~*Year 9 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
Her heart filled with joy, Penthesilea watched Serkon and Lyta fool around.
Over and over again, the easiness with which her daughter twisted the king’s arm surprised her. Something about the self-assured girl made Serkon weak.
After all, she was the reason why he had given in to visiting at long last. And even now, his presence meant the highlight of the day for the young princess. With a smile on her face, the queen reminisced about the summers that had passed so fast.
Then, it had been particularly wearisome when Serkon had dropped over. Lyta had warmed up with him in an instant and had been a little bundle of power when he was there, putting her mother and the provider’s patience to test with endless monologues and still long after he had left, reports of everything they had talked of and done, not caring whether they had seen it with their very own eyes or that she repeated it for the sixth time.
The charms with which Lyta had smitten everyone blindfold still worked although she didn’t have the advantage of being plainly adorable any more.
When had she aged so much? Without question, Penthesilea was proud of her beyond measure and knew that Serkon felt the same - the praises of the princess’s Arythion teacher did their part as well as her interest in Amazon history. Her favorite legend was about the foundation of one of the oldest tribes in Al Simhara, ages ago.
“The Amazons were first created to educate humanity in the ways of righteousness and equality of the sexes; brought to life by the Goddesses of Olympus from the souls of women whose lives had been cut short by the ignorance of men...”
Men… Just to be on the safe side, the queen’s eyes sought Haimon and Protego.
It was still a strange sight to watch them talking voluntarily and occasionally cracking a joke.
The master slave did have an unerring kind of humor and innocent Io and Protego gave him a lot of opportunities to practice it.
When Serkon was visiting, the two slaves stuck together and remained off stage. If she demanded their services at table, usually Protego would try to remain unseen and Haimon would step up. In the king’s presence, he behaved more guarded than anyone would have thought possible recalling his forwardness toward the queen even in front of Protego.
Sometimes when her eyes rested on him, he earnestly tried to seduce her and whenever they kissed, she had to keep an eye on his hands so they wouldn’t wander to where they did not belong in public.
However, the suggestive remarks were exactly what she missed without Serkon: to feel desired. And even after several suns, it amazed her how charming and almost attentive the redhead could actually be when he was relaxed.
But he wasn’t while the king of Dekanos was around. Neither of them except Hippolyta was although everyone pretended it, deliberately overseeing the others’ facades in order not to be busted themselves. Penthesilea felt it, Io’s laughter a bit less carefree than usual, Haimon’s reluctant politeness, her own caution and Serkon’s carefully chosen words toward her.
Unconsciously, Penthesilea laid her hand onto her belly in a protecting gesture.
He wouldn’t be pleased but hopefully, he would understand. From their many talks since Lyta’s consecration, she had concluded that he did not wish for a renewal of their relationship. Instead, he had vaguely mentioned that he considered trying for a legitimate heir. Prudence had kept her from addressing the consort ceremony. The last time she had mentioned it he had avoided her for suns and the most important thing in the moment was to keep him in her life as a friend. She wouldn’t survive losing him once more.
Time worked not only against him but her as well and even more merciless so, she wasn’t that young any more. After Lyta had outgrown toddler age and demanded a lot more freedom… She longed for a child whom she didn’t have to share with the duties of a future queen. A child that was hers and entirely hers forever.
So she had stopped using the herbs and planned on the evenings. She wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, this time she’d know the father of her child from the beginning.
“Serkon?” It was difficult to catch his attention when he was with his daughter but eventually, she succeeded. “Come here, please, there’s something I’d like to tell you.”
“I… I will tell the council but I feel like you should know sooner. I’m… I am with child again.”
For a few tenuous moments, he didn’t let on about anything and just looked at her. Then, he took a deep breath. “Your pretty little redhead, I assume?”
“No.” This was the trickiest part. “The other one.”
“Oh,” was everything he got out. “Zeuxippe’s.”
“Yes… See, I’m sorry. I know you don’t like him but I really want this daughter just like you want your son. And I don’t have much time any more.”
“That’s unfair.” Serkon eyed her for a long time before he replied. “You have an heiress already.” In the next moment, he recovered his poise. “Well, when will you sacrifice him?”
“Not at all,” Penthesilea admitted with her gaze lowered. “Zeuxippe asked me to spare him and I felt like she had a say in it too.”
This time, his answer wasn’t as diplomatic any more and his composure bitter. “So does Zeuxippe rule your tribe now? I didn’t know that you bend to her will, otherwise I could have made use of it earlier.”
“Please, Serkon. I’m just trying to make up for past harm.”
“It doesn’t seem like that.”
“I have heard you were going to be a father.” Protego almost jumped at the shock to be cornered alone when a voice sounded in his back.
“Congratulations.” Nothing at Serkon’s behavior suggested honest joy.
“Th- th- thank you, my lord?,” the other man winced.
“Lyta will be be thrilled to have one more inferior as soon as she is queen.” He examined the slave disparagingly. “I remember Zeuxippe wondering if you could have children at all. No success in all that time, no matter how huge the offerings turned out that she made to her goddess.”
Protego was scared stiff; it was true. In the end, he had abandoned hope. Fourteen summers. What irony of fate that just when he didn’t want a daughter any more, one was thrown at him.
Or a son, he reminded himself. Maybe it’s going to be a boy. He wouldn’t live long enough to watch him die anyway and that way, his daughter would belong to Zeuxippe forever if even she only existed in his imagination.
“Do you even listen?” The hostile voice cut the wandering of his thoughts short. “You are truly pitiful.”
“You’d be as well if a child was pressed on you, my lord.” A veil of bright orange red suddenly obstructed the view at Protego.
“Redhead.” Serkon hid his surprise well. “You must be disappointed that Penthesilea is growing the offspring of your comrade.”
Cold, derisive eyes met Serkon’s hazel ones. “As if I’d ever put a child into a woman voluntarily.”
The king of Dekanos didn’t even play at showing sympathy. “I sincerely doubt that she would ask for your permission.”
“The same way she has asked for yours?”
Every rest of good will was blown away abruptly. “Be careful, very careful. You are teetering on the brink of an abyss you can not grasp.”
“Maybe.” Haimon shrugged. “But at least I was there when help was required. Without my intervention, the queen and your daughter would be dead.” He crossed his arms in defiance while his muscles tensed, ready to defend himself if need be. “Guess who stopped the dagger aimed for her heart and who she turned to for comfort that night?”
For a few moments that seemed like eternity, tautness filled the empty space between them, manifested in an intense exchange of looks.
“Do you want a reward for carrying out your actual duty, slave? Besides, Penthesilea has never mentioned that you saved her life.”
“Why risk punishment for a simple lie?,” Haimon returned the question self-confidently.
“Be sure that I will ask for affirmation of your claims. And at the same time, I will tell your mistress about your impudent demeanor.”
Without another word, Serkon quit, still feeling Haimon’s stare piercing his back.
Behind the master slave, Protego inhaled deeply as the tenseness left him. “Goodness… Goodness, thank you, so much!”
“Damn, you’re the worst friend I ever had. If you ever dare to leave me alone with those two brats, I swear you…!”
When I asked WagonFruit for permission to mention her story in this chapter ages ago, the entire text part looked completely different and so did my plan for the reference... It turned out better that way, though.
If you don't know her story "Line of the Last" already, go check it out! I've rarely laughed so much reading simlit, let alone an Amazon Challenge!
My unsure gaze sought Evandros who noticed me, crossed the room and sat down next to Alexander from where he gave me an encouraging look. It was touching to see the strict king so close with his son.
So I did it. Serkon turned around when he noticed me and suddenly my mouth was dry. What could I possibly say to him after so much time? A long, awkward silence separated us. Neither of us dared to look into the other's eyes.
“It’s good to see all of them happy again,” he remarked at last.
“Yes. And it’s good to see you here.” I meant it with all my heart.
“I’m not here of my own accord. I was talked into this. More, yelled into it.” He peeked at the person who had done this for me.
“Really? Zeuxippe convinced you to come?”
“Forced me.” To be honest, I could not imagine what Zeuxippe could do to force him to anything. And I could not help but wonder how much influence she still had on him even after the end of their relationship.
“However, I’m glad she did.” The silence struck, again. Hippolyta led a lively conversation with Io.
“You did a good job raising her,” he finally admitted and left me astonished. “She’s a fearless little thing.”
“Well,” I confessed, “she takes after her father. And truth be told, Io cared for the more exhausting part. She can be a real handful.”
“Serkon, I am sorry. Truly, truly sorry. For using and tossing you. I wasn’t playing fair and I was young and selfish.”
He looked at me with that same intransparent gaze I knew so well. “Yes, you were.”
“Can you forgive me?” Oh, how badly I longed for this answer.
Yes. Say yes. Please.
“Maybe.” And with a look at Hippolyta he added: “I’ll try.” Then, his right hand stripped a ring from his finger and presented it to me in the palm.
“This is for her. Each member of the royal family of Dekanos is given such a ring after their birth as a token of the honor to be part of that family. I want you to give it to her.”
Suddenly, he seemed uncomfortable. “It’s still much too big to fit her, but she’ll grow into it.”
His awkwardness caught me so flat-footed that a girl-like giggle paved its way out of my mouth. “That she will indeed.”
“You’re laughing at me.” He was so quick to be offended in the last time, I had simply forgotten.
“No. Thank you, really. I do appreciate your gesture very much. But you should be the one to deliver it.”
“Me? You’re her mother.”
“And you’re her father, after all. And the one who’s gift it is. Come on, give it to her. You see she’s already curious.” Watching the child tipping her head back to squint at the object in his hand, Serkon finally gave himself a start.
His eyes met mine, again. “How did you call her?” By the Goddess. Had I not told him? I was sure I had mentioned it in the council. Everyone else knew.
“Hippolyta. But Io only calls her Lyta.”
“Hippolyta.” He pronounced it like a thought that had yet to be finished thinking. “A good name. But I like Lyta more for now when she’s still so tiny.” Did he know that he was giving the exact same explanation as Io? It seemed that I was the only one who persisted on using her full name.
Then, this tall man, a king, knelt down in the temple of a goddess that despised men with all her heart, in front of a little girl and presented her the gift that meant an illustrious ancestry for whoever would wear it.
He addressed her in such a gentle way. As if she was the most precious thing on earth.
For me, she really was. And perhaps, so it slowly dawned on me, not only for me.
“Lyta. Do you remember me?” My girl cocked her head and returned his look curiously, paying him full attention.
“Who are you?”
A deep sigh. Weary. A touch… disappointed. Naturally, I had told her. But how could a toddler girl understand what a father was when she had not met him but once?
“I’m a friend of your mother. And I have something for you. See, here?”
“Is it gold?” In her excitement she waved her arms unconsciously up and down like a young bird trying to fly for the first time.
“Yes, it is.” Her tiny hand flew forward and grabbed the ring from his palm, turning it this way and that to examine it in every detail.
“What is it?”
I did not own much jewelry and the bit I had I kept away from her when I did not wear it. Io had warned me that Lyta should not swallow it.
“Let me show you.” Serkon took her hand carefully in his and slipped the ring over her small finger. It sloughed and fell down as soon as he let her go but she reached for it immediately before anyone would be able to steal it.
“Well, you will have to grow a little first, will you?”
She threw him a glare. “I’m big. I’m a princess!”
“Tell the ring to shrink, then.” It was good to see that his humor had finally returned.
He rose and turned to me once again as if I was the only person in the room beside our daughter. “I’ll go now. Take good care of her.”
“Of course. And, you know, you can always come and visit her. Always.”
“Maybe.” I believed to know what still held him back.
Visiting Hippolyta meant seeing me. And Haimon and Protego.
Without even agreeing on it, Lyta and I watched him leaving together. And for the first time in suns my heart was filled with hope that this time, he might actually return.
There was a serious déjà vu in this chapter.
Evandros and Boras had stayed true to their word. From all I had learned, the meeting with Serkon had been quite an ugly scene with the king of Dekanos swearing and accusing them of things neither of the two others would tell me. Even Evandros' last and most insistent demand to ask pardon for his outrageous behavior against them had been of no avail.
So in the end, they were reduced in stripping him from his rights in the council. Needless to say that he had left in utmost anger and the council’s leaders blamed me once more for making mischief.
In the meantime, I was used to that. And although my intention for bringing my former lover and his daughter together had been to usher a reconciliation in, I had to admit that yet another time I had failed.
Honestly, could I have known that he was still angry with me? Or that he would not even talk to his own daughter unless it was to get rid of her?
I had never regretted that Hippolyta was his child. But I had regretted a thousand times and more what I had done to Serkon and therefor to the council as well. Since I have arrived six suns have passed and I have already left my mark on this area, just like I had aimed.
But it was not one future generations would remember with a breath of awe.
Only short time before Hippolyta’s fourth birthday, I invited the council’s members for her consecration. It had been a tradition in my home tribe and was at the Orcheons, too: still at a very young age, an Amazon heiress would be officially shown to the Goddess by her mother the queen so the immortal would grant her her blessing growing up. Usually, men were not allowed at such an occasion but considering the different environment of my new home and the trouble I had caused in the past, I found it justifiable to be a reason for joy at last.
The celebration would not be held in the gloomy lower part of the temple but at the brighter and by far more cheerful one upstairs. Those of the other leaders who had sons brought them as well and were relieved although they would never admit it. With the exception of Zeuxippe, they barely even entered the building since they worshiped other deities so they were not used to the depressing atmosphere. The Goddess of War from my home tribe had no temple here, but the Dark Goddess came the closest to her so I had decided I could as well use her temple to honor the deity of my youth.
My youth. The time of my life that had passed so fast. I had seen 26 summers and it was already my daughter’s fourth one. Soon, she would romp around the compound, compete with her friends and attend the lessons that Evandros let one of his educated slaves hold for the rulers’ children, one of the advantages he provided for his liegemen and -women. Zeuxippe’s daughter Rheia would be there too and somehow I liked the thought that our children would grow up nearly as close as sisters.
“Congratulations on this cornerstone. We must celebrate each child that outlives its toddler days.” Zeuxippe might be a conspicuous person but sometimes she still managed to approach me unnoticed.
I smiled at her. “Next summer it will be you in my stead to present your daughter to the Goddess.”
“Indeed.” As every mother would have, she beamed with pride. “Will you attend as well?”
“Of course.” It was an honor for a creator’s heiress to have as many leaders present as possible and I would gladly do my fellow queen and friend that favor after the rough start we had had.
Evandros motioned toward us, evidently uneasy. “Penthesilea, this is as good an occasion as always to tell you. We have given up the search for the man who gave Echion the order to kill you. All our efforts so far have been in vain.”
He took a short break, his brows clouded with disappointment. “Even the God did not reveal the evildoer to Alexandros. I simply doubt that we could still succeed.”
It was not really a surprise. The investigations had been time-consuming and led to nothing in the end.
Maybe I should have been worried, but my thoughts were distracted as soon as Io passed Lyta over to me to carry her into the temple like tradition demanded.
She would have to quit it on her own feet, something she was entirely capable to master. Nevertheless it was an essential sign for the Goddess who wanted to see her strength in order to deem her worthy of her aid.
Inside, at the end of the long stair, the Orcheon priestess awaited us.
“Have you brought the token of her rule?,” she asked while the attenders assembled at our sides.
How could I ever forget a thing as important as the gem that would determine the path of my daughter’s life? As princesses, Xanthippe and I had been taught each and every detail of our people’s ceremonies.
Boras had not been thrilled when I had told him about the stone I had chosen for my Hippolyta. “A dark gem that possesses the power to turn water into blood? What sort of omen shall that be? Don’t you think there has been enough harm yet?”
Indeed, at first sight the stone did not seem an appropriate choice. The very symbol of bloodshed innumerable generations had spun myths and legends around, with time stained by the blood of its owner’s foes.
Truly, it did sound ignorant considering my past quarrels with the other kings. But notwithstanding my friend’s words, my daughter should be a strong and determined queen who was able to resist the challenges that I had failed to overcome. It was the strength of the stone that I aspired for Hippolyta.
And yet, I still had noticed the worry on Boras’ face.
The priestess rose from her throne, lifted her arms and turned her face to the ceiling, eyes closed in worship, chanting an age-old incantation in the hoarse tongue of the immortals.
I inhaled her every word when she started to pass the Goddess’s blessing to my daughter, in our tongue now so we could understand.
“The splendid Goddess, Queen of the Dark, has seen the young princess Hippolyta and turns her face on her. She beholds her and puts her spirit to the test.”
“If the princess proves worthy, she will endow her with the gift of courage that indwells this stone.”
“She bestows determination on her and holds her protecting hand over her on the battlefield.
Princess, may you follow the Goddess’s call. Bow to her rule, that others will bow to yours. May your tribe grow strong and firm under your reign.”
After she had uttered the last word, I set my girl down at the bottom and walked downstairs alone to place the gem onto the altar, the traditional duty of the heiress's mother.
There it would remain until Hippolyta would take over as queen. At a time when I wouldn’t be present any more to witness the most significant event in her life.
If it was not for a consecration or coronation ceremony, no one but the priestess herself was allowed to enter the room. Narrow as it was, it left me awestruck nevertheless. I could literally feel the presence of the goddess in the golden light of the candles and her stern eyes watching me, the insignificant mortal.
But I would do anything for my daughter. So I finished my prayer, begging with all my heart and under tears that she would become a better queen than me.
When finally I got back to the revelers where I had entrusted Hippolyta in Io’s care, I froze.
They were not alone any more.
Lyta's stone is the Hematite. It tarnishes with time and turns red and during grinding it stains the water red as well - "turns it into blood" in Boras' words.
And in case that anyone wonders, Penthesilea has a metal as her sign, namely the Sims metal Romantium. It was given to her by her sister Xanthippe, queen of Santrake after she declared her wish to found an own tribe. As second oldest, she was never meant to be queen of her home tribe so she didn't get a sign as a toddler.
Poses by redsimmer, josiesimblr, overkillsimmer, flowerchamber, MrsRacooney, joannebernice and A-luckyday (here and here)
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
In the aftermath, Penthesilea regretted it. She’d prepared herself for an embarrassing defeat in front of her students and a few bruises. With the wounds, she could deal. The bruise at her nose had only been superficial and the blood was wiped away easily. On the outside, all traces of the fight had disappeared. And the humiliation in front of the other warriors was well-deserved as was Serkon’s wrath.
Yet when the time had come, his fierceness had shaken her.
He’d never given her a competitive edge, but that day… He hadn’t been himself. So ferocious and eager to violence. While she’d already seen him in anger many times, she’d never feared him. Not when he’d been drunk, not when she’d told him about her pregnancy, not when she’d challenged Evandros for Io. Not even back when she’d broken up with him.
Now, she was afraid. Because she didn’t recognize the man any more whom she had believed to know.
Seeking comfort, she snuggled against Hippolyta’s warm body. In that moment, she didn’t care whether the men saw her unsettledness and interpreted it as fear.
Feeling a huge hand on her shoulder, she breathed deeply.
“He shouldn’t be allowed to treat you this way, even though he’s a king,” Advik of Morones said calmly. “No woman should be treated this way in the first place.”
For the first time in her entire life, no answer entered her mind. So she held on on Hippolyta instead of reacting.
“My lady?,” Advik asked and took his hand from her shoulder.
Io stepped forward, addressing him in a gentle tone. “The queen’s upset. We better go now.”
“No.” Suddenly, she could speak again. “I promised Boras to bring Hippolyta along and I will keep that promise. We will go visit him.”
“Are you sure, my queen?” Io’s evident concern didn’t change anything about her decision.
“Yes, I am. Here, take her.” Carefully, she placed Hippolyta in Protego’s arms. In public this was still a task for a servant, not a free tribe member.
“We’ll accompany you, my lady, if you allow us to do so,” Iasion offered as highest ranked of the Borathions.
“Me, too,” Advik threw in.
“Of course.” A discussion was far too exhausting to be held now. The only time when Advik tried to address her on the way, she refused.
“I don’t want to talk.” He was disappointed but breathed in deeply, then swallowed. “Alright. Just know that if you need someone to speak, I’ll be just a word away.”
Indeed, he was, him and Iasion talking to Io in a low voice. Their company cheered the young woman up and from time to time, Penthesilea could hear her bright laugh.
But she herself just felt empty and Hippolyta bursting with energy didn’t help either. The girl stubbornly kept running away from Protego to her mother, seeing it even more as a game since she wasn't allowed to. Each of the slave’s mumbled apologizes and his embarrassment cost the queen part of the last remaining strength.
It was hard to tell Boras what had precipitated them into such a tenseness after he had shown so much joy to see her and her daughter. Iasion took the responsibility to report to his king and the Amazon was grateful for it.
“Iasion, I entrust the well-being of our guests to you. Penthesilea, please follow me. And the rest of you, leave us alone.”
The older king took her aside. She was scared, Boras acted calmly but was evidently serious.
“What was this about? You should be done intriguing by now, don’t you think?”
Whatever she had wanted to say, the words stuck in her throat and Boras seized the opportunity.
“What didn’t you do? Expose your toddler daughter to a place where only warriors stay? Bring a tribe member with you who obviously isn’t a fighter? Ignore your slave’s excessively irresponsible behavior and instead offer Serkon a fight?”
“I’m not blind, my dear, and neither is Serkon. As soon as he comes to his senses he will notice what I am seeing now.”
His eyes that Penthesilea didn’t dare to meet traveled toward the group of others.
“They don’t look as if the events had surprised them. Your tribeswoman is coquetting with Iasion as if nothing had happened and your slave doesn’t exactly behave as if he bore any guilt toward your daughter. From which I gather that he doesn’t.”
He turned to her again. “Do you see? Even from the little I have heard I can tell. It seems that unknowingly I have given you a brilliant pretense to realize your well thought-out plan by inviting Hippolyta along with you.”
“I- I’m sorry. I just thought… thought that he would come to like Hippolyta if only he spent time with her at last.”
“I can't believe that we are having this conversation again. What did you hope to gain from acting on your own account?” The more questions Boras asked, the more Penthesilea felt like she was a scolded child. Although those days have been past for so long. “Serkon’s hatred by bringing your slave? It seems that you have failed each single aim.”
“I couldn’t let Io bear the blame for leaving Hippolyta alone,” she whispered desperately. Whatever the consequences, fighting the quarrel with Serkon at the expense of her most precious friend was out of question.
“You could just have shown him her. He descends from an illustrious bloodline, not from a band of savages.”
“He wouldn’t have listened.”
“He didn’t this way either, did he?” Boras sighed. “For the sake of the whole council and your own, you shouldn’t try to get closer to him again. Give him time. Give it to yourself. He’s an honorable young man.”
The blush on her cheeks betrayed her embarrassment. “I... understand. You have my promise that I won’t try again.”
Finally the Borathion leader’s face lit up a bit. “We all wish the lively young king back he once was.”
“Evandros and I should have stepped in at some point yet we missed out and believe me, we are well aware of that. But,” he caught her gaze, “one of the leaders wallowing in self-pity while another one boils with rage can easily tear the council apart. We can’t let that happen.”
It was a long time until Penthesilea spoke up again. “Thank you, Boras,” she said with sincere gratitude. “This reprehension was just what I needed, I guess.”
Completely unexpected, a whimsical smile returned to his face. “Good to know that you accept such words from a man. That’s quite unusual for one of your kind.”
“Maybe I have adapted to my environment in some way? Even though it may not seem so at first sight. My mother didn’t school me for either being a queen nor dealing with men.”
“All of us hope that you will prove a model student.”
“I’ll try.” Unsteady, she hesitated. “May… Maybe it’s weird or too much to ask for, but may I hug you?” The surprising request let Boras burst out in laughter, driving away the depressing atmosphere at long last. Both of them breathed a secret sigh of relief.
“Of course,” he stated emphatically and embraced her.
It felt so good. He was warm and strong but all the same entirely different from Serkon. Comforting.
“Do you know how flat on my back I would be without you?,” she whispered.
His chest quavered with a warm laugh. “I’m father to two daughters but one can never have enough of them.”
Lot: "Auziki Amazon Village" by Simsimmons2
~*Year 6 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
“Ugh.” Another blow hit me relentlessly. No doubt, I’d feel it the next day.
Still, I was convinced that I was stronger but I was also a head taller than him. And he was fast, incredibly fast. We almost equaled each other, both of us had to take a lot.
Well, that’s your reward for showing off when he won hands down against Simachion. But you couldn’t let your personal student down, could you?
Never had I been so tempted to watch an opponent’s arms rather than his eyes – the worst mistake one could make.
I had to stop that at last and for that, one of us had to end up in the dust. None of us would back down voluntarily. I put up with receiving another hit. My shoulder felt as if it would burst. In the next moment I attacked for my part and used my opponent’s power against him, ridding him of his balance.
Quicker than any of us could think he was on the ground, breathing heavily. My higher weight had finally paid off.
“You- are good,” I admitted. “Haven’t had such a tough- fight for a long- time.”
“Me either.” He stayed at the soil for a moment, panting for air as did I.
When he tried to get up, I offered him my hand. If he wanted, we would part as friends. Apparently he saw it the same way.
“Are you- a prince or champion where you- come from?”
“Not really. I just- happen to have- a lot of- practice.”
“Oh well, I have that too.”
“I got a- younger brother who loved- being engaged in fights.”
“You do? Must be- exhausting. My father has trained me- since I was a boy. So what’s your name, stranger? I do like- to know the names of the men I fought. Especially when they excelled.”
“Weird name. Which tribe are you from, Vince?”
“It’s pretty small and called Burton.”
“So, officially you are Vince of Burton?”
Something flashed knowingly in his alert green eyes. “I guess you can call me that, yeah.”
“I am Serkon, king of Dekanos and son of Nikomedes. You can tell your tribe you have fought bravely against a king.”
“No doubt that I will,” he replied smiling. “But in honesty, I’m finally going to leave now. There’s still a long way ahead of me and my wife and children are waiting at home.”
“Send them my best regards. Farewell, Vince. May the Gods bless you.” It was an old phrase and even though I didn’t need any gods to lead my life, this was a matter of courtesy.
“May they bless you as well, Serkon of Dekanos.”
The moment he turned and went away, I noticed that no one was standing around us any more. They were all gone. My search for them didn’t last long; all too soon I had spotted some newcomers.
Penthesilea. And I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw whom she had brought with her.
A tiny girl. And the slave. How dared she?
Everyone pretended to have forgotten or not to care. Even Simachion just shot the man a frown. The Borathions didn’t pay attention to him at all, as if he wasn’t there.
“Is this lovely girl your daughter?,” Iasion of Borathion asked the Amazon.
Hypocrite. Who else should she be? Why was she here in the first place? She didn’t belong here.
All the fuss they made over the child and its mother. As if they weren’t going to have such little ones on their own in a couple of summers. Even those who already had. I sneered and went for a punching bag. Just the right thing to distract myself from the uncommon visitors.
They stayed closer than I was comfortable with. And louder, I could hear them. Him talking with the girl and watching her, sometimes peeking at me timidly. I didn’t really want to make another scene Evandros could take me to task for so I deliberately ignored them.
Soon my skin was covered by sweat. Another blow. Another one. It was tiring after the fight earlier and something still stung in my shoulder. My hands were numbed by the power of my strikes. All of my concentration was focused on the lifeless opponent before me and the next movement.
The child was still sitting at the bare soil near to my punching bag and talked to itself but the slave was gone and I couldn’t spot him anywhere.
I waited for him to return. He didn’t. More time passed, I threw a few more halfhearted punches at the bag. Still not back. A couple of kicks. No slave far and wide.
Massaging my hands, I watched the girl standing up, finally bored by talking to herself, and being about to cross the drill ground in its full length.
Even though she was the Amazon’s child, I couldn’t let her stray where a bunch of warriors were practicing their fighting skills in pairs.
A creature as tiny as her could easily be overlooked and who knows how fragile those little humans were when a man’s foot hit them by accident.
So I barred her way, arms crossed. “Stay here, girl.”
No sign of fear. Interesting. When she looked up at me our eyes met, she had those of her mother and her straight gaze.
And then she sidestepped me silently, still heading toward the fighters.
“No,” I commanded determinedly and stopped her with my foot, cursing the slave who had left the child unwatched for so long. Her immediate reaction was astonishing.
“Let me through!,” she yelled and hit my knee with her tiny hand. This helpless child hit me! Considering that only a handful of adults dared to do as much as address me without my permission…
She looked straight into my eyes. “Yes. Let me through!”
An angry cry, then her hands thumped my legs. “Yesyesyesyesyes!”
Embarrassed, I grabbed her wrists. Nobody paid us attention. Good. The king of Dekanos being attacked by a furious toddler girl and not capable of handling her. There were without doubt more glorious situations. In addition, tears began to form in her eyes. Tears of rage.
“Let me go!” Crying was the last thing I wanted to add to the moment so I untightened my grip.
“Only if you’re a good girl and promise not to go anywhere, will you?”
“But I forbid it.”
“You can’t. I’m a princess.”
“Well, but I’m a king so I can.”
Obviously, she was pondering whether I was lying or not. If girls of her age could already do that, I had no clue. Finally, she gave in.
“Fine.” But I still didn’t dare to leave her alone.
“Where’s that slave who looked after you?” By the movement of her head I could tell that she didn’t understand. Or didn't know where he was.
“The slave.” Damn, what was his name? “The man with the brown hair.” Still no answer.
Did I want to keep an eye on her for the rest of the day? Certainly not, the warriors would laugh at me behind my back and the other leaders face to face. That was a slave’s duty but since the bastard appeared to have forgotten his…
“I’ll bring you to your mother.” Should she see to her daughter’s welfare if she wasn’t able to choose obedient servants.
“No! Nonononono!” A remarkable amount of energy burst out of the little child in front of me. “I don’t wanna!”
By the gods. Where had I maneuvered myself into? It was high time that I got rid of this bundle of pure anger. She had definitely inherited her mother’s temper although this woman was rather restrained on the outside. But I’d gotten to know her better than that. Unfortunately.
“Alright.” I lifted her. “Heard you, now let’s go.”
“Let me down!," she screeched.
It was a strange feeling that someone hit me and it didn’t hurt at all. “Down! Now!” Did I hold her too tightly? Yet that was still better than letting her fall because she struggled too much, right?
“You must teach your slave a lesson or two about duty. He let her alone in a place as dangerous as this, even though she shouldn’t be here in the first place.” The girl in my arms calmed down as soon as she sensed the anger with which I addressed her mother.
She better, because she was the reason why I was forced to speak with that woman again.
The black-haired girl she’d stolen from Evandros got up quickly. “Give her to me, my king. I’ll see after her.” I handed the child over and was about to leave immediately when the Amazon called out for me.
“What’s the matter?”
She looked neither insolent or too intimate now, but… not unfriendly. Maybe a bit melancholic.
“Now that you’ve broken your silence, what would you think of a fight? For training. No one’s as good a training partner as you.”
It wasn’t a plea. Not an order. Just a proposition from one warrior to another. A fight in the state of boiling anger I found myself in? Being actually allowed to strike her?
“Alright. For training.” We had done this countless times before, but this time it was different. Sure, as always she tried to block my blows, to duck down before them or to attack in return.
However, she was hopelessly inferior. My fists landed on her shoulders, in her face. Once even my knee in her stomach which made her convulse in surprise.
Yet an astounded, sharp breath was all I’d hear of her. Every move was self-acting, an instinct. When I sensed her hand flying toward me, I already knew how to parry in order to achieve the best conditions for a counterstrike.
Suddenly, her voice woke me up. “Serkon, please. I can’t breathe.” The fact that I was holding her by her throat sacked into my mind. The Borathions already began to demand to let go of her.
I did. She gasped for air.
“Thank you.” A bloody weal stretched across her bridge. Was that my doing? It seemed that nobody was training any more. Everyone had watched us, some in shock, others with glee.
Even the twofold undutiful slave had re-appeared and was standing somewhat aside next to the black-haired woman and the child, horror written in his face. He looked away noticing my attention.
I turned to the woman face to face. She still breathed heavily. “Count yourself lucky that you’re a queen and he’s a slave. It’d be beneath my dignity to put hand on either of you.”
Thus I left her. Not taking heed of the bystanders who rushed to give way. A last glance back at the girl whom her mother received in her arms in that very moment, pressing the little body against her chest, burrowing her mouth and nose into the child’s dark hair.
The fearless girl with the familiar hair color.
Poses by Rinvalee, aoihana2510, matchagreenmidori, beverlyallitsims (here and here), akuiyumi, Wistful Castle, Quiddity and The Goncalves
This chapter has extra screenshots in the gallery
Vince of Burton does sound like a weird name in your opinion? Well, maybe Vincent Burton would sound better. Somehow Bugsie2016 and I ended up making spontaneous plans with her gen 2 legacy spare. So if you want to meet Vince again (with a bit less hair but still the same boxing skills), have a look at her Burton Legacy.