Heroine - Part 1 of 5
CN Winters and Amy
Xena Fanfiction, Xena fanfic, Xena fan fiction, Xena and
Gabrielle fanfiction, Xena fiction
No, this isn't about
someone overcoming a drug habit. <G> Although I wish I
could say Xena and Gabby are ours, they are not. They belong
to MCA/Universal last we heard. This story however is ours and
ours alone. There's a lot of violence but not too graphic. Alt
sex, you bet! If you are too young, read no further. If you
live some place where this may not be kosher, read no further.
However, if you are open-minded, old enough and live in a
progressive neighborhood . . .enjoy! Nothing poetic is our’s,
belongs to unknown author.
Note: Thanks to
Kamouraskan, Jlynn, Mary and the Bardic Circle for the beta.
creates a conqueror world where Gabrielle is the ruthless
dictator, Najara is her consort and Ephiny as her second in
command. It's up to Xena to find a way to break the spell and
get her Gabby 'home'.
Email the author's at
CNWinters@hotmail.com or MurphyCG881@aol.com
- Part 1 of 5
I rolled on my side
to bring my bard into my arms, but I came up empty. Since I'm
the one who usually rises first, I wondered out loud where she
Tossing my bedroll
aside, I wandered to the water's edge, still not seeing her.
I called again, the irritation rising to my voice.
Tartarus is she? I wondered. A flash of blue light burst
behind me, reflecting off the water. It had Ares stench all
over it and I doubled back to where I saw it. But when I
arrived, I came up empty for the second time that day.
shouted. "I know you’re out here somewhere. Show
He appeared with
that smirk of his that always brought bile to my throat. I
knew he was up to something.
rang?" he asked, his arms folded across his chest.
Gabrielle?" I asked, taking three strides to come nose to
nose with him.
are you talking about?" he answered with a cocky tone.
"You know damn
well what I’m talking about. What are you up to this
Ares paused a
moment, as if wondering if he should confess. It didn’t
matter to me at this point; I could see behind his dark eyes.
He was never good at keeping his mouth shut when he came up
with another scam - his ego and his pride were always his
downfall in such matters. I knew it was just a matter of time
before he’d spill it.
always so quick to blame me, Xena." He grinned.
always so quick to cause me grief," I pointed out.
"So what’s the newest plan? Gonna make me play a game
of hide and seek the bard? Or perhaps you decided to test out
Gabrielle’s warrior skills again?" I prodded. He
wasn’t going to get off the hook that easy.
I always loved about you Xena. So keenly observant and
question, Ares!" I snapped. I was growing tired of this
okay," he relented. He realized he'd pushed me far
enough. "She’s not here. Let’s just say I gave her a
‘new life’. Or, more to the point, ‘your life’."
"What are you
saying, Ares?" I asked. I imagined where he was going
with this and I feared the response, but I had to know.
heck of a little fighter, that bard of yours. As I’ve said
before, perhaps I was wasting my energy on the wrong
Cryptic. He was
talking cryptically. Now I realized why Gabrielle hates it so
much when I do it.
"What does that mean, Ares? What have
you done with Gabrielle?!"
"My, my, did
you get up on the wrong side of the bedroll today?" I
reared back to hit him, but he held up his hands, relenting.
"Okay, look. She’s okay. She’s safe. She’s in
another reality, however. I could send you there, but you have
to realize something... she’s not the bard you
leave the family farm to follow the Warrior Princess. In fact,
she’s never heard of the Warrior Princess. In her new world,
no one has. She left home after a warlady torched her village
- murdered her family, raped and killed her sister. She’s
not the same woman, Xena."
bastard!!" I spat.
the same woman Xena…She’s better. She’s stronger - more
lethal, more focused. Right now, she controls all of Greece and
she’s taking on the Romans - and winning. She’s about to
engage in her last major battle against Caesar. If she wins,
Rome will fall next. Just as Egypt did. Just as Gaul. Just as
Britannia and even the Norse country. She’s got the world,
Xena... She’s my warrior queen."
My right hook flew before Ares saw it coming, the force of it snapping his head
"You son of a bitch!"
I had to do
something. If there was a way Ares created this world there
also had to be a way to undo it I was sure. But I knew I
couldn’t do it from this reality.
"Send me to
her," I told him.
"Why? She doesn’t know you. She’d just as soon kill
you as to look at you if you walked into her life. Just what
do you think you’re going to do?"
it out when I get there. Just send me," I ordered him.
"After all, don’t you think it will make life more
interesting? Your Warrior Princess battling your Warrior
Ares chewed on the
inside of his cheek in thought. "It does hold some
fascination, I must admit. But realize if she kills you in
that world you die in both. Don’t say I didn’t warn
you," he teased.
my chances," I drawled. With a wave of Ares hand I felt
myself being transformed, sucked through to another dimension.
With a painful thud,
I landed on the ground near what looked
like Athens. This was not the normal hustle and bustle area I
was used to. Gabrielle loved to drag me here so she could shop
and see all the bards perform. I started on my way towards the
city and I could feel the darkness seeping from this place
chilling me to the bone. I remembered Iolaus telling me about
his time with me as the Conqueror and I shuddered.
Athens used to be a
place where a traveler could come and go freely, but now there
was a wall surrounding it with a huge guarded gate. I waited
in line behind a variety of folks, from fellow warriors all
the way to what looked like farmers.
looked at the hand that was on my shoulder then to the guard
whose hand was soon to be broken.
papers, warrior?" I raised one eyebrow and gave my chin a
No need to knock his lights out just yet.
"Are you deaf
or dumb, warrior?" he asked gruffly. I just grinned.
"The papers for the Conqueror's competition." He
answered when I didn’t reply. Interesting, I considered.
only allowed into the city by the invitation of Lady Conqueror." This might be a way to get close to
need papers." I smiled broadly. "Allow me to
demonstrate." Still grinning, I knocked the guard beside
him out and pressure pointed the other. "I've just cut the
flow of blood off to your brain; you have thirty seconds to
live." I glared at him. "What are the competitions
for?" I watched as the blood flowed from his nose.
competitions to find the best warriors for her royal
guard," he gasped out. "She is going against Rome
and demands nothing but the best." Two quick jabs and he
fell back, pulling in as much air as he could.
Conqueror to look no further." I unsheathed my sword and
did some drill moves to impress him with my speed. I twirled
my blade so quickly I was sure the guard was getting nauseous
just watching. "I am the best," I said with full
confidence and grinned when I noticed the guard had his mouth
hanging open in awe.
"Why don't you
tell her yourself, warrior?" A voice behind me asked. I
turned to see my bard, but what I saw made me freeze in place.
Gabrielle was in armor and leathers with a very impressive
looking, sword strapped to her back. What made my heart pound
loudly were the scars I could see on many places on her body,
her face was very statuesque with an icy stare to match. Did I
look like that not so long ago, I wondered? Next thing I knew
was the pain in my face before everything went dark.
I woke up with the
cold feeling of water splashing my face.
Xena." The voice was one that I was not in the mood to
hear. I raised my head up to see Ares smirking at me. My head
was pounding and I was chained to a wall.
Xena." He paced in front of me shaking his head.
"What do you think of my Conqueror?" He seemed very
proud of himself. "The look when you saw Gabrielle was
priceless." He let a long, menacing laugh out. "You
haven't seen anything yet." With that, he disappeared.
He was right; I had to give him that.
I'm certain I appeared shocked. When I turned and looked into
Gabrielle's eyes it made my heart stop. Dull, almost empty,
her eyes so harsh that it took me by surprise. Gabrielle, even
in the darkest of times, had a glimmer of some kind of hope.
I had to get it
into my head that this was the Conqueror. I wondered how much
of my life Ares had given her. The idea of Gabrielle going
through anything I had, made me sick and my head hung down in
"I see you're
awake." That made my head snap up. I didn't hear her come
in. Gabrielle walked towards me with cat-like grace, almost like
stalking her prey.
Time to get my
bard back. I considered formulating a starting place. I
looked over towards the Conqueror who resembled my bond-mate
yet in the same breath, looked nothing like the woman I knew.
"Yes Lady Conqueror, I..." I couldn't say my next word with her
fist in my face. She hit me so hard it snapped my head back
into the wall where it stung and I bet left an impression on
She gave me an icy stare and I cleared the cobwebs from my
brain. Then she grabbed my throat, her grip tight enough to
cut off my air. "I don't remember telling you to talk
yet, warrior." I just shook my head, ready to breathe as
soon as she let me. "Who are you? And please know if you
lie you'll be dead before suppertime." I shook my head
again and she released my throat.
It took me a moment
to get my breath back.
"My name is
Xena," I told her as I continue to gasp for air. She
raised an eyebrow at me. "I was born in the village
called Amphipolis," I added.
I watched her
scrunch her eyes in examination of me - trying to figure me
out, just like always. This time, however, I felt it's for a
much darker purpose than when the bard I knew did it.
here for revenge, I assume?" she began. When I simply
shake my head no, she continued of her own accord. "My
men sacked that village years ago." She grinned, as if
wanting to get a reaction out of me. I just stayed calm
looking at her, trying not to picture her attacking my
hometown - besides MY Gabrielle wouldn’t do that to
anyone’s hometown. I had to stay focused and calm if I was
ever to get MY Gabrielle back.
"My cook was a
tavern keeper there." The tavern keeper? She had enslaved
my own mother? Now that made me glare at her and she loved it.
I understood exactly what Gabrielle was feeling. The power of
having the upper hand over someone, the power to twist the
knife deeper and knowing there was nothing to stop you from
continuing the assault. "Who did you say your family
was?" she asked.
I needed to think
let me finish, my Lady." I was trying hard not to show my
anger that was slowly rising. "I was born in Amphipolis, but my parents were killed when I was a babe." I watched
as the Conqueror seemed to think on that. "My mother’s
sister took me in and moved me to the land of Chin." She
looked me in the eyes again after that was said. I wonder if
Ares gave her my memories of Lao Ma?
"Is that where
you learned the pressure point technique?" She started to
pace back and forth.
"Yes, my Lady." I was losing feeling in my shoulders, this was a
much quicker answer then to try and explain M'lila.
"So what makes
you think you are the best warrior?" She raised her
eyebrow at me again.
"I don't think
so, I know so." I said meeting her eyes.
She let out a deep
chuckle at my brazen style, "Is that so... Xema, was
Lady," I corrected her as politely as possible.
"Allow me to prove it." I met her eye to eye as I
spoke. "It has been a dream of mine to serve you and I
have trained long and hard for that purpose, my Lady." I
bowed my head to her.
"I'm sure you
could serve me," she said while eyeing my whole body. I
knew there were lecherous thoughts that ran behind the sultry
look I was getting. "You'd better be right,
warrior," she added with a sigh.
she suddenly shouted, making me jump slightly. Two huge men
came racing in. "Escort this warrior to the competition
barracks." She eyed me once more. "We've got a new
contestant." Without saying more, she quickly walked away.
It felt good to be
freed from those damn chains.
"Move!" The guard gave
me a little push and I glared at him. He so kindly backed away
from me. We walked through a long stretch of hallway to a
door. The guard opened it and it led me to the arena where I
guessed all the warriors fought. I could see the throne where
the Conqueror would sit and plenty of benches around for all
the spectators. What I didn't expect to see was that guard I
put the pinch on crucified in the center of the arena. The
Conqueror must have considered him a weakness and got rid of
him. I know I would have.
The guards opened
the door and there were several entrances on both sides on the
hallway. When the door slammed behind me in my room, which was
nothing more than a bed with a pot, I finally allowed myself
to crumble on the floor. I was so happy to see my bond-mate,
but deeply troubled and saddened by the look on her face. She
was so cold. So harsh. So much like I was before she came into
my life. But I could breathe a small sigh of relief. At least
I was close enough now to where maybe, I could get in touch
with the real Gabrielle. I could find someway to turn her life
in a different direction, just as she had done with mine.
I pulled myself
together when I quickly realized I was no longer a prisoner. I
pushed the door to my chamber to have it open freely. Perhaps
I could do a little snooping here and there. Any insight I
could gain would be useful to destroying the new world Ares
had created. If it could be done then it could be undone too.
Finding the key would be difficult at best. I walked to the
end of the hallway to the sound of a commotion on the other
side of a large wooden door that sat there. I pushed inside to
see what looked like a large banquet. All noise and eating
ceased as soon as I stepped inside. And every eye in the grand
room turned to me.
A large, burly man
stood up from a table to address me, clearing his throat.
"You must be
the fresh meat," he chuckled. Soon his comrades all
joined in. I gave my best feral grin and strutted over.
Xena," I said offering my hand. "And you?"
Thrace," he said, replied. "Pretty warriors like you
shouldn’t compete, you know?"
As he said the
words my grip tightened and I could feel his fingers on the
verge of snapping at the pressure. He hid his wince from his
cronies - surely he could let a ‘mere pretty lady’ make
him tear up. His pride would keep him in check.
heard," I told him as I released my grip. "But
I’ll take that under advisement. Mind if I join you?"
means," he said with a grin and a nod of his hand. It was
obvious that he was the ‘leader’ of this group. If I
earned his respect, it could be a wonderful means to my end.
He and I locked eyes, nether of us refusing to yield to the
I can take him,
I thought. And I think he knows it. As soon as the
thought entered my mind he relented and pretended to be
distracted by the plate in front of him.
"So where you
from, Xena?" he asked, digging into his potatoes.
I told him. Once more the forks stopped rising to mouths and
chatter came to a halt.
Tibereus shakes his
head. "And you’re competing in the tournament to serve
the Conqueror, after what she did there five years ago?
Damn," he chuckled. "You must be one cold, ruthless
Inside I wondered
just what had Gabrielle done and my first reaction was fear.
She had mentioned the attack in my cell, but she didn’t
provide much detail. But I knew I couldn’t let my surprise
show. I had to play along.
strength," I told him. "The Conqueror has that. And
let’s just say I want to be a part of it. After all, isn’t
that why you’re here too?"
He let out a
hearty chuckle. "I do believe you are right, Xena. Here,
have a mead," he said sliding a cup down as a peace
offering. "A toast - to the warriors of Greece. May the
best and bravest win."
to that," I replied and without wasting anymore time I
drained the mug. "Think I’m gonna mingle, Tibereus,"
I said as I rose and started to case the room, sizing up the
competition. I saw two women warriors in the corner talking.
Although they were dressed in full leathers and armor there
was something very ‘amazonish’ about them. Perhaps it was
the way they held their shoulders - upright and broad - as
they conversed. Otherwise the room appeared to be filled with
men. My eyes scanned the room until a sight in the corner
stopped me in my tracks. Seemed there was another woman in the
room and I had to wipe my eyes to make sure I was seeing
With light steps I
approached the woman who sat sharpening her sword with short
careful strokes. She looked up at me as I neared, but she put
on the air that she was not impressed by my presence and
returned to sharpening her sword with a sigh.
"Not a lot of
female warriors in this thing," I started off
replied. "And none of them enjoy chit-chat," she
I wasn't sure how
to continue this conversation, but I knew I had to. I had to
find out what Ares did with her fate. I decided to try the old
faithful approach and I stuck out my hand.
She paused a moment
to examine it before deciding to grasp it with a firm shake.
"Callisto," she answered.
I had an uneasy
feeling about this, one of many I had to admit. "So
you’re here to serve the Conqueror?" What else was I
going to say?
sweetie." She gave me that wicked smirk of hers. "I
think I'm here for the same reasons you are. I’m from a town
called Cirra before it was burned by the dear Conqueror."
Her face twitched and in my mind I whispered, it was me.
"Overheard you were from Amphipolis. My my, how do you
sleep at night?" We were face to face. "I mean the
massacre of Amphipolis is legendary." I knew she was
enjoying this. "Oh well, gotta run, it was so nice to
meet you, Xena." No hand shaking this time, she just
turned and walked away. Bet a dinar she had a huge grin on her
My mind was
reeling. It was like watching parts of my life being acted out
right in front of me with an added twist to make me suffer
more. One word kept going over and over in my head: massacre.
I had to know what happened and I knew the place to look.
I made my way back
through the banquet towards the kitchen area. I hesitated
before going in, not knowing what to expect. I entered, almost
plowing into a slave bringing out more mead for the wild bunch
at the banquet. There was a figure by the fire stirring the
huge pot of stew I would know anywhere; my mother. She looked
thinner, almost frail. I couldn't stop my lip from quivering
and I could not move. I just stood there staring at her.
I watched as she
handed platters of food to the servant slaves and did a lot of
one arm waving, but did not say one word. They just seemed to
know what to do by her simple hand movements. Gathering
courage I walked over to her, excusing myself so I didn't
She turned quickly towards me and just looked. "I don't
mean to interrupt you." She just shrugged her shoulders
and looked at me like, what? Still no words.
"I have no
idea how to start." I shook my head and she raised an
eyebrow at me and turned to continue her work. "My
name’s Xena. I'm from Amphipolis." I jumped back as the
glass she had in her hand dropped and she turned to look at me
with a look I had not seen since Lyceus was killed. Still no
words, what was wrong with her?
talk." I spun around to see a small girl standing there
in fear. I looked back at my mother then bent down to the
child. "Why?" I didn't want to hear this. My heart
was beating so loud it was almost deafening.
was cut out years ago."
I clamped my mouth
shut and I could feel my darkness rising. I stood up quickly
just shaking hard.
should die for this!"
I couldn't believe
I said that. I gripped the counter next to me and tried to
control myself. I felt a smack to my arm and I looked at my
mother, her eyes blazing. She motioned for me to sit and I
I was so upset - I
felt I could jump out of my skin. She sat down with a writing
tablet and started to write. She handed me the tablet.
"What do you
want from me?" she wrote.
I looked her right
in the eyes and said with all my heart. "I want nothing
from you, I just want to know what happened to my
homeland." She seemed to think about that then started to
write. She wrote as fast as she could and handed me the tablet
again. It said:
ago the Conqueror’s army attacked us. They came upon us like
Hades himself, they left nothing alive. What women that were
left were raped and beaten, I was one of them. I guess I
protested one too many times and one of the men cut my tongue
out. Everything went dark then. I woke up with a healer and I
could vaguely see a woman standing behind him. He told me a
part of the Conqueror’s army went out on raids without her
knowledge. She got wind of what happened after Cirra and went
out to deal with these men. In fact, the few women who survived
are all still here serving her."
I stared at the
page for the longest time. As much as I tried to control it,
my tears flowed down my cheek and I felt a warm hand wiping
them away. I looked up to see my mother's eyes and put my arms
around her and wept. I couldn’t begin to imagine the pain
she’d gone through and the fact that I could do nothing to
prevent it. I pulled back and recovered and she went to write
"Who was your
I explained to her
the same thing I told the Conqueror. What could I say?
You’re my mother? She’d think I was a mad woman and have
me locked up. She gave a nod without questioning my story and
motioned back to the cooking pot. I knew she had to get back
to work, but she promised we could ‘talk’ again and gave a
gentle smile I knew so well, holding tight to the parchment
she wrote on.
I barely made it
back to my room before throwing up. I sat on my bed absorbing
all I was told today. What my mother went through, what
happened to my homeland. What upset me the most was how fast I
turned to my dark side and was ready to kill Gabrielle. Words
I promised myself I would never say again.
Maybe this is a
plot by Ares? To make me kill Gabrielle, or she me? Or maybe
he is true to his word this time. He didn't give Gabrielle all
of my life, just bits and pieces and altered them so she
wouldn't wind up like I did. She saved my mother. Is part of
Gabrielle still alive in there? One thing Ares didn't count on
is that his Queen would have compassion. Another thing he may
not have considered was Callisto. Ares did become a bit short
sighted in all his plans. Perhaps as usual there were facets
If Callisto was
going to kill Gabrielle, I had to warn her. I had to put her
on guard. I put my bracers on and walked from my chamber to
find the Conqueror. I didn’t have to look for very long. The
long corridor, which was heavily guarded, was my first clue. A
pair of crossed spears met me as I approached.
"I need to see
the Conqueror," I told them. "Take me to her."
"No one sees
the Conqueror. She’s very busy and will see only those that
SHE requests an audience from."
My desire to bloody
a few noses was strong, but I kept myself in check. This was
Gabrielle’s world and I had to play by Gabrielle’s
rules… for now.
would you tell the conqueror that Xena has important
information that her life may be in danger? I’ll wait
quietly here for your return."
Wouldn’t hurt to
ask, I supposed? It was new for me, but it always seemed to
work for Gabrielle. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the
guard motion to someone near the door of the Conqueror's
chamber. He whispered something and I watched the guard leave.
A few moments
passed and the guard reemerged. "You may enter." He
nodded. The spears opened and I walked down the long stretch
of stone before coming to the door. "You have five
The door opened and
my first sight was Gabrielle. She sat at a huge desk writing a
scroll and looking back and forth between two others.
Something told me that this wasn’t a recreation activity as
it was in our travels. She was ‘working’. As I approached,
it surprised me how much older she appeared in this life. Her
youthful glow was gone - replaced by the onset of crow’s
feet and worry lines.
The room was filled
with different items I recognized from areas of the world
where she and I once traveled. However, I know she collected
these on her trips alone. Greek marble lined the floor. Chin
silk drapes hung from the walls. Some weapons from Britannia
adorned the wall as decorations. I took it all in as I
approached until her voice interrupted my examination.
"They say you
have news about an assassination attempt," she said
without looking up. "I’m shocked that someone would
want me dead," she chuckled sarcastically. She put down
the quill and turned to face me. "So who is it this time?
The Romans? The Persians? Perhaps someone from Greece looking
to make a name for themselves by offing the warrior
believe how blasé she was about it. Just a day in the life
for her. For the first time, the reality of Gabrielle’s life
hit me. She had the most difficult of starts, like I did. But
worse than me, she achieved her goal for power and success. But
in truth it wasn’t success at all. She didn’t look happy
or fulfilled. In fact, she had to spend her life looking over
her shoulder, always being on guard. She probably couldn’t
associate with the people of kingdom she now controlled. She
probably couldn’t even go out for the simple pleasure of
haggling in the marketplace. She was a captive to her fame.
Ares had his warrior queen all right, but at what price to
"A woman -
she’s competing in the morning," I answered.
Gabrielle got up and strolled around me, taking in all my
features - my appearance, my demeanor, everything. "How
do I know that YOU’RE not the woman I should be scared of,
huh?" I heard her pull a dagger from her boot behind me.
"How do I know that this isn’t just a roust and
you’re working with her to ‘throw me off’?"
don’t." I told her. "You just have to trust
Her hearty laugh
actually made me jump.
"Trust is one
of the few luxuries I can’t afford," she told me.
"But I must confess there is something about you.
You’re not the average warrior that’s for sure, and
you’re certainly not bad on the eyes."
Was she flirting
with me? My gods she is... perhaps I have some hope here
after all. If I can’t appeal to Gabrielle’s good
senses perhaps I could appeal to her libido. I grinned
wickedly at her.
"I could say
the same, but I wouldn’t want to offend you," I said,
making sure to tread lightly here, but tread just the same. I
had to keep moving to find out what made Gabrielle tick.
Callisto saw Gabrielle as a demon. My mother saw her as a
savior. What was the real story? Perhaps much like myself the
truth would lie somewhere in between.
reply to my comments, she just gracefully takes her seat
again. "Who is this woman you speak of?"
"Her name is
Callisto. Her goal is to win and earn your confidence in order
to get close to you... She’s from Cirra."
For the first time
since meeting Gabrielle I saw her become uncomfortable. She
shifted slightly in her seat, but quickly pushed any emotion
she said. "That’s if she survives the competition of
the first round tomorrow."
"I have no
doubt she’ll survive," I told the conqueror. She may
not have known just what Callisto was capable of at this
point. But I certainly did.
I would have
continued, but another woman entered the room from a side
entrance. She saw me speaking with Gabrielle and automatically
turned to my bard.
"I’m sorry. I
didn’t think you were still in meetings," she said.
I watched as
Gabrielle gave her a lecherous grin and waved her over.
Quickly, the woman shuffled over and even more quickly
Gabrielle snagged her by the waist and pulled her into her
okay, Najara. I was just finishing up."
As I watched as my
bard nuzzled into her neck, nipping her earlobe, I felt my
blood boil, my stomach tied in knots and my sword hand shook
at the prospect of gutting her. I
knew I had to get out of there quickly before I did something
"Well, I just
wanted you to be advised," I said briskly as I turned
around. I tried to hide my disgust at their display and to
make my way out quietly.
dismiss you," I heard Gabrielle call out in an
Damn it! I halted
my movements and turned around again to watch the two of them
"I meant no disrespect. I just wanted to give
you some privacy, my Lady," I told her.
I watched Gabrielle
whisper something in Najara’s ear, sending her off with a
kiss and a playful swat to the backside. Najara said nothing
to me. Didn’t even look my way. It’s as if I meant
nothing. And in this world, I realized, I didn’t. I was just
another nameless warrior, not a rival for the bard’s
Gabrielle rose and
walked over to me.
"That’s good," she told me.
"Because if my relationship with Najara makes you
uncomfortable, I would honestly have to consider eliminating
you from the competition myself. Is that understood?"
I gave a nod,
unable to trust my voice.
She nodded in turn, escorting me to the door before opening
it. "I look forward to watching you compete
"Yes, my Lady," I replied.
words I walked out and I heard the door close. I didn’t even
notice the guards that lined the walls as I made my way back
to my room. All I could think about is the fact that Gabrielle
was alone, in her room, with that woman. I didn’t have long
to dwell on it because I felt the hairs on my neck stand on
edge and I heard a devilish chuckle I knew all to well.
"Told you she
wasn’t YOUR bard anymore, Xena."
Without taking a
moment to look behind me, I spun around and punched Ares
square in the face.
"Gee Xena, did
I touch on a sore subject there?" Ares stopped rubbing
his nose to smile.
are one sick son of a bitch."
That just made his
smile go wider. "Now that wasn't nice Xena." He was
enjoying this way too much. "After all, you're the one
who wanted to come." He sat back in a chair looking
pleased with himself.
her?" I just felt sick at the thought of Gabrielle
touching that nut. "Of all the people, why that
psycho?" As hard as I tried, I couldn't hide my pain.
her?" he said sarcastically, while scratching his beard.
"Let's see, she's smart, a very good warrior, crazy, but
in a brilliant way...." He started walking around me with
his hands behind his back.
"At first I
thought about making Callisto her bedmate, but let's face it,
she's not the sharpest sword on the rack." He chuckled as
I sneered. "How many times was she stopped by a
rockslide? Pitiful." Then he stopped and snapped his
fingers. "Then it came to me - Najara. And one of the few
warriors who can claim they kicked your ass." I had my
hand clenched so tight I could feel my nails cutting into my
"She came very
close to ending your life, if it wasn't for that fast talking
bard of yours...." He went back to the chair and threw
his leg over one arm. "I would say she is the only one
who really can throw you completely off." He sat there
grinning. "Relax and enjoy the ride Xena, the surprises
are far from over." He disappeared, laughing wickedly.
My mind was going
on overload. I tried to relax and do some breathing exercises
I learned in Chin, but nothing helped. Ares did think of
Callisto, but did he want her to show up this way? That was
one worry. Najara was another. Having those two running around
made my skin crawl. Thinking of my wife making love to that
Get it together,
Xena, I told myself. You can't fall apart now. You'll
make it through like every other time. Ares was very right
about Najara. She's one person who can make me very uneasy.
She is also one person who out right challenged me for my
bard's affection and almost won. I needed to work out some
of my aggressions, so I grabbed my sword and headed towards
the door, swinging it open to find my mother standing there.
is a pleasant surprise." I said as my mother smiled and
handed me a plate of food. What I really needed to do right
then was go somewhere and scream, but my mother came first. I
had to be cordial.
I motioned for her
to come in while I set the plate on the table. She sat in the
chair and I was across from her on the bed. She started to
write then handed me the tablet.
"Is this a bad
time?" she asked. I should have said, "This is a
bad nightmare, mom, make it better, like when
I was small." I just shook my head and handed her back the
She wrote, "I
was told you didn't eat at the banquet so I brought you
something to eat." I gave her a grin and thanked her.
She then wrote,
"We really didn't get a chance to finish our talk, I have
some time now."
I didn't know if I
could bear to hear it. I just hung my head for a minute. I had
so many things to ask her. Like what happened to my brothers,
my father? Since I wasn't born she didn't have to kill him, so
why didn't he protect them from the raid?
"May I call
you Cyrene?" She didn't tell me her name, but didn't seem
shocked when I spoke it. She just shrugged her shoulders as if
to say, if you want.
you have a family?" I saw the pain in her eyes, but I had
to know what happened. She closed her eyes tight, before
opening them and starting to write.
"I had two
sons. They were both killed." I had to give Ares credit.
"That is possibly one of the most painful things I have ever
had to go through."
sorry." I stopped to clear my throat. "What of your
husband, he couldn't protect you?" I saw my mother's eyes
also," she wrote quickly. She was looking around the room
trying to find the right words. With an exasperated look, as
if she gave up she wrote, "I killed him." She handed
me the tablet not looking at me. I couldn't believe it, why? I
wasn't around now, why would she do that?
barely got out. She took the tablet from my hands.
"He killed our
child." She looked right at me when she handed the tablet
back. Which child? I thought. Surely he would kill one of his
sons. I couldn't speak and my mother took the tablet back and
"I had a
daughter and before I knew what happened, he killed her in the
name of Ares, The God of War." She gave a strangled gasp
and fought back the tears. I just let mine fall, crying for my
mother's pain. She struggled to write more. "I named her
Xena, she was eight summers old." I had to read this a
few times to really let it sink in. That's how Ares got rid of
me. I told her how sorry I was again and she wrote on.
first came to me today, I thought you were playing a cruel
joke." I shook my head really hard and told her, no. She
placed her finger to my lips to quiet me and smiled. "I
can feel something about you child, my thought now is maybe
this is a gift."
I lost it then and
there after reading it and grabbed on to her and held her
tight. As much as I wanted to hold onto her forever, I needed
to fix this all so we could get back to normal. When I get my
bard back the first thing we will do is go home so I can hug
my real mother.
"Tell me about
the Conqueror." She was uneasy with that request.
"It's just not normal to hear of her compassion, from
what I heard, she has no soul." That earned me one
irritated look and she wrote quickly with anger.
a soul, you just have to open your eyes and look."
was a scorned child and that was perfectly all right with me.
She was writing once more. I couldn’t help but wonder why my
mother would feel so strongly for a woman who turned her into
"If it wasn't
for the Conqueror," she continued, "I wouldn't be here."
I felt my temper
flare a bit.
"You got that
right." I blared back. "If there was no Conqueror
your homeland and family would still be here." We glared
at one another. No matter how much my mother tried to sugar
coat it, the Conqueror was nothing but a murderer. That
stopped me in my tracks. Who in Tartarus was I to judge, after
all, this is the life I was supposed to have? That made me
sicker to my stomach. I felt her tap my arm and read her next
about her, child." The look in my mother's eyes showed
that she cared deeply for her. I continued to read. "Lady
Conqueror gave me my life back." I just gave her an odd
look. "I have free will here and I use my will to serve
her." All I keep thinking is, why? I know she
sensed my confusion and wrote more, then handed it over.
"Her men were
going to overthrow her back then." Mine did the same
thing. I was changing and they didn't like it one bit. I read
on. "They thought if they went on raids in her name it
would make them more feared and the Conqueror more hated, but
an old farmer’s wife who’s here now told me her tale.
Would you like to read it?"
Quickly, I nodded my
head. The anticipation smothered me as I waited for her to
stop and return the tablet to me.
"When she was
a child she was full of wonder like all children are. Loved
the stars, full of adventures and mischief, dreaming of
becoming a bard one day. That was until Cortese came into her
life, destroyed her village of Poteidaia. She was a mouthy
little cuss and the Warlord didn't appreciate it. He beat that
child until he thought she was dead. She had to sit and watch
as the men beat and raped her little sister Lila. At night
sometimes, I can hear her scream for her sister, just this
helpless cry of pain. Her uncle found them, from that day on
the beast within her was unleashed. Her whole family was
murdered and the child could do nothing more then watch. She
was sixteen summers old. When she was healed enough, the
Warrior Princess was born and nothing, not even Hades himself
would get in her way... One thing the Conqueror despises is
For the first time
since this all happened, some things were starting to make
sense. Like the reason she showed compassion to my mother and
the other women who were attacked. And why she seems so old
for a person so young. I know. I've been there. Scary how when
something terrible happens, a person can turn off all feelings
other then the ones they need to survive. Mother grabbed the
tablet from my hands, but I couldn't bring my head up to look
at her. I just wanted to hold my wife so badly it ached in my
chest. She finally pulled me out of my heavy thoughts with a
tap to my arm. She handed me the tablet again.
enough for now, you need to eat and sleep. You'll need plenty
of rest for tomorrow's competitions." I gave her a small
grin. We both heard a knock at my door followed by a small
I went to the door and let the child in. It was the same
little girl who had been in the kitchen earlier. Did she say, Grandma?
Did Toris or Lyceus have a child? She ran right past me
and into my mother's waiting arms. This time around I could
see her a little better. She was a cute little strawberry
blonde with the prettiest green eyes. I wasn't sure, but there
was something very familiar about her. I bent down a bit and
asked her what her name was.
She smiled just like Gabrielle. Oh Gods! How can that be?!
"You have a
grandchild?" I asked my mother.
My mother wrote a
note to the girl and she scampered off with a nod. Then she
turned to me and began to write… "Not by blood, but by
love," she said.
I was willing to
bet anything that child was Gabrielle’s, but I was sure my
mother wouldn’t confess. The child looked just like my bard
- all the way down to the crinkle in her nose when she smiled.
But how? Who? Still another mystery I'd have to unravel I was
sure. If Gabrielle was as good a leader and as astute,
realizing she was a target, of course she’d hide her child.
Who better to hide her with than a woman who felt in debt to
her and a sense of loyalty? And what better place to hide her
than with the ‘commoners’ of the castle?
My mother rose and
gave me a warm grin before leaving. So much had happened in
the last day. I’d learned so much of this new world. If I
wanted to learn more I knew I needed some rest in order to
survive the competition tomorrow. I laid down on my pallet and
closed my eyes. Somehow I'd figure a way out of Ares' new
world order and things would be as they should be.
The forum was huge.
It was as big as Rome’s Coliseum, if not bigger. The sun
beat down unmercifully. There were about fifty of us in total,
and only ten would become members of the new royal guard. Many
of the folks I saw around me had been warlords I’d known -
none of them ‘good people’ one might say. I was sure
‘eliminating’ the competition meant death. Knowing the
things most of these people were capable of helped relieve any
guilt I might have felt toward the task that lay ahead.
However, I had no
idea how the ‘festivities’ would go about being held. I
heard a great cheer go up through the crowd and I turned to
see Gabrielle walking to her balcony with Najara on her arm.
My stomach tightened instantly at the sight of them. From
behind the curtain a familiar face appeared that I hadn’t
seen for a long time, but knew quite well. I took a few paces
forward to get a closer look. The squared shoulders, the long
curly blonde hair - without a doubt it was Ephiny. How she
came to be in Gabrielle’s service was a new mystery, but I
didn’t have long to dwell on it.
Gabrielle’s Amazon Regent began, "You’ve come before
the Forum today to test your skills; to risk your lives to
serve our Conqueror." As Ephiny paused I watched Najara
pick up Gabrielle’s hand and plant a delicate kiss. Nausea
didn’t begin to describe my disgust. "You will all
battle until twenty of you are left standing. At that point,
you will be broken down into two groups of ten. You will
compete one on one based on the conqueror’s preference. The
ten that survive that match will battle the Conqueror herself.
If you survive five minutes in the ring with her... You
will be welcomed into Royal Guard. With that said, ready your
weapons. When you see the royal banners thrown down, you may
Ephiny stepped back
and took a seat on the opposite side of Gabrielle and the two
had a small conversation. Moments later, the banners unfurled
and I heard screams and war crys around me. It was total
madness. Swords, knives, maces moving all around with no real
accuracy to it all. I, however, had a goal. I had to get to
Callisto and take her out of the competition. I could not let
her win this round. I looked through the crowd quickly and saw
she was making good time through the leagues of battling
competitors - taking them down with ease. I began my journey, but every few feet someone got brave enough to take me on.
I don’t have
time for this, I thought as I shoved them away. I could
dispose of them, I was sure, but that would also take more
time. Let them find a new competitor to battle. I had my
target. Now I had to see to hitting it.
Callisto was busy
toying with Tibereus. His male overzealous pride was what got
him killed. Quickly, she grew tired of playing with what she
called the 'little piggy,' kicked him in his groin, and then
took his head off in one clean stroke. She stood admiring her
bloody blade then smirked at me. We stood glaring at one
another when she did that ear-piercing scream while charging
at me. I felt my blood pumping through me, part of me missed
this adrenaline rush of battle.
We were a blur of
clashing blades, when she backhanded me and I returned the
favor. I flipped and kicked her and she did a roundhouse to my
jaw. We crossed blades pulled into one another and grabbed our
"My, my, Xena.
If I didn't know better I would think you are trying to kill
me." She sneered at me. We were both trying to break each
"You got that
right!" I said giving her a head butt, kicking her in the
stomach, then to the face. She fell sideways and I knocked her
sword out of her hand. I was ready to finish my job when I
heard an angry "Halt!!"
stood, calling the match to an end and two guards stepped in
front of Callisto and I. "Round one is over, warriors.
Save it for the next." I watched as Gabrielle took a seat
and Ephiny addressed the crowd.
round will begin at noon tomorrow." The crowd applauded.
Then Ephiny addressed us. "Rest up warriors, this next
bout won't be as easy." The crowd clapped again while the
Conqueror took her leave.
started to leave the coliseum, but their faces were voids to
me except for Callisto's. She and I were still standing, just
eyeing each other. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder. Keeping
my eyes on Callisto, I covered that hand with mine and
squeezed, until I heard the bones cracking.
"I'm so tired
of people touching me." I said, turning to look down at
the guard who was red faced with gritted teeth. I released the
much thinner hand and pushed it away. "You can speak to
me without touching me." I took a few deep breaths and
tried to calm myself.
said to save it for the next round," he said through
clenched teeth. I heard Callisto laugh and walk away. My keen
sense of hearing picked up, ‘until the next round,
Xena’. She had that right. I glared one more time at the
guard and followed him back to the barracks, into the banquet
All of the warriors
were there, taking care of their weapons for the next battle.
I wondered just how or what the Conqueror was planning with
second phase. Who against who? I found a chair and sat with my
back against the wall. I took my sword out and began to clean
my blade, keeping focus on my goal.
I had to take
Callisto out before she hurt Gabrielle.
looked up to see Gabrielle in a smaller form. "Would you
like some water?" Hope asked with the smile I loved so
much. I smiled back.
you." I said, taking the ladle from her. She said
"welcome" with her mother’s bounce and went to the
next warrior with the water. I felt my heart aching. Could
this have been Hope in my world, if only I given her a chance?
No time for this now, I told myself, stay focused. I closed my
eyes and took a deep breath, trying to find my center,
blocking all that was around me except the sound of my
heartbeat. Even in this state I could sense any type of danger
and go into action if need be. Before I knew it, the guard
came in announcing the second round was beginning.
We were led back
out to the coliseum and the bright sun. We stood to hear what
instruction the Conqueror would give, and for some reason the
hairs on my neck were standing on end. The Conqueror whispered
something to Ephiny and then sat while the Amazon began to
when I call out your names you are to stand across from one
another." She let the words sink into us while she read
from the scroll.
Gagnon/ Sadus, Tegason/Virgilius, Draco/Cycnus, Kryhus/Darius,
Sphaerus/Tynus." The one line we had, turned into two, as
the warriors filed in one by one. "Gothos/Xena, Mesmer/Memos,
Callisto. Well at least some good would come out of this fight
one way or another. Dagnine was a good fighter - perhaps not
as good as Callisto, but he was never one to ‘fight fair’.
He would do everything and anything to win and if he could
take Callisto out of the picture all the better for me. And if
Callisto did become the victor then I’m sure it would be
just desserts for the likes of Dagnine, backstabbing fool that
I looked over and
saw my opponent Gothos trying to stare menacingly towards me.
I rolled my eyes at him. He'd have been a good opponent I’m
sure, but he couldn't match my skill - especially when it came
to defending Gabrielle. I had to succeed in order to get her
back in my world. And I knew some two dinar punk warlord
wasn’t going to stand in my way. I would take him out of the
competition and move on to the final round, no doubt about it.
"You have your
matches for tomorrow. Be ready come noon," Ephiny told us
before she briskly walked off. I didn’t give much
consideration to Gothos as I moved away. I even turned my back
to him when he tried to impress me with his sword drills. I
knew he was offended and to be honest, I didn’t care. Come
tomorrow he’d be just another dead warlord in my eyes.
However, I knew until that time I had many hours to fill. So I
went ‘home’ to the kitchen again.
I saw a young girl
playing. Hope. Out of all the names that Gabrielle could have
chosen she still went back to that one - her hope. I saw my
mother preparing the Conqueror’s afternoon meal as Hope lent
help?" I asked.
My mother smiled
warmly and handed Hope some potatoes with a nod in my
direction. "Here ya go," the young girl said,
setting them down in front of me to peel. I watched her
practically skip back to my mother as she departed. She must
have been 10 summers old I’d guess. Not quite a small girl, but not a young lady yet either. Given her age I can only
assume she was the result of Cortese’s attack. The time
frame would be right. I considered for a moment the option of
asking my mother the girl’s identity. Would she tell me? She
might have felt a connection with me, but that didn’t mean
that she’d divulge that big a secret either.
What the Tartarus?
I figured. When the girl went out to fetch more water I walked
over to my mother.
girl," I began, "She’s the Conqueror’s
daughter." It wasn’t a question and I waited for my
mother’s reaction. She was never very good at hiding her
heart when it came to children - be it hers or others. A look
of panic seemed to wash over her, but she pushed it away and
gave a smile instead, shaking her head no. I could tell she
okay," I told her. "I’m not going to hurt her or
her mother. I’m here to help actually." I confessed.
"I have reason to believe the Conqueror’s life may be
in danger and if there’s anything out there that might
‘get to her’ I’d like to know."
My mother didn’t
stop from her task until I touched her shoulder.
"Please, I have
to know - for both of their sakes. Is Hope Gabrielle’s
My mother looked
undecided as she glanced back to the girl who was outside at
the well. Sadly, my mother nodded.
I didn’t have to
give any more information. My mother knew I was asking about
Again, another sad
know who her true mother is?" I asked, hoping my mother
Firmly, she shook
worry. I won’t say anything to her. Actually, that’s for
the better. I think it best if the girl doesn’t know. She
would be a weakness to Gabri-the Conqueror."
When I use the
bard’s first name my mother gave me a peculiar look and
rushed over to the pad of paper and started to scribble.
"Few know her
Majesty’s first name," she wrote.
I grinned back at
my mother. "As I said, I’m a friend. I’m here to
help, honestly. She doesn’t even realize it yet, but I’ll
be her salvation. So please…trust me. Hope’s secret is
safe with me; I assure you."
A look of relief
washed over my mother’s face. And I felt the need to tell
her just what I know.
"In case I
don’t make it for some reason, you have to be warned of a
blonde warrior by the name of Callisto. She’s out to do the
Conqueror harm and if she finds out about Hope… I’m sure
she’ll kill the child so please make sure Callisto is far
from her - do you understand?"
My mother was
unsure I could tell, but she gave me a nod just the same. I
nodded back my approval and started to walk away when she
grabbed me by the arm, making me stop.
"I have to
tell you something," she wrote.
I nodded and wait
as she continued writing.
trust the Consort."
not?" I asked.
No shit, I
thought to myself. "What makes you say that?" I
"I see her
pray often. She prays to the Djinn. They helped in many
campaigns that she and the conqueror went on, but lately she
seems…" My mother seemed stuck on what word to use to
My mother shook her
head and picked up the quill again.
she wrote with a shrug of her shoulders. I can tell that word
didn’t quite describe what she was trying to tell me. But in
my eyes she'd told me enough. Najara could be another possible
threat and that’s all I needed to hear.
"Can you get
me close?" I asked her. "I know it’s a large
request. I’ve seen the Conqueror once, but I doubt I’ll be
able to get in again. I’d like to see if Najara could really
My mother gave me a
grin. "I think you have a kind soul," she wrote. I
felt my eyes tear up at the compliment.
"What can I
say? I was raised by a strong, compassionate woman," I
"She did a
good job," she wrote back.
My mother handed me
a serving tray and motioned for me to start putting food on
it. She pointed upward above us and I put it together. She was
going to get me inside as a servant. I’ll be able to go
anywhere in the Conqueror’s chambers. I grinned inwardly.
Ares might have thought of everything, but he never considered
the wild card in this equation - my mother.
As Hope returned, I
watched my mother write another note that saying I'd be
helping them take the afternoon meal to the Conqueror today.
Hope seemed happy at the news. And within a few moments I was
loading the items on a cart to take to the Conqueror.
When we reached the
grand room, Gabrielle was inside speaking to some of her
"But Rome is
willing to sign the agreement," he urged her.
she told him forcefully. "Either they surrender or they
fight to the last man. This ‘treaty’ isn’t worth the
parchment it’s written on. What’s to say that Rome can’t
extend their borders as they see fit? Caesar could take his
troops all the way to the edge of Greece with us being none
the wiser. So no, if he wants to surrender it will be
unconditional. We will put the Greeks in place at the specific
points we’ve mentioned. If not, let him know he’s in for a
long battle and if need be I’ll be on the front line to find
him and I’ll crucify that bastard myself!"
She turned and saw
that lunch was being served.
gentlemen, but you have my answer. Have the new treaty drawn
up. I’ll sign it this afternoon and you can have Caesar’s
advisors take it back to him tonight. Understood?"
They all nodded,
knowing that she was done speaking to them. As they left, she
turned to us, particularly Hope. Her harsh demeanor of moments
before washed away in an instant.
the prettiest gal in Athens today?" she asked the girl. I
was amazed at how fast Gabrielle could change one moment to
the next and from one extreme to the other.
The young girl’s
face seemed to light up at the compliment from Gabrielle.
"Great! Xena’s giving us a hand today," she told
"I see this. A
warrior and a cook - looks like she has many skills,"
Gabrielle responded, looking over to me. She was smiling, but
I could see it was for show. Gabrielle didn’t trust me and
she was suspicious of my presence. She looked at the food and
then to me.
my bond-mate called out. My mother looked up. "I assume
you made this yourself?" she said motioning to the food.
My mother nodded. Gabrielle picked up her spoon and scooped up
some potatoes. She sniffed it. "Smells wonderful,"
she complimented my mother who responded with a smile and a
nod. But she lost her grin in an instant when she faced me.
Quickly, she pushed the spoon in my face and ordered,
I tried not to
smile. My bard was good. Very good. She thought I might have
tried to poison her and she was going to see if I took the
bait. I captured her wrist and I used my tongue and my lips to
lick the contents from the spoon. I could feel her pulse
quicken under my fingertips at the gesture.
wonderful, your majesty," I assured her with a warm grin
after I finished.
unsteady. Almost as if she was going to cry, if I didn’t
know better. But I did know better. This Gabrielle didn't cry.
She probably hadn’t cried in years. Not that she wouldn't
want to. I’m sure she probably did with all she’d seen and
done. But like trust, tears were another luxury she couldn’t
Hope was oblivious
to what was transpiring between us. "Do they really taste
good, Xena - because I made them myself?" she asked me.
Before I could answer Hope turned to Gabrielle. "I made
them just the way you like, my Lady. I put in the right amount
of red spice according to Grandma."
I could tell
Gabrielle didn’t trust herself to answer at that moment. She
was about to break on the inside. Instead of replying to the
girl she dipped the spoon in and tasted for herself.
"They’re perfect." She grinned to the girl.
Gabrielle placed the spoon on the plate and knelt down to come
eye to eye with Hope. "Why don’t you and your Grandma
head back to the kitchen now. You two should make sure you eat
too… before it gets cold, okay?"
Hope gave a nod and
Cyrene took the cue. Hope stopped at the door and faced
Gabrielle. "But my Lady, what about Xena? Should we send
her up some food too if she’s staying?"
Gabrielle looked at
me with a devilish grin. "Don’t worry honey," she
told Hope. "Me and Xena will ‘share’. Right,
Now I’m the
official food taster, I considered silently.
"Absolutely, my Lady," I replied confidently.
That answer seemed
to satisfy Hope and she and my mother left quietly. The room
grew still as Gabrielle watched me.
"Found a way
back in, did you?" Gabrielle began. "Should I
disregard this lunch altogether? I have to admit that you look
more like the kind of assassin that would do the job ‘hands
on’ rather than a poisoning."
"My Lady," I began with a sigh. I felt my frustration
creeping in and I tried to keep my temper in check.
"I’m not here to kill you. I’m here to help you.
Please believe me. I’m just a warrior who has nothing to
gain through your death. But I have everything to gain by
keeping you alive."
She sat down at the
table with the tray and handed me a piece of her fish. I
realized I'd have to eat all the portions of her meal. After I
took the piece and chewed, she did the same. She seemed to
relax for the first time since she looked up and saw me. I
wondered just what a life like that would feel like
twenty-four hours a day, Seven days a week. It had to be hell
to always be on your guard, trusting no one. To think I had
once dreamed of a life exactly like it.
"And just how
would keeping me alive be a gain to you?" she questioned.
"No, lie to
me." She smirked. "Seriously, what draws you
I cleared my throat
and I looked straight into her eyes, not backing down in the
slightest. "My heart… because I was made to love you. I
was made to serve you and I will do so in every life we share
together. Be it this one or countless others. I knew the first
day I saw you - you were my destiny."
At first, she looked
intrigued, but then she began to laugh.
"So you’ve come
in on a mighty steed to whisk the Queen away to happily ever
after land? Oh please. What’s your motive?"
"I have no
motive, but to love you," I told her. "From the
moment I saw you in full armor upon your mare…I felt
‘connected’ to you. And I know that you felt it too. I saw
it in your eyes when you looked at me that first day. I see it
now, in fact. It’s not just lust, which is there I assure
you… It goes much deeper," I added boldly. I prayed I
hadn’t overstepped my bounds because I’d be on that same
cross I saw the day of my arrival.
Instead of looking
angry she looked… scared? She darted from her seat and
started to pace at the window. "I have a bond-mate,"
she told me. There was a quiver in her voice and I realized I
had a chance. If I couldn’t figure out Ares’ plan, then
perhaps I could win ‘this’ Gabrielle’s affections, and I
could open her heart the way she opened mine...
matter," I told her, stepping closer. "You may have
a bond-mate. But I’m your soul-mate. I’m what’s been
missing your whole life, Gabrielle. The void you feel… it’s
me. I know this to be true. Look out there," I said
coming up behind her. "You have the world at your feet.
But it’s not enough, is it? Something still needs to be done,
doesn’t it? That something you’re missing is ME."
"I should have
you killed for speaking to me in this manner," she said
could," I agreed. "But then you’d spend the rest
of your life wondering if I spoke the truth today. You’ll
keep looking years from now for that special something that
makes you feel whole. And I think you’ll realize that maybe
I was right. Maybe I am what you so desperately seek .. But by
then it would be too late. I’d be dead and you’d still be
lonely although you ‘have it all’."
to shake her head. Her hands began to twist in a motion I know
so well. The one that said she was getting flustered and
trying to concentrate so she could pick the right words.
"This is crazy talk," she said, and moved away.
She was off-balance
and I knew I had to make my move. My time was limited. Without
further thought, I pulled her into an embrace, capturing her
arms. My lips found hers and she pulled back in resistance, but
I stayed with her, unwilling to let her go. A few moments
later, I felt her body relax and she allowed me to loosen my
grip. I let my hands slip to her waist and in that moment I
felt her lips returning my kiss with a hint of uncertainty.
Instead of letting her have the chance to pull away, I
deepened the kiss and ran my fingers through her short hair.
At all times I paid attention to my hands because I was sure
she was doing the same. She was too smart to get ‘caught up
in the moment’ and forget where my hands might be. She would
be ready for any attack to come if one of my hands ‘slipped
away’ so I kept them rooted where she could feel them.
The kiss wasn’t a
passionate surrender - far from it. Both of us were very aware
of what was going on. I knew my heart, but I understood that it
would raise many questions for Gabrielle. Questions that if
they scared her enough could cost me my life. She might have
killed me for fear that I was still a threat or that my love
might be her downfall. As we pulled away both of us were
breathing hard. Gently, I took my hands away and held them out
for her to see.
Highness," I told her. "I mean you no harm. As I
said, my only wish is to love you, if you’ll let me. I truly
believe you are my destiny."
She didn't reply.
For once my chatty bard was tongue-tied. I give her a nod of
respect and I took my leave. When I closed the door, I
lingered outside for a moment. I heard her let out a howl of
either anger or frustration and I heard the tray of food slam
against the door. I figured I should make my way back to my
room to await my fate. Either she would come to me intrigued
to learn more or she'd come for my head. Either way would
work. I'd have her in my life or I’d be dead. It was better
than living a life without her.
I realized as I was
walking, considering my fate, that I hadn’t paid attention
to what direction I was going and I was now lost. In a castle
that size it wasn’t too hard. Only a momentary setback, I
was sure. A patrol would be by anytime to lead my in the right
direction. As long as it wasn’t the chopping block, that
would be okay.
As I approached
down a long corridor I heard two voices talking. One of them I
was sure was Callisto, but the other one was so quiet at first
I couldn't tell. I crept up to the corner and looked around
carefully. It was Callisto all right and the person she was
talking to was Najara. I pulled back again so they couldn't
see me as I listened.
sure about this," Najara said.
voices lied to you before? Haven’t they always told you what
was right? Listen to them now, Najara. The Conqueror is far too
powerful. The kingdom should be in your hands. With your
leadership and skills…You would forever be named a hero in
all the scrolls through the ages."
"But we have a
problem. If Gabrielle dies I won’t be the one to take
"She has an
heir?" Callisto asked. "Who?"
guarded secret - a scroll contains the information. Even I
don’t know the location of the scroll. And very few know who
the heir is - myself being only one of maybe two or three
"Who are the
others that know this secret?" Callisto prodded.
knows I believe. As does one of the staff supervisors. And
I’m sure neither will betray the Conqueror’s
guess we’ll have more folks to eliminate from the picture,
me!" Najara told her. "These are good people. All of
them. They don’t deserve to die because the Djinn are
telling me that Gabrielle’s rule will change. Gabrielle is
my concern - my only concern. She is the only one who needs to
be taken out of the equation. I love my bond-mate, but I love
my country more. And if Gabrielle will be changing her style
of ruling it needs to be dealt with now and not later."
you have me for," Callisto remarked. "I’ll take
her out and you can rule the country as you please. The heir
she has is just an ‘added bonus’ to the job. I’ll
consider it a ‘freebie’. How’s that? Now tell me,
who’s the heir?"
I had to make a
decision. Would I let Najara tell her or walk around the
corner and interrupt them? I heard Najara’s hesitation and I
made my choice.
your Highness," I said in a confused manner as I turned
the corner. "I seem to have lost my way around here.
Could you be kind enough to lead me to warrior’s
obviously startled, but I thought she was sure I’d heard
nothing. Callisto, on the other hand, eyed me with a curiosity
that said I knew more than I was letting on. I didn’t let it
show. The lives of many people I love hung in the balance.
"I should just
cut you down here Xena to save Gothos the trouble
tomorrow," Callisto remarked. "You wouldn’t say
anything, would you, my lady?" she asked Najara.
I started to put my
own curious look in my eye. "I make a wrong turn and you
want me dead? If I didn’t know any better I’d think the
two of you might be plotting something. However, the
bond-mate’s respect and admiration of the Conqueror is well
noted so I’m sure that’s not the case." I pulled my
sword from my scabbard. "So I’ll take this challenge to
be just that - a challenge - which I’ll be happy to oblige
you. But I will warn you… you won’t get out alive."
Najara walked up
between us. "Please put your swords away. You’ll both
have plenty of time to show your skill in the arena
tomorrow... Xena, was it?" she asked me.
I kept my eye on
Callisto a few seconds longer before I faced Najara.
"Yes, your Highness. I’m Xena."
me," she said, taking me by the arm. "I’ll show
you the way."
I followed, but not
before Callisto and I exchanged an icy stare.
We took a few steps
when Najara had one of her Djinn moments.
suffered much, Xena, but you've retained your good heart. And
you have chosen to fight the darkness within you. What courage
that takes." I tried hard not to roll my eyes and went
right into my part of this play.
"Who told you
that?" I had to pretend to be interested.
told me." New outfit, new world, but same old wacko
My mind chose to be brutal at this point and gave me a vision
of this nut's hands all over my wife. If she had hurt
Gabrielle, I would change her in ways she'd never fathom.
my guides through life. They're my Djinn." I smiled with
her while thinking. 'And I'm the queen of Egypt.' One
thing I remembered about this nut was that she didn't have a
path. She followed whatever path her voices told her to. But
if you tested her, said no to her, she'd blow up in your face.
on a mission?" That threw me a bit.
am." Think Xena. "I'm here to prove who's the
best warrior and protect and serve the Conqueror, my
lady." That last part was hard to get out.
"My wife is
quiet incredible, isn't she?" The tone in her voice was on
the possessive side.
is." And I didn't try to hide the affection in my voice.
"You have any
family, ummm...?" she paused as if she couldn't remember
The hallway seemed
to have gotten a lot longer for some strange reason.
"Xena." I filled in.
I was praying that
it would all end soon when she said, "Here's the hallway
back to the barracks, I'm sure you can find your way
you so much, my lady." We exchanged polite smiles and I
made my way to my room. The Najara of this world didn't know
of my keen sense of hearing because I heard her whisper.
"And watch your back."
The idea of
Callisto working with Najara made me skin crawl, or...
yourself, Ares." I called.
This was all I
"I really hate
when you do that, Xena." The stench of his arrival filled
"And I really
hate you, Ares."
He acted like an
arrow hit his heart. "Ohhh, ouch. Score one for the
unknown, or is it former Warrior Princess?" He flopped on
my bed and gave me a smirk.
I really didn't
have the time for it. "What do you want now?"
"Always straight to the point, huh, Xena?" I hated
that cocky smile. "Sooo, what do you think of the new and
very much improved little bard?"
"When this is
all over, Ares, you'll know how I feel." I sat in the
chair and cleaned my sword, acting bored. Maybe he'd leave
sooner and go torture something else.
"Oh, I'm so
scared, but really, isn't she incredible?" He leaned on
his elbows and crossed his legs at the ankle. "I mean, do
you see the control she has? It's outstanding, and she thinks
before she reacts."
I have to admit I
was very impressed by her, but I would rather kiss a centaur's
butt then tell him that. "I've got a match coming up,
Ares. Is there a point to all this?"
"My point is
Xena, she saw right through your little sex ploy. I did so
many things differently with her then I did with you." I
just gave him an eyebrow raise. "For instance, I let her
keep the child close, but hide it so it wouldn't interfere
with her duties." The more I ignored him the angrier he
got, but for some reason the hair on my neck stood to
attention. "Unlike with you. You know, persuading you to
give your boy up."
I could hear my
heart beating in my ears. He smiled again, knowing that got my
bastard!" He laughed and disappeared. I dropped my sword
to the floor and paced. I remembered right before Solon was
born. Borias almost had me believing we could get away and be
a family, I wanted that, then.....
'By the Gods!!'
Ares put it in my mind to give him up, my lust for power
overcame my urge to love my child. By the time Solon was born
I did so many more things. I'd betrayed the Amazons, the
Centaurs, most the people of Chin and Borias. There was no way
I could keep him, and that's how Ares wanted it. I wonder how
my life would have turned out if I kept him and fled with
'Come on Xena,
think.' I muttered aloud. Ares was upset because I got to
Gabrielle today so he did this now just to get at me. That has
to be the reason, I had found a weakness and it made him
sweat. Today I'd had a small glimmer of the real Gabrielle;
she was still there. The down side to it all was, I had to
worry about Hope now on top of everything else.
brought me out of my musing, I grabbed my sword and flew out
my door towards her chamber. I was just about there when my
mother stepped into my path to halt me.
I have to get to the Conqueror, she's in danger." She
wouldn't budge and motioned for me to follow her. Again, we
heard another agonizing scream and the sound of things being
My heart told me to
go protect my love, but my mother kept shaking her head and
pulled me into a room. We went inside what must have been her
own chamber and she pushed me into a seat. She finished
writing something and handed it to me.
want to interrupt the Conqueror when she's dealing with past
I said and handed her back the tablet. I felt myself grow
impatient as she wrote, wanting the story immediately.
"She's in an
odd mood and had too much ale today. She does this at times,
when her memories haunt her. Things in her past such as her
sister, family, the attack, take her into a dark place where
even the Conqueror's consort steers clear until this blows
over." I knew exactly what she meant. I've been there
many times in my life. The mind can be very cruel at times,
usually the wrong times. Whenever I closed my eyes I had to
relive my brother’s death, my mother’s cries...
finished telling me about the Conqueror, you left off right
around when her uncle found her." She nodded, and dipped
the quill in fresh ink and began to write. With my hearing, I
could still pick up low moaning, a sort of a crying sound. It
was so hard for me to not rush right in there and take her in
my arms and just hold her tight to me. Mother handed me back
the tablet and I noticed she had tears in her eyes.
Morose nursed Gabrielle back to health the best he could, but
the child didn't speak a word to anyone. He thought for sure
it was a hit to the head that made her mute. One day he went
to check on her and she was gone."
"She went for
revenge?" She nodded as I handed her back the tablet.
This was very hard for my mother to write about and I wasn't
sure I was ready to hear it.
girl was far from healed and nowhere near a warrior, but
filled with utter hate. That hate and with her father's sword
took her to Cortese's camp, at least one of them. She found a
small patch of raiders camping and charged them. She, if I
remember right, took three down before the fourth one hit her
from behind. What they did to her was beyond brutal and it
lasted for days." I had to stop reading for a minute to
gather back some of my composure. I took a deep breath and
continued to read.
"What the men
didn't know is they were camped on Amazon land. I needn't tell
you what they did to those men when they were found?" No,
she didn't, just being on their land is a crime and penalty is
death. If one or two were lucky, they might be used for
breeding before dying, but seeing them torturing a woman
assured a slow painful death. I started to read again.
queen, took Gabrielle in and trained her. She found a
sisterhood and family, but no matter what Melosa or the others
did, they couldn't take the vengeance from Gabrielle's heart.
They also found out Gabrielle was pregnant, but even that
didn't stop her bloodlust. While building a nation and
destroying everything in their path, Ephiny helped Gabrielle
deliver the child in silence. No one knew. A moon after the
child's birth she discovered that some of her men were trying
to overthrow her and that's when I came into her life. I
agreed to look after Hope as if she were my own, to keep her
safe. I owe Gabrielle at least that much for saving me. Ephiny
who was and still is her best friend received a blessing from
Melosa, so both went on to conquer. To this very day the
Amazon's and even the Centaurs are allies to the Conqueror's
I had no words, I
handed her back the tablet and just... With the Centaurs and
the Amazon nations allied with the Conqueror's, Gabrielle
achieved all I wanted to do when I was younger and then some.
Ares did create the perfect Warrior Queen. I was torn in a
sick way, part of me felt jealous that she accomplished what I
couldn't. Or was it awe? The other half of me was a cross
between fearing for her soul and just feeling badly for her
and all she went through to get it.
I felt the tablet
slide back into my hands and I stared at the words.
alright, Xena?" I could almost hear my mother's voice ask
was just hard to read." She patted my arm and wrote
get some rest, little one, you've got a busy day
tomorrow." Little one? She hadn't called me that since I
get some rest, thank you." I gave her a hug and wished
her a goodnight, and as I closed her door I had to stop and
look at the hallway leading to the Conqueror's chamber. It was
quiet then; she must have cried herself out.
I'll get us out of this mess, Gabrielle." I whispered as
I made my way back to my room.