused curve of his lips slanting into a smile as she moved to join him on the couch, finding it to be a balancing act with her mug in hand.

Her mind was already quick to conjure a strategy on how best to win him over and how she might persuade him to let her take a small peek at the computer screen. Theodora turned to look at him with an expression of longing, she needed it now, like a balm for her wearied head. "Just one email?" she asked, and she felt the couch shift beside her as he began to laugh from deep in his belly, beguiled by her audacity. Theodora frowned, the slant of her dark brows making her face appear fiercer than she intended, bringing her mug to her lips with a huff. He recovered, bringing his mug to his mouth to mirror her, hiding his grin behind the porcelain rim. Admitting partial defeat, she quirked a brow and found a new tactic, her free hand moving to his knee.

“Tomorrow?" she asked, squeezing his thigh.

“Tomorrow," he sputtered, draping an arm around her with another laugh. Theodora silenced it with a kiss.

At first, she remembers air thick with dizzying, summer heat. Then the scent of berries and native wildflowers returns. With that comes birdsong, the buzzing of bees, the crashing of waves and visions of a beautiful untouched paradise beckoning her with all the familiarity of home.

Themyscira seems so close, alive with memory, revealing itself to Theodora in ways that she dismisses as night-time fancies brought on by gestational capriciousness. Months pass before her mind is quiet enough to accommodate her dreamscape and even then, she attaches little meaning to the experience.

It isn't until she voices the strange affinity she has to this unknown isle that something changes in him. Cooper's face contorts when she confesses idly about a vision of herself on horseback, clad in leather and armour, living out some kind of Warrior Princess fantasy. She confuses his concern for aroused interest, but having already eked out enough pleasure for one evening, she cosies against his chest with a yawn instead, leaving him to fret.

“We'll do that another night, darling," she says, patting his chest.

-

There is no other haven that offers Diana such contentment.

Her feet are bare as they step closer to the edge, toes curling for purchase. The leather strap that confines her dark hair into a long braid has been loosened by the coastal wind, but she does not mind, surveying the drop beneath her instead. Slowly, her head tips back. Breathing deeply, her eyes close to the sun and she stills there; thinking.

At last, Diana dives, relishing in the sensation when her body is swallowed up by the salt water and she sinks down into the cold depths. Her hands almost touch the sea-bed, just a little further than the last time, but the current is already pushing her up toward the surface, goading her to try again.

It is such a glorious thing, to be young and alive and free.

When she tires of the water and her belly burns with hunger, she swims to shore, picks up her sandals and ambles barefoot, paying no heed as hot coastal sand gives way to scorching limestone, scaling ancient tiered platforms toward the crest of a hill and a royal courtyard. Beyond, a palace and a throne-room await her. By the time she reaches the palace gates, she is bone dry.

“Mother!" she calls, strong legs picking up speed as the gypsum sears white-hot underfoot, the rest of her reddening under the intensity of Apollo's will. He is at his sternest at midday and Diana raises a hand to shield her face from the sunlight reflected by the marble reliefs that line the palace entrance. "Mother!" she calls out again, but there is no answer. "Mother! Where are you?"

It is then that the image shifts. The palace has crumbled to dust. Where once was lush greenery, dead trees twist and contort. There is sulphur in the air and the ocean has dried up. The island is deserted and she is alone. Then she remembers why. Her face hardens and her hands grow cold.

Lightning splits the sky.

-

The sound of thunder. The sound of drums, of a deep, rhythmic pull in her gut that hastens her to action. Another dream, but this one comes to Thea all at once. An ambush in waking hours on a slow, Saturday evening as she gazes at the screen and the B-Grade television show they’ve resigned themselves to watching. The memory is so real, so powerful that she jumps up from her seat, her hand moving to clutch protectively at her belly. At six months, it is the heaviest part of her now, altering her centre of gravity and she sways a little to find her footing in soft woollen socks.

Cooper’s reaction is swift. A moment ago he was dozing; reading glasses misaligned, the parenting book fallen out of his lap, but now he is by her side in a moment, arms reaching out to steady her. "Is it the baby?" he asks and his brow is etched with worry, a hardened focus in his steely-blue gaze. He is primed too, but she shakes her head and she sees the muscles in his shoulders relax, quelling any fear that surrounds their unborn child. "Just another memory," she explains, a gentle hand on his forearm to ease him back to his seat. He heaves out a relieved sigh, running fingers through his hair and utters the words he’s learned from her. The perfect words in times of duress.

“I'll make us some tea,"

-

Impatiently, Diana flings the gold breastplate onto Theodora’s bed with a loud clang. Her armour does not fit the way that it should, but she secures the gauntlets, the lasso of Hestia and her resolve; hands moving to rest steadily on her hips. The Amazon is naked, sizing herself up in the mirror as she regards Theodora’s wardrobe, unenthused by the woman’s lack of battle-appropriate garb.

Clark is diplomatic when he suggests that he make the first attempt at locating their friends in an initial sweep of the city, watching as she slings her heavy shield onto her back. There is some strain, but it is nothing she cannot handle. Diana agrees and releases the shield, but not before her brow furrows deeply. He knows, as well as she does that her condition makes her vulnerable to enemy attack and to unreliable emotions.

“I will rally the League, or those who will answer," she says, rifling through a drawer to procure a pair of leggings, knowing that Clark wants to say more. He wants her to stay put, but cannot bring himself to voice it — for a moment, she forgets her frustration and is justified that he respects her as well as she deserves.

“I won’t be long," he says as she upends a gift bag from Theodora’s last birthday. He takes her hand and places a kiss to her knuckles, lips grazing the engagement ring on her finger. Diana stills, releasing her hold on the bag, turning her face to his.

“If you do not come back —"

“I know. You’ll kill me,” He offers her a soft smile, kisses her goodbye and disappears into the grey clouds.

The diamond ring is still a new adornment for her left hand, but the warrior finds no use in it now. When he saw it that morning, Clark had whistled low and joked that he should win her one of his own. A meteorite from the farthest reaches of space would suit her armour better, he’d said. But Diana likes the one that Cooper chose, taking her time to remove it for safe-keeping, pressing it into the velvet confines of the jewellery box on the dresser. Around it are framed photographs, of Theodora and her loved ones and her eyes linger on the faces of those that are among the missing, biting back tears when she spots her dearest friend.

Mera.

Happy. Safe. She is laughing.

This is what people do when there are no wars to fight.

Theodora endures what men cannot bear: a painful, but mercifully swift birth before they bring the child—still corded, into her shaking arms. Ten fingers, ten toes, pink skin, soft hair. Her scent is primal and their bond is infinite. Anchored by the heavy, comforting hands of a lover on her trembling shoulders, he squeezes firmly, offering tender words of praise, of gratitude and adoration. Where she is bone-tired from the ordeal, he is wrung out with waiting and with watching, but they both find strength enough to smile in relief at the newborn's wailing, at her precious cries of life. The baby rests in her mother's embrace as he severs their bloody tie, awed still by the miracle that he has witnessed, and when he holds their child, skin to skin for the first time, her eyes blur, burning with fatigue and overwhelming triumph.

-

Her sword is perfectly balanced— forged and bestowed by Hephaestus himself, its maker is an alchemist, spurning the crudeness of mortal hands and all of his own hideousness to create a marvel; a god killer. The golden armour is gifted by the sun-god, moving and breathing along with her as she lunges forward and strikes true, again and again. Each blow is more powerful than the last, her stamina unmatched. Her sandals are offered up by Hermes, prized adornments for a dance as menacing as this, gifting added speed. The shield she carries is shaped too by the smith, though it has been wrought by the will of Athena. It is in her favour that the Amazon rests and to the Goddess of War and Wisdom that Diana makes her devotions.

It is her campaign, but she does not fight it alone, partnered in splendour and in might. Kal-El is at her back as the enemy horde surrounds them, mirroring her steps, acting as shield and pillar. He is armoured in the same gilded fashion, but goes without weapons; at best, they are ornamental for one who has little need. His armaments are innate, eyes burning a scorching red, deferring to her wisdom, hands balling into fists, waiting patiently for her mark.

“Hold,” she instructs, the sword poised, surveying their surrounds. It is not her wish to hasten to battle and he shares in her sentiment—for which, she is most grateful. Her vow is to defend and never to incite, not if an opponent can be reasoned with, but their assailant has shown that he has no humanity left. A herald of darkness, twisted and tormented, their ancient foe responds only to might. Against such an adversary, Diana will not relent. Like her namesake, she gives chase quickly. Into the night— into dust and ash. The lariat burns hot against her thigh and the circlet is heavy at her crown. She knows that it is now or never. She knows too, that surrender is defeat.

United they are stronger, flanked on all sides by a faceless army, relentless in its pursuit. The odds should not favour them, unbalanced by sheer numbers as they continue their assault, bereft of their fallen comrades. The pain of loss, of mourning stings and yet, trials such as these are not unknown to her. With or without aid, the Amazon knows warmongering, recognises greed and ill intent, and anticipates the enemy advance long before the horde descends. Her victory will honour the dead; all of the children that she has lost.

Squaring her arms to deflect a fatal blow with blinding light and otherworldly strength, a cry escapes her chest, louder than thunder. He takes to flight just as they planned, only to lose her in the fray. He calls out her name, catching the wave of dark hair beneath the ornate helmet as she breaks through their heavy ranks on foot, limbs painted with the thick blood of the slain, spurred forward on winged feet. Her blade sings, but her heart mourns. He screams for her to fall back.

No.

The hour is hers.

-

The warrior hangs her head, falling to skinned knees before her sword, hand clenching tightly as she leans her weight against the hilt, gathering breath into her aching lungs. Beneath the heavy armour, her ribs have bruised with the strain of combat, and she extends her injured arm, easing the broken breastplate off in increments, discarding it with one final push and a loud, rough grunt of pain.

“The day is won." She says and her dark head tips back with the added weight of the golden helmet to gaze upward into the sky, tears clouding her sight. Long throat exposed, she closes her eyes to the sound of birdsong as he alights at her side, behind him a red dawn, a new sun climbing above the hill when he speaks. His voice is steady. "It's done, Diana. It's finished," and she nods, powerful shoulders sinking, her entire body sinking into the earth beneath her; into Mother.

She begins to laugh, raising her arms skyward, a broken dirge spilling from her parched throat, honouring Alala and Hippolyta; and all those who have gone before her. At last, her promises to her people, to her island and her gods are fulfilled. Evil is defeated. Peace is restored. As the wave of glory washes over her, Wonder Woman's realisation sinks in: her sacred duty is complete. There is no one left to fight.

“What will you do now?” he asks as she discards the helmet, offering it as a votive to all of the old gods before inspecting her calloused fingers, the blistered and broken skin healing before her eyes. He remains untouched; having cleared the battlefield from above, his armour is still blinding and her eyes narrow, wondering if he has intercepted her thoughts. Superman moves and she recoils, snapping out of arm's reach, but he is too quick, hand clamping over her arm tightly, saying her name.

-

“Unhand me!" she rails and the nurse jumps back, watching in horror as the half-naked woman reaches for the intravenous attachments, wrenching them out of her arm with a great roar and pushing herself off the mattress. Hours since giving birth, she is deaf to the protestations of her terrified carers who move to force her back onto the maternity bed.

“How dare you touch a goddess!"

-
Translations:
How shall I tell you, that I would die for you? I would give my life for you.
The end and beginning; you are my everything.

“I sometimes wonder if the great philosophers would have marvelled at our predicament,"

“They were too pre-occupied with themselves. They wouldn't notice,"

“What about Sappho?"

“She was a poet. There's a distinction,"

“Oh, of course. My apologies,"

She smiles gently, having taken the wailing newborn into her arms to sit in the study and nurse. Theodora feels calmer in here, sinking into her favourite armchair to be surrounded by her most faithful companions. While beautifully decorated and gently lit, the nursery does not inspire the same feeling of serenity— though she cannot place why. Wincing slightly as the baby finally latches, her attention focuses on a row of leather spines arranged neatly in height and alphabetical order. Her eyes scan them one by one, counting each in turn. When her vision blurs with fatigue, she begins again, stopping abruptly at the next interruption.

“What would happen if one of those volumes was out of place?" Diana quizzes.

“Anarchy," A moment's pause, as she guides the warm, little bundle higher against her chest and then she returns to her counting.

“Are you always this pedantic?"

“No one has ever dared to call me that before,"

“Is that because you are so fearsome?"

“Mmm. Terrifying,"

Diana sighs. They share a tired laugh and all seems bright. For a moment.

Genevieve sputters again, tears streaming down her small, red face as she bites at her mother's chapped skin. “Oh, darling, please. Please,"

With two minds merged, it should make it easier to discern that something is amiss, but true to Diana's word, Theodora cannot see beyond her own restlessness. Together with all of the wisdom of the Ancients and the experience of her own mortal life, her thoughts collide in on themselves, vying for her attention in her waking hours. At night, when she yearns for the succour of sleep, her rest is Delphic and her dreams are full. Haunted by a panoramic nightmare of blood and sand. And death.

At their most frantic, seismic shifts render her immobile but for all of the pounding in her head. There are moments when her thoughts are quieter, less intrusive, moving slowly against one another in the back of her mind. These are not Diana's, but Theodora's memories, returning her to the same point of her first pregnancy; of pressing her reddened nose to a frosted window pane in the country estate— a hushed breath fanning across the glass, lingering long enough to allow her to scribe her initials.

The Amazon seems to be at relative peace here too. While Theodora still gapes at the nightmarish memories of warmongering that come in dreams, and the heavy burden of loss that the warrior carries with her, she envies Diana her optimism—an untarnished hope instilled in her counterpart that proves elusive to her inner world of late. And all the more as Genevieve continues to fret.

“Damn it. Where is the bloody necklace?"

-

The Amulet appears in this world the same way that Diana emerged. Without herald of any kind. At the birth of a child, gifts of gold are customary in the Orthodox tradition, and while it seems absurd to practice her Mother's religion now that her own godhood has been revealed to her, Theodora receives the heavy periapt, dismissing it as just another Christian token gifted to her family to ward off The Eye.

Without its accompanying jewels, or its preternatural glow, Diana does not recognise it as well as the archaic weapons amassing in the makeshift armoury that was once Theodora's linen closet. But Samson, who has fashioned herself as Genevieve's new sentry, is leery. He senses its magic, wrought in the shape of two serpents, and when his agitation affects Athena, Theodora places it in her jewellery box for safe keeping.

When Evie does not sleep— when mother's milk, lullabies, toys and the mobile of stars does nothing to aid her, Theodora reaches for the closest object and offers it to her daughter as a distraction, surprised to find that it is the necklace, the chain acting as a pendulum to lull the infant to sleep. It works once and then twice, and though it is a strange talisman for even the strangest relative to give a child, the necklace quickly becomes her saving grace.

Immeasurably tired, she does not notice that the amulet materialises whenever she has need of it. All she wants is for her child to sleep through the night.

-

Cooper can see that she is not herself when they visit the gallery and she stares too long at a Greco-Roman burial mask, searching the crude artefact for shadows of her own face. Their drive home is silent, her hands clasped together tightly, comforting herself as best she can. If her life has taught her anything, it is that one cannot love so fiercely without disaster befalling. As she witnesses the joy that overwhelms him when they return home to their daughter, the feeling of dread only worsens.

Theodora's questions seem foolish to utter, but he answers them all. He speaks of the lore that surrounds them and the love affair they have had before. He even offers her powerful testimony in the superpowers that he claims as his long before her own become apparent. He possesses sight that can pierce through stone and flesh. A strength that he has to temper when they are intimate, for fear of hurting her. Reluctantly, he also tells her of the canon that ties him to someone else, to another family and it is a strange pain that she feels; that she thought herself above. The Amulet finds her chink and sets to its work.

-

He is the first to tell her that she is a goddess, and the laughter that escapes her is deafening to her own ears. In this form, she is wholly mortal. They both are. Frail. Corruptible. Fallible. Her will is not indomitable, evident as she looks down upon the baby at her breast, the terrible thoughts returning and with them, the overwhelming shame.

“I love you," she says, as many times as it takes. “I love you so much,"

A warmth settles at her feet and she looks to find Sam resting there, knowing that his master is not far behind. He is still holding the leads that he released the dogs from, Athena trailing after him when he enters the study, his expression faltering when he realises that both his daughter and her mother are crying.

“Thea? What is it? What's happened?" There is a plea in his eyes, of Don't pull away from me as he moves to his knees in front of her chair. “You can tell me,"

The promises of men have abandoned her before. But he is not just any man. He is the Superman and so, she chooses to believe in him.

“I need help,"