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Liaisons Ridiculeuse Part 5

Part V

Eponin's eyes finally rolled open, revealing the cobwebby ceiling of the healer's hut. She tried to lift a hand to her face, only to find that her left was pinned down by a heavy weight. Looking over, she saw that the heavy weight was Solari. The captain was half on the bed and half on a rickety chair beside it, Eponin's left arm clasped to her like a teddy bear. A bit of finger twiddling resulted in Solari tightening her grip and nuzzling the weaponmaster's shoulder.

"Ahh, ain't that cute." snorted Cervexa as she stomped into the room, waving a birch twig broom in the general direction of the ceiling. A few more swings, and she had a sizable clump of cobweb, which she then stuffed in a pouch. After checking for any accidentally collected spiders, she snapped it shut. "Bout damned time you woke up...I was almost ready for the salts."

Eponin shuddered. "Artemis, no...I know where those things came from." Lifting her right hand, she swiped at her face, which was damp with sweat. "I feel like I got run over by Jenna's cart." Cervexa snorted in disgust, and started mixing up a series of herbs at her worktable.

"That fool captain has been stuck to you like a burr...she must have work to do, and instead she's sittin' around here, gettin' in my way, and mooning over you like a lovestruck teenager." she growled crossly. Herbs finished, she brought over a concoction coloured like something Eponin absolutely did not want to think about. "I want you to drink this...it ain't like you to faint."

"I did NOT faint!" Eponin said vigourously.

"Yeah, and Xena likes to watch my ass when I walk, now hold your nose, shut your eyes, and drink this!" Somehow the order to close her eyes as well did nothing for Eponin's comfort level, but she did as she was told.

"Now," Cervexa growled, snatching away the cup. "Get outta here...I told you, I ain't got time for sick people!" This was said loud enough to wake Solari, who had begun to snore.

"W...what...Pony, you all right?" Eponin smiled, and couldn't resist tangling her fingers in the other Amazon's hair, and gazing into her eyes.

"I'm fine...shouldn't have been brought in here to begin with." she griped, pulling up her legs and gathering herself to leave the cot.

"Ah, I'm not so sure...it's not like you to faint." Solari replied.

"I did NOT faint!" exploded Eponin, wincing as her head throbbed.

"Do you hafta stand there taking up room? Or is it time to break out the mash..." Cervexa grinned evilly. "you know...the salts before they crystallize?" She waved a grungy coloured flask, and leered. A swishy, grating sound came from it.

Solari's eyes widened in alarm. "Pony, Pony...what the Tartarus is that?"

"Can't tell you that...weaponmaster initiation thing...let's get the furk out of here." and with that, Eponin was on her feet, the rough blanket hurled aside. Solari found herself with two eyes full of naked lover who threw on her skirt backwards, her shirt forwards, and by luck only...one boot. Then Eponin grabbed one of Solari's hands and dove for the door of the dimly lit hut.

"Hey, Pony, I didn't realize you had a tattoo there...didn't that hurt...Aaack!!" The length of her arm ran out and she flew bodily out the door.

Eumache hurried toward the guest hut, struggling to figure out how to give Thraso the news. Somehow, 'Guess what, you knocked me up!' didn't seem quite right. Neither did, 'The most amazing thing happened while we had sex in that stable!' That thought drew a snort, and Eumache shook herself. Thraso was truly a bard at heart, because she tended to lean towards more euphemistic terms...that or she was a touch prudish. Eumache considered that, and some edible body paint Thraso had come home with from her diplomatic endeavors. No, not prudish...not at all...Thraso was just a bit reserved.

Abruptly, she found herself face to face with a bewildered guard captain and a half naked weaponmaster. Thunderstruck, she rubbed her eyes vigourously. Then watching as the two Amazons disappeared into Eponin's hut. A moment later, Cervexa's fierce profile popped out of one of the healing hut windows. "Hey!" she bawled at Eumache.

"For horses!" Eumache sang gaily back.

The healer scowled. "Everybody's a comic. You're goin' by the weapomaster's hut...if they're doin' what you wish you were, pound on the door!"

The Emetchi straightened up and replied gravely, "I most certainly will not knock!" A beat. "That is far too innocuous." She strolled on to the guest hut. "Maybe, maybe..." Her gaze fell on a barrel sitting by the foodhut. "Condiments." Laughing, she finally hauled open the guest hut door.

"Thr..." she stopped. Thraso was sprawled flat on her back, arms hanging off the sides of the cot, one bare foot stuck out of the blankets. A scroll covered in small, dense handwriting tangled itself in awkward folds on her chest. Her hair stuck out in all directions, and uncharacteristically, she was snoring loudly. Eumache raised her brows. "Something will have to be done about that."

Reaching out, she carefully removed the scroll. After a moment it was crunching and rattling to such an extent that she simply chucked it on the floor. The parchment was so thick, she could only pray it would rip. She disliked the really thick, over serious scrolls Thraso sometimes read intensely. She always seemed to read them before bed, which led to a level of bemusement that made foreplay a little tricky.

"Mache, do you have any idea what an overturned reclining, s-type fold is?" Thraso had popped out with one night, as Eumache nibbled her ear. Her reply had been,

"A physically impossible sexual position." and Thraso had taken the hint.

At last, settling down on the edge of the bed, she ran a gentle hand across her lover's chest. "Come on, Bunny, wake up."

A sharp snort, and one pale eye rolled open. "What did you just call me?"

"Bunny, because when you're happy you bounce like one."

"Bunny?!"

"Yeah, I figure, there's a theme...bunny pajamas, bunny slippers, bunny ears...hey, there's a costume for the next Hekalene Festival!"

Thraso opened and shut her mouth a few times in outrage. "I will NOT tolerate being called Bunny!"

"Beary?"

"No!"

"Cutey?"

"Mache!"

"Furry?" A loud choking noise.

"Had a moment of thought below the belt, did you, dear?" drawled Eumache.

"Kcchhh..." Thraso managed, to no avail, since of course the sound isn't at all like a real word.

"But you simply must have a nickname... I bet Xena has one." Eumache dipped both hands under the covers and under her lover's tunic, causing Thraso's eyes to roll up in her head.

Thraso sighed, and promptly began to settle into a semi somnolent state. Then, "Oooooh!" as Eumache suddenly changed tactics.

Eumache laughed helplessly. "How can someone with such a deep voice make a noise like that?"

Thraso rolled her eyes, which widened as Eumache produced a huge leer. "How about, Alues?"

A long silence. "Grinder?"

"Mmmmhmmmm...you know why." Thraso blushed to the tips of her ears, and coughed. "No one will understand it but us." Eumache coaxed.

"Oh yeah?" Thraso couldn't repress a sultry, toothy grin. She wouldn't admit it outright, but she liked it, connotations and all.

"Mmmmhmmm."

"Does that mean I can call you Poly?" Two finely shaped eyebrows curved.

"Is that an implication?"

"Nuh uh... just the absolute truth. You're insatiable." Thraso chuckled indulgently. "And I am sooooooo glad."

Eumache smiled, and ran her fingers through her lover's hair, then watched in amusement as it stuck up again.

"I have some news for you."

"Closer, just a little closer, closer...NOT THAT CLOSE!" Artemis bellowed as her two helpers pushed a top heavy wagon, loaded with supplies for the inn until it rolled, pinning her against the front door. "Damn it, for this kind of help I could get a bunch of Ares' goons...they WANT to kill me, and they couldn't do me this much damage." She muttered crossly in her own language. Her helpers, having no idea what she was actually saying, took it as a cue to take a rest, and walked away.

"Hey!" she shouted in outrage, but was cut off from further comment by the inn door popping open and depositing her on the floor. An alarmed man stared at her, looking like he had just encountered a two headed purple snake with wings.

"It wasn't my fault!" he blurted.

"Yeah, yeah, get outta here, gimboid." growled Artemis, picking herself up and doing nothing for the hapless man, who, unable to climb over the wagon, flopped on his belly and squirmed underneath it.

"Okay, on to this junk." Artemis pulled open a crate, peering inside. "Doilies? Doilies?" her voice scaled upward, and she pulled out one of the dainties, holding it with the very tips of her fingers as if it had germs.

"Eeeeeyeech." The thing was dumped unceremoniously into the receptacle.

"What's this," Artemis pulled out a tightly sealed container, and examined its label. "Pig snouts in brine." Plunk, and Artemis scrubbed her hand on her trousers. "Yech. That's almost as bad as the doilies."

Cyrene slipped into the doorway with her, running her fingers along Artemis' side. "Ah, there's Penelope's doilies. She's been waiting quite impatiently for these." Peering into the crate herself, she pulled out the jar Artemis had tossed. "Oh, I've been waiting for these." She popped open the container and stuck her hand in it, drawing an expression of some consternation from her partner.

"What?" Cyrene asked. "I always have these things labeled like this. Otherwise they get stolen." The innkeeper popped a sweetmeat from the container into her lover's mouth. Artemis chewed it a little sheepishly.

"For all I know, mortals eat... pig snouts in brine."

"No, no... but I have heard of people eating cow's tongue."

Artemis shuddered. "And I didn't want to cheat, it hardly seemed worth it."

"No, you just cheat when you're feeling amourous." Cyrene teased, and laughed as Artemis blushed. "Don't... I like being such a powerful object of desire... but speaking of cheating," Cyrene set the jar down and pulled Artemis to sit with her on the back of the wagon. "Is there any particular reason you felt that Diodorus' footwear required hot porridge for breakfast?"

"Why, didn't you know, oatmeal is wondrous for foot cleaning," Artemis grinned winningly. "And it cures athlete's foot within seven days, or your money back guaranteed."

"Uh huh, and you never participate in the Rioting in spring, either." The innkeeper commented wryly. At first she had been absolutely furious with her lover over the porridge-in-boots incident. But, her lover was more than a bit mercurial, and couldn't be bothered to suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. So she had let it go, and allowed Lisana, who had laughed until she cried at how funny the man's reaction had been, not to be too unhappy about it.

Artemis grinned again. "Of course I do... that is when I... frolic." She punctuated the statement by hopping on one foot and waggling her arms like chicken wings.

"Clown!" snorted Cyrene. "And just what do you plan to do this season? After all, I certainly am not inclined to have you frolic with anyone but me."

"Well," Artemis drawled. "I was thinking, we could certainly frolic exclusively with each other... just not exclusively in the same place."

An eyebrow rose slowly. "And where, pray tell, haven't we done it yet?" Cyrene asked archly.

"If we build it, we will come." Artemis intoned somberly. Cyrene's face went from astonished to shocked to a huge grin accompanied by a belly laugh in an instant.

"You terrible thing...I think we just scandalized your priestess, who just ran away from the front of the inn holding her ears."

"Really? Sheesh, she needs a..."

"Don't say it!" Cyrene blurted, hurriedly covering her lover's mouth. "Somehow, some way, we have got to get something constructive done."

"Well, we could..."

"Not that!"

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"That was certainly some story," Gabrielle commented, as she added another decoration to the precarious pile in Xena's arms. "And can you believe Eponin fainted? I wouldn't believe a word, except for the panic and mass exodus from the foodhut when Aphrodite popped in."

"Sure," Xena replied flatly, sulking vigourously.

"So, your mom is going to arrange for a nice priestess to perform our joining...someone uninclined to beat on us with the sacred scrolls?"

"Yeah."

A pause. "Hey, who performs your parents' joining, Xena?"

"I don't know." Xena sighed. "I don't even know what their ceremony consists of. For all I know, it starts with coating the Amazon queen in honey and feathers and culminates in an orgy."

Incredulous green eyes stared at her. "What?! Are you still mad at me?" Gabrielle asked a bit plaintively.

"No, not mad... just, put out." Xena sighed again. Maybe she was overreacting. Probably nerves, she decided ruefully. She had been trying to get away in order to get a ring for Gabrielle for the past two days, and there seemed to be no way to escape.

"What about this one?" Gabrielle held up a large model moth, complete with big feathers for antennae.

"For what?" asked Xena.

"The centrepiece on the head table." Gabrielle replied mischievously. "It's that or flowers."

"Oh, then let's use the moth." Xena said promptly.

"No, you maniac! How about... a quill and chakram... for ours, I mean. I think Ephiny and Callisto have their own ideas for the head table." The bard winked. Xena grinned, finally getting into the spirit a little.

"I could live with that."

"Cool! So what sort of dress do you want? I was thinking one with a train, and a bunch of Amazons can carry it... no?" Gabrielle teased, seeing the expression on Xena's face.

"No, no... with our luck we'd be attacked by rebels, and I'd have to strangle someone with it." replied Xena.

Gabrielle winced. "If it's not a bad war analogy, it's something morbid!" she threw up her hands in disgust.

"I'm inclined to consider it a reasonable possibility given the way you attract trouble." Xena replied, blowing at a bit of streamer that was tickling her under the chin.

"Oh no, I am not taking the blame for that, and we are not starting that debate again." and for good measure Gabrielle thumped a big box on top of the pile in her lover's arms.

"If bees were trouble, you'd be a patch of clover flowers." Xena growled, her voice somewhat muffled by the box now hiding her head and shoulders.

Gabrielle spun around and glared at her. This would have worked more effectively if Xena had been able to see it. The box looked suitably chastened, however.

"Where's this stuff supposed to go? Some other low ceilinged, dusty room in the very back?" A reasonable question which Gabrielle, who was feeling unreasonable, had no wish to answer.

"This way!" she ordered and marched off.

"Ho boy," sighed Xena. "Good thing I have good ears." she wandered after the bard.

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"So we're having a baby." Eumache finally made it to the end of her little speech. All told, she was quite proud of herself, having hit all the required explanation spots. A brief silence.

"B...b...baby...as in, little tiny person, needs diapers and lots of cuddling, not much hair?"

"The last part can be debated, but yeah."

"Oh, okay." Thraso took a couple of breaths, feeling a bit of bounciness coming on. "This is a you and me happening, I know, as opposed to a somebody else happening... or an alternate happening..." she stopped short, realizing that she was just rambling while her brain tried valiantly to catch up. "Umm, I think my brain is hiding under the bed... kind of a lot to take in."

Eumache grinned. "That explains a number of things, including your propensity for sliding under the table during council meetings." The words went right over Thraso's head, which was in danger of spinning.

Finally, "Hey, you mean, now we can look forward to tormenting hapless instructors at evaluation times? And Queen Prothoe will stop nagging us about..." another stop. Thraso leaned towards Eumache's hand and grabbed it. "But seriously, I think this is just completely cool for itself... err, ummm... you know what I mean."

"Yes, I do."

"Cool... we'll have to find a morning sickness remedy pretty soon though, because green isn't your color." Thraso's tone gentled, and she gave her lover's hand a tug. "I need to sit up."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah."

"Oh, alright."

Thraso found herself sitting up at a snail's pace, and almost laughed. Her partner's grave expression convinced her not to. At last upright, she gave Eumache another tug and caught her up in a bear hug.

"You are incredible. Thank you for all those incredible things you do...and the one you're doing now." Catching Eumache's eye she added, "I love you."

Dark eyes blinked a couple of times. "Thraso," Eumache said slowly. "That is the most wonderful, and the most mushy thing you've ever said to me. Say it again!"

"Say what?" Thraso asked, feigning innocence.

"The last three words especially, say it again."

"Oh, I dunno, Mache, that might be my quota for today."

"Thraso!"

"Okay, okay... I love you." Thraso smiled happily as Eumache squeezed her tight and settled her head back on her shoulder.

"And again."

"Again?"

"Yeah, if you've got a quota, your behind for moonsworth."

"Ohhhh... I get it... okay..." It was a rather daft little game, but Thraso had never claimed not to be at least a little daft. 'One of the most important things ever... and I said everything right!' She thought delightedly between sentences. She even imagined a cheering crowd, and a celebratory mug of ale for good measure. Then Thraso returned her complete attention to the task at hand, which was beginning to get more... involved.

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The boardwalk outside Cyrene's inn rattled. Thump, thump, slow, measured footfalls. They stopped, clomp, in front of the main doors. A moment of silence during which one of the current two patrons of the tavern hiccuped, while the other settled slowly into the corner. The doors swung open, and at first no one was visible. Then, Aphrodite swept in, pausing just inside the door to give her bust a jiggle and her hair a pat.

"Hello...like, where is everyone?" A sigh. "Whatever happened to the days when mortals greeted this gorgeous goddess with open arms and(*censored*)?" A hiccup answered her from some distance away. "Ewww...not you skunk boy! Liquor breath is such a turn-off!" She had barely finished the words when Cyrene bustled out of the kitchen carrying a bucket of water.

"Caius, out!" she dumped half the bucket over his head. "Go on, go home!" A few deft smacks with the broom she picked up from behind the bar, and the little man listed out the door, majestic as a water logged trireme.

"You too, Leo, off with you." Leo scrambled to his feet at the sight of the gently sloshing bucket. It took him a moment to get his behind unwedged from the corner, then he left hurriedly, leaving his hat in a squashed state in the middle of the table.

"Excellent." Cyrene said briskly, doing a few moves with the broom, then depositing it and the bucket behind the bar. "May I..." she blinked. "Oh, hello, Aphrodite." She motioned Aphrodite to a seat and sat down across from her. "I wonder," the innkeeper said hesitantly. "What you'd like."

"Just to talk to my baby sister, sweetcheeks." the Goddess leaned back. "I could live with some of that awesome ale, too."

Cyrene rolled her eyes. "Both you and Artie are alarmingly fond of it." A pause as she obligingly poured a mugful of the stuff. "I must admit, I was a little worried to see you." 'Since Artie and I plan to get joined soon.' she added silently.

"Nah, my work here is done like dinner..." A long drink, followed by a rather shocking belch. "It's all good...anybody else just really getting together I'd, you know, help along, but nah...Artie's got her hands all over you."

A loud bang followed by an exclamation of, "Ouooooch!" came from the kitchen, where Artemis was ostensibly boiling water. Unfortunately, pressing one ear against the kitchen door had led her to wash the floor instead.

"Only if I don't catch her first." Cyrene replied without turning a hair.

The kitchen door flew open, and Lisana pushed Artemis out of it, both women's boots making slapping noises on the floor.

"Shoo! Shoo! You're supposed te be boiling the water, not floatin' the inn!" Shaking her head in some disgust, she lifted the hem of her skirt, tutting as it dripped water collected from the newly sodden floor.

For her part, Artemis carefully shook off each foot, then sat down beside Cyrene. "I think there should be one big handle, instead of two small ones. Those little ones like to migrate."

"Migrate." Cyrene replied flatly.

"Uh huh, each spring they return to their original positions from the opposite side, occasionally switching with the crock pot handles."

Slow finger tapping was the only reply for several moments. "The crock pots?"

"Yeah, the frying pans are snobs."

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Callisto stepped inside the hut only to find Ephiny dragging a large oak cradle into the spare room. Eyebrows shot skyward as she threw down her gear and ran to help. "Eph!! What are ya trying to do here? Move...let me get it for cryin out loud!"

Now, our beloved regent did not take kindly to being pushed aside when she was trying to get something done. Her hands flew to her hips and a furious look plastered itself upon her otherwise beautiful face. It was this face that froze Cal dead in her tracks as she turned around from having moved the cradle into place.

An audible gulp was the only sound that she could muster.

Ephiny gazed hard and long at her lover. When she finally spoke, it was in a controlled whisper, puncuated by loud emphasis on certain words..."I can't BELIEVE that you would DO something like that!" She began pacing. "I am NOT all of a sudden unable to DO things Cal!" She blew out a breath. "I'm pregnant..not a wuss! I don't have to stop EVERYTHING!" She got a nod of agreement from the goddess. "Good. So this won't happen again?" She quirked an eyebrow at the blonde.

"I swear...I swear! Never again!" pledged Callisto. She hesitantly moved toward her lover. When she got close enough, she reached out and took one of her hands, drawing her into a warm embrace. "I'm sorry." she whispered into the regent's ear.

Ephiny sighed and slowly put her arms around her soon to be partner. "I love you."

A smile formed on Cal's face. "I love you too.." she whispered back.

They stayed like that for a good quarter candlemark before Ephiny pulled away.

"So is it still craziness about tomorrow?"

"Oh yeah.." replied Callisto. "I can't believe they are making such a fuss! I can't get five minutes of peace without someone having to ask me something..." She rolled her eyes and assumed a silly pose. "Cal, what do you think of this? Cal How do you want this? Cal, where does this go?" The nasally tone of her voice and her gesticulations sent poor Eph into a giggle attack. "Oh...you think that's funny huh?" She smiled wickedly. Eph had about two seconds to react as she realized what was about to happen.

Cal pounced, but the regent managed to leap out of the way. Getting the table between her and the goddess, Eph paused a moment to catch her breath. "Mortal life slowing you up sexy?" she taunted.

"No. Not at all.." the goddess retorted. "I'm just giving you a headstart!" The seductive grin on her face told the whole story.

"Is that so?" replied the regent. "We'll just see about that!" She faked to the right, then broke left...trying to position herself around the other side of the washtub. Making a break for it, she turned around to look behind her, only to run smack dab into the open arms of her lover, who had materialized in front of her. "Oooof! Hey! That's not fair!"

"All's fair in love and war Curly." She smiled as she looked into Ephiny's eyes. "Just think...tomorrow it will all be official..."

"Yeah. I can't wait." replied Eph.

"Me neither."

"No...I really mean I can't wait..." stated the regent.

"Huh? Whaaa..." Callisto's words were cut short as soft lips were suddenly on her own. 'mmmmmmm' she thought as her senses were assaulted mercilessly. 'It can't get any better than this!'

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