Usual Disclaimers Apply.

Chapter 62

"So, let me get this straight," Daria's hand slipped into mine as we walked towards the pond. "Mavri knocked up Pegasus and that's why Pegasus is spending so much time here on the mortal plane?"

"Yup. Not only that, she says that if the colt or filly doesn't have powers it will stay here and if it does then it can go back and forth between Olympus and here."

"Damn," Daria let go of my hand and sat down at the base of the large tree overlooking the pond. Sitting next to her I leaned into her as closely as I could and held her hand once more.

"Yep, and not only that, the twins say that Argo is going to be giving birth very close to their birthday."

"That should be fun." Daria leaned over and kissed me gently before pulling me into her arms again. "I have missed this."

"Me too," I admitted. "I still can't believe that we managed to sneak away from everyone."

"Well, your moms are a little busy with Trouble and the gang. I still can't believe that Trouble and her gang tied the teacher to her chair and dared her to escape."

I shrugged and leaned over to kiss Daria this time. "Dalia should have known better than to issue the challenge, even in jest when my sister and her friends are involved."

"Yeah, but you shouldn't have put that story about the kid who got kidnapped and then outsmarted the kidnappers."

"Hey, the Ransom of Red Chief* is a classic. Besides I changed it enough that it wasn't…." looking into Daria's face I began to laugh. "Okay, maybe I shouldn't have told her that story, but it's not like she done anything about the story of the jumping frog competition."

"Only because Gabrielle told her if she did she wouldn't see daylight again until she was eight!" Daria began to chuckle then, and I pulled her onto my lap where our gentle kisses soon became much more.

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"You are in so much trouble!" Eve taunted me as I entered the village alone as Daria had taken off for her guard duties on the other side of the village.

"Oh, why is that, little bit?" I asked.

"You'll find out." She said simply. She then took to skipping behind me and repeating, "Sam's in trouble, Sam's in trouble."

Stopping in front of the weapons hut I heard noise inside and pushed open the door, "Aunt Eponin?" I questioned.

"Nice of you to finally join me, Sam." Her voice was harsh, and I couldn't figure out the coldness.

"Ma'am?" I figured better safe than sorry since I had no idea why I had ticked off the weapons master.

Handing me a cloth and a piece of tack Eponin said nothing and I began to clean the leather without a word. Finally finishing my job, I put the strap down where it belonged and turned around only to come face to face with a box full of arrow shafts with no quivers.

"Shit." My voice was low, and I removed one arrow from the box. "I completely forgot, Weapon's Master. I know it's not an excuse but it's the truth. I was so happy to have some time with Daria that I just forgot I was supposed to be helping you with the arrows."

Saying nothing more, I lifted the box and put it on the end of the table. Clearing a space, I removed two arrows and placed them on the table. "How would you like me to make these?"

"That's up to you, Sam." Eponin's voice was softer this time but I looked at her in confusion.

"I don't understand."

"I'd say that anyone about to earn their first feather should be allowed to design their own arrows. Don't you?"

"No." My voice was firm, and I saw the confusion in her eyes this time.

"I mean no disrespect, but just because I'm earning a feather doesn't mean I'm ready to design my own arrows without help."

"I disagree, Sam."

"Then I guess the arrows will just stay here because I'm not going to work on them until you tell me what you want done." I argued placing the shafts back into the box and moving back to where I had found it.

"You need to finish those, Sam." Eponin directed.

"Then tell me what you want done, Weapon's Master."

"I want you to design at least three of your own arrows. Something we've not seen before or modify one of our designs already in use. You may come up with a better design than we are using. Something that will protect our sisters even more in battle."

"Why? I'm not a weapon's designer."

"There are certain girls I give this task to, Sam. You are earning your first feather, yes, but you are right of caste to the queen. This is something that you need to do."

"Why now? Why not wait until I'm a full warrior?"

Scrubbing her hand down her face, Eponin hopped up on the table after clearing a spot and motioned for me to do the same. Making room for myself, I sat next to her and was surprised to feel her pull me into a hug. "Because it's time, Sam. You are sixteen and without a doubt one of the best warriors our tribe has," holding up her hand to my rebuttal she continued. "I will not count seasoned warriors, or your mothers, but Sam, surely you know that you could take on any warrior in our tribe and kick their ass."

Sighing I leaned against her and nodded. "If push came to shove, I'm sure I'd do okay."

"Okay?" Eponin chuckled and then bumped my arm with her own. "You'd kick ass, Sam and you know it."

"And then my moms would kick mine." I admitted.

"Yes, they would." She admitted. "Still…"

"Aunt Eponin, why all this talking about ass kicking?"

"I thought if I appealed to your warrior senses you'd be more apt to the weapons making."

"Not really," I shrugged my shoulders. "Enough is changing with me getting my first feather…." I trailed off.

"And you hate change…" she trailed off and looked at me briefly. "Gods do I hate sensitive chats. Okay, here's the deal, we hold off on the arrow making, but you come to my senior class tomorrow and kick Kyra's ass for me. She's been asking for it in more ways than one and I want her to learn that she's not as good as she thinks she is and even an unfeathered kid can kick her ass."

"I'd be happy to do that for you," I began. "But isn't she going to figure out I'm a ringer the minute I show up?"

"Nope."

"That stupid, is she?" I asked.

"Yep." Eponin looked at me again and I chuckled.

"She really thinks that she can beat me in a fight?"

Eponin nodded. "She does, she's been bragging about how she'd be able to kick your ass."

"That doesn't usually bother you, what's different this time?" I asked.

"This time, it's affecting the other girls. I can't have them trying to defend your name or attempt to kick her ass for you."

"Who would do that….?" Realization hit, and I shook my head. "Telema and Chryssa?"

Eponin merely nodded.

"When should I be at the practice field?" I asked.

"A couple of hours before noon meal. I have a feeling it will take a while to convince her that she's actually lost."

"I'll let Daria and Zivah know as well. And I'll bring along Rory if you don't mind."

"I don't."

"Great," I grinned widely. "Just try to make sure Mom doesn't find out about the betting that will be going on by all of us. You know how she feels about it."

"The betting? I'm going to try and make sure she doesn't know I've asked you to do this in the first place. Oh, and don't worry about school tomorrow. I'll make sure that you and Rory are excused with no questions asked." Slipping from the table she waited for me to do the same and then hugged me. "You better not let Trouble know about this, Sam."

"She won't have a clue." I said with confidence. Shaking my head, I stopped Eponin as she headed towards the door. "However, I need you to do one last thing for me."

"What's that?"

Handing her one of the arrow shafts I bent over the table. "Two strikes should do it, Weapon's Master. You know, for being in trouble and missing my duties with you today."

"Sam are you sure?"

"I think it's the only way," I acknowledged. "After all, Trouble always seems to know when I'm in trouble."

"Gotcha." Taking the arrow from me, Eponin chuckled briefly. "You are going to make a hell of a full warrior someday, Sam." She said before giving me two of the lightest and quickest stripes of the arrow shaft I'd ever had from her. I still felt them, but knew it was her way of satisfying my need for apologizing for forgetting her as well as showing no favoritisms towards me for being the queen's daughter. After all, I had missed my duties with her that day.

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"What are the bets?" I asked as Zivah, Daria, Rory and I made our way to the farthest practice field from the village.

"Really? The gods, Sam. All bets are on you to win. Where it gets tricky is when you branch out to the weapons, bare hands, time frame, TKO, or some other ending. The odds are all over the place. It should be great though. I, personally, don't care how you win, but if you could do it by a total knock out using your famous cartwheel kick maneuver after your sword and staff combo, I'd split the winnings."

"Noted." I shook my head. "I'll see what I can do, but you know that I have no way to promise that, right?"

"Oh, we know that, we're just hopeful." Daria added.

"I hope I have enough supplies here," Zivah added shifting her bag from her right shoulder to her left.

"I'm sure you have plenty," I rolled my eyes. "Half the healing hut is in that bag."

"I've been to your fights before," Zivah deadpanned. "You tend to injure others."

"Only if they're stupid enough not to yield." I quipped while Rory and Daria laughed.

Finally reaching the practice field I stood against the fence and watched while the young Amazons were put through their paces. There were three groups in front of us. One for those practicing with staves, one with swords and one group of those practicing hand to hand fighting.

It didn't take me long to find Kyra. Shaking my head, I pointed to the group for the hand to hand fighting. "There, the taller one in the reddish leathers." I supplied for others.

"The one who looks likes she's about ready to have a mental break down?" Rory asked.

"Yup," I answered.

"Idiot." Daria mumbled and we all agreed.

Kyra's style of hand to hand seemed to be one of allowing you and your opponent to get a good fight going and then switching the game up completely. Not only was it annoying, it brought nothing to the fight and made the opponent wonder if you weren't a bit touched in the head. I mean nobody wanted to think you'd won a fight if your opponents didn't have all of their mental faculties.

Having seen enough of the train wreck in front of me, I began to walk towards Kyra and her partner briefly allowing my hearing to acknowledge the quieting of the practice fields behind me. Noticing Eponin walking towards me, I finally reached my target.

Tapping Kyra on the shoulder I received no answer. Clearing my throat, I tapped her once more. "This should be good, she's going to go all Xena on her." I heard Rory announce.

"What do you mean?"

"Just watch." Daria directed as I tapped Kyra a third time.

"What?!" Kyra finally turned around and I moved as if to back hand her stopping short right before reaching her face.

Seeing the recognition in her eyes I smiled I her, "I'm Sam, wanna spar?"

"What in the name of the gods is going on here?" Eponin had finally reached us and her voice had raised in volume while lowering it's pitch letting us all know how seriously she was taking in everything happening around us right now.

"I apologize, Weapons Master," I began. "I don't usually find myself crashing your classes and asking someone to spar, but then again I've never seen anyone with her sparing style."

"I've developed it on my own." Kyra bragged.

"I can tell," Zivah commented while Eponin appeared to give to our match a lot of thought. "I suppose that I can let this breach of etiquette go this one time, Sam." Eponin's voice was serious. "If both of you are in agreement then I don't see anything wrong with a little friendly sparring."

"Thank you, Weapon's Master." I replied.

"Yes, thank you, Weapon's Master." Kyra repeated her eyes almost glazing over in anticipation.

"Alright, here are the rules." Eponin announced. "When I say it's over, it's over. You may use any weapon at your disposal but remember that this is a practice match, you are not fighting to the death, this is not a true fight against an actual enemy."

"Understood?" She pressed.

I nodded as did Kyra. "Alright then, ladies. Everyone spread out and give Sam and Kyra room to spar."

Looking at my feet I heard Daria and Rory snicker and when I looked up again I looked around and rolled my eyes. Bets were flying and most of the young warriors were making themselves as comfortable as they could either by leaning on fence railing, in the trees or just trying to find a place to watch the sparring.

Zivah, Daria, and Rory were allowed front row access with Eponin and two of her closest warriors. Gripping my staff I waited to see what Kyra would do and wasn't surprised when she grabbed a staff and immediately made the first move.

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"I told you she'd do that," Rory high fived Daria as Eponin shook her head and looked to Zivah.

"Kyra is still upright," Zivah shrugged. "I mean, even with the cut above her eye and the limp she managed to stay upright after Sam's killer staff roundhouse move and the sword cartwheel maneuver."

"Not to mention that great double cross boxing move," Daria added still watching the fighting happening in front of them. "Though, that might have been a bit much."

"Oh, for the love of the gods," Eponin scrubbed her hand down her face and stepped in the ring motioning for Zivah to follow her. "I think Kyra is going to need you to look at that."

"Of course she is," Rory commented. "Sam just used the business end of her staff her knock Kyra halfway to Lesbos and followed it up with a roundhouse kick. Anybody would need all those spots looked at."

"I guess I should stop this," Eponin said as Kyra hit the ground once more.

"Probably," Zivah agreed. "I only have so many supplies.

"Wait!" Daria's voice was urgent. "Come on, let Sam have this last move, she's been practicing it forever. You have to see it."

Throwing up her hands, Eponin nodded wanting to see what the young Amazon had up her proverbial sleeve. "Okay, but this is all. Once she's done with this move, I stop the fight. I'm already surprised Gabrielle hasn't heard about it."

"She's not…." Eponin trailed off as she watched Sam block a kick and punch combination from Kyra only to follow up with her own back handspring, cartwheel, front judo roll, and tagging Kyra with her sword after a roundhouse kick.

Watching Kyra trying to stand again Eponin shook her head. "Stubborn Amazons." She muttered. Running into the ring, she held up her hands. "The match is over with Sam being the victor!"

A loud cheer went up from the crowd along with some groans from those who had been stupid enough to bet against Sam

"We need a litter," I told Zivah as she bent to examine Kyra. That move before last I heard her kneecap pop and I would lay money that her ankle is out of joint too."

"Thanks, Sam." Zivah tended to the girl's wounds as best as she could while Rory and Daria got a few other warriors together to build the litter. Finally having it ready, they placed Kyra on the contraption and began to head towards the village.

"I wonder what Cesya will think," Rory wondered out loud."

"I wonder what Xena will think when she finds out," Daria asked.

"I wonder what in Hades the Queen will do if she finds out about the betting." Zivah asked.

I looked at Zivah as she sighed.

"What? I won quite a few dinars today and I really don't want to lose them. Besides you can usually throw her off the path but the way we're coming into the village today isn't going to lend us to a lot of privacy."

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Sorry for the wait. I hope it was worth it. I hope that there won't be such a long time between chapters to come.

Let me know what you think.

Kik