Kara ran down the dirt path, arms slightly raised to balance herself as her sandals sent rocks tumbling down the steep slope. Dust clouded behind her as she skidded a little before righting herself. She leapt over the fence, nearby sheep scattering, and waved to James at the top of his field.
“Kara, you better not be scaring my sheep again!”
Kara grinned over her shoulder at him as she ran. “I’m just taking a shortcut.”
She hopped the fence on the other end of the field and continued down the track.
Nia was at the stables, obviously attempting to flirt with an oblivious Brainy. She smirked and raised her eyebrows at Nia as she ran past and Nia narrowed her eyes at her. She cut Brainy off from his excited speech about his new horse to yell at her.
“Kara, why do you insist on running everywhere when I know that you most definitely have a horse because Brainy’s the one that sold it to you?!” She gestured dramatically at Brainy who waved at her, seeming to only just have noticed she was there.
Kara grinned and ran backwards away from them. “A horse could never keep up with me! I’m fast as Hermes!”
Nia just shook her head and laughed when Kara almost ran into someone after not looking where she was going.
She slowed as she approached the town. Catching sight of J’onn in all his armoured glory, she waved and made her way up to him, jogging on the spot as he continued to walk.
“Hey, J’onn. Any news of Kal?”
J’onn shook his head. “Sorry Kara. I haven’t heard anything since he went north to help that village with the lion.”
Kara smiled, despite her disappointment. “That’s okay. How are things looking for you?”
He looked grim. “I’ve been told Lex Luthor is making headway against the Persians but I have a feeling I’ll be sent out with my lokhos as reinforcements soon.”
Kara turned to see Winn waving at her from the stall outside his workshop. J’onn simply nodded to her and continued on his way. She put her hands on her hips, smiling and shaking her head at his lack of verbal farewell, before making her way over to Winn. He finished smashing something into shape on his anvil and plunged it into water with a satisfying hiss.
He brushed his hands on his leather apron and looked around before grabbing the xiphos leaning against the wall behind him and presenting it to Kara.
She grinned and took it from him, running her hand over the El crest embossed on the cross-guard, her family’s eyes reflecting back at her along the blade.
“You know, if you stopped battling trees, I wouldn’t have to sharpen it as often.”
Kara rolled her eyes and sheathed her sword in the scabbard hanging around her hips. “If I didn’t train, there would be no point in it being sharp because I wouldn’t be able to use it anyway.”
Winn grinned and got back to his work. “Whatever you say, Kara.”
She turned and put her hands on her hips, letting the cacophony of the town wash over her. The crowded streets were ringing with the sounds of people talking, children laughing and vendors shouting. The noise of gulls and sailors washed in from the port. She smiled as two kids rushed past her, chasing a chicken between the closely packed houses.
Kara made her way down to the harbour side and walked along the rows of stalls selling fish and pottery and jewellery. Their voices, proclaiming the excellence of their products, haggling for lower prices, and sharing news from recent voyages, all melded into one.
The sky was a brilliant blue with the absence of clouds and the boats in the port swayed gently in the swell of the waves.
The noise grew slightly fainter as she made her way to the other side of the town and a little way back from the water.
She turned a corner and ducked under the doorway of the house. The shutters were closed to keep out the afternoon heat and her eyes took a moment to adjust from the glaring sun.
She found Alex and Kelly lounging in the courtyard, laughing together. Krypto raised his head at her, lying in the shade by the house, too hot and lazy to do anything but thump his tail against the floor. She gave him a scratch behind the ears and he happily went back to sleep. She smiled at her sister looking so happy and stole one of the figs from the bowl beside her.
“Hey!” Alex scowled at her, grabbing the bowl and hugging it to her chest. “Get your own figs!”
Kelly just laughed. “Hi Kara.”
Kara smiled sweetly at her. “Hi Kelly.” She poked her tongue out at Alex who made a face at her in return.
“Are you two squabbling again?” Eliza walked through the courtyard with a basket of wool from the market, shaking her head fondly. “It’s like you’re still children.”
Kara laughed and gave Eliza a one armed hug on her way past.
Alex made a show of eating one of her figs. “I see Kelly gets a greeting but I don’t. Good to know where your loyalty lies, Kara.”
Kara put her hands on her hips. “Well maybe you would if you shared your figs, Alex .”
“Oi.” Alex pointed at her. “That’s ipolokhagos Alex to you.”
Kara lit up. “You got your promotion?”
Alex grinned and nodded.
“Alex that’s amazing! Congratulations!” She picked Alex up in a bone crushing and squealed.
Alex groaned, tapping her back. “Ok Kara, you can put me down now.”
She laughed and released her. “Sorry - I’m just excited for you.”
Alex hummed and sat back down, leaning against Kelly. “Yeah well maybe just be a little more gently excited.”
Kara huffed and sat down crossed-legged on the ground, drawing in the dust. She frowned. “Hey, I just saw J’onn and he didn’t even tell me!”
Alex laughed. “Probably because he knew you would have hugged him and ruined his fierce lokhagos facade.”
She pouted and went back to doodling in the dirt.
“So how’s your day been?”
Kara hummed and looked up. “Good. I saved a goat that was stuck on the edge of a cliff.”
“What?!” Alex sat up furiously. “Kara! That’s so dangerous. You could’ve gotten yourself killed!”
Kara frowned. “What was I supposed to do? Leave it?”
“Yes!” Alex got up and started pacing. “By Zeus, Kara, I know you want to be like Kal but you can’t just keep throwing yourself into dangerous situations for no reason.”
“It wasn’t for no reason - I saved a life.”
“At the risk of your own! For a goat!” Alex stopped in her pacing to gesture erratically. “When are you going to give up on this whole hero thing?”
Kara looked down and bit her lip, trying to stop the tears she could feel building behind her eyes.
“Alex.” Kelly put a hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her down and Alex sighed.
“Look, I’m sorry, Kara. I know you just want to help. But you’ve got a good thing going at the moment, playing the lyre. People pay you good money for that. Can’t you just… keep doing that and help by giving some of it to people who need it or something?”
Kara twisted her hands in her lap. She clenched her jaw and stood, not looking at Alex. “I’m going for a walk.”
“Kara,” Alex tried to call after her but she was already gone.
She wandered down to the sea and walked along it, away from the town. The sounds of the port slowly faded into the distance, replaced with the wind and the waves. Small stretches of sandy beaches turned into rocky banks covered in grass and trees, pushing her further inland.
Kara sighed and trailed her hand over the leaves of bushes. Was it so bad to want to be a hero like Heracles, or Perseus, or Kal?
She was so lost in her thoughts that she almost didn’t notice the string of curses coming through the trees.
Frowning, she pushed aside some branches and inched closer to the water’s edge. She cautiously peered over the bank. A few feet below was a small rowing boat, one of the oars tangled in the roots of a tree that were protruding from the bank. The boat was rocking precariously as a woman with dark silky hair pulled at the oar and grumbled something about a ‘stupid oracle’ and ‘stupid boat’ (except with less nice words that Kara wasn’t going to repeat).
Kara cleared her throat and rolled her shoulders back, preparing her most heroic voice. “Excuse me, ma’am. Do you need any assistance?”
The woman startled and lost her grip, stumbling back and sitting down hard, making the boat sway and water slosh over the side. A pair of fierce green eyes scowled up at her. Kara felt awful but was also fairly certain she was blushing and that her brain had stopped functioning.
The woman made a noise of frustration and growled at her. “Throw yourself to the crows!”
Kara’s eyes widened and she opened and closed her mouth a few times as she watched the woman stand up again and look down at her muddy, wet chiton.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Kara jumped down into the boat to try to help, causing it to rock dangerously and almost knock the woman over again. Kara grabbed her shoulders to steady her. The woman looked livid. She slapped Kara’s hands away and pushed at her chest. Kara stumbled backwards, arms swinging as she tried to regain her balance but her foot caught on the seat and she toppled into the sea, capsizing the whole boat with her.
She sputtered and pushed the hair off the face, treading water as she looked for the woman. Dark hair appeared a moment later, and she shook her head, pushing her hair back and looking like she might just murder Kara.
“I am so sorry!”
The woman swam back towards her capsized boat and tried to turn it back over. Kara helped her and then grabbed one of the oars which was floating away and went to attempt to pull the other out of the tree roots.
“Will you just stop trying to help!”
Kara recoiled at the outburst, staring wide eyed at the woman as she hauled herself back into the boat and snatched the oars from Kara’s hands.
She scowled as she juggled the two oars, trying to put them back in. “I don’t need your help!”
Kara hovered in the water nervously. “I know you don’t need it. I’m sorry. I just thought you might want it.”
The woman finally managed to slot the oars back in place and clenched her jaw. She glared at Kara bobbing silently in the water for a moment before she huffed. “Well get back in the boat then. The least you can do is row me to the port after throwing me in the water.”
She sat back and crossed her arms over her chest. Her expression didn’t soften but Kara smiled, climbing carefully back into the boat and shaking herself off like a wet dog. She sat down sheepishly when the woman grimaced at being sprayed with water.
Kara gently started rowing them along the shore to the port.
“I’m Kara by the way.”
The woman looked her up and down and she felt slightly self conscious with her dripping knee-length chiton and tangled wet hair. “Lena.”
Kara smiled and they lapsed back into silence. She watched Lena looking out over the sea, wondering how her pale skin didn’t burn in the hot weather.
Not liking the silence, Kara decided to try starting a conversation again. “Can I ask how you found yourself stuck in the bank in this little boat?”
Lena’s eyes narrowed and she studied her. For a moment, Kara thought she was going to say no and push her overboard again but Lena huffed and dropped her arms.
“I have to go do some stupid quest to “redeem” myself after getting cursed by the gods.”
Kara’s eyebrows shot up almost into her hairline. “You got cursed by the gods?”
Lena looked down and peeled the wet material of her chiton away from her legs with a frown. “It wasn’t my fault! I refuse to marry some asshole and then Hera curses me for it! And then the stupid oracle says I have to do this stupid task so that Hera can… uncurse me or whatever.”
Kara let out a low whistle. “Wow.” Kara felt terrible for Lena but her brain was getting a bit stuck on the ‘epic quest’ bit. “So… what’s the quest?”
Lena rolled her eyes. “Oh slay some beast that’s terrorising Paphos.”
Kara’s eyes widened again. “ Paphos ? You’re planning to get to Cyprus in this ?” She didn’t mention the fact that Lena also didn’t seem to have any weapons with her as she wasn’t sure she wanted to incur Lena’s wrath.
Lena furrowed her brow and crossed her arms again. “Maybe.”
Kara blinked. “You can’t go in this! You’ll be drowned at the first bit of remotely not good weather. Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t even have a sail. If the waves don’t kill you, you’ll die of exhaustion from rowing before you get halfway there.”
Lena just looked out to sea grumpily.
She sighed. “Look. I happen to be a… hero-in-training.”
Lena raised an eyebrow.
“I have a boat. It’s not massive but it's got a sail and it’s a good ship and I could sail it with your help if you’ll let me come with you.”
Lena frowned. “You want to come with me? Why?”
Kara shrugged. “Like I said - I’m a hero-in-training.”
Lena rolled her eyes. “In it for the glory then?”
“What?” Kara could tell she had that little crinkle Alex always made fun of. “No. I just- I want to help people. I’m fast, I’m strong, I can fight… I have the ability to help people, so shouldn’t I use it?”
Lena seemed to consider her. “Why not just join the army?”
She frowned. “I don’t want to kill people, I want to help them.”
The conversation trailed off as they got close to the port. Kara rowed them towards the beach just a little further along the shore and jumped out the boat, pulling it up onto the sand. Lena stepped out to help, the ends of her long chiton trailing in the water (although it didn’t really matter since she was already soaking).
Kara turned to her and rested her hands on her hips. “Look, you don’t have to take me with you but please at least find another boat.”
She could see Lena’s jaw working as she considered it.
Lena pointed at her in warning. “If I let you come with me, you take me there in your ship, I get rid of this panther, you bring me back in your ship. That’s it. No stops for sightseeing, no detours, no extra people. Deal?”
Kara lit up and had to stop herself from bouncing up and down or crushing Lena in a hug. She clasped her hands together in front of her mouth instead. “Yes! Thank you! I won’t let you down!”
Lena rolled her eyes and trudged off up the beach. “So where’s this boat?”
Kara stumbled after her. “Oh you want to go right now?”
Lena raised an eyebrow and kept walking, not looking at Kara. “When were you thinking? Haloa?”
“No, I just- it’s evening already. I was thinking we’d leave tomorrow morning. It would give us time to ready supplies and things too before we go.”
Lena stopped and turned to her as the sand started to turn to rocks and grass and dusty pathways. “And what do I do until then?”
“Oh.” Kara twisted her fingers together. “Well, I mean, you’re welcome to stay at our house for the night. We have room.”
“You can’t just bring someone in off the streets! What if she’s a thief? And what? You’re just going to go off on an adventure with her?”
“Alex!” Kara glanced around, trying to get Alex to lower her voice so Lena wouldn’t overhear. “I didn’t ‘just find her on the street’... I found her in a boat. And what about xenia? Huh? I’m not going to get myself cursed by Zeus because I turned away a traveller and she’s already been cursed by Hera so I doubt she’d want to risk Zeus’ wrath as well by stealing from us when we’re letting her stay.”
“She’s been cursed by Hera?!”
Alex looked like she was about ready to explode. Admittedly, Kara had sort of sprung this on her. But Eliza had accepted it easily enough. Lena was with her now, setting out some extra bedding while Alex yelled at Kara on the other side of the house.
“Look, Alex, I can do this. I’ll be careful but if I don’t go with her she’s probably going to get herself killed. Please, Alex. I know you don’t approve of my choices but this is something I need to do.”
Alex sighed and rubbed her forehead. “It’s not that I disapprove, Kara. I just-” She clenched her jaw and looked away. “I worry about you, Kara. You’re too trusting. And after everything that’s happened…” She looked back at Kara and she could see the pain in her eyes. “I can’t lose you too, Kara.”
Kara wrapped her arms around Alex in a tight hug and held her close. She felt Alex squeeze her back just as hard. “I won’t be gone long. It should be about four days to Paphos. I’ll be back within two weeks.”
Alex sighed and pulled back. “Just be careful.”
Kara squeezed her shoulders. “I will.”