Shattering Of The Silver Light by Silvermoonlight (Part 3)

A COLD MANIPULATIVE WILL WITH OUT CARE

Gabrielle grabbed the robe which was on the chair next to the bed it wasn’t hers it was Xena’s but at this point she didn’t care. She pulled herself up in to a sitting position putting on the larger robe as she felt her toes touch the cold floor. It was early in the morning and she’d had been asleep for so long now all she could think about was food and drink since she’d opened her eyes a few minutes ago. She stood slowly ignoring her aching muscles she really wanted to get a bath her hair was a mess and her body felt sticky. She opened the robe slightly looking at the scar on her chest which was faded and white it would soon disappear. She put a hand on her skin there was still pain though she could feel it when ever she breathed in though it wasn’t nearly as painful as it had been yesterday. She closed her robe as she ran a hand through her messy blonde hair then eased herself painfully to her feet moving towards the table she sat down on the chair opposite the bed leaning back in it ignoring the numbness in her body as she started to stretch her legs very slowly and carefully enjoying the feeling of movement in them it felt like so long since she’d moved. She closed her eyes for a spit second feeling the cold air that was blowing in from the balcony.

She took hold of the symbol of her goddess by Ouroboros she was so happy to get out of bed at long last even if her chest did still hurt the cold air was refreshing and cooling as was feeling of the warm soft robe around her body. She eased up the collar breathing in the smell which was rich with jasmine and other sweet smelling oils. It was the smell of Xena’s hair no doubt from the soup she used when bathing. It was such a pleasant smell and she had smelt it so often on her beautiful body during their close moments she’d become so used to it. She opened her eyes letting go of the robe’s collar she really needed to stop this! Why couldn’t she stop falling for this woman? Why couldn’t she just ignore the sexual side and keep her head straight? She knew why because as much as she wanted to deny it as much as she had tried to fight it over these past months she did have sexual feelings for this woman. Feelings she didn’t want to have and couldn’t deny, but she couldn’t give in to these feelings because of past memories which haunted her so. The androphonomania massacre remained in her mind as clear as day and she hated Adrienne all the more for mentioning it. It was the reason that even if Xena did love her as Thaleia said she would never want her if she knew the truth which was that she was to blame for all of it.

Who could love a killer and murder of innocents? Who could forgive those kinds of sins? She breathed in putting a hand on her face she could remember the illusion now where she’d met her other self and could remember what she’d said as well. “When you love you some one you forgive them and help them to forgive themselves.” She tensed sharply as if Xena would ever forgive her for what she’d done. She hated messed up visions and she still didn’t get that one, her counterpart had been Xena’s lover well lucky her it wasn’t like she’d ever be in that same position. Also why bring up soul mates she’d never believed in that concept ether it was to far fetched. She lowered her gaze sadly she realized now that she only had one choice and that was to tell Xena the truth before she found out for herself it would destroy the friendship they had and she didn’t want to loose that. She had kept this back for so long, she’d never told anyone about it, but then she’d never told anyone about her son. Yet now someone knew so much about her and despite that she didn’t want to not tell her any off this, something was pushing her to do so. Maybe it was what her counterpart had said or maybe it was because she wanted to take a leap of faith because she could no longer keep this to herself. She knew it was destroying her and the only person she could tell was Xena because she had become so close to her, yet to bring the words forth felt like agony.

“It wonderful to see that your up and walking around again.”

Gabrielle turned sharply catching sight of the taller dark haired woman who was standing behind her the surprise in her eyes in her light blue eyes. She lowered her gaze to the floor. “I didn’t want to stay in bed any longer.” She eyed the sleeve of the robe. “Your robe was all I could find to wear.” Xena moved forward so she was standing in front of her she had not expected her to get up or even be walking around, not yet at least clearly she’d healed a lot over night. She put a hand on her head feeling no heat clearly the last of her fever had gone which was such a relief as it had causing her healing to slow down so much. She breathed in unsure as to how to ask her next question she looked up speaking up softly. “Please may I see your chest wound?” She watched as the other woman nodded, she leaned over opening the robe catching sight of the faded white scar clearly in these past five hours her healing had really kicked in fully the wound was almost gone. She gently closed the robe looking at the other woman who had a very distant look on her eyes. “Your wounds healed there’s up theirs nothing but a faded white scar.” She paused seeing that Gabrielle really wasn’t paying attention to her she still seemed very distant in her thoughts she moved her hand under her chin using it to raise her head so their eyes could meet. “Are you okay?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “No I feel drained.” Xena felt her smile fade. “Is this because of the talk we had yesterday…about your son?”

Gabrielle looked down again. “I don’t know, I just feel out of sorts.” She felt herself tense. “Where’s my pipe?” Xena eased her hand away putting it on her shoulder. “Your not smoking, you just took a weapon to the chest, your lungs my still need to heal further.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply, as much as she hated to be told that she knew it was true, but it didn’t help the frustration that was mounting. She could feel it in her every muscle, it felt like slow torture at this moment and she knew to ignore it she’d have to focus on something else. She turned catching sight of the Jason carving which was standing opposite the bed she eyed it before turning back to face the other woman. “You brought my carving in here?” Xena eased her hand running it through her hair letting it spill through her fingers. “Yes I did I thought it looked alone in your workshop.” Gabrielle blinked in surprise. “So you brought it in here?” Xena felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “Yes.” Gabrielle eyed the carving again. “Wasn’t it heavy to bring in here?” Xena eyed the carving for a long moment. “Yes but I didn’t mind.” Xena moved her hand through her hair again unable to stop her actions as she felt the need to change the subject. “Adrienne started you smoking, didn’t she?” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze. “Yes she did.” Xena sat down on the bed opposite her. “I was thinking about this morning and it occurred to me that Damokles was never the type to smoke but she is and I saw her smoking opium in the room before you came in to meet her.”

Gabrielle looked at her silver ring for a long moment. “She introduced me to everything which was wrong she always got under my skin in one way or another at first I used to fight her.” Xena leaned over putting a hand on her knee. “She’s not a nice person Gabrielle and she clearly took advantage of you.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as she looked up as a question crossed her mind which in part she didn’t want the answer to but in heart she needed the answer to. “Did the bitch survive the fall?” Xena put her hands together. “Yes, she did but she still hasn’t woken up yet, her head wound still hasn’t healed fully clearly she took the brute force of the fall.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “No that was my doing I tried to push her in to balcony on the way down, I think that’s when she stabbed me in chest but my memory of that moment is a little hazy.” Xena shook her head frankly she didn’t blame the younger woman for doing this she would have done the same. “If she ever wakes up, she’s yours to do with as you please.” Gabrielle breathed in sharply. “I can’t believe I ever listened to that bitch, she used to creep around me and I was so naive I’d never met anyone like her before. I didn’t see that she was introducing me to opium as a way of throwing of my attention because when I was high she was in control and I wasn’t.” She put her hand on her face as a memory flashed through her mind. “I thought at first she was showing me opium to be kind.”

8

Gabrielle looked up eyeing Adrienne who was lying opposite her in the tent, she’d been told by the Imperial Council that she needed to get out. She was taking this journey now with a small band of experienced warriors up to Thessaly because there was some issue going on up there and it would look good to the people if she was seen being a warrior and a heroic figure like her predecessor. In these past few days it seemed that she couldn’t turn with out Adrienne being under her nose. The woman always got right in to her personal place which she didn’t like because she considered her personal space for close friends and lovers and Adrienne wasn’t even her friend yet. The velvet had still not ripped away despite that her horns were now full grown but they weren’t growing right they were crooked for a reasons which she couldn’t understand and since the Crescent Hind was dead she couldn’t ask him if this was normal. She eyed the other woman who was smoking her pipe opposite. “Why are we going to Thessaly again?” Adrienne eyed her. “We are going to kill some pathetic human beings it’ll make you look good.” Gabrielle eyed her ivory pipe. “Why do you smoke?” Adrienne eyed her for a long moment as she sat up adjusting her armour. “Haven’t you ever tried anything?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Define anything?”

Adrienne eyed the attractive blonde woman feeling a leering smile form. “You know orgies, threesomes, drugs and alcohol.” Gabrielle looked away. “I have no interest in threesomes or orgies and I don’t drink.” Adrienne paused before looking up. “You surprise me you are Horn Hind you answer to no one, you can have what ever your heart desires, food, wine, sex it should be all be yours because you’re a god among werewolves!” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “I’m not a god I’m just a werewolf who has horns!” Adrienne sat back shaking her head. “You know what your missing the point here, you can have it all, all you have to do is ask and any thing can be yours, don’t you see that?” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “The Crescent Hind was corrupted by his decadence I refuse to be like him!” Adrienne moved over to her sitting down opposite her. “You misunderstand.” She watched as the green eyes turned to meet her own. “Sometimes its okay to have a little fun, I’m not saying lavish yourself in gold, I’m just saying enjoy your life for once.” She eased the pipe out of her mouth breathing out the smoke as she passed the pipe to her shifting a little closer breathing in the smell of her hair. “There are enjoyable things in life that can enhance your experience.”

She watched as Gabrielle looked at the pipe the curiosity in her eyes. “Try it? It’s opium.” Gabrielle blinked as she looked up. “Opium is a human drug, it’s bad for you.” Adrienne felt a wide smile form. “Only to humans but not to us, hasn’t anyone told you, all those bad things that humans can die doing to us, it’s just a fun and there are no side effects as our healing fixes everything.” She watched as Gabrielle put the pipe in her mouth breathing in deeply only to cough violently she put a hand on her back patting gently. “Oh don’t worry about that, once you get used to it that stops.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath feeling a slightly high tingle and then a warming sensation she felt a smile form. “That’s nice.” Adrienne moved a little closer god’s she could see why Damokles had been so infatuated by this woman there was something about her which brought you in. It wasn’t just her looks it was this timid shyness when they were alone it was so alluring. “It gets better.” Gabrielle turned realizing for the first time that Adrienne was with in inches of her face. It was a slightly uncomfortable feeling she stood up walking away from the other woman sitting on the rug opposite as she breathed in the pipe again. She didn’t like it when Adrienne got in side her own personal space but that was just too much. It had been a long time since she’d been intimate with a woman and it felt strange have that intimacy again yet at this moment in time she didn’t want it she still missed Damokles to much.

8

Gabrielle looked up meeting the other woman’s concerned gaze. “I was so clean before she came along I never did any of these things and now I can’t kick my smoking habit as hard as I try.” She breathed in painfully. “She never even loved me.” Xena leaned over taking hold of her hand. “She was a fool I hated how she spoke to you, as if you were beneath her.” She paused not liking where her next question was going to go. “Did she ever hit you Gabrielle?” Gabrielle felt her shoulders tense painfully as she looked down trying to ignore the pain as it wrenched at her heart. “Yes she did but not at first it wasn’t until the day she defeated me in battle on the training ground, then it turned in to something else. She’d hit me when we were alone and tell me that she had power over me. In the beginning it was just a punch or a kick but towards the end it became more constant turning in to an all out beatings when I refused to see things her way the scars and bruises always healed so very few people ever saw what was happening behind closed doors. I won’t lie when I smashed her head against the balcony as we fell I did it because I wanted to see her suffer for all the pain she’d caused me over the years.”

She shrugged her shoulders ignoring the dull ache in them. “It’s strange I don’t even feel any remorse that she hasn’t woken up it just doesn’t matter to me she could fade away in to nothing and I still wouldn’t care.” Xena kept hold of her hand gently stroking her finger with her thumb. “You deserve so much better, you don’t deserve to be treated that way by anyone.” She looked down for a long moment before meeting the others woman’s eyes which were filled with sadness which was open and unhidden she just wanted to take away her pain at this moment. “You’ve got a good heart Gabrielle, it’s honest and kind and no one should ever hurt you.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “You’re always so kind to me.” Xena felt her grip around her hand tighten. “You’re my best friend, my family.” She breathed in deeply she wanted to say more, most of all she wanted to say that she loved her but now just didn’t feel like the right moment. It was clear that this wasn’t easy for Gabrielle to bring up the subject of Adrienne it was a horrible thought that one warrior could abuse another. It was clear that Adrienne had only been able to do this because Gabrielle hadn’t been in the right frame of mind after loosing Damokles and his son and she had clearly taken advantage of that.

She was positive that the fight between Adrienne and Gabrielle in their other form had been about much more than just winning. It had been about Gabrielle breaking the other woman’s power over her for good. She kept hold of the younger woman’s hand unable to stop her next words. “I’ll protect you, no one will ever treat you that way again not as long as I live, I will kill them myself if they ever try to harm you like that.” She paused. “If this event has taught me any thing it is that I need to rethink my palace lay out. I put everything in place to stop Adrienne but I didn’t consider that she’d ever put you through the window, I thought you’d be safe and that she couldn’t escape that room.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “No please don’t blame yourself for this and don’t change the way your palace is run because of me, I didn’t even know Adrienne was going to do that to me. She didn’t want to loose it was nothing more than an act of spite and other warriors in her position would have submitted. The reason the Imperial Council always approved of her was because she was a dishonourable wild card, there’s only one other like her and that’s Bastiaan. Nether of them conform to the rules and nether do the assassins but the rest of werewolf sociality is not like this.” She took in a deep breath. “If Adrienne had been honourable she would have surrendered her sword to redeem her soul.”

Xena raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean by surrendered her sword to redeem her soul?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “In werewolf sociality to surrender your sword or your tool of trade to someone is the ultimate symbol of submission and loyalty.” She lowered her gaze. “The idea is that you kneel to the person who your pledging your loyalty to and hold up your weapon or item to them and tell them that your honour them and will always be loyal to them though for warriors there’s another side to it. In that if they have done something dishonourable you tell them that they can not have their sword as their own until they have redeemed their soul and only when they have redeemed themselves can they have their sword returned to their hands.” Xena leaned forward. “So if she had given you her sword you would have taken it from her hand and only given it her back when she had become honourable in your eyes?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes to pledge your loyalty or surrender your sword is one of the most meaningful symbols of my race.” Xena felt a smile form. “Has any one ever done that to you, surrendered their sword to redeem their soul?”

Gabrielle shook her head. “No never I can only assume it’s because my horns have not come through yet or maybe the situation has never been right, I don’t really know, I have never offered my sword to anyone ether.” Xena stood up slowly feeling a wide smile form she felt that it was time to change the subject as she let go of her hand. “Do you know that everyone missed you while you were in bed?” Gabrielle stood up slowly. “They did?” Xena walked slowly over to the table where all the gifts were laid out. “Fedora, Thaleia and Demetrius said it wasn’t the same without you walking the corridor at night.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “I missed them to.” Xena raised her hand. “Oh and Chara and Evadine said that they missed you as well.” Gabrielle moved closer to the older woman. “They are a nice couple.” Xena looked up sharply. “Couple who Demetrius and Thaleia or Chara and Evadine?”

Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “I believe Demetrius and Thaleia have feelings for each other but they never act on them and it’s not my place to interfere. Chara and Evadine on the other hand are a couple I have seen them in the royal garden late at night together enjoying each others company.” Xena blinked as she stared at the younger woman. “I thought they were just friends.” She paused. “How do you know all this no ones has ever told me any off this?” Gabrielle looked at her hands. “You wonder why it is I like the dark and why I spend so much time in it, it’s because when it’s dark I see everything I walk around in werewolf form and I see your palace staff living out their lives and when you watch them over a long period of time things start to reveal themselves.” She paused. “Tiara throws her dirty water on the trucks of trees after cleaning the throne room, she spends a lot of time looking at the rose garden and talking with a Celtic man who cleans the gardens late at night.”

Xena raised her hand. “That’s Faolan her husband he’s also no longer a gardener he is now the new head cook and he really wants to meet you and talk to you, where he comes from in Britannia your race are very symbolic.” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze. “I look forward to meeting him to I’ve always seen him around but we have never spoken also I had no idea Tiara was married. Xena turned slightly. “I didn’t ether until recently I have to ask though what else do you see at night?” Gabrielle felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “Phrixus sometimes takes out a scroll and he reads it aloud in the darkness almost like he’s rehearsing it, I think he likes the idea of being a bard.” She took in a deep breath. “Not much more I don’t see Iona and I never see Phantasos.” Xena moved towards her putting her hand on her shoulder. “How about you get a bath and get dressed then I’ll get you something to eat, then you can open your gifts?” Gabrielle blinked looking up sharply. “Gifts?” Xena felt her smile turn to a playful one as she stepped away from the younger woman. “Yes gifts a lot of the staff brought you things they were all worried about you and wanted you to get better.”

End of part 71

 

HONEST AND KIND SENTIMENTS OF FRIENDSHIP

They brought me gifts, why would they buy me gifts? Okay I won’t lie I probably feel this way because ever since I became a werewolf I never celebrated anything I no longer cared for celebrations it was just a part of my life which was over, I haven’t celebrated my birthday in years. So now to see all these wrapped gifts in front of me it feels confusing and disconcerting. When you get seriously wounded in battle and are at deaths door where I came from no one ever give you gifts, no they ask the Sharman or white werewolf of dreams to do a ritual on you to help you heal. Her family are the only werewolves in the Grand City to have pure white fur from head to toe it’s quite rare to have white fur unless you’re an albino. Yet her family aren’t sickly they are all healthily, the family is very old as well they’ve been around ever since the first Horn Hind appeared and no matter what colour fur the partners have the full blood children have always been born with pure white fur.

The whole family is sort after to a great extent the Imperial Council and the Horn Hind has always come to their family as they can foresee the future. They are worshipped and highly respected and for the Horn Hind or the Imperial Council to hurt their leading Shaman or the family in any way is very much considered a sin. No one has ever been foolish enough to do so not in centuries and no one in their right mind would do so, the back lash from the people would be terrible. I met their head Sharman once her name is Jacinda I really wish that I’d been more polite to her she’s a nice old woman but I didn’t see it at the time. I was just so caught up in my pain that I didn’t listen to her, I still don’t believe what she said regarding my future but despite this I wish I’d been better towards her, she deserved it from me and I didn’t give it to her and I deeply regret it.

If I ever meet her again I will kneel to her and show her my loyalty, I may be Horn Hind and a king but her and her family have been around for longer than I could ever imagine and they harbour no ill will towards half breeds, they treat them as equals just like full bloods. The family is there to guide those in power and they do it with honour and have never used their position to get what they want, they only want to help the werewolf race in any way possible. It was Jacinda’s words that sent me to Corinth to kill the Empress but I couldn’t go through with it and in a strange way I see the method in her madness, because I’m free now. The Imperial Council has no power over me in this palace, I am able to make choices for my people with out their interference and for that I’m forever grateful despite the pain I suffered in the pit.

Gabrielle eased up a little wrapped box eyeing it for a long moment. “Why did they give me gifts, I don’t understand?” Xena sat down in the chair next to her looking at the items on the table. She adjusted her shoulder plate eyeing the younger woman who had, had a bath in her own room and was now fully dressed. Though she still looked a little pale she assumed it was because she hadn’t eaten and once she got some food in her stomach she’d feel much better. She already sent word to Faolan to have him come up and bring a hearty breakfast with lots of meat and fish and bread. She knew the last time that food had been the thing that had perked Gabrielle up after she’d been shot with the crossbow. She felt a smile form. “Their get well presents, don’t you have anything like this in the Grand City?” Gabrielle looked at the box. “No, nothing like this.” Xena sat up. “What about birthdays, I’m sure you celebrate those don’t you?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Yes we do.” Xena eyed her. “Well this is similar these gifts are to cheer you up now that your well again.”

She moved her hand over taking hold of the younger woman’s. “Now come on and open them I want to see what my staff brought you.” Gabrielle eyed the small wooden box opening it watching as a silver Sovereign came in to view, she put the box down as she eased it out looking at it. Xena eyed the large silver coin. “That is from Thaleia and her mother it’s a Sovereign coin it also far predates my reign, which makes it quite rare these coins are considered lucky by some.” Gabrielle eyed the coin. “Can they still be used as currency?” Xena felt a smile form. “Oh they can I still allow the use of the older Sovereigns as currency but I wouldn’t use that one. Its rarer than most I mean it has king Lycaon’s face on it’s an antique and I can’t imagine the trouble they both went through to get it.”

She paused. “I know king Lycaon was a tyrant but I think they got you this because it’s a symbol of your heritage. Phrixus has been telling everyone about the first Horn Hind and how he overthrew Lycaon as he’s just finished translating his story on the scroll.” Gabrielle eyed the Sovereign feeling a smile form. “Which makes this coin from the Emerald Hind’s time and that makes it very special.” She put the silver coin down as her gaze drifted to an unwrapped carved bird made from a stone she picked it up looking at it. “Who is this from?” Xena leaned forward. “That’s from Iona she said it was her new hobby to carve stone and she wanted to give this to you.” Gabrielle gently put down the carved bird. “It’s very charming.” Xena leaned back in her chair. “It’s nice to see that you two are getting along now.” Gabrielle eyed the little stone bird again. “We had a talk sometime before the meeting with Adrienne and we cleared a lot of things up.”

She moved to another small object wrapped in cloth she carefully opened it watching as a small ivory pipe came in to view which had carved birds on it she picked up looking at it, next to it was a wooden pipe with animal carvings. Xena looked at the pipes. “Those are from Evadine and Chara I did wonder why they combined their presents but after what you said this morning it’s become very clear as to why that is.” Gabrielle eyed both pipes. “These are beautiful.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Well you do need a new one in my opinion you’re other one is looking a little old.” Gabrielle looked up she knew that statement was true her pipe was old, but then the truth was that it wasn’t her pipe. It had been someone else’s and she’d taken it to remind herself of the terrible things that could come from doing as the Imperial Council’s commanded. She shook of her thoughts as she looked up knowing her words weren’t really true even as she spoke. “Yes its old it needs replacing.” She moved to one of the other gifts unwrapping it watching as a boot dagger came in to view she raised it eyeing it.

Xena felt a smirk form. “That’s from Demetrius he felt that you would like a brand new one, since you shoved your other one in to Adrienne’s leg.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “I’ll be sure to thank him for this as I did need a new one.” She twirled the dagger between her fingers before placing it down looking at the remaining gifts she eased up the scroll opening it slowly. “This ones from Phrixus, isn’t it?” Xena nodded feeling a playful smile form. “What gave it away?” Gabrielle felt a full smile form as she eyed the scroll which was the legend of the Odyssey but it was written in werewolf tongue. “He’s really getting the hang of my races language this is a perfect retelling of the Odyssey.” Xena carefully took the scroll from her hand eyeing it. “Maybe you could take me through this, it would be very helpful as I can read most of the letters but there are still some things I don’t understand.” Gabrielle took hold of the last box. “Of course I’d be happy to go through it with you.”

She opened the box carefully catching sight of what looked like a bronze wrist torc which had wolf heads on either side. Both of the heads had globes in their mouths, she had heard of these but she’d never seen one for real one. She eased it up looking at it. “This is beautiful.” Xena put down the scroll. “That is from Faolan and Tiara.” She looked up sharply watching as Ceto opened the door so Faolan could come in as he was carrying two large plates with food. He gave her a smile as he walked in putting the plates of food down in front of the younger woman. “I heard that someone is wide awake and walking around.” Xena raised her hand. “Gabrielle I’d like to introduce you to our new head cook, Faolan.” Gabrielle stood up slowly looking at the older man whose clothes were Celtic, she knew very little about the Celts in truth. She only knew about the Norse and that was only because Adrienne was a Norse woman who had come to Greece at a young age with her parents, before they’d been killed by werewolves. She felt a smile form. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Faolan I’ve had many conversation with your wife Tiara.”

Faolan took hold of her hand. “The pleasures all mine I’ve wanted to speak to you for such so long but I have never had the courage of cause Tiara has said that I have nothing to fear from talking to you in werewolf form.” Gabrielle looked up he was very much the opposite of his wife in that he was soft spoken and a little playful. “You have nothing to fear from me in ether form I promise you, I know my protruding teeth in werewolf form can really make people uneasy, but their just for show.” Faolan raised his eyebrow. “Well not all for show I’m sure.” Gabrielle let go of his hand. “Okay mostly for show.” He eyed the torc in her hand. “I see you got mine and my wife’s gift.” Gabrielle raised the torc. “It’s beautiful I want to thank both you and Tiara for this I’ve never seen one of these before, apart from in pictures on scrolls.” Faolan eyed the torc. “It’s from a Norse myth which I’ve always been very been fond off it represents Skoll and Hati the wolves that are always chasing the sun and the moon.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “It looks like they’ve both captured them though in this bracelet.”  Faolan felt his smile widen. “Call me sentimental but I just prefer bracelets that show the wolf getting what he or she desires.”

Gabrielle looked up feeling a knowing smile form. “Thank you, that means a lot to me.” Faolan put a hand her shoulder. “I’m glad you approve.” He stepped back. “Now I must get back to my duties they’ll be missing me and the kitchen can’t run itself.” Gabrielle looked up at the taller man. “I hope we get to speak again, maybe I can show my teeth, the ones that are mostly for show.” Faolan laughed as he looked up. “My wife was right about you, you are very charming.” He stepped back feeling a knowing smile form as he turned to the Empress. “Cleary one of the many reasons the Empress enjoys your company.” He moved towards the main doors opening them slowly then walked through closing them behind him. Gabrielle sat back down looking at the torc. “He’s a really nice man.” Xena put her hands together. “I agree and I think he really likes you.” She watched as Gabrielle put the torc with her other gifts. “You should eat your breakfast you’ll feel much better.”

Gabrielle turned to her breakfast plate which was had fish, bread and thin cuts of meat as well as fruit and apple juice it all looked so nice and it smelt so good. She picked up her fork. “What does his food taste like?” Xena felt a smile form. “His food is.” She looked at the younger woman’s beautifully face. “Gorgeous.” Gabrielle took a bite out of the fish feeling the flavour hit her tongue which was so good. She turned meeting the other woman’s intense light blue gaze. “Oh this is so good, it’s so much better than Kalika’s.” Xena nodded watching as the younger woman’s full attention turned to her food which she started to eat with more speed as if she was worried that it might run away. She was clearly very hungry but that was no surprise she’d only drank water while being in bed and hadn’t eaten anything substantial. She breathed in deeply. “I do have some scrolls to finish in my study.” Gabrielle swallowed her mouthful not looking up. “I’ll let you get on, I mean I can take a walk in the royal gardens while you’re busy and come back later once you’ve finished, how does that sound?”

Xena nodded. “That sounds good.” Gabrielle suddenly stopped eating she turned to the older woman realizing that she really needed to say something important as she put her hand on hers holding it tightly. “Thank you for saving my life, if you hadn’t been there when I fell out of the window, I would be dead now.” She breathed in deeply. “What you did means a lot to me and if there’s anything you wish from me it’s yours.” Xena stood up slowly she moved forward putting a hand on her face. “I don’t want anything in return from you Gabrielle.” She was unable to stop her next actions as she leaned over kissing her very gently on the head as she spoke. “You’re my best friend, my family, I love you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle blinked feeling the surprise hit home she knew that wasn’t her imagination. Those words had said it all but she had no idea how to even react to them her mind was struggling catching up. Xena felt her smile widen as she stroked the other woman’s chin with her finger ignoring her eyes which were full of conflicted emotion as if she struggling to comprehend her words. “I’m going to go and do my scrolls I’ll be back soon.” Gabrielle watched as she walked towards her study she looked down feeling stupid as she spoke the only word she could get out. “Okay…”

8

I love you Gabrielle, she said that now I know that every word she said to me before today was not my imagination nor was every kiss. Thaleia words were true and as much as I try so hard deny them I can no longer lie to myself about her feelings and I can no longer deny the simple truth which is that she is in love with me. I’ve seen it for so long every time she touches it’s a gentle caress and she looks at me so intensely I can not deny that’s those beautiful blue eyes remind me of blue sapphire when its being struck by the sun light. I know that I even told her this before I passed out some time ago the memory wasn’t very clear until now a lot has come back in to my mind since I woke up this morning. Yet even as I sit on top of my favourite stone lion in the garden I know the truth which is that if she sees for the monster I am she will never look at me this way again. She will never touch me that way again, she will tell me to leave.

Even though I may sleep better at night the nightmares that have haunted me for so long still haunt me I see the faces of all those innocent men and woman I killed during the androphonomania massacre, the screaming never leaves my mind even now. There is no forgiveness for this kind of sin and I’ve never been able to forgive myself so why would she ever forgive me for that? They say love defeats all and that it’s the strongest force given by my goddess Ouroboros it has the power to destroy as well as create, to lead warriors to victory or surrender. It’s said people will even die for their loved ones and most of this I know to be true but when I think about it despite that I’ve loved and lost. The love I had was not this legendry love that bards and scribes speak off the love of soul mates or so they call it. I’m forced to ask though can this legendary love if it exists be so strong that I could be forgiven for my sins during the androphonomania massacre?

I want to believe so badly but I’m afraid and it occurs to me that as strong as I am as brave and noble as I’ve seen myself, I’ve always been afraid to let people in to my heart. Because from the day I received this scar on my face all that I was shown was the worst of humanity and the worst my race had to offer. Pain slowly became a normal part of my life, in the end I just became cold to everything and now I want to open up and want to be the person I should be but I’m so scared of doing so because I fear that I might be seen as weak or foolish. By Ouroboros I wish I was stronger with my inner feelings I wish I had much more confidence in myself. I want to embrace my dreams for the first time in my life I want to truly hold them in my hands and put them to my chest. Yet I am so afraid of what might happen and what it will mean if I do and I’m even more terrified that if I do hold these dreams in my hands they will spill though my fingers like sand as they have done so many times before.

Gabrielle looked up catching sight of Phantasos he was coming towards her he came to a stop below the statue an uncertain look in his face as he spoke. “The garden is very beautiful today wouldn’t you agree?” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment it had been a long time since they’d last spoken and their last conversation had not been all that pleasant. Yet there was no denying the truth he had pulled the crossbow bolt out from her shoulder and he had saved her life by stitching up her chest. She jumped off the lion landing in front of him ignoring the slight twinge of pain in her knees she leaned against the statue speaking in a calm voice. “Yes it’s very beautiful.” She lowered her gaze to the floor. “It’s been a long while since we last spoke hasn’t it?” Phantasos nodded he hadn’t expected her to speak to him at all. “Yes it has.” He put his hands together. “I came here because I wanted to tell you that Adrienne has not woken up, the wound on her head still hasn’t healed fully and she’s now in a coma.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment sadly she didn’t feel a thing despite this news. Even though she knew that head wounds not healing on werewolves was a serious problem.

When they didn’t heal it meant there was serious brain damage of some kind it also meant if Adrienne ever woke up again she’d ether heal up but remain sickly for the rest of her life or that she’d heal up and would have permanent memory loss. Yet nether filled her with any emotion of any kind she eyed the healer. “Maybe that’s a fitting punishment for her, she always ruined the lives of others and this will now ruin her life in some way if she ever wakes up.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “I assume if a head wound doesn’t heal up on a werewolf it’s very bad.” Gabrielle nodded. “It’s not good put it like that but if she ever wakes up again you’ll know for sure just how much damage has been done.” She looked up slightly wanting to change the subject. “I owe you a thank you both for taking out the crossbow bolt in my shoulder some time ago and for saving my life, if you hadn’t taken that weapon out of my chest I would have died there and then.” Phantasos breathed in deeply. “Thank you but I feel that I don’t deserve your gratitude.”

He looked up slightly. “You were right, I had no respect for you or your people I saw you as things I could study. All I wanted was my grand moment when I could show my research to the Grand Library in Athens and say that I was the first to study werewolves and to gain an even higher stature in the world of healing and this all started when your lover’s dead body was brought in to the palace.” Gabrielle raised a hand suddenly feeling the pain in her heat. “Look I mean no offence but I don’t want to talk about this.” Phantasos put a hand on her arm. “No please just hear me out, I did a bad thing I saw his body as a means to study and I didn’t see it as a person, even though I saw something on his body which proved other wise.” He put a hand in his pocket easing out a gold ring which was adjustable and had the Apollonia seal on it. “This was on his clawed hand.” He took hold of her hand gently placing it in her palm. “I thought it was a mistake I thought it was my imagination I couldn’t understand why a werewolf would put on a ring.”

Gabrielle eyed the ring she recognising it instantly. “This belonged to his father it was the ring to show that he was from a noble house in Apollonia.” Phantasos lowered his gaze sadly. “I realize now that this was a ring adjusted to fit his hand it was a symbol of intelligence and I didn’t want to see it or believe it. So I hid it from everyone even the Empress and looking back I truly regret doing so because I could have changed things. I could have made things better for your people I could have spoken to Phrixus about it and allowed him to make the connection between the ring and your scroll.” He put a hand on his face. “But I didn’t instead I said nothing I just wanted my study subject. I wanted the body I wanted to see what was inside and I carried on seeing a monster.” He lowered his gaze sadly. “I came here because I wanted to say sorry for what I did to Damokles’s body and how I treated you in the study room.” Gabrielle looked up feeling her hand close around the ring. “You know its funny I never liked you because of what you did to him, I never trusted you again after I found out but I guess it’s ironic if it weren’t for mounting him and understanding his insides I wouldn’t be standing here right now, I’d be dead.”

She shook her head. “Clearly my goddess really knows how to twist my fate.” She opened her palm looking at the ring again. “Thank you for giving this back to me, I realized after I buried him that I had nothing off his other than a gift I was never able to give him and it saddened me. Yet now I have this it’s not much but it matters none the less, it means I’ll always have something.” She eyed the ring again. “You shouldn’t feel so bad for not showing this to the others I don’t think if you had they would have wanted to believe you, well Phrixus might have but it wouldn’t have changed much.” She put the ring away in her shirt pocket. “I think they needed to see a real werewolf in the flesh to make a difference.” Phantasos shook his head. “Your right but I should have tried none the less.” Gabrielle eyed the older man she could see the pain in his eyes which was very genuine. He had come here to reconcile as he clearly felt bad for everything that had happened between them and he just wanted to make it right.

She didn’t want to feel this way any longer ether she didn’t want to have hated or distrust anymore for anyone in this palace. This was her home and she was happy here, she had friends here and a surrogate family and it really meant a lot to her. She wasn’t the same woman who had come out of that pit she knew that now so much had changed. All she wanted was to get on with everyone here he had made a mistake and she wouldn’t hold that against him. She took in a deep breath as she looked up. “We all make mistakes, I’ve made enough my own to know that I wouldn’t hold it against someone else for doing the same thing.” Phantasos put a hand on his beard. “Very wise words it’s clear as to why you’re the king of your people.” Gabrielle leaned over putting a hand on his shoulder. “Would you still like to bring your research to Athens on werewolves?” Phantasos blinked as he looked up sharply meeting her gaze. “I would but I realize now it may be seen as the wrong thing to do.”

Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “What if you could make it the right thing to do? By making your study not just about werewolf body parts and internals but about werewolf culture, couples, family dynamic and compare our race to your own, so it’s a well rounded study, it’ll put werewolves in the same position as Minotaurs and Centaurs and the other none human races.” Phantasos eased up his hand. “That’s a very good idea it would reflect your race better than my first idea.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “I’ll tell you everything I know and you can put it in your notes then when the time is right and things are less heated between our two races you can present it to the Athens Library.” Phantasos felt a wide smile form. “That’s a very good idea I like the sound of that a fair study on werewolves and how they live, it means I can share notes with Phrixus as well.” Gabrielle stepped away from him. “Well when ever you’re ready to begin please come to me and we’ll start work and you can finish your research on me, but only under the condition that you don’t cut me or burn my skin.” Phantasos took hold of her hand. “It would be my honour and I promise that I will not do any thing of the sort to you, I only wish to learn.” Gabrielle gave him a half smile. “Thank you.”

End of part 72

TO BEAR MY BURDEN AND MY PAIN

I shouldn’t have said the words I love you but now having said them I don’t care that I did, I meant every word I spoke. She is my best friend and my family and I love her, what more can I say? I feel that no other words would justify my feelings and as much as I love plays, culture, and reading scrolls I’m not a poet though right now I wish I was could put my feelings in to a poem and give it to her. I am meant to be doing my duties and signing the scrolls which have been building up over the last few days I realize that my concentration isn’t really fully on the task. All I can think about is her, but now it occurs to me that I think about is her a lot because she means so much to me. I won’t lie I’m afraid but now I know she’s well again I know we can both talk and I can finally get these feelings out in to the open. I won’t wait again I will not be sitting next to her sick bed feeling like a fool because I didn’t say the words that mattered. I confess it’s strange to be in love again I feel so young and so full of life and it’s such a good feeling. I toss one of the scrolls to one side the councillors be damned I’ll put my seal on these later, after all they are only their full approval to end the hunting of werewolves and giving them equal rights as Greek citizens.

Clearly Abraxas and Ilithyia have silver tongues when it comes to me asking for things but I’ll be honest I don’t think it was all my doing. He clearly likes Gabrielle more than he likes me. As for me I think he just wants to make things fair and be able to sleep in the palace but he won’t get that though not until he does something to prove his nobility to me as Gabrielle suggested in our last meeting. I’ll be very interested to see if he can pull that off but I’ve always been a believer that men and women can rise from the ashes and do great and noble things. One thing that has occurred to me lately is that one person can really change things and ever since Gabrielle was found in that pit so much has changed. People’s positions in the palace have changed a traitor has been brought to justice and it’s a very different place now to what it was. I never realized that things could change so much and that so much could be gained in such a short time. This is the way off the gods they play with our fates and with it they can bring about great fortune and fortune is not always gold or gem stones sometimes it can be love and understanding.

Xena stood up she turned walking out of her study going in to the bedroom she stopped catching sight of Gabrielle who was sitting on the chair close by staring at the bronze weapon which had been forced in to her chest. She closed the study door feeling a smile form. “How was your walk?” Gabrielle carried on staring at the bronze weapon feeling her heart twist painfully. “It was okay.” Xena moved closer to her catching the half hearted tone in her voice. “Gabrielle is everything okay?” Gabrielle looked up slowly. “No its not.” She raised the weapon pressing the coils causing the daggers to spring out on both sides. “This is mine.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Yours what do you mean it’s yours, I thought Adrienne designed this thing.” Gabrielle stood up sharply feeling the anger as it started to burn. “No she didn’t design it this is my design, she stole it from me!” She raised the blade higher. “I created this spring mechanism it’s based on one of my designs.” Xena felt her eyes dart. “Your design, what design?”

Gabrielle put her hand in her pocket easing out the Black Cap she eyed it for a long moment before closing her hand crushing down hearing the wood crack. Xena moved closer to her. “Gabrielle that’s your bird what are doing?” Gabrielle opened her hand eyeing the cracked wooden pieces she ignored the blood as it dripped down from her palm from where the cracked wood had dug in to her skin. She dropped the wood on the table catching sight of the part that really mattered which was the wings. “The bird is irrelevant its wings which matter.” She took hold of the spring mechanism raising it slowly. “This weapon is based on my spring mechanism which opens the wings of my birds.” She clicked the inner spring watching as the wings opened she clicked the coils again watching as they closed she turned throwing it on to the table as she raised the bronze weapon forcing the blades to close. “The bitch stole my design and turned it in to a weapon!”

She turned throwing the weapon watching as it landed hard on the table she spoke feeling her teeth grind together. “She took something that really matters to me and turned it in to a vile killing weapon and used it against me.” She eyed the bronze weapon unable to hide the pain any longer. “I made this design because it meant something to me and now I’m faced with the fact that the things I make to express my feelings are being twisted and bestialized and turned in to weapons of war which can be used to bring about pain and suffering. In other words a weapon designed by werewolves to kill other werewolves in a brutal and horrible way.” She took in a painful breath as the pain twisted deeper inside her heart. “When I left the Grand City to come to Corinth on my mission to end your life I left my sketches in my room, I never thought anyone would take them and turn them in to something like this, it isn’t how I envisioned my creations.”

She leaned against the table feeling the painful tears as they started to run down her face though she knew her tears were about more than this she’d felt so much pain in these past few days but had been unable to release it up until now. In truth this wasn’t all about the weapon it was about her son but she couldn’t put that pain in to words right now it was just too hard to deal with despite how much she wanted to and as much as she’d been trying to since she’d sat down in the chair the words didn’t come despite her attempts. These past years of not being able to express herself properly had made it even harder for her to express her real feelings. Xena stepped forward watching as the tears ran down the younger woman’s face it had been so long since she’d seen Gabrielle cry in front of her and the last time it had been her own cruel doing, but now it was different, she was crying because someone else had hurt her deeply. In truth she was sure this was about more than just the weapon and that maybe this was about Gabrielle’s lost son but she was wasn’t going to press her on subject she knew she needed to be ready to say how she felt about what had happened.

She gently wrapped her arms around her bringing her close. “I believe in my heart Adrienne only took this one design from you, she was foolish and I’m sorry that she twisted one of your beautiful creations in to a weapon of war, I think she this will be the first and the last design she took from you.” She breathed in feeling the younger woman’s crying suddenly become more intense she carried on speaking softy to the other woman as she held her tighter. “If you tell me where to look I can send out Iona along with her best men and women and they will make sure that this weapon is not in full circulation.” She paused hearing no reply as Gabrielle carried on crying she closed her eyes realizing that she would talk when she was ready. Gabrielle breathed in regaining control of tears as best she could. “No its okay I know your right Adrienne would only make one weapon.” She eased up her hand wiping away her tears despite that more were flowing. “I just wish now that I had not left my designs in her hands.”

Xena eased up her hand wiping away the younger woman’s tears with her thumb. “Hey you know I have something that might cheer you up.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “What’s that?” Xena eased up her hand running it gently through her hair. “The children want to visit you, I said they could say hello, they’ve been missing you a lot and have been asking after you.” Gabrielle breathed in as she gained full control over her emotions once more she eased up her hand putting it on Xena’s. “Thank you I appreciate that.” She paused looking at the floor. “I need to transform tonight will you stay with me when I do?” Xena looked up sharply. “You have to do this tonight?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes I have to the longer I wait the worse it will be and once I change it’ll heal my lungs and chest completely but changing forms will be more painful.” She paused meeting the other woman’s concerned gaze. “I want you to be there, I need your company.”

Xena eased up her other hand putting it on the other side of her face she felt a warm smile form as she leaned forward kissing her forehead. “Of course I’ll stay with you tonight there is no place I’d rather be than by your side.” She stepped away moving towards the door watching as Gabrielle pulled on her collar maybe it was the Egyptian cotton which was to hot around her neck. “Can I get you something to eat or drink?” Gabrielle breathed in as she wiped the remaining tears as she looked at the beautiful woman in front of her, why did her gentle kisses have to move her soul so? It felt like torture sometimes she pulled on her collar again wishing that her skin didn’t feel so hot she knew full well the heat had nothing to do with the temperature of the room it was in her body rebelling against wishes and a twinge of desire was causing the heat. She forced her self to look down at the floor as she spoke. “Please can I have an apple and some honey water?” Xena eased open the double doors. “Sure I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

8

Gabrielle took a long sip from the bronze goblet the honey water was cold and refreshing she took in a deep breath closing her eyes for a moment trying to relax her body. She knew what was to come was going to be very painful, but if she didn’t do it she wouldn’t heal up fully.  She ran her hand through her hair feeling very unsure of her self all of a sudden as she sat back in the chair eyeing the darkness outside the room around her was now dimly lit. Xena finished writing on the scrolls which she’d brought in from the study. She poured wax on the last one banging her seal on to it. She looked up seeing the reflective light bounce of Gabrielle’s eyes lighting them up in the darkness she felt a warm smile form. “Tell me something.” Gabrielle looked up breaking out of her thoughts. “What’s that?” Xena gently put down the quill. “Do all werewolves have reflective eyes like yours?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Yes they do but the lighter colours tend to reflective more than the darker colours.”

Xena leaned closer to her. “How is that people haven’t said anything about this, I mean it very obvious?” Gabrielle felt a wicked smile form. “If you saw someone’s eyes glowing in the dark light of a tavern would you think what you were seeing was real or your imagination?” Xena felt her smile widen. “You have a point if I saw a person with glowing eyes sitting on the other side of a bar in a tavern I would think that I might be imaging things. I also might think that they may have a parent who is none human and wouldn’t wish to insult them it’s also not unheard of for people with one none human parent to have attributes.” She took hold of the younger woman’s hand. “I guess that means those who have fled the Grand City and the other cities can hide among normal people and never be questioned.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “If they are questioned I’m sure they use the excuse that you just mentioned and many others or they don’t stay out of sight at night and live secret lives like Kalika did.” Xena held her hand tighter. “Your right, she led a very secret life I never once thought that she was a werewolf, she hid it so well.”

Gabrielle stood up slowly trying to ignore her uncertainty about her next words. “I need to take my clothes off.” Xena let go of her hand as she stood up. “Do you need a hand?” Gabrielle turned her back slowly on her. “No I’m fine.” Xena raised an eyebrow feeling a naughty smile form. “You know I have seen you naked so you shouldn’t feel so subconscious plus you’ve seen me naked more than once.” Gabrielle eased her shirt off throwing it to one side. “That is true but I don’t think I’m that good to look at.” Xena let her eyes wander over the other woman’s well muscled back as she threw her trousers and belt to one side. “Oh I beg to differ.” Gabrielle’s eyes met hers for a moment as she put her boots with the rest of her clothing while easing her underwear off. “How is the scar on your chest?” Gabrielle looked down eyeing the faded white mark on her chest. “It’s about to disappear forever.” Xena felt a warm smile spread across her lips once more. “You know if it doesn’t it’s not a bad thing I have a scar on my chest you might have seen it.”

Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “Yes I’ve seen it.” Xena put her hand on her chest plate. “It was made by an arrow and it nearly cost me my life but despite that its left a scar I’m still proud of the scar, it reminds me that I’m alive and I survived what most people couldn’t and if your scar remains it will symbolizes the same thing.” Gabrielle felt a smile form as she looked at her naked body. “I have the one on my eye to remind me off that but thank you for the kind sentiment.” She eased up her hand feeling the intense pain in her hands as her transformation began she knew instantly that this wasn’t going to be nice. Xena stepped forward as the other woman doubled over crying out in agony as her body started to reform. She’d seen her transform more than once and she knew this was different she was in a lot more pain, she watched as the huge clawed hands hit the floor hard along with the huge clawed feet as her screaming got louder. She stepped closer to her putting her hand on her back feeling the muscles as they reformed under her touch it was so strange, she could feel the bones shifting as the golden fur grew through her fingers.

Gabrielle’s screams slowly became roars as her whole body finished reforming and her jaws slammed shut. The younger woman remained on all fours, unmoving her huge head remained lowered as her body went very still. She moved around sitting down in front of her listening to her heavy breathing which was strained. She eased up her hand putting it on her snout stroking gently listening to her heavy breathing the other woman hadn’t opened her eyes at all they were closed tight because of the pain she was experiencing. “Where does it hurt?” Gabrielle raised her clawed hand putting it on her chest as she tried to ignore the pain, her lungs felt like they were burning or at least that’s how it felt at this moment she couldn’t even speak because it hurt so much just to breath and her throat felt like it was being squeezed. Xena moved her other hand up putting it on her chest enjoying the soft fur as she moved her fingers gently caressing it. “You are magnificent in this form has any one ever told you that?” She moved her hand up her snout feeling the velvet on her horns before moving her hand back down to her snout feeling the contours.

She’d touched her when she was human but she’d never really touched her in this form not in a sensual way and now she couldn’t help herself. She wanted to touch and feel very part of face her face in this form and she was unable to stop her curiosity as she moved her fingers over one of the protruding teeth before moving them up tracing the deep scar on her right eye. “So beautiful, you know when I feel your fur it’s so soft it reminds me of silk.” She eased her head forward putting it against Gabrielle’s. “It reminds me of when I was a child, my mother used to wrap me in a soft fur blanket and tell me stories of heroes by the fire.” She heard Gabrielle’s breathing steady as she began to breathe normally once again she looked up speaking in a gentle tone. “Gods I miss her so much, she would have loved to meet you she would have loved you.” Gabrielle moved her hand away from her chest putting it against the other woman’s face as she opened her eyes speaking in a low whisper. “I wish I’d met her she taught you so much about kindness and compassion.”

Xena smiled sadly. “She was very kind she looked at everyone without prejudice my father loved her so deeply she was his world.” Gabrielle breathed in sadly. “It sounds as though they loved each other very much.” Xena kept her head in place. “They did.” Gabrielle moved her clawed hand running it through the other woman’s long dark hair. “Can I sleep here tonight I won’t bother you I’ll sleep on the floor?” Xena eased her head back putting her hand on the larger clawed one. “No you can sleep on the bed it’s big enough.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “But my claws….” Xena spoke cutting her off mid sentence. “I don’t care about your claws or your teeth Gabrielle you can sleep on the bed with me, I want your company.” Gabrielle closed her eyes realizing that there was no point in arguing with the other woman had made up her mind and she couldn’t change it she opened her eyes speaking in a gentle tone. “Thank you.”

Xena pulled away watching as the younger woman turned taking hold of her skirt and belt which was close by she put down the belt then eased on the skirt tying up the ends with her clawed fingers. She took hold of the thick large belt wrapping it around the other woman’s furry waist above her skirt tying the ends up carefully. She eyed the belts odd patterns of colour realizing that they’d been painted on recently as the last time she’d seen this belt it had been blank of colour. She looked up slightly. “I like the colours when did you paint them on?” Gabrielle eyed the colours which where in truth those she’d seen on her counterpart’s waist belt in the vision, though she didn’t care too much for her clothing she did like her belt it really had stuck out to her for some reason. After her walk she’d come back in and painted the patterns on her belt as best she could remember them. “I painted them on after I came back from my walk, its difficult to explain I saw a belt like this in a vision when I was in my sick bed I loved the colours and shapes and I wanted to have them on my own belt.” Xena ran her finger over the colours. “Then it was a good vision because it really suits you.”

She turned as knock came on the door. “Come in.” She watched as Thaleia opened the doors followed by her mother and the children. Gabrielle turned eyeing the children who she instantly recognised. She felt a smile form as Kaia ran towards her putting her small hands on one of her clawed one the little girl looked up clearly very happy to see her as she spoke in a high pitched voice filled with glee. “Your well, we missed you we heard you fell out of a window!” Gabrielle turned as Thaleia came to stand opposite her as all the children sat down in front of her she turned back to Kaia whose eyes were wide. “I did fall out of a window Kaia, but I’m alright now.” Thaleia moved over putting her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder. “I’m so glad you’re alright I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see you this morning I was to busy to do so but I’m so glad you’re well again. Me and my mother we saw you fall from the window it was…..” Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand putting it on her friends. “Its okay I’m fine now, you shouldn’t worry I’m a werewolf I can walk away from things which most people can’t.”

She paused meeting her dark gaze. “Thank you though for helping to stitch up my chest.” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “You remember that? I heard you speaking…we all thought you were delirious.” Xena looked up sharply Gabrielle remembered what she had said? Like the others she had thought that she had been delirious. She lowered her gaze then she did have feelings for her, she remembered her words very clearly. “You have such beautiful eyes…their like blue sapphire…being hit by the morning sunlight.” She looked up slowly watching as Fedora gave her a very knowing look she felt her smile turn to a wide grin this made things feel so much better in her heart, as it meant that she truly had a chance with this woman, before now she’d hesitated out of doubt because Gabrielle hadn’t always returned the affection but this changed everything on so many levels. Fedora moved forward watching as her daughter stepped aside she leaned over wrapping her arms around Gabrielle’s neck. “We are so happy that your alive everyone was so worried about you.”

Gabrielle watched as she pulled away. “Thank you I’m fine now I just needed rest.” Fedora turned to the children realizing that they were all looking unsure of what to do or say, most were just looking around the Empress’s room in awe. “Say hello to Empress everyone she’s been kind enough to let us come and visit Gabrielle.” Xena gave them a smile as they said hello. Gabrielle shifted closer to the children. “I have a gift for all of you.” Titus looked up sharply. “A gift what kind of gift?” Gabrielle raised her clawed hand. “Look behind you it’s next to Empress’s bed it’s a special carving I made just for your new room.” Neola eyed the huge carving suddenly feeling giddy with surprise. “It’s Jason and he is fighting the Hydra.” Gabrielle felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “Yes it is, someone told me that you all liked the story.” Kaia looked up again keeping her hands on the large clawed one. “Have you ever met Jason?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I’ve never met him I’ve heard he lives a very private life now.”

Titus turned nervously looking at the tall dark haired woman dressed in silver plated armour he had never seen the Empress before in person this was the first time and his fathers words rang true she was an imposing woman. He spoke realizing that his voice sounded a little small. “Have you ever met Jason…Empress?” Xena turned to the young boy who was clearly a little scared of her she raised her hand speaking softly hoping that her calm voice would put him at ease. “No I have never met him, though I have given him an open invitation to the palace but as Gabrielle says he’s a very private man.” She watched as the boy smiled becoming more at ease along with a few of the other children who had been a little nervous. She watched as Gabrielle turned to them speaking once more she carried on staring she could watch her for hours and never get bored. It was so fascinating to watch her with these children who all clearly liked being around her, she was so good with them she wished now that her son had lived because she deserved to be a mother.

End of part 73

 

TO FOR FILL THE HEARTS NEEDS AND EMBRACE THE MOMENT

 

Xena opened her eyes slowly, it was just before dawn she breathed in catching sight of Gabrielle who still hadn’t changed back she was lying on top of the covers opposite her legs pulled up so her clawed feet didn’t stick out. Her head was resting on her arms so the horns were pointing upwards. She could see the huge chest breathing in then out it was a slow drawn out breathes with out issue, clearly her chest and lungs were very much healed now. She seemed so peaceful there were no signs of tension in her face she was clearly having a calm dream and not having a nightmare. She eased out her hand running it up the long snout very gently then moved it down to the clawed hand running her fingers slowly over the claws. It was strange how despite all Gabrielle’s power despite her teeth despite her claws the woman before her always showed such tenderness and gentleness in this form yet at the same time she’d seen the power to destroy, kill and shatter body parts.

It was a strange paradox like looking at the separate faces of a coin yet nether side scared her, she was no fool she knew that you couldn’t have the light with out the darkness just like you couldn’t have the day with out the night. Both made up the whole of a person and the only time this darkness ever came in to question was when it began to consume the light that was when horrific acts were committed and people suffered. She slowly sat up in bed as a thought crossed her mind which was Adrienne’s words about Gabrielle being part of the androphonomania massacre. She knew those were the words of a jealous lover who couldn’t have her property back but then that was how Adrienne had seen Gabrielle as a possession and not a person. She shook her head as she eased herself out of bed trying to remain quite as not to wake up the other woman. It had to be a lie Gabrielle wouldn’t take part of something like that she was a warrior she didn’t go around killing innocent people, it would go against her code of honour.

True Gabrielle wasn’t always the best with people but she had a clear understanding of what it was to rule and she was very compassionate she didn’t show any signs that she had ever been a murder. She closed her eyes taking in a deep breath, no she was going to ignore that bitch’s words Gabrielle wasn’t a murder she wouldn’t slaughter all off those innocent men, women and children. She didn’t have the stomach to kill children she’d seen it in her eyes when she was around children she was tender and gentle with them and after the loss of her son she doubted that she could ever bring herself to do something like that it would go against everything she believed in and who she was as a person. The truth was she didn’t care anymore for waiting today she was going to open my heart to her and tell her a simple truth, which was that she loved her. Her thoughts were shattered as she heard the cracking of bone she turned watching as Gabrielle slowly began to take back her human form. The claws vanished and the hands became normal while the face slowly reformed back to that of a young woman the scar above her right remaining as always and never changing what ever her form.

She watched as the now naked woman mumbled in her sleep as she turned over on to her front grabbing a pillow in her sleep and putting her head on it. She took hold off the cover on her side easing it over her naked body in a gentle motion so she would stay warm. She felt a smile form as she moved towards the wash room it would be a while before the younger woman got up so there was plenty of time to get washed and ready maybe before breakfast she’d take a nice long walk in the gardens and enjoy the cool morning air, then she could come back to the room. She turned eyeing the wooden carving she’d make sure also that someone picked it up today and took it down to the children’s room she’d take it herself if it weren’t so heavy and difficult to carry plus she hated the idea of ruining it after all the hard work Gabrielle had put in to it. She looked at the younger woman again for a long moment taking in the view before walking towards the wash room feeling a light sensation fill her heart.

8

Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly watching as everything lit up, she breathed in feeling the warm cover which had been put over her body no doubt by Xena, she sat up in bed seeing that the room was empty. Her gaze drifted to her freshly washed clothing which had been laid out Thaleia had no doubt put them out for her early this morning and taken away her dirty clothing. She felt a smile form as caught sight of her favourite shirt the white one with the silver embroiled sleeves along with her dark brown trousers and knee high boots. Her smile faded away as the thought that was eating at her mind hit home, she had to tell Xena the truth about the androphonomania massacre. She couldn’t take the pain of hiding it anymore for better or for worse she had to say something. The truth was that she’d been holding back out of fear of loosing her friendship and now that it was clear that the other woman was in love with her it terrified her even more she closed her eyes taking in a deep breath.

She’d fought battles that felt easier than getting her head around her own feelings at this moment in time. She wanted freedom from this pain she’d been carrying so badly even more than she wanted to breathe. She eased herself out of bed, she needed a wash she could feel the sticky feeling on her neck and back she turned eyeing Xena’s large wash room with its deep bath and curtains. She took in a deep breath she could strong she could do this she could tell her the truth. Xena was a kind person she had to tell her and hope that she’d forgive her for what had happened. She wanted to be forgiven for her sins even If she wasn’t worthy of forgiveness, she saw it as her only way to move forward in her life. Even if she spent the rest of her life making up for her wrong doings it would at least be the first step down that road. She didn’t deserve to forgive herself but at least if she knew the other woman could forgive her then it might be enough just to make that start. She was willing to do what ever it took to have that forgiveness even it meant she had to leave.

She had to take this leap of and hope for the best, she took hold of her pendent she rarely prayed as she believed that actions always spoke louder than words but today she needed to say something to know that what she was asking had real meaning. She looked down at the floor ignoring the cold air against her naked body as she spoke in a voice which seemed small even to her own ears. “I don’t ask for anything from you Ouroboros I don’t question your plans for me I never have but I ask this off you now, please let her forgive me I can’t stand this pain anymore it’s been haunting me for years and I want to escape it. So I beg that you show me mercy today or if not today then in the future I know I don’t deserve forgiveness I have done terrible things in my past things which I know will be judged against me when I die but I want the chance to do good and right those terrible wrongs in some way, even if it takes the rest of my life.”

She opened her eyes letting go of her pendent as she moved over to the wash room running the water which was cool to the touch. She calmly washed herself and then dried herself off before moving over to her clothes. She eased on her underwear followed by her trousers and her knee night black boots which had just been cleaned and buffed to a shine. She really wished that Thaleia wouldn’t shine her boots as she’d always done it herself through out most of her life and it felt so odd to allow someone else to do it. It was Thaleia’s job though and she didn’t want to take any way any of her friend’s duties despite how she felt about them. She pulled on her shirt buttoning it up carefully before tightening the sleeves and tucking it in to her trousers. She took hold of her comb which had also been left in the room then began to brush her hair.

She found herself tossing her comb on to the table as she stood up suddenly feeling the intense need to pace, she needed to get this over with, all she had to do was tell the truth it was that simple. Once she spoke this pain she was holding would no longer be her dirty vile secret. She took in a deep breath trying to calm herself down she just had to be level headed about this. She just had to say what she felt and not back out at the last moment which she’d done so many times before. Why did everything in her life feel like it was about to come down to one defining moment? She pulled on her collar she just had to keep it together and not be afraid even though to say that was a lie and she knew it. She was terrified right now, she knew all to well how to mask her fear and pain but she couldn’t hide from this just like she couldn’t hide from the truth.

8

I hope that she’s awake now she should be and if she is I hope she’s dressed but even if she isn’t I don’t mind. I’ll wake her up maybe then we can have a late breakfast together or go somewhere I don’t care where we go a play or see some kind of sport in the arena or even walk the streets of Corinth, so long as Gabrielle comes with me. I know that to get her out of these walls will make her happy, maybe then I can find out what she’s likes. Its funny but in these past few hours I’ve been thinking very deeply about an famous Arabic proverb I read once during my travels in my youth before I became Empress of Greece back when I was a warrior who liberated others from their suffering and had just I started to fix things through diplomacy where and when ever I could rather than pull out my sword.

And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty and beauty stayed his hand.”

I’ve heard that line a thousand times, yet I’ve never understood its meaning not until now. How I perceived everything was wrong I had it all backwards. I believed monsters could destroy you, I believed that they could consume you and in part that’s right. Its just she has consumed me but not in the way I ever thought possible. I’m afraid, I’m terrified and yet as I stand here watching her pace in that manner she does when something’s bothering her, when I’m here with her I feel that I’m home. I now need to go in to the room I have so much to say and I haven’t even begun. They say that taking the first step is easy yet I’m finding this so hard. She’s fought me all the way right from the very beginning no one has ever fought me so much and I confess she’s been a pain in the ass at times. She can be stubborn, difficult and she says just what she feels but I guess that’s why I’m so attracted to her.

She wants to fight to survive to be someone, she survives despite being what she is she endures despite all that’s put on her shoulders and she sees the world in a way I could never envision. Gods I love her and I need to tell her, I watch her in the light of her room I know I want to be with her for the rest of my life. I’ve never been so sure of anything in my life. We were both forced in to positions of power with out our consent and have been forced to make very difficult choices. Those choices have shaped us and moulded us both in ways we don’t wish and cannot change. I feel for the first time in a long time that the things are crystal clear like a water spring in the early morning light. All this began some time ago when I took a long walk in the darkness one night and found something I shouldn’t have, which changed everything.

I never expected to find her in that pit, now I’m so glad I did and if I could turn back the clock I wouldn’t want to. My biggest regret though is what I did to her in front of the royals and everything I did to her when I found out that she wasn’t human, it still disgusts me even to this day because I know that is not the person I am. I didn’t realize that I could be that evil or cruel, it was very easy for me, almost too easy and I find that deeply unsettling. I will never be that evil again I will not be a conqueror or a warlord the thought makes me sick to the stomach. In a way despite this I’m happy that is was Gabrielle who showed me this side of myself because at the time I wasn’t listening to anyone else. I felt so detached even from my own staff, now I feel that I know my own staff better than I ever did and I’m grateful for that I also feel that things can only move forwards from here.

Xena took in a deep breath before putting her hand on the slightly ajar door opening it fully watching as Gabrielle stopped pacing looking up sharply her forest green eyes darting with uncertainty. She felt a warm smile form as she walked in side closing the doors behind her trying to ignore the beating of her heart which felt as though it would break through her chest at any given moment. She moved towards the younger woman who now looked nervous as she swallowed as if getting ready to speak. She raised her hand speaking in a calm soft voice. “Its okay Gabrielle you don’t have to say a word.” Gabrielle pulled on her collar feeling the twinge of heat once more. The other woman’s voice sounded like silk, she looked up meeting her intense light blue gaze and all of a sudden she couldn’t move or even think straight. It was like the dark haired woman was looking right in to her soul and she was completely powerless to do anything at all but stare back.

If anything was happening around her right now she knew she’d be completely obvious to it, the palace could be falling down all around her and she wouldn’t even notice it. Xena took a step forward so she was standing in front of the other woman she eased her hand up putting it on her face running it down her cheek gently watching as the green eyes which reminded of lush green forests in spring closed for an instant before opening again as the younger woman put her hands on hers. She paused enjoying the moment then moved her other hand up to her collar running it down the edge she could see still see the uncertain emotions playing out in the other woman’s eyes. She wasn’t hiding any of her feelings at this moment and was being completely open and it was such a beautiful sight. She stopped playing with her collar as eased her other hand up putting it on the other side of her face as she leaned closer, right now she wanted her actions to speak louder than any words.

She leaned closer meeting her lips feeling the softness as she gave her a gentle kiss, she pulled back feeling Gabrielle’s body tense a little as her eyes went wider there was no resistant though and she made no attempt to pull away. She leaned forward again she wanted to make her feelings truly felt now and that this was about more than friendship it was about love and she was wanted this woman to feel her love. She met her lips again but with much more passion at first feeling no response from the other woman ether because of the surprise or the uncertainty. Gabrielle felt the lips against her own her head felt like it was swimming and her mind was trying desperately to catch up. She wasn’t a child she was a grown woman and she knew this kiss being given to her now was an open invitation. She felt her mind suddenly click back in to gear as her body started to rebel against her wishes as the desire to kiss back became overwhelming, even though she knew she shouldn’t despite everything.

She couldn’t help herself as she started to respond she was powerless but to respond to this woman who she knew was in love with her and who she cared about so deeply suddenly her feelings didn’t matter. What did was this kiss and how it made her feel and all she could do was respond back with the same passion as the other woman pulled her closer running both hands through her hair. She eased up her own running them down her back completely lost in the moment. Xena stopped pausing for an instant as she took in a deep breath only to meet the other woman’s lips again she wanted to cry out to heavens and the gods and thank them just for giving her this moment. The other woman was responding to her, which meant that she both cared about and loved her as well even though she didn’t say it. She didn’t have to her lips said everything along with her hands which were moving down her back in a gentle and loving motion but she could sense the fire in her kiss along with the longing, wanting and the need to hold back.

She moved away from her lips moving to her neck laying kisses on her soft skin hearing the sharp intake of breath from the other woman she was sure that the younger woman had a very fire some side to her nature and she could only imagine what it was like under the sheets. Yet a part of her wanted to know that part of her in fact she graved the thought of making love to her and finding out what it was like. She wanted the younger woman to let go and stop restraining herself. She had no fear of what would come she wanted to embrace it and sink in to it. She was so in love with her that she didn’t even care if her werewolf version of giving love meant pain or rage due to her in human strength, to her it would feel like pleasure. She moved her hand running it down her shirt from her neck down to her waist enjoying the sudden gasp at it came from her lips. Gods she was beautiful and she didn’t even know it. Everything about her was wonderful the smell of her hair the fresh washed clothes the feel of her soft skin.

Gabrielle felt the sudden panic over take her as the thoughts that had been tormenting her came back once more taking away the joy of the moment. She had to stop this now despite how much she wanted and needed it and how much she cared about the older woman. She eased up her hands grabbing the Xena’s armour plated shoulders as she pushed her back keeping her hands on her armour as she spoke trying to catch her breath as her heart raced. “I…I…can’t do this.” Xena blinked seeing the fear in Gabrielle’s eyes which was so open along with an intense pain. She eased up her hand putting it on her face she didn’t need to be afraid of this she should welcome it. “Yes you can Gabrielle don’t be afraid of this it’s good and its right I don’t care about you being a werewolf ether, it’s never bothered me.” She leaned forward gently kissing her lips again. “I love you, I can’t imagine living a day with out you I want you by my side until the day I die.”

She moved her fingers up tracing the scar on the other woman’s face with her thumb. “I don’t care what the Greek Empire thinks of me or my actions they can go Tartarus because no one will ever keep me from loving you.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor keeping the other woman from holding her despite that she wanted it more than she wanted breath. She looked meeting her gaze. “No you don’t understand it’s not that, I’ve done something terrible, I’ve committed an act of sin and you’ve not seen me for what I truly am.” She took in a painful breath. “I am a monster who has spilt blood of the worst kind.” Xena shook her head keeping hold off her. “You are not a monster Gabrielle don’t call yourself that you are anything but that. You are a noble and honest warrior who is kind and thoughtful to others, its one of the qualities I love about you.” Gabrielle shook her head feeling the frustration hit home. “No you don’t understand what Adrienne said it’s true! I did it!” Xena felt her eyes dart. “You did what Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle felt her body tense as her teeth grinded together as she punctuated every single word. “It was me, I led the androphonomania massacre I killed innocent people in the name of my race!” Xena felt her eyes dart what in Tartarus, was she hearing this right. She took in a deep breath trying to contain the thoughts in her minds which were turning and twisting like the head of a hydra. She felt Gabrielle’s hands loosen she turned meeting her gaze which was filled with pain as she finally found her voice. “No this cannot be true…you cannot be telling me the truth. The androphonomania massacre….” Gabrielle tensed painfully. “The androphonomania massacre was my doing! I was the one who brought about all that pain and suffering! I’m telling you this because I can’t keep this to myself any longer its destroying me. It’s been tearing me apart for such a long time and I don’t want the pain anymore of keeping this to myself it hurts too much!” Xena pulled away from her feeling the pain in her heart. “No this can not be so…”

Gabrielle shook head. “It is true! It was my doing I was forced to make a choice and I took it.” She lowered her gaze to the floor. “I dishonoured myself in the name of my race.” She put a hand on her face. “I’m telling you this now because you have a right to know my sins you have the right to see me with out your eyes being closed. I have dishonoured you and your people by keeping this from you for so long.” She breathed in painfully. “I kept it to myself out of fear and because I did not want you to know the truth that I have done things which are worthy of the name monster.” She felt her body shiver painfully. “I do not expect you to love a monster, who could love a monster like me who has slain innocent men and women by tearing them apart?” She turned painfully moving towards the central door opening it slowly. “I wish things were different but they aren’t and I cannot hide from the truth anymore.” Xena stood still the shock sinking in as the younger woman left the room closing the door behind her leaving her standing alone trying to comprehend her thoughts which were now a jumbled mess as everything came crashed down around her it, felt like her world no longer made any sense.

End of part 74

 

A PAINFUL PATH WHICH WE FORCE OURSELVES TO WALK DOWN

 

I want to forget what I just heard yet I can’t it just stuck in my mind like an agonizing nail the way I saw everything has now been thrown in to complete chaos. I can’t believe what I’ve just heard and I know Gabrielle never lies and yet I don’t want to believe it, I want it to be a lie. Yet I know its not and I can’t escape it. Gabrielle took part in the androphonomania massacre the worst massacre to have taken place during my reign as Empress as Greece. I know as I walk up the hall towards the Chara’s study it feels like every nerve ending in my body is firing all at once. I want to confirm this in the records I want something to confirm Gabrielle’s words. Most of all I want this all to be a lie because I don’t know how to deal with the truth that she did this or played a role in it. I can feel tears running down my face I want to break in to tears and cry my heart out for all I’m worth right now but I’m holding myself back. I feel so frustrated and confused I wanted this day to be the day I told her that I loved her yet now I’m faced with a truth I don’t want to believe and I don’t want to face but I know I have to and it’s causing such pain in my heart.

If she did this what am I meant to do, how do we even go on from here? I don’t want her to leave she’s my friend yet I know the political fall out that this could case if it gets out. There has always been so much hatred surrounding the androphonomania massacre it’s a terrible mine field. There’s more though there were children who were killed in that massacre. These innocent little children who were torn limb from limp or had their guts ripped out, it’s the stuff of nightmares. Every time I see the image of Gabrielle doing that it makes me feel sick, I never saw her that way she’s always been so good with children and the thought of her doing something like this shocks me to my very soul. If all of this is true if this nightmare is as real as tasting blood in my mouth on the battle field I have no idea how to solve it if it comes up with the diplomats if they find out about this. I had intentions to show Gabrielle to them as figure of strength and honour the ideal werewolf the bend mark for how werewolves as a race should be viewed.

Gods there has to be a reason for all of this, something that will make sense of it all, why did she keep this from me? Xena wiped away the painfully tears as she came to stand in front of the door of Chara and Phrixus’s study she forced open the double doors harshly not caring as they smashed against the cement with the force. She watched as Chara looked up sharply while Phrixus breathed out the smoke from his pipe as he eyed the Ethereal Ark Of Fire scroll a smile appearing on his face as he turned to her. “Empress it’s so good to see…” He stopped catching sight of the dark haired woman’s tear stained face. “Are you alright?” Xena raised her hand. “No I’m not!” She watched as he fell silent the confusion in his face she turned to Chara who blinked in surprise. “I want every scroll there is on the androphonomania massacre!” Chara moved away from her desk putting down her quill. “The androphonomania massacre, everything?”

Xena felt her hand form a fist. “Yes everything I know you keep all the records on it in here and not in the main study, they’ve been here ever since it happened because we have never fully resolved the situation!” She ran a hand through her hair in frustration. “All unresolved scrolls end up here, along with all the other problems which I can’t change or fix.” Chara moved nervously over to the section easing the scrolls free which were all bound in leather holders and labelled she paused eyeing the taller woman. “Why do you need to look at androphonomania massacre scrolls Empress I mean we know that werewolves caused it, but we never knew anymore on the subject, has Gabrielle told you something of importance?” Xena took hold of the scrolls holders not bothering to look up as she spoke unable to keep the pain out of her voice. “Yes…she’s told me something.” She breathed in painfully. “Something I didn’t wish to know.”

She turned moving towards the open doors she knew she had to read these scrolls but she didn’t want to read them in front of the others. She turned taking the long walk back to her study forcing open the door then closed it forcefully behind her. She pulled the scrolls from their holders scattering them on her desk in a violent motion, before throwing the leather holders to one side. She sat herself down painfully in her chair as she started to rummage through the scrolls looking at the many names of those who had died as well as reports and maps showing the red rings around the villages which had been destroyed as well as journal notes from both survivors and a few of the warriors who had lived though the event. She now knew that those that had survived had probably been turned in to werewolves and were now living secret lives. She breathed in picking up a journal note from one of the survivors reading it.

I have seen blood and I have seen the fires of war I am a retired warrior who served my term as a hoplite. Yet I cannot get away from the nightmare which I have witnessed today. As I watched my wife and children be torn apart by these vile monsters. The gods have condemned me and brutalize me. I curse you Ares, I spit on you for bringing this horror about and taking away my son, daughter and my wife. These monsters brought horror in to my life and anger in to my heart. I curse all werewolves and I hope they die out as a race and I also curse the brown coloured one who tainted my blood with its claws and who left me for dead only for my body to survive and be bastardized! This scroll is written by Idas Greek citizen and survivor of the god’s wraith.”

Xena put down the scroll she’d read it before but now she understood this mans meaning when referring to the werewolves claws, he had lost his family and had been turned in to a werewolf. Though the scroll didn’t say who took away his humanity it was very clear that a werewolf was to blame. She breathed in putting down the scroll as she shifted through more scrolls suddenly finding one which she had overlooked so many years ago it was by a hoplite who everyone had considered delusional because he was very close to death. The stained blood was still on the scroll along with his bloody finger marks it was like a living memory which was still fresh. She looked at the stains the man who had written this with his final dying breath, which meant that to him that this mattered more than anything. She slowly looked at the scribbled words written in black ink which were jerky due to pain the writer had been in during his last and final moments.

“My name is Timon and as I sit here dying on the floor of a villager’s home I feel I must document this because it will matter. Please give the scroll in my pocket to my partner and tell him that I love him and will be waiting for him in the Elysian Fields when his time comes. I write this because I saw something strange it was a wolf which walked like a man I know there are many wolves who walk like people they destroyed this village but this one who put its claws through my stomach and left me to die it had horns like deer, horns covered in velvet. I know this matters I know it’s important I hope that who ever reads this will realize that it matters. This wolf creature this thing with crooked velvet horns…it was leading all the other walking wolves and bringing the blood and the agony…that is all I have to…say and if you are reading this now then I am dead.”

Xena breathed in painfully putting the scroll down it confirmed Gabrielle’s words, but this scroll didn’t say that she’d killed anyone else. Oh gods why was she lying to herself she could see the truth in these words a dying men and women never lied about anything when they were inches from death. She knew that better than anyone else as most people believed that to keep lies from the gods would condemn them in the after life. She shook her head moving though the rest of the journals most were just about the deaths and the horrors that had taken place. She stopped as she came across another journal which had been filed under strange claims along with the dead hoplites. She shook her head picking up the scroll looking at it, it wasn’t written by a survivor or a warrior but an onlooker who was clearly desperate to make a point, a point which at the time no one had heard and everyone including herself had ignored.

“It wasn’t a Satyr! I know a Satyr when I see one just because it had horn’s that does not make it a Satyr I would know since my cousin slept with one once. I mean it’s not like these things don’t happen some humans are married to Satyr’s, Centaurs as well as Minotaurs. What I saw leaving that village was not a Satyr or a Minotaur it was something else entirely. A werewolf with crooked horns, yes you’re reading this right, it had crooked velvet horns it was covered in blood and wearing a bronze armour which had strange moving sections on the chest. My name is Maeve and I saw the bodies of children ripped to ribbons and men and women with there bodies torn open. I do not write this to be amusing or coy and I’m sick of the warriors I speak to laughing at me because of this when I know what I saw was real. So I write this now in the hope that one day it will be taken seriously and that the crooked velvet horned werewolf that killed all those people will be brought to justice!”

Xena put the scroll down putting her hands on her face unable to stop the tears as they started to flow Gabrielle never lied. She had killed all those people and their children. It was all true and now so many horrible images were cascading through her mind of Gabrielle tearing children apart yet this woman had been so kind to the palace children yet during the massacre she’d been a monster. She smashed her fist down hard on the table she wanted to hate her right now so badly for telling this she would rather have remained ignorant than think about the fact that this woman could rip the palace children apart. She felt her scream of anger hit the air as she pushed the scrolls of the desk in a violent motion feeling the tears started to run down her face even harder why were the gods cursing her with this now? She was in love with this woman she didn’t want to envision her this way, it was like some cruel joke which she couldn’t hide from or get away from.

People would want to skin Gabrielle’s hide for this and she was the one who had just created equal rights for werewolves and ended the hunting law. She felt her other hand form a fist as the anger took over she was so angry now at Gabrielle for telling her this! She should have told her after they’d become friends! Yet she knew why she hadn’t spoken about this because she knew she’d see her as a monster for what she’d done and that was the problem, she now saw her as one right now despite her feelings for her. She wiped away her tears gaining control of her emotions she wanted to know everything right now from the younger woman. The whole story, not that she’d just led this horrible event she wanted her to see the names of all those she’d killed. Even though she knew putting her through that kind of pain was wrong as it wouldn’t help ether of them in the long run.

Most of all she wanted answers! She needed the answers as she had no idea where ether of them where were they supposed to go from here with this? Gabrielle couldn’t just throw this in her lap and leave it like this! She needed to know how they’d play this to the public if it ever came out with out it turning in to political melt down! This day was meant to be the day that she confessed her love yet it had turned in to a nightmare, she breathed in staring at the journals again, what made this even worse was that she had walked through one of these villages and she had felt physically sick at the sight in front of her she seen, it still brought a shiver down her spine even to this day. She put a hand through her hair in frustration she needed those answers now more than anything just so she could make sense of all this!

8

Should I have left the room, yes I should have my being there wouldn’t have been a good thing. Xena needed time, yet now I feel miserable, she won’t forgive me for this, I already know about the political fall out which could come from this. She signed the document ending the haunting law and giving equal rights to my people but it doesn’t change the hated that comes from those who lost their friends and family during that terrible event. Maybe I shouldn’t have told her but I know to keep it to myself would only make it worse and she have ever found out, if not from me then from another one of my enemies who wanted to tarnish my reputation and destroy our friendship. Why am I even bothering to use that word? What happened in her room an hour ago was not about being friends anymore it was about being in a relationship and becoming more still.

I hate myself for ending that kiss I was enjoying more than breathing it was everything I wanted to feel and everything I needed. She wanted me, she loves me, yet here I sit in my chair in my own room alone. Because I just had to tell the truth to her, I know that the chance to be more than friends will now probably pass me by there is no forgiveness for that kind of sin. Nothing is ever fair! Why does doing the right thing make me feel even worse, than if I’d done the wrong thing and carried on kissing her? Maybe I’m annoyed because I’m forced to wait until she sees me and I dread her reaction more than anything. The minutes are ticking away yet it feels like a painful eternity and every moment that passes just makes me feel more and more unnerved. It’s the not knowing that’s driving me crazy I want her to see me even if its just to tell me to leave at least it would give me an answer.

She will probably ask me to leave she wouldn’t let me stay here and I doubt very much that she’d still have that feelings of love for me once it sinks in, what I did. No one ever forgives anyone for acts like mine, screw what my counterpart said in my vision, she’s far to kind and forgiving and for her it was her Xena who did what I’ve done. This is why I doubt the Xena I know will do the same, she’s forgiving and kind but lets face facts she’s not going to forgive this monsters are never forgiven their cursed all the more.  Maybe I was foolish to even pray I don’t know what difference it’s going to make, I doubt that anyone could love a murder regardless of what people say. Oh why can’t she just walk in to my room and gets this over with I feel like I’m loosing it here! I want an answer even if it’s not the one I want to hear! Even If I now disgust her and she hates me once more it’s an answer and I can deal with it!

“Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle turned sharply catching sight of Thaleia who was standing opposite her the concern in her eyes she eyed her sword which was holding at the hilt as she sat in her chair. She breathed in sadly unable to keep the sadness from her voice as she spoke. “Its okay I don’t want my breakfast, you can go.” Thaleia moved forward putting her hand on her friends shoulder. “What Happened, have you and the Empress have an argument?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No we didn’t.” She lowered her gaze to the floor. “You were right the Empress is in love with me…she told me so this morning she even kissed me.” Thaleia blinked in surprise she didn’t think as she grabbed hold of the chair opposite sitting in front of her best friend. “That’s good though Gabrielle It means you can be together.” Gabrielle shook her head feeling her stomach twist in to a painful knot. “I told her about my sins.”

Thaleia leaned forward taking hold of her arm. “She’ll forgive you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply trying to control her anger it wasn’t Thaleia’s fault that she didn’t understand, she’d never told her the whole truth. Yet she knew that she had to or she would never forgive herself for keeping it back from this woman who had stood by her from the beginning.  “There’s a reason I have never told anyone about the things I’ve done Thaleia it’s because they would disgust and anger people and they will see me for what I really am, which is a monster.” She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “And I am a monster I can admit that even to myself after all there is no greater sin than killing innocent men and women.” Thaleia kept hold of her arm unsure as to where this was going. “Who did you kill Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle took hold of her hand easing it away from her arm before putting her hand back on her sword hilt. “Have you ever heard of the androphonomania massacre?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Yes it was the terrible werewolf slaughter which happened some years ago.” She took in a painful breath feeling a sinking feeling deep within in her stomach as she looked at her best friend. “What are you saying Gabrielle?” Gabrielle laughed but it was a sad laugh even to her own ears. “I led it.” She looked up seeing the shock as it spread across her friends face as her brown eyes darted as the truth sunk in. She lowered her gaze to the floor. “Its okay you can leave the room now, I don’t expect you to stay in here any longer and I wouldn’t expect you to remain my friend after hearing this. I just wanted to tell you truth before the Empress passes judgement on me.” Thaleia felt her body tense as her brain suddenly clicked back in to gear as she spoke. “What did the Imperial Council do to force you in to doing that?”

Gabrielle stood up slowly watching as she did the same she spoke unable to stop her temper which was now boiling up in the pit of her stomach as her grip on her sword hilt tightened. “What does that even matter?!” Thaleia folded her arms ignoring her friends rage. “It matters a lot Gabrielle! I’ve heard your story, the whole palace has now! The Imperial Council has always controlled you in some manner and I think your blaming yourself for their actions!” Gabrielle eased up her hand. “Don’t you get it, I killed people, innocent people just like you! Whether the Imperial Council forced me or tricked me it changes nothing, they all died by my hand!” Thaleia shook head she wasn’t scared of Gabrielle’s rage she’d known her long enough to know it was her fear which was causing this reaction. “You don’t go around killing children I’ve seen you with children. I heard what happened most of those children were torn to ribbons but that isn’t you Gabrielle. I don’t see you doing something like that you love children you have no stomach for it.”

Gabrielle looked up sharply. “How do you know that, you’re no warrior how can you claim to know anything about what happens on the battle field?” Thaleia grabbed her sleeve unable to keep the anger out of her voice. “I may not be a warrior I my just be a maid but I do know you Gabrielle your all about honour and respect to you it matters more than anything I don’t see you killing children. Also even if you did kill all those innocent people I’m sure the Imperial Council forced you to do it in some way ether by lying to you or threatening you. They’ve already tried to kill you twice its clear that they have no sense of honour and they’ll do anything to break your spirit. On top of this I doubt for five seconds that you’d have the stomach to give the order to kill people unless you were forced or manipulated by your ex Adrienne. She clearly has no compassion for humanity. Phrixus told us all about what she said to you and how she treated you, she treated you like you were beneath her and you’re a king!”

Gabrielle put a hand through her hair in frustration. “What does it matter if Adrienne forced me or the Imperial Council manipulated me it doesn’t change the fact that I killed innocent men and woman and took part in one of the worst massacres in Greece’s history, which is up there with the ten worst massacres my predecessor did back when he was king!” Thaleia eased up her hand. “You know what I think, I think you like punishing your self, you want to be blamed and cursed for the things you do, because you think only then that everything will be all right with the world. It’s not right though Gabrielle you deserve to be happy and you deserve to be loved and you need to stop running away from the Empress she’s the one person who wants to have a life with you!” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “Who are you to talk? You’ve been running away from Demetrius, you love him but you won’t tell him how you feel!”

Thaleia took in a deep painfully breath clearly Gabrielle had seen her love for him but had not said anything until now. “No I don’t tell him how I feel he’s head of the royal guard and I’m a personal maid I’m beneath him!” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “Oh please Xena is the Empress of all Greece and I’m just a Greek royal I have no more power than the other Greek royals yet I’m the one she loves, so your rank issue means nothing. Your not saying anything because you’re afraid that his answer will be no. So you have no right to accuse me of I’m running away from the Empress when you’re running away yourself!” Thaleia felt her body tense. “Fine so I love him, I admit it and I’m terrified that he’ll say no but unlike you I’m not going out of my way to destroy my image, you didn’t have to tell the Empress about what you did at all.” Gabrielle eyed her sword which was still holding at the hilt. “Yes I did! You said I should tell people about my sins, well I’ve told her and now I’ve told you.”

Thaleia eyed her for a long moment. “No I meant tell her the full truth not that you killed hundreds of innocent people, the truth that you were forced in to that position by the Imperial Council and Adrienne who was manipulating you. Not the half truth which makes look like a murder who kills little children.” Gabrielle put her sword on the table. “You have to accept facts I might not be here by tonight and you may be moved to a new position, regardless of my telling the Empress that, she will probably ask me to leave her palace.” Thaleia breathed in, in frustration as she stepped closer to her friend. “You’ll still be here Gabrielle and you’re an idiot for not seeing that, the Empress loves you she won’t force you to leave you matter so much to her. The problem is that you don’t love yourself at all, that’s why you curse yourself and you act dense in the face of unconditional love! Have you become so blind and stupid to the fact that you could live a happy life with the Empress?”

Gabrielle raised her hand unable to stop the burning rage as it filling her senses. “Get out!” Thaleia stopped still catching sight of the ice cold look Gabrielle was giving her. It was identical to the look she’d given in her werewolf form when they’d first talked. “You’re throwing me out? I’m not your servant you don’t order me around, I’m your friend!” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “This is my room and you are my servant and I’m giving you what could be your last order because until the Empress makes up her mind this is still my room and you’re not welcome here right now, so get out!” Thaleia gave her a cold look as she walked towards the double doors pushed them open before turning to Gabrielle speaking in a cold tone. “As you wish…your highness.” She walked through the doors slamming them both behind her trying to ignore the pain as it went through her chest as she walked down the long corridor trying to control her painful emotions which threatened to over spill out along with her tears.

End of part 75

 

AN ICE COLD WILL ENCASED IN A FROZEN HEART

Xena moved towards the central door she didn’t think as she shoved it open watching as Gabrielle looked up from her chair where she had been seated looking at her hands. She eyed her speaking in a voice that was emotionless and cold even to her own ears. “We need to talk.” She watched as the younger woman stood up saying nothing as she followed her in to her room. She came to stand over her breakfast table watching as Gabrielle walked in side her room closing the middle door behind her, coming to stand close by. She could hear the uncomfortable silence which had fallen across the room she knew she had to be the first to speak. Sadly she knew that what she would say next would not be kind to the other woman but that couldn’t be avoided now. She looked up trying to control her anger as she spoke. “You’re going to tell me about the Androphonomania massacre right now!”

Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as she eyed the scrolls which were on the table close by she lots and lots of names on them. She breathed in painfully, her judgement was finally here, she could feel it in her heart and she could see it in the other woman’s rage filled eyes. She had already hurt her Thaleia by throwing her out in a fit in anger, so maybe it was only right that she would now get thrown out of the palace by Xena, it would be what she deserved. She eyed her swords which were now on her back feeling her gaze drift sadly to the floor. Xena pulled up a scroll she could see the intense pain in other woman’s eyes. “Clearly you weren’t lying two witness wrote about seeing you, they both referred to you as the werewolf with crooked velvet horns, but no one believed them. The first witness because he was dying and the second because we believed that she had misjudged what she saw and it was a case of mistaken identity. Yet she was telling truth and it pains me that we didn’t listen to her at the time then we may have realized a long time ago that a werewolf with horns was no fantasy but a firm reality.”

She put the scroll down hard on the table as she leaned forward unable to keep the anger out of her tone. “You are going to tell me what happened right now because I need to know. I had the unfortunate joy of going through one of the villages you are your people destroyed there was not a person alive not man, woman or child, they’d all been torn apart. So tell me was if fun for you to go around killing little children, did you get a kick out of it?” Gabrielle looked up feeling her hand form a fist. “I didn’t kill any children!” Xena grabbed another scroll pulling it up so she could see it. “Don’t lie to me! I have the names right here of every child who died, half of them were the same age as the children in the palace who you are always so nice to. Are you so nice to them because you feel guilty about the helpless ones you killed during this vile massacre?”

Gabrielle smashed her fist down hard on the table feeling her sadness turn to blinding rage. “I did not kill any of those children!” Xena felt her teeth grind together as she slammed the scroll down. “Stop lying to me!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I’m not lying to you, I confess to my sins I confess that I killed innocent men and women, I admit to being a monster unworthy of your forgiveness but I didn’t touch any of those children!” She breathed in painfully. “There’s no going back from killing an innocent child.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “Well you would know since you led your people to do this.” She raised her ringed finger ignoring the ice cold look Gabrielle gave her. “So why did you do it, what was it a relation message for the hunting law? Or were you were asserting your power and dominance so your people would take you seriously at the expense of many innocent lives?” Gabrielle turned sharply meeting her cold ice blue gaze. “You think I did this for fun or to make a statement? I hated every moment of it I wanted nothing more than for it to end!”

Xena sneered in disgust. “Well killing every living thing would get the job done quicker.” Gabrielle felt her body tense. “You asked me once what I have constant nightmares about but I wouldn’t tell you then but I will tell you now! I have nightmares about the people I killed I see their faces and their eyes staring back at me in my dreams. Their skeletons mock me, their rivers of blood are like a swamp and I can’t escape it unless I wake up!” Her eyes darted as she spoke her next words. “So if you’ve ever wondered why I wake up in sweat and I’m shaking it’s because their ghosts have been tormenting me and reminding about what I’ve done!” She raised both hands looking at them trying to stay in control of her tears which were on the edge of spilling over. “There’s one young woman I see so often in my nightmares she had sea blue eyes and she looked at me in this horrible way before I killed her, it wasn’t anger or even hated, its was innocence, fear and pity. She was the same age as me when I was bitten and I have never forgotten her face I didn’t even know or her name but when she comes to me in my dreams she tells me that I’m a coward and unworthy of ruling my kind and I know she’s right.” She breathed in painfully as the screams of terror entered her mind so clearly and painfully that she couldn’t ignore them the distant memory was just too strong and painful.

8

Gabrielle lowered her ears trying to ignore the screaming which echoed all around her and the flames that were burning all around her from were the warriors had set fire to the houses, she wanted to wake up she didn’t want to be part of this nightmare. This was what the council had sent her to do to kill innocent villages? She could understand if it had been warriors but these weren’t warriors, they were innocent men, women and children. She moved her clawed foot over one of the dead bodies watching as one of the warriors tore a young man apart. This wasn’t a battle it was a slaughter and she wanted no part of it, she had been trained to kill warriors not kill people like this. She watched as Adrienne dragged a young woman kicking and screaming towards her. She threw the woman of her feet as she spoke in normal human tongue so the woman could understand. “Look up human scum, this is the werewolf king!” Gabrielle eyed the young woman at her feet who was the same age she had been when she’d been bitten.

She turned realizing that all eyes were up now up her as the others stopped moving closer. She looked up eyeing Adrienne as she put her clawed foot on the woman’s back so she couldn’t run away. “This isn’t right this is not what I was sent here for!” Adrienne breathed in ignoring the others warriors surprised looks she turned spitting the blood out of her mouth. “These people are enemies of our race the Imperial Council demands satisfaction! “Gabrielle eased up her clawed hand. “These are villages, how are they enemies of us? There not even warriors!” Adrienne eyed her for a long moment she moved her foot off the woman grabbing hold of her neck. She slowly raised her in to the air so her feet were moving through nothing but air ignoring her screams of panic. “Their humans, they have been killing our race!”

She narrowed her gaze. “You have been ordered by the Imperial Council to kill these people, it’s your duty as Horn Hind, to not do so would be seen as a betrayal!” She eyed the others. “The Crescent Hind did this and he didn’t complain, so you can do the same as him!” She raised the woman higher. “Now kill this worthless woman and act like a real Horn Hind!” She felt a sly smile form. “The Imperial Council has ordered the culling of many villages, this is only the first and it won’t be the last. They say they’ll give you a meeting once your task is done they’ll even talk about the changes you wanted to make but only if you do as your told. They sent me to make sure that you do it, none of these people are to be turned they all have to die!” She eyed the terrified woman again. “Now kill this whimpering little human and stop complaining!”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply she couldn’t believe she had been manipulated this way. She could see why her predecessors had hidden in his room and ignored the world the Imperial Council had made it so he could only play by their rules. She watched as Adrienne threw the young woman causing her to hit the ground hard in front of her. She kneeled down grabbing her trying to ignore her terrified gaze, it was the look she had once had when she had been the same age before she had been bitten. She lowered her ears Ouroboros forgive her for her sins, she brought her jaws down on the young woman’s neck biting down hard then forced it sideway causing her neck to break instantly. She could taste the blood in her mouth she watched as her dead body fell to the floor, she turned spitting out the blood in her mouth ignoring Adrienne’s proud look, she wasn’t proud this, this wasn’t her. She didn’t kill innocent people she was a warrior not a murderer, she closed her eyeing trying desperately to block out the young woman’s sea blue eyes which were still staring back at her even in death.

8

Gabrielle felt a tear run down her face before she could stop it she wiped it away painfully. “I made her death so quick, yet I still see her face, it’s always her face.” Xena folded her arms she was unmoved by this piece of Gabrielle’s past which she had just shared. “So this was all for a meeting with the Imperial Council and here I was thinking this was for some reason, that would at least make sense!” Gabrielle turned sharply. “I wasn’t given a choice, I was told I was going to kill warriors then when I got there it was innocent people. I was forced in to a corner where I had no choice, if I didn’t do as I was told the Imperial Council would have punished me and publicly humiliated me. It would have been another notch in their belts to use against me as I’d be viewed as a weak king who couldn’t carry out a simple mission, I was set up so I couldn’t win ether way!” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “No there is always a choice! You just took the easy one, the one that worked best for you.” Gabrielle eased up both her hands feeling the pain twist in her chest due to the other harshness of the other woman’s words. “It must be fortunate for you, you have never been forced down a road where to win you have to dishonour yourself in the worst possible way.”

Xena narrowed her gaze not bothering to hide the venom in her tone as she spoke. “That’s because I would never get in to that situation in the first place, it’s your duty as ruler of your people to stop things like this happening. The reason you failed is because you didn’t stand up for what you believe in!” Gabrielle stopped still for a long moment taking in those words before speaking once more. “I always stood up for what I believed in, it’s the reason that the Imperial Council had me thrown in that pit to starve and die.” She felt her teeth grind together as she looked up. “That was my gift for believing I could change things along with two assassination attempts and my close death in this very room a few days ago!” She felt her hand form a fist once more. “One day when you’re forced to loose so you can win you’ll understand just how I feel right now! Sometimes you have to make a rotten choice as a leader even if it goes against everything you believe in and you are forced to live with it for the rest of your life. If I had have diverted from my path then, I would have been assassinated long before I came to kill you in your palace here in Corinth.”

She lowered her gaze sadly. “It was the worst choice I’ve ever had to make I regret it every day I draw breath, I just thought that I could do more good alive than dead.” Xena folded her arms frankly that answer wasn’t good enough for her right now. “You and your people killed over four hundred people in the androphonomania massacre do you realize the political fall out that will happen if this ever gets out? I’ve been planning to show you as a noble icon to the Corinthian diplomats, I had intentions of introducing you to all of them very soon over dinner. If a single one of them finds out about this, it’s going to ruin everything I had planned. I know that one of them lost a cousin in that event and she’s been very unhappy about it for many years, she’s also not a fan of werewolves because of it and I always knew that she’d be the hardest to bring around.” She breathed in deeply. “You should have told me about this to start with it and not kept it to yourself!” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as the anger started to burn once more but this time it felt like an inferno in her chest which was wrapping around her heart and twisting it painfully. “Well maybe the fact that I didn’t was because we weren’t friends and you hated me because I wasn’t human.”

She felt her fist tighten. “You paraded me around in front of the royals like some animal, it wasn’t like you cared about how I looked to anyone, you wanted your monster and your trophy and if I’d have told you, you would have never given me a chance to even be your friend. You would have made sure that I left the palace!” Xena raised her hand unable to stop her next words as they hit the air before she could stop them. “You don’t need my help to make you look like an animal you can do that perfectly well on your own!” She breathed in sharply instantly regretting those words. Gabrielle turned to face the taller woman. “Don’t call me an animal I am not an animal, I’m a werewolf I may not be completely human but I still have a human body even if the other part of me isn’t human in your eyes!” She narrowed her gaze. “Clearly despite all you’ve said you still don’t see me as you’re equal and you saying that you’re in love me isn’t about love at all. You just want to boast that you got to sleep with a werewolf, well let me make it very clear that I won’t be your sexual conquest.”

Xena raised her hand as the other woman’s words sank in fuelling her anger all the more. “I have never seen you as a sexual conquest! I kissed you because I have feelings for you and because I love you.” She sneered slightly. “Your problem is that you’re so dense that you can’t tell when someone loves you, Adrienne clearly screwed you up to such a point that you can’t even pick up on subtle hints or words you just act emotionally numb to everything!” Gabrielle felt her knuckles crack as her fist tightened even more. “Well its not like it matters much now does it, I mean you wouldn’t love me now, would you? People don’t love murders or killers they send them to their deaths.” Xena put her hand through her hair unable to control her anger any longer. “You know I’ve never met anyone who’s as self-destroying as you Gabrielle! Do you want to be a martyr, is that it, you won’t be happy until you’ve suffered?”

She stepped closer to the other woman who now had a truly cold look in her eyes, it was like going back in time she was seeing the same look the other woman had given her the night she’d trashed her palace and held her up in mid air by her throat. “What do you think me so cold that I would make you suffer again? Do you honestly think I would do something vile like stick you in some torture device like The Brazen Bull and listen to you scream until you die, because you’ve told me this!?” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze. “You banned The Brazen Bull.” Xena shook her head. “Yes I banned that device I hated it, it was a vile creation used to kill people along with a number of others torture devices that cause intense pain before death. People in my kingdom are given quick deaths via the noose or poison or by a well placed sword to the neck but this is besides the point because when it comes to you I wouldn’t have the heart to make you suffer and I wouldn’t put you through pain because of your past deeds.”

She looked up slightly. “Your problem is you look for the worst in everyone, even in those who care about you, I guess it’s not your fault your life’s been filled with people stabbing you in the back and betraying you or causing you pain. That’s why you now find it very difficult to think that anyone would show you kindness, you just expect the worst and it frustrates me so much because I see the person you could be. I look at you everyday and I see this person just under the surface who could be happy all of the time and not see the worst in people.” She raised her hand. “Yet you just won’t open up you prefer to remain stubborn and live with your eyes half closed!” She eyed her for a long moment before speaking. “I just wish that for one day of your life that you would just let down all those walls and barriers you put up to protect your self and live your life and be happy!”

Gabrielle stepped back not wanting to take in her words despite that they were the truth. “You’ve lived to long in side this palace, you’ve forgotten that the world isn’t nice, you’re lucky you’re surrounded by kind people who love and adore you. Yet people beyond your walls are not always kind before you tell me about living my life you should step outside of that huge wall surrounding your palace the one you have to keep the real world out!” Xena moved mover to the table slamming her fist down hard. “I know what people out side the palace are like, I’ve fought in wars most of the people in side my palace came from the wars I’ve fought or from the diplomacy I’ve created!” Gabrielle felt a cruel smile form as she spoke not bothering to hide her sarcasm. “Oh yes I’m sure they are but when was the last time you went outside of your palace and spoke to a person dying from fever or gave a coin to a beggar whose lost both his legs? You rule from the inside and don’t spend anytime on the outside anymore.”

She looked up seeing the taller woman’s expression turn to distain. “You don’t go outside anymore because you’ve become so afraid of being assassinated that it’s always on your mind. Yet here’s the really interesting part, people love you they won’t kill you outside this palace, they’ll kill me because I’m the animal as you so kindly put it. I’m the one who would rather hide in the inside your palace walls and be surrounded by your kind staff. If I could live here forever I’d be happy to never walk outside those walls if I could help it, yet your more interested in putting me in danger by showing me to your diplomats who you know already know don’t like me or my race! Funny six months ago I would have welcomed that spear to the chest and now I can’t stand the thought of dying, I just want to feel each breath and stay in side the palace where I know I’m safe.” She shook her head. “I know why you kept me here to start with it wasn’t just because you wanted to learn, it was because you knew no one in their right mind would attack you if you could brag about having a werewolf in side your palace.”

She felt the pain twist in her chest once more. “I still wonder if despite your feelings that I’m here because you need someone to be your stick and I’m here to be that stick and keep your enemies at bay.” Xena felt her shoulders tense. “I admit it! Yes I did keep you here because I saw you as a means to keep my enemies at bay but not anymore. I would never use you to keep my enemies at bay and I doubt now you’re being here would stop them regardless. They know I have no wife or husband and no heir so my position as ruler is very precarious as it is! Their waiting me for to slip up because it would give them a chance to dethrone me and rule my empire, everything I’ve worked so hard for would just go right out of the window. The united Greece I almost died to make would be gone and some tyrant will be sitting in my throne.” She eyed the scrolls again on the table. “Now thanks to you and your actions during the androphonomania massacre that dream of a fully united Greece is going to so much harder. I knew bringing in werewolves was never going to be easy but you doing something so dishonourable will make you look really bad in the eyes of my people.”

Gabrielle sneered in disgust. “Oh you make it sound like it was so easy I would like just once for you to speak to the Imperial Council. In fact that would be amusing to watch from my perspective because they’d just do everything to you which they have done to me.” Xena looked up sharply. “Clearly if you’d done your duty as Horn Hind we wouldn’t be standing here right now! As it is we are and you have dishonoured me and proved yourself unworthy of your sword!” Gabrielle blinked in shock the taller woman thought her unworthy of her sword, to hear that hurt so much it felt like she her heart was being torn out of her chest. Her whole life had been about honour and being her warrior and it made those words hurt all the more. She breathed in feeling a tear run down her face as the deep pain set in she wiped it away unable to stop her next actions as she watched Xena look at the scrolls as a cold silence fell between them once more. She turned grabbing the nearest vase as her scream of pain and rage hit the air as she threw it watching as it smashed in to the wall very close to where Xena was standing, it shattered apart from the force sending parts flying left, right and centre.

Xena looked up sharply she’d had enough she couldn’t believe that Gabrielle had just done that! She stood up fully no longer caring how much her words hurt. “Get out of my room right now you stupid over grown dog! I’m tired of cleaning up after you because you can’t control your temper and you just have to break things!” Gabrielle snarled inhumanly ignoring the tears as they started to run down her face, she knew it would come to this. She grabbed the central door forcing it opening it not bothering to look back as she slammed the door behind her. She turned not thinking as she kicked her breakfast chair watching as it was thrown across the floor. It landed close to the balcony causing all the birds who were feeding from her feeders to fly away. She looked up as Icos flew landing down on her shoulder unafraid even of her anger. She stood in the centre of her room trying to control the painful emotions tearing through her soul as she stared at the floor. She raised her shaking hand stroking her bird’s neck as she took in a deep breath finally regaining control over her anger. She put her hands to her face unable to stop the painful flood of tears as they fell, clearly that love her counterpart had spoken off didn’t exist it was all a lie, Xena now saw her as a violent stupid monster who wasn’t worthy of her sword.

End of part 76

 

A STORY LOST TO THE TIDES OF TIME

I shouldn’t be drinking but this has not turned out to be the day I wanted it to be and I feel utterly depressed. It’s been an hours since I threw Gabrielle out of my room and I can still see the shattered pottery from where she threw the vase at me in a fit of anger. Frankly I don’t care about the vase it wasn’t expensive and it had no meaning other than being decorative. Its just I’ve never had any one throw anything about me before unless it was a spear or an arrow on the battle field, I have no idea how to deal with having pottery thrown at me. I should not have a called her a stupid over grown dog and an animal, I didn’t help the situation and I regret saying those words. Her room has been so quite I’ve heard nothing from it but a part of me wants it to remain that way because hearing her cry would only make this situation worse. I have no idea what to her right now and if I walked back in to that room I know I would just mess things up even more because drunk. I just want to ignore the scrolls on my desk and not think about the androphonomania massacre as the whole situation is now a complete and utter mess.

So much for telling Gabrielle I love her, now she just thinks this was all about a sexual conquest which it wasn’t. Makes me realize that I just don’t know how to deal with someone like Gabrielle, truth is I’ve never met anyone like her, her mind tends to drifts to darker places due to how she’s been treated through out her life, she doubts more than she loves, hates more than lives. It’s not so surprising if I had, had Adrienne for a lover after my husband died I’d probably be just as messed up in the head and second guessing everything and everyone even those who love me openly. I would never throw her out of the palace not even after hearing about the role she played in the androphonomania massacre I love her despite everything, even though the thought of her killing innocent children makes me wants to throw up, so I guess I love a monster as I she put it and I can’t help it. Makes me wonder if she told me all off this not just because of her guilt but because she was trying to push me away, maybe she thought that this would end what ever love I had for her.

Yet here I sit drinking from my pottery jug not feeling the same about her despite it all, the gods are amusing in their curses. Maybe I feel this way because I didn’t always like some of choices my husband made, some of them were very unkind to the citizens of Rome but back then I was in love with him so I didn’t see the beginnings of a tyrant. I didn’t go against him, I brought in to his lies, later we drew up the agreement that Greece was mine to rule as I pleased and Rome was his. Maybe in that way throwing him of the balcony was for the good of the people by that point the power was consuming him and I realized the night that he tried to have me killed that he had gone past the point of no return. Gabrielle is not like him she’s not a tyrant the androphonomania massacre is her terrible sin which she hates herself for, I could see it in her eyes. As she said she has nightmares and now all those nightmares make sense. It makes me think back to when I used to lay in my husband’s bed watching him sleep with out any trouble, it always really bothered me because deep down I thought he shouldn’t be sleeping that way after the cruel things he did.

I wish I’d stopped him doing those terrible acts I wish I’d given freedom to all the slaves of Rome just like I did Greece. I was only ever able to give equal rights to both genders and I kept Rome peaceful I did I lot to ensure peace based on the same rules I use in Greece. I know that my others laws were stripped away by the Tiberius after I fled but he was never able to override the equal rights for both genders law it had become far to popular and to change it would have crippled him as Emperor, so he had to go with it. One day if I ever get the chance I will end slavery in Rome for good and I will end the Gladiatorial arena Dog Fights because I now know that I was sold a lie. A lie which I should never have listened to, I was so naïve back then. I wanted to see the good in my husband I wanted to believe he could change, I hated him so much for his betrayal yet I never let that hated consume me completely. I just moved on holding in the pain it was easier to be numb and put the focus back on ruling Greece and its people. Looking back it was the right thing to do because I didn’t take out my anger on my people in any way. I just sat in room feeling depressed trying to work through my pain but in my room I found a new friend called drink which helped to numb the pain for a while.

I still use drink to numb my emotions and now I’m drinking because I have no idea how to deal with the love of my life, gods it’s such a joke. Though I don’t state it openly I only worship two of the Greek gods and that’s Ares and Aphrodite, I know it’s strange to worship love and war but that’s what’s my life has been about I am a warrior who brought unity to Greece and not all of it through the sword. Though wars did break out and I tried to stop them through diplomacy before getting involved but only as a last resort my mission was always to liberate people from the tyrant warlords and dictator kings and queens. I thought Greece wasn’t free or kind I felt it could be so much more and I guess that’s why I worship love just as much as war because love is about making others happy and freeing them from pain. Right now though I wish that they’d both reveal this twisted joke to me, because I fail to understand their humour.

Xena took a long drink from her goblet ignoring the fuzzy feeling in her head she knew if she carried on she would soon be very drunk but she saw no reason to stop. She wouldn’t confront Gabrielle when she was drunk since on both occasions she’d made an ass of herself in front of her, the first by being both vindictive as well as cruel and second by chatting her up and making sexual comments. She turned sharply as a knock sounded on her outer door, she breathed in deeply as it occurred to her that since Gabrielle had been unwell no one had knocked had her study door anymore they all preferred now to use her bedrooms double doors. She looked up as knocking came again only harder. “Come in!” She watched as the door opened and Chara walked in with a leather scroll holder in her hand she closed the doors behind her the uncertainty in her eyes. Xena swallowed the last of her wine eyeing her. “What is it?”

Chara eyed the Empress who had clearly been drinking she had already put two and two together after the Empress had left the study but it had been confirmed by palace rumour that Gabrielle in a fit of temper had thrown Thaleia out of her room this morning. She wasn’t stupid, it had all fitted in to place leading her to one simple conclusion Gabrielle had been involved in the androphonomania massacre. She met the Empress’s cold gaze. “Would I be right to assume that Gabrielle took part in the androphonomania massacre Empress?” Xena leaned back in her chair feeling the shock sink in. “How do you know about this!?” Chara breathed in deeply steadying herself. “I’m a scribe you gave me the job here because I can remember just about everything I document and read and I can put two and two together very quickly.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “Who else knows about this?”

Chara looked up slightly. “No one other than Thaleia but as I heard it, her and Gabrielle had an argument this morning in which Gabrielle threw her out of her room. This isn’t like Gabrielle as she sees Thaleia as her sister so I can only assume that it was because of anger and guilt that she would react that way. Gabrielle isn’t good with ether emotion when she’s not thinking straight she can explode in a heartbeat.” Xena eyed the shattered vase. “That is true and I’m in love with her regardless of it.” She downed another goblet of her wine before putting the goblet down hard on the table. “But you know that already don’t you along with the rest of the palace.” Chara took a step forward trying to stay calm the Empress being drunk unnerved her as she had no idea which way her mood would swing. “Yes Empress I do, I’m here because I remember reading about the werewolf with crooked velvet horns.” Xena refilled her goblet again. “Oh yes, it is such wonderful reading isn’t it?” Chara moved closer easing up leather scroll holder. “The problem is you haven’t read all of it Empress.”

Xena eyed the leather scroll holder taking it from her hand. “Why didn’t you give me this with the rest?” Chara tensed lowering her gaze. “I didn’t realize it was missing until I pulled out all the scroll holders and realized that one wasn’t there. Of course I found it again in someone’s room hidden under the bed, clearly Kalika wanted to do one last act of spite against you both before you locked her up. I’m sure she knew this might happen and she wanted to rub salt in to both your wounds and force a wedge between you both by any means necessary should Adrienne fail in her mission. Her taking these scrolls changes the whole perspective of the androphonomania massacre it makes Gabrielle look like a monster, who kills helpless little children.” She eyed the scroll holder watching as the Empress opened it pulling scrolls out of it putting them on the table with the others. “Let’s just say there is another side to this story a side no one believed at the time or could make even less sense off. Even I thought these children here were making up stories to make sense of the horror they’d suffered and that they wanted to fixate on a savour coming to their rescue.” Xena looked up sharply. “Children?”

Chara nodded seeing that she now had the Empress’s full attention. “Not every child died during the androphonomania massacre in every village minus one, a few of the children were found alive by your hoplite army. They weren’t in plain sight they’d been put in wardrobes, clothing chests even in some case the floor boards had been torn up and the children had been put under them. It was very clear that someone was trying to save these children by any means necessary and save them they did because of this person these children are still alive today. It baffled everyone at the time though as they couldn’t understand why you’d kill a whole village but then save some of the children no one. At the time we couldn’t comprehend the notion of a self aware werewolf so instead it was thought to be an unsung hero. Even the children who lived were told that it was a Minotaur who saved them and that the being they said saved them couldn’t be so.” Xena blinked in shock. “Who saved them?” Chara put her hands behind her back. “Please read these scrolls Empress it will all become very clear. Xena grabbed the scrolls easing them up as she started to read them one after the other.

My name is Ladon and I survived the androphonomania massacre but I survived it because a werewolf with crooked horns broke the floorboards of my house and put me under them and then put them back in place then put a dead body on top of the floor boards so I was out of sight. No one believes me not even the hoplites, they say I’m in shock and that it was a Minotaur who saved me but I know what I saw and it wasn’t a Minotaur.”

My mummy and daddy are dead but this wolf saved me it was big and it had funny horns and it spoke, I think it was a girl. It grabbed me and I was so scared but it hugged me and spoke to me, it was so nice and I felt very calm. Then it put me in the wooden chest in my parent’s bedroom and told me that very thing was gonna be okay. It used its claws to make lots of holes in the box so I could breathe then it told me to stay quite until everything was calm and no one was around and then to come out and I did. My name is Octavia, I’m eleven years old, and this is what happened to me.”

These are the words of Klaasr I’m sixteen, I know I’m writing this years on from the events of the androphonomania massacre but at the time I was a young boy I’m a older now and I want to make sense of it all. So I’m writing this in my room in Athens Academy of bards where I’m studying. I will post it to Corinth I hope the scribe in the palace reads it and at least sees some worth in my words. I watched a werewolf tear my mother apart in my village, I was terrified I hid under the table in fear watching as it came for me, I thought I was going to die I was convinced at that moment in time my life was over. Then something happened that changed everything this crooked horned werewolf with bright coloured fur knocked the other one out of the way roaring at it. It then spoke in this strange language which I didn’t understand it wasn’t like any language I had heard before. The first werewolf looked annoyed but left the room then this horned werewolf grabbed me and I thought it was going to kill me until it spoke to me in a soothing female voice using her bloody clawed hand to stroke my face its huge claws never touched me and I could understand what she was she saying.

She then picked me up putting me in the wardrobe telling me to be quite and not to make a sound until it was all quite outside and I did as I was told, she was my friend she was trying to save me. I watched through the crack in the wardrobe as she went out then came back in with a torn bloody limb throwing it to the ground and put fresh blood everywhere she then left closing the door behind her. I stayed quite for hours until the hoplites came and I was saved along with three other children in my village who were all still alive. They all told me a strange werewolf saved them one with horns. No one believed us they said it was a Minotaur and I believed them for many years until I started to study in the academy here I was introduced to a young Minotaur who I’m now studying with. I know that wasn’t a Minotaur it looked nothing like one it was a werewolf with crooked horns.”

Xena felt the shock hit home as she looked up meeting Chara’s gaze. “Their talking about Gabrielle.” Chara nodded. “Yes they are it’s a strange paradox that she’s the werewolf who was killing families yet saving children. For the Imperial Council this was clearly not about turning people, it was about killing everyone in those villages. Yet even in the thick off it she was still defying them, using her commands to over rule her people so these children could be saved. I’m sure if she’d have been caught doing this she would have been public humiliated and branded as a weak king by them yet she still risked it anyway.” Xena put her hands on her face. “Oh gods…” Chara moved a step closer. “Are you alright Empress?” Xena looked up feeling her eyes dart. “No I’m not feeling alright, I had an argument with her I called her an animal and I didn’t believe her when she said she didn’t kill the children.” Chara put her hands together seeing the pain the Empress’s eyes. “You made a mistake you didn’t have all the information Empress.”

Xena breathed in sharply. “No I judged her just like I did when I found out that she was a werewolf, I didn’t believe her when she was telling the truth and when it really mattered and when she really needed me to listen.” She put a hand through her hair in frustration. “I screwed this up badly Chara.” Chara shook her head. “We all make mistakes Empress and we forgive the ones we care about.” Xena looked up putting her hands together even though Chara wasn’t talking openly about her lover the message was very clear regardless. She eyed the scrolls as she felt a sense of purpose take over, she wanted to hear the story in these scrolls from someone who had been there. “Are any of these children living in Corinth?” Chara eyed the scrolls not quite sure where the Empress was going with this. “Only one and that’s Ladon, he’s currently training to be a hoplite and very soon he’ll be ready to join the main army.” Xena eased up the scroll as she stood up from her table no longer caring for her wine as she put the jug to one side and downed the goblet, for the first time in a long time feeling no urge to refill it again as she put the empty goblet down. “I want a meeting with him, today.”

Chara blinked in surprise. “Today?” Xena eyed the scroll. “Yes today I want him in my throne room with in the next few hours.” Chara eyed the taller woman seeing the seriousness in her eyes, clearly she wanted this. “I’ll see that it’s done, though may I ask why do you want to meet him?” Xena eased up the scroll. “These are truthful words from a boy, but I want to see and speak to the man and hear this story from a survivor I want to see things from his perspective, I’ll be waiting for him in the throne room.” Chara nodded as she walked towards the door. “I’ll have him brought to you as fast as I can Empress, I’ll get Demetrius on it right away.” Xena raised her hand. “I assume that no one else is aware of what you know right now about the Androphonomania massacre?” Chara turned as she opened the doubles doors. “No Empress only myself and Thaleia and she won’t tell anyone.” Xena nodded. “I’d like to keep it that way before I tell the palace staff and when I do I intend to spin this in Gabrielle’s favour and put everything on the Imperial Councils shoulders.” Chara nodded in understanding as she looked up. “That would be a wise choice Empress, though I feel it’s already on the Imperial Councils shoulders.” She turned closing the door behind her, not thinking as she broke in to a run she had to get this man to palace as quickly as possible.

8

So I’m unworthy of my sword, maybe she’s right maybe I am but her saying it hurts more than anything, I feel like the world has crashed around me and everything I thought about myself was wrong. I thought I was noble but I guess no act of nobility will ever wash away the blood of the androphonomania massacre but maybe that’s no surprise no normal person would forgive me for that. Not even one whose in love with me, I feel terrible for accusing her of using me as a sexual conquest, I deeply regret saying that because deep down I know that she clearly loved me. Not that she loves me anymore and I wouldn’t blame her ether for not doing so. She’s right I am just a stupid over grown dog whose breaks things, I ruin all my friendships and my relationships always end in tragedy. When I loose my temper it becomes about breaking things because I can’t control my emotions they rule me and not in a very positive way and I just end up hurting people even those I love. I wish I could stop crying but I can’t, everything just hurts too much and I have no idea where to start to fix this.

I don’t now how to say I didn’t kill those children, I don’t kill children I tried to save some of those children not that it matters now she doesn’t believe me anyway. I never knew if any of them survived they probably didn’t knowing the way my life tends to work out. Ether way I’m sitting here with no idea what to do, it’s something I’ve only ever experienced at one other time in my life. That was when the Amazons threw me out in to the wild as a child and I had no idea how to even survive or what to do I was in complete limbo. I sit here now feeling just the same way I don’t know whether to come or go all I can feel is my pains and tears. I keep looking at the half filled bag of opium next to me and it’s taking every inch of resistance in my soul to stop myself from putting it in my pipe and smoking it. I hate this it used to be so easy for me to smoke opium I used to drown in it with such ease. Yet now I don’t want it to rule my life and I’ve been trying so hard to stop smoking it, just because I want to remain clear and focused and not numb.

Right now I’m smoking coltsfoot and it’s doing nothing to dull my pain which is like a crushing agony which is so hard to deal with. I want to break things so badly just to still the rage with in my heart but I know it won’t help and I’d only breaking all the things I love, I’ve already broken one of the things which Xena loves. I’ve fed Icos and put out enough food for him to last a week, I now have a feeling which is pulling me so strongly it’s become overwhelming it’s the only clear feeling I have and its that I should leave the palace but not because I want to run away. I have no where else to go and I’m no fool this is my home it’s the only real home I have ever had. Even if people in that home are not proud of me I would never leave it for good it would mean my death if I ever returned to the Grand City. The truth is I just need to get out and be away from everything and everyone so I can be alone. I need to go somewhere were I can think straight once more because I can’t do it here the memories of everything that’s been said today they are still to fresh in my mind.

Gabrielle eased herself up on to her feet breathing out the smoke from her pipe as she moved to her desk grabbing hold of a medium sized dark brown leather back pack which had a thick black wolf skin cover. She had asked for just in case she needed it, yet she hadn’t needed to use it until now she didn’t think as she opened her chest putting some coin in to her pocket while putting the rest in her bag. She walking in to her workshop grabbing the new wooden bird she had made which had opening wings, she had finished it two days ago but wasn’t complete as it had not been painted. It was a gift for Xena but now she didn’t want her to see it and she’d rather wait until another time to give it to her even if she refused it. She put it away carefully then moved back in to her bedroom putting two days worth of clothes and some food in to her pack. She grabbed both of pipes and the silver sovereign putting them in to her shirt pocket.

She painfully wiped away her tears she knew she needed more but she couldn’t be bothered to pack it. She had coin and she could buy things, even if her coin was old. She turned hearing Xena’s door open on the other side once again followed by footsteps up the hall moving away from her. She grabbed her dark brown leather coat putting it on to keep the cold out then slung the pack over one shoulder. It would be dusk soon and she wanted to leave before darkness fell. She opened her double doors stepping out she watching as Xena turned the corridor up a head vanishing from sight. She closed her doors very carefully so they didn’t make any sound while looking in the opposite direction. She knew where to go she knew the corridors from memory. There were more than five ways to get off the highest floor, she took in a deep breath steadying her self as she began to walk in the opposite direction breathing out the smoke in her mouth as she focused on working her way to the front gates, which she knew the guards would open for her with out question.

End of part 77

 

A SAINTLY ACT HIDDEN WITH IN A HORRIFIC SIN

 

Xena sat back in her chair she was bored as soon as Chara had left she had gone to the throne room and now she was waiting for the Ladon. She looked at the scroll again eyeing his writing, so this was a boy who had survived the massacre and one of the ones Gabrielle had saved. She wanted to hear his story and see what he looked like now that he was a young man. She breathed in she was glad that she hadn’t drunken anymore because she wanted to do this right by seeing things with crystal clarity and not be foggy in any way shape or form. She looked up sharply as the double doors were opened and Demetrius walked in closely followed by two hoplites in full armour. He looked slightly confused as he spoke. “At your request Empress I bring you Ladon and his trainer Milo.” Xena sat up slightly in her throne watching as both men went down on one knee remaining there as they put there shields forward in the formal position. She turned to Demetrius who looked at them in amusement she understood why he used to do this all the time when they had first met.

He didn’t do it any longer though as she considered him a close friend who no longer had to bow in her presence. She raised her hand. “Thank you Demetrius.” Demetrius nodded as he stepped back taking his position close by as both hoplites eased them selves up on to their feet and took of their helmets. She knew Demetrius would hear this conversation but she didn’t really care as she’d explain everything to him later. She raised the scroll in her other hand eyeing the young hoplite. He was about nineteen years old and had short curly blonde hair and grey eyes. On his neck was a faded claw mark though it was slightly hidden by his armour. He was not nearly as well muscled as the burley man next to him who was in his late thirties and blind in one eye he was also smiled smugly showing of two bronze teeth. It didn’t take a genius to see that he was the type with occupations and he clearly saw the younger man being here as a means to go up in rank or pull some sort of deal. She leaned back in her throne eyeing the young man who looked nervous. “Ladon is it?”

The young man was about to speak only to stop as he was interrupted by his trainer. “Yes Empress this is Ladon, he’s one of my best and I’m sure he will make a welcome addition to your palace staff.” Xena breathed in deeply as she turned back to the Ladon. “I have a note you wrote here during the androphonomania massacre, would I be right?” Ladon eyed the note in her hand he wouldn’t lie was scared right now, the woman sitting on this throne in front of him looked very formidable. He’d seen her face on coins but to see her in person was something completely different all together she looked like a goddess with her ice blue eyes and long black hair. He had no idea why he’d been called to the palace he wasn’t sure if he was in trouble or if it was something more. He watched as his trainer Milo gave him a cold look no one in barracks liked him talking about the androphonomania massacre despite that he’d been there. He had also just gone with the Minotaur story because no one had ever believed his real story, he swallowed before speaking. “Yes Empress I was there and that is my journal but what I put in that piece was a mistake I was a child trying to rationalize my situation.”

Xena nodded clearly he was playing on the story that he’d been forced to use by others, she eased up the scroll. “The Minotaur story, tell me about that story I’m curious.” Ladon stepped forward he knew this story was a lie and that he was lying to the ruler of the Greek Empire but he knew the Empress would never believe the truth no one ever had. “The werewolves attacked us and one killed my father, I was saved because a Minotaur broke in to the house and saved me from the werewolf then hid me away, he was the savour of three children including myself in my village.” Milo stepped closer eyeing the dark haired woman whose face was unreadable. “You can’t blame the boy for putting these things down in that scroll he wrote I mean werewolves are disgusting, vile monsters and though I don’t understand your reasons for stopping us hunting them Empress I understand that the androphonomania massacre was a difficult time.” Xena looked up sharply feeling her hand form a fist as she met his dark gaze. “I will say this only once, do not interrupt again while Ladon is speaking Milo, or I will have you removed from my throne room.”

She watched as Milo stepped back looking out of his depth as he lowered his head speaking quietly. “As you command Empress.” She turned back to Ladon after hearing his thoughts on werewolves she wanted to keep him in the throne room just to hear the young man’s story so he would be forced to stomach the truth. She eyed the scroll again looking at Ladon as she spoke in a softer voice. “That’s a very interesting story but I know it’s not the real story. I understand why you’re not telling me the truth I’m sure you have been laughed at for a long time and you have been told that your story wasn’t real as it was a contradiction. Even the hoplites I sent to your village as a child told you that it didn’t happen and that you identified your savour wrongly.” She leaned over picking up the object which had been hidden behind her chair she raised it watching as the shock spread across his face as he stared at the crooked horn in her hand. It was one of Gabrielle’s from when her horns had fallen out. She’d kept them both and had them cleaned of blood and dried. “Do you recognise this?”

Ladon breathed in feeling his body tense as he looked up. “Yes I recognise it…I never thought I’d see it again, no one ever believed me.” Xena felt a warm smile form. “It’s funny how it looks, I understand why a lot of the children including yourself would say crooked it does look like a tormented tree, doesn’t it?” Ladon nodded. “Yes it does Empress.” Xena felt her smile widen. “Before you get concerned the owner of these horns is not dead or hurt, she’s is in fact a close friend of mine and a royal in her own right. Her horns though do fall out just a deer’s, it would seem though that a brand new set is now growing in their place though they look nothing like this, there’s no twisting in the points and they are both strong and well defined.” She put the horn down on the table next to her throne turning to young man. “So tell me what really happened that night Ladon, the truth the one that the whole of the Greek Empire deserves to hear.” Ladon lowered his shield putting it on the floor as he moved a step closer. “Here’s the truth.”

He paused it had been such a long time since he’d been able to tell this story and now to tell it to the Empress of Greece really meant something. It meant that when he had been younger he had not just made up a story to make sense of his horrific situation, to him it had all been real. “I woke up to screaming in the middle of the night, it was the type of screaming you never forget because it was chilling to the bone. I got out of my bed and walked to the window I could see people outside being ripped to pieces, there was blood everywhere. I ran to my door only for it to be smashed apart by werewolf who threw me to the floor the moment he saw me. I watched through the broken door as another one tour my fathers throat out in the kitchen, he’d been trying to protect me I could see a sword in his hand.” Xena eyed him for a long moment. “The werewolves they weren’t unclothed though were they?” Ladon shook his head. “No they weren’t Empress they wore bronze armour on their chests which had shifting plates and they wore clothing to cover their privates and some even had helmets on to protect their faces.”

He ignored the shock in Milo’s face. “They even had their own language though it didn’t sound Greek it wasn’t like language I’d ever heard before.” Xena nodded. “So they weren’t mindless monsters to you, they came across as cultured?” Ladon nodded. “Yes Empress they had culture despite the horrible things which they were doing. I would have looked up on them as we do any Satyr, Minotaur or Centaur intelligent and with human thought but unlike those other races they were brutal and violent at least that’s what I thought at first, what followed was strange beyond words.” He lowered his gaze. “The two werewolves came towards me they were going to rip me apart like my father but then this strange looking werewolf entered the house. She had dark golden fur and crooked velvet covered horns she was wearing bronze chest armour and gauntlets and had a thick decorated hanging cloth as well as a thick black leather belt which had silver symbols on it.”

Xena leaned on her elbow. “What did this golden werewolf do next, hurt you?” Ladon shook his head. “No she did nothing of the sort, she saved me she spoke to the two other werewolves in that strange language and they left the house, they weren’t happy about it but they did as they were told. Then she came towards me and I thought I was going to die so I started to cry but then this golden werewolf spoke to me in normal Greek in a soothing female voice. She put her clawed hand on my head and told me not to cry and that everything was going to be okay, she calmed me down. I’ll never forget her face though she had green eyes which reflected in the darkness and on her right eye was a deep diagonal scar. It’s always perplexed me that something that can be so dangerous can also look very beautiful in the right light” Xena put her finger to her lip. “I understand what you mean by that, tell me what was the expression in her eyes?” Ladon breathed in as he spoke. “It was a sad expression the look of someone who was dying inside.”

Xena put her hands together eyeing the faded scar on his neck. “I know that scar on your neck was made by claws did the golden werewolf give you that scar?” Ladon eyed the scar. “Yes but it wasn’t intentional she tour up the floor boards and then carefully put me down under them so I was in the gap inside the foundations but when she let me go her claws dug in by mistake leaving a bleeding wound. It wasn’t that deep but she looked horrified that she’d done it, even though it was done by mistake, I saw it in her eyes. She then put the floor boards back in to place and told me to be very quite until the noise has stopped outside then she dragged my father’s body over the floorboards so no one would see what she’d done. Then she was gone and I never saw her again, I hold no ill will towards her the other werewolves were trying to kill me but she was trying to save me. I wouldn’t be standing here today if not for her actions also the wound on my neck has healed and I see it as very meaningful scar.” Xena leaned back in her throne. “Tell me why did you become a hoplite was it to get revenge for what happened with the werewolves?”

Ladon shook his head. “No I’ve became a hoplite to save people, because I know what it means to be saved by someone even if that someone isn’t human.” Xena leaned forward hearing Gabrielle’s words repeat in her head from so long ago. “I would never harm a child it goes against everything I believe in.” She looked up meeting his gaze. “I’m going to give an offer that will change your life Ladon.” Milo blinked in shock. “Hey where he goes I go!” Xena turned sharply. “Quite, unless Ladon wants you to be here you are not going anywhere!” She turned back to young man. “How would you like the opportunity to be a hoplite here in the palace? My head of the royal guard Demetrius will finish your training and you’ll join the royal guard.” Ladon’s turned eyeing the older man who was the closest thing he had to a father even if he was a grouchy old man at times he had always taken care of him and been there when he needed someone to talk to. “Please I apologise for Milo’s behaviour he has become a father to me and I would only take this position if he could join me.”

Milo looked down. “The boy speaks the truth I have no children of my own and though he may not be my blood I do see him as my son, his being in the barracks is the only thing that makes me happy.” Xena eyed the older man clearly she had misjudged him quite a lot she had assumed that he was trying to move up the ladder or escape his boring position but he was here because he saw this boy as his son. She turned to Ladon. “I grant you your wish you’re father can come with you, I’m sure my staff can find a place for him here.” Ladon breathed in deeply. “Why would my being here matter so much to you Empress, why offer me this position?” Xena looked up meeting his uncertain gaze. “The events of the androphonomania massacre have always been hated by the Corinthian diplomats, I intend to change that and you are going to be my voice. You were there and you will free the very werewolf who saved you from being blamed as in the eyes of some, she could be seen as the person who brought about that massacre.”

She sat up in her throne “Yet her actions are of someone who clearly wanted to save lives and not take them and her actions were going against that of her people.” Ladon raised an eyebrow. “If it will free her from persecution then I will do as you have asked Empress.” Xena stood up walking over to him putting her hand on his shoulder. “You’re a fine warrior your father has clearly brought you up well.” She felt a smile form. “You’ll also get the chance to meet the werewolf who saved again, she’s alive and well and living here inside the palace and I’ll make sure that you two are introduced some time in the future.” Ladon’s nodded as she stepped away. “I would like that a lot Empress.” She turned to Demetrius who was taking in everything which had been said. “Please escort these two to their new rooms.” Demetrius nodded his head before looking up. “I’ll see it done Empress and I’ll put them in their new positions in the palace tomorrow morning.”

8

Gabrielle walked slowly down the long cobble path she could see the palace gates in the distance looming over her. They were as high as the walls themselves and very heavily guarded. No one had seen her leaving as she had avoided them by taking the corridors which weren’t used that often. This was the final leg of the trip and no one would stop her once the gates were opened. She ignored the statues which lined the courtyard all around her. Not far back she could see three wagons filled to the brim with werewolf parts clearly everyone had been taking notice of the law and were handing in their werewolf trophies. She had no heart to look in side them she knew it was only make her feel even worse. She didn’t want to see anymore dead bodies of her own people, seeing Damokles’s mounted body had been hard enough. These bodies also showed her failings as a leader because she hadn’t had the power to stop any of these people from dying. She wiped away her tears painfully as she took in a deep breath from her pipe before breathing out the smoke.

“Don’t cry little one.”

Gabrielle’s stopped still turning slowly around watching as a middle aged small woman came in to view. She was about her height and had long wavy black hair which was loosely tied back. Her eyes were a piecing light blue colour and she was dressed in white chiton robes which had a woven gold edges. Around her waist was a cream belt which had decorated golden designs. She wore simple red earrings and beautiful bronze bracelets on both wrists while on her feet were pure white sandals. She had soft features and was smiling warmly, it was odd because her clothes didn’t quite match those of the staff but then she knew that sometimes the staff went out in the evenings and this could be this woman’s evening dress. She blinked she was sure that no one had been near by but then she hadn’t been paying attention. This woman could have followed her down from the stables which were just opposite the courtyard. She took in a deep breath from her pipe again before breathing out the smoke. She was unable to keep the pain out of her voice as she spoke. “I wasn’t crying.”

The woman moved a step closer to her, her smile widening. “Still a beautiful young woman like you shouldn’t be shedding tears.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment realizing that it was cold and that this woman wasn’t even wearing a coat. She had to be very cold, and truth was that she could handle this kind of weather. She put down her bag as she pulled off her coat easing it towards her. “Would you like my coat? It’s very cold and your clothes don’t look warm.” The woman raised her hand. “Your very kind but I don’t need a coat.” Gabrielle moved her coat closer to her. “Please I insist.” The woman shook her head. “No I do not need it I am as warm as I can ever be.” Gabrielle eased her coat back on followed by her bag. She looked up noticing that the male and female guard in front of the gates were both looking at her strangely. She turned away from them she didn’t care about their feelings on her actions there was nothing wrong with giving someone else your coat.

She turned back to the woman who was still smiling. “What’s your name? I’ve never seen you before.” The woman smoothed down her robes in a gentle motion before speaking in her soft kind voice. “My name is Cyrene.” Gabrielle folded her arms leaning against one of the statues opposite. “Pleased to meet you, my name is Gabrielle.” The woman smile widened. “I know.” Gabrielle felt as sad smile form as spoke in a half hearted tone. “It must be my winning personality.” The woman moved a step closer to her. “You say that like your personality is a bad thing.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Maybe it is, I’m not good with my emotions.” She paused realizing that she was speaking openly to this older woman and she wasn’t being guarded. She was talking to her in the way she used to talk to her father when she had been a little girl. Despite realizing this she felt no need to close up emotionally the woman in front of her seemed so kind and her presence was calming in a way she couldn’t describe.

The woman put her hands together as she looked up. “I don’t think any person is perfect with their emotions we all make mistakes.” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “Yes but I just can’t fix the problems I make with mine, no matter what I do or how hard I try, I just screw things up.” The woman gently put her hand on her face running it down her cheek in a gentle and soothing motion. “You’re being too hard yourself, you should have more faith things are never as bad as they appear everything can be fixed in time.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t think I can fix this.” The woman shook her head. “You’re just going through a hard patch that’s all and your inner wounds will heal in time.” Gabrielle watched as the woman eased her hand away. “Your very kind and I don’t even know you.” She watched as the woman gave her a very knowing smile before speaking. “I know you I see you in the royal gardens from time to time I know that you’re a good person, I think that you forget that at times.”

Gabrielle looked up. “Perhaps but it doesn’t change what I have done.” The woman turned to look at the palace. “You shouldn’t leave the palace tonight you should go back to your room because things will always work out.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath from her pipe before blowing the smoke in another direction. “No I need to take this walk I’m not running away I just need to clear my head.” The woman nodded as look of understanding appeared on her face. “I think once in a while we all need to take a walk to find out who we really are, so long as we return to the place we belong then that’s all that really matters.” Gabrielle nodded as she looked up. “This is my home it’s the only real home I’ve ever known, I would never leave it for good.” She watched as the woman raised an eyebrow. “Then I’m sure you’ll find a way to fix things in the end.” Gabrielle looked up as she took a step back. “You’re a very kind woman I hope we get the chance to speak again.”

The woman stepped back further. “I’m sure we will.” Gabrielle turned raising her hand. “If you’ve lost your way you just need to carry on walking up the path when you will reach the courtyard the guards will be able to help you find who ever it is you are waiting for.” The older woman smiled as she shook her head. “There’s no need for that, this is my home everything that matters to me is here.” Gabrielle nodded respectfully. “Then I’ll let you get on with your night.” She walked towards the gates seeing that the two guards were still looking at her strangely, she felt a sneer form. “What?” The male guard’s eyes darted as he looked at the female guard before speaking. “Nothing Horn Hind.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “Open the gates.” The male guard nodded. “As you wish Horn Hind.” He raised his sword giving the signal causing the guards on top of the wall to grab the turning mechanisms on both sides of the gate.

Both of the guards in front of her stood aside as the huge gate slowly opened she took in a deep breath as she walked through them watching as they slowly closed behind her and the huge city of Corinth came in to view in front of her. All that separated the palace from the city was a long path which had guards on both sides she could hear the noise even from this distance. The sounds of talking, people walking and horses moving through the streets, it was the sounds of life and chaos and the distant normality of every day life. The last time she’d gone outside these walls she’d been dragged back in chains and then punched in a dark room. The difference now was that she knew no one would do that to her she was free to come and go as she pleased, her life had changed so much that she didn’t even recognise it at times. Even though it was dusk she knew that the stalls would still open and that she could look at them and buy from them. She walked forward very slowly taking in every sight and sound she wanted to breath it all in and feel the experience in every way she could.

End of part 78

 

ETERNAL WAVES SHIFTING IN THE CANDLE LIGHT

It’s so quite there’s not a sound just a warm silence which is all encompassing and all around me like a blanket. Wait I’m dreaming I shouldn’t be dreaming oh gods what’s wrong with me? I came back to my room and I was reading androphonomania massacre scrolls again the ones about the children Gabrielle saved but I fell asleep. Xena eased out her hand watching as the darkness around her slowly faded away as the royal gardens appeared. She was standing at the far end of the gardens in her full armour, she looked up seeing that the sun above her was lighting up everything around her, she could see birds flying around her as well as hear them singing enjoying the morning light. There was a warm breeze moving through the trees she closed her eyes enjoying the sensation, it was like a beautiful summer day. On days like these she loved to be out in the gardens. She stood still enjoying the whole sensation this was such a nice dream it wasn’t often that her dreams were this vivid and she really wanted to savour every moment of it.

“You know you shouldn’t be so hard on her.”

Xena turned sharply watching as a tall man with bronze skin came in to view he was about her height with dark black hair and beard he had light blue eyes which were a very similar colour to her own. He was dressed in bronze armour which had shifting plates and under the plating was a thick white shirt. He wore dark brown trousers and knee high black boots she could see a sword strapped to his thick black belt. He was leaning against the apple tree opposite in his hand was an apple which he was tossing and catching. She stepped closer to him eyeing his other hand there were two rings on it, one of which she didn’t recognise but the other she did, she’d never forget it for as long as she lived. She felt the shock hit home as she looked up meeting his calm gaze. “Are you Damokles?” The man’s smile turned a wide grin as he spoke in a gentle voice. “Yes I am.” He took a bite out of his apple enjoying the flavour as he turned to her. “I was going to introduce myself but you recognise me.”

Xena breathed in stepping closer to him feeling slightly unsure of herself this was Gabrielle’s forma lover a man she’d cared about and still loved even though he had been taken away from her. “Yes I recognise you Gabrielle described you so well when she talks about you.” She took in a deep breath. “I also recognised your bronze ring.” Damokles eyed the ring for a long moment. “I know it mattered a lot to Gabrielle she kept it for many years even after I had died.” Xena felt herself tense. “Are you a ghost?” Damokles looked up slightly. “Yes I am, did you know that dreams are the fine line between the world of the living and the underworld but only those who have been granted eternality in the Elysian Fields can say hello to people from time to time.” Xena felt her eyes dart in confusion. “Why did you want to say hello to me?” Damokles moved away from the tree raising his hand. “I wanted to meet you, I hear Gabrielle’s thoughts you know and you’re never far from them I wanted to meet the person who has made her happy, it’s been such a long time since she’s been happy.”

Xena swallowed she now felt completely out of her depth. “I’m not trying to take her away from you or cause her any harm. I love her I just want her to be happy.” Damokles shook his head. “You misunderstand my intentions I’m not here to say she’s mine or force you away from her, I want what’s best for her I want her to be happy and live her life and be with someone who loves her the way I do.” He moved his hand up putting it on her shoulder. “You’ve been so good to her, I was cursed to watch you from that mounted body before I was freed from it and in the beginning I saw what you did to her and how you treated her and I was so angry with you.” Xena lowered her gaze feeling the guilt hit home. “I’m so sorry I was foolish and I hate myself for what I did to her and I’ll do everything in my power to right that wrong even if it takes me the rest of my life.”

Damokles shook his head. “You made a mistake I understand everyone does it but what’s means a lot to me is that you turned it all around and you did what was right for her, you became the one friend she truly needed and you gave her everything she ever wanted and you listened to her and you’ve been there when she needed to talk, Adrienne never gave her that kind of love.” Xena felt a cold sneer form. “I hate Adrienne the thought that she ever treated Gabrielle like she was a sexual object disgusts me.” Damokles breathed in trying to stay in control of his anger. “The feeling is mutual I only wish Gabrielle had ended her life but I feel that the gods kept her alive for a reason which has yet to be revealed to ether of us.” He gently squeezed her shoulder. “What matters though is that she now has you and you make her happy and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.”

Xena slowly met his gaze. “You’re every bit the thoughtful and kind man she talked about.” Damokles smiled patting her chest plate just bellow the waist. “She’s always been so kind to those she loves.” He looked up slightly. “You two had an argument recently though didn’t you?” Xena felt her body tense as she looked at the floor. “Yes we did, it wasn’t her fault I’m to blame I misjudged her even when she was telling the truth.” Damokles felt his smile fade. “Let me tell you something about Gabrielle, she never lies she spoke more truth than anyone I ever knew. That’s was why she became my second in command because I could trust her above all others and I could depend on her when it really mattered. It’s true she doesn’t always say what she feels and sometimes she has problems expressing her emotions, she also can’t control her rage at times but underneath it all she’s a good person who believes so strongly in being honourable and noble.”

He shook his head sadly. “She may keep things from you but she keeps them back out of fear because she’s afraid to feel and afraid to love. It pains me that Adrienne twisted her in a shadow of her forma self who became so bitter and unhappy and wanted nothing more than to die. The truth is she needs you right now more than anyone you bring out the best in her.” He took in a painfully breath. “I am going to tell you something now which I didn’t tell her when I visited her in her dreams a long time ago, I know who killed me, I saw his face his name was Bastiaan.” Xena felt her eyes dart. “Why didn’t you tell her this?” Damokles shook his head sadly. “Because I know that if she knows the truth she’ll spend every second of every day, hunting this man down so she can have her revenge. I don’t want her to waste her life away by doing that I want her to be happy and live her life.”

He paused feeling his smile fade. “I want to ask something off you, I know a time will come when she will get hold of that bastard but I want you to promise me that you’ll make sure that he dies but not by her hand.” Xena felt her eyes dart. “Why are you asking this of me? I know it’s not just about the blood on her hands.” Damokles slowly met her gaze. “Our son should always see the good side of his mother.” Xena nodded seeing the concern in his eyes. “I will for fill your wish, I will kill Bastiaan myself if I have to.” Damokles breathed in deeply. “Thank you I know it’s a lot to ask of you but it means a lot to me.” Xena lowered her head sadly. “I’m sorry for your son he was to young to be taken away like that but it must be nice that you are with him in the Elysian Fields.” Damokles raised his hand. “This is the other thing you need to know, our son is not dead he is alive and well.”

He watched as the shock spread across her face. “Gabrielle has not told you this because she’s protecting him, she gave him to Iris after his birth because he was born human, she wanted him to have a normal life and she wanted him to be safe. If the Imperial Council knew about him, they would find him and kill him or use him against her. I have watched him grow up and he is happy but he belongs with Gabrielle, this is one of the reasons I came to you tonight because you mean so much to her and I know you can persuade her to go and get him back or even bring him back to her regardless.” Xena felt her eyes dart as what he’d said slowly sunk in. “Her son…is alive.” It was more of a statement that a question she slowly met the tall mans gaze. “How old is now?” Damokles felt a warm smile form. “He’s five and takes after his mother he has her eyes but he has my hair colour and skin colour.” He paused raising his eyebrow. “He could in fact pass for your son, since we aren’t so different in appearance.”

He put his hands behind his back as he stepped back not saying anymore as he could see in her eyes that she was thinking through what he had said which had a double meaning. Xena looked up sharply. “There’s something I don’t understand.” Damokles turned to meet her gaze. “What’s that?” Xena breathed in deeply trying to word her next sentence carefully. “Why help me this way, I mean aren’t you jealous of me?” Damokles turned to face her. “Are you jealous of me?” Xena shook her head. “No I’m not jealous of you and it’s not because your dead it’s because I respect that Gabrielle loved you. My husband was a tyrant but I won’t lie that I still miss him and still love him in some strange way.” Damokles eased up his hand stroking his beard. “I’m not jealous of you, I had my time with Gabrielle and she made me very happy but I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life miserable, I want her be happy and if being happy means she finds someone new to love then so be it.”

He looked at the bronze ring on his finger. “I’ll do everything in my power to ensure her happiness that is why I’m helping you.” Xena shook her head sadly. “It’s sad that you’re no longer alive, I think in another life maybe you and I would have been good friends.” Damokles laughed slightly. “Perhaps maybe I wouldn’t be a werewolf and would have become a member of the Illyrian royal council had my parents not died, maybe I would have even gone on to marry to Queen Sophia but who knows what destiny has in store for all.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Does she love me?” Damokles put a hand on her shoulder again. “I think you already know the answer that.” Xena lowered her gaze trying to ignore the pain in heart as she spoke. “I just wish she’d say it.” Damokles kept hold of her shoulder. “Don’t worry she will, which is all the more reason for you to wake up now.” Xena turned sharply. “No I don’t want to wake up now, not when I have just met you.”

Damokles wrapped his arms around her giving her a warm hug ignoring her surprise. “Stubborn woman I can see why she likes you but you have to wake up now, I can’t tell you why only that it’s very important, after all you weren’t meant to fall asleep were you?” Xena breathed in painfully as his arms tightened around her. “Thank you for visiting me, it’s nice to finally meet you.” She watched as the world around her suddenly blasted in to blinding white light. Damokles watched as the blinding white light started to designate the world around them. “Same here, take good care of her.” Xena felt her eyes snap open as jolted awake in a painful motion, she blinked as the white light cleared from her eyes. She looked around her, her bedroom was in complete darkness and she could see the moon in the sky high above. She eased up her hand eyeing the scrolls on the desk as she stood up from her chair, she could remember the whole dream with crystal clarity. She shook her head she had never in her life been visited by a ghost and now that she had she felt slightly out of her depth.

She eyed the scrolls she could remember now what she’d been meaning to do and that was to apologise to Gabrielle and set everything right. That was what she’d come in the room to do but the wine she’d drunken earlier had caught up with her and she dozed off in her chair. She stood up ignoring the dull pain in her back as she walked up to the central door knocking gently. “Gabrielle.” She paused hearing no answer she knocked again only harder. “Gabrielle look I just want to talk to you, can we please talk?” She took hold of handle she had to talk to her and she didn’t care if she got an angry response for opening the door. She pushed the central door open walking inside only to be greeted by an empty room there wasn’t even a candle lit. She walked in side even in the darkness she could see that the bed was empty and the younger woman’s pet was fast asleep on one of the posts. She stepped forward looking around her as she spoke. “Gabrielle?” She turned eyeing the bathing area which was empty before stepping out and opening the workshop door very slowly seeing that it was also empty.

She felt her body tense something was really wrong she could feel it in the pit of her stomach Gabrielle always left a candle burning and she was normally sleeping now, yet she was no where in sight. She stepped back in to the other woman’s bedroom catching sight of the package on the table she picked up instantly picking up the smell off opium. She put it down realizing the package had been brought out but clearly had not been opened somewhere down the line Gabrielle had made a choice not to use it. The coltsfoot which was normally on her desk was missing though she felt her gaze drift as it realized that there were other things missing. She felt her heart start to suddenly beat faster oh gods something was very wrong here she could feel it. She found herself bolting in to a run she had to be in the gardens she was sure of it! She wouldn’t leave, would she? No she’d never left the palace even though she knew she could. She liked it here she’d always said this was her home no this wasn’t her home it was their home, they both belonged here together. She couldn’t stand the thought of her leaving the palace the thought of that was like someone tearing out her still beating heart.

She turned opening both doors looking around the empty corridor she was out the gardens she had to be out there, she was always there. She looked up catching sight of Iona as she turned the corridor opposite. She didn’t think as she grabbed her by her shoulder only to feel a cold point as it pressed against her waist as the other woman turned around in a lighting fast motion. She watched as Iona blinked in surprise as she met her gaze. Iona swallowed pulling her dagger away from the taller woman’s waist feeling her eyes dart. “I’m so sorry Empress…I wasn’t trying to attack you…its force of habit.” Xena shook her head raising her hand. “Its fine, don’t concern yourself Iona I’d do the same thing if someone grabbed my shoulder in the darkness at this hour.” Iona looked up seeing a look in the Empress’s eyes which she’d never seen before, it was panic. “Is everything alright Empress?” Xena felt her eyes dart. “Have you seen Gabrielle?” Iona shook her head. “No Empress.” She paused feeling uncertain as she spoke her next words. “Did something happen between you two?”

Xena took in a painful breath letting go of her shoulder. “We had an argument and I said some things I shouldn’t have and I’ve just searched her room and she’s not there.” She stepped back. “Now I need to find her.” Iona put her dagger back in to her belt. “Would you like my help Empress? I can get my men to cover the royal gardens and the palace very quickly.” Xena turned to her. “Yes I would like that and if any of them find her have them to tell me right away where she is I want to be the first to speak to her.” Iona nodded as she walked away from the taller woman. “I will get on it right away Empress.” Xena stepped closer to her realizing that she didn’t give this woman nearly enough credit at times despite that she was always there for her. It was also clear to her that this woman had come on in leaps and bounds in these past few months and she wasn’t the same person she had been. “Thank you Iona.” She looked up slightly. “I know that I don’t give you enough credit at times and I should, as I consider you one of the most important people in my palace and if you weren’t here to help my life would be so much harder.”

Iona stopped in mid motion the Empress was giving her a compliment she never ever gave her compliments. Oh she’d said thank you from time to time but never anything like this. Xena breathed in deeply watching as the surprise spread across Iona’s face. “I know the jobs I sometime ask of you are not pleasant. I know that there are times when you must think that I just see you as my bloody right hand but believe me I see you as much more than that. Your someone I can depend on and in all the years I’ve known you, I’ve never been worried or concerned about your loyalty and looking back at the event with the royals it has become very clear to me that I haven’t been giving you the same kind of treatment as I give to Demetrius and in future I intend to change that, as you should both be equal in my eyes as I consider you both my friends.” Iona breathed in trying to control the emotions in side she felt so out of her depth and she didn’t know what to do or say. She had never expected the Empress to say this. She looked up recomposing herself as her grandfathers words came back to her. “When those of high standing see your great honour then you should give a piece of that honour to them to show your compassion and loyalty.”

She leaned down easing a long aged double edged dagger free from her boot she carefully placed it her hands then eased it out towards the Empress lowering her head respectfully. “Thank you Empress, if it pleases you then please take this dagger in my hands, it’s not much but it matters to me. It was the first weapon I ever brought I know its old and its points no longer sharp but it’s a piece of my honour and I give it to you with my highest regards and hope that I will never disappoint you again.” Xena gently took the dagger from her hand she knew just what this meant. Warriors like Iona did not bow like Demetrius instead when they felt they had gained honour they gave up an important possession to the person who had honoured them. She eyed the dagger she knew now that as long as Iona was here she would always be loyal, her giving up this item meant total loyalty until her dying day. She looked up watching as Iona stood up fully. “It’s an honour to receive this from you.” Iona nodded. “Thank you.” She turned away fully recomposing herself as she felt a smile form. “I’ll go to the barracks and have my men find Gabrielle.”

8

Demetrius walked up the corridor it was late and he wanted to go to bed, he was starting to feel tired. It felt like it had been a long day Ladon and Milo had now been shown to their new rooms on the lower level of the palace. Every warrior here was very privileged as they were given rooms just like the servants. The training barracks had rooms but they were temporary rooms for warriors who just needed to sleep of night duty. Though Iona and her unit did spend time there playing cards, gambling and drinking but then they weren’t the royal palace guard. They could come and go as they pleased unlike the royal guard who had a very strict rotation which was never broken. He breathed in deeply he’d just had a very long talk with Chara about the androphonomania massacre as what had gone on the throne room hadn’t made complete sense to him but once he had the rest of the story, it had all become clear. Just like Chara he could see that Gabrielle had been put in a very difficult position and had been forced by the Imperial Council to do a horrific thing but even then she’d disobeyed them and had gone out of her way to save as many children as she could in those villages.

It was very clear to him why this hadn’t been told to the rest of the palace it was a very delicate situation and it was clear that very few people knew about it and the Empress wanted to keep it that way for now. No doubt bringing in Ladon was clearly part of a much bigger plan as she intended to put the full blame on the Imperial Councils shoulders and show that Gabrielle had been defying their orders. He was in essence the proof and on top of this Chara had told him that there were quite a few other scrolls from other children who had been saved during the massacre. He had no intention of judging Gabrielle’s actions he had heard many sad stories in taverns from warriors in others lands who had been forced by their leaders to do terrible things that had given them nightmares but what choice did they have? To betray and order meant death yourself. Maybe that was one of the reasons that he had wanted to join the Empress’s army because her moral standards and honour codes were much higher than any he’d ever come across.

There were very strict army codes pillaging was forbidden and you’d be flogged if caught doing it, rape was forbidden and if you were caught doing it to ether gender you’d be hung just like a common criminal. You weren’t allowed to steal ether if you did you’d end up being thrown in a cell for a week. The army’s duty was to honour and protect and unlike Rome profit wasn’t made through stealing from others. That was where diplomacy came in and trade this was what kept this Empire running and at peace. There hadn’t been a war here in over seven years and the last war had been the Spartan uprising, which had lasted a year and a half. He wouldn’t say the Greek Empire was perfect though the Empire still had problems with illegal slave traders as well as issues with common warlords from time to time who tried to force there foot in but they were never lasted long. The more difficult issue was with the Northern Alliance and the Warrior Kings army as well as two other tyrant warlords, they were on going problems along with Gabrielle’s people but he felt soon the issue with werewolves would be resolved given more time.

Despite these issues he’d rather be in this land than any other, people didn’t starve here and though there were diplomacy problems they could be handled. He put his hand on his head as he snapped out of his thoughts realizing that he’d left his horse hair helmet in Chara’s study, he shook his head he could get it back tomorrow it wasn’t as if he wore it that much anyway. He only wore it when guest were called to the palace but the Empress never looked up on him badly if he didn’t wear it. He turned another corridor watching as one of Iona’s men ran past him clearly in a hurry the man stopped nodded at him respectfully before running down the other corridor. He rolled his eyes clearly the Empress had sent Iona’s men to do something as when they ran around like this it meant that they were going somewhere important. He turned another corridor only to stop on the spot as he caught sight of Thaleia sitting on the floor next to the huge curtains near the huge study where the Empress had her meetings. He knew that the other servants weren’t allowed up here but because of her level as Gabrielle’s personal maid she could come and go as she pleased.

He stepped closer realizing that she’d been crying he could see it in her eyes which were red, she also looked very tired. He moved towards her watching as she looked up a sad smile forming on her face. “Hey.” Thaleia slowly met his concerned gaze. “Hi.” Demetrius slowly sat down next to her. “What are you doing here I thought you’d be asleep?” Thaleia shook her head sadly. “I can’t sleep I’ve tried but I can’t I had an argument with Gabrielle this morning and she threw me out of her room.” Demetrius gently put a hand on her knee. “Is that what you’re sad about the argument?” Thaleia breathed in sharply. “No not really its just that she can be such an ass when she wants to be, I mean I’m her personal maid and I enjoy the job but she’s never been this rude to me, she treated me like a servant, I’m not some throw away servant, I’m her friend.” Demetrius breathed in deeply he knew just what she was talking about, he was used to getting the brunt of the Empress’s bad moods from time to time. “You know I doubt she meant it, trust me those in power have to deal with a lot of stress and sometimes they just have to vent it, it’s not personal.”

Thaleia tensed painfully. “No this was personal, she told me about something she did and it was a terrible thing and even though I don’t know her, I know that, that this terrible thing wasn’t all her fault. It had to be the Imperial Councils doings but because she’s a stubborn jackass she doesn’t see it that way.” Demetrius put his head against the wall. “Oh gods please tell me this is not about the androphonomania massacre?” Thaleia sat up sharply. “Yes it is, how in Tartarus did you know about this? She only told me about this morning and I didn’t tell anyone it’s my duty not to I couldn’t even go to my mother about it.” Demetrius put a hand on his face. “I know about it through Chara the Empress asked for scrolls on it this morning. Before we locked Kalika up she hid one of the scrolls holders regarding it, which hid the fact that Gabrielle was disobeying the Imperial Council and trying to save the children in those villages. Long story short I know all about it I also know that the Empress and Gabrielle had a very heated argument this morning and this was because the Empress didn’t have all the facts because these scrolls on the saved children were missing.” He groaned. “You shouldn’t dwell on this, they’ll sort it out they love each other.”

Thaleia shook her head. “Oh so you don’t know that the Empress kissed Gabrielle this morning but she stopped her and told her about the androphonomania massacre?” Demetrius turned sharply. “No I didn’t know about that part but it explains why this whole issue is now in such a mess.” Thaleia shook her head. “You know Gabrielle even believed that once she told me this I wouldn’t be her friend anymore, that’s another thing that angers me. I would always stand by her no matter what she’s like the sister I never had, I consider to be my family. Even worse she believed that the Empress would get rid off her as well.” Demetrius laughed as he put an arm around her shoulder pulling her close. “Like that would ever happen. That’s like the sun trying to stop the moon rising, it just wouldn’t happen the Empress loves her far too deeply.” Thaleia nodded. “You got that right.” Demetrius felt his grip around her shoulder tighten. “Look I wouldn’t worry too much just let them sleep on it and come back tomorrow I’m sure Gabrielle will be in a better mood and you can both talk it through.”

He was about to say more only to stop as Iona turned the corridor she looked up catching her breath as she walked towards them. He eyed her. “I don’t mean to be rude Iona but I don’t want to play cards with you tonight I’m tired and my shifts over.” Iona stood up fully. “This is not about cards the Empress wants to see you and Thaleia right now.” Demetrius put a hand on his face, gods this just wasn’t happening was it? He wanted to sleep. He looked up as Thaleia stood up the confusion in her eyes he slowly got to his feet putting his arm back around her shoulder. “You can’t be serious?” Iona breathed in sharply. “I am very serious.” Demetrius raised his hand. “Wait there’s something wrong I can see in your eyes, tell me what it is?” Iona nervously put a hand on her swords hilt. “Gabrielle is missing I have just had my men search the royal gardens and the palace from top to bottom. They have checked every room, every corner, your men and women have also been searching but they have not found her ether.”

Demetrius felt the shock hit home. “She’s missing but she never leaves the palace.” Iona felt the frustration hit home as she spoke. “Yes I know that, the Empress also knows that and she’s not taking it well.” She shook her head. “Please I need your help, you know how to deal with her when she’s like this…I don’t and it’s getting difficult.” She stepped back. “She asked for you both and I’m here to get you, so please come with me now as fast as you can.” Demetrius nodded. “I’ll come with you.” Thaleia walked with him keeping a hand on his arm. “Why does the Empress want me, I don’t understand?” Iona turned slowly to her. “Because you’re her friend you might know the other places that she’d go in the palace which we may have over looked.” Thaleia blinked before speaking again in an uncertain tone. “Did the Empress tell Gabrielle to leave?” Iona eyed her for a long moment as they walked up the long corridor. “Not that I’m aware of and I highly doubt she would ever do that, she likes her far too much. Frankly I’d rather she get her back right now because I don’t know if I can stand seeing her this way much longer.” Demetrius eyed her. “It’s that bad?” Iona nodded. “Yes it’s that bad.”

End of part 79

 

 

 

LOST IN THE BLAZING STAR LIGHT

 

 

Xena turned eyeing the warrior opposite her. “What do mean you can’t find her? She has to be in the palace!” Leuis raised his hands. “She’s not in the palace Empress we’ve checked the whole place twice over.” He turned as the double doors opened to the throne room and Demetrius walked in closely followed by Thaleia and Iona. He breathed out thank the gods they were here, the Empress was clearly becoming panicked and she was now starting to scare him. He adjusted his collar as who turned to Iona who looked nervous as she stopped close by the Empress the uncertainty in her eyes. Nether of them knew how to deal with the Empress when she was in this kind of mood but he knew that Demetrius did as he had, had experience with dealing with her anger and her bad moods. Demetrius looked up slightly clearly Iona wasn’t over exaggerating the Empress really wasn’t taking Gabrielle’s leaving well, she was panicking.  In all the years he’d known her he’d never ever seen her panic in this way, she was normally so level headed about everything. Right now though she wasn’t the Empress she was a woman who had lost someone she loved and was having difficulty dealing with the situation.

He stepped forward meeting her gaze which was filled with anxiety. “You called for me Empress, Gabrielle is missing.” Xena breathed in folding her arms trying to steady herself. “Yes she is, have you seen her?” Demetrius stepped closer to the dark haired woman. “No Empress…did she leave a note at all?” Xena shook her head. “No she didn’t and so far they’ve checked the royal gardens and the palace twice.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “What about the stables, courtyard and the path?” Xena turned sharply. “There checking those now I haven’t heard back yet.” She put her through her hair in frustration. “Oh gods, this is all my fault…I called her a stupid overgrown dog who breaks things and a monster, I even told her that she wasn’t worthy of her sword.” Thaleia rolled her eyes no wonder Gabrielle had been so concerned about the out come off telling the Empress about her past. She breathed in deeply before speaking. “You know she hates being called a stupid overgrown dog, she also can’t stand being called a monster ether Empress.”

Xena turned sharply eyeing her. “I know that! I wish I could take it back it was wrong of me to say that to her.” Thaleia turned meeting the taller woman’s gaze which was now filled with pain. “Did you ask her to leave?” Xena breathed in sharply. “No I didn’t tell to leave! I would never tell her to leave.” Thaleia put her hands together. “I meant no offence Empress I only ask because this morning we had an argument and she was convinced that you would ask her to leave.” She looked up slightly wording her next sentence carefully. “She felt very guilty about her past actions they were tormenting her deeply and she ended up throwing me out her room when the argument became more heated, she was so convinced that she wouldn’t see me again. She had gotten it in to her head that I wouldn’t be her friend anymore after she told me about the event despite that I would still be her friend regardless of her past.” Xena ran her hand through her hair somehow Thaleia saying this made her feel even worse as she hadn’t been nearly as understanding and she loved this woman, where as Thaleia was her family.

She looked down at her hand for a long moment she was the one who should have listened to her and not shouted at her. She would not make this mistake again. Twice now she had used Gabrielle’s not being human against her and she deserved so much better than that, her werewolf form was not an excuse to throw insults at her. She’d had, had a far too much of that in her life time and most of it had come from Adrienne and she would not become like that evil bitch, the moment she did that she would loose her forever. She knew full well that Gabrielle wouldn’t go through another abusive relationship the first one had been far to damaging for her both physically and mentally. Maybe that’s why she’d left because the insults had cut her so deeply and caused her so much pain and looking at it from her perspective she could understand why. The person who claimed to love her and had kissed had suddenly been the one calling her names and accusing her of lying when she had been telling the truth all along. She turned to Thaleia feeling the pain in her chest as she spoke. “Where would she go in the palace if she was depressed?” Thaleia eyed the taller woman seeing the pain in her eyes as clear as day. “She would go and sit of her favourite lion or she’ll go and sit by Damokles’s crave, she does that from time to time I’ve seen her put flowers on it and speak to him, even though she gets no answer.”

She adjusted her robes. “Or she’d stay in her room and smoke opium when something has really hurt her feelings but in these past few weeks she been trying to stay away from opium and it’s been very hard for her, she said she didn’t want to be dependent on it anymore.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “She’s clearly been true to her word, I saw the opium on her desk but it was unused and she left it behind. Despite how much she would have liked to have smoked it.” Demetrius moved a step closer to the Empress. “This is Gabrielle’s home I don’t see her leaving here for good she probably just took a walk.” Iona shook her head. “That must be some walk then if she decided to leave the palace, sounds more to me like she just wanted to get away from it all.” She turned as the Empress gave her a cold look. “I mean no disrespect Empress it’s just that’s what I’d do.” She was about to say more only to be stopped as doors were suddenly shoved open behind her and one of her men came in he had two guards with him who were clearly those who protected the front gate as they had a thick red leather tie on the front of their armour. He spoke not bothering to hide his sarcasm. “These two idiots know where Gabrielle went and both should have said something, instead of keeping quite.”

Xena turned eyeing the guards watching as the first who was a young woman swallowed she was clearly nervous as was the young male guard who was next her. The young female guard’s eyes darted as she spoke. “I didn’t think it mattered Horn Hind is allowed to leave the palace when ever she wants!” Her companion looked up sharply. “Yes we were told she could come and go as she pleased.” Xena moved forward she didn’t think as she grabbed the woman by her collar pulling her forward in a violent motion ignoring the surprise and panic in her eyes. She spoke unable to keep the venom out of her tone. “It’s your duty to report about everyone who comes and goes, regardless of whether or not I allow it!” Demetrius moved forward putting a hand gently on the Empress’s shoulder watching as she looked up. “Empress I’ll deal with both of these two but first you need to let this woman go.” Xena didn’t think as she let go of the warrior who stumbled back the fear in her eyes.” Demetrius turned to the both of them putting his hands together. “Now how’s about you both tell me when Gabrielle left?” He watched as Iona’s man rolled his eyes and then left closing the doors behind him. “Or would you prefer it, if I get Leuis or Iona over there to twist both of your arms?”

He folded his arms watching as they both shook their heads. “Good now tell me what I need to know.” The young man stepped forward. “She left four hours ago we had the guards above open the mechanised door for her.” The woman opposite him adjusted her collar nervously. “She was high on something, she started talking to herself she even offered her coat to someone who wasn’t there.” Xena turned sharply. “You’ll excuse me if I don’t buy that concept and you making up that kind of accusation, is even more disgusting.” The young man’s eyes darted. “But we are not making this up she was talking to someone Empress.” Demetrius eyed him. “Be quite! Before I have you both punished you both know the rules. It’s an offence to speak slander about a royal and Gabrielle being a werewolf is no excuse for you to mock her ether!” He watched as they both fell silent not daring to say another word. “Now tell me did she tell ether of you where she was going?” The young woman shook her head. “No sir she didn’t.” Demetrius turned eyeing Leuis. “Please take these two out of here, before I throw them out.” Leuis turned eyeing the two guards. “Come on idiot’s move it now, I want you back to your posts!”

Iona watched as they all left the room closing the double doors behind them. “Well at least we know that she’s in the city, I doubt she’d leave tonight, she wouldn’t want to run in to her people, least of all those who are not loyal to her.” Xena felt her body tensed. “She took her money so she clearly has plans to sleep somewhere and eat, no one would go in to Corinth with out coin and she has good coin even if it is old.” She felt her eyes dart. “Gods I knew I should have given her some new coins to replace her old ones.” Demetrius put both hands behind his back. “Well then we have a good chance of finding her then, we just need to search all the taverns and restaurants in Corinth.” Thaleia shook her head. “There are hundreds of those here…Corinth is four times the size of Athens it’s the biggest city in Greece. It will take you ages to search every one of them and that’s assuming that Gabrielle doesn’t decide that she wants to go and watch a play at the amphitheatre or a late night gladiatorial battle.” Iona shrugged. “You’re forgetting about the illegal brothels, you know those few that still survive despite than you banned prostitution and the fighting pits where people go to beat each other up for senseless coin.”

The Empress turned giving her a look that could melt ice. “What I’m just saying, it’s been a long time since she’s had any two years in a pit does nothing for your sex drive she’s probably about ready to burst.” Thaleia shook her head. “Gabrielle’s not like that she wouldn’t bet sleazy money in a fighters ring and she doesn’t care about sex just for the sake of it.” Xena nodded as she turned to her. “I agree she also hates the gladiatorial games she wouldn’t go and watch them and I’ve never seen her take any interest in plays or even talk about them.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “Well that narrows it down.” Xena stepped forward. “Well I’m going to find her even if it takes me all night.” She turned to him. “You and Thaleia are coming with me.” She turned to Iona. “You’re going to stay here and your going to look after the palace in Demetrius’s absence.” Iona nodded her head. She had never been given responsibility like this before and she had no intention of letting the tall dark haired woman down. “As you wish Empress.” Demetrius looked up sharply. “You can’t go out in that armour you’ll be recognised Empress.”

Xena turned sharply. “Then I’ll wear something to cover up my armour, in the darkness I doubt people will recognise who I am. It’s not like they have ever seen me on foot I’m normally on my horse surrounded by the royal guard.” Demetrius raised his hand. “So there’s no way I can talk you out of going outside of the palace?” Xena eyed him. “No there isn’t and it’s about time I stopped being so being up tight about going outside my own palace walls to walk around Corinth.” Demetrius took in a deep breath clearly there was no talking the Empress out of this. He wasn’t even going to try it was clear by the look in her eye that she was set to go through the gates and search regardless of what he said. “Then I’ll do everything in my power to protect you and I’ll speak to the men and women in the city, maybe they can point us in the right direction.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “I will get changed in to something else which won’t give away that I’m from the palace.” Demetrius nodded turning back to the tall dark haired woman. “I’ll change my armour to one that won’t draw attention though my ring will identify me to the city guard.” Iona eyed them all she’d have one of her best men follow them regardless, just in case. She would send this man out after they left, it was her duty to protect the Empress regardless of whether she asked for it or not.

8

I’ve just been walking through these streets for a long while now taking in every sight, sound and smell it has been over two years since I have been here. I could barely remember how they looked or what goes on, I’d forgotten that the streets never sleep even at night, you can hear the voices as people speak to each other and trade items. You can buy things in the night markets there are foods roasting on the stalls along with the smell of smoke from fires which is almost comforting, in a strange way. It’s just as busy in some areas of Corinth during the night as it is during the day. This massive city has two very different faces and I can remember the last time I was here, being really perplexed by it. I’ve been to Athens and its nothing like this at night it’s very quite. You can literality jump the roofs in werewolf form and go completely unnoticed, you could never do that here in Corinth even the roof gardens of the villas are alive with people drinking and talking at night.

As I walk these streets I realise that I have no idea what to do or where to go, I feel so out of step with everything around me. I can’t remember the last time I brought something for myself for personal enjoyment. I don’t even remember what it’s like to go in to a tavern or restaurant and order food. Walking through these streets has made me realize that there is so much off my life which I’ve forgotten. I don’t even know how to have fun anymore. I’ve spent so much of my life watching the world pass me by, now watching these people live out their lives around me I just feel like I’ve missed out. I’ve been a prisoner of my own fears for so long, its true walking these streets does still scare me, I’ve already seen a Satyr buying goods from the market and a Centaur betting on a street card game. So it stands to reason there’s a few of my own kind here somewhere and I know not all of them like me. I’m ignoring this though because I just want to keep walking and I really don’t want to go back to the palace. I know I just have to keep walking something in my soul is telling me that this really matters.

“Hey you!”

Gabrielle turned sharply as a woman ran towards her dressed in red and purple robes she pulled out a parchment flyer putting it in her hand. “There’s a party going on up the road you might be interested in.” Gabrielle eyed the flyer with its depiction of Bacchus drinking wine surrounded by dancing people. “What kind of party is this?” The woman smiled. “It’s an orgy party at the Rams Head Villa which is owned by my cousin we are celebrating Bacchus they’ll be wine, song, dance and other pleasures.” She smirked. “You look like the type who would be interested I mean you must have a Satyr in your family because you’ve got those reflective eyes.” Gabrielle pushed the flyer back in to her chest harshly not bothering to hide the anger in her tone. “I’m sorry but you have me mistaken for someone else, I don’t share with anyone and I don’t care for that kind of party.” The woman gave her a cold look. “Your loss.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Yes well I’m sure I’ll get over it.” She turned walking away she hated orgy parties. She knew they were popular but they had never been her thing she only cared for sharing her life with one person she didn’t care for sex for the sake of it. She wanted to feel the one person intimately and passionately she also couldn’t share ether she was far to jealous and possessive when it came to those she truly loved, she’d kill for them, die for them and go any distance for them.

Watching others have sex was just a bad habit she wanted kick just like opium, she looked up coming to a stop opposite a white concrete tavern which seemed quite inside unlike so many others she had passed. The name also made it stand out which was The Slaughtered Lamb as did the wolf head sign which had a bloody teeth. She smiled sadly wolves weren’t like that they were timid and she had seen them look at her in the darkness in werewolf form many times. They seemed confused by her but they never stayed around for a long they’d look at her and then run away. Despite their simulates wolves weren’t even kept as pets they were considered sacred animals, because it was believed that king Lycaon’s blood had been merged with a wolves creating the first pure werewolf blood. Despite that king Lycaon had been overthrown centuries ago and was hated as a tyrant the idea of werewolves gaining there blood from wolves remained as strong as ever. She pushed her thoughts aside as she opened the tavern door walking in side seeing that is was quite place. Mostly filled with retired warriors and older people who were playing cards, there were also corner seats so you could sit out of sight and not be bothered by anyone.

She walked up to the bar watching as an barman eyed her he was missing his left hand and had a two clawed wooden hooks in place so he could grip things, he eyed her coldly before speaking. “You know you might want to try the Rams Head Villa up the road its more for people your age they have interesting parties up there.” Gabrielle eased out her pipe she slowly lit it on one of the candles ignoring his surprise as she blew out the smoke. “Do I seriously look to you like someone who cares for that kind of party?” She watched as he leaned forward clearly seeing that her eyes were reflecting in the dim light of the room. “Oh I see well what can I get you then? Oh and before you ask I don’t serve wine straight it’s watered down as it should be, damn Norse and Celts never grasp that concept.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment she could relate to that she had vivid memories of Adrienne giving the werewolf bar tenders a hard time because they watered down her wine which she’d always hated. She looked up slowly. “Do you have any Kykeon the type that’s not alcoholic?” The man gave her a warm smile. “Yes we have but it’s sweet.” Gabrielle looked up breathing in her pipe. “That’s good enough.”

The bar tender grinned pulling up a thick leather tankard, which he filled with the drink which looked like mead but was much thicker in consistency. “Lets see them dinars, I need two.” Gabrielle eased out a few diners tossing them on to the table he eyed them as he spoke. “These are old?” Gabrielle took the tankard. “Coin is coin.” The bar tender raised an eyebrow picking one up. “Oh I’m not complaining and I agree coin is coin and these are still good but seriously have you been hiding under rock or something I don’t see these older coins that much anymore.” Gabrielle took a long drink from the tankard enjoying the sweet flavour. “It’s a long story, safe to say I have not been out much lately.” The bar tender smirked. “What your husband or wife keeping you locked up in the house?” Gabrielle laughed but it was a sad laugh even to her own ears. “I don’t have a husband or a wife to even do that.” She paused eyeing him. “How did you loose your hand?” The bar tender eyed his clawed hook. “I used to work in Rome as an animal trainer for the gladiatorial arena. One day a big wolf took offence to my hand, I saw loosing it as sign from the gods that I was being punished for forcing such magnificent beings to kill gladiators.”

He shrugged. “I now run a tavern and make an honest living with my wife the wolf sign with blood outside is my way of telling my self I should always respect nature because it can be a killer at times.” He smiled catching sight of scar on her right eye. “What about you, how did get that scar on your eye?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly she didn’t want to tell him but it was only fair to do so as he’d told his story and it would rude not to. “It was given to me by an illegal slave trader as a teenager he used his dagger on me, because I refused to call him master.” The bar tender breathed in deeply. “I assume he didn’t live as you’re not a slave.” Gabrielle took another drink from her tankard. “Oh yes he’s dead now he had his head ripped off, I know I should feel some sense of sorrow for that but I never have looking back it was great to watch.”

The bar tender nodded. “I understand my wife was a slave a long time ago she became my friend and helped me through the bad times as well as loosing my hand, I freed her and then we both left Rome together and came to live in Greece.” He shook his head. “Like you she has no sympathy for those who caused her harm but when I met her I was a different man, I didn’t respect life.” He eyed his hooked hand. “It’s true what say you know, you have to loose something sometimes to gain something greater.” Gabrielle nodded. “Those are very wise words.” The bar tender smiled tapping his hook on her shoulder. “Your right you don’t belong in the Rams Head Villa please take a seat in one of the corners and if you want anything to eat or drink please tell me and I’ll cook it up for you.” Gabrielle nodded moving to sit on a corner table which was out of sight and private. She ignored the strange looks from the gambling table at the far side as she put her boots on the table breathing in her pipe she breathed out watching as the smoke floated through the air.

End of part 80

 

A VERY UNLIKELY PLACE IN PLAIN SIGHT FOR ALL TO SEE

Gabrielle watched as a big boned woman in thick velvet red robes which were more Roman fashion than Greek took her empty plate giving her smile. “Would you like anymore dear?” Gabrielle shook her head breathing in her pipe as she turned the silver sovereign between her fingers. “No I’m fine thank you it was a wonderful meal.” The wife of the barman eyed her for a long moment. “You’ve been turning that silver between your fingers all night, is something on your mind dear?” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe meeting her soft green gaze. “I can control this coin every time I turn it in between my fingers I’m just wondering why I can’t do that with other aspects of my life.” The woman folded her arms as a knowing smile formed on her lips. “Oh now you have that look.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “What look?” The woman shook her head. “You have the look of someone who is in love but is running away from it, my son used to have that same look on his face a lot of the time, when he was younger.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “I’m not running away.” The woman’s smile widened. “Then why are you in a bar drinking dear?”

Gabrielle put the sovereign away about to speak only to stop she knew the woman was right there was no denying her words, she lowered her gaze. “Fine, I’m running away but I had no intention on leaving I just wanted space.” The woman nodded. “Well a time will come when you’ll have to face that person who you care about and if you ask me you should just tell them how you feel, once the weights of your shoulders you’ll feel much better.” Gabrielle gave her a half hearted smile. “I’ll think about that.” The woman’s put her plate to one side. “You do that dear.” She put her hand in her pocket easing out a playing card putting it face down in front of her. “Before I forget the people over there playing cards asked me to give you this, they said if you’re interested they’d like you to join their game. You should be flattered they play cards here most nights and they never invite anyone to join in, it’s a private game.” Gabrielle watched as she walked away she eyed the card frankly she didn’t care for gambling mostly because she hated to loose money.

She turned the card over only to feel her body tense as she stared at the image on it which was a sketch from the Ethereal Ark Of Fire scroll of the Emerald Hind slaying king Lycaon. She stared at the card realizing what it was, this was the one of the playing cards from a werewolf set, all werewolf cards had stories and moments from the legendary scroll and at their edges were numbers. She slowly got up from her seat taking the card along with her half finished tankard with her. She watched as two women and two men who were in their late sixties looked up as she came towards them she could see the curiosity in there eyes, which were all slightly reflecting in the candle light. She put the card down in front of them. “You wanted me to join you in a game?” The older man closest to her leaned over looking at the ring on her finger the awe appeared in his eyes as he pulled up a chair. “We would be most honoured if you would join us after all very few of us have ever seen a ring like the one you’re wearing up close.”

Gabrielle slowly seated herself watching as the white haired woman sitting opposite her put the werewolf playing card away, all four of them were werewolves but they had to be run a ways just like Iris. They weren’t from her rule though they had to all be from her predecessors because of their age. She could see in all there eyes that they knew just who she was as her ring gave her away. The woman on the opposite side of the table wasn’t Greek she was Gaul as was the man next to her who smiled as she spoke. “Would you like to join us in a game of Biriba?” Gabrielle looked up. “Yes but I confess I’m not that good.” The man closest to her adjusted his shirt as he smirked. “Not good at winning?” Gabrielle watched as the woman on the opposite side shuffled the double deck which was all full of normal cards and not werewolf cards. “Something like that, I normally loose all my coin.” The man next to her turned his smile widening. “Then you we won’t play for coin how about we play and just talk?” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “Okay but I would prefer that you played like you normally do, I hate games where people let me win.” She breathed in her pipe. “I like a challenge even if that means I have to loose.”

The man on the opposite side of the table adjusted his robe as he spoke. “Oh we will do our best to give you a worthy challenge.” He watched his wife began to deal out the double deck. “Am I right that your name is Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked up. “Yes.” He put a hand on his chest. “My name is Ceyx my wife here whose dealing the deck is Elma, we both used to be blacksmiths, we used to make armour for great warriors once but we were forced to leave due to our twin’s birthright.” Gabrielle looked down sadly. “I’m sorry.” Ceyx shook his head. “Don’t be our son and daughter are both safe and are living here in Corinth they both have children of there own now.” He turned watching as the other man smirked. “The man opposite us is Quentin and next to him is his wife Galiena, they ran away as teenagers because Galiena was not like us but you know what it’s like when that mating urges kicks in and you bite the one you love.” Gabrielle watched as Elma began to deal out the deck to each of them. “Sadly I wouldn’t know it’s never happened to me.” Ceyx raised an eyebrow. “I heard that you had a lover.” Gabrielle put her first card down watching as the others started to play. “I’ve only had two people who were lovers the first was a kind man who I loved very deeply but he was murdered, the second was a cruel Norse woman who I’d rather not talk about.”

Elma pushed her white hair back. “Ah I see, you see there was a rumour floating around that you liked a tall dark haired woman someone of high social standing.” Gabrielle pushed her cards forward loosing her turn. “That would be true I won’t hide that truth it seems everyone can see through it, I mean the bar man’s wife has already seen my feelings.” Quentin eyed his cards. “Ah yes well Flora is like us as well but her husband Philo well lets just say that it wasn’t a wolf that eat his hand in the Roman Gladiatorial arena animal cage and his wolf symbol on this tavern sign isn’t just about him having an ironic sense of humour.” Gabrielle felt her body freeze. “Wait you mean this a tavern is just for people like us?” Quentin placed down his card beating everyone’s hand. “Run by yes and people like us can come and go, there are also normal people who come here who have friends, family who are like us while some just come to help us because they know the truth about us. The rest who come here to drink are obvious to what this establishment is really all about.”

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “I’m guessing that there are a lot people like us.” Quentin put down his cards beating everyone’s hand again. “Let’s just say that the council have been very foolish there are now enough of us to start a civil war, we have no contacts in the old cities and we don’t exist to them but while they’ve been causing suffering our numbers have been growing with in this city. We are more than ready to pick a side and overthrow our pure blood brothers along with the council who have made us all suffer in some way, shape or form.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “Whose side do you wish to be on?” Elma put down her cards only to be beaten once more by Quentin’s hand. “We want to be on yours, we approve of your passing the new law with your friend at the palace it means a lot to us, as you did the one your predecessor couldn’t.” Gabrielle eyed her cards. “My predecessor preferred decadence over his people in the end it cost him his life, I do not intend to be as foolish.” Elma looked up. “Well you’re clearly not that foolish, you got the law passed which has already saved us from being slaughtered and has given us all equal rights.”

She paused eyeing her cards. “The truth is this problem with the council can not go on any longer they once stood for something important back in the glory days but not anymore, they have become to corrupt and decedent, they are now a crippling burden and they need to be removed.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “I don’t want them to suit their thrones any longer ether I just need more time.” Quentin smiled. “Well the Greek Empire wasn’t built in a day and nether was Rome so we respect your position. We also respect that from the councils view point you’re defining them by being with your friend in the palace. We have heard whispers that their is burning rage and disgust at your actions, in fact they want to skin you alive and turn you in to pelt because they say what you’ve done is treason.” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “I’ll do much worse to them to them if I ever get the chance. They have tried to have me killed twice and the second time around they almost succeeded but they won’t ever get that close again believe me and them trying to kill me is high treason.” Quentin looked up sharply. “Clearly no sin is beyond them.”

Galiena breathed in as she lost again as everyone put down their hand. “I am curious as to why you’re not with your friend in the palace?” Gabrielle eyed her cards. “I needed to get out for a while that’s all I intend to return, I just need to think a few thing through that’s all.” Ceyx felt his smile turn to a wide grin. “I understand sometimes it’s just nice to get away from it all, having so much reasonability must be daunting at times.” Gabrielle looked at her cards she had a winning hand but she didn’t want to place it down. “It’s not the responsibility I need to work through it’s my feelings for the person I care about.” Elma put down her cards which were close to a winning hand. “That would be a very powerful union it would change a lot if it happened.” Quentin looked at his cards. “I understand your hesitation though to do this would truly enrage the council beyond all measure but it would bring so many more of us to your side.” He paused. “But I accept that your need to deal with your feelings first as this is a matter of the heart, not a union brought about because of politics.”  He blinked watching as she laid down her winning hand. “Wait you could have won on the last turn why didn’t you place your cards down?” Gabrielle eyed her cards. “I didn’t feel the need to win, I wanted to wait till it really mattered.”

8

Demetrius eyed the armoured woman who was called Thera her commander Elpidios was engaged in other business and unavailable at present as he was currently talking with a witness regarding a family depute, he was a stern man but very good hearted. He eyed the woman in front of him who looked similar to her sister Kolina who served Sophia and Heli as there lady in waiting. The only difference was her height she was much shorter and had dark plated brown hair and very dark green eyes. She was wearing the normal leather armour which all the city guards had unlike the hoplites they could have there own choice in weapons, hers was sword and cleaving axe. The city guard’s job was to keep the peace and sort out disputes and problems and they were allowed to be very hands on at times. The idea was similar to that of the Vigiles in Rome but with one huge different the city guard here were not thugs or mercenaries. They had all been trained as warriors and they had to serve a term in the normal army along with hoplites before they could even join the city guard.

The hoplites who served with them were there for the cities defence and were a serious fighting force and most had also served a more than one term in the army it was their job is to command the city guard should war break out. He raised his hands. “So you haven’t seen her?” Thera shook her head. “Trust me I’d know if I saw someone like that not many young women walk around with deep scars on their faces, well other than the Red Griffin but she’s another story.” Demetrius narrowed his gaze. “Red Griffin who is that, the name isn’t familiar?” Thera rolled her eyes. “She’s this mercenary with a Satyr friend, they bring their bounties here and collect rewards. Don’t get me wrong they do a good job but she has no manners and she a pain to reason with. I don’t need to tell you what Satyr’s are like when they don’t get their way, they don’t understand the word no, when it comes to money.” Demetrius rolled his eyes. “Oh yes I know all about that, Minotaurs and Centaurs are easier to train but Satyrs can be a pain when they don’t get their own way they try everything under the sun to change your mind.” Thera shook her head. “On the point though the Red Griffin has a deep scar on her cheek old one really faded but you couldn’t miss it, don’t know how she got it, never asked her but she’s one of the few women I know who has a bad scar like the woman’s you mentioned.”

Demetrius put a hand on his beard eyeing the Empress who looked frustrated now, so far no one had realized who she was the cloak was working as it covered her armour and her head he turned back to Thera. “I need you to send out a message to everyone in the city to find this woman.” Thera pulled up a peace of scroll writing on it. “Is she to be arrested?” Xena looked up sharply. “No she’s not to be arrested we just need to know where she is!” Thera breathed in eyeing the tall woman. “I meant no offence it’s just normally when we go looking for someone it’s not for a good reason.” Demetrius raised his hands. “We need to find her as she’s an important person of high social standing and we don’t want any danger to come to her.” Thera looked up. “I’ll send out my petrol and have them, pass on this information to the rest of the city guard and the hoplites trust me if she’s in this city we are going to find her.” She looked up. “It’s nice to see you outside the palace sir it’s been a long time since our last meeting.” Demetrius nodded as he patted her shoulder. “It’s good to see you to Thera, wish your older sister well from me next you two meet again.” Thera nodded a wide smile forming. “I will thank you sir.”

He turned walked out of the building watching as the Empress followed. “Well as she says she will find her, I know the city guard and the hoplites their good men and women and I served with many of them during the Spartan up rising.” Xena slowly met his gaze as they walked down the dark street. “Maybe she’s right maybe I don’t let you out enough.” Demetrius shook his head. “I like my life in side the palace, I got there through hard work and I now consider it my home and I enjoy being there with you and your staff.” He looked up as Thaleia ran towards them he watched as she breathed in catching her breath before she spoke. “I’ve checked the taverns on this street she’s not here and I’m getting really tired of people giving me parchments to go to some place called Rams Head Villa which is having a party, something for Bacchus.” Demetrius smirked as he eyed her. “Really?” Thaleia eyed him. “What’s so funny?” Demetrius folded his arms. “Rams Head Villa is a place where people go to have orgy parties, I used to go there when I was a very young man.” Xena shook her head trying to calm herself down despite how she felt. “I think just about everyone in Corinth has been there once in their life.”

Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “You sound like you speak from experience.” Xena shook her head. “Well I was young once but it’s no longer my thing.” Thaleia rolled her eyes. “Why do I get the feeling that I’ve spent to long inside the palace walls, I feel like I don’t know about anything that’s going on in Corinth.” Demetrius turned putting a hand on her arm. “Don’t worry about it Thaleia, I think it’s good that you have been brought up so well.” Thaleia breathed in deeply wanting to change the subject. “Did you speak with the city guard?” Demetrius nodded. “Yes we did they will be sending out a petrol and passing on the word to the hoplites, we told them that Gabrielle was an important person and that we are concerned for her safety.” Thaleia breathed in deeply that wasn’t really true Gabrielle had taken her weapons with her if anyone did try to attack her they’d be in for a shock but it was a great excuse. “Well that makes a lot of sense I hope they are able to find her.” Her gaze drifted to the Empress who still looked deeply frustrated by all this. She hoped for her sake that they found her soon as she had never seen her this way. This was a woman who wasn’t fazed by anything and was always so strong willed yet at this moment she was a woman missing someone she clearly loved and she was very concerned for her safety.

She pulled up the map of the city she had opening it. “We have checked all of the western district maybe we should check the district to the east I know it’s a long walk from here but I think it’s worth a try. Demetrius eyed the map. “Why there, I mean it’s quite district? There are only twelve taverns in that area and only one night market.” Xena looked up sharply realizing why Thaleia was saying this, she eyed the map. “No this makes perfect sense Gabrielle likes quite places. She would go somewhere, where she could be out of the way of nosy people and the parties the eastern side is very quite it always has been. It’s filled with the homes of retired war veterans and diplomats and families with children it’s a place where people go to relax. The area has two public baths houses complete with gymnasia and showers there’s also massage areas and the taverns are very quite places.” Demetrius took the parchment add from Thaleia. “The Rams Head Villa is also there, though I doubt Gabrielle would go there but your right the quite district makes a lot of sense it fits her personality.” Xena looked up. “I agree it’s our best option thank you for pointing this out Thaleia.”

Thaleia looked up slightly. “Your welcome Em….” She stopped catching herself mid sentence the Empress had said not to call her by her title outside the walls, because she wanted to go unnoticed and so far that had worked well. No one had recognised her despite that her face was on every coin. Xena turned slowly frankly she hoped that the district would come up with something it had to. It was the type of place Gabrielle would go she was sure of it, gods she was missing her now. She hadn’t felt this way in such a long time but she knew that it was the feeling of being in love with someone that you loved them so deeply that you missed them so much when they weren’t around. She was also concerned that someone might try to hurt the younger woman she knew she could take care of herself but she hated the idea of any harm coming to her regardless. They had been through to much together for her to loose her now, all she wanted was to find her and make things right and then take her home.

End of part 81

THE STRANGEST AND MOST UNLIKELY OF FRIENDS

 

Gabrielle placed her cards down as she eyed the dark sky outside she really needed to leave she’d been here for far too long. Quentin threw down his cards. “Well Ceyx wins over all, no surprise there.” Elma put her hand on her walking stick. “No, no surprise at all.” Gabrielle watched as the Philo came towards them his voice hitting the air. “Okay you all need to go home now I’m shutting up the tavern as we are only a drinking establishment I don’t have beds plus and we don’t open during the day, we only open at night.” Gabrielle stood up slowly. “I need to get going anyway.” Quentin looked up watching as she put her coat back on followed by her bag. He pulled a card out of his pocket putting it face down on the table then moved it towards her. “Please come back and see us again soon Gabrielle.” He kept his fingers on the card eyeing the empty tavern around them. “Should you need our help all you need to do is ask, though we are all too old to fight there are a lot of people like us in Corinth who are strong and wish to fight for you.”

He moved his fingers away watching as she put her hand on the card. “This is not the only place for people like us, if you find them just show this card and you’ll be welcome inside. You’ll know them because all people like us have the symbol that’s on the back of this card on their business’s and homes.” Gabrielle took the card putting it in her pocket as she walked towards the door. “Thank you and thank you for the game, it means a lot to me.” She watched as the bar tender nodded and the others waved as she closed the door behind her. She looked up it was early in the morning two more hours and dawns first light would break through the darkness. She walked down the street pulling out the card which had the black and white werewolf symbol for serenity on it she turned the card over only to freeze on the spot. It was the sketch of her which was from the Ethereal Ark Of Fire scroll. She looked at it for a long moment she was on werewolf playing cards, she had never expected that, she’d seen werewolf playing cards through out her life and she knew that all of the Hinds were on them but her image had never appeared in the deck, even after she’d become Horn Hind as the Imperial Council wouldn’t allow it.

Yet she was on this playing card which meant that she meant something to the werewolves here in Corinth. She mattered to them so much that they’d added her image to the card deck. She ran her fingers over the sketch taking it in for a long moment maybe this meant that her vision of becoming the right full ruler of the throne wasn’t so fruitless. She walked over to a wooden box close by an empty stall sitting on it looking at the card in her hand. She’d had visions of freeing the werewolves in Grand City and the other cities from the Imperial Council ever since she’d become king but maybe she was going about it all in the wrong way. She had forgotten about the many werewolves who had run away from these cities and had built new lives for themselves. They were clearly not having the same population problems as those in the hidden cities and had been growing in numbers there was also more than one generation of them. If their numbers were higher than those in the cities she could have an army at her command if she could win them over. The very fact that there were more of them could also be used to threaten the Imperial Council.

She hated the idea of civil war but the truth was she had to think about it as an option, along with her other options. She had no firm ideas right now but it gave her an ace card to use if need be. She had so much to think about and this had given her a shred of hope, the idea of over throwing the Imperial Council had always felt like a mountain which she just couldn’t climb but knowing this gave her a starting point. She looked up watching as four men came down the road carrying a large lectica which was a type of wooden wagon with a wooden top. It was surrounded by white curtains to hide the person inside. In Rome these were only used by the nobles but in Greece they were used by anyone with enough coin. Paid men and women moved the person from location to location around the city. She watched as some one shouted out causing all of the men carry the lectica to stop. Gabrielle carried on looking at her card not really taking any notice, why they’d stopped was none of her concern.

“The noble lady wishes to speak to you.”

Gabrielle looked up eyeing the man as a rule she didn’t care for pandering to the wants of nobles regardless of what they wanted with her. “I’m sorry I’m not interested in what the noble lady wants.” She watched as the white curtain was pulled back and a familiar face came in to view. She stood up slowly putting the card away. “Ilithyia?” Ilithyia felt her smile widen. “Gabrielle it’s a pleasure to see you again.” She pulled up her hand. “Please come and sit with me.” Gabrielle stood up she moved sitting in side of the lectica on one of the cushions she’d never been inside one before, it was really plush and surprisingly comfortable. Ilithyia put her hands together. “What are doing outside the palace did the Empress send you on a mission?” Gabrielle looked down slightly. “No I just took a walk.” Ilithyia sat up sharply she hated the other diplomats and their partners they were so cruel, all they ever did was stab each other in the back and show of by buying gladiators out at there homes so they could brag.

She’d just come back from one of their parties and she was utterly bored, she now desperately wanted to speak to someone who was wouldn’t stab her in the back or who wasn’t plotting and scheming against her or her husband. Despite her noble up bringing in Rome she’d hated all that scheming, her mother used to go around ruining people lives with her schemes. She’d been so happy when she’d married Abraxas because she thought she’d get away from it all by living in Greece but sadly she hadn’t and she was still surrounded by scheming nobles. The truth was she wanted to talk to someone who was real and who wasn’t plotting against her and who she could take at face value and in her view Gabrielle was one of these people. Frankly she didn’t care ether that she was a royal or that she was a werewolf and it had really pained her that she hadn’t been able to stay in the palace and talk to her instead she’d been forced to leave due to the Empress’s rules. She’d wanted nothing more than to just sit down and chat with her as she seemed like a very noble person. At least that’s what her instincts had told her and normally she wasn’t wrong.

Now though she had a chance to really talk to her she felt a smile form as she spoke. “I’ve just come back from a very boring party which was four hours to long.” Her smile slowly turned to a wide grin. “How’s about you come to our villa its not far from here, it’s at the edge of the eastern distinct?” Gabrielle raised her hand. “No really I wouldn’t want to impose on you.” Ilithyia shook her head. “Oh please I will not hear of it, come to our villa and have something to eat, I would really like the company.” Gabrielle looked up feeling unsure about her next question. “This isn’t one of those dinners where you do sexual things is it? I’m really not in to those.” Ilithyia laughed as she raised her hand causing the men to start moving the lectica. “Oh no nothing like that I might be Roman but I’m not in to that kind of thing, I see marriage as important and about two people together as a couple, plus I don’t share well with others never have, never will. Also all of the staff in our villa are paid for and treated with respect, I have never liked having slaves its one of the reasons I came to live in here Greece.”

Gabrielle felt a knowing smile form. “I understand I’ve never been able to share ether when it comes to ones I love.” She eased up her finger running it subconsciously down her diagonal scar. “As for slavery it has lasting effects.” Ilithyia looked up slightly she wasn’t stupid she could read through the lines, Gabrielle’s scar had clearly come about through slavery. “No human being deserves to be treated like an animal, free will was given by gods and every man woman and child should be free to make their own choices, not be told what to do by those who abuse their power. My parents loved to abuse their slaves and I hated it but a slave has one craving that’s more profound than any other. It burns brighter than any hunger and it’s like a thirst which no water could ever quench and that is to be free and they are willing to die for that freedom I’ve seen it first hand. I’d rather live in a land where every one is free to choose than one where I take away freewill and betray my gods.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “That’s a very noble way of thinking you clearly belong here in Greece.”

Ilithyia felt her smile widen. “Thank you I’m glad you see it that way, you know the other diplomats think I’m odd because I think this way.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Its hard to be different but people who are different and stand by their ideals can change the way things are and influence others. That’s what my late lover always used to tell me, he was a man who truly believed that you could change anything.” Ilithyia looked up. “I’m sorry for your loss he sounds like he was a very forward thinking man.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “Its alright he died a long time ago but I still miss him.” Ilithyia leaned back. “I had a husband before I married Abraxas I was very young and he was my parents choice but he divorced me as he cared more about power than me and wanted some bitch that was higher up on the Roman social ladder. I should hate him for it but strangely I don’t. Maybe because I was able to make a choice against my parent’s wishes and move to Greece and after I moved here I realized that I had a choice and I could say yes and no to who ever I wanted.”

She eyed her ringed finger. “It allowed me to fall in love with someone who I loved and who loved me in return, not someone I was tied to because our marriage was all about politics.” She looked up slightly. “It funny how life works out isn’t it?” Gabrielle slowly met her gaze. “Yes it is.” Ilithyia turned as the lectica was stopped and lowered as a male voice hit the air. “Your villa, lady Ilithyia.”  Ilithyia smiled easing herself out watching as her large white villa came in to view, with its gushing fountain in the courtyard. The villa had its own stables, bakery and a huge garden which had both Roman and Greek statues in it. Some of these statues could be seen as they were high up on pillars on both sides of the villa she turned to the men who had brought her here. “Thank you, all of you.” The men nodded. “How much?” The man closest turned to her smiled warmly. “Four dinars, we take Roman as well as Greek coin.” Ilithyia smiled handing him her dinars. “How’s about ten dinars for the pleasant ride and for bringing us both here, that sounds much fairer wouldn’t you agree?”

The man eyed the money then nodded respectfully. “Yes it does.” Ilithyia watched as Gabrielle got out stretching slightly before walking up to the villa’s double doors. She watched as the men left carrying the lectica with them they wouldn’t have to go far to find another person who wanted a ride, the eastern district had a lot of visitors as you could see the sea as it wasn’t that far away. People loved to go there and play games on the sandy beaches and watch the sun rise. Strangely though there weren’t any other diplomats in this area the ones that were up here were retired along with retired warriors, merchants and families who had succeeded in getting enough wealth to buy a large villa. She looked up as her husband appeared in the doorway he gave her a smile only for it to fade away as he eyed Gabrielle his face turning to uncertainty. “Ilithyia you didn’t tell me that you intended to bring back a guest.” Ilithyia raised her eyebrow. “The party you sent me to was as boring as…what’s that word you use? Oh yes Tartarus.” Abraxas adjusted his shirt. “What it was really bad?”

Ilithyia rolled her eyes. “Put it like this I didn’t find the naked Gladiator that interesting nor was watching Pelagia have her fun with him while her husband joined in, it made me want to throw myself on a dagger just so it would end.” Abraxas put a hand on her arm. “I’m sorry I was told that it was a formal party.” Ilithyia put her hand on his giving him a gentle kiss. “It’s not your fault, just once though I’d just like to go to party where people talk about things and don’t play these foolish sexual games.” She turned to Gabrielle as her personal maid came out to greet her. “Please take Gabrielle to the garden I’ll be there in just a moment.” She watched her personal maid nodded as Gabrielle followed her, she could see in the blonde woman’s eyes that she knew what this was about and that she wanted to chat privately with her husband for a moment. Abraxas watched as Gabrielle disappeared from sight he turned sharply to Ilithyia. “What are you thinking bringing her here?”

Ilithyia eyed him for a long moment. “She was on her own and as I said the party was awful, I want to speak to a woman who isn’t a decedent fool for once and don’t want to talk about politics, I want to just talk, even if it’s about dresses, theatre and all those things I don’t get to talk about often.” Abraxas leaned forward. “People like her don’t just walk around on their own Ilithyia she’s a royal, what if the Empress finds that I have her here? She might thing that I captured her and she’ll have my head. I mean come on even you said that it looked as though the Empress was quite taken by her.” Ilithyia raised her hand putting it on his chest. “You worry too much Abraxas, she’s not the Empress’s prisoner and she’s not tied to the palace I’m sure the Empress lets her come and go as she pleases, also only you and I know what she is and that’s she’s a royal. To the rest of Corinth she’s just warrior and no one of importance and I’m sure that works for her as having personal guards might cause too much attention.”

Abraxas raised his hand. “Okay I’ll give you that but you know we are not on great terms with the Empress and us taking in someone she’s rather taken with, will get us in to trouble.” Ilithyia shook her head. “That’s one way of looking at yes but we both know there’s another if you’re thinking about politically spin.” Abraxas put a hand on his beard. “You’re talking about us bringing her here because we want to show respect to the Empress, because it’s the right thing to do. A noble act for her safety because we know who she is and what she means to the Empress.” Ilithyia nodded easing her hand away from his chest. “Well as I said that can be our political spin on it but the truth is as I said, I just want someone to talk to because the party made me want to gag.” Abraxas took in a deep breath. “Okay well we will go with the political version should the worst happen maybe the Empress won’t want to break my balls.” Ilithyia shook her head. “Trust me everything will be alright.”

She eased up her hand running it down his face. “You got the diplomats and their partners to sign that document on the hunting law you did a wonderful job and she has to respect that.” Abraxas groaned. “Oh please don’t remind me of what I had to do to get that done, some of it wasn’t that great and some of the dinner invites I had to go to bored me to death and all of it just for a stupid signature.” He put his hand on hers. “Plus I know that you had to go to all those parties which you don’t care for.” Ilithyia laughed slightly. “I still have to go to a few but it doesn’t matter, I was happy to do it for you.” Abraxas nodded. “Well then we are both suffering for it but if we are suffering together then it’s all okay.” Ilithyia stepped away from him. “I agree now lets not keep our guest waiting, I’m sure she’s wondering where we are.” Abraxas nodded. “No lets not, it would be impolite.” He watched as she vanished in side the villa he took in a deep breath, gods give him strength that nothing would go wrong today because of this.

8

Finally something! One of the city guards said to Demetrius that they had seen a woman matching Gabrielle’s description in this area some hours ago. This means that Thaleia’s instincts were correct the eastern side of city is the type of place where Gabrielle would go to get away from the noise. I’m close I know it, she’s here in this part of the city, gods I’m so tired and I want to sleep so badly but I know I can’t. I want to find her if it’s the last thing I ever do. I know I’m close I can feel it, I can describe how I know, I just know she was here I’ve been feeling this odd sensation for a while now, it started over an hour ago. I know the footsteps I’m walking are they same as she has walked, it a perplexing feeling its like stepping on a shadow. It’s also a feeling I’ve never had before but the strangest thing is I like it, it’s comforting like knowing that someone is with in your reach. It’s also a deep feeling which is drawing me down this street. The sun is now high in the sky and a lot of shops around me are closing while others are opening and I know that this feeling is bringing me to somewhere I need to be.

Xena stopped eyed the tavern close by her which was now closed she looked up slowly at the sign which was a wolf head with blood coming out of its mouth. She narrowed her gaze eyeing the title which read The Slaughtered Lamb. It was a night tavern which only served food and drink but had no beds and was closed during the day. Unlike the day light counterpart which had beds and served during the day but was closed at night while its guests slept. She put her hand on the door feeling a tingling sensation under her fingers which made every nerve ending in her body fire all at once. She turned to Demetrius. “We need to look in here.” Demetrius eyed the tavern raising his eyebrow. “Here…but isn’t this.” He eyed the sign. “Rather morbid.” Xena eyed the sign as she smashed her fist against the door with all her might. “Yes it is but I have a feeling about this Demetrius, I can’t describe it I just know its right.” Demetrius breathed in deeply gods he just hoped she was right, he was so tired now and he needed sleep he could tell that Thaleia was struggling as well.

They both weren’t used to being up this late, he could tell though that the Empress was fairing much better than ether of them and he could only put it down to the months she’d spent with Gabrielle as Gabrielle could be up most of the night with out it bothering her or making her tired. Xena smashed her fist harder on the door. “Come on wake up!” She pulled her fist back about to strike it again only for the door to open, she watched as a man who was clearly Roman by his dress sense opened the door the anger in his eyes as he spoke. “We are closed! How many times do I have to tell you stupid tourists from other lands that the taverns of Corinth have two types? Day taverns with beds and night taverns which only serve food and drink and we are a night tavern!” He felt a sneer form. “So get lost.” Xena didn’t think as she grabbed him by his shirt pushing him back in side the tavern full force. “I am not a stupid tourist I am looking for some one who’s important to me!”

Philo eyed the taller dark haired woman who had piecing blue eyes, he swallowed clearly she meant business. “My mistake who were you looking for?” Xena let go of his shirt eyeing him for a long moment. “I’m looking for a small woman about half my height, she has long blonde hair, green eyes, fair skin and a diagonal scar on her right eye. She would have had two swords strapped to her back and would be wearing, dark trousers, boots and a white and silver shirt. Philo felt his eyes dart gods the description was perfect it was Horn Hind’s he breathed in deeply watching as the woman’s two companions entered the tavern. Xena turned to Demetrius as a thought crossed her mind as she eyed the man’s missing hand. “Close the door Demetrius.” Demetrius breathed in closing the door he had no idea where she was going with this but he felt it best just to go along with it. Philo turned watching as his wife opened the door behind the bar coming in, in her bed robes the concern was in her eyes as she spoke. “Philo is everything all right I heard shouting?” Philo adjusted his shirt. “Everything is fine Flora these people are just searching for someone.”

He put a hand on his chin eyeing the taller woman he had a very good idea who she really was. He watched as she eased down her cloaks hood revealing the black hair painting the full picture and confirming his thoughts. “Your friend was here not long ago, she came in here and got something to eat and drink and then she played cards with four of our older patrons.” Xena blinked in surprise Gabrielle didn’t generally socialize with people she didn’t know. So there had to be more to this she eyed his hand again as a crazy thought crossed her mind. “How did you loose your hand?” Philo blinked in confusion eyeing his stump which had the long healed up but still had the teeth marks in it, he’d taken off his hook because he had been about to get in to bed. “It was a wolf in Rome I used to tend to the arena animals when I was a younger man.” Xena put a hand on his arm. “No that’s not a wolf bite, wolves tear, what ever took your hand of, took it off in one bite and the canine teeth marks are far to big and far to deep.”

She paused eyeing him feeling a smile form. “Looks more like a wolf bite, from a really big wolf.” Philo breathed in deeply realizing that there was no getting out of this. The woman in front of him was the Empress of Greece and she was Horn Hind’s friend so she could see right through his false story. “No Empress it wasn’t a wolf bite…it was….” Flora lowered her gaze. “It was me…I bit his hand off back in Rome the decorative muzzle was loose, loose enough that I could almost speak. I attacked him and bit his hand off and then I took his key and forced the muzzle loose so I could speak. A cruentus creatura had turned me a two weeks before I was a slave waiting to die to the roar of the crowd and the gladiators. He betrayed Rome and freed me and we left together because he could no longer have his job because by biting him I’d turned him in to a werewolf just like me and he was now no more than fodder for the arena.” Xena folded her arms feeling her smile widen. “So you’re both werewolves?” Philo nodded. “Yes we are Empress and we mean you no harm. We didn’t mean Horn Hind any harm ether we let her in here because we were looking after her best interests, though she didn’t realize it at first.”

Xena raised hand ignoring Thaleia’s surprise. “She is your king I would expect you to do no less and your secret will remain a secret until my self and Horn Hind have worked things out fully between our two races and things are more settled.” Philo breathed in deeply. “We are not on the side of the Imperial Council they have no love for the cruentus creatura ether. As far as the Imperial Council is concerned werewolves made by the cruentus creatura for the sport off Rome’s Gladiators, have no place in the Grand City. Despite that they were turned with out having any choice and are not at fault for being, who and what they are.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Your king told me that she had no choice and that she was bitten because she was considered the strongest. So the Imperial Councils view on the both of you is hypocritical since you weren’t given a choice due to the circumstances. I have also met a cruentus creatura and they have no love for anyone other than them selves, my late husband also told me many lies regarding the dog fights of Rome and one day I intend to find a way to end them for good in the Roman Empire, as I have already done in my own Empire.”

Philo nodded respectful. “The rumours are true you are clearly a woman who believes in doing what is right, even if the person you’re doing it for is not human.” Xena walked over to corner table close by running her hand over feeling the sensation once more that Gabrielle had been here. “Your king has taught me a lot in these past few months and I realize that I have been seeing everything in the wrong light concerning the werewolf race. I want to fix it, my ending the hunting law and giving your race equal rights, is only the beginning.” Flora eyed the tall dark haired woman. “Wait you intend to help her bring down the Imperial Council, don’t you?” Xena looked up slightly. “Yes.” Philo turned sharply. “Why though I mean this is not your war?” Xena met his confused gaze she no longer cared who knew this now and she wanted this one truth to be spread among the werewolves of Corinth. “Because I’m willing to betray the Imperial Councils most scared law regarding humans and werewolves.” Philo put a hand on his chin as Gabrielle’s actions in the tavern became very clear and all of the parts suddenly fitted in to place. “You’re in love with her?” Xena nodded. “Yes I am and I need to find her, which is why I need your help now.” She eyed the bar. “Tell me where she went after she left your fine tavern and I’ll see you’ll be highly compensated and I’ll put your establishment on the map with a single word.”

Philo turned to his wife who nodded signalling him to tell her, he eyed the taller woman who he could tell was not bluffing she meant every word he could see it in her eyes. “Horn Hind walked down the street away from here, she was sitting outside when I saw a lectica with a Roman noble woman in it stop beside her. She invited her in side and then the men carried on walking in the direction of the sea, I’ve seen this woman many times before I believe she lives in this area with her husband who’s a diplomat.” Xena felt her eyes dart. “Wait what did this Roman noble woman look like?” Philo looked down slightly. “She’s in her late twenties and has dark blue eyes, long light brown hair with red henna highlights. She wasn’t very tall and wore green chiton robes with a turquoise belt and bronze decorative wrist bracelets.” Xena looked as she turned to face him. “I assume she’s a mild mannered woman and not a bitch to the lower classes?”

Philo nodded. “Yes that sounds correct I’ve never heard anyone speak ill of her or her husband.” Xena folded her arms turning to Demetrius. “Ilithyia, that’s who picked her up.” Demetrius nodded. “The description fits, her and her husband have a villa in this part of the city. The others diplomats and their partners are in the more descendant and flavourful areas of the city, due to their habits.” He stroked his beard. “But why would she take Gabrielle? She barely knows her.” Xena raised her hand. “Because that’s how that woman thinks, she would see it as rude to not invite Gabrielle to her villa. She knows Gabrielle is important to me and she would do it regardless of what her husband thinks.” She felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “This means that Gabrielle is at their villa, right now.” She turned slowly to the tavern owner putting a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for your help you will get all that I promised.” Philo nodded respectfully. “You are both kind and generous Empress and this will not go unheard of, I will tell others in my race about your kindness and your love.”  Thaleia looked up slightly. “Where is their villa?” Demetrius turned to her. “Oh its not far from here we can get there very quickly from here.”

End of part 82

 

DOING THE THING THAT IS TRULY JUST AND RIGHT

 

Gabrielle looked at the long garden in front of her it was huge with many trees, statues and paths, there were four sideways chairs in the room that over looking it. The whole villa was beautiful it wasn’t over decent instead it was laid out simply with beautiful furniture. It seemed to be about comfort and calm rather than shouting out wealth. Inside the room was a hoplite armour which was on a stand in the corner, she could tell it had seen battle by the denting in the bronze helmet and Aspis shield, the sword at the foot of the amour also had a few nicks in it. It was clear though that it hadn’t been used for a very long time and was now just a centre piece but a centre piece which clearly mattered. As it was on display for everyone to see when they walked in to this room. She heard a light chirping sounds she turned watching as blue rose-ringed parakeet came in to view, he was seated on a tall wooden stand which he could climb up and down.

The stand also had material toys hanging off it for him to play with his foot was ringed but he was a clearly a pet who had the freedom to fly around the garden and come back when ever he pleased as there was no cage present. She stepped closer watching as the medium sized blue bird black eyes shifted as he looked at her with curiosity. She eased her hand out very gently watching as he opened his beak in a threat display. She stopped putting her hand down on the wooden stand opposite him watching as he moved closer to it looking it over with curiosity. She eased up her thumb gently running it up his leg then eased it up to his chest stroking gently watching as the parakeet became calm. She carried on stroking he was clearly just a bit nervous, hence his aggression she moved her finger a little higher seeing the bird relax as he ruffled his feathers.

“Careful he…bites.”

Gabrielle turned watching as Ilithyia appeared close by the surprise in her face as she spoke again. “It seems you have a way with birds.” Gabrielle felt a smile form as she carried on stroking the bird’s chest. “I own a Collard Dove I think it’s all about being gentle and kind.” She eyed the parakeet. “What’s his name?” Ilithyia felt a smile form as the other woman stepped away from her pet she walked over stroking him under his neck. “He’s called Omega and I like him to be free hence why he can fly around the garden when ever he pleases.” Gabrielle sat down on a sideways sofa staying up right on it rather than laying on it. “No bird should ever be in a cage, they should be free to come and go.” Ilithyia smiled inwardly. “Clearly we think alike in that notion.” She moved over to the sofa which was facing Gabrielle’s lying on it. “Would you like a drink?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No thank you.” Ilithyia raised her filled goblet of wine drinking from it. “Please I insist.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I don’t drink alcohol.”

Ilithyia raised her hand. “That’s not a problem we have fruit juices.” She nodded to the servant near by who nodded back. “So you don’t drink, then what is your poison? Everyone’s got one.” Gabrielle eased out her pipe looking at it. “I smoke.” Ilithyia raised her hand. “Ah well feel free, I’m not a prude my husband smokes so I don’t mind.” Gabrielle put the pipe in her mouth lighting it she breathed in deeply before breathing out the smoke. “Thank you.” Ilithyia looked up. “Abraxas will be joining us soon he just has a few miner matters to deal with.” She smiled as the servant put down a goblet of orange juice in front of the other woman, who eased off her coat putting it to one side. “This place must seem small to you, I mean you live in a palace which is filled with rooms.” Gabrielle looked around her. “The palace is big yes but your villa is very beautiful its feels homely.” Ilithyia raised an eyebrow. “Thank you I appreciate that, I know as a royal you may be used to large rooms and expensive things.”

Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t care for decadence, the rooms I’ve spent time in weren’t huge in fact one was about the tenth the size of this room, the Empress’s palace is the biggest place I’ve ever lived in.” Ilithyia blinked as she looked up. “I’m surprised I mean you’re a royal.” Gabrielle shook her head breathing in her pipe. “I wasn’t always a royal, I was a warrior at first, when my predecessor the Crescent Hind died I grew horns in werewolf form and became the Golden Hind. Kings in my race are not picked by royal line they are chosen by the gods and only the gods they worship understand why.” Ilithyia looked at her for a long moment Gabrielle’s attitude and character now made more sense after her saying this. She wasn’t a royal by blood line but a warrior who had become powerful just like the Empress. She looked up as Abraxas entered the room he gave her a smile as he sat down on the sofa opposite hers his calm voice hitting the air. “My apologises, I didn’t mean to be rude to our guest, I was just sending out some scrolls.”

Ilithyia looked up slowly giving him a warm smile watching as he poured a goblet of wine. “Gabrielle was telling me how kings in her race are picked by the gods and grows horns not by royal blood line and that she was a warrior before she became a royal, much like the Empress.” Abraxas watched as Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe clearly she liked to smoke just like him. “The Empress thinks highly of you Gabrielle and it makes sense as you’re a warrior at heart just like her.” He paused putting a hand on his beard. “My apologises for the sexual comments regarding you and her the last time we met, it was very rude of me and I should have shown you more respect and not called you her conquest.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “Its fine really, I’ve been called much worse in my time.” She breathed out her pipes smoke meeting his curious gaze. “I also understand that you and the Empress have had a difficult time due to what happened with your younger brother.” Abraxas looked at the ring on his finger for a long moment. “My brother was foolish and I don’t believe we should have to suffer for his mistakes.”

Gabrielle looked up sharply. “That’s your political view but I know it’s not your personal one.” Abraxas eyed her for a long moment feeling unsure as he spoke his next words. “If I were to say my personal one would it go against me?” Gabrielle shook her head as she leaned back. “No it won’t, I prefer it when people speak from the heart I don’t care for politics.” Abraxas eased up his hand giving a signal which caused the two servants in the room to leave closing the door behind them. This was not for their ears and despite their loyalty he didn’t want any risks when it came to talking about the Empress of Greece.  He turned back to the golden haired woman. “Personally I think the Empress isn’t strong, oh she’s strong as a warrior and as a leader but in terms of punishment she is soft, too soft.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath strangely she could see where he was coming from here. She had seen another side to Xena though the cruel, vindictive side and the angry unkind side and after seeing it she would much rather have the softer side. “You would not like her harder side believe me, its very brutal, she maybe be soft and kind hearted but that is what makes her who she is, she extends kindness and warmth to those who need it.”

Abraxas raised an eyebrow. “She has a brutal side, I had no idea.” Gabrielle picked up her goblet taking a long drink. “You do not want to see that side of the Empress, believe me I have been stood in the face of it. We were not friends at first and she saw me as an animal and she wasn’t very kind to me but we got past this and became friends. You don’t want that side of her ruling the Greek Empire, she should always be told that she’s kind, loving and caring and she should be loved for who she is.” Abraxas put down his goblet. “I know you wouldn’t lie about this I can see it in your eyes and if you say that her unkind side is this way then I will take your word for it. I’m just surprised clearly I had forgotten that those who are calm sometimes have the most brutal tempers, because they can not control their rage. Where as those who are always slightly on edge control that darkness with in them better.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “If only it was that way for me, I always feel like my angers there even when I’m not mad it’s like a pressing dagger in the back of my mind waiting to break free, I think some days that I’ve spent to long on the battle field.”

Abraxas nodded in understanding. “War taints us all in some way, I was a hoplite in the Spartan uprising there are things I wish I could forget, maybe that’s why when I came back after two terms in the army I felt that it was time to quit and go in to politics. I don’t want to wear that armour again as long as I live.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “You may not be wearing it on your body but it’ll always be in your mind and your heart and it will always be a part of you.” Abraxas eased up his hand. “You make a good point tell me though, why are you wearing your swords I mean you sound unsure of yourself?” Gabrielle eyed her sword hilt. “I have always been a warrior I can’t stop being a warrior my heart won’t let me, I only feel whole when I have a sword in my hand and when I’m fighting other warriors on the battle field. I don’t believe in harming and killing innocents it is the worst of all sins.” Ilithyia shuffled feeling the need to change the subject, it was clear though that Abraxas and Gabrielle had an understanding but she didn’t like the dark silence that was now clinging to the air. “So Gabrielle, tell us, do you think you and the Empress will ever be more than friends?”

Abraxas turned sharply. “Ilithyia!” Ilithyia shrugged as she turned to him. “What it’s a fair question, just because you won’t ask it does not mean that I won’t.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe for a long moment as the question slowly sunk in and the world around her, slowly come to a stand still. More than friends, they had both gone so far beyond that point and it was clear from this walk that everyone, even those among her own race could see Xena’s love for her. She wouldn’t lie she had enjoyed their kiss and she had wanted more, it had been a pure kiss filled with pure love. The kind that she wished she could hold on to but she knew she couldn’t. When she was around the other woman the emptiness she felt in her life vanished it was the only time she felt whole as a person. She could talk to her about anything and not feel scared or concerned over the subject. Xena could also calm her anger which was something that no other person could do and she had felt at sense of peace in her presence. Despite what she had suffered in the beginning in Xena’s presence she could not deny that the palace had become the first place she’d ever called home, and in it she was surrounded by friends and family.

No to say that it was just them who made it her home would not be honest it was Xena who had truly made it her home. She breathed out the smoke in her mouth, it was always said that home was where the heart is but she needed to stop denying that one solid truth which she’d been running from because she was in denial, which was that she loved Xena. She had loved her for a long time she had just had problems admitting it because she’d feared that if she had a relationship with her that it would end in tragedy like her last few relationships. She didn’t want to loose another lover. Loosing Damokles had been heart breaking and being abused and used by Adrienne had been crippling to her soul. That was why every time Xena had touched her she had ignored seeing it as friendship despite that it had clearly always been more. That pressing fear had always kept her from letting the other woman in fully but when they had kissed she knew she could no longer hide from that truth. Xena had also said that despite her past actions in the androphonomania massacre, she had no intention of getting rid of her or punishing her. Clearly she had to love deeply to put her past actions aside and say that.

There was another element of this she knew that if they ever got to together there would cause blinding and reckless hated from the Imperial Council. Who would see this as a truly traitorous act on her part, it would be the leverage that they needed pull in all their loyal follows and start a war. What ever their master plan was it would probably start the moment she openly confessed her love for Xena and that had caused her to ignore the truth because she feared the consciences because every one who was against her wouldn’t just attack her they would also target Xena. She was so tired and so sick of being afraid she didn’t want to be afraid anymore it felt like a cage which was suffocating her. She wanted freedom from it she wanted to make her own choices and no longer care about the consequences. She could end up loosing but she’d rather loose by her own choice than be forced in to a corner once more, where no discussion was ever her own. That was what love was though it had risks but there was so much to gain. She hated being alone she just wanted to be happy, she wanted to feel the other woman’s love again and to melt in to it and no longer care about her troubles.

She knew though that she would have to do something she had never done before in the hopes of gaining Xena’s approval once more. The older woman had said that she had dishonoured her sword, if she had dishonoured it then she had to regain her honour what ever it took. She would kneel to the other woman and surrendered her sword to her to redeem her soul. She would pledge her loyalty completely to her and hope that Xena would still love her and give the chance to do what was right. She would never kneel to anyone else but in her heart she knew she’d kneel to Xena because she respected her and ultimately she loved her. She wanted to show her that love and devotion even it meant that she had her sword taken away so that she could regain it later, through an act of honour. She couldn’t run from her love any longer and hiding it was only making things worse between them. In truth she now regretted not doing this sooner but she knew she had to tell the truth about the androphonomania massacre. It had been destroying her and now that it was out there she could at least move on with her life and try to correct the mistake she’d made through doing noble acts.

“Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle looked up sharply snapping out of her thoughts looking at Abraxas and Ilithyia who both looked confused. She shook her head realizing that she’d been so caught up in her own thoughts that she’d forgotten what the question was that they had asked. “I’m sorry, what was the question?” Ilithyia looked up she had no idea what had happened here it was like Gabrielle had just become lost in her own thoughts, it was clearly deep thought because she had become obvious to everything and everyone. She turned to Abraxas who raised an eyebrow before turning back to Gabrielle. “I asked if you think that you and the Empress will ever become more than friends?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Perhaps.” Ilithyia refilled her goblet. “Perhaps, so it could happen then?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “That depends on if my goddess is kind.” Ilithyia narrowed her gaze that was a cryptic statement but she understood why the other woman had used these words as she sounded uncertain herself. She felt a smile form. “Well I’d just like to say that I think you’d make a good couple, I mean you clearly have chemistry.”

Abraxas rolled his eyes. “You know you shouldn’t do that match maker thing Ilithyia, you don’t know if Gabrielle cares for women, I mean we all know that the Empress likes both genders but not every woman in Greece is like that. You can’t force someone to love a gender that they have no interest in.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “That is true Abraxas you can’t but I have always like both genders I’ve had both male and female lovers, but only ever have one partner at a time. I also don’t share well with others hence why I don’t care for orgy parties or threesomes.” Abraxas watched as Gabrielle finished her goblet. “I can relate to that I don’t care for sharing ether, my idiot of a brother was the opposite though he couldn’t get enough of that kind of thing but then again each to his own. Everyone has their poison and everyone has a weakness under the sheets.” Gabrielle put her goblet down taking in a deep breath from her pipe before blowing out the smoke. “That is true I won’t deny it as I’ve heard that it is the Greek gods who believe the sex drive can not be controlled and though I don’t believe in the Greek gods I respect that notion.”

Abraxas felt a smile form. “It’s nice to meet someone who has no fear of saying what they feel.” He was about to say more only to stop as a knock sounded on the door. “Come in.” He watched as one of the servants came in closing the door behind her he gave her a smile. “Yes.” The servant shuffled nervously before looking up. “I’m sorry Dominus I know you’re busy…and.” Abraxas stood up slowly looking at the nervous girl she was new here to his staff and a former Roman slave who was getting used to a life of freedom once more. His wife had a soft spot for ill treated people and she always tried to help them out, her deep rooted view on slavery being immoral deeply influenced her actions. At first he’d disliked her over helpfulness but over the years he’d come to understand her reasoning. Helping those who needed it gained their loyalty and their trust in such a powerful way, normal servants could be brought out or manipulated but not those who had been helped or given a better life had passionate loyalty.

More than once the servants in his villa had revealed plotting against him by the other diplomats who were trying to sell him and Ilithyia out. When he’d asked them why they’d not taken the gold they said it was because both he and Ilithyia had been kind to them and understanding and given them a better life. Loyalty like that was priceless and he now shared his wife’s view on both slavery and helping those in need. He leaned over putting a hand gently on the young girls shoulder. “Easy now just relax little one, take in a deep breath and tell me what’s wrong.” He paused. “Also its Abraxas not Dominus, you are not my slave and I am not your master, you’re a free young woman who can come and go as she pleases.” The young girl nodded as he eased her hand away she spoke keeping her hands together. “There’s a city guard at the door to see you, he’s seems very annoyed.” Abraxas put his hands behind his back. “Thank you I’ll go and have a word with him, you go back to your duties.” He watched as she nodded going up to the table and refilling the goblets. “Please excuse me I’ll be back in a moment.”

Ilithyia gave him a smile. “I will be back soon.” Abraxas smiled back as he walked through the door closing it behind him. It was time he got a loyal ex warrior to guard the door, he was sick of the city guards scaring his servants. He walked up to the door opening it watching as a rough looking man came in to view who had a patch on his left eye. The man spoke not bothering to hide his disgust. “You need to get better servants the one who answered the door cringed like some pathetic deer in arrow sight.” Abraxas closed the door behind him eyeing the man in front of him. He didn’t think as he grabbed him by his shirt violently pulling him forward. “You were talking to a forma slave you unfeeling bastard and you are to treat her and the rest of my servants with more respect and not act like an arse in front of them.” He let go forcing the man back violently. “Is that understood?” The man adjusted his armour looking up as he realized his mistake. “Yes.” Abraxas leaned against the pillar opposite the door eyeing him. “What did you want?”

The man looked down adjusting his armour. “The Empress is looking for someone by the name of Gabrielle, some important figure long blonde hair, green eyes not very tall, fair skinned.” Abraxas eased up his hand stopping him mid sentence. “Wait you say she’s missing?” The gruff looking man nodded. “She has been missing since last night the Empress will reward anyone very highly who finds her. She’s also in the area searching for her personally. I saw her myself she’s not far away from here you can’t miss her, the light blue eyes are a give away along with the black hair.” He paused. “So have you seen her or not?” Abraxas looked up sharply he wanted to tell the truth that Gabrielle was here but he didn’t want this dishonourable looking idiot to get the reward. He’d rather someone else more deserving get it he opened the door to his house turning sharply eyeing him. “No I haven’t seen her, now get lost.” He ignoring the dirty look the man gave him as shut the door on him, he moved over to his desk picking up a piece of scroll writing on it then rolled it up putting his wax seal on it. He then walked in to another room catching sight of an older man who was dressed in amour whose job was to protect his servants.

There were in fact three ex warriors in his villa and they all protected his servants and guarded them when they went to the market. He eyed the older man. “I have a job for you.” The older man took the scroll eyeing it. “What do you command of me Abraxas?” He smiled looking up at him. “You’ve always been loyal to me I want to see that your well rewarded. I need you to take this scroll and give it to a woman she will stand out she’ll be very tall with long black hair, tanned bronze skinned and piecing blue eyes. You may have seen her in my villa she’s been her once or twice before.” The older man raised an eyebrow. “You are refereeing of cause to the Empress are you not?” Abraxas patted his shoulder. “Yes I am and she’s very close to the villa but I’m entertaining at present and it would be rude for me to leave my guest, so I need you to do this for me.” The older man nodded. “I’ll see it done Abraxas, I know this area well enough it won’t take me very long to find her not if she’s as close as you say.” Abraxas nodded watching as he moved towards the door. “Thank you.”

End of part 83

 

AT THE CROSSROADS WHERE TIME STANDS STILL

Xena walked up the street which led to Abraxas villa she knew that in less than ten minutes she’d be there. She had been to his villa once before but that had been a very long time ago back when she’d first become Empress of Greece. She’d been visiting all the people who had been loyal to her politically and promoting them to diplomats. That felt like so long ago now and she could say with out a shadow of a doubt that with most of these people she’d made the right choice, with the exception of a few who had betrayed her. Her gaze drifted upwards as she caught sight of an old warrior who was coming towards her. He wasn’t a hoplite or one of the city guards his armour was much more personal, there was a bronze emblem which represented a house on his chest. This emblem meant that he was someone’s personal house guard, house guards normally consisted of warriors who had done a term in the army. As well as warriors who had been kicked out of the army because they couldn’t follow the rules or disobeyed orders, as well as those who could no longer serve due to a serious injury. This man was one of them his injuries were very obvious he had a slight limb and was missing two fingers on his right hand.

She stopped watching as he looked at studying her carefully for a few moments before coming to stand in front of her. He raised a small scroll as he spoke ignoring Demetrius’s intense gaze which now up on him. “I have a message for you.” Xena eyed him for a long moment. “A message for me?” The house guard smiled showing off three golden teeth. “Yes this is just for you, it’s from Abraxas he told me to give to you personally as he heard you were in the area he said that it was very important that you receive it.” Xena took the small scroll from his hand blinking in surprise. She knew that Gabrielle was at his villa but she had not expected him to go out of his way to even contact her over this issue or help her with it. As she knew full well that they had never really seen eye to eye. She had fully expected to enter his villa and for him not to even say that Gabrielle was inside and to only reveal the truth when he got what he wanted by using the situation to manipulate her in some way. She eyed the small scroll carefully cracked the seal opening eyeing the writing on it.

Dear Empress.

Ilithyia came across your close friend Gabrielle this morning in the market place, she had concerns for her safety as she is a royal. Even though that may not be known to the public as yet we were still concerned as the hunting law has only recently been passed and there are people out there who still might try to cause her harm. She’s now safe and sound inside our villa and being well taken care off. I hope that you’ll come up to my villa and take her back to the palace as I’m sure you’ve been concerned as to her where she is and would prefer that she is brought back safely.

Abraxas.”

Xena slowly closed the note looking up at the older man who smiled. “Thank you, would you please lead us to villa?” The old house guard nodded. “It would be my pleasure Empress.” Demetrius followed the old house guard as he led the way he had to confess this had surprised him as much as the Empress. He hadn’t expected Abraxas to come forward about Gabrielle he had assumed that he’d play a political game of some kind. He turned to Thaleia who now looked very tired, he could see it in her eyes he eased up his arm putting it around her shoulder pulling her close. “How are you holding up?” Thaleia took in a deep breath. “I’m alright I’m just tired.” Demetrius felt his smile widen. “I know, I am to.” He paused eyeing the map in her hand. “You did a very good job of finding the area Gabrielle was in if it weren’t for you I doubt we would have found her this quickly.” Thaleia looked up meeting his soft gaze. “Thank you it means a lot you saying that.” She breathed in deeply. “I must say though that I can’t wait to get back under the sheets of my bed at the palace.”

Demetrius nodded. “You and me both, I think when I get back I’ll drink a warm tankard of mead then sleep for a long time.” He paused feeling unsure of his next words. “You know maybe when we get back we could both…I don’t know have a picnic in the garden sometime. I mean if the weather holds up.” He paused. “You don’t have to go with me I mean, I understand if you’re not interested.” Thaleia looked up sharply she eased up her hand putting it on his chest. “No I’d love to come.” Demetrius felt his smile turn to a wide grin. “Well then I’ll try and get some food together when we get back.” He breathed in deeply he knew this was rather sudden but if this day had taught him anything it was that they didn’t spend enough time together, despite that they were good friends. He also wanted to see whether or not she had invited the man she liked to dinner as she hadn’t spoken about it at all. Even when they’d gone to market to get gifts for Gabrielle when she’d been on her sick bed she hadn’t said a thing. He wouldn’t lie he did feel a little jealous that she liked someone else but he wouldn’t go after her himself despite how he felt about her as he’d rather that she be happy.

He turned back to her. “Who knows it might snow and if it does we can make something out of the snow.” Thaleia felt her smile widen she knew that most of the staff didn’t like the winter snow fall but she loved it. She loved the way it covered the statues and the palace and she loved watching the children all run around in it and throw snow balls. Some of her fondest memories were playing in the snow with her mother as a small child along with her father who she could remember very clearly. He had been dressed in his armour pretending to be a horse with her on his shoulders. She felt her smile fade she still missed him even now and some days she wished she could see him again but she knew that was impossible. It was said that the dead could visit the living but he had never visited her and she hoped that where ever he was now that he was happy. She knew he hadn’t worshiped the Greek gods but strange gods from another land she could still remember him telling her stories about Gleti the moon goddess and Xevioso the thunder god.

She vividly remembered asking him why he didn’t worship the Greek gods like her mother he had smiled warmly and said, we worship what is in our hearts. She had never really understood what he meant by that as a child but now as a grown woman she had now come to understand his meaning. He was saying that he worshipped what he believed in regardless of what others thought, because that was what his heart told him to do. It was better to follow your hearts desires and needs than be forced to follow others down a path, which you nether liked or wanted. She turned back to Demetrius. “I like it when it snows the palace always looks so beautiful.” Demetrius turned to her. “I agree, I have always liked the snow myself I mean its fun to have snow ball fights now and again.” He was about to say more only to stop as he caught sight of Abraxas villa, he had to confess he’d never been to this diplomats villa. Though he had been to other diplomats villas and it had been a pompous and annoying affair. He really hoped that this villa wouldn’t be the same he really hated it when the servants thought they had to kiss his ass because the villa owner had told them to.

Xena looked up watching as Abraxas villa came in to view it had been such a long time since she’d been to his home and strangely it looked just the same as she remembered it. She’d been to some very over extravagant villas in her time but she remembered Abraxas villa as a more sub duded home. His villa was about comfort and beauty rather than decadence and it hadn’t really changed at all in all these years. The same statues could be seen in the garden and its wide courtyard was the same. There was single horse stable close by and she could his servants running around doing their duties, she watched as the large gates were closed behind them. These tall gates were there purely for the protection of the villa owner and the staff if war broke out in side the city. Though frankly she didn’t see that ever happening no one had ever breached the outer wall of Corinth apart from herself and that had been in when she’d liberated it from its tyrant queen Nebula who had been bringing horrific suffering to the people. She had been the last great dictator to fall in Greece and she had brought her to justice for her crimes. After which she had met her end at the noose in a public hanging. After this had happened the remaining royals who had been loyal to Nebula had all surrendered unconditionally pledged their loyalty to her and she’d been crowned Empress of Greece. She’d spent the next six years rebuilding Corinth bringing its economy back and rebuilding it back to its forma glory.

Her love affair with it should have ended after its rebuild but strangely it never had, she fallen in love with the city and had carried on changing it. Even when she’d lived in Rome after her marriage she’d worked on new things for it. Now it stood as a testament of her love, the biggest city in the whole of the Greek Empire with more theatres, gladiatorial arena’s than any other city. It had five huge city regions and temples to both the Greek and Roman gods as well as lesser temples in other lands. It was now the capital of Greece instead of Athens she still saw the old capital as important though as it was a place for the bards, scholars, history, maths and learning and mysteries. Some people had said that these mysteries shouldn’t be tampered with as it was an offence to the gods but she didn’t agree. She felt that it was important to understand the world and she got a lot of pleasure out of reading the scholars findings every six months. After all it was understanding that had helped a very clever engineer named Heron to work out the water system in her palace which worked through pipes and water pressure. His idea meant that you could also get hot and cold water from separate taps. Though he had stated that he’d seen this concept in a dream, regardless of it being a dream or not his design had been revolutionary and was now being used across Greece along with the underground sewage systems which linked to homes in cities.

These ideas showed the importance of understand and how much they could help the people, so despite that Athens was no longer the capital she’d always told her people that she wanted it to remain central point of leaning. Corinth was the city of her heart and was her greatest achievement as a ruler and one day she hoped to emulate its design across every town and village in Greece but she knew that it would take many years to do so the royals were only just starting to emulate her design in there own cities but it had taken them years to catch up. She shook her head breaking out of her thoughts as the old house guard used his key to open the villa’s front door. She walked in side with the others watching as he closing the door her locking it. She looked around her at the wall paintings and statues it was just the same as she remembered it. The house guard turned to her. “Please excuse me I’ll get Abraxas.” Xena took in a deep breath as he disappeared from sight, only to reappear again as he was closely followed by Abraxas, who gave her a smile as he spoke. “It is a pleasure to see Empress I’m glad that you got my message.”

Xena folded her arms eyeing him. “Yes I got your message though I’ll confess I did not expect you to send me it.” Abraxas eased up his hand. “As I said in my message Gabrielle was walking the streets it was Ilithyia who found her and brought her back to our villa. We were both concerned that harm might come to her as she is a royal at the end of the day.” Demetrius felt a smirk form. “Trust me there’s no chance of that, any common mugger or criminal would wind up dead if they tried to touch her in any manner.” Thaleia nodded. “Yes I agree.” Xena slowly met Abraxas’s calm gaze. “Thank you for bringing her back to your villa, it is true she has nothing to fear from common criminals but she does have those among her own race who do not approve of her because of how she thinks and her higher moral standards. They may have used this opportunity to harm her, if they knew that she had been outside the palace and was walking around with out an escort. So her being safe is very important at this moment in time when her people are dealing with such civil unrest.”

She paused eyeing him. “Where is she now?” Abraxas put his hands behind his back. “She’s sleeping she said she was tired, Ilithyia showed her to one of our guest rooms.” Xena felt the breath she’d been holding leave her throat along with the tension of the past hours. Thank the gods she was safe. She turned eyeing him wanting to say more but Gabrielle was important to her right now. “Please take me to her.” She turned to Demetrius and Thaleia who looked just as tired as she was right now. “Also give my friends food and drink and a warm beds to sleep in, their both very tired.” Abraxas eyed the Empress she was very tired he could see it in her eyes. The fact that she had come searching for Gabrielle with her staff showed just how important this woman was to her. He turned not wanting to hold her up as he could see the anxiousness in her eyes. “Please follow me.” He turned to one of his servants. “Please show the Empress’s friends to the two other guest rooms and if they want anything to eat or drink have it brought to them.” The servant nodded. “Yes Abraxas.” Abraxas slowly walked up the hallway watching as the Empress followed him. “As I said in my note we had no idea you were looking for her personally if we had known we would have sent a note sooner.”

Xena turned eyeing him. “Tell me, why is it you’re not asking me for anything, I mean you found her?” Abraxas turned meeting her tired gaze. “I have no interest in using your friend as leverage to get what I want, plus I like her she has that hard edge I admire.” He stroked his beard. “I mean it not like anyone ever tells her what to do, she clearly likes to choose her own path. None of the other Greek royals would take a walk outside the palace with out a guard they have no spine when it comes to that kind of thing.” He ignored her surprise. “I didn’t expect you to come after her personally ether disguised by a cloak, since you normally only walk the streets on a horse surrounded by your royal guard.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Yes well I realize that I need to get out more, I spend too much time inside the palace walls.” Abraxas carefully opened the door to the first guest room, watching as Gabrielle came in to view. She was sleeping on a double bed fully clothed though she had taken off her boots and her swords she still had one of her weapons in her hand. He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Would your coming to get her, be about more than just getting out?” Xena eyed him for a long moment. “Yes it would…she means a lot to me.”

Abraxas looked up slightly clearly Ilithyia did have a good point when she referred to possible feelings between the Empress and Gabrielle and he would tell her that later. As right now she was talking with the newest servant out in the garden who the city guard had scared as she wanted to put her even more at ease. He stepped away from the open door looking at the Empress. “Please feel free to rest your head as soon as you get up I’ll have my servants make you a meal, I’m sure you’re hungry.” Xena took in a deep breath she hadn’t expected him to be this nice or even to offer a meal she looked up slowly. “Thank you Abraxas.” Abraxas nodded before turning away. “I’ll leave you both alone.” Xena moved inside the room closed the door behind her. She looked around the large room which had a door opposite which led out in to the gardens as well as a double bed in the centre of the room there were two side ways sofa’s and small wash room near by. A thick velvet curtain had been pulled across to block out most of the light but it had left just enough that she could see where she was going. She came to stand opposite the double bed where the younger woman was sleeping looking down at her. She was clearly sleeping very deeply and she didn’t want to wake her up despite how much she wanted to speak to her. She was very tired herself and her feeling this tired meant that the things she wanted to say might not come out right and that was the last thing she wanted, she wanted to be fully awake and rested when she spoke to her.

She had to confess she had not expected her in to end up in Abraxas’s villa and yet now that she was here she would rather it be his villa that any other diplomats home. Abraxas he had not shown any interest in using the situation to his advantage and it confirmed a few things from his last visit to the palace. It seemed that though he didn’t care that much for her he clearly liked Gabrielle, so much so that he wanted to help her. She eased her hand down running it gently though the younger woman’s long blonde hair letting it spill through her fingers before leaning down and kissing her gently on the cheek. Gods she had missed her so much, if this event had taught her anything it was that she didn’t want to be away from her for this amount of time ever again. It had been like torture not having her around, it’s true she could have waited for her to return to the palace but she really hadn’t wanted to do that. She didn’t want to give Gabrielle the impression that she had to come and apologise to her she also didn’t want her to think that because she was Empress and in a higher position of power that it was her place to submit, even if it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t want their friendship to be ruled by their positions in any way, shape or form the other Greek royals could bow all they wanted but she’d never force Gabrielle to kneel or bow to her. She didn’t want the younger woman to ever think that she had to kneel just because she was a royal just because the other royals did. She was nothing like the other royals she was above them, she was honourable even when the scales weren’t tipped in her favour and she’d risk her position even if meant getting caught.

She lowered her gaze to the floor she loved her too deeply to loose her and a part of her was happy that she hadn’t left the city because she knew that in her position and after the things she’d said, that she might have chosen to leave for good. She eased off her cloak putting it to one side. She didn’t want to think about what she’d have done if the younger woman had chosen to leave for good. She knew that if the younger woman had done so that it would have been the perfect opportunity for those who hated her to try and assassinate her again. She probably hadn’t left because she knew this and wouldn’t take the risk. She shook her head now she was just happy that she had found the younger woman once more and that she was alright, that was all that really mattered to her right now. She walked over to the other side of the bed easing her self on it so she was next to Gabrielle. She moved her arm over very gently putting it around her waist pulling her close, watching as the younger woman’s hand tightened around her sword hilt for a moment before loosened as she half murmured something in her sleep as her body relaxed once more.

They had a lot to talk about when she woke up and she had idea where to start, what mattered most to her was telling Gabrielle that she’d done a noble thing during the androphonomania massacre and that her actions had saved the lives of many children who were still alive today. She also wanted to find out the full truth about what she had wanted during the meeting with the Imperial Council because there just had to be more to it than she’d said she could feel it in gut. She breathed in deeply she had made such a mess of things by not taking the time to listen to what Gabrielle was saying and she wanted to put that right. She also didn’t want her to see herself as a mess or a nuisance who she had to clean up after, because she wasn’t that at all. Her breaking things was irrelevant, things could be replaced in her palace. Rooms could be rebuilt but nothing could replace Gabrielle she was special and she mattered to her more than anyone else. There was also one thing which the younger woman had said which had been true and that was that she afraid of going beyond her palace walls and that she liked to hide behind them.

She had spent so many years hiding behind her palace walls since Rome but walking around the city today had taught her that she really had nothing to fear. No one even recognised her, she hadn’t been assassinated and it had given her a sense of power and understanding. In that she could walk beyond her walls without fear and not have to worry about looking over her shoulder. Which meant that the only real danger in the past had come when she’d put on her armour and showed off who she really was. This new found freedom had made her realize something else though, she didn’t need legions to protect her she just needed very truth worthy people who knew the city and who could hide in it and talk to contacts. She turned back to the younger woman she had been right about this and she deserved to be told so. No one had ever taken the time to listen to her pains like Gabrielle did, she was her best friend, her family and she loved her. She knew if she wasn’t around that her life would be lonely again, she would just sink back in to the wine and she didn’t want that anymore she wanted her company it was the only thing that made her feel whole. She shook her head letting her thoughts go as the tiredness took over and she felt her eyes start to close as she slid in to the darkness of her dreams which were so welcoming and relaxing.

End of part 84

 

 

A DEEP ACT OF HONOUR AND COMPASSION

 

Darkness a drifting warm darkness all around me embracing me it so nice like being hugged, it’s like a warm softness, wait a second. This isn’t a dream I know its not I can feel it even in this half dreaming state, someone’s with me sleeping next to me. No there not sleeping with me there up against me I can feel there body up against mine and their arm wrapped around my waist pulling me closer to them. I have no idea who is up against me, wait I can smell jasmine and the faint smell of leather soap. I know these smells they have penetrated my soul and my very being over these past months. Its like there a part of me and in these past hours of my long walk in Corinth before I came in to this villa I missed them so much. Maybe I’m still dreaming and this is all in my head but it feels too real to be my dream, I want to wake up just to know for sure. I’m not tired anymore I also have no idea how long I’ve been sleeping for but I know I need to wake up now, I know I’m a long way from the palace. I know it will be a long walk home but I know that now feels like the right time to return to the one place that I considered my home, above all others.

Gabrielle opened her eyes watching as the darkness of the room came in to view. She took in a deep breath only to stop as she felt someone move up against her body. She felt her eyes dart as she looked down catching sight of the arm wrapped gently around her waist which she recognised instantly by the fingers and signet ring. She could smell jasmine and leather soap now the smell was so strong that she couldn’t escape it. She turned slowly watching as Xena’s face came in to view the taller woman was fast asleep. Even though she was sleeping she could see a smile on her lips. She found herself staring at the other woman in shock what in the name of Ouroboros was she doing here? She hadn’t expected her to be here, let alone be sleeping in bed next to her with her arm wrapped around her, not after the argument they’d had. She felt her sword slip from her fingers before she could stop it. The weapon hit the marble floor hard causing a deep echo to vibrate through the small guest room. She watched as the other woman’s light blue snapped open and her arm left her waist as she bolted up right in bed pulling up her own sword which was close by in a lighting fast motion.

Gabrielle eased herself out of bed staring at her as she grabbed her fallen sword as a feeling of nervousness took over as she spoke unable to keep the uncertainty out of her tone. “I’m sorry I…dropped my sword.” She looked down at the floor. “I didn’t know you were here.” Xena looked at the younger woman who now looked completely out of her element she could see her reflective lenses in the darkness and the utter confusion in them. She slowly got up off the bed putting her sword back in to her scabbard as she turned to face her. “I came looking for you.” Gabrielle opened the curtain behind her seeing the dark sky outside as she moved over putting her boots back on then put her second sword back in to its scabbard. “You came to find me?” Xena stood up moving towards her. “Yes I came to find you, I was worried about you.” Gabrielle stepped back as she pushed the door open watching the gardens came in to view. She needed to get some fresh air, it felt as though nothing made sense to her anymore the last thing she’d expected was for Xena to leave her palace to go and find her. She walked out in to the garden watching as the other woman followed her, the concern in her eyes.

She walked in to the centre of the garden which were empty of people it was early in the morning though the sun had not fully risen in sky yet. There was still a blanket of darkness along with the light which was breaking through the sky in the distance. She stopped opposite one of the huge statues which had a tall over grape vines over hanging it and peach and apple trees surrounding it. She paused watching as the other woman came to stand opposite her. She eyed the sword in her hand what did it matter why the other woman was here? It wasn’t her place to question she was here now and she could apologise and do what was right. Xena eased up her hand. “I was worried about you Gabrielle you didn’t leave a note, it took me a while to find you I didn’t expect you to end up in Abraxas’s villa.” Gabrielle looked down the floor. “Ilithyia invited me here I thought it would be rude to say no.” Xena moved a step closer to her she spoke in a calm tone hoping it would put the other woman at ease. “You know you were right I really don’t spend enough time outside my own palace walls. It was nice to go out in to my own city I’d forgotten what it looked like.” Gabrielle eyed the sword in her hand for a long moment through out her life she’d been forced to kneel to the will of others.

She knew though that this time was different though, she would be kneeling because it would a personal choice not one forced up on her. She couldn’t stand the thought of being seen as dishonourable or unworthy of her sword and just wanted to put things right between them, what ever it took. She eased her other sword free from her scabbard ignoring the other woman’s confusion. She breathed in deeply lowering herself on to one knee as she put her other sword on the floor. She eased up her second sword lowering her head to floor as she moved the sword higher trying to keep the pain out of voice as she spoke. “I surrendered my sword to you so that I may redeem my soul I have clearly dishonoured you and my sword with my actions during the androphonomania massacre.” She breathed in sharply ignoring the pain in her chest and the tears which threatened to fall. “Please take my sword from me and I will do everything in my power to gain it back and regain my honour in yours eyes. I’ll do what ever it takes and do what ever you ask of me to redeem my soul, you have only to ask and I will honour it with out question.”

Xena felt her body freeze as the pain twisted in her chest this was the last thing she wanted she didn’t want Gabrielle kneeling to her she didn’t deserve to kneel to her. She knew though that Gabrielle’s life was about honour and her doing this was her way of righting the wrong she believed she had committed. She closed her eyes as the younger woman’s words from when she’d been bleeding on the floor after she’d been stabbed by Adrienne came back to her. “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.” She opened her eyes looking at the other woman who wouldn’t look up and remained kneeling with her sword outstretched. She took a step forward realizing that there was only way to fix this,  she took the other woman’s sword from her hands looking at it for a long moment watching as younger woman lower her hands which held the weapon while keeping her eyes fixed to the floor. She slowly lowered herself on to knees in front of her. “I’m sorry Gabrielle.” She gently took hold of her hand putting it back on the hilt of the sword. “You deserve this weapon you have not dishonoured it.”

She shook her head sadly. “It was wrong of me to say that to you, there are those out there who are unworthy of their sword and should give them up to redeem themselves but you not one of those people.” She moved her hand up putting it under the younger woman’s chin using it to gentle ease up her head she could the surprise as green eyes as they met her own. “You are worthy of your sword and I have no wishes or demands of you, you don’t have to redeem yourself in my eyes.” She looked up slightly. “I only have one request.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. “What is your request?” Xena leaned closer to her. “That you never kneel to me again, my higher position of power does not mean that you should ever have to submit to me like the other royals do. You are not my lesser you are my equal and my friend and you matter to me more than anyone, so please stand up.” Gabrielle stood up slowly she eased both swords back in to their scabbards on her back. She had not expected her kneeling to go this way she’d assumed Xena would want her to redeem her self. Not that she would give her sword back and say that she’d honoured them, she watched as the taller woman slowly stood up.

She lowered her gaze to the floor. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to smash your vase, I was just mad…I’m too proud to admit it, but I have a problem with my temper I can’t always stay in control of it.” Xena moved her hand putting it gently on her arm seeing that she was once more looking at the floor. “No I’m sorry for calling you a stupid monster that breaks things and for saying that I have to clean up your mess. I don’t care if you trashed every room in my palace it wouldn’t matter to me, things are things they can be replaced, repainted and rebuilt but you can’t be replaced and I’d be lost with out you.” Gabrielle laughed but it was a sad laugh even to her own ears. “You didn’t have to come here I wasn’t running away I would have returned to the palace, I just needed time alone to think things through.” Xena eased up her other hand putting it on her other arm. “I came here because I wanted to find you Gabrielle, because I didn’t listen to you. I misjudged with out knowing everything about the androphonomania massacre.” Gabrielle shook her head. “You didn’t misjudge me I killed those people and they were all innocent I committed the worst of all sins and for what, a meeting with the Imperial Council, which I never got?”

Xena looked at her for a long moment. “I didn’t give you a chance to tell me about the children the ones you risked your position to save, the werewolf with crooked horns that’s what they all called you. You hid them under floorboards in chests and wardrobes anything to save them from being killed. I even spoke to one who’s now a hoplite he spoke very highly off you.” Gabrielle felt the shock hit home as the other woman’s words sunk in. “The children I saved lived? I never knew that they had survived I had to leave the houses and pray to my goddess that they’d live long enough to be rescued.” Xena nodded running her fingers gently up her arm. “Yes Gabrielle they lived and I should not have called you liar when you spoke about not killing them because you were telling the truth.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully feeling a tear as it ran down her cheek. “What else could you have done? You had no living children to see that I was telling the truth.” Xena put her hand on her shoulder. “What could I have done? I should have listened to and not doubted you and given you a chance to explain yourself.” She eased up her hand running it through the long golden hair. “You love children, your kind and compassionate to the palace children and I should not have accused you of killing children it’s something you’d never do.”

Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “I’m sorry for everything that happened during the androphonomania massacre, you were right I should have been stronger. I should have said no to the Imperial Council, it was my place as ruler to do what was right…I just wasn’t strong enough.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “No Gabrielle you were stronger you risked your life to save children you didn’t even know.” She paused before speaking. “That’s why you want to be punished though isn’t it? For all the lives you took and you didn’t save.” Gabrielle felt her body tense painfully. “Yes I thought you’d punish me for the androphonomania massacre because that would be justice for the husbands, wives and lovers whose lives I took.” Xena shook her head sadly. “I think you have suffered enough Gabrielle both by the hands of others and my own hands and I won’t bring anymore harm to you, nether will I allow others to do so. As far as my diplomats go I’ll tell them the truth which was that you had no choice and the Imperial Council forced this up on you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “They didn’t force it up on me I went because I was told it was going to be an honourable campaign.” Xena raised her hand. “Then they lied to you Gabrielle and we can use this and their past actions towards you to bring all the diplomats in Corinth to your side, I even have the hoplite you saved at the palace he wants to stand up for you.”

Gabrielle shook her head unable to stop the tears as they started to fall freely. “You shouldn’t be doing this Xena you shouldn’t try to paint this picture of me.” Xena eased up her hand wiping away her tears with her thumb. “I want to paint this picture of you, because that’s how I see you, it’s how I want others to see you.” She eased up the younger woman’s chin so their eyes met once more. “It’s why I love you and all the feelings I have for you were never about conquest, I don’t even care that your not human I want to be with you regardless.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “How can you still love me after what I’ve done?” Xena felt a smile form. “I love you because I know you’re a good person with a good heart and I know you don’t see yourself this way but I would like to be the person to tell you every day how beautiful you are and how much I love you. I need to know though do you love me? I know you returned my kiss but I don’t know if you did it to please me or because you thought you had to or because you wanted to.” Gabrielle eased up her hand taking hold of the other woman’s she felt no need to hide her feelings anymore. “I returned your kiss because I love you Xena.” She lowered her gaze. “I’m just terrified of loving you because all my past relationships have ended in tragedy. The man I loved was murdered and my second lover abused me, I’m terrified to love and to be loved. I guess that’s why it’s been easier to deny all your affections because I thought it was better for you if you didn’t love me or if I told myself it was all about friendship.”

She took in a painful breath. “I don’t want you to suffer or die because of me.” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her face, gods it felt like such a weight had been lifted of her shoulders. The one question that always left her uncertain which was if this woman loved her had finally been answered and knowing that meant that the kiss that she’d shared had been very real. It also meant that the affection Gabrielle had showed her was because of her underlying feelings. She leaned closer to her. “I want to be with you Gabrielle I want to spend the rest of my life with you I don’t care about the risks I can’t imagine you not being in my life I promise you though that I won’t leave you, I’ll always be here for you.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “You can’t promise that.” Xena looked up meeting her gaze. “No I can promise that, because I would go any lengths to be with you and I will do everything in power to ensure that this relationship does not end up like the others.” Gabrielle stood still realizing that she was once more paralyzed by the intense blue eyes which she couldn’t break away from, no matter how hard she tried. “Really?” Xena felt her smile widen. “Yes sweetheart.” She eased up her other hand running her finger gently down the scar on her eyebrow. “I love you Gabrielle and I’ll do what ever it takes for us to be together.”

Gabrielle raised her hand putting it on the other woman’s face as she wiped away her tears. “I love you to Xena.” Xena leaned forward gently putting her arms around her bringing her close, breathing in the smell of her hair. “Things will be different from now on I promise.” Gabrielle tightened her grip around the other woman’s waist. “I don’t want things to be different I just want to be with you that’s all that matters to me. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to realize it, I was afraid.” Xena felt her smile turn to a wide grin. “It’s alright I’d be scared if I’d suffered what you have, what matters to me, is you being with me. I missed you so much please don’t walk out like that again.” Gabrielle looked up she eased up her hand running it through the other woman’s long dark hair enjoying the soft silky feel. She moved her hands to her face running her fingers gently over the contours enjoying the feeling of the soft skin. Xena leaned forward she couldn’t stand it anymore she needed to kiss her just to feel her lips again. She leaned closer watching as the moonlight bounced of the other woman’s eyes causing the lenses to reflect in such beautiful way as she moved her fingers to her face stroking gently.

She met her lips kissing softly enjoying the sensation there was no tension from Gabrielle this time, she found herself sinking in to her kiss as the other woman responded instantly and this time and with out any hesitation. Gabrielle felt the pounding in her chest as her heart beat faster she had stopped their last kiss but she didn’t want to stop this one she wanted it to carry on. She could feel herself being backed up against the statue and she didn’t care she wanted to feel the other woman’s love more than she wanted to breath right now. She didn’t care if they didn’t do anything else but kiss tonight she just wanted to breathe in every sensation of love the other woman was giving her. She wanted to remember what it was to love someone and to be loved by that person in return. She could feel the fire of her desire and yearning taking over which felt so strange her even now. She knew she was sinking in to it and yet she didn’t care, she wanted it more than anything. She loved this woman she’d loved her for a long time and she’d been so terrified of this moment in so many ways. Yet now that it was happening she didn’t want it to end and she could feel those fears drifting away in the nothing.

Xena stopped taking in a breath she felt a wide smile form on her lips as she looked deeply in the other woman’s eyes for a long moment before meeting the other woman’s lips again enjoying the sensation which was warm, loving and passionate. She knew this moment would end but she just wanted to enjoy it with every once of her being. She wanted to do so many things with the younger woman there were so many ideas running through her mind right now of the things they could see and do as well together along with what she’d tell the public and the palace. In both cases she didn’t care what the reaction would be she wanted to be with this woman and nothing and no one was going to stand in her way. She moved away from her lips kissing her neck gently watching as a wide smile formed on Gabrielle’s lips showing her clear enjoyment of the sensation. She could sense nervousness though in that Gabrielle wasn’t touching her sensually but she knew that would come in time. In truth it had been a long while for the both of them and they’d both have to find their feet again. She moved her hands up running them through the younger woman’s hair, feeling her breathing slow down. She wrapped her arms around her bringing her close once more closing her eyes as she spoke in a gentle voice. “Don’t ever change Gabrielle.”

8

Talus adjusted his heavy red and bronze armour as he sat back in his chair in the tent listening to the screaming and angry screams outside of his army being killed. He wasn’t winning this battle at all Joxer had decimated his men and he knew he had now been defeated. It would only be a matter of time before someone came in to the tent to end his life. He eyed the golden items on his desk in disgust then smashed his hand across them sending the pieces flying, Joxer was such a clever little bastard he couldn’t stand it! He had been attacked by werewolves three nights in a row the attacks had meant that his best men had been killed. Because of this the battle was now a complete and utter as loss because his remaining men just weren’t up standard! He had wanted this to be his glorious victory that would forever nail his name in to the history scrolls as the man who had defeated the Warrior King, yet now he knew that the end was near, it was only a matter of time. This whole battle had come about because he’d raped one of the female warriors in Joxer’s army after capturing her. He’d beaten her to with in an inch of her life then sent her crawling back to him for personal amusement.

At the time he’d just assumed because this woman wasn’t his favourite he wouldn’t care about what had happened to her. After all she was a woman and a woman’s duty was to please a man, which was why the gods had created them to serve and kneel and do as they were told. Joxer had taken this very personally though, he had sent him a message saying that he’d see him burn in Tartarus for his actions. He had clearly remaining true to his words. Obviously he had the idea in his head that women should be treated as equals and he didn’t like slavery despite that there was good money in it. Not that any off this really mattered now he knew he couldn’t escape this tent it was to late to do so, so he might as well just wait for his death. He put his hand on his chest ignoring the agonizing pain as it shot through his heart, he’d had this curse since his youth, he should have died as a teenager but the gods had kept him alive bearing the pain for many years. Maybe that’s why he didn’t want to run he just wanted to die to end the pain.

He looked up as a woman dressed in a red and black light weight hoplite armour walked in to his tent. She had a medium sized light weight Boeotian shield which the Trojans used on it was a red griffin head. Her skirt was light brown in colour and her helmet was plated in dark metal and had black and red horse hair plumes. He could see long black hair hanging down over her leather armour and sea blue eyes looking at him through the helmets eye sockets, in her right hand was curved Kopis sword. “Oh please Joxer sent a bitch like you to kill me, what is your leader being ironic, so I’m guessing your Leah, his new favourite?” The small woman stopped she slowly eased off her helmet putting it on his table in front of him. He could now see up close that there was a long slicing cut close to the helmets eye socket where a sword had once stuck it. He eyed the woman who was clearly not Leah but someone completely different he eyed the symbol on her shield. “Wait you’re not Leah!” The young woman turned eyeing him as a cold smile formed on her lips as she spoke in an even tone. “No I’m not Leah though I did see her hacking up your men outside with the Warrior King it’ll be a while though before they get to you Talus.”

She didn’t put think as she slammed her sword point between his legs then forced the shield under his throat in a violent motion pushing his head back with it. “You like taking girls and selling them in to slavery don’t you?” Talus swallowed. “Yes I have…in the past.” The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Unless you want to be a eunuch you’ll tell me if you stole a group of women from Potidaea eleven years ago! There was a girl among them with really long blonde hair and forest green eyes she would have been sixteen at the time. She stood up to you and your leader took offence to it. He apparently used his dagger to give her a diagonal scar on her right eye because she refused to call him master!” She pushed her sword blade up slightly. “Ringing any bells in that dense little brain of yours?” Talus looked up eyeing her in disgust. “No I never took a girl like that and our leader at that time did not like us to scar the goods or take away their virginity because it would ruin the sale price in Rome.” He tensed painfully. “Every girl and boy I have ever sold was untouched.”

He narrowed his gaze. “So I didn’t take that girl so you can pull your sword away now.” The woman eased her blade away keeping her shield in place as she spoke coldly. “I’m disappointed clearly you’re the wrong slave trader.” Talus raised his hands. “Well now that we’ve cleared that up how’s about you get lost, I’d hate to be killed by a worthless woman like you.” The woman turned sharply he could now see an old scar on her cheek which was very thin and had healed up a long ago, her voice hit the air filled with blinding rage. “My name is Lila and I am not worthless, you’re the worthless one, you bastard!” She didn’t think as she slammed her blade in to his chest full force ignoring his agonizing cry of pain. “I have heard that you already have a heart condition so this will be really painful for you.” She lowered the shield watching as the blood ran down his chin. She pulled the weapon out with violent force watching as he hit the table hard his body shaking as death took over. She eyed her bloody sword for a long moment before eyeing him, bastard he wasn’t the right slave trader! He wasn’t the ones who had taken her older sister Gabrielle.

“Are you done?”

Lila turned watching as large Satyr walked in he was dressed in identical armour to hers complete with a brown hanging skirt. He didn’t have a helmet due to his horns and no brown boots due to his heavy hoofed feet. His eyes were hazel in colour and he had a goat like face with ears which both had three gold earrings on each side. In his mouth were both chewing teeth and upper and lower canines similar to any human beings apart from there length which was much longer. Woolly black fur covered his legs, head and arms, she knew his chest was also covered in fur and he had a small goat like tail which was hidden from view. She slowly picked up her helmet putting it back on carefully. “I’m done Korudon.” Korudon eyed the dead man. “Then we need to leave now? The werewolves out there are scaring me and you and I know that their all loyal to Joxer.” Lila turned to her closest friend feeling a warm smile form. “We’ll go now.” Korudon breathed in with relief. “Good because Joxer’s going to be really annoyed if he finds out that we ruined his chance of killing Talus, he loves killing slave traders just like you.”

He paused eyeing the dead man. “How much is he worth dead or alive? You said he was a high on the wanted list.” Lila turned slowly to him using the tent material to clean off her bloody sword. “He’s very high up on the wanted list he’s worth about two thousand coin give or take that was the Empress’s last amount. She’s wanted him dead for ages, ever since he slipped past her elite palace killer named Iona twice in a row. I heard that Iona was furious about it as she hates being made to look like an idiot.” Korudon pulled his sword free. “That’s a lot of coin, should we take his hand or his head?” Lila eyed the dead man. “His hand the one with the seal ring, Joxer will want his head.” She ignored the sound off Korudon’s sword as he cut of the dead mans hand. “We can cut the total amount in half and take half each then I can send a large amount of my share to my father to help him with the business.” Korudon looked up. “I know that your father thinks that we are both in the Empress’s army don’t you ever worry that he’ll find out that your really a mercenary and all the money that your little brother and your mother get is from us killing criminals and dealing with peoples problems?”

Lila shook her head. “I’m doing a public service I only kill criminals and all he needs to know is that I’m doing good, I’m making sure that no other bastard or bitch slave trader ever takes away a member of someone else’s family again.” She lowered her gaze. “I’m still searching for my sister because of the actions of a slave trader and no family should have to suffer what my family went through when Gabrielle was taken from us. It was never the same again, it broke my father’s heart and my little brother hears about her all the time but he has never met her.” She shook her head. “Recently I heard a new rumour that someone saw my sister four months ago in Corinth.” Korudon put the body part away. “You really think you’ll find your sister? I mean this could be a dead lead just like this one.” Lila turned to him. “I have to try Korudon, she’s my sister I want to bring her home where she belongs, I know she’s alive I can feel it.” She put her hand around her pendent which was the symbol of Athena. “Ever since Ephiny told me that she hadn’t seen my sister I have been searching for her.” Korudon shorted in disgust. “Ephiny’s a bitch and she shouldn’t even be Queen of the Amazons it should be Velasca, she’s the right full heir. It was Terreis’s last wish before her death that she take the throne, Ephiny forced her hand and took the mask from Velasca beating her in combat even though she’s not worthy of it.”

Lila nodded. “I know Ephiny was lying to me I could see it in her eyes, I was in a village many years ago I forget the name and this woman said she’d seen a young woman who matched my sister’s description in rags. She said that she vanished that same night after a store keeper was ripped apart by a werewolf.” She looked up slightly. “I just know it’s all connected I can feel it I think she ran away the only thing that I can’t work out is why she didn’t come home, maybe she thought that she’d shamed us in some way.” She felt a sad smile form. “That’s Gabrielle though she always was a deep thinker who questioned everything.” Korudon nodded. “We will find her Lila, I’ll go anywhere you go after all if it weren’t for you I would be dead now, you stopped those drunken thugs from killing me.” Lila raised both eyebrows. “Well you know me I don’t like people picking on others just because their different.” Korudon turned as the noise grew louder outside. “Okay we have to go now, Joxer’s coming and he’ll kill us both if he sees that we took away his fun.” Lila turned sharply. “You’re right let’s go.” She walked towards the other tent opening not looking back as she closed it behind her, he was right Joxer wouldn’t take this very well at all. He hated anyone interfering in his business he saw it as an offence and a dishonour to his warrior code.

Leah pulled open the tent easing up her bloody sword. “Hello Talus!” She stopped eyeing the dead body on the table feeling the shock hit home. Her gaze darted as Joxer burst in behind her his sword raised, his smile fading instantly as looked at the dead body. He took in a deep breath before speaking in an even tone. “Well this is very disappointing.” Leah raised her hand. “I know I wanted to kill him myself, but someone else got here first and it know it wasn’t your men or the werewolves.” Joxer eyed the blood on the floor as he moved over to Talus’s body grabbing his head by the hair easing it up to look in to his dead eyes. He turned eyeing the missing hand then he let his head go. “Mercenaries, clearly they wanted their coin hence why they cut of this hand.” Leah blinked. “But they didn’t take his head.” Joxer stood up fully. “No they didn’t which I’m surprised about as they honoured me.” Leah eyed him. “You’re not mad?” Joxer shook his head. “No I’m not I don’t care who kills a slave trader so long as I get their head it’s a matter of principle. Besides I need his head I have plans to send it to this slave trading sister who has also been selling people recently, before we pay her and her group of vile criminals a little visit.” Leah eyed her bloody sword. “Well I hope I get to kill her.” Joxer turned to her putting a hand on her shoulder. “Oh you will Leah I’ll make sure of that.”

End of part 85

AN UNLIKELY ALLIANCE AMONG OLD RIVALS

Xena kept hold of the younger woman not wanting to let her go, gods it was nice to kiss her, she just wanted to do it again. She inched closer moving her hand up to the younger woman’s collar running her fingers down the edge, as she spoke in a deeper tone. “Do you know how long I searched for you?” Gabrielle felt herself breathe in sharply as the other woman hands moved downwards resting on her chest. “I…I…have no idea.” Xena moved her hands down the front of other woman’s shirt as she leaned forward so she was close to her ear as she spoke in a whisper. “To long…being with out you was like being like with out air.” Gabrielle swallowed trying to focus her thoughts, which was suddenly becoming difficult as the other woman’s hands moved coming to rest at her waist. “I’m sorry.” Xena eased one hand up putting it on her face running it gently down the scar on her eyebrow she leaned closer laying a gentle kiss on it, as she moved her hand away. “Don’t be sorry…did you find what you were looking for in The Slaughtered Lamb?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart she looked up meeting the other woman’s curious gaze. “You went in to that tavern?” Xena nodded as she put her face against hers. “Yes I did.” She kissed her lips tenderly. “Clearly Corinth has more of your people than I first realized.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she leaned against the statue. “Yes I found just what I was looking for.” Xena felt her grin widen. “I’m glad to hear that.” She leaned forward about to kiss her again.

“Excuse me…Empress.”

Xena stopped in mid motion she turned slowly watching as Abraxas and Ilithyia came in to view, she kept her hand on Gabrielle’s waist watching as the other woman looked down looking slightly embarrassed as well as uncertain. She watched as Abraxas put his hands together as he spoke nervously. “Well em.” Xena raised her eyebrow wanting to put Gabrielle more at ease. “Yes Abraxas, what did you want, we are busy?” Abraxas breathed in well that answered his question, though he wasn’t as surprised as he thought he would be. Right from the moment he’d met Gabrielle he’d seen that the Empress had treated her very differently to the other Greek royals. Ilithyia had also said very early on that she suspected that Empress had a thing for this woman, so clearly her instincts were right on the mark, plus she loved playing match maker. He coughed clearing his throat as he eyed the tall woman who refused to move from her position. “Your friends Demetrius and Thaleia are both getting ready for breakfast we were wondering if you wanted to join them, we would be honoured if you’d join us.” Xena kept her hand on Gabrielle’s waist as she turned to younger woman feeling a wide grin form. “Would you like to come and have breakfast with me?” Gabrielle blinked she looked up. “Of course.” Xena turned back to him. “We’ll join you in a few moments.”

Abraxas nodded. “As you wish.” Ilithyia grabbed his sleeve moving him away slowly. “Let’s go to the breakfast room and wait for our guests.” Abraxas breathed in deeply as he followed her. No doubt she’d be talking about this for months to all the other diplomats and that she had been right all along about the match. Clearly once this got out officially it was going to be a crazy time he could see it all ready. The gender wasn’t the issue but the Empress falling in love with a partner who wasn’t human would cause some confusion among certain diplomats, as it was unheard of for someone of such a high status to marry a royal who wasn’t human. He breathed in deeply oh he could see that dinner event already it was going to be as hard as Tartarus to sit through and explain. Humans did marry none humans though that wasn’t unheard off nether was the idea of children coming out of this unions so he had that his favour. Him telling them though that the Empress had taken a female werewolf as a partner that wouldn’t go down easy for those didn’t know anything about werewolves having a human form. He just hoped he was up to this, just getting the other idiots to sign the papers had been difficult enough but he this was going to be even harder to explain.

He knew already that him self and Ilithyia were going to have come up with some clever ways to bring the others around to this union in any way they could. Gabrielle watched as they both disappeared from sight. “Thaleia’s here?” Xena slowly met her gaze. “Yes she is, she helped me find you along with Demetrius.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze feeling the guilt hit home. “I need to speak to her I said something to her which I shouldn’t have.” Xena eased up her hand running it through her hair. “I heard that you two had an argument.” Gabrielle looked down eyeing the floor. “Yes we did…I wasn’t kind to her, she’s like a sister to me and I treated her poorly.” Xena let go of her waist moving her hands to her shoulders. “It can happen to the best of us Gabrielle.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “It doesn’t happen to you.” Xena shook her head. “No it does happen to me from time to time I get angry with Demetrius. He always forgives me though despite that I take out my frustration on him.” Gabrielle slowly walked through the garden watching as the other woman followed her very closely. “I just want to make it right.” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her arm. “Then let’s go and make it right.”

Gabrielle looked up catching sight of the dinning room which overlooked the gardens she could see the others sitting around the table which she’d been sitting at yesterday, they were talking and eating as they sat on the side ways sofa’s. She could see Abraxas and Ilithyia speaking with Demetrius who was in very plain clothes and not his palace clothes. She walked in to the room watching as everyone looked up she breathed in clearing her throat before speaking as she looked at the plates of food. “Your food looks nice.” Xena eyed the food before sitting herself on a side ways sofa she had admit that she was in fact quite hungry. “I agree it looks very nice.” Ilithyia took hold of a bowl which was full of cooked mice. “Dormouse, there a Roman delicacy?” Xena shook her head. “No thank you I’ve never cared for them that much.” Ilithyia turned to Gabrielle who remained standing. “Dormouse?” Gabrielle eased up her hand feeling her body tense. “No thank you, I really don’t like them.” Ilithyia put down the bowl. “I’m surprised it’s just you being, well the way you are I thought you wouldn’t be against them.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “Oh I’ve eaten them but I don’t like Dormice in general one once found its way in to my ear in werewolf form it drove me crazy, never really liked them that much after that.”

She ignored Ilithyia’s surprise as she turned seeing that Thaleia wasn’t present. “Where is Thaleia?” Ilithyia turned slightly. “She’s in the room opposite, she wanted to freshen up.” Gabrielle eased up her hand. “Excuse me.” Demetrius watched as Gabrielle opened the door behind them then closed it vanishing from site. He turned slowly back to the Empress. “I assume you two worked things out?” Xena picked up a goblet of wine feeling a smile form. “You could say that yes.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “So would I be right to say that you finally have a consort now?” Xena took a long drink from her goblet before meeting his curious gaze. It had been a very long time since she’d heard the word consort, which was in essence the political name for a partner from a royal line who could one day be a king or queen. She took some flat bread from the nearest dish taking a bite out of it. “Something like that but you know Gabrielle she’ll want to finalize the name, werewolves have their own terms for everything.” Demetrius felt his smile widen as he took a cooked Dormouse from the bowl, it had been ages since he’d had Dormouse and he’d always liked it. “Of course, my congratulations to you both though.” Xena took another bite out of her flat bread. “Thank you Demetrius.”

Thaleia adjusted her robes in frustration she just couldn’t get the collar right! She pulled harder trying to fix it so it looked right she stopped feeling a pair of hands on her neck which carefully adjusted her collar so it was right. She stopped still. “Demetrius?” A calm voice came from behind her as the hands moved away from her collar. “No I’m not him but he is waiting for you at the breakfast table.” Thaleia turned sharply watching as Gabrielle came in to view she could see the uncertainty in her eyes. She breathed in trying to hold back her anger. “You know next time you run away at least leave me or the Empress a note, do you know that we spent all night looking for you!?” She breathed in deeply unable to stop her anger as it boiled up even more. “Or maybe you could give me a warning in advance next time to go out of your way to be a jackass.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully, she deceived that. “I’m sorry Thaleia, what I said to you was wrong, you are not my personal maid you’ve been like family to me…I could never ask for a better friend than you.” Thaleia turned to face her feeling the uncertainty as she spoke feeling her anger start to fade away. “Why did you walk out Gabrielle, what were you thinking?”

Gabrielle eased up her hand putting it on her shoulder. “I wanted to take a walk Thaleia I needed to find a side of my self, it was important.” She paused pulling out the card that the werewolves had given her in the tavern. She took hold of her hand gently placing it face down in it. “You know what I realized? I realized that you and Xena were right.” She paused for a moment that this was the first time that she’d said Xena’s name rather than her title in front of others. She looked up speaking once more. “About things not being as hard as I see them and that I can change anything.” Thaleia eased up the black playing card eyeing the image which she recognised instantly as Gabrielle’s from the scroll. “This is your image.” Gabrielle felt a wide smile form. “I met other werewolves Thaleia, they were in this tavern.”  Thaleia looked at the card. “We found those werewolves as well they were in The Slaughtered Lamb, they told us where to find you.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “They weren’t the only ones in that tavern Thaleia there were more and they said that they wanted to fight for me…they said that my stopping the hunting of werewolves really mattered to them.” She put her hands together. “You were both trying to tell me this all along and I wasn’t listening to you but you were both right all along and I just couldn’t see it.”

She breathed in deeply. “May be I didn’t want to see it because I was afraid of messing it up or not being a good leader to my people but I see now that I do have those who are loyal to me and that they have nothing to do with Imperial Council they also want to see them dethroned.” Thaleia looked at the card she turned it over eyeing the black face again before looking up. “Wait I’ve seen this symbol before I thought it was Jewish that’s what everyone said when I asked about it.” Gabrielle shook her head. “It’s not Jewish Thaleia, it’s the werewolf symbol for serenity, if it’s on any door or business it means a werewolf lives there.” Thaleia stared at the card for a long moment before handing it back to her. “I’ve seen it on a lot of doors in this city there are clearly a lot of werewolves in Corinth.” Gabrielle took the card putting it away. “Yes there are.” Thaleia breathed in not being able to help herself as she pulled Gabrielle in to a hug. “I’m glad you found what you needed but please don’t disappear like that ever again, I consider you the sister I never had and I can’t imagine anything happening to you.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “You know nothing would ever happen to me Thaleia, I can take care of myself.” Thaleia kept hold of her rolling her eyes. “Says you…who fell out of a window.” Gabrielle pulled away from her. “You know technically I was pushed.” Thaleia put a hand on her shirt. “You know what I mean Gabrielle.” She lowered her gaze feeling the need to change the subject. “You know you were right about Demetrius, I do have feelings for him but I don’t know how to tell him.” Gabrielle put her hand on her shoulder. “Why don’t you tell him how you’re feeling?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Because I’m scared he’s so high up on the ladder and I don’t feel that I’m good enough for him.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “You are good enough for him Thaleia you were good enough for him long before you became my personal maid. You’ve always been kind, how could he not want someone like you?” Thaleia shook her head. “You know I wasn’t always kind to you Gabrielle, in the beginning I just thought the same as everyone else it was my mother who said I should speak to you.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Yet you still spoke to me that night Thaleia, no one else did.” She looked at her friend. “You also stood up for me when no one else would and even when Xena and I were not getting along, you were there to help me along with your mother and for that I’m truly grateful.”

Thaleia turned meeting her gaze. “Do you think he likes me, really?” Gabrielle raised her hands. “Yes Thaleia I think he really likes you and I think you should tell him how you feel.” Thaleia shook her head. “I don’t know what to say or were to start.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I confess I’m no good with expressing my feelings and I’ve never really pursued anyone but I know this. You don’t have to say anything, until you feel ready and what you say has to come from your heart.” Thaleia breathed in her best friend’s statement was true. “I’ll try but it’s going to be hard.” Gabrielle nodded. “That’s all any of us can ever do.” Thaleia turned eyeing the other woman’s shirt sleeve which was dirty. “Your shirts a mess didn’t you bring a change of clothes?” Gabrielle eyed her sleeve. “I did, I’ve just been preoccupied since I got up I’ve been talking with Xena.” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “Ah I see, so you two worked things out then?” Gabrielle felt a warm smile form. “Yes we did.”

Thaleia moved her hand up brushing her sleeve removing the dirt. “You’ll have to tell me all about at it when we get back to the palace.” Gabrielle nodded before looking up. “I’ll tell you everything, I promise.” Thaleia adjusted her robes. “Do I look alright its just I feel so under dressed and this is the house of Abraxas and Ilithyia and their both really high up on the ladder?” Gabrielle raised her hand as she opened the door. “You look beautiful Thaleia and you always look stunning in what ever you wear.” Thaleia looked at her for a long moment. “You think so?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes Thaleia.” Thaleia turned to her. “Well then let’s go and get some breakfast.” She paused eyeing her friend’s shirt. “After breakfast you’re going to chance your shirt right, because you’re not going to walk around in a dirty thing all day?” Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Yes I will change this shirt.” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “You know this is why you need me around because with out me you’d walk around covered in mud and dirt and you wouldn’t take care of your self.” Gabrielle turned sharply. “No I wouldn’t.” Thaleia felt a playful form as she spoke. “Yes you would Gabrielle.”

8

Xena stood up adjusting her armour the breakfast had been quite but at the same time very pleasant. Gabrielle had gone to the guest room to change her clothes and freshen up and Demetrius and Thaleia were out in the gardens talking. She turned eyeing Abraxas and Ilithyia who both looked a little unsure of themselves. She breathed in deeply she’d been thinking very deeply about this whole event, these two had, had a chance to manipulate her and take advantage of the situation but nether had. Yet she knew that any of the other diplomats would have done so if they had been in the same position. She watched as Ilithyia picked up some seed feeding the blue rose-ringed parakeet which was sitting close by on a wooden perch she folded her arms as she spoke. “You know Gabrielle has a Collard Dove as a pet.” Ilithyia turned slightly. “I know Empress she told me, safe to say we share a common interest in birds, in that we believe they shouldn’t be caged up but free to fly around as they please.” Xena stepped closer eyeing her. “She believes that nothing is as free as a bird as they are not bound to the earth like we are.”

She turned to Abraxas. “You had an advantage to use this whole situation against me you could have both bribed me or brought the other diplomats on your side against me. Yet you didn’t instead you told me where Gabrielle was and with out asking for a thing in return.” Abraxas adjusted his shirt. “I only want the house guard to be rewarded I sent him because he’s been loyal to me for years and deserves the coin.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “So that’s all your asking for, nothing more?” Abraxas folded his arms. “Yes it’s all I’m asking for.” Xena put her hand on one of the sofas. “I do believe it was Gabrielle who spoke about an honourable act and you doing one to show me your loyalty.” Abraxas breathed in deeply. “Yes I remember that conversation Empress.” Xena eased up her other hand. “Well I believe this qualifies as a noble act, wouldn’t you agree?” Abraxas felt his eyes dart. “I believe so but my doing this was not done to gain your approval, I did it because as I said before I like your.” He looked down choosing his next word carefully before looking up hoping that it was okay for him to use the term as he’d heard the Empress using it over breakfast. “Consort.”

Xena shook her head. “Regardless of your thought on Gabrielle you didn’t have to go out of your way to do what you have done, plus before this you gained all the signatures I wanted regarding the haunting law. How you got it I don’t know but because of that and your actions now I feel it only right and fair to allow you both the privilege of staying at the palace during your visits.” She ignored their surprise as she carried on speaking. “You’ll be the only diplomats allowed to stay at the palace and you’ll set the example for the others, you will also tell them that to gain the same favour they must do an act of nobility just like you. I’m sure it’ll give me time to see what those who wish to prove themselves can come up with.” Abraxas stepped forward. “Thank you Empress this means a lot to the both of us, I know it was my brother who caused this issue and I’ve always wanted to put it right.” He adjusted his shirt. “As I’ve said many times before my brother was always a stupid bastard and I don’t blame you for his death, he caused so much suffering in Corinth. There is something I don’t understand though which is after what happened with him, why did you allow us to take his place on the seat of Corinthian diplomats.”

Xena folded her arms. “I let you take the position because you are not your brother, your record was always clean and I don’t judge a family based on the actions of one family member. After all it was you who tried to fix some of his mess among the other diplomats at the time as best you could and you weren’t even a diplomat back then. That was when I realized that you and Ilithyia were right to take the diplomat positions I just hope I don’t regret this decision now.” Abraxas nodded. “You won’t regret this decision Empress.” He looked up slightly wanting to change the subject. “You know that there will be a fall out from some of the diplomats when they become aware of the nature of your relationship with Gabrielle, not all will favour a werewolf sitting beside you on the throne.” Xena turned fully to face him. “I’m well aware of this along with the confusion it will cause for some and anger it will cause others. I already have something in place regarding one of the issues but I will need your help to resolve this problem.” She lowered her gaze feeling a twinge of guilt take over. “It’s very easy to see Gabrielle as a monster I made that mistake my self once at great expense and it took me a long time to fix the damage I did. Truth is I’m surprised that she even allows me to kiss her after what I put her through and I refuse to repeat the same mistake with the diplomats. I don’t want her to suffer just because they can’t look in to her eyes in her other form and see the humanity in them.”

Abraxas put his hands behind his back. “You could dress her in human clothes in her werewolf form.” Xena shook her head. “Gabrielle won’t do it I asked her about that once, her reply was that she should be accepted for who and what she is and not have to be something she’s not.” Ilithyia raised her hand. “Maybe an introduction dinner at the palace in that beautiful top floor room would help, you could make a point of not telling the others who she is.” Abraxas felt a smile form. “Yes introduce her to them without them knowing who she is then surprise them.” Ilithyia put her hands together. “If you put her in some form of robes which I’m sure she’ll look beautiful in, it will help soften the image of her not being human. Her normal clothes though very nice to look at might concern them as they may see her swords as a threat, I mean once they get to know her better she can then dress as she normally does.” Xena nodded as she looked up. “You both make good points and once I get back to the palace I will think them over and once the dinning room is repaired I will see about inviting them to dinner along with the both of you.” Abraxas blinked in surprise. “What happened to the dinning room?” Xena felt herself tense. “An unfortunate incident some time back nothing you need to concern yourselves with.” Abraxas eased up his hand. “Do you need a horse? I can have my stable man lend you my horse so you can get back to the palace quicker.”

Xena shook her head. “No there’s no need I enjoyed the walk down here and I’d like to walk back, myself and Gabrielle still have a lot to talk about.” Ilithyia took hold of her parakeet stroking its back. “If you want to come back here to our villa you’re both always welcome, we’ll ensure that the dinner is on a much grander scale.” Xena nodded meeting her uncertain gaze. “Thank you I would like that a lot, as it’s clear to me I don’t get out enough these days.” She paused watching as Gabrielle appeared adjusting her fresh shirt and trousers and boots which had now been cleaned. “Ah there you are, are you ready to go?” Gabrielle pulled on her collar as she eased her coat on. “Yes I’m ready to go.” She turned slowly to Abraxas and Ilithyia. “Thank you for inviting me here, your hospitality has been very gracious.”   Abraxas felt a smile form. “It was a pleasure to have you here I hope you will come and visit us again.” Ilithyia kept a gentle hold of her pet. “Yes please come back again we enjoyed having you here.” Gabrielle felt a wide smile form. “I hope I’ll get another chance to come here or have you come to the palace.”

End of part 86

 

BENDING YOUR WILL BACK AND FORTH

 

Joxer eyed the smith who was putting the final touches to the armour which was in essence a perfect copy of the Empress’s royal armour. It had taken months to get this ready, just getting the design had been hard work. The spy inside the palace had been sending sketch after sketch on its parts and how it looked but copying these parts had been even harder due to there intricate designs. All that left was to combine the metal sections all together which were on the table close by in pieces. Then put them together with the leather bodice and boots which were almost complete. He watched as the female smith breathed in her pipe as she carried on smashing the red hot metal she was working on with a heavy hammer. He smiled sadly she was the woman who Talus had raped and beaten to with in an inch of her life, he still felt terrible about it happening as he tried so hard to protect the men and women in his army. Since the event this woman had stayed out of battle preferring to work with the male werewolf smith on armour where she could heal emotionally. He felt it only right that Talus should die for his actions and now that, that was done he felt it only right to tell her, he looked up as he spoke calmly. “How are you doing?”

The woman didn’t look up as she carried on hitting the metal with her hammer speaking in an emotionless tone. “The same as I feel every day Joxer.” Joxer moved closer to her. “I came to speak to you, Talus is dead I saw to it personally.” The woman looked up before shaking her head. “Joxer…” Joxer raised his hand. “I had to do it, it was a matter of honour he had to pay for what he did to you.” The woman looked at the red hot metal before dunking it in the water opposite watching as the steam rose. “You killed that man just because of what happened to me?” Joxer folded her arms. “Yes I did I would do it for any man or woman in my army, if someone goes out of there way to cause them harm.” He lowered his gaze feeling the need to change the subject. “Soon you’ll be out side once more enjoying the feel battle.” The woman pulled out the metal from the water looking at it. “I don’t know Joxer I’m trying to take this day to day but it’s hard.” Joxer breathed in deeply. “Well you know if you need anything just say and I’ll get it for you.” The woman smiled sadly. “If you can stop my nightmares I’d be grateful.” Joxer shook his head sadly. “If I could make it so I would.” The woman looked at the metal breast plate before placing it next to the other finished pieces. “You a good man Joxer one day you’re going to make some one very happy.” Joxer felt a warm smile form. “Maybe but who knows.”

He paused eyeing the armour parts on the table close by. “How much do you both have left to complete?” The woman eyed the finished parts. “The leather bodice is ready and they are now completing the sleeves as we speak. All we have to do now is combine the sections but unlike the original they not silver plated. We have had to use bronze which had been highly polished to a point that it shines like silver. You do realize that it won’t be perfect?” Joxer put a hand on his chin. “It doesn’t need to perfect it just has to fool all those stupid hoplites.” The woman eyed the piece had been working on looking it over carefully. “You have a plan don’t you? I know that look.” Joxer felt a wide smile form. “Oh something like that, tomorrow I would like to do the first fit and make sure that it fits Leah. Once the fit is perfect I need to start working on her mannerisms so that the illusion is perfect, after all this is not about starting a war I just want to rattle the Empress’s cage.” The woman eyed the finished piece on the table, most were in the process of being polished to a high shine. “It sounds risky regardless.” Joxer took in a deep breath. “All things in life come with risk but as I said I’m doing this to start a war I just want to draw the Empress out in to open. I want to battle her face to face, sword to sword I don’t even want to kill her I just want to defeat her in fair combat, she is un-defeated in battle or so they say.”

He looked up about to speak only to stop as Leah walked in to the forge, she had come a long way in these past few months from an angry forma slave with ambition, to a vicious and dedicated warrior who really drank in the kill. She still had a lot to learn but her loyalty was unquestionable, it was strange he felt a lot more for her than any other woman in his army. Despite that she was almost the mirror image of the Empress it did nothing to take away the feelings he felt for her. Maybe he had these feelings because despite her looks it was clear to him that she was not the Empress her hair colour and her attitude always broke that illusion. He had also seen that despite her hard warrior edge she did have a very calm and gentle side and lately she had been spending time with the woman opposite him helping her to get through this difficult period in her life. Leah had, had the same experience though much more extreme and she knew just how to help and what to say. He was always grateful when warriors did this for each other in his army as it strengthened bonds and helped those who were having difficulty to get through their problems. He turned picking up a piece of the armour from the table as he turned to her. “It would appear that we are close to finishing the armour you’ll need to wear.” Leah moved over to the table eyeing the gleaming pieces. “You really think this is going to work?” Joxer put a hand on his chin. “Yes it will work but you need to come here tomorrow for the fitting.” Leah picked up the newly finished breast plate studying it for a moment. “You’re very sure of yourself what if it’s not perfect, what if they realize I’m not the Empress?” Joxer looked at her for a long moment. “My father once said to me as a boy that you only need to make something ninety percent right to ensure and illusion as a persons mind creates the other ten percent. It was one of things he said to me before he and my mother were killed and I was sold in to slavery with my brothers.”

Leah breathed in deeply. “I just hope your right.” She looked up slightly. “I have a question though I know this isn’t just about fighting the Empress in battle, what if the Golden Hind is more than friends with her, your spy did mention that things were changing between them?” Joxer looked at his gloved hand for a long moment. “I doubt the Golden Hind would sleep with the Empress that woman after all did march her around in front of the royals and that’s unforgivable and because of this I feel that she will be okay with this. As I said before this is not about killing the Empress I just want to face her in battle, it’s not about the revenge of my brother ether, I have to lure her out of the palace and away from Corinth.” Leah looked down feeling the uncertainty take over. “But what if she defeats you and then kills you?” Joxer felt a smile form. “She won’t kill me she’ll want me alive, she never kills ring leaders.” Leah folded her arms. “I just hope your right it’s just…I’d hate for anything to happen to you.” Joxer moved a step closer to her putting a hand on her arm. “Worried about me Leah?” Leah breathed in deeply before meeting his dark gaze. “You are a great warrior Joxer, it’s why they call you the Warrior King but still, I don’t want you to over step the mark and get hurt.” Joxer eased up his hand running it through her hair as he met her concerned gaze. “Do not concern yourself with me Leah. I always think things through I want the one thing that every warriors graves that one battle that will cement their name in history regardless of the outcome. I will not be a true king of warriors until I have fought the Empress.”

8

I’m finally out side the gates of my palace and yet I don’t quite feel like the same person I was when I left. It’s hard to describe maybe I feel this way because I kissed Gabrielle again but this time it was different as she wanted it as much as I did but I’m still afraid. I know deep down in my soul that I want this to go right. It’s been so long since I’ve been with someone but this time is going to be different, my past lovers have always been confident in knowing just what they want. With Gabrielle I feel that she has a difficult time saying what she wants and I know I’m going to have to pace myself and take things slower than I normally do. I do not want to be Adrienne, I don’t want Gabrielle to do as I want intimately, I want her to do what she wants and have no guilt about saying no if she doesn’t like something. I know she’s become very open at saying what she wants when it’s about her position as Horn Hind but I get the feeling that in terms of relationships she’s still shy. I realized that today when I was kissing her and Abraxas showed up and interrupting us. She looked embarrassed as if she’s not used to being seen doing intimate things with her partner, which is the opposite of me, as my relationships have always been open. Through out my life I’ve never hid my partners from the palace or the public. I have always wanted people to see me with my partner because I wanted in instil calm and show them that I am like them in that I need to feel love.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by Gabrielle’s actions as she has had all her relationships behinds closed doors and out of sight of the public. In fact her whole life has been led out of site of others. Six months ago I thought werewolves were monsters and yet now I’m in a relationship with Gabrielle, who is the monster everyone feared but she is anything but a monster. There’s more humanity in her than there is in most human beings though I know that she has had a lot of difficultly embracing that truth. She hasn’t said much we have just held hands as we walked back. I think she’s been very caught up in her own thoughts. She is now in a relationship and I realize that she’s probably thinking about things and I can understand that as I’ve been doing the same thing, this is going to be a very changing time for the both of us. It has been nice though to just walk up the morning streets in the sunlight and take in the busy hustle and bustle of my city which is now very much alive, as everyone is awake and going about their daily business. There’s a cold chill is the air and soon it will start to snow as winter truly sets in but strangely I’m looking forward to it. Maybe because I know I’m not alone anymore and that’s such a liberating feeling, because I know I have someone who I love and who loves me in return and that changes everything.

Xena eyed he guards who signalled to the others above causing the huge gates to open very slowly. She watched as the other guards on the other side lowered there heads out of respect as she walked in followed by Gabrielle, Demetrius and Thaleia. The gates were closed behind them and the huge bolting mechanism was slid across. She turned catching sight of Iona and Fedora, who were waiting in the courtyard opposite the stables clearly they’d both gotten word that they were returning. She blinked realizing that Iona had something in her hands which looked like Gabrielle’s pet which surprised her. She turned to Gabrielle whose face was filled with shock clearly she hadn’t expected to see Iona with her pet at all. She felt a warm smile form. “Welcome home Gabrielle.” Gabrielle turned to meet the other woman’s soft gaze feeling unsure as what to say, she took in a deep breath before speaking. “Thank you.” Xena eased took hold of the younger woman’s hand she raised it gently kissing it. “Looks like Iona’s brought you, your pet.” She turned as she came to stop in front of Iona who lowered her head nodding respectfully as she spoke. “Empress.” She let go of Gabrielle’s hand as she moved a step closer pulling her cloak off, gods she needed to get a bath but it could wait. “I trust in my absence and Demetrius’s you didn’t have any trouble taking care of the palace?” Iona looked up slightly. “No Empress I didn’t, the palace ran very smoothly.”

She paused eyeing the dove in her arm, which blinked before turning to Gabrielle. “Your pet was lonely it kept on making nose in your room so I took him in to mine and looked after him in your absence.” Gabrielle eased out her hands gently taking the dove from hers, which sprang to life flying on to her shoulder flapping its wings. She eased up her hand stroking Icos’s chest gently. “Thank you Iona.” Iona put her hands behind her back. “It was the least I could do and I confess I sort of enjoyed it, I think I understand now why you like birds.” Fedora moved forward ignoring everyone as she wrapped her arms around her daughter. “Next time you’re going to leave the palace for this long, please tell me, I was so worried about you.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “I’m sorry mother it was a spur of the moment thing.” She pulled away. “I was well protected Demetrius was with me.” Fedora turned to the tall man who gave her a smile. “Well regardless next time you go away, send me a message so I know where you are.” She turned to Gabrielle who suddenly looked uneasy. “You know I understand you wanting to take a walk outside of the palace but next time you need to tell us all where you’re going, everyone in the palace was concerned about you its not every day that a royal goes missing.”

Gabrielle raised her hands about to protest only stop herself, Fedora was the closest thing she had to a mother and she had not meant to worry her or anyone else in the palace. “I’m sorry Fedora.” Fedora eyed the Empress who was trying to hide her smirk. “I trust the Empress won’t let you out of her sights again.” Gabrielle turned watching as Xena coughed clearing her throat. “I’m sure she won’t.” She turned back to Fedora. “We’ve talked things though.” Fedora put her arms around her. “I’m glad to hear that, the last thing any one wants is for you two to be at odds again you’re like a daughter to me.” Gabrielle stepped back stroking her doves head. “I was fine, I have weapons.” Fedora shook her head. “Regardless of your weapons you can still get hurt and the last thing I want is for something to happen to you.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment realising that there no getting out of this. “I’ll be sure to leave a note of some kind in the future if I leave the palace.” Fedora felt her smile widen as she used her hands to dust down the blonde woman’s shirt sleeves. “Are you hungry at all because I can have Fedoras cook you something up?” Gabrielle raised her hand shaking her head. “No I’m fine.” Fedora paused before speaking. “The letters are mounting up from your people Chara has put them in your bedroom on your desk so you can go through them.”

Xena turned eyeing the wagon opposite which was mounted up high with werewolf parts she turned slowly to Gabrielle. “Maybe later we can talk about what to do with these wagons, once you’ve gone through your letters.” She breathed in deeply hopefully she could help Gabrielle in the running of her people, she hadn’t done much as late but it was clear that things were now starting to mount up on the younger woman’s side. Maybe once she got in to a more active role it would help her in other ways such as her confidence as well as help her in taking control of what was rightfully hers. Gabrielle turned to the taller woman eyeing the wagons. “Yes we need to talk about them.” She turned to Fedora. “I’ll go through my letters its sounds as though their important.” Xena put a hand on her chin. “I’m going to get a bath I’ll see you in your room later.” She turned to Demetrius raising her hand. “I don’t want any interruptions tonight apart from our food is that understood?” Demetrius nodded feeling a smile form. “I’ll see it done Empress.” He adjusted his shirt eyeing the others. “Excuse me I need to get some sleep and change my clothes.”

He paused turning to Iona who looked uncertain. “Clearly you’ve come a long way in these past few months.” He turned to Empress. “Would it be fair to consider Iona off the hook and no longer in need of my help?” Xena folded her arms as she nodded. “I agree it would.” Demetrius patted Iona’s shoulder. “Thank you for looking after the palace in my absence, you’re clearly ready to take charge of anything.” Iona watched as he pulled away. “Look I respect that you’d let me off the hook and I appreciate that but.” Demetrius raised his eyebrow. “But?” Iona lowered her head as she spoke. “I learnt a lot, that is to say I enjoyed your company and I would still prefer to be by your side, than by myself.” Demetrius nodded as understanding dawned on him he felt a smile form. “Then we’ll work something out, I’m sure we can make an agreement that suits us both and our positions in the palace.” He pulled away from her. “Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back in to my real armour.” Iona looked up slightly. “You could look worse believe me.” Demetrius eyed her for a long moment. “I’ll take your word for that.” Iona watched as he vanished from slight she turned to the Empress. “Excuse me I need to go back to my duties.”

Gabrielle eyed her back pack watching as Iona vanished from site. “I need to go and unpack.” Xena didn’t think as she took hold of her arm keeping a gentle hold of it. “I’ll be with you very soon I promise.” She leaned forward giving her a gentle kiss on the lips she watched as the younger woman looked at her then nervously adjusted her collar as she stepped away her voice hitting the air. “I’ll be in my room.” Xena raised an eyebrow watching as she walked away there was something very sweet and charming about her shy behaviour. Fedora blinked eyeing the Empress. “Well clearly you two did work things out.” Xena turned to her feeling her smile widen. “Yes we did.” Fedora folded her arms. “She deserves to be loved it’s clear that she’s not had a good time when it comes to love, I hope you’ll do me proud and make her very happy.” Xena looked at her for a long moment, the woman sounded like Gabrielle’s mother but even she couldn’t deny that she was in essence her mother until she saw her real family again. Even if she saw them again she doubted that Gabrielle would call on her real mother first, as Fedora had become her rock and support and the mother figure in life. Thaleia was like a sister and they both made up her surrogate family who had come about due to her circumstances in the palace. “I intend to make her happy in every way I can I promise you that.”

She turned looking up at the sky for a long moment. “It’s not fair that she’s been denied so much love first with the loss of Damokles and Adrienne didn’t deserve her she did nothing but abuse her. I won’t allow any more harm to come to her and I will see that she’s well protected in side these walls.” Fedora shook her head. “I believe you but you know a day will come when the Imperial Council will act everything up to now has been no more than games and when they do act I don’t think any of us will be able to get out of the wave that coming. When you have two forces colliding over a single throne it can become very brutal.” Xena nodded before looking up. “I know its coming and I agree this has only been them testing the waters. I know that they have a master plan but it’s clear that they have not set it in to motion yet, I can only hope that their holding back for a reason.” Thaleia breathed in sharply. “Empress you know though that Gabrielle will fight them, you won’t be able to stop her. She will see it as dishonourable if she doesn’t fight them to the very end.” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her shoulder. “I know she will and you and your mother shouldn’t worry, what ever happens I’ll be by her side all the way where ever it may take us.”

End of part 87

 

 

INNOCENT BLOOD FOREVER SPILLING THROUGH MY CLAWED HANDS

 

She accepted me with out question, she wouldn’t even take my sword despite that I offered it to her by Ouroboros everything feels strange in my head right now. It’s been so long since I’ve been a relationship with anyone and I won’t deny that I’m afraid it’s been well over two years since I slept with anyone, what if I can’t perform? Its not that I haven’t had female lovers before but it’s been even longer since a female lover made me feel good about myself. Sex with Adrienne was never about love it was about dominance, it was in part brutal and it occurs to me now that it been ages since I made compassionate and gentle love to a anyone the last person I made that kind of love to, was Damokles. I consider myself to be someone who knows what to do with both genders but right now I feel so unsure of myself. I didn’t expect her to say what she did about the androphonomania massacre. I had no idea that those children had survived, I thought that they had all died. I remember my desperation to hide them I realized I had to do it after watching Adrienne tear a screaming child to ribbons in the first village we went to. I remember standing there and watched her and feeling powerless to do anything. That image has haunting my nightmares for so long and it was always my biggest regret that I didn’t break her jaw for doing such a vile thing.

I have no stomach for killing children I’ve never been able to do it, I just can’t bring myself to cause them harm them and the Imperial Council considers you weak if you can’t kill human children. I want to talk to that boy I saved yet I’m so afraid of what he will say. Xena said that he spoke highly of me but I wonder how he will take to seeing me again. I wouldn’t blame him for having some anger towards me after all it was my people who changed the course of his destiny. I have been looking at the letters on my desk and I can tell by the hand writing that the men and women writing these letters are unsure and slightly desperate. Their desperate to heard and desperate to be acknowledged these are from werewolves like those I met in that tavern. They are the forgotten sons and daughters, mothers and fathers who ran away from the underground cities well before my time, because they broke the rules. They have all been hiding in human form and living out secret lives in plain sight while always looking over their shoulder fearing that they could be found out and killed by both humans and those werewolves who are loyal to the Imperial Council. There is one thing I do know and that a half life is no life at all, if you can’t live your life for whom and what you are then you are not living at all. As I look at these letters I realize that most are requests are about wanting to be heard as equal citizens and the desire to have a seat among the diplomatic council.

I realize that this request won’t be easy and I know I’ll have to do a lot to bring the good side of my race into the light but maybe I can start by making sure that all these werewolves are acknowledged in Corinth. After all these letters are all from Corinth only one is from Athens. Maybe I can ask Xena to create a civilian position which will give werewolves a voice until I can formally put a werewolf diplomat on the council. Maybe I can get around this by making this diplomat work for me in the beginning and then later have them join Xena’s diplomats when things have settled down. I know I’m going to be asking a lot and I know it won’t easy but I’m going to try. The Imperial Council has to realize that I’m not alone and that I have werewolves of Corinth on my side. Gabrielle leaned over taking her quill from her ink pot she slowly began to write notes on the scroll opposite. She carried on writing only to stop as hand came out of no where stopping her hand in mid motion. She turned realizing for the first time that Xena was standing directly behind her leaning over her desk. She felt her eyes dart she hadn’t even heard the other woman come in to her room she felt the other woman’s lips as they found her neck kissing her very gently.

She felt herself breathe in sharply as the other woman’s hands moved down to her waist. Xena pulled away from the other woman’s neck gently kissing her, she felt a smile form. “Hello.” Gabrielle eyed her quill before meeting the other woman’s intense gaze, why did she feel so uncertain of her self at this moment in time? She felt as though the other woman was once again staring in to her soul she breathed in deeply before speaking despite how small her voice sounded even to her own ears. “Hi.” Xena eyed the other woman she who seemed very nervousness, though she was trying to hide it. She moved her hands up to her shoulders keeping them there trying to make her feel more at ease. “Sorry I should have knocked it’s just.” She paused trying to find the right words. “I thought you wouldn’t mind me being here.” Gabrielle looked up slightly feeling a smile form as she put down her quill taking the other woman’s hand. “No I don’t mind you being here.” Xena eyed her letters. “What have your people been sending you?” Gabrielle felt her gaze drift to her notes. “There from the werewolves of Corinth they want both acknowledgment and a seat on the diplomatic council. I need to work it all out its going to be difficult and it’s been a long time since I’ve done this I’m feeling very rusty.”

Xena turned as she pulled up a chair sitting opposite the other woman as she took hold of her other hand. “I’m sure you’ll be as sharp as ever soon enough and we can both work something out regarding this issue.” She paused trying to find the right words to her next question. “What did you want to do…with the wagons? It’s just their mounting up and soon they’ll be more.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Do you have a map?” Xena turned pulling a scroll out of her belt. She carefully opened it she had, had a gut feeling that she’d need it and she had been correct. “This is a map of my Empire, you don’t have to tell me where any of the werewolf cities are, just give me a location where I can send them.” Gabrielle turned picking up her quill she carefully drew a black ring close to the city of Aetolia. “All the wagons should go here it’s a highly patrolled area and the scouts will find them. Your warriors are not to go inside this circle under the laws of the Imperial Council it will cost them their lives.” She eased up the quill again creating a heavy black dot opposite the city of Phokis. “The Grand City is just outside this city hidden in a deep valley, you’d never see it but if we ever have to go there I’ll show you the entrance.”

Xena turned the map over looking at it she had not expected Gabrielle to tell her this but she understood that her doing this was an act of deep trust and no doubt because they were now in a relationship. “Thank you Gabrielle, you didn’t have to do this.” Gabrielle moved her finger to the dot. “No I think I did, I’ve spent so long inside your palace I know every room, every corridor and all of the gardens yet you don’t even know where I used live or how I came here to Corinth.” Xena felt her smile widen. “How big is the Grand City?” Gabrielle put her quill down. “Two thirds the size of Corinth per level it’s the oldest of all the cities as it was built during king Lycaon brutal reign which was before Corinth became a mayor city. The Emerald Hind was said to have come up with the idea of an underground city hidden from view of every one, so he could protect his people. The builders later designed his vision and built it, it took them five years just to create the first level and to create a concrete which could turn the walls solid. Back then werewolves didn’t use the grinding jaw to create tunnels they had to use their clawed hands.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “What is the grinding jaw?” Gabrielle pulled up a piece of scroll creating a small sketch. “It’s like a large cylinder with a metal front around its edge are huge cutting teeth. Five werewolves in werewolf form have to push it forward, while two in human form turn the wheel handle to keep the front section moving but the teeth have to be changed because they break constantly.”

She lowered her gaze sadly as she finished her sketch watching as the taller woman looked at it with fascination. “It’s very common for people to die and the Imperial Council don’t care about making the grinding jaw safer. As they consider the builders as lowest class in werewolf sociality, yet in my view their one of the important classes. With out them we’d have no homes as they do the most back breaking job of all and it’s slow and very dangerous.” Xena put the map down on the table as she took hold of her hand. “When you take back control of your kingdom you can change all this Gabrielle, these people won’t have to die anymore just because the Imperial Council think they are a lower class.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “I hope so.” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her face stroking gentle. “I know you will.” She looked up meeting her uncertain gaze. “I’ve seen your races armour and weapons their very strong, stronger than any bronze I’ve ever come across Iona tested Adrienne’s bronze plate and she couldn’t dent it, is that made from the same bronze as these teeth?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes it is, though the stronger bronze was never intended for war. It was created by the smiths for the grinding jaw but later on they started to use it to create stronger weapons and armour.”

Xena breathed in deeply she could see a very conflicted look in the younger woman’s eyes. “You don’t seem happy about that.” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I’m not I think a warrior should be measured by their skill in battle, not their weapons and armour. I know though that many would not agree with me on this subject. It’s always been heavily debated among the warrior class, may be I just feel differently because my first armour was tempered leather and I had to make do with it and try to survive. Even my swords weren’t made of the special bronze they were normal and I survived. So to me this special bronze just doesn’t have the same appeal though I know one day I may have to wear it. I have no armour as a king but I may need one regardless of feelings, because the Horn Hind has always worn a suite of arms to show their status. I refused to wear the golden armour that the Imperial Council had made for me, it never felt right.” Xena moved closer to her. “What is right for you?” Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t know what’s right for me I have never thought about it.” Xena leaned forward gently kissing her lips before pulling back feeling the need to change the subject she knew that Gabrielle may not like this subject but she felt the need to know the whole story of what had happened during the androphonomania massacre. “Please tell me what happened during the androphonomania massacre.”

Gabrielle turned sharply feeling the painful knot as it twisted in her chest she shook her head lowering her eyes to the floor. “No you don’t want to know about that.” Xena eased her hand down putting it under her chin using it to gently raise her head so their eyes met before moving it out from under her chin. “Yes Gabrielle I do want to know about this, you said that the Imperial Council offered you something, what did they offer you?” Gabrielle tensed painfully, the last thing she wanted was to relive this memories she’d spent most of her life trying to forget it. The truth was she couldn’t forget it, it had always been in her nightmares. Maybe if she talked to the older woman about it she’d feel better in some way at least then some one else would know her pain. She’d never spoken to anyone about these events they’d remained locked away in her mind and had eaten away at her over the years. The truth was that she wanted release from them because they hurt so much. She breathed in deeply by Ouroboros this was going to be hard, she closed her eyes as the dark memory flashed in front of her eyes for a spit second. She slowly opened her eyes meeting Xena’s as she felt a sad smile form. “I thought the Imperial Council would be true to their word and that I would get what I wanted. I thought I was going out there to fight a mayor battle against other warriors…it was never that kind of battle though…it was all about killing innocent people.”

8

Gabrielle put the pipe to her mouth which she’d gotten from one of the dead bodies it was a small ivory pipe which wasn’t thick but very thin at the neck leading to a small round end. She breathing in the opium trying to block out the screaming in her mind and the many innocent faces looking back at her, she had found it impossible to sleep since she’d been on this campaign. For three months she’d marched with Adrienne and the large warrior as they had slaughtering whole villages filled with innocent people. She just couldn’t kill children she had found herself picking them up and taking them away from the slaughter. She had hid them where ever she could and how ever she could, there was no greater sin to her than killing a helpless child no matter what the race, she didn’t know if any of these children had survived after she had hidden them she could only hope that they had. She had, had enough blood on her mouth at that point that no body had questioned her, she knew that she was deifying the Imperial Council’s orders but she didn’t care. She hated this, it felt like a never ending nightmare which she couldn’t get away from. She breathed out the smoke from her pipe she could only block out her inner pain as well as the many innocent eyes which staring back at her with opium. She looked at the dried blood on her human hands a remainder of last nights slaughter. She adjusted her shirt not caring that there were blood stains on it. It had been a gift from Damokles along with the boots and trousers she was now wearing. She had wanted to get rid of them but she had never had the heart to do so, they were all she had left of him along with his ring which she was now wearing.

She breathed in watching as Adrienne walked in to her tent a smug smile on her face. She lowered her gaze hearing her self speak but in a tone that felt distant even to her own ears. “So this is it is it, we have to be less than human even though we are already inhuman? I have to be so inhuman and kill these people and for what? To appease those bastards on the council just so I can speak to them!” Adrienne eyed her adjusting her bloody armour. “Oh please are you having one of your moral moments again? I wish you’d stop with these there annoying.” She took hold of the wine skin uncapping it then took a long drink before looking up. “Their worthless humans!” She raised her hand. “They are killing us they are skinning our race alive and turning us in to pelts and trophies.” She felt a sneer form. “Our numbers are dropping, or haven’t you heard? The Imperial Council is doing what’s right for us as a race.” Gabrielle breathed out the opium smoke. “Doing what is right for our race, please these people didn’t skin our people this is just a slaughter. The Empress of Greece will only hate us even more for this she’ll raise the price on our heads.” Adrienne put the wine skin down. “Okay I know you’re unhappy but it won’t be much longer you’ve got one week or maybe two then we can go home. I know it’s your birthday in two months time, you’ll be twenty three.”

Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “I don’t care about my birthday! I’ve never celebrated it since I was turned in to a werewolf so why should I start now?” Adrienne clicked her finger. “I know what you need, you need to have sex, I’m sure it’s been a long while since you got laid, after all its no secret that you like both genders.” She paused. “Speaking of which you have never have told me about the men and women you slept with prior to Damokles.” Gabrielle ignored the high feeling in her head which was due to the drugs. “It’s none of your business who I slept with before Damokles.” Adrienne walked up to the other woman kneeling down in front of her she ignored the warmth of the open fire behind her as she turned to meet her  cold gaze. “You know a beautiful woman like you shouldn’t be alone at night.” She moved her hand towards her scar which was something she’d always wanted to touch. “It’s a sin of the gods.” Gabrielle grabbed her hand before it could touch her face forcing it down watching as Adrienne winced painfully. She could hear the venom in her words as she spoke them. “I have no interest in sex for the sake of sex, I’m not like you.” Adrienne laughed despite the pain she was finally she was getting somewhere with this woman who was always cold towards her. She wouldn’t lie, when Gabrielle was being violent she found it a huge turn on, she was all rage and all focus she wanted to see what she was like in bed even more so when she was angry.

Clearly Damokles had no doubt preferred for her to lie on her back while he’d stuck his dick in and whispered sentimental rubbish in her ear. She on the other hand wanted to dominate, control and own her on every level the thought thrilled her so much because it would clearly take a very strong will to control Gabrielle’s. She looked up slightly. “Tell me have you ever mixed pain with pleasure? I know Damokles probably made you lie on your back and play the bitch but I wouldn’t do that to you, I’d let you be in charge, I’d give you sex like you’ve never had before.”  Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment feeling her teeth grind together. “What I had with Damokles is something you’ll never understand.” Adrienne smirked. “And yet it wasn’t that special, because you’re here now all alone, he never loved you to start with.” She leaned closer. “You and I could have something really special if you wanted it.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she threw her pipe to one side then slammed the other woman in to the floor keeping a tight grip of her hand as her other found her throat. “Do not test me Adrienne.” She leaned closer hating that the other woman was still smiling. “I know that every one thinks I’m a soft headed fool because I have morals but I do not like games, least of all yours.” Adrienne didn’t think as she shoved her knee between her legs feeling her let go of her hand more due to surprise than anything else. “This is not a game this is about your happiness I just want to make you feel good.”

She shifted her knee. “I can give you great pleasure I can take away that pain you feel inside and unlike Damokles I won’t leave you alone in the darkness I’ll always be there for you.” She kept her leg in place as she sat up moving her free hand over the edge of the other woman’s collar she eased it up her neck and slowly up to her face. “You’re such a beautiful woman, its little wonder that the gods made you Horn Hind.” She leaned closer seeing her opportunity as she met her lips kissing them ignoring the other woman’s surprise. She felt a slight response which got suddenly stronger she now had the other woman right where she wanted her. Gabrielle felt her eyes snap open, what in Ouroboros’s name was she doing? She pulled away sharply from the other woman getting off her as she pulled her hand away from her throat. “Get out!” Adrienne smiled as she got up. “It’s nice to have that feeling isn’t it the sensation runs down your chest and then lower doesn’t it? You must have been missing that.” Gabrielle eyed her. “I said get out!” Adrienne felt her smug smile widen. “You’ll want me to give you that feeling again it’s only a matter of time and you know it.”

8

Xena looked up feeling a painful knot twist in her stomach gods this was so tragic. It was clear by the younger woman’s words that Adrienne had taken it up on herself to become forceful in her manipulations she had used sex as a means to get to under Gabrielle skin. Although at the time Gabrielle had been stronger and had been able to push her away. It was a cold manipulation of her heart which was still broken at this point due to loosing Damokles. The thing that made her feel even worse was that Gabrielle had kept the clothes Damokles had given to her she lowered her gaze feeling the pain hit home as she spoke. “The clothes Damokles gave you, were you wearing them that night with the royals?” Gabrielle looked down at the floor trying not to cry. “Yes.” Xena put a hand on her face feeling the guilt hit home. “I’m so sorry…they mattered to you and I had you transform in them.” Gabrielle shook her head sadly. “Please don’t be sorry it was a long time ago and I’ve put it behind me.” Xena breathed in as she put a hand on the other woman’s shoulder. “I’ll get you some clothes to replace them, I know they won’t be the same or have the same meaning but it would mean a lot to me.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “No you don’t have to do that.” Xena eased up her hand. “Please Gabrielle.” Gabrielle stood up walking away from her chair. “You’ve given me everything I could ever want I don’t want anything more from you Xena. I also don’t hate you for what happened with the royals, I did for a long while…afterwards…but that was a long time ago.”

She raised her hand. “I’ve forgiven you so please don’t give me anything more, maybe it was for the better that those clothes were destroyed. I was clinging to the past and I needed that to happen so I could move on.” Xena looked at her for a long painful moment. “That ivory pipe you kept it to remind, you didn’t you?” Gabrielle put her hand in to her shirt pocket easing out the pipe she put it on the table next to her looking at it for a long painful moment. “Yes I keep it to always remind me that innocent life matters and that I will never take any ones life like that again. It’s a symbol of a monster and I never want to be that monster again.” Xena breathed in painfully. “Monsters don’t try to save children Gabrielle.” Gabrielle tensed painfully. “That doesn’t change the fact that I took innocent lives and destroyed the lives of many families. All because I believed that my doing so would end the killing of human children in werewolf sociality. I was a fool I brought in to their lies because I so much wanted to believe them and doing so it caused me so much pain.” Xena stood up pushing the chair to one side. “They manipulated you Gabrielle they set you up and like you said before if you didn’t go through with it they would have humiliated you, you had to choose between the better of two evils.”

Gabrielle put her fingers on the pipe. “Regardless it doesn’t make it any better, those people are still dead and I can’t bring them back the only legacy I have is that the children I hid did survive but even then it doesn’t feel as though it’s enough.” Xena moved a step closer to the younger woman seeing her breath in sharply as she tried not to cry. She eased up her hand putting it on her face. “Why do you always try to stop yourself crying?” Gabrielle looked up painfully. “I don’t cry because its show weakness, I’m a king I shouldn’t be seen crying.” Xena moved her face closer to the younger woman’s. “There is no shame in crying Gabrielle it doesn’t make you weak, it means your hearts beating with in your chest and you can feel and I know that you feel every thing, I see it in your eyes all the time. You should feel everything Gabrielle it’s alright to feel there’s no shame in letting it out, when you release the pain and cry it makes you feel better. You don’t need to hide your feelings from me ether I don’t see you as weak for crying, I love you.” Gabrielle paused unable to control her emotions what ever barriers she had in this second just felt like they’d suddenly been torn down around her. It felt as though she was now completely exposed to the other woman and she couldn’t hide her feelings from her. She closed her eyes feeling the tears as they ran down her face. “I see those innocent people faces in my dreams and it hurts so much because I want to bring them back and I can’t.”

Xena wrapped her arms around the younger woman pulling her close as she started to cry. “I know sweetheart.” She kept hold of her closing her eyes as something Gabrielle had said painfully sunk in. She had never celebrated her birthday not since being turned in a werewolf, she had always had a birthday and her staff had even given her presents. Yet to imagine never having a birthday and never celebrating one was utterly heartbreaking. She tightened her grip around Gabrielle’s waist as she cried even harder, she couldn’t bring back her clothes the ones she destroyed and she would respect her wish but she would give her a birthday no matter what. She could find out when it was and celebrate it she could even make it a surprise and shower her with gifts. She didn’t care if she spoilt her by making her happy, just doing so meant so much to her. Chara could tell her what the day of her birthday was as she had seen her birth record. This woman had, had such a horrible life and she knew that it was getting very hard for her to tell her story. It was clear to her now that she was talking about the truly dark chapter of her life and it would only get darker from now on and it wasn’t going to be easy for her. She breathed in deeply as she slowly opened her eyes feeling a sense of purpose take over. She wanted to see this woman smile every day now that they were in a relationship together.

She also wanted to take things up a notch and make a decision which she had at first wanted to avoid due to the back lash but now she no longer cared. She’d let the council of Corinth know that she was in a relationship with Gabrielle come what may. It would help with Gabrielle’s confidence if she knew that she was important to the palace and that her role mattered. She was now her consort and she deserved to be known to those who governed Corinth so they would respect her position. If she felt valued and important it would no doubt help her on her way to healing she was sure of it. She stepped back easing up her hand as she carefully wiped away the younger woman’s tears watching as she gained control over her emotions although she could tell that unlike so many other times the hardened front just didn’t seem to come up fully.  Gabrielle breathed in she was still filled with painful emotions right now and they were difficult to deal with though the tears did take away some of the pain. She just wanted to be lead right now rather than make up her own mind at this moment in time as she felt safe and protected with the taller woman. Xena felt Gabrielle’s grip around her hand tighten, she had papers to sign but she didn’t care for them right now this was so much more important to her.

End of part 88

FEELINGS OF MIXED CONFUSION

Its strange I feel slightly better than I did some time ago I can’t really describe the feeling, the closest I can come to describing it is that I feel lighter inside. I don’t feel the pain so much but I won’t lie I still feel the guilt but something isn’t there that was before. It maybe many months before I put my finger on it I just know its there. These past few hours have felt like a rush of emotion to me and I know it’s going to take me a long time to come down from this high. My life has changed so much that I hardly remember what my old one used to be like. Truth is I try not to remember most things, I try to block out my time with Adrienne because it’s so difficult for me to stomach and it brings tears to my eyes because of the brutality and pain she caused me.  Looking back now I know I wasn’t strong enough to stop it and I was afraid but I’m not afraid anymore. If she ever wakes up I’ll find out the rest of what I need to know then I’ll tear both her ears to ribbons and when the day comes that she goes to trail I’ll make sure that the awaiting her death is not pleasant. Her life will never be the same, or at least what left of it when she wakes up, she’ll be weak and feeble and never as strong as she once was, she’ll be at the mercy of others and for her that will be terrifying.

I shouldn’t dwell on these thoughts as it angers me so much and I’m trying so hard now to look forward. Even though I’m afraid that I won’t live up Xena’s expectations as a partner or that I’ll let her down in some way. I don’t want to screw this up and I won’t lie I have no idea where to start, I just hope that if Damokles is watching me from the Elysian Fields that he accepts my choice and that he sees that this is right for me. I have an idea of what Xena likes to do for fun but I have never shared that kind of fun with anyone before, I don’t know much about plays or theatre maybe I’ll come of as boring because of this. Personally I really enjoy chariot racing and Pygmachia which is a form of bare fist fighting as I prefer games where the rules about not hitting an opponent while he or she is down are taken seriously. As far as I’m concerned pit fighting has no honour where as Pygmachia is all about honour and following the rules. I am no fist fighter myself but in werewolf tradition to show power and strength in your fists while in human form is considered a noble quality.

Gabrielle looked up as the study came in to view remembering why it was that she’d come here, which was to test a myth. The Ethereal Ark Of Fire scroll had been on her mind recently as it was said that it couldn’t be burnt by fire and she wanted to know if this was the real one scroll. She had once been told that the scroll on the Imperial Councils wall was a fake and she want to confirm this. If this was the real scroll she could bring it to the attention of those who were loyal to her, nothing would anger the Imperial Council more than being shown up as liars and frauds. If the myth was true the scroll could be set alight but it wouldn’t burn and none of its text would vanish. She slowly opened the door watching as Phrixus and Chara looked up from their work desks. Chara gave her a smile as she signed another document. “Hello Gabrielle I heard you were back in the palace.” She paused choosing her next words carefully. “Did you enjoy your walk in Corinth?” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “Yes it was very enlightening.” Phrixus felt a wide smile form as he looked up from the werewolf scroll, gods he was so enjoyed their sessions he was learning so much about werewolf history and culture from Gabrielle. Every day there was something new and fascinating, she’d teach him new words and phrases and clarify what certain terms meant. “I’m so glad that your back Gabrielle what are we going to learn today?” Gabrielle turned taking the candle of Chara’s desk. “We are going to learn if a myth is true.”

She put her new pipe in to her mouth lighting it, the truth was if what she was about to do was wrong it would cost this man some of his life work but she had to know for sure. The words of a Jacinda the white werewolf of dreams were running through her mind and she could no longer ignore them. “The scroll above those bastards is a fake they switched it with the true one which they’ve now lost but I was there before it was switched I saw you on it and it’s for that reason they switched it.” She eyed the candle in her hand as she raised the scrolls edge. “I need to confirm something that’s been on my mind for a long while.” Phrixus blinked in confusion watching as she moved the candle closer to the scrolls edge. “Wait, what are you doing!?” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment ignoring Chara’s surprise. “You have to truth me Phrixus.” Phrixus put his hands together watching in horror as she set the scroll alight. He breathed in why in Tartarus would she do this? She was destroying the only piece of werewolf history he had. He moved forward in panic grabbing a jug of water as the whole scroll began to burn its flames whipping and lashing as they rose higher.

Gabrielle watched as it carried on burning she could see now that it wasn’t burning away, she breathed in her pipe seeing that every word was alight with flames as were the images but the scroll wasn’t burning away, which meant the myth was true. She raised her hand putting it on the jug stopping him from throwing it as she turned to him seeing the confusion in his eyes. “Look at the scroll Phrixus, it’s not burning.” Phrixus turned eyeing the scroll feeling the utter confusion hit home. He could see now that the letters and images were covered by flames but scroll was not burning. In fact it wasn’t even burning the long table under it he put the jug down as he spoke unable to hide the surprise in his voice. “What in the name of the gods, it’s not burning?” He moved his hand towards the flames only to feel Gabrielle’s hand grab it stopping it inches from the flames. Gabrielle gently let go of his hand as she eyed the still burning scroll. “I’ve never told you what this scroll is called they call it The Ethereal Ark Of Fire.” She moved her hand towards the flames. “They say that the Emerald Horn had those loyal to him create a scroll of his exploits and life. It was written in godly ink and could not be burnt away it could even length itself before the passing of each Horn Hind.”

She eyed her ring on her finger moving her fingers in to the flames. “They say a Horn Hind ringed hand’s can not be burnt by its flames.” She put her hands in to the flames feeling no pain as she raised the still burning scroll whose flames started to fade away turning in to nothing more than smoke as the scroll went back to normal. Its images were completely unchanged and its writing still looked perfect and untouched. She carefully placed scroll down it was now cold to the touch. “Clearly that part of the myth is true.” She put the candle back on Chara’s desk as she turned to Phrixus. “I’m sorry for scaring you both and taking the risk I just had to know that this was the real scroll and not another fake that the Imperial Council had created.” Phrixus looked up as he ran his hand over the scroll which was now cold to the touch. “What does this mean?” Gabrielle opened her hand running it across her own image on the scroll as she adjusted her shirt. “It means I now have a chance to really annoy the Imperial Council in a way they won’t like” Chara moved away from her desk putting down her quill as she touched the scroll which was cold to the touch despite being on fire only a few minutes ago. “In what way will this anger them?”

Gabrielle ran her fingers over the scroll as she breathed out the smoke from the new pipe which had been given to her as a gift by Chara and her partner. “In the Grand City behind their thrones is a scroll like this one but it’s a fake, if I set it alight unlike this scroll it will burn away in to nothing.” Phrixus put his hands behind his back as understanding dawned on him he looked up speaking in a sad tone. “To burn it I assume would burn their power as leaders, the fake scroll itself is their power and influence and that power can be diminished with the fake scroll destruction.” Gabrielle turned slowly to him. “You sound like you speak from experience.” Phrixus breathed in sadly. “Many years ago when I used to crave battle my people fought Crete at the start of our uprising but we did more than just kill it’s people, we destroyed their history and everything they held dear. I watched as their libraries and temples burnt and the warriors around me laughed and I questioned what it was to be Spartan. Because to me there is no wonder in destroying people’s souls and that soul to me is in the people’s scrolls which tell their life stories, their histories as well as show what they believe in.” He paused. “I lost faith in my people after that and I’m now considered a traitor because I refused to pick up my sword and fight the Empress during the later part of the uprising.”

Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “So your like me, you’ve had to leave your people?” Phrixus looked down sadly. “They say Spartans should be men, that they should never show weakness.” He felt his hand grip the table. “But I cry inside every night when I hear my wife and my five year old son screaming as they were killed in cold blood by the other Spartan warriors in our villa because I refused to fight the Empress. I can still see the flames rising from my home as they stripped me of my armour and tour of my cloak then threw me in to the dirt and cursed me to live forever.” He looked up feeling the pain wrench at his heart though he tried not to show it. “I joined the Empress and fought against them and claimed my revenge, I killed the men who killed my family. I smashed their skulls open with my Aspis shield and yet I wasn’t satisfied I didn’t feel like a warrior anymore which is why I now better myself with study. I am not Spartan anymore but I am still a man of honour with purpose and I’m glad that the Empress liberated Crete from our rule what we did there was wrong.” Gabrielle eased up her hand putting in gently on his shoulder. “I’m sorry you lost your family Phrixus, you didn’t deserve that.”

Phrixus looked up slightly. “So am I, I miss them everyday.” He paused meeting her gaze. “I’m sorry for the lover you lost.” Gabrielle could see the sadness in his eyes, despite that he was trying to hide his pain. “Thank you Phrixus I like to think that he’s happy now and in the Elysian Fields.” She felt her eyes dart as she spoke. “They say that the dead can hear the thoughts of living I hope that were ever your family are they can hear you.” Phrixus felt a genuine smile form. “Maybe once I’ve lived forever I will see them again.” He stood up slightly. “But not yet.” Gabrielle felt her smile widen. “No not yet.” She looked up as he gave her a knowing smile before turning back to the scroll. She moved her hand in to her shirt pocket as she breathed out the smoke from her pipe before turning to Chara who had been listening quietly. She eased out a number of small scrolls putting them in her hand. “Could you please send these out?” Chara looked at the small scrolls. “What are they?” Gabrielle eyed the tiny scrolls. “I wanted to say thank you to everyone for their gifts, when I was ill.” She watched as the other woman blinked in surprise as she breathing in her pipe. “Your gifts meant more to me than you’ll ever know.”

8

I’m going to tell Demetrius how I feel gods be damned I know I can do this and Gabrielle is right I am good enough for him. So I should tell him about how I feel about him. I have done my duties and it will be a while before I have to go to Gabrielle’s room so I don’t need to worry about doing anything else. I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be spending time with the Empress and I know that Ceto will do anything that needs to be done. Gods I’m so scared but I have to do this I have to know, I found his helmet it was still in Chara’s study and now I’m taking it back to him. I think it’s a good an excuse as any to meet with him he’s currently in the warrior barracks at least that’s what I have been told. I’ve gone past to the barracks in the gardens so many times but this is the first time I have ever been in them and I confess I’m a little nervous. I’m not used to seeing the men and women sharpening their weapons, drinking and gambling, I know they are nice people but it feels like a very different world to me and its not one I’m not used to.

Thaleia knocked on the double doors which led in to the barracks watching as they were opened by a large burley man who was in his late thirties and blind in one eye, he looked down at her giving her a smile showing of his bronze teeth. She swallowed she didn’t recognise his face at all she looked down slowly raised the helmet. “I came to return this to Demetrius.” The older man eyed the helmet then looked up meeting her gaze. “Cleaning staff are not allowed in here. I’m new here but I have been told that, that is the rules, no exceptions.” Thaleia eyed him suddenly regaining her nerve this man was a fool he clearly didn’t understand the significance of her robes. “I’m not cleaning staff, I’m a personal maid.” The older man looked at her with his good eye. “What’s the difference a maid is still a maid?” Thaleia eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “I answer to the consort of the Empress who is a royal in her own right, I’m allowed in every room in the palace by right, so unless you want to answer to her you’ll let me in.”

The big man pulled back sharply. “What if I don’t?” Thaleia felt her gaze narrow. “Do you really want to find out?” The blind eyed man blinked in surprise he breathed sharply as he moved away from the door. She walked past him even if he was new he needed to learn some manners she slowly to turned to face him. “Where is Demetrius?” The older man scowled as he eyed her, he clearly didn’t like it when someone pointed out that their station was higher than his. “I’ll take you to him.” She followed him walking through the long hall past the rooms inside the rooms she could see warriors playing cards and drinking, Iona’s men were among them though she wasn’t present. The blind man came to a stop in front of the double doors at the end of the corridor he knocked on it not bothering to hide his cold tone. “You have a guest Demetrius.” He pulled back as the doors were opened and Demetrius appeared he turned catching sight of her a smile forming on his lips. “Hello Thaleia, please come in.”

The older man looked up the shock appearing in his good eye. “So she’s allowed in here?” Demetrius pulled the doors back watching as Thaleia walked past him. “Yes she’s allowed to go where ever she wants, never forget that Milo.” He closed the doors behind him not bothering to look back, he clearly had to lot more to teach Milo but tonight he had no time to do so he knew that in the hoplite training area in Corinth the servants cleaned up after warriors but in palace the rules were very different. Some of the staff here had more power than any of the hoplites and Thaleia was one of them along with Ceto. They were the highest ranking staff in the palace, any thing they needed or wanted was given to them with out question and anyone who disobeyed had to answer to the Empress or Gabrielle. Frankly he’d rather answer to the Empress he’d seen Gabrielle when she was angry many times. He was sure that any warrior who thought themselves big or clever would soon have their ego deflated in her presence. He looked up as broke out of his thoughts ignoring the fact that he was feeling tired, he should have gone to bed a long time ago. He’d had, had a bath some time ago and changed his clothes but sleep had not come and he’d found himself in the barracks thinking about things.

He turned back to Thaleia. “Sorry about him, I’ll ensure that no one bothers you about coming in here ever again.” Thaleia turned looking at the map on the large table and weapons which were all around her hanging from the racks. “I thought that you were going to bed?” Demetrius felt a smile form. “I couldn’t sleep so I came down here to think about my parent’s vineyard in Athens, it helps relax and wind down when I can’t sleep. It’s the only thing I Can do since I can’t talk with Iona as she has gone to bed and Leuis has taken her place while she gets her rest.” Thaleia turned to him remembering why she had come here in the first place she raised the helmet in her hand. “You left this in Chara’s study I though I would bring it back to you.” Demetrius carefully took his helmet from her hands looking at it. “Thank you I had forgotten about this.” He put it down on the table. “I have never cared for wearing this thing that much, can’t hear a damn thing when I have it on.” He paused as he turned back to her. “How’s about we take a walk?” He moved over to the hanging drape near by pulling it back revealing a small wooden door. “This is a secret door Iona had it built in it means we can leave with out having to walk through the passage, some nights it can get very noisy in those rooms.”

Thaleia looked at the single door. “I had no idea we had secret doors.” Demetrius opened the door walking outside watching as she followed closed behind him. “Before we left the villa in Corinth the Empress told me that I have to show you them all, they are to be kept a secret from the other staff as they are only opened in times of crisis when the palace is under attack and people need to get out.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Why am I being told about this now?” Demetrius looked down slightly. “You have proven nothing but loyalty in your duties and to Gabrielle so it’s only fair that you know everything that Ceto knows.” Thaleia looked up slightly feeling her mind drift else where, this was not really why she was here. “That’s very flattering.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow as he looked at her. “You don’t sound happy.” Thaleia looked up meeting his uncertain gaze. “No it’s not that, I just wanted to ask you something personal.”

Demetrius felt a smile form. “Go ahead.” Thaleia raised her hand to speak only to stop the words were not forth coming no matter how hard she tried to make them leave her lips. She breathed in deeply feeling a sense of defeat take over why couldn’t she just say what she felt why was she so afraid? She looked up feeling his hand as he placed it on her shoulder, the next moments turned to a rush as she leaned up meeting his lips kissing them very softly and gently feeling him start to respond very slowly. Demetrius breathed in he knew what this kiss meant he could feel it with every touch of her lips as they kissed his and he sunk deeper in to the warm sensation wanting nothing more than to give in to it. He felt the moment suddenly shatter as he gained control over his senses, he couldn’t do this to her. She was so young and innocent and such a good person and she didn’t deserve to be his conquest. Also she was at that age when some women thought they needed to loose their virginity and he knew that she had never had a serious relationship or even sex and he would not take advantage of her in that way, despite how he felt about her.

Thaleia felt the kiss end as he forced her away shattering the moment in an instant she looked up seeing the shock in his eyes as he spoke. “What are you doing?” Thaleia eyed him for a long moment feeling the pain rise in her chest. “What does it look like I’m doing, I’m kissing you!” Demetrius raised his hand he hated to do this to her but it was for her own good. “No you came to me tonight because you want to be a woman but you shouldn’t give yourself to me because you think it will be easy.” Thaleia felt her eyes dart. “Giving myself to you…what do you think I came here to offer myself to you, for sex, do you really believe that?!” Demetrius breathed in painfully. “Yes because your young, you have not been outside the palace walls that much. You have never had a sexual partner and I know that you’re growing up and that you want to be a woman.” Thaleia felt her anger turn to pain, gods this was so not how she had wanted this to go. “I am not a child, I’m an adult who can choose and I didn’t come to you tonight because I cared for loosing my virginity with you.”

She turned away from him trying to contain her pain. “But that’s fine you’ve made your intentions clear, I guess I’ll always be the lowly servant in your eyes regardless of the colours I wear.” Demetrius blinked in shock suddenly nothing made sense anymore he had clearly got this very wrong. “I don’t see you as a lowly servant, I never have.” Thaleia looked at him out of the corner of her eye trying to hold back her tears. “I came here tonight because I had something I wanted to say, it was something important but as you see my actions as a sexual advance and nothing more, I won’t bother you with my feelings.” She wiped away her tears as she started to walk away from him. Demetrius stepped forward. “Look just stop let me explain myself.” Thaleia didn’t look back as she carried on walking she knew it would hurt too much if she did. “Good night Demetrius!” Demetrius watched painfully as she vanished from sight. Gods this had all gone horribly wrong he had completely misinterpreted this whole event he breathed in putting a hand on his face feeling the frustration hit home.

“Demetrius?”

Demetrius turned watching as Leuis came in to view he had been hiding in the shadows close by, he felt a sneer form. “How long have you been standing there?” Leuis breathed in deeply he could tell that the other man was furious. “Sadly long enough to see you make an idiot of yourself.” Demetrius moved towards him not bothering to hide his disgust. “Be quite, you know nothing about what just happened!” Leuis shook his head speaking in a calm tone. “Unlike Iona who knows nothing about love, I do I joined this army to get revenge on the warlord Glaphyra after she skinned my family alive so I remember what it’s like to love and be loved.” He paused. “You’re a clever man Demetrius but you lack conviction when it comes to those you love, you always have.” Demetrius moved a step closer to him. “I have never lacked conviction!” Leuis stepped away from him casually. “Then why are you now standing alone in the garden while a woman who clearly loves you has just walked away?”

Demetrius raised his hand. “She doesn’t love me she’s innocent, kind and naïve, she doesn’t know any better!” Leuis shook his head sadly. “She’s Gabrielle’s personal maid do you seriously think she’s that naïve? She’s around a woman who is a battle harden warrior every day, she’s has had to learn how to deal with her raging temper and her off days and she’s heard her most of her life story, which is been both tragic and depressing. If anything she’s grown up in her presence and matured as a person. We’ve both seen Gabrielle loose her temper, things get thrown around it takes a very strong person to deal with this kind of thing and only her and the Empress can seem to deal with it. I think you should take a good long look at the woman you think as naïve again Demetrius.” He moved away from the leader of the royal guard who was now looking at the floor as his words slowly sunk in. “As I said before you lack conviction.”

End of part 89

 

STEAMING SHADOWS AND DARK CROSSINGS IN THE SOUL

I feel so different right now it’s been so long since I’ve felt this way, I feel that rush of love and spender which is almost child like. Like a giddy teenager whose heart is beating to fast for them to handle. It’s such a wonderful feeling and it’s made me realize just how much my life has changed in these past few days. Gabrielle loves me and that makes me so happy on so many levels, I understand now why all those times in the past she acted the way she did. She’s terrified of loving again due to the past tragedies in her life and I can understand that. After my late husband betrayed me I wasn’t as open to love again, betrayal always has a bitter after taste. My betrayals though have been nothing compared to Gabrielle’s and I accept that this might take some time. When you open your heart to someone after closing it for a long time you’re always a little unsure and apprehensive, I hope I can still those worries in time. I won’t lie for the first time in a long time I’ve started thinking of all those things we can do together, it’s been so long since I spent time with a partner. I remember all those things I used to do with my late husband and I want to do them with Gabrielle.

I want us to see plays and have fun and go places together, I remember her telling me a long time ago that she wanted to travel before her life took a dark turn and there are so many places I could take her. I know that she hates gladiatorial games but I bet she would enjoy watching the chariot racing. I need to ask her what she likes to do for fun I’m sure there’s a lot more that she likes to do other than carving. I have just finished signing the documents that I needed to sign for the day it took a lot longer I wanted it to but I had a few days to catch up on. I’ve also sent out the official scrolls to the Corinthian diplomats that I have a new partner and that her name is Gabrielle. I know it may seem too early to say this but I don’t care. I have not told them that she is a werewolf that can wait until the more formal meeting which will happen in winter. I need to plan that event in perfect detail and ensure that everything is in place. Because when that happens everything has to run perfectly and I have to protect Gabrielle as I know a few of the diplomats will not take this well and there will no doubt be some sort of fall out. The last thing I want is for a fight to start up and I know a few of them may try to hurt her because they lost people that they loved and I will have to stop them the moment they start up.

Xena shook her head clearing her thoughts as she walked through the hall it was late in at night and she could see the stars in the sky through the window close by. She had been told that Gabrielle had been seen walking the corridors in werewolf form and now she was trying to find her. She knew that she’d gone to the study to see Chara and Phrixus as she had wanted to carry on teaching him the language. She’d entered the study but she hadn’t been there. She turned the corridor catching sight of Gabrielle she was inside the throne room in werewolf form on her hind legs looking at something. She walked through the open double doors, seeing that she wasn’t really paying any attention she was looking at two large paintings which were hanging on one of the walls side by side. She felt a warm smile form as she moved towards the younger woman who was clearly very lost in her own thoughts as she carried on staring at the painting. She looked at both of the beautiful paintings as she spoke. “I had those paintings done some years ago, do you like them?” Gabrielle turned sharply watching as the taller woman came in to view she turned back to one of the paintings which was a stunning portrait of the woman she’d seen in the gardens when she’d left that night. She was in the same white robes and her piecing light blue eyes echoed out through the painting making it come alive.

Directly opposite it was painting which showing a well muscled man with short black hair which was going white in places he had a thick black beard and was grinning smugly, he was dressed in decorative clothing and had dark blue eyes. She turned back to the painting of the woman raising her clawed hand. “Their both beautiful paintings they also look Roman judging by the intense details.” Xena came to stand opposite her. “That’s correct they were both created by a painter from Herculaneum.” Gabrielle felt her eyes drift up to the painting of the woman. “That’s Cyrene.” Xena stared at her for a long moment not knowing quite what to say, she had been intending to surprise her by saying these paintings were of her mother and father. She had never even told Gabrielle her mother’s real name yet she had just said it. She felt her eyes dart as she tried to recompose herself. “How…did you know her name Gabrielle?” Gabrielle carried on staring at the painting. “I saw her in the garden I was just surprised to see her painting here, she must be very important to you.” Xena put her hands together feeling unsure of her next words as she spoke them. “These pictures are of my parents the man on the right is my father Atrius.” She paused before speaking. “The woman in the left painting is my mother Cyrene.” Gabrielle turned sharply feeling all her happiness faded away in an instant as she felt her whole body tense. Why did this always happen to her? She loathed and despised having this curse!

The woman she’d talked to clearly wasn’t alive she was dead but at the time she hadn’t realized it because her touch had felt so real. She had spent most of her life as werewolf being laughed at for seeing ghosts, people had called her crazy, stupid and insane as well as the idiot who talked to herself. It was one of the reasons that she’d become so detached from other werewolves during her youth. Even in werewolf culture seeing the dead was not considered a good thing you were considered to be cursed or a lunatic if you saw dead people and she no longer told people that she could see the dead because of this. The problem was that when it happened she didn’t realize she was talking to ghosts, they could touch her, talk to her even give her directions. It felt frustrating as she had no control over this curse and she hadn’t been born with it ether which only made it hurt all the more. She didn’t expect Xena to believe her who would believe her any way? She was a cursed werewolf who saw dead people from time to time and had no means or power to block them out. She lowered her gaze to the floor hoping that she could find some way to get out of this conversation it wasn’t like the other woman would take her seriously. No one else had ever done so, the few she had told had laughed at her and despite that this woman loved her she wouldn’t hold it against her for doing the same thing.

Xena turned seeing that the smile had faced away from the younger woman’s face and she could see a very troubled and conflicted look in her eyes. Gods she hated seeing her do this even in this form, she seemed to do it when something was hurting her feelings in some way. She was about to say something only to stop as something which had made no sense before started to make sense to her. The guards at the door had said that Gabrielle was talking to someone who wasn’t there, they had said that she was high on opium and she though that wasn’t true as she was only smoking colts foot root it had seemed odd to her at the time. Now thought this was starting to make sense and she could draw up only one conclusion which was that Gabrielle could see the dead. In truth if it had been a week ago she would have laughed at that notion but after she had seen Damokles in her dream it had all felt so real to her on every level. She didn’t want to even question or laugh at Gabrielle over ghosts visiting her and talking to her due to her own experience. She could understand why someone wouldn’t want to admit to seeing ghosts it was considered a bad omen even a curse. Though her dream had been anything but a curse she now knew that Gabrielle had a son, though she had not found the right moment to bring that up with her as it was clearly her personal secret and she was being silent to protect her child.

She eyed the guards at both doors making a signal which caused them to leave closing the doors behind them, she wanted this conversation to be completely private and between them. She watched as Gabrielle went down on all fours walked in to the centre of the room the dishearten look was still on her face. She put her hands behind her back speaking softly. “Do you believe in ghosts Gabrielle?” Gabrielle turned eyeing the other woman for a long moment unable to stop the words which she knew weren’t true even as she spoke it. “No.” Xena moved a step closer to her she knew the younger woman wasn’t telling the truth she could see it on her eyes. “They clearly believe in you though.” Gabrielle shook her mane not wanting to meet her gaze feeling her teeth grind together. “Fine I saw something but it was a hallucination I had been smoking opium at the time!” Xena shook her head sadly the younger woman was now being defensive, she clearly didn’t want to admit to the truth and now she felt the need to make up a story, one which wasn’t even true. She watched as the other woman ran her clawed hand across the marbled floor the dark look was still in her eyes. “You weren’t smoking opium that night Gabrielle you left your opium on the table and you had not opened that bag in a long while.”

Gabrielle eased herself on to her hind legs as she turned to face the other woman she realized now that there was no getting out of this it was clear that the other woman knew the truth, which she hated to admit. She felt her clawed hand form a fist as she spoke. “You know werewolves consider seeing the dead to be very bad, culturally you’re considered a social outcast if you can see the dead, because in werewolf belief you’re not meant to see the dead, because werewolf souls are not meant to leave their bodies until the Eternal Breath Of Fire ceremony. Yet I’m very unlucky I get to see the ghosts of werewolves as well as the ghosts of people who have died. It wasn’t enough that Aphrodite abounded me in my youth but after I was bitten I started seeing dead people during my training.” She felt a sneer form. “I don’t even know what they want! They just show up out of no where and start talking to me.” She felt her body tense as she met the other woman’s intense gaze which hadn’t left her own. “It’s not very amusing when you’re looking at the skinned alive body of a dead werewolf and he suddenly starts speaking to you!” She breathed in trying to control her anger as a memory flashed through her mind. “Also you can’t speak to anyone because no one believes you, so instead they call you a liar!”

8

Gabrielle walked through the forest outside the Grand City she just wanted to get away from Adrienne. The other woman was bickering at her over the jobs she hadn’t done and how she hadn’t displayed herself in public this week. She hated her so much yet she knew now that she was trapped and that she couldn’t escape her. She pushed her clawed foot in to the ground she knew she had another mission coming up in which she would have to dress up in the armour of a Northern Rebel so they’d take the blame. No doubt they intended to send her out to kill innocent people again rumour had it that they had already sent a letter to the Northern Rebels and had made it out to look as though the Empress had sent it just so they could antagonise them. She knew the bastards were planning something but she had become very accustom to closing her ears to Adrienne’s lies. Instead she preferred listening to the whispers of the warriors around her as they were more truthful, there was large plan afoot and she had a gut feeling that she was going to be a part of it. She wouldn’t lie to herself, she wanted her life to end and she wanted her death to be in battle. She couldn’t cope with this pain any longer she was now twenty four and all she wanted was to fight warriors again. She wanted to fight in a real battle once more not kill helpless villages she wanted to die the noble death so another Horn Hind could be born in her place.

She carried on walking through the dark forest only to stop as she caught sight of something close by one of the streams opposite was red with blood. She followed it adjusting her uncomfortable golden armour which she hated wearing following the bloody stream only to stop as a body came in to view it was lying on its side. All the fur and skin had been taken off all she could see now was blood and muscle it was the body of a very young werewolf who was about nineteen. She put a hand to her snout as she got closer feeling the pain tear at her heart, so many werewolves were dying now and she had no power or control to do anything about it. Clearly this was one who had died during a mission he’d no doubt been hung up by his heels while he had still been alive then skinned. Clearly the skinning had ended and he had been saved only to later die from shock from his horrific wounds. Bodies like his were being brought in now daily they were placed above ground ready for burial as werewolves didn’t burn bodies, it drew far to much attention, instead they were buried deep in the ground. No doubt this was someone’s son maybe he had been turned in his younger years like her but had not survived the training period.

She felt a tear trickle down her face as she got down on to her knees closing his open eyes with her clawed hand. Gods she couldn’t stop this and she had no power to end this, she took in a deep breath what could she do against such reckless hate? She had spoken with the Imperial Council and it didn’t matter what she said her words fell up on deaf ears she realized now why the Crescent Hind had just given up. They were manipulating lying people and she couldn’t trust them, she had no one turn to and she didn’t trust anyone ether despite there loyalty to her. She was not a king she was figure head she was only there to make the Imperial Council look good while she did their dirty work. The people cheered her believing that she was guiding them when in truth she had no power at all, she was just a puppet. She wanted to over throw them but she had no allies or friends anywhere in sight and it deeply frustrated her. Nothing she said mattered to anyone not even to Adrienne who just used her for sex and she did the same back because it was the only time she felt anything the truth was that no one loved her. She was also beginning to see the truth in Adrienne’s words no body really loved anybody. She put her clawed hands on her face feeling the tears as they started to fall, so much for her dreams of being a great Horn Hind and believing she could change everything.

“Don’t feel bad for me…towards the end I didn’t feel much.”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as a small black furred werewolf came in to view he was sitting on the floor opposite watching her in his werewolf form. She blinked wiping away her tears tensing painfully realizing instantly that she was talking to a ghost. The very ghost whose body she was looking at right now. Though she couldn’t understand why his soul had left his body as his death ceremony hadn’t been performed. She turned away from him she hated it when ghosts spoke to her, why couldn’t they just leave her alone, what had she ever done in her life to deserve this curse? People around her thought that she was crazy when she spoke to someone else who wasn’t even there. She’d spoken to humans, werewolves and even some of the other none human races, they never asked her to do anything they just spoke to her and no one else could see them so they assumed that she was insane, drunk, high or just talking to herself. This curse was one of the reason that as a young werewolf she’d become such a loner, because others had laughed at her and called her insane because she’d spoken to other dead werewolves in the city. They’d been builders who had died in the tunnels and were just walking around. She breathed in painfully. “Why do you people torment me so, what did I ever do to deserve this?”

The young werewolf blinked in surprise as he spoke. “If it makes you feel any better I find it comforting that you can see me. I mean no one else can and I just went to my parent’s house but it was deeply depressing there, they are crying over my death.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Don’t you wish that you were free and in the afterlife and not here right now looking at your dead body?” The young werewolf felt a smile form. “The gods want me here so I’m here, for now.” He paused. “I never knew you were this depressed, I mean your Horn Hind I thought you’d be happy you are the king.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Being king isn’t all its cracked up to be…” The young werewolf put his hands together as his grey eyes flickered. “Well I might have been full blood but I still think you were better than the old cranky bastard who was here last.” Gabrielle looked at the ground. “Why would you even think that? I’m no better than him, I’m no leader I’m a failure who can’t change anything.” The black furred werewolf stood up. “Well at least you’re trying which is more than I can say for him, before I died I loved another werewolf but I could never be with her because she’s was half blood. She may not love anyone else for a long time to come but I hope when she does she can love who ever she wants to regardless of their blood.”

Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “Keep dreaming.” The young werewolf gave her a cold look. “You know your just plain depressing I expected more from you Golden Hind.” Gabrielle felt a sneer form. “So sorry to disappoint you, what can I say apart from that I’m sick of having dead people talk to me!” She watched as he turned away from her his calm voice hitting the air. “You know one day you’re going to have to face up to the truth. Ghosts talk to you and you can talk to ghosts and you what you have is a gift not a curse. I’m dead and I’m not asking anything of you but to speak to you and for me it’s nice to have someone who can see me and who I can speak to.” Gabrielle looked at his dead body for a long moment before looking at him. “How can this not be a curse, please explain that to me? Your dead it’s not like you understand the problem with seeing dead people! When they talk to you everyone around you thinks you’re crazy or insane. They tell you that you’re a lair just because you can see something which they can’t.” She stood up slowly. “The fact that I see you people like you caused me loose friends in my youth and I can’t stand it, I wish I couldn’t see you at all!”

“Gabrielle!”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as Adrienne came in to view she was leaning against a tree, she felt her body tense in panic. The other woman raised her clawed hand as she spoke in a cold tone. “Talking to someone?” Gabrielle looked away from her. “No, no one.” Adrienne moved forward watching as she moved away. She could see the slight fear in her eyes she loved seeing that, it meant that she was in control. “You know Gabrielle you’re not a very good liar.” She raised a clawed finger. “So tell me who were you talking to?” Gabrielle tensed trying to keep her fear under control. She didn’t want to be hit again by this woman what she had experienced a few days ago had been brutal. She had been left bleeding and bruised and it was for no more than answering back and not doing what the other woman wanted. She now truly regretted allowing this woman in to her bed, she wished that she could turn back the time and reject her. She was controlling and unkind and it was only on rare occasions that she could answer back without getting hit. She was a great warrior yet out of sight of everyone she was just a punch bag for this cruel bitch.

She breathed in regaining controlling of her nerve. “A ghost…” Adrienne didn’t think as she put her clawed hand on her arm she sneered pushed her claws in watching as the blood started to run free staining the other woman’s beautiful golden fur. She leaned closer seeing her wince in pain as she spoke making sure the venom in her voice was clear as day. “A ghost you don’t really expect me to believe that do you? It okay though you can lie all you want Gabrielle but always remember that I’m watching you. I know where you go every day so you can’t hide anything from me and if I ever find you in the arms of another you will suffer for it, you belong to me and only me.” She eased out her tongue licking her ear in a slow movement. “You and I are always going to be together.” She pulled her hand out her arm easing up her bloody claws to her jaws licking the blood of them enjoying the sweet taste. “Now be a good and go down to the long walk way, you know that today is when you let the people see you and maybe afterwards we can have some fun in bed.” Gabrielle tensed painful as she put her hand on her bleeding arm she wished she could be dead right now, anything to get out of this nightmare which had become her life.

8

Xena breathed in sharply hearing the bitterness and sadness in Gabrielle’s tone, what she had said was tearing at her heart. It wasn’t just the sadness of the memory but it was clear that at this point in the other woman’s life Adrienne had begun to abuse her. Both physically and mentally, she couldn’t imagine what that must have been like for Gabrielle but it was clear that it had been soul destroying she could see it in her eyes. Her not saying that she saw ghosts made even more sense now. It was clear that she had been treated badly and mocked when ever she did. Even now she fully expected to be mocked which was why her behaviour was so defensive, it was strange as in this moment it was like she was looking at the colder Gabrielle once more. It seemed that when something hurt the younger woman’s feelings or brought back bad memories it could cause her to turn cold in a heart beat. She moved towards her coming to a stop in front of her seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. “It’s difficult to see something and have no one believe you.” Gabrielle felt her gaze dart as she looked at the taller woman. “Why aren’t you laughing at me, I just said that I can see ghosts?” Xena eased up her hand putting it on her furry chest stroking gently. “I’m not laughing at you Gabrielle because I believe you.”

She kept her hand on her chest. “You want to know the truth? No one knows my mothers name in the palace, all of the palace staff recalls her and my father as they visited a lot before her death but I kept both of their names secret to protect them. Both were even given fake names and classed as nobles so no one would bring them any harm. No one was ever told their real names but you recognised that painting and you knew my mothers real name and I’ve never told you what she looked like or her name and that tells me that you saw what you saw. The night that you left the palace you saw my mother in the gardens.” She paused before speaking again unable to stop her next question. “Was she doing well?” Gabrielle blinked in surprise. “Yes she was well…I couldn’t tell that she was a ghost, she told me not to leave the palace because things would work out.” Xena felt a sad smile form that sounded like her mother talking. She had always preferred not to have conflict and she believed everything could be resolved through talking. Her mother was the one who had taught her about talking to others, it was from her that she’d learnt to talk and negotiate rather than drawing her sword. Her mothers greatest belief was that a sword should not be unsheathed unless absolutely necessary and only as a last resort. Her father had agreed with her view but he believed that a sword was still necessary even in peace time because your enemies needed to see that you weren’t weak.

She breathed in deeply putting her hand under Gabrielle lower jaw using it to raise her head so their eyes met once more. “Did she say anything else?” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart she had not expected the conversation to go this way she had expected Xena to laugh at her just like everyone did. Yet she could see in her eyes that she taking every word she was saying seriously, she felt her anger slowly start to fade away as she spoke in a calmer tone. “She said that this is her home and that everything that matters to her is here.” Xena looked up as the words hit home she felt the sudden rush of emotion hit her hard she knew those words her mother had said them to her on her death bed. She unable to stop the tears as it ran down her face. She eased up her other hand wiping them away as she turned to the other woman she had never told anyone about those words yet this woman had said them and she didn’t even know her mother. She didn’t think as she wrapped her arms around huge neck refusing to let go as she spoke in a soft whisper. “I’m sorry that your people see your gift as a curse and have mocked and laughed at you through out your life, believe me it’s not a curse Gabrielle, what you have is a beautiful gift.”

Gabrielle eased up a clawed hand putting it on the other woman’s back. “I’ve never seen it that way.” Xena eased up her hand running it through her soft mane. “Maybe one day you will.” Gabrielle breathed in as the other woman hand moved stroking her snout. “I doubt that.” Xena carried on stroking her face gently. “Promise me something Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked up slowly this was the first time Xena had asked her to promise anything and it seemed strange. “Anything.” Xena moved her fingers running them down her neck. “Don’t make up stories about yourself again which are not true, honesty is one of your finest qualities and you shouldn’t hide it from anyone, least of all me.” She felt the other clawed hand move to her back she had to admit she was curious she wanted to know where the other woman liked to be touched in this form. She kept her hands in place enjoying the silky feel of the thick fur. “Would you like to come to my room? We can lie down together on the bed.” Gabrielle eyed her clawed hands as she stepped away from the other woman who moved her hands to her chest once more. “I’m not in human form.” Xena carefully took hold of her clawed hand. “I don’t care I want to be with you right now.”

Gabrielle felt the older woman’s other hand gently stroke her face once more and she realized that she was powerless to say no. She loved this woman and though it felt strange to her even now she admired her so much in this moment for not laughing at her and believing in her when others in past hadn’t. She eased up her head feeling the other woman’s hand remain on her face she eased up her clawed one putting it gently over hers. “I would like that very much.” Xena moved forward kissing the side of her face very gently. “Come on.” She moved up her other clawed hand up putting it on the other woman’s face very gently before speaking. “Thank you for not laughing at me or mocking me over what I told you.” Xena felt a wide smile form. “I’m not Adrienne Gabrielle I would never treat you that way, I will never mock you or abuse you or tell you that you’re a liar. I know I’ve already said this but I’m sorry that I ever called you a stupid when we last argued. You are not stupid you are also not an animal or a monster and you never will be in my eyes. You’re the woman I love and I won’t let anyone ever treat you that way again as long as I live.”

End of part 90

 

 

GIVING A PIECE OF YOUR HEART AND SOUL

 

I feel so rested it’s a strange feeling in my mind, I realize now that when ever I sleep with Xena I dream better, I don’t even know why that is I can only assume that it’s of the contact. It’s early in the morning now and I’m lying naked in bed in my human form looking at Xena as she sleeps, she looks so calm, calmer than I’ve ever been in my sleep. I’ve been awake for the past five minutes and I’ve found myself just watching her, I have a lot of feelings going on in my mind right now. She didn’t laugh at me or mock me when I said I saw ghosts the reaction was the complete opposite to what I’m used to. I expected her to laugh every one else laughs but she never laughed though she took every thing I said completely seriously. She even said I had a beautiful gift though I don’t quite understand that right now maybe she’ll say more soon on that but I have to wait to know and I feel nervous about asking. Maybe because I saw it in her eyes that she was reliving a very personal memory one the few people know and I feel I will just have to wait for the right moment before asking. I just wish I wasn’t so afraid to ask her things, when I know that she’s asked me so much about my life in these past months.

I feel that its time that I asked her about her life because I really want to know how she rose to become the Empress of Greece. Everyone hears stories but those stories are only half of the truth and I’m sure there is so much more to it than what I’ve heard. I feel that now is the right time to give her the gift I made for her it just feels right in my heart. I made it when we were friends because I wanted it to be a show of friendship on my part but I know now it will mean so much more to her. Gabrielle eased up her hand running it through the long dark hair letting it spill through her fingers she eased her hand away very slowly the last thing she wanted to do was wake the other woman who was sleeping so soundly. She eased off the cover taking hold of her robe which was on the chair close by putting it over her shoulders ignoring the cold feeling of the air which wasn’t as warm as it had been in the past. Clearly winter would soon and the snow along with it, she wasn’t a fan of the snow she never had been. The only good thing was that her winter coat would soon start growing so she could keep the cold out.

She moved towards the central door opening it as quietly as possible then walked in to her room closing the door behind her. During the time that Xena had been working on her papers she’d completed the little wooden bird after her visit to Phrixus. The truth was that she now saw him in a very different light than before. He had clearly lost a lot just as she had he was now a dishonoured warrior who was trying to make things right and she knew how that felt. She was the king waiting to suite a throne which had been denied her and she would now have to fight to regain it. She hoped that one day he would regain his honour and once more be respected by his people, though she had a feeling that even if he got that respect back he would never love his people again the fact that they had killed his family would also in his mind and she knew how he felt. She felt the same about anyone who served Bastiaan. She felt her body tense oh what she wouldn’t give to get hold of that bastard, the things she intended to do to him before she killed him. Damokles may not have said that it was him but something in her gut was telling her that he was him. She’d watched him in the Grand City he was always standing beside Hesperos who was whispering in his ear.

She’d always hated that smile he’d given her every time he’d seen her in the Grand City and after the flogging it had turned in to a knowing smirk and it had never vanished, in fact after Damokles had disappeared it had turned in to a wide condescending grin. She could never say any thing because he was Hesperos bloody right hand and well out of my reach, just as Adrienne was Admes’s. The bitch may have been her advisor but she always reported to him. He was probably missing her or more pacifically the cock blowing, she probably gave him regularly. She’d known that Adrienne was never faithful even when we were together her ex had always used her sexuality to get what she wanted with both men and women. She was sure that she was pleasuring others behind my back though she could never prove it she had heard whispers from to time to time from people. They had said that they’d seen Adrienne talking with others and being intimate with them, there whispers had been voicing their concern for her but she had just blocked them all out because it had been too painful to listen to them back then. Now though she could hear them once more in her head with crystal clarity, she realized now just how much of a fool she had been back then. Maybe she was hearing them once again because she was afraid of her new relationship and she didn’t want to loose it in anyway. She’d lost so much already and I don’t want to loose anymore, the thought hurt far too much.

Gabrielle leaned over opening the draw on her desk easing out the painted bird looking at it for a long moment. She wasn’t sure if Xena would like it unlike the Gold Finch it was not as colourful, it was a Dead Sea Sparrow painted in vivid colours she thought it would have more meaning as they’d both sat opposite each other on her balcony watching them some time ago. The message she had painted in side with silver paint was what worried her the most. It felt like so long since she’d really spoke from her heart and she wasn’t sure what the other woman’s reaction would be to it. She wasn’t even sure if she cared for messages of love, all she did know was that she loved her carved birds. She turned the small bird between her fingers looking at its little painted eyes which were black and highlighted in silver and white. The rest of the bird’s body had deep details with sharp browns and blacks and lighter gold tones which she hoped would bring it to life. She didn’t even know if the other woman even liked Sparrows. Maybe she should hold back and give it to her later, maybe make it brighter.”

“Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle turned around sharply putting the bird behind her back and out of site as she looked at the taller woman who was now standing in front of her, she hadn’t even heard her come in to the room she forced a smile unable to keep the surprise out of her tone as she spoke. “Sorry I was going to come back to bed, I was just.” She paused feeling her eyes dart as she spoke again. “Looking for something…” Xena raised an eyebrow she could tell by the slightly awkward shuffle that the younger woman had something behind her back and was trying her best to hide it from sight. She felt a wide smile form she didn’t know why but she was enjoying this moment maybe because right now the younger woman was coming across as a shy and that was so enduring, she stepped closer raising her hand. “Did you find what you were looking for?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes.” Xena stepped closer adjusting her robe. “Would you like to show it to me?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor she knew she’d been caught she might as well have had her hand in side the jar because it was clear that the other woman could see right through her. Truth be told, she never had been that good at hiding things unless it was essential and for someone else’s own good. She brought her hands around closing them around the wooden birds so the other woman couldn’t see it. “It’s for you…it’s a gift.”

Xena felt her smile widen. “You made me a gift?” Gabrielle slowly opened her hands watching as the small bird came in to view. “Yes.” Xena eyed the bird it was one of Gabrielle’s special carving she could see that it was male Dead Sea Sparrow painted in beautiful vivid colours each part was deeply colourful with golden brown and light browns. The chest had dark black and gold area’s while the eyes had silver and white specks with in them. She leaned over gently taking it from the other woman’s hand she’d always wanted one of these birds but she had come to realize that they were something special as Gabrielle only made them for people she cared about deeply. Damokles was one of the few to have one made for him and now she was holding one in her hands. She moved it between her fingers taking in all the vivid details which were so beautiful. She eased up her finger pressing the chest watching as the wings snapped open revealing painted words in shimmering silver which had been high lighted with gold she could see the time and effort that had gone in to every detail in the wing feathers which surrounded these words she leaned forward reading them.

“In the darkness you found me and from the darkness you pulled me in to the light of a new moon, there I sat up on the stone lions surrounded by those I consider friend but no friend compared to you. You who loved and cared for me and spoke to me on dark nights when it felt like the sun would fade and never return and made me feel that it could return once more and bring its light.”

Xena breathed in seeing that a line had been added to it which was much lower than the others she turned the bird as she read it. “I am forever grateful for your compassion, love and understanding and I love more than the moonlight or the stars of Ouroboros.” Gabrielle breathed in feeling herself tense as the other woman had gone quite as she stared at the words on the carved birds open wings. She spoke unable to keep the uncertainty out of her tone. “If you don’t like it I can change it….” Xena moved closer to the younger woman seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. “No I don’t want you to change anything on this.” She pressed her thumb on the bird’s chest causing the wings to snap shut. “It’s beautiful.” She turned the bird between her fingers. “I don’t want you to change anything on this.” She felt her smile widen. “Do you know how much I love your carved birds?”

She paused watching as the other woman shook her head. “I love them more than any other carving in side the whole palace, they are such wonderful little creations and after what happened between us all that time ago I never thought you’d give me one of these.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor. “Things change, people change, I only ever give these birds to those.” She paused before speaking. “I truly love.” Xena eased up her hand putting it under the other woman’s chin using it to raise her head so their eyes met that was the second time she’d heard the younger woman say that. “You love me?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I’m not good with words Xena but know that I love you.” Xena felt her smile widen as she leaned forward gently meeting her lips enjoy the warmth of the kiss which was full of genuine tenderness. “Personally I think you’re very good with words.” She paused. “Thank you for this It means so much to me.” She eyed the bird in her hand. “I’m honoured to receive such a wonderful gift from you.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply wanting to change the subject as she was now feeling so out of her depth. “I’ll get dressed.” Xena looked at her for a long moment she wanted to offer the younger to get dressed in her room but she knew now that she wasn’t ready. She knew that she’d have to give her more time this relationship was very new to the both of them and despite that she had seen her naked it didn’t mean that she was comfortable yet, she leaned forward gently kissing her head. “Okay, I’ll get Ceto to bring in your breakfast.” Gabrielle nodded feeling her hand move away from under her chin. “I’ll be in soon.” She watched as the taller woman smiled at her as she moved towards the central door she took in another deep breath as she closed the door behind her, she should have dressed in her room but she knew she wasn’t ready yet. By Ouroboros this was so hard at times, it just felt so difficult stepping back in to the natural rhythm of a relationship once again she feared every step she took because she wanted this to be right.

She picked up her freshly washed shirt looking at for a long moment, she was so relieved that the other woman liked her gift a part of her had been so unsure about giving it to her because she had feared her reaction. Yet now that it had been given she felt very strange deep down in side as the other bird she made had never made it in to Damokles hands yet Xena now had hers and that felt comforting to her and made her feel much better deep down inside. Just knowing that she had seen her hold it and touch it filled with a warm feeling which she could not describe and she knew it would take her a while to focus her feelings. She eyed her cleaned shirt again she needed to stop over thinking things but she couldn’t help it these past few days had just been so life changing for her and it was strange trying to learn to love again but it was also hard, because she always feared the worst she needed to try and stop herself doing that in someway but she had no idea where to start.

Inside the ancient walls of the Grand City

Admes turned eyeing Hesperos who was seated on his throne opposite. “This is far too much of a risk! What if you’re wrong?” Hesperos turned eyeing him. “I’m never wrong Admes you know she’s had it coming for a long time, we all know that.” He eased up the bloody playing card in his hand turning it so the others could see Gabrielle’s image. “This proves it!” Narella folded her arms. “It’s a playing card a harmless little playing card, why should we care if that half breed bitch made it in to the deck?” Hesperos moved towards her not bothering to hide his disgust as he spoke. “We should care, we pulled this out of the hand of a Athenian half breed rebel before he died he said one thing, hail the true Horn Hind the Golden Hind!” He eyed the card in his hand. “He owned no deck only this card and before I had Bastiaan pull out his insides while he was still breathing he said this card can never be burnt or broken it symbolizes freedom.” He eyed the bloody card. “It means ever rebel who is against us probably owns a card like this one.”

Admes eased up some more meat chewing on it. “I fail to see the connection between some pathetic half breed rebel card and Jacinda.” Hesperos turned eyeing him. “She’s been printing them you idiot! I’ve had my spy’s follow her around she takes little detours in to human cities and places them in the hands of pathetic half breeds and full bred defectors who believe we shouldn’t rule.” Admes finished his meat he leaned against his throne patting his round belly. “Why should we care about these werewolves they don’t have the power or the strength to over throw us, they never have?” Hesperos raised his ringed hand. “You see this is the reason why you’re not in charge and I am, if all those fools got together and formed an army they could over run this city.” Admes snorted as he sat back further in his throne. “Fool, with our version of bronze armour they are nothing, we have warriors and weapons.” Hesperos stood up folding his arms eyeing the loyal subject’s who were gathered below. “That’s not the point I don’t even want them to try, hence why I’m going to send a message to them today that their icon and all who follow her will suffer.”

Narella stood up slowly from her throne. “You’re just cut up about the fact that your plan didn’t work, you picked the wrong people Hesperos you used that Roman idiot of a werewolf and Adrienne to do your dirty work but let’s face it Adrienne thinks will her lowers. Probably why she has not returned yet, after all you and we both know Gabrielle never bonded with her that well.” Hesperos turned feeling his teeth grind together as he spoke. “Adrienne is a stupid half breed Bastiaan on the other hand is what we need a half breed who gets the job done and doesn’t screw the person in question.” He raised a ringed finger. “Gabrielle is still alive because Adrienne probably wanted one last shot and she failed and the truth is her loss is of no consequence.” Admes smirked. “You say that, yet she did keep Gabrielle very much in check she beat the bitch regularly and gave her opium to keep her well adjusted.” Hesperos turned to face him once more. “Yet it wasn’t enough was it? She’s still breathing and she is now by the Empress’s side though rumour has it, it’s slightly more than friendship.” Admes picked up and clam shell. “You and I both know you can burn out sexual appetite it’s like a hydra and Gabrielle has always been clever.” He swallowed the clam meat in one go before looking up. “She’s just offering herself off like the common whore and the Empress is taking the goods.”

Hesperos eyed him for a long moment. “Yet you fail to see the seriousness in that.” Admes looked up slightly. “Oh I see the seriousness but unlike you I don’t care because it makes no difference Gabrielle has no army and no one will follow her, werewolf and a human pairings are also forbidden despite gender and any werewolf rebel with half a brain knows this. They won’t follow the very woman whose been killing them for fifty dinars a head regardless of her new laws.” He picked up a live field mouse watching as it squealed as he held it by the tail. “Also my little plan will ensure that no one follows ether of them.” Hesperos watched as he swallowed the mouse whole. “Yes your five year plan, if it works that it, its already costing me workers, they keep dying to make your vision possible.” Admes patted his stomach again. “Oh it will work, after all the plan was created by the Crescent Hind but even he rejected it because he thought it was to brutal and we all knew that Gabrielle would never go for it. She’s always suffered due to her compassion but I guess that’s to be expected most women are ruled by their emotions.”

Narella felt a sneer form. “He’s right the plan is almost complete and no one will follow Gabrielle regardless of playing cards or Jacinda.” Hesperos stepped away from her as he eased out a dagger which was for gutting. “You both don’t see my point, I don’t want the rebels to think they have a chance and I’m going to send them a message along with everyone in the underground cities that we are the true rulers of the Grand City and we have no equal.” He stopped watching as the doors opened as a small old woman in her fifties dressed ornate animal skin robes entered the room. She had medium length curly white hair while her eyes were sea blue in colour in hand was a tall wooden staff which had a decorative wolf skull at the top. She stopped in the centre of the throne room watching as the other werewolves who represented each class took up their positions. Jacinda took in a deep breath she knew why she was here and yet she wasn’t afraid, she had, had a vision of this over and over. She already knew the outcome yet she didn’t care and she had no fear of it. It was true that once you’d seen something so many times the shock was no longer there. She spoke in a calm tone as she came to stand in her position in the centre of the room where her family had stood for centuries. “You called up on me.”

Hesperos walked towards her watching as Admes got up from his throne following him along with Narella. “Yes we call up on you shaman.” He eased up the bloody card as he came to stand over her. “I would like you to explain this.” Jacinda eyed Hesperos who had a look of utter disgust in his eyes she felt her calm smile widen. “It is a card of the Golden Hind.” Hesperos felt his grip on his dagger tighten. “Very smart but you and I both know that Gabrielle has no place in the deck and I know you’ve been handing out these cards.” Jacinda eyed the bloody card. “A deck is not complete with out all of the Horn Hinds and my handing them out in the city is no more than completing the deck.” Hesperos felt his teeth grind together. “I was in fact referring to the ones you’re handing out to stow a ways and half breed traitors out side the cities.” Jacinda raised an eyebrow. “I was merely bringing the Golden Hind to the attention of those outside our cities, so that they may want to rejoin the city. It has become clear to me that our people have become disjointed and are in disarray.” Admes put a hand on his stomach. “That’s not your choice to make shaman!”

Jacinda eyed him. “The mouse you just eat had no choice, you gave it no choice just like your people after all very piece of food you’ve consumed to make your stomach what it is could have fed another who was starving and needed the food. It’s ironic maybe one day you’ll meet a bigger stomach than your own and be consumed by its will.” Admes laughed as he eyed her, he hated that she knew what he’d just done but he’d gotten used to it she always saw things other didn’t. “I have nothing to fear I rule the Grand City as do the others you see before you, we are the true rulers.” Hesperos turned eyeing the old woman as he threw the bloody card at her feet. “Yes we are the true rulers, not some half breed who lies with a human woman.” Jacinda eyed the bloody card at her feet seeing that the blood was spattered over the horns of the image. “A Horn Hind is a Horn Hind regardless of blood the horns speak with out words.” Narella turned pointing at the scroll on the wall. “No she is a fake she is not on the scroll therefore she is not a true king.” Jacinda shook her head. “A scroll of many hands and no heart a proud design with out compassion, you’re best yet I’m sure.”

Hesperos grabbed her by her robes ignoring the uncertainty in the eyes of those watching. “In these past few years you’ve said much about us and that bitch Gabrielle. What bothers me the most is all your visions about Gabrielle have not been correct you said if she went to Corinth she would die, you said that if the Empress knew what she was that she would kill her…” He let go of her robes violently. “So let’s face facts none of your visions regarding her have panned out, so I have to ask shaman are you twisting the truth to benefit your self?” Jacinda wiped down her robe before looking up. “I am here to give my views to the Imperial Council and the Horn Hind I see many visions, some come to pass others don’t.” Hesperos felt his hand form a fist. “Yet none of yours for Gabrielle have come to pass and now she’s bedding the Empress of Greece!” Jacinda shook her head she knew now that the game was up and yet she didn’t mind she looked down at the card once more before looking up. “Perhaps I have helped her but she is a Horn Hind and it is my family’s duty to protect Horn Hind. It has been ever since the werewolf race gained freedom from king Lycaon and the Emerald Hind took his place as king, my ancestors became his moral support and council.”

She shook her head sadly. “We were always the advisors to Horn Hind, yet that has been taken away from us with the Golden Hind you replaced me with Adrienne, just as you replaced me with some corrupt old fool who was loyal to you when Eleutherios was the Crescent Hind.” She slowly met his hate filled gaze. “I am tired of my role being pushed aside because of this Imperial Council who is no longer worthy to suite the throne. Yes may be I did say things that weren’t true but I do not regret my words, nor do I regret my actions. It has always been my family’s duty to protect Horn Hind.” She paused unable to stop her next words. “I have seen the pain you put that poor young woman through, the evil things you did to her to break her heart and soul you have used her as a tool and a puppet. You even made sure that the one she loved was murdered and that the next lover to take his place beat her and abused her. So I did what my family have always done for centuries I protected her and sent her away to save her from you.” Hesperos grabbed her robes again unable to stop his rage as it burnt inside his stomach. “You dear betray us? We are the rulers of Greece!” Jacinda shook her head unfazed by his anger. “No you are not you have long since dishonoured your positions of power.”

She eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “I no longer follow you, I spread the glory of the one true king the Golden Hind and what ever you do to me today will not stop what is coming I have seen your future.” Hesperos felt his grip tighten on her robes. “So what’s in my future old woman?” Jacinda felt a cold smile form. “I would not want to spoil it for you but what I will say is that you have no future Hesperos.” Hesperos slowly raised the long curved dagger. “You have betrayed us and you will be punished for doing so!” Jacinda looked at the long curved dagger feeling a calm over take her as she spoke softy. “When I die my gods will embrace me in the Elysian fields of heaven eternal.” She slowly met his gaze. “In death they will not smile so kindly up on you Hesperos, they will drag you down in to the fires of Tartarus.” Hesperos eased the dagger down so she couldn’t see it. “You know I have never enjoyed your council.” Jacinda put a hand on his arm. “I’m afraid the feeling is mutual and to be honest those who are unworthy of truth do not understand anything. You are one of those people Hesperos as is your false Imperial Council.” She breathed in only to cry out as the intense pain truck her in the chest, she looked down at the dagger which was now imbedded there.

Hesperos pushed the dagger in further watching as the blood ran free soaking her robes as the staff fell from her hand hitting the floor opposite his feet. He leaned forward so he was close to her ear as he spoke in a whisper filled with venom. “Before you die know that I will extend the same treatment I just gave you to your whole family.” He pushed her back violently forcing his dagger free watching as she hit the ground hard on her back as blood poured out from her chest wound. He smirked as she struggled painfully grabbing the card off the floor then slowly sat up leaning against one of the pillars as blood began to run down her chin. He eyed the bloody dagger in his hands as smiled at her. “Yes do you have something to say old woman?” Jacinda ignoring the blood as ran down her chin as she slowly raised the card meeting his cold gaze as she spoke. “This card can never be burnt…or broken it symbolizes freedom…hail the true Horn Hind…the Golden Hind.” Hesperos snarled as he raised the dagger slicing it across her throat he watched as the card left her fingers, he ignored the looks of shocks and horror all around him as her eyes closed as death took over.

Admes moved forward the shock in his eyes as he looked at the body of the now dead shaman. “You crazy bastard, what are you thinking? She’s an icon, werewolf sociality looks up to her and her family, when you said you were going to punish her I thought you’d kill one of her sons or have her youngest daughter raped, not kill her.” Hesperos sneered kicking the old woman’s dead body as her eyed those around him raising his bloody weapon. “I am sending a message to all those who would betray me for Gabrielle, this is what will happen to them!” He ignored the looks of fear as he turned to Narella. “Now do as command and send Bastiaan to kill the rest of her family!” Narella eyed the dead woman. “You are a fool Hesperos this might cause rebellion, even among our own people!” Hesperos raised the dagger higher. “Then every rebel who rises up in her defence will die along with all those who believe Gabrielle is king. This old woman’s death and that of her family will send one message and one message alone that we are the rightful rulers and no one no matter how high up they are, will betray us!”

End of part 91

 

FEELING A DEEP LOVE AND INTIMACY BEYOND WORDS

I confess I’m not that hungry I’ve been toying with my food for the last five minutes while I watch Xena play with the small bird I gave her. She keeps looking over the details, then opening and closing its wings she clearly loves this gift and the thought of that makes me happy. I feel so light inside right now it just feels like there’s no weight on my shoulders, maybe it’s a passing emotion or a phase but even if it is, it’s nice. I confess as I sit here I can’t help but stare at her, she is a very beautiful woman and anyone who says other wise is very foolish. I can only wonder how many men and women have begged for an audience with her if for no more reason than just to be in her presence. I get the impression that there are those even with in the palace who have not seen her up close. At least that is how I felt when the children came in to her room some time ago some of them acted as though they had never seen her before and they seemed so awe struck, I wonder what it must be like to have that everyday among your people?

I guess I would like for there to be a day when my people look at me in that way and not because I am Horn Hind but because I have won them over through doing something worthy of the name Golden Hind. I know that it could be years before that ever happens but I hope one day that it will. I still have no idea where to begin with the werewolf diplomat as it will have to be done very soon as there are a new set off scrolls lying on my desk which I have not looked through yet and I’m guessing that most will be requests for this. I need to work out a system and a part of me is leaning towards bringing Thaleia in to it she won’t have to do much just file my scrolls on my desk so I can go through them easier. She is after all my family and there was nothing to say that her duties can’t be changed in anyway. The truth is that I need help with this just to get started once I’ve worked it all out I will be able to do my paper work much better.

Xena turned eyeing the younger woman who was deep in thoughts as she toyed with her food she carefully put the carved bird in her hand down on the table feeling a smile form. “I sent of out word to all of the diplomats of Corinth.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “What about?” Xena felt her smile widen. “About us, I told them that I have a consort.” Gabrielle put down her fork suddenly feeling very out of her depth she had not expected the other woman to do this so quickly. “Did you tell them what I am?” Xena put her hands together leaning forward. “No I just told them that your name is Gabrielle and that you’re a royal, when they visit for the formal dinner I’ll clear everything up right there and then along with a number of other things.” Gabrielle pushed her plate to one side. “Do you think that’s a good idea I mean won’t it be too soon?” Xena stood up slowly. “No I think now will be the best time before the rumours start to fly, the last thing I want is for them to here the news that way.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “You know it may be too late for that, rumours can go a long way in a short place of time though people whispering.” Xena put her hand on the other woman’s chair leaning over so she was close to her ear. “Then let them whisper.” She eased up her hand putting it on her collar moving the material between her fingers. “I hope in all their whispers they say that I love you.” Gabrielle felt the taller woman’s hand move down her shirt she felt the breath hitch in her chest as the other woman’s fingers moved down further. She looked up meeting Xena’s light blue gaze feeling her self getting trapped in it, yet like so many times before she didn’t care. A part of her liked the sweet surrender that came with getting lost in the taller dark hared woman’s eyes. Xena eased up one of her hands running it very gently down the scar on the younger woman’s eye she leaned forward kissing it softy. This had become something unspoken between them Gabrielle allowed her to touch, caress and kiss the scar above her right eye. She very much doubted that the younger woman would ever let any one else do the same as it was a symbol of truth between them.

She leaned forward meeting the other woman’s lips feeling her kiss be returned with equal passion as the other woman’s hands moved through her hair. There was a huge difference and she could feel it in the kiss there was no resistance from Gabrielle she was completely open and she could sense the fire building as her body started to move. She wanted to feel more, the truth was that she had been thinking about this moment for a while and envisioning just what it would be like. They both knew how to pleasure both genders they both knew the dance but every dance was different no dance was ever the same a part of her wanted to know what pleased the other woman and what she found pleasurable as well as what she didn’t like. She wanted to give that love which had been denied to her for so long but she knew she had to be gentle. Her ex had been abusive and this meant that there were some things that Gabrielle just wouldn’t allow or want between the sheets. She didn’t want to dominate her in any way in fact that was the last thing she wanted, she wanted to be on equal footing with the younger woman when it came to the bedroom.

Gabrielle felt the other woman’s lips move to her neck causing her to breathe out sharply as she grabbed her back. She wouldn’t lie to herself she was afraid and apprehensive she knew the signs she knew where this was headed deep with in her soul. She stood up slowly feeling the other woman’s hands move to her waist as her lips met her own once more. Despite her fears she wanted to go ahead with this because it felt so right on every level. She felt the other woman slowly start to unbutton her shirt then slowly open it as she their kiss deepened which caused her to tense up. She didn’t mean to she just couldn’t help herself it had been so long, she could feel her own heart as it began to pound in her chest before she could stop it. Xena stopped she could feel the younger woman’s body tensing under her fingertips she leaned forward putting her head against hers as she spoke in a gentle whisper. “Are you okay, would you want me to stop?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she spoke. “No I’m fine it’s just been a long time.”

She ignored the taller woman’s uncertainty as she met her lips once more no longer caring for her fear or her nervousness. She felt her shirt come free as the other woman’s hands began to move down her front, every touch of her fingers felt like electric as it touched her skin. Xena moved her hands slowly down the younger woman’s neck and down to her breasts feeling her breath hitch as she moved them lower. She had seen her naked before but this felt so different. She could feel and touch her skin and move her fingers over the faded scars and contours feeling the ripple of muscle in places. She was stunningly beautiful woman every one else could see that except her, she heard the sound as her shoulder armour was unclipped at the sides. It was eased off carefully along with her connected back and breast plate then dropped it on the floor close by the other woman’s already fallen shirt.

She moved her hands further down the other woman’s waist finding her belt clip she pulled it loose feeling the other woman’s hands move down her back finding the leather ties on her belt pulling them loose while easing her belt off along with its hanging tassels. Gabrielle threw the other woman’s belt on to the floor all that was left was her silver waist bodice and under it the one piece low cut chiton which was up to her knees with its long sleeves. The older woman’s hands moved to her trousers as she was gently laid on the bed on her back. She moved her feet forcing her boots free one after the other seeing the taller woman do the same as she moved on top of her kissing a trail down her breasts. She eased up her hands undoing the waist bodice’s leather ties pulling it off in one swift motion. She was loosing control she could feel it and yet she didn’t care as her trousers were pulled free and tossed across the room. She felt the other woman’s lips meet her own as she moved her hands up easing the purple bodice free causing the taller woman to sit up so she could do so.

She felt the clothing drop from her fingers as she caught sight of the other woman’s naked body she’d seen it before but still it didn’t take away the rush of emotion she felt as she ran her hands down her breasts to her waist before the other woman’s lips met her own again. She could feel the passion now truly building as she watched the woman in front of her pull her wrist gauntlets free throwing them to one side as she turned grabbing at her underwear with a sense of urgency pulling it free of her body in a swift motion. She watched as Xena pulled her own off throwing them to one side as she pulled her in to her lap she could feel the heat in the air now. They were both naked and it felt to her like everything was on fire she could see desire in the light blue eyes so clearly along with a hint of lust. All of the thoughts she had were suddenly cut off as she felt the other woman’s hand start its slow decent which caused searing heat to travel down to her lowers.

She grabbed the sheet with one hand she felt overwhelmed, the other woman was in no manner trying to control this act it was as much about giving as much as receiving. She hadn’t felt love like this in such a long time, yet it was such a welcome friend and she wanted so much more with every passing second, by Ouroboros she was so deeply in love with this woman she knew that now. She knew that she’d die for her with out question and kill anyone who posed a threat or went out of there way to cause her harm in a heartbeat. She could not deny her passion or her heart any longer she wanted to feel every moment of it and then give the same intimacy in return. She moved her hands no longer wanting to be the only one giving pleasure as she sank in to bliss of the other woman’s lips as they met her own once more.

8

Demetrius walked down the corridor which led to Thaleia’s room, he had now had time to rest and had cleared his head and he knew he should be on duty now but he had decided that this was more important he had put Iona in charge once again, much to her surprise. He turned catching sight of her door he knocked on it speaking calmly. “Thaleia, its Demetrius we need to talk?” He heard her disheartened voice hit the air. “Come in.” He carefully pushed open the door watching as she came in to view. She was sitting on her bed reading a scroll she didn’t look up as she carried on reading while speaking. “What did you want to talk about?” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “You’re not in Gabrielle’s room don’t you normally serve her breakfast now?” Thaleia carried on reading the scroll which Phrixus had given her it was the werewolf alphabet and how to read it. He believed that she should start to learn it and she agreed with him. She breathed in looking at the letters. “Ceto gave Gabrielle her breakfast, she currently very preoccupied with the Empress.”

Demetrius blinked in surprised. “Preoccupied?” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Yes preoccupied, I heard them, so I laid out Gabrielle’s clothes.” She looked down trying to hide her embarrassment. “I couldn’t concentrate on the rest of my duties so I left.” Demetrius felt a knowing smile form. “Well it’s been a long time for the both of them.” Thaleia looked down as she carried on reading. “I guess adults always get there fun while children are rejected for being young and naïve and wanting to grow up to fast.” Demetrius felt his smile fade as he closed the door behind him he walked up to her sitting on the bed next to her he leaned over putting a hand on hers. “I’m sorry Thaleia, what I said yesterday was stupid, I didn’t see things clearly and I got it all wrong.” Thaleia looked up meeting his gaze. “No I’m sorry I didn’t explain myself and I could see why you’d see it the way you did.” Demetrius shook his head. “I have never seen you as a lowly servant Thaleia please believe that, I have nothing but respect for you and always have even before you got this position.”

Thaleia breathed in painfully. “Do you know that I used to break the rules? I used to go up the main study and meeting room and watch you, even though I knew it might result in my punishment.” She shook her head sadly. “I believed that I was always beneath you so I never spoke to you or looked at you in public.” Demetrius blinked in feeling the shock of what she was saying sunk in. “You risked punishment for me?” Thaleia nodded putting the scroll to one side. “Yes.” Demetrius breathed in feeling that it was now his turn to explain him self. “I misjudged your actions last night Thaleia I thought you were trying to grow up to fast, what I failed to realize is that you are not a child anymore. You are a mature woman who can make her own choices in life you stopped being a young girl a long time ago, if anything being Gabrielle’s maid has brought out the best in you. I don’t want to take away your innocence because I felt the person who you should be with you should be in love with you, you deserve that.”

Thaleia looked up slightly. “Why do you fear taking my innocence?” Demetrius lowered his gaze sadly to the floor. “When I was a younger man I was like Adrienne, I used to love sexual conquest and I used to break the hearts of women and for me it was fun. I never stopped to look or care and I left their lives in tatters, I just used my position to get what I wanted.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “What changed?” Demetrius breathed in painfully. “I broke a noble woman’s heart and she made me pay, she had her brother beat me to with in an inch of her life. I deserved it though for me it was a game I led her on, she wanted to marry and have children something I had no intention of giving her. When you are laid on the healer’s bed with a lot of time on your hands you begin to rethink your life. I started to see myself for what I was and who I was, I didn’t like myself anymore. Ironically once I was well enough I was at war again and I joined the Empress during the Spartan uprising and I buried my self in that war.”

He turned slowly to her. “When I came home I didn’t go out on conquests anymore I focused on my duties, I’m not worthy of any woman not after what I have done and I don’t want to hurt you Thaleia, you deserve better than that, you deserve to be loved by a good man.” Thaleia looked at him for a long moment. “You are a good man Demetrius, what ever you’ve done in the past it’s in the past and it does not change how I feel about you now.” Demetrius looked up sharply. “How do you feel about me?” Thaleia eased up her hand putting it against his face. “I love you I have for a very long time Demetrius.” Demetrius gently put his hand on hers gods she loved him and he knew that he felt the same way about her but he was afraid to say it. “Your always see the best in people.” Thaleia looked at him for a long moment. “Yes I do because everyone should be allowed to change and grow.”

She paused before speaking feeling the need to change the subject. “Do you love me?” Demetrius nodded as he looked at her. “Yes I do but as I said before I don’t want to hurt you.” Thaleia leaned closer to him gods this was so good to hear he did love her, even if he didn’t say it this was enough. Clearly like Gabrielle he had a lot of ghosts in his closet but she didn’t care, she still loved him regardless of his past she eased her arms around him. “I don’t think you could ever hurt me.” Demetrius closed his eyes enjoying the feeling of her arms as he put his own around her feeling her hand move gently through his hair, which felt so calming. Leuis was right as much as he hated to say it he lacked conviction when it came to those he loved and he wanted to change that, though he had no idea where to start. He closed his eyes enjoying the sensation it felt so nice to have her arms wrapped around him, it just felt so right and so comforting he paused unsure of his next words. “Can I stay here for a while?”

Thaleia felt a smile form. “You can stay here for as long as you want Demetrius.” She paused as she moved closer to his face meeting his lips getting an instant response this time. There was no resistance and it was so nice, she pulled back watching as a smile formed on his face, she raised her hand again putting it on his face catching sight of the tiredness in his eyes. “You look tired.” Demetrius nodded as he looked at her. “I was up all night last night I had a lot to think about.” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “Then sleep here, with me.” Demetrius eased up his hand running it through her hair as he kissed her again before speaking. “I’d like that every much.” He breathed in pulling her closer gods he’d missed this feeling it felt like it had been so long since he had felt this way. He had given up thinking that he would ever have a persons love after what he had done in the past. Maybe the gods had chosen to given him a reprieve, maybe this was his chance to prove that he could do the right thing by this woman.

8

Xena grabbed the bed post seeing the colours blast across her eyes as he body tensed as it ignited under an burning wave, dear gods all she could do was breath in and ride it, it wasn’t the first time of tonight. She opened her eyes watching as Gabrielle breathed in deeply still trying to catch her breath the wave she had been travelling some time ago was still fresh, she now looked sated though she could see it in her eyes. She grabbed the post tighter as everything became still she had, had pleasure from women before but it didn’t come close to this. This woman knew how to give as much as receive, not once had she dominated or pushed for control. She was deeply intimate with her actions and very gentle she knew how to build the pleasure and make the final outcome worth waiting for. She breathed in feeling the cold air move through her lungs she could feel sweat dripping down her forehead she moved her hand up wiping it away looking at the younger woman who was on her back next to her on the bed. She felt a smile form it was clear that werewolves had more stamina in bed than most people.

She wouldn’t lie her past lovers had not been able to keep up with her in bed because she always wanted more but Gabrielle had no issue keeping up with her and this was the first time that anyone had been able to keep pace with her. That was such a nice feeling she breathed in turning over on to her side as she moved her fingers up to the other woman’s chest seeing her godly symbol which was lying in between her naked breasts. She put her hand on it following the groove of the bone watching as the other woman turned to look at her. She breathed in seeing the intense open emotion in the other woman’s eyes, she’d seen it on occasions before but this time it was so different. It was a look of share devotion and love which was only made more intense by the green reflecting in the low light of the room. She paused trying to find her voice which was a little difficult as she found herself mesmerized and trapped by the other woman’s gaze. She spoke in a gentle tone as she moved her hand up to the other woman’s face playing with a lock of blonde hair. “Hey.”

Gabrielle eased up her hand running it through the other woman’s damp hair as she spoke. “Hi.” She leaned up meeting the other woman’s lips kissing her gently and softy, there was so much she wanted to say but she felt so lost in her emotions right now that all she knew how to do was convey her love and devotion through this kiss. She had not felt this content in such a long time it was a nice feeling which she had been parted from for so long. She pulled back leaving the other woman’s lips breathing in deeply enjoying the feeling of complete calm which was filling all her senses. “I love you.” Xena moved her hand up to the other woman’s eye running her finger gently down her scar in a gentle caress. “Love you to Gabrielle.” She paused somehow her next words just felt right. “I loved you from the moment I saw you, it just took me a while realize it.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “What even though I couldn’t remember my own life and only my name?”

Xena raised an eyebrow. “Yes even though you couldn’t remember your life and the fact that you could only remember your name didn’t matter to me.” She moved her fingers down her neck feeling the other woman’s hand as it carried on moving through her hair. Gabrielle paused feeling herself breathe in sharply as she spoke. “What will happen when I become your consort?” Xena felt her smile widen. “Once it becomes official a few things will change.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “What will change?” Xena put her arm around her waist. “Well it mean’s everyone has to bow in your presence as a formal sign of respect, though this doesn’t apply to palace staff who know you as they are your friends.” She felt her smile turn to a wicked one. “All the Greek royals have to bow to you with out question and trust me I’m going to ensure that they have to refer to you both by your name and your title of Golden Hind.”

She felt a twinge of anger as the image of the royals she hated flashed through her mind as they laughed at Gabrielle as she danced like a bear in werewolf form. “If they refuse my threat from last time won’t be a threat any longer it will turn in to a punishment.” Gabrielle moved her hand up to the other woman’s face stroking her cheek. “Please don’t hurt others on my account, you’re a kind person and you think with your heart it’s always been the thing I love about you most and you should never change.” She felt a cruel smile form. “Besides I would rather deal with the royals on my own terms, especially that Roman bitch and her husband.” Xena moved her fingers down to the younger woman’s chest feeling her breath hitch a little. “You mean Marmax and Eulalia, personally I have never liked them ether they have always over stepped the mark.” She leaned forward kissing her on the neck. “Don’t concern yourself with thoughts of them we’ll both cross that bridge together when we come to it.”

Gabrielle closed her eyes enjoying the sensation as the other woman kissed her neck. “I’m not concerned.” She knew that wasn’t a hundred percent true she wanted to see Marmax squirm with fear before she was finished with him and she wanted the same for his wife who had referred to her as deformed. She had, had dark thoughts about it for a long time, dark thoughts that she didn’t want to share with the older woman. She had always hated that she couldn’t control her temper or the dark thoughts she had from time to time and she didn’t want Xena to be tainted by the worst part of her. She had so many thoughts swirling around in her mind right now and she didn’t want to face them. Xena was now her lover and she wanted her to be her consort, was she even good enough to be that? She breathed in pushing her thoughts aside forcefully, she didn’t want to even think about this let alone the meeting with the Corinthian diplomats the thought of it terrified her. What if her being Xena’s consort just made things even worse due to her actions in the androphonomania massacre, what if her lovers plan failed and they all turned on her?

She looked up as Xena’s eyes met own unable to stop her next words as they came out. “Will my being your consort mean marriage?” Xena felt a smile form. “Yes, but not right away.” She leaned closer to her meeting her lips again before pulling away sensing that the younger woman was slightly distracted she could also see the uncertainty in her eyes. “We don’t have to get married right away, only when you’re ready I know it will take time for you settle in and I realize that this is a lot for you to take in.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes it’s a lot to take in.” Xena breathed in as she moved her hand down her waist she realized that maybe now was not the best time to talk about her crown or the throne that would have to come later as the younger woman’s clearly needed more time to settle in to the idea of being her consort.

She couldn’t blame her for that, Gabrielle had led her whole life stuck underground and when she hadn’t been underground she had been a warrior going from place to place. No one had ever offered her marriage let alone an engagement and she really didn’t want to push her in to it, it felt too early. Perhaps in hindsight she should have waited a little longer to tell everyone that she had a new consort but at the same time it had felt so right. She wanted Gabrielle to feel as much her equal as possible she didn’t want her to feel in any way that she was on the outside. She hated that not so long ago that she had called her a stupid animal and she wanted to do everything and anything to make it up to her. The truth was that despite Gabrielle’s actions in the androphonomania massacre she had done terrible things to her people, because of her, her people had ended up as trophies, pelts and mounted displays and knowing that pained her heart as she had given out those orders. It was her word that had caused the deaths of hundreds of intelligent beings.

That was her dishonour and she couldn’t claim that she had tried to stop it, unlike Gabrielle who had disobeyed the Imperial Council by saving human children at great risk to herself. She leaned forward meeting her lips again in a gentle kiss she wanted to put her mind at rest in anyway she could. “We can go as slowly as you want we don’t have to rush anything Gabrielle, we can take our time I promise you that.” Gabrielle left the other woman’s lips for a moment. “Thank you.” She knew she wasn’t completely at ease but she didn’t want to think about it all right now she was tired and she wanted to enjoy the other woman’s gentle and loving attention before sleep caught up with her. She was tired now but she was fighting it as she just wanted to remain awake. It had been so long since she’d felt this loved and she needed to embrace this moment, more than she needed to breath, she met the other woman’s lips sinking in to the bliss once more.

End of part 92

 

A PAINFUL SHIFTING IN THE UNDERCURRENT

I should be asleep I was asleep for a long time but I was forced out of my dreams because of the thoughts playing on my mind. She wants to marry me? I know its part of the position as a consort and I know it’s a formality but it scares me so much, it’s a path I’ve never walked before. No one has ever asked for my hand in marriage let alone said that I will be engaged to them up until this point. It just feels to fast and my mind is trying so hard to keep up. I didn’t think she would announce this now just like that, I know why she did it she wants me to feel as much her equal as possible, yet I just feel so out of sorts with the whole idea. The last time I ever thought about marriage was two years before I was captured by slavers. I remember my father talking about it to me and my sister and saying that he that he didn’t care who we loved be it a man or woman so long as we were happy and that they acted as a good partner should and treated us right.

It seems so distant now like so many of my childhood memories of that time, they are like smoke I could touch them with my fingers yet they fade away so quickly. I don’t even know if I’d make a good wife, I have nothing to offer other than my royal status not that this really means much, unlike the other royals I have no wealth to give. My family has no dowry to offer other than wooden carvings they were never that wealthy and have not seen my family in such a long time and I know that if they see that I am a werewolf that it will bring them great I shame. Unlike the Greek royals I cannot offer estate, I own none of the werewolf cities, they are all owned by the Imperial Council and out of my control. So I can’t even offer them. I hate that I’m not a wealthy royal but I guess I only have myself to blame, I never liked or cared for wealth and I don’t care for gold the only gold I have is the colour of my fur as pathetic as that sounds. I have nothing to offer this woman and it pains me, how can she want me when I cannot give her anything of real value?

I should be happy right now and not thinking about this but I can’t help it. I just made love to this woman who is clearly a very skilled lover she was gentle and kind with her touches and caresses and when it was over I felt so content. The only other person who ever loved me with this kind of devotion was Damokles and I feel guilty for bringing this up now in my mind because I know the connection I felt with this woman felt like something more which I can’t put my finger on. It felt so deep I didn’t have say what I wanted it was like she knew what I wanted I have never had that before in my life, it’s a completely new experience to me. I feared this night for so long because what I suffered with Adrienne, she tainted that joy on so many levels when it came to sleeping with other women, yet Xena brought back that feeling I missed so much with her tenderness and devotion. You would think that I would welcome this idea of being with this woman as her consort yet I still fear it so much. I want to stop thinking about this it’s just before dawn and I really want to go back to sleep and I just can’t, its so frustrating.

Gabrielle turned over watching as the older woman came in to view, she was asleep facing her, her arm wrapped around her waist. She looked down catching sight of the faded scar on her chest where the arrow had once hit her. She eased up her other hand running her fingers down her cheek as she looked at her face which was filled with peaceful dreams. She moved her hand away as she sat up easing the cover off her naked body while easing the other woman’s hand gently free of her waist trying not to wake her. She leaned over taking hold of her underwear pulling it on then grabbed the fur skin close by wrapping it around her shoulders as she made her way over to balcony. In all the time she’d been here she had never once gone out on to the other woman’s balcony, despite that their balconies were side by side. She caught sight of a set of chairs and a table as well as four thick fluffy cushions which you could sit on and be in the shade.

She sat herself down on one of the thick cushions looking up at the sun which still hadn’t risen in the sky she could see the first rays of light breaching the sky somewhere in the distance. She breathed in pulling her knees up resting her head on them, she looked up catching sight of the first birds which were Swallows appeared in the sky flying high above her. It felt like time was passing very slowly as they flew high above her darted in and out of the palace roof tops swerving unhindered by the mortal world. Expressing the joys of freedom and speed which no human or werewolf could match as they couldn’t fly. What would it be like fly? To just open your wings and sour over forests and oceans and see the world from above in all its glory, if she had one wish she would love to know what it was to fly, just once to see the world from a birds eye view.

“Gabrielle?”

Gabrielle turned sharply as her thoughts were shattering she looked up at the tall woman who was standing behind her wrapped in her velvet robe the concern in her eyes. She lowered her gaze to the floor feeling the guilt hit home the last thing she had wanted to do was wake the other woman up. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to wake you.” Xena breathed in deeply as she sat down on the cushion next to the other woman she had been asleep but she had felt the need to open her eyes. When she had, she had found herself alone with her arm outstretched over the empty bed which had worried her. She had sat up only to see the younger woman seated on the balcony cushions which had been a huge relief. She looked up meeting her green eyes. “I wasn’t sleeping just resting.” She knew that wasn’t the truth but she didn’t want her lover to know that. Her lover it was so nice to use that word again, it had been so long. She shaped put of her thoughts as it hit her that may be the younger woman was sitting here because of what had happened last night.

Maybe she was having second thoughts about their relationship, maybe she hadn’t enjoyed last night. She breathed in as she spoke unable to keep the uncertain out of her tone. “Are you alright I mean your not.” She paused trying to ignore the pain in her heart as her voice hit the air. “Having second thoughts about last night are you? I know I move to fast at times, it’s always been one of my problems.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “No I wasn’t thinking about last night at all, last night was wonderful and I have no regrets I’d do it all again in heartbeat.” Xena felt the breath she had been holding leave her throat as the relief hit home as she put a hand on the other woman’s leg. “Then what’s on your mind?” Gabrielle looked at the floor for a long moment before speaking. “Why do you want to marry me?”

She breathed in painfully. “I know it’s not all about politics or photocell.” Xena blinked in surprise this was the last thing she had expected Gabrielle to say she felt a warm smile form. “I want to marry you because I love you Gabrielle and as I said last night there’s no rush, we can take this step by step no ones going to force you to do anything you don’t want to do.” Gabrielle shook her head sadly. “I don’t think I’d make a good wife to you.” Xena leaned closer to her she couldn’t help but be shocked by the younger woman’s words. “What makes you say that?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “I have nothing to offer you.” Xena looked at her for a long moment trying to ignore her inner confusion. “What do you mean, offer me?” Gabrielle tensed painfully. “In werewolf custom you offer your wife or husband something of value.”

She breathed in trying to ignore her inner pain. “I have nothing to offer you, I have no gold or jewels I have no estate. I can’t even give you a piece of my werewolf kingdom because I don’t own any off it right now the Imperial Council does.” She put a hand on her face. “I only have royal title and none of the wealth of the other Greek royals therefore I’m not fit to be your wife, until I have gained something that holds value to you.” Xena pulled back she was utterly shocked by the other woman’s statement she hadn’t thought that this would be a problem. She didn’t want a dowry she didn’t want riches from the younger woman ether and she didn’t care that she didn’t have any estate. Sadly though she could see the other woman’s under confidence was showing through once more she thought that because she wasn’t on par with the other Greek royals that she wasn’t worthy to be her consort. She looked up as a thought suddenly crossed her mind. “If you want to give me something, then let it be your gold.”

Gabrielle breathed in painfully clearly her thoughts had been correct she didn’t have enough to offer as the older woman wanted her coin. “You want my coin, the ones I keep in my room?” Xena shook her head. “No I don’t care for the coin in your room.” Gabrielle turned sharply feeling the confusion hit home. “I have no other gold on me the Imperial Council has it you’ll have to wait until I’ve dethroned them till you can have it!” Xena shook her head. “I’m not talking about their gold, I don’t care for it ether.” Gabrielle looked up once more now feeling completely out of her element. “Then what gold are you talking about?” Xena felt her smile widen as she eased up her hand running it through her lover’s long blonde hair letting it spill through her fingers. “I want the gold of fur it means more to me than treasure.” Gabrielle felt herself freeze as she met the other woman’s gaze. “You want…my fur?” Xena leaned over so she was close to her ear. “Yes I want your fur, its gold isn’t it?”

Gabrielle stared at her she felt completely lost she had no idea their conversation would go this way and now all she could do was utter the one word that made up her reply. “Yes.” Xena eased up her hand. “Your fur in my eyes shows your true worth, if there is anything in your soul that speaks to me then it’s that, I want to be able to touch it and stroke it till the day I die.” Gabrielle snapped out of her confusion as what the other woman was asking for started to sink in. “You want my fur?” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Yes that’s the gift I desire from you I ask for nothing else.” Gabrielle breathed in, feeling the warmth in her heart which was truly up lifting this was all her lover wanted as a gift her fur? She knew she couldn’t deny her anything she wanted such a simple gift and nothing more and nothing less. “It’s yours.”

Xena put both her arms around her waist as she eased her in to her lap she looked up at the sky which was now much brighter. “Don’t ever think that you could never be a good wife Gabrielle, because you will be and when that day comes and the crown is placed on your head, every one else will know it as well.” Gabrielle leaned up against her. “I hope so.” Xena looked up at the sun light. “I know they will.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as a thought crossed her mind. “You know your people are going to find it strange that I’m referred to as a king when I’m not male, since Horn Hind is a genderless term.” Xena felt a smirk form. “Well you know we could have some fun with them before we explain it and I feel its only right that your title should remain as it’s what your race knows you by, to call you Queen wouldn’t work it would just cause even more confusion to them.” Gabrielle raised her eyebrows. “I get the feeling that you like a little confusion from time to time.” Xena pulled her closer. “Yes I guess I do, I think it makes things interesting.”

8

Akil looked up sharply hearing a loud banging on the heavy iron doors he eased up the hot piece of bronze he was smiting eyeing his aging father who was asleep in the chair opposite. He rolled his eyes watching as the rest of the family carried on eating around the large table opposite, great another visitor they did know that his mother Jacinda was out right now as she was visiting the Imperial Council. He eyed the ancient wall paintings around him which had been here ever since the first white werewolf had taken his place next to the Emerald Hind as his advisor. The home had beautiful tapestries and old wooden furniture all pieces of history them selves showing the families long loyal legacy to the werewolf race. He lowered his gaze he hoped that his mother would be back soon. He had noticed that she had been rather melancholy these past few days but when he’d asked what was wrong she’d just given him a smile and said not to concern himself and that she was just contemplating things of no concern and that he shouldn’t be worried.

Though his mother had the gift to for see events in the future he didn’t, only his brother Halirrhothius had it. His younger sister also didn’t have the gift it seemed only one child ever inherited it. He eyed the hot piece of metal in his hand which was a red hot sword point which he’d been working on for a while it was a gift for the Horn Hind when she returned. There were many rumours floating around now that she would be returning soon as she had been found in Corinth. The details were sketchy but from what he had heard she was in the Empress’s care and no harm had come to her. He turned eyeing his older brother who was talking with their cousin. “Sounds like they want to speak to you Halirrhothius, after all you have the gift not me.” Halirrhothius stood up from the table smiling. “Well I’ll deal with it then little brother, as you are always so lazy.” Akil smirked putting the flaming sword back in to the fire. “Of cause I’m lazy.” Halirrhothius moved over to the doors opening them slowly. He breathed in as ten werewolf warriors all led by a light brown haired man walked in to the room, he knew this man he was called Bastiaan. “Can I help you?”

Bastiaan nodded causing the men behind him to slam both doors shut behind him pulling the heavy bolt across, he felt his cold smile widen. “So this is the White family’s home?” Halirrhothius turned watching as his sister stood up with her husband the confusion in her eyes. “Yes this is the White family’s home.” Bastiaan looked up catching sight of the pure white walls, paintings, and velvet tapestry which adorned the back wall. Everything around him was an antique from the chairs to the goblets and decorative cooking pot which was over the fire close by. He breathed what grandeur and beauty shame it was all about to all be destroyed but then again he had never cared for ancient werewolf history. In fact he was glad to get this order he’d never cared for the White family they were all pitiful relics of a by gone age in werewolf sociality and they were no longer needed. The Imperial Council were the true rulers and these people were just in their way.

He moved over to the table picking up one of the goblets which was close to a young child ignoring the cold look which the old man gave him who was sitting in the chair close by. He took hold of the wine jug filling his goblet he picked up taking a long drink enjoying the flavour which rang of an expensive product. He slowly put the goblet down feeling a cold smile form. “Very nice flavour must be expensive.” Halirrhothius folded his arms he felt a deep disgust over the man’s actions it was very rude to take from a table with out being offered the food or drink first. “Look I do not know why you’re here but my mother is not around right now she’s with the Imperial Council and my gift is not as strong as hers yet, I’m still in training.” Bastiaan shook his head. “Oh I have no interest in your mother, though I will say that she is the reason I’m here though.” He paused easing out a bloody card throwing it on the table in front of him. “Your mother was very foolish, she over stepped her mark.”

Halirrhothius eased out his hand taking the bloody card eyeing it, it was an image of Gabrielle the Golden Hind but the card was covered in blood. “I fail to see your meaning in this card.” He threw it back watching as it landed in front of the brown haired man. He could tell now that everyone in his house was becoming nervous. Bastiaan slammed his hand down on the card picking it up. “Oh I think you do Shaman but it you’re not willing to confess, then it will be your undoing.” He put the card away sighing aloud as he eased out a long sword with a razor sharp edge making a single which caused his men to stand in front of the door. “Your mother has already paid with her life, for her betrayal.” He ignored the looks of horror and shock as they spread across the room. “Your mother was helping Horn Hind in her rebellion.” He watched as a cold hate full look filled Jacinda’s husbands face as he got up from his chair reaching for an old sword the pain in his eyes as his wife’s death sunk in. “The Imperial Council saw it fit to silence her.” He smiled making a second signal causing all his warriors to draw their swords. “It is a shame really.”

He paused watching as the smith raised his red hot blade which was still smoking. “I kind of liked the old bitch but I confess I have never believed in profits, seers or even Sharman’s, werewolf sociality does not need them just as we do not need the Golden Hind.” Halirrhothius raised an eyebrow. “You are a crazy bastard, the Golden Hind is king!” Bastiaan smirked as he looked up seeing that the old man was now fully out of his arm chair with his sword in his hand. “No the Golden Hind is a figure head and a worthless one at that and she’s about to become a myth just like all of you and your house.” Halirrhothius raised his staff. “You wouldn’t dare kill us!” Bastiaan smirked as he raised his sword high admiring its gleaming blade. “No that’s where you very much mistaken I would kill all off you, your not important to me and as I’ve said before you are a relic and werewolf sociality really doesn’t need you anymore.”

End of part 93

 

FEELING THE CRUSHING WALLS CLOSING IN AROUND YOU

Xena looked around her she had fallen asleep on the cushions some time ago but had woken up not that long ago. Gabrielle was still fast asleep in her arms pressed up against her in her lap with the thick fur skin wrapped around her shoulders as she slept soundly. She had clearly been tired this morning not that she blamed her, she had found her sitting here because she believed herself unworthy of her position as consort and not good enough to be her wife one day in the future. She was anything but and she’d make sure that everyone in the palace told her so, she didn’t care if she was a king who had no estate or that she had no dowry to give, as far as she was concerned she didn’t have give her anything. She would remain true to her words about the other woman’s fur as long as lived even if she regained her kingdom from the Imperial Council. She felt her thoughts shatter as she heard the double doors to her room open. She turned watching as Ceto walked in a bemused look on her face as she eyed the bed clothes which were a complete mess.

She felt a smile form. “Hello Ceto.” Ceto raised her eyebrow as she grabbed the cover pulling it up looking at it as she spoke not bothering to hide the amusement in her voice. “Have fun did you Empress?” Xena felt a smirk form. “Something like that yes.” Ceto pulled the covers from her bed shaking her head. “So who was on top?” Xena raised her eyebrow. “As if I’m going to tell you that.” Ceto smiled as she put the bed clothes in her basket speaking in a very playful tone. “So be it, keep your secrets I don’t care.” Xena turned seeing that Gabrielle was still sleeping in her arms she looked up at her personal maid. “Could you please run a bath for us?” Ceto put down her basket as she smiled moving over to the sunken tub. She turned looking at Gabrielle for a long moment before speaking. “She looks so different when she sleeps it’s like the tensions not there.” Xena breathed in deeply. “I know, I hope a day comes when I can get her to look this way when she’s awake.”

Ceto leaned over starting the water watching as it spilled in to the tub causing steam to rise up due to the heat. “I’m sure that day will come.”  Xena moved her fingers up to the younger woman’s face running it down her cheek feeling her shuffle and half murmur something in her sleep, she looked up giving her personal maid giving a knowing smile. “I’m sure it will.” She paused before speaking. “Tell Thaleia that Gabrielle is here.” Ceto looked up slightly as she stopped the hot water in the now almost full bath tub then turned the other tap on allowing the cold water to flow. “That won’t be necessary Empress. She hasn’t left her room since last night I believe she is with Demetrius they had things to work through she did leave out Gabrielle’s clothes ready though.” Xena nodded as understanding dawned on her. “I see, I did hear that they had things to work through, just tell her when she gets back that she’s not in any trouble. She does an excellent job attending to Gabrielle, so I have no issue with her sorting out personal matters.”

She paused watching as Ceto poured in the oils in to the tub then stopped the colder water. “How is it that you don’t have a partner in your life?” Ceto moved her hand through the warm water then dried it with a hand towel. “Never found one who could keep up with me Empress, though I have had many offers in the palace over the years.” She breathed in deeply. “Don’t get me wrong they were nice men who proportioned me but.” Xena nodded calmly she knew what the other woman was getting at. “They just didn’t feel right in your heart?” Ceto nodded. “Yes Empress, I want to feel love for the person, it’s very important to me I also need to be able to trust them due to my role as your personal maid.” Xena looked at Gabrielle for a long moment. “I understand it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way and I believe it was worth the wait.” Ceto looked up slightly. “Then I hope that my time comes one day Empress.” She paused seeing that Gabrielle was starting to stir. “I’ll leave you two alone and I’ll wait for a while till I bring you both your breakfast.”

Xena nodded watching as she moved towards the double doors. “Of course.” She smiled as the other woman closed the doors behind her. She turned back to Gabrielle whose eyes opened as she yawned. “Morning.” Gabrielle stretched as she sat up. “Is it morning already?” Xena eyed the sky. “Well its late morning not that it really matters though.” Gabrielle ran her hand through her hair which felt messy. “I need a bath.” Xena smirked as she turned eyeing the filled bath close by. “Way ahead of you, I had Ceto run one while you were sleeping.” Gabrielle turned sharply. “She was in here?” Xena stood up slowly watching as the other woman did the same looking slightly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry she didn’t see anything.” She moved her hand to the fur skin which the other woman had wrapped tightly around her body. “You were in this.” Gabrielle walked over looking at the bath she could see the hot steam rising. “Are you sure we can both fit in here?” Xena breathed in as she eased her robe of as she walked up to the bath noticing that the other woman was watching her out of the corner of her eye. “Trust me it was made for two.”

She paused easing her hands up taking hold of the fur skin carefully easing it free watching as the other woman looked down nervously. She really wasn’t used to being naked in front of another and despite last night she wanted to help her over come this. “You know you have a beautiful body Gabrielle.” She eased up her hand running it down her neck stopping between her breasts, seeing her breath in sharply. “If anyone has ever told you any different then they were lying to you.” She moved away easing herself slowly in to the warm bath water enjoying the smell of jasmine and other oils as they rose in to the air. She looked up watching as the other woman took of her underwear then eased herself slowly in to the water in front of her much faster than she had. Clearly the heat didn’t bother her she watched as she ducked her head under the water before surfacing pushing her wet hair back she felt a wicked smile form. “Clearly you like it hot.”

Gabrielle felt a smile form as she watched the other woman lay back soaking her hair carefully before sitting up. “The hotter the water is the better.” Xena paused as a thought crossed her mind as she felt the other woman lean up against her. “Did Adrienne tell you that you weren’t beautiful?” Gabrielle felt her body tense she felt the other woman’s hand move to her waist stroking gently, she breathed in painfully as she spoke unable to keep the pain out of her voice. “She never told me I was beautiful no, we never had many conversations it was always her telling me that I was hers.” She felt her body relax as the other woman’s hand began to move up her back she felt herself tense as she found a knotted muscles in her shoulders which she began to work on it with a gentle massage. “Even when we had sex I never looked in to her eyes and when it was over I just used to turn away from her, it made it easier to forget that she had control over me.”

8

Gabrielle closed her eyes as the blast of colours filled them she grabbed the woman’s shoulders beneath her trying to ride the wave. She ignored the blood running down her skin from the deep cuts on her back and shoulders where the woman’s nails had dug in deeply. She opened her eyes slowly watching as Adrienne came in to view, she knew this was wrong with ever fibre of her being and yet she still did it. She looked at her room before rolling of the other woman turning her back on her as she pulled the cover over herself ignoring the twinge of pain both from her muscles and the deep cuts. She shouldn’t have slept with Adrienne after returning to the Grand City now she was trapped in this nightmare which had now become her life. She feared Adrienne and feared her presence and most of all she feared being hit by her but she couldn’t get away from her. She just hadn’t been able to help herself she was lonely and she felt depressed about everything she’d done. Also sleeping with her had seemed like a good idea at the time but she now knew that it was the biggest mistake she’d ever made and she was powerless to change it. She had spent her twenty third birthday alone like so many others before it and without any contact while mindlessly signed the council’s papers and even now they wouldn’t talk to her, despite that she’d done everything they had asked.

The truth was so clear to her now she was just a puppet and she had no power, only they had power and it was over her. She heard Adrienne breath in, in content the other woman didn’t love her she just liked sex. She had, had sex with women before now but she never had she felt so empty doing it, the rush of the orgasm seemed to be the only nice moment in the whole event. She had also found herself smoking opium just to forget the painfully memories of these past few months, the rest of the time she smoked coltsfoot leaf just to take away the mounting stress she felt. She wished now that she hadn’t been given these horns, which even now hadn’t had the points come through. They were still covered in velvet despite being full size. She no longer understood her goddess motives, why was she being made to suffer like this? She wasn’t great she wasn’t even able to lead her people she was powerless and at the mercy of the Imperial Council. When she was alone she was at the mercy of Adrienne who didn’t care about her and hurt her but enjoyed sleeping with her. When she wasn’t sleeping with her she was like some kind of jailer who was around her every second of the day, she couldn’t do anything on her own.

Adrienne moved the cover over her naked chest seeing that Gabrielle was looking away from her. “Why do you always turn away from me I’d like to see your face for once?” Gabrielle didn’t turn around as she looked at her desk where a carved Black Cap was sitting which she had recently finished its wings opened like the Goldfinches which she had packed away now from sight. She eyed it for a long moment before speaking. “Lets not be coy you come here for sex not because you love me. That’s all this is an arrangement to benefit us both.”  Adrienne breathed in deeply they’d had sex in both forms but she wouldn’t lie she was starting to feel something for the other woman. “You misunderstand.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “I misunderstand nothing I’m your conquest and your boast, you get to be my lover and everyone thinks your special.” She eyed the Black Cap once again. “But your not special not behind closed doors, your just my sexual partner nothing more.” Adrienne eyed her Gabrielle she felt a hand form a fist the blonde woman was starting to become more negative and angry and she could also be cruel when she felt like it. She breathed in hitting her now wouldn’t have impact despite that she wanted to. She felt her fist loosen as she smiled widely speaking in a low seductive tone. “What if I did have feelings for you have you considered that?”

Gabrielle laughed but it was a cold laugh even to her own ears. “I wouldn’t care if you did have feelings for me, you’re not someone I would consider a friend. You’re here to do what the Imperial Council tells you, they tell you to screw me to make me happy you do so with out question.” Adrienne snarled as she slammed her fist violently in to the decorative head board not caring if she damaged it, after all it was just one of her lover’s stupid carving which she hated. Frankly she wished she’d stop making them she was a warrior not a carpenter. “It’s not that way!” Gabrielle eyed her feeling a cold sneer form. “No that is the way it is, you lied to me about the mission you told me it was an honourable cause that we slaying the enemies of the werewolf race but we weren’t we? No we were killing innocent men, women and helpless children.” She picked up the Black Cap back looking at it for a long moment. “There’s no honour in that.” Adrienne turned away from her. “Think what you want Gabrielle but I do care about you and I won’t ever let you go. You need me, without me your nothing and one day and you’ll come to realize that and you’ll learn to love me and you’ll mate with me.” Gabrielle eyed in her disgust before turning away again. “Pray to your Norse gods that the day never comes when you get to test that theory of yours.”

8

Xena looked down sadly. “I’m sorry that you had to endure that Gabrielle you didn’t deserve that.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as the other woman finished her gentle massage of her shoulders which felt much better now. “She no longer has any control over me and what she said was wrong, I don’t need her, I never did.” Xena leaned forward kissing her back. “No you don’t need her, you were always the strong one Gabrielle she is no more than a vile bitch sent to control you and she will never have power over you again. You defeated her in battle if she ever wakes up she’ll have to live with that for the rest of her miserable life.” She leaned against her. “Plus she a fool for not seeing the beauty of your carvings, she clearly had no artistic taste.” Gabrielle leaned over meeting the other woman’s lips in a gentle kiss before pulling away. “You like my carvings so much don’t you?” Xena felt her smile widen. “Yes I do they are beautiful, just like you.”

Gabrielle eased up her hand running it through the other woman’s wet dark hair. “Did you have any plans today?” Xena took hold of the soap she did have paper work to do but frankly that could wait. She fully intended to spend the day with the younger woman and not bother with it. “I plan to spend the day with you.” She lathered the soap then began to wash the other woman’s back. “That is assuming you don’t have paper work to do your self.” Gabrielle closed her eyes enjoying the sensation of the other woman’s hands as they lathered soap down her back she had paper work but frankly she didn’t care about it today, it could wait she was in no hurry. She wanted to spend the day with the other woman who was now her lover and not miss a moment of it. She wanted to just forget for one day that she was Horn Hind and that the Imperial Council wanted her dead and just be Gabrielle and be her company. “No I have no paper work to finish.” Xena raised her eyebrow as she washed the soap away working on the other woman’s arms enjoying the feeling of muscle under the skin. “We could have our breakfast then take a walk in the gardens I mean soon winters going to be here and it will start snowing.”

She paused as a question crossed her mind. “Do you like the snow?” Gabrielle put her hand on the other woman’s leg underwater. “When I’m in human yes, in my other form not so much, I can feel it through my paw pads.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “There that sensitive?” Gabrielle turned to meet her gaze, which were filled with curiosity. She felt the warm water pour down her skin as the other woman washed the soap of her arms and shoulders. She was enjoying this so much it was utter bliss the heat of the water the smell of the oils and the other woman’s hands as they worked lathered on the soap and washed in away, she felt a content smile form. “Most werewolves wrap their paw pads in the bitter cold with leather so they don’t freeze.” Xena moved her hands to her upper chest rubbing in the soap. “Has your winter coat started to grow yet?” Gabrielle felt her eyes close as she truly began to sink in to the sweet sensations. “Yes it’s just started growing, did you want to see it tonight.” Xena leaned closer to her she was enjoying doing this as much as the other woman was enjoying the sensation of it, she could see the content look in her face. “I’d love to.”

End of part 94

 

FINDING YOUR FEET IN THE STRANGEST BLISS

Demetrius walked up the corridor watching as Thaleia followed him she had a smile on her face as she kept her hand on his. They’d had a quite night together in her room they’d slept together on top of the bed fully clothed in each others arms. He had to say that he had truly enjoyed it as he felt so at peace in her presence. It had been so long since he’d been in the arms of another who loved him and though it felt strange he wouldn’t deny that this time it felt right. It had made him realize what he had been missing out on through his years of solitude and loneliness after the Spartan uprising. He realized also that despite his feelings for Thaleia he would still have to ask for her mother’s approval and if her father had still been alive he’d be asking his as well. He knew that this was deemed as slightly old fashioned but he had never asked before now and he felt it only right in this instance. As he knew this was a serious and he didn’t want her mother to think for a second that it wasn’t serious. He knew that though he had, had many relationships she was very new to all this and he wanted to take it slow with her so that she was comfortable and didn’t feel pressured in to anything.

He stopped in the hall turning to her, he knew that she was late for her duties but considering that Gabrielle hadn’t been in her room he was sure no one would notice. At least he hoped they wouldn’t and if they did he would take the blame for it, he didn’t mind as he was sure that the Empress would let him off once she realized the nature of the situation. He eased up his hand running it gently down her face. “I’m sorry I’ve kept you from your duties.” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “Don’t worry about it, I am sure Gabrielle won’t mind we are family after all.” Demetrius smiled. “I guess you are but I hope I don’t have to answer to her, I feel that she might be very protective of you.” Thaleia put a hand on his. “Oh believe me I don’t think she’ll mind.” Demetrius leaned forward he felt it only right to give her a real kiss now, he met her lips not wanting to hide his feeling this time making his desire clear feeling her instantly respond.

“Excuse me.”

He stopped feeling the annoyance take over as he left her lips turning slowly catching sight of Iona who was standing behind him a wide smile on her face. He breathed in keeping his hand on Thaleia’s. “No offence but I’m a little busy now Iona.” Iona felt her smile widen as she winked at Thaleia who looked away trying to hide the flush of embarrassment which was lighting up her cheeks. “I’m very sorry I wouldn’t bother you at all Demetrius but others have been bothering me today over a certain question and they really need an answer to it.” She paused. “It’s about the Empress and the Gabrielle.” She eased up her hands pushing them together unsure of how to phase her next words. “Did they, you know connect last night.” She looked up. “I wouldn’t ask but the rumour is that they did but Ceto’s not talking and people are dying to know.”  Demetrius looked up slightly. “Well I wouldn’t know the answer to that Iona.” Iona raised an eyebrow. “No I think you do your just not telling me but my question was in fact to Thaleia.”

Thaleia blinked in surprise. “You know I can’t answer that.” Iona breathed in moving closer to her lowering her voice. “Please you have to tell me something, do you have any idea how many people have bothered me this morning? I’ve had Chara, Phrixus and Evadine oh and Phantasos, Faolan, and Tiara and they all want an answer.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “You know I can’t.” Iona folded her arms. “Okay fine just tell me if they got past the kissing and caressing part?” Thaleia eyed her for a very long moment she knew this was in part a lie but she wouldn’t tell her that. “I wouldn’t know I wasn’t in the room at the time and part of my duties mean that if it gets that heated, I have to disappear.” Iona breathed in, in frustration as she raised her hand. “I know that you know, you’re just not telling me.” Thaleia breathed in as a though crossed her mind. “How far do you think they got?” Iona looked up in surprise. “I think they went all they way, why?” Thaleia moved a step closer to her. “Wasn’t it you who said two years in a pit, does nothing for your sex drive?”

Iona blinked as she looked at her for a long moment. “Yes I did say that.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Well then maybe you have the answer to your own question.” Iona felt a wide smile form as it suddenly hit her as to what the younger woman was getting at. Clearly she was very bright she was giving an answer and no answer at all. “So if I wanted to say they did, it would be my opinion?” Thaleia felt a smile form. “Yes it would, you know how palace gossip is in every whisper there’s a sliver of truth that’s open to interpretation but as I say it’s not my place to tell you.” Iona put a hand gently on her shoulder. “You’re a clever girl, thank you for telling me this I’ll now go and tell everyone just what they are so desperate to hear.” She felt her smile widen. “I’ll also you say that it’s open to interruption.” She paused looking at them both. “Then I’ll go and relax.” She paused raising her hand. “I’ll let you two get back to what you were doing.”

She turned walking away from them only to stop as a thought crossed her mind she turned meeting Demetrius gaze. She couldn’t resist this comment even though she knew it was wrong to say it in Thaleia’s presence. “I’d take good care of her Demetrius because if you don’t I’m sure Gabrielle won’t be happy and I’d hate to make her mad.” Demetrius eyed her for a long moment. “Go away Iona.” Thaleia watched as the other woman vanished from site. She turned slowly to Demetrius she didn’t understand these comments about Gabrielle’s temper she’d seen her angry but she had never seen her loose it. She wasn’t like that at least not to her or to the Empress but she knew it was something she’d have to bring up soon with the Empress. The last thing she wanted was another sour rumour about Gabrielle spreading all over the palace, the first time had been bad enough.

Gabrielle had been through to much to have to endure anything like this over again and as far as she was concerned Gabrielle only serious rage had happened after that night with the royals and she hadn’t seen anything like it since. She looked up as she spoke. “Ignore her Gabrielle would do nothing off the sort she’s my family and she does not go around hurting people.” Demetrius turned to her putting his arms around her waist sadly he knew Iona was right about this. Gabrielle did have problems with her temper but Thaleia had never seen it up close and personal. He knew that Gabrielle could kill people, she had wanted to kill Kalika and her threats to Mavican had been very close to the mark. Thaleia had been witness to her depression and her sadness but never her intense rage. Though he didn’t blame Gabrielle for having these moments of anger as she had, had a terrible life he wouldn’t deny that, this intense rage did worry him at times.

More because Gabrielle couldn’t still it the way the Empress did, she did not have a sense of peace with in her self. She couldn’t walk away or turn around she had to break something and it took her a long time to calm down even from a heated argument with the Empress. He just hoped that Thaleia was never a witness to one of her truly rage filled angers because despite that Gabrielle never harmed others her rage could be terrifying. He didn’t want Thaleia to be faced with it because he knew it would terrify her and it was clear that she thought the world of Gabrielle. She was like a sister to her and he didn’t want her to loose faith in the woman who was her closest friend. He shook the thoughts from his mind as he turned to her. “Where were we?” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “You were giving me a kiss.” Demetrius leaned closer to her. “Yes I was wasn’t I?”

8

I’ve had such a wonderful day I have not felt this happy in years, I woke up with Gabrielle in my arms this morning. We had a warm bath together which lasted quite a while. I washed her with soap and cleaned her hair, then she did the same in return and then we just lay in each others arms enjoying the quite and silence. We only got out because the water was cooling apparently not only does Gabrielle have a very high tolerance to hot water but she loathes it once it gets cold. I assume this is a werewolf thing though I’m only guessing but I think this high tolerance to heat maybe due to her transformations. I’ve noticed that when she does change form her body becomes really hot just before the bones start to shift so the water being red hot does not seem to really bother her, though I confess I like it hot but maybe not as hot as she likes it.

We’ve spent most of the day in my room just enjoying each others company okay I confess most of its been kissing and cuddling but I think its been so long for both of us that we both just need to feel these sensations again. Ceto brought our breakfast which we ate out on the balcony looking at the sun. I think I finally understand Gabrielle’s love of birds because you get a sense of relaxation as you watch them fly in and eat from the feeders on her balcony. It’s strange that such a simple thing can bring about such light emotions with in me. I have never cared for nature in this way but I am leaning that so many things that I have over looked can bring about great joy. I would normally feel bad for not leaving my room for the whole day but today I didn’t care.

I have enjoyed every moment of being with Gabrielle and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Its dusk now and the sun is setting in the far of distance and I have two trays in my hand filled with food which I got from the kitchen and I’m now taking it back to my room. My room that does not sound right it feels like our room now, I know soon enough that we are going to have to discus this as we both have personal maids but it can wait, I’m in no hurry and I don’t think Gabrielle is ether. Well I might be wrong but now isn’t really the time to bring it up, I just want to enjoy the happiness and quite that we are having now. It’s been so long since ether of us has experienced it and I think it should be treasured. Gods I just hope I don’t drop these trays I’ll give it to Ceto this is much harder than it looks.

Xena pushed the double doors open with her boot she walked through closing them with her heal. She blinked in surprise catching sight of Gabrielle who was lying on her back in werewolf form. She had her clawed hand open and sitting in it was her Collar dove, she had raised her other clawed hand and was stroking the bird with one clawed finger which had been raised so that the claw wasn’t touching it only the pad of the finger. She breathed in deeply watching her, the whole thing was deeply tender. The dove was small in her hand and her claws were raised around it but not touching it, it seemed perfectly happy, it even had its eyes closed it wasn’t afraid at all of its owner even in this form. Even though she knew that Gabrielle could shatter things in a heart beat yet this showed the deepness of her sensitivity, as she treated things which were not as strong as her with a deep tenderness and compassion.

She breathed in as she spoke. “Was he lonely?” Gabrielle snapped out of her thoughts as she turned realizing that the other woman was standing close by. “I’m sorry I didn’t hear you come in, I’ll get up.” Xena raised her hand. “No please you don’t have to move, I’ll come to you.” She took hold of the trays putting them carefully down on the floor then sat down opposite her. “I brought some food.” Gabrielle stroked her dove’s neck again. “Yes he was lonely he kept making noises.” Xena eyed the small dove feeling a smile form as she leaned against the other woman’s body enjoying the warmth of her fur. “You can keep him in here tonight, if you want.” Gabrielle lowered her hand very carefully. “Only if you don’t mind, I don’t want to trouble you” Xena looked at the small dove. “No I don’t mind at all.” She moved her hand towards the small bird. “Where do I stroke him?”

Gabrielle eased up her clawed fingers putting them on the other woman’s hand guiding it gently towards Icos’s chest. “Stroke his chest, he likes that.” Xena eased her fingers up touching the little birds chest listening to the cooing sounds he made she felt a her smile widen. “He’s a lovely little pet I can see why you like him.” Gabrielle watched as her bird opened his eyes it flew away landing on the bed frame close by she breathed in deeply. “I’m sorry I hadn’t trained him yet to fly back to me in this form, only in human form. It’s more difficult in this form I can’t make the command by whistling.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “What do you do instead?” Gabrielle slowly sat up watching as the other woman moved in front of her she opened her mouth shifting her tongue causing a clicking sound. She watched as Icos looked at her with uncertainty but didn’t fly over she turned back to her lover. “As you can see it’s a work in progress.”

Xena eased up hand she could see the thickening fur which was on Gabrielle’s shoulders and on her back it was growing down in a thick lair. She moved her fingers through it. She could feel the difference to her lover’s normal fur though as it was just as soft but much thicker and deeper. “So this is your winter coat?” Gabrielle nodded. “Yes it’s just started growing, it will grow for another two weeks and will cover the whole of my back, shoulders and my tail. I’ll get extra fur on my feet and my wrists and a part of my chest, it’s just to keep me warmer when the snow comes. Xena moved her fingers through the thick fur enjoying the feel only for a thought to cross her mind which she had been thinking about for some time. “How do werewolves kiss?” Gabrielle turned sharply meeting the other woman’s gaze feeling the surprise hit home, she had not expected her to ask this. “They…”

She turned away. “They lick and use their teeth.” Xena moved closer to the other woman who had now turned away from her. She eased up her hand using it to gently bring Gabrielle’s head back around so the other woman was facing her. “Show me.” Gabrielle looked down not wanting to meet the other woman’s eyes. She knew if she did so she would give anything to her without thinking about it but another part of her was screaming at her strongly to say no, to this. Werewolves biting and licking was just part of the intimacy but to do to a human being made her feel like an animal. It wasn’t like any human would ever enjoy that sort of sensation. She raised her clawed hand refusing to meet the other woman’s gaze. “You wouldn’t like it.” Xena moved her hand down her snout she could see the conflict in the other woman’s eyes. “How do I know that unless I try it?” She put her other hand on Gabrielle’s snout moving her head up causing her eyes to meet her own. “Please.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply she was completely trapped now by the other woman’s gaze she knew she could no longer refuse despite how she felt. She knew everything about this was wrong but if the other woman wanted it then she would give her, her desire. She didn’t think as she took hold of her lovers arm guiding her around gently so she had her back to her then eased her body up against her own. She ignored her feelings of uncertainty as she brought her hand down putting it on her waist while keeping her other hand on her arm. She really didn’t want her lover to be forced to look in to her open mouth from the front it would with out a doubt ruin the mood. She moved her nose so it was close to the other woman’s neck as she opened her jaws carefully not wanting to cause her any harm. She carefully pulled out her tongue running it up the length of her neck.

Xena breathed in sharply as the tongue moved further up her neck, it wasn’t like a dogs tongue at all. It wasn’t wet or sticky it was very soft but slightly rough like a cats tongue which added to the pleasant sensation. She closed her eyes as Gabrielle did it for a second time. Her lover wasn’t licking her in as straight line ether she was moving her tongue around the contours of her neck which added a strange feeling. She felt her stop as she closing her jaws then pushed her protruding canines against her skin moving them very gently along her neck line. The touch was incredibly light and enjoyable. Gabrielle eased her jaws away from the other woman’s neck she knew what the reaction would be her lover would hate it. Who wouldn’t? It wasn’t like any human being would like being licked. She watched as the other woman opened her eyes, she looked down at the floor as she spoke in a half hearted tone. “I know not your thing right?”

Xena blinked catching the pain in the other woman’s tone, she eased up her hand putting it against her head as she leaned up gently kissing her on her snout. “No I enjoyed it.” Gabrielle blinked feeling the shock hit home. “You did, you really mean that, you’re not just trying to make me feel better?” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “No Gabrielle I enjoyed it, what made you think that I’d hate it to start with?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply before looking up enjoying the sensation as the other woman’s hand stroked her face. “Pets lick people I thought you might see it like that.” Xena put her other hand over Gabrielle’s clawed one which was resting against her waist. “I don’t see you as a pet Gabrielle and anything you offer me no matter how different it is I would always try it. I want you to feel that you can do anything with me, just like you’ve done in the past. I don’t want my being human to stop you, doing anything you like or enjoy.”

She paused before speaking. “You being in this form shouldn’t stop our intimacy.” Gabrielle felt her grip around the other woman’s waist tighten as she hugged her closer enjoying her soothing touch. Her words really made her feel better deep down in side she closed her eyes enjoying the sensation as her fingers stroked her snout. Xena eyed the food on the plates then turned to the other woman. “Are you hungry?” Gabrielle opened her eyes eyeing the food close by which she had completely forgotten about. Truth was that she was hungry but her hunger could wait a little longer as she was enjoying this far too much. “Yes but the food can wait.” Xena felt a knowing smile form as she carried on stroking her face. “Yes I guess it can there’s no hurry.”

End of part 95

FEELING THE HATRED BURNING DEEP WITHIN YOUR SOUL

There all dead how can this be so? It’s like a nightmare the kind you only dream about Bastiaan was cruel and merciless. He killed all of my family now I’m on the run, running through a forest in broad day light and I have no idea where I’m going, I’m just letting my instincts guide me. I survived along with my brother and sister but we are the only survivors of this ruthless massacre of the White family. We were all able to get out of the house because we knew about a secret back entrance out of our great home we have never used it until now. We got out in to the city only to see that out ancient home which was built by our ancestors be set alight by Bastiaan. He pulled his warriors back then he shut the doors and barred them. He fully intended to burn us alive in side our own house just because he couldn’t find us in side the house after we fled the room after every one else had died. We had but one choice to run despite being followed by his warriors but we suffered along the way my sister has a deep glancing blow to her stomach which is bleeding heavily and my brother’s limping because a dagger was shoved in to his knee.

I can feel the sweat running down my face and the pain in my heart our family has always been so important and so needed and respected. Yet today that has vanished in the blink of an eye. The White family is no more my father and my mother are both dead our extended family are all dead as well. They spared no mercy, we tried to protect the children but they grabbed us and held us down and then killed them in front of us and forced us to watch. Then they started on the older family members after that killing them outright, we only got away because I was able to grab a smoke bomb and smash it in to the floor causing smoke to drift through the air blinding them all and giving us our only opportunity to run away. I feel completely out off my depth as I run through this forest, I have never been outside of my family home. I have always remained in side the walls in the Grand City only my mother ever visited the other werewolf cities but she’s gone now. I feel like nothing more than a relic and I cannot put the pain I feel in to words right now.

We have always served the Imperial Council and Horn Hind and my mother was only doing what was right and what was her duty. Yet she was murdered for it along with the rest of my family. I want to cry but I know my pain is nothing compared to my sister’s. She has lost her husband and mate. When a werewolf looses their bounded lover it’s like loosing a piece of his or her heart and soul. She has had mating urge and strengthened the bond and now her lovers been torn from her. For a werewolf this can cause intense depression and pain for many years and most will never take another lover after loosing the first, I’ve seen it. I can’t imagine the pain ahead of her, only that it won’t be nice or pleasant and all I can do is guide her through it and hope for the best. Halirrhothius stopped as he leaned against the nearest tree ignoring the blood as it ran down his hand from a deep gash made by Bastiaan’s sword.

He knew that Bastiaan’s men were still behind them though they had no idea how far away they would have to keep moving at all costs. He had heard that there was tunnel complex some way from here though it was dangerous. A hydra lived somewhere inside the maze of underground tunnels from an abounded second city which had never been completed. Most werewolf warriors wouldn’t use these tunnels and they wouldn’t go in to them ether because they valued there lives. He had head rumours that though those fleeing the Grand City were using this maze, though a large number were killed by the hydra lots of them had made it through the tunnel and avoided the monster completely. He turned to his sister who was leaning against the tree opposite holding her side. He could see the blood stains pouring down her torn peplos robes he really needed to dress both her wounds and his brothers. He moved closer to her catching sight of the tears as they ran down her face. “I need to deal with your wound Obelia.”

Obelia didn’t think as she slapped his larger hand away. “Don’t bother Halirrhothius!” Halirrhothius breathed in deeply. “The wound is deep it needs to be dealt with I need to stitch it up.” Obelia breathed in painfully watching as Akil sat down opposite her the pain in his face as he pulled the bloody rag away eyeing the wound on his knee which was quite deep and causing him to limp. She had lost her husband and a part of her wished she had not lived to see him be killed in front of her, his head had been severed from his body with an axe. She eyed her eldest brother ignoring the stinging pain as he pulled the torn robe piece free which she had used to stop the bleeding. She couldn’t stop herself crying out in pain as he touched the gaping wound which had cut so deep that she could see her own insides. The only reasons she was able to cope with it was because it was a glancing blow and not cutting all the way across her stomach it was only at the edge of her waist. Just like human’s werewolves suffered horrible pain when there insides were exposed but they could survive it but only if it was dealt with quickly and only if the wound was small like this one.

She watched as her eldest brother pulled out his herb bag she could only hope that her mother teaching had rubbed off on him. She breathed in painfully her mother was dead and so was her fathers. Gods this was like being in Tartarus though out her whole life she’d never experienced pain like this, she turned to Halirrhothius seeing the plan echoing out from his eyes. “You have a plan don’t you?” Halirrhothius nodded as he threaded the thick thread through the needle. “Yes I do, we are going to escape through the abounded city then we are going to Corinth.” Obelia tensed in pain as he started stitching. “Why are we going to Corinth?” Akil rolled his eyes looking at his younger sister. “No why are we going to the abounded city? We both know that, that bastard hydra lives there!” Halirrhothius looked up slowly. “Yes and no werewolf warrior in their right mind will follow us through not even Bastiaan.” He paused as he carried on stitching. “It’s worth the risk.” Akil sneered slightly. “Oh yes so worth the risk, you know werewolves get eaten in that place and that hydra is so well fed every week on run always. In fact I’ve heard that it’s become so used to werewolf meat now that it doesn’t even bother with eating human’s anymore!”

Halirrhothius looked at his thick stitches as he cut the thread seeing his sister wince in pain. “It’s a worth risk.” He breathed in deeply. “We are going to Corinth because we going to see the Golden Hind.” Obelia stood up fully ignoring the pain as she spoke feeling the burning rage in side her stomach. “My husband is dead because of her, I will not go to her side now!” Halirrhothius put the herbs in his mouth chewing on them as he pushed her back gently. He took the thick herb paste out of his mouth then pressed it in to of her stitched wound. “She is our king and our only ally right now Obelia. She didn’t kill our mother or your husband that was the Imperial Council you know as well as our do that our mother had a reason for everything she did.” Obelia stood up fully taking to take the pain as he put a fresh rag around her wound wrapping it tight. “No there was no reason behind this, this is reckless hate! We should flee, hide in Greece not follow the Golden Hind.”

Halirrhothius looked up sharply. “The Imperial Council will hunt us down and we stand out Obelia we all have white hair, even in human form. This is our only chance, we have alley ourselves to our king she will protect us.” Akil stood up eyeing him as he rewrapped his wound. “As much as I hate to say this Obelia, Halirrhothius is right this is our one and only chance to ally ourselves with our king. She will protect us from the Imperial Council if we don’t do this we will be hunted to extinction by them. They won’t rest until we are all dead. We are now a threat to them, that’s why they killed everyone.” Obelia put her hand on her wound which was still stinging painfully. “I think your both stupid bastards but that’s fine you want to lead us to our deaths then so be it but don’t expect me to kneel before the Golden Hind.” Halirrhothius turned to her. “You have to kneel to a Horn Hind Obelia, our family has always knelt down to the ruler you know this.”

Obelia looked up in disgust. “You may believe that but I never have, I’ve never even met the Golden Hind why should I bow to her?” Halirrhothius shook his head sadly watching as his brother gave him a knowing look. He knew that his sister was acting this way due to the pain she was going through both emotionally and physically and that she didn’t mean what she was saying. Maybe when they got to Corinth she would come around when they were safe at least that was all he could hope for. He breathed in painfully he couldn’t change his sisters view and he wouldn’t force his ideals on to her that was not his place. He was the oldest brother and his mother’s apprentice and he had to now guide what was left of the family to safety, he turned looking up at the sky. “We need to go we don’t have much time, Bastiaan won’t rest and nether should we.” Akil breathed in deeply putting his hand on his sister’s shoulder. “Do you know where you’re going Halirrhothius?” Halirrhothius turned slightly as he started to walk at a fast pace. “I have an idea.” Akil shook his head. “Well I hope to the gods that your idea gets us to safety.”

8

Gabrielle opened her eyes watching as the sun light streamed in through the balcony she breathed in feeling the arm which was wrapped around her waist and the larger body which was up against her own. She looked down seeing that the other woman had put the fur skin over her body after she had taken back her human form. She felt a felt a smile form she could hear the other woman’s slow deep rhythmic breathing, she was clearly in a very deep sleep. She moved her hand running over the other woman’s in a very gentle motion feeling her shift closer in her sleep. Last night had been very quite they’d just talked and enjoyed each others company before going to bed as they both needed to rest. She had just lain on the bed in werewolf form before falling to sleep. She had, had one of the most restful nights she’d ever had and she now felt so relaxed a part of her didn’t even want to move from her position it was just to comfortable.

She wouldn’t deny that she was surprised by Xena’s reaction to her being intimate to her in werewolf form she had not expected that reaction at all. She had expected the older woman to find it disgusting and to push her away. She had assumed that because she was human that she wouldn’t even want cross that boundary. She had been completely wrong though in her assumptions but then she had always been wrong when it came to her assumptions of Xena the other woman always surprised her at every turn. She had come to love that feeling of surprise just because it always made her feel accepted and that mattered to her more than anything. She didn’t have to hide or put up any pretence she could always be herself in this woman’s presence and that was so liberating. She breathed in deeply though she wouldn’t say it openly she knew now that she would die for this woman with out question, what ever she wanted she’d give her if not now, then someday.

She had never craved power but she wouldn’t deny that she had always craved love and acceptance and now that she had it again she was starting to truly feel whole once more. It had felt like such a long time since she had experienced this feeling, yet it was so nice to feel it once more. She’d fight to keep this feeling and do what ever it took to keep it, she would not loose it again, once had been enough. She breathed in only to feel a gentle kiss on her shoulders causing her snap out of her thoughts. She felt it again as the other woman’s arms wrapping around her naked body. Xena moved kissing the other woman’s neck gently before speaking. “Hello.” Gabrielle breathed in enjoying the sensation feeling a smile form. “Hi.” Xena kissed her neck again enjoying the feel of her body against her own. “Did you sleep well?” Gabrielle breathed in trying to stay focused which was getting harder by the second. “Yes I did, did you?”

Xena felt a naughty smile form as she watched as the other woman turn to face her. “Yes.” She moved meeting the other woman’s lips enjoying the warm sensation which was filled with a hint of desire. She shifted her whole body so she was on top of the younger woman as she carried on kissing her as she straddled her keeping her in place. Gabrielle closed her eyes easing her hands running them through the other woman’s dark hair enjoying the feel oh she could move and get out from under the other woman if she wanted to but why bother? It had been so long since she’d woken up to this kind of affection and love and it was so nice. Xena pulled herself free of the other woman’s lips taking in a deep breath as she spoke. “I love you.” Gabrielle felt the taller woman’s hands move as they locked in to her own. “I love you to.” She paused taking in a breath. “Will I get this every morning?” Xena kept her hands on the other woman’s she had learnt yesterday that she really didn’t like having her wrists touched or held, she would get a very nervous look in her eyes, then eased her hand out off her grip.

She was certain that this was due to Adrienne and her violence towards the younger woman but she wasn’t going to push her on the subject. It was very clear to her now that Gabrielle found it very difficult to relive these memories and she could always see a slightly distant look in her eye when she spoke about them. As though she was speaking about them from afar like she didn’t want to be a part of those memories despite living them. She couldn’t blame her for feeling that way, after all she had suffered and endured memories like these needed so much time to heal and Gabrielle had only really just started to heal. She’d bottled up all this pain for so long and never talked to anyone about it she also knew that though memories faded with time but the bitterness could remain like a foul aftertaste. The kind that stuck in the throat and took a long time to dissipate and the younger woman would need her support as she walked down this long road through her painful memories.

She shook away her thoughts as she turned to meet the other woman’s gaze feeling a warm smile form then eased up her hand up slowly running down the scar on her eye before leaning over to kiss it gently. “I’ll wake you up every day in this way if you want.” Gabrielle felt her smile widen. “I would like that very much.” She paused as an over whelming need to make her feelings known took over as she kissed the other woman back making no attempts to hide her passion as she spoke through her kisses. “I’d like that very much.” She carried on kissing only for her bliss to be shattered as a knock came as some one hammered on the Empress’s inner door. She found herself tensing in annoyance she wanted everyone to just leave her alone. Xena turned to the other woman seeing the annoyance her eyes as she moved her body off hers. “We should let them in.” Gabrielle put her hands on her face feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke. “No we shouldn’t.”

She tensed realizing that today she felt different she couldn’t really put her finger on it, all she could say was that she had this tense energy inside her and it felt like it had now where to go. She couldn’t shake it or calm it ether like she normally did it was there like a nail in the back of her mind. She put her hand to her face groaning it was almost felt like a headache, though she hadn’t felt it until now as her attention had been elsewhere, though she wouldn’t deny that she couldn’t remember what a headache felt like. She had not experienced one since becoming a werewolf and since she didn’t drink she’d never had the ill effects of one, so this feeling was very new to her. It was a painful and nervous feeling, she couldn’t control it and it was causing the slight aggression with in her. Xena eased herself over gently kissing her lover on the lips ignoring the knocking as it came again. She’d caught the slight aggression in her lover’s voice but put it down to their moment being ruined. “We have all the time in the world Gabrielle, plus we can catch up on this.” She met her lips again ensuring that the passion was felt in her kiss. “Later.”

She turned slowly to the door as she eased the sheet up to cover her naked body fully. “Come in!” She watched as Ceto walked in a very uncertain look on her face as she spoke. “My apologises for interrupting you both.” Xena felt a smile form. “It’s no problem Ceto, what’s wrong?” Gabrielle breathed in suddenly feeling nervous as she pulled the cover further up her naked body, feeling her desire go cold instantly. She wasn’t used to people seeing her this way even in the Grand city people hadn’t walked in to her room like this, with the exception of Damokles who she had always allowed in regardless of how well dressed she was. Adrienne on the other hand walked in regardless of her feelings which she’d always loathed. Ceto breathed in deeply. “Demetrius says that he needs to speak to you its urgent, he says he wouldn’t bother but you always told him that if this person comes here you want to be told right away.” Xena breathed in sharply she knew who Ceto was referring to and that was her order if this person showed up on her door step. “Please bring him in.” She looked down as Ceto nodded as she opened the doors behind her letting Demetrius in, she left closing it behind her.

She looked up meeting his gaze watching as his face formed a warm smile before he spoke. “Good morning Empress, Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked away not meeting his gaze trying to hide the embarrassment. Her lover on the other hand didn’t seem to be bothered about being seen in bed with someone, she was very calm and relaxed. Xena felt a smile form as she eyed Demetrius. “Morning Demetrius.” She didn’t mind him being here, he was after all her most trusted friend and she was happy right now for everyone to know that her relationship with the other woman had gone to the next level. She had never been happier in her life for people to know how she felt than she did right now. Demetrius looked up slightly. “I apologise for troubling you but you always said that if Theodore appears at the palace that I’m to tell you regardless of where you are or what you are doing.” Gabrielle carried on looking away not wanting to meet his gaze as she spoke quietly. “Who is Theodore?” Xena turned meeting her lovers gaze. “Theodore does all the palace accounts he also insures the safety of the treasury if it weren’t for him and the three others who work with him I wouldn’t know if there are problems going on inside my palace walls or outside of it.”

She took in a deep breath. “It was his quick thinking which led me to the fact that money was being pinched from my coffers all that time ago, he’s a brilliant man with a great head for numbers and he can tell when the books have been switched or changed.” Demetrius felt his body tense. “Only problem is he’s a very difficult man to deal with.” Xena shook her head truth was that the man was a pain in the ass and she hated dealing with him but she knew that every six months she had to. “Difficult that’s an underestimate he’s an annoying bastard I only put up with it because he has a brilliant head for numbers. The only person he gets on with in this whole palace is Chara everyone else he just rubs everyone the wrong way because he thinks we are all stupid since we don’t see the world like he does.” Demetrius looked up slightly. “Well he’s waiting for you in the study and he’s not in a good mood.” Xena rolled her eyes. “Great.” She turned back to Demetrius. “Give me a few moments, I want to get washed and dressed then I’ll go and greet him, tell Ceto to bring me my breakfast in the study.”

Demetrius nodded calmly. “As you wish Empress.” He turned towards the double doors only to stop as a smile formed on his face. “I’ll let you get back to what ever it was you were doing.” Xena felt her smile widen as she caught the playful tone in his voice she turned seeing that Gabrielle looked both stunned and embarrassed she could see a shade of red appearing in her cheeks as he closed the doors behind him. She turned to the younger woman she clearly wasn’t used to people seeing her in bed with the person she loved it very enduring. She moved her hand out running her fingers down her cheek seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. “You shouldn’t be embarrassed Gabrielle, you’re my consort, people should know that I love you.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply slowly regaining her composer. “I’ve never had people see me under the bed sheets before I’m not used to it.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “I’m sorry it’s clear that you need more time to get used to this, I’ll try and take things a little slower.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she sat up ignoring the pain which had come back to her temples along with the tense energy. “I’ll let you go you clearly need to visit this man.”

Xena leaned against her kissing her head gently. “Frankly I’d rather not.” Gabrielle looked down slightly. “But you have to, I understand its part of being a leader in that you have to something’s deal with things which you don’t like.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Yes, look once I’ve dealt with this man I’ll do my paper work and catch up, then we can spend time together.” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “I need to do my own paper work its mounting up and I need to speak to Thaleia as well, we have not spoken in a while.” Xena eased herself out of bed walking over to bathroom she could see the other woman’s eyes followed her, the slight hint of lust in them. “Then it would seem that we both have some catching up to do.” Gabrielle felt a playful smile form as she eyed the other woman’s naked back tracing the muscles on her shoulders with her eyes, by Ouroboros waking up to this everyday made life worth living. She almost felt like a giddy teenager once more, who had just found love and that feeling was so good to experience, it had been so long since she’d felt it

End of part 96

 

ROTTING DESIRES FOR GOLD AND GLORY

Xena walked in to the huge study watching as the man in thick velvet red and purple robes along with brown leather boots and decorative leather wrists gauntlets looked up. He was slightly older than her and had red hair and a goitre beard which was just as red. He wasn’t well built though and was rather scrawny. She had heard that he’d always wanted to be a marks man with a crossbow but he had none of the skill. Frankly she couldn’t imagine him holding any weapon. He was an aristocrat through and through and not pleasant company, hence why he was still single, his so called brilliant mind made him unbearable to be around. She had heard that he only got on with Chara because they were from the same village in Crete a place called Vryses. They had been childhood friends before their lives had taken them in very different directions, despite this though they still remained friends despite their very different positions. She took in a deep breath watching as his eyes fell up on her, gods give her strength she really wasn’t in the mood for his rude comments today.

She slowly sat herself on one of the sideways sofa’s watching as he gave her an ice cold look as he eyed the document he was reading. “Good morning Theodore.” Theodore eyed the document watching as the Empress began to eat her breakfast which the personal maid had left close to her chair. “Is it?” Xena carried on eating ignoring his cold tone watching as Ceto breathed in deeply behind her from her standing position she didn’t want to be here ether. “Well it’s a beautiful day outside despite the cold.” Theodore eyed the document again not bothering to look at her as he rolled his eyes over the figures. “You’re over spending these past months have been ridiculous.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Oh really I am, how is that?” Theodore eyed the document un-amused by her playful tone. “As amusing as you find this Empress, I’m not amused you’ve spent money replacing whole rooms you brought new furniture for two whole rooms along with lots of clothes and wood tools for the gods only know what! Oh and new throne room doors, new furniture for one of the games room and the guests dinning room as well as a new glass window which wasn’t cheap.” He eyed her in disgust. “Forgive me but what are you doing to break these rooms that they need to be replaced so often?”

Xena looked at him for a long moment realizing that the spending he was referring to was her early time with Gabrielle when the younger woman had lost her temper and had destroyed her room and the corridor along with the throne room door. The other spending had been her ensuring that her lover was happy by buying her clothes and all the things she desired which she had no regrets about doing, since Gabrielle had been denied so much during her life. While the other destroyed rooms and the window had been Gabrielle fighting against those who were against her and wanted to end her life. “I can explain this.” Theodore lowered the document meeting her gaze for the first time during their meeting. “Please do, I’d be so interested to know you managed to break the solid oak throne doors, among other things.” Xena breathed in deeply. “I amuse you have not heard the news.” Theodore looked up slightly. “What news would that be?” Xena picked up her goblet taking a sip of the water inside. “That I have a consort, she’s very beautiful.” Theodore blinked before taking in a deep breath. “Oh see and I assume that now you have some girl sharing your bed that you like to show off to her by breaking furniture? Or did you just have an argument and trash the rooms in question?”

Xena breathed in feeling the frustration take over. “I did not trash those rooms and I can explain in detail what happened.” Theodore looked up breathing in deeply. “Well for what ever reason you trashed them I hope your fling with this piece of ass ends soon because this spending needs to end.” Xena didn’t think as she stood up unable to stop the rage as it burnt up in her stomach. Gabrielle was not some piece of ass she was her lover and her consort and one day in the future when she was ready she would marry her. She felt her hand form a fist as she spoke unable to keep the venom out of her tone. “How dare you talk about my lover like she’s a common whore, her name is Gabrielle and I’m in love with her and you will not speak about her again in this way!” She raised her hand feeling her anger rise in her chest. “I put up with a lot from you Theodore more than I should and you may not like me but that gives you no excuse to speak about the one I love in this manner! Is that understood?” Theodore blinked in shock feeling himself tense. He had never once seen the Empress get mad not like this, he breathed in steadying himself he had obviously made a critical error and he needed to apologise quickly. “My deepest apologises Empress that was a poor choice of words on my part.”

Xena turned sitting back down not bothering to hide her disgust as she spoke. “I hope for your sake that its last or we have nothing more to talk about.” Theodore look in a deep breath he had never been threatened by the Empress before let alone seen her loose her temper. He breathed in choosing his next words carefully. “You will forgive me its just your last two relationships were flings which lasted about two weeks.” Xena bit in to her food not bothering to look at him as she spoke. “Yes they were flings but this is not a fling, this is serious Gabrielle has been here for just over six months and I consider her my equal.” Theodore looked up slightly. “I see and who is this Gabrielle might I ask, I assume she is off good breeding?” Xena carried on eating. “She’s a royal is that good enough for you?” Theodore looked up sharply. “A royal what did you one of the Greek royals spit up?” Xena took in a deep breath slowly calming her self down. “No she isn’t, I don’t make a habit of stealing others peoples husbands or wives. Gabrielle is the werewolf king or Horn Hind if you prefer a title.” Theodore blinked in shock as he spoke. “Werewolf king, as in werewolf that’s walks up right and tears peoples head off?”

Xena paused before swallowing her mouth full eyeing him she should have known that this was the reaction she’d get. “No as in werewolf who is a sentient being and who can speak and feel pain just like anyone else and who can change forms.” Theodore looked at the dark haired woman clearly she’d lost her mind, she was having sex with an over sized dog which could rip her head off at any given moment but he wasn’t going to say this aloud. “What do you mean change forms?” Xena finished her breakfast plate watching as Ceto picked it up putting it to one side. “As in she has human form during the day and can change in to a werewolf at night.” Theodore breathed in deeply okay well that was news to him he had no idea that werewolves had a human form but it explained a few things. He put a hand on his beard. “So can you please tell me how the rooms got wrecked then?” He had to confess a part of him really didn’t want to know. Xena looked up meeting his confused gaze. “Gabrielle had some disputes with her people it resulted in games room being destroyed along with the guest dinner room and the glass window.”

She breathed in painful, sadly she had to be honest with this man, despite that she wanted to keep this to herself. “In the beginning I also had a dispute with her this resulted in her destroying one of the lower floors room’s as well as the items in the hall ways and the throne rooms oak doors.” She took hold of her goblet finishing the water in it. “She was not to blame for what happened I was as my treatment of her was very poor and I pushed her too far, I made it up to her by giving her all that she desired.” She paused taking in a deep breath. “I later fell in love with her and that has attributed to the extra spending.” Theodore looked at the scroll in his hand. “I see…” He paused feeling unsure of his next words. “I amuse this is two of the rooms having brand new furniture and such?” Xena breathed in deeply. “Yes it was but don’t expect me to spend any less on her.” Theodore raised an eyebrow. “So does Gabrielle have any gold she can give to your treasury, if she’s going to marry you she does need a dowry?” Xena eased up her hand the truth was that her lover had no gold right now but she had no intention of telling him that. “Yes we have an agreement but it will only come in to play once we are married.”

Theodore took in a deep breath. “Well I hope it brings coin to the coffers and gold to the treasury.” Xena felt her body tense, how greedy of him to think about Gabrielle’s gold and nothing more, he wasn’t even interested in her marriage plans or congratulating her. “Did you wish to meet my consort at all?” Theodore took a sip from his wine goblet. “No I’m just here to ensure your books are balanced.” Xena shifted forward on the sofa feeling a cold smile form. “Oh no I insist you clearly have preconceptions about my new lover, so I want to put them to rest before we carry on.” Theodore swallowed watching as she stood up. “Oh no really it would be rude.” Xena turned watching as Ceto gave her a very knowing smile, she turned slowly to him. “It’s not a request Theodore it’s an order.” Theodore stood up slowly oh gods he was going to die, this werewolf would probably rip his head off and use his insides for a jump rope. He breathed in deeply as he looked at the Empress who had raised an eyebrow. “As you wish Empress.”

8

Thera leaned against the wall of the barracks her shift would be over soon and she could go home to her children and her lover. Yet time always felt like it was moving slower now for some reason. She preferred to be out on petrol in the city yet she was stuck here doing bounty duty, she hated bounty duty. It wasn’t so much handing over the coin over for murders, rapists and vile criminals who were brought in ether alive or dead it was the altitude of the mercenaries and assassins who brought them in. They all had inflated egos and delusions of grandeur, yet most were no better than murders. It was all about the money to them not about the honour of doing something worth while which helped others. It was just a sad fact though that these people were necessary, if a criminal ran or got away from the city guard they were there to stop them in there tracks. The big game though had always been dealt with by Iona and her men they were criminals and warlords with real power that no common mercenary no matter how good could get to.

Saying that though a couple had slipped through Iona’s fingers through out the years one was Joxer the Warrior King who had always been just out of her reach he was wanted for crimes of pillaging food and supplies from cities and temples. Talus was next in line he had criminal list of slavery charges as long as her arm ranging from rape, assault and murder. There was also a warlord Glaphyra who was an utter tyrant, apparently she loved to skin people alive and then put their bodies out to dry just to send a message of her dominance, she was a complete psychopath. All these three had very good contacts which made them hard as Tartarus to kill because they always had an escape plan or people who could help them. These three were the most wanted with the highest prices on their heads anyone who killed any one of these three or brought them in alive would not only get a lot of coin but an audience with the Empress herself. Many had tried but they had never come back alive because the target they were trying to kill was just so out of their league.

She looked up feeling her smile fade as she caught sight of the Red Griffin walking towards the barracks she was unmistakable with her Trojan shield and colours she wore. She breathed in deeply she was another with an inflated ego and she did nothing but kill slave traders, normally most mercenaries were dynamic. They liked to bring in all types of criminal but she really specialized, true she did a good service in getting rid of them before they even got started but it was all small time criminals and only the ones who slipped through the Empress’s net from time to time. She had never liked her attitude ether but then that was the reason that the Red Griffin had been dismissed from the army because she just couldn’t follow orders and she didn’t respect those above her, who were her commanders. Now she was hanging around with a satyr who was just as obnoxious as she was, he was another throw away from the main army, who just couldn’t take orders. She forced a smile as the woman who was about her age walked in to the barracks closely followed by the black furred satyr who looked smug. “Hello Red Griffin.”

Lila eyed the woman who was one of the city guards who clearly didn’t like her, not that she really cared a lot of people didn’t like her. She smiled frankly she could wait to rub it in that she had killed one of the top three most  wanted who had slipped out of even Iona’s grasp and she was meant to be the best of the best. “It’s a wonderful day isn’t it?” Thera eyed her for a long moment. “Yes a lovely day was there something you wanted, because I’m busy right now.” Lila felt her smile widen. “We killed a slave trader.” Thera eyed her. “Wonderful I’ll pay your fifty coins per head and then you can both go away.” Lila narrowed her gaze. “Oh no I think this one is worth much more than fifty coin.” Thera eyed her in disgust. “I doubt it.” Lila raised her bag shoving it in to her chest. “This is one of the most wanted we are owed over a thousand in coin and an audience with the Empress.”

Thera eyed the small bloody bag feeling her sneer form. “You killed one of the three? I don’t think so people who are at your skill level don’t get to kill the top three.” Korudon raised his clawed hand. “You don’t believe us open the bag and see for yourself, that’s the hand of Talus!” Thera breathed in deeply they were both delusional and this was another reason she hated bounty duty she loathed looking at rotting limbs. She opened the bag trying to ignore the vile smell as she caught sight of the rotting hand complete with its signet ring. She felt the shock hit home as she eyed it there was no denying it, it was Talus’s ring she knew the insignia well enough but how these two had managed to kill him was beyond her. She closed the bag shoving it back in to the dark haired woman’s chest. “I don’t know how you both did this but this is his ring, clearly the gods sometimes grace idiots from time to time.” Lila closed the bag tight. “Well that means you have to be the idiot who brings us both up to the palace doesn’t it?”

Thera felt a sneer form well this had now ruined her day she would have to take these two the palace gates personally which meant it would be a long while before she got home. She turned eyeing the dark haired woman whose sea blue eyes could be seen even through her helmet sockets. “Believe me when I say Iona won’t take any crap from you.” She breathed in deeply. “Step out of line there and Iona will kill you both herself and don’t think for a second that she’s a push over because she protects the Empress. I’ve met her in person more than once she has no patience for smart ass remarks.” She pulled up her hand. “Oh and one other thing before I forget, your permitted to be on your best behaviour the Empress now has a consort and should you meet her you are to be well behaved and polite.” Lila smirked this was the first time she’d heard this news she had no idea that the Empress had found a new lover.

Though it being a woman didn’t really surprise her much the Empress had, had other lovers in the past which had been both men and women. They had been very short lived flings and none of them had ever lasting more than two weeks for some reason. Clearly this one had though, which was a surprise. “Should I be scared of this queen to be?” Thera felt an inward smile form the city guard and the hoplites had been the first people to reserve the news about the Empress’s new consort who was the same woman that the Empress had been looking for in the city not long ago. Frankly though she had no intention of letting this woman or her friend, know that this blonde woman was not to be toyed with, she was a royal in her own right and a warrior through and through. The Empress would not tolerate anyone being rude to her and those who were didn’t get away with it as she was clearly very much in love with this woman. She felt a smile form as she eyed the Red Griffin. “Well let’s just say it would be very foolish on your part.”

8

Gabrielle looked down at the document written in werewolf hand for a second time, there was no denying it now she had to talk to Xena regarding the issue of a werewolf diplomat to join the Corinthian council as just about all of these letters were requests for one. She knew why those who were on her side wanted this. It was clear that the moment it got out that she was Xena’s consort the Imperial Council would loose it completely as she’d be breaking the most scared law and they’d throw everything they had at her. The Corinthian werewolves wanted protection and having a diplomat among the Corinthians would give them a feeling of equality and protection as they’d be deemed as being on Xena’s side. She looked down at the written piece again. If she couldn’t secure a diplomat then she would have to think off something else but she was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. She breathed in deeply eyeing the remaining letters which were letters from werewolves who were concerned about the Imperial Council and asking for protection from them. She needed to send out a letter stating that every werewolf in Corinth was under her protection and that she’d do everything in her power to ensure their safety.

She looked up as the double doors to her room were opened by Ceto she was about to speak only to stop as Xena walked through closely followed by a red haired man who looked very nervous. She felt her eyes dart as Ceto gave her a sly smile before closed the doors behind her disappearing from sight. She breathed in deeply meeting her lovers gaze. “Is everything okay?” Xena didn’t think as she used her arm to push Theodore forward so he was in the room she let go off his shoulder then walked over to the other woman putting her hand on the table as she leaned down speaking in a calm tone. “Gabrielle this is Theodore.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment. “Theodore… you mean the Theodore you had a meeting with?” Xena leaned over gently kissing the side of her face. “Yes, he wanted to come in and say hello to you.” She eased herself up slowly. “I have some paperwork to finish so I’ll be in my study.” Gabrielle looked at the taller woman for a long moment. “Why do I need to talk to him?” Xena turned as she opened the central door between their rooms. “Because he has some preconceptions about werewolves, you should put his mind at rest.” Gabrielle watched as her lover gave her a sly smile before closing the door behind her.

She turned slowly to the red haired man who looked even more nervous as he looked around him. “Please take a seat.” Theodore looked at her for a long moment. “So you’re Gabrielle and you’re a werewolf?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply suddenly she could see why her lover had pushed this man in here because he was clearly afraid of her and the concept of what she was. “Yes I’m a werewolf.”  Theodore carefully pulled up a chair sitting down in front of her. “This is your human form?” Gabrielle put her hands together. “If it makes you feel any better, I can’t transform until it gets dark, so you have nothing to fear from me.” Theodore eyed the scrolls she was reading which were in another language which he had never seen before he looked at her for a long moment. She was the complete opposite in appearance to the Empress he could also see a deep diagonal scar above her right eye though it was very old and had long healed. She was also dressed in a long sleeve shirt, trousers and knee high boots, he had expected her to be in a dress. He had not expected the Empress’s lover to look this way at all and he had assumed that she would be some noble snotty up tight bitch, that was what the Greek royals were normally like, he had once had to endure a meeting Queen Diana.

That was meeting he would prefer to forget the royal bitch had done nothing but brag about her brilliance even though she had not done anything worthy of the name of royal. Most of the Greek royals didn’t even grasp that the only reason they had any power at all was because the Empress allowed it, she ruled them and she could take away their power in a heart beat. They were just under the dilution that she wouldn’t because she was nice, which was very foolish. The woman before him though was no snob, he turned catching sight of a sword lying near by she was a warrior? Well suddenly the Empress’s interest in her made much more sense she was a warrior despite being a royal. He paused before speaking unsure of his next words. “You’re not what I expected.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “What were you expecting?” Theodore breathed in deeply. “A royal snob…” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form as she looked at him clearly this was going to be very interesting for her. “I don’t care for royal snobs myself…I met a few once, it wasn’t a very present experience.” Theodore breathed in feeling himself relax in the chair. “So tell me how did you and the Empress meet?”

End of part 97

WHEN ALL IS NOT QUITE AS IT SEEMS

Theodore looked at Gabrielle for a very long moment, this was not what he had expected to hear at all and he now had a lot to think about. He had no idea that werewolves had their own language and culture and that they lived in underground cities. He had also learnt that the werewolf king had the horns of a deer. She had told him that the Empress’s had found her in the prison pit though he could see that she was keeping some parts of the story back about there getting together but he knew that was for personal reasons. He didn’t mind that she had not told him everything though. What was very clear to him was that Gabrielle’s feelings for the Empress were very strong he could see it her eyes. She had also admitted to breaking things and had said that it had been her fault she was clearly being the noble warrior hence why she was openly confessing to what she had done, what she had said was enough to clean up the whole money issue. He was sure in time that the gold from her dowry would make up for the damage, so he had no complaints. Strangely though she was much quieter than the Empress and not as open, which he wasn’t used to as he had no idea what she was thinking. She seemed so formal and despite the odd smile now and again she had been serious through out their whole meeting.

Obviously she had another side to her which the Empress adored and he had seen it for just for a spilt second when the Empress had kissed her but it had vanished in an instant and she had turned serious. He had to confess that it was now time for him to go he had to get back to his villa he eased up his hand adjusting his wrist gauntlet. Gabrielle looked up slightly about to say something only to stop as she caught sight of something which was on Theodore’s arm partly covered by his robe which she recognised insanity. Theodore put his hand down as he looked up. “I feel that I have taken up to much of your time already Gabrielle, it has been a pleasure to meet you.” He felt the force as Gabrielle hand shot out grabbing his wrist in a lighting fast motion he tried to move his arm only to find that he couldn’t as she had it locked in an iron grip. Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment before easing up his arm. She ignored his shock as she pulling up his sleeve eyeing the black tattoo which was the symbol of her goddess Ouroboros. She kept hold of his wrist seeing the uncertainty and fear in his eyes as she spoke. “Did you have a dream which told you to come here today?”

Theodore breathed in watching as her intense gaze fell up on him, he knew he was in trouble. Ouroboros was not a well known goddess and those who worshipped her were viewed as heretics in Corinth. There had not been a temple built to Ouroboros in over two decades, those who worshiped her now had no choice but to stay out of site and worship her image in private. He felt his body tense as he looked up. “Please you can’t tell the Empress, I don’t want to get in to trouble for worshipping an ancient goddess.” Gabrielle shook her head clearly he didn’t understand were she was coming from. She loosened her grip on his wrist so it was more gently as she used her other hand to ease her leather chain out of her shirt so he could the bone symbol on it. She watched as the shock appeared in his eyes as she let go of his wrist. “You misunderstand I would never bring harm to a fellow worshipper.” She looked up as he adjusted his sleeve. “That is why I ask, was it a dream that brought you here to the palace today?” Theodore breathed in deeply feeling his body relax fully, well this was a shock and a half the Empress’s consort was a worshipper of Ouroboros.

He put his hands together feeling it only right to answer her question as they were clearly on the same wave length. “I do not tell people that I worship Ouroboros but have ever since I was fifteen. I saw a snake crying blood as it lay in a temple ruin I watched as it began to eats its own tail. It was lying opposite a broken statue of Ouroboros which had been destroyed during one of the older wars. I saw it as a sign that I had been picked by Ouroboros for greater things.” He paused feeling unsure of his next words. “I have never seen the goddess herself but she has whispered to me in my dreams it was her whisper that told me to go to Corinth many years ago. It was that same whisper that told me today to visit the palace. I didn’t understand the reasoning as I was going to hold off coming here and send one of my helpers in my place but now it’s all very clear to me.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “Is there a temple or place of worship for our goddess in Corinth?”

Theodore breathed in deeply. “There is no temple but there is a place of worship, though you may not like how you have to get there.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “How would I get there?” Theodore met her intense gaze he could see that she that was serious. “Ever heard of the Rams Head Villa?” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Yes I’ve heard of it…it’s a villa that has orgy parties.” Theodore shook his head. “No that’s its outward appearance, lets just say yes orgy parties go on there but it has a hidden area which you can get to through the wine cellar which is under the building. There you can find our goddess’s people, there you can worship freely and give an offering be it in blood or wine. You can talk to the priest and priestess about your problems and they will help you. We have to do it this way because the last temple we tried to build in Corinth was destroyed just before the Empress took the throne and we can’t risk the destruction of another temple.”

Gabrielle felt her body tense. “How was the temple destroyed?” Theodore looked around him making sure no one was listening. “Despite the law in place to allow the worship of all gods the priests and priestess’s of the other temples do not like our goddess. They had a group set fire to the temple so they could purify the earth it was laid up on. They said Ouroboros was a hectic and should not be worshipped by anyone that is why no one who worships Ouroboros speaks about it freely anymore as it can be frowned up on. Keeping our place of worship safe is what matters we will not have our goddess’s temple burnt down again no matter what.” He paused as a question crossed his mind. “The Empress does not mind that you worship Ouroboros?” Gabrielle put her hands together. “No she doesn’t mind at all I even have the symbol of my goddess on my doors, didn’t you see it when you came in?”  Theodore shook his head. “No I did not.” He lowered his gaze to the floor, this was a huge surprise the Empress allowed her lover to worship Ouroboros freely this would be a huge revelation for those at the hidden temple to learn.

He breathed in deeply there was question he now really needed to know the answer to. “How long have you worshipped Ouroboros?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I began worshipping her when I was a teenager.” She put her hand on her pendants bone symbol. “I found this leather chain and I had a vision and it told me to wear this symbol.” Theodore raised his hand slowly. “So werewolves have no hated towards Ouroboros?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No they don’t, all gods and goddess’s are worshipped by werewolves even the Norse and Celtic gods. Religion is considered a person’s free choice as life has been hard for my race. In some cases it’s been brutal and short and because of this open worship is allowed.” Theodore turned about to say more only to stop as the doors were opened and a dark skinned woman entered the room carrying a breakfast tray. He turned slowly to Gabrielle. “We shall have to talk more about this some other time as I can see that your maid has brought you, your breakfast and I am late to my other meetings.”

Gabrielle watched as he walked past Thaleia who put her breakfast tray down in front of her giving her a smile. She turned as Theodore opened the double doors. “Another time then.” Theodore nodded as he looked up. “Another time.” Thaleia watched as the strange red haired man closed the doors behind him. “Who was that?” Gabrielle turned slowly to her. “The accountant, the Empress wanted me to get to know him better, his name is Theodore.” Thaleia slowly sat herself in the chair opposite looking at her best friend she really needed to explain where she’d been these past few days. “I’m sorry I have not been around.” Gabrielle felt a smile form as she took a drink from her fruit juice. “Where have you been?” She had a feeling that she knew already but she wanted Thaleia to tell her. Thaleia felt a wide smile form. “I told Demetrius how I felt about him.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “How did it go?” Thaleia put her hands together. “It went better than I expected we have been spending a lot of time together.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “Have you done anything yet?” Thaleia pushed against her arm playfully. “No not yet, we have just slept together in bed.”

Gabrielle took another long drink from her goblet. “Well that explains why he was so happy when he visited the Empress’s room this morning.” Thaleia breathed in deeply as the question that had been playing her mind came back to haunt her, it had been there since she’d woken up in Demetrius’s arms this morning as he’d come in to her room once more to sleep. “You’ve slept with men haven’t you, what’s it like?” Gabrielle put her hand on her face she should have seen this coming. Thaleia was very innocent about certain subjects. “It’s nice.” Thaleia eyed her for a long moment she knew Gabrielle well enough to see that she was avoiding the question. “That’s not a real answer, I mean does it hurt?” Gabrielle breathed in before taking a bite out of her smoked fish. “Yes it will hurt…but it’s a good pain and you’re very lucky as it will be with someone you love, very few people are ever that fortunate.” Thaleia blinked in surprise. “You mean your first time wasn’t with someone you loved?”

Gabrielle shook her head. “No it was with a young man who was just desperate to have sex…I was just as desperate to and I thought it would take away the pain I was feeling of loosing my family and my life being turned up side down. With out the feelings and the emotions it’s not the same, it wasn’t until Damokles I came to realize how different it is when someone loves you and you love them back.” Thaleia folded her arms as knowing smile spread across her lips. “Do you feel that again with the Empress?” Gabrielle swallowed her mouthful as she looked up. “Yes I do.” She knew she should say more but there were so many feelings and emotions she needed to work through. She loved the older woman more than she could say. Thaleia felt her smile turn to a sly one. “You know I went in your room when you weren’t there I heard you having a very good time with the Empress, clearly she makes you very happy.” Gabrielle looked down at her food not wanting to meet Thaleia’s gaze. “Yes we had a good time.” Thaleia laughed seeing a hint of embarrassment in Gabrielle’s eyes, though she was doing her best to hide it. “So she’s good in bed then?”

Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Thaleia!” Thaleia felt a smirk form on her lips. “What I’m just curious.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes there really was no getting out of this if she tried Thaleia would only push harder for an answer. “Yes she’s good…can we leave it at that?” Thaleia leaned forward feeling her self turn serious. “You know it’s good to see you this happy Gabrielle we all remember the person you used to be and for a time we thought that you’d never be happy despite that you deserved to be.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her dark gaze. “This is my home Thaleia, I’m happy here because of you, you’re my family I consider you my sister.”  Thaleia stood up throwing her arms around the other woman before she could stop her. “I’m so glad you feel this way, I always considered you my sister and you know that my mother considers you a daughter.” She pulled away from the other woman giving her a wide smile. “Well you know her werewolf daughter, who goes around breaking heads.” Gabrielle felt a smile form as she playful pushed the other woman. “Very funny Thaleia.”

8

Xena eased up the heated meat taking a bite out of it savouring the flavour she’d taken some from the kitchen after doing her paper work, which was finally complete. It was nothing interesting just the usual boring complaints along with the typical requests which she was going to ignore as they were driven by greedy nobles. The only requests she never ignored were those sent by the working class or any that showed any signs of poverty. She saw it as her duty as leader to do everything in her power to end poverty and though it was an up ward struggle she firmly believed that no man, woman or child should ever go hungry. They should all have bread daily and be able to afford, to make bread, bread was a stable in the Greek Empire and unlike Rome she didn’t depend on Egypt for her full supply. It was all grown on her own lands and she made sure that it always stored. The only reason she went through so much trouble to do this was after seeing Rome’s supply run out because Egypt’s ships weren’t bringing it in and people had starved.

This was of because Ptolemy and Cleopatra couldn’t rule worth a damn and didn’t have a brain between them. Bickering stupid Egyptians, she’d never liked ether of them. She hated Ptolemy because he was sadistic and vile and Cleopatra his older sister reviled in it, she was just as power hungry as he was all the lands they owned had come about through war and conquest. They were meant to be married but anyone worth their salt knew that they both had on the side lovers, because they couldn’t stomach the thought of sleeping with each other. Despite that the kings and queens of Egypt had been marrying there brothers and sisters for centuries they had broken with tradition. Their marriage was in essence no more than a political front. She also knew that all of their four children were the product of their on the side lovers. Though it was never mentioned publicly as they had both agreed a vow of silence and that no matter who the lover was the child was they had to be treated as a possible heir, taken care of and never told who there real father or mother was.

She had heard whispers from her spies that both of them were setting up for conquest and there wandering eye was on both Rome and Greece which deeply unsettled her. The only thing that was keeping them at bay right now was that she and the Roman Emperor Tiberius both had stronger armies at sea and land but she knew though that the day would come when they finally made their move. They both wanted to conqueror the known world and she knew well enough from her late husband that conquest was a dangerous addiction. The more you got the more you wanted it was a drug you could never have enough of and a thirst you could never quench. She looked up catching sight of Gabrielle the younger woman was coming towards her walking calmly through the gardens. She stopped in front of her lover who was clearly in deep thought about something. She felt a smile form on her lips as she met the other woman’s gaze. “So tell me how did your meeting with Theodore go?” Gabrielle eased out her hand taking hold of the other woman’s. “Well we came to an understanding.”

Xena leaned closer putting her hand on the younger woman’s collar running it down the edge. “Really?” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “We worship the same goddess.” Xena blinked in surprise. “Wait he worships Ouroboros?” Gabrielle nodded as she looked at the afternoon sun which would soon be setting she could feel the slight chill on her body from the ice cold breeze. “Yes.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “He never told me that.” Gabrielle eased up her hand. “He is under the impression that worshipping Ouroboros will be frowned up on, it seems that some people in Corinth believe that my goddess is a heretic and they have reacted badly to those worshipping her. He even stated that before your rule a temple to my goddess was being built but the rival priests and priestess’s from other temples paid others to see it burnt to the ground. All those who worship Ouroboros are now forced to worship out of site of others.” Xena looked at her lover for a long moment this was news to her, she had never stated that Ouroboros was a forbidden goddess of worship. Nor did she condone others persecuting people because they worshipped an older god she felt her smile fade away. “What can do to fix this?”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Talk to Theodore when he returns, I believe he wants the persecution of Ouroboros to stop.” Xena eased up her hand running it down the younger woman’s face. “That’s what he wants but what do you want Gabrielle?” Gabrielle eased up her hand putting it on the other woman’s. “I want what he wants I don’t like the idea of people who worship my goddess suffering just for doing so.” Xena leaned forward gently meeting her lips it was a warm and tender kiss which lasted for a few moments before she pulled away meeting the other woman’s uncertain gaze. “I will see it done I will ensure that no one is allowed to bring harm to those who worship your goddess again. It’s already in my laws that worshipping other gods and goddess is not forbidden so the fact that these laws have been ignored demands retribution.” Gabrielle shook her head. “You don’t have to be cruel to these people just point them in the right direction.” Xena moved her hand down easing Gabrielle’s leather chain free she ran her thumb over the bone carving with its red eyes. “Don’t worry I won’t hurt them.”

She gently put the chain back in Gabrielle’s shirt. “I’ll just give them a good scare it normally works on priests and priestess.” She paused before looking up feeling the need to change the subject. “Would you like to go inside its a little cold out here?” Gabrielle looked up slightly she wasn’t really feeling it but if the other woman was cold then she didn’t mind going inside. “Sure.” Xena moved towards the lions at the far end of the garden which led in to the large open room. She stopped cleaning her boots watching as Gabrielle did the same before entering. “Tell me about the werewolves in Corinth. I realize that I have forgotten to ask you, despite that we both talked about it.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she finished cleaning her boots before walking towards the other woman who sat herself down on one of cushions close by. Even from here she could hear the children behind the closed door doing their studies. She eased her hand in to her shirt pocket pulling a card free as she sat down opposite her lover. “I went in to a tavern called The Slaughtered Lamb inside I met a number of werewolves.” She passed the card to the other woman who took it from her hand. “It was a tavern for werewolves all off them were from my predecessor’s reign, most had run away due to having human children or being with another human.”

Xena turned the card over seeing Gabrielle’s image on it, it was the same one which was on the Ethereal Ark of Fire scroll. She stared at it for a long moment. “This is your image.” Gabrielle felt a slight smile form. “I know it sounds stupid but my image was banned from the playing cards in all the underground cities by the Imperial Council. Yet here in Corinth my image is on the deck and all off these werewolves consider me the true ruler not the Imperial Council.” Xena eyed the card remembering the words that the bar keeper had said to her “We didn’t mean Horn Hind any harm ether we let her in here because we were looking after her best interests, though she didn’t realize it at first” She looked up slightly. “I spoke to the bar keeper and his wife they told me where you went afterwards, if it weren’t for them it would have taken me a long time to find you. They were both werewolves just like you and they said that they saw it in your best interests to protect you because you’re their king. I have just sent out a document which will give them a reward in coin for doing what they did for you. It will also make the tavern a protected area and a land mark, which will mean that no one can cause harm there.”

Gabrielle took in a deep breath this was a surprise she had not expected the other woman to say this. She was clearly doing everything her power to protect her people. “They weren’t the only werewolves in that tavern though, there were more and these werewolves gave me this card. They said that they were loyal to me and not the Imperial Council. They also said that all the werewolves of Corinth were ready for war and that they believe that I am the king and the rightful heir to the throne.” Xena looked at the card for a long moment before speaking. “Gabrielle you are their king and as long as you live you are the true heir to the werewolf throne. Anyone who does not see that is a fool and is backing the wrong horse.” Gabrielle turned meeting the other woman’s intense gaze as her words hit home. She breathed in trying to ignore the pent up energy she’d been feeling all day feeling her gaze narrow, Xena was right she was king she’d always been king. Ever since she had gained these horns she had been king. True her horns weren’t bone right now but they were hers and no one could ever take that away from her. She’d spent so long running from that fact and denying it because of her own self belief in her worth as ruler. She was Horn Hind and she’d be Horn Hind until she died and no one could ever take that away from her. “Yes I am Horn Hind.” It was more of a statement than anything else.

Xena looked at the card again. “Yes you are.” She paused before speaking. “What ever you need to turn these werewolves in to an army I’ll give to you, I know that rebels have limited resources so I’ll make sure they get what they need all you need to do is tell me what they need.” Gabrielle put her hands together. “I was hoping that I wouldn’t need to go down the route of civil war but now I realize I’m probably going to have no choice. It won’t be long before the Imperial Council gets the news that I’m your consort, once they do it will be the straw that breaks the horses back and they will go for all out war, I’m just living on borrowed time right now.” Xena lay back on the cushion putting her hands behind her head. “Let them come, after what they did to you I want to see their heads roll.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I still don’t have their master plan…Adrienne is still in a coma and Kalika isn’t high enough up the scale to know anything and Mavican is just the same. All three of them are useless to me right now.” Xena sat up she could hear the frustration in her lover’s voice. “Then your people in Corinth will be the ones to know, I doubt Corinth is there only point of call. There are probably werewolf rebels all over Greece in different cities communicating back and forth.”

Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “How can you be sure?” Xena felt her smile turn to wide grin. “Because long before I came to rule Greece I started out as a rebel…its just over time my cause became greater and with every victory until I found myself sitting on the throne ruling Greece. I remember in my youth I used to talk to others in other cities. The hardest part is bringing them all together, they’ll all want something and they have to truly believe that you can give them victory. I believe you can do that, when you’re serious everyone you’ve met seems to listen to you, you can even get through to a few stubborn people who I have trouble with.” Gabrielle looked at the sky outside which was now starting to darken due to the sun starting to set. “It all sounds very easy when you say like that and I don’t doubt you for a moment, it just concerns me once this war starts that there will be no going back and I have to win it. I cannot afford to loose it and it may mean that I have do things which you won’t like but these things are necessary and they are part of my races laws and until I suit the throne I cannot change them, war against other werewolves has always been brutal. The last great war when werewolves fought against each other, was when the Emerald Hind went up against king Lycaon they say that blood soaked the sands of the beaches and took days to wash away.”

She shook her head sadly. “Werewolves are truly brutal in battle and I can’t change it.” Xena looked at the younger woman for a long moment she understood where she was coming from war was not kind it was cruel despite that battles could be short. In most wars the victor didn’t take prisoners and those who were still alive normally got put out of there misery with a well placed sword. In her first battle long before she’d risen to lead the Greek rebels her first ever job had been to go around and do that because her commander had told her to. She had hated every moment of it. The smell had been horrible as some of the bodies were rotting in the intense summer sun and she hated looking in to the eyes of the men and women who were taking their last breath. For some death was a relief she could see it in their eyes while others looked hatful despite that they were close to death. She had even seen poor men and women stealing from dead bodies which in its self had been saddened. That in its self had made her feel even sadder because at the time she could see the terrible state that Greece was in at the time under the two Macedonian Tyrant kings and its queen.

Its people were so poor that they stole from the dead just so they could buy bread to feed themselves. It had also motivated her, at first joining the rebels had been just about making things right in her town but after that it became about true liberation and dethroning the three tyrants but all liberation came with a price and normally it was blood and she knew that it was a hard road. She had already seen how brutal fighting was amongst werewolves and it was very clear to her that all out war amongst them would be even more brutal. She looked up snapping out of her thoughts. “I understand Gabrielle just know that what ever happens I will be there with you.” Gabrielle shifted a little closer to the other woman putting her hand on hers. “Thank you but you don’t have to get caught up in my war I mean you have so much to deal with in your own Empire.” Xena shook her head as she let out a deep breath. “I think the time has long passed that I could have no part in this war, we are very much in this together now for better or for worse and I’m not unhappy about that Gabrielle.” She gently put the card down as she put her other hands on Gabrielle’s. “Ever since Rome and my late husband trying to kill me I’ve felt as though I’ve been in limbo.”

She breathed in sharply it was strange that she was about to say this, as she had been thinking about it for so long but had never admitted it to anyone, until now. “I just went from day to day sighing papers burying myself in wine it was an easy way to numb the loneliness I felt. It felt like my life wasn’t going anywhere I had no more wars to fight and I was bored but then you showed up. Despite all those arguments we had and what happened with the royals, I felt like my life was suddenly interesting and every morning I wanted to get up just to be with you. I’ll fight your wars and help you how ever you can because I love you, you make me feel alive inside.” She looked up meeting the other woman’s gaze. “I can’t imagine what it would be like if you weren’t here.” Gabrielle moved closer she wanted to say something about how those words made her feel and how much they had lifted her entire being but no words seem to come no matter how hard she tried to mould them. They hadn’t known each that long and she had not expected Xena to say this at all, it proved that she knew so little about what to expect in this woman’s presence.

At every turn she was forever trailing behind when it came to how this woman saw her. She could see the calmness in the other woman’s light blue eyes which reminded her so much of blue sapphire as it was being hit by the morning sunlight. She inched a little closer her next movement becoming automatic, as she wrapped her arms around her meeting her lips. She knew the kiss she was giving was intense but she knew it was the only was she could express her feelings right now. Xena breathed in deeply enjoying the sensation, gods this was so nice, the gods could cast her down right now and she wouldn’t care, she’d die happy. It was just so wonderful to be loved again and to give love in return she had believed for so long that she wouldn’t feel this way again. She had to confess though that they needed to move on as the children would be coming out of there class soon and she wanted to take this some where more private. She moved away from the other woman’s lips putting her head against hers. “You now the children will be coming out of the room soon we should go back to our room.” Gabrielle looked up about to speak only to feel something cold run down her nose.

She looked down in confusion watching as red blood began to drip on to her shirt staining it instantly causing all her feeling of heated desire to fade away instantly. She eased up her hand wiping it under her nose seeing the blood on her fingers. What in Ouroboros’s name was going on here she didn’t have nose bleeds? She turned seeing the shock in her lover’s face as she grabbed the cloth which she kept in her pocket pulling it free putting it against her nose feeling the sting as a loud buzzing started ring in her ears. She suddenly didn’t feel so good she felt light headed and dizzy and it was very harder to focus. “I don’t…feel so good.” Xena took hold off the younger woman’s pulling her to her feet she could see even now that she was going pale. Maybe she’d caught something she’d been around other werewolves, so my be there was a chance that they had flues, colds and illness’s that they could pass on, ether way bleeding from the nose was a bad sign. She felt the other woman stumble as she walked forward holding the now bloody cloth to her nose. “I’m going to get you to Phantasos!” Gabrielle winced as she ignored the stinging in her head which was agonizing. It was like someone was trying to drive a nail in to ether side of her brain. “I…don’t…need…his help.” Xena rolled her eyes, that was not what she wanted hear right now. “Yes you do.”

She turned watching as one of the guards stood up sharply. “I want the healer, now!” The man nodded the concern in his eyes he turned bolting in to a run. She moved Gabrielle forward only to feel the other woman slip as her legs gave away she grabbed her just in time to stop her falling then carefully lowered her down watching as she slid down the corridor wall sitting up against it. Xena lowered herself on to her knees watching as the other woman head rolled back as the whites of her eyes showed. She was about to pass out she grabbed both sides of her face watching as her hand holding the blood cloth fell limply to one side. “Gabrielle!” She could see that the blood had stopped leaking from her nose but she still was still in a subconscious state. She breathed in painfully gods this couldn’t be happening right now! She had been fine for weeks since the incident with Adrienne. Maybe something hadn’t healed right? She moved her hand down feeling the pulse on the other woman’s neck seeing that her eyes were still showing their whites. She moved her hand down further putting it against her chest trying to feel for something anything that would explain this only to pull her hand away as Gabrielle hand close by started to shake violently. She blinked in shock as claws began to burst through as the hand began to lengthen followed by the other. What in Tartarus was going on? She was transforming but why now and why this way it made sense!?

End of part 98

 

RISING BONE FILLED WITH BLOOD AND GLORY

Gods I don’t now what going on, I feel truly helpless as I watch Gabrielle’s clawed feet tear through her boots. Her body is now shaking so violently that I just can’t keep my hands on her, she’s not aware of it though as her clothes are torn to ribbons and her body takes on its other form. Her eyes are still rolled back so only showing the whites it’s the strangest thing I have ever seen. It’s clear to me that she is still conscious I can tell because she’s staying upright but its taking her every effort to remain seated as she changes. She’s not screaming though or showing any pain in any way, shape or form. It’s like the fit she had before when she changed back after Adrienne stabbed her but its clear that she’s still very much aware of her surroundings. I can see that the blood has started to drip from her nose once more and she drooling as her huge jaws close, it’s so unlike Gabrielle it’s as if she can’t control her own body, it’s as if she’s only in particle control. I can see her long ears now moving left and right and up and down she can hear me I’m sure of it. Her transformation is almost over and I can see the velvet horns rising up from her head growing to their normal length once more.

Gabrielle winced she could hear everything, she could hear her lover but she couldn’t speak. Her mouth wouldn’t move she had no control what’s so ever over her body and it was taking all of her mental strength to remain sitting. The pain in her mind was excruciating she never experienced anything like this before in her life. It hurt to breathe and all she could feel was a nail like pressure in her head as her horns rose up. She had never experienced any pain when her horns had come through before. She knew she was drooling and she couldn’t stop it, she was now also naked but she was powerless to do anything about it. She could only ride this wave of pain and pray to her goddess that it would be over soon and that she’d pass out because she couldn’t take it anymore. Xena looked up in surprise as the horns velvet cover began to spilt open, causing clear red blood to run down them. She felt the breath get caught in her throat as the top of the velvet ruptured as sharp white points burst through they carried on growing upwards tearing the thick velvet apart causing more blood to spill over Gabrielle’s fur. The horns carried on growing upwards leaving bloody velvet pieces hanging down. They stopped growing in front of her eyes from what she could see they were a creamy light brown colour though she couldn’t see everything as they were covered in blood in places.

She shifted closer watching as her lovers huge body shuddered before going completely still. She was now sitting on the floor in the hall way her legs outstretched while her open clawed hands lay in her lap. Her tail was unmoving and her head was now leaning forward though her eyes were closed. She moved closer so she was in the middle of the other woman’s open stretched out legs as she eased up her hands putting them on both sides of her face running them down the length of her snout as she spoke in a gentle tone. “Gabrielle…can you hear me sweetheart?” She watched as the green eyes slowly opened though it clearly took some effort and she could see the blood shot steaks in them. Gabrielle breathed in closing her jaws pulling her tongue back in realizing that she was drooling in to other woman’s lap. The blood from her nose which wasn’t bleeding anymore was also all over the other woman lap she could also feel something cold dripping down her ears. “I am dead?” Xena felt a smile form on her lips. “No.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully trying to ignore the light headed feeling. “What’s happened to me…I feel terrible?” Xena looked up eyeing the bloody horns for a long moment before speaking. “It’s your horns.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Did…they fall out again?”

Xena leaned forward placing a gentle kiss on the snout. “Gods no…they have come through, the velvets been torn away, you have beautiful horns.” She was about to say more only to stop as Phantasos ran around the corner with the guard who stopped staring in shock at the site in front of him. Gabrielle felt her eyes dart as it hit to her that she was naked in werewolf form and because Xena was sitting in between her open legs her privates were showing. She didn’t think as she grabbed part of her torn shirt using it to quickly cover herself. Even if it was a tattered mess there was just enough of it to cover up. She looked at what was left of her ripped boots and trousers before turning to Phantasos who was just staring at her along with the guard. “Could one of you do me a favour and stop staring at me and instead go and find Thaleia so she can bring my clothes!?” Phantasos turned to the guard. “Well you heard the Empress’s consort! Go and get Thaleia to bring her clothes so she can have her dignity.” He watched as the guard snapped out of his haze then vanished from sight. He walked slowly towards Gabrielle sitting opposite her as he carried on staring at the large horns which were covered in blood. “Amazing, when did they come through?”

Gabrielle rolled her eyes great this was not what she needed right now she was sitting butt naked in the corridor with the Empress sitting directly between her legs, if it weren’t for the blood all over her anyone would think they were doing something else. Xena turned watching as he pulled out a bowl from his bag then eased out a water skin filling it with cool water then put in a clean cloth. “Just now she was in human form and then she started bleeding from the nose, I got her to the corridor but she became faint and I had to put her against the wall. She had a semi fit and then started to change, after which the velvet tour away on her horns and they grew to this length.” Phantasos looked up at the horns once more. “Incredible, I’ve never heard of growth like this, not even in plants.” Gabrielle turned eyeing him. “When you’re done being fascinated would you care to check me over, my head is pounding like a drum!” Xena took the bowl from Phantasos hands. “I’ll clean the blood off you check her over.” She slowly began to clean the blood from Gabrielle nose and snout as she put her hand back on her face. “I’m sorry sweetheart this has just taken us both by surprise.”

Phantasos moved his hand to Gabrielle’s chest ignoring her cold look. “Breath in deeply.” He watched as she did so. “Breath out.” He stood up. “Well your chest feels fine, he moved to her nose which Xena had cleaned looking at it. “No cuts or bruises here.” He took hold of a candle shining it in to her eye one after the other seeing the pupils dilate but a little slower than normal. “It seems you have a mild concussion Gabrielle, your horns coming out seems to have been like a blow to your head, which may explain the bleeding from your nose. Did the other Horn Hinds before you get this?” Gabrielle felt a sneer form. “I wouldn’t know they never left a note to explain how this works.” Xena finished cleaning the blood of her lover’s ears and mane. She stood up moving to her horns carefully easing the tattered bloody velvet away which was hanging in rags then carefully began clean the blood away revealed the horns cream colour which truly matched those of a stag in their appearance. They were solid bone and very sharp at the points which meant that they obviously weren’t just for display but a weapon in them selves. She moved the cloth cleaning away the last of the blood watching as Phantasos finished checking the younger woman over. “Phantasos could you get her a mirror?”

Phantasos stood up watching as the Empress put the bloody water bowl to one side. “Of course, she’s going to be fine she just needs to rest for a while, take her to her room and get her to sleep it off.” Gabrielle looked up as Thaleia appeared running towards them carrying her clothing the shock appearing in her eyes as caught sight of her horns, she turned to her lover. “Help me up.” Xena kneeled down again putting a hand on the other woman’s chest. “Are you sure?” Gabrielle nodded trying to ignore the dull pain in her muscles as she eased herself up on to her hind legs keeping the torn cloth in place as she raised her clawed hand towards Thaleia. “My clothes.” Thaleia snapped out of her haze pulling up the skirt which she wrapped around Gabrielle’s waist she watched as Xena tired it as Gabrielle leaned against the wall. She pulled up the thick belt wrapping it around the skirt fixing it in place. “Your horns they’ve come through.” Gabrielle put her clawed hand on her face wishing that the light headiness would go away. “I…know.” She lowered herself back down in to a sitting position watching as Xena sat down opposite her putting her hand on her arm. “I feel terrible.” Her gaze drifted upwards as Phantasos came out of one of the rooms opposite a wide smile on his face as raised the mirror in his hand so she could see her reflection in it. “Your horns are very impressive Gabrielle, once full grown I feel that they will rival any stags.” Gabrielle eyed the mirror watching as her reflection came in to view fully.

She could see her horns now clearly they were creamy light brown in colour and large with impressive points. They were also nothing like her processors his had had huge thick wide bone sections where as hers had sharp thick points from the sections she could see growing. She knew this wouldn’t be the end of their growth. From what she read it was said that once a Horn Hinds horns broke through, the sections would carry on growing over time until they rivalled any deer’s. Phantasos lowered the mirror then eased up the water skin handing it to Gabrielle who took it. “You’ve lost a lot of blood, you need to rest and drink plenty of water it will help.” Gabrielle eased up the water skin uncapping it as she let the cold fresh water pour down her throat before lowering the empty skin handing it back to him. “Thank you, I will.” She eased up her hand closing her eyes wanting to change back only to feel the pain in her fingers. She stopped eyeing her clawed fingers as the surprise hit home. Xena looked at her lover. “What’s wrong?” Gabrielle turned her clawed hand moving her fingers. “I can’t change back…it hurts when I try.”

Xena felt her eyes dart as she looked up. “I’m sure it’s not going to be permanent.” She paused meeting the other woman’s uncertain gaze. “Look let’s get you back to our room.” She turned to Thaleia. “Could you give me a hand getting her back to my room?” Thaleia nodded as she stepped forward. “Yes Empress.” Xena turned back to Phantasos who was putting away his things. “Thank you for coming so quickly.” Phantasos closed his bag before looking meeting her gaze. “Glad to be of help Empress.” Xena moved closer to her lover helping her slowly up on to her hind legs with Thaleia’s help. She stepped back as Gabrielle moved forward it was clear though that she was a little slow and disoriented as she was being more careful with every step. Thaleia turned to Gabrielle as they walked up the long corridor which led up the upper floor. “You know my mother and the children are going to love hearing about this, they have been asking about your horns for a while and if they’ve come through.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Then you’ll have an interesting story to tell them.” Xena turned to her lover. “Personally I think the whole palace will want to hear about this.” Gabrielle eyed her. “So long as you leave out the part about me being a compromising position and you sitting between my legs, then you can tell them what ever you want.”

She ignored Thaleia’s smirk as she lowered her ears. “I can’t believe I ruined a really good pair of boots, just to grow my horns” Xena walked up the stairs watching as her room came in to view in the distance. “I’ll get you some new boots and no one will say a word about your predicament in the hall.” Thaleia turned to her friend. “No one will find out anything Gabrielle I promise.” She eased up her hand pushing the one of the doors open watching as the Empress pushed open the other as they slowly walked through. Xena walked over to her bed watching as Gabrielle put her clawed hand on the frame to steady herself, she turned watching as Thaleia stepped back. “Its okay Thaleia I’ll take it from here.” Thaleia nodded as she walked towards the open double doors. “Yes Empress.” She turned to Gabrielle who now had her head rested against the wooden post. “Your horns look striking Gabrielle, no one will ever question your rule as king now.” Gabrielle turned feeling a smile form. “Thank you Thaleia.” Thaleia eased up her hand putting it on best friend’s furry arm. “Get some rest Gabrielle you’ll feel much better.” Gabrielle nodded trying to ignore pounding in her skull. “I will.” Xena watched as Thaleia stepped away from her lover then walked through the double doors closing them behind her. She eyed the fire which was burning in the corner Ceto had no doubt lit it as the weather was now at that point where it was no longer warm.

She looked up as Gabrielle went slowly down on all fours walking towards her. “You know she treats you like a sister.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she flopped down in front of the warm fire curling up slightly. “I see her as a sister.” Xena sat down next to her shifting closer enjoying the feel of her warm fur. “Have you ever considered that you’re younger sister and your family might be out there looking for you?” Gabrielle felt the other woman’s hand as it found her mane stroking gently. “They think I’m dead…maybe its better that way.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “No it’s not better that way, they are your parents they think that you died all those years ago yet you didn’t, you’re here and you’re alive.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “You may accept me as a werewolf Xena but they won’t, so it’s better for all of them if they don’t know I’m alive it would only shame them.” Xena moved her fingers to the younger woman’s face running it down her snout. “How could you shame them, you are a warrior and a king?” Gabrielle tapped her clawed fingers on the rug. “Because I’m not human and that’s not going to change anytime soon and I doubt they’ll welcome me back with open arms.”

She paused as a thought crossed her mind. “Why are we talking about my family Xena, you’ve never mentioned them before?” Xena breathed in sharply she had started talking about this as she had wanted to bring up the other woman’s son. Now she realized that she should just cut to the chase. “You know if you’re keeping anything from me Gabrielle you don’t have to, I won’t be angry with you and I would keep any secret you have.” Gabrielle turned feeling the confusion take over where had that comment come from? She had nothing to hide, no that wasn’t true she did have a one thing hidden but she had no intention of opening up about it. By Ouroboros why couldn’t she just say it? She had, had a son, he was also very much alive and she had hidden that truth from everyone including the woman she loved deeply. She had hidden it because she wanted to protect him from her enemies he was her legacy and Damokles was his father. She had loved him since the moment of birth when he had opened his eyes but being born human would have meant his death.

She wouldn’t lie to herself, on occasion she wondered how he was doing, if he was happy and if he had friends. She wondered if Iris was being good to him but she accepted the truth which was that no matter how much it hurt she couldn’t take him back not until the Imperial Council were over thrown, she hated herself for lying to Xena and saying that her son had died. She knew that the other woman meant well and that just made her feel even guiltier but no matter how much it hurt she had to protect her son at all costs. She looked up meeting the other woman’s uncertain gaze. “I have no secrets from you.” Xena breathed in sadly Gabrielle had not told her the truth she could see it in her eyes she could even see the guilt as she had spoken those words. The truth was clear to her now Gabrielle would protect her son even if it meant hurting her self. She just wasn’t ready to face the truth which was that she had a son and he was currently being taken care of by someone else.

She was clearly keeping this to herself for his protection because she thought that if the Imperial Council knew about him that they’d go out of there way to kill him. She was going to have to bring this up again but at a time which was better, she had promised Damokles that she’d return Gabrielle’s son to her and she would do so no matter what it took. As she was already worried about her son and she knew she could give him the protection he needed. She met the other woman’s gaze choosing her next words carefully. “You know if you ever feel you have something you need to tell me then don’t be afraid to do so, I’ll listen to you and we’ll both work through it together.” Gabrielle laid her head on her clawed hands lowering her ears she felt terrible, she had lied to the other woman once more. It had been so easy the first time around because she was so used to doing it to everyone she met. Lying now though made her feel terrible, she didn’t lie to those she truly loved she never had, yet here she was lying openly to the woman she loved to keep her son a secret. She looked down gazing at the rug she was lying on. “I know.” Xena gently kissed her snout. “You should get some sleep.” Gabrielle half closing her eyes. “I’m not tied.” Xena moved her hand through the thick fur. “Yes you are, now please go to sleep.”

The other woman gave her a curious look before closing her eyes fully as she took in a deep breath before letting it out. This conversation had not gone the way she had wanted it to at all. Gabrielle didn’t want to see her family and she had kept her son a secret once more. Maybe she wanted too much far too quickly perhaps she needed to pace herself more. She had still not introduced Gabrielle to the warrior she had saved and she still needed to have the meeting with the Corinthian Diplomats which wouldn’t be easy. It was easy for her to run everything at breakneck speed but Gabrielle needed a lot more time to adjust to things. She felt the huge chest rise against her back as Gabrielle started to breathe out deeply as she began to drift off. Her father had always said that she could be slightly impatient when it came to things and he was right. It was becoming very clear to her now that she needed to have more patience when it came to her lover. Gabrielle’s life meant that she didn’t just say what she felt and she needed more time than most people to deal with her feelings before voicing them. She wasn’t always open but one day she truly hoped that she would be but this would take a lot more time and patience on her part. People didn’t change over night and Gabrielle had come a long way from the person she had been when they’d first met but she still had a long way to go.

Her horns had just come through which she had been waiting for, for a long time, though she had never said it aloud as her negativity towards not having full horns had always been felt. She eased up her hand running them down the thick bone allowing her curiosity to take over. She’d said she couldn’t change back which was clearly something to do with these horns. Though she doubted that it was permanent she hoped that these horns didn’t cause the younger woman any more problems. She moved her hand away looking at the sky outside it was now dark but it wasn’t that late. She had not intended to sleep right now but she might as well do so, she could just put on her bed clothes and a fur skin then sleep next to Gabrielle. Hopefully once it got light again her lover would change back as normal at least she hoped that she would do so. The younger woman had said that she didn’t even know how the process of these horns coming through worked. This would be a learning process for the both of them but as long as they did things together than that was all that really mattered to her at the end of the day. She leaned over placing a gentle kiss on Gabrielle’s snout before running a hand through her long mane.

8

Elpidios breathed in as he raised his war hammer, gods he was not looking forward to this at all. He had, had a report from one of his warriors that two none human beings were fighting. Now this wasn’t unheard off Satyrs occasionally annoyed Minotaurs who had no patience and most had fowl tempers and it normally ended up in a bar fight. This was not a bar fight though reports said that these two beings were fighting in plain sight of everyone in the north distinct night market and they were both destroying the place. He wished that Thera was with him as his second but she had, had to go with the palace this morning and would not be back until tomorrow. As word had, had it the Empress had not seen her yet and she was very preoccupied so it would be a while before she got back to the city guards barracks. The rumour was that a mercenary called the Red Griffin and her Satyr companion had successfully killed Talus who was on the Empress’s most wanted list. It was something of a surprise as every mercenary who had tried to kill him for the money had died, so for one to be successful was a complete surprise. He shook of his thoughts as he eyed the armed men and women behind him as they turned the corner hearing a long drawn out roar followed by a huge crash. Clearly this wasn’t a Minotaur the roar was all wrong it was far to low pitched.

He raised his weapon higher as the market came in to view only to stop instantly stared in utter shock at the sight in front of him. There was a huge eight foot tall dark brown furred werewolf dressed in bronze plate which had what looked like odd sliding plate on the chest and legs. Covering his face was heavy bronze helmet. He was wearing a tattered black skirt and he had leather wrapped around the bottom of his huge clawed feet. He had huge deep claw marks on his arms and was bleeding from the lower jaw while blood was dripping from his clawed fingers. Not more than two feet away from him was another werewolf who was on his knees he was black from head to toe, his right ear was tattered and his face was bleeding. He was wearing nothing but a tattered cloth to hide his privates though there were tattered pieces of clothing hanging from his shoulders. His light brown eyes were filled with rage and there was blood dripping down from the huge claw wounds all over his body. Elpidios watched as they both turned to look at him, he could see the stall which had been smashed apart by their fights which was a filled with alcohol barrels whose contents were now spilling all over the floor. He breathed in trying to recompose himself, he had never seen anything like this before not in all his years of leading the warriors in Corinth. Werewolves never showed them selves at night, yet in front of him stood two werewolves who were clearly fighting it out for a reason which wasn’t clear to him, he could see people close by hiding in the passage ways the fear in there eyes.

He made a signal watching as the two bowmen behind loaded their bows with arrows as he looked up speaking in a cold tone trying to hide his fear and uncertainty. “By the law of the Empress you are both to end this dispute! As you are both now under the citizen rights as a race you can now sit down and talk through what ever issues you have with each other as civilised beings. If you choose to carry on fighting I will have no choice but to subdue you and if need be kill you but I’m sure that nether you wish for that.” The black werewolf eyed him for a long moment his voice suddenly hit the air. “Then kill this fool, he’s a traitor to you and your Empress!” Elpidios felt the shock hit home the back werewolf had just spoken he had never heard or even seen a werewolf speak before. He turned looking at the armoured werewolf who face formed a sneer as his voice hit the air. “Do you honestly think I care for sitting down and talking with you, you pathetic little human!?” Elpidios tensed feeling his grip on his weapon tighten watching as the black furred werewolf grabbed a leather bag which had fallen opposite him he turned eyeing the armoured werewolf opposite. “Then you will die!” The brown werewolf’s eyes narrowed. “Then I die for the glory of the Imperial Council!”

He turned eyeing the black werewolf opposite in disgust. “You on the other hand can die along with your false rebel king!” The black werewolf’s lips formed a smile as he grabbed the symbol around his neck he would kill himself and this bastard before he let him get to what was in his bag. “You speak with bravado brother but your terrified of death I can see it in your eyes.” He grabbed one of the free standing fire torches opposite. “I walk to my death willingly!” He paused as his smile widened as he saw the fear in the other werewolves eyes as he realized what he was about to do. “All hail the true Horn Hind, the Golden Hind!” Elpidios watched in horror as the flaming torch was pushed over it hit the floor igniting the alcohol which burst in to flames instantly. “Get back now!” He watched as his men and women ran backwards as the fire rose higher, setting alight to everything around it. He stepped back what in the god’s names was going on? This was utter insanity! He turned grabbing the nearest man no longer knowing what had become of both werewolves as the flames began to burn through the whole market place. “Get some water now we have to put this fire out before it sets alight to the city!”

End of part 99

 

 AS TWO WORLDS COLLIDE IN AGONY AND ECSTASY

 

Gabrielle felt the warmth she was laying face down on something soft she slowly opened her eyes realizing that she was in Xena bed once more. A thick heavy fur cover had been pulled over her shoulders to keep her warm. The late morning sunlight was pouring in through the closed velvet curtains been sleeping for a while and no one had woken her up. She took a deep breath as she raised her hand looking at it seeing, she had regained her human form but she had no idea when she had done so as she had clearly slept through her transformation. She felt her heart twist in to a painful knot as the guilt hit home, last night she had come across so badly. Her lover had been trying to help her yet she had thrown it right back in her face and she wasn’t proud of her actions. Nether was she happy about lying about her son, this time it had just hurt in a way she had not expected. She had always lied about the fact that her son was alive she did it to protect him because she knew full well that if the Imperial Council realized that she had a human son they would capture him or even kill him. Now she realized why it hurt so much it was because Xena was always open with her. She wore her heart on her sleeve and was always honest she had been nothing but understanding with her and yet she was not doing the same in return.

Normally she wouldn’t hate herself for doing this but right now she did and she felt it only right to tell the truth. Her lover needed to know the truth I owed it to her the other woman has given me so much and she had dishonoured her kindness by lying. She took in a deep breath before opening her lover had even put her to bed. She moved her hand over seeing that the other woman’s side of the bed was empty she could smell jasmine and other sweet smelling oils on the sheets. She sat up in bed realizing that the other woman wasn’t in the room she wrapped she eased herself out of bed ignoring the semi cold feeling as her feet touched the tiles as she wrapped the lighter top sheet around her body. The fire opposite had been lit once again but she had been too deep in thoughts to notice. She walked towards the study door opposite hearing the sound of a quill scratching paper. She eased the door open slowly catching sight of the other woman who was writing at her desk unaware of her presence as she carried on writing, her blue eyes drifting over the paper in deep thought she carefully closed the door behind her.

It felt like such a long time since she had been in this study, the memories she had of this place weren’t pleasant, she vividly remembered there first talks here. Though these talks seemed so distant to her now one thing she remembered with crystal clarity was the other woman’s first words. It’s rude to smoke in my presence.” She shook of the memory as she moved towards the older woman catching sight of carved sparrow she’d made which was now sitting on her desk in full view so it could be seen by all. She watched as the other woman looked up realizing that she was there. A warm smile formed on her lips as she placed her quill down her soft voice hitting the air. “Hi.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she walked over to the desk running her fingers over its edge. “Hey.” Xena felt her smile widen as she watched the other woman’s tentative almost shy behaviour which she always found so charming. “Did you sleep well?” Gabrielle breathed in as she carried on running her hands over the wood absentmindedly. “Yes I slept very well…when did I change back?” Xena eased out her hand taking hold of the other woman’s. “Early this morning, the horns on your head were the first things to vanish then your body changed back. After that I put you to bed as it was getting cold even by the fire.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Thank you.” She paused as the subject crossed her mind which had been bothering her since she had woken she looked up meeting the other woman’s soft gaze. “I’m sorry about what I said last night, you were trying to help me and I threw it back in your face, you deserve better than that.” Xena kept her hand on the other woman’s as she shook her head. “No you have nothing to be sorry about, I was pushing you to hard, if you’re not ready to see your family then you’re not ready.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze to the floor as she took in a deep breath feeling the need to be as honest as possible. “The thought of seeing them again terrifies me, its not just about being inhuman.” She felt her grip on Xena’s hand tighten. “I’m not the person I was, I wonder what my farther would think off me now and all the blood I have on my hands. He will be expecting to see that young innocent girl and I’m not her anymore, I can hardly remember being her.” Xena stood up slowly pushing her papers to one side in a swift motion. She gently put her hand under the other woman’s chin raising her head so their eyes met. “I’m not your farther Gabrielle I don’t know what he will think of you but believe me when I say I think he will be happy to see you again, just to know that you’re alive. I also think that your not being human will not shame him, who would be shamed by the fact that his daughter is a king?” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form. “I am a king who owns none of my own kingdom.”

Xena leaned over laying a gentle kiss on her lips before speaking again. “You have your horns now and no one among your own race can challenge that anymore and one day you will have full control over your kingdom once more. Also you are my consort that should speak for it self to anyone who dears to challenges your worth.” She paused about to say something only to have her words cut off as the other woman’s lips met her own in a deep and passionate kiss. She barely had time to think as Gabrielle’s lips left her own as the younger woman moved to stand opposite her she cold see the desire the green eyes as clear as day. She felt the wood of the desk as Gabrielle pushed her on to it hard, she hadn’t expected things to go this was way or for the young woman to be so forward but a part of her didn’t care. She hadn’t seen this side of Gabrielle before and she desperately wanted to experience more of it as it was so intense she could feel the other woman’s hands bracing wrists tightly. She felt the younger woman grip on her wrists loosen as she leaned over her kisses became much softer and tender but no less passionate. It was as if her lover had lost control but had gained it back in an instant. Truth was that she should have seen this coming as Gabrielle had clearly wanted this last night but it hadn’t happened due to her horns coming through.

She closed her eyes enjoying the other woman’s hands as they started to roam down her body igniting the fire deep with in, gods this was bliss. Gabrielle breathed in steadying herself as the other woman hands began to remove the sheet around her body. She felt a slight twinge of guilt for just one moment she had let her primal need and desire overwhelm her for just a moment and she wasn’t happy about it. She had no idea how it had happened she had always in control and the last thing she wanted to do was harm the older woman in anyway. She moved her hands to her being as tender and as gentle as possible as her voice hit the air. “I am Golden Hind.” It was more of a statement than a question. Xena met the other woman’s lips again as she let go of the white cover. “Yes you are Golden Hind.” Gabrielle gently took unbuckled the other woman’s shoulder armour letting it drop to the floor. “And you are my one true love.” Xena felt a smile form as wrapped her legs around the other woman’s waist as her breast and back plate were pulled off. She had never made love in her own office and that just excited her all the more as she felt the other woman move so her body was on top her own. “I’ll love you forever.” She breathed in as the other woman’s lips met her own once more.

8

Iris looked up from the table as she drew on her map again with an ink and quill, she could see the sun light outside. She wanted to go to bed but she had no choice she had to meet her contact his visit was just too important. It mattered to werewolf rebellion in Apollonia the werewolf who she was meeting was coming here directly from Corinth. His trip was taking longer than normal but she couldn’t fault him for that, he was an elderly werewolf and it meant that he could only travel at night when his strength was at its best. She looked over watching as the small boy opposite played with her older daughter Kassia, their game was a gentle one as they shared a wooden toy between them. She breathed in deeply as she looked at the little boy again. He was five years old and looking nothing like her or even her husband, even her human daughter bore no resemblance to him she had brown hair and blue eyes. He had dark black hair and dark tanned skin no doubt elements from his real father, who she knew had been murdered before his birth. His eyes though were every bit his mother they were lush green and they lit up his face, he even had her smile he was also human just like her daughter.

She loved him with her heart and she had promised his mother that she would take care of him and look after him as it far too dangerous for him to be inside the Grand City. He was Gabrielle’s son and she was the true werewolf king but many years before she had become Horn Hind she had let her escape with her new born daughter and she’d been able to meet up with her human lover. She knew that if Gabrielle hadn’t let her go that day she would have died as would her new born daughter. She owed her life and what better way to repay the favour than to look after her son and keep him hidden from the Imperial Council. She knew that a day would come when she would return for him and she had a feeling it would be soon if the rumours she had heard were true. She was itching to start this war against the Imperial Council as where her contacts in Corinth, she had, had enough of hiding in the shadows. She had already sent another loyal contact from Athens to deliver a message, the most important message Gabrielle would ever reserve in her life. Thirteen werewolves had died trying to get their hands on a copy of the master plan, one had succeeded and she had been truly horrified to find out what it was when she’d read it.

When she’d been a builder in the Grand City it was an idea that had been whispered in her ear at last resort which would kill thousands of human’s in fail swoop. It was a vile disgusting concept and not one had ever wanted to see happen. It was called bleeding pillars of sorrow named so because it was neither mercifully nor honourable. It was an idea the even the Crescent Hind had rejected because he saw it as to brutal she knew that Gabrielle would have rejected it as well. That was why she’d been thrown in to the pit of the palace in Corinth clearly they had wanted her out of the way for a long time. That was assuming that rumour was true, she breathed in deeply watching as her husband Parthenios started to pace he was in werewolf form and his eyes were on their children. She lowered her gaze she had never meant to turn him but the mating urge had been like Tartarus. She’d never experienced anything like it in her whole life it was agonizing and painful on so many levels but what made it worse was the sexual pain. With the mating urge you were turned on ever second of the day all you could think about was having sex with the person you wanted to mate with.

You got the shakes, stomach pains and you couldn’t think straight it was worse than torture and she had been tortured before. The worst part of it was that if you ignored it, you started to loose your grip and become violent. That had scared her more than anything because she didn’t want to harm their children. She had, had to go through with biting her partner, she felt guilty about that even to this day but he had been fine with it. He had said that they were in this together just as they had been in beginning when he’d met her out side the Grand City in the dead of night. It had been a strange first meeting as he had seen her in werewolf form and had panicked she’d knocked him to the ground and held him down. She’d been told to kill any human she saw but she knew she wasn’t a warrior and she just couldn’t go through with it, she’d let him go much to his surprise. Then she’d spoken to him telling him to leave but it was clear by that point curiosity had gotten the better of him and they’d started talking, that talking had later led to more as they’d kept on meeting up over the months.

It was only when a warrior had seen what she was doing that her ears had been torn for her actions but it hadn’t stopped her. After going through that she had wanted to escape the Grand City and she had done so. Her ears were only half healed now but that was the way it was, werewolf a very long time to heal. It take more time before hers healed fully but the jagged scars would always remain painting the criss-cross lines of a traitor, not that she really cared, she had survived worse and she was here to talk about it now. Parthenios stopped pacing as he turned Iris. “He’s late.” Iris eyed the scroll in front of her. “Just give him time, Rome wasn’t built in day, nether was the Greek Empire.” She looked up as the door as opened and a white haired man in his late sixties walked in he gave her a smile as he closed the door behind him. “Good tidings from Corinth.” Iris breathed in deeply. “You are a day late Quentin.” Quentin calmly sat down on the chair opposite her. “You know you’re not the only werewolf staring a rebellion Iris…my children are pushing the rebellion in Corinth as is my wife Galiena.” He breathed as Parthenios walked over to the window keeping an eye of what was going on outside. “Don’t worry I wasn’t followed, the Imperial Council’s spies are rubbish when it comes to taking notice of old werewolves like me, they don’t see as a threat so they ignore us.”

Iris put her hands together. “So is it true, the rumours I mean?” Quentin felt his smile widen. “If you mean is Horn Hind alive then yes she’s breathing and well taken care off…you didn’t tell me that she smoked coltsfoot though.” Iris blinked in surprise. “She didn’t smoke during our last meeting.” Quentin leaned back in the chair. “Also the other rumour is true the Empress is in love with her and as well which confirmed what we all thought all along. It may have also contributed to the ending of the hunting law and our race gaining equal rights in the Greek Empire. The only thing I couldn’t confirm was what happened in the pit and how Horn Hind got put in there but I’ sure when you two meet again you can discuss it.” He paused eyeing the little dark haired boy opposite who had green eyes. “After all, your little boy well lets just say that his true origins are very clear to me.” Iris eyed him she didn’t like were this was going she turned to Kassia who looked up. “Kassia be a sweet heart and go play with your brother in your bed room.” Her daughter’s face turned to annoyance as she spoke. “But mum?” Iris raised her hand pointing to the bedroom. “Now Kassia.”

She watched as her daughter breathed in leading the young boy out who smiled before disappearing from site. She turned back to the older man putting her hands together. “Sebastianos is our son and we love him.” Quentin shook his head. “He’s not your son though is he? I mean you only have to look at the boy to know he is not yours.” He paused. “I mean he has her eyes, they both smell the same and my nose might be old but I can still pick up on the scent of a mother and child.” Iris put a hand on her face feeling the frustration hit home. “You may know this truth but you can not tell anyone, if the Imperial Council works out that he is her son they will kill him.” Parthenios turned eyeing the older man. “We made a promise to her, we said that we would protect her son and we have done so and if anything happens to him she will never forgive us. I love the boy but I do know that he will one day be returned to his mother.” Quentin shook his head sadly. “You have not told him the truth have you, that he’s not your son?” Iris folded her arms as she shook her head. “He’s five he’s to young to know the truth and I don’t want him to go through that he’s not ready.”

Quentin adjusted his shirt. “It won’t be long before he starts to question his true origins, one day he’s going to look at you all and see that he’s different, he will ask why his eyes aren’t light brown or sea blue and why his hairs not brown. He’ll then ask why he has black hair, green eyes and tanned skin.” He looked up slightly. “I assume the dark hair and tanned skin came from his father?” Iris nodded sadly. “His father was murdered before he was born I saw his father once he was a warrior named Damokles. He was an honourable man who believed in equality for all werewolves, he also believed that half breed or full breed shouldn’t matter and breeding with humans should be allowed as well as human children. He taught Gabrielle every single one of these ideas moulding her in to the woman she is now. After she became Horn Hind no matter what the Imperial Council did they couldn’t break her ideals and he was murdered for it, I only found out this as I ran in to a run away a warrior who had served with him he told me everything.” She breathed in painful. “It’s tragic that Sebastianos will never know his father, he was a great man.”

Quentin looked up meeting her gaze. “He will know his mother though you can make it so by giving him back to her.” Iris shook her head. “No if I do that he will be targeted by the Imperial Council, plus the palace in Corinth isn’t safe!” Quentin sat up in his chair. “Well you are going to have to decide and soon Iris because once war breaks out between us and the Imperial Council no one will be safe.” He turned looking around the small villa. “Time is no longer on our side we both know this.” Iris raised her hand eyeing him. “I’ve sent my best to Corinth to deliver the message personally…I know as well as anyone else that if the Imperial Council go through with this our race will never be forgiven.” Quentin looked down feeling the pain hit his chest. “Collapsing whole cities using underground tunnels does not bear thinking about Iris. We both know that the bridge in Thessaly was nothing more than a test but this won’t be a test. It will be a for real, a whole city will collapse in to the ground, werewolf tunnels being used to destroy rather than build it goes everything the Emerald Hind believed in.” Iris felt a sneer form. “You don’t need to remind me off this I was a builder remember, the only reason those plans are going to Gabrielle now is because my rebels stole them from the Grand City.”

Quentin took in a deep breath. “Then war will come no matter what, the moment those plans make it in to Horn Hinds hands she will turn on the Imperial Council and her rage will be unyielding. She already knows of the rebels in Corinth and by the time she reads those plans she will know about your rebels here as well. It is inevitable, I assume you many have copies of those plans.” Iris folded her arms. “I’m not stupid you think I’d send just one person. When I referred to my best I was refereeing to my best of three and I have three other copies in different places. I know that the moment that the Imperial Council realize what I’m doing they will send out their best to kill my best…but I doubt they’ll get all three.” Quentin put a hand on his chin. “Then the men and women you sent knew that it might be a one way trip?” Iris looked up meeting his uncertain gaze. “Yes they knew they were told of its importance and they came forward willingly, they were not forced. It’s the price we pay for this rebellion we have to except at any moment that we might die for our true king.” Quentin looked at her for a long moment. “Then I hope that when our time comes around that we are just as willing to die for the Golden Hind.”

8

Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she laying on top of Xena’s naked body her head resting under the other woman’s neck. They were both laid over the desk whose papers had been pushed aside and were now spread all over the floor along with Xena’s clothes and the bed sheet she had been wearing. They had been lying together now for the past few minutes just enjoying each others company. Xena felt a smile form as a thought crossed her mind as she kissed the other woman’s head. “You know I’m never quite going to look at this desk the same way again.” Gabrielle felt a wide smile form as she looked down seeing that the other woman had moved her small carved bird in to one of the draws which she’d opened but left open as she’d become to distracted to close it. “I’ve never done this before…it’s new to me.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “You’ve never made love on a desk before?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No just about all my relationships took place in beds or on bedrolls in the wilderness.” Xena eased up her hand running it through her long blonde hair. “Do you miss the wilderness? I mean you spent most of your life on the road fighting yet here you don’t get that sense of adventure.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her uncertain gaze for a long moment. “I miss elements but it’s not the elements you might think. I don’t miss the fighting as I love being here in this palace with you the only things I do miss are hunting and I miss fishing.”

Xena blinked in surprise. “You like fishing?” Gabrielle raised her hand moving it through the other woman’s damp hair. “The werewolf version yes, you don’t use a rod, you have to dive in at night in to pitch black waters and grab fish, its can be quite challenging.” Xena moved her hand to the other woman’s face. “Personally I always liked fishing but I prefer the rod myself, though I confess I don’t get that kind of joy when I fish in the palace pond. The fish are really not that challenging to catch and they were gifts from the Greek royals their bred to be dossal and pretty.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her gaze. “I know, I caught one once, it was a month after the royals came here, just found it really easy and I put it back in the pond, I didn’t hurt it.” Xena felt her smile turn to a playful grin. “You fished in my pond?” Gabrielle shrugged as she as she looked at the other woman. “I was bored.” Xena raised her hand running it over her back enjoying the feel of soft skin. “Well you’d have to be bored to fish in the royal pond I mean I only keep it because the children like the fish, just like I keep the peacocks even though they annoy me.” Gabrielle shook her head. “I don’t care for your peacock’s ether but then they tend to stare clear of me in both forms.”

Xena laughed unable to stop herself as she met the other woman’s light green gaze enjoying the view. “Well you eat one of them there bound to remember.” Gabrielle raised her hand. “Look it’s not just the peacocks that don’t like me, the cats in palace are wary of me as are the dogs and horses can’t stand me in werewolf form, the only animal I can seem to connect with is birds.” Xena felt her laughter stop as something hit her, she had never once seen Gabrielle enter the stables in all the time she’d known her and it hadn’t occurred to her until now. “Horses don’t like you?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “No they don’t in werewolf form they try to kick me and in human form they are nervous of me.” Xena sat up slightly looking at the other woman. “Can you ride a horse?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No, but I’ve never needed to in werewolf form I can just about keep up with a horse. Plus werewolves don’t use horses, there’s just no point when you can keep up with them when their galloping.” Xena felt a smile form. “You know we are going to have fix that. When you go through Corinth you need to be beside me on horseback it’s for your own protection.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Well if you can find a horse that won’t kick me or run away from me in ether form then I’ll ride it.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Are you setting me a challenge?” Gabrielle felt a playful smile form. “Something like that yes.” Xena moved her hand up to her lovers face putting it on it. “Well then I’d be more than happy to except that challenge, I’ll find you a horse that won’t kick you or hurt you and then you can learn to ride it.”

She leaned over meeting the other woman’s lips in a gentle and warm kiss feeling the need to change the topic. “I wanted to ask you something.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows enjoying the feel of the other woman’s body which she was lying on top of. “Yes?” Xena eased herself up in to a sitting position pulling her lover up in to her lap. She hadn’t wanted to ask this question but she knew that it was important and she would have to ask it sooner or later as she just hated the idea of destroying this moment. “What do you intend to do about the Imperial Council?” Gabrielle felt a cold smile as she shifted getting comfortable on the other woman’s lap. “I’m going to destroy them and take back my kingdom.” Xena breathed in, in some ways the younger woman saying this made her feel a lot better. She was already prepared for war and she knew that this war was inevitable but what had always worried her was Gabrielle’s lack of self esteem when it came to her saying that she was the true ruler. It was clear to her now that this had changed and the younger woman now believed that she was ruler of her people she wanted every back which had been stole from her, her horns coming through had clearly changed how she saw herself and that was so refreshing to see. She eased up her hand running it down her face. “As I’ve said I’ll be here every step of the way, what ever you need I’ll give your people and where ever you need to go I’ll be there for you.” She breathed in deeply wrapping her around the other woman feeling her pull closer as she spoke in a soft tone. “Love you Gabrielle.” Gabrielle tightened her grip around the other woman’s waist the world around her could end right now and she wouldn’t care because she knew that right now she was were she was meant to be which was in the other woman’s tender embrace she closed her eyes speaking softly. “I love you to Xena.”

End of part 100

End Of Book One

It felt only right for the final chapter of this book to end in Xena’s study, as this story really began the study. It felt like a good way to make things feel as though they had finally come full circle.

To all the readers who have read, reviewed, followed and faved this story, thank you so much I really appreciate your input. I realize that there are quite a few loose ends which have not been tied up all of these will be fixed in the sequel.

Book 2 (ongoing) Ethereal Ark Of Fire

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