As Emily limped to her suite, her thoughts turned to Ms Maynard, her Earth Science teacher from last spring. The woman was not like the other Professors. She did not just hate the students. She hated the whole human race and acted like she would not mind if everyone just died. Emily wondered briefly why the woman came to mind. She was trying very hard to forget that class.
Emily shook her head to clear her mind, but thoughts about her destiny kept bubbling up to the surface. She decided that given the chance, this whole being elect business could make her paranoid. She was seeing shadows around eye-witless news, professors Granger, Maynard and this new professor Orlov. There might not be any shadows at all. She took a deep breath even as something occurred to her that she had forgotten. Pierce once mentioned that he had a younger brother. And Doctor Zimmer, his maker was still missing. Please, she prayed, don’t let them come back here.
“And why do you not want them to come back here?” A woman asked. The woman was pacing Emily, and Emily did not even know it until the woman spoke. It startled her, but in her mind she responded, because she did not want that kind of fight if she could help it.
“Yes, it is wise not to fight unless you must,” the woman agreed. “But I thought you were afraid he would remind you too much of Pierce.”
“Yes,” Emily whispered her admission, but her mind mostly thought that she just wanted a quiet semester. As far as it went, she told the reporter the truth.
“And I wish you could have a quiet semester too.” The woman smiled and Emily stopped cold. This woman was reading her mind. “Sit,” the woman said, and Emily saw two chairs around a small table where there had been only grass. She suddenly realized they were just outside her new dorm, but she knew she did not limp nearly that far. She sat slowly because of her ribs, and saw a tall to-go cup on her side of the table. “Chai Latte.” The woman pointed to the cup and picked up a bottle of water for herself.
“Who are you?” Emily asked.
“Zoe,” the woman said, and added, “Yes I am real, and yes we are really here, not dreaming, and no I am not an angel.” Zoe gave the answers even as Emily framed the questions in her mind. “Honestly!” Zoe sipped her water and rolled her eyes just like Emily. “Angels are sexless. I can’t imagine it.”
Emily sipped her Chai Latte and examined the woman, and Zoe was all woman. She was dressed in what looked like a toga, but more like a mini-skirt version. The sleeves barely went beyond the shoulder and the neckline plunged more than necessary. It was pure white besides, and clean, which at the least said something about the woman’s choice of detergent. Zoe’s sandals tied up to her knees, and they were brown, a match for her light brown hair. She also wore a choker with a small stone that Emily guessed was supposed to be an emerald. The green stone matched the woman’s green, deep set eyes which were so piercing, Emily had to look away. All the same, Emily put out her finger to touch the woman’s shoulder, just to be sure.
“There, feel better?” Zoe asked.
Emily nodded and got a question all the way out. “So what do you want with me?”
“Here’s the thing.” Zoe shifted in her seat so she could face Emily better. “With all I have on my plate right now, what with the Kargill-Reichgo war starting up,” Zoe paused to point at the sky so Emily might guess that was something outer spacey. “And earth politics and international relations bottoming out. Don’t get me started. And Melanie fighting off dimensional interlopers, and poor Lockhart trying to take over after Bobbie retired. And my little ones. There is trouble in the ranks! Who would have thought it in this late day and age?” Zoe clicked her tongue. “Well, it is more than a lot. You see, I am not sure I can handle the revival of a real Amazon tribe right now.”
“I’m not sure I can either,” Emily admitted.
“But here is the thing,” Zoe repeated. “There is something about this place, this campus that is hidden even from my sight. If I had the time I would never let such a mystery go. Alas, as my elect, you will have to figure it out. You and your tribe will have three years to do it.”
“Of course, silly. Who do you think elected you?”
“I thought it was all the ancient goddesses and stuff.”
Zoe just looked at Emily and smiled before she spoke again. “As my elect, you must be queen of the tribe, but you must learn that an Amazon queen never acts alone. She listens to her counsel. There are three to her left that face the darkness and three to her right that face the light. On your left is the hunter, that is Jessica. The spirit of Artemis is in her though she hardly knows it. Beside her is the Sybil, your seer Amina. She must learn it is not always wise to say everything she sees. Closest to the darkness is your spell caster, Melissa. I know her power is small, but she is the one always in most danger of falling into the dark. Her rules are simple. First, she should not practice her art against those who have no such power to defend themselves. Second, she must never practice her art for selfish ends, not ever.” Zoe shook her finger at Emily. “All of you must do you own homework the old fashioned way and get a good education. Am I clear?” Emily felt the scolding in her gut, and nodded as Zoe sighed. “Just like instructing my children, but then that was five thousand years ago.”
Emily swallowed. “And what of the three that face the light?”
“To your right hand is your wise woman, Mindy. She knows the lore, the legends and the ancient ways. When you face something inexplicable, she is the one who can find a way to explain it. Her stories are instructive as well. Let her whisper in your ear. Beside her is Maria, your healer, filled with the spirit of Eir, though she does not know it. Every Amazon tribe needs a healer, and Maria has the drive and the smarts to become a great one. And the last is your priestess, set a bit apart. She is your Liaison with the source of all things, with the light, with me, and with the universe. She will not only keep you morally grounded, but spiritually grounded as well if you let her.”
“But wait.” Emily held up her left hand and counted. “Jessica the hunter, Amina the Sybil, Melissa the witch.”
“Spell caster,” Zoe corrected. “A much nicer term than witch, don’t you think?’
“Spell caster,” Emily repeated and held up her right hand. “Then Mindy the wise and Maria the healer, but that is everyone. Who is this priestess?”
“I will send her. I got her reassignment rescinded. She will be here for three more years with you. Now I must go.”
“Lead your tribe. Solve my mystery. Somewhere there is a door open to Avalon. Creatures have escaped. You met one. The world is in danger of going mad, blah, blah, blah…” Zoe disappeared. She literally vanished and took the two chairs, the drinks and little table with her. Emily fell hard on her butt in the grass.
“Hey!” Emily instinctively reached for her broken ribs before she paused. She stood and ran in place for a second. She jumped up and down several times. She Planted her feet and twisted her trunk to the left and right. There was zero pain. She was completely healed. She could not help looking up to the sky and mouth her thoughts. “Thank you.”
She only felt slightly surprised, and maybe a little disturbed, when she heard the words plain as day, “You’re welcome.”