Part One


All I can feel is this incredible cold. Even my blood no longer feels as warm and wet as it did when this all began. When did it begin? It's hard to think. My mind won't stay focused.

Lying on my back, staring at the ravens circling between the wispy white clouds, I am dying. This much I know. But the story goes back beyond this bit of trampled earth, beyond the man, already dead, lying next to me. My story goes back to a time when I was happy, when I did not own a sword, when my thoughts were not entirely on vengeance.

I am a Spartan.

First and foremost, this is what, this is who I am. I am second the daughter of a respected warrior, and third I am myself.

Myself – this is not important. In Sparta, no one person is more important than their family, and no one person is more important than their nationality. Particularly little girls. In Sparta, women have quite a bit of freedom, but not much. And we like it that way. The Athenians have given their women so much liberty that they have effectively weakened their culture.

Athens is dead.

Sparta lives.

We are the only true society, the best, the most functional. Everyone in Sparta is perfectly capable of fighting – weak children are left to die. Athens calls it barbarism. We call it survival.

My mother and I are, according to our weaker neighbors, slaves. But we aren't, not really. We can own land, we can run a business (under the protection of a male, of course), and we have the right to call anyone into the courts. We are also allowed to fight, though none of us has ever really had to. Spartan men take care of that – they are the best warriors in the world.

I have a legacy to live up to – we all do. This is what it is to be Spartan.

I have a brother, no, I had a brother. This small passing is where my story starts.


The deep, strong voice rang out in the chilly morning air, startling a raven from its perch on the limb of a twisted olive tree. The mist swept circles around strong, tanned calves as the dust swirled around the leather thongs of a warrior's sandals. His kilt moved with him, one seamless motion after another. The sun had not yet risen, and the stars shone painfully bright, burning holes in the low-lying mist. The full moon glinted off of a metal shaft in the darkness – the wickedly sharp blade of a sword.

The mist cleared a bit, as mist does, allowing the muscular arms and bare chest of the young man to become visible. His hand was on the hilt of his sword, and the other ran through his short, tidy black curls.


The voice rang again, and the warrior adjusted the strap across his chest, his arrows rattling slightly in their quiver with the sudden motion. He cocked an ear, then planted his legs firmly on the ground, and allowed his hand to fall into loose fists as his body tensed slightly.

He grinned, and the moonlight danced on his strong white teeth. Muscles rippled with readiness under smooth olive skin as he turned to face a sound that only he could hear. A pebble danced its way to hit his ankle, and his grin widened.

"I'm going to find you, Atlanta! And when I do, I'm going to teach you a lesson you'll never forget!"

A girlish laugh split the silence as the horizon began to lighten, and then, suddenly, a darting figure sprang from the mist and knocked the young man over. Mingled laughter startled away a curious jackal as small fingers tickled bronze sides.

"See, Argos! I told you you'd never find me!"

Argos, for that was his name, just laughed.

He swung her up and leapt to his feet, twirling her around and around until she begged for mercy. Breathless, she willingly sat on his shoulders.

"So, you won this time, Atlanta. Just wait until I get home from Athens! Then you won't beat me so easily!"

He began to jog towards the distant houses, and she buried her face in his curls. Their mingled black locks shone in the rising sun. Her small hands reached for his, and he obligingly raised one to swallow both of hers in its enormity.

The went on in silence, through the street of the town, past houses where other brothers bade other sisters goodbye, where wives clung to husbands, where lovers stole one last kiss before the day came and the regiment would leave for the battlefield.

There were no tears that bright morning, not in Sparta.

Not even from one very small girl, sitting atop her brother's shoulders as he took her home.

Atlanta was too much of a Spartan to cry outwardly, but that did not stop her little heart from tearing in two. Argos was 15, old enough by far to join his illustrious father in the art of war for which he had trained all his life. Atlanta was 8, old enough by far to know that war was a part of life, and that all boys eventually had to leave.

Brother and sister reached their home, where she insisted on relieving their mother of cooking the morning meal. Argos watched with no small pride as his little sister presented their father with figs and pitas. He grinned widely at her when she brought him his own meal, and the two men gravely thanked the little girl as she sat down to her own breakfast of goat's milk and dates.

Their mother smiled as well, though with no small sadness. Husband and wife shared a look not common in Sparta. Tenderness, love, and grief. Argos was going to his first battle, was becoming a man, would soon leave to wed the girl he was betrothed to. Atlanta was soon to be promised to a young man of the village, and she was also growing up. Already she took on many of her mother's tasks.

Such is the way of children – they are so small for such a little time, and then they grow.

But on this bright and beautiful morning, neither Atlanta nor Argos thought of those things.

At high noon, the sun beating through white wispy clouds, the entire town gathered in the agora to send their warrior off.

Resplendent in gold and scarlet, the chief warriors started the procession.

"Mother, look!"

Little Atlanta pointed to her father's tall figure, his crest rising a few inches above those of the other men. He was still as strong and battle-ready as he had been in his youth, even though he was nearly 30. He sent a wink to his wife and daughter as he mounted his armored horse.

Atlanta waved and said to no one in particular, "That's my Father!"

Her mother laughed.

It was so easy to be happy this morning. The sun was bright, the harvest promised to be good, and the men of Sparta were going to war. The world was as it should be.

The parade continued, and Atlanta searched through the ranks of young, strong men and boys for her brother.

Their mother searched as well, though not as obviously as did the young woman standing next to her. At 13, young Lucia was madly in love with her promised husband, and wanted to catch a glimpse of him in all his glory. Lucia smiled dreamily as her eyes darted hither and thither.

All three women broke into wide smiles as Argos came into view, marching tall and proud in his leather armor and soldier's helmet. He strode firmly, looking neither right nor left, until he came to the doorway that held his mother, sister, and betrothed.

He looked at them, gave a playful wink, and then was lost in the sea of faces.

Atlanta pulled on her mother's tunic.

"Mother, can we go home now?"

By the time they reached their house, she was fast asleep, dreaming of happy things, never once thinking that life could go wrong.

A scream pierced the stillness, shattering the night air and waking the town.

Lucia ran through the streets, tearing her veil, to find the owner of the very distinctive sob.

Her future mother-in-law ran next to her, her face set in a mask of strength. "How did she find out? We purposely did not tell her!"

Lucia shook her head and kept running. The news had come from the battlefield earlier that day, accompanied by the knowledge that the army would be back by the next morning. They had not told Atlanta any of it.

The two women ran into a wall of muscle and the elder wrapped her arms around her husband's neck and collapsed into him. He held her close and buried his face in her black hair. They began to speak in low voices, and Lucia strained to hear them until she heard further sobbing.

The three started, and ran in the direction of the renewed sound.

They entered the agora and nearly tripped over the bodies, the bloody bodies of Sparta's fallen.

A lone figure, small and slight, stood beside one of the corpses, cursing the gods with a wavering voice, her small fist raised to the sky. Thick black hair tumbled down her back, marring the blue tunic that was already splashed with the blood of the fallen.

She fell to her knees as they watched, and clung to the neck of her brother.

Her tears did not revive him, nor did her curses, and she stretched her small form out beside his cold, stiff body.

"You said," she sobbed, "you said that we'd play together, that you'd teach me how to use a sword! You said that you'd come back! You promised! You said that it would be okay, that you'd be back soon, that you would come for me! You made me promise to learn how to make those sweetmeats that you love so much, and I did! I made a whole bunch for you! And I was going to show you how good I've become with my bow, and make you supper…and we were going to play together! You promised, Argos! You…"

She trailed off into a heart-wrenching cry, and held his lifeless hand in her own.

The morning found her asleep on his chest, clutching him as if her life could bring him back.

It was a shock, such a public display of grief.

This was not Spartan.

Atlanta didn't care.

She refused to leave her brother's side. She cleaned his body herself, and nearly stabbed Lucia when the latter tried to help. She ground the herbs, sprinkled them on the body, and placed a coin of her own between his teeth for Charon. She wrapped the body with her mother's help, and bled her fingers on thorns making the garlands to adorn the body.

Throughout the day of mourning, she stood at the foot of the bier, preventing all from coming too close to her beloved brother.

The next morning, she dressed in mourning clothes and poured dirt on her head. She rubbed ashes and sand into her skin, and took her place at the side of the body for the procession to the grave. As the sun rose and Argos was lowered into his final resting place, she raised her thin voice in lamentation and sang his dirge.

The family watched as she sang with no sign of emotion.

After they left for the funeral feast, she lay down on the fresh dirt above his grave and buried her face in the sun-warmed sod. The day was clear and bright, but Atlanta felt none of it.

She mourned for her brother alone on the hillside, crying her grief to the winds as the sun continued to rise.

The wooden sword whistled through the air to connect with the muscled forearm of the lithe figure's opponent. Not satisfied, the attacker pressed on, delivering blow after blow in seamless movement.

"She's an animal," Cletus breathed admiringly.

"Tell me about it!" Kosmos agreed, his own body still slightly bruised from his own fight with Leander's daughter.

It was a wonder that the young men of the village were still coming to ask Leander and Dianthe for Atlanta's hand in marriage, but they came in droves. She fought all of them, won against all of them, and refused to marry any man that she could beat.

Cletus cocked his head to the side, and mused, "You know, Argos used to move just like that. You think it's inherited or learned?"

"Learned," Kosmos stated, "for sure. Leander uses economical movements. Argos…well…he was a bit of a dramatic. And, you have to admit, it looks beautiful."

Cletus snorted in derision.

"You just like seeing Atlanta glistening in sweat and scantily clad, you pervert."

Kosmos elbowed his friend.

"You shut up. You know you'd fight her, too, if you weren't promised to Ianthe."

Cletus laughed roundly.

"It's true. I think every man wants her, with the exception of her own father and perhaps old Zeno. You'd have to be mad not to want that in your bed every night!"

He was silenced by a blow to his neck, and fell, unconscious, revealing Atlanta, her wooden sword outstretched. Her opponent was out cold in the ring, and her father was shaking his head in sorrow and a bit of wonder.

"Going to try again, Kosmos? I could use a real fight, after that nice warm up."

Kosmos laughed, scratched the back of his neck, and bent to retrieve Cletus. "No, Atlanta, that's okay…I'd better get Cletus home before his Ianthe worries about him…you take care of yourself!"

He slung the prone man over his broad shoulders and jogged off.

Leander strode to his bemused offspring.

"Fair and square, father. It isn't my fault that he was a horrible fighter."

Leander chuckled.

"Oh, Atlanta…one of these days, you're going to have to let one of them win…you're almost 16! You're mother was married at 13…I was married at 15…I'm getting to be an old man! 37, my dear daughter, is the age when a man starts to think of a nice plot of land for his grave and a husband to take care of his daughter!"

She grinned at him.

"Bah, I can take care of myself. I could always join the army, you know."

"Oh, of course. Sparta's one and only female warrior…we are not the Amazons, my dear. Both our society and theirs are warrior ones, but they are women warriors. Perhaps you should join them. They say that Herakles was the only man to ever earn their love…sounds about right for you!"

He put his still-muscled arm around her shoulders and they walked in companionable silence for a while.

"In all seriousness, Father…I want to join the army. We're going to war with Athens again, aren't we? I want to take part, and…"

"And revenge your brother," he finished. "Atlanta…many more young warriors have died then Argos. Will you not let him rest?"

She shook her head, the mane of black curls spilling out of its bonds to cascade down her blue-clad back. "I cannot, Father, and you know it."

"Your brother fought against a prince, an Athenian prince! Are you going to go and murder the man who is now king of that state, just to avenge the death of one common soldier?"

"He was your son, not just my brother! Have you no heart?"

"I have, precious one. I have. But I also know war; in war, people die. This is why it is a terrible thing. But it is a beautiful one as well, and it is the way that we live. It is who we are! To be Spartan means to face the reality of Death every day, to stare Hades in the face and laugh as he takes you. Your brother knew that, and he lived and died as a warrior. To kill because of a death 7 years ago is to demean his sacrifice and disrupt his rest."

"That dog who killed him gave him an honorable death? First off, Father, he was an Athenian! What do they know of honor?"

She spat in the dirt and continued.

"Furthermore, I have talked to his comrades. He did not die in a fair fight – he died as he was on his knees, tending to a wounded man! That prince," here she spat again, "came up behind him and lodged a javelin in his back. Honor! I ask you, what is there of honor in that?"

She shook the older man's arm from her shoulders and plunged her wooden sword into the hard dirt of the agora. It was high noon, and everyone was indoors to escape the heat of the day. She spun to face him and clenched her fists.

"He cannot rest until he is avenged. I will avenge him, Father!"

With that, she left Leander to shake his head sorrowfully and walk home.

The sword remained in the center of the marketplace, and a raven cried his harsh song as he swooped to land on it as he had done on countless other swords in countless other battlefields.

Author's Note: Two or three parts, this story. A concept I've been toying with for a while. This chapter really just sets the stage for Atlanta's further adventures. It WILL be short, that I can promise you. Tell me what you think, give me some suggestions...anything is welcome!