by JS Stephens, Copyright © 1997, revised in 2013. All Rights Reserved
(Xena & Gabrielle, Mythical Babes series - 1)
Warning: The following story describes a physical relationship with two consenting adult women and between a man and a woman. If this offends you, or is illegal where you are, stop reading and move.
Legal Disclaimer: MCA owns all rights and privileges to the characters of Xena and Cyrene. The new parts of the story are mine, so read, enjoy, and send me letters.
Diedra was fighting fiercely, but the Amazons were losing this battle. It seemed that lately, every army they supported was losing, which did not make them look very good. As she spun around, slashing her sword, she felt a sudden pain in her side. She put her hand to her side, the brought it before her face, seeing her own blood dripping off her fingers. She tried shaking off the pain, but it became more intense as she tried to continue fighting. It also seemed that a fog was rolling in, a red haze swirling around her, changing the landscape. She started falling but could not scream out for help ...
... then woke up in a small cell somewhere. Diedra slowly opened her eyes, trying to assess her physical condition before attempting to move. She saw a bucket in the corner, and the smell told her what it had been used for. She gingerly got up, relieved herself, then sat back on the cot, trying not to jolt her injured side. Once she was safely seated, she probed her side cautiously, surprised that it was bandaged, and bandaged professionally. As Diedra's eyes slowly adjusted to the low light coming through the high window, she saw a door, her bed, the bucket, a table, and a chair. Not much to write home about, that was for sure.
While she was taking stock of her surroundings, the door opened and a tall soldier walked in, carrying fresh bandages and a pitcher of water. "Hello, my Amazon," he said briskly as he pulled up the chair and sat down, "Let's see your side." Diedra tried to pull away, but in her weakened condition, she was no match for him. He set the water and bandages down on the table, then gently probed her side, unwinding the bandage with care. "It looks better, much better," he said, "I'll just clean it and re-bandage." She watched warily as the man carefully cleaned her side, then re-bandaged the wound. He stood, walking to the door and called for the guard. "Guard, come here," The guard arrived, and the soldier exchanged the old bandages for a tray with a bowl of stew, a mug of ale, and a half loaf of bread on it. He set the tray on the table and turned to Diedra, advising, "Eat slowly, my dear, for we don't want it coming back up."
Diedra carefully walked to the chair that he had just deserted and sat, picking up the spoon, and ate slowly, surprised at how good the stew tasted. She also detected some herbs that would probably put her to sleep, but at this point she didn't really care. The man watched her avidly, making sure that she ate slowly and didn't lash out. When she finished, he took the bowl away and stood up. "I'll be back, my warrior." She didn't care to speculate, she just wanted to sleep.
For the next week, Diedra drifted in and out of sleep as the soldier or healers continued to care for her wound and give her herb-laced stew. Finally, the soldier came in one day and announced that she was healing well enough to leave off the bandages. "Come with me, Amazon, and meet my wife. She will bathe and dress you, preparing you." Diedra didn't ask what she was being prepared for, strangely enough. A small voice in her head tried to warn her that prisoners usually weren't treated this well, but she just flowed with the moment. She really wanted a bath and clean clothes, and was just too sleepy to care why she was being offered such luxury.
The soldier and a guard escorted her to a large room with a steaming tub of water. A beautiful woman rose to greet her, reaching for her hands. "You must be the Amazon warrior my husband captured. Come, dear, let me help you bathe." She turned to the men and dismissed them. She helped Diedra out of her filthy clothes, then took off her own clothes and stepped into the large tub. "Come on in, my dear, I won't hurt you." Diedra stepped carefully into the tub, sitting down on the built-in ledge. She half closed her eyes as the woman took a sponge and soap and started bathing her, simply luxuriating in the sensation of becoming clean for the first time in who knew how long.
Time slid by. Diedra, who usually had an excellent sense of time, had no idea how long she had been in the tub, nor did she care. The woman gave her a goblet of wine, then took a goblet for herself. "You look much prettier now, my dear. Drink your wine, it will do you good." Diedra suspected that the wine was drugged as well, but didn't much care. She was clean, warm and happy. The wine was excellent, far superior to the table wine served in the Amazon village. She drank deeply, then silently held the goblet out for a refill. The woman complied, pouring a bit more into her own goblet, then sliding over until she was next to Diedra. Diedra sighed happily, not caring what would happen. She finished her second goblet, then let it drop to the floor. The woman smiled at her, then helped Diedra out of the tub and dried her off. She led Diedra to a large bed, holding her down. The soldier came back in the room and asked, "Is she ready for me?"
"Oh, yes, very," was the woman's reply. Danger signals started going off in Diedra's head, but she was too drugged and drunk to do anything more than feebly struggle against the woman's sudden firm grasp. She watched in horror as the man undressed, erection looming large. He did his best to arouse her, but her fear was too great to comply, so he simply took her, riding her until he was spent, dropping heavily on her as he regained his breath. "Thank you," he said as he dressed and left.
Diedra uncharacteristically burst into heavy sobs of pain and humiliation. The woman took the Amazon into her arms, cuddling her like a child. "I'm sorry, my sweet, but I haven't been able to have a child, and my husband wants an heir so desperately. Look, you are nearly a mirror copy of me, the same coloring, the same eyes, everything! I pledge that we will take very good care of you, anything to have a healthy baby. Once you deliver, we will reward you handsomely with riches and a cottage of your own, even a hand-picked husband from our troops. It will be fine," she assured the sobbing Amazon, stroking her hair gently. "You will see, I promise."
In the weeks that followed, Diedra was never out of someone's sight. She did not learn the names of her captors, she really didn't care. She felt dirty and used, even though they bathed her daily before he coupled with her again. The soldier tried to arouse her, to be gentle, but would take her regardless if she did not respond.
Time went by, and finally one morning Diedra was violently ill, and the wife smiled proudly. Diedra was pregnant. The daily assaults ceased, and now the couple now bend their efforts on keeping Diedra healthy as possible. She was given the best fruits, breads, meats and vegetables possible. The wife cared for her while she had morning sickness, and then walked with her through their extensive gardens for daily exercise.
Diedra noticed that the drugs were stopped as well, leaving her clear-minded for the first time since she had been captured. She started making escape plans, noting possible routes to freedom during their walks. The Amazon pretended to be resigned to the situation, as if she had given up all hope of leaving. Her ruse appeared to work with the wife, and she never saw the soldier again, which secretly cheered her greatly, even as she moped, sometimes refusing food, anything to keep up the appearance of depression. The wife ordered extra portions of tantalizing dishes to be served, bards to entertain her, anything to cheer her up.
Diedra finally decided on her escape plans. She had started asking to see the horses, saying that she missed her own mare. The wife assured her that if she weren't with child, that she would let her ride, but it was too risky now. Diedra persisted, asking to just see the horses, even if she could not ride. This was granted, and one of the guards walked her around the stables, then back to her sumptuous room. Her quick warrior's mind picked out the best ways to get to the stable, the best escape route, which doors were guarded, and where there were weaknesses.
Diedra started asking the wife to walk with her to the stables, to see the horses. The wife eagerly agreed, seeing that Diedra's face lit up when she saw the beautiful animals. She knew from casual conversation at breakfast that the husband was gone for the day, and noticed that the guards were not paying close attention. She deliberately led them to a path that overlooked the exercise ring, leaning over the fence to stare at the horses. The wife, scared of heights, stayed back several paces. It was only a small jump, about three feet, Diedra judged. Without warning, she tumbled over the fence, landed on her feet, sprinted to one of the horses, swung up, and dug her heels in. The horse reared, then galloped away, taking Diedra far away from this cozy prison, one that Diedra was determined never to see again.
Diedra and the horse pounded along the road for a ways, then swerved off into the forest until the horse nearly dropped from exhaustion. It was almost dark and Diedra felt as tired as the horse. But true to her training, she forced herself to take care of the horse first, finding a stream for water, a grassy patch for feed. Once the mare was taken care of, she dropped to the ground and slept until morning.
Diedra found enough grass for the horse and enough berries and other foods for herself, allowing them both to rest until mid-afternoon, then continued until they finally came to a village around supper time. Diedra stopped at the town inn and asked for a room for herself and a stall for the horse. The innkeeper made the arrangements while Diedra dropped onto a bench at a free table, then laid her head down for just a moment. She was awakened by the innkeeper asking, "Miss? are you okay?"
The Amazon stretched, then noted that the sun was completely down. "Gods, I must have slept," she grumbled.
The innkeeper just smiled, asking, "You looked like you needed the sleep, but I kept a plate of food back for you. I'll go get it for you now." The innkeeper bustled to the kitchen, soon reappearing with the promised plate of food and a mug of cool water.
"Thank you," Diedra said as the woman set a plate before her, "this smells terrific." She dug in with good appetite, but pacing herself so as not to appear starved.
The woman sat down opposite of her, watching her as she made steady progress through the food. "I don't mean to pry," she finally said, "but you look as if you have been traveling hard for several days. Is someone after you?"
Diedra swallowed a bite of bread, then answered, "Only the man who made me pregnant. I was raped repeatedly, but finally escaped yesterday." She started to say more, but noticed a young girl in the shadows, listening to every word.
The innkeeper turned, catching sight of the child, went over to her and said, "Xena, please go play with your brothers." The girl reluctantly left, then the innkeeper came back to the table and retook her seat. "My name is Cyrene, and this is my inn. Were you on your way somewhere, to family, perhaps?" she asked.
The warrior scraped the last of the plate with a scrap of bread as she answered, "I am Diedra, and I am an orphan and was brought up by a tribe of Amazons. I was recently captured in battle by a high-ranking soldier who decided to use me as his brood mare, since his wife said she could not conceive. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to turn. I do have dinars that I stole from the man, so I can pay for my room for several nights. Is there work around here?"
Cyrene thought for a moment, absorbing the emotionless way the woman told her brief, yet horrible tale. She gave herself a mental shake, then answered, "Rebecka the grocer needs help, her last clerk left to work on his family's farm. I'll introduce you in the morning, but for now, you need get a good night's sleep. Shall I call you for breakfast in the morning?"
"Yes, please. Is there any possibility that I could get a bath? I can pay extra for that," Diedra said.
"If you can wait for morning, yes, I can have hot water for you, right before breakfast. I'm sure you need one after your journey. I'll get Xena to wake you in the morning after her brothers have heated the water," Cyrene told her.
Diedra took a last swig of her drink, then said, "Thank you. You have been good to me, and I appreciate it. I will see you in the morning."
The promised bath revived Diedra's spirits and the breakfast filled her belly most pleasantly. After the breakfast crowd left, Cyrene took Diedra to Rebecka's grocery store. They entered, with Cyrene calling out, "Rebecka, where are you?" The woman appeared from the back, and Cyrene smiled, pushing Diedra gently forward as she made the introductions. "Rebecka, this is Diedra the Amazon, and she is looking for a job. Do you still need a clerk to help you out?"
"Yes, I do." The woman looked at Diedra quizzically, wondering why an Amazon would land in Amphipolis, of all places. Still, the woman looked healthy enough, light wavy brown hair still damp from bathing, skin clear and lightly tanned. "Can you write? Follow directions? Be willing to work hard?"
Diedra stared at the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman for a moment, then answered, "I can follow directions, yes. I can write a little, but would be willing to learn more. I just need a job and a place to live."
Cyrene interrupted, saying, "Well, I will leave you two to work out the details. Rebecka, I'll send Xena over later with the list for tomorrow. Diedra, I'll hold your room until you make other arrangements."
"Thank you Cyrene. I'll give Diedra a few days trial before making a decision." Rebecka hugged the other woman, then added, "I've always said that God would provide." Cyrene left, leaving the other two women alone. Rebecka looked at Diedra with a critical eye, then asked, "Are you with child?"
Diedra stole a guilty look at her belly, then answered flatly, "Not by choice. But, I don't want to get rid of the baby, I just need a place to live and a job. The Amazons taught me that I always had to take responsibility for myself, no matter what happened. That responsibility extends to my unborn child, whom I hope is a girl." She stopped, then added defiantly, "Is that a problem?"
Rebecka smiled and answered, "No, it is not. You are in luck, I was a midwife before I came here. If this works out, you may move into my spare room. Now, let me introduce you to the wonderful world of produce."
Diedra learned the trade quickly. She found comfort in arranging the produce just so, making sure that it was washed clean before she laid it out for the day. Rebecka insisted that everything had to be clean, including the people selling the produce. Diedra wondered where Rebecka was from, but respected her privacy and did not ask the exotic woman's origins.
Rebecka allowed Diedra to move into the spare room at the back of the store and the two women soon fell into a comfortable routine. Diedra found that she missed her Amazon family, but was becoming accustomed to her growing circle of friends here. Rebecka did as she promised, keeping a close eye on Diedra's pregnancy, making sure she ate and rested properly.
Diedra fell into a habit of walking back with Xena to the inn when the girl came to deliver the daily order for the inn. Xena was a very bright child, always asking questions about anything that popped into her head. Diedra found herself hoping that her daughter would be as bright and as graceful as the Cyrene's daughter.
One evening after the store closed, Diedra started practicing with a wooden staff and practice sword she had made. As the Amazon started through her routine, she noticed Xena watching, so she asked, "Would you like to learn how to use the staff and sword?"
"Yes, please," the child answered.
"Then ask your mother if she will let you come over to learn," Diedra said, sure that Cyrene would say no, like most women confronted with a daughter who wanted to learn sword-craft.
"I'll go ask right now," the raven-haired child declared, running off like a flash. Diedra started slowly moving her practice sword in intricate patterns, surprised when Xena came back, Cyrene in tow. "Mama said yes," the girl declared emphatically.
Diedra raised a dark eyebrow, green eyes on the brown-haired innkeeper. Cyrene smiled. "If it will keep Xena out of trouble, I'll approve it. Besides, it is a losing battle, her father was a soldier before he died."
"I see." The Amazon looked at the young child, asking, "Will you do as I say? Will you treat the sword and staff with respect, not as play things?"
"I will," the child promised solemnly.
Diedra nodded, and started teaching the child some of the basic moves. She was pleased at how quickly Xena caught on, and how eager she was every evening for her lessons. It quickly became a family affair, her older brother, Toris, her younger brother, Lyceus, often coming with her. Rebecka would watch to make sure that Lyceus did not get in the way, and, Diedra suspected, to make sure that she did not do anything that might hurt the growing baby. After the lesson, Rebecka and Diedra would walk the children back to the inn, and, if it was not too busy, spend a little time with Cyrene. Diedra was starting to feel like she had found a home.
Solstice Eve was extremely busy. It seemed that everyone in Amphipolis came to buy food for their Solstice Day celebration feasts. Diedra was worn out that night and went to bed without eating supper. She had a bad fright during the day, for a man who resembled the soldier came to the store, but was relieved when she realized that it was not the soldier. She was still thinking about him when she fell asleep, the first time she had let herself think about her captivity in some time.
During the night, she woke up screaming, "Get away! Get away! I don't want to be your brood mare!" Rebecka came running into the room, hair streaming behind her. Without a word, she sat on the edge of the bed and pulled the screaming woman into her arms, rocking her until Diedra completely woke up. The pregnant woman was still trembling, but refusing to cry, as she reluctantly pulled out of Rebecka's arms. "Sorry I woke you, I had a bad dream. You don't have to stay with me," she said, cheeks stained with the shame of waking her friend.
"Diedra, that was not a bad dream, that was a nightmare. Care to tell me what happened?" Rebecka said, refusing to budge.
Diedra stared at her hands for a long moment, then finally looked up at Rebecaka. "I was with my unit in the thick of battle. The enemy managed to drive a wedge of men into our unit, scattering us. I was wounded and taken prisoner. The soldier who took me away treated me for my wounds, but as soon as I started healing, he and his wife would..." She swallowed hard, unable to continue.
Rebecka reached out and took her hands, saying, "What did he do, dear?"
The tears finally started, slowly trailing down Diedra's cheeks. Fighting to keep her voice steady, she answered, "His wife held me down while he raped me. I couldn't fight back because they kept me drugged, and I knew that I was being drugged, but I couldn't starve myself. It was in my food, so I was unable to resist him. I should have resisted, I should have killed him, but I could not." Diedra took a deep breath, then continued, "The wife said that she could not have children. So they used me as breeding stock, for she and I looked very similar. I waited until he had left for a battle, and I plotted my escape and wound up here." She stopped as the lump in her throat became too large to talk through.
Rebecka pulled the younger woman back into her arms, murmuring, "Is this why you never tried to go back to the Amazons? Were you ashamed of being raped, of not being able to resist?" Diedra nodded. "My people see rape as devaluing a woman, making her less marketable for marriage. But my former partner's people saw it as stealing your soul." Rebecka stopped talking, not sure what else to say. She settled for holding the other woman, gently stroking her light brown hair until Diedra calmed down and fell back asleep. Rebecka gently laid her down, pulled up the covers under her chin, then sat down in a chair next to the bed, watching Diedra sleep through the rest of the night.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful, greeted by cries of "Happy Solstice!" Diedra woke up, dazed for a moment, wondering if Rebecka had really comforted her in the night. She decided that it was true when she saw Rebecka slumping in her chair, asleep. She ran out to the outhouse, then went to the kitchen to start breakfast. When Rebecka appeared, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Diedra exclaimed, "Happy Solstice, Rebecka!" She was rewarded with a smile and a hug. "Happy Solstice to you too, Diedra, this is quite a treat. Breakfast smells good, is it ready?"
"Yes. Have a seat, I'll bring your plate over to you." Diedra was surprised that she felt so good, considering the nightmares, but decided that it was too festive a holiday to bother with nightmares. "Here you go. Notice that I kept the dairy away from the meats, just like you taught me to do." Rebecka smiled, then bent her head in brief prayer before eating. Diedra brought her own plate over, diving into the food hungrily. As she finished her meal, Rebecka asked how she was feeling. "Fine, thanks. Oh, the baby is really kicking hard now. I guess she's pretty healthy, right?"
"Probably. You are eating well and exercising well, so chances are that the baby is fine," the older woman said.
Diedra ate in silence for a moment, then asked, "The midwives in the Amazon village claimed that they could hear the baby's heartbeat by listening to the mother's belly. Is that true?"
Rebecka smiled as she reached for a slice of bread. "Yes, it's true. It is faint, but I have heard baby's heartbeats many times." She swallowed a bit, then asked casually, "By the way, have you started thinking about names for the child?"
Diedra frowned. "No, not really. I can't think of boy's names, I just can't imagine having a boy child. I'd like to name her after one of the goddesses, though. Which reminds me, if it isn't too personal, which god or goddess do you pray to?"
Rebecka pushed away her now empty plate. She rarely had to face up to this part of her past, but she felt relatively comfortable around Diedra now. "Well, I did pray to the one true god of Israel, but my lover prayed to the Consort of God, Lilith. Eventually, I also started praying to Lilith and kept refusing to marry the man my father had picked out for me. I was kicked out of my tribe, so I wandered until I settled here. There was already a healer and midwife here, so I bought the business from the old grocer. Now, who do you pray to?"
Diedra thought for a long moment, then answered, "Usually Athena and Diana. They are goddesses of warriors. So, you grew up believing in one god? How boring!"
Rebecka laughed. "Not boring, but I must admit that the Greek gods and goddesses are more fun. Enough about religion, let's wash dishes."
Diedra started clearing off the dishes, then asked, "Can you really hear my baby's heartbeat?"
Rebecka laughed as she started washing dishes. "Yes, I should be able to. Do you want me to listen for your baby's heartbeat?
Diedra nodded yes as she started drying the dishes that Rebecka had washed. "I just hope it is a girl. Can you tell that too?"
"No, Diedra, I can't tell until the child is born. You only have about two months to go; have you thought about clothing and bedding for the child?" Rebecka asked.
Diedra finished drying the dishes before she answered. Finally, she said, "No, I really hadn't thought much about it. I guess I'm just so used to everyone in my village sharing things that it really didn't occur to me. What do you suggest I do?"
Rebecka thought for a moment, then answered, "Cyrene mentioned that she was finally going to get rid of Xena's baby things, so maybe you can buy them from her. She doesn't seem to be in a hurry to remarry, so I seriously doubt she will have any more children. I think we've finished here, let's go to your room so I can listen to the baby."
They walked into Diedra's room, where Rebecka directed her to lay down on her bed. Rebecka gently lifted Diedra's dress and laid her hands and head on Diedra's belly, listening intently. She finally said, "I hear the baby, it has a very strong heartbeat." She raised her head, but kept her hands on Diedra's belly. "May I examine you?"
"Sure." Diedra watched as best she could as Rebecka gently probed her belly. It felt so good, just to have someone touch her. She was used to the Amazon village, where most of the women hugged when they met, or at least patted your shoulder, and she missed the human contact. She half-closed her eyes as Rebecka continued her exam, lifting her dress higher to trace the scar on her side. She shivered slightly as the cool air hit her nipples and hardened them. Finally, Rebecka pulled her dress back down and announced, "I believe you are healthy. That is quite a nasty scar, but it feels like it healed nicely. It would have been less noticeable if it had been sewn up, rather than just bandaged."
"Yes, I suppose so." Diedra was almost sorry that the exam was over, she had been enjoying Rebecka's warm hands on her. She sat up and impulsively reached for the other woman, drawing her into a long embrace.
Time seemed to stand still as they sat, arms around each other. Finally, Rebecka pulled back and kissed Diedra on the forehead. "Diedra, we should be getting ready. Cyrene has invited us for lunch at the inn, it seems like Xena insisted."
"Okay." Diedra reluctantly let Rebecka stand up.
The noon meal was wonderful. The tavern was closed to the public so Cyrene could feed just her family and friends. Xena and her brothers could hardly wait for the meal to end so they could go play with their friends. Diedra was grateful to be included, as Solstice had always been a special time for the Amazons, celebrating the end of the shorter days, with the promise of new life soon.
As the day wore on, Cyrene brought Diedra a warm mug of spiced wine, asking, "Have you thought about clothes for the baby? I still have all of the baby clothes and swaddling clothes from my children, I could let you have them."
"I can't accept them for free, but I will buy them from you," Diedra counter-offered.
"You have been keeping my children busy in the evenings, that is payment enough. So, have you thought about who you will use as a midwife when the baby comes?" Cyrene asked.
"Not really," the Amazon confessed.
"Do you suppose that Rebecka will offer? After all, she was a midwife in Israel, before she came to Greece, and has delivered a few babies here," Cyrene said.
"I don't know, Cyrene. Rebecka did listen to the baby's heartbeat this morning. She says everything sounds fine," she assured the innkeeper.
Cyrene patted Diedra on the arm. "Diedra, since you started working for Rebecka, she has seemed very happy. You two must have become good friends."
"Yes, I suppose we have. Cyrene, she mentioned something about a lover and being kicked out of her tribe. Do you know what really happened? And do the Hebrews really worship only one god?" Diedra asked, her curiosity finally overcoming her.
Cyrene took a drink of her own wine, then answered, "Well, from what she has told me, she was in love with a woman from the town her family lived in. She trained as a midwife, just like her mother, but when she refused to marry a man, her father threatened to disown her. Rebecka tried to run away with her lover, but was caught by her brothers. They killed her lover, then brought her back home. She escaped again, the night before her wedding and wound up here. I've been friends with her since she arrived, but she has not really been friends with anyone else." Before she could say anything else, Xena came tearing into the room, chased by her brothers. Cyrene shook her head in amusement, then went to head the children away from any breakables.
That night, Diedra was still thinking about what Cyrene had said. Imagine being kicked out of your family just because you refused to marry someone! She had never fallen in love herself, she had been too busy becoming the best warrior possible, but she had heard plenty from her Amazon sisters. It didn't make any difference in her society whether you fell for a man or a woman, as long as you had a good marriage, although the men had to live in a separate village. Some Amazons would live with their husbands for a few years, then come back to the Amazon village to raise their children.
Diedra was still thinking about this as Rebecka was finishing setting up things for tomorrow. Rebecka paused and asked, "Would you like any tea? I'm thinking of making me some, and would enjoy the company." Diedra nodded, idly watching Rebecka as she put the kettle on the hook over the fireplace, noting how the firelight lent a beautiful glow to Rebecka's dark face and hair.
She had never really noticed before how beautiful that Rebecaka was, how graceful her movements were, how she still had a trace of foreign accent in her speech and how her voice was so smooth and rich to the ears. She watched as Rebecka steeped the tea in the mugs, then brought the mugs to the table, smiling as she sat down.
"We had a marvelous Solstice Day, didn't we?" Diedra asked as she wrapped her hands around the mug. Rebecka nodded, sipping her tea. Diedra happily took a long drink from her own mug. Switching topics, she said, "That was nice of Cyrene of offer me her children's baby things for free, although I did offer to pay for them, she refused to accept any money."
Rebecka smiled at her clerk. "That's Cyrene for you, always looking out for those she considers family. How about you? What about your Amazon family?"
Diedra sighed. "I guess I've been missing my Amazon sisters lately, wondering if I should try to go back to raise my baby with them or not. But I feel like I'm pretty well accepted here, and I like the people, and I like working with you. But, I do have a question for you, Rebecka."
Rebecka put down her mug and said, "Please ask."
Diedra breathed deeply, then asked, "What will I do when the baby comes? Should I start looking for my own cottage or room? You've been so nice to let me live here in your spare room, but I can't imagine that you would want to be awaken by a baby crying every night."
Rebecka reached across the table and put her finger to Diedra's lips. "Shush, woman. I like having you around and I certainly won't mind having your baby around here. If you like, I will even be your midwife when the time comes. Don't worry, you can live here as long as you want." She moved her finger away from Diedra's lips and gently stroked her cheek. "I think I might feel a hole in my life if you left. I've become accustomed to having you here."
Diedra reached up and captured Rebecka's fingers in her own, saying, "Thank you." She tried to think of something else, but failed, so she gently kissed Rebecka's fingers.
Rebecka gasped with surprise at the long suppressed desire that raced through her body at the touch of Diedra's lips to her fingers. She hadn't reacted to any woman's touch like that since Sarah so many years gone by, and it was as if her eyes were suddenly opened to Diedra's beauty. She had noticed that Diedra was glowing with good health and with the beauty that many pregnant women exhibited, but she had somehow failed to notice the deep brown of Diedra's eyes, or the gold threads among the brown of her wavy hair. She brought Diedra's fingers to her own lips and slowly kissed each fingertip in turn, pulse racing, fire building in her belly.
Diedra felt a shock race through her body as Rebecka kissed her fingers. So this was what some of her Amazon sisters had whispered about! Throwing all caution aside, she stood up and pulled Rebecka from her chair, folding her in her arms, just enjoying the feeling of Rebecka's body against her own. Then, trembling with anticipation, she gently stole her first kiss, marveling at the softness of Rebecka's lips against her own, feeling her desire rise and threaten to overwhelm her. The kiss deepened and Rebecka's lips became demanding and possessive.
They finally broke the kiss and stared into each other's eyes, seeing their desire mirrored there. As one, they went to Rebecka's room, falling into her bed, shedding clothes and exploring each other's bodies slowly, neither wanting to rush their first time. Rebecka took charge, showing Diedra the fine art of making love with a woman as the night wore on, exploring with controlled intensity, finally bringing Diedra to her first climax in love.
After that first night, Diedra moved her few clothes into Rebecka's room and reveled in being in love, feeling Rebecka's arms around her at night, stealing glances during the day, and counting down the days until her child was born. For her part, Rebecka was starting to think of the baby as theirs, not just Diedra's. She had thought that her father and brothers had beaten her capacity to love out of her when they had beaten Sarah to death upon catching them together, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of her feelings for Diedra. Rebecka also changed the way she treated Diedra, from an employer and good friend to a partner and a lover. She started letting Diedra make more of the decisions when they visited the farmers, showed her how to keep the accounts, and told her more of her business secrets for success.
Finally, the baby came. Diedra's water broke abruptly during a very busy day at the store. Rebecka quickly shooed everyone out, then hustled Diedra back into her old room, making her as comfortable as possible. The baby was born several hours later, a very easy birth. Rebecka gently cleaned off the baby, cut the cord, then grinned as she handed Diedra their daughter. "My love, we have a girl," she announced as she watched Diedra reverently kiss the girl's forehead.
Rebecka blushed, but affirmed, "Yes, we. I'll adopt her as mine, so she will truly be ours." She watched as Diedra awkwardly guided the baby to her breast, then laughed as Diedra yelped when the baby started suckling. "Oh, I didn't prepare you well enough?" she asked, eyes twinkling.
Diedra shook her head, then watched as their daughter took nourishment. When the baby had her fill, she reluctantly let Rebecka take her back to wrap her in soft blankets against the cold. "My love, have you thought of a name?" Rebecka inquired tenderly.
"Yes. Diana, after the Huntress. Gods, she is beautiful!"
"That she is. Now that she is sleeping, let's get you cleaned up."
The people of Amphipolis started bringing presents for the child as soon as the store opened back up several days later. Cyrene and Xena were some of the first to come over, with Xena proclaiming that she didn't see what the fuss was about, it was just a baby! The women laughed at the youngster, saying that someday she would understand. Diana was one of those rare babies who started sleeping though the night fairly quickly, within a few months. Xena expressed concern that Diedra would not have time to teach her anything else, but Diedra said to just wait for a month or so, then they would start their lessons again.
As summer started in earnest, Xena burst into the store one day, yelling, "Amazons! There are Amazons in town!" Diedra handed Diana to Rebecka and followed Xena into the town square where she saw ten women in Amazon clothing milling around. She experienced a moment of guilt for never having sent word that she was okay, but pushed it down as she walked up to her sisters.
One of the women turned and saw her, then ran to sweep her in a big hug. "Diedra! You're alive!" The other women swarmed over, hugging her in turn, all babbling at once. Xena stared at these women who were engulfing her mother's best friend and her mentor. Would they take her away? She hoped not.
As Xena stood and worried, Rebecka came up and put a hand on the young girl's shoulder. "I know, I'm afraid too," she said softly. Xena looked up at the older woman, then announced that she needed to find her mother. Rebecka nodded as she walked over to the crowd of Amazons with Diana in her arms. Diedra caught sight of her and motioned for the others to let her through. She proudly put her arm around Rebecka's waist and announced, "This is Rebecka, and this is our daughter, Diana." They buzzed with questions, but Diedra held up her hand for silence. "Let's meet over at the tavern and I will tell all. We will meet you there as soon as we can close the shop."
One of the neighbors offered to look after the store, though, so they wouldn't have to close it up for the day. Grateful to him, the women went to the tavern where Cyrene was already busy serving drinks to the Amazons. Diedra and Rebecka sat at the table and the rest fell silent after a few minutes. Diedra quickly outlined the bare outlines of being kidnapped, just stating that she was held prisoner and raped, then managed to escape and wound up in Amphipolis, where Rebecka took her in as a clerk. She wound up the tale by saying, "So, we eventually realized that we were in love, and now we have a beautiful daughter."
While she was reciting her tale, Xena shadowed Cyrene's every move. Cyrene finally asked, "Honey, what's wrong? You've never been one to cling to my skirts!"
Xena looked up at her mother fearfully and asked, "Will they take Diedra and Diana away? I don't want them to go!"
Cyrene lifted the child, brushing her black hair out of her brilliant blue eyes. "I don't know, Xena. We'll just have to wait and see. Amazons do have very strong ties to their tribe, but I suspect that the decision will be Diedra's, not anyone else's." She kissed Xena, then let her down. "I need to refill goblets. Go play with your brothers." Xena ran from the tavern. Cyrene sighed to herself, for she was worried about Diedra leaving as well. She squared her shoulders and carried pitchers of ale over to the table of Amazons.
Most of the Amazons settled down in rooms at the inn, but Dorcas, the new priestess, followed Diedra, Rebecka and Diana to their house that night. She sat with the women at their kitchen table and asked the question, "Are you coming back to the village, Diedra?"
"No. I have a life here and a wonderful family," Diedra said proudly, defiantly.
Dorcas looked deeply into Diedra's eyes as she spoke, but she did not detect any wavering. She finally said, "Well, then, you still owe us military service. As representative of the Queen, I ask you, do you intent to finish your commitment, or do you plan to break your ties from the Amazon Nation?"
Diedra kept looking steadily at Dorcas. She had pondered this question all day, but knew her decision. "I will give the nation a month of service every year after Diana has at least turned one. Before you ask, I will raise her as an Amazon, and pledge you her service when the time comes. But, I cannot leave my love."
Dorcas nodded. She had suspected that Diedra would not come back, but had not expected the offer of limited service. "Have you made your vows yet?"
Rebecka and Diedra looked at each other, then Rebecka said, "No. Truthfully, I had not thought of it, since my people do not recognize marriage between women. Diedra had not spoken of any other vows. But, I have proclaimed Diana as my daughter as well."
Dorcas hesitated, then finally asked, "Would you like for me to conduct your ceremony? Since you are not of the royal house or lineage, it can be held here in Amphipolis instead of back at the Amazon village." The women looked at each other, then agreed.
Several days later, Diedra and Rebecka had their wedding at the tavern. The place was filled with townfolks and Amazons and decorated with early summer flowers and greenery. Xena was relieved when Diedra had told her that she was going to stay, and to marry Rebecka. Cyrene agreed to stand with Rebecka, and Antigone, one of the Amazons, agreed to stand with Diedra. Xena watched from the back with her best friend, Lis. For the first time in her six years, she was to watch a wedding. As she and Lis watched, she listened to the priestess guide them through the ceremony, asking if they would take care of each other always, swearing never to desert each other until they parted in death. They repeated their vows to each other, then Dorcas had then turn to the audience, saying, "I present Diedra and Rebecka, joined now in love for the rest of their lives. You may kiss to seal your union." They followed the directions gleefully, finally breaking off as the Amazons started making rude comments. They didn't care--they were happy, together, for the rest of their lives.
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