~*Year 6 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
“Ugh.” Another blow hit me relentlessly. No doubt, I’d feel it the next day.
Still, I was convinced that I was stronger but I was also a head taller than him. And he was fast, incredibly fast. We almost equaled each other, both of us had to take a lot.
Well, that’s your reward for showing off when he won hands down against Simachion. But you couldn’t let your personal student down, could you?
Never had I been so tempted to watch an opponent’s arms rather than his eyes – the worst mistake one could make.
I had to stop that at last and for that, one of us had to end up in the dust. None of us would back down voluntarily. I put up with receiving another hit. My shoulder felt as if it would burst. In the next moment I attacked for my part and used my opponent’s power against him, ridding him of his balance.
Quicker than any of us could think he was on the ground, breathing heavily. My higher weight had finally paid off.
“You- are good,” I admitted. “Haven’t had such a tough- fight for a long- time.”
“Me either.” He stayed at the soil for a moment, panting for air as did I.
When he tried to get up, I offered him my hand. If he wanted, we would part as friends. Apparently he saw it the same way.
“Are you- a prince or champion where you- come from?”
“Not really. I just- happen to have- a lot of- practice.”
“Oh well, I have that too.”
“I got a- younger brother who loved- being engaged in fights.”
“You do? Must be- exhausting. My father has trained me- since I was a boy. So what’s your name, stranger? I do like- to know the names of the men I fought. Especially when they excelled.”
“Weird name. Which tribe are you from, Vince?”
“It’s pretty small and called Burton.”
“So, officially you are Vince of Burton?”
Something flashed knowingly in his alert green eyes. “I guess you can call me that, yeah.”
“I am Serkon, king of Dekanos and son of Nikomedes. You can tell your tribe you have fought bravely against a king.”
“No doubt that I will,” he replied smiling. “But in honesty, I’m finally going to leave now. There’s still a long way ahead of me and my wife and children are waiting at home.”
“Send them my best regards. Farewell, Vince. May the Gods bless you.” It was an old phrase and even though I didn’t need any gods to lead my life, this was a matter of courtesy.
“May they bless you as well, Serkon of Dekanos.”
The moment he turned and went away, I noticed that no one was standing around us any more. They were all gone. My search for them didn’t last long; all too soon I had spotted some newcomers.
Penthesilea. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw whom she had brought with her.
A tiny girl. And the slave. How dared she?
Everyone pretended to have forgotten or not to care. Even Simachion just shot the man a frown. The Borathions didn’t pay attention to him at all, as if he wasn’t there.
“Is this lovely girl your daughter?,” Iasion of Borathion asked the Amazon.
Hypocrite. Who else should she be? Why was she here in the first place? She didn’t belong here.
All the fuss they made over the child and its mother. As if they weren’t going to have such little ones on their own in a couple of summers. Even those who already had. I sneered and went for a punching bag. Just the right thing to distract myself from the uncommon visitors.
They stayed closer than I was comfortable with. And louder, I could hear them. Him talking with the girl and watching her, sometimes peeking at me timidly. I didn’t really want to make another scene Evandros could take me to task for so I deliberately ignored them.
Soon my skin was covered by sweat. Another blow. Another one. It was tiring after the fight earlier and something still stung in my shoulder. My hands were numbed by the power of my strikes. All of my concentration was focused on the lifeless opponent before me and the next movement.
The child was still sitting at the bare soil near to my punching bag and talked to itself but the slave was gone and I couldn’t spot him anywhere.
I waited for him to return. He didn’t. More time passed, I threw a few more halfhearted punches at the bag. Still not back. A couple of kicks. No slave far and wide.
Massaging my hands, I watched the girl standing up, finally bored by talking to herself, and being about to cross the drill ground in its full length.
Even though she was the Amazon’s child, I couldn’t let her stray where a bunch of warriors were practicing their fighting skills in pairs.
A creature as tiny as her could easily be overlooked and who knows how fragile those little humans were when a man’s foot hit them by accident.
So I barred her way, arms crossed. “Stay here, girl.”
No sign of fear. Interesting. When she looked up at me our eyes met, she had those of her mother and her straight gaze.
And then she sidestepped me silently, still heading toward the fighters.
“No,” I commanded determinedly and stopped her with my foot, cursing the slave who had left the child unwatched for so long. Her immediate reaction was astonishing.
“Let me through!,” she yelled and hit my knee with her tiny hand. This helpless child hit me! Considering that only a handful of adults dared to do as much as address me without my permission…
She looked straight into my eyes. “Yes. Let me through!”
An angry cry, then her hands thumped my legs. “Yesyesyesyesyes!”
Embarrassed, I grabbed her wrists. Nobody paid us attention. Good. The king of Dekanos being attacked by a furious toddler girl and not capable of handling her. There were without doubt more glorious situations. In addition, tears began to form in her eyes. Tears of rage.
“Let me go!” Crying was the last thing I wanted to add to the moment so I untightened my grip.
“Only if you’re a good girl and promise not to go anywhere, will you?”
“But I forbid it.”
“You can’t. I’m a princess.”
“Well, but I’m a king so I can.”
Obviously, she was pondering whether I was lying or not. If girls of her age could already do that, I had no clue. Finally, she gave in.
“Fine.” But I still didn’t dare to leave her alone.
“Where’s that slave who looked after you?” By the movement of her head I could tell that she didn’t understand. Or didn't know where he was.
“The slave.” Damn, what was his name? “The man with the brown hair.” Still no answer.
Did I want to keep an eye on her for the rest of the day? Certainly not, the warriors would laugh at me behind my back and the other leaders face to face. That was a slave’s duty but since the bastard appeared to have forgotten his…
“I’ll bring you to your mother.” Should she see to her daughter’s welfare if she wasn’t able to choose obedient servants.
“No! Nonononono!” A remarkable amount of energy burst out of the little child in front of me. “I don’t wanna!”
By the gods. Where had I maneuvered myself into? It was high time that I got rid of this bundle of pure anger. She had definitely inherited her mother’s temper although this woman was rather restrained on the outside. But I’d gotten to know her better than that. Unfortunately.
“Alright.” I lifted her. “Heard you, now let’s go.”
“Let me down!," she screeched.
It was a strange feeling that someone hit me and it didn’t hurt at all. “Down! Now!” Did I hold her too tightly? Yet that was still better than letting her fall because she struggled too much, right?
“You must teach your slave a lesson or two about duty. He let her alone in a place as dangerous as this, even though she shouldn’t be here in the first place.” The girl in my arms calmed down as soon as she sensed the anger with which I addressed her mother.
She better, because she was the reason why I was forced to speak with that woman again.
The black-haired girl she’d stolen from Evandros got up quickly. “Give her to me, my king. I’ll see after her.” I handed the child over and was about to leave immediately when the Amazon called out for me.
“What’s the matter?”
She looked neither insolent or too intimate now, but… not unfriendly. Maybe a bit melancholic.
“Now that you’ve broken your silence, what would you think of a fight? For training. No one’s as good a training partner as you.”
It wasn’t a plea. Not an order. Just a proposition from one warrior to another. A fight in the state of boiling anger I found myself in? Being actually allowed to strike her?
“Alright. For training.” We had done this countless times before, but this time it was different. Sure, as always she tried to block my blows, to duck down before them or to attack in return.
However, she was hopelessly inferior. My fists landed on her shoulders, in her face. Once even my knee in her stomach which made her convulse in surprise.
Yet an astounded, sharp breath was all I’d hear of her. Every move was self-acting, an instinct. When I sensed her hand flying toward me, I already knew how to parry in order to achieve the best conditions for a counterstrike.
Suddenly, her voice woke me up. “Serkon, please. I can’t breathe.” The fact that I was holding her by her throat sacked into my mind. The Borathions already began to demand to let go of her.
I did. She gasped for air.
“Thank you.” A bloody weal stretched across her bridge. Was that my doing? It seemed that nobody was training any more. Everyone had watched us, some in shock, others with glee.
Even the twofold undutiful slave had re-appeared and was standing somewhat aside next to the black-haired woman and the child, horror written in his face. He looked away noticing my attention.
I turned to the woman face to face. She still breathed heavily. “Count yourself lucky that you’re a queen and he’s a slave. It’d be beneath my dignity to put hand on either of you.”
Thus I left her. Not taking heed of the bystanders who rushed to give way. A last glance back at the girl whom her mother received in her arms in that very moment, pressing the little body against her chest, burrowing her mouth and nose into the child’s dark hair.
The fearless girl with the familiar hair color.
Poses by Rinvalee, aoihana2510, matchagreenmidori, beverlyallitsims (here and here), akuiyumi, Wistful Castle, Quiddity and The Goncalves
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
Vince of Burton does sound like a weird name in your opinion? Well, maybe Vincent Burton would sound better. Somehow Bugsie2016 and I ended up making spontaneous plans with her gen 2 legacy spare. So if you want to meet Vince again (with a bit less hair but still the same boxing skills), have a look at her Burton Legacy.