“No, it is none of you.” That statement appeared to put the rulers at least somewhat to ease.
“Well spoken. Now, summon the murderer for I hardly believe that one of my clansmen would ever take part in such a despicable deed.”
Echion was all defiant and stood up even against his king, shouting at him and revealing either the source of his order nor anything else, just accusing Penthesilea of disrespect – which admittedly was true – and Evandros of lack of recognition for his, Echion’s, efforts ever since.
Suddenly a sharp pain in her stomach overwhelmed Penthesilea and she felt it harden. Breathing became difficult. Io had told her that that was common but this time it was so strong... With one hand she covered her face in humiliation before the kings as the other one slid to the aching part of her body and she bent forward to ease the pain.
Not now, she desperately pleaded with the Goddess. And not so soon. She has still a moon to go.
Her prayers seemed to be listened to. The pain and shortage of breath passed but not unnoticed by the others. Serkon quit his resentment toward her in the blink of an eye, leaped up and led her to one of the stone seats, urging her to sit down.
“It is nothing,” she raised her hand to push him away. “I am pregnant, not ill.”
But the incident had apparently broken the ice. Evandros and Boras were concerned and the Borathion even wore his smile again. Both were fathers and husbands after all and in this very moment, it was the life of a potential heir of Dekanos that mattered most.
“You’re right, that is nothing. My wife always wailed that the whole palace could hear it in the last stage of her being with child. Either you're quite brave or she simply exaggerated. How many moons is it now? Six? Eight?”
“Nine, actually.” Had it really been that long since she had attended a council’s meeting for the last time? Since Serkon had looked at her the same way he did now? How had she been able to bear being ignored by everyone? It was that moment when she realized that she had indeed felt very lonely all the time. It was good to have someone around except for her provider to worry about her.
Just like Boras with his motherly gaze. Rather fatherly, considering that he was a man. Did men have a fatherly gaze? But so – fatherly – sounded his advice.
“You should rest. Stop training, at least until the baby is born. There was much excitement for you during the past few moons.”
“I’ll accompany you home and post my bodyguard in front of your house. Nobody will pass him,” Serkon proposed and made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate any protest.
“There are still some things I would like to discuss with you in private, Evandros.” Now was the time or never. The addressed one took place at her side.
“Look, Boras and Serkon are right. You must go home and take a rest. We will discuss the affair with Io later. Just come when you feel better.”
“As you wish.” She knew she couldn’t disagree with them again. Not so soon after the fragile break-through. And she had to admit it was quite enjoyable to walk home beside Serkon once more.
He did worry for the child. And even for her.
It would be a huge problem to abide to the law that destined a creator’s sons to sacrifice to prevent them from usurping the throne. All the more because for the first time in her life, she wasn’t sure she wanted that anyway.
Serkon stayed with her the whole day and she didn’t object when he sat down at her bed in the evening. It was late already and Penthesilea exhausted from the confrontation in the morning and the excitement the night before.
When she laid down, Serkon touched her chin gently and whispered: “I can’t imagine that anyone wants to hurt you.”
“Please. I’m tired to death. Just let me sleep tonight.” Even though she hadn't apologized yet her lover seemed to have forgotten the reason for their quarrel. Or perhaps he had really forgiven her.
“Alright.” He was closer to her than ever the eight moons before and his embrace still didn’t feel the same again. And even though she'd done a decent job to look after her child's health alone for many moons she wouldn’t argue that night. Beyond that, wasn't it what she had secretly wished for for all those lonely nights?
“You know that if anyone comes tonight, they will die.”
“Yes, I do. Thank you. But now, please, Serkon, let me sleep.”
And he did. At least she could tell by the rhythm of his rising and falling chest that he was still awake, guarding her sleep when she began to drift off.
This time, there would undoubtedly be nothing to worry about.
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery