The procession made its' way slowly towards the village, flanked by two score
Amazon warriors in full attire. As it reached the central square it slowed,
being met by the Queen and her guard.
"Who is it Eph?" asked Solari as she bounced up and down to see over the heads in front of her, all the while muttering curses pertaining to her sardinian heritage.
"I can't see!" whined Eph as she tried to push her way to the front of the crowd. "Pony...c'mere!" Her friend trotted over in response. "Get on your knees." she ordered.
"Wh-what?? Ephiny!" Eponin shot a very scared look Solari's way, then back to Ephiny. "What for?"
"Just do it...hurry!!" Losing her patience with her fer friend, she grabbed Ep and pushed her down. She climbed on her shoulders and cried out..."Take me up!"
"YOU are crazy Ephiny! Get off me!!!"
"Pooonnnnyyyy, come on! I just gotta see who that is!" She batted her eyelashes at her friend.
"Aw Hades, why ya gotta play so dirty?...ok." Eponin struggled to get to her feet with the added weight of her friend upon her back.
"Higher...higher! Eponin...PLEASE?" begged the blonde, and was rewarded when she finally got her eyes above the feather line in front of her. Melosa had dismounted and was walking forward towards the visitors. Ephiny's eyes squinted and she quickly brought her hand up to shield her eyes from the bright sunlight, nearly toppling them over backwards.
"Cut out the jigglin up there Eph!" yelled Eponin. "I ain't no trick Pony u know!!" Giggles came from Solari's direction. "Oh put a horseshoe in it already Miss Fancy-Leathers!" she commented in the brunette's general direction while desperately trying to keep her cargo in the upright position. "If you hadn't shanghai'd Eph, we mighta made it here earlier." Ephiny shifted again, and Pony barely caught her footing as she stumbled for her center of balance.
"Don't be jealous of me because you can't get a date Pony!" Solari snickered under her breath.
Eponin's face turned a brilliant shade of angry right then, "Why I oughta...."
"STOP! Stop you two!!" hollered the blonde from her perch above the crowd. "Melosa is walking out to meet their leader..."
All movement and bickering stopped and Ephiny's eyes tracked to the lead horse. The rider swiftly dismounted and began to walk forward towards the queen.
"Well???" inquired a very impatient Solari.
Eph squinted some more. "He's wearing some kind of drape over his face, I can't see him. He's tall though, and looks quite imposing." She craned her neck as Melosa and the warrior stopped a foot away from each other. She watched closely as the rider began to remove his head covering. "He's taking it off..."
Eponin and Solari looked at each other excitedly as the anticipation of the moment grabbed them by their britches and yanked hard.
The warrior kneeled before Melosa, fully removed the item blocking the blonde's view, bowed a dark head, and softly placed a kiss upon the back of the queen's extended hand. "By the gods!" gasped the blonde.
"What? WHAT? Eph come on...tell!" whined Eponin from beneath her.
"It's a woman!!!" yelled Ephiny as the entire village sucked in a collective breath and simultaneously turned to stare at her. No sooner were the words out before she clapped both hands over her own mouth. The woman's eyes snapped to meet hers, and she felt the power...the strength...the pure magnetism that emanated from behind them. She was spellbound by them. One of the warrior's eyebrows rose and an amused smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
That was enough for Ephiny.
Her eyes rolled up in her head, and she toppled over backwards, taking poor ol Ep with her.
"Aaagghhfff...eeerfff, Eph! $#!@$&^$!!! blasted woman! Off me NOW!" cried Pony as she struggled to get out from under her friend's dead weight. She finally managed to disentangle herself and rolled Ephiny over. "Hades! Solari, go get some water!"
Her friend ran up. "Why? Is she ok?"
"Oh yeah, she's ok...she furkin PASSED OUT is what she did!!" Ep replied as she began patting her friend's cheek. "Eph...Eph! Wake up ya big dummy!" She was rewarded by movement from the blonde and turned to holler to Solari she didn't need the water after all, when suddenly a pair of hands were around her neck and dragging her down. Before she could react, soft lips were on her own and kissing her very thoroughly. Ephiny whispered softly against her lips..."Solari...." and pressed her lips to Pony's again.
Eponin was in shock. She couldn't move....she couldn't breath...she couldn't stop it. (Now mind you all, our beloved Pony is a bit on the shy side, and had never kissed a woman in her life.) She felt the lips slowly pull back and she sighed sadly. She glanced down, just in time to see Ephiny's eyes glance up to meet hers. Their eyes went wide with suprise as they realized what had just happened, and they let out a yelp as they scrambled apart as fast as they could.
"Pony! What are you doing???" said the blonde, still backing away.
"Me??? No no no Eph...you kissed me."
"I did not."
"Did not. Would not. Could not. Wasn't me."
"Yes...it was. But...don't worry. I know you thought I was Solari when you woke up." She sighed. "It's ok."
"Oooohhh yeah now I remember." said Ephiny, shaking her head to clear the cobwebs. "Oh my gods."
"Eph, hey come on! Was it that bad?" said the young warrior, dropping her eyes and looking a little hurt.
"No Pony....the woman...."
"The woman?" Eponin's brows scrunched up. "Oh yeah, the woman! Who was it? What happened? And WHY did you pass out??" She offered her arm and helped her friend to her feet.
"I don't know who it was Pony..." replied the blonde. "But I'll tell you one thing....."
"She has the most incredible blue eyes I have ever seen."
"Shoot Eph, I wanna know who that was now....if her just lookin at you made you faint dead away, she's really got to be something..." stated Eponin as they trudged across the compound towards the dining hall.
"Pony....all I can say is holy Zeus! It was like being smacked in the face with a hammer...." Ephiny's hands were gesturing wildly now..."I felt completely exposed to that gaze....so unsettling."
Their conversation was interrupted as Solari came trotting up carrying a waterskin. "Oh...I guess you're ok then sweetheart?" She tossed the skin to the wayside.
"Yes...I'm fine. Just threw me for a loop is all...I didn't mean to blurt that out, and then to have that gaze turned on me? I swear it was the most intense stare I have ever been on the receiving end of!" Catching the sudden shift in Solari's mood at that sentence, she smiled warmly at her lover and snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. "Awww Soli, don't get your leathers in a bind, you know I only have eyes for you." And with that she placed a soft kiss on the brunette's cheek.
"Well good, because for a moment there I thought you might be getting the lusties for the Warrior Princess..." replied her partner with a relieved look.
"The Warrior Princess???" blurted Eponin. "THE Warrior Princess?? Xena?? Oh my Gods! What's she doing here?"
Ephiny turned to her now stammering friend. "You mean you've heard of her Pony?"
"Gods yes! Have you been locked in a closet Eph? She's only the most feared warlord around. In fact, I heard she killed two hundred men with her own hands during the battle of Corinth!"
Solari's eyes were now wide with amazement. "You're kidding! Wow...a woman warlord, how cool."
Ephiny's brow was furrowed in thought. ""Hmmmm, yeah, I think I remember hearing something about that. Question is...what's she doing here?"
"Oh, she's here to see Melosa." stated Solari offhandedly.
"And just how do you know all this Solari?" asked Ephiny.
"I heard some of the guard talking about it."
Eponin trotted a few paces ahead of the group and turned to walk backwards. "Melosa? Well, that would explain why we have never been attacked."
Ephiny's eyebrows shot up drastically. "Pony, are you implying that Melosa and Xena are...well...you know...lovers?"
"It would make sense Eph..." interjected Solari. "And to be honest, if what Pony says is true about her battle prowess, I'm certainly all for it."
"Agreed." Ephiny's attention was caught by a wildly waving Terreis, who was seated on a shaded bench near the dining hall. "Uh oh....look over there..." She jerked her head toward the redhead. "We are being summoned."
"Rats!" said Eponin. "Just when I thought this was going to be a good day..."
"Now now Pony....calm your feathers down. If anyone should be annoyed it's me." stated Ephiny as they neared where the princess was seated.
"I know, I know...she just makes me nervous is all..."
Solari smacked Eponin in the back of the head. "Well get over it!"
"Easy for you to say..." she mumbled as they came to a halt in front of Terreis.
"Princess..." Ephiny bowed her head in acknowledgment to the title.
"Ephiny...good to see you." Her gaze flitted from one to the other, coming to rest on Eponin. "Pony...just the person I wanted to see."
Eponin gulped audibly. "Me? What did I do?"
Terreis broke into light laughter. "Nothing Eponin." She paused momentarily, then stood and walked up to a completely confounded Pony. "I was just wondering if you might join me for dinner in the Queen's hut this evening?"
Ep took a moment to glance behind her to see if Terreis had been talking to someone else. Seeing no one, she turned back to the princess, a flush beginning to creep up into her cheeks. "Ummmm, are you sure you want me to accompany you? I'm sure there are others you would like to take." She suddenly found her boots very interesting. "Why me?"
Terreis smiled warmly at the now furiously blushing amazon before her. "Come with me..." she said, holding out her hand..."and I'll be more than happy to explain."
Ephiny and Solari looked at each other and grinned. "Go on Pony..." said the blonde as she turned her attention back to the other two women. "We'll save you some lunch."
Eponin took a deep breath. "Ok." She reached out and tentatively placed her hand in Terreis' still extended one. As they began to walk away, she shot a look over her shoulder to her two giggling friends. "Help!" she mouthed, and then they were gone.
"I don't believe it." stated Ephiny, letting out a held breath.
"Me either. What's up with that?"
"Haven't a clue. All i can say is.....YAHOOOOOO!!!" Ephiny swept her lover into her arms and began dancing across the courtyard.
"Eph...Eph! Come on! People are starting to stare...."
"I don't care Soli!" She dipped the brunette and kissed her lips. "She's outta my hair...." She began giggling as she hugged her girlfriend. "I am so happy I could kiss a centaur!"
"Ewwww...Eph honey, if you do that, I will never touch those lips with any part of me ever again!" Solari shivered at the thought. "Yuck!"
"I'm just kidding Soli...hey, let's get some lunch."
"Lead on darlin, lead on. I'm famished!"
Ephiny awoke to the sound of rapping on her door. She wrapped her arms tighter around her lover and ignored it. More insistent rapping. "Alright, alright! I'm coming!" She regretfully released the warm body she was wrapped around and rolled over to the edge of the bed.
"Who is it honey?" inquired a sleepy voice from under the blankets.
"Don't know, haven't got to the door yet." The knocking came again...louder. "I said I'm coming! Geeeesh! Can't a person get any sleep around here?" Wrapping one of the blankets around herself, she stumbled groggily to the door and opened it a crack.
The door burst open and an extremely disheveled Eponin came barreling in. Ephiny took one look at her friend's wild hairdo and burst out laughing. "Pony...was there a windstorm or something?"
With that comment Solari sat up and rubbed her eyes. "By the gods Eponin, what happened to you??"
"What happened? WHAT HAPPENED?? I'll tell you what happened!! She attacked me! That's what happened!!" She threw herself into an empty chair and pouted. She pointed at Ephiny. "This is all YOUR fault!" she said. "You had to go and dump her didn't you?"
Ephiny closed the door and crossed the room, taking a seat next to her friend. "Whoa, whoa Pony, slow down here. You're blaming me because Terreis is after you?"
"YES!" She crossed her arms and snorted her displeasure at the situation.
Ephiny chuckled. "You should be thanking me Pony. You could do a lot worse you know..."
"Oh yeah....so you say." she blew out an exhasperated breath. "She was all over me! I practically had to beat her off with my chobos!!"
Solari slid up behind Ephiny, and bending down she encircled her arms around her lovers' neck. "Pony, can I ask you something?" she said.
"Oh I guess so Soli...what is it?"
"Do you think she's cute?"
"Well....well...yeah, maybe...she might be semi-good-looking, in a redheaded sorta way..."
"Hmmmm.....then what's the problem?"
"Aw shoot Soli! Why ya givin me the third degree? Ok Ok, maybe I'm just nervous...is that what you were getting at?" Her bottom lip poked out even more as the conversation continued.
"Well....ummm, have you ever been with a woman Pony?"
Eponin's eyes went wide and she looked away. Ephiny and Solari both exchanged knowing smiles.
"Ok..." said the brunette. "You don't have to answer that one. But if you haven't, and you're worried about anything, you know you can talk to us Pony. We're your best friends, and we'll always be here for you."
"Awwwww, all you guys do is poke fun at me."
"Only because we love you Pony." said Ephiny noticing something she didn't before. "And just because you have a big hickey on your neck doesn't mean we'll make fun of you." She began giggling, and Solari joined her as she looked and saw it too.
Eponin had had enough. "I come to you guys to help me out, and all you can do is joke around! Thanks a LOT!" She stood and dashed out the door, leaving her two friends sitting there feeling like complete jerks.
"Hmmmm..." said Solari. "I think we messed up."
"Yeeeeah...I'd better get dressed and go fix it."
"Good idea. I'll wait for you here."
"Gee Soli, thanks for the moral support." She pulled the brunette into her arms and gave her a long kiss that left Solari speechless. "But I still love you." She grinned as she released her lover to find some more suitable clothes than the bedcover she was presently wearing. She dressed hurriedly and with a quick peck, she rushed out the door after her distraught friend.
Ephiny strode purposefully across the courtyard, eyes darting back and forth in hopes of spotting her friend. 'If I'm gonna find me a Pony, I'm gonna have to think like a Pony....where would I go if I was Pony and I was really upset?' she thought as she walked on. She really felt bad for making fun of Eponin. 'Of all the stupid things to say! Sometimes I wonder how she puts up with me at all!' Her brow creased in thought as she continued out of the village and down a path leading into the forest. "Artemis!" she called out into thin air..."Help me find her please, and I promise I'll make more trips to your temple!" She laughed out loud at herself. Imagine...her...Ephiny...asking a goddess for help? Absurd! She didn't need help. After all she was one of the best trackers in the village.
Two candlemarks later, she was still wandering aimlessly through the woods, having lost Pony's trail a candlemark before. "Guess she doesn't want to be found." she sighed hopelessly. Finding a nice log, she sat down to think. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of children's laughing, coming from somewhere to her left. "Children playing this far from the village? That's odd..." she thought, and rose to investigate.
She came to the edge of a small clearing and saw three little girls playing tag. One of them was chasing the other two, and they were taunting and teasing her every time she missed them.
"Nah nah...you can't catch me!" yelled the little blonde headed girl. She stopped dead in her tracks and waited until the dark haired girl with the ponytail was almost upon her, then she ducked under the stretched out arm and dashed away to the other side of the clearing.
The girl with the ponytail stopped running and bent over trying to catch her breath.
"Poooonnny...what's wrong? You out of breath already? Gods, you couldn't catch a blind cyclops!" said the third little girl. Ephiny's breath caught in her throat. 'Noooooo, can't be!' she thought.
"Awwwww Soli, come on, that's not fair! I'm ALWAYS the tagger! Why don't you or Eph be the tagger for once huh?"
Ephiny's eyes went buggy as she realized what she was watching. She pinched herself just to make sure. "Ouch! Ok ok, i believe it geeeesh!" She turned her eyes once again to the scene playing out before her....
"Pony, it's not our fault you can't play 'Rock, Parchment, Dagger' worth a dinar! You lost, so you are the tagger. Live with it!" replied her younger self, stamping her foot in annoyance. "Now come on, and let's keep playing!"
The young Eponin's eyes fell to the ground, and Ephiny knew her feelings were hurt. 'Boy was I rotten to her when we were younger or what?' she thought. She watched as lil Pony stood up and walked away from the clearing, leaving her friends behind.
"Pony come back! You can't quit!" said her young self. "If you don't come back and play now, we won't play with you ever again!" Ephiny shook her head at the heartlessness of her own words. Her eyes followed the retreating form of Eponin slipping into the forest. She made a quick decision. Silently she got up and started to trail the girl. She heard the mocking laughter coming from the clearing, and saw Pony turn her head at the sound. "Oh my gods...she's crying!" thought Ephiny as she saw the tears rolling down that cute little face, and silently cursed herself for being so cruel to her friend all those years ago. 'Damn!'
She followed Eponin for about a half candlemark, and slowed as the girl slowed down ahead of her. She stopped completely, ducking quickly behind a tree as Pony looked around to make sure no one saw her. Satisfied she wasn't followed, she slipped between two large boulders set at the bottom of a small hill and disappeared from sight.
Ephiny jerked awake, and found herself reclining not so comfortably against the log she was sitting on before. 'Wow, I must have dozed off' she thought. Then she remembered her dream. 'Gods...that was a wierd one.' She stood up and brushed off her leathers, and as she was doing so, it hit her. "That's where she is!!!!" She took off running into the forest.
It took her awhile but she found the entrance to the cave. 'I sure hope you're in there Eponin, otherwise I'm going to feel like a complete dork!' She brushed a stray curl behind her ear and slowly slid between the boulders. She came into a narrow passageway that looked like it went on for at least thirty paces, then turned sharply to the right. Silently she crept along the corridor til she came to the corner. Her ears picked up the muffled sniffles and her heart wrenched inside her chest. 'Damn! Why can't I do anything right? Just once!' she scolded herself. Peeking her head around the corner, she saw Eponin sitting against the far wall, head hung low, knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. Carefully, she stepped out where her friend could see her. "Hiya Pony."
Eponin's head snapped up and she jerked in startlement. "Ephiny! Wh-what are you doing here?"
Eph slowly closed the distance between them. "I came looking for you."
Pony snorted. "Why bother? Unless of course you're just here to make fun of me some more..." She hung her head again.
"No, that's not why I'm here." She stopped next to her friend and took a seat next to her on the floor. "I'm here because I was a real jerk to you, because I treated you bad, because I don't take you seriously enough most of the time, and because I owe you an apology." She sighed. "Although I'm pretty sure an apology isn't good enough to fix all the damage I've done since we were kids."
Eponin raised her head to regard her friend. "You really mean that Eph?"
"Hades yes I mean it." She met Eponin's even gaze. "Pony, I am sooooo sorry for anything I've ever done that caused you pain. You are my best friend in the whole world, and Gods know I never intentionally meant to hurt you." A tear squeezed out from her eye as she spoke, and Eponin reached over to brush it away.
"It's ok Eph. I know you didn't mean it." She took a breath and composed herself. "But even though I know it, it still hurts sometimes. I forgive you." She smiled at the blonde.
Ephiny's face broke into a wide smile, and she pulled Pony into a big bear hug that had the woman gasping for air before she let her go. "I love you Pony."
"Love you too Ephie."
"Don't let anyone hear you call me that ok?"
"Ok Ephie." A wry grin accompanied the comment.
"Damn you to tarterus Pony. Let's go get some dinner ok?"
"Ok. Hey....how did you find me anyhow?"
The blonde's forehead creased as she tried to think of how to answer that. "I sorta ran into three little girls playing in a clearing, and they had seen you pass by earlier." Ephiny hoped she was lying convincingly enough. There was no way she could explain how she did it, she just did.
"Wow, what were they doing all the way out here in the woods? It's too dangerous for them to be out this far!" replied Eponin.
"Well I didn't ask them why they were there, they just pointed me in your direction and I was gone. I really needed to find you Pony, I was worried about you."
"Awwww Eph, thanks. You're the best friend any amazon could have." She smiled warmly at her friend as they began the trip back to the village.
A whispered "You're welcome...." was carried along the breeze, unheard by the two friends as they made their way home.
"So.......did you want to talk about Terreis? I promise I'll listen this time." said Ephiny, glancing over at her friend as they walked along the forest path together.
Eponin laughed a little. "Well, I'm not really sure what I wanted to talk about....It's just all so strange to me."
"What's so strange about it? The fact that you like her?"
"No...no, just the opposite." Pony's eyes drifted to the ground. "I mean, why would she like me?"
"Oh come on Pony....you can't be serious!" replied Ephiny in a suprised tone of voice. One look at her friend's face told her she was indeed being truthful.
Eponin shrugged. "Eph....we all know I'm not you or Solari. Let's face it, I'm basically pretty average."
"Average?" A chuckle. "Pony, you are FAR from average!" She was rewarded with an incredulous look from her stoic buddy. "Do you know how many of us wish we had your talent with weapons?" Ep shook her head no. "Well it's true! And aside from that, I think you're quite lovely." (An even more incredulous look followed that comment) "And I'm not the only one that thinks that either. It's quite obvious Terreis thinks so as well."
Eponin's eyes were quite wide at that moment and her mouth hung slightly open. "No way Eph..."
Return to Main Page