In the early morning, Inés quietly approached Demeter’s temple. Sylvie and Serena were getting the pegasi ready.
“What’s the good word, Ladies?” Inés asked. “We about ready to go?”
Where have you been?” Sylvie demanded. “You were supposed to report and come right back.”
“Well… Things happen,” Inés answered. “I still got back in time, right?”
“You got back before we left,” Sylvie agreed. “But we could have used your help getting ready.”
“Then let me do the rest,” Inés said.
“No need,” Sylvie stated. “We’re just finishing up.”
As the three priestesses prepared to mount their pegasi, a contingent of elven guards approached, led by Lais.
“Priestesses,” she saluted them. “You have my thanks. Should any of you find your way into our lands again, expect our full hospitality. For the moment, please accept these provisions for your journey. They aren’t much, but they should last you a few meals.” She winked at Inés. “And I apologise for keeping your comrade busy for so long yesterday and last night.”
“Oh, it’s no problem,” Serena said. “Sylvie and I handled things okay.”
“You didn’t,” Sylvie whispered, grasping Inés’ shoulder.
“Totally did,” Inés answered. She spoke more loudly when addressing the elves. “We’ll come again on our way back from the pilgrimage.”
“Then I’ll look forward to it,” Lais said. “You and I still have some business.”
“Sweet!” Inés declared.
Lais approached her and stroked Inés’ cheek with her slender fingers. “Next time, stay with me a little longer.”
“I don’t believe it,” Sylvie muttered.
The three took off on Blitz, Dusk & Demure.
“Enjoying your first flight?” Inés asked.
“I still can’t believe you had sex with our old teacher’s elder sister,” Sylvie said.
“Way to go, Inés!” Serena cheered.
“And why aren’t you bothered?” Sylvie asked. “She left you behind to play around with another woman.”
“I know,” Serena said. “But it’s not like we’re exclusive. Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that you’re still on about it. I mean, if all of the women that get involved with her can accept that there are going to be others, why does it still bother you?”
“She’s upset because I’m running around with a bunch of fine ladies and she hasn’t even worked up the courage to confess to the one she really wants,” Inés stated.
“Shut it!” Sylvie demanded. “I’m concerned because of how much older she is than you. That’s all.”
“She’s also an elf,” Inés said. “She’s not even middle-aged yet. But she has picked up some amazing tricks.”
“Really?” Serena asked.
Inés nodded. “I’ll show you later.”
“Will you two not talk about this?” Sylvie asked.
“But you brought it up,” Serena said.
“I did no such thing!” Sylvie declared.
“You kind of did,” Inés said.
Around mid-day, they landed to allow Blitz, Dusk and Demure to graze.
“Let’s dig into those provisions,” Inés said.
“Sounds good to me,” Serena agreed.
“Fine,” Sylvie said. “It’ll give the ladies more time to rest their wings, at least.”
The three sat down to eat. Not long after they’d settled in, they heard a voice.
The three turned, startled. A woman bent with age, leaning on a walking stick and wearing a black cloak approached them from behind. “Beware, I say.”
“What should we beware of, Ma’am?” Serena asked.
“Did you hear her coming?” Sylvie whispered.
Inés shook her head and whispered back. “You?”
“Nope,” Sylvie whispered. “She may not be what she seems.”
If the old woman noticed them whispering, she ignored it. “I beseech you, Priestesses, don’t stop in Ghuji, unless you’re confident in your strength.”
“We were just going to pass by,” Sylvie said. “Not head in. So, you don’t have to worry.”
“What’s in Ghuji?” Inés asked.
The woman stared at Inés, giving Inés a good look at her piercing grey eyes. “The son of Zeus is coming. Half-mortal, very dangerous. He takes what he wants be it territory, items or even people. He’s bringing the barbarians who have sworn their loyalty to him to Ghuji. The city will fall. Anything he doesn’t desire will be razed. Anyone who opposes him or who he doesn’t desire will be killed. Man, woman and child. It’s not your fight, Priestesses. I shudder to think what he’d do with you.” She waved her stick at them. “And without the blessing of the Gods themselves, you’d fall.” She turned and moved away. “Beware. Beware of Ghuji!”
“Wait a moment!” Sylvie called. But the old woman was gone, seemingly vanishing into thin air.
“What should we do?” Serena asked. “We can’t let the city suffer like that, can we?”
“We can’t!” Inés declared. “We’re going to stop him!”
“I don’t like the idea of leaving them to their fate either,” Sylvie said. “But fighting a half-god is no simple feat. Maybe we can convince the people of Ghuji to flee, get help from neighbouring cities and ally against this guy.”
“No,” Inés said. “We’ll rally them against his little peons and the three of us will take him down.”
“Are you insane?” Sylvie asked.
“Could we really manage it?” Serena inquired.
“That woman,” Inés said. “She said we’d need the blessings of the Gods.” She waved her staff. “I say we have them. These weapons from Hephaestus, my natural strength. I think she came here deliberately. To tell us the situation and say that we can win.”
“And what makes you so sure?” Sylvie demanded.
“She appeared out of nowhere, vanished into nothingness and had grey eyes,” Inés said. “I’ll wager that was Athena in mortal garb, guiding us.”
“Well, if Athena herself wants us to go,” Serena said. “She wouldn’t send us if we couldn’t do it, right?”
“She wouldn’t!” Inés exclaimed. “She is the Goddess of wisdom, after all.”
“That’s…” Sylvie started to protest but an odd sight caught her attention. An owl, flying right past the corner of her eye, in daylight. “It was Athena…” she muttered. She nodded. “All right, let’s bring this filthy bastard down!”
She drew her rapier and held it out. Inés held out her staff, touching it against the rapier. Serena brought out her tonfa and held one of them aloft against the other two weapons. From a distance, an armour-clad woman watched, floating above the earth.
“Go forth, my priestesses,” she whispered. “With your skill and strength, you can win. You may even survive.” She snapped her fingers and vanished.