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A Past Remembered
By Anita Louise
"Xena, Xena are you all right?" The woman heard the words floating to her as if in a fog, she felt the hands pat her face as she opened one eye and said, "Who wants to know?"
The woman's voice softly replied, "It's me Ephiny, Gods, Xena look at the mess you have gone and gotten yourself into." The Warrior moaned as she managed to get the other eye to open, she blinked several times then said, "Ephiny, I've found you."
Ephiny replied, "It's more like I've found you."
Xena looked into the face of her friend and said, "I've got to get you back to the village."
Ephiny replied, "If you haven't noticed, we're not going anywhere. It's all lost now, my only hope was that you might come and rescue us."
Xena started to move and realized her hands were bound above her head as she said, "You're right, I seem to be in a compromising position at the moment."
Ephiny answered, "Xena, where is Gabrielle?"
Xena looked down as she said, "Back at camp, probably having a sweet dream. I thought I would be back before she woke up." Xena glanced around the room and said, "Untie me."
Ephiny replied, "Can't, you're not tied, it's chains and manacles. Santos wasn't going to take any chances on your getting away."
Xena laughed as she said, "He doesn't really think a measly chain is going to keep me here does he?"
Ephiny began to pace the room then turned and said, "You can't, he said if you break out he would kill the other women and Argo."
Xena growled, "I hate it when Warlords threaten things I care about. Tell me, where are the other women being held?"
Ephiny replied, "I don't know, he only left me here so I would tell you. Xena how is Queen Melosa?" Xena told Ephiny about the Queen and then she said, "I've got to get out of here, if I don't Gabrielle will figure out where I have gone and come looking for me, she will no doubt get herself captured." The sound of footsteps could be heard. As they grew louder, they stopped at the door and they heard voices as Ephiny said, "It's them, there is no one to help us now."
Xena struggled at the chains that held her tightly, cursing under her breath. Ephiny stepped back, as the door swung open and Krispies and Santos walked into the room.
Santos walked up to the woman and said, "We meet again Xena, I see you are awake."
Xena shook her head trying to clear it of the cobwebs that had begun to envelope it. She stared directly into the eyes of the Slave Trader. Her glare seemed to frighten the man and he stepped backwards right into Krispies.
Krispies reached out and pushed Santos forward as he said, "For Ares sake man, the woman is tied up, she can't hurt you, where is your backbone?"
Santos stopped, his nose was within inches of Xena's and yelled back, "What did you do that for Krispies?" Before he could step back Xena grabbed the chains her wrists were bound to and swung her legs up around the man's shoulders, tightened them and said, "You forget, I do have many skills."
Santos cried out and Xena said, "Tell Krispies to give Ephiny the key to these chains, hurry up!"
Santos gasped out the words and Krispies held out a key to Ephiny. Xena had a solid hold around the man's neck and was enjoying the pressure she was putting on it.
As Ephiny reached out for the key, Krispies grabbed her right arm and twisted it behind the woman. He now held a dagger to the Amazon's throat as he said, "It's my turn now Xena, let Santos go or this Amazon dies!"
Xena looked at Ephiny and shook her head as she said, "No don't... let her go."
She squeezed her legs tighter, then released them as the large man crumpled to the floor. Xena stared at Krispies and said, "You said, let him go, you didn't say how."
Krispies pulled Ephiny over to the wall and manacled her left arm to it. And as he approached her he said, "You never cease to amaze me Xena, but then sometimes you underestimate me, like now!"
His right fist struck out at the woman, landing solidly on her left cheek. Xena's head snapped back from the blow and at the same time his fist made its way to her stomach, knocking the breath out of her, she doubled over. Ephiny had been watching in terror as she cried out, "Stop! Please stop, don't hurt her!"
Krispies said, "That's just a sample of what's to come." He reached down and grabbed Santos by his arms, dragging the man from the room muttering, "I don't know why I put up with your stupidity"
Ephiny stared at the limp form of her friend. She could now see a trail of blood oozing from the woman's mouth and she tried to reach out to her. She stretched as much as she could and was within an inch of touching the woman as she softly said, "Xena, oh please be all right. I'm so sorry, I should never have let Krispies get the better of me. Xena..."
The woman groaned several times but did not wake up. Ephiny finally sat down on the cold floor and stared up at Xena. If ever there should have been an Amazon it was the Warrior Princess, her height and strength alone would have qualified her for their world.
The young blond woman stood watching members of the village preparing for the hunt. She had grown up in this village, never wanting anything. Some of the first things she remembered was being taught the ways of the Amazon. Her schooling had not only involved reading and writing, agriculture and hunting, it had also included learning how to stay alive. Courses were given in Archery, Chobos, the Staff, Sword Fighting and Wrestling. These were all fun to learn, but what Ephiny enjoyed the most was the Chariot Races. She learned at a young age how to guide the horses and out maneuver her opponents.
Ephiny smiled, as she thought of the one person, that always seemed to best her in everything except the races. The lanky, brunette with the green eyes, names Eponin. It had become a challenge to always try to outdo this amazing Amazon. And now she had actually beaten her in something. Ephiny expected Eponin to be upset, as she hopped down from her Chariot and walked over to the woman. Eponin looked up a broad smile crossing her face, as she reached out and grasped Ephiny's right arm and said, "I knew you had it in you, congratulations!"
Ephiny smiled and clasped her arm at the same time and said, "You sure gave me a run for the dinars. You're not angry?"
Eponin bent over taking in a deep breath of air and said, "Never, you beat me fair and square." They glanced over toward Melena, their tutor as Eponin said, "I'm going to go to the ritual down by the river tonight, why don't you come along."
Ephiny nodded and answered, "I'd love to but I'm not sure Tala will let me."
Eponin smiled and said, "She won't care, it's time you found out what life is all about anyway. I've heard so many stories, I want to see just what happens at these rituals. Meet you by the fork in the road at dusk." She turned and ran off leaving Ephiny standing with her mouth wide open.
That evening at their evening feast Ephiny turned to Tala and said, "Eponin asked me to go with her to the ritual tonight." The woman stopped what she had been doing and said, "Do you know about the rituals?" Ephiny thought for a second as she walked over to the table, pulling out a chair she sat down and said, "Is it different than the ones that I have already seen?"
Tala sat down and said, "You have been a wonder to behold, watching you grow into womanhood. You have learned well my child but there are still a few things you do not know. I believe it is time I tell you."
Ephiny looked at her, her eyes wide with wonder as the woman started to tell her about the Amazons and some of their customs. Tell me Ephiny, have you noticed anything missing in the village?"
The woman shook her head.
Tala continued, "If you look around, you will not see any men. Men are not permitted to dwell in our domain. Once a year a drawing is held and the chosen women will travel to a neighboring village and mate with men, solely for the purpose of bearing a child."
Ephiny replied, "I had noticed the lack of men but never gave it much thought. You're telling me that the Amazon women mate with men just to have children?"
Tala answered, "That is right."
Ephiny asked, "If that is the case, it must be the fates of the Gods, that there are no male babies carried by these women."
The woman shook her head and said, "No, if a male child is born it is taken to the outskirts of the fathers village and left for them to claim."
Ephiny set back and said, "What? You would take away a woman's baby just because it is a male? That doesn't sound very civilized."
Tala answered, "Never let another Amazon hear you say that, it could be taken as treason and the charge could be death or banishment."
Ephiny thought for a second then she said, "What will I learn at the ritual?"
The woman reached out an grasped Ephiny's right hand and said, "In another six moons you will be joining the hunt. Eventually, someone will come into your life that you will hold special feelings for. When that time comes, a ritual will be held and the two of you will be joined with Artemis and you will start your own lives as one."
Ephiny was hearing the words as she mulled them over in her mind she said, "And if I go to the ritual with Eponin, people will think that we are..."
Tala replied, "Yes."
Ephiny stood up and said, "I have to go care for the horses, I will not be going tonight. Thanks for the talk." She bent down and kissed the woman on the forehead, turned and left the room.
Ephiny had learned everything they had tried to teach her and up until that evening, Eponin and her women friends were just that, friends. They all enjoyed doing things together but if what Tala spoke of was true, she didn't think she would ever meet anyone that she would want to go to the ritual with. It suddenly seemed she was growing up way to quickly.
Late that night Ephiny was brought out of a sound sleep by pebbles being tossed through her window. As she sat up she heard the voice, "Ephiny, where were you?" She walked over to the window and peered out as a form stepped out from the shadows. Eponin stood swaying as she said, "The least you could do is come out here and talk to me."
Ephiny replied, "Shh, you'll wake Tala and it will be Hades to pay for both of us. Just a minute."
It didn't take her long to throw on some clothes and climb out the window. As she made it over to her friend she said., Eponin, you've been drinking, you can get in trouble for that."
Eponin smiled as she replied, "Don't be so uppity, come sit down and have a drink with me, it's the least you could do since you stood me up."
Ephiny joined her friend on the ground as she said, "I didn't stand you up, we didn't have a date. Don't tell me you went?"
Eponin handed the flask to her and said, "Sure did, and a good time was had by all. You know that thing we've been thinking about Joelle and Maitlen?"
Ephiny took a drink as she scrunched up her nose and replied, "Yeah, what about it?"
Eponin replied, "Well, they joined with Artemis tonight. Should have seen the way people were staring at me, <I>all by myself."</B>
Ephiny handed the flask back to the woman and said, "I never really promised you I'd go, course I never said I wouldn't. Tala had a talk with me and discouraged my going. She said that if I went with you people would think that way about us."
Eponin took a long swallow and said, "What's so wrong about that, everyone has somebody, and we do get along."
Ephiny laughed, "Yeah sometimes like Harpys in a bad mood. I think that friends is good right now, and we definitely are that." Eponin smiled and said, "Best friend I've ever had, lets drink to that." Sitting on the ground, the two women held a celebration all their own, finishing off the flask and collapsing by one another.
The next morning a crowing rooster woke them. Ephiny slowly sat up followed by Eponin as she said, "Look at us, if we are found like this, it won't be nice. Let's get out of here."
Eponin staggered to her feet, as Ephiny put one arm around her waist and said, "Lean on me."
Eponin whispered in her right ear, "I'm leaning, could you just stop swaying so much. I don't feel too good."
Ephiny replied, "I've got just the cure." She found the path leading into the forest and down to the rippling stream. Approaching it Ephiny said, "Good, we are here."
Eponin squinted her eyes at the woman and asked, "We are where?"
Ephiny said, "Just follow me." They had taken three steps into the icy water when Eponin screamed, "Gods, what are you doing to me?" Ephiny laughed and pulled the woman into the deeper water. Eponin started to go under and Ephiny reached down drawing her back up. "Are you awake now?"
Eponin laid on her back, floating on the water and said, "Oh yes, and I owe you one Ephiny."
After the two of them felt renewed, they swam over to the hanging ledge, dove down and swam under it into the cavern. Finding the rock steps, Ephiny stepped out of the water followed by Eponin. They walked further into the cavern, stopping as they felt the warmth of the hot springs. It didn't take Ephiny long to shed her clothes and Eponin followed as they dove into the water.
The steam was curling upward and Eponin swam over to a crop of rocks that were descending into the water. She found one and sat down, staring at her friend laying back in the warmth of the water. Eponin called, "There's a seat here for you, come on over join me, lean back and relax."
Ephiny swam over to her and sat down. She flicked water at her friend and said, "Have to admit it, you must feel better."
Eponin laughed as she said, "All right, you did the right thing. If I had to go through the day like I was feeling I wouldn't have made it. Won't they miss us?"
Ephiny laid back on the smooth rock and said, "Nah, they will have too many things on their mind and I don't think we are any of them." They had been laying in the warmth of the water for sometime when Eponin asked, "Tell me Ephiny, do you ever get any desires?"
Ephiny opened her eyes and said, "Desires? Sure, I desire my own horse."
Leaning on her elbows, Eponin raised herself up, stared at Ephiny and said, "No, not that kind of desire, haven't you had any unusual feelings toward anyone that you can't explain?"
Ephiny's face reddened and she said, "If you are asking if I desire your body, then yes, every minute of the day and night." Laughing, she reached down and threw water into the woman's face.
Eponin fell back and said, "All right, I deserved that, I pity the Amazon that decides to court you, she may never live through it."
Ephiny sit up and said, "We had better get back, before they send out a search party for us and we end up<I> declaring our undying love to Artemis."</B>
As Eponin stepped from the water she turned to Ephiny and said, "Wouldn't be the worst thing that has ever happened to us and definitely one worth thinking about. But you'd better think fast, we go on the hunt soon."
Ephiny stuck her tongue at the woman, reached down, grabbed her clothes and ran from the cavern.
Eponin called after her, "Gee, you sure know how to deflate a person's ego don't you? I can see that I don't stand a chance next to your dreams of that almighty steed."
"Hey, you going to stare into space all day? I could use some help over here."
Ephiny shook her head and realized she had been day dreaming, something she had been called on many times. Standing up she glanced at Xena and said, "You're awake, how do you feel?"
The woman frowned and said, "Like a Hydra just ran over me. Can you reach me?"
Ephiny shook her head and said, "I've tried, no."
Xena said, "Then step back." Ephiny did, as she watched the women rip the chains from the rock like they were a blade of grass swept over on a windy day. Ephiny said, "Every time I see you do a feat, it's as if it is the first time. You are so good Xena."
Xena walked over to her and grabbed the chain that was holding the woman to the wall. She took a deep breath, grabbed it and pulled. It didn't take long for it to pop out of the wall and she said, "Now, let's get out of here."
"Not so fast Xena!" They both turned to see Krispies standing in the doorway.
Xena snarled at him, "Get out of the way Krispies, or suffer the consequences!"
He laughed and said, "I think you have forgotten something, your horse and the other women."
Xena stepped toward him and he held up one hand as he said, "Santos has orders to kill them all. Now you escape and it will be the same as you slitting their throats. Can you live with that Xena?"
The woman looked at Ephiny and then back at him as she said, "You already know the answer to that, you win, what now?"
He glanced at her and said, "Looks like you have hurt your wrists, too bad it was for nothing. Over there, the chains are still hanging. Walk over there, and hold out your wrists." Xena did as the man asked and he unlocked the manacles on her wrists. Discarding the useless chain, he grabbed her wrists and locked the new manacles around them.
Ephiny had been staring in terror and when the man turned to her she closed her eyes waiting for the blow of his fist, and It never came. Instead he unlocked the manacle from her wrist and said, "You two behave yourselves, I'll be back." Xena glared at him and he turned and walked from the room. Ephiny ran over to Xena and said, "We are in trouble, aren't we? I know you won't do anything to cause harm to the others. I've never been the one who could get us out of sticky situations Xena, it has always been you."
Xena replied, "Yeah, we'll just have to bide our time and wait for a more opportune moment."
Ephiny seemed to pout as she said, "It's all my fault again, I got you into this. If it wasn't for..."
Xena interrupted her and said, "If it wasn't you, it would be someone else. You know how I hate it when you get all paranoid on me."
Ephiny replied, "I can't help but worry, what are they going to do to us?"
Xena glanced up at her manacled wrists and answered, "It's a sure bet Krispies and Santos have plans for me. Maybe I can get them to release you by using some sort of ruse. For now, why don't you go lie down and try to get some rest."
Ephiny answered, "I couldn't rest, knowing you are in such misery." Xena gave the Amazon the look and Ephiny said, "Of course, I could go sit down."
Ephiny leaned back against the cold stone wall, even the coolness didn't seem to bother her. She stared at Xena for awhile then set, staring down at the floor.
Tala glanced over at her and asked, "Do you have everything you will need?"
Ephiny picked up her Bow and Arrows, turned to the woman and said, "Yeah, I'm ready.
I've never been on a hunt before, this could be fun."
Tala walked over to her and replied, "I see a woman when I look at you but you still have the wonderment of a child. Ephiny, the hunt is not fun, it is serious work. So many of our animals have been pushed further out. And you know it has been hard to hunt food for the village. That is why the hunt is extending to the outer lands. You must keep a wary eye about you. These people do not look upon the Amazon with good intentions. Do not stray from the group and stay away from the people there."
Ephiny thanked the woman turned and left. She didn't know what Tala was so concerned about, she had never heard of a human hurting an Amazon. Approaching the hunting party she could see Eponin sitting regally on a Roan Mare. She waved to her and said, "I see you're ready."
The woman smiled and said, "Ready as I'll ever be, it should be interesting. They tell me we just have to keep away from the village of Amphipolis."
Eponin replied, "I don't know what you would want to go there for anyway, it's the hills we will be concentrating on. Bet you I get the first Stag."
Ephiny mounted a horse and glancing at Eponin she said, "Big talk, you've got to spot one before me!" The woman had raced from the village leaving Eponin staring at her trail of dust. Eponin shook her head, turned her horse in the same direction and galloped from the village after Ephiny.
The other women sat on their horses shaking their heads at the reckless actions of the two women and Melina said, "Those two, we had better keep our eyes out for them. They still think everything is fun. Won't be long before they will both have to grow up, let's go."
Ephiny had been tracking a young buck for several miles. She dismounted the horse and tied it to a tree and started to follow the tracks on foot. She smiled to herself knowing that she was going to out-best Eponin with the first kill of the day. The Sun was now setting higher in the sky and she turned her attention to the sounds of voices, and they didn't sound like Amazon's. Slowly creeping up an embankment she lay on her stomach looking out through the tall grass. The sounds were getting nearer.
"If I bring mother back a rabbit, she will be pleased, maybe this time she will show me how to sew my Trousseau." Ephiny peered up at the form of a woman standing fifty paces to her left. She had never seen anyone except the Amazon women, but this woman was magnificent. She was tall for someone who wasn't an Amazon. Ephiny watched the woman reach down and grab her long skirt, pulling it up between her legs she tucked the length of it into her waist band. Ephiny smiled, this woman was making herself short pants. The woman reached down and picked up a rock, she touched a finger to her lips held it up to the wind, turned and threw the rock with a speed Ephiny had never seen. As the rock flew over her head, the Amazon ducked. The sound of a loud thud could be heard as the woman said, "Got you." She was heading straight toward Ephiny when someone called, "Xena, where are you?"
The woman stopped within inches of where Ephiny lay. It was her eyes that caught her attention first, they were the bluest she had ever seen, It was as if she was looking straight into her very soul. The woman's skin was tanned, probably from being outdoors a lot and she had long hair the color of the Raven. There were a lot of women in her village but Ephiny had never seen one as beautiful as this one.
Continued in Chapter Five