At the Orcheon village, one of the Amazons Penthesilea had seen at the drill ground led her to Zeuxippe. Knowing the other queen would have an advantage if they talked at her house, Penthesilea hoped that maybe she would be more willing to negotiate when she felt superior.
“My queen,” the warrior addressed Zeuxippe respectfully after they had entered the house. “Queen Penthesilea wishes to see you.”
“Really?” Zeuxippe turned, an expression of triumph on her face. “So it seems you have finally understood you can’t keep this on any longer?”
“I wish to speak to you, no more, no less.”
“Oh, speak. Well, we’ll be much more comfortable to speak upstairs. Follow me.” She led Penthesilea in an elegant room and bid her to take place.
“Now, tell me. Why have you come if not to offer an excuse?” The daughter of Thestia explained – once more – that they should be allies instead of enemies and the Orcheon leader listened with exceptional good will.
“You are quite a bold woman to offer me such a thing. But I have to admit I would hate to capitulate now that I know you are in the position to need peace between us.” She stood up. “See, I would be foolish if I agreed. So I won’t.”
“Tell me you are joking.” Penthesilea tried hard not to lose control over her emotions.
“Evandros will not be pleased by your unwillingness to make peace.”
“You have a point in fearing him. Yet you forget that I have been forced to deal with him for all my life. Unlike you, I know how to appease a man. And I repeat once more: I will not give in.”
Without another word, she turned away and left the room. Penthesilea leaped up in anger and stared after her.
The rest of the sentence got stuck in her mouth and she clenched her fists, unable to speak. A door was slammed downstairs. Zeuxippe had left. Just like that. Leaving her royal guest, an utmost insult.
Not only that Penthesilea had let Serkon talk her into seeking reconciliation and thus showing weakness, now she had to swallow Zeuxippe's offensive behaviour as well.
Suddenly, she heard a sound in her back and jerked round sharply.
It was Protego who looked highly miserable to be detected.
“Have you thought you could eavesdrop on us first and simply sneak past me then? I’m in no mood for such games. Why for the Godess’s sake does everyone in this house think they could treat me just like they want? This queen of yours has just offended me to the core!”
And she wanted so badly to pay her back.
Afterward, she wasn’t able to tell what exactly had planted the bizarre idea in her head that very moment. Was it her unmeasured rage about the other queen's ignorance? Or the upset and deep-rooted disappointment of the past moons?
Abandoning herself to an impulse she bent over, seized Protego and kissed him.
Someone had to suffer if she was to feel better. And, well, the slave was the only one present and belonged to Zeuxippe at that. Shocking him meant shocking his queen even though she would never come to know of this.
But there was something. Neither the wild passion Haimon woke in her or the still weird feeling when she surrendered to Serkon. While he was desperate to brush her aside something drove him nearer at the same time.
So she didn’t give up. She should have, really, she knew it. But she also knew that she’d win him over if only she had enough time, so she held on to him steely.
And she was proved right in the end. After a few moments, she felt Protego’s arms wrapping around her, his body pressing against hers instead of pushing her away and him returning the kiss. She loosened her hold, let her hands glide onto his neck.
Stop it!, she reminded herself while she sensed herself melting into his embrace. Yet that didn't help. Stop it! Now! If she didn't, she wouldn't be able to do it at all.
In horror she realized that the room behind the door from that Protego had appeared had to be Zeuxippe's bedroom.
She was lost.
It didn't take long until Protego withdrew from her to the edge of Zeuxippe’s extravagant bed, obviously tortured by pangs of guilt and devastated.
Penthesilea rose, composed herself and flattened her skirt and top, then went over to him.
“Where’s her bathroom? I need a mirror.” She was at least as angry with him as with herself. Couldn't he have resisted? There were always two people.
“You can’t-” He interrupted himself, stood up too and looked past her dejectedly. “Well, I suppose you can.” He pointed at the other door.
The bathroom of the Orcheon leader was as exquisite as her bedroom, tiled in white with a black pattern, a bathtub with a heavy curtain, two giant windows and a wash-bowl with a lion’s head spitting fresh, cold water.
My, my. Zeuxippe really likes her amenities.
An annoyed shout reached her ear.
“Protego!” In an instant, said one rushed in.
“You have to go. They’re already looking for me,” he pleaded desperately.
“Don’t worry. I have no further business here.” Not that she had actually planned the earlier one. The more she calmed down, the more she cursed her enragement from the quarrel with Zeuxippe. An inexcusable mistake, yet it was too late to make it up. If this ever became public... Her days in Evandros' area of influence would be numbered just like all hopes to have her own tribe one day.
Following Protego downstairs and keeping up a face of triumph wasn't all that easy but went rather well. Whoever still was there should believe she wasn’t beaten yet.
It was another slave. A brawny one with shoulders twice as broad as hers and a giant chest. He seemed to be several suns older than Protego and looked gross.
“At last! Where have you been, boy?”
“Upstairs. Why, did you look for me?”
“Would I ask if I didn’t?”
“Had to… make sure that the queen’s guest leaves.” Protego tried to act confidently. Tried.
“You took long for that.”
“Yeah. Needed to do a lot of- convincing.”
“Indeed,” Penthesilea cut him off. “And he was persuasive enough, although not until the end.” Protego cringed at those words but what else should she say to explain why they had taken more time than one could expect for a few sentences? It was better if the man believed that Protego wasn't good with words. “I think I will find the way out by myself now.” While making for the door she overheard the last remark of the muscular slave.
“Seems as if you’ve done a poor job talking.”
A sigh of relief escaped her. Still, she knew she was playing a dangerous game if Zeuxippe was ever going to find out. Confessing wasn't an option right now since that would give Zeuxippe the power to destroy her entirely. She had to return home and think about her situation.
Everything she could do was either deal with it or give way to despair.
This chapter gave me gray hair. I think I revised it a dozen times, counting only the ones that I not just eliminated grammar and spelling mistakes but also changed the characters' actions until it seemed to be natural for them.
That struggle was mainly due to Penthesilea. If you write a story yourself, do you know the moment when a character comes to life and simply refuses to do what you want them to do? This chapter was kind of Penthesilea's literary birthday. When Protego walked in I just wanted them to have a little argument to top the quarrel with Zeuxippe but the words just didn't seem right. So I changed and changed and what you've just read is what this stubborn queen dictated me in the end.
This chapter has an extra screenshot in the gallery
As we're celebrating a double birthday in my family today, you receive two new chapters at once as well. Enjoy, spend sunday with your family or friends and tell them that you love them! ;)
The following moons didn’t bring about any special events. During the days Penthesilea was at the drill ground but less warriors attended. However, Zeuxippe’s group of students diminished as well. Be it because of other duties or the men being tired of the eternal taunts of the two queens – it made Penthesilea appreciate Serkon even more. He stuck by her loyally and probably was the reason why Simachion kept coming and sometimes compelled Amphion or his young clansman Praios to accompany him. Under Serkon’s supervision, the prospective bodyguard made huge progress.
It was all different with the Borathions, though. Iasion and less often, Aias supported Penthesilea because of her friendship with their leader Boras but Phineas absented from the training. Boras must have reprimanded him for backing Zeuxippe and Penthesilea was most grateful for that. If he had been another king, she would have had a bad conscience but she also knew he was the only one who could actually take the liberty to upbraid the other queen. And he even had to sometimes in order to show his superior position.
More and more often, she noticed Zeuxippe’s slave watching and seeking to meet her.
But by and by, his kindness grew into more than that. At first, it displeased her strongly. The Orcheon leader wouldn't like that. Though she began to like the thought of Zeuxippe’s breeding slave being drawn more to her than to his actual creator. Maybe he could prove useful some day so she returned his advances as much as it was necessary not to push him off. After all, he was the easiest way to find out about the other queen's plans although he didn't entrust her those yet.
The nights, she either spent with Serkon or actually slept when the exhaustion of her day’s work overwhelmed her. Excitedly, she awaited the day that would bless her with a pregnancy. But the goddess put her patience to test.
Knowing it was unwise to still call for Haimon sometimes although she didn’t want him to be the father of her heiress, she couldn’t help herself anyway. She would have missed his company far too much.
In the mornings, she longed for the company of a like-minded woman. No man could ever replace a tribal sister with whom she could share her thoughts.
Over time, her relationship with Zeuxippe deteriorated. The other queen withspoke her whenever possible, no matter if it meant insulting her at the drill ground, in the temple or in the council.
Although Penthesilea didn’t respond the daughter of Rheia seemed to be determined to become her worst enemy. While Evandros had once been the only one to bring his bodyguard to the council as a show of force only, one day Zeuxippe showed up with her fiercest warrior who built up behind her threateningly.
Their feud did not only annoy Penthesilea herself but also the other rulers. Deipyros of Chonar and Jason of Vauros both refrained from it, pretending that it bored them. Jason’s son Hepatos whom his father took to the meetings in order for him to learn about how to make politics openly showed his interest. Surely, the dispute was far more fun than the adults’ discussions about trade agreements or temple taxes.
Serkon was rather amused to watch Zeuxippe’s efforts to discredit his lover and didn’t interfere as he knew Penthesilea wouldn’t approve of it. So did Boras. But Evandros eventually got angry about the discord the new queen had brought to his council.
With each time he had to silence the Orcheons’ leader he lost part of his patience.
More than once, Penthesilea had to assure him she wasn’t doing anything to deserve the others wrath.
Except of coquetting with her favorite slave occasionally, she added in her mind. But she doesn’t actually know that.
One morning after Penthesilea had woken up next to Serkon, he began to speak unexpectedly.
“You must talk things over with Zeuxippe. Evandros is extremely annoyed and won’t let you carry on like that.” Penthesilea jumped out of bed and turned her back on him.
“Do you think she will make it that easy after she’s been taunting me for moons?”
“Certainly not. And believe me, I must know.” After a moment of silence, he added: “I kind of grew up with her.”
“So what does make you believe she will ever do as much as only listen to me?”
“Same reason why I propose this to you: because Evandros will impose a sanction on both of you if you don’t at least calm yourselves.”
The Amazon crossed her arms in front of her chest. Actually, she already knew that Serkon’s advice was the only way out in the moment.
“She’ll laugh right into my face and call me a coward.”
Despite her reluctance, he seemed to be confident. “Of course she will. But it’s her only chance as well. And Evandros would reward you if you made the first step.”
“He wouldn’t. Admit it: all of the other leaders will think of me as a craven.”
“Even if, that’d be something you still could make up. And you’ve got me to convince them. And Boras.”
“You can’t imagine how much a woman depends on her reputation when she’s among men as I am now. Sure, I’d be able to cope with them but I’d prefer the diplomatic way.”
“Remember that you’ve beaten me in fight? They haven’t forgotten.”
“Remember you’ve beaten me like, what? A hundred times since then?”
“They haven’t been there then. Not the other kings.”
“The warriors will remember and they’ll despise me. I don’t need any more Echions out there. What am I to do if I lose them? I can’t set up anything for trade on my own. Alone.” Finally, she turned to him. “But I’ll do it anyway. Seems like I have no choice.”
She poked him at the chest. “And I count on you if anything doesn’t go well.” He grinned impishly.
This chapter has an extra screenshot in the gallery
Despite Serkon’s and her own distrust Penthesilea had to admit that the slave indeed did a good job at keeping the Borathion boy occupied.
So she decided to speak to a stranger that had come to the drill ground that day. Hard bodied and with black hair and a beard, one could describe him as good-looking and he was a pleasant person.
“Advik? What a weird name.”
“Maybe you aren’t familiar with it because I come from far away,” he explained in a strong accent.
“But I was driven toward adventures after an old fortune teller had foretold me an illustrious fate.”
Penthesilea couldn’t resist to drop that remark. “So the inhabitants of this area would say you belong to tribe Morones.”
“Morones? I’ve never heard of it. Why should I belong to it?”
“They told me everyone who does not belong to any other tribe is simply called a Morones.” She could tell he had understood the point when he smirked.
“Advik of Morones. That’s a name I can get along with.”
After the conversation with Advik, there was yet another task to be fulfilled.
“Leikeus. What do you think of watching the warriors trained by the other woman? Maybe you can learn something useful for your future.”
Evidently, the boy wasn’t pleased at all but hadn’t the heart to object. After he was gone Penthesilea turned to Protego whom she intended to question once more. Maybe she was more lucky this time although she doubted it after recognizing his rather forced smile.
“So we meet again, Protego.” He seemed surprised.
“You do still know my name after the… unfortunate circumstances of the last time, my lady?”
“I never forget any name. Especially not after such circumstances.”
“I’m truly sorry for my behavior. Usually, I’d never be such rude to a beautiful queen.” Another attempt to smile failed terribly.
“You were loyal to yours, that is nothing to excuse from. And for now I really appreciate that your creator was willing to assign the boy to you. It got on my nerves to have him watching me all the time.”
“Oh, that’s no big deal. She knows that I really like children. Besides, I’m glad I can be of any use to you.”
“That is a bold statement considering that your queen does not like me at all.” A nervous laugh and he peeked at Zeuxippe, making sure she was still in a discussion with her students.
“She can be quite- temperamental.” Penthesilea knitted her brows and waited until he was insecure enough to continue speaking. “Most of the time, in fact.”
“You must know.”
“Um. Supposedly, yes.”
“Not hard to guess since she always keeps you near her.”
“Eh- yes… Indeed, sometimes- she is very… possessive?”
“Sometimes. I like that one.”
“It’s her right so I get along with it.”
“But you dislike it?” It was a risky question, that much was certain. Immediately, he went on the defensive.
“Never wanted to say that.” But you thought it.
“For sure, as you would have to suffer some consequences. We would not want that, would we?”
“Not at all. Thank you, most gracious lady.”
“For… you know. Not telling my queen about it.”
“In any case, I do not want to upset her even more.”
“Actually, no. It is just that I do not want her as a foe.”
“So, clever rather than considerate.”
“If you think so.” Somehow, his way of always agreeing and forcing the talk to continue at the same time made her feel uneasy.
“I don’t believe I'm allowed to have an opinion.”
That very moment, the boy returned. Boredom had won over fear and the queen was actually pretty relieved.
“They’re boring. They don’t even let me come closer than ten steps.”
“Well, I can offer you the company of this man again if you do not mind that he is a slave.”
“Either way, he’s much more fun than those warrior women. Except of you, of course,” he added quickly.
“I entrust you in his care, then.”
“It’s a pleasure, my beautiful queen.”
“You’ve had too much to drink, Serkon,” the Amazon stated generously.
“Yeah? Think you’re right. But I don’t regret it.”
Suddenly, a thought crossed her mind that made her cringe.
“Well, I hope I won’t regret anything after tonight,” she said, still struggling with herself.
Serkon was surprised at first but then received her in his arms so she wouldn’t lose balance rising on her toes.
A strange feeling overcame her being so close to a man who could do anything to her and even get away with it. Because he was free. And a king. Her heart beat faster, half because she wasn’t used to fear and half because she wanted that challenge strongly.
“Let’s go where none can see us,” she whispered in his ear.
“Do you really think anyone’d come over here?” He didn’t let go of her and she was sure he would have agreed with her under different circumstances.
“I don’t care.” Determination laid in her words. It was her only hope to convince a nearly drunk. “We’ll go to mine.”
“If you insist.” Instead of soothing him she gave him a promising smile.
“Yes, I do.” She was sure he wouldn’t regret that he had given in.
With the first sunbeams falling through the windows Penthesilea woke in the early morning. For the very first time in her life, there was another breath near her.
Awhile, she kept staring at the ceiling and thought the last night through. There was no chance she had conceived. Her mother had shown her some herbs that prevented a pregnancy effectively and she still used them regularly.
Becoming restless because of her thoughts, the Amazon went for Haimon to prepare a simple meal and locked him up again after that, leaving him with an own bowl of breakfast.
Serkon woke up by the sounds and even was in his right mind almost immediately.
“I’m sorry I got myself drunk yesterday.”
“Don’t be. If you hadn’t, I doubt this would ever have happened.”
“So you aren’t mad with me?”
“Why should I? After all, you weren’t offensive and I was entirely conscious.”
“Phew! Did I say a lot of silly things?” She laughed.
“Is that actually the confession that you can’t remember anything?”
“Uh… Not much. But I hope I’ll have plenty of opportunities to make up for that.”
It took a while to refresh Serkon’s memory and to get used to the fact that their relationship had changed significantly. So they would continue their liaison. That was what everyone had expected, anyway. All the more reassured Penthesilea was as it gave her time to stop using the herbs.
In the end, they got to the drill ground later than usual and Zeuxippe had already started her training while Simachion of Arythion had temporarily taken over Penthesilea’s role.
But the thing that astonished them the most was that, beside Zeuxippe being there so early after the exhausting feast the night before, a child stood next to the water basin and played with a piece of clay. A youth which Penthesilea remembered of to be named Taunus and member of tribe Borathion explained the child was his brother Leikeus and he had to look after him that day. So they started training but as soon as they had, the Amazon felt as if she was watched.
For it was the only way she could think of, Penthesilea asked the boy why he kept his eyes on her.
“It’s sooo boring here. Taunus forbids me to do anything and the others don’t want me to, either.”
While she was experienced in many domains the queen didn’t know how to handle a bored child. A boy, in particular. But someone came to her rescue and it was the one she had least expected to.
“If you agree I can order Protego to cheer that boy up so he won’t bother us again.”
Though bewildered by the sudden kindness of the other woman Penthesilea accepted the offer. Serkon passed her closely and whispered a warning.
“Be careful. She just wants to lure the Borathions.”
The day Evandros had invited the council’s members to his daughter’s wedding brought along good weather. Sun shone and warmed the limbs of the guests who had gathered in the Arythions’ own temple where they worshipped all gods equally.
At first, she was pretty surprised seeing Alexandros as the groom. But as Serkon explained her, the priest was the second powerful man in tribe Arythion and representative of the Sea God on earth. Having him as a son-in-law was the most logical choice Evandros could make. The ceremony was performed by Niara, the other priestess of the Sea God who carried out her duty conscientiously.
Penthesilea took the opportunity to examine Evandros’ family more carefully. His wife Andromede was a beauty but one of those women who knuckled down to their husbands without even trying to resist. Their daughter Cassandra still had some spirit but it wouldn’t take long until that was broken, too. Especially with a womanizer like Alexandros as a husband. She would have to endure much more pain than she could be prepared for in her raw youth.
Alexander was his father’s favorite and as the heir, stood at his side for the whole ceremony pushing aside his mother to a place in the back.
Probably he was still too young to understand that Evandros’ treatment meant a demotion of her but Evandros did for sure. Andromede seemed not to mind.
Another surprise was that the other girl who always was near Evandros and mainly, Alexander wasn’t a relative of the king. Penthesilea was told that she was the child of Echion’s wife Megara and- Alexandros. Her reversion to the priest increased once more although she felt some satisfaction because of the fact that Echion had to raise a child that wasn’t his own.
The buffet was breathtaking and included everything from crispy bread to fruits, roast, sweet pastries and cake.
But before the nobles could join the other revelers they had to pay their respects to their host and leader. Boras appeared to be a friend of the family. He joked with Evandros for quite a while and even little Alexander listened attentively and laughed.
When Zeuxippe congratulated Evandros Penthesilea overheard Serkon and Jason making fun of her auricularly.
From the great king’s demeanor toward Serkon Penthesilea inferred that Evandros thought much of the young man maybe keeping a promising future in the back of his mind.
Finally, after Deipyros and Jason it was her turn.
“You are a most fortunate man to have an esteemed priest as a son-in-law.” She smiled.
“I am indeed.” Evandros seemed to have forgotten about all ill he had held against her in view of his daughter’s great day. He was simply a father bursting with pride in that moment, glad to be able to show off his family to the other leaders.
Looking for familiar faces in the crowd Penthesilea noticed that Boras had engaged the groom in a conversation. Alexandros barely spoke a word to his young bride so Boras involved her, too trying to make her feel comfortable and he succeeded.
With Alexandros’ older daughter being the only other child Alexander had left his chair at the front end of the table. They were chatting lively.
His parents didn’t even notice since they talked to each other. All in all, the atmosphere was more casual than one would expect from a Great King’s feast.
Chandra and Alexander's other daughter Phiona were among the guests, too. The little one stared unhappily at the garlands that decorated the fence but Chandra was already on her way bringing a bowl of fruit salad. In no time at all, Phiona was cheered up.
Penthesilea smirked and took her seat next to Serkon. This time, she enjoyed being the lowest-rank leader because it meant she sat at his side rather than at Zeuxippe’s or Jason’s one.
Time flew while they were talking, eating and tasting the drinks that were offered by Evandros’ slaves. At the first opportunity, the Amazon asked Serkon about Zeuxippe’s past.
“Do you know where her ancestors came from? I’d like to know whether I know the original tribe of her forebearers and if it still exists.”
“I don’t. As she was born here and is my age I never thought it necessary to ask her. We’ve gotten along well before-” He stopped.
“Before I came? Hopefully, you aren’t mad with me because of that.” At first, he seemed to be startled but broke out laughing afterward.
“Not at all. I’m rather grateful that you’ve finally revealed her real character.”
They changed to other topics, lighter ones in every way.
Soon, sun set and the groom and bride exchanged the ceremonial kiss in front of the whole audience, the children interrupting their games and standing nearby to watch.
Cassandra didn’t seem to enjoy it and looked pretty much frightened when they left for the bridal chamber. Penthesilea pitied her.
Shortly thereafter, Serkon took her aside into a dark corner of the temple.
“Do you know what I’ve always wanted to do?” He stared at her with glassy eyes, then reached for her hands and kissed them. “Not only this, though.”
Lot: "Amazon village" by LunaSnowpuff
Poses by Mrs.nobody
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
Chapter 13 brings more trouble for Penthesilea... The number is simply a coincidence, though a funny one... :D Here we go!
But fate didn’t grant Penthesilea much time to reconsider her decision. When she arrived at the drill ground the next day, she saw Zeuxippe train a few of her clanswomen. It was the first time they had come.
Penthesilea wasn’t as starry-eyed as to go and greet them. Zeuxippe would only turn it into another show to insult her. So she went straight to the men who were standing aside from the women and watching them train. Only then did she notice that Echion of Arythion had shown up, too and was practicing with the Orcheons.
“I can’t believe my eyes.”
“Us neither,” Iasion of Borathion agreed. “Though telling us he would never ever obey a woman he’s actually training with women only now. No offense!” She ignored the fact that she had actually referred to Zeuxippe's presence at the drill ground. Apparently, the other Amazon used to come there before the new queen had taken over command over the warriors so her appearance didn't surprise the latter ones as much as Echion's behaviour.
“Hypocrite.” Simachion looked down his nose at his clansman.
In this moment, Serkon reached the drill ground and was disgusted by the sight.
“I’ll teach him to be true to his word.”
“No. Don’t start a fight. There shall be no trouble because of me. Evandros would dislike it and I would have to suffer the consequences.”
“Why? Echion isn’t even one of the rulers. I can fight him as often as I want to and I don’t plan to challenge Zeuxippe only to waste my fight.”
“My fight? The one I’m entitled to?”
“Never heard about anything alike. Your one fight?” All of the men stared at her in disbelief.
“So you can fight the other leaders to the heart’s content? No restrictions?”
“You actually have restrictions for a fight?” They exchanged strange glances.
“Yes, we do. In order to keep peace in the council, a king – or queen – may only once challenge another ruler. If not we’d be all dead in a few suns because we killed one another.”
It was one thing being raised for war and having to win some kings over peacefully. But being told that one was actually forbidden to fight more than once was absolutely different. So that was the reason that kept Zeuxippe from a duel.
“How do you solve your problems otherwise?,” she asked kind of desperately.
“By talking and if that fails, yelling and insulting. At least until now, it worked quite well.”
“Still. That’s insane.”
It was a rule made for old men and lazy ones who didn’t want to lose their power to younger and stronger leaders. Leaders like her, like Serkon or Zeuxippe. And they had to give in to it because the other tribes were much bigger.
What a contradiction.
“Have you already had your fight?”
“Never had to. The other leaders accepted me immediately after my father had died. Besides, tribe Dekanos is not of much interest to the other tribes so they never demanded anything.”
“Demand? They do it for gaining possession?”
“Kind of.” Anyway, if Zeuxippe wasn’t allowed to wage a war against her it would be much easier to expand her tribe.
“But now, to work!”
The day went by without alleviating their tense mood. And in the next morning, Zeuxippe showed up again and did so the days after. A few weeks later she was not only training her tribe members but some of the Morones as well along with Echion and two Borathions.
Penthesilea got more annoyed each day until she decided to take the other Amazon to task.
“Why do you woo them away from me?” The other queen paid her but little attention, though all annoyed.
“Go away. I’ve got warriors to train.”
“That’s actually my task if you’d be so gracious as to remind yourself that Evandros has entrusted me with it.” Everyone stopped their work and was listening by now.
“However. He didn’t forbid us to do the same.”
Unfortunately, she had a point but Serkon came to help.
“You know he didn’t because he didn’t expect anyone to be this rebellious.” Zeuxippe threw him an angry look but remained all confident.
“I’m not the one to be rebellious. They’re my clanswomen and I have the right to exercise them myself.”
“All of them? So, some of your women aren't really a feast for the eyes. I mean, come on. They’re growing a beard.” He pointed at Echion who turned red in anger.
“They chose to join me. It’s nothing of your concern, Serkon.”
Knowing they couldn’t get rid of her in the moment, they left Zeuxippe alone. As they expected, she didn’t miss a day at the drill ground from then on. Often she was accompanied by her slave who was supposed to bring her water and, perhaps even more, demonstrate her importance. Most time he just stood by, useless and eyes traveling. More than once Penthesilea caught him peering at her when he felt unwatched.
“I don’t understand why she doesn’t allow him to participate in the training. He’d make a good guard,” Serkon remarked once.
“Why should she?”
“Don’t women love strong men?” He held her gaze captive for a few moments. “Doubtlessly, she’d come to appreciate it.”
“I’m sure she would allow you to do so if you asked her.” It actually didn’t interest her.
“No way that I drill a slave.”
“See? Where would we get if our slaves were stronger than ourselves?”
Thinking of Haimon, a slave being able to overpower her would definitely be too much to deal with.
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
In the early morning, Penthesilea set out for the place Chandra had described. Her way led her along a huge fence separating a couple of houses from the paved road of which the Arythion lands had so many. The young woman was waiting for her in front of the gate and smiled with bright eyes.
“So happy you could arrange it.” But abruptly, she put her hand behind her neck. “This is embarrassing but the guys have a bad day. Think they got up on the wrong side of the bed since they’ve been in a bad mood for the whole morning.”
Penthesilea waved it aside.
“I’ll be able to deal with them if need be.” Although her words didn’t have the impact she intended them to, Chandra asked her in.
The village was lovely, the huts small but in good condition and very nice, plants and flowers bordering the ways. Chandra led her to a free space in the back of the village but gave a grown almost immediately when they saw two men sitting on a few benches. Penthesilea recognized Simachion and Amphion and an unknown girl working at a spinning wheel.
“Boys!” The priest adept walked over to them. “Will you ever be able to take on responsibility?” She lifted a crying toddler out of her high chair and turned to the two men.
“It’s Amphion’s turn today. As if it was any business of mine, at all.” Simachion glared at his friend angrily but Amphion didn’t appear to be impressed at all.
“I’ll keep her busy.” Rushing to the toddler a bit too eagerly, the girl rose from her chair in front of the spinning wheel and began to play with the child.
“Oh… You get on my throat, sometimes. Both of you.”
Simachion stood up nodding down to Amphion.
“Nothing to concern me.”
But the bad mood soon was blown away from the cheerful priestess.
“Now, let me present you my daughter.” Receiving the child from the girl who disappeared soon after, she was all a proud mother again. “Where’s my pretty little girl? Where is she? Oh, there she is!”
She tossed the toddler up so that she squealed with glee and her little arms waved through the air. “Look my dear, we’re having a guest. Are you excited to meet her?” Finally, Chandra set her daughter down in front of Penthesilea who had watched her with a heavy heart, knowing she would have to speed things up when she wanted to teach her own daughter everything about leading a tribe before she grew too old.
Lowering her head, Chandra held the child. “She’s a queen, my dear. Say hello.” But the girl didn’t and thus made her mother sigh. “So I must do it for you. This is Phiona, my daughter about whom I’ve told you. She’s our joy.”
“And our nuisance,” Simachion murmured but his clanswoman obviously didn’t notice it, as she let go of her child again. Swaying, the little one crossed Simachion’s way who snapped at her in surprise because he barely managed to avoid running into her.
Phiona’s eyes filled with tears immediately and she went after him. Reluctantly, he stopped. Penthesilea had a hard time not to burst out laughing.
“You know she’s coming after you, do you?”
“Not only that that priest of the Sea God is unlikable but now I must comfort his brat, on the top of it.”
So Phiona wasn’t Amphion’s daughter as Penthesilea had been convinced of for all the time but the child of Alexandros the priest? Suddenly, a veil lifted in front of her eyes. Everyone knew about Alexandros’ being a skirt chaser because he had a child with another priestess. A youth. And it explained why the two men were so reluctant about the cute little girl.
However, Simachion went down on his knees when the girl reached him teared up. “Everything’s fine, my dear. I didn’t mean it. It’s alright.”
Phiona flung her short arms around his neck and already smiled when he freed himself. Her little world was all safe and sound again and it got even better when a friend of Chandra arrived.
Instantly, Phiona’s attention was given away to the young black-haired woman.
Io, as Chandra introduced her, held the girl in her arms and put her at one of the benches, sitting down beside her. To everyone’s surprise and relief, Phiona’s eyes followed each one of Io’s movements even while the adults sat together and chatted.
The girl was all over Io and even when she decided to play she still stayed near to the woman. Penthesilea enjoyed the company immensely and realized once more that she missed a counterpart to confide in since a slave would never fulfill that part.
Talking to Io the Amazon came to know her as a pleasant person, nice and easy to speak with.
She was glowing for gardening and children and her tribe mates willingly assured the little ones loved her, too. All of a sudden, Penthesilea found herself smitten by the thought of having Io around her every day. And wasn’t she still in need for a provider if she wanted to conceive and bring up a daughter? She couldn’t do that on her own if she wanted to keep training the warriors and she depended on the pay.
Admittedly, there was a major difficulty about Io: she was member of a tribe already. And it was the most powerful tribe of the whole area.
Short note at the end: Simachion hugging Phiona is twice as cute as it already is knowing that he actually has the "Hates Children" trait. <3 While shooting those pictures I almost died of cuteness because this was the very first time I played with a toddler.
Lot: "Amazon Challenge" by EweSimsy4