Ephiny and the Roman Army
by AJ Marks
Ephiny looked back into the hut realizing she was now alone with the Conqueror and Gabrielle who was still looking though stuff.
“Don’t worry so much,” Gabrielle said surprising Eph.
“Easy for you to say, you’re not the one who’s headed into a war camp,” Eph replied back to her.
“No, but they are expecting you to appear. They know such a force won’t remain hidden for long, even if the scouts are friendly to their cause,” Gabrielle said.
“You really think so?” Eph asked.
“Yeah, sounds like something the Romans do,” Gabrielle replied back to her.
Ephniy didn’t reply to that but supposed Gabrielle was right. It still meant she had to face a Roman army which probably didn’t have peaceful intentions with the Nation.
“So, did you find anything out in your tour of Terreis’ hut?” Eph asked changing the subject a little.
“Aa fascinating person, not much of a writer, but I think she kept things which meant something to her,” Gabrielle replied. “She still had the bracelet you made for her.”
“She-she did?” Eph replied, unsure what to say about that. Her feelings for Terreis were still there as she had been Eph’s first crush. True she loved Eponin, but you never quite get over that first one.
“She considered you and Eponin her best friends,” Gabrielle said. “Mentioned it to me shortly before she was killed, I thought it was strange at the time. We had been talking about the Amazons she suddenly blurted it out, along with the admission of what she had done to make sure you two got together.”
Eph glanced down at the ground in front of her wondering what type of life she might have led had been with Terreis. Would she and Eponin still be friends?
“She was a good friend,” Eph finally said.
They spent a few more moment looking around before heading back to the Royal hut. Eph was lost in her thoughts, between what happened to Terreis, and the latest revelations and the Roman army she had a lot to think about.
Ephiny looked up at the morning sun before taking a bit of time to readjust her sword. Normally its weight would feel reassuring but today it only reaffirmed her dread of the mission. Of course she also knew a lot more about the mission than she wanted to know.
“You keep fidgeting, you okay?” Eponin asked causing Eph to look over to see her lover looking back at her amused.
“Yeah, well no, I guess I don’t know,” Eph finally replied.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m nervous about this,” Eponin replied back to her.
“If it was a few soldiers, maybe even a shipwrecked crew I would be different, but a thousand or so, very different,” Eph replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
“I guess this is the best time to be preparing for a funeral and a festival either,” Eponin replied.
Eph looked across the village to where the preparations for Terreis’ funeral were taking place even as others were preparing to crown a new princess. In a way it all seem unreal to her and she wished she could be blissfully unaware as well to everything that was going on.
“Come on, let’s get going,” Eponin said dragging Eph by the arm.
“Hey, Eph, where are you going?” someone asked as they looked over to see Ammira walking over towards them.
“Um, well you see,” Eponin began.
“Queen Melosa asked us to check out a slight, well,” Eph said now unsure exactly what to say that wouldn’t concern Ammira.
“Disturbance, she wanted to keep it quiet,” Eponin said.
“She didn’t want to disturb the preparations going on by saying anything which might end up being nothing,” Eph replied hoping that Ammira would accept that answer for now.
“All right,” Ammira said slowly meeting Eph’s gaze but said nothing else. She knew Ammira didn’t believe all of their story but did not seem to press for anything else. “I’ll let you get going then.”
“Thanks, and keep it quiet,” Eph said.
“I’d feel better if I knew what was going on, but I’ll stay quiet for now, until I know what’s going on,” Ammira replied.
“Thanks,” Eph said and continued on out of the village.
They took care to avoide anyone who might hang around Koni or Legeria who were probably part of the Valaska’s Chosen group. Eph took a second wondering what Valaska thought of the name.
“You know,” Eponin said turning towards Eph. “I have no idea what to say to the Romans when we meet them.”
“That makes two of us,” Eph replied back to her. “I only know we shouldn’t mention the Conqueror.”
“Is that a backup plan?”
“No idea,” Eph replied honestly. “My biggest concern is surviving. I hope Artemis is watching over us.”
Ephiny noticed the Roman guard a second after Eponin had. It looked to Eph like the Romans were establishing an outpost here which made her more intrigued at what the Roman commander might say. She noticed that the guard failed to see them until they walked out of the bushes followed by a cry of ‘halt’ in Greek.
Eph stopped but made a mental note of the soldiers in front of her. The way they were dressed and attitude all indicated they were well trained and filed that away for later information when she briefed the queen.
“Who are you,” the leader of the group in front of her asked, she noticed his well –maintained armor and polished appearance.
“I think that’s my question, you’re on Amazon land,” Eph replied back to him watching his eyes.
“You’re an Amazon?” he finally asked, looking Eph and Eponin up and down for a few seconds.
“Yes, and my queen wants to know why you’re here,” Eph repeated the question to the soldier wondering if she would get an answer.
She watched as the soldier turned to speak to the other solider in Latin, which she didn’t understand. The other soldier nodded and left to head down a small incline towards the Roman camp while they waited in silence, each continuing to study the other.
Footsteps brought Eph’s critique to a halt as she watched the soldier return with another man who appeared to be the commander of the group, or at least by the look of his dress. He spoke with eth guards again and she felt slighted for a moment as he ignored her.
“Is there a problem?” he asked finally turning towards her.
“If by problem it means you’re here on Amazon land without permission then yes,” Eph replied. “Men are not allowed on Amazon land without permission.”
“An unfortunate accident I’m afraid,” the man replied. “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m General Bluto. We were headed home from a campaign when a storm blew us off course and damaging several of our ships. We had to unload half our men and provisions so the fleet could return safely to Rome. They will be returning to pick us up.”
“So why didn’t you contact us?” Eponin asked.
“Ah, well I heard the Empire and the Amazons are no longer on speaking terms, so I was unsure what type of reception to expect. My men have already fought hard and were looking forward to a break,” Bluto answered.
“Fair enough, I’ll inform my queen and see what she says. Stay within this area until you’re picked up and we’ll leave you alone. However, if any of your men leave the camp, I can’t guarantee their safety,” Eph told him.
“Of course,” Bluto stated. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m very busy.”
Bluto turned and said something else to the two guards and went back to his camp. Eph wanted to know what the man said but neither guard appeared to be moving. Eponin motioned they should head back. Leaving the area Eph felt sure more was going on than what she had been told, it all seemed too convenient to her.
Eph sat down in the royal hut with Eponin sitting down next to her. She looked around seeing Valaska, the Conqueror and Gabrielle waiting with the Queen for their report.
“They say they were blown off course and their ships were damaged as a result,” Eponin stated to them.
“Said in order for their ships to return safely to Rome they needed to unload half of their troops and provisions,” Ephiny said. “Their commander, a General Bluto, stated they were heading home from a mission, but they didn’t look like they were returning home.”
“Armor well-polished, the soldiers acting very professional with the general. Seemed more like they were beginning a mission rather than ending on,” Eponin said.
“Seems like s poor excuse to me,” Valaske said with a bit of a sneer making Eph wonder if the princess knew her name was bine used by a rebel group within the Nation.
“Poor yet typical,” the Conqueror stated.
“Let’s attack now,” Valaska said. “They are men, on our soil.”
“No, we still hold an advantage, and they are probably waiting on something,” the Conqueror stated.
“Someone from Valaska’s Chosen,” Eph said.
“Don’t say that, irritates me that they use my name for something so disgraceful,” Valaska stated making a face at the name.
“Whatever they call themselves, they’ve either already made contact or the Roman’s re waiting for them to make contact, how did they react to your approach?” the Conqueror asked.
“A bit surprised,” Eponin said watching as the Conqueror appeared thoughtful.
“”What do we do next?” Eph asked. “Do we sit here and wait for the Romans to make a move?”
“We continue on as normal,” Melosa said to them.
“That’s dangerous,” Valaska said speaking up right away.
“No, we continue on and keep quiet for now. We make it appear that everything is normal in the village,” Melosa replied.
“And if they attack, we’ll be in no position to defend ourselves,” Valaska said anger tinting her voice. “I doubt the Conqueror would wait and act like everything is normal.”
“Actually,” the Conqueror said sitting back in the chair and pondering the question. “It’s a wise move on the queen’s part, something I hadn’t thought of. I would warn our warriors thought, a Roman army this close isn’t something you want them to be surprised about.”
Eph watched Melosa think about that for a few seconds before replying.
“Your right about that,” she finally said. “The thought some of our own sisters are involved have caused me to lose sight of what is important, the survival of the Nation. Eponin, Valaska, inform the warriors of the ‘stranded’ Roman garrison and ask a few scouts to keep an eye on them just in case. Eponin, gather a few scouts and keep an eye on our outposts as well, especially those who volunteered for duty near the Romans.”
“In the meantime, Princess Gabrielle will need to learn what she is doing for tonight’s funeral,” Melosa stated looking at them all.
“I’m doing something?” Gabrielle asked, speaking up for the first time.
“I’ll take the princess over to the temple,” Eph said volunteering for the duty and knowing Eponin would be busy for most of the day with the scouts and warriors.
“All right, then things are settle for now,” Melosa said before turning towards Eponin with a final thought. “Eponin, I fear Tanis might try to return to the nation.”
“I understand, and if the scouts spot her? Are the orders still in effect?” Eponin asked.
“Yes,” Melosa’ cool answer came back to her.
Eph understood what the order meant. Tanis was banished and if she ever came back the order was to kill her on sight. She watched as Valaska and Eponin stood and with a respectful bow towards the queen left the hut to carry out their orders.
Now all that was left was the Queen, Gabrielle, and the Conqueror with Eph. A strange twist of events in the past couple of moons. Last season she would have never considered having the Conqueror in the Queen’s hut, now, it was almost natural.