Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Death Whispers at the Tip"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by the "teamfamily" square in my 5-29-17 card for the Pride Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem deals with some touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features bald women, messy medical details, references to past cases of cancer, infertility, distracting visions of Amazon life, historic references to dubious consent and inane attitudes, fostering, failed conversions, frank talk about death, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Death Whispers at the Tip"


Granny Whammy regarded
the three women in her office.

One had long brown curls
arranged in a wild crest.
The other two were bald,
although the teenager had
drawn on eyebrows and
applied false eyelashes.
The third hadn't bothered.

"I have been hearing
some interesting things about
you," said Granny Whammy.
"You call yourselves Amazons --"

"We are Amazons," said the one
who wore the crest. "I am Lysippe.
These are Selene and Skyleia."
She gestured first at the woman
and then at the teen girl.

"All right then, Amazons,"
said Granny Whammy. "What
can you tell me about that?"

The other two looked at their leader.

"It started after I survived breast cancer,"
said Lysippe. "I came through the surgery
and the chemotherapy okay, but the wound
just wouldn't heal properly. It kept oozing blood.
I figured it was going to kill me anyway, so I
treated myself to a European vacation."

"Good plan," Granny Whammy said.
She'd seen far too many people who
tried to ignore death instead of facing it.

"In Greece, I visited the island of Khrysi.
I wasn't feeling well, so I fell behind
my tour group and got lost," Lysippe said.
"Then I found some ancient ruins."

"Greek, Minoan, or something else?"
Granny Whammy wondered.

"Amazon," said Lysippe. "I saw
a statue that had broken so nothing
was left but the feet. On a whim, I
stepped up onto them and imagined
myself a grand adventurer like I always
wanted to be before my body failed me."

"You are a grand adventurer,"
Skyleia assured her.

"I am now," Lysippe said. "Anyway,
their goddess came to me -- she was
Potnia Atana to the Minoans, Menrva to
the Etruscans, Athena to the Greeks,
and Minerva to the Romans."

"I got more a sense of a moon goddess,"
Selene added. "She has many faces."

"Then what happened?" Granny Whammy said.
This wasn't the first time someone had had
an encounter with divine mysteries and
then come away with superpowers.

"She blessed me, and the bleeding stopped --
all the bleeding," Lysippe said. She gestured
first to her chest, where her leather top lay flat
over the right side, then at her belly. "I felt
whole and strong for the first time in ages, and
I discovered so many new things I could do."

"I hear a 'but' coming," said Granny Whammy.

"Yes," said Lysippe. "Later, I talked to
a healer and learned that the power
had burned out my womb and ovaries."

"That's a high price to pay for health,"
Granny Whammy said. "Have you warned
people about that particular drawback?"

"Yes, but it doesn't affect everyone," said Lysippe.
"This actually goes back to how the Amazons emerged.
A healer discovered a way to repair what she called
'the treachery of the breast,' but it left women infertile.
That made them worthless in the eyes of men at the time --
even I had a hard time with it -- so they determined
to leave the cities and live in the wilderness."

"That rather discredits the idea of Amazons
molesting or capturing men to mate with
because they didn't want husbands around
all of the time," Granny Whammy said.

"That came later," said Lysippe. "At first,
the Amazons were all survivors of what was
probably breast cancer or similar illnesses.
But then they began to attract younger women
who wanted to live free of men, or who loved
other women. Some of those were still fertile,
and they looked for ways to get pregnant.
After the healer passed away, that was
their main method of renewing the tribe."

"Remarkable," said Granny Whammy
as she leaned forward. "How did you
come to learn all of that history?"

"I used to teach classical history,"
said Lysippe, "but most of it I just ...
remember." She rubbed her forehead.
"I have these flashes, and I don't even know
if they're my own memories of past lives as
an Amazon, or if I'm getting, what? echoes?
from other women in some way. So I've seen
how they emerged, changed, and faded away."

"I think I remember reading something
about that," said Granny Whammy.
"Didn't they eventually marry men?"

"They moved around for a while, and some of
them were captured, but they escaped and made
their way to Scythia," said Lysippe. "The locals were
intimidated by them, but they settled the conflict by
making love instead of war. Eventually, the Amazons
simply blended into the local population there."

"Lysippe was the first of the new Amazons,"
said Selene. "I came to Khrysi on a cruise
for body image improvement. I have alopecia
and that makes it hard for me to see myself as
beautiful. She approached me and suggested
that I find something else to focus on."

"Did it work?" asked Granny Whammy.

"Well, I'm certainly an Amazon," Selene said,
looking down at herself. "The body image thing
is still a challenge, I feel self-conscious when
people look at me, but it's getting better. All of
the training helps -- sparring, athletics, it takes up
space in my brain and leaves less for worrying."

Skyleia reached over and patted her
on the shoulder. "It helps me too, and
I'm glad Lysippe and I figured out a way
for me to contribute," the girl said.

"How did you come to be an Amazon?"
Granny Whammy said. "You seem
awfully young for it, compared to the rest."

"I'm sixteen," Skyleia said. "A couple years ago,
I was dying of bone cancer. I made a wish with
the Starbright Foundation, because I wanted to see
Greece before I died. They sent me, and when I went
to Khrysi, then Lysippe found me and showed me
the statue. I'm the first daughter of the Amazons."

"She was a foster child, so I arranged to adopt her,"
Lysippe said with a fond smile. "Just when I thought
I would never become a mother, the goddess sent
me the best daughter that I could ever have. Being
an Amazon has a way of broadening your horizons."

"Does it work for everyone?" Granny Whammy said.
"If so, this could be quite a breakthrough --"

"No," Lysippe said, shaking her head. "It's like
any other last-ditch, risky treatment. I can guess
who'd make a good Amazon, and we've done
pretty well, but it doesn't happen for everyone."

"The healers have been a disaster,"
Skyleia muttered. "None of them made it."

"Healers?" said Granny Whammy. Those
were precious, and not to be risked.

"Remember, the Amazons started with
a healer," said Lysippe. "I thought that we
could duplicate the process with Athena's help.
They all failed, though, and two of the three
were really upset about that, too."

"Any idea why?" Granny Whammy said.

"We are Amazons," said Lysippe.
"Death whispers at the tip of our tongues
and sits on our arrows as they fly."

Granny Whammy knew that feeling,
all right; most soldiers would, and apparently,
so did people who survived life-threatening illness.

"We need someone who is as comfortable
dealing death as life," Selene said.

"Try looking for a combat medic,"
Granny Whammy said. "There aren't
many of those, but they're quite bifocal."

"We'll do that," said Lysippe. "Also we're
hoping that someone might simply manifest
healing as a goddess-gift. Athena says
it can happen -- we get different gifts."

Granny Whammy nodded. "There are
theories that superpowers take the shape
of your soul, or psyche, or whatever you
want to call it," she said. "That's not true
for everyone, and mismatches can be
ghastly, but most people seem to develop
abilities that suit their personalities."

"I can fly, and Selene can control light,"
said Skyleia, "plus all the regular Amazon stuff."

"We have a small but growing population, and
Greece has been decent about letting us stay on
Khrysi since they had no permanent residents
there before this happened," said Lysippe.
"The diversity of gifts is very helpful."

"So what brings you here, beyond hearing that
I wanted a word with you?" said Granny Whammy.

"We would like to explore diplomacy," said Lysippe.
"Fighting can solve short-term problems but it
rarely does much for the long-term ones."

Granny Whammy drummed her fingers
carefully on her desk. "That's true," she said.
"You're young to realize it, though."

Lysippe gave her an eerie smile.
"Facing your own death gives you
a certain perspective," she said.
"Athena's gift of wisdom simply
enhanced what I already had."

"That makes it easier to deal with,"
Granny Whammy agreed. She had
been a strapping girl even before
she developed Super-Strength.

"I learned about the Peace Corps and
other volunteer groups in school, and everyone
knows about the military," said Skyleia. "If you
only send pacifists into troubled areas, they're
too vulnerable; but soldiers are too prone to pick
fights because they don't know much about
peacemaking skills. I though it might help
to have people who can do both."

Granny Whammy frowned. This wasn't
the 1940s anymore, and people had gotten
a lot more protective of teenagers. "Should you
be getting involved in that kind of trouble yet?"

"We argued about that for a while," said Lysippe.
"Skyleia wanted to do exciting things, and I wanted
to keep her safe. So we negotiated a compromise."

"Now I get to help with things like scouting crowds
of teenagers where anyone older would stick out,"
said Skyleia. "I can solve small problems myself,
or call for backup if things get really bad."

"That's a good solution," Granny Whammy said.
"Diplomacy is a risky business, though."

"We are Amazons," Lysippe said. "We can
survive a great deal of risk. I'm Invulnerable.
The others are Tough and they heal quickly."

"We're not damsels in distress," Skyleia said,
lifting her chin. "If trouble breaks out, then
this princess will do the rescuing."

Granny Whammy chuckled. "You make
a good argument," she said. "All right,
SPOON is interested in networking with
you as Greek superheras, and we'll see
what diplomatic opportunities crop up."

"If you need martial support, you can
call us for that too," said Lysippe.

It was a handsome offer, and
Granny Whammy was tempted
to grab it before they reconsidered.

She was getting old, and could always
use more backup. That would be wrong,
though, and she had tripped up before
when trying to get more out of people.

"Really?" said Granny Whammy.
"The world has an endless supply
of trouble that needs shooting."

"We're Amazons," said Skyleia.
"This is what we do."

* * *

Notes:

Lysippe (Lisa Stanton) -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and long curly brown hair. She usually pulls it up in a crest with a curved comb. Her name means, "She Who Lets Loose the Horses." Her heritage includes Greek and American. After surviving a bout of breast cancer, Lysippe stumbled across ancient ruins and a goddess turned her into an Amazon. She has since begun to gather other women of like mind and diverse backgrounds, teaching them how to be superheras. She is a good leader, easily making friends with new women. She enjoys horseback riding and other athletic activities.
Origin: Lisa survived breast cancer, sacrificing her right breast in the process. But the wound just wouldn't heal properly and kept leaking blood. Figuring that it was probably going to kill her anyway, she decided to treat herself to a European vacation. While visiting the island of Khrysi, she fell behind her tour group and got lost. Then she found some ruins, including a statue broken down to nothing but two stone feet. Lisa balanced on the stubs and imagined herself as the kind of great hera who would be immortalized in a statue. Then she was blessed by the goddess of war and wisdom, who made her the first of the new Amazons.
Uniform: Lysippe wears comfortable clothes that she can move in easily. She loves the Amazon look of leather and symbolic armor even when not fighting. Proud of her body, she often bares a lot of skin, and she wears monokinis to cover her remaining breast while leaving the scar bare.
Qualities: Good (+2) Classic History Teacher, Good (+2) Horsewoman, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Survivor, Good (+2) Women Friends
Poor (-2) Survivor Guilt
Powers: Expert (+4) Amazon
Poor (-2) Memory of Amazon Lives
This metapower includes Command Voice, Enhanced Reflexes, Gift of Tongues, Invulnerability, Martial Prowess, Peacemaking, Super-Intellect, Super-Speed, Super-Stamina, and Super-Strength. She is adept with dagger, sword, shield, bow and arrow, javelin, sling, bola, small thrown weapons such as knives, guns, and unarmed combat. She may or may not actually be immortal -- it feels hazy to a reader. Lysippe can usually, though not quite always, tell who would make a good Amazon.
However, her memories of Amazon history are fragmented and distracting enough to make her life difficult. She doesn't even know if they are really her own memories of past lives, or some kind of echo left over from other women. Also the power burned out her womb and ovaries, leaving her infertile.
Vulnerability: Copper weapons get an upshift to hit and to damage.
Motivation: To do great things with her life.

The Goddess of the Amazons has had many names including the Minoan Potnia Atana, Etruscan Menrva, Greek Athena, and Roman Minerva.

"Lysippe was an Amazon Queen. Settled her Amazons near the Black Sea. She was the one who established the policies that Amazons lived by. She was an intelligent woman, an excellent general and founded the city, Themiscrya. She was killed in battle as a hero to her people. Her name means, "She Who Lets Loose the Horses."
-- Brave Women Warriors of Greek Myth: An Amazon Roster


Skyleia (Leeann Claxton) -- She has tinted skin and almond-shaped brown eyes. She used to have dark brown hair, but lost it to chemotherapy and it never grew back. She is 16 years old. Skyleia is the adopted daughter of Lysippe. Since joining the Amazons, Skyleia has begun composing and reciting lyric poetry about their exploits. For a while she was frustrated that Lysippe wouldn't let her get involved in the superhera activities, but they worked it out by finding age-appropriate options such as blending into crowds of teenagers to scout for trouble.
Origin: As a terminally ill teenager, Leeann made a wish with the Starbright Foundation to visit Greece. On an excursion to the island of Khrysi, she met Lysippe, who invited her to stand on a broken statue to see if the goddess would make her an Amazon. It worked.
Uniform: Skyleia likes modern athletic clothes. She also has a flair for outfits inspired more by Egyptian or Minoan examples, with short loose skirts or long flowing ones. She needs false eyelashes and customarily paints her eyebrows in place.
Qualities: Good (+2) Adventurous, Good (+2) Poet, Good (+2) Self-Reliant, Good (+2) Singer
Poor (-2) Leaps Before She Looks
Powers: Average (0) Amazon
This metapower includes Enhanced Reflexes, Flight, Martial Prowess, Peacemaking, Regeneration, Super-Strength, Toughness. She is currently learning dagger, shield, bow and arrow, bola, and unarmed combat.
Vulnerability: Copper weapons get an upshift to hit and to damage.
Motivation: To develop her skills.

"Fragments of a black figure skyphos (570-560 BC) also by Kleitias depict an Amazonomachy (battle with Amazons). The Amazons are named Iphito, Telepyleia, and ΣΚΥΛΕΙΕΙ, Skyleiei (Skyleia?). This third name is of Scythian origin, a feminine form of Skyles, the name of the historical Scythian king mentioned above who learned Greek and took up Greek ways (ca 500 BC). A heavy gold signet ring with the Greek inscription “Skyleo” (“property of Skyles) was found near Istria, on the west coast of the Black Sea, his mother’s home. The Greek letter forms date the ring to the end of the sixth or early fifth century. Coins bearing his name have been found at Niconium, Skyles’ likely burial site."
-- Making Sense of Nonsense Inscriptions Associated with Amazons and Scythians on Athenian Vases


Selene (Elena Lorde) -- She has peaches-and-cream skin and blue eyes. She has complete alopecia. Her right nostril is pierced and she usually wears a crystal stud. She is self-conscious and hates being the center of attention. Selene follows Lysippe and is helping to re-establish Amazon culture.
Origin: The alopecia makes it difficult for her to see herself as beautiful, so Elena took a body image cruise. While visiting the island of Khrysi, she became an Amazon.
Uniform: Selene likes white and pastels, especially pale blues and grays.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Existential Intelligence, Good (+2) Authenticity, Good (+2) Follower, Good (+2) Swimming
Poor (-2) Self-Conscious
Powers: Good (+2) Amazon
This metapower includes Enhanced Reflexes, Gift of Tongues, Light Powers, Martial Prowess, Peacemaking, and Super-Wisdom, and Toughness. She is adept with sword, shield, labrys axe, bow and arrow, discus, and unarmed combat. When she uses her powers, her eyes flash silver.
Vulnerability: Copper weapons get an upshift to hit and to damage.
Motivation: To study the Moon and the Goddess.


Granny Whammy -- Helen Laguardia was Whammy Lass in her youth, one of the first really famous superheroes. She served in World War II. She has olive skin and brown eyes. Her wavy hair was black, and is now white. As Granny Whammy, she runs the Super Power Organizational & Operational Nexus.
Origin: Always a big strong girl, she came into her superpower at puberty.
Uniform: Whammy Lass served in the army and wore camo fatigues. Granny Whammy customarily wears dark green pants with a cream or white blouse, often with a camo-patterned sweater or vest on top.
Qualities: Master (+6) Commanding Respect, Master (+6) Wisdom of Experience, Expert (+4) Organizational Skills, Expert (+4) Stubborn, Good (+2) Activist, Good (+2) Armor, Good (+2) Soup HIstory
Poor (-2) No Longer a Spring Chicken
Powers: Good (+2) Strength
Motivation: Use the right tool for the job.

* * *

"We are the Amazons" said Myrina."We are the killers of beasts and men. Wild ourselves, we inhabit the wild places. Freedom courses in our blood, and death whispers at the tip of our arrows. We fear nothing, fear runs from us. Try to stop us, and you will feel our rage."
Anne Fortier, The Lost Sisterhood

Among Classical Greeks, amazon was given a folk etymology as originating from a- (ἀ-) and mazos (μαζός), "without breast", connected with an etiological tradition once claimed by Marcus Justinus who alleged that Amazons had their right breast cut off or burnt out.[15]There is no indication of such a practice in ancient works of art,[16] in which the Amazons are always represented with both breasts, although one is frequently covered.[17][16] Adrienne Mayor suggests the origin of this myth was due to the word's etymology.[16][18]
-- Amazons

In Terramagne, that description was correct for some Amazons, although not all of them.

"Amazon Warriors. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the fate of the Amazons, saying that they were captured, relocated, overcame their captors, became shipwrecked, and then ended up on the Eurasian Steppe where they fought the Scythians."
-- 10 Mythical Things That Actually Existed

Here is a view of Libya and Greece, historically part of the Amazon world.

Chrysi Island, Greece
Chrissi (Greek: Χρυσή, "golden", also Γαϊδουρονήσι - Gaidouronisi "donkey island") is an uninhabited Greek island approximately 15 kilometres (9 miles) south of Crete close to Ierapetra in the Libyan Sea. Approximately 700 metres (2,300 feet) east of the island is the island of Mikronisi. Administratively these islands fall within the Ierapetra municipality in Lasithi.
-- Chrysi

This is Khrysi in Terramagne. Here is a map.

"Chrissi, an island 7km long with a maximum width of 2 km, is located 8 nautical miles south of the most southern town in Europe, Ierapetra Crete. The shores of Chrissi surrounded by the Mediterranean's Libyan sea."
-- Chrissi

Khrysi is a small island whose sea holds many dolphins. This is the northeast side approaching by boat. The island has cliffs and waterfalls. A cedar forest covers much of the island. The beaches have many large and small shells. Khrysi relies on tourist trade through features such as a beach bar, picnic tables, and beach umbrellas. Remnants of classical Pagan practices linger in stone spirals and mobiles.

This archaeological dig on Khrysi shows that the island had a Minoan settlement in the 2nd millenium B.C.E. Here is another picture of Minoan ruins.

The island has forested beaches, sandy beaches, and at least one cave. The scrubland holds many herbs and herds of wild goats.

"Common Trees in Crete are the tamarisk, oak, chestnut, pine, cypress, carob and the evergreen plane tree (Platanus orientalis). It grows close to water and can grow up to 30 m. It is also quite often found in village squares, offering its shade.
A huge plane tree, or platanos in Greek, can be seen at Topolia village in west Crete on the road from Kissamos (Kastelli) to Elafonissi. [...]
Wildflowers - In April and May, Crete is covered with wildflowers: poppies, daisies, chamomile, iris (Iris cretica), gladiola (Gladiolus italicus), tulips (Tulipa orphanidea), hyacinth (Muscari commosum) and various species of Cretan orchids. White cyclamens (Cyclamen creticum) can be found in shady areas. [...]
Herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary are very common in Crete and they have been used for thousands of years for culinary and medical purposes.
Dittany (Origanum dictamus), dictamos or erontas in Greek, is another Cretan herb. It is said that the wild goats of Crete (Kri-Kri, an ibex endemic to Crete) eat it when they are injured as it helps the healing of their wounds. [...]
Olea is the common olive tree, you will see myriads on Crete and it is part of its history."
-- Flora of Crete

This one-breasted statue came from Khrysi. These are the stone feet of Khrysi.

Crete and nearby islands are popular destinations for contemporary Pagans and feminists. Examples include the Odyssey and Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete.
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