This chapter is a short one and was written to elaborate the character and reactions of Zeuxippe for myself. It contains information you will discover soon anyway. However, some of you might like to read it.
Since originally it was only a study and my laptop is still not back from repair after a month now, I didn't have the chance to take screenshots. I sincerely apologize for that but can't predict when my laptop will be back, so I post this now. If you want to read it already, just go ahead. If you want to save it for the time when I will have added pictures, skip it.
I was about to take my boots off when someone knocked at the door.
“Come in!” Although I wasn't really surprised that it was Protego it was an unusual situation. Normally he didn't come to see me without my request even though he knew he always could. That was probably the last thing I would ever punish him for, even after trying to cook. But that was quite a serious matter since he would rather unintentionally poison all of us than manage to create anything edible. I used to laugh about that a lot.
“What's the matter?” Despite my kind tone he seemed uncomfortable.
“I... I heard you talking to the other queen that morning because I was in here. You know. Cleaning and tidying up.” One of the biggest advantages of owning a breeding slave was that he could take care of my bedroom's tidiness without me having to let Machaon enter it. Already the idea was... disgusting.
My keeping silence brought him to continue. “You had a fight.”
“And she backed down,” I declared with a certain pride.
“Yes, but- she didn't leave. Machaon has probably told you already.”
“I didn't see him today.”
“Well, she didn't leave. So- so I had to admonish her to.” He swallowed. “There were... complications.”
My eyebrow almost lifted itself. Slowly pondering over every word, he spoke on.
“She yelled at me. The way she did... My queen, she hates me.” His gaze fell to the ground and his voice trembled. “Please, my queen. I can't do this any more.”
I looked at him for a long time, but his eyes just wouldn't meet mine.
“No. You're lying. She doesn't hate you, at least you don't know.” Now he turned to me again, showing an anguished face.
That wasn't him. He never lied to me, he never had reason to anyway.
“You're right. I don't know. But she despises you so how could she not hate me too?”
“Why do you try to hide the truth from me? What happened?”
“It's... because it's unbearable to be forced to please her. Because I'm afraid of every single moment that I must spend with her alone.” With a nervous movement, he knelt down beside me and placed his hands on my forearm. “Please forgive me, my queen,” he whispered desperately, “I didn't want to disappoint you.” Touching me this way was an intimate gesture that I only allowed him when no one else was present.
“It's fine. I would be disappointed if you'd like spending time with her.”
“Never,” he assured earnestly, clinging tighter to my arm.
“I know.” Proudly, I stroke over his hair. I knew he liked that. “Nonetheless, try to keep it up just until she indicates that she doesn't wish your presence any more. Then, you can stay here all day. But for so long you will still accompany me to the drill ground and seek her out.”
“My queen, is there no... other way?”
“By the Goddess, it's not that I'd ask you to kiss her. Just charm her a little. Consider it as an order. You don't have such problems to act on them usually.”
“Yes...” He picked up my hand, kissed its back and pressed his forehead against it. His breath was hot and still a bit too irregular.
“Don't be afraid. Take two weeks break, we'll pretend you're ill. You already look so after all. And after that... Just until she sends you away for the first time.”
Claiming that I didn't take pity on him wouldn't be honest. But one thing I knew for sure: Penthesilea should learn how it felt to be denied the thing one desired the most. She had come here and gotten everything for free, every single privilege my ancestresses and I had had to fight for. Only because she wasn't the first Amazon to set foot on these lands? If so, Evandros should have given all the honors to me, descendant of the women who had conquered their place in the council by their very own hands. What had she done except of being born by a mother whose grand name awed people without her own doing?
But in the end, the most important point was that Penthesilea would never bear the child Serkon had denied me. I knew how to prevent that and it was worth a bit of suffering. Someone had to lure her away from the king of Dekanos.
Absent-mindedly, my free hand stroke over Protego's hair again.