Life seemed so much easier when I was simply Ciree the blacksmith, wife of Oceana, the Peculiar Painter. It seemed easier with near empty bellies, and spoiled food. Easier with the risk of life or limb as I fought alongside my sister warriors to protect our village.
That sounds like a hard life? Merely struggling for survival for me and my woman? It was, but the day that I became Sailor Bellatrix, one of the Sailor Senshi for the Orion constellation, and every day after have been even harder.
My small village of Bella has always had to struggle. For every man there are five women, and each woman is more ruthless than the last. We could hunt, fight, build, and any other chore that men would usually perform. They have little purpose here, except to breed and do other useless tasks.
Most of the men that live here were born here, and those that travel through rarely stay. They do not approve of our lifestyle. Often times though, their women stay behind.
Which is another thing about my village that you must understand. We pass no open judgment on our neighbors. Much is accepted, and little is prohibited.
My marriage for example. Several travelers look on with disdain. “Two women? The horror! How vile!” they say. In Bella it is quite common. My wife and I are but one couple out of several.
Which brings me to my favorite subject. My Ocean. How Gods crafted such beauty is beyond me, but I thank them for her every day.
Ocean and I have been married for four years, three months, and twenty-one days, and each new day is just as glorious as the last.
We had been childhood sweethearts, and when she came of age I asked for her hand. She had worn a soft shade of blue for our wedding ceremony to match her teal colored eyes and her pale blonde hair.
She is a painter and is quite often covered in paint and running about the village searching for new colors to mix. That is where the title ‘Peculiar Painter’ comes from.
She seems a little strange to everyone else, but to me she is simply on a hunt of discovery. Her paintings are extraordinary, but they do not always sell. When travelers come through we can usually sell a few for a good price.
There is one painting that she refuses to sell no matter how much is offered. It is of me as I make a sword. The flames from the forge cause a striking contrast for my dark auburn hair, and it lights up my violet colored eyes.
You see, there is a small window on our house, so that she and I may see the other if we are needed. My wife sat at that window for nearly a month watching me as she painted. If that does not prove her devotion for her work then I do not know what will.
I am one of the village smithies. There are three of us, and the other two women are much older with that much more experience. Its rough competition, but I manage.
I was a village warrior nearly two years ago, and protected the village of Bella and her people, but Ocean could only handle so many close calls before she began to worry worse than before. To appease her I am now only a smithy and she sleeps much easier each night.
Food was becoming scarce again, and Ocean and I couldn’t scrape up the funds for a few apples or a loaf of bread.
Reluctantly, I closed the forge for the day and took my wife hunting with nothing but two daggers, and a large sheet of canvas.
“I will replace it,” I told her as we tread along the village outskirts towards a wooded area. I was hoping for a buck to sell, and Ocean wanted rabbit. I prayed that the Gods would bless us with full bellies.
I hated those nights as we lay in our bed and the only noise to fill the quiet of the night was the empty cry of our stomachs. I often suggested going to the village shrine for some table scraps, but she always replied, “No. There are many others that need it more than we do.” She was correct, of course, but a chicken leg would be wonderful from time to time.
Ocean used a paint covered hand to hold her hair back as a pleasant breeze swept through the air. “Do you think we’ll find something?”
“We can only pray,” I replied.
We made camp by a small clearing, and prepared to hunt rabbit for the day. The deer would be hunted in the morning.
The bait was set far from camp, and we patiently waited in the brush for a chance to snag a rabbit. We seemed to have chosen a spot near a den, because several came by, and we managed to catch most of them.
One was very large and if we had sold it, would have gotten us a large sum of money, but the thought of spoiling my near starving wife was worth the loss. She enjoyed every morsel as we fed each other tender pieces of meat.
Later that night we lay beside each other and gazed up at the stars in the sky.
“Do you think we’ll ever get see any other stars?”
“Turn your head and you’ll see ‘other stars’,” I teased with a smirk.
“You know what I mean, Ciree!”
“Do you want to see other stars?” I asked as I rolled to my side to look at her.
“Almost as much as I want a horse,” she said earnestly.
I thought long and hard about this. I didn’t want to disappoint her, but we were already so poor. Travelling anywhere would not come cheap.
“I will try,” I promised. It was nice to have goals. Get a horse, and then travel to the other side of the world and see different stars.
“What is that?” she asked as she pointed towards the night sky.
I followed her finger and felt my brows furrow as something off in the distance hurtled in our direction. As it came closer I shielded Ocean with my body and watched as it soared overhead, crashing into the forest.
I waited several minutes, listening to the quiet of the night for any sound of disturbance. “Do you want me to investigate now, or should we wait till morn?”
“Let’s wait,” she said as she clutched at the front of my shirt. “We will see better with first light.”
I acquiesced to her suggestion, and we prepared for bed. I left the fire on that night to keep away any predators.
The next morning we woke and snacked on more rabbit, before packing up and heading towards the line of trees where the mysterious comet landed.
“Be careful,” Ocean said to me as I approached a small crater in the earth.
In the center was a large rock. Hesitantly, I approached and pressed the tip of a finger to it. It was cool to the touch and very smooth. It was large, but small enough for me to carry back home with little struggle.
“What is it?” Ocean called.
“An ore, I think. I’ve never seen the like,” I replied. It was beautiful for sure. A dark teal boulder with a soft blue hue. It immediately made me think of my Ocean’s eyes. How I adored those eyes.
“I’d like to take it back with us. Perhaps one of the other smithies has knowledge of this metal.”
“If you believe it to be safe,” Ocean called down.
I nodded and carefully picked up the ore, and carried it out.
“My, it is lovely,” she said as she reached out to touch it gently.
“Aye, I’m particularly fond of the color.”
She blushed a pretty rose, and we shared a sweet kiss before heading for home.
The buck I took down was small, but I knew a family of innkeepers that would pay fairly. They didn’t disappoint.
Ocean helped me carry in the bags filled with food, and then I went about preparing a stew with the leftover rabbit from our trip.
“Let me know the moment it bubbles,” I said to her before going out to my forge. I learned at a young age to never allow Ocean to cook.
While we had been out about the village, I had asked the other two smithies if they knew of my mysterious ore. One called it junk, but the other furrowed her brows saying it was a lovely ore.
On our way home, Ocean and I stopped by the Warriors Hall so that she could see one of her clients about their painting.
I was always uneasy whenever I visited here. Not many of my fellow sisters in arms took my retirement well. It had been nearly two years, but I understood that some things simply couldn’t be let go.
Now, I stood in my forge and looked up at my weapon. It had been a tough fight with the barbarians that sought to hurt my people, they learned their lesson, and I had learned mine.
Ocean begged for me to retire, but the pay for a village warrior was substantial and we needed every cent, so I disagreed. That was when a village raid happened and my axe was broken protecting a family with children.
The blow I took landed me in the healer’s house for two weeks and during that time I was mostly unconscious. Ocean rarely left my side, and when I woke up I turned in my resignation. She had cried too much on my account.
While we were at the Warriors Hall I saw a notice about a village tournament being held at the end of the week. The winning pot was a lot of money. Enough to buy my Ocean a horse. I was tired of floundering around at the bottom. My wife deserved better.
There wasn’t enough of my new ore to make a double-sided axe, which was my preferred weapon, but I could swing a mace around well enough.
I lit the forge and got the coals nice and hot. Ocean watched me from the window from time to time as I shaped the metal, and when I began to cool it down night had fallen.
The soup was delicious and after supper I showed Ocean my new mace.
“It’s beautiful,” she said with a smile. “Will you sell it?”
“Not right away. I need to test it out first,” I replied.
“Hopefully there will not be a raid for you to test it out with.”
“No, Ocean, there won’t be.”
The day of the tournament came quickly and Ocean was very concerned. “Couldn’t you have made a shield or something too?” she asked as I readied myself for my first fight.
“There wasn’t enough ore for one and I rarely use one anyhow,” I replied as I tied the laces of my arm brace.
“Just… Be safe,” she said.
“No head injuries this time,” I promised as I turned to her for a kiss. “You don’t have to watch. You could always stay here.”
“No. I want to go and support you,” Ocean said as she fingered the front of my leather armor lightly. “Besides, I need to know who to bother if you get hurt.”
With a laugh and another kiss I left. My first opponent was a novice fighter, so she was easily beaten. The second and third fighters were much the same. After her, my opponents were steadily growing in difficulty.
My only focus during the tournament was my wife. With the money I could get her a horse, and with the horse we could travel and sell her paintings. That would mean more money for food, clothes, and painting supplies. It all rode on the prize money to get a horse.
We’d saved up for one several times before, but something always happened to cause the purchase to delay. One time a tree had fallen into our home and damaged the roof. The repairs had cost a small fortune even with my family discount from my sister who was one of the village carpenters.
Another was when a sickness went through town and the supply and demand for medicine caused the prices to be outrageously high, but what else could I do? Ocean got it, and then I caught it taking care of her.
The matches came and went. Some participants were hurt, others weren’t, and one in particular stood out from the crowd. She was a traveler, coming through from a city of vast wealth. The capital most likely.
Her armor and weapons were finely made and she was clearly a skilled warrior. She would be in the finals. I knew that from only watching her well-toned form dance around the field.
I fought with skill long forgotten, and I was glad to see that I was still an accomplished fighter. Hopefully those skills would win me this tournament.
They allowed a break for lunch and served salted pork and ale for a cheap price, but Ocean and I were reluctant to spend that much money.
“Oy, Ciree,” Miranda, one of the innkeepers called as she made her way through the crowd. “These are for you.” She held out two trays full of food and drink.
Ocean politely accepted the trays, but I was more reluctant.
“Who paid for them?” Someone might expect an unfair trade.
“That lady there,” she said as she nudged her head towards the rich woman traveler.
She and I exchanged stares before she inclined her head with a small smile. I nodded my thanks back, and smiled at Ocean when she offered me a bite of her pork.
The meal was enjoyed and several group conversations carried about the area, but Ocean and I sat alone. She often said that I was all she needed, and I couldn’t say that I didn’t feel the same.
The strange woman sat alone and took in the sights and sounds of the village, but her gaze went to us more than once.
“Should we go and thank her?” Ocean whispered against my ear.
“No. I have given my thanks. Once is enough.”
Ocean didn’t look convinced, and before I could stop her, she was making her way over to the stranger. With a sigh, I followed after her.
“Didn’t I teach you never to talk to strangers?” I teased.
“Of course you did, but I am the one who calls the shots in this family,” she said with a grin.
I gave her my best ‘keep telling yourself that’ look.
Ocean laughed in reply. “This isn’t a stranger. This is Rosalind. Rosalind, this is my wife Ciree.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said as she reached out a hand towards me.
“Likewise,” I replied. Her grip was strong, but very light. The tips of her fingers bore callouses and she was daintily boned. Her body type was similar to Ocean’s, but it was obvious that this was a woman not to be trifled with.
“Thank you for lunch. It was quite generous of you,” I said.
“You’re welcome. I would like the chance to fight you in the finals. You seem like a formidable opponent.”
She looked me over. “For you and your wife’s sake I hope that you are the one.”
“One what?” I asked.
“That remains to be seen,” Rosalind said before walking away.
“Finally! I’m not the only nutter in the village,” Ocean muttered.
I scoffed and looked down at her.
“What? The only insane thing you’ve done was marry me.”
“And that made me quite happy. Now, give me a kiss before I go back out there.”
She quickly complied and then it was onwards to battle.
I almost didn’t make it to the last match. My opponent was strong, and the leader of the village warriors.
She landed a kick that cracked three of my ribs. I did all that I could to hide my pain. I didn’t want to risk Ocean’s safety by her following through with her threat. The leader of the protectors of the village was not someone you wanted to annoy.
I managed to win with a false swipe of my leg, and used the momentum of my spinning body to hit her with the mace. She tumbled off of the field.
Rosalind allowed me a drink of water before our fight began, and then I was ready. Mostly. My ribs ached something fierce. I’ve felt worse pain, but not for some time.
Her sword was long and broad. I quickly learned that it doubled as a shield. Well, wasn’t that convenient?
She was skilled, more so than even I, but I really wanted that horse.
Winning was just within my reach. She was a well-seasoned fighter, but everything lost flavor with age.
And then it happened. I couldn’t explain what happened, but something happened, and Rosalind seemed to know exactly what it was. She beat me very quickly, and then asked the village chieftess for use of her office to speak with me and Ocean.
As Ocean and I followed her in, we saw that there was already a man in the room waiting for us. Unsure if he was friend of foe, I placed an arm in front of Ocean, and stood my ground.
“I have brought her, Master Icarus,” Rosalind said from before me.
“Wonderful!” He turned and looked Ocean and I over intently. He offered Ocean the chieftess chair in a gentlemanly fashion, and I quickly moved to stand directly behind her. “Yes. She is the one,” he said to Rosalind.
“I knew you would be the one,” Rosalind said as she let her hair out of it’s braided chignon.
“The one what?” I asked.
“What do you know of the capital?” the man asked as he placed his hands behind his back.
Ocean opened her mouth to reply, but I softly hushed her. “Who are you?” I asked. “What are we doing here?”
“My name, Ciree, is Icarus.”
“Icarus? As in the “son of Daedalus” Icarus?” Ocean asked with excitement.
“The very same,” he replied with a wide smile. “And now for my question. What do you know of the capital?”
“It’s where our ruler Queen Persephone dwells,” I answered. “We don’t hear a lot of city gossip out here.”
“There are nine other young women like you,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.
“‘Like me’? Is there something wrong with me?”
“Many would believe it so, but no. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with you.
“You are one of ten Sailor Senshi for the constellation of Orion. You are Sailor Bellatrix to be exact.”
What was this man going on about? There wasn’t anything wrong with me. I’m just Ciree the smithy, and wife of Ocean the peculiar painter. “Sailor Bellatrix?”
“And what is a Sailor Senshi?” I asked softly, unable to deny my asinine curiosity.
“A group of protectors of the realm. There are nine other Sailor Scouts that now live in the capital by request of Queen Persephone—”
“Requested or commanded?” I asked bemusedly.
“As the Sailor of the star Bellatrix it is your duty to the crown to take up arms and protect your queen,” Rosalind said sternly from beside him.
“I am not finished, Rosalind. Kindly wait your turn,” he said with a patient smile
“Yes, Master Icarus,” she said petulantly.
“Is she in danger?” I asked.
“It is uncertain at this time. We have been gathering all of you for the past nine years. You are the last. A novice, yes, but you are a skilled fighter. They need you as you need them,” he replied.
I sighed and looked down at Ocean. “I retired. I am no warrior now, only a simple smithy.”
“But you could be again. I’ve seen it firsthand,” Rosalind said to me.
I shook my head. “I am sorry, but I—”
“The pay would be immediate, and you would have everything you needed,” she interjected.
“Such as?” I asked with a quirked brow.
“A home, food for your bellies, art supplies for your wife, new clothes, and whatever else you required or desired.”
“You claim they would be ours,” I said, completely unconvinced of these promises.
“Come now, surely you do not like how poor you are. Why else would you enter today’s tournament?” Icarus asked with raised brows.
“I was going to buy a horse,” I replied softly.
“Oh, Ciree,” Ocean squealed as she leapt out of the chair to jump into my arms.
Icarus let us have a moment and then cleared his throat. “Your wife would be well provided for.”
I looked down at my Ocean. The capital was a large place filled with strange sights, strange sounds, strange smells, and strange… Strangers… Would she be able to adapt to it? I know that she wanted to leave Bella because of the remarks that she was mad, but would she manage? The bigger question, could I?
“I’m not going anywhere without her,” I said to Icarus as I held Ocean to me tightly.
“I wouldn’t dream of taking her away from you, and neither will the queen. She will happily welcome both of you.”
I looked down at Ocean who looked up at me with such excitement that I loathed the thought of turning down this chance of a fresh start. It was more than either of us had ever dreamed of.
“When do we leave?” I asked.