“Are you being serious? First you become pregnant, then make me look like a traitor in front of the council and as soon as you're reasonable again you present me with the decision either to break off or to have another child? Although you know exactly that I didn’t want one in the first place! Is that the way of Amazons to get rid of the men they don’t need any more?” Serkon was utterly enraged and Penthesilea couldn’t hold it against him. But she had to act confident if she didn’t want to hurt him even more. Or break herself.
“It is law that we aren’t allowed to be with a man who has fathered a daughter or son so we don’t get under their influence.”
“We can buy slaves out of this law to a certain extent because their lives depend on us but it is much more difficult with free men. You have too much power over a woman, even if she is a warrior or queen. Our goddess forbids me to carry on our relationship. She hates it when one of her people violates her law for the sake of a free man. No matter if he is a king.”
He pointed at his chest, deeply upset. “Oh, you’re good with words. Now I am the one to offend the laws?”
“Do you believe me dumb and blind not to see that you’re still with your fire-haired slave? I’ve tolerated that, tolerated your brazenness in front of the council and the humiliation this meant. And now you just ditch me?”
It was time to submit her proposal, the one Evandros couldn't have known of. She tried to put it the kind way but wasn't sure whether it really worked. “There is still one possibility. If I declare you my consort – spouse – we could still be together. However, that would bind you to me by law but not me to you, as this is actually made for a queen and a slave. Be assured that I- I would do my part as well. But I’m not even sure this can be used with a free man.”
Accusingly, he held out his arm. “Bind me but not you? So you can cheat on me whenever you want with whomever you want? Do you think I wouldn’t mind my wife to put out with a bunch of other men?”
“Serkon, I'd never-” How could she prevent getting on the wrong side with him? That was the last thing she wanted right now, no matter what she would have thought some moons before.
“Do you think this is easy for me? Please don’t make it even harder.”
“I presume I wasn’t the only woman you have been with either. However, I don’t have an actual choice to keep everything as it is. If I tried to, the Goddess would demand you either to become my consort or give your life. I can only offer you a son because Evandros would contribute to an extraordinarily high ransom for the sake of peace between the leaders. This would appease the immortals for the use of their most hated law so that you can get an heir.” All at once, the indignity of this decision befell her without mercy.
To reduce a woman, a queen actually, to become mother of a man’s son was probably one of the worst abuses of Amazon principles. Her mother and every other warrior would have banned her for that. At best.
Apparently Serkon felt it as well. With an expression of revulsion on his face, he swept his hands. “Do you know what that sounds like? Being paid for sleep-”
She couldn’t stand the truth, interrupted him more biting than intended in her own desperation and pain.
“I- can’t- help- it! And believe me, I hate it much more than you do but the council forces me to be at their will if I don't want to lose everything.”
Suddenly, he was strangely calm. “So Evandros thinks he could dictate me?”
“He’s wrong. And you are already one of his lickspits as it seems. By and by he wins them all over. Good I don’t depend on you. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to Zeuxippe when I feel like time’s ripe for an heir. She has at least been honest to me.”
Without another word, he rushed out and took his bodyguard with him whose turn it was to watch the entrance for her protection.
“Wait, let me explain-” Her voice broke when she realized that she was begging like a child. Not at all like the strong queen her mother would have wanted her to be.
Though – how could she act like one when she didn't feel that way at all? Everything that was left to her now was hoping and praying that one day, Serkon would be able to forgive her what she had done to him and what was yet to be revealed.
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
“No, it is none of you.” That statement appeared to put the rulers at least somewhat to ease.
“Well spoken. Now, summon the murderer for I hardly believe that one of my clansmen would ever take part in such a despicable deed.”
Echion was all defiant and stood up even against his king, shouting at him and revealing either the source of his order nor anything else, just accusing Penthesilea of disrespect – which admittedly was true – and Evandros of lack of recognition for his, Echion’s, efforts ever since.
Suddenly a sharp pain in her stomach overwhelmed Penthesilea and she felt it harden. Breathing became difficult. Io had told her that that was common but this time it was so strong... With one hand she covered her face in humiliation before the kings as the other one slid to the aching part of her body and she bent forward to ease the pain.
Not now, she desperately pleaded with the Goddess. And not so soon. She has still a moon to go.
Her prayers seemed to be listened to. The pain and shortage of breath passed but not unnoticed by the others. Serkon quit his resentment toward her in the blink of an eye, leaped up and led her to one of the stone seats, urging her to sit down.
“It is nothing,” she raised her hand to push him away. “I am pregnant, not ill.”
But the incident had apparently broken the ice. Evandros and Boras were concerned and the Borathion even wore his smile again. Both were fathers and husbands after all and in this very moment, it was the life of a potential heir of Dekanos that mattered most.
“You’re right, that is nothing. My wife always wailed that the whole palace could hear it in the last stage of her being with child. Either you're quite brave or she simply exaggerated. How many moons is it now? Six? Eight?”
“Nine, actually.” Had it really been that long since she had attended a council’s meeting for the last time? Since Serkon had looked at her the same way he did now? How had she been able to bear being ignored by everyone? It was that moment when she realized that she had indeed felt very lonely all the time. It was good to have someone around except for her provider to worry about her.
Just like Boras with his motherly gaze. Rather fatherly, considering that he was a man. Did men have a fatherly gaze? But so – fatherly – sounded his advice.
“You should rest. Stop training, at least until the baby is born. There was much excitement for you during the past few moons.”
“I’ll accompany you home and post my bodyguard in front of your house. Nobody will pass him,” Serkon proposed and made it clear he wouldn’t tolerate any protest.
“There are still some things I would like to discuss with you in private, Evandros.” Now was the time or never. The addressed one took place at her side.
“Look, Boras and Serkon are right. You must go home and take a rest. We will discuss the affair with Io later. Just come when you feel better.”
“As you wish.” She knew she couldn’t disagree with them again. Not so soon after the fragile break-through. And she had to admit it was quite enjoyable to walk home beside Serkon once more.
He did worry for the child. And even for her.
It would be a huge problem to abide to the law that destined a creator’s sons to sacrifice to prevent them from usurping the throne. All the more because for the first time in her life, she wasn’t sure she wanted that anyway.
Serkon stayed with her the whole day and she didn’t object when he sat down at her bed in the evening. It was late already and Penthesilea exhausted from the confrontation in the morning and the excitement the night before.
When she laid down, Serkon touched her chin gently and whispered: “I can’t imagine that anyone wants to hurt you.”
“Please. I’m tired to death. Just let me sleep tonight.” Even though she hadn't apologized yet her lover seemed to have forgotten the reason for their quarrel. Or perhaps he had really forgiven her.
“Alright.” He was closer to her than ever the eight moons before and his embrace still didn’t feel the same again. And even though she'd done a decent job to look after her child's health alone for many moons she wouldn’t argue that night. Beyond that, wasn't it what she had secretly wished for for all those lonely nights?
“You know that if anyone comes tonight, they will die.”
“Yes, I do. Thank you. But now, please, Serkon, let me sleep.”
And he did. At least she could tell by the rhythm of his rising and falling chest that he was still awake, guarding her sleep when she began to drift off.
This time, there would undoubtedly be nothing to worry about.
A low voice reached the dark figure’s ear.
“I probably should have warned you but I can’t let you murder the queen. They will blame me for that and chase me down.”
“Damn slave-” The stifled curse jolted the woman out of sleep. Killing her would be difficult now.
Only a moment later, a heavy blow hit the dark dressed man. At the same time, a hand clutched his other arm. He didn’t realize any more that the dagger was wrested from his hand. Uselessly, it fell to the ground. His conscience had already left him.
Haimon pushed him down at the bed and rushed at Penthesilea’s side. She was staring at the unconscious intruder, still struggling against the numbness of sleep.
“How are you?” It took a while for her to answer.
“I’m fine. Why would anyone send an assassin to me?”
“Don’t know.” She hadn’t told him much about politics. In fact, she did barely speak to him. “Do you have any foes?” Her gaze traveled.
“Too many.” Suddenly, she stood up. “Let’s see who ventured to kill me.”
To uncover the face resulted in a sarcastic remark. “That I should have guessed.”
“Why, who is this man?” Haimon hadn’t seen him among the leaders that fateful day when Penthesilea had fought for Io. Pround of his own hair, he would have remembered that bald head.
“Echion of Arythion. He hates me since the very first day when I beat him in front of all warriors. Although he had provoked it.”
“So he wanted his revenge.”
“Very probable, though this can't be the only reason. I wouldn’t say that he’s the kind of man to plan a murder in cold blood. There must be someone to pull the strings in secret.” Even the queen herself seemed to have no idea of who that person could be.
“What shall we do with him?”
“What would you do with a murderer? Lock him up downstairs until tomorrow. I’ll confront the leaders then.” Haimon liked the idea instantly. It meant he wouldn’t be spending the night in the wet and cold basement room.
“At least for that you're useful,” he quietly growled while he carried the unconscious man away.
When he returned, the Amazon had taken place at her bed again and watched him with huge eyes.
“Come here,” she said, sounding much less queenlike than her usual orders. So he laid down at her side as she stretched out on the soft blanket.
She pulled on his arm and put it under her shoulder. “Try not to sleep,” was the last she told him before she kept silent for the rest of the night.
He took a breath of relief when she'd finally fallen asleep. Just lying there and waiting, not being allowed to raise his voice nor being addressed... That wasn't anything he felt comfortable with. He wasn't familiar with her weird behaviour. It got on his nerves.
And it was his chance. The first and so far best chance he'd ever got. With the queen heavily pregnant and all kings cross with her, nobody would pursue him. All the more because no one had been killed in the end.
His arm already felt tingly from the weight on it and the uncomfortable position. Carefully, Haimon turned his head and looked at the shadow next to him. It was clearly silhouetted in the pale light of the moon.
Just pull away your arm slowly. She won't even notice.
But she looked so calm and defenseless. He'd never seen her sleeping before. Or was it because of her shock after the attempt to take her life?
Either way, he knew he wouldn't be able to leave her alone while she looked so helpless. And while she was asleep with a dangerous assassin in the basement. Another one could easily sneak in and finish what that Echion guy had failed in.
He didn't like children. At all. But killing an expecting woman? The thought alone made him shudder.
You're a fool, he tried to tell himself. And damn, you'll regret it. But as long as this woman laid on his arm and was so close to him, he wouldn't be going anywhere. Instead, he'd try to stay awake and look out for another murderer.
The last thing he wanted to happen that night was being stabbed only because once in his life, he shared a bed with the queen who believed to own him.
Hoping the rulers would still have the same schedule for their meetings, Penthesilea went for the council’s place. A queasy feeling laid over her since she had got up but she couldn’t delay the confrontation and risk another assassin to come.
“Wait here until I call for you and keep an eye on the prisoner.”
Haimon nodded fiercely, then she approached the group of nobles. As a guest this time. Unasked to appear. Unwelcome.
It was written in their faces: annoyance in Serkon’s one, hostility with Zeuxippe, upset in the one of Evandros and sternness from Boras.
Do you know what you are doing? The silent question in his eyes was so familiar.
“You should be punished for your insolence. To appear before us once more after you have been banned from this council by my own word!”
“I do have a reason and I would claim it a good one. Yesterday, a man intruded into my home and tried to murder me. Only the will of the Goddess saved me from his dagger.”
Immediately, she had everyone’s attention but the leaders were still distrustful.
“Do you have any proof for what you said?,” Evandros asked.
“I fear I do. And I have reason to assume that it will not please you.” She paused for a moment. “My slave has witnessed the intruder's intentions. But what is even more, I have managed to catch the murderer. Alive. He is here and... it is one of your tribe members. Echion.”
Zeuxippe couldn’t hold off any more.
“And next she accuses you of giving the order to the assassin because she took the girl away from you,” she spit. “Or me because everyone knows I have seen through her since the beginning. Or Serkon for leaving her after her deceit got revealed. There are many potentially guilty ones.”
The poison in her words flashed over like a fire, enraging Evandros too.
“It is one thing to claim that you are victim of an attempted murder but quite another to officially declare that your king is the one behind it. Be assured that the consequences therefor will exceed any punishment you have suffered so far.”
“I never believed that any of you would seek my life,” Penthesilea rushed to assure. “No, it is none of you.”
This chapter has an extra screenshot in the gallery
~*Year 2 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
“So this is the place where the traitor lives.” The dark figure stepped forward curiously and cursed their long garment that restrained each movement.
“Not worthy of a king. But what else should one expect from a woman?” Though nobody seemed to be awake any more, they pressed their body to the wall and moved carefully. Took step by step. A crow passed in swift flight. A smile stole on the figure’s lips.
“A good sign. The God is with me. Her Goddess’s birds have abandoned the traitor.”
Satisfaction entered their heart as they peeked around the corner.
Nobody there, as expected. But a huge fire was still glowing red. At this time at night?
While putting out the fire in order to take advantage of the darkness, the figure sensed someone coming and turned to hide themselves again.
Just in time. A man left the bigger one of the two houses and stopped halfway between the entrance and the dead fire. He seemed to be strong but not well-trained.
No feat for them. The man would be brought down and dead faster than he'd be able to realize what befell him. The more so as he was unsuspecting.
Slowly, they sneaked closer and straightened up in his back. Raised the hand.
But all of a sudden, the red hair gave way to a pair of blue eyes instead. Unfrightened, they met the figure's ones.
“Who are you? And why are you here at so late an hour?” Realizing this man had to be a slave the dark dressed wondered about his insolence. Without a doubt he had to know that he wasn’t a match for the intruder.
“Am I right to assume you aren’t up to any good?”
“You are.” Still, the figure was ready to strike each moment. “And as you were unlucky enough to get in my way, you’re the first to die.”
“Oh, please.” It wasn’t fear that he showed but even more self-assurance. “I don’t mind if you hurt the queen or kill her or whatever.”
Those words finally succeeded to startle the dark dressed one completely. “Why would you?”
Now, it was the man’s turn to be astonished. “Can’t you see I’m a slave? She holds me captive here for her merriment but I long for my freedom. As long as she lives, I’ll never be able to leave this place.”
An undefinable sadness laid in his demeanor, deeper than any slave could have felt thinking of something that was but a word for him.
Freedom. A sudden realization crossed the covered one’s mind and made them come to their decision.
“Go.” A gesture of their hand underlined the order. “Hurry and never return, otherwise it will cost your life.”
The slave remained strangely unimpressed.
“I’ll do that. But what if I helped you first?” He raised an eyebrow. “I could make sure the other woman doesn’t disturb your… undertaking.”
“No! Don’t touch her. My only concern is that wicked queen and I’ll take care of her myself. You go or you die. Your choice.”
“Well, I believe I’ll prefer the going part.” So without further delay, he turned and walked away. And headed behind the house where the dark figure had come from.
Good luck. You won’t survive a single day. They’re going to capture you for sure. But then, they shrugged underneath their garment and entered the larger building. What was that slave’s life to them?
Inside, there wasn’t much furniture except of a bed and a cradle. What a waste. No one will ever need it.
Finally, there was the queen, so close. Sleeping. That shameless woman.
She was beautiful indeed or at least had been before her pregnancy had begun to show. A shudder ran through the figure’s body. The swollen belly of a woman always disgusted them. It deformed the former beauty of the mother-to-be.
But not for much longer. No one would miss her. Probably not even the young king she had ensnared. And the other woman would soon get used to be back in her actual tribe where she belonged.
Determined, they raised their hand for the very last time. Bright iron flashed in the moonlight.
Pose by aoihana2510
The advantages of having a provider soon revealed itself: there was another woman Penthesilea could talk to in private, someone who had an eye on Haimon while she was absent. Io was much better in cooking than him and the slave handed that task over to her gladly.
The young woman didn’t mind at all that she had to leave her home tribe. Instead, she kept telling joyously where she wanted to grow a few plants and took care of having everything in her hut a baby would need. Sometimes one could get the impression that the provider was more excited for the child than the mother herself but the queen enjoyed it.
At least one person in the world did make a fuss over her even though it was completely unnecessary.
Losing track of time when they spoke with each other, they sat together until late in a couple of nights.
Another joy she had those days was Haimon. With Io’s cheerfulness being around he perked up, maybe because he was allowed more time outside his basement room at that. Calmer and more charming than ever before, he managed to cheer his queen up many a time.
But the other parts of her life became totally messed up. Arriving at the drill ground, the Arythions and Borathions had gathered and were more numerous than ever before.
Serkon stepped up with gleeful Echion and Phineas closely behind him, telling her that the Council of Nobles had decided to take away her right to teach the warriors.
It was yet another throwback because it meant that they wouldn’t have the means to buy their food so they would have to gather it themselves. Equally, the kings had stripped her of the right to participate in the council’s meetings.
“But I still have the right to train here myself.” She would insist on strengthening her future creator heiress by exercise.
But this meant more loneliness after all. As Iasion told her in secret after she had taken him aside, the Borathions were forbidden to communicate with her too much although he seemed to take pity on her.
However, she was sure this order wasn’t needed for the Arythions. Even Simachion avoided her grimly and the Morones didn’t dare to counter the mightier tribes. Advik was the only one who talked to her sometimes.
At least some of the others shot her pitying looks while they passed. Serkon usually ignored her until he deemed it as inevitable to speak.
In spite of that, he offered to provide her with food. Well, in fact it was more of a command. But it showed that he did worry about the baby.
She took it and shared it with Io secretly. The provider began to grow some fruits and vegetables with the help of Haimon and they went fishing almost each day. Gradually, morning sickness grabbed her every now and then and made her life even more miserable.
Would the Goddess ever provide a way out?
One afternoon at the drill ground, Penthesilea decided to flee the men that used to be her students but now appeared to have become dumb overnight. Another person slipped into the narrow room behind her.
Protego hadn’t sought her out in weeks and seeing him now sent shivers down her neck. He appeared downright devastated. The dark circles around his eyes stood out all the more because his face was pale from exhaustion.
“You look terrible,” Penthesilea stated as a matter-of-fact.
“Haven’t found much sleep lately.” Had Zeuxippe called for him too often? The Amazon knew it was the other woman’s right and she undoubtedly had more important problems in the moment than a slave carrying out his duty for his mistress.
Insecurely, he pointed at the bathtub. “May I take a seat?” Was he avoiding an answer or didn't he feel well? Maybe it was just an illness.
“Yes. Now, why?” Placing his arms on his knees, he leaned on them.
“I’m caught right in between the fronts. While I betray my queen you got more enemies than ever before and more powerful ones.”
Noticing his mistake, he stopped abruptly and cast down his eyes. “I- I’m sorry. I mustn’t say things like that.”
“That’s right, you mustn’t. It’s true, anyway. But there is no way out for you.”
“Everything I do will only get me deeper into it. Hardly sleep in the night, work all day. Worry. Try not to arouse suspicion. Return my queen’s advances. Sneak away. Worry even more. I can’t bear this any longer.” Staring into space, he uttered the last words without emotion.
“Nonetheless, you have no choice. When you actually had you threw it away and got involved with me. It’s not that you didn’t know about what consequences that might have one day up to the point of death.”
She noticed the hurt in his eyes but becoming emotional wouldn’t make the situation any better. Wasn't that the reason why she had started meeting him in the first place? Now she couldn't be so sure any more that he would keep his silence.
Protego closed his eyes in resignation. “I- know. It’s only that I’m being paralyzed by fear right now.”
Penthesilea frowned. “Fear?”
“As I’m but a mere slave I’m probably supposed to tremble in fear of my queen.” He quickly corrected himself. “Of all queens,” For a moment, they fell silent.
“So, slave, what will you do now?” Sighing, he avoided her eyes.
“Don’t know. Zeuxippe’s rather ill-humored and observant today. Probably I should return to her before she’s got a wish and notices that I’m not around.”
“And you think I will let you?”
“I can only hope so.”
Sometimes, it was strange what her body demanded although her reason told her otherwise. “Not without a single kiss.” He sighed again, knowing this was inevitable. But this time his touch felt strange and left a sour taste at her lips.
With Protego gone, Penthesilea looked down at the bath tub and decided not to have a bath there. There was still a bitterness looming over where the slave had sit. She would do this at home, thinking about potential ways that might lead out of that predicament. And maybe with Haimon attending to her to fight away the dark veil that had covered her mood.
But she wasn’t done yet. Washing off the weird feeling from her hands, Serkon appeared behind her, a bitter smile on his face.
“Which business do you have with that slave? You stayed in here for quite long.”
The arrogating question alone annoyed her already.
“Have you ever heard of morning sickness, my dear? That may befall women when they’re with child and queens aren’t spared either. Not pleasant at all, believe me. And it takes a lot of time to overcome it.”
Her plan worked out, Serkon felt uncomfortable with the subject and tried to change it.
“And what about the slave?” She turned to face him.
“Well, he’s Zeuxippe’s one and I’m pretty sure she has commanded him to have an eye on me as he follows me often.”
“She is right not to trust you,” he remarked and left in an instant. Penthesilea didn’t feel all too bad to lie to him. The truth would have hurt him much more.
What she really worried about was that, without thinking much, she had covered for Protego. Though to be true, her plan to get rid of him would have been nearly impossible to conduct right now that everyone distrusted her.
Poses by MrsRacooney
Penthesilea had finally come to a decision. First of all, she called the members of the Council of Nobles together for a meeting at her compound in order to officially announce her pregnancy.
At the same time, she invited Serkon and Boras to an earlier visit. If her plan was going to work, she needed their support although it meant exhausting their friendship to the utmost.
But when they arrived, she felt more like spending a last untroubled morning with them and therefore delayed her plan until the afternoon.
It was the best choice. Both men were in good spirits because of the pleasant reason for the unscheduled meeting and Serkon declared he couldn’t wait to teach the handling of weapons to his son. Boras and Penthesilea exchanged a glance and burst out laughing simultaneously.
“Why are you laughing?”
Boras chuckled. “Oh, never mind, young friend. It’s just that I believe our beautiful queen would prefer a daughter.”
“But I wouldn’t mind you to teach her, too.”
As she had wanted her lover to accept the fact that he would become a father very soon, Penthesilea hadn’t talked about the fate of her child yet. Wasn't it clear that she hoped for a girl?
But that wasn’t anything she wanted to do that morning, least of all in the presence of Boras who was about to tell one of his well-known stories of his youth. Overhearing their giddy talk when he passed on his way to finish the last preparations for the evening, Haimon undoubtedly had to believe them to be childish beyond measure.
However, they had much fun until Penthesilea came up with her request.
“I am aware that this will put you in a delicate situation but I do need your help.” As she had expected, Serkon almost lost his temper.
“Exactly! Do you even know what you would do to me? From today on, all of the leaders will know that you’re carrying my child. They must think I’ve been in on your deception.”
“I don’t ask you to back me, I just don’t want you to turn on me when the others do.”
“That’s pretty much the same.” He was frustrated, throwing his arms up to the sky. Boras jumped in.
“Serkon is right. We can’t approve of your plan and you know as well as we do that it is very likely going to break your back.”
“Yes, I do. Let that be my problem. Please just do what I've asked you for.” In truth, she had no idea how she would appease the council and Evandros.
But the Goddess had been very determined in showing her will.
As soon as the other rulers had arrived, Penthesilea made her announcement to follow the protocol although at least Serkon, Boras and Deipyros were sure to know, the latter probably because his wife had told him.
“The reason for which I have summoned you today is a joyful one.”
She turned to Serkon, asking him to step up to her. Obviously, he didn’t like to be in the center of attention because he knew of her… other plan. But in the meantime, they both had to play along in order not to arouse suspicion.
“We are expecting a child.”
The news made an impact but brought about a spate of congratulations. Evandros even rose from his chair and seemed overjoyed.
Waving at the other rulers, he said: “It is a very pleasing situation when a leader is about to maybe get an heir. As now this applies to two of us at the same time it is all the more a reason for joy. I am happy for you.”
During the rest of the afternoon, Penthesilea enjoyed the get-together. Boras succeeded in keeping his tenseness hidden and was the major cause of lightheartedness in which everyone took part while Haimon was constantly busy to fulfill the nobles' wishes.
It was impossible to exclude the bystanders of their conversation so Penthesilea didn’t try in the first place. If she was to make a fool out of herself for a provider’s sake she could do it as well in public.
At first, Evandros thought she’d joke asking him for Io and offering him free training for his tribe members in return. But all to soon the amused expression on his face melted away.
“You do know that you have broken an unspoken law, do you? We do not take members from other tribes away. It causes discord. Confusion. Distrust.”
“I have asked you kindly. As the largest and richest tribe you could easily bear the loss of a clanswoman while I desperately need a provider to care for my child.” A short travel of her eyes revealed that no one was on her side, not even Boras or Serkon. For the Borathion, he was friends with Evandros and insisted on following the rules. Zeuxippe, on the other hand, was in extraordinarily good temper.
“I am still willing to forget about your insolent demand if you apologize in an instant.”
Penthesilea looked up into the starry sky. She was sure to follow the will of the Goddess even though she didn’t understand where it would lead her.
“The Goddess commands me. Who am I to defy her will?” She allowed a little bit of sadness to drop into her voice. “Really, I do not want this. But if you refuse, I will be forced to challenge you for a fight. If I win, you will grant me Io as my provider. What do you demand in case that I lose?”
He glared at her angrily, then replied after a moment. “If you lose, you will submit to the Council’s decisions as each honorable king and queen should do. And you will marry Serkon so we can be sure of your loyalty.”
“I object strongly!,” Serkon interjected vigorously but was silenced in an instant.
Although she had expected hard conditions this was definitely more than that. “You want to control me,” she stated accusingly.
“I confess.” How could he demand this from her with good conscience, to sacrifice the most sacred thing an Amazon possessed: her freedom?
Oh Goddess of my childhood, you have sent me here and you have chosen Io. Let me win so I may still serve you in the future.
“Either way, I can but keep up my challenge.”
But another surprise awaited her yet. Apparently, there was a law that allowed a king to let his bodyguard fight in his stead.
It was a body blow for the Amazon. She would have had a walk-over with Evandros who was much older but Viktorios was a warrior trained for quick intervention.
Determined to use the surprise effect, Penthesilea rushed forward and attacked as soon as the start signal was given. It turned out Viktorios was a good fighter, yet more by practice than by instincts so she really managed to destabilize him. Lying on the ground, he finally surrendered.
“You won.” Evandros nearly spit the words out. “Go and get the woman but we will accompany you. The gathering is over. Go home.” Apparently, he feared for the safety of his other clanswomen.
“I am truly sorry for what happened. But when the Goddess commands, which human being has a choice?”
Boras came closer, his features still showing his tenseness, and looked her into the eyes before he turned and left.
“I do hope you know what you are doing.”
With only the Arythions and Serkon left, her lover raised his voice.
“Are you satisfied now that you have doomed our child to a life in hatred and scorn?”
“It is the Goddess's will that they will become king or queen one day.”
“Of course.” His voice was drenched in sarcasm. “Since you want your Goddess to decide, let her do so. If this child is a girl, you will be allowed to keep her. I have no need for a daughter. But if it turns out to be a boy, you will leave him to me and never try to see him again. Do not think that I will give in in this matter. I do know what you do to the sons born to an Amazon queen.” He passed her on his way out of the compound. “Be assured I will never let you out of my sight until the child is born. Never will I allow you to kill my son.”
Seeing him leave with contempt was a lot harder than she had actually thought. And while she watched him she knew full well that the last of her friends had left.
All of a sudden, loneliness befell her without mercy.
Half a moon passed without Protego doing even as much as looking at Penthesilea. Each time she tried to catch his eyes he lowered his gaze. Carefully avoiding her he stuck with the bunch of Zeuxippe’s warriors, standing by and watching their training.
Despite her bold declaration Zeuxippe contained her taunts, giving Penthesilea the impression that no matter what the other woman had claimed she did fear to enrage mighty Evandros. Obviously, the slave hadn't dared to inform his creator.
Good. And Penthesilea herself didn't really feel the urge to destroy everything she had achieved by an embarrassing confession. Not as long as it seemed avoidable.
The temporary truce made those days calmer than those before and gave the Amazon more time to think about her situation and to spend with Serkon.
She met Chandra and Io several times and twice, she even managed to visit Boras at his residence, thus delighting him significantly.
Introducing his two daughters made him even more likable in her eyes since she realized the honest love he held for them although they weren’t the male heir he was in need of.
However, they were too shy and submissive for her liking yet kind persons nonetheless. Nothing at all like Chandra or Io who despite of their natural cheerfulness weren’t willing to surrender to a man that easily. Particularly Chandra was rather independent as a future priestess and Io in another way that simply refused to submit to the rules imposed by the male leaders. The Amazon thought a lot about her in the past days, wondering if there was a way to win her as a provider because somehow, she knew there wasn't any other woman who would fulfill this task so perfectly.
One of these days, she decided to take a bath at the drill ground. She really needed a break from her warrior students. But right after entering the room she sensed that somebody was coming in behind her.
“Why did you come?”
He was insecure. “I- uh… have to explain something. It’s about- uh. By the gods!”
She waited for a while but spoke again when she was sure that he wouldn’t go on with his ʻexplanationʼ. His embarrassment was her advantage. Perhaps he wouldn't betray her ever if she was kind to him now.
“You know,” she assured him, “usually, I would never allow that for a slave but you may walk out of this room and I will never say a word about what has happened.”
At least until they will find out and I must protect myself. There will be no other way, then.
“I, um.” He cast down his eyes, then peeked at her from the corner of them. “I’m… forced to do this.”
“To do what?”
“To, y'know, see you.”
“So. You are forced? By whom?”
“K- kinda. It’s- difficult to explain.”
“I can’t. But it really feels that way. It- oh, gods!” He groaned. “I can't stop this, I mean.” So he, seeming so loyal to begin with, was willing to betray his queen if only Penthesilea snapped her fingers? That seemed strange to her, though... maybe she was able to use that. What if he had succeeded to seduce her that very day? Some men used to think of women as prone to male advances, so perhaps she could manage to convince the council's members of that if need be.
It was unlikely though that he would try such things in his owner's home where it was very probable to be caught. And even less probable that she wouldn't turn him in immediately afterward. Another place would be much more likely, secure from discovery. Such as... a small, dark room with thick doors. While Zeuxippe was busy elsewhere. With her warriors, for example.
At the drill ground, for example.
She narrowed her eyes and stepped closer to him. “Do you know what that means for you?” Just do not show him your intentions, Penthesilea.
Swallowing, he replied. “Yeah, I fear I do.” And after a moment of silence, he added: “But please, be patient with me, my lady. I’ve never done- anything like that before. I mean, behind her back-”
“Go then. You do not really want this.” For her plan to rid herself of suspicion, she would have to take gamy measures. Even give him the chance to leave hoping that it would result in the exact opposite.
“I can’t,” he insisted and repeated the words as if to convince himself.
“So go for now and calm yourself. You are not going to live for long if you are not able to act thoughtfully.”
Watching him leave she wondered if she had made the right decision. Wouldn't it be better to tell Zeuxippe immediately? On the other hand... telling her now, although claiming that she was the victim, wouldn't contribute in any way to fasten her stand in the council. And her cause would be all the more persuasive when Protego had managed to sneak away from under his creator's nose several times. She could always prove that he had followed her for some weeks, waiting for a favorable occasion when she was alone.
Yes, knowing that felt good.
By and by, it turned out that Protego was quite a master in hiding from his queen's eyes and using any opportunity that revealed itself, not that that was the case very often. Penthesilea for her part excused herself to Serkon by pretending to take a bath every now and then. After all, she had to make the slave think that she was serious.
However, most time the queen saw to their activities being left at a rather harmless level. She had no interest in complicating the matter any further. And they did have to be careful, especially Protego who was usually expected to return to his owner soon. In a state that fit a few moments of loneliness. But it was surprisingly rare that he had to endure a telling-off, bending his head like a dutiful slave.
Increasingly often, she caught herself growing dangerously fond of him and was certain he felt the same way. The more time passed, the less keen she was to close the matter by making it public, always finding a reason or two that argued against turning the slave in.
Then, one morning, the queen woke from a feeling of sickness flooding through her body. She was never ill. Never.
Immediately, she knew what it could possibly mean and left for the temple of the Bright Goddess. Of all wise women she trusted Moira the most, the priestess she had met her very first day out. And it was but yet another recommendation that she had born two daughters. Her Bright Goddess was a merciful goddess for sure.
The wife of Chonar leader Deipyros and her scholar Chandra were delighted by the unexpected but highly welcome visit. With heart-felt pleasure the older woman confirmed Penthesilea’s assumption.
The queen was with child.
Gratefulness overcame Penthesilea as well as the weight of the need to act fast. She needed a provider very soon and beside, she didn’t even know the true father of the child. Reckoning back she was pretty sure she could exclude Protego but that still left her with two others. However, she would declare Serkon as the one until she knew better. Her only hope was that the little girl wouldn’t have Haimon’s rare hair color.
The king would never forgive that.
She wished all the more to be sure when she told Haimon. He was dumbfounded and almost disgusted and in addition to that, even burst with rage attacks at the thought he could have a daughter. She sent him down to his basement room in an instant to make him regret his behaviour. Although she was sure that in the end, he didn't.
Serkon also was caught flat-footed but reacted and more calmly and reasonably after a moment of shock to have a child so soon.
She asked herself what he had been expecting of their relationship. Most women didn’t even know that herbs which could prevent a pregnancy existed. Above all, he couldn’t know that she had actually used some in the beginning.
In spite of the two mens' rather negative attitude, it was far more difficult to reveal the news to Protego.
Penthesilea sighed. Sometimes, the ways of the Goddess were quite incomprehensible. The only man who actually wanted to be a father wasn’t though.
But there were other affairs to worry about. Finding a provider, for instance. This one was of top priority in the moment.
The matter with Protego would have to wait.
Please just ignore Penthesilea's belly in the last picture... She's still not that far in her pregnancy. But it's the very first original screenshot you can see in this story from when I played through generation one and for some reason, I like it so much that I couldn't hold it from you. :)
Pose by kyimu