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"The Marvelous Gift"

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Penthesileia and Andromache

The bedchamber is dark
     but
Penthesileia can see
     by the soft metalic light
     of shining arms and armor,
          from out of her dream,
     now at the foot of her bed.

Eager,
     but tentative,
          she creeps forward.

First,
     about her legs,
     she wraps the pair of golden greaves
          which mold perfectly
     to her form.

Then,
     she slips into the dazzling breastplate
          that makes her feel
          like one of the immortals.

Then the helmet,
     matching the rest in every respect,
and topped with golden plumes.

Then a great sword
     she hangs 
          proudly from her shoulder
     in its scabbard of silver and ivory.

And last,
     the shield,
     the spendid shield,
          that takes away her breath as she views it.
     A crescent shape,
          horned like the moon,
          with metal in a constant flow across its surface,
     liquid,
like a waterfall.

"Thank you, Father!"
     Penthesileia exclaims.
"With these,
     I will cross the field
          like a thunderbolt of Zeus
               and scatter enemies before me
               until the monster himself,
               murderous Achilles,
     falls beneath my blade!"

     To the new wardrobe
     she adds
her two luckiest javelins,
held in place under the shield on her left arm,
          and in her right hand,
          the double battle-axe
          gifted to her by Eris,
     the goddess of strife.

In the hallway,
     outside Penthesileia's door,
stands Andromache
     who gasps
     and shades her eyes
          from the glare of the god-wrought armor.
"So that's where all the dawnlight went!"

"The tarries of Helios
     have naught to do with me.
The shine from these arms is a reflection of Ares,
     my sire,
          whose martial finery
          befits my imminent deeds!
These arms and armor seal his vow,
     a promise of victory
     this day
     over Achilles!
Can you still doubt my chances?"

"Achilles killed my father,"
     Andromache states.
          "He killed my brothers.
          He killed my Hector.
          He threatens my Astyanax.
          He endangers all the family I have left.
          He would take my freedom if he could.
     Achilles is a monster,
but you
     are an Amazon
          and that gives you a more than fair chance."

     Penthesileia smiles.
"Your mother's blood speaks through you."

Andromache
     feels her heart
          lighten.

"After I kill Achilles,
     after the victory celebrations,
          when the Amazon companions
          leave the Troad plain
               for the long ride back
               to our tribal lands,
          you may come with us,
          brave Andromache,
     at last,
     to a home where you belong."

"And Astyanax?"
     Andromache asks.

Penthesileia shakes her head.
     "There is no place for a boy child
          among the Amazon tribes.
     He belongs here,
          as Troy's hope for the future."

"Then I must also remain at Troy."

"You are sure?"

Andromache nods.
     "My mother's blood
          demands it."

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