My friend M talked me into signing up for a 24-hour writing competition this summer based on a provided prompt. After unsuccessfully trying to find a way to use a character I’d created for a different short story, inspiration struck. Below is the entry I sent in on 7/18/2015. For more details, see the original post.
The sweat vanished from her skin as she sank down into the cool, blue swimming hole. The radio spread a festive mood to the commune members, who were picnicking, sunbathing, and laughing while dropping from the rope swing into the water a few feet away. Everybody got silent, however, when the music was replaced by an automated emergency broadcast network message. Thinking it was just a test, the festivities resumed until the annoying tone switched to a panicked broadcaster’s voice…
The Short Story
Diana carefully stepped down into the grotto and settled onto one of the underwater benches, sighing as the cool waters soothed her overheated skin. Catching sight of her sibling, she waved, glad she’d been able to attend Drusilla’s twenty-first birthday party despite her condition. Nearly everyone in the commune was also in attendance, laughing and enjoying the sun and surf, not to mention the picnic the queen had arranged.
As if summoned by thought, Queen Hippolyta joined her at the edge of the pool.
“How are you feeling today?”
“I’m fine, Mother. You can stop hovering.”
“I’m allowed to hover,” she argued. “You’re carrying my first grandchild, and she’s going to be the first Themysciran princess born in centuries. The gods may have gifted you with beauty, strength and wisdom, but you’re still a mortal and my daughter.”
“Yes, but even we Amazons slow down a little when it comes to childbirth,” Diana said, reaching for her sister’s hand as Drusilla settled down beside them. “Enough about me. How are you enjoying your party, little one?”
Dru grinned. “I’m great! The gift table is stacked with presents, I’ve snacked on every treat at least twice, and I’ve finally worn Atalanta down. I start my archery lessons next week. I couldn’t have asked for a better day! Thank you.”
“It’s our pleasure,” Hippolyta returned, smiling affectionately at her youngest child. “Now, I’ll leave you to your celebration. I still have work to do and last minute details to finalize.” Rising to her feet in that graceful way all queens seemed to possess, she bent to kiss each daughter’s temple.
Suddenly, a loud, shrill whistle cut through the air. In the silence that followed, the thunder of fast-approaching horses could be heard. A moment later, Hippolyta’s assistant rode up to them with two horses in tow and reined in hard. Ephiny acknowledged the queen with a quick nod.
“Majesty, we appear to have an emergency situation regarding tonight’s shipment.”
“What happened?” the queen asked.
The blonde briefly glanced at Diana, who didn’t like the panic she saw in her normally unflappable friend. “It seems one of our pets has somehow managed to free himself, and… Well, my Queen, we can’t seem to find him.”
Hippolyta wasted no time. “Drusilla, help get your sister onto her horse then return to your party,” the queen ordered, taking a set of reins from her assistant. “Tell anyone that asks we’ve gone to handle the preparations for the rest of the evening’s festivities.”
Ephiny cursed under her breath when the queen kicked her steed into a full gallop and took the path back across the sand. Diana reached for her sister’s hand and climbed out of the pool, then hauled herself onto the unfamiliar sidesaddle, following at the much slower and frustrating pace her condition required.
As she approached the island’s southern edge, she saw her mother, Ephiny and Tania the stable mistress deep in conversation. As Diana did not see any of their pets waiting to be loaded onto the docked ship, she surmised they’d been returned to their stables until the situation could be resolved. Dismounting awkwardly, she joined the discussion.
“Where have you searched for him?” Hippolyta asked. “He can’t have gotten very far.”
“We’ve searched everywhere he might have gone in the time since the midday feeding when he was last seen, Your Majesty,” Tania replied. “The second and third Circles hunt for him still.”
“What of his restraints? How did he break the chains?”
“That’s part of the problem, Majesty,” Ephiny admitted, crouching down to the pile of chain at her feet. Diana watched as her friend pushed aside the ring that Tania must have pried loose from its proper place on the wall and sifted through the thick, heavy links until she held up an undamaged manacle. “He didn’t break the chains, nor did he pull himself free. Even the lock’s still intact. It’s like he simply…slipped free.”
Hippolyta handed back the shackle and frowned. “You still haven’t told me to which pet these belong.”
Ephiny tossed the restraints back to the sand and straightened, her gaze capturing Diana’s. “These are Kairos’s chains.”
At this news, the Queen turned and regarded her daughter, disappointment etched on her face. “Diana, I had hoped that your agreement to participate in this, our oldest of traditions, meant that you’d finally embraced your true heritage once more. Please, daughter, tell me you had nothing to do with the freeing of your pet.”
The warriors reacted instinctually to both the male voice and the amusement they heard in it. Spinning around to confront the intruder, each woman’s hand rested on the dagger at her hip. All were shocked to find the pet they’d been searching for casually leaning against the gate that led to the family’s private quarters, especially Diana.
“You knew the rules, Kairos.” Diana held her ground when he straightened and advanced, the prey now becoming the predator. “You served your year in the stables and earned your freedom. Why do this now?”
“It’s simple, princess. I want my child. I’m not going to let you kill him when he’s born.”
Her hands flew to her belly, the feminum bracelets she wore on each wrist glinting in the afternoon sun. “My child doesn’t belong to you, Kairos. She belongs to the Amazons.”
“Oh, my dear Diana, how wrong you are,” he drawled, and with a flick of his wrist vanished his disguise. Ares, the God of War, laughed delightedly as the women began to back away from his true identity. “That child isn’t just an Amazon, he’s also a demigod. Isn’t that a wonder?”
© 2015 Nicole A. Bossard