Hippolyta, dragonborn queen of Delphi, stalked toward the chambers of her royal oracle.

For reasons quite magical, the oracle’s chambers remained within the mountain caverns where the seeress was closest to the earth and the whispers of their progenitor, Python, and his mother Gaia.

Ahead of the queen, her servants and royal guard cleared a way through the rabble and pilgrims who sought the wisdom of the renown Oracle of Delphi.

“No one, not even a queen, should have such constant access to an oracle,” said the dragon-woman from her perch atop her tripod, once the two of them were alone in the room.

“You are my confidant in these matters of state,” said Hippolyta.

“No ruler should be so concerned with the future that it distracts from the present. This much, I have advised you before, as you bade me.”

“I am your Queen,” replied Hippolyta.

“And Python is my King, as Gaia is my mother.”

“In this, we should be as sisters,” said Hippolyta, “and I seek the counsel of my sister.”

The Oracle inclined her head slightly and feel silent, verbally cornered.

“I have seen to it that Rhea has left here under the pretense that she has an enemy here. She does not see a possibility for reconciliation without drastic measures,” said the queen, “she does not realize how her actions will benefit our cause.”

To this, the Oracle replied, “neither do you, Sister.” It was not a term of endearment so much as it was a title of address.

Hippolyta waved a dismissive hand and turned toward the walls. “We know Rhea will be the instrument of destruction here in Delphi. She will unite our people with a sense of purpose unlike we have seen since our people’s inception a generation ago.” She shook a finger at the ceiling and looked back over her shoulder at the Oracle, “and we know you and I, and the Oracle will survive to lead our people to the greatest victory in an age.”

“Almost, my queen. We know the outtake will survive but it was nonspecific about whether I would survive. As you and I both know, I am not the Oracle. I am merely its mouthpiece.”

“Fine then. I’m sure a certain amount of fatalism is part and parcel with your position,” the queen raised an eyebrow. “Dare I say it is a requirement for the position?”

“I do not care for your glibness, Sister,” said the Oracle, “they are your countrymen.”

“Doesn’t your position, mouthpiece or no, offer you any sense of perspective?”

“In fact, my perspective comes from my daily interactions with your countrymen,” said the Oracle.

“They likely sense something coming, since growing dread, arising from the dire news I have given with the passing of days. Of course they do not realize their destinies have been subsumed by the decisions of their own queen.”

“Only you would know that,” came Hippolyta’s measured response.

“Indeed,” said the Oracle.

“Then I suppose I can no longer truly regret the ambiguity of your fate in the coming hours.”

“I have said my safety was not assured, only that the Oracle would survive. I have known my own fate since before I was chosen for this position.”

“Then, I leave you to it,” said the queen. “Thank you, Sister. For your counsel.”

Hippolyta left by the door, and gave orders to her soldiers to relay to her army beyond the city walls to hold and prepare to assist in event of disaster.

The first tremors began in the early hours of the morning, and the queen was roused by her attendants.

“Earthquake! Is Rhea capable of this? Is this the cataclysm we were told to expect?” The queen’s question went unanswered by the servants, who were wholly unaware of the circumstances.

The queen and her closest servants and guards made their way to the arcade as the shaking reached its crescendo–the rumbling grew to a roar in the open, such that it was difficult to discern the earthquake from the resulting collapse of buildings.

The rumbling continued for a full minute, but the rattling and shaking of buildings persisted a few seconds beyond that. Cries rose from the streets that were nearly as deafening as the earthquake itself. Somewhere, a fire had started. The smell of smoke and the hazy glow outlining the rooftops made it clear enough.

Hippolyta called upon her councilmen and sages to assess the damage to the city. Over the next thirty minutes, they were able to determine the quake had been localized to the Queen’s district.

Thankfully the buildings there were made sturdier than other parts of the city. Before another ten minutes had passed, another quake began to rock the city.

Hippolyta’s councilmen huddled together to wait our the quake, but this one was longer and stronger than the first one. Pieces of the ceiling rained down on them and they were ushered outside shortly before the rod began to give way.

“I don’t understand, how is this possible?” cried one of the advisors.

“Is this what we should have been expecting after that woman’s audience? My queen, did you know this was coming?”

The aftershock wound down after almost the minutes. It was difficult to tell how much of what happened was the quake itself and how much was the result of a landslide that had been triggered just above the city.

The eastern walls were gone, a pile of rubble and displaced rock where they had been an hour before.

Hippolyta convened her council and included her sage of magical matters.

“My queen,” began the sage, “it is to early to tell, but I believe the second quake was no aftershock–not in the true sense, anyway. I believe that was a real earthquake, triggered and perhaps even dampened by the first.”

Hippolyta scrutinized the sage’s face in the flickering light of the enormous fires that lit the room. “You mean to tell me the earthquake should have been bigger?”

The sage nodded. “In fact, I have predicted such a quake for some time, based on my historical analysis and star-gazing. An earthquake of debating proportions, one that might level the city.” The sage’s face lit up considerably. “But the first quake nullified a lot of the stored energy, took the edge off it so to speak.”

The sage slowly room notice the room had gone quiet around him. He winced a little, and shrugged.

“That being said,” Hippolyta gestured to have the sage removed from the room, “this action has been taken against our kingdom, and we shall not stand for it. Bring the troops in, dig whomever you can out of the rubble. Use magic, but get me some numbers. Make them up if you have to.”

Addressing the fullness of the room, the queen continued: “by the morning, I want to be able to address every man, woman, and child capable of climbing Parnassus. We will mobilize the entire city as never before. We no longer need fear reprisal from Thebes for our actions here, Aegis is too tired to act in the defense of these misfits. Not to mention he fears what the resumption of war will do to his precious kingdom of conscripts and prostitutes.”

A murmur went through the room.

“We will take back Parnassus before the Witch of the Mountain can come back to finish her work. And we will prevail.”

After dismissing the council, Hippolyta spoke with her generals in the near-privacy of a courtyard whose walls had survived both quakes.

“Make certain that the dissident soldiers are among the citizens in the first charge up the mountain. Retain as many of our best troops for flanking action and counterattack as possible. Use our dragons to scout advance positions and take out spellcaster as we discussed before.”

Hippolyta paced around the cracked fountain in the courtyard. “I’ve been advised that should the conjuror’s concentration be broken, he will lose control of his elemental. To this end, we want invisible dragons ahead of our main forces to make sure their lines break.”

With a dismissive wave, she concluded, “Go, general. Make it happen.”

After her soldiers departed, Hippolyta gazed upon the face of Parnassus. She reached our her hands as if to take it.

“Soon,” she said. “Soon.”

She closed her fist.