We Women Will Ride

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My life’s flame is flickering; that candle has burnt brightly, but the wick nears the end. And when I, Ana, the last of Percales’ so-called heroines enter the afterlife, then, my friends, then what will you remember of us?Percales has much to say about how we stopped the Mycean threat. Yet, despite my pride in what I did for you, I have grown uneasy over the years. For a wall of mythology surrounds we ringbearers and Percales has hewn many a stone.Tell me, do you remember Danae?I hear those future words, “Of course. Danae’s the embodiment of Artemis. A legend; she wore a ring of strength that glorious day.”Yes, she wore that ring, a leader of warriors. And was still wearing it today, fifty years later, when I lit her funeral pyre. Her body more ravaged by arthritis than combat, though she bore many a battle scar.No doubt today’s eulogies are still in the library; but, oh you should have heard them. Her grandchildren spoke of love; the leader spoke of heroism. Go read them again and tell me, did you expect me, her battle leader, to side with her grandchildren and speak of her as a friend, a mother and a grandmother?Yet, that was the Danae I knew best; as a girl, a woman, a friend and, yes, a lover. More, much more, than a battle-hero. But always just Danae, wonderful in her way but never perfect.I know you may frown, thinking, surely, I am kidding or even worse debasing her memory. Of course, others tell you that she could flight an arrow like Artemis herself. But when they go further and imply Danae was Goddess-like in all she did, well then, my friends, then we enter the realm of myth.Frankly, the only other truly legendary thing about Danae was what her vagina could do to a cock. And you won’t see that written anywhere in the history books.Look, I know we believe the Gods look favourably on Pergamon. Knowing Artemis has walked amongst us, looking out for us will be a comfort when dark times come. To believe the mythology of Danae as Artemis is to be reassured by that Goddess’s willingness to come to our aid.But there is an Achilles heel to myth. Look around you and tell me, is there actually a God in your generation?We both know there isn’t. And, more importantly, the best archers of your generation must believe Danae wasn’t a goddess. For, when the Gods allow dark times to visit again, you will need your Danae as much as we needed ours.When my time comes, my dying wish for you will be that you understand the reality of we so-called heroines. What we ring bearers, five young women asked by the fates to bear the biggest load in our history, did and didn’t do.Because, when troubled times come again, as surely they must, the future will depend on you believing that you and those around you can vanquish those troubles.********The shadows deepened as a flock of carrion eaters flew between Pergamon and the face of the autumnal sun. A portend of the darkness enveloping us.West the birds flew, around the mountain where the river Caicus turns towards the sea. We women, peering into the gloaming from the battlements, knew where the birds were heading. To the neutral lands twenty-six leagues away, where our archers and swordsmen had joined battle with the expansionist Myceans that very morning.Carrion arrives to feed when combat is done, not to reveal who will taste the bitter fruit of defeat.A wife’s cry went up from the battlements on recognising the figure emerging out of the shadows. That told us it was Magus, the fastest and most athletic of our generation. bonus veren siteler And a man who, by all accounts, was very able in the art of love. Though I should point out that I never personally assessed him in that respect.The elders dispatched a horsewoman to the base of our town and she brought Magus to the main square. He slid from the horse, clearly exhausted, but I confess I found it hard, at first, to avert my eyes from his naked body. Although flaccid his manhood was thick and long, and I momentarily regretted that our amorous paths hadn’t crossed in our teenage years.In my day, and I hope in yours too, our town was devoted to excellence. Status bought little in the way of reward. However, my father was the town’s wise man, analytical and strict, his only daughter his one known indulgence.So, I pushed my way to the front and sat beside my father and mother; the sole member of my generation in the company of the elders. And the story Magus whispered in staccato gasps chilled our hearts.For we had been valiant with many of the enemy vanquished. But they had been victorious and the devastation was total. Our men were dead, lost in defending our way of living. As the life drained from Magus, he spoke the last words my generation of men would say on this earth.“Strike,” he gasped, “Strike now or all is lost.”The most profound sadness gripped the assembly. Unusually for him, my father took my hand seeking comfort, comfort he returned to me. For his sons and my brothers; for my husband, the father of his grandchildren. And for the rest of the three hundred, our menfolk whose bodies we now knew were at the mercy of carrion in the neutral lands.I looked up over the barely comprehending crowd to dusty snotty-nosed children, boys and girls, playing and yet not playing in the oil lamplight. You know our tradition is the way of the warrior and that every Pergamon generation to date was trained in the battle arts.Though only our menfolk fought and then only after siring children. Those urchins were now fatherless and my heart was broken. I grieved for my husband, my brothers and my friends. The boys I had fought with, teased and indeed fucked were no more.Well not fucked my brothers I should point out, and not all the other boys; just an appropriate number to make a well-considered choice about my husband.Only my mother and I heard my father whisper, “We are all on the precipice of catastrophe.”The received wisdom nowadays speaks of me being struck by divine inspiration. I imagine that legend still circulates. Believe me, I would have noticed the Gods lending a helping hand; the truth of what happened next is much more prosaic.My father’s words left me numb, staring vacantly into the distance. Yet sufficiently aware to see a young girl savagely kick a young boy. And with that kick, I pondered Magus’s last words. To this day I believe they were a direct message from our men to their womenfolk.Instinctively, I spoke to the tearful assembly, in a louder voice than I had intended; spoke before I could talk myself out of it. I know scholars tell you that the four words were inspirational, compelling and complete. But to me, it was just the obvious thing to say, “We women will ride.”Despite what Percales says, those words weren’t met with acclamation. The silence lingered awhile and I feared I had misjudged. But, then, from the back of the assembly, Harmonia of all people yelled, “For once Ana is right. We must ride.”But bedava bahis when I looked at my father, he seemed suddenly older, uncertain. More so when Cynara called out, “Power without wisdom is not a power worth having.”With all she subsequently achieved leading our city, it will be difficult for you to imagine how judgemental we were of Cynara. Shunned, a strange lone creature, not exactly one of us as she had chosen not to marry. Reputedly a creature of the night, she apparently read long into the lonely hours while we rested after taking our physical pleasure.Some said she conversed with the gods. Her only intimate was the town’s herbalist, renowned by those who cooked, but whispers suggested his herbs were used by Cynara in altogether different ways.Yet my father always had time for her and even now with her pointed disrespect he wearily asked her the meaning of her anger.Unexpectedly I saw an indomitable spirit. “I am angry at you my leader and the leaders before you. Angry that you have forsaken our traditions. Angry that you talked about excellence and didn’t act with excellence in mind.””You heard Magus before he died, the battle was close. Close, leader, and yet you did not allow all our best warriors to go into battle. Close, leader and your daughter’s husband did not have Danae, the only person his equal, if not his better, at his side.”“It has been ever so, Cynara,” my father said.But Cynara, having studied ancient records, told another tale. The gods had endowed us with rings of power, strength and wisdom. Apparently, in the dawn of our civilisation women and men had, depending on ability, shared them. But over time a tradition developed where only men wore them. Even the azure ring of wisdom, which wasn’t as strongly battle-linked hadn’t been worn by a woman these many centuries.“You have forsaken our traditions,” Cynara concluded, “I claim the ring of wisdom in the name of our founding mothers and fathers. Your modern thinking has failed us!”My father waited for what seemed an age before replying, “Cynara, if you take the ring, you must serve. There can be no exceptions.”“I agree,” Cynara said. “Ana’s call to arms is the last roll of our dice. But not injudicious. For generations, girls have trained alongside boys, and the moment to rely on those skills has arrived.”I don’t know how you now farewell warriors. We had a long-established ceremony carried out in the Temple of Athena under the watchful eye of the Goddess and the names of the dead, the ones who had gone before us defending our way of life. I hope you do the same.Two days after my father’s nodded consent, we three hundred women lined up to swear the ancient oath. Naked, for nothing was allowed between our souls and the chalice containing the rings of power, strength and wisdom.In turn, each woman genuflected, kissed the base of the chalice, recited the oath. Taking the five rings, we kissed them one by one thereby swearing allegiance to the five who would wear them.I had been in the temple twice before watching my husband and his colleagues trothing in this way and had been overwhelmed by the emotional power of the ceremony. And now it was, unexpectedly, my turn.As the chalice journeyed up the line of warriors, my stomach knotted. For I, standing a step away from the assembly with four others, would be the last to receive the chalice.Who would wear the leadership rings seemed preordained for us. There was no argument, no canvassing; the decisions deneme bonus on battle command had been toyed with and tested in the playground and the academy over the years, and the judgement of our peers was as rapid and final as it had been for our menfolk.Once the chalice reached our end of the line, Cynara, who would bear the wisdom ring, prostrated herself in front of the altar and recited the traditional words of acceptance, which ended, having invoked the Gods and the company, with four words, ‘thy will be done.’My father slid the azure ring of wisdom onto her finger and she did what she had promised, namely by kissing the other four rings she accepted the leadership of those who would wear them.Cynara then asked Danae, Larisa and Harmonia to accept the rings of strength. The three women prostrated themselves in front of the altar and Cynara slid the red rings onto their fingers, while they testified to the Gods and the company that they subjugated their will to the defence of the greater good.Then the four women kissed the blue ring of power and, kneeling in turn, held out their hands so I might kiss the rings on their fingers and thereby acknowledge their right and duty to lead under my direction. And the contrast in my relationship with the four could not have been more apparent.The diminutive Cynara held my gaze before I took the knee to kiss the wisdom ring. Her eyes seemed like deep pools, neither challenging nor threatening me. Rather they conveyed a rare depth of understanding. In truth, we weren’t all that close then. She was always the library girl whereas I was pushing physical excellence at the academy.Danae, the most accurate archer of our generation, would command the hundred archers. The respect in her and my eyes was tinged with the deepest sadness. For the five rings had twins. As I stooped to kiss her red ring of strength, my mind was at the ceremony a few days earlier when the leader of the men had stooped to kiss her ring’s twin which nestled on my husband’s finger.As I straightened, Danae broke with protocol and put her arms around me. I only cried once publicly and it was then in the arms of the woman who, apart from me, knew my husband best. They had competed all their lives and competed hard. And while they were clearly the best two archers of my generation, my husband respected Danae for being a fraction more accurate.Nothing in my life has ever evaporated wretchedness as quickly as Larisa’s dazzling smile. And, as always, I grinned back and stooped to kiss the red ring that signified leadership of one of the two groups of swordsmen or more accurately swordswomen this time.Our bond had been strong since we were young, best friends, and although I wasn’t that frequent a lover of women, we were each other’s first some moons ago. But our friendship had intensified after marriage as our husbands had also been best friends and occasional lovers all their lives. The four of us had raised our children together and there was no one in the temple that day who I would rather have spent time with.Harmonia would wear the other ring that signified the leadership of swordswomen. That she grudgingly accepted this as second prize was obvious. Her eye contact was brief and filled with attitude. She certainly had the ability, but I knew my father thought her attitude a weakness. But as a fighter and battle leader, she had the potential to be inspirational and, despite our rocky relationship, I didn’t begrudge her that leadership.Perhaps Percales’ greatest myth is the notion that Pergamon was saved by the heroic love Harmonia and I had for each other. At that time all of Pergamon knew of the bad blood between us, and heroic loathing would have been a more appropriate word choice than love.

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