The cold of the night cooled the landscape of Greece, and in a valley not too far from where the Observers had arrived was a river that was located far from the nearby city of Athens. It was a river that had no real name, and such no one knew what to call it. Yet for a certain young man it was the best place for him to cool off after a long day in the arena.
For the third time in the last couple minutes Alexius washed his face of the dirt and grime he had gathered in his day long combat in the arena. That and some of the blood, both his own and those of his enemies off as well. His feet were in the river, allowing the water to wash over his sore muscles. His muscled body appreciated the comfort, and it was hard not to after his busy day.
'Five fighters in a gauntlet match...won them all,' he thought as he ran his hands through his short raven black hair. The choker he wore around his neck felt tight as he took big breaths of air, the golden lock in the center clinked with each movement. His arms had markings and tattoos going from his wrists to the base of his neck, one for each fight he had one and lost over the last ten years.
Standing up in the ankle deep water Alexius stretched out his limbs, his joints popping in his elbows and knees. After earning only enough for a meal that day he knew that sleep was going to come soon enough. His options for tonight were severely limited. 'I might have to try and sleep in those horse stables again, not that I would want to but it would be better to sleep on soft hay than hard ground.' He had slept in a farmhouse for the last couple of nights until the owner caught him and forced him out. Despite being a gladiator who had won much gold in his fights, Alexius only ever had enough to pay for his meals. Comforts such as a bath and bed were much more expensive and thus took a back seat to a meal. That was why he was washing himself in a river and sleeping in farmhouses and barns.
Life wasn't perfect but he was going to manage. The gods could be against him and he would still endure. Such as it was his entire life.
He went back to the spot where he had been sitting and found his items. Consisting of a pair of cestus (fist gauntlets that hardened on impact with hard material) which were his preferred weapons to fight with and his eye patch. Having lost his right eye in his very first fight when he was a young man he had come to see it as a badge of honor as he had won that fight, and it ultimately set him on the road he had lived his whole life. He put the patch on and reached for his gauntlets when he heard something.
He turned slightly to look up the river. The trees prevented him from seeing what was going on but he knew he heard the giggling of a woman, then more than one. Lowering his arms only one thought entered the fighter's mind.
'Must be nymphs bathing up river.'
Nymphs were daughters of the gods who wandered the mortal realm, enjoying the more opulent life aside mortals. Immortal and forever young and beautiful, they were the desire of many men. They were also the doom of many more. Lust and desire more often than not clouded the minds of mortals who wanted them for themselves, and when their fathers found out judgement was passed on them in horrific ways. Alexius had been fortunate to not be involved with them, not that he was worried about the retribution he would suffer, but because he had no interest in them. 'I better grab my things and be off before they find me.' The last thing he wanted was for them to think he was spying on them.
He grabbed his cestus and got onto the grass, turning the opposite direction intending to head back towards Athens. Maybe there was a cheap room he could bribe for-
His head turned sharply back up river as multiple shrieks were heard. Water splashed and the hooting and hollering of men.
'A bandit raiding party must have stumbled across them...' thought Alexius and he stopped. The screaming of the nymphs grew louder.
Now he faced a dilemma. Should he help them or not? He didn't even know how many men were there and the nymphs might be better off without him should they call for assistance. Centaurs and satyrs were known to be in the area. Surely they would come running to assist?
'And if they don't...' His thought was caught off by a scream. The women were crying for help, and while he had no desire to get the ire of the nymphs his mind wondered.
While his mind told him to not get involved, his feet had already made up his mind for him and he started to go up river. He didn't fight against it either as he started to put his cestus on his hands. His night wasn't over yet.
Sure enough when he made it past some trees and bushes he saw four men dressed in drab outfits and leather armed with short swords.
All of them were big men, no doubt former soldiers turned into thieves for either money or because of the other benefits they could get themselves. Such as what they were doing now.
What Alexius found when he made his presence known was not exactly what he expected to find. There were no nymphs around, having fled in the commotion by either turning into small cherry trees or dissolving into the river. Instead he saw one of the four men holding onto a woman by the shoulders, a near naked woman who held a shear white cloth to her chest to cover herself. It did her little good.
Yet what Alexius noticed right away was that the woman, with her fair skin and long blonde hair, was not a nymph. She was a mortal.
That was the piece of the puzzle he needed to know. These men hadn't been after the nymphs, they were after this woman. Instead of going after the daughters of gods and being awarded with divine retribution they were after a mortal woman. Such an act, while vile, was perfectly legal in the eyes of the gods. They would do nothing in the face of such debauchery.
'Guess they weren't as stupid as I initially thought.'
"Who might you be?" asked one of the men nearest Alexius. He smelled of vile whiskey and it was repugnant.
Alexius kept his arms low. Though armed with cestus he waited to make a move. He didn't think this could be resolved peacefully, yet there was a bit of hope in that he could. He had just finished cleaning up and he didn't want to bath in blood so soon after. "A passerby who heard unpleasant noises..."
His eyes turned to the woman who was sitting on her knees. Her hair was curled and long, not to mention soaked, which was rather unnatural but she was no doubt a beautiful woman. He couldn't blame the men for wanting to steal her away based on her looks alone. Yet when he looked at her face, which was when Alexius felt a tinge of familiarity come from her. He had seen her before, and yet he couldn't quite put it down where.
The lead thug grabbed a hold of the woman's hair and pulled her up. She responded by grabbing at his hand with one of her own, while the other struggled to keep herself covered. Her dignity didn't take a backseat to the pain she was feeling in her scalp. "Unhand me, you brute!"
The man ignored her pleas, turning his attention to Alexius. "You know her?"
As if right on que, seeing the anger in the woman's eyes, the intensity of her anger finally caused him to remember who she was. And he chuckled. "Yes I know her, and you might want to let her go if you value your lives."
His obvious threat, meant to cause them to think twice about what they were doing, proved futile. The men all laughed.
"Why in the name of Hades would I want to do that? This woman will fetch a great price at the slavery market."
Alexius put a hand on his hip. He was willing to give them another chance to do as he suggested but then he wouldn't do anything more than that. "Because the woman you're dealing with is no ordinary woman. She just happens to be a-"
Right at the moment the water in the stream shot up and knocked down one of the men after hitting him square in the face.
This momentarily distracted everyone.
So much so that the woman drove the point of her elbow into the groin of the man holding her. He shrieked in pain and let the woman go. That wasn't all she did, however, as she drove her fist upward and nailed the man in an uppercut that made him fly at least a foot off the ground. Then she moved away, to move behind Alexius. not out of the need for him to protect her but a place where she could readjust her cloth.
Alexius allowed her to. He knew she didn't need his protection. "So, we'll talk after this?"
"Yes," was all he got from her before she came back around him, the cloth she wore covered her chest to the best the shear fabric could do, stretched to its limit it failed to hide the curves of her voluptuous chest as well as her hips. The water meanwhile was still fighting off the goons. Using the form of a tidal wave it washed the men around while they tried to fight it off with their fists and swords.
Alexius had a clue as to what was the cause. 'Must be Undine's doing. That water spirit truly hates men with oversized libido...' Undine was a deity that lived in water and while not a goddess she had a nasty temper that caused even Poseidon to tremble at.
Now though, the water deity had left an opening that Alexius could exploit. Fighting was not on the top of his list right now. He wanted to get away. "Follow me."
The woman didn't object and followed the man deeper into the forest to lose the slavers.
After running for all they were worth, the two came to a stop at a waterfall, one that Alexius knew by frequent visits.
"There's a cave behind the waterfall. We'll hide there for a while."
There was a small room behind the water that was big enough to hold them both as well as remnants of a fire had been left behind. Probably by raiders, maybe even the slavers they had just met had been here. If that was the case then hiding here might not have been the best choice, yet it was a risk Alexius felt it was alright to take. The water wall was a foot thick and soaked both of them when they passed through it.
After going past the wall of water and getting a quick breather, Alexius turned to the woman. "Now, I know-"
His sentence was caught off as he saw the woman raise her arm to his face and he grabbed it with his left hand before she could reach his skin.
She stared up at him, her brilliant green eyes narrowed at his action. She remained silent.
"Iliana, why strike me after I helped you?"
Her answer was typical of an Amazon. Attack first and explain later, especially when dealing with men.
"To attack your rescuer after he helped you? You Amazons confuse the hell out of me sometimes."
While her right hand was caught, her left was free to touch Alexius' chest. She pushed him back against the wall of the cave, the pressure would have made it hard for him to breath. Were he a normal human that is.
"You men are all the same. Women are damsels to be rescued and you wish to have an explanation as to why an amazon reacts to such an act with disdain. Deplorable."
"Says the woman warrior who got caught off guard by slavers." Alexius wasn't putting up with her attitude.
"What were you doing out here to begin with? I thought you lived in the city?"
"I wanted fresh air and time to clear my head. I have the right to go where ever I please."
"And I wanted a bath to myself after my fight in the arena today."
Finally glad that she brought that up Alexius found a way out of the terrible conversation they were in. "Glad to see you were able to walk after what happened."
She shook her hand away from his grip, "It takes more than an earthquake and rocks to take an amazon down, especially one of my caliber. Push me further and I can take down a god."
He had to admit her confidence in her own abilities was admirable. He had seen for himself that she was more adept at sword fighting and magic than any other woman he had met in his short life. Were she not an amazon she might have had a life of luxury with a noble. But Amazons were born to fight, and the fact that a woman as pretty as Iliana was on the verge of physical confrontation with the man who just saved her was proof of that life.
A little gratitude was all he asked for.
"Alright then..." He tried to move but she forced him back against the wall, pinning him to it. "What?"
"Since you saved my life, Amazon honor says I am bound to one favor for you. Regardless of what it is. As much as I don't like you, I am honor bound to uphold it."
As appealing as that sounded, Alexius moved her hand. "...let's put a rain check on it for now."
"Basically as a favor. When I need to use it, I'll let you know."
Almost giving a sigh of relief Iliana relaxed. "Very well, but you will call it in. If you don't I will never let it down."
Sighing lightly Alexius moved out of her way. "I will. you can count on it."
She promptly grabbed onto his arm in a tight grip. Though her fingers were slim and had that feminine look she held onto him with a vice. "Just don't let your libido take it for granted. Otherwise I will eviscerate you."
Typical amazon, he thought. "Don't worry, that's the last thing I would ask of you."