Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons

BOOK: Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons
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A Timeline of the Heroic Age

In addition to using material from the Greek myths, Jane Yolen and I wanted to set our Young Heroes tales, as best as we could, against the background of the historical Greek civilization of the Heroic Age. The fall of Troy is not only part of the legends of ancient Greece; it is generally accepted to have been a historical event to which we can give an approximate date. Using this as my starting point, I worked my way back in time, setting the major events of Greek legend in chronological sequence.

Note that Heracles is the original Greek name for the hero we normally refer to as Hercules. The titles of the Young Heroes novels are in italics, showing the years when these adventures supposedly took place.

Robert J. Harris

BCE

2200 The Mycenaean peoples invade Greece from the north

1750 Cities of Crete destroyed by an earthquake

1600 Cretan palace at Knossos damaged by an earthquake (Knossos rebuilt within a century and Cretan civilization flourishes)

1357 Perseus slays Medusa

1350 Perseus founds Mycenae
Oedipus becomes King of Thebes

1291 Bellerophon battles the Amazons

1289
Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons

1274 The labors of Heracles begin

1273 Heracles sails to the land of the Amazons accompanied by Peleus and Telamon

1270 Heracles captures Troy and slays Laomedon

1268 Theseus sets out for Athens where he slays the Cretan Bull

1267 Theseus travels to Crete and slays the Minotaur; becomes King of Athens

1266 Queen Hippolyta leads the Amazons to war against Athens

1265
Atalanta and the Arcadian Beast

1263
Jason and the Gorgon’s Blood

1259 Jason leaves Mount Pelion and travels to Iolcus

1258 Voyage of the Argonauts

1254 Hunting of the Calydonian Boar
Atalanta marries Melanion

1253 At the age of six, Achilles begins to hunt wild beasts under Chiron’s instruction

1247
Odysseus in the Serpent Maze

1245 Battle of the Gods and Giants

1237 Death of Heracles

1236 Helen marries Menelaus

1235 Penelope marries Odysseus

1234 Paris abducts Helen

1233 Trojan War begins

1225 Deaths of Patroclus and Hector
Penthesilea and the Amazons arrive to help the Trojans

1224 Achilles slain by Paris at the Skaian Gate

1223 Fall of Troy

1213 After ten years of wandering, Odysseus returns to Ithaca

1200 Fall of Mycenae; end of the Heroic Age

Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons
Jane Yolen and Robert J. Harris

For my young Amazons:

Lexi Callan-Piatt

Maddison Jane Piatt

Alison Isabelle Stemple

—J.Y.

To my parents:

who let me have adventures

—R.J.H.

Contents

Chapter One: Duel

Chapter Two: The Queen

Chapter Three: The Prisoner

Chapter Four: A Voice in the Night

Chapter Five: The Sacrifice

Chapter Six: Fight

Chapter Seven: Capture

Chapter Eight: On to Troy

Chapter Nine: King Laomedon

Chapter Ten: A Brotherly Visit

Chapter Eleven: Condemned

Chapter Twelve: Monster from the Sea

Chapter Thirteen: Prey

Chapter Fourteen: Companions

Chapter Fifteen: The Fire of Combat

Chapter Sixteen: Themiscyra

Chapter Seventeen: Themiscyra’s Curse

Chapter Eighteen: The Goddess Speaks

Chapter Nineteen: An Enemy Soldier

Chapter Twenty: Kethites

Chapter Twenty-one: The Stranger

Chapter Twenty-two: Farther Along the Road

Chapter Twenty-three: Arimaspa

Chapter Twenty-four: Winged Vengeance

Chapter Twenty-five: Judgment

Chapter Twenty-six: And Home

What Is True About This Story?

A Conversation Between the Authors

A Biography of Jane Yolen

A Biography of Robert J. Harris

CHAPTER ONE
DUEL

H
IPPOLYTA’S EYES WERE FIXED
on the bird as it flew over the treetops. Carefully she drew an arrow from the quiver that hung at her hip, but she didn’t raise her bow.

“Are you going to shoot?” asked a puzzled voice at her side.

Hippolyta shook her head irritably, jabbing an elbow at her little sister to make her move away.

Antiope took a small step backward. “The bird will be past soon.”

“It’s a big plump partridge,” Hippolyta whispered. “It doesn’t fly that fast. Besides, they’re usually in pairs. Like Amazons.” Antiope giggled.

“Be quiet, little one,” Hippolyta said, fitting the arrow into her bowstring. “I’m paired with you today because Mother insisted. So close your mouth and watch. It’s the only way you’ll learn anything.”

There were a few moments of silence. Then Antiope asked again, “Shouldn’t you be taking aim?”

Hippolyta lowered the bow and arrow, turned, and glared at her sister. “I
was
taking aim,” she told Antiope. “One must aim with the eye, not the bow.” Already she’d decided at the exact point she would fire. She’d fixed upon a spot directly ahead of the bird. But now, with Antiope’s interruptions, the bird had disappeared, landing somewhere in the twisty undergrowth.

“Oh.” The little girl was clearly disappointed. “It’s gone.”

“Never mind,” Hippolyta began, then stopped speaking as the second bird took to the air.

In one quick movement Hippolyta lifted the bow, hauled back on the string, fired the arrow. The gray-brown bird flew straight into the arrow’s path, and the sharpened bronze point thudded into its breast.

“By the moon!” Hippolyta gasped, for a second arrow struck the bird no more than the blink of an eye after the first. It tore through one of the outstretched wings and threw the partridge into a wild spin. The little bird plummeted to earth in a whirl of feathers right into a small copse of trees.

“What happened?” Antiope cried.

“Someone’s trying to steal our dinner!” Hippolyta’s eyes narrowed angrily. Slinging her bow over her shoulder and snatching up a spear from the ground where she’d jammed it point first, Hippolyta bounded toward the copse.

“Wait for me!” Antiope squealed, running after her sister and waving her own spear, which was so small it was scarcely more than a toy. But then she was only eight years old.

Like the other Amazons, Hippolyta had been trained as a huntress from early childhood, and she knew where to search for the fallen bird. Slinging her bow over her shoulder, she raced through the undergrowth at full speed, heading toward the copse and into a small clearing. She was unpleasantly surprised to see another Amazon there before her, already tying a cord around the dead partridge’s neck.

Molpadia!

No mistaking that thick tangle of yellow hair tied up in a cluster of tight braids. No mistaking that superior sneer.

“You’re too slow, Hippolyta,” Molpadia said. “The goddess of the hunt grants no second chances.”

Molpadia was not much older than Hippolyta—less than two years—but already she wore the small square ear pendant that showed she’d killed a man in battle. Under her chin was a livid scar, a reminder of how close she’d come to dying in that same battle, when a Lycian charioteer had caught her with a stroke of his spear.

Hippolyta was tired of hearing the story. Molpadia told it at every festival. Still, earning an earbob was no excuse for taking another hunter’s prize.

“You know the laws against theft,” Hippolyta said, keeping her voice smooth. “It applies just as much here on the hunting grounds as it does back in Themiscyra.”

“Can you deny you saw my arrow strike the bird?” Molpadia asked defiantly, lifting her chin so the scar seemed to grin.

“It was my shot that struck first. My shot that hit the breast. My shot that killed it.” Hippolyta knew she could play the defiance game as well as the older girl.

“I was here first to claim the prize,” Molpadia said.

Hippolyta gripped the spear in both hands, pointing the tip at Molpadia. “Claiming and keeping are two different things.”

Molpadia let the partridge drop and raised her own spear. “Your mother maybe one of our queens, Hippolyta, but that gives you no special status.”

“I claim none,” Hippolyta answered quickly, “only what is mine by right of my own arm.”

“Then show me that arm,” Molpadia cried, shaking off her bow and tossing aside the quiver.

It was an unmistakable call to duel. Hippolyta likewise took off bow and quiver and dropped her fur cap onto the ground. Then she began a low circle to her left.

Molpadia too began circling, and they each looked for an opening where they could strike.

Just then Antiope darted into the clearing, gasping.

Hippolyta heard her little sister but ignored everything but the older girl and the spear. Never having been in an actual battle, Hippolyta was at a slight disadvantage against Molpadia. But she’d never been wounded, either, and that gave her an edge. “Once slashed, twice shy,” the Amazons said. Of course they said it of their enemies, not themselves.

Well, at this moment Molpadia
was
the enemy. Hippolyta stopped thinking and let the years of training take over.

She noticed a splash of crimson on the tip of Molpadia’s spear.
The blood of my partridge,
she thought. But no, there was too much blood for such a small target.

Almost casually Hippolyta said, “Fighting already today?” She smiled and gestured with her head at the weapon. “They say the ones who fight too often are the ones who die too soon.” Her battle teacher, Old Okyale, always said: “Cite laws at the foe, even if you make them up on the spot. It throws the enemy off guard.”

Molpadia laughed. “I have the same teacher as you, Hippolyta. You won’t catch me that way.”

“But your spear is red,” Hippolyta said in that same calm tone. “Either you were fighting today or you’re careless with your weapons.”

This time the insult struck home.

“I was tracking a mountain cat and wounded it.”

“You have a habit of wounding,” Hippolyta said. “Without killing.”


You
will not be so lucky,” Molpadia responded, hefting her spear a bit higher.

“Ah, but you know Amazon duels are fought only till first blood is drawn.” Hippolyta noticed now that Molpadia led with her left shoulder low. That meant her right would be high and exposed.

“There’s no rule about how much blood …” Molpadia’s threat was real. “Remember that while you still have time to concede.”

“An Amazon princess does not concede anything,” Hippolyta said. She squinted against the sun.

“I knew you’d throw your rank in my face,” Molpadia said, leading again with her left shoulder.

Antiope approached them, hands upraised. “Can’t you two just share the bird?”

“That would settle nothing.” Hippolyta’s voice suddenly deepened. “Get out of the way, Antiope.” She never took her eyes off her opponent.

At that instant Molpadia made a jab. But ready for it, Hippolyta knocked her point aside with the haft of her own spear. Before there was time for a counterattack, Molpadia jumped back out of range.

Antiope had retreated a few feet, but now she returned, as if to protect her sister. Hippolyta spotted her out of the corner of an eye. “Go! You distract me. Tend my horse, Antiope.” She didn’t mention that Antiope too might be in danger should the fight get out of hand. She wondered briefly where Molpadia’s pair Amazon might be.

Antiope refused to budge. “I’m going to watch,” she insisted. “Watch and learn, you said.”

Molpadia suddenly attacked again, and the shafts of the two spears cracked against each other several times before the two girls became locked together, neither one giving ground. But Molpadia was older and bigger and stronger, and gradually she forced her spear point down toward Hippolyta’s face.

If she bloods me, I will not cry out,
Hippolyta told herself.
I will not.
She could feel the heat of Molpadia’s breath on her brow.

BOOK: Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons
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