Ethereal Ark Of Fire by Silvermoonlight

Disclaimer. This story contains violence, as well as love between two adult women.

Disclaimer. The Xena Warrior Princess series and its characters are all copyrighted property of MCA/universal
Disclaimer. This story is the sequel to Shattering Of The Silver Light and follows on directly from where that story finished.

Ethereal Ark Of FireArtwork by Silvermoonlight 

PROLOGUE

 “As I sit a top my iron throne I wonder the fate of my race, years from now after I am dead and long buried. Will we rise up with greatness or fall in to the abyss of despair? I have fought many battles but I know now that am getting old and the sword feels heavy in my hands. I know I am not long for this world I am eighty years in to my reign and I am starting to feel it. I can only hope that my god Ares in proud of the battles I’ve fought in my time as king and I hope he smiles when the dead speak my name. I am a Horn Hind and the first werewolf to ever have horns but I must be honest these horns are not what define me my actions are what defines me.

I may be king but I will never forget that I am still just a man. I hope all of the Horn Hinds that follow me, be they man or woman never forgot that. We are mortals capable of great and terrible things and it is no lie that to rule we are sometimes forced to be brutal and we have to make terrible choices that haunt our dreams but choices like this are worth all the blood of your heart and all the suffering of your soul if the people you rule can be given something better.

Those were the words spoken by the first Horn Hind the Emerald Hind I read them once in the Grand City library which seems like so long ago now. I know now the truth of his words we are all capable of great and terrible things and right now I am doing a terrible thing, not because I’m being noble but because the rage in my heart is at boiling point and it needs to be released. There is blood everywhere it’s all over my clawed hands and from my mouth and it’s dripping down on to the floor. I can even taste it in my mouth, it’s not a taste I’ve ever enjoyed but right now it just fuels me all the more I know I’m past the point of no return. I guess this is my weakness I was trained to do this as a warrior in the Grand City and I have always tried so hard to keep a handle on my rage but sometimes I slip, I don’t mean to but it happens.

Its never nice when I do this room is proof of that, there are five dead people lying around me and there is blood is spattered all over the walls and floor. Not one of them got a clean death, I tour them limb from limb and they suffered before they died. I’m now standing over a woman who has her sword pointed at my face and I don’t care, I want her to die I want to see the light leave her eyes when I kill her. At this moment I am the monster of her nightmares the thing that has properly terrified her all her life. I can smell her fear it’s like a pheromone igniting the air and I can see the conflict in her eyes she’s thinking should she stab me? She is also considering the concept of my jaws locking around her head and crushing her skull. Sadly I have no intention of using my jaws around her head I have something that is far worse in mind, after all sometimes justice and retribution can only come from one who has no heart when it comes to those who bring pain and suffering.

In the Central Palace of Corinth two months ago

By Ouroboros this is bliss I could die here right now and I just wouldn’t care they say that there are moments in your life like this and I feel like I’m living one at this moment in time. I’m lying naked on top of the Empress and I feel so at peace I know this is where I belong the last six months of my life have been so up and down I feel that I should be writing everything down but I’m not a bard or a writer I feel it would be difficult to explain. How do explain that you spent a number of years in the pit in the royal palace, how do you tell people that when the woman who saved you from that pit hated you and treated you badly at first when she found out that you were a werewolf? Then that she righted every wrong she had done to you and more after finding out that you were the werewolf king, after which you became good friends and later became your lovers. It’s a minefield no matter how I look at it, I think it would be very hard to explain and maybe it would fill more than one scroll to write because telling it to people would take a very long time. I know when I tell this woman that I love her it is always from my heart I would die for her with out question and a part of me feel ignited its been so long since I’ve felt this way.

When you taste the kiss of one who you love so deeply you feel as though you could do anything and no one will be able to stop you. The Imperial Council will fall by our hands I will make it so with every breath I take, I now know there are rebel werewolves in Corinth who are loyal to me and will follow me but I won’t deny despite my outer feelings of being able to do anything I fear leading an army. I have never led an army of a huge size, I’ve led patrols of no more than twenty werewolves but no more and the thought of it scares me, what if they don’t believe in me? What if I’m not fit to lead an army of werewolves? All I can hope is that I’m up to this and that Xena the Empress of Greece stands by my side. Empress of Greece sounds odd for me to even say, because to me she’s Xena. It’s been a long time since I’ve used her formal title I don’t even use it in front of others. I don’t know if all the staff know that our relationship has now become more than friendship but I’m sure with in the next few days it will become clear to them.

I feel my lips meet the other woman’s again I’ve said it may times but I know I’m powerless against her affections, if she asked anything off me I’d give it to her with out question or hesitation. Not long ago I believed I would never experience love again not after the man I loved who was called Damokles was murdered, he was a werewolf just like me. I believe he was killed by the Imperial Council by a man called Bastiaan, though I can’t prove it but one day I will have my vengeance for his death. After his death I had an abusive relationship with a woman called Adrianne, she tore away the last of my emotions destroying everything I believed about myself leaving me cold and empty. I am a Horn Hind my title is the Golden Hind and she made me believe that I was not king and that I was just a tool that was there just to be used by the Imperial Council. I got to such a point that I just wanted my life to end and it almost did but then the woman who is kissing me now came in to my life and everything changed. I can now feel love again and I can embrace emotions once more. I still smoke coltsfoot root but I can honestly say I am almost free of opium which has ruled my life for so long it clear that I am free from some of my demons and I can finally move forward with my life.

Gabrielle moved her hand up playing with the other woman’s dark hair as she kissed her lips again. Xena felt a smile form as she looked at the desk which she was lying naked on. “You know I do have paperwork to do.” Gabrielle eyed the other woman’s silver armour which was littered all over the floor along with the bed cover she had been wearing when she had walked in to her personal study. “No you don’t.” Xena felt her smile widen as she leaned up gently kissing the scar above the younger woman’s eye. “You know I do have the Greek empire to rule.” Gabrielle moved her hands to her waist pushing her down gently as she kissed her lips again. “Rule it tomorrow.” Xena felt her smile widen as she leaned forward about to kiss the younger woman only to hear the pounding on the door. She looked up sharply hearing Demetrius’s voice hit the air. “My apologises Empress but I need to speak with you.” She breathed in deeply great, just great she really didn’t need the head of her royal guard to walk in on here right now and see her lying naked on her study table. “I’m busy, please don’t come in here!”

She listened as his voice came again. “This can’t wait Empress, a mercenary by the name of Red Griffin has just brought in the hand of Talus one of your most wanted warlords. You have said many times that anyone who kills him or Glaphyra would get an audience with you. They would also receive two thousand coin, for doing so. I wouldn’t bother you but this woman and her satyr companion has been here since this morning waiting to see you, sadly this woman is rather egoistic and I’m worried that she might cause an incident.” Xena rolled her eyes she knew full well what he was talking about mercenaries could be very frightening to the palace children and some of them liked to show off by fighting the royal guard. She turned to Gabrielle who looked concerned. “I have to deal with this, I’m sorry.” Gabrielle leaned over giving the dark haired woman a warm kiss before pulling away. “I understand.” She leaned down wrapping the blanket around her body watching as the other woman got up off her desk. “Will you be back soon?” Xena took hold of her arm easing her closer before kissing her lips for a long moment before pulling away. “I will, nothing could keep me from you.”

Gabrielle felt a smile form as the taller woman stepped away from her. “Thank you.” Xena eyed the door to her study as she spoke. “I’ll be with you in ten minutes Demetrius, take the Red Griffin and her friend to the throne room.” Demetrius’s voice hit the air. “As you wish Empress.” She walked towards the washroom opening it watching as Gabrielle picked up her clothes before following her. “What will you do while I’m away?” Gabrielle put her lovers armour and clothes down opposite her on the table. “I don’t know I might practise for a while or go and see Fedora and the children.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before turning the tap filling the stone carved bowl with warm water before stopping it. “As soon as I’m done with this I will come and find you. It shouldn’t take to long once this woman and her friend have had this audience they can leave and take their coin.” She slowly began to wash her face and body. “It’s an easy procedure.” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “That’s nice to know.” She paused eyeing the clothes on table opposite before running her finger absentmindedly over the gleaming silver breast plate. “You know since I undressed you, can I help you put your clothes back on?” Xena raised an eyebrow eyeing her lover feeling a playful grin form on her lips. “I would like that a lot.”

8

Lila eyed the games room where she was seated in opposite it was a long corridors which led to the throne room whose doors were bolted shut. The city guard had left her and Korudon a long time ago, they had been waiting here now for what felt like hours and she was getting bored. These games were not what she would call entertainment. Entertainment was watching men and women in a pit fight beat each others senseless or seeing a chariot crash in the arena or being at an orgy and having a very good time. This really wasn’t her idea of fun and she could tell that Korudon was just as bored as she was, she could tell by how he was tapping his hoof against the table leg repeatedly. Satyrs didn’t really like to sit still for long periods of time, they always had to be doing something or they got bored and moody. Add to the fact that Korudon didn’t drink as he preferred to stay away from alcohol as he liked to always be in control this only added to his frustration. She picked up a piece on one of the games before tossing it back down on the table. “You know they are going to see us soon, I’m sure of it.”

Korudon looked up from his seat trying to contain his annoyance. “Yeah well can they get on with it I’m dying of boredom here.” He raised his clawed hand. “When we get the coin and this is over, can we spend a night in a really nice tavern and then go and watch the Gladiatorial games at the arena?” Lila eyed her helmet which was sitting opposite her on the table. “Of cause and we’ll buy a huge meal in the best tavern we can find to celebrate.” She looked up as the door opened and a woman with dark black hair which was braided in place walked in her eyes were reddish brown in colour. She was wearing a light brown leather shirt which had long sleeves as well as darker brown trousers and knee high black boots. Around her waist was a thick black leather belt which was decorated in silver on the buckle was the Empress’s personal symbol. She felt a sly smile form as she stood up putting on her helmet, finally this was getting interesting. “So you must be Iona.” Iona breathed in how wonderful she hated it when low life mercenaries recognised her. They always had inflated egos and somehow thought that they were in the same league as her, which they weren’t.

She didn’t kill for money she killed to protect the Empress and she didn’t care for bragging about who she had killed. She eyed the dark haired woman who now had her helmet on keeping her voice even as she spoke. “The Empress will see you both now.” Lila raised her hand watching as Korudon stood up. “So you were never able to kill Talus, were you? Gods it must pain you that someone like me could do what you couldn’t.” Iona felt her hand slowly form a fist. Why did she have to bring this woman to the throne room, why couldn’t Demetrius do it instead he was so much better at dealing with people who had inflated egos. Lila felt an evil smirk form as she eyed the woman who was considered the best of the best. “How many times did Talus slip out of your grasp, oh that’s right three times in Athens, Crete and Illyria that must have been really embarrassing for you?” Iona turned eyeing her for a long moment as she forced both of her hands behind her back so the other woman wouldn’t see that she that she wanted to hit her. “Red Griffin is it? I do wonder how you did kill Talus I do hope that you did kill him yourself and that you didn’t just get someone else to do it for you, because the Empress would not approve of you lying.”

She looked up slightly seeing that the other woman had now gone quite clearly she wasn’t amused by that comment. Not that she really cared she hated smart mouthed mercenaries and this one would be in for a shock when she met the Empress, as she didn’t tolerant rudeness least of all from outsiders who were visiting. She had heard that the treasurer Theodore had already been put in his place for insulting Gabrielle during his visit to the palace not long ago. Apparently the Empress had really lost her temper with him, which was rare as she didn’t loose her temper that much. One thing was very clear to her though she was deeply in love Gabrielle and deeply respected her and no doubt would make her, her consort in time and would not have anyone insulting her. She turned back to the Red Griffin eyeing her. “There are three rules in the Throne room you don’t speak until the Empress speaks to you. You will both hand over your weapons to the royal guard the moment you enter the room and you will bow in her presence, is that understood?” Lila felt a cold sneer form what a bitch, she hated it when others doubted her ability to do things it reminded her off when she was home and she couldn’t live up to her fathers expectations as a carpenter. Ha always told her that Gabrielle used to do it this way, that had frustrated and angered her for years even though Gabrielle had vanished she was still the base compassion for everything she did.

Maybe when she found Gabrielle and returned her home she would be given the recognition she truly deserved. For once she’d be the hero in her father’s eyes and maybe he would finally accept her path as a warrior. Maybe then he would stop telling her that she should settle down, get married and have children. She’d never cared for marriage and the truth was she hated village life it was as boring as Tartarus and it had felt as though it was suffocated her. She wanted to do things with her life and see things not be cooped up as someone’s wife the world was about more than just moving buckets of milk and feeding grain to chickens day in day out. Truth was after Gabrielle had gone the only pleasure she had, had was looking after her new born brother Leandro but once he was old enough to take on carpeting she had once again become very bored. She had come to realize that her dreams were far a field and not in Potidaea and that she had to embrace them before her heart died inside the village walls. She had them made the choice and had left to go to the army she had completed her basic training but had only lasted seven months out in the field. It was in that time that she had come to realize that she liked being a warrior but she didn’t like being a solider. She had hated the strict rules and she wanted to forge her own path.

She had been kicked out of the army due to insubordination but she had seen this as the freedom she had been wanting all along. It gave her time to rethink her direction in life and she found herself liking the idea of killing slave traders. At first it had been about getting revenge for Gabrielle but it had become much more serious as she started to form her own identity and realized that she could become very rich through killing these vile men and women. She could experience and try things beyond her reach at home like watch games, drinking until the sun went down and enjoying all the pleasures that her parents would prefer for her stay away from. Despite enjoying these pleasures she had not felt whole on her life as she was a loner and had no real friend’s only contacts. It wasn’t until she met Korudon that she had started to feel like a whole person and the real adventure had really started. He was her best friend in the whole world, he looked after her and she looked after him. She knew that he respected her as his equal and that she had nothing to prove to him, they both an unspoken respect for each other and were both mercenaries. They liked the same things and he was so much fun to be around. He was the first person she had met in years who had made her laugh, her life wouldn’t be worth living and if it wasn’t for him they were both here now to greet the Empress in person. No one could take that away from ether of them it would always be theirs, she shook of her thoughts as she turned eyeing Iona in disgust. “Understood…”

End of part 1

 

ETHEREAL ARK OF FIRE

Lila looked up watching as Iona opened the doors to the throne room she couldn’t wait for this, if anything this would be something to tell her children if she ever had any. She could tell that she had stood in front of the Empress, something which very few people had ever done. Personal audiences with her were rare. It was only the Corinthian diplomats and the Greek royal’s who saw her often the only other times she was seen was occasionally at the arena and at the festival parades or so she had heard. She breathed in as she walked inside the room she could see the nervousness in Korudon’s eyes as he eyed the royal guard who were at both doors wearing their heavy hoplite shields and swords. They were best of the best all male and female Hoplites who had gained their places through acts of honour and nobility they were considered the most trusted and dedicated warriors in the army. Though there was one who stood above them all and his name was Demetrius the Empress’s right hand and he was never far from her in battle. While Iona was her bloody left hand who dealt with problems and threats to the Empire which the army couldn’t handle. She came to a stop in the middle of the throne room which was huge she could see two thrones one which was wooden and another that was gold plated but it was empty as the Empress had not arrived yet.

In all her life she had never seen rooms this big before. Even the games room she had been in recently had been large this. The whole place screamed of vast wealth. It was a palace to house the most powerful woman in Greece and a heavily built fortress to keep her enemies out. What she wouldn’t give to spend a night here, the parties had to be beyond compare. Servants at your beck and call, who couldn’t say no to any request you gave them. Enough wine to drown yourself in and food of every kind from every land. There was also the fact the Empress had a new consort not that she had seen her yet but she couldn’t wait to get a glimpse, she was bound to stand out in all of her finery. No doubt her robes would be made with gold and silver thread as well as jewels that sparkled. It was well known that the Empress liked to spoil the men and women she loved with expensive gifts. That was the rumour at least despite this though very few of the Empress’s relationships had lasted that long. Iona turned eyeing both of them as the doors were closed and bolted shut. “Hand over your weapons.” Lila breathed in sharply as she handed the other woman her curved Kopis sword and her Boeotian shield. She hated having her weapons taken away from her it felt as if she was loosing a part of her body. She eyed Korudon as he handed the woman his Gladius swords and shield which was the same type as hers.

Iona breathed in as she handed their weapons to the guards close by who took them, she raised her head as the doors opposite opened and Demetrius appeared. Lila looked up as the man in gold plated armour as he took up his position beside the golden throne she watched as Iona moved taking hers on the opposite side next to the wooden throne. She felt her body tense as a very tall woman who was in her late thirties walked in to the room moving towards the golden throne where she seated herself. She had long black hair which was well over shoulder length her eyes were a piecing light blue in colour. Her skin was tanned bronze and she was wearing armour which was similar to that of a Gladiatrix. The armour had angel wings which covered each side of her chest there was also a thick triangle shaped armoured plate which stopped just below her waist. Her shoulders were covered by three silver plates and below them hung beautifully designed half sleeves which had open gaps, at their edge was another silver rim of armour plating. Her leather bodice was coated in silver and she had a thick heavy black belt which had engraved designs of angel’s wings on it. From this belt hung four tassels all engraved with silver. On her wrists were silver plated gauntlets which once more had the angel like engravings. The woman’s skirt was knee high and purple in colour on her feet were thick high front lacing black boots with weaving silver decorations on each side.

Oh the bards and artists clearly did her no credit with their descriptions and paintings, as good as they all were they really didn’t show her in all her glory. Though she had never been in to women she could now see why some women drooled over her, not that she could really blame them. Just looking at this formidable woman she could now see why Rome and Egypt didn’t have the balls to attack Greece in open war she was meant to be very clever tactician, clever than ether of them. Iona rolled her eyes gods she hated awe struck people and these two mercenaries were clearly awe struck that they had both forgotten the protocol. “Bow before the Empress!” She watched as the dark haired woman and her Satyr friend did as they were told despite that their eyes remained firmly on the Empress. She couldn’t wait till this was over with she hated all this rigid protocol and she knew it wasn’t really what the palace was like. It was far more relaxed than this but outsiders were always shown this because it helped to solidify the Empress position in the minds of those she ruled. She turned to Demetrius who gave her a knowing smile before speaking in calm voice. “Empress I give you the Red Griffin and her companion Korudon, both have slain Talus one of your most wanted warlords.”

Xena eyed the woman who in her late twenties and dressed in a light weight red and black hoplite armour. She was wearing a dark metal helmet which had black and red horse hair plumes. Though the helmet had a slicing cut close to the eye socket were a weapon had hit home once but missed the eye, her skirt was brown as were her boots. She could see very long black hair hanging down it was slightly wild and sea blue eyes looking back at her through the eye sockets helmets sockets. The Satyr standing directly opposite had identical armour the only difference was he had no boots and no helmet. He had hazel coloured eyes and three gold earrings in his goat ears on each side, like all satyrs he had a goat like face with human like teeth and long canines. His woolly fur was black in colour and it covered his head, chest, arms and legs. He also had a goat like tail though it was cover by his skirt and dark brown horns. These two were very much a team that to her was clear even from here. She put her hands together as she leaned back in her throne. She wanted to get this over with but she knew that this might take some time mercenaries weren’t the easiest of people to deal with. “Red Griffin is it?”

Lila felt a wide smile form. “Yes Empress.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “So you and your friend Korudon killed Talus?” Korudon raised the bloody bag grinning widely. “Oh yes Empress we have the proof right here.” Iona moved forward taking the bag from his clawed hand she opened it ignoring the smell pulling the ring from the rotting fingers before throwing the bloody bag to one of her men who caught it. She turned the ring in between her fingers before handing it to the Empress. “This is clearly Talus’s ring, there is no denying that.” Xena eyed the ring it was Talus’s symbol a three headed hydra and each hydra head was holding a colourful stone in its jaws. She had seen enough forgeries to know that this one was the real thing. She looked up slowly eyeing the dark haired woman. “How did Talus die?” Lila looked at the Empress. “A well placed sword to the heart, I heard that he had a heart condition so safe to say it wasn’t pleasant.” Xena leaned back in her throne as a question crossed her mind. “Why do you call yourself Red Griffin?”

Lila felt her smile fade. “I don’t wish to go in to that Empress.” Xena breathed in deeply she wasn’t in the mood for this right now. “Well I would like to know.” Lila breathed in feeling a sneer form as she narrowed her gaze. “I mean no disrespect but it is not your concern.” Xena stood up slowly from her throne feeling the anger burn in her stomach only to find it fade away as she looked harder at the hidden face behind the helmet. There was something very familiar about it but she couldn’t put her finger on it. “Take of your helmet.” Lila breathed in deeply as she eased her helmet of her head looking at the Empress who was now standing close by. She had no idea where this was going or even why the Empress wanted her to remove her helmet. Xena moved a step closer to the other woman ignoring the confusion on Iona’s and Demetrius’s faces. She eyed the young woman’s face she was about the same age as Gabrielle and just like her she had a scar a thin long healed one running down her left cheek. She found herself freezing on the spot as the truth hit home. Her face looked similar it was the eyes and the mouth, even the annoyed expression she was giving her right now was identical to her lovers.

She moved a step closer. “What’s your real name?” Lila narrowed her gaze she really didn’t like the way the Empress was looking her over. Her gaze was unnerving and deeply intense. “My name is Lila Empress.” Xena blinked oh gods it couldn’t be so, could it? This couldn’t be Gabrielle’s younger sister. No it had to be she had talked about her that day she had almost died she remembered that clearly. “Where were you born?” Lila blinked as she felt her anger fade only for her voice to be filled with confusion as she spoke. “Potidaea Empress.” Xena felt a smile form, she was right but one more question would confirm it completely. “What are your parent’s names and what do they do?” Lila breathed in sharply she was starting to really dislike this questioning along with Empress’s intense gaze which had not moved an inch. “My fathers name is Herodotus he is a carpenter, my mother is called Hecuba she runs in a market stall in which sells bread and biscuits.” Xena moved closer to the younger woman coming to stand opposite her ignoring the fact that that she was becoming very tense. Her eyes drifted to the guard who was holding a shield with a griffins head and a sword which stood out.

She signalled to him give her the sword which he tossed over, she caught it eyeing it over. “Is this your sword?” Lila breathed in sharply, she had no idea what was going on here but now she just felt uncomfortable on every level and she hated feeling this way. “Yes that’s my sword.” Xena eyed the curved Kopis, clearly a very different choice to Gabrielle who preferred two light weight Xiphos swords. She turned the sword staring at the wooden hilt. It had been modified their was griffin head at the end which had been carved from wood, the thing that stood out was the style there was no denying that it was Gabrielle’s. She knew her carved griffin heads followed a very distinct style as she always carved curved ears the whole head had been painted in red to match the leather hilt. “Beautiful griffin did you carve it?” Lila looked up slightly. “I’m not that much of a carpenter Empress, my older sister was though. This was hers she loved griffins and she used to carve them on everything she made.” Xena ran her finger over the carved read beak. “Where is your sister now?”

Lila lowered her gaze to the floor. “She was taken by slave traders many years ago she did a brave thing and freed all the other women after they were attacked by some kind of monsters, her body was never found, she was pronounced dead.” Xena looked at the griffin admiring the detailed eyes. “You don’t sound convinced.” Lila turned eyeing the taller woman. “No I’m not convinced I never have been, I’ve heard things seen things that tell that she is still alive and I have been searching for her, for a very long time. You asked me why I call myself Red Griffin, I call myself that because I’ve dedicated my life to killing slave traders, the griffin was what she loved most and I made it my symbol. My red griffin has spilt their blood for her and has brought pain to those who would make young men and women suffer in the way that she did.” She paused. “The slave master scared her face because she wouldn’t call him master. So now my sword bleeds the hearts of any slave trader who would dear call himself or herself master.” Xena eyed the sword for a long moment feeling the sadness take over, this was a weapon of revenge and all in Gabrielle’s name what added even more to her sadness was that Lila believed in her cause so passionately.

Most mercenaries only cared about the coin but she was clearly willing to die for her cause and willing to die for Gabrielle who was still alive. There was no denying that she had the same fire as her lover but it felt miss focused as if it had been twisted inwards and turned to hatred. Ironically hated that had led her here. She knew others might see this as wonderful that her rage had lead her to goal but found it very saddening maybe because when she looked in to her sea blue eyes she could see a coldness that was so familiar to her. It reminded her of Gabrielle when they had first really started to get to know each other and her lover had kept her guard up to keep her out. It was sad to see that Lila was doing the same thing she could feel the other woman’s coldness from where she was standing even now. She eased up the sword watching as Lila took it from her hands. “Clearly your weapon has a lot of meaning to you, please have it back.” She turned to walking away from Lila. “Please give Lila and Korudon, their weapons back.” Korudon blinked in surprise as he took his weapons back from the guards watching as Lila took hold of her shield. “I mean no offence Empress but are we going to get paid?” Xena turned eyeing the black Satyr. “Korudon is it?”

Korudon narrowed his gaze. “Yes.” Xena turned to meet his gaze. “You know there are still those among your people who don’t approve of human friendships as well as relationships.” Korudon breathed in deeply. “Yes and they are very narrow minded and I do not care for their views. I like many others of my kind left the home land because I believe there is more to life than drinking and endless celebrations.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “You don’t drink?” Korudon shook his head. “No I do not drink I think it dulls the senses and I would rather live every moment of my life that forget it in a drunken stupor.” Xena looked at him for a long moment. “My consort doesn’t drink ether she says it does nothing for her.” Korudon looked up slightly this turn of events was just plain odd there was no denying it. He had no idea how it had come about it had just been so sudden not only had the Empress’s manner changed from coldness to warmth but both Iona and Demetrius’s had been sharing looks and both had dropped their formal fronts to some degree. He turned meeting the Empress’s intense gaze. “Your consort sounds wise.” Xena felt a smile form. “I consider her wise as well but my reasons go far beyond her not drinking.”

Xena put her hands behind her back as a plan as what she was going to do next became very clear to her. “Please allow Demetrius to escort you to one of your finest guest rooms, I’ll have one of my maids bring you food and everything else you desire.” Lila breathed in sharply oh gods this had just gone from strange to crazy, what in Tartarus was going on here, had she missed something? The Empress didn’t allow people like her to stay in the palace everyone knew that she didn’t care much for mercenaries. At least that was what she had been told, so why now were they both being treated like guests of honour? She felt her body tense up oh gods she hoped this wasn’t as sexual invite, she wouldn’t lie she liked orgies parties but she didn’t get involved with couples and she didn’t sleep with women. She had nothing against it, her sister Gabrielle had been in to both genders from an early age, her parents had known about this and had been very accepted of it after she had admitted to it. She just didn’t swing that way, she preferred men and always had done since childhood. How do you turn around to the Empress of Greece and say I’m sorry but I am not in to women without offending her? She looked up trying to ignore the uncertainty in her own voice as she spoke. “Thank you Empress.”

Xena turned to the utterly confused dark haired woman and her friend as soon as they were alone in private she would make everything clear to the both of them. She watched as they were led out by Demetrius and the doors were closed behind them. She turned to Iona who spoke the shock as clear as day in her voice. “That woman is Gabrielle’s younger sister?! I don’t mean to sound offensive but she’s slightly obnoxious.”  Xena turned slowly to her obnoxious wasn’t quite the word she would use. Egotistic maybe but she had a feeling her attitude was all bravado if she was anything like Gabrielle then she was hiding her feelings and her emotions to protect herself. “Yes that’s her sister and I think her attitude is a front to hide her real feelings.” She paused. “I need to you go and find Gabrielle.” Iona shook her head as she watched the Empress walk towards the other doors. “How is she even going to take this? I mean she’s never wanted to go back to her family and now one of them shows up here and she has dedicated her whole life to killing slave traders in her name.” Xena put a hand on her face Iona was sadly right about that Gabrielle would not take this well. She also didn’t care much for mercenaries and though Iona and her had an unspoken respect as well as friendship she had never taken to those who killed for money. She looked up slightly. “Don’t worry what ever happens I’ll deal with it.” Iona shook her head sadly. “I guess that all any of us can hope is that you can help her to take this all in, it’s going to be very hard for her.”

End of part 2

 

SHAKING THE FOUNDATIONS

 

Fedora turned to look at the children as she placed her hand on the map that showed other lands. She had been teaching the children about the rulers in each land. “So you know now that Tiberius rules Rome he took power after Julius Caesar died and our Empress left Rome and he has a truce with Greece and has been noble to it. Also Cleopatra and Ptolemy rule Egypt together and are married.”  Titus raised his hand. “Why did Cleopatra marry Ptolemy, I mean they are brother and sister?” Fedora turned to him. “They believe that marrying in the family keeps the blood line pure but there are rumours that they both have lovers on the side and that their children may be from these lovers. Whether that’s true or not, no one knows for sure.” Neola folded her arms. “Do you think the Empress and Gabrielle will marry, it’s just I heard that they are together now?” Fedora turned to the young teenager. “Maybe they will.” Kaia looked up wide eyed. “And have babies together!” Fedora shook her head someday she was going to have, to have a talk with Kaia on this subject of same sex couples but not right now, as she was far young. “Maybe they will adopt and there will be a young prince or princess but who knows.”

Titus folded his arms. “If they do, you know get a child and he or she becomes a royal, will they be taught here with us?” Fedora turned to him. “I would expect so but I guess it depends, I mean we know werewolves have very different laws when it comes to these things.” She turned catching sight of Gabrielle who was standing just outside of the door, she felt her smile widen. “But why don’t you ask Gabrielle.” She watched as Gabrielle gave her a smile as she walked in, in human form. The children always saw her in werewolf form they didn’t see her much in her human one. “It’s nice to see you this way for a change.” Gabrielle slowly sat down in front of the children who all smiled but seemed a little unsure. “I was walking by and I thought I’d visit.” Titus sat up eyeing the blonde woman. “It’s you, your voice is the same.” Gabrielle turned to him. “Yes it’s me.” Neola raised her hand. “You look different, I mean apart from the scar and your eyes.” Gabrielle watched as Kaia walked up to her looking at her for a long moment before sitting in her lap. “I just thought you all might like to see me in my human form for a change.” Kaia looked up from her spot on her lap. “Are you and the Empress going to get married?”

Gabrielle looked at the young girl whose eyes were staring in to hers. “One day yes but not right now, my self and Xena talked about it.” She stopped she had said Xena once more and not Empress. The truth was she found it very difficult to use her title despite trying. Titus looked up. “We were talking about you know if you and the Empress adopted, would the prince or princess be able to learn with us or wouldn’t your werewolf law allow it.” Gabrielle looked up meeting his curious gaze. “If I had a son or daughter I would want nothing more than for them to be with all off you and Fedora.” Fedora looked at Gabrielle for a long moment, the children had not caught the catch in her voice when she said son but she had. There had been something in Gabrielle’s eyes like a sadness it had been there for a second before vanishing. Gabrielle looked at Kaia as the little girl put her small hands on her shirt sleeve. She really needed to tell Xena about her son when the moment was right she had wanted to tell her this morning but due to having to leave she had not been able to do so. She wouldn’t lie to her again regarding the subject, twice was enough and every time she had lied to her it had felt like a hole was being torn in her heart.

She felt a smile form once more as she pushed her thoughts aside. “Did you want to know anything else about werewolves?” Titus raised his hand. “Who is the best werewolf scholar?” Gabrielle felt Kaia move in her lap getting more comfortable. “That’s heavily debated among my race, there are two great scholars one is called Cyrano and the other Triptolemus. Triptolemus was around when the first Horn Hind the Emerald Hind came in to being, he had a love of war and wrote vast books about how to create weapons and use war machines. Cyrano was around during the Black Hind’s reign he was the third Horn Hind. During his reign he wrote down passages with very deep and cryptic meanings but at the time he was very unpopular because his thinking was very radical.” Neola put her hands together. “Why was he unpopular?” Gabrielle turned to the teenage girl. “Werewolves literate at the time did tend to be harsh and open in its nature, no one was in to this deeper kind of writing.” Titus put his hand together. “Do you like his scrolls?”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes I enjoy reading in to their deeper meanings.” She was about to say more only to stop as she caught sight of Xena standing in the doorway a look of concern was in her face as she spoke causing Fedora to turn in her direction. “Hello Fedora.” Fedora breathed in catching sight of the conflicted look in the taller woman’s light blue eyes she had seen that look before and it meant something was very wrong. “Hello Empress, how can I help you?” Xena breathed in deeply as she walked in to the room forcing a smile hoping that the children would not catch on that anything was a miss. “I need to speak with Gabrielle, it’s very important.” Gabrielle slowly eased Kaia out of her lap watching Fedora took hold of her. She eyed her lover she could tell that something was wrong she could see it in the taller woman’s eyes though she was hiding it very well. She stood up giving the children a wide smile. “I’ll be back very soon.” Kaia eased up her hands. “Please don’t go!” Gabrielle walked up to her feeling a smile form. “I won’t be long I promise.” Kaia gave her an annoyed look. “You really promise?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes I do.”

She turned seeing the disappointment in the children’s faces. “When I get back I’ll tell you the werewolf elemental fable, it’s a really interesting tale.” Titus looked up a smile appearing on his face. “Yeah I want to hear that.” Gabrielle turned putting a hand on his shoulder. “And you will I promise.” Xena raised her hand putting it on Gabrielle’s shoulder as she looked at the children. “I promise I’ll bring her back to you soon, this is very important and my self and Gabrielle need to have a talk.” Gabrielle moved away nodded in Fedora’s direction then waved to children who waved back. She walked out of the room eyeing her lover who remained quite as her hand moved to her waist. Her face had not changed there was still conflict and uncertainty in her eyes which worried her, she didn’t often look this conflicted and it made her wonder what was wrong. Had something happened in Corinth? Or had something happened in palace? Ether way she had no idea and it made her feel nervousness inside though she refused to show it.

8

Gabrielle watched as her lover walked through the royal gardens the taller woman stopped opposite the stone lion. She took in a deep breath before speaking. “What is wrong Xena you have not said a word since we left the children.” Xena turned slowly to her, how in the god’s names, was she going to tell her lover about this? She cleared her throat before speaking. “Gabrielle do you remember when you told me about your sister…the day you lay dying?” Gabrielle tensed remembering that moment with crystal clarity. Her ex, Adrienne has pushed a spear in to her chest which had spring loaded daggers on it. She had been lying on the floor bleeding from her chest and coughing up blood as the palace healer Phantasos had been working to take out. It had hurt to breathe and to speak. For most of her life she had wanted death yet in that moment she had wanted only to live just to see Xena’s face again. She had fallen in love with her but she had, been far too proud and afraid to admit it to herself at the time. “Yes I said that I wished I could right the wrongs I did with my sister Lila.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before moving forward putting her hands on her arms feeling the soft fabric of her shirt under her finger tips. “I don’t know how to tell you this…”

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart it was like the older woman was frozen in time she had to admit in all the time she had known Xena she had never seen her tongue tied and this was making her feel so very uneasy. “Xena?” Xena looked up meeting her gaze she could see the uncertainty in them. “Gabrielle your sister Lila she’s here in the palace.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment she found her laugher hitting the air. “My sisters here, you know that’s a good joke, you had me going there for a while.” Xena leaned closer to her feeling the seriousness take over. “I’m not joking Gabrielle…your sister is here, she’s in the palace right now.” She eased up her fingers running them down the other woman’s collar seeing the shock in her eyes as it became clear to her that what she was saying wasn’t a joke. “She arrived this morning.” Gabrielle raised her hand feeling the other woman take hold of it. “No, that’s not possible.” She looked up meeting her lovers gaze. “Did you invite her here?” Xena shook her head. “No Gabrielle I didn’t, you said you weren’t ready to see your family.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “I don’t understand why would she be here if you didn’t invite her?”

Xena moved her hand to the younger woman’s face. “She killed the warlord Talus, she’s a mercenary.” Gabrielle shook her head. “My sister lives at home with my parents I know I saw her!” Xena looked deeper in to the other woman’s eyes. “When did you see her Gabrielle?” Gabrielle eased up her other hand putting it on the other woman’s. “I saw her when I was younger…I went to my home.” She paused. “It was after I went to the Grand City for the first time, it was a routine petrol with Damokles I wasn’t meant to divert from the mission but we were close to Potidaea and I had to know.” Xena leaned closer kissing her gently on the lips hoping it would ease the tension that she was feeling. “What did you have to know?” Gabrielle breathed in feeling herself calm down, she felt guilty for never telling the other woman this she had told so much but had left out certain things. Because at the time when she had spoken about her early youth they hadn’t been friends so she had not brought up certain things for fear of ridicule and pain. “I had to know if my family was alive I knew if I was caught I’d be flogged for it but I did it anyway I missed them so much and it was my one and only chance to see them and I took it regardless.” She looked down as the memory came flooding back.

8

Gabrielle moved her clawed feet carefully forward trying not to make a sound in the darkness. She shouldn’t be here she had separated from the group but she couldn’t help it she wanted to see her home which was on the outskirts of Potidaea. She had turned twenty two days ago and all she could think about was her home but she’d never had the chance to return until now. They had gone through Amazon territory in the darkness and now she was only a mile away from her home, she had to see it again. Damokles would not be happy about her leaving but she had to know how her how her sister was and how the baby was doing, he or she would be four now. She knew that the forest led up her villa’s sidewall. There were no fields here but then there didn’t need to be, her father got all the wood he needed from this vast forest. She had already passed by a tree which had been felled. It was now lying on the ground waiting for its branches to be cut off. She shifted closer she was within inches of her home and she could see the fire torches burning in to the night.

She had to be very careful the light could reflect of her eyes causing them to show them up in the night. That was the price you paid for having great sight in the darkness your iris was reflected. She lowered herself so she completely low to the ground and just out of sight. She had the other issue which was that golden fur could also reflect the light. She shifted a little closer so she could look right in to the window of what had been hers and her sister’s bedroom. She could see that the window was wide open but then it was a summer and it was hot even at night. She could see the lit candle. She caught sight of two figures running around in side she looked harder recognising her sister instantly. She had never looked like her she had always had her father’s dark hair and sea blue eyes. Unlike herself as she looked just like her mother since she had blonde hair and forest green eyes. She inched closer no longer caring that she was coming in to the light as she moved towards the window wanting desperately to really look in side. She came to a stop next to the cement wall raising herself slowly on to her hind legs easing her claws up so they didn’t tap the ground.

She raised an ear as she looked in side realizing what all the joy was about her younger sister was playing with her younger brother who was seated on what had once been her bed. He was a very small young boy with dark hair and blue eyes she could see that Lila was cooing over him in pure joy. She raised a clawed hand to the window she hadn’t changed a bit in the face apart from the fact that she was no longer a girl but a young woman just like self. She breathed in painfully wishing that for just one moment she could be back on the inside and not on the outside looking in. She eased her clawed fingers putting them on the window, she felt her body freeze as her fingers slipped causing sound to vibrate due to her claws scratching the wood, she watched as her sister turned sharply her attention suddenly on the open window.

She breathed in sharply backing away she didn’t think as leapt up on top the roof just as her sister opened the other wooden window looking out at the forest. She gripped the roof tighter hoping that she wouldn’t look up as she kept perfectly still. She watched as her younger sister looked around for a long moment before taking hold of the windows blinds shutting them. She felt herself let out a breath that had been far to close, she turned not thinking as she ran across the villa roof on all fours leaping off at the other end. She was stupid to even come here! She didn’t belong here anymore, it wasn’t as though her family would welcome her back with open arms she was werewolf. She tried to hold back her painful tears as ran in to the forest trying to hold back the pain which was tearing at her heart. Her family had moved on they now they had a son who had taken her place in their minds. She was probably dead anyway and they’d no doubt packed away everything she owned and put it out of sight by now. Her sister and younger brother looked happy and she would just destroy that happiness for them by showing up once more in their lives.

8

Xena stared at the younger woman seeing the pain in her eyes which wasn’t hidden. “Why didn’t you tell me that you had visited them?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor not wanting to meet the other woman’s gaze. “We weren’t friends when I spoke about this part of my life, I thought you would mock me, I couldn’t deal with that kind of pain I just wasn’t ready.” Xena breathed in painfully gods it felt awful to hear this but she understood why the younger woman had not spoken about it at that time. She had not been kind to her during her telling her about her early youth after she had been turned in to a werewolf. Gabrielle was always very guarded about her family when they had spoken and this was in truth the first time she had ever said anything more about them other than what they did. Though she had, had a conversation with her not long about her visiting her family but Gabrielle had been against it as she was scared as to how her family would preserve her as she had changed so much in the eleven years that she had been away but clearly she had taken the risk to see them in her youth even though it would have meant being flogging if caught. She moved her hand under the other woman’s chin using it to push her head up gently so their eyes met. “I’m sorry Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle looked in to the other woman’s eyes they were so intense and she was trapped in them and yet she didn’t care. She had come to love this it felt so calming. She felt a sad smile form. “You don’t have to be sorry it was a long time ago.” She eased up her hand running it through the others woman’s dark silky smooth hair. “We weren’t friends and I have forgiven you for everything that happened so please don’t apologise.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “You left because you thought they were happier with out you?” Gabrielle closed her eyes for a spilt second before opening them. “Yes…they were happy I thought maybe they would be better of not knowing that I had survived.” Xena shook her head. “Gabrielle your sister is sitting in one of the guest rooms right now waiting for you, she took up the sword because of you. She killed Talus because she was searching for you. When I questioned her about why she became a mercenary she said she did it for you. Because she hates slave traders and she hates that they destroy families and take away loved ones.”

She paused watching as her lover breathed in taking it all in, which had to be hard this was a lot to take in. “For better or worse you’re her inspiration.” Gabrielle eased her hands down nervously putting them on the other woman’s arms. “Did you tell her I was here?” Xena shook her head. “I have not told her anything I just had her sent to one of the guest room with her friend and they are waiting there right now. I felt it only right that you meet her and talk to her.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Her friend?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Her friend is a satyr by the name of Korudon.” She watched as Gabrielle blinked in surprise. “Strange I know.” Gabrielle shook her head. “No not really, there was a satyr family in Potidaea, they had three children and those children used to play with us. We never thought anything off it we saw them as being just like us, once they came of age two of them left but the youngest stayed. Lila used to spend time with her, she said that all satyrs at one point have to return to the home land for a ceremony in which their horns are painted and they forever part of the earth and stars. They can go at any age and that her brothers had chosen to go.”

She lowered her gaze trying to ignore her inner pain as she spoke. “I never saw her again though because I was captured by the slave traders.” She felt the taller woman’s arms as they wrapped around her waist pulling her closer. “I have no idea what to say to her.” Xena breathed in before gently kissing the scar above her eyebrow as she ran her hand through her long blonde hair. “Just say what you feel sweetheart.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “What if what I say sounds foolish?” Xena felt a smile form. “I doubt anything you could say to her would be foolish. I think she would want to hear everything you have to say.” She held the younger woman tighter feeling her arms wrap around her body. “You can take it slowly, you don’t have to rush I can have her stay over night and you can visit her when your ready.” Gabrielle looked down at the floor yes she could do that but it wouldn’t help matters. The longer she held of the worse this was going to be and it would just get harder, she had to confess she was scared but was trying her best not to show it. She had fought battles that were terrifying in her youth yet meeting her sister today scared her even more than any of those battles, it was clear that she had changed just as much as she had. She felt the other woman’s hand as it ran through her hair. “No I want to see her.” Xena felt her smile widen. “I’ll ask Demetrius which room he put her in and we’ll go up there together.”

End of part 3

 

EVER IN THE MINDS FADED EYE

 

Oh gods this is sweet I have not eaten this well in ages, myself and Korudon normally only go to middle end taverns which as nice as they are do nothing to compare to this. Fresh cheese, warm meat, warm bread, eggs and grape wine its all fresh not one day or two days old but fresh and straight from the kitchen. Demetrius put us in this room and told us to wait then this maid came in and asked us what we wanted. I’m not going to be coy I wanted to try everything that came in to my head, which I have not tried. Who ever cooks for this palace really knows how to make good food. I can tell that the maid is unimpressed with us but you know what I don’t care. After all you only live once in this life so you might as well enjoy it. That’s what I learned from being on the road with Korudon that you have to embrace the moment because one day you might be sleeping in a top end tavern the next night you might wind up sleeping in a barn surrounded by animals. Truth is it’s been a while since we had a really good meal and I want to savour every bite, yes gluttony is bad but I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.

Lila rose her goblet watching as Korudon tore meat from the bone. “More wine.” Evadine took in a deep breath as she eyed the guest room, which had once been Gabrielle’s though that seemed like a long time ago now. It had been completely redecorated with new furniture and a brand new wash room had been built which had no resemblance to the one she had destroyed. She picked up the wine jug opposite carefully filling the woman’s goblet, why did she have to play maid to this mercenary and her satyr friend? Demetrius hadn’t said anything to her, he had just left her here with these two, she just wanted to leave so she could crawl in to Chara’s room, lie on her bed and wait for her lover to end her shift in the study. Instead she was stuck her with these two who were rude and had no table manners. Korudon eyed the maid he breathed in clearing his throat. “You are very beautiful.” Evadine rolled her eyes gods give her strength to get through this, she had nothing against satyrs but one thing she really hated was being chatted up. “I’m sorry but I have a partner.” Korudon felt a wide smile form. “But I bet you would like me better.” Evadine eyed him for a long moment. “I doubt that very much.”

Korudon raised his clawed hand. “Oh and what do they have that I don’t?” Evadine tensed she wasn’t meant to insult guests but she was already sick of these two. “I could make a list, plus you’re really not my type.” Korudon smirked he didn’t mind being shot down by this woman and unlike others of his kind he had no intention of pushing it he felt a smile form. “Well that will be your loss then they say once you have satyr you never want to go back, we really know how to please.” Evadine turned taking hold of one of the empty dishes putting it with the others close by Gabrielle was a werewolf and even she didn’t make a mess like this. She had seen her empty plates they were spotless even the leftover bones had order unlike this which looked like some one had thrown a ball at chicken bones and sprayed them across the plate. “Well I will just have to live with that.” Korudon watched as Lila gave him a knowing look she wasn’t that successful when it came to men ether, they ether turned her down flat or the date ended badly. That was to say some men walked away ether clutching their privates or their bloody nose. Mind you it was their own fault for insulting her personally Lila didn’t take personal insults very well. In fact she had a very short fuse when it came to them and he was the only person who could move around her bad moods.

He pulled meat of the bone eyeing her. “I still don’t get how we are getting lunch.” Lila picked up some grapes. “Maybe it’s a perk.” Korudon raised a clawed finger. “No the Empress looked at you really strangely…it was like she recognised you.” Lila smirked as she downed another goblet of wine. “I doubt it I don’t know anyone who is a royal.” Korudon felt a sly smile form. “Okay what if the Empress, you know likes, likes you after all she swings both ways.” Lila rolled her eyes. “I’d politely say I’m not in to you.” She turned hearing the faint laugher from the maid behind them. “What’s so amusing servant girl?” Evadine felt her smile fade she hated being called servant by anyone least of all by a guest. “Oh believe me she wouldn’t be in to you.” Lila raised her ringed finger. “Oh and why not?” Evadine folded her arms. “You lack honour.” Lila stood up slowly. “That’s a huge assumption to make servant girl, you hardly know me.” Evadine breathed in deeply not liking the way the other woman was looking at her it was such an ice cold gaze. “I know your type…mercenaries are all the same it’s the money that drives you, not doing the noble thing.”

Lila stepped closer to her. “You know I don’t have to take this from you, you’re a servant girl what do you know about my life!?” Evadine blinked gods this was shocking she had pressed an emotional button this woman clearly didn’t have control of her anger this was proof of that. Even Iona could take this kind of comment. She paused about to speak only to stop as one side of the double doors behind her was opened, she took in a deep breath as the Empress walked through, gods she was saved. The tall woman closed the door behind her she turned sharply meeting her intense gaze. “Empress?” Xena breathed in Gabrielle was out of sight behind the door she had been very nervous about coming here. She had been very quite, not that this was surprising she hadn’t seen her sister in over eleven years and this would be a big deal for her. She turned to Evadine. “How have our guests been?” Evadine watched as the dark haired Mercenary stepped back putting her hand on her helmet which was on the table. “Fine Empress…”

Xena stepped forward eyeing Lila as Korudon stood up, bowing respectfully. “I trust that you are both enjoying your stay?” Korudon kept his head low. “Yes Empress the food is wonderful I thank you for you’re hospitably.” Lila put her hands behind her back stepping away from the table. “Apart from your servant girl, it’s been wonderful.” She ignored the cold look the servant girl gave her along with the Empress’s surprised look. “I would like to know why we have been sent here, it’s very out of the ordinary.” Xena eased her hand in to her pocket easing a large money bag free she tossed it watching as it landed on the table. “Here is the gold as promised two thousand in coin for the death of Talus but if you stay I can ensure you that I can give you something much more meaningful than gold.” Lila forced a smile as she looked at the taller woman. Oh gods it was going the direction she had feared she cleared her throat before speaking. “My deepest apologises Empress, though I know you are meant to be a great lover in bed, I don’t swing that way and it would be inappropriate as you now have a consort.”

Xena breathed in sharply putting a hand on her face oh wonderful Gabrielle had probably heard that on the other side of the door, gods give her strength, of all the things her younger sister could have said why in Tartarus did it have to be this one? She looked at Evadine who was now smirking in amusement, before meeting Lila’s gaze. Clearly like Gabrielle she said what she felt but unlike Gabrielle she didn’t know how to craft her words and play on subtle hints in her wording instead she was completely blunt and to the point. She took in a deep breath recomposing her self.  “I didn’t call you to this room for anything of that nature I also love my consort very deeply and would not offer myself to another on the side.” Lila lowered her gaze well this didn’t help, it was clear she hadn’t embarrassed the taller woman but she clearly wasn’t amused. “My mistake…it’s just I heard that you have three…” Xena raised her hand. “I really don’t want to know what you heard, you are here because I know a member of your family.”

Lila blinked in shock was the woman having a joke because she really couldn’t tell? She folded her arms looking at the Empress for a long moment before speaking. “Who do you know in my family?” Xena looked at the floor for a long moment before looking up. “Your Lila of Potidaea your older sister was called Gabrielle I am right?” Lila breathed in sharply. “Yes my sister was called Gabrielle but she has been missing for years.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Well your sister is here in this palace.” Lila felt her body freeze as the woman’s words sank in she raised her hands. “What is she, is she a servant who works here in the palace?” Xena stepped back watching as the door behind her opened. “No she is my consort.” Lila watched as a woman stepped through the open door she found herself standing still as she stared at her. She was only two years older than her and was wearing a white long sleeve shirt with a folded collar which buttoned at the centre both sleeves had silver embroidery on them. She had dark brown trousers and a thick black belt which had a silver buckle. On her feet were thick heavy black boots which stopped just bellow the knee. She could see a thick leather chain around her neck as it was partly revealed but she couldn’t see the symbol on it as it was inside her shirt, they were both the same height.

She looked up staring at the woman’s face instantly being drawn in by the long blonde hair which hung loosely over her shoulders it wasn’t styled in anyway and the skin colour which matched her own. She stared at the familiar face feeling her heart race as she caught sight of the green eyes which were brimming with nervousness above the right one was a long healed scar which was vertical and went right through the eyebrow to the eye which was solid proof that this was her sister. Her face hadn’t changed much in all these years she could never forget her face it had haunted her for so many years. She could feel her heart beating faster, gods Athena had finally answered her prayers her sister was now standing before her still looking nervous and uncertain, the clothes she wasn’t expecting though but what did it matter? She moved a step closer raising her hand. “Gabrielle?” Gabrielle breathed in trying to control the tension she was feelings her sister had changed so much she barely recognised her in all of her armour, but her lover had told her that she was a mercenary. She took in a deep breath before speaking. “Lila.”

Lila couldn’t stop herself anymore as she ran forward throwing her arms around her sister. “Oh gods I’ve founds you, I searched for so long for you! I prayed every night to Athena for your safe return and she was listening to me.” Gabrielle tensed feeling her sister’s grip around her tighten even more she raised her hands putting them around the other woman back tentatively, she had no idea what to even say to her. The room around was so quite but more from shock. She turned seeing that Evadine looked shocked unlike her lover who was smiling. She took in a deep breath finally finding her voice. “It’s good to see you again.” By Ouroboros that sounded so pathetic she hadn’t seen each other in years and that was the best she could come up with? Lila pulled away from her gods she could tell that her older sister had changed so much even in her voice sounded different it wasn’t as light sounding as she remembered. She eased up her hand putting it on her shoulder. “Fathers going to be so happy that you’re here…and mother, she had a good pregnancy and we now have a little brother called Leandro.”

She eased up her hand towards Gabrielle’s scar. “Gods that is really deep the other women in the village said that the warlord cut you really deeply with his dagger.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she grabbed her hand firmly before her fingers could touch her scar. “Please don’t touch me there.” Lila blinked in surprise feeling Gabrielle’s grip loosen instantly allowing her to ease her hand away. Her sister had been happy in childhood to allow others to hug her and touch her, yet she was clearly sensing that the other woman was now very emotionally withdrawn which both shocked her and surprised her. She had clearly been through a lot though which had been very traumatic and there had to be some deep emotional scars. Clearly the scar above her eyebrow was very personal to her she took in a deep breath before speaking. “Where have you been all this time?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor. “It’s a long story.” Lila felt her smile widen. “You have to tell me everything, I knew you were alive but I didn’t know that you were here. Why didn’t you sent a message home to tell us where you were?”

Gabrielle felt her body tense how could she even begin to tell her sister the truth, which was that she had been turned in to a werewolf all those years ago and because of that she had never returned home because she had felt that her loss of humanity would mean her rejection? Korudon moved a step closer as a very familiar smell hit his nose it was a smell he had become used to it was a sweet musky odder which no human nose could pick up but his could. It was the smell of a werewolf this smell could only be picked up when they were in human form it vanished once they were in werewolf form. What he was picking up though was much sweeter than normal which was very odd he looked up realizing that it was coming from Lila’s sisters, suddenly the other woman’s withdrawn behaviour made a lot of sense. Lila had been searching for her sister for such a long time though that he felt it only right to bring up this at a better time when they were alone. Werewolves did not like revealing their inhumanity they kept it close to the heart as they had, had the worst time of when it came to their race.

Up until recently they had been persecuted, hunted and killed. Ironically the Empress ending the haunting law now made a lot of sense she had said that Lila’s sister was her consort. He had seen a lot of werewolves but for the most part in werewolf form not in their human one. Gabrielle looked up meeting her sister’s gaze. “It’s hard to explain.” Lila felt her smile widen. “Well we have all the time in the world.” Evadine breathed in finally finding her voice. “Wait so let me get this straight Gabrielle…your related…to her?” Lila turned eyeing the servant girl. “Is she allowed to call you by your name…I mean she’s a maid.” Gabrielle tensed moving a step back from her sister. “Yes she’s allowed to call me by my name she’s a friend her name is Evadine.” Lila looked up. “Wait so you’re the consort of the Empress and your friends with the maid?” Xena folded her arms. “Yes she’s my consort and I would appreciate it if you showed my staff more respect.” Lila felt a smirk form. “So how did you get to be in the palace?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “It’s complicated and I don’t want to talk about it right now.”

Lila raised her hands. “You have to tell me everything I mean where have you been for the past eleven and half years?” She paused. “Father and mother will want to know everything they’ll want me to bring you home.” Gabrielle stepped back feeling her body tense painfully the thought of meeting her parents again terrified her. “Its better that they don’t know I’m here.” Lila blinked in surprise. “What you can’t be serious?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I am serious.” Korudon stepped forward normally he wouldn’t barge in but Lila was about to make an ass of herself and didn’t really care but this was a family matter. The last thing he wanted Lila to do was mess up this reunion due to her emotional depth which could sometimes be very lacking as she didn’t always understand why some people acted in certain ways. “May be your sister needs time to adjust to you Lila and get to know you better.” He turned to the Empress. “Maybe the Empress would allow us to stay until you can get to know each other better?”

Xena folded her arms seeing where he was going with this. “You are both allowed to stay as long as you wish.” She paused about to say more only to stop as she caught sight of Demetrius he was coming towards them a very concerned look in his eye as stepped inside the room. “My deepest apologises Empress but there’s been an incident in the north distinct night market.” Xena turned to him maybe his timing was for the better. Gabrielle was becoming very uncomfortable here and she clearly needed more time to adjust. “What kind of incident?” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “There was a fire it’s been put out but they pulled out a burnt body from the flames it’s been brought up to the palace.” He turned to Gabrielle. “You need to come as well this very much concerns you.” Xena turned to the others. “Excuse us this is important.” Lila raised her hands. “Wait when will I see you again?” Gabrielle moved towards the open door watching as Demetrius stepped back. “I’ll see you soon.” Xena turned slowly to Lila. “Feel free to come and go as you both please, the entire palace is open to you apart from the royal suite.”

Lila raised her eyebrows. “What’s the royal suite?” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “That’s my room.” She turned slowly to Evadine. “Please take care of their needs.” Evadine forced a smile as she nodded respectfully to the taller woman. Oh gods please tell her this wasn’t happening. She was going to be personal maid to this woman and her friend? It sounded like Tartarus. She was stunned as it was that Gabrielle was even related to this rude woman. “As you wish Empress.”  Lila watched as the tall woman and her sister left closing the door behind them. She breathed in sitting herself down feeling the sadness over take her, so much for seeing her sister again this was not how she had imagined it she had thought that the she would at least be happy to see her, instead she had been emotionless and guarded. Korudon slowly sat down on the chair opposite. “Well that went well.” Lila breathed in deeply she pulled out her boot dagger moving it between her fingers. “If you can call that a meeting I spent most my life searching for her and she has nothing to even say to me, she didn’t even seem happy to see me.”

Korudon put his clawed hands together. “Lila you’re asking too much in to shorter a time, she’s clearly been through something very traumatic.” Lila looked up sharply catching a certain look in his eye. “Wait you know something don’t you, I can see it in your eyes?” Korudon raised his clawed hands. “No…nothing really.” Lila narrowed her gaze. “You know when it comes to lying you suck.” Korudon felt his eyes dart. “Look I think you should just talk to her…it would be better, believe me.” Lila moved putting a hand to his ear stroking it gently. “Or you could just tell me, you know I don’t keep secrets from you.” Korudon raised his hand taking hold of hers he hated that she was right as this was now going to make things difficult. “Your sister is…not human.” Lila blinked in confusion as she looked in to his eyes. “What do you mean…not human?” Korudon swallowed trying to find the right words. “I think your sister is not telling you anything…because she’s a werewolf.”

He eyed the maid who suddenly looked very uncomfortable as she began to move towards the double doors with the trays. Lila laughed as she eyed him. “This is a joke right?”  Korudon shook his head. “No I’m afraid it isn’t you know I can smell human form werewolves from a mile off.” Lila looked up feeling her eyes dart as the double doors shut as maid left. She turned back to her closest friend feeling the shock of what he was saying sink in as she spoke though it was more a statement than a question. “So my older sister is a werewolf…” Korudon put his hands together nervously. “You shouldn’t blame her, she probably didn’t get a choice in the matter you know werewolves bite people left, right and centre when they feel like it.” Lila felt her shock disappear as a sly smile formed on her lips not only did this explain a lot but it made things very interesting, she didn’t discriminate against none humans she knew better. “Imagine that, think of all the slave traders she could help us kill.”

End of part 4

 

TWISTED AND BUCKLED BONE

 

Xena breathed in deeply watching as two city guards came in to the throne room they were dragging a wooden litter which they laid carefully down what ever was under it was covered by a blanket. She could smell a burnt flesh it was a horrible smell and it hit her nose in an instant. She looked at Gabrielle who was standing opposite her clearly she could smell it as well. She could tell by the grimace on her lips, if the smell was bad for her it had to be a lot worse for her lover. She looked up at one of the guards recognising him instantly, he did visit the palace every now again to give her heads guards a report on how the city guards were doing and to bring up problems. His name was Elpidios and he stood out as he always had a heavy war hammer, which was a difficult weapon for most men and women to handle due to the power it took to swing it due to the weighted bronze end. She turned eyeing Demetrius who looked even more concerned before turning back to the leader of the head guard. “Hello Elpidios it’s been a while.” Elpidios turned to the tall woman he could see a small blonde woman standing opposite her, he was taking a guess but he had a feeling that she was her consort but he would find out soon enough. He nodded respectfully before speaking. “Yes it has Empress it’s a shame I missed your last visit down in to the city not long ago as I was engaged in other matters.”

Xena put a hand on her chin. “You said it was important that I see this.” Elpidios took in a deep painful breath. “My self and my warriors came across a fight this morning at the northern distinct night market. At first we were told it was monsters but what we came across were two werewolves, they could both talk, which really shocked us all, we didn’t know that they could speak.” He lowered his head sadly. “They had been fighting for a while there was blood everywhere one of them spoke about the Imperial Council while the other spoke of true king the Golden Horn, none of it made sense to us. We tried to reason with them but we couldn’t stop them the one who was talking about this king Golden Hind set fire to the whole market place, we did everything to put out the fire. We found a body but we never found the other one though we got reports of a flaming werewolf running through the streets on all fours. I wouldn’t bother you with this Empress but its clear you know more about werewolves than I do and you may be able to shed some light on this event as it’s really shaken up the men and women in my army.” He pulled the sheet back. “This is the body we found.”

Gabrielle breathed in sharply as the body came in to view it was a twisted and buckled skeleton, which still had flesh on it though it had been singed away. There were red areas of muscle all over the body which was twisted horribly the jaws were wide open showing intense pain even in death. The smell was awful and this wasn’t the first time she had smelt it in her life. She had come across burnt werewolf bodies before hunters sometimes liked to set fire to living werewolves because they thought it was funny. It wasn’t funny though it was twisted, sick and vile and she would never do that even to her worst enemies, fire was one of the most horrible ways to die. Xena breathed in painfully what a horrible way for anyone to die human or non human, she looked up at Elpidios. “I know some things about werewolves but I’m not the expert.” She paused turning to Gabrielle. “This is Gabrielle she my consort.” Elpidios bowed in the blonde woman’s direction watching as the man opposite him instantly did the same. He had been right this was her consort and the woman she had been searching for in the city some time back. “It’s an honour.”

He paused before speaking. “Lady Gabrielle.” Gabrielle blinked in surprise she wasn’t expecting the title but if she was honest she really didn’t care for it, no one in palace called her that. “It’s Gabrielle…if you want to use my formal title then its Golden Hind.” Xena turned seeing the shock appear in Elpidios’s face. She felt a smile form. “Elpidios my I have the pleasure of introducing you to the werewolf king.” Elpidios stood still for a minute trying to find the right words like everyone else he had been confused as to why the Empress had dropped the hunting law but now it made so much sense, her lover and consort, was a werewolf and a royal in her own right. He shook his head seeing the small blonde woman take a step forward eyeing the body more closely he moved his hand pointing to it. “Wait so you’re like this guy?” Gabrielle looked up meeting his gaze she was getting used to peoples shock now when the truth became clear. “Yes and no.” Elpidios put his hands behind his back. “What do you mean by that, excuse my rudeness, I don’t understand?”

Gabrielle kneeled down in front of the body. “I have the horns of a stag rising above my head when I’m in my werewolf form.” She turned looking at him for a long moment. “Don’t worry I’m no threat to you right now I can’t transform during the day, only at night.” She put her hand on burnt clawed one catching sight of something gleaming she eased it off his burnt finger eyeing it before standing up. “What did the two werewolves say when they were fighting?” Elpidios breathed in deeply finally finding his voice. “There were two a black one wearing tattered clothes and a brown one who had strange bronze plated armour the black werewolf said the other werewolf fighting him was a traitor to the Empress and that he should die.” The brown werewolf he was fighting said that he should die along with his false rebel king.” We tried to reason with the both of them but this werewolf called us pathetic humans and said that he was happy to die for the glory of the Imperial Council.” He paused before speaking. “That part really makes no sense to me.” Gabrielle turned the melted ring between her fingers eyeing the insignia on it which had not been melted away though it was slightly distorted. “Go on.”

Elpidios shook his head sadly. “The brown armoured werewolf told the other that he would die just like his false rebel king. The black werewolf replied by saying that his foe that he would willingly walk to his death and that he was not ready to die.” He raised his hand. “The last words he said before he set fire to the market were all hail the true Horn Hind, the Golden Hind.” Xena looked up slightly. “Was any one else hurt?” Elpidios took in a painfully breath. “Six market bystanders suffered serious burns though not bad enough to kill but bad enough to scar for life. My men and woman suffered miner burns but their hardy they’ll get over it.” Gabrielle turned slowly to meet his gaze. “I’m sorry for those who have suffered due to this, my people are on the brink of a civil war and I don’t want innocent people to be harmed due to this rebellion.” Elpidios blinked in surprise he hadn’t said those words to place blame, yet this woman who was the Golden Hind was taking on the blame regardless. She didn’t look like a royal he had to admit but she clearly she thought like one. “I do not place blame Golden Hind, fire is never an easy opponent to put out, there are always injures.”

Gabrielle eyed the ring. “This was the werewolf who spoke of the glory of the Imperial Council he was true to his word in that he was willing to die for it. This is Narella’s seal and this is one of her dirty assassins since they only wear the seals of their masters in the form of rings.” She threw the ring watching as Xena caught it, it now felt like it had been a very long day her meeting with her sister had been hard enough and now this, a part of her just wanted to crawl back in bed. Xena looked at the ring moving it between her fingers. “What bothers me is why he was here in Corinth after all this isn’t the first time your people have tried to kill you.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “I don’t believe he was after me if he wanted me he’d come for me. No he wanted the other werewolf for some reason and it had to be very important if he was willing to expose himself in werewolf form in front of an open crowd, the Imperial assassins don’t normally do that, it’s just not their style.”

Xena eyed the dead body again. “What would be worth dying for in your culture?” Gabrielle shook her head as she adjusted her shirts sleeves. “Any number of things…but if the rebel survived he won’t be alive for long, not if he was set alight. Some werewolves can survive that level of burning but most die because they can’t endure the pain of transforming back and forth, it’s just like skinning their transformation works against them and their heart just can’t take the strain.” Elpidios breathed in deeply. “I can have my men make a second search if we find him we can bring him to you.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “There is no need for that, you won’t find him and what ever he had to say to me will get here regardless as the rebels are on my side, not the Imperial Councils.” Elpidios put his hands behind his back. “This is new to me Golden Hind, so the Imperial Council are the ones I need to stop, not the rebels?” Xena looked at the ring before tossing it to him watching as he caught it. “The Imperial Council will be wearing the plated armour the rebels won’t and some may have rings like this one.”

Elpidios nodded before looking up. “As you command, Empress.” Xena turned to him. “No as Gabrielle commands the werewolves are her people, I do not rule them.” Elpidios turned to the smaller woman whose face was unreadable. “As you command Golden Hind, I will see it done.” Gabrielle paused eyeing him for a long moment. “I think it would be best that before you leave you visit Phrixus he can give you more details about my people and also elaborate more on the rebels and Imperial Council.” Elpidios nodded respectfully okay so what if she was a werewolf, she was very respectful. He had a feeling that she might be a warrior just like the Empress it was in the way she held herself but he could be wrong. “As you wish Golden Hind, I feel there is a lot I need to learn.” Xena moved a step closer to the younger woman putting her hand on her shoulder. “What ever you learn here about werewolves you can tell your men and women and the hoplites but Gabrielle’s being here and her royal status among the werewolves has to be kept secret.”

She narrowed her gaze. “Nether of you are to discuss it beyond these walls. Not all of the Corinthian diplomats know about the full nature of our relationship yet and I would prefer that whispers of it didn’t get out. As you know not all of the diplomats like werewolves, is that understood?” Elpidios nodded. “Yes Empress, I will see it done.” Demetrius turned to the taller woman. “I will take you both to the library.” He turned to Gabrielle eyeing the dead body. “What do want done with this body Gabrielle?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Please put it on one of the wagons, the ones that are being sent to the location outside the city of Aetolia my people will take him and give him a good burial.” Elpidios eyed the dead body. “He’s your enemy why give him a worthy burial?” Gabrielle turned to meet his confused gaze. “It is because he is my enemy that I would still give him a worthy burial he died in battle for what he believed was the rightful cause. If I leave him to rot in the sun then I’m no better than he was when he lived.”

This was in essence true she was willing to give anyone who fought against her a noble death with the exception of Bastiaan. If she got her hands on him she’d leave his dead body to rot out the sun for murdering Damokles in cold blood. Elpidios eyed the Empress for a long moment before turning back to the blonde woman oh now he could now see why this woman was her consort she was very much a warrior only warriors had that kind of thinking of putting honour before their convictions and personal views. He stepped forward. “It has been an honour meeting you.” He felt his smile widen. “Golden Hind.” He bowed watching as the other man behind him did the same. “I hope someday that we meet again.” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “I’m sure we will meet again.” Elpidios looked up turning to the Empress. “Excuse me while I go to the library and learn something new.” Demetrius turned to the two guards at the door. “Please move this body to one of the wagons and ensure they are all covered from the public.” He watched as both guards took hold of the litter and the covered body removing it from the room. He turned to Elpidios and the man with him. “Come with me, I will take you to the study.”

Gabrielle watched as he vanished from sight once more they were standing inside the throne room together. She eased her pipe out of her pocket lighting it using the one of the fire torches close she breathed in before breathing out the smoke. She paused eyeing the two thrones she walked up to the wooden throne eyeing it, it felt like a long time since she had been in this room. Even on her night walks she had never gone in to this room that much. “Can I sit here?” Xena moved standing opposite the other throne she leaned on it eyeing her lover, she could see stress in her face and the pain in her eyes even from here. She knew that she only smoked when the stress was getting to much. “This throne is yours Gabrielle, I don’t own it anymore, it’s yours to shape and mould as you see fit.” Gabrielle eyed the wooden throne she slowly sat down on it taking in another long breath before breathing out the smoke from her pipe. “I guess the war is finally here.”

Xena sat herself down in her throne looking at the other woman this wasn’t how she pictured offering her, her throne, she had wanted it to be an event of joy. Yet it felt so subdued due to all that had happened today it was clear to her that Gabrielle’s meeting with Lila had not gone well. Lila had wanted too much information and Gabrielle had not wanted to give it because she didn’t want to tell her that she was a werewolf and that was understandable but now she had to deal with this. It was clear that the rebels were now rising up in Corinth and they needed leadership namely hers before things spiralled out of control. “We both knew this day would come.” Gabrielle leaned back in the wooden throne getting more comfortable. “And yet a part of me didn’t want it to come.” She breathed in her pipe feeling the other woman’s hand find her own. “I wanted more time together.” Xena turned to meet her gaze. “I told you before Gabrielle I will walk with you to what ever end, you won’t be alone in this your war is my war.”

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “You’re going to have to call of the diplomats together.” Xena felt herself tense. “Yes I will and it will have to be immediate.” She turned slowly to her. “They have to know about this civil war and that you have full control of your people.” Gabrielle ran her fingers over the wood of what was now her throne, she had never sat in her so called golden throne much in the Grand City she preferred to avoid it but sitting in this throne felt comfortable. It wasn’t made of gold or gem stone but carved from oak wood even though it had no decoration, it felt warm and comforting. “I’ll go in to Corinth and I’ll take control of my people, if they are loyal they will stay by my side and do as I command.” Xena looked at her for along moment seeing a hint of sadness in her eyes. “I’m sorry that two of your people died in my city.” Gabrielle took another long breath from her pipe before breathing out the smoke. “One of them isn’t dead but he will be soon and I have no idea what his death will have been for and that in it’s self is tragic.” Xena shook her head sadly. “He might live long enough to tell the rebels in Corinth why he was here.”

She paused wanting to change the subject. “I’m sorry that your meeting with your sister didn’t go well.” Gabrielle tensed slightly. “She has no manners and it bothers me that she seems to look at servants as though they are lesser.” She felt her hand form a fist. “A persons worth is not dictated by their position or their social standing its dedicated by their actions.” Xena shook her head sadly. “Look I know this might look bad right now Gabrielle but I think she’s just having trouble adjusting to you being alive, maybe she thinks spouting out foolish things like that might win your approval. She might even be doing it because she knows that you are my consort and maybe that royal status means you look down on others.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “She’s knows nothing about royalty and status then and it really disappoints me.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Are you disappointed because it didn’t turn out the way you expected or is because she’s not the way you remember?” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe feeling the other woman’s hand tighten around her own. “I guess it’s because she’s not the way I remember.”

Xena watched as her lover breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “You know she probably feels the same way about you.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “Probably but she’ll know soon enough I’m not human, her satyr friend will tell her and then she’ll leave.” Xena sat up sharply. “Wait you mean Korudon can tell that you’re not human even though you are in human form?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly. “Satyr’s can pick up the difference between us and normal humans their sense of smell is as good as ours.” Xena leaned over so she was closer to her. “Wait you knew this but you still went to the meeting regardless?” Gabrielle looked up meeting her shocked gaze. “Yes I knew but I had to see her again regardless of the consequences she my sister by blood if nothing more. I would like her to stay but I don’t expect her to do so. After all a she is a mercenary and she’ll just move on anyway, they always do.” She stood up feeling Xena’s hand remain on her own refusing to let go. Xena kept hold of her lover’s hand she could hear her low self esteem talking again and it bothered her deeply. “You know you need to have more faith in her Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle breathed in trying to stop the feeling of anger as it burnt up very suddenly she hated those words. She eased up her hand pointing to the scar on her face. “I had faith! This was what I got for believing in it. Faith is a commodity which people buy and sell for favours, it doesn’t exist.” Xena blinked in surprise she was unsure as to what had had brought this anger on but all she think was that it was stress over what had now been a very bad day. “You have faith in your goddess Ouroboros.” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I worship her and offer my soul to her in death I do not have faith in her.” Xena eased up her hand placing a gentle kiss on it. “Then have faith in me.” Gabrielle felt her body freeze as her anger she had been feeling seemed to fade away, although not the edge of it. She now realized that she had been feeling edgy anger all day and she had no idea why, she was used to feeling it as she felt it most of her life but recently it had been more intense. She felt the guilt as it hit her hard, she loved this woman more than life it’s self and yet she was shouting at her.

She hated her anger at times it got the better of her even when she thought she was in control, she wished she had more control over it but she had no idea where to start or how to deal with it she lowered her gaze to the floor. “I’m sorry I don’t mean to shout at you, I’m just tired.” Xena moved her hands up putting them on her arms stroking gently easing her a little closer. “Its okay Gabrielle, you have had a long day.” Gabrielle looked up at the window she could see that the light was now starting to fade. “It’s feels never ending.” Xena shook her head. “Don’t worry I have days like that I guess its just part of being a ruler.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “Regardless I shouldn’t take out my anger on you, you’ve been nothing but kind to me.” Xena looked up meeting her gaze. “No I still have a lot to make up for, I once made you dance around this throne room in werewolf form in chains because I was drunk and I saw you as not human. I didn’t see your humanity, I just saw a monster, I can never change what I did that day but I can spend the rest of my life making you happy.”

End of part 5

 

FINDING THE MOMENTS IN OUR LIVES THAT MATTER

 

Flora breathed in as she looked at the open door to The Slaughtered Lamb it had been relativity quite tonight. There had been no werewolf customer’s only human ones. Werewolves were their main chain of customers and when they weren’t around it meant that something was very wrong. Normally if there was trouble or something bad had happened, the Corinthian rebels kept very much out of sight. They only ever did that when those warriors from the Grand City snooping around Corinth. This didn’t happen often in Corinth but the last few times it had her own people had still come in to the tavern so to see none of them at all made her feel very uneasy. She watched as Philo cleaned one of the wooden tankards before putting it behind the counter he breathed in before leaning over the counter. “I know that look Flora you’re concerned.” Flora looked up trying her best to smile. “It’s a very quite night tonight.” Philo eyed his hooked hand for a moment eyeing the almost empty tavern he hated nights like this when his people hid away from sight. “I’m sure things will pick up by midnight.”

Flora moved to stand behind the counter so she out of ear shot of the people drinking. “What if it doesn’t?” Philo gave her a smile as he put her hook on her hand. “I wouldn’t worry you know we’ve had nights like this before but things always pick up.” Flora eyed the empty chairs and tables opposite which were normally full at this time of night. “I hope so I have never liked quite nights.” She eyed his hooked hand he had many hooks for different uses but tonight he had on the two sectioned hook for holding the wooden and leather tankards. “Do you ever miss your hand?” Philo eased up his hook looking at it they had been married for many years and still Flora had a sense of guilt for biting his hand off. It was a common miss belief among human beings that werewolves who lost limbs grew them back, this was not so. He had met werewolves who had lost limbs and it was permanent. The healing process only went so far it could heals deep scar, even gapping stomach wounds but bone would not re-grow though in very rare cases he had seen fingers grow back but that was it.

He felt a smile form as he looked at her. “You know you really need to stop feeling guilty about this Flora, it was just a consequence of the time and I think I deserved it. I was beating you with a wooden club in the cell and treating you no better than the arena animals.” Flora breathed in deeply. “I took away your ability to ever hold anything again.” Philo felt a smile form. “And you introduced me to a fine black smith who made me lots of interchanging bronze and wooden hooks and I do just as well so don’t worry about it.” He turned about to say more only to stop as three people stumbled in to the tavern. They were all wearing cloaks and hoods but they were tattered dirty and torn and even from a distance he could tell that their clothes weren’t much better. They were muddy and torn and it was clear they hadn’t had a bath in a while. Around the waist of the woman among them she could see old blood stained bandages and on the leg of another man he could see the same dirty bandages. He had nothing against vagabonds but he preferred that they bathed first.

There was an open bathing fountain for the public to use not far from here and it wouldn’t hurt for them to have had a wash in it before coming here. That was the only downside to having a better sense of smell than normal human beings because when people smelt bad it really hurt your nose. He watched as the smallest man among them came to lean against the bar he moved to stand to the behind it. He could see white hair under the hood but the man in question did not have red eyes and was clearly not an albino. He looked up eyeing the dirty man. “What can I get you and your friends?” The man eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “You can get me the Golden Hind.” Philo didn’t think as he grabbed him pulling him forward by his tatty cloak speaking in a low venomous whisper. “Idiot don’t you know the rules you don’t ask that way? We use code words here.” He felt a cold point as it tapped his shoulder he turned seeing that the bigger man next to him had a sword pressed against his neck, he breathed in he wasn’t amused and this really wasn’t the first time he had, had this. “You know this is drinking establishment and its really bad manners to show of your bronze here.”

He paused letting go off the first mans shirt he could see Flora reaching for daggers which were hidden in her robes he turned meeting the man’s angry gaze. “You really don’t want to grab the attention of the city guard now do you? They really hate late night sword fights in taverns. In fact I think they will arrest you and lock you and your friends up over night and then you won’t get what you want. Plus my partner Flora can throw daggers with brilliant accuracy you wouldn’t want one in your eye now would you?” He felt the sword point move away from his neck he watched as the big man re-sheathed his weapon all three of these people were werewolves just like him. He casually pulled out three wooden tankards putting them on the table then slowly filling them with wine. “Now let’s try this again shall we, you want Gabrielle would I be correct?” He watched as the man nodded. “And you are?” The smallest man pulled down his cloaks tattered hood down speaking in a low voice. “My name is Halirrhothius I’m from the White Family.” Philo looked up pushing the wine towards him. “Please all of you have a drink it’s on the house.”

He paused watching as they took the drinks gulping them fast they were all clearly very thirsty. “Now lets just say that I’m not from the place of our people and neither is Flora, I’m of Roman decent as is she so you’ll have to give us both much more information.” Halirrhothius placed his empty mug down putting his hands together. “Let’s just say that my family are of very ancient decent and the Imperial Council took it up on them selves to wipe out all of us, we are all that now remains.” Philo breathed in refilling his mug. “You know people like us die every day for their whims ether because they ran away or they had children that didn’t measure up to their standards. So tell me what makes you so special that you can cause a scene in my tavern?” Halirrhothius leaned closer to him. “My family have always been the guide to one with horns and my mother the great shaman Jacinda died because she believed in your cause very strongly.” Philo looked up sharply that name he knew very well she had visited their tavern a long time ago, he watched as the man drank some of his wine. “I see, my apologises I was not aware of your status, your mother was a great woman.”

He paused. “So I can assume that the Imperial Council’s warriors who are snooping around are after you and your family?” Halirrhothius sat down watching as his brother and sister did the same, they were all tired, hungry and worn down both emotionally and physically. It had been a Tartarus of a journey to get here and they had all felt so out of their element in this human world. It was only by chance that they had asked a werewolf family outside the city where they could find others like themselves who had pointed them to this place. “What are you talking about? The Imperial bastards stopped following us a long time ago after we went in to the Hydra caves. We spent four days down there eating rotting caresses of animals which tasted utterly foul and licking the water from wet walls just to survive. It’s not something I ever want to go through again as long as I live.”

Flora poured herself as tankard of honey mead. “Welcome to the real world.” She took a sip from it before looking up. “It’s a cruel world when you’re swimming in the gutter.” Halirrhothius eyed her for a long moment. “Tell me what do you know about swimming in the gutter?” Flora took another long drink. “I was born a slave there is no worse fate when your life, your body and your existence isn’t yours. So don’t ever question me over swimming in the gutter, you were clearly born in to a privileged family and you do not know what’s it is like at the very bottom of the ladder cleaning up after your master and mistress and being no more than furniture and having to deal with their tempers which normally involved a beating. Then being sold of to the arena and loosing your humanity and all just to please a crowd who enjoyed watching you fighting gladiator’s everyday. You should learn the lesson very fast that your high status though important in the Imperial City means very little to most here in Corinth, or it’s going to be a very steep leaning curve for you.”

8

Demetrius moved through the corridor the light was fading fast, he wasn’t going to walk through the royal gardens it was to cold. He had, had a very long winded time going through everything with Elpidios plus Chara and Phrixus could talk for hours when it came to werewolves and Gabrielle and though he didn’t mind listening, after a certain point it became very tiresome. Now he just wanted to find Thaleia he turned the corner only to see her coming towards him a wide smile on her lips. He smiled feeling her arms as they wrapped around his body. “There you are I was looking for you.” Thaleia smiled as she gave him a kiss before pulling away. “Is it true?” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “Is what true?” Thaleia moved her hand through his short hair. “That Gabrielle’s younger sister is in the palace?” Demetrius breathed in deeply he had hoped that she had not found out about this yet but the truth was that, that was wishful thinking on his part. Ceto knew everything that was going on before any one else in the palace did and she would pass it on right away to Thaleia, it was the privilege of their position of being personal maids.

He put his hands on her waist thinking his next words through carefully before speaking them. “Yes Lila is here in the palace.” Thaleia put her hand on her chest plate. “So what is she like?” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “I don’t recommend you go and speak to her right now, she’s not.” He paused trying to find the right words. “She’s not like Gabrielle.” Thaleia looked at him for a long moment. “What do you mean I don’t understand?” Demetrius took hold of her hand kissing it. “She’s not kind like Gabrielle is, she seems a little hateful and bitter and she might be very unkind to you because you’re a maid.” Thaleia smirked. “Look I had deal with Gabrielle for months I’m sure I can deal with her sister.” Demetrius shook his head. “No this is different please take my word on it and I don’t want to see you get hurt.” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “I’ll be fine you worry too much.” He looked up about to say something only to stop as a voice hit the air behind him.

“It’s nice to see you two.”

Demetrius let go of Thaleia as he turned to face Fedora who was smiling at him he coughed clearing his throat before speaking. “Fedora…I can explain.” Fedora watched as he daughter adjust her clothes subconsciously while he bowed slightly, they were acting like little children who had been caught stealing from the kitchen. She folded her arms personally she had hoped they would finally get together but a part of her wanted to tease them a little. She folded her arms pretending to be annoyed. “So what were you two doing?” Fedora swallowed. “We were just…” Demetrius stepped forward. “It was my fault Fedora I should have told you.” Fedora looked up meeting his gaze. “You should have told me what?” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “I should have told you.” He paused before speaking. “That I care very deeply for your daughter and I want only for her happiness. I’m so sorry that I have not asked for your approval yet, I was going to speak to you tonight.” Fedora felt a smile form. “You know they say asking for a parents approval is now considered very old fashioned.”

Demetrius lowered his head respectfully. “Then I’m old fashioned and I don’t deny that.” Fedora looked at her daughter who now looked very anxious clearly because she had been caught but also because she now knew that she could deny Demetrius’s approval and being the man he was if she did deny it he would accept it and walk away despite that it would hurt him. She felt her smile widen as she raised her hand. “You know I was surprised when Iona told me about you two getting together some time ago. I was surprised but not unhappy I mean I couldn’t imagine my daughter being with anyone else better, I mean she has, had her eye on you for a long time.” Thaleia blinked in confusion eyeing her mother. “How did you know that I never told you that?” Fedora shook her head. “Let’s just say Gabrielle wasn’t the only one to watch you when the Empress had meetings in the study I know that during these meeting you liked to watch Demetrius and you took the risk of being caught.”

Thaleia rolled her eyes well this was embarrassing she put her hands together. “You know we really don’t need to go in to this mother.” Demetrius turned eyeing her. “You used to watch me in the study?” Thaleia felt the heat in her face she looked down hoping that he wouldn’t see her blush. “Yes I used to watch in the study…its not as bad as it sounds I didn’t stalk you…I just used to watch you now and again.” Demetrius felt a smile form hearing that was flattering he had never known anyone to watch him and have that level of interest in him. It showed that she had clearly loved him for a long time and he had never realized. “I am deeply flattered that you watched me.” Thaleia eyed him for a long moment feeling some of the embarrassment fade although not all of it. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t know how you would take it.” Fedora raised her hands. “Maybe you two would like to come with me, we can share a good meal and we can talk about your new found relationship?” Demetrius stepped forward. “It would be my pleasure.” Thaleia breathed in feeling Demetrius take her hold of her hand their no getting out of this her mother had probably had this in mind for a while, she nodded before following Demetrius as he walked opposite her mother.

8

She can’t sleep she’s been tossing and turning in our bed for some time now I can see her eyes reflecting in the darkness. Gods she must have so much on her mind right now her sister, her people and the Corinthian council. If it were me I couldn’t sleep ether she was very quite over dinner but I expected that it’s just been a very hard day.  We are both naked apart from their underwear and under the fur covers of our bed there is a fire burned in the corner keeping out the cold. Xena looked up slightly her lover has been a little edgy lately and she could only assume it was due to stress as a lot had happened between them in the six and a half months. They had gone from enemies to friends to lover’s maybe Gabrielle just needed time to relax and take in all that had happened. Or maybe she was trying to take in becoming leader she knew from experience that being called a leader and finally doing things as a leader were two very different things. The hardest part was stepping in to the position and getting in to it mentality, she had, had a lot problems during her first three weeks as Empress. She had suffered from nervousness, lack of sleep and forever questioned if she could rule Greece.

She had been a warrior for so long and despite how much she knew about diplomacy being a ruler of this type was very different there were different protocols to learn as well as getting used to palace life which was so far removed from anything she had been used to. Gabrielle though was going though the reverse she had sat a top a meaningless throne while the Imperial Council with held power from her and tried to make her their puppet while making her life Tartarus on so many levels. She had, had to act the part as a werewolf king while trying so hard to hold on what little power she had while forever been looking over for shoulders for those who could betray her. Not to mention her ex Adrienne had been abusive toward her after the murder of Damokles a man she had loved very deeply. Now she was free from all this and had her horns which were pure bone she had to now start to leading her people the first being the werewolves of Corinth. The whole thing had to be both daunting and frightening. Any one who ever said that leaders and kings didn’t get scared was lying, everyone was afraid of leadership on some level, even though not all were willing to admit to it. She turning over on to her side gently putting her arm around the other woman’s waist feeling her fidgeting stop. “Can’t you sleep?”

Gabrielle turned meeting the other woman’s concerned gaze. “I’m sorry I don’t mean to keep you awake.” Xena looked at the dark sky outside it was very late and it had been a while seen she had seen Gabrielle have trouble sleeping like this. She used to walk around in werewolf form till the early hours of the morning because she had been plagued by nightmares and had trouble dealing with her past issues and guilt and although the guilt was still there on some level the nightmares weren’t and normally she could sleep soundly, which made this very out of ordinary. “Its okay it’s just been a while seen I have seen you up this late.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “You mean I’m not walking around late at night in werewolf form contemplating my thoughts.” Xena felt a smile form as she moved closer so she was against her body. “You now if you want to take a walk in your other form I don’t mind, you clearly have a lot on your mind.” Gabrielle eyed the fire in the corner of the room frankly even with her winter coat she didn’t like the idea of walking around the palace at this time of night she would rather be with her lover. “No really I’m okay I don’t feel like walking around right now.”

She looked in to the other woman’s eyes uncertain of her next words. “Do you really think my sister is going to stay despite knowing that I’m not human?” Xena eased up her hand running it down her chest in a gentle motion. “Yes Gabrielle I believe she will stay despite that you’re a werewolf, you’re her sister and I think she wants to get to know you better.” Gabrielle felt the other woman’s hand stop just below her ribs. “What if she doesn’t though?” Xena leaned closer to her. “Then it would be a great loss to her to have missed out on getting to know someone like you, whose strong kind and loving.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “You give me far too much credit Xena.” Xena moved her hands through her hair. “No you’re a better person than you give yourself credit for.” She paused running her hand down her face in a gentle motion. “But I have the rest of our lives to keep on telling you that.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “Thank you…for the throne it means a lot to me.” Xena eased her body over so she was on top of the other woman. “I’m sorry it wasn’t given to you under better circumstances.”  She felt the other woman’s hands as they found her back moving in slow circles. “How would you like it decorated?”

Gabrielle met the other woman’s lips kissing them gently. “I have an idea in my head I’ll probably draw it up tomorrow.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Can I watch?” Gabrielle met her lips again running her hand through her long dark hair. “You know my sketches aren’t that good.” Xena smirked as she looked down at her enjoying their present position. “No your sketches are wonderful and I would love to be there when your draw the design for your throne.” She kissed the younger woman enjoying the warmth and feel of her lips she felt tired but she didn’t care she loved to indulge in these moments they were such utter bliss. It was already clear to her that Gabrielle wanted to design and sculpt her throne and that fascinated her on many levels, she wanted so much to be there during the whole process. Just to see the love that Gabrielle would put in to the thrones design and creation and how she would craft and mould it in to her own. She leaned forward meeting her lips again this made her feel so much better as she had felt that maybe the throne had not gone down well but this proved otherwise and that made her so happy inside on so many levels.

End of part 6

 

FLOATING BETWEEN ECSTASY AND EMOTIONAL AGONY

 

I can feel her kissing my throat her lips are moving up my neck slowly and gently as I lie naked on the cold floor and she lays over me, her body against mine. I can feel the heat of my body and feel the pounding of my heart it is ringing in my ear like an eternal instrument igniting every part of my soul. Its dark all around and I am in bliss but under this bliss is a piecing rage burning to get free and I am trying to control it with every inch of my will. Yet it is so hard it’s like feeling daggers being trust in to my body which is already on fire, I’m riding so high that I can’t come down as I feel my lovers lips move across her chest as her hands drifted lower. I could feel my legs being straddled by the older woman’s body as my hands find her back and my nails dig in, I can’t take it anymore I want to let go but I can’t. I want to transform but shouldn’t I want to die and be reborn a new, the monster in my sexual drive is taking control and I am struggling now to control it.

I feel my teeth pinch against my lips their growing and I can’t stop them, I’m so close to reaching climax on two levels and feel the claws as they burst through my finger nails. I hear her scream as I loose control pushing my claws in to her skin feeling the cold liquid as her blood runs free and her scream of agony hits the air. I’m hurting her I’m breaking her and wounding her and I can’t stop myself. Its awful delightful and painful ecstasy, I can see the blood running free and see the pain in her eyes as she looks down in to mine. I can see fear, pain but she does not stop and nether do I. I can feel the my body changing buckling as I transform and my claws remain in place cutting deeper wounds along her back tearing through muscle and bone as I force her forward feeling her now smaller body pressing against mine. I force her down on to the floor my huge jaws opening with in inches of her face before clamping shut. It is no longer pain I see but terror as my jaws slam in to her throat tearing pulling ripping as blood sprays forth like a tide soaking the floor , this can’t be happening, why is this happening? I would never do this to her I love her! Please let me wake up! Please get me out of this nightmare!

Gabrielle felt her eyes snap open as she grabbing her sword bolting up right in bed feeling the sweat as it poured down her face. She groaned painfully closing her eyes for a moment trying to focus on where she was. She was fine the dream wasn’t real she was in Xena’s room in her bed she turned sharply trying to control her breathing as she looked at her lover who was sleeping on her side next to her. She could feel the cold air as it hit her chest she looked down realizing that the cover had fallen down exposing her naked upper body. She eyed her weapon before easing up her knees and putting a hand on her face. Why in Ouroboros’s name had she had a dream like this? It had been utterly awful on every level she would never do that to this woman, she would never hurt her, her gaze drifted to her weapon hand realizing that it was shaking violently. She breathed in feeling her heart beat start to slow down and she gained control over her body she eased up her hand wiping the sweat away looking at sword hand once more which had stopped shaking.

She had never experienced a dream like this or experienced a shaking weapon hand before, clearly it was just a side effect of the dream but she didn’t like it regardless. She tensed focusing her thoughts eyeing the night sky which was still dark so much for sleeping all night. She had probably been asleep for less than four hours. She turned looking at the sleeping woman again, what if she ever did that, what if she hurt her? What if she lost control and she paid the price for it? If she ever hit her it would be the end their relationship for sure, she had only ever hurt her on one other occasion but they had not been friends back then and it had been after Xena had, had her dance in front of the royals in chains. She had control over her anger but despite this it always felt like under the surface and constantly being restrained and there were moments when she lost it. She wished that she could control it most days but had come to accept that, that would never be so. Normally she wouldn’t have cared but now she did unlike her past lovers Xena was human not a werewolf and it meant that she had to stay in control all of the time or she would really hurt her.

She had never been in this situation before and her anger she could control to a point but she wouldn’t lie, her lust and sexual drive was not as easy to control. She had almost lost it once during their love making not long ago and though the other woman had not said a word she knew she had hurt her. She put a hand through her damp fringe as she looked at her sword seeing her own face reflected in the gleaming blade like a mirror. She breathed in deeply about to lie back only to stop as she caught sight of something leaking out under the central door from her room that led to her room, it was dark in colour. She put down her sword as she threw back the cover getting out of bed as then pulled on her robe and closing it quickly as she took hold of her sword again. She moved slowly towards the central door raising her sword higher as she kneeled down running her finger tips through the dark pool.

She smelt her finger only to pull away sharply it was blood but not human blood she stood up leaning against the central door she could hear someone moving behind it, she narrowed her gaze she could smell another werewolf. Since when did any bastard slip in to her room with out her knowing and bleed all over her floor? She felt her grip on her weapon tighten as she moved her fingers towards the door handle. If a werewolf was here why hadn’t they come in to this room and attacked her out right? Why hesitate she had been sleeping and a perfect target, no something wasn’t right about this she could feel it deep in the pit of her stomach, she hated it when things didn’t make sense to her. Who ever was in her room was clearly very badly wounded that was why they hadn’t attacked her.

”Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle turned sharply seeing that her lover was now wide awake she eased up her free hand keeping whispering under her breath. “There is a werewolf in my room, I can smell them.” She watched as the older woman grabbed her robe pulling it on while grabbing her sword. She breathed in seeing the taller woman come to stand opposite the concern in her eyes. She turned the handle slowly opening the door catching sight of bloody drags marks which led to the centre of her room there was a figure. She could tell that it was a werewolf but who ever they were they were laying on there stomach legs outspread and tail down but there was something wrong though. It was the way there limps were moving and how they looked crooked and distorted she narrowed her gaze edging closer to the fallen werewolf. She took in a painful breath as it became very clear to her why the body was so distorted. She could now see that werewolf had no fur only burnt skin which was pulsing as blood ran from open holes as its body tried to heal itself.

There were whole area’s were there was nothing but bone showing through. She could see open ribs in one area which had the insides showing through and there were bone ligaments on the legs, arms and tail section. The worst part of all was the face half of it had been burnt away revealing nothing but teeth and white bone and an empty eye socket were an eye had once been. There were areas were muscle was growing in stands and making patterns of red all over the heavy upper and lower jaw bone. The one good eye which was brown and gleaming in the low light could be seen but it was an eye that was filled with pain and torment. She couldn’t imagine the agony that this werewolf was in or even how long he had forced himself to stay alive just so he could get to the palace. This was the werewolf who had gotten away but had still been set alight in the flames. The survivor if you could call him that she watched as her lover took hold of the lit candle on her desk moving to light the torch stand opposite. She raised her hand stopping her as she lowered her weapon putting it on the floor opposite. “You don’t want to put that on, it’s not pretty.”

She moved over to her bed yanked of one of the fur covers which was light and warm then kneeled down gentle putting it over the rebels destroyed body she knew it would do nothing for his pain he was to far gone and he was dying but it would at least give him his dignity. She gently took the candle from her lover’s hand putting it opposite his body just enough to light the area near his face so she could see it. The face looked up to her as the mouth moved all though the words were gargled due to the werewolf’s tongue which had been damaged. “Golden…hind.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form the werewolf was male the voice gave him an identity, even if his body didn’t. “Yes I’m the Golden Hind.” The eye looked at her as the mouth moved again with great difficulty. “I found…you.” Gabrielle nodded trying to ignore the agonizing pain in her heart as she met his gaze. “Yes you found me.” She watched as the taller woman slowly sat down opposite her keeping quite she could see the sadness in her eyes as the werewolf spoke again. “The Apollonia rebels…wish to give…this to you.” Gabrielle watched as the one clawed hand which was burnt down to the fingers bones came out from under the cover pushing a bag towards her, only the outer leather had been burnt but not very deeply.

The werewolf spoke again as she took it from his bloody hand. “The Imperial…Council wants to bring the bleeding….pillars… of…sorrow to humans.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment, bleeding pillars she had never heard that statement before not even in her readings. What did it mean and why would he say it to her? She looked up only to watch in surprise as his boned hand took hold of her sword blade pulling it towards him she didn’t think as she grabbed the handle. She tensed as he pushed the blade up to his throat as he raised his head. “Kill…me.” Gabrielle felt her hand on her weapon start to shake before she could stop it. It wasn’t fear it was that tense feeling returning once more and her having no control over it. Xena eyed her lover’s sword hand she could see it shaking, not in all the time she had known her had she seen her sword hand shake even when she was angry or sad. She always had complete control over her weapon even if not her emotions, which made this very strange. She looked up as her lovers grip tightened causing her hand to stop shaking.

Gabrielle looked at the werewolf’s one good eye feeling the pain twist in her chest she had only ever done this once before on a werewolf in her unit who had been skinned alive back when she had moved to the Grand City. It was considered an honour as a warrior to kill those who were in to much pain and end their suffering to give them any less was cruel and dishonourable. Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment before leaning forward. “Tell me your name, so I can tell the rebels of your bravery.” The werewolf looked up. “Ucalegon…my name is Ucalegon.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she pulled him up slightly. “When I suite the throne as king you will always be remembered I will ensure that your name goes down in history.” She raised her blade higher feeling the intense pain hit home, she took in a deep painful breath tensing her body this kill had to be perfect if she slipped the blade she would cause him a very painful death. Xena felt her body tense she could see her lover preparing herself she knew that she had no choice this werewolf was in so much pain to not offer him death would be cruel.

She leaned over removing the bag which was clearly important in some way. Gabrielle took in another deep breath before gently putting her hand on the burnt flesh at the back of the mane watching as the werewolf nodded as best he could signalling that he was ready as his one good eye closed. She trust her weapon forward in a lightning fast motion hearing the crack as it pieced bone hitting the target, she watched as his body tensed before going completely still as death took over. She looked down at her blade which was now deeply imbedded in side his neck then carefully pulled it out watching as the head drooped down fully as she let go of the burnt skin on his neck. She felt the word slow down as she looked at her blade watching as blood ran down the centre creating patterns of red she lowered her weapon watching as it hit the floor. She looked down trying to hide her pain which had become so much more intense. She felt her lovers hand as it came to rest on her lap as she lowered her head sadly looking at the floor. She moved her hand realizing that it was now covered in blood due to her putting it close to the werewolf’s body.

“I’m sorry.”

Gabrielle looked up meeting her lovers gaze before covering the werewolves face with her blanket. “I have to go now and visit my people…I don’t know what he even meant by bleeding pillars.” Xena slowly eased herself to her feet she took hold of her lovers hand easing her gently up in to a standing position seeing the intense pain and sadness in her eyes. “No first I need you to let me wash this blood of your hands.” She moved her towards the open central door closing it behind her wanting to keep the now dead body out of her lover’s sight. She would have Demetrius remove the body and have the guards clean her lover’s room. Thaleia was not ready for this if the young maid saw it, it would be far too much for her to handle, it was true she had seen blood and guts but the body in that room was enough to give anyone nightmares. Maybe she being over protective but she wanted Thaleia to keep some of her innocence as she had always felt guilty about Ceto loosing her innocence after being with her all on the battlefield and seeing so much blood.

She watched as Gabrielle sat down on her bed the younger woman looked sad and deflated as if she now had the weight of the world resting firmly on her shoulders. She moved over to her wash room filling a wooden bowl with cold water. Gabrielle had, had no choice but to put that werewolf out of his misery but she couldn’t help but feel that this wasn’t the first time the younger woman had done this. As there was so little hesitation when she had made the kill and she had very methodically placed her blade at a point where it would kill instantly. She moved towards the younger woman seeing that the bloody sword was still in her hand and still being gripped it firmly. She slowly kneeled down in front of her taking hold of the weapon gently freeing it from her fingers, before placing it close by. She eased up the bowl and wet cloth slowly and carefully wiping the blood away from her fingers until they were clean before speaking. “You did the right thing he was in to much pain.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly meeting her intense light blue gaze. “Then why doesn’t it feel right? He probably had family, children or a partner and I just took him away from them.”  Xena shook her head sadly. “This isn’t your first time doing this is it?” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “No it’s my second and it’s not any easier it’s just harder.” Xena carefully dried her hands with a cloth. “It never gets easer in my youth I once had the job of  putting dying men and women on the battle field out of their misery I will never forget the way they looked at me, some wanted to die others looked at me with disgust. I just felt sadness at cutting their lives short, back then I was just part of the rebellion I wasn’t leading it.” She put the dry cloth to one side watching as Gabrielle’s her pet Collared Doe Icos flew over landing on the bed next to her. The younger woman picked him up gently stroking his back listening to the deep cooing sounds before speaking. “I’ve never liked to kill those who are suffering I remember the one killed during my training, he was stupid and got captured the hunters skinned him alive. Putting him out of his misery was the only thing I could do, but I’ll never forget the way he looked at me.”

She felt the other woman’s hands as they found her knees running her finger tips over them. “Like it was my fault…but it wasn’t my fault I did what I was told but he took it up on himself to go against orders.” She shook her head. “There was something he said to me which I didn’t understand back then, he said, that might is right even when it’s wrong. It’s this saying which Ares the God Of War is meant to have said as he charged in to battle at he head of his armies.” Xena felt a smile form she had heard that saying many times. “I think what Ares meant with that comment was that some times you must charge in to battle but you must plan ahead. I think a lot of people misunderstand that saying as him saying that you should force your way in to battle and they end up dead because of it.” She looked up slightly. “It seems that you and I both know that winning any battle is about more than brute force.” Gabrielle carried on stroking her pet. “Yes I guess we do.” Xena slowly stood up giving her a gentle kiss on her scar. “I’ll get Demetrius to move the body from your room.”

 

End of part 7

 

THE LOOSE END OF HONOUR

 

Thaleia walked up the long corridor she had heard the news this morning which was very bad, a wounded werewolf had found his way in to Gabrielle room and died. She had been told by Ceto that couldn’t go in there until they had cleaned the room, which was both annoying and frustrating on many levels. She wanted to talk Gabrielle and check that she was okay amongst other things. She still didn’t get what was so bad about a dead body she wasn’t afraid of seeing blood and guts she had seen enough of Gabrielle’s that the idea really didn’t bother her anymore. Regardless of her personal feelings though she had to obey the Empress even if she didn’t agree with her reasoning, somehow she hoped though that once she met up with Gabrielle she would explain to her why she had been left out of this. She hated being left out if reminded her of a time in the palace before she had become a Gabrielle’s personal maid she had been nothing but a cleaner and a loner and being honest with herself she had always felt like she was on the sidelines looking in and seeing others who were happy and she didn’t want that feeling anymore.

She wanted to tell Gabrielle that her mother had approved of her and Demetrius being together and she had really wanted to ask her about her sister like what she was like and how their first meeting had gone. Because she didn’t really know and nether did any of the staff, Demetrius had said that Lila wasn’t nice to meet in person but she didn’t really believe that, I mean how bad could someone really be? She turned another corridor only to stop as she heard laughter coming from the throne room and it wasn’t a voice she recognised. She turned the corner seeing that the guards looked annoyed, it was obvious they were at the point of loosing their tempers with who ever was in side the room. They opened the throne room’s doors as she walked towards them, giving her a respectful nod. She could now see a person inside who clearly wasn’t a guard but a mercenary. She was a young woman who looked just a little younger than Gabrielle her hair was dark black and she had sea blue eyes. She moved a step closer seeing that she was seated on Gabrielle’s throne.

She felt herself tense it was forbidden for anyone to sit on these two thrones, they belonged to the Empress and Gabrielle. She moved a step closer taking in a deep breath before speaking. “You are not allowed to sit on these thrones they belong to the Empress and her consort.” The dark haired woman looked up eyeing her for a long moment before speaking. ”Well I am, maybe you have not heard but I’m an important guest.” Thaleia folded her arm how arrogant no one was above the rules, not even her. “No one is allowed to sit on these thrones neither maid nor Greek royal and everyone in his palace knows that.” Lila eyed the dark skinned woman in disgust, gods she hated being told what to do least of all by a maid. “I don’t have to listen to you, your nothing but a servant its not like anyone cares about what you think or say, your just here to serve, scrub and clean. Thaleia felt her body tense as the anger twisted in her stomach she wasn’t just a maid, she was a personal maid with vast power at her calling and everyone had to obey her word. Her word as it was good as Gabrielle’s. “I am the personal maid of the Empress’s consort and my word is as good as if it came from her lips.”

Lila sat up sharply she had not seen this coming at all, so this was Gabrielle’s personal maid? It didn’t surprise her that she had one but knowing who she was made things very interesting. All of the other staff she had spoken to so far had been very cagey with her clearly they didn’t realize who she was yet and that she was related to Gabrielle. She had been trying to find out how her sister had gotten here and how long she had been here and how she had ended up becoming the Empress’s lover yet no one had told her anything and that had just made her angry. She had found herself exploring the vast palace just to find something to do. She wasn’t used to this manner of life at all it was to slow she liked to be up at dawn and doing things. Though she had to confess that she loved the bed and the wash room, she had not felt this fresh in a very long time. She had left Korudon asleep in their room as he clearly really needed some rest. She felt cold smile form as she eyed the young woman in front of her maybe she could play with her a little by threatening her and get the information she needed to know.

After all, all maids were the same push them a little and they spill all their master’s secrets they also weren’t truth worthy and they betrayed and sold out their friends. She stood up from the throne folding her arms trying to look more imposing. “So you know my older sister, well this is very interesting she didn’t tell me a great deal in our first meeting about herself and she didn’t tell me that she had personal maid.” Thaleia folded her arms meeting the woman’s ice cold gaze. “My name is not maid it is Thaleia, show me some respect and call me by it.” Lila laughed as she came to stand over the other woman who was smaller than herself. “You know no ones told me how my sister got to be in this place, they won’t tell ether how she came to be the Empress’s lover she also wasn’t very forth coming at our meeting yesterday. Maybe you could fill me in just a little on that.” Thaleia looked up in surprise this was Lila, Gabrielle’s sister. She looked closer could see the slight features in her face that were similar to Gabrielle’s even the expressions boar a similarity but her posture and actions were both bullying and disrespectful. “You should ask your sister, not me.” Lila smirked eyeing her. “She won’t tell me but you might servant.”

Thaleia eyed the other woman for a long moment before speaking. “I just told you my name, call me by it or pay the consequences.” Lila laughed eyeing her in disgust. “My, my aren’t we a little firefly, I can so see why she likes you.” Thaleia narrowed her gaze realizing something for the first time which had not accord to her until now, this woman had dilated pupils she was high on something. She knew that Gabrielle had given up opium though she had never seen her smoke it but she knew she had done it in the past to dull the emotional pain, not because she wanted to get high. “Taking drugs is allowed in the palace but it is to be done in side your room out of sight of others clearly no one told you this rule, you should take notice of it.” Lila blinked in shock the condescending little bitch, so she was high so what? Black henbane always made her feel better though she hated that its effects weren’t long lasting as she really liked the euphoria sensation until it wore off as it calmed her nerves and made her forget her childhood pain. “You know when we were small my sister was always more popular than me, people warmed to her like she was a fire in winter, I was just in the shadows forever watching her.”

She narrowed her gaze. “My perfect sister, who my father loved more than me and who could charm all the boys and girls in the village with a single smile and be kissed by both and loved by all.” She felt an evil smile form as she grabbed her arm harshly not caring if her grip hurt. “Did she charm you in between the sheets?” She felt the sudden blinding pain as the other woman hand struck her around the face she let go feeling the sting of pain in her cheek. She eased up her hand trying to take the pain, the little bitch! She wasn’t going to be hit by a maid. She grabbed hold of her sword hilt as she moved closer to her. “You ever touch me again and I will cut you open!” She didn’t think as she eased out her sword putting it so the point was very close the other woman’s face. “I’m guessing you have never seen anyone’s insides least of all your own so believe me it will be very shocking to you when they spill out and hit the floor!” Thaleia breathed in gaining control over her fear she knew that if she let it show this woman would think she had won. Unlike Gabrielle she clearly had no honour instead she was bully who liked to throw her weight around and threaten others. She looked up meeting Lila’s cold gaze not moving an inch as she spoke in an even tone. “I have never slept with your sister nor has Gabrielle ever made any moves on which are sexual. She is not like that she respects my sexuality and the fact that I do not sleep with women and prefer men.”

She paused eyeing the gleaming blade of the sword. “I have also seen inside a living body it was in fact your sister’s she nearly died once with in these walls and I had to help to save her life. Do not think that just because I am a maid that all I do is clean and scrub, my loyalty is to your sister and it is unwavering.” She paused before speaking. “That loyalty would be lost on you Lila, you clearly do not have her honour or nobility she has never threatened me in the way you just have. She has always shown me kindness maybe that is why she was always more popular in childhood than you because she shows deep kindness and compassion to others.” Lila felt her teeth grind together as she eyed the other woman feeling her grip tighten on her weapon she breathed in slowly lowering it seeing that the woman’s eyes didn’t leave her own. “My sister is a werewolf, werewolves tear people from limb to limb I’ve seen it, its not nice, are you not afraid that one day my sister’s anger might just slip and you might wind up dead?” Thaleia folded her arms gods this woman wasn’t just high she was also stupid, she wasn’t sure if Gabrielle had told her about being a werewolf or if she had found out but ether way this comment was awful.

She wasn’t referring to her as a flesh and blood but a monster and not a human being, though a part of her hoped that it was the drugs talking. “Gabrielle is not an animal or a monster and unlike you she has control over her anger but believe me she won’t be happy about this meeting if she ever finds out about it.” Lila narrowed her gaze. “Is that a threat?” Thaleia shook her head sadly as she stepped back. “No it is not a threat and I have no intention of telling her because I would prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt and hope that right now that the drugs you have taken are talking and not you. I am also a personal maid it is my job to ensure that she is happy and I know that she thinks about you, you’re her family even though you think so little of her.” She turned walking away leaving the other woman standing in the throne room, she meant every word she just spoken. Lila was Gabrielle’s family and even if she was a bully and a fool she wouldn’t put a wedge between them, regardless of her personal feelings. Faolan breathed in deeply watching through the gap in the opposite door as the Thaleia disappeared through the throne room’s doors on the opposite side of the room which the guards closed behind her. Both of them were smiling at her bravery as they had not had to intervene though he had seen that they were about to, if Gabrielle’s sister had kept her weapon up any longer if would not have ended well for her.

From what Evadine had said this woman was very difficult to be around and to serve but he had no idea that she was this bad. It was very clear to that she was a bully and very cruel natured. Thaleia may have chosen silence but he hadn’t he wasn’t going to allow this woman to get away with her actions. Threatening unarmed men and woman was both dishonourable and cruel and any warrior worth his or her salt knew this and would never do it. He knew all to well from child hood that bullies once they were allowed to get away with things would try again and become even more brutal. Lila was clearly very dangerous this whole event proved that she welded her sword like a spoilt and jealous child and he wouldn’t allow her to get away with it. He would tell Gabrielle the truth along with the Empress, this had to be stopped and quickly before it got out of control. If it wasn’t stopped now Lila would act out her threats and someone innocent would wind up dead or wounded because of it. He closed the door walking away from the throne room door. He was so disappointed he had come here to greet Lila and get to know her but instead been greeted with a view of her holding her sword to Thaleia’s throat. Clearly this woman was just a rotten apple unlike her sister who had kept her dignity despite all that she had suffered in the past. He turned limping away from the door he would tell them what had happened when he brought up their food tonight.

8

Blackness so much blackness and pain like a shadow in the night twisting and turning around every one of my limbs like a snakes coil. Taking energy life and breath away from me I can feel myself drifting in this sea but that sea has finally come to shore and I can see a hairs breath of light in the distance calling me back from this dark oblivion. I can see the red cat slit eyes of Jormungand the Midgard Serpent staring at me I can see every one of his black scales gleaming in the blackness and his huge mane of spiked thorns as the words echo through his massive razor toothed jaws vibrating through my body like a wave. “Serve me in death serve me in life and sacrifice.” I don’t understand the words but it’s to late as his jaws come towards me and I realize that the light I was seeing is coming from with in them, this bright light consumes me as his jaws close around me and all I know is that I have to return to the place which I came from. Adrienne opened her eyes only to wince in agony as the sun light hit them she pulled up her hand only to hear the grinding of metal as her hand stopped in mid way up and she unable to move it up any further. She looked down realizing that on her arms and her legs were thick heavy bronze chains while bronze and leather straps had been bound around her body.

One was wrapped around her chest while the other was around waist and just to make matters worse she could feel something pointed sticking in to her neck. Clearly she had been restrained though she had no idea why, she looked around the small room which was some sort of healer’s room. She winced as a memory came flooding back to her she had pushed Gabrielle through the window and then it had all gone wrong during the fall to earth, her ex had pushed her face first in to the stone lion there had been a crack and then intense blinding pain before everything had turned to darkness. She closed her eyes it hurt to think, never mind to move she breathed in painfully before speaking. “Get me out of here, what is this, a prison?” She opened her eyes watching as a man with a beard appeared he had a rather unimpressed look on her face as he folded his arms narrowing his gaze before speaking. “Well, well isn’t this a surprise you are awake.” Adrienne eyed him in disgust. “Let me out of here you fat bastard.” Phantasos shook his head unmoved by her words he had been called worse and people who made comments about his weight really weren’t worth his time as they judged him based on appearance not by his character. “You know the pinch in your neck Adrienne which your feeling it is because we put a very special collar on you.”

He paused meeting her ice cold gaze. “So do not even think about trying to transform because the points of that collar will dig in your flesh and slit your throat to ribbons.” Iona invented it and Gabrielle approved it but it’s only for palace use right now and only for problem prisoners such as your self. Frankly I have never seen it kill anyone yet but don’t let that try to stop you being the first, I really want to see how it works personally.” He watched as she stopped struggling as the idea of what really dying sank in. “Also just to be clear once you can walk Iona’s guards are going to march you chains and all to the royal prison where you can join Mavican and your traitorous friend Kalika. They are both alive for now but I think it’s only because the Empress believes they could still hold some value. You are the same unless you have any value you’ll be kept alive, but if you don’t well let’s just say there is a noose waiting for you in the palace courtyard.” Adrienne sniggered as she looked up. “You must think me a fool the reason I’m alive and they are alive is because we are a werewolf matter not a human one and our lives belong to Gabrielle, not to your bitch of an Empress.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “Let me be clear if it weren’t for the Empress you would be dead Iona really wanted to end your miserable life as did I.”

Adrienne eyed him for a long moment. “So Gabrielle survived the fall?” Phantasos leaned over her bed tightening the straps and chains he was going to enjoy this. “Oh yes she survived the fall sadly for you that spear you put through her chest really didn’t work. Nice try though but I am the palace healer and I can heal anyone, even you.” He paused checking her chains again. “What ever plan you had to ruin their friendship that didn’t work ether, their lovers now and will one day marry. Must sting to know that for all of your scheming and plotting has come to nothing, you’re now a prisoner and Gabrielle is far beyond your reach. I think personally you deserve all that has befallen you, after all you were never kind to Gabrielle you emotionally and physically abused her and abusers like you deserve to rot in Tartarus.” He moved his hands up tightening the leather strap on her collar which had to hurt but frankly he didn’t care. “I’ll send word to her that you are awake I’m sure she’ll be interested in knowing that your alive might give her a good enough reason to kill you.” He stepped back from the bed ignoring the pain and frustration in the other woman’s eyes. “Don’t lean forward keep your head back on that pillow at all times the points of that collar are razor sharp, wouldn’t want you to cut yourself up now would we?”

End of part 8

 

UNINVITED INFORMATION WHICH TEARS AT THE SOUL

 

Xena looked at the paper work on her desk she used to treasure this room it used to be her personal space where she could get away from everyone and bury herself in her paper work and alcohol undisturbed. Yet now it just felt lonely and empty and the desk wasn’t the same anymore it just made her think back to a more recent time when she had been naked and Gabrielle had slammed her to her this table back first and she had been loving every moment of it. She felt a smile form as she picked up the small carved wooden bird which was a painted Dead Sea Sparrow turning it between her fingers she loved this gift. She pressed its chest watching as its wings snapped open revealing a message of love. She was one of the few people to reserve one of these little carved birds as her lover didn’t give them out to just anyone. The only other person to ever have one made was Damokles but he had never received it as he had been murdered before she could give it to him. She felt her smile fade as she looked at the door which led to their bed chambers she knew Gabrielle was in her workshop right now but she saw it only right to leave her to her thoughts.

These past few days had been stressful for her and it was clear that she now needed time alone with her thoughts just so she could process everything. She turned as a knock sounded on her study door. “Come in.” She watched as the door opened and Chara walked in closing it behind her she had a number of scrolls in her hand there was a look of deep concerned in her eyes as she spoke. “Good morning Empress.” Xena put down the wooden bird looking at her scribe. “Is it?” Chara carefully laid down the scrolls in front of her. “I heard about what happened this morning and yesterday I’m so sorry for both of the dead werewolves.” She paused before speaking. “How is Gabrielle taking it?” Xena looked down sadly. “Not well it’s been a hard couple of days for her.” Chara eyed the scrolls. “Then I hate to be the bringer of bad news but it’s about to get harder, these are all letters from the Corinthian diplomats they want answers regarding the incident with the werewolves in the market place and one in particular wants answers regarding your Consort.” Xena put her hand on her face. “I’m guessing that’s Raissa.”

Chara nodded. “Yes Empress and I believe that a rumour may have drifted beyond the walls Empress because she spoke about your overgrown dog, clearly she has not connected the two yet.” Xena leaned back in her chair taking in a deep breath she knew this woman was going to be difficult firstly because she ruled over her family and held all the power in it and husband was down trodden. There was also the fact that her cousin had died during the androphonomania massacre which Gabrielle had been part off, which only added to the difficulty of the situation.” She put her hand on her face. “Then I think it’s time she met Gabrielle along with rest of the Corinthian diplomats.” Chara breathed in deeply. “Empress?” Xena took hold of the little carved bird then leaned back putting her feet on the desk ignoring her scribes surprise as she raised hand keeping her other on the bird. “Send them all a letter inviting them to dinner two days from now, though Abraxas and Ilithyia can come the day before if they wish and stay the night.” She paused. “Send a message to Ceto and have her and Thaleia pick up Gabrielle the most expensive chiton robes they can find.”

Chara blinked this was a first she had never seen the Empress put her feet on the table let alone be this forward. “For Gabrielle…to wear?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Yes and look completely stunning in, I’m going to show them all the woman I love and they are all going to be in awe and then I’m going to tell them the truth about her and they will all see what I see. While I’m at it I’ll put this werewolf matter to rest once and for all and they will give me their allegiance during this civil war.” Chara felt her eyes dart. “I mean no offence Empress but how are you going to get Gabrielle in to a dress? I mean it’s not her style per say.” Xena looked up at the other woman. “Don’t worry I’ll get her to wear one.” Chara took in a deep breath. “I see that being very difficult Empress.” Xena moved the bird between her fingers. “So do I and I don’t want to push her in to wearing clothes she doesn’t like dressing in but I need her to wear this to fool the council. I want them to think that she is human then show most of them that they are wrong about werewolves.” Chara eyed the scrolls on the table. “I hope you are able to sway them I mean they can all be very difficult to deal with at times plus your last meeting didn’t go that well.”

Xena looked up slightly. “No it didn’t go that well it was more of a shouting match.” Chara felt her body tense as she tried to forget the memory as it flooded back. “Then I hope that the wine and food dulls their memory, making it easy for you to win them over.” She paused before speaking. “Gabrielle is very noble they may warm to that.” She paused as a sharp knock sounded on the door it was probably Demetrius giving the palace report. “I will get those scrolls written out and sent out today Empress.” Xena nodded as she turned to the door. “Come in.” Faolan pushed the door open carrying a plate of grapes and fruit as he limped through it a smile on his face. “I brought you a late snack Empress.” Chara smiled at him as she walked through the open door. “I’ll leave you two alone.” Xena smiled watching as she closed the door behind she looked up meeting the Celtic cooks gaze as he laid the food bowl down in front of her. “This is very nice but I believe you have already brought up mine and Gabrielle’s breakfast.” Faolan felt his smile fade as he put a hand on her desk. “Forgive my deception Empress but I felt it the only way to see you.” Xena eyed the food before looking up. “You are always welcome in my study you need not use food as a ploy to come here.”

Faolan took in a deep breath this was going to be hard and he hated to have to do it but it was necessary. “I witnessed something disturbing today Empress and I feel you need to be told as does Gabrielle.” He looked up. “Is she here?” Xena put down the little bird then she eased her feet off the table. “No she’s not here right now, she has a lot on her plate and needs time to think things through but please tell me.” Faolan shook his head sadly the life of a ruler had to be hard and it was better to give Gabrielle time plus so long as this message got to her, he didn’t care. “I witnessed her sister threatening one of the staff today it was Thaleia, she had a sword to her throat. She was trying to pry out information about Gabrielle. Normally I wouldn’t say anything but you have very strict rules on how guests treat staff.” Xena felt her smile fade as her hand formed a fist gods she couldn’t believe she was hearing this she knew that Lila had issues but this was just vile. She had shown that woman nothing but kindness and this was how she repaid it by threaten Thaleia with her weapon! She had not been here a night and she had done this, what in Tartarus was the woman problem? She put her hands together she could act this way outside the palace all she wanted but not in it, she looked up at the short white haired man. “Tell me everything that happened.” Faolan nodded respectful. “As you wish Empress.”

8

They call me sadistic and vile but really I don’t care I am a goddess and I cause fear and it is such a turn on. I love watching young men and women scream as I pull out their insides, I love cutting them up then drinking their blood and bathing it. I love tearing their flesh from their bodies and leaving only muscle and skin then hanging them out to dry. That is why they call me the Red Goddess because I bath in the blood of my fallen and the Empress can not stop me, no one can. As I sit here eating human flesh I am reminded that I am all powerful and they are not and that is how I always want it to remain. I am a werewolf but I am a werewolf unlike any other myself and my men and women practise the noble art of eating the living we are the true werewolves. We are not given our power to waste and squander it by being moral and human why waste such an amazing gift on power and kindness? We kill and eat humans alive in human and werewolf form as true werewolves should we are the master race there fore we should be above humans and humans should be a food.

Modern werewolf sociality hates us if we are caught eating humans we are thrown out, yet in werewolf sociality tearing them apart is okay as is ripping out their hearts but eating their bone and flesh is considered sacrilege, it’s very much a double standard in my opinion. They teach us as warriors to bend and shatter bone to taste blood and flesh with our teeth and tongue yet we can’t eat their meat and flesh, it disgusts me. Why must we hold back? We are part wolf we should act as nature intended and eat our prey as true wolves do. Glaphyra eyed her bloody plate full of red meat before picking up a piece and chewing on it savouring the taste, human’s always tasted so good she sat back in her bone throne seeing a woman appear as two of her guards pushed her in to hers and her husbands throne room. She looked up hearing her own cold tone as she spoke. “What do you want?” Narella felt her hand form a fist she hated that she had to talk to this demented bitch but frankly she didn’t trust in Admes’s plans and she wanted a second card to play, since Adrienne had failed.

Sadly the card she had to choose was Glaphyra and her husband Agathon the outcasts of werewolf sociality who were part of a religious order called the Lurathian order who believed in eating human flesh and bone because they believed it gave them power. Gabrielle’s bitch of a lover had a high price on Glaphyra’s head but she didn’t realize that she was a werewolf and never had. There was a price though for eating flesh in this manner it caused issues with transformations in that they became more difficult and painful. Their form also became more primal but it also became stronger and the person could survive more brutal wounds which would normally kill other werewolves. The healers in the Grand City believed this was due to eating raw guts and getting disease from it, which affected the healing process along with the transformations because the healing process was constantly focused on healing the internal disease and couldn’t focus on everything else. Even when hunting animals out in wilds werewolves left the insides alone and focused on the meat it wasn’t considered un-clean to eat guts and if Glaphyra was anything to go by she swore that it killed brain cells as well because every time she met this woman she swore that she was becoming less intelligent and more animalist.

This gave her an edge though she could play to this heretic’s stomach and head much easier than most. Narella turned eyeing her in disgust. “You know what they call werewolves like you in the Grand City?” Glaphyra felt a smile form as she looked at her. “Yes they call us ustro agoton it means that we have degenerate desires.” She licked the blood of her fingers enjoying the taste. “I sort of like the name myself it’s catchy.” Narella folded her arms. “You know I’m really not here to chat personally with you?” Glaphyra felt a cold smile form. “Oh but I do love our little chats I mean normally you bring me a dinner order of some kind.” Narella looked up sharply. “I’m not here to bring you a dinner order, not this time.” Glaphyra snorted in disgust. “Well how do you expect to do good business if you don’t bring me a kicking and screaming human meal?” Narella walked up to the scroll on the platform opposite ignoring the smell of rotting bodies which was coming from the pit close by. It was a dirty scroll written in blood which was bound with bone and human skin. “Is it not one of your beliefs that eating a high order werewolf alive will make you a god as you will consume the werewolf’s power?”

Glaphyra looked up slightly. “If you are referring to a Horn Hind then yes, that is one of our beliefs but no one in this order has ever been able to do so in centuries as we have never been able to take a Horn Hind they are always to important.” She leaned forward. “Unless that is you have, had a change of heart at late, I mean I have heard that the Golden Hind has been a mayor issue. One of my loyal spies in Corinth told me that she’s screwing the Empress of Greece, which must make you look rather stupid. I mean a werewolf screwing a human that break your golden rule does it not? I have also heard that the Golden Hind gives it good and swings both ways which is even more embarrassing for you as the Imperial council has no sex drive.” She paused feeling her smile widen. “Gods I would love to watch my husband skin her alive then join in before eating her alive and gutting her.” Narella eyed her. “That wish can be for filled, that’s why I’m here.” Glaphyra sat up in her throne. “Wait so let me get this straight you are allowing my order to hunt her down and capture her?” Narella breathed in deeply. “No I want you to capture kill and eat her alive nether the Imperial Council nor the army will interfere with either you or Agathon.” She tensed slightly. “You will be free to do as you please and I’ve heard that you love killing blondes…so she’s your favourite type of meal.”

Glaphyra stood up from her throne stepping closer to the other woman. “My, my the Imperial Council must be very concerned to call up on the Lurathian Order to do their dirty work, what’s wrong lost to many of your pathetic assassins trying to kill her?” Narella stepped away from her. “Yes we have and I feel that now it is time to bring in you, killing her is for the good of our race.” She turned as a cocky voice hit the air. “So the Imperial Council’s cock is to limp to do the job so you need me and Glaphyra?” Narella turned eyeing Agathon gods she hated this creep he leered at her like she was a piece of meat and he always stood over her using his large presence to dominate. She also knew all to well what he did to those he caught he liked to skin them alive for fun and that turned her stomach. Normally he wasn’t here and she tried to avoid him because he terrified her. She breathed in stepping further away from him. “I assume you’ve been listening?” Agathon smirked leaning on his halberd spear. “To every single word and I wanted to kill you up to the point that you said we could kill Horn Hind. Then I realized how sad and desperate you were that you would call up on us. I know about the plan the other Imperial Council leaders are plotting but clearly you don’t have faith in it, or you would not be here.” Narella moved towards the door that led out of this deep cave complex. “No I don’t believe the bleeding pillars of sorrow is enough, killing humans like that is fun but I don’t think it will stop the rebellion, I believe the rebellion is like a snake and we need to cut off its head.”

Agathon grinned showing off his extended canines. “Cutting off the snakes head does not always stop the body.” Narella opened the door. “But we can crush and subdue that body until it dies the head carries so much venom that it could poison us.” Agathon eyed her for a long moment. “I see and what in it for us, other than the eternal glory of doing the job you couldn’t do?” Narella narrowed her gaze. “A royal pardon from the Imperial Council and more human flesh than you could ever eat.” Agathon turned to his wife. “I like her she believes that the Imperial Council will give us what we want.” He felt his grip on his weapon tighten as he eyed her. “But we both know they would never do that don’t we? Because you hate us almost as much as you hate Horn Hind!” Narella turned slightly. “Then you are mistaken because I will see to it personally.” Agathon breathed in raising his weapon so she could see it. “Really…well let me tell you this before you run back to them with your tail between your legs. If you betray us or my wife gets hurt I will personally take you and I beat you to with in an inch of your life and then skin you alive. It will be very slow and painful and you will beg to die before I’m done with you, so keep that in mind.” He watched as she left shutting the door behind her finally something interesting was about to happen in their lives and it could change their fate giving the Lurathian Order a chance to rise up from it place in the dark and take over werewolf sociality.

8

What did he mean by bringing the bleeding pillars of sorrow to humans? I have never heard of that saying before I have read so much werewolf literature yet I can not place those words. Bleeding pillars of sorrow is it a riddle, poem or a passage from a book? It’s clearly important yet I know nothing about it and have never heard of it. I feel a sense of sad limbo as I sit in my workshop I should have asked him what he meant before I ended his life how could I be so stupid, as to not to ask? I guess I just wasn’t thinking and I felt so sorry for him that I just wanted his pain to end but now I feel so incompetent for not asking. The guards still don’t know how he got in here but then it’s clear to me that Adrienne got in the same way. I know when I first came here I scaled the wall but I swear I’m going to find out where this hidden passage is, I have a theory but it could be wrong, I think that it’s linked to the catacombs.  Xena said that they are under the palace she said that her mother Cyrene is buried there. It has to be there, my race has one thing going for it and that is that we can make vast underground tunnels. When I leave to visit my people I will check those catacombs because I’m guessing that where ever these werewolves are getting in its there, they must have created a separate tunnel out in to the royal gardens. It could have been dug out by the rebels and Adrienne just knew where it was or maybe I’m wrong and she scaled the wall just like I did.

My room has now been cleaned and the body has been removed yet it does not take away from what just happened that a man died in my room and I had to put him out of his misery. I hate using my sword in that way even if I have no choice. I really hate that right now that I have a problem with my right hand it’s starting to shake and I don’t know why nor do I know the cause of it. I just hope Xena didn’t see it, I don’t want to tell her about the dream I had where I tour out her throat. I don’t want her to think that I could ever do that to her during love making the idea that I ever would terrifies me beyond belief. She has to work in her study now and I know I could just walk in but I don’t really have the heart to I need time to think this through and make sense of it all. I have no choice now but to take control of the rebels in Corinth before something else happens and other innocent people get hurt.

My sister can wait that is if she is still here, though I don’t expect her to be. Why would she be I’m not human oh why do I beat myself up like this? Maybe Xena’s right maybe I need to have more faith but it’s so hard I feel like with every step I take forward I’m always taking two steps back. I do know one thing though I have to tell Xena about my son and I have to do it soon. She needs to know the truth and why I hid it from her and why I lied to her. I love her and I can no longer want to deceive her a part of me badly wants to see my son again not a day goes by when he doesn’t cross my mind, I wondered what he is doing and if he is happy, if he had friends and if Iris is taking good care of him. I know it is wrong to doubt the woman who she had given my son a better life but I can’t help it. He will be five now and I have not seen him since the day after his birth he is Damokles’s son and he doesn’t even know about his father or that he had been murdered before I realized that I was pregnant. My son was born human which would have meant his death, the Imperial Council rules demand that only werewolf children live and I had to give him up for his own safety it just hurts to know that he’s not in arms right now where he should be.

Gabrielle turned looking at the leather bag opposite her she had opened it only to find that it had been empty apart from one item which she had been staring at for some time. It was a small painting in a tiny wooden frame which had a woman on it and a child. It had to be a family portrait of sorts but it saddened her on many levels as it was clearly a personal object showing Ucalegon’s family it was an object she fully intended to return to them if she could. The bag was nothing special it was flat with a leather binding and a single strap maybe it had been given to her so she could have the picture of his family but over all she was confused she thought that it would have some kind of clue in it or on it. She put picture down opposite on her desk the truth was she didn’t know why he had given it to her if there was some form of hidden message in it she couldn’t find it which was deeply frustrating. She looked at her hands before leaning over and picking up Icos who was sitting next to her, she gently stroked his feathers truth was this had been a very frustrating few days. She needed to go out tonight and take a long walk in the dark in werewolf form and clear her head.

She didn’t do that much anymore she preferred Xena’s company but right now her head was just swimming with unanswered questions. She looked at Icos for a long moment watching as his red eyes blinked. Why was it in life that she felt like she knew so much and yet knew so little? Maybe if she had been born a werewolf she would know the answer to this riddle and even what this man had meant before he died. Yet she knew if that had been so then she would have been a different person and maybe on the Imperial Council’s side because she would have been donated up on and told that her blood was pure and everyone under her didn’t count. Truth was she preferred to be half blood at least she still had her humanity and cared about the lives of others. She wasn’t human but then she always felt that the line between being moral and immoral could be so thin at times. It was like a thin layer of ice on a lake in winter that didn’t need too much to crack it and like a wave the cracks formed more cracks until the glass shattered and the shards sunk under the surface along with all traces of humanity. She leaned over picking up some seed feeding it to Icos as she kept a gentle hold of him, she would never loose her humanity and if she ever lost it she would want no less than to die a good death by the sword.

End of part 9

 

A LOST SON CREATED FROM BLOOD AND SCARS

 

Its feels like a lifetime ago when I first sat on this stone lion I remember before I spent two years in this pit running past this lion dressed in battle armour, it was on this very spot that I drew my weapon fully on Xena to take that killer blow. I would have taken it as well at that point in my life I had lost so much that I just wanted it to end, even if it meant stabbing her and being killed by her royal guards. She didn’t see me she was far to caught up the heat of battle. I raised my sword higher enough to strike the killer blow and then I saw her eyes. They didn’t meet mine but I could see them up close in every detail and I felt my whole world shatter in that single moment. My hand would not move and my heart just slowed its pace pounding in my ears those eyes drew me in, trapping me its something that had never happened to me before. I had never frozen like that in battle before and I have not ever since, I was reminded too much of the eyes of my late lover. Now looking back I know that it might have been more maybe I felt something a shred of intense emotion it may have even been love but at the time I could not grasp as there was far too much pain in my heart. This stone lion feels as though it has been like a keeper through out the most changing part of my life, I nearly dead when I hit it, yet I do not blame it for that. Some wounds are meant to be, they happen for a reason and if it had not been so then I would not have told Xena that I love her it, it’s strange what can come from tragedy and suffering.

I know it’s late and that I should be in her room but I need to think I need to work out this puzzle it is so important, that werewolf died to give it to me. I can not go to the rebels with out an answers, I have to have something that matters just as much as my leader ship. I am a king I must prove myself a king to my people my fully grown horns are not enough anymore they have to emulate my worth. Gabrielle tapped her clawed fingers on the stone as her gaze drifted to the stars above. She used to love the quite but even she had to confess it always felt to quite when her lover wasn’t around and that loneliness she had once embraced as a norm really didn’t appeal to her anymore. It reminded her off what her life had once been like and she just didn’t like to be reminded of those feelings anymore. She breathed in closing her eyes she would stay here for a little while longer then she would leave and go back to Xena’s room. She slowly opened her eyes she had not seen her sister but that did not surprise her maybe she was considering how to speak to her since she wasn’t human. Ether way she had to give her time, as well as try to have a little faith despite how hard it was to think in that manner, maybe she would come around in time.

“Gods you have not changed your just as I remember you.”

Gabrielle turned around catching sight of a young boy who was about nineteen and had curly blonde hair and grey eyes. He was dressed in the palace hoplite armour which always had bronze trim on the chest plate. She eyed him for a long moment she had no idea who he was but she saw no point in being rude as he was clearly interested in her. Though it wasn’t often the palace guards spoke to her, saying that though they always smiled as she passed by. Maybe his talking about her changing was a reference to when she had first started taking walks in the palace some months ago back, back then she had not had horns and her fur had been mattered. She eased herself in to a sitting position her thick winter coat was now keeping out the cold chill she knew that it would snow soon she could feel it in her soul, maybe it was the way the air felt and how it smelt. It was a difficult sensation to describe it was like the air felt thicker and she could feel the cold air on her nose more. She leaned forward eyeing the young man who was smiling. “I don’t believe we have met.” Ladon looked in to the green eyes which were reflecting in the darkness he could see the scar on her right eye as clear as day.

She had changed though now huge horns were growing from her head there was no velvet on them and they weren’t crooked just as the Empress had said. It had been a long time ago and she clearly didn’t recognise him but back then he had been a boy, now he was almost a man. He eased up his hand pulling down his leather collar so that the faded claw marks came in to view. “I believe we have met but it was a long time ago I was much younger and you had crooked horns covered in velvet.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as his words sunk in as she stared at the scar on his neck she felt her whole body tense as a memory hit home all to suddenly. Wait Xena had said that she had brought a young boy back to the palace a boy she had saved during the androphonomania massacre. She had said that she wanted her to meet him but things had happened and she had become very distracted. This was the boy who she had saved he was standing here right now showing no fear in her presence and he had now become a hoplite. She shook her mane recomposing herself. “Your that boy…I remember you I saved you…I put you under the floorboards.” Ladon let go of his collar feeling his smile widen. “Yes you did and for that I am forever grateful.” Gabrielle jumped of the stone lion landing hard on all fours she slowly eased herself up on to her hind legs turning in his direction. “What is your name?”

The young hoplite looked up meeting her gaze. “It’s Ladon.” Gabrielle paused before speaking. “You’re not afraid of me.” Ladon shook his head. “Why would I be afraid?” Gabrielle eased up a clawed hand. “Most people are when I stand over them.” Ladon felt a smile form. “Then they are fools who are far to image focused and do not see the truth of who you are, I pity them for their contempt.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “Why don’t you hate me it was my people who killed your father and for that I am so sorry.” Ladon folded his arms. “Yes they killed my father you didn’t, you saved me I remember the look in your eyes you didn’t want to be caught.” Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand putting it on his armoured shoulder. Regardless of his kindness she had to tell him the truth. “There’s something you need to understand Ladon I am the werewolf king and I was leading those men and women.” She paused. “Xena may not have told you this but I am still guilty of the slaughter I did it because…the Imperial Council who have power promised me something that they did not give me. I had to make a choice and its one I always regretted.”

Ladon turned meeting her anxious gaze. “They told you they would stop killing werewolf children that were human born.” Gabrielle blinked in shock how could he know this? She had never said anything. “Who told you this?” Ladon felt a sad smile form. “Your scribe Chara called me to study yesterday and informed me of your position and the issues with the Imperial Council she wanted me to know everything about the androphonomania massacre and what led to its events. She said I needed to be well informed if I was stand in front of the Corinthian diplomats and have all the facts. Though regardless of leaning about your position back then knowing this information now would not have swayed my decision in the slightest. As you saved my life and no doubt risked your life to save me it was clear to me even back then and that you were not murder or a cold blooded killer.” Gabrielle moved her clawed fingers to his neck eyeing the faded claw marks. “You have grown in to a fine young man you’re father would be very proud.” Ladon looked up slightly eyeing her horns. “Clearly I’m not the only one who has changed your horns look very different now.”

He paused eyeing the leather bag which was strapped to her waist which had been burnt on the edges. “Your leather bag looks like its well travelled.” Gabrielle eyed the burnt leather. “It’s not mine it belonged to a very brave werewolf who passed away recently.” She pulled the bag up feeling her claw dig in to the leather. “I’m just keeping it for his family, I hope to return it one day.” She eased up her clawed fingers only to feel some of the threading come loose as her clawed ripped it. She pulled it up eyeing the ripped leather in annoyance this wasn’t the first time she had been this clumsy, her clumsiness had caused this young man to be scarred for life. Ladon looked up meeting her annoyed gaze. “I guess that thumb of yours still slips from time to time?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply eyeing the torn leather. “I’m sorry about the scar on your neck I always try so hard not to cause harm but sometimes I fail.” Ladon put his hand on his neck. “Don’t worry I see it as a mark of honour not as something I am unhappy about.” He paused feeling her clawed hand move away from his shoulder. “Which brings me to another question how did you get that scar on your right eye? I have always wanted to know.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “A slave trader gave this to me I was human and younger than you, I refused to call him master and this is what I got in return.”

Ladon breathed in deeply. “Did you kill him?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No another werewolf did and that same day he turned me that is how I came to be this way, scars you get before your turned never heal they always remain.” Ladon looked up slightly. “Well I personally like that scar its one of the reason I recognised you its something of a defining mark.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “You are going to be a great warrior one day.” Ladon felt a wide smile form once more. “I hope so.” He turned looking at the night sky. “I must be getting back to my duties and I really need check up on my father well my step father, I think he’s gotten lost in the kitchen again…he likes your chefs food.” Gabrielle stepped away from him. “Its easy to get lost in there, the food is very good.” She paused. “You have a step father?” Ladon nodded. “Yes I hope to introduce you to him to you he’s called Milo and is my trainer but he’s a little wary of werewolves. So he might need some time to come around to you.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “I understand I know my appearance can be imposing there are those who are afraid of it.” Ladon raised his hand. “Then they are fools for not looking beyond your appearance.” Gabrielle felt her smile widen. “Thank you, I hope one day to meet your step father if he trained you then he must be a great man.”

8

Oh gods how am I going to tell her this with out her loosing her temper, personally I don’t mind or care when Gabrielle lets of steam I have no fear of her in her werewolf form. What I do know is that this could go very badly for Lila and I have a feeling that Thaleia has not told her yet as she has not blown up. It was very dark outside and I’m sitting in my room, I have called for Thaleia as I need to hear her side of the story. Ether way I need to have full control over the situation or it could go very wrong for everyone involved. The last thing I want is for Gabrielle to do something she might deeply regret. Something concerns me very deeply though which is seeing her hand shaking this morning I hope it’s not tress related in any way. I really hope that it’s not something more serious she had a weapon through the chest some time ago and it’s always worried me that despite her healing ability there might be side effects, this could be one of them. Her thoughts were shattered as she heard a knock on the double doors she put her hands together as she spoke. “Come in.” She looked up as Thaleia opened her double doors there was deeply concerned look in her eyes as she closed them behind her. “You called for me Empress?”

Xena stood up from her table feeling a smile form. “Yes I did.” Thaleia looked at the taller woman who was still dressed in her armour despite that it was late. She looked around her admiring the room which was beautiful on every level, she that very few people ever got to see this room they only ever saw the Empress in the study. She had no real idea as to why she had been called here but it had to be something serious she knew it had nothing to do with Lila as she hadn’t told anyone about what had happened and she didn’t intend to. Maybe this was about her position as Gabrielle’s personal maid she knew now that Gabrielle spent more time in the Empress’s room than in her own. Maybe her services weren’t required anymore. She had been dreading this day but she knew it would happen and despite the pain she felt about loosing her position she knew it wouldn’t change her friendship with Gabrielle she would rather that her closest friend be happy. “I assume you want to talk to me about my position.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “Your position?” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Yes my position I know now that Gabrielle spends more time in this room than her own and I realize that my services as her personal maid may no longer be required, as Ceto can attend to you both.”

Xena blinked gods she should have seen this coming this was her own fault for not talking this over with Gabrielle sooner but so much had happened in these past few days that she had not gotten the chance. She knew that Gabrielle would not want to give up Thaleia as her personal maid and she would fight against it. She put a hand on her face taking in a deep breath before speaking. “I can assure you that I have no intention of forcing you to leave your position. As Gabrielle’s personal maid I was hoping to make it so that you and Ceto could share responsibility of both rooms there would be no change to your coin and you would have the same powers.” Thaleia put her hands behind her back suddenly she felt rather foolish for saying that. She lowered her gaze to the floor hoping that her embarrassment wouldn’t show. “I’m sorry Empress I just thought.” Xena moved over to the young woman putting a hand on her shoulder. “Know this Thaleia I would never throw you from your position just because things have changed between my self and Gabrielle. She trusts you and I trust you and she needs you, you’re her closest friend and because of this your position will always be secured here in this palace, never ever forget that.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply the Empress had never touched her and right now she felt nervous and uncertain this was the ruler of Greece and she was touching her in the same manner as if she were a friend. She looked up meeting the woman’s intense light blue gaze. “Thank you Empress.” Xena kept her hand in place choosing her next words carefully. “I heard that there was an incident this morning with you and Gabrielle’s sister.” Thaleia felt her body freeze, how did the Empress know about this? She took in a deep breath before speaking. “Forgive my rudeness Empress but how do you know about this, I have not told any one?” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “How I know does not matter I need to know what happened this morning?” Thaleia tensed gods she had not wanted this to happen the last thing she wanted was for this to come out and ruin Gabrielle’s chances with her younger sister. “Gabrielle shouldn’t be told about this Empress, it was a misunderstanding.” Xena moved to stand in front of the young woman putting her other hand on her shoulder. “No Thaleia I know this wasn’t a misunderstanding, warriors don’t have misunderstandings, to draw your sword on an unarmed man, woman or child is considered deeply dishonourable. You do not draw your sword unless a weapon is drawn first.”

Thaleia shook her head. “I slapped her that was why she drew her sword on me.” Xena blinked in surprise. “You slapped her, why?” Thaleia lowered her gaze to the floor. “She accused Gabrielle of charmed me between the sheets I found it deeply insulting.” She looked up slightly. “Gabrielle is not a lustful sexual predator who charms young men and women in to her bed I felt it only right to defend her honour. You must understand something though Lila was high she was on a drug of some sort and it may have been clouding her judgement and how she put herself across. All she wanted to know was how her sister came to be in this palace, she was being rude and condescending and she wouldn’t call me by my name she referred to me as the maid. I didn’t tell her anything because its my duty to keep everything regarding Gabrielle private but also because I felt that she should hear it from Gabrielle’s lips and not second hand from me.” Xena moved one of her hands off Thaleia’s shoulder. “Regardless of this no one is allowed to draw any weapon up on you Thaleia, that’s the palace rules and I will have not violence of any kind towards any of my staff.”

Thaleia met her gaze feeling her fear take over. “You can’t tell Gabrielle about this Empress she will loose her temper.” Xena breathed in deeply before speaking. “Lila is a mercenary and I’m afraid she lacks manners, she does not have Gabrielle’s restraint or honour when it comes to personal matters and I will not keep this from her she deserves to know this. Plus if Lila thinks she can get away with this now, she will do it again to the other staff and it will only get worse, this palace is no place for bullies here.” She was about to say more only to stop as she watched the central door slowly opened as Gabrielle walked through on all fours in werewolf form. She used her clawed foot to close the door behind her green eyes drifted upwards as she spoke in an emotionless tone. “No, there is no place for bullies in this palace.” Xena stepped away from Thaleia watching as her lover slowly stood up so she was on her hind legs. “How much did you hear?” Gabrielle lowered her ears, she had not meant to eves drop but the door had been open slightly and she had heard it all. The anger inside her at this moment was intense but she was holding it at bay with every ounce of her restraint she felt her razor sharp teeth grind together as she spoke. “I heard everything.”

End of part 10

 

PAINFUL TRIBULATIONS WHICH BITE AT THE SOUL

 

I cannot believe my sister threatened Thaleia it bothers me really deeply as my belief as a warrior is that you never draw your sword on the unarmed. It also disgusts me that she referred to me as some lustful sexual predator who beds men and women. What was she jealous of me when we were young because I like and both genders, in her eyes does that make me something vile? I can still remember the day I told my parents that I liked both genders I was terrified beyond belief I thought they would reject me. My parents had always said even when we were young that they didn’t care who we loved so long as we were happy but them saying and them following through on that promise was what scared me the most that day. I thought they might not follow through or be unhappy that I said I liked both but they proved me wrong they embraced it with open arms, I felt whole and accepted if I’m honest it was the last time I ever felt that accepted. Once I was turned in to a werewolf I always felt like an outsider who never quite fitted in, no matter what I did. I became the loner looking in through out my training and even after I became Horn Hind I still felt like I was on the outside. It is only in Xena’s palace that I’ve come to feel that full acceptance and wholeness once more that I felt in my childhood. Maybe that why this angers me so much, because it brings home something in that childhood memory really bothers me, I remember my parents accepting me openly but Lila never said a word.

She was as quite as the rocks on a sandy shore it brings up something which I never thought about which is that maybe she hates me and always has even since childhood, despite that I always tried to protect her. Now she threatens my closest friend next to Xena in the palace and wonder if it’s her discontent of her childhood speaking. I smoked opium but it was to take away my pain, it sounds like she takes drugs to get a high and she doesn’t care who she hurts. Thaleia is someone I would protect with my life she’s given me so much she’s the family I never had and I will see that my sister never touches her again. Gabrielle felt her knuckles crack as her clawed hand formed a fist. “I’m not what my sister thinks I am.” She turned to Thaleia. “I would never do anything like that to you or any other man or woman in this palace.” Xena moved towards to her lover she could see the anger in her eyes which were reflecting in the low light. “I know your angry Gabrielle and I don’t blame you, what your sister said to Thaleia was wrong but confronting her over it right now wouldn’t be right.” Gabrielle looked up unable to stop the roar as it hit the air as her anger got the better of her before she could control it. “She threatened her with a sword she’s no better than a common thug, I will not let her get away with this!”

She ripped the leather bag from her belt throwing in to the corner not caring where it landed. “I don’t care if she’s my own flesh and blood!” Xena moved a closer putting both hands gently on lovers her face feeling the soft fur under her finger tips. “I agree with you Gabrielle she shouldn’t get away with this.” She moved her fingers through the soft fur hoping that she could calm the other woman down. “I know these past few days have not been easy for you but we need to do this together.” Gabrielle felt the other woman’s lips as they gently kissed her snout, she lowered her gaze feeling the other woman’s hand move through her mane the sensation was so nice and soothing. She spoke unable to keep the pain out of her tone. “I knew my sister was a mercenary I just never thought she was the type to go around threatening unarmed people with her sword.” Xena looked at her for a long moment feeling the clawed hand as it found her waist. “I’m sorry Gabrielle I know this isn’t what you imagined your sister to be.”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor feeling her anger start to fade away as it was replaced by sadness. “No it isn’t what I imagined her to be and I’m disappointed.” Xena moved her fingers through the thick fur seeing the sadness in her lover’s eyes. “I know I just want you to confront her tomorrow after you are rested and refreshed.” Thaleia breathed in she felt as though she shouldn’t be here this felt like a private moment between Gabrielle and the Empress and it felt like she was intruding. “You know her acting this way may have been in part due to the drugs.” Gabrielle looked up raising her clawed hand. “Drugs are no excuse, for that kind of behaviour, I used to smoke opium but I didn’t see my drugs as an excuse to threaten anyone, I smoked it to numb the pain.” She stopped realizing that, that wasn’t entirely true after what had happened with the royals she had smoked it and then snapped first taking out her frustration and pain on Iona and then transforming and smashing her room to pieces before forcing her way in to the throne room. Xena had come in and tried to talk to her, her reply had been to use force to strangle her it wasn’t something she was proud of looking back. “Apart from the day after the royals…but that, I lost it.”

Xena moved her fingers over her snout feeling a sad smile form. “It’s okay Gabrielle.” Thaleia put her hands together. “No one blames you for that Gabrielle.” Gabrielle pulled away from Xena as she went down on all fours walking towards the fire she laid down in front of it looking in to it. “Well maybe they should blame me! Because what I did was no better than what my sister did to you.” Xena blinked in confusion her lover’s mood had changed so suddenly and once more she was seeing the younger woman’s darker mood. It really bothered her when Gabrielle’s mood changed this way because she knew she was seeing the lonely depressed woman who had been in her palace all those months ago, gods why was she calling it her palace? It wasn’t her palace anymore it was now theirs. She slowly sat down opposite other woman she eased up hand running her fingers over one of the horns feeling the bone. Her lover’s eyes didn’t move instead they remained fixed on the fire. “Don’t compare yourself to Lila, you are not like her.” Thaleia breathed in gods it now really felt like she shouldn’t be here, this was so personal and she was just a maid she looked up slightly. “You are not like her Gabrielle.”

Xena turned looking at Thaleia realizing that she was still standing. “Please feel free to sit down.” Thaleia tensed. “But I’m,” Xena eased up her hand. “Please take a seat.” She watched as the young woman tentatively sat down the uncertainty in her eyes. Truth was she needed her right now she was Gabrielle’s closest friend and after what she had been through at late she needed a lot of moral support. Gabrielle carried on staring at the fire. “Maybe I am like her…we are the same by blood running through our veins.” Xena moved her fingers down stroking her mane again. “Just because you have the same blood, does not make you like her, that day when you grabbed my throat I deserved it, I treated you badly, you deserved so much better.” Gabrielle turned looking at her for a long moment. “Am I cursed?” Xena inched a little closer to her. “What do you mean by cursed.” Gabrielle pulled herself up in to a sitting position lowering her head sadly. “A werewolf died in my room this morning and I barely knew his name and I don’t even know the answer to his riddle and I’m forced to ask myself are people like him always going to die to save me?” She tensed painfully before speaking again. “I even met a young man called Ladon today he was the young boy I saved during the androphonomania massacre and he wants to stand up for me in front of the Corinthian council despite that my people killed his father.”

She felt her claws dig in to the floor. “I’m forced to ask myself am I even worthy of his honour, when I took so much from him?” Xena moved her hands to her lovers face putting them under her jaw gently turning her face so it met hers. “You are not cursed Gabrielle the Imperial Council is the curse not you, they have taken everything from you.” She paused feeling the need to say something very important which the other woman really needed to hear. “You may not believe this but when I look at you, I see the purest, the kindest person I have ever known, someone who’s full of wonder and creativity and would never give up on anything…or anyone” Gabrielle met the other woman’s intense gaze as those words sank in she felt a sad smile form she raised her clawed hand running it gently through the older woman’s dark hair watching as it spilt through her clawed fingers. “I love you Xena.” Xena ran her fingers down her face. “Love you to Gabrielle.” Thaleia slowly stood up from her chair, it was time for her to leave she could feel it. “You two should get some sleep.” Xena turned looking at her she smiled keeping her hands in place. “She’s right we should sleep.”

Gabrielle nodded watching as Thaleia moved towards the central doors opening them. “Thank you Thaleia.” Thaleia nodded at her friend. “Goodnight both of you.” Xena watched as she left closing the door behind her she slowly stood up taking hold of Gabrielle’s clawed hand maybe this was what her lover needed a good sleep to clear her head, her mood over the past few days had been quite low and tense. “Come to bed.” Gabrielle looked up at her. “But I’m.” Xena eyed her keeping hold of her clawed hand. “Please lets not go in to this you know I don’t care what form you’re in, I want your company.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze her fear wasn’t about her form normally she wouldn’t care, she would do anything for this woman her fear was all about the nightmare she had, had this morning. She didn’t want to talk about it and her being this close in that form made her afraid of it becoming a reality. She shook her head she would have to push that fear aside and ignore it, she would never hurt this woman and she would hurt herself before she hurt her. She looked up meeting the other woman intense gaze feeling herself become trapped in it as her body moved forward of its own accord towards the bed as her lover led her towards it, keeping hold of her clawed hand.

8

Sweet Aphrodite this is bliss, sleeping used to be a bore for me most nights I used to go to bed drunk, then fall asleep feeling only loneliness but since she came to palace so much has changed. I love this feeling of waking up with Gabrielle’s body against mine I also love how her huge furry arm feels when it’s wrapped around me. Even in sleep she always lays her clawed hands flat so that her claws do not touch me. Her fur reminds me so much of a fur skin rug its soft, warm, comfortable and I find that I just drift off against it. It always reminds me of home and the fur skins my mother used to wrap me in as a child. I miss her, I wish she was still here, she would love Gabrielle, I know she would but I also know that my lover saw her once in the royal gardens, she can see ghosts, something which she considers a curse but in my view it’s a gift. I move my hand up only to realize that her furry arm is no longer across my waist, I open my eyes a little blinking off the sleep she must have changed back and I need to cover her with the furs so she doesn’t get cold. Xena turned over reaching her hand out ready to wrap it around the younger woman only to feel the empty sheets.

She sat up looking at thick covers which had been moved to one side, her lover’s clothes and weapons were also missing. She had clearly left suddenly as she could see that the central door between their rooms had been left ajar. She looked around her it was early in the morning this wasn’t normal at all. Ever since they had slept together Gabrielle had never gotten up early, she preferred to stay in bed which made this strange. She eased off the covers putting on her robe hearing a knock on her outer doors. “Come in.” She watched as Ceto walking in closing the double doors behind her, she could see the uncertainty in her eyes. “Is everything okay?” Ceto breathed in finding her voice. “I’m sorry to come here so early but Phantasos gave me a message, he said he sent it to you both yesterday but I guess with all that’s being going on it didn’t get through.” She looked around realizing that Gabrielle wasn’t anywhere in sight. “Where’s Gabrielle?” Xena raised her hand. “I don’t know, I was about to ask you that same question.” Ceto shook her head. “I haven’t seen her I thought she would be here, as the message is regarding her.” Xena breathed in deeply before speaking. “Tell me the message.” Ceto put her hands behind its. “It’s Adrienne.”

She looked down trying to find the right words. “She’s woken up, in fact she woke up yesterday, despite her head injury she’s her normal charming self. As soon as she well enough Phantasos will have her moved to the royal cells where she can be locked up beside Kalika and the assassin Mavican. I know this is going to be hard for Gabrielle and she’s already having a Tartarus of a week as it is.” Xena lowered her gaze gods why couldn’t that bitch have just died? This was her doing she had asked Iona not to kill Adrienne after the incident where they had both gone through the glass window on the third floor in werewolf form, she knew she might wake up eventually she just wished it hadn’t been right now. She pushed her thoughts to the back of her mind as she turned to Ceto. “I’ll tell her.” Ceto pulled up the package she had in her hands. “Yesterday my self and Thaleia went to the market we picked up the robes you wanted there more Thaleia’s choice than mine, she knows Gabrielle much better than me.” Xena took the material package from her hands opening it pulling out the beautiful white and silver chiton robes which had a thick silver belt material around the waist. She turned looking at Ceto. “These are beautiful.” Ceto felt a smile form. “Along with this we brought a pair of brown sandals, which have white fur for covering to keep out the winter cold and a dark cloak which is lined with white fur Thaleia also picked out some beautiful silver wrists bracelets.”

She paused. “Thaleia also insisted that the belt have a hook for a sword, though I don’t agree with this I went with it, the darker cloak should hide one of her swords from site.” Xena looked down catching sight of the sword hook she could see where Thaleia’s thinking was going with this and it was the right way to go, if all her of messages had gotten out then the Corinthian Council would all be here tomorrow afternoon. Gabrielle was a warrior just like her and she would feel very uncomfortable without a sword. The fact was that this meeting could go very sour in a heartbeat and a couple of the diplomats could threaten her with their weapons. Not that she would let them get with an inch of her but this was just in case. “No the swords fine Ceto it’s just a precaution nothing more.” She turned to other woman who she considered one of her most trusted friends. “Has Gabrielle been more edgy to you lately more than normal that is?” Ceto looked up meeting the Empress’s gaze she knew she had to be honest here. “Honestly Empress yes she has, Thaleia was talking to me about it but she put it down to stress she’s been under lately. I mean Gabrielle has never been the most open person though it’s clear to everyone here in the palace that she really opens up to you and loves you very deeply.” Xena felt a smile form. “I love her just the same believe me, that’s why I worry I know she’s been edgy these past few days and it is more than normal.”

She leaned against her chair. “Don’t get me wrong I know anger is always very close to surface with her, I always feel that she’s pulling it back but lately its like she really has to work harder at it, it bothers me.” Ceto looked at the taller woman. “I heard that you were once angry in your youth and you had help from the Chinese master Leo Tzu you also saved him from almost being killed by his dictator wife Leo Ma, as a gift he taught you inner peace.” Xena looked up sharply. “Yes he did, he stopped me from getting caught up in my rage and taught me to focus it, embrace it that was one of the hardest times in my youth. We weren’t winning the war and I had watched all the great leaders of the rebellion die they were friends, people I had known since the war had started, I was started to get filled with hate and a need for vengeance. I felt the rebellion was almost over we weren’t winning everyone was starting to give up. We had fought for three years and gained no ground we had liberated Crete but that was it. I saw no alternative but to ask for outside help, I went to him I took the first ship to China he said he wouldn’t help but he’d help me, I didn’t understand at the time why he wouldn’t help, I was angry and confused.

She looked at her hand closing her fingers. “He taught me that power is grasped from with in, he made me in to a better warrior and I promised myself I would never let anger or hatred, ever get the better off me again as long as I lived. I realized that, that small stint with it had clouded my judgement and made me a poorer warrior. He taught me about leadership and gave me the skills I needed to be a great leader of warriors and change the tide of battle.” Ceto felt a smile form. “Then maybe its time that you taught Gabrielle what he taught you, I think she needs it now more than ever.” Xena lowered her gaze looking at the floor this wasn’t something she had thought about but now Ceto had mentioned it, it had caught her by surprise, Ceto was right Gabrielle did need this. She needed something which would focus her. Her past was full of hurt and pain and it meant that when they were alone she had moments of doubt and still lacked in confidence in herself. Yet she had everything in her heart to be a good leader, she just needed someone to bring it out of her. She looked up meeting the other woman’s gaze. “You make a very good point Ceto, its time I taught Gabrielle something beyond rage, its time I helped her focus on inner piece she’s needs it now more than ever.”

8

Why can’t I sleep like I used to why can’t I dream in utter bliss? I had the same dream again and I woke up this morning covered in sweat once more, why is this happening to me why do I keep dreaming about making love to Xena and then transforming and ripping her throat out? It’s awful I can’t stand it and it just hurts my soul. I’m grateful that when I woke up I had taken back my human form and she was sleeping up against me I’m also thankful that I did not wake her up when I left our room. My hand was shaking again and it was much harder to stop this time around. I feel stretched and tired I’ve never felt this way before in my life I know now that there’s something wrong with me I just don’t now what it is. I have never experienced this before the feeling of rage is much worse today I can feel it under my emotions fighting to break free and I’m fighting harder to stay in control of it. May be I’m sick, maybe I’m dying all I know is that I have to get what ever this is fixed, because its making it harder to concentrate. Now I find myself sitting on one of the palace gardens stone waterfalls dressed in a fur coat watching the world go by.

Strangely the cold helps it shouldn’t be it does, because I can feel it under my coat and I’m trying to focus more on it, than my problem. I can see my breath moving through the air like smoke, it’s early but it’s much darker now than before. The training post is close by I came out here to train but I have not started yet. I feel my hand move to my pocket as my fingers find my pipe I turn lighting it on one of the fire torches before breathing it in before breathing out the rich dark smoke. I wanted so much to dream and to forget the bloody body in my room as well as forget how hard these past few days have been but I know it’s only going to get harder from here on in. I know I’m ready for it but at the same time I know now that I have no choice, all I care about though is Xena being by my side I am nothing without her. She’s the person that gives me focus and joy and she’s always there for me. I know there are going to be those even among the half bloods who won’t agree with our relationship but I don’t care for their point of view. I will not see any harm come to her, those who hate me can burn me, break me I don’t care so long as they never touch her, I’ll kill anyone who touches her.

“Smoking that’s a terrible habit.”

Gabrielle looked up watching as her sister come in to view she was standing close by leaning against the training post smiling smugly. This really was the last person she had wanted to run in to right now as she had only wanted to confront her with her lover. She was still angry about what she had heard last night. She eyed the other woman for a long moment unable to stop the words as they came out before she could stop them laced with venom. “Yes well doing drugs and threaten my maid with your sword is also a bad habit you should get out of.” Lila eyed her older sister she hadn’t seen her in since their first visit and she hadn’t visited her, as no one would take her to the Empress’s royal suite. She raised her hand. “Oh so you know about that, she said she wouldn’t tell you anyone.” Gabrielle stood up slowly. “No she kept her word it’s just others in this palace saw what you did and spoke up on her behalf. Her name is not maid it’s Thaleia and you had no right to threaten her with your weapon.” Lila felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “She slapped me!” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “That’s because you for some reason you put forward that she was some sexual piece of ass, which I sleep with on the side.” Lila narrowed her gaze. “Isn’t that what she is to you?”

Gabrielle moved a step closer how was she even related to this woman? She was looking at some one who wasn’t her sister but a cruel stranger who she barely recognised. “I don’t care for threesomes and I don’t try and sexually break in young women or men in my bed. I also would never do that to Thaleia she’s my closet friend next to Xena.” Lila shook her head trying to ignore the henbane which was stinging her senses she had not had as much today be she could still feel it. “Who has a maid as a friend their workers?” Gabrielle moved a step closer raising her hand. “I don’t know where you get off believing that you’re better than the working class but it angers me. You are not better than any one in the working class so don’t put yourself on that height pedestal.” Lila smirked un-amused by her sisters anger somehow getting it meant she was a least getting more of a response than she had gotten at their last meeting. She eased up her finger running it down the scar on her cheek. “All of the working class betray warriors, it’s a fact of life and you are stupid for being friends with any one of them.” Gabrielle felt a sneer of disgust form on her lips. “This coming from the mercenary who gets high and threatens an unarmed woman I’d rather take Thaleia’s over yours.”

Lila eyed her sister for a long moment feeling the rage start as it started to build up. “Don’t patronize me, you sound like father!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Well at least of us does, because clearly your honour is lacking.” Lila pulled out both arms. “I’ve been here for a while now and how many times have you seen me? Not once since our first meeting. You have not told me anything, not even how you got here or where you’ve been for the past eleven and half years, why you never bothered to write, you didn’t even have the decency to tell me that you’re a werewolf!” She watched as her sister’s body tensed. “Yes I know all about that, what you think I’m stupid? On top of that you I don’t see why you would think that I’d care, my best friend is a satyr, so you being a walking wall of claws and teeth who rips peoples heads off really doesn’t bother me.” She paused. “But what angers me the most Gabrielle is that won’t even tell me how you ended up in the Empress’s bed chamber as her lover. I mean off all the places to be you’re in the rulers of Greece palace. The gods only know how many cocks you had suck and legs you had spread to work your way up that ladder.”

Gabrielle felt her body freeze had her sister just called her a whore? She felt the intense rage as it started to burn and twist in her stomach before she could stop it. Yes she had, how dare she the bitch! She pulled her pipe out her mouth putting it out under the waterfall as she breathed out the smoke then put it in her shirt pocket. She wasn’t a whore or a lustful sexual predator she didn’t know her, she had no right to judge her! She had become Xena’s lover in her own right she hadn’t worked her way up that ladder sexually. She couldn’t hold her rage back anymore she hated being called a whore, she wasn’t a whore! Lila turned to face her sister about to speak only to feel the agonizing pain as the other woman’s fist slammed in to her face she was unable to stop herself as she hit the floor hard feeling the cold blood as it ran down her lip. She winced painful getting to her knees trying to ignore the stinging pain. Gabrielle moved closer to the fallen woman she didn’t care if this was her sister no one ever called her a whore! She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “You ever call me a whore again and you and I will have nothing to talk about again as long as you live!”

Iona breathed in deeply she had been watching this whole ordeal unfold from a distance, this was going to start to fight. She had seen that intense rage filled look in Gabrielle’s eyes before when fighting her and for her it had not ended well. Oh Lila deserved that punch there was no doubt about that. Implying that Gabrielle was a whore was both vile and disgusting and it just showed how much of a stupid obnoxious mercenary she was but he truth was that if this became a full fight she would ether end up in the healer’s bed for a weeks or wind up dead. Gabrielle was a very skilled warrior and she was the only one who could hold her own against the Empress in combat. She doubted that Lila even had the skill or the strength to stand up to her. She knew once this battle started she wouldn’t be able to stop her only the Empress’s would, she turned on her heels and she had to go and find her right now before this ended badly for Lila.

End of part 11

 

RAGING HEARTS EVER THE BITTER WITH REJECTION

 

Lila put her finger to her lip pulling it away eyeing the blood on it by Athena that hurt, still she hadn’t been ready for it, she turned spitting out the blood in her mouth. It wouldn’t happen again she slowly got to her feet clearly she had found a soft spot in her sister’s emotions not the soft spot she had expected though. She shook her head clearing the painful daze as she pulled her sword free from its scabbard then eased her shield off her back raising it in threatening manner. “You’ve got a lot of nerve hitting me!” Gabrielle eyed her sword she really wasn’t in the mood for this. “Oh please.” Lila eyed her for a long moment. “You are not going to walk away from me again I spent eleven and a half years looking for you!” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Eleven and a half years of telling mother and father that I’d find you one day and bring you home.” Gabrielle couldn’t stop her next movement she knew it was wrong but she had, had enough her hands found both her sword hilts which came free of their scabbards in a fluid motion. “I don’t want to go home!” She felt her grip on her weapons tighten. “What do seriously think that mother and father will accept me back with open arms? I’ve killed people and done things which I’m not proud off!”

Lila smirked. “We are all killers it’s just the nature of the beast and what you have is wondrous it’s a shame that you don’t see it.” Gabrielle moved a step closer keeping her weapons raised. “That’s the difference between you and me I accept my nature but I don’t embrace killing unless it’s for honourable reasons. You on the other hand are not worthy of honour you kill for money and you’re a bully and at the end of the day, it’s just a game to you. All mercenaries are the same every head has its price and I’m guessing that you would probably sell out every one in our family including me for coin.” Lila felt her grip around her weapon tighten, how dare she say that! She would never do that she loved her family even though they didn’t ever return her that love completely she would never bring harm to any of them. She wouldn’t sell her sister out ether despite how she felt right now, she had searched for to long and this was the response she was getting? That she was a sell out and a traitor. She wasn’t a sell out! She’d killed for money yes but she didn’t sell out, gods she hated her sister right now for saying that! Gabrielle looked up about to say more only to stop as she caught sight of her sisters weapon coming towards her. She side stepped it feeling her feet turn as it swung past her missing her completely.

Lila blinked in confusion only to feel the pain as her sister’s sword hilt slammed in to her exposed side causing her to stumble back painfully even through her leather armour she could feel the pain. Gabrielle stepped back raising one of her swords higher. “Do yourself a favour don’t bother, I’ve killed lesser people than you in combat.” Lila smirked as she raised her shield she swung her weapon again only to watch as her sister dodged it. “I’m a better warrior than you and I’ll prove it!” Gabrielle smashed her sword against the shield as it came towards her along with her sister’s sword blade which she avoided. Lila eyed her in disgust. “Come on fight me, you bitch!” Gabrielle turned on her heel as Lila swung her shield around she brought up her elbow smacking it in to the younger woman’s shoulder ignoring her cry of pain watching as she stumbled back painfully. “Being a warrior is about embracing pain, I get the feeling you don’t embrace it.” Lila turned sharply only to feel the intense pain as she slammed side first in to the ground as her sister took her feet out from under her. Gabrielle eased up both of her swords twirling them. “My trainer once taught me to survive in battle you have to embrace pain and suffering.”

Lila painfully got to her knees coughing painfully, she hated already that her sister was faster than her on her feet! She sneered in disgust as she raised her shield fully she would not allow that to happen again! Gabrielle leaped back narrowly avoiding her sister’s sword as she got to her feet the rage in her eyes. Gabrielle breathed in she wasn’t sure whether to admire her for trying or pity her for being so foolish she was clearly well trained but her style lacked the sense of discipline and patience that Iona’s had. She brought up her sword smashing it hard to her shield as she once more took her sisters feet out from under her causing her to hit the floor hard on her back. She raised her weapon. “He said to have honour means that you should bleed and die by the sword in battle and meet a worthy end worthy of your name.” Lila sneered as she got to her knees why was Gabrielle telling her this? Was it to mock her because she was getting in more blows? She got to her feet running at her watching as their weapons struck each other violently. Gabrielle felt the pain as the shield suddenly locked under her neck forcing her backwards. Lila grinned about to say something only to stop as Gabrielle’s knee collided with her waist causing intense pain.

She raised her sword ignoring the pain so the blade tip was close to her sister’s neck. “Looks like he didn’t teach that well sister, because lets face facts I could take your head off your shoulders right now.” Gabrielle eyed her disgust she hated head locking shields and normally she would never let this happen but she had been holding back because this was her own flesh and blood. Now she had, had enough she loathed how smart Lila looked right now, it showed her arrogance she clearly didn’t understand on any level what this lesson was about. She brought up her sword hilts hearing her cry out painfully as they collided with her arms she forced her head back freeing herself from the shield as she stepped back quickly feeling her sisters weapon collide with her own again only more violently. She hated to do this but she no longer cared her younger sister was an egotistic fool who needed to be put in her place! Lila watched in confusion as her sister let go of one of her swords which hit the ground hard as she turned on her heel. Her shield arm was grabbed below the shoulder and forced up wards causing intense pain she tried to swing her weapon only for the pain to intensify stopping her mid swing.

Gabrielle sneered as she eyed her sister who was now trapped in her grip and couldn’t free her shield arm she put more pressure on it ignoring her scream of pain. This move had only one purpose which was to dislocate the shoulder joint and it worked so well because most warriors who used shields were always to dependant on them for protection. Lila brought her sword around slicing it across Gabrielle shoulder causing her sister to wince painfully as the blood started to run through her leather coat. She twisted trying desperately to free herself only for her sister to let go causing her to loose her footing and hit the floor hard on her front. She painfully dragged herself to her feet trying to ignore the intense pain which was now travelling through her arm and hurt like Tartarus. She ran forward thrusting weapon at her sister only for the other woman to dodge and pain to hit her again as her weapons hilt slammed in to her back causing her to stumble forward. Gabrielle turned only to feel the sudden pain as her sister’s shield slammed in to her face she felt the blood as it started to run down her chin she turned grabbing her sword which was stuck the ground close by. Lila felt a cold smile form on her lips finally an opening! She raised her shield again despite the pain only for it to be struck with intense force as her sister came at her with both swords she raised her shield as she stepped back feeling the pain as they began to strike it.

Every blow made it harder to hold her shield she breathed in painfully unable to stop her hand from slipping causing the shield to hit the ground hard at her feet. Gabrielle felt her sisters blade as it collided with her own she had, had enough of this she wanted it to be over. Lila watched as her blade was slowly pushed down no matter how much force she tried to use to push back it did nothing her sister just had so much power and she wasn’t used to having this much trouble. She eyed her in disgust as blade grinded against her own as she moved her free hand towards her dagger which was in her belt as her sister’s second blade touched her throat. “Must be nice having that extra strength from being a werewolf must make battle easy for you!” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before speaking. “I wouldn’t waste that kind of strength on you.” She was about to say more only to cry out as a blinding pain struck her side causing her to pull away. She looked down seeing the hilt of a dagger which was now sticking out of her side. She forced one of her sword blades in to the grass then grabbed the hilt watching as the red blood stained her shirt as she slowly pulled it free trying to ignore the stinging feeling, she eyed the bloody dagger throwing it on the floor. Lila felt a wide smile form. “Well since you’re a werewolf you’ll have no problem healing that.”

Gabrielle felt the knot of rage as it started in her stomach burning like a fire before she could stop it and the problem was a part of her didn’t want to stop it. She grabbed her sword running at her sister striking her remaining weapon with every once of her strength watching as she backed away the sudden uncertainty in her eyes as tried to defend herself. Gabrielle twirled on her heal seeing the opening she had looking for as she brought hilt up wards watching as it collided with her sisters chin throwing clean her off her feet. She watched as she came down hitting the ground hard on her back her sword flying out of her grasp in the process. Lila blinked painfully her ears were ringing and she everything hurt she blinked realizing that she had let go of her sword she moved trying to grab her sword only to feel the intense pain as her sisters boot came down pressing on the palm of her hand. Gabrielle felt a cold smile form as her blades found her younger sisters throat. “You prove with out any doubt that you’re a mercenary Lila!” Lila tried to move only to find she couldn’t she could feel both cold blades against her throat they were crossed ready to slit her throat open. She looked up in to her sisters rage filled gaze as the painful haze cleared and she spoke not caring how much her next words would hurt. “I hate you!”

Gabrielle felt the words cut through her anger like a dagger piecing at her heart she had, had these words said to her by enemies but never by family and it hurt so much. Lila spoke despite that it hurt to do so. “I hate that father always liked you better than me!” It was always Gabrielle this! Gabrielle that! It was never me the truth is if I had not been there I doubt you or father would have noticed. It’s not like ether of you ever loved me.” Gabrielle felt her rage melt away as it turned to sadness her sister hated her? She suddenly felt very guilty about fighting her, she looked up watching as Korudon came running towards her. He didn’t have his weapons raised instead he came down on he’s knees in front of her the desperation in her eyes as he spoke. “Please don’t do this I know Lila can be foolish but please don’t kill her!” Korudon raised his clawed hands seeing the pain in the intense green eyes. “She’s the only friend I have in the whole world and I care about her very deeply.” He felt the panic over take him as he eyed the blades against Lila’s throat. “What ever she did I’ll take her punishment, hurt me but please leave her be.” Gabrielle looked in to his eyes even though he wasn’t human the expression said his feelings even if he would not admit them openly. She knew what it was like to hide those feeling and not be able to voice them.

She looked down realizing that her right hand was shaking again she forced her grip tighter stopping it as she eased her weapons away from her sisters throat easing her boot off her hand as she stepped back trying to ignore the pain as best she could but it was hard. Her gaze drifted upwards as caught sight of her lover coming towards her closely followed by Iona and Phantasos. She took in a deep breath by Ouroboros she just wanted to leave she eyed her weapon’s blade seeing that her hand was shaking again. Why did her life feel like it was falling apart again? It had been so easy when it had been just her and Xena together she should have known that her family returning would only cause her pain. Her sister hated her, just because father liked her more, maybe he had, may be she had just not seen it. She always thought that she was happy maybe she had misjudged everything but then it wouldn’t be the first time. Maybe her whole family felt the same way about her maybe if they ever saw her they would hate her to. She put both of her swords in to their scabbard suddenly feeling the intense pain of the stab wound she put her hand on it applying as much pressure as possible. She had been stabbed many times before but this wound hurt the most because of the emotions that came with it.

Xena breathed in deeply watching as Korudon helped Lila back on to her feet clearly by all the blood she had gotten here far too late. The only good thing was that it was clear Gabrielle had only put her sister in place and not been as extreme as she had been on Iona. She moved forward realizing that her lover was wounded and badly there was blood staining her shirt at the bottom and it looked serious. She could see a bloody dagger on the floor. This had all started because Lila had made a reference to Gabrielle as a whore and implied that she had slept her way in to their bedroom, her lover had lost her temper not that she blamed her it was a cruel implication to say to anyone least of a all someone who was your own flesh and blood. More so though similar words had been spoken by the warlord after he had used his dagger to slice in to her lover’s right eye giving her that permanent scar the word and the implication of being called whore brought up very raw anger in the young woman which she had trouble controlling. She narrowed her gaze she didn’t want to confront Lila personally though she knew she would have to now no matter what calling Gabrielle a whore was inexcusable regardless of her being family. All she wanted right now though was to ensure that Gabrielle and Lila’s wounds were attended to. She turned to Phantasos speaking in an even tone. “Take Lila to your healer’s room and get her cleaned up also take Iona with you.”

Phantasos raised his hand. “As you wish Empress.” Xena watched as he moved towards the young dark haired woman who was clutching her jaw as he led her away clearly she was in a lot of pain. She came to stand opposite Gabrielle who didn’t look up, she could see the pain in her eyes maybe it was due to fighting her sister or maybe it ran deeper. Ether way it filled her with concern as she spoke in a gentle voice. “Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked up meeting the taller woman’s gaze she could see Phantasos and Iona taking her sister away, Iona had picked up her weapons while Phantasos was helping her to walk along with Korudon. This felt like such a hollow victory she had only wanted to teach her sister honour and respect yet it had only caused her more pain and suffering and she had heard things that she really didn’t want to hear. She felt the other woman’s hand as it found its way under her chin gently raising her head so their eyes met her lover’s voice came again breaking her away from her thoughts. “Gabrielle you need to come to our room I need to look at your wounds.” Gabrielle looked in to her lover’s eyes for a long moment before closing her own painfully. She had promised that they would talk to her sister together and she had screwed it up she had let her temper get in the way.

She slowly opened her eyes speaking in a half hearted tone. “I’m sorry I know we were meant to do this together, I messed up.” Xena moved her hand down putting it on the other woman’s which was against her bloody shirt. “You didn’t mess up and what happened here doesn’t matter now, just come with me you’re bleeding badly.” Gabrielle felt the other woman move to stand beside her as she put a hand around her waist as they started to walk away. She was so stupid why couldn’t she control her temper just like every one else? She eyed her wound realizing for the first time that it was bad it had stained a huge part of her shirt red. She would never let anyone do that to her in battle, she had let it happen because she Lila was her sister. She had seen the dagger and her hand reaching for it but she had assumed that Lila wouldn’t stab her, she thought that them having the same blood in their veins would make that dagger just a threat but sadly she misjudged her. The only part of this that held any value was she had, had faith and even if it had been very misplaced she had believed for the first time in her life in something for just a second and she had never been able to do that until today.

8

Phantasos breathed in as Korudon put Lila on the healers table, he watched as Iona moved to stand in corner a deeply unimpressed look in her eyes as she looked at Lila who was still holding her jaw. He knew that the Empress could deal with Gabrielle and was the best person to take care of her as she had done it many times before. He eyed his healing tools then looked at Lila this was going to be fun, frankly she had gotten off easy but he doubted that she would see it that way. He eased up the bowl with cold water moving towards her only to stop as he realized that Adrienne wasn’t in the room. “Where is Adrienne?” Iona eyed him for a long moment. “I moved her in to the royal prison where she belongs.” Phantasos took hold of Lila’s face he slowly started to wash the dried blood away feeling her wince. “Why?” Iona breathed in deeply. “Oh I don’t know I just got really bored of listen to her telling my men that she would cut their cocks off and feed them to them and my women that she’d rip out their birthing organs and hang them up like decorations.” Phantasos shrugged as he spoke. “Okay works for me but you know she’s not fully healed right?” Iona narrowed her gaze. “Yes I know I just don’t care.” Phantasos wiped the last of the blood away from Lila’s chin. “Works for me, who knows she might die down there if Gabrielle doesn’t find an excuse to kill her first.”

He ignored the surprise as it appeared on Lila’s face he could see the concern in the satyrs face opposite. Clearly he was more concerned about Lila and had no interest in the conversation they were having. He eyed Lila. “Open your mouth Lila.” Lila wished she could speak right now but it hurt too much to talk she opened her mouth slowly watching as he looked inside. Phantasos eyed her teeth most of the blood was from her teeth slicing her jaw from being hit but it was clear that her jaw would swell and that she would need a strong pain killer and a thick herb mix which could be rubbed in to her chin. “Well your lucky Lila no broken teeth so unlike your sister you won’t need a gold replacement but your jaw is going to hurt for a while which means talking will be minimal.” Lila looked up speaking despite how much it hurt as she raised her shield arm. “My arm….” Iona rolled her eyes. “Oh please your sister went easy on you, you stabbed her and there wasn’t a cut on you, just have a bloody face.” Phantasos turned to her as he put the bowl down as he began to feel the muscle in her arm feeling which had been strained quite badly. “You’re really not helping.” Lila carried on speaking despite that every word was agony as it left her lips. “How did I…get off easy…she bent my arm and my jaw hurts like Tartarus?” Korudon put a clawed hand on Lila’s as he spoke. “It doesn’t matter Lila.”

Iona raised her hand. “No it does matter! You called your sister a whore I saw you and even after all that she just knocked you around. When I had a disagreement with her some time back I ended up with a broken arm and cracked ribs and stuck in this room for quite some time. So no you got of easy even though you deserved far worse and any one else in this palace would have gotten far worse but clearly even though she hardly knows you she hardly touched you.” Lila eyed her in disgust. “She was trying to humiliate me!” She paused trying to ignore the stinging pain as the healer touched her elbow. “She kept talking about honour and dieing while putting my face in the dirt!” Iona laughed but it was a cold laugh even to her own ears. “She was probably trying to teach you the meaning of honour and nobility it’s just you clearly didn’t pick up on it.” She eased up the blood stained dagger which had clearly been used to stab Gabrielle slamming it down on the table next to her. “You shoved this right in to her side and for what to prove a point? She has a boot dagger but she didn’t use it to cut a hole in your insides!” Lila took in a painfully breath. “She’s a werewolf…she’ll heal.”

Iona felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “You just don’t get it do you? I’m stunned that you two are even related because you don’t carry an ounce of her compassion.” Korudon raised his clawed hand. “Back off! Lila is a good person and this was a misunderstanding and between her and Gabrielle.” Iona shook her head unable to hide her disappointment. “Shut up Korudon, stop defending her, you’re her best friend but you just don’t see the whole picture here. She tried to put a hole in her sisters guts I would never do that, not even to my own family. My grandfather taught me that you never push daggers in to your own flesh and blood it’s against the mercenary code, daggers are for enemy’s traitors and murders.” Phantasos eased up his hands. “Stop it now all off you! This is my healing quarters, it’s not for you to have a shouting matches in you can settle your personal differences later.” Iona sneered as she eyed him. “Its fine I was done here anyway.” Phantasos watched as she left slamming the door behind her, this was turning in to a wonderful day. Lila eyed the healer. “Thank you.” Phantasos eyed her for a long moment before running the thick herb paste in to her arm. “Don’t thank me I agree with Iona I’m just hoping the dagger to the stomach was a lack of for sight on your part. There is also no denying that she did go easy on you, Iona spent weeks in a sick bed.” He slowly began massaging it in to her shoulder muscles. “Unlike Iona I’m not a warrior and I accept that we are all only human and we make mistakes. I also know from personal experience that we can all learn from them and become better people.”

End of part 12

 

A DEEP EMOTIONAL KNIFE TWISTING AND TEARING AT THE HEART

 

Gods this is such a bad wound I know she’ll just shrug it off like its nothing but it must hurt its three inches deep. A part of me wanted to burn the wound shut but felt better to just to sow it closed. She’s in for another rough and painful day I couldn’t see any internal damage but it worries me that there might be some. I saw the dagger that made this wound it was an evil looking little thing not much bigger than a small quill from hilt to tip but these small daggers are not to taken lightly. Daggers like these are used to slit throats their specially crafted to make ether make an instant kill or make a very serious wound. It true I have a dagger and so does Gabrielle but both of our daggers are much longer in the blade and hilt that is the difference between warriors and mercenaries. To mercenaries the dagger is as much a weapon as the sword where as to warriors it’s always a last resort when we have no weapons in hand we have had our weapon knocked from our hand. True there are some warriors who do use a dagger but they are not that common and their fighting style is very different as the dagger is used as much more as the sword. She eyed the wound which was now sown up. Her lover was sitting on the bed she had unbuttoned the front of her bloody shirt so she could work on her wound she had brought up her weapons and had placed them opposite the bed.

Xena breathed in deeply as she rubbed the thick paste mixture watching her lover winced painfully. “Your lucky Gabrielle it doesn’t look like that dagger touched any off your vital organs.” Gabrielle tried to ignore the stinging pain in her side she knew it would stop in a couple of hours it always did. “I’ve had worse.” Xena looked at her for a long moment watching as the younger woman washed the dried blood from her face with the wet cloth, that was a very true statement but it didn’t make her feel any better. She eased up thick bandage wrapping it around her waist as she stood up. “Could you take your shirt off I really need to see your arm?” Gabrielle eyed her bloody sleeve. “It’s nothing it’s just a flesh wound.” Xena moved her hands to her shirt gently easing it down her shoulders eyeing the flesh wound which was quite deep she slowly rethreaded the needle. “That’s not a flesh wound she cut you very deeply.” Gabrielle watched as the taller woman began to clean her wound. “Why aren’t you angry with me?” Xena carried on cleaning her wound as spoke in a gently voice. “Because you are not to blame Gabrielle, Iona told me what your sister said to you and why you hit her. I think if someone in my own family implied that I slept my way to the top I would hit them to.”

She slowly began to stitch up the open wound. “No one has the right to imply that least of all to you.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze looking at the floor. “She hates me.” Xena looked up as she cut the thread free finishing her stitching. “She doesn’t hate you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling the pain as it began to tear at her heart. “She does hate me she told me how she felt.” She felt the tears as they started to spill down her face before she could stop them. “She said that she hated me because our father always loved me more than her, she even stated that if she had not been there my self and father wouldn’t have noticed because we never loved her.” She eased up her hand trying to wipe away her tears. “I always loved her, I didn’t return home because if the Imperial Council knew that my family were alive that they would kill them all and now she hates me for it.” Xena wrapped her arms around the younger woman pulling her close hearing her painful tears as cried against her waist. How dare Lila say that to her lover, how dare she put her through this pain just to make a point! Gods she was so mad right now it was bad enough that Gabrielle had lost her youth with out hearing that, it was so cruel. She wouldn’t let this rest ether she wouldn’t allow Lila the benefit of thinking that she had gotten away with it ether, Gabrielle had suffered so much pain in her life she didn’t need this least of all from her family.

She eased up her hand gently running it through her lover’s hair holding her tighter feeling the younger woman’s arms wrap around her waist. “It was wrong of her to say that to you Gabrielle.” She watched as the younger woman looked up she used her thumb to gently wipe away her tears trying to keep her anger in check so the other woman couldn’t hear it as she spoke gently and calmly. “You are a good person, regardless of what she says you were protecting your family and she shouldn’t hate you for that she clearly she doesn’t see the bigger picture.” She raised her other hand unable to stop her anger as it came out before she could stop it. “She’s been here what two days and she implies that you slept your way in to bed chambers and now she says this to you. The fact is she knows nothing about you or what you have been through and she has no right to judge you!” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “She knows I’m a werewolf but she just sees me a weapon just like Iona used to I could see it in her eyes.” She felt the taller woman wipe away the tears on her face. “I was just trying to show her honour I know I hurt her but I didn’t use my being a werewolf to win, I just wanted her to understand what being a warrior means.” Xena looked at for a long moment before speaking. “Your sister has a lot to learn but do not let those words she said to you get to you. They are the words of a woman who has clearly lost her way and is taking it out on you.”

Gabrielle put her head against her waist trying to gain control over her emotions. “May be it would have been better if she had not come here at all.” Xena shook her head as she ran her hand through her lover’s hair. “No Gabrielle it’s better that she came here because at least now you know that’s she’s alive and that your family is well. Even if she leaves at least now you know where you stand.” She paused knowing that what she was about to say might sound wrong to some but she didn’t care she loved this woman to much. “You have family here in the palace they may not be your flesh and blood but they will always love you and no matter what you’re real family or your sister think of you and they’ll always be here for you.” She felt her lovers grip tighten. Gabrielle breathed in deeply feeling some of sadness fade away the other woman’s words were warming like silk on skin and so deep and meaningful she eased up her hands putting them on her lover’s. “Thank you, that means a lot to me.” Xena felt a smile form as she leaned forward kissing her lips gently before pulling away. She eyed her shoulder wound which needed to be wrapped in bandage. “Let me finish your wound.” She watched as Gabrielle raised her arm she gently took hold of it as she began to rub the paste in to her shoulder.

She knew now was not a good time to bring up the subject of Adrienne but it had to be done, her lover needed to know. “Gabrielle I need to tell you something important.” She watched as the younger looked up the concern in her eyes as she wiped away the last of her tears. “What?” Xena took in a deep breath as she slowly wrapped a bandage around her shoulder. “It’s Adrienne…she’s woken up.” She paused trying her best to find the right words. “Iona told me that she had her moved from the healer’s room, to the royal prison.” Gabrielle felt her body tense by Ouroboros she should have known that this day was going to come. Maybe she shouldn’t be surprised the bitch was like a rat she just didn’t know when to die and she hated rats. She had hoped that she wouldn’t wake up any time soon but the truth was that her now being awake meant that she could ask her what the dying werewolf meant. She would also be able to find out where the werewolves were getting inside the palace, she had an idea but she needed the bitch to confirm it. She looked up meeting her lovers gaze once more. “I have to speak to her I have no choice I need to know what that werewolf meant when he said bleeding pillars of sorrow.” Xena moved picking up a spare shirt watching as her lover took off her bloody torn one throwing it to one side. “Then I’m coming with you.” She passed her the shirt watching as she put it over her shoulder slowly doing up the buttons. “You know though that she may not give you anything?”

Gabrielle adjusted her collar no longer caring for the pain in her body. “No she may not but I am going to try.” Xena moved putting both hands on her shoulders. “You don’t have to do this, you won her in battle she can never hurt you again, so you have nothing to prove.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t care for proving myself to her, she knows I defeated her in battle but she is the only life line I have to the Imperial Council and she knows their plans and even if she doesn’t she knows where Bastiaan might be and If I can capture him I can get everything I need.” Xena looked at her for a long moment it was clear to her why she wanted Bastiaan and it was about much more than just the Imperial Council she wanted her revenge for Damokles’s death. As much as she didn’t want to see her go down this road she had to let her and hope that Adrienne didn’t know where Bastiaan was and that she at least had an answer to some of her lover’s question. Truth was she didn’t see this going well Adrienne would be deeply jealous off her now and there would be a lot of hatred between herself and Gabrielle since she had tried to kill her. She had promised though that she would always be by Gabrielle’s side and would always protect her and she would do so now regardless of her personal feelings. She watched as the younger woman picked up both of her sword putting them in the scabbards on her back. “I’ll take you down there I know where they keep the high security prisoners.”

8

Joxer leaned back in the chair in his room his plan was now complete Leah had done the fitting and the armour was perfect. All he had to work on now was getting her mannerisms right but that would come in time after all this plan would be set in motion in less than a weeks time and he would aim for Athens. It was just out of reach from Corinth in that it took four days walk and meant that it would take the Empress a while to get down there he turned to Leah who was fast asleep on his bed. They had just been talking last night about life it was just a heartfelt conversation as they had very similar pasts as they had both been slaves and had, had abusive masters. He felt a sense of sorrow for her as the only reason she had, had it so bad was because she looked like the Empress so therefore she was a prize and that made her appearance a curse. His master had been just as brutal with he had beaten him and his twin brothers Jace and Jet, these were memories he preferred to forget. He hated to confess it but it had surprised him that she had been willing to go with his plan but maybe it was because she saw it as a chance to get back at the Empress for allowing her to become a slave and be sold of in Rome.

He turned looking at her for a long moment nothing sexual had happened between them but he wouldn’t lie to himself he did have had feelings for her. She wasn’t the Empress it was only the hair dye covering her reddish brown hair with out she looked so different and very much her own person. She also acted her own person no one ever told her what to do outside battle she was becoming a great warrior but he wasn’t sure whether to express his feelings. She had suffered at the hands of men in the worst way imaginable women who had, had their innocence stolen in that way were never the same again. Some never slept with men again other committed suicide because they couldn’t cope with the emotional pain and turmoil that it caused them. Truth was he didn’t feel that it was the right time to say how he felt about her, he hated it when feeling like this caught him off guard, he wasn’t like Jace he found love hard. He had loved once before and the woman he thought he loved had betrayed him and it had nearly cost him his life. After that he had not opened his heart in that way ever again and he always tried to fight his feelings. His mother had said to him as a child that he was the most open hearted of his brothers. He twirled his dagger between his fingers watching as Leah pulled his thick fur bed cover over her clothed body.

Maybe if she saw him now she would disappointed as he was the most closed off as his brothers he only hoped that where ever she was in the Elysian Fields that Jet was with her now. Maybe that was too much to ask as criminals were said to go to Tartarus but Jet was not evil he had just coped with being a slave in his own way they all had scars which had never healed. What ever feelings he had, he had to put them aside the truth was that despite their friendship he doubted that Leah would ever return his feelings. She had suffered too much and probably wouldn’t trust a man she had known for such a short amount of time. Her memories from the past would mean that she wouldn’t allow sexual touch anymore. He knew that now again she had very bad dreams like him but in hers she could wake up screaming and she didn’t like being touched by anyone else after she had them. Instead she would cry and get the pain out of her system after that she would return to normality and carry on as if nothing had happened. Gods he hated men and women who raped both genders they were not fit to be called human they were no better than animals and the damage they did was long lasting and life destroying, in his view they deserved worse than Tartarus.

He broke out of his thoughts as a knock sounded on his door he adjusted his shirt turning as he spoke. “Come in.” He watched as Jace walked in through the door closing it behind him he could see a concerned look in his twin brother’s eyes. “What’s wrong brother?” Jace took in a deep breath as he adjusted his black leather shirt. “We have a problem.” Joxer stood up slowly keeping his voice low so as not to wake Leah. “What kind of a problem?” Jace looked at Leah lowering his voice. “Glaphyra and Agathon have asked for an audience with you.” Joxer breathed in gods he hated Glaphyra and her vile husband Agathon they were vile disgusting murders and he would love to kill them both. They liked to skin men, women and children and then eat their flesh and drink their blood. He looked up meeting his brother’s gaze. “You can’t be serious?” Jace folded his arms. “I wish I was lying brother but sadly I’m not both of these worthless excuses for human beings want to speak to you.” He pulled up a dirty scroll which he put on the table. “I wouldn’t bother opening this it’s written in blood all it says is that they have an interest speaking with you. As you have something they want and they would like to negotiate for it, they don’t say what it is.”

Joxer eased up his hand. “As if I would ever negotiate with ether of them their both scum.” Jace eased out his dagger looking at it. “Well you could just invite them here anyway and then kill them. I mean it would be deeply satisfying to know that they have been killed for all of the vile crimes they have committed. Believe me I’m all for torture but flaying any man, woman or child it disgusting and in human.” Joxer eyed him for a long moment. “You have a point this could be our one chance to kill them, though it is risky.” Jace twirled his dagger. “But very satisfying if we do kill them.” Joxer put his dagger down on the desk eyeing the dirty scroll. “Send a message back to them that I wish to talk.” Jace felt a sly smile form. “I will see it done brother.” He looked down at the floor. “What of the original plan? I mean we are so close.” Joxer stood up from his chair. “It remains the same, for now.” Jace turned moving towards the door. “I’ll tell the men and women but you understand they will be very nervous about these two visiting us due to their insane reputations.”

Joxer nodded. “I understand just keep them calm and focused regardless of what they do to their victims they are still humans which means they can bleed and die and nothing would please me more than for them to die at our hands.” Jace opened the door to his brother room. “That is true, I’ll leave you to your thoughts brother…my deepest apologises for the interruption to yourself and Leah.” Joxer watched as he left the room He left he felt his body tense his brother was right this was risky and dangerous but the truth was that his plan could wait a few more days. Seeing these two worthless criminals die would give him a lot of personal satisfaction. After all his army was bigger than theirs and he had werewolves they were only human they also had a lot of nerve to believe that he would ever give them anything. They deserved to burn in Tartarus and he saw it as a matter of personal honour to send them there personally.

8

I’m going to see Adrienne again strangely I don’t feel a great deal of emotion about it I just feel numb. I think it’s because after what happened with my sister this morning. As Xena said I won the battle with Adrienne and I have nothing to prove, this bitch tortured abused me both emotionally and physically. She made me think I was worthless and unfit to be king but I am fit to be king, I am the one true king of my people. She also will never be as strong as she used to be werewolves who suffer brain damage never are, they can transform but their transformations are never the same, they can loose muscle mass and strength. Their teeth can be more breakable along with their claws they can no longer stand up to the other werewolves in fights. I’ve seen it, it’s a sad truth that when werewolf warriors suffer this way they are thrown out of the army, they never get their glorious death to die by the sword. They are not allowed to join the workers or the builders instead they become a burden up on their families and if they have no family they become the werewolf equitant of beggars. This hurts them so much most commit suicide because they would rather die than be a burden.

Some leave the Grand City and do what most werewolves call the bloody moonlight walk, it’s a death sentence they take their sword and some food and try to take on the wilderness they die fighting bears or monsters knowing that they can’t win. That is something I hate deeply about werewolf sociality weakness makes you worthless and disability is not tolerated. It’s something I want to change and I will change once I suite the throne that’s rightfully mine. It’s strange because all of those warriors I feel sympathy for and one day I want them to have a better life but I feel no pity for Adrienne. I would happily force her to take that walk I know Adrienne thinks right now that she still rules but she fails to see that she is no longer the stronger one I am and I am no longer to be toyed with. The Gabrielle who lay down to her no longer exists. Its funny my father always said that you should forgive but I find forgiveness hard, I always have. Maybe because all of the people who hurt me in the past have always tried to destroy me, I forgave Xena but that’s because I love her and ever since she has done everything to right her wrongs.

I recognise the cells I was imprisoned here once a long time ago before I got knocked out and moved in to the pits in the lower level. It’s not a place I want to go anywhere near I have to many bad memories of it. Xena told me on the way down here that Mavican, Adrienne and Kalika have all been separated two are at opposite ends of the prison so they have no influence over the other and can’t make any plans. Adrianne though is the middle as she is the most dangerous, I can see the guards pointing their crossbows at her cell they are taking no chances. Gabrielle walked up to the cell watching as Adrienne came in to view she had been chained on both her arms and legs but the chains were tight so she couldn’t move a great deal. She could see the collar with its points pointed at her throat making it impossible for her transform without killing herself she took in a deep breath before letting it out, this woman had, to have a least one of her answers. Xena eyed the guards. “Open the cell.” She watched as they both opened the door to the large cell walking in she tensed as Adrienne looked up giving her lover a leering grin.

Gabrielle watched as Adrienne got to her feet, the way she had been chained meant that she couldn’t get close to her the chains would stop her. Adrienne pulled on the chains as she eyed Gabrielle who looked as beautiful as ever. “Why hello Gabrielle it’s been a long while or so I’ve heard and you never visit or write.” Gabrielle folded her arms eyeing the other woman, gods she hated that leer she was giving her it was just vile. She spoke keeping her voice even. “I didn’t come here to listen to your small talk Adrienne, you and I have something important to discuss.” Adrienne looked up eyeing the Empress she felt a sneer form as she spoke her voice thick with jealously. “Oh and how are you, keeping well, getting plenty of protein in your diet? You know because when you don’t you might start tasting a little bland bellow the waist.” Gabrielle watched as her lover gave Adrienne a cold look but said nothing she met her cold gaze as she spoke again. “Your pathetic isn’t it about time you woke up? I mean consider the fact that the only reason you’re still alive is because I just might find you useful.” Adrienne put her hand on her chest. “Ouch that’s cold and to think that we used to have such great sex.”

Gabrielle raised her hand slowly. “No you had great sex at my expense and you mean nothing to me now.” Adrienne eyed the Empress. “Yes because she gives it so much better but she’ll get bored off you eventuality and break your heart.” The next moment turned to agony as Gabrielle’s hand wrapped around her throat she felt the force as she was slammed in to the wall hard. She turned seeing the cold almost psychotic look in the other woman’s green eyes as she held her in place, she couldn’t get free her grip it was like iron. Gabrielle spoke hearing the venom in her words as they hit the air. “Don’t ever talk to me about love you don’t know what love is, you have never loved anyone!” She felt her grip tighten. “Also if you have nothing worth contributing to our discussion then I’ll just kill you now, because believe me I am so sick and tired of you. You made my life a misery and even now you can’t see it.” She let go watching as the other woman coughed painfully the confusion in her eyes she clearly had no idea how she was able to even do that when she should have been able to get free.

Gabrielle stepped away from the other woman. “You’re probably asking yourself how I could hold you that way, well it’s because you suffered a brain injury and you know what happens to werewolves who suffer from that kind of injury. They loose their strength, they become weak and they become scrawny in battle that can’t fight and they lack the inhuman strength in human form.” She turned seeing that Xena was watching her though her face was unreadable but she knew that for her benefit Adrienne would lock on to any emotion and use it to cause harm. “Your time as a warrior might just be over and I doubt that the Imperial Council will welcome you back now they’ll probably force you to take the bloody moonlight walk and I doubt that you would survive the night.” She paused. “So you have two choices you can ether play along with me right here and now or I can have you sent back in a cage to them!” Adrienne breathed in feeling the fear take over, no this wasn’t happening? She couldn’t stand the thought of being a pitiful and disabled like those pathetic werewolves for the rest of her life. Gabrielle raised her hand. “Or if you would prefer it I could just kill you now? Save you the heartache, your choice.”

Adrienne turned eyeing Xena. “Oh please she wouldn’t let you.” Xena looked up eyeing Gabrielle’s forma lover as she spoke in a calm voice. “Then you would be mistaken, as a rule I put traitors on the noose, you’re only alive because I thought you might be useful.” She raised her hand. “Plus you’re a werewolf matter and Gabrielle is the one who decides your fate not me and if she wants you dead then I’m not going to stop her though I’ll make sure Iona kills you personally as I’d rather she didn’t dirty her hands with your blood.” Adrienne breathed in seeing the seriousness in the other woman’s eyes it wasn’t a bluff and that scared her. She hated the feeling of fear because she had long forgotten how it felt she paused before speaking. “What do you want to know?” Gabrielle turned eyeing her. “The bleeding pillars of sorrow what does it mean?” Adrienne laughed as she eyed the other woman. “You seriously don’t know what that means? Yet you used to spend so much time in the library and you’re meant to be so well versed.” Gabrielle stepped closer to her unable to contain the anger which was boiling and churning in her stomach. “What does it mean!?” Adrienne stopped laughing. “It’s a really unpopular war poem written by Cyrano.”

The bleeding pillars are falling, crashing down as the sun light is dawning. I hear the pillars of sorrow as they fall up on my enemies causing their bones to shatter and break, while their hearts explode as they cry out in pain. I spoke to earth wanting their deaths I wanted to hear the sounds of their last breathes but now hear it I deeply fear it. For I have taken their souls and taken their lives and now I lay on the bloody earth and weep for I am now a monster cursed to endure only the moonlight.”

She breathed in deeply. “It’s nothing but a werewolf poem for children, to illustrate the tragedy of war and wanting war but it’s his least popular writing because most believe it shows weakness and softness to your enemies. Hence why you probably missed it in the library the Imperial Council removed it but people like you spread it around in certain circles.” She felt a cold smile form. “War is born out of necessity, it is not to question the spilling of blood but to bathe in it and embrace it.” Gabrielle felt a sneer form. “You know when ever you try and quote Triptolemus you just come of sounding like an idiot.” Adrienne moved forward only to be stopped due to the chains. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “You read literature and poetry but you read it only with face value, you don’t analyze it and you don’t question its impact or its meaning, you just blindly follow it with out any thinking about if it’s wrong or if it’s harmful to others.” Adrienne pulled on her chains. “You know that’s always been your problem Gabrielle you overanalyze everything and you question to much. You just can’t be happy with your place in the world. Maybe that’s why you have never truly embraced that animal side of your nature even in werewolf form you kill to quickly and to cleanly.”

She paused sniffing the air. “You don’t play or desire and you don’t feel the animal with in, you don’t enjoy the taste of blood and you are missing out.” She paused as a slightly musky sweet smell hit her nose. It was a smell she knew well, she had smelt it many times before it was odour of a female werewolf going through the mating urge but who had not bitten her mate to be. She felt her smile fade as she eyed the Empress could her day get any worse, just knowing that she had started this made her want to throw up? She had tried everything possible start of Gabrielle’s mating urge and it had all amounted to nothing. Yet this bitch who had known her for what, six months or more now had her throwing out hormonal urges which this pathetic human woman couldn’t even smell or pick up on or even satisfy. This did explain a lot though it explained Gabrielle’s temper werewolves going through the urges became much more violent and irritable, if they didn’t resolve the issue though something very bad could happen.

Something which turned even the most level headed werewolves violent, if they didn’t stop the urge by mating their mate to be they turned at night and lost control becoming like the first werewolves of old. Who didn’t talk and had no control and were very dangerous attacking anything and anyone in sight. This happened because if their body couldn’t resolve the issue with sex it turned to intense violence instead. Maybe Gabrielle would end up killing the bitch of an Empress that would be a comforting thought she felt an evil smile form as she spoke. “One day you’ll know how it feels though believe me after all the beast in side always wins no matter how hard you try to contain it.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “What’s the Imperial Councils plan?” Adrienne looked up slightly. “I wouldn’t know you need to talk to Bastiaan he has Hesperos’s ear but don’t bother asking me where he is because I wouldn’t know we always ran separate missions, my job was to keep you happy, his was to shut up trouble makers.” Xena felt a cold sneer form. “Make her happy well then you failed at that job, you didn’t give her anything she needed your just vile and you abused her I hate people like you!” Gabrielle moved her hand putting it on her lovers waist she turned meeting her intense light blue gaze shaking her head watching as her lover became calm again.

She knew this was part of Adrienne’s game she liked pull on people’s emotions stings she fed off it and she didn’t want to give the satisfaction. She turned back eyeing Adrienne. “Tell me how did you crawl in to this palace so many times with out anyone knowing?” Adrienne breathed in deeply. “If I tell you that you might just see an end to my usefulness so I’ll give you a clue, the dead sing no songs and they tell no tales.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “You know that’s one thing you never understood about me Adrienne, I know that the dead tell many tales and sing a lot of songs and I’m cursed to hear them all.” She turned away ignoring the other woman’s utter confusion over her words. “I’m done here.” Xena followed her lover out of the cells watching as it was closed behind her and locked by the guards as they both walked up the corridor. She spoke in a gentle voice hoping it would sooth her lover’s anger as she put a hand on her shoulder. “Did she give you the answers you needed?” Gabrielle turned to her feeling her anger turn to sadness. “Only one of them made sense but I’m no closer to working out the bleeding pillars of sorrow than I was when I started.” She stopped outside the cells turning to her lover feeling the frustration take over. “If I can’t figure this out, the rebels in Corinth will not look up on me well, I need to have answers, I can’t come to them empty handed.”

Xena put her other hand on her shoulder. “Gabrielle it won’t matter to your people that you come empty handed, what will matter to them is that you come.” She paused finding the right words. “Look I think what’s best now is that you just go to our room and rest, you need to heal your wounds maybe when you have slept for a while a few of the answers might come to you.” She paused. “Tell me though you said you knew the answer to Adrienne’s riddle about the dead, what it is?” Gabrielle felt a sad smile for form. “You should send Demetrius or Iona to look at your mother’s catacomb because I think the werewolves may have made a tunnel through it to get the palace, that’s why she said the dead tell no tales she was referring to the dead in the palace. You told me that very few people know about your mother’s burial site as it’s hidden under the palace, I had a theory on it but Adrienne has now just confirmed it.” Xena tensed gods she hated the thought of that it was her mother’s tomb she had had, had it created under the palace to protect her body. Now to hear that it had possibly been used by her enemies made her feel sick. It did explain though how the seriously injured werewolf had gotten in unseen. “I’ll have Demetrius take a look with me.” She ran her hands down her lover’s shirt as she leaned forward kissing her head. “Go and get some rest Gabrielle, you’ll feel better.” Gabrielle nodded there was so much truth in her lovers words that even she couldn’t deny it, she was tired and she needed rest, so far this had been a long and emotionally painful day.

End of part 13

 

BROKEN AND SHATTERED STONES

 

My mother’s tomb, gods I am so annoyed of all the places the werewolves could dig out it had to be here. It took me months to have these catacombs built under the palace and I built them for my mother, I wanted her to have a quite place where she could rest in peace. Some people don’t agree with a catacomb burial most prefer to burn bodies but Amphipolis had always had a rich custom of burial in deep underground in catacombs which stretch out for miles. All of which are filled with decorative and elaborate coffins, we believe that the body should not be destroyed and instead it should be protected in side a coffin and kept deep underground where it’s safe. When I think about it Gabrielle’s burial of her people is very similar, she believes in burying the dead but unlike my tradition there’s no coffin, but the ceremony and burial is just as elaborate. I had thought about bringing Gabrielle down here but I felt that maybe she may not go, because death is always so close to her and I don’t think she likes to be around it. The only ghost she has seen here is my mothers but who’s to say that there are not more, maybe this is something for another time a better time when we are both more settled and the werewolf civil war is over.

She turned the corner raising the fire torch higher looking at the long tunnel in front of her which she knew stretched under the royal gardens. She looked at Demetrius who was walking opposite her he was one of the few people she trusted to take down to this area as he had been there during its construction. He had also over seen the building of her mother’s coffin after her death and the coffin he had, had made was beautiful on every level and built to last. She had made these catacombs large because she wanted the rest of her ruling lines bodies to also be put down here as well as her self. Even if her empire fell even if her palace crumbled these catacombs would always remain hidden from the world and any of her descendants bodies would be kept safe. She couldn’t have children but she knew Gabrielle had a son, though her lover wasn’t aware of this fact yet as she wanted her to tell speak about it when she was ready. She would welcome this child in to her arms and keep him safe and love him with all her heart. She may have means to have a line of dynasty but what did it matter she would have Gabrielle’s blood line instead, her son could rule as Emperor of all Greece.

“You seem troubled Empress.”

Xena snapped out of her thoughts turning to Demetrius. “No I’m not troubled, I’m just thinking that’s all.” Demetrius looked at the dark catacombs around them they were very close now to the Empress’s mothers tomb. He remembered when his men had placed her coffin down here some years ago, the Empress had been heart broken she loved her mother very deeply and had been so devastated by her death. “Are you thinking about your mother’s funeral, I mean it’s been a while since we have both been down here?” Xena looked at him for a long moment she felt bad for not telling him the truth but in this case she didn’t want to reveal her feelings. “Yes I was thinking about my mother, I miss her.” She stopped catching sight of the stone coffin which was in a large open area. It had been carved with beautiful patterns of forests and trees and life which were meant to represent the Elysian Fields. She walked slowly over to the coffin putting the torch in the holder close by as she placed both hands on the stone speaking a calm voice. “Hello mother.” She traced the decorative lines with her finger. “I have missed you.” Demetrius breathed in as he raised his fire torch. “I’ll give you a moment.” She turned to meet his concerned gaze. “Thank you.”

She watched as he walked out of the room, her gaze slowly drifted back to her mother’s tomb. “It’s been to long and I apologise.” She breathed in painfully feeling a sad smile form. She didn’t care that she was talking to a closed coffin, she knew that Gabrielle some times liked to talk to the apple tree in the royal gardens where her late lover Damokles was buried and she felt no shame in doing the same for her mother. She looked at the coffin again. “I have a new lover now, her name is Gabrielle I know that you met her in the royal gardens, I know that you liked her. One day she is going to be my consort and joint ruler of my empire.” She paused. “I know that you would say that I should jump in with both feet and make her as my wife but she’s just not ready yet, she’s had a very difficult past and I need to go slowly.” She lowered her gaze unable to stop the tears as they ran down her face. “I miss you so much I wish you were here with me and father.” She took in a painful breath. “He hasn’t replied to my letters he’s still mad at me, because I couldn’t save you.” She eased up her hand wiping away the tears on her cheeks. “I wish he would talk to me, I miss him and I hate that theirs a distance between us and so much hurt, I wish I could repair it. I just want him to reply to at least one of my letters just so I know that he is okay.”

She moved her fingers to the face of the coffin which was shaped as the sun and moon combined to represent the eternal day and night. “I hope that you can hear me where ever you are and that maybe you could visit Gabrielle again. I mean she can see you and I would so like to hear what you have to say and would love to hear your words again spoken through her.” She breathed in wanting to say more only to stop and take in the quite of the tomb. She picked up the fire torch stepping away from the coffin as she looked around her, they had walked the length of this catacomb and there was nothing. No cracks, no openings not a thing. She lowered her torch only to watch in surprise as wind suddenly blew the smoke away from her, she felt her eyes dart. “Demetrius are the doors above shut!” Demetrius walked back in to the open area. “Yes Empress I closed them, why?” Xena moved the torch up watching as the wind carried on blowing the flames. “Because I don’t recall there being anywhere down here where the wind could get in when I had this place built.” Demetrius walked over looking at the moving flames, there was clearly wind coming in to this room from somewhere. “That isn’t normal at all…” He moved his hand down eyeing the wall opposite. “There’s cold air coming in I can feel it.” Xena slowly placed the torch back on the wall feeling the cold air on her fingers she, knew it shouldn’t be here this place was always meant to be warm and dry.

She took a slow step towards the wall feeling the cold under her finger tips as she pressed against it. She couldn’t feel any grooves she moved her fingers only to stop hearing a grinding sound as the stone moved a little, this was a meant to a solid it shouldn’t move. She pressed harder only to feel the wall move as it shifted forward hitting a wall on the other side hard revealing a long narrow white stone tunnel which stretched for miles in the other direction. “What in Tartarus!?” Demetrius looked down seeing what looked like metal cogs which helped the stone section of the wall move forward. “Dear gods!” Xena eyed the tunnel which was only big enough for one werewolf to move through or a number in single file, clearly Gabrielle’s instincts were spot on. “I want this closed off until I know which werewolves built it, I don’t care how you do it, or who you bring in to do it but nothing is to get through this tunnel.” Demetrius eyed the tunnel. “I will see it done Empress.” Xena stepped away from the tunnel. “This explains a lot, it’s clearly how a lot of people got in to this palace. Months ago when I found out that Gabrielle was a werewolf were arguing during one our talks and she said that I should worry if the werewolf race ever attacked Corinth because I wouldn’t stand a chance.” Demetrius blinked as he eyed the tall dark haired woman. “Did she know about this tunnel?” Xena shook her head. “No she didn’t we spoke to Adrienne today and the bitch gave this place away.”

Demetrius eyed the tunnel. “Well once we seal this up no one will get in here friend or foe and I’ll have guards here posted here twenty four seven.” Xena eyed her mother’s coffin she hated to do this but she wouldn’t risk her body being damaged or her coffin broken. “I want you to move my mother’s coffin somewhere safe I don’t want it down here, if it’s at risk.” Demetrius nodded he could see where she was coming from he wouldn’t allow anything to happen to any of his parents graves ether. “I’ll see it moved then the builders can concrete this tunnel up.” Xena turned on her heels thank the gods she knew this was here. If she hadn’t her whole palace could have been attacked and she would not have been able to stop it or even been ready for it. “Before you close it up I want you to send a one of Iona’s best down there and I want them to tell me where it leads to.” She moved towards the tunnel that led out of the catacombs. “As soon as they know I want them to send builders to block up the other end.” Demetrius nodded watching as she carried on walking. “Where are you going?”

Xena turned slowly to him. “I’m going to tell Gabrielle that she was right but I’m also going to talk to her sister because we have something to discuss regarding her stabbing Gabrielle today.” Demetrius nodded. “I understand.” Demetrius watched as she vanished he took in a deep breath this explained so much. Adrienne had used this passage to go in and out after all this was on the lowest level and it wasn’t as heavily guarded and all you had to do was walk around the few guards and you could get in to the royal gardens with out even being noticed. It had to be a werewolf tunnel but what bothered him more was how new it looked the cement was still white so it had to have been made with in the past few years. The question though was why? Was it for war or was it a tunnel for spies, spies could clearly come in and out of here unchallenged. He hated spies and with Kalika’s recent betrayal he had been keeping a tighter grip on the palace along with Iona of who came and went. Everything was now double checked and nothing was left to chance. He would now make sure that this place was guarded and closed up so no one else could get through here again.

8

That bitch what in Tartarus did she mean, I don’t know what honour and nobility are? I know just what they are! I’m a warrior I did my training and I know what compassion is, I’ve just learnt that having compassion gets you hurt. That’s how I got this scar on my face, I was to trusting and I believed that people would not betray you but let’s face fact people do nothing but betray others. May be that’s the reason I’m such close friends with Korudon because satyrs are so against betrayal. They deeply believe that betrayal corrupts the soul and once you have corrupted it enough you will never see The Elysian Fields and that every step of betrayal will only lead to more suffering. Truth is I’m starting to think that I should leave this place my coming here was a huge mistake. I know now that Gabrielle will never come home, I feel devastated because now I know my father will have one more failure to mock me over. The fact that I couldn’t bring my sister home, may be that’s my fate I’m just doomed to failure. That feels like its been the story of my life its like I can’t win no matter how hard I try and some days I ask myself if I am even happy and I can never really answer my own question. My friendship with Korudon is the best thing in my life and I enjoy the drinking and henbane and his company but I can’t help but feel that something is missing, I just can’t put my finger on what that is and I feel guilty for feeling this way.

Lila lay back on the bed in the room she shared with Korudon the healers had bandaged her up and then told her to go and sleep off her wounds as they weren’t serious. Korudon had gone to get her something to eat she moved her arm only to feel a sharp twinge of pain, gods there was no denying how much it hurt. She paused as a knock sounded hard on the outer doors it was probably the servant girl who didn’t really talk that much to ether of them now. She just got on with her duties and that was fine by her, regardless of what her sister thought she didn’t trust servants and she probably never would not after what had happened in the past. She ran her finger down the scar on her cheek she had received this scar because she had been two trusting to a young servant girl and it had cost her so dearly. Two years ago she had saved the young woman from being killed during a drunken bar brawl in Athens. The young girls name had been Tara and she had even thought that maybe they would be friends but their friendship had been a vile disgusting lie. She had been set up by the wealthy merchant who was a murder who she had been sent to kill, Tara been nothing more than bait and she had fallen in to her trap.

She had been caught locked up and beaten by the merchant’s loyal men and women it was one of the worst beatings she had ever had in her life. It was only after that beating that she had found out that Tara was loyal only to the merchant so much so that she had taken great pleasure in joining in that torture. It still gave her nightmares the thought of that dark room in the villa and being held down by the merchant’s loyal men and women as Tara had heated up a long dagger blade right in front of her face. It had been excruciatingly painful as the tip of the blade had moved slowly down her cheek burning her flesh only for that pain to double as Tara put pleasure on the tip cutting open the burnt area of skin causing blood to flow but the emotionally betrayal had been far worse. Just to make matters worse the merchant made a choice not to kill her instead she had been knocked unconscious and left in the forest outside Athens in the freezing cold of winter. Her warm clothes had been taken along with her money but her weapons had been left in place, so she would have to return to her employer in humiliation. She had blamed herself for being both naïve and stupid and far to trusting. After all it wasn’t long since she had been thrown out of the army and she didn’t know any better but she should have, people could be cruel, manipulative and life was unfair.

She looked up as the knock sounded again only harder. “Come in!” She watched as both the double doors were forced open harshly as the Empress walked in, her face unreadable as she shut the doors behind her she eyed her as she painfully got to her feet. “I’m surprised you knocked I mean this is your palace.” Xena eyed the room gods it felt like a long time since she had been here the last time she had seen this room was after Gabrielle had torn it apart in werewolf form. It had been fully redecorated and looked so different, the colours were darker and the curtain were a dark velvet red but it didn’t change the fact Gabrielle had been here and somehow it made sense that Lila should be in this room as they were related. She looked down seeing a small wooden figurine on the floor which had fallen off the table. She leaned down picking it up seeing that it was a small carved wolf which was howling, it wasn’t at Gabrielle’s level of craftsman ship but she found it interesting that it was here none the less as the staff always picked objects for rooms. She put it down on the table clearly her lovers was having a lot of influence on their design ideas she looked up meeting Lila’s confused gaze. “Despite that this is my palace I always like to show good manners.” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Something you are clearly lacking.”

Lila breathed in feeling her anger burn in the pit of her stomach. “That’s a matter of perspective.” Xena moved a step closer to her. “No I don’t think it’s a matter of perspective, you stabbed your own sister.” Lila eyed her for a long moment. “She was trying to humiliate me!” Xena shook her head as she raised her hand. “She was trying to teach you the meaning of honour!” Lila stepped closer she wasn’t afraid of this woman in fact she didn’t care if she was the Empress of Greece, she wouldn’t be talked down to by another person today. “Honour she doesn’t know the meaning of honour!” Xena felt the anger rise up she couldn’t stand this woman’s attitude anymore! She grabbed her by her leather armour yanking her forward so their faces were almost touching. She ignored Lila’s struggling as her boots scuffed the floor as she tried to free herself. She ignored it hearing the venom in her words as she spoke them. “How dare you say that? You do not know Gabrielle, you have no idea how much she has suffered or what she’s been through! Her whole life revolves around honour, everything she does is for the good of others she them above herself even if she gets hurt doing it. It’s clearly a lesson you have not learnt, as you go around threatening my staff with your weapon and calling your own fresh and blood a whore!”

Lila tensed as a feeling of fear hit home as the intense and frightening ice blue eyes looked in to her own filled with blinding rage. Xena paused not caring if she was scaring the younger woman who suddenly looked very unnerved. “She is not a whore! She didn’t scale up any sexual ladder to get in to my bed chamber. You may not believe this but your sister has, had a very hard life she has been manipulated and abused as well as used by others, she’s even been a prisoner!” She took in a deep breath. “The only reason I have not thrown you out of my palace is because I believe that despite everything, she needs you. You are her flesh and blood and her only tie to her family and would never take that away from her because I love her far to much to deny her the chance to get to get to know you.” She felt her grip on Lila’s collar tighten. “Speaking of our love, let me make this crystal clear to you, she is not a lustful woman who goes around sleeping with others genders to please her self. She has one lover at a time and her last lover who was a brave and noble man was murdered and it broke her heart. I feel deeply privileged that she loves me because I know she does not give her heart to just anyone.” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke punctuating every word. “You should always remember that, because she might take your comments regarding our relationship but I won’t and you should never forget that.”

Lila felt the taller woman let go of her leather armour, she winced painfully meeting her rage filled gaze finally finding her voice. “Why are you telling me this?” Xena moved a step closer to her not caring how imposing she looked. “Because when I first met Gabrielle she had your anger, she hated the world and all that had befallen her, she had lost faith in people and she wanted someone to care.” Lila rolled her eyes. “Let me guess she smiled and you fell in love?” Xena shook her head. “No, I spent a number of months treating her worse than Tartarus after I found out that she wasn’t human and a werewolf, then one night I took it one step to far. I realized that night that I had been a monster and not her even though she’s not human. I spent months trying to right that wrong and trying get to know her and make her feel needed and welcome in this palace. We became friends and I then realized that I was in love with your sister and we have become lovers. After that night I promised myself that I would help her in anyway no matter what, that is why we are having this conversation now. I see a lot of her in you, I think just like her you have a lot of anger inside you I think people might have betrayed you hence why you act this way and put on that cold uncaring attitude but lets face facts we both know its bravado. People have hurt you deeply and you’re lashing out because it’s the only way you know how, I think deep down you do care, you just don’t want to show it.”

Lila felt her hand form a fist as she looked at the floor not enjoying the feeling as the other woman’s word hit home. Gods she hated that she had just seen right though her emotionally. She didn’t want people to see how she felt, if they saw how she felt they would think her as weak and they would take advantage of her. She looked up trying not to let the painful emotion betray her voice. “You’re wrong.” Xena felt her anger fade away as much as Lila was trying to hide the pain her expression gave her away, it was identical to Gabrielle’s. She knew she had finally gotten through even if Lila didn’t want to admit it she took a slow step back speaking a calm and gentle voice. “Am I? I think you and I both know that’s not the truth. I also know that, that scar on your face bothers you I think it has a story behind it hence why you wouldn’t talk about it in the throne room. It’s funny because Gabrielle never wanted to talk about her scar ether, she believed it shamed her.” She took in a deep breath. “I told her that it made her strong, I believe the same of the scar you have.” Lila tensed trying not to let her emotion get the better of her she didn’t know this woman and she didn’t enjoy the fact that she could tear her emotional walls down so easily. “It’s just a scar.” Xena raised her hand. “If you change your mind about that then feel free to come and talk to me or Gabrielle because we will both listen. I think your friend Korudon wants to listen to but I get the feeling you don’t like letting him in, despite that he would do any thing to protect you, even from yourself.”

She slowly walked towards the double doors opening them. “Think on that.” She didn’t look back as she closed the doors behind her leaving Lila standing alone in the middle of her room. Lila breathed in deeply and painfully she felt as though she was in a deep and painful limbo of emotions and she didn’t know what to say or even do. She watched as one of the doors creaked open slowly as Korudon came in holding a plate of food, he put it on the table as he spoke a wide grin appearing on his face. “Sorry it took so long you know the head cook is a Celt, have you ever heard of a Celt cooking?” He stopped catching sight of the look of pain in her eyes. “Are you okay?” Lila looked up unable to hold back the pain her voice as she spoke. “No I’m not.” Korudon moved to stand in front of her. “What is it what’s wrong, did Iona come in here and hurt your feelings?” Lila slowly wrapped her hands around his waist leaning on his chest as she spoke once more. “No she didn’t.” Korudon blinked in surprise they had been friends for so long yet in all that time he had known her she had never shown this amount of emotion. Normally she kept her deeper feelings and emotions hidden from every one else including him. He moved his clawed hand wrapping it around her waist as he ran a clawed hand through her long dark hair. “What ever they said to you, they were wrong you know what people are like, they just say things with out thinking.”

8

Gabrielle took in a slow deep breath as she sunk deeper in to the Xena’s bath’s warm water sinking under it for a minute, watching as the world above turned to blue clear liquid. She stayed under letting it surround her for just a moment, truth was she liked water, it was one of the reasons she liked to fish when it was surrounding her this way she felt just for a moment that she was in a different world. The other werewolves always thought her strange in her youth because she loved to fish in the lakes and streams in werewolf form. Or jump in to the ocean waters and swim down to watch the fish as they swam all around her in the darkness of the warm coral reefs. She broke the surface of the water enjoying the feeling of warm water ran down her skin. She ignored the slight sting from her stitches, true she shouldn’t have taken off her bandages but she had wanted a bath so badly. The truth was that after sleeping for so long she felt sticky, wet and clammy and she had never liked that feeling. She just liked to be clean she eyed the steam as it rose up from warm waters all around her.

She could stay in here all day and probably would but she’d already been in here quite a while and despite how much she wanted to stay she needed to get up and dressed. She eased herself out of the hot water enjoying the warm sensation as it ran down her body then pulling a towel of the rack wrapping it around her body enjoying the feeling. She had never really cared that much for expensive things through out her life yet she loved the bath salts and soap in the palace they were so luxurious and enjoyable. She slowly dried her body followed by her hair then eased on a fresh set of bandage seeing that her wounds were already starting to heal. She picked up her fresh clothes slowly putting them on carefully ignoring the twinge of pain as she leaned forward pulling on her boots. She walked over pulling the plug from the tub watching as the water slowly drained away. Her gaze drifted upwards as she caught sight of the torn bag she had thrown it over in that corner in a fit of rage and forgotten about it, she could see the deep rip which her clawed thumb had made. There was something not right about it she could see it from here, inside the ripped leather there was some sort of grooves. She walked up to the bag picking it up off the floor turning it slowly between her fingers.

Under the deep tear there were deep grooves in the leather which was smooth and white in colour, which was odd she had never seen a bag with this kind of inside it was both odd and didn’t make much sense to her. She slowly sat down at the dinner table pulling her dagger free off her boot in a swift motion cutting along the edge of the bag seeing more of the deep grooves appear. She started to work faster tearing more and more leather watching as the whole of the bag slowly came apart. It opened up in to a large white leather piece which was made up of the front and back of the bag while rest slowly the dark burnt leather cover slowly peeled away, she used her dagger to cut off the straps throwing them on to the floor. This wasn’t a bag at all, it was a Rumalas which the werewolf word for hidden treasure. She had never seen one of these but she had heard of them they weren’t objects hidden inside secret compartments, the objects themselves were the hidden item. She slowly raised the large open leather piece staring at all of the sunken grooves which some one had spent hours carving out with a knife. She had seen these grooves once before but again only in her readings in the library and she read what it was you had to do. She turned putting the large thick leather piece down flat on the dinner table as she walked up to Xena’s study door shoving it open.

She walked inside the room seeing the well of black ink on the desk, she took hold of it along with the quill. She would replace it later with one from her room. She moved over to the table slowly taking the quill out of the well focusing on the sunken grooves as she carefully poured the ink in to them watching as it slowly moved through all of the grooves turning them black. She felt her eyes dart as images started to appear as well as writing as the ink travelled down the sunken paths. She breathed in sharply as they finally stopped at all the edges of the leather, she slowly put the quill back in to the ink well, staring at the images in front of her realizing for the first time what she was looking at. It was both a city map and plans she could see grinding jaws sketches moving creating tunnels. She felt her whole body tense as it became all to clear as to what she was looking at and what it meant. Suddenly the pillars of sorrow and why the poem meant so much was becoming all very clear to her this was an underground map of the city and it showed all of the tunnels that were being dug out, their directions, their locations and it even had where each wooden underground pillar was being placed and roped.

This wasn’t a building plan though, she’d seen a werewolf building plan she’d viewed hundreds of them in the Grand City’s library. They were on display for any one to read about, this was different there was no marker for concrete in any of these underground tunnels. They were not hidden routes in and out of the human city because the concrete was missing which meant that these tunnels were meant to be unstable. She took in a deep breath this was a plan, a plan to destroy a whole city. These tunnels were being built for one purpose only so that they could later be collapsed that’s why the ropes were there to be broken that was why they were all connected. It was a wall of death once they were pulled they would bring down the whole city in one swoop killing everyone above as the earth shattered around them. The pillars would crack and crumble and fall and thousands would die in one swoop. She moved her hand up taking hold of her pendent as her finger travelled to the writing in the corner of the leather which stood out as it was written in werewolf tongue.

“Should you be reading this Golden Hind then I am dead and so are the other messengers who gave their lives to bring this message to you in Corinth. I only hope my death was worthy of my name and that you tell my family that I love them and will be waiting for them in the Elysian Fields. I am from the city of Apollonia where the rebel werewolves have been sending spies in to the Grand City we found these plans and though this may be not be the finalized version we know that this is what the Imperial Council is planning. This is their plan they call it the bleeding pillars of sorrow after the poem by Cyrano. They plan to bring death and suffering to the Athens by destroying it from underground, we have had spies come and go we have seen the tunnels. We have also heard rumours that once Athens falls they will attack Corinth in force during the night using the few tunnels that are built under the city but we cannot confirm this rumour only the werewolf rebels of Corinth can do so. We ask that you call up on them they want only to fight this war in your name and place you on the throne as the rightful king of the werewolf race. We want you to bring rebellion and war to the Imperial Council and let their spilt blood echo in to eternity, they have ruled to long and we have suffered too much.”

End of part 14

 

 

WHEN THE TIDES START TO BREAK

 

They are both disgustingly vile and I don’t say that as an underestimate, I didn’t want ether of them here but then I didn’t bring them here to make any deals, I brought them here because I want to see them both to die. There have been hundreds of men and women who have tried to kill these two and have failed and have had horrible deaths. Since Talus is dead foolish mercenaries and warriors will only try harder to kill them. I would rather they didn’t I’ve come across the bodies of those these two have killed. Bodies stripped of skin from head to foot hanging by their ankles from trees always with their insides torn out. When you see men, woman and children that way it can give you nightmares for day’s maybe that is why I am taking this risk because I believe that these two are not human but monsters. To call them human is an insult to Ares who cursed King Lycaon turning him in to a werewolf after he had tried to feed him human flesh at his dinner table or so the myth says. I know though that myths were not always true they can be distorted over time one day I hope to find out if this one is true from Gabrielle as she would know. Joxer eyed his sword as he met Agathon’s gaze this wasn’t his underground hide out it was in fact his old hide out which he didn’t use often apart from meeting outsiders, the last thing he wanted was for these scum bags to know where he lived. “What do you want?”

Agathon felt a cold smile form as he looked at the open cave complex he knew this wasn’t Joxer’s home he knew where that was already but he had no interest in going there. “We are just here to talk to you, oh great Warrior King.” Joxer folded his arms. “I do not care for your compliments or your flattery, so tell me why it is that I am here?” Glaphyra stepped forward. “Now, now there’s no need for us to be impolite after all we can be civil to one another.” She raised her hand looking at the men all around her it was true that they did out number their armies men and women but her warriors were incredibly hard to kill. She moved a step closer to him catching sight of the woman who had a very deep resemblance to the Empress she was standing opposite the warrior king, she felt a smile form. “Let me begin by saying that we have a similar problem, that being the Empress, now while you choose to deal with her in your way none of your tactics has been successful thus far.” Joxer folded his arms clearly she didn’t understand him as a warrior he had no interest in trying to stab the Empress in the back. He wanted to bring her out and meet her in open combat. “Oh and you want me to help you?” Agathon felt a cold smile form. “In a manner of speaking yes you see the Empress has something we want, which is her consort.”

He raised his hand. “Your men and ours working together could bring them both out then you’ll get your chance to kill the Empress and we will kill her consort.” Joxer eyed him for a long moment of all the things he had ever heard anyone ask him for, this was by far the most insane. As if he would ever help these people in anything they were fools but maybe he would amuse himself for just a moment longer by playing along. “So you want Gabrielle or more pacifically The Golden Kind, now why would that be?” Glaphyra felt a smile form. “Good so you know that she is a werewolf then that makes this much earlier to explain, it is because the Imperial Council commands it, they want her dead.” Joxer eyed her for a long moment words clearly couldn’t describe how unimpressed he was over hearing this. “Now why would you think that I would help you in that?” Agathon eyed him in disgust. “Because you’re her friend you can bring her to us.” Joxer raised his hand. “So let me get this straight you want me to sell out my friend so you can kill her?” Glaphyra smirked as she eyed him. “We have a lot of gold, silver and jewels more than you can ever imagine.” Joxer eyed his brother who looked unimpressed clearly they didn’t know him that well his interest was not in gold, he liked weapons to him they were more valuable than gold.

He took in a deep breath. “I’m afraid you have come at the wrong time in my life, I have no interest in being brought out by your gold. Oh yes there was a time in my youth after being an ex slave who had no coin that I wanted all the gold in the Greece but that time has long passed.” He folded his arms. “Gold no longer has any meaning to me and my loyalty is not for sale.”  Agathon sneered as he raised his heavy spear. “Every thing is for sale Joxer the question is price!” Joxer leaned back in his throne eyeing him in disgust. “I’m sorry if you misheard my first statement so let me repeat it in a manner you can understand. I will not sell out for you, so you can have Gabrielle she is my friend and though we may be on opposite sides of the fence with regards to the Empress I respect her far to much to bring her harm. Would you like me to repeat this for a third time or would you prefer that I carve it in to your chest with a dagger so you can read it till the day you die?” Glaphyra put her hands together. “You know it wouldn’t be clever of you to deny us, you have heard what we do to people who go against us have you not?” Joxer looked at her for a long moment. “Frankly I don’t think you are that smart ether do you seriously think that I have any interest in making a deal with you and your foolish husband? Because frankly I didn’t bring you here for that, not to put to finer a point on it but your only here because I want you here.”

Glaphyra laughed ignoring the cold look in Joxer’s eyes. “So wait you brought us here to kill us, you clearly are a fool do you have any idea who we are!? Joxer tensed slightly putting his sword hand on his weapons hilt. “You’re a fool and you and Agathon both deserve to die for the pain you have caused so many innocent people.” Agathon felt his teeth grind together. “We are the Lurathian Order!” Joxer blinked in confusion in all honesty he had never heard of the Lurathian Order. “Should I be impressed by that?” Glaphyra felt a cold smile form. “You should be terrified oh did Gabrielle not tell you? Well I understand why she wouldn’t you see we have a very poor reputation among the common werewolf sociality, because unlike them we enjoying eating people alive we are the werewolves that all other werewolves hate.” She looked around her. “Also despite that you have some of your werewolves here it won’t make any difference in combat.” She paused eyeing the dark haired woman opposite him. “You know I find it very odd that though you hate the Empress yet that bitch Leah who is standing opposite you looks just like her, it’s a strange that you would screw a woman who looks like your worst enemy.”

Joxer felt a sneer of disgust form on his lips. “I find it insulting that you refer to Leah this way, she is not my lover but regardless of that fact I have the deepest respect for her since she was a forma slave who suffered in Rome under the hands of a vile master. She may look like the Empress but once you strip away the black hair dye and the armour she’s a very proud and dedicated woman and I will kill you if you touch her.” He ignored Leah’s surprise over his words. Jace turned eyeing Joxer his brother was always deeply respectful of all of the women in his army but it was very rarely that he was ever this defensive. He was no fool it was obvious that his brother had feelings for her but he had not mentioned it as he left it rude to pry in to his brothers personal life as his brother never really dug in to his and asked about the men he had slept with. He slowly eased his dagger free of his belt eyeing the curved blade looking at the razor edged tip. He had never heard of this Lurathian Order so it was probably a bluff or a ruse and frankly he wasn’t impressed in the slightest. He eyed his reflection in the blade. “You know I don’t believe your story, I’ve never heard of a Lurathian Order and I doubt that ether of you are werewolves.”

Agathon eyed Jace in disgust. “I don’t believe we asked for your opinion paiderastia!” Jace looked down at the other man. “Oh please boy lover is that your best insult of the day? If so I’m unimpressed firstly because I don’t touch boys I prefer grown men. Secondly this is Greece and your backwards bigotry makes you look like a really narrow minded idiot.” Glaphyra put her hands together. “Please do me the honour of muzzling your dog Joxer.” Joxer slowly eased his sword free of his scabbard. “No I won’t tell my brother to be quite and you will show more respect to his sexuality!” Glaphyra smirked. “Men of his mind don’t have children they can’t even bring children in to this world.” Joxer felt his hand tighten around his weapon. “What does it matter if he can’t have children he can still adopt and if you feel the need to say anymore regarding Jace I’ll be happy to cut out your tongue!” Jace breathed in eyeing his brother he had never heard Joxer openly protect him this way before but it made him feel proud even though he didn’t want to admit it right now. He paused before speaking. “You are both fools and Greece won’t miss you when your dead and no one will put coins on your eyes in death so you will never meet the Ferryman.”

Joxer looked at his weapon. “I agree with my brother it is time for you both to die and live out eternity in limbo, I don’t believe your werewolves ether Gabrielle would have told me all about you.” Glaphyra smirked oh was a brave show of force but in fact very stupid. “That is because werewolves of the Golden Hinds stator don’t like to talk about us. You see we are the forgotten side of werewolf sociality we exist but they don’t like to say that we exist. Even Gabrielle herself would never tell you that but her not doing so will cost you dearly you see we differ from normal werewolves.” Joxer eyed her “Is this meant to impress me long before I met Gabrielle I used to kill werewolves who attacked my warrior camps, before I realized how intelligent you were as a race and though I have not killed a werewolf in a long time I still remember how.”  Glaphyra felt a wide smile form. “Well then we’ll be no problem for you.” Agathon looked up seeing the rays of moonlight as they shone through the cracks of the cave he raised his hand watching as the blood started to pool down his fingers as the tips of black claws tour through his finger nails, he felt a smile form as his teeth began to grow pressing against his lips. “I’m really looking forward to ripping the flesh of your spine Warrior King!”

8

I’ve been staring at this inked illustration for what feels like hours now and I can’t stop staring at it. I know that this holds all of the answers I wanted yet now as I read them I’m horrified beyond words. The bleeding pillars of sorrow the Imperial Council have given that poem literal meaning even though it was written as a word of warning by the original writer. They want to make the pillars of Athens crack and crumble as it falls in to the earth. It’s no wonder that they wanted me out of the way it must have taken them five years or more to build this, one vile and disgusting move one pull of the ropes and its like a domino effect tunnel after tunnel collapses and the whole population of Athens along with it. The worst part is this is an unforgivable sin humanity would never forgive my people for this. Even though it’s the Imperial Council’s doing the blame would fall squarely on my shoulders and that’s why I can’t let this happen, its bad enough that I will forever shoulder the blame for the androphonomania massacre but I will not take the blame for this. By Ouroboros I will do everything in my power to stop it, I can’t take the thought of any more innocent blood on my hands. Gabrielle turned watching as the double doors were opened as her lover walked in she looked up slightly meeting the taller woman’s troubled gaze. “Did you find anything near your mother tomb?”

Xena closed the doors behind her before speaking. “You were right, your people have built a tunnel in to the palace the entrance was a moving stone wall which led in to the catacombs from there they could easily just walk up in to the lower level and get in to the palace gardens.” Gabrielle shook her head sadly. “I was hoping that I would be wrong.” Xena moved slowly sitting herself in the chair opposite her lover. “My mother’s coffin was undamaged but I’m still having it moved and having this tunnel sealed at both ends. I know it could have been built by the rebels in Corinth but I can’t take the risk of having it remain open. The Imperial council could use it to their own ends if they take control of it.” She paused as she took hold of an empty goblet filling it slowly with some wine. She didn’t care much for drinking these days she knew in the past that she had drank to much just to deal with the loneliness but right now she just needed a drink not just to ease the pain but to ease her deeply troubled mind, she took a sip from the goblet before taking hold of another goblet filling it with fruit juice from another jug before pushed it towards Gabrielle. “If they wanted to build another tunnel in to palace how long would it take?” Gabrielle slowly took the goblet watching as her lover slowly drank from hers. “Six months to two years, it’s a slow and very dangerous process.” She eyed the leather map in front of her. “You need to see this.”

She slowly pushed the leather map forward so the other woman could see it she felt surprisingly calm now maybe because she had her answers and a lot of the weight had been lifted from her shoulders and she could now show this to Corinthian rebels. “I know what the bleeding pillars of sorrow means.” Xena eyed the object in front of her. “What is this?” Gabrielle took a drink from her goblet. “It’s called a Rumalas it’s a hidden item which is another object, this map was created to look like a bag, to mirror one so to speak but when I took of the leather outer skin it became clear what it was. I have read about these in werewolf literature but I’ve never seen one. They were very prominent during the forth Horn Hind’s reign the Black Hind who only ruled for ten years before her death it was said that she had them sent back and forth.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Who killed her?” Gabrielle put her hands together. “They say it was one of her own body guards who strangled her with the rope from her own curtains they stated that she went crazy and killed an innocent and he saw it only fit to kill her. The story was that she was become erratic loosing control of her power. The Imperial Council accused of being tainted and possessed she was also accused of betraying them and plotting to kill them. They even say that she wrote down everything that happened to her in a number of scrolls but no one has ever found those scrolls.”

Xena took another long sip from her goblet. “Do you think it was the Imperial Council setting her up?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I don’t know what to believe, she ruled long before me and it was a very turbulent time in werewolf history, she was the first woman to be a Horn Hind. No one will ever know the answers about what happened in her life until the scrolls she wrote are found. Her history is very sketchy but then so is most history during this period.” She shook her head. “Its not important right now this is, these are the Imperial Councils plans.” She put her hands together. “Every single one of those tunnels you see is being built every one of these grinding jaws is working as we speak.” Xena eased up the leather sketch staring at it. “Wait this is Athens I know the lay out, what are these are they planning to attack from underground?” Gabrielle took in a deep painful breath before letting it out. “No these tunnels have not been coated in concrete there just being supported by wooden beams and there all connected with thick rope.” She felt her body tense. “They are going to collapses these tunnels every single one, just like Cyrano’s poem. This is a not even a war this is a death plan they are going to collapses the whole city. In one fail swoop they will kill millions and we have to stop this if this is even half as complete as it looks they could collapse the city tomorrow, Athens is three days walk by human foot two by werewolf if we leave tonight we can get there much sooner and I can visit the rebels and we can leave tonight.”

Xena put her hand on her face gods she hated herself for even saying this. “We can’t leave tonight.” Gabrielle stood up slowly from her chair. “Are you not hearing me there going to collapses Athens?!” Xena felt the frustration take over as she spoke. “The Corinthian diplomats are coming to a meeting tomorrow I sent out the scrolls a while ago and all of them will arrive tomorrow.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “So, you can call it off.” Xena shook her head finishing a goblet of wine. “No Gabrielle this meeting is important they have been hearing rumours about you and about us. These men and women also have personal armies and coin all of which can support you in this civil war. If they see these plans it will bring them to your cause and I need their support if I go to war.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “What makes you think that these people even care I’m the one who caused the androphonomania massacre. You said that, that would cause a serious problem and that it puts you in a difficult position.” Xena stood up slowly pushing her chair back. “Yes it does put me a difficult position but one I’m willing to do what ever it takes to get through and once this meeting is over we will pack up and leave the palace and go to and meet the Corinthian rebels and then go straight to Athens.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze there was something the other woman wasn’t telling her she could see it in her eyes.

She hadn’t known Xena that long but she could tell when her lover was hiding something her eyes gave it away. “Why is this so important to you?” Xena slowly took hold of the wine jug filling her goblet with more wine. “Because I want them to know you are my consort, I want them to understand you and I want them to see you as I see you.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Why does it matter? Half of them probably won’t approve and the other half will just see me as a monster, Abraxas and Ilithyia are the only ones who will stand up for me but they’ll probably be alone in their loyalty.” Xena raised her hand trying to ignore the tension as she spoke. “You have to have faith in me Gabrielle I know how to deal with these people.” She moved towards the cupboard opening the draw slowly pulling out the white and silver robes she slowly raised them so her lover could see them. “That’s why I need you to wear this.” Gabrielle eyed the robes. “You’re joking right, you want me to wear that?” Xena eyed the robes. “No I’m not joking I want you to wear this.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “I’m not wearing that.” Xena took in a deep breath she knew this wasn’t going to be easy. “Pease I need you to wear this.” Gabrielle learned forward she had no idea what why she was even being asked to do this, it made no sense.

Plus she wasn’t going to dress up in revealing robes for a bunch of stupid diplomats she didn’t even know. “What so I can look like a rack of meat to please a bunch of diplomats who I don’t even know me, so they can drool over me? Please, I’d rather lick the floor clean in werewolf form with my tongue it be more entertaining for both me and the floor.” Xena blinked trying to shake the mental image of what her lover had just said from her mind. “Firstly this is not that kind of robes it high cut so your chest won’t show, secondly Thaleia and Ceto took great care and attention in buying these for you. They the finest upper class chiton robes money can buy, they are not some cheap party robes for going to an orgy. I had told them that I wouldn’t settle for any less.” Gabrielle felt her body tense as a twinge of guilt hit her at her own earlier words. “Regardless of that fact I don’t understand why you would ask me to wear these robes, why not my normal clothes?” Xena looked at the ropes for a long moment before speaking. “Because I want to trick the diplomats, I want to give them just the image they are expecting, they are expecting a noble woman and I want them to buy in to that and then I want them to look like fools when I tell them you’re the Horn Hind the werewolf king. You’ll never have to wear these robes ever again but I need you to wear them just this once.”

She shook her head. “If you wear your normal cloths to greet these men and women for the first time they won’t take you seriously. Most are high sociality very much like your own full bloods in the Grand City.” Gabrielle moved forward she could see where her lover was coming from but she didn’t like the plan, it was risky and if it went wrong it could blow up in both their faces. “So I only have to wear them this one time, that’s it?” Xena nodded. “Yes one time, I know you don’t like robes and I know you prefer to dress in shirts, trousers and I will never ask this off you again, I love you regardless of what you wear.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “I don’t dress in robes because I don’t like the attention I get when wearing them.” She eased up her hand running down the scar on her right eye. “It was a robes that got me caught as a teenager, maybe if I had been wearing something else the slavers would have ignored me. “Xena watched as she took the robes from her hand looking them over this explained so much her lover wanted to just fade in the background for people to not really notice her in any way. The problem was in her eyes she was a stunningly beautiful woman regardless of what she wore but she had no intention of trying to push her in to clothes she didn’t want to wear, this was a one off.

She believed though that it was wrong for her lover to fade in to the background, people should see her they should know her name and who she was and hear her speak. “Yes but then you wouldn’t be here, with me.” She paused before speaking again. “Do you believe in destiny Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked down this wasn’t the first time someone has asked her this and the last time she had cruelly ignored that woman’s words and been rude to her something which she now deeply regretted. “A werewolf shaman named Jacinda once told me that in that palace in Corinth was my true destiny, I never believed her.” She slowly sat down again. “I’m starting to believe her now because everything she said in those words has come true.” Xena took a slow step forward, she had, had her fair share of shamans but only one had ever told her the truth she had been an old blind weaving woman who lived in Crete. She had offered her soup and bread as a young rebel not long after she had joined the rebellion she had told her that she would one day sit atop a golden throne and that she knew this because she would not live to see it. She had not believed her at the time but had given her all of her coin out of politeness for the food and the company. She had left in the morning from then on she had always believed in destiny. Clearly she wasn’t the only one to have run in to someone who could tell her, her own fate. “Did she tell you anything else?” Gabrielle shook her head. “Yes but the other part of that vision has not come to pass, so I’d rather not say what it is right now.”

Xena slowly sat back down in the chair opposite. “Is it bad?” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as the tension slowly melted away. “No it wasn’t bad but I find it very difficult to grasp and your right if it weren’t for the slavers I wouldn’t be here with you.” She looked at the robes in her hand again wanting to change the subject. “When is this meeting going to take place with the Corinthian diplomats?” Xena leaned on her elbow. “Tomorrow morning or afternoon depending on when they all show up, the meeting will take place on third floor where you spoke with Adrienne. From what I’ve heard the windows has been replaced but I have not seen the new design yet.” Gabrielle gently put the robes down as she picked up her goblet taking a long drink from it. “I’m sorry that the glass on the last one got smashed, what was on it?” Xena took hold of her goblet taking a sip of the sweet wine. “You know I never really looked at it that much but I heard that the new design is much better.” She paused. “Would you like something to eat?” Gabrielle put a hand on her face she was hungry maybe that was what had started up her temper earlier. She didn’t like this plan with the Corinthian diplomats but she had to have faith in her lover and would go with it what ever the out come despite that she didn’t like the idea of waiting but once it was over they could get the rebels and leave for Athens. “Yes I would love to eat something.”

8

Joxer ignored the pain as he was smashed against the stone wall as the huge black form moved to over shadow him. He painfully got to his knees watching as the huge black clawed feet hit the floor opposite him and the pain struck him as a huge black clawed hand grabbed the back of his neck yanking him to his feet. He could hear the screaming and see blood everywhere spattered over the walls and the floor most of it from the men and women in his army, two of the werewolves in his army were already dead. He met the glowing brown eyes of the werewolf who was holding him up by his collar he had seen many werewolves in his life but these were different they looked un-dead. He could see gaping open wounds and bones all unhealed and he knew just by looking at them that these werewolves should be dead. Yet they were walking around and they still lived despite that his army were stabbing them left, right and centre. There was something else though they had two sets of upper and lower canines but one set looked over grown and exaggerated and curved. They were stronger as well and that bothered him even more, he knew they shouldn’t be this way it was very unnatural. He turned spitting out the blood in his mouth watching as hit Agathon’s snout. “Bastard, is that you’re best?”

Agathon felt a smile form. “Oh does the pathetic Warrior King want more?!” He threw him across the room watching as he smashed in the hard stone floor of the cave. “I’m going to enjoy eating you and your brother alive.” He smiled as his wife tour a woman’s inside open opposite causing more blood to spatter across the floor. Joxer grabbed a fallen sword he didn’t care that it wasn’t his own he stood up swinging it watching as it sliced across Agathon’s face leaving a deep wound which started to bleed instantly. Agathon smirked as he licked his lips watching as Joxer dropped the bloody weapon. “As I said before we are not like normal werewolves.” Joxer turned grabbing a fallen torch as he pulling a small pottery bottle free from his belt he’d had enough of this bastard. He popped cork as he eyes Agathon who was getting closer. “Yeah I get it, you’re different.” He took a long drink from the bottle as he raised the flaming torch spitting the alcohol in to it watching as the flames burst outwards setting Agathon’s face alight. He smirked as he watched him howl in agony. “But you still burn like everyone else.” He turned pulling his other sword free of his belt he had to get his troops out of here and find Leah right now! This was the first time in years that he had been out matched and he felt stupid and foolish for getting in to this mess, he never should have had this meeting!

He breathed in catching sight of Leah who was desperately trying to hold of a werewolf who was missing almost all of the skin of her face and only had one good eye, the rest was bone and red strings of muscle he couldn’t see his brother anywhere. This may have been his old home but he wasn’t stupid this place was still rigged with a trap though it was a trap he had never wanted to use but now he had no choice. He eyed the rope opposite the wall gods forgive him for this but it was the only way, he turned slicing his sword across another werewolves face as it came at him causing its face to be thrown sideways as the blood flew out of its mouth as its teeth shattered. “The Gods hold the rocks and thunder!” He watched as his remaining men, women and werewolves heard his words instantly understanding their meaning. He grabbed the rope watching as Glaphyra looked right at him. “See you in Tartarus you un-dead mongrels!” He brought up his sword slashing the rope which held up the cave walls wooden supports in place, he had, had this trap built years ago but had never thought that he would ever have to use it. He felt his body tense as the first wooden pillar cracked as main support ropes broke flying outwards as they struck one of the un-dead werewolves. Rocks started to fall all around him as his warriors turned fleeing from battles as they headed towards the three tunnels that led away as more the main area as the second huge support pillar broke coming away from the wall. He ran towards the nearest tunnel opening watching as all off his warriors ran in all directions some going in to one tunnel while others went in to the other two.

Stone carried on crashing down all around him as a two werewolves ran in to the tunnel while a number of his men and woman followed dragging another wounded warrior inside. He turned seeing Leah running towards him as the stones crashed down all around her hitting the un-dead werewolves who cried out as they were crushed to death by the falling stones. He pulled out his hand as she came closer reaching for hers only for heart to twist in agony as a Glaphyra clawed hand appeared out of know where grabbing the dark haired woman by her bronze armour causing her fingers to glide past his as she was pulled away from him with violent force. Glaphyra ignored the pain as a huge rock smashed against her back she ignored Leah’s screams of panic as she eyed Joxer this wasn’t done between them not by a long shot. “I always get what I want you bastard!” She leaped away as the rocks came down harder covering the tunnels as she smashed her clawed hand against the screaming woman’s face watching as she lost consciousness instantly. Joxer moved forward only to feel a clawed hand grab him as the stones came down blocking the entrance around him, this wasn’t happening it wasn’t how he had wanted this to end! He eyed the werewolf who wouldn’t let him go. “Let go of me!” The werewolf shook his head. “You can’t save her right now you’ll die if you go out there!” Joxer watched as the last of the stones covered up the tunnel entrance as everything turned to darkness all around him. He smashed his fist hard repeatedly against the rock not caring how much it hurt. “No, no, no!”

End of part 15

 

AWAKEN ME TO THE MORNING LIGHT

 

Xena opened her eyes slowly seeing the dim light of morning all around her, she breathed in taking in the smell and warmth of the bed. She already knew this would be her last day of sleeping in it, by this afternoon she would be leaving the palace for good. Regardless of feelings on the Corinthian Diplomats and whether they backed her to go to war against the Imperial Council she would go anyway even if they all voted against her and refused to give her warriors and supplies. Her idea of prolonging this meeting had been foolish and putting Gabrielle through this was going to be hard. Gods she hated royal protocol there used to be a time when none of this mattered and she could fight who she wanted and not care for diplomatic opinions. Thaleia and Ceto would be coming along with them, it was common for personal maids to come along with the war party it would be a very rude awaking though for Thaleia who had lived her whole life in this palace. On top of this Demetrius and Iona would have to leave as well putting a commander of their choice in command of the palace in her absence. This palace could run with out her to a point she had procedures in place for it to do so, in which Phrixus and Chara would take over the paperwork fully. Though this would the first time that they would come in to play and that bothered her, in theory it should all work but in practise she had no idea. Truth was she had never intended to go to war again she had always thought after taking control of Greece that there would be no more wars in her life time but the events of these past six months had made it clear to her, that war could find you even if you didn’t want to find it.

Gabrielle could do nothing to stop this civil war for her it was inevitable it had brewing for years and she had become the straw that had broken the camels back. The Imperial Council planned to collapse Athens and now that, that had sunken in it an utterly horrifying though. There was no more time for delays if they didn’t stop this it would cost hundreds of innocent people their lives. In truth she hadn’t gotten that much sleep because the thought of it had kept her up most of the night. She turned over seeing that her lover was lying with her back to her, the fur cover over her body there was no movement just a sense of deep stillness and calm. It had always perplexed her how this young woman who had suffered so much pain and suffering could be so peaceful when sleeping. She eased up her hand running it gently over her shoulder as she leaned over placing a gentle kiss on her back closely followed by another enjoying the soft feeling of her skin under her fingertips. There were hair line scars clearly from a time when she had been human. The younger woman’s eyes slowly opened looking in to her own as she turned over so she was on her back. She felt a smile form on her lips as she leaned over meeting her lips enjoying the feeling of her lips against her own. There was no need for words, not that words could fathom her feelings for this woman but one of these days she was going to write them down as best she could as she wanted everyone to know long after her death how much she loved this woman. She moved her hand slowly down her chest as the kiss ended. Gabrielle put her hand on the other woman’s as it travelled down her stomach towards her underwear speaking calmly. “What are you doing?” Xena felt her smile widen. “Nothing…”

Gabrielle felt a sly smile form. “It doesn’t feel like nothing.” Xena met her lips again as the other woman grip on her hand loosened allowing her hand to slowly find its way to its destination, causing the other woman’s body to tense as she moved her body up against her own. This wasn’t about dominance she wanted to pleasure the other woman and take away the stress that she had endured in these past few days and she wanted nothing in return. She heard her breathing hitch as she met pulled away from her lips meeting her intense green eyes for just a moment before moving her lips to her throat kissing a trail. Gabrielle blinked she knew what was happening and she was powerless to stop it, not that she even cared to stop it. Right at this second she was completely at her lover’s mercy and she was finding it very difficult to concentrate. She had not had the dream again and her night had been quite she moved her hand down the other woman’s naked body only to feel her lovers hand take her own pushed it gently back down on the bed. She blinked in confusion suddenly feeling very unsure of her self, didn’t the other woman want her touch? She moved her other hand despite that it was becoming harder to think with every moment the heat bellow her waist was getting hotter and more intense as the other woman’s intimate touch continued and her body started to tense.

She was only able to put her hand on the other woman’s waist as her kisses moved to her lips again. She felt confused and disoriented it was clear to her that the other woman didn’t want her touch and she wasn’t used to it she didn’t like reserving and not giving. She felt her teeth grind together she wanted her touch more than she wanted to breathe and for all her strength she had no power to stop this even though it felt so one sided. There was something else though a sensation she wasn’t used to and it was new and frightening, she wanted to taste blood, she hated blood yet right now she wanted to taste it. No that was wrong it wasn’t just anyone’s blood, she wanted to bite the other woman and taste her blood so badly every moment she ignored the urge it felt like a nail was being driven further and further in to her brain. It was an insane mix of pleasure and pain which confused and terrified her. She tensed again as a wave of pleasure ran down her spine as the other woman carried on her kissing her while moving on of her other hand over her body finding every pleasure point. She didn’t care how far this went she would not bite her, no matter what happened no matter how much she had to restrain herself. She felt one of her canine teeth pinch her lip instantly drawing blood which was sweet to taste as it hit her lips it seemed to take off the edge of the painful insane feeling. Enough that she could ignore it and keep her concentration she moved her hand down to her stomach grabbing the thick bandages hearing them tear apart as they came free, she was unable to stop the inhuman growl which rumbled in her chest as she lost herself in the intense pleasure of the moment.

8

Theodore watched as the temple oracle lowered herself to her knees in front of the huge statue of Ouroboros which was made of stone and had red stone eyes. “The Empress’s consort made this promise to me.” He ignored the huge King Cobra which had to be a least thirteen foot in length moving close by. It was both the oracles pet and protection and it was said to channel the goddess herself. He eyed the dark room as he sat on the chair watching as the slim long blonde haired woman who was her late twenties stood up she wasn’t a tall woman in fact she was average height. She was very beautiful and she moved in a very graceful way but it was very sharp at the same time. He could see the priestess and priests around her as she spoke in a calm voice. “Do you believe this woman’s words?”  Theodore took in a deep breath. “Yes, she worships Ouroboros she wears her symbol around her neck.” He watched as the woman leaned over carefully picking up her pet as she turned to him her. “And we are to believe the words of a werewolf?” Theodore folded his arms trying to ignore the huge snake as it got closer he didn’t mind snakes normally but her pet had always unnerved him. It wasn’t everyday you came across a cobra that could look you in the eye and was as big as a python. Everyone in this underground temple knew just dangerous this animal was it could kill any man or woman with one bite and had enough venom to make an elephant fall to its knees and die. “Yes I do.”

Callisto eyed the red haired man. “Need I not remind you that a lot of false promises have been made in the name of Ouroboros and they have cost people here their lives?” She took in a painfully breath she had very bad memories as a teenager and being inside one of the goddess’s temple only for it to be set alight. She had watched helpless people had burned to death and she had been helpless and unable to save them as she had cornered by the blazing flames. She would have died if not for a snake which had shown her the way out in a cracked section of the wall. Her parents and her two brothers had been unhappy with her leaving Cirra after that event but she had, had a vision which had told her that she needed to be here in Corinth. To this day she had no idea why, she needed to be here but she wouldn’t question her goddess’s whisper. She had long stopped questioning her goddess after she had brought her pet as a baby. The traders had told her that it was not for her and that it was dangerous and that it would kill her. Years later it was full grown and completely loyal to her and everyone knew that, she had raised the biggest and most venomous snakes and was deeply respected for it. She slowly raised her hand revealing the large area of burnt skin which had never fully healed. “Flesh always burns in the fire and believe me when I say and I will not let any man, woman or child feel burning flames on their skin the way I did in Cirra back in my youth.” Theodore watched as she woman walked away from him. “If you question me then maybe you should speak to the Empress’s consort yourself.”

Callisto turned sharply watching as her snake let out a rumbling hiss. “Clearly I am going to need to because I want to hear it from her mouth and not second hand from yours Theodore. I won’t allow another temple to our goddess to burn or be crushed just because those who believe in the Greek and Roman gods see us as heretics.” She shook her head. “I will talk to this woman personally I don’t care how far I have to go to do so.” Theodore folded his arms. “You know walking in to the palace does not just happen you need to have an invitation.” Callisto moved her hand over her cobra’s head watching as its tongue flicked out. “I won’t need an invitation.” Theodore raised his hand. “I’m an accountant and treasurer I do not have that kind of power, you know this only the Corinthian Diplomats can do that. From what I hear they are all at the palace right now there some meeting going on and they’ve all been called to it, I assume it’s because the Empress has plans to introduce Gabrielle to them.” Callisto slowly placed her snake on the floor watching as it slithered away. “I do not need the diplomats Theodore, Ouroboros will guide me, she will show me the way she always has. If this woman is speaking the truth she will do as I ask and take my test, with out question.” Theodore cringing eyeing the huge cobra again. He had seen her test, putting your face in front of a King Cobra’s while being on your knees was not to be taken lightly but it did work. He didn’t know how but her pet could tell if someone was a betrayer or unworthy.

It would hiss and fake a strike it was enough to terrify anyone who didn’t truly believe in the goddess. Someone who truly believed in the goddess would remain on their knees after all snakes were seen as a symbol of the goddess as they were the closest thing to her form in the mortal world. A true believer would not fear their death they would welcome it as you would be passing through the eye of Ouroboros so you could be reincarnated which was considered the greatest prize. “So I’m assuming you have a plan?” Callisto moved over to the alter pouring some wine in to a leather tankard. “I always have a plan, its one of the reasons I’m the oracle of this temple.” Theodore took in a deep breath. “Let me guess it involves me right?” Callisto took a slow sip from the tankard. “You are going to take me to Athens.” Theodore blinked as he eyed her in confusion. “Athens…you want to go to there, why?” Callisto turned and looked at him. “The weathers better there.” Theodore eased up both his hands. “What are you kidding me, its going to snow soon?!” Callisto turned giving him a wide smile. “Yes and I want to be there I do love the snow, this winter is destine to be unlike the others we have experienced before.”  Theodore put on hand on his face, great just great clearly she was well aware of the fact that he had a horse. He watched as one of the robed priests spoke in a calm voice. “It is very rude to deny the oracle.” Theodore felt a sneer form. “Fine…” Callisto moved picking up her pet again giving it a gentle kiss on the head. “Oh don’t be sad you might enjoy my wonderful company.” Theodore tensed as he eyed her he very much doubted that she was a sporadic woman and real a handful and he was not looking forward to the trip. “I’ll be back here this after noon with supplies and my horse, do be packed by the time I get back.”

8

Gabrielle tensed feeling the wave’s crashed it was the moment of shattering and breaking and yet being reborn a new. She could feel her nails digging in to her lover’s skin she loosened her grip instantly as she opened her eyes only to watch as the room around her turned to an intense violet colour for just a moment before it faded away as the colours returned. It was unlike anything she had experienced before she could feel the other woman’s body on top of her own. She could feel the urge to bite the other woman slowly fading away she took in a slow deep breath feeling the cold air of the morning fill her lungs. She eased up her hands running then through the other woman’s dark hair. Her lover had not wanted anything in return and every time she had tried to pleasure her she had been stopped. There had been no words between them but there didn’t need to be what words where there to give the ultimate expression of love to someone in this manner? That was why her being stopped hurt somewhat she took in another deep breath finally finding her voice. “Don’t you want me to touch you?” Xena sat up slightly meeting the other woman’s uncertain gaze realizing for the first time that her actions had confused her. Had no one ever selflessly made love to her alone, had she always had to give in return? She paused before speaking. “Gabrielle has no ever just pleased you out of love?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “No…” Xena shook her head. “I did this for you, because I love you.”

She leaned down gently kissing the scar above her right eye. “You don’t have to give me anything in return.” She eyed her lover for a long moment there had been something different about this the younger woman been slightly animalistic. She’d snarled inhumanly torn away both her bandages on both her arms and stomach and she had bitten her own lip drawing blood. Maybe she was coming close to her monthly cycle but she had no idea how it worked for female werewolves and how similar it was to human beings. Maybe she was completely wrong and it was just her lover getting rid of the intense stress of the past few days, which she needed to do as this meeting was not going to be easy. She needed to be both level headed and relaxed. She felt her smile widen. “We should get up the council meeting is very soon.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath watching as the other woman moved off her pulling of the covers revealing her naked body. In all honesty she wasn’t completely happy that she had changed the subject as this whole thing had confused her deeply. She felt guilty that she had not been able to give the other woman the attention that she had given her. She watched as her lover moved over the sink pouring in the warm water as she began to wash herself. “Do I have to wear those robes?” Xena felt a smile form she wasn’t sure if the younger woman was teasing. “We have talked about this and you agreed that its part of the plan.”

Gabrielle breathed in eyeing the clothing which had been carefully laid out, there really was no getting out of this was there? She watched as her lover started to get dressed in her silver plated armour. She moved over pouring fresh water for herself as she began to wash herself down enjoying the feeling of the warm waters against her skin. She dried herself down then slowly picked up a fresh pair of underwear as her gaze fell up on the robes again as she picked them up. She could remember when she worn something similar to this during one of their talks when she had been healing and she couldn’t remember her past and only her name. She looked at the robes again only to feel her lovers hand as they touched her shoulders and her calm voice hit the air. “Let me help you put this on.” Gabrielle breathed as the robes were gently eased on to her and adjusted at the sides and tied. The thick belt was put in place followed by the cloak which had a thick fur collar she eased on the fur covered sandals feeling her lover carefully put the silver wrist bracelets in place. There was no denying that it was warm and brought to keep out the cold. Xena adjusting the fur neck as she looked at the younger woman the dress was utterly stunning. “You look beautiful.” Gabrielle shifted on her heels. “I feel stupid.” Xena moved over to the table filling a goblet with wine. “Trust me you don’t look stupid and no one will think you look stupid they’ll marvel at your beauty.” She paused. “Aphrodite herself would be pleased.”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Comforting thought.” She moved over to her shirt pulling it up trying to ignore how strange it felt to walk in sandals, she easing out her pipe from her shirt pocket eyeing the robes. “Does this have pockets?” Xena moved over to the thick fabric belt seeing a make shift pocket close to the belt hook, clearly Thaleia had thought of everything. “The pocket is here on your belt and under it is your sword hook.” She picked up one of the woman’s swords carefully placing it on the hook. “This is just a precaution frankly I don’t think any of the diplomats will touch you.” Gabrielle shifted she felt so subconscious in these clothes but she knew that she had to do this she had promised and she always kept her word. “Are there any diplomats I should worry about?” Xena took a sip of her wine then filled another goblet with the last of the fruit juice passing it to Gabrielle. “One of them yes, her name is Raissa she lost her cousin in the androphonomania massacre and has never been that forgiving.” Gabrielle took a sip from her goblet. “I killed those people I can’t blame them for having that kind of hatred.” Xena took a long drink before putting her empty goblet to one side. “We’ve talked about this the Imperial Council forced your hand you were promised that they’d stop killing human born children in werewolf society, you did as they asked and they broke that promise.” Gabrielle put her goblet down no longer caring to finish it. “Yet that doesn’t make me feel any better I can’t bring back her cousin and I can’t change the past.”

She picked up the thick leather piece of scroll from the desk slowly rolling it up so it would be the proof that might sway these people and her only real card to play. Apart from Abraxas and Ilithyia she doubted that any of the other diplomats would side with her. She adjusted the robes again she had never liked meetings like this she had spent most her life trying to ignore them in the Grand City and she had always refused invitations, watching rich upper class sociality get drunk and talk politics was not a place she wanted to be. She found herself feeling much happier when she was sitting in front of a warm fire with warriors roasting an animal on a spit while drinking warm green tea from a tankard under the stars. It felt more like home and where she had come from as a person. She wasn’t going to deny it, she was scared that this wasn’t going to work out, though she really didn’t want to express it openly as she would come of sounding like a coward of sorts. So much for werewolf king she was afraid of a bunch of snobs, who had coin and status. Xena adjusted her silver gauntlets. “You can’t change the past but together we can do everything to stop what is about to happen in Athens.” She was about to say more only to stop as a knock sounded on the outer door. “Come in.” She watched as Demetrius opened the doors closely followed by Iona. Demetrius felt a smile form as he spoke. “Good morning Empress.”

He turned to Gabrielle only to stop in shock as he eyed her clothing, Iona eyed Demetrius who had clearly lost his stride in speaking because of Gabrielle’s change of clothes. “You look very nice today Gabrielle, though I prefer your normal clothing personally.” Gabrielle adjusted her robes again. “You and me both.” Iona eyed Demetrius who still hadn’t said anything she elbowed him sharply in the stomach hoping to break him out of his haze. Demetrius breathed in clearing his throat as he formed a smile. “You look very stunning today Gabrielle the robes look very fitting.” Gabrielle adjusted the cloak again. “My thanks to Thaleia and Ceto as they picked them out on my behalf.” Demetrius nodded. “You can tell them your feelings after the meeting.” Xena looked up slightly. “How many of the diplomats are here?” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “All of them they came very easily this morning accept for Abraxas and Ilithyia they came last night and under your new rules they stayed over night but we have kept this quite from the other diplomats.” He put his hands behind his back. “They are not happy, it’s rather tense up there on third floor, they all want to see you I think this is going to be hard most of them are not in a good mood.” Xena put a hands together this was to be expected but somehow it still felt too sudden maybe because she had been dreading it.

She paused watching as Gabrielle’s pet Icos landed close by she leaned over stroking the collar dove’s feathers very gently. “When this meeting is over I want all our things packed and I want the best men and women picked from the palace guard the city guard and hoplites.” She turned to Iona. “I also want you to pick a group of your best.”  Demetrius blinked he had heard these words spoken by the Empress before. “Are we going to war against the Imperial Council?” Xena folded her arms. “Yes.” Demetrius felt his body tense, it had been a while since he had led a war the last time had been against the Spartans and a part of him wasn’t ready for war again. He had enjoyed the peace for so long. “You are going to ignore the Corinthian Diplomats votes?” Xena eyed him for a long moment. “They can vote but I’m going to war regardless.” Demetrius blinked in shock. “But that goes against royal protocol you can not go to war with out their vote.” Iona folded her arms. “Clearly you have a good reason for ignoring protocol Empress.” Xena took a step forward. “Yes I do and in the meeting that will be made clear, what’s important is that innocent lives are now at stake and we can no longer stand by doing nothing.” Demetrius lowered his gaze to the floor somehow he didn’t want to hear the answer to what he was going to ask next. “I will see it done, what of the palace staff and Lila?”

Xena folded her arms. “Ceto and Thaleia are to come along on the march, Lila can stay in the palace if she chooses to come along she can. If she decides to stay then that’s her choice.” She paused before speaking. “Phrixus and Chara will take over my royal duties in my absence and Phantasos will join me as head healer.” Gabrielle eyed her lover for a long moment before speaking. “Thaleia should stay here with her mother where it’s safe.”  Xena pulled the long red cloak free from her cupboard which was for formal meetings as it had woken golden patterns at the edges she flung it around her neck tying it in to the special leather holders in on her neck armour. “It’s customary for the royal maids to accompany the army.” Gabrielle walked over to Icos picking him up gently stroking his head. “This will not be open war on a battle field werewolf war does not work that way. It never has its night war fair, everything your warriors are used to is going to get turned on its head. I will not have her put in danger, after all I don’t need someone to look after me on the road I can wash the blood off my hands by myself.” Xena turned sharply to her, gods why was her lover making this hard for her? She took in a deep breath. “She’ll be there to keep you company as your friend.” Gabrielle moved towards the door watching as Demetrius and Iona stepped aside. “No I will not put her through that! I will not allow her to see the worst that war has to offer she’s deserves to remain innocent.”

Demetrius raised his eyebrow frankly he agreed with Gabrielle he didn’t want Thaleia to go to war ether it was something he had been dreading ever since the Empress had said that they were now at war. He raised his hand slowly. “If I may Empress I feel that Gabrielle is right Thaleia shouldn’t go she’ll see things she shouldn’t that may haunt her dreams. I love her very deeply I would rather she kept from harm I mean we only just got together, I don’t want any harm to come to her on the field of battle.” Gabrielle turned sharply eyeing him Thaleia had not told her that she and Demetrius had gotten together but then in this past week they really hadn’t talked enough and now she felt guilty for not asking. She turned slowly to her lover letting go of Icos watching as he flew away landing on the bed post. “Please don’t do this don’t pull her in to my war, if she ends up killing someone it will change everything for her and once you take a life its never the same.” Xena leaned against the table she hated herself for doing this but this was going to be the only way to settle this. “Since you both feel so strongly against this then only one thing remains, it has to be Thaleia’s choice. If she chooses to come then none of us can stand against that, if she wants to stay here then she can do so.”  Gabrielle raised her hands. “That’s not fair you know she will say yes, because she won’t know any better.” Xena turned slowly to face her. “It is fair she gets a choice! Regardless of how you and Demetrius feel it will always be her choice.”

She took in another deep breath. “We can discuss this later though right now the diplomats are waiting.” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist by Ouroboros she wanted to break something, she loved this woman but she really disliked how she was forcing this issue. Thaleia should not go to war she should be kept away from it she didn’t want to see her best friend to see her when she was fighting. She didn’t always like herself when she was lost in battle, her temper sometimes got the better of her and the last thing she wanted was for the Thaleia to see her rage and violence in werewolf form, least of all now when she was having problems with it. She stepped aside as Xena left the room her thoughts now clearly fixed on the meeting. She moved forward only to feel Demetrius hand as he touched her arm as he leaned over speaking in a low voice. “Thank you for trying to stop this, it means a lot to me.” Gabrielle turned slowly to meet his uncertain gaze as she spoke in a low whisper. “She won’t go to war…I will do everything in my power to stop it, I promise you.” She paused trying to find the right words. “She should never see the side of me that embraces war…” Demetrius nodded in understanding as he gently let go off her arm watching as she moved to walk beside the Empress, he turned to Iona seeing that she was following him up the corridor. “I amuse that you have the safety protocol in place, the one we discussed.” Iona nodded feeling a cold smile form. “Yes Elpidios has his crossbow handy, if any one of these fools tries to kill Gabrielle lets just say that a bolt will find its way in to their arm or leg, it won’t kill them but it will hurt like Tartarus.”

End of part 16

 

CHOOSING THE PATH OF VALUE

 

The time is now here and yet as strong as I am I can’t deny I’m terrified, I do not enjoy diplomats like these, they remind me to much of the full bloods in the Grand City that tormented me after I became Horn Hind. They lavish you with words when they might as well be pouring poison down your throat while you drown in your own blood. Out of all of them Abraxas and Ilithyia are the only ones I trust but only because he has been a warrior while she is against slavery. I doubt the others will have that same moral standing rich men and women never do. I confess politics has never interested me and I do not enjoy it, I doubt I ever will even when I suit the throne that is rightfully mine. I hated the full bloods politicians because they spoke glorious nothings to my being Horn Hind yet when I turned my back they were stabbed me with cruel words and spouted their loyalty to the Imperial Council. I just have to get through this once then it’s over and I won’t have to do this again for a very long time. Gabrielle felt her lovers hand as it took hold of her arm she looked up sharply seeing a slight smile appear on the taller woman’s lips. The last of her annoyance over their earlier discussion was gone now only the tension remained along with the uncertainty and the feeling of endless shudders in her stomach, which she was trying hard to ignore. Xena turned she could see the fear in her lovers eyes though it may have been hidden well from the others she could see it very clearly.

She moved her forward gently so she was standing opposite her and not walking behind her. “Please always walk by my side never behind me, you are not my lesser.” Gabrielle nodded taking in a deep breath. “What’s going to happen when we enter this room?” Xena looked up seeing the double doors ahead which were being guarded. “The guards will open the doors and Ceto will announce me and then you but not by your werewolf title only by your name.” We’ll then be seated and when the time is right, you will show them the Imperial Council’s plans after I introduce you under your true title.” Gabrielle felt her fingers grip the wrapped up leather tighter. “You make it sound so easy.” Xena watched as the guards slowly opened the door stepping to one side for them. She lowered her voice to a whisper as she leaned over speaking softly in her ear. “Trust me I won’t fail you Gabrielle.” She stood up fully as they both walked in to the room watching as the diplomats rose from their seats and the doors were closed behind them as Ceto’s words hit the air. “Council men and women I give you the Empress and her consort Lady Gabrielle.” Gabrielle tensed she hated that title and frankly she hoped that this would be the last time she heard it. Xena slowly moved over to her seat which was at the foot of the table she slowly sat down watching as Gabrielle seated herself in the chair opposite. She watched as every one seated themselves all their eyes falling up on her.

She looked up as Ceto came to stand opposite her chair while Thaleia took up her position next to Gabrielle’s. Iona and Demetrius slowly took up their places next to both their chairs, before Gabrielle it had only been beside her chair but she had now changed that. She could see Abraxas close by with Ilithyia both of them were smiling in her direction their eyes falling up on Gabrielle who was very still as she looked at the table trying to ignore all of the eyes which were now firmly up on her, with great interest. “It is nice to see that you have all arrived as requested.” Abraxas cleared his throat as he spoke. “It is a great pleasure to be here Empress.” Gabrielle turned as Thaleia who gave her a smile as she filled her goblet with fruit juice. She put her hand on the goblet hoping that the eyes of the men and women would look somewhere else. Corybantes looked his ringed fingers he was unimpressed by the Empress’s show. “How’s about we forgo the nicety’s of your gesture Empress and explain to us about these so called werewolf rumours.” Xena met the older man’s cold brown eyes he was in his fifties and had long black hair which was braided in places. He was wearing the white robes with their gold and blue symbolism band which symbolized his status, though over it was a thick fur cloak to keep out the cold. All of the men and women were wearing these robes accept one woman who she would ignore right now as it was clearly rude defiance. “What rumours would they be?”  Corybantes snorted. “Do not amuse me we are talking off the rumours of you sleeping with the vilest of in human animals.”

Xena put her hands together she looked up for the first time catching sight of the new glass window which had an image of a female Hoplite facing side ways touching the hand of a golden werewolf with horns who was facing her. The back ground behind them was the son merging in to the moon. She felt a smile form as the beautiful symbolism became very clear the hoplite with dark hair was her and the werewolf Gabrielle clearly the staff had gone to great lengths to show their love in a new form for all to see though clearly every diplomat in this room had missed it but then it was right under their noses and she knew people could ignore the obvious. She turned back to the older man who had never that kind with his words in fact in all the time she had known him she had never seen him smile. “Do you see any werewolves here, Gabrielle is my consort does she look in human to you?”  Corybantes eyed the food which was stretched out over the table it was all piping hot, he snorted pouring a class of wine in to a goblet. “You bringing this girl here does not change anything, though she may be beautiful to look at a Pterois is beautiful to look at yet its stings are laced with poison that can kill any man or woman.” Xena raised an eyebrow, gods she would give anything to smash this man’s golden teeth out right now. “Yet people keep those fish that look like lions as pets and allow others to admire them and take in their beauty.” She paused. “You would do well not to insult Gabrielle again in front of me, regardless of what you have heard I love her.”

Corybantes put his hands on the table. “Then enlighten us Empress how did you two come to meet? Because none of us know a thing we are hearing, rumours and stories that make no sense.” Gabrielle felt her finger grip on her goblet tighter she now felt completely out of her depth, this already wasn’t going well. Xena tensed as she looked up slightly. “Gabrielle became a guest in my palace some time six months ago things progressed from there.” Corybantes eyed her in disgust. “How charming…” He paused. “The story I’ve heard though it somewhat more interesting.” He ran a ringed finger over the table top. “That with in your walls is a werewolf and not just any werewolf but an abomination that talks in Greek tongue.” The woman who was sitting close by with curly long dark hair looked up her cold blue eyes narrowing she was the spoke. “I heard that story as well but my version was slightly more vivid and colourful, in that you were having sex with this monster.” Xena turned eyeing her, this was the one woman she had been dreading so much. “I was wondering when you would speak up Raissa.” Raissa took a piece of cooked meat from the plate eating it slowly. “If you want to screw an overgrown dog then that your business but please don’t let us hear about it in second hand rumours it’s just off putting.”

She eyed the blonde woman who still hadn’t said a word. “You can also send her away we all know she’s just a ploy to make you look normal. I mean look at her she hasn’t spoken a single word she might as well be a slave for her vast vocabulary.” Gabrielle heard the murmurs of agreement she felt her fingers grip the goblet tighter she forced herself to let go she knew if she gripped any tighter there was a danger that she would bend the metal, she had done it once before and it would give everything away and ruin Xena’s plan. She slowly eased up her pipe, lighting it on the nearest candle before taking in a deep breath as she blew out the rich dark smoke watching as it drifted through the air causing everyone to go quite. She felt the Coltsfoot sink in relaxing her sense as she spoke in an even tone. “I am more than capable of speaking I just prefer to choose my words at my own leisure and not have them forced out of me by condescending idiots.” Raissa felt a cold smile form ignoring the surprise around her from everyone apart from Abraxas and Ilithyia who didn’t seem unsurprised by the whole thing. She turned back to the woman who had a deep diagonal scar on her right eyebrow which had clearly been made by a weapon of some sort. “So tell us Gabrielle does the Empress speak the truth, I mean you are her lover and consort?”

Gabrielle took in another deep breath from her pipe before breathing it out. “Yes I am her lover and one day we will marry.” Raissa stood up adjusting her white shirt and smoothing down her trousers, she had refused to wear the formal robes today. “Ah I see and you don’t know anything about that ugly stupid monster, the one she is hiding in the palace and having sex with?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before speaking trying to keep the venom out of her tone. “Monsters take many forms in this world you would do well not to judge.” Raissa smirked turning to the Empress. “Your consort has a way with words I don’t know whether I should be impressed or disgusted.” Xena felt a smile form but it was a forced one to hide her anger. “I would choose to be impressed.” Corybantes looked up again. “This is all very interesting but it still does not answer our questions in full.” Xena stood up slowly putting her hands behind her back. “No I agree it doesn’t and you need your questions answering so let me begin by telling you, I have been near a werewolf and I learnt a lot. Firstly werewolves have a human form and their own spoken language as well as culture.” A woman in her late thirties with short brown haired and dark green eyes slowly looked up her uncertain voice hitting the air. “You are joking?” Xena turned to her. “No Eleni I’m not joking, I’m telling you the truth it’s something I was very unaware of till now.”

She paused. “The werewolf I spoke to was the werewolf king or Horn Hind if you prefer a genderless werewolf term.” Eleni rolled her eyes. “This is insane I can not believe I’m hearing this, the werewolf race has a king!?” Xena folded her arms. “Yes they have a king, who I have met in person this person has no control over the werewolf kingdom at present.” An old well muscled man who had a long white beard and white hair eyed her unlike like Abraxas he had not been a Hoplite but a Greek Gladiator but he had long retired from the arena. He was one of only four diplomats in this room who had a warrior’s background. She eyed him as he stroked his beard speaking in a calm tone. “How does a king not own a kingdom?” Xena walked up to him putting a hand on his shoulder. “If they are forced to be a figure head and you have no actual power Enceladus.” Enceladus breathed in his white bushy eyebrow going up. “Then who in werewolf sociality owns the real power?” Xena moved her hand from his shoulder. “They are called the Imperial Council three members who own all the power they have been crushing and harming werewolf sociality for many years now. You may think that this is not a big deal but they have a separated werewolf sociality in to two sections full blood and half bloods. Full bloods are werewolf’s born from werewolf parents who can choose any social path in sociality and do as they please, because they are born in to vast privilege.”

She felt her body tense. “Then there are the half bloods werewolves who were made werewolves because they got bitten as humans, in their sociality these werewolves have no choice they are put on a one of three paths to be a warrior, merchant or builder. They can not change their path in life once they are put on it they do so till they die. They also get the added bonus that unlike their full blood relatives they can give birth to human children.” Corybantes snorted. “So they give birth to human’s why should we care?” Xena leaned over not bothering to hide the anger in her voice as she spoke through gritted teeth. “You have three daughters don’t you Corybantes?” Corybantes eyed her. “Yes every one knows that, why does that matter?” Xena sneered as she spoke. “Because if we were still living under the tyrant Macedonian Kings and Queen your daughters would have been put to death, as it used to be the lords of the lands who got to choose never the parents. Girls and boys who didn’t meet their standards got put to death. If I’m not mistaken you went to great lengths to hide your daughters from being killed like forging scrolls and buying favours so that they could all reach five years old after which the lords could not kill them.” Corybantes tensed. “That’s true, but how does it relate to human born children from werewolves?”

Xena took hold of a goblet filling it with wine as she walked around the table. “Very good question, well in werewolf sociality human born children get put to death right away. There are no requirements they are killed right after birth and this is because the Imperial Council are obsessed with keeping the blood line pure and they only want werewolf children born from full bloods. The werewolf king has tried to put an end to this but unsuccessfully also by choice this king is now separated from the Imperial Council and is about to rally hundreds of rebels werewolves against them.” Xena watched as everyone fell silent. “You people are here today because we are on the verge of war.” A slim young woman who had deep hazel coloured eyes looked up as she pushed her long red braided hair back, she was of Norse decent unlike the others. “Oh gods and here I was thinking that you had just antagonized Egypt once again, yet instead your helping an overgrown dog king with his war and pulling us in to your horse crap at the same time.” Xena took another sip from her goblet. “Thank you for summing that up so eloquently Asfrid and here I thought you would be more understanding as your gods have wolves in their stories.”  Asfrid grabbed the nearest goblet filling it with mead which had been specially laid out for her since she couldn’t stand the pathetic washed down wine that the Greeks and Roman’s preferred. “Oh yes Loki’s son Fenrir who’s meant to bring about Ragnarök, such a great role model.”

Ilithyia breathed in finally finding her voice. “What is Ragnarök?” Asfrid rolled her eyes. “Ragnarök means the end of the world, your meant to Roman don’t they educate you up there?” Corybantes turned to Abraxas. “You’ve been surprisingly quite through out all of this, it’s so unlike you Abraxas I thought you would be the first one to shout out, you normally are.” Abraxas eyed him for a long moment. “I was merely listening to the Empress and taking it all in.” He knew that, that was in part was a lie as he knew most of this but not all. “To me it all sounds like a very serious issue.” Raissa smirked eyeing Abraxas. “Oh but I heard a rumour that he struck up some deal with Empress hence why he’s being so polite, what was it over Abraxas food, life stock, land? Or were you just interested in breaching my territory in Corinth, after all I own most of the store houses? You’ve always had your eye on them.” Abraxas picked up his goblet drinking from it before taking some bread from a plate close by, he hated this woman she saw everyone around her was a threat and that they’d take her land. Nether himself or Ilithyia had any interest in her part of the city and never had and it was annoying hearing it every time in these meetings, he took a bite from his bread. “Need I not remind you that my self and Ilithyia have any interest of your area of the city and never have. Beside you deal most of with the bread and grain because you are the best at it, because of you the people of Corinth don’t riot like they do in Rome due to lack of food.”

He paused. “My self and the Empress also have no deal and if you do not believe me then I’ll get one of my loyal house guards to bring you my records, if you doubt my sincerity.” Raissa sneered turning away. “I have no interest in looking at your scrolls.” Xena put a hand on her face, this was just what she didn’t need right now. Personally though she wasn’t surprised this happened every time she had a formal meeting, all of these men and women were brilliant at their jobs and keeping Corinth running right but all together they could be an utter nightmare. As much as she disliked the Greek royals they where much easer to get on with at times and didn’t mouth off in front of her. She turned to her lover who now looked very unimpressed as she carried on smoking in silence, the tension was clearly gone but she knew that, that was down to the Coltsfoot calming her nerves since she only smoked when the stress became too much. “My self and Abraxas made no deal of any kind and if I had made any deal with anyone in this room, you would all be told about it.” Raissa eyed her ringed fingers. “So where is this so called king of werewolves I want to meet him?

She paused before speaking again. “May be he could amuse me by telling me about his recent role in androphonomania massacre in which my cousin had her throat torn out!” Gabrielle looked up sharply eyeing the other woman who clearly furious and hurt. She looked harder at her recognises something which she had completely over looked, her eyes they were a deep sea blue just like the ones that had haunted her nightmares for years but there was something else. On the woman finger was a small golden ring with the symbol of a griffin on it, this woman in her nightmares had, had the same ring on her finger. She eased the pipe out her mouth breathing out the smoke. “Your cousin was she sixteen years old?” Raissa stood up slowly eyeing the blonde haired woman watching as she did the same. “Yes she was and how would you know about my cousin!?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I was there.” Xena stepped forward this was not how she wanted this to go now was not the right time. “Please Raissa allow me to explain.” Raissa eyed her in disgust. “I wasn’t asking you, I was asking her!” She eyed the woman whose face was unreadable as she put her pipe on the table. “You said you knew my cousin?!” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor trying to find the right words. “I took her life.” She heard the silence as it fell across the room. “She was wearing the same ring you have on her finger.”

Raissa moved forward adjusting her trousers reaching for her sword hilt right now she was thankful that her husband wasn’t at this meeting because she knew he would stop her because he could be a soft stupid over emotional fool. “This is my cousin’s ring! It was pulled off her dead body, I took it personally!” She paused as something hit home. “Wait if you killed her, then that makes you a werewolf doesn’t it?” Gabrielle looked up meeting her hate filled gaze. “I am Horn Hind, though my title among my people is Golden Hind.” Raissa slowly pulled her sword free of her scabbard, it wasn’t a Greek sword but an air loom from Japan called a katana but it still cut the same, at least on the hanging meat it always worked. “No wonder the Empress was being so damn coy about you you’re a cold blooded murderer!” She slowly rose her weapon watching as the gleaming blade caught the light. “Did you enjoy taking her life!?” Gabrielle looked at her hands which were now tight around the weapon hilt. “No I didn’t enjoy taking her life?” Asfrid smirked ignoring everyone’s shock over what was now taking place. “Oh please Raissa sit down and stop making a scene, people die that’s life.” She paused turning to the Empress. “Plus I’m sure the Empress has a great explanation for all this.”

Xena moved towards Raissa reaching slowly for her sword hilt. “Put your sword down now! I have a very good explanation for all this and I have proof that she saved people during the androphonomania massacre!” Raissa watched as one of the men opposite slowly raised a cross bow aiming it at her. “No! I don’t care for your excuses she took my cousin’s life, she should die for it!” Gabrielle grabbed her sword freeing it from its hook in a lightening fast motion forcing it past the other woman’s blade watching as the tip pressed against her throat. “Taking a life, any ones life is much harder than you think.” She slowly moved her sword so it was away from the other woman’s throat she felt the weapon slip from her fingers and heard the sound as it hit the floor. “Your right I deserve to die, I took the life a young woman life. She was no more than a child who deserved to live and have a good life and every time I close my eyes I can see hers looking right back at me.” She took a step closer so the other woman’s sword was against her throat. “You should kill me.” Xena breathed in she could see in her lover’s eyes that she had something in mind she raised her hand eyeing Elpidios. “Lower your bow.” Elpidios turned blinking in surprise. “Empress?” Xena turned sharply to him. “Now!” She watched as he lowered his bow ignoring the concern in both Iona and Demetrius faces. She turned back to Raissa. “Gabrielle is right, it takes a lot to take another’s life Raissa are you ready for that?”

Thaleia stepped forward only to feel Demetrius take hold off her arm stopping her she watched as he shook his head. She didn’t understand this why was the Empress letting this happen, it made no sense at all? Raissa swung her sword back readying it to strike. “Yes I can!” Gabrielle tensed watching as the blade started to shake it suddenly swung towards her only to stop next to her neck she felt the pinch as it pressed against her skin drawing blood. She looked down watching as it ran down in a small steam before meeting the other woman gaze which was filled with conflict. “Killing someone who holds no weapon in cold blood is so much harder than you think and it’s a path you can never return from. I never wanted to kill your cousin and every day I wish I could bring her back from the dead.” Raissa pulled her blade away eyeing the other woman in disgust. “This changes nothing I will have my vengeance on you!” Gabrielle took in a deep breath she knew right away that this woman was not a warrior she could tell by the way she had been holding her sword her grip wasn’t firm enough. “I deserve no less.” She paused watching as the double doors opened as Ladon ran in closely followed by Milo who quickly closed the door behind him. Demetrius turned to them they both should have been here when this meeting started. “Where in Tartarus have you two been? You were meant to be here when this meeting started!”

Milo swallowed. “I’m sorry I got lost…” Demetrius felt his hand form a fist. “Don’t ever get lost again!” Ladon moved forward looking at everyone. “I am here to speak on the Golden Hinds behalf, I was a witness to the androphonomania massacre.” He paused turning looking around him trying to work out where Gabrielle was as he had never seen her in human form. Gabrielle leaned down carefully picking up her sword putting it back on its hook. “Hello Ladon.” Ladon turned seeing the beautiful golden haired woman who was small in stature and had a diagonal scar on her right eyebrow. He came to stand opposite her realizing for the first time that the woman opposite was lowering an odd looking sword. “I apologise for the delay.” Raissa eyed the young man. “So you’re here to speak on that bitch’s behalf and what makes you think I would care?” Ladon turned to meet her gaze. “Because she saved my life at the risk off her own” Raissa blinked in confusion. “Saved your life, how?” Ladon folded his arms. “I was a child during the androphonomania massacre while the other werewolves were going around killing people left, right and centre she saved me by hiding me so the warriors wouldn’t find me.” Xena stepped forward so she was standing close to Raissa. “He wasn’t the only child saved Gabrielle saved many, many more all whose accounts you can read.” Raissa eyed Ladon. “It changes nothing in my view, so she saved this young man and a number of other children it doesn’t make up for those who lives she took.”

Enceladus leaned forward. “Well regardless of what she says, she does not speak for me, I want to know why this woman who is the werewolf king would save children while killing others it makes no sense.” Xena put a hand behind her back choosing her next words carefully. “The Imperial Council told Gabrielle she had to go out on a campaign. She was told this campaign meant killing human warrior but once on it found that she was forced to kill innocent people instead. If she did not do as required she would have been humiliated and deemed weak as king.” Corybantes eyed the blonde woman. “So she is a warrior?” Asfrid turned to him. “Clearly she’s a warrior weren’t you watching how she used that sword? Unlike Raissa who couldn’t kill if her life depended on it, she clearly can.” Eleni breathed in. “Please carry on Empress.” Xena put down her empty goblet on the table. “Yes Gabrielle is a warrior like me she was one long before she became the Golden Hind and king.” The youngest man who had very short brown hair and blue eyes that had been quietest though out of the meeting eased up his hand. “How does one become king in werewolf sociality?”

Xena raised an eyebrow. “That’s very complicated Gregoly, but I’ll give you the short version. In werewolf sociality one being at a time grows antlers in werewolf form that person is deemed by the gods as Horn Hind. When they die another replaces them and they are not related in any way, Gabrielle is the seventh king her predecessor the Crescent Hind was poisoned.” She looked up slightly. “Gabrielle was promised by the Imperial Council that if she killed these innocent people they would stop the killing human children in werewolf sociality. This was all a lie and the promise was never kept and today human children still die. Also if you still choose to doubt that Gabrielle is on your side let me tell you how sadistic the Imperial Council are. They ensured that Gabrielle got locked up in the lower pit of my prison with out me even knowing about it for two years, that was how we met, when I came across her she was almost dead. Since she has been here there have been two accusation attempts on her life and one nearly killed her and right now werewolf sociality is on the verge of civil war. That is why I called you here today because I need your full support.” Gabrielle moved toward her seat picking up the wrapped leather opening it, she threw it on the table watching as everyone’s eyes fell up on it. “These are the Imperial Councils new plans, a brave werewolf died to give me this message.”

She eyed the drawing. “This is a map of Athens all of the tunnels you see on this map have been dug underground but this is not an underground hiding system of any kind this is a wall of death. Once the larger ropes pictured are broken it will cause a domino effect which will kill hundreds of people as Athens collapses in to the ground. If you have ever wondered why it is you don’t know much about my race, it is because we build underground cities the likes of which are beyond your imagination and we’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. We are very good at it which is why I intend to stop this and go against the Imperial Council even if it costs me my life. My hands stole the lives of hundreds during the androphonomania massacre and I will do everything in my power now to stop any more innocence men, women and children dying.” Thaleia breathed in deeply so this was what the Imperial Council had planned words could not describe how awful this was. Corybantes eyed the leather with its drawings. “Do you have a date for when this is due to happen?” Xena moved forward. “No we have no date but there is no time to delay, we will have to stop this happening even if you all disapprove off it. She stepped away from the table the time had finally come to ask the question she had been dreading. “So how many of you are in my favour and will put money and troops to aid myself and Gabrielle in this civil war?”

She watched as they looked at each other for a long moment before a number of hands rose but others didn’t of the twelve diplomats only seven had raised their hands. From the male diplomats Corybantes, Enceladus and Abraxas had all voted in favour, while the female diplomats included Eleni, Asfrid and Mariam along with another man and woman. She turned to Raissa who was still standing. “After everything I’ve told you, you choose to ignore this?” Raissa folded her arms. “You don’t need my vote Empress, you overall have seven fools who have voted in your favour and five against. You’ll still get your war but I will not play any part in it charade and I will not help your lover, she killed my cousin and she will never have my loyalty.” Xena folded her arms. “As you wish but you may regret this decision one day, when you call up on me for my help.” Raissa raised her hand pointing in Gabrielle’s direction. “I will never ask for help from you or that animal you call your lover!” She moved towards the double doors watching as the guards opened them. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have more important things to worry about than this meeting.” Xena watched as she left and the huge doors were shut behind her, she turned to Gregoly. “Why have you chosen against?”

Gregoly put his hands together. “With all due respect Empress I do not share Raissa’s view of Gabrielle who you fall in love with is your business and the wars you get involved with your choice. I will not back a civil war which I feel is not our issue, this is Gabrielle’s war not yours and to have a war now in winter is foolish no one ever fights during the winter and any battle during winter would be a waste of recourses and time and would be doomed to failure, I will not become part of that failure.” Xena spoke trying to keep his voice even. “I see and though I disagree I will not move to change your mind. I will point out that soon Gabrielle’s civil war may soon become everyone’s civil war regardless of whether we want it to be or not and werewolves unlike us fight all year around its an advantage they have over us.” Gregoly nodded. “True and when it comes to that I might say different but until then it’s not my issue.” Asfrid turned to Corybantes. “Please tell me why you voted for the Empress, I mean that’s unlike you, you always vote against.” Corybantes narrowed his gaze. “Because I see the bigger picture I may not like the war but war is some times necessary and I would rather be on the side that wins.” Xena looked at the others who hadn’t spoken during this meeting and had now voted against there was no point in asking them all why they were against. They had made up their minds but this clearly left her with an issue she would not get all of the supplies she needed or men and women warriors joining her numbers unlike she had, had before when she’d over thrown the tyrant kings and their queen.

Raissa voting against her had caused the biggest issue the supplies would be lower than normal which meant she would have to go else where. She turned watching as Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly but said nothing as she put her pipe away. “Then from those of you who have chosen to help me I will need supplies and some of your best male and female warriors by this afternoon out side the city, the army will be packed and ready to go and will join them when I do.” Asfrid shrugged. “You’ll have them unlike the fools who voted against you I would rather not see the Greek Empire burn.” Corybantes put his hands together. “Is there any other reason that we are here?” Xena looked at him for a long moment. “No there is no other business here, you can all leave I just need your supplies and warriors.” Enceladus leaned forward seeing that the right moment had come. “But you know we all expect a return in gold for the supplies you take and any warriors who die under your command.” He turned eyeing Gabrielle whose face was now unreadable. “I assume the Imperial Council is very rich?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke. “If gold is all you care about then I’ll personally ensure that you get your returns, after this war is over.” She leaned over slowly wrapping up the leather taking it from the table clearly gold was all these people cared about not the innocents who were going to die. Abraxas shook his head as he turned to Gabrielle. “I require no return off any kind I give my supplies and my best warriors freely to you Gabrielle.”

Eleni snorted picking up her goblet. “You suck up.” Abraxas stood up watching as Ilithyia did the same. “You all disgust me, the Empress gives you title and land the ability to gain wealth and you try now to force Gabrielle to pay you back your losses! Losses that you could all regain by the start of the next season its no wonder that the Empress threw you all out of here.” Gregoly eyed him for a long moment. “If I recall it was your brother who stole from the Empress.” Abraxas felt his hand form a fist. “Yes and my brother was an idiot and he met the noose for his stupidity and greed. It saddens me that all of you learnt nothing from his death all your care about is your wealth and your political back stabbing. I don’t know how you sleep at night its like you have no honour.” Enceladus stroked his beard. “Honour please it’s been a long time since you fought in the wars, your armour is battered and broken.” Abraxas felt a cold smile form. “Yet I still have my nobility Gladiator, clearly when you put down your armour, you placed your honour down with it.” He moved towards the doors. “Well I’ll leave you dishonourable fools to your thoughts as clearly your gold is more important to you than innocent lives.” He turned to the Empress. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

Xena turned meeting his gaze. “Thank you Abraxas for everything.” Ilithyia looked up feeling a sad smile form. “You’re welcome Empress.” Xena watched as they left and the doors closed behind them, it was now time to end this meeting, it had proven one thing and one thing only to her that none of these men and women deserved her respect. Those who had sided with her had only done so for the sake of gold and Abraxas was sadly right they had left their honour behind them. The truth was she had some serious rethinking to do as to whether some of these people deserved their status. Though they had helped her to over throw the Tyrant kings and their queen they were clearly no longer as giving as they used to be, maybe it was time to replace some of them with werewolves worthy of their position. “This meeting is over.” Asfrid looked up from her food. “But we haven’t finished eating.” Xena felt her hand form a fist. “I don’t care your food will be fed to those more worthy off it.” She ignored their sudden confusion, shock and surprise as she moved towards the double doors which were once again opened she turned as Gabrielle followed her she could see the sadness in her eyes still as the doors were shut behind them.

She breathed in deeply trying to calm herself down maybe she shouldn’t be so disappointed she had clearly chosen the wrong people to back her as diplomats. Because of them she would now have no choice but to ask for outside help and it wouldn’t go down with Gabrielle since she would have to ask the Amazons and possibly the Centaurs. She couldn’t ask the Greek Royals to contribute as they needed their food supplies to feed their people during winter in the mayor cities. This was just a messed up state of affairs, normally no one went to war during the winter and she was going so much against the norm. She could only hope that Gabrielle could now get as many werewolves as possible from the rebels on her side, enough at least that it would make up for the lack of men and women from the diplomats. The time for talk was now over all that mattered was setting their sights on Athens and stopping the horror that was about to happen and hope that they got there in time. She had no idea how to stop this but she was sure that the werewolf rebels did and that they could help them.

End of part 17

 

WHEN CHOICES ARE NOT WHAT YOU WISH THEM TO BE

 

Ceto looked at the table in front of her watching as everyone removed the empty plates and food, all of the diplomats had left and all had been in confused and uncertain. This was the first time the Empress had ever thrown them out mid meeting but most of them deserved it. Abraxas and Ilithyia had been the only ones to ask for nothing and do the noble thing the others just their wanted gold at any cost. Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Well that could have gone better.” Demetrius shook his head. “Well it could have gone worse, all the bastards wanted was gold rather that than lands or estate.” Iona moved over to the table picking up a fork looking at it. “Gold which Gabrielle won’t have for a long time and they had no right to ask for.” Demetrius eyed her watching as the cleaning staff carried on with their work, this would in essence be the last time he would see this room for a long time. “Good bye to peace.” Iona looked up as one of the casually staff took the knife from her hand. “We all knew this day would come Demetrius the Imperial Council’s war began when they tried to assassinate Gabrielle.” Demetrius tensed despite the truth in her words the truth was that he had, had other things on his mind at late. The biggest being Thaleia and for the first time in his life he had, had thoughts about settling down but now he knew that it wouldn’t happen until this war was over. “Yes I knew but unlike you I wanted a moments more peace.” Iona leaned against one of the chairs. “Well you and I both know that it never works out that way.”

She folded her arms. “Well its better that it’s here on Greek soil than us having to attack Rome or Egypt.” Demetrius shook his head. “When was the last time you killed a werewolf Iona?” Iona turned eyeing him as she took a piece of meat of a plate that was travelling by. “It was a while ago, it was before I had to go kill that warlord Crete for the Empress.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Then you remember that its not a pleasant business, we’ve both seen Gabrielle fight against her own people but it’s very different when your up against them. Those claws become something you need to avoid along with the teeth you have to kill them as quickly as possible and pray to the gods that you kill them out right. I’ve seen warriors think they’ve made the kill only to have their insides ripped out and I’m sure you’ve witnessed the same.” Thaleia moved to stand in front of him feeling the sadness take over clearly he would have to leave and she would not be able to go with him. “So you’ll have to go to Athens with the rest of the army?” Ceto shook her head. “No you’ll be coming to, its royal protocol that the personal maid follows the Empress in to battle.” Demetrius closed his eyes for a moment before opening them, just great he had hoped that Ceto wouldn’t say anything. He put his hands on Thaleia’s shoulders. “I spoke with the Empress she said that you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Thaleia eyed him for a long moment. “Why wouldn’t I choose not to go?” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “Because this won’t be a sight seeing a trip, it’s going to be very dangerous.” He ran his hand gently down her face. “You being here would be much safer.”

Thaleia blinked. “I don’t want to stay here just because it’s safer I want to be with you and Gabrielle.” Demetrius watched as she pulled away. “Listen to me horrible things happen in wars, things that change people.” He turned to Ceto. “You remember what happened during the Spartan up rising?” Ceto folded her arms she really didn’t like that she was being pulled in to this conversation. “Yes I remember what happened when we fought the Spartans, there were some hard moments but I was doing my duty to the Empress.” Demetrius raised his hand. “But there was the night when the camp was attacked and you ended up killing that Spartan warrior who got in to the camp.”  Ceto narrowed her gaze. “Yes I killed him I was doing my duty. If I had to do the whole thing differently I would have still done the same, he was going to kill me taking his life was necessary.” Thaleia eyed Demetrius she loved him but right now he was coming across as being far to over protective, she wasn’t a child anymore. “Like Ceto it’s my duty to be Gabrielle’s side, I will not back out just because you say it’s dangerous.” Demetrius took a step forward. “Please I’m begging you to reconsider I couldn’t live with myself if anything happened to you.” Thaleia turned to face him. “Nothing is going to stop me going to war and you will not change my mind. I don’t fear the outside world, I want to be out there I’ve spent my whole life with in these walls Demetrius I was born here and now I need to know what’s beyond these walls. ”

Demetrius raised his hand about to speak only to stop he knew by the intense look in her eye that she would not back down now. He lowered his hand shaking his head. “Then I will protect you, I will ensure that there is always one of my men or women to guard you.” Thaleia looked up sharply. “Why don’t you instead teach me how to protect myself with a weapon?” Ceto moved towards the open doors now she really didn’t want to be here as this could turn very sour she knew how to use a dagger and she didn’t want to get drawn in to their argument as using weapons could be a touchy subject. “Excuse me I need to go and pack.” Iona put her hand on her chest. “I’ll leave you two alone I need to speak to my warriors.” Demetrius watched as they both left closing the doors behind them he turned slowly meeting Thaleia’s gaze. “No, I know using a weapon sounds like the right choice but leaning to use a weapon, is not a good thing it can make you are target for others holding weapons.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Are you saying you won’t teach me?” Demetrius stepped forward. “No I won’t teach you, I’ll have my warriors protect you so it won’t come to that.” Thaleia raised her hands. “I don’t want your warriors risking their lives for me when you can teach me to defend myself!” Demetrius put his hand gently on her shoulder. “Please understand me when I say that you shouldn’t pick up a weapon, if you kill someone you’ll never be the same again.”

Thaleia felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “No this is about you believing that I’m a child, well I’m not a child I can take care of myself.” Demetrius didn’t think as he wrapped his arms around her pulling her close. “No doesn’t have anything to do with Thaleia I respect that you can make your own choices in life. Please understand that I’m doing this for your own safety, because I love you. I know it’s hard to understand but you should never have blood on your hands.” Thaleia breathed in deeply feeling some of her anger fade away as she wrapped her arms around him, frankly she didn’t fully understand and she didn’t see the issue with raising a weapon. What was so wrong about wanting to protect her self? It wasn’t like she would get attacked and if he wouldn’t help her with this then she would ask someone else. If what Ceto had said was anything to go by she needed to use a weapon as part of her duty. Demetrius watched as she pulled away he leaned over gently meeting her lips as he spoke in calm voice. “Would you like me to help you pack?” Thaleia felt a smile form. “Yes I would.” She looked up feeling the need to change the subject. “I have to tell my mother that we are leaving and what’s going on in Athens.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “I think she’ll be more shocked by the diplomat who swung her sword at Gabrielle.” Thaleia blinked in confusion as a question that had been bothering her hit home. “Why did Gabrielle let her? I mean she could have killed her!”

Demetrius moved his hand up running it through her hair. “I know that whole thing was strange to you but to warriors it’s sometimes necessary to test a person resolve. A lot of people have swords but not everyone who holds one has the power to really use it, it takes a lot to kill someone and those who are not warriors can never follow through on their swing.” Thaleia breathed in. “No offence but I thought she was going to cut off Gabrielle’s head.” Demetrius paused before speaking. “Trust me its all in the hands Thaleia, you can tell if someone’s killed by how they hold the sword, with someone who has they grip the sword very tightly. That woman has clearly had lessons and trains but she has never seen real combat she was griping that sword far too loosely. In real combat there is no hesitation in the swing it’s your life or theirs, you have to make a choice and be ready to live with it.” Thaleia took in a deep breath. “I still don’t understand, I mean how can you be positive and what if you’re wrong?” Demetrius put a hand around her waist as they walked towards the double doors. “It’s hard to explain but when you’re a warrior you get a feel for it and over time you gut tend to guide you, rather than your heart or your head, because if you question to much or feel to much you might end up dead.” Thaleia shook her head. “I still don’t understand.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “Once we go to war I think it will become very clear to you.”

8

I just feel sad now, may be it’s my own fault for expecting more from the Corinthian diplomats but all they cared about was my gold. Gold which I don’t even have and the only way I can even get it would be to march on the Grand City and from what I hear no ones has ever over thrown the main city. Through out the ages werewolves have rebelled against the Imperial Council all have lost though. It’s heavily guarded and fortified not to mention that’s breaking through is impossible the level themselves have areas where people can be trapped and cornered. They ask the impossible and for what? Gold which they can regain very quickly, sadly a woman of my word I will get their gold even if I die and someone else gives them it in my name. We are going to war in winter but then for werewolves war goes on all year around it always has because unlike human beings we can get through the harsh winter conditions and hunt. Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor she knew better than anyone how to survive the cold of winter she had survived in the bitter cold as a teenage werewolf with out even having a winter coat. She sat on the bed in their room it had a quite walk back with few words spoken but that was to be expected none of this had gone they way they had wanted it to. She looked at her lover who was leaning against the table opposite her arms folded a cold look in her eyes. She took in a deep breath finding her voice as she eased off her fur line cloak. “Seven out of twelve it’s not enough is it?”

Xena turned meeting her lover’s sad gaze. “No it’s not enough even with seven of them there won’t be enough supplies to get the army through the winter Raissa was the key she has the most supplies.” She raised an eyebrow. “That was an incredibly risky thing you did Gabrielle, letting her threaten you with her sword.” Gabrielle looked at her hands. “She’s not a warrior I could tell by the way she gripped her sword.” She looked at her hands again. “It was my teeth that tour her cousins throat open and in my nightmares in the past I always saw her face, she was the one Adrienne threw in front of me she said that I should kill her as she was a whimpering human and stop complaining.” Xena moved towards her. “You said that you recognised the ring on Raissa’s finger.” Gabrielle smiled sadly. “Yes I did, I always remember seals, in werewolf sociality there are ancient families and they all have seals. As warriors you’re taught to remember the houses and the symbols, its part of your training so you can call the noble family by the house name just by looking at their seal.” She looked up. “Raissa had every right to threaten me I took her family away from her. I wasn’t trying to gain her approval or even her forgiveness she had every right to know the truth, I’m just sorry that it didn’t change anything.” Xena put a hand on her face. “You tried Gabrielle Raissa was always going to be difficult to sway, her walking out I expected but the five who voted against me have disappointed me greatly.”

She shook her head sadly. “I helped all of these men and women in their greatest hour of need yet now in my moment of great need they have turned their back on me, I expected so much more from them and I wanted you receive so much more.” Gabrielle stood up walking towards the other woman coming to stand in front of her she eased up her hand running it gently down her cheek. “You won’t need the other five if I can get a large number of rebels on my side they can help your men and women.” Xena looked at her for a long moment she knew this was truth Gabrielle had survived the bitter winter in her youth. Gabrielle eased up her other hand running her fingers down her cheek. “My people know how to survive the winter its one of the reason we endure as a race.” Xena took hold of her hand gently kissing it. “Do you think they will come to your aid?” Gabrielle eyed the leather scroll on the bed. “I have everything I need now I just need you to let me speak to them.” Xena kept hold of her hand. “No we’ll pack and then we’ll both go and speak to them Demetrius and Iona can take the army outside the city and wait for us the best men and women from the palace and city are getting ready as we speak.” She paused eyeing the younger woman. “You’ll need a horse.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t need one and I don’t mind walking plus horses really don’t like me.” Xena let go of her hand. “And I promised you that I’d get you a horse.”

Gabrielle eased the bracelets of her hand looking at them she didn’t want to argue about this she had a lot of packing to do. “Xena.” Xena looked up slightly. “Yes?” Gabrielle turned fully to face her. “Thank you for trying with the diplomats, I think your plan worked on some level if not on others.” Xena picked up one of the bags close by. “Your welcome.” Gabrielle looked at her robes again trying to find the words which felt strange for her to say. “You know I like these robes. I’m sorry that I didn’t say this earlier I haven’t been feeling myself over these past few days. I never meant to sound so ungrateful sometimes I speak and I don’t think about my own words.” Xena felt a smile form as she put her bag on the bed opposite as she started to pack it. “I guessed you were just stressed, I know this is lot to take on your shoulders, I mean saying you’re a ruler is one thing but walking the past is quite another a lot is expected of you from everyone else.” Gabrielle turned one of the bracelets between her fingers before putting on the bed side table. “I feel like I’ve been running from this war all of my life and now it’s finally caught up with me.” She whistled watching as Icos came down landing on her shoulder she gently took hold of him. “I don’t know if I can swim through it or if the waves are going to crush me.”

Xena put down the clothing she had in her hand watching as her lover gave her pet a gentle kiss this would in essence be the last time she saw Icos for a long time. “Gabrielle no amount of water can crush you, you enjoy to swim and fish in the darkest waters, few can say the same.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she watched her pet blink. “Then maybe I’ll be able to swim.” Xena eyed Icos for a long moment. “What are going to do with Icos?” Gabrielle looked at her little bird who was cooing gently. “I’ll give him to Fiona to look after.” Xena felt a smile form. “When you changed we need to go to Chara and Phrixus’s study theirs something important you need to sign there.” Gabrielle carried on stroking her dove’s head as she looked up. “What do you need you need me to sign?” Xena watched as the younger woman put her pet down as she started to undress she moved over helping her out of the robes. “It’s better that you see Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked at her lover for a long moment she wanted to push this subject further but felt that it would be pointless and something told her that her lover wasn’t in the right frame of mind to bring this up right now she could see it in her eyes. So maybe it was better to just to go with this, after all she needed to get changed and pack her things and it would take a while.

8

I’ve been walking through these long winding tunnels for what feels like days and I hate it! The air is hot and stale and it hurts to breath, it reminds me why I was happy to leave this cave complex behind it always had a bitter feel to it, yet now it just feels all the more bitter and jaded. I never thought I’d have to destroy this place yet now I have and I’ve escaped through a tunnel that has been long and winding and cruel. I remember staying in these caves with my brothers after escaping Rome as penniless slaves who were just living off the land as best we could. I had a kill here that truly changed my destiny I killed a criminal who was hiding out I took his clothes, weapons and his coin. Once I realized that scum had money I guided my brothers on a profitable campaign which gained us large amount of money. We Killing slave traders, murders and warlords and it meant they could fund other areas which could gain more money, that felt like a life time ago when people used to laugh at the name Warrior King. They weren’t laughing now and all of those who had laughed weren’t alive to laugh anymore he and his brothers had risen to be supreme and he would not go out this way dying in this tunnel to be lost to the ark of history.

More importantly he wanted to find Jace and his remaining army but most of all he wanted Leah back he had never had anything taken from him. He hated having what mattered taken from him it away it reminded him of his childhood in slavery when he had, had a wooden toy and his master had beaten him with a whip then stamped on it until he broke it. It had been no more than a wooden bear, it meant the world to him he had found a few coins in the market place and had used it to buy the item. He knew that slaves weren’t meant to have money or own anything but he wanted something to remind him of the happy life he had once lived on the farm with his mother, farther and brothers. He remembered his master’s words as he had held him by the hair with the whip raised high after smashing his toy. He had called him a soft pathetic fool who would never amount to anything. Something had snapped in him that day and he had never been the same again. When he and his brothers had been captured he had been bullied the most by his master, because he was the weakest and most open. After that event he had locked away his emotions never being as open again. Everyday he’d done lifting jobs, moved things where ever possible, anything to become bigger, stronger he had in the end become the strongest of his brothers both emotionally and physically.

Every day the same thought had filled his mind that his master had to die and he had to become strong enough to do it and when the time was right he had made his vision a reality, with the help of his brothers. Oh the joy of that day when he and his brothers had opened the gates to the villa allowing all of the slaves to flood out in to the streets. Most of those slaves had come with him and his brothers back in to Greece but once on Greek soil they had all parted ways. He had never seen any of them again but he hoped that they had found their families and their happiness. He paused watching as the woman up a head looked around her brown eyes reflecting in the darkness. He felt himself fortunate that he had two werewolves with him because they could navigate these tunnels even in the pitch black but then that was one of the special qualities about werewolves they lived for the dark and embraced it in all its wonders in a way most people couldn’t. His gaze drifted upwards as he caught sight of a thin stream off light showing through up, ahead as one of his warriors spoke. “I see the light!” He took in a deep breath seeing the light which was now flooding in from the entrance which even after all these years had not been blocked off in any way. He walked through closing his eyes to the blinding light which felt so bright and encompassed everything.

He opened his eyes again slower this time looking up at the sun in the sky which wasn’t even that bright, but to him had been the brightest he had ever seen it he eyed his men and women who were all opening their eyes slowly so they could adjust to the light. He could feel the sharp pinch of the cold weather all around him, which he hadn’t felt until now as the caves had kept them all warm. His gaze drifted to one of the wounded men who had been getting better but he knew why that was he had been bitten and would soon turn. Out of the ten men and women who had escaped with him three of them were already werewolves but soon two new ones would be joining their ranks and it was going to be hard for them. Human’s who turned in to werewolves suffered from issues most being sadness, depression and anger because there was no cure, there had never been a cure. He had watched men and women kill themselves rather than become inhuman, he just hoped that these men and women were willing to walk that path but he would not force them to. A man’s and woman’s life was his or hers to do as they pleased and he would not force any ones path in life he had always told his warriors that.

He sat down on the grass leaning against the nearest tree looked at the meadow bellow as he took in a deep breath. There was no sign of Jace and it was now becoming very clear to him as to why they had taken Leah. They had no intention of killing her she was the prize they had desired and the only thing in the meeting that they had focused on. Clearly it was all part of a much bigger plan and it didn’t help that the armour that looked like the Empress’s was now ready. He had no doubt in his mind that they gotten out alive and had gone in to his hidden underground and taken the armour he’d made. They clearly intended to use it and Leah to trap Gabrielle as they knew that she was in love with the Empress and wanted to use her compassion against her. Gabrielle wasn’t stupid though she was far from it, he’d always remembered their first meeting in great detail she was not easily fooled or tricked even when an offer was open to her. He’d seen lesser men and women fail his tests over and over and he had thrown them out of his old hide out. He believed in his morals very deeply and he had put all his warriors and his allies through that same test, he closed his eyes as the memory of their first meeting came flooding back all at once.

8

Gabrielle breathed in as she entered the room in which Joxer was seated watching as Adrianne gave her a coy smile as she walked in beside her. She watched as the man who wasn’t much older than her eased his black bull horned helmet free putting it on side of his throne it was clear that his identical brothers Jace and Jett weren’t present. She took in a deep breath before speaking. “It is an honour to meet the Warrior King.” Joxer put his hand on his chin eyeing the young attractive woman in front of his throne who was much younger than him and had forest green eyes and long blonde hair. She was wearing plated armour which had been given a new image to show her status as King. It was typical werewolf plate with adjustable sections, on her back were two double swords both in gleaming scabbards clearly the weapons she was trained best in as he’d heard it all young werewolves were given weapons to suit their ability. He narrowed his gaze she wasn’t very tall in fact she was quite small and she was about twenty four years old but above all unlike her predecessor she was a woman.

He looked harder at her he could see a very prominent scar on her right eyebrow, though it did nothing to take away her beauty she was a very attractive woman. He felt a smile form realizing that he wasn’t just studying her she was studying him and she wasn’t bothering to hide that fact. He felt his smile widened oh it had been so long since he’d had such brash bravery in his presence. He had once spoken to her predecessor but nothing had ever come of it her predecessor had been a decadent fool who cared about nothing but himself. He sat back in his throne it was time to see what she was like. “Please remove Adrianne from the room, she’s not welcome here.” Gabrielle turned eyeing Adrianne who smiled smugly clearly she still believed she had power in here just like everywhere else because they shared a bed. She took in a deep breath. “Get out Adrienne.” Adrianne narrowed her dark green gaze in disgust. “Oh please, your not going to throw me out, I’m your adviser.” Gabrielle turned sharply. “I said leave!” Adrianne sneered slightly stepping back realizing that Gabrielle was serious she slowly made her way to the doors watching as one of Joxer’s men opened them. “As you wish…Golden Hind.”

Gabrielle ignored her annoyed tone as the doors were shut behind her and locked she wouldn’t have her interfering in any of her business she was a liar and dishonourable bitch who annoyed her no end. Joxer looked at the young woman. “Interesting clearly you don’t approve of your adviser.” Gabrielle looked up eyeing him for a long moment. “She’s not my adviser she was a gift from the Imperial Council who I have to put up with.” Joxer smirked as he leaned forward oh yes she was different that much was clear. “Clearly not a well received gift.” Gabrielle adjusted her plate armour. “She has her uses but only one or two to name them but all in all she’s a pretentious, lying thorn in my side, who I can’t stand.” Joxer laughed as he looked at her. “Well that’s brutal honesty I admire that.” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “I see no point in being dishonest.” Joxer put his hands together he could see in her eyes that she truly meant that statement unlike her predecessor she was a warrior by nature and not interested in politics. “Would you like anything? Adrianne has said that you like to smoke opium.”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I mean no disrespect to your hospitality but I prefer a clear head when doing business.” Joxer felt a smile form this was very interesting indeed maybe now it was time to see if she’d break to pleasures of the body. “I have men and women at my command who will give you pleasure in a more intimate way, would you prefer that instead?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath she hadn’t personally wanted to talk about this subject but she knew that now it couldn’t be avoided. “I don’t know what you’ve heard about me but let me make it clear although I like both genders I have no interest in sleeping with men and women because they have been told to come to my bed chamber, I don’t care for random sex ether I prefer to only have one partner at a time.” Joxer sat up fully in his throne well that answered that question, in truth he had no men or women of the sort and he didn’t deal in slaves but he’d always liked to test the person he was dealing with in there first meeting by offering them something like this to test their mortality. He couldn’t stand the thought of commanding anyone to anyone else’s bed it was the reason he killed slave traders outright for daring to make deals with him over illegal slaves then freed all their slaves.

He only dealt in goods, along with other difficult items and if he ever caught his men or women dealing in anything like that he’d kill them personally. He had a very strict honour code and he ensured that all of his men and women followed it. To him nothing meant more than honour, to have no honour was to not be a true warrior at heart. Gabrielle narrowed her gaze eyeing the older man. “Are you testing me?” Joxer looked down slightly clearly this woman was very honourable and very smart. He looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “Apologises for the deception I always test the morals of all those who come to meet me for the first time, I like to know the measure of the man or woman before me.” He shook his head. “I don’t keep men or women like that and never would do so because frankly I hate slavery and have never dealt in slaves I only deal in goods.” Gabrielle moved her hand down her scar absentmindedly before looking up. “Your hatred of slavery is something we both have in common.” Joxer raised an eyebrow. “Was it slavery that gave you that scar?”

Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “That among other things.” Joxer adjusted his front plate. “I see.” He looked up again meeting her intense gaze. “I sent many letters to your predecessor but we never came to any agreements as he was greedy and wanted more than I could afford.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “I’m not my predecessor and I don’t shares his views on wealth ether.” Joxer breathed in feeling the seriousness take over. “So you have an interest in the deal I offer?” Gabrielle eased out the scroll feeling a slight smile form. “I have great interest in this offer.” Joxer leaned forward. “Did the Imperial Council agree on my offer before they sent you?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “The Imperial Council doesn’t know I’m here.” Joxer laughed slightly. “Really, well I’m sure your gift will tell them soon enough.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “My gift can say what ever she wants but then that’s why even if you hadn’t asked her to leave, I would have. What goes on between us will be between us and I don’t want the Imperial Council to know about this deal they are bastards and I don’t want them to have any leverage over my personal agreements.”

Joxer breathed in deeply clearly this beautiful and attractive woman didn’t like the council a view which he also shared. “Clearly you’ve though long and hard about this.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Yes I have because it’s clear my predecessor over looked the fact that in some cities people among my race are starving and our numbers are dropping the fact is we need allies more than ever.” She flicked open the scroll eyeing it. “You can bring us food supplies even transport members of my race from place to place safely.” Joxer put his hands together. “Yes I can and all I want in return is ten of your best and most loyal werewolf guard for protection and a full suit of armour crafted by your smiths.” He looked up slightly. “Rumour has it werewolf plate is lighter than bronze and deflects hits better, it also better made.” Gabrielle eyed her armour. “That rumour is true it’s a harder bronze plate and much better than Hoplite plate, it’s all to do with the tempering of the bronze as far as I’ve been told.” Joxer felt the joy hit home she was going to give him full plate armour which was just what he’d always wanted. Gold had never mattered to him it was just a perk to him the real treasure was weapons and he’d been trying to get hold of werewolf plate for years, it was so rare that anyone ever got hold of it. Werewolves normally got killed in werewolf form and the hunters weren’t interested in their armour they normally sold it to smiths who melted it down turning it in goblets and other useless items, they didn’t even realize its real value.

He didn’t hunt werewolves he loathed the idea they were smart intelligent beings who built incredible under ground cities and had a deep culture as well as their own language. He leaned on his elbow. “I’m so glad that it’s not a rumour.” Gabrielle looked at the scroll for a long moment. “I can give you that a full plate of armour built to fit and to your standards as well as ten loyal guards.”  She paused before looking up. “I can give you something extra to add to our agreement if you truly help my people.” Joxer raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?” Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. “I’ll have my people build you an underground hide out two levels deep and un-see able from the surface, no one will find you you’ll be safe from your enemies.” Joxer blinked in surprise it was very rarely that anyone ever offered him something this good and he knew better than to walk away from this. “You have an agreement I will honour you and your people. That is if you don’t mind working with a human?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Unlike my predecessor I have a more open view on humanity.” Joxer felt a smile form. “Yes and it shows, clearly you are more of a king than he was.”

Gabrielle looked up eyeing the symbol above his throne with the two wolf heads meeting in the flames. “Forgive me if I’m wrong but isn’t that the symbol of the Northern Alliance?” Joxer smiled sitting back. “Clearly you don’t miss anything.” He felt a cruel smile form. “The Empress knows what my men look like so I created the Northern Alliance they just cause trouble they cause trouble here and there and distract her attention elsewhere while I get the real prizes I want.” He felt his smile widen. “It’s been very successful thus far and apparently it’s really annoying her or so my spy in the palace has told me.” Gabrielle turned slightly. “If you hate the Empress so much why don’t you use your spy to kill her?” Joxer breathed in deeply. “I would not want that personally, I would prefer battle face to face sword to sword, there is no honour in stabbing her in the back. Though I know my brother Jet would disagree, he has wanted that opportunity for years.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I agree with you sword to sword has more honour.” Joxer nodded before looking up. “It’s nice that you share that view.” Gabrielle turned slightly. “I must be going now but I know I’ll be back very soon, it gets very boring in the Grand City and my gift who is a thorn in my side disgusts me, she lacks honour. Joxer felt his smile widen. “Then I look forward to our next meeting Golden Hind.”

8

Joxer breathed as he looked at his un gloved hand which now had scabs from where he had hit the stone. Gabrielle had remained true to her word and he remained always true to his. He had allowed her to use his fake Northern Alliance group to attack the palace and get inside. His warriors had been willing to be captured because he knew the rules. If they pledged allegiance the Empress would let them go but he had to confess he had assumed that Gabrielle would kill her face to face in combat, in all honesty at the time he had not been interested in trying to do the same thing. It wasn’t until Gabrielle had disappeared for two years that he had questioned the idea. Gabrielle was one of the most skilled warriors he knew yet for some reason she had not been successful and that had bothered him for so many nights. For her to not take the killer blow had to be for a reason he just couldn’t work out why it was though. He had come to question if the Empress could stop him in the same way and if he could bring her down in battle face to face. Now though he realized that he had to make a choice and maybe one he wouldn’t like. He was going to have to choose, between friendship and hardship and it could mean putting his love to battle the Empress aside forever and watch the dream fade away and die and he hated that idea.

With out her help or Gabrielle’s there would be no way he could get Leah back, maybe he was being a sentimental fool but he wanted Leah back more than he wanted to fight the Empress in battle. Gods he was being the weak pathetic fool of his youth and he didn’t even know how to feel about it. He knew that the first thing he needed to do was go back to his underground hide, even if it had been turned over and ram sacked. If his brother and his remaining men and women were anywhere they would be there trying to regroup, as best they could. He had been out classed and misinformed though he did not blame Gabrielle for that, her position with the Imperial Council had always been difficult and she had always had to be careful of her words and it didn’t help that that snivelling bitch Adrienne had always been around her drooling over like some disgusting pervert. He had lost this battle but he had intention of loosing the war! He would spend the rest of his days hunting down Glaphyra and Agathon so he could kill them both and skin their un-dead werewolf hides and keep them as trophies. Truth was despite his alliance with Gabrielle he had not wanted to get drawn in to the werewolf civil war but that time was over, he was now going to be dragged in to it and it was time for him to pick and choose his allies wisely no matter what it cost him.

End of part 18

 

AS THE INK SINKS AND THE WAX MELTS

 

Chara stared at the Empress who was now standing across from her with Gabrielle. “Wait so let me get this straight! You want to put me and Phrixus in charge in your absence?” Xena looked at Phrixus who looked equally shocked at hearing this. “Yes that sums it up, your both to run this palace in our absence. You know this palace better than any of the other staff. You understand documents and how their meant to be sighed you understand how the guards are rotated, there’s nothing you both don’t know. You have both worked in this palace ever since its construction. Both of you were first to sign up for jobs plus you both know Theodore who runs the treasury and you both know how to work with him.”  Phrixus tensed feeling unsure of him self as he spoke. “You want us to take over your paper work as well?” Xena took hold of her bag pulling out two gold rings she carefully placed them on the table so they could both see them. “I had these specially made for you both they will fit your fingers and have a very special seal which is called the Palace Steward’s seal. Demetrius knows about this and he has passed this information on to the palace staff, royal guards and hoplites. As long as you wear these rings you have full running of this palace, your seals on paper are as good as mine.”

Phrixus picked up the golden ring which had a lions head and griffins head back to back. “I don’t understand why would you give this duty to us? I mean we are not even nobles.” Xena watched as Chara picked up her ring looking at it. “Today’s meeting has made me very aware that a lot of people who I placed as nobles do not deserve the title as they favour gold over life. I need men and women I can trust in my absence both of you have suffered tragedy in your lives, you both also understand war and what is at stake right now.” She paused. “But more to the point nether of you crave power it has never interested ether of you.” She turned to Phrixus. “It was the power of others that cost you, your wife and sons life, you have also seen power destroy cities in the worst possible way and you know hatred.” She turned to Chara. “The power struggle with the Spartans lost you, you’re farther and for a while you knew hated.” She looked down slightly. “You both understand hatred but you can both focus it and control it and when this civil war is over and if you prove yourselves I will give you both great rewards for this. I will also make these titles permanent as you have been nothing but loyal to me from day one.” She eyed Phrixus. “You came to me to stand against your own people you put yourself at great personal risk and with out your help I never would have gained an advantage in the uprising.”

Phrixus folded his arms. “All I asked was my vengeance you gave me that the warriors who killed my family in cold blood saw their end on the field of battle and I got the opportunity to rise beyond life as just a warrior and for that I am forever grateful.” Xena turned to Chara. “You’ve always been my ears in this palace you know it inside out, you also did everything I asked off you during the Spartan uprising you made sure I got the information I needed. If you had been brought up as a warrior I might fear you because you’re more ruthless that I am when it comes to getting the tasks I need done.” Chara shook her head. “Believe me Empress picking up a sword has never interested me, I like reading and writing more, because it gives me purpose and enjoying learning.” Xena raised her eyebrow it was now time to come clean about the fact that she knew who this woman’s lover was. She had not intended to but now was as good a time as any. “I also know that Evadine and you have a close bond.” Chara tensed feeling her eyes dart. “Yes we are close friends.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling that now was her moment to speak. “I know that it’s much more than that, I used to walk the palace at night, I saw a lot of things.” Chara breathed in sharply as she turned to the Empress she knew this would happen one day though she had hoped it wouldn’t be now. “I had intended that people wouldn’t find out about us and now that you have, I’m begging you to not bring Evadine in to this, please don’t let her go to war with you.”

She closed her eyes for a moment before opening them. “She’s the only thing I have in this world that matters, if Lila is coming with you please for the love of the gods, do not drag her along.” Xena raised her hands seeing the other woman’s deep tension. “Lila is not going on this trip and the only reason I brought this up was because I wanted to ask if you’d rather have her with you instead of her being Lila’s personal maid. Ruling can be stressful and difficult and it’s easier when you have some one around you care about.” Chara blinked in surprise this was not the way she had expected this to go, she thought the Empress would send her lover to war. “Yes I need her with me…I don’t think I can do this alone what you are asking of me is more difficult than what I’m used to.” Xena leaned over putting a hand gently on her shoulder. “I’ll see it done.” She turned to Phrixus who looked shocked once more. “Is there anyone you want around through this, a friend or someone you care about?” Phrixus shook his head sadly. “No Empress the one I love is waiting for me in the Elysian Fields and maybe one day I’ll join her.” Xena removed her hand watching as Chara began to calm down. “I have complete trust in you both and I know you will not fail me.” She looked up slightly. “Which brings me to the other thing I asked you to keep for me, do you have it?”

She watched as Phrixus pulled out a scroll which had been bound in thick leather and had golden edges it was slowly un-rolled in front of her as his voice hit the air. “As you requested, with all the new changes it just needs your signatures and seals.” She put a hand on her lovers watching as Gabrielle looked over the document. “Gabrielle this is my will.” Gabrielle eyed the document feeling her breathing deepen, she should have known it might be this and she felt a little foolish for not seeing the obvious. “What has this got to do with me?” Xena pushed the scroll towards her. “Everything.” She put her hand in her bag pulling out another ring putting it on the table. “We are not married yet and because of this I need to ensure that if I die, everything gets straightened out.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “What do you mean, straightening out?” Xena put her finger on the document. “In my will, if in the consequence that during this coming battle or any other I should die for any reason as my royal consort everything I own, my kingdom, my lands, my armies will all be passed to you.” She paused moving her finger down the writing. “After my passing, you will have full powers over these lands, your word will rule this Empire no one else’s.” She turned to the younger woman who had now looked very uneasy she knew this was going to be very hard for her but it was necessary.

She knew that what she was about to say was even more important as she knew it could cause her lover to open up about her son once it sunk in fully at a later time. “Also any children you may have will become heir to my throne and rulers of this lands with out question, be they werewolf or human.” She felt a smile form. “All I need is for you to sign this document and put your Horn Hind seal on it.” She paused easing up the small silver ring which had a flat seal on it she’d had this made more than a week ago. It had been sent to the palace in secret as she had intended it to be a gift and given under better circumstance. “I had this specially made for you it’s your size though you may have to have your people tweak it so it fits you in both forms. This ring will symbolize to any one in any Greek provenance from here to Crete that you are my consort and wife to be, it has my royal seal on it and you can use it to sign documents if necessary. So if we are at any point separated during this war this ring will gain you loyalty.” She tensed not liking the next thing she needed to say because the thought of it turned her stomach and she didn’t like to think about it. “It is a criminal offence to touch you in any manner that is sexual and the punishment for doing so to anyone who does so will be death.” She paused before speaking. “But I have a feeling that you would kill anyone who did anything like that to you well before I got hold my hands on them…”

Gabrielle looked up trying to ignore the twinge of flaming rage as it twisted in her stomach as she spoke unable to keep the coldness out of her tone. “Then you would be correct.” Xena took hold of her left hand gently placing the ring on it so it didn’t conflict with her Horn Hind ring which was on her right hand. She let go of the younger woman’s hand as she took the quill sighing her name on the bottom of the scroll and the pouring on hot candle wax before hitting it hard with her fist stamping her own royal seal in. “All that is left is for you to sign and put your seal on this scroll.” Gabrielle eyed the document as something her lover had said finally sunk in. “Wait so you’re giving me your whole Empire?” Xena felt a smile form. “Yes my whole Empire will become yours in the event of my death.” Gabrielle felt the tension as it started to mount she eased out her pipe lighting it for the second time in a day before breathing out the smoke. “I don’t even own my own people, how can you even trust me with yours, plus you’ve only known me six months how could you possibly trust me to rule?” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “Because I love you, I know you would do what’s best for my people as you put others before yourself even if it hurts you. I also have no family left I was an only child the only member left in my family is my father and he won’t rule and you are the one I trust.”

Chara looked up seeing that this was the right moment to speak. “I would agree with the Empress’s feelings everyone in this palace would trust your judgement Gabrielle…you are already a royal.” Phrixus eyed his ring which he had now put on. “I agree and I would rather it be you than the Greek royals most are not worthy of the Empress’s throne and those who are honourable would not seek it. The last thing Greece needs is a power struggle and an internal war between those who have no honour. Signing your name here, will stop them fighting or trying to get this throne, the golden throne in this palace may seem like an empty chair but who ever is sitting in it owns everything. It’s a prize many in Greece would cause civil war over, more so because the Empress at this time has no heir. If you sit in it, it will stop them dead in their tracks they won’t take on the werewolf king the thought alone would terrify them.” Xena breathed in painfully she really wished that he hadn’t brought but the part about her having an heir but it was unavoidable she couldn’t have children and though Gabrielle knew this as did one other person in the palace she wanted it to remain that way. “Their both right your signature and seal will protect this Empire in more ways than you realize.”

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe despite their warming smiles a part of her was terrified of the idea, she wasn’t Xena how would people ever accept her? She wasn’t even human and she hadn’t even won over her own people yet. She slowly took hold of the quill swallowing some of her fear as best she could. This was lover’s people her own personal feelings had no place here she was doing what was in the best interest of the Greek Empire. She careful wrote down her signature then poured the hot wax on the other side of the scroll before pushing her Horn Hind seal ring in to it watching created her symbol. Xena watched as her lover moved her hand away leaving her seal in the scroll. “Thank you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked at the thick scroll again as spoke in a half hearted tone. “It’s for the good of your Empire.” Xena watched as Chara took hold of the scroll checking it over with Phrixus in truth she’d needed them both to be here as witness’s to her and her lovers signing so it could not contested by ether the Corinthian diplomats or the royals. Instead it would be absolute and they would all have to go with it whether they wanted to or not. She knew this was very hard on the younger woman and hopefully when they had time she would make it up to her in some way, when they this war was over.

8

Theodore breathed he had gone in to a tavern which was called The Red Bull it was a modest little place on the North Side of the city. He took a long sip from his wine enjoying the flavour before putting it down. He had been waiting for longer than he had wanted to but may be he should have expected that, as he was waiting for Callisto. He took another sip of his wine, why him? He still didn’t see what the point was of going to Athens he could only hope that it would make sense later. He hated being dragged in to things but if this was what his goddess wanted then so be it. He didn’t need to check in with Empress over spending until after the winter and the others at the treasury could take care of the coin and work with the palace if need be. He looked up as a gentle voice broke through his thoughts. “Another drink?” Theodore looked up seeing the young bar man who had a jug of wine in his hand. Unlike Rome no job in the Greek Empire was gender ridged, men and woman could do as they pleased he eyed his empty leather tankard for a moment before looking up at the young man who gave him a smile. “Sure refill it.” He watched as the young man nodded refilling his drink as he spoke again. “I heard a rumour that something’s going on.” Theodore looked at his tankard. “You know is this Corinth young man something’s always going on, it what happens when you live in the capital city.”

The young man smirked. “Yeah but not something like this, word has it some of the private armies owned by the diplomats have started to gather outside the city, they only gather when there’s a war.” Theodore laughed as he eyed him. “War in winter that would be the stupidest move in the history of this Empire the Empress would never go for that, she might be soft hearted but she’s not stupid.” The young man laughed. “Oh so you’ve met her? Do you know how rare that is she hardly ever comes out of her palace now a days, plus word has it she’s screwing an ugly monstrous werewolf.” Theodore put his hands together he wasn’t allowed to say anything about Gabrielle not until it became official and that wouldn’t happen for a while yet but that didn’t keep him from questioning others words. “Maybe you should meet a real werewolf before you refer to one as ugly or monstrous, you might learn something.” He paused before speaking. “Plus I’m here to drink, so do I have to pay extra to listen to your bloated gossip?” He watched as the young man gave him a cold look before moving to another table. He had never cared for gossip and this whole thing sounded stupid and just like the annoying rumours he was so used to hearing, he breathed in before taking another long drink from his tankard.

“You’re drinking with out me?!”

Theodore leaped up almost spilling his wine as he caught sight of Callisto who had her face almost up to his. He watched as she laughed as she sat down opposite him along with all her bags. He sneered as he eyed her. “Tell me do you delight in terrifying everyone or is just me, who has to endure this curse?” Callisto ignored him as she raised her hand to the bar man. “Drink here, now…please!” Theodore watched as a woman put a wooden tankard in front of her filling it with wine. “You know you’re late.” Callisto turned back to him drinking from her tankard before speaking. “No I arrived at the time I’m meant to and besides we can’t leave yet there are going to be armies on the street soon. The first have already started to move.” Theodore eyed her. “No that can’t be so, no one is crazy enough to go to war during winter.” Callisto put down her tankard. “Oh you don’t believe me, that’s fine but once you get up from that seat you will hear the thundering of horse’s hooves and the marching of boots.” Theodore pushed his red hair back as he stood up. “I doubt it.” He heard the sound of a horse nay in the distance and the pounding of warrior’s shoes everyone in the tavern turned watching as warrior dressed in winter clothing and a number on horse back passed by the tavern, the only person ignoring them was Callisto. He turned sitting down next to her again. “What is going on here?” Callisto took a sip from her tankard. “Now if I told you it would take all of the fun out it now wouldn’t it?”

She waved her hand. “This road is going to be full of warriors very soon, that was just the first small wave so there’s no point in leaving not until later tonight.” Theodore raised his hand. “You knew about this didn’t you?” Callisto shrugged. “Yes.” Theodore put his hand on his face. “You knew and you said nothing?” Callisto finished her drink looking up. “I need something else before I go, it’s very important to me.” Theodore shook his head. “What do you need that’s so important?” Callisto watched as a bar man filled her tankard again. “I need a mercenary, you know for protection but the one I want won’t show up here until later tonight and the person in question will be in such a hurry, they’ll be here just to pick up supplies.” Theodore put his hands together. “Oh really and what do intend to pay this person with? I don’t have the coin to pay for that kind of protection it’s very expensive.” Callisto took a sip from her wine. “You know this is your problem Theodore you see things in one dimension it’s not your fault I guess. To many days of counting coin for the Empress, you’ve forgotten how to live.” Theodore eyed her for a long moment. “Tell me do people ever call you crazy?” Callisto shuffled in her chair eyeing the tall slender reed basket which her pet was sleeping in. “Sometimes but then I pity them because they don’t see what I see, if they did they would look at the world very differently.”

She paused before speaking. “I know you are having problems seeing, so let’s play a game.” Theodore raised his eyebrow well this sounded at least interesting even though a part of him didn’t want to take part in it. “Go on?” Callisto put her hands together it was a pity that he had brought up about her being crazy and a curse but then saying that she had, had this most of her life. People just didn’t understand her it was one of the reasons she preferred to be alone. The only other place that felt like home was the temple because the priests and priestess’s didn’t question her or call her insane or cursed they treated her with so much respect. Theodore was a good man and loyal follower to their goddess but his view of her was sadly very misplaced and she wanted to prove to him that she wasn’t out of her depth and that her gifts had real power “If I get the mercenary in question to go with us with out asking for coin then I will prove to you that my gift is real.” Theodore felt a cold smirk form. Okay let’s play that game and if you loose you have to pay me the price of a mercenary when we get back from Athens.” Callisto nodded before shuffling in her seat. “Very well.” She raised her hand again eyeing the bar man. “Food please!”

8

Horses I have never warmed to them I mean they are like most animals they just don’t like me, even in my human form. Yet here I stand in the royal stables and I just feel completely out of place here. In all the time I’ve been here I’ve never even gone in to the stables, to say its filled with horses is an understatement there are so many and so far none of the ones the stable master has brought out has liked me. Gabrielle adjusted her collar somehow it felt so much better to be back in her normal clothes along with her fur coat she eyed her packed things which were sitting close by. She felt her lover put her hand on her arm as the stable master brought out another horse his voice hitting the air. “This is a fine breed an Angelo Arab.” Gabrielle eyed the white horse, this was the third one they had brought out and she was expecting the same reaction as the other two horses had, had to her. The horse moved closer only to stop two feet from her pulling back on the reins whining loudly refusing to come any closer. She folded her arms. “You know we will be here all day, none of these horses like me so far we’ve tried an Angelo Arab, Palomino and a Gidran.” Xena watched as the stable master handed the Anglo Arab to the stable boy who took it away. He breathed in stroking his long white beard eyeing the Empress’s lover this was in truth the first time he’d met her as she clearly had not gone anywhere near the stable despite being here over six months. “I’m sorry Empress, this does not normally happen these animals are so well behaved they are best stock in the Empire.”

Xena paused eyeing the older man who was missing three fingers on his right hand. “Its fine Deke, bring out another.”  Deke pushed his short white hair back. “I’m afraid the next one well it’s not the best, I mean I was going to sell it of as the warriors say its not really fit for service and its much better suited to pulling field equipment.” He signalled to the stable boy who brought out a pony which had heavy set hooves and was dark brown from head to foot it had a black mane and tail and had a white patch on its nose. Unlike the other horses that had been brought out this clearly wasn’t a thin breed, which set it apart somewhat. “What is that, I’ve never seen a horse like this?” Deke eyed the horse. “Its called a Dales Pony it’s from Britannia it’s a Celtic animal. I had this one given to me by a Roman seller he said it was the best money could buy personally I think he ripped me off, the warriors won’t ride it they say its odd looking and not fast enough.” He moved the horse closer to the Empress’s consort. “You’re welcome to try though.” Gabrielle moved a step closer to the horse seeing that it remained calm she took another step closer watching as it looked up studying her for a long moment before looking away as if disinterested. She had been kicked far too many times by horses in werewolf form that she was now very wary of them. She moved her fingers up gently putting them on the animals head watching as it turned to her but still made no effort to pull back or get away.

Xena looked at her lover who now had her hand on the animals head she looked clearly shocked by the fact that the animal had not rejected her like the others. She moved to stand opposite her putting her hand on the horse’s neck. “Clearly this horse does not seem to care that you’re a werewolf.” Deke eyed the blonde woman. “No offence Empress, but your consort does not look like a werewolf to me.” Gabrielle moved her hand away. “Oh trust me I am, you just haven’t seen me when the sun goes down.” Xena stroked the horse’s mane. “Well this.” She turned to Deke. “Is this a he or a she?” Deke eyed the horse. “She, her names Argo yeah I know it’s not a Celtic name but I thought it suited her better.” Xena turned to the horse. “Well Argo here seems to like you, you know they do say that horses are very in tune to certain people and they sometimes pick the rider not the other way around.” Gabrielle eyed the horse. “I didn’t know that.” Xena turned to the stable master. “Gabrielle would like this one, please saddle her up, along with my horse.” Gabrielle watched as the stable boy pulled out the saddle and tack and put them on Argo. “I don’t know how to ride.” Xena watched as Deke brought out a huge black stallion which was already fitted with a heavy duty saddle she walked over stroking the horse’s head. “Hello Kronos it’s been a while.” She watched as the stallion snorted. She turned slowly to her lover. “Don’t worry I’ll teach you to ride, its easy once you get the basics.”

She picked up her bags fitting them to the saddle watching as Deke nodded respectful before moving away along with the stable boy as they got back to saddling other horses. “Most people just worry about falling off but you’ll do fine.” Gabrielle slowly eased her bags on to Argos saddle which wasn’t as heavy duty as her lovers. “How much does falling off hurt?” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Not as much as being stabbed or hit with a club.” Gabrielle eyed the saddle. “That’s fine I can deal with that, I’ve had worse.” Xena turned slowly to her as a question crossed her mind that had been bothering her for some time. “Do you measure everything in your life though pain?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply, feeling her eyes dart. “Pain is part of life, whether it’s physical or emotional.” Xena moved towards her putting her hand on her arm. “You say that like it’s should be normal, Gabrielle it shouldn’t be that way, you should always be happy and never be in pain, suffering should not rule your life.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “You misunderstand I’m not talking about my life…it’s complicated I feel these emotions in battle its in part to do with my training in the Grand City.” She felt her free hand form a fist. “I was taught that rage, pain and powerful emotions in battle are necessary to survive.” Xena moved her fingers gently down her coats sleeve. “Have you ever felt peace?”

Gabrielle felt her body tense. “I only ever feel at peace when I’m with you and we are alone.” Xena eased her hand up running it through her long blonde hair. “You know there is such a thing as inner peace Gabrielle.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I’ve never been spiritual I don’t believe in that kind of thing.” Xena stepped back. “You know I used to think the way you do, I believed peace and focus in battle was out of my reach. Then I met the great peace keeper Leo Tzu, he taught her how to still my rage.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “You mean the master Leo Tzu whose wife Leo Ma tried to kill him because she wanted to turn his gift in to something which could be used for war?” Xena blinked in surprise. “You’ve heard of him?” Gabrielle felt a cold smirk form on her lips. “Yes he’s a running joke in werewolf sociality in some circles. I mean he was said to have made the earth shake and the gold and bronze bend. He also twisted his white dragon throne in to a different shape, his subjects wanted to worship him as a god but he claimed he had no godhood only that he understood heaven. Frankly I don’t believe any of it no one has that kind of power it’s obscured.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Just because you don’t believe in something Gabrielle does not mean it’s not real, you yourself said that you saw your goddess in a vision.”

Gabrielle felt her smirk fade away instantly. “Yes but my goddess is a heavenly being, you’re talking about a person and men and women are not born with godly powers.” She looked at her lover unable to stop her next question as it came out before she could bite her tongue. “Why are you telling me this?” Xena turned to her saddle bag pulling out a bunch of scrolls which had been bound together to create a book which had thick leather cover. “Because I want you to have this” She watched as the other woman took the book from her hand looking at it, the uncertainty in her eyes as she spoke. “What is this?” Xena put her hand on the books leather front. “These are Leo Tzu’s teachings of peace, I wrote these in Greek they come directly from his book and are all in order, I had this specially bound in to a book in China.” Gabrielle looked at the object it was a book but she had only ever seen a couple of bound books in her lifetime they were rare in Greece. She raised the book towards the older woman. “I can’t take this, this is yours.” Xena pushed the book gently back towards her. “Yes you can and I want you to have this, it would mean a lot to me. Reading these scrolls helped me learn to still my rage they may be able to help you with yours.” She kept her hands on the bound leather. “I’ll help you in any way you need, these teachings can throw you at times.”

“Ah there you two are I was worried that I would miss you Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle turned sharply catching sight of Fedora who was coming towards her holding a few bags she turned putting the book in her saddle bag. She pulled out a small leather bag which had Icos’s things in it she had felt that it would be unfair to box him up, so she had felt him in her room. She took in a deep breath as the woman came towards her who was as closest thing to a mother she had. “I would never have left with out saying goodbye.” Fedora eyed the bag which Gabrielle had in her hand. “What’s this?” Gabrielle looked at the small bag. “This is Icos’s things and a list of what he likes to eat and doesn’t and how to put him in his box.” She paused looking at the bag. “I wouldn’t ask but I need someone to take care of him while I’m gone and you’re the only person I trust. He’s not hard to look after you just have to let him fly around and give him seed and play with him.” Xena heard the slight catch in her lover’s tone she knew why it was there, the younger woman still had difficulty asking others for help even if they were her adopted family. Fedora smiled taking the small bag from Gabrielle’s hand seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. “I would love to take care of Icos while your gone and don’t worry he’ll be well looked after.” She put the bag in her pocket before looking up. “Would you like me to do the same for your sister?”

Gabrielle breathed in sharply getting a hold of her self. “Only if you want to, I would understand if you didn’t want to.” Fedora looked up. “I did hear what she did to Thaleia, Faolan told me what happened but he also later told me that you dealt with the issue.” Gabrielle moved to look at the floor feeling a sharp pinch of guilt hit home. “Yes I did as best I could I didn’t want to fight Lila but I knew it was the only way, words were falling short, there was so much I wanted to say to you and I feel badly that we have spoken more when we should have and I’m sorry for that.” Fedora moved closer to her seeing the sadness in her eyes. “Don’t be sorry you know maybe your sister will come around in time, in your absence thought I will look after her.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her warm gaze. “Thank you, you and Thaleia have done so much for me, more than I can ever repay but someday I will repay you both.” Fedora gently took hold of her hand. “You don’t have to repay us for anything Gabrielle when are going to learn that? I consider you a daughter to me Thaleia considers you a sister, all we want is for you to get through this war alive.” She turned her hand noticing a new silver ring which had the Empress’s seal on it. “This looks interesting what is it?” Xena took a step forward. “It’s a royal seal it gives Gabrielle power in every province in the Greek Empire, it also solidifies her place as my consort.”

Fedora looked closer at the ring. “So it’s an engagement ring?” Gabrielle tensed. “No it’s just…” Xena raised her hand as she spoke. “Yes it’s an engagement ring.” Fedora felt her smile widen as she looked at the ring. “How wonderful you’ll have to show it to Thaleia she’ll really want to see it.” Gabrielle tensed, how had this gone from being a symbol ring to an engagement ring? By Ouroboros this day was just getting more and more insane, first the meeting with the diplomats then signing her lovers will and now this. It was just too much to take in, in one day and she now had to force herself not to reach for her pipe again. She forced a smile as best she could as she met the other woman’s gentle gaze. “I’ll be sure to show it to her when I get back from the war.” Fedora gently let go off her hand. “You can show her later, she is packing as we speak Demetrius is helping her.” Gabrielle tensed unable to stop her next words as they came out in a rush. “She’s shouldn’t go to war, its dangerous!” Fedora folded her arms. “She told me that you might say this she also said that she’s already had this conversation with Demetrius and nether of you are going to change her mind.” She eased up her hand putting it on the blonde woman’s shoulder. “Which is why I want you to promise me, that you will take care of her?” Gabrielle looked in to the other woman’s eyes feeling a sense of defeat wash over her if she argued now it wouldn’t change anything.

Fedora’s mind about Thaleia had already been made up and she wouldn’t be able to change no matter what she said. She closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again.” I’ll do everything in my power to keep her safe, you have my word.” Fedora threw her arms around the blonde woman. “You’re my children and I wouldn’t want any harm to come to ether of you.” Gabrielle slowly wrapped her arms around her. “I’ll bring Thaleia back safely.” Fedora pulled away putting a hand on her face. “You’ve grown so much since we first met.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “I have good friends and family.” Fedora turned eyeing Xena. “Take care of her.” Xena nodded meeting her concerned gaze. “Always.” Fedora turned back to Gabrielle. “So you’re both leaving now?” Gabrielle eyed the horse. “Yes I have to leave ahead of the army, myself and Xena will go to a tavern in Corinth its called The Slaughtered Lamb it’s a place of the werewolf rebels. There I can talk to the werewolves and get them to join the army outside the city where Demetrius and Iona will be waiting.” She turned eyeing the horse. “I just have to get on this horse…first.” Fedora eyed the animal. “I’m sure you’ll pick it up no problem and I’m sure when you get back you’ll have plenty of stories to tell the children.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “Yes I think I will.”

End of part 19

 

BRINGING THE CALL TO ARMS

 

This just feels odd and out of sorts right now as I walk down the long street away from the palace gates which have now been closed behind us. I’ve never sat on a horse until today, Xena has a rope tied to her saddle horn and it’s keeping my horse moving forward behind her. Apparently when you first learn to ride you normally do it in a small area and your horse is roped so you can get used to it but as I have no real time to do this I’m learning as we make our way to The Slaughtered Lamb. There are some rule which are keep your boots firmly in the stirrups and never push your boot too far in to it because if you fall of the horse and your boot gets caught you could be dragged by the heel. Gently kick the animal’s sides to make it go forward, pulls on the reins to make it walk slower pull hard to make it stop. She wouldn’t learn cantor or gallop right now as today was just about walking and learning control. She eyed the huge stallion in front of her he also didn’t seem to care that she was a werewolf, not that it really mattered though Kronos was far too big for her to ride and she’d already had enough trouble getting on to Argo. She turned looking at the palace which was fading away in the distance she really wished that she had been able to say goodbye Tiara and Faolan and the others but she had, had no time left. A part of her hated that the comfort of the palace was fading away in the distance it was the first place where she had ever felt truly at home.

She pulled her fur hood over her head keeping hold of the reins as the rain started to hit the street all around her it was light rain but it was cold. Her lover had on a dark fur cloak with a hood, which was had been pulled over her face and was hiding her armour from view. Not that anyone would really notice them anyway as the streets were filled with people. There were ponies, donkeys and horse drawn wagons as well as people going about their daily lives. In the clothes they were both dressed nether her or Xena looked like royalty instead they looked like travellers just going about their business. Xena had said that was how she wanted to look and she preferred it that way as it made it easier for the both of them personally she didn’t want her identity to be made public just yet as she wasn’t ready for what the reaction would be. She knew in time it would become public whether she wanted it to or not. She eyed the thick fur cloves she was wearing which were keeping her rings out of sight her lover was wearing a pair as well. It would only get colder from now on once she set off in to battle. She would have to get back in her routine of being at war and try to ignore the fact that a part of her liked spilling blood and enjoyed battle. She wouldn’t even lie about that she loved battle she always felt truly alive when she had her sword in her hand, well she used to. Now a part of her just craved her lover because she got the same emotion and feeling along with a sense of peace which was very new to her.

She would soon have to put a braid in her hair there was a strict principle behind this. The braid represents the knotting of steel as weapons were forged, because the folding and knotting gave the swords and armour their strength. The idea was that the braid remained through out the battle once the campaign was over it was cut off then placed on display. If the warrior died the braid was not cut but left on and the family were given the displayed ones as a show of honour to the dead warrior’s courage from past battles. The number of cut braids represented a warriors skill in battle, the more cut braids the more battles they had survived. Men could ether braid their hair or beard where as women only braided their hair she had, had displayed braids back in the Grand City but she did not know if they still survived. Though one of them had never been displayed the braid from the androphonomania massacre she had put that was in a draw with the intention that she would burn it. Adrienne had taken it and kept it as personal objects. To her ex it had just been another demonstration of her showing her dominance in their tainted and vile relationship, in that she just had to keep a part of her, on her at all times. Because in her eyes killing innocents made you noble, there was no honour in killing unarmed men and women. She felt her fingers grip the reins as she caught sight of the tavern up ahead she pulled on the reins as Xena stopped her horse up ahead carefully getting off.

She watched as the taller woman came towards her a smile on her face as she spoke. “Let me help you off.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath why did she feel a little embarrassed about this? She had been told even by the stable master Deke that the first few times she got off she would need help to get off just until she got used to the dismount. She turned in the saddle feeling the other woman put her hand on her waist as she awkwardly fumbled to pull herself off the saddle she felt the slight pain as she put her foot on the floor only to see that her other boot was still stuck in the stirrup. Her lovers hand moved pushing her boot free as her gentle voice hit the air. “Careful of that boot you really don’t want to get it stuck.” Gabrielle tensed as she brushed herself off her legs already felt funny it was like the muscles in her calves were tingling. “My legs feel odd.” Xena raised an eyebrow as she stepped away her. “Yes that’s normal and you might find yourself feeling a little saddle sore it’ll go away as you get used to sitting in the saddle.” Gabrielle took hold of Argo’s reins hearing her snout. “What’s saddle sore?” Xena smirked as she took hold of Kronos’s reins. “It when your backside hurts.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “That’s a really comforting though.”

She caught sight of the area for putting horses which was opposite the tavern, it had doors which could be bolted and would keep the animals out of sight it was only for temporary visits though. She watched as her lover untied the rope from her saddle, she tied her horse up seeing her lover do the same. “It feels like a while since I was here.” She pulled the leather bound plans out of the saddle bag as she followed her lover out of the closing the wooden doors, so both of their horses were out of sight. She took in a deep breath as she opened the door to the tavern watching as everyone looked up from their tables the curiosity in their eyes most of them were werewolves but there were also five human’s in the room. Her gaze shifted as she caught sight of Philo who gave her a smile as he raised his hook giving her a wave. “Gabrielle it’s so good to see you here, it’s been a while.” Gabrielle moved towards the bar leaning against it as she pulled off her cloves and eased her hood down watching as her lover did the same. “I need to talk to Quentin, is he here? It’s a matter of urgency.” Philo eyed the Empress who had folded her arms remaining quite as she gave him a respectful nod. “No he’s not here, he’s in Apollonia and Galiena is in Illyria on a family trip to see her nephew.” Gabrielle put her hands together feeling the frustration take over this was really not she wanted to hear right now. “Ceyx and Elma are they here?”

“Who are you to ask about my mother and farther?”

Gabrielle turned around eyeing an older man who had a short black hair and beard his eyes were piecing brown eyes in colour just like his farther this had to be his son one of the twins, though she couldn’t see his sister. “I’m a friend.” The big man stood up grinning showing of a golden canine. “Oh really and yet I’ve never heard of you, you know you’d think he’d tell me about a long haired blonde, whose short.” Philo breathed in shapely. “Idomeneus show some respect.” Gabrielle eyed him she hated being called short she had been called short through out her training in the werewolf city by the other trainees and it had annoyed her no end. It wasn’t like her height made any difference in battle and when she was human it gave her an advance though that advantage was lost when she became a werewolf. She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke unable to keep the anger out of her tone “If you want to keep that smile, don’t ever call me short again.” The big man laughed. “Well aren’t we the little firefly.” Xena eyed the big man who clearly had no manners. “Before you insult her again perhaps you should take a closer look at the ring on her right hand.” The big man smirked as he looked down at the ring only for his smile fade away instantly he looked at her for a long moment. “You’re her! You’re the one my farther and mother talk about, you’re…” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Yes I am who you think I am and I’m not interested in playing your stupid little games!”

She eased up her hand eyeing her Horn Hind ring. “I am here because it is a matter of urgency.” Her gaze drifted as Flora appeared the woman made a signal causing the two people to stand pulling the lock across the taverns door. She turned slowly to Idomeneus who now looked nervous. “Well I do believe yours and your sister’s day has come.” She watched as everyone stood up. “Please allow me to introduce you all to the werewolf king, or if you prefer a title the Golden Hind.” Philo lowered his hooked hand eyeing Gabrielle. “All of these men and women human and werewolf are part of the rebellion here in Corinth. This morning we had reports about the Corinthian diplomats entering the palace. Add to that, that we have seen some of their armies moving through the streets today, we realized then that something big was going on as they only gather their armies in times of war. We all came here to have a meeting as we thoughts you may show up, though we weren’t sure.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath before letting it out. “Who do I need to speak to, who is the leader of the Corinthian rebels?” Idomeneus swallowed eyeing the small woman, she was the Golden Hind, she was nothing like he had been expecting. He somehow thought that she would be taller, maybe even have royal robes yet her clothes were very normal and she was younger than him. “Myself and my twin sister Sapphira we are the leaders of the rebels here.”

He paused hoping that his next words were spoken with much more tact. “My deepest apologises highness I meant no offence, I just didn’t know you, I thought that you were new here.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment feeling a sneer form on her lips. “First of don’t call me highness my name is Gabrielle, second don’t ever call me short again or I will personally knock you in to what ever afterlife you worship.” Idomeneus stared at the woman who was much younger than himself. “Understood.” Gabrielle walked over to the nearest empty table watching as everyone gathered around. “I know that most of you don’t know me personally, I know a lot of you have probably only heard of me in rumours and some of you may have only heard of my predecessor the Crescent Hind, your probably asking yourselves why should you care that I’m here now.” Idomeneus walked over watching as the tall dark haired woman moved so she was by Gabrielle’s side. “Why are you here now, if you don’t mind me asking?” Gabrielle carefully placed the wrapped up leather on the table so they could all see it. “Because I’m here to bring civil war to the Imperial Council.” She paused. “I’m tired of half bloods having no rights in werewolf sociality and them having no choice. I’m sick of seeing human born children die just because the Imperial Council demands it and I want it to end.”

She pulled the cord on the leather unrolling it. “One of the rebels of Apollonia died to give me this, I don’t know how many of you understand werewolf underground building maps but for those who don’t I’ll be happy to go through this with you all.” She looked up as a woman raised her hand. “I don’t understand this I wasn’t born in the Grand City.” Idomeneus eyed the leather map. “I don’t understand it ether we were never shown one.” Gabrielle eyed all of the men and women. “This is an underground map the city you are looking at is Athens, all of these are tunnels currently being built.” Philo eyed the map. “So the Imperial Council is planning to bring their army underground and attack Athens from above?” Idomeneus shook his head. “The Imperial Council would never attack that way they have no stomach for war, plus Athens does not have a huge number of werewolf rebels. Out of all the cities in Greece it has the least, it’s just too dangerous there, there are always assassins sniffing around.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “If you look at the map you can see the grinding jaws used to cut the tunnels and the pillars and ropes are all connected. All these ropes are going to be cut and all of these pillars will fall, it will cause a cascade as everything above will fall in to the earth.” She looked up as the silence hit the room. “Thousands of innocent men, women and children will die, in one go.”

Xena looked at everyone in the room the shock was as clear as day, at least their reaction was better than what she had gotten from the Corinthian diplomats. Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “I know a lot of you may not have read any werewolf writings, maybe some of you have but know that they gave this plan a name based on a very old werewolf poem, it’s called the bleeding pillars of sorrow.” She looked up slowly. “The bleeding pillars of sorrow, was about bringing hundreds of death and regretting it but clearly the Imperial Councils has brought a new and sadistic twist to this.” Idomeneus eyed the map finally finding his voice. “My farther and mother told me stories of the Imperial Council and in all these years I believed that they were bad but never in my wildest dreams did I for see this.” Gabrielle tensed as she met his gaze. “I once used to think it was just my place to be half blood and not have my own say in life but over the years I started to question if it was right, when I got these horns everything changed.” She ran her fingers over the map. “I started to go against them and question them and they killed someone I loved and then they had me thrown in a dark pit for two years. After I escaped that pit I had two assassination attempts on my life and one very nearly killed me.”

Idomeneus looked at the map again. “What do you intended to do now?” Gabrielle ran her fingers over the map. “I am here now because I intend to bring the fight to them, I am tired of watching them bring harm to the werewolf race and I intended to force them from their thrones and kill them.” She stood up fully. “I can not do this alone though I need every werewolf rebel out there to come to my side which why I am here today because I am asking for your help, I need to save Athens and then I want to bring the fight to the Imperial Council.” She spoke unable to keep the hint of pain out of her voice. “I know most of you don’t know me and I know some of you may not trust or believe in me and I know I have nothing to offer you to gain your allegiance but know this. If I overthrow the Grand City I will reward you all, I will give you equal rights and status and any of you who have been marked traitors will have those charges dropped, I will end the killing of human children among our race for good.” Idomeneus put a hand on his beard as he spoke. “I need two questions answered first before I give you my reply. Rumour has it that you are in a relationship with the Empress is that true?” Gabrielle felt Xena’s hand as it found her arm. “Yes I am.” Idomeneus raised his ringed finger. “Does she condone this war? Because my self and my twin sister Sapphira can not give you the warriors and supplies you need if we are fighting a war on both sides, we can not stand up against the Imperial Council’s warriors and the Empress’s troops.”

He paused. “We know the hunting law regarding werewolves has ended but a lot of us are very wary that we could still die because of her troops seeing us the ones they need to kill and not the Imperial Council’s.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Yes I can guarantee that.” Idomeneus folded his arms. “I want a scroll of proof written by the Empress’s hand and to have her personal seal and yours on it, so that I can show it anyone in any city.” Xena eyed him he clearly had no idea that he was talking to the Empress she pulled a piece of scroll from her fur cloak laying it on the table as she looked at him. “Give me some candle wax, ink and a quill and I’ll punch my seal on it for you personally and sign it.” Idomeneus blinked as he eyed the dark haired woman. “Who are you?” Xena took hold of a quill as Flora passed it to her. “The Empress of Greece.” She started to write on the scroll ignoring the stunned silence as it once more fell all around her. “What did you think I really wouldn’t back up Gabrielle in your civil war or trouble myself with coming to greet her race despite that she is my consort?” Idomeneus swallowed as he eyed the others, who suddenly looked nervous. “No it’s just…I didn’t know that you were the Empress…I thought you were Gabrielle’s body guard and the Empress had sent you here.”

Xena opened her fur cloak so they could see her armour better as she finished writing signing the scroll. “I believe in reality she is my body guard and not the other way around.” Gabrielle eyed her lover who raised her eyebrow playfully before punching her seal in to the scroll she took the quill from her fingers signing her own name and then punched her own symbol in to the hot wax. She raised the scroll so he could see it. “Here’s what you’ve requested a scroll with both of our signatures and seals, giving you protection in every part of the Greek Empire.” Idomeneus carefully took the scroll he nodded to the others giving his signal of agreement then turned back to Gabrielle. “You have our allegiance, I will send every rebel who wants to be part of this war to the palace tonight and my self and my sister will join you.” Gabrielle shook her head. “As we speak the Corinthian Diplomats who have chosen to side with me are waiting outside the city. Xena’s army from the palace and those from the city guard will be joining them. So it would be better that you joined them outside the city tonight.” Idomeneus turned eyeing the dark haired woman. “Your army is fighting with us…but why this is not your war?”

Xena took in a deep breath. “No this is my war from the moment I met Gabrielle this became my war and will push every resource I have to ensure that she wins it, as she is the rightful heir to the Grand City’s throne not the Imperial Council.” Idomeneus raised his ringed finger. “So you have no interest in ruling the werewolf race?” Xena shook her head she should have seen this coming, these people were clearly worried that they she might take over and give them no say. “I have no interest in making any rules in terms of werewolf sociality I’m not a werewolf its Gabrielle’s throne it always has been and it always will be and I have no intention of interfering with that.” Idomeneus eased out his hand taking hold of Gabrielle’s. “So long as it stays that way I’m in.” Gabrielle kept hold of his hand shaking it before letting go. “You have my word on that I will have full power over my kingdom and Xena’s over her Empire.” Idomeneus felt a sly smile form as he leaned forward. “Then I think it is time to bring the fight to the Imperial Council and watch them burn!” Flora looked at her hands before speaking. “Well don’t forget to bring those three guests along I think they will want to be a big part of this, plus your sister is probably bored with entertaining them.”  Idomeneus turned to her his smile widening. “Oh don’t worry, I’ll bring them along, it will finally get them out of my sister’s hair annoying bunch that they are.”

8

Lila groaned painfully as she rolled over her head was drumming due to drinking to much the night before, it was a constant thumping sound which she couldn’t ignore. She opened her eyes slowly realizing that she hadn’t even changed before she dropped off to sleep and was lying on the bed fully dressed, which was something she hated doing. Last night she had been filled with very mixed feelings over everything but most of all over what the Empress had said and how she had cut through her emotions with such ease, which had been very difficult to handle. The only good thing was that her jaw wasn’t as painful instead it was only her head which felt like it was splitting her skull. She turned her head seeing that the bed next to her was empty Korudon was clearly else where she pulled herself up painfully hearing a pounding knock on the door. She pushed her head back in to the pillow why oh why was Athena cursing her today? She just wasn’t in the mood she put the pillow over her head as the pounding came again only harder. “Go away!” She heard the creaking as the door opened she pulled the pillow off seeing an older woman close the door who she had never met before. She was in her late forties and had long black hair and brown eyes. “Who in Tartarus are you? You’re not my personal maid.”

Fedora sniffed the air catching the whiff off wine she eyed the dark haired woman who looked very similar to Gabrielle in the face through her hair and eye colour which was the opposite to her older sister’s as she had blue eyes and dark hair. Physically though they were the same build and around about the same height but clearly different in their out looks, as Gabrielle even at her worst didn’t touch alcohol. She felt a smile form. “I’m afraid Evadine will no longer be serving as your personal maid.” Lila sat up putting her hands on the side of her head. “Let me guess she complained.” Fedora moved over to the bed picking up the empty wine jug. “Despite complaints regarding your winning personality no, she just got promoted.” She paused. “My name is Fedora I’m a friend of Gabrielle’s.” Lila looked up painfully. “Everyone here is a friend of Gabrielle’s.” Fedora put the empty jug on the table top. “Why do you think that is?” Lila blinked as she poured some water in to a goblet. “Excuse me?” Fedora watched as she took a drink from the goblet. “I asked why you think that is?” Lila winced trying to ignore the pain. “Less of a temper probably.” Fedora turned to meet her blood shot gaze. “Less of a temper interesting analogy, yet what if I were to tell you that this room you’re sleeping in, was once destroyed by your sister in werewolf form, they had to completely rebuild it.” Lila looked up eyeing the woman who in a strange way reminded her off her mother, maybe it was the gentle tone she spoke in. “Werewolves are all rage and desire.”

Fedora felt a sad smile form. “It was nothing to do with desire it was due to intense sadness, depression and pain.” Lila took in a deep breath. “Why are you telling me this?” Fedora took a slow step forward she could see the young woman’s weapon was very close by that concerned her Gabrielle was strict when it came to honour codes but Lila wasn’t. “Because just looking at you now I see your pain, you remind me off when she first appeared in this palace. Its just she used opium to dull the pain where as you drink a little too much and you like henbane and it was my daughter that you threatened in the throne room.” Lila lowered her gaze to the floor feeling the twinge of guilt she couldn’t help it, it felt like she was being spoken to by her mother. “I’m sorry.” She hadn’t said those words since she’d been home and now they just slipped out before she could stop them. She put her hands on her face suddenly feeling stupid if this woman had been her mother she would never let it rest that she had threatened a unarmed woman, she’d be just as disappointed in her as her farther already was. She could handle her father’s disappointment and being second best but she couldn’t take the thought of her mother being disappointed. It would crush her heart completely and there would no reason to even go home because she couldn’t live with that shame. She moved her hands away her face realizing that the older woman was only a few steps away from her. “Sorry doesn’t make it any better does it? I mean you must be just a disappointed as me as everyone else is.”

Fedora shook her head sadly Gabrielle’s problem when she had first showed up here was depression and assuming everyone hated her because she wasn’t human, Lila’s on the other hand, was believed that she just disappointed everyone and that she clearly wasn’t good enough. “I didn’t say I was disappointed, I know people make mistakes I also know that people can get better. I’m not happy about what you did to my daughter but I get the feeing that everyone in this palace has already told you about their disappointment in you and looking at you now I don’t think my saying I’m disappointed would help you right now not in the place your are mentality.” Lila eyed her for a long moment. “Gods you sound like my mother.” Fedora blinked in surprise Gabrielle had never said these words but had warmed to her and called her family but now hearing this from Lila made her actions make so much more sense. “I consider your sister a daughter to me she’s my family which is why she got angry with you, she considers Thaleia a sister, to her she’s not just her personal servant or a maid.” Lila tensed painfully. “I’m her sister! Not you’re….” She stopped as the older woman folded her arms giving her a harsh look. Fedora eyed the young woman who had stopped dead in her tracks she spoke in a firm and gentle tone. “Telling your sister that she is a whore is not acceptable or right, Gabrielle has not told you this but I’m going to tell you this now. Because I think you need to know the truth about what happened when Gabrielle got that scar on her right eye.”

She paused. “The slave trader threatened to rape her and then for his own personal amusement he tried to make her call him master and then scared her face because she wouldn’t comply.” Lila looked up sharply. “I know about the master part I didn’t know about the rape threat part.” Fedora breathed in sadly. “Do you know what his words were after he scared her face?” Lila shook her head. “No.” Fedora put her hand together. “He called her an ugly little whore and laughed at the fact that she’d have to live with the scar he had made for the rest of her miserable life.” She watched as the shock spread over Lila’s face. “Your sister hit you because you triggered a bad memory in her mind, your sister still has self image problems like you she is very beautiful but has great difficultly embracing it. If it weren’t for the Empress I don’t think she would have even gotten as far as she has. Though I love her like a daughter I know that she misses her family and though she may not say it I think she wants to hug you and bring you close, you’re her fresh and blood. She’s just afraid to open up to people she’s had far to many moments of pain in her life and I think she’d somewhat jaded now which is why you have to be very patient with her and give her time to open up to you.” Lila looked up slightly. “Why are you telling me this?” Fedora moved a step closer. “Before I answer that I want you to answer me a question.”

Lila put her hands together. “Go on…” Fedora met the young woman’s curious gaze. “I’ve heard from others that you spent your whole life searching for Gabrielle but what I have to ask is was it for her glory or your own?” Lila tensed painfully the Empress had not asked forced this issue when she had confronted her and she had been happy to avoid but sitting her right now she knew she couldn’t lie to the older woman. “It was for mine…I know it sounds pathetic but my farther always liked Gabrielle better than me…I just wanted…I just.” Fedora gently leaned over putting a hand on her shoulder. “You wanted his affection, didn’t you?” Lila lowered her head trying to keep the pain out of her voice. “Yes.” Fedora shook her head sadly a part of her felt slightly angry over this as no parent should ever love one child more than the other. It caused rivalry and pain and Lila was showing all the signs of a child who had been denied the love that she should have had with out question. That was why she doubted herself so much now and expected to fail, it also explained her drinking and drugs she was in a very rotten place right now and like Gabrielle she had a long way to go, the only good thing was that this conversation might be that first needed step. “Lila I’m not going to pry in to your family but I will tell you this, what your farther did was wrong. I know you can’t see it right now but believe me no child should ever be forced to live up to expectations of another, you should be loved for who are.”

She paused before speaking. “You should not be forever forced to live up to Gabrielle’s image you should be loved for your own image and your own accomplishments. What saddens me even more is that you’re living up to an image of your sister that no longer exists.” Lila looked up sharply eyeing her. “What do mean by no longer exists?” Fedora moved her hand up gently putting it on the side of her face no longer caring about the risks. “Your sister is a very different person to the person she used to be, the person who you have been searching for and who your father has put on a pedestal and compared you to isn’t there any more and you don’t need to live up to that person. Being as good as Gabrielle should not matter to you what should matter is you being who you are and being happy with who you are as a person.” She ran her fingers down her face very gently. “You asked me why I was telling you how I felt and now I will give you, your answer. I’m telling you this because I think you are capable of great things, you don’t need to be trapped in your sisters shadow you can be so much more. You’re clearly gifted and you should use your skills to do great things.” She moved her hand away from the young woman’s face. “You need to be happy with you are, not who you think you should be.”

“Hey who in Tartarus are you!?”

Fedora turned sharply catching sight of the satyr Korudon was standing behind her his arms folded in annoyance in his hand was a small jug which clearly had some thing for a hangover as she could smell the peppermint in it and he had some food on a plate. “My name is Fedora and you must be Korudon, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Korudon blinked as he carefully put down the food and drink on the table opposite as he raised a clawed finger eyeing Lila. “Is this woman bothering you?” Lila raised both hands eyeing him. “No Korudon its fine we, were just talking.” Fedora eyed Korudon he was clearly just being protective, she turned back to Lila. “Think about what I have said.” Korudon watched as the woman moved towards the open door. “Wait a second, could you tell me what is going on? I saw a huge army leaving the palace.” Fedora stopped looking at him for a long moment. “The werewolf civil war has now officially started, the Empress has chosen to side with the rebels against the Imperial Council.” Korudon shook his head feeling the confusion take over. “So the Horn Hind has finally called all of the rebel’s war but why would the Empress side with the Horn Hind I don’t understand?” Lila stood up trying to ignore the twinge of pain as she did so. “My sisters going to war she’s been called by the werewolf king?”

Fedora blinked in surprise as she spoke. “So you know about Horn Hind, how is that so, most human beings don’t know of the werewolf king?” Korudon folded his arms. “Because I told her about them, my race is well aware of the mounting troubles between the Imperial Council and the Horn Hind there have been many issues and power struggles going on over the centuries. The seventh Hinds reign though has been the most brutal and turbulent not to mention that the Crescent Hind who was the new king’s processor was apparently poisoned. Their were rumours that they ousted the new Horn Hind and locked him or her up in a cell, so I’m not surprised that this war has finally started. Though I confess I had no idea that the seventh Hind was still alive, as no one was really sure among my people.” Fedora put her hands together feeling unsure of her self as it was clear to her that Lila didn’t know the full truth. “Then you don’t know, Gabrielle didn’t tell you?” Lila tensed painfully ignoring the sting in her muscles from sleeping in a bad position. “Gabrielle didn’t tell me what?” Fedora took in a deep breath before speaking. “Your sister was not called to this war Lila, your sister is leading this war. She is the seventh Horn Hind the Golden Hind and as I speak she is on her way to stop one of the Imperial Councils pans they are going to collapses Athens in to the earth.”

End of part 20

HUNG AND HUMILIATED IN DEATH

 

Gods I should feel good about being home but I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and it’s just getting worse. I left a skeleton army back at my hide out there was no where near enough of them to defend it. Now as I turn the corner that leads towards the double doors that lead to the first large room I’m filled with doubt and uncertainty. All of the doors to the smaller rooms are open but the corridors have been empty of life and that’s not a good sign. Joxer looked up seeing the huge doors come in to view they weren’t closed in fact they were wide open and one was hanging of its hinges. There were bloody claw marks and hand marks on them, showing signs of struggle and pain. He could see broken chairs and future, it was clear to him now that his warriors inside had tried to barricade the door but the barricade had failed. He stepped inside feeling his heart sink in to his stomach there was blood pools and bloody drag marks all over the floor but no bodies. One of the men close by spoke but he could hear the sadness in his tone. “They got through the barricade.” Joxer pulled off his helmet throwing it on the ground. “Yes the bastards got through…clearly they survived the cave in.” He looked up hearing some noise from the other room he eased his sword free of its scabbard moving towards it watching as his warriors did the same. “Be ready all off you.” He moved to other door that led to the dinning room.

He kicked it open with his boot watching as the doors swung to one side revealing a group of warriors who weapons were all drawn. He lowered his sword seeing that they were his warriors. He watched as his brother pushed through them coming towards him he felt the joy hit home as he put his arms around him hugging him closely. He had never been more relived that he was now, the thought of loosing his only remaining brother had been worse than anything. “Brother I thought I’d lost you.” Jace ignored the pain from his wrapped left arm where he’d been hit by falling rocks during his escape. “Joxer you know it would take more than a rock slide to kill me.” He pulled away looking at his brother who slowly re-sheathed his sword feeling the sadness hit home as he spoke. “A lot of our warriors didn’t make it I got out as many I could.” Joxer eyed the large group clearly his brother had saved more men and women than he had been able to. In fact with both their warriors together it almost made up half the army but it still meant that he had lost over half. “You did a better job than me…they took Leah.” Jace folded his arms ignoring the pain of his wound. “I know I saw them take her…this meeting was all about her…and.” He stopped looking at the other door which led to the throne room not wanting to say anymore.

Joxer eyed his brother. “What is it?” Jace eyed the throne room again. “They took the copy of the armour you made and they killed everyone here brother…they.” He put his hand on his face this was hard to say he had killed many people in horribly ways in his lifetime but even for him this was one step to far. “Their in the throne room Joxer…they hung them up.” Joxer moved towards the throne room doors seeing bloody hand prints and werewolf claw marks all over it. He shoved it open slowly only to freeze on the spot as he caught sight of the twenty bodies hanging off the rafters above. Not one of them had skin all he could see was red muscle and exposed bone but he could tell who was male and female as a few parts had not been flayed away. He could not even imagine the suffering these warriors had gone through before they died they would have been alive through out the whole thing. There was one other body through that had not had this treatment instead this woman’s body had been hung up and nailed above his throne. Her stomach had been cut open and her insides had spilled out covering his throne bellow, above her was written words in blood in werewolf tongue.

We are the Lurathian Order all shall fall in our wake as we drink the blood of turmoil and take souls and conquer our enemies we are the blackened night and bleeding sun rise, all shall fall to their knees as we walk the bloody footsteps of our god.”

He felt the pain hit his chest as he recognised her bloody face she had been the woman who had been Leah’s close friend the one she had been trying to get through the hardship off being sexually assaulted by Titus, she had been staying away from battle so she could recover emotionally. He put a hand over his mouth as the pain truly hit home he very rarely shed tears but he could feel tears coming now. He had trained all these men and women given them homes tried to help them, he had never wanted this to happen to any of them, they were his family. They hadn’t even died deaths worthy of a warrior they’d been strung up like animals and denied the right to die with a sword in their hands. Jace eyed his brother seeing the pain in his eyes and the start of tears but were being held back. “I’m sorry brother…I was going to cut them all down but I wanted to wait for you.” Joxer tensed painfully as the anger took over replacing the pain. “I want these men and women cut down! I want them all to be given their swords in their hands!” Jace put a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “Brother we can’t identify these people we couldn’t even find the parts they took away.” Joxer turned sharply. “Then give them any sword and warriors funerals!”

Jace signalled to a number of warriors who moved in to action right away he led his brother carefully back in to the room, watching as he sat on one of the long heavy dinning room benches a deep conflicted and painful look was in his eyes. He hated to be the one to do this but it could only be him and no one else because he knew how to deal with his brothers rage better than anyone and if it was any one else his brother might snap. “We’ve lost half of our army brother…they screwed us over big time.” Joxer put his hands together he heard the cutting of rope as the dead warriors bodies were pulled down. “I got played Jace, I made a mistake and it cost these warriors and the others in the underground their lives.” He eyed the table which was a mess. Jace breathed in choosing his next words carefully. “It’s not your fault brother you could not have foreseen this we were all set up to fall.” Joxer looked up feeling the burning rage hit home. “Tell that to the men and women in the other room and that wonderful woman who made most of the Empress’s armour! They didn’t even get to die like warriors they got strung up and cut open and we both know that every single one of them was alive through out the whole thing. Because Glaphyra and Agathon are sick twisted bastards and they like people to be alive to feel every moment of pain they experience!”

Jace put his hand back on his brother’s shoulder hoping it would still his rage. “Then let us give these brave warriors funerals in a fitting manner so that they can visit their gods on the other side.” Joxer eyed him as he raised a finger. “This isn’t over brother not by a long shot I’m going to have my vengeance for this! They will pay for taking away Leah from me and killing our warriors!” Jace blinked he didn’t like where this was going. “Brother we don’t have enough warriors…we need to rekindle our numbers and recuperate.” Joxer eyed him feeling his teeth grind together as he spoke. “Leah will not survive long enough for that once they get her to do what they want, she’ll end up like those men and women in the other room, or worse they’ll eat alive in werewolf form!” He stood up slowly. “No I will not let another person in my army suffer for my mistakes, she didn’t deserve to be taken and it was my plan that got her in to this mess. I wanted my fight with the Empress and I was no better than her master back in Rome, I wanted to use her for my own purposes and now she’s suffering for it.” Jace shook his head sadly. “She wanted to kill slave traders brother, you gave her a choice and she could have said no. She truly wanted to be a part of your army.” Joxer eyed him. “It wasn’t supposed to cost her though!”

He narrowed his gaze. “No I’m going to get her back and hope that she forgives me for this, no matter what happens.” He felt his hand form a fist. “We are going to find Gabrielle and the Empress we are going to join them in the war against the Imperial Council.” Jace blinked in shock he couldn’t believe he was hearing this. “The Empress wants your head brother she also killed our brother Jet.” Joxer raised his hand. “Yes she hates us but myself and Gabrielle have an agreement and I doubt the Empress her self would kill us knowing that.” Jace breathed in sharply. “Brother this is a dangerous game you’re playing and you know it, you could get us both killed!” Joxer grabbed his shoulder feeling a cold smile form. “Brother, do you remember what you used to say in Rome when we talked to the Roman born slaves in villa household about killing our master?” Jace shook his head as he remembered the words. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” He paused seeing his brother smile a smile that he knew meant there was no turning back now and that his brother’s mind had been made up and he couldn’t change it. “This had better work brother or so help me I’ll kick your ass to Tartarus!”

8

Five hundred men and women, it’s just not enough in fact it’s pathetic when I killed King Leonidas on the battlefield and defeated his Spartans armies in the final show down at Thermopylae I had two thousand loyal men and women fighting for me. That was one of the hardest fights I’ve ever been in we had less warriors than the Spartans but we still won. I remember being covered in blood by the time I reached Leonidas, it was only way to end the war was to kill him. Because in doing so his cousin Alexandros would take his throne as Leonidas had not married therefore he had no wife to suite his throne after his death. I knew Alexandros didn’t want the war he was against it from the start and he even stated that Leonidas had lost his mind as he was having his own men and women killed, if they made the choice to go against him. Phrixus came to me because his family had been murdered, he pledging his loyalty to me. He wasn’t the one a hundred Spartan warriors both men and women came to my side all had lost their lovers, husbands and wives and children. All had been murdered in cold blood because they disagreed with their kings war and when the war was over I gave them all amnesty on Athenian soil along with moderate villa’s so they could start over as that was what Leonidas took from them. I know some joined my hoplites and they could be among my army now, if they are here they will be the commanders as they understand the phalanx position better than anyone and they know how to make a truly unbreakable wall of Aspis shields.

It’s what made them so damn hard to defeat at Thermopylae and if anyone ever tells you that the Spartans are cowards then their lying, these men and women warriors will fight until they die because they want the glorious death, they never surrender. When I took on the Macedonian tyrant kings and their queen I had three times that number of warriors I do now, I don’t often get angry but right now I’m disgusted this is all thanks to the seven other Diplomats pulling out, thanks to them I’m missing five hundred men and women who I need. Just looking at the men and women soldiers and hoplites as well as Iona’s Black Guard I don’t even have enough to punch a hole in any cities wall. Now I’m sitting by an open fire which is close to the gathering point outside the city watching the sky darken. Gabrielle is sitting opposite breathing in her pipe she smoked more today than I’ve ever seen her do but this is a very tense time for her, as it is for me. The werewolf rebels of Corinth said that they just needed time to pack and join us but I have no idea how many will come but it’s completely out of my hands. All I can do is sit here and hope for a good turn out. Xena eyed her lover who was staring intensely in to the fire her green eyes reflecting in the dusk sky as she breathed out the smoke from her pipe looking at the warriors all around her who were all packed and ready and now waiting for her order to leave.

She could see Demetrius getting his horse ready while Ceto was sitting hers though next to it was a smaller pony like Gabrielle’s Thaleia was new to riding and was being taught. Normally the royals forced the personal maids to walk along side the war party but she didn’t believe in that. Iona on the other hand was going through the difficult task of separating certain army types so they could march in formation. “They will join us Gabrielle.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Maybe I said the wrong thing…maybe I came off sounding like an idiot.” She eyed the fire again. “Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve spoken only to have my words land on deaf ears.” She eyed Thaleia who was sitting next to her listening quietly. Xena eyed her lover. “They are just delayed.” Gabrielle breathed breathing out the smoke from her pipe. “You’d think I’d be used to disappointment by now.” Xena eyed Thaleia. “Could you give us for a moment?” Thaleia stood up she could see the haunted look on Gabrielle’s face she hadn’t been that talkative since coming here and she was in a dark mood the type she had been a lot when they had first met before becoming friends. Though she wanted to say something she knew that the Empress would say it better than her. “Of cause Empress.”

Gabrielle watched as her friend disappeared from site. “There was no need to send her away.” Xena eyed the younger woman. “What’s wrong?” Gabrielle looked at the floor. “Nothings wrong.” Xena put her hands together she could tell by the look in her lovers eyes that she wasn’t being truthful. “I know there’s something wrong and I don’t think this it’s really about your people.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she raised her left hand eyeing the ring on it. “Oh nothing just the meeting with the diplomats, signing your will and this ring, which if I heard right is in fact an engagement ring.” Xena felt a sad smile form. “Yes it’s an engagement ring I really wanted to give it to you under better circumstances.” She took hold of the other woman’s hand. “You know I had this great plan of how I was going to give it to you and I wish it had been that way. I’m just sorry that you received it in this way.” She leaned down kissing her palm. “I promise that I will put this ring on your hand again in a way that it should be given after this war is over.” She looked up slightly. “I know today has been a rough day for you.” She stood moving to stand behind the younger woman easing down her coat slightly then put her hands on her shoulders massaging through her thick winter shirt feeling her lover wince as she found the issue. “There’s the problem that muscles really knotted again.”

Gabrielle winced again as the other woman pressed down which caused something in her pop and for the pain to instantly lessen. “Tell me who taught you how to do this?” Xena moved to her other shoulder pressing down feeling the problem on the other side, normally you weren’t meant to message though clothes but they had company all around them. “Leo Tzu taught me.” Gabrielle winced as she found the painful point she gritted her teeth as she spoke unable to keep the sharp hint of jealously out of her tone. “Were you two lovers?” Xena shook her head. “No we weren’t, he wasn’t a man who believed in having random sexual encounters. Massage was part of his teaching though and he only had me practise on a servant, who was happy to be part of the whole thing, I wrote everything down in his book which I gave you.” Gabrielle eyed her feeling the pain dull slowly. “Does it have anything on problems of the mind?” Xena felt a slight smile form. “Yes but it might not be in the way your thinking.” Gabrielle looked back in to the fire as she lowered her pipe no longer feeling the desire to smoke it as the tension was slowly melting away as her lover carried on messaging her shoulders, she didn’t even know why she was feeling jealous.

Normally she wouldn’t have put much thought in to the subject of her lovers past partners but today the subject was really bothered her and she didn’t know why, it almost felt like it was coming from somewhere else unknown to her. She had felt jealousy once before in her presence but they had not been lovers back then and she had caught her in bed with a Gladiator. She had later found out the reason for that which was that her lover was desperate to have an heir and had found out that she couldn’t conceive which had to be truly heartbreaking. She didn’t share but she knew she could normally control her jealously and not let it get to her. There was defiantly something wrong as she was finding her emotions harder to reign in and she didn’t like it. Despite that she enjoyed the rage of battle she did not enjoy the feeling of not having full emotional control when she wasn’t fighting, she preferred clarity. She was going to hate herself for this but maybe she would read the book her lover had given her, because she needed something to stop this and what normally worked for her really wasn’t working now. She hated having the feeling of an emotional nail driving in her brain and she hated the idea even more of having to push harder to control her emotions when her and Xena made love and the thought of hurting her in bed utterly terrified her.

“Empress!”

Xena easing her hands away from Gabrielle’s back watching as she eased her coat back up she turned seeing what had caught her the warriors attention. The main city gates had just been opened and a large number of people were coming through they had mauls and at least two wagons as well as what looked like hunting dogs. Most were fully dressed in armour though it was very different from what most of her warriors were dressed in as it was made from bronze, fur and bone. It was unlike any armour she had seen before, though the closest armour she could compare it to was Norse but even then they didn’t use carve animal bone to such a degree and connect it bronze plate in such a decorative way. Demetrius moved to stand opposite the Empress. “Are those the Corinthian werewolf rebels?” Gabrielle stood up adjusting her coat watching as the huge group came to a stop near by as two people separated from the group coming towards them. Unlike the others they had more armour which showed their status. She shrugged her shoulders recognising the tall man but not the woman next to him who was slightly shorter but dressed in the same armour she had long wavy dark black hair and sharp brown eyes and was medium build.

Somehow this really surprised her that they come she had expected the worst and now she felt a little foolish for smoking away her anxiety. “Yes these people are the Corinthian rebels.” Idomeneus grinned as he walked too Gabrielle who looked strangely surprised at his presence. “Ah there you are I’m sorry we are late, my sister Sapphire here took to long to pack, as always.” Sapphira turned not thinking as she shoved her brother hard she turned to the blonde woman who matched the description her brother had said. She was Horn Hind or more to the point the Golden Hind and she was surprisingly young. “Ignore my brother highness, he means well but his tongue tends to run away with him at times.” Gabrielle took a step forward eyeing the carved bone and bronze armours. “I’ve never seen armour like this before, is this what all the rebels wear all over Greece?” Sapphire eyed the armour. “No, this is just our preference it was designed by Ceyx and Elma we have a version of werewolf bronze which is slightly better than Hoplite plate but its not quite as strong as the true werewolf version. As we lack their resources we can only create so much at a time so our version of bronze and because of that the plate armour isn’t as thick.

He eyed the wolf teeth around his neck. “Though we have heard that the Apollonian rebels have been working on an armoured suite but if you ask me it’s an insane idea. No one can create full suites of armour it would be impossible to run in and far too heavy not to mention it’d make the plate even more difficult to move.” Gabrielle eyed the decorative bone on the chest plate. “Why the decorative bone, what does it symbolize?” Sapphira turned to her. “Bone is what keeps the body up right, with out it we would not be able to walk or fight the Corinthians rebels have come to see bone as our symbol of strength that is why we wear it proudly.” Gabrielle stepped away from her as she put out her pipe and then put it away. “How many men and women do you have and how much supplies?” Idomeneus felt a smile form. “Three hundred men and women Gabrielle, all battle worthy and all at your command and among that number are thirty humans. We also have two months of supplies but we can get much more but a lot of us have learnt from our parents how to live off the land and hunt in werewolf form to survive.” Sapphira turned sharply whispering under the breath. “You’re meant to call her highness!”

Idomeneus eyed her. “No I’m not and I’ll tell you why later.” Gabrielle looked at them both feeling a warm smile form. “Thank you both of you for bringing me all these people willing to risk their lives for me a King they don’t even know.” Idomeneus put his hands behind his back. “You would be surprised how many of us have heard about you, news of a half breed becoming king is something that spreads like wild fire. We heard about you long before you heard of us, it was when you vanished from the Grand City that we became even more surprised. Rumours said that you were dead then we got whispers that you were still alive but no one ever expected you to turn up here in Corinth and for your relationship with the Empress to develop.” Gabrielle eyed the engagement ring on her left hand. “Believe me I wasn’t expecting it ether.” Idomeneus’s grinned widened. “The world is full of surprises.” Xena moved to stand opposite Gabrielle she’d been listening but now felt that it was the right time to step in and say something. “Thank you for bringing all these men and women you have done more for me than the some of the Corinthian diplomats did. Their failure to take part in this war cost me over five hundred warriors and a lot of essential supplies.” Sapphira bowed respectfully eyeing the taller dark haired woman. “It is a pleasure to meet you Empress but I would like to add that there we only one section of the rebels.”

She stood up slightly. “There is a huge number in Apollonia who are no doubt desperate to join in the fun and they have bigger numbers than us. Unlike Corinth, Apollonia has a much higher werewolf population.” She paused before speaking. “There are very large rebels groups in Thessaly and two smaller groups in Delphi and Olympia from what I’ve heard, every one of them is desperate to take a crack at the Imperial Council for one reason or another. Gabrielle tensed not liking that she had to say what she had to next, as it meant loosing warriors. “Then my first order to you is to send your best messages to these cities and any where else across Greece.” Sapphira took a step forward. “What do you want me to say highness?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Tell them that the Golden Hind calls for their allegiance, tell them that I’m bringing this war to the Imperial Council and I fully intend to see them all forced from their thrones of power. Tell them that I intend to give all half bleeds full rights and end the mass murder of human born children and I will pardon anyone marked a traitor by the Imperial Council.”

Sapphira took in a deep breath her and her brother had trained for this war, for years they had been waiting to hear these words and hearing them now was so exhilarating. She felt her smile widen. “I’ll see it done as soon as we start the march.” Xena folded her arms. “We will be packing and leaving in twenty minutes, I’ve heard that war for your race is different and it’s more prudent to pay attention at night.” Idomeneus put a hand on his armoured chest. “My apologise Empress but this is my first war…” Gabrielle took in a deep breath she would clearly need to educate all of these rebels quickly in how battle worked. “If the Imperial Council attacks us they will attack at night in werewolf form, it’s when they class human’s most vulnerable as unlike us they don’t have our eyesight.” She turned to her lover realizing that this comment sounded like her bragging about her own race. She had done it with out thinking as she was just used to talking about humanities downsides to other werewolves during war timee because it had been such a social norm for most of her life. “Sorry I meant no offence.” Xena shook her head putting her hand on her lover’s shoulder. “Its okay I understand and it’s a fair point, that’s why we will need your people’s eye sight tonight.”

End of part 21

 

FEELING LIKE YOUR FALLING IN TO A TRAP

 

My sister is Horn Hind I can not believe I just heard that and she didn’t even tell me! Okay in all honesty I know why she didn’t tell me, I wasn’t the best person to talk to but I know I have to speak to her, I have to follow her. The last thing I want is for my sister to go to war and end up dying and for me never to have known her as I should. What that woman Fedora said to me really hit me hard and it never even thought about it, I’ve been chasing a ghost all off my life. I was looking for the sister I remember not the sister I have now, she’s not the same person she’s not the one who my farther spilled his love in to and devotion. That was who I was looking for and that’s who I thought still existed and that why I was so mad with her because I wanted and expected more. Yet how could I expect more? We barely know each other anymore eleven and half years have passed by, for better or worse we are now very different people. We are no longer children we have both grown up and had different lives, she said I had no honour and I want to prove to her that I do. We may have gotten off on the wrong foot but I think I would like to reconcile our differences in some manner.

I have not been this clear in a long time and it’s a nice feeling though slightly strange to me, maybe that is a good thing or it could be a bad thing. Ether way I have to do this and it’s one of the few times in my life where I’ve been certain of anything. Though I won’t lie the thought of werewolves against werewolves terrifies me but at the same time excites me. I love watching werewolves in battle there’s no being more brutal and with out remorse than a werewolf, I love how they embrace war. When they fight only the target exists nothing more, they kill quickly but so brutality I wonder what they like against their own kind. I’m also compelled by the fact that my sister is Horn Hind, Horn Hind the werewolf who has horns what an utter vision that must be to behold. I want to see her in that form with those Horns and I want to see my sister in battle I want to see her rage, violence and unmeasured strength as she crushes her enemies. I’ve seen her human warriors side but I have to see the true form. Maybe I am crazy to want that but I believe the werewolf self is the true soul image hidden from view by the gods and I want to see my sisters in all its glory if it’s the last thing I she ever do.

“Are you sure about this Lila, I mean Athens…”

Lila turned to Korudon who was walking opposite her through the dark street that led away from the palace. “I have to do this Korudon, she’s my sister.” Korudon shook his head. “You know this is going to be an ugly war, don’t you?” Lila stopped turning to her friend she hated to have to say this to him. “You don’t have to go with me Korudon, you can stay at the palace I would not think any less of you.” Korudon eased up his clawed hand putting it on her arm. “No, I will not leave, we’ve always been together through everything and this war won’t change anything.” He eased up a clawed hand putting it on my face. “You’re my best friend and I would never leave you, no matter how bad things get.” Lila put a hand on his. “I know this puts you in a difficult position though I mean your mother is a very important council figure among your race. Plus your people have said that they will have no part in the werewolf civil war and they will not put a single satyr on the front line.” Korudon eyed her for a long moment. “I left my race a long time ago and I left that life behind as I refuse to be part of the political agenda’s of my people.” He moved his hand gently through her dark hair he knew he was over stepping the bounds a little right now but he didn’t care. “I’ll do this with you, what ever happens.”

Lila lowered her gaze to the floor, she felt guilty as Korudon put up with her bad moods and always protected her. He was even doing it now and it was clear to her that she never thanked him as much as she should. Through out all of this he had stood by her side even against the palace staff who had shouted at her. “I realize that I have not always been thankful to you Korudon and I apologise for that.” Korudon felt a smile form. “You don’t have to apologise I’ve always enjoyed your company even when your not in the best of moods.” Lila shook her head sadly before meeting his intense gaze. “Yes but it shouldn’t be that way, you’re my best friend in this whole world and I don’t even treat you right I get caught up in all my own personal problems and I never ask about yours.” Korudon blinked it was rare that Lila was ever this open emotionally but right now she was being completely open and it had caught him by surprise. “I know life’s not always been kind to you Lila and I know what its like when you can’t live up to your parents expectations.” He put a hand on his chest. “I know you’re farther made your life miserable and that wasn’t right and it must be hard for you open up.” He paused. “It is nice though that you feel you can with me.” Lila took in a deep breath. “I’ll try and be more open with you I just find it really hard…in the past I’ve opened up to people and I’ve just gotten hurt.”

Korudon felt a wide smile form. “Well those boys and girls in Potidaea were clearly foolish they just couldn’t see the best in you.” Lila felt a sad smile form. “Trust me the boys were idiots one of them once slept with me for a bet and then laughed at me afterwards and girls well I tried it once but it was for the wrong reasons, I was trying to be my sister and I’m not Gabrielle…and it felt hollow.” Korudon shook his head sadly. “We all make mistakes and sometime we pretend to be who we are not, what matters, is that we learn from our mistakes.” He paused. “Regardless of what your farther thinks of you Lila, you will always be special to me.” Lila gave him a smile as she grabbed one of his horns playfully. “I’ll never have a better friend than you.” Korudon pulled away from her. “Well then lets get some supplies, its not like we don’t have the coin, I mean we can get some really good supplies now.” Korudon took hold of her arm eyeing the nearest tavern which was still open but wouldn’t be for long. “That one will do, what do we need?” Lila followed him as they walked inside the tavern which was clearly quite old and had a rather large painted red and gold bull sitting on the opposite side of the almost empty room. She eyed it realizing that it was in fact a Brazen Bull torture device but the opening had been melted shut.

She blinked eyeing it for a long moment she’d been to lots of taverns in her life time and she’d seen many different displays but this was just plain messed up. The Brazen Bull torture was banned across the Greek Empire and she had assumed that they had all been melted down after the Macedonian tyrant kings and queen had been over thrown. She turned as a voice hit her ear. “Don’t worry its out of use it’s just an old relic.” She eyed the tavern owner who was cleaning a number of tankards. She moved to stand opposite the bar front as she eyed the elderly man. “Why would you even have this? I mean it’s a Brazen Bull.” The elderly man looked up slightly. “Where this tavern stands now is where they used to put people to death in that bull, hence why it’s called The Red Bull. It’s true the Empress did have all the bulls melted down but I brought this one but I was only allowed to keep it under the condition that it opening had to be melted shut and the centre had to be filled with cement so it can never be used again.” Korudon eyed the bull. “Yeah but its still a really messed up thing to want to keep in your tavern, I mean people died in it.”

The tavern owner carried on cleaning the tankards. “Yes and it reminds people of the terrors some of us lived through and that, that age is over. You’re both young you didn’t see those days I did, it was not a good time in Greece and I like to remind people that we live in a good time.” He raised his hand. “It was a device of pain and suffering yet now children play on it and it’s a happy thing, in festival time it gets flowers hung on it, it’s something that now brings joy now instead of terror.” Lila shook her head. “Well if it works for you.” The bar tender eyed her for a long moment. “What can I get for you food, drink?” Lila put her bag down. “Three vases of your finest wine…none of that cheap crap, you know the special import from Rome.” The bar tender raised an eyebrow. “You know that’s very expensive.” Lila felt a sly smile form. “Trust me I have the coin.” She watched as he put the wine pottery vases on the table which were all corked for freshness. “Any thing else?” Korudon raised a clawed hand. “Some salted goat’s meat, dried fish, cheese, three flat breads, oh and six goose eggs.” Lila turned sharply. “No not goose eggs I hate goose eggs.” Korudon eyed her. “Yeah, well there not for you.” Lila leaned against the bar. “Throw in quails eggs nine of them.”

“Going on a long trip?”

Lila turned seeing that slender woman who was dressed in what looked like white priestess’s ropes she had long blonde wavy hair and piecing brown eyes. Great the last thing she wanted was some religious zealot in her face she had never had a great time with these types of people and after having to deal with Hestian Virgins she had promised herself that she would never bother with these types of people again and would not associate with them again unless they were patrons off Athena. “Where I’m going is none of your concern, go away.” Callisto felt a smile form. “Are you always this polite or have I just caught you on a bad day?” Lila narrowed her gaze as the tavern owner passed her the packed food which she carefully put away. “No I’m generally this polite and what ever you’re going to sell me I’m not interested, so go away.” Callisto stood up sharply. “Sell you! What do I look like a prostitute to you?” Lila sneered as she eyed her. “No you look like a Hestian virgin and I hate Hestian virgins, so get out of my face.” Callisto laughed as she eyed her. “First of all I’m not a Hestian virgin and I could never be one because that whole vow of chastity thing is stupid and unnatural and second if I was a prostitute you couldn’t afford me!”

Lila eyed her for a long moment well this was new a religious zealot who had mouth and wasn’t subdued maybe it was time to have a little fun. “Trust me I could afford you I could pay for you ten times over, the only issue is I don’t sleep with women, so you’d lack the appeal.” Callisto laughed oh now this was fun she loved it when people verbally spared with her, it was normally when she got to have fun. “Oh you believe you could purchase me like a slave…because you’re well off…how nice.” Lila turned sharply. “No and that is not what I meant by that.” She threw the coin on the table watching as the old tavern owner smirked as he took the money clearly he was enjoying this. “I hate slaves and slave traders! I would love to kill them all if I could.” Callisto eased up her hand looking at her nails. “So how many have you and your friend killed, ten, twenty?” Lila eyed her. “My self and Korudon killed Talus! We are the best.” Callisto eyed her feeling a sly smile form. “And yet you’re afraid to have a little chat with me because you don’t like religious people.” Lila folded her arms. “I’m not afraid of you! What in Tartarus do you want anyway?” Callisto eyed her, “All I want is for some brave mercenaries to take me and my friend to Athens…it’s not a big request and you’re clearly rich and don’t need the coin.”

Lila raised her finger. “No…I don’t play travel host to anyone anymore.” Callisto eyed her armour catching sight of pendent with Athena on it. “Your goddess would not be pleased by your inability to show kindness to strangers, she is the goddess of wisdom after all.” Lila eyed her pendent before looking up. “Yeah and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” Callisto stood up fully pushing her hair behind her ear. “It’s not my fault that you’re afraid and you’re not a people person. I mean if you can’t give charity to strangers then no one is ever going to love you or respect you.” Lila put a hand on her face feeling the frustration hit home. “I’m not afraid and you have no right to judge me you don’t even know me!” Callisto leaned forward. “Prove it…I mean I’m just a harmless religious person who needs your help.” She turned folding her arms. “But if you can’t do it I’ll just get some one braver and who doesn’t hate religious people.” Lila turned sharply not thinking as the words came out. “Fine I’ll take you!” She tensed realizing her mistake. Callisto raised her finger oh how easily some people could be played, when you touched the right buttons. She knew full well that mercenaries never pulled out of deals it was against their honour code. “You’re a mercenary your word is binding so before you try to correct yourself now, it’s to late.” Lila blinked as the woman smiled slyly at her, what in Tartarus had just happened?

She heard a slow clapping she turned catching sight of a red haired man who walked towards her he carried on clapping as his lips formed a smile. “Impressive Callisto, you know I didn’t think you could do but you did, so you win.” Korudon turned to Lila who looked utterly confused, he had to admit he had never seen anyone do that to her in all the time he’d known her. She never fell in to emotional manipulation she always said no, ether this priestess had godly powers or she was a very clever manipulator, ether way it meant that they weren’t going to Athens alone. Lila put her hands her face as she leaned against the bar. She’d just been manipulated by this skinny rake of a woman and now she felt utterly stupid her word was binding it was like her contract and she couldn’t break it, it would be seen as dishonourable. She turned to the woman who now had a wide smile on her face. “Yes my word is binding.” Callisto raised her hand. “My name is Callisto, my friend over there is Theodore and you are?” Lila felt a sneer form. “I can’t believe I’ve just been manipulated by you of all people.” Callisto smirked. “You of all people is not a good first name, what’s your real one?” Lila eyed her. “My name title is The Red Griffin but my name is Lila my friends name is Korudon.”

She turned as the red haired man patting her shoulder she pulled away from him not bothering to hide the disgust in her tone as she spoke. “Don’t touch me.” Theodore folded his arms clearly that wasn’t such a good idea he wouldn’t do that again this young woman though quite short for a mercenary was not to be taken lightly. “You shouldn’t be mad, Callisto doesn’t mean any offence she just understands people in a rather unique way.” Lila eyed him for a long moment. “Evidently…” Theodore raised his hand. “We have the supplies and we have a horse we just need you and your friends sword.” Korudon raised his clawed hand. “Well then you’ll have to play by our rules then, because we are not having a bunch of idiots get them selves killed because they didn’t do what we say.” Theodore blinked in shock he turned to Callisto. “Are you really sure these are the right people I mean he just said someone died on their watch?” Callisto stepped forward. “Yes they are perfect and I have a feeling that they were heading the way we wanted to go anyway.”

8

I’ve felt fear and uncertainty in my life many times the first being when I was sold in to slavery and broken by the slave traders. The men and women in that slave trader group who captured us loved to rape young boys and girls they called call it breaking them in so we would ready for our mistress’s and masters in Rome. I can still hear the screaming in my nightmares its difficult block out though I try dreading the moment when it was my turn. It hurt so damn much and I bleed for a week and found it difficult to block out the pain, I didn’t look like the Empress then I was only fifteen and afterwards I never wanted to be touched again, I felt dirty, unclean and tainted. I thought that would be the last time it would ever happen to me, because the first villa I was sold in everything was reasonably okay, I was just a cleaning slave there was nothing special about me. That ended though as I grew older and filled out it became very clear to my master that I resembled the Empress I even got the name slave Empress. Then everything changed and not in a good way, I became the show piece at parties I had horrible men and women leering at me and touching me up and I knew I couldn’t speak out against it as would mean my death. Though I hated it I could handle it, they weren’t taking me to bed they were just pawing me and I could live with it, so long as I blocked it out. Then one day I don’t know when I was just told to pack up as I had apparently been sold to a rich roman noble.

I thought maybe I’d just get the same again but it got worse he forced himself up on me not once but twice, he loved that I looked like the Empress he even would tell to say that I kneel to him when he did it, it made me feel physically sick. Oh I could have taken my own life, I wanted to, I even started cutting my sides with a one of the kitchen knifes which I stole at the time the depression was setting in I still have those healed scars today which are one of the many symbols of pain I went through. Then one night I don’t know what happened I’d only been there a month and this was the third time I’d been called in to his chamber and I snapped. I took that knife and cut up his face, I saw the panic in his eyes and I loved every moment of it. What I did next I still can’t believe I did but I was in a fit of rage and his cock was severed from his body. Oh the screaming was so joyous, best thing I’ve ever heard, his guards came in, oh they beat me up so badly but it was too late for him he bled out until he died my dagger cut to deeply and to badly. I confess I never told Joxer that I killed him maybe because I had such difficulty with my emotions still regarding this moment. I know Joxer killed his master but his was planned mine was not planned, It was a moment of insanity and it’s very hard to put in to words. Truth is after killing my master I should have been killed but as he was not married and had no heir his estate went to his younger brother who really hated him and he loved the fact that I’d killed him in that manner.

He said he had no interest in keeping me and that he would give me a fair chance for freedom by selling me back over on the Greek border. Ironically I got that fair chance but I never expected to be back as someone’s prisoner again, they’ve stripped me off my weapons but not my clothes. They dragged me to Joxer underground hide out and I was forced to watch what they did the men and women down there, every one of them was alive through out the whole ordeal and one of them was my friend and I was powerless to do anything to help her. Though her fate was to be a message to all that these vile werewolves believe themselves supreme, I’m glad though for her it was over quickly. Then they started on the others and what I saw was made me physically sick. I had heard what Glaphyra and Agathon do but to witness it up close it was terrible beyond words. I’ve seen some horrible things in my life I’ve seen Gladiators be disembowelled, I’ve seen werewolves tear people in half in Dog Fights and men and women be beheaded but there are no words that could describe what these men and women went through. Most died half way through but a couple survived I got to see their red skull like faces looking at me as the eyes moved in their sockets before they died from the shock and I know those bodies will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.

I know it would have been my fate if I wasn’t important to them as I’m their key to getting to the Golden Hind. They will keep me alive but only for as long as I’m useful which means I need to use every opportunity to get away from them. Leah eyed the heavy bronze chains which were bolted to her wrists and ankles clearly they weren’t taking any chances with her but she knew from experience that people got sloppy over time and that was how slaves escaped she had seen it first hand. She eyed the cave which she had been put in there was a man and woman behind her watching her every move. She eyed the chains again, as she sat back on the stone stretched out her legs trying to see if the chain on her feet were loose in anyway which they sadly weren’t. She eyed the ones on her hand again pulling on the shackles though the whole thing was loose enough so that she could stand up and walk around normally the problem was the weight. She could only assume that they were made for a werewolf and not a person. She pulled again only for a sharp cold voice to hit her ear. “I wouldn’t think about it little human, it won’t end well for you plus that’s made of true werewolf bronze its better than any hoplite bronze.” Leah looked up watching as Glaphyra walked up to her, her hands behind her back, there were unhealed scars on her face.

Her partner Agathon was no where in site but he had been badly burnt in the face so she could only assume that he was healing up. She watched as the woman threw the armour which was perfect copy of the Empress in front of her as she spoke. “Get changed…now.” Leah eyed the armour at her feet. “What makes you think I’m going to do that for you?” Glaphyra moved closer raising her hand which was covered in dried blood. “Perhaps you weren’t watching what I did to your friends back in Joxer’s little underground hide out but believe me you’ll get the same if you don’t play along you little whore!” Leah eyed her for a long moment before speaking. “Takes one to know one…” Glaphyra raised her bloody finger as she grabbed hold of her shoulder. “Let me be very clear, you are only alive because of how you look, if it weren’t for your appearance which is very close to the Empress’s you would be hanging from rafter along with your skinned friends right now.” Leah ignored the grip on her shoulder as it became more painful. “Oh I know full well how important I am to you and your vile husband, how’s he doing by the way? Does his face still look like Tartarus?” She eyed the slave branding on her arm she knew just how much fire hurt even in the smallest area.

The next moments turned to blinding pain as the other woman’s fist impacted with her face throwing her sideways. She instantly tasted blood in her mouth she turned spitting it out watching as it landed on the other woman’s boot. The bitch would have to do much better than this, she’d had far worse. Glaphyra pressed down harder on the woman’s shoulder seeing the pain in her eyes. “You only have to be alive you don’t have to be perfect, in fact the more beaten up you are the better, after all it’ll make you more appealing to Gabrielle.” Leah felt the pain as Glaphyra let go off her shoulder. “What do you really think she won’t be able to tell the difference between me and the Empress?” Glaphyra kneeled down in front of her feeling a cold smile form. “No I don’t and from a distance you both look alike Joxer knew this that’s why he kept you alive.” Leah leaned forward ignoring the pain. “Yeah but here’s the thing don’t you werewolves have a great sense of smell…won’t she be able to tell?” Glaphyra shook her head. “My, my, aren’t we the smart one, believe me a few of my werewolf associates are dealing with that as we speak. I mean we all know that the Empress will be marching with Gabrielle when she goes to war…maybe she won’t notice when some of her soap and clothes going missing. Trust me by the time we are done with you Leah you’re going to stink like her.”

She felt a cold smile form. “Plus you only need to smell right for a minute, that’s all we need to make Gabrielle’s life miserable.” Leah narrowed her gaze as she spoke not bothering to hide her disgust. “You know I hope that Joxer is still alive because I can’t wait to see the look on your face when he decapitates you.” Glaphyra stood up eyeing her coldly. “Believe me he’s dead, you won’t ever see him again and even if he was alive I don’t see him coming after you. We destroyed his army it will take him years to recuperate his loses and you will be dead long before he gets around to saving you.” Leah eyed her for a long moment. “I think you underestimate him…you shouldn’t he is a great man.” Glaphyra folded her arms. “I think your just missing his cock.” Leah felt her smile widen as she spoke making sure every word was thick with sarcasm. “Well at least he has one which is more than I can say for your partner I mean his is rotting away, I’ll bet his has fallen off by now.” She felt the pain as the other woman’s hand wrapped around her throat. Glaphyra tightened her grip. “You should not be this way with me you little bitch, I have restraint but Agathon my beautiful lover well he is different to me, he will make things very uncomfortable for you.” Leah ignored the pain as she spoke. “Trust me his best wouldn’t be good enough…I’ve had the worst I can have.” Glaphyra let go of her throat. “We’ll see about that won’t we?” She eyed the armour at her feet. “Now put this on!”

End of part 22

 

A PAINFULLY PROMISE ULTIMATELY FOR FILLED

 

I’ve ridden all night and now my backside hurts, I still can’t gallop on the horse I am now sitting by the fire which is inside Xena’s tent waiting for the pain to go away. The tent is big enough for two people and has a small bed mostly made up of furs and some furniture but its not heavy there’s a table and a couple of chairs and wash bowls but it’s not fancy and it can all be folded up and put on the wagon. A part of me likes this as even when I went to war and was second in command my tent was never bigger than any other werewolves and that never changed even when I was Horn Hind it’s nice that my lover thinks the same in that the tent should not stand out. The only thing I find hard is Ceto and Thaleia setting this tent up, to me that didn’t feel right, I’ve always put up my own tent I don’t like others having to do my hard graft. It’s just a side of being a royal I’ll never get used to it and it will never feel normal to me. Our tent is in the centre and on one side are my rebel army while on the others is Xena’s its very early in the morning because now everyone is going in reverse. Werewolf war happens at night never in the day, in the early morning you sleep recuperate and eat and then pack up in the late afternoon and then begin moving again at night. I think it’s going to be hard for everyone as they are going to be tired even I’m tired and I now realize that it’s because of the sudden change in time. Right now if I was back in the palace I would be sleeping in Xena’s arms yet I’m wide awake right now.

Gabrielle took the barley porridge from her lover’s hand she eyed it for a long moment. “Is this what you call army rations?” Xena moved to sit opposite the younger woman. “Sadly yes, we don’t have the better supplies so there’s no fruit just flat bread, wheat and porridge just the essentials we are lucky the next meal might be better I’ve heard that your people are now adding in their supplies.” Gabrielle took a bite instantly remembering the flavour which didn’t taste pleasant to her anymore as her palette had, had so much better since. “This tastes awful, how did I live off this everyday for as long as I did?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “If I remember right you said you didn’t mind at the time because you couldn’t remember what anything else tasted like.” Gabrielle eyed the thick porridge pulling it up with her spoon watching as it dropped off. “I’m going to pull a large group of werewolves together who can hunt before we leave at dusk, I’ll get hold of something much better than this.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Wild boar and deer would be nice even rabbit if you can get any, my warriors can catch fish and get other foods, we need to find as much food as we can even with you’re the food your people brought it’s not enough.” Gabrielle swallowed another mouthful of porridge forcing it down. “Yeah the more the better because I don’t think I can stand the thought of eating this for the rest of the campaign.”

Xena turned as Idomeneus walked in side the tent followed by his twin sister he spoke calmly. “My deepest apologises for interrupting you both but Demetrius said we could speak to Gabrielle.” Sapphira turned sharply. “Its Golden Hind…you’re meant to call her by her title!” Gabrielle looked at her food, before looking up. “Its fine he can call me by my name and you can to Sapphira.” Sapphira blinked as she took a stepped forward. “We have sorted out our supplies along with the Empress’s…we have four months combined food but that might become less as more werewolves join. On the bright side though there’s lots of dried meat, nuts and other foods it might make for better eating.” She raised her hand pointing at Gabrielle’s bowl. “I mean that stuff tastes foul.” She turned to the Empress. “No offence intended Empress.” Xena carried on eating. “None taken, we normally have better food believe me.” Gabrielle stood up putting her bowl to one side ignoring the pain in her legs. “I need a group of your best, who can hunt in the wilds.” Idomeneus nodded calmly. “I’ll get them for you, as I stated before these werewolves are well trained when it comes to surviving the wilds.” Gabrielle ran her fingers over the table. “That’s good to hear it will make this easier it would also help if werewolves who can’t hunt are brought out on hunts to learn what’s involved.”

Sapphira raised her hand. “Can I join you? I do love to hunt.” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “Of cause, the more the merrier.” Idomeneus took a step forward. “We have sent out those men and women who will send out your word.” He paused trying to find the right words. “We came here though to tell you something we have three people who really want to see you, their werewolves and they have been on the march all morning.” Sapphira rolled her eyes. “They came to Corinth some time before you made the call to arms, they’ve wanted to see you for a while and have been complaining all morning that they can’t. They are a part of the White Family it’s meant to be some ancient werewolf dynasty from the Grand City or something.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “You have members of the White Family here?” Xena looked up sharply. “Who is this White Family?” Gabrielle tensed. “They are an ancient family they’ve been around since the first Horn Hinds time.” Idomeneus shook his head. “Not any more their not, the Imperial Council killed all them apart from these three and burnt down their home.” Gabrielle felt the pain as it stuck her chest all at once. “Their all dead…” Sapphira nodded. “Yes, I’m sorry did you know the family personally?”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly. “Not personally one of them helped me once, she sent me away from the Grand City her actions saved my life.” She looked up. “Please bring them in, I want to speak to them.” Idomeneus nodded. “I’ll get them for you now.” He grabbed his sister. “Come on lets leave them alone.” Gabrielle eased out her hand. “No wait.” She watched as they both stopped. “Can ether of you speak in our people’s language I need a translator?” Idomeneus moved forward. “We both can I’m just better at it.” Sapphira eyed him folding her arms. “No your not I mean you overemphasis the s and the r every time you speak true werewolf.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Yeah well that’s not a big deal I’ve been told that I can’t pronounce the h and s quite right because of the region I come from.” Idomeneus blinked in surprise. “Really?” Sapphira pushed her brother playfully. “Well I’ll go and get the White Family you can translate for the Empress.” Gabrielle watched as she left she took in a deep breath the White Family had all been killed she couldn’t believe she was hearing this. She looked up sharply as three people entered the tent all had thick fur coats there was a burly man and a man who was slender built both had sea blue eyes while the woman with them who had brown.

They would have all looked normal if not for the fact that their hair which was pure white in colour. She put her hands together these people would not be very good at speaking in normal Greek and would be very accustomed to speaking in werewolf tongue. She lowered her head respectful as she spoke. “It is an honour and a privilege to see the noble White Family.” Xena listened carefully as Idomeneus began to translate her understanding of her lovers language was getting better she could piece together most things but she still had an awful lot to learn so having a translator was helpful, normally she would have Phrixus around to do this but he was looking after her palace along with Chara. Halirrhothius eyed woman in front of him who was very young but marched the description his mother spoken off many years ago. He slowly kneeled down watching as his brother did the same while his sister remained standing as she glared coldly at the blonde woman. “We are most honoured in your presence Golden Hind.” Akil breathed in as he spoke. “We are most pleasured in your company.” He eyed his sister who refused to speak. “Our sister feels the same.” Obelia sneered as she spoke not bothering to hide her sarcasm. “Yes…it’s a great pleasure.” Gabrielle looked up catching the coldness in the woman’s tone she wasn’t going to rise to it she knew full well that not everyone who was noble born was on her side. “Please there’s no need to kneel in my presence.”

Halirrhothius slowly stood up seeing his brother do the same. “Please excuse my sister she’s had a long trip, ever since we were forced out of the Grand City we have found it hard. Our upbringing has not really prepared us for the human world and humanity is so much weaker than us.” Gabrielle watched as an unimpressed look spread across her lovers face. “Sadly I do not share your view on that, maybe because I was born human.” She paused. “My lover is also human.” Obelia sneered slightly as her cold voice hit the air. “Nice to see that you hold such value for werewolf law your majesty, I mean you’re breaking our most sacred law by screwing that weak pathetic little human.” Idomeneus turned sharply. “You will not speak to her that way, she is your King!” Obelia folded her arms. “Oh shut up half breed, I don’t even see why you have to be a part of this war anyway.” Xena stood up she had caught some of what had just been said and it didn’t impress her in the slightest. “How dare you call me weak and pathetic I am Empress of Greece, I defeated the Spartans, I do not need to prove my value to you!” She watched as the woman turned blinking in surprise. “Oh what did you amuse because I’m human that I don’t understand your language? No it might surprise you to know that your King has been teaching me and though my understanding still isn’t perfect I understood enough!”

Obelia snarled in humanly as she stepped forward. “You have no right to our language!” Akil turned sharply grabbing his sister’s arm. “Stop this now Obelia you dishonour the Golden Hind!” Obelia felt her teeth grind together frankly she didn’t care she had spent ages stuck in a half breed house and she hated their food and their lifestyle. She couldn’t stand being around humans they smelt awful and they made her sick, she wanted to be back home in her husbands arms but now she could never return and he was dead and it was all thanks to the Golden Hind. “The Golden Hind is unworthy of my respect, she’s a half breed!” Gabrielle felt her body tense as she stepped forward feeling a cold smile form as she eyed the woman who was about her age as she spoke once more in normal Greek. “Its clear that unlike your brothers you are clearly a purest in that you believe half breeds lack worth and that humans are weak. You can believe what ever you want to believe that is your choice but let me be very clear you will not talk about my lover this way ever again in my presence and if you ever do, you and I are going to have a huge disagreement. You may not like that the woman I choose to be with is human but that is my personal choice and not yours.” Halirrhothius turned sharply eyeing his brother. “Akil could you please take Obelia away I wish to speak to the Golden Hind alone.”

His brother nodded as he took gently led his younger sister away closing the tent behind them he turned to the blonde haired woman as he spoke in normal Greek as best he could. “My deepest apologises Golden Hind, my sister is going through a bad time and her anger is misdirected.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “Trust me this isn’t the first time I’ve been insulted by a full breed who thought themselves better than me but insulting Xena is not something I approve off.” Halirrhothius raised his hands. “Her husband died in the massacre she’s been deeply out of sorts ever since, her lashing out at you is just her being unable to deal with her depression, which has been getting worse at late. She lost a mate who she was bounded to and she’s unable to deal with loosing half her soul.” Gabrielle walked over to the table where she had her personal chest which she’d taken from the palace. She carefully opened it. “I understand her loss I lost a person I loved a long time ago he was murdered and I think Bastiaan did it.” She eased a small red jewel free from the chest looking at it for a long moment dreading her next question because she was sure she knew the answer already. “How did Jacinda die?” Halirrhothius shook his head sadly. “She was killed by the Imperial Council personally rumour has it Hesperos who stabbed her, she was unarmed she died because she believed that you are the true King.” He shook his head. “After her death the rest of the White Family was killed by Bastiaan and his best warriors.”

He tensed painfully. “We were the only ones left alive, our ancient stone house was burnt to the ground we barely made it out alive and it took us a long time to find Corinth. We are very unaccustomed to how humanity and our half blood sisters and brothers live and it’s taken us all a lot of time to adjust.” Gabrielle moved back to stand in front of him. “I never spent time in the Arkilan Tower I stayed in my room the decadent lifestyle has never appealed to me that much.” Xena breathed in deeply as she spoke. “What is the Arkilan Tower?” Idomeneus put his hands behind his back. “Its a huge building inside the Grand City it’s meant to be literally a stone palace complex built in to the wall, they say its coated in gold and silver and that its where the Imperial Council live and normally the Horn Hind.” Gabrielle shook her head. “It’s not gold or silver it’s coated in crystal gem stone. Ten thousand werewolves died to mine the gem stone crystal and it took a hundred years to build, the light from above steams down on it in the darkness lighting it up. I visited the place once when the Crescent Hind called me to his room back when I was just a warrior, I prefer to forget it.” Xena lowered her gaze sadly. “I remember you telling me that.” Gabrielle turned back to Halirrhothius. “I met your mother once to.” She felt the sadness as hit home. “She said we would have this meeting…its just I never believed her until now.”

She looked at the red jewelled necklace in her hand. “Your mother was an amazing and noble woman and I hate that when I met her I was rude in her presence and I didn’t listen to what she had to say and I will forever regret that. Yet if it weren’t for Jacinda I would not be alive at all today, I failed to see that she was saving me from my death and setting me free.” Halirrhothius blinked in surprise. “You talked to my mother but she never said anything about it to me, she always stated that you were busy and paid no heed to her messages.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Your mother was protecting you, if any one had heard what she said to me that day when we spoke it may have been very clear to Imperial Council that she was taking my side and not theirs. Plus she picked her moment perfectly they were busy with matters of state and Adrienne my advisor at the time was out of sight, sucking up to them.”  Halirrhothius eased up his hands. “I heard that Adrienne was your lover.” Gabrielle felt a cold sneer form. “No she abused me and I didn’t love her.” Halirrhothius put a hand on his face. “My apologises Golden Hind but that’s not what the Imperial Council told us. They said that you were both a mated pair and you were even thinking about having children together using a donor farther.”

Gabrielle laughed but it was a cold laugh even to her ears. “We were not a mated pair we had sex together yes but that was as far as it ever went I never went through the mating urge even though she tried to make it happen but when someone is beating you and punching you on a daily basis you find it hard to love them. I had a son with Damokles and he’s gone now but I would never have had another child with that woman she would have abused any son or daughter I brought in to this world, in the same way she abused me.” Halirrhothius blinked in shock. “I had no idea this was even happening I mean they made it so convincing they had letter even proof that a donor farther had been picked, the letters were marked with your seal.” Gabrielle looked down at the floor. “The thought that Imperial Council would spread that kind of lie along with letters disgust me on so many levels. Adrienne tried to murder me in the palace in Corinth she’s now rotting their in the dungeon and when all this is over she’s going to go on trail as a traitor. You should never listen to what the Imperial Council says, they will tell you lies and make false promises your mother was the first person to be truly honest with me in a long time.” She eyed the red gem stone as the memories came flooding back.

8

Gabrielle sat opposite her wood working desk it was now her twenty fifth birthday. Her room was silent as always as at this time of year no cake no celebrations in her honour. She leaned on the desk she had, had notes from people inviting her to celebrations in her honour but had ignored them wanting no part in them. She wanted to be away from it all, it wasn’t like she could trust anyone outside her room, there were those out there who wanted nothing more than to see her drink poison and die. She wouldn’t lie a part of her wanted death she was craved it as she had nothing left to live for, everything she had loved was gone her son, the man she loved her honour as a warrior but she didn’t want her death to be through poison she wanted to die a warriors death through the sword or not at all. She listened as the doors behind her were opened she didn’t bother turning around as she spoke. “Go away Adrienne! I said I’m not interested in what you have to say today.” She listened as the doors were shut behind her she breathed in feeling the anger burn as she heard her foot steps getting closer. “It’s not a requests it’s an order!”

“You have so much hated and sadness it’s so sad.”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as a small woman in her fifties came in to view she had a wolf skull staff which was highly decorated. Her clothes consisted of ornate robes all made of animal skin she had short medium length curly white hair and sea blue eyes. She eyed her in confusion. “Who are you?” The older woman smiled. “My name is Jacinda I’m the Shaman, you must have heard of me, the white werewolf of dreams.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Yes I’ve heard of you.” She felt a cold sneer form on her lips. “What do you want?” Jacinda shook her head sadly. “I came to speak to you, you’re the great Horn Hind though every one is still unsure as to what your title should be.” Gabrielle stood up she slowly lit her pipe breathing in the opium which was doing very little to numb her emotional pain. “Maybe it should be Crescent Hind like my predecessor since I just kill innocent people like he did to please the Imperial Council.” Jacinda looked up sadly. “I was thinking more Golden Hind.” Gabrielle turned unable to stop her cold laugher as it hit the air. “Oh please you give me a name I’m not even worthy off, I’m no Golden Hind.”

Jacinda leaned on her staff. “I have, had a vision and you will one day have that name, I also know that sometimes you have dreams where you see ghosts from the past but you’ve never said anything to anyone.” She shook her head sadly. “Instead you ignore what you see as dreams, when they are not just dreams as your gift goes one step further doesn’t it? You can even see ghosts from time to time in the land of the living though you refuse to embrace what you seeing as real, you should be embracing your gift because one day it’ll save you, from yourself.” Gabrielle eyed her despite the truth in her words she didn’t want to take them in she hated seeing ghosts in day light and in her dreams. She had started seeing them after she’d been bitten years ago and it was a curse. No one should ever see the dead walking around graveyards looking lost and confused as they searched for a way to find what ever heaven they belonged to, it was just disturbing seeing them in her dreams. It had also caused her to become much more of a loner as these ghosts sometimes spoke to her and people saw her talking back them. They saw it as her being insane or crazy because they couldn’t see them.

During her training the recruits had laughed at her for saying that an old werewolf warrior was watching them train as they couldn’t see him yet she had seen him most days sitting and watching she’d sometimes even spoken to him. Even her trainer had told her to stop making up stories and to stop taking to her self, as it clearly clouding her judgement. During her later years she’d stopped talking back to the ghosts and remained distant from them. She had never told anyone about her affliction not even and Damokles, because she had been afraid that he would laugh at her or call her a liar or insane. She still saw them walking around in places in the Grand City but she refused to take notice of them anymore even if they spoke to her. They never left her sleep though if you could call it sleep anymore it was now constant nightmares which were filled the innocents people she had killed taunting her. She breathed out the smoke from her pipe “You believe too much.” Jacinda shook her head sadly this was a truly depressed young woman, who had lost all focus on her destiny. “You believe to little, you are meant for truly great things, I’ve seen it.” She raised her staff. “You are destine to be the greatest of the seven Horn Hinds your name will one day be legendary.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t share your vision.”

Jacinda raised an eyebrow. “No not just in my vision it’s also a prophecy written on the godly scrolls of the Hinds I’ve seen it myself.” Gabrielle eyed her. “I’ve seen that scroll above the council chamber I’m not even on it, so you’re lying to me.” Jacinda raised her hand. “No I’m the only person to walk in to this room in the last seven months to tell you the truth and you know it in your heart, you just don’t want to embrace it. The scroll above those bastards is a fake they switched it with the true one which they’ve now lost but I was there before it was switched I saw you on it and it’s for that reason they have switched it. She breathed in deeply. “They can’t tolerate the idea that a half breed will be the greatest of all werewolves and will have the power to dethrone them forever.” Gabrielle eyed her before breathing out the smoke from her pipe. “No one can dethrone the Imperial Council the original council was formed by the werewolf King Lycaon it’s not possible they have too much power. The first Horn Hind the Emerald Hind came in and killed King Lycaon and became the first true werewolf king.” Jacinda raised an eyebrow. “I’m impressed clearly you do a lot of study.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind against her pipe as she spoke. “You have no idea.”

Jacinda stepped closer. “I’ve also studied you, in fact I even saw you a few times before you became Horn Hind your not that hard to miss after all golden fur isn’t that common only a small percentage of werewolves have it in the Grand City. You have always been noble to your cause, which is what’s destroying you now you’re surrounded by people who are using you to their own ends.” She raised her finger. “Even the woman who claims to love you doesn’t love you.” Gabrielle sneered as she stood up. “I know she doesn’t love me, what we have is a relationship of connivance which is all about the bedroom.” Jacinda felt a sad smile form. “You hate her though don’t you because she hurts both emotionally and physically?” Gabrielle tensed trying to control her anger as she spoke. “I’m so numb to the pain that I no longer care what she does to me.” Jacinda looked up slightly. “You’re not like her though you’re far nobler than she ever could be, you want someone to love you don’t you? You deserve that, more than anyone.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Love is an illusion spoken about by foolish bards and scribes, if you know anything about my life story you’ll know that I loved a man called Damokles but he left me for another woman, he used me and he lied to me. So you’ll excuse me if I don’t believe in love, these days I just try and get by with what I have and I try to be happy about it.”

Jacinda shook her head sadly. “One day you and my son are going to talk and when you do talk to him I know you’ll see things differently when he pledges his loyalty to you as he kneels at your feet his white fur glinting in along with his brother’s.” She paused. “I’ve told the council of my vision of you must now go and do as I foresee.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe typical she should have realized that she was just going to be the puppet once more still it wasn’t like her life or her choices were ever her own anymore anyway. “What might that vision be?” Jacinda felt a wide smile form. “You’re going to go to the palace in Corinth and you’re going to kill the Empress of Greece. The Northern Rebels intend to attack the palace three nights from now. You’ll dress in their clothes and join them before the attack, once they get in side the walls, you’ll separate from them and then you’ll do your duty.” Gabrielle breathed out in shock. “What you’re saying is preposterous no one has ever gotten that close to Empress and lived!” Jacinda smiled meeting her green eyes. She eased up her hand pulling a necklace free from the wolf skull it was a tiny red sapphire which was on a small silver chain she carefully put in the younger woman’s hand. “But you will I’ve seen it in my vision and when you do you’ll change the face of the werewolf race forever, it all starts in that palace in Corinth it is the place of your true destiny.”

8

Halirrhothius watched as the blonde haired woman sharply wiped away a fallen tear. “I didn’t know…by the gods I’m so sorry Golden Hind.” Gabrielle tensed quickly regaining control over her painful emotions. “Your mother was a great woman, she risked her life to give me mine and I did not see it, I do not intend to make that mistake again with you.” She moved forward taking hold of his hand carefully placing the red sapphire jewel in it and then gently closed stepping back. “I’m sorry that your family was taken from you, no one deserves to die that way and your family is ancient and noble.” Halirrhothius opened his hand eyeing the jewel which he recognised. “This was her favourite she said she’d lost it…its nice to know that this remains if nothing else.” He closed his hand. “My brother Akil is a black smith, my sister Obelia is a warrior but I am the one who has her gift, I am Halirrhothius the next white werewolf of dreams.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment a part of her didn’t want to ask this question because she feared the answer but to not ask would be much worse. “What do you see in my future Halirrhothius?” Halirrhothius slowly put the jewelled necklace over his head. “My visions of late have been very clouded Golden Hind, I see blood dripping of white coble stones and werewolves and men lying together in death and then its fades out there is nothing solid but I see one clear vision and it hasn’t made sense to me until now.” He turned looking at the Empress. “I see you in werewolf form moving across an ice lake towards the Empress who is wounded I never see how badly only that her blood is on the ice.”

He paused. “The ice is breaking under you and you are not stopping there’s so much desperation in your eyes I see no more though.” Idomeneus smirked. “Look I’m not discounting your view Halirrhothius but I’ve met many shamans they speak of things that don’t always come to pass.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “In most cases that is true Idomeneus but the White Families visions are never wrong, they told the first Horn Hind that he would win the battle against King Lycaon and many of the visions told to other Horn Hinds have come true. The vision I was told came true and I will not discount any others from Halirrhothius lips.” Idomeneus folded his arms. “No offence but I’ll believe it when I see it.” Halirrhothius eyed him for a long moment. “You should watch out for flying arrows Idomeneus they can be uncomfortable in certain places.” Idomeneus eyed him. “What’s that supposed to mean?” Halirrhothius felt a smile form. “I’m sure you will find out soon enough.” He turned back to Gabrielle. “It is my duty to give you council it was the job my mother was denied, I would like to give it to you now.” Gabrielle slowly sat down. “Only under the condition that Xena is present for all of our meetings.” Halirrhothius eyed the Empress. “No offence Golden Hind but she is human…and this is a werewolf matter.” Gabrielle shook her head. “She is my lover and equal and she is putting huge vast resources and warriors in to this war.”

Halirrhothius rolled his eyes. “Yes I respect that but this is a werewolf matter and she is not your equal she is human.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form she ignored the cold look Idomeneus gave the Shaman. “I’m going to excuse your rudeness because I realize that you come from a very privileged family Halirrhothius your whole life you got to choose your destiny and you got the best of everything because your pure blood. I was born human I lived on a farm my farther was a carpenter my mother a stall holder. I did not wish to become a werewolf it was forced up on me and because of the Imperial Council after that I was given no choices of my own, even when I became Horn Hind. A lot of werewolves feel the same as I do and many of them have a very different view on humanity than you do. I think you should take time to listen to them and learn then you may come to feel as I do, Xena is my equal that will never change, race aside.” Xena felt a smile form as she eyed her lover, she knew where she was going with this and she wasn’t going to interfere. Halirrhothius felt his eyes dart. “Are you asking me to talk to half bloods and human’s Golden Hind? Gabrielle folded her arms. “Yes I am, because you can learn a lot from these people.”

Halirrhothius tensed frankly he didn’t like the idea of this, what could he learn from these people anyway? If that was her desire than he would do it he would never deny any of her requests it would be seen as dishonourable. “As you wish Golden Hind if only to please you.” Gabrielle breathed in as she eyed him. “No not to please me, it’s to help you.” Idomeneus felt a wicked smile form as he turned to Gabrielle seeing an opportunity to educate this stupid anti human full blood fool it was very clear to him that he needed it his behaviour towards the Empress had been rude. “Can I please be the one to introduce him to some real people?” Gabrielle raised her hand. “Yes of cause.” Idomeneus moved putting his hand on Halirrhothius’s shoulder. “Come with me dear friend we are going to chat to lots of half breeds and humans, you’re going to learn so much.” Halirrhothius eyed him he wasn’t sure if hated or liked this man or his twin sister living with them over the past few days had not been fun. They both acted like over grown children at times, he wasn’t sure if it was normal behaviour that came with being a half blood or if it was just them being themselves. Gabrielle watched as they both vanished from sight, clearly that could have gone better, she turned to her lover. “I’m sorry he referred to you in that manner, it’s not his fault its just the way full bloods are brought up, they think anyone who’s not like them is not an equal.”

Xena put her hands together. “It’s okay Gabrielle, I’ve had worse the Spartans always viewed the Athenians as beneath them, even after I won the war and killed their king, his view point aside what worries me is his visions.” Gabrielle sat back in her chair. “Jacinda was never wrong…ever but I don’t know the strengths of his gifts.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “So you’re doubtful?” Gabrielle leaned on her elbow. “Yes but I didn’t want to say that in front of Idomeneus…I get the feeling they don’t like each other.” Xena stood up moving over to her putting her hand on her shoulder. “That’s why you sent them off together though?” Gabrielle looked up meeting her gaze. “Yes…I just thought it might help it’s what I used to do when men and women I commanded during campaigns didn’t get along sometimes it works other times it doesn’t.” Xena took hold of her hand planting a gentle kiss on it. “It’s a good idea it’s what I would have done.” She paused leaning over meeting her lips in a soft and gentle kiss. “Nice to know that you consider me you’re equal.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows as she spoke feeling a smile form. “I’ve always seen you as my equal.” She moved over to her lover’s food bowl picking it up. “Do you want this?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No thank you, I’ll hunt and bring something better to eat after dusk tomorrow, right now I just want to sleep.” Xena eyed the porridge she turned back to the younger woman. “Then let’s get some sleep.”

End of part 23

 

STRANGE AND BEWILDERING PAIN

 

Demetrius slowly sat down by the fire looking at Thaleia who looked really worn down the first three days were always the worst when it came adjusting to war rotation. He wasn’t going to lie, he was struggling with this, you normally slept was when you marched and when you marched was normally when you were wide awake. The werewolf troops were coping better with it than his warriors. He eyed the sky above eyeing the setting sun, now though was a certain time in the day when werewolves hunted. If he had this right werewolves changed form at dusk and went out hunting for a number of hours, the idea was that then when he had to get the army packed up they’d come back with they could store it and then start moving again. They were still two days away from Athens and it was slow going, he eyed the barley porridge in his hand which tasted awful. Frankly anything would taste better than this and he couldn’t wait to eat something better. He had, had a number of the men and women start to cook flat bread in the small portable ovens but it would take them a long while to make enough to go around. Oh there was dried meat but Iona was ensuring that, that was rationed and not stolen. If the hoplites, diplomat’s warriors and his and Iona’s warriors were going to get through this they really needed meats and fish and much more to eat.

He looked up as Iona sat down opposite him. “How are you holding up?” Iona shrugged. “Apart from my men and women complaining about how bad the food tastes, fine.” Demetrius put down his empty bowl. “Yes it leaves a lot be desired I don’t know how Gladiators can stand this stuff everyday.” Ceto appeared close sitting down close by. “You know the dried meat tastes much nicer.” Thaleia eyed her for a long moment. “Where did you get dried meat?” Ceto turned pointing at Idomeneus. “That werewolf Idomeneus is handing some off it out to his rebels and our army.” Demetrius eyed the bigger man who was close by. “Hey, would you like to join us?” Idomeneus eyed the human general who was speaking to him, he moved towards him feeling a little unsure of him self. He had tried his best to introduce Halirrhothius to different people but he had not really had much of a breakthrough with him. The snotty full blood bastard clearly hadn’t caught on that half breeds were as good as him, but it was early days yet. Now he realized this it was clear that all of his twin sisters complaining had merit. She had said that both Obelia and Idomeneus were really up tight. The only who one didn’t carry their half blood and human prejudice was Akil and if he thought it he didn’t voice it openly unlike his brother and sister. He could only assume that his better attitude was due to being a black smith which meant he had to spend time with people of all types as he made weapons.

Frankly how Halirrhothius and his sister had acted in front of Gabrielle was plain disgusting she was their king and they should treat her with respect. Even now they were both eating in their private tent clearly because they didn’t to mingle with real werewolf’s which made them stupid full bloods. He slowly sat down next to the woman with dark hair and skin a wide smile forming on his lips. “You called for me?” Thaleia eyed him feeling a smile form. “My friend said that you had some dried meat we would all like to have some, if possible.” Idomeneus pulled out a bag opening it he watched as they all took some. “Tastes way better than that crap you call porridge.” Demetrius took a bite of the dried goat’s meat savouring the flavour. “You name is Idomeneus am I correct?” He watched as the man nodded. “And your twin sister is Sapphira?” Idomeneus raised his hand. “Yes and as I hear it, your Demetrius head of this army and the Hoplites.” He eyed the woman close by. “And your Iona and you are the Empress’s best at dealing pain and getting information.” He watched as she nodded his gaze drifted to the man in decorative robes who was looking over a werewolf. “And that really enthusiastic healer, who is checking out one of my warriors over there is Phantasos?” Demetrius smirked. “You’ll have to excuse him you see he’s desperate to study werewolves, he could only learn so much from Gabrielle and she was not always available.” Idomeneus blinked in surprise. “You all call the Golden Hind by her formal name, she asked me to do this to but I don’t understand why it’s odd.”

Thaleia looked up. “She’s always been that way she just prefers to talk to people with out formalities.” Idomeneus raised an eyebrow. “We have not been introduced and you are?” Thaleia leaned over shaking his hand. “Thaleia I’m Gabrielle’s personal maid.” Idomeneus eyed the other woman who was seated next to her he felt a wide smile form. “And you are?” Ceto gave him a smile. “Ceto I’m the personal maid of the Empress.” Idomeneus raised his hand. “So when I speak to the Empress I say Empress not her normal name?” Ceto nodded. “Always her title Gabrielle is the only one likes to be called by her by name, it’s a symbol of trust between them, as they view each other as equals.” Idomeneus put the bag away feeling unsure of his next question. “Please don’t be offended by my question but Gabrielle is very young I expected her to be much older…is she good at what she does?” Iona picked up a water skin drinking from it. “She doesn’t suffer fools gladly and you really do not want to get in a fight with her.” Demetrius looked up slightly. “She’s had a lot of experience on campaigns she’s been fighting since her early teens and she’s won many battles I personally have a lot of trust in her ability and so does the Empress.” Idomeneus leaned forward lowering his voice as he changed the subject. “Where did Gabrielle get that scar, you know the one on her right eye?

Thaleia took a long drink from her water skin before speaking. “You’ll need to ask her personally, it’s very personal to her.” Idomeneus breathed in deeply a part him had not expected this but now it had happened he wasn’t surprised. These people were loyal to Gabrielle and would clearly protect her, even though they were in essence the Empress’s people maybe that was a good thing though. He raised his hands. “So does she have the crooked horns? I heard they were still covered in velvet.” Iona eyed him for a long moment. “Not anymore there not, let’s just say that, that pair fell out and she grew new ones.” Idomeneus raised his finger about to speak only to stop as he watched the Empress’s tent open slowly as a large golden werewolf stepped out walking on all fours. He could see the huge brown horns which were almost the size of a male stags and had razor sharp points there was no velvet, it was now solid bone and none of it was crooked it was all pointing upwards and healthy. He watched as the golden werewolf slowly stood up on her hind legs shaking her mane as she turned the Empress who was following behind her. The dark haired woman wrapped her coat around herself to keep out the freezing cold. “Check those horns out!” He laughed as he turned to them keeping his eye on Gabrielle. “My farther told me about the Crescent Hind and that he had seen him once in the Grand City. He said although he hated the bastard, he admired his horns, he said there was nothing like it and when you see it, it’s a stunning vision.” He paused. “And he was right it really is stunning.”

Gabrielle breathed out watching as her breath drifted through the cold air like smoke, she ignored the looks which were now all falling up on her. For some warriors in Xena’s army this was the first time they had ever seen a werewolf in the flesh let alone one with horns. While for the rebels this was the first time they had seen her and not a picture painted on an illegal playing card in their werewolf card deck. She calmly met her lovers gaze as she eased up her clawed hand gently running it through her long dark hair watching as it spilt through her fingers. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours with some real food.” She leaned forward running out her tongue gently up the other woman’s neck. Normally she wouldn’t do this in front of others but right now she didn’t care and she wanted to make it very clear that this was her lover. If the older woman had taught her anything it was that it was okay to be herself regardless of what others thought of her. Xena moved her hand up stroking her lover’s nose. “Get me some real food okay.” She leaned over gently kissing the scar above her eye. “Fish if you can but venison would be real nice.” Gabrielle felt her smile widen. “Trust me I’ll bring you something good.” She turned seeing that a number of werewolves in werewolf form were now gathering some distance from the camp.

Demetrius blinked eyeing Gabrielle for a long moment. “Oh…so that’s how werewolves kiss…I always wondered.” Sapphira smiled as she moved away from the group toward Gabrielle. “Oh now I am impressed, those horns really make a king!” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before shaking her head. “No actions make a king the horns are just decorative.” Sapphira blinked she didn’t really understand that statement but maybe it was a quote from the werewolf city or something. “Don’t think ill of me for asking but can you hunt with those? I mean they don’t get in the way.” Gabrielle slowly got down on all fours. “Yes I can hunt and no they don’t in the way.” Sapphira did the same despite that it felt slightly awkward as she was used to standing on her hind legs. “So does the Empress…you know like werewolf intimacy.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes great she should have seen this coming. “Yes…why do you ask?” Sapphira breathed in. “I mean no offence its just I’ve never had a sexual partner and me and my brother have not gone through the mating urge though I’ve seen others going through it. So I don’t know what to expect and if human beings would…you know like it.” Gabrielle carried on walking watching as the others started to follow her. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Sapphira felt a wide smile form. “Have you, you know had sex when in werewolf form and she’s human I’ve heard it’s really intense.”

Gabrielle felt her body tense as she eyed her speaking calmly. “That’s none of your business.” Sapphira lowered herself which she’d heard was slightly submissive posture which meant that you meant no offence or so her mother and farther had told her. “I’m sorry I only ask because well you see I don’t have many female werewolf friends and I can’t really chat to my brother.” Gabrielle turned slowly to her. “You don’t need to lower yourself in front of me in that manner, you only have to do that to noble house werewolves but no one has to do it to me.” Sapphira stood up again. “Really? I can’t stand the thought of doing that to Halirrhothius and his family…they are rude and difficult in my opinion. I mean I heard that your discussion didn’t go so well with him.” Gabrielle carried on moving towards the forest. “Halirrhothius has a lot to learn and him and his family need to learn fast, their rudeness and disrespect of human’s and half breeds will not be tolerated under my rule.” Sapphira slowly followed her raising her dark ears. “You like human’s a lot don’t you? I can hear it in your voice.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “I was born human and my lovers human I won’t deny where I come from. To do so is to deny who I am and I’d be denying the Empress’s love and let me be very clear when I say I will kill anyone who lays a hand on her.”

8

Lila opened her eyes it was still dark she sat up looking at the large tent behind her where Callisto and Theodore were sleeping. Both her self and Korudon had, had to sleep outside by the fire. It wasn’t even drawn and all she wanted was to go back to sleep and forget how she had some how been tricked in to helping this woman and her anti social friend. She stood up pulling the fur cover off herself picking up her sword, suddenly realizing why she had woken up as the screaming of her bladder hit home. She got up walking over to the trees happy to relieve her self she really needed to stop drinking so much it really wasn’t doing her any good. She stood up adjusting her clothes as she caught sight of the tall thin reed basket which was wrapped in furs and sitting just inside tent where it could get the most heat from the burnt out fires ambers. She had noticed that the blonde haired woman had kept this basket very close to her all night it had never left her side. She found that both odd and strange clearly it had something of value in it and that bothered her. She wasn’t going to have people hunting her down again because some had some stupid religious artefact that was worth killing for. The first time around had been difficult enough. She breathed in pulling the basket out of the furs, she knew it was wrong to go through other peoples things but she was in no mood to deal with another person’s ignorance and stupidity.

She carefully opened the lid watching as another set of furs came in to view clearly this woman was hiding something this had to be some religious statue. She leaned closer seeing what looked like reflective scales, what in Tartarus was this?  She felt her eyes dart as she moved her hand towards the whole strange mass which suddenly moved, this wasn’t pottery this was a snake! She felt the utter terror hit home as two huge pupils appeared as the head rose slightly and the huge mouth opened displaying the massive fangs as it came towards her. She felt the ground as she hit it hard on her back as the head lashed out above her missing her as the massive reptile came free of its basket. The next moments turned terror as it huge body moved at lightening speed slithering on to her chest as the head rose higher and the jaws opened again hissing. She didn’t dear move the snake was huge in size. It was the biggest snake she had ever seen in her life she watched as its lower coil slowly working its way around her neck felt the painful pressure as coil started to tighten. A high pitched voice hit the air close by causing the snake to turn its head sharply. “Xanthus!” Callisto rubbed her eyes looking at her pet whose coils instantly loosened themselves from the woman’s neck. “You know that you do not treat guests this way!” She carefully took hold of the snake whose mouth slowly closed as its head went down in submission.

She picked up the huge animal putting it over her shoulder as she eyed Lila who looked terrified as she scrambled to move away. “You know it’s incredibly rude to go through other peoples things, didn’t your mother ever teach you that!?” Lila grabbed her sword pulling it free of her scabbard as she backed up against the nearest tree as the huge snake hissed at her again. “I thought you were stowing away a religious artefact!” Callisto eyed her pet. “This is a religious artefact!” Lila felt her grip tighten on her blade. “You’ve got to be kidding me, who in their right mind keeps a monster of a snake as a religious artefact?” Callisto eyed the others who were still sleeping for some reason she was grateful for that as this was a private matter. She lowered her voice to a venomous whisper. “This is the living embodiment of my goddess Ouroboros and this snake speak through her to me.” She eased up the huge head kissing it softy. “Show some respect, plus you scared him.” Lila stood up. “I scared him? You have any idea how much he scared me!” Callisto eyed her pet again as she sat down on a fallen log. “Well now maybe you’ll learn not to poke around in places that don’t concern you.” Lila rose to her feet seeing that snake was watching her every move. “You know what I don’t get you, first you conned me, now you’re telling me not to poke my nose in when I’m the one you hired.”

Callisto eyed her for a long moment as she pulled up the reed basket adjusting the furs with her free hand well at least she hadn’t called her crazy yet. Lila tensed. “I also can’t work out if you’re eccentric or just crazy.” Callisto rolled her eyes, well that was too much to hope for. “If it makes you feel better I’m the head priestess of Ouroboros’s temple in Corinth and it’s my job to see the future.” Lila slowly sat down near by keeping her sword raised. “There is no temple to Ouroboros in Corinth.” Callisto stroked Xanthus’s head. “None that you are aware of but it does exist.” Lila looked up sharply. “Wait so you’re a seer, just like the Oracle of Delphi?” Callisto looked up. “Yes, so don’t call me crazy, I prefer the term gifted.” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Plus since you worship the Greek gods I don’t expect you to understand my views or care for them but believe me if you bring any harm to my temple I will make you wish you hadn’t.” Lila watched as the snake rose up hissing as its hood opened fully. She slowly lowered her sword sticking it in the ground. “Don’t worry I had no intention of bringing you harm, I mean your clearly well armed.” Callisto slowly put her snake back in the reed basket watching as it started to coil up she took hold of the fur packing it on top to keep in the warmth. “You seem very open minded for a follower of Athena.”

Lila folded her arms eyeing her as she put the lid on the basket. “My best friend is a Korudon is satyr, if you haven’t noticed.” Callisto moved the basket so it was closer to the warmth of the dying ambers. “Yes but normally mercenaries don’t cross that line.” Lila raised both eyebrows. “I work with him and him alone I don’t consider there to be lines in terms of our friendship. What we have is about honour, understanding and trust and I would die for him.” Callisto picked up a stick poking it in to the fire. “So you’re not with him because satyrs make great lovers?” Lila smirked. “Oh yes I’ve heard that rumour to but believe me it’s just a rumour satyrs are no better than Minotaur’s, Centaur’s or werewolves in bed. After all being a good lover is about understanding not about your biological disposition.” Callisto raised the twig. “Now that’s why I picked you for this job, because clearly underneath that sword and rude mouth is a brain that loves to analyse the world and question it. Instead of just saying that is how it is.” Lila felt a smile form that was a genuine compliment and it was so nice to have one and despite her feelings about this mission. Maybe she could learn to get on along with this woman despite that she her eccentric behaviour. “So why are you going to Athens?” Callisto looked up slightly. “Sadly I can’t tell you but I think you are really going to like it.”

8

I love hunting I love the way the earth moves under my claws I love being low to ground and hearing every sound. The last hunt I did I was before I came to Corinth and I remember the pleasure of it. This is one part of not being human that I love, if I were human I would have to use a bow stalk for hours and when the arrow leaves my fingers I just might miss. In this form I could still miss but I know I have the energy to carry on the chase, I like the moment when I grab the animal with my teeth and bring it down. It’s such an adrenaline rush I love it, I feel like I’m at my best when I’m hunting and unlike most werewolves I have horns yet I can still function with them. Though these are very different to the crooked horns I had I don’t think they will bother me after they don’t curve outwards but more inwards and I think that’s so that I don’t get wedged between trees or get the points stuck. Ether way in a few moments from now I’m going to learn if they are hindrance, right now I’m moving through the forest on all fours. I can smell a roe deer I know I could have hunted rabbit or fish tonight but I prefer a challenge. Yes its true roe deer are not the biggest deer I could hunt bigger but beggars can’t be chooses. Gabrielle carried on shuffling low to the ground moving paw by paw as the smell intensified she was so close now. She had sent the other werewolves off to find food, there was no need for them to pack hunt they could all get things they didn’t need her help.

She shifted closer catching sight of the roe deer that was out in a clearing eating the leaves from a branch. It should have been sleeping but that was its error and soon to be her gain. She stopped tensing every muscle in her body reading herself, timing was everything in this game and she wanted this too be quick and clean. She felt the rush of blood hit her in an instant as her whole body sprung in to action. She felt the ground as her claws pounded it as she ran for all she was worth opening her mouth very slightly the roe deer turned seeing her, it instantly sprinted in to action leaping over and dashing through the forest kicking up the dirt in its wake. She picked up her pace weaving through the trees watching as it leapt over a huge fallen tree. She felt her feet leave the floor as she did the same coming down hard on the other side turning the hard corner feeling her claws scratch the dirt. She was getting closer she felt a smile form this was one thing she would never give up even when she was old and grey, she loved it to much. She moved catching up on the deer who was now slowing down she could see the panic in its eye but she had long become numb to that feeling of guilt when killing animals, she had to do this so others could eat and guilt really had no place in this world.

One of its hoofs slipped giving her the moment she needed, she slammed her clawed hand straight in to its side forcing it down in to the ground. She pulled her claws out slamming her other hand in to its shoulder giving the leverage she needed to keep it down. Her jaws opened wide as she locking them around its throat. She had only one moral and it really mattered to her, her food should never suffer it should die quickly and cleanly. She forced her jaws in feeling both of her of her protruding teeth on her upper and lower jaw puncture the skin fully. She tasted blood instantly in her mouth which was sweet and irony. She forced her head sideways hearing the crack of bone as the animal’s neck broke killing it instantly. She eased open her mouth pulling her jaws feeling the blood as it dribbling down her lower jaw. Her heart was racing even now it was like a strange haze which had taken over. She heard a crack behind her she turned sharply watching as Sapphira appeared standing on her hind legs she had a bunch of dead rabbits in her clawed hands. She closed her eyes trying to ignore the sudden feeling which was like a nail driving in to her brain the next moments happened with out her having any control over them. She moved over the dead deer lowering herself to the ground as she opened her jaws fully snarling at her as she pulled her lips back showing off her gums and teeth.

One thought which made no sense to her what’s so ever was going through her mind, she owned this kill it was hers and no one else’s. Sapphira stopped eyeing Gabrielle for a long moment she took a slow step back. “My apologises…I should have made my presence known.” She eyed the other woman who continued to snarl at her. “Hey is there something I’m meant to do here…I wasn’t born in the Grand City…I don’t understand how hunting rules work.” Gabrielle shook her head mane snapping out of the haze as she slowly got up on to her hind legs grabbing the dead animal. “Sorry I don’t know why I did that, I wasn’t thinking straight.” She leaned against the nearest tree feeling the nail like pain disappear only to be replaced by an esteem cramping pain below the waist, which made even less sense as she had already cycled this month. A werewolf cycle wasn’t any different to any human’s you still got pain but it could be ignored and it normally wasn’t this painful and sudden. She put a bloody clawed hand on the tree opposite trying to ignore it. Sapphira eyed her for a long moment. “Is it your cycle?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I’ve had it but the pain is just as bad if not worse.” She stopped normally she wouldn’t say anything to anyone but right now she felt comfortable. As she was talking to another werewolf about this, the last thing she wanted was for her lover to hear about this. She looked up slowly. “I’ve been getting headaches really painful ones it feels like a nail driving its way in to my brain. I get moments where I want to rip things in two and I don’t always feel in control in the bedroom and I have sexually violent nightmares. At first I thought it was being stabbed in the chest some time ago but now I’m starting to think that something’s wrong with me.”

She forced her claws in to the tree pushing them in leaving deep cut marks as a wave of pain hit her. “I know that I hardly know you or your brother but I need a favour.” Sapphira nodded. “Feel free to ask you are my king.” Gabrielle pulled away from the tree. “I need you to ask one of the werewolf healers what this is…but it can’t have come from me, they can’t know I’m having problems.” Sapphira nodded she carefully took the deer from her hand throwing it over her shoulder. “That won’t be a problem I have very trusted friends as does my brother.” She paused. “I’m guessing that the Empress does not know about this?” Gabrielle moved forward trying to ignore the pain. “No she doesn’t and you’re not going to tell her anything and nether is your brother. I don’t know what wrong with me but I won’t see any harm come to her and if necessary I’ll have you and your brother restrain me before I lay a clawed finger on her.” Sapphira eyed her for a moment. “The others might see your pain.” Gabrielle turned grabbing the deer’s horn breaking it off she slammed the point in to stomach pushing it upwards creating a long slicing wound before throwing it away watching as the blood leaked out, it was only a flesh wound but enough to make the point clear. She threw the broken horn to one side. “Now it just looks like I took a blow hunting…it happens.” Sapphira eyed the wound clearly Gabrielle had no fear of self harm or pain. Most werewolves she’d met would not do that to themselves. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

End of part 24

 

SHOWERS OF WHITE IN THE COLD OF THE AFTERNOON

 

I don’t understand the book that Xena gave me I read the first ten pages some time ago and the words are still rolling around in my mind. I’ve read lots of scrolls I love reading and learning but this is the first time I’ve read a book and have been rather taken aback by what its saying. Leo Tzu teachings are written in such a strange way. Okay I know I should be concentrating as I walk on all fours but what I read is really sticking her mind. “The entire world is driven by a will, blind and ruthless, in order to transcend the limitations of that world, you need to stop willing, stop desiring, stop hating.” I understand that the world is driven by a will and I know it’s blind and ruthless that’s not new to me it’s something I’ve always known. How does anyone transcend their limitations of the world? What does that even means transcend limitations it makes no sense what so ever. I mean you can’t leave this world we are all kept here, our souls don’t allow us to leave. How do you stop wiling? Its part of the world everyone wants for something more it’s the nature of the humanity it’s not like you can just let that go. Also how do you stop desiring everything is driven by desire even if that desire is not corrupted. The hardest one of all to me is how does anyone stop hating? There is so much cruelty in this world and that to me is the hardest thing to let go off.

Maybe I find it difficult to take because I know that hatred was what kept me alive for many years of my life. Knowing that I will one day kill Bastiaan is one of those reasons I’m in this war and I can’t just stop hating that bastard and I won’t be happy until he is dead. Yeah may be I am being petty but his death feels necessary to me, it would be retribution for the death of the one I loved. We are half way to Athens now but once we are close we will have to stop outside and not enter it as they needed to make a strategic attack on the underground tunnels which are close to the city. I feel somewhat out of my element I’ve seen tunnels being built walked through them but never their construction. I’m a warrior I’ve fought wars but I have never done anything like this before and I know time is against me and I have a lot to prove to myself to the rebels. Right now I’m king by word and mouth but I will not truly be a king until I prove it. Gabrielle eyed her stomach wound which Phantasos had stitched up she winced ignoring the dull cramping pains which were still bothering her, the only good thing that had come out of this was that her lover wasn’t any wiser towards her condition though she had been concerned. She was more surprised that I brought a deer back, but that was what she requested and all of the food they had gotten hold off would help as it would all be carved up and shared out next time they set up camp.

“Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle turned seeing that Thaleia was walking close by and not on her horse. “You should be riding it’s a long way to Athens.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “I would its just…” She looked down feeling slightly embarrassed. “Well my backside hurts I want to walk for a while.” Gabrielle slowly stood up going on her hind legs so it would slow her pace if her friends backside had hurt half as much as hers had walking wouldn’t be the most fun thing right now. “Don’t worry I know how much it hurts.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “I heard that your meeting with the White Family didn’t go so well.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “Who told you that?” Thaleia put her hands behind her back. “Sapphira did but Ceto said it was my right to know about all your meetings even if I’m not there, I have to be told what went on, its royal protocol.” Gabrielle put a clawed hand on her shoulder. “Well if it’s royal protocol I can’t argue with that you are my personal maid after all.” Thaleia felt her smile widen as she pulled her fur coat further over her shoulders. “No I guess you can’t.” Gabrielle felt a sharp tingle of cold hit her nose she looked around her seeing the white clear crystal specks as they started to appear. Thaleia looked up as above them everything turned to white as the snow started to drift down all around them. “Hey it’s snowing.”

Gabrielle watched as the snow carried on falling it was early this year. Still she had, had a feeling that it was on the horizon but seeing it now put everything in to perspective, this war would take place in the coldest of winters. She turned back to Thaleia as the snow carried on falling around them. “How are things with you and Demetrius?” Thaleia put her hands together watching as the white snow carried on falling. “They are going okay but I’m getting annoyed that he keeps a guard around me all the time, I feel like I’ve got a shadow.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “He’s just trying to protect you because he cares about you.” Thaleia breathed in deeply trying to ignore the frustration. “I just feel I’d be better protected if I had a weapon.” Gabrielle turned sharply. “You do not want to take a life Thaleia it changes every thing.” Thaleia shook her head. “I understand this and this is what Demetrius said but what you both fail to understand is that I need something to defend myself. Even Ceto has a dagger I have nothing and I don’t want to depend on a body guard.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “I’ll have one of my werewolves take care of you.” Thaleia rolled her eyes. “I don’t want another body guard…why are you being so restraint to this?” Gabrielle stopped turned slowly to face her. “You don’t want to kill Thaleia because when you do everything changes and I mean everything.” Thaleia folded her arms in annoyance. “I don’t understand ether you or Demetrius.”

She shook her head sadly. “You both want me to come along on this war, yet you both refuse to help me even though you know it’s dangerous.” Gabrielle began to walk again watching as she followed. “It’s because we both care about you and don’t want you to go through that kind of pain.” Thaleia raised her hands. “Who says I’ll go through the same pain as you?” Gabrielle raised her clawed hand. “If you kill someone you have to live with it for the rest of your life and let me tell you its not fun seeing that person’s eyes haunting your dreams, Demetrius loves you, he’s doing what is best for you and so am I.” Thaleia moved away from her friend feeling the sting of her own anger. “No you are both doing what’s best for you and not allowing me to make my own choices! His reaction I understand but you are meant to be my family I see you as a sister and I’ve done everything to help you yet you will not do the same for me.” Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand trying to ignore the sting of pain from those words. “Please understand I’m doing this because I care I’m not trying to keep anything from you.” Thaleia turned sharply. “Well that’s not how it feels to me and I don’t want another body guard.” She shook her head sadly. “You’ll have to excuse me I need to go back to my horse.”

Gabrielle moved closer. “Please don’t be like this Thaleia I’m doing this because I don’t want you to suffer, seeing you hurt would break my heart.” Thaleia shook her head. “No you’re doing this for you Gabrielle because like Demetrius you just don’t want me to be safe, you’d rather give the lives of men and women for me than allow me to save myself.” She walked away not bothering to turn around as she spoke. “When what I really need is to be able to protect myself.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully great this was not the way she had wanted this conversation, why couldn’t her friend see that she was doing this to protect her? The last thing she could stand was the thought her killing someone and the torment she would go through after having done so. As soon as she got time with her she would sit with her and explain herself better she didn’t want to be at odds with her she considered her family. Sapphira watched as Thaleia passed by her she had over heard the conversation and though it was in fact none of his business it had bothered her. She followed her very slowly on all fours waiting till they were just out of ear range of everyone. She whispered hoping that the young woman would hear her. “I know it’s none of my business but I don’t agree with the Golden Hind. I’ve seen what the Imperial Council does to rebel human men and women they capture and that should not be your fate.”

Thaleia turned eyeing the black werewolf speaking quietly keeping an eye on the men and women marching making sure that none of them over heard her. “You want to help me?” Sapphira nodded. “The others and my brother would not agree but many of my human friends back in Corinth died because they didn’t take up arms and thought they’d be safe.” Thaleia stopped folding her arms. “If the others find out, they won’t let you teach me.” Sapphira felt a wide smile form. “They will not find out, I’ll make sure of that there are men and women in this rebel army who are much more loyal to me than my brother.” She paused. “Come to my tent after we set up camp I’ll teach you the art of Ijou blade, for someone like you it’s perfect.” Thaleia blinked in confusion. “What is Ijou blade?” Sapphira felt a smile form. “It’s a special form of werewolf blade its very light and its perfect for beginners, the Imperial Council’s bastards never show mercy to humans beings, you need to be able to kill them, before they kill you.” Thaleia felt a smile form. “Thank you this means a lot to me.” Sapphira raised a clawed hand. “Your welcome.” Thaleia paused as a question hit her. “Why are you helping me Gabrielle is your king?” Sapphira breathed in deeply. “I’ve seen too many of my human friends die because others were being over protective, I wouldn’t want the same for you.”

8

I hate cells their disgusting places and I don’t deserve to be here! I want my vengeance I want to see the Empress’s head roll Gabrielle is mine she was always mine but that’s the problem isn’t it? She’s no longer mine she belongs to someone else and I have to accept that as much as I hate it. I’ll always love her but I have no power over the mating urge, maybe I’ll get lucky and she’ll rip the Empress in two and then come crawling back to me. Yet I’m here stuck in this cage I could be doing so much more than rotting here in a cell. There isn’t even any rats in here if it had rats at least I’d have something to kill in my spare time. I hate how clean this place is, it’s meant to be a prison. You know where they leave people to die and get disease and you torture them. Adrienne looked up from her position on the floor as she watched the guards who had an arrow pointed her. There was only one moment in the day when they left this cage and that was on the night switch over. The switch was over was less than a few minutes and very fast. She already tried once to break the chains holding her but her attempt had failed miserably. Her inhuman strength no longer worked clearly she was going to die in here but she’d try and get out before that, if that was the last thing she did. Her gaze drifted up as the guards gave their single as they changed over and then slowly did so. She took in a deep breath only to notice something odd nether of the guards were facing her, which made no sense they always faced her.

“You’re pathetic Adrienne, we expected so much better from you as did the Imperial Council.”

Adrienne looked up sharply she recognised that voice though she hadn’t heard in a long time. “Najara oh it’s been so long, are you still sucking Bastiaan’s cock or did you get bored of the bitter taste?” The slender short haired blonde woman turned her dark green eyes looking through the cell. “Oh now isn’t that a little shallow coming from you Adrienne I mean you sucked your way up the ladder. I mean any man or woman you could screw you did it’s so dishonourable and such a mockery of the werewolf race. I mean you’re meant to crawl up that ladder like everyone else with skill and accomplishment.” Adrienne smirked ignoring the pain from her chains. “And here I got to lay with the Golden Hind, it’s not like you can say the same.” Najara pulled on the uniform which was incredibly uncomfortable her and her companion had, had to have these made just to get in here. They’d literally had to slip past the guards with out being noticed and not sign the books. “Yes and because of you our underground tunnel to the palace is now cut off, just because you couldn’t keep your stupid mouth shut!” She raised her hand. “That’s why I’m here now because you’ve messed it up and the Imperial Council hates screw ups!” Adrienne raised her hands. “So you are here to kill me?”

The ginger haired man eased out a long curved dagger as he put his cross bow down. “No we are here to torture you till you beg for death and then kill you, I mean it’s going to be hours before the guards change over so we’ll have all the time in the world.” He pulled up the key slowly turning the lock opening the door. “Plus from what I’ve heard you’re in a rather weakened state, so this should be all the more entertaining for us.” Adrienne breathed in watching as Najara slowly picked up the crossbow pointing it at her. “Tell me are you one of Bastiaan’s best?” The man moved closer. “Yes I am he sends his regards by the way, he’s just annoyed that he couldn’t do this himself personally he was so looking forward to it.” Adrienne watched as he smirked. “Shame what I waste of talent and to think you could have been one of my family guards.” The ginger man moved closer only to cry out on pain as an arrow hit him in the leg causing blood to flow. He turned to the blonde haired woman who was reloading the bow casually. “What in Tartarus are you doing you!?” His next words were cut off as the second arrow penetrated his neck. Adrienne watched as he choked as blood spilled out hitting the floor of the cell. “Like I said it’s a shame.”

He fell sideways gagging as tried desperate to breath before hitting the floor on his front as death over took him. “Hasn’t anyone told you, you stupid bastard my family really isn’t to be trusted we always stick together.” Najara pulled the key out of his other dead man’s other hand using it to undo her sister collar which she threw to one side along with the crossbow. “Mother is very angry with you Adrienne.” Adrienne pulled on her chains. “Mother is always angry with me.” Najara folded her arms. “Yes because you keep screwing up, the Orisli family has worked for years to gain our place and you making it a lot harder for us.” Adrienne snorted in disgust rubbing her neck happy for the collar to be finally free of it. “Our mother is foolish only elite full bloods have power in sociality not half blood families. If you can even call us a family anyway I mean we are all just the people she turned, she’s our maker.” Najara leaned against the wall beside her. “Well regardless of your feelings you’re my sister.” Adrienne pulled on her chains. “Well then sister…feel free to take off the rest of these chains.” Najara slowly kneeled down in front of her easing a small bottle out of her pocket which was filled with red liquid. “Only after you’ve taken this, it will cure your problem to a degree.”

Adrienne eyed the red vile. “That’s not what I think it is, is?” Najara eyed the bottle. “Yes it is, now don’t be a prude it’s the only cure for your condition.” Adrienne felt a sneer form. “I’m not drinking that it’s full of inbred fifth.” Najara rolled her eyes. “Yes inbred filth that’s going to give you back your muscle mass again and fix your transformation issues and any brain damage you have.” Adrienne eyed her for a long moment. “You and I both know the side effects loss of control, lack of sexual control, messed up transformations, its like drinking poison.” Najara took in a deep breath. “Adrienne I risked my neck to get this for you at our mother’s request! If the Imperial Council knew that I took this they’d have my head. Our family knows that it works we’ve tested recently tested it on crippled warriors and its fine in small doses so the healing is gradual.” She paused eyeing the bottle. “Plus in life we all have to take poisons now and again, its time you took yours.” She watched as her sister grabbed the bottle from her hand opening it. “I have three bottles you have to take one a day over the next few days.” Adrienne slowly took a swallowed all the liquid in the vile which tasted terrible all she could taste was an irony flavour it was like drinking minced up liver. She instantly felt the pain which brought her to her knees as the feeling of nails drove in to her brain she watched as everything turned to ultra violet and began to spin. “I hate you Najara.”

Najara looked around her as she stood up speaking in a cold tone. “Yeah you can hate me all you want, but you couldn’t live with out me, since I normally have to clean up your mess.” She paused eyeing her sister who was in deep pain now as the horrible concoction fixed her weakened body. “By the way I never sucking Bastiaan’s cock I wouldn’t touch that bastard with a ten foot barge pole.” Adrienne heard the painful popping as her bones shifted healing inside her body. “It…was…part of the role play.” Najara shook her head. “No it wasn’t, I know you Adrienne you always say what you feel.” Adrienne blinked as the violet colour cleared in her eyes and the multicolour came back. “Yeah and that’s how I got up the ladder that you can never seen to climb.” Najara shrugged unfazed by the other woman’s comment. “Yet you’re in a cell and I’m free, so clearly your mouth did you no favours.” Adrienne winced as the muscles though out her whole body went in to a painful spasm. “Najara?” Najara turned slightly. “Yes?” Adrienne eyed her as the spasm ended and she lay back trying to catch her breath. “Just shut up…and get me out of this cell, I have a score to settle with the Empress!”

Najara shook her head. “The Empress is not here in the palace the war with the Imperial Council has started the royal army left along with hundreds of werewolf rebels yesterday.” Adrienne looked up sharply. “What?” Najara slowly started to unlock her chains. “You can’t go back to the Grand City Adrienne, they know that you failed and they also know that you gave away the location of underground tunnel under Corinth. The one they were going to use to attack the palace after the plan in Athens, it’s being cemented up as we speak.” She paused. “Mother has given you new orders.” Adrienne sneered as she stood up painfully leaning against the wall. “I don’t care for mothers orders!” Najara eyed her in disgust. “You should because there going to keep our family alive! Because if the Golden Hind succeeds all of the so called noble full bloods families will loose their power and huge power gab will open up and our family will be finally be able to rise up the ladder, if we give our loyalty to her and the Empress.” She paused before speaking. “So what ever revenge you’re looking for sister you have to drop it if you want to survive this. Your personal vendetta ends in this cell. You played the Imperial Council to get your way and you lost and nothing you’ve done has panned out, it’s now time to do what’s best for our family and not yourself.”

She stepped over to the dead man as she started to strip him of his clothes which she tossed to her sister. “You’re now going to pledge your loyalty to her and the Empress and your going to redeemed your self, because of this moment you are not worthy of your sword. These are mother’s orders and you will obey them.” Adrienne folded her arms. “I don’t have to do anything…” Najara stood up grabbing her by the ragged shirt slamming her against the wall ignoring her look of pain. “Understand that you are in no position to disobey, you’ve made our family very angry, you promised us greatness and your efforts have been deeply disheartening and have saddened us. Your brothers and sisters thought when you scaled the ladder and got as high as you did that you’d bring us greatness instead you’ve dishonoured us, just because you couldn’t stop pulling down your trousers when your sexual appetite gets the better of you. Mother has said that this is the finally straw if you mess up one more time or screw more one more man or women to get your way she’ll kill you herself. Your tactic of crawling up the ladder by sleeping with others goes against the codes of werewolf sociality, honour and respect is won through battle and accomplishments.”

She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Also what you did in your relationship with the Golden Hind has utterly disgusted us all, we found out recently from a reliable source that you were emotionally and physically abusing the werewolf King, of all people! We thought that you loved her and that the relationship you had was meaningful, we saw documents that that you’d mated as a pair and that a donor farther was helping you both to have child and yet we have now found out that it was all Imperial Council lies. The awful part is that you hid the truth so well from us that we all believed it. We were overjoyed that any children you would have had would have been loved by every one in the Grand City and that we could have been brought in to the royal fold and risen up in status. It wasn’t until we heard the rumours floating around the Golden Hind was in a relationship with the Empress of Greece that we got very confused and found ourselves trying to find the answers. For years you lied to us about everything and then the Imperial Council publicly announced that you had failed in your mission to kill the Golden Hind in the palace in Corinth every thing became clear to us and all your dirty secrets came out. Our family’s honour is in tatters right now as none of us would ever go out of our way to kill the werewolf King clearly all that time with Imperial Council has deeply corrupted your soul and has twisted you in to something vile.”

She shook her head sadly. “We all thought that you were better than this Adrienne, clearly we thoughts to much, you weren’t like this in our youth you were better than this.” Adrienne eyed her sister for a long moment. “So you’re here to kill me Najara, if I don’t do as I’m told?” Najara breathed in painfully as she pulled away. “Yes if it comes to that.” Adrienne smirked as she began to undress pulling on the copy of the royal guards armour. “We grew up together I’m surprised at you.” Najara turned away. “Things have changed Adrienne, werewolf sociality is about to change and our family can not afford to be drowned in the tide. I am here to ensure that you do as mother orders, she loves all her children equally and does not leave any off us wanting in life she gives us everything and makes sure that we are all happy in life but until you regain your honour you will no longer be part of that.” Adrienne sneered as she eyed her. “So I’m still a prisoner it’s just now I’m a prisoner to you of all people?” Najara shook her head sadly. “I’m afraid so sister, I do not want it to be this way but this is how it has to be and I will not deny mothers orders, unlike you my honour means something to me and I will clean up this utterly dishonourable mess that you’ve made if it’s the last thing I ever do.”

8

Joxer eyed the cold white muddy swamp land in front of him, they’d been walking now for a long time but Corinth was so many days away. Even with short cuts this was hard going, he had taken as much as he could carry and asked his warriors to do the same Glaphyra and her foul husband had taken most of his gold leaving only the old dented items. His real gold and wealth had never been kept in the underground that was only a third off it but he had no time to go and get the rest from the secret location. Some items they had already sold off so that they could but food and supplies as well as fur coats and boots to deal with the now freezing cold snow. He eyed the swamp which had not frozen over yet there was no two ways about they’d have to march through it which meant it would be up to the waist. He took in a deep breath eyeing Jace who didn’t look happy about this. “Any one have any thoughts?” One of the men opposite looked up his eyes glowing in the darkness. “Can’t we go around?” Joxer eyed him for a long moment. “What is it with you werewolves and water?” The man swallowed. “It’s not the water…its just there might be a hydra in it.” Joxer shook his head, his brother had said something about this a long time ago its just he had forgotten about it until now. Werewolves were willing to take on most things Minotaur’s, satyrs and centaurs but they were utterly terrified of hydras. It was like an inbuilt fear in the species.

He had heard stories that hydras openly hunted werewolves to eat them, because they made for a better meal than a human being. It wasn’t a nice way to die you ether got ripped in half of swallowed whole and alive, personally he had never seen a hydra but he knew they existed, there were enough stories out there to prove otherwise. Warlords loosing whole armies to them and the Empress herself had lost at least one or two units of her army to one during the Spartan up rising. Not to mention the story of the one who lived in the underground caves some miles from the Grand City and was renowned for being a bastard and was also very old and very fat mostly from an all werewolf diet. Hydra’s though didn’t move around a great deal but they were fiercely territorial and they had three sub species, one breathed acid another breathed out fire and there was rumour of another which had only been seen once or twice a huge white hydra that breathed out ice. All had poisonous blood and all had venom in their teeth and very few people had ever killed them. Jason the great hero was the only man living who had ever killed one and that was why the man was truly legendary.

There wasn’t a man or woman warrior he didn’t know who wouldn’t give a limb to meet that man  but no one had ever found him, he was a recluse and didn’t wear weapons anymore so he was very hard to spot. He would love to meet him but no one ever did, he did hope though that he didn’t get messed up in this werewolf civil war. He broke out of his thoughts turning to the man who looked unnerved. “I’ve walked this swamp before many years ago there’s no hydra here, I would never take you through any place with hydras.” He pulled his pack over his shoulder stepping in to the freezing cold swampy water. “But if you fear them I’ll lead the way, I know how much you people hate hydras.” He watched as the others started to follow him as the freezing cold water came up to his waist, even with fur boots it did nothing to keep out the freezing cold. “We just have to walk through these swamps for a couple of miles we should be out by morning and there’s an old abounded farm house we can set up and sleep there.” Jace ignored the cold. “We can’t take the roads, the Lurathian Order think we are dead we have to play along with that delusion. That is what’s going to make our coming back from the dead all the more interesting as they will not be looking out for us.”

The man nodded as he waded through the water. Jace felt a smile form clearly they all needed a story to take their minds of the next few hours. He always found that this helped on long marches warriors needed to have a break from the reality and it helped them focus better “Since this it’s a really long walk feel free to tell us an interesting story, if it’ll take your mind of the water and the cold.” The man looked up slowly as he carried on walking. “I have one but it’s not that good.” Jace turned to him. “No come on we’d all like to hear it, wouldn’t we?” He watched as the others nodded. “Go on tell us, werewolf stories are so fascinating.” The man breathed in. “It’s called the werewolf elemental fable have you heard of it?” Joxer shook his head. “No never Gabrielle never spoke of it but saying that we never got to really chat that much.” The man felt a smile form. “It very old dates back to the Emerald Hind’s time.” He breathed in speaking calmly.

“There were once four werewolves, a young brother his older brother and their sister with them was their half brother. All were weary from war and starvation, they had travelled a long way and wanted a home and to find peace. They came across an elemental spirit who would not let them enter his forest which was filled with food and warmth. In there desperation they fought him and brought him to the ground. He was impressed by their courage he stopped the battle and offered them each a gift. The youngest brother wanted the power to control the earth to feed himself, his sister asked to control the oceans so she could feed herself on fish. The half brother asked to control fire so he could burn areas and grow crops. The oldest and strongest brother asked that he be given the power to create gold silver and gemstone, so he could create his wealth. The elemental gave them their wishes and let them cross in to the forest where they could live out their days.

It was all well for while the youngest brother his sister and their half brother used their powers to create food and grow crops. The eldest brother though began to build fortresses of gold and gemstone. He began to use his gold outside the forest to bring in humans in to do his bidding. Years passed and the eldest brother’s gluttony for wealth spread corrupting all in its path the more he could make the more he wanted. He became distant from the others but also began to question why he couldn’t have their powers for himself. He began to whisper and scheme turning his siblings against each other believing that if they fought to the death he could take their powers from them. So began a long war as the younger brother, step brother and sister fought against each other throwing their elements and destroying both their harmony and their forest. They sent armies against each other as the war reached its height. The step brother though became sad no longer wanting to fight his sibling and become curious as to why his older brother would not fight, he believed something was wrong but could not get his siblings to see it.

It was only when the step brother was brought to his knees begging for mercy and not death did they realize how foolish their war was they saw their forest burnt to the ground and the dead bodies around them and that they had created the war they had tried so hard to escape. They threw down their hands in truce and forgiveness. The oldest brother horrified by his failed plan appeared and the truth became clear, they tried to reason with him but could not, he had a sickness of the soul his lust for power and gold had gone to far and he told them that he wanted their powers and that they couldn’t stop him for he had all the wealth of the world and everyone would follow him until the end of time. He attacked them only to be frozen in time by the elemental spirit who appeared between them once more in sadness and disappointment that his had come to be.

He asked why the step brother had taken his path when he was not of the same blood as his brothers and sister. He said that blood did not matter and that they were his family and no matter how much they fought he would always want them to be family. Seeing the good in his words the elemental said that he would turn them in to the elemental spiral a perfect symbol of harmony. The sister would become the great sea the younger brother the earth to help all trees and crops grow the half brother would be the fire of give warmth and help the soil with flames, but they would all have a duty. The older brother would be cast down under the earth trapped with in it and they had to ensure that mortals could only dig up so gold and gem stone at a time for it was clear to him that precious stone had to be limited as gold could corrupt all even a loving family and he wanted all families to live in harmony and for those who gained gold through the ground to have truly earned it, the sister younger brother and step brother agreed and thus was born the elemental spiral trapping their elder brother forever in the earth his gold with him so it could never corrupt others on that level again.”

Joxer turned eyeing the man he had ever heard this story before but it was a thing of beauty, there was no doubt about that. “So do you werewolves believe that gold is corruption?” The man carried on walking through the swamp. “Well yes…maybe that’s why the Golden Hind sent me to you, because I don’t like wealth. She was very careful when she picked all of us, she kept asking us questions about gold, she would even offer a bag of gold and ask if we would spill another warriors secrets it was something of a test I think.” Joxer raised his eyebrow. “You didn’t spill any one’s secrets?” The man shook his head. “No I didn’t that was why I passed, but I still don’t understand her thinking behind that.” Joxer carried on moving. “I think I do because we think some what a like, I would rather have warriors who don’t tell me secrets because I know that those warriors wouldn’t sell out my secrets to others.” He felt his smile widen. “I think your fable has a lot to do with family as well because not all families are blood related some of just come together and get through life, it’s a nice thought.”

End of part 25

 

A LAPSE IN CONCENTRATION

Inside Athens Walls

The general turned eyed the man opposite her who was in his late thirties and had dark medium length brown hair man and thick full beard. “So let me get this straight, the Empress left Corinth has a huge army and she’s marching this way?”  The city guard behind her placed a small scroll on her table. “Yes Yalena.” Yalena raised her eyebrow. “It’s winter why would she march an army out at this time?” Baltsaros moved his hand downwards putting it on his daggers hilt frankly he was sick off this woman. He’d hated her ever since he had been sent here, she thought herself as overly important and the truth was that she wasn’t fit for the job. She was also unlike any woman he’d ever come across she was very tall much taller than most of the men and women and rather masculine looking with broad shoulders. In her long plaited brown hair was a single long hanging braid. She was a Spartan Hoplite and he could believe that as he’d heard that Spartan women loved to go in to battle as much as the men just like the Greek Hoplite women. “Maybe she intends to attack Athens.” Yalena eyed him for a long moment. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard Baltsaros, the Empress would never openly attack this city she liberated it years ago, Athens is a free city for all.” She put her hands on her un-armoured stomach as she sat back in her chair. “Besides why attack your own city?”

Baltsaros smirked as he eyed the sky outside it wouldn’t be long now before dawn. “Do you pray to any gods Yalena?” Yalena looked up slightly. “Yes Ares.” Baltsaros smiled looking up as both guards behind her nodded at him. “Then you should start praying to him again because the next few hours of your miserable life are not going to be very nice.” He made a signal watching as both warriors ran forward grabbing the tall woman slamming her in to the desk face first. They held her down pulling out thick chains which they used to chain up her wrists he pulled his sword free watching as she eyed her sword which was well out of her reach. “Ah yes your sword, well you won’t need that.” He felt a smile form as the two warriors yanked her up in to a standing position keeping hold of her despite her struggling. Yalena spat as she struggled harder. “You traitorous little bastard when I get out of these chain I’m going to cut off your cock and shove it down your throat!” Baltsaros raised an eyebrow. “Typical Spartan mouth, you people really aren’t very good with your words, pity you speak in an even more crude tongue than the Thracians.” He moved his sword tip so it was against her chest. “I’ve been told that you Spartan’s have quite a high pain threshold its part of your agoge training, when they send you little boys and girls out in to the wilds to prove your worth as warriors.”

He felt his smile widen as he moved the sword tip down to her stomach. “I’d love to test that theory you see as a werewolf I’ve always been interested in human pain tolerances as I don’t believe any weak pitiful human would have any where near our pain threshold.” Yalena felt her teeth grind together as the pain hit her as the sword tip was plunged in to stomach area. She breathed in ignoring the intense pain it as she spoke in a cold tone. “You’re a werewolf?” Baltsaros smiled hearing the screaming outside, oh how joyous right now his whole army was gaining control over this human city. “Yes I’m a werewolf, of cause you didn’t know.” He turned his sword twisting it inside her seeing the pain in her eyes as the blood began to stain her clothing. “We have a human form and we have had a lot of warriors in this city, its just you’ve never really noticed them but you don’t own two thirds of your own army they belong to me and our time has finally come to come out of hiding.” He pulled his sword out watching as more blood stained ran free from the wound. Yalena ignored the pain as she eyed him. “The Empress gave you citizen ship and equal rights and this is how you repay her!” Baltsaros shook his head as he moved his blade up to her shoulder. “Ah you understand nothing lets just say that this is a civil war and I’ve picked my side. Your Empress though has chosen to pick hers and sleep with the rival leader and king who we are against and she will not take this city.”

He shoved the blade in slowly seeing the pain in her face. “I will make sure of that, the Imperial Council told me that this city is theirs and I’m ready to destroy it at a moments notice.” Yalena looked up painfully. “What ever weapons you have they will mean nothing the Empress will breach these walls and take it back, she’s done it before she can do it again!” Baltsaros shook his head. “You understand so little but then you are a pathetic human.” He pulled the sword free of her shoulder watching as the red blood ran down the blade. “Oh and don’t think that your second in command Iphicles has a chance we will be dealing with him in good time.” He sliced the blade cross her thigh. “Peace time has made you people very sloppy, that’s why you didn’t see this coming.” He moved the blade tip across her arm leaving a trail of blood as it cut deeply he raised an eyebrow as he spoke. “Well, well you Spartans do have a somewhat high pain threshold but believe me that just mean’s that my warriors will get to have more fun with you.” He stepped away eyeing them. “Please feel free to beat this woman I want to hear her scream.” He watched as both warriors threw the woman to the floor one held her down as the other start to kick her in the stomach. “You should be happy Yalena because to day is the first day of a new war on these lands, its just human beings like yourself won’t be around to see the end of it. Humanity is weak and pathetic it needs guidance and new leader ship and it needs to learn its place which is under us, the Imperial Council is going to give it that.”

8

I’m tired and I confess I can’t wait to set up camp though I know that when I do it will not far from Athens. It’s been a long time since I visited Athens unlike Corinth the villa’s are so close together and the atmosphere is very different as is some of the food. As unlike Corinth it’s more Greek orientated as they have never been so in to the Roman ideals I think it’s due to it wanting to keep its heritage as they used to be the capital of the Greece, until I took over and made Corinth the new capital. Last time I came there I had returned from the Spartan war to face cheering crowds that stretched for miles, they paraded me in my honour with banners and horses and displays. Granted the people of Athens have never been fond of the Spartans even before the uprising tensions between them have always been high. I guess it’s because they believe in philosophy, art and culture and the Spartans are all about warfare. The Spartans never liked me because I changed a part of their culture by ending slavery they had a whole second population working under them called the Helots. Their job was to farm and do all the domestic work which the Spartan’s wouldn’t do and some of the stories I heard disgusted me. They were mistreated terribly not to mention they got hunted for sport and could be killed just for speaking out. I freed all of the Helots making them Greek citizens and said that the Spartans would have to pay them equally to work and treat them equally. It’s true some of these Helot men and women had wealth but not a great deal compared to an average Greek citizen.

They had tiny plots of land and some had brought their freedom, but slavery is still slavery no matter what the form and I don’t agree with mass slavery. This started the whole up rising Leonidas demanded that they remain slaves and I know that sexual slavery had been going on as well so I had to end it at all costs. Before I knew it I had open war and the Spartan army marching towards me it’s funny because when Greece was under the Macedonian rule even then the Macedonian Kings and the Queen couldn’t conquer them. So they just lived along side them and kept away allowing Sparta to do what ever if wanted. They fully expected the same under my rule but I would not give them that, with the werewolf race my views will be the same, though I know Gabrielle will stop any of this before it even starts. Right now she is sitting on her horse opposite lost in her own thoughts. Xena moved her horse closer to Argo Gabrielle who was no longer roped to her horse and now walking on her own. “Hey.” Gabrielle turned realizing that her lover was talking to her. She’d been mile away trying to ignore her headache which had surfaced again along with the pain in her lower muscles. She’d spent her whole life around pain she knew how to ignore it but this was getting to her on so many levels. It was always there and it just wouldn’t go away. She hoped that Sapphira was talking to the others, because she needed an answer soon or even something to heal it. She ignored her cramping muscles giving the taller woman a smile. “Hi.” Xena moved her reins easing her horse a little closer. “How are you holding up?”

Gabrielle looked up. “Okay, I guess I just miss the palace.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Which part?” Gabrielle felt her smile widen as she looked at the thick white snow all around her. “Everything.” Xena eased up her hand. “Trust me we’ll be back at the palace one day soon.” Gabrielle eyed the engagement ring on her finger. “Did you make me sign your will because you fear you won’t return?” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “No it had nothing to do with that, I just wanted to ensure that if the worst happened you were well provided for.” Gabrielle breathed out watching as her breath came out like smoke in the cold morning air. “But you’ve thought about it?” Xena took in a deep breath. “Yes I’ve thought about it but I don’t see it happening I survived the Spartans, I can survive this. Granted this is going to harder but trust me it takes a lot to kill me on the battle field plenty of people have tried and failed.” She moved her horse of the path in to the white meadow watching as her lover followed. She gave Demetrius a signal which meant that she wanted piracy and for him to keep the warriors moving he nodded in understanding. She moved Kronos into the field stopping in the centre of it. “You really thought I wrote that because I would die?” Gabrielle walked her horse close by she wasn’t going to lie the thought had crossed her mind. “Yes…maybe I did.” Xena leaned forward in her saddle. “No, that not what I wrote my will for, I do not intended to die and leave you. It was purely so if the worst happened I would have you in my place as ruler of this kingdom. If it makes you feel better I didn’t enjoy signing it ether but we both know that sometimes you have to do thing you don’t like for the good of others.”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor she knew this all too well she stopped her horse close to the bushes. “Yes I know.” She was about to say more only to stop as the nail biting pain came back piecing her brain. She blinked trying to get rid off it only to see a vision flash in front of her eyes. It was so sudden and there was denying what it was. It was her in werewolf form forcing her naked lover in to the cold hard ground in front of her, her clawed hand was wrapped around her neck and her huge body was trusting. It was the heat off love making but at the same time it looked sexual violent and painful. She wanted it to go away it was bad enough that she was having sexually violent dreams with out having visions of it during the day time. She would never do this to Xena she loved her and she wanted this vision to go away. She blinked watching as it cleared only to find her self grabbing at the reins as Argo rose up in panic throwing her out of the saddle. She felt the stinging pain as she slammed in to the snow back first hard, as her horse galloped off stopping some distance away snorting. She ignored the pain as she sat up seeing that her lover was running towards her. “You stupid conveying, three foot daughter of a mare!” Xena got down on her knees looking at the younger woman. “Are you okay?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I’ll live.” Xena put a hand on her back. “You know you shouldn’t blame Argo.” She raised her hand pointing at a pheasant which was now walking through the snow some distance away. “That red legged pheasant over there spooked her I saw it fly out of the brambles bellow her feet.” Gabrielle eyed her horse for a long moment. “Sorry!”

She turned eyeing the large bird which was still walking through the snow. “You on the other hand, you’re just lucky that I don’t eat birds!” Xena felt her smile widen as she helped the younger woman to her feet dusting the snow off her before pulling her close wrapping her arms around her. “I’d never leave you Gabrielle, I told you that once before and I meant it.” Gabrielle breathed out. “I know I’m just scared I love you and I can’t stand the thought of loosing you and we are so close to Athens now.” She was about to say more only for her words to be cut off as the other woman’s lips met her own. She closed her eyes sinking in to this kiss enjoying every moment of it as she ran her hands down the other woman’s back. Xena carried on kissing the younger woman she was sure that some of the army could see this but she really didn’t care she’d never hidden her lovers from her army and she sure as Tartarus wasn’t going to hide Gabrielle. She felt the other woman’s hands clutch at the leather of her waist under her coat only for the grip to suddenly get tighter so much that it started to pinch. Gabrielle tensed feeling every nerve ending fire in her body all at once as a feeling of heat leaked down like lava hitting her below the waist. It was a wave of intense sexual heat unlike anything she’d experienced in her life. She wanted to have sex with this woman right here, right now and it was hard to even concentrate, she could feel her hands gripping tighter as she kissed harder. Xena forced her lips away from the other woman’s she didn’t want to gods she would have given anything to carry on. The kiss she had been getting was so intense it was like she had pressed a button somewhere and she had no idea what it was.

She’d seen a little of this in the palace some time back but no where near as full on as this it had been just a moment, this though was like a force of nature. She spoke weakly despite that she didn’t want to. “You’re crushing…my sides.” Gabrielle snapped back in to reality which felt like being tossed off a cliff as everything went from hot to cold in an instant. She pulled her hands away from the taller woman’s body feeling her eyes dart in panic as she took a step back. “I’m sorry…I wasn’t.” Xena moved forward looking at her for a long moment she raised her hand putting it on the side of the younger woman’s face. “Hey its okay, its just a little leather burn…” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry I wasn’t concentrating I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Xena leaned forward kissing her softy on the lips seeing that she starting to calm her down. “Its fine, don’t worry.” She gently wrapped her arms around her again. “I understand that, that strength of yours must be hard to control at times.” She kept hold of her knowing that was a lie. If there was anything she knew about Gabrielle it was that she always had control she very rarely lost it even that moment in her office there had been some form of control there. Here there had been none it was like for a moment had just lost it and she’d never seen her act this sexually intense. She knew now that something was truly wrong but she needed to confirm it, she knew that it was a shot in the dark and that she could be completely wrong.

Halirrhothius had spoken of something called the mating urge and she had been thinking over those words for a while now. She knew that grey wolves mated for life but it never occurred to her that werewolves would have the same thing. What did mating even mean for a werewolf? If Obelia was been anything to go by it was very clear that when this bond was broken that it sent the person to a dark place. Gabrielle has never spoken off mating in any form but then she had never asked her about it. She had a gut feeling that something was going on and she was going to ask Halirrhothius first chance she got about it. If Gabrielle was going through this then they needed to talk but she didn’t want to force it out of her and hurt her in doing so, the younger woman had enough emotional problems as it was. Also she may have no idea that she’s even going through this as she never mated with Damokles or Adrienne and she would only be doing this to help her. She can’t go on like she had seen moments when the younger woman had phased in and out and she knew that she’s been in pain but she’d hiding it well. She knew that that it was in her stomach and lower as she’d seen her tense through out the trip even now it was still there she’d just been ignoring it, which makes no sense. I’ve seen Gabrielle heal up normally flesh wounds don’t bother her for long periods of time. Maybe she was wrong but she didn’t believe that, the wound on her stomach was from a deer because it would have hit her on her side on and been a glancing blow. Gabrielle was very precise when she killed in human form she had seen it. Frankly she didn’t see her wasting effort in werewolf form and making a serious mistake like that and getting hurt in the process.

8

Hesperos sneered as he eyed the man opposite him. “That half bred slut is near Athens!” Admes sat back in his throne putting a hand on his bloated stomach. “Do not take out your anger on me you fool! My spies just reported it to me she’s been marching from Corinth with the Empress and bunch of rebels.” Hesperos eyed the throne opposite which was empty. “Where’s Narella?!” Admes eyed the empty throne before turning back. “It’s really not my job to keep track of that woman, she left the Grand City some time ago she said it was business related.” He picked up a piece of meat eating it. “I don’t keep track of her, we have an agreement I honour it.” Hesperos eyed him. “She’s probably gone to those rotting Lurathian Order bastards, my spies have told me that she’s been coming and going there for a while.” Admes sat up. “I heard she paid you to keep your spies off her back.” Hesperos smirked. “Like I would honour any agreement I have with her, I don’t trust her as far as I can throw her. This proves that she’s also playing her own cards but so be it, should she screw up those bone eaters will make her death long and painfully.” Admes blinked. “You almost sound like you wouldn’t care if we lost her.” Hesperos shrugged. “I’m tired of struggling over land with her and I’ve love to have her armies.” Admes put his hands together.  “Yes but it doesn’t work that way this is not a Roman Triumvirate three warlords do not share power and when one dies there is a power vacuum and everyone gets to take their armies and property. If she dies the next in line in the family replaces her and that will be her sister and she’s even worse.

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s how this council was founded the three most powerful families became the Imperial Council, because King Lycaon believed power made for the best leaders.” Hesperos snorted in disgust as he eyed the empty throne room. “Rules can change, after all we don’t need that half breed who calls herself king.” He paused as a question hit home which had been bothering him. “So since that half breed bitch is making her way towards Athens I would assume that it’s a coincidence, your plans to collapse that city didn’t get out, did they?” Admes laughed enjoying the mocking sound of his tone. “Please, I killed every one of those Apollonian rebel scum who tried to steal my plans, the last one burnt in Corinth.” He eyed his ringed fingers. “I hate the Apollonian rebels, always playing their little games one day I’m going to capture their leader Iris and feed her alive to a hydra.” Hesperos moved forward grabbing him by the collar shoving him back in to his throne ignoring his grunt of pain. He raised a ringed finger. “You better not have messed this up you fat bastard, I gave you vast coin and resources to make this work.” Admes shoved him off. “Don’t lecture me! I put vast men and women and a large piece of my vast army to gain control over that city! I lost over three hundred builders in that underground creation and now that’s it complete I’ll have the perfect display for the Empress. I mean her and that whore Gabrielle don’t know about the collapsing plan and my general orders are that if any army comes with in a few miles of that city he’s to take it over at all costs and keep the Empress’s scum out and if they attack he is to collapse it.” Hesperos eyed him. “Then we can both assume that the only reason that the Empress is heading to Athens to build up her army numbers just like Gabrielle. Even though there are so few rebel werewolves in that city so it would be a waste of effort.”

Admes smirked. “I locked up all of those rebel scum along with any human helpers, when that city goes down the temple of Zeus will crush them in the underground prison.” Hesperos breathed in sitting back down on his throne. “Then let’s hope your general gives her a show one she can to take to her grave.” Admes leaned back in his throne. “You’re not considering bringing your best pieces to the front line?” Hesperos smirked. “Please I wouldn’t waste those on that half breed king she’s just trying to assert herself right now and the rebels are following her blindly.” Admes shook his head. “Clearly you’ve never read Gabrielle’s history, she always had a high mission success rate even as a trainee, its how she rose to be Damokles second in command.” Hesperos felt a cold sneer form on his lips. “Damokles is dead! I made sure of that, that bastard was nothing but a thorn in my side for years and I got rid of him. Gabrielle probably only ever made second because he needed to drop his trousers, to some men and women she has an appeal though and I’ve never understood it since she has an ugly scared up face. No half breed mongrel’s blood will ever match that of blood or a full breed’s prowess in battle. After all most half breeds crawl up the ladder by sleeping around it is clearly a human defect and a desire to spread the genes.” Admes picked up a scroll looking at it. “But there are less of us than there were two hundred years ago and the birth rate is dropping. Full blood children are not surviving term and some are dying in childhood and soon there will be more of those mongrels than us, you need to put coin in to fixing this, our pure blood children need to survive.”

Hesperos stood up sharply. “You think I’m not aware of this? I know our numbers have been dropping over the last two hundred years but in the less than fifty that drop has doubled. I have had healers working on cures it’s just none of them are working, I’ve even had the bodies of dead warrior women from powerful houses opened up against their families wishes so we can see their wombs and insides, I even did the same with powerful dead male warriors. My finest healers found no defects in ether genders bodies it is as if the gods are cursing us in some manner!” Admes sat up slightly. “Well you better find out what’s causing this, or we’ll be over run by half breed mongrels who can punch out children left, right and centre. I’m guessing you have not made this issue public yet?” Hesperos narrowed his gaze. “No and there’s no need to make it public, we are going to war and one thing I have over that whore Gabrielle is numbers I want to keep it that way. I will punish any half breed who speaks for her make no mistake about that.” Admes breathed in. “As much as I agree with raping male and female half breed mongrels as punishment to shut them up I think you should make it less obvious. Because the rest off our sociality views rape as a taboo because it can destroy the mating urge completely and take years for the person in question to heal and for some they don’t and may never farther or mother offspring and the old punishment for this crime used to be death via disembowelling regardless of your gender.”

He tensed his shoulders. “You’re in danger of letting this slip through the cracks Narella has mentioned this to you countless times. Right now werewolf sociality is at our mercy because they are very unaware of what we do out of sight but if they ever become aware of it they will turn on us in an instant because we breaking one of the most sacred laws.” Hesperos snorted in disgust. “The whore Gabrielle sleeps with a human that is also a breach of our most sacred laws Admes or have you not forgotten that?” Admes put a hand on his belly. “Yes but the difference is there are those who agree with her view point in the rebellion. On the other topic they won’t, they will turn against us in a heart beat, it will only takes one stray voice. Rumour is one thing but if they get proof that will be another and some of those half breed scum who escaped this city, might have a lot to say.” Hesperos laughed as he eyed him. “None of those rebels will say anything they who would not risk the humiliation by talking about it and what was taken away from them, to be touched in that way is to be defiled and broken to no longer be good enough to mate or have a mate.” He paused. “Plus we both know Gabrielle won’t succeed so don’t trouble yourself by tomorrow she’ll be dead along with her bitch of a human lover.” He breathed in deeply picking up a golden goblet full of wine. “But if she succeeds and if you fail along with Narella, I’ll just have to put my card in to play.”

End of part 26

 

GAINING A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF CLARITY

 

By Ouroboros I let myself slip how stupid! I don’t know what happened I just wasn’t in control I’m probably going to be fighting tomorrow I can’t afford to have this happen again. I was thinking of sex and something went off in my mind, I want to know what’s wrong with me. What ever I have its getting worse and I want it to go away. For the first time in my life I feel afraid of myself, I hate the idea of loosing sexual control and hurting Xena sexually, I just couldn’t live with myself if I did it’s the ultimate sin and it’s a taboo in werewolf culture. That’s what terrifies me all the more these dreams and the vision were both so sexually violent and I would never see myself acting that way, yet today I almost slipped. I guess it hurts even more because Adrienne used to treat me that way in bed the only thing was I wanted sex because it was the only moment I ever felt any good despite the intense violence that came with it but I know now that there is a huge difference between having good sex and bad sex. The war camp has now been set up and Xena’s gone out for a walk so I’m alone in the tent right now and unable to speak to her. I wanted to speak to Thaleia as I feel bad I about what I said to her. I just don’t want her to go through what I did, maybe I’m being selfish and it’s because I want her to remain innocent but the truth is I have no control what so ever over what might happen. We could be attacked at any time even now it’s just not safe and if the person attacking does and kills Demetrius body guard she’ll be helpless. I know all to well if any werewolf who gets close to her they will kill her as soon as I’ve dealt with Athens I will talk to her and tell her my feelings I owe her that as she’s the closest thing I have to family yes I know Lila is my sister by blood but I confess I just don’t think I’ll see her ever again even when this war is over, she has no reason to stay and we got off the wrong foot. Gabrielle breathed as she carefully finished the plait in her hair which was quite thick and only one side.

“Hello Golden Hind.”

She turned sharply seeing a middle aged coloured man who was standing in her tent she had barely noticed him as she had been lost in thoughts. He was also speaking in werewolf tongue and not Greek she spoke replying in werewolf tongue. “Who are you?” The man who had short white hair with a single braid in it stepped forward raising his hand. My name is Omari I’m a werewolf healer or at least I used to be many years ago in the Grand City before I was exiled.”  Gabrielle stood up eyeing him for a long moment. “Why were you exiled?” Omari breathed in adjusting his armour. “I loved a human but they died a long time ago.” Gabrielle lowered her head sadly. “I’m sorry.” Omari shook his head. “I don’t blame you for my loved ones death you weren’t even Horn Hind then, you would have only been seventeen at the time, your predecessor was the one who ordered it. I used to tend to that bastard’s wounds as well. I also saved his miserable life countless times and that was my payment to watch some one I loved get beheaded right in front of my eyes.” Gabrielle shook her sadly. “I met my predecessor once when I was just a warrior we had a difference of opinion even then and despite our meeting he did nothing to avert the flogging I was about to receive for letting an escapee go rather than see her human born child die.” Omari felt a smile form. “And that is why I’m here now because I prefer your opinion over his.” Gabrielle looked at her hands. “Your name doesn’t sound Greek.” Omari put a hand on his white beard. “I come from a land of Alkebulan Golden Hind it’s a land where the mighty lions roam free.” Gabrielle looked up. “Sound beautiful and dangerous.”

Omari nodded. “No more dangerous than any other land, as a young boy I went in search of adventure I just didn’t realize that adventure meant being turned in to a werewolf.” He paused, feeling the need to change the subject. “Sapphira sent me here she said you were having problems, she didn’t say what, only that it was important.” Gabrielle watched as he pulled up a chair sitting in front of her. “Yes I’m having problems.” Omari felt his smile widen a little. “Don’t worry you have my loyalty, after all what you promise is equal rights to people like me that means something to me.” He looked up slightly. “So what is troubling you?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor knowing that her tone sounded weak. “I’m having nightmares.” Omari leaned a little closer. “Are they nightmares about war? I hear a lot of warriors talk me about bad dreams, people they’ve killed and such.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “These dreams are not like that, they are sexually violent and I’m with Xena.” Omari sat up he already knew about her relationship with the Empress that wasn’t a secret to anyone and he had a lot of experience with couples be they men and women and same sex. “The Empress?” Gabrielle eased her pipe out of her pocket playing with it absentmindedly. “Yes, we are making love and I turn in to a werewolf and in the heat of the moment I rip her throat out.” Omari looked up sharply. “Are these dreams reoccurring?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes, I’m having them more frequently they started a while ago.” Omari put a hand on his beard. “Have you had visions while being awake with similar things?” Gabrielle tensed. “Yes I had one today but in the vision I didn’t tear her throat out…it looked like I was having really violent sex, I don’t know if I was in control, I don’t know if she wanted it and I’m not going to lie that scared me.”

Omari put a hand on her face turning her head looking carefully at her eyes catching sight of red veins in the corners. A human being could pass this off as lack of sleep but to a werewolf this was something else entirely as the eye could heal very fast and red veins were not common place. “What about pain?” Gabrielle felt his him gently pull his hand away. “I get headaches really intense ones it feels like someone trying to drive a nail in to the centre of my brain. I’ve had cramping pain bellow the waist and I’m not even on my cycle and they last for hours even on my cycle it’s never that bad.” Omari took in a deep breath as he carefully opened her mouth looking at her canine teeth seeing that they slightly oversized on both her lower and upper jaw, it was subtle but he knew what to look for. He closed her mouth carefully before moving back a little to give her more space. He knew full well that female werewolves just like human women didn’t enjoy it when you got too far in to their personal space it made them uncomfortable and they could feel threatened. “What about control, have you lost sexual control at all or have you lost control on the hunt, you know like your primal instincts are getting the better of you and you don’t want other werewolves in side your personal space?” Gabrielle slowly lit the pipe taking a long breath before breathing out the smoke. “When I was hunting I lost control and started snarling at another werewolf after a kill and for a few moments it was like everything changed in my eyes it wasn’t multi colour it was one colour which was violet.”

She breathed in her pipe again hoping it would take away the tension that she starting to feel. “I had a few moments where I’ve lost sexual control, one some time back and another one was today. I hurt the Empress because I gripped her too tight on both occasions I had that colour again in my eyes when I peaked.” Omari stood up he could see the tension in her face. “Do you think about sex or does it slip in to your mind and you can’t concentrate, do you suddenly feel sexually worked up for no reason and have you experienced intense jealous?” Gabrielle tensed trying to ignore her feeling of unease. “Yes I’ve felt intense jealously and I don’t normal feel jealous and I’ve felt sexually worked up.” Omari raised his hand. “Have you had heightened aggression in human and werewolf form have you found yourself sweating, blushing, drooling and all you can think about is sleeping your lover its like a single minded thought?” Gabrielle looked up meeting his calm gaze “Yes I’ve had had heightened aggression in both forms and today I experienced that single minded thought that was when I felt like I was loosing control.” Omari felt a smile form. “You’re going through the mating urge Golden Hind. You’re at the half way stage your upper and lower canines are lengthening and you’re seeing in the violet site of the ancestors it’s your body preparing itself for mating. All off those other things I just mentioned will start to happen and you will eventuality loose control of your werewolf form at night. You’ll become like the ancient ancestors and you might end up killing some one and have no idea that you even did because blood and killing will become a single minded and focused desire.”

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “I’ve read about the mating urge but it never said anything about this!” Omari shook his head. “Scrolls on this do tend to tone down the effects, plus for a lot of werewolves male and female find it hard to put in to words.” He paused. “The matter remains Golden Hind that you must bond with the Empress and bite her in werewolf form.” He breathed in deeply. “Cyrano said that the urge to draw blood to you canines only comes when your body and soul have embraced the soul of another unconditionally and with an open heart. It seems that your heart has finally opened Golden Hind.” Gabrielle stood up. “I can’t do it…I’ll kill her, she won’t turn she’ll just be left with a horrific wound for the rest of her life.” Omari raised a hand. “Maybe she will but you don’t have a choice in this matter, if you ignore this it will only get worse. I can give you herbs to lessen the effects and help you concentrate but it will only take the edge of for a few days and believe me when I say you have to stop fighting this, because the more you fight it the worse it becomes.” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “How long do I have?” Omari slowly eased out a large herb bag putting it on the table opposite. “Five days possibly a week tops before it gets really bad and at night you’ll start to loose yourself in werewolf form. I suggest you do everything in your power to take Athens and then deal with this as time is not on your side.”

Gabrielle put a hand on her face. “Can a human being survive werewolf bonding?” Omari breathed in deeply. “I believe your lover is strong, I’m sure she can handle it. This will be the first bonding between a Horn Hind and a human, all of your predecessors apart from the Black Hind and the Crescent Hind married in to full blood families and had children accept for the Indigo Hind as he had a male lover and adopted two children.” He put his hands together. “No one knows the outcome of your bonding it will be new but then we are on the verge of change and change can be painful even violent but sometimes it is necessary.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe before breathing out the smoke. “You make it sound like the first transformation.” Omari moved the herb bag closer to her. “I guess in a way it is but I think it needs it. I’ve seen something at the top of the ladder that confuses and concerns me.” Gabrielle stood up slowly. What did you see?” Omari took in a deep breath. “Full bred children are dying, they are not surviving childhood and most are still born. It’s not injury to the mother its not abuse these children are just dropping dead suddenly, yet half breeds are not effected in fact our numbers are thriving. The Imperial Council are hiding something, in all the time spent I in the Grand City not once have I ever seen written family trees from any of the noble houses.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “I’ve never seen the family trees ether only the ones for half bleed families and those are showing the people they have been turned, claimed and brought in to their family as foster children.” Omari slowly took hold of a leather tankard pouring fresh water in to it he took a small pinch of herbs out of the bag putting them in the water watching as it hissed and fizzed turning green.

He took hold of the drink passing it to her watching as she took it. “Yes I read those to, they are a vast wealth of information yet no information is ever seen on the full blood families, I only bring this up because if we over throw the Grand City I want to see those records because if they have a disease they should not be keeping it from us, because if it spreads it could destroy our whole race. Werewolves don’t normally just die we have our healing process for a reason, it’s the reason we don’t get disease If the healing process is failing then our race is in more trouble than we thought, its bad enough that our number are already lower than they should be.” Gabrielle took a long sip from the drink trying to ignore the horrible flavour. “Thank you for pointing this out, I will deal with it I promise you that.” Omari put his hand behind his back watching as she finished the tankard then put out her pipe. “Forgive my rudeness, but I’ve was promised much by the Crescent Hind and none of it I ever received.” Gabrielle slowly put the herb bag on the smaller side table opposite the bed to ignore the awful flavour in her mouth. She took in deep breath feeling her whole body start to relax as a deep feeling which was euphoric took over. She could feel the muscles around her lower waist relaxing she leaned against the table feeling a sense of calm over take her. “Believe me Omari I always keep my promises, even the promises that don’t bode well for people I dislike.” Omari eased up his hand as he moved towards the tents entrance. “I will hold you to that Golden Hind.”

He paused. “Oh and before I forget you only need a pinch of those herbs in water twice a day, anymore and you may find yourself very drugged up and not in a good way.” Gabrielle watched as he vanished from site her gaze drifted to the leather underground map which had been laid out on the table this was one more promise she had to keep, it would not be the last of that she was sure. She looked at the empty tankard as her thoughts drifted back to what had now become clear to her she was going through the mating urge. As much as she hated the idea of biting her lover or hurting her she had no intention of hiding this from her, she needed to come clean. Time was clearly not on her side in this and to hide it would only make things worse in the long run. She had the herbs but they were a stop gap and not enough to solve the issue. The fact was that Xena could say no to all this and if she did she would just have to live with it no matter what the pain it caused her. Her lover was also well with in her rights to say no and if she said no during the bounding she would stop as no meant no. She was not a monster she would control this sexual monster in side her at all cost and make the experience enjoyable as for the older woman as she could. Though she knew when she bit the older woman’s shoulder it wouldn’t be comfortable for her if she went through with it. She leaned forward in her chair realizing that she feeling really tired. She hadn’t slept that well in days maybe now was the time to get her sleep back because tomorrow she wouldn’t be able to sleep instead she would be in Athens gates trying to take back the city from her own people before they destroyed it.

8

Thaleia eyed the bronze blade in her hand gripping the hilt tightly it was so light even she could hold it with out issue. “Are you sure about this?” Sapphira adjusted her armour. “Yes, you need this to survive.” She put her finger on the blade tip. “This is the Ijou blade, as you can probably tell its very light, this one is in fact made from pure werewolf steal hence why you can carry it. It’s also not much longer than a warrior’s dagger this is so it can be concealed behind robes and coats. Best of all this beautiful blade has a lot of history behind it these were crafted in the Emerald Hind’s reign as ceremonial gift pieces for a mated werewolf pairs to symbolize their union. They are still crafted today and given for the same reason or so my mother and farther always told me, I think it’s because they want me and my brother to get a mate one day and they like the idea of making us both one of these.” Thaleia eyed the weapon which strangely had no side parts to its hilt. “Why is their no guard to protect my fingers?” Sapphira raised an eyebrow. “For a personal maid you clearly know your weapon parts well.” Thaleia eyed the weapon. “Before I left the palace I had been spending time in the royal library I wanted to learn as my partner Demetrius is a warrior and Gabrielle is like family to me. I felt that even though I’m not fighting that I should still try and understand what’s involved in fighting” Sapphira raised an eyebrow. “No offence but both Gabrielle and Demetrius are huge mistake in not training you.”

She eased up the weapons razor sharp tip. “The guard of this dragger is hidden and is also a weapon.” She pressed the hilt watching as two curved blades shot outward on ether side. “When this dagger meets its mark you press in the hilt’s sides and twist these blades which will create huge holes in muscles and fur. The first blow won’t kill but that’s what you want, to create a wound so painfully that most werewolves will be in such pain that they’ll back away and not even bother to go in for the kill.” She paused putting her finger on the tip. “The point of this weapon is simple, the first blow creates a huge opening in the flesh and muscle the second blow which you’ll aim to be in the same place will kill because the torn muscle and skin will be open allowing a deeper blow to the internals. If you aim for the heart well safe to say you’ll kill” Thaleia turned the dagger between her fingers. “I’ve seen a design similar to this but it was different it had springs.” Sapphira felt a smile form. “This design uses no springs its cog driven, it’s also a thing of beauty I’ve seen this end an enemies life in one blow.” She ran her finger over the outer blades. “But this blade can be used to disarm an opponent if he or she has a weapon. Much like a sai blade if a sword gets caught in the outer blade it can be forced out of the opponent’s hand. Ether by twisting your blade or pressing it to force the outer blades shut trapping the person’s weapon.” Thaleia eyed the blade and the tent they were at the outer edge of the camp. There were werewolves cooking outside and because of this it looked like no more than food tent and was being ignored by anyone unless they were hungry and even then they wouldn’t go in side.

Sapphira picked up a short sword twirling it between her fingers. “Have you ever had any weapons training?” Thaleia shook her head. “No.” Sapphira walked up behind her using her foot to push her feet apart so one was behind the other. “Firstly you need to form a position in battle a stance if you will, it gives more power to your thrust and you will need as much power as possible behind your blow when facing a werewolf in werewolf form, you want to make this blow before they can push you down. If they succeed in pushing you down they will rip your throat out.” She moved forward she hated to do this to the other woman but it was a lesson she needed to learn. She turned swinging her sword with all her might watching as Thaleia panicked instantly stepped back the shock appearing in her eyes. Thaleia breathed in deeply trying to catch her breath. “What did you do that for!?” Sapphira slowly went in to her personal stance twirling her blade again. “I did it to teach you that this is not a game.” She flicked her blade. “And to see your reaction which was a bad one, you can not back down or freeze, do that and you will get killed.” She eyed her. “Go back in to position.” She watched as the other woman did so. “Now come at me aim that blade at my chest.” She smiled as young woman came at her thrusting the weapon forward she side stepped putting her sword against her neck. “I killed you.” Thaleia breathed in as the cold blade moved away from her neck. “Is this whole lesson going to be about running, or are you going to teach me how to swing?” Sapphira eyed her sword. “Yes I’ll teach you how to swing, but you need to learn this first. The power of your run is important it’s what stands between you and a werewolf’s teeth.” She stepped back watching as the other woman got back in to position. “Try again.”

8

Where is Halirrhothius’s tent? Oh gods this is so damn frustrating there’s so many tents around here! Empress of the Greece and I can’t find a tent how embarrassing, the only good thing is that werewolf tents look different they all have fur covers but unlike my warriors tents which have personal elements but are very formal. These tents are filled with symbolizes bone trophies and very personal items and not one looks the same. It’s a mesh of culture and creativity and most of it I don’t understand and I think if I lived to be a hundred there will still be things I don’t understand regarding werewolf culture. On the bright side at least tonight we had good food, the cooked rabbit and venison stew was wonderful and filling and far better than the porridge we had to eat last night. I can see that my warriors are happier and so is Gabrielle now that the food is better. The werewolves have gone hunting but Gabrielle didn’t join them instead she’s in our tent relaxing and I think that’s for the best as we both need as much relaxation as possible by tomorrow we will be outside Athens’s gates and everything will change. This war will truly begin and we have to flush every werewolf out of those tunnels. I had a look at the map the tunnels span outwards but they stop before the walls, which makes a horrible kind of sense. As the werewolves need to get on to those walls because when they collapse the city everything will go down and they need a point of escape and what better point than the very walls I built to keep attaching armies out of Athens? I’m ready for battle though I can feel it in my blood, I’m not afraid. My only concern is if the battle spills in to mine or my lover’s home town but I have defended Amphipolis once before I can do it again and I’ll do everything to protect my lovers home as well if it comes to that.

“Are you lost Empress?”

Xena turned catching sight of a black male werewolf in werewolf form dressed in armour who was tearing fur hide by the camp fire. His fur was white in places showing his age. “Where is Halirrhothius’s tent?” The old werewolf looked up. “Oh you want that pompous arrogant bastard.” Xena eyed him for a long moment. “Yes I want him.” The old werewolf sneered showing of his razor sharp teeth and gums as he pointed at a tent which was right out on the edge far away from the others. “Both him and his full blood, sister and brother are over there.” Xena eyed the tent. “Why is their tent so far outside?” The werewolf smirked coldly. “Because he and his full blood family think they are better than us.” Xena eyed the tent which had white and black mixed fur on it taking a mental note before speaking. “Blood doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, your actions do.” The old werewolves sneer turned to a smile. “You said it.” Xena walked towards the tent she opened the flaps stepping in side seeing that it was more luxurious than hers or Gabrielle’s tent and that bothered her, as she didn’t have gold goblets laying around or fur covered chairs, even though this family had lost everything they somehow still had coin to burn. She paused as a large white werewolf who was sitting on a bunch of blankets turned to face her, in his hand was a large sword which he was looking over he breathed in as he spoke. “Why hello Empress.” She looked up recognising the voice. “Akil?” Akil eyed his body he was only wearing his lower robe to cover his privates and not much else. “I apologise Empress clearly I’m under dressed, I’ll put some chest armour on.” Xena raised her hand. “Its fine I’m used to it.” Akil moved a step closer as the understanding in her words dawned on him. “Well I guess male and female werewolves only have a few differences and the fur covers a lot.”

Xena eyed his hanging cloth. “A few.” Akil sat down on the pile of furs which made a kind of chair. “How can I help you Empress?” Xena sat down on the chair opposite. “Where are your brother and sister?” Akil put down the sword. “They are out hunting.” Xena met his unreadable gaze. “They are not joining the other werewolves?” Akil shook his head. “No, I did mention to them that this could cause issues but they ignored me as normal.” Xena eyed the tent. “Your tent is rather luxurious.” Akil picked up a gold goblet in his clawed fingers looking at it. “Another thing I don’t agree with but my sister and brother were willing to sell their white crystal gem stones to obtain these things. When we escaped we got hold of pockets full of these stones they not valuable in side the Grand City as they used to decorate walls in full blood houses but in your world they seem sort after and prized.” He tossed the goblet aside. “Things are things though the body and soul can’t be replaced.” Xena leaned forward. “I get the feeling you’re not cut from the same cloth as them.” Akil shifted on the furs. “My brother and sister are good people but they have not spent enough time with normal people, I have. I have spent my life smiting weapons for every kind of person there is from noble house’s to the new warriors who’ve survived the first year of training and need a real weapon, not one that’s dented, old and shatters from over use. Why before our noble house was burnt down I was making a beautiful pure werewolf steel blade with a light weight handle for the Golden Hind. It was going to be one of a set as I know she uses two swords. That same sword was used by Bastiaan to take of my family members heads…its funny you create beautiful things and then they end up being used to do such horrible things.” Xena looked up seeing the pain in his eyes. “I’m sorry for your loss, I know about Bastiaan he hurt Gabrielle in the same way, he took away someone she loved deeply.”

Akil raised a clawed finger. “Damokles, gods I remember that man he was a very powerful character but an all around nice guy. He always liked to have his sword hilt wrapped in brown and red died leather and he liked his blade tip to be extra sharp and he always paid his coin on time. Poor bastard didn’t deserve to die he was just trying to make things right for all of the half breeds in werewolf sociality. They don’t deserve the treatment they get they work just as hard as the full bloods and yet they can never rise as high up the ladder. My brother and sister have a different opinion on this but then they have never had mothers asking me to make tiny metal swords to bury along with human born children who’ve been strangled to death. Or seen broken warriors who are strapping weapons to there hand’s because they are now useless in battle and would rather die out in the wilds than be a beggar until they die or be supported by their families.” He paused. “But I’m going off topic I’m sure you didn’t come here to hear my woes as a black smith, so how can I help you tonight?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Do you know what the mating urge is I heard your brother mention it?” Akil picked up a water skin taking a long drink. “Interesting question but I’m surprised your not asking the Golden Hind.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Let’s just say I have a feeling but I need to know more.” Akil smirked. “I see.” He raised a ringed clawed finger. “Well the mating urge is a thing a werewolf goes through when they find the right partner, it becomes very painful if not dealt with quickly. For both sexes its bad, as they can try to relive themselves personally but trust me no amount of relief will take away the pain. Symptoms for women include cramping pains like cycle pains and intense sexual urges for men they just can’t get their cock to settle and they get constant sexual urges which are just as bad. Other symptoms include intense headaches, sexually violent visions and dreams as well as sweating becoming irrational and violent and taking their anger out on other werewolves and becoming possessive over fresh kills.”

He sat back moving his tail. “They get the violet sight of the ancient werewolves had before it turns back to multicolour. When the mating urge reaches its peak the person looses it, becoming extremely violent and then at night they loose themselves and transform but they are no longer there mentality the animal has taken over and they will kill or serious injure people with out knowing what they have done, even people they love. I’ve seen werewolves going through it in chains put in cells until they come around in the morning and both parties can go through with the mating right afterwards.” He raised a clawed finger. “Oh there are herbs that can be taken to balance the rage and other symptoms but its only a stop gap and the more you try and fight it the more this urge pushes back and believe me that sexual thirst, always wins.” Xena paused before speaking. “You were saying about personal sexual relief do werewolves rape if they can’t satisfy those needs?” Akil laughed as he shook his head. “Werewolves don’t rape each other, has the Golden Hind not told you rape in our sociality is taboo and seen to be as bad as murder as it’s a sin of that destroys the soul the punishment for ether gender doing it is death. The reason for this is because is destroys the mating urge and any werewolf who goes through that may never mate or have children or farther children. It’s taken very seriously in our sociality as we want mated pairs who can breed regardless of the gender as they help the species. Its matters more to us than anything and rape is very rare and it only tends to happen with half breeds who don’t get the rules. Or think it doesn’t apply to them and they don’t live very long or full breeds that have a point to prove at another’s expense. They ether get killed by other werewolves as its seen as honourable to kill anyone who rapes or they get disembowelled on the execution block.”

He looked up meeting her surprised gaze. “Werewolves going through the mating urge will not rape their mate to get what they want, yes the sex drive is extremely high and because it has no where to go it turns to violence which is normally directed at other werewolves. You see it’s a bonding process the souls of the individuals need to connect on a very deep and emotional level if one partners says no the mating will stop instantly.” He moved his clawed finger. “I’ve seen werewolves break there own limbs in anger rather than hurt the person they love and want to mate with who is not ready. There is a huge drive to protect that person at all costs it’s built in because the connection is so deeply valued.” Xena breathed in deeply. “What does this mating involve?” Akil passed over the water skin watching as she took a long drink from it. “Werewolf love making can be quite rough but only as the souls start to connect and then it becomes all about the connection and both lovers are always facing each other. There are different forms depending on the couple and their gender but the result in the end is always the same. A powerful bite to the shoulder when all heights are reached which will heal up, the bite must be in werewolf form not human form because it’s believed only in werewolf form can the person’s soul completely link with their lovers.“ Xena looked up sharply. “What about if the person is human can they survive it?” Akil felt a smile form. “From what I’ve heard and now seen of the rebels, it’s clear that humans can get through it they do get turned though but I feel that, that is not what you’re really asking me. What you’re asking is can you survive it because if the Golden Hind bites you, you won’t turn you’ll remain human and I would think that you’ll have a nasty wound that will need to be stitched up. It will probably leave a permanent scar for the rest of your days and it could change you in some ways. A Horn Hind has never mated with a human being before so anything could happen I think the question is Empress are you willing to take the risk?”

Xena eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “I’ll do what is needed to help Gabrielle, I won’t let her suffer or loose herself.” Akil felt a smile form. “Then let me be the first to tell you that having sex with a werewolf in werewolf form can be a very intense experience some werewolves like it more than others but it is very different to anything you’ll ever experience from any another human being but when it’s the mating urge that intensity will be very high and you need to be ready.” He felt his smile turn to a wide grin. “So are you ready Empress?” Xena took another long drink from the water skin as she stood up putting it on the table. “Well they say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Akil picked up the sword again looking at it. “Then you should go and speak with the Golden Hind, clearly you both need to get this out in the open. Please come and chat to me again I enjoyed our chat.” He twirled blade. “And if you get the chance tell the Corinthian rebels leaders that they’ve done a reasonable job of making werewolf steel.” Xena opened the tent turning back to him. “I’ll pass that along.” She walked through the camp site finding her way back to the tent that was hers and Gabrielle’s tent slowly opening the curtains as she stepped inside catching sight of her lover who was naked apart from her underwear lying on her side on the fur bed sleeping in her right hand was her sword which she was holding tightly. She put a hand up as she moved towards her about to shake her awake only to stop. The younger woman needed her sleep probably more than anyone and her mating issues aside she needed to have a clean head for tomorrow as they would be at Athens gates. She pulled off her coat off putting it to one side as she eased the heavy fur cover over her lover’s naked body covering it. It was clear that she had fallen to sleep very suddenly as her clothes were lying near by in an untidy pile. She eased off her leathers slowly undressing down to her underwear before easing herself in next to the younger woman moving up close against her body hearing her murmur something incoherently in her sleep as her fingers gripped the weapon tighter for a moment only to loosen and go still.

She leaned closer noticing that there was something in her hair which was odd as the younger woman never styled her hair. She moved her fingers up realizing that it was a braid on the right side and close to her fringe. She’d never seen her do her hair in any way in all of the time she had known her and clearly the fact that she had done this meant that it was clearly important or she wouldn’t do it otherwise. She pulled her sword up on to the bed as she lay down running her fingers through the blonde hair. Right now she wished that the younger woman was awake so they could talk as she was clearly going through the mating urge but hadn’t said anything. The first moment after they got in to Athens and when they were together she would bring this up, it needed to be done and she was more than willing to go through it. She looked at the small side table noticing a bag of herbs sitting on it which hadn’t been there before. Clearly someone else had been here and she doubted that it was Phantasos despite what he knew about werewolf herbs she doubted that Gabrielle had told him anything about the herbs used to calm the urge. Everything was becoming crystal clear to her now this had started not long ago she had seen the change in Gabrielle’s behaviour, the temper the agitation and other things but had put it all down to stress and her actions in the field when she had crushed her waist made sense as well. This was not stress related issues all of it was Gabrielle’s sexual side trying to claw its way out, it was just the younger woman was restraining it and in doing so it was finding another outlet in her anger and frustration.  She leaned over placing a gentle kiss on the other woman’s cheek before getting comfortable, she breathed in deeply feeling her whole body relax as her eyes closed drifted off in to the dream world.

End of part 27

 

A BLOODY VICE WITHOUT EQUAL

 

Demetrius moved his horse slightly faster keeping up the pace with the others they had left a small camp along with a small number of warriors, werewolves black smiths and a few healers. Ceto, Thaleia and Phantasos had also stayed behind as they would be in danger if they went in to battle. Also it was always good practice to leave a small camp behind as it meant when that any wounded could be taken back to camp and dealt with there and then if they were injured outside the city. He turned to Iona who was on a horse close by. “Do you know where Thaleia was last night she disappeared for three hours?” Iona raised her hand. “Look I mean no offence but it’s not my job to keep tabs on your partner.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “I’m not asking you to keep tabs on her, I’m just curious.” Iona rolled her eyes. “Last time I saw her she was in the werewolf side of the camp, I just assumed that she was moving around and learning about their culture.” She paused. “You know you can’t keep tabs on her at all times she is her own person.” Demetrius shook his head. “I know that and I respect that, I guess I just feel uneasy as we are at war I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” Iona eyed him for a long moment. “I think you worry too much she can take care of herself. Plus I don’t blame her for spending time on the other side of the camp it’s really fascinating in many ways, it feels almost primal but at the same time educated and focused.” Demetrius felt a smile form. “I’ll remember to do that after we warn Athens that they are in deep trouble.” Iona moved her horse forward. “Wouldn’t be the first time…” Demetrius felt his smile widen. “No it wouldn’t be the first time, for ether of us.”

He looked up as the huge walls of Athens appeared in the distance they were made from the strongest stone and cement to keep out intruders. He’d been in Athens when they’d been rebuilt as a younger man after the Empress had liberated the city it had been one of the biggest city rebuilds he had ever seen. “I do hope Yalena is doing a better job than the last hoplite general I mean they lost control of this city and fled.” Iona raised her hand. “She is a Spartan they don’t break command and flee they fight to the death, plus doesn’t she have Iphicles with her, he’s one of the most decorated warriors in the Greek Empire. He was the Empress’s second in command for years during the war against the Macedonian kings and their queen.” Demetrius nodded. “The very same, Iphicles and the Empress were friends for years.” Iona smirked. “I heard they were much more than that.” Demetrius adjust his horse hair helmet. “Well I wasn’t general then so I couldn’t tell you I was a captain in one of the lesser armies and it was many years before I rose up to this rank and was learning the ropes the general never told me anything even when I asked, he kept his secrets even in death.” Iona looked at him for a long moment. “I’m just surprised the Empress didn’t put Iphicles in charge of Athens.” Demetrius put a hand on his knee. “That’s complicated it was diplomatic decision to put Yalena in charge of Athens as Leonidas killed her husband when she refused to fight, she gave a lot to the war effort. No the Athenians weren’t happy with it on any level at first but Yalena’s loyalty is to the Empress and she has ruled Athens under her rules not her Spartan ones and she has proved to the Athenians that not every Spartan is evil or out to kill them.”

Iona took in a deep breath. “Just glad it worked despite the risk I mean it could have ended very differently.” Demetrius watched as Xena stopped her horse he stopped his watching as the army behind him came to a slow halt. “I think we are all glad it worked out.” Xena took in a deep breath eyeing the huge walls of Athens there was no denying it now something just didn’t feel right. It was a gut feeling and one she didn’t like as it was so familiar, it was that feeling that everything was far too quite and it made her feel tense and uncomfortable. She leaned forward in her saddle seeing that the huge gates was both closed which made even less sense it was early morning now and the fire torches were still lit but there was no one around and there was normally always someone selling something outside the gate. Like Corinth the huge gates of Athens were always open to allow people to come and go freely, she turned to Gabrielle who was studying the gates carefully. “Something’s not right it’s far too quite and there is no body here.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “It has been years since I’ve been here but I recall that the gates were always open and there being food sellers outside.” Xena took in a deep breath turning to Demetrius. “I want ten warriors only we are going to get closer, I want everyone else to stay back.” Demetrius eased up his hand. “At your command Empress…” Gabrielle shifted in her saddle watching as Demetrius moved his horse allowing a mix of city guard and hoplites to come through she turned in her saddle eyeing Idomeneus. “Give me ten werewolves who are willing to walk beside the Empress’s warriors.”

Idomeneus turned to the werewolves behind him. “You heard the Golden Hind she wants ten of you!” He watched as a number of men and women ran forward taking their places as they readied their weapons. Xena began to move her horse forward very slowly watching as Gabrielle followed along with the other warriors whose faces were all filled with uncertainty. There was still no movement and it was just too damn quite and she hated that more than anything it wasn’t normal. Her gaze drifted upwards as a warrior appeared stepping on to one of the platforms so they could see him. He wasn’t one of her own of that she was certain his armour looked wrong but it hard to see it in this light. She stopped her horse along with Gabrielle turning to her keeping her voice low. “He’s not one of mine.” Gabrielle felt her body tense she recognised his armour even from this distance with its black plate and red feather horse hair helmet it was a generals armour and not a normal warriors which she used to wear even she’d become Horn Hind. Despite her long absence from werewolf sociality very little had changed the generals still liked their over decorative armours to show of their importance. She spoke in a low sharp whisper to her lover. “No he’s not one of yours he’s from the Imperial Council I recognise his armour.”

“Ah so you finally show yourself Golden Hind!”

Xena eyed the man who smiled smugly down at them. “Who are you?” Baltsaros looked at the dark haired woman in disgust. “Be quite Empress, I wasn’t addressing you!” He turned eyeing the blonde woman sitting on a horse next to her. “Welcome to Athens whore king, oh I’ve heard so much about you and frankly I am not that impressed by any of it, you are breaking one of our most scared laws sleeping with a human woman and it’s shameful and disgusting.” Gabrielle felt the twinge of anger over being called that name but ignored it. “Who are you?” The older man smiled. “Baltsaros I’m a general loyal to the Imperial Council here in Athens you see this place was in drastic need of new leadership the Spartan bitch and the limp dick second in command they put in charge here just really weren’t working out.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “Thank you for telling me your name I’ll remember it when I kill you.” Baltsaros laughed as he looked down at her. “You kill me, big words coming from someone who has nothing but a rebel scum army and a bunch a stupid human’s in tow.” He grabbed hold of one of the fire torches close by. “Because you’re a stupid bitch let me make myself as clear as possible just so you understand! I have this city its mine I have hostages hundred of them all chained up here along with what’s left of the Empress’s pathetic army. We control this city and if you come one step closer to it I will kill every single man, woman and child here. I will bring a reign of terror down on this place the likes of which you and your bitch Empress have never seen and don’t think for a second that I’m bluffing because you will be sourly mistaken.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart clearly he was talking about collapsing the city but he wasn’t aware that she knew about it. “Killing innocent people is the act of a coward.”

Baltsaros shook his head. “Ah the words of a sentimental fool the Imperial Council were not joking when they said that you care too much, from one warrior to another one day that will be your downfall.” Gabrielle shifted her horse moving it to the side. “Maybe I do but when I die and when I’m judged I will go to a better place than you, you will rot away in what hell you worship for all eternity.” Baltsaros felt his smile fade he eyed the torch in his hand. “That remark is going to be very costly to you whore king.” He smirked. “Just to make my point clear I’ll give you a taste of Athens power, after all the Empress rebuilt this wall to be impenetrable and lined it with catapults.” He signalled with the flaming torch watching as the warriors around him moved closer to the catapults. “I did make a little adjustment to the Empress’s catapults I do hope you both enjoys the taste of Greek fire!” He signalled again. “Kill them all!” He watched as all along the wall line the catapults were lit there flames lighting up in the darkness of the morning sky. Xena felt her body tense this was not how she had wanted this to go! She knew that those catapults would be far reaching. “Pull back now!” Her next words were cut off as a row of flaming balls flew through the air above her. She turned her horse watching as everyone began to run for all they were worth including the army behind them as the first fireball came down exploding in flames and throwing its awful tar like substance out across the snow as it caught fire, the snow did nothing to stop these flames. She breathed in as the as an inferno exploded close to part of her army screams of pain hit the air as a couple of warriors were set alight. She could see Gabrielle galloping some distance trying to get away as an exposition came down narrowly missing her.

Baltsaros laughed watching as the fire exploded all around the fleeing army, honestly he had assumed that this would be much harder. Clearly the Empress had gone soft and stupid, she had built this wall to keep invading armies out she had obviously never expected it to be used on her. The catapults lined every wall all around this city and there were even more defences inside. He watched as the catapults were fired again raining down on the still fleeing army, he smiled as one of the bombs caught a number of men and women at the edge setting them alight in a ball of flames. Even from this distance he could hear the screams of pain and agony as the fire and oil burnt through there bodies which fell to the ground as death took over, making black burning impressions in the white snow. He smirked pulling out the pipe from his armour slowly lighting it on the torch before placing it back on the holder. He took in a deep breath from the coltsfoot before breathing out the dark smoke as he watched the as more bombs hit the snow spreading thick fire some way from the gate causing as wall of flames. He moved the fire torch from the stand making a single with it which meant that they should stop firing as the huge army vanished in the cover of the huge forest some way a way. He watched as the last catapults fired before they all became still again, he turned to his second in command the Egyptian woman narrowed her dark eyes as he passed her the flaming torch. “If they appear again and get that close I want you to fire on them.” He paused. “If they try and scale the wall or try to breach the gate, well I’m sure you know what to do Haji.” Haji raised the torch. “I’ll make sure they don’t get close but if they do well what can I say, this city was nice to look at but it’ll look nicer when it’s a rumbled mess that has collapsed in to the ground.”

Gabrielle felt the pain as one of the branches snapped painfully against her face followed by another, she had never galloped before and she didn’t know how to stop! She had been told but she had never done it in practice, her thoughts were cut off as she caught sight of a tree branch which hit her squarely in the shoulder throwing her sideways in the saddle causing her to loose her grip on the reins. The next moments turned to blinding pain as she hit the ground hard on her back. She felt her fingers grip the snow if there was one thing she hated more than anything it was being humiliated by dishonourable generals it had happened once to often in her life. That bastard had called her a whore and she hated being called a whore and when she met him face to face he would pay for that remark. She pulled herself out of the snow getting to her feet, ignoring the pain seeing that Argo had stopped close by. Her gaze drifted upward as two huge fireballs skimmed over the trees above her followed by the echoing boom as they landed in the forest some way from her. She walked over to Argo’s reins taking hold of them as she moved deeper in to the thick forest realizing that she had been completely separated from every one else. She heard the blasts as the last of bomb came down some distance away and everything went quite once more. She ignored the feeling of cold blood as it ran down the side of her face as she made her way through the trees dragging Argo behind her who snorted. She eyed the horse as she carried on moving. “Yeah, yeah I know you didn’t mean to drop me off, I just fell.” She looked up as the sound of voices hit the air. It was distant but she could hear it, she turned going in that direction. She looked up seeing large group of warriors some distance away in a clearing, no one was in formation it was just a mass of men, women and horses who were unhappy as they were to close to the mass of werewolves warriors.

There were wounded warriors crying out in agony in another small group who were being tended to by a number of healers. Their wounds were horrific even from this distance she could see third degree burns from the intense flames and oily tar pasted on there skin. The werewolves would heal from these burns but the human’s wouldn’t it would leave horrific scars for life. She caught sight of Xena running towards her the concern in her eyes as she spoke. “Thank the gods your okay, I saw your horse get separated from mine.” She paused. “You’re bleeding.” Gabrielle moved in to the clearing putting her hand on her face she pulled it away seeing the blood on her fingers. “I’m fine I just fell of my horse again.” Xena pulled out a cloth from her pocket. “Let me clean that up.” Gabrielle raised her hand stopping her. “Look its fine.” Xena put her hand under her chin moving the cloth up ignoring her protect as she wiped the blood away, it was just a small cut but she wasn’t going to lie to herself she didn’t like seeing her lover covered in her own blood, not since the fall she’d had from the balcony when fighting Adrienne. Gabrielle took her bag of Argo’s saddle watching as one of the warriors took her horse away putting it with the others as the last of the warriors flooded in through the trees. Xena put the cloth away. “That didn’t go so well…” Gabrielle felt a cold sneer form. “I’m going to kill that bastard first I’ll rip out his throat and then eat his eyeballs.” Xena walking in to an empty area stopping watching as her lover did the same. She put her hands on her shoulders. “Easy now, he will pay for this I promise but right now we have a much bigger problem.” Gabrielle folded her arms not liking where this was going. “What’s that?” Xena shook her head. “When I took Athens years ago I rebuilt the walls they will be much harder to get through.”

She took in a deep breath. “The wall was my own design with catapults which are on every wall and Baltsaros has control of all of them as we’ve just seen.” Gabrielle pulled out the leather underground map putting it flat on the floor as she kneeled down putting her bag to one side watching as the older woman did the same. “I’ve never breached a city before I’ve broken though a village’s defences and fought army to army.” She pulled the water skin free her bags side pocket taking a long drink from it, it was filled with the herbs she needed to keep the mating urge at bay and keep her calm think clearly right now. She closed the water skins top putting it away. “I have never breached a wall but I know my people can scale it if we got close enough.” Xena eyed the map. “There are opening all along the lower walls if you tried to scale it the arrows would hit you before you reach the top.” Gabrielle eyed the map trying to remember everything Damokles had once told her on this subject. “What if we broke down the gates with enough werewolves I could force that gate open.” Xena put her finger on the wall. “Right here is a funnel it’s there to force armies in to a small space above cauldrons filled with hot oil can be poured on to the incoming army as they come through, while the archers carry on firing at them it’s a death trap.” She paused. “How long would it take for your people to dig under it?” Gabrielle put a hand through her hair in frustration. “It would take to long and I don’t know how many builder I have I saw two people close to me die so I’ve already lost warriors and so have you.” Xena eyed the map she had never regretted a tactical decisions to protect her people until now. “I didn’t think your people would take Athens.” Gabrielle looked up slightly meeting her concerned gaze. “It’s not your fault Xena werewolves don’t normally do this, cities have never been of any interest to my people, until now.”

She shook her head. “I don’t think any of those things will work anyway Baltsaros threat was one he meant, I think if we attack he will collapse the city he clearly thinks that we don’t know about the Imperial Councils plan. I will not risk innocent people’s lives to break through that wall I’ll do what ever it takes but with out hurting them.” Xena paused as a thought crossed her mind. “Your race when they make tunnels I assume they take great care not to touch any existing tunnels?” Gabrielle eyed the tunnels. “The builders never touch any underground structure already in place as it would alert people to our presence underground, why what did you have in mind?” Xena slowly met her uncertain gaze. “How do you feel about swimming in crap?” Gabrielle tensed not liking on bit where this was going. “Please tell me, you’re not talking about the cities sewage aqueduct.” Xena leaned over the map. “Yes I am.” Gabrielle eyed the map. “Great…” Xena put her finger on an area of map. “Under the city runs an aqueduct, your people have marked it on the map but they clearly do not realize that a part of it extends outside the city. You see the waste that comes out of it is used to help fertilize fields it’s basically I semi lake filled with waste all year around but it will be mostly frozen over right now.” She put a hand through her hair. “The tunnel outside is large you and me and a group of our best could get through it.” Gabrielle eyed where her hand lovers hand was pointing. “How far would we have to go before we get inside the city?” Xena took in a deep breath. “About a mile, give or take the sewage aqueduct open up towards the end giving you space to move around properly its opening very close to the Temple it’s a massive well.”

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Wait a second the upper area of the aqueduct runs right next to a large open underground area under the temple my people could knock an opening in the aqueducts wall and crawl through there’s no cement in the tunnels so they’ll be easy to break through.” She moved her fingers along the tunnels. “Then our people can work together to cut all the ropes that are connecting the underground rope system. So even if they pull the lines above it will do nothing. Then my people can force the gates open from the other side so the rest of our armies can get in.” Xena eyed the gate on the map. “The gate has two large turning mechanisms normally it takes three warriors to operate them but I’m sure your people will have no trouble turning them. Then we can take back the whole city and beat this army in to complete submission.” She looked up catching sight of Demetrius and Idomeneus coming towards them the concern in both their faces. “How bad is the damage?” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “Ten warriors are dead, fifteen more have serious burns, the seriously wounded I’ve had one of Iona’s warrior’s escort them back to the camp.” Gabrielle got to her feet looking at Idomeneus watching as the older woman stood up. “What are our casualties?” Idomeneus breathed in deeply. “Five dead and three seriously wounded but they will heal up, we were worried that you maybe hurt as well as we saw that you get separated from the group.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “I had problems stopping my horse, I’m new to riding.” Idomeneus nodded he wasn’t going to push this topic anymore as he’d already seen her fall off her horse once already and he got the impression she was getting her head around riding. Riding did not come naturally to werewolves so he doubted he would be doing any better if their roles were reversed. “Evidently the Imperial Council knew that we were coming.”

Demetrius breathed in deeply. “Yes and now we have a problem we need to get inside those walls they are clearly keeping the whole city as prisoner and I’m sure they’ll collapse it if we try that again.”  Xena eased up the map so they could both see it as a sly smile formed on her lips. “We both have a plan and you’ll fit in to it nicely.” Demetrius felt himself tense he knew that smile the Empress only ever gave it when her plan was going to be risky and dangerous in some manner. “Why do I not like the sound of this?” Xena held the map up. “I need Iona and her warriors they will all be perfect for this mission.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I need werewolves who don’t mind swimming in sewage and crawling through dark open spaces and don’t care about risk.” Idomeneus put a hand on his beard. “There are a number of warriors I know but they are not well what I consider sane but they are good at things like this. Normally we don’t put warriors like this on the front line we prefer to keep them for special missions like this.” Gabrielle shook her head. “This is a special mission and I need all of them because I’m going to get in to that city.” Idomeneus breathed in deeply. “I would prefer to go with you my sister can lead the army with Demetrius.” He paused turning to the older man next to him. “That is if you don’t mind teaching my little sister how to get in to a breached city, she’s been reading about it in scrolls.” Demetrius shook his head. “No I don’t mind I’m sure she can learn a lot, this isn’t the first time I’ve taken a city, while someone else has distracted it from with in.” He paused meeting the Empress’s gaze. “So how are you both intending to get in to the city?” Xena eased up the map so they could see it better. “Let’s just say it won’t be in the most pleasant way.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “But it does work to both our races advantages, as it gives us what we need to stop the city being collapsed.”

End of part 28

 

 

FEELING THE CRUSHING OF THE WALLS WITH IN

 

I hate sewage I hate the smell, smell is an issue to me unlike human beings when you become a werewolf your sense of smell increases. The upside of this is that the smell of cooked meat becomes even more intense and things you never smelt when your human suddenly light up your senses. The downside is that the things that smell awful become truly awful it’s like an assault on your senses, which makes it harder not to want to throw up. There’s no way around this I have to do it, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve had to do something I hated. It’s the only way in side the city but it doesn’t make me feel any better. We have walked for some time and I can see the frozen sewage lake even from here and the huge open end of the aqueduct the men and women who have been picked have been travelling with us. Idomeneus wasn’t wrong when he said they are out of the ordinary and they are as they are more like Iona’s men in that they seem closer to assassins. They are all middle aged and all have hand made weapons which have grapples hooks as well as specialized swords which have double blades and axes and war hammers which are bigger and heaver than normal. One woman has even fashioned claws on her wrists which are clearly for creating huge wounds. All of these men and women have specialist combat skills. Gabrielle turned to Idomeneus. “Are all these men and women mercenaries?” Idomeneus raised his hand. “Some of them used to be yes but once they were turned they were forced to serve under Bastiaan which they didn’t like, as they were forced to kill other werewolves if the Imperial Council demanded it or so I’ve heard.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “Everything you have heard about Bastiaan’s unit is true they kill other werewolves to keep them quite but I have never heard of anyone from that unit leaving.”

Idomeneus eyed the men and women. “Well all of these men and women did much to the Imperial Council’s annoyance and came to Corinth it was my mother’s idea to keep them together as a lot of the rebels wanted to separate them because they were scared of them.” Xena eyed the men and women. “Well they look the part for what we are about to do.” Iona folded her arms. “Look I don’t mean to rain on any one parade but I really don’t but how are we going to get through that tunnel it will be pitch black and we can’t light fire torches in there the place will explode. Believe me I know, one of my warriors did it once he died as did three people who were guarding the other end of the aqueduct. Granted they were part of a warlord’s army the Empress had sent me to kill but that’s not the point, open fire in a small space is very dangerous.” Idomeneus smirked as he pulled out a round glass ball which had an opening at the top. In side it had a huge glob of red candle wax and wick. The glass ball was attached to a bronze prop. “What do you seriously think that werewolves don’t think off that kind of thing?” He eyed the ball. “You light one of these and the fire is contained and the candle wax burns a certain colour. These can be attached to armour so you find your way around at night though we can see in the pitch black, even we like a little colour.” Gabrielle eyed the glass ball. “These are used in the underground cities to light up homes and streets.” Iona put her hand on the glass ball. “How in Tartarus do you people make these so round I mean I’ve only seen glass that is flat?” Idomeneus eyed the glass ball. “That’s easy you just blow in to it while it’s hot?” Iona blinked in confusion. “You can’t blow in to glass when it’s molten.” Idomeneus looked up sharply. “Sure you can you just use a metal pipe which is hollow and you blow down it, the glass expands and creates a bubble.” Iona raised a ringed finger. “I don’t care what it takes I want to see this done.” Idomeneus smirked eyeing the glass ball. “Oh when we have time I’ll show it to you and prove it.”

“Golden Hind!”

Gabrielle turned watching as a man came running through the trees behind them he stopped catching his breath as he raising a bag. “Sapphira would like you to wear this for your own protection as you don’t have any armour.” Gabrielle carefully took the bag from him pulling out a light metal chest plate and stomach plate which also had shoulder guards it was made from red and black metal parts which had been woven on the interlocking plates to create a pattern. At the edges a large leather skirt hung down it was there for if she transformed to cover her privates, she looked at it for a long moment. “Thank you.” The man felt a big smile form. “It’s made from werewolf steel but our version is sadly not as good as the real thing.” Gabrielle eased the straps off her shoulders which held her swords then pulled on the armour which lay very flat against her shirt which she’d changed to an old one along with her trousers. She slowly pulled the leather ties adjusting the shoulders armour so it fitted better. “That’s fine I never liked full werewolf steel anyway.” She eased her sword straps back on as she turned to him. “Give her my thanks.” The man nodded as he walked away. Xena eyed the armour. “It looks good.” Gabrielle adjusted the armour again checking that the sections had movement. “It’ll do.” Xena felt her smile fade as she walked towards the frozen sewage lake. “Let’s go.” Idomeneus nodded watching as the men and women lit up the glass balls which burned with red light. She turned to Gabrielle. “You should lead I’ll be right behind you.” Idomeneus threw his glass globe watching as Xena caught it. “You’ll need this it’ll help you see.” Xena eyed the glass ball. “Thank you.” Gabrielle breathed in as she wrapped a cloth around her mouth which she hoped it would keep out some of the smell.

She could see the others doing the same along with her lover who then put on her leather gloves she pulled on her own gloves pulling the cords as tight as possible. She eyed the sewage lake part of it was ice not that, that made her feel any better. She moved her boots over the icy black surface taking slow steps once this was over she wouldn’t let Thaleia scrub her boots clean or any of her other clothes she would do it herself it wasn’t fair to make her friend clean up crap. She could see the huge opening which stood out as its stone was white, there were large frozen icicles hanging off the edge. She pulled herself up on to the edge instantly smelling the awful fumes even through the cloth on her face. She slowly moved forward on her hands and knees through the half frozen sludge which became less and less frozen as she moved further down the wide tube she could see the red light as her lover followed her slowly behind her. “This aqueduct doesn’t get any smaller does it?” Xena carried on moving hearing the others behind her. “I have no idea I didn’t have this place built I just had it extended beyond the wall the sewage used to flood the streets it was awful, why do you ask?” Gabrielle moved through the sludge was getting thicker now and it was getting warmer due to the fumes and the heat. “No reason.” In the darkness she could make out the lines of the walls and feel the sweat under the collar of her armour she didn’t even want to think about what she was crawling through as it hard enough to not want to throw up.

8

Iphicles eased up his bloody sword eyeing it as he slowly moved through the dark tunnel. The warriors who had taken over the city had tried to take him prisoner but they had failed, his rope bounds had been to loose and he’d been able to free himself. Killing the two warriors though that had been hard as they were both unbelievably strong and what ever there weapons were made from it was unlike any metal he had come across. They had shattered his weapon he’d had to use the broken end to stab one of the warriors through the throat. The other he had stabbed through the chest using his own sword. Sadly he was now stuck in the dark maze of tunnels under the city which stretched out for miles and it was slow moving as he had no idea where he was and he had been trying to avoid the warriors by taking other empty tunnels when ever they passed by. Unlike the others in the army he was trained in this kind of warfare, he knew the stakes and he knew what was necessary to achieve his goals many years fighting to liberate the Greek Empire had taught him that. He had fought along side Xena or the Empress as she was now known to everyone else and had both been good friends for many years. They had become lovers later on but the relationship had not worked out. There had been no arguments or anger between them and they had not spilt up on bad terms as they had still remained friends even after wards. It just wasn’t to be they didn’t connect the spark just wasn’t there and he realized now that some of the sexual emotion had come about because of the war. War and sexual drive sometimes got messed up together it came about as you needed to feel human again and sex could help that along even if the person you were with wasn’t the right person. Looking back though he wouldn’t take it back for the world they had, had good times together and he’d learnt a lot about relationships from it.

Rumours were forever flying around that Xena was a rampant lover who had constant sexual conquests this was rubbish. She had only ever had one relationship at a time with one person of ether gender, she had no interest threesomes. Though she had been to one or two orgy parties but who hadn’t? Most people did it at one time in their lives men and women sometimes did it as a right of passage in to adulthood in some cases. Xena had just never found the right person and she always leapt in with both feet and tried so hard but it never worked out and it was always so sad, as Xena was a deeply loving being who had the warmest heart and people sometimes took advantage of that. He remembered meeting Julius Caesar years later and frankly he didn’t like the man he had even told her openly that he didn’t approve. Despite that the man had lots of charisma, charm and was polite but he wouldn’t deny that something about that bastard had really not sat well with him. He just didn’t seem genuine and he’d hated that his instincts had been proved right. He had heard that, that horrible man had tried to have Xena murdered as he wanted the Greek Empire for himself but it had gone the other way and she’d killed him after which she had fled from Rome. He’d heard that she’d had a string of failed relationships after that which had not lasted more than a week, then her love life had gone in to silence. He had felt so bad for her all she’d ever wanted was to be loved and to give love and to have children and raise a family. It wasn’t until recently that rumours had resurfaced that she was with someone but who that person was, was unknown. The only thing that was known was that she was a woman, frankly he hoped she was a decent woman as he had seen to many women break Xena’s heart in the past.

He carried on moving forward leaning up against the wall as two guards passed by chatting in some language which he didn’t understand. All of these people were from all different lands and descents but that was normal as the Greek armies were full of people from many lands, but the language he just couldn’t figure out and he’d been to many places. They also weren’t human ether as their eyes reflected in the darkness of these tunnels which weren’t that well lit. He eyed the sword in his hand he needed to find Yalena, much like Xena he had moved on relationship wise and they had been together for quite sometime now. It was no lie that Spartan women did have a fire about them and he loved her for it. Xena’s family were of Thracian decent and he had been used to that kind of fire from her when she had been a bad mood, which during the wars for liberation had been quite often, she had changed though after her trip to China. She came back much more focused and with a completely different take on the war and she knew how to channel her rage on every level but it hadn’t been the same. He’d always liked that fire and had missed it, Yalena was all fire and she could handle herself with anything but this event had caught them both of guard. He knew she had been taken down these tunnels like his men and women but he had no idea where they were being kept. He had noticed that the guard’s numbers were getting more which meant they were protecting something. How these people had built out these massive tunnels and no one had ever heard it or seen it was beyond him, it must have taken them many years which meant that this had planned, he just didn’t understand why. The only land that was a threat to Greece right now was Egypt Rome was less of a threat but still a land to be wary of.

He breathed in turning the corner seeing that it was surrounded by warriors and far too many for him to take on at once. He moved up against the wall eyeing them, they were guarding a huge open area which was the size of a temple and had huge prison cells filled with people. Some were the remained warriors of his army but he had no idea who the rest were. One older man though had been separated from them and had been chained to a flat rock table, he had been stripped of his clothes his back was a mess of bloody scars. He was clearly being punished for something he had done he shook his head as he eyed the people in the cage behind him. They didn’t look dangerous at all they all looked like normal town’s people why chain them up and lock them away? He turned catching sight of Yalena she had been chained to a table opposite the leader though they had not stripped her of her clothes but she had clearly been put on display to die. He felt the twinge of anger as he caught sight of the blood staining the stone which meant that she was bleeding and had serious wounds. He moved further back as a warrior came closer to him eyeing the area, he didn’t think as he grabbed the woman covering her mouth muffling her cry of pain as he thrust his weapon straight in to her throat feeling the cold blood as it wet his hands. He brought her dead body down carefully pulling it out of sight down the tunnel opposite. He eyed her armour which had strange shifting plates which could expand clearly any gender could wear it. Maybe this could give him an advantage maybe he could put it on and pretend to be one of these people and get closer to these heavily guarded cells. It was his best change he wasn’t going to let these people hurt the woman he loved anymore he was going to have their heads.

Yalena felt the agonizing pain everything hurt so much she could feel her face touching the cold stone which she had been chained to. She had been in battles which had hurt less than this, now she was in some dark underground prison though she couldn’t remember how she had gotten here as she had lapsed in and out of consciousness more than once. She closed her eyes her wounds were still bleeding and she was starting to feel light headed. She was no fool she knew why she had been chained like this she was on display as a warning to all others. They also wanted her to die on this cold stone that was why they hadn’t healed her wounds they wanted her to bleed out. She took in a slow deep breath steadying her self mentally she needed to have focus and resolve as she opened her eyes keeping a firm focus on her surroundings. She could see the unconscious naked elderly Egyptian man chained down opposite, clearly she wasn’t the only one on display here. His back though was an awful mess of horrific bloody scars which had cut through the muscle and bone, whether he was still alive she had no idea but she was doubtful, there was so much blood all down his body and the wounds were far too deep. She turned looking around her she could hear lots of voices from the prison cells, which meant lots of prisoners. Her lover Iphicles was not among them or he would have spoken up which meant that he had gotten away and that bastard werewolf general had not captured him. She knew that she was too weak to try and pull on her chains and she knew it would be counter productive she needed to save her energy and choose her moment to free herself. She closed her eyes slowing her breathing down if Iphicles was free he would get down to her soon. After all that was one of the reasons she loved him he had endless skill and she admired skill but only worthy skill such as his, she would expect no less, she was Spartan it was just in her nature.

8

I thought this tunnel was going to be wide but it’s gotten smaller and tighter! I’m now having to crawl on my belly through the crap the smell is awful and the heat is stifling. It’s torturous and I’ve been down here for what feels like hours I know it’s in fact not hours but because this work is so slow going time passes slower in your head. I just want to get out of here I’m starting to feel trapped and it’s not a nice feeling I hate the feeling of being trapped and its not like I can turn around and go back despite theses feelings which are starting to eat away at me. Gabrielle looked up in surprise as the scratching of claws hit her ears it had to be rats she stopped moving as it got closer realizing that it was in fact a cat which was running towards her. She pulled herself up slightly only for the animal to go right through her body and come out the other side behind her. She took in a deep breath great there were ghosts down here that was the last thing she needed right now. She crawled forward only for five more cats to fly through her body going in the opposite direction ignoring her as they meowed and fought. What was with all the cats did they just like to play down here or something? Ghost animals were even worse than ghost people, because she couldn’t tell the difference till they went through you or you went through them. She’d found that out at great cost once when she’d attacked a deer only to go right through it in werewolf form and slam head first in to a tree which had knocked her out instantly. She’d woken up an hour later dazed and confused wondering what had just happened to her as it made no sense. She had been trying to survive through that bitter first year and she had blamed herself for being stupid and making a mistake. In truth it had been the first ghost she’d seen before being taken to the werewolf city to be trained but at the time it had not clicked in her mind that what she saw wasn’t real and she couldn’t understand it.

Ghost animals did exist though they were everywhere just like ghost people they could walk through walls and go in to odd places as they weren’t limited by having a real body. She tensed feeling the pain as she pushed through the uncomfortable tight space which was getting even tighter, she felt her body go still, it suddenly felt like the walls were closing in around her and a painful light headed feeling started to take over her mind making her feel sick. She stopped finding it difficult to breath as her own heart beat started to pound violently in her ears. By Ouroboros she hadn’t wanted this to happen not in here not in this tunnel!  The awful sensation of claustrophobia was overwhelming her senses forcing her to freeze on the spot in fear. She wouldn’t panic she wouldn’t cry out if she did everyone would know she was a pathetic coward. She thought she had gotten over this and that it wouldn’t be a problem again she felt her teeth grind together as she tried desperately to keep it together.  In her youth as a trainee she had attacked a wagon in werewolf form along with the other trainees up in Snow Mountains of Mount Amaro the wagon had been owned by Chinese merchants. The whole attack had gone wrong the merchants had pulled out gun powder fire rockets and fired them at her and the other trainees. They’d had to flee back to the tunnels which were built in to the mountain but one of those rockets had gone inside the tunnel blowing it apart and causing a cave in. Unlike most werewolf tunnels these tunnels were never coated in cement as the freezing temperatures in mountains kept the earth ice solid, all of the other trainees had made it out apart from her. She just wasn’t fast enough and had found her whole body pinned under the earth and rubble she had been stuck in a tiny space where she couldn’t move and had struggled to breathe the stale air for hours. Worst of all she had transformed back which had caused the rubble to crush down even more on top of her body she’d had to wait for almost a full day before she’d been dug out.

Time passes slower in a situation like that every second was about staying alive and it had really gotten to her. No one had ever talked to her or helped her through her emotions after being dug out her trainer had told her to just suck it up and stop being weak and pathetic and act like a warrior. Well here was the truth no amount of sucking it up had changed the fact that she had issues with incredibly tight spaces and here she was now being pathetic once more as she was stuck in a tunnel frozen unable to move, because that fear was coming back to her along with the memories. At a part her longed to be able to unfreeze her muscles and use her pipe to smoke some Coltsfoot but that in itself would be counter productive as any open fire in here would cause an explosion. Xena crawled forward realizing that her lover wasn’t moving at all she’d frozen solid up ahead, she paused seeing that everyone was coming up behind her unaware that Gabrielle had stopped as she had been moving faster than everyone up until now. “There’s something wrong I need you to stop!” She watched as the others stopped leaving enough space that they wouldn’t hear their conversation she moved towards the younger woman putting a hand on her armoured back which caused her to turn around the surprise her glowing green eyes darting in the darkness. She kept her voice as low as possible. “Are you hurt?” Gabrielle tried to steady her breathing as she spoke in a truly weak voice. “I don’t think I can do this it feels like the walls are closing in…” Xena blinked as it instantly dawned on her what was going on as she’d seen this same behaviour in warrior in her army over the years it wasn’t uncommon. Her lover was claustrophobic, which was a shock in its self as she had never expected werewolves to have this problem as they lived underground. She tried to ignore the stale air and rancid smell as she spoke in a gentle tone. “Sure you can.”

She looked up the tunnel. “Its just a little further then it opens out in to a wide area.” She put her hand further up the woman’s armoured back. “Come on you can do this sweetheart.” Gabrielle felt the other woman push against her forcing to crawl forward very slowly, each movement was painful and slow but she was moving again the close contact helped. Xena moved the glass touch around as Iona’s voice hit the air. “Are you both okay down there!?” Xena moved keeping pace with her lover while keeping hold of her armoured back. “We are fine you can all keep going now.” She eyed her lover she could feel how difficult this was for her, her whole body was tensed up and ridged. She hated to push her like this but they were so close to getting to the point they needed to be. Once the tunnel opened out again it wouldn’t be nice or pleasant it would mean wading through knee high sewage and then breaking down the wall on their side to get through to the other side. It would have to be quick with no delay because the breaking of the wall would cause echoes which could alert the army on the other side. Gabrielle could still feel her heart racing but she was moving somehow it was comforting having her lover this close even if she was just pushing her on, it took her mind of her feelings. She pushed harder trying to move faster she needed to get out of here she couldn’t stand this place any longer it was messing with her mind and she didn’t need that right now. This was not how she had considered spending her day sweating and feeling caged in, in a sewage tunnel. She so needed to get her head in the game because right now she wasn’t doing very well, she was just muddling through this as best she could and that just wasn’t good enough.

End of part 29

 

 

One thought on “Ethereal Ark Of Fire by Silvermoonlight

  1. i have read both these stories and hated to put them down for any length of time.lost a lot of sleep that way too. but i would liike to make a suggestion in case the author was to ever read these since unlike most of the others this one has left no email address to contact them. i was stopped at chapter 29 which was posted in jan and this is march. unfortunately it stops during a highly suspenseful battle.i would suggest that the author not wait to post so many chapters at one time.especially when in the middle of a battle for instance.unlike the author we readers have no way of knowing what is to happen and its not right to have to wait months to know.it would be much better to post less chapters more often. that way too the readers dont lose near as much rhythm and involvement as u do when u have to wait months at a time. i usually dont get involved with unfinished stories as too often after i am emotionally invested an author will never finish it.i do so hope that isnt the case now because these are both excellent even if you arent that in to werewolves.and dont turn away from these for that reason because these are not your typical werewolves. except for being left hanging during a battle much less a war i would recommend these highly. i just hope the author intends to finish.

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