“What is this about, Daughter?” Zeus demanded, his muscular back turned to Athena.
“I’m unsure what you mean,” Athena stated.
“Your priestesses move against your half-brother,” Zeus stated.
“I told them not to go,” Athena stated, feigning ignorance. “But you know how stubborn these mortals can be.”
“Then perhaps I should end them,” Zeus said. “Unless you object?”
“Not me, Father,” Athena said. “But I would advise against it. Should you harm those three, Olympus itself will quickly be at war.”
“Explain,” Zeus demanded.
“That’s the fourth group we’ve seen leaving,” Sylvie noted, watching the road to Ghuji from Demure’s back.
“So, they know this son of Zeus is coming?” Serena asked.
“Either that or Ghuji is more popular with merchants than we thought,” Inés said.
“They know,” Sylvie declared. “Look, here comes another group. That isn’t a merchant group. It’s people carrying all the possessions they can manage while they flee.”
“Think we should reassure them?” Serena asked. “It may make things easier for them.”
“I don’t know that we have time,” Inés stated. “Word will spread around when we arrive anyway.”
“But…” Serena began.
“It’s better to leave it be,” Sylvie said. “Even if they believe in us, and that’s a big ‘if’, even then we’re better off with fewer civilians around. Less chance of them getting killed.”
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” Inés said. “I kind of assumed we’d protect them like always.”
“While fighting a half-God?” Sylvie asked.
“Too much, huh?” Inés muttered.
“Way too much,” Sylvie said. “We’ll be lucky if both of us survive. We certainly can’t be looking after civilians.” She turned to Serena & Dusk. “You should stay back with the pegasi. It’s too dangerous for you.”
“But that’s why you’ll need me!” Serena protested. I have weapons from Hephaestus too, so…”
“In this case,” Inés began “I would prefer you to stay back. But I can’t deny that we need all the help we can get and there has to be a reason that you were given those tonfa. Sylvie, we have to let her fight alongside us.”
“That’s…” Sylvie cut her protest short. “You may be right. Fine, all three of us will fight.”
“Thank you,” Serena said. “Thank you both.”
“By the time this is over you may well resent us for it,” Sylvie muttered. “Assuming we all survive.”
“Don’t be so gloomy!” Inés exclaimed. “You’ll both live. After all, you have the super strong staff expert, Inés on your side!”
“Such amazing confidence,” Serena stated.
“That doesn’t reassure me at all,” Sylvie said.
The trio landed in a wooded area outside of Ghuji and loosed their pegasi.
“Wait for us to come back, okay?” Inés said. “I’ll whistle if I need you, Blitz.”Blitz let out an understanding neigh.
“Don’t worry about me, Demure,” Sylvie said. “For now, let Blitz and Dusk look after you. I’ll be back soon.” Demure nuzzled her.
“Don’t worry about me, Dusk,” Serena said. “Inés will make sure I return. I just hope I can do my part.”
Dusk looked her over and glanced at thee other two before letting out a series of neighs and whinnies.
“You think so?” Serena asked. Dusk let out a loud neigh. “Then I’ll do my best!”
The three hurried from the forest.
“Think they’ll actually wait?” Sylvie wondered.
“Definitely,” Inés answered. “They’re our friends, after all.”
“I agree,” Serena said. “Dusk even told me to do my best.”
“Is that what she said?” Inés asked.
“Yeah!” Serena declared. “Basically.”
Ghuji’s gate was manned by several guards. One of them stopped them. “My apologies,” he said. “But we can’t shelter you for the night. A rather brutish group is coming to attack us, you see. It’s better if you camp out and go elsewhere.”
“We know about the group,” Inés said. “Led by a son of Zeus, coming to take your city. That’s why we came. We’re warrior priestesses of Athena and we fight for justice!”
“Warrior priestesses?” he asked. “I guess I should introduce you to the captain.”
He led them inside and to the town’s square, where a one-eyed, middle-aged man was giving orders. “Rex, who are these girls?” he demanded.
“Warrior priestesses, Captain Omec,” Rex answered. “They say they want to help against Scotius and his thugs.”
“Heh?” Omec scoffed. He looked them over. “They look barely old enough to be learning to fight, much less to fight a rumoured son of Zeus.” He turned to them. “No offence, but we need experienced men and women, not children.”
“We have been fully trained at the temple,” Sylvie said, trying not to look at Serena. “Not only that, but we’ve had quite a few battles on our way here. We’re completely qualified, I assure you.”
“All right, you’re qualified,” he said. “I salute your courage. Now, go home!”
“Listen here you impertinent…” Sylvie began, but Inés stopped her.
“Listen,” Inés sighed. “It’s pretty clear that you think we’re too young and we do appreciate you looking after our well-being, but arguing over how good we are is getting us nowhere. Therefore, I propose a test. I’ll fight you. No weapons. No time limit. The one to give up or get knocked out loses. If I win, you let us fight Scotius. If you win, we’ll leave without any argument. Deal?”
“I have preparations to oversee,” Omec said. “I have no time to play.”
“Was that quivering I heard in your voice?” Inés asked.
“I think it was,” Serena agreed. “There’s no shame in being scared of Inés. She beat a giant by herself, after all.”
“A giant?” Omec asked. He turned to them. “Very well, I’ll accept your terms.”
He took his scabbard and tossed it to the side. Inés set her staff down beside it.
“Let’s see this strength that can fell a giant,” Omec said. He circled around Inés, his arms up in a guarding position. Then he unleashed a powerful jab. Unfortunately for him, Inés caught his fist and began squeezing. He struggled to pull away with all his strength. Inés smirked and released his fist, dropping as she did and punching him in the gut.
He went flying backwards, clutching his stomach. His fist bruised and barely mobile.
“I give,” he gasped. He turned to Rex. “Bring one of the clerics, immediately.” He knelt. “Ladies, I apologise for my crassness. Please, lend us your strength.”
Inés grinned. “Hey, I won. That makes it our right.”
“Thank you very much!” Omec exclaimed.