A Past Remembered part4

by Anita Louise

Chapter Eight

The horse trotted up to the stable, Xena jumped down and led it into the
corral and removed the saddle and bridle. Telgor the manager walked up to
her and said, "Good to see you again Xena. Your horse is lathered, looks
like you have ridden it hard."

Xena glanced up at the man and replied, "Got to go see about something." He
scratched his head as he watched the young woman run across the street.

Xena bounded into the Tavern, heading directly to the kitchen. It didn't
take her long to find the food. Coming across a saddle bag she stuffed the
items into it, turning to leave the room she ran into her mother.

"Want to tell me what is going on?"

Xena stared at the woman replying, "I'm in a hurry."

She found her mother's hands on her shoulder's as the woman glared, "Not
this time young lady, we need to get a few things straight!" Her mother had
pushed her back saying, "Sit down!"

Swallowing hard, Xena sat. She had never seen her mother as angry as she was
at that moment and she said, "Mother, it's all right."

Cyrene threw up her hands and said, "Is it me? What have I done that has
made you so irresponsible?"

Xena answered, "Nothing, it's just I have..."

"No excuses, first I want to know about the bloody clothes, how did that
happen? Do you think clothes just grow on trees. It took me time to make

Xena looked at her mother and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't ask for that to

Cyrene looked down at her daughter and said, "Sorry, no I will not accept
that. You tell me right now, what have you been doing?"

Xena gazed down then said, "It was a wounded animal, I helped it and got
blood on my clothes. I was going to try to clean them."

Her mother began pacing the floor and replied, "Animal? Where is it?"

"It's gone now."

"Don't lie to me daughter, I know better. For you to have gotten that much
blood on your clothes it would not just be gone, unless it died. If that is
the case then I want you to take me to it now!" Xena didn't move and Cyrene
said, "Just as I thought, another lie." She stopped pacing in front of Xena
and said, "You may think you are to big for a beating young lady, but I can
still punish you. As long as you are living under my roof, by the Gods, you
will respect me. Now tell me what has been keeping you so occupied?"

Xena softly answered, "I..I don't know."

"You don't know, then why has Maphias's mother been by here to ask me where
you are? He has been missing the same amount of time. Xena, I will not have
you sleeping around!" Xena jumped up from the chair, glaring at her mother
she said, "How can you even say that? I don't know where Maphias is, he
hasn't been with me."

The woman stared into her daughters eyes and said, "If you are telling me
the truth, then you will tell me to where you have been."

Xena shook her head and said, "I...I can't?" Cyrene was boiling as she
struck out at Xena, slapping her across the face with a resounding blow and said,
"How dare you disgrace me. Go to your room!"

Tears were forming in Xena's eyes as she cried, "Mother..." She ran from the
room and out of the building and crossing the street, she opened the corral
gate. It didn't take her long to saddle and bridle the horse as she galloped
it from the village.

Her face stinging from her mothers hand, she wept, but not from the slap.
The hurt was deep, the thought that her mother didn't trust her and imagined
she was a whore, was tearing her up inside. Approaching the cave she reined
in the horse and dismounted. Slowly walking into the cave she tried to wipe
the wet from her face. Ephiny heard the footsteps as she called out, "I hope
you are a friend."

Xena answered, "Friend. Did you get any rest?"

The woman answered, " To be truthful I tried, but this bed is not as
restfull as you."

Xena walked over, removed the bridle and unsaddled the horse. Taking the
saddlebag she walked over to the bed and sat down on the floor. "Got some
food, want to try to eat?"

Ephiny looked over and said, "You...you've been crying. Did someone hurt

Xena replied, "It doesn't matter. You are the one we have to get well. Let's
get you to sit up."

Ephiny smiled at her and said, "Only if you sit by me."

Xena stood up, helping the woman to sit. She handed Ephiny the saddle bag
and said, "Take your pick, there is an assortment in there."

Ephiny patted the bed with her left hand, motioning her to sit and Xena
said, "I'm not hungry."

"Join me, I don't like to eat alone." The woman stared up at her, her eyes
pleading with the woman as Xena replied, "All right, I'll have some."


The months came and went, Xena did not go back home. She hunted the meadow
for rabbit and carried water up from the spring. Ephiny's injury had healed
nicely and the woman was back to normal. Lycius had visited them on quite a
few occasions, he had told Xena how things were at home. He had pleaded with
her to let him tell their mother the truth. Xena stubbornly said, "No." The
last time he left, he looked over at Ephiny and said, "Try talking her into
coming home."

Ephiny walked up to Xena, placing a hand on the woman's shoulder she said,
"I'm so sorry, I will go to your home with you and we will tell your mother

Xena shook her head and said, "No, it's too late now. There is hurt that
can't be undone." Ephiny asked, "Who is Maphias?"

Xena turned to look at her and said, "Our families have promised us in

"Were you two serious?"

Xena shook her head and replied, "He is just like having another brother. I
don't think we would ever have married." They walked back into the cave as
Ephiny walked over to the bed staring down at it. Xena walked up behind her
and said, "Bet it feels good to be on your feet again."

The woman faced her and said, "To be able to do things on my own, it's
wonderful but..."

Xena looked at her quizzically, "But?"

"It's just, I miss you."

Xena reached out and touched Ephiny's face with her left hand and said,
"What's to miss, I'm right here."

Ephiny smiled at her and replied, "In case I never said it, Thank you, you
put your life on the line to help me. Your mother is angry at you, you have
lost your home. I feel responsible and I want you to come back with me."

Xena thought for a second and said, "You have told me all about your people
and their customs, You sure that they won't insist we join Artemis in union?
After all we have been living together for some time."

Ephiny's look became serious as she replied, "I hadn't thought of that, I
guess that's the way they would look at it. I don't know. But we have done
nothing wrong, our living arrangements have been as if we are family. Our
customs, are not your ways."

Xena frowned and said, "I'm not to sure what my way is anymore. I only know
I have grown very fond of you. I don't think I could face life without your
being a part of mine. I would miss seeing your smiling face."

Ephiny's eyes glimmered as she said, "Me too, guess that makes us a pair,
one way or the other."

Xena asked, "How about your friend, Epinon?"

Ephiny seemed deep in thought as she replied, "I have special feelings for
her, we had been inseparable through childhood, up until I was injured. I
don't know, she may be pledged by now, I don't want to lose you and..."

Xena smiled as she said, "I've got to meet this Epinon, she must be some
kind of a woman." She turned and walked over to the horse. Ephiny followed
stepping close to Xena she brushed against her back and said, "Those
feeling's are in the past, Xena, you are my present."

Xena turned as she said, "And if I can never give you what may be wanted?"

Ephiny smiled and replied, "Just being you, gives me all I could ever hope
for. The weather will be changing soon, we will have to go if we want to
make it back to my village before the storms hit."

Xena said, "I don't know, my one goal for so long was caring for you, and
now you really don't need me anymore. I don't know, I have to think about

Ephiny walked away saying, "Admit it, life would be boring if I wasn't
around to liven it up for you, you'd miss me. Come on let's go take a dip in
the lake."

Xena called, "Wait up."

Xena set on the bank watching Ephiny do a high dive from a tall tree. She
was amazed at the athletic ability she had. Ephiny was splashing in the
water having a great time. "Come on in, it may be the last time." Xena stood
up and removed her clothes. Placing the last piece on the ground she dove
in, swimming out to meet Ephiny. The two frolicked for some time. When they
walked out of the water and put their clothes back on Ephiny jabbed Xena and
said, "Bet I can beat you!" She raced past her, Xena smiled and ran after
her. Arriving at the cave, Xena started a fire and said, "Need to dry off.
Take those clothes off and hang them over here by the fire." She had already
began to remove her's.

The crackling of the fire was sending a cheery glow into the cave. Ephiny
walked over picked up a blanket and carried it over to where Xena stood,
trying to get warm. Ephiny reached out and placed the blanket around the
woman as she said, "Here, it will warm you."

Xena gazed at her and said, "Only if you get in here with me." She was
holding up her left arm and Ephiny stepped closer, she pulled the blanket
around them. They walked over to the bed and sat down as Xena slowly laid
down on her side, Ephiny followed. They lay close together, hugging the
blanket around them and Ephiny said, "I could get used to this."

Xena kissed her on the forehead and said, "I've never been this close to

Ephiny placed her right hand under Xena's chin and softly said, "Me neither"

Laying there, arms wrapped over one another, bodies touching, the two women
smiled and closed their eyes.


Chapter Nine

The woman shivered as she opened her eyes. Immediately she knew something
was wrong. Xena was laying on the bed by herself. When she had drifted off
to sleep, Ephiny had been with her. She reached for her friend but she was
gone. Sitting up in bed Xena frantically looked around the cave and called,

There was no answer as she jumped to her feet, hugging the blanket around
her she walked over to the dying embers of the campfire. Ephiny's clothes
were gone. Xena called her name again, then dashed outside frantically
yelling for the woman. When there wasn't any answer she turned and walked
back into the cave. As she dressed she had a sinking feeling in her stomach,
something had happened to Ephiny.

The woman stayed near the cave for weeks, going out for periods of time to
hunt for her friend. As the weather changed, it grew colder. Xena had to
finally admit that Ephiny was not coming back. She was heartbroken. Finally
she packed her things and rode the horse back to Amphipolis. She would stop
at the Tavern and tell her family good-by, then she would increase her
search further for Ephiny.

Xena rode up to the Tavern, dismounted and tied the horse to a hitching
post, reaching up she caressed the animals right ear then turned and walked
toward the front of the building. Reaching out to open the door she took in
a deep breath then entered. "Xena! You've come back, she has been asking
about you." Xena glanced in the direction of the voice and said, "Toris, who
has been asking about me?"

He walked over to her and said, "I thought you had heard, mother has been

Xena shook her head and said, "No, I didn't know. Will she be all right?"

He answered, "We don't know, she started to go down hill after you left and
the last two weeks she has been in bed. Go see her Xena."

She shook her head and replied, "She doesn't want to see me, I could make
things worse." Lycius stepped into the room, smiling as he saw his sister he
hurried over to her. Reached out hugged her and said, "I have missed you
little sister. You must stay."

Xena replied, "I don't think mother would like it, she thinks..."

He interrupted her and said, "I told her the truth, she regrets what
happened. Try to find it in you to go up and see her."

Xena shrugged her shoulders and answered, "I came back to tell you all
good-by, so I might as well get it over." She turned and left the room.
Climbing the stairs to her mothers room she passed the door to her room.
Thoughts were flowing in and out of her mind as she approached the door to
her mothers room. She hesitated then knocked and opened the door stepping
into the darkened room

Xena was used to seeing her mother as a tower of strength but the frail
woman that laid in the bed was a shell of the woman she remembered. She
slowly walked over to the bed and said, "Mother." The woman stirred and
opened her eyes, the minute she saw Xena, her eyes seemed to light up as she
said, "Xena! Daughter, can you ever forgive me?"

Xena reached down and held the woman's right hand as she replied, "Nothing
to forgive mother, I should have told you. You have to be all right."

Cyrene said, "You are home now, everything will be." Xena replied, "Actually
mother, I have come to tell you all good-by, there is something I must do."

Her mother began to cry as she pleaded, "I need you, please, don't run away
again, forgive a mother that just wanted the best for you." Xena felt torn
but as she looked into this woman's face she knew she could not leave, not

As the time passed, her mother recuperated with Xena's constant vigil. She
soon realized that the time had passed to find Ephiny.


Gabrielle woke to the sounds of birds singing in the trees and she slowly
set up saying, "Another day Xena, I'm starved." She glanced around the camp
but couldn't see her friend, she rose to her feet and called, "Xena! This is
not funny, where are you?" There wasn't any answer and she went to find the
horse. It was gone. She shook her head and said, "Probably out looking for
breakfast, well I hope she returns soon, I am hungry."

Gabrielle had picked up the camp and was sitting eating a hard piece of
cheese that she found in a saddle bag. She heard the crack as she jumped to
her feet grabbing her staff she stood prepared and called out, "Whoever you
are, show yourself." As the sound neared she was relieved when she spied
Epinon step out of the foliage.

"Epinon, what are you doing here?"

The woman walked up to her cautiously, and glancing around she said, "Queen
Melosa sent me. You forgot your belt. I have brought it to you." Gabrielle
walked over to a tree stump and sat down. She looked at Epinon and said,
"Xena told me it would cause trouble. She insisted I leave it behind."

Epinon walked over to her and said, "Well, I've brought it and you are to
wear it, if I have to put it on for you."

"That won't be necessary, I like it. Why did she send you?"

The woman dropped to the ground, crossing her legs she said, "I volunteered,
I want to help you and Xena find Ephiny and the others."

Gabrielle stared at her and asked, "Tell me, how well do you know Ephiny?"

She smiled and replied, "Grew up together, I guess more than anybody

Gabrielle cut in as she asked, "Xena?"

The woman nodded her head and said, "I, don't know, I guess they know one
another fairly well. What are you trying to eat?" Gabrielle offered her some
of the cheese and the woman shook her head saying, "You've got to be
kidding, is that all you've got?"

Gabrielle replied, "Xena always does the hunting, I do the cooking." The
woman looked around the camp and asked, "Where is she?"

Gabrielle shook her head and said, "Woke up and she wasn't here, her horse
is gone. I thought she had gone to get something to eat but she hasn't
returned, so I have no idea where she is."

Epinon rose to feet and said, "I have some dried meat in my leather bag,
beats that." She walked over and brought the bag back. She handed Gabrielle
some of the meat and said, "Eat, you will need your strength, if Xena isn't
back by the time we are finished, we will go look for her."

Xena hadn't returned and Epinon had handed the golden belt to Gabrielle
saying, "Put it on, maybe it can help us find out where the others are."

After Gabrielle put the belt on she asked, "How is this going to give us the

The woman answered, "Touch it and ask." Trying to keep back a grin Gabrielle
said, "Well at one time I would have laughed at the thought but after our
trip to Mount Olympus, anything is possible." She placed her left hand on
the belt and asked, "Where are Ephiny and the others?"

"You've but to look."

The voice was pleasing and the two women looked at one another and in unison
asked, "Look where?"

An image appeared in front of them, it was an image of Ephiny and Xena!

Gabrielle looked shocked and Epinon cried out, "Ask where they are!" After
she had asked they saw the city, it was Athens. As the vision faded, Epinon
said, "Guess we know why Xena hasn't returned."

Gabrielle looked like she was going to explode as she said, "I can't believe
it, she went without me!"

Epinon replied, "Well, one thing is for sure, they need help. If you are
ready, let's go."

Gabrielle looked at her and said, "I'm ready."

The two women were quiet as they walked, each seeming to be deep in thought.
Nearing a stream, Epinon suggested they stop and rest. Gabrielle walked back
where the woman stood and said, "Are you tired?"

She answered, "Some, remember I came from the Amazon Village. A rest will do
us both good as we have been pushing ourselves. We should reach the
outskirts of Athens soon.

Gabrielle approached her and said, "Once we get in, how are we going to find

Epinon replied, "Looked like they were in some sort of jail. Shouldn't be to
difficult." Gabrielle walked over to the water, dropped to her knees and
took a drink. Splashing water on her face she said, "It's not bad." She got
up and walked over to where Epinon was sitting, honing a knife. She set down
and said, "You seem so sure of yourself, don't you ever have any doubts?"

The woman stopped what she was doing and said, "All the time. It's not being
so sure of yourself, it's more like just do it and pray for the best."

Gabrielle had leaned back against a large rock as she sighed, "I don't
understand it, why did Xena do this to me?"

Epinon replied, "Maybe you shouldn't think about it so much, I'm sure Xena
had her reasons."

Gabrielle replied, "How can you be so nonchalant, they are in trouble."

The woman stared at her and answered, "Xena knew it wouldn't be easy, that's
probably why she left you behind. Get over it, you will be no help to me if
you go in there angry."

Gabrielle stood up and said, "Well, I'm going to take a walk, when you get
ready, follow the trail."

Epinon looked at her and said, "What trail?"

"I thought all Amazons had this instinct for hunting and being able to

Epinon smiled and said, "Oh I can trail you but why?"

Gabrielle walked up to her and said, "Because I can't just sit here, I have
to go do something."

Epinon replied, "Look at you. You keep up this insistence and all you are
going to do is get yourself caught or worse."

"Yeah, do you have a better idea?"

Epinon reached out and grabbed Gabrielle's right hand as she said, "Come
back down here with me. We need to wait till nightfall to enter Athens. The
less that see us the better, I have always found that the night hides many
things. Gabrielle set back down as she said, "I can't help it..."

Epinon replied, "If it will make you feel any better, I am not happy that
Xena and Ephiny are together, regardless of the place."

The Bard turned her head and stared at the woman, then she said, "You don't
like it either. My feelings have been right, there is something between the
two of them."

Epinon shook her head and said, "All I know is neither one of them should be

Gabrielle replied, "You can try all you will, I know something is there, if
you know anything, tell me."

Epinon replied, "It's not my place, Xena will tell you when she feels the
time is right and if she never mentions it, just accept it. She is with you
now, isn't she?"

Gabrielle's eyes seemed to spit fire as she said, "She's with me now, are
you telling me that Xena and Ephiny have..."

"I didn't say that, you just keep trying to put words into my mouth."

Gabrielle was back on her feet as she said, "Well you can sit there till
Hades flies by in his chariot, me, I'm going to Athens." She glared at the
woman and said, "Are you coming!"


The woman reached out and grabbed the Bard by her shoulder as she said,
"We've gone as far as we can for now. You can see the entrance to Athens
from here. We will watch for now and when it gets dark, we will go down.
Gabrielle turned and walked past the woman, she was feeling confused and
very tired. After what had recently happened to them, she was surprised she
was feeling such doubt. "I saw a stream back there, I'm going to go clean
up, get some of this road dirt off. If you need me, that's where I'll be,
not that you'll need me, seems no one does." Epinon watched the woman walk
away, holding her head down and distraught. The woman wished she could ease
the Bard's mind, but she knew that she would be the last person to do it.
She remembered the day that Ephiny returned to the Amazon Village.


The people had just finished harvesting their crops. They were celebrating a
good harvest, when the lone woman walked into the square. The music stopped
as everyone turned to see who was approaching. Low gasps escaped them as
they stared in awe, "Ephiny, you're alive!"

She looked pale and drawn, and as she neared them she stopped, staring into
the faces, faces she hadn't seen in a long time. Slowly the women approached
her and their shock turned to cries of joy. Two of them picked her up and
carried her to their Queen. Queen Mailen sat regally, she seemed to be in
shock as she stared at the woman.

Setting Ephiny down on the ground, she gazed into the Queen's eyes, then
fell to her knees, bowing her head. Queen Mailen said, "Rise, Ephiny, it is
good to see you again my child." A loud commotion was taking place behind
her as Ephiny turned to see what was going on. She froze when her eyes met
the gaze of her friend. Epinon brushed past the last woman and threw her
arms around Ephiny as she cried, "It is true, you have come back! Where have
you been I missed you."

Ephiny returned the embrace then pulled back staring into her friends green
eyes and said, Epinon, you missed me?"

The woman's eyes began to tear as she said, "Miss you, I was beside myself
with worry. I looked everywhere for you. Queen Mailen sent parties out
looking for you, it was as if you vanished from the face of the land. What
happened to you?"

"It's a long story."

Epinon replied, "I have all the time in the world."

Queen Mailen said, " Ephiny, come here my child." Ephiny walked away from
Epinon, approaching the Queen.

Queen Mailen said, "We all want to know what has happened to you. Please,
come up here and tell everyone." Ephiny filled them all in on what had taken
place. When she finished she noticed Epinon was missing from the crowd.
Queen Mailen smiled and replied, "We owe Ephiny's life to this village
woman. From this day on, the name of Xena, a true Warrior in the Amazon
custom, will be given safe passage across our lands and anything she
desires. Be it known, we will not forget her kindness and the name of Xena
will be spoken in reverence, now Ephiny, you must go and see Tala."

The Amazon's cheered, as she turned and walked toward home.

"Hello Tala." The soft voice drifted to the woman who was busily working at
the Hearth. The voice sounded familiar but she knew it couldn't be. She
turned to see Ephiny approaching her as she gasped, "Ephiny, it can't be!"
Ephiny reached out and hugged the woman as she said, "It's me, I've come

Tala was weak as she said, "Got to sit down." Ephiny helped her to a chair,
and then set down. She stared into the woman's face. It showed signs of
aging, there were lines on her face that weren't there when she had left.
"Tala, are you all right?" The woman clasped her hands together and said, "I
prayed for your soul."

Ephiny asked, "My soul? What are you talking about?"

Tala continued, "When you didn't come back from the hunt, and there was no
trace of you, we gave you up for dead. We have been in mourning. Last I saw
you, you were growing into womanhood. I look at you now, you are not the
same person that left here on that day. Your thoughts were on the hunt,
then, it was a game. You have grown up, what has happened to you?"


Chapter Ten

Ephiny told her what had happened and when she finished the woman reached
over, grasped her right-hand and said, "Thank the Gods for a woman such as
this. Where is she? I must thank her." Ephiny's eyes grew sad, the sparkle
that was them faded as she said, "I, I don't know for sure. I left her in
the cave. I only hope she has found her way back home. I know I owe Xena my
life and so much more..."

Tala smiled as she patted Ephiny's hand and said, "I knew one day this would
happen, I always thought it would be with Epinon."

Ephiny drew her hand back and said, "I don't know what you are talking
about. We became friends, that is all." Tala gazed deep into Ephiny's eyes,
and within seconds the woman turned her head away as Tala said, "You are in
love with this woman from Amphipolis, my child. Don't say anything, it is
all in your eyes. How does she feel about you?"

Ephiny thought for a minute then she said, "We're friends, nothing else.
Xena is pledged to a man named Maphias."

The woman answered, "She may be pledged, but who did she spent all this time
with, she risked her life and lost her family all for you. Tell me child,
did she let you leave without a word?"

Ephiny shook her head and said, "I, I left during the night."

"You never even said Good-by, that is not like you. What must Xena be
thinking, If she cared for you even a little the way you do for her, Ephiny,
you have broken her heart."

Tears filled her eyes as she cried, "We were both so confused, I couldn't
have her give up the life she knew to come back with me. I won't have
someone out of pity for me. I know in the beginning I probably wasn't
anything more than a wounded animal to her."

"Is that the way she made you feel?"

Ephiny reached up and brushed off the tears that were falling down her
cheeks and said, "No, she acted like she cared and before I left I think she
did in some way. Oh, mother, what have I done, she had the right to make her
own decision and I took that away."

Tala stood up and walked over to Ephiny, placing her hands on the woman's
shoulders she said, "I know you, anyone who spends time with you will come
under your spell, I believe she would have come with you. It is time you go
to the shrine of Artemis and do some very deep soul searching. I love you,
and I am grateful to Xena that you are back. I only hope one day to tell her
that in person."

After Ephiny had eaten, she left the hut. She was going to look for Epinon,
it was unlike the woman to just disappear. She had checked out the village
and couldn't find the Amazon. Deciding to take a look at a favorite spot the
two of them loved, she walked carefully down the twisted path to the
springs, where she hoped to find Epinon . The sound of something splashing
in the water caused her to stop and listen. It sounded like someone was
throwing something into the springs. She picked up her step and soon found
herself in the clearing.

Epinon sat gazing out at the water as she tossed stones into it.

"There you are, I have finally found you."

Epinon answered, "Why don't you go back to all your fans, or better yet the
village woman." Ephiny was sure she heard a sniffle as she approached the
woman and sat down by her she said, "Epinon, what is wrong?"

The woman turned her head away and said, "Go back, I want to be alone."
Ephiny reached out placing her left hand under the woman's chin, she turned
her head back around, stared into Epinon's eyes and said, "You have been
crying. What is the matter?"

Epinon answered, "How could you?"

"I didn't have a choice the man's arrow hit me."

Epinon sobbed, "Not that, how could you go back there, I told you, you could
get in trouble."

Ephiny placed her left arm around Epinon's shoulders and said, "I missed

The woman stared at Ephiny and said, "I haven't had a nights rest since you
disappeared. When they all said you were dead, I wanted to die. You just
don't get it do you?"

Ephiny softly said, "Yes, it has taken me a long time but I do." Epinon laid
her head on Ephiny's shoulder and cried. At the same time Ephiny's tears
fell like rain, and she said, "I won't ever go away again, I promise." The
two women spent the night by the springs. Happy in the union they shared and
a life they hoped, now could have. Neither spoke of that night but the women
in the village felt the two had joined with Artemis in their own ceremony.


Ephiny had been at the Temple of Artemis for several weeks. She had gone
there to cleanse her soul and to look for a reason why things had happened.
She wanted so much to be able to find peace within herself. Helena, the
Oracle had told her until she could resolve the feelings she had for Xena,
she and Epinon would never be free.

As Ephiny walked toward the village that day, she gazed at her surroundings,
they were beautiful. Trees that seemed to reach up and touch the sky and
flowers she had never paid any attention to before. It was the lone rabbit
that darted across the road in front of her that made the Amazon stop in her

"I almost gotcha that time!" A voice echoed from behind the foliage. Before
long a tall woman, with dark hair could be seen. Ephiny felt a chill and her
heart leaped in anticipation as she exclaimed, "Xena! By the Gods is it

As the woman neared her, it was apparent she was not Xena. She walked up to
Ephiny and said, "Who is this Xena? Must be some kind of woman to get you in
a dither like that?" Ephiny faintly smiled and said, "A friend, sorry, I
mistook you for her."

"Oh don't be sorry, I just wish I could get that kind of a reaction." She
turned and went running after the rabbit.

Ephiny leaned against a tree, grasping her chest as she muttered, "The
Oracle is right, I love Xena with all my heart and soul. I will never be
able to have a solid relationship until I resolve my feelings with her, one
way or another. What a stupid thing I did, running off like that."

Epinon had asked her to move into her hut. Ephiny had been stalling, not
because she didn't love the woman because she did. She was afraid that her
deep feelings for Xena would show through and Epinon would be hurt.

She had been helping Tala in the cooking area when the woman said, "Epinon
is coming over tonight, you two have been inseparable since you returned.
Isn't it time the village was informed and the two of you do this right?"

Ephiny replied, "I don't care what the others think, but you must know,
there hasn't been anything between Epinon and me except friendship."

Tala replied, "How is this going to affect Epinon, she has been in love with
you for a long time. She will be hurt if she knows you cannot give her what
she desires because of Xena."

Ephiny set the bowl down and said, "That's why I'm going back. Epinon is
going to go with a group of the woman to a neighboring village. She will be
gone a week, I hope to be back by then. She need never know."

The woman walked over to the table and said, "What if your feelings are
returned? What then? Epinon will be heart broken and she will feel
humiliated. If you ask me, my child, you are in a very difficult spot. I
wish you not to do this, what if you are caught again or worse?"

Ephiny replied, "I fear that the most, in her fragile state, she might do
something foolish. I'm not the gullible girl that left here, I am prepared
for anything. Just promise you won't speak about this."

Tala replied, "I only want what you do, I will say nothing."

Epinon arrived as it was starting to get dark. She greeted Tala with a warm
hug and a small basket of bread. "Here, I made this myself, unlike some
people I know, I enjoy cooking."

Ephiny stuck her tongue at the woman as she said, "Love you too."

Tala gave her a scathing look as she said, "This is very nice of you Epinon,
we will have this with our meal. Ephiny, show our guest to a chair." Ephiny
walked over and took Epinon's right hand in hers. bowed and said, "Your
chair awaits." The two laughed as they all sat down. Epinon commented on the
meal telling Tala it was delicious and Ephiny replied, "Well I know that
food is the way to your heart."

Epinon smiled as she gazed at Ephiny. Her green eyes shining like crystals
being lit by the Sun. She reached across the table and placed her hands over
Ephiny's and said, "Tala, it is no secret that I love your daughter. I am
asking you this night for your blessing."

Ephiny's mouth fell open, as the red crept up her neck, she said, "Ep, this

"Time. It is time, I am declaring my love for you."

Tala gazed at the two women as she placed her hands over theirs and said,
"It's about time, someone needs to make an honest woman of her."

Epinon asked, "And you, how do you answer?"

Ephiny swallowed and said, "I..." Epinon stood up and walked over to the
woman, she took her left hand in hers and said, "I've got something for
you," Ephiny pushed herself from the table, and as she stood up, Epinon
untied a necklace she was wearing and put it around Ephiny's neck saying,
"This is my Talisman, it is yours now."

Ephiny reached up and touched it saying, "I don't know what to say."

Epinon stepped closer to the woman and said, "Then kiss me."

Ephiny reached up to place a kiss on Epinon's forehead and the woman grasped
her face with both hands. She stared for an instant then she brought her
lips down on Ephiny's. Ephiny started to move as the kiss became a deepening
search. Hesitating but a moment, her lips met Epinon's with a kiss that had
been denied for so many moons. The two were so wrapped up in their closeness
they forgot Tala was sitting at the table.

"You two have to come up for air sometime."

Ephiny pulled away and the two women stared at each other as they began to
laugh. Tala replied, "I will tell the Queen, it won't be long before the two
of you will be pledged. For tonight, I have to go see Cholia and will not be
back until tomorrow afternoon. You have my blessings.

Just promise me that you will be gentle with one another." She turned and
left the room.

Ephiny reached out and touched Epinon's face as she said, "I never expected

Epinon replied, "If I had waited for you, we would be dead and I would have
died from longing."

Ephiny took Epinon's left hand in hers and said, "Now what?"

Epinon replied, "We have all night, lets just enjoy one anothers company. I
won't rush you. I think it was the thought of being gone for a week away
from you that gave me the courage to ask Tala. If something were to happen,
we would regret that we never made love."


Ephiny stood, her back to the woman and said, "Can I turn around?" She felt
Epinon's hands on her shoulders at the same time she felt her lips on her
back. Softly they traveled, stoping momentarily to kiss a spot, then gliding
across her back. A low gasp escaped her throat as she said, "It's too much.
My body can't stand it."

Epinon whispered, "It can and it will, relax, I won't hurt you. I promise to
be gentle. Your skin is so soft and smooth." Suddenly the woman stopped and
Ephiny asked, "What's the matter?" It was then she felt Epinon's tongue
begin to swirl around the scar. Ephiny said, "If it makes you unhappy,

Epinon placed gentle kisses on the area and said, "Only that you almost
died. I will look at this always and know how lucky I am to have you back in
my life." She reached out turning Ephiny. They stood facing one another, a
tear was forming in Ephiny's eyes, and she kissed it away. Her lips traveled
the woman's face, touching, gliding then lingering. She was taking her time
and was enjoying every sensation of her body.

Ephiny reached out and grasped Epinon's face, as she said, "I do love you."

As Epinon looked at her, she pressed her lips to the woman's, the sensation
of the touch was one Ephiny always wondered about. It was a soft, tingling
sensation that was becoming stronger as their lips danced in rhythm with the
movement of their bodies.

Epinon slowly eased her tongue parting Ephiny's lips as she slithered into
ecstasy. The sensation was combustible as Ephiny's tongue met her's. Ephiny
moaned as Epinon reached out and picked the woman up carrying her into the


Chapter Eleven

The dust the horses were making as they galloped from the village lingered
long after the women had left. Ephiny had stared after them for a long time.
Tala walked up to her and said, "She'll be back. I take it everything is all

Ephiny turned to her and replied, "If I had known it would have been so

Tala smiled and said, "I hope this means you are not going to Amphipolis

Ephiny shrugged her shoulders and said, "Can't hurt, and I have to be sure
that Xena is all right. Then I will return, I promise I will be back long
before Ep, returns."

Tala shook her head and said, "What good is it going to do? You are now
pledged to Epinon, and after last night, I believe she would challenge
anyone, who would pose a threat to her relationship with you. Why don't you
just leave it."

Ephiny smiled and answered, "I will, after I get back." She kissed the woman
on the forehead and went into the hut to get her supplies. Tala watched
Ephiny ride from the village shaking her head and mumbling, "Must be
something awfully special about this Xena person."

Ephiny rode hard, wanting to get to Amphipolis and back, before Epinon
decided she missed her and came back early. As it was she had a hard time
convincing the woman to go. After the night they had, neither one was real
anxious to leave the other. Epinon was finally convinced to go by Leia, who
insisted the talk would not go well if she didn't attend.

A darkness had covered the land as she reined the horse in. It didn't take
her long to make it down from the plateau. Walking the horse up to what
looked like a Tavern she hopped down. Tying the animal, she took a deep
breath and entered the building. It was dark inside, there was some light
from a few torches lining the walls. And it seemed to be pretty full. As she
walked past the tables, the people stopped what they were doing and watched
this striking blond amble up to the counter.

Cyrene had just walked out of the kitchen, she was drying her hands when she
saw the woman. She had hair the color of spun Gold, her appearance emitted a
goddess-like aura. She appeared to be tan probably from being outdoors a
lot. Except for her daughter, she had never seen a body that was this
shapely and well endowed.

She walked up to the counter and said, "You're new here, is there something
I can get for you?"

Ephiny turned her gaze on this woman as her mouth fell open. Cyrene asked,
"Are you all right? You look like you have seen a Spirit."

Ephiny smiled at the woman and said, "It's just, you look so much like
someone I knew." Cyrene walked around the counter and approached the woman.
She gazed, taking in every inch of her body. Reaching out her right hand she
said, "I'm Xena's mother, Cyrene. From the stories I have heard, I am going
to guess, you are Ephiny."

Ephiny clasped the woman's arm in friendship as she smiled, "Yes, is Xena

Cyrene glanced away then back at her and said, "Why don't you follow me to
the kitchen, it will be more private."

As Ephiny followed the woman, her heart began pounding so loud she was
afraid everyone in the room could hear it. She couldn't believe she was so
close to seeing her friend again. Would Xena be happy to see her or would
she tell her to leave? There were so many questions running through her
head, that all she could do was hope for the best.

Entering the kitchen Cyrene motioned for her to sit. She walked over to the
bar and brought back two mugs of drink. Handing one to Ephiny, she sipped
the other as she sat down. Ephiny took a drink and thanked her then she
asked, "When will Xena be here?"

Cyrene stared at her and said, "She is gone."

The words hit Ephiny so hard the woman might as well have struck her. She
asked, "Gone? You don't mean dead?"

Cyrene told the woman about the Warlord Cortese's attack on the village. And
how her daughter had stood by her brother, Lycius's side fighting the
oncoming men. When the woman spoke of the death of her son Lycius she cried.
Ephiny couldn't believe her ears, Xena was gone, where?

The woman didn't know. She said that Xena had taken the death of her brother
very hard. When she asked about Toris, the woman's eyes clowded up and she
said, "He ran away, he left them to fight alone."

Ephiny tried to comfort her and was now feeling a deep loss, she said, "It
will be all right, the Xena I knew would never give up. I'm sure you will
see her again."

Cyrene said, "My daughter didn't exaggerate when she told me about you. By
the Gods, you are lovely. I'm just so sorry I never knew, things could have
been different."

Ephiny took several swallows then she said, "I need to know, was Xena mad at
me? Did she ever say anything about me?"

Cyrene reached over and touched her left hand with her's and said, "I know
my daughter loved you. Don't look so shocked, when you reach my age you will
probably see and hear things you would never expect. Xena is a level headed
person, she would never rush into anything unless she felt it was the right
thing to do. I only wish I had known. She might be here now and the two of

Ephiny said, "I love your daughter, she saved my life. I was afraid I would
get her to do something she might regret and I panicked. I have hated myself
ever since. I can only tell you how sorry I am. Maybe one day I will have
the opportunity to tell Xena."

Cyrene talked her into spending the night and took her to Xena's room.
Ephiny said she would leave for home in the morning and bid the woman good
night. Once the door had closed her eyes surveyed the room. Everywhere she
looked there was a remembrance of the woman's daughter. She walked over to
the bed and laid down. That night, she cried herself to sleep.


The wooden wagon rolled along the winding mountain trail. Xena was sitting
on the floor, Ephiny laying on her back, her head resting in Xena's lap.
Xena gazed down into the eyes of her friend and said, "How are you today?"
Ephiny reached out and held Xena's left hand, giving it a squeeze she
replied, "Much better, thanks to you."

"It's my fault you were put through this, so it's not thanks to me."

Xena, can't you ever take a compliment, I know, I would be dead if you
hadn't of cared for me. I got myself in the position. I guess you know by
now there isn't anything I wouldn't do for you. Thank you my friend."

Xena managed a smile as she said, "You're welcome, friend."

The dust from the road was finding its way into the wagon. Ephiny coughed
and said, How long, before we get there?"

Xena answered, "The way Krikis has been pushing , I would think by midday

Ephiny sighed and said, "I owe you so much"

"You don't owe me anything. Just try to rest."

The woman shook her head and said, "There's something I have to tell you, I
tried once but you had left home. Xena about that time in the cave."

Xena grumbled as she replied, "That was a long time ago, best left unsaid,"

"No, I have to apologize."

Xena shifted her weight and said, "Apologize? What are you rambling about?"

Ephiny held the woman's hand tighter and said, "Well, at least I know you
won't run off on me. I want you to know, The time we spent together, it was
a most important time in my life."

Xena muttered, "Yeah, so important you left me in the middle of the night,
no word, nothing. I guess I made a big impression on you."

Ephiny replied, "I deserve that. You made an indelible impression on my
life. I have never been the same."

The woman looked away and said, "Sorry."

"No, Xena, it has and is good. I'm sorry I took the cowards way. I wanted to
tell you so many times." Xena stared back at the long trail the wagon had
followed as she said, "Probably best, look where knowing me has taken you."
Ephiny started to move as Xena rested her right hand on the woman's shoulder
and said, "Don't move, you are so close to being well, I don't want you do
do anything that will cause a relapse."

Ephiny replied, "Wouldn't want that now would we. The sooner I get well, the
sooner you can go on about the business of freeing the others."

Xena leaned back against the iron bars and said, "There were a few things I
wanted to say to you."

Ephiny's eyes widened as she asked, "What?"

"Like I said, it was a long time ago."

Ephiny started to move again and said, "If I have to get up and face you, I
will. Now tell me, I want to know."

Xena sighed, "You are not the only one that thinks about that time. It was a
time when a young girl could enjoy the beauties of life. No cares about
death and destruction, just wide eyed innocence. So many things have changed
since then."

Ephiny said, "I'm sorry about your brother, I know you loved him."

"That time, it is a dark place in my heart. It is best we try to forget."

Ephiny replied, "Not till I finally tell you." She paused as Xena stared
intensely into her eyes then she continued, "I didn't leave because I
wanted, I thought it was best. I didn't want you to feel beholden to me
because you saved my life."

Xena smiled as her crystal blue eyes reached out, taking the woman into
them, "That definitely wasn't what I was feeling."

Ephiny continued, "Your mother said you loved me."

Xena scowled, "She would, now you feel you have to make this great
confession, don't think I want to hear it."

Ephiny answered, "I know it's too late, but I have to say it, I love you
Xena, probably from the first time I saw you in that meadow. I would give my
life for you. I went back to tell you that. But, your mother said you had
gone. I'm so sorry."

Xena knew Ephiny was speaking from her heart and she said, "Mother was
right, I've carried a part of you in my heart since then. Times change and
they change people but I will always have that Summer, and the cave with

Ephiny's eyes were filling with tears as Xena, leaned her head down, softly
pressing her lips on the woman's. Ephiny was startled, then she relaxed. As
the woman's lips glided past her lips onto her neck, where Xena placed a
soft kiss. Ephiny sighed and softly said, "By the Gods, you know how to shut
a person up."

Xena sit back against the bars and said, "Now, you know what you gave up
that night."

Ephiny replied, "I have never felt such softness, Your lips told me so many
things and you never even spoke a word. I hate myself even more now. If I
had to lose you, I'm glad it's Gabrielle."

Xena thought for a second then she said, "We have never been close, not even
like we were in the cave."

"I don't understand, the two of you are almost inseparable."

Xena smiled, "That we are, I know how I feel about her, but I'm not sure how
she feels about me. I would hate to make the wrong move and lose her

Ephiny replied, "Take it from one who has been there done that. When you get
the chance, don't let it fade to the back of your mind. There will never be
a better day, tell her. It's better than maybe. I have seen the way she
looks at you, Gods, Xena don't be a fool, tell her before some man comes
along and proposes marriage again."

Xena replied, "And that would be all right with you?"

"If you are happy, then I will be. I know, I was the cause the best thing in
my life will never be, don't make the same mistake."

Xena softly whispered, "I may just do that, if we ever get out of here."



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