So only one man was left. And in this very moment, he stood aside staring through an archway. Lost in thoughts.
It was settled, then. After all, she had already sensed the attraction that drove him near her. Determinedly, she sneaked in his back and put her hands at his chest from behind.
“What are you thinking?,” she whispered in his ear.
Never had she been that close to him, except in fight when it was all different. And it was the first time she touched him this way, too.
“Don’t really know.”
“Are you surprised?”
“Less than I’m probably supposed to be,” he answered and turned around but the Amazon pulled away from him. She didn’t want to start everything in public and certainly not with Zeuxippe keeping jealous watch over her. Just to give him a hint.
Suddenly, someone shouted. “Down, everyone! It’s time for the maiden’s dance!”
“The maiden’s dance?” Penthesilea knitted her brows.
“Don’t be so suspicious. That’s the highlight of today’s celebration. Some young women will perform a ritual dance that shall ensure the Sea God’s blessing for all those who are in love.” Curious by his words, she followed him to the temple’s garden where the guests gathered, including the priests at the opposite side.
“So this is why Evandros has finally come?” She pointed at the Arythions’ leader. “And why he has brought his wife?”
“It is. Think he’s still hoping for a second son. It would secure the throne for his family. Besides, he’s an ambitious man.”
“And you aren’t?”
“Pardon?” He almost made her giggle like a girl because he was so confused being tormented with this question while his thoughts had already been at the dance.
“You don’t have a son yet.”
“Ah, well. I have plenty of time left so I can still enjoy life for a bit longer.”
The water in the deep basins sparkled mysteriously and the sunlight got the warmer the more sunset advanced, bathing the three beautiful young dancers in a gentle red light.
“So what does attract you this much? It’s only three women dancing.” Serkon shot her a meaningful glance.
“Ha! Never underestimate men watching women dance. See the Arythions over there? Amphion’s making a fool of himself staring at the red-haired priestess.” Penthesilea couldn’t deny he was right. For the first time she remembered, she saw Simachion grin watching his friend’s behavior.
“Evandros should reprimand him. Why isn’t he embarrassed at all?”
“Remember it’s a feast for forming unions. First of all, it’s an honor to find love here and I myself am very honored to have a clanswoman dancing along with two Arythions. See the one in the blue dress? She belongs to my tribe.”
It was obvious what he wanted to hear and Penthesilea decided she would do him that favor.
“Pretty indeed. Zeuxippe’s women don’t dance?”
Serkon sneered disgustedly. “They think they’re a cut above the rest.”
“Well, I can understand them. I would never allow a tribe member of mine to expose herself before so many men. Some allurement must remain,” she added fluttering her eyelashes at him.
For the rest of the time, they kept silent and watched the dancers’ grace and skill. Only when most of the guests had already left, Serkon asked Penthesilea whether she had liked the feast.
“Very much,” she smiled. “Thank you for inviting me.”
“There might be a reason to celebrate again, soon. Many of the leaders have daughters ready for marriage.”
“My queen?” A pleasant woman’s voice caught their ears. Chandra, the red-haired priest adept who had been dancing, approached them. Serkon took his leave quickly, obviously disappointed.
“I wanted to invite you over for tomorrow and would be honored if you came.” Penthesilea put her hands on the young woman’s shoulders. How old could she be? Sixteen, seventeen summers at the most.
“I’ll be very glad to do as you’ve asked me.” The young woman beamed in joy.
“That’s great. I’ve always wanted to present my daughter to you.”
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
Now that the topic becomes more important for Penthesilea, I should probably say something about the laws she follows.
In her home tribe, all children were sired by a slave who was sacrificed afterward. However, the men in her new home would probably object to all the sacrifices and furthermore, slaves are rather rare. So she can make use of an old law: a slave can be ransomed from the sacrifice by an amount of gold equaling his worth. The better the slave, the more expensive his life. And of course, the Goddess will always prefer a sacrifice and pour out extra blessing.
Nevertheless, one of the strictest laws is that Amazons are forbidden to have more than one child with the same man, with one exception: a queen may choose a slave as her consort.
Serkon appeared in front of her in the right moment.
“Shall I get you a drink?,” he asked seeing her anger.
Him not posing any uncomfortable question was reassuring and she settled quickly noticing Boras talking to a few others. With Serkon fetching her a drink, she went over to him.
“Boras! You’re here, too? What a pleasure!”
“Guess I can’t escape my duties and have to keep an eye on my young clansmen. The greater is the pleasure to see you here. Surely, you’re not here to watch over someone’s behavior as I do?”
“Not counting that Serkon invited me, not really. I decided to see for myself how you’re feasting.” In this moment, Serkon returned with her drink. Soon, some of the men she taught at the drill ground had spotted her and turned up for a talk. But while it was obvious they were interested in her some of them just appeared to enjoy her company or being seen with her, knowing they hadn’t any chance to become more than a friend at very best.
It was a weird situation for Penthesilea, too. As she had grown up in a tribe of women, she wasn’t used to being surrounded by men mostly and in addition, all of them being free. Despite that, she had to admit she relished being the center of attention and played on it coquetting with the men.
In the meanwhile, Boras was amused by the young peoples’ behavior and therefore took only little part in the conversation, watching them most of the time. When had he been that young, flirting with his wife who was a priestess more than a wife now and got insanely jealous as soon as she knew a woman was near him? This time, she hadn’t even a reason. Having two daughters and one of them old enough to marry, he still delighted in the beauty of young women. But the self-assured princess from a foreign land was like a daughter to him. How much did he wish his own daughter to be like her, radiant and witty. Instead, he had to worry about an appropriate husband. Briefly, he had considered Serkon, sure the king would make a stunning son-in-law but dropped the idea as quickly. If he died without his wife giving him a son, tribe Borathion would have fallen to Serkon and cease to exist. The last thing Boras wanted to even if it meant to settle for less. It wasn’t surprising he was eager to learn about Penthesilea’s plans in this regard and seized the opportunity when she had got rid of her admirers.
“Most of the rulers still hope for an heir since Evandros and old Jason are the only ones whose wives have already born a son. In your case, I believe you would prefer a daughter?”
“Good guess, although not difficult to know.” She smiled.
“I know Zeuxippe tries for many summers now. Are you in a similar hurry to get things clear?” Now, he had her full attention as well as her suspicion. It made him feel honored that she replied anyway though it wasn’t a private matter among nobility but included a political aspect, too.
“I haven’t been thinking much about it yet as in the moment I don’t have a tribe any daughter could inherit. However, I will be up to it in the near future but believe I can push it aside for today.” She took a big swallow of her drink, emptying the glass.
“I’m sorry if I’ve offended you by my curiosity. But some of the leaders are quite desperate about their situation and I wanted to know how you intend to deal with it.” The way she watched him made him clear she had understood his hint.
“You haven’t offended me. It’s only that I haven’t expected that question so soon.” In her head, she went over the list of partner candidates for herself.
Haimon. It was tradition for an Amazon to have a slave sire her children, but was he the right choice?
Then, there was Ranos of Morones, much too giggly and too young, as well. He behaved almost like a boy when she was around.
Iasion was a spur-of-the-moment person but happy-go-lucky, as well. No traits fitting for a future queen. The priest, Alexandros, had the behavior of a womanizer and regarding Serkon’s careless attitude when Alexandros gave her that rose, everyone knew it.
Brawny Julianus of Morones had quite an impressive physique, yet already a wife and daughter too and was all too cocksure of himself.
It was the same with the Arythions she knew: Echion simply was out of question, Evandros, too. Simachion had the essential ambition and patience but didn’t meet her physical ideals with his slender figure. Besides, he never smiled.
His friend, Amphion, wouldn’t be able to live up to any expectation and was with priest adept Chandra, as it appeared. Or they had only drunken too much to care that they were kissing in front of so many people.
Phineas, Boras’ right hand, was the only man who had been able to draw the attention of one of Zeuxippe’s Amazons.
But he just wasn’t the type of man Penthesilea could imagine to have a child with.
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
When she was done with Haimon she sent him down to his basement room.
Never would an Amazon spend a whole night with a man that she hadn't taken before the Goddess to be her consort. With a free man, maybe. As she had never been with one she couldn’t tell. Where she had lived the only men had been slaves. Sighing, she stood up to lock Haimon up as she was sure he would still seize the chance to flee during her sleep.
Time flew. It took moons for the Amazon queen to settle in her task and to be recognized as their teacher by almost all of the warriors. Still, most stopped attending the training with Echion as the first of them. Soon Simachion was the only Arythion who attended regularly, sometimes bringing along young Praios or his friend, Amphion. But the latter one wasn’t made for the hard training Penthesilea imposed on the men.
No woman of Zeuxippe’s tribe ever appeared at the drill ground.
A greater surprise was that Phineas of the Borathions didn’t show up any more. However, the other three adult male members of his tribe still came. Serkon kept coming, too but left his two clansmen at home. Goron was supposed to guard the king’s possessions and Arenos had eventually succeeded in convincing his leader he would never become a warrior. His many failures in training had probably done their part, too.
Anyway, the queen was grateful for Serkon’s support even though she didn’t need it with the few warriors who still remained. But it gave her kind of a legitimization for what she was doing and the time they spent together made her look upon him as her best – and until then only – male friend. It was a somewhat weird feeling to have a man as a confidant. Not that she knew many women to befriend in her new home, anyway.
Then, she was invited to a celebration in the Sea God’s temple.
“It’s for everyone”, Serkon explained. “The only reason is to meet members of the other tribes with the hope of some of the young people to find a spouse. We’re always having lots of fun even if we don’t take it serious. But usually, there are far more men than women.”
“So you’re hoping I would help out and balance this a bit?”
He laughed heartily. “Sure I’m not the only one.”
“Well, I think I’ll attend. I can’t leave you men alone.”
When they got to the temple after training in the afternoon, Penthesilea was surprised.
“Quite an impressive building considering the size of your tribes.”
“Arythions run it, mostly. They still have huge reserves.” But Serkon appeared to be proud of it as well. “Let me introduce you to the priest. He’s one of the most powerful men and certainly the second powerful in whole tribe Arythion what makes him Evandros’ right hand.”
Having spotted the guests, the priest was already on his way to welcome them.
“My, my! If this isn’t Serkon having found a girl at last!,” the man said smirking while his green eyes flashed.
“Let me, Alexandros of Arythion, present you with the symbol of beauty and love in order to assure you the god’s blessing for your union.”
This went much too far and Serkon didn’t object but only stood by, watching and smiling in a silly way.
She decided to accept the rose in order not to insult the priest or, even worse, the god himself. Nevertheless, she rolled her eyes up to the sky.
“Why, my lord, I am flattered.”
“But to tell the truth, there is nothing with Serkon and me. Or is it, Serkon?”
“My!,” the priest repeated. “She’s quite a bit to handle. Are you sure you can manage her, young king?”
Still smiling and somewhat proud, Serkon replied: “I’d be if she was my consort. However, she’s right. The god must have deceived you this time, Alexandros.”
The priest sighed, claiming he was disappointed. “Still, I hope you will enjoy this evening. Be welcomed by the great Sea God himself. May he lead you to find love today.” Bowing closer to her, he added: “And if one day you decide to taste the pleasures he provides, I’ll be here. I’m a patient man.”
“You better,” Penthesilea countered, already leaving to join the other revelers, “because you will be forced to wait forever.”
She found Zeuxippe with some of her women and knowing it would be better to assure of their support in the council, she went over to greet them as the first ones.
“See who comes there.” The other queen spoke to her clanswomen when she saw Penthesilea approaching. “A princess believing she’s a queen only because a king woos her.”
“Is it because of Serkon that you give me a hard time? I haven’t asked him to befriend me.”
“Oh, so he came to you all of his own? Congratulations, my dear. Your charms have worked well.” Her women sneered as she clapped in feigned approval.
Although Penthesilea had planned to keep calm, Zeuxippe managed to enrage her by exposing her in front of the other Amazons.
“Do not envy me because he chose me before you. As I have already said, I never asked him to be nice to me. He just was. Certainly, there is a reason that he is not to you.” All of a sudden, Zeuxippe ended the cruel game, too.
“You have no idea, have you? Coming here and have everything thrown at your feet. All men going mad as soon as you appear. Forget Serkon. I’ve never been after him, he’s too patriarchal for me. No, you pull wool over their eyes and they don’t even notice it. That’s what makes me furious.” Penthesilea turned around, not willing to listen any longer.
“I have had to struggle too in my life. It is hard to be younger sister to a creator heiress. You should not be jealous about it.”
Pose by Mrs.Nobody
Lot (Sea God’s temple): "Poseidon temple" by floschumue
Please don't wonder if the first sentences ring a bell. I've picked them up for those of you who don't read all the chapters in a row since the conversation is hard to follow otherwise.
Apart from that, enjoy!
“Your father told you, didn’t he?” Serkon was surprised.
“How come you know?”
“I guess parents are the same all over the land.”
“Ah, well. It’s hard to imagine a mother beating her daughter in a fight, though.”
“Because you aren’t used to it. But it’s nothing different from a father striking his son. They want us to learn fast so we can survive.” When he didn’t say anything, Penthesilea decided to change the subject.
“What about this tribe Morones the two belated men come from? Nobody ever spoke about them and they had no leader in the council.”
“Well, the matter is complicated since there actually is no tribe Morones.” Serkon rubbed his neck, fumbling for words. “It’s just a name we call all those who have no tribe. In the past, Morones was wiped out by plague. I’m sure there are still members of it out there but we can’t figure out who of them is. So we call all of them Morones and they have accepted it. Better than not belonging to any tribe at all and this way, the Morones will never be forgotten.”
“That’s complicated indeed. Yet another question. Who’s that boy hanging around with Echion for a while, now? He watches the training with great interest.” Looking over his shoulder, Serkon needed but one glimpse to spot said child.
“Oh, he’s Evandros’ son Alexander, heir of tribe Arythion. Evandros insists on him being trained by his bodyguard. Surely not the worst education a boy of his age can get. And as far as I know, he’s quite clever.”
Still speaking, Simachion, Amphion and Praios of Arythion came to take their leave.
Simachion thanked for the training and, turning to Serkon, promised: “I’m going to practice every day. Next time, I’ll beat you.” The king was visibly amused.
“Poor boy. You’re going to break your bones one day. All of them.”
Soon after them, the Borathions came as well.
“I’ll tell Boras about your victory over Echion today. He’ll be very pleased, that I can tell.”
“You did well today, Borathions. I hope you are going to keep attending. You fulfill the requirements to become great warriors, each one.”
“Now it’s my turn to say goodbye.”
“Serkon, you’ve been great help today. Hopefully, I’ll be able to repay you some day.”
Grinning impishly, he answered: “Well, I have something in mind but I won’t tell you yet.”
Doing a recap of the events in the evening, Penthesilea came to the conclusion it had been a very successful day. And while watching the beautiful sunset she planned to make it a perfect one. All too long had she been waiting for this, anyway.
Dressed in her nightwear, she called for her slave who had been at work outside. He stopped at safe distance, suspiciously eyeing her but not embarrassed at all.
“Do you know what I’m going to demand of you? You look like you did.”
“How should I?,” he returned the question, his eyes giving him the lie.
Instead of giving him a useless explanation, Penthesilea stepped up close to him putting her fingertip at his stubbly chin.
“You will be my lover, Haimon. But don’t think anything will change for you. You will remain my slave until you die.”
At first he seemed to be resigned by her speaking the words out loudly but soon he leaned back so she would feel taller and accepted her touch, seeking her look with his incredibly blue eyes.
“Well, I think I’ll succeed more in that task.”
“You better,” she remarked, turned around and pushed him back to her bed. She didn’t get to say more. Haimon drowned her in a kiss as deep as his eyes.
No. Deeper. Even deeper than the darkness that drove out the last smooth light of the setting sun.
“Guard your tongue. You’re speaking to a queen, princess by birth. Your king has already accepted me to be part of the Council of Nobles. Your are in no position to address me with such disrespect.”
“If we are to obey you, I demand a proof of your worth.” Working hard not to lose control of her temper, Penthesilea kept calm on the outside.
“What are you speaking of?”
“A fight.” Each one of the bystanders held their breath. Not again. Did one not suffice?
“Against whom?” Considering that Serkon was the fiercest warrior of the present ones, she assumed Echion would propose him as an opponent. And she hadn’t the slightest perspective to win against him another time.
Echion crossed his arms defiantly.
“Me.” He flexed his muscles, showing off his great physique.
Yet the moment he launched his first attack, the queen realized this man wasn’t a feat. Even though he outreached her in strength he hadn’t got a warrior’s instincts. Meanwhile, Borathions and Dekanos’ assembled at one side of the fighting ground and Arythions at the opposite one, everyone watching in order not to miss anything.
All to soon, the Arythions discovered that their representative wasn’t able to hold his stand, incredulity written in their faces.
Suddenly, in the middle of the fight, a deep voice arose among the surrounding people.
“Looks as if we were just in time to have some fun.” Two brown-haired and burly men had just arrived and stopped somewhat aside.
But they weren’t interesting enough to compete for the bystanders’ attention for long.
The fast outcome of the fight was a surprise for most of the onlookers. Only Serkon smiled knowingly.
“We’ll do as you tell us,” Echion recognized while biting his lower lip and withdrew to lick his wounds, mainly the ones of his pride.
“Well done,” Serkon admitted and Phineas joined in.
“That was overdue. But neither of us ever had reason to take on with the Arythion until today.”
Just then, Echion’s clansmen approached and the older dark-haired one rose to speak respectfully.
“Amphion and I would like to participate in your training, my queen. Praios will, too. We would be honored if you allowed us so.”
“Of course. Be welcome.”
Serkon stepped up. “If I recall correctly you’d like to become Evandros’ bodyguard one day, Simachion. Is this still what you want to?”
The young man blushed, for a king speaking to him directly and his wish being known likewise.
“Is it this obvious, my king?”
“Well, you do have the ambition as well as the teeth to actually achieve your aim. I’ll train you in person.”
Penthesilea took over command. “The others split up in two groups by their skills. Phineas and Goron guide the beginners in order to teach them coordination. You, whoever you may be,” she pointed at the taller man of the two belated arrivals, “seem experienced in fighting. You do the same with the advanced ones only you’re enhancing their strength. We’ll get to the real training later when they’re ready for it.” The man introduced himself as Julianus and the other one as Ranos, both members of tribe Morones.
“Do you think that’s a wise plan? There are already warriors among them,” Phineas expressed his doubts but she silenced him by a merciless gaze.
“Even the best warrior knows they must work on their strength. Or do you have any objections?” He held on to her eyes for a few moments, then lowered his look.
After forming two groups they got to training in the afternoon, at last.
And while most tried hard some gave way to despair but were forced to continue by their teachers.
All the day, Echion refused to cooperate and Penthesilea didn’t force him to. Either he would do it driven by his own decision or he would leave eventually. Secretly, she knew which way was the more desirable one.
Meanwhile, Serkon took care of Simachion. They wrestled together, mostly the Arythion being no worthy opponent for the king whatsoever.
“Come on, free yourself!,” they occasionally heard Serkon shout all over the place. In favor of Simachion, there were no cries of pain at all. Later, the Dekanos leader joined Penthesilea.
“The Arythion is taken care of. How do the others do?” She caught a glimpse of the young man leaning against the building’s wall and breathing heavily.
“You have been tough on him.”
“They never learn anything if they don’t realize there’s no other way than to win. It’s how I became what I am.”
“Your father told you, didn’t he?” Serkon was surprised.
“How come you know?”
Waking with sunrise, Penthesilea stood up and stretched her limbs. As she knew she would need all of her strength this day, she went and got a meal Haimon had made the day before. He really wasn’t good at cooking. At all. If only she had the means to buy another slave who was more experienced in such things! This way, he would have to learn how to prepare meals that not only were eatable but enjoyable, too.
After her small breakfast, she set out for the drill ground. As expected, no one was there yet so she could take the time to explore the place where she would train the young warriors. Nothing special, rather small in comparison to the broad area she was used to from her home tribe. But one could work with it. Some punching bags, free space in order to show some moves and engage in training fights, a swimming pool to enhance stamina and a building with bath tubs to wash oneself after an exhausting day.
While she still was doing her warming up, Serkon arrived followed by two other men, one of them muscle-bound. She finished her push-ups to welcome them properly.
“Good we arrived in time. I wanted to be the first one to greet you at our drill ground which is yours now, too. But I didn’t assume you would come so early.”
“Early? It’s long since sun has risen.”
“Usually, we come here in the afternoon, settling our affairs at home first. Today will be different, though. The others will be driven here by their curiosity to see the woman that will train our warriors from now on.” He gave her a conspiratorial look. “See whom I brought.”
His finger pointed at the muscle-bound guy. “Goron is my bodyguard. If nothing else helps, he’s going to scare off everybody so we won’t have to dirty our hands.”
“If we indeed get into a situation like that, I’ll be fine taking care of it by myself.”
“As you wish. The other guy,” he pointed at a small skinny one, “is Arenos.”
“Doesn’t look like a warrior at all”, the Amazon stated matter-of-factually.
“That’s what we wish to change.” Arenos didn’t seem to appreciate his kings wish.
“My king, look.” Goron directed our attention to two other arrivals.
“Surprise,” Serkon commented ironically while turning around, “Arythions are here, too.”
The man approaching the little group wore a grim mien on his sharp-featured face and was in the great shape of a fighter. A youth that had come with him stopped at the other end of the drill ground. Fearlessly, the Arythion withstood Serkon’s derisive gaze although the Dekanos’ leader had to be much higher in rank.
“We always come,” he responded. “But unlike you, we don’t need to be the first. And you must be the woman meddling in men’s affairs.” He eyed Penthesilea suspiciously. “You’ll have to convince me and I justly doubt your ability to do so.”
And with this words, he left to the youth. Goron shared a knowing gaze with Arenos who had already resigned in expectation of his training.
“They will never give up. It would do no good to their tribe’s honor.”
“And reinforcement is about to arrive,” the other one nodded towards the drill ground’s free side. Two more young men joined the Arythions.
“Echion,” Serkon spat out. “Enjoys a good reputation concerning his physical skills but never got anywhere. That’s everything one has to know about a man. And this one is definitely embittered because of the lack of recognition. It speaks volumes that Evandros has allowed him to lead his warriors today. Kind of a last test and I’m not actually sure for which of you both.”
“Did he bother you?” The four men seemed to have appeared from nowhere. Their spokesman addressed Penthesilea directly. He had the great charisma of someone who knew he could rely on his strength. At first, she was stunned: all four had light blond hair and three of them fair eyes. “We would be honored to take care of him.”
“No need of this,” Serkon interfered quickly.
“Thank you for your generous offer. But I can handle this myself.”
“Be assured of our help if it will be necessary. Tribe Borathion is at your command. King Boras sent us here.” A smile stole to Penthesilea’s face.
“Boras is a kind and noble man. Who is it I am speaking to?”
“My name is Phineas, representative of King Boras. The young ones are Taunus and Aias along with Iasion, second in command.” Still amazed by their bright hair and eyes, the Amazon nodded.
“Surely, we’ll get along well. Do you know if anyone’s still on their way?” It was Serkon, still highest in rank, who answered her question.
“Tribes Arythion and Borathion are here, mine as well. Vauros simply has no young men except its heir who has other duties. Same with Chonar whose only warrior is their leader himself. And Orcheon won’t attend, Zeuxippe will see to that. So no other groups are to be expected.”
She would have to deal with that queen later on for she was defying any authority Penthesilea had eked out of the Council of Nobles.
“According to this, we can proceed to training at last?”
Phineas turned to his second in command. “Did you hear, Iasion? Make sure that they work out properly but don’t overexert themselves. They might need their strength if the Arythion causes trouble.”
“You know we would enjoy putting this braggart in his place for his unbearable showing off.” In spite of his bold words and slender yet tough build, Penthesilea doubted the young man would be able to take Echion on.
“Let’s begin with the training,” she announced openly to the other leaders.
Suddenly but not unexpected, Echion barred her way.
“Never will the Arythions attend an ordinary woman’s orders.”
Lot (Drill ground): "Natural fit" by Mortelena