The army that Poseidon was bringing from the depths was nothing like Diana had ever seen. Waves and waves of warriors began emerging slowly, all armed with various weapons. They were green in skin coloration, possessing thick beards, and all had eyes of black. On their heads were helmets of golden metal with crests of black coral while the shields of their spearmen were of the same golden metal. Their armor was curious looking as well as ingeniously devised. Poseidon's armorers had fashioned black coral into cuirasses, greaves, and on every warrior's right arm his trident was symbolically tattooed. Diana cursed at the numbers and dove down to grab her gifted shield and sword from the sand.
While the spearmen advanced to claim the beach, the rest of their lines remained in the ocean, no more than waist deep and began to draw their bows, firing at the Amazons lining the cliffs above them. It was not an advantageous position for the invaders to be in, and the Amazons should have had the upper hand. Quickly, however, Diana and Hera recognized that this was not the case. Every time an Amazon arrow struck on one of the invaders in the water, it was plucked out like it was nothing. Every wound created immediately closed up, and the attacker would resume launching arrows at the women struggling to defend the island. When a spearman was hit, his fellows dragged him into the waves, and he too sprang back into action. While some died, many more were simply wounded and were brought right back into action.
The same could not be said of the Amazons, their ranks already thinned as they were.
Hera cursed under her breath. While no goddess of war, she knew what Poseidon was doing. His strategy was one of attrition: The longer the Amazons engaged the army in the ocean, the more their numbers were cut down, and with half of them already dead. This was NOT a winning strategy for the Amazons. All the while, Poseidon's army took minimal losses, and once things were grossly lopsided, any losses he would suffer taking the cliffs would be minor.
Diana, reading the situation similarly, shouted to the Amazons on the cliff, "Retreat back and only engage those on land!" With speed and skill, the Amazon warriors complied, pulling themselves away from the cliffs and out of the range of the archers. They raised their bows high and began lobbing volleys into the spearmen fast and furiously. Quickly scanning the beach, Diana realized how effective her orders had been. While the sea-born warriors still dragged wounded to the water, black-armored dead began to pile up.
Then Diana noted a big drawback to the change in tactics. It now seemed that every member of Poseidon's army still in the water drew his bow down on her! In an instant, arrows were sent flying at the princess.
Diana threw shield up to shield her face and torso, knowing that there was no way to avoid the barrage. Nothing struck her however, as Hera materialized next to her, burning fists raised and all the arrows flying towards their position suddenly evaporated in the air. Hera curled her lip in disgust and thrust her hands out in front of her body, sending a shockwave that rippled through the water, effectively knocking the enemy soldiers over.
But it wasn't a victory by any means, as Poseidon decided it was time to engage his enemy head on. He quickly emerged from under the water, throwing his trident at the two women. Hera shoved Diana to the side just in time before one of the prongs grazed her own arm and landed upright in the sand. Divine blood flowed from the wound, dropping to steam in the sand. Where the blood of the Queen of the Heavens hit one of Poseidon's warriors it killed them instantly.
Hera glanced at the wound, leveled her eyes at her brother-in-law, and growled. Poseidon saw nothing but raw anguish and hatred coming from his former ally in the Titanomachy. He shook off any doubts and sneered in response, "I drew first blood Hera. I'll be drawing more from your children today."
Turning slightly, he stretched out his hand over the water just behind his position, and slowly moved it forward until it was stretched out in front of his body. Hera's eyes widened as she saw the swell at the distance over the ocean grow to epic proportions. Poseidon had summoned a tsunami, and its size was unlike anything she had ever seen. She knew she had to stop it…but then noticed another problem….
Diana has taken advantage of Poseidon's distraction to dive to the beach and test the mettle of his spearmen. While tough and strong as any being would be from the depths of the ocean, they were little challenge to her. She slammed into their ranks; her divinely blessed shield shedding spearheads while her sword, forged by Hephaestus, the most loyal of her mother's sons, cut through flesh, bone, and coral like it was air. Pink blood flew while the Amazon Princess suffered only scratches. Then as she took advantage of the enemy's fear to catch her breath, Diana noticed what her mother did…yet another threat.
The archers Hera had knocked down mere moments before had regained their footing and were launching arrows at Diana. Seeing the threat the Amazon princess quickly crouched her body behind her three-foot-across shield. Hera concentrated hard, and once again the arrows burned midair before reaching their destination...many of Poseidon's own soldiers were less lucky.
But the tidal wave was fast approaching, and Hera had to stop it before the island was outright destroyed. Summoning her powers once more, she staggered her feet and drew on every reserve of energy and pushed it outward. Streams of gold and white magic shot out of her hands and pushed up against the onslaught of water. Despite the wave's natural power and the will behind it, the Queen of the Gods managed to hold a wall against it.
Poseidon grinned maliciously; He couldn't believe his luck! His captain of archers had found an excellent tactic. True his own men suffered, but it was worth it! Hera may have been able to keep the tidal wave from crashing, and was effectively keeping it at a distance, but that only meant her attention could not waiver to the daughter she had successfully protected so far. Diana had stood again, and realizing what a position her mother was in, inserted herself between Poseidon and Hera. She whispered to her mother, "Hang on. Keep that water off the shore. I'll take on Poseidon."
Hera shuddered as she poured more and more of her magic against the tidal wave. "Diana," she gritted, "you need to take him out quickly. He's toying with me. As strong as I am, this is his domain, and anytime he wants, he can bring the ocean at me all the harder."
Diana nodded, and keeping her eyes on her enemy, she kicked off from the sand and flew straight at Poseidon's position, carefully keeping herself in between the two gods. Immediately the archers in the ocean took aim, but Poseidon barked out loudly, "Stand down! No one fires. I want Hera and her bastard child dead by my hands." And with the order, the archers lowered their bows and waited. Poseidon raised his trident and extended his forearm out, sending blasts of water at Diana.
She flew right through them, splitting the shots in half with her sword or slamming them away with her shield, protecting her mother's position, and continuing on her flight. It took mere seconds before she connected with her target, sending her shield into Poseidon's face, knocking him back across the beach several hundred feet. Diana continued to push through air and slammed into the water god just as he managed to stagger erect. Her shoulder landed in his solar plexus and his breath was pushed violently out. Diana didn't wait for his reaction. Even as he began to rise to his knees, she slammed her shield into his chin sending him flying yet again. In a roar of rage, Poseidon threw himself upright and the ground trembled under Diana's feet, throwing her off balance. Even she'd forgotten that Poseidon was the god of earthquakes…
Poseidon took the opportunity to charge the demigod Amazon in return, his trident thrusting forward, only to be parried by Diana's shield. However, before she could respond, he kicked out and hit her knee. Diana felt a shot of pain but a swipe at the sea god made him back off with a growl of frustration.
Diana shot up, ignoring the pain and hit Poseidon with her shield edge in the chest even as her sword and his trident clashed. She was rewarded with cracking sounds of ribs snapping and the sound of air leaving the god's body. Diana knew she had to stay close in.
Then things got ugly. Both Amazon and Olympian went at each other, sword and shield versus trident, for near a minute and faster the mortal eye could see. The air itself boomed from the speed of their blows...but as such things go, one or the other would leave an opening. And so it was.
Poseidon was surprised to find a demigod his match. Knowing this now he now quickly, and wisely, put aside his anger and fought smart. He again caught Diana's sword in his trident, but rather than strike out with fist or foot, he twisted and the sword flew out of Diana's hand. With his other hand he gripped the upper edge of the shield, forced it down and the sea god slammed his head into her face. Diana gasped in surprise and pain even as he twisted the shield away.
Poseidon grinned in triumph at the now unarmed Amazon…but it was short lived. As he looked at his enemy, he saw a growing battle lust in her ice-blue eyes even as blood ran down her face.
And a cold grin of joy….
The god suddenly remembered: Diana was likely the greatest master of Pankretion that had ever lived. A brutal ancient empty-hand martial art style: One that its' very name meant "by every means." Diana lived that code. She immediate struck out at his eyes and even as he raised his hands to block she changed tactics in a blink of an eye, caught him in a hug, and squeezed. Poseidon howled in pain as his ribs began to audibly crack and his spine twisted. The god tried to gain enough room to separate himself from his opponent. He released his trident as he used both arms and pushed hard against Diana's shoulders. He even punched at her head, and though that managed to cause her to stagger back a few steps, and even made her blink, it didn't break her grip. Poseidon managed to get her in a headlock, but still she wouldn't let up. What he did do though was give her enough room to bring her knee up into his groin hard. Poseidon howled instantly, releasing his hold on the Amazon Princess. She wasted no time in letting him go as well, and Poseidon dropped to his knees. Diana, cupping her fists together, drove them sharply down into his lower spine.
Poseidon face planted into the shallows completely, and Diana continued her onslaught by kicking ferociously down, keeping Poseidon under the water. So caught up in the battle she forgot whom she was fighting or that the battle had met the rising tide.
"Diana!" Hera shouted. "You can't drown the god of the seas! Pull him up and out of the water child!"
The warning, however, came too late, as a grinning Poseidon drew on the strength of his realm, and engulfed Diana in a salt water swirl that violently thrashed against every inch of her body before tossing her through the air, landing her face down at her mother's feet. Poseidon rose once again out of the water and smirked.
"Your daughter isn't that smart Hera." he sneered. He watched as Diana struggled to stand, eventually reaching her full height.
Calling on his powers once again, he laughed maliciously as the tidal wave he had summoned pushed harder against Hera's magic. The mother of the gods was dropped to one knee, but she held her focus, and kept her arms tightly raised. Poseidon himself grunted at her effort and began uttering underneath his breath. At first Diana wasn't sure what he was doing, then her eyes went wide as she realized what he had done: Slowly surfacing from underneath the crystal blue water was a monster unlike she had never seen. She cursed inwardly at her pause to catch her breath.
The beast, or at least what could be seen above the waterline, was already 50 feet above the water, pitch black, with at least a dozen sharp tentacles sharply snapping at the water surrounding its enormous, pulsing, bloated body. Its' shape and head was beyond description. Hera realized this thing was truly primordial. Diana just knew it was somehow…wrong. Droplets fell around it even as water streamed off its hide. Its twin red eyes focused on Diana and Hera as the beast slowly pushed through the water, approaching the two women with supreme confidence.
Hera knew that they weren't winning. She couldn't hold the tidal wave back and fight the sea creature that Poseidon had summoned. Diana herself already had her hands full with her brother-in-law. Her hopes were further dashed when she heard Poseidon yell, "Archers! Take aim on the Princess and fire!"
His army immediately responded, drawing bows tight and readied themselves to let their arrows loose. Diana swallowed hard. She knew the situation was desperate; her shield was too far away even for her. The Amazons on the cliffs grimly stood up to protect their princess with their own fire knowing it was hopeless. However, Hera didn't have to contemplate the thought long as the sea creature suddenly stopped its progression towards her position and its tentacles stilled. Diana and Hera watched intently as large dorsal fins began surfacing in the water, archers were violently dragged under the ocean, and blood began coloring the water in massive amounts. In less than a minute the threat of the archers was erased amidst grisly screams, and Diana and Hera waited.
Poseidon howled, and began frantically searching the water for…someone….
She appeared slowly, her form taking shape from small bits of swirling foam on the edge of the sand. It didn't take long for Hera and Poseidon to realize that they once more had godly company. Diana and Hera's savior took on a corporeal incarnation and stood resolutely next to the two women. Clad in a blue and green flowing chiton, gray hair streaming and moving like the waves slightly behind her, and stormy eyes fixed and narrowed at Poseidon, the woman spoke with booming authority.
"Poseidon! You bring shame to our family once again! I warned you if you interfered that you would leave me no choice to do the same!"
Poseidon's face contorted, his lip snarling, and his eyes sparking with rage at his victory slipping away. "Amphitrite, go home! You have no business being here."
Hera was shocked at the appearance of her fellow goddess. She knew that Amphitrite was probably not happy with Poseidon's actions, but she didn't expect her to show up and save herself and Diana, to pick a side. Crossing in front of Diana and Hera, Amphitrite continued to stare her husband down. "I knew when Zeus sought you out with his plans for revenge you would jump all over them. You have this ridiculous innate sense of twisted loyalty and often fall into his machinations. I know you help him because he has pulled you out of some serious trouble in the past, but husband, this is not the time to take your brother's side! The Romans watch intently, as I told you they would. They are simply biding their time to strike, to take even more from us, and you are giving them ample opportunity! We cannot stand against that Pantheon if we are divided!" Amphitrite's face was turning red and the ocean swirled at the insistence of her mood. She continued on, "What is Hera guilty of that you yourself haven't propagated countless times? And Athena…you harbor old resentment against her over Athens? Get over it! Remember what you did to poor Medusa, and what Athena was forced to do over that outrage? I think that old slight is more than well balanced! Grossly so! What you and Zeus have done is shameful. And where is your brother?" Amphitrite spat at the feet of her husband. "He left you here to fight alone after insisting you aide him."
Poseidon was enraged. His blood pumped hard through his body, and a vein protruded on his forehead. He knew she was right, but his pride and sense of loyalty was too strong. Worse, Poseidon's blood was up, and when he was like the stormy seas and shaking earth he ruled, he was all passion and rage beyond reasoning. The sea god clenched his fists and railed, "Amphitrite, this is treason!"
Amphitrite shook her head solemnly, "No…this is treason." Briefly turning her back to Poseidon, she addressed Diana and Hera and whispered, "Draw his magic out with his own trident. You can kill him then." Just as quickly as the thought was uttered, Amphitrite raised her hands against the tidal wave, effectively releasing Hera's magic, and keeping the water at bay herself. Diana nodded and wasted no time in locating the weapon's position with her eyes mere yards beyond her position. Hera followed suit, and Diana kicked off from the sand on a dead run to the magical armament.
Realizing where Diana was headed, Poseidon teleported immediately, but Hera reacted faster. Now no longer needed to hold the tidal wave at bay, she sent a blast of raw energy at the god of the ocean's back as he materialized right behind Diana. He was sent flying forward, past the trident, smashing into a virgin cypress tree. The impact he made obliterated the massive ancient trunk. Diana plucked the trident out of the sand and tossed it back to her mother. She immediately turned and kicked off from the sand again, screaming to the heavens, as she felt that some revenge for Hippolyta's, her mother, death was finally in sight. Connecting to the body of the staggering god at near the speed of sound, the crack of shattering bones and a god's scream of pain shook the cliffs. Knowing he was well away from the water, Diana only added to the sea god's pain as she pounded his body with her fists too fast for human eyes to see, the force of the blows alone keeping him upright. Finally, when Diana ceased, Poseidon dropped bleeding and broken to his knees.
Hera teleported to his position just as Diana drew him up. Locking him in place, with his arms securely behind his back, Diana held the god in place for her mother to deliver the final blow. Hera wasted no time in driving the trident into his gut. Poseidon's eyes went wide and Diana held on as tight as she felt him struggle in her grip desperately trying to get away.
Hera held tight to the trident as she summoned her magic once more. She drew Poseidon's very essence down through the weapon capturing it in the head and long shaft. Within seconds Poseidon's magic was effectively contained within his ancient symbol of power. Diana kicked him in the back of the knees, as Hera pulled back sharply, bloodily shredding his flesh as the barbed weapon left the god's body. He fell unceremoniously to the ground, gurgling in pain, bereft of any defense, magical or otherwise. Diana looked to her mother, and the queen nodded. The Amazon Princess bent down and with a sense of satisfaction snapped Poseidon's neck.
With the death of the god of the ocean's waves, the tidal wave fell lifelessly back, and Amphitrite lowered her arms. Diana rushed to Hera and embraced her, not caring that this was not the time. The Amazon warriors on the cliffs didn't seem to care either as they sent up paeans of victory to the heavens. They were victorious, and although there were still invaders on the island, and Zeus somewhere to be dealt with, a victory was a victory. Diana at the least couldn't help but feel a small semblance of relief. Hera returned the affection, but whispered in Diana's ear, "Child, only this small part is done."
Diana nodded and they let go of each other. Hera took Diana's hand into her own, and turned them both to face Amphitrite. The goddess was shedding fresh tears, and Hera's heart grieved for her fellow Olympian. "Amphitrite," she spoke softly, "I will never be able to repay you for coming to our aide. I…I don't know what to say just now, but please," Hera extended the arm that was holding the trident out, and pushed its magical essence out towards the other goddess. All the power that had been drawn out of Poseidon was pushed into Amphitrite in a bright ray of light.
Once the trident contained no more power, Hera let go of Diana's hand, and approached Amphitrite. "The power is rightfully yours. I'm just…I'm truly sorry that it came to this." She searched the other woman's face waiting for something to be said.
Amphitrite looked beyond Hera and Diana at her now dead husband in the sand. Somberly she spoke, "Hera, protect your family. Zeus is short on allies, and has just lost one. Most of Olympus is sitting this out. I," Amphitrite stumbled through her words as the tears flowed harder. "I know he was your enemy today, but he was my husband for so long and during times when he was old self…I, I truly loved him. I wish things had been different. I confess that I watch you all here, and want so much for everything to be different. We Olympians could stand strong if we stood as a family. Perhaps now a changing of the guard will in effect make that happen."
Hera reached out, and lightly stroked Amphitrite's arm soothingly. "You are family, be it by blood, alliance, or love."
Amphitrite nodded mutely, and turned away from Hera. "I will watch for the Romans my queen."
With her final words, the recently widowed goddess walked across the waves towards the primordial sea creature her husband had summoned. It bowed low, and wrapped its tentacles around her in comfort. She sighed, leaned in, and both disappeared instantly.
Hera's heart ached for her in-law, but was eased when she felt her daughter approach. A small smile crossed her lips, as Diana stood behind her, holding her mother's shoulders. Hera reached up with her free hand, and covered her daughter's. "Diana, I am proud of you, but we aren't done yet."
"I know," came the soft reply.
"You need to seek out the generals on the island and get a report. Adjust strategy if necessary. Athena isn't here, and neither is Zeus. I don't sense him anywhere actually. That doesn't mean he won't show. I want to move quickly and do something before he returns."
"Garner more active support if I can. I will return soon. See to our people, but first…" Hera turned to face Diana. "Do one thing for me."
Diana nodded resolutely and waited for the request to come. Hera took in her daughter's brilliant blue eyes, and felt her core shake with unshed tears. "Forgive me Diana," she whispered, "I'm sorry that I failed your mother and didn't keep her alive. I'm sorry that I didn't deal with Zeus millennia ago. I wish…"
Diana didn't let her mother finish, before enveloping her into another big hug. "Don't ask for my forgiveness. It isn't necessary. I know my mother loved you, and that I was your gift to her. I thank you for that."
The two women held onto each other for a few minutes, saying nothing, simply anchoring to each other. Reluctantly, Diana pulled back, and Hera disappeared into thin air. Diana shook herself to clear her head, gathered up her shield and sword, and flew up to her waiting troops.
Athena materialized in the throne room of Olympus. Her father was nearby, but wasn't showing himself. She didn't understand why he hadn't remained on the island after he'd unleashed such destruction: He lately enjoyed watching his handiwork play out.
Honestly, she didn't care.
Athena didn't care that he hadn't stayed to see the anguish he'd wrought on those who were his family. She didn't care that ultimately he had turned into coward. What she did care about what that he was still alive, something she was going to rectify one way or another that very day.
The Goddess of Strategy and Wisdom looked around at the empty throne room of mosaics, gold, bronze, cypress, and marble. In the center, the reason of its existence, and foremost in her sight was the golden throne that her father sat on almost daily. She took a few steps closer, eyeing the adornment. It was repulsive in everything that it stood for. Slowly, her right hand balled up in a tight fist, and in a flash, she took the final steps forward to bring her even with the offensive reminder that her father was the head of the Olympians. Athena gritted her teeth, and swung her fist forward, smashing the back of the chair straight into the wall. With just one punch, Athena had broken the throne in half. She leered at the remnants in front of her with disgust and spat on it.
Athena stepped back, slowly bringing her vision to the right of the now destroyed rubble her father used to sit in. Peripheras, her father's eagle and companion, shifted nervously on his perch. His large wings spread in expanse, and he screeched rather loudly, showing his defiance. Athena wasted no time in grabbing the bird forcefully by the neck. Closing her eyes, she drew on her magic to pull out of the bird's psyche everything it had ever seen. Her mind was flooded with images of a spiraling pattern of ever-increasing chaos, retribution, and hatred and Athena realized exactly how twisted her father had become. There was next to nothing genuinely caring left, of the god he once was, reflected in her mind. Even the moments she viewed where her father had taught her to wield the lightning were not filled with love or admiration. Zeus had been proud in those moments, but not of her. He was proud because he had turned her into a most effective weapon he intended to wield against the other Olympians if he ever needed to. She saw in an instant where Zeus was keeping Prometheus, and the torture the Titan had endured. She now understood why he'd been kept alive for so long: Zeus wanted the name of the son who would overthrow him. Something more disturbing though was what she didn't see.
The bile rose in her throat, and she reacted violently. Quickly she snapped the bird's neck, and tossed him carelessly onto the broken throne. "You didn't even come out of hiding to save your favorite pet? You show no loyalty to anything but yourself Father." She sneered to the air, "You don't even come out of hiding to face me? I'm sick that it took me this long to realize how unhinged you really are, what you've become. You wanted a war? You got one…" Athena razed the throne and the animal corpse with fire. The flame snapped quickly off her fingertips, and the heat quickly melted the gold to vapor and turned the marble into a pile of black ash.
Turning on her heels, she walked with a purpose out of the room to the corridor just outside. It was the hallway of the gods. Statues of her family lined each side of a small walkway. They were constructed in gold, and no finer craftsmanship would be found anywhere else. Slowly she walked the aisle, looking at each one contemplatively. She stopped in front of the larger than life rendition of her sister Aphrodite. Athena wouldn't allow herself to smile, especially given how she was feeling, but there was something calming about knowing the woman who this artwork had been made for was her sister. A sister who showed so much loyalty and love yet sadly was so quick to be dismissed by others as flighty and arrogant. But Athena knew that Aphrodite was deeper than that. So had Hephaestus: even Athena could see he'd put extra effort into the statue. No matter what, the God of Smiths always carried a torch for her sister. Of all of Olympus, he was…had been…the most worthy. Too bad it hadn't worked out for the two.
Athena ran her fingers lightly over the foot of the statue and whispered solemnly, "I love you."
Continuing her slow walk, she looked up to the statue of her adopted mother. There was a light smile on Hera's face, and it was directed at the statue of Athena. Never before had Athena noticed this particular nuance, and she was deeply touched by it now. She knew, without any doubt, Hera had wanted it to be this way. While standing next to her mother's likeness, Athena felt the air change. She couldn't feel her father's presence anymore. Even scanning her mind and the universe, she couldn't sense his presence. He was effectively hiding…but someone else had taken his place, someone who was not being as careful.
Athena felt the hair on the back of her neck rise, and she quickly conjured a sword in time to spin around and stare into the black eyes of her brother Ares, the God of War. "Well, shit." Athena deadpanned.
It just seemed appropriate, in oh so many ways.
A/N: Apologies for keeping you waiting. Between my unruly life and my co-author being hospitalized, this chapter was far overdue. Good news? My life is my own once more, and that will leave plenty of time for writing. (And ltlconf is back in the game!) This chapter was big, as we wanted to do justice to the battle between Diana/Hera/Poseidon. What started out as about 3k words became over 5k once the co-author shook it up. The stories we have collaborated on have meant so much, so patiently I will always wait for final touches from my friend. Having said that, what'd you think? Thanks to all who checked in, and nudged. I never want to disappoint you, and you have my word that this will be a completed story. Up next...spoon time? Or perhaps it's time for Shayera to show why she's a valued member of the League...