As we're celebrating a double birthday in my family today, you receive two new chapters at once as well. Enjoy, spend sunday with your family or friends and tell them that you love them! ;)
The following moons didn’t bring about any special events. During the days Penthesilea was at the drill ground but less warriors attended. However, Zeuxippe’s group of students diminished as well. Be it because of other duties or the men being tired of the eternal taunts of the two queens – it made Penthesilea appreciate Serkon even more. He stuck by her loyally and probably was the reason why Simachion kept coming and sometimes compelled Amphion or his young clansman Praios to accompany him. Under Serkon’s supervision, the prospective bodyguard made huge progress.
It was all different with the Borathions, though. Iasion and less often, Aias supported Penthesilea because of her friendship with their leader Boras but Phineas absented from the training. Boras must have reprimanded him for backing Zeuxippe and Penthesilea was most grateful for that. If he had been another king, she would have had a bad conscience but she also knew he was the only one who could actually take the liberty to upbraid the other queen. And he even had to sometimes in order to show his superior position.
More and more often, she noticed Zeuxippe’s slave watching and seeking to meet her.
But by and by, his kindness grew into more than that. At first, it displeased her strongly. The Orcheon leader wouldn't like that. Though she began to like the thought of Zeuxippe’s breeding slave being drawn more to her than to his actual creator. Maybe he could prove useful some day so she returned his advances as much as it was necessary not to push him off. After all, he was the easiest way to find out about the other queen's plans although he didn't entrust her those yet.
The nights, she either spent with Serkon or actually slept when the exhaustion of her day’s work overwhelmed her. Excitedly, she awaited the day that would bless her with a pregnancy. But the goddess put her patience to test.
Knowing it was unwise to still call for Haimon sometimes although she didn’t want him to be the father of her heiress, she couldn’t help herself anyway. She would have missed his company far too much.
In the mornings, she longed for the company of a like-minded woman. No man could ever replace a tribal sister with whom she could share her thoughts.
Over time, her relationship with Zeuxippe deteriorated. The other queen withspoke her whenever possible, no matter if it meant insulting her at the drill ground, in the temple or in the council.
Although Penthesilea didn’t respond the daughter of Rheia seemed to be determined to become her worst enemy. While Evandros had once been the only one to bring his bodyguard to the council as a show of force only, one day Zeuxippe showed up with her fiercest warrior who built up behind her threateningly.
Their feud did not only annoy Penthesilea herself but also the other rulers. Deipyros of Chonar and Jason of Vauros both refrained from it, pretending that it bored them. Jason’s son Hepatos whom his father took to the meetings in order for him to learn about how to make politics openly showed his interest. Surely, the dispute was far more fun than the adults’ discussions about trade agreements or temple taxes.
Serkon was rather amused to watch Zeuxippe’s efforts to discredit his lover and didn’t interfere as he knew Penthesilea wouldn’t approve of it. So did Boras. But Evandros eventually got angry about the discord the new queen had brought to his council.
With each time he had to silence the Orcheons’ leader he lost part of his patience.
More than once, Penthesilea had to assure him she wasn’t doing anything to deserve the others wrath.
Except of coquetting with her favorite slave occasionally, she added in her mind. But she doesn’t actually know that.
One morning after Penthesilea had woken up next to Serkon, he began to speak unexpectedly.
“You must talk things over with Zeuxippe. Evandros is extremely annoyed and won’t let you carry on like that.” Penthesilea jumped out of bed and turned her back on him.
“Do you think she will make it that easy after she’s been taunting me for moons?”
“Certainly not. And believe me, I must know.” After a moment of silence, he added: “I kind of grew up with her.”
“So what does make you believe she will ever do as much as only listen to me?”
“Same reason why I propose this to you: because Evandros will impose a sanction on both of you if you don’t at least calm yourselves.”
The Amazon crossed her arms in front of her chest. Actually, she already knew that Serkon’s advice was the only way out in the moment.
“She’ll laugh right into my face and call me a coward.”
Despite her reluctance, he seemed to be confident. “Of course she will. But it’s her only chance as well. And Evandros would reward you if you made the first step.”
“He wouldn’t. Admit it: all of the other leaders will think of me as a craven.”
“Even if, that’d be something you still could make up. And you’ve got me to convince them. And Boras.”
“You can’t imagine how much a woman depends on her reputation when she’s among men as I am now. Sure, I’d be able to cope with them but I’d prefer the diplomatic way.”
“Remember that you’ve beaten me in fight? They haven’t forgotten.”
“Remember you’ve beaten me like, what? A hundred times since then?”
“They haven’t been there then. Not the other kings.”
“The warriors will remember and they’ll despise me. I don’t need any more Echions out there. What am I to do if I lose them? I can’t set up anything for trade on my own. Alone.” Finally, she turned to him. “But I’ll do it anyway. Seems like I have no choice.”
She poked him at the chest. “And I count on you if anything doesn’t go well.” He grinned impishly.
This chapter has an extra screenshot in the gallery