~*Year 16 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
Nothing is able to put an end to the course of time, least of all the fleeting will of humans. Thus, the following suns brought about unforeseen blows of fate.
Completely unexpected, messengers were sent from the royal palace of Arythion to break the news to the appalled leaders of the area that high king Evandros had died in his sleep.
Evandros, the rock of the Council. The headstone of peace. The man who had made the nobles work together instead of intriguing against each other. With his death, a hole was torn into the unity of the leaders.
The certainty sunk in without mercy while they stood around the tall pyre and thick smoke carried the great king's spirit toward the sky, toward the fathomless realms of the everlasting gods who would judge his soul and gift it with immortality if they found it worthy.
Of course they would, but nobody could fill in the gap he had left behind among the living. Least of all Alexander who, although having grown into a respectable young man, was so different from his sublime father.
Only suns to come would tell if he could succeed in the enormous tasks that had been left to him.
Sorrow ripped into their hearts easily and those who had once been the firebrands suddenly felt expectations weigh heavily on them. In spite of the quarrels of their past, Penthesilea knew she could count on Serkon and her fellow queen. After all the trouble the king and her had gone through to experience friendship again, their bond was stronger than anything they could ever face.
Unless a despiteous deity decided otherwise.
It was all too present who was missing in their midst, especially later as they stood in the great festive hall and their new fellow ruler struggled for words in the traditional speech.
Evandros would have known the right things to say, the appropriate thanks to make, the best compliments to drop to yield hope and make the nobles soak his every word in.
Alexander did nothing of those.
“I- I am deeply honored by each one of you who came to pay their last respects to my father. He… he was a good king and ruled wisely. I hope to reach part of his wisdom one day, too.”
Tears shone in his eyes while he spoke. His mother sitting behind him at the queen’s place of honor couldn’t provide any help or comfort, all the more because she was sorrow-stricken herself, sunk into the chair that would soon be taken by her son’s future wife, the real queen.
She had lost far more than only her husband.
“I-” Wide-eyed, Alexander stared into space past the older rulers who he was supposed to lead now.
They saw his distress. His vulnerability and insecurity. And silently, they asked each other how life would continue with him as the highest-ranked of them.
Finally, someone took pity. Boras stepped up, sensing that the young man wouldn’t be able to bring his speech to a decent ending.
“I did know your father well, Alexander,” he said with his eyes as glassy as the young man's ones.
“For all my life, the gods have blessed me with the privilege to call him my lord and friend. Never would I have expected that he would enter afterlife before me. But friends,” he addressed the bystanders, “Evandros was not only a just king like his son claims.”
He squeezed Alexander’s shoulder slightly. “He did not only possess determination of the mind and a body strong enough to defeat the plague at a tender age. No, he was also a caring husband and father not only to his children, but his people as well. Let this be how we will keep him in our memory, and let this be in what you follow his lead.”
With steady hands, he took two fine glasses a slave handed to him and passed one of them over to Alexander who took it with trembling fingers.
“Let us raise our cups to Evandros of Arythion who has gone to be with the gods!,” Boras initiated the vow.
“To my beloved father and king,” Alexander repeated and the kings and queens lifted their arms and pledged allegiance and loyalty to their new high king.
Almost at the same time, choosing a mate at last meant pain of the heart for Io as well. Long ago, her choice had fallen to Iasion of Borathion whom she had favored ever since.
However, the Goddess showed no mercy to the gentle soul even though all sacrifices had been offered as required. When the day had come for the provider to bear her child, she was given a son.
Thus, it hit her even harder to be forbidden to spend time alone with Iasion ever again.
But holding her firstborn in her arms, cuddling and nursing him while knowing he would lead the life of a low slave made the kind woman sick.
For her provider and best friend's sake, Penthesilea decided that it would be best to give the boy away to a slave hold before he reached adulthood and thus spare his mother much suffering.
But her decison brought about pain on its own. Desperately, Iasion requested permission to raise his son so he wouldn't have to be an unfree servant for his entire life, separated from those who loved him and grow up at a place bare of hope.
In vain. The laws were strict when it came to tribal sons and their fate so all his pleas went unheard. Both parents had known well which risks they had taken with mating. And as he became too importunate, Penthesilea reminded him of the fact that the boy was already lucky - a son of royal blood would have to be sacrificed before his twentieth summer.
For weeks and moons, Io seemed to exist rather than live, mourning over a child who wasn't even dead but lost to her nonetheless.
The provider’s sore heart dragged the whole tribe into sadness and sympathy and in some torturing nights, Penthesilea sincerely wondered why men could cause so much misery when they were nothing but slaves.
Now that the sad part of the chapter is over, please let me shamelessly gush over the gorgeous celebration hall the amazing WiggleyTuff has built for the Arythions! :P You can find it here.
It's incredible how much time and love she's put into it! Thank you so much for your priceless work!
Poses by Draecia, wyattssims, flowerssimfactory, Atashi77, MrsRacooney, iplaysims4, sim-plyreality (here and here) and Rinvalee
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~*Year 18 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
2 years later.
In the moment Haimon let the heavy stone slump onto the others, a penetrating call ringed through the air.
“Lunch break, lads!”
He snorted disapprovingly at the belittling term but hunger let him keep his mouth shut while he waited for his share of bread and sleazy cheese. The work was fit to starve any of them out even before the sun was at its highest.
Seeking shelter from the merciless midday heat, he settled down in the shadow of a tree aside from the other slaves.
They were abject, shied away from their wardens and stopped speaking as soon as one of them came close although it wasn’t explicitly forbidden. Even if he had tried, he wouldn’t have known what to do or talk with them.
What he did do all the same was watching, observing. There were few of the others who stood out: one Arythion who was rumored to have royal blood and still held the most of Haimon’s respect for his dignified demeanor.
The Arythions alone accounted for almost half of the workers. One of the Borathion slaves, who were the hugest group among the remaining laborers, caught the eye with his appearance. Both his hair and skin shone as white as snow and while he was hard-working and skillful, this condition forced him to escape the sun more often.
The king of Dekanos had sent two men, one not even able to show off some downy hair at his chin. His youthful body was still incapable to perform the enormous muscular effort that was demanded of them.
Last of all, the Orcheons’ slave. Protego had told a lot about him and every single claim had been confirmed so far. Machaon believed to be the first of slaves and behaved so, too. Haimon narrowed his eyes as his glance passed the throng that had assembled around the brawny man, listening to him carefully after dully chewing their bread.
Many of them were dull in some way anyway, so dull that Protego seemed like vitality itself in comparison.
Maybe it’s the women who keep us sane, Haimon wondered.
At least he was sure that if it hadn’t been Penthesilea who had bought him, he would’ve been either free or dead in the meantime.
Not so bad a prospect, actually.
When he’d quit the trade post’s small slave dungeon and realized that the bare-footed and simple clothed woman who examined him so carefully was completely alone, he’d seen his chance. It would be easy to charm her, blind her and escape, a lot easier at least than with the heavily armed male escort of the slave trader.
But of course a woman who traveled alone would feel able to protect herself. Of course she would be confident about holding a slave at bay when she purchased one. From one trap into the other, consisting of days and nights of work and too much time in a clammy basement room. No doubt, the Amazon knew how to prevent from fleeing what she considered her possession.
Even at thinking back to his naivety he grit his teeth. She didn’t trust him yet. Still not. Everything he could do was waiting for an opportunity to reveal itself, a moment of abstraction, long enough for him to get the lead he needed to secure his success. And until then, he’d have to make the best of the situation. So he waited, day for day.
But there were so many people around in the meantime who looked after him. That snotty brat of a princess, never averting her hateful gaze from him.
Kind Io who didn’t deserve to be held responsible for a flight.
So for most nights, it was enough to escape from the dark basement into the bed of the queen, even if it wasn’t for long. Actually, how many men could claim that? A warrior queen desired him – and she filled all his senses to the fullest.
Until his day would come, he would enjoy her as often as possible, savor her willingness and the knowledge that he had outrivaled a king.
“Hey! To work, lazy feller!”
Haimon recognized the foreman who had approached him as the same one he had asked about the well-being of Chrysippos. He never did as much as look at any of the slaves directly, but his pity for the poor woman who had lost her son had been surprisingly sincere.
“Alright, alright,” the slave mumbled. They changed tasks after half a day which meant helping with the roof instead of carrying stones for him now. Despite that arrangement, there was no doubt that in the evening each bone and muscle in his body would ache again for a night of sleep.
When the sun finally approached the horizon, Io turned up to accompany him home like every evening. Thank all gods that Penthesilea avoided the public embarrassment of a disobedient slave that would have been inevitable would she send her heiress instead.
Io stopped a bit aside, looking out for the master slave while she held her belly. Her second pregnancy showed already.
“Call it a day, redhead. You may go,” one of the wardens addressed him. No need to say that twice.
Exhausted, Haimon dragged himself to the huge bowl of water that was meant for them to wash the sweat and dust away. There were few occasions when he actually looked forward to his creaking bench so much.
Io’s beaming greeting immediately reconciled him with the day.
Her pleasant character was one of the good things in that life that wasn’t his.
Despite the exhaustion, he managed to give her a half-smile. “I got news for you today. From a certain black-haired young man.”
A confused gaze rested on him while the provider brooded about his announcement, then sudden realization entered her eyes. “Advik?”
“All gods, no!” Not that hypocrite who had gladly accepted to breed with Io and married a princess only two moons afterward.
His fierce response caused Io’s face to fall so he hurried to cheer her up again.
“Chrysippos of course.”
“Oh.” Within the blink of an eye, she hung on his lips again, her lips trembling. “How is he? Is he lonely? Do they treat him well? Have they told him who his parents are?”
Glad that Penthesilea wasn’t present, Haimon smirked. The queen highly disapproved every mention of Io’s son, claiming that would make it easier for her to forget him.
Nonsense. Nobody forgot their family that easily.
“He’s doing well,” he assured the small woman. “A slave working in the trade post’s kitchen who has lost her own daughter a sun ago fosters him.”
“Does… does he remember me? And Iasion?”
Shit. It’d been hard enough to worm that much out of the warden without being punished for his annoying persistence. But disappointing her now would be cruel.
Still looking at him, the huge dark eyes filled with tears. “I miss him so much,” she sobbed between two breaths, “I want to be there for him when he’s afraid, see his first steps and see Iasion play with him. And- and I want to hear when he begins to talk-” Another sob interrupted the hasty flow of words, her knees shaking. “Like- like any other mother-”
Narrow streams flooded over her cheeks unhindered and watered the spare grass.
“No, don’t….” Helplessly, Haimon tried to calm the crying person before him down. Without either success nor response. The flow of sticky tears had been held back for too long. Nothing would allay it now.
“By Mitera, why can’t I be- any- anyone else!” The name of the Bright Goddess, too sublime for mortals to utter according to the provider’s very own words. Names possessed power. Appealed to, the gods worked wonders or punished those who had dared to address them in such a blasphemous manner.
Nervously, he approached the crying woman and pulled her into his arms. “It’s alright…” Small hands pressed against him, seeking a remedy against her weak stand and heartache likewise. Carefully he lifted his hand to stroke over her hair, comfort her in every way possible. “Shhh...”
Whatever that queen seemed to think, she was surrounded by people who weren’t made for the lives she imposed on them.
“I swear by the Great Mother to take care of you.” It was impossible to tell if she’d heard him because tears still dripped onto his chest. “Everything will turn to good.” One hand held her head, one her frail body while he desperately wished she’d stop weeping at last.
“By the Goddess!,” a raucous voice exclaimed only a step away in their back. “Queen Penthesilea’s master slave and her provider. What a great scandal that’ll cause!”
“Let us be,” Haimon growled threateningly while he tried to free himself from Io’s tight embrace without hurting her.
“No way. Don’t you know I’d be punished if that was revealed and I kept silent?” Finally rid of Io who was standing on her own again, red rings around her eyes, the master slave was able to turn around and face Machaon directly.
“So will you be if you spread lies. For the sake of your health, I advise against that.” A moment passed with them looking each other over, estimating. Then, the other man threw him a delicate smirk.
“Don’t rely on your queen saving you, she can’t risk that twice.” With the last word spoken, he set off toward the next guard.
“Stop immediately!,” Haimon barked at the Orcheon, already going after him but a slender arm held him back.
“Come and get me if you dare!”
One yank to shake Io off, a few big steps and he’d caught up, pulling Machaon around hard.
“Don’t. Spread. Lies, I said.”
“Take your filthy hands off me and go back enjoy your whore as long as you still can,” the brawny man hissed.
Not more than the blink of an eye afterward, a fist flew into Machaon’s face. Something snapped away under the force. He stumbled a few steps backward before he regained his balance. Then, his hand fingered his nose, completely dumbfounded. While he wasn’t paying attention to Haimon any more, others had already spotted them. Two guards raced across the place, hauled cursing Haimon off the other slave.
Pale as a ghost, Io approached, covering her mouth in horror and holding her stomach. The third warden came closer, pushing the Orcheon’s nose which sagged at the pressure.
“Clearly broken,” he assessed unmoved.
More stunned than because of pain, Machaon groaned.
“Well,” the oldest guard remarked uncomfortably, “as it seems we’ll have to send for their owners to settle the matter. By the Divine Merchant, we should have watched the redhead more thoroughly. Western savages are never up to any good.”
Only the blink of an eye later, any remaining color left Io’s face and she sank to the ground.
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~*Year 12 after Penthesilea's arrival*~
Penthesilea is 32, Serkon and Zeuxippe 36, Protego 35, Haimon 34, Io 28, Lyta 10 and Phyllis 3
Arms spread widely, Serkon approached them in a steady pace.
“Aaah, Penthesilea. Welcome. And my dearest little princess is here as well!”
Lyta flung her arms around his neck with enough power to choke the unprepared man.
“See, dad? I’m getting stronger and stronger!,” she declared proudly.
“You sure are.” Her father massaged his throat. “Good thing that you aren’t here every day to try and murder someone. Now, let me introduce you to someone. May I present my friend Vince of Burton and his wife Briella? They have come from afar with their son and daughter to attend today’s celebrations.”
“Vince, this is queen Penthesilea and my daughter Hippolyta, a real little fighter.” He laughed heartily. “No doubt that she’ll outrival the both of us in a few summers.”
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my ladies.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” Penthesilea threw a wide smile at the man’s wife, gesturing toward her belly. “Congratulations, Briella. I do pray it will be a boy.” Courtesy was a wicked thing, for sometimes it demanded to tell lies rather than stick to honesty. Which mother didn’t wish for a girl deep inside her heart, a child in which she would discover her own younger self again one day? But on the male territory of Serkon’s palace she either would nor could say that aloud.
“Thank you for your kindness, my lady, but Vince and I only care if they are going to be healthy.”
“We will love them the same as our other children, no matter if they will be a boy or girl. Won’t we, Vince?” For a short moment, they exchanged an intense, warm gaze. So much sincerity laid in her words.
She really likes him, Penthesilea realized. Almost an impossibility.
Usually, women of male tribes were forced to marry someone they didn’t even know. First and foremost in noble and royal families, many girls were already spoken for before they were able to walk. She was convinced Serkon’s bride – what was her name, again? – had not had a choice concerning her very own fate. If the king demanded, she would obey. That was what the scholar of her home tribe had taught Penthesilea, back then in what seemed now like another life. And that was as well what Evandros and Boras had explained her many times, admonishing her not to interfere.
But if marriage could indeed turn into a bond as strong as those two seemed to hold... However, every day that passed made her more grateful for the liberties she possessed herself.
Serkon hadn’t noticed her mind wander and had continued speaking to Vince. “-either way, I hope to join you in fatherhood soon.” He pulled the young woman at his side closer. “So let’s hope that Lyta will get a little brother before long.”
“A brother?” The girl pouted. “Oh dad, boys are no fun. Why can’t I have another sister instead? And why can’t you have her with moth-”
Emphatically putting her hand onto her daughter’s shoulder, Penthesilea shut her up. “Leave it alone, Hippolyta. You will see, as soon as he sees the light of day you will be overjoyed.” And toward Serkon’s bride, she added: “I am most sorry for my daughter’s behavior. She is still too young to understand.”
The young woman sent her a brief, forced smile back, the tips of her mouth barely twisted upward. Penthesilea couldn't hold it against her, knowing her own politeness was barely held up.
“Hippolyta, why don’t you go looking for Cheira? She would be a more interesting company than your old parents, wouldn’t she?”
“Oooh, mother. I want to stay with dad!”
“It’s alright, warrior princess,” Serkon assured her. “Go have a bit fun with your friend. Vince’s children must be somewhere out there, too. Please do me the favor and look after them in these unfamiliar surroundings, will you?” He gave her a gentle clout and watched her race away eventually.
As if they had reached a silent agreement, Vince and Briella retreated to give the king and queen a moment for themselves.
With their daughter left, words suddenly went rare between them. What was Penthesilea supposed to tell her former lover at his wedding day? Having a daughter, he was not supposed to be alive any more in the first place.
“I’m… I’m glad for you. I really am.”
Serkon's glance riveted on her, studied her face before his features became soft. “You don’t have to pretend to feel comfortable here, but it is good you brought Lyta. It... means much to me to have her here.”
“You deserve this.” Before locking her gaze with his, it scurried over the young woman who held her head low. “May you be as good a father for your son as you are for Hippolyta.” Again, he drew his bride closer, not noticing her slight reluctance.
“I... will leave you to your other guests now.” Her mind was restless, urged her to dive into distraction but made clear at the same time that said distraction wouldn't be found so easily.
Huge steps took her away from Serkon and the other woman. Flee, a cool breeze whispered into her ear and stroked her neck. Unconsciously, she shuddered. The huge gate of the palace seemed inviting.
So many people, so many familiar faces and yet she was a stranger in this house.
What a prospect - to be on her own compound, surrounded by Io and her laughing daughters, cuddle Phyllis and tell Hippolyta a story about the ancient heroines. Watch Protego crouching down beside the fire, secretly listening as well while he pretended not to. Feel Haimon’s eyes rest on her and know he couldn’t wait to make her forget the image that had already sunken its teeth firmly into her memory. The image of another man with another woman.
Even the blandness in those words stabbed her heart already. But Zeuxippe knew. “It appears that none of us has won this game.” The first reaction was to disagree, but – wasn’t it true? Hippolyta was not a prize and couldn’t be compensated for with gold. And what else was indeed left that she would be able to claim as a gain?
“It does,” Penthesilea finally muttered monotonously.
“Oh, my dear!” Compassionately, the other queen rubbed her back. “That’s only the life our ancestresses have envisioned for us. Just like they wanted, we don't fall for a man. We're not fooled or used. And don’t you still have your master slave to satisfy you?” Whereas she is entirely alone.
“Or… does he trouble you again?”
“Yes.” The sigh came from deep inside. She was so overwhelmed by the fierce pace of time. Why could there never be peace for once? “He still can’t stand the children. I believed his attitude would improve if I gave him more time, but… well, I'm helpless now. And soon there might be another one. Io already has permission to breed with Iasion of Borathion, she just wants to wait until Phyllis is a bit older.”
“Interesting.” Something flickered in Zeuxippe’s brown eyes.
“So, tell me. Do your plans still include him? I know I would be afraid to bear a son after two daughters. By the Goddess, I already am.”
“As a slave, he’s a disaster, changing from charms to rage in less than the blink of an eye. As soon as one of the girls happens to come close, he will fume.”
“Yes, I see… Now, there is an offer I’d like to submit to you. Have you ever thought about lending him to someone? For a suitable amount of gold, of course.”
Was it just to want Haimon all for herself, at least him? To squirm at the vision of what could be?
And all that when it was her who had stolen the slave from a fellow queen?
“I’m not sure I’m willing to give him up already.” Actually spoken, the words made her sound even more self-seeking. Spoken, they gained power.
Despite her unwillingness, curiosity urged her forward. “You do have someone in mind, don’t you? Is it yourself?”
A hearty laugh sounded, only one among the many that filled the hall with bliss that day. “As much as I'd love to take a look behind those blue eyes and skirt, no. I already have a daughter and certainly won’t take the risk of a boy whom I’d have to kill. But one of my warriors prefers other women. And while I support that very much, she refuses to breed with our slaves and has already scared them away. Since our tribes are so small, I can’t choose to tolerate this attitude.”
Not blind to her friend’s discomfort, Zeuxippe stopped. “If you feel uneasy about it, I can understand. I would as well. It’s just that we desperately need fresh blood anyway and slaves – especially agreeable ones – are hard to find in an isolated area like this. Besides, I need someone to crack her shell and after everything you’ve told me about him... Well, it's your decision.”
The strange request indeed caused quite a stir for Penthesilea. Her whole body rebelled against the thought to share Haimon, all the more because she sensed that she wouldn’t want him any more after that. When she and Zeuxippe had still been enemies, it had been a great attraction toward Protego to know that what he accorded to her had once only been entitled to the Orcheon. But to be only one of several women had never been in her intentions. Not if it concerned her own slave, not when she could prevent it.
“I will consider it and let you know. Now, please, let’s just leave this matter behind and get something to drink.” The Dekanos wine was the best of the entire area, a judgment in which the whole council and even Evandros agreed for once. It would be rather easy to enjoy herself with a constantly filled cup of rich wine and a friend at her side.
Until... well, until the evening, until everyone had assembled in front of the throne, in absence of a central altar. Until Alexandros, highest servant of the Sea God, had recited the oaths and united the bridal couple in the eyes of the immortals.
Let's provide a hearty welcome to Serkon's firstborn son and heir, Kaletor! :D Actually, it's still two years until he will be born but it fit into this chapter way better than into any of the next so we rounded the joyful occasion off, so to say.
Poses: too many to list them up, but I am sincerely grateful to all creators who have made this chapter possible!