Penthesilea had a hard time heading toward the Arythion royal residence.
Everything had begun there, that very night at the wedding. She had been thinking a lot the past days, praying a lot. And the Goddess had answered, only not in the way the queen would have liked.
This place would end all the quarrels, too. At least that was what she would try to achieve.
Evandros was praying but eventually turned around and didn’t seem all too suprised to see her. He had awaited her after all.
“Penthesilea,” he greeted her with sincere kindness. “Let us go somewhere else where it is more comfortable for a talk.”
She was fine with that. A temple wasn’t really the place where she wanted to discuss sensible matters. The king led her into an exquisite building with a huge water basin in its middle lined with columns, a marmoreal floor and blue tiles covering the walls. Everything was perfectly neat and lilies peacefully floated on the clear water.
“This is a wonderful bathhouse,” she admitted with honest admiration.
“It is indeed.” Evandros overlooked the building proudly before he sat down.
“My father built it. We can afford it because we are living in peace. All our wealth results therefrom. Peace and cooperation. If you would have plainly told us that you need help with the child we could have thought of a solution.”
Of course he was right. But she had needed an actual tribe member even more urgently than a provider.
“It is quite difficult for an Amazon to realize that men can also be allies or accept their help at that. For all my life, I have known men as enemies and coming here was a whole new experience to me. I assume I just did not know how to cope with you.”
“This is exactly what you must learn. Think in a different way otherwise you will not have a future here. Zeuxippe has rethought. And believe me: if you do try, we will be there to lend a hand if you need one.” He lifted his arm and clenched his fist. “Solidarity is what has kept us alive the suns from the plague on. It is our strength.”
Penthesilea waited for a moment. “I know now. After all, solidarity is not a foreign concept to my people, just not with… men. I recognize my failures and will do anything you impose on me. But I hope you understand that I can not marry Serkon or anyone else.”
Unexpectedly, Evandros laughed. “Well, he would not consent anyway. He is not one of the marrying kind.” Holding his face toward the sky, he sighed. “If I recall how much I was in love with my beautiful young bride when I married…”
“I still am.”
“And she has given me two wonderful children. I don’t want to miss either of them.”
“I even hold my son-in-law in the temple for longer than necessary only to have my daughter visit me. She often does and thus delights me.” A boyish grin entered his face. “Very selfish, I know but I can not help myself.”
“Everyone is part of a self-seeker in either way, I guess.” The Arythion nodded in consent.
“This is our blessing and our curse. Still, we have to choose the extent of our selfishness and adapt to our fellow men. Mostly we can survive without them but live only hand in hand. And so must you.”
“Just tell me what I have to do.”
“I am afraid I must insist that you sort things out with Serkon immediately.”
There it was. The demand she had feared.
“The council’s members believed him to know what he was doing back then when you started, but I am not so sure any more. As we all know, your goddess’s laws forbid you to continue your relationship. If you do not want to anger the immortals, abide by their rules and end it before anything gets too sensible. Otherwise, talk it out and bear Serkon's heir if he still wants you to. That is the least you can do after disgracing him in such a manner.”
Bearing his child? His potential second child, if this one was a girl? Maybe a third or a fourth? That would mean another offense to the Goddess. Unless… There was one way.
In some tribes, a queen was allowed to choose a consort among the men, usually the master slave. Laws differed after that, though. Some tribes allowed the queen to have more than one child with this particular slave, others only abolished the sacrifice for him so he could live until he died of old age.
But it was unheard of in the history of Amazons that the consort of the queen could be a free man as well.
“I fear I do not have a choice in this matter,” she finally stated.
The king sensed her tenseness. “Well, there is a huge chance that he refuses this offer. He has his honor and pride.”
Especially if my daughter or son will show any resemblance to Haimon.
“Neither way will please him. Is there no other possibility?”
“Would you accept my advise? Let him decide which one he prefers. That would only be fair.”
“Yes, I assume you are right. So he will choose. At least that is a prospect I will hopefully be able to live with.”
“-we will all be able to live with,” he corrected.
“Yes. That is what I meant. I still must get used to the fact that we are not the only ones taking part in a decision.” For a while, silence fell over them like a heavy curtain.
“Surely you will be glad to learn that Echion has been executed yesterday in the evening although he claims that his wife is pregnant at last. But there is no place for murderers and conspirers here and he will not be an exception.”
“Has he given you the name of the man behind him?”
“No. But leave this matter to me. This will be far more effective than if you took it in your hand.”
“The council does still not trust you again.” And so do you. The unspoken called forth another unpleasing silence. Then, Penthesilea raised her voice. One of the most uncomfortable parts had to follow yet.
“Still, there is one problem left that must be discussed if I am ever to find peace here.” She hesitated.
“It concerns Zeuxippe.”
Pose by Rinvalee