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Author Topic: [Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread  (Read 1418 times)

Offline xiagan

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[Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread
« on: February 01, 2019, 08:46:28 PM »
Gender Reversal


Female Gandalf by Torremitsu

For years February was our Fanfic month. We stopped that tradition and did something else last year. So this is not Fanfic February but it comes close.
It's close because we want you to take a character you know well or like a lot from an existing fantasy series, reverse their gender and write a short story that could have happened  (with all the implications of the new gender) in their existing universe.

"Hey, this is the definition of Fanfic, are you kidding me?", is what you probably think right now. The difference for us is that we don't want you to tell us who you've picked and that the focus isn't on the story/universe you choose but on the gender reversal (which is hard to do without having something to reverse). This is a good exercise to hone your craft. Have fun!


Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. Your story's main character has to be a gender reversed character from an existing novel/story/series.
3. Prose must be 500-1500 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 

If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close February 28th/March 1st, 2019 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here.
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline Jake Baelish

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Re: [Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2019, 05:45:45 AM »
Snow

1500 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
“Magic Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”

The face in the mirror stared back at its summoner. True, it was, that the Queen retained a remarkable beauty in her later years. She was, no doubt, among the fairest in any of the great kingdoms. Still, the Queen’s brow creased as the face in the mirror pondered too long its response.

“You retain a beauty befitting of your status, Your Majesty. And yet, another grows to behold a splendour to challenge even your own.”

“What?” the Queen’s face twisted in a way the mirror dared think impossible. “Who? Who is fairer than I?”

“A boy. Within these very halls you call your own. With hair as black as jet, and skin as white as…”

“Snow! Prince Snow! My dear stepson. But, he is a boy, and barely come of age.”

“He is a man now. And soon fit to take his late father’s place. A beautiful prince who will make a beautiful king.”

And with that the face faded from existence, leaving a seething witch queen to simmer all alone.

*

The huntsman took Snow deep into the woods of the wild lands.

“Sir,” Snow said, panting and soggy in his sweat soaked tunic. “Sir, we’ve never ventured this far from the horses before and I haven’t seen a deer in over an hour. Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

The huntsman glared at the prince with pity in his eyes. It was true, despite his boyish blood the lad not only rivalled all his male peers, but would turn the heads of many of them too with such delicate good looks. It pained the man to unsheathe his dagger, knowing he’d orders to slit that pretty young throat and spoil that sweet, unblemished youth.

Horror stricken the boy asked, “Sir! Sir, what is this? Does my mother know of this? I am your prince!”

The huntsman, fearing the boy would cry and ruin that pure and innocent gaze, returned the blade to its home. Before Snow could inquire further, the huntsman explained all and insisted the boy runaway and never again show his face in his own country.

Snow, heartbroken and frightened, agreed.

*

Sometime later our fair prince happened upon a small hovel, wedged between two great oaks. Tired and lost, he entered the house when no one responded to his call. Within, he found bad wine, overly small chairs and seven beds that appeared to have been made for children. Defeated, Snow lay on one of them and curled himself into ball as to fit within its frame, and promptly fell asleep.

*

He woke to raised and angry voices from every side of the bed.

“We should gut the bleeder!” said one angry voice.

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” said another, “t’will get blood all over t’sheets.”

Snow, who broke out in more sweat, listened to them bickering in his bleary state, not daring to open his eyes until it got too far.

“Let me see if it bleeds red,” one of them said.

“NO!” Snow cried and bolted upright.

Seven little men had been crowding the prince, now seven leaped back in alarm.

“It speaks our language,” one of them gasped.

“Of course it speaks out language, Crusty, you idiot,” the smartest looking of them said. “It’s a human.”

“Don’t get many humans round ‘ere.”

“Shall we gut him then, Knowall?” another asked.

“Hold on,” said Knowall. “Doubtsy, what do you think?”

Doubtsy, a serious looking little man with a deeply lined forehead, frowned at the prince. “Hmmm. What you doin’ in ‘ere, boy? You some kind of burglar?”

“No, Sir!” said Snow. “Should I call you Sir? I don’t know, this far from the castle I don’t know what’s what, to be honest.” He bowed his head, on realizing once more the bleakness of his state.

Knowall nodded thoughtfully. “The castle, eh? What’s a boy from the castle doing out here in the woods by himself?”

Snow sighed before retelling the dwarfs his story so far. He also learned the dwarfs’ names; along with Knowall, Doubtsy and Crusty there was also Hothead, Lusty, Gent and Sloppy, with features befitting their names.

“Well,” said Hothead, “you can’t stay here. As you can see, we haven’t really the space.”

“But please,” pleaded Snow. “I can’t go home. She’ll have my head.”

“And a pretty little head it is,” said Lusty.

“But what d’you want us to do about it?” said Hothead.

“I’ll do anything,” said Snow, “just say the word.”

Doubtsy came forward. “You know much about mining, lad?”

Snow grimaced.

“No. Thought as much. Never mind. The basics are soon worked out, and you’ll pick it up quick enough. Only until you’ve got enough to move on, mind.”

Knowall chuckled. “Welcome to the team, Prince Snow. Well, I suppose it’s just ‘Snow’ now, isn’t it? Take a rest, you’ll need it, plenty of work to be doing in the morning!”

And Snow did indeed rest, and rested very well, once he’d got over the worries of just how bad a deal mining might be!

*

Despite his reservations, Snow rose bright and early. He’d slept well, and only Sloppy remained in his bed when the cuckoo called. Snow woke the final dwarf and after barely time to wolf down breakfast they were off to work in a nearby mine, singing merrily along as they went. The lyrics were easy and Snow picked up the rhythm on the third or fourth loop. Mining, he thought (somewhat foolishly), might turn out to be more fun than he’d imagined.

*

On the way home, Snow wept at the sight of his soiled hands, moaned at the aches and soreness in his joints, and cringed at the knotted tangles when running his fingers through his hair. Despite his mournful attitude, the dwarfs – especially Gent – offered plenty of encouragement and gratitude. By all accounts, Snow had proven a capable miner!

Snow’s eyes widened on reaching the two oaks; for by the door of the hovel was a letter and small box. Snow read the letter eagerly, since it was addressed to him.

Dearest Snow, it read, I apologise for all the hardship you must’ve endured. I discovered the treachery of the huntsman, and rest assured he’s been dealt with accordingly. Please come home.

It was signed off by the queen herself.

A few of the dwarfs, mainly Hothead and Sloppy, suggested the Queen had had a change of heart; that maybe Snow could go back and let her seek forgiveness.

Snow glanced at the box. It was Crusty who opened it, and pulled out a dazzlingly bright mail vest.

“You ought to try it on, Snow!” said Lusty. “You’ll look great in it.”

“Don’t be so bloody stupid,” said Doubtsy. “I wouldn’t be wearing anything she sent me. What you reckon, lad?”

Snow nodded. He’d no reason to trust the Queen after what the huntsman told him. “If she wants to see me,” he said, “she can come and see me herself.”

Three times Snow and the dwarfs returned from a hard day’s graft, to find three different letters and three different gifts, all bearing the signature of the queen herself. First was the mail vest; then came a pair of golden earrings; and finally an apple so rich in redness that even some of the dwarfs were tempted to take a bite.

Each time the dwarfs showed concern, pondered whether the Queen was genuine – all but Doubtsy (who was on to her games). “Don’t be so bloody stupid,” he’d say – and there were none Snow trusted more than grumpy old Doubtsy. Therefore Snow never returned. 

*

The work went on. Every day the same: a long walk with sing songs; hours and hours in the dank, dark and dirty mine; gripping the pickaxe and pick, pick, picking at bare rock for the odd glistening reward. Yet Snow came to love it! He collected more and more varied treasures than his hosts ever did, and that meant more food and better clothes with all the money they could get at the market. The dwarfs loved him for it and pretty soon they’d built a new extension to their little dwarven home with all the space a former prince could need! They made Snow an honorary dwarf and told him he could stay for as long as he was happy to pull his weight, which seemed fair to Snow. Within months the boy’s fingers gained calluses; his back screamed in protest; his eyes suffered in the light and his once soft facial features grew harsh and rough with stubble. And, owing mostly to the awful wine he drank on a nightly basis (while wittering the day away among his newfound dwarven comrades), his skin – once white as snow – gained colour in the form of redness in the cheeks. But he didn’t mind. The boy retained a certain rugged charm but the beauty of youth was gone.

And the Queen never returned.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 05:02:26 AM by Jake Baelish »
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Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: [Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2019, 06:41:26 PM »
Don't mind me. Just slipping something in last second. Also, space fantasy counts as fantasy, right?

At 1452 words, it's The True Power of the Force!

Spoiler for Hiden:
Khhrtt… Khuuuu… Khhhrrrtt… Khuuuu…

Luke Skywalker stumbled back in pain, holding the still smoking stump of what had once been his hand. He could still see the faint glow of his lightsaber as it plummeted down the exhaust shaft, severed fingers still clutching on in a desperate grip.

Barely able to comprehend the shock of losing his arm, Luke fell back and dropped to one knee. He scrambled away, down the walkway overhanging the enormous exhaust shaft and clutched tightly onto an antenna to keep his balance.

Khhrtt… Khuuuu… Khhhrrrtt… Khuuuu…

The chilling sound of Darth Vader’s breathing only seemed to intensify as the villain cornered Luke on the edge of the walkway. Vader’s lightsaber, fresh from having struck off Luke’s arm, glowed with a hellish red intensity as it came closer and closer.

“There is no escape, Luke.”

Luke glanced downwards, down at the exhaust shaft. The thing must’ve been several miles deep, if not more. The chances of him surviving such a fall were almost nonexistant. But between that and falling into Vader’s hands…

As if sensing Luke’s fear, Vader’s pose seemed to soften. No longer was it the deadly lightsaber pointed at Luke’s chest. Instead, a hand of peace was thrust out, almost hesitant as it stretch out towards the stricken boy.

“Luke, you do not yet realize your importance.” Vader said. “You have only begun to discover your power.” The hand stretched out further. “Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

That brought a scowl to Luke’s face. “I’ll never join you.”

Vader’s head shook, almost sadly. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father, did he?”

“He told me enough!” Luke snapped back. “He told me you killed him!”

“No, Luke.” Vader said sternly. “I am your father.”

Luke blinked.

“No. No.” He said flatly. “That's not true. That's impossible.”

“Search your feelings,” Vader said, almost thrusting the outstretched arm at him, “you know it to be true!”

“No, I mean literally,” Luke repeated bluntly. “That’s not true. That’s impossible.”

Darth Vader paused. “What makes you say that?”

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed…” Luke said, gesturing at the lumps on Vader’s chest with his still-smoking stump of an arm, “but you kind of lack the relevant sex organs to be my father.”

Darth Vader, the feared and terrible Dark Lady of the Sith looked down at where Luke was gesturing. Then she looked back at him. Her head tilted slightly.

“Would you believe me I said that the force is capable of incredible things?”

“No!” Luke said. “I wouldn’t! I mean, if you’d said that you were really my mother, then that would be one thing, but unless you recently had a sex change under that armour, it is literally impossible for you to be my father.”

“Unfortunately, you are wrong. For the force is capable of many impossible things.” Vader said, clearly a little put out at Luke's blunt dismissal of her big reveal. “Did you know that some frogs are capable of switching gender if they need to?”

“Are you telling me you’re part frog?” Luke said. His eyes widened. “Are you telling me I’m part frog?!”

“No no no.” Vader said. “What I’m saying is that life finds a way. Or, well, to be exact, the force does.”

Luke didn’t look impressed. “So you’re saying that the force made you switch gender?”

“Not exactly.” Vader said, scratching the back of her helmet. “I was always female. But, when I was a young padawan, I kind of became… enamoured with your mother somewhat. She returned my feelings, we had a lot of passionate nights together, I told her how much I hated sand, there was a weird side plot involving a Gungan, etc etc.”

“Okay…” Luke said, not entirely certain where this was going. Which was somewhat of a running theme in this conversation thus far.

“Anyway, there was kind of a law at the time forbidding Jedi from marriage and love,” Vader explained, “so we had to keep our relationship secret. But we didn’t think it would be that hard. After all, it wasn’t like we could get each other pregnant or anything.” She paused. “Then Padme actually did get pregnant somehow. Which kinda put a hole in our plans.”

Luke stared at her. “Are you sure she wasn’t just sleeping around?”

“Luke!” Vader said, sounding honest-to-god offended at the suggestion. “Don’t talk about your mother that way! She was a tremendous woman. And a Princess! A democratically elected princess, which admittedly never made much sense to me, but who am I to argue with tradition and-”

“Focus please.” Luke said, still not entirely convinced this conversation wasn’t a dying hallucination. “Also, you didn’t answer my question. Are you sure she didn’t just sleep with someone else?”

“Well, not at first.” Vader admitted. “I may have gotten a bit angry over it, destroyed some console rooms, maybe killed some sand people, usual grief stuff. But then the DNA test came back and confirmed that you were definitely my son. Somehow.”

“But…” Luke shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense! How? Why? Why would the force do such a thing?”

Vader shrugged. “Hey, you’re preaching to the space choir here. I got no clue. Then again, weird force pregnancy stuff kinda runs in our family? Apparently I was born through outright virgin birth through the force.” She paused. “Although I’ve heard some species of frogs can also do that too. Huh. Maybe we are part frog after all…”

Maybe it was just the adrenaline in Luke’s head from the fight (and his freshly severed hand), but suddenly jumping off the walkway was beginning to look more and more like a tempting idea.

“Anyway, to cut a long story short,” Vader continued, “I had some freaky visions about your mom’s death, maaay have overreacted a little, gone crazy, started hanging out with some bad guys, overthrew an ancient order of Jedi, murdered the fuck out of some children, then maybe kinda got a bit too angry and choked your mom to death, before Obi Wan turned up, chopped all my limbs off and left me to die in a pool of lava. Like a dick.” There was a noise that almost resembled a scowl. “And that’s how we got here. Any questions?”

“YES!” Luke exclaimed. “MANY!”

“Uuuugh.” Vader sighed, a noise that sounded particularly twisted coming from inside his helmet. “Look, Luke. Just search your feelings. You’ll know it to be true.”

Oh please. Like hell he would. Luke knew that if he dived deep down and considered his feelings, then the only thing he’d ‘know’ was that Vader was a lying sack of-

Wait.

Wait, hold on a minute, what?

What exactly are you trying to tell me here, feelings?

No no no no, that’s can’t be right. Try again feelings, you’re really not making any sense here. You can’t seriously be saying that that pile of absolutely ridiculous bantha poo was really the truth? The truth about his origins and his birth and his father and everything else?

Luke glanced over at Vader, who was looking almost unreasonably smug at him.

“No.” Luke said bluntly. “I refuse to accept this. My feelings are unreliable. They can not be taken as actual evidence that what you said was correct.”

Vader’s smugness only seemed to increase. “Search your feelings. Let the force guide you to the correct answer.”

“Nope.” Luke refused outright. “Fuck the force. The force is creepy and apparently impregnates people without their permission. I am not paying any attention to what it thinks.”

“You’re being petulant.” Vader said.

“I am being sensible.” Luke insisted. “You’re the one who’s suggesting that the fundamental force binding the universe decided to very temporarily swap your gender for shits and giggles.”

“If it helps, I’m pretty sure I have a copy of the original DNA test lying around somewhere.” Vader suggested. “I think it also had your midichlorian count too. Those are the tiny microscopic organisms in your blood caused by the force. I’m surprised Obi-Wan didn’t go into that during your training. I can’t guarantee that they didn’t make your mother pregnant, but-”

“You know what.” Luke said. “On second thoughts, I don’t want to be a Jedi anymore. Bye.”

And with that, he threw himself from the walkway and into the exhaust shaft. Vader watched him fall with an expression halfway between bemusement and disappointment.

“Damn it.” She said. “Ah well, here’s hoping his sister takes the news better.”
5 Times Winner of the Forum Writing Contest who Totally Hasn't Let it All go to his Head.

Spoiler for Hiden:
Also, <Insert GOD EMPEROR OF THE WRITING CONTEST joke here>

Offline Alex Hormann

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Re: [Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2019, 07:36:52 PM »
Hoodwinked

818 words


Spoiler for Hiden:
“You’re mad, Robin. Absolutely mad.”
Robin’s only response was a rakish smile.
“If the Sheriff’s men see us coming, we’re dead. If something goes wrong in the raid, we’re dead. If they find us after the event, we’re dead.”
“Joan’s right,” Willamina interjected. “This ain’t worth it.”
Robin turned to her team and frowned, folding her arms. “That sounds an awful lot like coward talk to me.”
“Coming from the woman who’s spent five years hiding in the woods,” Willamina retorted.
Little Joan spread her arms, keeping the two women apart. This wouldn’t be the first time the pair had come to blows. “I wasn’t saying we shouldn’t do it,” she said. “Just pointing out it’s a tad more dangerous than what we usually do.”
Robin shrugged. “We’ve robbed wagons before.”
“Not with this many guards.” Willamina’s voice was sharp as the knives she kept at her hip. “And they’re not just guards either. We’re talking eight of the Sheriff’s best soldiers.”
“It’ll be four by the time they realise we’re there. Nice, even odds.”
“Even odds, my backside,” Willamina spat. “You’re assuming Alanna will pull her weight.”
Alanna Dale, who had been doing her utmost to feign sleep, sat upright. “Hey!”
Voices were raised, tempers frayed, and hands reached for weapons. Little Joan stomped her foot on a nearby tree stump, breaking off bark with the force. All eyes turned to her. “Arguing won’t get us anywhere,” she said. “Why don’t we take a vote?”
“Seems fair enough,” said Willamina. “All in favour?”
Robin, Joan, and Alanna rose their hands in unison.
Willamina spat on the mossy ground. “I guess that settles it then.”
“So it does,” said Robin decisively. “Well then. Shall we go and rob the Sheriff?”

+

Ser Meirion, whose wealth had led to his men referring to him out of earshot as ‘Made Meirion’, leaned back onto his feather-stuffed pillow and smiled. This day could get no better, he decided. The Sheriff’s new taxes had raked in a small fortune from the surrounding farmland. The old man had been right, they had been hiding coins under the floorboards. The overflowing chests piled high on the wagons were heavy with promise as much as they were physically. More than once the wheels had rutted and become stuck in the thick mud of the road. Sherwood Forest was almost a swamp at this time of the year.
“I’m telling you it’s true,” said one of the soldiers marching beside the wagon.
“You said that about the elephant,” said another.
Meirion rolled his head sideways to look at the pair. “What’s all this about?”
“Bandits, milord. Sherwood’s crawling with them.”
“I am not arguing with that. I am simply debating the specifics.”
They looked awkwardly at one another. Only ended when Meirion shot them a deadly glare.
“There are rumours, milord. Only rumours. But they say there’s a band of raiders out here. All women. Led by a woman named Robin.”
Meirion sighed. He too had heard these rumours. Utterly ridiculous, of course. Women were far too naturally timid to become bandits. But the fact that these men - the Sheriff’s finest - had taken to the rumour was worrying in itself. They were supposed to be better than that.
“Look,” he said. “The only women you need to worry about are your wives and daughters. God alone knows what they’re up to in your absence.”
The soldiers nodded, turning forward -
- And promptly fell to the ground with arrows in their necks.

+

Robin stepped into the road, waving at the panicked survivors.
“Hello there chaps. No no, don’t reach for your swords. I’ve no interest in shedding any more blood. Least not today.”
The chubby, red-faced man lowered himself from the wagon. “And who might you be?” he asked.
Robin laughed. As if you don’t know.” Then she straightened her back and spread her arms wide, like a mummer introducing a play. “I am Robin Hood, and those around me, well. You can call them my Merry Maidens.”
On cue, the surrounding shrubbery rustled.
She continued. “You seem like a nice enough sort. So leave the gold behind, and tell the Sheriff that the people aren’t ready to pay this month. As a gesture of good faith, I’ll even let you keep the wagon.”
The man narrowed his eyes. “I don’t suppose there’s any choice.”
Robin smiled back. She loved a man who was afraid to die. “There is an alternative. But I don’t think you’ll like it.”
He shrugged in defeat. Turned back to his guards. “You heard the lady. Drop off the load.”
As the soldiers set to their work again, the chubby man looked back at Robin. “Are the rumours true?” he asked. “Are you giving that back to its owners?”
“Of course,” she replied. And that was mostly true. It may be stolen goods, but a girl had to earn a living somehow.

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Offline Carter

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Re: [Feb 2019] - Gender reversal - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2019, 11:38:19 PM »
I didn't think I would be able to pull something together in time, but here it is.  It comes in at 1466 words.

Spoiler for Hiden:
At the Edge of the Underworld

After the storm-ravaged, wine dark sea, after surviving the worst of Poseidon's wrath, she ought to be jubilant.  As dawn stretched rosy fingers across the sky, she ought to join the others' rousing chorus.  Instead, Odyssia slumped across her oar, too weary, too heartsick, too concerned.  Because no reason rested behind the Earthshaker's sudden calm.  No blessed sign had led their black hulled ship to this inlet. 

She trusted her wits too much to be fooled.  Poseidon would never give up so easily.  He would pursue her to the ends of the oceans and beyond.  All because she kept her son blind to the Earthshaker's role in his conception. 

Telemachus is mine.  Mine and Penelope's.  Never yours.

The thought was visceral and stirred her anger when she longed for calm.  She squeezed her eyes shut, allowing it to roil its course through her stomach, taking deep, soothing breaths until it passed. 

When Odyssia opened her eyes again, she was once more the Saker of Cities.  The woman who had brought down the golden walls of Ilium.  The woman who would solve the puzzle of this secluded beach and save what remained of her crew.  The wife and mother who would return to her family whatever the cost. 

She looked again around the bay, taking everything in.  Cliffs climbed shear into the sky, barren but for scraggly, scrawny foliage clinging grimly to life.  A solitary trickle of water cascaded down from above to feed the pool where even now some of her crew splashed and cavorted like naiads, the others impatiently awaiting a space to join.  Stunted cypress trees grew around the edges of the pool, blackened and twisted. 

There should be second pool.

The thought rocked her.  Her back straightened and she stared again at her men.  Were their actions a little slower than before?  Were they more lethargic, less ecstatic?  As she watched, one man, Polites she thought, hauled another aside, desperate for a taste of the sweet water.  The other man tumbled to the sand, any fight gone from his limbs.  Instead he lay and stared at the sky. 

“Look!  Our captain dares not join us.  She would rather cower on her vessel than join her brave men!”

Eurylochus' voice rang out.  Pitched to carry and to ferment the growing discord.  Her banished anger returned, broiling her stomach and surging her to her feet.  Before she could stop herself, she swung herself over the railing and onto the sands.  Her body craved action, to launch itself at Eurylochus and finally settle his brewing mutiny once and for all. Yet she swayed, light-headed and dizzy. 

Stop.  Breathe.  Think.

It was Penelope's voice this time; her oft-repeated mantra that never failed to override her baser emotions.  Before all else she needed water.  She was too weak, too exhausted to tackle him now.  She rooted herself to the beach, clenching her toes into shifting pebbles. 

Pebbles. 

It was a wild, mad idea but it might just work. 

As she knelt among the stones, her hands sifted through them.  Eurylochus barked a contemptuous laugh.

“Look.  Now she's truly gone crazy.  What do you think to find?  Some secret treasure?  Some fine jewels?  There is only one treasure on this beach and you are too much the fool to spot it.”

She pretended to ignore the harsh laughter that followed.  She ground her teeth until they hurt rather than face the fact that unless she acted she would lose the crew and with it all hope of returning to Ithaca.  Instead she sifted and rejected stone after stone until finally. 

It glittered obsidian in the palm of her hand, barely the size of a fingernail.  Sparkles of mica dotted the sea-smoothed surface.  And beneath, deep within its heart, she could feel what she needed.

“How long have you spent tossed about in the seas?  How long had Poseidon held you close to his chest before you found your way here?  Long enough, I hope.”

She brought to her mouth and swallowed.  It tasted of salt and sea.  Of bitter anger.  Of sea foam lapping around a tangle of limbs along the shore.  Of two bodies entwined and ignorant of the Earthshaker's presence.  Her throat constricted around it.  She fought the urge to gag, to send it flying back into the sea.  Her body longed to reject it, yet spasm by peristaltic spasm,she forced it down.  Down until it sank into her stomach, to add Poseidon's rage to her own. 

“You really have lost your mind, haven't you?”

His almost pitying tone startled her.  She had not heard him approach as intent as she was on her task.  She wanted to scramble back and away, to slither out of his reach until she regained some strength.  But instead she forced herself to stand.  To meet his gaze and give a grim smile. 

“Look to the crew, Euylochus.  If you spent more time watching, and less time looking for new ways to undermine me, you might stand a chance.”

He scowled and spun.  At the pool's edge, the crew lay sprawled.  Few moved and those that did swayed and sagged, unable to focus on their surroundings until they slumped to the ground. 

“What have you done to them?  What cruel hell have you brought us to this time?”

Lethe.  She did not say it but she felt it in her bones.  In the core of her being.  In the roiling anger of her stomach.

“How about this?  You want to captain the vessel, don't you?  But you dare not challenge me while I can still stand.”

He stared at her.  She refused to look away, fixing a smile in place until he finally admitted the truth. 

“Then perhaps it is time we do things a little differently.  We both need water.  We both need the crew.  Whoever can do both, here and now, they get to sail away with it all.  Back to Ithaca.  Back to Sparta.  Back to whatever part of the Great Green they want.  Agreed?”

She drew a knife from her belt and sliced a thin cut across her palm.  A thin, viscous trickle of blood flowed.  He snatched the knife from her and repeated the gesture.  Drops of blood mingled on the sand. 

Odyssia watched as Eurylochus wrestled with indecision.  How much did he trust in himself?  How much of a lingering kernel of trust in his captain remained?  Enough for doubt to creep in and to send him scrabbling for a stone of his stone. 

She left him behind, striding with a purpose and strength that belied a weakness that trembled through her legs.  If he had known how near collapse she truly was, he would never have taken the offer. 

She stepped around the prone bodies of her crew, doing her best not to look at them and see the blank, staring eyes of the mindless.  She dared not doubt as she waded slowly into the crisp, freezing water.  With deliberate care she cupped her hands and brought fresh, sweet nectar to her mouth. 

“Penelope,” she whispered as the first drops passed her lips. 

“Telemachus.”

Drops became a trickle. 

“Poseidon.”

Pain ripped through her.  Searing, blistering heat radiated from her gut.  She cried out in furious, curdling screams.  But she stood.  Knee deep in the waters of the Lethe, she stood.  And she drank. 

Images of Ithaca tumbled flicker-fast through her mind.  Of Penelope teaching her how to string her mighty Scythian bow.  Of carving their marriage bed.  Of Telemachus squalling in her arms.  Of sailing away from all she loved at the behest of Agamemmon.  Of all her promises to return. 

Each memory was bitter on her tongue yet she lapped them one after the other in a never-ending stream.  She clutched them tight as the water fought with the Earthshaker's stone.

And she on she drank until finally she heard a distant splash.  Beside her Eurylochus floundered in the water, his limbs splayed and struggling, his eyes already vacant. 

Against her better judgement, she hauled him from the water.  For all the troubles he caused, he remained a member of her crew.  And after the loss of so many, she wanted as many as possible to survive.  Only once he was clear, did she turn her attention to her next task. 

She scoured the cliffs and plotted her route.  The Lethe's descent was irregular and unpredictable, twisting and turning in impossible directions.  Yet she thought she spied a path.  Somewhere, high above or in a different inlet, there would be a second pool.  There had to be. 

Squaring her shoulders, she approached the daunting rock-face. 

“I'll come home.  I promise.”

Odyssia's winged words took flight.