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A Past Remembered

By Anita Louise

Copyright 1997

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 right?"

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

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

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 Eponin, 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 Eponin 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. Eponin 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 here?"

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' side fighting the on-coming 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 clouded 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 hers 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 you . . . "

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 Krispies has been pushing , I would think by midday tomorrow."

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 it is good. I'm sorry I took the coward's 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 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 who 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 you."

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 forever."

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 that 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."

Continued in Chapter Twelve