Phyllis’ high laugh echoed over the compound as Protego captured and tickled her. Soon, his low voice blended with the girl’s one during her counter attack as he tried to squirm free of her grip.
“…but Labdake fought in vain,” Io recited. “Exhausted from the battle with his guards, she wasn’t able to stand against her rested enemy. Mercilessly, his sword came closer to her throat with each strike whereas hers were blocked with ease.”
“Nooo,” Phyllis squealed in delight, lifted into the air and struggling with both, hands and feet. “Let go of meee!”
“ ‘Never!’, evil lord Memnon exclaimed, ‘you will be my prize of victory at home in my palace in Cratos,’ and he sent her to the ground with the next blow. ‘Now you will serve as my personal slave for the rest of your life!,’ he triumphed.”
With quite an effort, Protego tossed his daughter over the shoulder. Still screaming, she tried to get something into her grasp to prevent herself from falling.
“In her despair, Labdake addressed the Goddess in a prayer. ‘Have I not always served you well, Queen of Everything? Please, turn your face onto my misery now and spare your daughter the shameful fate of slavery!’
‘Ha, you will never escape my grip,’ Memnon fleered but the Goddess had heard the heroine’s plea and took pity on her. So she animated the warrioress’s dear and trusted slave, Kisseus, to sneak into the back of the dreadful king and run his mistress’s long dagger deep into his flesh.
And the Goddess herself led the blade. Meanwhile, Labdake straightened her back in front of her archenemy.
‘Let the tale of the death of Memnon, Dark King of Cratos, be told throughout the kingdoms of men to instill fear in every male heart before the great Goddess and her children.’ And raising the same dagger her slave had yielded, she ended the gruesome man’s life.”
Dramatically, Protego let himself fall onto the soil. Arms waving through the air, Phyllis beamed at Io. “Have you seen? I’ve won! I’ve won!” The provider smiled leniently and finished the story.
“To reward the loyal slave, the Goddess granted his soul to be freed after his death, as the first one of all slaves who gained freedom in the sacred waters after him. Thus it came about that she chooses her servants from the spirits of men who have lived and died in honorable servitude.”
Suddenly, her face became thoughtful while she stroked over her rounding belly. “And the legend tells us that the Goddess cares for her children.”
“Another one, another one, another one!,” Phyllis demanded jumping up and down.
“Io is tired, darling,” Protego gently tried to calm her down. “After all she must carry a child all day and you only have yourself to move.”
It was so good to see the girl not plagued by nightmares and scaring thoughts for once. The younger princess was quite sensitive and fearful. However – watching them, Penthesilea felt a small stir.
Actually, she shouldn’t allow father and daughter such a close contact. Not only because it was simply not appropriate, but because of Protego’s age as well.
According to the legend of Labdake, the Goddess chose her servants among the deceased Amazon slaves. To ensure that they’d meet the Goddess’s demands, they weren’t allowed to pass their fiftieth summer. Under no circumstances she wanted to insult the Goddess by depriving her of a potential attendant.
She already knew that the sacrifice of both slaves would be delayed as long as possible but when that day would come, it would hit her hard. They had the resources to buy one slave, even a rather good one. But Protego and Haimon had to be around the same age, and replacing two men at once was a luxury she couldn’t afford yet. Not to mention that Lyta might want to breed sooner than that.
So she had been utmost grateful when Alexander had proposed the Council to build a new and better equipped drill ground. Although his offer highly resembled a bribe for their sympathy, it worked astoundingly well. For herself, the part of it that attracted her the most was Alexander's suggestion that each tribe would send some of their slaves to push on the construction – for a small reward from the treasure chambers of Arythion. To keep up with the household and compound, she was limited to send only Haimon but the gold was most welcome.
And it had other pleasant effects as well. At the days when one of the other slave groups was at work, the redhead was unusually calm and easy to handle, sleeping almost each afternoon instead of getting into nerve-wracking fights with Lyta or scaring Phyllis.
That day wasn't much different. He was occupying one of the stone benches while Io, Phyllis and Protego still fooled around at the other. It was beyond her comprehension how he would be able to nap next to such a noise, but he looked almost peaceful.
Although he wasn’t always, and the incident at the construction site quite a few days ago reminded the daughter of Thestia of that again.
After that, she had forbidden him to speak with Io – what he seemed to resent her. However, she preferred not to give anyone reason to suspect that Machaon’s accusations were true. In truth, part of her was glad that he had defended her friend’s honor and while she believed her tribe member’s frequent promises of his innocence, the entire affair was rather embarrassing nonetheless. No other slave had shamed his owner in public with misbehavior, and the fact that the victim had been Zeuxippe’s master slave was even more uncomfortable. Of all people, it had to hit her former opponent.
To Penthesilea’s and the foremens’ luck, the Orcheon had shown herself quite placable.
“Machaon has already fulfilled his purpose and a broken nose won’t make him any uglier than he already is.”
Similarly, she had waved Penthesilea’s offer for compensation aside. “As long as he can still keep house no losses will arise for me. But,” she had added, “you should earnestly consider if your slave’s behavior is fit for the contact with your daughters, especially little Phyllis.”
Having spent a thought on the matter, Penthesilea had indeed forbidden Haimon to come close to the princesses ever again. Which was difficult enough to realize under the circumstances of their small quarters.
Suddenly, something set motion into the group around Io. Head lowered submissively, Protego scurried into the provider’s hut and Phyllis stared after him incredulously.
“Can you spare the time for a short talk?”
“Of course,” Penthesilea answered her fellow queen and gestured her inside her own hut. “I’m sorry, if I’d known that you would pay me a visit I would have sent him elsewhere.” Zeuxippe and her had made the silent agreement that she would never meet Protego. Too many bad memories and rivalries were still connected to him.
“It’s alright,” the other queen assured, obviously tense despite her words. She stopped, reverently touching the statue of the Goddess that protected the little compound.
“Do you remember Echion and the prize he got for his blasphemous assault on you?”
“Of course.” How could anyone forget when they had been victim of such a deed.
“His son grew up without father for this crime. Murderers are executed here.”
“Aren’t they everywhere? They’re a threat for their tribe members and law doesn’t tolerate turning against sisters either.”
With a serious expression on her face, the other queen nodded. “The second worst crime after insulting the Goddess.” After a deep breath, she resumed. “Machaon has died today.”
“Die-” By the Goddess! There hadn’t been any signs that Zeuxippe’s slave would… “How?”
The Orcheon sought her gaze. “My healer is convinced the nose fracture is responsible. Sure, it’s uncommon but it has been heard of such cases.”
“So… It’s Haimon’s fault? I- that comes unexpected. I am sorry,” she stuttered, “That was certainly not his intention. Of course I’ll bear any costs he caused, and be it for a new slave.” Ashamed of the escalation, Penthesilea hid her face for a moment. “This… is embarrassing. Truly, if I had suspected that...”
Everything lost after a thoughtless punch. Finally enough warriors attended the training to make a bit more than her tribe’s living. Suddenly, her aims had moved beyond reach. Good slaves were expensive, especially ones that had been educated to become master slave.
“Who would have suspected?,” Zeuxippe pondered. “When I didn’t send him to work for a few days because he complained about sickness and fever I wondered if that proceeding was overcautious. As it seems...” She interrupted herself. “By the Goddess, your Haimon is dangerous.”
The remark clung to Penthesilea, sunk its ugly fangs into her mind. Dangerous? Quick to anger, yes. Hard to handle. Resentful. But did that make him dangerous?
Her friend stopped the thoughts. “Well, you know, you don’t need to give me any gold. Either do I have need of any, nor would I accept it. Just…” Zeuxippe paused for a moment and gulped. “If he wasn’t Rheia’s father, I wouldn’t even bother.”
“It was long past his time, but she will be upset regardless. The Council will turn against you as well if you don’t serve up justice.”
Penthesilea gulped, too. The imagination of executing Haimon alone sufficed to cause uneasiness. She had already settled with the certainty that she’d have him for a few more suns… Even if it meant regular outbursts and bad blood. In the meantime she had come to peace with reprimanding him daily if he made up for it in the evening.
But beyond her own wishes, Zeuxippe was right. The other leaders wouldn’t understand why she spared a troublemaker and murderer. And she didn’t possess Alexander’s favor as much as she had had his father’s.
What was even more, not bringing the culprit to justice would let ill linger between her and her fellow queen. The most significant ally she could count hers would be taken from her.
Rheia was only a sun younger than Hippolyta and her own heiress practically worshiped her father. She would have been heartbroken if Serkon had died.
Was there really no way to make up for her loss apart from the inevitable punishment? If Zeuxippe denied gold, what else could appease her?
Returning Protego? Penthesilea doubted that she would still want him, knowing he had laid with another woman and had a daughter with her. And that he didn’t have more than a few summers left until the Goddess would claim his soul.
The realization of what – who – could compensate for the wrong he had inflicted himself befell her all of a sudden.
“If… you don’t want gold, I’d like to propose something else,” she began, still hesitantly. “Take Haimon to breed with one of your warriors, and-” Every single word tore on her heart, left it raw but she forced herself to continue, merely whispering, “-and you don’t have to pay for his ransom.”
In an instant, the Orcheon was all attentive. “Give him the deserved punishment and let him be useful at last?”
“This is quite an appealing thought. I know you hold him dearly – maybe too dearly.” For the blink of an eye, a wistful gaze flew toward Io’s hut in which Protego had disappeared. “But I see you desperately want to do me good in some way and therefore, I accept your offer.”
She laid her hand onto Penthesilea’s shoulder. “Better the slaves than any of our tribe members.”
Sudden regret washed over the daughter of Thestia when she thought of the redhead sleeping unsuspectingly in front of the hut.
Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that there is no blood in the fight scenes. Because we're in Phyllis imagination and she's still young and pestered by nightmares, so her conscious mind will avoid brutalities. The story Io tells is already the harmless version but Lyta did hear the original when she was in Phyllis' age. I don't know why Amazons keep doing this to their children under the pretense to toughen them.
Poses by Mysterysims, simquin, r-jayden, Quiddity-Jones, WyattsSims, MrsRacooney, aoihana2510, nagallz, ratboysims, joannebernice, orangemittens, Something Wicked Sims, sim-plyreality (here and here), Rinvalee and Andromeda Sims