DISCLAIMER: The characters Ephiny and Eponin belong to Universal Studios and Renaissance Pictures. They don't belong to me. The story is mine and can't be reproduced, reprinted, archived, or published without my permission. I don't make any profit from this story.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My Personal Thanks: I would like to say thank you to Ilene for beta reading for me. I'd also like to say thank you to Del Robertson for allowing me to use her character Devillare.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To budhownd[at]gmail.com
Coaxing the Consort
By Mayhem Incarnate
Eponin sat in her hut watching the shadows creep slowly but steadily across the room. Her stomach was churning.
I won't get sick. I won't get sick. Not again. For the past quarter candlemark she'd been sitting in a chair, repeating that mantra.
She looked over at the ceremonial joining leathers laid out on her bed. They were midnight blue trimmed with silver. They bore her new insignia which would let every amazon know her status and rank within the Nation as consort and champion to the Regent and Reigning Queen. Except for color and the additional rank of Weapons Master embroidered on her left shoulder guard, Eponin's leathers were nearly identical to Xena's, rarely worn, black ceremonial leathers.
Eponin had tried them on for Ephiny,once, though it was not truly allowed for them to see each other in their ceremonial leathers before their joining. She had barely gotten the last clasp fastened before she was tackled by the Regent, pushed onto their bed, and ravished within an inch of her life.
She smiled at the memory before glancing once again at the leathers and her smile disappeared.
Today was the big day. Their big day. In less than two candlemarks she was supposed to stand before Goddess and Nation and declare her love for the Regent of the Amazons. Standing before her Goddess didn't phase her at all. It was the standing before Nation part that had Eponin shaking like a leaf. She held her hand out and saw that it was indeed still shaking.
Eponin shook her head, angrily, at her own behavior.
I am a warrior, damnit! Weapons Master to the Amazon Nation! The fiercest of the fiercest fighters in the known world!
Yet, here she was sitting in her hut, dreading the events that would begin to unfold a short while from now.
It was the day she'd longed for since she was thirteen summers old. When a gangly, curly haired pipsqueak of a girl stood watching her at the perimeter fence of the practice grounds.
Eponin wished she could throttle the crowd tonight, for watching her, just like she'd done Ephiny all those years ago. The crowd. That was her true fear. Being stared at was the only thing that could strike fear into the heart of Eponin.
Every amazon in the nation would be there to see their beloved Regent join with the Weapons Master tonight. All those eyes looking at her. Staring at her. Watching her. Waiting for her to make a mistake while reciting her vows or tripping over her own feet while walking to the dais where she and Ephiny would stand. The dais! Not only were they going to stand in front of everyone, they were going to do it on a raised platform for all to see. Even the shortest amazon would have a good view of the ceremony.
I won't go. I won't. Ephiny knows I hate crowds looking at me. She will understand. She loves me.
Eponin sighed and looked out the window. The sun had gone down a little further.
Devillare walked toward Eponin's hut at the request of Ephiny. The Regent knew her consort would not be comfortable tonight with all the eyes of the nation upon her and asked the elder council member to make sure she was ok, since amazon law did not permit the two women who were being joined to see each other at all on the day of their joining.
When she reached the hut she knocked twice before a soft voice bid her to enter. It only took moments for Devillare's eyes to adjust to the dim interior of Eponin's hut and she sighed when she saw her adopted daughter sitting at a table dressed only in an undershift.
"Devillare," Eponin addressed her adopted mother, sitting a little bit straighter in her chair.
"Eponin," Devillare replied with a slight nod. "I was asked to see if you needed help dressing for the ceremony." the elder warrior explained.
She noticed the stubborn set to Eponin's jaw and knew immediately that Ephiny had been correct in her assumption.
"You do not intend to dress for your own joining ceremony?" Devillare asked, folding her arms over her chest.
Eponin frowned and honey colored eyes glanced at the leathers on her bed, then back at Devillare before shrugging her muscular shoulders.
"What's the matter, Pup? Don't want to get joined to Curly anymore?"
Devillare knew the reason Eponin was being stubborn, she just wanted to hear the younger warrior say it. When nothing more than a shrug came from Eponin, she decided to press on.
"Let me guess. You're afraid of getting up in front of all of those women and possibly making a mistake?"
Eponin glanced at her adopted mother and sighed.
"The actual ceremony only lasts for half a candlemark," said Devillare.
"That's half a candlemark too long," replied the younger woman. "Why can't it just be me and Ephiny and the priestess?"
"She is the Regent and Queen, Eponin. You know the Nation won't stand for a private ceremony. Besides, Gabrielle and Xena have come back for the ceremony. Gabrielle is one of Ephiny's closest friends, as Xena is yours," Devillare replied patiently.
Eponin sighed heavily, running her hand through her chestnut mane, "Yea, I know."
Seeing that Eponin wasn't going to budge, Devillare pulled up a chair and sat near her adopted daughter.
"Well, if you aren't going to go, I will stay here with you. You don't mind the company do you?"
Eponin looked at the older warrior, "You're going to stay here? With me?"
"I have always supported you and your decisions, Pup. If you wish to stay here then I shall stay with you."
Devillare leaned back and made herself comfortable at the table with Eponin. A few moments later she pulled out a pouch and poured what looked to Eponin like small clusters of glittering herbs onto the table.
"What's that?" asked the Weapons Master
"Um..herbs. For.... my shoulder," came Devillare's hesitant reply.
Eponin watched as the older warrior began to break up the herbs into smaller pieces. Then Devillare pulled a razor sharp dagger from her boot and began to chop the herbs until there was nothing left but a fine green almost powdery pile on the table.
"Do you want a cup to make tea?" Eponin asked.
"Uh, no. These herbs aren't meant to be drunk," replied the council elder.
Devillare then pulled out what looked to Eponin like a piece of parchment and began to sprinkle the herbs up inside of it.
When she was finished, all that was left was a long cylindrical piece of parchment, tightly rolled with the herbs inside.
Devillare then walked over to the banked fire and stuck the end of the parchment into the red coals, as Eponin looked on. After a moment, the elder warrior put the parchment to her lips and took a pull, inhaling the herbs.
"What are you doing, Devil."
"Nothing, just helping the ache in my knee."
"I thought it was your shoulder."
"Shoulder? Oh, yes. My shoulder."
Eponin watched as Devillare too a few more pulls. Inhaling then exhaling the fragrant smoke. Devillare passed the parchment to her, a smirk playing at the corners of her mouth.
Eponin hesitated for a moment, unsure.
"Go on, Pup, it won't kill you. It will make you feel better. If you are going to stand Ephiny up on the her joining day, you may as well enjoy yourself now, 'cause she's gonna kill you later." Devillare chuckled softly, then almost immediately her stoic warrior mask slipped back into place.
Eponin took the parchment and after another glance at her adopted mother, took a small puff from the parchment. It did nothing and she was about to hand it back to Devillare but the older warrior waved her off, signaling for her to keep going.
Knowing Devillare wouldn't do anything to cause her harm, Eponin continued to take small puffs from the parchment until her lungs became used to the sensation of having smoke in them.
She began to feel an overwhelming sense of peace and relaxation come over her. A wide smile spread across her face and she slumped a little lower into her chair.
Maybe things won't be so bad after all.
Xena walked to Eponin's hut carrying a wineskin. She and Gabrielle had been in Athens when they were summoned to the Amazon village for Ephiny and Eponin's joining. She purchased the Athenian wine for the couple as a gift. It was the only thing she knew of in the known world that was anywhere near as strong as Amazonian wine. This wine, however, was flavored with different berries that could not be found in Amazonia.
She raised her hand to knock on Eponin's door frame when her keen sense of smell caught a fragrant aroma coming from inside.
I know that smell! She thought with a grin. Eponin you sly dog.
Xena knocked, waiting to be invited in.
"Who's there?" came a voice from within.
"It's Xena, Poni."
"Oh! Come on in, Xe," Eponin invited.
The Warrior Princess walked past the hide covering the door straight into a cloud of aromatic smoke. Sky blue eyes widened when she saw Devillare and Eponin sitting at Eponin's table, both sporting silly grins.
"I brought you a gift, Poni. Um, what's going on here?" she asked.
"Eponin decided not to get joined and I felt I should keep her company," Devillare replied.
Xena quirked an eyebrow at that statement before pulling a stool up to the table and looking at the two women sitting there.
"Uh huh." she eyed Eponin. "Eph, is gonna kill you, ya know."
"Yea, I suppose she will," came the Weapons Master's reply. Poni didn't seem the least bit worried.
Xena eyed the rolled parchment clutched loosely in Eponin's grasp.
"Uh, Poni." Xena pointed to the parchment that was about to slip from Eponin's fingers.
"Oh, here ya go Xe, partake with us on my last night living." Eponin smiled widely at her.
Xena accepted the parchment and after looking from Devillare to Eponin then back to Devillare, she did what any true friend would do, she put it to her lips and took a deep drag from the parchment. After a few more, she was visibly relaxed with the same smirk on her face that Eponin and Devillare wore.
"Ya know, you guys are my friends," said Eponin.
"Yea, friends until the end," chimed Xena, nodding.
"Mmmm Hmmm," was all Devillare could manage.
The moment of warrior camaraderie was interrupted by a knock on the hut's door frame.
"Eponin? Are you in there?" It was Solari's voice.
Eponin sat wide eyed looking between the two warriors sitting with her. A guffaw escaped Xena before she could stop it and Devillare chuckled softly.
The elder warrior stood and walked over to the front of the hut and after a glance over her shoulder to make sure the two younger warriors had stoic masks in place she lifted the hide covering and invited Solari in.
"Good evening, Solari." Devillare stepped to the side so she could enter.
"Uh, Hi Devillare. I was looking for .... what's that smell?"
From the table Eponin's said, " Who's 'what's that smell?' I don't think I've ever met her."
Xena lost it along with Eponin and the two warriors were overtaken by a fit of laughter.
Devillare rolled her eyes and shook her head slightly at the antics of the two younger warriors before ushering Solari into her vacated seat.
Damn pups can't handle the good herbs. The elder warrior thought.
The laughter stopped the moment Devillare cleared her throat and they both managed, just barely, to keep a straight face.
"Eponin why aren't you dressed?! The ceremony will begin any time now," asked the Chief Scout.
"Oh, Soli, calm down. I have plenty of time to get dressed," replied Eponin.
Devillare smiled at this. She figured all she had to do was loosen Eponin up a bit and her reluctance to stand before the amazon nation would be forgotten.
"Yea, she has plenty of time," chimed Xena.
"You guys are smoking herbs? Where did you get them?" Solari asked.
Eponin spoke up, "Warrior's secret. Not for scout's to know."
"Not for scout's to know," Xena repeated in as serious a manner as she could manage.
Eponin looked at Xena, raised her hand in the air, and the two of them slapped palms.
Solari frowned at them, miffed by being excluded from the group.
"Hey, scout's are just as important as warriors."
Xena looked at Solari. Then she looked at Eponin. Then back to Solari.
"You can't handle it, Soli. You better just stick to the ceremonial wine," said the Warrior Princess.
Solari bristled at this comment. The day she couldn't hold her own against a couple of big dumb warriors was the day she'd give every last one of her feathers back.
"Let me try it, we'll see," she replied, sticking her chin out in defiance.
Xena chuckled. Eponin had a huge grin on her face. Devillare simply shook her head. This was getting a bit out of hand. Then she realized it would be great entertainment for her and kept quiet, wanting to see what the scout would do.
She'd always found Solari attractive but could never find a way to approach the younger woman without looking like a desperate old coot. With herself and Solari a bit loosened up, perhaps things would be as enjoyable for her as they would be for Eponin by the end of the night.
Xena glanced over at Devillare and after receiving a slight nod, passed the parchment to Solari.
The Chief Scout took a pull, inhaled it, and immediately began to cough.
Xena and Eponin looked at each other and shook their heads. Devillare turned her back to the three of them to hide her chuckle.
Solari's eyes were watering and she was still coughing uncontrollably. Devillare walked over and began to pat Solari's back as she took the parchment from the scout.
"Solari .. um... maybe you shouldn't.." the elder began.
"I'm ok. I'm ok. Give it back," came Solari's strained voice.
"Soli, you don't have to prove anything to us. Maybe you should just..." Xena began.
"I said I'm ok, Xena." She looked at Devillare. "Give it."
Shaking her head, Devillare handed the half finished parchment back to the scout. Her next few attempts were much better and soon Solari was red eyed and grinning goofily like her three cohorts. The parchment was passed a few times more then tossed into the fire when it began to burn their fingertips.
"Hey, aren't you supposed to be doing something, Poni. Aren't you going somewhere tonight?" asked Xena.
"I am?" replied the Weapons Master.
Wheat colored eyes scanned her hut. She loved her hut. It was ... just great. It was then her eyes fell upon the dark leathers on her bed. Her joining leathers.
I'm getting joined to Ephiny tonight. she thought. I love Ephiny. Ephiny is ... just great.
A wide smile spread across her face. Joining? Her joining? HER JOINING!!
Oh Gods, my JOINING ceremony!!
Eponin stood up suddenly, her chair toppling over behind her.
"I'm getting joined tonight! I gotta get dressed!! Eph, is gonna kill me!" she exclaimed.
"Yea that's true," Xena agreed.
"Get up and help me dress, you herbed out warrior!" Eponin cried.
She pulled a boot on and began hopping up and down on one foot as she tried to tie the laces. Solari stood and rushed over to help and ran straight into Xena's back since the warrior stood up at the same time she did. Devillare couldn't hold back a chuckle as Solari hit the floor but quickly helped the younger woman to her feet.
Between the three of them, they soon had Eponin dressed and presentable. Since Xena and Solari were expected to be on the dais by now, they decided to leave the minute details for Devillare to oversee. Eponin fastened the last clasp on her right gauntlet then turned and faced her adopted mother.
"How do I look?" Eyes the color of wheat looked nervous but determined.
Devillare didn't try to hide the pride she felt.
"You look great, daughter. I am very proud of you. You make a most handsome consort," replied the older warrior.
Eponin smiled and her already red eyes filled with tears. She had never heard the words daughter and proud used in a sentence referring to her.
Drums began to beat in the distance and both women knew the ceremony had begun. There was no turning back now.
"How do you feel?" Devillare asked.
"Hungry but otherwise I feel good." replied the Weapons Master with a grin.
Devillare chuckled, "I'm with you on that. Well, let's go get you joined. If you're quick about it, I'll make sure you get a fat venison steak with plenty of roasted potatoes."
Eponin licked her lips and made her way toward the door with the older warrior right behind her.
Beneath the light of Artemis's full moon the Regent and Weapons Master were joined. Many would agree that there hadn't been a more beautiful ceremony since the joining of Queen Gabrielle to the Warrior Princess.
The feast afterward was a joyous affair with many well wishes being heaped upon the new couple. There was a bit of good natured ribbing at Eponin's expense as some of her fellow warriors approached the newly joined Weapons Master whispering advice about her joining night duties. She playfully shoved them away with smiles and laughs, while stuffing herself with delicious dishes and treats.
Later that night, in Eponin's hut, Ephiny lay draped across her wife, exhausted and sated. She sniffed the air. There was the scent of their lovemaking as well as something else she could not identify. Something familiar. Something ... herby.
"Eponin, what's that smell?"
The warrior looked at her new wife and after a moment began to laugh.
After a few moments and no answer forthcoming, Ephiny shook her head before laying back down on Eponin's shoulder.
Warriors. Goddess help me. she thought just before Morpheus claimed her.
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