Shattering Of The Silver Light by Silvermoonlight

Disclaimer. This story contains violence, as well as love between two adult women.
Disclaimer. The Xena Warrior Princess series and its characters are all copyrighted property of MCA/universal.
Disclaimer. This story is based on When Fates Collide and is set in an Alternate Universe.

Summary: In a world where Xena is the Empress of Greece she has come to know what it means to be alone. But that world is about to change, as a person appears who will shake the very foundations of her beliefs and turn everything upside down.

Shattering Of The Silver Light

Art work by Carpe Chakram

Shattering Of The Silver Light
by Silvermoonlight 

PROLOGUE

 “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.

In the Central Palace of Corinth six months ago

Betrayal it’s a word I’ve come to know very well in these past five years, it’s a word that fills me with self loathing and doubt. My name is Xena and I’m the ruler of Greece. I own every part of it from Sparta to Crete and right up to Thrace, everything beyond that used to be mine but not anymore, not since my betrayal. I was a fool I believed in the nobility of Julius Caesar he was my husband and I loved him. We both ruled Rome and the whole of Greece together for six years I was Empress. I was a fool for trusting him and for loving him and not seeing the truth, which was that I was his wife for no more than reason that I held peace over Greece.

He always intended to kill me, my death would have meant that Greece would have been his but he failed. I saw the truth and saw my destiny I saw the hired gladiator who had been sent to my room to kill me. He didn’t live to talk about his actions, no I made sure that he died in that room but not before he told me the truth, which was that my death had to be made to look like an accident so my husband could take full control of Greece. Caesar forgot my back ground I was a warrior long before I was ruler, I was never a decadent spoilt Roman wife. Though I may have dressed like one at times I still trained as a warrior and kept my skills sharp. I had to make a hard choice that night and I made it an ultimate act of revenge, I made sure that he died by my hand.

It wasn’t a good death for him, the drop from the balcony was long and dark and his skull cracked open when he hit the ground. I’m not proud of what I did. I believe in honour and using my skills to save others and to help those who ask for it. Julius Caesar and I built this united world together as a couple and it all fell apart in an illusion and a lie. I had no choice but to flee Rome I could never rule Rome, as women cannot seat the throne, only a man chosen by the Roman senate can do so. It’s true I could have stayed around to watch a new Caesar take the throne. I would never have been Empress again though and I feared that I’d never know peace, I’d be forever be looking over my shoulder for the next person trying to kill me.

I could have dealt with it but I saw no life in it, so I came back to Greece which was always mine Rome has no power over my country. I united this land through good deeds and I gave my soul to make it great, I didn’t conquer it, I brought it together through diplomacy. I am now its Empress or at least that’s what they call me. I should be happy I have control over my people and their happy but deep down I’m not happy. I find myself feeling so alone in side the very walls of my own palace. There is not a single Roman inside these walls their all Greek men and women, but despite that it changes nothing I don’t trust any of them fully.

I treat them well but keep them all at arms length, there are no slaves here slavery is illegal through out my whole land. I guess I’m just unhappy and depressed because I feel so alone here. I don’t have friends and I can’t really make friends here. I guess that’s why I find myself here alone in my room drinking to take away the unhappiness. I have never let anyone see me drunk I always keep it to myself I can’t afford for them to see my weakness. When they saw my weakness in Rome it nearly caused my death, I must be strong they must never see my pain or know how I truly feel about being alone. Four years have passed since I left Rome and I feel like I’m just going through the motions now. I have no hire and my throne here is not secure.

Ever since I got here I’ve had to push away the advances of nobles who want power, my not having a child is another weakness and they know this. I wish I could conceive gods knows I’ve tried but I have not been able to get pregnant and that makes me even more depressed I have no child and no one really loves me in the way I’d like. After I killed my husband I never wanted another relationship I won’t lie though since my return to Greece I’ve had sex with many noble men and women but it always felt dissatisfying and hollow like there was nothing really there. Maybe that’s why I gave up that need for sex to satisfy myself a year after returning because I realized it didn’t give me anything and it didn’t make me happy.

I know that none of those who lay in my bed loved or cared for me they just wanted to ether boast about their time with me or they did it because they wanted something from me. Gods I’m bored, bored of everything I need to take a walk to clear my mind. I don’t go around my own palace much and now feels like a good time to do so. Xena slowly got to her feet pushing her empty goblet aside she could feel the alcohol sinking in to her senses. She breathed in ignoring it as she walked out of her lavish study slamming the door behind her. It was dark and there were candle lit all around the halls to light passages but there was little or no movement or sound apart from the royal guards boots hitting the soft carpets as they did there rounds.

She began to walk through the long corridors not really caring where she was going it was very late at night and all her servants were in bed for the most part. She took in a deep breath walking down the long steps in to the outside courtyard. Despite all the glory of her palace with its white pillars and beautiful gardens and beautiful fountains and statues it felt like a tomb, a tomb which she was dying in slowly. She didn’t go out much anymore and she did all her official business in her study or she used main throne room. She did the meetings and the parties though when need be but it was more to keep the people whose kingdoms she owned happy. Not because she cared for their company she just played the good hostess as was custom because it was expected of her.

She looked up catching a glimpse of the moon which was high in the sky and so far out of her reach. She breathed in painfully walking towards the old dungeon which had been out of use for a while. Three months ago someone had once again being hung outside her palace for trying to assassinate her in broad daylight in her own palace the betrayer had been some one who she had been part of her palace staff. A professional named Jett and he was insane but brilliant at covering his tracks and played his role perfectly, it would have been a perfect hit she’d had her back turned she wouldn’t have seen it coming if not for his reflection in a shield on the wall. She’d heard that he was good and he was she hadn’t even heard his dagger leave its scabbard.

She’d missed the strike but what had brought him to his knees was a crossbow bolt in his knee. She knew who had sent him he was one of the three identical triplets the other was Jace who was a flamboyant warrior and a masochist. The leader though and the constant thorn in her side was Joxer the warlord king so to speak. She hated him, she’d never been able to find his hide out and she’d give anything to kill that bastard. He was constantly hitting regions of Greece and pillaging. He had no interest in slavery but he liked gold and he was happy to raid temples of the gods and kill anyone who got in his way, for two years she’d put up with him stealing from her people.

Some how she’d hoped that the public hanging of his youngest brother would get his attention and bring him in to the open. Of course she should have known better he was the thinker of the three, it was one of the reasons he was in charge. Because he was the strategists unlike the other two who were pure killers. She opened the metal creaking door to the dungeons watching as the young guard close by looked up the certainty in his eyes. “Empress?” She eased up her hand. “I’m just walking, there’s no need to be concerned.” The guard breathed in deeply. “But walking down here alone Empress? This is not a nice place for you to see, plus some say it’s haunted.”

Xena raised an eyebrow finally something interesting. “Do they now?” The guard breathed in looking uncomfortable. “Well they do it’s an odd story Empress, they say that one of the pits in the bellow level screams at night. They always find it odd because the pits have been out of use for over a century and you do not use them as a punishment.” Xena eyed the young man adjusting her sword slightly which was attached to her belt. “I realize that my palace was built on the ruins of an older one are the pits from the old palace?” The guard nodded. “They say that king Lycaon himself built the old palace before he lost control and was forced back in to Arcadia apparently he used to throw people in the pits so they’d starve and die.”

He shook his head. “That’s what I heard though Empress but it could be all rumour.” Xena looked up slightly she’d heard so many rumours regarding the old palace as well. When she’d come to Corinth after escaping Rome the old palace had been in ruins, it had been the perfect place for her to set up her strong hold she had her people tear down most of the ruins. They’d then spent three years rebuilding the place in to the beautiful palace it was today. She walked forward looking at the cells before turning to the guard. “I think I’ll be fine, thank you for your concern though.” She watched as the guard nodded as she passed him by looking at the dimly lit corridors. She hardly ever walked her own palace despite that she’d lived here for such a long amount of time.

She carried on walking through the shadows seeing the empty cells in there rows she looked down catching sight of the ancient steps which led to the lower level. A level which wasn’t built by her, it was the reminisce off a older cruller time when King Lycaon had been king and had shown no mercy instead he enjoyed watching those he hated suffer. She could still see the ancient dried blood stains haunting the wall she put her hands on the old stone as she caught sight of the deep pits people which people were lowered in to using a flat bed and a winding cog mechanism which was the same as they used in Rome to bring animals in to the arena, she could see the old rusty turning handles by each pit.

She moved closer to the pits seeing only pitch black darkness bellow she put her finger on one of the thick chains which was part of the pulley system. It was hardly surprising that people would think there would ghosts here this place was dismal and cold. The only light in this whole room was from a lit torch behind her. She walked over to the old metal torch looking at it, it seemed odd that someone would even light a torch here, why bother? There was no one here, may be it was lit purely so people would know where they going, but even then it seemed odd. There were plenty of oil burning touch mounts above the stairs to take down in to this area, so why have this one lit all the time?

She breathed in tapping the old fire torch seeing the rusted old palace designs. There was so much about the old palace that she didn’t know and didn’t understand and probably never would. She turned on her heels only to stop as a scratching sound hit her ears she felt her eyes dart as she looked around the half lit room. She stepped away from the wall half expected to see a rat run past her feet by but instead she saw nothing. The scratching sound came again only much loudly then there was silent once more. She moved forward realizing that the sound was loud because it was echoing from one of the pits, she rolled her eyes it was probably a male peacock.

She had been given two males and two hens as a gift from one of her royal guests two years back and frankly she hated the damn birds. The male birds did nothing but parade around her royal gardens like they owned the place and they had an annoying habit of going in side the palace itself and displaying. They also got stuck in places they shouldn’t like down the deep pits where the gardeners were working putting statues in to the ground. The royal guest who had given her them had said that they matched the blue of her eyes. As far as she was concerned they didn’t match her in any way they were noisy and annoying and she wished she could get rid of them.

No doubt one of them had fallen down the pit and was trying to find its way out she moved closer to the pit where the scratching sound had come from. She leaned down in to the darkness of the pit only to pull back as a horrible smell hit her nose. It was the intense smell or urine among other things. She put a hand to her nose as stepped something was very wrong here! She stood up fully grabbing the old torch pulling it free from its holder as she walked over to the pit pulling the touch outwards as she put a hand on her nose again. She hated the smell of rotting battle fields and though this smell was different it was just as pungent.

Prisoners were always given water in her cells to wash with what ever was down here hadn’t been given water to wash with. She lowered the flaming torch watching as it lit up the pit fully. She felt herself freeze in shock as what had been causing the smell came in to view. A figure was laying at the bottom of the pit on its side unmoving only the persons long overgrown nails were moving as they scuffed against the stone. She could see long mattered dirty hair it was so dirty that she couldn’t make out the colour. She couldn’t even tell the gender from this distance because the person was so dirty. How in Tartarus had this person gotten down here!? Her warriors weren’t allowed to throw anyone in these pits it was against the rules.

Worse still was that just by looking at the hair she could see that this person had been down here for a very long time. She moved to the side grabbing the old metal turning handle as she put the torch back in its holder. She didn’t think as she turned it with all her might hearing the creaking as the huge lower section started to rise bringing up the person along with it. She jammed her leather boot in to the wall as she turned harder ignoring the pain in her palms as the huge section came up fully. She forced the handle in to its locked position as she grabbed the torch again moving towards the person who didn’t move as she came closer. She could see now why that was they were starved, so much so that she could see bones under the skin.

They were very close to death she could tell from where she was standing and that disgusted her even more. She didn’t starve prisoners her state prisons had three rules. Torture was only allowed if it was necessary and in the best interest of Greece and prisoners were always to be given food and water to wash with.  She turned hearing the thundering as the guard who’d been looking after the area came running towards her. He’d obviously heard the sound and thought that she was in trouble. She watched as he ran down old steps stopping in front of her the shock showing in his face as he eyed the fallen figure in front of her.

She felt her teeth grind together. “What is the meaning of this!?” The guard eyed her then the starving figure before speaking in a small voice. “I had no idea.” Xena eased out her hand pointing to the figure trying to control her rage. “You don’t know who this is?!” She watched as the guard raised his hand. “No Empress, there aren’t meant to be any prisoners down here.” He breathed in sharply. “No one above me told me anything about anyone being in here. There’s nothing even in our records, you have to believe me.” Xena looked at him for a long moment he wasn’t lying she could see it in his eyes that he was as confused as her about this. She breathed in deeply somehow she knew she’d have to deal with this later now was not the time.

She moved towards the person ignoring the smell as she took both their hands dragging them clear off the pits wooden plate in one swift movement. She leaned down seeing the tatters of what had been clothes she moved quickly putting her hand on the neck feeling a very swallow pulse. There was so much bone that it was hard to tell gender. She opened one of the eyes only to see an over dilated pupil which made the eye colour impossible to make out. She turned sharply eyeing him. “Get Phantasos the healer now!” She watched as the guard vanished out of sight doing as his told. She realized now that time was very much off the essence, this person who ever he or she was, was going to die very soon if they didn’t get medical attention.

End of part 1

SHATTERING OF THE SILVER LIGHT

 

I stand and watch the head healer and his two apprentices from the doorway the person has been moved to the healing quarters. It’s been four long hours and the sun is now going up in the sky. I’m very tired now, I can feel it in my bones, I should go and sleep and yet I can’t there are two many unanswered questioned and they are plaguing my mind. I’ve watched them work tirelessly cleaning and washing this person they’ve had to cut all the hair away leaving the only part that was any good very short. It was so mattered and dreadlocked that there was nothing else that could be done. The body was cleaned and washed, finally revealing the gender which is female.

She’s a young woman in her mid twenties from the look of things, they’ve also had to feed her water very slowly and only as much as she can handle. She is so weak that she can’t even hold or lift a water skin. The hair colour is sun light blonde but the eye colour is still unknown and the room she in has been put in to darkness because she needs to shown light very slowly or it will damage her eyes. If her eyes can still see that is, because no one is really sure right now, all that is know is that she was in that pit for a long very long time her condition shows that. They’ve dressed her in a simple white robe which is easy to take on and off and put her in a warm bed. She’s been in out of consciousness and it seems very clear to me that if she lives the night its going to be a long and painfully process for her in terms of getting well.

They will no doubt start her off on a diet similar to that of a gladiator in Rome which will be a barley rich porridge in small amounts which will help her put on weight. I honestly don’t recognise this young woman but even the low light I can tell she has one very prominent feature on her lower right eyebrow which is a deep scar. It’s old and long healed but it stands out as it was clearly made by a weapons blade. Maybe the tip of a sword or a knife blade but it’s a very odd thing to see, maybe I say this because I’m used to seeing scars on warriors like myself. My body is a patch work off old scars from battle but this woman doesn’t look like a warrior, she’s small in stature and about half my height.

A petite blonde who right now looks very fragile in my mind, who is she? What is her name and where did she come from? I did not order for anyone to put down in that pit and I know now that someone will pay for this dearly for her suffering. This is why I don’t trust anyone even in my own palace because I know things like this happen with out my consent. It’s not the first time I’ve had one of my governors stealing from coffers before now and using it to please himself and not my people. I was angry then and I’m just as angry now that this starving woman was put down that pit for such a long time with out anyone knowing. No wonder the guards said it was haunted down there.

They couldn’t have known that those screams were the screams of a woman crying out in the darkness for help. Or maybe she was crying out of insanity, I have no idea what that can do to a person. Being alone like that in the darkness having no where to relive yourself but the pit around you, it’s disgusting to think that someone could suffer for so long like that. Some one must have been feeding her though since she was around this long, she was clearly there for a purpose. It just seemed that in these past weeks they lost interest. The food and water bowls were empty clearly someone wanted her to die down there in that darkness. I just wish she could speak maybe then she could tell me who did this to her.

I watch as Phantasos comes forward his long white and red robes swaying as he put his hand through his short white beard and white hair, he’s in his forties and has been my royal healer ever since he saved my life four years ago in Rome. An arrow pieced me just above the chest on the battle field and if it weren’t for him I would have died, he’s the best at what he does and I trust his loyalty. I watch as he comes to stand next to me his eyes darting before he speaks. “Well if she survives the night then theirs hope for her, we’ve done everything we can. All we can do is keep feeding her and giving her water, she’s young she might pull through.” I fold my arms leaning against the door frame I’ve always liked his honestly, he never sugar coats anything.

I look up slowly before speaking. “Did she have anything to say who she was?” Phantasos breathed in deeply. “Well yes and no.” He pulled out a leather woven chain which was quite thick and very long but not heavy. Its symbol was made of bone and was some sort of dragon or worm with red jewelled eyes eating its tail. “We couldn’t see this under the dirt and mess she had it in her hand.” Xena took the symbol looking at it for a long moment she recognised it, but she hadn’t seen it in over ten years. “It’s Ouroboros the ancient dragon god who is forever eating its tail he or she is meant to symbolize eternal recreation. This is an old god, much older than Greek gods or so they say.” She looked at the symbol. “I thought though that no one worshipped this god anymore.”

Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “Well she does and this pendent means a lot to her, she tried to close her hand when we found it, to stop us taking it. Clearly for her a half starving woman at deaths door this holds a lot of meaning for her, only those who truly value their symbols ever stop you taking them on the battle field when their close to death.” Xena looked at the symbol before handing it back to him. “Let her have it back she’ll need to for the coming weeks ahead of her.” Phantasos nodded looking up slightly. “I understand I’ll put it around her neck.” He breathed in deeply. “What are you going to do now?” Xena put a hand on her face. “I’m going to go and get some rest then I’m going to find out who this woman is.”

She turned sharply as the sound of hard boots smacking the ground hit the air she turned watching as Demetrius appeared. In essence he was the closest thing she had to a friend, though they had never really acted as friends despite that he had served with her before her marriage. After she’d returned to Greece he had once again wanted to serve under her and she had made him head of her army. Demetrius was in his late thirties with short black hair and a short black beard he had a long woven braid in his hair which hung over his shoulder. He was tall well muscled man with dark brown eyes who was the same height as she was. He was dressed in his full hoplite armour which was silver plated on both the chest plate and gauntlets.

He wasn’t married but then nether was Phantasos not that she ever asked much about ether of their personal lives. She preferred to stay at a distance and always be formal with both of them. Demetrius breathed in deeply. “Empress I heard about what happened, how is the young woman doing?” Xena looked up slightly. “If she lives through tonight it’ll be a long time before she gets well again.” Demetrius adjusting one of his gauntlets as he looked up. “I did not know of any prisoner who was put down one of the pits the royal guard know the rules no one is allowed to put prisoners in that area.” Xena looked in to the dark room again. “I know that you’re not to blame for this but some one is, some one put her down there to die.”

She folded her arms. “I need you to do something for me.” Demetrius eased up his horse hair helmet. “What do you wish of me Empress?” Xena looked at the young woman again. “I need you to go to Chara and Phrixus and see if they can find anything in the records about this woman and who she is.” Demetrius nodded. “Of course I’ll see what I can do.” Phantasos snorted. “If you see Chara tell her that she owes me three dinars.” Demetrius rolled his eyes. “You know I am head of the royal guard not a messenger boy.” Phantasos smirked. “Oh yes I know that, but I would be grateful.” Demetrius shook his head. “Fine I’ll do so, what was your bet over now?”

Phantasos felt his smile widen. “It’s over whether or not Phrixus can work out of any words on that werewolf scroll he’s got locked up in the study?”  Demetrius grunted aloud. “No one can work out what that monsters parchment says all he can decipher are the odd sketches and that it, I expected more.” Xena looked at them both for a long moment, she knew what they were talking about over four years ago she had found a scroll in a ruined temple in the Arcadia region. It was a monumental find the only one of its kind, a scroll revealing the history of the werewolf race. A scroll written in their own language which no one could yet decipher.

It was in essence a messed up version of the Greek language which didn’t make much sense. It made even less sense since werewolves were monsters who killed people and had caused nothing but trouble for many years in Greece. She’d sent out an order to have them all hunted down and killed. Werewolf pelt was a high prized item on the Greek market as were their claws teeth and skulls. She’d first seen a werewolf in Rome when she’d been married to Julius Caesar. It had been brought in to an arena to fight four gladiators on a special night showing she had never seen anything so violent and brutal in her life.

It had torn the first gladiators head clean off and then ripped the others insides out, it was pure animal, pure rage, pure instinct. With out mercy or fear of death and even when the heavy armoured Murmillo had brought down the huge monster it had still ripped off both his arms. This only gladiator left the retiarius with his tall spear and net had finally finished the job. It was enough to make even her feel real fear Minotaur’s and satyrs are intelligent and could speak but not werewolves they didn’t speak at all. They had no humanity and they had no human form and little if anything was known about them. So to find a scroll like this one was a contradiction in every way.

To think that these monsters had a culture or even written word seemed shocking, it had caused so many arguments between the scribes of Athens who were desperate to see this scroll. She’d refused them all that privilege because first she wanted her best scribe to look at it personally and confirm that it was written by werewolves and not humans writing werewolf history. Personally she thought it was human’s writing werewolf history she doubted that those monsters could hold a quill in their paws. Claws like theirs were for tearing man a sunder. She confessed that she have one of these monsters stuffed and mounted in the visitors study. It’s more a show piece but it always turned heads, the royal guests were always in awe.

More because they all know how much trouble they cause I how many people they’ve killed and how they always attack at night. They’ve seen the blood and the bodies and the dying on the ground, men women children and they all asked that I enforce the werewolf hunting law and I did so with out question. For every werewolf that’s killed fifty dinars are paid per head, or skull the body is there’s to do what they want with. Normally its hacked up the pelts is sold and the claws and skulls become trophies. For the eccentric the blood is sold and used in medicine and for those who border on the unique and believe in such things, the heart and meat are sold for cooking and eating as some believe it will give them great strength.

I’ve never par taken in any of that but my trophy is enough to make my point clear I want these monsters to stop terrorizing my people and killing them. Even I find that scroll difficult to fathom but then who wouldn’t. The world is full of contractions and strange things which make no sense or have no truth. She looked up meeting Demetrius’s gaze. “I’m going to bed take care of this for me.” Demetrius nodded calmly. “Yes Empress.” Xena turned towards the corridor before meeting Phantasos concerned gaze. “When I wake up give me an update on how the young woman is doing?” Phantasos nodded looking up slightly. “Of course Empress.” She walked away from the both of them she was so tired it had been a long night and she should be in some stupid meeting tomorrow. Probably the only perk of owning a land is that people have to wait on you at the end of a day. So they would have to wait on her tomorrow until she was ready and had got enough sleep.

End of part 2

 

FOR ALL THE STRANGE MYSTERY

 

Its been a week a long week at least it feels that way to me, maybe because I’ve been looking in to the healers room everyday to see if the young woman is doing okay. She’s started to put the weight back on which is surprising but saying that she now gets four meals a day. Their small meals but that’s the thing about barley it really piles on the pounds and she’s getting stronger. She can eat from the bowl now and can sit up in bed but the room still has to be in total darkness. It’s not going to be an easy process when they start opening the curtains slowly to allow the light in. That is unless she’s gone blind from being in total darkness for so long then it won’t matter ether way. I would like her to get her sight back personally, she’s young she doesn’t deserve to be blind for the rest of her life.

I’m disappointed, Chara and Phrixus found nothing in the records even in the prisoner records. There’s no description of this woman it’s like she never existed at all in this palace, which just angers me all the more. Someone went to great lengths to cover up this up even to the point of making sure that nothing existed showing that she was here. Now there’s only one way to find out who she is which is to ask her name, that’s the biggest problem off all though. In these past two days she been conscious and this opportunity was used to clean the stains of her teeth which wasn’t a pleasant experience for her. In fact she hated it, I saw the whole thing she was so unhappy even though she never spoke her face said it all.

It got worse though she had to have a back chewing tooth taken out because it was badly infected and at risk of infecting her lower gum. I just waved my hand on that one and made sure they gave her a top of the range gold replacement. These replacements are long lasting and make eating feel natural. I should know I have two gold replacements of my own in the back off my mouth, the first tooth I lost in battle when a horse hair helmet was used to club me in the face when the Spartans declared war on me after I united upper Greece, a war which I ended very quickly. The other was from when that gladiator tried to kill me in Rome. During the battle he smashed my face in to the stone of the balcony, so I know how necessary these replacements are.

There not nice to put in though it’s very painfully and that made this young woman even less happy afterwards. Oh she didn’t speak but she made her feelings clear by throwing her empty food bowl at the wall, despite her weakened condition. Now thought all her teeth are white and clean and she can carry on healing now for the better. I respect her ability to get through this she’s been very strong it’s just such a shame that she won’t speak. Not that its surprising all that time alone she can’t be used to talking and if she ever did speak then I’m guessing it was to herself. It’s clear though that her sight isn’t good she has to be handed her bowl and spoon.

Most of the time I think she’s confused it’s an expression which plays on her face a lot. It’s hardly surprising last week she was an inch from death and now she’s alive and being taken care off. To her it must bring about all sorts of questions and none with answers. I feel though that its time that I answer some for her. I watch as Ceto comes up the corridor carrying her tray with the warm porridge and a tankard of water. She’s my personal maid and normally she only deals with my meals but I felt it right just to bring this woman’s to her. Until she’s well enough to go to the kitchen and choose what she wants from the meats and vegetables on offer.

I turn meeting Ceto’s gaze as I raise my hand. “I’ll take this in to her.” Ceto stopped still watching as the taller woman took the tray from her hand. “Are you sure Empress?” Xena looked at the warm food. “Yes I’m sure, I need to spend some time with this woman maybe get to know her then I can get some answers about who she is and why she was in the pit.” Ceto pushed her medium length brown hair back as her dark green eyes darted. “May be you could ask her about that scar on her eyebrow Empress, the kitchen staff keep on asking me about it but I have no story to tell.” Xena breathed in deeply she trusted Ceto on a personal level she’d been her personal maid ever since her return to Greece, she was both trust worthy and loyal.

Ceto though had problems because of her position she was prone to hearing the palace gossip and the other staff liked to ask her questions. This young woman being found where she had had been had caused a lot of gossip among the palace staff. It always perplexed her how they focused on odd things, like in this instance they were fixated by a scar. She wouldn’t lie it was strange for such a young woman to have a scar like that on her eyebrow. For a warrior no one would bat an eyelid or want to talk about it. She turned slowly putting a hand on Ceto’s shoulder. “I’ll look in to it.” Ceto nodded respectfully. “Thank you Empress I would like to stifle the gossip some what.”

Xena watched as she walked away she hoped that she’d at least have some answers for Ceto. She slowly walked through the doorway watching as the young woman looked up from her bed though her eyes looked past her. She was sure that she could hear her footsteps as they echoed on the marble floor not that It helped matters as she had heavy boots on. She carefully sat on the bed next to her seeing that she was still looking in her direction. She took in a deep breath before speaking gently. “Hi.” The young woman carried on looking at her, but there was no response. This was going to be harder than she’d first thought she carefully put the tray down picking up the hot bowl. “I brought you, your dinner.”

She carefully took hold of her other woman’s hand putting the bowl in to it watching as she griped it tightly. She slowly put the spoon in her other hand watching as she clutched it tightly. The younger woman started to eat very slowly, even though her eyes couldn’t see her she seemed very wary. She’d probably become very used to the same people being in this room feeding her and helping her.  Xena felt a smile form on my lips. “They say you’re getting a lot better, it must be boring though eating that porridge every day I don’t know how you can stand it.” She looked down only to hear a voice hit the air it was so faint that she almost didn’t hear it. She turned looking at the young woman speaking softly. “What did you say?” The younger woman turned in her direction as she spoke slightly louder. “You get used to it.”

Xena shifted closer she’d actuality spoken to her, that was a surprise. “Must still be very boring, though.” The young woman’s fingers gripped her bowl tighter as she spoke again. “I wouldn’t know I’ve forgotten what everything else tastes like.” Xena leaned a little closer the woman may not have been able to see but her hearing was still good, as she moved back ever so slightly. “What’s your name?” The younger woman unseeing eyes moved in darkness as though she was thinking it through which wasn’t surprising ether. It had been so long since she’d had any human contact. The younger woman’s gaze darted as she looked up as if remembering for the first time what her name was, she took in a deep breath as she spoke. “My name is Gabrielle.”

Xena looked at her for a long moment that was a very charming name to her ears she watched as the younger woman carried on eating as she began to loose herself in her own thoughts. “That’s a nice name.” She turned hearing the foot steps up the corridor she watched as a Chara appeared in the doorway. “Yes?” Chara breathed in deeply adjusting her purple peplos robes which had a thick golden embodied belt as she tapped her brown sandals. “I do not mean to bother you Empress, it’s just there’s something you need to see.” Xena breathed in deeply as she stood up. “I’m coming.” She put her hand gently on Gabrielle arm as she placed the mug of water with in her reach. “Your waters here, I’ve put it on the table opposite your bed.”

She watched as she nodded, before following Chara whose long blonde hair was well over her shoulders and in a long plait. Her dark green eyes shifted as they moved in to the room opposite, where a big wooden box was sitting on the desk. The scribe moves her hand to the boxes lid. “You asked me to find something on the young woman sadly I couldn’t and nether could Phrixus.” Xena closed the door behind her walking over to the table eyeing the heavy box. “Yes I did.” Chara’s looked up as she opened the wooden lid. “We found this Empress, it was in the visitors study but it was hidden behind a shelf, I was looking through the remaining records when I stumbled up on it, I may never have noticed it otherwise.”

She eyed the contents inside. “As you know when a prisoner under your law is put in prison all his or her items go in to a wooden box, the box is locked and stored with a record. If they are freed their items are returned if they are punished and go to their death the box is sent to their family.” She paused before speaking. “This is a prison box but it was open, no key, no records but its items from what I can tell are hers the clothes are about her size.” Xena eased her hand in pulling up a white long sleeved shirt with decorative sleeves embodied in red patterns, there was a black loose fitting pair of trousers and knee high pair of black leather boots. This woman obviously didn’t wear women’s clothes at all there had be a good very reason for that though.

A reason which wasn’t clear to her at the very moment in time she carefully put the small shirt back in the box. Everything about this woman was a mystery the more she found the more she didn’t understand. She blinked catching sight of a very familiar emblem which was on a golden medallion which had a thick gold chain. She pulled it out looking at the two wolf heads meeting in the flames it was the symbol of the Northern Rebels of Arcadia. They had been a separate faction to the Spartans and not allied with them. They were much worse than any faction she’d ever dealt with, she’d never understood their motives they were also known for their attacks which had been lightning fast and always killed innocent people.

They’d even attacked her palace and their attack just might have succeeded if not for Demetrius incredibly quick thinking. He’d bottle necked them in the courtyard, giving her enough time to force them in to a corner with her troops. She still couldn’t work out to this very day how they’d gotten in over the wall which surrounded the palace. It was twenty feet high and not a single one of them had a rope on them, she could only assume some one had let them in on her side, though the traitor had been found to this very day.

They were aiming to kill her that much was true but they’d failed and those who survived that battle were locked away in her prison. A year later she’d been able to form and agreement with them as their leader had come forward in the cells revealing him self. She’d freed all those imprisoned as an act of good faith, but even now she’d never understood their sudden turn around in behaviour. She didn’t buy it, she’d locked her enemies up for years before they had finally broken and asked to start an agreement. As a rule she never killed the leader unless she had no choice. She knew better, when you cut off the snake’s head it doesn’t necessarily stop the body moving. So her method was to imprison the leader until he couldn’t stand prison any longer and wanted to start the agreement process.

It worked better that way and the leader’s followers would go with it also since he wasn’t killed it would mean there was no martyr and no one would take his place. She looked at the medallion this young woman was a Northern Rebel? She didn’t look like one at all, all this aside though Chara was right these clothes were her size. She put the medallion down looking at the other items she eased out a small wooden bird which had been carved by hand with deep and beautiful details, it was painted in rich deep colours. It was a Goldfinch a small insect eating bird which was very common. She looked at the piece for a long moment it was so beautiful crafted, despite being nothing more than a table ornament.

She looked down seeing another small bird carved in the same beautiful manner she carefully placed the other down picking the second bird up which was a carved and painted Black Cap. It seemed so strange that this would be in the box along with the medallion of the rebels since these little carved birds were a world apart from them. She put the little Black Cap down watching as Chara picked it up looking it over with great interest. Her gaze drifted to a small leather bag which was Amazon in design, she eased it up opening pouring it gently out on to the table watching as a series of items came in to view. She picked up the filled money bag rattling it clearly the young woman wasn’t poor.

She put it down picking up the next item which was bronze ring she turned it between her fingers she didn’t recognise the design on it but it was clear that it wasn’t hers. It was for a much bigger hand than hers. Perhaps it had been a gift she’d intended to give, or may be it was something more ether way it was another piece of a much bigger puzzle. She put it down picking up the next item which was a small chain with a red gemstone, which was very small. She put it down catching sight of a small wooden child toy horse which was very old she could tell by the darkened wood. It was clearly some kind of toy from her childhood which she’d never been able to part with.

The last item was a small carved ivory pipe clearly for smoking she picked it up looking at it. It was a strange thing to have she knew that noble Greek women smoked as did men but it seemed strange for this young woman have an item like this. She didn’t look like the type to smoke, in her opinion. She sighed as she put the things back in bag then put them in the box watching as Chara placed the bird in with the other. “Your right this has to be hers but still there’s nothing to say where she came from, or how she got here.” Chara breathed in closing the box. “I’ll leave this with you maybe you can give it to her when she’s feeling better Empress.”

Xena looked up slightly. “She is getting better she spoke to me today.” Chara blinked in surprise. “She spoke to you, but she hasn’t spoken to anyone since she was brought out of the pit, the rumour in the palace was that she can’t speak Empress.” Xena tapped the boxes lid. “Well she spoke to me today. She didn’t say much though only that she couldn’t remember how most food tastes. After I told her that eating barley porridge everyday must be boring.” Chara leaned forward. “Did she tell you her name Empress? You see the healing staff have been trying all week to find it out but she won’t speak to them.” Xena blinked this was a strange turn of events the young woman had spoken to her before anyone else, she breathed in deeply. “Yes as a matter of fact she did…she told me that her name is Gabrielle.”

End of part 3

 

TAKING THE FIRST PAINFUL STEPS

It’s been two weeks now and I’m having the most boring day of my life once more the truth is I have nothing to do in this palace. No that’s wrong there’s plenty I could do but I have no one to share it with anymore. I lost my love of doing things with others back when my husband tried to kill me back in Rome and now I just feel empty. Maybe that’s why finding this young woman has given me something to do with myself which doesn’t involve drinking. I doubt she’ll stay here once she’s healed fully. She probably has a life beyond these walls which is waiting for her, no doubt her friends and family are worried about her and once and I find out where she was born maybe then I can send her home.

For now though she’s a welcome distraction which takes my mind off the boredom of my days. I turn looking at her wooden box which has been in my study now ever since it was handed to me.  I confess I took out one of the little bird carvings and put it on my desk, I know it’s not mine but I really like looking at it it’s so beautifully carved. I turn signing another scroll as I look up from my desk which is in my personal study its next to my bedroom. There’s a second door here which people can knock on which means they don’t go in to my private bedroom. Frankly I don’t like anyone in there other than Ceto, she does all my personal cleaning and brings my food and that’s how I want it to stay.

A harsh knock on the door brings me out of my thoughts. “Come in.” I turn watching as Chara walks in with two documents, this is what I’ve been waiting for some information regarding our guest. Chara slowly stepped towards the Empress feeling a smile form. “I have good news and bad news Empress.” Xena watched as she placed two scrolls down in front of. “Go on.” Chara breathed in deeply. “Well the good news is there aren’t many Gabrielle’s on record it’s not a very common name.” She eased up the first document. “I found fifteen in total thankfully though all the records come with the person’s description which is a blessing as I was able to find a matching description.”

Xena slowly eased up the first document looking at it. “This is good isn’t it? How is it bad news?” Chara sighed aloud. “This is the problem Empress, the woman matches the description short stature, fair skin blonde hair and green eyes, born in the town of Potidaea twenty seven years ago.” She shook her head. “If you read on though it says she was presumed dead when she was sixteen.” She took in a deep breath. “There was an incident outside Potidaea something terrible happened, no ones written what went on in full only that two young men died and six young women were abducted on the outskirts by slavers trying to make an illegal profit.” She eased up her finger. “But here’s the thing that makes even less sense three days later four of the women returned.”

She looked up slightly. “They say they were attacked by monsters they don’t say what kind only that this Gabrielle saved them by breaking the chains with a hammer so they could flee but she left her self still chained in process.” She eyed the scroll. “All the slavers were killed sadly so was one of the women.  She eyed the last passage of the scroll. “Potidaea then sent out a search party to retrieve the woman’s dead body and give her a proper burial and to find Gabrielle. Her body though was never found and she was presumed dead dying the noble death to save others. She stood up folding her arms. “But she’s very much alive and both of her parents are also still alive as are her younger sister and brother. Yet she’s never returned to them in all these years.”

She breathed in deeply. “This now makes it very hard for us to find her in the records or even what she’s been up to over the past eleven years. She’s basically a ghost no history, no full record and the only way to find out is to ask her when she’s well enough. Though rumour has it that she’s beginning to walk a few steps a day but its hard work for her. Being in a pit on your knees for a long amount of time does nothing for your muscle tone.” She paused feeling that it was time to change the subject. “Iona has returned from Crete, she’s walking in fresh blood and dirt all over your floor as usual.” Xena put a hand on her face, Iona was her second in command but unlike Demetrius, she was not an elite royal guard. She was part of a darker problem solving elite unit.

This unit fix issues like killing warlords who betrayed her trust after signing arguments that they’d stop there campaigns they also killed illegal slave traders on site. They find out about all the dirty secrets in the governments and councils and broke people’s fingers to get information about illegal activities. Personally she preferred diplomacy, but even she’d learnt that when it came to keeping stability with in Greece there had to be a few jaws broken and arms twisted at times. Iona had always slightly disturbed her may be it was the fact that she loved her role far too much. It was probably due to her past her parents had died and she’d been brought up by her grandfather who was a seasoned mercenary. He had trained her to fight and as soon as she was old enough she’d joined the army but the truth was that she didn’t fit in with them at all, she far more aggressive than the typical warrior.

She’d had later created this specialist unit and put her in charge of it and she’d embraced passionately. Demetrius and Iona respected each other as warriors but they didn’t get on personally. May be this was because they did their jobs in very different ways, Demetrius embraces the warrior’s codes of honour and would never kill surrendering men. Iona on the other hand killed people for being disloyal and breaks their necks in quite corners. She beats up men until they talk because the information they have could be used to undermine my leadership. I only have one rule she can kill the army, but she has to bring the leader back to me alive, because I stand by the rule of not killing them unless theirs no choice and as I know most break after time spending time in prison.

Iona isn’t the most well mannered of people, oh she’s very loyal but she has a habit of walking in to my palace covered in mud as well as blood, which the servants hate because they have to clean and re-polish the floors. Tiara the head of the cleaning staff is a rather crumby woman in her fifties and she’s forever complaining about this saying that there should be a no boots rule in the throne room. I have told Iona about her boots but it appears that she’s not listening I feel its time to enforce that rule. She turned to Chara who was in deep thought. “Thank you for all this information on Gabrielle.” Chara nodded as she stepped back. “You’re very welcome Empress I’m just sorry there isn’t more, as I said the situation is very strange.”

She was about to say more only to stop as Iona pushed the door open forcefully she met the woman’s reddish brown gaze. “You’re meant to knock!” Iona stepped forward pushing her long braided black hair back giving her a smug smile. “Oh Chara how nice, come to greet me again, it’s been so long.” Chara sneered moving away from the Empress. “Excuse me Empress I have important documents to write.” Xena watched her leave the room closing the door behind her, she breathed in deeply putting her hands together. “You know I have told you about you, your manners before.” Chara put her hand on her chest. “Chara has never liked me Empress.”

She put a hand on her leather armoured chest unlike Demetrius she wore light leather clothing which consisted of a dark brown leather shirt with long sleeves and darker brown trousers along with knee high black boots and a silver decorative belt. She smiled raising a bloody bag. “I did as you commanded Virilius is dead for betraying your agreement and going back to his illegal activities.” Xena eyed the bloody bag putting a hand on her face, gods why did she always do this? “How many times do I have to tell you, that I don’t want you to bring severed heads back to the palace!?” Chara eyed the bloody bag. “I do this as a matter of honour Empress.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “I don’t care I know you do your job I don’t need proof!”

Chara eyed the bag. “But you told me that you needed proof.” Xena rolled her eyes. “Proof can take many forms, a witness a ring the warlord’s wife. It doesn’t have to evolve severed body parts which bleed all over my floors and annoy my servants.” Iona raised an eyebrow. “I thought your servants were paid to be annoyed?” Xena stood up sharply. “Be quite Iona and do as I tell you!” She watched as the woman stepped back lowering her head in respect as she realized that play time was over and her smugness wouldn’t wash with her. She sat back down slowly. “How did you kill him?” Iona raised her head slightly. “I pushed him off one of the city walls it broke his neck killing him instantly.”

Xena looked up. “Why do you have to always kill people like that, wouldn’t a knife to the throat work the same?” Iona breathed in deeply. “I was sending a message to his followers and doing what was requested off me, which was to kill him.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “Well now you’re requested to go and clean your self up and get rid of your present by burning it, is that clear?” Iona nodded. “Yes Empress.” She paused before looking up. “I heard about the young woman you found that was most unfortunate to find her in the pit like that. I send my condolences and hope that she gets better soon, I also hope that you find who put her down there and see them hang as its vile thing to do that to another human being.”

Xena looked up slightly it was almost ironic that Iona should say that since she did very cruel things to those who tarnished her country, but maybe that’s was what made the world so strange. Iona bowed slightly. “I’ll go and get cleaned up.” Xena nodded watching as she left closing the door behind her. She breathed in looking at Gabrielle’s document again before gently picking up the wooden crafted bird ignoring the blood spots on her newly washed floor. Maybe she’d spent too much time looking at literature years in Rome watching plays by her husband’s side it had given her time to begin to question the world and the words of bards and scribes.

She ran her finger over the wooden Goldfinches little black and silver painted eyes, gods she wished she could keep her hands of this little wooden bird it wasn’t even hers but she would love to have it. She wasn’t one for sculpture despite that her palace was filled with ornate things most though were gifts and she didn’t pick them they’d been brought by her servants because they looked nice in certain rooms. This though was something she’d like to own, just because it was beautiful to look at, someone’s had put their heart and soul in to the carving. If Gabrielle did make this then it was sign that she was a skilled crafts man and carpenter who puts real effort and joy in to her work. Hopefully by next week she’d be able to walk across her room.

She wanted to talk to her again when she felt less venerable she knew from personal experience that people liked to feel strong when speaking to others they didn’t like to feel that they were at a disadvantage. Sometimes she wished that she had all the answers to all the questions but that’s the way of life was, people were always searching answers. She was sure she’d read that in a scroll once she couldn’t remember the bard who had written it but it had been a great read.

8

Chara folded another document staring at the long scroll which was stretched across two tables Phrixus was looking at it scribbling notes on a scroll opposite. He was a tall man who was very well muscled and had a thick beard but only his chin. His hair was short and red in colour and he had dark blue eyes, he had once been a Spartan warrior but he had given up a warrior’s life in the pursuit of knowledge. He’d left Sparta to pursue this life and he was very good at it, he could decipher most languages, but this scroll was turning in to his worst nightmare he’d been working on it for ages and even now he couldn’t work out the backwards Greek. She watched as he adjusted his white kolpos with its golden embroidery as he tapped his high brown sandals on the floor in frustration.

Two years work and still no breakthrough, she felt bad for him he was a man who couldn’t stand to be beaten and this was beating him. It was just his Spartan pride wouldn’t let him quit. She stood up walking towards him looking at the scroll with its many pictures all finally painted as she watched him sneer in anger. “You know you’d think they’d make it easier.” Phrixus narrowed his gaze. “To make it easy would not be a worthy challenge.” Chara looked at the different images there were seven spread across the huge scroll and unlike the other images they were the similar. Each was of a werewolf with what looked like deer antlers on its head but they all looked very different in appearance. She put her finger on one. “What do you suppose these images are all about?”

Phrixus put his finger on one of the horned werewolf’s images. “All that I can work out is that these are leaders at least that what’s the drawing seems to say as there are always normal werewolves below them raising their hands to them. I think their all from different times in history because their clothing changes, but I don’t understand their significance. Also no one has ever seen a werewolf with deer antlers it’s unheard off, which I why I think this might be a god of some kind.” Chara looked at the images. “You know I think the problem is that werewolf heads are worth fifty dinars a piece under the hunting law and no hunter who would kill a werewolf like that would give it up, it’d be too much of a trophy.” Phrixus shook his head. “Such a waste if you ask me I mean if they wrote this wouldn’t it mean that we’ve got everything wrong?”

Chara shook her head. “Your Spartan I thought you’d embrace something like this I mean we are killing these monsters for the good of the country.” Phrixus shook his head. “That is the reason I no longer serve Sparta destroying other city places and people in not an absolution in my mind understanding and learning is and if this was written by werewolf hands then we are destroying an intelligent race.” Chara looked at the long scroll. “May be some day soon you’ll work out the backwards Greek on this and all the answers will be revealed I mean your so close and you have some of the letters already worked out.” Phrixus put his hand on the beautiful scroll running his fingers over the exquisite imagery which was beautiful detailed and highly coloured. “I can only hope that day comes soon.”

End of part 4

THE EXCRUCIATING PAIN OF HIDDEN EMOTIONS

 

My name is Gabrielle at least that is what I remember right now my mind just feels like a scrambled mess. Images, places, faces and none of them really make any sense to me. Everything is dark to me, even what I see which is just misty grey shadows and voices when people speak to me I’ve been told that I’m in the palace in Corinth. Corinth is a familiar name to me though I can’t fathom why that is so, I don’t know why I remember so little shouldn’t I remember everything in my life? The last thing I do remember is being brought out of the darkness of that pit and I remember the woman’s voice speaking in the darkness to me it was the same woman who spoke to me three weeks ago.

I shift my feet painfully forward gods I wish I could see it’s like the world is cut off to me. I ease my next foot forward ignoring the slight sting in my muscles I can walk further every day but only with the help off one of the people in the healer’s room as well as a stick, which I have to use to find the chair in my room among other things. I’ve just about mapped it out far corner is the chair central room has the bed and upper right of the room has the wash bowl and the bed pan. I sit painfully down in the chair hearing the head healer’s voice hit the air. “Very good Gabrielle I think soon you’ll be walking on your own.” Despite that his words are filled with joy I have no joy I’m still blind.

I see his grey shadow move forward turning everything in my vision to black I feel him raise my head speaking gently. “Any change in your eyes?” I look in to the darkness. “No.” The blackness suddenly turns to a painfully white light which stings my eye. I think he’s shining a candle close to my eyes again. The light moves away and everything goes black once more as his voice hits the air. “You know Gabrielle your eyes are a puzzle to me, they still won’t dilate when I shine the candle on them, but your pupil size has returned to normal, we can all see those pretty forest green eyes of yours now.” My eye colours forest green I don’t even remember that let alone what my own face looks like.

His voice comes again as he turns my head no doubt checking the movement of eyes in my skull. “Your eyes look like their healing yet I can’t understand why you can’t see anything it makes no sense to me. I made sure that in your morning drink that you had something put in to help your eyes heal yet it does not seem to have fixed anything.” He sighed aloud. “The inner lens of your eye isn’t milky I can’t see any damage to your ether iris or pupil it makes no sense at all. I worked with patients with eyes problems before and I can normally do something to help them your ever the Empress’s little mystery.” Gabrielle felt his hand move away from her face. “Who’s the Empress?”

The healer’s voice came again. “She’s the woman who found you in this pit she’s the ruler of this palace and off Greece. I’m sorry for the pet name it’s just that everyone likes to call you her little mystery as she found you.” Gabrielle looked up slightly in to the darkness. “I wish I wasn’t a mystery I wish I could remember my past, yet I don’t remember a thing.” She felt his hand on his shoulder as his gentle voice hit the air. “I’m sure it will come back to you, you no doubt had a traumatic time in the pit and maybe everything’s been blocked from your mind.” Phantasos breathed in sadly looking at the short haired blonde woman who was seated in front of him this was very sad as there was nothing much he could say to make this better for her.

He eyed the deep scar on her eye which cut through her eyebrow which had been clearly made by some sort of weapon. Despite being very old and healed it was very prominent. Frankly he wanted her sight to return so she could live a full life she was twenty seven years old and deserved to have a life where she could see. He stroked his short beard watching as Xena appeared in door way he’d heard the news this morning that she had set up a room for this young woman so she could have her own personal space and not be tied down to the healer’s room. As she was now well enough to walk around it was the perfect time to move her to a fresh environment.

He had known the Empress for a long time and he knew that she was a woman who had a lot of pride she ruled very justly and fairly. She didn’t use violence to make a point unless she had no choice. She was kind hearted and that was what made her so popular with her people but it also meant that some saw this kindness as her weakness and because of this there had been a lot of attempts to kill her. All had failed but now she was in a strange position, she wasn’t bitter about these attempts on her life with the exception of her ex husband who she’d had to kill back in Rome. Instead she’d become very sad and melancholy and very distant from everyone even to her closest staff. She was always graceful and kind but she never got close anymore it was like the trust was gone.

She was lonely he could see it in her eyes, and he understood why she had united the whole of Greece and now she no longer had anyone to share it with. Though she’d never admit it she had loved Julius Caesar and before he’d tried to have her killed they had been talking about children and he could see that, that had also devastated her. No doubt she would have wanted the patter of tiny feet mother hood was something that suited her as he’d seen how she was with the servants children who ran around and played in the palace while there parents worked. She was gentle and kind and despite her imposing looks and armour when it came to little kids she’d kneel down in front of them and ask what they were playing.

It was so sad that this kind woman who loved children had no children or partner to love her and she deserved that more than anyone. He turned looking at Gabrielle whose unseeing green eyes saw nothing despite that the curtains were now fully drawn and sun light was pouring in through the window maybe the Empress’s loneliness was the reason she kept on dropping in on this young woman. It was true that she felt guilty for all that happened to her and that it happened under her nose and it was true that Gabrielle’s past was very much the mystery. The fact that she had been reported as dead at the age of sixteen and had eleven years of being of the records was also strange.

Xena knew now though that Gabrielle was walking and in truth someone else could take over from here on, this was not her problem anymore. Yet she refused to stop checking in on this young woman even though she hadn’t spoken to her since she’d given her, her dinner some time back. She’d walk past everyday and have a look in side the healer’s room just to see how she was doing. Clearly Xena was drawn in by her for some reason which he didn’t understand it was very odd for Xena to be so perplexed by a person. He wasn’t the only one to notice it the staff had seen it as well and had been gossiping about it. He breathed in as he shook his head getting rid of his thoughts turning to Xena who was standing quietly opposite. “Good morning Empress.”

Xena breathed in deeply as she looked at Gabrielle she was looking much better now she’d really started to pile on the pounds these past few weeks and all the bone that had been showing through on her cheeks was now gone showing a young healthy face. She had been told that her back bone, pelvic bones and collar bone were all no longer showing ether.  Although ribs were still showing but only very slightly and the parts of her body that were female were becoming very noticeable like her breasts and curves which was very good. It had taken this young woman almost a month to heal up fully and though she still had some more weight just put on to fill her out fully she was doing very well.

She’d seen her walking she could now walk small distances sadly though her sight had still not returned. She knew she could just walk away now and let nature take its cause but she truly didn’t want to. This young woman had suffered because of someone in her palace and she wanted to put that right in what ever way she could.  In truth she wasn’t being fully honest with herself she’d been perplexed by this young woman ever since she’d found her in the pit. Gabrielle was a mystery and an enigma and she wanted to find out more about her. She wanted to know where she’d come from and what she’d been doing during the last eleven years of her life and she couldn’t let it go.

It was true that the young woman remembered nothing but being pulled out of the pit but she still wanted to help her. She breathed in meeting Phantasos’s gaze. “Good morning.” She watched as Gabrielle turned in the direction of her voice. “How is our patient doing today?” Phantasos smiled putting a hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder. “Well as you can see she’s walking and she’s looking better than ever.” Xena stepped forward looking at the young woman more closely this was the first time she’d really seen her in the sun light and what had been said in her birth record was correct. She did have forest green eyes and golden blonde hair though it was now shorter as it had, had to be cut back almost to the roots, but in this past three weeks it had started to grow longer.

She breathed in deeply before speaking. “How do you feel Gabrielle?” Gabrielle stared forward although she couldn’t see the woman she recognised the voice. “I’m doing better.” She paused before speaking. “I remember your voice you brought me my dinner some time ago, you asked me if I was bored of the barley porridge.” Phantasos raised his hand. “Doesn’t miss a thing this one, she remembers every voice.” Xena smiled stepping closer. “Gabrielle you’re going to be moved today to a new room, it’s a bigger nicer room which is on the next floor. It’ll be much nicer for you it has its own tub and balcony and a large bed there and one of my servants can take care of you.”

Gabrielle shifted in the chair she was seated in. “That’s very nice but what’s wrong with this room?” Xena looked around her it was so sad that this young woman couldn’t see or she’d see that this was no more than a simple room to patch up peoples wounds and no place for her to stay in. “This is a room for healing wounds Gabrielle and as your very much on the mend its time you had somewhere better to sleep in.” Gabrielle stood up slowly using the stick. “You saved me from the pit?” Xena felt a sad smile form. “Yes I did my name is Xena.” Gabrielle looked in the direction of the other woman’s voice. “How did you know I was down there?” Xena lowered her gaze. “One of my men told me there was a ghost in the pits, I wanted to look as by law those pits are not too be used to imprison people.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Thank you for saving me Xena.” Xena blinked she somehow hadn’t expected a thank you not since it was her pit that the young woman had been down but then she was looking at someone who couldn’t remember her own life. May be if Gabrielle knew any better she wouldn’t be so kind and be more resentful. She would in that situation clearly Gabrielle’s lack of memory was making her very innocent to that fact. The truth was that no one had any idea what this woman’s real personality was like. Some how she hoped when it started to surface if it ever did that it wouldn’t hate her for all that had happened as she had tried so hard to right the wrong that had befallen this young woman.

Maybe a part of her was clinging on to the notion that someone she didn’t know would like her or a least be friends with her. It was a pathetic thought and she knew it but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t trust anyone fully in her own palace and as Gabrielle had no links or ties to any of her servants or staff maybe she could talk with her. It was odd to think that one young woman could demand so much of her attention but she wouldn’t lie she was so lonely inside these walls. Sometimes she just wanted someone to talk who wasn’t on her staff. She breathed in deeply tapping her boot on the floor as she smiled at Phantasos. “I’ll let Phantasos show you to your new room.”

Gabrielle felt a feeling of confusion take over. “You’re not going to show me to my room?” Xena looked down feeling a sense of pain take over if Phantasos had not been here, she might have said yes. She already knew that she looked weak in front of others because she was kind and she couldn’t afford any more slip ups, she had to now show the respectable front and go about her duties. “No sadly I have business to attend to.” She felt her sad smile widen. “I’ll carry on stopping by to see how you’re getting on.” Phantasos watched her catching the deep pain her eyes as she turned away leaving the room. If only Gabrielle’s eyes could see then she would have seen it as well he put his hand on her arm seeing a sad expression form on her face as she spoke. “She sounded sad.”

He turned sharply this young woman didn’t miss a thing she had exceptionally good hearing and could distinguish tones in the voice. He moved in front of her adjusting her new white robes slightly this would be the first time most of the staff would see her and he wanted her to look her best. He looked up speaking softly. “She’s just a very busy she has to run the whole of Greece, I think deep down she’d like to spend more time with you but her duties are getting in the way.”

End of part 5

 

WHISPERS OF SOMETHING TO STRANGE FOR WORDS

 

Evadine led the short blonde haired woman down the hallway to her room she had been doing this for a week now. Gabrielle liked to go and feel the grass and she liked for the moon lit sky to be described to her. It was a very odd request but she had done it regardless, she’d been told to for fill any of the young woman’s requests and act as her personal maid by the Empress. Gabrielle didn’t talk that much she was very quite though she put that down to the traumatic events she’d been through in the pit. The palace rumour was that she’d lost of her mind and had no memory of her past. Frankly she didn’t really buy that Gabrielle showed no sighs of insanity, she was very quite and thoughtful.

She turned eyeing the deep diagonal scar on her eye before turning to her seeing that her unseeing eyes were staring forward. “How did you get that scar on your eye?” Gabrielle turned in the direction of the young woman’s voice. “Scar?” Evadine stopped her putting her hand on her eyebrow where the scar began running her fingers along the deep healed scar which ended at her eye. “You have a scar right here its deep.” Gabrielle moved her hand up easing the other woman’s hand aside as she ran her fingers along the scar feeling the deep grove where a weapon had cut in deeply. No one had even mentioned this scar to her not in all the time she’d been in the healer’s room. She spoke feeling her own words become distant to her. “Is it ugly…does it ruin my face?”

Evadine blinked feeling a smile form. “No of course not though it does stand out.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze feeling a sudden burst of pain which caused her to wince painfully. She suddenly didn’t feel well the grey shadows in her eyes were flickering with white light and it was causing her to blink as a distant male voice penetrated her mind. “Ugly little whore you’ll have to live with this for the rest of your miserable life.”

Gabrielle turned feeling the anger burn deep down in the pit of her stomach taking over everything in her mind. “I’m not an ugly whore!” Evadine blinked suddenly feeling confused as Gabrielle’s eyes focused on her. “Hey easy now, I didn’t call you ugly or a whore.” She stepped closer watching as the young woman’s body tensed. “Are you okay, you don’t look so good?” Gabrielle looked up no longer hearing anything but the male voice in her mind which wouldn’t leave her alone as it tour through her thoughts for the second time. “What’s wrong filthy peasant you don’t like your new scar? Did I cut the wrong way maybe I should cut the other side of your face as well then it’ll look more creative, wouldn’t you agree?”

Evadine stepped closer seeing the binding rage appear in Gabrielle’s eyes. “Gabrielle you need to take a deep breath.” The next moments seemed to happen to her in slow motion as Gabrielle’s scream of intense rage hit the air as her eyes suddenly focused fully on her. The blonde woman suddenly dropped her stick as her feet slammed in to the ground. The next moments turned to agony as both her hands wrapped around her throat and her body was smashed in to the wall with enough force to make her scream in pain. The intense green eyes large pupils suddenly dilated in front of her going small due to the bright light, as they stared in to her own suddenly very much full of life.

She couldn’t scream the hands were gagging her and she felt her feet scuff the marble floor as she was slowly raised higher. Gabrielle’s voice hit the air but it was filled with a deeply vindictive and all most freighting tone which was spoken through gritted teeth. “How’s about I rip your head of your shoulders, now wouldn’t that be fun?” The green eyes narrowed to slits. “Or may be I’ll rip you open and watch your guts spill out!” She felt herself cough as she tried desperately to breathe. She couldn’t get out a breath the grip on her throat was like iron and the blonde woman seemed insanely strong, her feet had now left the floor and her shoes were scuffing the wall.

She was terrified at this moment in time more terrified than she’d ever felt in her life there were no guards close by they were in the other corridor she moved her shaking arm seeing the only means of escape which was an expensive vase on a stand. Her fingers shook as she took hold of it being higher ironically made it easier to grab. She didn’t think as she swung it with all her might watching as it smashed apart as it collided with Gabrielle’s head. She felt the sudden pain as the hands let go of her throat. She winced in pain as she hit the floor back first watching as Gabrielle hit the ground opposite hard, she heard the thundering as the guard’s footsteps as they came up the hall. She breathed in painfully watching as the forest green eyes slowly closed as the short blonde haired woman lost consciousness. Blood was dripping down from her forehead where she’d taken the force of the blow. She breathed in feeling herself shake as the guards appeared running up to her gods she could feel her heart hammering in her chest like a drum as she took a deep needed breath.

8

I don’t believe this! I mean how did this even happen? Things like this do not happen in my palace, unless they are directed at me! I was having a nice night I was about to drink myself to sleep again and now I’m in my throne room and really not in the best mood for this conversation. Xena looked up meeting Evadine’s terrified brown gaze as she spoke. “Go though this one more time please?” Evadine rubbed her bruised throat which was now turning red and felt painful. “She tried to kill me Empress!” Iona leaned against a pillar. “Could you please be more pacific, details and all that?” Evadine pushed her long braided red hair back as she turned to Iona not bothering to hide her disgust. “I just asked her about that scar on her eyebrow and then she just went insane!”

Iona put a finger to her lip. “Maybe you hit a soft spot?” Evadine sneered raising her hands. “Oh please she thought I was calling her a whore, I never even said anything of the sort to her! I asked her what was wrong and then she tried to strangle me. She wanted me dead I could see it in her eyes!” Iona raised an eyebrow. “There’s still something I don’t get, how did she raise you off the floor?” Demetrius turned sharply eyeing Iona. “Be quite your not helping the situation!” Iona shrugged slightly. “Look I just want to know how she got her off the floor she’s meant to be weak. I mean how does a woman who’s still got her ribs showing and can only walk short distances pull someone off the floor like that?”

She eyed Evadine. “She said her feet left the ground!” Demetrius folded his arms. “Adrenaline?” Iona snorted in disgust. “Oh please that’s a poor excuse. You know as well as I do weak people don’t have that kind of strength and in her condition that amount of adrenaline might cause her heart to suddenly stop.”  Xena turned watching as Phantasos walked in to the room the concern in his eyes. “How is she?” Phantasos he looked up slowly. “Gabrielle is not doing very well, its like she’s had a serious relapse, she has a very high fever and keeps on throwing up. She won’t stop shaking and she’s now awake which is making it worse as she has a serious head wound.”

He breathed in deeply. “I’m so grateful to who ever that was who decided to smash her over the head with an expensive vase, you’ve made what she’s now going through very unpleasant.” Evadine snarled as she side stepped. “She was trying to kill me!” Phantasos turned eyeing her. “You’re lucky you didn’t break her skull! I mean hasn’t this woman suffered enough as it is?” Evadine raised her hand. “I don’t believe this your all defending her! She tried to kill me shouldn’t that say something to you about her mental stability? If you’d seen how she was looking at me you might change your tune, she was enjoying it I could see it in her eyes.” Phantasos clapped his hands together. “Ah yes her eyes explain that me because I’m really confused.”

Evadine blinked as she sat down in one of the long chairs opposite the thrown. “What?” Phantasos breathed in deeply. “Well it appears that she can see now, where as before she was blind can you please explain that to me?” Evadine breathed in deeply. “That’s real easy before she grabbed me her pupils just dilated it was very sudden and the next thing I knew her hands had found my neck!” Xena breathed in feeling her teeth grind together. “Be quite all of you!” She watched as the room fell silent instantly. She walked towards Evadine putting a hand gently on her shoulder. “No one is blaming you for anything and if I’d known this was going to happen I would not have left you alone with Gabrielle.”

She breathed in deeply. “We just need to know all the facts, as this happening has shocked us all.” Evadine rubbed her neck. “I understand Empress, I’m just shaken up, I thought she was going to kill me.” Phantasos shook his head. “I’ve never seen anything like this before Empress, people don’t relapse in this manner.” He breathed in deeply. “I can’t explain it ether, she was perfectly healthy and on the mend, this shouldn’t have happened. Plus if what’s been said is anything to go by it sounds almost like a mental episode, which I’ve seen warriors have on the battle field. Normally though there are sighs, signals, odd behaviours and she’s showed none of this.”

He put a hand through his beard. “As for the eyes I can’t explain that ether, I’ve never seen anyone go from blind to seeing like that, it just doesn’t happen.” Xena put a hand through her hair in frustration. “Where is Gabrielle now?” Phantasos folded his arms. “She’s in her room in bed, one of my healers is with her, I told him to give her a sedative before I left which will hopefully knock her out for the night.” Evadine looked up sharply. “No offence but I don’t want to be her personal maid anymore, next time she might kill me for real.” Xena looked at her for a long moment, this was hardly surprising and she’d feel the same way if she had been in Evadine’s shoes. She felt her eyes dart she had not wanted to get involved with Gabrielle due to her position but now that choice had been taken away from her.

She put her hands together. “I’ll take care of Gabrielle from here on in she’ll be my reasonability.” Demetrius blinked in shock. “But Empress, you don’t have to do this she’s not your responsibility.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “She’s been my responsibility ever since I found her in that pit and it’s clear to me now that I should have been watched her more closely.” She folded her arms. “So regardless of what you feel I will take care of her from here on in. If she’s a danger to herself and others then she need’s some one with good combat training to stop her actions.” She looked at the floor. “Clearly Gabrielle is not a run of mill patient and what ever was done to her has affected her mind.”

She took in a deep breath. “I refuse to argue with any off you regarding this matter my discussion is final.” Demetrius nodded trying to ignore the anger he felt over this. In his view this was dangerous and reckless and the Empress didn’t need to burden herself with this young woman who was clearly mentally unstable. He knew though that he couldn’t change her mind once she had made it up. He nodded meeting her gaze. “As you wish.” Iona leaned against the pillar once more. “Yes Empress.” Phantasos walked over to Evadine putting a hand on her shoulder. “Come with me we’ll both talk about what happened and I’ll have a look at your neck.” Xena watched as the healer left she could still feel the fuzzy alcoholic haze which was mildly clouding her judgement but frankly she didn’t care. She stepped away from Demetrius and Iona. “I’m going to call it a night, excuse me.” She ignored their looks of surprise as she walked through the corridor that led to her room she had probably made a crazy choice but she could deal with it at later time.

End of part 6

 

FOR A TRULY SIMPLE THING

 

Gabrielle opened one eye painfully she could feel the cold tiles of a floor she watched as everything blurred in front of her before slowly coming back in to focus. She was lying on a decoratively tiled floor on her front, she groaned painfully putting a hand on her face only to pull it away as saw the dirt which was all over her fingers and palm. She blinked pulling herself up on to her knees only to feel the ice cold air on her naked body, causing her to shiver. She eyed her hand then the other seeing the dirt all over it. There was also a metallic almost bloody taste in her mouth, she eyed the room again it was a decorative bathroom with the image of Aphrodite tiled in to the floor.

There was a huge deep set tub made of marble along with a sunken in wash basin and a large round silver mirror which was lined in weaving dolphins all made of gold. All the marble was white which gave the wash room an almost heavenly feel. There were white fluffy towels and a thick heavy sheep wool robe on a hanger close to the door. She stood up slowly ignoring the pain as it pulsated through every muscle in her body. She could see again as clearly as crystal yet the joy of that was tarnished by her body which felt like it had been run over by a chariot. She put her hand on her aching jaw what in Ouroboros’s name had she done last night?

She looked up slowly watching as her reflection came in to view for the first time. She could see a woman in her late twenties looking back at her with forest green eyes and short blonde hair which looked a mess. On her right eye was a deep scar which cut through her eyebrow and had clearly been made by a blade. She blinked seeing a dried blood steam which was running down from her mouth. She eyed her dirty hands again as she looked down at her naked body which she hadn’t seen since she’d been pulled out of the pit. Though she had felt it when the maid had helped her put on her clothes. She could see thin scars on her shoulders and arms unlike the one of her eye they had healed up better.

Around her neck hung her godly symbol of Ouroboros on a very long chain which was slightly too long. She slowly turned gold tap watching as steaming hot water ran in to the sunken bowl. She had no idea what had happened last night the last thing she remembered was the healer’s helper giving her a sedative to make her go to sleep and then nothing but darkness. She turned the tap off slowly using the warm water to clean her face and hands, as well as her feet which were also covered in dirt. She shook her head she felt awful it wasn’t just the pain in her body. She felt like she wanted to be sick right now, her stomach felt so full, like it was at bursting point.

She grabbed the cloth opposite as cleaning herself fully of the dirt trying to ignore the feeling. She grabbed the thick robe opposite putting it around her body catching sight of the dirty marks on the floor. She slowly opened the door to main bed room seeing the bed along with more dirty marks which led up to balcony. She breathed in as she carefully got down on her knees cleaning them up, she had no idea what she’d done last night or even how she’d ended up in the bathroom but there was something so familiar about it. Only she couldn’t place it in her mind it was far too distant for her to grasp, but it was there. Everything felt confusing yet almost with in her reach, there was something about this event that mattered. She was someone who had once had purpose but she couldn’t remember what that purpose was. It was something that mattered to others, but strangely it didn’t matter to her for some reason.

8

Xena slowly wrote her name on one of the documents in the study, she was bored and tired she’d had a very restless nights sleep. The constant need to visit the bathroom had not helped but then that was the price she’d paid for drinking so much. She adjusted her decorative silver plated shoulder guard frankly she wanted to go back to bed. Instead she had to sign papers and requests most of which she denied anyway as they were ether to costly or just plain stupid. She looked up as a banging hit her door breaking her from her thoughts. Gods what now? She lowered her gaze back to the scrolls. “Come in!” She looked up watching as Demetrius burst in through her door.

She looked at him for a long moment seeing the uncertainty in his eyes. “Yes?” Demetrius adjusted his armour why did he have to be the one to do this, why couldn’t Iona bring the Empress the bad news? She brought her everything else. He took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry to disturb you Empress, but I have some bad news.” He slowly eased up a long peacock feather. “One of your male peacocks was killed last night.” Xena looked up sharply a part of her wanted to smile she loathed those stupid birds, but it was in her best interest to show some kind of sadness. She slowly placed down her quill. “Did one of the royal guards shoot it by mistake?”

She knew full well the stupid over grown birds liked to display on the palace’s shooting range at times. Demetrius looked at the feather in his hand. “No Empress, it was eaten by something, there was nothing left, no bones, no body parts only the tail feathers and a lot of blood staining the grass.” Xena put her hands together. “That’s most unfortunate.” Demetrius breathed in deeply this was where this subject was about to turn strange. He slowly eased up a set of tattered white robes which were now no more than rags covered in blood and dirt so she could see them. “We found these in the royal garden opposite the feathers.”

Xena stood up sharply feeling her gaze dart. “Is everyone accounted for?” Demetrius breathed in deeply seeing the flicker of uncertainty in her eyes for a second. “Yes I’ve just had the guard’s do a head count everyone is still alive.” He turned just in time to see Iona walk past him she ignored him as she turned to the Empress. “Apologise Empress for interrupting you, I had my unit search the royal gardens and one of them just found this.” She slowly eased up the item in her hand which was a thick razor edged tooth which had come off the thing in question. “We have a very serious problem.”

Xena walked towards her taking the tooth from her hand it was longer than her longest finger and looked unhealthy. Iona breathed in deeply. “There’s a werewolf hiding here in the palace, the tooth matches the profile.” She breathed in sharply. “We’ve also found large heavy tracks in the wet area of the gardens, its clearly large, which is to its disadvantage as we won’t miss it if we find it.” She folded her arms. “From what we know werewolves hide during the day and sleep, they only come out at night, so it must be here right now sleeping.” Xena looked at them both feeling the anger take over instantly how had one of these monsters got in to her palace with out her knowing? How had it killed something in her garden without anyone seeing it?

She leaned over taking her sword along with the scabbard as she spoke feeling her teeth grind together. “Have the royal guard search every room in the palace and leave nothing unturned check, cellars, food and wine stores and any where else it could hide.” She looked up slightly. “I’ll be coming with you Demetrius I want to search for this monster personally.” Demetrius lowered his head respectfully. “Yes Empress.” He knew better than to argue with her on this matter despite dangerous it was for her. Xena didn’t like werewolves and nether did he, they were violent monsters and the thought of having one hiding in this palace turned his stomach and the sooner they found it and killed it the better.

8

Gabrielle adjusted the blue patterned dress which she’d found in the tall wooden cupboard of her room, she couldn’t remember what had happened to the clothes she’d been wearing. Frankly though a part of her didn’t care all she cared about was seeing everything around her and taking in all the sights which had denied to her over these past three weeks due to her eyes not being able to see. Her gaze shifted to the largest of the rooms along the corridor. She’d ignored the surprised looks of the servants as she walked past them taking every sight and sound. She stopped looking in to the large room which was filled with hundreds of scrolls all in tucked away in pigeon hole caps on a huge curved book case which went from one end of the room to the other.

Two desks were at ether side of the room complete with chairs each was filled with empty and half written scrolls both have quills in their ink wells as well as other more personal items like wooden figurines and metal godly symbols. In the middle of the room was a huge decorative scroll which was laid out over two tables. The room its self was empty she opened the door wider walking inside looking around her there was the familiar smell that someone had been smoking. She moved towards the two tables seeing the wooden pipe on one of the desks. The action was automatic as her hand moved putting the pipe in her mouth. She eased up the lit candle of the desk lighting the end watching as dark smoke penetrated the air all around her. It was a familiar sensation to her so familiar in fact that it felt natural.

She breathed in deeply enjoying the flavour before breathing out the smoke as she looked down seeing the huge decorative scroll which someone was working on. It was filled with beautiful imagery and writing there were large parchment pieces laid out on top of it with writing on them. She breathed in the pipe again eyeing the huge scrolls text. She eased her fingers slowly over the image of one of the big standing wolves with antlers all of this seemed so familiar. Her gaze shifted to a piece of text which was written down on a piece of parchment close by which the person was struggling to translate. She moved over to it slowly taking the quill from the well on the desk feeling her hand move making the corrections to the text which she knew were wrong, the person had the translations completely backwards. She turned to the huge scroll looking at it for a long moment before turning back to the parchment fixing the rest of the errors.

“What in Tartarus are you doing in here!?”

Phrixus watched as the short blonde haired woman bolted up right the quill in her hand. He grunted seeing that his pipe was in her mouth as well, he felt his teeth grind together as he walked towards her. “This is important work!” He moved towards her watching as her green eyes darted. “How dare you write on one of my research scrolls, who do you think you are!?” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment she didn’t care for his outburst of anger, she felt a wide smile form. “My name is Gabrielle.” Phrixus raised an eyebrow he didn’t think as eased up his hand. “Well Gabrielle, give me back my pipe now, didn’t your mother ever teach you that it’s bad manners to borrow things with out asking?”

Gabrielle eyed him in disgust as she pulled the pipe out of her mouth breathing the smoke in his direction not caring for the sarcasm in her tone as she spoke. “Your mother should have told you that it helps to label your things.” Phrixus grabbed his pipe from her hand. “Its time for you to leave…now get out of this room!” He watched as she stepped away the anger in her eyes as she put the quill in her other hand down on the desk. She walked out closing the door behind her. He snorted in disgust what a rude little servant, he should talk to Tiara about her choice of cleaning staff, because clearly this one was lacking in manners. He turned grabbing the document she’d been writing on.

He turned watching as Chara come in through the door she sniffed the air as she spoke. “Gods Phrixus I wish you wouldn’t smoke its bad for your health.” Phrixus grunted aloud eyeing her. “For once it wasn’t me, it was one of the staff I came in here and she was smoking my pipe and writing on one of my scrolls.” Chara raised an eyebrow. “Which one we have three women who come in here and clean.” Phrixus eyed her. “It was this short blonde haired woman, who has green eyes.” He paused seeing the confusion in her face. “You can’t miss her she’s got this dirty great scar across her right eye.” Chara stared at him for a long moment as his words sunk in. “Phrixus that woman is not part of the cleaning staff.”

Phrixus looked up sharply. “What?” Chara shook her head. “That’s the woman the Empress pulled out of the pit five weeks ago she supposed to be blind. Last I heard there was an incident with one of the maids and she was bed ridden again.” Phrixus pointed to the door. “You’re telling me the woman who was smoking on my pipe and being rude was her?” Chara sighed aloud. “Yes.” Phrixus put a hand on his face in frustration. “Oh great I just insulted a guest.” He eyed his scroll. “Well clearly she’s not blind anymore.” He felt his gaze dart as he started to read her corrections only to freeze on the spot as what she had changed hit home. He pulled the scroll closer rereading again to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.

Chara moved over putting a hand on his arm. “Are you okay?” Phrixus eased the scroll up so she could see it. “I don’t believe it, that rude young woman has just corrected my mistakes and her corrections make perfect sense.” He watched as she took the scroll reading it the shock spreading across her face. “She fixed the transaction and she wrote down the corrections for the letters I was struggling with.” He turned pointing at the huge scroll. “This means only one thing and I can’t believe I’m saying this.” He stepped over putting both his hands on the table, the thought was shocking him, he’d spent so long trying to work this mystery scroll out. “She must be able to some how read this damn scroll!”

End of part 7

WHEN THINGS ARE TRULY BIZARRE

 

Xena walked slowly though her gardens she hadn’t found anything apart from the foot steps which Iona had showed her. It was now midday and every report was coming back the same, no werewolf. She put a hand on her face feeling the frustration mount how did such a huge monster like that go in and out of her palace with out being seen or even heard? She slowly walked away from the main gardens breathing in deeply as she moved across the grounds that had the visitor’s balcony rooms which was the last area which she’d not walked through. Frankly she didn’t expect to see anything, this was a closed off area in every sense, visitors could see the view of the main gardens but the huge wall of the palace looped around the whole area.

This was purely for their own protection so there were always guards watching them to ensure that they wouldn’t be hurt. It was also the area in which she hosted outside dinner parties as it had fountains and a huge outdoor pool which guests could swim in. She breathed in deeply only to stop as she caught sight of something laying on the ground in full view. She walked forward realizing why the others hadn’t noticed it, it was lying in amongst some fallen tree branches and its colour made it so it blended in. She moved her hand grabbing hold of the end the branches cracked as she forced it free in one swift motion. She stared at it for a long moment, feeling the confusion hit home.

It was the antler of a deer at least that’s what it looked like but there was something truly odd about it. It wasn’t like any deer horn she’d ever seen before the look was all wrong. Unlike a deer horn the ark of the horn was bent and twisted in two different directions and on top of this it had no points it was still coated in velvet. It hadn’t been broken off ether it was as if it had just come off in the same way any animals did when the mating season was over. It was bizarre on every level and it was like nothing she’d ever encountered before. She breathed in pulling her dragger free from its place in side her right boot slicing it across the velvet only to blink as black coagulated blood began to run free exposing orange stained bone which looked diseased.

The smell was putrid like rotting flesh she ignored it as she caught sight of a second horn lying close by which was identical to its counterpart and tangled up in the thick fallen branches. She walked away from the other horn only to feel her foot dip suddenly in to the ground almost causing her to trip up. She looked down slowly realizing that her boot was standing inside a huge foot print there was another opposite it where the ground had been forced down deeply. Again this hadn’t been notable as the gardeners hadn’t gotten around to cleaning up this area yet the grass was very long here hiding things from sight.

She pushed the grass away seeing the deep print which was bigger than her own foot by the looks of it, it was a deep hind print. This monster had to be at least seven foot tall possibly more, if this foot print was anything to go by. The ones Iona had found had only shown part of a front paw and the claws of the hind foot. She felt a strange sensation over take her this was embedded because the monster had jumped forcing its feet down before it leaped. She felt her eyes drift upwards as she eyed the balcony directly above her. She felt her body freeze as she caught sight of dirt marks scuffed in to the lower part of the stone no doubt from where the claws had shifted as the monster had gotten inside.

“Empress?”

Xena turned meeting Demetrius concerned gaze, she slowly stood up fully stepping back watching as he caught sight of the huge foot print which she had, had her boot in. “I’ve found more.” Demetrius leaned down looked at the huge foot prints. “The gods mock us with the share presence of these vile monsters.” Xena folded her arms watching as he stood up. “Makes the stuffed one I own not look so corny doesn’t it?” Demetrius shook his head. “So it was here as well?” Xena eased up the horn watching as he took it from her hand the disgust showing as the smell hit home. “I’ve found this as well, and as you can see it’s not from a deer.”

Demetrius turned the horn in his hands seeing the rotten bone. “Smells like it’s full of disease…” Xena raised an eyebrow. “There was another it’s lying among those branches by the tree I didn’t cut it open but I’m guessing it’s the same inside. What ever this werewolf is it’s unlike any I’ve ever heard off, from my understanding they don’t have horns.” She turned to face him. “There’s something which is really bothering me as well, these deep prints were made by this monster jumping upwards.” She raised her finger pointing to the balcony above them. “It leapt up on to that balcony there you can even see the dirty scuff marks left by its claws.”

She breathed in deeply. “I need you to tell me right now whose room that is because I believe I know but I want you to clarify it for me?” Demetrius breathed in deeply gods this day was getting worse by the second he folded his arms looking up slowly at the balcony. “That room is Gabrielle’s.” Xena shook her head. “I believe its time I invited her to dinner.” Demetrius sighed aloud. “She did take a blow to the head there is a chance she may have been very deeply under the sedative the healer gave her and my not remember a thing.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “That’s true but there has to be a reason why a hulking werewolf got in through my palace walls and went in to her room and then left and maybe she can shed some light on it.

8

Gabrielle slowly opened the door to the room watching as huge room came in to view which was filled with food. There were huge racks of meat all hanging on high hooks at the far end of the room. On the left side of the room were basket full of fruit and vegetables all of it was laid out neatly so everything was easy to find.  When she’d woken up this morning her stomach had left like it was full to bursting point despite that she hadn’t eaten anything and she’d felt sick. Yet now she felt fine in fact she felt better than fine and she really wanted to eat something once more. Her nose had led her to this room which was filled with wonderful smells which spoke volumes to her stomach.

On the right side wall were full of cheeses, all in different types and sizes above them were smocked meats of all kinds. She slowly walked over to one of the baskets easing out a red apple looking at it. She slowly took a bite hearing the crunch and then tasting the intense flavour, which was oddly bitter tasting. She eyed the apple for a moment strange somehow she thought it’d be sweeter, but then it had been a long time since she’d had real food. There was no way she was going to touch that barley porridge again. She took another bite somehow she wished she could remember how everything else tasted.

“You know you can order food through the kitchen, you don’t have to come in to the storage room to take it.”

Gabrielle turned sharply meeting the brown eyes of a big boned woman who had shoulder length mousey brown hair which was plaited. She was in her early forties and was in a green dress which had a white pinafore. A wide smile filled her face as she winked in her direction, she slowly lowered the apple which she eating. “I don’t know where the kitchen is.” Kalika looked at the young woman for a long moment catching sight of the deep scar on her right eyebrow she put a hand on her chin as it clicked who this woman was. She was the woman from the pit the Empress’s little mystery she had, had a violent episode of some kind yesterday. Though no one had told her the full details, frankly though she wasn’t partial to palace rumour she preferred fact.

She looked at the short blonde haired woman she didn’t look dangerous it was also clear that her eyes had healed and she could see once more which in her view was wonderful. She put her hand on her chest. “My name is Kalika I’m the palaces cook and you are?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Gabrielle.”  Kalika smiled as she moved closer to the young woman seeing her forest green eyes follow her movement. “So Gabrielle what would you like to eat no doubt your bored of barley porridge by now?” Gabrielle eyed everything around her. “I don’t know, I can’t remember what all these food taste like apart from cheese, for some reason I remember how that tastes.”

Kalika raised an eyebrow. “You’re not in to casu marzu cheese are you? Because that’s very hard to order in and the kitchen staff really hate it.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Casu marzu?” Kalika raised an eyebrow. “You know maggot cheese?” Gabrielle felt her smile turn to disgust. “That sounds vile, I may not remember what things taste like but I hate the idea of my food being alive when I’m eating it.” Kalika clapped her hands together. “Thank you, gods! You have no idea how much I loath ordering in that awful cheese for guests.” She smiled pulling up a number of foods. “So you don’t remember how food tastes well this should be fun, I have so much here that you can try out. I’m sure I can get those taste buds on your tongue working again in no time at all.”

8

Phantasos walked up the hall he turned the corner feeling the annoyance take over where was Gabrielle? His healers had told in that they’d seen her walking around the palace apparently she was doing very well despite her incident the other day. He turned the corner, feeling the anger take over he loved this palace it was beautiful but at the same time it was like rabbit warren. He watched as one of the servant women passed him by a young woman in her late twenties with medium length black hair, dark brown skin and warm hazel brown eyes, she was wearing a simple white peplos with a red belt. “Thaleia!” The woman turned to look at him as she finished cleaning one of the statues she was part of the cleaning staff who made this palace look beautiful.

He knew her very well due to her history her mother Fedora was the child minder in the palace who took care of the all the other servants children during the day and sometimes the night. Her father had been a slave from Alkebulan who had been granted freedom in Rome by his dying master. He had later moved to Greece to serve in the army which under the Empress’s rule allowed both men and women to serve regardless of origin and religion. He had worked his way up the ranks to join the elite royal guard and some years later he had met her mother. Thaleia had been born inside the palace and she’d grown up here. Her father had died in battle against the Spartans who had, had an uprising some years back. He was sure that she missed him deeply though she never said anything.

She was a quite woman who kept herself to herself and did her duties he wasn’t even sure if she had any friends. He watched as smile appeared on her face. “It’s so good to see you how are you?” Thaleia looked at the cloth in her hand. “Same as always.” She put her finger on the statue she’d been cleaning. “I think this statue is a pain it’s always so dirty.” Phantasos raised his hands. “Well you make everything look so beautiful it’s a pleasure to see it shine because of your hard work.” Thaleia smirked. “Ever the flatterer, you never change.” Phantasos felt his smile widen. “You wouldn’t have happened to have seen a woman at all would you?” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “There are a lot of women in this palace you’ll have to be more pacific.”

Phantasos laughed raising his hands. “I’m looking for a young woman with short blonde hair and forest green eyes not very tall, who has an old healed scar on her right eyebrow.” Thaleia looked down only to look up sharply. “Ah yes I did see her not long ago, she was walking towards the kitchens, I think she was lost, she looked slightly confused if you know what I mean.” Phantasos laughed putting a hand on her shoulder. “Thank you you’re a life saver, you have no idea how long I’ve been searching for her.” Thaleia smiled putting a hand on his. “Well I’ll let you get on with finding her.” Phantasos stepped away from her raising his hand as he broke in to a run heading to wards the kitchen.

He stopped as he smelt the cooking food he looked in side the huge kitchen itself seeing three men and women who were preparing the guards thick goat and vegetable threw which was bubbling and frothing. Another three were separately preparing the afternoon lunch for the servants on another hot stove. She wasn’t anywhere in side the huge kitchen.  He turned hearing voices from the store room he slowly opened the doors to the huge room opposite instantly catching sight of the young woman who was talking with the head cook Kalika who was offering her small pieces of food to taste. He coughed clearing his throat watching as they both turned to look at him.

He put his hands together. “Ah there you are Gabrielle I was searching for you I heard that you’ve been up and about today.” Gabrielle swallowed the salted the meat in her mouth. She recognised the voice instantly which was the head healer Phantasos but this was the first time she’d seen his face, it was strange how she’d assumed that he was younger but now seeing him in the flesh he was clearly older. She looked up slowly. “Phantasos?” Phantasos clapped his hands together. “Yes that’s right is nice that you remember my voice.” He walked forward slowly watching as Kalika looked up. “I’m sorry I need to take her off your hands, she’s due for a check up.” Gabrielle blinked. “I am? I don’t remember anyone saying anything to me.” Phantasos eased up a ringed finger. “Well you left your room early this morning you have no idea the kind of chaos that went on this morning?”

Kalika stood up dusting off her dress. “What kind of chaos, I didn’t hear anything?” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “Apparently there was a werewolf inside these walls but there’s no need to worry, every room has been searched and it wasn’t found clearly it had brains as its gone now.” Kalika snorted in disgust. “I doubt any dirty monster like that would survive inside these walls, disgusting beasts if you ask me the sooner their wiped out the better.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “What’s a werewolf?” Phantasos turned putting a hand on her shoulder. “There nothing you need to concern yourself with, you’re a guest here and this a palace matter.” He watched as she stood up slowly. “Now be a dear and come with me, I need to check you over.” He turned to Kalika. “Sorry to take her off your hands this is very important.” Kalika smirked. “We were done here anyway and I need to get back to my helpers in the kitchen, gods know they’ll burn the after noon dinners if I’m not there as a guiding hand.”

End of part 8

A TRULY HORRIBLE SURPRISE BEYOND YOUR CONTROL

 

Phantasos moved the candle light across the woman’s green eyes again watching as they dilated instantly. “So you can see perfectly fine now?” Gabrielle shifted slightly on the healers table. “Yes.” He moved the candle again to her other eye. “Fascinating, do you remember yesterday at all just out of interest?” Gabrielle looked down the other day was very vague in her memory, she remembered being in the hall with the maid Evadine then nothing, her mind was completely blank. The only thing she remembered was waking up in bed because of her ears, were ringing to point that she wanted to throw up and she had done so because the sound was too much to handle.

Her body had hurt as well, every muscle felt like it was on fire and the bones deep in side her body ached. That was when she’d realized she could see again as the room had come in to view, but not for long as the healer in the room had given her something to put her back to sleep. She looked up meeting the older man’s gaze. “No not really.” Phantasos moved his fingers up looking at her forehead where she’d been smashed with the heavy vase which was now completely healed, there wasn’t even a scar. He’d never seen this before no normal person had this level of healing there was clearly something different about her. On top of this her ribs which had been slightly showing had now vanished it was like she’d gained more weight over night.

Clearly what ever was going on with her, it was unlike anything he’d ever come across in all his years of a healer. She wasn’t a god she could bleed but maybe she had something which was godly, perhaps it was her pendent or something with in her body itself. He had heard of people consuming small godly items in the past to give them selves healing powers. Though from the stories he’d heard it had never ended well it normally resulted in the person’s death. She was clearly very out of the ordinary, he leaned closer. “Open your mouth please.” He watched as she did so, showing off a set of clean white teeth and a shining gold back tooth along with healthy pink gums. “You are quite the healer, I though I was going to have pull out a second back chewing tooth but it appears that, that tooth is fine now.”

He watched as she closed her mouth. “You seem fit and healthy now, wouldn’t have thought it about a month ago when you came to me you were just rags and bones, I thought that I was going to loose you in the first night.” Gabrielle tensed slightly before speaking. “Do you have a pipe?” Phantasos looked up slightly. “No why do you ask?” Gabrielle twitched again. “I really need to smoke.” Phantasos stared at her for a long moment. “You are joking are you not?” Gabrielle stared at her hands for a long moment. “No I’m not.” Phantasos put a hand on her shoulder. “A good looking young woman like you should not be smoking its bad for your health.”

Gabrielle felt a cold sneer form as she spoke hearing her cold tone hit the air. “It’s my choice to smoke, not yours.” Phantasos blinked catching the sudden change in her character which he hadn’t seen before. It was more than just her tone that had changed it was her presence towards him it was no longer nice it was almost cold. He turned to his herbs. “I’m afraid I can’t help you, you’ll have to ask someone to buy you a pipe hopefully one day you’ll learn that smoking is bad for you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze catching the sarcasm in his tone. “Tell me then healer if the gods didn’t want human’s to have earthly pleasures then why did they create the wonder that is opium and coltsfoot leaf and make it so easy to obtain?” Phantasos breathed in deeply her tone was slightly vindictive despite that she was speaking with a smile. “The Greek gods put these things here to test our resolve.”

Gabrielle ran her finger slowly down the scar on her eyebrow. “Yes your gods did but I don’t worship your gods so I don’t care for your so called resolve.” She stood up from the table watching as he opened the curtains to the healing room allowing the light to flood in. “So I choose to smoke because that’s my resolve.” Phantasos snarled raising his hand only to stop as a banging sounded on the door he turned sharply. “Come in!” He watched as the door opened as Demetrius walked in side the room a look of concern was on his face. He nodded respectfully. “Demetrius it’s a pleasure to see you, I do hope the problem you were having this morning has gone.”

Demetrius folded her arms. “In a manner of speaking yes it has.” She felt a wide smile form. “I was hoping that I could take Gabrielle off your hands for a while, the Empress wishes to speak with her.” Phantasos snorted slightly. “She was just leaving.” He ignored the cold look from the blonde woman as she stepped away from him. He turned back to his herbs. “Maybe you can be the one to give her a pipe so she can smoke herself to death.” Gabrielle eased up her hands. “Apparently he dislikes smokers.” She paused before empathising her next words. “It’s so disappointing.” Demetrius blinked he wasn’t really sure what was going on but it clear that there was the beginnings of an argument here. He stepped forward. “Gabrielle one of the maids has put a nice set of robes in your room how’s about you go and dress in them then come down to the dinner room, it’s the big room next to the kitchens?” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment, feeling her anger fade away somehow she wasn’t really sure why she had so much anger over a single pipe it seemed so trivial. “I’d like that very much.”

8

Gabrielle entered the huge dinning room she adjusted the pure white peplos robes with a cream waist belt feeling slightly subconscious of her self somehow these robes felt to revealing. May be it was because they made her chest far to open to the human eye, she moved her fingers trying to cover up her exposed breasts as she walked in side the room. She felt nervous for some reason, it felt like such a long time since she’d felt this way. She looked up feeling herself freeze as she caught sight of the woman who was seated at the table which was huge and big enough for a least six people or more. Yet at this moment all the chairs had been pulled back so only two remained.

She stared at the woman for a long moment she was in her late thirties and very tall she could tell that even from a distance. If she were to stand she’d tower above her, her long hair which hung well over her shoulders and was as black as night. Her skin was tanned bronze and her eyes were piercing blue in colour and really stood out. She was wearing a truly elaborate armour, the armours chest plate had angel wings which covered each breast and a thick armour plate which was triangular and went just bellow her waist, the whole thing was plated in gleaming silver. Both of her shoulders were covered by three silver plates. Below them hung a beautiful designed black half sleeves which had open gaps, at the very end of each sleeve was another silver rim of armour plating.

The leather bodice was coated in silver and looked very sturdy and powerful. A thick heavy black belt was wrapped around the older woman’s waist and on it were engraved silver angelic wing designs. From it hung down four thick heavy tassels all engraved in silver and with the same beautiful designs. On her wrists were silver plated gauntlets once more with angel winged designs. The skirt she wore was purple in colour and knee high it was grooved and had silver patterns at its very edge. She had thick heavy front lacing knee high black boots which had silver plated top and weaving silver decoration on the sides. The whole armour looked in part Roman and almost gladiatorial, though the designs were Greek it was a strange hybrid which embraced two separate worlds.

She tapped her brown sandals on the floor watching as the woman looked up her light blue eyes meeting her own. She was a stunningly beautiful woman, she’d seen many women in this palace today yet none had her sense of presence. There was a strange lingering moment of silence clinging to the air in which she couldn’t find her voice and she had no idea as to why. Xena looked in to the younger woman’s forest green eyes for a long moment not really being able to break away it was an odd moment which felt strange even to her. She put her hands together realizing that this moment was happening because the other woman had never seen her before. This was the first time she was seeing the person who had rescued her from a painful death in the darkness of the pit. She coughed clearing her throat as she raised her hand. “Please take a seat.”

Gabrielle swallowed as she came forward slowly sitting herself on the chair opposite the taller woman who was seated at the head of the table. The voice was so recognisable, more so than any other voice which she could now put a face to with the return of her sight. She pulled the chair up to the table eyeing the food which was laid out. She felt unsure as to what she should say or do, she was looking at the face of the Empress of Greece and she had no idea what this woman expected of her. Xena raised an eyebrow the younger woman was nervous she could see it in her body and her eyes. She breathed in deeply may be it was better that she be the one to put her at ease. “It’s wonderful to see that your sight has returned for a while there we thought you may never be able to see again.” Gabrielle looked at the food in front of her and a cutlery opposite her plate she had no idea which thing she was supposed to eat first.

Xena put her hands together. “Normally we’d have bread soaked in wine first along with cheese and fish but feel free to eat how ever you wish and have what ever you like.” Gabrielle picked up a fork digging in to king sized prawns in a bowl feeling more at ease she looked down slightly before speaking her next words. “It’s nice to be able to see again as well as be able to try different foods.” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “I called you here because I wanted to give you this.” She leaned over picking up the chest putting it on the table seeing the confusion appear in the other woman’s eyes. She smiled as she looked at the closed chest. “All of these things in here are yours.” She pushed the chest carefully forward so it was opposite the other woman. “Maybe you might recognise something.”

Gabrielle picked up some salted meat biting down on it before easing up both hands opening the chest seeing the many different objects inside. None of which she recognised say one and only because she’d seen another like it today. She slowly eased her hand in pulling out the small ivory pipe. Xena raised an eyebrow as she looked at the pipe of all the things to pick up why that one? Gabrielle eased the pipe up to the candle flames opposite lighting the end watching as the dark smoke started to drift through the air. She put it to her lips breathing in ignoring the other woman’s surprise. She stopped turning to her. “Is this wrong?” Xena looked at her for a long moment before speaking. “No I just didn’t think the pipe was yours, you don’t look like some one who smokes.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly catching sight of the darkening sky from the window opposite. “I don’t ever remember smoking I just found out today that I do.” She flinched as distant voice whispered to her in the back of her mind. “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!”  She shook her head ignoring it as she breathed out the rich smoke looking in to the chest at everything else. “I don’t recognise anything else here.” She paused easing out the medallion with its two wolf heads in the flames. “I wish I could remember something anything other than my name.” She brought the medallion closer. “And that I smoke.” Xena lowered her gaze. “You know remembering that isn’t the worst thing to remember if you ask me, I could think of much worse, the gods have blessed you in that manner.”

She breathed in deeply she had brought this young woman here to question her, but now she just felt unsettled and slightly guilty. She could see in the young woman’s eyes that she still remembered nothing of her forma life. Gabrielle moved the medallion closer to her face studying it deeply. “I don’t worship your gods.” She paused only to feel the sting of pain as the voices in her head spoke again only harder, only this time it was her own voice shouting back at her. “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!”

She sat back trying to ignore the pain in her mind as she picked up a small wooden carved bird bringing it towards her studying it very deeply. Xena swallowed her mouth full the woman’s words were not meant to be rude just honest. “Tell me why is it you choose to worship Ouroboros and not the Greek gods?” She looked up realizing that the young woman wasn’t listening to her she was transfixed on the little painted Black Cap which she was moving it between her fingers, she stopped eating watching her feeling a sense of curiosity take over. Gabrielle moved the bird feeling her fingers shift to the chest which had beautiful painted feathers, she pushed down slightly. The wings on ether side suddenly shot outwards opening fully revealing wooden feathers and metal hinges, she ignored the other woman’s shock as she caught sight of the text written on the inner wings which was in the same language as the huge scroll. It was a small transcription, she leaned closer reading it aloud.

 

“You are the fallen one, the righteous one and the one forever broken one who basks under the moonlit sky. You step through rivers of blood in the dying light. The stars do shine for you and they never will for that is your greatest curse and your greatest will. All love is lost to you and the heart within your chest will forever beat brighter for this pain which is forced up on you.”

 

She blinked staring at the words only to feel the sudden intense pain as it tour though her mind she felt the pipe drop from her mouth it hit the table hard as she half coughed on the smoke. She wanted to throw up and she had to breathe in hard to try and stop herself from doing so, the sensation felt like a dagger trying to drive its way in to her temples. The bird dropped from her hands hitting the table then falling to the floor, she felt the other woman’s hand on her shoulder as she tried to stand. The next moment turned to blinding pain as her feet slid sideways and she lost her footing hitting the floor shoulder first. She turned over on to her front trying desperately to crawl forward only to stop as an intense heat swept through her body.

Every muscle in her body felt like it was burning but it was nothing compared to the pain that followed it which was excruciating. It went through ever bone in her body causing her to spasm. It felt like she was dying, her insides were twisting inside her body and she could no longer focus or even think straight. Xena moved towards the younger woman who was now on the floor, she had no idea what had happened only that she was now in terrible pain. She turned seeing the panic in the face of the guard who had been standing opposite through out their talk. “Don’t just stand there get the healer, now!”

She watched as he left the room in an instant, she turned back only to find herself wincing as heard the younger woman scream. It was chilling scream which felt like it was vibrating the room. She leaned over only to freeze as she watched as the woman’s fingers started to lengthen, along with the rest of her hand. She fell back wards hitting the floor hard she found herself scrambling backwards as she heard the popping sounds of bones under the dress which started to stench and tear as the shoulder bones pushed upwards followed by the spine which rose up tearing through the fabric. Long black claws bust through the finger nails digging in to the decorative floor.

The sandals were torn apart as huge long feet burst though they lengthened as their huge black claws dug in to the floor. The dress was torn apart as a mass of muscle came through, dark golden fur started to grow all over her body, a long thick tail appeared it grew downwards very slowly until it was between the legs. The woman’s face slowly lengthened despite her screaming turning in to a huge set of jaws with a wolf like snout. Her ear grew upwards becoming longer like a normal wolves rising high above her head. Growling replaced the screams as the two huge jaws slammed together all their razor sharp white teeth gleaming in the low light.

She could even see the gold replacement which had now been merged in to an incisor giving it a gold gleam. She could hear the heavy inhuman breathing as the huge mane grew downwards and fur covered everything from head to foot. The eyes suddenly snapped open their forest green colour catching the light as the pupils grew slightly larger. It had been a long time since she’d felt real fear but at this moment she could feel it running through her system and she was powerless to stop it. She grabbed her sword pulling it free of the scabbard in a violent motion. She was staring at huge seven foot tall werewolf whose fur was dark golden in colour and who was now on all fours on her palace floor.

The huge monster suddenly roared as it got on to its knees grabbing both sides of its head, it was chilling roar it almost sounded like a real woman’s scream mixed with low pitched howling sound. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as five men burst in to the dinning room, some of them raising swords while other raised their heavy crossbows. She breathed as the huge monsters roar stopped and it leaned forward closing its eyes, before slowly opening them. Its eyes darted as it looked around it before reaching out ignoring her as it took hold of the small fallen bird in its huge hand picking it up carefully before using the tip of its clawed thumb to press the chest and close the wings.

She breathed in trying to calm down any second now the crossbows would fire and yet she had so many questions as nothing about this made any sense what’s so ever. Werewolves were human? They were meant to be monsters twenty four seven weren’t they? Yet here she was in the presence of one, who not more than fire minutes ago had been young woman. She watched as the clawed hand closed around the bird as the huge being got back on its knees slowly pulling its huge arms outwards to show its chest. It eased up it huge head fully she could see the deep scar running through its right eye almost like a signature of who this person had once been. Around the large neck was the godly symbol, she could now see why the chain had been so long in human form. Around the thicker neck it fitted perfectly and wasn’t tight and its symbol could be seen in among the dark golden fur. She looked up as green eyes narrowed for a moment studying the situation, the jaws suddenly opened as a voice hit the air.

“Do it you bastards! Go on kill me! I’m as good as dead anyway!”

End of part 9

A TRULY PAINFUL INJUSTICE THAT TORMENTS THE SOUL

I remember everything now, my name, my age I remember the painful tragedy that is my life and I even remember what happened to me after I was taken out of that pit a month ago in vivid detail. I hate the Greek gods they curse me every time, bastards may be this is because I rejected them for another god who is from an older in religion than them. My name is Gabrielle I was born in the town of Potidaea and I’m about to die. How ironic since looking back at my memories now with crystal clarity the woman whose on her back with her sword pointed at me was the one who wanted nothing more than to save me. Now her palace warriors are about to kill me and she’ll no doubt hack my head off when their done and keep it as a trophy.

Humans are all the same and she was only nice to me when I was human but I’m not human anymore so I guess all bets are now off. I lived through worse maybe this will be a happy reprieve a quick death, the death I couldn’t gain in battle. I curse this body for its abilities in that I can heal up much quicker than any normal person if I’d have been human I’d have died a long time ago. I should be dead now I was left in that darkness to starve till the end but this ironic curse kept me alive much longer than humanly possible. My body also did something so I could cope. It shut down my mind blocking off all my memories from me, so I didn’t go insane in the darkness. The werewolf part of me withdrew along with these memories and who I really was keeping me awake and making me a shadow of my forma self.

Once I started to gain my strength back and my wasted body returned to normal it all began to resurface. Clearly though it just needed more time and a few more triggers from my past. I’m so fortunate that the Empress of Greece kept everything that was stolen for me to see once more, yet I’m also unfortunate as it will now be my undoing as usual my timing is bad, nothing ever changes. It’s the story of my miserable life wrong time, wrong place, now I’ll get to be a pelt for the Empress to wear, may be I should be flattered. I mean she been hunting my kind to extinction, give her another twenty years and we will be no more than a myth spoken about my scholars and bards who wished they’d been there to witness our end.

I look at my fur which is heavily mattered, I look a mess I don’t think I’ve ever looked so bad. Mattered fur, half cut mane, all thanks to these people cutting my human hair short. If fate had been different I would have been able to get rid of this fur as it would all fall out as a new glossy fur coat grew in its place. Even my mane would have grown back as my hair got longer well I guess I really don’t get to die looking my best. May be I won’t be a pelt may be I’ll be a skeleton on display or a skull on her mantel piece. That’s the best part for humans to brag about the over sized skull which make the skulls of wolves look mediocre.

I slowly close my eyes well it’s been fun I guess, if I’m lucky my god Ouroboros will take pity on me and allow my eternal soul to pass through her eye and onwards in to the next life. May be there I can try my hand at life again and have no memory of this one which has been nothing but pain and misery. Xena stood still feeling the shock hit home the werewolf could speak? The words were clear as was the voice which was identical to her human one only there was the slight growling echo from the throat over laying it. Her gaze shifted as Demetrius ran through the door the shock spreading across his face as he saw the werewolf in front of her.

The men all looked unsure and surprised which meant that this creature talking was not her imagination but very real. Demetrius snarled as he raised his sword. “What are you fools waiting for? Kill that monster now!” Xena raised her hand in a sharp motion. “No!” She ignored his shock watching as they lowered their crossbows.  She got to her knees lowering her sword slightly ignoring the fear in her gut as she spoke. “Did you just speak?” Gabrielle opened her eyes narrowing them as she looked at the woman beside her. She sneered slightly. “Yes I spoke!” She lowered her arms putting down the carved bird. “What’s wrong are you surprised that a monster like me can talk?”

She moved forward on all fours seeing the slight fear in the other woman’s face now she was the bigger one towering over her rather than the other way around. “Now that we’ve established that I can talk how’s about you cut to the chase and get on with killing me! I’m part of a dying race anyway, so one more won’t make much difference.” Xena felt her eyes dart she ignored the shock as it filled Demetrius’s face this female werewolf was now talking and she had very different personality to the one she’d seen before. It was very cold, almost hateful. She had never seen a living werewolf this close before in her life and she could now see something which was surprising even to her, the eyes were identical in colour to human ones despite the slightly larger pupils.

She breathed in gathering her strength as she spoke. “I was told that werewolves don’t speak.” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand she wanted to laugh mocking at the taller woman but somehow she knew it would feel like a shallow victory. “I doubt you’ve ever kept one alive long enough to ask a question, plus for fifty dinars a head it’s not like anyone would bring you any live werewolves.” Xena got up slowly watching for any movement keeping the sword firmly in her hand. “I was also told that werewolves are monsters twenty four seven.” Gabrielle looked up laughing slightly but it was cold laugh even to her own ears. “Well I guess I get to break that delusion for you, what a crying shame.”

She lowered her ears. “Now you can tell your country that werewolves are human during the day light hours. May be this you can be an excuse to accuse those you don’t like and skin them alive in the same way you do my kind!” Xena looked at the huge female werewolf for a long moment it was trying to bait her on purpose. “Why so angry monster?” Gabrielle turned sharply. “My name is Gabrielle! Not monster and I remember every part of my life as well as this whole of this month in very clear detail!” She shifted on all fours. “The only reason I haven’t ripped out your guts so I can watch you die, is because for some reason which I really can’t fathom you helped me out of that pit, despite that you had me put in there to start with.”

Xena raised the sword. “I’d kill you first.” Gabrielle raised both clawed hands. “Then spare me the small talk because I hate waiting to die.” Xena lowered her sword slightly. “I didn’t put you in that pit.” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “Yes you did!” Xena breathed in trying to control her anger. “No I didn’t! I had no idea who you were even there, there was no mention of you in the palace records!” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “I was screaming in that pit for days and no one came to help me!” Xena put a hand on her face feeling the frustration hit home. “The elite warriors aren’t allowed to throw anyone down there they don’t even guard that area! I have a law against any one being thrown in the pit!”

Gabrielle lowered her ears. “Well I guess that law you put in place clearly doesn’t work!” She slowly stood up on her hind legs feeling her claws tap the decorative floor. “I mean thanks to you and you’re so called law I’ve spent the last two years rotting in the darkness!” Xena breathed looking at the golden werewolf who now towering over her. She swallowed before regaining her composer once more despite the twinge of fear she felt as she pulled out her arms. “People listen to my laws and nothing like this has ever happened before!” Gabrielle moved closer so she was with in inches of her face. “Clearly they weren’t listened to your so called laws if they were I wouldn’t be here right now!”

Xena narrowed her gaze. “I’ve done everything to help you stay alive since I pulled you out of that pit!” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “Yes and now you’re going to kill me, how ironic!” Xena breathed in deeply. “If you haven’t noticed I’m the one who just told them not to fire on you!” Gabrielle put a clawed hand on her chest not bothering to hide the sarcasm in her voice as she spoke. “I’m so flattered that you’ve told them not to fire on me, considering my heads worth fifty dinars on the open market.” Xena breathed in sharply realizing that everyone around her was just staring in shock at this whole spectacle.

She put a hand on her face gods she was arguing with a werewolf this was insane on every level. Talk about the gods testing her, it felt like they were doing so right now, with this. Just about everything she’d been led to believe about werewolves was clearly wrong. Normally she wouldn’t care but something about this was drawing her in. In all the time Gabrielle had been here she knew nothing about her and even now she knew nothing. The werewolf who was arguing with her right at this moment was even more a mystery. Maybe that was what was drawing her in she wanted to know the truth, yes she could kill this werewolf but what would it accomplish? If she killed it she would never know the truth of who was working behind her back in side her own walls.

She was tired of assassin attempts and her staff turning on her because they saw her as weak because she had a soft heart. May be a selfish part of her saw this talking werewolf as something useful, who would attack her if she had one of these creatures around? Every one was terrified of werewolves. Plus this one could talk which intrigued her, so little was even known from these creatures and in these last few minutes she’d learnt more than she had in the last in three years which was that they could talk and they weren’t in this form all day only at night. During the day they were human just like everyone else.

She lowered her sword looking at everyone. “Lower your weapons.” Demetrius eyed her, his gaze turned to huge monster. “Empress she’s a monster, she will kill you!” Xena narrowed her gaze. “I said lower your weapons, now!” She watched as Demetrius lowered his weapon along with the other warriors who all looked even more uncertain. She raising her sword slowly up to eye level taking in a deep breath watching as the green eyes studied her very intensely. She took in a deep breath she was insane to do this and she knew it but she knew that this was the only way to see if this female werewolf would attack her and if she had a any sense of honour.

She threw the sword down watching as it clattered as it landed close to the clawed feet, a confused look spread across the huge face for a moment it showed itself more in the eyes than anywhere else. Oh yes she was insane, but if there was one thing she had come to learn from her time in Rome it was that sometimes you had to roll the dice and pray that it would pay off. She looked up slowly meeting the green eyes. “I’m not going to kill you and nether is anyone in this room.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply great she knew just what was going to happen now, it always happened to her she was never given any choices of her own. She felt her teeth grind together. “What do you want from me?”

Xena raised an eyebrow clearly the female werewolf in front of her was very bright, she knew there was an offer involved namely one that would spare her life. “I want you to stay here in my palace.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “As your prisoner?” Xena folded her arms. “No as my guest, it’s clear to me now that I know nothing of werewolves as you say, so I want you to teach me.” Gabrielle laughed but it was a cold laugh even to her own ears. “You want me to teach you, why what in it for you?” Xena looked in to the green eyes clearly this werewolf was very smart and not easily fooled unless she knew all the facts. “I get to learn and you get to live so long as you don’t harm me.” Gabrielle leaned forward snorting in disgust causing the woman’s dark hair to be blown back sharply.

Xena narrowed her gaze she knew she was being mean, her deal basically meant that this werewolf’s life was forfeit and that if she touched her it would mean her death. “Do we have a deal?” Gabrielle felt her claws tap the decorative floor, the bitch, she had no way out of this if she hurt this woman she’d die, if she left this palace she’d be hunted down for her head. She loathed forced deals, in which there was no choice ether side of the equitation. Xena eyed the werewolf who was looking down at the floor she felt a smug smile form. “May I remind you that in side these walls you get to live, outside my palace you’ll be hunted down for your head as you already know?”

Gabrielle leaned forward roaring in her face, with all her might blowing her hair back. She felt her hand form a fist as she watched the Empress step back the smugness disappearing instantly as her face turned to anger but her eyes didn’t hide the fear very well. She could see it even if the others in the room couldn’t. She clearly had never looked down a living werewolf’s throat at all its teeth before and she’d do well to learn that she was not a pet dog. Her jaws could rip a person’s head clean off and her throat was power enough to swallow it whole. She’d eaten her over sized blue pheasant in six bites not that it tasted that nice, but it had the only thing around at the time.

She eased out her tongue running it the length of her teeth before speaking. “As you wish.” Xena watched as the jaws closed fully she never seen anything like it before every tooth in that mouth was razor sharp. She looked down she could tell from the eyes that the werewolf knew that she had scared her and as far as she could was concerned that would the last time she ever scared her like that. Gabrielle raised her clawed hand. “So I guess this the part where you tell me I have to sleep outside or in an open prison cell?” Xena looked up sharply she breathed in feeling her teeth grind together. “No this is the part where I tell you that you can return to your room.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “How fascinating so I get to stay in that room for the rest of my time as your guest is that right?”

Xena turned sharply meeting the green eyes. “As I said before you are not a prisoner in my palace you can go anywhere you wish, as before.” Gabrielle eyed her she slowly lowered herself down on to all fours not bothering to hide her disgust as she spoke. “I’ll be so interested to see how long you stay true to your word.” She shook her mane. “After all my life is forfeit and you can choose to change the rules of this agreement any time you wish.” She moved forward on all fours. “It would so easy for you to do so.” Xena watched as she walked away from her. “I’m honourable to my agreements.” Gabrielle looked up slightly meeting her light blue eyes. “That’s what every one says in beginning, then they realize that it much more fun to watch others suffer, I doubt you’ll be any different.”

Xena looked up meeting Demetrius gaze. “Please escort our guest back to her room and have one of your guards bring the chest with all her belongings to the room. Then inform the staff that we now have a werewolf in our presence and not to be concerned from this day onwards if she’s seen walking the palace at night.” Demetrius nodded as he moved closer to the golden furred werewolf, he didn’t like this one bit it was insane and this beast was dangerous regardless of whether or not it could speak. “Come!” Gabrielle felt her clawed hand tap the floor as she moved forward on all fours looking at the remains of what had been her dress.

She eyed the man in disgust as he looked at her. “I am not a dog keep that in mind before you call me like that again.” Demetrius opened the door watching as walked through on all fours keeping her tail low to the ground. “You could’ve fooled me.” Gabrielle eyed him as they walked through the long corridor which led to her room which was completely empty, as most of the staff were sleeping now. She looked up at the man who was no doubt a commander, she could tell by his clothing. “Small minded idiot.” Demetrius sneered slightly, clearly it wasn’t just that this monster was rude to the Empress it was rude period and clearly it didn’t care who it insulted. He looked up catching sight of its room. “You should learn manners monster, I will not tolerate rudeness from you.”

Gabrielle laughed enjoying the mocking sound as it filled the air, she looked up seeing an annoyed expression appear on his face. “You seriously expect manners from me when you give me none in these first few minutes of walking the corridor? You disgust me your just like every one else you expect everything but you give nothing in return.” She put her clawed hand on the double doors forcing them open as she walked inside staying on all fours. “I don’t obey bastards like you and don’t think that when I return to human form that I won’t remember this little conversation, I’ll remember everything.” Demetrius pulled back as the double doors were suddenly slammed in his face.

He snarled aloud this was a mistake on the Empress’s part this was a monster and he would ensure that he protected everyone from it, it was dangerous. Frankly the Empress should have killed it but as always her sense of honour and kindness had guided her judgement. He stepped away form the double doors its very being here was wrong, so what if it could talk it didn’t change what it was, which was a monster. Gabrielle walked in to the room staying on all fours, once more she was just a prisoner and a puppet to the whims of others nothing ever changed. She didn’t think as she used her clawed hand to smash one of the desks chairs out of the way she watched as it hit the wall on the opposite side of the room before hitting the floor hard. She should have died so many times, but every time she lived and she had no idea why. She eased up a clawed finger running it down the scar on her eyebrow which always remained what ever her form she was in, forever staring back at her and mocking her. She should have died on that night eleven years ago back when she was no more than sixteen, but the Greek gods had instead cursed her by letting her live.

End of part 10

COMPLEX AND DEEPLY FRUSTRATING

 

I now have a werewolf in my palace, I’m insane and this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Problem is my word is honour and I believe in sticking to it no matter what. To dishonour my word is to not be true to myself as a warrior, now I’m going to have to explain this to everyone and have to deal with all their questions. It’s going to be a long day and I’m dreading when royal guests come to visit on top of that this werewolf has no manners, that’s really clear to me now. I just hope that the damn monster learns some and fast. I’m going to have to set some ground rules very soon, like when guest appear she has to disappear altogether.

I have to be true to my word which means every now and again she has to come to my quarters study and we have to talk about who she is as well as her race and her history. A simple talk no forcing and no one around to bother us just me and her and being polite. I’ll even call her by her name in that form if I don’t I will never gain her trust. My gaze darts up as Demetrius forces the door open the anger in his eyes as he walks in to my study. “Yes?” Demetrius breathed in as he came to stand next to the Empress’s desk. “This is terrible mistake Empress you should have let me kill that monster!” Xena looked at the night sky it was still dark outside. “That monster calls her self Gabrielle.”

Demetrius sneered slightly. “Fine then we should have killed Gabrielle!” Xena raised her eyebrow. “And what would killing Gabrielle accomplish other than making you a murder? She was willing to die and if she wanted to kill me she’d have done so. She’s a monster yes but one who seems to have a sense of honour.” Demetrius raised his hand. “You can’t keep her here, she’s dangerous.” Xena stood up sharply meeting his gaze. “Until tonight I had no idea werewolves could even speak and despite that she is dangerous and she is a monster my word of honour is absolute. I will not have her killed in cold blood and she’s already knows that she can’t leave these walls she knows the risk if she does so.”

Demetrius blinked as he folded his arms. “Then you are making her prisoner with in these walls?” Xena sat down slowly picking up her quill. “In a manner of speaking yes, she will be bound to these walls and if she tries to leave your men will bring her back here. Until I know what kind of a monster she is.” She slowly started to scribble on her documents. “She’ll have to report to me when I say so and tell me about her self, she’ll be my reasonability and you’ll just have to learn how to live with her with in these walls.” She looked up watching as Iona came in shoving Demetrius aside ignoring his look of disgust. “Is it true, the young woman is a werewolf and she talks!?”

Xena rolled her eyes as she leaned on her elbow. “Yes she’s a werewolf and she talks, her name is Gabrielle.” Iona stepped forward feeling her smile widen. “This is wonderful, do you know what this means?” Xena looked up slightly feeling un-amused by her joy. “No what does it mean? Tell me because I’m curious.” Iona put her hands together. “Think of the power she has? If we could somehow harness it…” Xena looked up sharply. “No! We are not going down that road Iona she is not a toy for your personal use she is staying here so I can learn about her.” Iona breathed in deeply. “But this is such a great opportunity a once in a life time thing!”

Xena felt her teeth grind together. “I don’t care my decision is final and you will respect it!” She watched as Iona pulled back lowering her head the disappointment in her eyes. She looked up again watching as both Phrixus and Phantasos entered her study she put her hand on her face feeling the annoyance hit home. “How can I help you both?” Phantasos adjusted his robes putting his hands together. “My deepest apologises Empress I only came to make a small request regarding your new guest Gabrielle who I’ve been told is a werewolf and can apparently talk.” Xena looked up sharply. “Yes and what might that request be?” Phantasos eased out his hands. “Please let me study her.”

He breathed in deeply. “I won’t hurt her in any way I just want to look at her when she’s a werewolf, no ones ever never been able to study a live one.” Xena put her quill down Phantasos never ever made requests and out of everyone his had so far been the most sincere. “When I speak to her I’ll come to some arrangement for you.” Phantasos lowered his head respectfully. “Thank you Empress.” Xena turned to Phrixus. “What’s your request?” Phrixus eased up the piece of scroll which Gabrielle had fixed. “Personally I dislike your new guest already she’s obnoxious, rude and she smoked my pipe.” He ignored the sound as Iona sniggered.

He eyed her disgust before turning back to the Empress. “But she can read the werewolf scroll and I was going to ask why but news has it she’s a werewolf so that answers my question.” He eased up the scroll higher so she could see it. “I want you to order her help me translate the whole scroll and teach me this messed up version of Greek she calls a language.” Xena looked at him for a long moment before speaking. “No I won’t do that, she will not be ordered to do anything.” She lowered her gaze. “If in my talks with her I can come to an agreement about helping you then I will, but I will not force her to do anything I am not a tyrant. If she causes problems for others then she will answer to me and only me because it was her word of honour that made this arrangement possible.”

Phrixus raised his hand not bothering to hide his sarcasm. “Great we have to be nice to her, how wonderful.” Xena eased up both her hands she had, had enough of this and now all she wanted to close her eyes and sleep on the decision she’d just made. She stood up putting her quill in the link pot before looking up. “Leave all of you! I have a lot to consider and I need time to think it through.” Demetrius lowered his head. “As you wish Empress.” He slowly backed away watching as the other did the same. He closed the door behind him turning to the others. “Its time for you to return to your rooms the Empress has, had a long night.” Iona sneered as she walked up the corridor. “You know you could have helped me by agreeing with my proposal!”

Demetrius turned to her folding his arms. “I don’t agree with you proposal I’d rather see Gabrielle die.” Iona felt her teeth grind together. “You’re a small minded idiot sometimes, don’t you see her value?” Demetrius walked away from her. “Oh please there is no value in this monster, she’s dangerous and you’ll realize that soon enough.” Iona turned the corridor away from him. “So it hasn’t occurred to you that Xena might just want her around for the protection, I mean from what I heard she’s seven foot tall and has three times the strength you do. Come to think of it you very inferior compared to her, may be that’s why you’re scared of the prospect.”

Demetrius raised a finger. “You’ve never seen a body after a werewolf has finished with it I have, it’s messy and it’s disgusting! Werewolves don’t just tear of limps they rip out your insides to see it would turn even your stomach Iona.” Iona sneered as she carried on walking up the corridor away from him watching as the other two men went their own separate ways not wanting any part in their argument. “I’ve always had a stronger stomach than you Demetrius I do all the dirty work which you can’t!” Demetrius turned walking in the opposite direction watching as she vanished from sight, they had always been at odds on certain subjects and he’d never liked or understood her obsession with powerful things. He hoped that one of these days she’d come to realize power was about more than being powerful it was about your state of mind and you didn’t need powerful things to obtain it.

8

Thaleia yawned as she scrubbed one of the torch holders clean she hated the late shift. She was now doing this due to the palace rotation which happened every six months, the night staff would become day staff and vice versa. The palace in her view was always creepy at night with looming shadows and high walls which seemed to fall up on her, her mother would always tell her that that the palace at night was nothing to fear. In truth she was afraid of the dark as childish as it sounded, she’d never been comfortable with it. She scrubbed the torch clean maybe her mother was right maybe she didn’t have anything to fear and besides six months from now she’d be back on the day shift which she preferred. The corridor she was in was completely empty the only guard was at the end of the hall.

She looked up slightly hearing a tapping sound echoing through the corridor it was very odd sound she turned seeing the guard stand up straight as a huge figure passed him by. She blinked as the huge figure which looked like big dog but as it moved closer she felt the fear hit home it was much bigger than a dog. She blinked watching as the candle light flicked causing the light to bounce of the mattered fur causing a shimmer of gold. She found herself standing still paralyzed with fear as the huge being came fully in to the torches light. She knew what it was now she’d seen the stuffed black one in the visitors study with its scared chest of healed wounds.

It was a huge golden furred werewolf the sharp tapping sound was each of its clawed feet hitting the marble floor as it walked on all fours. She could see dark golden fur as well as huge hands and feet. The long ears were lowered and the eyes which were green and frighteningly human stared forward. She could see long upper and lower canine teeth which were protruding slightly out of the jaws. She was going to die! Any second now it was going to rip her apart, she felt her back hit the wall only to watch in surprise as it walked past her showing no interest in her what so ever. Instead it just carried on walking past focusing slightly on the floor.

She watched as the huge werewolf carried on walking up the corridor. She let out the deep breath she’d been holding in what in Tartarus was going on? There was a werewolf walking around the palace and no one was trying to kill it, it made no sense! She should be dead right now and the guards should be trying to kill this beast. Gabrielle stopped she turned to look at the young woman she could see the fear reflected in her dark brown eyes it was a look she’d seen a thousand times before, she’d even worn it once, a very long time ago. It was the look that every human gave her when they feared for their lives or believed they were going to die by her hand.

She’d taken this short walk because she wanted to test if the Empress was noble to her word about her being allowed to walk around. Clearly it was true since no guard had attacked her, as yet. Also a part of her needed to see these corridors at night since she’d only walked them during the day when the sun light was all around her. Her walk was over though and she needed to rest, she could cope with having less sleep than a human being but even she had her limits, no doubt tomorrow would be an interesting day. She eased up her clawed hand opening her door still seeing that the young woman was staring at her in both fear and confusion.

She took in a deep breath she’d have learn to once more live with that look of fear from others along with hated and contempt. She was after all in their eyes a monster and that would be all they’d ever see her as, a monster. Maybe she should learn to live up to their expectations because they’d never see her as anything more. Thaleia watched as the golden werewolf disappeared from sight closing the door behind it she heard the click as the key turned. It had looked right at her focusing on her for just moment and she’d seen a long scar on its right eye which cut through both its eyebrow right down to its eye. The look it had given her was almost a look between pity and sadness and it made so little sense to her.

End of part 11

 

 

WHEN THE DICE REFUSE TO ROLL IN YOUR FAVOUR

Xena looked up as the door to her study was opened she watched as Gabrielle walked closely followed by Iona. The short haired blonde woman was wearing the dark trousers and black knee high boots as well the white shirt that had been in her chest. She looked at the little Goldfinch on her desk which she had not put in the chest when she’d showed Gabrielle her things the night before. She breathed in seeing that Iona was standing still waiting for her next orders. “Sorry to wake you up Gabrielle, but I called you to my study because I need to set out the ground rules of our arrangement.” Gabrielle folded her arms she should have seen this coming, she was stupid not to she was after all a monster in a palace and only fit to be treated like one.

She turned eyeing Iona. “That’s nice now tell your guard to leave.” Xena looked up from her scroll. “Iona is to stay here during these talks, we have together that is the first rule.” Gabrielle turned eyeing the other woman. “Oh really and why is that?” Xena moved the quill between her fingers. “Because she’s exceptionally good at killing werewolves even more so than Demetrius who is head of my army.” Gabrielle turned eyeing Iona who smiled smugly she spoke once more not caring for her sarcastic tone. “I’m so flattered.” Xena looked up slowly. “It’s no more than a pre caution so you don’t try to harm me in any manner when we are together, she won’t follow you around the palace.” Iona put her hand on her swords hilt. “We wouldn’t like you to get angry and kill the Empress you see.”

Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “If I wanted to kill your Empress I would have done it already.” Iona eyed the blonde woman. “Well then I’m here so you don’t change your mind.” Xena eased up her scroll she turned it around so Gabrielle could see it. “Second rule when I ask you to come to this room be it day or night you come, if its night you can come in ether your human form or your other one.” She put the quill in the ink well. “Note though that in your other form that they’ll be an archer with his bow and arrow ready and he’ll be pointing it at this room and the target will be your heart or your head.” Gabrielle adjusted her shirts collar. “A second pre caution clearly you’ve spent a lot of time on this, must have been a big effort on your part.”

Xena looked up slightly Demetrius was right this woman had no manners, she wasn’t going to enforce any though, in her view that was one step to far and this situation was difficult as it was, with out adding any more friction. She eyed the scroll. “Third rule you don’t leave this palace for any reason and if you have to leave you’ll tell me why you need to and I’ll have a guard escort you.” She tapped the parchment with her finger. “If you leave at any time with out my consent my guards will bring you back and you will not fight them you’ll comply and come back quietly. If you choose otherwise your head will be like every other werewolf’s in Greece, in that they’ll be a fifty dinar ransom on it.”

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze how quick that rule had been put in place, clearly she was in truth a prisoner now with in these walls, but the outside world was closed off to her. Maybe she shouldn’t be so annoyed by that she had nothing out there waiting for her and there was no one out there who loved her or who would ever love her. Xena eyed the parchment. “Fifth rule, if royal guests come here you are to stay in your room out of sight, unless you’re called for.” She eyed the next line. “You are also not to cause bodily harm to any of my staff, if you do so you’ll spend the night in the cell.” Gabrielle sneered slightly oh yes she was clearly a monster in this woman’s eyes now and not a person as she had already been branded as the type who would harm innocent men and women.

Xena looked up sharply. “Is that understood?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Perfectly…Xena.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “You don’t get to use my name you’re not my friend, to you its Empress.” She eyed the last line of the document. “You are also to report to my healer for study every once in a while as he’d like to document your species for the records.” She breathed in deeply. “The last thing is that my scribe Phrixus wants you to help translate the werewolf scrolls being a werewolf its clear that you can read it.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “No.” Xena looked up sharply. “No to what, my scribe or the healer?” Gabrielle looked at the document. “To your scribe and the scroll translation….”

Xena leaned forward. “These are my rules.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “If you get all the rules then I should get one or your arrangement is dishonourable.” Xena stood up easing up her hand only to stop. The younger woman was right she was forcing the rules with out compromise and that wasn’t very diplomatic. She lowered her hand as she sat down meeting the other woman’s forest green eyes. “Very well what are your terms in this agreement?” Gabrielle looked at the scroll. “I only translate that scroll on my terms it’s an ancient scroll which belongs to my people.” Xena looked up sharply. “So it is a true werewolf scroll then, written by a werewolf’s hand?”

Gabrielle put both hands behind her back. “It’s important that’s all you need to know.” Xena looked at her for a long moment this blonde woman was smart there was no denying that. She knew what that scroll was but she obviously liked to keep her ace cards very close to her chest in a manner of speaking. She put both hands together in these last few minutes something had become very clear Gabrielle had a high sense of honour her use of the word dishonourable was very intriguing, as only warriors ever used those words. Clearly she was a warrior of some kind but what kind was still very unclear. “Very well, any thing more you want to add?”

Gabrielle looked down slightly. “No.” She eyed her quill feeling the need to test her theory more deeply. “So your word is binding?” Gabrielle looked at the scroll. “Yes.” Xena slowly rolled the scroll up easing it watching as she took it from her hand. “Good then it’s settled, I have two guests coming tonight and you are not to show yourself.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “As you wish, Empress.” Xena turned to Iona. “Please escort Gabrielle back to her room.” Iona nodded opening the door to the study she watched as Gabrielle walked out of the room. She turned closing the door behind her seeing Gabrielle stop in the corridor she shoved her shoulder moving her forward “Come on doggy back to your kennel.” Gabrielle sneered at her in disgust. “My name is Gabrielle!” Iona smirked watching as she walked forward. “Frankly I don’t give a Tartarus what your name is, the fact of the matter is you’re a big dog and you now have to obey our Empress, so be a nice dog and do as you are told.” Gabrielle turned saying nothing there was no point no one ever listened to her anyway.

8

Gabrielle slowly placed a clawed feet on the floor she could hear the party of some kind which was going on down the corridor clearly the Empress was entertaining her guests as promised. The day had been quite and with out incident, no one had spoken to her though despite that they’d seen her, her dinner had been placed inside her room by a servant who had also not said a word to her. She didn’t expect anyone to be nice to her anyway and she’d just have to put up with it for however long that would be. She lowered herself slowly on to all fours looking at the dark sky through one of the window somehow she preferred the night it was comforting. She liked the dark shadows made by candle light and the quite with hardly anyone around.

So far she’d only walked a small area of the palace and tonight she intended to see more off it. It was a huge glorified place full of corridors and rooms. So far she’d seen the scribes study, the kitchens and most the gardens, there was still so much more to see though and she curious about it all. She walked towards the noise forcing her claws up slightly so they didn’t tap the ground. She had stayed in her room out of sight up until now, mulling over the Empress’s talk. For one thing she hadn’t expected any diplomacy so the fact that she’d gotten any was a surprise. She moved quietly catching sight of the large room which had and no door. Instead there were two huge pillars with huge rafters on ether side giving it a temple like feel and in front of it hung two red curtains which had been drawn together.

She moved forward slowly and quietly it was more curiosity that was guiding her than anything she wanted to know what kind of party the Empress was having, no doubt it was orgy party. She had lived in Rome after all she probably enjoyed decadence and being spoiled as well as lavishing her guests with highly strung parties. She stopped with in inches of the two huge velvet curtains which had a very small gap enough for her eye to see through. She slowly looked through catching sight of the musicians playing her gaze shifted upwards to the large rafter above the doorway, which was hidden by the curtains. She didn’t think as she leapt up on to one of pillars pulling her self slowly on to one of the rafters so she had a much better view.

She could see the four guests talking all on side ways chairs. The Empress herself was dressed in a long golden peplos with silver plated decorative gantlets. She had long golden earring on and a elaborate leaf woven crown of silver hair peace, her long black hair had been styled and pulled back to show off her neck.  She could see Demetrius standing close by her chair watching the guests who were eating, drinking and talking. It was very civil and diplomatic not really what she was expecting somehow she’d expected naked flesh and sex. She kept still the room was a huge study with scrolls on every shelf these huge book shelves surrounded the guests in a half circle that faced the curtains there was no way out except the way in.

She narrowed her gaze realizing why it was laid out in this manner it was a purposely built bottle neck one way in and one way out. Clearly the dark haired woman wasn’t stupid she had done this so if any one tried to kill her that they’d confined to this room, giving her the ability to kill them first if they attacked her. She sneered slightly clearly she had fears about being killed she felt her ear prick up as she heard footsteps they were the sounds of someone trying to be quite but failing miserably. She looked down catching sight of the young woman she’d seen in the corridor the other day cleaning things. The woman dark eyes darted as she came to a stop looking through the curtains only gap at the whole spectacle.

Gabrielle looked down studying her she could see the longing as it appeared in her brown eyes filling them up almost to bursting. She looked at the party once more before looking back at the young woman who hadn’t seen her or even heard her. She slowly followed her gaze realizing that it wasn’t focused on the party but a single person. Her eyes were focused on Demetrius no one else, clearly she liked him in some way but it was the look of woman who understood the rules and her position and could look forever but never touch. He was head of the royal army, she was no more than a cleaning servant and she was right at the bottom at the ladder.

Gabrielle lowered her head watching as the woman turned away leaving as best she could hoping that she wouldn’t be caught for being here. She waited till she was far from sight as she jumped down landing quietly on the floor moving away from the room making no sound. She knew how that woman felt she’d been there once a long time ago. Before she’d learnt the hard way that you never get what you want and its always taken from you no matter how much you try to hold on to it. No doubt the young woman would learn that cruel lesson soon enough. She’d learn that any love you seek is for nothing and that no one ever loved you they just used you for personal gain.

Love was an illusion spoken of by foolish scribes and bards who had no idea of what the real word was really like beyond the confines of there walls.  They had no idea of the true pain and suffering that was out there. In her view people wasted their time over love, what could be gained by loving someone anyway? It wasn’t as if any one ever truly stood by the person they claimed to love anyway. As for the soul mate myth that was even more laughable, as if there was someone out there attached to your soul who would love you unconditionally and ask for nothing in return. She lowered her head shaking her mattered mane as she moved further up the corridor. In her view loving someone only made you weak and when the one who claimed to love you found your weakness they did nothing but exploit it for them selves and in the process they’d cause you nothing but pain and suffering.

End of part 12

 

TO KNOW WHAT YOU SEE AND WHAT YOU DON’T

Well it seems that now I can’t avoid the truth I have a werewolf and I have to talk to her as I agreed. I’ve been putting off this conversation for so long, maybe because a part of me has been afraid, this is a monster after all. It’s been two days now since our last chat and I’ve already noticed that Gabrielle stays out of sight during the day and remains in her room out of sight. She also walks the palace at night in her werewolf form on all fours I have no idea why she does this, she just does. May be in her mind night is the only time to come out as most of the staff are asleep. The other thing I don’t understand is why the walk is the same it’s always through the upper corridors. Then down in to the royal gardens and then past the hall where the child minder looks after the palace children and then back up to her room.

She doesn’t go near the walls and she stays away from the guards, also she always walks with her head down she never looks up. I’ve watched her from my balcony she knows I’m there I’m sure of it but she never looks up. She just walks past ignoring me and the world around her she has also become a huge point of palace gossip. Maybe even more so because she’s only out at night and the staff try to see her, not that I blame them there is fascination in seeing a being like this, it’s not like any of them have ever seen a werewolf let alone a live one. Not that everyone is happy with that notion I’ve already had complaints from both my head cook Kalika and the head cleaner Tiara.

Tiara is furious as Gabrielle walks her muddy paw prints through the halls and leaves a real mess which is apparently only made worse by the fact that her mattered golden fur has started to come out in chucks. Gabrielle apparently scatters the pillars and doors pulling of huge chucks at a time. Clearly like a real wolf she can shed her fur as a new fresh coat grows through. Though that’s not Tiara’s only complaint the other is that Gabrielle has no dignity and is basically walking around the palace naked and the fact that her tail covers her private parts doesn’t make things any better, its still the principle. Frankly I don’t see what the fuss is about its all fur though frankly I don’t wish to contemplate how her reproductive organs work in that form or how they look.

So for Tiara’s piece of mind she’ll be told to wear something to cover that area whether she likes it or not. The head cook Kalika’s complaint is that she doesn’t want Gabrielle near her kitchen period. Because she’s a monster and that her very presence would terrify the staff no matter what form she’s in. Xena put her hands together looking up slightly as the sound of footsteps echoed through the hall clearly Iona had finally brought Gabrielle to her. She watched as the door opened and Gabrielle walked in closely followed by Iona. She was in human form but then it wasn’t night yet. She watched as Iona closed the door putting a hand on her sword as she took up her guarding position watching Gabrielle closely. Gabrielle was dressed in her shirt and trousers once more. She breathed in deeply looking up from her writing desk watching as Gabrielle eased out her ivory pipe from her pocket.

Xena eyed her for a long moment. “It’s rude to smoke in my presence.” Gabrielle eyed her pipe. “I would smoke if I had any opium and coltsfoot leaf for me to smoke, Empress.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Then as I said before you need to write a list.” Gabrielle pulled a piece of parchment out of her pocket. “Here’s my list!” Xena leaned back. “Give it to Iona she’ll give it to the servants who do the shopping at the markets.” Gabrielle passed her list to Iona watching as she took it looking it over. She looked up slightly watching as Gabrielle put her pipe away, clearly she was a smoker as she was already experiencing anger due to smoking with drawl.

Saying that though Gabrielle from what she’d seen so far didn’t have manners and seemed very cold in general. She took in a deep breath, wondering where to begin she looked up slightly speaking calmly. “Are you settling in? You’ve been here a long time now. No doubt you’re getting to getting used to my palace.” Gabrielle folded her arms. “Yes I’m getting used to your palace.” Xena leaned back further sensing her coldness. “So tell me how long do werewolves actuality live?” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Why does it matter?” Xena raised an eyebrow. “It matters to me, since I’ve never been the presence of a live one.”

Gabrielle looked at the floor. “They can live to be hundred or even older if they don’t get their head cut off and sold for fifty dinars.” Xena blinked meeting her forest green eyes. “You live for a very long time, no wonder it’s been so difficult to hunt you all down and kill you as a species.” Gabrielle breathed sharply she wished right now that she could smoke. Xena looked up feeling a long drawn out silence echo between them she sat up slightly feeling the need to break it once more. “So are your parents werewolves?” Gabrielle tapped her boot on the floor. “No their human.” Xena felt a smile form. “But you had a werewolf in your family I assume it skips a generation?”

Gabrielle smirked slightly. “No it doesn’t I was born human my family are human, I had a human upbringing.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “Then how are you now a werewolf?” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “Is this going to be the depth off our conversation you insult me and try to be clever, when in truth you know nothing?” Xena eased up her hand as Iona reached for her sword hilt. “She has the right to express herself in these conversations.” She watched as Iona let go off her hilt eyeing Gabrielle in disgust. She leaned forward putting her hands together looking at Gabrielle. “So how does one become a werewolf Gabrielle, I’m curious?”

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “They don’t get a choice it’s forced up on them with out their consent.” Xena looked up sharply. “Was it forced up on you?” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “Yes, and now I have to put up with people like you who treat me like an animal.” Xena looked at her empty parchment on her desk. “You are an animal.” Gabrielle put a hand on her face trying to hide her disgust. “You know what saddens me the most about this?” Xena put her hand on her elbow. “No what’s that?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “When you didn’t know I was a werewolf you were nice to me. You even cared enough to bring me my breakfast when I couldn’t see.”

Xena narrowed her gaze putting her hands together again speaking calmly ignoring the younger woman’s only show of open emotion. “That was then, this is now.” She sat back putting her feet on the table leaning back. “The servants are unhappy with you, they have complained about you walking around in your other form naked.” She eyed her for a long moment. “Apparently, your fury rear end is noticeable so from now on you can find something to wear bellow to cover yourself up.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “I need material to do that.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Well I’m sure you’ll figure something out.” She looked up slightly. “You also need to go to healers right now and be in werewolf form.”

She nodded to Iona. “Iona will of course escort you there.” Gabrielle sneered in disgust. “As you wish…Empress.” Xena ignored her cold tone as Iona let Gabrielle out closing the door behind her. That could have gone better in fact it could have gone a lot better. Clearly she hadn’t started this off in the right manner at all. Gabrielle disliked her that was clear as for her only show of emotion she very much doubted that it was real. Human beings felt things, monsters didn’t and she already knew that Gabrielle was very smart. She’d seen what werewolves did to people when they killed them and she doubted that they felt anything as they tour them apart and she was fooling herself to think any different.

8

Phantasos watched as the huge werewolf sat down on the healer bed in front of him this was such a dream come true. He’d always wanted to study a werewolf he had studied the pieces of the dead ones brought in to the palace. To get a full body though was rare he had copies of medical study notes on Minotaur’s and Satyrs from Athens. He’d leant early on that werewolves were completely different to them on every level from the parts he had studied.

From the body parts he had seen werewolves had a much thicker ribs in their chest which were very strong unlike a Minotaur’s which was quite weak despite having incredibility powerful collar bones and shoulder blades as well as neck and skull bones to carry the weight of their horns. Satyrs on the other hand had weak pelvis bones. While Centaurs had incredible power in their front and back legs all of these beings were classed as intelligent because they could speak and had the same rights as humans, it was only werewolves which weren’t they were classed as animals.

There was so much that was unknown about werewolves just bits and pieces and now he’d finally get a change to be to study a living werewolf and be the first person in Greece to do so. He was already fascinated this werewolf had healed herself over night something which no other being could do. There was more though her body was human during the day and at night it became this, it was a complete metamorphosis like that of a caterpillar changing in to a butterfly but unlike the butterfly she could do it over and over again changing every night if she wished. That was what the staff who’d seen her walking around at night had told him.

He moved forward seeing that the werewolf was still, Iona was outside the door if at any moment this werewolf played up she’d be in the room to put her in her place. In all honesty he thought all this was a bit harsh, this werewolf even now was being completely submissive ever since she’d walked in the room on all fours, as soon as he’d told her to sit on the bed she’d done so with out question. He breathed in where to start? He pulled his small desk over closer to the bed with its quill so he could make notes as he worked. She towered over him but her head was lowered and her ears were down. He raised his hand. “Can I see one of your hands?” Gabrielle rose her clawed hand watching as he slowly put both of his on it turning it carefully studying it as he started to make notes.

Phantasos looked at the thick heavy claws and long hands which had a paws pad just like that of a wolves although the shape was very different due to the lengthen hand. He stroked his beard. “So how long does your race live?” Gabrielle rolled her eyes great this question for the second time tonight. “We can live to be a hundred or older.” Phantasos moved his fingers feeing the bone under the fingers. “That’s very old, how are you so long lived?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply speaking in an emotionless tone. “Because we can heal ourselves, we can walk away from wounds that would kill a human being.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “Yes I saw that your scar healed over night is that the healing your referring to?”

Gabrielle nodded she was tired now and not really in a fighting mood despite that she didn’t want to be here. “Yes.” Phantasos moved his other hand up to her mattered coat pulling slightly which caused some of the golden fur to come free revealing a short fresh new coat underneath. “I see your coats malting, just like a grey wolf’s, is that normal?” Gabrielle eyed her mattered coat. “My human hair was damaged in the pit in the process so was my fur, now that my bodies healing my coat will malt as my human hair grows back.” Phantasos moved to his scroll writing quickly. “Fascinating.” He turned back looking at her eye which had the deep scar which seemed to present in both werewolf and human form. “If you heal in this manner why is it that the scar on your eyebrow hasn’t healed?”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Because scars which you get before you become a werewolf never heal they always remain.” Phantasos blinked that was a surprise. “Became a werewolf? You mean you were human once just like me, I assumed that you were born a werewolf.” Gabrielle looked at her clawed hands. “Yes I was human just like you once.” Phantasos leaned closer to her this was even more fascinating. “So werewolves aren’t born there made? How is that accomplished?” Gabrielle shook her head. “You misunderstand, werewolves come in to being in two ways two werewolves have a child and that child is born a werewolf. Or a human being has this curse forced up on them.”

Phantasos moved his hands looking at her long ears clearly she wasn’t being forthcoming but then this was her first time doing this. She just needed more time to adjust then she’d be more open. “So you can never be human again like me?” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “No I can’t It’s a permanent curse with no cure and I’ll be this way until I die.” Phantasos raised his eyebrow. “Sounds like you’ve been a werewolf for some time.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Yes I’ve been this way for a long time.” Phantasos moved his hand to her arm feeling the bone structure and the muscle tone around her chest. “Do you ever wish you could be human again?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Yes.”

Phantasos looked up slightly he could hear the coldness and resentment in her tone, which seemed strange to him. If werewolves could become this powerful and strong and be able to transform every night when ever they pleased why would they want to trade it? He moved his hand to her shoulder feeling the powerful shoulder muscles and deep set shoulder bones. “Why would you want to be human again when you have this hugely powerful body?” Gabrielle sneered slightly she wasn’t going to answer that question it wasn’t as if he’d understand anyway. Phantasos breathed in hearing the silence in the air clearly no answer was forth coming. Gabrielle as she called herself hadn’t been as hostile as before, but she was still very cold when speaking to him.

He breathed in deeply. “Open your jaws.” He watched as she opened her mouth showing off all her teeth which were gleaming white. He looked down catching sight of the golden tooth replacement which had been merged in to a larger tooth point which was quite remarkable. He could see the wide inner throat which was well muscled clearly she could swallow large things whole. A chicken would be no issue she could eat it no problem, but that begged another question to have a throat like this it meant that werewolves had to be big eaters. He used his hand closing her jaws watching as the upper and lower canines locked together but protruded out of the lips ever so slightly.

He moved his hands away. “I assume with these jaws you can eat anything?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Yes.” Phantasos looked at her. “Are you mostly meat eater though or vegetable eaters?” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Both, it depends on the werewolf which one they eat more off.” Phantasos smiled. “Oh I see its personal choice dictated by monster in question.” Gabrielle eyed him in disgust. “Yes.” Phantasos smiled ignoring her look. “Is there is anything you can’t eat?” Gabrielle looked away slightly. “There are a number of herbs we are can’t stomach, they make us very sick and there not even poisonous.” Phantasos pulled up his quill and parchment. “What are they?”

Gabrielle snarled aloud. “You don’t seriously believe I’m going to tell you that, do you?” Phantasos looked up sharply instantly realizing why she was acting this way. “You misunderstand I’m not a person who believes in killing others, I would not use this to hurt others of your kind. My work here is for the benefit of the greater good. I have no intention of cutting you open or causing you great pain in any of our sessions. I just want to study and learn that’s my aim here.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “You do realize that some of the worst things have been done with the best intentions don’t you?” Phantasos breathed in deeply. “Look I’m not your enemy here the more I can learn from your race the more I can educate people about you the more they know about your species in general the more they can learn.”

Gabrielle laughed but it was cold laugh. “Oh you want to start a revolution? What do think people knowing about werewolves will make any difference to anyone? Because believe me it won’t, there’s big money to made by killing us.” She raised her clawed hands. “But I’ll amuse you by telling you these herbs because I know it won’t make any difference. Because in the not to far future werewolves will be extinct as a species, and all your revolution will be for nothing because it will be too little to late. You’ll be talking about a monster as you call it, which no longer exists.”

End of part 13

 

TO SEE A GLIMMER OF COMPASSION IN THE DARKEST PLACE

Gabrielle felt her claws tap the marble floor of the corridor that stupid bastard healer! He’d been poking at her for three days pulling prodding moving things all while making long notes on scrolls and drawing diagrams. Every time she had to go to him she was led up there by Iona and every time he started with the same lie which was that this was for the good of her race. Oh yes he was doing this for the good of her race, the truth was if she wasn’t so important to the Empress he’d cut her open while she was still breathing and get a really good look at her inner workings. She now made sure that she didn’t answer any of the healers questions in great detail because something told her that he just wanted to hear it but she doubted that he truly listened to her words.

It was almost sad that she saw her now as no more than a monster despite showing her all the care and devotion when she was human. That was the price though, the price of inhumanity, you were no more than an animal or a monster in the eyes of others. She carried on walking forward on all fours it was the reason she’d had very few human friends. She’d learnt early on that it was nether, smart nor clever to try and make conversation with humans who saw her as a monster as they would never change their views. It was painfully ironic since she had once been human she could remember playing with the children of Potidaea and running around with the young girls and boys. She could remember the smell of the rich green grass and the joyful sounds of birds, as well as playing with her younger sister out side her families home and enjoying the fullness of life.

She could already see how this would end the Empress would find out all she needed to know, then when she’d finally out lived her usefulness the older woman would make the discussion and have her cut open on the healers table slowly, so that her bodies inner workings could be documented in the name of her race. That would be the final outcome of this agreement, after all she knew few human’s who were ever loyal to there agreements when it came to werewolves. She turned feeling something pull on her tail she swung her head around sharply watching as a small brown haired girl who was no more than four years old came to view.

She was holding a sown teddy bear in one hand while her big hazel coloured eyes looked up her filled with curiosity she spoke as a big smile appearing on her lips. “Are you a puppy?” Gabrielle stood still looking at her for a long moment before adjusting the long piece of hanging material around her waist it was in essence part of the hanging drape which had been in her bathroom near the stone tub. She hadn’t had any choice twice now she’d sent her list to Iona and still nothing she had wanted had come including the material she’d put down, so she had make something to cover up as the Empress had requested. She was getting bored and frustrated she had no coltsfoot leaf to smoke and she was feeling even more irritable than normal.

The only way to get rid of her frustration was to do these night walks at least then her attention was on other things. When she was out here she didn’t think about smoking. She looked down at the young child staying very still as sat down on her hind legs so she was in front of the tiny girl who was still clutching her tail end. She looked up speaking softly and gently, she didn’t want to scare this young girl. “No I’m not a puppy.” The young girl looked up at her curiosity. “But you have a tail and big ears.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Yes but puppies don’t talk do they?” The young girl looked at her tail then looked up at her face studying her before speaking. “No I guess they don’t.”

“Kaia!”

Gabrielle looked up sharply watching as a small fair skinned woman came around the corner running towards her she was in her late forties and was wearing red and white robes she had long black hair and dark brown eyes. She picked up the little girl who kept hold of her tail speaking in a calm voice. “There you are, you know not to run off like that, your mother would be so worried.” Gabrielle moved her tail realising that the girl still had hold off it, she knew the reaction the woman was going to give her the moment she caught on and it wouldn’t be nice. She watched the woman caught sight of her tail in the little girl’s hand she turned slowly looking at her a smile forming on her lips. “So who is this Kaia?”

The young girl let go off her tail speaking loudly. “I thought she was a puppy but she can talk.” The woman smiled. “I doubt that’s her name’s puppy though Kaia.” She turned meeting her gaze fully before speaking. “So what do they call you?” Gabrielle blinked in surprise she stood up slightly feeling unsure of what to say. She looked at her clawed hand for a moment. “My name is Gabrielle.” The woman’s smile widened. “What a nice name.” She looked up slightly. “Well my names Fedora.” She pulled up the little girl. “And this little one is Kaia she’s not mine I’m just looking after her while her mothers on the night shift.” She breathed in deeply. “I’m the baby sister I take care of all the children in the palace.”

She raised an eyebrow. “My daughter is Thaleia, you might have met her she’s working the night shift.” Gabrielle stood up fully feeling even more un-sure of herself, she wasn’t used to this at all. The other palace servants did nothing but give her cold looks or avoid her by walking in the opposite direction, they wore there hated on there sleeves so to speak. She lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry I haven’t met your daughter, no one talks to me.” She paused, thinking of her next words carefully. “Because I’m different.” Fedora looked at her for a long moment despite the form she could see very human eyes staring back at her and they were laced with a deep pain and sadness.

She paused before speaking. “I wouldn’t say that you’re that different no doubt you have a beating heart just like the rest of us.” Gabrielle looked up slightly this woman was strange no one ever talked her or ever tried to make her feel better. She lowered her ears unless they wanted something she felt her gaze dart. “Do you need something from me?” Fedora laughed slightly what an odd thing for this woman to say. “No I didn’t want anything from you Gabrielle, what makes you ask that?” Gabrielle moved away slightly. “Look I’ve taken up to much of your time, I’ll just be going.” Fedora moved forward. “You know you don’t have to go, I’ve seen you a lot you walk the corridors at night, it must get lonely for you.”

She stepped closer. “I mean if you want to talk to someone I’d be happy to lend an ear.” Gabrielle slowly went down on all fours she felt truly uncomfortable now. She wasn’t even sure if this was genuine or if this woman was playing a game with her. She breathed in deeply before speaking. “You don’t have to be nice to me out of pity, I know what I am and I know how others see me.” She moved away from her slowly. “You don’t have to pretend to like me ether, just because no one else in this palace does. I’m a monster I can no more change that than I can change the stars in the sky.” Fedora watched as Gabrielle disappeared from sight how truly sad, this woman had no confidence in herself what so ever.

She knew others didn’t like her in the palace so she assumed it to be true of everyone. For her the very idea that someone would care about her feelings was something she couldn’t fathom and if any feelings were shown she just assumed the person wanted something from her. Clearly she’d never had any real friends in her life and that in its self was very sad. She looked up as her daughter appeared running up the other corridor towards her the concern in her eyes as she spoke. “Mother are you alright its just I saw you and I saw the werewolf leaving.” Fedora put Kaia on the floor keeping hold of her hand. “Werewolf is that what everyone calls her in side the palace?”

Thaleia blinked unsure about her mother’s question as she pulled on her sleeve slightly. “Well yes the staff do call her that and palace monster or so I’ve heard.” Fedora shook her head sadly. “Its sad that she can go from such a title as the Empress’s little mystery to something as cold and unfeeling as the werewolf or palace monster.” She turned to Kaia who smiled. “She was so nice to you and very gentle she didn’t harm a single hair on your head did she? I mean she even let you pull on her tail now I don’t think she’d do that if she were unkind.” The little girl nodded pulling up her teddy bear looking at Thaleia. “She’s very friendly.”

Fedora looked up slightly. “You know I think you should talk to her Thaleia, I mean she’s only a few years older than you are and you don’t have any friends here in the palace.” Thaleia rolled her eyes. “Mother please I don’t need to make friends I’m perfectly happy the way I am.” Fedora breathed in deeply her daughter was ever the stubborn one. She looked up slightly. “We both know that’s not true and that you have no friends in the palace, you’re afraid to go out and say hello to people.” Thaleia folded her arms. “Look I don’t enjoy their company that’s all, all they do is bicker and gossip and say unkind things.” Fedora breathed in deeply. “You mean unkind things about Gabrielle the palace monster as they call her?”

Thaleia stopped still looking at her mother before looking at the floor. “Yes those things.” Fedora looked up at her taller daughter. “Have you called her any of those names?” Thaleia looked up sharply. “No!” Fedora raised her hand. “Now you know better than to lie to me.” Thaleia pulled out her arms she couldn’t put anything past her mother. “Okay I’m sorry I have called her that.” Fedora breathed in deeply. “I brought you up to be better than that Thaleia.” Thaleia lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry mother I did it because everyone does it.” Fedora shook her head sadly. “Just because everyone else does something like that does not make it right.” She sighed aloud. “Gabrielle has no friends you know, I’ve watched her walk these halls at night and she just looks sad and lonely.”

She breathed in deeply. “You should be the first to get to know her and prove to everyone that she is not this monster their making her out to be. She’s just a lonely young woman whose been shunned for no other reason than being different.” Thaleia put her hand on her chest. “What if she doesn’t want to talk to me, I mean I’ve seen her walk past me she’s huge in werewolf form, what if she harms me.” Fedora picked up Kaia again pulling her in to her arms. “She didn’t harm little Kaia here so I doubt she’ll harm you in fact I found her with Kaia. Who had run up the corridor to say hello to her. Gabrielle’s no monster she was being really kind and gentle to young Kaia here. Now tell me is that the actions of a monster?”

Fedora watched as her daughter thought about it before shaking her head a guilty look spreading across her face as the truth became clear. She took in a deep breath. “When your father was alive the gods rest his soul, there was a time when people judged him even after he was given freedom.” She breathed in deeply. “They believed a Roman slave despite now being a free man could never amount to anything because he had been a slave. I believed in your father when I met him I always told him that he could be anything he wanted and what others said did not matter. He finally realized that he could be someone and he became a warmer and happier man.” She looked up slightly. “Your father rose up to be a great and noble Greek warrior of high ranking. He fought be the Empress’s side in the Spartan up rising where he died a truly noble death. He showed everyone that anyone no matter who they are or what ever there upbringing can become great if some one believes in them, even if they don’t believe in themselves.”

End of part 14

 

DESTROYING A BEAUTIFUL INNOCENCE

 

Xena looked at her desk it had been a quite week and in all that time she hadn’t spoken again to Gabrielle. Though the complaints were endless but they were just the same things as before like her muddy paw prints and her being an animal. Despite these complaints she’d been a well behaved animal she hadn’t touched the staff and she kept out of sight during the day. She’d had a lot of meetings this week and all had been boring un-enjoyable meetings all about trade routes. The huge royal banquet was on the horizon, it was a party she did every year and frankly she loathed it. All of the royal kings, queens, were invited to indulge in her hospitality for one night only.

There was food drink and vast entertainment and the servants were all invited to join in as well as be good hosts to these guests. Frankly she loathed the royals at times but she knew that she needed there loyalty, because if she was ever in trouble she needed them to help her out, so during this party she played up to their whims. She had a few rules though, no orgies or sexual activities and no naked dancers, touching the servants was forbidden and violence would mean punishment, all issues had to be solved with talk and diplomacy. The royals had stuck to these rules to the letter and the only blood that had ever been spilt had been in fighting demonstrations.

The royals for some reason loved to watch gladiatorial fights, so she normally brought in gladiator champions to do these displays. No one was killed it was a pure demonstration of power and ability purely to please the guests. In Greece unlike Rome gladiatorial sport was undertaken by free men and women, it was no different from being an athlete in the Olympics games. Any one could become a gladiator from the working class to the noble class so long as they were fit enough and strong enough to compete. These men and women were trained in the Greek special villas and could go home at night to their families, and were given a basic salary. The big money though was made when they won in the arena.

It was true that they could die in these games but then there were men and women out there willing to do it for the money that could be gained which could make them very rich if the survived and worked their way up the ladder. She’d wanted to ban the gladiatorial games in Greece after leaving Rome but they were incredibly popular so she’d changed their rules instead. Greek games were not political like in Rome, it was all for entertainment so killing in some fights wasn’t always necessary. If a defeated gladiator was under his opponent’s sword ready for the death strike, the opponent had to pull his sword away and give him life, so he could fight another day. Unlike Rome there was no shame in showing the hand signal for mercy, because it was considered brave to still be breathing at the end of these fights.

She poured some more wine in to her tankard ignoring the feeling of light drunkenness which was filling her senses. She ignored it she was having another one of her slightly depressing nights once again. She couldn’t help it she just wanted to drink herself to sleep again like she had done most of this week. Maybe she felt this way because a part of her had liked that she’d Gabrielle around to distract her attention. The illusion was now broken though and she’d come to realize that Gabrielle wasn’t even human anyway. She wouldn’t lie to herself she’d had the idea in her mind that she might be able to make a friends since Gabrielle had no attachment to the palace, but that was not going to happen now.

Her thoughts were cut off as the door opened and Gabrielle was brought in closely followed by Iona who stepped back taking up her guarding position behind her. She looked behind her at the window where the sun was settings she turned to Gabrielle who looked tired. “You look tired maybe you should get some fresh air.” Gabrielle pulled on the collar of her shirt, eyeing Iona she was already starting to hate this, it didn’t matter what she was doing at the time. Iona would just pull her out of the room regardless. She breathed in deeply meeting the taller woman’s light blue gaze. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She sniffed the air picking up the smell of alcohol hanging in the air clearly the Empress had been drinking heavily.

Xena stood up slightly. “I feel that we got off to a bad start so let’s try again.” She paused meeting her forest green eyes. “So how’s about we start from the very beginning I saw in your record that you disappeared from Potidaea when you were sixteen years old. Slavers captured you and a number of other women that’s what the records show, so why don’t you tell me what happened that day?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she should have seen this coming, she folded her arms she hated people asking about her past it was both shameful and heart breaking, she had never enjoyed reliving her memories even in her own mind. She looked down feeling her eyes dart before she looked up there was no point in fighting this. She was better off just giving the Empress what she wanted, she closed her eyes for a moment allowing the almost forgotten memory to fill her mind.

On the outskirts of Potidaea eleven years ago.

Gabrielle turned pushing her best friend playfully. “Oh please you haven’t kissed Perdicus.” Seraphin laughed throwing her shoulder length curly blonde hair back as her brown eyes darting. “Oh but you have? Last I looked your lips were firmly on Helena’s.” Gabrielle laughed leaning against the tree opposite. “Oh please I was just having fun.” Seraphin looked at her friend who had very long blonde hair which was almost down to her waist. “That’s not what your sister said.” Gabrielle adjusted her long light blue and white dress. “You know my little sister Lila loves to gossip.” Seraphin sat down on the fallen free in the meadow watching as the other younger women played there game opposite. She could see Perdicus in among them with his Seraphin friend laughing and joking. “Yeah but your always the point of her gossip, since your always running after men and women.”

Gabrielle adjusted her dark blue and purple over jacket as she sat on the fallen tree opposite her friend. “Is this all we are going to talk about today, my sister and her gossip?” Seraphin adjusted her green dress as she turned sharply. “Well no I mean you could tell me what Perdicus was like to kiss? I mean was it as good as they say in scrolls?” Gabrielle eyed Perdicus who was talking to a young woman opposite. “Well it was interesting.” Seraphin moved closer. “Tell me more.” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows. “But that would spoil it for you, when it’s your turn.” Seraphin pushed her shoulder playfully. “That’s not fair you know for a carpenter’s daughter you’re not very expressive.”

Gabrielle put a hand on her chest. “That’s because all my expression goes in to building furniture just like my sister.” Seraphin put her hands together. “And your mothers pregnant again and soon you’ll have a new brother or sister to bother you while you work.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Don’t remind me, my fathers already roped me in to making the cot with him and I still haven’t finished the two chairs I’m making.” Seraphin smirked. “That’s because your daddies little girl and you’re a much better carpenter than Lila, her work isn’t nearly as beautiful as yours. I mean your work is so much more detailed. I loved those griffin head walking sticks you made and I heard that they were very popular at the market your father sold all seven of them on the same day.”

She felt a wide smile form. “I mean it’s in your blood.” Gabrielle smiled looking at her best friend. “Well my grand father Typhoeus was a carpenter to and he and my father were very close, they spent a lot of time together after my grandmother died. When he died he left my father his whole inheritance and he used it to turn our house in to a villa and create a separate workshop.” Seraphin laughed as she looked up. “See what I mean you were born to be a carpenter.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze as a thought crossed her mind. “Don’t you ever dream of being more than what you are Seraphin?” Seraphin sat up slightly. “What you mean like a warrior or something?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No not like that, I mean don’t you ever want to travel?”

Seraphin shook her head. “No not really I like it here in Potidaea, what about you?” Gabrielle tapped her boots on the grass. “I’d like to travel the world and see the great wonders. I’m wouldn’t want to be a warrior or anything like that though.” Seraphin shrugged slightly. “You’re to much of a dreamer Gabrielle, I mean I’ve heard there are dangerous people out there and that it can be a very unhappy place.” Gabrielle looked at her hand. “Oh please that’s probably just an exaggeration I mean…?” Her words were suddenly cut off as screaming filled the air she stood up watching as Seraphin did the same only to freeze in horror as fifteen men appeared all holding heavy swords. They surrounded them and the group behind them.

The leader was a big middle aged man with a thick heavy set beard and brown eyes he smiled eyeing them and then the other women. “Now look what we have here, aren’t you all so cute?” She watched as the men moved inwards slowly bringing the other women together forcefully along with Perdicus who began to look angry. The leader eyed everyone. “You know it’s not smart for you young girls to play so far away from home, something bad might happen to you.” Gabrielle forced a smile despite the terror she felt as she looked at the leader. “Oh well we were all just about to leave.” The leader eyed her pulling up his sword so it was with in inches of her throat. “Don’t get smart with me little girl you aren’t going anywhere!”

Perdicus snarled as he stepped forward in front of Gabrielle shoving his sword harshly away from her throat ignoring his look of utter disgust. “Look we don’t want any trouble!” The older mans eyes narrowed as he pulled his sword back. “Oh I’m not here to give you trouble village boy, so long as you cooperate with me and my men.” Perdicus folded his arms. “What is it that you want?” The man smiled. “Why I want to take all these young women away and turn them in to slaves! So if I were you village boy I’d leave and take your friend with you or we will kill you both.” Gabrielle looked around her she could see the fear in everyone’s faces she swallowed before speaking. “Take me and let the others go!”

The leader laughed as he pushed his dark brown hair back. “Oh please, as if I’m going to take you little girl when each of you’ll will fetch a fine price on the Roman border!” He sneered slightly. “No I think I’ll take you all regardless.” Perdicus moved forward not thinking as he grabbed the man’s sword hand. “Over my dead body!” Gabrielle moved back as the leader swung his sword it in what felt like slow motion. The blade swept around with lightning fast speed slicing across Perdicus’s throat. His eyes widened in shock as blood ran free from the horrific wound he stumbled back gagging as he grabbed his throat unable to stop the steam of blood.

She came forward trying to contain her shock and horror only to watch as his other hand grabbed her arm as his eyes met her own. She watched feeling powerless and horrified as a friend she’d known since child hood fell to his knees in front her. The clear memory of sharing a kiss with him came back as the light died in his eyes and he fell to the ground as his last breath left him causing his hand to let go off her arm leaving blood stains on her sleeve, she turned watching as two of the men grabbed his friend. The leader eyed the dead boy at his feet before looking up at the other young boy who was struggling to get free. “Rip that little bastard’s heart out.” The cries of the women hit the air behind her as the young man was stabbed through the chest the sword was twisted with violent force. Blood spilled all over the grass as the weapon was pulled free, his body hit the floor hard it twitched before going still as death took over.

Gabrielle felt the pain as the leader turned grabbing her arm pulling her towards him violently. “Just so you know I hate smart mouthed women, so here’s your first lesson in obeisance.” She felt the pain as his sword hilt suddenly smashed across her face causing agonizing pain as her scream hit the air, the pain suddenly came again as the hilt was rammed in to her stomach. She hit the floor hard on her knees only for the sword hilt to find her face once more this time causing cold blood to fly through her teeth. She hit the floor hard on her side seeing Perdicus’s dead eyes stare back at her as the sound slowly faded all around her and everything turned to darkness as she lost consciousness.

8

Xena looked up at the younger woman who was now silent. “You tell your story with such emotion maybe you should have been a bard.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Don’t make me laugh.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Well your story is fascinating are you going to continue?” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist clearly the Empress found this all very amusing. “No I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending for you.” Xena looked up slightly. “Well then we’ll finish this conversation some other time.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “I know my story amuses you but I grew up with those two young men all my life and they were killed just like that, I couldn’t save them or help them I was powerless.” Xena looked up sharply. “You misunderstand I’m not amused those slavers and their leader should have been killed long before they ever got to your village. I sent out an order when I was in Rome to have slavers killed on sight.”

Gabrielle put her hands together. “I’m so flattered that you sent out an order clearly it didn’t make it to my village in time.” Xena breathed in sharply hearing the thick sarcasm in the other woman’s voice. She turned to Iona. “Please escort our guest back to her room for the night.” She ignored Gabrielle’s cold look as she was led out of the room. She watched as the door was closed she eased up the water skin full of wine filling her tankard once more. Gabrielle was a sarcastic, irritating individual who really knew how to grate her nerves. She took a long drink enjoying the flavour of the red wine, she knew this wasn’t going to get any easier and she was trying so hard not to get angry. A part of her wanted to be angry but she knew to do so was not just or fair, not if she truly wanted Gabrielle to tell her everything about her life.

8

Thaleia walked in to the kitchen trying to ignore the commotion she really hated moving through hot pans and plates, it always made her feel uncomfortable. Kalika was at the far side of the room helping two cooking assistants with a thick stew, she inched closer trying to avoid a big dead fish as it was brought in. Kalika eyed the two women who were working on a large potato stew. “Careful now don’t burn it, I know the royal guards don’t seem to care what they eat but burnt food won’t make them happy.” She turned watching as another servant came in she clapped her hand together eyeing the young woman. “Ah well there you are, isn’t today your lucky day, you get to take the dog her dinner.”

She picked up a plate which looked like any other handing it to her. “Do be sure to put it on the floor or outside her room.” Thaleia looked up sharply watching as the servant girl left. “Were you joking, I mean you don’t put Gabrielle’s food on the floor do you?” Kalika turned catching sight of Thaleia who looked nervous. “Oh so we are naming her now.” She wiped her hands on the cloth. “But to answer your question yes I have the servant put her food on the floor, since she walks around on all fours at night.” Thaleia lowered her gaze. “Isn’t that cruel?” Kalika grabbed a hot plate moving it off the fire. “Look she’s an animal she doesn’t have feelings, I doubt it matters to her where her food goes.”

She looked up sharply as Iona stormed in to the kitchen holding a list the dark haired warrior sneered as she passed it to Kalika. “New list from the werewolf.” Kalika took hold of the list eyeing it. “Oh look it’s the same list again.” Iona’s brown eyes narrowed as she walked towards the door. “She says she’s had nothing since she’s been here I assume she’s lying?” Kalika smirked. “Of course she’s lying, she’s just greedy and just wants more.” Iona grabbed hold of a piece of cooked meat biting in to it. “That’s what I thought, stupid dog.” Thaleia watched as Iona left slamming the door behind her she turned to Kalika who lowly raised the list over the burner watching as it set it alight. “What are you doing? That’s her list!”

Kalika let go of the list watching as it burned in the flames. “I don’t do orders for animals.” Thaleia moved forward. “But that’s what she wants I mean everyone has a list, its palace policy.” Kalika stood up eyeing the young woman. “Yes everyone has a list but she’s a thing not a person, she has no right to even have a list.” She folded her arms. “I mean lets face it, the Empress has no love for her so why should we show her any? She’ll only be here until her usefulness runs out, then the Empress will do us all a favour and mount her so she can join her friend in the study.” Thaleia looked down feeling her stomach knot as the disgust took over fully.

This was just awful people were treating Gabrielle like a thing, even a slave was given a name but she didn’t even have the right to that. She was a thing a being to be treated how ever people liked. She narrowed her gaze her mother was right this was no way for some one to be treated and the fact that she had ever been a part of this disgusted her. Kalika looked at the young woman who was deep in thought. “Was there something you wanted to eat?” Thaleia looked up sharply eyeing the older women feeling the distain fill her senses. She didn’t want to be in this room anymore with these people who were treating another person like they were worthless, she turned moving towards the door. “No thank you I think I’ve just lost my appetite.”

End of part 15

 

MARKED IN BLOOD AND FOREVER CHANGED

 

Another day another talk it seems that the only time I see Gabrielle is in our talks which we both have. I’ve taken a few short walks during the day just to stretch my legs these past few days and I’ve been told that she doesn’t show herself at all during the day instead she stays in her room away from everyone. I wouldn’t have called her today but I want her to finish the first part of the story that she started. I look at the little wooden Goldfinch its now clear to me that one question has been answered she may very well be the maker of it. She said she was the daughter of a carpenter so she obviously has skill in carving wood. Surprising that a werewolf would have so much skill it’s not something I’d expect. I confess I was slightly drunk last night and I know that I came off as very smug which wasn’t something I really wanted. We’ve had very few conversations together but so far I’ve found them very testing, as Gabrielle isn’t in the least bit polite. My gaze shifts as the door opens and Gabrielle comes in closely followed by Iona who takes up her usual position.

Xena looked up at the clear blue morning sky for a moment before turn to meet Gabrielle’s gaze unreadable gaze. “I’d like you to finish the story you started a day ago.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze eyeing Iona who smirked in her direction she hated having her listening to something which was personal to her, not that she could change her being her here even if she wanted to. She turned to the Empress she was in no mood to fight to day she just wanted to get this over and done with so she could back to her room and try to sleep. She wanted to get this next part over with quickly as she loathed it so much. “Where would you like me start?” Xena looked at younger woman clearly there was no fight to day which was odd Gabrielle normally always had something to say which was laced with ether sarcasm or anger. She put her hands together. “Why don’t you tell me what happened after the slavers took you.” Gabrielle put her hands behind her back. “I don’t remember much I was unconscious for a long time before I woke up and when I did I was chained up in a wagon and it was night, I can only assume that we’d been travelling for a day maybe more.”

8

Gabrielle groaned as she opened her eyes watching as everything went in and out of focus for a moment. A deep rumbling hit her ears as the sound came back in to them causing her to wince painfully. She realized that she was face down lying on the wood of what was clearly a wagon because she could hear the slow grinding sound of the heavy wheels. Everything seemed out of place the smells the sounds she pulled her head up off the wood groaning painfully feeling her long hair fall in front of her face gods she felt awful. She’d never had anyone hit her like that before she could feel the dried blood on her chin and her stomach, she groaned sitting up fully in the wagon.

Her gaze shifted down to the long heavy chain which was now on her foot and was attached to an even thicker chain. She could see the same lesser chain was on all the other woman’s feet as well, she turned catching sight of the leader who was riding a horse next to the wagon which they were all seated in. The sky above was dark and filled with many stars she could hear the crying from two of the other women behind her, there was the general feeling of fear and sadness. She lay back trying to keep her mind together as the fear instantly over came her, she had no idea where she was or even where she being taken.

“Thank the gods you’re awake.”

Gabrielle turned sharply meeting Seraphin’s concerned gaze she spoke trying to ignore how dry her throat felt. “How long have I been out?” Seraphin looked up slightly. “You’ve been out all day Gabrielle I thought you weren’t going to wake up, how are you feeling now?” Gabrielle looked at her hands. “I feel awful.” Seraphin eyed her friend even the darkness she could see the deep bruise on her chin. “You look like you’ve had better days.” Gabrielle groaned again. “Thanks, that just makes me feel so much better.” Seraphin eyed her best friend. “I can’t believe you did that Gabrielle, asking if they could take you instead of us.”

Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “I just thought it was the right thing to do.” Seraphin shook her head they’d been best friends since childhood and there were still moments when she couldn’t fathom Gabrielle’s actions. “You shouldn’t try playing hero you’re going to get yourself killed!” Gabrielle winced feeling her harsh tone pulsate against her ear drum. “Please just shout at me later my head hurts.” Seraphin breathed in deeply touching her friends face. “You’re lucky that’s all that hurts than man could’ve killed you like…” She paused looking down sadly. “Like he killed Perdicus…” Gabrielle looked down sadly although Perdicus was not her best friend he had still been a friend and someone she had known and been intimate with. She breathed in feeling the tears as they started to run down her face. “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

“Be quite all off you!”

Gabrielle breathed hearing the grinding sound as the wagon came to a stop she wiped away her tears realizing that they were surrounded by forest and the wagon was now in a clearing in the middle of a forest she didn’t recognise. The leader pulled him self off his horse eyeing the other men who had been walking along side it. “Get these bitches out the wagon I want to look over the goods.” Galinthias adjusted his shirt watching as his second in command Biton came up to him. “We should make the Roman border in three days so long as the Empress’s little killing mobs don’t find us.” Biton looked up slightly as he spoke the uncertainty in his voice. “What if they do find us? I mean I’ve heard that they are killed with out mercy.”

Galinthias sneered. “Those bastards won’t find anything not with the road we are taking.” Biton breathed in deeply. “Not to concern you but they say these woods are dangerous there are meant to be Amazons and monsters in here.” Galinthias didn’t think as he smashed his fist in the other man’s face watching as he hit the ground hard on his knees. “I’m not afraid of the Amazons or any so called monsters!” Gabrielle felt the pain as her chain was pulled as another man dragged her and the other women out of the wagon. Galinthias watched as one of his men pulled out a hammer then forced a round metal ring in to the ground. He pulled their lesser chains free from the main chain then looped them around the thick ring one by one, then hammered the ring deeper in to the ground.

The only way the women could escape was if they forced the ring out of the ground which would free all the lesser leg chains and that could only be done with the hammer which one of his men was holding. He also doubted that any of them had the strength to do so, they were all weak little women and they were all terrified. Gabrielle felt the floor as she was forced to sit on it as the leader who had hit her walked towards her and the other women looking them over as his voice hit the air. “I assume your all virgins?” Galinthias watched as they all nodded with the exception of one, the annoying smart mouthed blonde woman at the far end who’d tried to be clever this morning.

He walked up to her. “You haven’t answered my question!” Gabrielle looked up slightly trying to ignore the pain she felt as well as the image in her mind of Perdicus’s death which kept repeating itself. “Yes I am a virgin.” Galinthias didn’t think as he grabbed her arm yanking her violently to her feet. “Are you sure, you wouldn’t want me to stick my dick in side you and find out for sure?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she could tell that he meant it and it scared her more than anything. “No.” Galinthias felt a smile form. “Not that I’d want to screw you anyway, you’re an ugly little whore, I’d rather your Roman master or mistress get that pleasure.” He felt his smile widen. “But I am going to teach you manners and you can start with your first lesson, which is to call me master.”

He yanked on her arm. “So let’s start right now! I want to hear you call me master!” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “No!”  Galinthias breathed in deeply as he pulled his dagger free easing it up to her face watching as her eyes darted the real fear showing in them. “You know what I enjoy most about taking young women? It’s not the capture or even the torture it’s breaking the spirit of the really fire some ones, like you.” He flicked the dagger. “Believe me when I say I’m going to enjoy breaking you in so let’s start by teaching you why you should never say no to me.” He flicked his dagger. “You have such a pretty face, shame.” He didn’t think as let go of her arm grabbing her by her throat ignoring her cry of pain, if she was in pain now she had no idea what the next few moments were going to be like.

He didn’t think as brought down the dagger piecing it in to her flesh, he grinned hearing her cry out in agony as blood ran down her face as he pushed the dagger in deeply bringing it down slowly across her eye brow. Gabrielle couldn’t stop screaming as the blade carried on moving slowly down her face cutting in to her eyebrow then downwards towards her eye. Galinthias could see the blood flowing down from his blade as he pulled it away in a violent motion causing her to scream even more. There was now a deep diagonal wound which was spilling blood down her face. He didn’t think as twisted the blade around smashing the hilt in to her face causing her to hit the floor on her side her scream of pain ending. “Ugly little whore you’ll have to live with this for the rest of your miserable life!”

Gabrielle breathed in finally loosing the strength to scream, she could feel cold blood running down her face. All she could do was clutch her face and try to take the pain which was unbearable. Galinthias eyed his now bloody dagger looking down at her. “What’s wrong filthy peasant you don’t like your new scar? Did I cut the wrong way maybe I should cut the other side of your face as well then it’ll look more creative, wouldn’t you agree?” He laughed only to stop as he heard something crack behind him in the forest. He looked up sharply. “What was that!?” Biton raised his sword. “I have no idea.” Galinthias sneered eyeing him. “Well don’t just stand there fan out!” He watched as his men did as they were told, he smirked pulling out his sword as he put the bloody dagger away. “Come out, come out where ever you are, you bastards!”

He watched as a huge bush close by rustled he smiled stepping closer. “Not very clever hiding in plan sight like that is it?” He stopped as low animal like growl echoed through the air. He looked up catching sight of what looked like two eyes human eyes which were piecing light blue in colour looking back at him, they looked like they were framed with black fur. “What in Tartarus?” Gabrielle turned only to watch in horror with her good eye as a huge black eight foot tall monster which looked like a wolf but stood on its hind legs burst through the bushes. Its jaws instantly found the leaders head as it smashed him in to the ground, his screams hit the air as it begin to tear his head apart causing blood to fly everywhere.

Everything around suddenly turned to chaos as five more creatures that looked just the same apart from there fur colours burst though the trees on all four sides. They roared showing off their mouths full of teeth before going down on all fours as they attacked the slave traders. All she could do was scream in panic and fear as one of the huge monsters clawed hands slammed in to one of the slavers sending blood all over the place as his insides were ripped from his body and his dead body was tossed aside. The man closest to her was suddenly grabbed by a clawed hand causing him to scream in agony as he dropped the hammer which landed close to her. She didn’t think as pulled on her leg chain trying to ignore the pain as she tried to grab the hammer only for it to slip from her grasp. She pulled harder ignoring her intense fear as she grabbed it.

All could she could hear was screaming and crying from the other women she turned slamming the hammer in to the round ring trying to force it free from the ground. Seraphin turned watching her best friend’s efforts only to feel blood as it spattered against her arm as a mans was torn apart next to her. “What are you doing?” Gabrielle hit the ring harder. “Help me!” She watched as the heavy ring moved only to see that her friend was freeze in fear. “Help me now!” She felt the ring move becoming looser she grabbed it pulling on it causing one of the woman’s leg chains to come free. The woman looked at her in surprise realizing that she was free. “Run!”

She grabbed the woman’s arm. “Run now!” She watched as the woman got up running for all she was worst despite the chain on her feet. She pulled harder feeling two more of the chains come loose, the two women didn’t wait instead they ran following the direction of the other. Gabrielle pulled on the ring again watching as two more chains came loose. The women looked at her then ran out of the clearing as the two remaining men were torn to pieces by the huge monsters. Only her chain and Seraphin’s were left. Her chain had been the last to be hooked in she pulled harder seeing Seraphin’s come loose, she grabbed her friends arm as she yanked her chain free with her hand. “I said run!”

Seraphin seemed to snap out of her haze, Gabrielle watched in horror as one of the monsters who had brown fur turned sharply as her best friend got to her feet. His huge clawed hand swung around finding its target, which was her best friend’s stomach, blood spattered back hitting her dress as Seraphin screamed before hitting the floor close to her. Three huge claw marks had left deep horrific wounds which stained her friends dress red as blood leaked out. The black monster that had killed the leader turned slowly in her direction. It watched as the last man fell to the ground to join the other dead men who had been torn apart by the other monsters.

It made a signal with it’s clawed hand causing all the others to stop, she watched as it went down on all fours it’s blue eyes meetings hers as it came closer. She didn’t think as she grabbed her chain pulling on it for all she was worth trying to free herself fully from the ring. Fear and terror were taking over her senses she felt truly afraid more afraid than she’d ever felt in her entire life. She was going to die! She felt her body freeze as the huge black snout came close to her face she could see the blood stained teeth. She felt the hammer drop from her fingers as the paralyzing fear took over. There was no sound anymore only her breathing and the huge huffing sounds as the black monster looked her over its piecing blue eyes studying her deeply.

The jaws suddenly came down slamming in to her shoulder their razor sharp points forcing there way in to her skin and all she could do was scream as they forced there way in deeper. The jaws suddenly let go of her as the agonizing pain took over there was so much pain pulsating through everything, it was unlike anything she’d ever felt before and she couldn’t stop herself crying out. She watched in her pain filled haze as the huge monster slowly walked away, the others following it in to the trees disappearing leaving bloody bodies all around her. Her shoulder was on fire as was her face where the dagger had wounded her she moved her other hand feeling the ring come free fully and her chain in the process.

She looked down trying to ignore the stinging sensation as she moved towards Seraphin trying to stay awake despite the pain. She carefully pulled her best friend in to her lap as best she could. She watched as her pale face met her own. “Seraphin?” She watched as her best friends eyes opened looking at her. “I’m going to get you out of here, just hold on.” Seraphin looked down at her bleeding stomach she coughed painfully trying to ignore the cold feeling as it swept through her body. “I…think it’s to late…for that…Gabrielle.” Gabrielle ignored her bleeding shoulder as she grabbed her friend’s hands. “No it’s not too late, I can save you!” Seraphin smiled painfully. “My best friend Gabrielle, ever the optimist.”

She coughed tasting blood in her mouth. “You look almost as bad as I do.” She felt the cold blood as it trickle down her chin. “With your shoulder and your eye…” Gabrielle ignored the blood as it trickled down her face and arm. “They’ll heal.” Seraphin breathed in deeply. “You know there’s still one I want to know, what was it like to kiss Perdicus?” Gabrielle laughed despite her pain. “You’re thinking about this now?” Seraphin smiled sadly. “Yeah but I really want to know, would you tell me?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “It was soft and sweet I felt like I was floating on the stars.” Seraphin coughed feeling the agonizing pain which caused her to shiver. “That’s what I heard it was like.”

Gabrielle looked at her. “I’ve got to move you, can you stand?” Seraphin smiled sadly as she looked at her friend feeling the pain worsen. “Stop trying to be the hero Gabrielle, you’re already the hero.” Gabrielle watched in horror as her friends eyes closed and her hand slid out of hers. She found her scream of heart wrenching pain hitting the air as she started to shake her friend feeling the tears as they ran down her face mixing with the blood. “Seraphin! Seraphin please no you can’t leave me!”

8

Gabrielle lowered her gaze feeling the pain wretch at her heart. “She was my best friend and she died in my arms that night. There was nothing I could do to save her and I know now that I wouldn’t have been able to her insides were showing.” Xena breathed in deeply putting her hands together. “So it was a group of werewolves that attacked you that night?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes but I didn’t know it at the time, I wouldn’t realize that until a lot later, I also wouldn’t realize how cursed I was ether.” Xena looked up slightly. “Do you know why they attacked those men?” Gabrielle eased up her hand running it down her scar. “I know why and that’s for another time in my opinion, all that matters to me is that they killed the bastard who gave me this scar.”

Iona laughed slightly. “You spin a great yarn werewolf.” Gabrielle turned sharply eyeing her in disgust. “I have no reason to lie to any one about what happened! My best friend died that night because I wasn’t fast enough to pull out the ring which all the chains were attached to. I’ve had to live with that all my life!” She sneered slightly. “I always asked myself what if I’d been faster what if I’d been stronger why couldn’t we have changed places? So that bastard brown werewolf would have killed me and not her!” She felt her hand form a fist. “I wouldn’t lie about her death she’s one of the few people I met during my life who was a true friend to me!”

Xena stood up slowly. “Silence both of you!” Gabrielle turned back eyeing the Empress she looked at her feet not feeling in the mood to say anything more. Xena eyed Gabrielle for a long moment. “You can go Iona will escort you back to your room.” Gabrielle sneered slightly sensing no compassion from the older woman over the loss of her friend. “As you wish…Empress.”  Xena watched as she left the room this explained everything in the records and now it all made sense. She wanted to feel something for Gabrielle over this put she knew better than to give in to that emotion. It was a sad story but she couldn’t afford for any one to see her weakness least of all Gabrielle, she would probably do what every one did when they saw it, which was try to kill her.

Gabrielle in human form was still a wolf in sheep’s clothing and an incredible dangerous one at that. She couldn’t trust her, all it would take was for her to open one emotional door and Gabrielle would take use that moment to kill her. Just because she hadn’t killed her in the throne room that day did not mean that he wouldn’t try given the change. Her life story did make one thing was clear though a werewolf was a werewolf and they had no mercy, they tour people limb from limb just as she’d seen it in Rome.

End of part 16

 

SEARCHING FOR AN HONEST TRUTH IN THE DARKNESS

Phantasos sat down on the chair in the healer’s room he slowly began to sift through his note and study drawings. So far he had, had Gabrielle in for three sessions, though in the last two she’d been very quite only answering yes or no. He didn’t have the answer he needed which was how do humans turn in to werewolves through wounds, was it a bitten wound or a scratch? It was a fascinating study though he now had lots of sketches and he was leaning so many new things. Gabrielle never argued or played up in these sessions she was very well behaved. He also noticed that in werewolf form, all she had was a ripped piece of cloth which covered her private parts. So far he’d had her bite down on thick planks of wood so he could get punctures and look at her teeth lay out on both her upper and lower jaw.

He’d had her put thick rope in her mouth and then had her rip it apart just to see how much effort it took and the space of time involved. He’d even gotten her to bend bronze metal used in hoplite plate which she could do surprisingly enough, but she wouldn’t do it with her teeth only her hands. Apparently werewolves could re-grow teeth if they lost them but the tooth wouldn’t grow if it got broken half way down which meant they had to pull it out to force a new one to grow in its place. Clearly they were creatures of thought as they wouldn’t risk shattering there best weapons if they could help it. He flicked further through his notes eyeing his sketches. He was now interested in doing experiments with extreme hot and cold nothing to hurt her, he just wanted to see how her skin would heal with a small burn on it and see if her skin could tolerate extremely cold water.

He looked up as Kalika walked in through the door he watched as she coughed painfully. “Is your cough playing up again?” Kalika groaned eyeing him. “Yeah, can I have my normal herb mix?” Phantasos stood up picking up one of the herb mixes. “You know the reason you get this cough is because you spend too much time in the kitchen’s heat, you need to get out more.” Kalika ignored him as she eyed his written notes on the werewolf. “Why do you waste your time with this monster?” Phantasos watched as she took the herb mix. He slowly sat down in the chair taking a sip from his warm green tea. “I find Gabrielle a very well behaved monster, she causes no trouble and lets me poke her left right and centre in werewolf form.”

He picked up one of his parchments. “All in all she’s fascinating.” Kalika sneered eyeing him. “You should have Xena kill her and then mount her.” Phantasos looked up slightly. “Gabrielle is a young woman has that not passed your notice? Killing her outright would be murder.” Kalika snarled aloud as she eyed him. “You know just because she wears that human skin it makes no difference, she’s still a monster.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow. “Tell me why do you hate this young woman so much? I mean she does just what she’s told she goes to the Empress’s talks and behaves. She comes to my healing room and behaves over all she very obedient despite her lack of manners.” Kalika turned sharply feeling the anger burn in her stomach. “I had a brother once we grew up together on a farm in Thessaly.”

She breathed in deeply. “One day we went walked in to the woods at night and one of those vile monsters attacked us. It tour him apart right in front of me! I had to watch and listen as he screamed and begged for my help! I swear the werewolf that ripped him open was smiling at me the whole time I saw it in the monsters eyes as it was killing him!” She moved towards the door. “My brother died that night and he was sixteen I was twelve and I’ve never been so afraid in my whole life! So no I don’t share any kind views of these monsters I’m glad the Empress put forward the hunting law in place and I hope that she kills every last one of them starting with the one in this palace!” She didn’t think as she slammed the door behind her trying to ignore the memories of brother’s screaming as it filled her mind.

8

Why am I having these stupid discussions with the Empress? Oh that’s right because I don’t have a choice! I might as well be her pet since she treats me with a mild neglect like I’m a tray dog at her beck and call. I’m tired, I’m not getting enough sleep saying that I’ve never had that much sleep through out my life it’s been plagued with nightmares. Nightmares which I truly deserve, since I’ve done terrible in the name of my race, things that I never wanted to do but were forced to do on command, there is so much blood on my hands and it’ll never wash over of. This blood haunts my nightmares it’s been many years since I’ve had a restful nights sleep, I can’t even remember what having one is like now.

May be that’s why I take this form and walk the halls at night when it’s empty its takes my mind of sleeping and when it finally comes to me I’m tired and can just sink in to the pain or the blackness. I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of my nightmares but I have come to believe that they are there because I deserve to suffer for them. I also don’t know if these talks with the Empress are accomplishing anything, I see the way she looks at me, it’s a look I’ve so used to. A look of distaste because I’m not human and a monster. I doubt she cared that I was ever human and I doubt my most recent story about being wounded and watching my best friend’s death pulled any strings with in her heart. That’s always how it goes though humanity does not care for the suffering of werewolves. It’s like asking the sun to care for moon when they don’t meet and will always be apart in the sky.

That will always be the way of things if there’s one thing I’ve truly learnt in all these years it’s that as much as you try you can not change some things, they will always be beyond you, no matter how hard you try to obtain them. Gabrielle lowered her ears as she rested her head on her clawed hands. She was lying on one of the huge marble lion statues which were at the back entrance of the palace which led in to the royal garden. Any person even a normal person could climb up very easily and sit on to the lion’s backs as they were in a lying position themselves. In her case she could literary lie on them stretched out fully on her stomach, because there heads were lowered she could see the stars and the moon above her. She breathed in closing her eyes no one bothered her on these statues and since the staff didn’t look up they didn’t see her lying on them.

“Hey!”

Gabrielle felt her ears snap up she turned sharply seeing that a young woman who was looking up at her a smile on her face. She recognised her instantly she was the same woman who had been looking at Demetrius through the curtain some time ago. She shook her mane slightly as she eased up her head eyeing her. She probably just wanted her to move off the lion so she could clean it. “Its okay I’ll move, no doubt you want to clean this statue!” Thaleia raised her hand. “No please that’s not what I wanted.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Then what do you want?” She tapped her clawed hand on the stone. “Oh wait let me guess the Empress wants to see me.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply. “No she doesn’t want to see you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Then why are you talking to me?” Thaleia put her hands together gods this was going to be harder than she had first though. “I just wanted to ask if I could sit up there with you.”  Gabrielle sighed shifting her tail and legs in wards. “Go ahead.” Thaleia pulled herself up on to the lion statue sitting in the large space Gabrielle had made for her she watched as Gabrielle put her head back on her large clawed hands lowering her ears again. She clearly just assumed that she wanted to look at the stars and she normally sat up here not that she was sitting up here because she wanted to talk to her.

She breathed in as she thought about what to say. “The sky is really beautiful tonight don’t you think?” Gabrielle looked up sharply eyeing the young woman who smiled at her, why was she talking to her? No one in this palace ever spoke to her, the only person who’d been nice to her had been the child minder Fedora and even now she couldn’t fathom why since everyone else hated her even being here. She met the young woman’s gaze. “Their nice…” Thaleia raised her hand. “Do you think the Greek gods painted them in the night sky?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I wouldn’t know since I don’t worship the Greek gods.” Thaleia looked at her. “Who do you worship?” Gabrielle pulling herself in to sitting position, she turned slowly to face the young woman. “Seriously why are you talking to me?”

She raised her clawed hand. “No one ever talks to me! People don’t even like the sight of me in this palace.” Thaleia watched as the forest green eyes darted she could now see them right up close and it was clear what her mother was talking about. They were human eyes as human as the eyes this woman had during the day. Despite the head which was huge and encased them they stood out in the dark golden fur catching the star light which bounced of the green iris’s lighting them up. The emotion in them was also clear there was conflict in there and it was clear as day like any human beings eyes they were saying how this woman felt.

She felt a smile form. “You seem very lonely I just thought you might want someone to talk to.” Gabrielle sneered slightly not caring that doing so exposed her gums and teeth on one side. “You think I need someone to talk to so you’re here out of pity or better yet guilt, I’m flattered.” Thaleia breathed in steadying herself Gabrielle was sneering at her nothing more. “I didn’t come to speak you because I felt sorry for you, quite the opposite I came here because I respect you.” Gabrielle pulled her lip back down this was a new one which she’d never heard that before. “If you haven’t noticed I’m a werewolf what possible reason could you have for respecting me?” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “Because you’ve put up with the way people have been treating you which is badly. I don’t doubt for a second that the way you are now, you could hurt people but you choose not to. That shows restraint a lesser person would just give in to their anger.”

Gabrielle stopped still there was truth in those words she took in a deep breath before speaking. “I don’t enjoy watching innocent blood flow anymore, or causing others pain, I’ve seen far too much of it in my lifetime.” Thaleia looked at her. “But you don’t seem like the violent type.” Gabrielle tapped her clawed hand on the stone. “Looks can be very deserving.” Thaleia leaned back the harshness had gone from Gabrielle’s tone. “I think you believe that about yourself because everyone calls you a monster.” Gabrielle looked up slightly this young woman was so much like she used to be a long time ago, when she used to see the good in everyone. She shook her mane. “Its much more complicated than that.”

Thaleia breathed realizing that Gabrielle had no intention of going in to the topic further she pulled a small bag out of her pocket. “I’ve heard that you smoke so I got you some coltsfoot leaf from the supply cabinet, there a lot in there and no one will notice that this has gone missing.” She pushed the package over watching as Gabrielle took it the confusion appearing in her eyes. Gabrielle eyed the small package. “You stole this for me?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “No it’s from the stores which are there for every ones use by the Empress’s law. There are even herbs in there which the healers can use in medicines.” She paused looking up. “No one told you?” Gabrielle looked at the package. “No they didn’t.” She looked up at the young woman. “What’s your name?” Thaleia felt a smile form. “It’s Thaleia.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Then Thaleia thank you for this coltsfoot leaf.” Thaleia watched as Gabrielle’s gaze travelled back up to the stars, her mother was right this was no monster. Gabrielle was just like everyone else, she knew this wasn’t much of a conversation but it was a start. Hope fully she could get to know her better in time, no doubt though it was take time Gabrielle was very untrusting of people that was very clear to her now.

End of part 17

 

WOE BETIDE THE PALACE MONSTER

Xena stood up from her studies chair looking at her quill for some reason she didn’t feel like sitting right now. The arrangements were being made for the royals who’d be here in four days. The royal hall was being decorated today and the masses of food were going to be brought in because of the people involved it would not take place in the study but in throne room. The guard would be doubled as well and the last thing she wanted was for Gabrielle to show her face. She didn’t want to have to answer any questions regarding her being here. She leaned against the desk hearing the foot steps coming up the hall, she breathed in deeply trying to clam herself she was getting stressed.  Saying that though she always got stressed when it came to this royal banquet, there was so much that could go wrong. She also hated it as it was the one party when she was the most unprotected unlike the rest which were held in her study which had be a bottle neck to stop assassination attempts.

Her gaze shifted as the door was opened and Gabrielle walked though, she looked up as Demetrius took up Iona’s position. “Where is Iona?” Demetrius looked up slightly. “She’s not feeling well today Empress, I’ll be taking her place for today.” Gabrielle folded her arms some how she was glad Iona wasn’t here she was beginning to truly dislike her she never knocked and always barged in to her room. At least Demetrius had shown the courtesy of knocking even the servant who put her dinner plate on the floor every damn day never did that. She breathed in trying to control her emotions she was starting to feel stretched and torn deep down in side. Every day in this palace was starting to feel like a nightmare.

Just about everyone hated her and she was beginning to find it deeply depressing. She thought at first that she’d cope with it but now it was starting to really get to her. The sleepless nights the nightmares the looks she got when she walked around at night. It was all pure hatred directed at her for one reason or another, people didn’t even call her by her name it was always dog, monster, or beast. Thaleia and her mother had been the first to even talk to her, but she didn’t expect them to talk to her again, why would they? They’d be risking harassment by the other staff for being seen with her. Thaleia had brought her coltsfoot leaf to smoke which she grateful for but now graved opium so badly.

This wasn’t the first time in her life when she’d felt this way she’d felt this way before and she smocked opium to take away the pain. To forget her feelings and block out the horrible images from the past, when she was high was one of the few times when she was happy. True it wasn’t real happiness it was fake but she didn’t care. She had nothing else to hold on to it had been a very long time since she’d been happy about anything so in her view the delusion of happiness was better than nothing.  Xena took in a deep breath realizing that Gabrielle hadn’t said a word she was deep in her own thoughts. She eyed Demetrius. “Thank you for telling me.” Demetrius nodded. “You’re welcome Empress.” Xena turned back to Gabrielle. “You didn’t finish your story so please continue I want to know what happened after that werewolf bit you.”

Gabrielle sighed aloud she was getting tired of these sessions she put a hand through her hair which was much longer now, it was still short but at least now she had a growing fridge and her hair was starting to cover her ears. “Do we have to do this today? I’m not in the mood.” Xena turned ignoring the other woman’s dead pan tone. She wasn’t in the mood for this today she had too much on her mind. “Yes we have to do this today it’s in your agreement.” Gabrielle put a hand on her face. “Then can we just ignore that agreement for one day.” Xena stepped away from the desk as she came to stand near her, she couldn’t stop her angry voice as it hit the air before she could stop it. “You do as I command!”

She narrowed her gaze. “And I command that you carry on where we left off!” She ignored the shock as it spread across Demetrius’s face as she stepped back slowly. “Now carry on with your story, I have important business to attend to today and you’re holding me up.” Gabrielle looked down sadly this was what she’d feared. When you are inhuman you became inhuman in the eyes of others and no matter what you do or say it changed nothing. Just about everyone here disliked her and now that had finally extended to the Empress herself. She was no longer a person to the Empress but a thing to command by her will and she had no choice but to obey. Maybe for once she’d thought that someone would see beyond her inhumanity that may be this woman would be nice to her. Like she had been when she’d been in the healer’s bed. Dreams were always fleeting and she knew better than anyone that when you grasp them in your hands they became like sand and would spill through your fingers in the end. She looked up trying to ignore the pain in her heart as she thought back to her youth once more.

8

Gabrielle felt the intense agony as she walked through the forest trying to take the pain in her shoulder. She had no idea how long she’d walked but it felt like forever. She had no idea where she was going and every step took painful effort and the chain on her foot didn’t help. Her shoulder was now a mass of red blood and ripped material. Though oddly no flies were landing on horrific wound on her shoulder or on her face they were only landing on her bloody dress where her friend had been laying before her death which she couldn’t understand but the smell of blood was there she couldn’t seem to escape it. It was sickening smell and one she really wasn’t used to.

She took in a painful breath, it was taking everything she had to not pass out which was all she wanted to do, the pain in her shoulder and her face was becoming excruciating, she had left the bloody camp and the bodies a long time ago. She’d done nothing but walk but now she could truly feel the exhaustion and she was wanted to be sick. The only water skin she’d found on one of the men had been half full and it had now run out long ago. She realized that she had walked all night and the sun was coming up she could just see it in the trees above. She stopped leaning against the nearest tree trying to catch her breath feeling for the first time since she’d started walking that she wanted to give up.

There were just trees all around her in every direction and she had no idea how to navigate out of this forest. She had no training in walking anywhere she never even left her home town before now, she didn’t even know how to heal wounds. She took in a deep breath trying to stay awake as she forced herself in to a standing position. She looked up slowly realizing that she had passed by an odd looking mask like symbols which was hanging from the trees with red and blue feathers. She carried on moving not really caring why it was there she was too tired to care about anything right now. She found herself suddenly stopping as yelling came from high above her.

She looked up in surprise only to watch as two women dressed in what looked like patterned leathers wearing masks came down on ropes their feet hitting the ground hard, they were both wearing strange bird masks on there faces complete with coloured feathers. She watched as they both pulled out their long gleaming swords as the first woman eased up her mask showing her red curly hair medium length and blue hair and fair skin.

Her blue eyes narrowed as she spoke the anger in her tone. “My name is Terreis and you are on Amazon territory! State your purpose and tell us who you are!” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she looked at them both standing up tall so they could see her bloody shoulder. She breathed in painfully. “My…name is Gabrielle and if you can’t tell I’m wounded badly.” She felt a half smile form despite her pain only for it to slowly fade as her strength suddenly ebbed away from her body and the pain truly hit home. She couldn’t stop her as self as she fell sideways hitting the floor hard on her side watching as the world around her faded in to darkness as she lost consciousness.

8

Xena breathed in deeply. “So you insulted the Amazons when you met them, it does seem that you have a knack for opening your mouth when you should be silent.” Gabrielle looked up trying to ignore the pain of that remark. “I’d lost a lot of blood I didn’t know where I was and I thought there question was foolish since they could see the blood all over me.” Xena eyed her. “Yet the same type of remark was what got you that scar on your face.” Gabrielle looked up sharply about to say something only to stop. There was no point in saying anything, the Empress was making her thoughts clear which was that she deserved what she got because she couldn’t keep her mouth shut.

Xena moved back to her desk leaning on it eyeing the younger woman whose eyes were looking at the floor. “I have a royal banquet taking place in four days the most important guests of the year are coming I don’t want them to see your face.” She breathed in deeply. “As far as they are concerned you don’t exist, is that understood?” Gabrielle nodded breathing in painfully. “Yes, Empress…” Xena eased up her hand. “Demetrius take her back to her room.” Demetrius nodded opening the door he watched as Gabrielle walked out he closed the door behind him watching as she stood still. “Gabrielle you can make your own way back to your room, I need to speak to the Empress.”

He watched as she nodded saying nothing he opened the door walked back in to the Empress’s study closing the door behind him. He took in a deep breath as the Empress looked up from her desk which she now was stood over. “Was that necessary?” Xena turned eyeing her second in command. “Was what necessary?” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “You were being very harsh to Gabrielle you were commanding her that’s not you, you lead by showing compassion.” Xena breathed in deeply putting a hand on her face. “You said it yourself she’s not human.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “Yes I know I said that but I still believe that she should be treated with the same respect that as anyone else in your palace.” Xena eyed him breathing in sharply. “Look I’m tired Demetrius the royal banquet is in four days and I hate the whole event.”

She looked at one of her scrolls. “Most of the royals are spoilt idiots and I loath them they do nothing but sit in their chairs whining about how I don’t give them enough. Then they have the nerve to ask me about my love life and how many people I’ve slept with. Then just to top it off they ask me why I have no children! Then they try and give me remedies ideas so my womb will hold a child its so humiliating!” She slammed her fist down hard in to the desk. “Gods I hate them, I own Greece and them they should keep their mouths shut!” Demetrius raised his hands. “Empress I know you hate the royal banquet I don’t like it ether I worry about you and people trying to kill you and over the years I’ve seen how uncomfortable it makes you.”

He put his hands together. “But please don’t take out your anger on others you are a good person, others shouldn’t suffer through your anger.” Xena took in a deep breath as she looked at him. “Look I need to rest we can talk about this later.” Demetrius nodded calmly as he moved towards the door. “Yes Empress.” He opened the door walking through then closed it behind him he turned only to pull back in surprise as he caught sight of Gabrielle. She was sitting in the corridor on the floor close by with her head on her knees. He could see the sadness in her eyes as well as her lit her pipe which she was smoking. He moved towards her feeling the surprise take over. “I said you could go back to your room.”

Gabrielle looked up slowly breathing out the smoke in her mouth. “It’s not in the agreement that I go back to my room alone after the discussions.” Demetrius watched as she stood up. “But I told you, you could go back to your room.” Gabrielle adjusted her shirt sleeve. “No I have to honour the agreement. It’s not a case of choice its something I have to do because I’m the considered a monster, almost everyone’s made it very clear to me now. If I dishonour the agreement I know it will mean my death and just about everyone in this palace will cheer when I finally die.”

8

Tiara turned the corner eyeing the floor only to feel the anger burn as she caught sight of wet muddy foot prints on the floor and they weren’t Iona’s boot prints which she was so used to. No these were huge muddy dog prints and she knew whose they were. She grabbed the bucket following them catching sight of the large werewolf walking across the throne room hall. She breathed in feeling the anger take over all at once as she grabbed the wet scrubbing brush throwing it with all her might. She watched as it came down hard slamming full force in to the golden werewolves head, bouncing off it before slammed in to the floor. “You stupid over grown dog I just spent all morning cleaning this floor!”

Gabrielle eyed the scrubbing brush she slowly put her hand on her head ignoring the pain in her ear from where the brush had hit her. She watched as the small woman with brown hair which was greying at the side came towards her. She had dark blue eyes and was slender built she was also in her late fifties and wearing white and red robes. Her hair was long in length and slightly wavy but the anger in her face was clear as day. Gabrielle eyed her feet she’d just come in from the rain and it hadn’t even occurred to her that she had muddy paws she’d been too engrossed in her own thoughts. Tiara watched as the werewolf stopped still lowering both ears. “I don’t clean this floor just to have you mess it up!”

She put the bucket down folding her arms. “I already have to deal with Iona’s messing up my floor, I don’t need you joining in you stupid dog!” Gabrielle slowly stood up on her hind legs watching as the woman, stepped back the fear suddenly showing. She felt her teeth grind together as she eyed her. “I am not a stupid dog my name is Gabrielle!” She raised a clawed hand. “I’m sorry about your floor! I’m sorry I have to live under the same roof as you people! I’m sorry that I’m forced to stay here the truth is I have no choice because if I decide to leave I’ll probably die!” She narrowed her gaze trying to control her anger, she couldn’t help it where ever she turned she was disliked and what ever she did it was looked up with distain by just about everyone apart from Thaleia and her mother. “I’m sorry I didn’t die because that was no doubt what you all wanted to happen!”

She breathed in painfully no longer being able to control the pain in her voice. “I’m sorry I’m not human and that because I’m not human that you would never do me the courtesy of putting out a cloth and some water so I can wash my feet and hands and dry them!” Tiara stopped still she could see the pain in the green eyes as clear as day staring back at her. She watched as Gabrielle lowered herself back on to all fours the sadness still in her eyes. She slowly picked up her scrubbing brush taking a slow step closer to her. “I’m sorry I didn’t know, I just thought you were being rude on purpose, they told me you had no manners.” Gabrielle felt a sneer form. “Do you think I like walking around with wet and muddy feet? Because I really don’t, it’s cold.” She eyed her muddy clawed hands. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand that ether after all I’m just a stupid dog in your eyes.” Tiara eyed her she was sure she could see the beginnings of tears, she breathed in deeply before speaking. “If you raise your hands and feet I’ll clean them for you.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment she moved in to a sitting position raising her hands and feet.

Tiara moved forward scrubbing away the dirt and mud there was no resistance what so ever, she put the brush back in to the water then eased up a clean cloth scrubbing the paw pads clean and dry. She watched as Gabrielle got back on to all fours the painfully look was still in her eyes. “Look I’m really sorry I didn’t know you needed a bowl and cloth left out side.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully moving slowly away from her. “Every one is sorry for something.” Tiara lowered her cloth watching as she disappeared from site, this was the palace monster? Frankly seeing Gabrielle up close like this for the first time she now felt conflicted about that title. Gabrielle could have hurt her when she’d thrown that brush at her and she knew that and, yet she hadn’t she’d just let her clean and dry her feet as well. She could also see now that there was so much pain staring back at her in those green eyes, a human pain just like any other and it was the pain of someone who was deeply depressed.

End of part 18

 

THE WAY WE’D LIKE TO FEEL

 

Xena watched as the long chairs were moved in to place by the servants, she had done nothing this else this morning but help the servants. She watched as one of them pushed a huge chair opposite her throne. She had to make it look as though she had someone in mind to sit in that throne, to keep her position looking solid. There couldn’t be any signs of weakness or cracks in her power she had to look far superior to them. She looked up slightly watching as a tapestry was unfolded. Her gaze shifted to the other throne which wasn’t decorated, she’d never seen it fit to have a craft man make designs on it until she had someone she truly loved sitting in that chair.

She lowered her gaze sadly Julius Caesar used to sit next to her in Rome on a golden throne and she used to sit next him. She walked up her own throne which was made of bronze with silver and gold plating this was the same throne she’d sat on. She’d taken it with her when she’d left Rome. She believed by right it was hers as her craftsman had made it especially for her. She looked at the other empty throne as much as she wanted it as much as she willed it no one would ever sit in that chair. She had dreams of some one sitting in that chair over the years a man or a woman who could capture her heart but it has never come to pass. She turned sitting on her throne feeling the sadness hit home she had never met anyone like that though and those who she had met and who had slept with her, only wanted power.

She would not allow anyone like that to sit beside her on the throne of Greece. No Tyrant or Conqueror would ever sit beside her on the throne, truth was that she needed someone who didn’t desire power but from what she’d seen everyone wanted power, for one means or another it just seemed to be the way of the world. She looked up sharply watching as Iona walked in to the throne room Gabrielle was walking in front of her, Iona still looked slightly under the weather in her view as she seemed tired. She watched as Gabrielle came to a stop in front of her she sat back in her throne taking in a deep breath. “You’ll have to tell me about the Amazons here in this room as I’m very busy.”

Gabrielle looked up at the dark haired woman seated on her bronze throne she breathed in sadly as she spoke. “Are you sitting there to show off your superiority?” Xena eyed her in disgust as she sat up in her throne. “I’m sitting here because I am Empress of Greece and this is my throne which I gained through democracy.”  Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “And yet the throne beside you is empty.” Xena put her hands together. “No it’s waiting for the right person to take their place by my side.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “The life of a ruler is always one of loneliness.” Xena turned sharply. “As if you would know what the life of a ruler is like or what it means, you’re a single werewolf and a no body among your race.”

Gabrielle breathed in ignoring the cutting pain of those words. “Every life matters.” Xena raised an eyebrow ignoring the glances from the servants who were working. “Yes human life matters, not the lives of monsters like you who kill people.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “And now you’re hunting us to extinction so clearly you don’t value the life of a werewolf child who’s helpless.” Xena leaned forward. “You were telling me a story, which you haven’t finished, about being found by the Amazons.” Gabrielle looked down slightly feeling a painful breath leave her throat. “Yes I was wasn’t I?” She looked down eyeing the decorated floor tiles under her boot she was so tired of telling her life story now.

8

Gabrielle opened her eyes feeling the pain as the sharp sun light pieced them. She closed them again opening them more slowly this time, seeing the small room she was in. She was naked and lying under a fur cover in a small thatched wooden hut which had a small desk and mirror, she could see burning incense bubbling on the table top its deep lavender smell was filling the room. She sat up slowly groaning painfully, every muscle ached painfully she moved her hand up to her shoulder expecting to feel bandages only to feel healed skin. She looked down sharply eyeing her healed skin there wasn’t a mark on her. How long had she been out weeks, days, months? Also why was there no scaring?

Her thoughts were suddenly broken as the door was forced open she watched as a woman with long tight curly blonde hair and brown eyes, who was dressed in a black leather top and knee high skirt walked in to the room. The woman who was about her height folded her arms as she eased up the curved blade speaking evenly. “I see you’re awake.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “How long have I been unconscious?” The woman’s eyes narrowed as she spoke again in very a harsh tone. “You’ve been out for two days.” Gabrielle looked at her shoulder pulling up the covers further suddenly feeling subconscious of her naked body. “But my shoulder it’s healed.” The woman breathed in deeply. “Yes it’s healed up, sadly though that scar on your right eye didn’t.”

She picked up a small hand mirror passing it to her. “I’m afraid it’s permanent.” Gabrielle looked at her before slowly raising the mirror only to see the thick scar stare back at her in the reflection. It was an ugly looking diagonal line cutting through her right eyebrow right down to her eye its self, she felt the pain hit her chest hard. She was going to have this scar for the rest of her life it had healed up now making its presence felt. There was nothing she could do to change it or heal it, it would always be there as a reminder of what the slaver trading leader had done to her. If ever anyone asked she would have to tell them and they’d have to hear her shameful story.

She felt the tears as they ran down her face before she stop them she took in a deep breath trying to control her painful emotions. “What’s happened to me, why did my shoulder heal up so quickly, is it the work of the gods?” The woman shook her head as she spoke. “Sadly for you it’s the workings of a creature not a god.” She eased up her hand. “The creature that bit you was called a werewolf and it’s now given you a curse that will haunt you until you die.” She shook her head. “This is going to be your last day as a human being, you should savour every moment of it, because tonight you will change and become a werewolf your self.”

She eyed the young girl taking in a deep breath. “You’ll become human once more when the sun rises but this curse will be with you always. Every night you’ll be able to change in to a werewolf if you please. Its not all bad though werewolves can talk just like humans and are very intelligent beings, once the Amazon and Centaurs had an alliance with them, but that alliance is now over.” She folded her arms. “We and the Centaurs requested your races help and you’re three councils leaders made us a promise to help us to defeat the warlord Krykus but when that day came you never helped us and our great queen Melosa died and Tyldus the leader of the Centaurs lost his only son Phantes.” Gabrielle looked down feeling the tears stream down her face she slowly put down the mirror. “I’m going to be a monster…please this can’t be happening to me!”

The other woman shook her head as she threw her some clothing which landed next to her. “Sadly this is happening to you Gabrielle and by law of the Amazons I have no choice but to put in you chains. Tomorrow you have to leave this place and never return, if you do return by Amazon law it will mean your death.” Gabrielle looked up slightly unable to stop her tears her life was turning in to a nightmare before her eyes. She slowly met the other woman’s gaze. “What do they call you?” The woman’s cold brown eyes narrowed. “Ephiny I’m head of the royal guard.” She turned opening the door. “Now get dressed because I need to put in chains, your going to spend tonight in the prisoner’s tent where you can transform.”

8

Xena looked up slightly from her throne. “So even the Amazons and the Centaurs don’t approve of your race and I have alliances with both of them.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I was not part of my race when they betrayed the Amazons and the Centaurs, yet I paid for their sins for no more reason than that I was bitten.” Xena sat back. “Clearly your werewolf council who lead you and make the rules have no honour.” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “No they don’t, if any one deservers to pay for their sins it’s them not me.” Xena leaned on her elbow. “You don’t like the council?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “No I hate them they are a curse up on my race.”

Xena took in a deep breath. “I’m surprised tell me why do you dislike them so there has to be more to it than what happened with the Amazons. I can see it in your eyes.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “You would never understand and you don’t really care, so I see no point in sharing my view point with you on the leaders of my race.” Xena felt her teeth grind together. “I command you to tell me!” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “You insulted me by saying I know nothing of leadership and you told me that I’m a no body among my race! I wouldn’t share my thoughts with a woman like you, who thinks so little of me because I’m not human.”

She narrowed her gaze seeing Iona reach for her sword hilt. “I may be a no body to you and someone you can taunt, insult and command at your leisure but take in to mind I was human once just like you and nothing will ever change that.” Xena raised her hand stopping Iona from pulling her sword free, she narrowed her gaze. “Take Gabrielle back to her room.” She breathed in watching as Iona lead Gabrielle towards the door that led out of the throne room, gods the younger woman was so irritating! She threw it right back in her face with ether anger or sarcasm it was deeply infuriating. She slammed her fist down hard on her thrones arm ignoring the surprised looks from the servants around her. A part of her just wanted to tear Gabrielle open and find out her secrets, yet it just felt like she was sticking her hand in a crocodiles mouth and it just kept on biting her at every turn!

8

Evadine turned watching as her lover turned the corner which led in to the royal gardens, many couples came here late at night to enjoy the stars and the beautifully torch lit garden. She felt her smile widen as Chara ran towards her. “There you are I thought you’d never make it.” Chara breathed as she put her arms around the younger woman kissing her gently. “I’m sorry I’m late I got caught up in royal paperwork.” She hugged the other woman tighter, gods she was her reason for living, her father had been an army captain who had died in battle during the Spartan occupation, her mother had died when she was young and he was all she’d had left. She’d found herself in a very dark place after his death were she’d hated everyone and her life in the palace. She’d hated the Empress the most for not being able to save him on the battle field when the arrow had hit him in the throat.

Then this young woman had come along one night when she’d been the study, all she could do during that time was work herself to breaking point on those long painful nights just to take her mind of the death of her father. This young woman had been the first to speak to her and just talk to her about how she felt, she’d become her first true friend in the palace and later her lover and she’d do anything for her. They had kept their relationship private though, not because of the type of relationship, same sex couples were common place in Greece it considered very much a social norm. The reason for the secrecy was due to their positions, she didn’t want Evadine to be targeted by anyone in the higher positions of authority especially Iona, she loathed that woman with a passion.

She had been so cold about her father’s death saying it was just the way things were and she should get over it since people died all the time on the battle field. She’d hated her ever since then, Iona had no respect for love or life, anyone’s life she was just a cold hearted killer, who murdered people for kicks and enjoyed it. She pulled away from Evadine smiling slightly. “How was your day?” Evadine felt her smile widened. “Well the royal decorations are done in the throne room.” She eased up her hand. “It won’t be long now until the royal banquet.” She lowered her gaze. “I saw Gabrielle today she was brought in to the throne room by Iona so the Empress could speak to her.”

Chara raised her eyebrow. “Really how did that go?” Evadine shook her head. “You know it’s funny I didn’t like Gabrielle, she tried to strangle me but today I felt sorry for her, the Empress was very unkind to her.” Chara blinked in surprise. “It’s not like the Empress to be un-kind she’s always been a kind and noble leader.” Evadine shook her head as they carried on walking through the garden. “I know but she’s not herself anymore, she’s so tense and it’s almost she like she enjoys being un-kind to Gabrielle. I mean I could understand if Gabrielle causes trouble but she never does, she keeps herself to herself no one even sees her during the day. I’ve only seen her at night she spends all her time lying on one of the huge marble lion statues alone.”

She stopped looking in to the distance as she caught sight of a large figure sitting on the white marble lion, she could tell by the flicking light bouncing of the golden fur that it was Gabrielle. She pulled back hiding behind the bushes along with Chara who looked in to the distance. “Clearly they weren’t kidding doesn’t she talk to anyone?” Evadine looked up slightly. “She never talks to anyone.” Chara lowered her gaze. “It must get very lonely for her.” Evadine looked up sharply watching as Thaleia appeared the dark haired woman walked up to the statue which Gabrielle was lying on. “Isn’t that Thaleia?” Chara blinked. “Oh yeah that’s Thaleia, I’d recognise her anywhere.”

Evadine turned to her raising an eyebrow Chara took hold of her arm pulling her closer. “It’s her hair she like doing coloured fabric braids none of the other cleaning staff do that.” Evadine looked up slightly. “Ah, I wouldn’t know I’m not cleaning staff, I do room preparation for guests.” She watched as Thaleia began to talk to Gabrielle who looked down at her, then she slowly passing her a small package which Gabrielle took gentle out of her hand with her clawed fingers. “Wonder what she’s giving her.” Chara watched as Thaleia said something giving Gabrielle a smile, the big werewolf breathed in deeply as if unsure what to do next as the woman walked away from her going back to her duties. “Thaleia isn’t afraid of her maybe there both friends.” Evadine felt a smile form. “It would seem that way.” She felt her grin widen. “I think I should talk to her about it sometime.”

End of part 19

 

THE COLDNESS OF THE DARKNESS

Xena threw another document aside she was so bored at this moment, these past few days had just been deeply stressful on her as everything was being put in to place ready for the royal banquet. Everything was almost ready for the banquet the last things were just being brought in ready for the lavish dinner which would have four courses. She sighed another document, then stamping her royal seal in to the hot wax on it using her ring, which was on the third finger of her right hand. Now it was just a case of fixing the entertainment she already had two letters back regarding the Greek gladiator undefeated champions, two were going to be brought in, one from Athens and another from Crete, to display fight for the royal guests.

She hadn’t been able to get two female champions only one as the others, were all engaged in important fights on that day. The only one she had been able to get hold of was the undefeated gladiatrix from Apollonia. She could use her as a show piece and have her display and show of her skills. She was a Hoplomachus which was in essence a warrior who used a small shield and long spear which wasn’t common as most of the female fighters in the Greek gladiatorial games preferred swords and shields.  The two male gladiators were a Murmillo and Retiarius, which would make for a great mock fight, as it would be the heaviest armour wise against the most light and agile. The horses had arrived this morning complete with all three champion’s armours and weapons the champions would come tomorrow along with the head trainers who’d taught them at the villa training schools.

It was customary for the trainers to come to the palace and show off their champion’s prowess then they’d tell the royals about how they’d trained them and boast the many victories they’d won. Then the champion would take the stage speaking for them selves and then they’d leave the audience in awe with their displays. Although she had tried to ban gladiatorial games in Greece to start with she’d found it difficult as she enjoyed the games. She admired the power and honour of the warriors. There was one fight though that she didn’t permit despite that it was allowed in Rome, the werewolf battles with gladiators were banned in her land, in Rome they refereed to them as Dog Fights.

They were too dangerous and far to brutal and she knew that people died in horrific ways when facing werewolves, any one caught doing a Dog Fight would be fined and imprisoned. There were also rules in place when killing werewolves under the hunting law, a sword through the neck as a final kill blow and they weren’t to be kept alive or tortured by law they could only be skinned and taken apart after death. Her gaze shifted as the door was opened she breathed in as Gabrielle was brought through followed by Iona this had become the routine now. Gabrielle was brought in by Iona to her study for talks. She carefully put down her quill as she looked at the short haired blonde woman who really didn’t want to be in her study she could see it in her eyes.

She put her hands together not caring that her tone sounded cold. “I’d like you to continue from where you left off yesterday.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze pulling on her shirts sleeve. “The Amazons didn’t like me they threw me out, the end….” Xena stood up sharply feeling the anger as it started to burn. “Don’t try and be clever with me!” Gabrielle put her hand on her chest speaking slowly not caring for the sarcasm in her tone. “It’s what you want to hear Empress I mean you do so enjoy mocking my life story as well as me.” Xena felt her hand form a fist. “Why do you have to be so difficult with me?” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “Because you don’t treat me with any respect, I’m just here at your beck and call!” Xena moved out from behind her desk. “That was our agreement!” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “No it was your agreement, I never got a say I just have to comply with your rules!” Gabrielle looked her down slightly. “You’re meant to be this figure of nobility, kindness and dignity yet I’ve never seen any off it, maybe the truth is you’re a Conqueror hiding behind the face of an Empress.”

Xena moved so she was standing over her she didn’t think as she grabbed her shirt at the collar unable to contain her rage. “You know nothing about me! You don’t know who I am. What I’ve done or my life story, you have no right to judge me!” Gabrielle ignored her grip as she looked up meeting her enraged light blue gaze. “No and you know hardly anything about me, yet you’ve already judged me and given me the title of monster!” Xena let go of her harshly. “Get on with your story!” Gabrielle breathed in deeply great, just great it didn’t matter what she did or what he said. When ever she was in this room speaking with this woman she always lost the argument. The Empress hated her that was so clear to her now, she hated her the way others had through out her life when she’d done nothing more than show her face.

8

Gabrielle slowly picked up the broken mirror with her clawed fingers easing it up to her face watching as the monstrous snout appeared in the glass staring back at her. She’d thought up to this moment that she knew what pain was having suffered so much of it in these past few days, yet it was just the tip of the ice beige to what she’d just gone though. She’d never been in so much in her whole life, as he body had reshaped itself and her bones had cracked one by one repositioning themselves as she turned in to this living nightmare. She had almost lost consciousness due to how painfully it was, she couldn’t even put in to words how painfully it truly was she couldn’t describe it ether, she had even cried out to the goddess Aphrodite who she worshipped for help.

No reply had come, the pain had just kept coming and she had been awake enough to see her body reshape and reform as its humanity was stripped away leaving the monster that she was now looking back at her in mirror glass. The Amazons had clearly done this before because the shackles she was wearing had special hinges which meant that they had expanded as her body had grown. She looked in to the mirror again seeing the only thing to her that was familiar her which was her eyes which were encased behind a frame of fur and still looked the same only the pupils were slightly bigger. Worse still the scar on her right eye stood out just as much in this form as in her human one. She felt her clawed hands shake as the tears started to run down her long snout.

She was a monster an ugly hideous beast and she would now be this way for the rest of her life. She found her tears coming harder, as a notion hit her harder than any other. She could not return home this way, her parents would disown her she was an animal and monster and if anyone ever found out they’d kill her on sight. Oh gods her life had truly turned in to a nightmare she put the mirror down feeling her scream of anguish hit the air as she stood up on her hind legs only to topple over as she was unused to the her new body she winced as she hit the ground hard on her back. She pulled on her chains hard feeling the panic take over she was in a nightmare and she wanted to wake up from it! She couldn’t stop herself screaming again as everything hit home in a way she just couldn’t handle. Why was this happening to her? What had she ever done to anyone to deserve it? She had always prayed to her goddess and given her offering she had been good to people, so why was her goddess punishing her now? Had she truly abandoned her?

8

Ephiny looked up watching as the young girl with very long blonde hair was led out of the tent the smaller chains were back in place. She’d been given a very simple long green dress to wear as well as a blue top and a pair of walking boots. Her other clothes had been ruined and though the Amazons didn’t wear village clothes they did have some as they were used for missions undercover as no one could tell an Amazon from a village woman if they were dressed the same. There had been a set in her size which was lucky she picked up a medium sized bag which had Amazon designs on it. All she’d heard all night was the girl screaming, crying and roaring with her werewolf lungs in side the tent clearly this had been very traumatic for her. She folded her arms as Gabrielle was walked slowly to the edge of the village she wasn’t her problem anymore though.

No doubt the werewolves would find her and take her in as they always did with all their people. Werewolves even had special scouts who had no other purpose than to track backwards and forwards across Greece to find trays. They took very good care of there own, so it wouldn’t be long before someone found this young girl. She breathed in watching as they stopped at the clearing and the two other women took of her chains the woman hadn’t raised her head once, she looked truly down beaten and tired. She folded her arms as she stepped in front on her. “Gabrielle!” Gabrielle looked up sharply seeing that Ephiny was looking at her. “Yes?” Ephiny didn’t think as she shoved the Amazon bag in to her chest which had enough supplies for three days in it. “It’s time for you to go by order of Queen Terreis.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Don’t do this to me I don’t have anywhere to go, I don’t even know Greece!” Ephiny breathed in deeply. “That’s not my problem it’s yours, now move!” Gabrielle looked up slightly realizing that she was now begging. “Please can’t you tell me where to go…I don’t even have a map I’m just a village girl I’ve never even travelled.” Ephiny didn’t think as she pulled up her sword watching as the fear spread across the young girls face. “I said leave! It’s not a request! Go and find your people!”

Gabrielle swallowed gripping the bag tighter as she walked slowly away from the sword point and in to the clearing in front of her. She stopped feeling the anger take over as she turned to face Ephiny feeling her teeth grind together. It was first time in her life that she’d ever felt truly anger and she was unused to intensity of the feeling. “Tell me has my goddess Aphrodite cursed me?” Ephiny blinked what a strange question she could see the girls intense green eyes staring at her the rage in them as clear as day. “Yes Aphrodite has cursed you.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she eased pulling out the little wooden statute of Aphrodite which she carved some years back from her new dresses pocket it had been in the pocket of her other dress. She turned throwing it watching as it landed at Ephiny’s feet. “Then this is no good to me anymore.” She turned as she carried on walking not looking back feeling the rage boil in her stomach as moved through the forest. She no longer cared where she was headed only that she wanted to be away from this place and these vile hateful people who had just thrown her out in a cold of the world with nothing but the clothes on a back and an Amazon bag.

8

Xena looked up slightly. “So that is where you got that Amazon bag from which is in your chest?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “So the Amazon gave you supplies and told you just to go?” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “If you call three days worth supplies then yes, because they didn’t give me anything else, I had no money, no map and I had no idea where I was going.” Xena leaned against her desk. “I’m guessing the werewolf scouts found you though?”

Gabrielle laughed slightly but it was a cold laugh. “You’d think that wouldn’t you that they’d just find me, but believe me they didn’t not for a very long time.” She sneered slightly. “The Amazons kicked me out in to the cold and they left me to die out there, I knew nothing about my life outside my peaceful village. I didn’t know how vicious people could be or that they’d try to kill you.” She felt her teeth grind together. “Oh but I learnt believe you and me, it was a painful process.” Xena raised her hand to Iona. “Take her back to her room.” Gabrielle folded her arms feeling the disgust take over. “Oh you don’t want to hear more? I’m surprised.” Xena turned sharply. “No I don’t want to hear more I have some very important business to attend to!”  She watched as Gabrielle sneered at her in disgust as she was led out of the room, she’d didn’t care for the monsters sob story it was just as a way for Gabrielle to get attention and make her feel guilty. No she had better things to do with her time that waste it by having her emotional strings pulled, which was no doubt just be a ploy to get to drop her defences. Gabrielle’s wasn’t stupid she was very bright and she wouldn’t fall in to her emotional trap.

8

Gabrielle pulled the cords tighter around the branches which she’d found last night in the royal gardens, she pulled the sting tighter double looping it forcing the branches together to create a perch. She found the thick rope outside the kitchen the cooks had been throwing it out in to the trash, she’d taken it washed it and dried it out.  She carried on looping she was bored and she had so little to do with her time. She spent most of it sleeping and the rest she sat around doing nothing. Since nothing she’d ordered on her list had come, she had ordered wood carving tools three days ago and she had received nothing. She had ordered new clothing and none of that had come ether.

No one cleaned her room now they used to but now that had stopped and she didn’t even bother to sleep on her bed anymore. Instead she just slept on the floor in werewolf form it meant she didn’t ruin her sheets which she had to wash herself now and hang off the balcony to dry in the warm weather she no longer wanted to mess them up since they were all she had. Just to add insult to injury they were putting her food outside on a tray now, they didn’t even bother to knock to tell her it had arrived so it was always cold when she found it. Not that she cared anymore for eating it anymore there was one luxury about being a werewolf which was at night she could hunt for herself, the palace gardens were filled with warrens and she knew how to hunt rabbits.

A whole year of wandering alone in the wilderness’s of Greece after being tossed out by the Amazons had taught her a lot. She’d leant that she didn’t need to bother with eating cooked food and she could eat raw things, even though they tasted vile. She loathed eating dead whole rabbits but it was better than nothing. It was one of the times in her life when she lived up to her name of werewolf, when she hunted and killed animals in the woodlands. She’d run after them on all fours hearing her own heart beat pounding like a drum in her ears and her muscles flexing as her feet hit the ground right before the moment when she dug her teeth in to what ever she was killing and tasted blood for the first time. She’d become very feral in that long year in which she’d drifted from place to place being penniless and completely alone. Her dress had turned to rags and she’d become tougher. She started to hate everyone including Aphrodite for abounding her to the cold outdoors. Her world had been spinning out control and she had, had no direction in her life. She couldn’t see anyone hiring her as she had no proof of her carpentry skills and she couldn’t afford tools. She’d been too young to work it all out and she’d had no help and she’d had no friends.

She had started to loose herself and had started to do things that she’d never even considered before, like stealing and breaking in to places to get things she wanted. Because by the end of those long twelve months the world was starting to get to her as was the fact that she had nothing. Her seventeenth birthday had passed her by and she had started to become depressed. She had been looking at a better pair of boots in a sellers shop and her desire had gotten the better of her. Her thoughts were suddenly broken as someone knocked on her door she pulled the rope tighter on the wooden branches it was probably that bitch Iona. How she loathed her she looked up speaking coldly “Come in!” She watched as her door was opened as Fedora walked in closely followed by Thaleia. The older woman smiled as she met her gaze. “Ah there you are, you know I’ve been looking for your room for a while.”

Fedora paused looking at the bloody painted symbol on the door which had been painted in animal’s blood it was the symbol for a heretic and who ever had painted it on her door should be punished by the Empress her self for doing something so vile. “There appears to be a symbol on your door would you like me to clean it off you?”  Gabrielle lowered her gaze forcing the rope tighter on the branches she’d found that symbol on her door when she’d returned from the Empress’s talk this morning. Clearly someone on the kitchen staff had painted it since it was done in animal blood plus they hated her more than the other staff because she didn’t worship the Greek gods and that made her a heretic in their eyes. “Don’t bother.”

Fedora closed the door looking in side the room which was well kept although there were two smashed chairs in the corner, she could also see wide ripped claw marks on the velvet curtains, clearly Gabrielle was starting to take out her anger on her room. “You know it’s not healthy for you to be in your room all the time you need to get out.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “And go where? I’m not allowed out of these walls with out permission.” Thaleia stepped forward. “What are you making?” Gabrielle put the branches down. “It’s a bird feeder.” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “Bird…feeder?” Gabrielle took hold of her pipe lighting it on the candle she breathed in deeply before breathing out the smoke. “You put food on it and it attracts little birds who feed on it.”

Fedora blinked. “You like watching birds?” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Yes…it’s stupid I know but yes I like watching birds.” Fedora raised her hands. “No it’s not stupid at all it’s nice to have a hobby and a thing that you like.” She paused watching as Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “Can I ask you a personal question?” Gabrielle sat back on her beds pillows. “Go ahead.” Fedora put her hands together. “I heard the healer talking he said that you can smoke with no ill effects what so ever, is that true?” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Yes its true its one of the perks of not being human, I can smoke because my body will just repair itself and I get no ill effects, the only thing that can kill me is a well placed sword through my head, throat or heart.”

Fedora walked up to her sitting on the bed next to her. “You seem like a nice young woman you should have more people to talk to.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Look you and your daughter have been very kind to me, but you both don’t have to pretend to like me, out of guilt. I’m grateful for your gifts of food and coltsfoot leaf it was kind of you but you don’t have to give me anything else.” Thaleia walked forward. “We aren’t pretending to like you Gabrielle I personally think your nice, it’s a shame that others in this palace don’t see it.” Gabrielle turned breathing out the smoke from her pipe away from Fedora out of respect. “People see what they want to see.” Fedora felt a smile form. “Then their very foolish, for not seeing that are a nice young woman with have a good heart.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “You think too much of me.” Fedora moved closer. “Well that’s up to me and I’d like you to go to the market with my daughter today it’s just outside the palace.” She eased out a small piece of scroll. “I have your paper work here I had Chara the palace scribe write it up for you. It’s a one day pass out of palace to go to market with my daughter so she can get some personal shopping.” Gabrielle sat up sharply. “I’m not allowed outside!” Fedora put the scroll in to her hand. “Yes you can this confirms it and it doesn’t conflict with your agreement with the Empress. Plus if you ask me I’m sure she’d let you out for one day she’s very kind like that.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze personally that wasn’t the Empress she knew. “I don’t think she will.”

Fedora felt her smile widen. “Yes she will, just trust me on this.” Gabrielle put her hand on her chest. “Why would you want me to go with Thaleia and not one of the palaces guards?” Fedora stood up shaking her head. “The palace guards have no sense of fun and its not fun being around them. I also want her to be safe and I know she’ll be safer with you than anyone else, you’re her friend after all.” Gabrielle opened the small scroll piece looking at the scribe’s handwriting and personal seal before looking at her unsure of what to do next she’d never been in this situation before. “But…I’m.” Thaleia moved forward seeing her moment. “Look I want you to come with me, my mother and I got this all set up for you. I know we only talk now and again when your sitting on the marble lion at night but I consider you my friend and I want you to come with me to the market, it would mean a lot to me.”

End of part 20

 

A CRUEL INJUSTICE HIDDEN FROM SIGHT

 

Thaleia walked through the market watching as Gabrielle followed her, it was clear that she was out of her element here and unused to the noise. Clearly she hadn’t been to a market in a very long time and she looked slightly nervous. At the main gate she’d done the talking and shown the guard the scrolls seal and then he’d let them through. She had been able to talk to Chara who had been very thoughtful towards Gabrielle’s situation and had approved the seal. Clearly there were other people in the palace who were now becoming nicer towards Gabrielle and who were starting to warm to her although not openly it was a start though. She grabbed Gabrielle’s arm turning to the dress stall. “Don’t you want new clothes?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “I don’t need new clothes.”

Thaleia picked up a dress looking at it. “I think you’d look beautiful in a dress.” Gabrielle rolled her eyes. “Look no offence but I’m not in to that kind of clothing.” Thaleia looked at the dress before putting it back on the stall rack. “You’ve never worn a dress?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes I have back when I was sixteen and nothing but a village girl.” Thaleia smiled slightly. “So which village do you come from?” Gabrielle picked up a wooden carving from another stall. “I’m from Potidaea.” Thaleia stepped closer. “I’ve heard of that place, the Empress was born in Amphipolis which is a day’s ride from it.” Gabrielle put the carving down sharply. “Nice to know….” Thaleia looked up catching her cold tone. “You don’t like the Empress?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “No I don’t because she just doesn’t like me because of the way I am.” Thaleia moved along the stalls. “I’m sure once she gets to really know you, she’ll start to like you.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “No I don’t think she ever will, I think I’m here until she gets bored of me and then she’ll end my life.” Thaleia blinked in shock. “You truly don’t believe that do you?” Gabrielle sighed aloud. “Yes I do, Greece has no place for werewolves and I’m on borrowed time.”

She stopped as they came up to a large stall so far she’d only used her money to buy some opium but nothing else had taken her interest. She didn’t care for shopping long had gone the days when she’d gone to a market just to buy something for fun the impulse just wasn’t there anymore. She looked at the stall in front of her which was filled with caged birds all singing away. She did have one weakness though and she’d had it for years she loved birds, they spoke to a part of her soul. Probably the only part of her that didn’t feel trapped and unhappy about her existence and all that had befallen her. She’d never understood where her love came from only that she could watch them for hours on end and never get bored.

Sadly though the smaller finches wouldn’t come near her in werewolf form but the doves, pigeons and parakeets didn’t mind that form at all. She looked at one of the large cages holding small Wood Pigeons no doubt imported from Britannia she looked up at the stall keeper. “Are these tame?” The older man eyed her for a moment before speaking. “Yes very, there brought up from chicks.” He looked up at her. “Would you like to hold one?”  Gabrielle nodded watching as he took one out of its cage passing it to her. She took hold of it watching as its small red eyes fell upon her and it made the sweet cooing sound which she enjoyed hearing. Thaleia moved closer it was clear that Gabrielle was very fond of birds. She’d never seen the blonde woman smile and though she wasn’t now the joy was there in her eyes. “Why do you like birds so much?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze in thought before speaking. “I just like them, where I come from you can’t keep them as pets there’s no where for them to fly around and it’s very dark.” She looked up at the stall keeper. “How much for this Wood Pigeon?” The older man smiled slightly. “Five dinars plus three for the mini box to bring him home in.”

Gabrielle passed the bird back to him then handed him the dinars she watched as he put the bird in a large wooden box with holes closing the lid. He took the money as he looked up. “He can be an un-caged bird just allow him an area to fly around and give him plenty of seed, bread and water.” Gabrielle took the box gently from his hands. “Thank you, I’ll do that.”  She turned away keeping hold of the box hearing the slight scuffing from inside, she stopped suddenly feeling the cold point as pushed against her neck. She turned slightly. “Hello Iona.” Iona sneered pushing her dagger point in deeper. “How did you know it was me? I didn’t make a sound!” Gabrielle raised both eyebrows as she turned her head looking at the other woman out of the corner of her eye. “You scuff your right boot when you walk its quite irritating, do you have an injury to your knee by any chance?”

Iona narrowed her gaze the bitch she had no idea how she knew that, but it didn’t impress her that injury had always been something she didn’t talk about as it had almost ended her career as a warrior. “You’re not meant to be out of your kennel Gabrielle.” Gabrielle felt a cruel smile form. “You also drink to much cider, the smell sticks to your clothes, you should drink less.” Iona forced the blade in deeper. “You know I could kill you right here, right now, all I’d have to do is push my dagger in little deeper and it will puncture your spine.” Gabrielle looked around her at the crowds. “Yes but the Empress wouldn’t like it I am after all her trophy and not yours.” She watched the crowds carried on moving past them unaware of what was going on as Iona’s posture hid it so well. “Plus killing me here in broad daylight would make you look like murder.” Iona pulled the dagger point away. “Your right it would, but take in to mind that since you broke the rules I get to have my fun with you now.”

She turned to the two men behind her. “Arrest her!” Gabrielle felt the pain as the box was taken from her hands, and shackles were put in place. Thaleia moved forward. “Please she didn’t do anything, she’s innocent, she even has note written by Chara to say that she’s allowed to be here.” Iona turned eyeing the servant. “I don’t care if Chara gave her a medal she’s not meant to be here!” She paused eyeing the servant. “Who are you anyway?” Thaleia folded her arms. “I’m Thaleia and she came out with me, she has permission.” Iona eyed the other woman. “Bring her to, but don’t shackle her, I want to speak with her personally.” Thaleia didn’t get a chance to think as she was dragged forward by the darkly dressed man behind her.

8

Iona brought her fist down full force on Gabrielle’s face watching as she hit the floor hard on her knees. “You know you’re not meant to leave the palace!” They were in a small room which was in the lower level of the palace which she normally used to interrogate people, namely those who threatened the Empress. The room had chains which could be bolted to the wall, and there was a chair in the corner the room was tiled but that was just so the blood could be moped up. On the walls were images of Greek warrior fighting and above them was a small window where the light could come in. The servant Thaleia was standing in the corner she looked truly horrified by the whole spectacle, she was witnessing.

Gabrielle groaned pulling on the shackles slightly she’d been chained to the wall she turned spitting out the blood in her mouth ignoring the pain as she eyed the two other men in the room. “You’re a bitch Iona.” Iona folded her arms eyeing her in disgust. “Oh that’s really funny coming from a big ugly dog like you.”  Gabrielle slowly got up on to her feet only to be kicked in the shoulder hard which brought her painfully back down to her knees. “Is that the best insult you’ve got? Because I’ve had better…” Iona didn’t think as she grabbed her hair pulling her to her feet savagely. “You know the rules Gabrielle you don’t get to go outside with out an escort and an armed one at that.”

She eyed her bulging pocket. “So what did we buy at the market to day?” She pulled the package out opening it enough to smell it. “Oh look opium you know that’s a really bad habit.” She threw the package on the floor.  Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “No it’s great, it gets you high you should try it sometime, it might give you a personality clearly you’re in need of one.” She felt the pain as the woman’s fist slammed in to her stomach causing her to stumble back. Iona grabbed the wooden box which was on the chair opposite shaking it savagely. “What’s in here? Weapons, more drugs?” Gabrielle looked up sharply feeling her stomach twist in a painful knot. “Don’t shake that!” Iona eyed her. “Oh was that compassion I saw in your face, tell me what’s in here that it brings out such emotion in you?”

Gabrielle turned sharply. “It’s a Wood Pigeon and if you shake the box any harder you’ll kill it!” Iona put the box back down on the chair. “Oh I see, what is it your lunch? You did after all eat one of the Empress’s peacocks.” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “No it’s a pet!” Iona laughed slightly she turned slamming her fist in to her face she watched as the blood flowed down from her chin. “Who keeps a bird as a pet it’s really pathetic.” Thaleia moved forward. “Please stop this! She hasn’t done anything wrong I have her note here.” She pulled the note free so Iona could see it. “It’s sighed and approved by Chara and it has a royal seal!” Iona turned snatching the note from her hand she opened it slowly reading it. “Oh well, well Chara did give you permission, that was nice of her.” She turned putting the note on the torch opposite watching as it was set alight in the flames. She turned kicking the short haired blonde woman in the leg full force. “Well then you can both go.” She turned watching as the two men unchained Gabrielle. “Take your drugs and your bird back to your kennel.” She turned slowly to Thaleia. “Listen very carefully servant, I didn’t do this and as far as you know this didn’t happen, is that understood?” Thaleia nodded feeling the fright take over as she picked up Gabrielle’s things, watching as the blonde haired woman staggered to her feet. “I understand.”

End of part 21

 

TO SUFFER FOR NO MORE THAN A SIMPLE THING

Thaleia watched as Gabrielle eased the Wood Pigeon out of the box checking it over carefully and gently. “You should have hit Iona back what she did was wrong!” Gabrielle took in a deep breath seeing that the door to her room was closed. “Believe me I’ve had much worse in my lifetime and by tomorrow this will be all healed up, it’s another perk of not being human.” Thaleia stood up eyeing her friend watching as she put the Wood Pigeon on her shoulder stroking it. “That’s not the point! What she did was wrong she should answer to the Empress!” Gabrielle gently stroked the birds throat listening as it cooed. “The Empress will say that it was my fault since I broke the rules.” Thaleia tensed this was starting to annoy her. “What is this agreement I heard that you and the Empress made one but I’ve never seen it?”

Gabrielle moved her hand taking hold of the scroll close by tossing it to her. “That’s my agreement, it was written by the Empress herself and I have no choice but to obey it.” She watched as the other woman unrolled it reading carefully. “Iona was just doing her job.” Thaleia slowly looked up feeling a painful knot twist in her stomach. “But this isn’t fair its one sided.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply sitting back on the bed. “Life isn’t fair, you get used to it.” Thaleia blinked as she walked towards her friend. “Why do you have to be so negative? I mean it’s like your okay with the things that people do to you, even if their wrong!” Gabrielle looked up sharply she slowly stood up eyeing the other woman. “Because I don’t get a choice, it’s always been that way for me! I was bitten when I sixteen and since then I’ve learnt one thing which has served me very well, which is that no body cares about any body, every ones just out for themselves.”

She sneered slightly watching as her Wood Pigeon flew over landing on the balcony. “Humans hate werewolves, it’s the reason we are being hunted to extinction! We have had it as a race, every things falling apart and it’ll only be a matter of time before we become myths and legends and our bones will be put on display to woo the masses!” Thaleia stepped forward. “Well I’m human and I don’t hate you!” Gabrielle felt her hand form a fist. “That’s because you don’t know me!” Thaleia breathed in frustration. “No Gabrielle your right I don’t know you but I do know that you’re a good person and that you’re very lonely. I think you deserve to have the rights and privileges that every one has in this palace and it makes me angry that you’re not getting them.”

Gabrielle turned sharply. “I’m a werewolf Thaleia it’s the reason I don’t get those privileges! All that matters to everyone here is that I’m a beast and I’m dangerous and there right I am dangerous.” She narrowed her gaze. “When Iona had me chained up I could have broken those chains and wrapped them around her scrawny little neck and then killed her but I know better!” She shook her head. “One foot wrong and the Empress will end my life all she needs is an excuse!” Thaleia raised her hand to say something only to stop as someone knocked hard on the door. Gabrielle turned slightly. “Come in!” She watched as one of the maids came in whom she recognised as the woman she’d strangled by mistake a while back.

Evadine walked in to Gabrielle room, she nodded as she looked at Thaleia. “Thaleia it’s nice to see you.” Thaleia felt her smile form. “You to.” Evadine turned only to stop as she caught sight of the bruising on Gabrielle’s face. “By the gods what happened to you?” Gabrielle winced as she turned to meet her shocked gaze. “The gods had nothing to do with it, was there something you wanted?” Evadine slowly raised the small scroll in her hand. “Phrixus would like you to look over the scroll with him, he’s asked after you many times but it seems clear that his messages aren’t getting to you, so he asked me to bring this note to you personally.” Gabrielle took the note gently from her hand reading it slowly before looking up. “I’ll go and visit him now.” She turned eyeing Thaleia. “I enjoyed the market today, it’s a shame it ended the way it did.” She paused taking in a deep breath. “Please shut my door when you leave.” Thaleia watched as she left closing the door behind her she watched as Evadine blinked in surprise. Evadine turned sharply. “She didn’t ask us to leave, despite that this is her room.”

Thaleia watched as the Wood Pigeon on the balcony started to preen itself. “She’s like that she just assumes no one likes her so she just lets people walk all over her, even if she’s the one in the right, it’s really sad.” Evadine turned to face her. “You two are friends?” Thaleia lowered her gaze sadly. “I’m her friend yes, but I don’t think she’s embraced the fact that I want to be hers.” Evadine took in a deep breath. “You’re not afraid of her you know when she’s…” Thaleia looked up slightly. “No I’m not.” Evadine raised an eyebrow. “How come, I don’t understand?” Thaleia stood up slowly walking towards the door watching as Evadine followed her. “If you get really close to her and look her right in the eyes when she’s a werewolf, you’ll see a very human set of eyes staring back at you and you can see that she’s suffering.”

8

Phrixus eyed the scroll again watching as the door opened and Gabrielle stepped in side the room. He turned seeing Chara look up from her desk. “Ah there you are and here I thought for a moment that you didn’t get the message I sent you this morning.” He stopped as he caught sight of the bruise and cut on the blonde woman’s face. “What in Tartarus happened to you? You look terrible!” Gabrielle raising her pipe breathing in the smoke, trying to ignore the stinging pain in her eye where Iona had punched her. “It’s nothing.” Chara looked up slightly catching sight of the deep bruise on the blonde woman’s right eye and a cut on her lip. “That doesn’t look like nothing it looks like some ones hit you.” Gabrielle felt a sad smile form as she breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “Yeah they hit me hard.” Chara felt a sneer form. “It was that bitch Iona wasn’t it?” Gabrielle ignored the pain in her shoulder as she moved forward. “I broke the rules I deserve what I got.” Phrixus moved forward eyeing her. “I disagree no one deserves this.”

Gabrielle breathed in her pipe before breathing out the smoke. “I’m a monster it’s the way things are, no one can change it.” Chara folded her arms. “You should tell the Empress what Iona did to you.” Gabrielle breathed in sadly. “What ever I say it won’t matter, she doesn’t approve of me being here.” She put her hand on the long scroll wanting to change the subject. “You wanted me to help you translate this?” Phrixus moved so he was standing beside her he looked slowly over her shoulder. “You don’t sound the way you did when we last met, there was so much fire in you and you even smoked my pipe.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I didn’t know who I was I was just going through the motions and I shouldn’t have taken your pipe.” Phrixus breathed in deeply eyeing her clearly she was in a very melancholy mood he looked up slightly. “So did your people write this?” Gabrielle eyed the scroll slowly tracing it with her fingers. “Yes.” Phrixus pushed a written piece of scroll forward. “I’ve made corrections based on the letters you fixed when you were in here last but I need the rest of the alphabet corrections.” Gabrielle eyed the scroll again before turning to his written parchment she eased up a quill slowly making changes one by one to his letters.

Chara looked up eyeing the short haired blonde woman. “Would you like a chair to sit on or something to drink?” Gabrielle shook her head breathing in her pipe. “No I’m fine.” Phrixus turned picking up a goblet of wine. “Look you should drink something it might make you feel better.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply eyeing the goblet of wine before turning away. “Alcohol never does anything for me.” Phrixus shook his head. “Is that why you smoke, because it helps?” Gabrielle eyed the larger scroll as she carried on making corrections to his letters. “Yes.” She found herself stopping as she caught sight of something on the huge scroll. “Where was this scroll found?” Phrixus slowly put the goblet down. “It was found in the ruins of a temple to Athena, why?” Gabrielle felt herself tense as she eyed the creators seal. “Because I’ve seen every creator seal there is and I don’t recognise this one.” She put a hand on her face. “Yet I’ve seen this scroll before, but this vision is very different.” She turned writing down his final corrections then passed the parchment to him as moved along the scroll. “This one is telling things differently.”

Phrixus looked up. “What is this scroll?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply feeling her eyes dart as she looked over the scroll. “It’s a history scroll it tells the complete history of the werewolf race and shows all off its leaders.” Chara sat up slowly watching as Phrixus’s face lit up with joy. “That’s what you said it was, you were right Phrixus!” Phrixus moved to where Gabrielle was standing pointing to one of the werewolves with horns. “So these are the leaders?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Yes right up to the present day.” Phrixus pulled up his hand. “I knew it!” He tapped one of the figures again. “So these are the rulers of the werewolf face, like kings?”

Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “They used to be but now there no more than a figure head. Werewolf sociality is now ruled by the Imperial Council three hypocritical and cruel werewolves who make the rules and tell the leader what to do.” Phrixus looked up catching the bitterness in her tone. “Its sounds as though you dislike them.” Gabrielle sneered slightly. “The ruler is the one whose horns rise to the heavens he or she is the one picked above all others, chosen some say by the gods. The Imperial Council is very corrupt and has no right to have their position they cause nothing but cause suffering.” Phrixus looked up slightly. “Have you ever met the true leader among your people?” Gabrielle moved her finger to the grey werewolf with white horns with golden armour who the sixth. “I met him once yes but we didn’t have much to say to each other. I’ve always wished I’d said more to him.” Phrixus moved his finger to the seventh werewolf with brown horns who was golden in colour and dressed in silver armour. “Then who this one, is he leader now?”

Gabrielle looked at the image for a long moment before running her fingers over it. “She’s not a leader she failed her people, she couldn’t do what was asked of her when it was asked she let her feelings get in the way of her mission.” Phrixus raised his eyebrow. “Sounds like you’ve met her to.” Gabrielle breathed in looking up meeting his gaze. “No we’ve never met.” Phrixus looked up slowly watching as she breathed out the smoke from her pipe as she leaned over the scroll causing her bone pendent to fall out of shirt. He wasn’t sure he believed that fully but everyone was entitled to there own secrets and maybe once she trusted him a bit more she’d say more. “So you have scroll like this one yet this one is different to that one, how is this one different?” Gabrielle looked down at the scroll. “This scroll is all about the leaders and their great accomplishments there loves and their dreams. It points to them being the true leaders of the werewolf race and not the Imperial Council.” She looked down not wanting to say anymore, now that she realized how important this scroll really was.

End of part 22

 

WHAT IS TRUTH BUT A PERSONS PERCEPTION

Xena looked up as Gabrielle was brought in to her personal study by Iona who had a wide grin on her face as she shoved the younger woman in front of her harshly. “You know why you’re here don’t you?” Gabrielle looked at the sunlight behind the Empress all of her bruises had now healed up leaving no trace that she’d ever been hit. She breathed in deeply eyeing the Empress who didn’t look up as she signed one of the scrolls on her desk. “Let me guess I’m here because I broke the rules.” Xena looked up sharply so far in these past few days she hadn’t been able to speak to Demetrius they’d both been far to busy but now everything was now just about complete in terms of the royal banquet. Her day had been going fine until Iona had told her about Gabrielle leaving the palace the other day which was forbidden. She stood up slowly putting her quill down. A part of was getting truly annoyed now by Gabrielle’s presence and she was getting tired of the constant complaints from staff about her though they’d lessened during this week.

She sneered slightly things between them weren’t going well ether during these talks she had grabbed her in rage something she had not done for many years to anyone. Her patience was dwindling fast it felt like a huge draining effort on her part. She knew she hadn’t been herself in these past few days the stress of the banquet had been getting to her but Gabrielle’s attitude didn’t help matters. She raised her hand as she met the woman’s green eyes. “You left the palace with out permission!” Gabrielle turned eyeing Iona in disgust. “No I had permission Chara gave it to me, but this bitch behind me burnt the proof and then locked me in a room and beat me.” Iona stepped back as she eased up her sword. “The animal is lying Empress, as I’ve already told you she left with out permission.” Gabrielle turned eyeing her. “You disgust me Iona, you lack honour.” Iona eyed her blade. “You see the animal can’t even admit to her wrong doings!” Gabrielle breathed in deeply turning to face her fully. “Pray the day never comes when I get free of my leash Iona, because when I do I’m going to show what pain and suffering really means!”

Xena moved forward looking at them both. “Silence!” She watched as Iona stepped back a smug smile on her face. She turned to Gabrielle. “You do not threaten my staff, remember the rules!” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Your rules disgust me, there one sided and unfair!” Xena slammed her fist down hard on the table. “You told me that it was a long time before the werewolf scout found you, I want you to continue that story right here and right now!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze eyeing the taller woman everything was always her fault even when it wasn’t.  This seemed like such a regular pattern in her life in that no matter what she did she couldn’t keep most people happy. This woman now saw her as no more than a thing to command and be cruel to she was pretending to listen to her life story but the truth was that she didn’t care for the words. She closed her eyes before opening them painfully allowing an old painful memory to flood her mind.

8

Gabrielle put her hands on the wooden door of the shop feeling the hard wood under her finger tips, she was tired and hungry and frankly she’d had, had enough. The dress that the Amazons had given her twelve months ago was almost rags now and her boots had, had it. She was getting cold and the winter’s snow was just adding to her discomfort. The only way she could stay warm herself was to transform at night and use her fur to keep her warm and stay in side dark caves. She was tired of being cold and tired of being hungry as well as having to hunt and eat live food to survive and she now wanted warmer clothing! She pulled harder on the wooden plank which was bracing the door to the small house which had been turned in to a store.

She pulled harder hearing the sudden crack of the wood as it began to come free. She could feel the cold and the snow under her worn out shoes, she took in deep breath forcing the wood free in a violent motion. She put it down slowly looking around her at the empty night street no one was out here but her due to the cold snow most were in the tavern drinking. She put her fingers on the door handle forcing the door open with her shoulder as she stepped in side it had been so long since she’d walked in to a shop. The last shop she’d been in had been in Potidaea before she’d been captured by the slavers, she’d gone there to pick up bread for her mother in the morning before meeting Seraphin in the afternoon.

She moved in side the shop eyeing all of the items on the shelves she could see them in the darkness perfectly it had been twelve months and despite that she’d gotten used to being cursed she still wasn’t used to having such crystal clear vision at night. She turned grabbing some bread rolls putting them in her Amazon bag. She turned moving up the dark sections with all its goods then grabbed a thick heavy set of boots and trousers, they weren’t quite her size but she didn’t care she could adjust them. She turned putting a thread and some needles in her bag then turned grabbed a white shirt which wasn’t her size ether, but she didn’t care. She turned taking more food, the store was empty and she needed to be quick. She kicked off her old shoes sliding her feet in the black knee high boots which were slightly too big, but it was better than nothing. She finished putting the rest of the items away as her gaze fell up on the weapons in their rack. There were swords and daggers all shining in the darkness she breathed in moving her hand over one of the long daggers before gently pulling it out of the rack looking at the blade seeing it glimmer.

She spent all her time during the day avoiding bandits and staying away from their camps and never using the road, a part of her desperately craved a security of some kind. She was no warrior but the bandits scared her more than she’d like to admit. She had, had nothing but bad dreams about the day the slavers had captured her and the leader had scared her face recently. She took in a deep breath turning the blade in her hand so its blade was pointing upwards she needed this weapon, even though she didn’t need it, she had to have it for her own piece of mind.

“Hey you!”

Gabrielle turned only to feel the pain as a fist impacted with her face she felt the solid floor as she slammed in to it side first. She gripped the weapon tighter turning to meet the eyes of an angry shop keeper, the big man was well muscled and in his late forties. He had a long thick black beard which was turning white in places and short dark hair. She could see a heavy sword in his hands and the anger burning in his eyes as he looked down at her his anger voice hitting the air as he eyed her bag which was lying close by, a piece of bread had fallen from it. “You slimy dirty little thief, I’ll have your guts on a platter for stealing from me!”

Gabrielle got up slowly ignoring the pain and the fear as she got to her feet. “Please I can explain!” The man’s eyes narrowed as he eyed the door then turned back to her eyeing her from top to bottom. “How did a little pip squeak like you get in to my shop?” His sword suddenly shot up finding her throat. “I mean look at you, you’re just a dirty little brat who doesn’t look strong enough to lift anything?” He sneered slightly. “Who helped you get in to my shop?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “No…one, I did it all myself.” The pain suddenly hit her as he grabbed her long hair which was still down to her waist but had become thickly mattered and dirty. “Please I’m telling you the truth!” The shop keeper pulled harder on her hair. “You’re lying and if you don’t tell me the truth I’m going to make your life very uncomfortable, I’ll start by making another scar on that pretty face of yours!” Gabrielle felt the fear and pain hit home she couldn’t go through that again, she couldn’t let some one harm her the way that slaver leader had! Not again!

She felt her hand clutch the dagger tighter as her arm moved of its own accord slamming in to the man’s chest in a violet motion. She heard the ripping and tearing of material as the long thick blade punctured its target sinking in to flesh as she forced it in deeper. The hand let go of her hair as the shock appeared in the taller man’s eyes. She felt a wet feeling under her finger tips as the blade went in fully there was a moment of cold silence as he stood still staring at her the shock still in his eyes which darted as it became clear what had just happened to him. Gabrielle eased up her other hand using it to force his sword hand down so the blade was away from his throat.

She spoke slowly no longer caring for his pain as her vindictive tone hit the air. “I’ll go to Tartarus before I let another person touch my face!” She didn’t think as she pushed her foot outwards, causing him to slam in to the floor as dagger was forced free from his chest. She watched as he started to shiver as the red blood flowed out of the open wound. Death took over and his finger let go of his weapon causing the sword blade to clatter as it hit the hard wood flooring. She looked down in to the darkness seeing the red bloody dagger which was in her hands. The dark red blood was coating her fingers, it felt like her world had suddenly frozen as the anger faded and she slowly raised the bloody weapon to eye level. She hadn’t meant to kill him, it wasn’t her fault he had made her do it! He had wanted to hurt her! She felt herself shiver as the panic set in, she hadn’t meant for this to happen it had been an accident! She backed away slowly grabbing her bag with her bloody hand as she kept hold of the bloody weapon she had to get out of here! She’d be hung if anyone found out that she had done this!

“Well, well you’re a little lost aren’t you?”

Gabrielle turned sharply raising the weapon in the direction of the older male voice. “Whose there!?” She watched as a huge figure with brown fur which was streaked white in places appeared in the darkness the huge clawed feet slammed in to the floor boards as the hazel coloured eyes met her own. She stood still staring as the huge werewolf came closer to her stopping with inches of her dagger. A wide smile slowly formed on the wide jaws. “Oh yes you are very lost young one.” Gabrielle blinked she hadn’t seen another werewolf in twelve months not since the black werewolf with blue eyes had bitten her. She knew werewolves could talk she’d learnt that very early on when she’d changed for the second time after being bitten and had started rambling to herself. The middle aged brown werewolf eyed her as moved his clawed hand up eased the dagger out her hand then threw it on to floor close by. “You won’t be needing this anymore I’ll fix the problem you have here” He walked over to the man’s dead body easing up his clawed hands then brought them down full force where her weapon had gone in.

He tour the flesh wide open as his light hazel eyes narrowed then eased up a bloody hand looking at it. “Next time aim for the throat, humans go down much quicker that way, the weak, pathetic little flesh bags that they are.” He turned walking towards her. “Now what’s your name young one?” Gabrielle stared at him. “My…name?” The brown werewolves smile widened. “Yes your name.” Gabrielle stared at her bloody hands. “It’s Gabrielle.” The brown werewolf eyed her for a long moment. “How old are you Gabrielle?” Gabrielle looked up slightly everything about this felt so surreal. “I’m seventeen.” The brown werewolf shook his short mane. “You’re very young then and you won’t get all that big strong muscle in werewolf form until you hit your prime when you reach twenty two.”

His bloody clawed hand moved taking a gentle hold of her arm. “I know this must be new to you and very scary.” Gabrielle eyed him in disgust. “I’m not new to this! I was bitten twelve months ago I’ve been fending for myself ever since then.” The brown werewolf raised his other bloody hand. “My, my, you have really slipped through the net. No doubt when we both get you to the werewolf city they’ll be pleased to see you. I bet they’ll make a warrior out of you, they always do to those who are hardy and have lived it rough.” Gabrielle blinked. “Werewolf city?” The brown werewolf turned eyeing her for a long moment. “I’ll explain everything on the way, but you have to leave right now. It has to look like a werewolf attacked this man and not common murder and you need to keep your boots out of the blood.” Gabrielle moved forward following him what was going on? What did he mean werewolf city?

8

Xena narrowed her gaze looking at Gabrielle for a long moment. “So you murdered a man in cold blood and that werewolf covered up your actions.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “I was afraid, I seventeen and I was scared I thought he was going to kill me, he had a sword to my throat. I’m not proud of what I did I’ve never forgotten the look on his face when I stabbed him or all the blood on my hands from the dagger blade.” She breathed in painfully. “He was my first kill and it changed everything for me, I never looked at anything the same way again.” She shook her head. “He wasn’t a nice man but he was someone’s husband and he may have had sons or daughter and I took him away from them, all because I was hungry, cold and desperate.”

Xena looked at her desk as she leaned on it. “What did the werewolf mean by getting muscle and being in your prime at twenty two?” Gabrielle looked at her hand for a long moment before looking up. “Young werewolves are slightly smaller than the adults they aren’t as well muscled and they don’t get a winter coat unlike the adults who do.” She breathed in deeply. “When you hit twenty two and your female or male puberty really kicks in, your body gets bigger and much more muscular in places like your neck, arms, legs after which you grow your first true winter coat which you’ll malt in summer for a thinner coat. Your mane also grows much thicker and longer, it happens over a space of twelve months in total.”

She lowered her gaze. “The only difference between the two genders is male werewolves get bigger man hoods and broader chests while females get larger hips and much more fur on the chest. In human form the same puberty changes take place as normal and can be much earlier. Though werewolves in general don’t consider you a grown up until your twenty two despite how you may look in human form.” Xena ran her finger over her desk. “Interesting.” She turned eyeing the blonde haired woman. “So the werewolves have a city?” Gabrielle breathed in feeling herself tense up she could see where this was going. “Yes.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “How many cities do they have?” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “Enough.”

Xena turned moving closer to her so she was standing over her. “How many?!” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “Enough to burn this palace to the ground and destroy Corinth, you should pray that, that day never comes to pass.” She narrowed her gaze. “It will be a bloody slaughter.” Xena didn’t think as she grabbed her shirt pulling her forward violently. “Many others have made that claim and I’ve defeated them all.” She let go harshly watching as Gabrielle stepped back unfazed by her actions. “I’m not afraid of a bunch of over sized dogs!” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “You should be, because every one of them hates you with a passion. You’ve had so many of us killed that a lot of us want nothing more than to see you die.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “Are you one of them?”

Gabrielle laughed slightly but it was cold laugh even to her own ears. “What I think and feel has never been of much concern to anyone through out my life time. I know even in this room my opinion would never matter to you, after all you’ve already judged me.” Xena snarled aloud eyeing Iona. “Get her out of my room.” Iona turned shoving Gabrielle towards the door, Xena narrowed her gaze watching as she disappeared from sight. Stupid animal she had a nerve to tell her that the werewolf nation would burn her palace to the ground no one had ever successfully breached her palaces walls. Even the Northern Rebels had not been successful!

8

Gabrielle slowly used her clawed hand to push the door to her room open before walking through on all fours using her back foot to push the door closed. Her gaze drifted up to the small table where she could see that food had been laid out for her. She eased herself up slowly on to hind legs something felt very wrong about this. No one ever laid her food out on the table anymore she looked at the stars outside for a moment before looking down at the cooked platter which was still warm. She looked around her making sure that no one was in room. Nothing about this felt right her food was never warm when it was served to her and it was normally always cold and left outside her door on the floor.

She moved closer eyeing the disk which was some kind of bird she leaned a little closer breathing in the smell deeply, it was pigeon. She stopped feeling the shock hit home as she looked up realizing for the first time that her pet was missing and no where in site. She moved away suddenly feeling the panic hit home her pet was gone! Some one had taken it from her! They’d been in to her room with out her consent! She felt her body freeze as the horrible truth hit home. She slowly moved to stand over the table eyeing the meat on her plate someone had killed her pet and served it to her as a cruel demented joke! She felt the pain hit her hard, how could someone do this? She understood hatred towards her, but towards her pet? It had been a little helpless bird! She felt her claws dig in to the table top she eased her fingers inwards leaving deep claw marks on the dark wood surface. Her eyes drifted downwards as she caught sight of a note under the plate she pushed the plate away carefully using two clawed fingers to open the note reading it carefully.

“A gift to the palace monster, do enjoy it, it was killed and cooked up just for you, your handler Iona.”

Gabrielle couldn’t stop her roar of anger hitting the air as she her other clawed hand smashed in to the table sending it and its food flying. The table smashed in to the wall opposite, it hit the floor hard causing the plate to smash on contact. She felt all of her teeth grind together as she narrowed her gaze Iona had done this! The bitch had killed her pet and served it to her!

End of part 23

 

TO KNOW ONLY ANGER AND PAIN

 

Gabrielle felt the force as she was shoved in to the study by Iona once more. The bitch had killed her Wood Pigeon she wanted nothing more than to break her face, it was taking all of her restraint not to do so. By Ouroboros she was getting so sick of these talks if you could call them that anymore, at this moment in time it was more like being in prison and the Empress was her master. Even the dark off the pit was better than this! She looked up realizing that the study was empty and the Empress wasn’t present. She breathed in adjusting her shirt as she pushed her long blonde fringe out of her eyes. She eyed Iona who stepped back easing out her sword blade so she could see it. “You think you’re really funny don’t you? Cooking up my pet, like that and serving it to me!”

Iona raised an eyebrow. “Oh the scrawny little pigeon, that was your pet? You see I had this idea that you brought it for your lunch so I took it down to Kalika and she was more than happy to hack of its little head and have it cooked up for you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I hate you.” Iona smirked. “Oh I’m flattered by the sentiment.” Gabrielle sneered slightly keeping her eye on her as felt an evil smile form. “I hope you don’t have a pet because if you do I’ll find it kill it and eat it tonight mark my words.” Iona shook her head enjoying the moment. “Your not allowed out to night remember? It’s the royal banquet no animals allowed, that includes you.” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “You’re going to pay for what you did to my bird.” Iona raised an eyebrow. “So much anger over a scrawny little pigeon, it stuns me.” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together. “It was my bird I brought it! I was going to look after it and you had no right to do what you did to it, it wasn’t yours.”

Iona laughed slightly. “It isn’t yours ether, you forget your place Gabrielle you are not a guest here, you’re a prisoner and prisoners don’t have the right to own anything, it’s about time you realized that.” Gabrielle turned away painfully looking at the floor. “I realized that truth a long time ago Iona, I have no delusions about why I’m being kept here.” She looked up as the door was opened and the Empress walked in to the room she was dressed in a thick velvet red robe. She looked tired and there was the faint smell of alcohol in the air. She watched as the dark haired woman seated herself at her desk, she was starting to realize something the Empress liked to drink a lot.

The other staff never said anything or may be it was that they just liked to pretend that they didn’t notice. She had nothing against alcoholics she’d met a few in her life time. Everyone had their weakness hers was opium clearly the Empress’s was drink which had caught up with her today. It was clear that she had a hangover a very bad one and it was early morning. She breathed in deeply before speaking. “You know if you drink some water it might ease your headache.” Xena looked up sharply eyeing the short haired blonde woman she wasn’t in the mood for her smart ass mouth today. “Shut up! I’m not in the mood for your mouthy little comments today, is that understood?”

Gabrielle raised her hand. “Oh I understand Empress.” Xena turned yanking open a draw pulling out a small wooden box she opened it eyeing the white powder which she spooned in to a goblet of water which was sitting on the desk watching as it bubbled. The best headache powder in Rome and she hated drinking it. She took a slow drink trying not to gag because of how truly vile it tasted she looked up licking her lips as she put the goblet down. “Tonight the royals are coming and you aren’t to show yourself.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “So everyone keeps on telling me.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Well then you know your place.”

Gabrielle looked at her in disgust. “Oh yes my place that is becoming very clear now.” Xena looked up catching the slightly vindictive tone as she took another drink from her goblet trying to ignore the vile flavour. “You said the werewolves had cities so did they take you to one?” Gabrielle looked at her hand. “Yes.”  Xena looked up slightly. “Then tell me what they did with you when you got there?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she could feel the memory echoing in the back of her mind deeply and painfully She could hear the sound of the sword hitting the wooden post ever echoing the pain of her lost childhood among other things.

8

Gabrielle smashed the light weight Xiphos sword against the wooden post then brought the other one up hitting the post with it. She was so tired her and the other ten new recruits had done nothing but hit the posts all day. She’d been here for two months and her life felt more like a surreal dream than reality. She’d been led to place in the middle of a forest where there was an abandoned wooden settlement. The settlement wasn’t the werewolf city there was an opening to underground city which was in a store house which led down to a vast underground net work filled with rooms and huge open areas. All of these tunnels were coated in white cement and so large you could stand up and walk through them there was everything a market an armour workshop and living areas.

All in all it was three levels deep and had special tunnels that led to the surface to bring in clean fresh air. The highest levels were lived in by the scribes the book makers and the highest ranking warriors. The middle level was for the working class, the builders, sellers and craftsman as well as the middle ranked warriors and the lowest level was for the trainees and new recruits. She’d been taken to a scribe who had written down her name, age and her history. Then she’d been given a small room on the lowest level which had a bed and an area for cooking as well as a very small bathing area. It wasn’t a very wide room in fact it was very small and cramped not that she really cared though it had been so long since she’d slept in a warm bed. She’d been given food, new clothes and a few trinket games and been allowed to sleep as well as regain all of the weight she’d lost.

Then a high ranking warrior had appeared telling her to come with him, she’d then been given a leather armour and told that she would be trained as warrior in the name of the Imperial Council, as her twelve month ordeal meant that she was the just right. She tried to contest this by saying she didn’t want to fight or kill as she’d already killed a man by mistake and that she was a carpenter by trade. Her plea had been ignored and she’d been told to shut up and do as she was told as she was a half breed and didn’t have the right to choose and that it was the job of the great Imperial Council to choose what each half bleeds job was. Apparently half breed was a cruel term for some one who wasn’t born a werewolf and had been bitten to turn them in to one.

To top it off they didn’t have the same rights as werewolves born from werewolf parents, they had their occupations chosen for them. Normally based on their back grounds unlike the natural born werewolves who could pick any profession they wished. Her history for some reason meant that she was best suited to kill. They had not lied about that the first day of training the general who was teaching them, had made it very clear. The aim was to kill quickly in both forms and turn anyone who seemed like good material for the werewolf community. In essence it was all about expanding the werewolf race by any means necessary and anyone who got in their way was to be killed.

Some hunting law had been passed by the Empress of Greece who was now living in Rome with her husband Julius Caesar and that was that all werewolves should be hunted down and killed, each head was worth twenty dinars apparently. Now she was being trained in two sword combat to carry out this mission in the name of her race. She was in a large room which was filled with weapons and training items, she just wasn’t any good at this though and she didn’t want to kill people she’d already killed the shop keeper and she didn’t want to go through that again. She slammed her sword in to the post again followed by the other, she had the morning off to rest during this time she could do as she pleased, then at noon her training in human form had started and it wouldn’t end until nightfall. Then she had to change forms and carry on her training in werewolf form where she learnt how to use her strength to break things. She’d also carry huge weights to strengthen her muscles and this training went on until early morning. The only good thing about this was she was getting money, as being a warrior meant she got paid a small salary.

“No Gabrielle you’re not trying hard enough!”

Gabrielle turned as the fifty year old grey haired man named of Titus walked up to her he was their trainer and he wasn’t always kind. He grabbed her hand forcing her to swing harder in to the wood as he spoke. “Do you want someone to kill you? Put your back in to it, you’re not sweeping up hey on a farm, when you strike you have to mean it!” He stepped away from her eyeing her long mattered hair. “And cut your hair shorter it being down to your waist is to long it needs so be half that length, I’m not going to tell you again!” Gabrielle looked at the weapons blade. “I don’t like killing people.” Titus breathed in deeply he eyed her as he stroking his long white beard. “Yet out of all of the young recruits here you’ve the only one who’s already killed.” Gabrielle eyed the other young men and women who were the same age as her she hadn’t really gotten to know any off them so far. All she did know was that like her they’d been bitten by werewolves although unlike her their families had been killed by werewolves. Deep down in her heart it was comforting to know that her family was safe and still alive.

She looked up at Titus who had many scars on his face. “I didn’t mean to kill that man…it was a mistake.” She lowered her gaze sadly. “I can still see his face staring back at me.” Titus laughed slightly seeing the confusion on the face of the other recruits. “Still clinging to that last thread of humanity I see.” He turned easing out his long dagger from his belt as he towering over her. He smiled raising the point so it was close to the scar on her right eye. “Tell me something was it not a dagger just like this one which gave you that scar?” Gabrielle looked at the raised blade. “Yes it was.” Titus felt his smile widen. “Was it a human who scared your face?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully as she spoke. “Yes it was the leader of the slavers who captured me.” Titus grabbed her face as he pulled the dagger away. “Humanity isn’t kind Gabrielle, it isn’t noble and you are no longer a part of it so unless you want another scar like it, you should wise up.”

He let go of her face. “Or you’re going to die human’s don’t like werewolves there’s a hunting order to kill us all. So you have two choices fail and die and become a pelt on someone’s mantel piece or you kill them and live and bite those who are worthy making them like us.” He turned to Gabrielle. “That last thread of humanity makes you weak, it also makes you venerable! So let it go!” He turned pointing at the post. “Now hit that post and envision it as that person who scared your face with his dagger blade.” Gabrielle turned swinging the sword full force feeling her anger took over, she watched as the blade hit its mark, his voice came again. “Harder!” Gabrielle swung both blades watching as splinters flew as she let the rage take over, his voice echoed through her rage filled haze. “That’s it much better!” Gabrielle watched as Titus walked away she ignored her boiling anger as she put one of her swords down digging it in to the ground. She took hold of her long hair which was still slightly mattered at the end pulling it over her shoulder so it was lying over her chest.

She’d been trying since she’d come here to un-mat it but her attempts hadn’t been very successful. She took hold of it gripping it tightly as she ran the blade across it slicing a clean cut watching as the long mattered hair fell away. She felt her new hair length which was just over her shoulders. She looked at the hair in her hands which was in essence her childhood locks which had been ruined from her twelve month stay in the wilderness. She wasn’t a child anymore though and she couldn’t understand why in all that time in the wideness living of animals and sleeping under the stars that she’d kept it long when she couldn’t maintain it. Maybe the truth was that she’d been clutching on to the notion of going home again. She turned throwing her mattered hair in to the fire close by which was there to keep the room warm. She was no longer a child anymore and she couldn’t return to that life. Her life was now that of a warrior in training and she had to go with it despite how she felt. She had what she needed right now she had a bed, warm clothes and that was enough.

8

Xena looked up from the desk. “So they trained to be a killer fascinating.” She paused ignoring the cold look the blonde woman was giving her. “How does marriage work for werewolves and what are the rules on genders?” Gabrielle folded her arms. “Werewolves are very strict when it comes to age of consent. You can’t sleep with other members of your race until you’re eighteen and if you have sex under age you’ll get ten lashes for doing so. Though when you reach eighteen there’s are no rules about who you choose to be with, be it man or woman and this applies to both genders.”

She breathed in deeply. “You can do completely as you please for how ever long you want. It’s a very free community in that sense werewolves believe that the freedom to choose your partner is the most important thing of all. As when werewolves choose it should be someone they truly love and the bound should be for life.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “So you can only breed among your own race?” Gabrielle tensed sharply. “Yes, breeding with humans is forbidden regardless of gender and doing so means serious punishment, namely your ears are tattered and if your caught doing it again it will mean your death. If you’re a half breed you can only sleep with other half breeds not full werewolves. The punishment for that is death for the half breed involved the full werewolf only gets his or her ears tattered.”

She sneered slightly. “The Imperial Council believes that half breed blood taints the pure blood line despite that in werewolf form there’s no difference between ether, in any way, shape or form.” Xena finished off her goblet. “Not so free then.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “No where is free, every place has its price.” Xena looked up feeling a cold smile form. “My, my, we are in a cryptic mood today, aren’t we?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath feeling the rage start to boil deep with in the pit of her stomach. “That happens when you’re in a palace like this one and the staff treat you in the way they do.” Xena looked up sharply. “All of my staff have treated you with respect.” Gabrielle felt her hand slowly form a fist. “No they haven’t most of your staff have done nothing but bully me, ever since they found out I wasn’t human!”

She felt her teeth grind together. “I’ve had a heretic symbol painted on my door, my foods been laid on the floor out side my room. My room has not been cleaned in ages, my list has been completely ignored and I’ve sent it three times. I’ve been beaten for going outside even though I had permission! Then to top it all of Iona killed my pet Wood Pigeon and had the cooking staff serve it to me!” Iona breathed in deeply. “All of this is lies Empress none of what the beast is saying is true!” Xena eased herself up slowly ignoring her raging headache as she eyed Gabrielle. “You know something I am getting sick of you, ever since I found you’ve been nothing but a thorn in my side. I’ve given you everything a room, food and comforts, which is much more than you deserve!”

Gabrielle looked up painfully. “Much more than I deserve what do I deserve, a cage? Because so far this palace has been close enough to one, I can’t leave not even to go to the market and I can’t even buy a pet with out it being taken away from me and killed.” Xena sneered slightly feeling the anger start to burn. “You will be silent!” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “No I won’t be silent, I hate this palace I’ve lived in better places than this and they didn’t have comfortable beds! I’m nothing to you I’m just a thing at your beck and call, you hate me and you loath what I am. You stopped respecting me the moment you realized that I wasn’t human despite that I’ve always respected you.”

Xena slammed her fist down hard on the desk ignoring the pain in her fingers from the blow. “You will do as I command and be silent!” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Is that the reason you drink Empress? Because you like to ignore the bad things that happen around your palace and pretend they aren’t happening?” Xena felt her body tense as the blinding rage took over. “Get out!” Gabrielle sneered in direction as Iona grabbed her shoulder moving her towards the door. “No wonder you don’t sleep well at night, you find pleasure in allowing harm to come to those who have done you no wrong other than be different from you.” Xena snarled as she looked at Iona. “I said get her out of here!” She watched as Iona led Gabrielle out of the room closing the door behind her, she sat back trying to ignore her headache which had just gotten worse. How dare that little bitch say that to her she was the Empress of Greece! She sneered slightly she didn’t have to answer to her for anything, Gabrielle was the one who was lying and she doubted now that anything she’d said about her staff was true in anyway.

End of part 24

 

LETTING YOUR HATED GUIDE YOU TO DESTRUCTIVE RUIN

 

Xena eyed the royals who were all seated on long chairs in front of her throne they were now eating the food as it was handed to them on silver trays by the her staff most of whom were present. They were allowed to take part in this party though they had to stand on the sides of the room and not cover the doors. They could watch the displays from the room’s sides but they weren’t allowed to come with in the royal’s space. The reason for this was for the royals own protection as anyone could be an assassin and during this banquet there were visitors from outside the palace. She sat back in her throne looking at all the silver and gold banners which hung from every wall in the throne room they looked beautiful. Her staff had done a wonderful job and she’d make sure to reward them for all their hard work once this banquet was over.

Demetrius and Iona had taken up their places on ether side of her throne and were watching every door very carefully. They also had men placed next to these two huge double doors to ensure extra protection. She took a long drink from her wine goblet it was night and all the royals had arrived during the day, she looked up at the stage in the room’s centre where the two male gladiators were fighting. She could see now that banquet was now in full swing, she took another long drink watching as the royals clapped enjoying the show as Crete’s Retiarius champion smashed his huge trident in to the heavy shield of his Athens Murmillo rival causing a deep echo to vibrate across the room as he pulled his heavy net back.

Both had chosen to add bindings on their legs and arms which were made of white material which gave more impact to their dark leathers and bronze armour. The huge Murmillo roared in anger as he smashed his shield in to his smaller opponent knocking him to the ground the hard, only to feel the force as the trident came up smashing in to his armoured helmet almost taking it off which caused the big man to stumble back as blood sprayed through his helmets wide holes. She could see the Apollonia gladiatrix Hoplomachus champion in the corner she was in her dark leathers but had chosen gold bindings unlike her male counterparts she was watching the fight with great interest. In Greece women could compete against men in certain championships her interest was no doubt so she could learn about these two male champions just in case she faced ether of them in the future.

She had been the first act of the night and had displayed her skills to the royals with the prowess expected of a champion of a city and they’d enjoyed the show. She turned back to the fight watching as the heavy man sliced his sword across the Retiarius’s shoulder drawing the first real blood of the night. The Retiarius’s trident came up once more smashing his opponent’s helmet causing him to back down as he avoided the net as it was flung at him narrowly missing him.  She had many other events planned tonight display animal’s namely tame lions, as well as acrobats and bards, she’d brought in everything possible to keep the royals entertained.

She watched as the Queen Diana turned to her from her seat with her husband king Philemon who was seated opposite, the woman looked similar to her except for her hair colour which was light brown and her eyes which were green. She’d been told that in the wrong light Diana could pass for her as there height was about the same though there skin colour was very different her skin was bronzed while Diana’s was much whiter. True she could pass for her if she dyed her hair in black henna, but she’d never ask anything from her. Diana was an arrogant snob as was her husband and they both sucked up to her which she loathed. Her husband Philemon had short curly blonde hair and blue eyes he was well built and had a short thick golden beard.

She’d preferred King Lias who was Diana’s father but he had sadly passed away three years ago from an awful illness, the man had been much more down to earth than ether of them. Diana narrowed her green eyes as she spoke. “Most impressive display Empress, your displays get more and more impressive each year.” Xena watched as the Murmillo’s heavy shield knocked the Retiarius over sending him tumbling across the ground only for the trident to slice across the bigger mans leg drawing blood.

She cared nothing for all this she was just going through the motions she turned eyeing the other woman. “Glad you’re enjoying the show.” She took another drink before refilling her goblet, she was getting drunk and she knew it but frankly she didn’t care. King Gregor turned clapping he was a small slender man with short dark hair and a thick beard on his chin which was braided in two places. His blue eyes met hers as he spoke. “Oh yes most impressive.” Xena watched as his wife smiled she was a small woman with long blonde plaited hair who had sea blue eyes and fair skin. Unlike the other royals she wasn’t from a royal blood line. She had in fact been a slave brought just before she’d banned slavery from Greece permanently quite a few years back. Gregor had no wife and had fallen in love with her and made her his queen she had at first been a servant in his palace. She was now heavily pregnant with their first child.

What she wouldn’t give to be with child right now and be that close to having it. She took another long drink emptying her goblet before refilling it. “Glad you’re enjoying the show.” She turned eyeing Queen Sophia who was a young woman with long wavy red hair and blue eyes her husband was King Heli who was a big burly man who was almost her age and had a thick heavy brown beard and hair as well as brown eyes. Sophia’s father King Kleitos had died in an assassination attempt three years ago, leaving Sophia to rule. She’d married Heli who was her most trusted friend on the royal council. Behind them was Thera who was her lady in waiting who helped them both out with any royal issues. She knew her younger sister Kolina she was one of the city guards in Corinth.

She liked Sophia in general as she was a thoughtful kind young woman who had been brought up well by her mother up until her death which had been quite a few years back. Her mother had really taught the real ins and outs of royal protocol and respect. Her husband Heli was the same, both of them were about doing things by the book and she generally liked their company. Last was Marmax the Mitoan general who had become a king of a whole region after defeating and destroying the Thessalians. He was a well muscled man with short dark hair and dark green eyes. He had a thin beard and a scar running through his left eye he was also very aggressively spoken. Frankly though she could put with his loud mouth, it was his wife who she loathed.

She was a well dressed Roman woman called Eulalia who had long brown hair which was decorated with a silver Roman headdress. She was wearing a red dress and lots of expensive jewellery. She was young as Pandora who was in her twenties, and unlike her she had no manners what so ever, she was a bitch on every level and she loved rubbing it in that she didn’t have children or a husband or wife. She took another drink watching as the Retiarius managed to fling the huge Murmillo over his shoulder throwing his heavy helmet off. His trident came down locking in to his neck for the killer blow as he put his foot on his chest keeping the bigger man down. She rose her hand watching as he pulled his weapon away allowing the big man to get up as everyone cheered and clapped at the display.

Eulalia clapped eyeing the dark haired woman seated on her throne as she lowered her hand as the two gladiators champions bowed respectfully in her direction. “You do bring the most impressive champions Empress, it is a shame though that you don’t choose to kill them like they do in Rome, it would be so much more entraining.” Xena watched as the gladiators stepped away joining the gladiatrix and started talking to her as everyone around the room started to chat as the fire jugglers came out on stage starting their display as the music started. “I prefer that the great champions of Greece get to live so others can admire their prowess.” Eulalia smirked leaning fully on her side chair. “These shows are all very interesting but a little bird told me that you have a bigger prize, which you’re keeping from all of us.”

Xena breathed in deeply downing her wine ignoring Demetrius concerned gaze. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Marmax swallowed the chunk of meat in his mouth before looking at her. “My dearest wife is talking about your pet dog Empress.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “I don’t have a pet dog so you’re mistaken.” King Gregor filled his goblet with mead as he spoke the concern in his voice. “I have not heard anything about this Empress.” Philemon raised his goblet as he chewed on more meat. “We have heard the rumour Empress, about your werewolf the one you’re keeping in side the palace. We would be most intrigued to see your monster we’ve never seen one alive before.”

Diana grinned as she spoke. “Yes it would be most entertaining.” Eulalia smirked seeing her moment to speak. “Yes we all want to see it.” Heli finished off his ale from the tankard. “No you wish to see it I have no interest in such things.” Sophia looked at her goblet. “I agree with my husband whether the Empress has a werewolf or not, it’s not our concern it’s her private business.” Eulalia felt a cruel smile form. “The Empress is not permitted to keep secrets from us, we are the royals she can’t run Greece with out our obedience.” She eyed the empty throne next to the dark haired woman. “Plus since she has no wife or husband to contest the matter, we are with in our rights to make this request.”

Xena felt her fingers grip the goblet tighter as she took another long drink finally feeling the alcoholic haze start to sink in, maybe she should give them just what they wanted. May be it was the drink talking but Gabrielle was a pain in the ass and she wasn’t human anyway it wasn’t like she had real feelings like a normal human being did. Demetrius leaned over slowly he knew that look the Empress only ever had it when she was considering something. “Don’t do this Empress we both know it wouldn’t be right.”

Eulalia watched as the Empress finished her goblet she was getting drunk, she’d never seen her do this before none of them had. “No Empress don’t listen to your stupid head warrior give us what we want to see, let us see the beast! Your ruler here he isn’t!” Demetrius felt his eyes dart as he turned to the Empress keeping his voice low. “I know we haven’t spoken in these past few days because we’ve both been busy but I’m begging you not to do this.” Iona sneered eyeing the Empress who was now leaning on her throne the drink clearly sinking in. “No Demetrius is wrong! Gabrielle is an animal, who insults you and lies to you. She should be shown of to these great kings and queens as your trophy of your power over the werewolf race!” Demetrius pulled up sharply eyeing her. “Have you lost your mind Iona? This is wrong and you know it!”

Diana looked up sharply. “The beast calls itself Gabrielle did you give it the name Gabrielle?” Xena leaned on her elbow, a part of her wanted to see Gabrielle suffer. The younger woman had caused her nothing but trouble and she hated people lying to her! She hated that Gabrielle had a smart mouth and that she knew just how to get under her skin. She raised her hand slowly ignoring Demetrius’s look of utter shock she didn’t care if this was wrong she wanted some satisfaction! She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke ignoring the feeling of the alcohol she wasn’t fully drunk but she now felt very hazy. “Bring Gabrielle in here now and bring in some chains!”

Chara looked up sharply as she lowered her drink watching as four of Iona’s men left the room, had she just heard the Empress’s words right? She turned eyeing Phrixus whose face was filled with shock. “I did hear that right didn’t I she just asked for Gabrielle and some chains?” Phrixus lowered his drink in disgust. “Oh yes you heard that right.” Chara turned eyeing Evadine who was refilling one of the royals goblets, even from this distance she could see the uncertainly in her lovers eyes. Phantasos put a hand on his beard ignoring the uneasy murmurs around him he could see Chara talking with Phrixus at the other corner of the room and he could see the concern in their faces. This was not like the Empress he turned to Kalika who had a cruel smirk on her face. “Tell me you don’t agree with this?” Tiara turned sharply ignoring Kalika’s evil smile. “No I don’t agree with this, I think it’s wrong.”

Fedora looked up from her place in the far corner of the room, what in Tartarus had compelled the Empress to do this it was so wrong? Thaleia shifted uneasily on her feet. “There not going to really bring her out, are they?” Her words were suddenly cut off as Gabrielle was brought in by two men the other two staying behind her. She was in human form and dressed in her favourite clothing. The guards suddenly shoved her so she was in the centre of the stage causing the flame dancers to put out there fire and move back as the music instantly died.

Xena took a drink from her goblet raising her hand. “I give you my werewolf.” King Gregor turned sharply. “Empress I mean no disrespect but that’s not werewolf, it’s a young woman.” Eulalia turned sharply. “Are you trying to be funny Empress, because if so I don’t understand your Greek sense of humour?” Xena sneered slightly eyeing her. “Oh its no joke you’ll see.” Gabrielle felt her eyes dart what was going on? She’d been sleeping only for her door to be kicked open suddenly. Four men had grabbed her and brought her in to the huge throne room and now she was standing in the centre surrounded by people. She suddenly didn’t feel very good something about this didn’t feel right at all.

She looked up feeling the sudden uncertainty she could see the Empress on her throne surrounded by what looked like important people no doubt the royals. Why was she here? What did they want with her? She turned watching as the men behind her who were Iona’s men pulled their swords free to stop her from stepping back. Xena narrowed her gaze eyeing Gabrielle she sat up in her throne not really caring that everything felt surreal in her mind. “Transform!” Gabrielle eyed the dark haired woman who looked slightly drunk. She breathed in deeply before speaking in a cold voice. “Why?” Iona nodded to one of her men watching as he slammed his sword hilt in to her back bringing her painfully to her knees. “The Empress does not need questions monster you do as she commands you!”

Demetrius narrowed his gaze as he eyed Iona he couldn’t believe this was happening it was a nightmare and he couldn’t do anything to stop it. The Empress was drunk and she wasn’t thinking straight. “That wasn’t necessary she didn’t do anything to deserve being hit!” Gabrielle breathed in deeply by Ouroboros it was so painfully clear now what this was, she was going to be tonight’s entertainment. She eased up her hand taking hold of her pendent closing her eyes for a moment she knew this would happen in the end. Humanity was never kind to werewolves her trainers words always seemed to ring true. She was going to be humiliated in front of all these people, she let go of her pendent feeling the sadness take over she would probably die tonight after the humiliation was over.

Not that, that was a bad thing she’d craved death for so long, the only bad side would be that it wouldn’t be in battle. She opened her eyes breathing in deeply she would loose her only good clothes the clothes which she’d been given as a gift by the only person she’d ever cared about, before he had chosen to leave her for another. She took in a deep breath ignoring the silence in the room she only prayed that her death would be quick along with her humiliation. She winced as the pain hit her as her transformation started. Xena watched as the clothes tore away as Gabrielle’s body changed just as it had the first time they’d met, it was incredibly fast so quick that you hardly got a chance to see the woman’s naked figure.

She took another long drink from her goblet watching as the huge jaws clamped shut as the transformation came to its end. She could see the shock in all the royals faces as it finished completely and where a young girl had been now stood a huge golden furred seven foot werewolf. She smiled watching as the long ears lowered and the green eyes reopened looking in her direction. “As you can see it’s not a young woman.” She sat back enjoying her moment and the shock on the faces of all the royals, Gabrielle looked quite different now in this form there was no more mattered fur it had all grown out leaving a thick healthy golden fur coat. The mane was much thicker and longer as was the tail which had now re-grown a new layer of thick fur.

She watched as the four men bolted the shackles on both her arms and her ankles and finally a thick metal collar was bolted tight around her neck. All four men slowly took up there positions pulling the chains tight forcing Gabrielle in to a standing position. Iona smirked walking down from behind throne so she was in front of Gabrielle whose forest green eyes burned in to her with open hated. She grabbed the chain attached to the collar. “I give you the Empress’s trophy!” She eased her sword free using it to ease up one of the huge clawed hands very slowly. “A werewolf a living breathing one, as you can all see.” Diana smiled putting her hands together. “How fascinating, I had no idea werewolves had a human form.” Eulalia smiled evilly. “Can you make it do tricks Empress?”

Diana clapped in enjoyment. “Yes make it do something for us.” She paused before looking up. “I know make it dance!” Xena looked up slightly eyeing Gabrielle as her words hit the air in a vindictive tone. “Dance!” Iona didn’t think as she sliced her sword across Gabrielle’s side causing blood to flow free. “You heard the Empress, now dance!” Gabrielle looked up trying to ignore the pain she could hear the clapping from some of the royals and most of the staff. Iona watched as Gabrielle started to move her feet trying to stay steady on her hind legs despite the shackles and long chains. People all around her applauded and laughed enjoying the show in front of them as it continued.

Gabrielle breathed in painfully trying to stay in motion which was hard she wasn’t built to dance not in this form and she wasn’t used to being on her hind legs ether, she’d always found it easier to be on all fours. This was so humiliating she had become no more than a dancing bear to bunch of royal bitches and bastards and she could see that most of the staff seemed to be enjoying this as well. This was the price though for having loosing your humanity, once you leave the company of men and women and become something different, you’re no longer part of them and they make it felt. You become their entertainment, their laugher and enjoyment. She ignored her stinging wound it wasn’t a deep cut but it hurt none the less.

She breathed in painfully trying to imagine herself in a different place in her mind, one where she wasn’t chained but free and in the golden corn filled meadows of Apollonia at night running through them on all fours as she listened to the waves crashing up against the shore while breathed in the rich sea while watching the roosting sea birds on the high cliffs bellow. Marmax looked up slightly. “Make it stop I want to have a better look at it!” Iona pulled on the chains forcing Gabrielle to stop suddenly but it was too suddenly and it caused her to loose her footing which caused her to slam in to the floor hard on her side. She watched as Marmax came forward as Gabrielle painfully got to her feet leaving blood stains on the floor.

Marmax didn’t think as he threw his goblet of wine right in to the creatures face. “Do you talk?” Iona yanked on the neck chain hard. “Oh she talks alright normally we can’t get her to shut up.” Iona turned eyeing Gabrielle who said nothing. “Now come on Gabrielle say hello to the nice royal guest, he wants you to speak.” She didn’t think as she slammed her sword hilt in to the huge shoulder watching as Gabrielle winced in pain but still refused to speak. “I said talk!” Marmax folded his arms eyeing the huge head he could see two velvet covered things poking through the mane which reminded him of deer horn. “Is it deformed, because it has two odd structures poking out of its head?”

Eulalia laughed as she eyed her husband. “All werewolves are deformed dear clearly it’s just more deformed than the others.” Iona breathed in deeply she was going to get Gabrielle to talk no matter what. She eyed the symbol around her neck she didn’t think as she grabbed it pulling it free in a violent motion. Gabrielle turned sharply watching as the symbol of her goddess was pulled free from her neck she found herself yanking on the chains. “That’s mine give it to me!” Iona turned watching as Marmax backed away in surprise before reseating himself. “As you can see she can talk.” She turned dangling the symbol so they could see it fully. “She’s also a heretic who worships the serpent goddess Ouroboros she has chosen to abandon the Greek and Roman gods!”

Gabrielle winced as she pulled harder on the chains she wanted her symbol back it was one of the few things in life she cared about! She looked up eyeing the Empress who was watching the whole scene but in a clearly distant manner with an emotionless face. She stopped pulling on her chains what the point in trying? No body in this room cared for her suffering no one would set her free she slowly lowered herself to her knees. She didn’t want to be part of the sick, twisted game anymore she just wanted it to end. She knew what it was to submit she always knew how, she’d never ever been in charge of her own destiny her path had always been laid out for her.

Iona turned eyeing her audience putting the pendent in to her pocket. “Allow me to show you all, the Empress’s already dead trophy so you can compare them!” She made a signal causing two men to run towards the curtain. She knew that the mounted werewolf had been moved out of the study and in to the throne room. For some reason which she couldn’t fathom Tiara had hid it behind the curtains out of sight instead of putting it on display like she normally did. Tiara looked around realizing that everyone was no longer cheering she felt her heart beat painfully faster as the as the mounted trophy werewolf was dragged out. She’d made a decision this year that the werewolf shouldn’t be on display and Gabrielle shouldn’t see it, after speaking to her putting it out felt very wrong in her minds eye. She turned eyeing Kalika who was still smiling. “Is this what you wanted? Is this what makes you happy! Seeing her suffer like this?” Phantasos breathed in deeply gods this was truly awful why didn’t the Empress stop it? Gabrielle for all her misgivings had done nothing to deserve this.

Phrixus turned sharply eyeing Chara feeling the anger start to burn. “This is disgusting she’s not an animal, she’s a person!” Chara breathed in sharply she turned eyeing Evadine who was no longer pouring drinks and looked truly sad as the big black werewolf was pushed out so it was opposite Gabrielle who was now on her knees in complete submission. Fedora breathed in sadly feeling the pain in her chest she turned to her daughter not knowing what to say. She’d known the Empress for years and she’d never done anything this cruel she’d always been kind and noble as well as thoughtful and good natured. Yet in this horrible moment everything Gabrielle had said rang true, in that she didn’t like her.  Thaleia felt the tears as they ran down her face words could not describe how awful this was. Gabrielle never showed violence toward her or anyone else in this form yet here she was being harmed and she felt truly helpless. She could see now that four of the royals wanted no part in this and there was a truly horrible silence now clinging to the air, none of the staff were clapping anymore they all saw this for what it was which was a humiliating spectral.

Gabrielle breathed turning to look at the huge black werewolf who was on her right side and had been turned to face her. She could tell that he was male when he had been alive, as he was bigger than her. His eyes had been replaced with blue glass ones and he was in a truly terrifying pose. So this was her true fate, to join him? No wonder the Empress hated her so, she suddenly felt her heart sink in to her stomach as she caught sight of something very familiar. Slice marks made by a sword in jagged lines across the huge broad chest and stomach. Old scars which had never healed and always remained, just like the one she had on her eye. She breathed in painfully as the voice of a long lost lover echoed through her mind. “Time changes Gabrielle but you always remain as beautiful as ever.”

She lowered her head as the pain hit home fully as she spoke his name. “Damokles…” She very rarely cried she always tried to stop herself as she didn’t like anyone to see her weakness, but right now she couldn’t stop her self. She’d been told by the Imperial Council that he had left her for another woman. Yet here he was stuffed and mounted no more than a trophy in the Empress’s keep, she felt the tears as they started to run down her long snout. They’d lied to her! He had been a great warrior who had served his people, he had even been trying to change the political balance in the werewolf race and he’d been so close to accomplishing his goals.

Eulalia laughed slightly. “Oh look at it, its crying how pathetic.” Xena looked up slightly feeling time freeze as she looked up looking at Gabrielle seriously for the first time. There were tears streaming down her face and her sobs were all that could be heard. Her staff were no longer clapping nether was Pandora, King Gregor Heli or Sophia and her lady in waiting, unlike the other four royals who still thought this was very amusing. She felt her goblet slip from her hand causing it to hit the floor she could see nothing but pain in those green eyes which weren’t looking at her but the floor as the tears carried on falling. She turned slightly looking at Demetrius’s face seeing the disgust in it directed at her and her alone. She’d never seen him look at her that way before. She looked back again meeting the green eyes seeing nothing but pain she could see now for the first time just how human those eyes were and how real the pain was in them.

It brought her back to a terrible event which she’d witnessed in her teens which she’d never been able to get out of her mind. She stood up slowly feeling the crashing wave of reality hit home of what she was doing and how it looked to everyone around her at this very moment. Gabrielle clearly recognised the stuffed and mounted werewolf in front of her she’d even said his name aloud. Her tears weren’t even for self they were for him she walked forward ignoring the royals as she came to stand close to Iona whose face was filled with confusion. Iona blinked feeling unsure of her self. “Empress?” Xena narrowed her gaze hearing her cold tone hit the air. “Move….” Iona pulled on the chain. “But Empress I was just about to.” Xena didn’t think as she grabbed her by her shirt violently yanking her to one side taking her sword out of the other hand in the process. “I said move!” She watched as the collar chain hit the floor hard.

She eyed the other men. “Let go of the chains!” She watched as they looked at each other. “Now!” The long heavy chains hit the floor as the men backed away not daring to question her. Gabrielle didn’t move though she remained in the same position lowering her head further as she spoke her pain filled voice hitting the air. “Hail the Conqueror.” Xena blinked feeling the pain hit home, gods what in Tartarus had she just done? This wasn’t a monster this was a person with real feelings and thoughts and who could express real pain and feel pain just like everyone else. She’d never even bothered until this moment to really look at this woman’s eyes in this form if she had she would have seen that they were truly identical to her human ones.

All the expression and all the pain it there as clear as day on top of that the werewolf mannerisms made the feelings clear, both of hers ears were lowered in submission and pain. She could now even see the strange horn like bone coated in velvet poking its way through the manes fur that Marmax had been talking about. Gabrielle didn’t look up as the Empress stepped closer so she in front of her, she could see the sword in her hand. She spoke trying to ignore her painfully tears. “Is this to be my fate? Are you going to take that sword and kill me and then turn me in to a mounted trophy just like you did to my friend?” Xena eyed the weapon she’d only forced it out of Iona’s hand because she was so angry with her, she had no intention of using it.

She breathed in speaking gentle. “No it isn’t.” Gabrielle didn’t look up. “Shame because I wish you would, it would be a fitting end to my miserable life.” Xena blinked gods she’d never heard anyone say that to her before and she now realized that these were the words of someone who was deeply depressed. She didn’t think as she dropped the sword hearing it clatter as it hit the floor. This was a woman who wanted nothing more than to die, she had not seen this in any of their talks because she’d never really paid any attention to her eyes or her face and when she had been reliving her painful memories, she’d mocked her over the death of her friends and her loved ones. She’d done it because she wasn’t human and she’d thought that it was perfectly okay to do so. She kneeled down slowly putting her hands on the heavy collar carefully unlocking it.

She’d once heard an old saying that there was shame is killing a beast only in killing a man, but where does one begin and other end? Tonight she’d been the real monster not Gabrielle who had taken the humiliation and shown her humanity through out the whole ordeal. She looked up slightly seeing that Gabrielle still wouldn’t look at her. “I’m going to set you free Gabrielle.” Gabrielle felt the collar as it was pulled free of her neck. Xena dropped the heavy collar then slowly worked on the shackles easing each one of them free as she stepped back not wanting to see the faces of her staff instead she kept her eyes on Gabrielle. She raised her hand very gently seeing no movement from the golden werewolf. “You can go Gabrielle.” Gabrielle looked up meeting her gaze trying to ignore the pain from her open wound she had no idea why the woman had set her free. She didn’t want to stay in this room any longer though she just wanted to leave and hide in the darkness somewhere were no one else could see her pain.

She slowly began to move away on all fours towards the door watching as Demetrius walked across the room opening the huge double doors for her. She walked through them keeping an eye on him but said nothing, she could see the sadness in his eyes but she didn’t care for his pity. She carried on moving up the dark corridor realizing that he wasn’t following her which surprised her. She turned as someone’s foot steps echoed behind her she watching as Thaleia and Phantasos came up beside her the concern in their eyes she spoke unable to keep the anger out of her voice. “Go away!” Phantasos eyed the bloody wound on Gabrielle’s side. “Please you need to stop Gabrielle I need to look at that wound, your bleeding all over the place.”

Gabrielle sneered slightly. “I don’t need your medicine it’ll heal!” Thaleia moved forward trying to keep up with her friend. “Gabrielle please come to my room, I have enough room for two I can lay out some fur blankets for you.” Gabrielle eyed her as she carried on moving. “No!” Phantasos moved faster trying to keep up with the golden werewolves pace. He could now see the velvet points which one of royals had pointed out which hadn’t been there in their last session. “We just want to help, what happened in there shouldn’t have happened. You did nothing to deserve that.”

Gabrielle stopped eyeing him in disgust. “What do you care if I deserved it, your not interested in me! I’m just your pet project for study you even refer to my race as monsters!” She turned seeing that more people were appearing now trying to follow her. “I don’t want or need your help healer, get that though your thick skull.” Thaleia watched as her mother appeared coming to stand along side her. Fedora eased up her hand very slowly speaking softly. “I know you’re angry Gabrielle we understand how you feel right now the Empress did a terrible thing to you in there.” Gabrielle pulled away before her hand could touch her snout. “No offence, but you don’t have a clue how I feel right now.”

She slowly stood up on her hind legs feeling her rage to start to boil in the pit of her stomach. “You have no idea what it feels like to be turned in to dancing animal and be humiliated on stage! To be chained and beaten and have wine thrown in your face and then to have your goddess’s symbol taken away from you! Then to be shown the stuffed and mounted body of someone you once called friend!” She was unable to stop the roar of pain as it came out directed at them. She closed her jaws feeling the tears come again as she spoke unable to keep the pain out of her voice. “You have no idea at all.” She didn’t think as she turned on her heals slamming in to the ground on all fours running away from them all as fast as she could, no longer caring where she went. Thaleia turned watching as Gabrielle disappeared from sight. “Mother?” Fedora put a hand on her daughters shoulder. “Let her go she needs time to cool down she’s just in a lot of pain right now and she needs to work it out for herself.” Thaleia breathed in sadly. “She’s always alone it’s just not right that she should be this way.”

Xena watched as Demetrius closed the doors she’d heard the painfully roar and she’d seen a few members of her staff follow Gabrielle out. She turned feeling her hand form a fist as she eyed Iona she didn’t think as she grabbed her violently by her shirt again. “This banquet is over, tell the staff that they can leave!” She watched as Iona nodded. “After I’ve had my meetings tomorrow you and I are going to have words, is that understood?” Iona nodded, she knew now that she was in real trouble it wasn’t often that the Empress got this angry. Xena let go of her shirt moving towards the royals most of them now looked deeply confused. “This banquet is over you will all go to your rooms then you will leave tomorrow morning.”

She turned pointing at Heli and Sophia. “Except for you two as I we have other matters to discuss.” Sophia stood up along with her husband. “As you wish Empress.” Xena eased up her hand ignoring the headache she had coming. “You can go as can your lady in waiting Kolina.” She turned to Pandora and King Gregor. “You two can also go as you’ve both done nothing wrong.” She watched as the four royals and the lady in waiting were slowly led away by Demetrius’s men. She turned eyeing Eulalia and Marmax as well as Diana and Philemon they weren’t going anywhere though. She leaned on Marmax’s chair seeing a nervous look spread across his face. “I was drunk tonight I confess and I made a very bad discussion, which was the worst one I could ever have made and I’ll have to deal with that.”

She tensed trying to control her anger. “None of you acted very honourably, you took advantage of me and the situation and you mocked me over the fact I have no husband or wife!” She felt an evil smile form as she saw the panic in a few of the royal’s eyes as it dawned on them how far they’d over stepped the mark. “If any of you ever do that again in my presence you will pay the price!” She breathed in deeply seeing that all her staff had left the room now and they were truly alone with the exception of Evadine who was staying out of the way. “I believe in democracy I always have, but I will see you be humiliated in front of your kingdoms. Your people won’t suffer it’ll just be you and everyone who you rule over will know that I punished you personally!”

End of part 25

FOR FOOLISHNESS CAN BECOME YOUR UNDOING

Have you ever cried so long that you feel that you can’t cry anymore? When you feel like the stars are falling around you and shattering at your feet? I have felt this pain in my life, pain of loosing my blood innocence, pain of loosing my best friend pain and the loss of my humanity as well as the pain of loosing the one I loved and being used by another for no other reason than to warm her sheets. Yet as I sit behind my closed and bolted bathroom door I feel a pain unlike any I’ve ever felt in my existence. The pain of knowing what it is to be a toy for base entertainment to please others. All my life I stood up for the innocence of humanity I stood by the principle that warriors should die in battle and men, women and children who can’t defend themselves should be treated with mercy.

I always believed that werewolves being the stronger race should show mercy and compassion to those not as strong as our selves. I fought so hard for that, despite everything I saw even though I saw skinned werewolf bodies and witnessed so many deaths by human hands. Now I question whether I should have, maybe everyone’s right, maybe humans deserve to die as a race. To them I was thing! The bastards saw me as no more than a dancing bear on chains! They didn’t give a damn about my life. I don’t even understand why the Empress let me go by freeing me from those chains. Maybe she did it so she could torment me later, after all she hates me and to her it would probably be fun to make me think that she was being merciful.

I want to scream right now but my tears are stopping me, I feel so lost in my thoughts, the only things that keeping my mind at ease is the opium I’m smoking right now. I’m on a cold tile floor with my back up against the bathroom door I have a white sheet wrapped around my body for warmth, I guess this is the price I paid for having belief in others. Gabrielle leaned against the door breathing out the rich opium smoke, she was now high and she didn’t care. The fact that she’d been awake all night was irrelevant and she didn’t even care if it was day or night. She had no clothing to wear now, her favourite clothes had been destroyed and her cupboard was empty so she couldn’t go anywhere. She was now trapped in a single room the prison around her finally complete along with her painful tears.

Demetrius eyed Gabrielle’s door with it long dried symbol for heretic which had been painted in animal blood. Clearly a lot of bullying behaviour had taken place among members of staff towards Gabrielle before what had happened last night. He felt disgusted just looking at it he’d heard this mentioned by staff but Iona had passed it of as Gabrielle telling lies. Clearly Gabrielle had not lied far from it, Iona though was now in serious trouble and it was about to get worse if this was anything to go by lying to the Empress would mean a more serious punishment for sure. Lying wasn’t tolerated among the warriors of any rank, but to lie to the Empress herself was considered the worst act of all. He’d never gotten on with Iona but he wouldn’t wish pain on her sadly though after what she did last nigh it would mean that punishment would be given with out a doubt. She’d taken advantage of the Empress being drunk and she’d helped in the cruel show which had been vile on every level.

You wouldn’t even do that to a human being so why do it to a werewolf who had done nothing wrong? He wouldn’t lie at first he had disliked Gabrielle being around but over time it had become clear to him that she never caused people harm and she always followed the rules. He had begun to realize that things were going wrong when the Empress had been unkind to her that day. Now standing here he could see it was far more serious than he could ever have imagined, the Empress had treated her unkindly and Iona had no doubt told the staff about it and they’d thought that if the Empress was being unkind then it was perfectly okay for them to do the same. He was utterly disgusted by that but he’d talk the Empress about that soon enough when he was in a better mood.

He looked at the clothing in his hand which was about Gabrielle’s size and complete with boots he’d have to thank Chara later as she was the one that knew what Gabrielle’s size was as she’d seen her original clothing and taken records from it. He’d gone to the market early to pick up these as Thaleia had mentioned that she didn’t have any other clothes another element of the bullying was that the staff hadn’t given her new clothes despite that she’d requested them in her list. He turned eyeing watching as, Evadine and Thaleia walked up the hall towards him. “What are you all doing here?” Thaleia looked at the dried blood stains on the floor no doubt from Gabrielle’s wound. She eyed the package in her hand which was some warm bread and cheese as well as some seed for her friend’s pet bird. “I came to speak to Gabrielle I want to see if she’s okay.”

She eyed him. “Why are you here?” Demetrius eased up the clothes in his hand. “You said Gabrielle had no clothing I wanted to give her this and apologise for what happened last night.” Evadine sneered in disgust. “I still can’t believe the Empress did that it was disgusting, I mean she made her transform in front of us all and then dance around like some show animal.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “I will be speaking to the Empress regarding what happened last night, I intend to right this wrong.” He eased up his hand to knock only for Thaleia to take his hand he turned slowly to her. “What?” Thaleia tried to ignore her inner embarrassment as this was the first time she’d ever touched him.

She’d always had a deep attraction to him she breathed in lowering her gaze as to avoid his as she let go off his hand gently. “Let me, I know Gabrielle better than most people I consider her my friend.” Demetrius raised an eyebrow. “You two are friends?” Evadine pulled up the package in her hand which was a small rug with bird designs on it because Thaleia had said that Gabrielle liked birds. “Yeah they are both friends.” Thaleia knocked on the door before speaking. “Gabrielle?” She knocked again only slightly harder. “Gabrielle I want to speak to you its Thaleia.” She put her fingers on one of the double doors handles. “I’m coming in I just want to see if you’re okay.” She opened the doors slowly watching as they creaked open only to reveal an empty room.

She stepped in side watching as the others followed her she watched as Evadine closed the door behind her. Demetrius eyed the room which hadn’t been cleaned in a long while. “Why hasn’t this been cleaned all royal rooms are meant to be cleaned its palace policy?” Thaleia turned eyeing him. “Because people think they can treat Gabrielle how ever they wish because she’s not human, she does all her own cleaning I’ve seen it.” She looked down seeing blood stains on the floor, leading to the bathroom door which was closed shut the top bed sheet was missing she couldn’t see Gabrielle’s pet Wood Pigeon anywhere. The curtains were in tatters now on one side and the small serving of the tables had been smashed apart, she could long claw marks running up the tables face and the broken chair in the corner remained.

Evadine kneeled down putting her fingers in side the claw marks which were huge her fingers could run in between them. She couldn’t imagine just how much power was in those clawed hands but the fact that it was that these marks were three inches deep said a lot about Gabrielle’s power in general. A power she restrained, she no doubt had a moral conscience and that was why she took out her anger on objects and never on people. Thaleia walked up to the bathroom door knocking gently. “Gabrielle, its Thaleia we just want to see if your okay, would you like to come out and talk to us?” Gabrielle breathed out the opium smoke pushing her self further up against the door, she didn’t want to speak to anyone right now she felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Go away!”

Thaleia breathed in catching the anger in her tone. “We brought you some things Evadine got you a blanket and Demetrius has brought you some new clothes and I’ve got you, your breakfast and food for your pet bird.” Gabrielle heard her cold laugh as it hit the air as she eyed the closed door. “Do I have to dance for them?” She eyed her pipe. “Or better yet if I don’t dance you’ll just bring in that bitch Iona to pull on my collar right?” Evadine blinked as she leaned closer to the door ignoring everyone’s surprise over the woman’s comment. “Just so you know I hate Iona and what she did to you was very wrong, we all feel sorry for you.”

Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Please spear me your pity I have enough to last a lifetime.” She breathed out the rich dark smoke. “Nothing ever changes believe me.” Thaleia put her things down on the bed watching as the others did the same thing. “You don’t really believe that do you? I mean there’s always hope and things can change.” Gabrielle eyed the faint scar on her waist from where Iona had stuck her which would be fully healed by tomorrow. “Hope is an illusion you’re just to naïve to realize that, one day you’ll wake you and realize that it doesn’t matter what you wish for or want, you just won’t be able to have it. Because all your discussions are made up for you and even your destiny isn’t your own.” She lowered her gaze sadly. “Even the ones you love will be taken from you and all you’re left with is the ones who use you for themselves.” She opened her hand looking at the gleaming bronze ring in it which had belonged to Damokles feeling the tears as they started to run down her cheeks once more. “That is the only real truth in this world.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply looking at the others who both looked truly concerned now she sat down next to the door. “Won’t you just come out so we can see you? We care about you.” Gabrielle closed her eyes for a long moment before opening them. “No, now leave me alone.” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Won’t you reconsider?” Gabrielle didn’t think as she smashed her fist against the door causing the whole thing to shake violently she pulled her fist away not caring as the blood ran down her knuckles. “I said leave! This is my room now get out all of you!” Thaleia breathed in painfully as she stood up clearly she’d have to try again later when Gabrielle was in a better mood.

She stepped back. “We’ve left your things on the bed when you come out they’ll be waiting for you.” She paused turning to the others. “Lets go this is her room, so lets respect her wishes.” She watched as the others left the room she turned closing the double doors carefully. Demetrius put a hand on his beard this was so much worse than he’d first thought. “Is she always that deeply depressed?” Thaleia lowered her head sadly. “Most of the time yes, in all the time she’s been here I’ve never seen her give me a genuine smile. She only smiles when it’s a cold smile to others who are about to cause her pain.” She shook her head. “She’s never even laughed not with joy, it’s only when she wants to be insulting, it’s really sad.”

“Thaleia oh thank the gods I’ve found you!”

Thaleia turned watching as Chara made her way up the hall towards her. “The Empress wants to talk to you right now.” Thaleia breathed in deeply frankly she didn’t want to talk to her right now but she had no choice. She turned walking up the hall only to feel Demetrius take hold of her arm she turned in surprise meeting his concerned gaze. “What is it?” Demetrius looked at the young woman as he coughed clearing his throat. “Would you like me to escort you up her study?” Thaleia breathed in deeply steadying herself before she looked up. “Yes I’d like that very much.” Chara breathed in deeply eyeing her lover. “We’ll just be going to the kitchen hopefully we’ll catch up with you two later.”

8

Gods I’ve been such a fool, what was I thinking? Off all the things I’ve done in my life this is by far the worst, I let the royals make a fool out of me, I let them use me and taunt me. They took advantage of my drinking and made me do something which was truly tyrannical.  Sadly though I can’t blame them I should have had the sense to stop myself but I didn’t, I let my need for vengeance get in the way. I wanted Gabrielle to suffer I wanted her to be punished and I got my wish, I let her become base entertainment for the pleasure of others. My actions were not those of a noble leader but a true Conqueror. She was my prize and my fun and I enjoyed forcing her to do my bidding because I knew that she had to do what I told her to. I watching her dance, I watched Iona seriously wound her and I watched the royals mock her and one of them throw his wine at her. All through it she just did what she was told she didn’t even fight it she just let it happen. It was like she expected it and had been expecting it all along because I’ve forced all my rules on to her and left her with no choice of her own.

Gods I wish I could turn back the clock I’d give anything to change what I did last night as I can see myself with crystal clarity doing it all over again in vivid detail. Xena took hold of her goblet drinking down the headache medicine, hoping that it would take away the pain she felt in her mind, though she knew no amount of pain killers would take away the pain in her heart. She was deserving of that pain though, she was now glad that the royals had gone back to their kingdoms because she didn’t want to see most of them for a year or more if she could help it. She had listening to rumours and the rumour was that Gabrielle had one friend in this palace and that was a servant woman by the name of Thaleia.

She’d never spoken to Thaleia though she remembered her father well he had been a brave warrior on the battle field. Her mother Fedora looked after the palace children day and night. She put her hands together she didn’t expect this to go well but she needed to know everything. Iona had manipulated her last night as much as the royals and she needed to find out what the truth was. As it was clear that Iona may have been lying to her all along and Thaleia was the one person who could shed light on the truth. She looked up as the door was opened and the young woman walked in closing the door behind her, she looked her over for a long moment before standing up from her study desk.

She looked very much like her father, she had his eyes and his face, but she had her mothers dignified beauty, she lowered her gaze before speaking. “Thaleia is it?” Thaleia looked at the Empress for a long moment she’d never been in the Empress’s study room before now it was rare that any of the cleaning staff at her level got invited up here. Only Ceto cleaned here as she was Empress’s personal maid and the only one she trusted. She took in a deep breath trying to control her nervousness. “Yes Empress.” Xena looked at her catching the slight bitterness in her voice she knew why it was there. Gabrielle was her friend and she’d been forced to watch her suffer last night and had, had no way to help her. “I heard a rumour in the palace but I need you to clarify it for me, are you Gabrielle’s friend?” Thaleia nodded looking at the taller woman in her silver plated armour. “Yes Empress I consider her my friend.”

Xena leaned against her desk folding her arms. “Does she consider herself to be your friend?” Thaleia narrowed her gaze. “Gabrielle allows me her company, she doesn’t really let people in, she says it’s because she knows what she is and she doesn’t expect people to like her or even tolerant her because she’s a werewolf.”  She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke not being able to hold back her next words. “Not that I blame her for thinking like that, as last night she clearly got the kind of treatment she’s expects.” Xena took in a deep breath truer words had never been spoken and to think that they were being spoken by a young woman well bellow her station and unafraid to say how she felt just forced the issue home all the harder.

She put a hand on her chin before speaking. “My actions were wrong last night and I will be putting this right.” Thaleia folded her arms eyeing her. “You’ll excuse my rudeness Empress but you’ll do more than put this right, you will give Gabrielle her freedom, clearly she has none. She’s just a prisoner in this palace she can’t even leave these walls with out Iona dragging her back and beating her up.” Xena turned sharply. “Iona beat her up?” Thaleia breathed in deeply trying to control her anger. “Oh yes and Gabrielle had permission to leave my mother got a note from Chara she wanted me to go to the market with her. She felt that with her I’d be protected, but Iona brought her back and burnt the note and threatened me, she told not to tell anyone that this had ever happened.”

Xena felt her fist smash the table surface hard she watched as the woman flinched, she wasn’t mad at her only at Iona for lying to her! She breathed in deeply turning to the young woman. “My anger is not directed at you, only at Iona, clearly she hasn’t been honest with me.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “A lot of people haven’t been honest with you Empress.” She breathed in she didn’t want to be the snitch but Gabrielle deserved more than this and she was her only friend here other than her mother and she had to do what was right by her regardless of what everyone else thought. “I’ve seen Kalika burn Gabrielle’s list with my own eyes, she’s had nothing she requested in weeks no clothes, no items for personal use. They wouldn’t even give her coltsfoot leaf so she can smoke in the end I got her some from the stores.”

She shook her head sadly. “She’s had her food put on the floor outside her room so it gets cold, her clothes aren’t washed. Her room isn’t cleaned ether and no one cleans her sheets she does it all herself.” She lowered her gaze. “They even painted the symbol for heretic on her door in animal blood just because she chooses not to worship the Greek or Roman gods, it’s still there now.” She took in a deep breath. “She also had a pet bird which was hers she brought it from the market, it was a Wood Pigeon but it seems to have vanished.” Xena felt her body tense gods this was even worse than she’d first feared. Gabrielle had mentioned that her pet had been killed by Iona and once again Iona had passed it off as Gabrielle lying to her when clearly she wasn’t. She had put so much trust in Iona trust that clearly she didn’t deserve at this point in her military career as she lacked the moral discipline that Demetrius had. Somewhere down the line Iona had seen that both her and Gabrielle didn’t get on and she’d take advantage of that and used it as a means to torment Gabrielle and make her life even more miserable.

She should have realized this she should have seen it gods how could she be so stupid? She ultimately could only blame herself now for all that happened to Gabrielle in these past few weeks. She had been unkind to her and everyone had clearly picked up on it and gone out of there way to make her life less than pleasant, she was getting the same treatment as someone who was a prisoner or a slave. She looked up slightly she was now dreading the next question even more. “What does Gabrielle do with her free time?” Thaleia lowered her gaze. “She doesn’t even leave her room during the day and she spends her time alone at night sitting on one of the stone lions that’s where I first started talking to her.”

She turned to the Empress. “The really sad part is that when we first started talking, she seriously thought I just wanted something. She can’t seem to fathom that anyone would like her or would want to speak to her, she thinks it’s all out of pity.” She shook her head sadly. “She doesn’t even believe that she’s a good person, it’s almost like she lets herself be punished because she thinks she deserves it.” She narrowed her gaze. “The truly sad part in all this is that she’s a good person she’s never causes others harm despite what they have done to her. My mother has seen her with one of the palace children and she said that she was in werewolf form and that she was incredibly gentle. She was the one who pointed out that Gabrielle deserves better and at first I thought she was insane for saying that but she was right.”

She raised her hand. “She was right about every thing Gabrielle is a person who feels just like everyone else and deserves better than to be treated like a common slave.” Xena lowered her gaze sadly she couldn’t fault those words she took in a deep breath. “Have you ever seen Gabrielle be violent in all the time you’ve known her?” Thaleia breathed in sharply. “No she’s angry and depressed but she never shows violence towards people but I have seen evidence in her room that she smashed up tables and chairs in werewolf form and one of the curtains is in tatters. I hope that no one brings fourth her violence though because the gods know I don’t think anyone would stand a chance against her.” Xena took in a deep painful breath before looking up. “Could you please take me to see your mother I wish to speak to her?” Thaleia lowered her head feeling a slight confusion take over. “Yes Empress.” Why would the Empress want to speak to her mother? She breathed in opening the door watching as the Empress followed her.

End of part 26

TO GIVE RETRIBUTION TO THOSE WHO HARMED YOU

I want my godly symbol back and I want it back now! Its mine I won it in battle fair and square the person who I took it from died an honourable death. It was destine to always be mine! It is my destiny, I promised to always wear it no matter what happened in my life and I have always remained true to that, it has never left my body until now. I will have my vengeance and my satisfaction! I don’t give a damn anymore about the rules or the agreement, I was noble to my word. The Empress wasn’t noble to hers though, no in the end I just became her prisoner and the puppet! So why should I care anymore for her rules? I don’t care if I die for this in fact I’d welcome death right now at least then I join the one I love.

I could be with Damokles once more because it’s clear to me now that he never went to off with another woman, he never had another loved one in another city! It was all a lie by the Imperial Council they were trying to turn my attention from the fact that he’d been murdered! They sent him to this palace to be killed no doubt by the Empress herself and now he’s stuffed and mounted for all to see, it disgusts me! In four hours time the sky will darken and then I will have my full vengeance on this palace! I will tear apart every wall break apart every item and see this palace torn to ribbons! I’ll have my satisfaction for what they did to him! They killed a man I loved so much, a man who believed in me and who I loved with all my heart, I will see them pay for that!” Gabrielle adjusted her new shirt the new clothes fitted perfectly, not that she really cared. She smashed another door open looking in side the room where was that bitch!? She had a room in the palace somewhere she turned with out thinking grabbing Tiara by her arm tightly ignoring her look of surprise as she spoke. “I want Iona! Where is the bitch stationed?”

Tiara breathed in trying to steady herself she could see the cold almost psychotic look in the younger woman’s eyes clearly she wasn’t in the mood to be toyed with. Gabrielle loosened her grip trying to control her temper as she spoke again. “I have no interest in hurting you Tiara I couldn’t care less about you. I just want Iona, she took something from me last night and I really want it back.” Tiara raised her hand. “She’s in the lower barracks, with three of her men it’s outside of the kitchen it’s the building to the far right of the gardens near the shooting range.” Gabrielle let her go gently. “How convenient…” Tiara looked at her feeling the uncertainty as she spoke. “I’m sorry Gabrielle for last night, for what happened to you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Please spare me.” Tiara breathed in sadly. “No I am truly sorry the Empress shouldn’t have done that to you.”

Gabrielle eased out her hand. “What difference does your apology make now? The pathetic thing is I knew it would happen it was always just a matter of time.” She moved away from the older woman. “I will have my satisfaction before this day is over! I’m going to die anyway so I might as well die fighting.” Tiara grabbed her arm feeling the panic taking over. “You don’t have to do this Gabrielle!” Gabrielle pulled her arm away from her grip with violent force. “You don’t seem to get it do you? I am a werewolf a monster that’s what everyone’s labelled me as, now I’m going to give you all what you really wanted and live up to my name!” She moved away ignoring the older woman’s look of shock and fright, she eyed her as she ran in the opposite direction. She could do what ever she wanted bring in the warriors for all she cared it wasn’t going to keep her from ether of her goals. In fact she’d relished the thought of battle it had been so long since she’d been in a real one.

8

Iona eased up the bone pendent looking at it, she’d never seen anything like it, it was clearly ancient. She sat back in her chair which was opposite the window which over looked the shooting range. Where in Tartarus was Leuis? He was over ten minutes late, she took in a deep breath she was dreading her talk with Empress. She knew that she hadn’t been honest and that was sure to come out now, at worse she would loose her rank completely. At least she’d be flogged in a humiliating manner in front of Demetrius. The bastard would probably enjoy it as they’d never gotten on and he’d see this as his moment to destroy her reputation completely.

She looked up hearing the outer door to the barracks open she breathed in deeply. “There you are its about time!” The next moments caused her to freeze in utter shock as the two double inner doors behind her were forced open as a body was flung right through them. She watched in horror as Leuis came down opposite her slamming shoulder first in to the floor he skidded on it before coming to a painful stop. She could see blood all over his face, he was bleeding from both his arm and leg and both of his swords were missing. She watched as he looked at her trying to speak only to fail as his eyes rolled back and he passed out completely. She looked up sharply pulling her sword free as she watched Gabrielle walk in through the now open doors a cruel smile forming on her lips.

Gabrielle ignored the taste of blood in her mouth which was from the only good hit the bastard had given her. She turned spitting it out before turning to the other woman. “I’m afraid he won’t be able to reply to you for a while, pity really I was really expecting a challenge.” Iona eyed her as she felt her teeth grind together. “You, how did you get in here!?” Gabrielle eyed the swords in both hands as she twirled them casually. “Yes me, oh what did you think you and your little friends weren’t going to pay for what you did to me last night?” She eyed one of her sword blades which had blood dripping of it. “No I will have my retribution! You all humiliated me and laughed at me because you thought there would be no repercussions.” She eyed the unconscious man. “Well in life there are always repercussions! It’s a lesson your about to learn at a heavy price.” Iona raised her hand. “You’ll die for this the Empress will kill you for sure!” Gabrielle laughed enjoying how mocking her laughter sounded. “Do you think I really care? What do you think I just beat up him and the three other bastards who dragged me around on bear chains last night just for kicks?”

She felt her evil smile widen. “No I relish the noble death and unlike you Iona I don’t fear it.” She raised the sword. “You also have something which is mine and you’re going to give it back to me right now or I will make this much more painful for you.” Iona breathed in as she eased up the bone pendent. “Oh you mean this you bitch? No you can take it when you pry it from my unconscious fingers.” Gabrielle breathed in spinning both swords in a lightning fast motion two years in the darkness had changed nothing. Despite being a little rusty she’d lost none of her speed or motion when it came to double hand sword fighting. She eyed Iona watching as she put her pendent in her pocket then eased her long dagger free holding it up along with her sword. “That’s just what I hoped you’d say.”

Iona moved narrowly avoiding one of swords as it swept past her chest she leaped back avoiding the other. She swung her sword only to watch as Gabrielle smirked side stepped out of the way avoiding it. She brought up her dagger only to miss as Gabrielle side stepped again in a casual manner she swung her sword only for the other woman to duck under it with lightning speed. Gabrielle brought the sword hilts forward slamming them in to the other woman’s stomach causing her to cry out in pain. She felt her cruel smile widen as Iona stumbled back the pain in her face as she pulled her weapons forward. Iona roared as she turned on her heel swinging her sword upwards only for Gabrielle to side step once more with lightning fast speed. She felt the blinding pain the other woman’s blade sliced across her exposed thigh as she turned fully on her heel realizing that Gabrielle was already behind her, she cried out as the hilt slammed in to her shoulder. She turned fully to face her, how in the gods name could she move so fast?

She narrowed her gaze she recognised Gabrielle’s fighting style, it was Thessalian but with two swords rather than a sword and heavy Aspis shield. It was fast, much faster than she was used to and she’d killed Thessalian spies in battle before now. Clearly the werewolves had there own variation of the style and in there version speed was everything. Gabrielle twirled her blade somehow she’d expected better wasn’t this meant to the elite killer in the Empress’s ranks? Clearly she was very good when it came to stabbing people in the back but in open combat she wasn’t as gifted. Iona swung her sword blade as she swung the dagger sideways watching as it sliced across Gabrielle’s arm she smiled as she heard her cry out in pain as she moved past her.

That was it that was her opening! Every warrior had one she could stab her in the gut next time she tried that. Gabrielle eyed the blood on her arm watching as it soaked through her white cotton sleeve staining it red, clearly Iona did have some talent. She felt a smile form finally a challenge, she didn’t think as she swung her sword blade watching as Iona ducked under it. She swung the other feeling the force as it hit Iona’s blade, she pressed the other weapon only to watch as Iona swung the dagger towards her. She brought down her other sword stopping it violently. She could feel the force as Iona pushed back against both of her weapons as she tried to force them down. Iona looked up sharply only to watch in surprise as Gabrielle boot came up. She felt the pain as it slammed in to her waist throwing her backwards she felt the floor as she smashed in to it back first. She didn’t think as she moved out of the way narrowly avoiding one of her sword as it came down with in inches of her head slamming in to the floor. She pulled herself up quickly only to feel the pain as the swords tip stuck her upper shoulder causing blood to flow which staining her sleeve.

She raised both weapons stepping back watching as Gabrielle studied her clearly fascinated by something. “You think you can beat me! You’re just a stupid animal!” Gabrielle shifted on her heels she had no interest in replying to her outburst. She was just waiting for that one perfect moment which would change everything in terms of this battle. There was always one moment of serenity when everything was in motion it was a pure moment, when so much pain could be inflicted in a minute and an opponent would fall to their knees in defeat. Unlike other werewolves she never used her inhuman strength in battle she preferred to win by human standards alone when in human form. Iona raised her dagger she had, had enough of this bitch! She swung the sword once more watching as Gabrielle avoided it, she eyed the other woman who turned on her heel. This was it, this was her moment she swung the dagger side ways aiming for it for gut! She looked up only to watch in shock as Gabrielle turned in a different direction away from her forced her sword in to the ground as she stepped back.

She felt the intense pain as the other woman hand came up grabbing her own, she screamed in pain as it was brought backwards behind her back. Gabrielle eyed Iona feeling completely calm and focused as she forced her arm up higher behind her back. She knew there was a point where the arm couldn’t take the pressure anymore. She ignored the other woman’s screaming as she pushed harder suddenly hearing the violent crack of bone as her arm broke. She let go watching as the dagger fell from Iona’s hand as she swung around and her arm flopped down becoming a dead weight as she turned to face her. She didn’t think as she grabbed her by her dark shirt pulling her towards her. She ignored the sword as it swung past her head as Iona’s arm swept past her shoulder, she didn’t think as she turned her other sword slammed the hilt in to her now exposed chest full force, she brought it up again hearing the dull crack as one of ribs broke. Iona carried on screaming she was powerless now and completely at her mercy now was that perfect moment.

She brought up her hilt again smashing in to two other areas of her chest hearing two more of her ribs break. She paused slowly bringing the hilt up to Iona’s face oh this was going to hurt her so much. She watched as the woman’s eyes darted as she realized what was about to happen. She eyed her speaking calmly. “As I said before I will have my retribution.” She didn’t think as she smashed the hilt in to her face watching as the blood flowed down from her mouth. She shifted her weight forcing her back as she smashed her hilt in to her face a second time causing more blood to fly through her teeth. She smiled hitting her a third time feeling the blood spatter against her face and neck before shoving her back full force.

She watched as she hit the floor hard on her back she slowly walked up to her putting her boot on her chest forcing her in to the ground as she kneeled down ignoring her scream of pure agony. She moved forward slammed her first sword in to the floor close to her face then moved her free hand down putting it in her pocket easing her pendent free she stood up keeping her boot in place as she put the pendent over her head. She eased her foot of Iona’s chest eyeing her as she slammed the other sword in to the ground ignoring the cold blood as it ran down her face. “Never ever steal from me again Iona.” She stepped away from her. “Take this a valuable lesson for every action you make there is a conscience and unless your willing to pay for them I suggest you think about your actions much more carefully before you make them.” Iona watched as she walked away she tried to move only to find she couldn’t because of the agonizing pain as it hit her chest. She lay still trying to take it as she tried to place what had just happened to her. How had she lost? She’d had Gabrielle right were she wanted her? She tried to move only for her head to hit the floor as her thoughts faded away in to darkness as she lost consciousness.

8

Xena turned the corridor watching as Fedora came in to view she was reading to two of the children who were engaged in her story. She breathed in deeply walking towards her watching as she looked up. Fedora stood up looking at the Empress she spoke calmly keeping her voice in a neutral tone. “Good afternoon Empress.” Xena took in a deep breath watching as Thaleia walked past her coming to stand next to her mother. “I wish to speak to you in private.” Fedora looked up turning to her daughter handing her the scroll. “Please finish the story for the little ones, I was just up to where Odysseus was about to take on the Cyclops.”

Thaleia nodded as she took the scroll from her mother’s hand. “I’ll finish it for you.” Fedora watched as the Empress walked in to the empty hall she slowly followed her, she already knew what this was all about but she would make sure that the Empress said something first. Xena stopped turning to the older woman. “We’ve never really talked have we?” Fedora raised an eyebrow. “No we hadn’t Empress.” Xena lowered her gaze. “I knew your husband he was very brave in battle he saved my life once.” Fedora looked at the decorative marble floor. “Yes he was a very brave man he believed in you and admired your fairness both on and off the battle field.” Xena looked up slightly. “I miss his company.”

Fedora breathed in deeply as she lowered her gaze sadly. “As do I.” She looked up at the taller woman. “What did you wish to speak me about?” Xena breathed in deeply. “Gabrielle.” Fedora folded her arms. “Ah so you’ve chosen to use her name rather than palace monster or werewolf which I hear so often uttered among these walls.” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “The staff, have been calling her that, I had no idea?” Fedora looked up. “Yes but then I put that down to them being shown by example, your example.” Xena narrowed her gaze in annoyance. “I have never called Gabrielle by anything other than her name the only time I ever called her monster was when she first transformed in front of me.” Fedora sighed aloud. “You didn’t have to call her anything, everyone knew you disliked her so they treated her in the same kind of manner. I’m sure my daughter has told you already just how poorly she’s been treated.” Xena nodded as she looked up slightly. “Yes she has.” Fedora felt a sad smile form. “You know what I found most saddening? It’s that when Gabrielle told me you disliked her I thought she was exaggerating.”

She breathed in sadly. “She’s not a very open person and she’s seems very depressed with in herself I thought that maybe because of this she’d misunderstood something you said or misinterpreted it, but after last night it very clear to me that she misinterpreted nothing. Everything she said about what you think off her is true.” Xena eased up her hands. “I don’t hate her! I wasn’t thinking straight last night!” Fedora eyed her. “No you weren’t Empress, what you did to her last night was disgusting beyond words, even though you clearly found your conscience at some point and set her free, it clearly does not make any off it right.” She breathed in painfully. “I’ve always admired you you’ve always been just and fair to others and done the right thing. Yet last night you acted no better than a Conqueror and a tyrant. That young woman was nothing more than a play thing to you and you chained her up and made her no more than a dancing animal to please your royal guests so they could laugh.”

She looked at her hand trying to control her emotions. “The truly sad part in all off this is that Gabrielle is a good person who’s done everything you asked off her. She’s put up with all the bullying and all that suffering and she’s never raised her hand in ether form to anyone. She deserves much better than what she’s reserved she has feelings just like anyone else. She lowered her gaze. “Feelings which I fear may now spin out of control after what happened last night you can only poke a lion for so long before it will turn around and bite you.” Xena put a hand on her face. “I made a mistake and I intended to make it right in what ever way I can, what ever it takes. I’ve done everything wrong by this young woman and I will see that she is treated well from here on in.”

She was about to say more only to stop as Phrixus ran up the hall with two scrolls she turned eyeing him as he came to a stop next to her. He breathed in catching his breath as he looked up. “I’m sorry to interrupt you Empress but I have something really important here.” He raised the first scroll which was the seventh werewolf figure copied and painted in perfect detail. “Does this look familiar to you?” Xena took the scroll eyeing the golden figure which had brown horns, she looked up slightly. “No.” Phrixus moved his hand to the necklace around the werewolf’s neck. “Look harder at the symbol on its neck tell me you have not seen that before, because I have, I’ve seen it around Gabrielle’s neck.” Xena eyed the scroll harder she blinked in shock as she caught sight of a white symbol which looked like a circular snake eating its tail. “Oh gods but that…it can’t be!” Phrixus pulled up his second scroll. “I spent most of last night transacting this after I saw the bone growths on Gabrielle’s head behind her ears, just listen to this its very enlightening despite that its only half of the transaction.” He eased up the transaction which he’d written down on the other piece of scroll looking at it before reading out loud.

“The Golden Hind will be the seventh Horn Hind to obtain the great antlers. They will be given to her by her an ancient serpent goddess forever eating her tail, lost to the ages of time and almost forgotten. Unlike the other six great Horn Hinds before her, she is not full blood but from half blood line and was made a werewolf by bite and not birthright.”

“She is neither the strongest nor the wealthiest, money means little to this Horn Hind despite that her fur is the very shade of gold itself. Maybe this is because the true weight of gold is carried with in her heart as she takes on the pain and pride of those before her. Forever questioning the will of what is and want must be as well as what is right and wrong.”

“She is a person of ideals and nobility she will bring about a change in power that will echo for centuries to come. It will be a true testament to the great suffering she goes through in her early life. As well as the testament to not having the life she wanted and being lost and forgotten in the darkness of the palace walls where the two lion of stones forever sleep.”

He lowered the scroll watching as Empress stared at him in utter shock. “Gabrielle isn’t just any werewolf far from it, only the leader has antlers. The very word Horn Hind means king and it’s also genderless and can refer to ether a man or a woman! She’s their King! You chained up and humiliated the werewolf king last night!” Xena grabbed the scroll from his hand reading it as she stared at the other picture of the golden werewolf with full horns dressed in silver armour.

Her day was now turning from bad to worse she breathed in deeply. “No…I couldn’t have.” Phrixus breathed trying to contain his anger. “But you did! The whole of the werewolf race might declare all out war, if they ever found out what you did last night Empress! You turned their king in to the laughing stock for your own personal amusement!” He folded his arms. “I spoke to Gabrielle about this a while back we talked about the werewolf kings when she was helping me with the final alphabet transitions. She said she didn’t like the new leader because she’d failed on her mission but that was no doubt a reference to herself and her failure as a leader. Clearly she kept this back because she realized that she’d become even more an asset if any of us ever knew who she really was!”

Xena rolled up both scrolls as she raised her hand. “I know the mistake I’ve made and I intend to put it right Phrixus now more that ever!” Phrixus took in a deep breath. “Then you should put this right quickly Empress, because we could all suffer for what you did last night. Horn Hind is the one they all follow and from the parts I’ve read here and there, her predecessors could over rule the Imperial Council in a heart beat if they saw something as a matter of personal honour!”

He took in another deep breath trying to calm himself down. “Forgive my rudeness Empress but I see a great misgiving here and it has to be put right.” Xena eased up her hand only to stop as Demetrius ran up the hall towards her the concern in his face she knew already this was going to be bad. “What is it? What’s happened?” Demetrius looked up slowly. “Its Gabrielle she’s beaten up the four men who chained her last night, she knocked them all unconscious and wounded them with there own sword blades.” He breathed in deeply. “She took out a very personal revenge on Iona though, three of her ribs are broken, her left arm has been broken and she was wounded as well, the healers with her now, she’s in a very bad way.” Phrixus breathed in deeply this had suddenly taken a very bad turn. “Clearly this is Gabrielle’s retribution for being dishonoured and humiliated she’s now going after those who caused her pain last night.” Fedora lowered her gaze sadly shaking her head before she spoke. “Well it appears that the tormented lion has finally mashed free of her cage Empress and you’ll have to be the one to calm her raging heart.”

End of part 27

THE LONGEST NIGHT OF ALL

Xena walked towards the barracks, the four other men who’d been wounded had already been taken to the healer’s main room to be dealt with. She eyed the barracks outer door which were wide open along both inner doors. She slowly walked through them with Demetrius watching as Iona came in to view she was lying on her side unconscious. There was blood streaming down from her nose and her mouth, two swords were sticking out of the floor boards close to her. She stepped closer looking at Phantasos who had just finishing sticking up the wound on her arm. He’d already stitched up the one on her leg her arm was defiantly broken as it was at an odd angle.

She watched as the healer turned her on to her back putting her broken arm gently against her chest. He breathed in sadly as he turned to her. “Hello Empress.” Xena stepped closer. “Is she going to be okay?” Phantasos put a hand through his beard. “She’ll live, sadly though she won’t be able to fight again for two months or maybe more.” He shook his head sadly as he began the slow process of checking the broken bone in her arm, hoping that it was clean break. “Gabrielle clearly made a point with her actions. She was only interested in the four men in Iona’s unit who had her in chains and Iona herself. The other fifteen men in the unit were left alone.”

He eyed the woman’s wounds. “It was all about honour they had to suffer for making her suffer.” He closed his eyes before turning to meet the Empress’s concerned gaze. “Your probably going to be her next target, as it was your word that caused all her suffering last night.” He eyed Iona breathing out in relief as he felt a clean break. He eased up her arm putting pressure on it hearing the sharp crack as the bone was repositioned in the correct place. “You did cause her a lot of pain last night.” He slowly began to bind Iona’s arm. “And it seems that she is a person of honour.” Xena put a hand through her hair in frustration she now really wished that she could change everything that had happened at the royal banquet last night. She had never expected repercussions like this, Fedora was right she had poked the lion to many times and now it was biting back, something deep down in side her gut told her that this was only to get worse.

Demetrius put a hand on his beard eyeing Iona. “Gods this is such a mess.” Xena took in a deep breath closing her eyes for a second before reopening them. “Demetrius take me to Gabrielle’s room.” Demetrius nodded as he turned to her. “Yes Empress.” Xena eyed him as they started walking. “You have nothing to say to me?” Demetrius eyed her for a long moment. “I feel there is little need, everyone else has already told you how wrong your actions were and that the repercussions from them have already begun.” Xena shook her head. “That is not what I asked.” Demetrius stopped walking he slowly turned to face her. “I’m very disappointed in you Empress, I expected so much better from you.”

He breathed in deeply. “I’m even more disappointed that you allowed Iona to be your voice in Gabrielle’s whole affair. I have always been the one you seek advice from, yet you allowed her to do as she wished when it is very clear that she was never on Gabrielle’s side. She saw a monster not a depressed young woman and she wanted to make her life a living Tartarus.” Xena looked up slightly. “You saw a monster as well in the beginning.” Demetrius lowered his gaze. “Yes I did I won’t lie, I feared Gabrielle more than anyone but that day when I brought her to your study and you were unkind to her, I saw a young woman who was in a lot of pain. I was even more surprised when I told her that she could go back to her room alone but she didn’t do so.”

He shook his head sadly. “I spoke to you then came back only to find her waiting for me she was sitting on the floor opposite your room smoking on her pipe. I asked her why she didn’t go back to her room, she said she had to be escorted back to her room and she had to honour the agreement.” Xena blinked in surprise. “That was not in my agreement to her, I only asked Iona to send her back to room, not to follow her there.” Demetrius narrowed his gaze. “Well Iona clearly bent and twisted your agreement.” He adjusted his chest plate. “I also visited Gabrielle this morning to give her a new set of clothes she was in a very depressed mood and had locked herself away in the bathroom. I could smell opium clearly her mood was so low that she’s smoking a very intense drug to make herself feel better.”

He sighed aloud. “Like you she has a weakness, you are an alcoholic, while she’s an opium smoker.” Xena narrowed her gaze feeling the anger start to boil up in her stomach before she could stop it. “I am not an alcoholic!” Demetrius raised his hand. “Yes you are Empress, everyone else in this palace turns a blind eye to it, but I don’t. I know that you drink yourself to sleep, I know that some mornings you wake up with a serious hang over but you mask it and try to hide it and you’ve become very good at it.” He shook his head. “I’ve never said anything because up until now you’re drinking has never been an issue. That is until last night when it started to rule both your actions and your frame of mind. I have no issue with you drinking you are the Empress what you do in your own personal time is your business, what I object to is your drinking conflicting your judgment and causing other people unnecessary harm.”

He narrowed his gaze. “The royal guests should never have been shown Gabrielle, she shouldn’t have been tormented by them ether or chained up for show and made to dance like a bear.” He looked up slightly. “What bothers me even more is that most of them knew about her. The servants here are sworn to secrecy as are the royal guards so some one here is clearly a spy and they’ve been leaking private information beyond these walls.” He eyed the white marble fountain opposite which was spilling out water. “I heard you and Phrixus talking, clearly Gabrielle is a royal figure and a leader with as much power as you have among her own people. This only adds to our now mounting problems, if her people hear this rumour and that she’s here and has been treated poorly they may declare war on us as Phrixus stated.” He paused taking in a deep breath. “You will have to set everything right with Gabrielle’s people and quickly and do everything in your power to correct all the wrongs you’ve done against Gabrielle.” He started walking watching as she followed him clearly in deep thought. “But I don’t need to tell you that, you are the Empress I’m sure you will do what is right, you always have it is why you are so loved as leader.”

8

Gabrielle looked around her room as she eased off her clothes throwing them to one side in a violent motion. She took in a deep breath as she stood in the centre of her room naked feeling the cold air on her body as it blew through the tattered curtains. She narrowed her gaze feeling her transformation start she raised her hand ignoring the pain as her fingers began to lengthen. No one was going to keep her from her prize in the throne room, she’d hurt anyone who got in her way! She felt the floor as she hit it on her knees closing her eyes as the pain began as it always did. It wouldn’t be long before everyone realized that she’d taken down Iona soon this whole palace would be alive with action.

She would now be a treat and it would be fitting that she died before she caused anymore harm, she felt her eyes snap open as her transformation ended. She took in a deep breath as she snarled inhumanly feeling the sound vibrate through her bigger lungs. She shook her mane of golden fur as she looked around her at her room. She slowly stood up on her hind legs walking in to the bathroom. She eyed the mirror catching sight of her velvet antlers which were now growing again and were now much bigger than yesterday. She had hoped that they’d never grow back after they’d fallen out she hated them with a passion. They reminded her that she was a failed leader among a dying race. She felt her hand form a fist as her rage started to burn once more she’d never accomplished anything as Horn Hind! She was nothing but a joke she couldn’t even fathom why she’d been picked to lead her own race as all those before her had been far better leaders than her! She didn’t think as she grabbed the heavy dolphin mirror throwing it at the other wall watching as it smashed apart sending pieces of glass flying across the room.

It was just a cruel joke just like everything else in her life! She eyed the marble flooring normally when she was this angry or deeply depressed she smoked opium because it calmed her nerves and sent her mind to other places, but even smoking it this morning had done nothing to ease her pain. The anger she felt was far too bright and far too strong for her to control. She kneeled down eyeing the decorative form of Aphrodite she didn’t think as she slammed her clawed hands in to the decorative mosaic tearing it apart as she ran her claws through it. There was no point in trying to controlling that rage anymore, she hated this place hardly anyone had been kind to her so why should she be kind back?

She eyed the now destroyed image of Aphrodite as she grabbed the heavy marble washing area which had the washing basin on it tearing it completely from place on the wall causing its bronze taps and piping to bend and buckle as water sprayed out violently from them. She didn’t think as she roared throwing the heavy marble section right in to the tub watching as it cracked down the centre with the share force of the blow which in turn caused its bronze taps to spray water everywhere.  She shook her mane before turning to the bathroom door she didn’t think as she walked through grabbing it and pulling it with all her might hearing the violent creek as it started to come away from the frame. She heard the hinges finally shatter as she pulled it free, she didn’t think as she threw it at the stone balcony watching as it hit it shattering apart.

She grabbed the curtains which she’d already tattered pulling them forcefully down hearing the crack as the heavy bronze curtain rail came loose causing it to come down smashing in to the ground destroying part of the marble floor. She turned eyeing the bed she walked up it moving her clawed hand in a lightning last motion watching as it flipped over before crashing down on the floor opposite. She felt a cold smile form as she grabbed the heavy wooden desk lifting it up slowly eyeing the double doors to her room. She forced her clawed feet in to the ground as she lined herself up with them she’d been wanting to do this from the moment she’d realized that this room was her prison!

Chara moved towards down the wide hall she’d heard the crashing sounds from Gabrielle’s room and she wasn’t the only one. Four other servants were following her she’d already heard the news that Iona had been seriously wounded by Gabrielle in battle. Frankly though she couldn’t care less about Iona she’d had, had it coming. Clearly though something very bad was going on now in Gabrielle’s room and the thought of that scared her, Gabrielle wasn’t violent by nature. She raised her hand eyeing the others. “Stay there.” She edged closer only to watch in horror as the double doors were smashed apart as a huge heavy wooden desk flew through them.

She ran back as it hit the wall opposite smashing apart before its pieces slammed in to the ground. She could see that both of the doors were now hanging of their hinges. Her gaze darted as a low inhuman growl hit as the air as Gabrielle walked out on all fours her attention drifted towards them she could see the beginnings of the horns on her head which were much bigger now. Gabrielle eyed the servants she slowly stood up on her hind legs forcing her clawed hands in to the wall hearing the stone grind as she left deep long claw marks in it. “Get out!” Chara breathed in sharply as she took a slow step forward watching as the other servants backed away the fear in their eyes. “Gabrielle please stop, you don’t have to do this!” Gabrielle stepped towards her she turned knocking one of the expensive vases of its stand watching as it shattered. “Oh and whose going to stop me you?” Chara took in a deep breath steadying herself despite her fear. “You’re scaring everyone.” Gabrielle turned eyeing the other woman. “Why should I care?”

Chara looked up slowly as she spoke keeping her voice gentle. “Because Thaleia believes you’re a good person and I agree with her.” Gabrielle moved in front of her she leaned down so their faces were almost touching. “Take a good long look at me there’s nothing good about me, I’m not even human!” Chara eyed the protruding teeth and the snout. “You know I hate Iona to, I’m glad you beat her senseless she had it coming.” She paused taking in a deep breath. “You don’t have to do this though, you don’t have to scare these people to make a point about how you feel, what the Empress did to you was terrible, you deserve better.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “You misunderstand I’m not doing this to make a point of scaring people, you people are already afraid of me, your fear and prejudice has led to my suffering while I’ve been imprisoned here!”

She raised a clawed finger. “No I’m doing this because your Empress killed someone I loved then had him stuffed and mounted in her throne room! I’m doing this for him!” She eyed the bronze ring on her other hand. “He was the love of my life and he was taken from me! What we had together was very special, he loved me for who I am, something which none of the other men and women I slept with ever did!” She stepped back knocking over another vase watching as it shattered. “I’m not doing this for me I’m doing this for him! Because he didn’t even get a proper burial worthy of the man he was!” Chara breathed in watching as Gabrielle went down on all fours running through the hall away from her the servants moved sharply getting out of her way as she ran past them, she took in a deep painful breath gods this was awful.

End of part 28

 

THRONE OF THE WARRIOR KING

 

Xena walked up the corridor which led to Gabrielle’s room she stopped as she caught sight of long deep claw marks across one of the walls as well as the shattered vases. She breathed in sharply as she caught sight of a huge broken desk which was lying on its side in pieces. The double doors of Gabrielle’s room had been smashed open and were now hanging of there hinges. She moved slowly towards the doors catching sight of the bloody painted heretic symbol on one of them. Her gaze drifted to room which had smashed up there was not a single item in the room which hadn’t been thrown or tossed. She had told Demetrius to go ahead off her and to tell him to stop his men from attacking her or firing at her instead they were to draw back along with the staff and stay clear of her.

She eyed the water which was now overflowing in to the bedroom clearly Gabrielle had really lost her temper now and had begun a rampage through the palace. She put a hand on her face taking in a deep breath, gods this was terrible, she looked up watching as Chara came towards her. She could tell that the scribe who was clearly shaken up. “What happened?” Chara looked up slightly. “Gabrielle just started smashing up her room, we couldn’t stop her Empress. I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t listen to me.” Xena looked at the room again, which was completely wrecked. “Was any one hurt?” Chara shook her head. “No Empress, all her anger was taken out on things not people.”

Xena eyed her looking at the half destroyed hall. “Did she say why she was doing this? Was it because of what I did to her last night?” Chara looked up slightly. “She said she wasn’t doing this for her, she said she was doing this for her lost love.”  She lowered her gaze sadly. “The mounted werewolf in the throne room, she said he was her lover.” Xena took in a sharp painful breath she had thought last night that Gabrielle had been crying for a friend not a loved one, which made this situation even worse. She turned to her feeling her hand shake she her other hand on it to stop it shaking. “Who killed that werewolf in the throne room?” Chara felt her eyes dart. “It wasn’t any one here Empress, the body was brought in by a traveller.” Xena eased up her hand slowly. “I need the document on that body and I need it quickly, can you find it for me?” Chara nodded. “Yes Empress, but why do you need it?”

Xena looked up slightly. “Gabrielle is doing this because she thinks I killed her lover this is her retribution, she’s destroying my palace because she wants to call me out so I’ll face her.” She looked at the long claw marks in the wall. “I didn’t kill her lover though and I want to prove it to her, I am to blame for him being mounted though and I fully intend to give her his body, I owe her that along with so much more.” Chara moved away. “I’ll get that scroll for you I’ll be back in a moment.” Xena nodded watching as she ran away from her heading for the study she eased her hand in her pocket feeling the wooden Goldfinch. She eased it out slowly looking at it. Gabrielle hid her messages in side these wooden bird’s wings, so what was hidden inside this one? She pressed on the chest watching as the wings snapped open revealing a beautifully written golden message inside, she slowly read it.

“Within my wings I give you love and want to forever see your eyes staring back at me. You are my light in the darkness my hope with in my dreams and I will always think of you Damokles and think of our love when I close my eyes in the darkness of the night.”

She felt a painful knot twist in her stomach clearly this was the message of deep love and affection. Like the kind she had once sent to her husband back in the days when she thought there relationship had been about love. Gabrielle had loved Damokles very deeply, she pressed the Goldfinches chest watching as the wooden wings snapped shut clearly she had more in common with Gabrielle than she realized. She’d lost her lover as well though he had betrayed her, while Gabrielle’s had been taken from her and all because of her hunting law. She knew now where Gabrielle was headed, she was going to the throne room she wanted Damokles’s body back. She would stop at nothing until got there she would be relentless in her pursuit, she knew this because if she was in Gabrielle’s boots she’d do the same thing.

8

Joxer sat back on his wide dark bronze throne which was surrounded by goat horns on both sides which gave it a very imposing appearance. He put his gold ringed hand to his face eyeing the small woman in front of him who had dark green eyes over shoulder length brown hair which had henna red highlights in it. Gods he loathed this little Imperial Council bitch, she was just a messenger nothing more. Adrienne eyed the Warrior King who was in his late thirties, he had a black high rimmed samurai helmet which was silver plated complete with white bull horns. The shoulder plates consisted of five heavy metal segments and a heavy four segmented chest plate which had two silver wolf heads meeting in the middle of the red flames.

He had heavy black and silver gauntlets and light black material sleeves, his leather trousers were made of the same black material. He had five segmented black plates which went up to his knees, he was also wearing heavy knee black boots and silver armoured gloves. Joxer had always had an obsession with Samurai armour and this suit was part of a gift which had been given to him, the armour had been specially made by werewolf black smiths. It was light weight much lighter than normal bronze and allowed for good movement.

Adrienne eyed him feeling her teeth grind together. “Have you forgotten, you and our race have an alliance?” Joxer narrowed his gaze as he eased his helmet off hanging from one of his thrones horns. “No I made my alliance with Gabrielle your werewolf king, not with you you’re just an annoying little bitch sent by the Imperial Council to talk for her.” He leaned back in his throne. “And I have no interest in talking to you.” Adrienne put a hand on her chest. “Well you should you bastard because I speak for Gabrielle!”  Joxer watched as his identical brother Jace stepped forward, he was wearing tight white and black leathers from head to foot. The leather shirt was sleeveless and had long hanging tassels of gold and white.

His belt was also gold and white with a heavy gold buckle, the collar off his shirt had white and gold at the edges as did his black knee high boots. He narrowed his hazel brown eyes as he spoke pulling out a curved dagger which was meant for disembowelling. “You will not speak out of turn to my brother like this, you will show him respect!” Joxer pushed his short dark hair back as he leaned forward in his throne. “It’s okay Jace.” He watched as his twin brother stepped back respecting his wish, he had already lost Jet to the Empress and he would not loose another brother. He narrowed his gaze eyeing Adrienne. “Bring Gabrielle to speak to me because her voice is that of the true king. I don’t care for your voice after all your speaking on behalf of those snivelling Imperial Council bastards, you call leaders.”

He sat back further in his throne. “Or are you going to tell me that Gabrielle’s occupied again? Like you did six months ago and then six months before that, because I’m starting to believe you don’t have a clue where she is Adrienne.” Adrienne put her hands behind her back. “Gabrielle is very busy she’s engaged in her duties as Horn Hind back in Grand City, she sent me here to speak on her behalf!” Joxer felt a cold sneer form as a silent look of understanding passed between him and his brother. “Do not insult my intelligence Adrienne, you see unlike Gabrielle you’re not honest or noble and you have no sense of honour, in fact you’re something of a lying bitch.” He eased up his elbow leaning on it. “And I’ve never trusted you in fact Gabrielle never spoke that highly off you…in fact to quote her she referred to you as the portentous, lying thorn in her side who she couldn’t stand.”

Adrienne eyed him for a long moment before speaking. “When Gabrielle is high on opium she says a lot of things she does not mean.” Joxer breathed in deeply. “Allow me to point out the fact that she was not high when she stated this. When she talks business her head is always clear, its one of the reasons I admire her so because she has so much focus on issues and she never lets it be clouded by drink or drugs, unlike you.” He looked up before speaking again. “Now I know your lying about her being busy I’ve listened to that lie for almost two years now and I’m very tired of hearing it. You’re an annoyance and today I heard the most interesting rumour that at this moment in time Gabrielle is a prisoner in the Empress’s palace in Corinth, which I find most curious. As you told me her mission in Corinth wasn’t successful but she returned unharmed, which was clearly another one of your lies.”

Adrienne blinked in surprise. “You must be mistaken I was talking to her this morning.” Joxer eyed her in disgust. “I doubt that very much, my sources are far better than your pathetic Imperial Council spies. I also know that Gabrielle never diverts from a mission and for her to not go through with the mission in Corinth there had to be some monumental reason for it, because she never gives up. She’s relentless to the end it’s a quality I admire very deeply.”

Adrienne sneered slightly. “You sound like a love sick fool Joxer, haven’t you heard she only like women?” Joxer breathed in deeply keeping calm as he eyed her. “We’ve also had that personal conversation as well my…my we are a pathetic liar aren’t we Adrienne? If I’m not mistaken she likes both genders and her last partner was a werewolf by the name of Damokles. She loved him very deeply even when he was gone from her life she never stopped thinking about him.”  He sat up eyeing her. “What’s wrong Adrienne? Are you jealous that she never gave her heart to you or that she pushed away your advances? Not that I blame her there are far better women out there than you, who she could be with who would love her as she deserves to be loved. I’m guessing if she did ever sleep with you it was just to pass the time, after all she said she used to get very bored in the Grand City.”

Adrienne turned walking away from him eyeing the other two warriors behind her. “Let’s go!” Joxer eyed her as she walked towards the double doors that led out of his underground kingdom, a kingdom Gabrielle had, had built for him out of respect and friendship. “Yes that’s right you pathetic little doggy go back to your Grand City and next time bring Gabrielle your alpha female with you!” He felt his knuckles crack as he eyed her. “If you ever come here again on your own Adrienne I’ll have my men kill you and then I’ll have my brother Jace turn you in to a pelt! I’ll also make sure that your werewolf head is mounted on my wall as a trophy!” He watched as she gave him a dirty look before vanishing from site closing the double doors behind her, what he wouldn’t give to kill her.

Jace turned eyeing his brother seeing his anger in his eyes as he leaned over. “Should I kill her for you?” Joxer turned him. “No her time will come and I swear I’m going to be there to see it.” He turned eyeing his brother as he patted his shoulder. “Go have some fun you did a great job as always.” He watched as his twin brother smiled as he walked down the steps away from his throne. He raised his hand watching as his brother turned to face him. “Be sure though to send one of ours best spies to the Empress’s palace, I would like to confirm that little rumour about Gabrielle.” Jace bowed his head respectful. “I will see it done brother.”

8

Gabrielle snarled as she smashed her shoulder against the double doors which led to the throne room they had been locked no doubt to keep her from coming in. She leapt back feeling all her clawed feet scrape the floor did these stupid bastards truly believe for a second that they could stop her? She walked back further on all fours she would not be denied! They would not keep her from what she wanted! She tensed as she got in to position eyeing the door ignoring the pain in her shoulder from her last two attempts to break through. She’d break her shoulder if it meant getting through these doors!

She snarled eyeing the empty hall, the only surprise to her had been that there had been no warriors or staff in any of the corridors it was as if they’d all been pulled back completely, no one had challenged her or even raised there weapons to her. Some how that bothered her she loathed it when things were easy, it normally meant that there was a trap involved. The Empress had probably made one no doubt there would be a whole line of archers behind this door who would fire at her the moment she got through. Not that she cared she wanted a challenge! She roared with her might as ran at the heavy oak doubles door with all her might smashing her whole body weight against it hearing a deep crack as one of the doors wood spilt violently causing long splinters to fly through the air.

She snorted moving back again ignoring the cold blood as it ran down her shoulder from where the long splinters in the shattered wood had dug in to her fur right down to skin. One more push and one of these doors would finally shatter and then she could just tear it open. She stepped back further feeling all her clawed feet tap the decorative floor as she narrowed her gaze, it would all be over soon. She didn’t think as she ran forward on all fours feeling her feet leave the ground as she smashed her shoulder in to the door watching as it shattered causing it to come open slightly. She stood up on her hind legs then put a clawed foot against it smashing it open fully watching as part of the wooden beam which had made up the shifting lock hit the decorative marble floor on the other side. The door creaked it was now hanging off it’s hinges she eased herself back on to all fours moving slowly inside the massive throne room. She looked around her suddenly feeling the confusion hit home there was no one here! Why was there no one here? It made no sense! Why were there no warriors aiming weapons at her, she’d just broken in to the most important room in the palace?

She looked up eyeing the rafter high above her seeing no one hiding in them, this made no sense! Why would they just let her in here? The Empress hated her why would she just let her destroy her palace? She lowered her gaze to the floor maybe she wanted the honour of killing her all to herself, after all that would be the greatest challenge of all wouldn’t it, for her to kill a werewolf with out anyone’s help? She moved across the floor on all fours ignoring the hanging gold banner from last nights vile little party which she’d been a part off. She tensed coming to stand where she’d stood last night when she’d been chained and forced to dance in front of the royals. She looked up instantly catching sight of what she wanted she could see it behind a golden curtain.

She stood up on her hind legs moving towards it faster grabbing the golden curtain pulling it back violently watching as her lover’s dead body came in to view. She stared at it sadly for a long moment before grabbing the chain dragging the mounted body in to the centre of the room. She looked around her seeing that no one was in the room and the second door remained closed, no one had appeared behind the second broken door ether. She eyed the broken door for a long moment, no one was attacking her? Why the hold up? She gentle eased her dead lover’s body over so it was it on the floor on its side. She didn’t think as she grabbed the wooden mount which the chain was attached to pulling it free with violent force watching as it tumbled as it came to a stop on the floor close by. She slowly went down on all fours walking forward so she could see her dead partners face as she spoke calmly not really caring that she was speaking to a mounted body. “I’ve missed you so much Damokles.” She eyed the glass eyes. “They told me that you left me for another woman who lived in another city and I believed them.”

She eased up her clawed hand eyeing the bronze ring on it, she carefully eased it free. “They were lying to me and all those years and I believed them, I shouldn’t have, as you said you’d return to me and now here you are.” She gently put a clawed hand on the larger one sliding the ring back in to place. “And now here you are and this should be returned to you, as it was always yours.” She paused taking in a deep painful breath. “I love you Damokles I never stopped loving you even when you were gone. I thought about you all the time, I kept on thinking you’d walk back through the door to my room in the Grand City. I used to watch my door thinking that it would open and you’d be standing there smiling at me.”

“You loved him very deeply didn’t you?”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as the Empress came in to view she could see a sad expression on her face she felt her body tense as her sadness turned to blinding rage in an instant. She snarled as she went down on all fours eyeing the other woman she had a nerve coming here now! She eyed her catching sight of the sword on her belt, clearly she wanted her challenge. She tensed eyeing her in utter disgust unable to stop her boiling rage. “You’ve got a lot of nerve to come here you bitch!” Xena took in a deep breath seeing the blinding rage in the green eyes as clear as day. She had told everyone not to enter the room no matter what happened she wanted to do this alone, she had caused Gabrielle so much pain and now she wanted nothing more than to put it right.

She took in a deep breath speaking once more in a calm tone. “I came here to speak to you.” Gabrielle felt herself tense as she eyed her. “You and I have nothing to talk about!” She eased her self in to position on all fours feeling a cruel smile form. “No wait I stand corrected, we have one very important thing to talk about!” She didn’t think as she came at her full force pulling herself on to her hind legs at the last second as her hand found the other woman’s throat. She slowly lifted her up watching as her feet left the floor. She smiled enjoying the look of pain in the other woman’s eyes as she both her hands found her clawed hand but she was unable to pry it loose.

Xena coughed feeling the grip tighten, her legs were both moving through nothing but air, the grip around her throat was like iron and she was finding it very difficult to breath. She watched as Gabrielle’s other clawed hand moved tearing her sword free of her belt, the golden werewolf tossed it, she heard the clattering sound as it landed close by. Gabrielle eyed the dark haired woman moving her jaws closer to her face. “Interesting feeling isn’t it? To be powerless and at some one else’s mercy wouldn’t you say?” She raised her slightly higher so she could see all her teeth. “You can’t run, you can’t hide, you just have to shut off in your mind and pretend that you’re somewhere else.”

She eyed her feeling her cruel smile widen. “But it gets harder after a period of time believe me you start to hear your own heart beat and feel the real fear of the unknown. What your feeling now is only a inclining of how I felt last night after you paraded me in front of your royal friends and turned me in to your dancing animal entertainment.” She paused seeing the uncertainty in the other woman’s light blue eyes, true she could kill her but she wanted to watch her squirm first. She wanted her to feel just how she’d felt last night. She eased her head closer feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke hearing the venom in her tone. “Tell me did you do the same thing to my lover over there before you killed him and then had him stuffed and mounted?!”

End of part 29

 

A COLD PAINFUL TRUTH WHICH BRINGS A TIDE OF PAIN

Xena coughed painfully as she felt the grip tighten she could hardly breath and every breathe that left her throat hurt and she couldn’t get free from it unless Gabrielle let her go. It was clear to her that Gabrielle wanted her to suffer, but at the same time she knew she deserved to suffer for all the pain that she’d caused this woman in these past few weeks. She looked up meeting up the enraged green gaze as she spoke as best she could “I…didn’t kill…your lover.” Gabrielle snarled eyeing her. “You lie!” Xena struggled painfully despite the iron grip. “I swear to you on my honour…that I didn’t kill him…the body was brought to me, by someone else.” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “Your honour means nothing, you have no honour!”

She felt a cold sneer form. “You mocked my pain from the very beginning it was all just a big joke to you. You even allowed that slimy little bitch Iona to mock Seraphin’s death!” Xena tried to breathe despite that it was getting harder to do so. “I’m sorry.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Your not sorry for anything, your no Empress your just another fifty Conqueror!” She leaned closer. “You know what the real pathetic thing is? I used to admire you so much, despite your hunting law. I wanted so much to be like you and be as noble as you were. You always did the right things for your people and your cities prosper through your great leadership. Yet the truth is that you’re not that person, that’s just your façade the one you show to your public. In person you’re just a cruel bitch who won’t give anyone a chance who is different from you!”

She raised her other clawed hand. “You’re just the same as everyone else you judge based on appearance, in all the time I’ve been here you’ve never spoken to me as a person, you’ve just treated me like an animal.” Xena breathed in painfully. “Your right…I did Gabrielle…I did everything wrong to you…I came here because…I want to make it right.” Gabrielle sneered as she looked at her. “You don’t get to use my name, your not my friend, to you it’s Horn Hind!” Xena stopped still feeling the pain twist in her stomach gods now she knew how it felt for someone to say that to her. It was the same tone she used on Gabrielle thrown back right in her face, she spoke again trying to ignore the pain. “I know who you really are you’re the…leader of your race…the werewolf king.”

Gabrielle eyed her. “You figured that out all by yourself, I’m flattered, I guess my growing horns must have given it away.” Xena eyed the horns which were getting bigger now. “Yes…I know who you really are…you’re the Golden Horn.” She breathed in moving her hand down pulling the scroll free of her belt she raised it up painfully so Gabrielle could see it. “Please believe me…I didn’t kill your lover…I can prove it to you.” Gabrielle eyed the document she grabbed it violently from her hand, she didn’t think as she let go of her forcefully. Xena felt the pain as her back smashed in to the wall she came down hard slamming shoulder first in to the marble floor. She coughed painfully feeling the air return to her lungs as she leaned against the wall trying to take the pain, gods her body was hurting so much now.

She looked up watching as Gabrielle eased up the scroll reading it slowly she breathed in painfully as she spoke. “Your lover…was brought in by a traveller by the name of Bastiaan six years ago. The record states that there were no stab wounds but the neck was broken and it had puncture wounds by what we believed to be teeth. Phantasos can confirm this in his records he was the one who had the body mounted.” Gabrielle eyed the scroll’s date clearly the Empress was telling the truth it was also labelled with the royal seal which was on her ring finger. She eyed the line, broken neck and puncture wounds again. Humans couldn’t break a werewolves neck and they didn’t bother trying they just stabbed them through the throat or they hung them up by their heels and then skinned them alive.

She narrowed her gaze only another werewolf could shatter another werewolf’s neck like that and leave deep punctuate wounds. She looked up feeling the rage take over once more, she knew the name of Bastiaan every well. The man was a slimy dishonourable bastard who loved power she refused to believe that a human of the same name would bring her dead lover here. She eyed the scroll clearly her lover had been murdered then brought here by Bastiaan if not murdered by him personally she felt her teeth grind together as she reread the scroll. Xena stood up slowly ignoring the pain as she walked towards her sword picking it up slowly. “I didn’t kill your partner, I swear to you, but I’m sorry that you lost him, he was clearly someone you loved very deeply.”

Gabrielle let go off the scroll watching as it fell to the floor she turned eyeing the other woman who now had her sword in her hand once more. She lowered her gaze. “Are you going to kill me now?” Xena eyed the weapon in her hand. “No.” Gabrielle felt the tears as they started to run down her face. “I really wish you would.” She felt the marble floor as she hit it on her knees. “I deserve to die, I’m no leader to my people they deserve someone better than me and once I die a new Horn Hind will take my place.” she grabbed the woman’s sword tip pulling it up to her throat keeping it there. “Just push it in quickly, my death will be instant, this was always how it was meant to end.”

Xena tensed in shock watching as the clawed hand moved away leaving the sword tip in place. “You really believe that?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully feeling the tears as they ran down her snout. “All things must come to an end it’s the will of my goddess Ouroboros, only when they end can they begin again.” Xena felt her sword hand shake, gods this was so awful she’d never heard anyone say anything like this to her before now. She took in a painful breath this woman truly wanted to die she saw it as the only way to be free from her suffering. “Is that why you want to die so you can be reborn again?” Gabrielle looked at her clawed hands. “Yes, because then I can do everything right in my next life, I might grow up happy and see the world I always wanted to and make choices that are my own.”

Xena breathed in deeply. “I don’t want to kill you.” Gabrielle looked at the floor. “Would you change your mind if I told you that I was sent to kill you two years ago?” She ignored the others woman’s surprise as she smiled sadly. “It was meant to be the Imperial Councils master plan to kill you, they believed if they got rid of you the hunting of our race would end.” She looked at her clawed hands. “I never agreed with their view point I believed it would only make things worse if you had died in that way. Do you know that I had my sword pointed at your chest? I was so close to you, I could have killed you.” Xena eyed her for a long moment before speaking. “Why didn’t you kill me? Anyone who’s even gotten that close to me would have made the killing blow.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Because you have the same eyes as my lover, every time I looked at you I saw him, even now when I look at you I see him.” She looked at the sword tip which was still in its place. “I’ll never be able to kill you even now I can’t bring myself to do it. So I’d rather you kill me instead and put an end to my misery. I’m already dead to my people and I can’t change things or make them right, so death is my only answer.” Xena lowered the sword watching as she looked up sadly. “I won’t kill you, you don’t deserve to die.” She eased her weapon back in to his scabbard. “I can’t kill you this way ether, I don’t kill people in cold blood and I owe it to you to make things right, you’ve suffered so much because of me and my staff. I know that you don’t believe me right now but I will prove it to you and I will not dishonour my word again in your company.” She turned looking at the mounted werewolf. “Please take your lovers body and bury in the customs of your people, bury him in the royal gardens in a place you’d you think he would have wanted to be buried.” She moved away slowly walking towards the door. “I’ll be back to talk to you soon I have some serious matters to attend to regarding the treatment you’ve received and I want to put them right, before we speak again.”

Gabrielle watched as she walked away she had no idea what was going on now, it all felt like a jumbled mess in her head. She had assumed that the Empress would kill her, yet she was still alive. She looked around her wiping her tears away with clawed hand she was too tired and mentally exhausted and she didn’t want to speak anymore. She turned looking at her lover’s body she just wanted to bury him now, as all werewolves believed that there souls would never be free to fly to Elysian Fields unless their bodies were buried and the fire touches lit in there honour under the moonlight. Damokles had believed in this deeply and she wanted to make sure that his soul was set free to find its way to the Elysian Fields.

8

Kalika watched as the staff peeled the potatoes which they’d use to make a potato stew. She breathed in watching as the rabbits were turned on the cooking spit. She turned watching in surprise as the Empress walked through in to the kitchen, she looked up slightly seeing a dark look in her eyes. “Empress it is a pleasure to see you here, what can I get you to eat?” Xena eyed the other staff. “Everyone is to leave right now I have a personal matter to discuss with Kalika!” Kalika watched as everyone left she swallowed suddenly feeling very nervous. “Empress?” Xena turned slightly to face the older woman. “Rumour has it that you have been doing some rather cruel things to Gabrielle.”

She folded her arm leaning against a cupboard opposite. “You burnt her personal list you put her food outside her room so it gets cold as well as putting it on the floor and worst of all you painted a heretic symbol on her door in animal blood and you had her pet killed.” Kalika smirked. “Well you turned her in to the dancing bear last night, I don’t see why what I did should matter, after all she’s just an animal.” Xena walked forward she stopped in front of the smaller woman feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke. “What I did last night was wrong! Everyone in this palace has so far told me that it was cruel and the actions of a tyrant and I agree with them. I made a bad choice and I’m not to proud of my actions in anyway.” She narrowed her gaze. “If you haven’t heard already Iona and the four men who chained up Gabrielle have been defeated by her in combat. Iona is going to spend the next two months in the healer’s room because she has a broken arm and three cracked ribs.” She breathed in sharply. “On top of that Gabrielle trashed her room and two of the palaces halls tonight. She also smashed in one of the doors to the throne room just so she could get her dead lovers back, the poor unfortunate soul I had mounted some years back.”

She leaned closer. “You remember him don’t you Kalika? After all it was you who put that idea in to my head if I remember right, you said his body should be turned in to a trophy piece!” She raised her hand. “I’ve had a very long painfully day today, probably the worst I’ve had in years and my patience is wearing very thin. So I’ll only ask this once and you better not lie to me.” She felt her teeth grind together. “You didn’t know that werewolf did you, he wasn’t related to the loss of your brother at all?” She ignored the older woman’s surprise. “Yes I know about your brother Kalika, a werewolf tour him to pieces when you were child, it’s the reason you’ve always hated werewolves.” Kalika swallowed before speaking. “He looked similar to the one who killed my brother yes, but he had different eyes, his eyes were brown not light blue.” Xena breathed in deeply. “Funny how human werewolf’s eyes are isn’t it? When you look really hard at them, they speak volumes about what the person is thinking and feeling, clearly your hated has blinded you to this fact.”

She stepped back. “From now on you’re going to bring all Gabrielle’s meals to her personally and you’re going to make sure that her plate is put on the table, you’re also going to be courteous and polite to her. Every time you do this I want you to look right in to her eyes and think about how she felt being treated in the way she has by you!” Kalika narrowed her gaze. “No I won’t do it!” Xena felt her teeth grind together. “It’s not a request it’s an order.” Kalika looked up sharply. “She is an animal it was her kind that killed my brother!” Xena stepped forward eyeing her in disgust. “No Kalika she’s not an animal she’s a young woman who got turned in to a werewolf through the actions of another werewolf, she had no choice or say in the matter!”

She felt her hand form a fist. “She was sixteen at the time probably not much older than your brother, it’s just the werewolf made the discussion to bite her rather than to tear her apart. The truly sad thing is I think she would have preferred a death like your brothers, rather than the path she’s been forced to walk down as she’s had very little say regarding her lifestyle!” She raised her hand to the other woman’s face. “She didn’t kill your brother though! Another werewolf did that and that werewolf was no doubt an evil bastard, who probably deserves to die, but she doesn’t deserve to suffer for what he did to you!” Kalika looked up finding her voice which sounded weak even to her own ears. “She doesn’t even worship the Greek gods….”

Xena put a hand on her shoulder. “Who she worships is her own choice there is no law against her not worshipping the Greek gods in my land. She believes in the goddess Ouroboros and that’s her choice, she also believes in her very strongly and she has that right. You on the other hand have no right to dictate religion in side my palace walls and if you ever paint a bloody symbol on her door again, you will be punished.”  She stepped away eyeing the cook who now looked shaken she turned sharply. “Oh and one last thing before I forget, don’t ever kill and cook up Gabrielle’s pet again and have Iona serve it to her, you have no right to kill people’s palace pets you know perfectly well that its forbidden.” Kalika raised her hand to speak only to stop as the Empress turned eyeing her she lowered her head. “Yes Empress.”

End of part 30

 

FAREWELL MY LOVER MAY YOUR SOUL EMBRACE THE HEAVENS

 

Xena eyed the afternoon sunlight which was now steaming through the studies window she carefully finished putting her armour in place. She’d heard that Gabrielle had been in the garden during what was left off last night digging out a large grave under an apple tree in the royal garden, which was where she wanted her dead lover to be buried. She hadn’t spoken with anyone else last night and she’d only stopped because the sun had risen in the sky and she’d had to take back her human form. The rumour was that she was now sleeping in Thaleia’s room as her own room had been destroyed and she had no where else to go. She had spent most of the morning rethinking where she was going to go from here on in terms of Gabrielle.

She now knew just what she was going to do she looked up watching as the door opened and Thaleia walked in the slight uncertainty in her eyes once more. She could see a rich blue and white dye on her fingers, she looked up slightly. “You’ve got paint on your fingers.” Thaleia looked at her hands. “My deepest apologises Empress…Gabrielle wanted to make a paint dye it’s for the ritual, I’ve been helping her to make it.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “Ritual?” Thaleia looked up. “Gabrielle didn’t tell me much only that the lover of the dead person has to have their fur painted in these dyes in certain colours and patterns its all to do with soul being able to free it self from the body. Five fire touches are lit around the grave to guild the soul towards the moonlight, once it finds the moonlight it can drift on to the Elysian Fields.”

Xena look in a deep breath clearly werewolves had their own burial rituals which were very different to that of humans. She looked up slightly. “How is Gabrielle?” Thaleia blinked as she looked up. “She’s seems very sad and she hasn’t said that much, she was very out of sorts when she came to my room, I don’t think she likes to impose on others.” She shook her head sadly. “Not that I blame her, I had no idea that the black mounted werewolf in the hall was her lover until I heard what had happened yesterday I thought he was her friend.” Xena looked at her hand. “Has Gabrielle talked to you about her past relationships at all?” Thaleia shook her head. “No Empress, she’s very guarded.” She felt her eyes dart. “Chara told me about her dead lover yesterday as well as her liking both men and women, but this is all I really know.” Xena leaned against her desk eyeing her. “Gabrielle’s room was destroyed I’m going to move her to the interconnecting room that attaches to mine, the one that’s never been used.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply she’d heard about this room, the Empress had an empty room attached to her own they were only separated by a central door. This second large room had a smaller room which was empty as well as its own wash room. The Empress had made it in the hope that she’d one day find someone she loved who would be a part of her life, but even to this day it had never been used, it was an empty room. She stood up slightly clearly the Empress wanted to right her wrongs she could see it in her eyes and she wanted to spend more time in Gabrielle’s company and really get to know her. “She might find it hard to be next to your room, with all that’s happened between the both of you.” Xena looked up meeting her dark brown gaze. “You know that what I like about you Thaleia, you’re very honest just like your mother.”

She folded her arms. “Which is why I called you here yesterday you told me the truth and I heard so much I didn’t know about and I see it only fit to raise your status.”  Thaleia eyed her confusion. “My status, please forgive my rudeness Empress but I don’t understand?” Xena eyed her for a long moment. “You’re going to become Gabrielle’s personal maid as you are one of the only people she trusts.” Thaleia put her hand on her chest feeling the shock hit home. “Personal maid? But Empress I’m just a cleaner I don’t have that kind of training.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “Ceto is going to take you under her wing tomorrow and begin your training, it’s already been arranged. You’re going to learn about everything involved in your duty and like Ceto who only deals with me, you’ll only deal with Gabrielle, you’ll have no other duties other than her needs.”

She looked up slightly. “Your high status will ensure that no one will ignore your words if Gabrielle wants something and you ask on her behalf your word must be obeyed. You’ll also be moved in to the room next to Ceto’s and if your mother wants she’s welcome to have the empty room opposite. I’ll also be giving your mother something very soon as a thank you for our talk.” Thaleia felt her eyes dart as she looked up. “I believe she would greatly appreciate it if you built her a schooling room for the palace children, she’s been talking about one for many years now. I think though she’s never had the courage to ask you as she feels that you have more important things which command your attention than something like this.”  Xena looked up sharply. “I’ll see then, that, that is arranged for her, I’m calling in the builders tonight as they will need to do repairs on the throne room door, the two halls and Gabrielle’s old room I’ll ensure that this is added to their list.” Thaleia nodded her head respectful. “Thank you Empress I’m sure that my mother will be most grateful for this gift.”

Xena turned slightly tapping the desk with her thumb before turning to the younger woman. “There is one other thing that is important to me and I was hoping that you could help me with it.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “What is that Empress?” Xena narrowed her gaze. “As Gabrielle’s personal maid you’ll be sworn to secrecy what ever she tells you in private must not reach the ears of the other staff unless Gabrielle allows it. As you probably know there has been a lot of gossip at late.” She eyed the wooden Goldfinch which was sitting on her desk. “Some one in the palace is not who they appear to be, the royals should have never known that Gabrielle was here, clearly they knew because some one here has been leaking information beyond my walls. I want you tell me if you witness anything like this anywhere, I can not afford to have Gabrielle’s being here to become public at this moment in time.”

Thaleia eyed her feeling the confusion take over. “Why is that?” Xena turned to face her fully. “Only a few people know this including your mother but it will not be told to the rest of the palace until a later time. Gabrielle is a royal figure among her race she’s their Horn Hind, the very word Horn Hind means king and it can refer to ether gender.” She watched as the shock filled the other woman’s face. “Gabrielle is by all accounts a king she’s the seventh king there have been six before her, it’s apparently a very ancient line. All these werewolves are special as they had the antlers of a stag, no doubt you might have seen the beginnings of her horn growths ether last night or when she was put in front of the royals.”

Thaleia breathed in sharply she had seen what the Empress was talking about last night when Gabrielle had come to her room in werewolf form but she’d had no idea what they were. “Yes I’ve seen those bone growths Empress I had no idea they were the beginning of horns.” Xena took in a deep breath. “I don’t doubt that Gabrielle’s people want her back, but it’s a very delicate situation and I need to sort things out quickly because if they think that I have captured their king they could declare war on this palace. After all Gabrielle was in the pit for two years I’m sure in all that time her people have been searching for her.” Thaleia blinked. “How do they know she’s not dead?” Xena tensed slightly. “Because only when a Horn Hind is killed, does another werewolf unrelated to them grow the horns and take their place.” Thaleia nodded as she looked up. “I understand Empress.” Xena lowered her gaze. “I have a few things to do, so please go and see Ceto she has your new robes ready for you.” Thaleia nodded as she walked towards the door. “Thank you Empress.”

8

Gabrielle looked up the moonlight she slowly dragged Damokles’s body in to the large pit she slowly eased it in taking in a painful breath as she looked at the ring on his clawed finger, before easing herself out. She began the slow process of pushing in the dirt with her clawed hand. She had, had the patterns painted on her body they were meant to represent the soul and were made up by long weaving lines which circled around each other. They’d been put on her arms, shoulders, face and legs as well as her back with Thaleia’s help. They were also reflective and very intense due to the mixture which made them stand out in the pitch black darkness. She carried on working she knew that people were gathered some distance away, not that she really cared if they wanted to watch or not.

The Empress was looking down from one of the balconies the dark haired woman was dressed in black robes. The only person who was with her was Thaleia who was in also dressed in black robes. She had helped her out so much through out this whole ordeal and for that she was grateful. She eased the grassy earth back over the dirt forcing it down with her clawed feet. Hopefully once the rains came down the grass would grow here once more hiding the grave. Damokles had always loved apple trees she had many memories of him under them in summer and he’d even told her that he wanted to be buried under a great apple tree so he could be close to nature. She stepped back watching as Thaleia passed her the four torches which she forced in to the ground around the grave.

She took the fifth one slowly lighting the others watching as they sparked as they blasted up with different coloured flames burning in to the darkness. She breathed in deeply stepping back with the fifth torch there was a reason for the thick paint, it wasn’t just decorative. She raised the touch lighting the patterns on her shoulders causing white and blue smoke to bellow outwards along with violent sparks of fire. She ignored Thaleia’s shock as she lit all the other patterns on her body watching as fire and smoke drifted out from them. This would cause her to loose her top lair of fur but she had an under layer which meant it wouldn’t burn her skin. Her fur would grow back anyway it wouldn’t take long no more than two days three at the most.

She forced the fifth torch in to the ground, she had been so lost in her thoughts today and she had no idea what to really say to her lover it felt as though nothing would be good enough. She sighed speaking the only words that really mattered in her mind. “I love you Damokles and I’ll never forget you…I hope you find peace.” Thaleia looked up watching as the blue and white smoke burnt away leaving singed patterns in the golden fur. “I think he would be happy to know that you’ve given him a proper burial.” Gabrielle turned to her raising herself fully on to her hind legs. “I hope so…I hope his soul finds the moonlight he always believed in that.”

She lowered her ears. “I really appreciate your help and you letting me stay in your room last night.” Thaleia looked up Gabrielle didn’t really say thanks that much she looked at the burning torches. “Your welcome.” She felt a smile creep across her lips. “I don’t know if you heard but you’ll be seeing me a lot more of me now, the Empress has made me your personal maid.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment before turning her gaze to the Empress above. “Has she now?” Thaleia put her hands together catching the sharp edge in Gabrielle’s voice. “She wants me to take you to your new room after you’ve finished here, she thinks you’ll like it, it’s much bigger than your last room.” Gabrielle sneered unable to keep the sarcasm out of her tone as she spoke. “I’m flattered that she’d care so much.”

Thaleia breathed in deeply. “She feels bad about what happened with the royals and she just wants to make things right.” Gabrielle kept her eye on the Empress who was stared back at her the uncertainty in her eyes. “So long as my race is being hunted for our pelts, nothing will ever change between us.” Thaleia stepped forward. “You shouldn’t be so negative Gabrielle you have to give this a chance.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “Where is my new room exactly?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “It’s opposite the Empress’s room the two rooms are interlinked by a central door.” She breathed in oh how wonderful that was the last place she wanted to be right now! Why would the woman want her that close, she didn’t even like her?

She said she’d make it up to her but this seemed insane even in her mind. May be it was just guilt she doubted it was anything more than that, she’d done a bad thing and now she was just trying to make it up to her by giving her better things. Not that she really cared ether way she would have been happy to just go back to her other room when it was fixed. Maybe in the throne room when she’d put the other woman’s sword to her throat they’d come to some form of understanding an understanding which hadn’t been spoken. She narrowed her gaze looking at the flaming torches, not all understandings were ever spoken, that was one thing she knew very well.

She was happy though that her lover had finally been buried but it had now left her with a deep and hollow feeling deep down inside as it reminded her that she had no one who really loved her. She doubted that anyone would ever love the way he had before he had been murdered. After all that kind of love only came around once in lifetime. As for Bastiaan she would make him pay for what he did to her lover, he would not get out off this one she would make sure of that. She took in a deep breath turning to meet Thaleia’s concerned gaze. “Take me to this new room.” Thaleia moved forward watching as she went down on all fours slowly following. “It’s this way.”

End of part 31

 

TO BE THE BETTER PERSON

Gabrielle opened her eyes slowly she could see the morning sun drifting in through the closed velvet curtains. Thaleia had brought her here late last night, she only really looked around the room once and then gone to sleep she’d been too tired to really care. She also had no appetite for eating she just wanted to sleep.  Yesterday she’d just slept for two hours on some fur blankets opposite Thaleia’s bed Thaleia had then brought her, her clothes from the old room so she could get dressed in the morning and then she’d helped her make the ritual paint. Yesterday and the day before just seemed like a painful blur in her mind.

She eased the thick fur cover over herself she’d actuality had a full nights sleep in this bed. That felt strange to her since she never normally had a full nights sleep due to her nightmares keeping her awake. She sat up in bed wrapping the fur cover around her body looking around her. This large room had a stone balcony which once more overlooked the royal gardens but the higher view meant that you could see the whole of the gardens not just part of it. Everything from the fountains to the forest area and up to the semi maze and if you looked down you could see the two white marble lion statues near the outward entrance. The only problem was that if she turned to her left she’d be looking right on to the Empress’s balcony which had a small wooden table and set of two chairs on it, no doubt for private guests.

In the room its self had a very large desk with a chair for no doubt for writing on much like the one she’d broken in her other room. There was another small round table and chair for eating on. The floor had a sheep skin rug as well as well as a tiled mosaic of a large yellow and orange sun with its rays moving drifting to each corner of the room. The bed unlike her other one had four posts and thin white material curtains which hung down and flowed with the light breeze. The bathroom was much bigger than the other one and had a deep set white marble tub and washing basin as well as bronze taps with silver decoration on them. The mirror was large and round and wall hanging rather than free standing it had silver griffins around its edges whose eyes were made of green sapphire.

It was separated by a curtain and not a door and the tiled floor was the image of ocean waves, strangely though there was another room a small room which was the same size as the Empress’s study but it was empty as if it hadn’t been finished apart from its floor which was black and showed the star constellations and the moon.  She groaned leaning back on her pillows as she put her hand through her hair which was now two thirds of the way to touching her shoulders. Her fringe was over grown and would need cutting back she looked up sharply hearing a knock on her outer door she took in a deep breath before speaking. “Come in.” She watched as Thaleia walked in she was wearing a new set of pure white robes complete with a golden belt which signified her new status. Thaleia breathed in the uncertainty in her eyes as she walked up to Gabrielle’s bed in her hands she was carrying the other woman’s chest which had her personal items in it she carefully laid it on the desk before looking up. “Good morning Gabrielle did you sleep well?”

Gabrielle eyed the room as she pushed the side curtain on her bed further back so she could see her fully. “Yes.” Thaleia eyed the chest. “I made sure to bring up your personal items from your old room I thought you’d like them.” She opened the wooden box gently easing out the wide scroll. “I brought your agreement as well.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze she didn’t care about the agreement and she didn’t want to see it. Thaleia eased out a scroll piece from her pocket she really hoped she had this right Ceto had gone over this with her last night. She had to ask what Gabrielle wanted for breakfast then ask her what changes she’d like to have done to her new room, or was it the other way around? Gods this was so difficult she had so much to pick up and learn and she hadn’t even started yet. She had five scrolls to read and she had to learn how things were set out and how they were cleaned. She had to learn about Gabrielle’s preferences what she liked what she didn’t like and what she wanted.

Gabrielle eyed the other woman seeing the conflict in her eyes. “Are you okay?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “I’m just new to this I have so much to learn.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Take your time I’ve never had a personal maid before, it’s new to me.” She lowered her gaze she’d had an adviser once but she had no happy memories of being in her company, she was a dishonourable bitch and she’d never trusted her. She looked up eyeing Thaleia, she trusted this woman though and there was something very comforting about that. Thaleia eased up the scroll piece feeling a smile form. “I believe I’m meant to ask what you’d like for breakfast.” She eyed her scroll. “Then I take down your list of things you need…then I believe I’m meant to ask you about what you’d like in the spare room.”

Gabrielle eyed the empty room. “Why would I want anything in the spare room?” Thaleia looked at the room. “The Empress sent me a message this morning that you can turn that room in to what ever you want it to be, be it a study a workshop, or just a store room for keeping things you like.” Gabrielle put a hand on her face. “I don’t know what I want that room to be.” Thaleia looked at her empty parchment. “What do you want it to be?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she looked up half in deep thought. “I want a work desk and wood carving tools and for all of them to be high grade, any thing less just won’t cut wood or craft it well.” Thaleia slowly wrote down what she wanted. “I’ll see that it’s brought here for you.”

Gabrielle raised her eyebrow. “Don’t trouble yourself I doubt what I ask for will be brought here.” Thaleia looked up sharply. “With my new position, no one is allowed to disobey anything written by my hand. What ever you want or ask for I will see that you get it, I promise you that Gabrielle.” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “Don’t make promises that you can not keep.” She looked up slightly. “I’m grateful though that you’d try to get these things for me regardless.” Thaleia moved forward looking at her friend for a long moment. “Thank you Gabrielle.” She breathed in deeply. “What would you like for breakfast?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I’m not hungry right now.”

Thaleia turned easing up what she written. “I’ll go and talk to someone about this I’ll be back soon.” Gabrielle nodded watching as she left the room closing the door behind her. She pulled herself out of bed ignoring the faded scar marks on her shoulder chest and back painting the patterns of serenity they would remain for a day or more then they’d heal up completely as was custom. She moved in to the bath room running the cold water from one of the brass taps, before splashing it on her face. She scrubbed in the water breathing in sharply feeling how cold it was, she carried on washing her body she turned grabbing her clothes which had been washed and freshly laid out no doubt while she was sleeping.

She breathed in carefully putting on her underwear and thick socks followed by her shirt and her trousers then carefully eased her feet in to her boots then she did up her shirt buttons. She grabbed a comb carefully brushing her hair, frankly she couldn’t wait till it grew back to full length and was over her shoulders once more. At least then it would hide the scar better on her right eyebrow, she moved back in to the room only to stop as she caught sight of the Empress standing just in side her door way, she could see a guilty look in her eye as she adjusted her silver armour shoulder plate, she felt her teeth grind together as she eyed her.

She picked up her pipe from the table pushing the coltsfoot deeper in to it then she slowly lit it using the candle. She carefully put it in her mouth as she looked up not caring for her cold tone. “What do you want?” Xena took in a deep breath she knew this wouldn’t be easy and up till now she had been avoiding this all morning because she knew just how difficult it would be. She looked up slightly watching as Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe before speaking. “I wanted to see how you were settling in to your new room.” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. “It’s a nice room its unfortunate that its next to yours, did you put me in here to keep a closer eye on me this time?” Xena looked down slightly. “No I wanted to get to know you better I think you deserve that considering how badly I’ve treated you.”

Gabrielle sat herself down in the chair opposite the small table breathing out the smoke from her pipe. “So I guess this means more talks another contract agreement, another person to watch over me while we chat since I made Iona bed ridden.” Xena took in a deep breath, gods this going to be even harder than she’d first thought. “Please can I have the agreement we made.” Gabrielle eyed the piece of scroll which Thaleia had laid on the table, she picked it up tossing it to the other woman watching as she caught it, she might have known this was going to happen the Empress just wanted to rewrite it. Xena slowly eased the parchment open. She looked at her own writing for a long moment the agreement was nether fair nor honourable it was one sided and shamefully and she hadn’t stuck to it. She walked over to the lit candle easing it up from Gabrielle’s table she eyed the scroll before setting it alight watching as the fire started to spread. “My agreement was nether, fair nor honourable.” She watched as it carried on burning. “From now on there will be no more agreements or contracts between us.”

Gabrielle watched as the Empress dropped the scroll as it burnt away completely she tensed sharply. “What does this mean? I can leave, no wait you’d never allow that, I am after all a king and too much of an asset to you.” Xena lowered her gaze. “No you are not an asset to me and are now free to leave if you wish you will not be hunted or touched by anyone I’ve already sent out the order.” She paused before speaking again. “I would like you to stay though so that we can talk through the hunting law.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form. “What possible interest would you have in the hunting law?” Xena looked at the burning scroll. “I want to talk with about ending it and I want to draw up a new scroll regarding it.” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “You’re only doing this because you found out that I’m a royal figure, not because you care. After all if it ever got out that you chained me up and paraded me around in front of your royal guests the whole werewolf race would rise up against you in a heart beat.”

Xena breathed in painfully. “No that is where you misunderstand I did a terrible thing to you and I want to make everything right. From now on I want us to speak to each other because you want to, not because I want you to. There will be no guards no more rules no more unfair treatment you can come and go as you please and no one on my staff will treat you like they have ever again.” She took in a sharp breath. “You deserve better.” Gabrielle studied her for a long moment feeling a sense of uncertainty take over. “Why the sudden change of heart?” Xena looked down slightly. “Because I treated you like a monster, but you are anything but a monster I see that very clearly now.”

Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Oh really and what makes you say that?” Xena stepped forward. “Even when you’re angry even when you had the opportunity to cause so much pain and suffering you made the choice not to. I think deep down you would rather suffer than bring about suffering to others who can’t defend themselves I’m guessing you could have killed Iona but that’s not your way, you pride yourself on honour and truth.” She moved towards the door that separated both rooms opening it carefully. “I would really like to get know you for who you really are and not what I labelled you as.” She looked down for a moment before looking up. “I doubt they gave you the title Golden Hind just because it’s the colour of your fur.” Gabrielle looked up sharply feeling the surprise take over. “What do you care about my title?”

Xena turned meeting her green gaze. “Phrixus translated the part of the scroll which was about you, he told me that that they called you that because of what’s in your heart.” She looked up slightly. “I hope that you’ll come and talk to me when you feel ready, I would like to know how you became the Horn Hind of your people.” Gabrielle watched as she closed the door behind her, she tensed she hated feeling out of sorts it was a feeling she really wasn’t used to. She eyed the remains of the burnt scroll clearly now there was now no agreement at all which confused her. She honestly couldn’t tell though if this was a trick or if it was truly sincerer. She frankly didn’t want to speak to the other woman right now least of all about herself but if she wouldn’t lie she wanted to end the hunting law she wanted that more than anything. She just couldn’t tell if the offer was genuine though she took in a deep breath putting her hand on her godly pendent everything was still so messed up in her head right now. She had truly expected the Empress to end her life in the throne room yesterday yet today she was alive and the other woman had let her bury her dead lover none of it made any sense.

8

Iona groaned as she opened one eye only to close it again as the sharp light penetrated her sight. She slowly opened both eyes trying to ignore the stinging pain of her body as she looked at the room about her. She was lying in the healer’s bed in the healer’s room she looked down realizing that she was naked and under a thick fur cover her chest had been wrapped in bandages as had her arm she shifted only to feel the intense pain in her limbs.”

“Ah no moving, you’ll make it worse!”

She turned eyeing Phantasos who was standing close by. “Oh gods no, tell me I’m not stuck in this room with you?” Phantasos eyed the thick herb paste he’d crushed up in a small wooden bowl. “As always your lack of manners is most annoying Iona.” Iona felt her teeth grind together. “Screw you.” Phantasos raised an eyebrow as he turned to her. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you’re going to be here for two months or maybe more until you’re fully healed.” He eyed her. “Your also need a very strict diet to help your bones heal, Gabrielle did after all break three of your ribs and your arm. You should be glad though that it was a clean break, it means you’ll be able to fight again.”

Iona narrowed her gaze. “Tell me the Empress killed that stupid over grown dog.” Phantasos eyed her in disgust. “No actuality she didn’t kill Gabrielle in fact she’s doing everything to ensure that she’s now treated better.” He moved forward raising the cover ignoring her surprised look as he rubbed the thick paste in to her deep wounds which he’d lightly stitched he watched as she winced painfully. “You’re going to have some nasty scars, but you’ve got plenty as it is so three more won’t make much difference.” He pulled the cover back down. “Clearly Gabrielle is much better than you are in battle, it seems that you’ve finally met you match.” Iona rolled her eyes. “Leave me alone go bother some one else.” Phantasos looked up as hard knock sounded on the door. “Come in!” He stood up slightly as Chara and Demetrius walked in to the room. “Ah it’s good to see you both.”

Demetrius eyed Iona. “Good to see you to Phantasos is it okay if we both speak with Iona alone for a minute it’s very important?” Phantasos moved over to the bowl washing his hands as he eyed Demetrius. “Of course I’ll leave you alone with her.” He moved towards the door carefully opening it. “Do be gentle she’s in a rather temperamental mood.” Demetrius watched as he left closing the door, he took in a deep breath before speaking watching as Chara pulled up a scroll getting ready to write on it. She sadly had to do this it was palace procedure when someone lied the reasons for there lie had to be jotted down so the Empress could read it before they received their punishment. “I’m very disappointed in you Iona.”

Iona sneered looking away. “Oh please you’ve been waiting for this for years, a chance to see me fall so you can laugh at me.” Demetrius breathed in deeply. “No Iona I never wanted this I’ve always respected you, though I don’t respect your methods their cruel and your actions in front of the royals though were the most cruel I’ve ever seen, but that is not why I’m here.” He narrowed his gaze. “You lied to the Empress about Gabrielle and now I’m here to find out why.” Iona breathed in trying to ignore the stinging pain in her lungs. “Oh so that it.” Demetrius leaned forward. “Don’t make this harder than it already is Iona, if you tell the truth now you may avoid punishment altogether.”

Iona eyed Chara. “Why are you here?” Chara eyed her quill. “To take notes its palace procedure.” Iona eyed her in disgust. “Yeah right, you know I know about you and your little servant girl lover Evadine, do you think that things like that don’t slip past me Chara?” Chara turned sharply feeling the anger take over how dare she say this! Her relationship with Evadine was none of her business. “You stay away from my lover you bitch!” She ignored Demetrius’s surprise as she eyed the other woman. “If you go near her I’ll break your face, do you hear me!?” Demetrius raised his hand sharply. “Stop this, both of you!” He watched as Chara stepped back the anger still in her eyes. “This is about you not telling the truth Iona your not here to insult others or their partners.”

Iona looked up sharply. “Okay fine I’ll tell you why I lied about Gabrielle because Gabrielle is an animal and we should be using her to gain power, not keeping her as a house pet! I wanted the Empress to be mad at her, I wanted her to loose her temper with her because I knew it was the only way I might obtain what I needed which was to get a wound from her when she’s in werewolf form.” Chara finished writing on the scroll before looking up. “Thank the gods you didn’t succeed because the thought of you become like Gabrielle turns my stomach.” Iona eyed her feeling her teeth grind together. “Oh and why is that?” Chara looked at the scroll. “Because Gabrielle has discipline and restraint something you clearly lack if you were like her you’d truly be a vile monster.”

Iona pulled herself up slightly despite the pain. “Tell me Chara wouldn’t you want that kind of power, wouldn’t you want to have it all, be more than just a pathetic little scribe?” Chara looked up slightly. “Power doesn’t interest me Iona, it never has I like being a scribe, I enjoy my position here in this palace I have no interest in rising up the ranks I’m happy where I am.” She breathed in deeply. “Clearly you’ve never been happy, as you always want more.”  She turned rolling up the scroll eyeing Demetrius. “Excuse me I need to take this to the Empress.” Demetrius nodded watching as she left closing the door behind her he turned to meet Iona’s gaze. “I agree with her you must be very unhappy in your life for you there must be a gapping hole which clearly you want to fill with power.”

He shook his head sadly. “Your better than this Iona I know you are, I don’t know what’s happened to you ever since Gabrielle came here you’ve changed in to such cruel person obsessed with a pipe dream of having power and gaining it in such a cruel way.” He stepped away from her. “I don’t need to tell you how this will go, the Empress my take away your high rank at best or worse you’ll be flogged for lying.” He lowered his gaze. “Frankly I hope you receive nether, your beating has been punishment enough and she may pardon you.” He walked towards the door opening it ignoring her surprise and confusion. “I hope that the next few months in bed give you time to rethink and revaluate your life I also hope that you find a way to end your need for power, because it is turning you in to someone your not.” Iona sneered watching him go, she didn’t need to change she was fine she’d always been fine! She didn’t need to change not for anyone!

End of part 32

 

ALL YOU NEED AND ALL YOU WANT

Xena eyed the clothes which Ceto had brought in they weren’t for her they were all for Gabrielle a whole wardrobe full just as she should have received when she’d first gone to her room but hadn’t due to Kalika burning her list ensuring that she got nothing she asked for. She eyed Ceto who had laid the clothes out in front of her as she put a hand on her chin. “So these are all her size?” Ceto nodded as she looked up. “I asked Chara for the measurements then went to the market based on what Thaleia told me about her clothing habits and got all the clothes you requested. Of course I got hold of three more pairs of black boots but I put them in her cupboard next door as I thought that you only wanted to see the clothing.”

Xena nodded walking up to the bed putting her hand on the collar of one of the shirts which was made from fine Egyptian cotton and silky to the touch. “You’ve done a really good job Ceto I’m impressed, I know what asked off was a lot in and I gave you very little notice.” Ceto nodded calmly. “You’re welcome Empress it is always a pleasure to serve you.” Xena turned meeting her gaze. “Tell me Ceto how is Thaleia settling in?” Ceto looked up slightly. “She’s doing well though she’s a little slow but that’s not surprising there is an awful lot to learn. Being some ones personal maid is not just about cleaning and laying out their clothes its about learning about their personal habits and what they like and what makes them happy.”

She felt a smile form. “I think in that sense she’s already halfway there Gabrielle sees her as a friend from what I’ve witnessed.” Xena took a sip from her goblet before placing it on the table. “What do you think off Gabrielle?” Ceto blinked feeling unsure as to where the Empress was going with this. “I think she’s nice when she’s in human form but I won’t lie I find her other form slightly scary, not in the way she acts as she’s clearly gentle but those big protruding canine teeth on her upper and lower jaw they scare me a little.” Xena sat herself down in the chair opposite. “Did you hear about what I did to her in front of the royals?” Ceto felt her eyes dart. “Yes Empress my understanding is that Iona manipulated you in to the deed, as you were drunk.” Xena smile sadly running her finger over the goblets rim. “That is only a half truth Ceto I am to blame for my actions as I let them happen regardless of whether I was drunk or not.”

She looked up slightly. “It was my own misunderstanding of Gabrielle which led to that moment I saw a monster and not a person and I treated her as such and allowed others on my staff to abuse her. I even called her a liar when clearly she was the honest one and Iona was the one lying to make her look bad.” She breathed in painfully. “What troubles me the most is that night when I had her chained up and completely at my mercy she said the words, hail the Conqueror to me.” She turned her maid who now looked clearly shocked. “Tell me the truth Ceto have I started to become a Conqueror since I left Rome?”

Ceto breathed in deeply. “No Empress I don’t see you as Conqueror you have always been a good person who has done things right for others. I think with Gabrielle you just lost your way, but then saying that I think most people in the palace did. We all made mistakes regarding Gabrielle and no one expected her to loose her temper in the way she did and destroy her room among other things.” Xena leaned on her elbow. “Did you ever hear the story of the werewolf who met a young girl in the woods who was going to grandma’s house and played nice?” Ceto nodded. “Yes Empress the werewolf went ahead of the girl, he killed and ate her grandma then dressed in her clothes and then played at being her, when the girl saw through his disguise he killed her and ate her as well.”

Xena looked up breathing painfully. “Do you know that when I first saw Gabrielle all I could think about was that fairy tale and how she’d manipulate me and deceive me? I even got to the stage of believing that her emotions weren’t real and all fake, it made it easy for me to be unkind to her, but when I saw her crying in submission in the throne room I realized that the monster wasn’t her it was me.” She looked up slightly. “I realize now that that fairy tale has no truth the werewolf in that story was evil because he was evil as a person. There could be another werewolf just like him who is kind and wouldn’t go around tricking young girls because he’d see it as wrong. It’s clear to me now that I can’t judge any werewolf based on their appearance I have to judge them based on who they are as people and if Gabrielle is anything to go by they are intelligent beings with a strong sense of self who feel pain and happiness just as we do.”

She narrowed her gaze. “Clearly there are some very cruel werewolves out there but they are evil by personal choice and Gabrielle is not one of them.” She turned as a knock sounded from inside the study she turned to Ceto. “Thank you for your thoughts.” Ceto nodded respectfully. “Always a pleasure, Empress.” Xena walked in to her study eyeing the door. “Come in.” She watched as Demetrius walked in the uncertainty in his eyes. She eyed him. “How can I help you?” Demetrius shook his head sadly watching as she closed the door to her room he raised the scroll in his hand. “Here is the scroll about Iona’s reasons for lying to you.”

Xena took the scroll slowly from his hand reading it feeling the concern hit home as she looked up. “She wanted me to kill Gabrielle, so she could obtain her power and become like her?” Demetrius nodded sadly. “Yes Empress, clearly she has become very disillusioned it’s very saddening as she has always been loyal to her causes and has never lied like this before.” Xena put a hand on her face. “What am I going to do with her Demetrius? I know she should be flogged for this, I know that’s the punishment for undermining me but when I imagine having her strung up in front of the whole army and being flogged I can see her becoming my enemy and that’ the last thing I want.”

Demetrius stepped forward it was very rarely that the Empress asked for his advice but he could see her concern over this issue. He took in a deep breath. “In my opinion Empress she has already been punished when Gabrielle defeated her in battle and broke her bones. I feel she should be pardoned on the condition that she is not allowed to interfere with you or Gabrielle ever again.” He paused putting his hand on his sword hilt. “If Gabrielle is to be watched during your talks I want to be involved as Iona’s judgement has clearly been clouded by her need for power.” Xena shook her head before looking up. “My agreement with Gabrielle is over, she has full freedom now and I want her to speak to me when she wishes.” Demetrius felt a smile form. “I heard that you sent out the order that if she leaves she is to be unharmed.” Xena took in a deep breath. “Yes I did and I’m surprised that she’s stayed after what I did to her.” Demetrius folded his arms as a thought crossed his mind. “Maybe she stayed because Thaleia is her friend.”

Xena raised an eyebrow. “You think she’d stay for one person?” Demetrius looked up slightly. “I think so yes but also I have a gut feeling that she’s here because she wants to be. Even if she is a royal the way I see it, is if she wanted to go back to her people she would have left the moment you said she could but she has chosen not to which tells me that she has things here that matter to her.” He put on hand on his beard. “Perhaps we have something here that she’s never had.” Xena eyed the empty scroll which she’d started writing on. “I hope your right because I need her to stay I want the hunting law to end and I’ve started write up the agreement but I need her seal to finalize it and I want her here by my side to help me.” Demetrius turned to meet her gaze. “Do you think she’ll sign it?” Xena shook her head. “In all honesty no, I doubt she even trusts me now and I have a long way to go to gain that trust back.” Demetrius looked up slightly. “I’m sure you can do it, you have always been a good leader.” Xena leaned against her desk putting down the scroll feeling the need to change the subject. “I agree with your view on Iona.”

She took in a deep breath. “Gabrielle has punished her enough and she’ll be pardoned with certain conditions but this now leaves us with a problem I don’t have some one of her calibur to protect me during meetings until she’s well again. The others in her unit at the least the ones that aren’t out doing what’s needed for the kingdom just don’t have her talent.” Demetrius slowly turned to her. “Oh I beg to differ I think you have the perfect person, she right in the room next door. Even I won’t lie the fact that she injured Iona as seriously as she did shows that she’s very skilled.”

Xena looked up. “You’re talking about giving Gabrielle weapons?” Demetrius felt a smile form. “She is a warrior by nature and appears to be honourable to her word. If you give her weapons you’ll be showing her that you trust her.” He turned towards the study door. “Who knows it may even be the thing you need to begin the long process of working through your documentation with her.” He slowly opened the door. “I’ll give you time to think on it Empress, I have to go and do my duties.” Xena moved to sit in her chair watching as he met her gaze. “Thank you Demetrius.” Demetrius nodded walked through the door. “You’re welcome Empress.” Xena looked up watching as he closed the door behind him, she leaned forward putting her hands together as she eyed the document on her desk gods she had a lot to think about now and she had no idea where to begin.

8

Gabrielle slowly moved through the corridor on all fours shaking her mane she’d taken as small walk tonight she couldn’t be bothered with anything more than that. The only good thing about this new room was that there were a number very empty corridors which she could walk around with out any one even seeing her apart from the guards, as far as staff went it was empty. She moved up the corridor opening the door to her room watching as Thaleia looked up, she was laying out her clothes for tomorrow. She stood up slowly on to her hind legs watching as the young woman looked around a smile appearing on her face as she spoke. “Sorry I was just finishing cleaning your room, it just took a little longer than I thought it would, I thought that I’d be finished before you got back from your walk.”

Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “It’s no problem.” Thaleia eyed her friend she’d been looking forward to this moment. “All the things you requested on your list came through the Empress even double checked it and added a few things.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply great this was just what she didn’t need right now. “What did she add?” Thaleia moved over to the cupboard opening it looking at all the new clothes inside which included shirts, trousers, boots and one or two dresses. “She got you lots of new clothes.” Gabrielle moved forward eyeing the clothing for a long moment clearly the Empress was feeling guilty hence why she’d given her this gift. She turned away walking past Thaleia. “It’s a nice sentiment of her guilt.” Thaleia blinked hearing the slight edge in her friend’s voice. “I disagree I think it shows that she wants to make things better between you.” She moved over to the other room carefully opening the door watching as the new work desk came in to view complete with wood tools, a chair and lots of parchment to draw on along with quills. There were many bottles of wood paint in many different colours.

There was even a pile of wood close by ready for use. “The desk is beautiful and the tools are high quality just as you asked for.” Gabrielle moved forward looking inside the room there was everything she had requested, she staring at the wood carving tools she hadn’t expected anything she’d put down on the list least of all this. She moved slowly forward putting a clawed finger on one of the tools eyeing the fine edge which was made from high grade bronze. She turned watching as Thaleia walked in to the room. “The Empress honoured my request?” Thaleia moved forward so she was standing next to her. “Yes she did.” She paused before looking up. “So you are a carpenter?”

Gabrielle picked up one off the tools looking at it before putting it down. “Yes my father was a carpenter he taught me everything I know before I became a werewolf. Despite that I became a warrior I never stopped doing wood carvings it was always my favourite hobby next to watching birds.” Thaleia moved to stand next to the desk watching as she eased her clawed hand away from the tools. “It’s nice that you have hobbies, my mother was worried that you had none she was asking how you were feeling today I told her that you were feeling better.” She paused moving over to the chair opposite pulling up a very large light brown skirt which was cut at both sides for leg movement as well as a cut at the back for tail movement. It also had a thick dark brown leather belt which was adjustable her mother had spent the past two days putting this together in her spare time she looked up. “She wants you to come to meet the children in the palace school in your werewolf form.”

Gabrielle moved back in to her main room watching as the young woman followed her, she sat herself down on the bed flicking her tail over the tattered material cloth she was wearing. “Why would she want me there like I am now? I’d just scare the children and I doubt their mothers would want that.” Thaleia moved forward. “She’s already talked with the children’s mothers and there perfectly okay with you coming to visit.” Gabrielle raised a clawed finger about to speak only to stop as she caught the wanting expression in her friends face. “Okay fine I’ll go.” Thaleia moved forward. “She’ll be so happy you said yes.” She raised the skirt with its thick dark brown belt. “She also made this for you, frankly she hates that you have to wear that tattered thing to cover up and I agree with her.”

Gabrielle eyed the light brown Hessian skirt with it thick heavy dark brown belt as she took it from her hand. “She made this for me?” Thaleia smiled as she stepped back she could see Gabrielle’s surprise and from what she knew of her she didn’t normally show any form of surprise about any thing, she felt a smile form. “She made everything but the belt I ordered that in for you, but my mother can adjust it if it doesn’t fit.” Gabrielle eyed the sowing it was so fine it brought back a faint memory of home of when her mother used to sit by the fire sowing her clothes. She felt the pain as it entered her chest as she stared at it. “Would you and your mother like some gold pieces for this, I have some in my chest?” Thaleia pushed the clothing closer to her as she pushed it forward. “No Gabrielle it’s a gift we don’t want anything for it, we both made it just for you.”

She paused seeing the confusion in the forest green eyes she stepped closer to her friend as a thought crossed her mind. “Haven’t you ever had a gift before?” Gabrielle eyed the skirt as she put it on her lap looking at it. “The only gift I’ve ever received was the ring which my lover gave me, but I returned that to his hand before I buried him.” She lowered her head sadly. “Everything else I received in my life I worked for.” She looked up slightly. “Apart from when I was young when my father used to give me little sweet gifts from time to time.” Thaleia looked up catching sight of the pain in the green eyes. “Where are your family Gabrielle are they still alive?”

Gabrielle felt herself tense. “There still alive but where they are doesn’t matter all that does matter is that their happy.” Thaleia raised her hand. “Don’t you think they’d be happier if they knew that you were alive?” Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she looked up. “Could we please drop this topic, I really don’t want to talk about it?” Thaleia stepped nodded clearly Gabrielle still needed more time to adjust before she became more open. Gabrielle put a clawed hand on her face she hadn’t meant to say that so harshly. Thaleia was the first real friend she’d had in a very long time, her mother was also very kind to her and the last thing she wanted was to be disrespectful to her daughter because she was being temperamental. “I don’t mean to be short with Thaleia I just don’t like talking about my family.”

Thaleia moved closer a part of her had wanted to do from the first day she’d first seen Gabrielle in werewolf form, she moved her hand putting it on her shoulder feeling the fur which was soft to the touch and felt silky. “It’s okay Gabrielle.” She pulled away watching as Gabrielle looked at her slightly oddly as if she was slightly conflicted by the fact she’d touched her in this form but wasn’t sure what to say. “What would you like for dinner?” She eased out the small piece of parchment from her pocket trying to make her friend feel more comfortable. “You know I heard that last night they brought in pheasant and rabbit.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “They have rabbit?” Thaleia raised an eyebrow clearly that had perked her interest. “Yes they do I can get them to cook you some rabbit stew if you want?” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “I’d like that a lot.”

End of part 33

 

 

TO SEE A DEEPER MEANING

Gabrielle took a deep breath from her pipe she blew out the dark smoke watching as it flowed through the air. She eased up the wooden piece she was working on cutting in to it deeply with one of her tools. She had missed the rich smell of wood and oils as well as the sweet smell of paint powder, which had to be mixed with egg yolk which would turn it in to a thick paste which could be painted on to the wood’s surface. She carried on carving in to the wood putting one boot on the desk in side the small work room. She moved her other hand twisting the scroll around which she’d sketched on eyeing the small sitting griffin figure which she’d mapped out, it would be a gift for Thaleia as a thank you for the shirt and thick belt which she could now wear in her other form.

As soon as she’d finished this she’d make a figure for her mother, she wasn’t a writer but she did know how to sketch and she understood how cogs and mechanisms worked as well moving parts. She eyed the wooden Black Cap on the desks side table which had wings which you could open and close just by pressing its chest. It was based on an inner spring mechanism which had taken her two years to perfect. Pressing on the bird’s chest put pressure on the miniature spring which in turn forced the wings open. Once you pressed the chest area again the pressure was eased and the wings would close. It was a design concept which she had always been very proud off.

She carried on carving turning the wood eyeing the part which would the griffins head she hated to admit it to herself but it was nice to be able to do her favourite hobby again. She found working with wood more relaxing than anything else it was one of the few times when she could  just shut off and focus on the task at hand and not think about anything else. She breathed in her pipe again eyeing the sun shine which was coming in from the open window opposite her new work desk when she looked out she could see the royal gardens bellow. She could also hear the laugher from the children who were playing a game while Fedora watched them closely.

She breathed out the smoke from her pipe trying to ignore the pain as it rose in her chest, something about them playing reminded her off home when she’d been growing up. She had vivid memories of playing ball with sister and the other children in the village in the hot summer sun before what remained of her child hood had been taken away from her. She looked down as she carried on carving the griffin’s head she didn’t know why she was still here, she had been told she could leave yet she couldn’t bring herself to walk through those palace huge gates which would lead her through Corinth and back to the werewolf city she called home, truth was she had nothing out there to go back to.

Somehow she felt safer here despite what she’d suffered here she at least had two genuine friends. Fedora and Thaleia both cared about her they were the first people she’d met in a long while who had been kind to her. She didn’t want loose that she didn’t want to go back to feeling truly alone in her life, she hated that feeling of being miserable and depressed. As far as she was concerned two real friends was far better than having no friends at all and she’d stay here for them if nothing else. She didn’t care that they were humans it wasn’t as though she’d ever agreed with the Imperial Councils view of humanity. For most of her life she’d had to put up other werewolves trying to drill in to her that having a moral compass made her weak, in her view her honour and her morals were the thing that made her human even if she wasn’t human.

“Do you like your new desk?”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as the Empress came in to view behind her she felt herself tense as she put down the wooden piece she was carving. Didn’t this woman ever knock? She eased the pipe out of her mouth as she breathed out the smoke meeting her light blue eyes, which matched Damokles so perfectly that she found them so hard to ignore. She lowered her gaze not wanting to look in to them anymore. “Was there something you wanted Empress?” Xena breathed in painfully once more she was being tolerated by Gabrielle, she could tell even by the sound of her voice that she didn’t want her here in the room at all. She lowered her gaze now she knew how it felt every time had Gabrielle had entered her study.

She hadn’t seen her and she really wanted to speak to her, she wanted to start over again but she now realized that it could only come from her side. Gabrielle was not going to come to her room or speak to her and despite that she’d seen her in werewolf form last night walking the palace gardens, but the moment Gabrielle had seen her she’d walked in the other direction clearly avoiding her. She eased up her hands. “I really wanted to speak to you.” Gabrielle eased up the wooden piece she picked up the carving blade moving it across the head of the griffin. “I’m busy.” Xena took a slow step forward eyeing the wooden piece she was working on she could already see what looked like a break and part of the head. “What are you carving?”

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow. “What do you care?” Xena eyed the wooden piece gods she was making this hard for her. “I was interested because its looks good, I can see its head and its ears, who is it for?” Gabrielle eyed her in disgust. “It’s not for you, so don’t flatter yourself.” Xena looked up sharply feeling the pain in her chest that remark was so cutting. She knew that Gabrielle was very good carpenter and if her birds were anything to go by she also had an understanding of mechanisms, springs and moving parts. She loved her Goldfinch even though it wasn’t hers she looked down sadly but that was why she’d really come here to return it. As it had never been intended for her, it belonged to Damokles and though he was dead she had no right to keep it.

Truth was she’d been putting this off because she really didn’t want to give it back, she’d in a way fallen in love with it. She also knew that once she gave it back she’d never see it again and she highly doubted that Gabrielle would ever make her one like it. Clearly they were special things which she only made for those she loved deeply. She eased her hand in her pouch as she came to stand next to the younger woman who carried on carving as if she wasn’t there. She eased the small Goldfinch out opening her hand so she could see it. “I came here to return this to you.” Gabrielle felt herself freeze in mid motion as she stared at the Goldfinch in the dark haired woman’s open hand.

She slowly put down her wood carving blade as she turned her chair to look at it she had assumed that this piece had been lost or stolen and that she’d never see it again. She eyed the taller woman who remained still feeling her eyes dart. “Where did you get this?” Xena eyed the wooden bird. “It was in your chest of items.” She breathed in sharply. “I took it, which was wrong of me.” Gabrielle eased her hand towards the Goldfinch only to stop she looked up slightly feeling the confusion take over. “Why did you take it?” Xena eyed the little bird. “I thought it so beautifully carved and painted, I’d never seen anything like it before I wanted to keep it.” She eyed the Black Cap on the table. “I didn’t realize that’s its wings opened like its counterpart and it never occurred to me to open them until recently.” She lowered her gaze sadly. “I saw the message you wrote inside and realized that this wasn’t intended for me and I had no right to keep it.”

Gabrielle looked up slightly as she took the bird from her hand turning it between her fingers feeling the sadness take over as her anger drained away she could see in the other woman’s eyes that she was being genuine. “You like this carving?” Xena nodded sadly. “Yes I do I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it was carved by you, as I saw you as a monster and not a human being.”  Gabrielle eyed the bird not really wanting to open the wings. “What changed your mind?” Xena eyed the small bird. “Monsters don’t feel pain or sorrow and they don’t cry, they also don’t write messages like the one inside that Goldfinches wings. Only someone who has a truly human heart writes something with that much feeling and I let my bad judgement cloud me to that truth.”

She tensed slightly. “It was easier for me when I saw you as a monster, it meant I could treat you how ever I wished and not feel any guilt over my actions regardless of whether I hurt your feelings or laughed at you. You were right to call me Conqueror, in your presence I was the Conqueror and I was the one who was the monster not you.” She sighed painfully. “You said that you couldn’t kill me because when you look in to my eyes you see Damokles but I think it’s much more than that. I believe you’re very noble and that’s another reason you didn’t take the killer blow which most of my enemies could only dream off. I believe you’d rather battle face to face with your opponent than stab them in the back.”

Gabrielle stared at the Goldfinch in her hand for a long moment before meeting the other woman’s gaze. “There is no honour in stabbing some one in the back its not even fair combat, he taught me that, he believed in honour.” Xena took in a deep breath. “You must have loved him very much I can tell by the way you talk about him.”  Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “He is the only person who ever loved me for who I am, everyone else only cared about what I could give them they were never honest with me.” She eyed the bird in her hand sadly. “Now all I have left is my memories and this bird.” Xena lowered her gaze sadly. “Some time the memories are all we have and that makes them worth holding on to.”

Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment, she hadn’t expected this at all and now she felt very out of her element. She had expected the Empress to suck up to her that was she was used to when it came to people in powerful positions. They also liked to give her gifts because they just assumed they could win her over with out any other effort apart from that. She thought that the Empress was doing the same when she’d thrown gifts at her. She hadn’t expected her to care about her now that her dead lover had been buried. She’d also just assumed that her apologises had been her just going through the motions due to her guilty conscience because she’d turned her in to a dancing animal for her royal guests.

She eased up her lit pipe putting it in her mouth breathing in deeply as she eyed the little bird once more before hoping that she could relax herself again. The Empress had given this back to her and it had been a genuine offering with out any string attached, she breathed out the smoke making sure that it didn’t go in the other woman’s direction. “Thank you for giving me this back.” Xena blinked in surprise she’d never heard Gabrielle say thank you in the whole time she’d been here and now to hear it from her lips sounded strange. She paused as an awkward fell silence between them, she stepped back nodding her head respectful as she spoke feeling the need to break it. “Your welcome.” Gabrielle put the bird down gently so it was next to its counterpart as she turned back to the wooden carving. “It’s a griffin.” Xena looked up sharply. “What?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze. “The piece I’m carving…it’s a griffin.” Xena blinked before looking up. “It looks good who ever receives it will be pleased I’m sure.”

She moved towards the door which led out of the spare room. “I’ll let you carry on.” Gabrielle watched as she walked out of the door closing it behind her. She breathed out the smoke from her pipe nothing about there talk made sense in her head. She had not expected this conversation to end this way.  She felt even more confused as any one who had taken one of her wooden pieces had never ever given it back to her. She put a hand though her hair why did it feel like everything had become very strange all of a sudden? She was so used to everything making such perfect sense in her life yet here she sat feeling oddly confused by everything which had just transpired.

8

Iona looked at the closed door of the healer’s room she took in a deep breath she was feeling very alone in her life right now. The walls around her seemed to echo that emptiness and loneliness. It felt as though there was no one beside her and that she could be screaming and no one would hear her, she hadn’t felt this way since her parents had died. She eyed the candle which was burning close as she looked around the healer’s room which was dark and empty she was going to be stuck in here for two months maybe more and she was already bored out of her mind. There was nothing to do and no one to talk to apart from Phantasos and just about every word he spoke was dripping with distain. She moved only to feel the intense pain in her ribs gods, how was Gabrielle so good in combat? The bitch really knew just what to break and what hurt the most the only thing she just couldn’t figure out was why she’d let her live? She had, had her just where she wanted her so why not finish the job completely and give her a warrior’s death, anyone else would have?

She turned watching as the door handle started to turn, it was probably Phantasos she looked up as the door creaked open only to freeze as she caught sight of the huge figure moving towards her on all fours in a very slow manner. She grabbed the candle in a violent motion just in time to watch as the forest green eyes came in to view as the huge werewolf stood over her looking down on her. She sneered watching as Gabrielle’s eyes moved as her huge jaws opened slightly. “Why are you here!?” Gabrielle eyed the candle in her hand clearly Iona assumed this was an attack. She moved one large clawed hand putting it on the side of the bed very close to her arm, ignoring her confusion as she spoke evenly. “I was just walking by.”

Iona eyed her in disgust. “That’s great now why don’t you go walk somewhere else you overgrown dog!” Gabrielle didn’t think as she grabbed her by the throat pulling her up slowly ignored her struggling. “I am not a dog my name is Gabrielle!” Iona eased up the candle painfully getting ready to force it in to the big clawed hand which now had her held up. “Is this why you’re here? To finish what you started?” Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment she pulled her hand away watching as she fell back on the bed wincing in pain. “I have no intention of killing you Iona.” She eased up a clawed hand. “I just want a question answered which has been playing on my mind ever since we first met.” Iona breathed in painfully keeping a tight hold of the candle stick ignoring the wax as it dripped droplets on the bed. “Oh let me guess you want to know why I don’t like you?”

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “Hardly, I already know the answer to that question already you hate me because you can’t have what I possess.” Iona breathed in sharply. “How do you know that? You’ve been talking to Chara no doubt.” Gabrielle shook her head. “No I haven’t I’ve seen the way you look at me, I know that look of power, I’ve seen it on so many faces and yours was always obvious.” She shook her mane. “Oh and of course if I was to die say you’d be the first to try and scratch yourself with my clawed hand right? So you could have this pass on to you.” She paused eyeing the woman on the bed. “Well here’s something you need to know, if I die you won’t get what you want, you see these horns growing on my head come with a high price.”

She watched as Iona turned to her in surprise. “The rest of the werewolf population can go around biting people and producing more werewolves, but not me because there can be only ever be one horned werewolf. So I am for all intensive purposes sterile, this means that I don’t carry the curse anymore, oh I could bite you and scratch you but you wouldn’t turn you’d just bleed to death.” She tapped her clawed fingers on the bed. “So what you’re looking for you won’t get from me Iona and believe me someone like you should never have that kind of power. I knew some one once who was just like you are now, her name is Adrienne, pray you never meet her. Because then you’ll see a real monster, you’ll also see why some people should never become werewolves.”

She stepped away from the bed. “Humanity is a wonderful thing you should be embracing it, because when it’s gone it’s lost to you forever.” Iona painfully put the candle down. “Why are you telling me this, even after everything I’ve done to you, I don’t get it?” Gabrielle turned slightly. “Because I don’t want you to turn in to Adrienne, because then you and I would have nothing more to talk about.” Iona watched as she went down on all fours, she understood that cryptic response perfectly. She watched as Gabrielle walked out of the room closing the door behind her she lay back on the bed taking in a deep breath despite the pain in her ribs. So much for a quite night she narrowed her gaze hating the silence of the room once more, at least when Gabrielle had been here she’d had some one to talk to.

End of part 34

 

A RARE AND MEANINGFUL MOMENT

Xena turned the corridor she was bored and she couldn’t stand it anymore, she’d knocked on Gabrielle’s door five times only to open the door and find that the room was completely empty. She’d had slightly too much to drink again but she was trying to ignore the slightly groggy feeling and press on regardless. She looked up seeing the stars in the sky as she walked out in to the royal gardens. She knew Gabrielle was here she’d watched her so many times walk this path though she wasn’t sure where she went. She took in a deep breath looking around her she wasn’t really used to going out in the dark. Apart from the fire torches which lit up the garden in places it was very dark.

She really wasn’t used to this place at night and she felt slightly out of her element as it was so much easier to see things in the day time. She turned watching as Chara walked through the garden. She took in a deep breath walking towards her watching as she stopped the surprise spreading across her face. Xena raised her hand. “Hey.” Chara blinked eyeing the taller woman. “Hello Empress…it’s a surprise to see you here.” Xena lowered her gaze. “I was wondering if you could help me.” Chara blinked looking up at the taller woman. “In what way, Empress?” Xena felt a smile form. “Could you tell me where Gabrielle is?”

Chara raised her hand pointing towards one of the huge white marble lion statues. “She likes to lay on one of the lion statues normally the right one.” Xena felt a smile form. “Thank you Chara.” She paused eyeing her realizing that the other woman was dressed in much more decorative robes than normal clearly she was entertaining someone. She stood up slightly. “Are you going anywhere tonight?” Chara breathed in sharply. “I’m just visiting a close friend Empress…” Xena smiled as she stepped sideways allowing her to pass by. “Well I’m sure they will enjoy your company.” She watched as Chara nodded awkwardly before walking towards the kitchen doorway which also led inside the palace.

She lowered her gaze sadly gods she missed that feeling of when she’d been able to bring presents to Julius Caesar’s room. Like food fine wine or just a present she used to love those moments so much. Maybe that’s what had made his betrayal all the more bitter tasting. She had done so much to try and please him and make him happy only to have her heart ripped out. Now she could only watch as others enjoyed there love lives and had a spring in there step as they visited there loved ones. She put her hand through her hair in frustration she on the other hand just seemed doomed to a life of loneliness. The notion of that just hurt all the more, it was as if she was cursed to be with out love for the rest of her life.

She breathed in catching sight of both of the lions which were empty, she turned leaning against one of them feeling the annoyance take over. So much for her plan to talk to Gabrielle she wasn’t even here. She folded her arms only to freeze as she heard the light tapping of claws she turned sharply watching as Gabrielle appeared in her werewolf form, she calmly walking forward on all fours then sat down on the marble lion looking down at her. The green eyes opened fully reflecting in the darkness like cat eyes as they stared down at her as the younger woman’s calm voice hit the air. “Are you lost Empress?” Xena blinked before stepping back. “No I wasn’t lost…how is it I didn’t see you?” Gabrielle tapped her clawed fingers on the stone lightly. “Because I didn’t want you to see me” Xena raised an eyebrow. “So you can hide yourself when necessary?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply she wasn’t sure where this was going. “When necessary yes, even golden fur can fade in to the background in the darkness.” She eyed the dark haired woman feeling even more confused. “Was there something you wanted?”

Xena looked up slightly feeling the need to ask a second question as she gazed in to the reflective green eyes in the darkness. “How well do you see in this light?” Gabrielle looked up slightly clearly her eyes had to be reflecting which only ever happened when it was really dark and there was hardly any light. “I can see everything in perfect detail.” Xena looked up slightly watching as her green eyes darted. “Must be nice to see everything that way, I mean at least you don’t have the problem of tripping over your own feet in the darkness like the rest of us.” Gabrielle blinked as she turned to look at her, was that a joke? In all honesty she wasn’t sure she eyed the other woman for a long moment before speaking. “No I guess I don’t.” Xena turned clearly Gabrielle wasn’t used to people joking with her or maybe to her it just wasn’t that funny. She just couldn’t tell which the green eyes were giving nothing away. She put her hands together. “I came here because I wanted to know what happened to you after the werewolves took you in.”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Is this an order or a request Empress?” Xena took in a deep breath she closed her eyes for a spit second before opening them again as she looked up. “You can call me by my name which is Xena.” Gabrielle tapped her clawed hand on the stone of the lion again, this was a surprise. “I was under the impression that only your friends call you that.” Xena eyed Gabrielle for a long moment clearly despite there earlier conversations in which they’d made some head way she could see that the trust wasn’t there completely. She could see it in the green eyes it was the look of suspicion and uncertainty. She eased up her hands. “That was part of our agreement and that agreement no longer exists.”

She breathed in deeply. “You’re also a royal so we both should be on equal footing.” Gabrielle leaned forward keeping her voice even. “No offence but I don’t recall hearing the royals who you had me dance for refer to you by your real name.” Xena opened her mouth only to stop she couldn’t deny that fact she paused realizing that only one thing needed to be said here and she had to say it. She took in a deep breath. “I would like to get to know you as a friend.” Gabrielle blinked she was surprised by that answer in truth it was not the one she’d been expecting to hear. She looked down feeling the need to test the water slightly. “So you want to be friends with a werewolf and you’re not bothered by how this will look to those who see me as a monster?”

Xena shook her head. “I don’t care how anyone sees this, this is my palace and I’ve met a werewolf and I’d like to get know her for who she is and not who I perceived her to be.” Gabrielle looked in to her light blue eyes seeing the open honesty in them, she raised her clawed hand. “You do realize that I have enemies just like you? They won’t like our friendship at all in fact they’ll probably want to assassinate us both.” Xena narrowed her gaze that was an honest sentiment. The other woman was seeing if she was willing to walk down the path despite the danger. “Frankly if I knew I had someone as noble as you as my friend I wouldn’t care about the danger.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Then tell me Xena what is it you want to know about my past?” Xena felt herself breath out sharply gods she had finally gotten the other woman’s attention fully. She looked down for a moment before looking up again. “I really want to know what happened to you after you started your training you’re clearly a very gifted warrior, who was it who trained you?” Gabrielle breathed in lowering her ears as she felt the memory flood her mind.

8

Damokles eyed the old captain for a moment he turned eyeing the fully trained recruits out of original ten only five now remained. That was the harsh and ruthless price of training forced up on them by the Imperial Council. In the first year they did nothing but train and go out and kill people as well as learn how to bite others and turn them.  Because it was such a hard trail which involved raiding and looting armed wagons, not all survived some were killed but then that was how the council thought. Only the strongest and fittest should be able to adorn the adjustable bronze armour. Because they were half breeds the notion was that they had too much work harder than the full bloods to obtain this armour and join the higher ranks, it was both unfair and unjust in his view.

He breathed in deeply he was a seasoned warrior with more than fifteen years experience on the battle field but even he could think back to his training he had once been one of these recruits. His family who had been part of the Illyrian royal council but their villa had been broken in to by assassins he’d only been fifteen at the time. They had killed his parents and then they’d ripped his shirt open and sliced his chest over and again with a sword leaving horrific and bloody wounds. Ironically it was an old werewolf who had saved him by killing the two men then he had bitten him. He had been at deaths door and it had saved him from a very painfully death. The old werewolf had then been brought him here to train and like all the recruits he had not been given two weapons of his choose and simple adjustable leather armour. The wounds on his chest had never healed and had become permanent scars, he was sure that he’d carry them to his deathbed one day. He put a hand on his beard eyeing the five recruits who were practicing. “Who’s the best?” The old captain rolled his eyes. “They’ve all done the trails and passed in flying colours there all good at what they do.”

Damokles unrolled his scroll eyeing it. “Which ones Gabrielle?”  The captain paused then pointed to the blonde who was sparing with one of the young men. “That ones Gabrielle? She’s been nothing but trouble.” Damokles eyed the young woman who had to about eighteen and half. “What’s wrong with her?” The old captain breathed in deeply. “She’s a smart mouthed loner and she’s clever just to top it off.” He put a hand on his face. “She knows just what to say to get her self out of trouble. She also knows how to manipulate people, gods the amount of times she’s gotten hold of things she shouldn’t have has been so many.” He eased up his hand. “She’s gotten hold of velvet blankets, bronze cutlery and leather tankards all the things which only the higher ranking warriors should have, I don’t even know how she gets them down here!”

He shook his head. “Then she sells them for money to the other recruits because she knows there’s a loop hole in the rules which is that if items are passed on the person taking them can not be punished and nether can she as there not in her hands anymore.” He breathed in deeply. “She was clearly well educated before she became a werewolf and likes to read and analyze everything.” Damokles felt a smile form. “Interesting.” The old captain sneered slightly. “She’s been a good though in terms of the rule no sex until you hit eighteen, two of these five broke it once and got five lashes for it. Now that she’s allowed she clearly likes to pick her men and women when it suits her.” Damokles raised an eyebrow. “She likes both?” The old captain breathed in deeply. “Oh yes and she quite brazened about it, clearly she likes the open gender rule it works for her she gets to have a lot of fun now and try out new things.” He felt his teeth grind together. “How she gets any sex with ether gender I’ll never know, she’s has no real friends and she’s keeps herself to herself.

He shook his head. “Gods I’ll be so happy when she’s goes off to join your ranks I’m tired of chasing after her. She’s been nothing but a constant thorn in my side. I can’t believe when they started her training they thought she wouldn’t last a month because she lacked the killer instinct. Despite that she’d already killed once before coming here.” He folded his arms. “Out of all them though she’s the most forceful, the most violent and the most relentless, she’s excellent in two swords combat and in her other form she kills quickly, she never plays with opponent like some do it’s always quick and clean. If she didn’t have that smart mouth and that over analyzing brain she’d be the perfect warrior.”

Damokles smiled as he stepped forward. “Well then I’ll have to say hello and give her, her new orders.” He walked inside the training room all off these recruits were going to be separated as the captains from the other army sections came to pick them up. As usual it was the Imperial Council who made the choices of who went where. Gabrielle though was going to be transferred to the Grand City the biggest of the ten underground werewolf cities where the werewolf king Horn Hind lived as well as the Imperial Council. It was a long walk from this place five days in fact. Her role now would be no longer looting but becoming a full fledged warrior who would kill and turn those who were destroying the werewolf race. She’d been picked because she had the highest bite rate and she’d turned more humans than the others recruits, at least that’s what the scroll read.

Gabrielle felt the pain as her opponent’s fist impacted with her face, she pulled back ignoring the stinging pain. She swung the swords around violently watching as her opponent narrowly avoided them. He raised his large axe which he swung past her leg narrowly missing her. She didn’t think as she brought up her foot smashing it in to his face causing him to slam back first in to the ground hard. She stepped forward pushing her boot in to his chest forcing him in to the ground. She brought down her other boot forcing his weapon hand in to the dirt as she brought the two swords up crossing them against his throat. “You loose.” The young man gave her a cold look as she stepped off him, he sneered as he spoke. “You’re a cheater!”

Gabrielle twirled one of her blades. “No you’re just a sore loser.” She breathed in deeply watching as her stood up eyeing her in disgust. She knew all the recruits didn’t like her they never had not through this whole year of training. She broke the rules and they disliked her for it but they were all hypocrites as they still brought the items she got down from the higher levels. The price of living cost most of her wage as she had to buy food, keep her leather armour maintained and look after her swords. So she’d started this little selling game to bring in more money so that when she finally got dispatched to her next point of call she could buy all those things she wanted.

“Gabrielle is it?”

Gabrielle turned sharply watching as a man who was dressed in bronze armour appeared beside her. He was clearly a captain and a highly ranked warrior he was a tall imposing man with medium length black hair and a short trimmed full black beard and bronzed skin. His eyes were a piecing light blue colour and he was in his late twenties. She put a sword across her leather armoured chest lowering her head out of respect. “Sir.”  Damokles smiled eyeing the young blonde woman whose hair was just over her shoulders she was half his height. He watched as she looked up, he caught sight of a diagonal scar on her right eye. He breathed in deeply as an old memory flash before his eyes from two and half years ago where he’d been sent to the Amazons lands just to ensure that the Amazons weren’t plotting against the Imperial Council.

On the way there he’d run in to a group of slavers their leader had been torturing one young woman he remembered this one young women very clearly she had been scared across the eye with a blade. Despite being wounded she had forced the chains free so the other women could escape. He’d made a choice that night and had bitten her, because that was what the type of person the Imperial Council wanted as werewolf material. He met her green eyes which were the same eyes of that young woman who’d looked terrified as he walked towards her on all fours while she’d still been chained. She didn’t recognise him at all it was clear by the look in her face even though he was her creator so to speak, he breathed in raising the scroll so she could see it. “Your orders.”

Gabrielle careful took the scroll from his hand opening it. “My orders?” Damokles put a hand on his sword hilt. “You’re to join my army unit in the Grand City there you’ll be given your full armour and new weapons. All your old weapons and armour are to be given back to the scribes here so the newest recruits can use them.” He breathed in deeply. “Your to pack up all your belongs now as you’ll be leaving in three hours, there’s just enough time to say your good byes to your friends.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply eyeing the others they weren’t her friends she’d never had any friends here. Oh she’d slept with one of the women and one of the men in the other training group, but even then they weren’t her friends.

She breathed in deeply. “I’ll go a pack my things sir.” Damokles looked up slightly. “My name is Damokles, what ever they taught you here will not apply. In my unit I prefer to use names rather than titles though respect in mandatory and breaking the rules will not be tolerated.” He raised his eyebrow. “And your captain has told me about your rule breaking.” Gabrielle swallowed looking down. “Yes I have, I had my purposes.” Damokles folded his arms. “Yes well in the Grand City if you do something like that the punishment will be more serious the Crescent Hind lives in the city walls as do the Imperial Council and we are to set an example to others.” He eased out his hand. “Now go and pack you things, time is short.” Gabrielle lowered her head again. “Yes Damokles.”

8

Xena took in a deep breath. “Half those teenagers you trained with died?” Gabrielle looked down sadly. “Yes half, that’s a normal number out of every ten young werewolves about five die in the first year some times even more.” Xena lowered her gaze. “I’m sorry that you had to watch those people die around you.” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Like I said I was a loner I never got attached to any of them other than sleeping with a few of them.” Xena felt a sad smile form. “To not have any friends at all though and to not even get proper armour that’s not right or even fair. I wouldn’t do that to anyone trained in my royal army.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “The Imperial Council doesn’t know the meaning of fair, there vile bastards.”

Xena turned fully to face her. “So Damokles was your commander?” Gabrielle nodded calmly. “Yes he was.” Xena breathed in deeply. “He knew that he’d turned you yet he didn’t say anything?” Gabrielle shook her mane. “He had his reasons for not saying anything and I was too young at the time, I didn’t even recognise him I was still a teenager and my mind was on other things.” She lowered her ears. “I thought going to the Grand City would be so amazing I thought I was lucky, but I didn’t know any better.” Xena looked up slightly she knew how the other woman felt. “Things don’t always turn out the way we envision.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath as she got up on all fours then jumped off the lion landing next to the dark haired woman. “No I guess they don’t.”

She paused before turning to the other woman she could see a deep sadness in her light blue eyes one which seemed all too familiar. “Would you like me to lead you back to the palace doors? You look tired.” Xena blinked she put a hand through her hair truth she was tired and it was late she was normally asleep at this hour. “Yes I’d like that.” Gabrielle moved forward slowly on all fours. “After all, I can see much better than you in the dark.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. It wasn’t a rude comment it was just a statement, she slowly followed the other woman as she began to walk forward in the darkness. “Gabrielle don’t you sleep at night?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she carried on walking. “Not really, sleep never comes easy to me.” Xena narrowed her gaze there was a slight catch in the other woman’s voice even with the growling echo it was very noticeable. They came to stop opposite the back entrance to the palace where the fire torches were lit. Gabrielle stepped away from the light. “Here you are Xena, I hope you sleep well.”

Xena took in a deep breath feeling the need to say another thing which had been playing on her mind for some time now she looked up as Gabrielle turned away “I’m truly sorry for what happened to your friend Seraphin, she didn’t deserve to die the way she did.” Gabrielle felt herself freeze in mid motion she turned slowly eyeing the other woman in the fire light watching as it bounced of her light blue eyes making them look like beautiful blue sapphire. She lowered her gaze ignoring them. “No she didn’t, I just wasn’t fast enough.” Xena looked up slightly. “No you did everything you could.” Gabrielle looked up feeling the pain as it hit her chest. “I don’t believe that myself but thank you for the sentiment.” Xena breathed in deeply watching as the golden werewolf with the growing velvet covered horns disappeared in to the darkness. It seemed as though they’d both finally come to an understanding. She now wanted to know more about what had happened between Gabrielle and Damokles.

End of part 35

 

A SMALL CHARM OF THE HEART

 

Thaleia eased the door open to Gabrielle’s room it was late morning, she’d leant that the blonde haired woman didn’t get up very early on the whole so she didn’t have to get up before dawn to go and tend to her needs. Unlike Ceto who had to get up early to give the Empress her new clothes and her breakfast. She guessed that Gabrielle’s irregular sleeping pattern was due to her late nights sometimes she could be out very late and not come in until the sun started to rise. She knew her friend loved to just sit and watch the stars she pushed the door open a little bit more as she eased up the breakfast tray.

Gabrielle was a fussy eater though, she liked certain things a lot, she loved fish dishes as well as rabbit and lamb and goat stew. She liked chicken and quail but had this thing about only wanting it when she could rip it off the bone. She assumed that was a werewolf thing as she had a habit of cracking the bone with her teeth, clearly her canines even in human form were very sharp and very strong.  She liked a lot of vegetables as well as quail eggs and fruits. Her other favourite foods were flatbread and dumplings and cheese on occasion. She had a sweet tooth for honey with thicken milk. Her friend didn’t care one bit for alcohol, she never asked for it and she always turned it down preferring to drink fruit juices, goat’s milk or water. She liked apples a lot but only the red ones apparently werewolves had a problem with tasting sweet things, normal green apples were bitter tasting to them while the red ones were very sweet. She eyed the breakfast tray she’d brought her porridge with honey and some flat bread along with a red apple.

She knew that Kalika had been ordered to bring her dinner but right now she was going to do it instead of her, she didn’t trust her after what she’d done and as far as she was concerned it was her duty to take care Gabrielle no one else’s. Also she wasn’t on speaking terms with Kalika as she had exposed her for burning Gabrielle’s list. She was now in a higher position than Kalika and the older woman had to do what she told her, if she asked her to cook up a dish she had to do it with out question. She knew the older woman didn’t like it but she did it with out comment but she could see the loathing in her eyes regardless, frankly she couldn’t understand what her problem was with Gabrielle but it was clear despite everything she still disliked her even now.

She knew the Empress would catch on soon that she hadn’t been doing her duty, so she’d make sure it was done soon but she’d be in the room to watch the other woman because she didn’t trust her. She gently placed the tray down on the table realizing for the first time that there was a wooden carved griffin on it. It was in a sitting position with one paw raised it had carved out eyes, ears, and tail as well as open wings. All off it was painted in yellows oranges and reds, apart from the eyes which were black and silver. It wasn’t that big she could pick it up easily, it was like an ornament, clearly it was one of Gabrielle’s carvings and it was very beautiful.

She looked up as the blonde haired woman entered the room fully clothed her medium length hair was still wet no doubt from her bath. She felt a smile form. “Good morning Gabrielle did you sleep well?” Gabrielle looked up eyeing her friend. “I slept okay.” She moved over to the table the truth was that she was hungry and food was on her mind. She picked up the red apple biting in to hearing the hard crunch. “I hope you slept better.” Thaleia smiled stepping back from the table. “You know you’d sleep better if you went to bed earlier.” Gabrielle took another bite out of her apple. “Yes but then you’d have to get up much earlier to bring me breakfast.”

Thaleia felt a smile form. “You have a point.” She paused eyeing the griffin. “I like your carving, it’s very beautiful.” Gabrielle slowly picked the carving up looking at it. “You like this?” Thaleia nodded eyeing the griffin again. “Yes.” Gabrielle slowly moved it towards her feeling slightly uncertain over her next words. “It’s just I wanted you to have it…it’s a gift.” Thaleia blinked feeling the shock take over. “You made this for me?” Gabrielle nodded she fidgeted nervously it had been so long since she’d given anyone anything and the whole situation felt strange to her. “Yes.” She watched as the other woman took it from her hand staring at it in awe. “I know it’s not perfect…I just wanted to give you something.”

She lowered her gaze, feeling slightly out of her depth as she spoke her next words. “As a thank you for making me that skirt and belt to wear at night it fits really well and it’s very warm.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “You’re welcome Gabrielle.” She moved closer putting her hand on her friends arm watching as she looked up seeing the uncertainty in her eyes. Her mother was right more right than she could ever know, under Gabrielle’s rather unemotional and angry front, she did have a good heart. Although she’d never admit it openly to any one and she always seemed to claim that it wasn’t there. She also seemed to struggle with expressing her emotions she also seemed to hold them back constantly.

She felt a wide smile form. “I should show this to my mother.” Gabrielle looked up sharply. “Could you not do that just yet?” Thaleia raised an eyebrow. “Why?” Gabrielle eyed the griffin as she stepped back. “Its just I made two of these, the others not quite finished…it’s for your mother…there meant to be a set, one for each of you.” She breathed in deeply. “You said she wants me to go up to school and was going to go tonight but I wanted the other griffin ready for her when I do.” Thaleia felt her eyes dart as understanding dawned up her she felt her smile widen. “I understand I’ll keep this one secret until you give my mother hers.” She looked up slightly watching as Gabrielle seated herself at the table speaking calmly. “That would be good if you would.” Thaleia eased out her parchment list. “Did you want anything?” Gabrielle picked up her spoon looking at her warm porridge. “No I’m fine.” Thaleia moved to the door opening it slowly. “Then I’ll let you finish your breakfast in peace.” Gabrielle nodded watching as she left she took in a deep breath before taking in the first mouth full enjoying the flavour.

8

Xena eased open the door to the Phantasos healing quarters he’d gone out some time ago and maybe that was for the best she didn’t want him around because of what she had to say. She opened the door slowly watching as Iona looked up, clearly she wasn’t sleeping instead her eyes were fixed on the decorative ceiling. She stepped forward closing the door behind her watching as Iona looked up her smile instantly fading as she saw her, she lay back on the pillow a dark expression crossing her face. Xena breathed in as she moved closer. “Nice to see you’re awake.” Iona breathed in deeply. “You know I thought it was Phantasos, I was going to ask for a scroll to read its boring in here.”

Xena folded her arms eyeing the night sky outside she had wanted to visit Gabrielle but this had been playing on her mind for a long time now. She needed it to be put to rest before she could do anything else she took in a deep breath before speaking. “How long have you been my loyal servant Iona?” Iona winced painfully as she tried to sit up. “I’ve been your loyal servant ever since you left Rome Empress, after your husband’s betrayal.”

Xena looked at her for a long moment. “That’s a long time and in all that time you’ve been loyal to me you’ve never lied to me. You’ve also protected me from my enemies and done the dirty work which I’ve never liked but I know is necessary for running this kingdom.” She turned meeting the other woman’s dark gaze. “So why betray my trust now?” Iona breathed in deeply. “I thought I was doing what was right for the kingdom Empress.” Xena shook her head sadly. “No Iona you did all this for yourself, you wanted power the kind Gabrielle has and you were willing to use my dislike of her to obtain it.” She felt her teeth grind together. “You very nearly succeeded as well.”

She shook her head. “I was so drunk that night when I was entertaining the royals and you knew that you could use my state of mind to manipulate me. Granted I should have sobered up and ignored you but that’s my fault to contend with, my other fault was letting you talk me in to parading Gabrielle around like a trophy and letting you cut her open with her sword.” She took in a deep breath. “The truth is I’m not mad at you anymore I am deeply disappointed in you though, I expected so much better from you. If we were in Rome you know full well that you’d be flogged for this in full view of your commander, but as it is we aren’t in Rome and I’ve never liked flogging as a punishment I think it does nothing for mural.”

She eyed the woman’s bandaged arm. “I feel also that you’ve already received a just punishment despite that I didn’t give it to you. As it you’ll be in bed for a least two months assuming your cracked ribs don’t heal quicker, as for when you’ll take hold off a sword again that’s to be seen when the time comes.  Phantasos said that the break was a clean one so it may not affect your ability once you’re back on your feet.” She leaned forward. “Let me make one thing very clear this will be the only time I will ever pardon you and if you betray my trust again by lying or manipulating me or try to gain a personal power to accomplish your personal goals, I will see you locked away in the royal prison for a very long time, is that understood?”

Iona took in a deep breath she could tell the Empress wasn’t bluffing she never bluffed she knew that all to well. She looked up slightly she was lucky that she’d even been pardoned if it had been anyone else she knew the story would have been very different. “Yes Empress.” Xena stepped away from the bed she slowly raised her hand. “Also you’re going to tell me right now about Gabrielle’s pet the one you had killed.” Iona swallowed seeing the anger in the woman’s eyes. “It was a Wood Pigeon she brought it from the market the day I brought her back to the palace.” Xena narrowed her gaze. “You mean the day you chained her up and had her beaten despite that she had an official note from Chara, am I correct?”

Iona nodded. “Yes Empress.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “You have no right to kill palace pets nor do you have the right to beat up or chain anyone with out my permission, you know this.” She folded her arms. “Due to this and your cruel treatment of Gabrielle when you are well enough you’ll be spending much more time with Demetrius, he’s going to re-educate you in both loyalty and discipline as it seems your time away from the palace has allowed your warriors code of honour to slip somewhat .” Iona grunted about to speak but stopped as she caught sight of the other woman’s the ice cold gaze. She lowered her gaze. “Yes Empress.” Xena looked up slightly. “If I’m honest Iona I’ve known you for a very long time and you’ve always been very loyal, that is the reason that is the reason that this is your only punishment, I hope that I never find myself in this position again were I have to question your loyalty.” She moved towards the door opening it slowly. “I hope you recover from your injuries as well.” Iona watched as she left closing the door behind her, she breathed out slowly gods she was lucky that, that had been her only punishment.

She knew full well if she’d been outside the royal palace it would have been a flogging. She hated flogging she’d only ever been flogged once and that was when she’d been a mercenary back in Rome before the Empress had killed her husband for betraying her. It was only five lashes for sleeping on duty but it had been enough for her to never want to go through that kind of pain again. She lay back closing her eyes slightly she had been fortunate that the Empress was kind or she probably have spent her time locked away. What a waste she’d spent most of her time perusing Gabrielle for power only to now find out the truth that she didn’t even carry the curse anyway, even she could see how stupid that was now. She closed her eyes fully frankly she didn’t want to think about it anymore she just wanted to get out of this room. She was bored of having nothing to do was getting on her nerves. All she wanted now was to focus her mind on getting better and getting the sword back in her hand so she could fight again and feel that she had some purpose in her life.

End of part 36

UNDER THE MOONLIT SKY

 

Phantasos turned the corridor it was late in the afternoon and in truth he knew he should be in bed but he had been up searching for Gabrielle. He was already starting to feel frustrated for a seven foot tall being she really knew how to disappear when it suited her. He guessed that was down to her spending so much time around these corridors at night she probably knew them better than anyone else. He had heard that Thaleia liked to get her dinner then she liked to go out in werewolf form and walk the corridors. The sun had just set which meant she could transform and he was convinced that she was now wandering around somewhere. He’d checked the lions and she wasn’t there so she had to be elsewhere, it was just a case of looking harder. He turned another corridor feeling himself breath in as the frustration mounted, what was this was she trying to get lost or something? The servants had said that she had been seen walking this way. He put a hand through his beard trust him to loose a seven foot tall werewolf in the middle of the palace.

“What do you want?”

He felt himself freeze he looked up slowly only to blink in surprise as the golden werewolf came in to view. Gabrielle was literately sitting on the heavy pillar like rafters above the door behind him perfectly balanced on all fours. She’d clearly done this more than once, because she looked perfectly comfortable.  Phantasos put his hands together. “It’s good to see that your well.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze eyeing him. “Why are you following me around? I don’t like people following me around.” Phantasos looked up slightly. “I just wanted to talk to you.” Gabrielle didn’t think as she jumped down feeling her clawed front and back feet slam in to the ground.

She’d been on her way to the school to see Fedora and the children only to realize that the healer was following her which had annoyed her. She’d leapt on to the rafter as she had no intention of letting him follow her around. She felt her gaze narrow as she lowered her ears. “Talk to me about what?” Phantasos breathed in deeply watching as she circled him on all fours. “You stopped coming to our sessions.” Gabrielle felt a cold sneer form. “The Empress burnt my contract so what ever obligation I had with you, it’s over.” Phantasos took in a deep breath. “Yes but I’d still like you to come to our sessions, there’s still so much I need to learn from you, I mean you’ve got horns and their remarkable.”

Gabrielle slowly stood up on her hind legs not caring that she towered over him she closed her hand around the wooden griffin in her hand which was for Fedora. “I don’t want to come to your sessions I’m not interested in being part of your pet project!” She breathed in deeply. “I’m tired of being poked and prodded by someone who can’t even refer to me by my name.” Phantasos breathed out sharply. “If I ever called you monster I did not mean it as an insult.” Gabrielle eyed him in disgust. “I don’t care if you didn’t mean it as an insult, the word offends me! My name is not palace monster nor is it the werewolf, my name is Gabrielle!” She raised a clawed hand. “I don’t wish to be in the presence of some one who offends me and see me as a thing to write notes about.”

Phantasos lowered his gaze sadly. “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to call you that I didn’t realize that it hurt your feelings so much.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I’m guessing you also didn’t realize that when you burnt my finger and put my other hand in ice cold water that it didn’t hurt me ether, but believe me when I say it did.” She raised her clawed hand opening it before closing it slowly. “My flesh burns and I feel the pain, the fur doesn’t make much difference all it does is it gives me more time before I feel the pain.”

She felt her teeth grind together as she spoke. “Here’s a really interesting fact for you to learn an older stronger werewolf whose been skinned alive can survive it, right up until they turn back in to human.” She lowered her hand. “The very healing process that allow them to live becomes there worst enemy, because to fix that much damage it’s so painfully that it causes them to go in to shock and die. The thing that keeps them alive is an incredibly powerful heart and there alive for every excruciating second, until their heart stops beating.” She stepped back. “They scream so much before they die, it’s enough to haunt your dreams and give you nightmares.” She breathed in deeply. “I’ve never suffered that kind of pain, but my heart is just like there’s given enough pain it will probably stop beating just like yours.” She shook her mane. “I don’t think you appreciate that fact and that is why I have no interest in your sessions.”

Phantasos watched as she slowly walked away he looked up slowly. “I’m sorry I didn’t know that.” Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment. “There is a lot you don’t know Phantasos, I’m more than just a sum of notes which you’ve written up. I’m a living breathing person, who can die just like you and until you respect me as an equal you and I have nothing to talk about.” Phantasos watched as she walked away disappearing in to the darkness, that had not gone the way he had imagined it going at all. It was clear that she didn’t trust him and she didn’t want to spend time with him due to the way he treated her. He put a ringed finger to his lip.

He wouldn’t lie though he had treated her no better than some of the others had in the palace and he’d become very foolish with his experiments. He’d forgotten that she was a living breathing being and had seen her as a creature to try things out on. Clearly things which had really hurt her, even though she had never showed any pain he shook his head as he walked away only to look up sharply as he caught sight of the Empress who was walking towards him, he stopped nodding his head respectfully. “Empress it’s a pleasure to see you.”

Xena stopped in front of him taking in a deep breath. “Hello Phantasos, have you seen Gabrielle at all? I’ve been searching for her.” Phantasos felt a sad smile form. “She does have a habit of vanishing does she not, I mean you wouldn’t think that it’d be possible to loose a person who’s as big as she is in her other form at night.” Xena looked up slightly. “Yes I know what you mean it’s very surprising.” Phantasos raised his hand. “I have seen her though she was heading up the corridor.” Xena turned eyeing the long corridor. “Thank you Phantasos.” Phantasos nodded watching as she walked up the corridor he looked down at the floor. “You’re very welcome Empress.”

8

Fedora looked at the ten children whose attention was completely on her they were between the ages of four, eight and twelve and sitting on the big cushions in the small hall which was close to the royal gardens. Under the Empress’s law boy and girls both had equal schooling and once there schooling was over they could go to an academy of there own choosing. These academies could be anything from combat trainings to politics or athletics for those who wanted to be part of Olympic Games. Men and women were treated with equals rights under the Empress’s rules and it had made the Empress very popular among her people. Even she had to confess she now liked having the same equal rights as any man it meant she could pick and choose her own path.

It meant as well that her daughter could marry when she wanted to and she could marry who she wanted to and say no to anyone she didn’t want to marry. She breathed in deeply looking at the children when she’d first come to work in the palace she hadn’t been the child minder but had worked in the kitchen along with Kalika. Frankly she didn’t have fond memories of working with her, Kalika could be very mean spirited and bitter, she put it down to her child hood and the loss of her brother it had left her hate filled and always wanting revenge. When the opportunity had come up for a child minder as the number of children being born inside the palace was increasing she’d taken the position right away.

She was much happier here she got to see her daughter daily and she enjoyed spending time with the children. Very soon she’d have a proper teaching room as the Empress had granted her, her wish she’d seen the builders who had just started working on it. New furniture was already being put in side the room, it was wonderful. As were the new rooms which her and her daughter now slept, these rooms were in the higher level of the palace. The most thrilling thing though was her daughters rise in status she was now Gabrielle’s personal maid it was a high ranking position, one of the highest in the palace. Ceto was the only other personal maid of that status and she took care of the Empress. All the other maids in palace didn’t remain with the palace guests and they were switched and changed constantly.

She’d always felt that Thaleia deserved to be more than a cleaner but convincing her daughter of this had always been hard. Thaleia had just got used to the idea that a cleaner was all she was destine to be. Her becoming friends with Gabrielle had been such a wonderful thing it had made her happier and given her a new lease of life as well as a new perspective. She put her hands together as she looked at the children as she closed the scroll in her hands. “So what did you think of the story?” An older boy put his hand up at the back, she smiled turning to him. “Yes Titus?” The young boy breathed in before speaking. “If Aphrodite knew that her son Cupid would turn in to a monster when he gets jealous why let him fall in love in the first place? I mean it just seems kind of stupid.”

Fedora eased up her hand. “That’s a very good question Titus in life we can’t choose who we love it just happens. I think this story is about the risks involved, Cupid couldn’t stop loving Psyche or being jealous of Jason, he loved Psyche despite that he knew it would turn him in to a monster if he became jealous.” He watched as a young girl put her hand up. “Yes Neola?” The young girl looked up slightly. “Doesn’t that make love dangerous though? I mean Cupid was going to kill Jason and it was all because of jealously.” Fedora raised her hand. “Love is a very powerful thing it can also be dangerous yes, I’m sure you remember the story of Achilles and Helen, they caused a twenty year war all for their love which in the end destroyed Crete’s great city.”

Titus folded his arms. “If love is so dangerous why do adults bother?” Fedora put her hands behind her back. “Now that’s the million dinar question Titus and I think people can do great things through love, they can accomplish wonders, so they take these risks no matter what, because ultimately they want to be happy.” Neola raised her hand again. “But if say Cupid had never become human again Psyche wouldn’t have loved him, I mean who can love an ugly beast?” Fedora shook her head. “Neola people should never be judged by how they appear, if it had turned out that way Psyche may have very well loved him, because love is something that goes beyond appearance it’s a deep feeling from the heart.”

She paused before speaking. “It is also unfair to judge any being based on appearance, monsters and beasts should never give these titles if they have feelings and can feel pain like the rest of us. For them to feel makes them just like us and they should be treated as equals. A true monster is one who kills for fun or does great evils and they can look just like any of you, always keep that in mind.” She looked up slightly. “The great forging God Hephaestus is married to the beautiful goddess of love Aphrodite and there’s also Proteus who is so called an ugly god but who has an extremely kind heart.” Titus sat up slightly. “I heard that we have some one like that in the palace my dad was talking about her she’s like us but she can turn in to a walking wolf at night and she’s got this scar on her eye in both forms.”

Kaia turned on her cushion. “I’ve seen her she’s called Gabrielle.” Neola eyed the smaller girl. “Yeah right you saw her she only comes out at night your mother would never let you stay up that late.” Fedora smiled looking up. “No Kaia is telling the truth we both met her and she’s a very nice person, she just looks very different from any of us in her other form.” She turned watching as a familiar figure appeared near by she could tell instantly who it was as the shimmer of golden fur hit the fire light. She felt her self breath in as she watched Gabrielle half stand looking slightly nervous as she flicked her tail as if waiting for an invitation. She was so glad that she was here she’d been so much wanting for the children to see her. She turned back to them. “Yes and I have a surprise for you all.”

She turned towards the doorway. “Gabrielle is here, I invited her here tonight to see you all.” She turned seeing the surprise in the green eyes which darted. “Why don’t you come in Gabrielle and say hello to the children?” Gabrielle stood still for a moment before taking in a deep breath she should have seen this coming. Truly this wasn’t the first time she’d been around lots of children it was just they were normally werewolf children and they’d always just carried on with there lives paying no interest to her. She walked in slowly going down on all fours in to the lit room watching as their expressions changed to shock and awe, they’d probably never seen a werewolf before apart from in pictures. She came to a stop easing herself half way up on to her hind legs keeping her head low, she knew at full height she’d tower over these children. She eased up both ears hearing the silence only for it to be broken as Kaia got up slowly walking towards her stopping at her one of large feet before looking up giving her a smile. “Your different you’ve got those things on your head now.”

Gabrielle lowered herself down in to a sitting position eyeing the tiny girl before speaking in a soft and gentle tone. “Yes I have, there called horns do you like them?” Kaia moved forward putting both her hands on her big clawed hand. “There odd.” Fedora stepped closer to Gabrielle. “Gabrielle is a werewolf she’s a very special one she has antlers, it very rare apparently only one werewolf ever grows these horns at a time.” Xena walked up the corridor she could hear Fedora talking in the room she stepped closer remaining in the shadows as she came up to the door looking in side, catching sight of Gabrielle who was seated in front of the children who were all moving closer to her following Kaia’s example. She kept perfectly still she knew it was wrong to eves drop but she couldn’t help herself her curiosity was getting the better of her.

Titus looked up at Gabrielle. “So you’re a girl werewolf?” Gabrielle looked up slightly as she eased up the griffin carving placing it gently in Fedora’s hands ignoring her surprise before turning to the young boy. “Yes I am.” Neola looked at Gabrielle. “How can you tell?” Gabrielle smiled at Kaia who still had her hands on her clawed fingers. “Because we aren’t very different from you, its just all covered in fur.” Titus stood up now even more fascinated. “My dad says that you…I mean other werewolves eat people.” Gabrielle moved her tail letting Kaia take hold of it. “Personally I don’t like werewolves who hurt people in that way, I think its wrong.” Neola folded her arms. “But their like you.” Gabrielle looked up shaking her head. “No there nothing like me, I wouldn’t hurt any of you because to me that would make me a very bad person, but those bad werewolves take the view that humans like you are just things and to hurt you would be perfectly okay.”

Titus sat down in front of her he moved out his hand running it down her large clawed hand before looking up. “Are all werewolves bad?” Gabrielle shook her head sadly. “No not all werewolves are bad, there just like people some are unkind and some are nice it’s just you don’t get to hear much about the kind ones.” Neola eyed the scar on Gabrielle’s eye. “I heard the head cook say that you got that scar on your face because you deserved it.” Fedora turned sharply eyeing the young girl. “Neola that’s very rude.” Gabrielle raised her clawed hand slightly before turning to the young girl. “No you’re not wrong I did get this scar because I did something foolish.” She leaned closer speaking in a calm voice. “I was four or five years older than you and I stood up trying to be brave and I was given this scar as punishment. I’ve carried it all my life and when I look at it, it reminds me that if you do something brave there may be consequences.” Neola lowered her head in deep though before looking up. “If you can get scars, why do some thing brave?”

Gabrielle looked up slightly. “Because doing the right thing is important to me and it makes me feel better knowing that I tried.” Titus moved his hand touching one of the velvet covered horns he watched as the other children got closer no longer seeing any danger as they began to touch Gabrielle’s fur with a deep curiosity. “Why do you have horns were you born with them?” Gabrielle watched as he stepped back. “No I wasn’t born with them, it’s difficult to explain.” She lowered her gaze looking at the floor before looking up at the young boy. “There was a werewolf called Eleutherios who had huge grey antlers, they weren’t covered in velvet like mine the velvet was gone and they had points but he was very old even when I was young.”

She paused seeing that she all the children’s undivided attention. “One day Eleutherios died.” Titus looked up slightly. “Was he sick?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “No he was just old, he’d lived a long time and after his death the werewolves mourned his passing for a long time. I had been away and I came back home and then one day I woke up and horns were growing out of my head and I become the next werewolf with horns.” Neola sat up. “Were you related to him? Is that how you got the horns?” Gabrielle shook her head. “No we weren’t related, you see these horns on my head any werewolf can get them. They say a higher power picks the next werewolf and that he or she has these horns for the rest of their life.” She shook her mane. “So you see I had no choice I was just picked.”

Titus raised his hands. “Why did they pick you?” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “I have no idea why I was picked, I’m still wondering that myself.” Neola looked up. “Your horns are still covered in velvet how come the points haven’t come through?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly. “The werewolves say that the horned werewolves, antler points only come through when they find themselves.” Titus put a hand on his chest watching as Kaia sat herself down next to Gabrielle’s leg enjoying the warm fur. “What do they mean be find themselves?” Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. “I don’t really know what that means I’m still trying to work out.” Fedora moved closer. “You know children Gabrielle might be tired we should let her go and sleep.” She ignored the groans of annoyance from the children. “Look she has to sleep and you can all see her again soon.”

She watched as the smiles appeared she watched as Gabrielle stood up gently picking up Kaia handing her to her she took the little girl in to her arms meeting the uncertain forest green eyes. “I do hope you’ll come again.” Gabrielle paused before nodding her head. “I’ll try.” Fedora eyed the carved griffin. “The carved griffin is beautiful, who is it for?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “It’s for you, it’s a gift for the skirt you made for me.” Fedora eyed the carving griffin for a long moment. “It’s so beautiful thank you so much.” She turned to the children. “Say good bye to Gabrielle children.” Xena watched as Gabrielle nodded before going out of the room on all fours passing her by as the children said there good byes to her. Gods this was such a shock she was so kind hearted with children. It was like in their presence she was a whole different person she was so soft and gentle as far as she knew Gabrielle never let any one touch her fur in werewolf form from what she’d heard, yet she let the children do it without any resistance.

She stepped out of the shadows following her as she walked up the hall way on all fours deep in her own thoughts. She watched as she stopped suddenly her ears pricking up as she turned to face her forest green eyes becoming unreadable as she spoke in the same calm voice which had no anger. “Good afternoon Xena.” Xena moved forward putting both hands behind her back. “Hello Gabrielle.” She paused before speaking. “I’m sorry I was trying to find you, I had no idea that Fedora had asked for you to see the children.” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I made a promise to her I didn’t wish to break it.” Xena raised an eyebrow as she folded her arms stepping closer to her. “You’re very good with children.”

Gabrielle looked down suddenly feeling uncertain of her self clearly the older woman had been watching at her. “I just didn’t want them to be afraid of me.” Xena looked at her for a long moment clearly Gabrielle didn’t like being caught showing soft emotions as she was now trying to make it seem as though she was just being soft out of necessity. “There’s nothing wrong with being good with children.” Gabrielle lowered her ears she couldn’t help but find this a little strange it was more the look of the other woman’s face she was smiling openly at her. She took in a deep breath. “I would never harm a child it goes against everything I believe in.” Xena felt her smile widen as she moved a little closer. “I think it’s nice that you think that way it’s a very noble quality.”

She watched as the green eyes looked at her the uncertain emotions playing across them she eased up a hand as she spoke. “You’ll make a wonderful mother someday.” Gabrielle felt the pain wrench at her heart she felt herself tense as she lowered her gaze sadly looking at the ground trying to keep the pain out of her voice as she spoke. “Goodnight Xena.” Xena looked up sharply as she turned walking away from her on all fours vanishing from site, what had just happened? One moment everything had been fine and then the next she’d seen the pain in the forest green eyes it had been so profound. She put a hand on her face feeling her smile fade away maybe in her ignorance she’d said something rude or hurtful maybe like her Gabrielle also had problems with conception.

End of part 37

 

ABSOLUTION AND DISSOLUTION

How strange it is that I find myself looking at Gabrielle’s door the one that separates our rooms, I feel bad for last night I must have really hurt her feelings. I’ve not seen her look so hurt since the time I paraded her around in front of the royals some time back. Now that I think about it, it never occurred to me to ask about werewolf children. She said there were werewolf children before but I never bothered to ask if those who get turned can produce children. Maybe they can’t or maybe Gabrielle like me has problems with conception. I’ve had problems with conception for years it seems no matter what I do or what remedies I try it does nothing.

I’ve even brought in a Gladiator to have sex with me and still nothing works, it’s deeply frustrating. The gods have clearly cursed me in that respect it’s not public yet but I always fear it may be become public and then I know I’ll be in trouble. As any of my enemies will see it as my weakness that I can’t conceive and as soon as I get older they’ll attack me for both my land and my throne. I am the first Empress of Greece the first true ruler in a sense and in becoming the first I have inevitably paved the way for an Emperor or Empress from my blood line to follow in my steps and seat my throne. I realize now why powerful people in Rome have been murdered by there own loyal subjects, the need for power can be very additive to some and there are those who will do anything to gain it.

It is no different for those at the very top, though I confess in Rome I was never the one who they wanted to kill it was always Julius Caesar as he was the Emperor, I was just his wife regardless of my skills and how popular I was among his people. Although he betrayed me I’ve come to understand why on those many nights when we were alone together why he talked so much about the snakes behind every door. He always referred to assassins as snakes and I can see why, he said that assassins can get very close and you don’t even see them. Just as you don’t see a snake when it’s close to your feet and you look down to late and it strikes. It can be hard and you get moments where you’re trying to see them but you can’t yet you know they are there. That is in essence the price you pay of being a leader as there will always be those who seek to destroy all you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Xena put down her quill as she finished writing the first section of the scroll which would end of the werewolf hunting law permanently as well as give werewolves equal rights. She took a long drink from her goblet finishing the warm green tea she eyed her empty breakfast plate as she got up walking over to the door which separated her room and Gabrielle’s. She breathed in knocking on the door waiting for a reply, she was about to knock again only to stop as the door was opened by Thaleia who gave her a wide smile as she spoke. “Good morning Empress.” Thaleia stepped back as the taller woman walked in to the room, she closed the door behind her then walked over picking up Gabrielle’s dirty clothing which needed cleaning.

She looked up slightly. “How can I help you?” Xena looked up slightly. “Is Gabrielle around?” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “Yes she’s in her workshop I think she’s working on a new project, she was up before I came in.” Xena nodded as she moved towards the closed door to Gabrielle’s work room. “Thank you Thaleia.” Thaleia smiled as she opened the door which led to the hall. “You’re welcome Empress.” Xena watched as she closed the door behind her, she walked up to Gabrielle workshop door tapping gently on it with her fist. “Gabrielle?”

“Come in.”

Xena slowly opened the door watching as the blonde haired woman came in to view she was leaning over her desk sketching a vivid image she had her pipe in her mouth and was focused on her task. Xena moved a step closer. “What are you making?” Gabrielle eyed the intricate sketch of Ouroboros which would be a wooden symbol which would go outside on her door. She’d made one like it back in the Grand City but she’d never been happy with it and had always wanted to improve on it and make it bigger and more deeply detailed. She breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “It’s a symbol of my goddess I want it to go on my rooms outside door.” Xena looked at the beautiful sketch she could see the sketches for the griffin carvings lying close by. “It looks fascinating.”

Gabrielle eyed her design. “It needs work.” Xena raised an eyebrow walking over to her desk so she was behind the younger woman’s chair eyeing the sketch she could see measurements and groves for the three wooden sections which would slot together. “How so it looks perfect to me?” Gabrielle eyed the head piece. “The head needs to be in two sections one just won’t work.” Xena leaned closer in truth she didn’t know much about carpentry but Gabrielle clearly did. She breathed in feeling the need to change the subject as she stood up fully. “I’m sorry about what I said last night about you being a mother I meant no offence to you.” Gabrielle put down her drawing quill as she looked up. “I wasn’t offended.”

Xena eased up a hand. “But you looked hurt.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “Look you didn’t offend me Xena, I was just tired.” Xena looked at her for a long moment. “Can human’s who have become werewolves have children?” Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “Yes.” Xena put her hands together. “So you can have children?” Gabrielle looked at the taller woman for a long moment. “Yes I can.” Xena watched as she breathed in her pipe hearing the silence fill the air. She look in a deep breath before speaking again as her curiosity got the better of her. “Can humans have children with werewolves I’m asking because you never said anything regarding the subject?”

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. “Oh they can in fact I even met one who liked a  human man a lot, so much so that she got her ears ripped for it. Her name was Iris, unlike me the Imperial Council had made her a builder.” Xena slowly sat herself down on the chair opposite pulling it up so she was close to Gabrielle. “I had no idea that the Imperial Council altered the lives of people so much.” Gabrielle eased the pipe out of her mouth as she turned her chair around to face the other woman. She breathed out the smoke before turning to meet her light blue gaze. “Yes they do but when I met Iris at the time I had no idea how much control they had, I was young and new to the Grand City, to me my new life was just starting.”

8

Gabrielle walked up the long corridor adjusting her armour she had been here three weeks now and she still couldn’t get used to the adjustable bronze plating. Her leather armour had never had any adjusting parts she’d had, had to take it off to transform. While this on the other hand adjusted to fit her chest area when fully transformed. It also meant that she could keep her swords on her waist in her werewolf form rather than having to hide them. She’d been given a bigger room with much more space she was now allowed to have nice things like bronze tankards and she had much more free time than before. She could amuse herself by going to the market and do shopping the Grand City was massive compared to the one she’d trained in. It was ten levels deep and it was apparently the oldest off all the werewolf cities, it had been built after the death of King Lycaon who the first Horn Hind had killed in battle or at least that’s what the scrolls said. Having off duty time allowed her to spend time in the library. During her time in the other city she’d been taught to read the werewolf language which was a very complicated form of Greek.

It had the same amount of letter as the Thracian dialect but the writing of each letter was very different, as was the sound when spoken. It had taken her five months back in the old city to pick it as she struggled with how it was spoken she’d had less trouble with writing it. This written language was never shared with humans to do so was a crime punishable by death. The Imperial Council believed that the language had to be protected at all costs. She breathed in tapping her clawed foot on the floor as she went through the night market the city had one market during the day as well for those on the day shift, her shift was now over and she just wanted to get back to her living space.

So far she’d done nothing but guard and petrol the forest above with seven others from her unit making sure that no one found the city. If they got to close she had to kill them if they were warriors and scare them away if they were not warriors. Damokles was happy with her process and that was all that mattered at the end of the day, in her view he was a thoughtful and respectable man and she liked his company. He was her commander though and she preferred to keep herself she herself though she wouldn’t lie he was attractive, but then so were a lot of people here. There was a lot of choice when it came to men and women, though frankly since being here she hadn’t really been in the mood for sleeping with people unlike the other recruits. It had been a leaning experience in the other city and had helped her comes to terms with her sexuality and confirmed that she liked both genders, but now she wanted something more than sex.

Maybe a friendship in part she shook her head only to stop as she caught sight of a young female werewolf sitting on the flat stone which was in the centre of the market, it was used for punishments like floggings and ear tearing. A werewolf’s ears if ripped took years to heal it was like a weak point and having your ears torn was to show that you had broken the rules in a very serious way. The werewolf was the same age as her with a brown fur and a long mane as well as blue eyes. She stepped closer seeing the chains on her clawed hands and feet, she looked around her seeing very few people. She breathed in instantly catching sight of the brown torn ears, the sea blue eyes turned to look at her as the werewolf spoke the panic in her voice. “Please don’t hurt me they’ve already beaten me once and my ears won’t stop stinging.”

Gabrielle leaned down sitting in front of her on all fours. “I’m not going to beat you.” She paused seeing the blood stains on her ears, which meant she’d been punished today. “What did you do?” The brown werewolf smiled sadly. “I slept with a human…I should be dead, but you see they wanted to keep me alive and chained up here for the next fours days as an example to others. Instead of death they ripped my ears so I’ll carry my shame.” Gabrielle felt the confusion take over. “Whose they?” The brown werewolf turned sharply. “The Imperial Council the bastards who make the rules around here, I wasn’t born werewolf I guess it’s the price I’ve paid. You know before I came here I had a family and those werewolves came and they killed all of them, then they bit me and made me part of there worker class, I have to move stone and spread cement on walls.”

Gabrielle breathed in sharply lowering her ears. “Rules are there for a reason and you broke them.” The werewolf sneered at her in disgust. “Your so naïve you are not a guest here, you’re a prisoner. You do as they tell you even if it’s wrong. I personally like sleeping with humans, it my personal choice and I’ve been punished for it.” She narrowed her gaze. “One day you’ll wake up and see that, you’ll realize that you’ve never been given a single choice in your life. Every choice in your life has been plotted out for you on a scroll because you weren’t born a werewolf like them and you have no control over your own destiny.” Gabrielle eased up a clawed hand. “What’s your name?” The werewolf looked up slowly. “Iris, what’s yours?” Gabrielle breathed in deeply. “Gabrielle.” Iris felt a smile form despite the pain she was in. “Your Potidaean aren’t you?” Gabrielle blinked in surprise. “Yes I am, how did in you know that?” Iris looked up slightly. “You Potidaean’s can never pronounce the h and s when you speak in werewolf tongue, you always heighten both letters.”

“Get away from her!”

Gabrielle turned only to feel the force as a clawed hand impacted with her face she felt the ground as hit it hard on her back. She ignored the blood as it ran down her snout as she looked up at the huge heavily muscled werewolf who was a high ranking warrior. His clawed foot came down hard slamming in to her chest plate forcing her in to the ground hard as his angry voice hit the air. “You don’t talk to those convicted of doing sinful acts against the Imperial Council!” His huge jaws grinded together. “Do you understand little pup!?” Gabrielle felt the pain as he pulled his clawed foot off her chest. She rose slowly and painfully to her feet feeling the cold blood as it ran down her nose as she spoke trying to hide her contempt. “Yes sir.” The werewolf eyed her in disgust as he shook his grey mane. “Get out of here now, before I break your legs!”

Gabrielle moved away meeting Iris gaze for a second, which felt like a long second as a deep understanding passed between them. She knew the world was unfair there was no denying that but she didn’t believe in being brutal to others for the sake of it. The very reason she had the permanent scar on her right eye was because of some one else’s brutality.  Iris having her ears torn was clearly just the same so they were no real different between them. She went down on all fours moving away slowly maybe there was something to what Iris had said, may be she was trapped here, but she wouldn’t lie she liked it here it was better than the last city she’d lived in.

8

Xena sat still taking in everything the younger woman had said it was clear to her now that the Imperial Council were very cruel to werewolves, who had been humans. She didn’t even know this woman called Iris and yet she could understand her suffering, it seemed that werewolves couldn’t be in love with human because it could cost them there lives or bring about ear ripping to show there shame. Gabrielle had told her this before but she hadn’t really been listening. She’d only really been interested in the facts and she’d ignored the fact that Gabrielle had stated her dislike for the Imperial Council. She looked up slightly. “The Imperial Council sound like Conquerors for treating there people this way.” Gabrielle put her pipe back in to her mouth. “That wouldn’t be far from the truth.”

She lowered her gaze. “I was still a teenager though and a no body among my race I didn’t question their methods till I was older. I was a warrior first before anything else and that was all I really cared about, despite that I saw truth in Iris’s words.” She breathed out the smoke. “It was just easier for me to say that it was better place to live since I’d lived in a small place in the last city.” Xena felt her heart knot painfully she had used those very same words to insult the younger woman not long ago and now it just seemed that she had picked them up and excepted them as if they were the truth. “I didn’t mean those words when I called you a no body, that was wrong off me and I know that now so please don’t take on my words as if they are truth.”

Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “You misunderstand Xena, I’m saying this because its only my antlers that make me somebody, with out them I’m just like the hundreds of other half blood werewolves out there.” Xena took in a deep breath. “You know I made the mistake of treating you just like you were like every other werewolf out there.” Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. “How was it mistake?” She breathed out the smoke. “It’s not like you had a good example to go by, I’m sure the werewolves you saw in Roman dog fights were less than pleasant.” Xena lowered her gaze to the floor. “I had no excuse I should have looked beyond appearances.”

Gabrielle ran her fingers over the sketches ink which was now dry. “We all misjudge the way things appear at one time or another.” Xena looked at her for a long moment there was simple truth in that statement she put a hand through her hair before looking up. “Clearly it would seem that way since you’ve taught Phrixus your language despite that’s its forbidden and a crime punishable by death.” Gabrielle eyed the floor for a long moment. “I’m part of a dying race I wouldn’t want the last legacy of my race to never be read by anyone. Yes the Imperial Council will probably loath me and want me dead for exposing that secret, but I don’t really care.” She breathed in her pipe. “That scroll is a testament to our history everyone should know how great the Hinds before me were.”

Xena stood up putting her chair to one side. “Why do you say before you?” Gabrielle breathed out the dark smoke watching as it drifted through the air. “I have no delusions about my leadership, out of all of the Hinds I’m the weakest, they fought great wars shook foundations and built cities, I’ve done nothing to prove my worth as a Hind, my horns are still covered in velvet which proves that I’m not worthy of my place.” Xena looked at the younger woman who didn’t look up to meet her gaze. Gods it was so sad here stood a king among werewolves and yet this woman who was king didn’t have any faith her ability as a leader she saw herself as weak. “Have you considered that perhaps you’re waiting for something, a great moment of change?” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I don’t believe in great moments of change.”

Xena was about to say something only to stop as Ceto walked in to the room her personal maid looked up slightly. “My deepest apologises Empress but Demetrius is waiting for you in your study he wishes to speak to you regarding one of the trade agreements as there’s been an issue.” Xena took in a deep breath gods she hated it when this kind of thing happened. She turned back to Gabrielle. “How’s about we both talk tonight in the royal gardens?” Gabrielle eased up her quill looking at it for a moment as if thinking it through before her uncertain voice hit the air. “I’ll see you in the garden then.” Xena smiled at her only to see that the younger woman gave her no smile in return instead she just nodded before going back to her sketching as she walked out of her workshop.

She walked through the inner door then closed it behind her realizing something for the first time, not once since Gabrielle had been here, had she ever seen her genuinely smile, not in human form or even in her werewolf form. The only smile she ever seen her make was a melancholy one and she had this wide tooth grin but it was normally followed by her being sarcastic or making a cold remark. She didn’t laugh ether at jokes she was completely cold to them which only brought up more questions in her mind, what did Gabrielle find funny, did anything make her laugh? Did she even know how to laugh like everyone else anymore? She looked up as Demetrius entered her study some how she felt like she had a new purpose which mattered to her she just wanted to see Gabrielle smile or even laugh in her company. The younger woman always seemed so down with in herself and now she really wanted to fix that not for herself but for Gabrielle. It didn’t seem right that someone who was younger than her should be this way. It seemed that among all the people in palace Gabrielle was the most emotionally withdrawn and most depressed, in her mind that didn’t seem right or fair ether, she should happy just like everyone else.

End of part 38

GLEAMING SILVER SERENITY

Xena breathed in deeply walking through the gardens it was dusk and the sun was setting in the far distance. She eyed the scroll in her hand clearly there was a problem with the northern trading route though the explanation sounded insane. If this scroll was to be believed one of the trading roads had just collapsed. Part of a cobble road outside Thessaly had fallen inwards along with half the ground creating a huge gapping pit. She’d heard of this happening by the ocean along cliff walls but never in a central city. Trading merchants had to take a longer route to get in to the city and a bridge would now need to be built over the gapping pit which could properly be turned in to a lake.

She slowly rolled the scroll up she really wasn’t in the mood for things like this right now. She turned catching sight of Gabrielle who was in werewolf form which surprised her. She was lying on her favourite lion statue looking out at the sky. It was strange to see her in this form now she had to confess. She only ever saw her this way late at night, the red light of the setting suns rays were bouncing off her fur lighting it up in a truly magnificent way causing the golden mane to gleam. The darkness was filling the fly above her it was that moment between the light darkness and light, the only time they were ever joined before one faded from the world and the other took over.

She eyed Gabrielle for a long moment she could see the horns which were now much bigger and had more sections all of which were still covered with thick brown velvet. The horns really did resemble a stags though, but not a mature stag more a young stag as they didn’t have large heavy sections or any points. She moved towards her watching as she turned to face her, her green eyes catching the fading red sunlight for an instant causing a shimmer of lighter greens to appear in them as she spoke calmly. “Hello Xena.” Xena felt a smile form. “Hello Gabrielle.” Gabrielle shook her mane that was the first time Xena had used her name.

She wouldn’t lie she hadn’t wanted to hear it on her lips, but now she’d said it just felt right and she felt no need to comment on the fact that she’d forced her to use the title Horn Hind. Frankly they’d come to an understanding in these past few days and she really didn’t want to stir up old emotions between them. Xena eyed the setting sun before turning back to her. “I had no idea you could transform at this hour I thought it was only at night.” Gabrielle eased herself up in to a sitting position so she was looking down at her. “I can only transform as the suns setting and the darkness is drawing in on everything.”

Xena lowered her gaze. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.” Gabrielle shifted slightly. “What’s that?” Xena gaze drifted to the bone pendant around the thick furry neck. “I asked you this a long time ago, but you never got around to giving me an answer, so I wanted to ask you now, why do you worship the goddess Ouroboros?” Gabrielle raised a clawed hand. “Because I saw the shattering of the silver light.” Xena blinked feeling the confusion take over. “What do mean by that, I don’t understand?” Gabrielle slowly met the dark haired woman’s confused gaze. “Shattering of the silver light is an ancient werewolf phase which isn’t used much anymore, it means you’ve seen something incredible which you can’t comprehend and have difficulty putting in to words.”

She carried on staring in to other the woman’s eyes intensely looking for any change. “I saw Ouroboros she appeared to me and from that day on I’ve always worshipped her.” Xena looked up slowly. “I remember you saying that you threw away your craving of Aphrodite because you believed she’d abounded you.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze feeling her teeth grind together as she spoke unable to keep the anger out of her tone. “She did abandon me, I worshiped her for half my life but she didn’t come to my aid when I got turned in to werewolf, she left me to rot.” Xena raised her hands. “Please understand that I’m not against who you worship, just because I worship the Greek gods I would not expect anyone else to do so and I don’t think any less of you for worshipping a different god to me.”

She watched as Gabrielle lay back down on the marble lion so she was facing her, the anger vanishing from her eyes. “I’m just fascinated by the fact that you worship a goddess who very few people worship anymore and you saw her, do you know how unheard off that is? Even the Greek gods don’t show themselves to mortals and yet this goddess revealed herself to you.” Gabrielle put her head on her clawed hand. “Would you like me to tell you how I got this pendent?” Xena moved a step closer. “Yes I would very much like to hear about what happened.” Gabrielle looked at her for a long moment somehow she hadn’t expected the other woman to be this interested, she’d assumed that she’d have no interest once she’d said that she’d seen her goddess face to face.

She took in a deep breath she couldn’t really back out of this conversation now she tapped her clawed fingers on the statues marble Xena’s interest also seemed genuine. She didn’t really tell people this story of what had happened that day mostly because she fully expected them to laugh at her or call her a liar as it was a very unbelievable moment in her life she looked up at the other woman speaking in a calm tone. “I was guarding the Grand City, it was just a routine mission nothing out of the normal.”

8

Gabrielle pushed her clawed foot in to the human warrior’s back harder hearing the cracking of his spine she lowered her ears ignoring his screaming. She could taste blood in her mouth, she’d never liked the taste of human blood it was vile. She turned spitting it out of her mouth as she leaned down grabbing him by the hair as she put her clawed hand under his neck. She closed her eyes for a spilt second then yanked hearing the violent crack as his neck broke killing him instantly. She hated the idea of playing with her opponent she’d never liked it, as far as she was concerned this was not her dinner, she’d lived in the wilderness she knew the difference. Unlike the others who seemed to just torment humans by tearing off their limbs or ripping out there insides while they were still breathing.

Her nineteenth birthday had passed her by uneventfully, not that she really cared anymore how old she was the time when she celebrated with her family around the table was long gone. It felt like a distant life which someone else had lived and not her, she breathed in deeply ignoring the screaming behind her as three men were torn limb from limp by the others. The only one who seemed to do what she did when she killed was Damokles his kills were very quick and clean. She breathed in deeply she’d realized the truth after finally seeing him in werewolf some months back, he was the one who had bitten her all that time ago, he recognised the huge black muscles and piecing blue eyes.

He had turned her in to this, but at this moment in time she felt truly conflicted, he had saved her from a fate worse than death, yet he’d forced her in to this life which she couldn’t escape from. She wanted to hate him but at the same time she wanted thank him for sparing her indignity of become a slave. She stepped away from the dead body ignoring the others as she kept on ears up listening to night sounds of the forest. She wouldn’t lie Damokles did tend to speak to her now and again when she was alone it was never personal chat but more formal and about her weapons and training. He didn’t do that to the others in the unit, she didn’t understand why he spoke to her this way she was well bellow his rank.

Saying that though he made a lot of effort when it came to his unit, he liked to get the others around a camp fire and have them celebrate when they did well, though she didn’t like to join in. She didn’t care for swilling down alcohol until the sun light hours. Alcohol did nothing for her it didn’t even make her happy it never had it just made her think about things she’d rather forgot. She kicked the dirt with her clawed foot, come to think off it very little made her happy. She still had no friends here, though she did see the woman Iris in her off shifts now and again in both human and werewolf form when she wasn’t working. They weren’t friends as such but they had an understanding and talked to each other now and again. She took in a deep breath putting her bloody clawed hands on her bronze plate why did life just feel like an uphill struggle right now? She stopped as she caught sight of something lying in among one of the fallen warriors body parts. She walked over to it picking up carefully using on clawed thumb to wipe the blood away it was a pendent made of bone, with some kind of dragon eating its tail.

Clearly it had been stolen by the illegal slave traders who had made the serious mistake of stepping on to this land. She raised it up to the moonlight looking at it, only to freeze as a weird sensation went though her body it was like an intense vibration which felt like it was heating up her arm. She blinked trying to concentrate only to find it impossible as the feeling became stronger. She watched in shock as the world around her turned to darkness and the sound vanished. Two glowing green eyes opened in the darkness, she watched as silver plaited scales appeared as the huge dragons head loomed over her. It had two wide horns which were spit sectioned a huge mouth opened its massive teeth showing as the long ears pulled back. She couldn’t see anything else the shadows hid it all apart from some of the long neck which had a huge silver and white mane of fur which went down from the top of the head stopping at the neck. The huge wolf like nostrils breathed in as the snake like tongue moved in the mouth. The glowing light green eyes narrowed as a godly female voice hit the air. “You call up on the goddess Ouroboros.”

Gabrielle looked around her in confusion before turning back to the huge face realizing for the first time that she was in her human form and her hands were clear of blood and she was in her normal human armour with it leather skirt. “Are you going to kill me?” Ouroboros felt a smile form. “No child, I am here to give you an absolution, you believe the Greek gods cursed you and I agree they did curse you unfairly. You are a dreaming seer and you can be so much more than what you are now.”  Her long red tongue flicked out. “Always keep my pendent and I will bring you a great destiny greater than the goddess Aphrodite would ever give to you. I’ll ensure that your name is talked about for eons among your race.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze she was truly talking to a goddess in every sense, she swallowed. “What’s in it for you?”

The dragoness laughed slightly as she moved her head. “Clever Gabrielle, do you know that I went through a lot of trouble to get my true godly pendent to you, there are many copies but the one your holding is the true one, the one which talks to mortals. The last user who you killed didn’t use it well he had no honour and squandered my help.” Her huge neck turned. “You on the other hand do not squander your life, you are no slave trader you’re a true warrior of honour who has a permanent scar to show her suffering. The Greek gods believe my time is over and I loath that notion. I’m older than them, I refuse to die out or fade away, I need someone to help me find a way back in to the minds and hearts of mortals.”

She moved her huge head closer until she was within inches of the little mortals face. “You’ve lost everything your friends, your family, your humanity, even your name has now been deemed as dead in the mortal records. I know what it’s like Gabrielle it is lonely in the shadows but if you help me I’ll ensure that you find everything you desire I’ll make it so the Greek gods will wish you’d been one of their worshippers.” The light green eyes widen. “Put on my pendent when you awaken and become my eyes in the mortal world as I drive you soul to greatness, or drop my pendent and crawl back in to the darkness forever.” Gabrielle blinked only to hear the sound rush back to her ears she looked around her realizing that everything was back to normal and she was holding the pendent in her bloody clawed hand.

She watched in surprise as the leather cord in her clawed fingers extended becoming long enough to fit over her head in werewolf form. She closed her eyes taking in deep breath before opening them again as she raised the pendent higher admiring its bone crafted symbol. She slowly eased it over her neck ignoring the others who were to preoccupied with looking through the slave traders things. She watched as the symbol came to rest on her chest feeling a warm sensation go through body, she wouldn’t fade away in to the darkness. She’d do as Ouroboros willed no god had ever come to her aid before or even cared for her suffering. She lowered her ears shaking her mane getting down on all fours as she moved away from the others disinterested in glorified actions to find something of worth.

“Gabrielle are you okay?”

She turned sharply seeing that Damokles was coming towards her the concern in his face she stood up slowly on her hind legs. “I’m fine I’m just tired it’s been a long night.” Damokles raised his clawed hand. “You don’t want anything from the raider’s possessions? You know they have ladies jewellery in there and nice clothing for women.”  Gabrielle shook her turning to meet his light blue gaze. “There’s nothing of value in there that I want Damokles.” Damokles watched as she walked past. “It’s very noble that you’d be so honourable and only take a pendent, others wouldn’t do that.” Gabrielle breathed in deeply as she carried on walking away from him. “I want everything I own to brought not stolen.” Damokles blinked eyeing her. “But you didn’t buy that pendent.” Gabrielle felt a smile form. “Everything has a price and sometimes it’s not paid off in dinars.”

8

Gabrielle turned meeting Xena’s gaze the dark haired woman’s face remained serious much to her surprise. Somehow she’d expected the other woman to laugh or see this as one big joke. Xena lowered her gaze looking at the floor as a thought crossed her mind. “I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing that before, you are truly fortunate.” Gabrielle took in a deep breath. “Fortunate or cursed not really sure which, so far I’ve for filled nothing which my goddess said I’d accomplish.” Xena looked up slightly. “Is this another reason why you feel that you’re not the greatest of the Horn Hinds?” Gabrielle eased up her head. “Yes its one of the reasons.”

She tapped her clawed fingers on the marble stone. “I believe in my goddess but why she picked me has always confused me, there were bigger and stronger werewolves out there who are greater leaders.” Xena took in a deep breath. “Maybe because you’re noble in a way that they aren’t, maybe that’s why she picked you.” She put her hands together feeling unsure about her next question. “You didn’t play with those slave traders you give a quick clean death, why?” Gabrielle lowered her gaze as she raised her clawed hand. “Just because I have claws and teeth it doesn’t mean I get pleasure from tearing people limb while their still alive.”

She tensed sharply. “The others always treated it like it was a hunt but in my opinion there is sport in killing men in that manner and there’s no honour in it, plus not to put to finer point on it, human blood tastes disgusting.” Xena shook her head. “I’ll take your word for that.” Gabrielle shook her mane. “Frankly I prefer to hunt stags or boar in that way because it’s a real hunt.” Xena raised an eyebrow. “I know you spent time out in the wild before the werewolves found you, is that how you fed yourself?” Gabrielle breathed in painfully. “Yes…I couldn’t afford food and it was just how I survived but I won’t lie I never really lost that enjoyment for hunting there’s something so thrilling about the rush.”

She looked up slightly. “Sometimes I’d be successful sometimes I’d fail I had to learn through trail and error, sometimes I screwed up badly and ended up with my nose in the dirt or the deer kicked me in the face.” Xena felt a smile form she could see where Gabrielle was coming from there was a rush from hunting an animal that way she’d been on enough boar hunts to know that feeling. The adrenaline rush that came from throwing the spear and hitting the animal in the heart or lining the arrow up perfectly for that kill shot and feeling the anticipation before it hit the target.

Clearly Gabrielle saw it the same way even though for her there was no arrow and no spear just her body, her speed and her sight. She had to run after what she wanted and stay at its pace. She’d seen enough predators in the wild to know that hunts weren’t always successful there was great risk just like the arrow missing its target Gabrielle could no doubt miss her target. Clearly success on a hunt was never certain for humans and werewolves alike, she leaned against the marble lion feeling her smile turn to a wide grin. “You know maybe you and I should go hunting together, I love to see how you hunt since you don’t have weapons in the normal sense.” Gabrielle pricked up both her ears feeling the surprise take over as she eyed the older woman. “Maybe one day I will hunt with you.”

Xena looked at her for a long moment despite that, she’d just given her an open invitation Gabrielle hadn’t taken it, maybe it was still a matter of trust between them or may be she had to be more direct. She watched as Gabrielle sat up then leaped off the lion landing on all fours she turned to face her. “Thank you though for the offer.” Xena looked at her before speaking. “Where are you going?” Gabrielle looked around her. “I need to find some branches.” Xena blinked in confusion. “Branches, but I had them send wood to your room.” Gabrielle shook her head. “Its not for carpentry…it’s for something else…its difficult to explain.” Xena slowly followed her. “Would you like me to look with you?”

Gabrielle breathed in deeply unsure of what to say she didn’t expect the older woman to be interested in something as trivial as this, they were just branches and she wanted them so she could create the bird feeding areas outside her balcony. She’d tried to make them in the other room but had never gotten around to finishing them. “Don’t you have business to attend to?” Xena carried on following her. “No I don’t I’ve finished everything important and I don’t mind looking around for branches with you before I call it a night.” Gabrielle lowered her ears as she carried on walking forward on all fours. “Okay.” She watched as the other woman followed her. “I need large branches which are thick at the base, but thin at the end the longer the better.”

End of part 39

 

A HIDDEN INNER FACE WHICH WE HIDE FROM OTHERS

Xena slowly walked through the palace corridors she’d had no meetings today it was a strange sensation as she had been so busy these past months or so it felt to her. She knew why, autumn was drawing in and the important people liked to spend more time where they lived. In a few more months winter would finally set and in some of the cities the snow would fall then the winter solstice celebrations would take place. She didn’t take part in this but her staff did, they decorated the palace and celebrated, she made sure that they all got gifts and they all gave her gifts in return, but she’d never really spent time with anyone since her late husband. They used to drink warm honey mead together and share gifts as well as joke about things. She turned another corridor maybe now that she was getting to know Gabrielle better she could ask her if she’d spend time with her during the celebration though she wasn’t even sure if werewolves celebrated the winter solstice.

She felt herself freeze in the corridor as something dawned upon her despite all they’d talked together she still really didn’t know anything about this woman. She didn’t even know if she liked alcohol, she didn’t know what her favourite dish was or what coloured clothing she liked to wear, or even if she had any thing which made her really happy. Her gaze shifted as she looked up at the sun light which was drawing in through the windows of the long corridor. There was one person though who could answer this Thaleia she was Gabrielle’s closest friend and despite her role change to being her personal maid nothing much had really changed between them or she’d seen.

Thaleia and Gabrielle seemed to talk in the mornings and afternoons, although Gabrielle wasn’t fully open with her and was still very guarded. They seemed to have really come to an understanding and they respected each other very deeply. It was also clear that Gabrielle trusted her more than anyone else and she came to her when she needed help with anything or so it seemed. She walked down another corridor catching sight of Thaleia who was just about to go out in to the royal gardens. She moved forward watching as the young woman turned to meet her gaze her calm voice hitting the air. “Good morning Empress.” Xena adjusted her shoulder plating slightly as she felt a smile form. “Hello Thaleia.”

She paused before speaking. “I was wondering if you could help me with something?” Thaleia blinked feeling the surprise take over it wasn’t very often that the Empress ever asked for things like this. “How can I help you Empress?” Xena took in a deep breath before looking up as they both started to walk through the royal gardens. “What does Gabrielle like?” Thaleia turned sharply feeling the shock take over. “What do you need to know?” Xena raised her hands. “I want to know everything, you’ve spent more time with her that anyone else and after I was talking with her last night I realized that I don’t know that much about her personal tastes or even her family apart from before she became a werewolf.” Thaleia put her hands behind her back as she carried on walking watching as the taller woman followed her. “She never talks about her family to me Empress, I have tried to speak to her about them but she just becomes very cold and guarded when I bring up the subject.”

She shook her head. “She never talks about her history to me ether all I’ve heard are bits and pieces here and there, you should feel privileged that despite what’s happened between you both that she’s telling you so much about her past Empress because you know more than me or anyone else.” Xena lowered her gaze as she breathed in deeply. “Yet I know all this but I don’t even know if she drinks or even what her favourite food is.” Thaleia looked up slightly. “Gabrielle really loves rabbit and lamb stew, she likes fish as well as chicken and quail but only on the bone. She also likes thicken milk with honey as well. She hates green apples and alcohol, she says she can only taste red apples and alcohol does nothing for her. I think alcohol not having any effect is because she smokes personally.”

Xena eyed her for a long moment. “She only smokes when she’s tense from what I’ve seen.” Thaleia nodded as they walked past the tall trees. “I agree Empress I’ve noticed that as well, as soon as there’s uncertainty or she’s unsure or very frustrated and trying to focus she lights her pipe.” Xena raised her eyebrow. “So we’ve both noticed that.” Thaleia looked down in deep thought. “It would seem so.” She raised her hand. “Oh I know one thing she does love.” Xena stopped watching as the other woman did the same. “What’s that?” Thaleia felt a smile form as she put her hands together. “She really likes birds.” Xena stepped closer. “Birds?” Thaleia felt her smile widen. “Yes Empress she loves them she has a huge soft spot for them.”

Xena felt her eyes dart as she remembered the pet which Iona had killed that had been a bird. “What kind of birds does she like, other than Wood Pigeons?” Thaleia put her hands behind her back. “She loves Collard Doves, Turtle Doves, she also like little birds small like Gold Finches, Black caps, Dead Sea Sparrows and Gold Crests.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s very strange to think that her being a werewolf that she’d have a love for these small birds and doves. I mean this morning she was putting out the bird feeders.” Xena turned sharply. “Bird feeders?” Thaleia turned pointing at Gabrielle’s balcony which now had a complex branched section attached to it. Hanging off it were string feeders with bread and coconut shells full of seeds. “There like feeding areas for birds you hang them off a branch and the birds come in and eat off them and you can watch them.”

Xena looked up watching as a group of five Dead Sea Sparrows came flying in they landed on the branches working there way down to one of the coconut shells then started to eat the seeds inside while other hopped from branch to branch calling out noisily.  She felt a smile form how fascinating she’d never seen anything like this before. It was a completely new to her and she could now understand why Gabrielle would get so much pleasure out of it even from this distance it was like having part of the royal garden near your room. It made sense now as to why Gabrielle had needed the branches last night because she had been making this and that brought up another thought in her mind. Gabrielle had a creative personality and she constantly needed to keep herself doing things, when she had been bored some time ago it had impacted on her depression and made her even more miserable that was very clear to her now.

The younger woman loved creating things and trying things out she’d never met anyone who was like this before. All the people she knew where generally interested in the formal side of life they weren’t artist and didn’t care for art in general. She’d always loved creative people though, she had a deep love of plays and loved looking at pottery and wood carvings but that had always been as close as she’d ever gotten to these people it had always been as though she was looking from a far. Now for the first time in her life she was actuality living with a creative person and it was fascinating, all these ideas all these things in Gabrielle’s head were so interesting. That was in essence the other side of her personality to her people she was their king and a warrior, but behind closed doors she was a gifted carpenter who had a soft spot for birds and was very sweet and gentle with children.

Thaleia looked up slightly. “If you were planning on giving her a gift I think the greatest thing you could do would be to end the hunting law.” Xena turned slowly to the other woman. “I have something to tell you Thaleia and it must stay between us.” Thaleia looked up the confusion spreading across her face. “Yes Empress.” Xena took in a deep breath watching as more birds landed on Gabrielle feeders. “I’m writing up the amendment which will end the hunting law, but Gabrielle doesn’t know about this at present, I’m hoping to show her it very soon as I promised her I would do this.” Thaleia nodded suddenly understanding where the tall dark haired woman was coming from. She felt a slight smile form. “I think she will approve of that very much, though she never says it I believe her people’s welfare matter to her, I think it’s the reason that she stayed despite what happened between you both.”

Xena shook her head meeting her dark gaze. “I think it’s more than that Demetrius brought it up in one of our meetings, he says she’s staying here because here she has real friend which is you and for that reason she won’t leave and I agree with him.” Thaleia looked down Demetrius had said that of all the people to say this she hadn’t expected him to say it. Despite that she was now at a high station she didn’t have the courage to ask him to dinner she was far too afraid that he’d probably say no. He was a warrior but a gentleman and a part of her still believed that he’d have no real interest in her and would prefer a noble woman. It hadn’t stopped her loving him though she’d had deep feelings for him for many years but had never been able to act on them due to her fear of rejection.

She broke out of her thoughts looking at the Empress. “I’m flattered that Demetrius thinks so much of me, its very kind of him.” Xena eyed her for a long moment, she was sure that she’d heard a slight catch in the other woman’s voice but maybe that was down to being told that the head of her royal army approved of her. “I agree.” Thaleia turned slowly to face the taller woman. “I don’t think I’m the only reason that Gabrielle stayed here though I believe she stays for you Empress.” Xena blinked feeling the confusion take over. “What makes you say that Thaleia?” Thaleia breathed in deeply. “Because you let her bury her dead lover, I think that meant an awful lot to her, because she loved him very deeply.”

She paused before speaking. “I think she stays because deep down she still sees the good in your heart despite all that’s happened between you and I think it matters to her now that you approve of her being here I also think that she is starting to respect you once more.” Xena looked up slightly. “You really believe that Thaleia?” Thaleia nodded as she felt a wide smile form. “Of course Empress.” She turned eyeing Gabrielle’s balcony. “My deepest apologises but I need to carry on with my duties I still haven’t brought Gabrielle her washed cloths.” Xena raised her hand. “Of course.” She watched as the dark haired woman walked away she took in a deep breath eyeing Gabrielle’s balcony again.

There was truth in the other woman’s words Gabrielle was now starting to respect her once more but she knew it would take more time. The truth was that now for the first time ever her thoughts were drawing her back to when she’d first met the younger woman and she’d wanted her to be a friend. Somehow she wanted that once more it felt like a need and a longing which she wanted to for fill deeply. She no longer cared at how it would be viewed by others outside the palace she owned this palace and what went on in side was her business and no one else’s concern. Gabrielle had been honest she had enemies as well as did she and she could understand that but maybe that was were this longing came from Gabrielle was a leader just like her and someone she could really talk to about her feelings of being in control and something told her that Gabrielle would understand her pain better than anyone else.

8

Gabrielle shook her mane slightly as she sat on the bed. “So Kalika’s bringing my dinner?” Thaleia turned to her friend. “Look you have nothing to worry about Gabrielle I’m here to ensure that nothing goes wrong between you two.” Gabrielle raised a clawed finger scratching her long ear. “That woman hates me I’d rather she didn’t serve my dinner at all.” Thaleia shook her head. “Look she just doesn’t understand you that’s all she just needs to get to know you better.” Gabrielle narrowed her gaze. “I don’t believe she wants to get to know me she said I got this scar on my face because I deserved it.”

Thaleia breathed in sadly shaking her head she had heard through palace rumour how Gabrielle had reserved that a scar she had stood up to a slave trader leader who had given it to her, to teach her a lesson because she wouldn’t do as he commanded. “Well you didn’t deserve that scar and she was just being cruel saying that.” Gabrielle looked up slightly as some one knocking on her door harshly she spoke keeping her voice even. “Come in.” She watched as the cook opened the door. She folded her arms despite that in werewolf form it looked slightly odd as watching as the older woman came in to view. Kalika raised her food dishes speaking coldly. “I brought you, your dinner…Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle felt her teeth grind together as she forced a fake smile. “What did you put in it deadly nightshade or some other lighter poison?” Kalika eyed Gabrielle in disgust as she carefully placed her food down on the table. “No I wouldn’t do that after all you are the Empress’s friend now.” She turned eyeing Thaleia. “You’re her private maid now, lucky you.” Thaleia breathed in hearing the sarcasm in the other woman’s tone nothing had gotten better between them ever since she’d told the Empress what Kalika had been doing to Gabrielle, in fact it was just getting worse. She took in a deep breath looking up. “Yes and I got this position for doing the right thing, that’s the difference between you and me.”

Kalika stepped back giving her a cold look. “Evidently…the Empress standards are slipping.” Gabrielle looked up slightly catching sight of something on the woman’s shoulder she hadn’t seen it before because the last time they’d spoken Kalika had been wearing a dress but now she was wearing white chiton robes. On her shoulder was a clear branding of an eagle’s head with the Roman symbols IX which stood for nine just under its neck. She eased up her clawed hand to her face narrowing her gaze. “Before you insult my friend again there’s something I want to know?” Kalika turned sharply. “What’s that Gabrielle?” Gabrielle raised her clawed finger pointing at the branding. “Where did you get that brand?”

Kalika froze on the spot she turned slowly eyeing Gabrielle. “I got it in the Roman city of Ostia on a visit ten years ago.” Gabrielle stood up slowly staying on her hind legs. “That’s funny because Romans tattoo visitors but they don’t brand them.” Kalika eyed the branding. “Well I wanted something different and I took a branding.” Gabrielle stepped forward. “Yet Greek citizens aren’t allowed burnt brandings by law, as the buying any Greek slave is illegal in Rome under Greek law and is punishable by death. Only Roman born slaves, gladiators and members of high state in Rome have brandings as well as generals in the Military. Oh yes and werewolf gladiators they are normally branded before they get turned.”

She tapped her clawed foot on the floor. “Have you ever heard of the cruentus creatura?” Kalika folded her arms feeling her anger burn. “No I haven’t and I think what your saying about my branding is foolish I got it given to me by a friend.” Gabrielle felt a cold smile form as she carried on speaking ignoring that the older woman had even spoken “Cruentus creatura means bloody servant.” She felt her gaze narrow. “There very special werewolves and the Romans love them even though they keep them a secret from the public. These werewolves give themselves to the arena willingly, but they don’t fight oh no their only job is to turn slaves, these slaves are turned against their will and then get thrown in to the arena to fight the gladiators.”

She took in a deep breath. “The cruentus creatura are loved and adored by the Romans who they work for there paid lots of money, they get food, sex and anything else they want and they live the decedent life style of a rich Roman noble. The werewolves of Greece hate them as in there eyes there traitors because they sell out their turning services to the highest bidder. Greek werewolves believe only those of strong blood should be turned not just anyone.” She shook her mane. “Of course if a cruentus creatura were to betray the Romans who they work for they wouldn’t just loose their job, but they’d loose everything there position, there power and they’d also be thrown out of Rome never to return. The werewolf Imperial Council won’t let them back in to any of the werewolf cities because their traitors to the race, it’d be a very hard life for them.”

Kalika moved towards the door opening it sharply. “Well I’ve never heard of this cruentus creatura you speak off and I’m not a Roman I was born in Thessaly and my older brother was ripped apart by a werewolf in front of me and I survived!” Gabrielle looked up slightly. “I’m sorry for your brother and I’m sorry for what happened to you, no one should ever have to go through that.” Kalika eyed her in disgust. “Of course you are.” Gabrielle watched as she left slamming the door behind her she narrowed her gaze how curious. Thaleia turned watching as Gabrielle sat down at the table carefully picking up a spoon with two of her clawed fingers. “What was that all about Gabrielle?” Gabrielle eyed the potato stew putting her spoon through it before turning to her friend. “It’s okay Thaleia it was nothing.”

End of part 40

Continued in part 41

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