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Liaisons Ridiculeuse Part 2
Part II

"Leggo! Ow... Mache, come on... I am not getting caught like that again!" Thraso struggled up out of the straw in the stable loft where the couple had spent the night. "I'm nuts... I've got straw in places straw really has no business being!" she added, in an outraged tone.

Eumache laughed helplessly, watching her lover trying to find her trews. "You'll never find them, that way." she said. A suspicious look fixed on her. "I threw them out of the loft window on the other side."

"What!?" Thraso dashed to the little window in question, and sure enough, there were her trews, residing in a stunned heap beside a broken down saddle. "Ohhh." scowled Thraso.

"You look like Aphrodite when you do that." One dark ringlet wound around a finger, Eumache grinned wickedly.

"I do not!" Peering out the window again, Thraso looked around the loft. "All I need is rope, and a hook."

"I don't." laughed Eumache. She waited until Thraso was within reach, then wrapped her legs around her ankles, efficiently hauling her down.

"Trust me. You don't want your trews that badly." purred Eumache, pulling Thraso into her arms.

"That's true." Thraso agreed, turning her attention to Eumache's ear.

Having finished with one ear, Thraso was attending to the other when the barn door flew open wide....

Solari dove through the opening, skidding as she tried to get around the corner without colliding with any of the assorted tools and saddles stacked against the walls and on the floor. Eponin was far too quick to be thwarted so easily, however, and managed to grab a handful of Solari's leather top.

"And just where do you think you're goin?" teased the weaponmaster as she spun the amazon around and backed her against the barn wall.

"Me?" sputtered Solari as she tried to catch her breath. "Oh....ummm...(pant pant)....I was just goin to ready the horses!"

"And gettin' the horses ready always includes dumping cold water on a helpless, naked, sleepin person, right?" said Eponin, dryly.

"But you looked soooooo hot..." Solari smiled her trademark seductive grin.

"And a bucket of cold water was the ONLY way you could think of to fix that?" she managed, finally.

"Well...no.....but I was too tired to lug you to the river." She winked at her friend as she wrapped her arms around her neck. "We don't want to have a groggy weaponmaster guarding us on the road now do we?"

"If you had done something like this instead..." Eponin gave Solari a kiss. "I would have been just fine."

"Yes...." She kissed the weaponmaster back passionately. "But then we would be late for sure..." A mischievous grin tugged at the corner of the captain's mouth.

"And being late....that would be a bad thing?" Ep moved in closer, pressing her lips against Solari's pulse point, feeling the shiver course through her.

"Gods Pony!" the dark haired amazon gasped. "Oooooo....I love it when you do that..."

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Having moved from her lover's ears to her lips, Thraso had stopped even trying to listen for other people. At the moment, only one person's sounds mattered to her.

Unfortunately, Eumache hadn't quite surrendered to the moment, and when the barn door slammed open, she jumped sharply, smacking her forehead against Thraso's mouth as she shot upright.

"Ouch!" this was rather muffled by Thraso's hand, which she had clapped over the offended region.

Clapping a hand over her own mouth in sympathy, Eumache tugged gently at her lover's fingers. "Come on, let me see...."

"It hurth." Eumache rolled her eyes. "Of course it..." then she saw that she had accidently split Thraso's lip. "Shit... alright, who's here..." she scowled angrily. A look down toward the door... Eumache's face went from stormy to gleeful in a moment. "I can make it up to you, love... look who's down there..."

Sniffing a bit, Thraso scrambled through the straw, and settled on her stomach beside Eumache. Her eyes widened when she saw Eponin and Solari. Then her shoulders began to shake as she realized just what they were doing. "Not uth thith time!" she laughed.

"What's with the lisp?" asked Eumache.

"I bit my tongue!" Thraso replied piteously.

Her reverie was interrupted by a particularly long moan from below, and she glanced down again. "Ooooooohhhh...Mache...I didn't think you could do that with your tongue..." Thraso's eyes widened a little more, and she pointed at Eponin. "Can you do tumthin like that?"

Eumache leaned on Thraso's shoulder for a clearer view. "I'm not sure...my, my, my...I thought Eponin had two hands?"

A snort escaped Thraso. "Probly lostht it lastht night..." Realizing that they had better let Eponin and Solari in on their presence before things got too far along, Thraso called out, "Whoa, Eponin... lostht a hand in the Battle of the Leather Boothteay, huh?"

Eponin froze, her hand very stuck in Solari's top, and her tongue very much tied...literally. Managing to disengage her tongue, but finding her hand hopelessly caught, Eponin turned and said with dignity..."It was a long and exhausting battle. You should be so fortunate as to lose just a hand." With that, she turned carefully, so that her hand seemed to rest on Solari's back. "I can't get my hand loose!" she hissed frantically in the captain's ear, as she guided them towards the door. "What is this thing? A chastity top??" she added, as yet another attempt to release her hand nearly pulled off a finger.

Thraso and Eumache were rolling in the hay, they were laughing so hard.

"Ah, ah, ah!" Solari called as she and Eponin made it to the safety of the door. "I wouldn't be laughing too hard right now if I were you!" She glanced outside the door. Yup...still there! Bending down and pulling a familiar looking set of breeches into view, she continued..."At least I don't have to run around buck-nekkid!" She waved Thraso's trews in the air, and dashed out the door, almost taking ol Ep's arm out of the socket as she was dragged right along with the top.

Thraso's eyes went from wide to buggy. "My...my trewth...trew...Mache!"

Winding a dark ringlet around one finger again, Eumache commented blandly, "I may have miscalculated...slightly...throwing those out."

Solari raced across the compound, with Ep still securely attached to the aforementioned leather boustier. Eyes darting to the left and the right, she finally spied what she was looking for....She made a sharp left (almost dumping the weaponmaster into the horse trough) and headed straight for the largest tree in the village....

"Oh...Soli...oh no...you're not really gonna do what I think you're gonna do... are ya?" wailed Eponin, trying to stay upright as the captain made another quick turn.

A giggle floated back to the weaponmaster.

"I reeaally don't think I can handle tree climbing just now!" Eponin's eyes widened in alarm at the thought of being bounced from limb to limb.

"Pony...where's your sense of adventure??" It was all Ep could do to keep her balance as the captain made another anti-gravitational change of direction. "I swear, sometimes you are such a stick in the mud!"

"Waaaaait! Just lemme get my hand loose... that's all I'm askin!" pleaded Eponin. "How do you expect me to climb a tree with only one hand!?"

"Fine." said Solari as she screeched to a halt and swiftly unlaced her top. The weaponmaster pulled her hand free, shaking it to get the circulation going again.

Before Pony knew what had happened, she had been unabashadly and thoroughly flashed and left standing rooted to the spot with her mouth hanging wide open. Shaking off the momentary daze, she called up after her partner...."You are gonna kill me yet Solari!!" Smiling and shaking her head amusedly, she began to climb.

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"Xe, has your aunt been putting in the overtime lately or what?" huffed Gabrielle, dropping low and swinging her staff in a tight arc at Xena's knees.

Xena deftly blocked the bard's staff and used the momentum to push her back a step. "Ah, ah...I get knee shots all the time..." she said waggling her index finger at the redhead. "My aunt?"

The bard caught her footing, faked another low swoop and came up and around toward the warrior's midsection. "Yes, your aunt...Aphrodite? Your mom's sister?"

"Oh, yeah... don't remind me about her. She gives me a case of those things Thraso came up with... Platos I think she called em?" A quick drop of her hands (SMACK!) and the low swipe bounced harmlessly away.

"Yeah I think that was it. Anyways....I mean haven't you noticed anything?" They began a very involved kata, and staves began whizzing at lightning fast speeds. "There's Ephiny and Cal..."(whack!) "Solari and Pony..." (another whack) "Your mom and Artemis..." (whack whack!) She stopped to catch her breath. "Gods, it's so wierd to be saying that!!"

"I suppose... I hardly thought about it... I mean, it's weird enough just realizing my parents still have sex." Xena replied as she casually deflected two more blows.

"Eeeeeeww Xe that is so gross!" The image of her parents in the same bed, doing the same sort of things she and Xena did was almost too much for the bard. She stepped back, swinging her staff over her head and towards Xena's momentarily unprotected one.

Ducking out of the way, Xena laughed, "I see I'm handling it better than you are!"

Gabrielle shook her head to clear it of those (Eyuck!) gross thoughts just in time to parry a barrage of blows from her partner. "So what do you think about Cal and Eph getting joined?" Another parry, and a lunge.

Seeing an opening as the bard overextended, Xena smacked her lightly on the side. "I'm not sure, Cal tends to make decisions without thinking things through...rather like someone else I know..." She waggled an eyebrow accusingly.

"Ouch! Heeeeeeey, watch it there warrior princess!" She stepped back and twirled her staff menacingly. (or so she thought) "I'll have you know I think a lot about the decisions I make!" She feinted and lunged, going for the warrior's unprotected left side...

"Oh really? And I'm sure raising the Titans was a careful and fully thought out decision." snorted Xena, shifting in response to the lunge.

Gabrielle completely froze in mid swing. Taking a step back, she twirled her staff in front of her, planted it firmly on the ground and casually leaned on it. She looked squarely into those laughing blue eyes and smiled. "Ok, you have me there, but everything else? Sometimes thinking things through takes me all night!" Satisfied she had made her point, she resumed her defensive stance.

"And Gods, do I know it!" Xena sighed fervently, doing her own staff twirl. "Mind you, it could be a good thing. There are benefits to marriage, after all."

"Oh, I agree..." replied Gabrielle. "I've spent many of those sleepless nights pondering that very subject." She spun a cross arm shot to Xena's lower torso.

Managing only a partial block, Xena winced slightly as the bard's staff glanced off of her ribs. "Yeah... like... if you marry someone, they probably won't turn you over to a hostile army first chance they get..."

"Xena....does every serious subject you think about come out as a bad war analogy??" spouted the bard, beginning to tire just a smidge. "And since when are you an authority on marriage?"

An injured expression appeared on Xena's face. (As opposed to her chest, or something.) "I do not use bad war analogies Gabrielle....who says it's an analogy anyway?" A pause. "And you're saying you're an expert?" Xena raised her other eyebrow this time.

Gabrielle blocked a swipe at her knees. "Well, let's see here.....I'm with you, so I guess that has to make me the biggest expert around....yes."

"Being with me... makes you an expert on marriage?!" Xena shook her head in disbelief. "That's like saying since I'm with you, I'm an expert on Sophocles!"

"Well you always claimed to have 'many skills' Xena..." She grinned mischievously and reversed her swing to come up at the warrior's head...."You know, I could be an expert if you would join with me."

"There's no claiming about it! I do have many skills! What?!" The staff slipped halfway out of a pair of stunned hands. (The triumphant giggles of the buxom babe in the hot pink teddy, and a delighted exclamation of, "Gotcha!" were nearly audible in the distance.) Only vaguely aware of the smooth wood beginning to drop out of her hands, Xena stood stock still in sheer disbelief. Gabrielle, unaware of her partner's loss of concentration, wound up nailing Xena in the side of the head. For her part, Xena had a Thraso moment, and never knew what hit her.

Falling flat on her back in the grass, Xena mumbled dazedly, "Ah, Mama... do I have to explain why Ariadne clobbered me with the urn?"

"Oh! Gods...Xena! Honey, are you alright!?" Throwing her staff to the ground, Gabrielle raced over to kneel next to the warrior. Pulling the dark head up so she could check Xena's pupils, she thought to herself....'Smart Gabrielle...real smart! Ask a woman to join with you and then knock her senseless!' She stroked the side of Xena's face with the back of her hand..."Sweetheart....hey...are you in there?"

"Nope... Xena's not here... wouldn't recommend leaving a message, either." And with that, her eyes rolled up in her head and she passed out cold.

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"Mithcalculathuns? Mithcalculth...." Thraso's face began to go a rather alarming shade of red.

Eumache winced. "Ooops... you're really mad, give me a chance, here... we can share clothes."

"I'm thikth thikth! And built!" This statement ran from rather choked up to quite clear in an impressive fashion. Her lover blinked at her in befuddlement. "Oh! Oooh! Six, not thick...please don't say that to anyone else, love... and built..." Eumache rolle her eyes. "Yep, you have no ego. You were right before, though...all you need is rope, and a hook."

Awhile later, Thraso was standing in her new, if curious finery. "There. We can make it home almost without drawing attention in that."

"It'sth the almostht I'm worried about." groused Thraso.

"I promise, no problems." Eumache declared with determination.

"I'm holding you to that." commented Thraso dryly.

Thraso fingered her makeshift loincloth, with rope and hook belt and the difference between her girth and Eumache's made up with a good sized pair of cattle wrangling gloves. (since the cloth had been created from Euache's skirt) The ensemble was finished by Thraso's boots and undertunic. Eumache had done quite well, since she was head and shoulders shorter than Thraso, and the remaining outer tunic served as a complete garment.

They had made it almost past the temple of Artemis, when they noticed a large crowd had gathered there. "What're they lookin' at?" mumbled Thraso as she stole a quick glance in the direction everyone else was looking. She did a double-take when she saw the object of the village's curiosity...."MY TREEEEEEEEWTH!" Luckily, Eumache was able to convince her lover to get new clothes from their hut before she ran to climb the tree.

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Cal and Eph were just returning from their morning bathing ritual (we won't go into details here, as I'm sure you can imagine what that is...) when a scuffle to their right drew their attention... Ephiny's head whipped around to see a struggling amazon queen dragging a very unconcious-looking Xena across the compound. She nabbed Callisto by the arm and they raced over to help their friend...

"Gabrielle!!" hollered the regent as they drew within shouting range. "What happened here??"

The bard stopped dragging her heavy load as the other two women ran up. Her face screwed up in a scowl as she debated how to answer that question..."Ummmm, she tripped?" At the stern look from Ephiny, she re-thought her position and continued..."Ok...ok. We were sparring, and I sorta asked her to join with me, and then WHAMMO! I clobbered her!"

"Y-y-you clobbered her?? Gabrielle!!" The regent's eyebrows raised abruptly.

Callisto had bent down and was quietly examining the peacefully unconscious form. "Yup." she stated. "Clobbered her real good too! Uh-huh...she'll be out for a while. We best get her over to the healer and have her checked out tho. Gimme a little room..." She leaned over and easily scooped up the dead-to-the-world warrior princess and proceeded to carry her to Cervexa's hut.

"Damn." said Gabrielle as she watched Cal head across the courtyard. "That's impressive."

"Ayup." replied the regent with a huge grin on her face. For a moment, the queen and her regent didn't move. Then they hurried after the Goddess, who had already nearly made it to the healer's hut.

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It was fairly dim inside, since the windows had all been mostly covered by shades, except for one which was as far from the hunched, white haired figure as possible. She was working at something in a mortar, with such a fierce look on her face that the hapless herbs were probably crumbling of their own volition. A commotion outside broke her concentration, and she sat upright, eyebrows bristling. Glaring balefully at the door, she stomped over to a mostly covered window, muttering to herself. Flipping up the cover, she saw the new captain of the Queen's Guard carrying Xena, and trying to knock on the door by kicking it.

Hitching her tattered leathers grumpily, Cervexa suddenly stuck her head out the window and shouted, "What do you want? I don't have time to deal with sick people... go away!" Having made her point, she pulled her head back into the hut, letting the shade fall shut with a snap.

The door burst open and Callisto stormed in, crossing the floor and setting Xena gently down on one of the cots.

"Ain't you got ears? Take off!" hollered the healer, tossing her pestle at the Goddess.

"But isn't this your job Cervexa?" drawled the Queen as she entered the hut, Ephiny on her heels.

"You think you're so smart, huh? Well tell me this... did you know the Queen's job doesn't include pestering the healer when she's got better things to do?" snapped Cervexa.

"Better things to do than tend to a possibly serious head wound?" interjected Ephiny, who stepped forward to loom ominously over the healer. Gabrielle turned away to hide her smirk. Callisto supressed a giggle.

"Don't you get smart with me you runt, I helped your mother bring you into this world! Who's got a head wound?" growled Cervexa.

Ephiny stepped aside, bodily turning the healer towards the cot. "She does. You know....the unconscious one?" she said pointing at Xena....who was still out cold, a very stupid grin plastered across her face.

Both bristling eyebrows drifted upward. "So? Who hit her?"

All eyes turned to Gabrielle, who right then was turning three shades of purple. "It was an accident!" she blurted. "How was I supposed to know she would just stand there!?"

"Silly woman...if ya felt like that, why didn't ya take her to yer hut and hit her other head...then you both could have stupid grins on yer faces." snorted Cervexa.

The bard's features slowly eased from embarassment to annoyance in the span of a moment. "Well, are you going to check her out or what?" She crossed her arms impatiently. "Or am I going to have to sic Eponin on you when she gets back?"

Scowling and muttering, she retrieved her candle and knelt by Xena's pallet. "Hold this, you silly woman." she ordered imperiously. Gabrielle grasped the candle firmly and hovered over the healer's shoulder.

Callisto leaned over and whispered in Ephiny's ear..."I can't believe Gab is letting ol Cervexa boss her around like that!" She stifled yet another giggle.

The regent smiled wickedly. "Oh yeah....I'm gonna make sure she never lives this one down..."

Satisfied that Gabrielle was holding the candle in the right place, Cervexa peeled back each of Xena's eyelids in succession, examining how they responded to the light. "Hmmph!" she glared at Gabrielle. Then she drew a small pouch of perhaps the stinkiest smelling salts known to the Amazon Nation, and waved them under the warrior's nose. Xena jerked violently, struggling to escape the stench. Putting the salts aside, Cervexa caught hold of the struggling warrior. "Stop it already, brat! You wanna dump yourself on the floor or something?" The words seemed to work, or maybe it had more to do with Gabrielle elbowing the healer aside to see her partner.

"Xena!" The bard placed a hand carefully aside her lover's cheek. "Honey, I'm sooo sorry!"

Dazed pale eyes struggled to focus on her. "Nice dream...you asked me to join with you...it was way better than the one bout the urn." She blinked, trying to clear her vision.

"Oh...ummm..." The bard cleared her throat. "Well I guess I did ask you that..." She felt a blush inch up into her cheeks.

Xena frowned heavily, trying to resolve two Gabrielles into one image. "You did?" She frowned again as the implications finally seeped through her jumbled thoughts..."You were serious?" she said, one eyebrow arching tentatively.

The bard gently placed her hand over Xena's. Looking directly into those gorgeous baby blues, she replied..."Oh yes. Very serious." She smiled at her partner.

"Oh...wow!" One of Xena's rarely seen, full face smiles lit up the room. "Sure!" Sitting up, she kissed Gabrielle soundly on the lips. "Yeah!"

"Well!" Ephiny spoke up from somewhere along a back wall..."Now that it's official, my Queen, we will have to set aside some time to go over the pre-ceremonial agenda. There are tasks you must complete before the ceremony can take place."

Gabrielle's eyes went wide with suprise. "Agenda?....Tasks?? Ok....what are you talking about??"

"You asked a woman to join with you and didn't find that out first? You have to complete tasks in order to receive Artemis' blessing! You're the queen....don't you know any of this stuff?" Cervexa snorted, and tossed her bag of salts at the bard, who was nearly forced to dive under the cot to escape the smelly missile. "I didn't get to be a healer till I knew what I was doing! Artemis must've been distracted when she picked you... maybe with Xena's birth mother..." She shook her head a bit, almost (but not quite) chuckling.

"Heeeeey! Leave my mother out of this now..." Xena snapped, and almost immediately began to regret it, as her head began to pound.

Gabrielle stood up, drawing to her full 5' 5" frame to stand nose to nose with the healer. "Well need I remind you that I didn't have much of a choice in the matter??" she snapped back. "And it's not like I have ever had any time to peruse the libraries since I got back! I seem to recall having to stop a war between the centaurs and ourselves...Oh yes! And let's not forget that whole Velasca episode...." Gabrielle crossed her arms and stood there...staring the healer down, daring her to dispute those facts.

"Amazons! Please!! Can we all just settle down here?" Ephiny stepped between the two women and motioned for them both to back off a step. "Now...we all understand there were extenuating circumstances pertaining to Queen Gabrielle's right of caste...Don't we Cervexa?" She cast a sideways glance at the healer (who just rolled her eyes) and continued..."So in that respect we need to make sure she is fully briefed on this matter before the tasks begin." Ephiny took a deep breath and turned towards the bard.. "There are seven tasks... usually there'd be three, but Xena isn't a member of the Nation, so it is assumed you need to woo her..."

"Woo her? Woo her?? You have got to be joking!" declared the bard incredulously. "Don't the past four years count for anything?" She began pacing nervously.

Dragging her fingers through her hair, Ephiny shut her eyes and recited..." 'Yoke a lion and a boar to a chariot...ignore the Greek way of doing it, my way is better. Give your intended the Moon...you can this once, I won't mind. Catch a deer and a bear... these are my totems, and show you're serious' "

Gabrielle groaned loudly. "Can't I just declare that there don't have to be tasks anymore or something??"

"No, no, no! You can't overrule a goddess!" Ephiny shook her head in disbelief. "Anyways, the other four..." She rubbed her chin as she tried to remember exact wording..." 'Give me an offering that everyone can have together, yet is no sacrifice.' The next three are easy..." Ephiny grimmaced. "So the scroll says, anyway. 'Give your intended three garments...one for birth, one for death, and one for life...don't freak out, it isn't a morbid task, so no shrouds...it isn't kinky either, so no goofy leather halters.' Umm, that's it."

"One question Eph...."

"What's that?" Ephiny braced herself. Gabrielle's questions tended to start trouble.

"Why didn't you have to do all this???" Exploded the bard, in a flurry of flailing arms.

"Because I was already an Amazon." interjected Callisto as she sat smirking in the corner chair. "All she had to do was give me some old clothes..." The joke too much for even her to handle, the goddess began to laugh so hard she almost fell right onto the floor.

Gabrielle huffed....Gabrielle puffed, she even wheezed slightly as she tried to keep her temper under control. (after all, she is Greek...) "So you are saying I have to do all these crazy things before I can join with Xena?"

"Well, you're the only one crazy enough to want to join with the freak over there...so if you can't wear the leathers you silly woman, then you'd better get used to walkin around naked!" snapped Cervexa, who was smashing hapless herbs again.

"And that would be some form of punishment?" Xena commented, a lop-sided grin edging up the corner of her mouth at the thought of her lover naked.

"Xena!!" admonished a perturbed bard..."This is a serious matter here!"

"Of course it is... I take seeing you naked very seriously..." Xena paused, expression turning thoughtful. Gabrielle just rolled her eyes. "Weeeell...we could always elope...." The bard's eyes lit up brightly.

Ephiny froze when she saw that twinkle enter her queen's eyes. "Nooooo no no no no....you wouldn't put me in that position now would you Gabrielle?"

"I can see it now....'Warrior and naked woman flee the Amazon Nation, hotly pursued by a posse of determined bounty hunters!' " Cervexa chortled. Callisto heaved a nearby bowl at the healer for that comment, calmly watching as it careened off two walls and a ceiling before smacking the healer right in the derrier.

They all enjoyed a hearty laugh at Cervexa's expense before the bard turned a pleading, puppy-dog face on her regent. "But Eph...you know I can't kill anything! It would scar me for life!"

"Well, it didn't say you had to 'kill' something Gabrielle..." supplied Callisto.

Xena stretched out on the cot, carefully putting her hands behind her head. "That's true... you've only gotta catch a deer and a bear...." She smiled. "And give me the moon!"

"Hmmm....maybe all this won't be as hard as I thought." The bard scratched her head as a thought came to her mind. She turned toward the warrior, flashing her a horribly devilish grin, causing her to swallow loudly and squirm. Gabrielle casually strolled over, turning around so she was facing away from Xena. Bending over, she reached under her skirt, dropped her underpants and thoroughly mooned a very stunned warrior princess. She stood up, putting herself back in order and turned to address her regent. "One down....six to go."

Point made, she turned and stalked out of the hut, letting the door fall shut behind her. Three completely shocked faces remained... and one crabby one. "Slammin my door... who does she think she is..."

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They rode quietly along...Eponin leading the way, all the while enduring the more than occasional snicker from the rear of the group. After about four candlemarks of this taunting, she could take it no longer....

"All right, who's laughing, and what's so gods be damned funny?" she exploded angrily.

All snickering stopped. In fact all breathing stopped.

"Oh... Ep...we were justht, taking note of your war injuriesth." managed Thraso. "That hickey musth have been nearly fatal..." She nearly fell off her horse laughing.

Clapping a hand instinctively to her neck, Eponin shot back, "This from a woman who got a lisp while havin sex!" Her gaze flicked to Solari. "You said it wouldn't leave a mark!"

"If I'd have told you the truth, would you have let me do it?" the captain asked innocently.

"But Soli...everyone is gonna tease me now!" the weaponmaster replied with a pout.

Solari flashed a disarming smile at her lover...."A woman has to mark her territory somehow..."

Eponin watched her ride on ahead, shoulders shaking with laughter, and chuckled silently to herself, "Course... you should see the one you've got!"

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"Are you still mad?" Eumache asked a bit plaintively. She and Thraso rarely argued, and Thraso rarely got seriously angry, but after the other morning's entertainment, Thraso had lapsed into a pissed off silence that was becoming a little hard for Eumache to deal with.

"Why did you throw them out the window, anyway?" sulked Thraso.

"Well..." Eumache saw an opening... the neat thing about injured pride was that a few strokes could put things completely to rights again. "I picked my words badly... I didn't deliberately decide, 'Hey, I'm gonna chuck my gorgeous, wonderful, amazing lover's trews out the loft window, knowing full well that she doesn't have any underpants on.' No, no, nothing of the sort." It was terribly thick, but was having the desired effect. A smile was tugging at Thraso's lips, and she was having to scowl until her eyes were nearly shut to stay angry looking.

"Between you proposing... and being outlandishly sexy... well..." Eumache blew her hair out of her eyes and waved a hand. "I couldn't help myself! I just got rid of those trews as fast as I could."

Her lover's chest puffed up, and she straightened in the saddle, preening. "You think stho, huh?"

"Oh," Eumache replied, grinning happily as her lover's face cleared. "Absolutely."

"We're here." Solari called back to them. "The escort will meet us halfway."

"If we're lucky, and they haven't started partyin over Eph's joining yet, that is...." Eponin added under her breath.

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They reached Arboria just after the evening meal, and were in the process of stabling their mounts when the air was shattered by a very long, very loud and piercing scream....

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!"

All four of them looked from one to the other, and they took off running, heading straight for the source of that blood-curdling scream of disbelief.

They zig-zagged haphazardly through the throng of people who had begun to gather in the square wondering just what was going on this time, and dang near bowled over Callisto and Gabrielle, who were also heading in the same direction.

"What was that??" asked Solari as she righted an almost over-turned bard.

"It sounded like Ephiny..." replied Gabrielle.

"It WAS Ephiny you featherheads!" hollered Callisto. "Now get OUT of my way!!!" She broke free and made a mad dash for the healer's hut. Reaching it, she didn't even bother to open the door....rather she crashed directly through it, much to the chagrin of the old woman inside...

"Dag blast it... my eardrums are already busted, and now you've wrecked my door!" Cervexa said in vexation. (okay, so she's vexed all the time) "I better see you fix it, blondie!"

Callisto glared at the old crone as she rushed by, for a moment toying with the idea of conjuring just a teeny fireball to shut the nuisance up. But her eyes found what they were searching for and she ran to Ephiny's side instead, forgetting all about fireballs and annoying healers...

"Eph! Are you ok?" she said worriedly as she physically checked the regent for injuries. "You don't look hurt...." She checked some more, this time behind ears and knees. Then Cal caught sight of the look on Eph's face, and a perplexed look crossed her own. "Why are you lookin at me so wierd Eph? Did I do something wrong?" She replayed the last few days in her head, finding that nothing she had done would (or could) have caused this reaction.

"Nothin' to do with you, regardless of what you are blondie." snorted Cervexa.

Callisto snapped her head around to glare at the healer. "What do you mean by that?" she said, letting a menacing snarl form on her lips.

"Ask her...you surely don't wanna hear it from me." the healer shot back.

The goddess turned imploring eyes back to the regent. "Eph? What's she yammering about?"

Ephiny had no clue what to tell Callisto. She opened her mouth numerous times, but nothing would come out. Finally, she gave up looking for the right words and a tear began to fall slowly down her cheek. She sighed heavily. "I'm pregnant."

Cal's jaw hit the floor with a resounding 'thump!'. "W-w-what?? How....I mean....WHO??" She stood and took a step back from the regent. Lowering her voice, she continued..."How could you do this to me?!" the hurt evident in her features.

"That's just it..." said the regent ever so softly. "I didn't."

Brown eyes filled with as yet unshed tears turned to regard her dubiously. "If you didn't, then how did this happen Ephiny?" She couldn't help the accusing tone in her voice.

Meanwhile, Eumache had moved silently to stand just outside the smashed-in door. After a few moments of eavesdropping, her eyes had gone quite wide, and she gesticulated furiously at Thraso. The young weaponmaster hesitated. "Oh, damn." she muttered, and took up a spot just behind Eumache.

Hearing Callisto's last few words, she squirmed. A gesture from Eumache said, 'Go on, do something!' Digging her fingers into her hair, Thraso squeezed her eyes shut, and tried to will it all away. "How come no one seems to know about the "Goddess/Mortal-Woman" thing except my mother? Isn't there a handbook or something?" she grated.

Her lover stared at her. "Handbook?"

Releasing her hair, Thraso straightened up, wincing as her back cracked, and shuffled into the rectangle which made up the doorway of the hut. "I might...umm...I might justht know the ansther to that." she blushed furiously, feeling embarrassed by how ludicrous her speech sounded in such a serious situation.

Both the regent and Callisto turned simultaneously to stare intently at this newcomer. "And just who are you?" demanded the goddess.

"Oh, I'm Weaponmathter Thr...Thras...Thraszo of Ankitheath...Ankitheasth...Anki...dammit...Eumache!"

A dark-haired head peeked in. "Uh-uh. You're on your own this time, babe. I had a father." replied Eumache, pulling her head right back out.

"Heh, heh," Thraso replied weakly, as she found herself facing two terribly outraged looking Emetchi. "Well, sthee, umm...my mother isth the Godessththth....Godesthth...eth...er, I'm sure you get that part...Athena...and I well, I didn't have a father... utht...two mothersththth." Thraso winced, and hoped she wasn't spraying as much as it sounded like she was.

Callisto took a step toward Thraso and looked her right in the eyes. (well...as close as she could get to her eyes, since Thraso had nearly a foot on her) "So what you are trying to tell me is that both your parents are women?" She scoffed at the implication. "That isn't possible."

A grimace creased the other woman's face. "Well, normally, no...but the Godesthth thing changes the rulesth."

"How does it change the rules?" inquired the regent, crossing over and placing a calming hand on Callisto's shoulder.

Thraso had never felt so relieved in her life. She was pretty sure she could stand up to Callisto, but she didn't want to have to. "Goddeththsth...are able to do thingsth by the power of their willsth that mortalsth can't...esthpecially if love isth part of the sthituation."

"So that would mean...." Cal looked at Thraso. "Th-that...me and Eph...." She looked at Ephiny. "W-we....." And history was made right then as the Goddess Callisto performed the first dead faint by an immortal ever.

---------------------------------------------

Callisto sputtered and gagged, practically wretching violently from the smell that was permeating her senses.

"I didn't even get it near her nose! Wimp!" grumped Cervexa.

It took a moment for the fumes to dissipate... too long for Callisto's senses. She started to sit up, and began struggling when she felt resistance. "Hey, hey, stheady on!" Thraso said in alarm, trying to keep the goddess from moving before her equilibrium came back. Callisto did finally relax, after accidentally chucking Thraso out the door, finding Ephiny in a state of shock and being fanned vigorously by a very worried looking bard.

She crossed the room to kneel beside her lover. With two fingers under her chin, she turned the regent's eyes to meet her own. "Eph...." She smiled. "Eph, hey come on back now..." Her wish was granted when two hazel orbs lit with recognition.

"Cal..." breathed the regent. "Oh gods Cal..."

"I know, I know." replied the goddess scratching her head.

"What do we do now?"

"Awww geeez Eph...that I don't know!" Callisto scratched her head again. "I mean....how do you feel about this?"

Gabrielle took this as her cue to vacate the premises. "Ummm, is that Xena calling me? Why yes it is! I'll just go see what she wants..." The bard strode purposefully out the door.

After watching the queen exit gracefully, Ephiny took a moment for a deep breath. She looked at Cal. Gods she loved this woman more than anything! She analyzed their situation. Well....a baby. It certainly was a suprise! She rolled the idea of it around in her head...hmmm, not bad at all. What was wrong with it? Nothing. In fact, the more she thought about it, the happier she was about it. She turned to Cal. "So..."

"So..." echoed the goddess.

"We're gonna have a baby. Guess we'll have to redecorate the hut." stated the regent, smiling a very charming-type smile at her soon-to-be partner.

Callisto's eyes lit up as she heard those words. And the huge grin that accompanied the sparkle only added to the aura of happiness that seemed to surround her. She pulled Ephiny into her arms, lifting her off her feet and spinning her around. Brown eyes continued to dance as they found hazel ones. "Are you sure?" she asked as she set her back on the ground.

"Yeah, I'm sure." replied the regent grinning unabashadly at her.

"Wow!" said Cal as she gazed at her lover. "This is incredible!" She kissed her sweetly. "I have never been so happy in my entire life! Honest!"

"Me either..." replied Ephiny, letting Callisto's happiness wash over her.

They kissed again, pouring all their emotions into the moment before Cal reluctantly pulled away. She just stared at her lover. Reaching a tentative hand toward the regent, she stopped, looking up inquisitively as if to say, "Can I?" A broad smile was her answer, and she laid her hand softly across Ephiny's midriff. "Wow. We did that...." Grinning broadly, she grabbed the regent's hand and raced for the door. Bursting outside she just barely missed trampling Eumache, who was bending down attending to Thraso. (who had thrown out her back when she took an unexpected flight out the door earlier...) She stopped and grinned at the crowd. Giving Ephiny a fierce hug, she announced..."We're havin' a baby!"

Continued in Part 3 ----->