Disclaimer: I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, the larger DC comics universe that I am drawing from or any of the Mythology that I am about to mangle to suit my own twisted purposes. Frankly, if you recognize it, I don’t own it. This work may not be sold or used for profit in any way shape or form for that very reason. Please don’t sue me because I don’t have anything worth taking…
Author's Note: While I know that everyone is clamoring for a new chapter in Thunder over Smallville: Year One, I'm unfortunately having to fight through some writer's block. This chapter was actually written before the accident that resulted in my inability to write for so long. Hopefully, I'll have overcome my writer's block soon (I'm finally making some progress) and we'll see regular updates there again along with the completion of this and the other side stories I've got planned for this series.
Chapter One -- Champion's Call
Queen Hippolyta of Themyscira knelt alone in the cool darkness of Artemis's shrine as she waited for the first rays of the sun to peek over the horizon. She could feel the tense shift in the air as the hours crept swiftly toward the coming dawn. The first light would mark the beginning of the Feast of Five, a festival meant to honor the five principal goddesses of the Amazon nation: Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter and Hestia. It was a tradition as old as the nation of Themyscira itself, and this would mark the 2000th celebration of the festival since the gods had fallen silent.
The Queen stifled an urge to sigh sadly at the thought. The Amazons believed that the silence of their patron goddesses for the past two millennia was a test, a trial to prove their everlasting faithfulness. Hippolyta alone knew the truth. The world of man had turned away from the old gods and their actions had given rise to other Powers in the world. Powers that had managed to diminish the abilities of the old gods to appear to their faithful. So it was that their goddesses were reduced to using signs and portents, omens and prophecies to speak to them. It was a fact that had pained the Queen greatly.
Before the Age of Silence, their goddesses had walked among them often, offering guidance and counsel to their people, imparting wisdom to any who needed it. The Amazons had had deeply personal relationships with their gods, relationships that had changed greatly since. They were still a deeply religious people, and likely ever would be. Their immortality and deep connection to their goddesses tied them to their faith in a very real way. Even so, the Age of Silence had put a great strain on them. More and more of the Amazons have begun to question the gulf between them and their goddesses, asking if the nation had offended their deities. Hippolyta often feared if the goddesses could not appear to them soon, her warriors would begin to blame the world of man for the Age of Silence. If it came to that, the entire island could get swept up in the unthinkable... a war with all mankind.
As Apollo's fiery chariot drew the light of the sun up over the distant horizon, Hippolyta uttered a fervent prayer for Artemis's guidance and Athena's wisdom. Pushing aside her concerns, the Queen began the ritual ceremony that would welcome their goddesses and implore their blessings upon the nation for another year. She had barely finished the prayer of invitation, when she felt a soft hand come to rest gently on her shoulder.
Anger exploded in Hippolyta's breast. Who among her people would dare to interrupt her? Who would dare profane this sacred observance? The warrior queen exploded to her feet, whirling toward the hands owner and drawing steel in a smooth, swift motion.
Before her eyes could even register what she was seeing, her feet were swept out from under her and the ground rushed up forcefully. The surprising impact drove the wind from her lungs, leaving her gasping up at a face as she had not expected to find. The woman standing over her wore the ceremonial armor of an Amazon Queen, the burnished steel and leather protecting her from injury. The stern expression on her regal face was offset by the twinkle of merriment in her eyes and her short dark hair was streaked through with auburn.
"Peace, Hippolyta," Artemis said with a soft voice, her imagined sternness melting away to a joyful smile. "I did not mean to startle you."
"Lady Artemis!" The Queen of the Amazons exclaimed in awe. "You have returned! Oh my lady, you have been sorely missed!" She moved quickly, shifting off her back to kneel reverently before her goddess. "I feared you might never return..."
"I feared I might never be able to appear before you again as well," the Goddess of the Hunt admitted softly, "But the prophecies have finally begun to be fulfilled. The Heir of Thor has claimed his legacy and a new age is beginning."
"We will celebrate it with a joyful heart, Lady," Hippolyta declared fervently.
"There is more to do than merely celebrate my chosen queen," the Olympian said in an odd tone. "Rise, Hippolyta... we have much to discuss and little enough time."
The Queen rose to her feet with a stately grace despite her confusion. "I do not understand, my Lady," she said with a frown. "You have returned, yet you make it sound as though you must depart again soon..."
"I have returned, but things are not yet as they once were," the Olympian explained sadly. "I can not yet appear to you more than briefly. The Powers that Be still hold far too great a sway over this world yet, but as they wane in the coming years that will change."
Hippolyta's face tightened into a steely resolve, "What must we do to speed these pretenders on their way that you might return to us in earnest?"
"The existence of Themyscira must be revealed to the world of man," Artemis said in answer, matching her Queen's resolve. "An ambassador must be sent into the world. Someone who can show the world our ways, who can be an example to the world. She will have to live among the mortals of the world, away from Themyscira."
"How shall we choose such a champion, Lady?" Queen Hippolyta asked.
"You will hold a great tournament two weeks hence," the goddess answered with a smile. "If our ambassador is to represent our way of life to the world, she must be the very best of us. The warrior who wins the games shall be our ambassador." Artemis looked distant and suddenly seemed to shrink in on herself. "You will announce the games and my return today. I will appear again on the final day of the games to crown our champion."
"As you would have it, Lady Artemis," the queen answered formally.
"Know that we are much pleased with your nation, Queen Hippolyta," the Olympian said as she faded away. "Your people's unwavering faithfulness has not gone unnoticed."
"Praise be to all the goddesses and gods who guard and favor us," Hippolyta answered, knowing the gods could hear her even if she couldn't see them.
Smiling broadly, the queen turned and headed towards her palace. There was a great deal of work to do if the goddess was to be obeyed.
* * * * *
Rumors spread across the island like wildfire; Themyscira was far too small a nation for any secret of consequence to be kept. By the time the Queen dispatched runners to spread the word for a conclave, most of the island had heard stories of Artemis's return and the impending games. As the great courtyard of the palace quickly filled with eager warriors, a tense hush descended on them, born of anxious anticipation.
Almost as one, the assembled warriors saluted their queen as Hippolyta strode out onto the raised dais with a regal air. The Queen smiled proudly at her people before she spoke. "Hear me my Amazons," she commanded formally, "The Age of Silence has ended! The time has come for you to know the truth of this past age." Her face set in a hard expression, "For two thousand years now, we have waited. Waited for the gods of Olympus to return and now they have. They had been pushed aside by other, lesser deities... deities that managed to usurp their thrones."
A startled gasp swept through the assembly. Of all the things they had considered, the idea that their gods had been displaced had never occurred to the Amazons. Before they could lose themselves in outrage over such an announcement, the queen pressed on.
"It was prophesied that when the Heir of the northern God of Thunder reclaimed his father's throne, that the usurpers' power would begin to fail and a new age would begin," she exclaimed loudly. "The Lady Artemis has appeared to me this day and declared that the prophecies have begun to come to pass. The pretender’s power is weakening but it is not yet broken." Another strained hush swept over the crowd in response.
"How may we speed the fall of these false gods, my Queen?" One of the guard Captains called out angrily.
"The Lady Artemis has decreed that we must reveal our existence to the world of man. We must send an ambassador to their world to show them the power of our gods and the rightness of our ways." The Queen replied, unperturbed by the question. "To that end, Artemis has decreed that we must hold a great tournament two weeks from today. The winner of the games, the Amazon whose strength, speed, and prowess overcomes all of her opponents, shall receive the blessings of our gods to go into the world and shine the light of our ways on the darkness of mankind."
A murmur of excitement spread through the assembly in the wake of the Queen's announcement. Their gods were not merely sending an ambassador and to the world, they were sending a champion; a hero whose name would become legend among the entire Amazon nation if not the entire world. Instantly, speculation began about who the champion would be.
Before the whispering could run away with her people, Queen Hippolyta spoke up once more, sending the crowd back into a hushed almost tense silence. "Each participant in the tournament will wear a ceremonial mask to ensure that everyone is judged solely on their abilities rather than their identities. The Lady Artemis herself shall be the one to crown the victor." The Queen smiled softly as another burst of murmuring rolled across the assembly.
* * * * *
Princess Diana Themyscira felt her heart soar at the announcement of the impending tournament to select a champion to send into man's world. Of all the warriors on the island, she was one of a scant handful who had been born on the island of Themyscira. She had lived her entire life isolated from the rest of the world and had longed for centuries to see what existed beyond their borders.
Finally, after so much time wondering about the outside world, she saw an opportunity to actually experience it. It was as though Artemis herself was answering one of her most fervent prayers and all she had to do was prove herself by winning the games. It would not be an easy task. The island was home to a veritable legion of extremely skilled athletes and warriors, women she would have to best in order to be the island's champion. Fortunately, she was a very skilled athlete and warrior in her own right.
Still, for the first time in her life, she saw an opportunity to not only fulfill her dream of seeing the outside world but also to be something more than Princess Diana, daughter of Hippolyta. She could be Princess Diana, champion and ambassador of Themyscira. It was an ideal that appealed to her at the very deepest levels of her being. It was a chance to be recognized on her own merits rather than being judged by the fact of her birth.
Almost instantly, the Princess made up her mind to participate in the games. She would prove once and for all that she was every bit as skilled as even the best of her Amazon sisters. She would be the island's champion.
Now all she had to do was tell her mother that she meant to participate...