62 All Inked Up
"So you don't seem to be from around here?" Zoey questioned Athena after a few more minutes of drifting in the hot spring.
"Nope, I'm from the deserts down south. Got set up with an arranged marriage when I was younger. Didn't want to end up like that so I took off north. Been here ever since and loved every minute. Forests and jungles are more to my liking than dry sand and dust storms," Athena replied. "What about you? You from around here?"
Zoey replied after a moment, "I only arrived in this region a short while ago. I'd rather not say where I'm from… but it is a long way from here," her voice carried a touch of sadness that Athena picked up on.
"Do you have plans of going back someday?" she asked.
"I'm afraid that is no longer possible," Zoey replied quietly.
After a moment of somber silence Athena said, " Well, take it from me, dwelling on it won't help you survive. If it's any consolation, most of the people out here are exiles have left behind one home or another, for one reason or another, so you'll fit right in."
Zoey stared at the glimpse of blue sky through the ceiling of the cave as she contemplated what Athena had said. It was true that dwelling on her past would not help her survive. Her goal was to build a new home in this universe, to find a place she could belong. Dwelling on the remnants of her old universe would not help her here. Zoey's contemplating was suddenly interrupted by water being splashed onto her by Athena who sent more water at her while laughing.
"Don't be so down," Athena said as she laughed, "Just enjoy the moment!"
Zoey soon found herself laughing and splashing water back at Athena in retaliation. Even Viridi joined the fun as they enjoyed themselves. If anyone had managed to stumble upon this scene taking place in the wild jungle forest of the Exile Frontier, they would have been treated to quite the unforgettable sight.
During their water fight, Zoey noticed that Athena was looking curiously at the tattoos on her left arm. Before Zoey had a chance to address it, Athena had rapidly moved through the water to her side and took her left arm captive to inspect her tattoos. Zoey tensed up at first, but Athena only seemed to want to look at her tattoos. Despite the strange gleam in Athena's eyes as she looked at Zoey's tattoos, Zoey was more acutely aware of the close contact she was experiencing with a beautiful unclothed woman while swimming in a secluded underground hot spring. It took Zoey considerable effort to stop her mind from going places it had no business going! Athena in the meantime was still inspecting Zoey's tattoo.
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"Nice ink!" Athena looked up at Zoey as she spoke, "These tattoos are amazing! I have one myself!"
Zoey looked at her questioningly. They hadn't been modest while they spent time bathing, and Zoey had yet to see a tattoo on Athena's skin. In response to her questioning look, Athena grinned and winked at her as she brushed a hand down the center of her chest. Zoey blushed for a second but then was startled as Athena's skin seemed to glow with magic before a tattoo slowly was revealed on her skin as the mirage was dispelled. The tattoo depicted a winged serpent that was coiled provocatively around a staff that was tattooed along the length of her sternum. The serpent's wings were spread wide over the upper left and right sides of her chest, and Zoey could instantly see the similarities between that serpent, and the one that was coiled around the emblem on her tattoo. They were identical in every way except that Athena's serpent had wings.
The most important thing though, was that Zoey could now feel a link that was not there before between her tattoo and Athena's tattoo! The link was not nearly as strong as her link with Vididi, but it was still noticeable. Athena threw back her head and laughed when she saw the realization dawn on Zoey's face.
"I never would have guessed that the one person I would run in to out here would just so happen to be a fellow sister!" Athena voiced her enthusiasm at their newly discovered connection as she wrapped Zoey in a surprise hug. Zoey managed to struggle away from the grinning Athena as she blushed bright red from the unexpected physical contact.
"What do you mean by fellow sister?" Zoey asked as she sank lower into the water to hide her embarrassment.
"I know you can feel it too," Athena replied with a smile, "That serpent is the sign of Sethrii, the goddess of wisdom and strategy. We are both marked as her children, and therefore have a connection as sisters through her! Although, I am more senior than you as you can see by my wings!" Athena puffed out her chest to make her point, causing Zoey to avert her eyes, which in turn made Athena laugh at her shyness.
"So, it's like a religious cult?" Zoey asked cautiously.
"More like a organization of sisters that help each other out when they can," Athena replied with a smile. "There is no leadership or ritual sacrifice or anything… but there is an initiation that you will need to go through," Athena said with a mischievous smile.
Zoey looked at her warily, "And what would that be?"
"I'll show you!" Athena declared as she pounced at Zoey through the water.
For the next few minutes the hidden hot spring was filled with screams and laughter as Zoey struggled to avoid the repeated attempts by Athena to grab her. Viridi of course was useless as she had found herself a place to sunbathe and had ignored everything else since then. Athena was thoroughly enjoying Zoey's futile attempts to escape and her obvious blushing as she tried to avoid contact from her new friend. Despite only meeting today, they had a connection through their tattoos, and a chemistry that seemed to draw them to each other. Regardless of all the defenses Zoey had set up, and her shyness towards the more free and unbridled Athena, she was still finding herself drawn to the energy and soul of the other woman.
Maybe having another friend would not so bad after all.