I haven't been able to bring up enough inspiration to write the new chapter and there are a few things anyway that need to be told. So here you go with an extra and some extremely adorable toddler pictures at the end. Enjoy!
In many ways, this pregnancy healed all scars the queen had carried away from the first one. The other leaders were delighted and even Zeuxippe and Serkon managed to congratulate at least half-heartedly in the attempt to keep up a brave face. Having a provider already, the mother-to-be knew she would be taken good care of until and when the birth arrived. This time, Evandros went even a step further and promised to send her the Arythion royal physician for support, in recognition of that the youngest tribe still couldn't afford one on their own. Penthesilea wasn't exactly pleased that a man should assist her - and had she not born a girl already without any outside help? - but she accepted the generous offer with gratefulness.
Was it because she had already endured a pregnancy once, because she was several suns older or less tense in general due to a more relaxed situation? In addition, news brought great joy: Boras' wife Niara had finally conceived again in an age long past the best summers of a woman and had given him the long-awaited heir for whom the old king had already given up hope suns ago. Her friend's excitement rubbed off.
Either way, Penthesilea’s heart was filled with pure delight when she held the tiny bundle in her arms at last. Evandros’ physician had done a good job and alleviated the birth immensely.
Hippolyta eyed her sister suspiciously while she patted the vulnerable little head.
“Why is she so little? Won't she play with me?,” she asked, a drop of disappointment in her voice.
Her impatience put a smile on her mother's face. “Yes, but it will take a while until she can. Don't forget you used to be that size too.”
“Never,” the young princess exclaimed with self-assurance, “I can't remember that!”
“Well, but I can,” the queen smirked.
The girl was extraordinarily sweet with the little one. In the past moons she had caused quite an amount of sorrow taunting the slaves - both of them, although Haimon and her were still like fire and water. But while holding the newborn, she was rather too careful than anything else and constantly asked whether she was doing everything right. More than once the tribe members saw her just standing in front of the crib and watching her sister sleep, one of the rare moments when the heiress fell silent herself. Sometimes she stroke over the baby's cheek, gentle like a soft breeze to prevent hurting it. And increasingly often, they found her eating her meals beside the child, standing only to have a better view.
“Protego!” A friendly smile played on Io's lips when she saw the helpless slave standing in the doorway. “Have you come to see your daughter?” He nodded.
“Come here.” Although she gestured him closer emphatically, he hesitated.
All her kind-hearted self, the provider reassured him. “I do have other responsibilities that get neglected through childcare. Would you look after her for some time? Please, do me that favor?”
“Uh... sure, yes.” Willingness certainly sounded differently. But Io beamed and hurried to leave. Already from outside the hut, she turned for a last time, winking at Protego. “By the way, her name is Phyllis.”
The startled slave stared after her. After a while, his gaze traveled toward the crib and drew the man with it. A step away from the cradle, he stopped to venture a peek into it.
“Well, Phyllis,” he whispered almost inaudibly. “Leaf. Or almond tree. Neither meaning is as heroic as the name of your sister.” His hand reached out for the baby but stopped even before it touched her.
“How's it possible that a human is so... incredibly tiny… You- you’d be better off with another father. Or another mother.” He gulped. “There once was a time when it was most questionable that I'd ever have a child but all the more I wished for one... Death barely spared me twice, I’ve been lover to two queens and lost the one- the one I loved.”
“That… That’s all you might need to know. There’s not much left now. In fact,” he gulped, “you’re pretty much everything.”
Overcautious, his hand drew nearer to the girl. Within closest range a tiny fist dashed forward and clutched one of his fingers, holding on to it with a strength that seemed impossible regarding the child's size.
Protego moaned quietly. “How can it hurt so much to love you?” When he looked at Phyllis once again, she moved aimlessly in her cushions but never untightened her grip. “Do you seek someone to protect you? Don’t worry, the queen will do fine with that. But… if she ever doesn’t… Promise, I’ll do my best.”
Slowly he bent over, planted a soft kiss at the girl’s forehead and drew his finger away. Then, he sank to his knees and silently shed the last tears of farewell for the woman he loved and for the sake of this little girl who was part of him but not part of Zeuxippe, too.
And maybe, maybe among all those tears there were one or two of joy as well over the daughter he had gained from all his loss at long last and who laid in her little bed, fixating him with her dreamful brown eyes as quietly as if she knew that he loved her nonetheless.
Usually, I find myself ending up taking way too many pictures of Haimon. This time *dramatical music* everything was different. I go as far as to claim that Phyllis is an even cuter toddler than Lyta. And because we won't be able to enjoy her so tiny for long and because during the shoot, she constantly made me feel the urge to cuddle her - more pictures. ;D
First of all, she was properly welcomed to that world. Her very own father was autonomously being a little drama queen...
Haimon: "Why do we have to have another child? Can't we just buy a dog instead like other - sane - people do?"
Lyta: "So much stupidity hurts."
He should be careful, though. He looks way too good taking care of a baby to not consider him having one on his own.
Apart from him, everyone loves little Phyllis and seeks her attention and company. As wild and self-assured as Lyta was, as innocent and angelic is Phyllis. A real therapy from exhausting toddlers, really.
She adores her father.
And Protego adores her back. Well, who wouldn't have foreseen that?
She also adores her seven years older, very cool sister and practically worships her.
For her part, Lyta adores being worshipped. Having a younger sister who is easy to impress is awesome!
Sometimes I wonder whether Amazon children are growing up being constantly traumatized. But as long as they look like that when their mother and master slave are having, uh, business in the bush right before their eyes, I guess everything is fine. She still doesn't understand.
Although this might be the reason why Haimon isn't too fond of her, either. But then again, Haimon is Haimon and he just doesn't like children. None of them.
While Lyta's main job has been keeping the master slave on the toes, Phyllis's one is to look cute. Simply make everyone puke from cuteness and she does great work!
Fulfilling her purpose really satisfies her. Or else I can't interpret this face.