Shattering Of The Silver Light by Silvermoonlight (Part 2)

LOSS FROM THE HEART AND SOUL

Gabrielle slowly moved her clawed hand across the ground as she looked around her for a piece of wood, the new wood that had been brought up to her workshop was good but it was far too fresh and the bark had been stripped off. She wanted something much older piece aged piece which still had its bark, she picked up a large thick broken log with one hand only to toss it back on the ground, it just wasn’t right it wasn’t thick enough. She paused moving forward on all fours she’d just about finished carving the Ouroboros symbol and she was thinking through her next project which might be a new wooden bird with opening and shutting wings. She never ever made these birds from young wood she preferred old wood as it was much more challenging and took more work to bend in to the right shape.

She turned sharply as a clanging sound hit her ears, she moved slowly around the corner seeing that an area had been lit opposite the barracks with fire torches, she could see Xena some distance away her sword was hitting one of the hanging wooden dummies in the training area which was opposite the shooting range. She turned seeing some fallen wood near by she took in a deep breath moving slowly forward watching as the tall dark haired woman carried on training obvious to her presence which was no doubt because she didn’t have as good eye sight in the dark as she did. She paused stopping close to one of the fire torches eyeing the wooden pieces.

Xena stopped in mid motion some one near by she turned sharply watching as the slight of golden fur came in to view. Gabrielle was directly behind her on all fours with her back turned to her as she shifted through the broken wooden pieces which were sat in a pile close by and were normally used as firewood for the royal guard to light the fire inside the barracks.  She lowered her sword seeing that Gabrielle hadn’t realized that she’d stopped her training and was still shifting through the wood obvious to what was going on. She felt a smile form as she spoke. “Was it a certain type of wood you were after?” Gabrielle looked up sharply seeing that Xena was looking in her direction.

She turned over another chunk of hard wood with her clawed hand as she lowered her gaze. “Sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt your training.” Xena slowly pushed her sword back in to its scabbard. “I was finished anyway I’ve been here for a while, normally I train during the day but today I thought to day I’d train at night instead.” Gabrielle over turned another hard wood chunk only to push it aside as it wasn’t right. “Why?” Xena moved closer to her folding her arms. “I just wanted to get a different perspective I’ve noticed that you like the darkness more than the light.” Gabrielle eased up a heavy chunk of wood looking at it seeing that it was just what she’d been looking for.

She moved it putting it to one side as she met the dark haired woman’s light blue gaze. “I’m a werewolf I’ve spent most of my life in the darkness.” Xena looked at her for a long moment it wasn’t a rude comment more of a statement. She paused before speaking. “I wanted to ask you a question.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Go ahead.” Xena looked in to her green eyes which were reflecting in the darkness. “You said that, that woman Iris was punished for sleeping with a human.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Yes I did.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Did she ever go back to be with that man she cared about?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Yes she did, she fled from the Grand City and it was me who ended up chasing her.” Xena blinked in surprise. “Why was she fleeing?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly feeling the memory flood back in to her mind. “Because she had, had a child with that man she loved.”

8

Gabrielle picked up her pace as her clawed feet slammed in to the forest floor for two miles she’d been chasing this fleeing werewolf, they’d been told to capture this fleeing werewolf at all costs. She could see her now in her line of sight, she was running slower because she was carrying something in her clawed hand and it was slowing down her pace. She was well ahead of the others and so close to her target she forced her feet in harder in to the ground as she got closer to the brown werewolf. Nineteen and a half and she could still move faster than the other three behind her she sneered as she tensed getting ready to spring she was practically on the other werewolf’s heels now.

She felt her feet leave the floor as she leapt upwards coming down hard on the other werewolf’s back causing her to hit the floor hard. She moved her jaws down putting them around her maned neck forcing her in submission in a violent motion. She felt herself freeze as the others werewolf turned her head as best she could despite her grip. She breathed out letting go sharply as the blue eyes looked back at her. “Iris?” Iris held her little bundle tighter. “Please you have to let me go!” She breathed in trying to control her panic. “They’ll kill my child!” Gabrielle blinked in surprise moving off her watching as she turned on to her back in her clawed hand was a tiny wrapped bundle containing a small child who was not more than a day old. “Kill your child?”

She hadn’t seen Iris in a long while not in the tunnels or anywhere else for that matter and now that she’d found her here everything suddenly felt strange and confusing. “I don’t understand.” Iris eyed the other woman, how ironic the very person to catch her fleeing was the one who had become an acquaintance she knew that it was Gabrielle’s job to bring her in, but Gabrielle wasn’t aware of everything. She was about to be, she’d make sure of that if it was the last thing she ever did. “My daughter was born human…she’s not a werewolf.”

Gabrielle felt the shock hit home hard as the other woman’s words sunk in. “Human but that’s not possible…I thought.” Iris breathed in holding her little bundle closer to her chest. “You thought wrong Gabrielle, if you were turned in to a werewolf there is a chance you can have a human child its rare but it happens. They wouldn’t tell you this because your trained to be a warrior, workers on the other hand learn about it from others who’ve suffered because of it.” She looked at her tiny daughter. “You know what they do to human children?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No.” Iris breathed getting on to all fours. “They kill them! The Imperial Council demands that only werewolf children get to live and I will not see my daughter die.” Gabrielle stared at her trying to take in what she’d just said her thoughts were suddenly broken as she heard the others they weren’t far away.

Iris pricked her ears up she knew she was desperate but she had to flee for her daughters life. “Please I’m begging you to let me go! Lie to them, say you couldn’t find me!” She paused looking around. “Do you really want my daughter’s blood on your hands?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply hearing a distant godly voice whisper in her ear. “Let her go.”  She grabbed her pendent moving it between her clawed fingers as she turned away. “Go…don’t look back run to the river and follow it up to the deep caverns they’ll never find you there it’s a vast network of caves and tunnels and it goes on for miles.” Iris held her daughter closer. “Thank you…one day I’ll make this up to you.” Gabrielle breathed as she watched her bolt in to a run on all fours, she’d be punished for this without a doubt the Imperial Council hated failure.

8

“You failed how could you fail? Bastiaan said you were right behind her!”

Gabrielle felt the force as the heavy clawed fist impacted with her face as captain Alexandras hit her hard. She felt the pain as other werewolf who was called Bastiaan held her up so his captain could deal out her punishment. She could feel blood dripping down from her jaw, she watched as Alexandras grunted the hatred in his eyes. “Damokles picked you, he said you were very good at tracking and the best from his unit, he also said you were very good at running on all fours!” Gabrielle felt the pain as his clawed fist impacted with her ribs, he’d taken off her armoured chest plating leaving only her material sleeveless shirt which was used so the moving chest plate didn’t bite in to her skin, her right eye was now half closed and her lower jaw was bleeding badly. She had bleeding claw marks on her leg and she felt truly terrible. She was sure that once she became human again she’d be black and blue, this wasn’t over yet ether she’d get a flogging regardless because she had failed in her duty. This captain wasn’t kind like Damokles or even merciful and trackers weren’t meant to fail. She breathed in only to scream in pain as he slammed his clawed fist in to her ribs again.

“Is this really necessary, she failed but won’t she already be flogged for not being able to complete her mission?”

Alexandras turned only for the shock to hit home he didn’t think as he fell to his knees, he watched as the others did the same instantly. This caused the golden werewolf to fall to her knees painfully. He lowered his head not daring to look up. “Great and mighty Crescent Hind, I am only doing what I thought was necessary.” Gabrielle looked up watching as a large grey werewolf came in to view he was eight feet tall and dressed in red and gold plated armour with black hanging cloth which had a thick heavy belt plated in gold with red patterns. He was old though there was pure white all over his body and his mane. He had been at in his late sixties if not older, what truly set him apart though were the two huge deer like antlers coming up from his head which were dark grey in colour.

They added another foot to his height she blinked staring only to feel the pain as Bastiaan who was his knees opposite her shoved her head down in a violent motion. She had heard about Horn Hind the werewolf with horns but she’d never seen him. The word Horn Hind in essence meant king, in werewolf tongue, though each Horn Hind had a variation in his or her name to reflect their personality. This king was called the Crescent Hind, because he had paved the way in blood. The Crescent Hind looked up slightly. “I’d like you to bring the young girl to my quarters I want to speak to her.” Gabrielle watched as Alexandras turned eyeing her in disgust. “But she’s being punished Crescent Hind!” The old horned werewolf eyed him. “You do not make the choices here I am Horn Hind and what I demand must be done!” Alexandras bowed his head further. “I’ll see it done, as you command Crescent Hind.”

8

Xena stared at Gabrielle feeling the pain wrench though her chest. “They were going to kill that child and all because she wasn’t born a werewolf?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Yes it’s the law of the Imperial Council werewolf children live and human born children die, because they only want werewolf blood in the family lines, there obsessed with the idea of pure blood.”  She looked at her clawed hand. “My god told me to let her go and I let her go.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Would you have let her go if your goddess hadn’t asked it of you?” Gabrielle slowly took hold of the old wooden chunk in her clawed hand easing it up again. “Yes I would have.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Even though you knew they’d punish you for it?” Gabrielle eyed the wood in her hand. “I would never bring harm to a child, I was happy to suffer so that she could escape with her human child and I have no regrets about my actions.”

She lowered the wood. “I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.” Xena watched as she lowered her gaze her green eyes becoming unreadable. “That was a very noble thing to do Gabrielle.” Gabrielle eased out her tongue licking one of her canine teeth absentmindedly. “Nobility had nothing to do with it I did it because it was the right thing to do.” She lowered her ears. “I was in the same boat as Iris I’m a half blood werewolf who can give birth to human children if our roles had been reversed I want her to let me escape.” Xena looked up catching sight of the pain in the other woman’s eyes which wasn’t hidden. “So you weren’t the first Horn Hind?”

Gabrielle shook her head. “No I’m the seventh, the Crescent Hind was my predecessor he was very old when I was young.” Xena eased up her hand. “Did he take you to his quarters?” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “Yes he did.” Xena felt her gaze dart. “What did you talk about?” Gabrielle picked up her wooden chunk she felt her smile turn to a scowl. “His guilt…” She slowly turned away not wanting to say anymore on this she wasn’t in the mood and it had never been a good memory. “Excuse me I have to go to my room, it’s late and I need to sleep.” Xena moved forward slowly following her. “May I join you? Its just your eyesight is better than mine in the dark.”

Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment the dark haired woman was being genuine she could see it in her eyes. She turned away moving forward on all fours. “Of course.” Xena slowly followed the other woman as she moved forward in the darkness clearly she didn’t want to go in to the topic anymore the memory was clearly very painful. No doubt she’d speak about it more when she felt the time was right. She paused as another question went though her mind which she had wanted to ask for some time. “Gabrielle, can I ask you something personal?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Go ahead.” Xena looked up slightly. “Why do you walk around on all fours when you can walk on your hind legs?”

Gabrielle stopped she slowly turned to meet her gaze. “Because I don’t pretend to be something I’m not, I’m a werewolf and nothing will ever change that, so I see no point to pretending to human by standing on my hind legs.” Xena moved so she was standing opposite her she could hear the proud conviction in the other woman’s voice. She moved her hand towards the fur on her back. “You know if you did stand on your hind legs people might look at you differently.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as she moved away sharply before the other woman could touch her. “No they wouldn’t they’d just be even more scared of me because I’d tower over them, just like you were when I towered over you for the first time.”

She carried on moving ignoring the other woman’s surprise. “I know what your thinking Xena, you think if you dress me up differently give me clothes make it so I stand up tall that I’ll be looked at differently but let me be brutally honest with you no matter how much you dress something up differently its still the same underneath and you can’t change it no more than you can move stars in the sky.” She shook her mane. “You can’t change what I am, no one can I’ll be this way until I die and for the remainder of my long life I’d rather not live under the delusion of trying to be something I’m not. I’d rather be happy being the way I am and have people accept me, as I am.” She narrowed her gaze. “True people might not accept me for who I am but I’ll at least know that any friendship I gain will be real and not fabricated and that I’m being myself and not living a lie.”

Xena watched as she carried on walking forward she wouldn’t deny the truth in the other woman’s words which were spoken from the heart. Gabrielle clearly didn’t want to be anything other than her self and be accepted as such. Very few people she knew would ever say that aloud even if they thought it inside, it seemed among the politicians and aristocrats most were forever trying to be some one or something else which they weren’t. Even she was guilty of putting on a different face in front of officials because she feared that they’d see her for who she really was and they’d think her as weak. Yet during her time in Rome she’d always been herself in truth she had forgotten what it was to be herself in the company of others, she always put up the mental blocks to stop people getting in.

Only now in Gabrielle’s company was she being fully open and that felt strange to her even now as she wasn’t used to being this open with anyone else in side her palace. She knew that things were still slightly difficult between them and that she still had to make up for her past actions but despite this she did still enjoy there talks. Maybe because Gabrielle always said just what she felt and she never masked anything it was always open and honest and it made her much easier to talk to than anyone else in side her palace walls.

End of part 41

 

THE RAGING PAIN DEEP WITHIN MY DREAMS

Xena slowly lowered her quill as she raised the scroll which was now complete and would end of the hunting law as well as give werewolves equal rights. She felt her gaze dart as she read it over carefully checking that it sounded right which it did. She slowly stood up putting it down as she poured the wax on to the edge. She didn’t think as she slammed her ring in to creating her seal then signed the bottom. All she needed now was Gabrielle’s signature and her version in werewolf tongue which she’d need to put her signature and royal seal on. She looked up slightly hearing a loud moaning sound from the other room. She slowly placed the quill down standing up. It was late in the morning and she now knew that Gabrielle slept in late, because she was up for most of the night.

She slowly walked towards the other door knocking gentle as she spoke. “Gabrielle?” She paused hearing no answer she slowly put her hand on the door handle opening it carefully hearing the moaning get louder. She knew that Gabrielle didn’t like it when she used the central door but she felt like she had no choice in this instance, the moaning sounded deep and painful. She watched as Gabrielle’s bed came in to view she was under the covers clearly naked but she could see even from here that she was tossing and turning violently as if in the throws of a nightmare. She stepped closer catching sight of the screwed up angry look on her face as she tossed over again in her sleep trying to get away from what ever was tormenting her.

She moved so she was at her side, it had been a long time since she’d seen this kind of thing the last time she’d seen it had been during the Spartan occupation. Men and women who were plagued by nightmares of battles, they’d wake up in agony because they were tormented by the things they’d done on the battle field. They couldn’t free themselves from there guilt ether which only added to there suffering. She did have nightmares like this herself but hers were never about the battlefield as she had never set alight to villages or killed innocent people. No her nightmares were all about her deep regrets. The regret that her husband had never loved her and only used her to gain power as well as the regret that she couldn’t save her mother from the illness she’d had.

She’d tried everything to get her a cure in Rome and it had all been for nothing as she had lost her, her mother  had meant everything to her as she’d had she had no brothers or sisters to speak off. Her father had gone back to Amphipolis refusing to have anything to do with her he had also blamed her for her mothers death, they hadn’t spoken in five years, every now and again she’d send him a letter but he never replied.  She shook the painful thoughts from her mind as she turned to Gabrielle who tossed again violently in her sleep. She eased out her hand moving it towards her in truth she was curious as to what the younger woman was dreaming about which was causing her so much pain, what had she done that was tormenting her so?

Gabrielle breathed in looking at the blood dripping down her clawed hand she looked down staring at the bloody lake which was up to her knees and filled with skeletons whose dark hollow sockets stared back at her. She could see human guts floating on the surface as she waded through the bloody water which was getting harder. She carried on moving only to find it getting harder the bloody water was thickening turning to a swamp like consistency. She moved forward only to find that she couldn’t, her furry hind legs were now stuck fast. She eyed the ugly black trees around her which were dark and twisted above them was a black sky which had no stars or moon.

She felt her teeth grind together as she tried to force her foot forward only to feel no movement. She eased out her hand grabbing at the trunk of the closest tree, the smell around her was rancid and sickening and the bloody swamp was freezing as was the cold air which was blowing through the dark trees, it was so cold that she could feel it even through her thick fur. She stopped her struggling as she felt something crawl up her back she turned sharply only to cry out in surprise as a bloody skeleton which still had a single sea blue eye in its socket wrapped its bone arms around her neck forcing her head back violently as a female voice hit the air. “That’s typical of you isn’t it Gabrielle, always trying to run away from your responsibilities!”

Gabrielle roared in anger as she shook her back hard trying to get it off only to feel the grip around her neck tighten as the one good eye looked in to her own as the skeleton wrapped its legs around her middle locking itself in to place as it spoke again. “Your pathetic you run from everything, you friends, your family you’re so called throne as Horn Hind!” Gabrielle eyed the skeleton feeling one of its bone hands grab on to one of her velvet cover horns. “Go to Tartarus!” The skeletons eye moved closer. “I’m already there thanks to you, you did kill me after all, you remember that don’t you Gabrielle?” Gabrielle swung her head around trying harder to get free. “I had no choice! The Imperial Council forced me to kill you!”

The skeleton laughed but it was a cold laugh. “There is always a choice you just took the easy road! I was sixteen the same age as you I didn’t deserve to die! Nether did my village which you destroyed!” The skeleton paused before speaking again. “How many innocent people did you kill on that campaign? Was it hundreds may be thousands?” Gabrielle swung harder trying to get the skeleton off her. “Get of me!” The skeletons grinded its lower jaw as it spoke. “You can’t shut me out you bitch! You killed me and thousands of innocent people and all because you’re Imperial Council asked it off you! You’re a murder and a coward because you didn’t stand up them or your bitch of a lover, you just let it happen!”

The skeletons arm suddenly moved inwards crushing painfully against her wind pipe causing her to choke painfully. “You have no right to make excuses you are Horn Hind you are the werewolf king! You are the true ruler of your race!” The skeleton grabbed her ear yanking on it. “You should pay for your sins a thousands times over!” Gabrielle leaned forward trying desperately to breath. “I’m sorry!” The skeleton’s jaws grinded again. “What makes you think that sorry fixes everything? Sorry changes nothing you deserve to die the same way I did!” Gabrielle watched as the skeletons around her started to move there arms suddenly flew out of the water grabbing at her fur.

The skeleton on her back let go off her ear in a sharp motion. “Also I don’t think they care for your pathetic apology, I think they’d rather tear you apart slowly and watch your guts spill out and I agree with them but before I let them I just want to tell you something. You always make the wrong choices Gabrielle you always let other people dictate your life, its pathetic, it also makes you a no body.” Gabrielle felt the intense agony as the skeletons hand slammed in to the middle of her chest causing intense pain. “Now wake up while you still have a beating heart!”

Gabrielle felt her eyes snap open as she bolted upright in bed grabbing her chest and the covers in the process. She closed her eyes as the piecing sun hit them, she put a hand on her face feeling the sweat which had made her fringe damp she ignored the pain in her chest which felt like it was squeezing her heart as she breathed in deeply regaining control of her breathing. She hated having nightmares and that one was much worse than normal. She just couldn’t seem to hide from the things she’d done they were going to haunt her forever. She breathed in looking up slightly realizing that someone was standing opposite her bed she hadn’t realized that they were there, it was the shadow cast across the sheets that gave them away.

She turned pulling the cover further up her naked body as she met Xena’s concerned gaze, she spoke evenly as she eyed the other woman. “Why are you in my room?” Xena eased her hand up. “You were having a nightmare I could hear you in my room, I came to check if you were alright.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “It’s nothing it’s just a nightmare.” Xena blinked she could hear the slight bitterness in the other woman’s tone. “Its sounded bad, you were crying out in your sleep.” Xena eased out her hand. “Would you like to talk about it?” Gabrielle breathed in inwardly as she eyed her. “Was there some thing you wanted?” Xena lowered her hand clearly she wasn’t going to get any thing from the younger woman she could tell by her emotionless tone.

She wished that Gabrielle would say something just because then they’d have more to talk about it but it was clear that she didn’t want to talk about it. She seemed to just close up emotionally repress her problems rather than talk about them. She took in a deep breath before speaking in truth she was in here for more than one reason. “Do you have a personal royal seal ring?” Gabrielle turned sharply. “Yes I do.” Xena looked at her boots for a moment. “Is that ring in this palace right now?” She knew it was a long shot but she knew that all royals hid their seal ring if they were in trouble. They were normally hidden in strange places and something deep in the pit of her stomach was telling her that Gabrielle would have hidden hers. She just had no need for it now so she’d properly kept it hidden.

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Yes I have it and its hidden but I can’t tell you where it is and you can’t have it, it’s the only proof I have that I’m Horn Hind. It’s was the ring given to the very first Horn Hind and it’s been passed down through the line, it was given to me after I became Horn Hind.” Xena raised her hand slowly. “You misunderstand Gabrielle I don’t want to take your ring, far from that I want you to put it back on.” She moved away from the younger woman’s bed. “If you could get up and dressed I’d like you to come though to my room as I have something which needs your seal as Horn Hind with out it, it does not carry the very power of its words.” She put her hand on her ring. “My seal is already on it but it needs yours and your signature to complete it.”

She moved towards the door opening it slowly. “I’ll let you get ready?” Gabrielle watched as she closed the door what could she possibly want to put her royal seal and signature on? She breathed in throwing the white cover off her naked body trying to ignore the pain in her neck which had been brought about by bolting up right in bed. She eased herself out of bed grabbing her robe throwing it over her shoulders as she walked towards her chest she slowly opened it easing her hand inside bringing out the old wooden horse toy. She had brought this from a seller many years ago because it reminded her off her childhood, but that wasn’t her only reason for buying it, she needed a safe hiding place for items.

She turned the horse’s head slowly hearing the creak as the twisting joint started to turn, she took in a deep breath as she pulled the head free revealing the deep hollowed out centre in which things could be hidden. She over turned the body watching as a heavy gleaming silver ring fell out which had a round thick plated surface with the image of a deer head with huge antlers on it. Like all werewolf rings it had adjustable hinges which meant it could be worn in both forms, she slowly picked up the ring putting it on the third finger of her right hand adjusting the hinges so the fit was perfect. She eyed the ring which was in essence the most priceless piece of her races history. The Imperial Council had no power to put forward any new law unless her seal was on them.

She slowly formed a fist looking at her ring watching as it gleamed in the sun light, she had in essence been missing from the Grand City for over two years which meant that the bastards were powerless which they had to be very unhappy about. To create a Horn Hind a fake a seal was forbidden and it was punishable by death, as the Horn Hind seal was very special. It was a ring forged from godly metal rumour had it by the Titans, though as far as she was concerned it was created by Ouroboros. When she’d received it, it had been a thick heavy gold ring with precious red jewels around the seal. Yet the moment she’d slipped it on the jewels had fallen out and disintegrating away and the ring had had thinned around the rim and the metal had turned in to light weight gleaming silver.

It had also adjusted to fit her human hand and her werewolf hand perfectly. This ring changed when ever a new Horn Hind put it on and its appearance changed to suit the person’s personality. It was worn by the Horn Hind until there death and only after their death it was passed on to the next Horn Hind in a special ceremony.  She lowered her gaze as her thoughts drew back to what Xena wanted her to sigh and seal a part of her hoped that it wasn’t another agreement. As she’d already promised her that there would be no more agreements between them she took in a deep breath there was no point in dwelling over it she needed to just get ready and find out what it was.

8

Xena heard a sharp banging on her door she looked up slowly from her breakfast. “Come in?” She watched as Gabrielle walked in adjusting the collar of her shirt as she stepped inside. She felt a smile form as she carried on eating her late breakfast as she eyed the scroll on her breakfast table and the wax and ink well which she were already out. “Ah there you are.”  Gabrielle pushed her hair back which was still wet from taking a bath as she stepped closer to the other woman’s breakfast table. She hadn’t had her breakfast yet and was trying to ignore her stomach which was complaining silently not that it was helped by the Empress eating in front of her. She shook her head trying to ignore her uncertainty as she raised her hand so the taller woman could see the gleaming silver seal ring. “This is the Horn Hind seal there only one in existence and it’s only worn by the Horn Hind no other werewolf is allowed to wear it.”

Xena put her fork down as she eyed the gleaming seal ring. “Your people must be worrying that it’s missing along with you.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “When I was sent to kill you the Imperial Council wanted me to leave it behind, to stop them from getting it I hid it away. They are not allowed to change any laws unless my seal is on the scrolls it was a security measure in my absence, that they have no power to change things.” She felt her gaze narrow. “Because I don’t trust the bastards and I refuse to give them full power in my absence I am still king and my ring proves who I am even in human form.” Xena felt her smile widen. “Please sit down.” Gabrielle slowly moved forward sitting her self on the other side of the round table suddenly feeling even more uncertain of her self.

She really didn’t know that this was all about and she wasn’t used to it, normally when she got given scrolls it was always very formal and boring. Xena looked up slightly she could see the uncertainty in the other woman’s eyes. “Would you like some breakfast?” Gabrielle looked up sharply speaking before her brain could catch up with her stomach. “Yes.”  Xena felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “I’ll get you something as soon as Ceto comes back.” She slowly turned the scroll so it was facing Gabrielle’s direction. “In the mean time I’d like you to read this.” She slowly pushed the scroll forward so the other woman could see it, she watched as she picked it up reading slowly.

She lowered her fork. “I apologise if the writing isn’t formal enough, I tried to make it as serious as possible.” Gabrielle carried on reading only to tense as she realized what the scroll was, she looked up sharply. “This is about the hunting law on werewolves!” Xena eased up her other hand. “Please keep reading it’ll all become very clear I promise.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before turning back to the scroll as she carried on reading only for her world to freeze as she reread it again unsure as to whether or not she was seeing things or imagining things. The words were clear as crystal but it was hard to believe they were real.

“With this scroll I here by end the hunting law against werewolves.

 

The hunting of werewolves is now illegal through out the Greek Empire, and anyone caught hunting werewolves for pelts, skulls, and meat will be punished. Selling werewolf parts on the open market is also now deemed illegal and anyone doing so will also be punished. Eating werewolf meat in dishes and drinking blood is also a criminal offence.

 

All purchased werewolf items are to be brought to the palace as they will now be handed back to the werewolf society so that their dead can be buried in a way fitting to them. All recent werewolf attacks and deaths in the Greek empire are to be written down on scrolls and sent to this palace as from this day onwards they can be dealt with by a very important and powerful werewolf figure who has the power to end these attacks and deal with those who are causing harm personally.

 

Werewolves from this day forth will have the same civil rights as Centaurs, Minotaur’s and Satyr’s as they are an intelligent race, they have been very much misunderstood in these past few years and it has come my attention that I have misjudged them. I am now in the process of working to form an alliance with them and will hopefully end the disputes between our two races.”

Xena Empress of Greece

Xena watched as Thaleia opened the middle door very carefully she put a hand under her chin as she met her gaze ignoring her surprise as she caught sight of Gabrielle sitting opposite her on the breakfast table. Gabrielle didn’t seem to notice her as she was far to focused on the scroll which she was now staring at.  She looked up slightly. “Hello Thaleia.” Thaleia stood up slightly she hadn’t expected to find Gabrielle in the Empress’s room. “My deepest apologises Empress I meant to knock I was just searching for Gabrielle.” Xena raised an eyebrow placing her spoon down as she put her hands under her chin. “Gabrielle’s just reading a scroll I gave her could you please get her, her breakfast?”

Thaleia nodded as she looked up. “Of course Empress I’ll bring it through to her.” Xena watched as she smiled before closing the door turning back to Gabrielle who was still staring at the scroll. “The scroll just needs your signature and your royal seal.” Gabrielle looked up snapping out of her haze. “This is an end to the hunting law.” Xena nodded as she looked at her half finished breakfast plate. “Yes I’ve been working on it ever since I saw you bury your loved one, I’m sorry that it’s taken so long to get to you but I needed it to be perfect. All that it really needs is for you to do another version in werewolf tongue so that your people will see that it’s very serious.”

She lowered her gaze. “It will be signing and sealing just like this one, which can go out today as soon as you as sigh it and put your seal on it. The one in werewolf tongue can go out as soon as you finish it just as second confirmation that this is a very real scroll and both our races can read their version.” Gabrielle slowly put the scroll down. “Why are you doing this?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “I’m doing this because I misjudged you and your race deserves better as do you. Also if any among your race are half as noble as you are then they deserve the chance to show off that nobility to the rest of the human race.” She leaned closer seeing something she’d never seen before she could see the beginnings of a smile on Gabrielle’s face.

It was a half smile and not quite complete but it was a smile and the first genuine smile she’d ever seen her make. Gabrielle breathed in trying to ignore the pounding of her heart which was threatening to explode out of her chest. She also had a feeling of happiness which seemed so strange to her as it had been so long since she’d felt this way. She breathed in deeply trying to calm herself down as she took hold of the quill carefully putting her signature opposite Xena’s. She eased up the candle wax pouring it carefully on the scroll. She didn’t think as she slammed her fist down hard pressing in her seal. She carefully pulled her fist away eyeing the seal as she met the other woman’s gaze. “Thank you this means a lot to me.”

She paused before speaking again as she pushed the scroll towards her. “I’ll create a version in my own language as soon as possible.” She looked up suddenly feeling unsure of herself again. “I should leave you alone I’m sure you have important business to attend to.” Xena shook her head. “No as a matter of fact I don’t and I’d like you to stay here and have breakfast with me.” She looked at her seeing the uncertainty in the other woman’s eyes again clearly she was very much out of her comfort zone and unused to this. “That is if you’d like to stay here and have breakfast.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze putting her hands together she knew it would look rude if she went away now so it was best that she stayed despite how uncertain she felt. “Yes I’d like to have breakfast here with you.” Xena felt a smile widen. “That’s nice because I’d very much like your company.”

End of part 42

 

A SIMPLE AND MEANINGFUL CELEBRATION

She’s dropped the hunting law! By Ouroboros I can’t believe this has just happened I’ve wanted this for so many years. I’ve watched so many werewolves die because of this law and yet now it’s about to end. I have so many feelings running through my mind most of which I’ve not felt in many years. The strangest is happiness it’s a difficult emotion to describe when you’ve not had it for so long and then you have it so suddenly again it feels like an intruder in to your life. I don’t want to second question Xena because she seems so genuine in all of this, funny to think that this is the same person who had me chained up and dancing in front of a bunch of royals.

I eat breakfast with her true I didn’t have any thing much to say and yet she didn’t seem to mind. If she makes this come true and if she lives up her word, this will be the first dream which I can truly hold in my hands, which won’t spill through my fingers like sand, like so may others have before it. I won’t lie I’m second guessing her but maybe that due to our history. Now I have to come up with a werewolf version which will confirm her scroll as true and yet I find that prospect even more daunting. It’s been so long since I wrote a scroll with formalities. The Imperial Council stopped me writing them two years before I went on the mission to Corinth they preferred that my adviser Adrienne write my scrolls for me because her hand was better than mine.

Frankly that was a lie in my opinion they just preferred her scrolls over mine because she loved to write in a forceful way which was more threatening than noble. I hated putting my seal on anything she wrote because I hated to think that she was twisting my words to suite the Imperial Councils wants and needs, as the bitch was always loyal to them. I’m thankful that I don’t have to see her ever again I hope they killed her and that her skeleton is rotting in a pit somewhere, it would be no less than she deserves. Gabrielle looked up sharply as Thaleia walked back in to her room a smile on her face as she spoke. “How did your breakfast go with the Empress?”

Gabrielle looked at her friend for a long moment before speaking in a voice which sounded distant even to her. “Xena…she’s made a scroll…it’s about ending the hunting law…she had me sign it.” She put a hand on her silver ring. “I put my seal on it.” Thaleia felt her smile turn in to a wide grin. “That’s wonderful Gabrielle!” Gabrielle eyed her silver ring before lowering her hand. “Is it, I mean she’s never betrayed anyone’s in that way has she I mean she’s never made a scroll sealed it then changed her mind?” Thaleia moved forward so she was standing in front of the blonde woman whose hair was now touching her shoulders. “No Gabrielle she’s never done that, the Empress is true to everything she signs and seals.”

She put her hands together seeing the uncertainty in the other woman’s face. “We should celebrate, would you like me to bring you some wine?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “No thank you.” Thaleia eased out her hands. “Oh come on, you should enjoy this, this is what you’ve been wanting, you deserve to let yourself go even if its just for an hour.” Gabrielle looked up slightly seeing a very wide eyed look from her close friend which was almost like silent begging. She put a hand on her face suddenly it felt very hard to say no to her friend she wanted this so badly. She looked up slightly. “Alright I’ll have some wine, but not right now how about tonight, I have something important to write up?” Thaleia put her hands together. “Alright well then I’ll get a hold of something good for you, what kind of wine do you like?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I have no idea, I don’t normal drink alcohol.” Thaleia stepped back. “That’s fine I’ll get something good, my mother knows a really good wine type she’ll help me get it from the kitchens, she’ll be so happy to hear this news.”

She moved towards the door. “I’ll go and talk to her now.” Gabrielle nodded watching as she left the room the wide grin still on her face. She clearly loved the idea of celebrating over wine. She’d never really celebrated anything and she didn’t understand the need to do so, but the truth of the matter was that she didn’t really know how to have fun anymore. She took in a deep breath moving over to the her work shop she slowly pulled open the door walking towards the desk which she normally used to sketch her wood carving designs on and carve on. She eyed the wooden symbol of her goddess Ouroboros which was now complete and sitting on the wooden stool close by ready to be put up.

She could put it up tomorrow, she slowly sat down in her chair pushing the drawing on parchment gently to one side as she eased up a piece of clean scroll taking out the quill from the black ink pot, which she normally used to sketch with. She eyed the blank scroll in front of her for a long moment before easing her quill down towards it. It had been so long since she’d written anything like this, she paused what if it wasn’t good enough? What if she sounded like a rambling idiot? She leaned on her elbow only to sit up slightly as Damokles words echoed once more in her mind. “Don’t write from your head Gabrielle everything always sounds better you write it from your heart.” She felt a slight smile form for a moment before it faded as she put the quill on the paper creating her first stroke as a word formed in her mind.

8

Tiara pushed the mop across the floor finishing the final corner of the throne room which had been empty for a long while. The builders had put in a new set of double doors to replace the one Gabrielle had smashed through. There had been a lot of questions about that from them but all of her staff had given excuses as no one would say that Gabrielle was here. She wouldn’t lie she missed Thaleia who had been on her staff but she had now moved up to a very high position as Gabrielle’s personal maid. She also saw Gabrielle most nights walking around in werewolf form she had said hello to her and had asked how she was. The raging temper was gone and Gabrielle seemed much calmer now and no longer depressed.

Clearly the Empress had really gone out of her way to fix the pain she had caused. Despite Gabrielle smashing things up she had never really blamed her for her actions she had, had a right to be angry after being turned in to the dancing entertainment for the royals. She just found it sad that it had come to that as it should never have happened to begin with. She hadn’t looked at the Empress in the same way since if she was honest with herself. She breathed in putting the mop down hearing a talking from the corridor on the other side of the room where the double doors were open. She turned watching as Thaleia walked inside she was holding a pottery wine bottle which was clearly a very expensive brand.

She looked up as Gabrielle followed her in, in werewolf form on all fours only for one of her clawed feet to slide sharply on the wet floor causing Thaleia to laugh out loud. She felt a smile form as she walked towards the two of them watching as Gabrielle raised a clawed hand walking slightly more carefully across the wet marble surface. “I see you two, are having fun.” Gabrielle shook her mane the alcohol was nice but it had no effect on her, truth was it took a lot to make her drunk but she’d never been that big of a drinker anyway. Though she had, had moments in her life when she’d been so drunk she couldn’t stand, but they were moments she preferred to forget as she was drinking away her sorrows.

Maybe that was why she’d always preferred opium because she had so much more control over her actions, while being drunk was a horrible blur. She turned to Thaleia clearly her friend didn’t drink much as she was tipsy but some how that felt alright as she could watch her to make sure that she didn’t get to drunk, she felt that, that would be what Fedora would expect her to do. To take care of her daughter and look after her and truth be told she didn’t mind doing that she liked Thaleia she was a good friend she’d never led her astray and despite that she was her personal maid they still had a friendship out side of Thaleia’s shifts.

She paused before speaking. “Hello.” Thaleia smiled as she took a drink from the wine bottle. “Hello Tiara.” She felt her grin widen as Gabrielle stopped she leaning against her side putting a hand on her furry back to balance herself. “We were just having a little celebration.” Tiara folded her arms. “Celebrating anything good?” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Yes a good thing.” Tiara moved towards her. “I’m glad to hear that.” She felt her smile widen. “How have you been Gabrielle, I do hope the Empress is treating you well and giving you everything you deserve.” Gabrielle looked up slightly meeting her concerned gaze. “Yes she is treating me much better now.”

Tiara eased up her hand. “I hope it stays that way I do not wish to see a repeat performance of what I happened with the royals.” Thaleia smirked. “The royals are idiots…especially king Marmax and his wife.” Tiara laughed inwardly as she spoke. “Truer words were never spoken but don’t say that in front of the Empress she may not see the humour in it.” She eyeing Gabrielle’s clawed hand which had a gleaming silver ring on the third finger. “What’s that ring on your finger?” Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand as she sat down on her hind legs watching as Thaleia moved to learn against her shoulder. “The ring is called the Horn Hind seal it’s very special there’s only one in existence and no copies have ever been made.”

Tiara looked at the gleaming ring she put a hand on top of Gabrielle’s feeling the soft fur which felt like silk as she looked at the ring with is gleaming deer seal. “It’s very beautiful, very fitting for a kind young woman such as your self.” Gabrielle carefully lowered her hand as she looked up at the older woman feeling very unsure of her self all of a sudden. “Thank you.” She lowered her gaze she still wasn’t used to this kind attention or compliments it was something she was still getting used to. She paused remembering that this woman had left a bowl out for her every night since she’d mentioned it. “Thank you for putting out a bowl and cloth for me to wash my feet.”

Tiara smiled as she folded her arms. “Well we wouldn’t want you to have wet paws now would we? Also because of what you did, I don’t have worry about Iona messing up my floor.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Rumour has it she is on the mend though, they say she might be walking around soon she was only bed ridding due to her broken ribs.” Tiara rolled her eyes. “The later the better.” She turned meeting Gabrielle’s uncertain gaze. “I’m not holding anything against you dear you did what was right the woman needed to be knocked off her high horse she’s a rude and arrogant and she constantly messes up my floor.” She eyed the marble floor. “She has always made my job more difficult than it needs to be.”

She turned to Thaleia feeling a smile form as she felt the need to change the subject as it was clear that Gabrielle’s looked slightly uncomfortable about Iona being mentioned which was understandable as she was the who had made her bed ridden. “Your mother’s room for teaching the children is almost complete I saw them putting the final touches to it this morning.” Thaleia felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “Does it look good?” Tiara nodded slightly. “It looks beautiful, I think the children will love it, it’s even got paintings of animals and birds on the walls and there’s even a statue of a Minotaur. I sort of hinted that they should put a one in there for the children.”

Thaleia raised the wine taking another drink from it before passing it Gabrielle who put the bottle in her jaws, then took a long drink from it. “I can’t wait to see her face when she sees the new room she’s been wanting this, for so long.” Tiara turned to Gabrielle feeling a smile form. “I did get a little message from Fedora today, she said as soon as the schools finished she wants you to visit now and again the children were very taken by you on your last visit.” Gabrielle shuffled nervously looking down at the floor some how she should have seen this coming. “I can’t imagine why.”

Thaleia moved putting her hand on one of her friend’s velvet covered horns very gently. “Oh I can think of lots of reasons why they like your company Gabrielle, my mother said you very good with children.” Tiara smiled as she stepped closer to Gabrielle who once more looked completely out of her element. “She told me that as well and that you have a very gentle touch when it comes to children.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor not wanting to meet the older woman’s gaze. “I just don’t believe that the children should be scared of me that’s all.” Thaleia eased her hand off her friend’s horn. “Oh you’re just being modest.” Tiara smiled as she stepped back. “Well I’m going to go now you two should enjoy the rest of the night.” Thaleia watched as Tiara picked up her mop before leaving the room she turned watching as Gabrielle moved forward on all fours. “You know I think the children would love a second visit from you.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “You think so?” Thaleia gave her a wide smile. “Yes I do, you should visit them when the new room is open.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “I’ll think about it.” Thaleia smiled she knew what that meant it meant that Gabrielle would defiantly do it.

8

I did the right thing and it feels like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders today I gave werewolves equal rights in every way shape and form. I know I should be celebrating but now I have a question on my mind which is really eating me. I don’t know who put Gabrielle in that vile pit to suffer and die and no new evidence has come to light. Thaleia hasn’t reported anything odd ether, I guess I was hoping something would come to light, be it a shred or a hint as to where to look or who planned it. Chara hasn’t found anything ether since finding personal chest she gone through two years of prison palace records and all are clean there’s been no hint of anything unjust going on.

The fact is who ever did this is probably still here in the palace somewhere plotting away. I feel very guilty for letting this rest because I saw Gabrielle as a monster and I stopped caring about the fact that she was dragged out of a pit and close to death. Now I want to continue the investigation further and push as hard as I can. I would hate to have to wait for this vile individual to come out of the crack in the wood work, but I know that this may be the case and I don’t like the sound of it. The person who did this cannot hide forever, though at this moment they might be smiling smugly as they may think that I’ve given up the search and no longer care as my attention is on Gabrielle’s feelings.

Though that might bother them even more and give them even more reason to attack. I know Gabrielle’s in her room sleeping she just got back in from being out with Thaleia and I hate to do this to her as I know she’s feeling tired but I need to ask if she remembers who did this to her as I want to bring them to justice for making her suffer like that for two years in darkness. I hope she can remember something even if it’s no more than a few memories at least it’s something to go on. The problem is that I worry that she may not want to remember because it was so terrible that she might want to forget and the memories maybe very fuzzy in her mind.

Xena stood up she picked up the lit candle and then moved towards the inner door she knocked on it keeping her voice low. “Gabrielle?” A tired voice came back. “Come in.” She carefully opened the door catching sight of the other woman who was in werewolf form and curled up on her bed, it was just about big enough for her to lie on although her clawed feet did come of the edge. She was slightly curled up with her head on her arms so that her horns didn’t poke the bed frame, clearly she couldn’t lie on her side because of them. She watched as the green eyes opened slightly reflecting in the darkness as she placed the candle down on the table near the bed. “Is that comfortable lying like that?”

Gabrielle didn’t bother to move her head. “Yes it is I know it doesn’t look it, I guess it’s my mane it acts like a cushion on my neck.” She breathed in deeply. “How can I help you Xena?” Xena stepped forward so she was closer to her. “I know it’s late and your feeling tired but I needed to ask a question.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Go ahead.”  Xena put her hands together feeling the uncertainty as she spoke. “Do you remember who put you in that pit?” Gabrielle felt her body tense she knew this question was going to come up sooner or later but a part of her had wanted to avoid it because in truth even when all off her memories had returned to her the memories in the pit had still been very disjointed.

She had flashes of images but no solid flowing memory the few pieces she could remember was being fed and feeling ill because the food was drugged. The rest was messed up her mind images of screaming in to the darkness and seeing light for the last time and then nothing. She had expected it all to come back by now but it hadn’t. The truth was she didn’t want to remember and maybe that was why she couldn’t she’d had pain in her life but nothing compared to starving like that, it had been constant every moment her body wanting food and no way to give it what it wanted it was worse than any torture because it was so slow and so painful.

She eased up her head meeting the other woman’s concerned gaze. “I don’t remember much, just jagged images here and there and darkness and pain, I’ve been trying to remember but it never works I still don’t remember anything.” Xena shook her sadly gods she had so been hopeful that this wouldn’t be Gabrielle’s answer. “You don’t remember anything a face or a name?” Gabrielle shook her head. “I remember everything including getting in to your palace I remember being locked in the cells along with the other Northern Rebels, but something happened someone came in I couldn’t see there face it was covered by dark robes the next thing I knew they’d hit me in the face with a wooden bat and everything went dark. They hit me very hard because my head was stinging and when I woke up again I realized that my clothes had been stripped off and I was being dragged along the floor, that’s the last thing I remember with crystal clarity after that it just gets really hazy.”

Xena put a hand through her hair feeling the frustration hit home. “Do you have any idea who would you do this to you?” Gabrielle lowered her head so it back in position so she could sleep. “I have many enemies not everyone in my own race likes me put it like that.” Xena looked at her for a long moment she slowly kneeled down so she was opposite her bed seeing the distant pained look in her green eyes. “If you remember anything you have to tell me right away Gabrielle.” Gabrielle turned her head slightly. “Why does this matter so much to you?” Xena sighed aloud. “It matters because I want to see the person who did this to you brought to justice, they left you to starve and die in that pit they took away every right you have. I have very strict rules about prisoner treatment and they broke every rule I laid out.”

Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Oh I’m sure who ever they are they’ll show themselves soon enough, after all I was meant to die down there. They’ll be disappointed that I’m not dead.” Xena eased up her hand. “You want them to come to you?” Gabrielle tapped her clawed fingers on the sheets. “Yes I do if you question everyone now they won’t come out they’ll probably delay.” Xena looked up meeting her gaze. “Then let me help you, if you get any thing even a flash back tell me about it, then maybe it won’t come to that.” Gabrielle closed her eyes slightly. “If I remember anything you will be first to know, I assume you asking this of me because they’ve covered there tracks very well?”

Xena stood up slowly. “Yes they have I can not find anything out of place, they made sure that they covered up everything you didn’t exist they made sure off that. I have nothing to go on and now I need your help.” Gabrielle yawned before shaking her mane. “You have my word that if I remember anything you will be the first to know.” Xena picked up the candle from the table. “Thank you.” Gabrielle blinked trying to stay awake. “One way or another I will help you find this person.” Xena felt a smile form. “I’ll let you get some sleep, good night Gabrielle.” Gabrielle watched as she opened the central door she closed her eyes as sleep finally caught up with her. “Goodnight Xena.”

End of part 43

CRESCENT KING OF OLD

Xena felt her eyes snap open as she heard a loud banging hit her ears, she pulled herself up in bed, it was early in the morning and she had been sleeping. She turned to the door groaning as she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. “Come in!” She paused only to hear the hammering again. “I said you can come in!” She turned as the banging came a third time she didn’t think as she threw off the cover ignoring the cold air on her naked body as she grabbed her velvet robe pulling it over her shoulders. She moved towards her door damn to Tartarus who ever was making so much noise this early in the morning! She grabbed the door to her room pulling it open violently as she stepped outside. She turned only to freeze as she caught sight of Gabrielle who and had a hammer in her hand and bronze nails in her other. She could see the wonderfully crafted figure of her goddess it was painted up beautifully and now being put on her door in sections.

She rubbed her eyes. “Would you like some help?” Gabrielle turned eyeing the other woman in surprise. She half mumbled as she spoke. “No I’m good.” Xena moved closer she slowly eased the nails out of her hand. “Ah, ha well let me give you a hand anyway.” Gabrielle looked up slightly she saw no point to stopping the other woman Thaleia was still asleep. She hadn’t gotten drunk last night just tipsy, but she clearly didn’t drink very often and she didn’t want to wake her up, she’d rather that she just slept it off. This morning she had woken up very early unable to sleep as she had wanted to read her scroll written in werewolf tongue over again to make sure that it sounded right. Xena turned putting the next nail through its hole watched as Gabrielle banged the final section in to place. She eyed the wood carving which was deeply detailed. “Your carving is very beautiful.” Gabrielle looked up slightly eyeing her caving. “Its okay, it’s better than the last one I made in the Grand City, never did like that one it was never detailed enough.”

Xena eyed her for a long moment. “You made another one of these?” Gabrielle eyed the remaining nails as she lowered the hammer. “I did yes but I doubt it’s around anymore, no doubt in my absence it’s probably been stolen along with everything else I used to own.” Xena blinked in confusion. “Why would they steal your things, you’re a king?!” Gabrielle stepped away from the wooden carving which was now directly in the centre of her double doors and came apart when they were open and locked back together when the doors closed.  “It’s because I’m king that they’d take what’s mine, they see it as piece of my soul, it’s an old myth in that they say what ever Horn Hind touches becomes lucky.” She took in a deep breath. “So those who are down on there luck or who the council have punished may see it as something to give them luck. If they feel that way I have no hard feelings about them taking it all, if it gives them inspiration.”

Xena leaned against the wall looking at the younger woman for a long moment she really did think with her heart. She’d give up all she owned for others and she didn’t even feel sad about it, far from it she seemed to embrace the idea of giving to her people in some way or another. She paused looking up slightly. “What was your predecessor like? I remember you saying he spoke to you of his guilt after he brought you to his room after you let Iris go.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply as she looked up she hadn’t wanted to talk about this before, but now things felt different between them in a way she really couldn’t put her finger on. The Empress was about to end the hunting law and she’d put her seal on her document, she put down the hammer and nails. She eased her pipe out of her pocket putting it in her mouth she lit it while eyeing the silver ring on her finger. “He was a decedent bastard.” She eased the pipe out of her mouth breathing out the smoke in the other direction out of respect. “I’ve never understood why he wanted to talk to me, I wasn’t special I was just getting punished for failing my mission. May be the truth was that he just felt guilty for all the pain he’d caused to half breeds like me, but the truth is I’ll never know all I remember is that I wasn’t nice to him.” She breathed in her pipe as the vision of gold and spender entered her mind once more.

8

Gabrielle felt the pain as she was shoved in to the nearest chair she looked up eyeing the highly decorated room which was huge and filled with everything imaginable. Luxurious furniture and a huge bed there were many chests all filled with expensive items. Beautiful cream silk curtains hung down covering the walls there were jewel incrusted goblets along a wine jug on a small table in front of her. She could see fur skin rugs on the floor from bear and boar and a large open fireplace it was truly a room of a king. She breathed in painfully trying to ignore the stinging pain of her body watching as the two warriors who had brought her in left closing the double golden doors behind them. She looked up watching as the Crescent Hind entered the room he looked at her his brown eyes studying her over for a long moment before he walked over to the table pouring red wine from the jug in to one of the goblets. He breathed in deeply before spoke. “Did you know that my real name is Eleutherios? Very few people remember that now they just call me the Crescent Hind out of formality.”

Gabrielle watched as he pushed the goblet towards her with a clawed hand. “I’ve been around for a long time, it feels like to long.” Gabrielle looked up as he sat in the chair opposite her leaning on his elbow. “I’m an old man now and I look back on my life and wonder if I’ve done anything right by my people.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply eyeing him. “Why am I here?” Eleutherios looked down sadly. “You weren’t born a werewolf were you?” Gabrielle breathed in trying to ignore the pain. “No.” Eleutherios eyed her noticing that she hadn’t taken the wine he’d offered. “Do you like it here in this place, or does feel like a prison to you?” He raised his golden ringed clawed finger with its red jewels which had the Horn Hind seal on it. “Don’t lie to me, be honest.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Yes sometimes I feel trapped here.” Eleutherios eyed her for a long moment finally someone who honest and saying how they felt rather than what he wanted to hear. “I heard about your failure in pursuing that escaped werewolf, you’re apparently a very fast runner but you couldn’t catch her.”

He paused before speaking. “But you let her go didn’t you?” Gabrielle shifted in her chair trying to ignore her stinging muscles. “Yes I let her go she told me her child would die because it was born human.” Eleutherios breathed out feeling the pain in his chest. “Yes the human child would have died, you’re right, it’s an unfair law but then so are many of the laws made by the Imperial Council.” Gabrielle turned sharply. “If it’s an unfair law then why don’t you change it, you’re the king?!” Eleutherios smiled sadly. “Your young you know nothing of the pain of leader ship, you don’t know what is to be a prisoner to very council who are meant to help you. I suffer and I can’t change anything, no matter how hard you try.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze getting painfully to her feet ignoring her bleeding body. “That’s the words of someone who’s given up.” Eleutherios lowered his gaze. “Maybe I have, but pray you never grow these horns the pain and the responsibility is a curse and a crushing burden.”

He looked up sadly. “The only compensation is the luxury around me here.” Gabrielle felt the disgust hit home she spoke unable to keep the sarcasm out of her tone. “So you choose to bask in luxury while young children die for no more reason than being human, you must be proud.” Eleutherios sneered slightly. “I am not proud far from it, but I cannot escape this place it’s become my prison!” He turned sitting back down. “Tell me what would you do if you were me?” Gabrielle looked at her clawed hand. “Make things fair for those born werewolves and those who weren’t.” Eleutherios smiled sadly. “A noble notion, but to do that you’d have to destroy the Imperial Council before they destroy you and get every werewolf to follow you and be loyal.” He looked up slightly. “A monumental task, but then your young you have dreams and everything is easy in your eyes.” He put a clawed hand on the table. “So tell me do you think I’m a good leader and that I’ve done right by my people?”

Gabrielle eyed him from her standing position. “No.” He lowered his head. “That’s all I wanted to know.” He breathed in sadly he knew her words were the truth, she hadn’t been corrupted by politics or lying behaviour. She had been created from pain and suffering, she was his legacy there were hundreds like her all who were prisoners of their own destiny. He had failed as a leader and a king he hadn’t been able to rise up and fight the Imperial Council. Now he was too old and every day he was getting weaker, he wasn’t strong anymore and he felt ill he was also coughing up blood just about every day. His appearance as a werewolf gave him the illusion of strength which wasn’t there any longer in human form. He looked up he knew his time was now drawing to a close.  All he had to show for sixty years was a bloody path of death and destruction, which stung his heart and gave him constant nightmares. He breathed in eyeing her for a long moment, he could only hope that the Horn Hind who followed in his passing would be as young and as honest as she was and would believe that they could change things in the way he hadn’t he lowered his gaze to the floor. “You can leave now.”

8

Gabrielle looked up slightly seeing the concern in the other woman’s eye. “Its sad really I wasn’t kind to him, but he had a point you can’t overthrow the Imperial Council they have to much power over werewolf society and he was right when you’re Horn Hind the Grand City becomes your prison. If I have known then what I know now I would have been kinder but I was young and I was still seeing the word as simple.” She breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “He died a year later no one knew how sick he was he hid it very well. He died young as well he was only sixty one I’ve heard whisperings that maybe he was murdered, but no one has ever been able to prove it.” Xena took in a deep breath. “Do you believe he was murdered?” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Yes I believe he was.” Xena stepped closer to her. “Who do you think murdered him?”

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke feeling her self tense. “I believe he was murdered by the Imperial Council but I can’t prove it, no one can. It’s also very clear to me after you showed me that document on Damokles’s body that he had also been murdered.” She breathed in painfully feeling her hand form a fist. “Human’s don’t leave puncture wounds in the neck and his neck was broken, only werewolves do that, it’s a move I was taught during my training. You grab a person’s neck with your jaws and force it sideways, it breaks the spine and kills the person instantly, it’s also very affective when used on other werewolves so long as you get a solid grip around the neck and hold it you can force the head backwards until the spine breaks.” She eased the pipe out of her mouth breathing out the smoke once more as she felt her teeth grind together. “It takes a very well trained werewolf to do it right and my lover was a great warrior he’d knew how to handle himself, which is why I think the Imperial Council sent out one of there best. It’s well known that they have loyal warriors who are trained assassins who do their dirty work for them.”

She sneered slightly. “If they don’t like someone or if they are threat to their power they silence them.” Xena lowered her gaze feeling the guilt take over. “You mean people like Iona, don’t you?” Gabrielle put the pipe back in her mouth looking up slightly. “If only they were like her, then I wouldn’t mind them but sadly their not, they have no honour code of any kind, they get paid in gold and they do the job.” She shook her head. “There not even known as part of the army, they are a secret but a dirty public secret every one knows they exist, but no one talks about them out of fear of winding up dead.” She eased up her hand. “At least Iona is part of your army at least she’s not your dirty public secret and though she’s not the kindest person she wouldn’t betray you for gold.” She breathed in her pipe. “She only betrayed you over me and that was because she had prejudice and lacked understanding and that I can forgive, because if I’d never seen a werewolf before I’d feel the same way. I also don’t believe she’s evil I believe it’s her job to kill and solve your problems and that’s what she does because it’s all she’s ever known.”

Xena raised her hand. “She’ll be walking around soon they say she’s getting better but she will never do what she did to you ever again. She’ll report to Demetrius directly and she’ll spend time with him until she regains her honour and does not try to use her position to accomplish her personal goals.” Gabrielle slowly eased out the scroll which had been in her belt. It was the werewolf scroll written in werewolf tongue, she’d already but her signature and seal on it. “We all have personal goals Xena in my view she should have hobbies as she clearly lacking in them.” She opened the scroll slowly so the other woman could see it. “Here is the scroll you requested, in werewolf tongue sealed and sighed by me proof that your scroll is for real.” Xena breathed in as she took it from her hand. “You finished it?” Gabrielle nodded. “It took me most of yesterday but I had to reword it as I wanted it sound very serious you can have Phrixus check it over if you want though, to prove that I have no intentions of giving out any secret orders to my people and that I am not deserving you.”

Xena eyed the scroll in truth she had no idea what it said but she had no intention of questioning the younger woman it was very clear to her that Gabrielle didn’t lie she was also far too noble to go out of her way to cause trouble, it just wasn’t in her nature. She looked up slightly. “No I’m not going to send this to Phrixus I believe that what you’ve put here is your word to your people that you are confirming my scrolls truth.” She eyed the long scroll. “I’m going to take this to my room where I can seal it and sign it then I’ll give it Chara she’ll send it to the scroll makers in the city of Corinth. They have people who will dispute it to every city in my Empire.” Gabrielle picked up her hammer and nails feeling the slight smile form again as that strange happy feeling came back but only for an instant before it vanished as she spoke keeping the pipe in her mouth. “Don’t you need some sort of diplomatic council to approve your orders?”

Xena raised an eyebrow, watching as the faint smile vanished again from the younger woman face it was fleeting but it was there and it was close to a real smile. “I do have a diplomatic council yes but I hate their corruption one of their members betrayed me not long ago they stole money from my coffers which belonged to my people. The council is still around but I have had to limit their powers they are no longer allowed to stay in my palace and they can not change laws with out my permission. “She carefully rolled up Gabrielle’s scroll. “All new reforms must be agreed by all of them so no single one of them has power and I spend no time with them. I don’t want them bringing any corruption in to my palace I don’t want them corrupting my staff or making me look vulnerable to anyone outside the palace in any way.” Gabrielle nodded feeling understanding draw in. “I understand your point of view the Imperial Council brings nothing but pain to my people, you’re just trying to protect yours.” Xena slowly moved away from her as she raised the scroll. “Let me get this sorted out then maybe we can talk more tonight.” Gabrielle nodded watching as she moved towards her room. “I hope we do talk Xena, clearly we have a few things in common.” Xena felt a smile form as she opened her bedroom door. “Yes it seems that we do.”

End of part 44

 

LUST AND A GREEN EYED JEALOUSLY

I’m doing this again I never know how I feel about doing this but I have to do it, it’s now a necessity. I need to carry a child and that has become part of my routine I’m given a new remedy every month by Phantasos and then I call in the male gladiator champion Calicos from Athens to the palace. I pay his trainer for his services he is a very big and well built man with shoulder length black hair which had metal bronze ringlets in places, he also has dark green eyes and he’s very polite. I know I’m not the only one who pays for his services there are other’s, it’s well known that male gladiators and gladiatrix’s who aren’t married in Greece can be brought out for a night to pleasure ether gender depending on their sexuality. It is very common and unlike Rome it is not kept a secret every one and anyone who has the coin can buy time with a gladiator or gladiatrix.

Most just want the dream of touching them under the sheets and having their sensual attention, others don’t want sex they just want to talk. I’m very different though for me this has nothing to do with sex I just want a child with in me and I see Calicos as my means. As rumour has it that he has a high record of successfully fathering children among the single women he’s slept with. Not that he’s has, had any success with me we’ve been doing this for almost two years now with no success but I’m not willing to give this up. I will try any remedy and try any position if it means a child I need to have a child so that my throne will be secure. I won’t lie I enjoy the sexual part but there’s no real intimacy not like the kind I used to receive from my husband. I used to enjoy our sessions because I felt that he loved me and it showed in the bedroom, but I know Calicos does not feel that way to him this is part of his duty as a gladiator.

He has no emotional attachment to his clients he does what he is paid to do and he does it well. I know that need to be loved is just my loneliness talking in my mind. I deeply miss being loved and cherished by some one who’s deeply in love with me it’s a feeling I’d love to have back. Calicos slowly stepped forward speaking in a neutral voice as he undid his tunic pulling it off in a fluid motion. “How do you wish me to be Empress?” Xena breathed in as she sat up in bed easing her robe of putting it to one side feeling the cold air touch her naked body as she spoke unable to keep the disheartened tone out of her voice. “Straddle me.” Calicos nodded as he moved towards her easing his naked body on to the bed. “As you wish Empress, it is always a pleasure to please you.”

Xena breathed in sharply oh how she wished this about more than just sex. Her thoughts were suddenly broken off as his hands began to move down her body she breathed in sharply feeling his lips meet hers. She breathed in sharply feeling the instant heat boil up in her stomach and then shoot downwards as he got him self slowly in to position as he carried on kissing her. She knew it wasn’t love just pure lust and she knew soon it would take control of her and she wouldn’t be in control of herself anymore and yet somehow she just wanted to sink in to it and forget who she was if only for an instant. To forget that she ruled Greece and forget that she had no lover who cared about her and pretend that she did and that she wasn’t unhappy with being alone. She lay back feeling the hands move along her body as her fingers started to grip the sheets and she began to loose herself completely in the moment which was taking over everything.

Gabrielle slowly walked forward on all fours through the dark corridor which led to her room, Xena had said that she’d speak to her but so far they hadn’t seen each other. She eased her room’s double doors open with one clawed hand and then slowly moved through them then closed them behind her using her foot in truth this was the first time she’d ever wanted to talk to other woman. Normally Xena came to her room, she slowly walked up to the inner door only to stop as she pricked up one ear she could hear moaning but not the type that didn’t have anything to do with dreams. No this was the type to do with sex when someone was reaching that moment before the colour filled there eyes and they lost themselves. She lowered her eyes to the floor knowing that what she was about to do next was wrong on every level but she couldn’t help herself. She slowly opened the door staying low on all fours as she watched the Empress come in to view. She was lying on back and a larger man was on top off her pleasuring her, she was clearly enjoying it by the sound of it, as was he. She stayed still nether of them had noticed her at this moment she didn’t even exist to them.

She wouldn’t lie to herself she had watched other people have sex before, when she’d been younger she shifted through the night in werewolf form and looked in to windows even though she knew it was wrong, but she’d done it anyway just because she wanted to watch even though she couldn’t be a part of it, it was a guilty pleasure which she’d never admitted to. It wasn’t until Damokles that she’d stopped doing it as she’d been content and felt no need to do it anymore. Now seeing it once more suddenly brought back that deep temptation to watch all over again she knew she could lie down and watch them and they wouldn’t even know that she was here not right up until the last moment. She lowered her head only to stop as something hit her hard she had no right to be here, this was Xena’s personal business and not her guilty pleasure.

She lowered her ears as she carried on watching she could see Xena’s naked body which had faded scars from battle in places, she could see that look of pleasure in her face even though her eyes were half closed. She lowered her gaze as she got up on staying on all fours she was a beautiful woman there was no denying that, a beautiful woman being pleasured by a powerful handsome man. She felt her teeth suddenly grind together as the jealousy hit her hard, she didn’t even have a clue why it was there she had no sexual attachment to this woman she was only her friend. May be it was because this reminded her off what she’d once had with Damokles. Back when she felt like she’d had full control of her life, before she’d become Horn Hind and he’d vanished from her life. She could remember being that happy when she’d made love to him and that image coming back to her now made her feel as though her heart was being ripped out of her chest.

No one loved her in that way, she was completely alone in her life despite that she now had friends and freedom. It hurt to be reminded of what she had once had she slowly stepped back feeling the anger burn as she took hold of the door ignoring Xena’s eyes as they suddenly closed as she hit her climax she sat up crying out in pleasure. Her light blue eyes opened again to fall up on her the shock appearing in them instantly. She didn’t meet her gaze she didn’t want to she already knew she had been caught red handed but at this point she didn’t care. She knew she had no right to be here in the first place, if the Empress was enjoying herself in someone else’s company it was none of her business and she should know better. She turned closing the door slowly ignoring the fact that Xena was still staring at her in shock where as her lover still hadn’t noticed her he was to focused on his task. She watched the door shut completely she slowly leaned forward putting her head against the door as best she could despite her velvet covered horns, she just wanted to go to sleep and forget that she’d seen this. She would apologise for her actions in the morning because she knew better than to do what she’d just done and she knew that she looked like some kind of perverse stalker watching in places she shouldn’t be.

8

Gabrielle moved her hand slowly through the wheat field which was reflecting like gold in the warm sun light. She knew where she was she was in the vast wheat fields of Olynthus she recognised the old structure of the wind mills whose huge white sails were turning under the clear blue sky. She took in a deep breath feeling the light warm breeze on her face. She turned looking in the other direction eyeing the village which was close by her gaze drifted to the sea bellow as it crashing up against the white sandy beach which was empty. Why was she here? She was clearly in a dream and like most of her dreams she knew they were dreams, but the ones in which she knew she was awake were always the worst. There was normally blood and dead bodies as well as screaming yet this dream was completely different all around her was the clear blue sky and beautiful scenery and even the sound of crashing waves and the smell of rich sea air. She breathed in painful none of this felt right on any level she never had a pleasant waking dream ever and the rest of the time she preferred to have dreams where it was dark and she didn’t remember anything.

“That’s the Gabrielle I fell in love with always questioning always thinking things though.”

Gabrielle turned around sharply only to freeze as Damokles came in to view he was wearing his bronze armour the same armour he’d been wearing the day he’d left. He had a wide smile on his face and his light blue eyes were catching the sun light, she felt her heart hit her stomach but it wasn’t him it was an illusion in a dream and nothing more. She felt her teeth grind together as her anger started to boil up in her stomach. “Oh that’s great, real great! It’s not like my dreams don’t torment me enough now you’re in them!” Damokles smiled as he took a step closer to her. “Do you remember what I told you Gabrielle that those who have died can speak in to the living through their dreams?” Gabrielle felt a cold sneer form. “What are you saying that you’re really Damokles and you’re talking to me right now in my dream?”

Damokles smiled moving closer to her so he was standing over her as he became serious. “Yes I am the real Damokles.” He eased up his hand so she could see the bronze ring on his finger. “I can prove it to you, you buried me under the apple tree in the Empress’s royal garden, you told my mounted body that when I left, you always thought that I’d walk back through your door.” He felt a smile form. “You also put my ring back in place before you set my soul free.” He calmly lowered his hand ignoring the utter shock as it spread across her face. “And just before you fell asleep tonight you found the Empress in the arms of a gladiator who was giving her pleasure.” He raised an eyebrow. “You were a little jealous.” Gabrielle felt the rush of painful emotion it squeezed at her heart painfully as she looked at him. “It’s you.” She felt the tears as they started to run down her face as the truth hit home hard. It was Damokles everything he’d said was the truth and there was no denying it, he was here in her dream speaking softly to her.

She looked up only to freeze as his hands found both sides of her face as he leaned forward gently kissing her lips he pulled away as he used his thumb to wipe her tears away. Damokles breathed in deeply as he looked at her. “Please don’t cry, you know I never liked it when you cry.” Gabrielle eased up her hands up taking hold of his lowered them gently. “I missed you so much.” Damokles felt his smile turn to wide grin. “I’ve missed you as well you set my soul free it had been trapped inside that mounted body for so long.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply putting a hand on his face unable to stop her actions as it all felt so real. “Who murdered you, was it Bastiaan?” Damokles shook his head sadly. “I didn’t see Gabrielle, it was night the last thing I remember was looking up at the moon then nothing, they came up behind me it was very quick they were clearly a skilled murderer.”

He raised his hand running it gently through her shoulder length blonde hair. “The next thing I remember was waking up in that mounted body and being trapped there, being able to see out at the world but unable to do anything, none of this matter now though because my soul is free to sour and I had to visit you. When I was trapped I could still see you in the back of my mind living out your life after my death.” He shook his head. “I saw that you were missing me and I saw you with Adrienne and how unhappy you were and how she treated you.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “Adrienne was not my choice Damokles she was forced up on my by the council, I hated her so much she made my life so miserable.” Damokles put a hand gently on her face. “You can do so much better than her Gabrielle, she was always beneath you and you deserve to be with someone who loves you.”

Gabrielle breathed in painfully running her hand down his chest plate. “I don’t want to be with anyone else I want to be with you maybe I can bring you back I could make a deal with my goddess.” Damokles shook his head as he took hold of her hand. “No Gabrielle, my time here is over and the Greek gods have other plans for me. Your goddess also has plans for you, my journey in this life has come to an end, but yours is about to truly begin.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “I don’t want you to leave I need you here with me.” Damokles slowly met her forest green eyes. “I will be here with Gabrielle always, I’ll be watching over you and I’ll visit you again in your dreams when the time is right.” He breathed in as she wrapped her arms around him he pulled her close breathing in the smell of her hair. “I just want you to be happy, I want you to live on and be loved Gabrielle you deserve that.”

Gabrielle squeezed tighter not wanting to let go. “No one will ever love me the way you did.” Damokles breathed in deeply. “Oh Gabrielle you shouldn’t think like that, you’re a very beautiful woman and your heart has always been in the right place.” He paused before speaking. “I want you to be happy and I want you to enjoy the rest of your life and be with someone who loves you the way I do.” Gabrielle moved up to his lips kissing him unable to stop herself. “Please I’m begging you don’t let me wake up just yet, I want to stay here with you.” Damokles smiled sadly as he eased his hand through her hair watching as it spilt through his fingers. “We all have to wake up Gabrielle and you need to wake up now.”

Gabrielle felt her eyes snap open as she sat bolt up right in bed saying the words aloud before she could stop herself as she raised her hand. “No!” She stayed still for a moment before lowering her hand feeling the sweat and it dripped down her face. She blinked looking around her realizing that she was back in her room in the palace and that Damokles was truly gone from her dream. She could see the first rays off dawns light through the curtains it was early very early and she’d probably only just changed back to her human form. She pulled the cover up slightly over her naked chest pulling up her knees unable to stop the flow of tears as put her hands on her face, why did her dreams have to torment her so?!

She’d been standing there with Damokles and now he was gone once more fading back in to memory. If he had truly visited her from the dead it just made her feel even worse, it was like holding a gleaming silver cup in her hand only to watch it turn to sand as it spilt through her fingers. She felt her tears come all the harder as the pain of the emotions truly caught up with her. She hadn’t wanted to wake up she’d wanted to stay with him! What was this some sick twisted joke by her own goddess to make her remember all that she lost as well as the one thing she didn’t have which was the love of another to keep her warm at night? She breathed in painfully trying to stop her tears she needed to get up she needed to go somewhere, any where but her own room so she could clear her head.

End of part 45

COLD STREAMS OF BLOOD WHICH FLOW AS THE WHIP STRIKES

She was watching me, why was she watching me? I confess this is the first time I’ve ever had an audience during sex I’ve always been very private about it. I’m not angry, more perplexed by Gabrielle’s behaviour it’s not something I’m used to. I know we have the same sexuality in that we like both genders but her behaviour is very new to me. I swore for a moment that she was enjoying the show, but then I saw that look fade from her eyes, she almost looked annoyed but I’m not sure as to what made her angry, was is the fact that I was being pleasured and she wasn’t or was she remembering her lost love? In truth I have no idea but I want to ask her but I know I have to handle this carefully. To be honest her watching me didn’t bother me, which is strange because if it had been anyone else I’d have been furious maybe it was because it felt to me that she didn’t mean to do it, it just happened.

If Gabrielle has odd tastes then that’s okay I’m not going to judge her I know full well that there are people out there who like different things in the bedroom. I can only hope now that I can find her, Thaleia said that she hasn’t been in her room since this morning apparently she got up very early which is very unusual for Gabrielle as she likes to sleep in far longer than I do. This morning though she left very early at sun up and she hasn’t gone back to her room at all, I’m not sure where she is but I have a hunch. Xena moved her hand to her stomach as she carried on walking through the royal gardens she just hoped that the remedy Phantasos had given her had worked and that a child had taken hold in her womb. Calicos had not stayed after last night as soon as his job was complete he had returned to his trainer who was in the palace and they’d both been paid then they’d left as was normal routine. She turned the corner she was now in the shaded area of the garden where Gabrielle lover had been buried under the huge apple tree. She turned catching sight of the younger woman who was standing over his grave in deep thought, there was a very dark look in her eyes and she could sense a certain amount of anger even from this distance.

She had her arms folded and was looking at his crave where she laid a large batch of beautiful white flowers which she’d no doubt picked from the wilder areas of the garden. It was a very passionate statement as the younger woman must have searched all morning for these flowers as they were so widely scattered around the gardens and quite difficult to find. She looked up speaking softy. “Ah there you are Gabrielle you know I’ve been looking for you.” Gabrielle turned looking at her lover’s grave as she spoke in a cold tone unable to keep the bitterness out of her voice. “I’m sorry I’ve been preoccupied.” Xena looked up at the sunlit sky as she came to stand behind the younger woman who still looked tense. “I wanted to speak to you about last night.” Gabrielle took in a sharp breath. “Look I know I shouldn’t have been in your room watching you with your lover I didn’t know you had a partner. Plus it was none of my business and I had no place being there.” Xena eased up her hand. “He’s not my lover, he’s only a sexual partner he performs a service, we aren’t together as a couple.”

Gabrielle looked down at her lover’s grave for a long moment. “What you do and who you do it with is not my business.” Xena looked up slightly she gently put her hand on the other woman’s shoulder feeling her tense slightly at the touch clearly she was very unused to emotional contact of this type. “Look all I wanted to say was that I’m not angry with you, I was just surprised to see you there watching me.” She paused before speaking. “I also don’t like to judge, if that kind of thing turns you on it’s alright with me, I know you’re like me I mean you like both genders as I do but I’m sure you knew that already.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I’d heard a rumour about that, but I don’t pay much attention to rumours, I prefer to know the truth not exaggeration.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “What I’m trying to say is that I can understand why you might want to watch.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath eyeing the other woman’s hand unsure as to whether or not she should move it. “You misunderstand what I was doing was nothing more than a bad habit, one I should have kicked a long time ago.”

Xena slowly leaned forward. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that habit personally.” She slowly met her surprised gaze. “I could think of things much worse when it comes to the bedroom believe me.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor feeling out of her element once again she was so unused to this kind of attention. “Look I should go.” Xena looked up sharply. “No don’t go stay with me I’d like the company of my friend.” She paused before speaking as they both stepped away from the grave. “I’ve been meaning to ask you what happened after you left The Crescent Hinds room, I assume he let your punishment slide and you weren’t flogged.” Gabrielle slowly eased her hand in to her pocket feeling for her pipe only to stop as she realized there was no where to light it as the fire torches hadn’t been lit in this area.

She looked up slightly feeling the other woman gently let go off her shoulder. “No he didn’t let my punishment slide.” She paused easing up her hand to. “I still received the full punishment for my so called failure which was to receive twenty lashes.” Xena looked at her feeling the shock hit home. “They still flogged you even though you’d been in your predecessor’s presence?” Gabrielle nodded as she looked up. “Yes they did, its funny I thought transforming for the first time was agony, but believe me nothing compares to the pain of the werewolf cat of nine tails whip. I was already in pain from when they’d beaten me so it just made the pain even more unbearable to go through.” She looked down at the floor painfully before speaking again. “As long as I live I don’t want to go through that kind of pain again, werewolves never do things by half they really know how to make their own kind suffer when they break the rules.” She closed her eyes for a moment hearing the sound of the cat of nine tail whip ends as they cracked in the distance.

8

Gabrielle breathed in as her hands were tied to the pillar, which overlooked the warrior’s tunnels, she couldn’t see though her right eye it was bruised closed and she had, bruises all over her body which hadn’t healed up fully as they’d been made at the end of the night before she took back her human form. She was wearing shirt and trousers and a high pair of boots she felt terrible and it was about to get a lot worse she’d seen many floggings during her time in this place. The Imperial Council believed that flogging was the only way to make a point to anyone who failed on their missions or broke the rules because it took so much longer for wounds from the cat of nine tails to heal. It could take days in fact as the whips long ends had knife like points which could tear through flesh and muscle and even shatter bone. A human being would die with this kind of punishment but a werewolf could just about survive it in human form, though they’d be bed ridden until they healed fully.

She’d seen even the biggest and strongest werewolves pass out after twenty lashes and she knew that for her this was going to be excruciating. So much for her first important mission it had just ended in disaster, but ironically she could see now why Iris had wanted to escape, werewolves were brutal even to there own kind. There was a vicious pecking order among the rising warriors and some would happily make others suffer so they could climb the ladder. All these warriors wanted was to have their audience with the Imperial Council so they could say their piece or have control of how things were run in some manner. This had been going on for years or so she’d read and some scribes had, had concerns that it had been tearing the werewolf society apart over the last century.

She narrowed her gaze, though she’d never met the Imperial Council but she agreed with the scribes the werewolf nation was falling apart. She could see it everywhere, warriors fighting warriors a forced class status for half breeds like her self because of Imperial Councils desperate need to keep the blood line pure as well as the killing of human born children which was no doubt adding to the already mounting animosity. She had no idea why the Crescent Hind had told her to leave last night but frankly she didn’t care as far as she was concerned he was as corrupt as the Imperial Council. He lavished himself in decadence while others suffered and he did nothing to help the people, he just let the Imperial Council do what ever they wanted regardless of whether or not it was right or wrong. Her thoughts were cut off as the back of her shirt was torn open with a knife, then the two sides were forced over her shoulders exposing her back. She watched as Bastiaan eased the whip free smirking at her, she hated that full blood bastard.

He wasn’t even in her unit but he clearly loved to make people suffer and he was completely power driven. She watched as a woman walked up to her holding a long round piece of wood which was covered in metal, she took in a deep breath before speaking. “You’ll want this.” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust ignoring the others who were watching the spectral. “I don’t want that.” The woman put a hand on her shoulder lowering her voice. “I’m serious I’ve been through this, it helps.” Gabrielle looked at her sharply feeling the metal piece as it was put in to her mouth and she bit down on it. She watched as the female warrior stepped back as Alexandras spoke. “For failing to complete your mission Gabrielle and allowing another werewolf to escape you will receive twenty lashes, you will take this punishment as you were made leader in this tracking mission and you failed! After you receive your punishment you’ll return to work with your captain Damokles and his unit once more until your ready and can complete an important mission with out failing.” Gabrielle breathed in bracing herself she hadn’t failed on her mission she was the only one to do the right thing.

She felt her teeth clamp down painfully on the metal piece as the tails slashed across her back causing the excruciating pain to hit her hard she felt the cold blood as it started to run down her skin from the deep wounds. The whip came again striking even harder she could feel her teeth clamping tighter on the metal piece as she tried to take the pain. The whip struck her again and again and all she wanted to do was scream, by Ouroboros she wanted it this end, she could feel tears running down her face. She looked down watching as blood dripped down hitting the floor between her boots. “The pain its all in your mind, go to another happier place.” Gabrielle looked up hearing her goddess’s voice she breathed in closing her good eye she was right it was just in her mind she could survive this, she breathed in trying to invasion the first morning’s sun as it fell up on Potidaea in the spring time lighting the wheat fields turning them to gold as the whip hit her again.

8

Gabrielle looked up slightly as she walked over to the wall opposite leaning against it. “I wasn’t strong I passed out after eleven lashes and I don’t really remember much after it ended, it was just a blur of blood and pain as I lapsed in and out of consciousness.” She looked up slowly as Xena came to stand over here the concern in her eyes. “I woke up fully two days later and I still felt rotten.” She shook her head. “Damokles took care of me until I was well, but I never remembered much just burry images and being given food and water. When I was fully healed I returned to his unit, but I won’t lie I just kept quite and got on with my job which was hunting down human warriors who posed a threat to werewolf society and I was happy doing it, because it always felt right to me.”

She looked up slowly. “I only ever felt honourable when I fought other warriors.” Xena moved so she was standing a little closer to the younger woman she knew she was inside her personal space and that it was wrong but somehow it just felt like the right thing to do. “I’m sorry you had to go through that flogging, I’ve never liked flogging even though it’s common punishment.” She put a hand through her hair. “I considered that punishment for Iona after what happened with you but I felt it wouldn’t help matters as it does nothing for moral.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she knew the other woman was in her personal space, which made her feel a little uneasy but somehow she just thought it was better to go with it and let Xena get close. Maybe that was how she liked to be with her close friends. “No I agree it doesn’t do anything for moral it’s a punishment which brings about fear.”

She put a hand on her shoulder turning it slightly. “If you’ve ever been through it you never forget it and you fear it ever happening to you again.” Xena took in a deep breath. “This is why I believe that not all punishments should be pain related when it comes to warriors. Someone once asked me is it better to be loved and respected or feared and respected?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “I’m not a great leader but to answer that question I believe people should love and respect you as a leader or they won’t rally to your cause.” Xena eased up her hand taking Gabrielle’s ignoring her surprise at her sudden action. “Clearly in that way you and I feel the same way.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart nervously right now she’d give anything to light her pipe. She had no idea why the other woman was touching her hand, or even why she’d want to. She looked at the floor trying to ignore her uncertainty as she spoke. “Yes clearly we do.” Xena eyed the other woman who looked slightly nervous. “You shouldn’t think less of yourself as a leader I’m sure you are a great leader.”

Gabrielle breathed in sharply feeling completely out of her element as Xena kept hold of her hand. “I don’t think less of myself I’m just honest with myself.” She moved her hand gently easing it out of Xena’s grip. “I’m not a great Horn Hind I wasn’t able to charge things in a way that mattered despite my trying.” She looked up feeling her dark mood come back all at once as she looked at her lovers crave. “I wasn’t even able to stop the Imperial Council from murdering the one I loved.” She walked away seeing the sadness in the other woman’s face. “Good leaders are able to stop injustices like these and they can do everything in their power to stop them.” She turned eyeing the grave again. “Yet here I am laying flowers on his grave and I’m still missing him.” Xena watched as she lowered her head walking away she moved forward speaking softly. “You place too much blame on yourself Gabrielle his murder was not your fault, assassins are paid to do the dirty work of higher powers and they feel no remorse, they just kill the target you know that as well as I do.”

Gabrielle stopped turning to meet her gaze. “No I can’t change it but I’d rather that they tried to kill me and not murder the person I love!” She folded her arms trying to control her anger. “I’m Horn Hind I should be the one people try to kill.” Xena took a slow step forward. “Killing a leader is hard Gabrielle I know enough people have tried to kill me.” She paused for a long moment before speaking. “I think they killed Damokles because you loved him and because they knew if they did take him from you it would break your spirit.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Well then they succeeded, because I missed him so much when he was gone. I even see him in my dreams still and it reminds me that I wasn’t here to save him.”

Xena lowered her gaze to the floor. “I know how you feel Gabrielle the Greek gods are always silent. I wished so much that my husband had loved me, but in the end I was just his tool to have power over Greece and in the end he tried to have me murdered. He even sent one of his gladiators to do the job because he was too much of a coward to face me in battle.” She adjusted one of her silver plated shoulder guards. “I ended up killing both the gladiator and him on the same night and since that day I’ve asked myself what if things had been different? I even asked myself if it was my own fault or if I did something wrong which made him change towards me, I wondered if maybe it was because I hadn’t been a good wife or if it was because we didn’t have children.”

She took in a deep painful breath. “I can still picture his face when I threw him off the balcony to his death, all I saw in it was resentment and smugness staring back at me it was as if he was smiling knowing that he’d won because he knew that when I killed him I’d loose my rule over Rome the moment he died and I’d have to flee the land. She turned slowly to meet Gabrielle’s gaze. “I envy you so much, your lover, loved you deeply right up till his death, which is more than I can say for mine.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she eyed the other woman. “Don’t envy me I lost the love of my life and I doubt I’ll ever experience a love like that ever again in my life time, the only people who would want to sleep with me now would only care about power, they’d have no honour.”

She raised her hand slightly as she walked slowly away from the taller woman. “I’m sure though that when the time is right the man who visited you last night will sit opposite you on the throne.” Xena watched as she walked away, how ironic, Gabrielle was clearly in the same boat as her when it came to people who lacked honour. As the only people who’d ever slept with her after her husband’s death had been dishonourable people who just wanted power. She breathed in deeply watching as the Gabrielle lit her pipe on one of the torches before vanishing from sight. Calicos was an honourable man that much was true but she knew that he didn’t want to be the Emperor of Greece, he had told her that he’d never cared for the idea. On top of that she didn’t love him and he didn’t love her and there was no chemistry between them, they just slept together there was nothing more to it than that.

End of part 46

 

DEFINING THE ESSENCE OF POWER AND STRENGTH

 

Fedora watched as Gabrielle sat down looking at the children who were now seated in the brand new school room which was highly decorated and beautiful it was everything she had wanted it to be. It even had scrolls and ink so the children could spend time writing there were also toys and other items like maps and statues as well as big cushions for the children to sit on so they were comfortable. She felt a smile form as she eyed the golden werewolf who was sitting on the floor in front of the children, she could see the horns which were now very large but still covered in velvet. She had hoped that Gabrielle would come as the children had been asking after her ever since her last visit. Titus mostly he was deep fascinated by werewolves now and little Kaia just liked Gabrielle’s company unlike Neola who was interested but still mindful.

Titus looked up from his scroll as he met Gabrielle’s gaze seeing that Gabrielle was being very silent. “What do you like boys or girls?” Fedora rolled her eyes she should have seen this question coming. Gabrielle eyed her clawed hand before looking up. “I like both genders.” Neola watched as Kaia got up from her cushion walking over to Gabrielle she slowly sat down opposite her clawed hand looking up at her. “Can you change yourself like only be interested in one gender?” Gabrielle watched as Kaia put a little hand on her clawed hand her big eyes staring at her, she sighed looking down at the young girl. “No I can’t and if I was to try to be any other way I wouldn’t be being true to who am.” Titus put his hand up. “Then you’re like the Empress?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Yes in that way I guess I am.”

Neola looked up slightly as she spoke. “Then if you’re both like that why aren’t you together, is because you have another lover?” Fedora folded her arms. “Look I don’t think you should be asking that Neola it’s much too personal and I’ve told you before that you have to be very careful when you ask people about these kinds of things.” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “It’s okay Fedora.” She looked at the young girl. “No I don’t have another lover, I had one once but that was a long time ago and he was a werewolf like me and he was called Damokles but he died.” Titus felt a grin form. “Did he die in glorious battle like my grandfather did during the war in Crete!?” Gabrielle looked up slightly feeling a sad smile form. “No he didn’t.”

She paused watching as the children fell silent. “He was killed by another werewolf who was an assassin.” Titus eased out his hand. “You mean a dirty assassin like Iona, the Empress’s private killer?” Fedora turned sharply, gods the children were being far to blunt tonight. “Iona is not the Empress’s private killer she takes care of issues out side of the palace Titus.” Neola laughed slightly. “She won’t be taking care of much from now on I heard that Gabrielle broke her arm and cracked three of her ribs because she killed her pet.” Gabrielle sighed as she looked up. “My self and Iona just has a disagreement that’s all, it was a matter of honour and we settled it with weapons that’s all, its part of warriors code of honour.”

Titus smirked as he eyed the golden werewolf. “And she lost because your stronger than she is, I heard you can smash up doors and pick up things which would take three normal people to lift, it must so wonderful having power like that.” Gabrielle shook her mane as she eyed him seeing the joy in his eyes. “Titus please come here for a moment.” She watched as her stood up walking to stand in front of her a gleeful smile on his face. “Where do think real power comes from?” Titus eyed her for a long moment in confusion he slowly pointed to her shoulder. “It comes from your strength and muscle, to be powerful is about how strong you are.” Gabrielle slowly eased up a clawed hand. “Let me tell you something Damokles once told me.”

She put a clawed hand gently on his chest spreading her clawed fingers wide. “Strength is something which comes from the heart, it’s what defines the bravest people of all, they are the ones willing to stand up for what they believe in and they will fight for it, despite that they may not be strong in body or carry the biggest weapons.” She paused seeing that she had his full attention. “Strength of the heart is what defines the greatest warriors you should always remember that Titus, because it’s the thing that separates warriors from warlords.” She moved her hand away watching as he lowered his head in deep thought she had a feeling this young man wanted to be a warrior one day but right now he was still just a teenager and not old enough to join army.

Titus looked up slightly. “But if I’m not strong I can’t become a great warrior.” Gabrielle felt a half smile form which was more genuine than normal. “Any one can become a great warrior Titus did you know that when I was younger than you I was a carpenters daughter. Yet here I am now and I’m a warrior, I wasn’t strong to start with but I believed I could be.” Titus looked up sharply as understanding hit home. “So if I believe I can be a great warrior in my heart then I can be one?” Gabrielle nodded as she looked at him. “Yes Titus.” She looked at him for a long moment before speaking. “Just remember the most important thing of all which is once you become a great warrior you must always show compassion and kindness to others who are not as strong as you are and help those in need.”

Titus nodded as he stepped back then seating him self as he looked down in deep thought he was clearly thinking through what she’d said. Neola looked up slightly. “You still haven’t answered my question why aren’t you and the Empress together?” Fedora eyed the young girl in annoyance. “Neola please don’t force this subject.” Gabrielle watched as Kaia carried on looking up at her she turned to the young girl slowly. “My self and the Empress are just friends, we don’t think of each other that way.” Neola raised an eyebrow. “Well I think you’d be good together, I mean your similar.” Gabrielle shook head. “No we aren’t similar I’m a werewolf and she’s human, I doubt she’d want someone who isn’t human as a lover. I’m also sure that she has another person in mind to sit beside her on the throne.” Neola blinked in confusion. “I don’t understand what difference does you being a werewolf make you’re no different from us?”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “When you’re older you’ll understand Neola life is never that simple believe me.” Neola folded her arms in annoyance. “I hate it when grown up say that, you know in three weeks time I’m going to be twelve then I can start to know stuff.” Gabrielle felt a slightly warm smile form. “Don’t be so fast to grow up, enjoy your childhood Neola because when it’s lost it’s lost forever.” Fedora felt a smile form if anything Gabrielle was very good with children and teenagers she had a real gift for keeping their attention. She could see that she was smiling a little when talking even in werewolf form she very rarely smiled so clearly something in her life was making her much happier.

No doubt it was the Empress who as she’d been told by her daughter had spent much more time in Gabrielle’s company and was making her much happier. She breathed in breaking out of her thoughts as she looked at the children. “You know I think Gabrielle has had a lot of questions from you all tonight so you should let her relax while I tell you a story.” Kaia looked up slightly. “Can Gabrielle tell the story?” Gabrielle eyed the little girl she raised her clawed hand. “Look you really don’t want that, I’m not that good with stories.” Fedora smiled as she took the scroll of the desk where the painted and carved griffin was seated which Gabrielle had given her, she turned slowly to her. “Please read them the scroll it’s the story of Ares and Aphrodite’s battle over Athens.” Gabrielle took hold of the scroll slowly unrolling it she looked at the children who were waiting in anticipation she eyed the scroll as she began to read it slowly.

8

Joxer looked up watching as Jace entered the throne room, he slowly poured wine in to a bronze goblet as he turned to face him. “You’re back late.” Jace adjusted his shirt. “I was busy brother.” He eased out his curved dagger twirling it. “I had company.” Joxer eyed his horned helmet which was sitting next on the table. “Ah that kind of company, I see.” He took a slow drink from his goblet. “You know just once I’d like to meet this man you run too late at night.” Jace smirked as he eyed his bother. “No you wouldn’t.” Joxer felt a smile form. “Why does he have a lust for killing like you?” Jace lowered his gaze. “Look brother you don’t have to take an interest in my relationship I know it’s not your thing.” Joxer walked over patting his twin brothers shoulder watching as he pushed his medium length hair back. “I’m not Jett, I know he hated that your weren’t in to women, but you know I’m not like that and I’ve already lost one brother, I don’t want loose you no matter what happens, we are family we need to stick close.”

Jace folded his arms. “Jett was foolish he disobeyed your orders, he didn’t see the bigger picture, but you know what he was like he was always arrogant and self centred the most foolish thing of all was he was forever trying to gain your approval. Maybe he thought killing the Empress would be the ultimate way to please you.” He lowered his gaze to the floor. “I still miss him though.” Joxer stepped away from him. “So do I Jace.” Jace eyed his dagger. “I came here because I had a few important things to report.” Joxer poured him a goblet of wine then carefully passed him the goblet watching as he took it. “Please go ahead and tell me what’s going on at late.”

Jace looked up slightly. “Well our spy has reported back from the Empress’s palace they apologise for the very late report but a lot has gone on recently and a lot has changed.” Joxer raised an eyebrow. “So is Gabrielle a prisoner in the palace at Corinth?” Jace took a sip from his goblet. “At first yes the Empress very much treated her like an animal in fact she even had her paraded around in front of the royals in chains.” Joxer felt his fist smash the desk hard causing it to rattle. “That bitch how dare she do that to Gabrielle! She is not an animal she is a clever and very intelligent woman!” Jace put his dagger away as he raised his hand he knew fully well Joxer’s temper was never nice but it was very rare that he got this angry he was always so level headed. “Just hear me out brother before you blow up and break something in anger like you did the last time.”

He took a sip from his goblet. “The Empress changed her mind somewhere down the line don’t ask how or why the details are very sketchy. Now Gabrielle is a guest in her palace she gives her everything she wants and she’s treating her very well. She even said that Gabrielle could leave but Gabrielle hasn’t left and has made no effort to return to Grand City.” Joxer blinked in confusion as he felt his temper fade away. “Why would she stay? That’s not like her at all.” Jace put down his goblet as he pulled out two rolled scrolls from his pocket. “Our spy sent us these two scrolls at great personal risk, these scrolls do not go out to the royals and other important people until tomorrow these are two of the first copies ever made.” He unrolled the scrolls putting them on the table in front of his brother. “I think this might be the reason for her staying.” Joxer turned eyeing both scrolls, one was written in normal Greek sighed by the Empress as well as Gabrielle along with both of there seals. The other scroll was in werewolf tongue again with both signatures a both seals. He could read werewolf hand perfectly Gabrielle had taught him how, he eased it up reading it.

“I Gabrielle the Golden Horn wish to speak to you all from the bottom of my heart and soul.

I ask you to read this scroll where ever you may see it, for this is a scroll that will tell you all that the hunting law put in to place is now at an end. With my seal I give my approval to the second scroll you may have read in human hand.”

I ask that you now stop hunting the humans who have been hunting us and I ask that you send me letters regarding any issues you have to the palace of Corinth as your Horn Hind I will do everything in my power to see that you are fairly treated and that all disputes are looked in to.

This is going to be a changing time for our race and I want to help you all and I am working with Empress in Corinth to ensure that we are now treated as people and citizens of Greece as the Empress’s promised.

I am but one voice of many and one warrior among others, I am forever and eternally bound to my armour and want with my inner soul to show honour and courage to all.  For I am the one who’s horns rise to heaven of the serpent goddess. I am the first and last and I am destined and would give my life’s blood for all of you.”

Joxer felt a wide smile form. “Yes this suddenly does make much more sense it also explains why she haven’t left because her being there gives the power to do things with out the interference of those disgusting Imperial Council bastards.” He laughed slightly. “She’s making policy and over ruling them, my, my they are going to be so angry when they see these scrolls, I wish I could be there to see their faces.” He eyed the scrolls again. “Still they’ve never liked Gabrielle, she’s always been much harder to control than her predecessor. She’s magnificent compared to them she deserves to be the true king while they fade and rot away in to nothingness.” Jace felt a smile form. “You care about her don’t you?” Joxer stood up slightly. “Yes brother I do, I consider her a very loyal friend.”

He turned to him. “Be sure to reward the palace spy well.” Jace nodded he eyed his bother. “I will.” He paused before speaking. “I do have one other thing to report that may interest you.” Joxer eyed him. “What’s that?” Jace felt a wide smile form. “A bunch of illegal slave traders had the audacity to try and sell us some men, women and children.” Joxer breathed in deeply. “You know how I feel about slave traders I hope you showed them my feelings.” Jace smirked as he looked at him. “If you mean did I spill their guts and make their death’s excruciatingly painful then yes.” Joxer breathed in deeply. “Just be sure to give the men, women and children their freedom papers and some dinars then help them on there way.”

Jace breathed in deeply. “Well that’s what this about you may want to keep one of the female slaves.” Joxer slammed his goblet down hard. “I hate slavery, I have no interest in keeping any woman as a slave. Have you forgotten that it was Roman slavers who killed our parents and sold us off as play things to a Roman master who made our lives Tartarus until we all worked together as teenagers and killed him then escaped Rome for good!” Jace eased up his hand. “Just hear me out brother please you really need to see this female slave before you free her.” Joxer felt his body tense. “Fine then, bring her in but this had better be good brother!” Jace turned giving a signal watching as the two men nodded then slowly opened the double doors. A male and female warrior came in bringing in a tall woman who was in tattered rags which were covered in dirt. She hadn’t been well fed and even under the torn rags he could see her ribs which were showing through slightly.

Joxer turned to freezing in mid motion watching as the woman violently pulled herself free of both the warriors who were holding her. Jace watched as the other men closed the door he felt a smile form. “As you can see she’s quite special.” Joxer turned to his brother feeling his anger fade away. “My deepest apologises brother I misjudged your intent forgive me.” Jace nodded respectfully. “No harm done.” Joxer walked forward eyeing the tall woman who looked at him in disgust he could see the hatred burning in her deep sea blue eyes. Her long messy hair was light red in colour but give it some black henna dye and the illusion would be complete as to who she would look like. He folded his arms coming closer to her. “Welcome to my throne room.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed as she spoke coldly. “The original slavers who took me from my home town in Pylos spared no time in raping me. Just take in to mind that if you try to do the same thing I’ll do everything in my power to rip off your cock and shove it down your throat until you choke on it, you bastard!” Joxer raised an eyebrow eyeing his brother. “She’s quite charming.” He turned back to the woman. “I’m sorry but you misunderstand my intent, I have no interest in raping you or causing you any more harm than you’ve already suffered. I believe any woman who comes to my bed chamber should come because she wishes it not because I’ve ordered it.” He paused. “My twin brother here also hates slavers just like me, which is the reason that he killed all the slaver traders and their leader, no doubt you witnessed that?”

The woman eyed him in disgust. “Yes I witnessed him having his fun it was enough to make me throw up, so thank you for that, I’m so grateful.” Jace leaned against table. “As you can see she’s very spirited.” Joxer smiled as he stepped closer to the tall woman. “How long have you been a slave?” The woman looked up slightly. “Nine years in all they tried to sell me over in Rome but it didn’t work out there, so they were selling me back over the border illegally.” Joxer eyed her right arm catching sight of a burnt in branding on her shoulder the branding of a trouble marker which was the Roman number X which read ten under it was a bulls head. He breathed in deeply he had this very same brand burnt in to his shoulder. His Roman master used to beat him constantly for his behaviour because he’d been the most outspoken of his brothers in the end he’d been given him this very brand as a form of humiliation.

He looked up slightly. “Did you choke your master with his own man hood by any chance?” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “I tried very, very hard.” Joxer felt a smile form. “Good for you I hate those Roman bastards one used to be my master right up until me and my brother slit his throat with a carving knife.” He watched as she looked up the surprise appearing in her eyes. “Watching him die was such a pleasure, believe me.” He breathed in deeply seeing that he now had her full attention. “My name is Joxer and I’m the Warrior King, or the thorn in the Empress’s side depending on what you hear.” He put a hand on his chin. “What’s your name?” The woman breathed in deeply. “My name is Leah though my master used to insult by calling me slave woman.”

Joxer looked up. “Then I’ll call you Leah and I’ll also say that no harm will come to you here, you’ll be well treated and looked after until your feeling better.” He paused looking up. “I will sign your papers giving you freedom, but personally I’d like you to stay here with me.” Leah eyed him for a long moment. “Why what possible use could you have with me?” Joxer felt his smile form. “Do you have any idea how much you resemble the Empress of Greece?” Leah rolled her eyes. “Oh yes I’m well aware of it! It’s the reason my Roman master liked to try and force himself up on me daily!” Joxer raised a hand. “Well I’m not interested in you in that manner, in fact I want to turn you in to a warrior, I’ll train you and pay you well.” Leah narrowed her gaze. “Why do this for me, I mean what’s in it for you?” Joxer looked up slightly. “You get to make the Empress of Greek look like a fool and you’ll get to kill every illegal slaver alive and castrate them.” Leah looked at him for a long moment before speaking. “I don’t care for the Empress of Greece personally but I do like the idea of killing slave traders a lot, they killed my parents and my little brother.”

Joxer moved over easing a broad sword free from one of the racks he raised it handing it to her carefully watching as she took it looking at the gleaming blade. “Then welcome to my home Leah, we take very good care of our own here in my underground city, though you will have to get used to the werewolves who are loyal to me here as they walk around at night on guard duty.” Leah looked up sharply. “Werewolves, there are werewolves here?!” Joxer stepped back putting his hands behind his back watching as Jace smirked. “Oh yes we have ten here there our friends.” Leah breathed in deeply feeling the shock hit home. “But I thought werewolves were slobbering, violent monsters!” Joxer shook his head. “No their intelligent self aware beings who can talk, they also have a human form and I have an alliance their king.”

End of part 47

 

A DEEP AND NOBLE ACT OF TRUST

There is nothing more beautiful than a bird I could watch them all day until dawns light fades. I know when this all started it was when I spent time alone in the wilderness before the werewolf scout found me. I remember being so damn hungry I’d eat any animal I could find, I remember stalking a pair of Blue Throats in the dawns light who’d been feeding on the ground. I caught one and I remember bringing it to my jaws to eat it and I just stopped, because of the sound it was making and the look in its tiny black eyes as it stared back at me. I couldn’t bring myself to eat it and I realized for the first time that it was the most beautiful little thing I’d ever seen. It was a moment of complete revelation that some things in the wilderness are beautiful and I shouldn’t eat them despite how hungry I feel.

I remember opening my clawed hand and watching as hoped on to my clawed fingers with such gentle grace before flying away from me, I hadn’t injured it when I’d caught it, I watched as it flew away like a symbol of freedom.  I never hunted wild birds again after that I just preferred to watch them it was one of the things that kept me sane through out that bitter year. I always knew when ever I felt sad I could go and watch the birds, I really hated watching werewolves bring back wild birds to the underground city during my training because I knew they were never intended to be pets instead they were purely for the dinner table. I found it really vile then and I still find the idea of eating wild birds vile, I know I broke that rule recently when I killed and eat one of Xena’s peacocks.

At the time I was so hungry that I couldn’t think straight it felt like the same burning pulsing hunger I’d had in the pit where my stomach felt like it was boiling and the pain had been never ending. I found myself killing the bird so quickly before I could even stop myself, my werewolf hunger completely conquering my brains rational thought. As bad as it was it had tasted so good to me at the time, it was fresh meat and my horns had both just fallen out, which had been deeply painfully. When they came out it was extremely painful as they came out at the root of the bone and it made me feel dizzy and sick and that’s when the agonizing hunger started. I confess I still don’t remember who put me in the pit I remember being in the cells with the Northern Alliance then a guard took me out.

Next thing I know I’m in a dark room then he then leaves me, then I was struck with a heavy wooden bar from behind which knocked me out. After that everything becomes blurry and painful. I just remember coming around and seeing a blurry shadow as I was dragged across the stone floor in a dimly lit area. The next thing I know I’m bolted in chains and I hear the lever turn as I’m sent downwards. Then all the light vanished from my eyes as I wake up fully in a dark place I tried so hard to break my chains but I couldn’t do so as I was weak and tired. Every day a tray of food was lowered down in to my prison it was a vile tasting vegetable stew which is thick with drugs.

Drugs which kept me feeling sick and weak and then it all just fades in to one streaming nightmare as I slowly forgot my self in the darkness of the pit. That’s all I remember I wish I could remember more I try everyday and I get nothing. It’s deeply frustrating as I want to remember and I know Xena wants me to remember because she wants to lock up the person who caused me so much pain and suffering. Gabrielle looked up from her position on the floor where she was lying close to the balcony where she’d laid out some corn she was keeping very still watching as the small birds landed very close by eating the grains, she looked up sharply as the birds flew away as the central door was opened.

She watched as the Xena walked through a wide smile on her face as she came slowly towards her. Xena breathed in eyeing the younger woman who didn’t move from her position on the floor close to her balcony curtains. She eyed the wrapped red and gold cloth package in her hands inside it were two light weight Xiphos swords along with scabbards. They were brand new and she requested them specially last night, they’d arrived first thing this morning. She’d been thinking about giving Gabrielle weapons and she’d come to the conclusion that giving her them was the right thing to do. Gabrielle was her friend and not her enemy and she should be allowed to carry weapons and be allowed to train.

The younger a woman was a warrior by nature and it she must be feeling slightly lonely with out her swords and her giving them back would be a symbol of trust. There was more though she’d been thinking about Demetrius’s words, Gabrielle was clearly a much better fighter than Iona and as Iona wouldn’t be well enough to hold a weapon for a while she realized then that she needed protection and Gabrielle could give her that. She could help her until Iona was well enough to take back her position. Word had it that Iona had only just started walking around the healer’s room but it was clear she was still very tender and not strong enough to even raise her sword. A day ago she’d gotten a scroll demanding an emergency meeting from one of the diplomats and she knew she needed Gabrielle’s help she turned eyeing the younger woman. “What are doing?”

Gabrielle sat up slowly put didn’t stand up as the taller woman came to stand next to her. “I was feeding the birds.” Xena blinked as she looked at her. “What is it you find so fascinating about feeding the birds?” Gabrielle grabbed her by her skirt forced her down to her knees ignoring her surprise. “If you are really quite you’ll see.” She eased her hand in to the bowl of grain throwing some on the balcony close by then leaned over keeping her voice at a whisper. “They’ll land really close to us.” Xena turned keeping still watching as everything went quite she heard the loud chirping as three Dead Sea Sparrows flew in landing on the branch feeders which had food on them.

One of them leapt off gently landing on the balcony it walked up the grain which was close to the curtain then slowly began to eat it. Gabrielle raised her hand eyeing the small bird. “That’s what I love so much there so tiny and delicate and yet they fly for miles to find food and water, there the greatest symbol of freedom.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “Is that what you’d like to be able to do, to fly like they do?” Gabrielle looked down for a long moment in thought before looking up. “Some days I do yes, but I know it’s not possible no human can fly and nether can any werewolf only Ouroboros can fly.” Xena watched as the Dead Sea Sparrow flew away from them going back to the feeders on the balcony. Somehow Gabrielle’s love of birds now made so much sense she loved them for their freedom, freedom was something she’d had very little off in her life thanks to the Imperial Council and she could understand the younger woman’s longing to just fly away, but because she’d never been able to she’d instead developed a deep love for birds as they could do so.

She eased up the cloth woven gift feeling the need to change the subject. “I brought you a gift.” Gabrielle blinked as she slowly stood up watching as the other woman did the same. “You brought me a gift?” Xena eased the package forward. “Please take it I brought for you specially.” Gabrielle slowly took the cloth from her hand trying to ignore the uncertainty she was feeling. She slowly opened the cloth watching as two light weight Xiphos swords came in to view both had bronze hilt’s as well as dark brown leather scabbards. She felt the shock hit home as she turned to the taller woman. “You’re giving me weapons?” Xena felt a smile form. “You’re a warrior you deserve to have your weapons given back to you.”

Gabrielle carefully placed one sword down with the cloth opposite as she eased up the other sliding it free of its scabbard eyeing the gleaming blade. She could tell just by looking at it that it was an expensive sword and of the highest quality. Xena raised an eyebrow. “If theses are not what you want I can get you something better.” Gabrielle carefully pushed the sword back in to the scabbard. “No their perfect and I’m deeply grateful I just don’t understand why, you saw what I did to Iona.” Xena eased up her hand. “It’s for that very reason I’m giving you these weapons Gabrielle, you’re clearly a very gifted warrior and the truth is.” She paused before speaking. “I need your help.”

Gabrielle looked up sharply. “My help?” Xena turned to meet her gaze. “In two days a formal diplomat from Corinth is coming here, no doubt it’s probably to complain about the fact that I’ve ended the hunting law as the copies of the scrolls went out today to all those in power. He’ll probably be the first of many to complain but I’m not changing my mind on this issue the hunting of werewolves in now illegal and will remain so.” The breathed in deeply. “I do not trust this man or his wife it was his brother who stole from my coffers and I had him hung for his miss deeds so there is already animosity between us.” Gabrielle looked at the sword in her hand. “You need my protection in Iona’s absence don’t you?” Xena looked up sharply gods this woman was so damn sharp at times she didn’t miss a thing. “Yes.”

She took in a deep breath. “There’s more to it than that, I need him to see a real werewolf, I need him to see you, to see how noble you are and I also need him to see that he is speaking to the Golden Hind and werewolf king, it will put any issues to rest.” Gabrielle looked down for a long moment before looked up to meet the other woman’s uncertain gaze. “You gave my people life, when you sighed that document ending the hunting law.” She breathed in deeply before speaking. “You gave us citizenship and human rights as well as a future for that I will help you in any way you wish.” She felt her eyes dart. “You’ve also done everything in your power to make my life here happier after what happened with the royals some time ago and I now consider you my friend, not my enemy.”

Xena felt her smile widen as she put her hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Thank you that means a great deal to me.” Gabrielle eyed the other woman’s hand clearly Xena liked to touch and it really was something she was going to have to get used to. She just finding it so difficult, as it was a very gentle and kind touch like the kind Damokles used to give her. Her last lover’s touch though had never been this kind it had always been harsh and cruel. Always demanding of her always wanting and never giving and it had made her so wary of being touched by other women. She could still hear that bitch’s voice in the back of her mind taunting her, abusing her, putting her down, and telling that that she just had to do what the Imperial Council said.

Forever listening to this woman’s lies and hating that she was her advisor while feeling her heart start to freeze over in the worst possible way as she started to loose her confidence in herself. She’d had other women as lovers in her teens she enjoyed their company as much as men but this woman had ruined that feeling for her in every way possible and made her very wary of emotional touches. She breathed in meeting Xena’s gaze this woman though wasn’t her and despite what had happened between them, they’d come so far. Xena had now given her back her weapons as an act of trust and she’d been completely noble to her word ever since that day when she’d grabbed her in werewolf form and hung her up in mid air.

She lowered her gaze. “Your welcome.” Xena turned sharply watching as Thaleia walked in holding Gabrielle’s breakfast tray she froze the surprise appearing in her eyes as she spoke. “My deepest apologises Empress I didn’t know you were in here.” Xena turned slowly to her easing her hand of Gabrielle’s shoulder. “It’s okay Thaleia I should go now and let Gabrielle have her breakfast.” Thaleia watched as the Empress gave her a warm smile as she walked through the middle door closing it behind her. She felt her smile turn to a wide grin as she placed Gabrielle’s breakfast down on the table. “You know it looked like you two were sharing a moment.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes as she turned to her friend. “No we weren’t.”

She sat herself down in the chair watching as Thaleia sat down opposite her she raised one of the swords so she could see it. “Xena has asked me for help and I said that I would help her, she’s given me weapons so I can do so.” Thaleia eyed the gleaming weapon as Gabrielle put it on the table. “Do you think that the Empress is a very beautiful woman?” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Can we please not talk about this Thaleia?” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “I’m just curious though, I mean you never talk about your past relationships with men or women.” Gabrielle looked up as she picked up her fork eyeing her warm breakfast. “That’s because other than Damokles I’ve had no other meaningful relationships worth talking about.”

8

Phantasos looked up at the Empress who had a very dark look in her eye gods he hated it when she went in to her moods. Maybe because nine times out of ten he knew he’d feel the back lash of her bad mood. He was the only person in the palace who knew about her sexual health something which no one else knew. He knew that she was having issues with conception he’d known for a very long time that she’d had this issue. She was a healthy woman who was fit and in her prime yet she couldn’t have a child and over the last three years he had been testing every possible remedy he had heard off to fix this issue and so far nothing had worked.

Now he was starting doubt that it was a matter of timing in terms of her bearing her child. She always tried when she was at her sexual peak before her cycle and she had, had no success. The gladiator who was helping her had a very high success rate when it came to making women pregnant, yet he had never been able to do the same for the Empress. This led him now to one clear conclusion that it was nothing to do with timing or her lover and that it was an issue with the womb itself. An issue which he didn’t have the experience to fix and he didn’t want to take the risk off opening her up to fix it as it could kill her in the process, he’d seen to many men and women die due to the stupidity of healers who thought they knew better.

The problem now was telling her this because he knew she wouldn’t take it well. No woman liked to be told that they couldn’t have children it was a huge blow to their self esteem, they could also become very deeply depressed. He breathed in putting a hand through his beard watching as she turned sharply pulling up a small empty bottle. Xena eyed Phantasos as she threw the small glass bottle on his desk. “Your remedy isn’t working! I’ve tried it twice now and I’m not carrying a child!” Phantasos sat up slowly putting his hands together. “It’s been a day Empress, you have to wait these things take time.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “I waited all last month for results and I had none!” Phantasos shook his head he was not looking forward to saying this. “We have tried every remedy there is out there to try, you’ve tried all positions and you even have a very fertile sexual partner with a high success rate. Have you considered that the problem may be inside your body itself?”

Xena turned sharply. “Well if it’s an issue of my body you should be able to fix it! That’s your job it’s what I pay for!” Phantasos lowered his gaze as he stood up from his desk, gods this was going to be so hard. “I’m not talking about an illness which can be cured Empress I’m talking about a real issue with your womb itself.” Xena froze as she turned to face him the shock hitting home. “Well if it’s an issue with my womb then you should cut me open and fix it!” Phantasos shook his head. “No Empress I will not risk your life in that way, I’ve seen far too many woman die due to the stupidity of healers who think they have power of the gods when it comes to childbirth or fixing internal organs which they don’t understand!”

Xena stepped closer to him. “Well then I order you to open me up and fix the problem!” Phantasos breathed in painfully. “No Empress I refuse to do that, I won’t risk your life over this, you are to important here in Greece if your enemies see you as sick or ill they will swarm this palace given the chance.” Xena turned feeling the anger take over. “If I have no child to sit on my throne they will swarm to this palace as soon as I get old and start to loose my health!” Phantasos folded his arms. “Have you considered that you can still have a child by adopting one and should you fall in love with a man or a woman you can both try and work something out, which will benefit the kingdom?” Xena eyed him unable to stop her blinding rage as it boiled in the pit of her stomach. “Who’s going to love me Phantasos?!”

She raised her hand. “Almost every man and woman who has slept with me since the death of my husband just wants power, it’s the reason I have an empty throne sitting next to me, because I can’t find someone who will love me unconditionally.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “What about Calicos, the gladiator?” Xena slowly met his concerned gaze feeling the pain as it wrenched at her heart. “He doesn’t love me Phantasos, he never has to him my being pleasured is no more than a service. I’ve even asked him that question myself but he said he has no interest in ruling this kingdom, he loves the roar of the arena and the joy of combat.” She put a hand on her face trying to ignore the pain as she spoke. “I can’t make him love me and I won’t force him in to a position like that. He would never be happy his soul would freeze over in side this palace and he’d forever be looking beyond the palace walls.” Phantasos stepped closer to her seeing the intense pain in her eyes. “You deserve to have someone’s love Empress, you deserve to be happy.”

Xena turned walking towards the door she just wanted to go to bed it was late at night and this conversation had made her feel truly unhappy it brought home all her fears and inner pains and she didn’t want to deal with them at this moment in time as it hurt far too much. “We don’t get what we want in this life Phantasos it’s the way of the world and a curse of the gods.” Phantasos watched sadly as she opened the door the pain was as clear as day in her face. “My father used to say that we normally find love when we are not seeking it Empress.” Xena turned to look at him for a long moment before looking at the floor as she spoke. “Goodnight Phantasos.” She didn’t think as she closed the door behind not looking back.

She looked at the empty dark night corridor with its lit torches not even Gabrielle was walking around at this hour she was in bed asleep. Somehow that made her feel even lonelier but she didn’t want to wake up the younger woman at this hour ether, she didn’t get enough sleep as it was. She looked down she didn’t want to contend with the truth that her womb couldn’t hold a child ether. She wanted to forget that she’d ever heard that comment as it felt like it was tearing her heart in two. She eased up her hand wiping away the tears as they began to roll down her face before she could stop as she tried to ignore the tearing pain in her heart. She took in a deep breath as she carried on walking down the empty corridor. She wasn’t barren! She was just doing something wrong that was it all it was and once she fixed it she would be able to get pregnant!”

End of part 48

THE DEEPEST AND MOST UNKNOWN EMOTION

 

Xena yawned trying to rub the sleep out of her eyes she’d slept in late this morning and her whole body was aching. She had, had her breakfast but it hadn’t made her feel any better. She had decided to take a walk in the royal gardens just to clear her head which felt like a jumbled mess of things she still didn’t want to think about after last nights event. She adjusted her armour catching sight of Demetrius who standing by the training ground watching something. She shrugged her shoulders trying to get rid of the dull ache in them as she walked towards him watching as he turned to her his calm voice hitting the air. “Good morning Empress.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Good morning.” She paused realizing for the first time what he’d been looking at. Gabrielle was some way from them standing close to one of the thick wooden training posts.

She was sparing with both swords intensively it was a rush of fluid motion as she spun the blades in a lightning fast motion practicing her style. The interesting thing though was the share intensity of her training she was so deeply focused on her weapons that everything else didn’t exist to her at this moment. She was even oblivious to the fact that she was being watched by Demetrius and a few of the other servants, who seemed very perplexed by her training. She turned slowly to Demetrius. “How long has she been training?” Demetrius put a hand on his beard. “About two hour’s straight so far she’s only stopped once to drink from a water skin but that’s it. She clearly takes her training as seriously as you do, since you do two hours a day if not more.” He raised an eyebrow as he turned fully to face her. “I see that you took my advice and gave her weapons.”

Xena looked away allowing her eyes to fall upon Gabrielle. “You were right, I need her and I need her protection in Iona’s absence, she’s clearly very gifted when it comes to combat.” Demetrius followed her gaze to Gabrielle. “The style she’s using is Thracian, but it’s much faster because she’s not weighted down by a heavy Aspis shield.” He looked up slightly. “There are also a few moves she used so far which I’ve never seen before clearly the werewolves have changed the style slightly. The moves remind me off those from China where the warrior use’s his or her heel to spin on or they put their whole body weight in to the blow to make it much faster than normal.”

Xena nodded suddenly finding that her full focus was now on Gabrielle whose long fringe was damp with sweat as her now over shoulder length hair flowed through the air with her motions. She could see every one of her muscles rippling even under the white fabric of her shirt as well as her leg muscles tensing under her dark trousers as she forced her heel in to the ground suddenly spinning on it as she swung both swords outwards in a looping motion skimming past the wooden post. She felt herself breath in deeply it had been so long since she’d seen a woman with this much love for fighting and practice she could see it in every swing of Gabrielle’s sword. She carried on staring there was no denying that Gabrielle was an attractive and very beautiful woman, though she didn’t seem to even realize it.

She had seen that in her after she’d been brought out of the pit but it wasn’t just attractiveness and beauty that defined Gabrielle, it was her sense of presence and will power. She didn’t just lie back and do as she was told like many others did she fought back. If she thought something wasn’t right she’d say how she felt about it, she’d challenged her in so many of their talks and had never given in. Maybe what surprised her most was Gabrielle was a royal figure yet she never seemed to conform to the rules that most royals followed. She wasn’t pompous or arrogant, she was kind and thoughtful and people liked her because of this. There was never any political smoke or back stabbing and watching her train truly showed the reason why there wasn’t any off this.

The younger woman was clearly a warrior at her heart it was the reason she had such a high sense of honour and nobility about her and when she didn’t have the sword in her hand the other part of her personality came in to the light. The clever and focused carpenter who liked to build and create things she had a very clear understanding of moving parts as she could make a small wooden bird whose wings could snap open with a thumb press. The strange thing was that she seemed completely blinkered to her own accomplishments she was always very modest about her carvings and even though she had brought down Iona who was in essence one of her best warriors, she’d not really made a big deal out of it. She breathed in deeply the truth was she always found herself perplexed by Gabrielle and that feeling was still as strong as ever, even now.

“Empress?”

Xena snapped out of her thoughts turning to Demetrius. “Sorry what were you saying?” Demetrius blinked that was a first, the Empress hadn’t listened to anything he’d just said her eyes had been completely focused on Gabrielle the whole time. He felt a smile form clearly she liked her in some way he could see it in her eyes. “I was just saying that I’m grateful that you went with my idea of giving Gabrielle weapons.” Xena watched as Gabrielle stopped doing a hard thrusting move which she held for a long moment before standing up. She eased both swords up putting them in to the leather scabbards which were crossed on back and attached to a thick leather piece which was partly hidden under her shirts collar.

She turned to Demetrius. “Your idea was a very good one I’m just annoyed with myself for being slow in the up take.” Demetrius looked up slightly. “Well you and Gabrielle needed time to work things out so I can understand the delay and as I hear it you two are now friends.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Yes we are.” She paused before speaking again. “Would you excuse me for one moment Demetrius?” Demetrius felt his smile widen as he nodded calmly. “Of course Empress.” Xena moved slowly towards the younger woman who was taking a long drink from the water skin completely obvious to her presence, she stopped a few feet away from her folding her arms. “You’re very skilled with two swords.”

Gabrielle pulled the water skin away from her lips she turned sharply watching as the taller dark haired woman came in to view. She poured some water in to her hand then wiped her neck with it feeling its cooling effects. “I’m out of practice it’s been a long time since I’ve been in the thick off battle.” Xena stepped closer putting her hand on her shoulder feeling her tense but not as much as she normally did. “When was the last time you were in real battle?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “When I took werewolf trainees to Mount Nessus with Damokles, we never liked the Romans and we used to fight them at the border, it was truly honourable battle sword to sword, face to face.”

Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Your people stop the Roman’s getting through that snow mountain?” Gabrielle nodded calmly. “The Roman’s created the arena dog fights which the Greek werewolves loath, we go to great lengths to stop them getting through that freezing mountain passage. Even I speak there’s probably a werewolf patrol up there right now killing any Roman who tries to get through the pass.”  Xena blinked feeling the surprise hit home. “I’ve been sending the best warriors I have up there for years to protect that passage and they always tell me that the place is completely littered with dead Roman bodies, but they have never seen these men die.”

Gabrielle looked down slightly. “We spent so much time up in that mountain that we got used to running rings around your warriors and avoiding them when ever we saw them.” Xena moved to stand in front of her keeping her hand in place on her shoulder. “Why didn’t your people attack mine, why avoid them?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Mount Nessus is as important to us as it is to you, we don’t want to start a war on that mountain it’s our only way of getting in to Rome as much as it is yours.” She looked up slightly she could remember every part of that cold mountain, the blizzards and the ice cold breeze and the distant memories of clashing swords on that mountain passage.

8

Gabrielle sliced her sword’s blade across the Roman warrior’s throat in a lightning fast motion. She shoved him forward watching as he hit the ground hard his body twitched as death took over while his blood streamed out turning the snow red. She watched as Damokles sword thrust forward going straight in to another Roman’s throat. He brought up his heavy boot kicking him in to ground causing more blood to stain the white snow off Mount Nessus. She loathed Roman dog hunting parties, they had one purpose and that was to lure willing werewolves back to Rome. The idea was that these willing werewolves would help them by biting innocent slaves and in doing so would turn them. These slaves would become werewolves and there lives would end in the gladiatorial arenas as the Romans applauded with joy, the whole thing was disgusting on so many levels.

She sneered as she eyed the dead bodies her gaze drifted to her bloody sword she was now twenty one and had become Damokles second in command. They did all there missions together now the others in her unit had been moved to more fitting units which suited them better based on their skills. Her self and Damokles were now training seven very young werewolves warriors turning them in to full warriors, ironically she had been like them some years back. She had never slipped up again after being flogged back when she was nineteen. She had been in agony for four long days after that event. Looking back on it though she was glad it had happened, she wasn’t cut out to hunt other werewolves and it wasn’t a job she could do, her heart was too conflicted by the notion of capturing innocents among her own kind.

She was far better suited to tracking and getting rid of threats to the werewolf society like humans warriors and such. She breathed out watching as her cold breath travelled though the morning air. She loathed the cold, she’d never liked it that long year alone had always stuck in her mind freezing inside dark caves was no fun. She breathed in pushing one of her swords back in to its scabbard then walked over to the fallen regiment’s eagle banner which was now lying in the deep snow soaked in blood, she picked it up eyeing it disgust. One thing that shamed the Romans more than anything was having their banners taken from them. She felt a cruel smile form, oh yes they’d take this one back to the Grand City and display it as a trophy.

“This mans still alive!”

Gabrielle turned watching as one of the recruits forced a man up on to his knees whose shoulder was dripping with blood from a deep wound, oh how nice he could be a messenger. She eyed the recruit. “Pull him up on to his feet.” She watched as the young recruit did as he was told instantly, she walked slowly towards the bleeding Roman seeing the fear in his eyes. “I want a chat.” She could see Damokles watching her closely near by, she eased up her weapons blade running it across the Roman’s lower throat very carefully as not to cut the skin. Her gaze drifted to his armour which gave away his rank as she moved her sword’s blade putting the tip under his chin. “How unfortunate for you Centurion, you get to live.” The Roman warrior eyed her in disgust before speaking. “You will pay for this! Rome will destroy you, you are a traitor to Julius Caesar and the Greek Empress and their alliance!” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “Oh so you haven’t heard the news? Julius Caesar died a week ago, rumour has it, it was a high fall from his own balcony possibly murder. Your Emperor is dead and word has it the Empress is going to return Greece. So there is no longer an alliance between our two lands and as off right now you’re an intruder on Greek soil.”

She moved her sword’s tip out from under his chin. “Go tell your leaders that we send them our regards and that we’ve captured your regiment’s eagle.” She nodded watching as he was thrown in to the snow by the recruit he got up running in the opposite direction for all he was worth, clearly he knew better than to try anything foolish. She took in a deep breath eyeing the recruits. “As a rule of the Imperial Council you are allowed to take anything you want from the bodies. All food, money and scrolls must be brought back to the Grand City though, if you want trophies like helmets or swords take them.” She breathed in deeply watching as they started to look around them at the dead bodies, she’d been doing this for such a long time now and still she didn’t care for looting, the whole idea of it really disgusted her even now.

8

Xena looked at the younger woman for a long moment she suddenly felt a smile form. “You took the regiment’s eagle?” Gabrielle nodded as she narrowed her gaze. “Yes we took it as a trophy piece.” Xena couldn’t stop her laugher as it hit the air she leaned forward enjoying the moment. “Oh gods that’s so funny, I remember getting the news about that in Rome just before I fled.” She stood up slightly trying to gain some control over her laughter. “They kept on telling me that the eagle had been stolen, over and over again and that I had to get it back but I told them it really wasn’t any of my concern because I would be leaving in two weeks time and it would be the duty of the next Emperor to find it.”

She breathed in finally calming herself. “Where is this eagle now, I’ve always wanted to know what happened to it?” Gabrielle looked at the other woman for a long moment she didn’t really understand what it was she found so amusing. She looked at the grass under her boots as she spoke. “It’s in the Grand City it used to be in the Imperial Council’s chambers but after I became Horn Hind I took it away from them as they had no right to own it.” She carried on staring at the grass under her feet. “I gave it to Damokles it was always his by right as we wouldn’t have been able take it if not for his clever tactics that day in mountain.” Xena eased up her hand putting it under her chin raising her head very slow causing her green eyes to meet her own. She knew she was very much with in Gabrielle’s personal space and that she always tensed when she touched her, even though she touched her gently.

Doing this felt so right to her though deep with in her heart and she didn’t really know why. She ignored the younger woman’s surprise as she spoke. “I can see why he loved you so much, you always do what’s noble and you don’t take the glory for yourself even if you deserve some of it.” Gabrielle breathed in she had no idea how this had happened it just had. The Empress was holding her head up very gently and she wasn’t resisting her may be because it was such a tender and gentle touch. She breathed in sharply snapping out of her thoughts as she took a step back freeing herself completely from the other woman’s touch. She felt her eyes dart as looked up. “You think too much off me Xena.”

Xena stepped closer to her. “You think to little of yourself Gabrielle, I’ve met many warriors in my life time but very few have your sense of honour.” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze she could see a very strange look in it and the blue eyes did nothing to hide it. It was so similar to the look Damokles used to give her. That longing look that always felt like it was reaching deep in to her heart, she felt her body tense, no she was seeing things it was just a mind playing tricks on her and she should know better than this. Her last lover used to look at her but never in that profound way, she just looked her up and down like a piece of meat she had been more interested in ripping her clothes off and giving her pleasure whether she was in the mood or not, it was always about owning her body because she couldn’t touch her heart or soul.

She slowly pulled out her pipe lighting it on one of the still lit fire torches close by, was just confusing herself and being foolish in the process. Xena wasn’t looking at her in the way Damokles used to she had no sexual attraction to her, why would she? She wasn’t a good looking woman she had an ugly scar on her face and she wasn’t that attractive.  On top of that she wasn’t even human and very few human beings man or woman would sleep with a werewolf. She put the pipe to her mouth breathing in the smoke as she looked up slightly. “I need to go and get a wash, perhaps well talk soon Xena.” Xena put her hands behind her back she could see the uncertainty and mild confusion in the other woman’s face.

Obviously her last action had been and she’d been very much inside Gabrielle’s personal space but somehow she didn’t regret doing it, she didn’t want to because it felt so right. She watched as Gabrielle turned around walking away from her breathing out the smoke from her pipe. Clearly her actions had made Gabrielle feel out of sorts though, she only ever smoked when she felt tense about things. She really wished that just for once the younger woman would just open up to her, she was forever wondering what was going on behind those forest green eyes. She was also sure that under all that tension was a charming and charismatic personality trying to break free. At least now though she smiled even though it was something of a half smile and never a full smile it showed that some of her emotion wounds were starting to heal, if only slightly.

End of part 49

 

A BROKEN VESSEL WHICH CAN’T HOLD WATER

Gabrielle breathed in deeply it was around midnight and the full moon was very high in the sky tonight. She was in werewolf form lying on the marble floor eyeing the two design concepts which she’d made, nether of which she could decide up on. She had an idea for a tall standing carving which would be for Fedora’s new teaching room which the children would hopefully like. The idea was that it would ether be a carving of Jason taking the Golden Fleece from the hydra or Peruses defeating the Kraken. At first she’d considered Theses but had thought better of it as Theses had never been a popular hero in Greece in fact he had been hated because of his self centred nature and cruelty. His vile and cruel nature towards the none human races had finally resulted in him being crucified by a Roman noble called Spartacus after he had betrayed the Roman werewolf Fortis Rebels who were led by two brothers named Romulus and Remus.

She’d never met ether of them but she’d been told that Remus was un-miserable as he was an albino werewolf with white hair and red eyes. Albinos were very rare in general as werewolf healing normally fixed problems, but Remus had been born with a poor healing. He didn’t heal as well as a normal werewolf and his healing factor couldn’t cure his fur and eye problems, because of this he was also quite thin and lacked muscle. Romulus was his bigger stronger brother with pure black fur and green eyes and he was protected his younger brother with a passion and he would kill anyone who tried to harm him. Spartacus was their human ally who supplied them with all their weapons and food, his vast power in his noble household meant that he could give them anything and he was willing to kill for them in exchange for protection from his enemies.

It was very much a secret in Rome but every Greek werewolf knew about it, she had heard about it as the brothers had wanted to start all out war in Rome and kill all those in power who were controlling the dog fights as well as any human’s who got in their way. They’d even sent a message to her asking for her help when she taken the throne as Horn Hind but she’d refused them despite that the Imperial Council had wanted nothing more than to join them. She would not have any part what so ever in a Roman blood bath where innocent men, women and children were massacred. On top of this she didn’t want their war spilling out over in to Greece as it would effect her people. They’d be caught up in a blood bath and she’d be forced to fight a war which she wanted no part in and the bastards on the Imperial Council would use the war as an excuse to kill hundreds of innocent people in Greece and hunt down any werewolves who had fled the underground cities and kill them.

She turned the parchment with her clawed finger eyeing her drawings why couldn’t she ever make up her mind when it came to her carvings? Her thoughts were suddenly broken as a scream of anger hit the air followed by the unmistakeable sound of shattering of pottery. She looked up sharply normally she didn’t concern herself with the sounds that came from the Xena’s room but she’d never liked the sound of pottery breaking. It reminded her off the time she’d spent as a trainee when she’d heard depressed young teenagers crying because they didn’t want to be werewolves or warriors. While others were crying because they missed their parents who had died or been killed so they had started to trash things in their room. She slowly stood up on her hind legs using her clawed foot to push her sketches carefully to one side as she walked towards the middle door.

She carefully pushed the door open watching as the Empress came in to view, she could see a goblet in her hand, she breathed in instantly smelling the wine which pieced her senses all too suddenly. She eyed the floor catching sight of the broken pottery which had been a wine jug. She eyed the taller woman who was clearly drunk and half stumbling in her velvet robe. “Xena?” Xena looked up ignoring the feeling of drunkenness which was filling her senses as she brought the goblet to her lips swallowing the last of the wine before throwing the goblet on to the table not caring where it landed. She couldn’t remember when she’d started drinking only that it had happened after she’d started thinking about the idea that she’d remain childless for ever and she’d found that thought so deeply depressing that she wanted to drown it away with wine.

She’d found one drink turning to another and now she was completely drunk yet she didn’t care, she felt a smile form as she leaned against her chair raising her hand. “Why hello there, do come in.” She looked up slightly. “So what do you werewolve’s have children or is puppies?” She smirked drunkenly. “No wait puppies, isn’t that the pet name for your breasts, the ones you have under all that fur?” Gabrielle slowly stepped inside the room the other woman was clearly very drunk, even more drunk than the time she’d had her paraded around in front of the royals. The big difference was that right now she was being a lustful drunk, rather than a cruel emotionless drunk. She felt her body freeze she could just walk out of the room and not look back but something told her that, that just wouldn’t we be right thing to do and if she did walk out right now she’d hate herself in the morning for not doing the right thing.

Xena was clearly too drunk to stand and if she drank anymore she’d probably make herself really ill if she wasn’t feeling ill already having downed a full pottery jug of wine before smashing it against the wall. Her gaze drifted to the white wall opposite she could see what was left of the wine dripping down it staining it red. She looked up slightly speaking calmly. “Werewolves can only have one or two children at a time Xena we don’t have litters like dogs do.” Xena breathed in painfully. “Must be real nice to a have child, you probably have no issue conveying because of that healing factor of yours right?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she wasn’t really sure where this was going. “It’s not well known for werewolves to have problem conveying no, why do you ask?”

Xena sat herself down in the chair despite how hard it was to focus. “You’re so lucky I’d love to be you.” She tensed as she spoke again. “You’re beautiful in human form and you still look good in werewolf form.” Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand. “That’s very nice of you to say but you are drunk.” Xena sat up sharply. “I’m not drunk!” She raised her hand as best she could. “Plus your one to talk, you get high by smoking opium.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply trying to ignore the anger as it twisted in her stomach she hated people pointing out that fact, even if it was true. She shook her head letting her anger go there was no point in being angry she was talking to a woman who was very drunk and who wasn’t thinking straight. “Yes I smoke opium, I guess everyone has weakness.” Xena lowered her gaze sadly. “Yes they do.” She spoke again unable to keep the pain and sadness from her voice. “I guess mine is that I can’t conceive.” Gabrielle blinked in surprise she moved closer to the other woman. “You can’t have children?” Xena looked up slightly ignoring the groggy, feeling in her mind. “Apparently not I’m the Empress of Greece and I can’t even conceive, how pathetic.”

She paused as dark thought went through her mind as she met Gabrielle’s gaze. “Maybe you can help me.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “I don’t understand?” Xena stood up moving towards her she pulled her robes sleeve up as the feeling the intense pain in her heart as she raised her arm. “Bite me! Make me like you, so my body can heal and I can have children!” Gabrielle stepped back she could see the desperation in the other woman’s eyes staring back at her. She now understood why she was drunk she wasn’t handling the truth of not being able to have children very well. She eased up a clawed hand pushing her arm down speaking calmly. “No Xena.” Xena didn’t think as she grabbed the fur on her friend’s chest with the other hand as her anger began to truly burn. “No you can’t or no you won’t!?”

Gabrielle eyed her hand which was clinging to her chest. “I can’t give you what you want, it’s not possible.” Xena eyed her in disgust. “You’re a werewolf you bite humans and then they become like you, how is it not possible!?” Gabrielle eased her clawed hand down gently freeing the other woman’s hand from her chest. “I don’t carry the curse anymore.” She shook her head ignoring the shock as it filled the light blue eyes. “You see the horns on my head that’s the reason I can’t give you want you want. I can no longer turn people, it’s the price every Horn Hind pays when we are given these horns as there can only ever be one.” She breathed in painfully. “Even if I did have the ability to turn you I wouldn’t make you like me, you wouldn’t want that believe me, once you loose your humanity you can never get it back and being this way makes for a hard life.”

Xena felt herself freeze on the spot she wanted to call Gabrielle a liar yet she knew better the other woman never lied it wasn’t in her nature and she refused to go down that path with her again. She was drunk but this time around she wouldn’t be stupid she breathed in feeling Gabrielle gently let go of her hand, she looked down feeling the sadness take over. “There’s always a price for being in a position of power isn’t there?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes there is but I don’t consider not being able to turn people as my price.” Xena looked up she could see the sadness in the green eyes she blinked in confusion. “What do you see as your price?” Gabrielle shook her mane. “I’ve lost everyone I loved, my family, my childhood best friend and the one I loved.” She lowered her gaze to the decorative floor. “You are fortunate with in this beautiful palace you have people who love you and who serve you because they admire you.”

Xena looked up slightly even though she was drunk Gabrielle’s reply had taken her completely by surprise. She put a hand on her face trying to clear the haze. “You are part of my family here, I consider you my friend.” She raised her other hand. “What’s mine is yours.” Gabrielle smiled but she knew it was a sad smile. “That’s kind of you to say.” In truth it was a very kind statement but Xena being drunk sadly meant that it might not be true. She knew full well that when people were drunk they could be much nicer than normal it was the alcohol talking. Xena moved back to sit down in her chair she was now starting to feel the painful sway of the room as the alcohol sunk in fully.

She was fighting it though as she had one question she really wanted to ask. “How did you and Damokles get together? I’ve always wanted to know.” Gabrielle looked up slowly she normally didn’t tell people about that moment as it had been one of the most profound moments in her life, but somehow it felt right  to talk about it maybe because Xena being drunk made her personality much more open. She slowly walked forward on all fours moving opposite chair where she sat down seeing that the light blue eyes were looking at her intensely. She closed her eyes for a long moment before opening them. “It happened the same night we stole the eagle from the Roman’s.”

8

Damokles looked up as Gabrielle walked inside his tent which had a warm fire burning inside it. He breathed in deeply seeing her confusion, which was understandable for all the time they’d been together they normally only talked strategies or recruits and didn’t talk about their personal lives. He wouldn’t lie he had watched her grow up from a young girl in to a beautiful mature woman who was a gifted warrior and good at leading others. He’d wanted to keep her by his side the rules stated that every captain could have a second in command, it was optional. He’d never wanted one in all these years, but he wanted her so badly that he’d pulled out the strings to make it so.

It was no lie that three other captains wanted her and he’d refused to give her up to any of them. The last thing he wanted was for her to go to any of them especially not to that woman called Adrienne she corrupted everything she touched. He’d seen the way she looked at her like she was nice piece of ass which she could sleep with. That was Adrienne’s mentality though she slept with any gender just so she could move up in the world, it was how she’d gotten her position as captain. Strange to think that Gabrielle had the same sexual tastes as her but he’d never seen her use sex as a weapon or a tool. To her sleeping with anyone regardless of gender was about commitment, she’d long since lost her interest in having sex for fun. There was no law against relationships among the warriors there never had been, warriors were free to pick and choose so long they kept with in the rule of half breeds not sleeping with full werewolves and vice versa.

Not that, that was an issue anymore the half breed population was now much bigger than the full werewolf’s population despite the death rate. This was something which the Imperial Council had overlooked and now were having issues with due to their short sightedness. After all it was much easier to a turn human than wait for eight months for a full werewolf to give birth to a daughter or son. He breathed in adjusting his fur skin which was covering his armoured shoulders he hadn’t transformed as he was very warm. He looked up slowly. “Ah there you are.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply easing up her hand adjusting her wrist gauntlet. “You asked for me?” Damokles smiled easing up his hand. “Please sit down.”

Gabrielle slowly sat herself down she was still confused as to why had he had brought her in to his private tent. Damokles raised a hot tankard of tea handing it to her watching as she took it. “Its green tea it’ll warm you up.” He took a sip from his own metal tankard watching as she drunk she looked very beautiful in the firelight, it brought out all the lighter green hues in her eyes and the gold tones in her hair. “We’ve never really talked have we?” Gabrielle blinked looking up. “No I don’t think we have.” Damokles felt his smile widen. “I’ve always wanted to apologise to you, but I’ve never found the right moment.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “If it’s about the flogging back when I was nineteen please don’t feel bad I know you meant well by sending me out on that mission, I just screwed it up I’m not the right person to bring in werewolves who have escaped from the Grand City.”

Damokles breathed in deeply. “You let that woman go though didn’t you?” Gabrielle felt herself tense sharply. “No, she escaped.” Damokles shook his head. “Please Gabrielle you shouldn’t lie to me, the reason I kept you as my second in command is because you have a high sense of honour and you say what you feel not what you think I want to hear. In my private tent you can say just what you feel as this conversation is between us no body else will ever hear what we talk about, I promise you that.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I let her go yes.” Damokles sipped his drink. “I thought you did, I would have done the same.” He ignored the shock as it spread across her face. “The Imperial Council doesn’t make things fair for those not born from werewolf parents.” Gabrielle looked at the fire. “No they don’t.”

Damokles felt his smile widen as he put down his tankard. “That’s something I’m glad we agree on.” He lowered his gaze feeling his smile fade. “But that was not what I wanted to apologise for, I want to apologise because I was the one who bit you and turned you all those years ago. I’ve wanted to speak to you about this for years, but the moment has never been right in my mind.” Gabrielle turned back to look at the fire she should have known this day was coming. “I’ve known that it was you for a long time, at first I hated you for it but I guess as the years went by I learnt how to deal with it. I mean you were saving me, the leader of the slavers would have raped me or worse.” Damokles breathed in deeply putting his hands together. “I saw how brave you were you set free all the other women before yourself.”

He lowered his gaze. “I admired that so much, it’s the law that if you see someone worthy of becoming a werewolf you bite them.” Gabrielle looked up slightly as she put her empty tankard down. “Damokles you don’t have to explain yourself I know what you were doing that night, I’ve turned many men and women during the time I’ve been here it’s just part of the order of things.” She looked deeper in to the fire. “You see yourself almost like their parent, even though your not, but it’s very rarely that they confront you over it, not that I blame them it’s hard to face your maker.” Damokles raised an eyebrow. “Very true, though I confess I got to know the person who turned me early on, I knew him right up until he died many years back.”

Gabrielle turned slightly. “That’s must have been nice to be friends with your maker and get on so well.”  Damokles watched as she pushed her long hair back which was well over her shoulders. “Tell me do you have any friends in your life? I don’t mean to pry its just I see you standing alone a lot of the time.” Gabrielle looked down feeling a twinge of sadness. “I don’t trust many people it’s the reason why I keep to myself.” Damokles breathed in deeply. “You don’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend to go home to?” Gabrielle breathed in sharply, her sexuality was no secret but people very rarely brought it up when talking to her. “No I don’t have a partner waiting for me back in the Grand City.” Damokles felt a smile form. “I’m surprised, beautiful woman like you I’d have thought that they would be banging down your door.”

Gabrielle looked at her hands. “You don’t have to flatter me, I know I’m not beautiful, how could I ever be with this ugly scar across my right eye.” Damokles blinked in surprise, he hadn’t expected her to say that. Clearly she didn’t see the truth and she had low self esteem when it came to how she saw herself. “I’m not trying to flatter you, I think you’re very beautiful, I always have.” He felt a playful smile form. “As for your scar it only adds to your beauty.” Gabrielle turned away trying to hide her slight embarrassment. “Thank you.” She looked at the fire. “You’re very kind.” She turned only to feel the breath leave her as she met light blue gaze. “I should go…I’m taking up your time…your probably busy.”

Damokles gently took hold of her arm as she stood up. “No don’t leave.” He pulled her slightly closer seeing her eyes suddenly dart it was clear that she was nervous, he slowly stood up moving his hand through her long blonde hair watching as she froze. “Do you know I’ve always enjoyed your presence even though we’ve never spoken much?” He breathed in deeply leaning down slightly so their faces were almost touching. “You have very beautiful eyes they remind me of lush spring forests when the suns hitting them, when I bit you that night that was the thing that drew me to you.” He eased up his finger running it under her lip in a gentle caress. “You have a very noble and beautiful soul and you deserve to be happy, you shouldn’t be alone, you should be loved.”

Gabrielle felt his lips meet hers it was a feather light kiss followed by another which was deeper and more passionate her emotions felt like they were being pulled in two different directions. He was her captain and her superior and she wasn’t sure if this was allowed. Yet the sensation was so warm and loving it was unlike anything she’d experienced in a long time. Nearly all her flings in her younger years with other werewolves had been about sex, love, warmth and tenderness had played no part in them. She liked the feeling it was something she’d deeply missed in all her time here, and she couldn’t stop herself sinking in to the sensation. It was so nice to feel another person’s love again it brought back the warm feeling of her first kisses in her youth. She breathed in feeling herself submit as she began to respond, she no longer cared for what was right and wrong, she just wanted this feeling to carry on.

8

Xena looked up feeling a rush of emotion, she could remember how it felt to be loved that way by someone and Gabrielle’s words hid nothing. She eased her hand up running it through the golden mane which was as soft as silk watching as Gabrielle looked up. “You really loved him I can see it in your eyes.” Gabrielle moved her clawed hand up easing the other woman’s hand away. “Yes I did.”  Xena stood up then slowly sat herself in front of her closest friend. She threw her arms around furry body ignoring the surprise in the green eyes. The fur was as soft as silk it was like being on a fur skin rug. She felt the tears flow as she began to cry in to it. “I thought my husband loved me that way, but then he tried to have me murdered.”

Gabrielle raised both clawed hands she suddenly felt completely out of her element no one ever hugged her, let alone cried against her. She took in a sharp breath unable to block out the other woman’s tears, which she couldn’t block out despite lowering her ears. She let out a deep breath lowering one hand and putting it around the dark haired woman’s waist as she spoke gently. “I’m sorry he tried to kill you.” She tensed slightly she was no good at this she’d never given anyone comfort apart from Damokles but that had been so long ago and it felt so distant to her now. She knew though that to pull away would hurt the other woman deeply as she was bearing her soul to her right now. Xena took in a breath holding the fur tighter despite her tears it was so comfortable it was like being wrapped in warm fur sheet skin blanket. Just like kind that her mother used to wrap around her as a child after a bath before sitting her on her knee and telling her stories about heroes and adventures before putting her to bed.

She missed her mother, she missed her love so much she’d always had the answers and now that she was gone it only added to her loneliness. She pushed her head further in to the fur, feeling the clawed hand stroking her back with a warm tenderness the claws were pulled up so they didn’t touch her robe and only the flat paw pad was touching her. She looked up slightly as she spoke. “Maybe he tried to kill me because I couldn’t have children.” She felt the tears run down her face. “I wish he’d been as loving as your partner.” Gabrielle lowered her head slightly so it was closer to the other woman’s. “I don’t think your husband tried to kill you because you couldn’t conceive Xena, its sounds as though he loved power more than he loved you. I think you are a very kind person and you try to do what’s right for your people.” She shook her mane slightly. “Including me and you should be happy.”

Xena moved her fingers through the fur feeling those words sink in they were said so honestly and without expecting any thing in return. She breathed in taking control of her emotions as she eyed her friend who now had her ears lowered she was being so kind and gentle. She felt her eyes dart Gabrielle never expected anything from anyone and it was very clear that under her guarded front there was a very kind and good natured person who wanted to help others. She stood up wiping away the last of her tears then wrapped both her arms Gabrielle’s furry neck holding on tightly. “You’re such a kind and honest person, your life has been so unfair, you should have everything you want.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes as she turned her head only to see that the dark haired woman’s robe had fallen slightly open due to her actions.

She took in a deep breath forcing her head the other way away from the view of her breasts as she put her clawed hand around her waist. “You should be sleeping Xena.” She didn’t think as she stood up on her hind legs sharply picking up the other woman in the process. She walked quickly towards the bed putting her down on it ignoring her sudden yelp of surprise. She grabbed the thick cover pulling it over her in a swift motion. “You’re not going to feel very good when you wake up tomorrow morning.” Xena looked up trying to ignore the spinning in her head. “I’ll be fine tomorrow.” Gabrielle stepped away from her bed. She could tell even now that Xena was about to pass out she could see it in her eyes which were starting to glaze over. Frankly she was surprised that the other woman was even conscious and coherent having drunken as much wine as she had. “Goodnight Xena.”

She watched as the dark haired woman lay back as she blew out the candle by her bedside plunging the room in to darkness. The other woman looked around her then looked up no doubt catching sight of her eyes reflecting in the darkness. Xena looked at reflective green eyes for a long moment before lying back on her pillows her eyes closing as the wine finally sunk in. Gabrielle eyed the now sleeping woman she would have to leave a bowl out for her as well as some water and herbs for her sickness on the bedside table because when she woke up she’d probably have a painful hangover. Hopefully though Xena wouldn’t remember any of this conversation and maybe that would be for the best as people said things when they were drunk that they really didn’t mean or ended up having to justify their promises it in some way. Xena was clearly much more open when she was this drunk but it didn’t mean that she meant anything that she’d said tonight. She shook her head moving towards her door she could deal with this tomorrow though right now it was better to get things ready in her friend’s room for when she woke up tomorrow.

End of part 50

 

FEELING THE DARKNESS IN YOUR MIND

Xena opened her eyes slowly only to close again as the pain hit her hard it felt a nail was being driven in to her temples. She groaned pushing her head back deeper in to the pillow gods she felt like Tartarus. She knew this was the price you paid for drinking and she’d drunk a lot last night. She opened her eyes again but much slower this time before looking down realizing for the first time that her robe was still on despite that she had crawled under the covers. She sat up slowly in bed pulling the robe together under the sheets tying it closed as she put her hand on her desk. She needed her medicine that vile white powder from Rome but it was in her study. She turned catching sight of a tall goblet of water which was sitting on her side table next to it was a small bag.

She eased her feet over the side of the bed as she opened the bag which had the strong smell of peppermint and chamomile, she looked around her clearly someone had left it out for her. She slowly poured it in the glass of clear water watching as it bubbled going frothy before slowly going still as the water turned a green colour. She slowly took hold of the goblet drinking slowly, enjoying the taste which wasn’t sharp and had a mild peppermint flavour. She finished the drink placing the goblet down catching sight of a wooden bowl which had been left out close to the bed for her. She turned as Ceto walked slowly through in to her room her personal maid looked up as she caught sight of something on the floor.

She looked up the concern spreading across her face. “Empress are you alright there’s a smashed wine jug close to the wall?” Xena breathed in realizing that her headache was ebbing away very slowly it wasn’t as bad as it had been a few minutes ago. She looked up at Ceto speaking calmly. “I’m fine Ceto I think I broke that jug.” She lowered her gaze as a vision came back to very clearly. “I’d had too much to drink and I was angry and depressed, I threw it at the wall.” Ceto blinked in surprise she put her hands behind her back. “What were you depressed about Empress?” Xena tensed as it all came back to her as her mind started to clear fully. “Something I can’t change.” She paused before looking up. “Did you put out the goblet of water and that strange peppermint remedy on my bedside table along with a sick bowl?”

Ceto moved towards her. “No Empress I didn’t.” She paused walking towards the central door which was slightly ajar which was a little odd. She breathed in deeply as she closed it carefully. “I was just about to come in and wake you as it’s late and you don’t normally sleep in till this hour.” Xena raised her hand. “Was that central door open?” Ceto turned nodding as she moved to pick up her dirty clothes which would need washing. “Yes Empress.” Xena leaned forward in thought feeling her eyes dart as she tried to remember only for her own words to echo in the back of her mind as last nights events. “You’re beautiful in human form and you still look good in werewolf form.” She sat up sharply as the memories came back to her all at once.

She could remember it all, Gabrielle coming in to check on her in werewolf form, her being slightly flirtatious with her and telling her that she couldn’t have children. Then in desperation begging her to bite her because she’d had it in her head that if she got bitten it would fix her problem. She breathed as Gabrielle’s calmly spoken words entered her mind. “I can no longer turn people, it’s the price every Horn Hind pays when we are given the horns as there can only ever be one.” She put a hand on her face she could remember the truth in those green eyes. Gabrielle hadn’t left the room though despite this event instead she’d stayed with her and told her about a very beautiful piece of her life which had been when she had first kissed Damokles on the snowy mountain after taking the Roman eagle.

After being told about this she’d suddenly become very depressed this which was in part due to how she was feeling while the other part was the wine making her emotions stronger. She’d partiality pulled herself in to Gabrielle’s lap and cried in to her chest. She cuddled her enjoying the feeling of her fur which was softer than any fur skin rug and then she’d spilled her heart to her. Though out the whole thing Gabrielle hadn’t pushed her away instead she’d comforted her in a very thoughtful and gentle way, saying that she should be happy. She took in a sharp breath she knew Gabrielle could be very guarded emotionally but at that moment all of her guards were down and her softer side had showed through as she’d spoken to her in the calm open tone. “I think you are a very kind person and you try to do what’s right for people, including me and you should be happy.

After hearing these words she’d perked up mood wise and told the other woman that she should by happy as well, after which Gabrielle had literally picked her up and put her to bed. She’d fallen asleep after this but it was clear that Gabrielle hadn’t just left her she’d laid things out for her so she feel better in the morning. In all the time she’d ruled the palace she’d never had anyone help her in this way unless she’d requested it off them. She turned looking at Ceto. “I remember everything now, Gabrielle was here last night.” Ceto looked at the Empress for a long moment before speaking. “You two didn’t fight did you? It would be a shame because you’re both really starting to get on.” Xena felt a smile form. “No it was nothing like that I was drunk and she put me to bed, she was trying to help me.”

She suddenly felt very happy despite her headache which was becoming more of a dull ache now. “You think we’ve being getting on Ceto?” Ceto felt a slight smile form. “Very much so Empress, I hear the palace staff talking, they all say that you’re really getting on. You’ve both come so far since the day with the royals it’s really surprised everyone as there were those who believed you’d never be able to repair the damage you did.” She paused raising a finger. “Though I confess a few of the staff think that you have a crush on Gabrielle as you are very open emotionally with her, but I personally think there misinterpreting your friendship.”

Xena stood up slowly ignoring the sticky feeling under her robe it felt like she really needed to get a bath. She turned to the other woman laughing slightly. “We are many things Ceto but we aren’t lovers, but its interesting gossip none the less.” Ceto shook her head. “No you aren’t, not yet.” Xena raised an eyebrow catching the slight playfulness in her tone. She pushed her long dark hair back letting it go her personal maid was just teasing her there nothing more to it than that. She moved slowly towards the bathroom. “I’m going to get a bath I’ll let you get on.” Ceto nodded feeling her smile turn to a wide grin. “Of course Empress I’ll get you a light breakfast.”

8

Gabrielle slowly eased the carving tool across the wood, she’d carved out most of the chucky wood but she was a long way from getting to the fine details. She turned to Thaleia who was sitting on the chair opposite, normally she wouldn’t normally ask for help but she needed someone else’s keen eye to tell her that she was on the right track as this was by far one of the biggest carvings she’d ever done. “Does it look alright?” Thaleia sat up slightly she had to admit that it was really nice to be able to help Gabrielle in this way. “It looks okay but I don’t think the part where the right leg is the right the angle looks far too high.” Gabrielle eyed the wood catching sight of what she was getting at. “Your right, my angle is way off.” She slowly ran the carving tool across the wood in a harsh motion fixing the problem.

Thaleia eyed Gabrielle before turning back to the design in her hands which was of Jason fighting the hydra, the Golden Fleece was hanging from a tree opposite, she’d seen many of Gabrielle’s sketches but this sketch was different it had every tiny little detail, like scales, claws and eyes as well as the heroes armour and deep wavy lines which made up the fleece. She looked up slightly. “Who is this for Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked up slowly. “Its for the palace children I thought they’d like it in their new room.” Thaleia looked at the large wood carving which was free standing. “There going to love this Gabrielle.” Gabrielle brushed some of the chipping away from the grove she’d been working on. “I hope so.”

Thaleia smiled as she eyed the sketch again. “Jason is a true hero the children love him and my mother will love this, she loves your work as much as I do.” Gabrielle felt a half smile form. “You’re just saying that because you’re my friend.” Thaleia laughed as she pushed on Gabrielle’s shoulder. “Oh please that’s ridiculous and you know it, do you know that we’ve never had a carpenter in side this palace?” She raised her hand. “All the carpentry here is just brought in from the market, but it’s not half as good as yours.” Gabrielle turned slowly to her putting down her tool. “What makes mine so special? I mean there are more talented carpenters out there than me.” Thaleia looked up slightly as she spoke. “You put your heart in to your carvings.”

Gabrielle felt herself freeze it had been so long since she’d heard those words the last time she heard them they’d been spoken by her long lost best friend. Thaleia leaned forward putting her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder catching sight of the distant look in her eyes. “Are you alright Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked up as she snapped back in to reality. “I’m fine it’s just been a while since I heard those words, the last time I heard them was from my best friend at the time.” Thaleia slowly put the drawing down as she moved her arm away from Gabrielle’s shoulder as she shifted so she was sitting closer to her. Gabrielle’s mood had been changing over these past few weeks, she seemed much happier although she still never smiled fully. She was also still quite guarded but she seemed to be opening a little more and she wasn’t as tense when she touched her. “Your best friend is she still alive back in your village?”

Gabrielle shook her head feeling her smile turn to a sad one. “No she died a long time ago, her name was Seraphin.” She raised her hand putting her finger on the scar on her right eye. “She died the night I got this scar, which was given to me by the leader of the illegal slave traders when I refused to do as I was told.” Thaleia shook her head as she met her friend’s forest green gaze. “I’m so sorry.” Gabrielle lowered her hand as she turned to meet her gaze. “You know she was just like you.” Thaleia raised an eyebrow in confusion. “In what way am I like her?” Gabrielle felt her half smile form. “She saw the good in everything and everyone and she looked at everything in a positive way.” She paused before speaking. “Your friendship means a lot to me Thaleia.” Thaleia looked up feeling her smile turn to a wide grin. “Thank you Gabrielle your friendship means a lot to me as well I don’t think the palace would be the same with out you, it felt lonely here before you came along.”

Her thoughts were suddenly cut off as a sharp knock sounded on the workshop door, she turned slowly. “Come in.” She looked up as Demetrius walked in to the room he stopped close by giving her a warm smile. “I’m sorry to interrupt both of you but I have something for Gabrielle.” Gabrielle stood up slowly from her chair. “What do you have for me?” Demetrius smiled as he raised the two scrolls. “These are from the Empress their regarding the meeting tomorrow with the formal diplomat from Corinth.” He carefully put the first in her hand. “This one is the room lay out in study so you know all the exits.” He raised the other before handing it to her. “This is the scroll is all about Abraxas who’s the diplomat your meeting, though in my opinion he’s a slimy bastard with a lot of mouth.”

Gabrielle slowly put the other scroll down as she open the other one looking at the map lay out very closely. “Thank you.” Demetrius put his finger on the map. “As you can see it’s funnelled to stop people getting in and out, it’s for the Empress’s own protection.” He turned slowly to Thaleia. “You’ll be joining Gabrielle.” Thaleia blinked as she looked up in confusion. “Why do I need to be there I’m just Gabrielle’s personal maid?” Demetrius felt a smile form. “It’s because you’re her personal maid that you need to be there, its common practice for Ceto to always present during the Empress’s meetings, so you’re to join Gabrielle on this one. Its also been arranged that despite that Gabrielle is their for the Empress’s protection she will not be standing behind her in Iona’s position she will be sitting next to her to show that werewolves now have equal civil rights the same as any Greek citizen.”

Gabrielle turned feeling the surprise take over. “She’s allowing me to sit next to her but that’s not my position, the only person who should be seated next to her is a lover or future Emperor or Queen.” Demetrius shook his head as he stepped closer to her. “No I disagree I think you sitting next to her is an important statement of your rights regardless.” He paused before speaking. “Also she cares a lot about you and she considerers you a close friend.” Thaleia raised her eyebrow catching the slightly charming tone in his voice which Gabrielle hadn’t caught at all or if she had she’d ignored it. Gabrielle eased up the map looking at it closely. “What’s above the room?” Demetrius looked up slightly he eased up his finger pointing at the sketch. “Wooden rafters, the pillars hold them up on both sides of the room, why.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Because for Xena’s own protection there should an archer with his bow pointed at those wooden rafters as well as the pillar area above the central door.”

Demetrius blinked feeling the confusion take over as well as intrigue. “Why is that Gabrielle?” Gabrielle raised the map turning it so he could see it. “Humans would never do this but if werewolves assassins get inside they use the rafters to climb up, they’ll be human during the day and you won’t even recognise them among your own people.” She breathed in deeply. “They’ll climb up to the rafters and hide during the day then leap down in werewolf form at night it’s a very common strategy.” She moved her finger towards the pillared door. “A werewolf can also balance up on those pillars near the door and look in.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “How do you know that?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze feeling the guilt take over as she spoke. “Because I did it some time ago, it was first night after I transformed in front of the Empress, I was angry and I broke her rule about not being in site during her meetings.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know maybe I was curious I just wanted to see what her talks involved, it was the one and only time I broke her rules back when we first met.” Demetrius stroked his beard slightly feeling a warm smile form. “Well that’s all the past Gabrielle you need not concern yourself with it its over and done with, I have to ask though why do you think werewolf assassins would do this? You and Xena sighed the scroll which ended the hunting law all over Greece the word will be going out, that it’s now illegal to kill or hunt your people?”

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Its for that very reason that they might try to do this, the Imperial Council loved the hunting law because it gave them the freedom to make harsh choices and make life harder for the working class members of my race, they view them as unimportant yet they are the ones who get serious injuries testing new weapons and die when their building new sections to the underground cities.” She looked up slightly meeting his gaze. “They’ve had huge pressures put on them over the years, pressures I’ve wanted to end as it’s unfair on them. In my view they are hard working back bone of our race and nothing would ever get done if it weren’t for their hard work and dedication. The Imperial Council will hate that the hunting law has ending as they will have to release the pressure on them, they will also hate me for signing my name on that document with out their full consent.”

She turned slightly. “For my actions alone they may try to assassinate me or Xena as a means to keep there dirty little war against humanity going.” Demetrius nodded as understanding drew up on him. “I see, well I’ll make sure to implement all the things you’ve said.” Gabrielle rolled up the scroll. “Thank you Demetrius.” Demetrius folded his arms feeling a wide grin form again. “Oh and I have another message for you, the Empress would very much like to speak with you she’s out in the garden waiting for you. She told me to tell you that she’s be by the white marble lion the one you like to spend a lot of time on at night.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “I’ll go and see her now.”

She turned to Thaleia who gave her a smile. “I’ll clean up the workshop when I get back.” Thaleia leaned on the chair. “You know I’m your personal maid that is my job.” Gabrielle felt a half smile form as she adjusted her shoulder straps which held the swords on her back. “Yes but this it’s my workshop it’s all my mess.” Thaleia laughed watching as she moved towards the door. “What ever you want Gabrielle.” Demetrius watched as Gabrielle closed the door disappearing from site. He turned to Thaleia who was still seated in her chair. “She seems happier.” Thaleia nodded before looking up. “I agree she’s been much happier, she even smiles now it’s not a full smile but its close.”

Demetrius folded his arms. “I think the Empress likes her a lot, I can see it in the way she looks at her.” Thaleia sat up sharply. “What do you mean?” Demetrius turned to her. “I think she has feelings for her.” Thaleia laughed before shaking her head. “Oh please their just friends.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Next time, you see them both together look at the way Xena looks at her, Gabrielle never even seems to notice it or if she does she ignores it.” He took in a deep breath. “It must be very frustrating to care about someone and they never notice you.” Thaleia felt her smile fade as she looked at him she felt like that all the time. She wished that just once he would notice her she stood up slowly feeling the sadness hit home, he never would though she was just a personal maid and he was head of the palace guard.

She breathed in sadly. “Excuse me I should be working.” Demetrius turned sharply sensing the sudden change of her mood which had become very melancholy. “Are you alright?” Thaleia nodded as she forced a very fake smile. “Yes I’m fine I just have to do things I’ll let you get on with your duties.” Demetrius watched as she calmly left the workshop he looked around suddenly finding himself all alone. It was clear that he’d said something wrong to Thaleia but he had no idea what it was and the not knowing made him feel very out of sorts he’d never liked it when he offended someone and didn’t know the reason why.

End of part 51

 

MY DEEPLY COMPASSIONATE FRIEND

Gabrielle slowly walked down the entrance that led to the royal gardens she had no idea why Xena wanted to see her. Maybe it was about last night but a part of her hoped it wasn’t more because she wasn’t sure what parts Xena had remembered and what she hadn’t. She turned catching sight of the dark haired woman who was sitting on a blanket on the grass just under the huge marble lion’s front feet opposite her. She took in a deep breath catching sight of a wicker basket which was next to her she blinked as the older woman gave her a wide smile as she stood up turning to face her, her gentle voice hitting the air. “I was waiting for you I thought that maybe you didn’t get my message.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I received your message Xena what do you need?” Xena moved closer to her. “I wanted you to join me, I have some food I thought you might be hungry.” She paused before speaking. “After all you were up late last night.” Gabrielle felt herself tense. “You remember last night?” Xena moved a step closer to her putting both hands gently on her shoulders. “Yes I remember everything that happened last night, very clearly.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “I’m sorry I had no place being in your room, I was only trying to help you.” Xena blinked in surprise she moved her hand gently using it to raise the younger woman’s head so their eyes met. “You misunderstand Gabrielle, I wanted to speak with you because I wanted to say thank you. No one has ever stayed in my room or helped me in the way you did last night.”

She moved her hand away watching as the green eyes darted in surprise she didn’t think as she wrapped her arms around the younger woman’s body unable to stop herself. “You stayed and you listened to me and you were so kind to me, even when I was being a drunken fool.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply feeling completely out of her element once more which was happening so often now. She hadn’t been hugged by anyone in human form in such a long time and it felt so strange. She breathed in feeling unsure as to what to do or say as the other woman’s grip tightened further. She could break free but she didn’t want to, she knew it would come of as impolite and rude and she realized that Xena was very open with her emotionally. It was just the way she was with her close friends she slowly put her arms around her back. “You weren’t being a drunken fool you were just unhappy and if I had, had the same thing befall me I’d feel just as depressed.”

Xena kept hold of her she knew she was holding this hug for longer than she should do but she didn’t care. “You’re a really kind person Gabrielle I wish that you hadn’t been forced to endure so much pain in your life.” Gabrielle took a sharp breath. “You can’t change fate Xena.” Xena let go off her pulling away gently feeling a sad smile form. “No I can’t but I hope that your life here in the palace is nice.” She paused before speaking. “Are you happy here Gabrielle?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart that wasn’t a question she’d been expecting. She looked up slightly. “Yes I’m happy here, I like my life here in your palace I have friends here.” Xena slowly sat down on the rug watching as Gabrielle did the same the uncertainty in her eyes. “I gave you freedom you could have left, why didn’t you leave?” Gabrielle shook her head slightly. “I didn’t leave because I have no friends back in the Grand City and I don’t want to be there, the place feels like a cage and I’m just feel like puppet and those Imperial Council bastards are my puppeteers.”

Xena shifted closer to her. “You have no one, not even loyal followers?” Gabrielle put her hands together. “I have many loyal followers the problems is I can’t trust their loyalty while the Imperial Council rules.” She looked up slightly. “They’ve always ensured that the people watching me or influencing me are loyal to them and not to me. If they killed the Crescent Hind before me I cannot risk going back to the city I’d be risking my life.” Xena eased out a pottery jug which had warm hot chocolate in it she picked up a bronze goblet pouring it in, it was slightly cold now and not as warm as it had been. She looked up slightly as she passed the goblet to Gabrielle who took it. “That makes a lot of sense I wouldn’t risk my life ether with them around. They clearly do nothing for your people but cause them suffering.”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor. “Damokles was always there for me, he had such great vision.” Xena shifted a little closer to her. “I remember the story you told me last night about how you two first came to be together, he sounds like such a kind man.” Gabrielle eased up her hand slightly. “He was older than me and so much more experienced in everything and I was still young but he always knew what to say to make it right.” She adjusted her shirt collar absentmindedly. “I always doubted myself but he was always there to guide me and make me feel better.” She paused as a faint memory came back in to her mind one which she’d almost forgotten. “He brought out the best in me even when I couldn’t see the best in myself.”

8

Damokles turned down the long corridor that led to Gabrielle’s home he stopped in front of the wooden door which unlike all the others doors was decorated with a large wooden carving above the handle which was the same symbol she wore around her neck. He had to admit this was the first time he’d ever been to her living quarters they spend a lot of their time together in side his living space. He knocked on the door most of the time they just kissed and talked other times it was sleeping together. It had been a three weeks since Mount Nessus and he didn’t regret a thing, he had kissed her then they had slept with each other in the tent, it felt like a moment he’d been waiting for all his life, at least that’s how it felt to him.

He felt a smile form as she opened the door. “You know we were meant to go to lunch together.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze opening her door, somehow she felt subconscious of anyone being in room, no one ever came in here, she didn’t have guests and she didn’t entertain. She watched as he walked inside as she closed the door behind him forcing the long locking wooden mechanism across. Damokles looked around him at the small room. It had a thick goose feathered mattress its wooden head frame had two carved griffins coming together in battle. There were two beautifully crafted chairs and a large desk which had many wood crafting tools and bits and pieces of wood on it as well as pages of sketches which looked like concept drawings for designs.

At the far side of the room was a heavy armour stand where Gabrielle’s armour was propped up on display while her clothing was neatly piled up in opposite corner. On the other side of the room was the cooking area and bathing area. He breathed in what beautiful things she had, she clearly had good taste. “You have a magnificent room, where did you buy all this beautifully crafted wooden furniture?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I didn’t buy it I made it, all of it.” Damokles looked up sharply. “You made all of this?” Gabrielle walked over to the desk ignoring her open chest which was full of failed experiments working in wood. “Yes I did, my father was a carpenter, he taught me everything I know even when I came here I never gave it up. Plus why buy it when you can build it my self?”

Damokles walked over to the desk eyeing the design she’d drawn out which was some kind of bird with opening hinged wings. “What this?” Gabrielle moved over eyeing the drawings. “Its nothing it’s just something I was working on, it’s not finished.” Damokles put his hand on the sketch. “So you’re creating a bird with opening wings how fascinating, you should carry on I would love to see it when it’s finished.” He smiled as he moved a hand through her long blonde hair. “You are quite the dark horse, why didn’t you tell anyone you could do this?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply adjusting her shirts collar. “I did when I first started my training but they said my old life didn’t matter anymore.” She breathed in painfully. “It always mattered to me, so I kept on doing it despite becoming a warrior.”

Damokles shook his head. “Well I think it’s wonderful.” He paused remembering what it was he had to tell her. “The Crescent Hind has passed away.” Gabrielle lowered her head. “I know I heard this morning.” Damokles turned her around slowly. “You met him once though he spoke to you I remember you telling me.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “We had nothing good to say to one another Damokles, he was a decadent bastard who didn’t care that he couldn’t change things.” Damokles eased her head up so their eyes met. “I get the impression you always want to change things.” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “I’m just a warrior I don’t have that kind of power.”

Damokles met her lips feeling her respond. “You shouldn’t doubt yourself Gabrielle, everything is possible.” Gabrielle felt him move her back towards the bed she felt a smile form. “You really believe that?” Damokles pushed down gently on to the bed moving on top of her. “I believe everything’s possible Gabrielle.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling him slowly unbutton her shirt she moved her hand unbuttoning his thick belt. “I love you Damokles.” Damokles felt a smile form as he met her lips. “I Love you to Gabrielle.” He breathed in as he felt her hands move under his shirt gods he loved this woman so damn much he would do anything for her.

8

Gabrielle watched as Xena cut the bread in two with a knife passing a piece to her. “I was never alone when he was around.” Xena took the cheese handing it to the younger woman. “I miss my husband in the same way despite that I ended his life after he betrayed me.” Gabrielle picked up her bread putting the creamy cheese on it. “Its funny how you miss them despite everything.” She looked up slightly. “The Imperial Council told me that Damokles left me for another woman who was in another werewolf city.” Xena looked up sharply. “They told you that?” Gabrielle nodded sadly before taking a bite out of her bread. “Yes they did and I believed them maybe its fate that I should see him again in your throne room because once I read the that scroll you gave me I knew it was all a lie.”

She took another bite from her bread. “He never left me, he was taken from me.” Xena took a low sip from her hot chocolate which was honey sweetened. “Thank you for telling me about Damokles last night, it was nice to hear that you were happy.” She paused thinking her next question through carefully. “When did you stop smiling, when did you stop being happy Gabrielle was it when he vanished from your life?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before speaking. “Yes it was when he left but I really don’t want to talk about it right now.” She looked up slightly. “Thank you though for listening last night I assumed that you might have been to drunk to remember.” Xena smirked as she took a bite out of her bread. “I tend to remember everything the day after it’s always crystal clear.”

She put down her goblet. “I really wanted to ask you about that remedy you left out for me, where did you get it? I mean it’s so much better than that vile white powder I get from Rome.” Gabrielle looked up as she finished her bread. “It’s an old werewolf recipe, you see werewolves do tend to drink a lot so a healer developed it centuries ago it’s a very common remedy as it tastes nice and your headache goes away slowly.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Where did you learn it?” Gabrielle picked up her goblet finishing the hot chocolate. “Damokles taught it to me.” Xena sat up slightly. “But you don’t drink I’ve never seen you drink.” Gabrielle put down the goblet. “No I don’t drink but the warriors in my unit did drink a lot I used to make it a lot after victory celebrations.”

Xena slowly met her gaze. “You never joined the celebrations though did you?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “No I just used to watch the whole thing quietly while I cleaned my armour and sword. Alcohol has never done anything for me it doesn’t even make me happy.” Xena looked down slightly. “I’m sorry for pointing out last night that you smoke opium that was not my place since I drink too much.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “I do smoke opium I’m not proud of it it’s an addictive habit I only do it when I feel depressed, the rest of the time I smoke Coltsfoot to keep myself relaxed.” Xena picked up a boiled quail egg passing her one watching as she took it. “I know what its like to do that Gabrielle I drink when I’m feeling down it’s very hard to kick the habit.”

Gabrielle nodded as she met her gaze. “Some habits are difficult to get rid off as much as you try.” Xena blinked that was a very honest statement and a very truthful one she felt a smile form feeling the need to change the subject. “I hope Demetrius has talked you through the meeting tomorrow.” Gabrielle paused before speaking. “Yes he has, I wanted to say thank you for allowing me to sit next you in the meeting with Abraxas.” Xena finished the quail’s egg she was eating. “It’s to show that you have the same rights as any Greek citizen, but please don’t say who you are I’d like Abraxas to get his sandal firmly shoved down the back of his throat before I reveal to him who you really are. The man hates me because I had his brother hung but I had no choice he was stealing from my coffers and making my people poor.”

She shook her head sadly. “It took me half a season to fix the damage he did in Corinth I had to pull down three dirt ridden slums which he’d made for my people and build proper housing in their place it was very costly. I hate forcing up the weekly taxes it’s very unpopular among the people and I came very close to doing so.” She eased out some fresh fruit tossing a red apple to the younger woman who caught it. “I assume you have a similar tax system in the Grand City?” Gabrielle crunched down on the red apple enjoying the sweet flavour. “It’s similar the only difference is that taxes are not weekly their monthly and the Imperial Council hates me because I lowered them substantially. I did it on purpose though because I knew they were taking money for themselves to feed there descendant habits and the money isn’t theirs it should be used to help the people by making their homes better and building stronger tunnels which can help with trade.”

Xena slowly pealed her orange. “Well in my opinion you did the right thing, it’s a leader duty to take care of the welfare and lives of his or her people.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I’m not a great leader I just try to right the wrongs done by the Imperial Council.” Xena slowly chewed on an orange piece. “Putting things right is what matters Gabrielle.” She watched as the other woman took a bite from the apple. “I know you like birds.” Gabrielle blinked as she met the other woman’s gaze she wasn’t very sure as to where this conversation was going. “Yes I love birds.” Xena took another piece of orange chewing on it. “What’s your favourite bird, I mean if you could have one?”

Gabrielle raised both eyebrows in confusion. “Why are you asking?” Xena shrugged slightly. “I’m just curious.” Gabrielle looked at her half finished apple. “I’ve always wanted a Collared Dove but getting hold of one is hard, their very popular and expensive there meant to be very good pets when tamed. Their different and I’ve always liked that little black collar around their necks it’s very charming.” She put her hands together. “Speaking of birds I owe you an apology since I was the one who eat one of your Peacocks.” Xena laughed slightly. “You know if I’m honest I was never unhappy about that, I don’t really like them anyway, they were a present from a rich diplomat. Frankly there noisy annoying birds that get on my nerves, I only keep them in the garden because the palace children love them.”

Gabrielle shook her head. “Now I just feel even worse, the children probably have names for all the birds and eat one of their friends.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Don’t feel bad Gabrielle.” She raised her hand. “I have to ask, why did you ate my Peacock?” Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders. “I was hungry and it was a starving hunger like nothing I’d ever experienced in my life and that was the first thing I saw in werewolf form, so I eat it.” Xena felt a smile form. “If you’re hungry you’re hungry, plus I can replace that Peacock it’s not a big deal.” Gabrielle felt her half smile form. “Trust me I won’t be eating anymore of your Peacocks as a rule I don’t eat wild birds only ones that are farmed like quail and chicken.”

Xena finished her orange she moved her hand over gently putting her it on Gabrielle’s ignoring her surprise. “Would you like to join me for dinner after the meeting tomorrow? I’d very much like your company.” Gabrielle felt her gaze dart once more the woman’s light blue eyes were staring in to her in a way that felt like she was looking in to her soul. It was so difficult to break away it was such an intense stare which matched her dead lovers loving gaze so much, she lowered her gaze to the floor. Once again she was seeing things that weren’t there and would never be there.

This woman saw her only as a friend she would never want her as a lover because she wasn’t human and this was nothing more than a dinner invite. She breathed in speaking calmly. “Yes I’ll join you for dinner.” Xena felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “That’s good I’ll make sure that the meals interesting I promise.” Gabrielle stood up slowly it was time to leave she had over stayed her welcome. “Thank you for the food and drink.” She breathed in sadly why was she beating herself up over what would never be? She had no sexual feelings for this woman though she wouldn’t lie to herself she was very attractive and beautiful but there was a big gap between reality and delusion and she was being delusional. She was only thinking this way because deep down inside she knew that she was lonely.

On top of this she didn’t want another relationship with another woman she didn’t want to go through the pain that her last one had caused her. She wasn’t ready to go through that all over again it hurt too much to be nothing more than some other woman’s bed warmer and bragging item. She also didn’t have that level off trust anymore since there had been so much pain and loss in her life she didn’t want to experience that all over again. Xena looked up slightly she could see that the other woman’s whole behaviour had changed quite suddenly. She seemed so sad and that sadness was just echoing out from her eyes. “Are you alright Gabrielle?” Gabrielle snapped out of her thoughts as she turned to the other woman who stood up slowly. “I’m fine I should let you get on with your day.”

Xena narrowed her gaze. “I have nothing to do this morning you’re not imposing on me.” Gabrielle turned slightly. “Thank you but I need to get back to my workshop I have something I need to finish.” Xena blinked in confusion as she watched her turn and walk away, she had no idea what had caused the sudden change in Gabrielle’s mood. She watched as she vanished from site the younger woman was a complete mystery at times. It was true that she was happier but she still wouldn’t smile fully or even laugh and she still kept things to her self and never said how she felt. It was almost as though she was uncertain about opening up fully because of what might be said. They hadn’t really gotten off on the right foot to start with and now they were both finding their feet, despite now being friends.

She took in a deep breath as she looked around her maybe what would make Gabrielle happy was if she had a pet again. She’d found it odd that after the death of her first pet she’d never asked for another maybe it was because she feared loosing it again. What had she said she wanted again? That’s right a Collared Dove, if that was what she wanted then she should have one she didn’t care how expensive one was, she’d make sure that she got one. She didn’t care about splashing out money on her ether if it meant that she was happy. Every item in her room which she’d requested she’d ensured was the best money could buy, in truth it had been a long time since she’d taken the time to do this for anyone

Giving Gabrielle everything she wanted just felt like second nature to her and it just felt so right in her heart and it wasn’t just because of Gabrielle’s hard life, no it felt like much more than that. She didn’t do it because she wanted her approval or even to win her over she did it because when she saw that Gabrielle was happy, it made her feel happy. Why shouldn’t an attractive and stunning woman like her be happy? She deceived so much and yet she had received so little though out her life and she wanted to give her it now more than ever.

End of part 52

 

GRATITUDE WITH OUT EQUAL

Iona moved her feet forward trying to ignore the dull pain in her chest, gods it felt like forever since she’d seen beyond her bedroom window. Despite that her ribs were healed they still hurt and her arm ached despite that she could now move it fully. She looked at the afternoon sun as she adjusted her shirt leaning against one of the pillars close to kitchen in the royal garden. Normally she never spent any time in the royal garden, flowers and trees had never interested her but today was her first day out of her bedroom and being anywhere felt good right now. She’d never cared for nature come to think off it she’d never cared for anything her life had always been about killing.

She breathed in deeply the truth was that she’d never done anything but kill people it was all she really knew how to do and it was all she was good at. Yet now she just felt depressed she’d been feeling this depression for the last week or so maybe it was because no one had visited her. Demetrius has visited now and again but he had been very formal. He’d asked her about her injuries and how they were healing but they didn’t talk about anything else besides that. Did everyone else in the palace hate her that much, hence why none of them had visited her? Clearly they all did because of what she’d done to Gabrielle but the thought of everyone hating her made her feel truly alone.

She had spent a lot of time in the healers bed going over her actions in the throne room she knew why she’d done them. She’d done what she’d done because she wanted get the Empress’s attention. She wanted her to look at her and being impressed just once because she never did that to her. She was always far more impressed by Demetrius he was her favourite. She breathed in sadly that was what all her actions with Gabrielle had been about she had wanted to be like her so she could be stronger and more powerful. Then she could win the Empress’s approval and she’d seen Gabrielle as her means to achieving that. Thinking back over her actions, she had been foolish she had lied and she was lucky to still have any position off power.

Yet the truth remained she could never have the power she wanted Gabrielle for all intensive purposes was sterile and couldn’t make anymore werewolves through biting and scratching. She took in a deep painfully breath she’d never have the Empress’s approval only Demetrius would ever have that. She would forever be watching him gain all the compliments and all the praise while she just stared back from the sidelines. She sneered moving towards the training post easing her sword free. She didn’t think as she swung it watching as it hit the wood only to feel the stinging pain in her arm which caused her to cry out in pain as she let go off her weapon which clattered as it hit the ground.

She leaned down to pick it up only to stop as the pain went through her arm she grabbed her sleeve leaning against the post waiting for the intense pain to pass. She looked down watching as a hand appeared grabbing her sword she looked up slowly watching as Chara came in to view. The other woman was holding her sword at the hilt her face was emotionless. She stood up fully. “Give me my sword.” Chara moved the weapon out of her reach not bothering to hide the sarcasm in her tone. “It’s nice to see that you’re up and about but clearly you’re not healed fully.” Iona narrowed her gaze. “I’m well enough.” She moved her hand forward clicking her fingers. “My sword.” Chara eyed the weapon. “You and I have something to discuss first.”

Iona breathed in sharply. “What would that be Chara?” Chara put the weapon behind her back. “Since it’s clear that you know about my relationship with Evadine, how’s about you stay away from her, it’s me you don’t like she’s never caused you any ill will.” Iona looked at her for a long moment she opened her mouth getting ready to say something rude only to stop. She folded her arms feeling the pain lessen in her arm as she spoke. “Is it nice?” Chara raised an eyebrow. “Is what nice?” Iona breathed in deeply. “Having someone to sleep with at night?” Chara rolled her eyes. “She’s not my bed warmer she’s my lover, I’d do anything for her!” Iona raised her hand. “Even die for her?”

Chara looked up slightly. “Yes I’d die for her, its something you wouldn’t understand since all you do is kill people and you’ve never saved anyone.” Iona looked up slightly allowing those words to sink in Chara was right about that and she wasn’t too proud to admit it ether, her whole life had been about killing she’d never know anything else. She put a hand on her sword arm moving it gently as she spoke. “You know you’d have made a great warrior Chara, you’re very focused on what you want.” Chara blinked in surprise she wasn’t sure if the comment was an insult or a compliment she eased the sword forward pushing it in to the other woman’s chest watching as she took hold of the hilt. “I don’t want to be a warrior that’s your job.”

Iona gripped her sword hilt tightly. “If you tell me what its like to be with someone then I’ll never touch Evadine as long as I live.” Chara breathed in deeply before speaking. “It’s a nice feeling Iona to have someone who loves you, there’s nothing that can compare with the feeling.” Iona looked at her for a long moment seeing the seriousness in her face she watched as the other woman turned away. She pulled up her hand. “Wait a moment.” Chara turned slowly to meet her gaze. “What is it?” Iona breathed in stepped away from the post. “Tell me the truth does everyone in this palace hate me?” Chara blinked that was a surprising question and not one she had expected to hear from Iona, she met her dark gaze. “Yes Iona people dislike you, some hate you but that’s because of what did to Gabrielle when you paraded her around in front of the royals.”

Iona narrowed her gaze. “And you?” Chara looked up slightly. “I don’t like you Iona and not just because of what you did to Gabrielle, but because of the way in you act in general. You have no respect for life, anyone’s life its like nothing matters to you, you don’t care for the suffering you cause others or the way you act when they loose loved ones. You have no emotion you just shrug it off like their death doesn’t matter, you did it to me when my father died and it hurts.” She turned away watching as Iona lowered her head in thought. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get back to work.”

Iona looked up watching as she walked away disappearing from site she slowly put her sword back in to its scabbard. She looked up catching sight of Demetrius who was coming towards her with a scroll in his hand. He came to a stop in front of her his face remained emotionless as he spoke in an even tone. “Nice to see you’re finally well enough to walk around.” He eased up the scroll. “These are your rules from know on.” Iona took the scroll opening it slowly. “My rules?” Demetrius nodded he hated to do this to Iona but he knew that it was necessary. “As the Empress has told you, you’ll be spending more time with me from now on, I’m going to teach you honour and discipline and you’ll be training with me.”

Iona looked at the scroll. “I don’t understand, in the Empress’s meetings tomorrow it says that I’m not going to be there but you are.” Demetrius nodded as he looked up. “Gabrielle will be protecting the Empress as your not a hundred per cent yet.” Iona stared at him feeling his world freeze all at once, she looked up slightly. “The Empress does not need me?” Demetrius folded his arms. “No the Empress does not need you Iona.” Iona felt the pain hit home all at once she slowly re-rolled the scroll that was the truth wasn’t it? The Empress hated her along with everyone else, she no longer needed her in meetings, why would she be needed anyway it was clear that Gabrielle was better than her in battle? She’d defeated her so in the Empress’s eyes she just seemed like second best and no one ever bothered with anything that was second best.

Clearly the Empress no longer needed her apart from send her away with her men to kill problem people when it suited her. She took in a painful breath all she’d ever wanted was the Empress’s approval but now she knew she’d never have it. She’d just fade away in to the background and no one would really care since it was clear now that no one liked her in this palace they all hayed her. She now wished that she’d never gotten out of bed she’d have rather stayed in it feeling alone than getting up and facing the painful truth that she had suddenly become useless. Demetrius looked down catching sight of the open pain in Iona’s eyes no doubt it was there because she probably didn’t want to spend time with him. He took in a deep breath knowing that she was going to dislike his next move all the more. “Come with me I’m going to start you on drills and your going to spar with me, we need to re strength your arm.” He moved watching as she followed saying nothing. A look of complete defeat was showing in her eyes despite but despite her unhappiness she’d made no rude remarks he eyed her as he spoke again. “Then I’ll have you run the training ground it should put some muscle back on your body.”

8

Xena slowly scribbled down her thoughts on a scroll in her study, it was nothing important just her thoughts on the meeting tomorrow. Frankly she was bored she took a slip from her goblet close by enjoying the sweet flavour of the orange juice. She looked up sharply hearing a knock on the door she stood up slowly she hoped that this was what she thought it was. “Come in.” She watched as Evadine walked in to her study she was holding a small wooden box under her arm which had holes in the top and something was making scuffing sounds in side. She had sent Evadine to the market because she knew the pet stores in Corinth better than most people as she owned a pet which was a Fennec Fox.

The other woman put the box gently down in front of her. “I got what you wanted Empress, it was pain to get one as they don’t sell them cheap as people find the little black collar very appealing.” Xena put her hand on the box. “I told you money was no object and I’ll pay you extra for your trouble.” She paused eyeing the box. “Is it tame?” Evadine nodded as she looked up. “It’s a juvenile and it has the collar but it’s not fully defined, it’s also been hand reared. They said that this is the best age to sell them as it gives them time to get used to their new owner.” She felt a smile form as she looked up. “Is this for Gabrielle?” Xena carefully took hold of the box. “Yes it is its something she really wants.”

Evadine felt her smile widen. “I think she’ll like this gift a lot, I heard about what happened to her last pet.” Xena breathed in deeply. “That was my fault I didn’t listen to her when she brought it up, I listened to Iona.” Evadine stood up slightly. “Well Iona got what she deserved.” Xena kept her hand on the box picking it up being as gentle as possible. “If I ask you a question will you answer me honestly?” Evadine felt her eyes dart the Empress had never asked her a question like this before. “Yes Empress.” Xena eyed the box in her hands. “Before the incident with the royals has Iona caused problems for anyone else, her messing up the throne room with her dirty boots aside?” Evadine put her hand on her chin before speaking. “Iona has always been very cold and uncaring she also lacks manners I know Chara has never seen eye to eye with her on the whole.”

Xena raised an eyebrow. “So you and Chara are friends?” Evadine breathed in deeply as she lowered her gaze not wanting to meet the other woman’s. “Yes we’ve been good friends for a very long time we became friends after the death of her father.” Xena looked at her for a long moment she could tell that she was holding something back about herself and Chara but she saw no reason to push her over it. She knew that everyone had there own personal lives and it was not her business to intrude in them. Maybe she just felt unsure of herself as the both of them had very different positions in the palace Chara’s was very high up where as Evadine’s was much lower and she was afraid that it would be frowned upon.

Not that she would see it that way she wanted the higher level staff to get on with those bellow their station as it made for good working palace environment. She felt her eyes dart as she thought about Evadine’s words about Iona there was a lot of truth in them. Iona was slightly rude at times and she was very cold and unfeeling towards people but then she’d spent her whole life killing people. Her grandfather had been a mercenary and it wasn’t very often that she showed her kinder side though it did show itself from time to time it was very rare. In this way putting her with Demetrius had been the best thing to do as they could both learn to get on better and he could bring out her more positive side.

She would not see it this way though she would see it as being forced to follow his orders which she’d never done before as she’d always had a lot of freewill. As soon as she was ready though she’d allow her that freedom back and give her back her full power, but not until she had become a much better and more rounded person who wouldn’t lie to gain power. She still didn’t understand though why she’d wanted Gabrielle to turn her in to a werewolf it seemed so obscured and strange and it made very little sense to her. She turned to face Evadine. “Thank you for your help I’ll make sure that you get extra in your wage.” Evadine nodded her head as she stepped back. “Thank you Empress.” She paused as she looked up. “I’ll let you give Gabrielle her gift.” Xena watched as she left the study closing the door behind her, she eyed the box in her hand hearing the scuffing sounds it was time to give Gabrielle her gift.

She walked in to her bedroom then knocking gently on the central door hearing the others woman’s calm voice hit the air. “Come in.” She carefully opened the door it was dark outside the sun had set two hours ago. She breathed in catching sight of the younger woman she was looking through the curtains out on to her balcony and strangely still in human form the room was surrounded in darkness. She walked in seeing that she had a scroll in her hand and was sketching on it, the only light was coming from a single candle by the bed. She moved closer stopping on the spot as the young woman turned to her iris’s reflecting in dim light. She staring at them in the darkness feeling completely memorized, she’d assumed that they only reflected in werewolf form and not in human form. She carried on staring fascinated by the hues and tones which could be seen so clearly in the other woman’s eyes, gods they were so beautiful.

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze seeing that Xena was just staring at her and not speaking, she slowly put the scroll and quill on the table opposite. She’d been trying to sketch the shapes of trees so she could put them on the carving behind the hydra and Jason which was for the children. She looked up realizing why it was that Xena was looking at her this way it was because of her eyes reflecting in the darkness. She looked at the older woman who was still staring at her. “Xena?” Xena snapped out of her thoughts she watched as Gabrielle used the candle on the bedside to light the others. She pulled up the box feeling a wide grin form which she knew probably looked like a stupid grin but she didn’t care. “I have a gift for you.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as she looked at the wooden box in her hands which had holes in the top, she eyed the other woman whose smile was as wide as it could possibly be. She carefully took the box from her hand hearing scuffing inside it was an animal without a doubt she looked up sharply. “What is it?” Xena eased up her hand. “Open it and you’ll find you.” Gabrielle looked down she gently pulled the sliding lid back watching in surprise as a small head looked out which had small round red eyes and a black beak. She blinked in shock as she caught sight of the dark collar around the lower neck it was a Collared Dove a juvenile.

She put the box down gently then lifting it out hearing the gentle cooing sound as she held it up watching as it looked at her, it was clearly tame since it didn’t mind being held. She carefully opened one of the wings followed by the other seeing that they hadn’t been clipped. She hated clipping on pet birds of any kind she preferred that they could fly free. She looked up staring at Xena who looked uncertain. “You got this for me?” Xena nodded taking a step forward. “Yes I got it just for you, you said you liked Collard Doves.” Gabrielle stared at the bird in her hands. “Yes I did I just didn’t expect you to get me one.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Well I thought it was only fair considering what happened to your last pet.”

Gabrielle felt a smile form but it was a different smile because of how happy she felt, it was a full smile and it felt a little strange even to her but she couldn’t help it, she felt so happy right now and she needed to smile. Xena blinked staring at the other woman for a long moment seeing the full smile on her lips which truly lit up her face it also made her look all the more beautiful. Gabrielle put young bird down on the table stroking its back gently with one hand as she turned to the taller woman. “Thank you so much this it means a lot to me.” Xena moved forward putting her arms around the other woman’s waist pulling her close she no longer cared about doing this it always felt so right to her. “You’re welcome.” She breathed in smelling the other woman’s golden hair which smelt of rich rose water, she felt the younger woman’s hands move around her back she wasn’t as tense as she had been in the past when she’d hugged her. She paused as she pulled away watching as Gabrielle’s green eyes darted. “I wanted to ask you something.”

Gabrielle watched as the Collard Dove flew around the room finally landing on one of her bed posts as it looking around curiously. “Of course.” Xena eased up her hand. “Phrixus is now starting to understand the language your people speak and he’s also translated some more of that huge scroll.” She paused feeling uncertain of her next question. “What is that scroll Gabrielle what does it represent to you?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “The scroll is called the Ethereal Ark Of Fire and its godly or so they say, it was given to the first Horn Hind the Emerald Hind after he killed the tyrant werewolf King Lycaon. He had those who knew him best write his exploits on that scroll. After he died it’s said that the scroll grew in size and length and when ever a new Horn Hind is picked it paints their image on it and the history of their life, it’s carried on that way for decades. It is even said that the scroll cannot be burnt and once the ink is written it remains and can never be scrubbed off.” She lowered her gaze. “I was told by someone that Imperial Council had switched the scrolls and that the one in the Grand City was a fake. I was also told that they tried to hide it because I appeared on it, but they didn’t hide it that well as your people found it.”

She took in a deep breath. “I will not give it back to them it’s far too important and undeserving off their hands and here in side your palace its safe.” Xena nodded feeling the understanding take over. “I will do everything in my power to keep that scroll safe in any way I can.” She raised her hand. “Would you be able to teach me to read, write and speak your language because I really want to read that scroll and lean about your people’s history?” Gabrielle looked up slightly she knew by saying yes she’d be betraying the Imperial Council once more by letting another human learn the language but frankly she didn’t care. Everything felt so strange to her now Thaleia and her mother felt more like her surrogate family where as Xena had become a very intimate friend who she could tell private things to which she really didn’t want others to know. She felt a wide smile form again. “I’d be more than happy to teach you my races language both spoken and written.” Xena moved her hands forward taking hold the other woman’s. “Thank you it means a lot to me that you’d take the time to teach it to me.”

She paused before speaking. “Have you visited Phrixus at all in this past month?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Yes, I’ve been teaching him how to speak the werewolf language as he really wants to learn about how it sounds.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “I’m sure he’s in his element with you teaching him.” Gabrielle looked up seeing the blue eyes which were looking at her intensely as Xena kept hold of her hands. “He is, he wants to learn more and he’s very passionate about it.” Xena felt her smile widen. “Would you join me for breakfast tomorrow maybe we can start a lesson then or some other time?” Gabrielle nodded before looking up. “Of course.” Xena turned meeting her forest green gaze. “I hope you never leave my palace.” She let go of her hands as she stepped back. “It would be very lonely here with out you.” Gabrielle breathed in watching as the older woman walked towards the central door the wide smile still on her lips. She felt the full smile form once again as she spoke. “Never, you’d miss me to much.” Xena opened the central door keeping her gaze fixed on the other woman’s. “Your right I would.” She breathed in closing the central door behind her leaning against it, it was so wonderful to see Gabrielle really smile for the first time, it had been so worth the wait to see it, it showed that she was truly happy and finally enjoying her life.

End of part 53

A  HIGHER POWER CHOSEN WITH UNCERTAINTY

 

Gabrielle adjusted her shirt collar as she sat down in front of Xena who smiled as she looked up. She had admit she had been a little unsure about joining her for breakfast but she’d pushed the thought aside as the truth was she wanted to have a breakfast with the other woman as she enjoyed her company. After last night that feeling had become very clear to her, it wasn’t just because of her gift of giving her a new pet. No it was much more Xena had been very kind to her and thoughtful and her friendship now meant a lot to her. She now wanted to do her part and help the other woman in anyway as she trusted her and she wanted to show her that trust when she sat opposite her in the meeting.

Xena eyed the food which had been laid out. “I told Ceto to bring your breakfast in here so Thaleia could sleep in a little longer as today might be a little stressful for her.” Gabrielle eyed the food, she’d fed her Dove before she’d come in here and new her pet was now sitting quietly on one of the bed pole, getting used to its new surroundings. She spent most of last night just holding and stroking it so it could get used to her and wouldn’t be scared of her. The more time she spent with it the better so when she finally took werewolf form it would trust her or at least she hoped it would. She still hadn’t even given the sweet bird a name but nothing she’d thought off really fitted at this moment in time.

She’d make it a large bird box then hung it up next to her balcony so it could fly outside, and back inside when ever it pleased. She looked up eyeing the dark haired woman. “Thank you for inviting me to breakfast.” Xena felt a smile form. “Your welcome.” She watched as the other woman pulled over her plate and started to eat. She up slightly as she took a bite from her fish “I’ve been meaning to ask for a long while how were you picked  as Horn Hind, I mean is there a ritual or a sign before you start growing your horns?” Gabrielle took a bite out of her barley bread. “No there’s no ritual it just happens.” She took in a deep breath. “One day you’re a no body among your race and the next you wake up with horns sprouting from your head. No one knows even to this day who picks the next Horn Hind or even why. Some say it’s the work of the Greek gods but I’ve never believed that as I don’t worship them. I always thought it was my goddess’s work as she promised me great things in my vision of her.” She lowered her gaze. “But I’ve never understood her thinking.”

Xena took another bite out of her fish. “I understand what you mean by that none of us know how the gods think or why they do things. They don’t visit people and people only ever claim that they see them in visions, dreams or whispers.” Gabrielle toyed with her bread absentmindedly. “I’ve had a vision and whispers but it’s been so long since my goddess has whispered in my ear.” Xena took a sip of her honey water. “It must be terrifying to go from being an unknown to a king just like that.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “It’s terrifying.” She finished her bread pulling over her warm porridge which was coated in honey she picked up her spoon. “My life as Horn Hind wasn’t pleasant well it was in the beginning when I had Damokles around because he was always there.”

8

Gabrielle opened her eyes she felt a smile form she could feel the larger arms wrapped around her, Damokles was sleeping. She gently eased his arm off her as she got out of bed feeling the cold air on her naked body. For the first time in what felt like years she felt happy, it was such a strange emotion to her. She wouldn’t lie their relationship had happened so quickly and yet now thinking about it she wouldn’t take it back for the world. She knew that he loved her and that she loved him just as much. He was a gentle man who was very heartfelt and kind, she turned eyeing his muscled chest with its many jagged unhealed scars, they had a lot in common, they both had scars made by human brutality.

She smiled before standing up, today was the day the new orders went out no doubt they’d be packing and heading out to a remote location with the new recruits. Three months had now passed and still no Horn Hind, it seemed odd to her but then she’d read that there was always a three month gap between Horn Hinds why that was still remained a mystery even to this day. Maybe the next one would give a damn about his or her people and wouldn’t lavish themselves in gold. She walked over to her drawing desk eyeing the small wooden bird which was almost finished. It was a tiny Goldfinch she intended to give it to Damokles when it was finally complete. She stretched again feeling her transformation start she’d become so accustomed to it now that she could block out most of the pain.

She wouldn’t lie though every time her pelvis bone shifted it still really hurt, she’d never gotten used to even now even after all these years. She winced as shook her long mane closing her jaws before rubbing her eyes. She watched as Damokles yawned waking up she turned giving him her best smile despite her razor sharp teeth as he opened his eyes. “I was about to wake you.” She blinked as he shot up in bed the shock appearing in his face as he stared at her. “What?” Damokles blinked again trying to contain his shock gods he couldn’t believe what he was seeing but it was there spouting from Gabrielle’s head just behind her ears were two velvet covered bone structures. The very beginnings of horns, he breathed in deeply trying to focus him self as he looked up meeting her confused gaze. “Horns…you’ve got horns.”

Gabrielle stared at him for a long moment. “Horns?” She didn’t think as she grabbed the glass mirror near her washing area bringing it up to her face slowly catching sight of what he was talking about. On her head just behind her ears were the beginnings of horns, thick bone growth covered in velvet, she swallowed staring at them in utter shock. This couldn’t be real could it? It had to be a joke or a dream and she was going to wake up from it why would she get these horns? She was just a warrior she wasn’t anyone important, she wasn’t even a full werewolf she was half blood. Every Horn Hind before now had always been born from two werewolf parents, so why would she be picked? She put the mirror down trying to steady her shacking clawed hand this didn’t make any sense to her at all. Why would she be the next Horn Hind? She knew nothing of leadership, she went down on all fours trying to focus her thoughts, everything felt like it was going so fast and she was now trying desperately to catch up.

8

Xena eyed her empty plate before turning to the other woman. “That must have been terrifying for you to just wake up and suddenly find that you had started to grow horns.” Gabrielle looked at her empty bowl. “It was terrifying that day Damokles was much calmer than me, I was loosing my mind at least it felt that way to me.” Xena picked her barley bread taking a bite from it. “If I’d been you I would have been going through the same thing.” She shook her head. “I may have resorted to drinking, to calm my nerves though.” Gabrielle picked up a boiled chicken egg slowly pealing it. “At that moment in my life I had no idea what to do or what to say. I’d been a warrior ever since the beginning but to go from that to a king just like that it made no sense to me at the time. It was like being in a dream and I just thought I was going to wake up at any moment and everything would go back to normal.”

Xena took a sip from her goblet as she turned meeting the other woman’s forest green gaze. “I remember when I returned to Greece all those years ago after I left Rome, I remember that I’d sent word that I was returning home. I made my way through Corinth the people were filling the streets cheering at my return in their hundreds and the whole time I was wondering why. I thought when I left to live in Rome that maybe those who loved me would not love me so much because of my loyalty to Rome and my husband yet when I walked through those streets on horse back and it never felt real to me it was so dreamlike.”

Gabrielle took a bite out of the egg. “If I’m honest I never felt any animosity over the idea of Greece and Rome as a joined and united land. I heard that it helped people there was a lot more trade and commerce, there were ideas which got shared like a new medicines and new forms of surgery. Also it gave new cooking methods, recipes and entertainment and even though Rome is no longer part of Greece the things people have learnt still remain. As have so many of the Roman people who have made the choice to stay here and not go home.” Xena finished her barley bread she put her hands together. “I never thought about it in that way and yet it makes so much sense.” Gabrielle chewed her last mouthful. “I guess it’s just the way I would see it if I were sitting on your throne.”

Xena raised an eyebrow as she leaned forward. “Have you ever been surrounded by a parade of people who are cheering?” Gabrielle put her hands together as she looked up. “Yes I have in the Grand City but I didn’t care for it.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Why don’t you care for it?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Their routine the Imperial Council used to parade me around the Grand City once a week for the people to see but the people couldn’t touch me. I was surrounded by guards and I was told that I couldn’t talk or speak to them. I always felt so detached from them and I’m sure they felt the same about me I’m the Horn Hind and yet they couldn’t even touch me. I never felt that I was worthy or there cheering because I’m not the one in the control I was just the puppet and the Imperial Council were the puppeteers.”

Xena slowly moved her hand putting it on the other woman’s. “I don’t care what anyone else says I believe you should be the true king of your people, you always want to do what’s right and that’s a very rare and noble quality.” Gabrielle felt the other woman’s finger close around her own she felt a sad smile form. “Thank you but that will never happen not while the Imperial Council rule and no one has ever been able to overthrow them and all those who have tried have been killed in battle or murdered.” She was about to say more only to stop as knock sounded on the door she looked at Xena’s hand which held hers, it was so nice to feel that caring from the other woman it was always so genuine. It also made her feel a lot more at ease during their conversations though it had taken her a long time to really realize how much it mattered to her. She had felt very out of her element but now she was just starting to get used to it despite that it still felt a little strange to her.

Xena looked up slightly easing her hand gently away from Gabrielle’s. “Come in.” She watched as Demetrius walked in through the door an uncertain look in his eyes as he spoke. “I’m sorry I did not mean to interrupt your breakfast Empress.” He nodded his head respectfully in Gabrielle’s direction. “Gabrielle.” He paused before speaking. “Abraxas has arrived and he brought his wife with him.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “You mean Ilithyia?” Demetrius nodded. “Yes Ilithyia.” Xena finished her goblet placing it down. “I was hoping that he wouldn’t bring her.” Gabrielle blinked in confusion. “I don’t recall reading in the scroll about Abraxas’s wife.” Xena breathed in deeply. “She’s Roman just like king Marmax’s wife, Eulalia.”

Gabrielle felt a sneer form. “Oh yes I remember them, he threw wine in my face and his wife never stopped laughing at me the whole time I was being dragged around in chains.” Xena tensed slightly she suddenly felt very foolish for bringing this up as she hadn’t wanted to remind Gabrielle of that day. “I’m sorry Gabrielle I didn’t mean to bring that up.” Gabrielle raised her hand wanting to change the subject. “What’s the problem with Ilithyia?” Xena put her hand through her hair feeling the frustration hit home. “The problem is she’s very charming and kind and this is going to make this meeting much more difficult because she’ll protect her husband even though he’s a foolish man who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.”

She shook her head. “I’m sure that Abraxas is coming here to complain about the werewolf hunting law being dropped but I doubt his reasons will noble, he has a lot of werewolf items he probably doesn’t want to give up these things as he sees them as trophies.” Gabrielle breathed in sadly. “There not trophies they were people.” Xena eyed her empty plate. “Yes and that is why you’re being there by my side is so important, I want him to see a living breathing werewolf who’s deeply noble.” She turned eyeing Demetrius as a thought crossed her mind. “I assume Iona won’t be in this meeting?” Demetrius looked up slightly. “No she won’t be, I have her doing training drills, she’s not enjoying it one bit but it’s all for her own good and she’ll see why in the future.” Xena stood up watching as Gabrielle did the same she turned to Demetrius. “I don’t doubt that she will with your training, I know if anyone can teach her loyalty and compassion it’s you.” Demetrius nodded his head respectfully. “I aim to teach her that and many other things.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “I look forward to seeing the results.” Demetrius felt a smile form. “As do I Empress.” Xena took in a deep breath as she met his gaze. “Please go and get Ceto and Thaleia as they need to be present for this meeting.”

Demetrius nodded before looking up. “I’ll see that it’s done.” Xena watched as he closed the door leaving the room. She turned slowly to Gabrielle. “Are you ready to go to the meeting? We can wait a few minutes if you’re not ready.” Gabrielle shook her head as she turned to the taller dark haired woman. “No I am ready and I think that now is a good a time as any.” Xena gently put her hand on her shoulder feeling a wide smile form. “What ever happens today I’ll be sitting right next to you through out the meeting. So if you want to say anything just say it, this meeting is as much about you as it is me and you are a royal by rights and an equal with me in these meetings.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly putting her hand on the other woman’s. “Thank you.” Xena felt a smile form as she eyed the smaller woman. “You’re my best friend I want to help you in any way I can.” She knew that this was a true statement she would do anything this woman asked it off her now. She trusted her more than anyone else in the palace and she really enjoyed her company. Gabrielle felt a wide smile form as she eyed her best friend as she felt her let go of her shoulder. “I will say what I feel.” Xena shook her head. “Abraxas has always been difficult, he’s my least favourite diplomat maybe him seeing you will give him a hard slap of reality.” She breathed in deeply. “Well I hope it does because I could do with out his foolish belly aching every time I make mayors changes to the laws.”

End of part 54

HARSH REVELATIONS WHICH ARE UNDENIABLE

Xena sat down on the side way sofa in the study watching as Gabrielle sat on the other one which was opposite hers. Normally she would have dressed up for this but she saw no point as this was probably going to be a long hard meeting and dressing up would be wasted on something like this. She shuffled slightly ignoring her silver plated armour which wasn’t the most comfortable thing to wear on a side ways sofa. Thank the gods that this sofa had thick fabric and stuffing because it made it much easier to lie on. She adjusted her sword on her belt as she got in to position catching sight of Ceto and Thaleia standing opposite them they both had wine jugs in their hands. In front of her were some bowls of cooked food mostly cut pieces of chicken and lamb with flat bread, true she and Gabrielle had already eaten but this was for the guests as they might be hungry, it was in essence food that could be eaten on a small plate and was very filling.

She watched as Gabrielle shuffled getting comfortable she could tell that she wasn’t used to sideways sofas as she was shuffling trying harder to get comfortable one of her swords was clearly not making it easy for her. She turned as the double doors were opened and Abraxas entered the study along with his wife Ilithyia walking by his side he was being closely followed by Demetrius who stopped as they both seated themselves on the side ways sofa’s which were faced hers and Gabrielle’s. She eyed the older man who was in his thirties he had short dark brown hair and dark blue eyes he also had a thick brown goatee beard. He was dressed in a gold and red woven long sleeve shirt along with a black pair of trousers and knee high brown boots. His belt was black with red weavings along with a golden buckle.

He had three rings on his right hand, one was decorative while the other was his wedding ring but the central ring was the important ring it symbolized his status as a Corinth diplomat. He wasn’t in his white and red robes but she assumed this was because this wasn’t a formal visit so he didn’t have to make an effort. She turned eyeing his wife who was in her late twenties and wasn’t much taller than Gabrielle she had light brown hair which had been highlight with red henna in places. She was wearing elaborate chiton robes which were green in colour and waist belt which was turquoise. On both her wrists were bronze decorative bracelets and on her right hand were her two rings one being her wedding ring while the other was her special ring that showed her status as a diplomat’s wife.

She breathed in deeply before speaking. “Good morning Abraxas.” She turned to his wife who nodded respectfully. “Ilithyia.” Abraxas watched as the long blonde haired woman who was sitting opposite Xena shuffled trying to sit on the side ways sofa. He had no idea who she was or even why she was here and frankly he didn’t care ether, she was probably the Empress’s latest sexual conquest. He picked up a goblet from the table watching as the dark skinned maid filled it with wine then put the jug down as she picked up a smaller jug filling the blonde’s goblet with what looked like apple juice the green eyed woman mouthed a quite thank you as she picked up her goblet. He snorted in disgust as he took a sip of wine as he unrolling the scroll in his hand so the Empress could see it. “Tell me is this one of your bad jokes Empress!”

Xena eyed the scroll instantly recognising that it was a copy of the ban on hunting on werewolves along with there equal rights status. She breathed in watching as Ceto filled her goblet with red wine and then moved to Ilithyia’s goblet filling it. She nodded to her maid as she took a sip from her wine. “Ah so you’ve read the amendment to the law, I’m glad.” Abraxas eyed the scroll feeling his teeth grind together. “Amendment you call this an amendment? It’s a joke that’s what it is!” Xena eyed her goblet half ignoring him. “It is not a joke it is very serious.” Abraxas eyed the scroll ignoring the blonde who fidgeted again clearly not comfortable on the side ways sofa. “Oh yes this is serious I was talking with the rest of the Corinth diplomats and their partners and they are not amused by this! They are asking me what in Tartarus is going through the Empress of Greece’s head that she’d be stupid enough to allow a bunch of slobbering, dangerous, pathetic monsters to live!”

Xena breathed in deeply watching as a cold look appeared on Gabrielle’s face though the other woman said nothing. Ilithyia looked up sharply as she spoke in a calm voice. “What my husband is trying to say is that he worries about this new change in the law, werewolves are after all dangerous.” Xena took another sip of her wine watching as Gabrielle shuffled again she clearly wasn’t comfortable on the sofa the younger woman took a piece of chicken on the bone as she sat up fully on the sofa biting in to it as she put her goblet down on the table. She felt a smile form. “I’ve come across some new information which has disproved that idea Ilithyia.” Abraxas sneered in disgust. “New information don’t make me laugh, there is nothing to understand about werewolves their disgusting monsters.” He turned as the blonde woman suddenly cracked the bone which she’d eaten the meat off in her mouth. He felt the anger it started to boil. “Seriously who in Tartarus is this woman and why in is she here in this meeting? She’s done nothing but fidget because she can’t sit still for five seconds on that sofa!”

Gabrielle eased the broken bone out of her mouth putting it on an empty side plate as she leaned forward eyeing him as she spoke evenly. “My name is Gabrielle.” Abraxas sat up slightly catching sight of the crossed swords on her back. “So why are you here Gabrielle, is it for the Empress’s protection?” Gabrielle took a sip from her goblet. “No I’m not here for her protection I’m a royal in my own right.” Abraxas laughed slightly as he met her cold forest green gaze. “You’re a royal please I know every royal in Greece and I’ve never heard your name mentioned.” Xena took a bite from a piece of lamb before looking up slightly eyeing Abraxas coldly. “Gabrielle is a royal by title she is on equal level with any other royals in Greece and her station is above yours Abraxas. You should show her some respect.”

Abraxas felt a sneer form as he eyed Gabrielle. “You’re a royal what are you royal off tell me that!?” Xena swallowed her meat eyeing him in disgust. “She’s the king of the slobbering, dangerous and pathetic monsters you were rudely referring to a moment ago.” Abraxas heard the shocked gasp as his wife let go of her goblet which hit the floor hard spilling wine all over the tiled floor. He breathed in deeply raising his hand as he recomposed himself. “Wait, she’s a werewolf!” Gabrielle eyed him as she spoke again in an even tone. “Yes I’m a werewolf and you shouldn’t talk to me as if I’m not here, it’s very rude.” Xena turned watching as Thaleia smirked before walking over to Ilithyia she carefully picked up the fallen goblet putting it back in her hand then refilled it ignoring her expression which filled with shock. Xena felt her smile turn to wide grin. “Gabrielle is the werewolf king or the Golden Hind if you would prefer her formal title.”

She took a sip of her wine. “Gabrielle is a guest here in my palace and the palace staff, enjoys her company through her I found out that werewolves have a human form in the day light hours and I’ve also found out that she is their king, I still have a lot more to learn though I don’t doubt that I’ll learn it in time as myself and Gabrielle have a friendship. This is why the hunting law has ended and you would do well not to press the subject Abraxas.” Abraxas turned eyeing Gabrielle before leaning back feeling a cold smile form. “I don’t believe you Empress this isn’t a werewolf I’ve seen werewolves their huge eight foot tall monsters with lots of teeth that’ll rip off your legs and eat them whole this is just a woman no doubt your latest sexual conquest. Also even if you are telling the truth and she’s really is a werewolf I never considered you as a person who slept with animals Empress.”

Ilithyia blinked snapping out of her haze feeling the panic take over. She knew her husband’s remark would anger the Empress. “I apologise for my husbands comment Empress he does not mean that.” Xena felt her free hand form a fist as she eyed Abraxas. She wasn’t sure what angered her more the insult to Gabrielle being an animal or the fact that he was insulting her by saying that she was sleeping with an animal. Even if she was sleeping with Gabrielle which she wasn’t she didn’t class her as an animal, she was an intelligent woman who deserved better than that remark. She took a deep breath feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke in an ice cold tone. “You know half of the Greek royals were very rude to Gabrielle when they first met her, I threatened to take all of their personal profits for the next a four years if they were ever that cruel to her again, would you like that same punishment Abraxas?”

She took another sip from her wine. “Also my relationship with Gabrielle is not sexual but even if it was I don’t consider her an animal she’s an intelligent woman who deserves respect!” Gabrielle eyed the other woman hearing a cold uncomfortable silence fall across the room. She could see that Abraxas now looked shocked and slightly afraid she slowly stood up walking over to the statue apposite which was made of solid marble she turned eyeing Abraxas. “You want proof of what I am Abraxas?” She put her hand on the statue of Apollo. “Could you move this statue?” Abraxas stood up he wasn’t really sure where this was going but right now he’d rather look at Gabrielle than the Empress who was giving him frightening look which could melt ice. “No I probably couldn’t, it solid marble we have one of these statues in our villa it takes three men to move one.” Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. “Really I had no idea it took that many?” She turned putting both hands on the statue as she spoke. “Interesting…”

She forced her shoulders forward she hated using her inhuman strength in human form but clearly she had to in this case as it was the only way to prove her point. She felt her teeth grind together as the sudden groaning sound hit the air as the marble statue slowly moved across the floor. She stopped turning to him watching as the surprise appeared on his face. “Three men, that’s a lot of men to move one statue.” Abraxas put down his goblet this was a lie or a trick the statue had to be hallow there was no way a woman her size or strength could move it! He walked up to the statue standing on the opposite side of it. “Oh that’s very clever but I’ve seen this trick before, the statues hallow that’s why you can move it.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “Please feel free to test your theory.” She eyed him as he put both hands on the statue pushing against it with all his might despite this the statue didn’t budge.

He tried harder only to stop as he looked at her the truth finally sinking in that this wasn’t a trick. She walked over to her sofa sitting back down. “Would you like me to push it to the other end of the room or does this prove my point?” Abraxas walked slowly towards her raising his hand. “So you’re a werewolf?” Gabrielle picked up her goblet taking a long sip before looking up. “Yes.” Abraxas slowly seated himself the curiosity taking over. “So the werewolves have a king and you’re their king?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “The word for king used by my people is Horn Hind and it can refer to ether gender.” She sat up slightly on the sofa. “I’m the seventh Horn Hind my predecessor was called the Crescent Hind, I am the Golden Hind.”

Ilithyia sat up fully looking at the blonde woman whose expression was unreadable. “How come we’ve never heard of you? I mean I was told that werewolves were nothing but monsters and that, they had no culture.” She raised her hand. “I mean no offence by that remark.” Xena felt a smile creep across her lips. “I can tell you now that Gabrielle’s people have a deep culture and a long history they even their own language, hence why I saw fit to end the hunting law I will not kill intelligent beings.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply before speaking. “You’ve never heard of me because it was never been necessary until now for any Horn Hind to reveal himself or herself to any human. I’m here now because I wish to form an alliance with the Empress and end the suffering that’s been taking place between our two races.”

She eyed the silver ring on her hand for a long moment before looking up. “It is my duty as leader to my people to protect them in anyway I can.” Abraxas put his hands together for a moment as he leaned forward in deep thought he looked up eyeing Gabrielle who expression was still unreadable. He knew better than to insult any royal least of all one he didn’t know, the Empress he only insulted because in all honesty he didn’t like her that much and it wasn’t just because of her killing his brother. His brother had always been a fool anyway who was asking for trouble, no he hated her because she was soft natured and her compassionate emotions ruled her.

A great example of her softness was the laws about imprisonment there were people who deserved harsher punishments in prisons and even death and her laws meant that most got life imprisonment instead of death or she tried to correct their behaviour through teaching, frankly he saw it as a waste of resources and coin. In his view it would be better to just put these people to death. Though saying this, this was the first time that the Empress had ever threatened him openly clearly she cared about this werewolf royal which was a surprise, he knew full well that she didn’t care that much for the other Greek royals. Maybe it was because this woman acted more like a warrior and not a pampered royal and he knew full well that the Empress was a warrior herself maybe because of that she saw her as a kindred spirit.

He raised his hand slightly. “My deepest apologises for offending you Gabrielle, but you understand that the idea of werewolves having a human form is a very new one.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Well I do hope the idea has sunken in because I would hate to have to transform just to prove my point.” Abraxas blinked as he sat back. “You can transform at any time?” Gabrielle finished her goblet she carefully put it down. “No only at night and only if I choose to.” Abraxas put a hand through his beard. “This is fascinating.” Xena finished her wine she watched as Ceto gave her a smile as she refilled her goblet. “No the truly fascinating thing is that Gabrielle in her werewolf form has horns just like a stag, there is no other werewolf like her, she’s one of a kind and I’m honoured for her to be here in my company.”

She ignored the surprise as it spread across Gabrielle’s face for a spilt second before she recomposed herself. “You should also be honoured Abraxas.” Abraxas felt his eyes dart as he leaned back. “My self and my wife honour and serve the Empress and all who she values.” Xena raised her hand seeing an opportunity present itself. “You’re the first to know about Gabrielle’s presence the other diplomats are not ready to know, what you know no yet. You must hide it from them until Gabrielle wishes that it become public, because as I’m sure your well aware that not everyone approves of werewolves.” Abraxas lowered his gaze for a moment before looking up. “As you wish Empress we won’t say anything.” Ilithyia nodded as she turned to the dark haired woman. “We will tell the others that our visit was formal and that we understand why the hunting law has been ended but we won’t say why. Only that it is in their best interests to obey your new law.”

Abraxas paused before looking up. “Since werewolves are human I would like to be the first to set an example by having my werewolf skull and pelt brought to the palace.” He turned slowly to Gabrielle whose face was now unreadable. “I’m so sorry, had no idea that your race had a human form or were intelligent I was told that it was no different from owning a lion or wolf pelt.” Gabrielle picked up a piece of chicken bone putting it between her teeth she cracked the bone then eased it out of her mouth looking at it before she spoke. “My predecessor kept our race out of the eyes of humans he agreed with our council that it was for our own good but it has caused nothing but suffering and we are now seen as monsters and animals.” She took in a deep breath. “People have in turn hunted us like animals because they didn’t know any better and all those who have died can not find their way to the Elysian Fields because there bodies have not had the proper ceremony and thus there souls are now waiting in limbo for release.”

Abraxas nodded as he looked at her. “Then that is all the more reason why I should give these things to you.” Xena slowly stood up she eased a scroll free which she’d written this morning she put it down in front on him. “Well since you agree with Gabrielle I want you to confirm your approval, I want your signature and Ilithyia’s on this document as well as both your seals along with the seals and signatures of the other Corinth diplomats and their partners by the end of the week or the next, once this done this law will be taken very seriously by every single diplomat in Greece and royals in the Greek Empire.” Abraxas picked up the scroll this was normal when the Empress asked for a law change all of the Corinth diplomats and their partners had to also sigh off on it and they normally did so with out fuss but he wouldn’t lie they hadn’t wanted to sigh of this law at all.

He would see that every one of them did it now as he fully understood the situation. “I’ll sign it with Ilithyia right now in the presence of your scribe if that is what you wish Empress.” Xena looked at him for a long moment before speaking. “Yes I would like yours and your wife’s signature and seal on it now.” Abraxas stood up watching Ilithyia did the same. “As you wish.” He paused. “I assume that we aren’t allowed to stay in the palace.” Xena turned eyeing him. “No you aren’t you know the rules Abraxas, plus I don’t wish to go through what I went through with your brother. The royal guard will take you both back to your villa, once you sigh this document.” Abraxas grunted aloud. “You know Empress the other diplomats don’t approve of how you treat them, even guests are allowed to sleep in your palace but we aren’t its very unfair. My brother was a foolish bastard but I am not like him.”

Xena turned sharply feeling her teeth grind together. “Yes your brother was a foolish bastard and you shouldn’t test my patience this is my palace and I will not risk what happened the last time by letting you or any other diplomat stay in side these walls.” Gabrielle stood up slowly speaking in a calm voice. “Perhaps what the Empress wants from you Abraxas is a symbol of your trust before she allows you to stay in the palace.” Abraxas blinked as he turned to her. “What do you mean by a symbol of trust?” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “A symbol of trust is when you do something noble to prove to your worth and nobility to the Greek Empire.” Abraxas breathed in deeply. “How would I gain that nobility just out of interest?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Only you can answer that Abraxas.”

Xena felt a smile form as she turned looking at the other woman for a long moment that really wasn’t something she’d considered. Gods how nice it was to have this woman by her side she had such a different way of looking at things, she had never thought about manipulating any diplomat in this manner but it made perfect sense force their loyalty by making them do something noble to prove their worth to her and regain her trust in an honest way. She turned back to the dark haired man who was deep in thought. “I would be most interested to see, what you and Ilithyia come up with Abraxas.” Thaleia looked up meeting Demetrius’s gaze for a moment before looking away he hadn’t been over exaggerating there was defiantly something more in the way Xena looked at Gabrielle. She’d seen it now so clearly, it was a long look from the Empress which held slightly longer than it should have. Although Gabrielle didn’t seem to even notice it or if she had she had ignored it. Xena turned slowly to Demetrius. “Please escort Abraxas and Ilithyia up to my scribes quarters so they can sign the document.” Demetrius nodded before looking up. “As you wish Empress.”

8

Xena walked in to the small room which was opposite the huge study followed by Gabrielle she watched as the two royal guards closed the doors behind them while the other four stood to attention. Ceto and Thaleia were still in the main study putting away the food and the wine, which was very normal producer. She was surprised by how well the meeting had gone she had not expected Abraxas to be so cooperative. He was normally such a bastard but clearly he liked Gabrielle more than he liked her and maybe she could use this to her advantage in the future. She wouldn’t lie ether Gabrielle’s idea of making him gain her respect by doing a noble act was very clever. She felt a wide smile form as she turned to the other woman. “Well that went much better than I thought it was going to go.”

Gabrielle eyed the room for a moment it was a small room which had a few tables and chairs at the cornier and many games which were lying on the table at all four corners of the room in the corners were white statues of the Greek gods. Obviously it was a games room of some kind. “What is this room?” Xena eyed the room. “This is the games room it’s for guests and palace staff when there not on shift there are many rooms like this littered across the palace. Gabrielle looked at one of the warriors who were standing guard. “Why have guards in here?” Xena walked up to one of the games picking up the dice and rolling them absentmindedly. “The guards here only stay in this room when I’m having a meeting in the main study, should any thing happen they are here to stop anyone leaving the study.” Gabrielle nodded before looking up. “That makes sense.”

She watched as one of the royal guards opposite her pulled his heavy weight crossbow free adjusting the loaded string. “No one can get out of the other room though it’s a bottle neck.” Xena nodded as she looked up. “Yes it is I had it specially made that way.” Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak only to stop as she watched the guard raise the weapon very slowly pointing it towards the taller woman’s back. She didn’t think as she grabbed the other woman arm forcing her side ways with all her might as the heavy arrow bolt left the shaft of the crossbow. The next moments turned to utter agony as the bolt slammed in to her shoulder causing her to cry out in agony as forced its way out of her back spraying blood over the table behind her in the process.

She felt the floor as she hit it hard on her knees as the blood began to soak her white shirt staining it red. She snarled aloud watching in what felt like slow motion as one of the guards moved towards the door bolting it shut in a swift calculated motion as the other warriors pulled out there swords turning to face both her and Xena. She breathed in painfully this was a set up someone had planned this, it was a well thought out assassination! She felt the intense throbbing pain in her shoulder as she tried to focus her mind which was starting to feel fuzzy, she blinked as her sight temporally blurred as she resisted the urge to pass out.

Xena felt the shock hit her as she turned to Gabrielle seeing the heavy thick crowbar bolt in her shoulder above her chest which had been meant for her stomach. The younger woman was now on her knees in pain, the red blood was now soaking her white shirt. She turned pulling her sword free in a violent motion feeling the anger burn deep inside her gut as she eyed the four men and two women who were not part of her royal guard, they were assassins dressed like them. She twirled her weapon she had no idea who they had been sent them to kill her but none of them were going to leave here alive! Not if she had anything to do with it!

She turned narrowly avoiding the second thick crossbow bolt as the archer fired it at her causing the bolt to slam in to the wall behind her burying itself deep in side the white cement. She snarled aloud not thinking as she ran at the archer as he tried desperately to reload the final bolt in to the heavy crossbow. She heard her own scream of anger hit the air as she swung the blade across his arm watching as the blood spattered across the marble floor as his scream of pain hit the air as the crossbow smashed in to the ground. She didn’t think as she swung her sword around full force slamming it in to his stomach pushing it in deeply watching as more blood hit the floor. She pulled up her foot forcing it in to his chest watching as his dieing body was thrown free of her now blood soaked blade.

She turned kicking the woman behind in the chest watching as she was thrown off her feet causing her to smash back first in to the floor. She moved back avoiding the other mans sword as she smashed her fist in to his face hearing his agonizing cry of pain. Gabrielle looked up she could see a two men and a woman coming towards her she shook her head watching as her blurred vision suddenly cleared. She felt her teeth grind together as the blinding rage took over she hated assassins! How dare these bastards think for fire seconds that she was going to lie down and die for them! She pulled up her arms ignoring the stinging pain in her shoulder as she grabbed both sword hilts pulling both weapons free in a violent motion as she forced herself to her feet hearing her scream of rage hit the air.

She didn’t think as she spun on her heel as swinging her first sword around followed by her other ignoring the stinging pain in her shoulder. The bastards would have to do much better than this to kill her! She watched as one of the men ducked narrowly avoiding her blade as the woman behind backed off trying to avoid the others tip as it narrowly missed her shoulder. Xena turned as the man opposite ran at her she pulled up her sword watching as his smashed with it as he tried to force his way through her defences. Who ever these assassins were they weren’t well trained, she’d seen much better in her time. She didn’t think as she turned on her heel slicing her blade right across his exposed side enjoying his cry of agonizing pain.

She turned eyeing the woman not thinking as she swung her weapons blade hitting the blade of her sword watching as she backed further away. She felt a cold smile form as she swung the blade slicing it across her leg hearing her cry out. She turned on the man as he ran at her she grabbed his sword mid swing before it could strike her shoulder she brought up her sword slamming it point first in to his throat. She pulled her blade free in a violent motion watching as his body fell to the ground shaking as death took over. She narrowed her gaze watching as the female warrior came towards her swinging her weapon she stepped sideways avoiding it as she sidestepped causally she eyed the woman in disgust. “What’s wrong, don’t you like a moving target?”

She turned smashing the woman full force in the face with her fist watching as the blood sprayed through her teeth. The woman pulled up her sword the rage showing her eyes she narrowed her gaze not thinking as she forced her sword forward seeing the opening. The woman’s face turned to shock as she looked down realizing that the blade was now imbedded in her chest. She watched as the sword dropped from her hand clattering as it hit the floor. Xena leaned closer to her face enjoying the look of pain in it. “Go to Tartarus.” She forced her blade downwards watching as the bloody spattered across the floor as she pulled her weapon free. The woman’s eyes glazed over as she put a hand to her bloody chest before hitting the floor on her knees her body fell forward twitching as death took over her gaze shifted slowly to Gabrielle who was now standing much to her surprise.

Gabrielle eyed the three assassins she was going to finish this right here and right now! She turned on her heels swinging the two blades in a looping motion hearing one of the men cry out as it sliced deep in to his leg causing blood to hit the floor. She turned fully on her heels she’d done this move so many times and now it was second nature she brought up her first sword watching as he brought up his. She suddenly brought her second sword forward slicing it across his neck ignoring the blood as spattered across her face in the process. She ignored his body as it hit the ground behind her hard. She eyed the other man as he ran at his weapons raised high she snarled as she shoved her sword straight in to his chest followed by the other in a perfect motion seeing the shock in his eyes as she let go off both of her swords stepping back eyeing him for a moment.

True it wasn’t nice to play with people before you killed them but right now she didn’t care, she wanted his last few seconds of his life to be filled with pain. She lunged forward grabbing both hilts pulling them free in a violent motion bringing both blades up his neck as she crossed them. She saw the terror and pain in his eyes as he realized what his fate was as his weapon dropped from his hand. She sliced the blades across his throat in a lightning fast motion ignoring the blood as it hit the floor as his body followed. She turned eyeing the blonde woman who was slightly taller than her and quite busty seeing the sudden panic in her eyes. “What’s wrong don’t you want to play anymore?”

She brought up her foot smashing it in to her chest watching as she slammed in to the floor back first, she walked up to her pressing her boot on to her sword hand while putting her other boot on the woman’s chest forcing her in to the ground as she crossed both her swords against her exposed throat, getting ready to slice it open. “I hate assassins your nothing but cold blooded murders who get paid for your services!” Xena looked up sharply eyeing her friend as she raised her hand sharply. “Gabrielle!” Gabrielle turned eyeing the dark haired woman. “What?!” Xena moved forward keeping her bloody sword in her hand. “Keep her alive, I want to know who in Tartarus she is and who sent her here to try and kill us!” Gabrielle looked down slightly. “Fine.”

She didn’t think as she forced one of her bloody swords in to the floor as she grabbed the woman by her collar. “When I get this arrow out of my shoulder you and I are going to be having a very long talk, believe me.” She brought down her other swords hilt down smashing it in to the woman head full force ignoring her scream of pain. She let go off her collar as she hit the floor completely unconscious from the force of the blow. She stood up pulling her sword free of the floor as she moved towards Xena. “I expected better, clearly none of them were well trained.” Xena looked up as she put her bloody sword down on to the nearest table no longer caring about what had happened as she eyed the other woman’s shoulder which still had the crossbow bolt stuck in it. “We have to get you to the healer.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling the stabbing pain as she eyed the crossbow bolt. “It’s nothing I’ve had worse.” She turned watching in surprise as the door behind them were suddenly kicked open as Iona ran inside with three men who all had their swords drawn.

Xena eyed Iona who stopped still the shock on her face as she eyed the dead bodies her voice hit the air filled with confusion. “What happened?” Xena gently put her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder before turning to her. “Some one sent these men and women to kill us!” She eyed the unconscious blonde woman close by. “That’s ones still alive I want her locked up!” Iona eyed the other men she felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Well you heard the Empress get that scum bag and lock up her up now!” She moved closer to the Empress who had her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder which was covered in blood. There was a thick heavy crossbow bolt going straight though her shoulder it had penetrated so deeply that it had come of her back on the other side it was clearly very serious. She paused as the dark haired woman narrowed her gaze eyeing her. “I’ll get Phantasos.” Xena watched as she left running out of the room at full speed, she had no idea why Iona had been in this part of the palace as she was meant to be on training drills outside but that didn’t matter to her what did was that right now she doing her job.

End of part 55

DEEP AND PROFOUND INNER STRENGTH

 

Phantasos eyed the thick crossbow bolt which was sticking out of Gabrielle’s shoulder gods this was one nasty wound, frankly he was surprised that the young blonde woman was still conscious. He could only assume the reason that she was, was due to her werewolf healing ability it was clearly keeping her conscious, though she was starting to look pale. The Empress had brought her straight to his healing quarters because he couldn’t take this bolt out with out his normal tools he needed something better. The young woman was now sitting on the healing bed so he could see the wound better, he breathed in deeply eyeing the Empress who was standing directly behind him looking concerned.

She was in fact blocking his light slightly because she was very close to Gabrielle keeping an eye on her. He stood up slightly putting a hand on his beard eyeing Iona, Thaleia and Ceto who were also in the room but standing near the door watching. He had wanted to kick all three of them out but he knew he didn’t have the time he had to now work on getting this bolt out with out damaging Gabrielle’s collar bone in the process. He took in a deep breath watching as the Empress’s eyes darted as she spoke. “What is it?” Phantasos turned slowly to her. “I need to rip her shirt open to get this bolt out.” Xena didn’t think as she moved in front of him watching as Gabrielle looked up. “Can I rip your shirt?”

Gabrielle nodded painful watching as the other woman grabbed the shoulder tearing it open in a violent motion. “I liked that shirt.” Xena pulled the bloody material back speaking in a soft tone. “I’ll buy you a new one sweetheart.” She stopped realizing what she’d just called the other woman, it had been a slide of tongue but she couldn’t help it just felt so right. Gabrielle looked up sharply had Xena just called her sweetheart? No she couldn’t have she was just imagining things. Her thoughts were suddenly shattered as Demetrius burst in through the door the shock in his face as he spoke. “I heard about what happened are you alright Empress?”

Xena eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “I’m fine in fact I’m still breathing because Gabrielle saved my life.” She stepped back allowing Phantasos to see the crossbow bolt. “She took an arrow that was meant for me.” Phantasos eyed the heavy cross bow bolt. “If only this was an arrow then it’d be easy to remove as it is this isn’t, this is a crossbow bolt it’s three times thicker than an arrow. Gabrielle’s very fortunate that the arrow head went right through her back it means I can get this out. Who ever fired this knew just what they were doing and they were clearly a good marksman but obviously today there aim was slightly off.”

He touched the bloody bolt. “Also I’ve never seen an arrowhead like this one before, it’s not stranded palace issue clearly as it was specially made to kill with one shot.” He grabbed a small metal saw before turning to face Gabrielle. “I’m sorry this is going to hurt I need to cut of the cross bow bolts flight end I can’t just snap it, it’s too thick and the last thing I want is for it to break off inside your body.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “Believe me this isn’t the first time I’ve been shot by an arrow or a crossbow bolt so please just get it over with.” Phantasos rolled his eyes warrior they always made the worst patients, he turned to Xena. “I need you to hold on to cross bow bolts arrow just above the tip which is protruding out of her back the moment I cut the flights off I need you to pull it out along with the rest of the bolt.”

Xena nodded taking hold of the cross bow bolt above the tip watching as he moved the saw slowly across the bolt which caused Gabrielle to flinch she held wooden bolt tighter hoping that it would dull the pain. Phantasos kept his eye on the wood as he carried on sawing slowly he eyed the blonde woman who teeth were grinding together this was clearly hurting her a lot but she trying her best not to show it. He eyed the others behind him. “Do any of you have any experience in cauterizing wounds through burning?” Demetrius stepped forward. “I do, I’ve done it many times on the battlefield.” Phantasos turned back as he carried on sawing he was so close now to cracking the bolt’s arrow flights off. “Good then go and heat that small bronze flat plate up over there I need it to be at just the right temperate.” He watched as the dark haired man moved over to fire torch opposite pulling it off the wall he slowly picked up the bronze round flat plate which had a handle then put it in to the flames slowly heating up.

He turned back grabbing the flights hearing the crack as the saw broke through the heavy flight feathers, he smiled throwing the flight to one side then turned to the Empress. “You know what to do, pull it out through her back slowly.” Xena turned eyeing the younger woman. “I’m sorry Gabrielle this is going to be painful.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply before speaking feeling a half smile form. “I’ve been flogged, I can take the pain.” Xena felt a wide smile form as she grabbed the cross bow bolt tightly. “Then this won’t hurt at all.” She pulled with her might watching as Gabrielle’s teeth ground together she eased it slowly out watching as the blood started to steam down the other woman’s shoulder the other woman’s cry of pain hit the air as the bloody bolt was pulled free. She eyed it for a moment before throwing it to one side as Phantasos forced bandages down as the blood started to spill through the now open wounds on both sides.

He looked up sharply. “I need that heated plate now!” Demetrius moved forward handing it to him. “It’s ready.” Phantasos eyed the hot flat plate which was smoking and red hot he turned to Gabrielle who wasn’t showing any fear. “I know you have an amazing healing ability but I don’t want to you bleed out anymore, you’ve already lost a lot of blood and I don’t want you to pass out.” He pulled the bandage away from the wound above her chest. “I know that this burn mark will heal up and disappear tomorrow.” He forced the flat plat on to her open wound hearing her cry out as it bunt her, he moved quickly to her back throwing the bandage of as he put the hot plate against her exit wound hearing her snarl inhumanly due to the pain. He pulled the hot plate away eyeing the both wounds which had now been burnt shut. He turned putting the hot plate on the bronze tray close by. “You’re all done but you need to go straight to bed and rest as soon as Xena’s cleaned all that blood off you.”

Xena turned eyeing the others as she picked up a bowl of cold water and a cloth. “I’ll clean the blood of Gabrielle and take her to bed.” She slowly opened the other woman’s ripped shirt as she began to wash the blood away watching as the other woman flinched painfully. Gabrielle shifted ignoring the pain. “I’m fine I don’t need to rest.” Xena carried on cleaning the blood away. “Please Gabrielle just do this for me, don’t be stubborn.” Gabrielle groaned as she met the other woman’s concerned gaze, she rolled her eyes. “Okay I’ll rest but not all night just for a couple of hours.” Xena turned slightly eyeing the others as a question crossed her mind which had been bothering her for a while. “Tell me Iona why were you near the study?” Iona breathed in deeply watching as the Empress carried on cleaning away the blood from Gabrielle’s shoulder causing her to wince painfully as it touched her burnt skin. “It is my duty to protect you Empress, I’m sorry that I disobeyed Demetrius orders.” She paused before speaking unable to keep the pain from her voice. “It’s just the only…”

Gabrielle winced as she eyed Iona. “It’s the only place you belong and with out being in that place, your world feels empty?” Iona blinked in surprise she turned seeing the shock in the Empress’s face before looking down at the floor. “What Gabrielle said is the truth, it is my duty to protect you Empress I will take any punishment you give me, for not doing as I was ordered.” Xena breathed in deeply recomposing herself as she looked at Iona. “No you will not be punished, you were doing your duty and for that I’m grateful.” She felt a smile form. “You’ll just finish Demetrius’s training later to night.” Iona felt herself breathe out with relief. “Thank you Empress.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow as he turned to Iona. “I agree with the Empress you’ll just train later tonight and continue with your duty when it’s needed, though I’ll still be with you at all times to teach and guide you.” Iona nodded she carried on staring at the floor as she spoke calmly. “As you both command.”

Xena put down the bloody cloth and water she moved taking a fresh bandage then slowly wrapping it around the younger woman’s clean wound. She tied it up then slowly helped her to her feet keeping her arm around her back. “Come on I need to take you to your room.” She eyed the others. “Thank you for your help Thaleia and Ceto you can both take the rest of today off. Demetrius and Iona you can both go back to your duties and find out who did this.” Iona nodded watching as Demetrius did the same thing. “I’ll take one of my best men and see how those bastards got in to the palace to start with I’ll also find out what happened to the warriors whose clothes they stole.” Xena nodded as she passed her by. “Please do that as I want to know that as much as you do.” Phantasos watched as Xena left with Gabrielle closing the door behind her he eyed the others. “You can all go back to your duties now I’ll clean up in here.”

Iona moved toward him putting her hands behind her back speaking in a low tone. “Can I have the arrow head the Empress took out of Gabrielle’s back?” She paused before speaking again she wasn’t used to using this next word at all. “Please?” Phantasos blinked in surprise he slowly leaned over taking hold of the bloody bolt passing it to her. “Of course…make sure you find out who did this and tell me, because I’ve never seen this type of arrow tip like this one before.” Iona turned the bloody arrow bolt eyeing the arrow tip which had a deep inner grove in its middle which was clearly meant to stick inside the body when it penetrated but in Gabrielle’s case it hadn’t. “Don’t worry I am going to find out where this came from, even if I have to resort to beating the Tartarus out of the bitch who survived.” Ceto breathed in sharply. “Well I hope you do because this time it was far to close to call, if Gabrielle hadn’t pushed the Empress out of the way she’d be dead.”

Thaleia folded her arms. “No we should all be grateful that Gabrielle is a werewolf because she’s going to heal up without a scar.” She opened the door watching as Ceto followed her. “I’m glad that she’ll going to be alright she’s my friend and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her, I don’t think the Empress would ether, she clearly cares a great deal about her.” She took in a deep breath as she closed the door behind her. Ceto turned to her. “Are you okay?” Thaleia looked up slightly. “I’m fine I’ve just never seen so much blood before.” Ceto put a hand on her shoulder. “This is part of your duty as a personal maid and I know how hard it can be I’ve seen the Empress covered in blood with a bloody sword in hand many times. It can be quite a shock the first time around. It’s best to just take a walk in the gardens and gets lots of fresh air, you’ll feel much better believe me.” Thaleia nodded as she turned to her. “I’ll do that thank you.”

8

Xena turned the corridor keeping a tight hold of Gabrielle who looked slightly pale saying that though if it had been anyone else they probably wouldn’t be walking right now not after a fresh cauterized wound like this. They’d be lying on the floor unconscious she could honestly say that from personal experience she had a scar on her chest from where an arrow had hit her on the battlefield during the Spartan uprising. She’d spent three days in bed after Phantasos had taken it out she’d never felt so ill in all her life. She had come so close to death if that arrow had been an inch higher it would have pieced her heart instead it had grazed her lung which had been very unpleasant, but in the grand scheme of things she’d take the intense chest pain over her heart being stopped any day. She looked at Gabrielle for a long moment clearly werewolf healing was remarkable

She moved her hand pushing open the other woman’s bedroom doors as best she could. She watched as the other woman eased herself free of her grip sitting herself down on the chair next to the breakfast table, as she pulled the scabbard holder free of her shoulder then put both swords on the table in a swift motion before eyeing her bloody ripped shirt again as she spoke in a tired tone. “Clearly people really do want to kill you.” Xena felt a smile form as she down on the chair opposite eyeing the dark sky outside the balcony she took one the candles lighting it before placing it on the table in front of the other woman. “Yes they do but today I was very well protected thanks to you.”

She paused before speaking watching as the candle light flickered close to the other woman’s forest green eyes causing its beautiful lighter green hues and tones to reflect ever so slightly in the dim light. “You said you’ve been hit before by an arrow and a crossbow bolt.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “A couple of times yes, safe to say you never look at arrows quite the same way again after one hits you in your privates in werewolf form it hurts a lot, as for crossbow bolts I’ve been hit in the back more than once with one in both forms.” She eyed her shoulder again. “Normally though they don’t go right through my body and I can pull them out myself.” Xena looked at her again eyeing her bloody shirt she slowly stood up walking up behind her. “Let’s get you out of that bloody shirt and in to bed.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I’m fine really.” Xena put a hand on her good shoulder. “Please let me get that bloody shirt of your back Gabrielle.” She watched as the woman lowered her gaze in deep thought, she felt her eyes dart as realized why she was saying no. To take of her shirt meant she’d be topless and maybe she felt subconscious about that. She breathed in deeply she knew Gabrielle didn’t see herself as beautiful or attractive and because of that she was sure that she was holding back because of it. It also felt odd as she was well aware that the other woman had seen her naked already though she hadn’t said anymore about that day and she had chosen not to push her. She wouldn’t push her now ether or say that because she’d seen her naked that she now had the right to see the younger woman’s body.

It wasn’t the right thing to do instead she wanted help her to be more comfortable she walked over to her cupboard opening it slowly so her back was to her. “What do you sleep in?” Gabrielle stood up slowly ignoring the pain in her shoulder. “My underwear.” Xena closed the cupboard. “Would you feel better if I kept my back turned? That way you can get in to bed and I don’t have to see, but if you want my help just ask.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath she shook her head eyeing the dark haired woman who now had her back turned to her. Xena wasn’t going to change her mind and leave the room she knew that already. She slowly began to un-buttoned her ripped shirt only to feel the pain as she tried to pull it free, she eyed the other woman trying again only to feel more pain she turned slowly to Xena. “Please help me with my shirt.”

Xena turned moving towards the other woman so she was behind her back. “I won’t look I promise you that.” She took hold of the bloody sleeve easing it free of the other woman’s shoulder keeping her eyes low. She could see the strong ripple of muscles on the other woman’s back and shoulders and arms clearly from a lifetime of fighting and yet despite this she was still very feminine and beautiful. Gabrielle moved her bandaged shoulder slightly ignoring the pain. “Thank you.” Xena turned slowly so she had her back to her again as she eyed the bloody shirt as she heard the other woman pull her boots and belt off. “How big is a werewolf’s heart?”

Gabrielle pulled her trousers off she slowly walked over to the bed easing herself under the sheets pulling them up to cover her chest. “It’s bigger than a human heart.” She paused before speaking. “You can turn around now.” Xena turned slowly on her heel she picked up the other woman’s swords from the table along with the candle. She walked up to the bed watching as the collared dove flew over landing directly on sheets in front of the blonde haired woman who stroked its back feathers gently a wide smile forming on her lips. “How big though twice or three times the size?” Gabrielle leaned back on her pillows taking hold of her pet with one hand as she took hold of the plate on the side table next to the bed which had bread parts in it. She picked one up feeding it to her pet which pecked at it as it started to eat.

She stroked its feathers watching as the dark haired woman sat opposite her bed putting her swords next her bed side and the candle on her side table next to her. “It’s bigger but only by a third even in human form but it’s not the size that counts so much, it’s the chambers there are five chambers and not four like a human heart it means the blood gets pumped around harder and faster, hence why wounds heal faster. In this fast moving blood is the gift of healing, but I can’t tell you what that is because even I don’t know.” She stroked her dove under the neck watching as it finished the bread. “That’s what the werewolf healers told me in the Grand City at least, don’t know if its true through, I also don’t pretend to understand why I don’t carry the curse anymore even though I’m Horn Hind.”

Xena moved her hand up stroking her face gently. “Some things aren’t meant to be understood that was what my mother used to say.” Gabrielle eased up her hand taking hold of the other woman’s. “Where is your mother now?” Xena lowered her gaze sadly. “She died a long time ago.” Gabrielle looked up slightly meeting her sad light blue gaze. “I’m sorry.” Xena shook her head. “It’s alright, she became very sick and died there was nothing I could do my father has never has forgiven me for it though, he believed that with all the power of Greece I should have been able to heal her.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly. “No one can control death Xena it comes to us all eventually.” Xena shook her head. “Your right it comes to us all, I guess what matters is how you greet it in the end.” She stood up slowly. “You should get some rest it’ll help you heal that wound.”

She leaned over gently placing a kiss on the younger woman’s head before pulling away. “I’m sorry we didn’t have lunch as I promised you.” Gabrielle blinked feeling uncertain of her self once more, had the other woman just kissed her? Yes she had why had she kissed her. She shook her head snapping out of her thoughts. “Its okay there will be another time I’m sure.” Xena moved towards the middle door opening it slowly. “Yes there will.” She turned slowly to her taking in a deep breath gods the younger woman was beautiful. “Goodnight Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Goodnight Xena.” She watched as the other woman closed the middle door behind her. She looked down at her dove before leaning over and picking up more bread gently feeding it as she stroked its back. That was an act of friendship that was all it was it wasn’t romantic, there was no way a woman as beautiful as the Empress was would ever love her, not in that way.

End of part 56

AN ELEMENT OF TRUTH AND PAIN

Demetrius walked slowly through the royal garden it was late at night but unlike any other night Gabrielle was no where to be seen. He had become so used to glimpsing her at night walking the corridors and garden in werewolf form. Yet tonight he had not seen her but that wasn’t surprising the Empress had put her to bed. He hoped that she was going to be okay, but knowing her she’d just shrug this off it seemed like something she did which was to play down pain even if it hurt like Tartarus. He’d seen hardened male and female warriors pass out when they’d had crossbow bolts being taken out. She’d remained conscious through out, which was impressive. He took in a deep breath as he carried on walking he spent so little time in these beautiful gardens apart from when he was training he’d never really stopped to just look around from time to time.

He looked up sharply as he caught sight of Thaleia she was sitting opposite one of the huge marble lions. She was clearly in deep thought as she didn’t even see him as he came towards her. He could see by the look in her deep dark brown eyes that she was deeply conflicted about something he had wanted to speak her for a while. As he had been concerned about their last meeting as she hadn’t been a very happy experience. He coughed clearing his throat before speaking. “Good evening Thaleia.” Thaleia snapped out of her thoughts she looked up sharply meeting Demetrius’s concerned gaze. She’d had no idea that he had been in the garden she been so lost in her own thoughts she lowered her gaze looking at the grass under her sandals. “Hello Demetrius.” Demetrius felt a smile form. “A dinar for your thoughts?” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Its nothing I was just getting some fresh air, Ceto said it would be good for me.”

Demetrius slowly sat himself down next to her. “Is it working?” Thaleia shook her head. “Not really, I thought being out here I wouldn’t think about all the blood I saw, but I’m still thinking about it.” Demetrius put his hands together. “Was it the blood and bodies in the game room or the blood on Gabrielle?” Thaleia took in a deep breath. “No I didn’t see the bodies, Iona wouldn’t let anyone go in to that room once Gabrielle was moved she had her men go in there and clean it out, was it bad?” Demetrius lowered his gaze. “It wouldn’t have been nice for you to see, Gabrielle clearly has no patience when it comes to assassins who shoot her, the ones she killed really didn’t go out in a very pleasant way, not that the ones our Empress killed lived very long ether.”

He put a hand on his beard. “Safe to say you not being allowed in there was for the best.” He paused before meeting her gaze. “You’ve never seen wounds and blood before?” Thaleia shook her head. “I’ve seen cuts and small wounds be stitched up but nothing like that, I mean the arrow bolt it went right through Gabrielle’s back. There was so much blood half of her shirt it was just stained red, I thought she was going to die.” Demetrius moved over gently putting his hand on her knee. “You know I wouldn’t worry about your Gabrielle she’s very strong.” Thaleia shook her head. “I can’t help it she’s my friend and even though I am meant to be her personal maid our friendship hasn’t changed at all.” She felt her self tense. “I know she’ll pull through she has the ability to heal herself but seeing all that blood on her it just scared me, I’ve never seen anyone with a wound like that before.”

Demetrius rubbed her knee gently. “You know if it makes you feel better the first time I fought on the battle field when I was young after the battle I did nothing put throw up. It was the blood the rancid smell and the bodies and I was just a boy I wasn’t ready for it at all. So don’t see yourself as weak in anyway for not being used to seeing blood it happened to all of us.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “You know when you put it like that I don’t feel so bad for feeling this way.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Trust me this may not be the last time you see that much blood but believe me it will get easier for you. There may even come a time when you have to get your hands bloody and it’ll be to save someone’s life, it may not be enjoyable but it will be necessary.” Thaleia took in a sharp breath. “I would hope that, that day never comes, but I understand what you’re saying and I will be ready for it if it’s going to be my duty.”

Demetrius nodded keeping his other hand on her knee. “I know you’ll do your duty, no one has any doubt of that, believe me.” He looked at one of the lions for a moment before turning back to meet her gaze. “I’ve wanted to speak to you for a while as the last time we spoke I felt that I’d offended you in some way.” Thaleia shook her head. “No you didn’t offend me I was just having a hard day.” She paused suddenly feeling unsure of how to word her next sentence. “It’s just there’s someone in the palace I have feelings for but there above my station and despite my own station I know I’m not good enough to be with them.” Demetrius blinked as he took in what she was saying he stroked his beard unable to stop his next question. “Is it Gabrielle? I mean do you like her, in that way…I understand I mean she is a king by rights.” Thaleia turned shoving him playfully. “No it’s not Gabrielle I am not in to women not in that way she’s just my friend.” She felt the smile fade from her lips. “No it’s not her…it’s someone else.”

Demetrius nodded as the understanding drew up on him. “I see well you should ask this gentleman out to dinner I think he would approve.” He breathed in sadly it was a shame she didn’t like him because he’d always liked her, she was a very beautiful woman with a charming and heart warming personality. He could see why a lot of the palace warriors talked about her and always in a positive way. Though he’d only really come to see what they were talking about now that they’d spent more time together. Who ever this man was he was lucky that she liked him because thinking about it now he would like to be that man but he was against pushing any woman in to any relationship she didn’t want to be in. He’d had relationships before now but all had ended badly as he had pushed to hard, the truth was he’d been a different man some years back he had seen all his relationships as conquests but once he’d gotten the woman he had been foolish and pushy or just lost interest hurting their feelings.

He was no longer that man and he wanted to a woman to be with him because she wanted to not because he was forcing her through conquests. Truth was Thaleia was far too good for him anyway and he knew that already. She was also very young and innocent and the better man should have her not him he’d just ruin it like it had his other relationships. Thaleia breathed in sharply as she turned to look at the taller man who now looked slightly sad. “I’ll think about it.” Gods that sounded so weak I’ll think about it, couldn’t she think of something better to say? She shook her head needing to change the subject. “You were right about the Empress she is in love with Gabrielle I saw it in her eyes today when she was taking care of her in the healer’s room.” Demetrius sat up slightly as he turned to face her. “I told you, she even called her sweetheart, she doesn’t do that to anyone else and I’ve seen her with other women she doesn’t touch them ether, not in the way she does with Gabrielle.”

Thaleia nodded slightly. “I heard that to I think Gabrielle did as well but she ignored it.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “Oh I think she heard it perfectly I saw a very odd look on her face for a moment before she looked away.” Thaleia felt a smile form. “Its nice to see that the Empress is in love, its been a long time since she’s felt this way about anyone.” Demetrius looked up at the stars. “It has, before I joined the palace in Greece I did see her once in Rome with her husband before her betrayed her she looked so happy and so alive. I wasn’t in charge then I was the second in command it was the general who was speaking with her I was just watching. It’s nice through to see her smile that way again, I just wish that Gabrielle would smile back at her or something.” Thaleia put a hand on her face. “There is so much I know about Gabrielle and still so much that I don’t, she’s complicated.” Demetrius carried on staring up at the stars. “Complicated is one word for it, personally I think she’s a little dense when it comes to the obvious.” Thaleia shook her head. “She’s a werewolf I don’t think she expects people to like her in that way, a lot of people don’t realize this but I’ve seen her getting ready she never looks at the mirror, it like she has a self image problem she never asks how do I look or do you think people will find the outfit I’m wearing attractive?”

She lowered her gaze sadly. “She’s also very hung up on that scar on her face I think she’s got this idea in her head that it’s ruined her face. I’ve seen the way she looks at herself in the mirror from time to time on those rare occasions, when she does look I can see the self loathing in her eyes. Yet I know that Damokles loved her deeply, from the way she talks about him. I think maybe he couldn’t change her mind about it, or maybe he did but now he’s gone she’s just revered back and as for her past relationships with women she just won’t talk about them to me at all. I know she holding something back, I’m convinced something really bad happened with one of her female lovers but she just won’t tell me and I try so hard not to push her.” Demetrius took in a deep breath. “Nothings really changed has it? She’s still the Empress’s little mystery and I agree with you as much as we know about her there’s still so much we don’t. She’s a royal who comes from a world which up until now has been a secret. It will take us a lifetime or more to learn about her and her people.” He put his hand on his beard as a thought crossed his mind. “Maybe you should talk to her about how Xena feels about her I think she’ll listen to you.” Thaleia rolled her eyes. “You know I can’t promise anything.”

Demetrius turned to meet her gaze. “I don’t expect anything Thaleia I just know that she considers you and your mother her closest friends next to the Empress.” Thaleia looked at the stone lion for a long moment before speaking. “No I think she see the Empress as her closest friend now, we are in essence her family, I always feel more like her sister even though I’m not her true sister. I know she has a real sister in her home town along with her real mother and father and a younger brother. I think she sees us as a surrogate family and right now we are replacing her real family who she won’t visit despite that there all still alive.” Demetrius raised her hand. “Maybe she won’t visit them because she’s a werewolf I mean that might be a hard issue for her family to deal with. Where as here she doesn’t have to go through all that with you and your mother you both already know and accept her for what she is and that’s enough for her right now. Just to be accepted and wanted by a family even if it’s not her own by blood.” Thaleia blinked there was a lot of truth to Demetrius’s word and it made sense though she’d not thought about it in that way until now, she turned slowly to him. “I think your right about that.”

8

Iona didn’t think as she smashed her fist in to blonde woman’s face watching as she hit the floor on her knees as the blood ran down her chin from the force of the blow. “I’m only going to ask you one more time! What is your name and who sent you to kill the Empress!?” She watched as Leuis grabbed the chained woman by her shirt forcing her back on to her feet she narrowed her gaze. “Was it that idiot Abraxas or his wife Ilithyia?” The woman’s brown gaze narrowed as she spat the blood in her mouth in her direction before speaking. “Please as if I’d use that bastard as a means to get inside your palace walls.” Iona eyed her bloody knuckles. “Then how did you and your little friends get inside these walls, do tell me?” The woman laughed as she looked up. “I’ve heard all about you, Iona isn’t it? You know they call you the royal toothless guard dog guess it must be nice to hump the Empress’s leg.” Iona didn’t think as she smashed her fist in to her stomach bring the other woman to her knees again. “Let me make it clear I’m not toothless and in this room the Empress’s humanity rules don’t apply and I can just stop hitting you and use one of my torture devices if that will loosen your tongue.”

She felt a cold smile form. “I have a lot of them believe me including a few of the banned ones which are no longer allowed to used in criminal punishments, normally I don’t ever get around to having to use them because most smart people loosen their tongues.” The woman laughed as she was dragged back to her feet her cold voice hitting the air. “Please I’m not a thug or some paid for hire hand I’m a professional just like you and threats don’t amuse me.” Iona felt her teeth grind together as she eyed her. “Professional, please you’re lucky to be alive, from what I saw you and your so called professional friends are all dead.” The woman’s smile widened. “Yet we got closer to Empress than anyone ever has and you weren’t even there to stop us.” Iona took in a sharp breath gods she hated smart mouthed assassins and this woman clearly had an ego to go with her smart mouth, which meant that this was going to be a long night. Clearly hitting and kicking her really did nothing and they’d been here a long time now with no results. Obviously she was well trained to take pain so it was time to give her something to really cry about she turned slowly to Leuis. “Bring me the bone breaker would you?” The woman blinked watching as he opened a chest close by she laughed slightly. “Oh please, you don’t have the nerve.”

Iona watched as Leuis eased the wooden club from the wall which was weighted with bronze to make it heavier handing it to her. “No you see that’s where I do have the nerve, I might be the guard dog as you call it, but its my duty to protect this palace and the Empress and all those closest to her and I’ll do anything for the good of this palace, even if its not nice because I’m the bloody right hand so to speak.” She didn’t think as she smashed the club in to her leg watching as she screamed in agony hitting the floor. “You’ve clearly been trained to take pain, so let’s see how you take to your bones shattering shall we?” She didn’t think as she smashed the club against her leg again with even more force ignoring her scream of pain. “Recently I had my arm broken and I realized just how painful it was, in fact it gave me a new perspective. So just to let you know I’m going to break both your knees first followed by everyone of your fingers then I’m going to smash in at least two of your ribs, it’ll hurt like Tartarus I’m sure.” She brought the club down once more hearing the crack of bone followed by the other woman’s screaming. “Unless I get your name and who sent you!”

The woman looked up as she spoke half mouthing a word which she didn’t hear she leaned down grabbing her be her collar forcing her in to a sitting position. “Oh do you have something to say now?” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Mavican…” Iona snarled as she leaned closer. “That means nothing to me!” The woman put her hand on her broken knee trying to take the pain. “It’s my…name.” Iona felt her hand tighten around the wooden club. “Very good, we are finally getting somewhere.” She leaned closer to the woman. “So who sent you to kill the Empress?” The woman breathed in painfully. “I wasn’t sent to kill the Empress…I was sent to kill Gabrielle the Golden Hind.” Iona blinked in surprise she kept still eyeing the other woman. “How did you know that her name is Gabrielle? No one knows that it’s not public knowledge yet who told you?” Mavican eyed the other woman in disgust. “You know you really shouldn’t keep werewolves as palace pets.” Iona didn’t think as she grabbed the other woman’s throat slamming her against the wall. “Let me be very clear Gabrielle is not the palace pet, she’s here because we want her here!”

Mavican winced as the hand left her throat. “Well all stray dogs should return to their masters.” Iona smirked as she turned to her. “Gabrielle has no master believe me.” Mavican kept her hand on her leg. “What would you know about her master, she has an obligation you know?” Iona turned smashing the club in to her hand full force ignoring her cry of agonizing pain. “An obligation…to who exactly?” Mavican held her had trying to take the pain. “The Northern Alliance of course, she betrayed us! She was supposed to kill the Empress and she failed, she owes us her life for her failure, that was the deal she made!” Iona kneeled down slowly in front of her she leaned forward catching sight of a long silver chain which went between her over exposed cleavage she hadn’t noticed it until now as she didn’t take much notice of that area in general when it came to any woman.

She didn’t think as she grabbed it pulling it free of her neck watching as the Northern Rebel symbol came in to view at the end of the chain. “Its funny I was hoping this was going to be much harder.” She turned to Leuis throwing him the wooden club. “Be sure to break her arm and all the fingers of at least one of her hands before you knock her out, I need to look at the records for the warriors going in and out of the palace.” Mavican looked up sharply watching as she moved towards the door. “Wait I told you everything I know!” Iona turned eyeing her feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Yes you told me everything and you insulted me and I hate people insulting me so now you’re going to pay the price for your mouth.” She didn’t think as she slammed the door behind her as she raised the Northern Alliance symbol, clearly Gabrielle did have enemies just like the Empress and these enemies wanted her dead.

It was no surprise that the Northern Alliance wanted her dead they were a bunch of bastards maybe this would give the Empress a reason to get rid of them once and for all as they’d always been a problem in the Greek Empire. They were clearly very stupid though to try and kill Gabrielle she was better in combat than they’d realized and the Empress knew how to fight just as well. She eyed the symbol again she’d show this to the Empress just as soon as she’d figured out how they’d gotten in to the palace in the first place as that part still didn’t make sense to her. Some one had to have let these assassins in which once more pointed to traitor working in side the palace. She knew that the Empress knew about this spy who ever they were but she had a feeling that maybe she’d been waiting for this. She didn’t want to find them as they’d never show themselves. Instead she’d let them come to her which was a risky move but clearly it had paid off, as they now had a prisoner and new information.

End of part 57

TO BE HUMBLED BY YOUR BEAUTY

Maybe I should wake her up or go check on her, no I shouldn’t do that she’s still sleeping she should sleep longer most people don’t normally get a crossbow bolt through their shoulder. So I should just leave her alone I guess I’m just concerned because it’s getting late in the afternoon and she still not up but then again I have no idea how werewolf healing works, I’m assuming that sleep helps it to work but I don’t know for sure and I’m only guessing. My thoughts are on tonight as well as I want to integrate the assassin personally. Not because I feel Iona that can’t do her job because that is not what I think at all I know she always gets the information needed. No it’s because I like to look my assassin in the eye before I send them to the noose, just to see what kind of a person they really are. I know both Iona and Demetrius are doing there duties right now and both have promised to be at this interrogation tonight though I have a feeling that they will both have a lot to say.

I would rather have Gabrielle with me as I feel this is as much about her as it is me. I won’t deny that this whole event has been very perplexing because it’s very rare that an assassin ever gets this close. The whole operation was clearly very well thought out and highly paid. They knew just when and where to strike, Abraxas and Ilithyia were in the study with Chara when this happened. I personally don’t believe Abraxas had anything to do with this he doesn’t have the right connections. He also left last night with Ilithyia, I had them both watched by one of Iona’s best men who checked to see if they met or talked to anyone but they didn’t talk to anyone and I’m doubtful that anything else will come up. Yesterday Abraxas started to show some me respect which doesn’t normally happen. Though I don’t think it was because of me I believe it was Gabrielle he seems to approve off her more than he does me, once he got over the fact that she wasn’t human. In fact when I think about it she made my job much easier and I’m grateful for that.

Xena looked down at the table eyeing the scroll which wasn’t work related but a scroll of a play she had been reading by a new bard. She had a feeling that any day now wagon loads of werewolf trophies, pelts and skeletons were going to be brought to the palace gates and they would only be the first things from Corinth. There would be thousands more brought here as the months went on, her hope was that Gabrielle would give her a location where she could have her warriors send all these items so her people could take them and bury them in the true custom just as Gabrielle had done with Damokles. She hoped this would be seen on her part as an act of kindness to the rest of the werewolf race and a sign that she wanted to make things right. Gabrielle had once said that most of her race hated her in one of their arguments. She didn’t want that anymore she didn’t want to be hated by them and she didn’t want to make war with them any longer ether.

She wanted there to be a day when she could sit down and drink a goblet of wine with any of them in the same way she could with Minotaurs, Satyrs and Centaurs who all had equals rights as Greek citizens under her rule. She put a hand through her hair as a thought crossed her mind, what if she could get Gabrielle to sit with all three races. She always had a meeting which each of there delegates and leaders in the summer time getting Gabrielle to sit in with them would also make a point to her race that she had the same rights. That was if she could get Gabrielle to sit in with them, she had never asked her about her thoughts on the other none human races and she had a feeling that the younger woman was very much holding on to her humanity despite being a werewolf, maybe closer to the time she’d ask her now wouldn’t be the right time. She looked up sharply as a knock sounded on the inner door. “Come in.” She watched as the door opened and Gabrielle walked in she was fully dressed but looked a little out of sorts as she pushed her shoulder length blonde hair back. She felt a smile form. “You know you had me worried I was about to go in your room and check on you.”

Gabrielle unbuttoned her shirt slightly revealing the skin on her upper chest which had healed up completely even the burn marks had vanished. “You shouldn’t worry yourself as you can see I’m fine.” She slowly re-buttoned her shirt. Xena put her hands together. “You look a little out of sorts though.” Gabrielle slowly sat herself down she’d just finished her breakfast and she knew she’d feel better in a few minutes. This was just another down side of being a werewolf after any serious wound you’d wake up feeling groggy and out of sorts you had to eat a large meal and it always took a few minutes before your energy came back and you started to really feel better. She looked up slightly meeting the other woman’s concerned gaze. “I’ve looked worse believe me and I’ll feel better in a few moments.” Xena pushed the fruit bowl towards her. “Please have something more to eat if you need it.” Gabrielle eased a red apple out of the bowl biting down on it hearing the deep crunch and tasting the sweetness, she swallowed her mouthful as she turned to the older woman. “Thank you.”

Xena breathed in deeply. “Could you tell me what happened when the Imperial Council realized that you were really Horn Hind?” Gabrielle took another bite from the apple. “You know I consider that moment one of the most surreal in my life, since I just went from being an unknown werewolf to the most well known werewolf in the Grand City I was ready or prepared for it at all.” Xena leaned back in her chair. “I don’t think anyone is ever prepared for power Gabrielle, my mother used to say great men and women do not gain power through force of arms, they have it thrust up on them.” Gabrielle leaned over pouring a goblet of water she finished her apple then took a long drink from it before looking up. “Never thought about it like that.” She paused before speaking. “I guess it was trust up on me then because the Imperial Council believed my being Horn Hind was a lie they wouldn’t even see me, it was Damokles who forced the issue in the end and they hated him for it.”

8

Hesperos sat back in his golden plated thrown adjusting his purples robes as he ran his gold ringed finger through his thick beard which had gold ringlets woven in to it. “The rumour is a lie! There is no way that our gods would choose a half breed as our Horn Hind the very idea is propitious!” Admes eyed his older companion putting a hand on his blotted belly. “I agree its lies and slander!” Narella put her hands together. “Plus there hasn’t been a female Horn Hind in over three centuries and we all know what happened to the last one.” She turned pointing at the huge scroll on the wall behind her throne. “She betrayed our ancestors leading us all to ruin!” Damokles folded his arms this was the first time he’d ever been inside the council chambers he knew that Gabrielle had been here once to see the Crescent Hind and she hated the place. He could now see why, there were gold plated statues, and lavish rugs and decedent finery. The walls were highly decorated along with purple velvet curtains all lined with gold. Three huge thrones were bellow the main larger empty throne which belonged to Horn Hind and the Imperial Council were all seated on them.

Two men and one woman in there fifties and all spoilt and decedent, all wore lavish golden robes with rich colours and expensive rings. He eyed them in disgust before turning to look at the other werewolves below their thrones who were from each cast warrior, worker and builder, but all of them were full blood there was not a single half breed among them. He breathed in eyeing the scroll behind them which was called the Ethereal Ark Of Fire it was apparently very special as it had been written in godly ink and could rewrite its self as well as lengthen itself. The Imperial Council though kept it behind the thrones and no one was allowed to touch it as it was a sacred item. He breathed in knowing that his lover was behind the door in werewolf form, it had taken him two weeks to get this meeting and he refused to be thrown aside now. “The Imperial Council is mistaken this woman has been given horns! She is Horn Hind!” He raised his hand. “None of you can deny Horn Hind to do so is a sin against our race!”

Admes snorted in disgust. “You have much to say but we know you Damokles, we know that you’ve been turning others to your beliefs over the years you want the class system to end and you want half breeds like yourself to have the same rights as pure blood werewolves, you even believe that human born children should be allowed to live.” He put a hand on his chin. “We also know that this woman is your lover and it would make sense for you to pull a stunt like this as it would get a lot of your so called followers talking.” Damokles turned watching as Gabrielle walked in to the room on all fours wearing a long cloak to cover her head and body. “The Imperial Council thinks too much but you are all fat decadent fools and you will have your proof.” He watched as Gabrielle stood up easing down the hood. The horns had grown even bigger now and the beginning of horn structure was growing though it was all still covered in velvet.” He listened as the silence fell across the room he raised his hand pointing at the horns. “I dare any of you to try and tell me those aren’t real!”

He eyed them all in disgust. “Also I would like point out that yes this woman is my lover, but we had been together for quite some time before this happened.” He breathed in deeply. “So you will hear me now, this is your new Horn Hind and her name is Gabrielle! You will kneel to her because she is your future and she is the first Horn Hind to not be born of two werewolf parents!” He watched as they stood up he felt a cruel smile form as they slowly got to their knees in front of their thrones. He ignored their burning looks of hated all directed at him. He turned watching as the werewolves from each class did the same to show there respect. The love of his life Gabrielle was now Horn Hind the werewolf king and everyone should respect that truth. He turned slowly getting down on one knee in front of her ignoring her surprise. “Gabrielle you are Horn Hind you are the new king of our people, you whose horns rise to the heavens. Lead us as we are meant to be led in to the future, guide us as a people and do what is right for our race and bring us glory beyond measure.”

8

Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly. “I wasn’t ready everyone was kneeling before me and I was suddenly a king.” She felt her hand form a fist. “I didn’t know then but I know now that this was the beginning of the end for my self and Damokles he really angered the Imperial Council that day by calling them fat decadent fools and they hated him with a passion after that. He wasn’t on good footing with them to start with because he wanted equal rights and to end the killing of human children. I was new and naïve to being a ruler at the time I didn’t understand the smoke and mirror politics that go on the shadows and are hidden from view also he was my closest friend and I made him my advisor the next day. I didn’t trust anyone else but then again I never made the effort early on to secure loyal followers. It was only after his death that I started to secure these people and ironically everyone who had been loyal to him became instantly loyal to me.” She eyed her silver ring for a long moment. “I wish I known what I know now, maybe if I had I could have prevented his death.”

Xena shook her head sadly. “You know you shouldn’t dwell on that Gabrielle you did the best you could at the time, it’s a lot of responsibility to rule people and when I took the throne as Empress I wasn’t prepared ether. I’d been a warrior and a diplomat all my life and suddenly I was the ruler of Greece it’s just my transition in to throne wasn’t as sudden as yours it was much slower and had more time to prepare myself.” She moved her hand gently putting on the other woman’s clenched fist. “I admire that you took all that on to your shoulders with out question, I think a lesser person may not have coped with what you took on.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she lowered her gaze looking at the table. “Thank you for your kind words.” Xena moved her fingers watching as Gabrielle’s fist slowly unclenched she moved her fingers gently over her hand enjoying the feel of her soft skin under her palm this woman was so beautiful and charming and she loved her company.

It had been so long since she’d felt this way about anyone or cared so much and it was a nice feeling to have again, the last time she felt this way was when she’d been with a her husband. She felt her world freeze as a she looked at the other woman who was still looking at the table in deep thought by the gods she was in love with her! The thought of that felt like being hit by a stone cement wall and yet it was also a liberating feeling which filled her with joy. A joy which she couldn’t describe at this moment in time but she knew it was there. She carried on staring at the younger woman letting her eyes drift over her face which was so unique the scar on her right eye only added to her beauty. She raised her other hand slowly suddenly feeling the need to touch the scar above her right eye just to feel the contours of the mark which truly defined her as person.

A mark of her courage, her passion and everything that made her who she was as a person, her thoughts were shattered as a hard knock sounded on her study door she put her hand on the table as the younger woman looked up sharply. She turned giving her a warm smile as she stood up watching as the younger woman did the same. “It’s probably Iona or Demetrius, they told me this morning that they’d been successfully interrogated the assassin who attacked us last night, but they want you to be present for her judgment tonight.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Why do I need to be present?” Xena put her hands behind her back. “Because you were there with me, it’s just perfectly normal.” Gabrielle looked down at her boots. “What are you going to do with the assassin?” Xena walked towards her study she slowly eased open the door. “She’ll probably be sent to the noose saying that though, she could become very useful in that she could be used as bait to bring in the larger fish who had the nerve to send in her and her friends to kill me.”

Gabrielle eyed the afternoon sky. “Would you be okay if we held off this judgement until it gets darker?” Xena turned slowly to meet her gaze. “Why at night?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I just have this feeling that she might take her judgement more seriously if she has to look me in the eye in werewolf form, I don’t want to hurt her I just want to scare her a little that’s all.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “If you think it will help then I’ll be happy to wait a little longer ether way she’ll be judged today one way or the other.” Gabrielle nodded as she moved slowly towards the inner door. “I just want the truth and I know that very few people have the nerve to lie to me when I’m looking at them in my other form.” Xena nodded feeling her smile turn to a wicked grin. “I think it’s your protruding upper and lower canines they tend to make a point, even when you’re not speaking.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “Oh really well I’ll remember that in future.” Xena watched as she left closing the door behind her she raised her hands feeling lost in the turmoil of her own emotions. She was in love with the other woman gods it felt like it had been so long since she’d felt this way and yet she remembered the feelings so clearly as if she’d felt it only yesterday.

She could feel the beating of her heart deep with in her chest and taste the dryness of her lips along with the need to touch the person who brought forth such desire. Yet the woman of her desires was completely unaware of her longing or her love and was always looking away. The realization of her feelings for the younger woman had only become clear to her now though so Gabrielle may have seen a lot of her past actions as the actions of a friend and not someone in love. One thing that was very clear to her though she did love this woman and the fact that she wasn’t human did not bother her in the slightest in fact it was drawing her in and it made her want her even more. She wanted to feel her heart and her soul and watch her beautiful forest green eyes reflect in the darkness. She took in a sharp breath trying to calm herself down only to hear the door as it was knocked on once more she turned sharply. “Come in!”

She stepped in to the study closing the door behind her watching as Demetrius walked in. Demetrius felt a smile form as he looked at the dark haired woman. “The prisoner is ready for your judgement Empress.” Xena sat herself down at the desk looking at the table top. “Then she’ll have to wait longer, Gabrielle wants to see her but only in werewolf form she believes it’ll help.” Demetrius nodded his head calmly. “I’ll inform Iona she has her chained to a chair in your throne room.” Xena moved her finger in circles absentmindedly on dark wood. “Does this assassin have a name?” Demetrius put a hand on his belt. “Yes her name is Mavican.” He eased out the scroll from it putting it on her desk. “Chara tracked her background, not much to say really typical mercenary but not at the low end of the scale she’s at the high end like Iona. She’s a big hitter who kills very important people for a living and very much a dyed in the wool professional of the highest calibur. She’s never served in your armies and people in the past have hired her out to kill diplomats her last target was a Roman senator it was a successful kill but since then she hasn’t been hired out for six months.”

Xena opened the scroll eyeing it. “Or clearly someone else hired her privately recently.” Demetrius nodded calmly. “Iona has a lot more information on her, she was able to get it out of her, though she said it was more difficult than normal Mavican is a professional and very good at taking pain she have to break a few of her bones.” He looked up seeing a slightly distant look in the Empress’s light blue eyes. “Are you alright Empress you look a little distracted?” Xena looked up meeting his concerned gaze. “I’m fine I’ve just got things on my mind.” Demetrius felt a wide smile form. “Would one of those things be Gabrielle, by any chance?” Xena felt herself tense she looked up slowly she wanted to lie but she knew better. Demetrius could always see right through her lies anyway and what did it matter if he knew how she felt right now? She’d always trusted him. “I need to tell you something but it has to stay between us.” Demetrius nodded calmly he knew what she was going to say but he really wanted to hear her say it. “Go on.” Xena put her hands together taking in a deep breath. “I think I’m in love with her, I think I have been for a while I just haven’t really admitted it to myself until today.”

Demetrius breathed in deeply. “She’s a fine choice for you she has courage, pride and honour and she’s a great warrior.” Xena shook her head. “The truth is I don’t know if she even cares for me in the same way and I know something happened in her past that’s made her weary of women I saw it every time I put my hands on her to start with she used to flinch, I can’t force her to love me ether.” Demetrius stepped closer to her table. “Empress I think she cares about you I think she just needs time and maybe if she’s not ready to pursue maybe you should instead. I mean for better or for worse you’ll find out if she loves you.” Xena looked at him for a long moment before putting her hands together. “You have a point I just feel like it’s been so long since I pursued anyone.” Demetrius folded his arms. “I don’t think we ever stop learning how to love Empress, I’d just take this slowly.” Xena leaned back in her chair. “I’ll think about that.” Demetrius nodded as he opened her outer door. “We’ll be waiting for you in the throne room.” Xena sat up slightly. “Thank you Demetrius for listening.” Demetrius nodded as he looked up. “Always a pleasure Empress and don’t worry no one else will know about this it’ll be between us.”

End of part 58

A HARSH TRUTH AND A SMOKING MIRROR

Demetrius breathed in eyeing the woman who was chained to the heavy chair Iona had really done her job, her arm was broken as was her knee and all the fingers on her right hand. She was clearly in a lot of pain as none of the broken bones had been looked at or reset and she’d been left over night in this condition. This was common practice though for those who betrayed the Empress their last few days alive were never very pleasant most of them begged to go to noose just to end it all. Unless something very important came out of this woman’s mouth in these next few hours she’d be facing the noose tomorrow morning. Not that there was any chance of that, Iona had really beaten the truth out of her or so she’d said and gotten all the information needed. He had faith in her abilities, though he didn’t like her methods he accepted that they were essential when it came to these situations as she was the one who always got the answers which others couldn’t get and she’d always gotten the truth. He eyed Iona who was pacing the uncertainty in her eyes she clearly wanted to get this over with and the delay wasn’t helping her mood.

Saying that though her mood was much better than it normally was in this kind of situation, she much calmer and she wasn’t as angry ether she also seemed much more focused. Maybe the time away from her position had, had an impact in some way. She clearly wasn’t interested in Gabrielle or her abilities anymore and she hadn’t been as cold as she had been in the past. She was also doing the drills he asked her to do and she didn’t complain she was got on with it. Despite this he wasn’t going to stop doing these drills not until he was sure that she had grasped honour and discipline and that there was no question about her loyalty. He watched as she turned as the double doors to the throne room were opened as the Empress walked in a very unreadable look in her piecing light blue eyes. He lowered his head. “Hello Empress.” Xena stepped forward watching as the prisoner came in to view she nodded in his direction before turning to Iona who instantly stopped pacing. “So this is the prisoner?”

Iona looked up slightly. “Yes Empress.” Xena eased up her hand feeling it form a fist. “Well before Gabrielle gets here lets ask her some questions.” She watched as the blonde haired woman who was chained to the heavy chair looked up, she leaned over eyeing her in disgust. “Well, well it’s been a long time since anyone’s got that close to me and I might be impressed if it weren’t for the fact that you were trying to kill me.” She watched in surprise as the woman smirked before speaking in a cold voice. “How utterly arrogant of you Empress, to even believe that myself and the others were even after you, I don’t give a Tartarus about you, you were just in the way and we only shot at you because wanted to get our real targets attention we knew that she might try to save you, we were hoping though that it would cost her, her miserable life.” Xena blinked in surprise she looked up watching as Iona coughed clearing her throat before speaking. “Mavican said that she came here to kill Gabrielle that was her target not you Empress.” Xena felt herself tense. “They were after Gabrielle?” Iona nodded. “Yes Empress.”

“She was trying to kill me, I’m flattered.”

Xena turned sharply watching as Gabrielle walked in through the double doors on all fours moving very slowly keeping her pace slow and steady she knew instantly that the other woman was now playing on her image to its maximum effect. She was ensuring that every claw tapped the marble harshly and keeping lower to the ground than normal so she looked much more dangerous and primal. She turned seeing the smug smile fade away from Mavican’s face as it turned to uncertainty and fear. Obviously the fact that Gabrielle wasn’t human was a detail which her employer had not told her, her reaction very much confirmed this. She looked up slightly. “Please allow me to introduce you to the woman who was your target.” Gabrielle kept low to the floor as she moved towards the chained woman coming to a stop in front of her. She slowly stood up so she was towered over her then moved her head so her teeth were with in inches of her face before speaking coldly. “As you can see I’m not human unless that’s escaped your attention.” She eyed the woman whose whole body tensed as the terror took over. She raised a clawed hand so she could see it. “I’m in fact a werewolf and I’m sure you’ve heard all the wonderful stories about werewolves and how they eat people while their still breathing. Well I’m here to tell you that all those stories are all true and if you don’t tell me what I want to know right now I’m going to eat you. I’ll start by shoving your head right down my throat and listen to you choke before I rip it from your shoulders.”

She slammed her clawed hand down hard on the chair watching as the woman started to shiver clearly what ever bravado she’d had, had now gone down the gutter along with her nerve. “So let’s get on with this shall we, who sent you?” She ignored Xena’s surprise watching as Iona came forward raising a pendent so she could see it. “She’s from the Northern Alliance I found this around her neck, she said that she was sent to kill you because you failed in your mission when you tried to kill the Empress and because you failed she said that you owed them your life.” Gabrielle eyed the symbol for a long moment before speaking. “What is it made from?” Iona eyed the symbol feeling the confusion take over. “It’s made of copper, why?” Xena narrowed her gaze clearly Gabrielle was on to something and it was better for her just go with it as her presence alone was terrifying the assassin. Gabrielle felt a cold smile form as she turned back to the chained woman who was called Mavican eyeing her in disgust. “Your not very bright are you Mavican?” Mavican looked up slightly trying to gain control of her nerve. “I had the nerve to try and kill you, didn’t I?” Gabrielle didn’t think as she slammed her clawed hand around her throat ignoring the look of shock as it spread across her face. “Yes and you failed and if the Empress hadn’t stopped me I’ve have sliced your throat open.”

She tightened her grip slowly. “But as it is you’re here and you’re alive…for now.” She let go sharply. “I know for a fact that all Northern Alliance symbols are made from tempered bronze so yours is a fake on top of that the wolf in the centre is made from brass along with the fire sections. The Northern Alliance takes great care to make their symbols this way, so people can’t copy them but clearly yours is nothing but a moulded fake and a bad one at that. So you’re not from the Northern Alliance and you’re lying and one thing I can’t stand is liars, so you’re going to tell me right now who really sent you or I’ll rip your face off!” Mavican shivered as the jaws opened revealing lots of razor sharp teeth which were huge she felt the panic over take her. “It was this middle aged man he came to me, he offered me a huge ransom in gold and silver if I killed you!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze closing her jaws. “What was the man’s name!?” Mavican swallowed. “His name was Hesperos!” Gabrielle breathed in painfully feeling her clawed fingers dig in to the wood of the chair as she tried to control her burning anger. She closed her eyes for a long moment trying to gain control of her emotions before stepping back as she opened up her eyes again. Xena stepped closer to Gabrielle she could see the pain and conflict in her eyes. “Hesperos you told me that he’s one of the Imperial Council members.” Gabrielle took in a painful breath. “Yes he is.”

She felt her clawed hand form a fist causing her knuckles to crack. “Clearly the Imperial Council must feel that I’ve out lived my usefulness now they are trying to kill me just like they did my processor.” Demetrius blinked in confusion he turned seeing the shock spread across Iona’s face as well. “The Imperial Council, Phrixus was talking about them to me there the so called leaders of your race.” Iona eased up the scroll in her hand opening it. “So called they don’t even deserve to be leaders they sent this pathetic little assassin and her friends to kill their king that in its self is high treason.” She turned to Gabrielle whose teeth were grinding together. “I hope you make them pay for this, you’re the one true king, not them.” Xena raised her hand sharply. “I agree and we can discuss this later, what I want to know is how this woman got in to my palace?” Iona turned the scroll she was holding around so the Empress could see it. “They’ve been here for three days they’ve been posing as our guards.” She took in a deep breath. “Before the guards were routed they killed them then replaced them before they got in to the palace. They took there clothes then took there place and put there names down on the books. It wasn’t obvious to me until I went through the records and spotted that their signatures didn’t match the real signatures from last week’s rotation.”

Demetrius folded his arms. “Myself and my one of my best men found the bodies of the men and women they killed, they didn’t clean them up very well we found them in the sewage aqueducts under the city late last night, it was in fact Iona’s suggestion to check there and her instincts were spot on.” He ignored Iona’s surprise as he spoke again. “The arrow heads used on the crow bow bolts were Persian but it’s very easy to obtain these arrow heads through the market if you know who to ask.” Iona shook her head as she recomposed herself. “Yes and I had one of my men squeeze that information out…so to speak, the trader who sold them was very forthcoming.” Xena folded her arms. “So her and her friends killed my warriors and replaced them and brought Persian arrow heads, this still does not explain how she got in to that games room opposite the throne room.” Gabrielle turned back to Mavican. “Do tell us who told you and your little friends where to go?” Mavican breathed in painfully. “Someone inside the palace showed us the room to go in!” Xena moved to stand in front of Mavican. “Who told you where to go!?” Mavican lowered her gaze to the floor. “It was your head cook, she told us about the lay out the palace, she even told us about the games room and told us that you normally you go in there after your meetings. She said trying to kill you in the study room would be a fruitless attempt as it’s built as a bottle neck. We just needed to be patient and play good little guards for at least three until the right moment then she’d open one of the doors so we could get in to the games room.” Xena felt the shock as it hit home she stood still for a long moment allowing the assassin words to sink in. She wasn’t the only one to look shocked she could see it in the faces of everyone apart from Gabrielle.

Gabrielle slowly lowered herself on to all fours feeling her teeth grind together once more, she might have known. She’d given that bitch a chance to come to clean about her past but she’d chosen to ignore her and go down another path. She spoke not caring for her cold tone. “I might have known.” She moved away from them. “Excuse me while I’ll deal with her personally.” Xena snapped out of her haze she moved in front of Gabrielle stopping her from moving forward. “Wait you knew about this?” Gabrielle eyed the other woman. “I didn’t know about the assassins no, I just knew that your cook isn’t who she pretends to be, she’s not even human she’s just like me.” Iona moved forward. “Kalika’s a werewolf?” Gabrielle stood up slowly on her hind legs turning to meet her shocked gaze. “Yes she’s a werewolf just like me and her past life is a fabrication she’s not even Greek, she’s Roman.” Xena moved her hand up putting it on Gabrielle’s chest. “Why didn’t you tell me this sooner Gabrielle?” Gabrielle lowered her ears. “Because she’s like me and if she knew that she’d been exposed for what and who she really is she might have killed you and everyone else in this palace. I will not risk the lives of your palace staff over one of my own kind. Rogue werewolves answer to no one and we both know the damage one werewolf can do when its lets loose in your palace.”

Xena raised her hand to speak only to stop she knew Gabrielle was referring to her own violent outburst some time back. She lowered her hand easing her other hand off Gabrielle’s chest. “We do this together.” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I’ll do this, she’s one of my own kind also unlike me she can take away your humanity if she bites you or scratches you.” She took in a deep breath.  “You can imprison her just let me catch her first, if she bolts you will never be able to catch her not even on horseback.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “We do this your way then.” She turned to Iona. “Lock up Mavican.” Iona eyed the chained up woman. “You mean kill her? I mean she’s not useful anymore.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “No I mean lock her up, she might still be useful to me in the future, also have the healer reset her bones.” Iona nodded respectfully. “As you wish Empress.” Xena turned to Demetrius. “Bring the chains the same ones I had locked Gabrielle in and bring ten of your best archers and ten of your finest swords men we are allow Gabrielle to capture this woman then we are going to chain her up!”

8

I might have known, how could be so stupid? Oh yes I gave her a chance to come clean and she didn’t! There’s one thing I can’t stand and that’s when members of my own race betrays me. It’s the biggest insult that another werewolf can give me, the Imperial Council I expect it from but not from those under them who aren’t part of their twisted sick little games. I am the king I deserve some respect I was given these horns they are mine! Shouldn’t that mean at least something to my own kind? Clearly it doesn’t to Kalika but then I shouldn’t be surprise she clearly a Blood Servant to the Romans or was at one point which means she properly only cares about what she can get and doesn’t care about the pain her actions bring to others. Gabrielle turned the corner feeling her clawed hands tap the floor as she caught sight of the kitchen doors which were wide open. She could see Kalika at the far end looking over a large pot which she was stirring. She slowly moved forward watching as the kitchen staff moved around the kitchen and past her most giving her smile completely unaware of what was about to happen. She stopped close to the doors seeing that the woman wasn’t looking in her direction but she was sure that she already knew that she was there.

She spoke keeping her voice even. “How long did you think you could hide here Kalika, how long did you think you’d be able play your little game?” Kalika stopped stirring as she turned catching sight of Gabrielle sitting outside the door. “Monsters aren’t allowed in the kitchen Gabrielle.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze feeling a sneer form as she watching as the confusion spread across the faces of the staff as she moved closer to the cook unable to keep the venom out of her tone as she spoke. “Oh and what does that make you then, since your just like me! You think I’m stupid you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” Kalika turned eyeing the staff around her. “Get out all of you!” She watched as everyone around her left the shock in all there faces she turned eyeing Gabrielle as she felt her grip on the huge boiling pot tighten. “You know I’ve never liked you Golden Hind, you’re no different to your predecessor!” Gabrielle felt her muscles tense as she eyed her. “My predecessor was a descendant fool who only cared about himself I’m nothing like the Crescent Hide!” Kalika smirked eyeing the kitchen doors which were still open she could see her staff looking in clearly listening to the conversation. “I met your predecessor in person once! He threw me out of the Grand City but not before having me beaten and flogged and you’re just the same, your horns are just a symbol of your arrogance and power!”

Gabrielle snarled inhumanly as she stepped closer to her. “The branding on your shoulder says everything about you! Selling out your turning services to the Roman’s for what money, sex and a decedent life style? Turning innocent slaves into us so they can fight gladiators in the arena oh you must be proud of yourself defining the rule that the Greek werewolves treasure so deeply that only those worthy should be turned.” Kalika laughed coldly. “Did you deserve to be turned I doubt it very much? I gave those Roman slaves a chance to have glory and die with honour in the arena can you say you’ve done the same for our race?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “If you call dieing for the entertainment of others worthy, frankly I’ve never cared for the gladiatorial dog fights, I think there vile and twisted.” Kalika felt an evil smile form. “Well then you and I have nothing else to talk about then.” She didn’t think as she swung the huge heavy pot around throwing it full force in Gabrielle’s direction.

Gabrielle felt the pain as metal pot slammed in to her snout its boiling contents spraying across the room and hitting the walls she felt the pain as some of it hit her back causing intense burning pain. Even through her fur the heat of the boiling water could be felt and it really hurt. She heard the hard clang as the solid pot hit the floor hard she backed away trying to ignore the pain from the burns. She opened her eyes watching as the woman suddenly screamed as she doubled over, she watched as her fur bust through her skin as her dress was torn apart as her body twisted and jerked painfully a sigh that it had been a long while since she’d changed forms. Huge light brown clawed hands formed along with a long tail which was over grown at the tip. A thick wavy mane grew down as the others woman’s razor toothed jaws slammed shut as her long ears which had wispy tips went back her dark brown eyes opened a red hue lighting them up causing them to reflected in the dim light. Despite not transforming in what must have been a long time she was relativity fit, she could see muscle on her arm’s back and chest, the only part of her that showed was her stomach which wasn’t well muscled as a result of her lifestyle.

She snarled hearing the cries of surprise and shock from the staff. She eyed the other woman who was the same height as her which would make this an equal battle. She tensed her whole body watching as Kalika did the same thing trying to show her dominance. “I don’t know what’s worse you betraying me when I’m your own kind or you living out this lie in side the Empress’s palace.” Kalika snarled aloud she didn’t think as she swung her clawed hand around slicing it across Gabrielle’s face watching as her head was flung sideways with the force of the blow. The other woman turned slowly to meet her gaze as blood ran down the golden snout from the deep claw marks. “You mean like the lie you lead that you’re different from your predecessor? I bet if the Empress knew about that bloody little massacre you were involved in she wouldn’t look at you the way she does now with those dreamy love sick eyes, instead she’d see you for who you really are.” She felt an evil smile form. “She’d hate you and she’d want you out of this palace, shame I never got around to telling her all about that!” Gabrielle breathed in trying to control her rage she could feel the cold blood to run down her snout along with the painful burns on her back and shoulder from the scolding water.

She lowered her head only to watch as Kalika broke in to a run on all fours running up the hall way causing cries of panic as she ran past her kitchen staff clearly she really thought she could win this she no doubt believed that if she got outside that she could jump the wall. She closed her eyes tapping the marble with her clawed fingers it had been so long since she’d had a real chase, she might as well give her a head start it would make it more interesting for her. She would never reach that wall she’d make sure off that! She felt the force as she ran forward on all fours she didn’t walk the palace corridors for no reason it had always been for a very good reason. So she’d know every turning, every door every hiding place and every choke point. She ran up the corridor seeing Kalika in plain sight she picked up her pace turning the corridor leaping sideways to avoid one of the cleaning staff. She eyed another corridor turning sharply she knew full well that there was another corridor which turned off this one and met up with the one Kalika was running along.

She lowered her ears feeling the pounding of her heart which felt like a drum in her ears. It was such an exhilarating feeling it felt like every fibre of her being was alive as she leapt up in to the air grabbing one of the rafters swinging forward throwing herself right over another one of the staff. She felt her feet hit the floor hard as she carried on running on all fours turned feeling her claws skid across the marble as she met up with the other corridor. She leapt up so she was above the rafters holding her self steady waiting for the moment, she could see the door to one of rooms which didn’t overlook a balcony it was a room for the staff to eat in as well as relax in one of many littered over the palace and she’d apologise for her actions later. She looked up watching as Kalika came in to view running up the corridor a smug smile on her face. She didn’t think as she let out a roar which echoed through the air as she swung down using her whole body weight as she flung herself towards Kalika raising both clawed feet. The other woman’s claws scratched the ground as she tried to stop her brown eyes widening in shock as realized what was about to happen.

Kalika felt the agony as Gabrielle’s clawed feet slammed in to her side she felt her feet leave the ground only to feel the agonizing pain as her body smashed straight in to the door, she felt the wood shatter with the force of her body. She cried out feeling the marble floor as she hit it shoulder first  skidding painfully on it before coming to stop opposite one of the sideways chairs, she groaned feeling cold blood as it ran down her nose. Gabrielle let go of her rafter hitting the floor on her feet she moving forward on her hind legs eyeing the shattered door which was now hanging of its hinges. She walked in to the room eyeing Kalika who slowly got to her knees. “I find it very impolite when another werewolf scratches me across the face and then runs off.” Kalika smirked ignoring the pain as she eased herself up on to her hind legs. “Pity you think that way because I intend to do much worse to you before this night is out!” Gabrielle felt her roar of anger hit the air as she ran towards the other woman.

End of part 59

 

 

A DISTANT MEMORY WHICH RUNS THROUGH YOUR FINGERS LIKE SAND

 

Gabrielle felt the agonizing pain as Kalika claws sliced across her arm as she ran past her she didn’t think as she grabbed one of the table’s heavy chairs smashing it right in to her face as she turned around causing wood to fly in all directions. She watched as the other woman slammed in to the floor hard on her back holding her snout which was now bleeding badly. She narrowed her gaze she was no warrior, and she had no interest in fighting claw to teeth with her in battle, frankly she didn’t want to waste her energy on her in that manner. No she’d make her point through pure bruit force she threw the broken wood in her clawed hand to one side eyeing her in disgust. Kalika shook her head as she stood up only to feel the pain as Gabrielle’s open clawed hand smashed in to her face throwing her sideways. She cried out in agony as her body smashed in to one of the side ways chairs causing its wood to shatter. Gabrielle didn’t think as she moved forward grabbing by her mane forcing her to her feet, she wouldn’t allow her to touch her again.

She eyed the wall not thinking as she forced her feet in to the floor then smashed her head right in to it watching as one of her protruding canine teeth shattered in half sending blood spattering across the wall. She violently threw her side ways watching as she hit another one of the chairs knocking it completely over as she hit the floor hard on her front. “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep.” She moved towards her very slowly ignoring the cold blood as it ran down her arm. “You’re no warrior, you’re not trained to be a warrior you’re a servant and you’re not cut out for this fight and I will only give you one chance, surrender now or I’ll kill you!” Kalika spat the blood out of her mouth as she got up. “Surrender to you, I’d rather die!” She turned swinging her clawed at her watching as the other woman moved side ways in a lightning fast motion. Gabrielle eyed her as she spoke in a cold tone. “Fine have it your way.”

Kalika leaped forward snapping her jaws only to miss the other woman’s throat as she side stepped sharply again, she felt the pain as the both of Gabrielle’s clawed hands came down hard slamming in to her shoulders. Gabrielle sneered as she dug her claws in deeply in to the other woman’s shoulders watching as the blood ran down her fur. She ignored her cry of agonizing pain as she forced her downwards so she was on her knees in a violent motion. She opened her jaws wide showing off all her teeth in a threatening manner watching as the other woman did the same back as she struggled trying to get free. She forced her down further then brought her jaws down clamping them around her maned neck she slowly began to force her head back. She knew once her neck reached a certain point it would break. She ignored the sounds of her claws scratched the floor as she tried desperately to get free of her jaws grip.

“Gabrielle!”

She looked up sharply watching as Xena entered the room followed by Iona and her men who were carrying the chains and neck brace. She let go of Kalika watching as she hit the floor hard on her face. She held her down as Iona forced on the neck brace she forced her claws free of her shoulders ignoring her scream of pain. She rose to her feet as the other men chained Kalika’s legs and arms pulling them taught to keep her down. Xena folded her arms eyeing Gabrielle who shook her mane. “You said you’d catch her, not that you’d kill her.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she grabbed Kalika by the collar forcing up on to her knees. “She’s a traitor to my race, what I do with her is my business!” Xena stepped closer to her friend clearly Gabrielle was filled with rage and this was clouding her judgement at this moment in time. She spoke keeping her voice calm. “She’s also been my cook for many years that makes her as much my problem as it does yours.” Kalika felt the pain as Iona pulled on the neck braces chain she watched as Demetrius entered the room the concern in his face as he raised his sword. “You both disgust me the werewolf king Horn Hind and the Empress of the Greek empire as friends, it’s a vile concept.”

Gabrielle didn’t think as she leaned forward grabbing her by her mane not bothering to hide the venom in her tone as she spoke. “Insult the Empress again and I’ll rip both your ears apart, is that understood?” She let go of her violently watching as Iona nodded at her showing her respect as she forced the neck chain tight again. Xena moved closer to the brown werewolf eyeing her she looked similar to Gabrielle but at the same time very different. As she had ear tufts as well a longer tail end and a very wavy mane. Clearly every single werewolf was very different in appearance just like every human being. She watched as Kalika’s brown eyes met her own there was red reflective hue in them. “Who are you really?” Kalika sneered ignoring the blood as it dripped down her lower jaw. “My name is Kalika but I wasn’t born in Greece I was born in the city of Rome my family were rich nobles but we were human, until one night when I was young a werewolf broke in to our villa. He killed my father but he only bit my mother me and my brother were left untouched. Clearly he had a personal dispute with my father and didn’t care for me or my brother I think he bit my mother out of spite.” She breathed in deeply. “We lost our father but we gained so much that night.”

She narrowed her gaze. “My mother saw that we could become even richer if she turned the both of us in to werewolves and made us in to the cruentus creatura.” Xena blinked in confusion. “What is the cruentus creatura?” Gabrielle tensed as she spoke. “It mean’s Bloody Servant, it’s a werewolf who is sells out there turning services to Roman nobles and turns slaves in to werewolves so they can fight the gladiators in the arena and die for the entertainment of the crowd.” Xena looked up sharply feeling the shock hit home. “That can not be so my husband told me that every werewolf brought in to the arena was ferial and had killed people, not that the werewolves were slaves!” Kalika smirked slightly. “You’re late husband lied to you Empress, not that I blame him its Rome’s best kept secret, people are killed for even finding out about it. Safe to say myself and my bother were given our special brands and our mother turned us. For many years we got to live in a bigger villa have orgy parties and live a very grand life we could have everything we wanted nothing was beyond our means.” Gabrielle stood up fully on her hind legs. “I’m fascinated to know how you screwed it all up.”

Kalika eyed her not bothering to hide her disgust. “I didn’t screw it up a rival family sold us out! They said we were friends with Spartacus and his stupid werewolf friends Remus and Romulus who are still part of that stupid campaign to free all werewolves from slavery and percussion in the Roman Empire.” She tensed painfully. “It was of course a lie but those higher up didn’t give us a chance they stormed our villa and killed my elderly mother, myself and my brother escaped.” She narrowed her gaze eyeing Gabrielle. “We fled to Greece and made our way to the Grand City but of course the Imperial Council and your predecessor the Crescent Hind had us both beaten and flogged for daring to come to the city. My brother died from his wounds but I lived and I ran far away from that city. I got a job here then two and half years ago I met a woman in the royal gardens who was called herself Adrienne she gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Gabrielle felt the rage at it started to burn deep in the pit of her stomach at hearing the name of her former lover. “Oh I bet she did.” Xena eased up her hand. “Who is Adrienne?” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “She’s no body just some bitch who’s loyal to the Imperial Council.” Kalika turned feeling a wide smile form. “Oh come now Gabrielle, that’s no way to talk about your lover.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she roared in her direction unable to control her anger any longer. “She is not my lover she was a distraction and an annoyance who I hated!” Kalika looked up slightly. “Well your so called distinction told me about the Northern Alliance attack that was coming and about your little plan to kill the Empress but she said should you fail I was to lock you away for a long time.” Gabrielle moved to stand in front of her. “You put me in the pit, didn’t you!?” Kalika laughed enjoying the mocking sound of her own laughter. “Yes I did and I kept you there, every day I fed you drugged up food and watched you suffer. The agreement was that if I kept you locked up I’d get a pardon from the Imperial Council and noble status.”

Gabrielle looked up realizing it was now her turn to laugh. “Oh please Adrienne would never give you that clearly you have never realized why it is that I hate her so much, it’s because she always lied to me.” She felt her knuckles crack as tensed her clawed hand. “Why did the Imperial Council want me out of the way?” Kalika shrugged as best she could. “She never said all she said was that they had a master plan and it would take two years to achieve or maybe more but they knew you’d never approve of it and that you’d already become to much of a problem. As you were starting to become very poplar among your people because of your belief that human born children should live, among other things so they needed you to disappear. But of course the Empress had to ruin everything by finding you so I had to take extra measures.” Xena took in a deep breath. “So you let in Mavican and all her friends so they could kill Gabrielle?” Kalika turned spitting out the blood in her mouth watching as it landed close to her boot. “Yes I did you see the Imperial Council weren’t happy about Gabrielle getting free of the pit so I guess they went for the final solution which was to kill her.”

Xena felt the anger start to burn as she eyed Iona. “Lock her up in one of the high security cells and make sure a guard never leaves her cell and that she’s always at arrow point.” Iona yanked on the chain. “Yes Empress.” Gabrielle stepped forward. “No! She deserves to die she betrayed me and left me to rot in that pit for two years!” Xena turned to face her. “Don’t argue with me Gabrielle!” Gabrielle didn’t think as she roared in the other woman’s face causing her hair to be blown back. “My law dictates that she should die those who betray Horn Hind pay with there lives!” Xena narrowed her gaze she could see the blinding rage in Gabrielle’s eyes. Her actions didn’t scare her, the younger woman had a right to be angry Kalika had caused her so much pain but she needed her to calm down and be more level headed about this. She breathed in trying to stay in control of her own anger as she spoke evenly. “We can talk about this later Gabrielle now is not the time.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “When is the time, when she screws over someone else in this palace!?”

Xena turned sharply unable to control her anger as it hit home. “You maybe king of your race but this is my palace and I don’t want you killing her just because you can’t keep that temper of yours under control!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze stepping away from her unable to keep the venom out of her tone. “Oh well I’ll take myself and my temper elsewhere then if that’s how you feel, it’s not like you know what it’s like to starve to death in the darkness of a pit!” Demetrius watched as Gabrielle went down on all fours running out of the room causing his guards to move quickly aside. He heard the slam as the end of corridors doors were shut with violent force. Gods this was going to be a long night again, he could feel it he turned to the Empress whose face was filled with anger. “Well that could have gone better.” Xena turned to him trying speaking coldly. “Help Iona lock this traitor of woman up! I have other things to deal with.” Demetrius watched as she walked past him going in the opposite direction to Gabrielle clearly she was in no mood for anyone. He turned to his armed men. “You heard the Empress surround this werewolf so Iona and her men can drag her to a high security cell!”

8

I want to be angry and with her I really do but I can’t bring myself to feel that way, maybe because I love her and that feeling drives me more than my anger. She’s just hurting she’s been betrayed by one of her own people and to find out that this person put her in the pit only adds to the pain. I feel just as betrayed as she does I thought Kalika was my loyal cook. I trusted her for all those years and now I find out that not only was she a werewolf but her whole life story was horrible fabricated lie and I fell for it along with everyone else. She clearly hates Gabrielle because of her predecessor, which explains everything her hated, her actions and why she put her in the pit. Having this happen has made me realize just how much turmoil has taken place in these past few days. I want to believe that it’s over but I know it isn’t over, the Imperial Council tried to kill Gabrielle once and I know they’ll try again. They clearly have some plan in mind and that is why they wanted her dead in the first place. Gods I thought my life was hard but I haven’t been attacked in over six months, but clearly Gabrielle has it a lot harder than I do.

Her enemies go to great lengths to attack her, even Kalika tried to attack her even though she knew she couldn’t defeat her in battle in werewolf form. I knew they’d been fighting I could tell my how much damage they did to the room as well as the wounds and blood. What really bothers me is that its not that Gabrielle’s enemies dislike her it’s that they have such reckless hatred towards her, which is unwavering. Its not that they just want to kill her they want her to suffer. It’s not enough that they’ve already taken away the one she loved they just had to take it one step further by making her starve to death in a dark pit, it’s so sadistic on every level. Now I understand fully why she won’t return to the Grand City to be faced with that is no way to live. It also explains why she was so repressed when I got to know her. She’s probably spent every waking second of her life as Horn Hind after the loss of Damokles looking over her shoulder fearing for her life and never really trusting anyone, even those who are loyal to her.

It also explains the sudden switch in her personality from being calm and level headed to showing no mercy and almost killing my cook. The Imperial Council are twisted in a truly vile way but clearly they’ll go to any length to hurt her and to take away any happiness she has. She’s obviously a threat to them because unlike them she’s noble and there are those who are loyal to her. Xena got up from the chair in her room, she had been up for the past hour trying to work through what had just happened in her head, she had heard the slamming of the door not long ago from Gabrielle’s room. She walked over to her bathing area filling a large wooden bowl with cool water then put a white cloth in to soaking it. She took hold of a small pot with Chinese herbs pouring them water watching as it bubbled and fizzed turning green. The other woman had scratch wounds on both her face and her arm from where Kalika claws had slashed her as well as burns. She picked up the bowl moving towards the central door knocking on it hard. “Gabrielle?” She knocked again still getting no reply. She took in a deep breath opening the door seeing that the bed was empty the room was well lit though, her gaze drifted around only to catch sight of the other woman she was sitting close to the balcony still in her werewolf form.

She had her arm raised, she stepped closer realizing for the first time what she doing she was licking her wounds with her tongue. She watched as her ears pricked up as her head turned sharply. She eased up the bowl. “I want to look at your wounds.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze as she spoke unable to keep the pain out of her voice. “My wounds are fine.” Xena took a deep breath she should have known this wasn’t going to be easy eyed the other woman who carried on licking her arm. She slowly sat down next to her. “You know you shouldn’t do that.” Gabrielle closed her jaws eyeing her. “Do what, lick my wounds?” Xena took hold of her arm firmly. “Yes that, you are not an animal so don’t act like one, your better than that and you know it.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath only to let it out, she didn’t want to fight she was tired and her wounds were stinging. She lowered her gaze feeling what was left of her anger fade away. She knew that she had lost her temper with the other woman and she should apologise for her actions which had been very foolish, she had just lost control of her temper and she wasn’t happy about that ether. Xena eased up the wet cloth squeezing it out. “This might sting a little.”

Gabrielle looked up only to feel the painful sting as the cold wet cloth was pushed against her arm she winced painfully grinding her teeth together. She ignored the pain as she eyed the other woman who carried on looking down as she pushed the cloth down harder. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to undermine your authority in front of others.” Xena shook her head. “You didn’t undermine my authority you have a right to your opinion I just didn’t want you killing that woman in cold blood, she needs to be put on trial in the proper fashion, she also might be of use to you later I didn’t want you to loose that opportunity.” She let go of her arm moving the cloth over the shoulder burns feeling the muscles tense underneath. “I don’t blame you though for wanting to kill her, it’s so much harder when its one of your own people.” Gabrielle turned meeting her gaze. “She was one of your people to.” Xena rinsed out the cloth she slowly eased up her hand putting it under Gabrielle’s jaw easing her head down very gently so she could see the deep claw marks which were above her nose, even though it was glancing blow it was still deep. “That’s true I am unhappy that she betrayed me but her betrayal is where it ends.”

She put the cloth on her snout feeling her wince. “She did nothing but make you suffer I don’t blame you for being that angry and wanting her death, did you know she put you in the pit?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “No I didn’t I only knew that her life story was a lie, now I wish she hadn’t told me because I just want to hurt her all the more even though I know it wouldn’t make much difference overall.” Xena moved the cloth to another long scratch wound on her snout. “If you ask me its better that you know this now, if you’d have been told any later it would just make the pain you’re feeling now much worse.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “The problem is I don’t feel pain anymore, I just feel disappointment this isn’t the first time I’ve been betrayed by my own race, it’s just another in a long line of betrayals and losses that I’ve suffered.” Xena eased the cloth away putting her fingers close to the scratch wounds which weren’t bleeding anymore and she knew they’d heal up overnight. “I understand now why you’ve never left this palace, it seems as though the Imperial Council are doing everything in their power to destroy you on every level.” Gabrielle watched as she put the cloth and bowl to one side she moved her hand down not really being able to stop herself as she eased up the other woman’s hand in her clawed one holding it very gently. “That’s true and they’ve tried so hard.” She breathed out painfully. “That’s why I can not return to my people right now.”

Xena eased up her hand putting it gently on her face running it down in a gentle motion. “My mother used to say that wasn’t doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and you are very strong Gabrielle. You survived this and your still here to tell your story that says a lot about who you are, the Imperial Council can never take that away from you.” Gabrielle eased up her other clawed hand putting it gently on hers. “Thank you.” She paused trying to control the sudden tears which were threatening to fall. “Your mother sounds like is very insightful woman.” Xena smiled sadly. “She was.” Gabrielle blinked looking up slightly. “She’s no longer with you?” Xena shook her head. “She died some years ago she was very sick, I still miss her.” Gabrielle felt her grip on her hands tighten slightly. “I’m so sorry.” Xena took in a deep breath. “It’s alright Gabrielle, I’m sure she’s still around watching me from the Elysian Fields. I like to think that since I had her body buried here in a special coffin which is in the gardens.” Gabrielle blinked in surprise. “I’ve never seen a coffin in the gardens.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Its not in the gardens it’s under them in a special catacomb I had built, you can only get to it through the palace, my father was never happy that she was buried here, he wanted her to be buried in the Amphipolis catacombs. I guess that’s what made the arguments between us so bitter, it’s been five years now and we haven’t spoken to each other though I’ve sent him letters but he never replies to them.”

Gabrielle lowered her hand watching as the other woman moved her hand away from her face. “It’s sad that he won’t speak to you.” Xena shook her head. “He blames me for not being able to heal her, I had every means possible and believe me I tried every cure, I brought in the best healers in the Empire but I couldn’t save her.” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze. “No one can control death only the gods and as I here it the Greek gods do not come to the aid of anyone who worships them. They do not heal mortals or save them and they play no part in the affairs apart from whispers and visions to people now again or so I’ve heard.” Xena eased up her hand taking hold of Gabrielle’s pendent looking at for a long moment. “Or in your case they reveal themselves and whispers now and again.” She let go of the pendent moving her fingers to the deep scratch wounds on her arm. “But even in your case they don’t heal you ether.”

Gabrielle eased her head closer to the other woman’s. “I feel they do this not to make us suffer but so we can appreciate life more and live every second granted to us even if our lives are short. If they helped us I think we might not value life the way we do now, we may even see our gods as an easy way to come back from the dead.” Xena slowly moved closer to her face she wanted to kiss her right now so much as her words held such value she found herself stopping in mid action as she ran hand through the thick soft mane. Now wasn’t the right time as a question was playing on her mind. “Can I ask you something?” Gabrielle gently let go of her other hand. “Yes.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Kalika mentioned a woman named Adrienne and her being your lover.” Gabrielle got up sharply she felt the anger burn as she started to pace on all fours. “She had no right to even bring that up!” Xena raised her hand. “You told her that she was a distraction and that you hated her is that true?”

Gabrielle stopped pacing as she sat down putting a hand through her mane feeling the frustration take over. “Yes it is true, I don’t love Adrienne though. She became my adviser after Damokles vanished I’ve never liked her I just put up with her.” Xena slowly moved towards gently putting a hand on her shoulder. “Did you sleep with her though?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Yes I slept with her, but as I said I don’t love her, our relationship if you could even call it that was never about love it was about sex and its over. It was over the moment I left the Grand City to end your life.” Xena breathed out feeling the relief take over hearing this made her feel better deep down inside.  She hated to say it but the thought that Gabrielle even loved anyone else made her jealous. Though a part of her disliked herself for being so petty if this woman didn’t love her and loved someone else she had the right to get involved.

On top of that she had no idea if Gabrielle had the same kind of feelings for her as she seemed obvious to them, she knew that she was clever and she was sure that she had seen them but for some reason she wasn’t reacting to them. She eased her arm away from Gabrielle’s shoulder. “Its late we should both get some rest.” Gabrielle nodded looking up slightly. “Yes we should.” She shook her mane watching as the other woman moved towards the central door. She watched as the dark haired woman gave her a smile before opening the central door then closing it behind her, she breathed out in annoyance. She didn’t want Adrienne to come back in to her life in any way. The truth was though that she couldn’t hide from her as much as she tried and she knew that the bitch would find a way back in to her life. Adrienne thought she owned her like she was some kind of possession, she closed her eyes painfully she didn’t love her, she had set her up to be put in that pit betraying her as usual and lying to her. She knew this bitch she’d be coming here soon to collect her and force her to go back to the Grand City. She felt her claws dig in to the marble of the floor she would not go this time though. She would not be her puppet or her sexual toy any longer and she wouldn’t do as she was told. This recent betrayal was all the more reason to stay in Xena’s palace at least here she has power with out the influence of the Imperial Council and knowing that she had that and Xena’s friendship meant more to her now than anything else and she truly treasured it more than anything.

End of part 60

 

A SIMPLE NEED TO BE WITH THE ONE YOU CARE ABOUT

 

Xena walked through the royal gardens it was mid morning and despite that the sun was in the sky there was a cold chill in the air. A sign that the weather would soon change becoming colder, she looked up catching sight of Demetrius who was watching Gabrielle train. She moved towards him seeing Gabrielle hit the wooden post with her sword tip, in a very half hearted manner, which wasn’t like her. She looked up as he turned to meet her gaze. “Good morning Demetrius.” Demetrius felt a smile form. “Good morning Empress.” Xena watched as Gabrielle hit the post again but with out much real force, she could see a very light scar on her cheek which would completely heal up and disappear by tomorrow. “How long has she been out here?” Demetrius folded his arms. “About half an hour I wouldn’t have stopped to watch her, its just she’s really not herself today, she’s not even trying it’s so not like her.” Xena took in a deep breath. “She just found out that Kalika betrayed her and put her in the pit, I wouldn’t take it well ether if it were me.”

Demetrius shook his head. “Plus Mavican was sent out by the Imperial Council to end her life, the whole things a mess.” He paused before speaking. “Did you two work things out last night, you were both very angry?” Xena put a hand on her chin. “Yes we did, I’m sorry that you and Iona got stuck in the middle of that.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Its okay you don’t have to explain the situation was very difficult for the both of you.” Xena tensed feeling the uncertainty take over. “How is everyone in the palace taking this news about Kalika?” Demetrius put a hand through his beard. “All of the palace staff are in shock about it. Kalika has been here ever since the palace was built, everyone knew her and we all trusted her, we all brought in to her story about her brother, yet now everyone knows that it was all a lie and that she’s in fact a werewolf just like Gabrielle.” He paused. “Well not like Gabrielle, not in that way.”

Xena put a hand on his shoulder. “I know what you meant, we all trusted her and put faith in her, in truth her being a werewolf and living a lie I could have forgiven. I could understand why she’d hide among the staff and be someone else but I know now that I can never forgive her. She put Gabrielle in the pit to suffer for over two years and it was because of her, that Mavican and her assassins were able to get in here. What makes this even worse is that she did this all for the Imperial Council and Gabrielle’s old adviser Adrienne and I don’t think this is the end of it ether. Clearly they believe Gabrielle’s outlived her usefulness and I think they’ll try to kill her again given the chance.” Demetrius shook his head sadly. “She’s a great and noble king and yet they want to put her to slaughter like she’s some spring lamb that’s only fit to be made in to chops, its disgusting.”

Xena watched as Gabrielle hit the post again half heartedly embedded her swords tip as she kept hold of the hilt. “She’s worth more than that, she is the true werewolf king and I will do everything in my power to protect her from those bastards and anyone else who tries to hurt her.” Demetrius felt a wide smile form. “Well I think you should go over there and bring out her fighting spirit.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Yes I should.” She slowly walked over to Gabrielle watching as she eased the blade free only to slam it back in to the wood in the same half hearted manner as before clearly she was giving up on the whole training exercise. She moved to stand opposite her watching as she looked up. “Are you okay?” Gabrielle eased out the sword point again striking the pillar with out any real force watching as the blade tip imbedded itself deeply. “Not really, just wondering how many more idiots the Imperial Council are going to send to try and end my life or make it miserable.”

Xena looked at her for a long moment. “I will stop any one else from hurting you Gabrielle, no one else will get that close you again, I promise.” Gabrielle kept hold of her swords hilt as she breathed out painfully. “You can’t promise that Xena.” Xena eased her sword free seeing that Gabrielle really wasn’t paying attention. “No I can’t but I’m going to try because you’re my friend and I care about you a lot.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling the deep twisting pain with in her chest. “I don’t want to do this anymore Xena, I’m not even Horn Hind I don’t even have a set of pointer antlers to prove my worth and no ones going to listen to me, I’ve been through this before and I always fail and I’m so tired of it. I really don’t want to play these games anymore, it hurts too much.” Xena didn’t think as smashed the other woman’s sword free from the wood forcefully with her blade. Gabrielle turned eyeing the other woman feeling her anger as it started to burn. “Hey!” Xena kept her sword in place. “You should not be second guessing yourself you are Horn Hind you are the werewolf king! Your are more of a king than those bastards on the Imperial Council this is just what they want, they want you to give up and you acting this way means that their succeeding!”

She pushed down on Gabrielle’s sword watching as the younger woman’s face filled with anger. “Your horns are no more than a symbol of your title, you do not need them to have points or to have lost all their velvet to prove your worth, you are a king you will always be a king and no one should ever tell you any different.” She forced Gabrielle’s sword down harder feeling her push back hard against her blade. “Now fight me like a king!” Gabrielle sneered as she slowly raised her other sword feeling an intense rage take over which she couldn’t control anymore. Xena watched as the other swords blade point came towards her. She twisted her wrist freeing her sword in a lightning fast motion as she stepped back watching as the other sword came to a sharp stop where her face had been. Clearly Gabrielle wasn’t in to half fights which involved stopping the blade at the last second, her sparring was very serious. She felt a smile form as she stepped back further raising her sword feeling her feet slide in to position, two sword verses one sword this was going to be interesting.

She twirled her weapon she had watched Gabrielle more than once in training and she wouldn’t deny that a part of her was desperate to take her on in battle so she could test herself against her fighting style. Gabrielle didn’t think as she swung her sword downwards as she looped the other around as she came towards the other woman who stepped sideways avoiding both blades as she brought hers down hitting her other sword as she spun on her heel, she found herself ducking as the hilt of her sword was thrust towards her. She turned around sharply so she was facing her swinging her sword once more only for the other woman to smirk as she stepped back avoiding it along with her other as she thrust it outwards. Xena smashed one of the blades aside as she back flipped completely avoiding other sword as it thrust outwards in a violent motion she felt the ground as her boots slammed in to it.

Iona turned the corner watching as the Empress came in to view she was sparring with Gabrielle she took in a deep breath as she walked up to stand next to Demetrius she could see that every royal guard who had been training had stopped to watch this along with a few of the staff. She put her hands behind her back unable to stop her next words as a smile formed on her lips. “Ten dinars says Gabrielle bleeds the Empress first.” Demetrius raised his eyebrow as he turned to her. “Oh really well twenty says the Empress bleeds Gabrielle first, because lets face it no one not even the best of the royal guard can defeat the Empress, not even me and I’ve tried.” Iona smirked as eyed him. “That is true she’s bested me as well, but you know I think Gabrielle might break her record.” Demetrius put a hand on his beard raising an eyebrow. “Oh and what makes you so sure Iona?” Iona leaned against one of the fountains. “She broke my arm, cracked my ribs and knocked me out.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Fair point.”

Xena turned as her blade collided with Gabrielle’s she felt the force as she moved her sword down stopping the other woman blade. She grabbed Gabrielle’s sword hand as the weapon came towards her, she had one advantage here Gabrielle never used her inhuman strength in human form. She felt the pain as Gabrielle turned around so her back was to her forcing her grip free causing her to wince. She watched as Gabrielle turned to face her once more she eased up her hand closing her fist, how interesting she hadn’t seen that move before. She swung her sword watching as it collided with the younger woman’s as she ran past her watching as she turned on her heels suddenly forcing both blades out wards in a looping motion. She didn’t think as she brought down her hilt smacking it in to Gabrielle’s shoulder, causing her to wince and drop one of her blades slightly. Demetrius eyed Iona. “Looks like you might be giving me twenty dinars very soon.” Iona adjusted her shirt. “I doubt it.” Xena stepped back swinging her sword in a looping motion feeling a wide smile form she was really enjoying this it was as invigorating as being on any battle field.

Gabrielle swung her first sword watching as Xena ducked avoiding it she felt the older woman grab her sword again only much tighter this time. She didn’t think as she brought up her foot smashing it in to her knee causing her to let go instantly as she grunted in pain. She stepped back swinging harder only for the other woman to dodge her blade again much to her frustration, she felt a smile slowly form, this was actuality turning in to a challenge and in truth she hadn’t had a real challenge in a very long time. She felt her fingers grip the hilts of both swords tighter feeling her anger fade away as she focused herself stepping back avoiding the other woman’s blade as it skimmed past her face. Xena stepped back narrowly avoiding the hilt of the younger woman’s sword while she swung her other sword causing them both to clash together full force. Gabrielle twisted on her heal turning around as the other woman moved past her she eased up her sword on one side only to feel the sudden pain as her feet left the floor as she was tripped mid turn. She felt the pain as she slammed back first in the ground. Iona blinked in surprise that was the move she hadn’t been able to avoid yet the Empress had avoided it, not only that she’d used it against Gabrielle. Demetrius narrowed his gaze. “The Empress is going to win.”

Gabrielle watched as Xena’s blade came towards her slamming in to the ground she rolled over using her back to force it in to the ground and free of the other woman’s hand. Xena felt the pain as the other woman’s sword blade sliced across her exposed arm causing blood to flow down her arm, she looked up as Gabrielle rolled on to her sword fully, she stepped back eyeing her bleeding shoulder. Iona raised her hand. “You owe me ten dinars, pay up.” Demetrius blinked watching as Gabrielle got up raising both swords. He never seen that before no one had ever bled the Empress let alone freed her hand of her sword. Xena eyed her sword which was now lying flat on the floor behind Gabrielle’s boot she had to get her sword back! Or better yet pry one of Gabrielle’s from her hand! She watched as the younger woman swung her weapon she grabbed her hand stopping her mid swing, she grabbed her other hand stopping her second blade as she forced it in to the floor, she slowly began to squeeze her wrist watching as the pain appeared on her face. She squeezed harder watching as Gabrielle’s sword slipped from her fingers hitting the ground.

She let go grabbing the weapon in a swift motion then smashed the hilt in to Gabrielle’s face causing blood to fly through her teeth as she stumble back painfully. Gabrielle winced trying to ignore the pain as she hit the ground again as her feet were taken out from under her. She ignored the pain as she turned over on to her back slamming her boot in to the other woman’s foot knocking her over as she scrambled to her feet trying to grab the other woman’s fallen sword only to feel the pain as Xena grabbed her back trying to put her sword against her throat. She snarled throwing her weight forward causing the other woman’s whole body to be thrown over her shoulder causing to slam in to the ground on her back. Xena eyed the other woman as she front flipped trying to grab her sword only for Gabrielle to kick it well out of her reach as she swung her only sword, causing it to collide with her blade. She was going to win this! She wouldn’t give Gabrielle the advantage! Gabrielle eyed the other woman all she needed was an opening just one and she could take the other woman down!

She eased her only remaining blade back slowly she wasn’t used to loosing swords she had to confess and now it felt odd to have a hand which was empty. She stepped back as both their blades collided again as Xena tried to force her back, she didn’t think as swung her fist outward watching as it impacted with the other woman’s side hard causing her to wince. The next moments turned to blinding pain as she was kicked in chest causing her to hit the floor hard on her back. Xena ran forward this was her one and only chance to stop Gabrielle for good she leapt forward landing so she was standing over her. She kneeled down not thinking as she used her knees to keep her in place as she straddled her bringing her blade forward as quickly as possible, she was starting to really feel worn down and she knew if Gabrielle saw this she’d take advantage of it. She still had fight in her despite that she was now looked slightly worn down herself. Gabrielle felt the pain as the other woman forced her to the ground as she straddled her pushing her blade against her throat forcing her down so she couldn’t move.

Xena felt a smile form she could feel the sweat as it dripped down her face as well as her heart pounding in her chest she took in a deep breath trying to control her breathing. “I’ve won.” Gabrielle looked up slightly feeling a smile form. “No you haven’t.” Xena blinked she looked down realizing for the first time that Gabrielle’s blade was just bellow her throat but not touching it, she felt her smile turn to wide grin. “Well then it’s a draw.” Gabrielle lowered her sword gently unable to stop herself as she began to laugh. Xena blinked in surprise she stared at the other woman who was laughing she’d never heard her laugh in all the time she’d known her. Yet it was such a beautiful joyful laugh which filled her inner being with such pleasure. She shook her head recomposing herself as she eyed the other woman. “What do you find so funny?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply gaining control over her laugher. “The fact we can’t defeat each other, it’s funny.”

Xena eased her sword blade away from her throat she gently eased up her hand running it through her long golden hair watching as it spilt through her fingers. It was true they couldn’t defeat each other they’d drawn. She knew though that Gabrielle could force her off using her inhuman strength but she knew that she wouldn’t as she preferred to have no advantages in battle. She felt everything around her freeze as an overwhelming need came over her. Maybe it was the position she was in, maybe it was just finally having someone who she couldn’t defeat in battle or maybe it was just hearing the woman laugh for the first time since she’d known her. She let go off her sword leaning forward so her hands were close to Gabrielle’s head she felt the younger woman’s body go very still. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a real challenge I really appreciate that you gave me one.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart she wasn’t really sure as to what was going on here but suddenly she felt very much out of her element.

She could see the way the other woman was looking at her it was like she was staring in to her soul. It was such an intense gaze and couldn’t really move she wanted to move but her body just wasn’t doing what her brain wanted. Instead she was frozen under the older woman’s gaze not the position was helping it was just making her feel even more, un-sure of her self. Xena eased up her hand running it down Gabrielle’s face in a very gentle motion as she raised an eyebrow. “Has anyone ever told you that you are a very beautiful woman Gabrielle?” Gabrielle breathed in sharply now she felt truly confused why had Xena said this it made no sense to her at all? She was just misinterpreting this it was a general compliment not the kind she was thinking off. She took in a deep breath lowered her gaze so it didn’t meet Xena’s. “I’ve been told it yes but personally I’ve never believed it.” Xena blinked in surprise that was not the answer she had been expected put a finger under her chin using it to gently bring her head up so their eyes met again. “Why would you thing that Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle felt her whole body relax as she breathed out sadly seeing the concern in the other woman’s eyes. “I have a scar on my face which I can never get rid off, who would want some one who has a scar like mine on their face?” Demetrius watched as Thaleia appeared she came towards him opening her mouth about to speak only to stop as she saw the sight in front of her. She came to a stop next to him staying very quite along with the others who had been watching from a distance. Iona put a hand on her chin as she eyed the Empress well this was unexpected but very obvious and she wasn’t going to get in the way off this. Her thoughts were suddenly cut off as Phrixus suddenly ran out in to the gardens holding a scroll in his hand as he came to a stop next to the Empress completely unaware of what was going on. Phrixus took in a deep breath as he eyed the Empress who was straddling Gabrielle he eyed the swords beside them clearly they were practicing something maybe it was a locking move of some kind. “Empress I don’t mean to interrupt you both but I have a scroll here for Gabrielle!” Xena breathed in trying to ignore her anger as she looked up, talk about ruining her moment! She eyed Gabrielle who suddenly started to move wanting to get out from under her she put a hand on her face as she got to her feet freeing the younger woman who got out from under her.

Phrixus eyed the Empress who now looked annoyed. “I’m sorry was I interrupting something?” Xena felt a sneer form as she watched Gabrielle dust herself of she spoke unable to keep the sarcasm out of her tone. “No nothing important….” Gabrielle took in a deep breath recomposing her self as she picked up both her swords putting them back in her scabbards she watched as Xena did the same. “You said you had a scroll for me?” Phrixus slowly eased up the scroll which had a broken boar seal on it. “This was posted to you, in fact there were three scrolls posted to you today in all, I thought at first they were for the Empress until I read them and realized that they were in your language, which is really fascinating by the way. I mean your people are starting to send us scrolls regarding problems between themselves and humanity and it’s been less than three days since the copies of the werewolf civil rights scrolls went out.” Xena eyed him in annoyance. “Could you please get to the point Phrixus?” Phrixus raised the scroll. “This one wasn’t about any issues though it’s very personal and it was from someone who knows you.” He eased the scroll towards Gabrielle. “It’s addressed to you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle carefully took the scroll from his hands she eased it open feeling the joy leave her heart. She knew this wasn’t going to be good she could feel it she looked down reading carefully.

Hello Gabrielle

I do hope your doing well it must be nice to lounge around in the Palace in Corinth no work, no duties no responsibilities I’m sure you’re doing your little wood carvings right now and relaxing. The Imperial Council has been so worried about you in these past few years. We thought we’d lost you we had no idea that you’d been locked away in the palace’s prison in Corinth, if we’d known we’d have sent help. I would have come and saved you personally if I’d have known the Empress had locked you away but as you remember we both got separated during the battle.

You could have killed the Empress had you not stalled but that’s all in the past now. On a more personal note I am so looking forward to seeing you again, you always were cute and I’m thinking about you right now naked on the sheets. I always said that you were most beautiful woman ever born and I’m so looking forward to touching you again just like I used to, you remember those long nights don’t you and all the fun we used to have together.

I’ll make sure to bring some opium I know how you always liked it and it was always a pleasure to watch you smoke it. I will be arriving in the palace as I need to talk about your duties and the recent scroll you sent out with your seal as the Imperial Council has a few issues with it. I do hope you’ll be there to greet me when I arrive it should be in less than a day or two.

Your ever loyal advisor Adrienne”

Gabrielle felt the anger start to boil she crunched the scroll violently in her hands, the bitch how dare she come back in to her life now! Oh she hated being right she knew full well what Adrienne was like and that she’d come back but she had been hoping it wouldn’t be for a least twelve months. Yet now she was going to have to deal with her much sooner. Xena stepped closer to the younger woman seeing that her whole behaviour had changed there was now a dark and tormented look in her eyes and all her happiness had just vanished in an instant. “What’s wrong Gabrielle?” Gabrielle didn’t think as she threw the scroll watching as it hit the floor close by. “Adrienne is coming to the palace.” Phrixus raised his hand feeling the confusion take over. “Who’s Adrienne?” Xena turned sharply eyeing him. “Adrienne used to be Gabrielle’s personal advisor in the Grand city.” Phrixus folded his arms. “I don’t mean to be rude Empress but I stopped reading at the very personal part, I know this woman was more than Gabrielle’s advisor.” Xena felt her teeth grind together as she stepped closer to him. “You are not helping Phrixus.”

She watched as his eyes darted he quickly put his hands behind his back as he stepped back realizing that he’d said to much. Gabrielle felt herself tense. “Yes she was more than my advisor but we are not lovers anymore!” She raised her hand walking towards him. “The thought of her ever touching me again makes me want to throw up, she never loved me she just used like some bed warmer I hate her! I’ll never stop hating her and the thought that she’s coming here really bothers me!” She turned easing her pipe out of her shirt pocket she leaned over lighting it on one of the torches. “Adrienne doesn’t care about anyone but her self and she will make my like miserable again, just like she always has.” She eased up her pipe taking in a deep breath before breathing out the rich black smoke. A part of her wished she had opium right now but she was trying to stay off it and remain on coltsfoot which was difficult because the despite her happy emotions the desire was still there and so far she’d been off it for a week yet now that temptation was back calling her once again. “She’s a very dangerous woman and unlike me she has no love for humanity, she’s what werewolves shouldn’t be.” She lowered her gaze. “Please excuse me I need to go somewhere and think.”

Xena watched as the younger woman left disappearing from sight, gods how could this have gone so wrong? One moment she had been about to kiss the younger woman and now she had reverted back to the angry unhappy person who she used to force in to her office to talk to her some months back. She leaned down picking up the crumbled scroll though she had been learning the language her understanding wasn’t perfect yet but despite this she was still going to read this scroll. She turned to Phrixus who suddenly looked uncomfortable. “I’m only going to say this once, if you have a scroll that’s personal to Gabrielle and you’ve taken the liberty to read it and it’s from someone who was maybe more than just a friend to her, you do not make a point of pointing that out in front of everyone! Is that understood?” Phrixus nodded his head respectfully. “My deepest apologises Empress.” Xena eyed the scroll. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go read this from what I’ve seen and heard Adrienne is a very dangerous woman and if she’s coming here I need to put plans in place for security. Unlike Kalika this is not some werewolf who’s working as a servant this is probably a fully trained warrior like Gabrielle who will kill given the chance!”

Demetrius watched as the Empress walked away vanishing from sight he walked up to Phrixus. “Not your day is it?” Iona smirked as she leaned against the fountain again. “It’s never his day he spends to much time reading and not living, way to spoil the moment idiot.” Phrixus blinked eyeing her. “What do you mean ruin the moment what are you people talking about? Look I’m sorry I meant no offence to Gabrielle and the Empress has already had a go at me!” Iona rolled her eyes. “We aren’t talking about that we are talking about the Empress and Gabrielle training which you ruined.” Phrixus raised an eyebrow. “You mean the locked pose on the floor, what was so good about that I thought it was just a combat move?” Iona put a hand through her hair in frustration. “Seriously are all you Spartans this dense or does the being an idiot run in the family?” Phrixus sneered as he eyed her. “Oh and this coming from a Crete born mercenary didn’t we defeat your people in the battle of Gythium when your people thought they could conquer our lands?” Demetrius eyed Iona who was sneering coldly in the Phrixus’s direction. “Iona!”

He watched as she breathed out sharply then turned away he turned slowly to the Phrixus. “I don’t know if you’ve heard the rumour but the Empress is in love with Gabrielle, a lot of the palace staff have known about it for a while. The Empress was about to kiss Gabrielle and you ruined the moment somewhat.” Phrixus blinked as he eyed the other man. “Wait, the Empress is in love with Gabrielle?” Demetrius nodded as he put a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “Yes, I know it, half the palace already knows, how come you don’t know about it?” Phrixus breathed in deeply. “I’ve been busy translating the werewolf history scroll, its taking a very long time.” Demetrius patted his shoulder. “You really need to get out more.” Thaleia stepped forward eyeing the tall Spartan man in truth she’d never spoken to him as he had been well above her station but now things had changed. She coughed clearing her throat watching as he turned to her. “My name is Thaleia and I can explain everything to you if you come with me.” Phrixus met her gaze. “Yes please explain this to me, clearly I’ve missed a lot as Chara’s has her mind in other places and hasn’t kept me a foot with all the palace gossip.”

End of part 61

ECHOES OF SHATTERED BRONZE

 

I feel truly sorry for her right now, her ex is returning and she has no say to her coming here. I have a really horrible feeling in my gut about Adrienne’s whole visit. This is the bitch who offered my cook a deal which she took it and that deal caused Gabrielle so much pain and suffering and meant that she didn’t see the sun for two years or more. Clearly this is a dangerous woman who does not respect Gabrielle as king. This also brings up another nagging question how in Tartarus did this evil little bitch end up in Gabrielle’s bed, as her lover? I mean she can do ten times better than some bitch like that she deserves to be with someone who loves her and who treats her with respect. I read Adrienne’s letter to Gabrielle and yes it took a while as my understanding of the werewolf language isn’t perfect yet but I got there in the end.

Frankly I was utterly disgusted by it. This is a woman who clearly sees Gabrielle as some kind of bed warmer all she could talk about was sex in an undertone fashion there wasn’t even an, I love you. I would never treat her that way! I would tell her everyday that I love her if she were my lover. I still can’t fathom how Gabrielle could go from loving someone like Damokles, who from what I’ve heard was a deeply honourable and loving man who would do anything to help her to this shallow bitch who clearly just wants to have sex with her and expects her to just play along and be happy about it. The only conclusion I can come to is that after Damokles was killed that Gabrielle became deeply depressed and lost her way and I’ve seen what happens to people going through this kind pain, they attracted people who want to take advantage of their weakness.

My guess is the Imperial Council used Gabrielle’s depressed state to bring in someone who could manipulate her. Clearly they threw this woman her way as a means to take advantage of her open sexuality but also as a means of getting close to her and getting under her skin by whispering softly and sweetly in her ear. Sending a man her way after the loss of Damokles might have backfired as her feelings would have been far too raw. Maybe in her depressed state Gabrielle started to just give in and in doing so slept with this bitch. She said she saw her as a distraction and I can understand that as it’s very easy to give in to distractions like this when the pain is so deep it becomes a way of letting go but its doesn’t heal the soul. It just hurts it even more as the person who you’re sleeping with does not love you and they never will and no matter how many times you sleep with them it doesn’t change anything.

Its funny I’ve never even met this Adrienne and I already feel that I’m a better partner for Gabrielle than she is but I know that’s my jealousy and anger talking and I’m not looking forward to her coming here. She’s trouble and its no joke that she’s probably a warrior just like Gabrielle and I’m guessing that warrior werewolves are both powerful and extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be left on there own ever, at least not ones like her. I confess I didn’t see Gabrielle last night but she didn’t leave her room I’m guessing this is really hard for her and she’s trying to stay in control of her emotions which must be difficult when it comes to this woman, I can tell just by the way she talks about her that she hates her very passionately. That in it self has alarm bells ringing for me I’ve never heard Gabrielle say that she hates anyone openly other than myself and I deserved it because I was treating her like a monster.

I dread to think what this woman did to Gabrielle to make her feel this way. I was going to leave her alone today but I’ve now changed my mind I will not have Gabrielle wallowing in pain all alone because I know better, once she gets in to a cycle of depression she has difficulty breaking free from it. I hate to see her depressed, she’s been so happy lately and I really want to put a smile back on her face. Xena moved towards the inner door she knocked on it calmly. “Gabrielle?” She breathed in hearing no reply she slowly opened the door watching as Gabrielle’s room came in to view which was empty. She closed the door behind her seeing the empty breakfast plates clearly Gabrielle had eaten so she was here. She looked up catching sight of her Collard Dove which had ruffled up its feathers and was sitting on the bed frame. She turned sharply hearing a chipping sound from behind the workshop door. She felt an inner smile form as she walked up to the door knocking on it. “Gabrielle?”

She looked up as calm voice spoke back. “Come in.” She slowly opened the door watching as Gabrielle came in to view she was working on a huge wooden statue using a fine cutting tool to put in the last of the details which were vivid and beautiful. She stepped closer realizing for the first time what she was looking at it was huge wooden carving of Jason fighting the Hydra on the island of Lemnos so he could get the Golden Fleece from its lair. It was a stunning carving and by the looks of it, it was almost complete, Gabrielle was scratching out the last of the Hydra’s scales. Jason was still alive though he was much older than her from what she’d heard but he wasn’t a king anyone as he’d given up his kingdom to marry a woman called Eurydice from none royal background.

Rumour had it that now lived the quite life in side Satyr territory and played no more part in heroics and to even to speak to him you’d be very lucky. He had the Satyrs loyalty as he saved them from being killed by raiders many years ago and because of this they wouldn’t tell anyone where his home was, or where to find them. When she had been young he had been the hero her mother used to tell her about and she had wanted so much to be like him, he had been her idol and even now as a grown woman she still wished that she could meet him. It was clear though that he would not reveal himself even to her despite that she’d said that he was more than welcome to come to the palace any time he wished. She kneeled down watching as Gabrielle finished her carving blowing away the dust. “This is magnificent.” Gabrielle blinked in surprise eyeing the other woman she eased up her pipe which wasn’t lit putting it in her mouth as she played with her carving tool. “Thank you but I still need to paint it.”

Xena moved herself closer so she was opposite the other woman. “How long did this take you to carve?” Gabrielle eyed the carving. “A week I’ve been working on it in my spare time, it’s for the children’s new room.” Xena eased up her fingers running over one of the highly detailed Hydra heads. “Why did you do the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I don’t know I guess it was a story my father used to tell me and my younger sister when we were small I liked Jason so much he’s a great hero, I thought that the children should know his story.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Tell me have you ever seen him, I mean your well travelled?” Gabrielle shook her head. “I know where he is, he’s in Satyr territory, it’s very close to Apollonia I’ve walked through it but the Satyrs can make themselves disappear with the help of the Nymph’s so I’ve never seen anyone there.”

She paused as she took hold of candle getting ready to light her pipe. “I once got a message from the Satyr king Acteon he said to meet him in the central forest by the ruined white pillars I made the trip and I stood by those pillars in werewolf form and he did show himself but he looked at me and said you’re not ready then he just walked off. I asked him how was I not ready and he just gave me a cryptic answer which was that my soul was missing the other half of it light. I’ve never understood what he meant by that to this day all I can assume is that I wasn’t old enough or knew enough about being king and I can only return to him when I become a better king.” Xena eased up her hand using it to lower Gabrielle’s which had the candle in it. “I wouldn’t dwell on it he’s always been cryptic with me despite that we have an alliance. He sits in the yearly meetings but never says a thing all he does is push forward a scroll with what he wants for his people on my desk and I always agree with it, but we never talk.”

She shook her head. “I get more out of the Minotaur and Centaur leaders than I do him they say he’s that way because he sees things differently from us, rumour had it he can see the past with his right eye and the future in his left.” She kept her hand on Gabrielle’s. “When you visited him was Damokles with you?” Gabrielle shook her head feeling the sadness hit home. “No he had gone from my life all I had left of his was his ring.” Xena turned to face her she put a hand on her shoulder stroking gently. “Tell me about the last time you saw him?” Gabrielle looked up feeling her eyes dart as the confusion took over. “Why do you want to know about that?” Xena kept hold of Gabrielle’s hand as she put the candle down. “I want to know more about Damokles, because he meant so much to you and made you so happy.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply feeling the memory flood back in to her mind.

8

Gabrielle lowered her gaze her world now felt like it was truly out of her control right now. Every thing had changed she’d gone from being a virtual no body to the most well known person in the Grand City. Every one knew she was Horn Hind everyone knew her name and she couldn’t escape from them they were around every corner she couldn’t even take a walk with out being surrounded by people desperate to see her. She was the first ever Horn Hind to be not be from a pure blood linage and that meant just about every one who hadn’t been born a werewolf was even more desperate to speak to her. She now found herself hiding in side her living space watching as letters, scrolls and all manner of things were pushed under her door slot in an ever mounting pile which she couldn’t even fathom going through right now. The Imperial Council had done their ceremony and had her sit on her so called gold throne as was custom. Then they’d told her that she had to live in the Crescent Hinds old quarters above theirs in the council area. She had refused she would not live there and nothing they ever said would make her do so, this room was hers and she wanted to stay here.

She felt happy here with Damokles, it was the only place she truly felt safe, he was guiding her through this and helping her to cope with the pressure she was under, he’d moved all his belongs down here and was now living with her. She wasn’t used to being noticed ever since she’d arrived in this world of werewolves she faded in to the background and no one had ever taken that much interest in her. She still didn’t understand why she’d been picked to be the next king maybe it was irony as she’d told the Crescent Hind that all he cared about was himself and not the werewolf race. She wasn’t sure but something told her this was Ouroboros’s doing. She had always remained true to her goddess and when ever she’d heard her voice she did what ever was asked of her. Though it had been a while since she’d heard it, she breathed in deeply adjusting her armour as she sat on her bed. Even if she had done it, why make her king? What was the method in the madness? She had no skills as a leader other than leading troops in to battle she knew nothing about the democracy she didn’t even know how to speak people, she’d never even socialized.

How was she meant to even lead the werewolf race? She knew things weren’t right but how was she even meant to put that point across? She ran both hands through her long blonde hair in utter frustration, this was such a mess in her head and she had no idea how to clear it. She breathed in deeply watching as Damokles came through dressed in his armour he closed the door behind him hard. She could hear people behind her door talking and chatting all of them desperate to get a look at her. Damokles breathed in eyeing his lover, she really wasn’t coping well he could see it in her eyes she wasn’t used to this kind of attention. Though in his view everyone should see her she was a very beautiful woman with a noble heart. He believed it was a great thing that she had been picked she was a person who believed in change and so did he. She had the power now to embrace her dreams and become a Horn Hind unlike any before her and he wanted to be with her all the way. The gods had chosen her above all others and he was willing to do everything to ensure that all those things she talked about became realities.

He breathed in deeply he hated though that he had to leave her, though it wouldn’t be for long a week at most, the Imperial Council had told him to go to one of the other cities and spread the news of the new Horn Hind to those who had not heard about it. He turned to the door making sure her locking mechanism was fully across, he’d be back here as soon as possible he knew that she needed him more now than ever. He stepped forward feeling a smile form. “You know there going to break down the door soon.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply putting her head in her hands. “Why is this happening to me Damokles?” Damokles walked towards her hearing the fear and uncertainty in her voice. “This is happening because the gods will it.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “I don’t believe in your gods Damokles you know this.” Damokles moved closer getting slowly down on one knee in front of her. “My gods your god it doesn’t matter you were picked to be Horn Hind and you will be a great Horn Hind.” Gabrielle breathed in trying to stop the tears from falling. “I’m not even a full werewolf Damokles I know nothing of what it is to lead people.”

Damokles eased up his hands putting them on her face. “Please don’t doubt yourself Gabrielle I believe you were picked because you want change, in all the time we’ve been together you’ve talked so much about change and how you want things to be and I agree with you. The werewolf race needs change it’s falling apart at the seams, half breeds, full blood werewolves nether should matter we are all one and the same.” He slowly met her gaze. “We need change now more than ever, you and I both know that werewolf numbers are dropping, last week I was reading through the scribes records. Full bloods numbers are plummeting, half breeds numbers are also falling the haunting law is now impacting us. It’s gone up from twenty dinars a head to fifty now, something has to change.” He felt him self breath in sharply. “If this carries on ten years from now our numbers will be half of what they were, twenties years or even thirty we might be extinct as a race.”

He paused. “Things have to change and you’re now Horn Hind you have the power to make things right and I want to be at your side to help you do it.” He lowered his gaze. “The Imperial Council are corrupt and decedent and you now have the power to end there reign. You are the one true king of our people not them, Horn Hind should no longer be a figure head she should be the true ruler.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “You believe I can do all this?” Damokles nodded he leaned up gentle kissing her lips. “I believe you can do all this and more.” He looked at her for a long moment. “Time changes Gabrielle but you always remain as beautiful as ever.”

He moved his hand away easing his bronze adjustable ring free from his second finger. “The Imperial Council has sent me on a mission to another city I will be gone about a week.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “You can’t leave now I don’t know what to do or where to start.” Damokles stood up slowly he eased up her hand gently putting the bronze ring on her finger. “Don’t worry I’ll be back before you know it, this is my ring it’s very special to me and I want you to have it, when ever you feel alone I want to look at it and think of me.” Gabrielle eyed the ring for a long moment. “I love you Damokles.” Damokles smiled running a hand through her hair. “I love you to.” He felt his smile widen. “Don’t worry about a thing, I will return and then we can both begin the process of getting rid of the Imperial Council for the good of the whole werewolf race.”

8

Gabrielle took in a painfully breath trying to stop the tears which were threatening to fall. “That was the last day I ever saw him.” She looked down trying to gain some control over her emotions. “I never stopped wearing his ring I wore it until it was taken off me before I was put in the pit. After I found his body here I felt it only right to return it to him, it was never mine to keep.” She closed her eyes unable to stop a tear as it ran down her cheek. “I think he just lent it me because he wanted to put my mind at ease because of what I was going through at the time.” Xena eased out her hand wiping the other woman’s tear away with her thumb. She could see that she wanted to cry but even in this moment she was trying to stop herself maybe she was doing so because she thought crying made her look weak, which it didn’t. “He loved you deeply he was a very lucky man to have someone like you.” Gabrielle laughed but it was a sad laugh even to her own ears. “Lucky no he was unlucky because of me he’s dead.”

Xena eased her hand under her chin using it to gently raise her head forcing her to meet her eyes. “No Damokles was lucky, he was happy with you and he loved you very deeply he believed in you more than anyone else, he saw how great you are and I don’t think he’d take it back if he had the chance.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart she didn’t want to admit it but she knew the other woman was right. “Thank you for letting me bury him in the royal gardens I know he’d be very happy to be buried under that apple tree, he always loved apple trees.” Xena put her hands together feeling the need to ask a question which had been playing on her mind for a very long time. “The burial ceremony you did for him what did all that paint on your body symbolize and why did you set it on fire?” Gabrielle wiped away her tears breathing in deeply as she recomposed herself. “The paint symbols on my body represented the weaves and curves of my soul. Werewolves call the ceremony the Eternal Breath Of Fire, they believe that you cannot reach the heavens of a god or goddess without passing through the fire of another person’s soul first.

That is the reason why I set those patterns alight on my fur so he could find his way to the Elysian Fields the fire torches were also put out to help to guide him there. I believe it’s an ancient ritual which the first Horn Hind the Emerald Hind made after the death of his brother. They say he painted his soul on his body in weaves and set it alight to help guide his brother’s soul to the moonlight, that’s what I read in the library in the Grand City and saw the ritual performed many times while I lived there.” Xena eased both her hands away watching as she raised the candle again getting ready to light her pipe. She eased out her hand putting it on hers watching as she looked up in surprise. “You know I have a better remedy if you want to try it, it’s better than smoking.” Gabrielle slowly put the candle down. “What’s that?” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her shirt she slowly started to undo the top buttons, she ignored Gabrielle’s surprise as she pulled down her shirt revealing her shoulders she stood up moving to sit directly behind her.

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart she had no idea what the other woman was about to do. “What are you doing I don’t understand?” Xena moved her hand up pushing the other woman’s long hair aside so she could see her shoulders. “Have you never had a massage?” Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak only to stop as the woman’s hands found her shoulders they began their slow rotations as her fingers kneaded her muscles. Xena felt a smile form as the younger woman tensed painfully as she found a knot. “You know it feels like your carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.” Gabrielle winced painfully feeling the other woman find another knot. “No just the weight of my race that’s how it feels sometimes.” Xena shifted a little closer. “It’s never easy being a leader people don’t realize the pressure involved.”

Gabrielle breathed in feeling her whole body start to relax as the other woman’s hands worked their magic which felt so good to her at this moment in time. “Yet you always do it so well nothing ever fazes you, not even me roaring in your face when I’m not in human form.” Xena moved her hand to her neck pushing her head forward very gently as she worker her fingers in to her skin. “If I’m honest it did scare me the first time, it was your upper and lower canine teeth.” Gabrielle winced as she found a knot in her neck. “I can’t do anything about those and I know they do scare people at times, some werewolves get lucky they don’t have protruding canine teeth.” Xena used her hand to bring her head up very gently as she moved her hands lower. “You misunderstand I really like those teeth of yours, they say a lot about you and that you are not to be toyed with or mocked.” She moved her hands out from under her collar then pulled her shirts shoulders up then slowly eased up her shirt up at the bottom putting her hands under it ignoring the younger woman’s surprise. “People never question that side of you, makes me wish that I could have a pair of those teeth I might get some of those who really annoy me to listen.”

Gabrielle winced as she found a painful muscle in her lower back. “People respect you and listen to you, you have their loyalty despite how strong I come across I don’t have all of my people’s loyalty.” Xena moved her hand up massaging the muscles on her central back. “No not yet but one day you will.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Yes if I could stop them trying to kill me or trying to sell me out to the Imperial Council.” Xena stopped easing her hands out from under Gabrielle’s shirt she gently wrapped them her arms around her waist pulling her close. “You will have their loyalty Gabrielle, the only thing stopping you is the Imperial Council and they deserve to be dethroned you’re the rightful leader and king of your race not them.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply feeling the other woman’s grip tighten around her waist she blinked trying to focus her thought’s elsewhere ignoring the intimacy of the touch. There was nothing in this the other woman was just hugging her to make her feel better. “You make it sound so easy.” Xena eased up her other hand moving a strand of her golden hair in between her fingers. “Some things are just that simple Gabrielle.”

“Excuse me Empress I don’t mean to interrupt you both.”

Xena turned sharply feeling the moment of bliss shatter, why in Tartarus was this happening? Very damn time she got this close to Gabrielle it was like some one ruined it! She eased her arm free of the other woman’s waist as she stood up slowly, she watched as Gabrielle got to her feet tuning away in embarrassment as she re-buttoned her shirt as quickly as possible. She turned seeing that Demetrius was standing close by she breathed in deeply unable to control her anger in her tone as she spoke. “Some one had better be dying!” Demetrius breathed in he knew he’d just ruined the Empress moment just like Phrixus had last night, he lowered his gaze to floor this really couldn’t be helped though. “We need a new head cook today, the kitchen is falling apart and turning in to a disaster area.”

He folded her arms. “The lesser group who have taken Kalika’s place aren’t good enough and not one of them will take charge and their making mistakes. Three people have been sick this morning I wouldn’t have bothered you but so far I’ve had twenty complaints about food tasting bad and ten about it being late, the lesser staff need some one to lead them and quickly.” Xena put a hand on her face great just great this was just what she didn’t need right now. She turned slowly to Gabrielle. “I’m sorry I need to fix this, we’ll talk later.” Gabrielle nodded watching as she walked towards the inner door she looked up as thought crossed her mind. “You should put forward the position as open and allow those to come forward who really want the job and then have them cook for you. Then you should pick the one with the best tasting dish and put that person in charge.” Xena felt a smile as she met the other woman’s gaze. “Thank you Gabrielle I’ll try that.”

End of part 62

 

TO DENY THE FEELINGS DEEP WITH IN OURSELVES

Xena took in a deep breath eyeing the three soups in front of her she’d gone with Gabrielle’s idea and sent out a palace wide notice that any one who wanted to take the role as head cook could step forward and cook her something. Three candidates had stepped forward and Demetrius had, had them cook up a dish which he’d brought up to her in her study. Personally she wasn’t hungry but she’d give each dish a try, truth was she’d rather be talking to Gabrielle right now and she wanted to get this over with as it had taken up most of her morning. She’d spent the first half of the morning trying to regain control over the kitchen true she knew nothing about cooking but she’d been able to give out orders and get some control over things again. The problem had become very clear to her as to why everything had fallen apart Kalika had been far to controlling in the kitchen. She had never once loosened the reins and allowed the staff under her to have full control in all the years she’d been in charge and now that she wasn’t around the staff had no idea what to do on their own. Hence why they were making such horrible mistakes plus she hadn’t trained them enough to cope with the pressure and stress involved in the kitchen.

It was clear that she’d only liked young women in her kitchen as it gave her wide control this was not an issue she ever intended to repeat ever again. Who ever took the kitchen next would have to put in male servants and more experienced older servants so that the kitchen was both fair and well maintained though one single person would still be in control. There would be others under them to help train the staff and support them should the leading figure be unwell or away. She picked up the spoon stirring the first soup which was beef she took a sip only to feel the sharp herbs sting her tongue. She winced trying to ignore the flavour Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “Not that one then?” Xena shook her head pushing the bowl to one side. “No it’s to sharp they like spices to much but not everyone in the palace will like that.” She moved the second one which was another beef soup tasting it, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t interesting ether, in truth the lack of herbs made it bland. She moved to the last bowl of beef soup taking a sip tasting the beautiful flavour as it exploded in her mouth it was utterly divine. She eased up a spoon. “Whose is this, it’s gorgeous!” Demetrius eased up the scroll in his hand. “This is…well that’s a surprise.”

Xena took another sip enjoying the flavour. “What who is it?” Demetrius eyed the scroll again. “Faolan cooked this, he’s Tiara’s husbands he’s been here ever since the palace opened he cleans the gardens.” Xena took another sip. “I don’t care if he’s a gardener if he can cook this well I want him in my kitchen.” She swallowed another mouth full. “Tell him the job is his and his pay grade will rise to match it.” Demetrius leaned over picking up a spoon he couldn’t see what her fuss was all about so he might as well try this dish for himself and find out. He dipped it the soup then eased up a mouthful eating it he raised an eyebrow as he turned to her. “That is good, damn this man can cook.” Xena took hold of the bowl. “Well then you can go and tell him that he’s got the job and then tell the others that I thank them for their contributions.” Demetrius put his hand on his beard as he put down the spoon. “I can do better he normally works the night shift which means that he’s probably taking time off and playing cards in one of the games rooms right now.” Xena eased up her hand. “Bring him to me.” Demetrius turned slightly. “There is something you need to know about him though he used to be a great warrior in your armies he helped to end the Spartan uprising.”

He shook his head. “Sadly though a Spartan stabbed him through the knee with a spear and left him crippled, he now has a permanent limp which was the reason that he was disbanded from the army. On top of that he’s from Britannia and a Celt, he came to Greece as a young man and joined the army but he didn’t marry Tiara until a lot later they’ve both been together for about many years.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Please bring him in I wish to speak to him.” Demetrius nodded as he opened the door to her study a smile on his face. She breathed in lying back in her chair as she carried on eating the soup savouring the flavour in all honesty she’d never spoken to this man though she’d seen him around the gardens on numerous occasions, as he did stand out due to his walk. He was also about the same age as Tiara but she’d never heard him speak he would always just quietly get on with his work. She looked up sharply as her study door was opened she watched as a tall man who was about her height walked in. He was well built and had short white hair and a short white beard on his chin which had been woven at the edges on each side and clipped with two tiny bronze Celtic coils.

He wasn’t in Greek robes at all but was wearing a thick pair on dark brown trousers and a long sleeve cream coloured shirt which had no buttons down the centre unlike Gabrielle’s instead it had Celtic designs on the sleeves and chest along with a heavy pair of light brown knee high boots. On his face were numerous scars from battle no doubt made by swords showing his long life as a warrior and he had a dark black tattoo at the top of his neck which was the Triquetra or three triangles merged which represented mind, body and spirit. He had very soft green eyes which were quite close in colour to Gabrielle’s she watched as he stepped closer his limp becoming very obvious. Her gaze drifted upwards as Demetrius smiled then closed the study door behind him. She stood up slowly putting down the now empty bowl of soup seeing that the white haired man was watching her quietly. “Faolan is it?” The older man nodded as he looked at her speaking calmly. “Yes Empress.”

Xena looked at the empty bowl. “I heard from Demetrius that you used to be in my army and that you fought the Spartans.” Faolan felt a warm smile form. “Yes but that was a long time ago, I’m very much retired from fighting now, I want to pursue other things.” Xena looked up slightly. “Well your clearly a very gifted cook your version of beef soup is wonderful.” Faolan put his hands behind his back. “Has Gabrielle tried it?” Xena looked up slightly feeling the surprise take over. “Not yet but I’m sure she would approve.” Faolan breathed in deeply. “Then may I send a soup dish to her anyway I would like her views?” He breathed in deeply seeing slight confusion in her eyes. “I’m sorry, please allow me to explain, in my country my people call wolves the Madadh-alluidh they are seen as symbols of nature as they are cunning, intelligent and noble creatures and they teach us as warriors how to outwit those who wish you harm, they are also seen as spiritual leaders and guilds. Gabrielle’s race is seen as very special as to be in their presence is considered an honour as they are the have all the Madadh-alluidh strength and cunning yet they have a semi human form and have control over there emotions as well as the ability to speak or so I’ve heard.”

He looked up slightly. “Though I saw glimpses through out my life, tracks, mane hair, claws I’ve never stood face to face with one of her people and she must be very special as she has antlers like a deer.” Xena looked at him for a long moment. “You’ve never spoken to Gabrielle?” Faolan put a through his white hair. “No but Tiara has, I’ve always felt unworthy as I have not gained that honour because she has not asked it off me.” Xena looked at him for a long moment. “You have heard what happened to Kalika haven’t you?” Faolan nodded as he spoke. “She was like Gabrielle but she betrayed you.” Xena took in a deep breath. “No she betrayed Gabrielle and Gabrielle is the one true king of the Greek werewolves it’s the reason she has those antlers.” Faolan blinked in confusion. “I see, but what are you getting at Empress?” Xena put her hand on the table. “I will not have another person cause her harm in side my palace walls.” Faolan raised an eyebrow catching a very oblivious tone in her voice it was the tone of someone who was in love, he raised his hand slowly. “I would never bring harm to the one you love, I no longer carry a sword and I can no longer fight wars, that time in my life is over and even if I did have my sword it would be laid at Gabrielle’s feet with out question.”

Xena blinked feeling the shock hit home how had he just seen through her like that? He wasn’t like Tiara at all she was outspoken and slightly moody at times he was the opposite gentle and mild mannered. “Yes I do love Gabrielle but that is my personal business and it’s not to be palace gossip is that understood?” Faolan nodded respectfully. “You need not say that Empress, I will not tell others of your love or what we talked about here in your study.” Xena put a hand through her hair she could see in his eyes that he was being open and honest. “Agreed.” She lowered her gaze feeling the need to change the subject. “Where did you learn to cook so well?” Faolan put his hands behind his back. “When your leg is like mine you find you have a lot of free time on your hands once you leave the army I found that I got a lot of pleasure out of cooking it’s given me something to do over the years.” He breathed in deeply. “I never really liked Kalika’s cooking if I’m honest nether did Tiara so I said I’d give it go and I started cooking it just went from there.” Xena eyed the empty bowl. “Well your cooking is impressive and I’d like to offer you the position as head cook in my palace, your pay will be raised of course.”

Faolan felt a wide smile form. “I would be most honoured to take the position.” Xena slowly sat down in her chair. “I do have a condition though.” Faolan folded his arms. “What is your wish Empress?” Xena looked at her hand for moment before looking up. “Kalika didn’t train the staff under her at all hence why in her absence the kitchen fell apart with out her, I want all the kitchen staff trained well enough to cope with out you. I do not want them to be in this position again and also if you know any of the male servants who wish to work in the kitchens then I’d like you to bring them in. My palace was founded up on equal rights between the genders and that applies to everything including my kitchens. Kalika lost sight of that among other things and now she is locked in reinforced chains and Iona has had to put a special collar around her neck which has spikes pointing inwards so she can’t transform again, so as much as you idolize werewolves in your culture she is not to be honoured, a traitor is still a traitor what ever the race.”

Faolan nodded in understanding. “I do not honour traitors after all in Norse stories they say if was the wolf Fenrir who eat the moon.” Xena felt a wide smile form. “That is very true.” She paused before meeting is calm gaze. “As soon as you’re settled in you could bring Gabrielle her breakfast, personally I think she would really like to see who the new cook is.” Faolan looked up slightly. “It would be my honour Empress I just hope she speaks to me.” Xena picked up her quill feeling a wicked smile form. “Oh she’ll talk to you I’m sure of it I think knowing that some of her race have gone to the lands of Britannia will fascinate her as she’s only ever told me about the werewolves in Greece and Rome.” Faolan turned limping towards the study door he slowly opened it as he turned to her. “Then I will tell her the stories of her people and what they mean to my tribe back in my homeland.”

8

Thaleia watched as Gabrielle walked through the hallway on all fours Gabrielle had much quieter than normal clearly tonight she was very distracted by her own thought’s which wasn’t like her. She had been waiting for the right moment to talk to her about the Empress feelings for her but the moment hadn’t really felt right but somehow at this moment felt right, despite how distracted Gabrielle was. She took in a deep breath before speaking “You know you’re a king of your people and the Empress is well a queen don’t you ever think that you two could be together?” Gabrielle turned sharply eyeing her friend. “Can we please not talk about this Thaleia?” Thaleia watched as easing herself up on to her hind legs. “Why?” Gabrielle eased out her clawed hand. “Because it’s stupid!” Thaleia blinked meeting her gaze. “It’s not stupid I mean you both like women and your now very close friends. Personally I think the Empress likes you in that way I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” Gabrielle stopped sharply watching as Thaleia did the same. “She doesn’t look at me that way Thaleia, your confusing her friendly actions with sexual tension.”

Thaleia eased up her finger poking it in to Gabrielle’s waist. “No I’m not I think she likes you in that way, your just ignoring that fact for some reason.” Gabrielle put a clawed hand on her face. “Oh please I’m not what she’d consider good relationship material and I doubt that she wants to go to bed with me!” Thaleia eyed her for a long moment. “Why shouldn’t she want to go to bed with you? You’re a good person who’s very noble.” Gabrielle turned to face her. “Why, isn’t it obvious, look at me?” Thaleia breathed in sharply. “You being the way you are makes no difference in my opinion.” She raised her hand. “I think the Empress cares about you deeply. I also think you have feelings for her to but your far to stubborn to admit them, even to yourself.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Even if what you’re saying were true, which it isn’t let’s face facts the Empress would never have any interest in me as a partner.” She shook her head. “Also I very much doubt her people would like the idea of a werewolf seating on the throne next to her, there’d be a up roar on both sides if that ever came to pass.”

Thaleia stepped back. “What if there was unity because of it? What if it truly ended the suffering on both sides? The Empress needs a partner more than anything and someone who will love her unconditionally.” Gabrielle eyed her. “I’m not that person Thaleia I could never be that person!” Thaleia ignored Gabrielle look of annoyance as she spoke. “You can‘t deny your feelings forever Gabrielle, you can only deny them for so long before they catch up with you. I know deep down that you have feelings for her. I’ve seen the way you look at her and the way you take in her beauty.” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “I know she’s very beautiful Thaleia, I won’t deny that but lets face it people like her don’t want people like me, I’m not attractive I’m not even beautiful. She can have anyone she wants anyway so why would she bother with me?” She raised her clawed hand. “My people also have a law that werewolves can only be with other werewolves and those who go in-between and go with humans are punished.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply. “No one can punish you Gabrielle you’re the king of your race, you should set the example for others.” She eased up her hand putting it on Gabrielle’s clawed one. “If you want to be with someone who isn’t like you, you should be with them because you want to be, regardless of your races laws you are above them and you can rewrite them all.” Gabrielle put a clawed hand through her mane in frustration. “You make it sound easy it’s not easy!” Thaleia folded her arms. “No it’s not easy because you don’t believe it’s easy, yet everyone in this palace believes you can do anything including the Empress, its just you don’t believe in yourself.” She raised her hand. “Just like you don’t believe that the Empress loves you even though it’s obvious.” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “She doesn’t see me that way Thaleia, she never will!” Thaleia put a hand on her face feeling the frustration hit home. “Why do you punish yourself Gabrielle, why do you deny the truth even when it’s right in front of you?” Gabrielle felt her whole body tense as she turned to face her. “Do you remember once that I told you that looks can be very deserving? Well when you look at me you only see one part of me but there’s a part you don’t know about and if you knew about it you’d never speak to me again. No one in the palace would and the Empress would ask me to leave!”

Thaleia put a hand gently on her arm. “No they wouldn’t we all love you being here we would never ask you to leave and if you ask me your past guilt is destroying you Gabrielle if you just talked about what’s causing you so much pain, you might feel better, if not to me then to the Empress.” Gabrielle shook her head sadly. “No Thaleia there are some sins that no one should hear.” She took in a painful breath gaining control over her emotions as she gently put a clawed hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry I don’t mean to be sharp least of all with you, you and your mother have been like family to me you both stood by me from the very beginning.” Thaleia put a hand on her friend’s clawed one. “My mother sees you as daughter and I see as a sister and no matter what happens, we’ll always stand by you.” Gabrielle smiled sadly. “I hope that is always so.” Thaleia watched as she eased her clawed hand away there was something to be said and that was that Gabrielle was a different person now to when she’d first met her. She wasn’t angry all of the time and she also smiled and when she did it was a real smile and she was much more open and would now let people touch her even in werewolf form.

Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Would you excuse me I just need to take a walk to clear my head.” Thaleia nodded as she looked up. “Sure I’ll talk to you later.” She watched as Gabrielle went down on all fours walking away she felt a smile form she was considered part of the family in the palace and people loved having her around. Though her and her mother had helped her most of the credit went to the Empress there was real connection between herself and Gabrielle and it was having a big impact. It was the Empress who had made her smile and laugh which she’d never seen before. Clearly though Gabrielle still had problems with her guilty there was something in her past which was still haunting her and she wouldn’t talk about it to anyone. She wouldn’t open her heart ether or believe that the Empress was in love with her, what was she so afraid of? The Empress was a loving caring woman and she would never hurt her again. Was she feeling guilty over her dead lover and believed that she was tarnishing his memory by being with someone else? Ether way she couldn’t make head nor tail of it. She could only hope that Gabrielle would come around soon because it was very clear to her that the Empress was going to tell her soon about how she felt and then she would be forced to face the feelings she had being denying.

End of part 63

 

FAIRNESS OF FRIENDSHIP AND NOBILITY

I don’t love the Empress, what she said is not true! No wait now I’m just lying to myself I’m just too afraid to admit my feelings she is a beautiful woman and I do have feelings for her but I don’t know how far the depth of my feelings go. It’s been so long since I’ve been in love it’s a distant feeling to me and I don’t know how to deal with it. I can’t remember the last time I opened my heart to anyone it feels like such a long time ago. I know when I closed it and hardened it, it was because of Adrienne and her lies as well as her vile behaviour and her brutal treatment of me. After I left her it became very easy to close of my feelings to others and I just put up with being treated badly even if I didn’t deserve the treatment I was receiving. Looking back on it now though I know I was a fool to allow any one to treat me that way but I let her because I was caught in the pain of loosing the one I truly loved.

I got lost in my pain and despair I was then made to do a truly terrible thing by the Imperial Council which has always haunted me. I took innocent lives and now their blood is on my hands and I can never wash it off, the nameless faces and eyes stare back at me in my nightmares even now. I’m now in a position were my life has changed beyond all recognition I have everything here friends, a surrogate family and Xena and I couldn’t imagine the pain of loosing it all it would be like having her still beating heart ripped out of my chest. That’s reason I’m trying so hard to keep my pasts sinful act unknown to everyone. It’s the reason that I feel undeserving of Xena’s love she is a noble warrior who had done great things and done them with out killing innocents or being a Conqueror. Unlike her I have done terrible things and I’m a vile murder, I don’t deserve to be happy in that way and Xena doesn’t deserve to have a murder for a lover.

That is the reason that that we can’t be together as well as the issue about our races and mines law about both our races being together. I don’t deserve to have someone like her she deserves to be someone better than me who hasn’t done vile and unspeakable things. My views on this have not changed despite what Thaleia said. I know that Xena doesn’t love me she is just very emotional in their friendship, why would she love me anyway? I’m not beautiful or attractive I can’t give her a child which is what she wants more than anything. Also to be blunt I’m not human and that issue is never going to change so why would the Empress of Greece waste her time or even risk sleeping with me when she knows the mayor political fallout which would happen if she told the Greece Empire that her lover was a werewolf, no that risk was far to great even she could see that.

“Excuse me.”

Gabrielle turned sharply lowering her paint brush which she’d been using to paint on the final touches to her carving of Jason and the Hydra. She put down her paint pot and brush as she turned in her chair taking her lit pipe out of her mouth breathing out the rich dark smoke. She blinked in surprise as Iona come in to view. She’d never had a visit from this woman not since she’d moved in to the new room. She put the pipe back in to her mouth watching as the other woman shuffled clearly unsure as to how to start a conversation she breathed in her pipe before speaking. “Is there something I can help you with?” Iona looked up slightly. “I promise that I have not been rude to your personal maid Thaleia and she was okay with my being here.” Gabrielle sat back in her chair. “Well like me she’s not holding a grudge against you.”

Iona breathed in deeply. “I came here because I wanted to say thank you, that night when the Empress was helping to take the arrow out of your shoulder you said I did what I did because here is the only place I belong and with out being in that place my world feels empty.” She lowered her gaze. “What you said meant a lot to me, I also know if you hadn’t said that the Empress may not have been so forgiving.” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke in her mouth. “It was once my duty to guard my people’s city long before I became Horn Hind.” She looked up as her dove flew in to the room she raised her arm watching as it landed on her shoulder she eased up her hand stroking its chest gently. “When I look back there was nothing that could keep me from that duty it mattered to me more than anything and I know you must feel the same way.”

Iona took a step closer to her. “Yes it does and I would feel very lost if I wasn’t here it is the only place that I feel at home.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe looking at her for a long moment. “Everyone needs to belong somewhere.” Iona felt her eyes dart as she heard the truth in the other woman’s words. “Yes they do.” She breathed in painfully. “You also gained the information that I couldn’t from Mavican she played me for a fool, she gave me the wrong information and I fell for it.” Gabrielle shook her head as she breathed out the smoke in her mouth. “No she didn’t play you for a fool. She was just very good at hiding the truth and you not seeing this does not make you a failure, you did your duty and you did it well. You helped Demetrius find out what happened to the other warriors and where the arrows came from because of your actions six families can burry their sons and daughters and put coins on their eyes then grieve and move on with their lives.”

Iona watched as she put the pipe back in to her mouth breathing in deeply. “You have a point I didn’t see it that way.” Gabrielle looked up slightly as she breathed out the smoke. “So long as you do the right thing Iona nothing else matters, that was what I was always taught.” Iona nodded she couldn’t agree more with that statement. She slowly eased the collar free from her belt feeling that now was the right moment to show it to the other woman “I need your opinion on something.” Gabrielle slowly stood up eyeing the collar in her hand. “What’s that?” Iona eased up the collar so she could see it better. “I had this designed to hold Kalika she’s wearing a similar one right now, it will stop her transforming but I wanted to show to you to see if your alright with me using it on your people. The Empress approves of the design but ultimately you are the werewolf king and your word is final.”

She carefully passed the collar to the other woman who took it carefully from her hand. Gabrielle eased up the collar eyeing it, it was made of thick leather but it was quite loose against the neck which made it look tame until you looked at the inside which had razor sharp points which clearly pressed against the front of the neck. The collar was locked with a key at the back it was a clever design clearly made to stop transformation as if the werewolf tried to transform the points would open up the throat killing them instantly. She raised both eyebrows. “Interesting idea, I assume this idea was inspired by the collar you had me put in that night in front of the royals?” Iona lowered her gaze to the floor feeling the guilt hit home. “No I had started making it before that night, it was meant for you so I could get your werewolf blood true I should have thrown it away and I was going to but then this event with Kalika happened and suddenly this became a useful way to keep her restrained in the cells.”

Gabrielle eyed the other woman she could see the guilt in her eyes. “Kalika’s a traitor and I have no issue with you using these collars on werewolves like her but the design must not go beyond the palace walls yet as it could be used by others who will abuse it. Once I have full rule over my people and things are better between our two races then we can talk about this designs further use.” She eased up the collar handing it back. “I do have a few thoughts though.” Iona looked up meeting her gaze. “Go ahead.” Gabrielle raised her hand “I suggest that you make sure that Kalika’s hands can’t reach the collar as with her inhuman strength she might be able to pry it loose. The collar should also be made from the strongest tempered bronze you have and not leather to make it longer lasting.” Iona eyed the collar. “I’ll have the palace blacksmith make a new one which is built to your instructions along with two more spares.”

Gabrielle eased up her finger stroking her birds head. “Why is it you don’t make things as a hobby, your clearly gifted at designing things?” Iona blinked feeling the confusion take over. “Make things, you mean things for weapons?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I mean things for your self.” She turned pointing to the huge carving. “I mean things like this which have nothing to do with war, their things you make for yourself or for others.” Iona eased up her hand eyeing the stunning carving. “You make that?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes I did.” Iona blinked in confusion. “You’re a warrior though, why carve isn’t that a carpenters job?” Gabrielle shook her head. “I was brought up as a carpenter’s daughter and even though I became a warrior I never stopped carving, you do realise Iona that you don’t have to go down one path in life you can do more than one thing.”

Iona folded her arms as began to think deeply. “I never thought about it like that, I just assumed warriors were warriors I thought that was part of our duty.” Gabrielle watched as her dove flew of her shoulder landing on her sculpture. “Duty is duty yes but your personal time is your own to do with as you please.” Iona took in a deep breath. “What would you suggest?” Gabrielle picked up some seed from the bowl close by she opened her hand watching as her dove started to eat from it. “What do you want to do?” Iona eyed the carving again. “I’ve always wanted to sculpt marble.” Gabrielle eased her empty hand away from her dove. “Then what’s stopping you?” Iona looked up sharply the other woman had a point what was stopping her? She had plenty of free time on her hands and yet she squandered it by lazing around and drinking cider or playing cards and gambling coin on bets she normally lost.

True had savings but ever since she’d gotten the job here she’d become completely focused on it and nothing else. She’d never really spent much time to herself or done things that mattered to her. She moved to stand in front of the other woman. “You have a point how do I lean something like that?” Gabrielle eased her pipe out from her mouth putting it to one side as she blew the smoke out away from the other woman. She leaned over gently picking up her dove holding it gently so it was out of Iona’s reach. Despite the respect between them she still didn’t trust her around her pet because of what she’d done to the last one. “I’ve been caving since I was a child but I still read scrolls on the subject I take them from the library you should ask Chara where to find scrolls on carving marble.” Iona raised her hand. “That’s a good point I’ll ask her I’m sure she’ll show me.”

She eased her fingers towards the collared dove. “What’s your dove’s name?” Gabrielle didn’t think as she grabbed her hand she gently pushed it back ignoring the other woman’s surprise. “His name is Icos and he’s still nervous of people, I’m still training him so you can’t touch him yet.” That wasn’t completely true but it was true that she was training Icos to come at whistle calls and sit on her shoulder and she’d only just got him used to her other form which had been a little difficult at first as like all birds he’d been very nervous. It had taken her a long time before she could even get him to sit on her clawed hand. “Once he’s fully trained you can pet him.” Iona blinked she thought that odd but she wasn’t going to contest it Gabrielle probably knew more about birds than anyone else in the palace and everyone knew she had a soft spot for them. “I will go and talk to Chara then I’ll have someone run down to market and get the things I need.”

Gabrielle stroked Icos’s feathered back. “I look forward to seeing what you make.” She watched as Iona nodded at her respectfully before leaving her workshop room closing the door behind her. She loosened her grip watching as Icos flew up and landed on her shoulder again. Her gaze drifted upwards as Thaleia entered the workshop a slightly concerned look in her eyes as she spoke. “Did everything go alright with Iona?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Yes it went fine Iona just wanted to talk about something regarding Kalika.” Thaleia folded her arms. “Well I don’t trust her and if she ever gives you trouble again you should tell the Empress.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor. “She won’t give me trouble again Thaleia.” Thaleia raised her hand. “How can you be sure?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Because she’s not evil, she’s just misguided.” Thaleia shook her head she didn’t quite understand where Gabrielle was coming from with that comment. “She killed your last pet and had it cooked up and served to you, how is that not evil?”

Gabrielle slowly met her confused brown gaze. “There’s a huge difference between doing evil acts and being evil Thaleia.” Thaleia breathed out trying to think of how best to put her next question. “I heard you talking about Adrienne to the Empress you said she was evil and that you hated her.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “Yes Adrienne is evil and you are not to greet her when she comes here, she doesn’t have any compassion for human beings like I do, she sees you and your race as vermin.” Thaleia put her hands together she felt as though she was walking around on egg shells at this moment, as she knew Gabrielle might not take her next question very well. “How did you end up ever being her lover Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked at her hand trying to stay in control of her anger the last thing she wanted was to snap at her friend who was only being curious and the truth was that she couldn’t be angry at her for that, she knew it looked strange that she would be the company of some one like Adrienne.

Adrienne was everything she wasn’t, she put a hand on her face as she felt her gaze dart. “I was very foolish Thaleia and I was lonely and I let her in, to this day I wish I hadn’t met her or even gotten to know her.” She paused. “I now fear for everyone in this palace while she’s here.” Thaleia moved forward putting her hand on her friends shoulder. “The Empress will not allow harm to come to anyone Gabrielle you have to trust in her words.” Gabrielle met her concerned gaze. “I do trust in her words Thaleia, but the truth is I know Adrienne she will not give up with out a fight and I don’t know if I can defeat her in battle, we have both fought before and I lost to her.” Thaleia squeezed her shoulder. “But this time it will be different Gabrielle, you have the backing of the palace behind you and the Empress and if you fall we will all fight for you.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she eyed her best friend hearing the truth in her words. “I’m hoping it won’t come to that Thaleia.”

8

Xena lay back in bed she wasn’t really tired she had to confess her mind wasn’t on sleeping or dreams instead she was thinking through Adrienne’s arrival. She had thought about having the meeting in the library but she very much doubted that the choke point would make a difference. If she had anywhere near the power that Gabrielle had in werewolf form she’d just break though the double doors. No trying to be clever wasn’t going to work this time instead it would have to all be about force in arms. She would have to double the guard and have her in the dinning hall on the very top floor, it was a closed in room there was no way out of it and she could line up ten guards aside fully armed. Ironically it was the room where she had first found out that Gabrielle wasn’t human a long time ago and somehow that made it perfect as Gabrielle knew it well it only had two doors one in and one out.

Also she could use the look of the room to give it a false sense of security she could have a platter of food laid out as well as chairs and make it look like she was being hospitable, when in fact she wasn’t. The woman would have also travelled a long way and she’d take advantage of her stomach, everything on that table was going to be rich food and she had seen Gabrielle slow down slightly after eating the same kind of food in human form. Maybe she could slow this woman down in the same way by allowing her to eat it warriors weren’t always as sharp as they should be on a very full stomach. It wouldn’t be a huge advantage but an advantage none the less and any advantage was worth her time if it meant giving Gabrielle any edge over this woman. There was something else that was bothering her though but she wouldn’t be able to confirm it until tomorrow.

She had a feeling that the relationship between Gabrielle and Adrienne might have been abusive, her reason for thinking this was that the first time she’d ever touched Gabrielle she had flinched under her touch. She had thought that very odd at first and it had taken Gabrielle a long time to come around to being touched by her. It would also explain why Gabrielle didn’t see herself as beautiful and had low self esteem and lacked belief in herself and her abilities as ruler of her people. Manipulating and abusive partners always kept their love interests under control by belittling them and destroying their self confidence so they could bend them to their will. Gabrielle may be king of her people but even a king or queen out of site of his or her people can live a different private life to the one on show. Maybe Gabrielle is afraid of Adrienne it would explain why her mood switched so quickly at the sound of her name.

She also has a very deep hatred for Adrienne and if Adrienne has been controlling her and dictating her life behind the scenes it would be one more reason on top of so many others that Gabrielle just wouldn’t return to the Grand City personally she hoped though that she was wrong about all this. She wanted it to be her mind wandering in the wrong direction she didn’t like to imagine anyone bringing Gabrielle harm in that way. The younger woman didn’t deserve that, on top of this someone who was abusing and manipulated their own king deserved to be punished and she found out that Adrienne had done anything like this to her, she’d want to make her pay for her actions personally. She took in a deep breath she shouldn’t be thinking about this right now she needed to just close her eyes and go to sleep tomorrow was going to be a very long day. She closed her eyes only to open them again as a sharp knocking came from the central door she sat up slightly. “Come in.”

She blinked in surprise watching as Gabrielle entered her room she was dressed in a velvet robe and she looked very concerned but at the same time tired. She was wearing a night dress but more because of the chill that was starting to go through the night air. She knew it wouldn’t be long before she’d have to put fur skin on top of her sheets. She looked up meeting the other woman’s uncertain gaze. “Are you alright?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she walked towards the other woman bed coming to a stop close to it. “I can’t sleep.” Xena eased out her hand lighting the candle close this was very unlike Gabrielle at this time of night she was normally still in werewolf form walking the gardens, yet tonight she was in human form and trying to sleep. No doubt her sleeping pattern was making it very difficult for her just switch off as she was normally so active. She sat up fully patting the empty bedside. “Please come and sit here.”

Gabrielle slowly sat down on the bed opposite the other woman as she put a hand on her face. “I keep thinking about tomorrow.” Xena leaned over putting a hand gently on her shoulder. “Tomorrow is going to go fine, I’m doubling the guard if your ex puts a foot out line she’ll get an arrow through her throat.” Gabrielle ran a hand through her hair in frustration. “I know I’m just.” She took in a deep breath she hated admitting to weakness and she would never admit what she was about to admit to this other woman to anyone else. “I’m afraid.” Xena blinked in surprise she’d never heard Gabrielle ever admit to being scared of everything. She was normally very guarded in terms of her emotions she felt her grip on her shoulder tighten. “This woman manipulated my cook in to putting you in to a dark pit to rot and starve for two years, she sounds like a very dangerous woman and if I were in your boots I’d be afraid to, it’s clear that she has no issue about ending your life.”

Gabrielle eased up her hand putting it on Xena’s. “I just wish I could go to sleep and not worry about this.” Xena felt a smile form. “Worrying about it makes you no less of a leader.” She felt her smile fade as a thought crossed her mind. “Maybe you’d sleep better if you had company.” She knew she was pushing it and yet she didn’t care she wanted to give the younger woman a hug. She looked like she needed one, she watched as her green eyes which were reflecting slightly in darkness darted, she was clearly considering the offer. Xena felt a warm smile form on her lips. “You look like you need the company of a good friend tonight and I’d like to be that friend.” Gabrielle turned meeting the other woman’s light blue gaze her mind wanted to say no as it felt like she was imposing on the other woman. Yet her heart couldn’t say those words because she knew that this was deeply genuine offer and she couldn’t refuse it.

She missed having company at night and she hatred how lonely she felt at times and she knew Xena felt the same way on this subject so why deny this woman a joy which could be as much her own as hers? She put her hands together as she spoke. “I would like that.” Xena shuffled slightly. “So would I, if you need night clothes you can borrow mine I have spares in my wardrobe though they might be slightly large for you.” Gabrielle stood up slowly. “Thank you but I got hold of some myself, its starting to get colder now.” She eased off her robe eyeing her silver woven velvet pyjamas.” Xena eyed the other woman’s night clothes as something occurred to her Gabrielle did have a fondness of silver her seal ring was silver and some of her shirts had silver designs on the sleeves, she looked up slightly. “You like silver I see it on your clothing quite a lot, why the interest in it?”

Gabrielle slowly eased herself in to bed next to the other woman ignoring her uncertainty over the situation as she eyed her ring. “Gold has never gleamed to me, I see it as symbol of decadence and corruption, silver to me symbolizes strength and hardship. My father could never afford gold, my mothers wedding chain was silver and he worked so hard just to buy it for her because he couldn’t afford gold. I guess as a child I picked up on that and that is why I wear silver. I hated the armour they gave me in the Grand City it was gold plated and I never wore it I used to just wear my bronze plate armour instead.” Xena blinked as she lay back watching as the other woman did the same, in the scroll of werewolf history Gabrielle’s image had been shown wearing a silver armour not a golden armour or a bronze one. Clearly the scroll was showing something which hadn’t come to pass yet.

She looked up slightly she knew Gabrielle had seen that scroll she’d talked to Phrixus about it so she’d no doubt seen that image as well yet she didn’t believe in the scrolls ability to tell her own history even history that had not come to pass, she just saw it as an important item. “Silver is a good choice Gabrielle it suits you.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “Thank you.” Xena watched as the younger woman blew out her candle as lay still staring upwards for a moment before she turned over her green reflective eyes closing as sleep caught up with her very suddenly. She gently put an arm around her waist feeling her move slightly but not every much. She had wanted to ask her why she saw herself as ugly because of her scar but she realized that now wasn’t the time. She leaned over gently kissing her head before laying back on her pillow keeping her arm in place refusing to move it as she spoke keeping her voice low ignoring the fact that the other woman was now clearly deep within in her dreams. “I love you Gabrielle.” She lay still half closing her eyes she didn’t care that the other woman couldn’t hear her she just wanted to say the words regardless.

End of part 64

WITH OUT CARE OR REMORSE

 

Xena opened her eyes slowly as the dawns rays streamed in through the curtains she felt her smile widen as she looked at her arm which was wrapped around her waist. She looked down realizing that Gabrielle’s whole body was up against her own the younger woman had clearly moved up against her in the night no doubt unintentionally or maybe intentionally. She knew that sometimes the desire to have company during sleep could overrule someone’s mind while sleeping. She had once cuddled up to Demetrius when they’d been forced to share a tent as they’d needed each others protection as they’d been separated from the hoplites in a blizzard on Mount Nessus. She had gone up there because her spies had told her that they’d founds lots of dead Roman bodies in the snow and that had filled her with concern at time. She thought that maybe the new Emperor of Rome Tiberius was going to attack her country hence why he was sending units through Nessus. She knew now that those units had been killed by Gabrielle’s people but to this day she still didn’t know why Tiberius had sent them there and since they weren’t on speaking terms she didn’t care to ask.

Tiberius has made his position very clear she owned Greece he owned Rome and he’d made a truce which was that they stayed out of each others lands and that if she found the missing eagle she was to return it to him. Unlike her late husband Tiberius was much brasher and she knew he didn’t like her but he was a smart man as he didn’t want to start all out war between their lands and that was fine by her. She no longer had any interest in Rome and she had no desire to cause trouble there at all through political games of any kind. Her getting in to trouble though on Mount Nessus had been her own fault as she really hadn’t heeded the warnings about just how dangerous that mountain could be and that a blizzard up there could separate you from your group in an instant. Nothing sexual had happened between herself and Demetrius that night other than they’d just hugged each other in their sleep but nether of them had talked about it since. She knew she had been dealing with the loneliness and loss of no longer having a husband and Damokles’s relationship with a Greek noble woman had fallen apart only a week before, deep down they were both looking for a comfort of some kind just to ease the pain.

She looked down at the younger woman who was fast asleep deep in her dreams she was properly feeling that right now as she’d not had any comfort from anyone after loosing Damokles she doubted that Adrienne had given her any emotional support she needed to deal with her pain. What ever Gabrielle’s reason was for being this close to her she didn’t mind it as it was such a nice feeling to have someone this close again but it meant a lot more to her as she was deeply in love with this woman and she wanted her attention, even if it was no more than her hugging her like this. She eased up her hand slowly running it through the other woman’s long hair watching as it spilled through her fingers the other woman shuffled slightly murmuring incoherently in her sleep. She leaned closer it was so strange to see the younger woman this way in this moment she was so peaceful even when she was awake she always slightly guarded. There was also a little tension even when she was happy it was like she was always holding back yet at this moment she was so relaxed.

She wished she could be this relaxed and open with her emotions when she was awake the Gabrielle she had met first before she’d seen the darker personality had been so care free and happy and she was sure that this young woman could be that way once again. She was getting there she’d seen her personality change over these past months she was laughing smiling and slowly becoming more open. She hoped that one day she would become that a truly happy and carefree person who enjoyed her life to the full. The only thing Gabrielle didn’t seem to care about was not being human it was the one thing about the younger woman she admired as she accepted her other form completely and refused to be anything but what she already was and she saw no point or reason in changing for anyone. Very few people she had met in her life had that this view of them selves or were that happy with who they were. Her thoughts were cut off as she watched the door open as Ceto walked in to her room carry her breakfast tray she watched as the woman turned the shock suddenly spreading across her face as realized who she was in bed with.

She felt her lips form a playful smirk as she spoke in a low whisper. “Put my tray on the table I’ll be over in a moment.” Ceto blinked quickly gaining control of her senses as she moved over the table. She turned slowly to the Empress feeling unsure of what to say she spoke hoping that her choice of words was right. “Did you…I mean did you both sleep well?” Xena looked up slightly keeping her voice low. “I slept fine Ceto I think Gabrielle has as well.” Ceto tensed unsure if her next words would sound rude. “I assumed the rumour about you being in love with her is not just palace gossip?” Xena breathed in deeply gods why was she bothering to tell people to keep her feelings for Gabrielle a secret it was clear most people knew she was in love with this woman and the rest were completely buying in to the palace gossip. She eyed Gabrielle for a very long moment before looking up at her personal maid speaking softy. “Yes I am in love Gabrielle.” Ceto felt her eyes dart. “Did you tell her that, is that why she’s here?” Xena shook her head sadly. “No Gabrielle came here because she couldn’t sleep, as you know Adrienne is due to arrive today.” Ceto felt a sneer of disgust form. “Yes I’ve all about her not a nice piece of work, had a lot to do with the assassins getting in to this palace and was in liege with Kalika.”

Xena gently eased Gabrielle’s arm free of her waist hearing her mumble again in her sleep. She slowly eased herself out of bed putting on her robe as she turned to Ceto. “She’s also Gabrielle’s ex which only adds fuel to this already blazing fire.” Ceto breathed in as she pulled out the scroll which was in her robes belt. “Then I hate to add more fuel to the fire but Phrixus asked me to give this scroll to you.” Xena leaned over taking it from her hand. “What is it?” Ceto looked up slightly. “A very long winded request about him being present at Gabrielle and Adrienne’s meeting, he makes a good point though that the moment they meet they will probably switch languages and will have a better understanding of what they are saying than you as he’s spent a lot more time learning the spoken werewolf language with Gabrielle over this past month.” Xena rolled her eyes as she opened the scroll reading it slowly Phrixus was right though he did understand the spoken language much better than her, so far she’d only had three lessons with Gabrielle which wasn’t nearly enough and she was only learning the written form and not the spoken form and she wouldn’t lie she’d really struggled with Adrienne’s letter. She folded up the scroll handing it back to Ceto. “Tell him that I want his presence in the room, in this case he’s right his understanding of the spoken werewolf language is much better than mine.”

Ceto nodded stepping back. “I’ll tell him now.” She paused before speaking. “Are you going to wake up Gabrielle?” Xena watched as the younger woman turned in her sleep. “No I want her to get as much sleep as possible, just tell Thaleia to bring her clothes and her breakfast in here when you see her as I’m sure she’ll be wondering where she is.” Ceto nodded moving towards the door. “Yes Empress.” Xena smiled watching as she left she felt her smile fade as she turned back to Gabrielle who was still asleep watching her. Everything was ready for today but despite this, it didn’t make her feel any better she had no idea why this bitch of a woman had come here all she assumed that she was here because of the law change Gabrielle had put in place with out the Imperial Councils approval not that in her view she needed their approval to do anything she was the right full ruler of her people not them. She turned away looking at her breakfast she really needed to put her thoughts to one side right now she could deal with them later when the time was right. She looked up sharply watching as the younger woman eyes slowly opened as what ever dream she was having ended. She stood up walking over to the bed feeling a wide smile form. “Good morning.”

Gabrielle eased up her hand rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, how strange she felt at this moment in time she felt well rested which very rarely happened, she’d had no nightmares just a deep soothing sleep. She eyed the dark haired woman who was smiling down at her. “Morning.” Xena put a hand gently on her shoulder. “Did you sleep well?” Gabrielle sat up slightly. “Yes I did.” She paused eyeing her closet friend. “Thank you for your company last night I needed it.” Xena squeezed her shoulder gently. “It was a pleasure to have your company and you’re always welcome in my bed if you’re feeling that way you did last night.” She paused unable to stop her next question. “Do you remember when we were sparing?” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows unsure where this was going. “Yes.” Xena moved her hand away. “You said you weren’t beautiful because of that scar on your eye which you could never get rid off.” Gabrielle eased up her hand running it down her scar. “Yes I said that.” Xena leaned forward. “Why do you believe that, is it because someone told you that you weren’t beautiful?” Gabrielle looked down slightly. “No it’s not because of that, people don’t love a face with an ugly scar on it, not a scar like mine.”

Xena eased her hand up putting it gently under the other woman’s chin using it to raise her head very slowly. “I think you’d be surprised Gabrielle, not everyone sees scars that way.” Gabrielle looked up slightly unable to break away from the other woman’s intense gaze. “How do you see scars?” Xena eased up her other hand running her fingers gently down the diagonal scar on the other woman’s eyebrow. “I see them as symbols of power and strength as well as character.” She ran her fingers upwards again in a gentle motion as she eased her other hand out from under her chin. “They are never hideous or disgusting and they don’t make a person any less beautiful.” Gabrielle eased up her hand taking hold of the other woman’s hand lowering it gently. “You always see the positive side in everything Xena.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “I try to see the good in everyone even if they don’t see it in themselves.” She stepped away from the younger woman. “Would you like some breakfast?” Gabrielle eased herself up in bed fully. “Yes I would.” She paused watching as the other woman turned away from her. “Xena?” Xena turned to meet the other woman’s gaze. “Yes.” She felt a smile form. “Thank you for listening it means a lot to me.” Xena felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “Your welcome.”

8

Adrienne walked slowly down the long road which led to the palace she looked up catching sight of what looked like a two wagon loads of werewolf parts including skulls, skeletons pelts and mounted heads and bodies my, my Gabrielle had been very busy. She adjusted her chest plate slightly but then that was why she was here to bring her lover home and she would come home to the Grand City she’d make sure of that. She eyed the two guards behind her who were walking with her towards the palace’s huge doors. She eyed the moonlit sky above she’d been here more than once and nothing had changed she still hated this place with a passion not because it had built on top of king Lycaon’s ancient palace ruins. No it was her hatred of the Empress she couldn’t stand the bitch period. The truth was that her hated had nothing to do with the hunting law it was all to do with the fact that when ever Gabrielle was around her she didn’t do what she was told. She’d had the opportunity to stab the bitch and end her miserable life and she’d stalled right when it really mattered. What was it about that stupid woman that made her such a distraction?

It wasn’t like Gabrielle couldn’t kill she was an amazing warrior in battle most werewolves changed weapons from time to time but not Gabrielle had remained with two swords right through her career as a warrior and beyond as a Horn Hind. She was fantastic when she killed it was all power all focus and she knew how to take life in battle, but that was where her issue came she hated taking innocent life. Also when her swords weren’t in her hands she became a very different person who wasted her time away crafting silly little wooden carvings, she was also a recluse who didn’t like the lime light and from time to time she’d caught her talking to nothing but empty corridors though she always claimed she was never talking to anyone. Her biggest problem though was that she had far to much heart and that weak heart of hers really got in the way of what was important, which was doing what she told by the Imperial Council with out question. She had though taken this one step to far by signing an agreement to end the hunting law with the Empress with out the consent of the Imperial Council and that was not allowed it breached the rules and now there had been a huge incident in the Grand City because of this.

Those who were loyal to her had remained completely loyal to her despite her two year absence they were also thrilled with this idea of the hunting law ending and werewolves having equal rights. This was not what the Imperial Council wanted, they were so close to for filling their master plan and this had come at just the wrong time. The last thing they wanted now was for the Grand City and the other cities to be separated by in fighting between those who were loyal to Gabrielle and those who were loyal to them. After all the Imperial Council were the true rulers not Gabrielle she was just a figure head. She’d been made Gabrielle’s advisor and it had been her duty to keep her in place and reign her in as well as satisfy her sexual needs and she wouldn’t lie that had been worth it, but her main real job had been to stamp out Damokles’s influence over her and that had never been easy. She’d never stopped loving that fool even after he’d been killed she’d even been purposely told that he had left her for another woman by the Imperial Council as they’d hoped that it was would crush her spirit even more and it had worked to an point but not the extent they’d wanted she’d still stuck very much to the code of honour which he’d taught her along with his ideals.

Plus for some stupid reason she always hesitated when it came to killing pathetic weak little humans who didn’t have a sword in their hand. They were just humans no one would care for their passing they might as well be ants washed away be the tide. In her view the werewolf race should be ruling them not sitting with them at a table drinking together as equal right Greek citizens. One thing was clear though as she walked down the long road which led to the palace doors they had gotten the message that she was coming. The moment she’d said her name to the guards guarding the outer wall and door a dark mood had filled the air and the guards had turned very tense. Clearly Gabrielle hadn’t spoken well of her which hurt but only a little Gabrielle had always been misguided and now she needed putting back in her place. She owned her after all and they had never ended their relationship openly so she was still her lover and like every good lover she needed to put her right by any means necessary. This wouldn’t be the first time they’d argued and she’d had to force her hand violently to put Gabrielle in her place and she doubted it would be the last.

What did matter though was that one way or the other she’d make her point tonight and Gabrielle would return to the Grand City as commanded by the Imperial Council. She had been told that failure was not an opinion and if it meant ending Gabrielle’s reign as Horn Hind then she was to do so by any means necessary. She smiled eyeing the weapon which was in her belt if it came to that she had something very special in her possession oh how she loved testing new weapons on her own kind. This one though was very special its design had been based on something so innocent so kind which was pathetic use for it when in truth it could be used to being such glorious pain and death, if it worked correctly. She loved testing new weapons it always gave her such a thrill even more so if they worked and if this one worked as it should it could be used as a brand new type of weapon which could be used to kill traitors and those who disobeyed the rules in werewolf society. She watched as the huge palace doors were opened and a tall dark haired man came in to view he was clearly head of the royal guard she could tell by his over elaborate hoplite uniform. She felt a smirk form as she eyed him. “Oh look the welcoming committee.”

Demetrius narrowed his gaze clearly this woman had no idea that right now one of Iona’s best trained men had an arrow pointed at her head, ironically it was the same man who had, had an arrow pointed at Gabrielle’s head during her first meeting with the Empress and he was a pro marks man, he very rarely missed and even if he did miss the first shot his second was always spot on. He breathed in eyeing the woman in front of him this was Gabrielle’s former lover? Just looking at her he could see that she was dripping with arrogance. “Adrienne I assume?” Adrienne felt a smile form. “Yes I am.” Demetrius turned eyeing the two well armed men who were about lead her to the meeting room. “Follow me.” Adrienne slowly followed him watching as the two warriors followed her, she eyed the taller commander who was watching her out of the corner of his eye. “So tell me when do you see Gabrielle? You see we have such history together and I know that she’s been missing me.” Demetrius carried on walking that wasn’t the impression he’d gotten from Gabrielle it was more that she was glad to be rid of this woman. “You’ll speak to her when she’s good and ready.” Adrienne carried on walking. “Oh I see, did she tell you that personally? Its just I don’t see her talking to someone like you, you see you come across as a stupid human just like all humans.” Demetrius sneered suddenly he beginning to see why Gabrielle loathed this woman he carried on walking not looking back. “I don’t believe Gabrielle shares your view on humanity.”

Adrienne felt a cold smile form. “Yes well Gabrielle has always been far to kind, it’s always clouded her better judgment and made her weak.” Demetrius eyed her for a long moment before turning away as he carried on walking towards the room which wasn’t far away. In his opinion Gabrielle had very good judgement and her kindness was one of the reasons the Empress was clearly in love with her. She was liked in the palace because of that kind nature and to say she was weak was a huge insult, she was anything but weak. This woman clearly had a very harsh and cold view on the world she also thought that she was something special just because she had a heart of stone and had no love for life. Warriors who were like this normally became murders, assassins and mercenaries. Funny he had thought that Iona had no love for life but that was not the truth she did have some even though it was small and she was starting to change he could see it happening she was becoming more compassionate and he’d seen her just sit and read scrolls while drinking cider last night rather than gamble with the others warriors in the training barracks.

They’d asked her if she wanted to play but she’d just said no and carried on reading clearly there was something she wanted to learn and he could tell that the scrolls were from the main study and the only person who could have gotten them for her was Chara, in a way that was a good sign though at least she was talking to people. Iona had always had been a bit of a loner who didn’t socialise with large groups of people or go to parties it was one thing she did have in common with Gabrielle. He turned eyeing Adrienne this woman wasn’t Iona though she stank of murderer it pulsated off her and clung to the air like thick black smoke from a burning fire the kind that made you choke painfully and brought tears to your eyes. He had looked in to the eyes of many warriors in his time and her eyes were like a dark pit of no remorse. It was becoming all to clear as to why Gabrielle wanted nothing to do with this woman with every breath she took she had been draining Gabrielle’s joy he was disgusted to say it but he could see himself in her eyes. He had once been like her when he had drained the joy from his lovers because he craved only the conquest and then broke their hearts as he’d moved on to the next.

He took in a painful breath as he pushed open the double doors open catching sight of the long table which had been laid out with food. He could see the guards already lined up he walked inside watching as she followed him. He stopped eyeing her. “The Empress has laid you out food and drink for you which you can eat while you wait.” Adrienne walked up to the table eyeing the food unable to keep the sarcasm out of her voice as she spoke. “I’m so flattered do tell me will the Empress be present?” Demetrius eyed her. “Yes she will.” He turned to one of the warriors lowering his voice. “Please tell Gabrielle that her guest has arrived and inform the Empress the same.” He watched as man nodded leaving the room. Adrienne watched as the man left. “So you’ll be watching me I assume, your going to make sure I don’t put a foot wrong right?” Demetrius looked up slightly. “You could say that yes.” Adrienne picked up a goblet of wine drinking it feeling an evil smile form. “Well I do hope it doesn’t come to that, you see I’d take great pleasure in ripping your head off your shoulders.”

End of part 65

A PAINFUL LOVE OF VIOLENCE AND BRUTALITY

I don’t want to see this bitch tonight every part of me feels tense about the whole meeting. The very reason I was put in the pit was because I trusted her I never should have gotten involved with Adrienne sexually it was the stupidest thing I ever did. I did it because I was lonely and depressed and she was there and it was covenant. I used her to make myself feel better but she only made me feel worse because she treated me like a fool and she loved to get her way even if it meant I got hurt in the process.  I haven’t told the Empress the full story, I don’t want to, I don’t want her to know that some woman took pleasure in hitting me and that I submitted to it. The battle I mentioned to Thaleia was not a even battle it was a punching match and I lost, yes I always hit Adrienne back but she always hit me harder and then she’d try to kiss me and make up and I just let her because I was starting to give up. I couldn’t escape her I could leave the Grand City, she was like my jailer and I was her prisoner she was around me every minute of everyday, I did try to get away from her when ever possible or make excuses for not turning up to the places where she wanted me. She was my lover and we were in a very happy relationship to every one on the outside but that was an illusion, behind closed doors it was not that way she wasn’t my lover or even my mate it all boiled down to sex nothing more and nothing less.

I was only having sex with her because it was the only time I ever felt anything emotionally was when I reached an orgasm I’d just become so numb to everything else by the end. Maybe that was why when they asked me to go the Palace in Corinth I wanted to feel again even if what I felt was pain and agony from my bleeding wounds. What I should have done was ended our relationship some years before but I clung to it like a fool I don’t love Adrienne I never have in fact I hate her. I’ve never stopped hating her since the first time she struck me she knew she had a hold of me and she must still thinks that now, even though I’m not hers. All she ever had from me was my body but never my soul and I know she wasn’t my mate even in werewolf form as all werewolves when they pick their mate who will be with them for life they have an over whelming urge to bite them in the neck during sex and from what I’ve heard the urge is so powerful that it can drive werewolves in to a very primal and violent state if they don’t do it. I confess though I’ve never had it, Damokles and I weren’t together long enough for it to start and I never got it with Adrienne despite how long we spent together.

As the legendary werewolf scholar Cyrano once wrote. 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. To force desire will never bring that urge and to force the heart will only harden it, the soul must desire it and the body must crave it and to ignore this will bring about primal needs which can’t be controlled or sutured as the beast with in is unleashed. Gabrielle looked down at the floor as she carried on walking following the warrior who had told her about Adrienne’s arrival, she could see that Xena and Phrixus were waiting for her outside the door. She wouldn’t lie she’d stalled somewhat and she hadn’t come right away she had, had to force herself in the end to stand up and follow the warrior who looked slightly concerned because she had remained seated and not followed him out of her room. She took in a deep breath once this was over it would be over she would never have to go through it again and Adrienne wouldn’t be in her life anymore. As long as Adrienne thought that she was her lover the more it held her back and she wanted nothing more than to be free of her. She wasn’t loyal to her and had betrayed her and she really didn’t care about was the Imperial Councils approval. Adrienne had always been a compulsive liar and she fully expected her to lie again if it meant keeping in control, only this time she wouldn’t have it, she was not the fool Adrienne thought she was.

Xena looked up she had started to feel concerned as Gabrielle was over twenty minutes late in fact and she was about to go and get her, but now she was here she could see that she was tense and apprehensive. She clearly didn’t want to be here but she was forcing herself to be she turned eyeing Adrienne through the crack in the door. The woman had been eating the meat and drinking the wine she’d now pulled out an ivory pipe and had lit it. She was slightly taller than Gabrielle and had dark green eyes her hair was shoulder length and brown with red henna highlights. On her right arm was a Norse serpent, which was the Norse Jormungand the Midgard Serpent. If Gabrielle was anything to go by it was clear werewolves worshipped who ever they wanted. The woman was wearing bronze armour which had overlaid plate on the chest much like Roman armour but there was a huge difference. She could see hinges which meant that the sections could shift on the both sides of the chest her shoulder armour had the same type of hinges and underneath it was a white shirt whose short sleeves hung down in tattered.

She was wearing a white hanging skirt which was tattered at the edges and knee high black leather boots on her back were two Sparth axes which could be held in each hand. She didn’t look very dangerous but there was something about her though which made her feel uneasy maybe it was her overly arrogant attitude and the way she was lounging about. It was the manner of someone who thought they had control over everyone despite that they didn’t. She knew well enough from experience that warriors like that were very dangerous as they would kill others even if it was just to prove a point about their own self importance. Iona was very close by although she was at the other door, her and her men were there and if Adrienne got out there orders were to bring her down in anyway possible. Frankly didn’t care if they ripped of her legs she had no love for this woman, as it was clear that she had caused Gabrielle so much pain. She turned watching as Phrixus stood up fully as Gabrielle came to a stop in front of her. She eyed the younger woman as she spoke unable to keep the concern out of her tone. “There you are I was getting worried about you.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I don’t mean to hold you up I just needed to think of what to say and I know what to say.” Xena leaned over putting her arm on her shoulder stroking gently, she knew that wasn’t quite true she could see fear in Gabrielle eyes. She wasn’t going to bring that up though this was already a difficult situation and she didn’t want to make it worse by bringing up the subject of fear. “I understand I’d rather that you take all the time you need and be ready.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I’m ready, I just want to get this over and done with.” Xena eased up her hand away moving towards the door. “Then let’s go.” Phrixus breathed in turning to Gabrielle. “I’m here to translate for the Empress just in case Adrienne switches to your language.” Gabrielle nodded as she lowered her gaze. “I understand.” Xena smiled pushing open both of the doors she walked through watching as Adrienne looked up from where she was sitting at the head of the table with her feet up. She watched as the guards closed the door behind her. There was only one other way out of this room other than the doors and that was through a thick plain of glass which made up a very large window.

This glass window was more a decorative item as all the other windows in the palace had wooden shutters this window this was the only one of its kind. She had to say though that there was nothing outside of that window it was just a long drop to the gardens bellow and you’d probably clip at least two of the balconies on the way down before you hit the grass between the two huge lions that made up one of the entrances to the royal gardens. She didn’t see anyone human or werewolf attempting that jump it would probably kill them out right. This room was after all on the third floor at the highest level for a reason, it was another room which wasn’t easy to escape from, just like the bottle neck study. She hoped this room wouldn’t be damaged but she was beginning to think that with werewolves damaging things came with the territory because of their size and power and in a small space that power meant things were damaged regardless. Though the room Gabrielle had fought Kalika in had been smashed up it wasn’t all that bad and the builders could easily fix it. She was seriously considering having a group of permanent builders in side the palace so they could deal with damage right away rather than her calling in builders who asked questions about the damage which the staff wouldn’t answer.

She snapped out of her thoughts as Phrixus came to stand next to her and Gabrielle eyeing Adrienne whose face formed a leer as she looked the younger woman up and down in a lustful manner. She felt her eyes dart as the silence clung to the air she wanted to break it, she hated silence but she knew this was not her conversation and she’d just have to wait till someone spoke. Adrienne put her ivory pipe in to her mouth breathing in the opium. She eyed Gabrielle nothing had changed she still had a great body she breathed out the rich smoke as she spoke in the werewolf tongue. “You know it’s not nice to keep me waiting Gabrielle.” She turned eyeing the Empress and the man next to her who was whispering in to her ear even from here she could tell that he was translating but badly. She breathed in her pipe seeing that Gabrielle hadn’t moved and was keeping her distance. “You know I hate waiting.” Gabrielle felt her body tense as she spoke in an emotionless tone in werewolf tongue. “What do you want?” Xena blinked as Phrixus translated. The werewolf language spoken sounded so strange it was unlike she’d any language she’d ever heard before and she’d heard a quite a few different languages during her time in Rome. Most had been translated for her with the help of a translator.

Adrienne felt a sneer form as she stood up. “What do I want as if you don’t know?!” She eased out a copy of the scroll which Gabrielle had written and sighed along with the Empress, she opened it so her lover could see it. “I’m here about this! Do you have any idea how much trouble this has caused in the Grand City?” Gabrielle folded her arms eyeing her ex lover. “I was doing what was right for my people.” Adrienne eyed her for a long moment she moved forward so she was standing in front of her. “You don’t make policy that is what the Imperial Council does!” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Why are you really here?” Adrienne eased out her hand maybe a different approach was in order she spoke again but this time in a low seductive tone. “Why I am here, I’m here to see you.” She eased up her fingers running them down her cheek. “I missed you so much.” Gabrielle pulled away sharply she knew what her ex was doing it was nothing more than seductive play to win her over and she wasn’t interested anymore. “I doubt you missed me at all, you do after all like your conquests.”

Adrienne blinked in surprise she had not expected those words or these kinds of actions from Gabrielle she normally did just as she was told. “You know that I love you.” Gabrielle laughed but it was a cold laugh. “You have never loved anyone but yourself.” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke feeling her hand form a fist. “You must think me a fool, I know about the assassins the Imperial Council sent to kill me and I also know that you swayed that Roman cruentus creatura to do your bidding. Were you pulling down her underwear and giving her a really good time so she’d play along with your little games by any chance?” Xena felt a smirk appear on her face she watched as Adrienne gave her a cold look. Adrienne turned back to face Gabrielle. “You know this is the reason Damokles left you for another woman, Gabrielle you never quite know when to shut your mouth it’s also the reason the Imperial Council are always unhappy with you.”

Gabrielle turned sharply meeting her gaze. “Damokles didn’t leave me he was taken from me! He was murdered by one of you so don’t lie to me Adrienne his body was here in this palace it was stuffed and mounted!” She felt her knuckles crack as her fist tightened even more. “You sent Bastiaan to kill him didn’t you because you wanted to take his place as my adviser?” Adrienne felt an evil smile form as she put a hand on her shoulder not caring that it was a painfully tight grip. “Don’t walk down this path Gabrielle you know better.” She paused. “Be a good girl and come back with me, the Imperial Council demands that you return to the Grand City today. They said that if you do so they’ll forget this whole incident and talk to you about your request, the one you made about the killing of human children.” Gabrielle ignored the painfully tight grip on her shoulder. “I have no interest in returning with you to the Grand City and I don’t care for the Imperial Councils offer they’ve never been true to their word.”

Adrienne eyed her for a long moment as she put her pipe down on the table breathing out the opium smoke. “Why do you wish to stay here?” She turned eyeing the Empress up and down feeling something click. “Is it because of her?!” She felt a sneer form. “Oh she’s just your type isn’t she, what is it the dark hair the tallness or those light blue eyes? You always did have a weakness for that look Gabrielle but let’s face facts you have no place being here this isn’t your home and that bitch doesn’t care about you.” Xena looked up sharply she spoke unable to stop herself. “I know you can understand me Adrienne, so let me be very clear this is Gabrielle’s home and she has every right to be here!” Adrienne looked up sharply eyeing the taller woman as she spoke again in normal Greek. “This is none of your concern human so stay out of personal matters which are none of your business I’m talking to The Golden Hind, not you.” Xena narrowed her gaze unable to keep the venom out of her words as she spoke. “Yet you treat her with so little respect, you don’t rule her, she is above you and she is your king you should be on your knees in front of her.”

Gabrielle blinked feeling the surprise hit home as the other woman’s words sunk in along with their truth. She was right Adrienne was bellow her and not above her she was king and Adrienne should show her respect, she’d never showed her any respect not in all the time they’d been together. She spoke in normal Greek once more. “I’m not going with you Adrienne I’m staying here so you can leave and take this message back to the Imperial Council, that the Golden Hind has no interest in their offer.” Adrienne breathed in suddenly feeling the anger take over this was not how she had wanted this to go! This was not how it normally worked Gabrielle knew better than this she knew just what would happen if she didn’t comply with her demands. “Don’t take this road Gabrielle we both know that I don’t like hitting you, but sometimes its necessary but you know I do it because I love you.” Xena breathed in sharply gods she had been so right and yet she hadn’t wanted to be. Gabrielle’s forma lover was abusive and she could see the fear in Gabrielle’s eyes as she suddenly lost her nerve and lowered her head.

She hated abusive men and women it was one thing she couldn’t stand, she felt her hand move towards her sword. “If you touch her I will have your head, you don’t own her and you have no right to threaten her.” Adrienne turned sharply eyeing her. “I said stay out of this!” She turned back to Gabrielle. “You are my lover and you will come home with me right now!” Gabrielle breathed in trying to keep her fear under control only to feel something hit home as what Xena had just said repeated in her mind the older woman was trying to defend her. She pulled herself free of Adrienne’s grip stepping back as for the first time in what felt a very long time she felt a deep strength over take her soul which had been missing for so long she looked up speaking in an even voice. “I’m not going with you Adrienne I’m not your lover anymore our relationship ended when you left me to my fate in this palace over two years ago. I don’t love you I never have in fact I’ve always hated you and your lies. The truth is I only ever slept with you because I was felt so numb emotionally that the only time I felt anything was during sex, as pathetic as that sounds.”

Adrienne watched as Gabrielle turned fully to face her she was now very close to the table. “Don’t be foolish, you’re in no position to make demands!” Gabrielle eyed the men around her. “Nether are you, so go crawl back to the Imperial Council and go and find another sexual conquest because you mean nothing to me.” The next moments turned to blinding pain as the other woman’s fist impacted with her face causing her to smash back first in to the table causing food to go flying through the air. She felt the blood as trickled down her chin as the other woman’s hands found her throat. Adrienne smiled as she tightened her grip ignoring the bows and swords as they came free from their scabbards and holders all at once. “It was Cyrano who once wrote that a candle which burns twice as bright burns half as long he believed that even a short life could be lived with great impact.”

Gabrielle eyed her in disgust Adrienne didn’t care for writings and she doubted that she even knew what that statement really meant she spoke ignoring the pain. “He went on to say…only the finest of candles can burn the longest…with intense brightness and still burns even when the light has faded away in to darkness.” Adrienne felt her grip tighten as Gabrielle started to struggle trying to break free. “The Imperial Council believes in Cyrano’s first statement in fact the way they see it, is that very Horn Hind must reach their peak then their light must be extinguished. You’ve now reached your peak Gabrielle you’ve burnt incredible brightly but now your time as Horn Hind is over but don’t worry you’ll leave a huge impact in your passing one the Imperial Council will use to their advantage.”

Gabrielle pulled up her boot feeling her hand grab at the hilt of a long dagger which she had hidden there. Adrienne smirked only to feel a cold point push its way in to the back of her neck she turned catching sight of the Empress. Xena narrowed her gaze. “Let go off her now!” Adrienne eyed her in utter disgust. “Or you’ll what, kill me? I don’t think so you don’t stand a chance against me in battle!” She felt a sudden agonizing pain as something was thrust in to her exposed leg causing her to lean forward and cry out painfully as her hand instantly let go off Gabrielle’s throat. She turned only to feel Gabrielle’s boot as it smashed in to her chest sending her crashing in to the marble floor. Xena stepped back quickly watching as the warriors all around her raised their loaded bows pointing them towards Adrienne she could see Demetrius waiting for her signal so they could fire.

Adrienne winced watching as Gabrielle pulled herself back on to her feet her two swords coming free in an instant. She smirked as she got to her feet eyeing the dagger which was imbedded in her upper thigh she could see blood pouring out from the wound. She leaned down pulling the dagger free ignoring the sharp stinging pain. She eyed the bloody weapon throwing it to one side she pulling both of her axes free in a violent motion twirling them. “If you want to play it that way Gabrielle then that’s fine, but you know that you’ve never defeated me in battle, you tried once and you lost, remember.” Gabrielle felt her feet slide in to position as she brought both sword blades forward. “That wasn’t a battle that was you hitting me until I submitted to you!” Adrienne roared in anger as she swung the weapon only to see Gabrielle duck avoiding the first axes blade.

Xena turned watching as Demetrius raised his sword she pulled up her hand sharply. “No.” She ignored his surprise, this was Gabrielle’s personal battle and she wouldn’t interfere. This woman had caused Gabrielle nothing but pain and suffering and if she took away the chance to put her in her place it wouldn’t help Gabrielle to overcome her pain or her fear. She watched as Phrixus slowly moved towards the door he knew this was a very personal matter of pride and his Spartan nature meant that he didn’t want to interfere. She slowly lowered her blade stepping back ignoring the looks she got from the guards who lowered their weapons slightly. She breathed in Adrienne couldn’t leave this room and that was all that mattered in truth she’d rather they battle here then anywhere else at least here she could keep an eye on everything which was happening.

Gabrielle stepped back avoiding the second axe it skimmed very close to her face she didn’t think as she brought up her sword watching as the other axe collided with it with immense force. Adrienne had always been someone who liked to use force in battle and it was something she was very wary off she brought up her hilt smashing it in to her exposed shoulder ignoring her grunt of pain. She also had werewolf weapons which were far better than her own the tempered polished bronze was much harder to break than normal and there was a real risk that her own weapon could be shattered by it. She turned on her heel only to feel the intense pain as one of the axe’s blades sliced past her knee cutting in to her trousers she winced watching as blood ran free. Adrienne smirked watching as Gabrielle stepped back. “You never were that fast on your feet, it lets you down.”

She turned about to laugh only to watch in surprise as a heavy boot came towards her face. The next moments turned to agonizing pain as her feet left the floor and she hit the table back first only to slam in to the ground on the opposite side of it hard as food hit the ground all around her. She winced watching as blood dripped on to the marble floor as it ran down her chin. She spat it out feeling her anger turn to blinding rage no one ever hit her! Least of all some figure head that deserved to die! All she could say was that she’d been a good ride in bed but everything else about her deserved to rot. She got to her feet turning slightly as she raised her axe blades she would not make that mistake again. She felt her feet slam in to the floor as she ran around the table raising both weapons higher as she swung them in Gabrielle’s direction only to feel the force as her axe blade collided with Gabrielle first sword blade she swung her other axe only for it to hit the other woman’s second blade.

Gabrielle felt the force as both weapons pushed together their blades grinding against hers violently. She felt the agonizing pain as Adrienne’s foot collided with her already wounded knee causing her to step back unlocking their weapons blades. She felt the force as both their weapons started to repeatedly collide as Adrienne tried to get through her defences forcing her to step back further in to the room centre in the process. She grabbed her sword hilt tighter as Adrienne’s weapon collided with it causing sparks to fly through the air. There would be no perfect opportunity she knew that already this would be all about wills and she wasn’t as strong as Adrienne, she could only wait for her to screw up. She thrust her weapons blade forward watching as Adrienne avoided it only to feel intense pain as the other axe blade sliced through her white shirt close to her stomach, she winced watching as the blood ran down staining it red from the cut which wasn’t deep but hurt none the less.

She stepped sideways avoiding the other axe as it came with in inches of her face. She could feel her heart starting to beat faster in her chest as she started to move faster, only to feel blinding pain once more as the axe blade sliced past her shoulder causing red blood to flow down her sleeve. Xena felt her eyes dart clearly Adrienne was as good as Gabrielle she was just as quick on her feet but her blows were much harder. In her opinion though they were evenly matched the wounds they given each other spoke for themselves. Adrienne howled in pain as Gabrielle’s hilt hit her in the jaw causing her to stumble slightly her feet were suddenly taken out from under her causing her to smash in to the floor hard on her side. She snarled turning on to her back swinging her axe watching as it smashed against Gabrielle’s sword blade violently she sneered as she got up slowly. Gabrielle watched as the other woman got to her knees raising her other axe so she could see the wooden hilt. She swung her blade watching as the wood shattered as it sliced through it taking the axe blade off in one go, she ignored the other woman’s stunned surprise as the heavy axe blade hit the floor hard.

Adrienne blinked she turned eyeing Gabrielle as she let go off the end of the wooden weapon she grabbed Gabrielle’s sword hand as it came towards her shoving the blade straight in to her boot above her toes ignoring her cry of pain. She let go getting slowly to her feet eyeing her remaining axe swinging it watching as it sliced across Gabrielle’s lower chest as she painfully pulled her weapon free from her expensive boot causing blood to run free. She smirked watching as the new wound bled in to her white shirt as the other woman stumbled back the pain in her eyes. She raised her axe moving towards her swinging it watching with joy as the sword was smashed free from her left hand it hit the floor hard clanging as it came to a stop on the solid tiles. Gabrielle ignored the pain as she spun on her heels in a looping motion swinging her remaining sword around watching as it sliced across Adrienne’s waist just under her plate armour causing her to scream in pain.

She tuned turned kicking the other woman’s feet out from under her seeing her hit the floor on her back. She slammed her boot down hard on her axe hand before she could raise it as she brought the blade forward so it was touching her exposed throat. She forced her boot down harder causing the other woman to let go of her weapon which she kicked to the side of the room. She felt a sneer form. “Surrender or I will kill you.” Adrienne grabbed her sword blade not caring as the blood ran down from her palm. “Oh no, we aren’t done yet!” Gabrielle watched as claws burst through the other woman fingers she felt the pain as the sword was ripped free from her grasp she stepped back quickly watching as Adrienne threw her weapon to one side violently. She eyed the darkening sky outside watching as Adrienne started to change as her clawed feet tour apart her boots. Fine if that was the way she wanted to play it then so be it! Xena breathed in sharply watching as Gabrielle closed her eyes she knew what was coming and it meant that this room was about to become very dangerous.

She breathed sharply in turning to Demetrius. “Get everyone out now.” Demetrius eyed her feeling the uncertainty take over. “Empress you need my men.” Xena shook her head. “No I need your men to leave you remember what happened to my throne room.” She felt her hand clutch her sword tighter. “Line them up with Iona’s men outside both doors Adrienne will not leave this room alive ether way.” Demetrius put a hand through his hair in frustration he knew she was right but he hoped it wouldn’t come to this. He eased up his sword signalling watching as his men started to move heading for the doors on both sides. He wanted to tell her to leave to but he knew there was no point she wouldn’t come she wanted to stay with Gabrielle despite the risks. Adrienne stood up feeling her jaws slam together she eyed her clawed hand as she looked up watching as Gabrielle slammed in to the floor on all fours as her transformation ended. Her clothes were lying on the floor in tattered pieces she could see the large antlers which were covered in velvet they looked much healthier than the set she remembered which had been twisting at the points.

She winced feeling her still bleeding wounds her armours chest plate had now opened fully covering her upper chest and the shoulder guards had extended slightly. The torn shirt remained as did her skirt only her boots had been destroyed but she didn’t care she still had the advantage. She was wearing armour Gabrielle had nothing she was in werewolf form naked and because of that the bitch didn’t stand a chance. She stayed on all fours feeling her claws dig in to the marbled floor she could see Gabrielle doing the same in the now empty room. The guards were pulling back and leaving the room, only the Empress remained even the head warrior had now left the room as to avoid what was going to happen next. She sneered slightly eyeing her remaining axe which lay on the floor close by she didn’t need it anymore and if the worst came to the worst she still had the killing weapon that really mattered. It was still attached to her plating at her side though it wasn’t noticeable as it was under the torn area of her skirt.

She tapped her claws on the marble floor she couldn’t wait to taste Gabrielle’s blood on her lips she used to love the taste of it during sex even though Gabrielle had never bitten her in return. Maybe she’d hoped to force her mating instinct but it hadn’t worked but now she just wanted to taste it one more time before she killed her just to remember its flavour. She opened her jaws licking her teeth as Gabrielle stayed still waiting for her first move. Xena eyed the two werewolves once more she could see differences in how they both looked Adrienne had a very long mane which was much longer than Gabrielle’s and despite that the fur was brown the red hues remained. A patch of fur was much darker where the tattoo had been and the image could still be made out although not as well, her tail wasn’t as long as Gabrielle’s ether. Adrienne also had a much shorter shout but despite this she had the same protruding teeth as Gabrielle on her upper and lower jaws they were both the same size and build which meant this wouldn’t end well.

Gabrielle looked up as Adrienne ran at her raising self on to her hind legs she breathed in hearing her own roar of anger hit the air as she pulled herself up on her hind legs. She knew this would be a true fight in werewolf form winner take all and no mercy to the loser. Adrienne slammed in to Gabrielle digging her claws hand in to her shoulder as she struck her across the face with the other watching as blood flew through the air. She ignored the pain as the other woman’s claws sliced across her exposed leg creating a deep wound. Gabrielle ignored the blood as it ran down her snout as she grabbed Adrienne by the shoulder throwing her whole body weight to one side watching as she smashed in to the table back first causing it to smash in half in the process sending the remaining food and drink everywhere. She moved closer only to wince in agony as Adrienne leapt at her causing her back to slam in to the floor hard as she was forced down violently by the other woman. Adrienne’s jaws found her shoulder causing her to howl in agony as her teeth penetrated her skin sinking in. The pain only got worse as Adrienne twisted her head violently forcing her teeth in deeper tearing her flesh.

She felt the pain as she slammed her claws in to one of the woman’s arms ignoring her cry of pain as her jaws came free of her shoulder causing blood to fly through the air. She grabbed her mane close to her ear throwing her head to one side causing it to smash in to the solid marble causing blood flew out of her snout. She pulled her head up only to smash it down harder watching as the marble tiles broke with force of her blow causing one of Adrienne’s upper canine teeth to break in half in the process. She couldn’t get through her armour not that she really cared she’d go for every other exposed spot on her body instead. Adrienne winced eyeing her broken tooth which was now lying on the floor she pulled up her foot up forcing her claws in to Gabrielle’s leg causing her to let go as she cried out in pain she snarled forcing herself free from under her. She eased out her tongue licking the blood from her teeth nothing had changed she still tasted just as sweet. Gabrielle sneered she hated that look it had always made her blood boil, the other woman had always given it to her after sex it was her way of emphasizing that she owned her. She grabbed a fallen chair throwing it at her with her might watching as she dodged it as it smashed in to the wall shattering to pieces.

Adrienne laughed only for her laugh to be cut short as Gabrielle’s whole body weight collided with her own causing her to be thrown backwards she felt the pain as she smashed shoulder first in to the solid wall causing one of the Greek statues to topple over crashing in to the floor. She turned only for Gabrielle’s claws to rack across her face. She brought up her claws slicing it across Gabrielle’s waist before kicking her hard causing her to be thrown across the room. Gabrielle slammed in to the cold floor skidded across it coming to a painfully stop she pulled her head up only to see the other woman leap up in to the air she felt the intense pain as Adrienne’s collided with her pushing her clawed hands in to her back deeply. Adrienne smirked watching as Gabrielle started to struggle under her grip she leaned forward whispering coldly in her ear. “What did you hope to achieve? I’ve always been stronger than you.” She sniggered coldly. “Now you’re going to die under someone, which has always been your place.” Gabrielle felt her body tense she roared feeling the blinding rage take over as she forced her whole body up wards on to her hind legs ignoring Adrienne’s surprise. She grabbed her clawed hands throwing her violently over shoulder watching as she smashed in to the floor back the intense pain appearing in her dark green eyes.

She kept hold of her clawed arm bending it backwards enjoying her screams of pain she slammed her clawed feet in to her chest plate keeping her in place. She watched as blood flowed down her arm, she spoke unable to keep the venom out of her tone. “Kneel to me you bitch I am your king!” She forced her arm downward with all her might seeing blood spattered across the floor as the bone broke through the fur as it shattered in half. She let go of her broken arm going down on all fours locking her jaws around Adrienne’s exposed throat ignoring the pain as the other woman’s claws raked across her back as she struggled to get free. She watched as Xena stepped closer to her a concerned look spreading across her face she would give her, her chance to tell her stop after all this was her palace and she would respect her wish. The dark haired woman’s face became emotionless and she knew that was a signal which was telling her she could end this how ever she pleased.

She closed her jaws further as Adrienne carried on struggling oh she could kill her quickly but what was the fun in that? She wanted to see her suffer she wanted to see the light die in her eyes. She felt a sudden overwhelming feeling of clarity take over as the world froze around her she had dreamed of this moment for years she had wanted nothing more than to kill this woman and yet now as her life was ebbing away it’s felt like such a hollow victory. Why had she wanted this victory to start with? It was because she hated what they’d done together during the androphonomania massacre. It had haunted her dreams and her nightmares for years but the truth was killing her now would never bring all those people back. It wouldn’t take away their screams or the terrible memories she had of their deaths. It wouldn’t take away the guilt she felt ether it was true Adrienne deserved to die but first she should go to trial for her crimes and answers to those she’d betrayed.

She let go watching as Adrienne choked in agony as she lay on the floor trying to regain her breath truth was she’d been an inch from dying. She breathed in getting up as she backed away from her, feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Get out of my home!” Adrienne coughed again as she painfully got to her feet ignoring the blood as it ran down her armour plating. She tensed painfully she didn’t understand why hadn’t Gabrielle killed her? It made no sense at all! She eyed her bleeding arm as she shifted in to the centre of the room. “You’re not going to kill me?” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “No I’d rather hear about how the Imperial Council punished you for failing your mission and you know how they treat failure. For you it’ll be a least thirty lashes, you told me once that you’ve never had the cat of nine tails whip on your back so for you it’ll be an interesting experience.” Adrienne coughed painfully as the cold blood ran down her snout she tried to ignore the pain of her now bleeding body as she stepped further back eyeing the Empress no this was not how this was meant to end! She watched in disgust as Gabrielle looked in the Empress’s direction meeting her gaze for just an instant, despite the shortness of the glance it was a very intense and meaning full stare.

She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke ignoring the pain in her bleeding jaw. “Why don’t you tell the Empress about all about the androphonomania massacre Gabrielle?” She watched as surprise appeared in the dark haired woman’s face she felt her cruel smile widen. “Oh so you haven’t told her yet…oh how precious how long did you think you could hide it from her?” She eyed the Empress feeling the cold jealousy take over she had seen something in Gabrielle’s eyes when she’d looked at her. It was a subtle look but she knew that look it was the look which she used to give Damokles in his company. It was a look of deep look of underlying affection it was the one look Gabrielle had never given her in all the time they’d been together but a look she’d always wanted to see on her face. The thought of the Empress receiving what she’d wanted so desperately made her feel sick to the stomach. She would make sure that the bitch wouldn’t get that look ever again. “Tell her about all those people you killed Gabrielle, all those innocent people, men women and children who died in the name of Horn Hind.” Xena breathed in deeply. “What is she talking about?”

Gabrielle eyed Adrienne feeling a blinding rage start to burn causing a painful knot to twist in her stomach. “She isn’t talking about anything!” Adrienne smiled eyeing Gabrielle’s position which was close to the window. She suddenly felt a cold smile form she would not be defeated or denied Gabrielle’s defences were down now and she wasn’t expecting anything more. “Oh yes I am, you remember the screaming don’t you Gabrielle, you still hear it in your nightmares?” She tensed eyeing her bleeding ex lover. “You wake up covered in sweat because you can’t stand it.” Gabrielle felt a sneer form she was going to change this subject now to one which Adrienne would hate. “Tell me, what is the Imperial Councils master plan Adrienne?” She watched as the other woman blinked in surprise. “Yes I know all about it, your stupid little Roman cruentus creatura mentioned it but we both know she’s not high enough up the ladder to know what the full plan is but I know that you do.” Adrienne felt her clawed feet dig in to the marble floor. “I don’t know of any master plan.” Gabrielle breathed in raising her bloody clawed hand. “Don’t lie to me! You know what the plan is and you’re going to tell me what it is right now!” Adrienne eyed her feeling her cold smile widened. “I’ll never tell you Gabrielle, It would spoil the surprise and besides the Council told me that if you asked this question, I was to make sure that the light died in yours eyes and I intend to do their bidding.”

Gabrielle looked up in surprise only to watch as Adrienne ran towards her, her roar of anger hitting the air she raised her hand but she knew it was to late as the other woman raised her upper arm which wasn’t broken as she slammed in to her using her full body weight. The next moment turned to chaos and pain as her clawed feet left the floor. Xena stared in horror as Gabrielle’s body collided with the window smashing it apart sending shards of glass everywhere which hit Adrienne as the share momentum carried them both through the shattered window. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest of all the things she’d envisioned happening this was not one of them she ran towards the window watching helplessly as both Adrienne and Gabrielle plummeted towards the ground bellow. She could see the panic in Gabrielle’s eyes even from this distance they were locked together and she couldn’t pull herself free of the other woman. She found herself breaking in to a run as she ran towards the doors smashing them open ignoring Iona’s surprise as she carried on running her panic intensify she had to get the lions quickly she had to do something, anything, it felt as though every breath she took she shouldn’t be taking.

Thaleia turned to her mother they’d been walking the garden only to hear the sound of something shatter in the distance. “What was that?” Fedora looked up sharply. “That’s glass.” Thaleia turned meeting her gaze. “There isn’t any glass in the palace though.” Fedora breathed in sharply as she started to walk faster around the torch lit garden. “There is glass, it’s in the dinning room on the top floor!” Thaleia breathed in sharply. “Gabrielle was meant to be meeting her ex lover in that room!” She found herself suddenly breaking in to a run watching as her mother followed her she turned the corner only to feel her heart stop at the scene in front of her as two werewolves locked together plunged downwards towards the grass in between the lions. She felt her stomach twist painfully as the brown werewolves head collided with one of the balconies as they carried on falling downwards they both collided with the right lion before smashing in to the floor separating as they were thrown apart violently. The brown werewolf’s body went still even from a distance she could see the blood pouring down from a wound in the head, while Gabrielle lay on her side at the top end of the lion unmoving.

Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly and painfully everything was out of focus the pain in her body was making it even worse. She couldn’t hear anything but a painful ringing in her ear. She put a clawed hand on her face groaning in pain, she couldn’t see properly she eased herself slowly on to all fours stumbling forward not really caring which direction she was heading in. Tiara moved her scrubbing brush across the floor only to stop as she caught sight of Gabrielle walking towards her on all fours. She smiled only to feel her smile fade something was very wrong she could see blood dripping down from viscous wounds all over her body. She stood up instantly dropping her brush Gabrielle wasn’t walking straight ether it was a disorientated walk as if she couldn’t walk in a straight line. She moved forward watching as Gabrielle stopped opposite a pillar half leaning against it her eyes were looking at the floor but not really focusing on it clearly she was in shock at least the werewolf version of it.

She stopped in front of her seeing the glazed look in her green eyes. “Gabrielle?” She paused getting no reply. “Gabrielle can you hear me?” Gabrielle lowered her head feeling her stomach churn painfully she wasn’t able to stop herself as she threw up. She felt the painful sting as the sound came back in to her ears she looked up as everything slowly came back in to focus and she realized where she was. She was now on the lower floor in the large room that had the two lions outside which led out in to the gardens she couldn’t even remember how she’d gotten here. She put a clawed hand on her face staying on all fours she was so stupid she should have broken Adrienne’s legs during the battle the bitch had always hated to loose. She looked down seeing that she’d lost her lunch she blinked realizing for the first time that some one was in fact talking to her. She could see Tiara standing over her calling her name the concern in her eyes. She looked up slowly trying to ignore the intense pain she was spoke. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean…to mess up your floor.” Tiara blinked in surprise she was about to say something only to stop as the Empress smashed open the doors running in the panic and concern in her eyes as she moved towards Gabrielle. Gabrielle felt her clawed hand grab the pillar as she pulled herself up on to her hind legs. She forced a painful smile watching as the dark haired woman smiled back at her she felt the confusion hit home as her smile faded away and a look of shock appeared in her eyes.

Gabrielle blinked why was she looking at her like that? She followed her gaze looking down realizing why she looked so shocked, directly imbedded in her chest was a bronze spike almost like a spear, she hadn’t even seen it or even felt it because she’d been in shock. It had odd looking coils and what looked like two hidden blades on ether side, she breathed in sharply suddenly realizing that it was a coiled spring weapon which was at full tension and ready to snap.  She eased up her clawed hand only to watch in horror as the spring mechanism fired causing both razor sharp blades to come flying out like wings on ether side which in turn caused the weapon to force its way fully in to her chest. The pain was blinding beyond words and all she could do was scream as she felt her clawed feet instantly buckle underneath her as she hit the floor hard on her back, she could taste blood in her mouth as she coughed in painfully. She could feel herself shivering this was bad she knew it and she could feel it. This wasn’t like any wound she suffered before she could feel its blade deep inside her chest and her lungs were starting to burn she closed her eyes wanting nothing more than for the agony to end.

End of part 66

IN THE PAINFUL DYING LIGHT BEFORE THE DAWN

 

Xena hit the floor on her knees opposite Gabrielle feeling the horror over take over her, gods this just wasn’t happening! It couldn’t be happening it was like some Tartarus of a nightmare. She’d assumed that despite her terrible wounds that Gabrielle was okay until she’d stood up on her hind legs and seen the horrible spear like weapon sticking out of her chest. Clearly Adrienne had meant those last words before she’d put Gabrielle through that glass window, she truly wanted the light to die in her eyes clearly in her option in she couldn’t have her or control her no one would ever have her. This horrible weapon what ever in Tartarus it was had been made to kill someone and a painful and brutal manner. She watched as Gabrielle tried to raise her clawed hand only for it to drop again as the blood started to run out her out of the corners of her mouth, which showed just how serious this wound was. She turned eyeing Tiara who looked utterly shocked. “Don’t just stand there, get Phantasos now!” She watched as the older woman snapped out of her haze she didn’t hesitate as she ran out of the room as fast as possible. She moved putting both hands on the sides of Gabrielle’s face she could feel her shaking she looked up as Iona and Demetrius ran in through the already open doors.

She stood up eyeing them. “I need some material now!” Demetrius moved forward ripping off his thick red cloak which was on his back as he walked towards her holding it up. “What in Tartarus happened?” Xena didn’t think as she grabbed his cloak she pulled hard ripping it down the centre, she’d have a new one brought in for him at a later time. She kneeled down again wrapping the thick material around Gabrielle’s wound trying to stop the blood which was spilling out around the spear. “Adrienne pushed Gabrielle out of the window!” Iona blinked. “Wait did you say out of the window?” Xena looked up sharply ignoring the blood as it started to soak her fingers. “Yes out of the window!” Xena turned as Thaleia and Fedora came running in to the room they were followed by three men who were dragging in Adrienne by her clawed feet the unconscious woman had a deep head wound which was bleeding all over the floor. She felt her whole body tense as they let go of her feet, gods she just wanted to let her bleed to death what this woman had done to Gabrielle was the ultimate act of spite stabbing her instead of taking defeat like a real warrior should.

She knew though that to let her die wouldn’t be right, Adrienne had to be judged for her crimes by the werewolf race and this was Gabrielle’s territory and if she wanted to kill her in the future then that was her choice not hers. She turned throwing the other piece of torn material at Iona who caught it. “Wrap this around Adrienne’s head wound.” Iona eyed Gabrielle who was clearly in terrible pain she could see it in her eyes as she desperately tried to stay conscious, she felt the rage boil up deep with in her stomach. “Why don’t you just let me kill her instead? I’ll slit her throat it’ll be quick and clean it would be justice for what she’s done to Gabrielle.” Xena turned eyeing her. “I said wrap up her wound, now do it!” Iona breathed in sharply she didn’t dare argue she could see the ice cold look in the Empress’s eyes. She nodded stepping back. “Yes Empress.” Xena turned back to Gabrielle feeling her anger instantly melt away. “Just hold on Phantasos is going to be here soon.” Gabrielle breathed in only to feel the stringing pain in her lungs it was so difficult to breathe. Every breath she took felt like an agonizing effort she spoke only able to whisper. “I…I…should…have…killed her.” Xena shook her head pushing down harder on the wound ignoring the blood which was now soaking her hands.

She turned meeting her green eyes which were filled with intense pain. “No sweetheart you did everything just right you were being noble.” She’d let that pet name slip again but she just didn’t care she eyed the spear she wanted so much to take this weapon out but she knew she couldn’t and it was hurting her heart not doing so but it was imbedded far to deeply and she couldn’t risk it. Phantasos was the only healer she knew with the skill to take out this kind of weapon but it was more than that. He was also the one in the palace who had any understanding of werewolf anatomy as he’d spent time with Gabrielle in werewolf form and as much she hated to think about it, he had taken the insides out of Damokles’s body before it had been mounted all those years ago and he’d made many notes. She looked up seeing Iona tie up Adrienne’s head trying to stop the blood flow the floor was a mess now it was a mass of blood stains. She breathed in painfully gods she’d never had this much blood spilled on her palace floors it was a real shock to her. She turned back keeping her eyes locked with Gabrielle’s as she carried on pushing down on the wound. “Phantasos will be here soon I promise he’ll get this out of you.” Gabrielle coughed feeling the blood come up in her throat. “It…hurts.”

Phantasos ran through the doors carrying his equipment watching as the Empress looked up he could see the panic and desperation in her eyes. He turned eyeing Gabrielle seeing her problem instantly which was a deeply embedded spear in the chest. His gaze wandered to the other werewolf who was bleeding seriously from the head Iona was trying to stop the blood flow. He turned to his apprentice who looked shocked. “Go over and stitch up that werewolves head.” The young man blinked eyeing him the uncertainty in his words as he spoke. “But that’s a werewolf.” Phantasos quickly passed him the tools he needed. “You’ve done this before on a person remember the warrior last year who fell from a height, same principle just cut the mane back like you cut hair and stitch it up but use a much thicker thread.” The apprentice took her tools. “What about the claw marks?”  Phantasos breathed in. “Same thing cut the fur back and stitch them.” He moved closer to Gabrielle dropping his surgical tools next to the Empress looked harder at the weapon sticking out of her chest. “This is going to be hard.” Xena turned eyeing the apprentice who got to work right away she turned to him. “You can do this, can’t you?” Phantasos eyed the wound. “Yes I can but I need another pair of hands.” He turned his gaze instantly falling on Thaleia. “Thaleia I need you over here now.”

Thaleia breathed in eyeing the blood feeling suddenly unsure of her self. “I’m not sure, I’m up to it.” Phantasos looked up sharply meeting her worried gaze. “This is not a matter of being up to it, I need you here now or your best friend might die.” He watched as she swallowed moving forward sitting on the opposite side he took her hands pushing them on the cloth allowing Xena to remove hers. “Keep putting pressure there don’t let go and don’t worry about the blood.” He eyed the others as he opened this pack eyeing the cutting knifes he eyed Demetrius. “I need a fire torch and for anyone whose not part of this to step away I need plenty of light.” Demetrius quickly grabbed the torch watching as the other stepped back he handed to Phantasos who took it then eased up a curved knife slowly heating the blade with it. He kneeled down next to Thaleia putting a hand on her back rubbing gently hoping that it would settle her nerves. Xena felt her eyes dart. “Can you get it out of her?” Phantasos passed the fire torch back to Demetrius who kept hold of it giving him intense light he needed. “Yes but its not going to be pretty or pleasant it’s very deep and it may have damaged her in sides.” Xena narrowed her gaze watching as he pushed the cloth away getting ready to cut. “Do you know what your doing?” Phantasos breathed in sharply seeing the concern in her eyes. “Yes I do and she will survive but only if I do this quickly.”

He turned back to her. “I need you to keep talking to her, talk about anything just keep her mind off what I’m doing.” Xena moved so she was closer to Gabrielle’s head watching as the blood shot green eyes met her own. She moved her hands stroking her mane close to her ears. “Gabrielle can you hear me?” Gabrielle looked directly in to her light blue eyes she nodded painfully trying to ignore the freezing cold feeling which was running through her body it felt as though her blood was turning to ice. “I’m…so…cold.” Phantasos moved the knife cutting deeply he may have said he knew what he was doing but that was a half truth. He had seen inside Damokles’s dead body when it had been in werewolf form but he had no idea if Gabrielle’s was the same she was different gender for starters he could only hope everything was in a similar place. The only good thing was that she wasn’t moving she very still but he knew that wasn’t for a good reason. She’d lost a lot of blood and the fact that she had just said that she was cold wasn’t a good sigh ether, he took in a deep breath as the thick skin pealed back revealing the heavy thick muscle. He pushed the dagger in deeper cutting deeply. He eyed Thaleia who suddenly looked very unwell as he pulled the thick muscle back which revealed part of the ribs. “I need you to put both hands on the opening.” She did as he asked although he could see that she was becoming truly uncomfortable now.

Xena kept her hands in place ignoring what was now going on behind her. “Tell me about your family.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “My…family?” Xena gently stroked her face close to the snout with one hand. “Yes tell me more about your sister Lila.” Gabrielle coughed painfully it felt as though it was getting harder to breath and every word hurt as she spoke. “We grew up together…we used to play together in the golden wheat fields in Potidaea.” Xena carried on stroking her mane with the other hand. “Do you miss her?” Gabrielle tensed painfully. “Yes…I do.” She paused before speaking again trying to ignore the pain she was now in. “But…I like to think that she’s happy and she’s…married a nice man and that her and my father got on better…they never saw eye to eye.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Why didn’t they see eye to eye?” Gabrielle tensed again trying not to shiver. “I was my fathers favourite she was always in my shadow I think she wanted so much to have my father’s approval…but I never let her have it…I liked being the better carpenter. It’s my biggest regret that I never gave her that chance.” Xena felt a sad smile form. “Maybe one day you’ll get your chance.” Phantasos easing his hand down deep inside Gabrielle’s body feeling down the spear he could feel two blades sticking out on ether side. He moved his fingers he had no idea how to close the blades were to ribs but he’d have to gently ease it out blades and all.

He took hold of spears upper grip pulling slowly hearing the scuffing sound as it came free from the centre of the ribs in the process. Thank the gods it hadn’t gone through them but it had no doubt broken one of her ribs which was what causing all her pain her lungs had obviously been damaged hence why she was coughing up so much blood. He began to ease it upwards very slowly tensed as the horrible looking weapon came in to the light he could see the horrible blades which were sticking out of ether side. He moved putting it down opposite the Empress as he looked inside the now open chest which had a thick muscle and a thin lair of protective fat. He could see deep cracks in two of the huge ribs as well as part of the massive lung which was drawing in air. He had no choice now but to sow her up and hope for the best. She had an amazing healing ability and it would heal her, all he could do was help it along by sowing up all her wounds. He grabbed the thicker thread getting ready to sow up the open chest he turned eyeing his apprentice who had now finished sowing up the last of the other werewolf’s wounds.

He eyed Thaleia. “Force the skin and muscles together.” Thaleia blinked she turned to Demetrius feeling really unsure of herself. Demetrius eyed her he leaned over talking gently as he stroked her back with his hand once more. “You can do this don’t think of it as skin, think of it like stitching a meat it’ll make doing this easier to handle.” Thaleia swallowed pushing the thick fur skin together along with the muscle watching as Phantasos began to stitch she swallowed eyeing her hands which were now completely covered in blood. She watched as he removed the blood soaked cloth completely then carried on stitching.  Xena watched as Gabrielle tensed she could see that Phantasos was now stitching up her chest, she could see the weapon Adrienne had used lying next to her it was covered in blood. She turned back noticing the slightly glazed look in Gabrielle’s eyes she was clearly struggling now to stay conscious. “You know when your feeling better we can have lunch together in the royal garden I know you liked it last time we did it.” Gabrielle winced despite that the weapon had been taken out her chest it still hurt to breath. She raised her bloody clawed hand unable to stop herself as she put it against the dark haired woman’s face she felt a wide smile form despite the pain. The words just came out before she could stop them. “You have such beautiful eyes…their like blue sapphire…being hit by the morning sunlight.”

Xena watched as Thaleia looked up surprise along with Demetrius she breathed in painfully Gabrielle couldn’t be talking about her she was clearly becoming delirious and she was mistaking her for Damokles, as much as she wanted this comment to be about her it clearly wasn’t. Gabrielle coughed again keeping her clawed hand in place finding her voice once more. “You are such a beautiful woman…I think…the gods you worship would kneel in the face of such radiant beauty. I know I would kneel to you…if you asked it off me.” Xena felt herself freeze gods she was talking about her she felt the clawed hand suddenly slide of as it hit the floor lifelessly as the green eyes rolled back revealing the whites as the huge head hit the floor as Gabrielle lost consciousness she moved her hand to her throat feeling a pulse under the thick fur although it was shallow, she let out the breath she’d been holding. Phantasos eyed the Empress. “Can you feel a pulse?” Xena moved her hand away. “Yes but its shallow.” Phantasos eyed the other claw wounds which had all stopped bleeding he moved to the first about to stitch it up only to stop as he watched her clawed hand start to shake. Gods this was not what he wanted he looked up catching sight of the first ray of dawns light realizing what was about to happen, she was going to change back.

He moved back watching as the others did the same as the shaking became more violent spreading through her whole body causing limbs to twitch and shudder it was almost like a fit but not nearly as violent. He breathed in seeing that the same thing was happening to the other werewolf as well all he could hope was that the stitches didn’t break on ether of their bodies. He turned sharply as the cracking sounds hit the air as Gabrielle’s bones started to shift and the thick fur started to disappear. He could see the concern in the Empress’s face she was taking all this harder than anyone else in this room. He put a hand on his beard watching as pale skin appeared, the deep bite and claw wounds started to heal as her transformation finished, and her fit ended. He eyed the young woman’s naked body the stitches had held at the top of her chest but the wound hadn’t healed at all. The claw and bite marks had only half healed leaving ugly scars clearly her healing had not completed the way it normally did. “Bring her and the other woman to the healing room I’ll clean them both up and put them to bed.”

Fedora eased up the blanket which she’d taken from the children’s room she walked forward handing it to the Empress who gently laid it over Gabrielle’s naked body. Xena slowly wrapped the blanket fully around the younger woman as she gently picked her up. “No Gabrielle is staying with me in my room I’ll clean her up and look after her.” Phantasos stood up watching as his apprentice covered the other unconscious woman with another blanket he eyed the taller woman. “Empress you don’t have to take this on, I can take care of Gabrielle.” Xena turned sharply keeping hold of Gabrielle. “It’s not up for negotiation! She’s coming back to my room.” Phantasos stepped back he wasn’t going to argue with her he could see the ice cold look in her eyes which meant she was deadly serious. Iona breathed in deeply as she turned to the healer. “I’ll go to your room with you there we can pick up the things the Empress needs and we’ll take the other woman with us.” She turned to the Empress who still had a very cold look in her eye. “Would that help Empress?” Xena nodded as she turned walking towards the open doors with Gabrielle. “Do it.” Iona nodded watching as she disappeared from sight she put a hand on her face what a Tartarus of a night this was turning in to.

She moved over eyeing the other unconscious woman eyeing the apprentice. “Help me lift this bitch up and take her to the healer’s room, before I change my mind and kill her just for the fun of it.” The apprentice nodded helping her lift the other woman up they both moved towards the door as Phantasos followed them shaking his head. Demetrius moved picking up the bronze spear like weapon turning it eyeing the horrible looking side daggers what a sick twisted weapon. He lowered it watching as the double doors were closed as Iona left with the others. He looked around him seeing the bloody floor which was now in a terrible state drag mark’s, pools of blood as well as bloody paw prints and vomit. The worst part was that the children’s room was opposite. He turned to Fedora feeling the sadness wash over him. “You won’t be able to teach today…not with the floor like this I’ll get Chara to send out a message that lessons will have to be cancelled until Tiara is able to clean this up and the dinning room on the upper floor.”

Fedora looked up sharply. “That room is ruined as well?” Demetrius looked down at the bloody floor. “In part yes but it’s mostly blood stains and wrecked furniture, Gabrielle had defeated Adrienne she had her at her mercy and was about to break her neck. I was watching the whole thing through the gap in the door. None of us knew…we didn’t think she’d put Gabrielle through the window.” He lowered his gaze to the floor. “For her it no surrender and she wanted to take Gabrielle with her.” He looked at the weapon again shaking his head unable to hide the sadness. “Vile bitch I wish I’d seen this coming I should have ignored the Empress’s orders and had my men shoot her when I had the chance!” Fedora put a hand on her arm watching as her daughter sat down on the floor close by staring at the blood on her hands. “This was not your fault Demetrius you did everything you could no one could have planned for this.” Demetrius breathed in painfully. “It’s my job to protect this palace and its people yet I can’t protect Gabrielle, I had no idea her people thought like this, even the Greek royals and Romans aren’t this insane when it comes to killing their own.”

He turned the bloody weapon between his fingers. “They even make vile weapons like this just to ensure the job gets done.” He turned it slowly. “This is not for combat it’s not for fighting it has one purpose to kill nothing more, I didn’t know people could make weapons which show so much dishonour the Imperial Council, are all scum they deserve to rot in Tartarus and so does Adrienne. I swear that I will be there when she wakes up because I’ll have a lot to say, both about this vile weapon and about her treatment of Gabrielle!” His next words were cut off as he heard the sound of tears falling he turned watching as Thaleia came in to view. He felt the guilt him hard. He slowly kneeled down in front of her watching as her mother sat down next to her putting her arm around her. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to sound insensitive, Gabrielle is going to be fine I’m sure of it, she’s very strong.” Thaleia looked at her hands trying to stop her tears. “Its not that…I’ve never seen so much blood and I’ve never seen inside someone before, it was awful.” She looked at her hands. “I can’t deal with this, I don’t like looking at open bodies and blood it turns my stomach.”

Demetrius shook his head as he put the weapon down taking hold of her hands. “No you dealt with this just fine because of you, your best friend has been stitched up and she’s going to survive.” Fedora held her daughter tighter. “You did everything just right little one.” She kissed her head gently. Thaleia felt her mothers grip around her shoulders tighten. “I didn’t know warriors could be so cruel…she told me that I wasn’t to meet Adrienne and I thought she was just being over protective.” Demetrius looked up slightly. “There are warriors and warlords and Adrienne is a warlord, no warrior would do what she did they would take their defeat and walk away.” He paused looking at her hands. “Let me get me some water okay I’ll clean your hands.” He watched as she nodded painfully. Fedora watched as he stood up he was such a nice man who always meant well and he clearly cared about her daughter through out this whole ordeal. He’d helped her and she would find some way to repay him for this, as it had been very traumatic for her, not just her seeing her friend covered in blood but her having to help stitch her up.

She felt her daughters shoulder shudder again as she burst in to tears she breathed in deeply pulling her even closer. She loved her daughter more than anything in this world and it tour her heart to see her this way, sadly though she knew that this was the price for having a high standing position. You were forced to do things which could be very unpleasant. She knew this was inevitable and that it would happen but she had not expected it to happen so soon. Other parents in this situation may take the view that maybe she shouldn’t be Gabrielle’s friend as her life came with danger therefore she was dangerous to be around but she would not take her daughter away from her position. Gabrielle was the first real friend she’d ever had and Gabrielle trusted her just as much as she trusted the Empress. Her daughter was the only person in this whole palace who could ask anything of Gabrielle and Gabrielle would tell her and the Empress needed that, it was the reason that she’d given her daughter this position. There was more to it though she considered Gabrielle to be a part of family and Thaleia was like a sister to her and she would never take that away from her daughter. All she could hope now was that the Thaleia could get through the pain she was going through tonight and wake up stronger tomorrow.

End of part 67

 

ONLY WHEN THE TUNNEL IS DARKEST CAN THE LIGHT COME AGAIN

I’ve never felt as helpless as I do in this moment as I wipe the blood from Gabrielle’s hands she’s lying on one side of my bed under a fur skin completely naked but unmoving. The stitches start at her collar bone and go right down in between her breasts they stop just under her ribs. It looks horrific and none of its healed but its only made worse by the half healed scars on her face, arms and legs. She’s so white and I can hear her breathing it’s so shallow as though every breath is a struggle as it leaves her lips. She hasn’t moved and I can’t see anything getting better but then maybe I want too much, I wouldn’t have survived that fall but she did and she might have been fine if Adrienne hadn’t put that weapon through her chest. Maybe we’d be talking over a drink right now if this hadn’t happened. We aren’t though instead I’m watching her rest and feeling the tension mounting I know why I feel this way its because I love her, yes I love her so damn much and I haven’t told her and now I’m regretting it deeply. She could die at any moment I know that she’s now clinging to life with every breath she takes and it’s so painful to watch.

Once again I misjudged werewolves, I thought that room was safe I thought I did every thing right I put in all the guards needed I laid out the rich food hoping it would weigh Adrienne down but it didn’t. I never thought for a second that her ultimate act of spite would be to push Gabrielle out of the window rather than lay down in defeat as a warrior should. I will never make this mistake again Adrienne will be the first and the last werewolf to ever harm Gabrielle, no werewolf will ever be able to breach my walls again I’ll make sure of it, Gabrielle will not pay the price again because I wasn’t thinking ahead. I will rethink every room in my palace and even rebuild sections if it means containing werewolves who had no honour. Xena took in a deep breath running her hand down Gabrielle’s arm hearing her breath out sharply and with great difficulty she looked around as a knock sounded on the door she eyed the bloody cloth in her hand as she spoke. “Come in.” The double door opened as Phantasos walked in through closing the doors carefully behind him.

He was carrying a bowl filled with a thick paste and a water skin filled with something he looked down sadly as he spoke. “I have everything that’s needed.” Xena turned slowly to meet his concerned gaze. “Do you know that it’ll work, I assume your using human medicine?”  Phantasos put the bowl down on the bedside table opposite her. “It should do its werewolf medicine.” Xena blinked in surprise. “Where in Tartarus did you get werewolf medicine from?” Phantasos looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “In my sessions with Gabrielle early on, she told me not only about herbs that can kill werewolves but also herbs that can cure her race.” Xena blinked. “She just told you this, just like that?” Phantasos eyed the thick paste which smelt really awful and contains herbs which would be poisonous to any normal person. “Yes she was honouring the arrangement you both laid out, there was a lot she told me and a lot she didn’t. I’ve always felt that she told me this as you might see it as her being very forthcoming.” He put a hand on Gabrielle’s forehead which was now burning hot, she was starting to run a high fever, clearly her healing ability hadn’t kicked back in fully yet.

This was very troubling as the other werewolf Adrienne who he’d put this healing paste on after getting off all her armour was started to heal but very slowly although her serious head wound hadn’t healed at all. He could only assume that in Gabrielle’s case her wounds not healing was due to the wound being close to her heart as it had cracked her ribs and punctured her lung. The only theory he could come to was that her healing ability was focused on her chest, lungs, and nothing else as means to save her life. She was in for a very rough night of that he was certain and nothing was going to get better until her fever broke. Xena picked up the paste bowl smelling it she looked up sharply. “This has Corn Cockle in it, this is poisonous!” Phantasos took the bowl from her hand. “Yes to us it is, but not to werewolves, don’t ask me how to explain it because I wouldn’t know how, all I know is that this helps to heal wounds.” He slowly began to spread the thick paste on Gabrielle’s wounds rubbing it in deeply. Xena folded her arms feeling the need to change the subject. “Do werewolves have a five chamber heart?” Phantasos didn’t look up as he carried on rubbing in the paste. “Yes they do, I assume its helps them heal better than us, but again I don’t fully understand the workings off it.”

Xena lowered her gaze to the floor. “How do you know this?” Phantasos shook his head sadly. “When I mounted Damokles’s body it had all internal organs inside it I learnt a lot about werewolves due to this.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “Does Gabrielle still visit you, I know she visits Phrixus?” Phantasos looked down sadly. “No she won’t visit me anymore she said I didn’t respect her as a human being and that I only saw her as my pet project, I think its more than that though personally even though she won’t say it. I think it’s because I mounted Damokles’s body and every time she sees me that sticks in her mind, I’ve been told by a few people in the palace that even though he’s gone she still loves him and some nights she visits his grave and lays flowers on it. True I didn’t kill him but I was part of the whole ordeal and it must be difficult for her to handle. Before this happened I was going to visit her to say sorry for what happened and for what I did to his body.” Xena put a hand on her face trying to ignore the pain in heart as she spoke. “It sounds as though we both have things we need to tell her.”

Phantasos eased up the cover spreading the paste on the long stitched wound on the blonde woman’s chest rubbing it in deeply before laying the fur cover back down carefully. “She has the beginnings of a high fever, once she gets over it that she’s heal up very quickly I think. No doubt when she fully awake and coherent we’ll both get our chance to speak to her.” He put the bowl down wiping his hands with a cloth hearing a much sharper breath come out of Gabrielle’s throat. His eyes darted as he saw her body tense sharply clearly something was going wrong he watched as the Empress moved closer her blue eyes filled with panic. He leaned forward watching as her the younger woman’s breath came again even sharper, she was clearly having problems breathing. He took hold of her face under the chin carefully opening her mouth seeing that her tongue hadn’t moved so the problem had to be lower in her throat. Xena watched as Gabrielle’s body tensed again. “What’s going on?” Phantasos breathed in. “She’s got something stuck deep in her throat.” Xena eyed him as much as he was a healer she knew how to fix this she’d done it more than once on the battle field. “I can get rid of it, I’ve done it before.” Phantasos eyed her. “What are you going to do?” Xena eyed him. “I’m going to make her sick it’ll force what ever is in her throat out, get me some salt and water.”

8

Darkness its all around me like a vast ocean, but unlike most times I’ve been in the dark where it has been cold and bitter this is warm and comforting I can even feel the warm breath and hear the gentle sound of my own heartbeat, it’s blissful and deeply calming. Gabrielle opened her eyes realizing that she was face down in warm soft sand, the kind that you see on beaches. The air around her was warm and she could smell jasmine flowers which were scattered around her in places their flowers open to the night air. She felt her fingers grip the sand as she closed her eyes drinking in the moment of utter bliss which she didn’t want to end. She wasn’t afraid even though she had no idea where she really was although a part of her knew already though she didn’t want to admit it to her self she was close to touching the heavenly eye of Ouroboros. Maybe she should feel a deep sadness knowing that but strangely she didn’t it felt fine to her maybe because for once she was truly at peace and it was a feeling she had missed so much. She raised her hand seeing the white shirt on her body whose silver embroidery shimmered in the moon light along with the silver patterns on her dark trousers belt and boots. She turned over on to her back looking at the dark sky, with its glowing stars she turned her head watching as a dark sea came in to view close by its gentle waves lapping against the shore she could see fishing boats docked and close by was vineyard with a large villa and far off in the distance a white city. She recognised the lay out it was Apollonia. She put her hands behind her head folding her knees as she looked up at the sky again she had no idea why she was here but in truth she didn’t care she just wanted to stay now.

This is not your centre of peace of Gabrielle, you’re not meant to be here.”

Gabrielle turned watching as silver light burst through the darkness as her goddess appeared above her causing the sand to be blow all around her before it came down gently caressing the beach. Unlike the last time they’d met she could see the huge body floating up in the air above her. There weren’t any wings only long scaly back legs and front legs which were similar to that of a Chinese dragon’s except they had four claws in stead of three. A huge long flowing tail was wrapped a looped around itself and a thick white mane of fur went down the whole body at the very end was a long silver and white tail tip which shimmered in the darkness. The snout was just above her head as the glowing green eyes looked down at her intensely. She lay perfectly still not wanting to move as she met her goddess’s gaze. “What do you mean it’s not my mine? I’m dying this is my heaven I can have what ever I want, can’t I?” Ouroboros shook her head as she flicked out her tongue. “This isn’t your illusion it belongs to you and yet it doesn’t.” Gabrielle eyed her goddess. “I mean no offence but you are not making any sense.” Ouroboros moved her head looking around her. “This illusion belongs to a counterpart who is you and isn’t you whose led a very different life to yours, this is her dream.” Gabrielle shrugged. “Then she has good taste, it’s not something I would have thought about a villa and vineyard by the sea in Apollonia.”

Ouroboros breathed in deeply. “You’re drifting Gabrielle that’s why you here, you’re not dead or alive you’re at a crossing and I came to take you back its not your time and our deal is not done.” Gabrielle lay still not wanting to move. “Go back for what, to be betrayed by the council what’s the point in that? Or should I go back again so another werewolf can throw me out of a palace window, I fail to see the point? You know I have never questioned your plan for me but I am now, why do you make me suffer in your name, what’s your point?” Ouroboros turned eyeing the scenery around her. “Oh Gabrielle you do not see, you want to see but you just can’t open your eyes wide enough maybe that’s why you’re here to see the opposite of yourself and the person you are and yet aren’t.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “You know I’m not good with cryptic riddles, can you please at least give me something more than that.” Ouroboros felt a smile form. “No but she can maybe she’ll answer your questions for you.” Gabrielle looked sharply watching as green smoke appeared forming a large wooden oval which had Greek warrior figures carved in to its surface that were fighting each other. Woven in to it was silver metal with an odd jagged design with green stones at the bottom of the circle was a wooden carving of a horned wolf and at the top was a round symbol one which represented some kind of odd round weapon which she’d never seen before. Green branches were growing outwards around the wood, long knife like blades of steel were wrapped around them at the edges and green and blue light was blasted outwards from the centre.

She felt herself freeze as some ones boot appeared coming through the swirling green and blue light she sat up feeling herself tense as the dark brown boot which had a sai blade tied in to it appeared fully followed by a leg. She blinked as a light brown skirt came in to view which was cut on both sides and had a decorative darker brown belt which had Amazon designs on it. A trimmed well muscled waist appeared followed by the hands which had dark brown wrist gauntlets. A tight halter top appeared which was dark green but had a lighter green collar and was tied with leather thread in the centre. Her whole body froze as the face appeared as the person stepped through the strange portal fully. The blonde hair which was longer than her own was falling around the person’s shoulders. She looked in to the face which was identical to her own apart from one big difference no scar on the eyebrow. The clothing was also very different she would never wear clothing like this, which was revealing as she didn’t like people seeing her body. She carried on staring watching as her identical counterpart looked around as if unsure as to why she was here as well. She felt her hand move to her pocket as she pulled her ivory pipe out putting it in her mouth as she tried to make sense off what she was seeing. She put her hand on her face feeling the frustration at having no light.

She blinked in confusion as the pipe lit itself the black smoke drifting through the air. She looked at it not even bothering to comprehend what she was seeing as she breathed in hoping that it would settle her nerves. Her counterpart turned eyeing her unlike her reaction she was perfectly calm and unfazed by her presence as she walked forward eyeing the goddess behind her as she spoke in a calm voice. “Ouroboros?” Ouroboros looked up slowly as she drifted skyward so she high above her. “I’m not the one your looking for, you’ve taken a wrong turn this is not your world at least not the one you know we are just guests in the passing of a waves which will end soon.” She watched as the counterpart looked down before looking up again the clear understanding in her eyes. Gabrielle watched as her calm counterpart came towards her then sat down close by, she breathed out the smoke from her pipe she was clearly waiting for an invitation of some kind. She eyed her a part of her was almost jealous what she wouldn’t give to have her unscarred face, she put the pipe back in her mouth breathing it in. “My goddess told me that this is your illusion…its different.” Her counterpart eyed her, her eyes filled with a deep curiosity. “Could you please put out your pipe?” Gabrielle eyed her before breathing out the smoke. “This is an illusion what do you care if I smoke, it’s not even real?” Her strange counterpart folded her arms before speaking. “I’m pregnant.”

Gabrielle coughed out the smoke painfully she didn’t think as she shoved the pipe in to the sand dousing out the fire as she breathed what was left of the smoke in the other direction as she spoke. “Who’s the father?” Her counterpart gave her an odd smile it was like a knowing smile which made no sense to her, she spoke adjusting her wrist gauntlet. “It very complicated lets just say I’m sure you know her.” Gabrielle couldn’t stop her laughter as it hit the air clearly this was a joke of some kind, she stopped as the other woman gave her a cold look. She narrowed her gaze before speaking. “Wait your serious aren’t you?”  Her counterpart looked up speaking in a serious tone filled with conviction. “Yes I am.” Gabrielle eyed her. “So I’m guessing things don’t work the same where ever you come from?” Her counterpart put a hand on her chin before looking up. “Our child was a mistake but a beautiful one brought about by the gods of Mexica.” Gabrielle eyed for a long moment. “Clearly you do come from a different world, in mine the gods do not interfere or care for humanity.” Her counterpart gave her wide smile filled with interest. “Yet your goddess is here interfering right now with your fate.” Gabrielle followed her gaze to her shirt clearly she’d caught sight of the pendent around her neck and put two and two together. She could see that this woman was also much more open than she was but then she guessed that was due to her living a very different life. “I don’t question my goddess’s will I go with it, as I’m one of the few who gets to see a god if only very rarely.”

Her counterpart sat back on the sand relaxing. “I see the gods all the time, Ares, Aphrodite it’s a normal part of my life.” Gabrielle put her pipe in her pocket. “I refuse to worship the love goddess she left me to rot as a teenager, so you’ll excuse me if I show no kindness towards her.” Her counterpart blinked in surprise. “She’s my best friend.” Gabrielle tensed eyeing her unable to keep the bitterness out of her tone. “Each to his or her own.” She ignored her counterpart as she eyed her over catching sight of her ring on her hand she looked up meeting her gaze once more. “You’re Horn Hind the werewolf king?” Gabrielle raised her hand eyeing her ring. “Yes, why are you I see that you have the same symbol on that strange portal you came out off.” Her counterpart folded her legs. “I was once but not anymore, my lover was able to help me regain my humanity and we were both freed from the Titan armours, Horn Hind and Iseron.” Gabrielle felt the confusion hit home. “Titan armours?” Her counterpart gave her a wide smile. “Yes the Titan armours isn’t Horn Hind picked that way in your world by godly armours?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No you’re just picked and I’m still a werewolf I have been since I was sixteen when I was taken from my home by slavers and given this scar on my eye for speaking my mind. Lucky for me a group of werewolves killed all the slavers but they bit me in process. Years later the old Horn Hind died and I grew horns and took his place. It must be comforting for you that you don’t have to suffer you’ve clearly led a very nice life.”

Her counterpart gave her a look of disgust before as she spoke. “My life has been anything but nice in places I’ve had to fight for everything and I have suffered but I’ve gotten to a point where I’m finally happy and I have what matters to me. It sounds as though your not there yet and you dislike all that’s be fallen you in the past. I’m guessing it’s the reason why you smoke I know where you are I’ve been there. It’s just unlike you I used to drink to take away the pain.” Gabrielle felt her anger start to burn as she looked up. “What do you have that’s so special!?” Her counterpart jaws grinded together as she spoke with the same anger. “I have my lover Xena! Don’t you have her to?” Gabrielle leaned forward as she raised her hand. “Wait your Xena’s lover, Xena the Empress of Greece?” Her counterpart folded her arms again the curiosity in her eyes as she spoke. “No Xena Warrior Princess, we fight together help people the child I’m carrying is hers.” Gabrielle blinked as she leaned forward. “No we aren’t together we are just close friends and she wouldn’t want me.” Her counterpart raised both eyebrows. “You should be together it’s your destiny.” Gabrielle smirked as she eyed her. “Destiny I don’t believe in destiny.” Her counterpart shuffled slightly in the sand. “Why don’t you believe in destiny?”

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Because every choice in my life was never my own, so I doubt I can carve out a destiny that’s mine.” Her counterpart looked up slightly. “Why do you believe that your Xena wouldn’t want you? “Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “Look at me!” Her counterpart’s face slowly formed a knowing smile. “I am looking at you, I see myself a different self but still myself so what’s the real reason?” Gabrielle eyed her, her counterpart could see right through her and that was really unnerving she turned to look at the sea. “I’ve done terrible things, which give me horrible nightmares I killed a lot of innocent people once and I hate myself for doing it. I don’t think the Empress of Greece would love some one like that. I’ve been a warrior for many years but that part of my life had no honour.” Her counterpart blinked in surprise. “Funny in my world it’s Xena who used to believe that about herself she was once a warlord who did terrible things.” Gabrielle turned slowly to her. “Then knowing that how do you forgive her for that? Doesn’t it disgust you that so many innocents died at her hand in the ultimate act of dishonour?” Her counter part eased out her hand. “When you love you some one you forgive them and help them to forgive themselves.”

Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she eyed her counterpart. “Funny the Xena I know is just like you, kind, caring she has never done anything dishonourable she rules the Greek Empire peacefully I’m the unworthy one.” Her counterpart narrowed her gaze. “Do you have feelings for her I mean do you love her?” Gabrielle eased up the sand in her hand watching as it ran through her fingers. “Yes I do but she’ll never love me not if she knows the truth about me, in fact I’m surprised you’re not judging me after what I’ve just said.” Her counterpart looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “I have no right to judge you I have done terrible things myself and I won’t think any less of you for anything you’ve done. Have you ever heard the myth of soul mates in your world?” Gabrielle picked up more sand she was now even more confused she watched as it spilled through her fingers as she spoke. “Yes I have I don’t believe in that myth, I never have.” Her counterpart smiled wildly. “Maybe you should, it might chance your perspective.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I wish I had your confidence.”

She watched as Ouroboros suddenly came downwards she turned as everything around her started to shimmer as if the illusion was breaking oddly her counterpart seemed completely calm despite this. Her goddess turned to her. “Its time to wake up now and open your eyes” Gabrielle felt the sudden agonizing pain in her chest she put a hand on it trying to take it as her goddess spoke again. “You have to wake up now Gabrielle no matter how much it brings you pain. This is not your world or your time and its time for you to return and for fill your destiny.” Gabrielle winced painfully as everything around her faded in to darkness she closed her eyes as the pain got worse it felt like she couldn’t breath her lungs were burning and her heart was pounding in her ears she wanted to pass out just to end the pain which was becoming unbearable. She opened her eyes trying so hard to stay awake but realized that it was completely pointless all she could do was submit and pass out she closed her eyes feeling herself sink in the darkness once more as she hit the floor hard on her back tasting salt and water in her mouth.

8

Xena watched as Gabrielle eyes snapped open she grabbed her as she violently shifted moving her head towards the bowl in her hand she breathed in sharply as blood poured in to the bowl along with a horrible white bile which was clearly from her lungs and had been causing all the problems deep down in her throat. She looked up as her wide green eyes opened wider but then began to close as the younger woman drifted back in to unconsciousness she eyed the bloody wooden bowl putting it to one side as she laid her back down the pillow wiping the blood away from her chin. Phantasos shook his head clearly the Empress had done this before though he had to say it was very risky but it had paid off in this instance as it had cleared Gabrielle’s throat. He put a hand up hearing the unconscious woman breath in once more but this time it was much easier than before. He eased up the water skin close by passing it to the Empress. “Clearly you have done this before.” Xena took the water skin. “I’ve spent a lot of time on the battle field sometimes you have to do things like this to save the lives of your warriors.”

Phantasos eyed her he could clearly remember the day that she’d been brought in to his tent during the Spartan uprising she’d had an arrow in her chest and its point was very close to her heart there had been blood everywhere and she wasn’t breathing properly. He had been a healer all of his life but that day had changed his life forever along with his career. Before that he had just been a paid to hire healer who went from battle to battle and place to place getting coin here and there when ever he could. He had never expected that the Empress of Greece would wind up in his tent yet there she was along with Demetrius. They’d both been separated from their unit and had spent two days lost on Mount Nessus on their journey down though they’d been caught off guard and surrounded by a group of Spartans a very bloody battle had taken place. They had both survived but a young archer had taken advantage of the situation and shot the Empress before being killed himself. The arrow was serious and he could still remember everyone’s eyes on up on him as he’d stripped her off her armour and started work, the whole Greek Empire was suddenly in his hands and it was terrifying.

He’d tried a very risky method to get the arrow free he’d used tools to pull out the arrow head out he had only ever written about this method of getting out arrows he’d never done it in practice and it was a terrifying moment where he had risked everything on it working and it had much to his relief. It had been such a frustrating and scary moment before the point came free from her chest. The Empress was able to rest then fight the next day though even to this day she carried the scar from the ordeal it was a testament to his ability that she was alive and breathing and had survived a wound that most would have died from. She’d taken him on as her personal healer after that and after the Spartan uprising ended three months later they’d separated as she’d gone back to Rome his not coming with her was due to her husband who believed that his healers were better. He had been disappointed by this but wasn’t to saddened by it as he now had fame and could now go places in Greece and learn new things. It had allowed him to travel for a few years and see places he had always to like the pyramids of Egypt and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He met many people and learnt many new things about healing and seen the things he wanted to.

On his return to Greece he had been sent a message that the Empress’s husband had been killed and that she was returning to Greece it said that she wanted him back by her side as her personal healer. He had been more than happy to go back to her now strangle here stood with her helping her save a woman who she very clearly had feelings for, how strange the gods could be. He took in a deep breath watching as she sat down her eyes on Gabrielle the water skin still in her hand. “As soon as she wakes up again give her some of the medicine from that water skin, just be careful as it has Henbane in it and it may make her a little delirious despite that it’ll help her heal. I’ll come back tomorrow it seems as though you’ve got everything under control here.” Xena put the water skin down opposite her nodding watching as he walked towards the double doors. She raised her hand sharply. “Phantasos?” Phantasos turned slightly as he opened the double doors that led out of her bedroom. “Yes Empress?” Xena breathed in deeply before speaking. “Thank you for saving Gabrielle’s life, you prove once more that you are a truly gifted healer.” Phantasos nodded respectfully as he turned to her. “Your welcome it is always a pleasure to serve you Empress.” Xena watched as he left closing the doors behind him she stayed still sitting in the chair watching Gabrielle who was now breathing much better, tonight would be a long night she could feel it.

End of part 68

IN THE EYES OF MY FAMILY

 

She hasn’t moved all night there’s not even been even a twitch from her fingers despite that her breathing is now normal she is improving though the deep claw and bite marks are now half healed soon they’ll be nothing more than faded scars. I have been up most of night I did get some rest a few hours ago though when Ceto came in this morning and said that I go to sleep for a few hours while she watched Gabrielle. I went to sleep in the chair close by the bed I was woken up not long ago by the fluttering of wings from Gabrielle’s room and a gently cooing. I opened the door to her room seeing that her Collared Dove was looking down at me from the bed frame it clearly wanted to be fed. I picked up the seed bag and filled the bowl then fed it, strangely it just came right up to me and sat on the table and looked at me as I watched it eat from the bowl. Then it flew away landing inside a large nest box on the wall close to the balcony which is its home. It’s a home which Gabrielle’s built from wood she clearly doesn’t believe in cages she likes her pet to be free to come and go as it pleases. I noticed that her pet now has a well fitted bronze ring put on its leg with my royal seal on it so that if it ever gets lost it can be returned to the palace.

I do have a policy regarding the trained white doves which are used to send messages to people from time to time if one is lost and then is found the person who brings it back to the palace will be rewarded the same will now true of Gabrielle’s pet as well as any other pets in palace like foxes, dogs and cats who all have royal seals on their collars. I must confess It was very strange being in Gabrielle’s room, with out her here it feels empty everything is in its normal place but none of it’s been moved. Even her work shop door is opened as if she left it in a hurry when she went to meet Adrienne I can even see where she threw down her tools and I can see the beautifully crafted carving of Jason taking on the hydra with the Golden Fleece hanging on a tree close by, its all painted and varnished with a pine sap which has now dried enhancing the details yet it was stood in the darkness of the room collecting dust, when it should be out on display for all to see. I know I shouldn’t have done this but I moved it, I picked it up despite its heavy weight and I brought it in my room and I put it opposite my be, I couldn’t stand it being there out of sight not when it’s been completed.

I guess that’s when hit me that in these past months I’ve become so used to her being in this room, there’s never been a time when she hasn’t been in here. I’ve always heard her doing things and it’s become so normal to me, it’s made me realize just how big a part of my life she’s become. Before her this room was empty of life it had been for years and it being empty was just something I had gotten so used to, yet after I moved her in here I got used to the sounds, noises and the feeling of life and that’s what makes this even harder to deal with. I don’t like her room being empty anymore it brings back that feeling of loneliness which I thought I’d gotten away from. I realize now that I never want this room to be empty again as long as I live I always want it to feel alive and I always want Gabrielle’s things to be in here. Maybe because for the first time in my life I feel whole when she’s around it’s a strange feeling which I can’t put in to words right now but when she’s with me I feel that everything is just going to be alright. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way about anyone. I used to feel this way with Julius Caesar when our relationship was young and fresh, the difference is with Gabrielle it much more intense like a deep craving of the soul which never lessens.

She’s always on my mind and the truth is I didn’t go ahead and tell her how I felt because I had no idea if she felt the same way about me as it’s very hard to tell as she hides her emotions so well from me. I’m forever trying to see the thoughts in those forest green eyes and they are always just out of my reach but when she put her clawed hand on my face and told me I was beautiful there was no shield she was being completely open and its first time I’ve really seen her do that. I admit it I’ve fallen hard for her harder than I ever realized I and I’m only just getting my feelings together I’ll get her alone and tell her all how I feel about her. I also want to ask her about the androphonomania massacre, I know Adrienne is a liar she stank of mistrust but what she said is still in the back of my mind regardless. The androphonomania massacre was one of the worst massacres in Greece history it was a massacre where no body was left alive it went on for six months in total. It was aimed at small villages never cities and in these villages people were torn apart in total fifteen small villages suffered this fate. Not one living soul was left alive, men, women, or child all were dead I saw the devastation in one of those villages and it still haunts me to this day, it wasn’t just that these people died they were torn to ribbons there was blood and guts everywhere and blood staining the walls and floors and grass, it was the work of werewolves.

They nick named it androphonomania because the very word means homicidal insanity and slaughter and what I saw was insanity and brutality in that village. It felt like the work of monsters because at the time I didn’t want to say that anyone who had a beating heart would do something so terrible. I tried so hard to stop those attacks but they were so random I could never pin point them they shifted from place to place and the one village that I my army did get to in time all the warriors were killed along with the villages. I had many sleepless nights over those attacks because I couldn’t save those people and I got a lot of angry letters from grieving mothers, father’s brothers and sisters as well as husbands, wives and lovers demanding that I stop them before others died. I guess that was the moment when I became truly cold towards werewolves when I read those passionate scrolls of pain asking me why I wasn’t able to save their loved ones. Werewolves had been an annoyance up to that point but after the androphonomania massacre they became monsters in my eyes I raised the price on their heads because I wanted to get rid of them all for good even if it meant making them extinct and I stopped having any compassion for them as a race they were now just animals and monsters who deserved to die.

Though I’ve never said it aloud even to my self I know that some of my most of appalling treatment of Gabrielle was because of that event and the coldness I that I had towards her race in general. I won’t lie ether that I used to cheer when the gladiators in Rome brought down a werewolf and killed it in the arena for me at the time I found it fun to watch them die. Yet now I find that idea vile I wouldn’t want to see it in an arena in Greece, I confess I only banned Dog Fights because they are so dangerous and I didn’t want highly trained gladiators and gladiatrix’s to die fighting them it was not because I cared at all about werewolves in any manner. Now I feel guilty for laughing as those werewolves in the arena in Rome who died because I know now that they could think, feel and talk and that the decorative metal muzzle which was put on their faces for show wasn’t their to give an advantage to the gladiators it was there so they couldn’t speak properly. So no one in the arena would realize that they were killing an intelligent being or that if this being could talk it would beg for mercy, such is the way of the way of world it always seems that the fates are forever reminding me of the past and how I didn’t see the whole picture clearly.

“Help me…”

Xena turned sharply her eyes drifting to the bed she caught sight of Gabrielle whose eyes were wide open. She moved forward feeling her heart race as she came to stand next to the bed raised her hand as she gentle ran it down the younger woman’s chin. “Its okay I’m right here Gabrielle.” The younger woman looked up slightly. “Water…” Xena took the water skin with the medicine in it moving it to the younger woman’s lips watching as she drank from it, with out any hesitation drinking almost a third before stopping. She capped the water skin putting it to one side before meeting the green eyes again which looked in to her own as the face turned to confusion. The younger woman spoke in a distant voice filled with sweet innocence. “Where’s my father?” Xena felt herself freeze as she looked harder in to the green eyes which seemed to be looking past her as if reliving some memory from the past. She wasn’t sure why Gabrielle was having this hallucination as she’d only just given her the medicine but she felt it best to just go with it, she put her hand on the other woman’s watching as her eyes stared straight in to her own unmoving. “Your father’s not here Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle’s eyes studied her for a long moment. “I don’t know where I am can you help me find my way home? It’s just the Amazons they threw me out and they wouldn’t give me a map so I have no idea where to go.” Xena looked at her feeling the surprise hit home she was clearly talking to the very young Gabrielle who had just been thrown out by the Amazons territory after she’d first turned in to a werewolf all those years ago.  She put both hands on the younger woman’s. “I’ll help you find your way home.” Gabrielle’s body tensed painfully as she spoke her eyes becoming slightly darker. “I can’t go home I’d bring my parents shame.” Xena blinked hearing the change in her tone which was much darker and less innocent. “Why would you bring your parents shame?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Can’t you see the scar on my face? It’ll always be a reminder that I was weak and where ever I go people will ask me how I got and they’ll know my shame that a slave trader gave it me.” Xena moved her hand upwards putting it on the other woman’s face running it down the scar very gently. “No it’s not a symbol that your weak it’s a symbol that you are strong because you survived and you stood up for yourself.”

Gabrielle’s eyes lowered in thought. “You almost sound like you know me.” Xena felt a smile form. “You could say that I do.” Gabrielle carried on looking past her distantly. “There’s more though…I’m not human, not anymore.” Xena felt her smile widen. “No you are human just like me you just carry your humanity with a different face when the moon rises.” The green eyes looked at her strangely. “Have we met before?” Xena leaned over kissing her forehead gentle. “Yes we have.” The green eyes shifted catching sight of the carving close by. “Did you make that it’s very beautiful? I’m a carpenter but I’m no where near that clever or skilled.” Xena turned eyeing the carving. “No my close friend made it, she’s very gifted.” Gabrielle’s eyes closed slightly. “Would you introduce me to her, there’s so much she could teach me?” Xena leaned forward running her fingers through the golden hair letting it spill through her fingers. “If you go back to sleep and rest for a while I’ll let you meet her when you wake up?” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “I’d like that a lot…I’d like to meet her…”

Xena breathed in watching as her eyes slowly glazed over before closing as she drifted back in to a deep sleep. She put a hand on her face taking in a deep breath only to stop as she realized that she wasn’t alone, someone else was in her room. She turned sharply watching as Iona came in to view she was standing directly behind her, her eyes to the floor looking very unsure of her self. “How long have you been standing there?” Iona eyed the weapon and the armour plating she was holding. “Only a few minutes Empress.” Xena stood up slowly unable to keep the coldness out of her tone. “Why didn’t you knock?” Iona felt her eyes dart. “I’m sorry I did its just no one answered, I tried again and you still didn’t answer so I came in.” Xena eyed her. “What do you want?” Iona raised the cleaned bronze weapon which Adrienne had put through Gabrielle’s chest. “Demetrius asked me to give you this weapon and the werewolf armour.” She carefully laid the weapon down on the table. “I have studied this weapon it’s unlike anything I have ever seen before, it’s truly unique the knife blades are spring loaded and the force of them springing forces the weapon deeper.”

Xena narrowed her gaze. “It almost killed Gabrielle it’s anything but unique, it’s the blade of an assassin, nothing more and nothing less.” Iona shook her head sadly. “I meant no disrespect Empress it’s my job to study all new weapons and tell you how they work.” Xena folded her arms despite that this true, she didn’t want to hear it even if Iona was only doing her job. She looked up slowly. “What off the armour?” Iona eased up the plating putting it on her table very carefully. “This is truly unique its unlike anything I’ve ever come across before the plates are interlocking just like Roman armour but with one huge difference the armour slides open and expands to fit the werewolves upper body, but that’s not the only thing that surprising about it. This is made from the hardest bronze I’ve ever seen.” Xena eyed the armour. “You mean this is made from a bronze which is stronger than the armour I’m wearing right now?” Iona nodded. “Yes Empress much stronger, I had one of my strongest men hit it with a war hammer which would normally bend Greek bronze plate and Roman interlocking plate but with this armour it didn’t even bend it in fact it flexed to take the impact, its amazing.”

Xena moved forward running her fingers over the armour. “So the werewolves have developed a form of bronze which in essence makes our version obsolete?” Iona nodded. “Yes Empress, I believe that the weapons are also made from it, the palace black smith currently has one and he’s looking it over trying to work out how they’ve made this bronze so strong, though he has no solid conclusions yet he thinks it may be the way its folded and tempered.” She paused before looking up slightly. “It also means that through out the whole battle with Adrienne, Gabrielle was fighting with a handy cap, she must have known that the bitch’s weapons were much stronger than her own, yet she fought anyway and she still won.” Xena shook her head. “Armour and weapons have nothing over a warrior’s skill in battle.” She felt the information sink in as a question started to eat away at her mind. “So the werewolf race has superior armour and weapons to us yet the Imperial Council has made no attempt to use this to start an all out war with me despite that they have a clear advantage.”

Iona put her hands behind her back. “The Imperial Council are not warriors, they don’t think like warriors every action they’ve made against Gabrielle’s life proves that with a doubt. They don’t care about honour or nobility everything about them revolves around corruption and murder, just like the senate of Rome.” Xena took in a deep breath. “Even the Roman senate wouldn’t stoop as low as they have, their corruption was always about fighting each other for position and power they didn’t try to kill Julius Caesar in cold blood, in the end that was my doing.” Iona lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry for bringing that up.” Xena sighed aloud. “No it’s alright Iona what is done is done.” Iona turned eyeing the bed. “How is Gabrielle?” Xena gaze drifted back to younger woman who was sleeping once more. “Better than she was yesterday, she’s breathing properly now and her wounds are all healing.” Iona raised her eyebrow. “If she’d have been human the fall from that window would have killed her, the very fact that she is what she is, is the reason she’s still alive.”

She paused putting her hand in her pocket easing out a very small simple bird which had been carved in stone, which she’d spent two nights making it was the first carving she’d ever made but after finishing it only seemed fitting to give it to Gabrielle as a gift. She moved to stand opposite the bed side. “I hope that when she wakes again.” She put the small carving on the bedside table turning it gently. “That’s she’s herself again and not living through a past memory.” Xena eyed the carved bird. “Is that a gift…for her?” Iona eyed the tiny bird. “Yes it is.” Xena felt a smile form. “Where did you buy it, its very charming?” Iona stepped away from the bed side adjusting her dark shirt. “I didn’t buy it Empress I made it, it’s my new hobby.” She moved walking towards the double doors ignoring the dark haired woman’s surprise. “I must go Empress I have my duties to attend to I’ll let you carry on.” Xena nodded watching as she left. She breathed in deeply sitting herself back down in the chair closing her eyes she agreed with Iona the Imperial Council were very foolish, any one else would see the better made bronze as an advantage and a means to an end over their enemies.

Saying that though twice now she had heard about a so called master plan and that bothered her even more because of the way these two men and one woman thought. Their plan wouldn’t involve war but it would involve something else that something else didn’t sound good to her because she doubted it was a noble action and it was clear to her that these bastards had no issue with hurting anyone who got in their way, so what did they have mind, also what would take them two years or more to complete, to take that long it had to be something huge and well planned? Plus it was no doubt being built or created underground but where she had no idea, Gabrielle had not told her that there where the ten underground cities in all. She hadn’t forced this subject as she guessed that once Gabrielle felt ready she’d tell her where they all were, but now she knew she’d have to ask as she needed to know if this thing came to light. She felt her eyes snap open as knock on her doors broke through her deep thoughts, gods she was going to have to get used to people using these doors and not the ones in her study, she looked up slightly. “Come in.”

She watched as the doors opened as Ceto walked in opening the doors wide behind her so Thaleia and Demetrius could come in they were closely followed by Tiara, Chara and Phrixus. She stood up very slowly this was something of a surprise and she had no idea why they where all here. She eyed them catching sight of items in their hands she took in a deep before speaking. “Why are you all here?” Demetrius looked up meeting the tall dark haired woman’s confused gaze. “I’m sorry it was my idea Empress.” Thaleia put her hand on his arm. “It was both our idea Empress we all went to the market today.” She paused raising a silver Sovereign coin which was rare as it from before the Empress’s reign. “We brought gifts for Gabrielle we all hope that she’ll get better soon.” Xena walked over to the table she picked up the armour and weapon putting them down close by. “Please put them on the table.” She watched as they started to put the gifts on it before sitting back in her chair, clearly people really loved Gabrielle this really proved it as they’d all brought her gifts to show how much they cared.

End of part 69

 

HOLD ME CLOSE AND LET ME HEAR THE BEATING OF YOUR HEART

 

A dark groggy feeling mixed with a sickly feeling it’s like waking up from a hangover but after you’ve eaten something raw and vile and the taste sticks to your lips and your tongue. It reminds me of when I woke the seventh day after being thrown out of the Amazons that was such a long week it felt like the longest and hardest week of my life and the most painful because of the steep leaning curve I experienced. I had to learn how to find water and I had to learn how to hunt and come to terms with living in the darkness which terrified me because I’d lived all my childhood in the light of the sun and the moon was strange to me at first until I got used to it. I remember my first kill it was a small deer, it was raw bloody meat and yet I didn’t care, it was food and it tasted so good while I was eating it but I remember the taste on my lips when I woke up the next morning covered in dried blood and naked on the grass it was an awful sensation. I ached because the young Buck didn’t go down easy on me, it charged me twice and stabbed me with its short pointed horns once in the shoulder and in the leg before I got my jaws around its neck and took it down tearing its throat open. It was in that moment that I suddenly realized why I had protruding canines which up to that point I’d found an annoyance because they got the way when I was eating as I hadn’t mastered how to hold food in them or how to use them to tear meat apart.

They were there to give me a much better much hold on my prey I also learnt about the importance of making sure when I locked my jaws that I pushed those teeth in as deeply as possible to sustain that iron grip on my lunch so I could kill it quickly and it wouldn’t be able turn around and hurt me. Despite the deer kill which I muddled through and got very lucky with it took me another long week to figure out that I had to stalk the things I hunted and not just charge at them. Now I know why they say most hunters fail during most of their hunts, timing and silence is everything. Seeing a rabbit and catching it is a whole different thing all together and even to this day I still don’t always get the prey I want. By Ouroboros my body really hurts and I can’t shake the feeling, I feel like I’ve been run over by a Chariot oh wait no that’s not far from the truth I fell out of a window and Adrienne stabbed me on the way down before I hit the stone lion, I hate that woman I should have killed her when I had the chance. Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she opened both eyes very slowly ignoring the intense pain and effort it took to do so.

She blinked realizing that it was early in the morning she winced painfully feeling the intense pain in her chest. She lowered her gaze realizing that she wasn’t in her own bed but in Xena’s she could tell by the sheets which had those beautiful woven designs of them which looked Chinese with there intense reds, yellows and blues. She turned her head painfully catching sight of her completed carving of Jason and the hydra which was standing opposite, she had no idea why it was here but she would no doubt have to ask. She eased up the cover seeing a light faded scar on her naked chest clearly her body had healed up but her chest was still hurting she lowered the cover putting a hand on her face groaning aloud how long, had she been unconscious? She had no idea the only thing she did know was the last time she’d felt this bad was after she’d been flogged back in the Grand City. She tried to pull herself up on the pillow only to wince as she lay back feeling the stinging pain in her chest she hated feeling this way, she never liked being in bed because she was sick, and she’d already spent time so much time in bed after being pulled out of the pit all those months ago and she didn’t have very found memories of that ether most she just preferred to forget because it they had been just to painful both physically and mentally.

“By the gods you’re awake.”

Gabrielle turned sharply realizing for the first time that Xena was right beside her, she hadn’t even heard her walk up to the bed as she’d been so lost in her own thoughts. She looked up as the taller woman put a hand on her arm speaking in a soft voice. “Easy now you’re not fully healed.” Gabrielle lay back on the pillow looking up at her. “I feel awful, how long have I been out?” Xena felt her grip tighten gods she could feel her heart racing the younger woman was finally awake and unlike the last time she was back to her normal self and not hallucinating. “You’ve been out for two days Gabrielle Phantasos took the stitches out of your chest last night as it had healed up enough. The rest off your wounds have healed up and disappeared, only the scar on your chest remains.” She paused. “Your very lucky sweetheart most people don’t survive falling out of a window at the top floor of my palace.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully her brain still felt groggy but she knew she had heard that pet name once again she put a hand on her face unable to keep the sarcasm out of her tone. “Lucky me…”

Xena slowly sat down on the bed next to her she moved her hand up running it gently through her long blonde hair. “I’m just glad your okay, I was so worried about you.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her concerned gaze. “You shouldn’t worry about me I’m used to getting wounded it’s just a normal hazard in my life.” Xena moved her fingers up running them under her chin. “I’m not used to you getting wounded though, I worry about you.” Gabrielle raised her hand taking hold of Xena’s. “Thank you for taking care of me I really appreciate it.” Xena leaned forward gently kissing her head, she pulled back feeling a warm smile form. “Your welcome.” She ignored the confusion as it filled Gabrielle’s eyes she’d explain her actions later when the time was right she’d also tell her that she loved her. She eased up her hand again stroking her face with her fingers unable to stop her next question as it left her lips. “Tell me about how did Adrienne ever become your advisor?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I really don’t want to talk about it.”

Xena leaned forward looking her right in the eyes. “Please I just want to know about what happened between you two, she claimed to love you yet she treated you so badly, she put you out of that window and she stabbed you.” Gabrielle breathed in there was no getting away from this subject but then she knew this would happen, she’d being trying to avoid it for such a long time but there was no getting away from it, to much had happened and now there were a lot of questions which were now unanswered. Maybe she’d avoided this subject for so long because she considered it the worst chapter of her life. She’d lost herself and lost her sense of presence and worth and she’d just let it happen because she’d started to give up as she’d lost so much in her life that had mattered to her. She watched as Xena pulled back waiting for her begin. “Water I need some water.” Xena took hold of the water skin watching as she took hold of it drinking very slowly from it. “I’m sorry I don’t mean to push you, I just want to know what happened.”

Gabrielle lay back as she passed the water skin to the other woman who capped it put it to one side. “No its okay I guess it makes no sense as why I was with her, the truth is I never wanted to get to know her, she was just forced up on me by the Imperial Council.” She breathed in painfully. “I wish I’d thrown her out and locked the door behind me just like I did the other five advisors they tried to send me but I didn’t reject her when I should have. I was weak and foolish and I just wanted Damokles back and because of that I didn’t see her for what and who and what she really was.” Xena eased up her hand again stroking her face gently. “You weren’t weak or foolish Gabrielle she’s a horrible person but I’m sure you couldn’t have known that to start with. I’ve heard abusive people always play nice at first.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Yes they do, they even play up to your pain and act like your best friend in the whole world.” She closed her eyes as the painful memory flashed in front of them she opened her eyes once more meeting the other woman’s. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t throw her out because at the time she spoke some truth to me which made sense because my heart was breaking.”

8

Gabrielle felt the tears as they ran down her face, in this past ten months she’d lost everything. Damokles had left her for another woman in one of the other cities, she wanted to hate him, he had used her tricked her made her believe that they were in love! It had all been lies all of it he’d never even cared about her at all. Maybe the biggest kick in the teeth was that most of his things were still here mocking her at every turn. After he had left she had found out that she was pregnant with a child, a child which was now gone. It had just been one agonizing day followed by another and she couldn’t focus on anything anymore, only her pain. She never imaged her twenty second birthday passing in this way. She kept telling herself that he’d return, that it was all a lie and that he had loved her, but she realized now after loosing the baby after its birth that she had to face the reality of the situation which had befallen her. This was that she was alone once more in her life and she couldn’t change it no matter how hard she tried. Damokles had never loved her to start with, he’d just needed a comfort blanket and she’d provided one. She turned signing another paper the Imperial Council had left her alone during her pregnancy as it was customary but that time was now over.

She turned looking at the empty cot and the little wooden horse toy inside it, she’d never felt more empty and alone than she did right now she now found herself signing papers as was customary, every paper signed by the Imperial Council had to be signed by her, so many times she’d asked to speak with them regarding the issues of human children but they just ignored her every time. She didn’t have Damokles guidance anymore and she had rejected the pompoms bastards the council kept on sending her to advise her.  They didn’t care about her she’d seen it in their faces all they cared about was power and what she could give them. She was still in the same room although they’d now refitted her doors with thick steel to stop people trying to force their way in, they’d even put to guards outside her room just to make sure no one got in to the room. They’d replaced her washing area with a large tub and they’d even tried to change charge her furniture which she hadn’t allowed as it was her own built by her own hand. They even given her a new gold plated armour similar to the one the Crescent Hind had worn, not that she ever bothered to wear it, she preferred her old bronze one which was now lying the corner.

They’d told her she didn’t have to cook and that her meals would be brought to her, she had never eaten them though she preferred to get one of the guards to get her what she wanted from the market she had always done her own cooking and she didn’t trust the Imperial Council at all, they had made it clear that they didn’t like her or respect her ether and she could see them trying to put poison in her food rumour was they’d done that to the Crescent Hind. She now felt as though she trapped in this room it felt was becoming her prison she could feel the walls closing in around her. She threw her papers on to the desk in a violent motion not caring were they landed. She stood up walking over to her other desk picking up the finished Goldfinch which had wings which opened up then sat down on the bed opposite she pressed it chest causing the wings to open. So much for Horn Hind the great king she had no power at all, now she finally realized what her predecessor meant, these horns were as much as burden as a curse. She looked up sharply as the double doors where suddenly opened and a woman walked through dressed in Norse armour. She watched as the heavy doors were closed behind her, she felt a cold sneer form. “Go away.” The woman in front of her was slightly taller than her with dark green eyes and long shoulder length brown hair which had henna red highlights smiled as she leaned her tattooed arm on the desk opposite the door. “Now that’s not every nice, I only want to chat.”

Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “I don’t care for chatting with you.” The woman breathed unfazed by her bitter tone. “You know being held up in your room doesn’t make you look that good.” She eased up her hand moving her wrist gauntlet. “Everyone’s wondering where the new Horn Hind is.” Gabrielle pressed her thumb on the Goldfinches chest causing the wings to snap shut hiding the message of love. “Well I’m Horn Hind so I get to pick and choose if I want to show myself.” The woman moved forward. “Look I know you’re depressed and I know Damokles left you for another woman, but that’s what people do, no one is really in love with anyone it’s just the way life goes. My deepest condolences though for the loss of your first child to give birth to a stillborn was a really cruel twist of fate.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Let me guess the Imperial Council told you that right?” The woman shook her head. “No they didn’t you see I knew Damokles we trained together and when the time came when you finished your full training I wanted you as my second in command but he got you instead but here we are a years on, fate is funny like that.” Gabrielle pushed her hair back looking up. “Why are you here?” The woman smiled widely. “My name is Adrienne and I’m your new adviser as of today, apparently the Imperial Council gets the picture now in that you only prefer warriors and you only like half breeds.” She raised her hands. “Well here I am for your entrainment Horn Hind.”

8

Xena felt the pain hit her heart hard she spoke unable to keep from the sadness out of her voice. “You lost your child.” Gabrielle tensed feeling the pain in her chest which wasn’t just from the wound. “Yes I lost Damokles’s child, I lost everything.” She breathed in trying to contain her pain despite that she could feel the tears coming which she tried to force back. “I had nothing left and she just came in to my life, I thought she was going to take away my pain and be my friend but she only made things worse.” Xena kept her hand on her face. “Why didn’t you ever tell me this about the child you and Damokles had together?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Because it didn’t seem fair as you can’t have children.” Xena felt a sad smile form. “That’s true but I wouldn’t have thought any less of you for telling me.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully unable to stop the tears as they ran down her face before she could stop them. “I’ve never spoken to anyone about my child, not even Adrienne she didn’t care about me loosing my child, no one ever did.”

Xena eased up her thumb wiping away her tears. “I do no one should ever suffer a loss like that.” Gabrielle tensed painfully. “No they shouldn’t.” Xena didn’t think as she pulled the younger woman up in to her arms holding her tightly. “I’m so sorry Gabrielle.” Gabrielle closed her eyes burying her head in the other woman’s shoulder. “So am I, I wish Damokles had seen his sons face before he died.” Xena felt her arms move to hold her waist tightly. “I’m sure he’s with him now in the Elysian Fields.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully not wanting to say anymore about this subject it just hurt too much and despite that it had happened some years ago the pain was still felt far to fresh as she never really dealt with it until this moment. “Thank you for saving my life when I fell from your window.” Xena felt her grip tighten. “I’ll always be there to save you I promise you that.” Gabrielle closed her eyes finally gaining some control over her pain. “Don’t make promise’s you can’t keep.” Xena didn’t move as she closed her eyes enjoying the moment which she knew it wouldn’t last much longer. “I never make promise’s I can’t keep Gabrielle.”

She felt the younger woman pull away from her as she lay back down on the bed pulling the covers up further over her naked body clearly she was still very subconscious about her seeing her naked body despite that she’d already seen her naked. She stood up slowly watching as the younger woman’s eyes drifted from place to place she was clearly thinking about something which she didn’t want to talk about. She put her hand on the younger woman’s causing her eyes to meet her own. “You should get some sleep you’ll feel much better once you’re well rested.” Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak only to stop for once she was not going to contest this as much as she hated being in bed she knew that the other woman was right. She still needed her chest wound to heal fully before she could even think about walking around, she closed her eyes taking in a deep breath. “Your right I do need to sleep.” She closed her eyes wanting to forget the pain she still felt as everything faded in to darkness as she drifted back to her dreams almost instantly.

Xena breathed in deeply eyeing the younger woman who was now sleeping once more. She had no idea that she’d lost a child but it did explain so much. The younger woman loved the palace children so much may be she spent time with them because she was making up for the time she’d lost with her son. It also explained why Damokles’s death had hit her so hard because she’d lost the both of them and she’d clearly had no one to speak to about her pain or her agony, which had no doubt been brewed up for many years. Sadly it also explained why she may have wanted her to end her life and why she had put her sword to her throat and asked for her life to end. She felt a tear run down her face it was so sad that he best friend and the person she loved had, had to suffer this kind of pain it was an agony that no one should ever go through. She turned eyeing the gifts on the table may be when Gabrielle woke up again, she could show her, her gifts maybe it would cheer her up. She looked up watching as her Collared Dove landed on the table opposite the bed side looking up at her, it clearly wanted to be fed and she had no idea what its name was though she was sure Gabrielle had given it one. She eased out her finger stroking its neck listening to the soft cooing sound it made.

End of part 70

Continued in Part 71

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