The characters Xena, Gabrielle and Ephiny are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures and no copyright infringement is intended.
This morning Xena and I stopped at a market in this sleepy little village alongside the River Achelous. While we were there I happened to overhear a couple of the local farmers discussing with anticipatory impatience the upcoming Feast of Demeter. I must admit I had totally forgotten this. More than that, I suddenly found myself feeling very sad.
In itself it was not this news about the feast that made me put aside for a moment all thoughts of haggling over the prices of lentils and fish cakes and freshly baked sweet bread--much to the dismay of my grumbling stomach. Rather, it was the sobering realization that it was around this very time that she died, her young life forfeited on the point of a Roman sword.
Sweet gods, has it been a year?! I still remember the first time I saw her with her unruly blonde locks. I was a wide-eyed...well, girl really, struggling to keep my head above water in the tow of Xena's magnificent wake. She was a young warrior, an esteemed member of the Amazon Nation, proud and strong with a maturity that went beyond her years.
At first she tolerated me I think only because of her queen's interest in me. The Right of Caste I had received from the lips of her friend Terreis had in one dying breath made me an Amazon princess and it fell to her to see that I was trained as one, albeit with great reluctance on her part. Had she wanted the honor for herself? She would have been a fool not to and if she did in fact resent me for it I would not have blamed her. As to what she really thought of me at the time I can only guess. Did she think me an interloper? Probably. A unworthy usurper? Maybe. An annoying chatterbox? Most definitely!
Despite her misgivings she faithfully attended to her duties, teaching me the ways of the Amazons and providing me with my first basic instruction in that instrument which for better or worse changed my life forever--the staff. I remember that first day as if it were yesterday. I was foolishly whimsical but she quickly set me straight, telling me in her quiet way but in no uncertain terms nevertheless that combat was most certainly not "fun" but rather a very serious business. Under her firm guidance and what must have been infinite patience on her part I practiced hard and, much to my surprise, soon discovered that I had a real knack for wielding this most basic of weapons. And, as had already happened once with my chance meeting with Xena, my life changed yet again. Before I had been a rabbit, pushed into a hole whenever the she-bear Xena was forced to defend us. Now, as so many of our enemies were to find out, I had teeth of my own. For that I have her to thank. In fact it was her very own staff, a present upon my departure, that would later render such good service to me in more fights than I can count. I will not say there have not been those moments when I have wondered what destiny the Fates might have woven for me had I not become so formidable so quickly. Maybe I would still be a practicing bard, who knows? At any rate it was not her fault and given my life with Xena it was a thing probably bound to have happened in any event.
In the course of those first few days I think she came to realize that, in spite of herself, she liked me. From that first shared adventure through the months and years that followed our friendship grew. However even more than our friendship it was her courage and selfless dedication that I remember most. And there was one thing more--her unwavering loyalty, even when it placed her at odds with the mighty Xena. Almost from the very start it had been this way. After the untimely death of Queen Melosa it was she who had led the handful of supporters against the ruthless Velasca for my rightful ascension. Later, she could very well have assumed power at almost any time yet through it all she waited, vainly hoping that I would one day come back for good and assume my rightful place as their--her--queen. Had she chosen otherwise the others surely would have followed her for by that time she was the foremost member of the tribe. But she was not like that. Nowhere was there a place in her heart for malevolence of any kind. She was as pure in heart and in spirit as any who have ever walked the green fields of Greece.
She died as she had lived, in sacrifice for the good of that proud and noble sisterhood
which she had fought so hard to preserve. Gods! How I miss her!
Standing there in the boisterous marketplace, I'm sure the two farmers must have thought me strange to be wiping away tears on such a lovely, carefree morning. And yet I was. I could not help it. In the last five years I have seen much death, felt much sorrow, cried many tears but her death even now presses heavily on my soul.
Her name was Ephiny and she was my friend. Strong wife, loving mother, proud warrior--treasured friend, she was all these things and more and though she is gone some small part of her will always be in my heart and in my memory. There are times when I wish you could have been buried in a great tomb as the Egyptians do for without such monuments even the great are all too soon forgotten. But that is not the Amazon way. In the end it does not really matter because you, my friend, already have dozens of monuments. You have your child and all the fond memories carefully fashioned in the hearts of those that knew you.
Some day, when I begin to write again, I shall tell the world of the noble Ephiny. Let's see...how would I begin...
"I sing of Ephiny, noble and brave, who all the days of her life exemplified to the utmost degree what it meant to be a true Amazon. Her goodness, her devotion to duty and to her people were like a beacon in the night. Surely the name of Ephiny shall ring through the ages..."
I kind of like the sound of that. Not bad for a rusty bard.
I see Xena coming. It is time to go. In a way I pity those farmers. To them the Feast of Demeter is nothing more than an excuse to get drunk. To me it will always be a reminder that people of unquestioned character do walk the earth and that, if even for a short time, I was fortunate to have known one of them.
I will remember you, Ephiny. Always!
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