Ephiny and the New Princess – Part 6

Ephiny and the New Princess

by AJ Marks

Part 6

“Yet despite it being complex it’s actually a simple story,” Gabrielle said to Eph’s question about how she and the Conqueror met.  “I like to say it was love at first sight, but Xena will deny that, always does, and that’s just like her.  Besides, I know better.”

“Now I’m curious about how that happened,” Ephiny said knowing there was a story about how a slave and her master could have love at first sight.

“The first time I ever saw Xena she looked like a magnificent goddess,” Gabrielle said and Eph watched as her face took a dreamy look.  “She’d just killed my previous owner at the time, for which I felt grateful and strode through the household taking command of everyone and everything.  I recall our eyes meeting and something inside me wanted to go with her, be with her, be consumed by her.”

“You wanted to be with the Conqueror?” Eph asked wondering if Gabrielle had heard even half the rumors of the Conqueror, if so no one wanted to go with her, least not a slave.

“Yeah, I know, foolish, but that’s what I wished for.  I understood my position, a lowly slave, but I was surprised that she even noticed me that day,” Gabrielle said.  “Our eyes met, and I think that changed everything.  I had heard many rumors about how she treated slaves but at that moment I didn’t care.”

“So, the Conqueror took you as a slave that day?” Eph asked.

“No, I was sold a short time later my new owner sold me, and that day Xena did buy my,” Gabrielle stated.  “I remember being terrified, scared, yet a small part of me was happy.  I think my heart knew then what I know now, I love her, and she loves me.”

“Every story I’ve heard of the Conqueror doesn’t involve love,” Ephiny replied.

“I don’t’ think she knew how, she needed someone to teach her,” Gabrielle said.  “I think in a way that’s why she paid so much for me, she wanted to make sure no one else could buy me.”

“Was she as bad as the rumors said?” Ephiny asked unable to help herself, hoping she didn’t drag up any bad memories.

“Yes and no, I think a part of her feared being perceived as weak, which is what she considered love to be, so she tried to pretend she didn’t care.  And there were times I did fear her, but never for my life, and it turned out these very piercings were the turning point,” Gabrielle said, glancing down at the ring in one of her nipples.  Ephiny forced herself not to stare, and look at Gabrielle’s face but noticed that Airlea continued to stare.

“How would the piercing change anything?” Airlea asked.

“The pain I experienced got through to her heart in a way I had yet to do,” Gabrielle explained.  “Seeing me in pain hurt her too much.”

“I’ll never say you don’t have courage,” Ephiny sated, and went to say more when the door opened and the Conqueror and Eponin entered.  “What happened?” Eph asked thinking it was too early for them to return.

“Ugh, what didn’t,” Eponin replied sitting down and looking disturbed.  “Its really a tangled mess.”

Eph looked over at the Conqueror hoping to get more information than what her lover gave.

“It appears Amazons are also involved in this,” the Conqueror stated.

“It’s true,” Eponin said before Eph could even protest.  “Seems a few Amazons still hold a grudge against the Conqueror and think the queen ruined the Nation, want to replace her.”

“Who?” Eph asked, knowing a threat like this could not be treated kindly.

“They were calling themselves Valaska’s Chosen,” Eponin said.

“Valaska?  That makes no sense,” Eph said frowning.

“I know, but here’s where it gets interesting, I thought I heard Tanis’ voice,” Eponin said.

Eph had to think for a second before the name came to her.  “Wasn’t she banned, oh goddess, you don’t think?”

“I do,” Eph replied.

“Um, who is she and why is she banned?” Gabrielle asked.

“Tanis is Valaska’s older sister, and when Valaska received the Right-of-Caste Tanis went berserk,” Eponin stated.

“She attacked the Queen, Valaska and Terreis at the same time with the idea if she killed all three the Nation would make her queen,” Ephiny said recalling that day.

“Did she have any close friends, lovers?” the Conqueror asked.

“Ligeia, rumors were they were lovers, but no real proof they were,” Eph replied.

“Does she and Koni know each other?” Eponin asked.

“They hang around each other, part of a small group who always thinks they are better than the others,” Airlea said answering the question.

Eph felt a bit relieved she had sent the message back already to the queen, but wished this information was available when she sent the message.  She knew it was information the queen would want.  A guard walked in pushing another man who wore a scowl on his face, and she thought he was a Roman merchant.

“Also, this Roman merchant confessed to the assassination of your princess,” the Conqueror said.  “I’ll release him to Amazon guard.”

“Can we wait until we leave, we have no way of holding a prisoner at the moment,” Ephiny stated.

“That can be arranged, he’ll be held in the dungeons,” the Conqueror stated.

Ephiny walked over to him, recognizing him as the same one who spoke to her the first night they were here.  “So, what did you hope to accomplish?”

She looked him right in the eyes knowing he had no intention of answering her truthfully, and saw resentment and anger towards her.

“It doesn’t matter, the Amazons will be crushed in no time,” he replied.  “I only wish I’d taken out a few more of your filth.”

“Take him away,” the Conqueror said, watching as the guards removed him.

“This seems too easy,” Ephiny finally said.

“If Rome is involved, and I feel they are, then exposing them too soon will put us at a disadvantage,” the Conqueror stated.  “Caesar likes to think he understands and knows his enemy, but this time we have more knowledge than he would like.”

“Are you saying Rome is going to invade Greece?” Eponin asked.  Ephiny look on waiting to see what the Conqueror would say next.

“That’s exactly what I’m thinking.  He probably told the merchants they would make a killing selling arms to the Nation and Centaurs if a war started up between them, knowing that a side effect would be to distract Greece and open an area where he could land to strike at Greece,” the Conqueror said.  “Eliminate three nations in one swoop.”

“So, Rome’s going to get away with this?” Eponin said suddenly.  “They kill Terreis and all we get is a lousy merchant!”

“Eponin, stand down!” a voice said full of authority, causing them all to turn seeing Gabrielle standing there looking at Eponin.

“I think we all know who’s side you’re on in this,” Eponin said.

“No, I understand more than you,” Gabrielle said holding up a hand in the direction of the Conqueror.  Eph glanced over to see the Conqueror watching very closely to make sure it didn’t get physical as Gabrielle continued.  “For now, the Nation, except for certain trusted member, will think this ‘merchant’ did it on his own to get back at the Nation for not renewing the contract.”

“While you sit and do what, play politics with Rome?” Eponin said.

“No, because Greece and Rome are going to war,” the Conqueror stated.

Eph looked on at the statement hoping it didn’t mean what she thought it did but the others in the room seemed to not be phased by the comment.

“Paleamon, go tell the seventh army to quietly mobilize, we’ll head towards the Amazons and Centaurs after everyone has left, I want them ready to go the moment the last one has left following me and Gabrielle to the Amazon Nation,” the Conqueror ordered.

“At once Empress,” Paleamon stated, saluting before heading off to carry out his orders.

“I think Gabrielle and I should visit the Amazons for two reason, one, the official reason, after all Gabrielle is a new princess of the Nation so she has to learn what her position will be and second, to scout for a possible invasion by Rome,” the Conqueror stated.

“Won’t this be a bit obvious when the army shows up?” Eponin said, stating the obvious.

“The seventh is a small army, and I have a garrison already near Amazon territory, guarding the prisoners,” the Conqueror said.

“Perhaps a few more warriors in disguise as prisoners,” Gabrielle said as the Conqueror thought about it.

“Might work, along with the entire Royal Guard, add in Amazon and Centaur warriors, I think that will be enough to counter any army Rome sends,” the Conqueror said.

Eph raised her eyebrows at that comment and wondered how well Amazons and Centaurs would work together.  Of course she never would have expected to be at war against Rome and allied with Greece.

“Somehow, I wish I had stayed home for this trip,” Eph finally said, looking over at Airlea who merely shrugged.

“I’m not a warrior, only a priestess,” she replied.

“Whatever we decide, Queen Melosa needs to be informed of everything, otherwise, while I hve Artemis’ blessing, I doubt she wants me to be Queen,” Gabrielle said.

“And as long as the Roman delegation is still here, I do not think they’ll try anything, it’s not their style.  They will observe then report back to the attacking force,” the Conqueror said.  “That’s where we’ll hold the advantage.”

Eph watched them all, and hoped the Nation would survive.

End Ephiny and the New Princess

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