This is the final chapter of Personal Business. Thank you to all that have followed this story, and a special Thank You! to all those who took a minute or two to add in a review. We amateur writers don't make any money on this; we do it partly because we want to and partly from the kick we get when someone takes the time to comment on our work. Those reviews mean very very much, and I thank you. Now, let's finish the story.
Personal Business Final Chapter
She wasn't as angry as she thought she would be. She did not lose her temper when that strumpet arrived with Kal. She was happy with herself for that. Of course, she didn't go over and greet them either. She had a leash on her anger, but it would only go so far before it snapped. Diana flew towards home content that the best thing for her to do was to get away from the station and away from Maxima. Discretion is the better part of valor. There was no sense in possibly losing her temper when she could merely wait until Maxima had her ship repaired and left. Then, once she and Kal resolved their personal matter, her emotions would be more stable and she would be back to being herself again. She knew that Kal had no interest in that petulant princess, but the fact that she still chased him gnawed at her gut. Her last chat with her mother had put her in a good mood. Perhaps another little discussion would do the same.
"Repair Bay to Command Deck. Come in, please, Command Deck."
"Command Deck here, Repair."
"Uh, I don't know how to say this, Mr. Manhunter, but…you know that alien cruiser you wanted us to check out? Well, the thing is, we can't find anything wrong with it. The engines fire up and the thrusters are in working order. All gauges check out too."
"Thank you, Repair. Clear it for flight and go back to your normal duties. Command Deck out." J'onn shook his head dismissively and went back to concentrating on beating Flash again at Battlin' 'Bots.
Queen Hippolyta watched as her daughter descended upon the island. That's one. Fifteen minutes later, a red-haired figure, clad in green and yellow could be seen arriving. That's two. Our cast is almost complete and the play is about to begin. She smiled a wicked smile and beckoned her guard Adina to attend her. Now let's see how much resolve the boy has.
"Adina, take your mount and ride to the beach. If anyone comes, tell them that neither Diana nor the Queen wish to be interrupted today."
"Yes, my queen." With a quick salute, Adina immediately went to get her horse.
The queen remained at her seat in the window, enrapt in what was about to transpire below. The actors were almost in their places now.
Kal touched down at the same spot he had landed at a month ago. And, in what seemed like déjà vu, he watched Adina ride towards him. He recognized her horse, of all things. Was she some sort of beach guard? No, there must be some rotation for guard duty that he wasn't aware of. On arriving in front of the Kryptonian, again, Adina stayed in her seat and waited for him to speak.
"I come to request an audience with Princess Diana."
"Princess Diana is not seeing visitors today. Return with your petition tomorrow."
Undeterred, Kal tried again. "Then I come to request an audience with Queen Hippolyta."
"Queen Hippolyta is not seeing visitors today. Return with your petition tomorrow."
His patience vanished. He did not have time to play games of etiquette with these people. He had waited long enough to speak his heart to Diana, and he would wait no longer. Their whole army would not keep him from her today. He would not allow it.
He pointed past Adina towards the palace. With a forced pleasantness he informed her "I am going to start walking in that direction. You are in my way. If you do not move, I will pick you and your horse up bodily and carry you with me. Or, you can ride off ahead of me and let the queen know I'm here. I leave the choice up to you."
Adina knew this was not an idle boast. She had seen feats of his great strength and knew well that he could do exactly as he said. The thought of drawing her sword crossed her mind, but that, too, would be futile. From the look in his eyes, it would not be prudent to anger him further. She abruptly turned her horse and galloped back to the palace. Let the queen decide what to do with this one.
Hippolyta watched as Adina rode up to the palace with no Superman in tow. Had the boy just given up? That didn't sound like him. How disappointing. Moments later, she turned from her seat as Adina approached to give her report.
Upon hearing exactly what transpired on the beach, the queen laughed in delight. By the Gods! That's the kind of man worthy of my daughter!She could just imagine that look in his eyes too. If he was to be her son-in-law some day, he'd better have fire in his belly.
Adina inquired "Shall I gather a detachment of the guard to detain him, your Majesty?"
This elicited another laugh from the queen. "Dear child, in the mood that man is in, I could send the whole island to detain him and they would not even slow him down." There was a hint of pride in her voice now. "You may return to your duties." Adina did as she was bid, even as her queen turned back toward the window.
Ah, Diana has spotted Maxima across the square. Now where is that boy?
Diana is shocked to see Maxima on the island. What in Hades was she doing here? Surprise turned quickly to rage. Everyone in the square begins to hurry towards the perimeter as a shout of "HOW DARE YOU!" rings out.
Without another word, Diana unleashed a powerful punch. Maxima grabbed the wrist and turns, and launched Diana over her shoulder and across the square. Eager to follow up her advantage, Maxima pounced on Diana. She was met with a foot to the stomach and, with a grunt she herself is sent hurtling through the air. Both combatants were now on their feet, while the crowd stood by and eagerly watched the battle. Diana charged again, still full of rage. Another right hand is blocked. Maxima grabbed her arm and pulled Diana down towards her rising knee. Diana lets out a grunt as the air rushes from her lungs. Maxima follows the knee with a brutal forearm to the back. Diana falls to the ground. Maxima bent down and grabbed her by the hair, yanking her halfway from the ground.
Through the pain, Diana realizes that yet again, she has allowed her anger to control her. She could not win this battle this way. Finding a quiet place in her mind, she found her center again, and into that center she fed her rage. She would now use her anger instead of her anger using her. Finally, she was ready.
Maxima, about to deliver the blow to end the fight, was surprised when Diana spun quickly and leg-whipped her. The grip on her hair was lost, as was her advantage and her footing. Both stood to face each other again, battered, but still more than able to fight. The rage was gone from Diana's eyes, replaced by a calm confidence that angered the princess-warrior from Almerac. This time it was Maxima who attempted to strike first. With an almost casual ease, Diana blocked the blow with her left forearm and delivered an uppercut to the midsection of her foe, which she immediately followed up by a devastating uppercut to the chin. Now it was Maxima who was down face first in the sandy square.
Some of the rage came back into Diana's eyes as she dropped a knee to her fallen opponent's back and grabbed her head by the hair.
When Kal arrived, he found himself blocked by a crowd of amazons who seemed very intent on something going on inside the square. He wondered if it could be some kind of festival. Maybe that's why Adina tried to turn him away.
He made his way through the crowd to see what was going on. He was stunned to see Diana standing over Maxima, driving Maxima's head into the ground. She was saying "This...will...not...happen...again." After each word, she would drive Maxima's head back into the ground.
Happening to glance up at the palace, Kal noticed that Hippolyta was sitting in one of the windows watching the spectacle. Why wasn't she doing something? An inexplicable hunch told him that somehow Hippolyta was involved in this whole thing somehow. Someday he might find out why. That day was probably not today. He sighed heavily.
Diana had now gotten to her feet; a little wobbly, but she seemed to be okay. Her opponent, on the other hand, was struggling to get to her knees; and failing.
"Diana!" Kal's voice cut through the chattering of the amazons to reach her. She stood, got her legs back under her and strode toward him, stern faced and determined.
They stood looking at each other for a moment.
"Diana, what is going on? Why—"
She grabbed the hair at the back of his neck and pulled him down to her in a kiss. Breaking the kiss, but keeping her grip, she told him, "I'm claiming my prize." She pulled his head down for another kiss, the ferocity of it he gladly matched. Another ragged cheer erupted from those that were left watching. The two lovers did not even notice..
Hippolyta gestured to a couple of soldiers below, and they immediately went to retrieve the fallen princess. With a guard on each side, Maxima was escorted up to the queen.
Hippolyta sat back, entirely satisfied. Things hadn't worked out exactly as she had envisioned, but it was close enough. If nothing else, it had at least ended the way she had hoped.
Maxima, a bit more recovered and no longer needing the guards' assistance, entered the room. The Queen gestured to the seat next to her own. "Please, sit down, Princess." The Princess sank gratefully into the chair. Both queen and princess stared out the window for a moment before the queen spoke.
"Did you enjoy your fight, dear?" The smile in her voice was unmistakeable.
Maxima grimaced as she tried to make herself more comfortable. "Not as much as I'd have liked, Your Majesty, but you kept your end of our bargain." She paused. "So, Hippolyta, if you don't mind my asking, what is it that you get out of our agreement?"
The Queen inclined her head towards the window where they had a clear view of her daughter and Kal locked in an embrace. "A worthy possible son-in-law and a daughter who now knows what she wants and is willing to fight for it."
"And what if I had won the fight? What then?"
Hippolyta pondered how much she should tell. She saw no harm in the truth. Pricking the pride of the defeated princess wasn't the noble thing to do, but she indulged herself anyway. "I did not envision that the fight would actually take place in its entirety. I assumed that the Kryptonian would arrive in time to intervene. I had no plan in case you won because I never considered that as a likely outcome."
Maxima grunted in reply and Hippolyta continued. "I have been honest with you, and in return I would ask you a question. Why did you wish to fight my daughter? Surely you have had chances in the past. Why now?"
Truth for truth. It was only fair...up to a point. "As you know, I had intended Superman to be my mate. After a brief period of courting, it was apparent to me that another suitor would better fit the role as my consort. However, I still feel some responsibility for his happiness. Hearing that your daughter and he might soon be courting, it appealed to me to see if she was worthy of him. When your people contacted me through our embassy, I was more than happy to participate."
That wasn't exactly the story the queen had heard before, but there were enough blows against this woman's pride, so she merely nodded acceptance of the story.
The princess rose to leave. "Now that I am satisfied that your daughter is indeed worthy of the Kryptonian, I will take my leave and return to my ship."
"Pleasant journey, Maxima. Perhaps we may deal again."
"Yes, perhaps we will, You Highness." Maxima flew out one of the open windows and was soon out of site. The queen signaled a servant for some refreshment. Such an exhausting day! I may have to take a nap this afternoon.
Diana and Kal found a room in an empty wing of the palace where they could talk. They were finally alone.
"So, Diana, would you like to tell me what was going on over there between you and Maxima?"
"No, I—" He held up a hand to interrupt.
"Don't you think we've had enough of not communicating? What happened?
"Kal, you know that Maxima and I never got along. You also know that when she arrived with you—the reason for which you are going to explain shortly—I decided that instead of confronting her, I would come here. When I arrived and found that she was here also, well, that was just too much. One thing led to another and..."
She looked at him sharply. "And why exactly was I treated to the sight of you and her arriving at the station together? She made it sound as if you two had spent some time together."
She was comforted by Kal's confused look. "No, I was returning to Earth and found her ship floating in space. She told me she had engine trouble and I carried her ship to the station. That was it."
"And it didn't occur to you that she could have carried the ship back herself?
"Um, no, it didn't. I was going in that direction anyway."
Diana smiled at him, bemused. "No, it wouldn't occur to you, would it?" After a pause she changed the subject. "You know this is all your fault, Kal."
"My fault? How could any of this be my fault?"
"If you had stayed here we could have worked out our communication problems and none of the rest of this would have happened. Instead, you ran away to work things out—"
"Hold on a second. So, I 'ran away' while you were ready to work things out? I don't remember hearing any communication from you, either."
At that, Diana looked to the floor, unable to meet his eyes. "Alright, that wasn't entirely fair. I did my own share of running away."
Cupping her chin in his fingers, he lifted her head to face him. They stared into each other's eyes forever before he told her softly "Neither of us is running anymore, are we Diana?"
"No" she breathed "we aren't".
The throne room was full and the line to the throne went out the door. Supplicants bowed before the queen and placed gold, sometimes a pouch of it, sometimes, merely a coin or two, into one of the two large chests at Hippolyta's feet. The bearers of gold all kept their eyes to the floor, not daring to look into the eyes of their queen. The shame was just too much.
It took two hours for the procession to finish, by which time both chests were full of gold with an occasional trinket. There was even a sword or two thrown in. Hippolyta was pleased. Two problems were taken care of with one solution. When all supplicants had departed, there was only the queen and her advisors left. Very much like it was two days ago—
"Advisors, we have a problem. There has been a rash of wagering on the island lately and it needs to be stopped. I speak not of the occasional wager, but an activity that is becoming habit for too many of our sisters. Any suggestions?
All of the advisors understood that Hippolyta knew this through her complex network of spies, many of whom didn't know the identities of others. Secrets from the queen were very rare indeed.
Erelith, the Royal Treasurer spoke up. "Your Highness, I have a suggestion that may be pleasing to you. Many years ago, some of the cultures of man had a custom called the 'dowry'. This custom held that when a woman married a man, the woman was to bring something with her to the marriage, as ridiculous as that sounds. This something that usually consisted of some type of monetary payment either to the bride's family or to her spouse. If your majesty would put the word out that all gambling wagers were to be 'donated' toward Princess Diana's dowry, I think we can resolve this issue."
The queen thought it over. She could see no downside to this idea. Leave it to her treasurer to know some arcane monetary custom. It was a little presumptuous at this time to think that Diana would get married, but what kind of mother does not look towards her daughter's future? It was also the queen's idea to have the donations public. A little shame now may prevent a recurrence of the problem. In a proud nation, shame was a most powerful motivator.
The proclamation went out and spread quickly. All monies won through wagering in the last 2 months were to be donated directly to the queen at a public ceremony the next day for the express purpose of a wedding gift for their Princess Diana. It was only fitting, it was said, as the wagers were primarily placed regarding Diana. Diana was not to be told of any of this, of course. Their shame would have been even worse.
Hippolyta understood that a little fear went a long way towards ensuring a long reign. With this in mind, she has always kept spies. It was not an overly large organization, but it was put in key places throughout the realm. It only took one or two secrets to be revealed before people's imaginations would make the organization appear as if half the island were her informants. Those spies couldn't know everything, of course, but the occasional nugget sufficed to give the queen the appearance of knowing almost everything. Following this reasoning, Hippolyta knew that all of her subjects guilty of this gambling excess would come forth voluntarily to give up their winnings. Each one would be positive that the queen knew even how much they each had wagered. Such was the fame of her network of informants.
Eventually, servants were brought in to carry the heavy chests to the treasury and the advisors filed out of the room, leaving Hippolyta alone again. She wore a selfsatisfied smile as she leaned back on her seat and rested her legs on the ottoman before her and closed her eyes.
I hope I get a nursery full of grandchildren out of this after all the hard work I have done.