AN: this story has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, probably over a year. I've always enjoyed the history of the Huns and Attila. I think Xena would definitely fit in with these people considering her background with warlords and battle skills. Plus, I just love conqueror Xena and felt like we didn't see enough of her in the show. I wish to share with you all my stories and many ideas that pop in my head.
I've been working on this plot for a long time, though I will not ignore my other stories, but was too hyped to not at least write a prologue. I will make it as detailed as possible, as always, creating a different verse entirely. Hope you all enjoy and feedback would be great, makes authors happy to hear reader's thoughts lol ;)
Enjoy this piece and hopefully more to come.
The Commander's Poet
One of the largest tribes settled in the center of the Balkans, belonged to King Rua, the uncle of Attila and his elder brother, Bleda. Attila's father died in battle fighting against the Visigoths that charged through the Balkan territory close to the Caspian Sea, leaving Attila an orphan of war, abandoned and the only survivor of his tribe. It wasn't until his uncle, Rua, came to his rescue and took him under his wing. Bleda lived with King Rua from birth due to his mother dying of a fever when he was a babe.
Attila trained from a young boy and grew into a fierce warrior, rivaling his uncle in combat. He desired an army of his own and one day when his uncle died, he wanted to be king, but since Bleda was the eldest, the crown would indefinitely go to him. He knew that Bleda was not fit to be king because he was lazy and never drew a sword his entire life. He had never experienced war or true loss like Attila did.
As Attila grew older he realized that he needed to establish himself as a fine ruler and sought out recruits to be his military commander to help him lead his people into victory for the future. He searched for years and found someone who might be able to help him. Borias, a man from the Caspian tribes, a great noble fighter and was renowned as a great Hun warrior for several years.
He employed Borias as his commander in chief of the Hunnic military and offered to take in Borias' entire tribe into the Balkans as gratitude and to show his loyalty. Little did he know that a certain woman that accompanied Borias, would bring the light to his eyes. She too, was a great warrior and Borias' lover at the time. She was feared by many people in the Caspian tribes because of her savagery and ferocity. Attila grew to adore her and treated her as his little sister thus appointing her to second in command of his military alongside Borias. He was impressed by her fighting skills and someday he knew he would need her support to conquer all the lands that belonged to Valentinian and Theodosius.
This woman was Xena, born a Thracian in the Balkans, and Queen of the Caspian Sea. She was feared by many and was able to conquer all of the Caspian tribes with Borias by her side. Together they ruled the Caspian and Black Seas. Attila knew with Xena's knowledge of war and swordsmanship, she would be a great fit for his expedition against Constantinople and one day, Rome.
This time marked the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire and was taken by a group of tribal warriors known as the Huns. The Roman Empire had seen darkness fall upon the world when they realized that their land was being turned over to the Huns and their leader, the great vicious warlord, Attila, and his army of savage tribal men. Attila and his men conquered over the Eastern Roman Empire in a span of ten years –rain of blood came crashing down on the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Empire feared that one day, Attila and his men would conquer them too.
The Western Roman emperor, Valentinian III, a childish ruler, guided by his elderly mother, Placida, and his military commander in chief, Flavius Aetius, was not concerned by the Huns early on. The young foolish emperor believed that Attila's men would not dare come and invade Rome, the holy city of both East and West of the greatest empire that the world had ever seen. The Huns were barbaric in nature and were considered savages by the Roman people. They were people from various ethnic backgrounds that congregated to form a nation that united as one ethnicity, one kind; the Huns. A nation under God to destroy the Holy Roman Empire and claim it for themselves with Attila as their leader.
The Huns at first, did not despise the Roman elites and the emperor, Valentinian or even the Eastern emperor, Theodosius. Attila, a young warlord would lead his people to victory in a vicious ongoing battle that lasted for more than forty years, trying to claim the Roman's lands and one day, to rule the world and create an empire so great that God would fear it. The Huns would keep expanding until the Romans were obsolete thus creating a Hunnic Empire with Attila as its king.
This century, this era, marks the turning point of the rise of a Hun king and a battle with the Roman Emperors to fight valiantly and declare what they think is rightfully theirs, but not without help from friends.
Prologue Part I
Pannonia, the capital of King Rua's tribe, hosted a celebration for the wedding of Attila and his lover, Cera. She was once a captured slave girl and Attila desired her from the start and wanted his brother, Bleda, to stay away from her, knowing he would be jealous of the beautiful red haired tribal woman. But this night, they were married and the entire tribe gathered outside in the center of the grounds, drinking and dancing together.
The men of the tribe joined in a giant circle and practiced a ritual dance, clapping and chanting in their native tongue to celebrate the union of Attila and Cera. The women had a circle of their own, joining hands together and dropped to their knees and jumped back up, alternating between both steps whilst singing a tribal wedding song to correlate with the men's dance and chanting during this happy time.
Xena sat in a chair, overlooking the dancing women and men of the tribe. She did not really care for such celebrations all that much but knew that these people loved to party as well as fight. She did not oppose parties, because she too loved to splurge every now and then when there was a victory or special occasion.
Borias left the circle of men and laughed, picking up a bottle of mead, pouring himself a glass. He caught his breath and saw Xena sitting by herself, far from the festivities. He decided to go and join her so she wouldn't be alone as he knew that she would not be feeling up to joining in. Xena noticed him walking towards her and she smiled, seeing that he was enjoying himself. She adjusted in her chair and he sat beside her on an empty wooden stool, sipping the mead.
"Why are you sitting by yourself?" he asked and then kissed her hand gently. She smirked and with every movement her entire outfit jingled with her. She wore a black long dress that reached the floor, covering her black close-toed burgundy sandals. Her headdress had many coins and silver chains on it, covering her long raven hair that barely reached her hips.
"Unlike you and Attila, I enjoy watching, not partaking in parties," she replied and looked out at the smiling women, dancing in a circle around the large bonfire.
Borias scoffed and held onto her hand firmly, "I thought you enjoyed parties, Xena..." he said in his thick, raspy accented voice. Staring into her crisp bright blue eyes he saw that she was mildly enjoying his teasing nature.
"Only when they benefit me," chuckling softly and he rolled his eyes, groaning at her response, though he knew she was right. She tended to want to be the center of attention at most times, though she was not so greedy to put herself or the tribe in danger for the sake of winning a battle.
Attila came running forth and wrapped his arms around Xena from behind. She jumped and he kissed her cheek. "Xena!" he exclaimed, spilling some of his mead on her dress due to his drunken nature. Xena frowned, lifting an eyebrow up at him. His eyes widened and he took the scarf hanging around his neck and began wiping the alcohol off her shoulder. "Forgive me," he shook his head, now embarrassed.
Xena grunted and slapped his hand away, "it's fine," she brushed off some of the mead from her dress and adjusted herself in the chair, leaning her cheek on her palm, now annoyed and slightly irritated. "Can't you go be drunk somewhere else?" she rolled her eyes.
Borias smirked and stood up, hugging his tribal brother, "where is your new wife?" he asked.
Attila had a smug smile on his face, "she's waiting for me," he whispered and Borias' eyebrows lifted then he smiled, both began laughing together, knowing exactly what that meant.
"Oh please," Xena snickered and turned to see both the men ceased laughing. Borias folded his arms and she looked at him incredulously. "What?" she frowned.
"Oh now you've spoiled her mood, Borias," Attila chuckled and that only irritated Xena more and she turned around, looking at the dancing people, enjoying themselves while she sulked. He knelt down and wrapped his arm around her, hugging her warmly and she cringed. "You know how much I love you as a sister," he said sweetly and Xena sighed heavily and she was unresponsive.
His eyes traveled to her swollen abdomen and he looked up at her, "and how is the child?" he was obviously concerned for her well being, though she didn't appreciate it much. She snapped her head towards him and glared into his bright green eyes. He sensed her negativity and stood up, taking some generous steps away from her. Attila stood next to Borias and smiled at him, "God shall grant you both a healthy boy!"
Borias nodded and hugged his friend before he went off to consummate his marriage with his new wife. Xena sat in her chair, lowering eyes at what Attila had said. She hoped that her child was a boy, fearing that a daughter would bring her and Borias trouble ahead in the future.
He walked and brought the stool to sit on in front of her. He lifted her chin and saw sadness in her eyes. "You, the mighty Caspian Queen...afraid?" he teased, hoping to lighten her mood. She hinted at a small smile but it soon disappeared. He sighed and grasped both of her hands, gripping tightly then kissed her knuckles gingerly. "You have nothing to fear, Xena," he whispered. Still the party continued behind him and she said nothing as her reply.
He had never seen her afraid before and he saw it in her eyes, though she tried to hide it, this was probably the one thing she was bad at –hiding her true emotions. She never liked to admit it, but she was only human and it was inevitable that she showed her emotions when need be. Curious, he set both his hands on her belly, he felt his unborn child kicking his palms, then a smile came to him.
She smirked and placed her slender hand over his, intertwining their fingers. He had a big grin upon his face and she sighed and lifted his chin with her free hand. "What if the Visigoths invade us?" her eyebrows creased, now fear setting in.
He touched her cheek and put on a smile for her sake, "if they do, Attila and I will handle them. You don't need to worry," he stood up and kissed her forehead and she frowned, not satisfied with the answer. She gripped his hand and he halted, staring in her anger filled eyes.
"If you don't get rid of them, I will do it myself," her voice filled with determination, anger, malice and valor all in one. "You know what they did to the other Balkan tribes' children, Borias," her eyes narrowed as her frown deepened.
He cupped her cheeks in his large palms and stared at her, firmly replying, "your job is to protect our child, Xena. I know what those savages do to our tribes, you don't need to remind me," he groaned. Deciding to put that in the back of his mind he grinned at her and grabbed her hand, pulling her away from the chair, "come to bed with me," his voice sultry and she lifted an eyebrow, smiling at his current mood. He helped her out of the chair and they left to go to their large yurt, three times the size as any of the other yurts and next to Attila's large dwelling.
Roman soldiers walked the plains of the Balkans, searching for a spot to camp in. The campaign against the Visigoths was longer than expected and the Western Roman commander in chief, Flavius Aetius, lead a ferocious battle against King Theodoric of the Visigoth kingdom in the eastern Balkans.
The group of soldiers walked across the large wheat stalks and saw smoke not far from where they stood. Figuring they should check it out, they had no idea there would be people in this area, at least not live people. They feared there would be more Goths to sabotage. Coming over the hill one of the men whistled to his men.
"Quick!" he yelled and the others joined him. Together they saw a huge tribe, thousands of people probably and hundreds of yurts, a large abode in the outskirts of the tribe. The man who found the tribe saw a yellow flag with a bull on it and frowned, squinting his eyes, trying to see any more clues he could find. "We must report to Sir Aetius about this," he smiled.
Another soldier seemed less enthused, "what if they are more Goths? Probably spies of King Theodoric himself!" he said and the man shook his head at him.
"No, these are not the Visigoths, my friend. These are the Huns," he smiled, proud of his treasure and couldn't wait to tell his commander. "I will wait here. You go to our commander, tell him at once! It is urgent!" he demanded and the others ran off. Smiling, folding his arms he saw a few people coming out of their yurts to start the day, though the morning was gloomy and sun had not yet risen, it would be a lovely day. A bonus he would receive from his emperor Valentinian for his discovery of the valiant Huns.
King Rua dressed in his armor with animal pelts draped over his shoulders. He stepped out of his yurt and noticed all of the women and men preparing for the day. All looked a bit hung over from the festivities the night before. Of course, wedding celebrations were quite grand and special in the Hun tribes. They were nights to be remembered and Rua made sure that everyone had plenty of wine, mead and food to share with all the tribe members.
Bleda, his eldest nephew emerged from his yurt, looking a bit haggard from the ceremonies last night. He walked over to him and pat his back harshly. "Bleda! You have enjoyed yourself surely?" he had a bit of mirth in his eyes.
The young man held his head, feeling his head throbbing harder the more his uncle spoke loudly. "My brother knows how to throw a party, that's for sure." He walked to the well and took the ladle drinking some much needed water. As he drank his eyes traveled to the hill and saw many Roman soldiers peering at them, probably twenty of them at least and a man that looked of utmost importance. "Uncle!" he called out, wiping his mouth.
Rua hurried over and he too now saw the Romans spying on their tribe. "Romans in the Balkans?" he couldn't believe it. "Go wake Attila and Borias," he said and Bleda refused to move, now angered by the Romans daring to come to their land. "Go!" he pushed him and Bleda groaned then ran off to get his brother and Borias. He didn't want to see the shocked look on their faces from this sudden news.
Attila woke up, stretching his arms over his head then glanced over at his newlywed wife, sleeping soundly. The covers draped over her body perfectly shaping her slender curved body. He leaned over and pulled down the blanket uncovering her medium sized breast. Tracing his finger over her nipple she stirred and shivered at his touch.
Cera's eyes fluttered open and he kissed her shoulder, cupping her breast in his palm. She smirked at him, "you didn't get enough last night?" she said in a husky sleepy voice. His hand traveled under the sheets and she felt his hand graze over her flat abdomen, grabbing her inner thigh and her body tensed. She turned over on her side and kissed his lips gingerly. Attila smiled and began kissing her neck as his fingers slipped inside her. Cera's eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip. "Attila..." she hissed.
Bleda came into his brother's room and Attila turned, hearing footsteps. Cera gasped and covered herself with the blankets. Bleda smirked, "brother I see you are having your fill with your redhead goddess," he folded his arms.
Attila frowned and now his was in no mood to have sex with his new wife courtesy of his dear brother. "What do you want, Bleda?" he stood up, naked, and grabbed the goblet of mead that was leftover from last night and took a generous swig.
"There are Romans over the hill. Our uncle demands your presence," Bleda said and Attila set the goblet down.
"Romans?" he wanted to make sure he heard that right. Bleda nodded, "tell him I will be there in a moment. Wake Borias," he grabbed his pants and began dressing as fast as possible. His brother left the room and went to inform King Rua, after he awakened Borias.
Cera crawled to the end of the bed with an imminent frown on her lips, "Attila, what did he mean that Romans were here?"
Attila slipped on his boots and threw his animal pelts over his shoulders. "I am going to find out," he grunted then got up, adjusting his belt. He leaned down and kissed her lips with force. He pulled away and brushed a few tendrils behind her ear, "stay here where you are safe." He smiled then grabbed his sword, hurrying out of the room to meet his uncle and brother to see these so called Romans and why they were here in the first place.
Bleda entered Borias' and Xena's yurt, seeing they were both still sleeping and he had his arm draped over Xena. He cleared his throat and Borias opened his eyes, sitting up on his elbow. "Attila and King Rua need you at the front of the hill."
He yawned, "what is it this time?" he was not in the mood for this especially so early in the morning. He couldn't even see the sun yet that's how early it was.
"It's urgent. The Romans are here," Bleda said and was going to stand there until he agreed to come out with him. Xena opened her eyes and frowned seeing Attila's brother in their yurt. "Good morning, Xena," he smiled at her sweetly. She rolled her eyes and rested her head back down on the pillow.
Borias sighed and rubbed his face, "give me some time and I will be there," he said, waving his hand at him. Bleda nodded, content with that, he knew he could trust Borias and left the yurt in a haste. He stood up slowly and grabbed his pants and tunic, not happy about being woken up, but it must be urgent otherwise Bleda wouldn't come in here personally. And if the king said it was important, then it must be serious.
Xena sat up, covering her upper half with the warm wool blanket and smiled at him smugly. His eyes lowered to her and saw that enticing smile. She grabbed his hand, "last night was fun," her eyes squinted as her smile widened.
He chuckled softly, "was it?" he tightened his belt around his slender waist. "I have to go meet with Attila and the king about some Romans," he sighed, rolling his eyes then grabbed his sword, sheathing it in its holster.
She frowned at that and grabbed his hand, not wishing him to leave, "I'll come with you." He quirked his mouth then knelt down in front of her and looked into her glowing blue eyes that would enchant anyone.
"I want you to stay here," he whispered.
She shook her head, "but I am second in command. I should be there too," her voice filled with determination and he knew better than to argue with her and decided to keep his mouth shut. She smiled, knowing that he would not dare detest her and since she was the second in command in the military, she was just as important as Attila, his brother, Borias and King Rua. "Go on without me, I will be there," she winked.
He sighed and kissed her forehead, "I'll be waiting for you by the front," he groaned inwardly, not happy that she was joining in, fearing that she might be harmed, but it was almost impossible to reason with her, especially when she wanted to do what she wanted, when she wanted. He grabbed an extra sword and left the yurt to meet with everyone by the hill.
Attila and Borias met halfway as they walked to the front of the hill together. Attila looked at the gaggle of Romans, huddling together like a herd of sheep. "Romans never come here," Attila frowned, his pace quickening.
"They are not attacking." Borias noticed, as they kept staring at King Rua and Bleda, waiting for them. "What do they want?" he hissed.
"We're going to find out," Attila ran to the front and Borias followed shortly.
They joined the others and King Rua turned his head at the arrivals. "I am not sure of their intentions," he said to his youngest nephew.
Attila nodded and saw the commander of the Romans staring down at them with curious eyes. "I say we meet with them, uncle," he said and Rua shot him a look. "We see what they want with us. We don't need conflict with the Romans. Besides, I want to see what their game is," he smiled deviously at the thought of Romans entering his people's domain. The Romans were now in their realm and it was time to play a game.
Borias frowned, folding his arms, "Romans are known for trickery, Attila. We need to be on our guard," he pressed.
"Indeed Borias, which is why I want to interrogate the commander," he nudged his head at the tall meaty one glaring at them. Some men began walking up the hill to tell the Romans they wished to converse. "Look at the pig," he chuckled.
Flavius Aetius was brought into the large abode of the gracious Hun King Rua. Attila made the rest of the Romans stay outside the fort, not trusting them at all. The Roman commander sat down on a large pillow, opposite the king, Attila, Bleda and Borias. He admired these people as they lived as such barbarians and were completely uncivilized in his eyes, coming from a wealthy elite background.
Xena entered the room and all eyes went to her. Aetius turned his head and saw a striking raven haired woman, wearing a coined headpiece draped over her long locks. His eyes grew as he gawked over her beauty. His eyes scanned her body and she wore black fur covering her dress and she eyed him staring at her. She walked over behind him and sat next to Borias on the pillow, tucking her legs under her. Smiling at Attila he simply gave her a small head nod, glad she was here to see the interrogation process, though he hoped she would keep her mouth shut. She never was a talker, but when she was, she said some of the most cruel things that could scare off the most ruthless warlords ever to walk this earth. He hoped she'd cooperate.
King Rua cleared his throat, now grabbing everyone's attention. "Welcome to my home, commander," he smiled at the Roman.
Aetius bowed his head graciously, "it is an honor to be in your presence," he smirked.
"you know of us, then?" the king asked, hesitant of this Roman and his lies.
Flavius Aetius smiled, nodding, "of course. I know of the Huns, your highness," he eyed Attila, "and I know of you," he said and Attila raised his eyebrow suspiciously. "Your people have a large some of land that rivals the Visigoth king," he chuckled and everyone in the room remained silent, not getting the joke. His laughter died and he extended his hand and the Hun guards came closer to the king. Aetius saw the guards out of the corner of his eye and retracted his hand. "I have come to make a proposition for you all."
Xena frowned, not liking the sound of that. "What kind of proposition?" she asked and all eyes went to her. The Roman turned his head and couldn't help but smile at her, smitten by her beauty.
"I didn't know the Huns had such gorgeous women," Aetius smiled and Xena was less enthused by his flattery.
Attila sighed, "Xena is my second in command. She is to be respected," he said and the Roman nodded, understanding fully.
"Of course," he continued smiling at the raven haired splendor. He redirected his attention to the king, "I want to ally with your people. Rome needs to expand her empire and I think you are great warriors to have on Rome's side."
King Rua frowned and looked to his nephews, waiting for their response, but everyone was quite surprised. Xena was the only one who seemed to have a voice today. "Why would we want to join Rome?" she asked and Attila shot her a glare. He knew she was going to do this, though she seemed to be behaving herself and he trusted her judgment in matters like these.
Aetius turned to her, "your people would prosper in Rome's wealth and you would receive all the glory of course, dedicating yourself to Rome as an ally –friends," he grinned and she turned to Borias, and both shared a look.
"What will you give us if we decide to ally with you?" Xena asked and King Rua nodded, very happy to see that she was asking all the right questions while everyone remained flabbergasted at this sudden proposition.
The Roman eyed everyone and grinned nervously at the Hun king. "Two thousand Roman soldiers and one fourth Roman pounds for your alliance and you may keep half of what you plunder along Rome's expansion." He said and Attila looked to his uncle, wondering if this was a good deal.
"One fourth is not enough!" Xena reprimanded. "Two fourths Roman pounds and seventy percent of anything we may find during our excursions."
Attila frowned, "we will not exceed our greed," he eyed Xena and Borias grabbed her hand, squeezing it tightly so she wouldn't argue. "We will take the one fourth pounds, but keep the seventy percent commerce," he said and Aetius sighed.
"I'm sure the emperor would have no problem with that deal," Aetius smiled, bowing his head. Xena frowned, narrowing her eyes at the Roman. He turned to the king, "so we have a deal?" he paused, "unless the lady objects..." his eyes traveled to Xena.
King Rua shook his head, "no, we will take the offer," he stood up and everyone else stood. Aetius smiled and extended his hand to shake it. The king looked at his hand, puzzled at what he was supposed to do with it. Aetius sensed that these people definitely not up to par on civil meetings and slowly retracted his hand.
"I will notify the emperor of our meeting then. I will send a currier for more information," he said and he was shown the way out of the conference.
Xena stood up and now that the Roman was gone Attila approached her, "Xena, you were out of line," he hissed, inches from her face.
"You were going to let that Roman pig walk all over you!" Xena yelled at him and Attila groaned, frustrated with her obstinacy. He was a gentle man, except when it came to war and he realized that she was indeed a skilled warrior and knew how to negotiate but she was not queen here, she was not in charge. He also reminded himself that she was pregnant and took a step back from her, giving her personal space.
He exhaled heavily, "you are my best commander, Xena. I trust you and you know I trust your judgment, but if we ally with the Romans, we want them on our side, not against us. We will work together, as a team," he said, making sure he made himself clear. He left her side and Bleda smirked, following his little brother.
Borias grabbed her arms and held her close to his body, "Xena," he hissed, "you need to learn your boundaries!"
She growled and pushed him away from her, "you need to learn to sense a snake when you see one, Borias!" she brushed passed him and stormed out of the small room. He rubbed his face, frustrated with her actions, though she had a point, he thought.
Flavius Aetius returned to his camp in one piece, he expected nothing less since the Huns decided to meet with him. He met with his soldiers, "inform Valentinian that we have the Huns on our side. I am sure he will be pleased," he smiled, slipping his red plumed feather helmet on his head. The men nodded and ran off to inform their messenger and their soon return to Rome about this grand news.
He turned back and looked at the tribe and couldn't stop thinking of that raven haired woman. She was definitely smart as well as beautiful. But he sensed that she was dangerous and he did not trust her. She was so quick to denounce his offer and create one for herself. Because of this, he admired her bravery not to stand down against newcomers in the area. She might be a problem, he told himself. He needed to keep an eye on her, but he saw that the king and Attila were fond of her opinions and that too could be dangerous.
He only hoped that she would not be an issue as the alliance between Mother Rome and the Huns. He would definitely have her investigated when he returned to Rome, that was a promise.
AN: save for a part II
AN: Holy mother of God. I never wrote such a long chapter in my entire life of writing stories. I wanted to make this really long so I wouldn't have to split it up into three parts. This chapter is very intense with a lot of information that is vital and will probably intrigue you all some more. Maybe lol.
Enjoy and good luck, everyone! Hope you enjoy this adventure.
Prologue Part II
In Rome, Valentinian, the youngest Roman Emperor in the history of the entire empire, sat in a chair opposite his military commander, Flavius Aetius. He grew bored of Aetius' strategic planning lessons and desired more to be with his younger sister, Honoria. His entire life, after his uncle died and he became his successor of mother Rome, his mother, Placida, was in charge of all the politics and meetings. Valentinian yawned as Aetius kept pointing to spots on the map tacked to the wall.
He leaned his cheek on his palm and Aetius turned around to see that his emperor was not listening. He was expecting that and nothing less from the young foolish emperor. "You are tired, your highness?" he smiled tightly, trying to contain his temper, which was rising by the second.
The emperor nodded, "this is so boring, Aetius," scoffing he stood up and walked to the map. He noticed the city Pannonia, noting that was the capital of the Hunnic tribes in the Balkans. "What is it with you and these Huns?" he laughed, "they are savages from what I hear." He shrugged a shoulder and folded his arms, then looked at the large amount of land the Huns had and it bordered the Eastern Roman Empire's holy city, Constantinople. "You said you allied with these barbarians?" he looked up at the commander.
Aetius nodded, "I did sire. They are great fighters and rose to power so quickly," he frowned, thinking that was quite remarkable of them. Though when he met with King Rua and his nephews, they did not seem like savages or barbarians whilst in his presence. "I thought to ally with them so they would not try and overthrow Rome."
Valentinian cackled loudly, "overthrow Rome? That's ridiculous, Aetius!" he shook his head, still laughing at the preposterous idea.
"Beware those that rise to power quickly, sire," Aetius stressed but the young emperor was not interested in talking of these Huns anymore.
Honoria ran into the room, being chased by her elder cousin, Petronius. Her white Roman gown trailed behind her and she giggled as she ran behind her elder emperor brother, trying to get away from their cousin. Valentinian smiled seeing his little sister, only a few years younger than he. "Petronius, you dare attack my sister?" he joked.
Petronius leaned on the table and Honoria grabbed Valentinian's hand and they ran from behind the table and knocked over a vase with orchids. Placida, their mother, entered the room and clung to the wall as she saw her adult children running from their cousin. "Excuse us, mummy!" Honoria said aloud and they rounded the corner.
Aetius groaned and slammed the quill down on the table. Placida walked over to him and saw the map hanging on the wall. "Your son does not pay attention to anything I say, Placida," he growled.
She folded her arms, "I know my son can be very childish sometimes, Aetius. He just needs time."
"He needs to grow up!" Aetius raised his voice and some of the slaves looked their way. He sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. He saw her looking at the map and a large area was outlined in black ink.
"I was informed that you have allied with the savage Huns..." she turned to him with a frown, "is this true?"
He affirmed her question, "yes, I did. I feel that an alliance will keep them from trying to conquer Rome in the future. It will be best if we are friends with these people, Placida," he said and she did not seem convinced.
She looked at the circled city, Pannonia and thought that was an interesting city for a capital. "You honestly believe those barbaric Bedouins would try and take Rome for themselves?" she turned to him.
"Just to be on the safe side, your highness," he smiled, "those who rise to power quickly, often conquer quickly."
Placida's eyes scanned the map and saw the Huns had quite a large amount of land at their disposal already. They bordered Northern Gaul and also Constantinople. Those places were sacred to the Western Empire and could not be compromised. "I'd like to meet these Huns," she blinked and Aetius was surprised to hear that. "Invite them to Rome," she trailed off and left the room, rounding the corner without giving the commander time to refute her request.
Cera walked out of the large wooden dwelling as she waited for Attila to finish hunting with his men out in the forests, miles from their campsite. It had been weeks since the Romans came to Pannonia and all seemed quiet for now, though she was very untrusting of the Romans because she used to live in the Roman Empire as a slave girl and was transferred to the Hunnic lands. It was then, a year ago, that she met Attila and the two remained together for that year and finally married almost a month ago.
She came to the well and began filling her bucket with water to take back to her bedroom. Bleda saw her by the well and grinned. He ran his fingers through his long black hair and approached her silently.
He grabbed her from behind and Cera gasped loudly. She lifted her eyes and saw Attila's brother. "Bleda! Get off of me!" she groaned and tried to get free from his hold, but he squeezed her harder so she was unable to fight back.
His hand traveled down her soft neck and slipped off her dress from her rounded shoulders. Slipping his hand underneath her dress, he grabbed her breast and her eyes widened. "My brother does not deserve a beautiful woman such as yourself," he whispered in her ear as he sniffed her red long locks.
"Attila will scalp you when he finds out!" she growled and he tugged on her hair and she winced. He licked her cheek and her face contorted in disgust and felt his hand traveling lower under her dress and she was unable to break free, squirming as hard as she could.
Borias came walking into the center of the camp, just finishing meeting with King Rua about a message he received from Rome. He tucked the scroll in his vest then noticed Bleda groping Cera by the well with such force and even heard her cursing at him. It was obvious that she was not enjoying his company to put it nicely. He grabbed a dagger from his belt and marched over to the well.
Bleda smiled and kissed her neck and she restrained his hold. Borias held the tip of the dagger close to Bleda's neck with a devious smile. "What are you doing, Bleda?" he hissed in his ear. The Hun prince turned and threw Cera on the ground and she ate dirt. Rolling up his sleeves he attempted to attack Borias but he failed as Borias side stepped him and tripped him.
"This is none of your business, Borias!" he growled and Borias smiled enticingly at the man.
"That is not your woman, but your brother's. Walk away and no one gets hurt," he frowned and gripped the dagger's handle tightly. Bleda was not going to walk away and he knew that. The Hun prince ran for him and Borias pushed him on the ground and straddled his legs over the sore fighter and sat on top of his back. Grabbing his long hair, lifting his head off the ground, the dagger came to a vital vein in his neck. "Stop embarrassing yourself, Bleda," he smugly grinned. "Or I'll scalp you myself," he hissed.
Borias sheathed his dagger and stood up then grabbed Cera's hand. "Are you alright?" he asked, peering down at her torn dress. He took off a scarf from his neck and wrapped it around Cera to cover herself. She nodded and he kissed her forehead and told her to go back to her room to wait for Attila to return and make sure she wouldn't leave either.
Bleda got up and rubbed his sore ribs, "Borias!" he yelled and he turned to face him. "I am the king's nephew! You will not treat me like that!" he was still trying to redeem himself.
Though, Borias chuckled and began walking away from the prince, "you may be a prince, but you are not a man," he shook his head and kept walking. Bleda's eyes widened and he stood in shock, unable to move at the audacity of Borias to say such things. He would definitely not tell anyone of his failure today. He was an awful fighter, nothing like his younger brother that's for sure.
Inside the yurt Xena stood over a high shelf, pouring liquid into small vials. She frowned, concentrating on pouring the liquid from a large canister into the small bottles. She corked the last bottle and shook the liquid, examining the color change from dark blue to clear. She smiled and placed the vial next to the others. Counting silently to herself there were ten vials lined up accordingly, though she still had some liquid left in the canister, she would need more bottles.
Borias came from behind her and wrapped his arms around her, beneath her breasts and sniffed her hair. Xena smirked and grabbed his wrist, "you smell like lavender," he whispered in her ear then kissed her cheek.
She turned her head and lifted an eyebrow at him, "you smell like trouble," she frowned, then turned around, wrapping her arms around his neck, coming closer to him. "I heard someone yelling outside, what did you do?" she was suspicious already without knowing what happened.
He sighed, "Bleda was trying to have his way with Cera," he saw her eyes narrow.
"I don't like that idiot," she toyed with his long hair and pursed her lips, staring into his dark brown eyes, "he should be gotten rid of. He is of no use to us. He is a poor fighter and a poor excuse for a prince."
He agreed with her and rested his hands on her hips, "we can't do anything about it," he sighed, wishing that he could, though he was sure Rua would have him on a pike the second he killed Bleda for his incompetence. She nodded and smiled enchantingly at him, distracting him, she pulled him as close as possible and then it donned on him. "I have something for you," he smiled and pulled away from her, digging in his vest. She frowned and he presented a scroll with a red ribbon tied around it.
She took the scroll and instantly knew it was from Rome. "What is this?" her eyes traveled up to him.
"A message from Rome sent by Emperor Valentinian. It was delivered this morning to Rua," he said and Xena's lips curled into a sly smile.
"And the king wants me to read it for him?" she asked, though she need not to. She was the only person in the camp that could read Latin, or read anything for that matter. Everyone here was uneducated and did not know how to read or write, only speaking in their native tongues and even learned Latin for the sake of the Roman's expansion. All of the messages sent to the king were given to Xena to read, though they had few messages sent to them but when they did, she was the one to read them.
Borias lowered his eyes, feeling embarrassed for himself, his people and the king not being able to read a lick of anything. She smiled and pat his cheek gently, "see why it is so important to know how to read, Borias?" she teased and walked to sit on the bed. He sighed and turned to see her dress slit, opened and fell exposing her leg slender legs as she crossed one over the other.
She ripped the ribbon off and threw it on the floor, unrolling the scroll, "I will make sure our baby knows how to read when he is old enough," she said and he sat next to her, inching closely to her and put his hand on the small of her back.
"Our baby?" he whispered and before she could read the note, she looked at him with flushed cheeks. He grinned, "before you were saying it was yours," he chuckled softly and touched her cheek with the backside of his hand.
"What's mine is yours now," she said in a soft voice and he was happy to hear those words coming from her. She could be incredibly stubborn and though she was a fierce warrior queen, she had softened the moment she found out that she was carrying a child. Xena would not let him distract her further and she cleared her throat, beginning to read the Roman letter silently to herself.
He waited patiently for her to finish reading the lengthy letter. Finally done reading she finished reading and set the parchment in her lap. He frowned seeing her expression was blank, or shocked, he couldn't tell. Rubbing his hand along her back he asked, "what does it say, Xena?"
She turned her body to him and a curious smile graced her plump lips, "this is an invitation to Rome. The emperor wants us to go meet with him."
Borias's eyes widened at that news. He never expected the emperor to approve the deal that Aetius proposed and the Huns befriending the Romans was unheard of. He kissed her lips, catching her off guard, then grabbed hold of her shoulders firmly. "Attila will be pleased!" Xena smiled, nodding her head. "I will tell him when he returns from hunting."
"I never thought that the Romans would agree to ally with us," Xena frowned, thinking something was wrong and Borias saw that look in her eyes.
He turned her face towards his, "you need to stop thinking like everyone is going to attack, Xena. Have some trust," he smiled and she was skeptical.
"I trust no one," she smiled mischievously, leaning in closer and kissed him generously and he began unlacing the front of her dress, slipping it down her shoulders, he kissed her collar bone and she untied his belt about his waist hastily and threw it on the floor.
He lifted her up and gently placed her on the bed, slipping her dress further down her body and she lifted a curious brow up at him. He stared down at her and her long dark hair was sprawled across the sheets. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he grinned mischievously down at her, admiring her beauty and olive toned skin that complimented her icy blue eyes. For a moment, he couldn't stop staring at her, completely lost in her, though she didn't seem to protest his wandering eyes. Over the last few months he noticed a complete change in her body, her thighs fuller and her cheeks filled out. Her hips became more prominent opposed to her previous slim frame, giving her a very curvy shape.
As he continued to gawk at her she chuckled at his dumbfounded expression. "Are you going to stare at me for eternity?" she ran her fingers through his thick dark hair and he smirked at her, simply appreciating her as a whole. He leaned down and kissed her neck, then collar bone, traveling down further he continued to slip her dress down. His eyes traveled to her breasts and they were considerably larger since the last time he saw them, which he was not one to complain.
She stretched her arms over her head as she felt his lips travel down her body, closing her eyes, she smiled widely, biting her lower lip as her body tensed. His hand gripped her hip and he looked up to see her relaxed and enjoying herself, he smiled cleverly. Inching her dress down further, exposing all of her flesh. His eyes widened and she lifted her leg, wrapping it around his thigh. She smirked at him and he kissed her swollen abdomen, carrying their child. His fingers traced her soft skin and her leg tightened around his, he smiled.
Tracing down her body he squeezed her thigh gently and her hips lifted slightly as his mouth inched closer to her hot spot, feeling her body temperature rising, he reached under her dress with gentle hands, careful not to be too rough with her.
Orestes, Attila's right hand man and one of his best friends came into Borias' and Xena's yurt. His eyes widened as he saw Xena topless, flesh exposed. "Sir," he cleared his throat and Borias stopped, completely ruining the mood.
Xena covered her body with the sheet and frowned, sitting up on her elbows. "For the love of God!" Borias stood up and slipped his pants back over his hips. He turned to Orestes, "what is it?" he hissed.
He lowered his eyes, quite embarrassed to walk in on the two. "Attila is back from the hunt, sir. He wants to see you immediately," he said and Borias sighed heavily, nodding his head. Orestes bowed curtly then left the yurt in a hurry, dying to get out of there.
Borias grabbed his sword and sheathed it in its holster. Xena sat up, crinkling the sheets close to her skin. He stared at her apologetically, "we will...continue this later?" he smirked and she smiled up at him, he then leaned down and kissed her forehead before leaving to meet with Attila.
Attila was speaking with his uncle about the message that he received while he was on his hunt. He brought back a stag and some fish, enough for everyone to feast on later tonight. Borias entered King Rua's room and Attila smiled at him. "Borias! My brother!" he embraced him warmly. "How is Xena?"
Borias sighed, still annoyed that their time together was interrupted as they didn't spend a lot of time together as of late. He would make it a promise to make it up to her later. "She is well," he replied and Attila nodded, happy to hear that.
"I'm glad to hear that, you know how special she is to me," the Hun prince smiled and Borias appreciated his soft spot for Xena. "So, my uncle told me that a message from Rome came. Was Xena able to decipher it?"
"Yes she was. The emperor invited us to Rome," Borias said and King Rua stood from his chair.
"This is great news!" Rua smiled, hugging his nephew tightly, clapping his back pridefully. "We will leave at once."
Attila's eyes widened, "how soon?"
"How about tomorrow?" Rua suggested. Borias and Attila shared a glance with one another, then the Hun prince smiled at his uncle, thrilled at this opportunity to expand their alliance. They were hated by the Visigoths and the Franks in Northern Gaul, but it was an honor to even be considered partners with the Roman empire. The most powerful empire to date and it was still expanding.
King Rua sent Attila, Borias and Xena to Rome while he stayed behind in Pannonia with Bleda to keep things afloat. He knew that he could count on his nephew to bring the Hunnic culture to the pompous Romans and trusted Borias and Xena's judgment. He would make sure that all accounts were recorded for safety purposes and had no idea how long they would stay in Rome, but he hoped it would be long enough to sway the emperor to continue to be allies with their people in the future.
Attila rode on his black stallion, dressed in red robes with hair braided. Xena and Borias rode on their horses behind him, trotting slowly. As soon as they passed the large archway into the palace of Rome, Attila's eyes lit up at all the decorations hanging from the columns and this place was much bigger than he anticipated. There were hundreds of people lined up on the street watching him ride behind the Roman elite soldiers, leading them to the emperor, who sat on his throne, smiling at the Huns.
Xena's eyes wandered around and people from balconies above threw down flower petals for their grand entrance and there was music as well, horns, drums and loud flutes. Borias reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly. She turned to him, "the Romans know how to make someone feel welcome," he said and she showed her pearly whites, feeling important riding alongside him and Attila.
She looked down at the people who were gawking at her and she frowned, seeing the gorgeous women dressed in silk and chaffon gowns and all donned expensive jewelry around their necks and fingers. These people were obviously the elites of Rome, not the poor.
Honoria stood with her friends watching Attila pass them by on his large horse. She nudged her friend, "he is more handsome than I predicted," she smiled with glee.
"I expected him to be hideous," her friend added.
"They wear animal skins..." Honoria thought that odd. "So tribal," she chuckled then looked on to see who else was following behind the handsome Hun prince.
Honoria watched the other two Huns pass by and saw Xena, riding beside another man with equally as long hair as Attila and also handsome as well. She gawked at Xena and saw her hair reached her hips and it was wild, in a few braids framing her face. She wore a chained headpiece on her head, the chains trailing down her back, intertwining with her thick raven hair. She pointed to Xena, "who is that?" she whispered and could not look away.
Her friend's eyes widened seeing Xena ride passed them on her large dark horse, wearing a black dress with black fur coat draped over her body. "She looks terrifying," she said and Honoria nodded, agreeing with her.
Xena felt someone watching her and she turned her head to her right and saw Honoria and her friend staring at her. She smiled at them both and Honoria's eyes grew as she was spotted. She lowered her eyes and Xena sneered then kept riding along close to Borias' horse so she wouldn't stomp on anyone in her way.
Valentinian stood from his throne as Attila dismounted his horse. He walked up to him and kissed the Hun's cheeks twice. Attila was not used to these Roman customs, but was overwhelmed by the welcome he received when he arrived. "Attila, I'm sure you will enjoy yourself in Rome." He smiled.
Attila nodded, "I'm sure I will emperor," he thanked him then the emperor looked at Borias and Xena, dismounting their horses, coming forth to meet them. "These are military commanders, Borias and Xena," he introduced them.
Valentinian smiled at them both and Borias bowed his head curtly, though Xena refused. "You have beautiful women in your lands, Attila," he winked at Xena and she gave a forced tight lipped smile towards the emperor. "Come inside, we have a nice venue for you all," he hooked arms with Attila and lead him inside the palace away from the peering eyes of the open crowd.
Xena lifted her eyebrow and grabbed Borias' hand, trailing behind the two. "He is younger than me," she whispered, already annoyed and she hadn't even been here five minutes. She was very young, in her early twenties and this man looked like he was barely reaching manhood. She suspected that he never laid in bed with a real woman.
"Behave yourself, Xena," Borias hissed and gripped her hand as they entered the palace.
They were escorted into a private room filled with female servants, barely wearing any clothing. Attila's eyes widened seeing the bare chest women pass by him carrying trays of fruit and wine. Xena cringed in disgust and Borias was shocked to see so many freely nude women and even some men too. In Hunnic culture, the Romans veered them as savages and barbarians. Some even say that their women walk around topless or fully naked at all times, though that was far from the truth. Hunnic women were fully clothed and considered modest women, always covering themselves around other men, because a woman only belonged to a man if she sired his child, then she was his forever.
Valentinian saw the shocked faces of his guests, "hopefully this is more to your liking?" completely ignorant of their culture.
Attila smiled nervously, "we don't have parties like these back home, your majesty..." he said trying not to insult the emperor.
The emperor put his hand over his heart, "forgive me, I thought you liked naked women," he chuckled.
Borias smirked, "one woman is enough," he said and Xena jabbed her elbow in his side and he winced, groaning quietly.
Valentinian laughed at the Hun, "I like you," he shook his head and linked arms with Attila. "I will show you the rest of the palace, yes?" he walked with the Hun prince.
Xena grunted, "this ought to be interesting," she mumbled.
King Rua had settled in his bed after a long day. He hoped that Attila, Borias and Xena reached Rome safely and things were going well with the emperor. He slipped in his bed, shirtless, covering himself with the sheer sheets since the weather was not kind and was rather warm during this time of year.
Outside of the king's room Bleda told the guards that their duty was finished for the evening. Luckily for him, the guards listened to him like he was the king himself. The perks of being a prince. Smiling he slipped inside the large dwelling and peered into his uncle's room. He was fast asleep already and he just got in bed not more than a half hour ago.
Stepping into the room quietly he was careful not to make a sound. A few large candles were lit in the room and the flames whispered and cackled. Drawing a short sword from his sheath he tip toed closer to his uncle's bed. He stood over him, staring at him sleeping soundly, oblivious to the world.
"I will be king," he whispered and Rua's chest rose and fell gently as his slumber deepened, which meant he couldn't hear anything and was unaware. Bleda climbed on top of his uncle and wrapped his fingers around his throat. Rua's eyes opened and he saw his eldest nephew, wielding a dagger and he was being choked.
"Bleda?" he choked and the nephew smiled maliciously at his uncle.
Bleda cut into his uncle's throat slowly and blood began pouring out of his neck, all over his chest and the beautiful silk sheets on the bed. He smiled and decided to cut deeper. Thick clots of blood began spilling out of the fresh wound. The white sheets were now crimson. Rua coughed and the viscous dark bodily fluids flowed from his mouth. He looked into his nephew's eyes. "Why..." he choked then lolled his head to the side and blood continued to spew from his neck, covering his torso and Bleda wiped his sword on the sheets and licked his fingers.
He ran out of the room and saw a guard watching at the forefront of the dwelling and he grabbed him from behind, covering his mouth. He dragged the guard into his now dead uncle's room and then stabbed the man in the side with the dagger. The man cried out in pain then Bleda growled, grabbing a pillow and began smothering him. His arms flayed in the air and he kicked his legs trying to free himself.
Bleda's eyes were filled with ambition as he continued to smother the poor guard. Finally after a couple of minutes, the man's arms flopped to the ground and his legs ceased movement. Bleda removed the pillow and saw the man's eyes wide open and his mouth agape. Blood poured onto the floor in a giant pool from the rib wound.
The Hun prince wiped his bloodied hands on the guard's clothing and then stood up walking over to Rua. He stared at him and smiled. Then he opened his uncle's hand and placed the short sword in his palm, making it look like a struggle. He was quite pleased with himself and now that his uncle was dead, he would become the new king, not Attila. He was the eldest and should be king, though he was not a fighter and was quite lazy, it was his birthright.
He would have to wait until morning so the guards could find the precious king dead and his killer lying on the floor as well. He smiled then hurried out of the room so he would not risk being caught by any prying eyes.
Xena walked in the Roman gardens alone and Aetius spotted her wandering by herself without Attila and Borias. He smiled and headed her way, trying to make himself not seem anxious or needy he would pretend to bump into her.
She looked at the vase filled with wine and some glasses on a table filled with fruit outside. She picked up the vase and smelled the sweet wine. Aetius came behind her, "you enjoy wine?" he said and she jumped, turning to find the commander sneaking up on her. "Sorry, I did not mean to scare you," he apologized. He offered to take the wine from her, "allow me?" she eyed him cautiously and he poured wine in two glasses then handed her one.
She sipped the wine, tasting it carefully. He smiled and sipped the wine as well. "I'm surprised to find you out here alone," he enjoyed the singing birds around them and she said nothing, sipping the wine in silence. "Where is your husband?"
Xena choked on the wine, "he is not my husband," she answered curtly.
Aetius nodded, "forgive me. I am not aware of your customs," he said politely and she smiled falsely at him, trying to be on her best behavior like Borias asked of her. "So, you are Attila's military commander?" she nodded as a reply. "How did you come by that opportunity?" he pried, trying to get as much information from her as possible.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" she chuckled under her breath and sipped some more of the dark wine.
"You are very assertive," he noted and she shrugged her shoulder, "I can tell that Attila values your words." He remembered when he first met her back in Pannonia when he offered his alliance with King Rua. She was the first to disagree and actually negotiate with him, something he did not expect a woman to do. He was not aware that the Huns took their women so seriously. "You must be very important from where you are from," he pressed.
Xena was growing tired of this man's insinuation to seek information from her. She wasn't stupid and obviously because she wasn't a Roman and she was a woman, she would not be taken seriously here. "Are you trying to flirt with me?" she smirked, catching him off guard, her favorite thing to do. She set the glass of wine back on the table and grabbed some grapes, lifting an eyebrow at him while she had a big smug grin on her lips.
He set the wine down as well and hooked arms with her leading her away from the table. She frowned, but played along. "I want this alliance to be as friendly as possible, you understand don't you?"
"I think so," she folded her arms as she chewed on a few small grapes. "Why did you want to ally with us? You think we are savages, don't you?" now it was her turn to pry for information.
A servant saw the Hun woman and commander talking with each other. He looked at the two wine goblets sitting on the table and watched the two carefully. He pulled out a vial and poured some powder into both glasses then saw the commander coming for the glasses, he casually walked away like nothing happened.
Aetius smiled and brought Xena her glass, "you seem like a smart woman, Xena. I admire you," he said and she smiled anxiously and shook her head as he tried to hand her the wine again. He set the glass on the table and continued staring into her mysterious eyes. "There is a campaign I am working on against Theodoric, the Visigoth king. I wanted to tell Attila about it first, but I think you are second best," he winked and she tried not to vomit at his constant flirtatious nature. He wasn't going to stop. She couldn't remember the last time a man tried this hard to be close to her and it was honestly pathetic on his part.
Borias saw Xena speaking with the commander in the garden and frowned. He walked by and wrapped his arm around Xena's waist. She smirked at him as he pulled her closer to him. Aetius took a generous step back and set the glass of wine on the table. "Attila wants us to meet with the emperor," he whispered in her ear and she nodded, then smiled at the commander.
"It was very nice talking to you, Xena," Aetius bowed his head and Borias lifted a disapproving brow at this man. He definitely did not trust him and especially did not like that he was talking to Xena alone with nobody around.
A slave came to the wine and took Xena's glass and sipped it. Aetius caught the slave drinking the wine and frowned. "Oh sire, forgive me, I was just..." his lungs began to tighten and felt his stomach churn in knots. Xena frowned at the slave then the young man coughed blood all over the table then collapsed onto the ground.
Borias' mouth gaped as he saw the young slave die right before him, almost instantly. Aetius's eyes grew in fear as he realized the wine was poisoned, though it couldn't have been while they were drinking it. perhaps someone slipped in something while they were not aware.
Xena smirked, folding her arms, "oh yes, Aetius, it was very nice speaking with you..." she chuckled lowly and walked off with Borias to meet with Attila and Valentinian.
Aetius took the glass of wine and dipped his finger in it and saw a film over the liquid. He frowned and threw the glass onto the ground. He stormed back into the palace to speak with his soldiers about this, though he feared that the emperor would be poisoned...he secretly desired such a fate for the foolish ruler.
A couple of weeks later Attila, Borias and Xena returned to Pannonia with good news. Valentinian and his commander, Flavius Aetius, were hosting a war campaign against the Visigoths. They were definitely enemies of both parties, but the Romans wanted to weaken the Goth king so he wouldn't try to plunder the Hunnic lands anymore. Attila had agreed to join the Romans in the battle campaign with Borias and Xena by his side, leading all the attacks though it was tough to make Xena agree, she would have to wait for Aetius' command to attack. So this meant they would have to wait on the sidelines until told to do so. Xena did not like waiting, she wanted to do everything on her terms, not some Roman pig's terms. Though, Borias convinced her that Aetius was a fair Roman commander and he would obviously give her the chance to attack if need be.
Attila rode into the camp and saw a crowd of people surrounding the front of the large abode. He frowned as he saw his elder brother, Bleda, about to wear the crown of their uncle. Xena and Borias trotted forth and Xena smirked, seeing Bleda claiming the crown for himself.
Attila growled and threw his dagger, knocking the crown out of the high priest's hands and Bleda snapped his head to see his angry little brother. "Bleda!" he yelled and charged forward on his horse.
"I wanted to kill him myself, but this should be more interesting," Xena smiled and trotted forward slowly on her horse. Borias sighed and followed beside her.
"Brother, how was your trip to Rome?" Bleda asked calmly with his voice dripping in arrogance.
Attila hopped off the horse and took two swords out from his sheaths. "You killed our uncle!" he spat and Bleda laughed.
"You have no proof of that, brother. He was found dead."
"Lies!" he yelled and Bleda rolled his eyes at his little brother, quite tired of him.
"Rua is dead, so that means I am king now, brother! Not you!" Bleda stepped down off the dais and Attila growled. Borias came to his side and held the young Hun prince back from doing something he might regret later.
Xena walked forward with a smug grin, "oh Borias, you should let him kill the fool," she stared at Bleda and he glared at her.
Bleda pointed at Xena, "I am the new king and I am tired of you, Xena!" he growled and her eyes widened then she let out a mocking laugh, not the least bit insulted by this idiot poser king. "You are no longer the military commander. You are a whore and a lone wolf, you obey no one."
She was willing to let that go until he called her a whore. She frowned and took out her dagger from her cloak and Borias watched her carefully. Attila saw her dagger and he grabbed her wrist, "Xena no!" he came inches away from her face. "He is mine," he snarled and she groaned, lowering her gaze and Borias felt relieved that Attila was able to sway her from killing Bleda right then and there. She acted quickly, that was for sure.
Attila pointed his sword at his brother, "you would make a poor king, brother! I am the rightful leader, even our uncle said so!" he yelled.
Bleda folded his arms, "is that so? What would you do as king then, Attila?"
"Rule the world!" he lifted his blades in the air and Bleda's eyes widened. "I challenge you for the crown, brother. If I win, I am king, and if you win...you will be king," he smiled, noticing some fear in his elder brother's eyes.
Later in the afternoon Attila and Bleda faced back to back with another and each were given the same weapon to fight with so nobody had the upper hand in the fight. It was a custom in Hunnic culture that if one man wanted to claim kinghood, they would have to fight for it. Attila was not worried to fight with his brother because he was a far better fighter than Bleda could ever be.
The high priest raised his hands in the air and backed away ten steps before giving them the signal. Attila and Bleda walked off in opposite directions until they were far from one another. This was to be a fair fight, though Attila believed that his brother was not going to play by the rules.
Xena and Borias sat at the front of the hill, watching the duel about the begin between the two. Xena was ecstatic to see this fight. She had been waiting for Bleda to be killed ever since she met him. Borias turned and saw a big smile on her face. He rolled his eyes and slouched in the chair, wanting this ridiculous duel to be over before it even began.
Both brothers turned around and Attila smiled at him, twirling the blade with his wrist, enraging his brother. Bleda came running first and Attila blocked his blow easily then kicked him down to the ground. He thrust his sword downward and Bleda's eyes widened, rolling out of the way and the blade stabbed the grass.
Attila growled and saw his brother escaping. He ran after him and jumped on his back, pulling on his hair. Bleda flipped him over on his back and drew his sword, ready to strike him. Attila then kicked him in the groin and then punched him in the jaw. Bleda stumbled backward and wiped the blood off his lips.
The elder brother smiled maliciously at him and came running for him again. Attila's sword was knocked out of his hand, his mouth gaped as he saw his only weapon, flying yards away from him.
"This is supposed to be a fair fight!" Attila growled and charged forward, grabbing hold of his brother's waist, pushing backwards into the grass and Bleda gasped as his sword was then knocked out of his hand as well, but only a few feet away. Attila sat atop his brother and began choking him. Bleda's eyes looked to the sword and began reaching for it as far as his limbs would allow.
Attila eyed the sword and grabbed it before his brother got the chance to. He smiled at him then yelled before plunging the sword into his brother's gut. Bleda gasped for air then blood began trickling out of his mouth. Attila took the sword out of his brother and tossed it aside.
"I am your king now," he hissed and spat on him. He turned to see everyone staring at him with shocked faces. He smiled at them and soon he heard the glorious sound of cheers and clapping. They too hated Bleda and thought he would be an unfit king –everyone knew, except for Bleda himself.
Xena stood up and folded her arms, "that was...amusing," she smirked and Borias shook his head, but couldn't help but laugh at her excited good mood she was in despite Bleda being killed, though it was a fair fight.
After the fight the high priest then picked up the crown from the dirt and Attila sat down on his uncle's throne, destined to be his. The priest then set the crown atop his head and everyone smiled. "The new King of the Huns," the priest smiled and Attila saw Xena with a smirk on her face and he winked at her.
One month later Attila lead a slew of his army to the Goth city, Aquincum, to fight with the Romans against the ruthless Goths and its leader, Theordoric. The Romans obviously wanted to get rid of the king as he was an issue for everyone, including the Huns.
The Roman army was twice as large as the Hun army, though Attila knew that his men would be able to hold their own if need be. He rode on his horse back up the hill into the woods after meeting with Flavius Aetius. Xena and Borias waited on horseback, in front of the army.
"He will give us the signal to attack," he said and Borias nodded.
Xena frowned, "why should we follow what he says? We are more than capable of attacking the Goths," she knew that the Roman commander wanted this to be a Roman victory, not a Hunnic victory. Rome would take all the glory while the Hun army stayed behind, not knowing if they were going to attack or not.
"We do not have enough men, Xena," Borias said, sensing her anger rising the more she sat in silence. She was brooding and it was not good when that happened. She kept her anger bottled inside her most of the time and when that bottle exploded, so did she.
"Spartacus took down the Romans once, with an army of slaves," Xena chided, "we don't need Aetius to take complete control." She groaned, feeling her blood beginning to boil the longer she thought of standing on the sidelines waiting for this so called signal.
Aetius waited on his horse and spoke to his second in command, Felix. "Send in the middle front for the first attack. Hold the second and third fronts. We will send in the archers after the middle front reaches halfway down the hill," he gave his command and Felix nodded his head then trotted off to go tell the men of the plan. He looked up the hill and saw Theodoric waiting with his army, ready to attack them. He smiled then turned to see the Huns waiting in the woods with Xena and Borias in the front. He waved to them and Xena glared at him with her icy blue eyes. He didn't like that look, and wondered if he could trust her, though Attila seemed to trust her and that was good enough for him.
The field was silent and Aetius waited for Theodoric to make his first move. He waved his hand to the middle front and the Romans began marching with their shields covering their bodies. Theodoric then sent his men running down into the field with full force. They had no shields or any cover at all. He smiled, thinking this was definitely going to be an easy victory for mother Rome.
"Archers!" Aetius yelled and the Roman archers knelt down pulling their arrows back and soon a rain of black arrows filled the cloudy sky.
Theodoric growled seeing his men being slaughtered by arrows and the Roman soldiers had not even reached halfway into the battlefield yet.
The Roman soldiers created a massive shield and huddled together as the Goth archers shot at them from a fair distance. A few soldiers fell and cried in agony. Aetius frowned and yelled to Felix, "second front!"
Xena's eyes widened as he saw the Romans attacking the Goths, though the Visigoth king had more men than the Romans, it was a sea of red and black armor fighting one another. Cries of agony and arrows filled the sky. She looked up and felt a rain drop fall on her cheek. She frowned and pulled on her reins of the horse, "he is not giving us the signal!"
Attila frowned, noticing that as well. "We will wait, Xena!" he grabbed her arm and her eyes narrowed, waiting for the stupid Roman commander to signal them.
The Goth soldiers were slaughtering Romans left and right due to their size and brute force, something the Romans did not have. They had fancy weapons and armor, but lacked skill in handling large weapons such as maces and clubs. They were more well skilled in swords and bows than anything else. Aetius trotted forth to the left side of the third front.
"Archers!" he waved his hand and the archers pulled their bows back. He was not expecting the Goths to fight with such vengeance. His entire middle front had been slaughtered even though they had worked on these tactics for months, it was not working. He normally never had to use the third front, but maybe in this fight, he would have to in order to save his men from being slaughtered even more than they already were.
Xena saw the Romans being slaughtered and she couldn't take it anymore. "He isn't going to give us the signal, Attila," she turned to him, ready to send the men into the battlefield.
Attila frowned, "so it seems," he drew his sword and continued to wait for the commander, but after a few minutes, he knew this signal wasn't going to happen. "He makes a mockery of us all!" he yelled, lifting his sword high in the air.
"We should attack now!" Xena demanded and Borias hated to agree with her, but she was right. This Roman has played them for a fool and it was embarrassing.
Attila smiled and cried out, "for the Huns!" all the men behind him lifted their swords in the air and yelled out. Attila kicked his horse and began riding down the hill out of the woods, with his slew of men following behind him.
Aetius heard a horde of horse hooves and turned to see the Hun army riding down into the battlefield. His eyes widened and Felix saw the Huns driving their swords into the Goths. "Those fools!" he growled and slapped his thigh out of frustration. Snarling, he turned and saw Xena with Borias, in the woods, watching. She had a smug grin on her face and her frightening blue eyes were piercing right through him. "Xena..." he hissed.
Borias watched from the woods beside Xena on his black horse. He saw Attila attack the Goth soldiers with fury and such ferocity. "Romans are full of tricks," he scoffed, shaking his head.
Xena felt cramping in her lower abdomen and groaned. Her hand digging into the horse's mane. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, feeling the cramps and pain worsen. Borias turned and saw Xena's face, obviously in pain. He grabbed her arm, "Xena!" he hopped off his horse and she moaned softly. Her breathing became heavy and her heart raced as the pain heightened in a matter of seconds.
Frowning, she felt something wet in between her legs and pulled her hand away and saw blood on her fingers. Her eyes widened and Borias reached forward and grabbed her, cradling her in his arms. He saw the blood smeared on her fingers and carried her to their camp they had deep in the woods. "I'm taking you somewhere safe."
She breathed heavily, "what about Attila?" she threw her head back and moaned in agony as the intense contractions returned with a vengeance this time.
"Forget about it, Xena!" he groaned and felt rain begin to fall on them. Great, he thought.
He arrived to their yurt with the midwife inside. He dipped his head under the entrance and the midwife stood up, seeing Xena in his arms. "Set her down here," she said and he gently laid Xena down on some blankets and animal skins. He stood with his arms folded and felt like he was of no use here. The midwife washed her hands and stuck her hand under Xena's dress. Borias frowned, leaning forward to see what she was doing. When she pulled her arm out it was covered in blood and his hand came to his mouth. "She will be alright?" he asked.
The midwife sighed and said nothing. He grabbed the woman by her shoulders, shaking her firmly, "you will take care of her!" he demanded and the woman nodded in fear. She then began cleaning her hands and grabbed some cloths and herbs to prepare. Meanwhile, Xena was moaning in agony and she curled her legs close to her.
Suddenly, an arrow shot threw the yurt and landed close to Borias' boot. Xena was too out of it to notice. He growled and didn't want to leave her, but obviously, the Goths had come into the woods to fight and destroy their campsite.
He knelt down and brushed her bangs away from her sweaty forehead. "I'll come back for you," he smiled and kissed her forehead.
"Wh..what if it's a girl?" Xena's eyes grew in fear just thinking about it. A year ago, the Visigoths invaded Pannonia and killed all of the female infants and children. They wanted to wipe out all of the girls in the Hunnic tribes, believing them unworthy and filthy. It was then after that, pregnant women in the Hunnic tribes began to live in fear that their child would be born a girl, instead of a boy.
He smiled at her, "don't worry about that," he kissed her hand and unsheathed his sword, running out of the yurt into the rain to find the attackers.
Attila came running into the woods and sliced through two Goth soldiers who were invading his camp. He heard some rustling in the bushes and was ready to attack. Though, he saw Borias emerge from the trees and was glad to see him. He was drenched in rain and blood from the Goths in the battlefield. "Where is Xena?" noticing she was not here.
Borias frowned, "having a baby," he said and Attila smiled, happy to hear that.
"What a bad time to give birth," he teased then a Goth came running for them and he growled, crying out as he threw his sword into the soldier's chest. "Come, brother, we shall kill the Goths together and celebrate the birth of your child later!" he smiled and grabbed his sword from the dead Goth soldier.
On the battlefield Aetius sent in his third front as his last resort. He even began fighting off some of the Goths as well. He was not expecting the Huns to invade, though they seemed to be doing a fine job of slaughtering the Goths. He relished the idea of Theodoric falling to the Roman empire after over a decade of warring.
Borias and Attila came running forth and Aetius frowned. "You were supposed to wait for the signal!" Aetius yelled through the rainstorm and the battle below them.
Attila smiled, "Huns must fight, Aetius. It is in our blood!" he ran down the hill and Borias followed behind him.
Together, both of them fought side by side, fending off the Goths, though they disobeyed direct orders from the Romans, they would surely become enemies now. Attila sliced a Goth in half and Borias kicked another coming for them. Both stood back to back now, now completely surrounded.
"There's too many of them!" Borias frowned, eyeing all of the Goths with their clubs and javelins.
"I'm aware..." the Hun prince snarled. The Goths came charging for them and they worked together to keep them at bay, though the more they attacked, more seemed to come their way. It was like a never ending line of them. "God of War protects us!" he yelled and let out a loud war cry and plunged his blade into three Goth soldiers at once, driving them into the ground with such force. Blood poured from their mouths.
Back in the yurt Xena sat up and the midwife smiled at her, trying to make her feel better, though Xena wasn't listening. She couldn't hear anything, but the sound of her heart about to pound out of her chest. "You can do it, your highness, just a few more pushes and then you will see your child!" she grinned and Xena let out an ear piercing scream that would scare even the birds.
She clenched her fingers and gripped onto the blankets causing her knuckles to turn white. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she cried, fearing that this would never end. "Borias!" she cried out, now wishing he were here beside her instead of fighting alongside Attila and the rest of the Huns.
Borias took out his sword from the last Goth soldier and Attila turned to him, already feeling victory in his veins. Both embraced one another as they saw Theodoric pull back the rest of his men and there were very few left. The Romans backed off and ran back to their front while the Huns all grinned and cheered for their victory against their greatest enemy. Aetius now felt he could breathe again seeing the Goths retreating back to their king on the hill.
"We defeated them!" Attila said and Borias smiled then gasped. Attila frowned and Borias fell on him. He saw two arrows sticking out his back and a Visigoth soldier smirking at him with his bow in hand. "No!" he cried out and held Borias close to him and laid him on the ground.
Borias' breathing began to slow and he knew that two arrows were not enough to kill, but he felt his veins begin to tighten and that's when he knew that the arrowheads were poisoned. Attila held him in his lap, pain and hurt overcoming him. "I will have your death avenged," he said and Borias smiled weakly up at him.
Aetius stood aside on his horse and saw the Hun cradling his military commander. Attila stood up and took Borias sword and sheathed it. He looked to the man who killed Borias and came storming for him. "Attila, it is not worth it!"
"This is about honor, Aetius! Something you know nothing of...it is part of our culture," he smiled deviously and saw the Goth running back to his king. He saw nothing in his path and felt like it was just him and this pathetic soldier. He did not even have the courage to stand up and fight like a real man with a sword, he thought. He just stood with a bow and fought from afar after the battle had already been lost by the Visigoths.
Attila ran forward and threw his sword into the back of the soldier. He moaned in agony and fell forward into the mud, blood filling the grass. Slowly, he walked up to the soldier and retrieved his sword and spat on him. He then thought of Xena and their child. Their child would be fatherless, all because of this stupid soldier.
The midwife smiled and Xena heard the wails of an infant finally. She reared her head back onto the animal skins below her and breathed heavily, glad that the worst part was now over. The midwife cleaned the baby with a warm cloth and wrapped it in a wool blanket.
Xena sat up carefully and saw the woman holding the small fragile child in her arms. She smiled and stretched her arms out to finally hold the child that she carried for nine long months. The midwife handed her the baby and Xena leaned back, staring at the tiny human in her arms. She lifted her eyes at the woman with fearful eyes.
The woman knew that look, she had seen it all too much back in Pannonia when she delivered babies of other women. "It is a girl," she said softly and Xena's eyes widened, then peered down at her daughter in her arms, and she kept crying.
She felt instant fear set in, though she remembered that the Romans were on their side and Attila would lead a victory against the Visigoths. She only hoped that she could keep her daughter safe in the future.
Attila walked into the yurt and Xena looked up to see a solemn expression on his face. He did not smile seeing the child in Xena's arms, only felt sorrow overcome him. "What is it?" Xena asked.
He walked forward and pulled out Borias' sword, covered in blood and soaked from the pouring rain. "He fought well," he said quietly and Xena's eyes widened, before she was overcome with sadness and joy at the same time, now she was just in shock. Attila knelt down and placed the sword next to Xena and stared at the baby in her arms, finally a sad smile crossed his face. The child had stopped crying and Xena remained in shock, unable to speak. "He's beautiful," he grinned.
Xena had tears in her eyes and she stared at Attila, "she," she corrected and the Hun king's eyes grew, surprised to hear that, though he knew why Xena was so fearful.
"You have nothing to fear, Xena. I will protect you and your daughter," he kissed her forehead and stood up to leave.
She buried her face into her hand and sobbed quietly to herself as the baby in her arms squirmed subtly.
AN: takes place thirteen years later. Enjoy and feedback appreciated, of course ;) good luck to all.
In the center of Athens, Greece, there was an academy of learning hauling the subjects such as philosophy, science, mathematics, literature and arithmetic. The school is funded by the Western Roman Empire and Valentinian often employed teachers from Arabia, Persia and Greater Media. These people from these lands were highly educated in science and math as well as astrology and arithmetic. Locally, the emperor hired native Greeks to teach philosophy and literature, since those subjects were birthed in Greece thousands of years ago.
The students were normally from the bourgeoisie class of Athens, Corinth and Delphi. The poorer families could not afford to go to this academy to learn these great subjects. The school offered classes as soon as the child turned six years old and usually left when the child reached the age of fifteen to go learn a trade. Girls were not allowed to attend the academy, only boys and young men were allowed. Though, one teacher inside the academy sought to change the old ways of the Greco-Roman style.
She thought it had become outdated and everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to read, write and learn, this included girls too. Women of the house normally taught their daughters inside the home while their sons attended school during the daytime. Teachers were brought to homes for the safety of the young girls. Mothers preferably sought out female teachers over males, but there were hardly any female teachers especially in Greece. They would have to travel to Persia or Arabia to be taught by the greatest female teachers for homeschooling.
One of the head teachers in the school taught philosophy, his name is Nikoli. The academy was not very large due to the low amount of money they received from Rome's treasury. He figured that the emperor was spending money on other frivolous things such as booze, whores and drugs. Luckily for Nikoli, his most diligent teacher in the academy was able to fund most of the needs for the school out of her own pocket or even organized charities she put together.
Nikoli had just finished his last lesson of the day, teaching young teenage boys about the famous philosophers, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. The lesson was over two hours long and talking of philosophy for so long was very taxing on the mind. He only taught three classes a day, mostly to the elder students, per his request.
He dismissed his students and sighed, grabbing his parchments and quill in his arms. The young teenagers were still talking among themselves as they waltzed out of the classroom. One of his best students turned around and blocked the doorway with a big smile on his face. "Professor, what do you think Aristotle says about life? Surely he believes that there is more to life than working hard and seeking out a greater power, such as God. What do you say?" he was dying to know and had remained quiet throughout the entire session.
Nikoli smirked, "well Izak, I think that question is for you to decide. We will read the next chapter in our session tomorrow. I expect you to come up with an answer," he winked, patting the young man on the back. Izak frowned, rubbing his chin, surely in deep thought as he ran to catch up with his friends to continue this discussion.
Nikoli was an older man, sprouting a few grey hairs in his dark wavy locks. He was also incredibly clumsy and wore bright colored robes and tunics. Most Greeks did not wear such bright colors as it reminded them of the Persians and Indo-Persians across the Mediterranean. He held his stack of parchments in his hands and walked down the narrow hallway, then spotted his favorite teacher. "Oh Gabrielle!" he yelled out.
The blonde turned around and smiled at the man. Nikoli then dropped all of the parchment onto the floor. Gabrielle ran over and knelt down on the floor, picking up all the parchment. He groaned and aided her. "My apologies. I can be so clumsy..." he shook his head, feeling embarrassed.
She chuckled, picking up the last few pieces and stood up, "it's okay Nikoli, it happens to the best of us," he stood then she handed him the parchments. "You should really carry a bag with you then maybe you will stop dropping all of your work!" she smiled and he pinched her cheek.
"Who has time for bags?" he chuckled and together they walked down the hallway to his office at the very back of the school. "How was your literature lesson?" he asked, quite intrigued. This was the first week she decided to teach literature to small children, around the ages of eight to ten.
She sighed, shaking her head, feeling a headache coming on already just thinking about it. "I wish I could give you good news, Nikoli, but..." she paused and they came to his office and he plopped down the stack of documents. "They were terrible!" she threw her hands in the air expressing her frustration. "I couldn't get their attention for more than a couple of minutes." She saw some amusement in the old man's hazel eyes. Folding her arms she added, "one of them threw an apple at me."
Nikoli turned and sat down in his chair, exhaling heavily. "The little ones take time. You must be patient with them Gabrielle," he laced his fingers together atop his desk.
She nodded, knowing he was right, "but it's so hard!" she folded her arms, getting more frustrated at herself than anything.
He could feel her pain. He too had to teach the little students for quite some time until she came to the academy three years ago and she was a Godsend to him. She was good with the children and enjoyed teaching them Latin, but only began teaching literature this week and it wasn't going very well, as she explained. "You might need to change your tactics with them," she looked to him, confused at what he meant. "They are children, not adults." He smiled, leaning back in his chair, "so you need to get on their level."
Gabrielle rubbed her chin, talking to herself in silence. "Get on their level..." she whispered. She sighed, thinking she would have to change her entire curriculum before the next class, which would be tomorrow afternoon. She needed to prepare. She ran her fingers through her curly blonde hair and was very distressed.
Nikoli chuckled seeing the struggle inside her. "I have faith in you, Gabrielle!" he stood up and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You are my best teacher," he kissed her forehead and she blushed at such flattery.
She pulled away, "well, I gotta get going. I have to prepare an entire new lesson for tomorrow!" she smiled and left his office, treading down the hallway to grab her bag and head home. Nikoli sighed, leaning on his desk, watching her leave. She truly was a remarkable young woman, beautiful and smart too. He hoped that one day she would move up in the world and become one of the best teachers, traveling the world, spreading her imagination and brilliant mind.
Gabrielle walked down Athenios street and came to her home where she had been staying for the last two years. She smiled at her neighbors and waved to them. She lived next to a butcher and his son, which was nice because she often got discounts whenever she wanted. Her other neighbor was an elderly lady from Carthage and lived with her daughter, whom took care of her since she was losing her mind. Gabrielle prayed that one day, the gods would grant that old woman some peace.
She walked inside the small apartment and set her bag on the dining table, sighing heavily. It had been a very long day. "Kat!" she called out, "are you home?" she walked to the kitchen and poured herself some water and downed it immediately. It was quite hot outside and she hated the summers here in Athens. It was either scorching hot during the day or it rained all day and then that made the weather incredibly humid.
Still no sound from Kat, she frowned and decided to wander around the apartment looking for her. "Kat?" she opened the bedroom door and saw the bed was made and hadn't been touched since last night. She tread down the hallway and looked into the sitting room. "Hello?" she was now becoming a bit worried.
Out of the blue hands came to cover Gabrielle's eyes from behind and she gasped. Turning around she saw Kat, giggling at her. "Kathyrn!" she pushed her playfully. "Don't do that!" she smiled and the young redheaded woman only laughed more. Gabrielle was so easy to scare, she couldn't help herself.
"You should have seen your face!" Kat chuckled and Gabrielle folded her arms.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "you're going to give me a heart attack one day, I hope you know that," she brushed passed her and went to grab another glass of water. She definitely didn't need that after the day she had.
Kat frowned sadly, now feeling bad for scaring Gabrielle. She leaned on the counter, "hey, I'm sorry. I was just playing around," she smirked and the blonde nodded, drinking some more water. Kat leaned on the counter, resting her chin on her palms. "So how was school?"
Gabrielle groaned and slammed the glass on the counter. Kat cringed, "not good?" she presumed.
"You have no idea, Kat," she shook her head, just thinking of those little monsters. "Nikoli has me teaching children literature! What does an eight year old know about Homer and the Odyssey?" she scoffed.
Kat smiled seeing the frustration on Gabrielle's face. "If anyone can teach those little twirps about ancient Greek stories, it would be you, Gabrielle," she said sweetly and Gabrielle blushed at her kind words.
The blonde sighed heavily, "enough about my day, how was yours?" she smiled thinking she should return the courtesy of asking.
Kathyrn was bought as a slave by the Roman elites when she was just fifteen years old. She had been working in Rome for the longest time. The emperor sold her to another sect of the Roman army in Athens and there she worked as maid and servant of many tasks. Often times the emperor's sister, Honoria, would visit Athens because her cousin, Petronius, lived there and had quite a large palace in the outskirts of the city. Kat was lucky enough to work in such a large palace and the pay was not bad either.
"Well," Kat circled around the counter and grabbed Gabrielle's hand leading her to sofa. Gabrielle frowned and sat down as Kat had a devious look in her eyes. "Honoria came to the palace today and I heard something very interesting..." she whispered.
Gabrielle's eyes widened, "what kind of interesting? Is it bad?" she immediately became worried. "You know you aren't supposed to repeat what happens in that palace, Kat."
The redhead playfully slapped Gabrielle's shoulder, "well I can trust you," she smiled and the blonde sighed, though she secretly wanted to know what kind of secrets were discussed in the palace. "So I heard Honoria talking to her cousin about Attila," her eyes grew.
Gabrielle stayed still, completely confused at what she was talking about. "Who is Attila?"
Kat gasped, "tell me you don't know who the Hun King is? Attila is the greatest warrior in the eastern Balkans!" she was shocked to see Gabrielle shake her head. "Gods, Gabrielle..." she rubbed her forehead.
She chuckled, "what? Okay, what's so special about this Hun King?"
"Well, apparently the emperor was supposed to give Attila some land to please him and he didn't." she saw Gabrielle awaiting the next piece of information, now fully intrigued. "Attila might attack Northern Gaul if the emperor doesn't give him what he wants."
Gabrielle frowned, "what does that exactly mean?" she asked and Kat's grin grew wider. "The emperor is not known for having the best relationships with people," she rolled her eyes thinking of the emperor. She had seen him only twice in her life and he was a joke –super immature and too young to be a leader.
"Honoria was told by Petronius that he fears maybe the Huns will come to Greece. They've already conquered Troy!" Kat exclaimed and now saw Gabrielle become concerned.
"But Troy is so close to Greece," Gabrielle shook her head, thinking that this could be so awful for Greece and if the Huns dared, they might come to Athens, which was the land's capital. "I've heard about the Huns. They are savages."
Kat nodded, "yes they are. Did you know they wear animal skins?" she cringed, thinking of having a dead animal on her skin just disgusted her. "And their women walk around naked!"
Gabrielle's eyes grew, blinking rapidly. "Naked?" she sighed, "might be nice to see," she chuckled.
The redhead rolled her eyes, "their women also don't cut their hair. Could you imagine? Their hair must be down to their ankles!" she gasped, just thinking what a hassle that must be. She could barely handle her hair and it reached to the middle of her back at its longest strand. "And do you know what they do to their enemies?" she asked and Gabrielle shook her head, almost afraid to know. "They cut off their heads and put their bodies on pikes! Creating a fence of dead bodies to claim their land!" Gabrielle cringed at that imagery now stuck in her mind. "The smell would be awful after a couple of days."
Gabrielle didn't want to hear any more of the horrible acts of these barbarians. "Isn't the emperor allies with the Huns?"
Kat nodded, "yes! I can't believe a Roman would ever befriend people like that." She stuck her tongue out, disgusted by the Huns themselves.
"Hopefully they won't come to Greece," Gabrielle said softly and Kat grabbed her hand for comfort. She sighed, "I have to go prepare a new lessons for my students," she groaned. "I'm going to be up for awhile," she stood up and began walking to her room to come up with a new lesson plan. It wasn't going to difficult, given the children were so misbehaved.
Kat trailed behind her and grabbed hold of Gabrielle's hand, "maybe I could help you?" she smiled sneakily and her fingers traced along Gabrielle's neck. Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying to not let Kat distract her, though she was pretty irresistible. The redhead leaned in and kissed her neck then her bare shoulder.
Gabrielle smiled and grabbed Kat's hand, turning to face her. "I think it would be better if I do this by myself," she saw Kat pout sadly.
"At least come eat with me in an hour? I don't want you to stay in your room all night without eating," Kat said and Gabrielle smiled, touching her cheek softly.
"Okay, but don't make any fish dishes," she frowned, "I'm tired of fish and that's all we've been eating for the last month."
Kat grinned, "deal! I'll go see if I can snag some meat from Helios," speaking of their butcher neighbor. She grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder.
Gabrielle frowned, "but I thought you already bought food for tonight? I saw the bag on the counter..."
Kat smiled nervously, "yeah I did...it's fish," she said apologetically and Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Fish is cheap Gabrielle. We live right by the sea!"
Gabrielle grabbed Kat's bag and set it on the table. "Just never mind about the meat, I'll eat the fish," she sighed, "I don't want you to spend your money just because I am complaining..."
The redhead raised her eyebrow, "are you sure? Helios always gives us great deals on his cuts."
The blonde nodded reluctantly, "It's fine really. I'll eat the fish."
"Last chance, Gabrielle," Kat teased.
"I'll eat the fish, alright!" Gabrielle chuckled and Kat grinned then kissed her on the cheek before running off to the kitchen. Gabrielle sighed and went to her room to go plan this lesson for her students. She didn't know how she was going to do this to be honest. They were such a handful.
Shortly after Attila, Xena and his men returned to Pannonia after the war between the Visigoths and Romans, Cera, Attila's wife, found out she was pregnant and gave birth to Attila's first child six months later. Not long after the birth of his son, Cera died due to complications during her labor. Attila named his son Ellac and two years later, he married another woman, named Kreka, a brunette from the upper lands of the Hunnic tribes.
Kreka gave birth to two boys in a span of four years. The second eldest son, name Dengi and the youngest son, Ernak. Ellac was thirteen presently and his brothers, ages ten and nine. Ellac was definitely a leader, like his father, and enjoyed bossing his younger brothers around, though his stepmother was not too fond of Ellac, due to his aggressive nature. Attila had told her that he would grow out of it, but she had her doubts.
Ellac looked much like his father, light olive skin and green eyes, as well as dark reddish brown hair, similar to his late mother's hair.
It was a sunny day outside and Ellac ran up the hill, breathing heavily trying to get away from his opponent. He smiled, looking back to see Annas, a crowned prince that his father adopted ten years ago. "You won't catch up to me Annas!" he grinned and then tripped over a rock and face planted into the dirt.
Annas ran up the hill and jumped on top of Ellac, pinning him into the grass. "You are defeated!" he grinned happily and Ellac groaned.
"Come on, that's not fair, I tripped!" the Hun prince was not happy being conquered by his friend, especially since it wasn't his fault.
Annas smirked, "it doesn't matter how you lose, Ellac! I won!" he chuckled and Ellac grabbed his opponent by the shoulder and flipped him over onto the grass. Now Ellac was on top of Annas, pinning his arms into the ground.
The dark prince smiled widely, "now, it is you who has lost, friend! Or shall I say...enemy!" he said and Annas frowned deeply. He stared into Annas's bright blue eyes and saw he was super angry and it was never good when he was angry. Ellac may be a greater fighter, but Annas was too, probably even better than he was.
"I'm going to kill you!" Annas said in rage and Ellac's green eyes grew in fear and he quickly got off and began running down the hill. Annas adjusted the turban on his head and growled. "Come back here!" he skid down the hill and grabbed Ellac's legs and the Hun prince yelped and both tumbled down the hill together.
Dengi stood with his little brother, Ernak in the middle of the camp. Dengi squinted his eyes and saw two people tumbling down the hill together. "Is that Ellac?" he asked and Ernak folded his arms.
"He probably angered Annas again," the nine year old, Ernak, answered, shaking his head at his elder brother. "When will he ever learn?" he chuckled.
Annas and Ellac, the two thirteen year olds finally came to a halt and ended up at the front of the hill. Annas was wrestling with Ellac, flipping over each other. Dengi and Ernak ran over and the smallest brother cheered on Annas. "Punch him in the face!" he grinned.
Dengi frowned, "Ernak! That's not nice," he did have a point though. Annas was winning in this wrestling match and Ellac had no chance. Annas punched Ellac in his nose and the Hun prince gasped, holding his nose. "That's gotta hurt..." Dengi cringed.
Ellac wiped his nose and saw blood on his hands. "You're dead, Annas!" he kicked Annas off him and tackled him to the ground. Annas gasped and rolled over just as Ellac was about to sock him in the face. Ernak's eyes lit up as he saw his brother was losing. He always liked Annas, even though he seemed to cream his brother every time they played with one another.
Annas was able to get up off the ground and run to the well. He grabbed a bucket of water and Ellac's eyes widened as he saw a tidal wave coming straight for him. Annas laughed loudly as he saw the prince soaking wet. Ellac wiped his eyes and growled, then Annas began circling the well, trying to get away from the prince.
"What's the matter, Ellac? Afraid of a little water?" Annas teased, his blue eyes twinkling in the bright sunlight. This only angered Ellac even more and he jumped on top of the well, running around the edge trying to get to get to Annas.
Galena, a wet-nurse that Attila employed not long after Cera died, came out of her yurt and saw Ellac chasing Annas around the water well. She folded her arms watching the two teenagers have their daily wrestling match. She wiped her hands with her dress and whistled over at the two boys.
"Annas! You need to come inside!" she called out and both Ellac and Annas turned to the woman. "It's time for your bath," she said with a frown.
Annas sighed and he smiled at Ellac. "I'll get you later!" he winked and spit in his hand, Ellac smiled and did the same and both boys shook their hands. Annas ran off to go with Galena and entered the yurt. Galena frowned and closed the flaps of the yurt so no prying eyes would be able to see inside.
Ellac wiped his nose and still felt blood coming out of his nostrils. Dengi walked up to his elder brother, "he got you good!" he chuckled and Ellac nodded.
"I'll get him back later," he was determined.
Ernak cocked his head to the side, "how come Annas doesn't come to the river to bathe with us anymore?" he asked both his brothers.
Ellac stared at the yurt, wondering that himself. He shrugged his shoulder, "I don't know," he didn't think too much about it and ran off, "come on, let's go riding!" his little brothers ran behind him to go find their horses to have some more fun together.
Galena grabbed the teen's arm and frowned, "you shouldn't be playing with those boys anymore!"
Annas frowned, "but why not? I always play with Ellac," he snatched his arm from the woman, not like being handled like that.
The woman shook her head, "your mother doesn't want you to play with them." She poured some warm water that she heated up over the fire into the tub. "Take off your clothes," she demanded. Annas sighed and took off his clothes, unbuttoning the tunic and slipping off his boots.
Annas took off the turban and down came long black wavy hair, tumbling down his back. Taking off the tunic and pants, he stepped inside the tub, curling his legs close to him. Galena sighed, looking at the teen's body and saw a lot of changes over the last year and feared that this would start to become a problem as Annas aged. She poured the water over Annas's long wavy hair.
"Anastasia, you can't play with those boys anymore," Galena said and then the teenage girl turned around with pouting eyes.
"But I like them," she sighed, "they are my friends and don't call me that. My name is Annas."
Galena poured some more water over her hair and the girl wrapped her arms around her slender body. "Your name is Anastasia!" she said and the girl said nothing. She sensed the young teen was obviously upset about staying inside more and away from the boys she grew up with. "Your mother just wants to keep you safe, you know that," she said in a softer voice.
Anastasia sighed and looked down at her body and it was more developed than a year ago. Now she was thirteen and was turning 'into a woman' as her mother said, which meant she couldn't play with Ellac and his brothers anymore, even though she loved them as if they were her own brothers. She didn't have any girls to play with her in Pannonia, only boys. She touched her small firm breasts and instantly felt unlike herself.
Galena brushed through Anastasia's long dark hair with a comb and knelt down looking into the girl's big blue eyes. "You are a gorgeous girl," she smiled and Anastasia frowned at her.
"I'm not a girl, I'm a boy," she splashed the water and folded her arms. "I've always been a boy. Why do I suddenly have to be a girl now?"
The woman could see the confusion and frustration in the girl's eyes and truthfully she couldn't make her feel better, but all she could do was take care of her until her mother came back from her trip in Sciri. She was traveling with Attila, trying to reason with the other Hunnic tribes and had been gone for three months.
"Girls are different than boys and when you...reach a certain age, your bodies change and your emotions change too," Galena tried to explain in simple terms so she'd understand.
Anastasia frowned bemusedly. "But I don't feel different," she felt more confused than ever. Since birth she had been raised as a boy in Pannonia and lived like a boy. This year, her mother forbade her to play with Ellac and his prince brothers, though she didn't understand why. She knew she was a girl inside, but enjoyed being a boy. She could do whatever she wanted and when she wanted. Since her thirteenth birthday, her mother was adamant about Anastasia becoming more secluded, though since she was absent, those rules went out the window and the teenager disobeyed all her mother's wishes.
"You will, I promise you that," Galena smiled and grabbed a cloth, rubbing the girl's arms and chest.
Anastasia sighed, "when is she coming back?" she asked of her mother.
Galena lifted her eyes, "soon, I hope. God grants her safe travel throughout the lands," she smiled.
The raven haired beauty frowned, folding her arms, not very excited about her mother coming back because that meant more rules and she hated rules. "I wish she'd stay away forever," she pouted and then got out of the tub before Galena was finished washing her. She grabbed a silk caftan and tied the sash about her small waist. She sat on the bed and brushed her wet wavy locks. "She's always making all these rules! I hate it when she does that," she tugged on a knot in her hair.
Galena sighed and took the comb from her and began combing the teen's hair for her. "She's only trying to protect you."
Anastasia scoffed, "what's next? She's going to make me wear dresses?" she chuckled under her breath. She enjoyed wearing pants, boots and tunics like Ellac.
"you would look very pretty in a dress, Anastasia," Galena said with a subtle grin.
The teen gasped and pushed the woman away and stood up, her wet hair wiping around behind her. "I'm not going to look like a girl or wear stupid dresses!" she stormed off to her room in the connecting yurt. Galena scratched her head and exhaled heavily, thinking this was not going to be very easy. She was obviously unwilling to change and knew this would happen when she reached a certain age.
She had hoped that Anastasia would develop later, maybe around age fifteen, but she was already starting to look like a young woman and this was problematic.
Anastasia was in her room, sitting on her bed, she began braiding her long hair. It had grown to her hips and she saw Galena enter her room. "What do you want?" she griped.
"Your mother wants you to read each night remember?" she grabbed a few parchments with writing on it that her mother took from different cities she traveled to.
Anastasia groaned, "I don't want to read tonight," she laid down, rolling over on her side, her back facing the woman. Galena sat on the bed and the girl frowned, not liking the lack of privacy at the moment. Technically, Attila appointed her a prince under his name and she was as much royalty as Ellac, Dengi and Ernak were. She didn't want her life to change and suddenly be called a 'princess'. Just the thought of it angered her.
"You haven't read anything in the last two months because you keep going off with Ellac and his friends," Galena was now becoming frustrated with the girl.
Anastasia turned around, "I don't want to read, okay?" she rolled over again, "I just want to be alone," she said barely above a whisper. Galena sighed and set the parchment down on the bed and pat the girl's hip gently before leaving her room. The raven haired teenager looked behind her and saw she was gone. She kicked the parchments off her bed and frowned, cuddling against her pillow, glaring at the growing candle flame next to her bed.
Xena rode with a few men through the forests of Sciri, a small city that was close to Italy, which meant they were dangerously close to Rome. Attila sat next to a fire talking with a few of his men and heard a loud stampede of horse hooves. He stood up and saw Xena riding in with a group of ten men.
She took off the scarf that covered her face and hair, dismounting her horse. She took off her gloves and sighed heavily, staring into Attila's green curious eyes. "There is no sign of anyone in West Sciri." She was sad to say. Attila sent her to scout the area two days ago to see if they could negotiate with the Bey of the Sciri Hun tribe, but it seems there was no leader after all.
"What do you mean? People don't just disappear!" the Hun king asked and Xena drank some water, exhausted after the long hot ride.
"They probably fled once they found out we were coming in the area," she folded her arms and Attila groaned, pacing around the fire anxiously. She sat down next to the fire taking off her animal pelts, sweating from the awful heat of the summer season. Even though they were in the mountains, it was still so terribly hot.
He sat down next to her and rubbed his chin. "We need to unite all of our tribes! Without unification we are not an empire!" he slammed his fist on his knee.
Xena smirked, thinking of something so devious. "Maybe we are going about this whole empire thing wrong..." she hinted and grabbed his attention. She scooted closer to him and began drawing a circle in the dirt with her sword. "Instead of negotiating with these tribe leaders..." she drew an X in the dirt and stabbed the point of the blade straight in the middle of the circle and Attila jumped. "We kill them."
Attila frowned, staring into her wild blue eyes, "but we would be attacking our own people, Xena."
She nodded with a smile on her face, "Attila, do you think Rome negotiated with all of her conquered lands?" she said and he hummed to himself, thinking she may have a point. "They killed people who did not listen. And these Hun leaders do not want to listen to us so..." she leaned in closer to him, "we will make them listen..." she hissed in his ear. "They will be begging for mercy at our feet..." she chuckled lowly and he lifted a skeptical eyebrow at her.
He stood up, shaking his head, "I don't know Xena. That seems a bit drastic." He began thinking of all the consequences this would entail in the end.
She stood up, frowning, "you trust me don't you?" she folded her arms and he waved his hand at her dismissively. She shouldn't even have to ask that, because of course he trusted her otherwise she still wouldn't be his commander in chief of the army. "Then why don't we attack these tribe leaders?" she walked up to him, and he stared at her fiery eyes, inches from her face.
Attila sighed, "you will lead the attack," he said and she smiled, liking that he agreed with her on this matter. "Make sure to send a message home to my wife in Pannonia that we will be gone a bit longer," he asked of her and she nodded. Xena walked off to her tent and he called out, "oh Xena," she turned around, "Valentinian refused to give us Northern Gaul like we hoped."
Xena groaned, cursing to herself, "then we will attack Gaul?" she was not planning to be away from Pannonia this long, though she secretly knew the emperor would not give them Gaul like he said he would.
He nodded, "but not yet. We return to Pannonia after we finish the Sciri raid," he said and she walked off going to her tent. He sat down by the fire, staring at the flames, thinking this was more than he had bargained for. He hoped the Hun Beys would compromise, but since they wouldn't, he'd have to attack his own people to truly be a conqueror, a king, a great leader like his father told him he'd be when he was little boy.
Xena took off her leather armor and threw it on the floor. She sat down on the blankets and animal skins, sighing, rubbing her face. She was extremely tired and had been on this journey away from Pannonia for three months and now she had to be away longer than expected.
Throughout this excursion she had only received one letter from her daughter, even though she wrote to her many times. She figured that her daughter did not want to speak to her, especially since she gave her a set of rules before she left three months ago. As Anastasia grew older, Xena began to realize that she couldn't keep her hidden as a boy anymore.
One day she saw Anastasia undressing in her room and noticed her daughter had breasts, though small, they were still there and her hips were slightly more curved than a year before, when she still had a boyish figure. Fear of her daughter being exposed, she told her to stay inside the yurt as much as possible and even told her not to play with Ellac anymore. The young prince, only six months younger than her daughter, was growing older as well and were not children anymore. Both were thirteen and Xena didn't want her daughter to continue to be around the boys.
From Anastasia's birth Xena decided to raise her as a boy because she feared that she might be killed if the Goths came to rise against the Huns again, which they would, those Visigoths always came back. They lay dormant for now, but they would return to attack just as all empires did. It was a known fact in history and history repeated itself. Anastasia was a beautiful girl, pale skin, blue eyes and black hair, matching both her parents hair. She was also very tall, a few inches taller than Ellac for the time being until Ellac aged, he would tower over her just like all boys did in their youth.
She feared that the more time she spent away from her daughter, she would rebel and disobey her. Surely, Xena knew that her daughter had already disobeyed her since nobody was there to tell her what to do. Galena was nice, but she wasn't her mother.
Sighing, she picked up her quill and grabbed the last parchment she had in her tent. She would definitely have to buy more when they reached their next destination. She began writing to her daughter that she would have to stay away awhile longer.
Galena was outside grabbing a bucket of water and a young messenger came up to her with a letter. He bowed to her, "a message from the commander," he said then disappeared to go back to his horse and leave the area. Galena sighed and tucked the letter in her apron, picking up the bucket she walked back to the yurt, hoping that Anastasia was still inside and off with those princes.
She set the water down by the fire and exhaled heavily, wiping her sweaty brow. "Ana!" she called out and the teenager came out of her room wearing pants and tunic with her wild black hair. "A letter from your mother."
Anastasia rolled her eyes and snatched the letter from the woman and sat down in a chair, reading over it carefully and quickly. Galena poured the water into a pot over the fire and Anastasia had a sneaky smile on her lips. "She will be gone longer than expected," she crumbled up the letter and threw it in the fire. Galena gasped as she saw the paper burning in the fire and the teen ran back to her room.
"Anastasia!" she called out, "what else did it say? Where is she going?"
The girl came out of her room, wrapping the turban fabric around her head, concealing her long hair. She shrugged her shoulders, "who cares?" she smiled, "she's not coming back anytime soon!" she ran and grabbed her belt on the way out.
"Where do you think you're going?" Galena grabbed the girl's arm and the teen's eyes widened, snatching her arm away from her.
"I'm going to go riding with Ellac and Dengi!" she looped the belt around her waist and tightened it.
"Your mother forbade you from seeing them!" Galena protested.
Anastasia folded her arms, lifting her chin arrogantly, "my mother isn't here! So, she's not here to stop me and you can't do anything about it," she smirked. Galena gasped at the audacity of the girl. Anastasia went outside and grabbed the reins of her horse and mounted the large black stallion.
Galena came outside, folding her arms at the sassy teenager. "Your mother is going to be very upset once she finds out you've been hanging out with those boys!"
She lifted an eyebrow, "she can go to hell with all her rules," she clicked her tongue, kicking the horse and rode off to meet with Ellac and his younger brother. She saw Ellac and Dengi waiting for her by the hill and waved at them.
Ellac smiled and waved back. She rode up to them, yanking on the horse's reins. "I didn't think you were gonna make it!"
Dengi nodded, "yeah, we were about to leave without you!"
Anastasia turned back and saw Galena glaring at her. "Well, I'm here anyway. So where are we riding off to first?" she grinned, eager to get away from the campgrounds.
Xena and Attila rode in the south Balkans looking for the Bey leaders of the tribes. They stopped at the Adriatic Sea and Xena growled, coming to a dead end. "They are not in the Balkans!" she said and the Hun king nodded, seeing that was quite obvious since they were riding for weeks trying to find everyone, but all the tribes were deserted.
Lessa, one of the best soldiers rode up to Xena, breathing heavily. He had just come from the coast with some viable information. "Commander, we have news about the Beys," he said and she frowned at him.
"Well, out with it!" she said and he took in a deep breath, pointing at the sea below them on the hilltop.
"Some merchants at the port saw some Huns taking a ship. They are going to Athens to escape," he said and Xena's eyes widened, staring out at the large open sea. She had never been on a ship or even close to the ocean. The only seas she had been close to, were the Black and Caspian seas and those were incredibly smaller than the Adriatic and Mediterranean.
She pulled on her horse's reins and began riding down the hill. Attila growled, "Xena!" he called out and snapped his head towards Lessa, "what does she think she's doing?!" many of the men followed behind her and he realized that this woman was incredibly ambitious and couldn't be stopped no matter what. Rolling his eyes he kicked his horse and followed the crowd to the port of Durres.
Xena stopped at the port and growled, seeing the large sea, only a few hundred miles away was Italy, the home of the Western Roman Empire. Why would they go to Athens? She kept asking herself this question over and over again, but it wouldn't make sense to run all the way to Greece.
Attila caught up with her and squinted his eyes at the sparkling ocean. "What's wrong with you?" he hissed.
"They fled to Athens, Attila. We should follow them and bring back to the Balkans," she said, already making the decision up in her mind.
He shook his head, "Xena, no! Athens is out of our range. They are already half way there by now!" he rubbed his forehead, feeling more frustrated by the minute.
She turned towards him with fury in her eyes, "you want these people to walk all over us? The Romans are already spitting on our graves!" her heart began racing as she thought of killing those Beys. They wanted to make their own rules and run from their true leaders, well she wasn't about to let that happen, no definitely not. She rode down to a merchant and he gawked up at her in fear, dropping his bag of gold.
"I want one of your ships," she demanded and he kept staring up at her. She pulled out her sword and grabbed the man by his collar, lifting him up in the air. He yelped and sweat began dripping down his cheek. "I said, I want one of your ships," she smiled deviously at him and he nodded.
"I'll give you a ship!" he squealed and she dropped him on the ground, riding passed him, sheathing her sword on her hip. She rubbed her chin, staring at all the ships and pointed to one of the biggest ones that was docked at the port.
"What about that one?" she asked and the poor merchant picked up his bag of gold and ran up to her, fearful that she might hurt him.
He stammered, "oh no, my lady...that is too expensive."
She turned to him, lifting an eyebrow and laughed mockingly, "I'm not going to pay you!" she snarled, "you give the ship to me or I'll slice you in half, got it?" she smiled and he wasn't going to refuse. He bowed his head to her nervously and she trotted off to the large ship.
Attila frowned and rode over to her and grabbed her arm. She growled at him, snatching her arm away. "You're going to Athens to get the Beys? Are you insane?"
She shrugged, "some may say that, depends who you ask," she winked. She hopped off her horse and threw him the reins, adjusting her gloves, her eyes scanned the large boat and she bit her bottom lip, thinking this was going to be quite an adventure. "You will return to Pannonia and I will bring you back your betrayers," she chuckled and walked ahead onto the ship, looking at the deck, admiring the beauty of it all.
The king shook his head, and snapped his fingers at his men, "go with her," he instructed and twenty men went to join Xena. He called out to her, "I want all those men alive, Xena! You hear me?!"
Xena sighed heavily, "I can't make any promises...but," she narrowed her eyes with a wicked grin, "I'll try my best," she bowed her head mockingly and he grunted, trotting back up the hill with the rest of his men.
Lessa waited for his king at the top of the hill and saw he was rather distressed. "Your highness, do you trust your commander to do her job?"
Attila frowned, staring down at the ship. "She's a mad woman, but I do trust her," he trotted off, "for now," he grumbled.
Gabrielle sat in a chair and after a few lessons she had finally got the children to pay attention to her. Instead of sitting at their desks she made them sit on the floor in a circle, while she taught them. She figured that since they were children, they would do better with storytelling instead of her just reading off the pages like some kind of boring teacher.
She even drew pictures of all the characters, which took her a long time to do. Though, she realized this would be the best way to grab their attention for a whole hour. For the last three lessons of the week they had been discussing the Odyssey, which was a very long story and she knew it would take at least another two classes to cover everything.
Two hours flew by faster than she thought and she hated to end the lesson since the children were enjoying it so much. She sighed and placed her hands on her knees, "the lesson for today is over!" she smiled and all the children sighed with disappointed looks on their faces.
"Come on Miss Gabrielle, why don't you tell us what happens with Calypso?" a boy asked, running up to her.
Gabrielle chuckled, "we'll have to save that story for tomorrow!" she began putting all her paperwork inside her bag. She was glad that they seemed to enjoy the lessons over the last few weeks, but she was exhausted and needed get back home.
She said goodbye to all her students and Nikoli before she left the academy. She decided to take a different route home today because she needed to stop and buy some more ink and parchment for her lessons. The academy was already out of all the supplies and she would have to use the last of her money for the week to buy all the necessities. She hoped that Kat had bought food for tonight because she certainly wouldn't have anything to spare after today.
She strode down market street and saw all of the vendors. She told herself not to get distracted by all the pretty dresses and jewelry. I'm here to buy parchment and ink. She had to keep telling herself this over and over. Walking down the square she passed by the apothecary shop and waved at the elderly man. She always loved him, he was such a kind person and his herbs, spices and potions were always on point and not very expensive either.
She passed a few more shops and came to a small shop that carried a minimal amount of writing supplies. She smiled seeing Kelix, a young teenager who ran his father's shop most of the time. He stood up as soon as he saw her, "Gabrielle! My favorite customer!" he said and she blushed. "What will it be today? I got some new parchment in, yesterday, it's from Egypt."
Gabrielle's eyes widened and examined the parchment, it was such great quality. "Wow, Egypt? That is some of the best parchment..." she sighed, "but I can't afford it," she hated to admit.
Kelix knew she would say that and he pulled out some parchment that was shipped in from Rome. "This is from Rome, also really good quality," he offered.
She rubbed her chin and touched the parchment. The weaving was really nice and tight, so she knew that it wouldn't tear so easily. "How much is it?" she lifted an eyebrow.
The boy smiled, "for you, only five pounds," he offered and she smiled, instantly taking him up on his offer. It was too good to pass up. He cut the parchment and began rolling it up tightly and tied a ribbon around the roll.
"I need some ink too," she said and he nodded, running to the back of the shop to grab a large bottle of ink. She rummaged through her bag to find the money and heard someone talking from a fair distance away. She lifted her head and saw a group of men arguing with an innkeeper. The men wore black clothing and animal pelts around their shoulders and fur hats to match. Her eyes squinted as she tried to see what else was happening but she couldn't really make out what they were saying.
Kelix returned with the bottle of ink, "okay so that will be seven pounds altogether," he smiled and saw Gabrielle gawking at something. He stepped out of his shop and saw large men bickering with the innkeeper, Mason. "Man, what's going on there?" he frowned, folding his arms.
Gabrielle saw the men fumble their way through the inn, pushing the man down and she frowned. "I don't know...they don't look like they're from Greece."
The boy agreed, "they look like those savages," he chuckled, "you know, the Huns?" he said and Gabrielle turned to him with wide eyes, now quite afraid. It was just as Kat said, Honoria was worried that the Huns would come to Athens and now they were here. "I got the ink for you."
She shook her head and grabbed the ink bottle stuffing it in her bag and also grabbed the roll of fresh parchment. She handed Kelix the seven pounds she owed him, "thanks," she smiled and walked off, still staring at the inn, too curious to let that one go. She wanted to know if those men were really the famous savage Huns that everyone was so worried about.
Gabrielle returned to her apartment and set the bag of supplies in her bedroom. "Kat, are you home?"
Kathyrn came running in from outside and wiped her forehead. "Gabrielle!" she ran up and hugged her tightly, "how was your day at school?"
The blonde smiled, "it went really well! I'm so proud of those students, they are learning so much and I haven't had a single fruit thrown at me in a week."
Kat laughed, "that's great news, Gabrielle," she grabbed her hand, "come, I've done some work to our garden," she pulled her outside and Gabrielle looked at their small garden. Kat wiped her hands on her skirt and shrugged a shoulder, "it's not much, but I think we will have some squash coming soon in the winter!"
Gabrielle smiled softly at their sad garden. They hadn't been able to grow anything in the last two years, why should this year be any different? "In the winter, huh?" she chuckled anxiously. "We'll see about that," she went back inside as the heat was dreadful out there. She went into their small kitchen and poured a glass of wine for herself and for Kat too. "Kat, I saw the weirdest thing in the market today.."
Kat sipped the wine and wiped her brow with her apron. "Oh yeah? That ink boy, Kelix, wasn't trying to hit on you again was he?" she frowned and Gabrielle chuckled, "you're like seven years older than him!"
"No, he didn't. He's my friend," Gabrielle said and tapped the wine glass with her fingernails. "I saw the Huns in the market..." she muttered, not really believing it herself.
Kat's big light eyes widened at that. "Are you serious? Are you sure it was them?"
Gabrielle nodded, "they wore animal skins and everything! They definitely didn't look like they were from Athens..." she sighed heavily and set the glass on the counter, no longer thirsty anymore. "Why would they come all the way to Athens? Aren't they from the Balkans or something?"
The redhead nodded, "I mean, I guess that's what Honoria and Petronius were so worried about. Did you happen to see a man with a crown on?"
The blonde shook her head, "no just a bunch of really big men. They entered Mason's inn and I'm sure they have taken over that place now," she was worried about the innkeeper. He was so nice and these tribal people were obviously used to getting what they want through force and nothing else.
Kat sighed, leaning her elbow on the counting, continuing to drink the wine. This was really big news as well as scary news too. "I don't think you should go to the academy tomorrow," she said and Gabrielle gasped.
"I have to go! Those children are counting on me to be there, Kat," she grabbed her hand and squeezed it, "I highly doubt they will come to a school," she chuckled, shaking her head at the stupid idea.
Kat looked at her with worried eyes, "I don't want anything to happen to you, Gabrielle," she kissed her hand and the blonde sighed, sensing that her little joke was probably a bit insensitive.
"Alright, what if I make the classes only an hour long?" she hoped that would please her. Kat smiled and hugged her tightly. "Are you happy now?"
Kat nodded, "yes, very happy! Hey there's a party over at Mariso's house tomorrow. We should go together," she wriggled her eyebrows sneakily.
Gabrielle raised her eyebrow, "I don't know Kat, his parties can get a little wild..." she didn't even want to think of the last party Mariso had last year. She lost Kat for three hours and found her passed out with two topless women in the back of the large house. It took her an hour to get her home and then Kat spent the entire night vomiting outside and pledged she would never drink wine ever again, what a lie.
Kat teased, "oh come on Gabrielle, it'll be fun. I promise I won't get super drunk this time!" she swore and Gabrielle wasn't inclined to believe her.
Xena's men docked the ship at Athens and she smiled, leaning over the rails she saw the city was busy, filled with people. This was going to be difficult to find the traitors. She unsheathed her sword and stepped off the ship. "Find them!" she yelled and all the men spread out into the city.
She charged through the streets and saw many children running from her as her cloak swished behind her and the chains on her boots jingled as she stormed through the busy streets. Women gasped, grabbing their children, clinging onto their husbands as she came through with her men following behind her. There was an immediate path made for her and she stopped, staring at all the shops. She sniffed the air and smiled, pointing her blade at the fruit merchant.
"You!" she said and the man backed away from her into the wall behind him. "Where is the busiest part of this city?" she asked and he was barely able to talk. "Are you mute?!" she growled and grabbed his tunic and threw him on the ground. She pointed the blade at his neck, "tell me or you die right here!"
He shielded his face, "right down the road!" he breathed heavily, "a market square!" he curled up in a ball and she smirked, kicking him aside, storming through the streets with her men trailing behind.
She stopped in the middle of the square and saw fearful eyes staring at her. Her eyes scanned the area and she saw a fox fur hat sitting on a table outside an inn. She smiled and grabbed a torch from one of the buildings and entered the inn. All the men's eyes widened at her and she saw a small group of the Western Sciri Huns gawking at her, knowing exactly who she was and why she was here.
"Traitors!" she pointed her blade at them. "Get them!" she cried out and the men behind her came charging in. all the civilians began running out of the inn. Xena grabbed a mug of ale and the innkeeper ducked down as she breathed fire with the torch, igniting the wooden interior of the building.
The Hun soldiers grabbed two of the Sciri men trying to escape and wrapped their whips around their necks, tightening them. Xena smiled and a column inside burned down, falling right in front of her. "Don't kill them, I'm going to need them later..." she pinched one of the Sciri men's cheeks and hummed to herself. He growled and tried to bite her finger. "Extra points for you!" she pat his cheek and frowned, turning around. "Where is the Bey?" she saw people running out of the inn as it continued to engulf in flames.
She ran out of the burning inn and smoke filled the square. She waft the smoke away from her face and squinted her eyes, looking for any escapees. She saw many civilians screaming and running away in different directions. She saw a man wearing an animal pelt and grinned.
Charging forward she walked briskly down the street. A boy gasped as he saw her and ran away from her into a pile of hay. His mother grabbed him, "mother, who is that?!"
"We need to get inside, hurry!" she said, pulling him into their home.
Xena rounded the corner and saw the man and his helpers running away from her. She unsheathed her second sword and twirled both of them in her wrists, smiling as they tried to run away. The men turned around and saw her twirling her swords as she marched down the alleyway.
The Bey's eyes widened, "I won't go back with that insane woman!" he growled and came to the eastern side of the city and there weren't many places to run and hide. He saw an academy and grabbed his men and entered through there.
Gabrielle was in the middle of teaching until she heard a lot of ruckus outside her classroom. She frowned and told her students to stay put. She stepped outside and saw those same men she saw a few days ago and now they were in her school!
"What the hell?!" she grabbed a torch off the wall and wacked one of the men over the head with it. "Get out of my school!" she kicked the man lying on the ground.
Nikoli came running out of his office and gasped seeing Gabrielle beating up a strange man in the hallway. He smiled nervously at all the children gawking, peeking through the hallway to see what was going on.
The man picked up Gabrielle and threw her outside. She grunted, rubbing her back and stood up, "hey! You can't just throw me out!" she looked around and picked up a pitchfork from the farmer that lived next to the school. She banged on the door, scraping it with the pitchfork, grunting heavily. This is not working.
Xena came now with her entourage of men and held her swords close to her body as they stormed through the streets. She saw a blonde young woman banging on the door and she smirked. Through the windows she saw the Bey and his loyal follower, running through the building.
She grabbed Gabrielle by her dress and tossed her aside. "Out of my way!" she said and Gabrielle blew her curly hair away from her eyes. She picked up the pitchfork again and wacked Xena's backside. Xena's eyes widened and she slowly turned around, glaring at the short woman. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear as she stared into this tall woman's eyes. Obviously, this woman was one of them, given by her clothing and long hair too. She obviously didn't think this one through.
Gabrielle slowly began backing away and Xena kicked her down swiftly and grabbed the pitchfork tossing it aside. "Detain her!" she said and went through the school. The men snatched her up off the ground and she grunted, trying to get free from their hold.
As Xena entered the building she saw this was a school. Many children were there and they cowered in fear as she charged through the hallways. Nikoli frowned and stepped in front of her. She smirked, "get out of my way, old man," she hissed and he wouldn't move. She grabbed his arm and threw him across the hallway.
A teenage boy came up to her with some sort of staff and Xena frowned, glaring at the boy. She had no desire to hurt a child, that wasn't why she was here. "I don't have time for these games!" she yelled and kicked the staff out of the boy's hands and pushed him aside into a wall.
She came to a dead end and saw the Bey was talking with his loyal friend. She chuckled, "well, well. Looks like I finally have you in my grasp now," she unsheathed her swords and twirled one of them with her strong wrists. The tribal leader was now truly afraid he was going to die.
Xena grabbed the Bey and broke his arm, kneeing him in the elbow. He cried out loudly in agony. "Attila wants you alive..." she hissed in his ear, "so I will make sure you stay alive, but if you make this difficult..." she scraped the edge of her blade along the Bey's cheek, drawing a small amount of blood, "then you won't make it back alive, got it?" she whispered and he nodded.
The men tied up the Bey and his other followers from back at the inn a few blocks away. Xena folded her arms looking down at the defeated Hunnic leaders. "We could have been friends, but you decided to flee like cowards," she smiled.
Gabrielle frowned as her hands and legs were tied up with ropes. She had never seen such thick rope in her entire life. "You're all barbarians!" she yelled and Xena turned her head, looking at her with a devious smile.
Xena walked slowly over to the blonde and Gabrielle watched her knee high boots, coming closer to her and the silver chains jingling the more steps she took. The blonde's eyes widened and then Xena stopped a foot away from her. Gabrielle lifted her head and the brunette woman bent down, her hair creating a veil around her upper half and her lips broke out into a smile, an eerie smile. Gabrielle almost felt sick.
She grabbed Gabrielle's cheeks and pinched them in between her fingers, examining her face. She then opened her mouth, touching her teeth with her gloved hands, noting that she had perfect white teeth. Xena lifted an eyebrow, "you are not a slave," she smiled and Gabrielle spat her feet, trying to get that nasty taste out of her mouth. Xena frowned seeing her boots covered in saliva. "But you are annoying," she thought out loud.
Gabrielle breathed heavily as she saw Xena thinking to herself. "Let me go," she asked and then lowered her voice, "please."
Xena looked to her men and began laughing. She bent down and grabbed Gabrielle's face again, pinching her cheeks together. "You attacked me and you want me to free you?" she tisked and winked at the girl, "you must be mistaken," she grabbed Gabrielle's hair, pulling her head back and Xena stared into her bright green eyes. "If you are not a slave, then what are you?" she felt curious and was inches away from her face.
Gabrielle had never felt fear before in her entire life until now. This woman was tall and intimidating, not to mention she could kill anything in a split second. "I'm...a teacher," she replied softly and Xena smiled, releasing her hair.
"A teacher?" Xena folded her arms and scoffed, "a teacher attacked me," she pointed to herself and Gabrielle eyed her cautiously. "You must have death wish," she chuckled and leaned down in front of the blonde. "Tell me, can you read?" Gabrielle nodded, "write?" she asked and yet again the blonde nodded. Xena thought to herself that may be she could be of use to her and the children in Pannonia. None of them knew how to read or write, except her daughter and even her reading and writing wasn't that great because she decided to become a rebel and refuse to do anything she said especially when she wasn't there. She was far too busy to keep up with her daughter's misbehaving.
She waved her hand to her men, "take her with us."
The men lifted Gabrielle off the ground and her heart sank as soon as she heard the woman say that. She would be taken as a slave for these Huns and would leave Kat and her students all alone. "No!" she shouted and Xena stopped walking, turning on her heel, lifting her eyebrows at the blonde. "Let me go! I won't be of any use to you!"
Xena walked up to the blonde and grabbed her neck, lifting her up in the air, "I have a special job for you," she grinned and Gabrielle choked, becoming red in the face. She dropped her on the ground and Gabrielle exhaled sharply, coughing violently. "You may not have been a slave before, but now...you are my slave," she smirked and walked off and the men carried Gabrielle and the other traitors behind her.
They came to the port and Xena sighed as she saw a slew of Roman soldiers blocking the path to her stolen ship from Durres. She smiled, folding her arms. "Are they kidding?" she unsheathed both her swords. "Attack them!" she yelled and the men unsheathed their blades, running for the Roman soldiers.
Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw the Huns attacking the Romans, slicing their bodies up. A Roman soldier had his arm cut off and blood spewed everywhere. Gabrielle felt her stomach churning and she looked away, not baring to be able to see those men get slaughtered.
Xena drove her blade into a Roman's chest and threw her other sword in another's backside. She pulled the blade out and blood splattered on her cheek. She walked over to the other fallen soldier and pulled her second sword out. Growling she spun around and saw one by one the Romans falling to their deaths. "I want their heads! All of them!" she yelled and marched forward twirling the swords in her wrists.
Gabrielle was curious enough and turned her head slowly and saw the woman swing both of her blades at two Romans and sliced their legs off. Her eyes widened and now surely she knew this was horrible. She was going to die, she kept telling herself that. There was no way she could be a slave for this awful woman. She was a savage and had no remorse killing these people.
The men gathered up the dead Romans and drug their bodies towards Xena. She smiled and lifted a Roman up and sliced his head off. Gabrielle gasped, closing her eyes. Xena then took the Roman's sword and drove dug a hole with her boot and stuck the hilt of the sword into the soil. She stabbed the Roman's head through the tip of the blade.
She did the heinous act to each and every Roman soldier along the coast of Athens. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear and then she vomited in the grass, dry heaving heavily seeing the heads of the Hun's enemies on the swords, just like Kat had said. She thought that was a made up story, but it was far from a folktale.
Xena sheathed her swords and sighed heavily, feeling like her work was done here. "Roman scum," she spat on the ground and whistled at her men to grab the prisoners and head towards the ship. She smiled at the blonde's frightened face then marched over to the ship. They would have to hurry and escape before more Romans were sent their way.
Anastasia and Ellac were wrestling in the grass together in the outskirts of the camp. Ellac rolled over on top of her and she breathed heavily, staring into his green eyes. He grinned down at her and punched her in the jaw. She gasped and rubbed her jaw. "That's for throwing me in that mud pit last week, Annas!" he said and she growled, kicking him off of her.
He ran away from her, now afraid he was going to get creamed again. She lunged forward in the air and grabbed his legs causing him to fall face first into the grass. "You always hated getting dirty!" she climbed on top of his back, pinning him down with her strong thighs. "You going to cry to your mommy now?" she teased.
Ellac groaned, "no! And she's not my mother! She's my stepmother!" he kicked Anastasia in her back and she groaned, becoming distracted and released her hold on him. Ellac wiggled out and grabbed her arms, throwing her on the ground. "I win!"
Anastasia frowned, "for now..." she said and then they both heard loud drumming. Ellac stood up and she followed suit.
"Father is back!" he smiled and jumped on his horse, riding towards the center of the camp. Anastasia frowned, folding her arms, not happy to hear those drums, which meant her mother was back too. She thought she would have been gone longer. She jumped on her horse and followed the Hun prince.
Attila came riding into the camp and was greeted by all of his people. He smiled at them and then saw his son and Xena's daughter riding together. His smile disappeared as soon as he saw them together. He was sure that Xena told her to stay away from his son, though Ellac was young and hadn't even realized Annas was in fact a girl.
Ellac smiled and dismounted his horse, running up to his father. "You're back!" he grinned and Attila ruffled the boy's dark hair.
Anastasia came riding up on her horse and saw all the men that came in with Attila and noticed her mother was not with them. She was fully expecting to get a reprimanding from her mother and now that she wasn't here, she was starting to become worried. She hopped off the horse and walked over to Ellac and his father.
"Where's my mother?" she asked and Attila frowned at her.
"She's on a mission," Attila said and Anastasia folded her arms, though this meant more time for her to hang out with Ellac as long as her mother was away.
She smiled and placed her hand on the prince's shoulder, "are we still going to the river later?" she asked and Ellac nodded, quite excited to spend more time with his adopted prince brother.
Attila frowned at her, "Ellac will not be joining you Annas," he said and the teenage girl glared up at the king. "Come inside with me son," he said and Ellac looked to Anastasia and felt sorry that he wasn't able to go with her to the river.
She watched both of them trot off to their large home and she huffed, running into her yurt. She came charging through the yurt and Galena saw her enter.
"Ana!" she called out and the girl ran to her room without another word. The woman shook her head, "that girl..." she sighed and dropped a few lamb bones into the soup she was making.
Anastasia ripped off the turban off her head and her long dark hair tumbled down her back. She plopped down on her bed and sobbed in her pillow. She clutched the pillow close to her face and cried softly.
Galena pushed the curtains aside and carried a bowl of soup in with her. She saw Anastasia crying softly on her bed and smiled sadly at the girl. She walked over and sat on the cushioned bed, and touched the girl's back. "I brought you some soup," she said and Anastasia sniffled.
"I'm not hungry," she said and turned her face away from the woman, embarrassed to be even seen like this.
The woman sighed heavily and set the soup on the bedside table. She ran her fingers through the teen's long dark wavy hair. "I heard the king has returned, yet...I don't see your mother."
Anastasia frowned, "she's on a mission," she mumbled in her pillow and wiped her cheeks from the tears streaming down her face.
"Well, the soup is there if you want it," Galena pat the girl's back then got up to leave the room so the girl could sulk. She entered the main part of the yurt and sighed, sitting in the chair she decided to knit something to get her mind off of things. She obviously saw that Xena's daughter was upset and probably because she couldn't spend time with Ellac, which she knew would happen once either Xena or Attila returned.
Later in the evening Anastasia fell asleep after she decided to eat the soup. She didn't even bother to take off her clothes or boots. Her arms were sprawled across the bed and a gentle breeze filtered in the room from the window inside the yurt.
As she was sleeping peacefully a rock was thrown at her face. She groaned and woke up immediately. "Annas..." she heard her name whispered from the window. She sat up in her bed, rubbing her eyes and frowned. "It's me, Ellac!" he whispered again.
Her eyes widened and she grabbed a scarf, covering her hair quickly then walked up to the window, seeing Ellac waiting for her outside the yurt. He contorted his face in confusion and he chuckled, "what's with the scarf?" he asked.
She shrugged her shoulder, "what are you doing here?" she whispered.
Ellac had a sneaky look on his face, "me and my friends are going to the river. Do you want to come with us?" her eyes lit up at that and she nodded her head.
"One second!" she smiled and grabbed her turban, quickly rolling her hair into a bun and placed the turban over her hair. She then ran to the window and climbed out as quietly as she could. Ellac grabbed her hand and smiled at her. "Does your father know you're not in your room?" she whispered as she could hear a lot of the men and women were still awake, inside and outside their yurts.
He put his finger over his mouth and winked. "I won't tell if you don't."
Anastasia grinned and they crept down together as they quickly left the campgrounds to go meet their friends by the river.
AN: evil Xena is a delight, isn't she?
Xena and Attila's army stopped at Sklaveni on their way back to Pannonia. She decided to camp out in this city and travel in the morning to Pannonia. The journey from Athens was incredibly long and she burned the ship once they arrived in Durres so the Romans could not track them. Xena had no remorse for burning the ship and possibly ruining the relationship the Huns had with the Western Romans, but she didn't care. She wanted to capture the Beys and she did.
Tomorrow they would travel to Pannonia and it was only a day's ride there, which was considerably short compared to all the other journeys she went on these last few months with Attila. He would have been back in Pannonia by now and hopefully he would been talking with his head men in the militia about the Northern Gaul territory that the Romans promised to give them and they didn't.
Tents were set up around three campfires and Xena hunted a rabbit in the forest a few hours ago and finally cooked it over the fire, slowly for the last two hours. Slow and long was the best way. She took a leg of the rabbit off the cooked animal and bit into it. Her eyes traveled to her little blonde teacher who was tied up leaning against a tree, being very quiet.
She smirked and turned around, staring at the young woman. Gabrielle caught Xena looking at her and she frowned, scooting away from the tree so she wouldn't have to stare at her blue piercing eyes. Xena chuckled lowly and drank some wine from her wineskin, glaring at the blonde. "You seem uncomfortable..." Xena said with a bit of mirth lingering in her eyes.
Gabrielle tightened her lips and felt her blood boiling already. She didn't want to have a conversation with this savage woman and still felt sick remembering the heads she stabbed through the Romans' swords. Xena hummed to herself and kept eating the rabbit, realizing that the woman wasn't going to talk to her.
Gabrielle turned her head slightly and saw the raven haired woman was eating by herself around the campfire. "You slaughtered all of those men..." she said quietly and Xena stopped chewing, slowly turning her head towards her. Instantly she felt fear enter her body and became breathless.
"Did you say something?" Xena smirked and Gabrielle averted her eyes. "Come now, if you have something on your mind, you should say it," she challenged her captured slave.
The blonde felt like she was walking into a trap here but she didn't care, "you killed all those Romans!" she yelled and Xena smiled. "You mutilated their bodies!" she felt sick just recalling that moment again. Xena chuckled and threw down the rabbit leg onto the ground and stood up, slowly walking towards the woman. Gabrielle's eyes widened, but she furrowed her eyebrows, frowning up at the Hunnic woman.
"You know," Xena pulled out a dagger from her belt and knelt down in front of the blonde slave. "You're very outspoken for a school teacher," she whispered and inched closer to her. She traced her fingers along the sharp blade and drew some blood from her fingers and grinned wickedly. Gabrielle cringed seeing the blood all over her fingers and thought this woman was crazy, yes, definitely crazy, she thought. "I don't like that," she hissed and wiped her fingers on the blonde's cheek. Gabrielle closed her eyes, breathing heavily trying to contain herself from screaming out like a frightened little girl.
Xena stood up and sheathed her dagger and Gabrielle opened her eyes, her heart beating incredibly fast, staring up at the woman. Though, she saw she was quite gorgeous, she thought the Hunnic women were hideous but this woman wasn't. Her hair was incredibly long, reaching to her waist and her eyes were reminiscent of the Aegean Sea. Her lips were just the right size too, not too small or too large and her skin was a perfect olive complexion due to spending most of her time outside. Gabrielle blinked as Xena kept staring down at her with a big grin. Her teeth were also perfect, which she thought odd. Gabrielle was sure that this woman had many men coming after her, or perhaps she had many suitors because she was so beautiful.
"I want to make you as comfortable as possible," Xena said with an eerie smile. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and lowered her head, refusing to gaze at the tall intimidating woman anymore.
"Is this what you call comfortable?" Gabrielle mumbled and then her eyes widened, thinking what an idiotic thing to say. She sometimes felt like she couldn't control her mouth at times and this was one of those times she wished she were mute. Xena frowned and knelt down, pinching the woman's cheeks in between her fingers harshly.
Xena snarled and stared into Gabrielle's green big eyes. "I know you were not a slave before..." she grinned and hummed to herself. "But I will make sure to break you in," she pat Gabrielle's cheek and traced her fingers on her lips before standing up and walking back to sit by the campfire again.
Gabrielle licked her lips and tasted the blood on Xena's fingers lingering on her lips. She kept glaring at her, watching her every move. She didn't know this woman and she was deathly afraid of what she might do to her if she spoke out like that again. She promised herself not to speak like that again because something worse might happen to her and she didn't want that. Savage woman.
Anastasia snuck off with Ellac to the woods behind the camp and they were alone this time. The river was fun and exciting with their friends, but she really liked spending time alone with him. They had just finished sparring with one another and walked together in the woods under an archway of trees filled with autumn leaves, just beginning to fall. She glanced over at him and he was enjoying the nice weather.
"The leaves are beautiful this year, aren't they?" she said and Ellac nodded.
"Yeah, but that means winter is coming sooner this year. It'll probably be really cold this time," he smiled and she shrugged her shoulder, walking along side him in silence.
She nudged him in his arm with her elbow, "come on let's go to the alcove!" she grinned and took off running.
Ellac smiled, "Annas wait for me!" he took off running behind her, trying to catch up. He never understood how Annas could run so much faster than him and he hated to admit it, but he thought his friend was a better fighter than him too.
Anastasia came to the alcove and Ellac finally caught up, trying to catch his breath. She smiled at him and he shook his head, bending over feeling a cramp in his side. "You sure run fast!" he breathed and Anastasia smirked, walking around nature's alcove. It was so beautiful here and she always loved coming here.
"wow, look at this place! How did you come by it?" Ellac asked and she smirked.
"My mother showed it to me," she said and he nodded, walking beside her, enjoying the scenery. "She used to take me here when I was little. Sometimes I had trouble sleeping at night and this place always calmed me down." She admitted spending some good times with her mother even though she didn't want to be near her at all. She was always making these stupid rules and before she loved spending time with her but now she wished she'd stay gone on her missions all the time.
Ellac sat down on a stump and she sat next to him. "Hey, I'm sorry about my father. I don't know why he doesn't want us to hang out," he sighed heavily, feeling embarrassed for his father's behavior.
Anastasia lowered her eyes, knowing exactly why Attila didn't want her near his son. Attila knew that she was a girl since her birth and was kind enough to keep it a secret from everyone, including his second wife. In the entire tribe, only Xena and Attila knew, though she feared that other people would begin to catch on the more her mother secluded her from the public eye. She ran her hands over her body and felt her breasts against her palms and inwardly hated it. Her face was also changing a lot and was beginning to look a lot like her mother, which she despised. The more time she spent with the Hun prince, the more she liked him and she knew that he liked her too, but not in the way she thought.
Ellac sensed her silence and nudged her gently with his elbow. "You okay?" he asked and she turned staring at him with her big blue eyes, batting her long eyelashes.
"Do you like girls, Ellac?" she randomly asked, catching the prince off guard.
He shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know, I never been around a girl before," he laughed nervously and knew that his father would find him a nice girl to marry once he turned fifteen, but that was nearly two years from now and he didn't want to marry a girl anytime soon. Though he knew he'd have to court the girl until he was eighteen he just wasn't ready for that commitment at thirteen. He hated that his birthday was in a few months and he would be fourteen, which was one year before finding a girl to court.
Anastasia smiled sadly and felt stupid for even asking such a question. "Yeah, girls are kind of weird, aren't they?"
Ellac didn't quite agree with that, "they're kind of pretty," the teen said shyly and Ana smiled, feeling a bit hopeful now, though reality hit her, realizing that she was a boy to Ellac and always would be.
Loud drums were heard in the tribe and Anastasia stood up, knowing that her mother was back. She grabbed his hand, "we should get back!" she took off running with Ellac skipping behind her barely able to keep up.
Xena trotted in on her black stallion with the men following her and the prisoners in cages on a wagon, pulled by a couple of horses. Gabrielle's eyes wandered around as she sat on a horse, being guided by one of the Hun soldiers. She saw many yurts in the campground and a large abode in the outskirts of the camp, she thought that was quite impressive. A bunch of women and men came out of their yurts, wearing dark dresses and coined headdresses and the men wore large coyote pelts around their shoulders. Gabrielle felt like she traveled back in time, seeing how these people lived. Their lives were simpler here and they didn't have to worry about the caste system in Greece or Italy, which she thought might be kind of nice.
Attila walked out of his abode and smiled seeing Xena and saw the prisoners locked in wooden cages. He had no idea how she was able to do it, but she did it. Xena dismounted her horse and walked up the Hun king, wrapping her arms around him, nice to see one another again.
"Xena! Well done," he grinned and she looked back the Beys and his few loyal followers trapped in the cages.
"I've brought your traitors and then some," she smiled, eyeing the blonde woman and Gabrielle turned her head away, not baring to look at her.
Attila walked up to the cages and saw the Bey of Sciri tribe stuffed in a small cage. "Welcome home, Bey," he chuckled and the elderly man growled at him like an animal. He clapped his hands, "take them to the barracks," he demanded of his men. He turned to Xena, "you will be in charge of interrogation."
Her eyes lit up at that, quite eager to use her skills. "I get to capture the traitors and interrogate them? You are in a good mood," she teased.
Anastasia and Ellac emerged from the forest and Xena caught them immediately out of the corner of her eye. She saw her daughter holding hands with the prince and frowned, feeling her anger rising rapidly. Attila turned around and saw his son with Xena's daughter and folded his arms. Anastasia let go of Ellac's hand and they both stared at their parents with wide doe eyes, fearing for their lives. The teenage girl felt her heart about to beat out of her chest the longer she stared into her mother's dangerously frightening eyes. She felt like she was being burned at the stake just by her mother's piercing glare.
"Ellac!" Attila called out, "come here," he said and the prince lowered his head, running towards his father, feeling ashamed of himself. He had disobeyed his father not once, but many times, and it was all behind his back. He didn't think he was going to be caught. Attila grabbed his son's arm and slapped him across his face. Ellac gasped and touched his cheek. Anastasia's eyes widened, her mouth gaped as she saw the prince being publically humiliated. Everyone was staring and soon dispersed, minding their own business. "I told you to stay away from Annas!" he reprimanded.
Ellac bowed his head to his father, "I'm sorry father," he muttered. Attila pushed his son forward and grabbed his shoulder, walking with him back to their dwelling. Now he was sure he was going to get beaten in private and he was not happy about it.
Xena folded her arms and kept glaring at her daughter. Anastasia thought that she should make a run for it, but then that'd just anger her mother even more. She kept thinking all of the consequences that would happen and either way she was doomed. Xena wagged her finger towards her, non-verbally telling her to come by her side. The teenager slowly walked towards her mother with shame.
Gabrielle frowned still sitting on top of the horse, seeing a young teenage boy coming towards Xena and thought that was odd. Does this woman actually have a child? No she couldn't have a child. How could a horrible woman like that give birth to another human being? She watched the teenager come closer and Xena made no sudden moves. Interesting.
Anastasia came to her mother with her head hanging lowly. Xena still had a huge disapproving frown on her face and the girl looked up at her tall mother, glaring down at her. She thought she was going to get slapped like Ellac did by his father, but all she did was stare at her, which was even worse than getting hit, she thought.
Xena grabbed her daughter's arm and marched to their yurt. Gabrielle's eyes widened, now seeing the fury in the woman's eyes. She truly felt afraid for the teenager, though she had to think of herself since she was stuck here as her captive. Life was so much better in Athens, she told herself over and over again.
Xena threw Anastasia on the floor and the girl's eyes widened and she scooted along the floor, trying to get away from her as she kept walking towards her. She breathed heavily and all those awful things she said about her mother while she was away didn't seem to matter now. She talked like she knew everything, but in reality she did not.
"I told you to stay away from that boy!" Xena said and Anastasia cowered in fear, backing up into a chair. She grabbed the girl by her arms and stood her up, staring into her scared blue eyes. "You disobeyed me!"
Anastasia eyes widened as she stared into her mother's eyes, inches away from her face. "I like spending time with him!" she said and Xena lifted her eyebrows, pulling away from her daughter.
"You like him?" she hissed and her daughter fell silent. She shook her daughter, "did he touch you?!" she asked.
The teen's face contorted, confused at her mother's accusation. She frowned, shaking her head, "no!" she yelled back and Xena stared into her eyes, trying to find out if she was lying or not.
"Did you touch him?" she asked in a more calm voice.
Anastasia scoffed at her mother, "no!" Xena let go of her and scratched her cheek anxiously and began pacing around. She watched her mother carefully, unsure of what she was going to do now. "I don't see what the big deal is..." she folded her arms, finding her cocky attitude within her.
Xena stopped pacing and turned on her heel, glaring at her daughter. "The big deal is...I don't want you ever seeing him ever again! I gave you an order and you disobeyed me!" she yelled and Anastasia's mouth gaped.
"I'm not one of your soldiers! You can't give me orders!" she spat back and Xena clenched her fists, becoming angrier by the second.
Xena laughed mockingly and her daughter frowned deeply at her. She realized she had spent far too many months away from her daughter and obviously she needed more guidance than what she could offer. She walked over to her and ripped the turban off her daughter's head. Anastasia gasped as her hair came tumbling down her back. "You are not Annas anymore, you are Anastasia. You will never come out of this yurt again," she said seriously and her daughter widened her eyes.
"Mom!" Anastasia begged. She didn't want to stay in this yurt forever, she would be so lonely and miserable.
Xena pinched her daughter's cheeks together, lifting her chin up to look in her sad eyes. "I don't want you ever to disobey me again, understand?" she hissed and her daughter said nothing. She released her cheeks and sighed heavily, now feeling like she was interrogating one of her captives and felt bad for treating her daughter like so. "I don't want any boy to come near you," she said quietly.
Anastasia frowned, "it's not like we were having sex!" she yelled back and Xena's eyes widened, shocked to hear that come out of her mouth.
"You will stay in your room and finish your studies that I know you have been ignoring," Xena said and her daughter groaned, not happy to hear that in the least.
Her daughter looked up at her once more, "I can never see Ellac again?" she asked in a soft voice.
Xena frowned, "no!" she yelled and Anastasia's eyes filled with tears, running to her room. Xena sighed, rubbing her forehead then ran her fingers through her hair. She threw the turban in the fire then kicked over a table, letting out her frustration.
She exited the yurt and placed her hands on her hips, still fuming at her daughter's cocky attitude. She looked at the blonde still sitting on the horse. She smiled smugly and walked over to her. Gabrielle saw that creepy smile on the woman's lips again and she instantly felt sick. She heard a lot of yelling in the yurt but couldn't make out what was being said. Obviously, that teenager was this woman's child and she was very upset over something. So, you do have feelings.
"Welcome to Pannonia," Xena said and grabbed the blonde off the horse as her hands were still tied up. She grabbed her arm and brought her inside the yurt. Gabrielle grunted and then Xena threw her onto a floor mattress. She looked around and saw this was quite a huge place she had here. Although, it was very tribal, it was nice. Gabrielle noticed the flipped over table and Xena took off her cloak, throwing it on an empty chair.
Xena smirked at the blonde and walked over to her. Gabrielle held her breath, fearing the worst. "If I untie you, I sure hope you won't run away..." she whispered and Gabrielle shook her head. Xena then untied Gabrielle's hands and she felt so relieved. She rubbed her wrists and stared into the woman's enchanting eyes, feeling lost in them, but also she feared those dangerous eyes.
Gabrielle watched the raven haired woman walk around and poured some wine into a mug and fidgeted with her hands. "What is your name?" Xena asked.
The blonde's eyes widened, "Gabrielle..." she answered barely above a whisper.
"Gabrielle," Xena smiled, turning around, leaning on a chair. "That's such a Greek name," she winked and sipped the wine slowly. "So, Gabrielle..." she spun the chair around and sat in it, leaning her elbows over the back of the chair. "You were a teacher in Athens, right?" Gabrielle nodded, "in that academy where you...attacked me..." she mused with a big smirk on her face. The blonde lowered her eyes and sighed heavily. "What's the matter? No smart remarks?" she chuckled.
Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her, averting her eyes away from the woman. "What's your name?" she asked quietly and Xena frowned, continuing to sip her wine in silence as she gawked at the woman. Gabrielle chastised herself, feeling like her mouth would only get her in trouble here. This woman had a temper and anything set her off, obviously.
"Well Gabrielle, if you must know..." Xena grinned cunningly, "I have many names." She spoke in riddles and the blonde stared at her patiently. "Some call me the Caspian Queen," she mentioned with a big sigh then continued, "or the Black Sea Queen," she smiled, narrowing her eyes. "Savage, barbarian, monster...murderer," she grinned evilly, sipping the wine and Gabrielle's eyes widened.
Gabrielle felt the word vomit about the come up again and she breathed out a large exhale. "What do you want me to call you?"
Xena licked her lips, frowning at the blonde woman. "Well this is odd..." she grinned and the blonde raised an eyebrow at her, bemused. "Nobody has ever asked me that before...probably because they're usually dead before they get a chance to speak," she chuckled and finished off the wine, slamming the mug on the table, causing Gabrielle to jump in her seat. "My name is Xena," she said finally, "but you won't address me as Xena, got it?" she said firmly and the blonde nodded her head slowly, staring into her eyes.
The raven haired woman stood up from the chair and picked at a bowl of rice with her fingers and Gabrielle sighed quietly, sitting on the bed. "You didn't answer my question..." Gabrielle spoke again. Xena dropped the rice from her fingers and turned around, placing her hand on her hip.
"And what exactly...was your question?" Xena creased her eyebrows together, not appreciating how talkative this teacher was.
Gabrielle felt her throat begin to close up the longer Xena stared at her. "I asked you what you want me to call you and you said I couldn't call you by your name..." she lamented.
Xena wiped her fingers on her pants and walked closer to Gabrielle. The blonde stared up at her and Xena leaned forward, putting her hands on either side of Gabrielle. The blonde began leaning backwards as Xena came closer. The military commander smiled, humming to herself, making the teacher very nervous. "You have a lot of questions..." she hissed and Gabrielle scooted away from her inch by inch. "You are my slave and I am your master..." she said and widened her wild eyes, "so you may call me master," she grinned and winked at her then stood up.
Gabrielle felt like she could breathe again as soon as Xena stepped away from her. She thought her heart was about to explode. Xena spooned some of the rice into a separate bowl and tore up some bread as well. Gabrielle frowned, watching what she was doing. Xena spun around and Gabrielle nervously rubbed the back her neck pretending like she wasn't looking. Xena smirked, "you may eat something, I am not inhuman." She said and disappeared behind a curtain. The blonde stood up slowly and walked over to the table, seeing a large bowl of rice, some lamb she guessed and thick bread. She hadn't eaten in days throughout their journey, she was almost afraid to eat something in fear that Xena might retaliate, though...she did tell her to eat something. Slowly she reached for the bowl of bread and ripped a piece off, chewing on it. She didn't think that these people knew how to cook at all, but this bread was probably the fluffiest bread she had ever eaten.
Xena walked into her daughter's room with the bowl of food in her hands. Anastasia was laying on her bed, sniffling softly to herself. She sighed and sat on the bed beside her. She touched her daughter's shoulder and she shrugged her hand off, scooting away from her.
She sighed, "I brought you some food," she offered and Anastasia wiped her eyes, refusing to look at her mother.
"I'm not hungry," the girl muttered under her breath.
Xena set the bowl of food on the ground and folded her hands in her lap, "Anastasia, I'm sorry but you can't keep disobeying me every time I leave." She said and her daughter shifted, bringing her knees closer to her chest. She sighed as her daughter was giving her a very cold shoulder. "You know that I love you a lot." Anastasia frowned and cuddled against her pillow. "It's just...you are getting older and I can't allow you to keep spending your life as a boy anymore," she said and her daughter turned over, frowning at her deeply.
"Then why raise me as a boy anyway?" she asked sincerely, feeling more confused than angry at the moment.
Xena rubbed her forehead and tapped her fingers on her knee. "To protect you."
Anastasia scoffed, "protect me? Protect me from what?!" she was now getting angry.
"Look around, Ana!" Xena frowned, "do you see any girls in this tribe?" she asked and her daughter lowered her eyes. She lifted her daughter's chin, "you are the only girl here and you may not understand now, but you will later." She said and her daughter grimaced.
"Well maybe it would have been better if I was never born then," the girl rolled over on her side, her back facing towards her mother. Xena's eyes widened and felt like someone had just stabbed her in the heart hearing those words come out of her daughter's mouth.
Gabrielle heard some hushed tones behind the curtain and continued chewing on the fluffy bread. Curious, she stepped closer to the curtain and peered behind it. She saw Xena sitting on a bed and that same teenager she saw earlier, which she thought was a boy, but once she saw the long wavy hair, she knew that couldn't be a boy at all. Not only was this woman a mother, but she kept her daughter as a boy...she frowned, thinking that was odd. She thought it must have been because of their culture and she would never understand these people and their strange ways.
She saw Xena getting up and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She ran back to the table and pretended to pick at the rice and continued eating the bread. Xena appeared from behind the curtain with a distressed look on her face. Gabrielle lowered her eyes immediately and Xena frowned at the blonde, casually eating.
"Enjoying our food?" Xena mused and Gabrielle said nothing in response. "I'm sure it's nothing compared your olives, cheeses and lavish desserts," she brushed passed her and Gabrielle exhaled slowly, feeling safe. Good, she didn't see me. Xena folded her arms, seeing the blonde picking at the food, even though she must have been starving. "You will sleep in the room over there," she pointed to the left and Gabrielle turned to see which room then nodded curtly at her.
Gabrielle finished the bread off and wiped her hands on her white gown, feeling super dirty. Xena smirked and nudged her head over to the right, "my room is there. Do not..." she said firmly, "go in there. At all." She finished and the blonde said nothing, but continued staring at her. Xena then pointed to the curtain at the back of the yurt, "or in there either," she said and Gabrielle turned around to see that was where the Hun's woman child's room was. The slave turned around and saw that Xena had already disappeared into her room, which meant that she should probably go in her room as well. She turned her head, looking one last time at the curtain that lead into the girl's room and sighed, making her way to her new room.
She entered the room and it was a separate yurt that was connected to the other three. She looked around and saw a mattress on the floor and a large rug covering the dirt floor. For a slave's quarters, it looked pretty nice, she thought. Gabrielle sat on the bed and stared up at the dome ceiling, rethinking what an adventure she already had. She laid down, spreading her arms out and sighed heavily thinking of Kathryn. She was probably worried sick about her and didn't even want to think of her face. She shut her eyes, trying to block it out, but she couldn't. She had been roommates with Kat for two years now and what started out as a friendly relationship ended up being more than that after a year spending together.
Now, she was stuck here in this backwards society and she couldn't do anything about it. She already thought of escaping the moment she was kidnapped in Athens but after she saw what Xena did to those Romans, she completely abandoned the idea altogether. She didn't want to end up like those men. She couldn't get that image out of her head and closed her eyes tightly, trying to think of something happy, but it wasn't really working. She groaned and rolled over on her side, trying to sleep, though her mind kept fighting it. This was going to be awful, she told herself.
Early the next morning Galena came into the yurt and saw a blonde girl sleeping on the bed. Xena had informed her that she captured a slave for herself and noticed the girl's clothing. She was not a Hun, perhaps a Roman or even a Greek woman? She grabbed a bucket of water and threw it on top of the young woman.
Gabrielle woke up startled and was soaked. She spat some water out of her mouth and saw an elderly woman with grey hair staring down at her with dark eyes. Galena set the bucket down. "You are the commander's new slave girl, yes?" she asked and Gabrielle wiped her eyes, nodding her head, though she hated to admit that. She never thought she'd be a slave, she was always a free woman. Galena grabbed her arm and yanked her out of bed.
"Hey!" Gabrielle grunted and did not appreciate being pushed around like some donkey. Galena frowned and pulled her along. She then ripped Gabrielle's once pristine white gown that was now covered in blood and dirt, off her body and Gabrielle gasped, covering herself, feeling totally exposed to a woman she barely knew. Galena had already filled the tub up with water and it didn't look warm at all.
"Get in," the brute woman said and Gabrielle dipped her foot in the cold water and shivered. Galena pushed her in and Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her. She hated cold water especially cold baths. This would be a time to go to her happy place and think of the nice heated baths she had back home in Athens right about now.
The woman pulled up a stool and grabbed a cloth, dipping it in the water, she began scrubbing Gabrielle's dirty arms harshly and the blonde cringed. She didn't think the woman could scrub any harder or she might lose a layer of skin. "Who are you?" she asked and the woman stared into her green eyes with a frown.
"The commander's assistant," she said, not revealing her name. She scooped some water into a large bowl and poured it over Gabrielle's curly blonde locks. Gabrielle frowned and shivered some more, continuing the cover her breasts from this strange woman. Galena forcefully lifted up Gabrielle's arms and scrubbed underneath her arms and the blonde sighed.
"I think I can bathe myself!" Gabrielle fought back and Galena frowned at the girl's lively outspoken nature.
"The commander does not like dirty slaves in her home," Galena said and dipped the cloth in the water and stuck her arm in the water, cleaning Gabrielle in between her legs. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she felt so violated at this very moment.
Gabrielle stood up in the bath, wrapping her arms around herself, feeling very uncomfortable. "I think I'm clean enough," she smiled nervously. Galena shook her head and threw the wet cloth on the side of the tub and gave Gabrielle a soft towel to dry off with.
Later after Gabrielle dried herself off she sat on the bed and Galena threw some clothes at her. She picked up the blouse and it was a dark brown blouse that tied in the front and a dark brown skirt to match. She didn't want to wear these clothes at all and felt disgusted looking at them. Galena also threw her some shoes and Gabrielle stared down at them. They definitely weren't like Grecian shoes at all. They were black slippers of some sort with red beads on them. So tribal, she thought.
"Get dressed, you have work to do." The woman said and Gabrielle sighed, running her fingers over the animal skin clothing. She definitely wasn't going to get used to this at all. The woman turned to leave, allowing Gabrielle some privacy to dress on her own, thinking her capable enough.
Gabrielle stood up, "what does...the commander want me to do?" she asked and Galena turned around, shocked to hear her ask such a question.
Galena folded her arms, "you will wait here until the commander calls for you," she turned and disappeared behind the curtain. Gabrielle frowned and glared at her new clothes, shaking her head she dropped the towel on the floor, putting on the top and skirt. She didn't know how long Xena was going to be and obviously she wasn't here, she assumed. She could be stuck here for hours on end without any direction and it's not like she could leave this yurt, or risk being hurt or even worse –killed.
As soon as she finished dressing herself she plopped back down on the fluffy mattress and held the shoes in her hands, staring at them. She then slipped them on her feet and twiddled her thumbs in her lap, exhaling heavily. Now, she would wait and wait, and wait some more until the commander called for her.
In the barracks Xena tied up the Sciri Bey by his feet, hanging his body upside down. She cracked the whip on the ground and the man was already cut up from previous lashes and had a swollen eye. He spat some blood out of his mouth and Xena smiled at him.
"Now, you will submit to us or die trying," Xena said and the Bey snarled at her. She chuckled under her breath and set the whip down on the table, grabbing a long sword. She tapped the tip of the blade with her fingertip, testing the sharpness of the weapon. She had been interrogating this man for over two hours and made sure she arrived early as soon as she woke up because she wanted to spend plenty of time with him.
The Bey watched Xena as she paced slowly around the small room. "You are an insane woman!" he spat and she lifted her eyebrows, glaring at the man. "The Sciri tribe will never follow you and Attila!" he yelled, defending his own people. He thought it was ridiculous that Attila would succumb to attacking his own people to gain respect and reign as the Hun king.
She waltzed over to him and he stared into her blue eyes. Breathing heavily, he felt his lungs restrict and felt breathless around her. He was afraid that she was going to slice through him like a pig on a spit, though she just stared at him, cocking her head to the side. "You will follow Pannonia and you will submit to me!" she growled and he laughed mockingly at her and she frowned. Grabbing his throat she was inches away from his face now and he kept laughing.
"I'll never...submit to you..." he hissed and she pushed him away from her and his body began swaying as he remained hanging in the air, at least three feet off the floor.
Lessa walked into the barracks as the soldiers let him through and he saw Xena standing barely a foot away from the traitor. He cleared his throat, "commander," he announced and slowly Xena turned around, gripping the hilt of the sword tightly. "Attila wants to see you."
She groaned and pinched the Bey's cheeks in between her fingers, "I'm not finished here..." she smiled and winked at the defeated tribe leader.
Lessa sighed, "he says it is urgent," he pressed further and Xena frowned, throwing the sword onto the table and stormed out of the barracks. The Bey breathed out a sigh of relief now that she was gone, but he knew that she would be back later. He would have to wait here until she returned and he hated that game of waiting.
Xena marched into Attila's home and he sat in his throne, waiting for her patiently. She frowned, trying to conceal her true feelings about being interrupted and she had plenty of other things on her mind as well, one being her daughter and two that blonde teacher she captured. "You wanted to see me?" she folded her arms.
Attila nodded, standing from his throne and walked down the steps, closer to her. She furrowed her eyebrows and kept glaring into his green eyes. "I want a full report of what happened in Athens." He placed his hands on his hips and she lowered her eyes, knowing that he didn't want a written report because he could not read and would be of no use to him. He wanted a verbal report and when he wanted a report, he meant right here, right now.
She smiled tightly, "I found the Sciri men in Athens. I captured the Bey and brought them back here," she said quickly, leaving the part out of the burning ship and killing all those Roman soldiers. Technically, they were still allied with the Western Roman Empire and because of what she did, they could damage their relationship with the Romans. She definitely wasn't going to tell him that last bit.
Attila nodded, "is that all that happened in Athens?" he questioned her.
Xena let out a laugh, "you don't trust me?" she hissed as he began circling around her, scanning her body and looking into her eyes, trying to find out if she was lying or not.
"Yes I do," he said and smiled at her and she half smiled, looking into his eyes. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook her slightly. "You are like my sister, you know. We make a remarkable team," he complimented her and she lowered her eyes, now grinning widely. He kissed her forehead and lifted her chin to stare into her eyes, "what are you going to do...about your daughter?" he whispered, noticing eyes all around them.
Xena frowned, not wishing to think of her daughter at the moment. "I don't know. I told her to stay in her room," she sighed heavily, furrowing her eyebrows.
Attila nodded his head and pat her shoulder, "and what of your new slave?" he smirked, recalling that petite blonde woman he saw yesterday.
Xena's lips curled into a smile, "you will find out."
Gabrielle had decided to take a nap after she waited about an hour for Xena to come back from wherever she was. She was curled up on the bed, sleeping lightly. She really didn't like that elderly woman and thought that she was rather brash. In her slight slumber she heard some hushed talking from behind the curtain and woke up, her eyes fluttering open.
She felt like she had a small headache and was probably hungry, she was sure she slept through the first meal of the day and by the sunlight coming through the opening in the yurt, she definitely knew it was early afternoon. Getting up, she stretched her arms out and peeked through the side of the curtains and saw Xena talking with that woman and held some clothes in her arms.
"She hasn't come out of her room all morning?" Xena asked.
Galena sighed sadly, shaking her head. "No ma'am. I tried to give her some food, but she refused."
Gabrielle frowned and surely Xena wouldn't be talking about her. She watched her disappear behind the curtain where her daughter's room was. She folded her arms, frowning and rubbed her chin. Obviously something was going on between those two and Xena was so hard, yet when it came to her daughter, she softened quite a bit. Gabrielle thought she would keep that in mind for later.
Xena stepped into her daughter's room and saw she hadn't even got up from her bed at all. The food she brought in last night was still on the floor and remained untouched. Anastasia was staring out the window as she laid on the bed, still in her clothes from yesterday.
"I brought some dresses from Aykis," Xena said, "you two are about the same size." She offered and her daughter didn't even budge. It was hard to contain her temper, though she really loved her daughter and knew that this day would come. She thought this would have been so much easier if Borias was here, raising their daughter together, but the reality is, that he wasn't here and Anastasia had no idea who he was and she'd never understand why she was kept from the public eye.
"Won't you talk to me?" Xena said, holding the dresses in her arms and Ana frowned, bringing her knees close to her chest. She sighed, "will you at least look at me?" she pleaded.
Anastasia rolled her eyes and she sat up, turning around to face her mother. She saw the pile of dresses her mother was holding and she was not happy about that at all. She didn't want to wear dresses and act like a girl. One day she was a boy and the next her entire life changed and she turned into a girl overnight.
Xena smiled and knelt down in front of her daughter, setting the dresses in her daughter's lap. "I think you might like these," she offered and Anastasia lowered her eyes, staring at the dresses. The first one atop of the pile was burgundy and had silver beads across the chest and cuffs of the sleeves. Xena cupped Ana's cheek, "you will look very nice in these colors."
Anastasia sighed and lifted the dresses, looking at each one of them in silence. She held the navy blue one against her body and Xena smiled, hoping that she would at least try one of the dresses on. The teen lifted her eyes and saw a big smile on her mother's face and she nervously grinned back at her. Xena kissed her forehead, "my pretty girl," she pat her cheek gently and left her room.
Gabrielle still peeked her head out of the curtain and saw Xena emerge from her daughter's room and came walking right towards her. She gasped and ran away from the curtain and sat back down on the bed, fixing her skirt and adjusting her top.
Xena pushed the curtain aside with her hand and smirked at the blonde slave. "You slept well I hope?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded, though she lied. She had hardly slept at all being in this new place, new room and surrounded by new people as well. She hated it here and she'd only been here for a day. "I'm taking you to meet Attila."
Gabrielle's eyes widened and she wasn't exactly sure what Xena had planned for her but it couldn't be that bad because she wasn't hurt yet and she even slept in her own room, which she was not expecting. She felt like she couldn't move and Xena smirked at her. "Come now, I don't have all day, Gabrielle!"
Xena and Gabrielle left the yurt together and walked side by side as they came closer to Attila's large home. Gabrielle's eyes were wandering around, looking at all the men and their wives. She noticed the children playing in front of the water well and frowned. They're all boys, she realized, but Xena had a daughter, she only assumed, but she was pretty sure she had a daughter by the looks of the girl's hair she saw. Of course the men commonly had long hair here but the children did not, they had short hair, which separated Xena's daughter from the rest of them.
Xena glanced over and saw Gabrielle looking around like a small lost child. "Stop staring so much," she said and the blonde lowered her head, walking with her, feeling a bit embarrassed to be caught staring at everyone. It was so different here, much different than Athens that's for sure.
Attila saw Xena enter with her blonde slave and stood from his throne. Xena curtly bowed her head and Gabrielle was looking around at the large dwelling, completely distracted. Xena frowned and glared down at the blonde. Gabrielle slowly turned up towards Xena and saw a big frown and bowed her head towards the Hun king.
"So this is your slave?" Attila asked and walked towards her. She stared at him and expected him to be frightening but he wasn't, in fact he was less scary than Xena was. He was also quite handsome to look at too with his long brown hair, braided in several small braids, framing his face and short beard.
Xena smiled, "this is Gabrielle, she is from Athens," she said and Gabrielle's cheeks blushed. "She is a teacher."
Attila lifted his eyebrows and touched Gabrielle's curly locks, "a teacher? That is interesting. What kind of subjects do you teach, Gabrielle?"
The blonde's eyes grew and she stared at the king, not really knowing what to say. All the word vomit that she had last night had suddenly left her body and she felt frozen. She didn't know what to say to him and she felt Xena's eyes staring at her like they were stabbing her in the side of her ribs. She cleared her throat, finally finding her voice, "well...I used to teach literature and Latin back in...Athens."
Attila smiled and Xena decided to speak her mind, "I thought it would be a good idea to allow Gabrielle to teach the children how to read and write, since none of them know how to..." she offered and the king kept smiling, nodding his head, quite pleased to hear that. Gabrielle turned and looked up at the brunette woman. Is this what she brought me here for? To teach children?
"What a fantastic idea, Xena!" he hugged her curtly and she smiled, seeing that he approved of her use of Gabrielle's skills. He looked over to the shocked blonde once more, "do you need any tools, Gabrielle?"
The blonde nodded, "some parchment...and quills..and ink too," she requested softly and Attila nodded his head snapping his fingers to his advisor.
The young man ran up to his king and bowed at his knees, "yes, your majesty?"
"Make sure our teacher has the proper supplies," he said and the man nodded, running off to ride to the next largest city to buy some parchment and ink like he requested. Attila turned and smiled at Gabrielle. "You will be treated well here Gabrielle, have no fear," he ran his fingers through Gabrielle's curly locks. She felt like the king was being sincere and felt safe around him. The slaves in his home were obviously treated well and were not incredibly thin like the slaves she often saw in Greece. They were considered worthless and of course since they were slaves, they were not paid. Though, she knew she wasn't going to get paid here but at least she had a place to stay and she was clothed and fed. Wait, what am I thinking? Am I okay with being a slave? I used to be renowned teacher in Athens and now I've been captured by this Hun woman to teach these savage children...what kind of life will be this be like?
Xena instructed Gabrielle to leave with her and Attila watched them walk out together. Kreka, his wife, emerged from the back of their home and frowned seeing Xena. She never really liked Xena all that much because her more barbaric ways of fighting and negotiating.
She walked over to her husband and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I don't know why you keep her around," she said, nudging her head towards Xena.
Attila sighed, turning around he set his hands on her hips, "she is my best commander and I trust her. Why do you dislike her?"
The brunette woman cringed, "she crosses boundaries, Attila! She's why the Romans call us savages!"
The king frowned, "they called us savages even before I appointed Xena and Borias to be my commanders. Her way is a little bit...unusual, but it works and she hasn't disappointed me yet," he kissed her forehead and she sighed, leaning into him, wrapping her arms around his muscular body.
"I fear that she will turn against you one day, Attila," she whispered, and he rubbed her back gently comforting her. "She is very powerful and your men listen to her over you."
Attila sighed, "Xena would never betray me. She has always been loyal to me."
Flavius Aetius walked into the baths in the Roman palace and saw the young emperor laying comfortably in the milk bath surrounded by beautiful young women. He sighed and bowed towards the emperor. Valentinian barely even noticed the military commander in chief and enjoyed all the women scrubbing his body with essential oils and flower petal olive oil soap.
"Sir, I have news from your cousin and sister in Athens," Aetius said and Valentinian chuckled, ignoring the man. The women groped his slender body, wrapping their arms around his neck as they kissed his neck and collar bone. "It's very important, sir. I think you'd like to hear it," he averted his eyes to the ceiling, trying not to gawk at the women surrounded by the childish emperor.
One of the servant women smiled and dipped her arm underneath the milk bathwater groping his manhood. Valentinian reared his head back and let out a satisfied sigh. He then opened his eyes and noticed his commander still standing there, waiting patiently. "Alright, Aetius, you have my attention."
The commander cleared his throat, "sir, that Hun woman, Xena, came to Athens and ransacked the entire city!" he said, quite infuriated. He pulled out a sealed letter from Honoria. "Your sister sent this last week. Our men found Roman soldiers with their heads decapitated and severed on their swords by the port."
Valentinian's eyes widened in shock and pushed the women away. He swam over to the opposite end of the long rectangular bath and leaned over the floor, staring up at his commander. "Why was this...woman in Athens anyway?"
Aetius opened the letter, reading over it again. "She captured a few Huns bringing them back to the Balkans." He said and the emperor scratched his head, feeling conflicted on what to do. "We tried to follow her but our soldiers found no trace of an Athenian ship. She must have fled to Pannonia," he groaned, tucking the letter in his armored vest.
The emperor laughed, "well what do you want me to do with Xena? She doesn't want to be found!"
The commander tried to contain his anger at this man. He thought he didn't deserve to be emperor because he obviously had no idea how to rule and he'd been in charge for fourteen years now. It was ridiculous. "Sir, I believe that we should cut ties with the Huns. Xena is dangerous and she will cross the ocean to get what she wants!" he growled and Valentinian chuckled at how angry his commander was becoming. He always thought it was funny to see him so angry because he was so passionate about his work.
"Aetius, do what you must. I've always thought she was a mad woman," he smiled and grabbed the wine bottle pouring himself a glass. Two of the women came swimming towards him and kissed his neck gingerly. Aetius was becoming more and more disgusted with the way the emperor was taking this situation so lightly. If they were to get rid of the Huns as allies then he was sure that Attila would retaliate for sure, or perhaps, his precious military commanding officer would be killed for her ill actions against her king.
"You give me permission to cease our relationship with the Huns then, sir?" Flavius Aetius smiled and the emperor waved his hand dismissing him as he was clearly busy with other things at the moment. The commander bowed his head and stormed out of the bath chamber to go tell Placida of this news. He hated the Huns, and hated Xena, and now they would not be allies with them any longer.
Xena and Gabrielle returned back to the yurt and found Galena spreading out a large bowl of rice and she was kneading some dough for fresh bread. Gabrielle admired the woman's hard work and she saw that these people obviously did not have anything else but rice, bread, meat and soup. This was definitely going to be an adjustment. She stood awkwardly as Xena took off her coined headdress and her cloak, disappearing into her room for a short while.
Gabrielle always thought cooking was great therapy and she watched Kat cook a lot back home. Home, what a nice place that was and that place she would probably never see again. She kept staring at the woman as she pounded the dough with her bare hands and Galena peered over at the green eyed woman.
"You never seen bread before, girl?" Galena asked in a gruff voice and Gabrielle turned away, not even bothering to answer her. These people were not polite at all, she gathered. They were nothing like the nice people in Greece. She was really beginning to miss Athens right now and couldn't stop thinking about it either.
Xena emerged from her room and saw Gabrielle huddled, secluded from everyone else. "Attila seemed to like you," she said and the blonde turned around, thankful to hear that. It was probably the best news she received since she was taken from Athens. The commander sat down, stretching her legs out in the chair and Gabrielle folded her arms, seeing how un-ladylike this woman was, though she definitely looked like a woman, she was far from proper. She saw her pull out a letter from her vest and read over it carefully.
Gabrielle frowned and saw that this woman could read, though she mentioned earlier that none of the children could. "You can read?" she asked in a soft voice and Xena lifted her eyes, frowning at the blonde woman. This was the first time in her life that she actually had trouble keeping her mouth shut. In Athens she could say whatever she wanted, when she wanted, but here, all she got was a frown, a glare or a grimace every time she spoke.
"Education is important," Xena smirked, "wouldn't you agree, Gabrielle?" she folded the letter up and tucked it back in her vest. Gabrielle said nothing and sat down on the floor mattress, resting her chin on her palm. Xena crossed one leg over the other and folded her arms, observing the woman's behavior. She was being so quiet, though back in Greece she had loads to say. "You can talk Gabrielle," she said and the blonde lifted her head, not really sure if this was a trap or not. "If I ask you a question, I expect you to answer..."
Gabrielle straightened up and fidgeted with her animal hide skirt. "Education is the most important thing in the world," she smiled and Xena lifted an eyebrow and kept staring at her. "Without it there wouldn't be great inventors, poets and thinkers."
Xena leaned forward in her chair and Gabrielle wiped that smile right off her face, afraid that she spoke too much this time. The commander smirked, "you like poetry, Gabrielle?" she nodded, "and I suppose you like those philosophers, don't you?" she chided and now Gabrielle felt like this woman was mocking her. She chuckled to herself and picked up some almonds, eating them one by one, lifting a suspicious eyebrow at the slave. "I know you Greeks are all about free thinking," she hummed to herself, still snacking on the almonds.
"Do you like philosophy?" Gabrielle asked, feeling brave and didn't like that this woman was making fun of her culture.
Xena frowned and wiped her hands on her pants before standing up abruptly. Gabrielle's body tensed up and she scooted backward on the mattress. "I don't have time for philosopher jargon, and you ask too many questions," she walked towards her with an eerie smile and Gabrielle's eyes widened.
"Mother!" Anastasia called out from her room just as Xena was inching closer to Gabrielle. The blonde's eyes looked to the curtains and Xena sighed, closing her eyes as frustration overcame her body. She did not want to deal with her daughter as she was in the middle of a conversation with her slave woman.
Xena opened her eyes and looked at Gabrielle, frowning, then left her side, disappearing behind the curtain to see what her daughter wanted from her. What an awful time to call my name, she told herself. Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief, afraid that Xena was going to have one of those creepy staring contests with her again like she did last night. Gabrielle sat on the mattress patiently and Galena was baking the dough over the fire and saw she was putting spices onto the meat. She sighed and waited patiently. Still, she couldn't believe that Xena had a child of her own. She never thought a woman like that would have any man come near her with the way she acted.
Anastasia took it upon herself to change into one of the dresses that her mother brought for her and she stared in the mirror, fixing the dress on her slim frame. Aykis was a petite woman for her age, though she figured that she would definitely outgrow these dresses soon. She looked down at herself and felt so out of place. She lifted her head and heard her mother come into her room.
Xena's eyes widened as she saw her daughter wearing one of the dresses, the dark blue one, which she knew she'd look beautiful in. A smile came to her lips and her daughter turned around, her cheeks reddening as she felt her mother's eyes on her. Xena walked over to her daughter and lifted her chin, fixing her hair. "You look very pretty," she smiled and Anastasia nervously grinned.
"You think so? I feel weird," she said and Xena touched her cheek softly, lifting her chin to stare in her blue eyes.
"I know this will be a big adjustment for you," Xena sighed, feeling her daughter's angst and anxiety over this change, but it would have to happen sooner or later.
Ana felt hopeful and a big smile emerged on her face, "does this mean I can go outside?"
Xena lowered her eyes and straightened herself out. Anastasia saw that her mother wasn't going to let her out of here anytime soon and now she frowned, folding her arms. "I'm sorry, but no." she turned to leave and her daughter grabbed her arm.
"But mom! You can't keep me locked in my room forever!" she pleaded as her eyes filled with tears. Xena didn't like to see her daughter upset and certainly never liked to see her cry, but she wasn't going to change her mind. "I'll be good, I promise! I won't see Ellac and his brothers, mother please..." she begged and Xena snatched her hand away from her and left her room. Anastasia sat down on her bed and buried her face in her hands, sobbing softly.
Xena came back into the separate yurt and saw Gabrielle staring at her. She groaned and stormed off to her room. Galena had prepared some food for everyone and Gabrielle figured that Xena was not going to eat and was upset. She sighed and politely walked over to the table, asking if she could join Galena to eat, though the woman refused and left the yurt as her duties were done for today.
After about a half hour Gabrielle sat on the floor, eating the last of her rice, dipping the bread into blood of the lamb. She came to realize that these people did not eat at the table, which she found so strange since there was in fact a table and chairs. She wasn't going to argue though and went with the flow of things. She sighed and looked to Xena's room and she stayed in there ever since she came back from her daughter's room. She really wished she had some parchment right about now so she could write and knew that it would be awhile before she came by that.
Anastasia came out of her room and pulled the curtains apart. She frowned as she saw a strange woman sitting on the floor eating by herself. Gabrielle lifted her head and chewed slowly as both of them continued staring at one another. "Who are you?" the teen asked.
Gabrielle swallowed and looked over to Xena's room and hoped that she would not come out anytime soon, but that was unlikely. "Um..." she wiped her hands on her skirt, though she hated doing that, she didn't have anything else. Anastasia folded her arms, glaring at her. "The commander's..slave," she choked out.
The girl lifted an eyebrow and kept staring at her with her icy blue eyes. Gabrielle saw the remarkable resemblance in this girl –she looked a lot like Xena did, though she had thicker eyebrows and a stronger jaw line. "A slave?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded. She chuckled, "my mother doesn't have slaves!" she walked over to the table and poured some rice into a bowl along with some meat and two pieces of bread. Gabrielle frowned, thinking that was odd. She was taken in as a slave, though her daughter told her Xena never had slaves. Ana sat down on the floor opposite Gabrielle, eating with her hands and the blonde felt a bit awkward sitting next to her. "What's your name?" she asked in between bites.
Gabrielle pushed her empty bowl away from her and felt nervous that Xena might come out of her room any minute now. "Gabrielle..." she said and the girl nodded, wiping her mouth and the blonde cringed.
"My name is...Anastasia," she said, almost forgetting her real name since she had been called Annas her entire life, unless she was around her mother or Galena inside her home. She looked up at the slave woman and smirked, "you are not a Hun," she observed and Gabrielle shook her head. "Are you a Thracian?" she asked and Gabrielle shook her head again. "A Roman?" Gabrielle disagreed once more. "A Greek?" finally she had gotten it right and Anastasia furrowed her eyebrows, finding that news interesting. "I've always wanted to go to Greece," she admitted.
Gabrielle smiled hearing that. She would have never thought these people ventured out that far, but she was happy to hear that at least someone wanted to see her land and people. "Why haven't you?" she asked quietly, casually looking back at Xena's room.
Anastasia shrugged her shoulder and finished her food in a matter of minutes and began sopping up the juices in her bowl with the bread. "I've lived in Pannonia my entire life," she said and Gabrielle frowned, finding that very sad. "Say," she wagged the bread towards Gabrielle, "you don't look like a slave," she raised a skeptical eyebrow. She saw Gabrielle's eyes glance over at her mother's room and she chuckled. Gabrielle frowned, staring at the girl, though she didn't understand how this could possibly be funny. "She's probably drank herself to sleep again," she shook her head and Gabrielle's eyes widened. "What does my mother have you for? No offense but, you don't look very useful to my mom um..." she frowned, "what was your name again?"
"Gabrielle," she answered and saw that this teenager was quite talkative and surely Xena hated that. Though, every time she saw Xena disappear behind those curtains she always left so distressed and upset, she couldn't understand why. "I was a teacher in Athens..." she said lowly and saw the girl's eye light up at that which brought a smile to her face. She always liked seeing a child's eyes grow in awe when she taught her lessons.
Ana finished off her bread and wiped her hands on her dress, "really? What do you teach?" she was more interested in this blonde slave woman now.
Gabrielle smiled finally feeling like she was being of use here. "I taught literature, Latin and some philosophy."
Anastasia scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Latin!" she folded her arms, "my mother has been trying to get me to learn that stupid language for two years!"
The blonde smirked, obviously the girl did not like Latin and even hated it more since Xena was urging her to learn it unwillingly. She could understand why Anastasia hated Latin, it was a difficult language if it was used all the time. "I can teach you..." she whispered and the girl smiled.
Suddenly the girl jumped up off the floor and smiled, "one moment," she waltzed over to her mother's room and disappeared behind the curtains. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear. This is where I die and I don't want to die. Gabrielle had a feeling that Xena did not want her to meet her daughter otherwise she would have introduced them to one another since her arrival. Xena was quite reluctant to even speak of her daughter, even though it was obvious she had one, Xena chose to ignore the matter like she didn't even exist. She felt the pit of her stomach knot up as she waited for Anastasia to emerge from her mother's room, fully expecting Xena to be with her.
Anastasia crept into her mother's room and saw she was sleeping on her bed, no longer in her regular commander attire, but instead wore a long black sleeveless dress that tied in the front. She tip toed as quietly as possible over to her mother's chest at the end of her bed. She knelt down and eyed her mother careful not to wake her.
She opened the chest slowly and Xena stirred in her sleep, rolling over on her side and Ana cringed, fearing that she would wake up and be in a heap of trouble. She opened the chest more trying to be quiet and Xena exhaled softly. Anastasia's eyes widened and she began rummaging through the chest as quietly as possible. Frowning, she couldn't find what she was looking for and hoped that the wine her mother drowned in would keep her from waking up.
She smiled finally found what she was looking for and pulled out a flat box that had painted orchids on it. She closed the lid of the chest and stood up, staring at her mother who was still sleeping, she thanked God for that and quickly ran out of her room.
Xena opened her eyes as she lay in bed and frowned, fully aware that her daughter came into her room and stole something from her. What did you take?
Gabrielle was beginning to become nervous the longer she waited for Anastasia to come out of Xena's room and felt like she should go in there to check on her, though she didn't hear anything so that might a good thing, or a really bad thing.
Anastasia returned and Gabrielle felt herself relax, seeing the girl in one piece and thankfully Xena was not with her either. The teen ran over to her and sat back down, placing the box on the floor, she opened it and Gabrielle peered inside to see fresh parchment and an ink and quill set too. Her eyes lit up as soon as she saw that and felt like she had been away from her parchment far too long.
"My mom keeps this in her room and sends out Kriso, our messenger boy, to get more from Thrace each month," she smiled and pulled out the crisp parchment and ink bottle and a large feathered quill pen.
Gabrielle's excitement died as she realized that these things belonged to Xena and she might get in trouble for using them without her permission. "Are you sure your mother won't mind we are using this?" she asked.
Anastasia smiled, shaking her head, "we're just borrowing it. I'll give it back when we're done," she had a sneaky grin on her face and Gabrielle sighed, grabbing the parchment, she felt like she had lost a long lost friend and now it had returned to her. "So are you going to teach some Latin, Gabrielle?" she hoped and Gabrielle grinned seeing the thrilled look on the girl's face. She couldn't say no to that.
Xena got out of her bed and quietly walked over to the curtain and heard her slave speaking in hushed tones. She frowned and peeked from behind the curtain and saw Anastasia sitting on the floor writing with a quill pen on the parchment as Gabrielle guided her, showing her how to write the words correctly. Gabrielle shook her head and showed Anastasia how to write the letters more proper and saw her daughter was actually paying attention to her.
"Like this?" Ana showed Gabrielle the word she had rewritten several times and Gabrielle nodded her head. She grinned, proud of herself and continued writing some more words down. "You're a much better teacher than my mom."
Xena closed the curtains and folded her arms, listening to the quill gently scratching against the parchment. She had no real intention of ever introducing Gabrielle to her daughter let alone teach her Latin. She had been trying to teach Anastasia Latin for two years and she had absolutely zero interest in it and always got frustrated at her, which frustrated Xena as well. She often had to leave to go on raids of missions alone or with Attila and did not have time to constantly school her daughter properly.
She pushed the curtain aside, looking at the two still sitting on the rug together and her daughter was very focused. She suddenly became incredibly jealous that her daughter was taking a stranger's word over hers and allowed her to teach her Latin, and not to mention she stole the parchment and ink from her room. She frowned and left, going to back to her bed to sulk by herself.
After many hours of teaching Anastasia how to read and write some Latin, which proved to be even more difficult than Gabrielle could imagine. The girl knew how to read Greek, but not Latin, and she could barely write anything but her own name, which didn't look like that fabulous either. Gabrielle saw that the young teenager was a fast learner though and was able to teach her some common phrases and she memorized them in less than half the time compared to her students in Athens. To be honest, she was impressed with how well Anastasia was able to comprehend words and sentences so quickly especially since she couldn't read Latin at all. She hoped that one day she would be able to read it entirely without any help.
Gabrielle went to her room and fell asleep very late, only a few hours from sunrise and she was exhausted. She didn't think that lesson was going to last for hours into the early morning, but she was glad that at least someone appreciated her skills as a teacher here and didn't treat her differently. Day three of being here, she reminded herself and had to reminding herself that her life wasn't completely over. She hoped that one day she would return to Greece and live happily with her old job, but she knew there was little chance she could get out of this mess.
She didn't know how to fight or wield a sword at all. That horrid attempt trying to attack Xena back in Athens was pathetic and to be truthfully honest, she had no idea why she attacked her in the first place. Perhaps, she thought that Xena was going in there to harm children, but she had no desire to hurt the students in the academy. That was one thing that Gabrielle couldn't get out of her mind but it all made sense when she came to live in her home. Xena had a child of her own and she was a beautiful girl too –she had no will to harm children. Gabrielle wondered how many other slaves lived in Pannonia due to attacking Xena, or anyone else for that matter, but it struck her as odd when Anastasia said that 'her mother' didn't have slaves. So what was Galena? Was she not a slave? Surely, Gabrielle thought, she was not special in the eyes of the commander.
Xena walked into Gabrielle's room with a large frown on her face, dressed in her harem pants, knee high boots and black corset with silver chains all over it. She took a few steps closer and saw Gabrielle's palms were stained with black ink. She smirked and grabbed a pillow and threw it in Gabrielle's face. The blonde groaned and rolled over onto her stomach.
"Go away Galena! I am perfectly capable of bathing myself!" Gabrielle said and Xena's eyebrows lifted, disappearing into her thick dark bangs.
Xena grabbed the blonde's arm and lifted her upper half off the bed and Gabrielle groaned, her eyes fluttering open to see not Galena, but the commander staring at her with a big grin. The blonde's eyes grew in fear as soon as she saw her. She was not expecting her to be in her room. "You might want to wash...your hands," she chuckled to herself and Gabrielle couldn't stop staring at her. She glanced over and noticed the ink stained on her hands from last night and her heart began racing extremely fast. She let go of Gabrielle's arm and now frowned, gawking at her.
"Nobody gave you permission to teach my daughter!" Xena snarled and came closer to her face, leaning downward.
Gabrielle scooted away from her in fear she might do something to her. She knew that Xena would find out about last night, it was too easy. Anastasia stole her mother's belongings from her room and Xena wasn't called the best military commander in all of the Hunnic tribes for nothing. She was always ready for an attack and of course her senses were incredibly heightened at all times. What was I thinking?
"No harm came of it," Gabrielle muttered and that only angered the commander even more. "She's a fast learner..." she attempted to save herself, but it wasn't working apparently because she saw Xena's eyes grow with fury and resentment.
"Perhaps..." Xena smiled, "you would like to work along with the other slaves outside?" she suggested and Gabrielle said nothing in response. "I didn't think so," she adjusted her gloves and the blonde exhaled slowly, feeling a bit relieved.
Gabrielle didn't really understand why Xena was being so harsh towards her about something so simple and harmless. "Why did you bring me here?" she asked in a soft voice and Xena lifted an eyebrow, suspicious of her question. "You told Attila you want me to teach the children how to read and write. What was so wrong about me teaching Anastasia?"
Xena's eyes grew and she grabbed Gabrielle by her arm, forcing her to follow her. They came out of her room and she threw Gabrielle on the floor. Anastasia came out of her room, wearing a burgundy dress and a small veiled headdress on. The girl peered down at Gabrielle on the floor and saw how angry her mother was.
"What are you doing?" Ana asked and Xena folded her arms, glaring at her daughter.
"You went in my room and stole my parchment, Anastasia," Xena said and her daughter lowered her gaze to her shoes. "And you took it upon yourself to use my slave as your teacher without my permission!" she yelled.
Anastasia lifted her head and frowned, "so? You don't have time to teach me and Gabrielle is a good teacher!" she folded her arms and Xena stared down at Gabrielle on the floor, unmoving from her spot.
Xena laughed softly under her breath, "so you two know each other very well, I see." She said and her daughter averted her eyes elsewhere. "I have a liar and a thief for a daughter," she nodded to herself and Anastasia gasped.
Gabrielle frowned, "she is not a liar or a thief," she said and Xena snapped her head staring down at her, though this time Gabrielle didn't turn away. "She just wanted to learn!" she said and Xena kept glaring at her. "And I don't think it's right that you keep her locked away in her room."
Anastasia face paled, not expecting Gabrielle to out her secrets that she told her. Xena turned her head towards her daughter. "You don't want to be locked away anymore, do you?" Xena grabbed her daughter's hand and marched out of the yurt.
Gabrielle stood up and was expected to be hit or something but she wasn't, which she thought odd. She stood up and walked over to the entrance of the yurt and Xena pushed her daughter outside. She stayed watching on the sidelines and saw that the poor girl didn't know what to do with herself. She stood silently to herself and saw many eyes facing her. Gabrielle folded her arms, watching Xena humiliate her daughter like this and now she felt bad for even mentioning this.
Xena pointed to Ellac and his brothers sword fighting together in the middle of the camp, "do you want to go play with them now?" she asked and Anastasia's eyes watched the boy princes play with one another while she knew that she couldn't. Her eyes scanned the area and saw many people staring at her, not recognizing her at all, though she saw people whispering and gossiping already. "You wanted to go outside," Xena folded her arms and her daughter balled her fists up, her eyes filling with tears, feeling embarrassed. "Not so nice outside, is it?"
Ellac rolled over and lifted his head to see a pretty young girl standing next to his father's commander and his eyes widened. Both his brothers piled on top of him and they laughed, though Ellac was too distracted. He grunted and pushed them off. "Get off me!" he demanded and stood up, brushing his hands over his clothes.
Dengi smiled and helped his little brother off the grass. They both saw who Ellac was looking at and their jaws dropped. "Who's that?" Dengi asked.
Ellac took a few steps forward and the girl saw him and their eyes locked with one another. Ernak came up to his brother, "she's pretty," he chuckled seeing his brother was obviously infatuated with the raven haired girl.
"Yeah..." Ellac folded his arms and kept gawking at the girl, cocking his head, furrowing his brows. She reminded him of someone, someone so familiar but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Doesn't she look familiar to you guys?" he asked.
Dengi shook his head, "nope," he saw his brother was immediately awestruck by the girl. He nudged his brother with his elbow, "you don't actually think she's pretty do you? Do you like girls now, Ellac?" he laughed and his brother punched him in the chest.
"Shut up!" Ellac frowned.
Gabrielle shook her head and stepped out of the yurt. "You're embarrassing her," she said and Xena turned around with an infuriated look in her eyes, though she was not afraid of her this time.
Xena charged for her and pushed her back into the yurt. Gabrielle fell on the floor and glared up at her. "You have no right to tell me how I should parent my daughter, Gabrielle!"
The blonde frowned, "you're right. If I was her mother I wouldn't keep her locked away in her room all her life." She said and Xena's jaw dropped. She saw Xena's hand reach for her whip and now Gabrielle was fearing for her life. She was going to get lashes for what she said and she couldn't fight back and if she did, she'd definitely lose.
Just as Xena was about to grab her whip she heard horses hooves and frowned, turning around she ran out of the yurt and saw her daughter taking off with her horse. She growled and saw Attila's sons staring at her and once they saw her gaze, they quickly turned and ran off back to their home. "Great!" she placed her hands on her hips and then heard more horses coming this way. Frowning she looked over the hill and saw no other than Flavius Aetius himself riding down with a few of his men.
Her eyes widened and she went back into her yurt and Gabrielle was still on the floor. She frowned down at her and went to grab her sword and sheath it. she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and stormed out of the yurt.
"Where are you taking me?!" Gabrielle grunted as she was being forcefully pulled by this woman.
Xena frowned seeing all eyes on her as she dragged her blonde slave with her. "To Attila," she said calmly and kept marching towards the king's home before the Romans could reach it.
Gabrielle looked around and frowned, trying to pull away, "where is Anastasia?" she asked and Xena halted, gripping her wrist tighter. She winced and breathed heavily as she stared into Xena's big blue eyes.
"She...stole my horse," she muttered, "and don't call her that when we are outside," she hissed and then proceeded onward, pulling Gabrielle along for the ride. Gabrielle couldn't believe that they weren't going to go after her daughter, but instead go talk to the king? Is she serious right now?
Gabrielle groaned inwardly, "aren't you going to go after her?" she asked as she was being dragged up the stairs and Xena pulled her arm more, ignoring her question. "She's your daughter!"
Xena frowned, turning around seeing the Romans riding towards them as they were only a few feet away from entering Attila's home. She pulled Gabrielle aside outside the king's home and placed her hands on her shoulders firmly, "there's a lot of things you don't understand, Gabrielle," she whispered and she felt more anxious as Aetius was coming closer and closer by the second on his horse.
Gabrielle folded her arms, staring up at the nervous commander, "then help me to understand. I don't think it's fair that you treat her like that."
Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm again and they entered the king's home. "You are starting to get on my nerves," she grumbled.
Attila walked in and saw Xena with her blonde slave storming through. He folded his arms, "Xena, what's the hurry?" he asked then behind her he saw the Roman commander, Flavius Aetius. He soon forgot about Xena and smiled at the Roman. Xena dared to not turn around, fearing that Aetius had some very important news from Athens that he needed to report to Attila.
"Flavius Aetius!" Attila smiled and shook his hand. The Roman smirked and took off his helm then handed it to one of his men. He curtly bowed his head to the king and his eyes drifted to Xena and she wasn't even going to greet him. Good, he thought.
"Attila, your majesty, so nice to see you again," he said kindly and the king invited him in to sit with him, though he refused. "I have some news for you," he smiled and Attila folded his arms, not expecting any news from the Romans. He only assumed that they were still on good terms. "Your commander was in Athens recently..." he looked to Xena and saw her hands ball up.
Xena felt herself about to be shamed and secretly she knew that this was going to happen, though she didn't think the Roman commander himself would come all the way to Pannonia to deliver his message. She gripped Gabrielle's arm tighter and she winced, trying to get free of her hold. "You will stay!" she hissed and the blonde sighed.
The commander smirked, continuing, enjoying Xena's anxiety and nervousness. "She came into contact with a few of my men on her way back here..." he said and Attila looked to Xena with a confused face. "It seems that she killed many Roman soldiers and left their bodies for the vultures –decapitated." He frowned.
Attila's eyes widened hearing of this news and he glared at Xena and she didn't look at him. "Xena, is this true?"
She finally looked at him with an apologetic face, "they were in my way. I had to get out of Athens quickly!" she tried to defend herself and Aetius chuckled softly.
"Xena!" Attila growled and went over to her and pinched her cheeks in between his fingers harshly. She clenched her teeth and he was inches from her face. "You killed our allies! And you...lied to me," he whispered now and let go of her face.
Aetius smiled seeing the woman defeated and publically humiliated. He had always known that she was trouble and would be the end of herself eventually. He cleared his throat, "you see Attila, because of your commander's actions, we can no longer be allies with you."
The king was shocked to hear that and was still upset that his loyal commander whom he thought was his like a sister to him, lied to him. He was beginning to think that his wife was right about Xena. She would do anything in her power to get to the top and this was the first step down that road. "I will make sure she is punished severely." He said and continued, "it is not necessary to cut ties with us, Aetius, you know I am –"
"Oh no, your highness," Aetius smiled, fixing his gauntlets, "Xena committed a crime on Roman land, so she is no longer yours. She is our prisoner now," he smiled and Xena's eyes widened. She didn't want to be a criminal held in Rome, she'd rather die first. He sighed, "starting now," he snapped his fingers and his men began marching forward.
Xena unsheathed her swords and pointed the blade at all the men. "I'd rather be cut into pieces than be Rome's prisoner!" she growled and many of them surrounded her. Gabrielle stood behind her, slowly backing away, not sure if it was a good idea to run or not. She thought that Xena deserved to be imprisoned for what she did, though none of this was good news for her, because she was still stuck here and not in Athens like she was supposed to be!
Aetius chuckled, "that can be arranged too, Xena."
The Roman soldiers came forward and lunged at her and she blocked their swords with ease. Attila frowned, folding his arms, watching Xena fight all these men off. She was good, too good. He did enjoy this though but she wouldn't win that's for sure and he wasn't going to help her either. She betrayed him, betrayed their people and their allies.
Xena growled and stabbed her sword through a Roman and Attila shook his head. Aetius was growing more frustrated by the minute as more of his men died because of this woman. She then grabbed Gabrielle's hand and they jumped out the window and took off running.
Gabrielle gasped and tried to set herself free from her hold, "excuse me! I am not going to be kidnapped by you again!" she growled and Xena ran faster towards Attila's horse pen. She peered behind them and saw many Romans running after them. Her eyes widened in fear and almost tripped trying to keep up with her.
Xena grabbed a horse and grabbed Gabrielle forcefully setting her on the horse first then climbed on it. she pulled on the reins and frowned, staring at the Romans running after them. "You think you were going to stay here, Gabrielle?" she smirked, "the Romans would have taken you too." She kicked open the horse pen and all the horse began stampeding towards the Romans and she took off into the forest behind Pannonia. Gabrielle sighed heavily and gasped as soon as she saw a tree branch, she ducked her head and instinctively wrapped her arms around Xena's waist for dear life.
Aetius growled as he saw Xena ride off into the woods. "After her!" he demanded and ran for his horse as did the rest of his men. Attila stood by the window and watched Xena escape with that slave of hers. He shook his head, thinking what a horrible decision Xena had made killing those Romans. It cost him his Roman alliance and now he was never to be trusted again.
Anastasia was in the alcove sitting down on a stump with her mother's horse standing beside her. She sighed and kept drawing circles in the dirt with a stick that she found. She frowned as soon as she heard horse hooves and stood up, running outside the alcove. She hid behind a tree and saw her mother and Gabrielle riding quickly through the forest. "Mother?" she blinked and it was obvious that she was running from something, she never rode like that before.
She gasped and ducked down, hiding behind a tree and saw Roman soldiers riding after her mother, a whole group of them. She covered her mouth as her eyes widened in shock. She knew in that moment that her mother obviously did something to piss off the Romans otherwise why would they be chasing her?
She ran back to get the horse and mounted it quickly. She didn't really want to show her face in the camp again, but she also couldn't stay here forever. She kicked the horse and rode through the forest to find out what exactly was going on.
Attila was speaking to some of his men and instructed them to guard Pannonia in case Xena would return, but he highly doubted that she would considering Romans were chasing her. One of his men bowed his head, "but sir, do you think they will catch her?"
He frowned and looked out the window again at the woods, "no they will never catch her," he sighed and heard a lot of commotion outside. He walked towards the entrance and saw Xena's daughter riding towards his home and on...Xena's horse? He frowned, folding his arms. He saw everyone stare at her, being the only girl in this place, it was quite strange.
Anastasia dismounted the horse and ran up the stairs towards the king. She knelt down, bowing her head, then stood up. "Where's my mother? Why is she riding off into the woods? Why are Romans chasing her?" she asked a million questions and Attila sighed heavily.
Attila sighed and walked up to her, running his fingers through her long hair that he hadn't ever seen before. She truly was a beautiful young girl and soon she would be a woman and he knew she was nothing like Xena, she was too sweet to be like her mother. "Your mother did something unforgiveable and she...betrayed her people," he said and the girl's eyes widened, hearing this news was probably shocking and devastating to her. "But, I promise nothing will happen to you," he smiled and kissed her forehead.
She couldn't believe that her mother would do such a thing and almost felt like this was her fault for some reason. She shouldn't have spoken to her mother like that earlier and she felt bad for disobeying her all those times and now she wouldn't know if she'd ever see her again especially if the Romans were after her. She would continue to live here known as the daughter of a traitor. She didn't know if she could do that but it's not like she could leave any time soon.
"But, what will happen to her? Is she going to be arrested?" she asked and the king sighed heavily.
"I don't know what is going to happen to her, Ana, but you will be safe here," he said, trying not to worry the girl.
Ellac came running in with his two brothers and then came to a skidding stop as soon as they saw their father talking to that girl they had seen earlier. Dengi ran forward, "father, why were the Romans here?" he asked and Anastasia looked at him and his eyes widened. He kept staring at her, contorting his face and pointed at her face. "Annas?" he said barely above a whisper and she blushed.
Attila ruffled his son's hair, "why don't you go find your mother?" he asked and Dengi ran off as did Ernak. Ellac walked forward and stared at Anastasia and as soon as his brother said Annas, he took a good look at her and she smiled weakly at him.
"Annas, is that really you?" he asked, stepping closer and touched her hair. She tensed up and took a step backwards. She brushed a tendril behind her ear then ran off outside to get on her mother's horse. He began to run after her until Attila grabbed his arm. "Father, is that really Annas? I didn't know Annas was a girl..." he felt so confused and had been lied to for thirteen years and even more so, he also saw that she was beautiful.
"Her name is Anastasia," Attila said and his son watched her ride off on her mother's horse. "And you will be nice to her."
Ellac folded his arms, "Anastasia..." he whispered to himself.
Xena rode into the desert outside of Pannonia and pulled on the horse's reins, looking behind her she smirked. "I think we lost them," she said.
Gabrielle grunted and jumped off the horse, placing her hands on her hips, staring at the desert. They were in the middle of nowhere and they were all alone. She didn't want to be alone with Xena at all, especially after being kidnapped by her for the second time. "This is just great, now I am stuck here, with you!"
Xena jumped off the Roman horse and groaned, "you would be dead if it weren't for me!"
"I would be dead? Are you serious?!" Gabrielle scuffed her shoe in the sand. "We're in no man's land thanks to you!" she felt like she should scream and she opened her mouth, screaming loudly in the middle of the desert. Xena ran up to her and covered her mouth. Gabrielle groaned and tried to wriggle her way out of Xena's hold. She bit her hand and Xena gasped, retracting her hand.
"You bit me!" Xena pulled off her glove and saw a huge bite mark in between her thumb and index finger. She took the whip out from her belt and grabbed Gabrielle's hands and tied her up with the whip. "You are annoying, you talk too much and –"
Gabrielle frowned and interrupted, "and you're...insane!" she said and Xena ripped off a piece of her blouse and wrapped it around Gabrielle's mouth, stuffing the fabric into her mouth.
"Now, isn't that better?" Xena smiled and winked at her. She pat Gabrielle's back and the blonde groaned and felt her wrists begin to bruise already since Xena tied her up so well. She was stuck here in this place again as a fugitive with this awful woman. She couldn't understand why Xena didn't just turn herself in, but no, that would be too good for her, wouldn't it?
Xena began cleaning her blade with a cloth and leaned on a leafless tree as Gabrielle stood, gagged and tied up. Xena smirked as she kept her eye on her. "I think we should ride to Troy. I have men there and plenty of resources. What do you think?" Gabrielle grumbled and Xena chuckled under her breath then sheathed one of her clean swords. "Got nothing to say?" she teased. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and Xena walked over to her slowly then uncovered Gabrielle's mouth.
"I want to go back to Athens. I don't belong here especially with...you," she cringed in disgust and Xena smirked, tracing her gloved finger along Gabrielle's cheek.
"You could learn a lot from me Gabrielle..." she hissed and the blonde backed away from her. "Are you...afraid of me?" she leaned in closer to her mouth and Gabrielle took another step back.
"No, you disgust me," Gabrielle frowned.
Xena laughed mockingly, "I disgust you? Oh Gabrielle..." she circled around her, her fingers running along the blonde's neck and shoulder blades. "You don't even know me, what a harsh thing to say!" she smiled and Gabrielle rolled her eyes.
"I don't think I want to know you," the blonde said, not entirely sure what to think about her. She was so creepy and apparently enjoyed creeping people out too, as well as running from all her problems. "What about Anastasia?" she asked quietly.
Xena frowned, no longer finding this game amusing anymore. She snatched Gabrielle's arm and breathed heavily, staring into her eyes. She wasn't scared that's for sure, but she was somewhat curious, which only angered her more. "Don't talk about my daughter," she hissed and let go of her arm, walking to the horse with her back facing towards her.
Gabrielle sighed and walked over to her, trying to wriggle out of the whip, though it wasn't working at all. "She's a smart girl, you know," she said softly and saw Xena brush some hair behind her ears, remaining quiet. "She was really excited to learn Latin," she added and Xena began picking at her fingernails, trying to calm her nerves. "Look, I didn't want to teach her and step all over you but –"
"Gabrielle," Xena began quietly, "stop talking."
"Why are you so mean?" Gabrielle scoffed and began walking around, looking at the desert. It was getting colder and she barely had any clothes on, which was just great, she thought.
Xena smirked and grabbed Gabrielle's arms pushing her into the tree, blocking her way out from escaping. "Do you have children, Gabrielle?" she asked and the blonde shook her head, "ever have sex?" she hinted and Gabrielle's eyes widened, "I take that as a no," she smiled. "You see," she adjusted her gloves and poked Gabrielle's nose, "I don't want my daughter anywhere near those boys. She is a beautiful girl, you saw her," the blonde nodded her head slowly. "I don't want Attila's son touching her, groping her or even looking at her!"
Gabrielle understood that Xena was extremely overprotective over the girl, but she couldn't keep her locked away forever even though Anastasia was a gorgeous girl. Her precious mind was going to be wasted the longer she'd stay in Pannonia especially being the only girl there. "She's only thirteen..." she said and she saw a huge frown on Xena's face. "Has she had her cycle?" she asked and Xena lowered her eyes. Gabrielle chuckled, "you don't even know do you?!" she sighed heavily and Xena glared at her. "You don't know anything about her!"
Xena grabbed her cheeks firmly in between her fingers and Gabrielle blinked rapidly. "I sure hope not all Greeks are like you..." she hissed and let go of her cheeks then walked over to the horse. "We're going to Troy," she mounted the horse and Gabrielle refused to move. "Or...you could freeze out here all by yourself," she teased and Gabrielle sighed, walking over and Xena lifted her up on the horse. "I think you and I will get along fine, as long as you don't talk," she chuckled and pulled the fabric over Gabrielle's mouth before riding off.
AN: enjoy and good luck to all ;)
Flavius Aetius and his troops searched along Pannonia's bordering cities, including the dry desert plains and the mountains as well. The commander was getting tired of searching for Xena and realized that he probably would never find her and he couldn't ask Attila for help since he broke off their relationship due to Xena's actions against the Romans. He knew that Xena would eventually do something stupid and irresponsible, but he didn't know when, but he was always ready for her. She was a very good commander and remembered when he first laid eyes on her –she was so beautiful, cunning and wickedly smart. The Huns trusted her and she'd been allies with Attila for a very long time. Aetius will never forget the moment he saw the Hun king's face when he revealed Xena's treachery.
They stopped in Aquincicum and the place was deserted. All the yurts were empty and it looked like there hadn't been any sign of life for weeks. Aetius jumped off his horse and knelt down, picking up some soil in his hands. He sniffed it then growled as his troops waited behind him patiently. "That cunt," he hissed and stood up, waving down his men. "I want her found and I want her dead!" he commanded and his men sat on their horses, confused at their commander's orders. "Now!" he yelled.
Marcus, the second in command, rode up to his commander in chief, bowing his head curtly. Aetius was fuming and felt humiliated for losing one woman, not an army, but one woman. He had one job, and he failed. "Sire, our men are tired. We will not be able to keep riding if we do not take a break..." he suggested. Aetius turned to him with a grimace. "What does the emperor say about the Hun woman?" he asked, begging to change the subject.
"The emperor gave me permission to cease the relationship with Attila," Aetius said, folding his arms.
Marcus frowned, "he said nothing about Xena then?" he wanted to clarify. His commander said nothing and he sighed, "sire, it is like finding a needle in a haystack. We will never find her."
Aetius walked up to him with a sly grin, "Marcus, my best man, my partner..." he leaned on his horse casually, "we will find her and we will bring her to Rome to be executed. The emperor is a childish fool and he does not care for alliances or enemies at his feet. He cares more about fucking whores than he does about Rome! Once Theodosius finds out that Xena has betrayed Attila, he will wage war against the Huns and our problems will be solved," he exhaled and Marcus blinked at him, trying to process everything. "So, it is our duty to find Xena before she attacks anyone else...do I make myself clear?" he asked firmly.
Marcus nodded his head slowly, "where do you want us to look, sire?" Aetius grinned as his second in command had come to an agreement with him. He pat Marcus's leg and mounted his horse. They shall head north to find the savage woman once and for all, even if they had to search for weeks.
"We will search for another three days. If we do not find her, then we return to Rome to report this to Valentinian," Aetius kicked his horse and rode off with his troops following behind him.
After a few days riding Xena and Gabrielle finally reached Troy, the lost city as the Greeks called it. Attila had taken over Troy five years ago during a raid, pushing out Greeks and Eastern Roman citizens, though Rome did not seem to care that the Huns took Troy, because it was considered a useless city. Though, Xena found out, the city was far from useless. It was on the coast of the Aegean Sea in a southern province of the Balkan territories.
Gabrielle was still tied up with Xena's whip with her arms behind her back, though Xena was kind enough to take the cloth out of her mouth so she could talk, though throughout the entire journey, she barely said anything, which was a delight in Xena's eyes.
Her eyes wandered around the area and looked over the stone walls and her mouth gaped. She saw they were many feet above the sea, on a cliff. The water was crashing against the rocks and she immediately felt queasy looking at how far down the drop was. They were trotting along the narrow path on the wall and heard Xena say something, though she was distracted.
"Are you listening to me?" Xena asked and Gabrielle shook her head, coming back to reality. "I may not be Attila's commander anymore, but I am still a military commander here. You are still my slave and you will not leave my side unless told to do so, understand?" she hissed and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, remaining quiet.
They rode to the doors and one of the guards in the tower peered down at them. He squinted his eyes, frowning. "Who goes there?" he called out.
Xena frowned, "Xena, military commander of Pannonia!" she announced and the man's eyes widened and whistled to the men to open the doors. Gabrielle looked around, feeling a bit out of place here. Troy was so secluded from the world it seemed like they were on a different planet altogether.
The doors opened and Xena trotted inside. "Welcome to Troy, Gabrielle," she smirked and the blonde's eyes grew in awe of the city. It reminded her so much of Greece. The buildings were the same and even the people dressed like Grecians, though she saw many men wearing black clothes and silver armor just like the men she saw in Pannonia. Her dreams of a reminder of home were soon forgotten when she realized this place was conquered by the Huns themselves.
Tanranus, the leader of Troy, appointed by Attila, was standing on the entrance of the big fortress at the center of the city. He smiled as soon as he saw Xena riding up on her horse. Xena jumped off the horse and both walked towards one another. "Xena!" he grinned and hugged her warmly. "I was not expecting you here," he pulled away, looking at her face. He saw she was tired and her hair was wild, though that was not unusual. He hadn't seen her in five years when she was with Attila, though she was alone and brought a guest with her, which he thought was odd.
She smirked and pat his shoulder, "Tanranus, you and I have things to discuss..." she whispered in his ear as they walked together over to her horse. "This is Gabrielle," she smiled and Gabrielle frowned down at her. "She's my slave I captured in Athens," she grabbed Gabrielle's cheeks, showing off her blonde slave to her longtime friend. "Nice, isn't she?" she chuckled softly and she traced her fingertips along the blonde's lips and Gabrielle almost bit her finger. Tanranus's eyes widened at that and Xena lifted an eyebrow. "She's working on it," she said.
Tanranus smiled, "it seems we have a lot of catching up to do," he folded his arms. "I'm having a party tonight, but I guess now, there's a better reason to celebrate!" he linked arms with Xena. "Come and bring your slave too..." his eyes lingered on the blonde and his men went immediately to retrieve Gabrielle off the horse.
Gabrielle grunted, "don't touch me!" she finagled her way out of the men's arms and walked by herself behind Xena and Tanranus. This was probably going to be a lot worse than her few days she spent in Pannonia and now she kind of wanted to go back there. She liked parties, but she didn't know what these parties entailed and she wasn't sure if she wanted to know.
Inside the large fortress Tanranus's men were kind enough to show Xena to the large heated baths, which were in the basement of the fortress. It was dark and there were hundreds of candles lit in the large bath chambers. Xena walked in wearing a green silk robe wrapped around her body and smirked, seeing all the men and women in the baths. She casually walked over to a smaller bath in a secluded corner.
She knelt down and dipped her hand in the hot water. It was more custom to have heated baths in Greece and Rome and that was one thing she loved the most about these places. Pannonia did not have heated baths, or even baths at all in most people's homes. She would have loved to stay in Troy, but had other obligations at the time, she felt happy just being here.
Turning around she saw Gabrielle being escorted by two slave women, wearing a white chiffon gown. Xena smirked and stood up, calling her over, "Gabrielle, come here," she said and Gabrielle rubbed her wrists. They had rope burn on them and after being tied up for days, she didn't want that to happen again, and now she'd have to do whatever Xena said or else.
The women walked over with Gabrielle and Xena smiled eerily at her. The commander then untied the sash around her waist and dropped the robe to the floor. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she immediately turned her head away. It was bad enough that she had to follow what Xena said, but it was even worse to see the woman naked. Xena began walking into the bath slowly, step by step. "Don't look away, Gabrielle," she smirked, "we are all women here," she sat down in the bath and leaned against the bath's wall.
Gabrielle felt a lump in her throat and finally looked at Xena. At least she was covered finally, she thought. The slave women knelt down behind Xena and poured water onto her bare shoulders. The longer Gabrielle stared the more uncomfortable she felt, especially with Xena staring at her intensely. Xena dipped her head into the water, soaking her long locks and ran her palms over her scalp.
The women poured oils onto Xena's skin and rubbed her shoulders gently. Xena slapped their hands away and swam over towards Gabrielle. She leaned her elbows over the sides of the floor bath, grinning up at her slave. "You should come in Gabrielle, it's warm..." she kept smiling.
Gabrielle noticed the steam coming off Xena's arms and nodded, "I can tell," she observed and Xena smirked. "I'll just go over in that bath..." she pointed to another bath that was far away, though not too far. Xena frowned as she began walking away and grabbed her ankle firmly.
"You will join me," she commanded and Gabrielle almost felt like running away. "You do as I say, or don't you remember?" she chuckled softly and the blonde sighed. She definitely didn't want to get in a bath with Xena, especially since she was naked, but of course, nobody wears clothes while taking a bath, she thought, what a stupid thought.
She walked over to the opposite end of the bath and turned around, her back facing Xena. She closed her eyes and felt extremely nervous unclothing in front of her. She didn't know what was worse –getting naked while looking into Xena's piercing eyes or getting naked with her back turned but Xena's eyes gawking at her. Gabrielle loosened the sash around her waist and slowly slipped the dress off her shoulders, one by one. The dress dropped to her waist and she covered her breasts with her arm, breathing in slowly, she hesitantly let the dress fall to the floor.
Turning around slowly she saw what she had expected to see –Xena staring at her with her mysterious eyes. She knelt down and jumped into the water, lowering into the bath, covering her entire body and neck. Xena smiled and swam over to her. She reached for Gabrielle's arm and began pulling her towards her. "For someone who talks a lot you are very shy..." she inquired and Gabrielle could barely even look at her as she drug her along in the water. "We will fix that soon enough," she hummed and waved her hands to the women to tend to Gabrielle while she waded off on the side.
Gabrielle had quite enough of people bathing her, but these girls were no Galena that's for sure. They were more gentle than her. She hated to say it, but she enjoyed the pampering until she caught a glimpse of Xena staring at her. She definitely didn't feel like a chatterbox right now and she hoped that Xena wouldn't ask any questions for her to forcibly answer.
Xena rubbed her arms with the scented oils and dipped her arms into the water, casually glancing at Gabrielle, whom seemed to be enjoying herself. "Do you like parties...Gabrielle?" she asked.
The blonde looked over to her and began to feel herself close up again and averted her eyes. "Sometimes," she answered softly, "it depends what kind of party it is..." she said and Xena bobbed her head. Gabrielle wanted to hit herself for continuing to talk. Maybe Xena had something planned already for this stupid party and she was just giving her ideas.
Xena smiled and swam over to her, touching her cheek softly, "I like parties..." she whispered and Gabrielle's eyes grew as she stared into Xena's dangerous enlarged pupils. Suddenly she felt Xena's leg come into contact with her and she jumped, backing up against the bath's wall. Xena smiled, inching closer to her, "have you ever been touched by a man, Gabrielle?" she felt curious.
Gabrielle shook her head as her cheeks blushed. Xena's smile grew and she traced her fingers along Gabrielle's bare shoulder. She didn't like that this woman was so close to her, but she was kind of hard to say no to. She now knew why Attila liked her so much. She was a good military commander, but she was also a good at persuading people too, which was a dangerous sorceress trick. She held her breath as Xena's eyes scanned her face as if she were some kind of animal, sniffing out her prey.
"What are you doing?" Gabrielle dared to ask.
Xena smiled and swam away a few feet, "making sure you are suitable for tonight's festivities," she winked and dunk her head under the water, wetting her hair once again.
Later, Tanranus saw Xena emerge from the baths wearing a dark purple gown. He smiled seeing her and couldn't help himself but admire her beauty that he admired so much. She turned around herself and his eyes widened just looking at her, age had done her well it seemed. The gown was backless and off the shoulder as well, exposing her broad shoulders.
"You look like a queen," Tanranus grinned and she rolled her eyes.
"I am not a queen yet, Tanranus," she pat his cheek and turned to see Gabrielle trail in after her, wearing a light pink gown, very suiting to her skin complexion and wavy blonde hair. Xena folded her arms and smirked, "don't you look nice," she teased and Gabrielle sighed heavily.
Tanranus chuckled under his breath. He had missed Xena's teasing and certainly admired Gabrielle, her slave too, she was a pretty young woman. He wondered if all Greek women were like her. "So, Xena, you will come sit with me in the peristylium?" he offered and she had a big smile on her face.
Xena turned her head over her shoulder, "Gabrielle?" she extended her hand and the blonde reluctantly grabbed her hand, walking with the two. She felt so awkward being around Xena now especially since they shared a bath together, though Xena didn't do anything to her, she saw things she didn't want to see.
They walked in the back of the villa and Gabrielle definitely didn't want to be here now. What kind of party is this? Her eyes traveled around the gardened area and saw gold painted nude women on top of muscular men. They were on the floor, on the sofas, in chairs, just everywhere imaginable. Gabrielle cringed as she passed two men kissing one another, groping against a large column. Oh god, what kind of filth is this? She didn't even want to know what else was in this party.
Xena grabbed a glass of wine off of a tray and peered over to see Gabrielle's head wandering around, observing all the entertainers, as people politely called them. "Remind you of Bacchanalias in Greece, Gabrielle?" she raised a curious eyebrow.
Gabrielle felt her heart sink as she saw two women all over one man and he had his finger inside one woman as he was sucking on the other woman's breast. She somehow couldn't take her eyes off the trio and answered softly, "I...I uh, never been to one..."
"What a shame," Xena teased and then sat down on a comfortable chair next to Tanranus. Gabrielle stood by and Xena pat the seat next to her. "You are my guest tonight, Gabrielle, not my slave," she winked and Gabrielle hinted at a small smile and sat next to her nervously.
Tanranus sipped on his wine, leaning back in the chair as he watched two women performing acrobatic skills in the fountain in the middle of the peristylium. "You said you had something to discuss with me?" he asked curiously.
Xena set her wine glass on a table and turned towards him, "I killed a few Romans in Athens and their commander was a little upset," she smiled uneasily, "they tried to arrest me and take me to Rome, key word, tried," she chuckled.
Her friend exhaled heavily and rubbed his forehead, "I'm guessing Attila was not happy to hear this..." he presumed and she didn't say a thing. "And you came to Troy to hide?" he asked, feeling like that's why she came here after all and that's also why she came alone.
Xena smiled and grasped his arm, "no, Tanranus, I never hide! I want you to join me, build an army and rise against Attila and the Romans!" her eyes lit up and he was so shocked, he became speechless.
"I don't know Xena. Attila is a great friend of mine."
She frowned, "we can be better than him. We can rule all of the Balkans, the Goths and Northern Gaul! We can create a bigger empire than Attila ever could, Tanranus," she leaned in closer and traced her finger along his chest, "you can be my commander..." she whispered in a sultry voice, "and I will be Queen of the Balkans."
Gabrielle slapped her forehead listening to Xena's proposition to her friend and thought this was a horrible idea. They were already runaways from the Romans and now this insane woman wants to create an empire to rival Attila's? She's truly a mad woman, she shook her head at this whole thing.
Tanranus found it hard to resist Xena especially when she was so close to him. He smiled nervously and gently pulled away from her. "And what will I gain from all of this?"
Xena grinned, narrowing her eyes, "I knew you would ask that," she leaned back in her chair, sipping her wine again, looking at the entertainment before her. "We split everything in half between us." She turned to him, "so, what do you say?"
He grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles gingerly, looking into her devious eyes. "Whatever you want, your highness," he winked and she smiled at him, liking that he was agreeing with her. He snapped his fingers at two men and they quickly walked towards him. They stood with their legs spread apart slightly with their hands behind their backs, refusing to look into his eyes. "I must give you a gift," he lifted his eyebrows and Xena smirked.
She stood up and sauntered over to the two men and circled around them, tracing her fingers along one of the men's bare shoulders. Her fingertips were stained gold and she rubbed the gold paint in between her fingers. Circling around the other man she looked into his eyes beneath the golden mask and grinned mischievously.
Gabrielle watched her circle the men like an animal once again. She had that same look in her eyes and as she got closer to the muscular golden man she felt her heart racing and sank in her chair, almost wanting to look away.
Xena's eyes peered down and ripped the cloth off of the man's waist and his body tensed up slightly. Her hand roamed his chest and she then looked up into his eyes, though he was staring passed her, refusing to gaze into the treacherous blue marbles. She turned around and smiled at her blonde guest. "What do you think of this man, Gabrielle? Too small?" she lifted an eyebrow.
Gabrielle's eyes widened and her mouth gaped, not sure what to say at the moment. She folded her hands in her lap and heard Tanranus laughing beside her. "You desire a man with a bigger cock, Xena?!" he shook his head and Gabrielle buried her face in her hand, barely able to look.
Xena smiled, "I want Gabrielle's opinion," she turned to her again, "Gabrielle?"
The blonde peeked in between her fingers and bit her bottom lip, "um, he...looks fine to me."
Xena placed her hand on her hip, "fine is not good enough. This is for you Gabrielle, not for me," she teased.
Gabrielle lifted her head up and felt her heart sunk to her stomach, "oh no, no. I don't want a man, I mean, you don't have to, it's nice of you but I really don't...need a man, that man...," she lamely said and felt her cheeks flush as she kept staring.
Tanranus rubbed his chin observing Xena's slave girl and admired her polite nature. "Your slave is very modest," he chuckled.
"So she is..." Xena smirked and waved the men to go away and she sat back down next to her, smirking while she drank the wine. Gabrielle nervously smiled and sunk down in the chair feeling so embarrassed.
Hours later Tanranus was kind enough to allow Xena and Gabrielle to stay in his quarters while he found a separate bedroom to sleep in for the time being. Gabrielle closed the door behind her and saw Xena beginning to undress again. She cringed and looked away, her eyes finding the wall more fascinating at the moment. She sighed and felt she needed to talk to Xena, though she was afraid something might happen if she said something out of line.
"So, you want to be a queen?" she asked quietly.
Xena wrapped a loose burgundy robe around her body and turned to see Gabrielle staring at the wall. She sat on the bed comfortably and crossed one leg over the other. "You may turn around, Gabrielle," she said and the blonde slowly turned with a shy grin. "I must break you of this shyness you have," she hummed to herself and Gabrielle folded her arms, feeling very uncomfortable. "And to answer your question...I've always wanted to be a queen," she winked.
Gabrielle nodded and stood in place, her eyes wandering around the ornate room. This was nothing like the yurt she stayed in Pannonia. It reminded her of a Greek or Roman villa, which was one step closer to home, she thought, but not close enough. "Even though...you are now considered a traitor of the Roman Empire?" she asked and saw Xena's eyes darken.
"You're full of questions all of sudden," Xena chuckled, "where was that talkative mouth of yours at the party earlier?" she stood up and walked over to her blonde slave and touched her soft pink gown, her fingers trailing down Gabrielle's arm. She sighed, "plans change Gabrielle," she turned around and lit a few candles by the bed. "I brought you to be a teacher in Pannonia and now...you're here with me in Troy. What use do I have for you now?" she turned to her with a large frown.
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "I don't know, maybe...you could let me go back to Athens?" she smiled weakly and Xena laughed loudly, obviously finding her pain very funny.
"Let you go?!" Xena smiled, placing her hands on her hips, "come now Gabrielle, you know I can't do that..." she walked closer to her and stared down into the blonde's green eyes. "You belong to me.." she hissed. She touched Gabrielle's wavy blonde locks and sighed, "perhaps you could still be of some use to me..." she wondered.
Gabrielle tensed her body as she felt Xena's skin radiating inches away from her. "Like...what?" she choked out, barely, and cleared her throat.
Xena smirked, "you can write...and read...can you not?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded, "you can be a scribe for Troy..." she ran her fingers through Gabrielle's hair once more, feeling the silky locks against her palm. "I will even pay you," she lifted an eyebrow, "oh but then...you wouldn't be a slave anymore, now would you?" she chuckled softly and walked back to the bed, taking a seat.
Gabrielle nervously fidgeted with her fingers behind her back and she remained standing, not entirely sure what to do now. She breathed in deeply, "all of Western Rome hates you," she said.
"Everyone hates me Gabrielle, it's just a way of life," Xena scoffed. "And don't you hate me too?" she smirked and ate some grapes off a tray, feeling very playful at the moment. Gabrielle opened her mouth but before she could answer Xena interrupted, "I took you from your home, but you cannot hate me too much, now can you?" she teased, "after all, I did not harm you," she tapped her fingers on her knee, staring at the aghast blonde woman. "And don't give me a reason to," she said firmly.
"Do you...enjoy hurting people?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena leaned back on the bed on her elbows and frowned, chewing on a few grapes. "Enjoy?" she smiled, "my, my, you and your questions!" she sat up quickly and Gabrielle jumped back, afraid of her. "What will I ever do with you?" she hummed and ate some more grapes. "I don't simply enjoy hurting people, Gabrielle." She frowned and poured some wine into a glass. Gabrielle eyed her and thought she really shouldn't be drinking more wine after that party.
"You know of the Olympic games in Greece, don't you?" Xena asked and Gabrielle nodded. "And they have all sorts of competitions, right?" Gabrielle agreed with her. She sipped her wine and held up her finger, "some people are good in javelin throwing, some in archery, some in discus throwing..." she shrugged, "and some wrestling, am I right?" Gabrielle bobbed her head, listening to her cautiously. Xena smiled widely, "those are all sports...so," she pointed to herself, "what I do is a sport," she winked and sipped her wine.
Gabrielle frowned, folding her arms. "Killing is a sport to you?" she couldn't believe that explanation Xena just gave, she almost had her until she implied killing was like a sport to her.
Xena swallowed the wine, "it's not all about the killing Gabrielle," she wagged her head, "no, it's torture and interrogation too," she waved her hand in the air, suddenly being reminded of Attila and she didn't want that man on her mind at the moment. She smiled and gawked at Gabrielle. "Let's play a game..." she suggested.
"What sort of game?" Gabrielle was almost afraid to know what was going on inside that head of hers.
Xena pointed to that chair and asked Gabrielle to sit across from her. Gabrielle pulled up the chair and carefully sat down, looking into her eyes. "I ask you some questions and you answer with a simple 'yes' or 'no', okay?" she smiled and the blonde said nothing in response.
She went ahead and asked the first question, "have you ever killed anyone?"
"Would you like to kill someone?" Xena smirked.
"Have you thought of killing anyone in your life?"
"...no," she said as a late response and Xena noticed and Gabrielle saw a smirk on the woman's face, which wasn't good.
"Would you kill someone that harmed you?"
Another late response and Gabrielle shook her head, "no."
Xena smiled, "would you like to kill...me?"
Gabrielle frowned, "no, I would not."
Xena laughed, "I said yes or no answers Gabrielle!" she snarled.
The blonde sighed, "no," she mumbled.
"Why not?" Xena frowned.
Gabrielle now had a smirk on her lips, "that isn't a yes or no question," she folded her arms. Xena glared at her and now Gabrielle felt a bit nervous the longer she stared at her.
Xena smiled, "very clever," she sipped the wine gradually.
Gabrielle was feeling more brave now and she leaned forward with her elbows resting on her knees, "can I ask you something?" she asked.
Xena lifted her eyebrow and sneered, "I am in a good mood, Gabrielle," she winked and downed some more wine.
"Do you care about people?" she asked and saw Xena frown, "maybe someone in your life?" she hinted and Xena lowered her eyes.
"This game is beginning to bore me," she finished off the glass of wine and stood up and Gabrielle somehow knew that was going to happen but she at least thought she should try since Xena was in a so-called 'good mood', though now it was spoiled. Xena scratched her head and pointed to a floor bed with an abundance of pillows. "You will sleep there," she said and Gabrielle stood up, walking over to the bed and sat down on the floor, bringing her knees close to her.
She watched Xena pour another glass of wine and she walked out of the room in a hurry. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she stood up, running to the door, she peeked out into the hallway and saw Xena walking briskly down the hallway and saw her disappear into a room. Frowning, she walked back into the bedroom and closed the door, her back sliding down against it and sat on the floor.
She sat with her knees close to her chest and couldn't fathom this woman at all. She was a mystery to her, yet she was plain as day. Anyone could see that she was a savage woman because of what she did to people. She remembered what happened in Athens and was sure that was just a fun casual thing for Xena, but Gabrielle had that image burned in her head forever. What a confusing woman she was indeed...
AN: oh, Xena ;)
Xena returned to the bedroom in the morning and saw Gabrielle was still sleeping in the dress she had worn last night. Smirking subtly she walked over to her own bed and poured some water in a glass, downing it immediately.
Gabrielle's eyes fluttered open as soon as she heard some rustling around in the room. The bright sun shined into the room and she rubbed her eye while her vision adjusted. She sat up and saw Xena standing by her bed drinking some water and wearing her black and silver chained armor with her knee high boots. She had waited for Xena to return to the room for about two hours and when she realized she wasn't going to return she passed out.
Xena turned around with a hand on her hip, cocking her head, "sleep well?" she asked. Gabrielle shook her head and Xena smiled then grabbed Gabrielle's arm lifting her up. "Come with me," she pulled her along and then halted, her eyes scanning Gabrielle's attire. "You're still wearing the gown from last night?" she raised an eyebrow.
Gabrielle blushed and wrapped her arms around herself, now feeling self conscious. "I don't have any other clothes..." she gave a lame excuse, though it was a good lame excuse. All she had were the clothes that she came here in from Pannonia and this gown from last night.
"We'll have to fix that," Xena pulled her out of the room and saw a servant woman walking by. She grabbed the woman by her wrist and the young woman gasped, staring into Xena's eyes. "Make sure Gabrielle here has proper clothing," she said and the woman nodded her head. Xena took a good look at Gabrielle and frowned, taking in account to her petite frame. "What would you like, Gabrielle? Dresses, skirts, pants, boots, sandals?"
Gabrielle was shocked that she was actually being given a choice on what to wear. In Pannonia she was just told to wear whatever she was given, but here, she actually got to choose what to wear, which was nice, but why, she wondered?
"Well? I will decide for you if –"
"Dresses are fine," Gabrielle smiled and Xena let go of the woman's wrist.
Xena nodded and told Gabrielle to go with the woman to pick out some dresses like she wanted and to meet her in the atrium once she was finished. "Make sure to pick some pink dresses," she continued walking off adjusting her gauntlets. "I like you in pink," she turned her head over her shoulder with a smirk of a smile and disappeared around a corner.
Gabrielle's eyes widened and the woman grabbed her hand, pulling her down the long hallway. What was that supposed to mean? The servant clung closely to her as they walked together. "So, you are friends with the commander?" the woman pried.
The blonde nervously smiled and shook her head, "oh no, we are not friends." No definitely not friends, she kept telling herself that. She didn't think she could ever befriend someone like Xena. She was too cruel and somehow had no emotions at all when it came to killing people, though she wasn't a walking corpse –she had feelings, they were just hidden deep inside her. Even Gabrielle could see that and she hadn't known Xena very long.
The woman chuckled, "slaves don't get to choose their clothing. She must like you," she mused and Gabrielle turned around almost as if she could feel Xena's eyes on her the entire time, but she wasn't there. Like me? Xena doesn't like anyone.
Tanranus brought over a map that he stole from the Romans awhile back and spread it across the table. Xena leaned forward on the table and observed all the land the Western Empire had and all the land the Eastern Empire had. The Hunnic Empire had land too, but it just wasn't enough. She frowned, tapping her fingers on the table then pointed to the Caspian Sea, the area in which she lived for years before relocating to Pannonia long ago.
"Attila does not claim the Caspian tribes?" she asked and Tanranus shook his head. She smiled, "then I want to claim it for myself."
He smiled, "excellent choice, Xena. It is your land after all."
She nodded, "we will send troops through Akitziri first and claim the Black Sea," her finger traced across the map, "then we cross the Ural river to reach the Caspians. We will need roughly a hundred men no less, to claim these areas."
Tanranus looked at the map and pointed to the area close to the Black Sea, "the Onogur tribes are close to Akitziri. They are loyal to Attila. How will we get passed them?" he asked, looking to see if she had an answer.
She smiled and stood up, folding her arms, thinking of the perfect idea. "Through force of course. I will make them submit to me and even go on the expedition myself to make sure they do not cause any trouble." He had to agree with her, though he was wary of her plan. She was a very headfirst kind of person, though her tactics were always on point from working with her for years now.
Gabrielle entered the room and all eyes went to her. She felt extremely nervous and even saw Xena smiling at her. She picked out an abundance of dresses and chose to wear a light blue gown.
Xena had her eye on her and thought she would look much better in pink than in blue, but she looked beautiful in any color. She was an interesting woman to say the least and she was very talkative and always seeks answers, though Xena wasn't too fond of her blabbering mouth, she admired her will to keep seeking answers. "Just the woman I wanted to talk to," she said and walked over grabbing her hand to join them at the table. Tanranus smiled at the blonde slave and Gabrielle lowered her gaze, feeling slightly embarrassed. "Are you good at math, Gabrielle?" she asked.
Gabrielle lifted her eyes and saw Xena staring at her with calm eyes this time unlike last night. Anastasia was right, she really does drink herself to sleep it seemed. Wine was not Xena's friend obviously. "Well, I don't know too much, but I can try. What do you want me to do?" she asked.
Xena smirked, "nothing mathematical. Are you good at deciphering codes?" she asked and Gabrielle frowned, unsure what she meant. "If I gave you say...a letter that was nonsense and it had a hidden message within it, could you decipher it?" she leaned in closer and Gabrielle slowly inched away from her, though she smelled really nice, like vanilla or something. She probably had a super long bath this morning after last night, whatever she did last night in her sudden absence.
She felt herself becoming distracted and looked down at the map, trying to focus. "Maybe, I am not sure..." she admitted she had no skills in deciphering codes, though she had heard it was a good way to keep secrets hidden from other empires. "Perhaps I could if...I had enough time and –"
"What if you wrote it yourself?" Xena asked with a sly smile.
Gabrielle lifted her head with her mouth agape. "Well I –I suppose I could do that."
Xena smiled and snapped her fingers for some parchment and a fresh quill. "I want you to write a letter to the Bey of Akitziri," she was handed the parchment and gave it to Gabrielle. "And I want you to make it seem like Attila wrote it," she narrowed her eyebrows and Gabrielle blinked rapidly at her.
"Why...why would I do that?" Gabrielle asked.
Xena frowned, folding her arms, "because I am asking you to do it. You ask too many questions," she sighed rolling her eyes. "We will work on it together in our room," she said and Gabrielle nodded, rolling up the parchment and held it in front of her. She turned to Tanranus, "I want to send a group of stealthy men to Pannonia," she said.
Tanranus lifted a skeptical eyebrow, "I thought you and Attila are at odds now?" he presumed.
"Yes we are, but my..." she looked to Gabrielle and saw a glimmer in her green eyes, "...daughter is there," she said, scratching her nose as a distraction and Tanranus remained quiet, not sure what to say. He had no idea Xena had a child in all their years they spent together. "I want her brought to me."
"So, you want our men to kidnap her?" he wanted to clarify.
She frowned, "it is not kidnapping if it's my daughter!" she clenched her fist and Gabrielle saw how angry she got in such a short amount of time. Interesting, she thought. "I don't want anything to happen to her and if something does, I will skin Attila and all of his men. Slowly."
He sighed and tapped the quill on the table. "Alright then. How do you want us to go by taking her?" he asked.
Ellac sat on the stairs outside of his home, wrapping more twine around the medium sized ball he had been working on for months now. He always did this out of boredom and it was evening now, which meant his stepmother was making his brothers go to sleep early for the night. He lifted his head and looked at the large yurts next to the forest and kept thinking about Anastasia. He still couldn't believe that his childhood friend was actually a girl and nobody else knew apparently, except his father.
He wasn't angry, but he was confused as to why his father and Xena kept that a secret for so long. One day she was known as Annas and now, she was Anastasia. Sighing he took out his dagger and began carving into the wooden stairs to quench his boredom.
As he kept carving he lifted his head and saw three older boys coming towards Xena's home and he frowned, squinting his eyes trying to see who they were. It was dark and hard to see but he recognized that long black braid anywhere. Gurgis, the eldest son of Orestes, one of Attila's best men, was marching through the campgrounds to get to Xena's yurt. Ellac stood up and noticed the other two were Gurgis's friends. He always hated Gurgis and his friends. They were only three years older than him and often tried to boss the younger boys around, including Annas, but she was able to hold them off, even though she was much smaller than them.
Ellac folded his arms and watched Gurgis and his friends enter the yurt and his eyes widened. He felt like he should go get his father, but that might cause even more trouble than necessary. He grabbed his dagger and stuck it back into his belt and started running towards the yurt.
Galena poured some rice into a bowl and tore off two pieces of bread just like Anastasia liked it. Xena may not be here, but she felt it her obligation to watch over the girl since she was by herself. "Ana, I have your food!" she called out.
"One minute!" Anastasia replied and the woman shook her head. When that girl said 'one minute' she really meant one hour or more. She often wondered what that girl did in her room. Galena turned around with the bowl of food in her hands and gasped seeing Gurgis and his two friends inside the yurt.
The teenagers smiled at her and the woman frowned. "What are you doing?!" she yelled and Gurgis pulled out his dagger, pointing it directly at her throat.
He turned to his friends, "make sure she stays quiet," Gurgis said and sheathed his dagger. Galena dropped the bowl and Gurgis saw a shadow behind the curtain and smiled, walking towards the room.
Anastasia was busy practicing her writing in Latin like Gabrielle had taught her. She realized that her mother was going to be gone for awhile and perhaps will return later, she didn't know, but she did something her mother always wanted her to do. She heard a loud crash and frowned, setting the parchment down. "Galena?" she called out and received no answer. Groaning, she got up and then saw Gurgis enter her room and she gasped.
"You aren't supposed to be in here!" Anastasia yelled and Gurgis smiled down at her. She backed away and he grabbed her arm, pushing her down onto her bed. Her eyes widened and scooted away from him. He grabbed her ankle and pulled her towards him.
Gurgis caught a glimpse of her leg as her dress slipped and he lifted his eyebrows. Her skin looked very soft and it was a perfect cream color. He smiled down at her frightened face and climbed on top of her, pinning her to the bed. "Your mother was right to keep you hidden away all these years..." he whispered and she breathed heavily, staring into his dark brown eyes. He pulled out his dagger and she tried to get away. "Now, don't make any sudden moves, Annas...or shall I call you Anastasia now?" he grinned and began cutting open her dress from the top down.
She closed her eyes and tried her best to get free but he was much bigger than her. She stared down and saw her dress was halfway open. He eyed her small breasts and he raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure you will have your mother's figure soon enough..." he hissed and ripped the dress off of her. She gasped and felt her heart racing as his fingers grazed her chest, she tensed up.
"My mother will scalp you!" she spat and he frowned, grabbing her jaw firmly.
"Your mother is a traitor! She left you. What kind of a mother does that?" he chuckled and traced his hands closer to her inner thigh and her eyes widened. He lifted her leg and she shook her head pleadingly. He smiled down at her and saw fear in her eyes. He leaned down and kissed her jaw and she cringed, closing her eyes.
Her head rolled over looking at the wall and her eyes filled with tears suddenly wishing her mother were here, otherwise this wouldn't be happening. She felt him penetrate through her and she let out an ear piercing scream. Gurgis covered her mouth with his hand and tears rolled down her cheeks.
Ellac came running into the yurt and found Gurgis's cronies holding Galena down to the ground. "Get out!" he yelled. "You aren't allowed in here!"
Hurual, one of the teenage boys, stood up smiling at the thirteen year old prince. "What are you going to do about it?" he pulled out a dagger and Ellac pulled out his own dagger. Hurual laughed, "what are you going to do with that thing?!" he mocked and Kajal, the other teenager laughed along with him.
"My father will have your heads for this! Where is Gurgis?!" Ellac pointed the dagger at Hurual's chest and the older teenager frowned, grabbing the boy and threw him across the room. Ellac groaned and stood up slowly, rubbing his hurt arm.
Hurual sauntered over to him, "he's busy," he grinned and Ellac's eyes went towards the shielded off room and took off running, pushing Hurual onto the ground. "You little cocksucker!" he growled and got off the floor.
Kajal saw torches from outside the yurt and heard horses riding towards them. "Hurual! Forget him!" he said and Hurual turned around and heard the horses hooves as well. Kajal stood up releasing the old woman and ran out of the yurt with Hurual behind him, leaving Gurgis behind.
As they exited the yurt they saw Xena's best soldiers riding towards them. They panicked and started running far away and up the hill.
Ellac ran into the room and saw Gurgis on top of Anastasia and his eyes widened. "Get off of her!" he grabbed his dagger and sliced Gurgis's arm.
Gurgis moaned in pain and turned around seeing the annoying little prince. "You!" he pulled away from Anastasia and Ellac thrust the dagger close to him. Gurgis put his hands up, "now Ellac..." he smiled nervously, backing away.
"I am a prince!" Ellac said and sliced his chest with a clean swipe. Gurgis groaned and grabbed the boy, pinning him to the wall. Anastasia sat up, scooting away from them both and dropped to the floor, huddling behind her bedside table. Ellac smiled, "you should probably leave...my father's men are here," he teased and Gurgis lifted his head and heard horses riding. Gurgis grabbed his vest and jumped over the bed, hopping out the window in a flash.
Ellac sighed and sheathed his dagger. He saw Anastasia hiding behind the table and he grabbed a blanket from the bed and walked over to her. She wrapped her arms around her naked body and he smiled, kneeling down beside her and wrapped her body with the blanket. He sat by her and she wrapped the blanket tightly around herself.
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly and saw a single tear streaming down her cheek. He wiped her face with his finger, "I'm sorry for what Gurgis did to you..." he muttered.
She sniffled and turned away from him, not able to look her childhood friend in the eyes especially after that. She felt so safe in Pannonia but now she was alone without her mother and felt more unsafe than ever.
A group of men entered the room and saw Anastasia on the floor with the prince sitting beside her. "Your highness," he addressed the boy, "has anything happened to you?"
Ellac stood up and frowned, "I'm fine. Gurgis and his friends came! They escaped," he said and pointed to the window. The men looked down at the girl and were not sure what to do. She huddled to herself, averting her eyes from their stares. Ellac folded his arms, "what are you waiting for?! Go after them!" he said and the men left the room to find the teenage boys.
Galena came into the room and saw Anastasia in a secluded part of the room and gasped. She ran to her and grabbed the girl's arms, adjusting the blanket around her body. She turned around and smiled softly at the young prince, silently thanking him.
As they walked out of the room Anastasia turned her head over her shoulder and smiled softly at Ellac. He grinned sadly back at her before they exited.
Xena sat on the bed while Gabrielle sat beside her in a chair. She had her parchment ready and she didn't really understand why she wanted her to write a letter, let alone a forged letter, but she wasn't here to ask questions. Xena leaned forward, "now, I want this letter addressed to the Bey in Aktiziri. He is very fond of Attila. I want to make sure it sounds just like Attila's words."
Gabrielle nodded and dipped the quill into the ink ready to write. "What is this letter for?" she asked, lifting her eyes she saw a big frown on Xena's face. She smiled weakly, "I need to know what it's for to give me some...context."
Xena smiled, nodding, "I want to take the Black Sea and it belongs to Attila. So simply, if you write the letter stating that Attila is giving the land to me...there will be no questions asked," she said and Gabrielle sighed, widening her eyes, not sure if that was such a good idea but she was going to write whatever Xena said.
After an hour or so Gabrielle finished the letter and Xena grabbed the parchment, staring at it, reading over it to make sure it sounded correct. She frowned and peered over at Gabrielle whom calmly sat in the chair waiting patiently. "You signed his name." she stated.
Gabrielle felt like she had done something wrong and what she learned in school was that all Romans signed their names at the bottom of all their manuscripts. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" she asked bemused.
Xena smirked, glancing at the signature. "You write well, Gabrielle," she tossed the parchment and Gabrielle caught it midair. She walked around and poured a glass of wine for herself, "where did you learn how to do signatures like that?" she asked.
The blonde lifted her head, not expecting Xena to be so curious about her writing skills. "I took a calligraphy class. Someone was brought in from Persia. My teacher thought it would be a good idea for us to learn calligraphy so we could...write...better," she noticed Xena staring at her with confused wondering eyes and now felt embarrassed for talking so much. She sighed and Xena smirked, sitting back on the bed. She was feeling a bit brave now that Xena was talking to her more like a human being since they left Pannonia, "where did you learn to read and write?"
Xena lifted an eyebrow, sipping her wine, staring into Gabrielle's eyes. "In Thrace," she curtly answered and Gabrielle frowned, lowering her eyes. "I am from there," she added.
"I thought you were from the Caspian Sea?" she asked, now feeling so confused.
Xena smiled, "I am from there too. I am from many places," she said cryptically and that only confused Gabrielle even more. She sighed and tapped her fingers on the glass, "look, I don't normally let people ask me so many questions," she said and Gabrielle stared at her, "but you are different," she winked and sipped some more of the wine.
Gabrielle now felt extremely nervous and remembered when Xena said she liked her in pink gowns. That was so incredibly awkward and apparently super out of character for her according to that servant woman. "Why did you leave Thrace?" she asked and Xena eyed her cautiously. "Thrace is beautiful. Actually...I am from there too," she hinted a smile and Xena chuckled under her breath.
"And look how different we are!" Xena mused and Gabrielle definitely agreed to that. "Why did you leave?" she winked, spitting the question right back at her.
Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "better opportunities in Athens I guess."
"Opportunities," Xena bobbed her head slowly, staring off into space. "I used to think of opportunities but now I just think about goals." She sighed and drank more wine, quenching her thirst.
A few silent moments passed between them and Gabrielle noticed that Xena was already on her second glass of wine. Nobody drank that much wine, she thought, at least she hoped not. "Why do you drink so much?" she asked.
Xena set the bottle down and glared at her. "You're starting to annoy me with your questions again," she said and Gabrielle backed down, sinking into the chair. "So, how do you like Troy so far?"
Gabrielle smirked, "it kind of reminds me of Greece. It's nice."
"Not nicer than Athens I'm sure," Xena teased and Gabrielle said nothing in response.
"Can I ask you a question?" Gabrielle hoped she'd comply, though Xena's mood constantly changed within seconds.
Xena frowned, "why not? Since you're already asking me questions," she mumbled.
"Why did you take me from Athens? You could have killed me for attacking you."
Xena no longer found this wine suitable to her taste and set the glass down on the table. She smiled tightly at Gabrielle and leaned in closely towards her. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she slowly leaned backwards, tipping the chair. Xena grabbed the chair and narrowed her hooded eyes, "you really want to know?" she whispered and Gabrielle slowly nodded. "I saw you as...an opportunity." She hummed, "you seem to like that word, don't you?" she hissed and Gabrielle stared at her mouth and then her ice blue eyes. "You like opportunities. I like opportunities. Everyone likes opportunities." She said in a soft voice. "But they are not opportunities if we do not act on them, am I right?" she smiled.
She stood up and Gabrielle felt like she could breathe again. Sometimes Xena could be so creepy at times and she never had met someone like that before until now. She wasn't sure what her game was and why she acted like this from time to time, but it only intrigued Gabrielle more to keep asking questions. She figured that if she kept asking questions then Xena might open up some more. So far, she hadn't lashed out at her since they got to Troy, but she might if she asked the wrong question.
"Do you still think that I am an 'opportunity'?" Gabrielle felt courageous asking such a question.
Xena turned and faced her with a bemused expression. "No," she answered curtly, "you are my goal," she smirked and now Gabrielle felt herself become even more confused than when this conversation first started. "You're a smart girl, Gabrielle," she added and continued, "and brave," she scoffed. "How would you feel if you were involved in the making of a new empire?"
Gabrielle shook her head, "terrible," she answered honestly.
"You are looking at this all wrong Gabrielle," Xena frowned. "Not everyone can live in paradise like you. Some of us have to work for what we want in life."
"Killing people is considered work to you?" she asked, now not liking that explanation at all.
Xena sat on the bed, glaring at the blonde woman. "What is it with you and killing?!" she groaned, "I do more than kill people, Gabrielle. I pillage and rape too," she chuckled, jesting a bit.
"Does that...include children too?"
Xena frowned, lowering her eyes and sipped more of the wine that she had rejected earlier. "I am not a monster," she said, "I would never kill a child intentionally." Gabrielle smiled at that, folding her arms and saw that this commander too has feelings. She began to think that Xena acted so tough in front of her men to keep up her status and even one slip of kindness would ruin her and they wouldn't take her seriously. I think I understand you now, Xena.
Clearing her throat she felt a bit shy all of a sudden and looked at Gabrielle's smug face. "Why are you smiling?!" she chided and Gabrielle's grin disappeared so fast. "I will send my men to Pannonia tomorrow evening to bring my daughter here."
Gabrielle saw Xena's face soften at the mention of her daughter. "You love her a lot don't you?" she pried.
Xena frowned, "what kind of stupid question is that?" she snarled and Gabrielle now felt that anger radiating off of Xena's skin once again. She got so angry every time she mentioned her daughter. She sighed, "of course I love her," she muttered and sipped the wine. Gabrielle hid her smile, folding her arms as she sat comfortably in the chair. "I would do anything for her."
"I have no doubts about that," Gabrielle said and Xena smirked at her playfully. "Why did you hide her identity as a girl for so long?" she asked, remembering when she first saw Anastasia and she was dressed like a boy.
The commander licked her lips and stared at Gabrielle intensely, "you don't know me well enough to know that," she set the glass down and then Tanranus barged into the room. Gabrielle turned her head and saw he looked very concerned.
"Xena, there are Romans outside!" he said.
Xena immediately stood up and her eyes lit up as soon as she heard that. "I love when people come to visit," she smiled and grabbed her swords, briskly walking out of the room. Tanranus followed her and Gabrielle refused to move from her spot. Instead, she ran to the window and since they were on the second floor, she had a good view of the outside walls of the city. She indeed saw four Romans parked on their horses, waiting patiently.
Xena ran up the stairs to the wall that surrounded the city and ducked her head under the guards' tower. She peered over the wall and smiled at the Romans. "Did your rat, Aetius, send you?!" she yelled from up top and the Roman soldiers glanced up at her.
"There's a warrant out for your arrest, Xena!" one of the Romans shouted.
She tapped her cheek nonchalantly, playing along. "Oh, there is?" she grinned deviously down at the Romans.
"I have orders from the emperor himself!" he yelled, "you are under arrest for killing Roman soldiers! Come with us and you won't die." The other three pulled out their bows and arrows.
Xena laughed and turned to Tanranus, "he actually thinks I'm going to go with them!" she brought her attention to the soldiers and frowned at them. "Bite me." She whistled over to the men on the wall and they pushed a large cauldron over to her and she folded her arms.
"I'm warning you Xena!" the Roman shouted up at her.
She rolled her eyes, "yeah, yeah," she waved her hand and the men on the wall, held the cauldron and tipped it over with incredible force and the Romans frowned, looking up at the cauldron. Hot boiling oil came pouring down on top of the soldiers. Xena's eyes lit up as she saw their skin begin to boil and bubble from the blazing oil being dumped on them. One of the Romans fell off his horse, touching his skin, screaming in excruciating agony.
Sighing, she waved her hand to Tanranus, "bring them to me once you've made sure they're dead," she walked off no longer amused.
Tanranus's eyes widened, "for what?!" he called out and Xena turned around with a sneaky grin.
"A message for our Roman friends," she winked and ran down the stairs, disappearing back into the fortress.
Hours later Xena rode on her horse to the outskirts of Troy, beyond the city walls and into an open field. She stopped and held up her hand, looking at the scenery, "this spot is fine," she smiled. Turning around she frowned, "bring them to me..." she demanded and the men brought the wagon of the dead four Roman soldiers to her.
She grabbed four pikes from the wagon and dug a hole for each one with her boot and stuck each pike into the ground one by one. All her men watched her and she snapped her fingers, "that one, bring him," she said and two men carried of the charred soldiers over to her. She smiled, "impale him," she said and the men looked up at her, confused. "Do it!"
The men hoisted the Roman up and plunged his body onto the pike then blood began spilling from his gut and mouth. They repeated the process for the other three Romans and she watched carefully.
Once they finished Xena walked in front of the impaled Romans and smiled, looking at the fine work she had done. If any more Romans showed their faces here, they would definitely get the message. She was sure of it.
"It's a lovely view, isn't it?" she marveled and all the men remained quiet. She felt something fall from the sky and touch her face. She glanced up and saw snow slowly trickling down from the skies above. Winter is here early, she thought. She climbed on her horse and trotted off back to the fortress within the city and soon the troops trailed behind.
AN: and the tension builds! Enjoy for now ;)
Theodosius, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, circled around his study for over ten minutes, contemplating what his men had just told him. He rubbed his chin pensively as he paced anxiously around the room. His soldiers' eyes kept dancing back and forth as they watched him pace around like a lost immobile animal with its leg cut off.
He stopped and stared at the soldiers, "are you sure Xena is in Troy?" he asked. The two men nodded, not saying a word. Grimacing, he sat down at his desk and tapped his fingers generously, thinking of the Hun woman being so close to his city. Constantinople was only a few days ride from Troy and if Xena really was there, he definitely didn't want her to come here. He hadn't ever met the woman, but his comrade, Flavius Aetius, told him stories about her and what an awesome ferocious warrior she is. He thought it odd to have a woman in charge, especially in Attila's horde. He too is a great warrior and even announced himself as the king of his people thirteen years ago.
He felt like it just happened yesterday though –Attila being king and all –and he wondered how the man was able to conquer his people so easily. Attila did not use force to gain his own kind's trust, no he did not, but Theodosius knew that Xena did not operate like Attila did. She was a snake slithering in the grass waiting for her prey and then...she would sneak up on her prey, crushing it with innumerable force like a python.
Her plans were so well thought out and Theodosius supposed that is why Attila granted her the position of military commander in chief. She was very good at her job –while Attila was off in Pannonia she was often sent on raids to conquer various lands in the Hunnic region –and it was only a matter of time before Xena crushed her enemies and claimed a new land. This is what Theodosius feared the most and he also knew that his Western ally, Valentinian, was not much help regarding keeping borders closed.
The emperor stood up, alarming his soldiers and inquired, "I thought Xena lived in Pannonia? Isn't it the capital of Attila's empire?"
"There's a rumor going around that Xena and Attila parted ways, sir," one of the wary soldiers spoke up. The emperor was not happy to hear about that. If what was said was true, then he definitely feared Xena's wrath on the Romans. "Commander Aetius said that Xena has a warrant out for her arrest because she slaughtered Roman soldiers in Athens."
Theodosius lifted a curious brow, "Athens?" he questioned, "what was she doing in Athens?" he smirked, loving to know the answer as to why that Hun woman would cross the Ionian and Aegean to reach Greece.
The two soldiers shared a look with one another until one uttered, "she was capturing a Hun Bey from Sciri, sir."
The emperor rubbed his left temple then sighed heavily, "that woman is deceitful," he began, "if she was willing to cross the seas to get what she wants then what is to stop her from attacking Constantinople?" he muttered, more speaking to himself than the men around him. He waved his hand, dismissing the Roman soldiers and asked for his advisor to enter the room.
Arcadius, his trusted advisor entered the room after the doors were shut behind him. Now he was alone with the emperor. He tucked his arms inside his large cloak sleeves, folding his arms close to his body. "It seems that you have heard the news of the Hun woman?" he guessed.
Theodosius nodded, "indeed," he stood up, rounding his desk and walked over to the map planted on the wall. He pointed to Troy, the forbidden city, as the Greeks called it for centuries. It supposedly was never supposed to be conquered, until that is, Attila and Xena came along. Xena wiped out all the Romans and kicked them out of the city, taking over the large military base. Theodosius should have known that was when Valentinian should have cut ties with those Huns. Technically, Troy belonged to no side, not to the Greeks nor the Romans. It was used as a scarce military base and housed weapons and wounded soldiers. It was considered neutral territory, but now, Xena has claimed it for herself, so that is what he was told, and he feared for the safety of his empire.
"Arcadius, why don't we have our troops go into Troy and remove the Hun witch?" he smiled, staring at the map.
The elderly man sighed heavily and walked over to his leader, "sire, it is not so easy. Aetius's men have tried already and they were...brutally mutilated," he spoke softly, not wanting to imagine what Xena had done to those men. The description was enough. "They were terribly burned...she..." he held his tongue and Theodosius turned to him with a grim frown. "She poured boiling hot oil on their bodies and then put their bodies on pikes outside of Troy's walls."
Theodosius grinned, rubbing his jaw, "she always comes up with new ways to murder people, doesn't she?" he chortled. "She impresses me," he said with honesty, "but she is a ruthless killer and I will stop at nothing to keep her out of Constantinople." He turned on his heel and began jotting down some words hastily.
Arcadius blinked and looked at the map. Troy was dangerously close to the Eastern Roman capital and if that's what she did to those men was a small feat for her, he couldn't imagine what she'd do to hundreds or even thousands of Roman soldiers. "Your highness," he voiced quietly, "shouldn't we worry about Attila attacking us instead of Xena?" he frowned.
The emperor lifted his eyes, halting his writing, "Arcadius, my friend, Attila would not dare attack Constantinople. Xena is who I am worried about. If the rumor is true then –"
"Sir, there is no rumor," the advisor interrupted, "Attila wants Xena killed for her treason. Huns kill those who betray them –there is no other way to escape treason except for death. My guess is that the Hun king doesn't know of Xena's whereabouts, at least not yet."
Theodosius smiled and finished writing and signed his name, folding the letter up and stamped it with the wax royal seal. He stood up, handing the letter to Arcadius. "I want this delivered to Valentinian immediately." The advisor nodded, bowing his head about to leave, "oh and Arcadius," he called out, "I believe we should reach out to Attila," he grinned and added, "he has no relation with our Western Roman friends, but there is no use of us being enemies with the savages." Arcadius left the room in a hurry and the emperor poured some wine, sauntering over to the large map again.
As he stood staring at it he saw Pannonia, the capital of the Hunnic Empire. What a small city it is, he thought. It was nothing but many tribes living together on a large piece of land, surrounded by grassy mountains and hills. Beautiful area, but why that place, he wondered? His eyes traveled to the Visigoths' capital, Aquincicum and smiled, remembering when the Goths were destroyed by Aetius's men and Attila's as well. Those two worked so well together, but as he recalled, Aetius had no plan in allowing Attila's men to attack. He was fooled, but if the Huns didn't attack, the Goths would have won. Theodosius would have thought that Attila would move his capital to Aquincicum. It was in a much better location, right in the center of the large lands and closer to Rome but equally as close to Constantinople.
Sipping his wine he contemplated on building a relationship with the Hun king. If he could get on his good side, then perhaps they could work together and crush Xena before she became too powerful. "Yes, that is exactly what I will do..."
Xena walked briskly down the long hallway inside the fortress with Tanranus by her side. "You sent the men to Pannonia, right?" she asked.
"Yes, they were sent out a few days ago. They should arrive by this evening," he said and tried to keep up with her fast pace.
Good, she thought. "And they know what to do, right?" she questioned, "I don't want them to make a lot of noise otherwise my daughter will be stuck there. Attila will kill our men."
He nodded, "they know the plan, Xena. Get in and get out," he was beginning to feel sweat drip down his forehead with all these stressful missions Xena was asking him to propose to the troops. "These men are very good at what they do. You don't have to worry."
"Who says I'm worried?" she scoffed, "if they can't do the job I will go there myself," she rounded the corner and bumped into Gabrielle. A smile graced her lips, "did you write the letter I asked for?" she asked the blonde.
Gabrielle nodded, "I think you should read it over," she presumed and Xena nodded.
"Fine," she placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and told her to walk with her to the bedroom. "I want a report on the Aktiziri Bey," she demanded of Tanranus. He nodded then ran down the hall to check on that separate mission.
Xena read the letter that Gabrielle wrote and it was written so well she crumbled it up and threw it on the floor. Gabrielle's eyes widened as her mouth gaped. She had worked for hours on that piece and she watched Xena just toss it out like garbage!
"Not good enough," Xena reached for the wine bottle then suddenly Gabrielle grabbed her wrist.
"Now wait just a minute!" Gabrielle frowned and Xena's eyes grew with fury. "I worked very hard on that letter and you just...you...how could you do that?!" she felt like a piece of her soul was just ripped out. Writing to her was very special and she normally wrote things that she liked, but she didn't expect to be writing forged letters to Hun Beys. She'd rather write poetry or something, but no, she was stuck here doing this and Xena totally dismissed her work.
Xena snatched her wrist away and stood up, towering over the blonde woman still sitting in the chair. Gabrielle glanced up at her, frightened and unsure of what she might do. Xena held the wine glass in her hand and squeezed it tightly. The glass broke in pieces and shattered on the ground. Gabrielle gasped and sunk in her chair. She looked up with one eye squinted and saw Xena's hand covered in blood, trickling down her forearm.
"You're bleeding..." Gabrielle mumbled.
Xena groaned and dipped her hand into the water basin. The once clear water turned a bright red, now feeling stupid for her overreaction, though Gabrielle touched her, no she more than touched her, she grabbed her wrist. Slaves don't touch their masters and normally would be beaten, but she didn't want to hit Gabrielle. She needed her.
Gabrielle ran to the other room and grabbed a clean cloth. She returned and saw Xena cleaning her open gash on the side of her hand. She approached her slowly, clenching the cloth close to her chest. "Let me help you..." she aided and Xena frowned at her, glaring at her, though Gabrielle went ahead and grabbed Xena's arm out of the water and this time, she didn't pull away vehemently. She wrapped the cloth around Xena's hand, pressing gently on the wound.
"You shouldn't have done that, Gabrielle," Xena spoke in a more calm voice. The blonde's eyes traveled up to her, not really feeling ashamed of what she just did. "I should strike you for what you just did," she stated.
Gabrielle looked at the wound and saw glass shards inside of the wound. She looked up at the raven haired woman, seeing her eyes so bright and frightening. "Then, why don't you?" she asked. She felt like she should have a muzzle on her mouth at all times around this woman because she just said things that came to her mind and it didn't usually turn out very well in the end.
"And ruin that pretty face of yours?" Xena smirked and Gabrielle immediately left to go find a needle and some cloths. She sat down on the bed, examining her hand, frowning at what she had done to herself. She had been wounded many times, though not for such stupid reasons like this one. She saw Gabrielle return with a large leather needle and two more clean cloths.
The blonde knelt down and began picking out the glass shards from the wound gently. She saw Xena's face contort in pain. She smiled subtly and Xena frowned down at her. "Something funny?" Xena asked.
"No," Gabrielle cleaned the wound with the cloth and looked up at Xena, "I'm going to need you to apply some pressure...to this part," she pointed to the spot on her hand and Xena lifted an eyebrow and pinched her hand on either side of the gash. "Perfect," Gabrielle squinted her eyes and cut the thread with her teeth before threading the large needle.
Slowly she stuck the large thick needle into Xena's skin and gently pulled the thread through as carefully as she could. Xena eyed her as she continued to work on her wound and thought Gabrielle had many crafts apparently, not just writing and reading silly philosophy. "Where did you learn how to do this?" she asked.
Gabrielle lifted her head, now staring into the commander's soft eyes. "My father taught me a long time ago when I had a gash on my leg. He thought I should learn how to look out after myself." She pulled the needle through Xena's gash and had one more spot to thread and she'd be done.
"Your father is a smart man," Xena said and Gabrielle cut the thread, tying it around in a knot. She looked at the stitches and they were quite nice. It had been a long time since she had any stitches on her body for whatever reason.
Gabrielle stood up and brought the bloodied cloths with her, "he was," she said and put the water basin in the adjacent room. She returned and found Xena staring at her as she sat on the bed patiently.
Xena smirked, "we are not so different," she winked, "my father died a long time ago," she stood up and went searching for a new wine glass, casually stepping on the already broken one on the floor. Gabrielle sighed, slapping her forehead with her palm.
Oh no, Xena, we are so different. "Was he...a good man?" Gabrielle felt curious.
The commander returned with a new glass and shrugged, "don't know, don't care," she sipped the wine, trying to forget the throbbing in her hand. "I have come to a conclusion Gabrielle," she began and leaned on the bed post, "all men are the same. They all want sex, women, booze, power...but you know what they don't want?" she smiled deviously. Gabrielle wagged her head and Xena said, "children." She drank some more wine.
Gabrielle folded her arms, hiding her small grin. "Not all men are like that..." she stated and Xena didn't seem convinced, "my father wasn't like that, but you're right, there are many men like that unfortunately." She watched Xena as her eyes stared right into her. She was feeling nervous and on the spotlight now. Exhaling out briefly she asked, "what about your daughter's father?"
Xena lowered her eyes and tapped her fingers on the glass impatiently, "what about him?"
Gabrielle was surprised that Xena even answered and perhaps this means that she was opening up some, which was a good thing. "Did he leave you?" she asked.
"He died while I was giving birth to our daughter," Xena sipped the wine and Gabrielle's eyes widened as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "A Visigoth killed him," she hated to remember that day and even though it was more than ten years ago, she would never forget it, and it felt like it was just yesterday. She thought about it often especially when she looked at her daughter. She had blue eyes yes, but they definitely looked like Borias' eyes and her jaw was like his as well, very strong and stern. Even they shared the same endearing smile.
Gabrielle rubbed her arm anxiously, "I'm sorry," she sighed, "I shouldn't have asked, I should just mind my own business."
Xena smirked, "now you're catching on Gabrielle," she winked.
A few silent moments passed between them and Gabrielle noticed that Xena was just trying to pass this situation off using some kind of joke to cope with her true feelings and emotions. "Do you miss him?"
Xena pulled the wine glass away from her lips, lifting her eyebrow at the blonde. She walked over to her and sat down on the bed continuing to stare at her curiously. "Do you think I am a heartless person, Gabrielle?"
Gabrielle blinked, "no, I didn't say anything like that, I was just –"
"Everyone else does, why don't you? Or...do you?" she stood up and opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a stack of parchments. Gabrielle's eyes widened and her entire body tensed. Xena smiled waving the stack of notes in her hands, "I know everything about you Gabrielle. I know what you write when I am not around," she set the wine glass down and read one page of Gabrielle's secret letters.
She quoted, "this Hun woman named Xena, is cruel and I fear that she has a black heart," Xena scoffed and tossed the parchment and read the next one. Gabrielle frowned, now furious that Xena actually looked through her stuff and found her notes that she wrote in private. "Oh this is a good one," she chuckled, "I don't think I can live with her anymore. She has no feelings and seems to be emotionless –it's like living with a walking corpse." She tossed the parchment and read the next page.
Gabrielle stood up infuriated, "you looked through my notes?!" she yelled and Xena lifted her eyebrows, staring down at the blonde petite woman.
Xena smiled, "you belong to me. What is yours, is mine," she licked her finger and turned the page over. "Oh wait, this is a really good line right here," she winked and Gabrielle growled, ripping the parchment out from her hands. Xena frowned and grabbed Gabrielle's arm, pinning her to the wall and unsheathed her sword. Gabrielle breathed heavily and stared at the shiny blade. "You must have a warm heart, Gabrielle," she hissed and the blonde carefully eyed the blade as Xena toyed with it. "You say my heart is black...yet I don't write horrible things about you," she teased with a wicked smile.
Gabrielle frowned, "can you blame me?" she asked and Xena's eyes widened and pushed her arm against Gabrielle's collar bone. She groaned and felt herself being crushed slowly, almost like a python. "You have no idea what it's like to be me!" she croaked.
Xena laughed, "are you angry Gabrielle? That I took you away from your home, your life, your career? Is that it?" she said and Gabrielle frowned, refusing to answer. "I am giving you a..." she paused then smiled deviously, "opportunity," she hummed to herself, leaning in closer to Gabrielle's face. "What's the matter? You don't like that word anymore?" she chuckled.
"You are sick," Gabrielle choked out and Xena lifted Gabrielle's dress up with her sword. Gabrielle's eyes grew in her fear and Xena looked down at her slim yet shapely legs.
Xena kept her eyes on Gabrielle's legs and then saw her flat abdomen and a smile came to her lips. "How old are you, Gabrielle?" she asked.
Gabrielle held her breath and Xena ripped the dress with her blade and she cringed, closing her eyes. "Twenty!" she yelled out and Xena smiled, nodding her head.
"I remember being that age," Xena lifted her eyebrow, "it was a difficult year for me," she grinned. "You see, I was pregnant with my daughter and I had so many goals..." she sighed, "yet I did not complete all of them. I made sure to keep a list of those goals in my head to save for later," she winked and Gabrielle's breathing quickened as she felt Xena inching closer to her.
"If you're going to kill me just do it," Gabrielle looked at the ceiling fearing for the worse. Xena stared at her confusedly and began laughing. Gabrielle lowered her eyes and frowned, staring at Xena's large grin on her face. What the Hell?
Xena's laughter died down, "if I was going to kill you, I would have already," she narrowed her eyes and Gabrielle gulped, staring into her dangerous eyes. She looked under her dress, lifting it further with her sword then her fingers traced along Gabrielle's abdomen and felt her body tense at her touch, which caused her to grin to further grow with curiosity. "You are a virgin?" she asked.
Gabrielle lifted her eyebrows, "what?" she stammered.
"Oh now that it is my turn to ask questions you suddenly become mute," Xena smirked. "Are you...a virgin?" she repeated. Gabrielle said nothing and saw Xena chuckle under her breath. "Your silence is answer enough." She carefully traced the blade along Gabrielle's dress and sliced it open, revealing her chest and Gabrielle's eyes widened, staring down at herself. As if the bath was not enough, Gabrielle reminded herself.
Xena took a step back and with her sword, brushed the dress off of Gabrielle's body, now fully examining her. "You are right to keep your body as a sacred temple, Gabrielle. It will serve you well in the future," she smiled and Gabrielle kept staring at her with wide doe eyes. "If only all Greek girls were as innocent as you..." she sighed.
She walked forward and held the blade close to Gabrielle's soft creamy skin. She smiled and gently she grazed the blade into Gabrielle's chest, above her bare breast, cutting into her skin. Gabrielle cringed and blood trickled down her body and Xena grinned then pulled her sword away, wiping the blood off her fingers.
"That is a warning," Xena said and rubbed the blood in between her fingers. "If I catch you writing anything about me again, I will cut you, and cut you some more, and continue to do so until you get the message. Understand?" she said lowly and Gabrielle frowned up at her.
"I have the freedom to write what I want," Gabrielle stated and touched the small cut on her breast. It wasn't enough to get infected and it wasn't deep either but it stung. Somehow she felt fearless all of a sudden regardless of Xena's threats.
Xena frowned, "this is not Greece! You have no freedom here! Do you understand what you are?!" she grabbed her by her jaw, staring into her eyes, "you are a slave. Slaves don't have freedom and in my domain...you are not...free," she hissed.
Gabrielle looked up at her with wary eyes, "slavery was abolished in Athens fifty years ago," she said and Xena glared at her, only inches from her face. "All pre-owned slaves still lived with their masters but were paid for their work..." she added, "they have better relationships with their masters now. They became...friends," she whispered. "Athens is the only city to begin this movement and other cities are following. Corinth has released their slaves as well as Delphi..."
"Does this look like Athens to you?" Xena asked and Gabrielle shook her head. She released Gabrielle and sheathed her sword, "put on some clothes," she turned and left the room in a hurry.
Gabrielle let out a large exhale and dropped to her knees, wondering what the hell just happened just then. She could have been killed not once, but three or more times perhaps if she kept opening her mouth, but Xena did no such thing. Why, Xena?
Anastasia decided to stay in her room and not leave the yurt at all, not even to eat sometimes. Galena stayed with her of course, but she never felt so unsafe in her life after that night more than a week ago. She constantly woke up in the middle of the night thinking that somebody was in her room, when in fact, she was alone, wallowing in her own misery.
Attila's men had found the teenagers trying to make a run for it that night they entered Xena's home, but they didn't get very far. Attila reprimanded Gurgis and his two friends as well as Orestes, Gurgis' father. He was a trusted and loyal friend, though he wouldn't allow his son to do what he wants. If there were perhaps other girls in this city, then maybe this would be more of a problem.
Attila swore to Xena that he would protect her daughter for her no matter what and he kept his promises, even though Xena was a traitor. Her daughter was special to him and he wanted to make sure she was safe. He opted to station a few soldiers outside the yurt for Anastasia's safety and let Orestes deal with his son on his own accord. He knew that Gurgis was not going to get away with something such as horrendous as this.
Xena's men arrived in Pannonia in the middle of the night and left their horses in the woods behind the yurts. Two men crept in the bushes and saw some candles lit inside the yurt and figured that was Xena's daughter's room. They crawled on the ground with daggers in their mouths and faces hidden, wearing all black to shield them from prying eyes.
One of the men cut into the yurt's cloth steadily. He peered around the yurt and saw Attila's men walking around the front of the yurt and he crept down on his belly, cutting into the cloth more trying to be as quiet as possible. He ripped open the yurt and waved to his comrade to come forward.
The other soldier crawled into the yurt and saw the girl sleeping in her bed with a few candles lit around her. She looked so peaceful and he came around beside the bed and covered her mouth. Anastasia woke up and her eyes widened, trying to scream and he applied pressure to her mouth.
The other man slipped inside and pulled off his scarf around his face and her eyes widened and tried to get away. He put up his hand, "don't scream," he whispered and he heard muffled screaming. He groaned, "your mother sent us!" he hissed.
Anastasia stopped squirming and she relaxed a bit, her heart still pounding in her chest. The man let go of her mouth and she exhaled heavily. "My mother?" she asked.
He nodded, "yes, she is waiting for us to bring you to her," he said and extended his hand.
"W-where is she?" she asked, now feeling so confused. Her mother just left her here and now she sent mercenaries to take her?
"In Troy," he proceeded and started to feel nervous the longer they stayed here with Attila's men so close. He grabbed her hand hoisting her out of the bed. "We need to hurry," he whispered and she gasped as he guided her out of the yurt.
The soldier wrapped the scarf around his face and lifted her onto the horse and he climbed aboard, sitting in front of her. She looked around, now scared, she had never been outside of Pannonia before, not even to travel with her mother and now suddenly she was going to Troy? She didn't understand why her mother went through all this trouble to get her. He pulled on the reins and rode off in the forest, catching up with the other soldiers waiting for them on the outskirts.
One of Tanranus' best men saw the two approaching with the girl on the horse. "You got the princess. Did anyone see you?"
"Princess?" Anastasia questioned with furrowed brows.
He shook his head, "no sir, but we should leave. Attila's men are everywhere," he said and the others nodded, kicking their horses, riding off into the dark hills. Ana gasped and wrapped her arms around the man's waist, hanging on for dear life.
As they were riding her hair wisped in the air violently and suddenly felt very cold. She was wearing a long sleeve black dress and it wasn't very thick either since she slept in it, also she didn't have time to grab any warm boots either, instead she had her black slippers on. "How far is Troy?" she asked the horseman.
"A few days princess," he answered.
She frowned, "why do you keep calling me that?!"
He smiled beneath his scarf, "because that is what you are," he trotted through a cold river and she felt her body shivering against him. "There is a cloak in the bag on your left. I would advise putting it on," he said and she looked at him curiously, not fully trusting this man, though he seemed to be who he said he was, she was now more scared to leave her home than staying in her room for days on end.
She pulled out the cloak and slung it over her body, already feeling warmer. She wrapped her arms around the soldier once the horse's pace sped up. "What is my mother doing in Troy?" she asked.
"Conquering, princess," he answered and she leaned her head against his back, feeling so lost and confused.
A few days later Gabrielle had rewritten the letter that Xena once asked for and tried her best to tone down the language. She decided to stay in the room until the letter was perfect, otherwise Xena would probably crumble it up again. She also decided not to write anything about Xena anymore or her time being spent with her.
She sighed and set down the quill, finally finishing her fifth draft of the letter. She leaned back in the chair and peered down at the small cut above her breast. Her fingertips grazed it gently and thankfully was already scarring over. She'd never do that again, she told herself.
Xena stepped into the room and Gabrielle sat up, acting like she was busy with her work. "Did you finish the letter?" she asked, throwing her cloak on a chair casually.
Gabrielle handed her the letter, "yes and I rewrote it five times," she smiled tightly and Xena smirked, snatching the letter and read it carefully, pacing around slowly. Gabrielle folded her arms and watched her.
"Very nice, Gabrielle," she said and handed the letter back to her. "I will send that letter to the Onogur Bey tomorrow morning. It seems like you've learned your lesson, yes?" she lifted her eyebrow.
Gabrielle tapped the quill on the desk impatiently and sighed heavily. "There is nothing wrong with speaking your mind, you know..." she shyly spoke.
"You don't seem to have a problem doing that," Xena eyed Gabrielle's cut and the blonde covered her chest with the scarf around her shoulders. She chuckled and sat on the bed. "I don't want to hurt you Gabrielle." She said and the blonde's eyes widened at that. What a shock to hear that. "You are smart and I like you, but sometimes you just keep talking and talking and..." she smiled, "talking leads to consequences, you understand, don't you?"
Gabrielle nodded and both fell silent for a couple of moments. She frowned and stared at Xena as she was lacing a new set of boots in her lap quietly. "You aren't used to people talking back to you, are you?"
Xena lifted her eyes and pulled the lace through the boot's hole, "people who talk back to me lose their tongues," she smirked and Gabrielle indistinctively grasped her throat. "And that is not a figure of speech," she chuckled and went back to lacing her boots. "One time, one of Attila's soldiers disobeyed my command I gave him," she began and Gabrielle listened intently, "I tied him to a tree and cut out his tongue then I left him there to die." She laced the boot and then sighed, "I came back and saw he escaped. As if not cutting his tongue wasn't enough, he wrote messages conspiring against me," she smiled. "So I found him again and cut off his hands."
Gabrielle's eyes widened, "you really did that?" she couldn't believe that.
Xena smiled at her blonde slave, "no, that was a joke," she winked and Gabrielle hinted at a small smile. "But I did kill him," she sighed and finished lacing her boot. "It's best not to get on my bad side, you know?" she said and Gabrielle nodded, agreeing to that. It was just a statement of fact.
As Gabrielle watched Xena lace up her other boot she couldn't help but feel that Xena was a nice person deep down. If she were truly as cruel as people say, she wouldn't keep her alive for this long according to all the stories of how she brutally murdered people. She wanted to see the good in her, but somehow, she just couldn't do that just yet. Xena didn't trust anyone and obviously Gabrielle was one of those people. She had no trust and without trust, what do you have in life? Nothing.
A servant woman came into the room and Xena lifted her head. The woman lowered her eyes, "the soldiers have returned from Pannonia, your highness," she said.
Xena's eyes lit up and she placed the boot on the bed, leaving the room at once. Gabrielle got up quickly and followed behind her but not after grabbing a cloak to face the harsh weather.
Tanranus stood outside watching his group of men trot in on their horses and saw the girl riding on the back of a horse. He blinked, staring at the girl. She looked very much like Xena did especially with her long dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He had no idea that Xena even had a daughter or a child for that matter.
Xena quickly ran down the steps of the entrance of the fortress and saw her daughter on the horse. She smiled at her and the soldier helped Anastasia off the horse, wrapping the cloak tighter around her body. Anastasia stared at her mother with a blank stare and refused to move.
Xena came forward and cupped her daughter's face, staring into her eyes. She was not happy to be here obviously and she seemed different. "How was your ride here?" she asked.
Anastasia's eyes filled with tears and she began crying loudly and wrapped her arms around her mother, whimpering in her chest. Xena's eyes widened and she embraced her warmly, running her fingers through her long locks. She felt her daughter's body shaking against her and she frowned, pulling her away. "What's the matter?" she asked, wiping her tear stained cheeks.
Her daughter frowned and hit her mother's chest and Xena's mouth gaped. "You left me!" she yelled as tears kept streaming down her cheeks. "How could you do that?!" she raised her fist again and Xena grasped her wrist. She whimpered more and leaned into her mother's chest.
"I didn't want to leave you," Xena sighed and turned around to see Gabrielle watching from a distance. "I'm sorry," she whispered and kissed the top of her daughter's head.
She wrapped her arm around her daughter and lead her inside. Gabrielle lifted her eyebrow and followed them both.
After about an hour Anastasia cried herself to sleep in Xena's bed. Xena sat beside her and brushed a few hairs away from her daughter's cheek. She kept staring at her as she peacefully slept finally, though she tried to ask why she kept crying and why she was so upset, but the more she asked, the more Anastasia kept sobbing.
Gabrielle walked into the room and closed the door behind her. She tread carefully and sat in the chair beside the bed, peering over at the slumbering teen. "She finally fell asleep," she whispered.
Xena's eyes were locked on her daughter and sat in silence, now feeling awful for leaving her daughter behind but she didn't really have a choice then. She was being chased by Romans at the time and also, Anastasia stole her horse and took off to god knows where.
"She was really upset," Gabrielle said and Xena nodded, grasping her daughter's hand.
"I have never seen her like this before," she frowned, concerned.
Tanranus came into the room and saw Xena and Gabrielle hovering around the bed. "Xena...I need you to go over some plans with me.." he said, embarrassed to even ask for her help.
Xena frowned and was about to get angry though Gabrielle touched her hand. Xena's eyes widened and Gabrielle pulled her hand away so fast it was like it never happened. "I can watch her for you," the blonde offered.
Xena lifted an eyebrow and stood up, taking one last look at her daughter, "I will be back in one hour," she left with Tanranus down the hall and Gabrielle scooted the chair closer to the bed, watching Anastasia sleeping soundly and would wait patiently until she woke up.
Tanranus walked into the atrium and Xena walked in behind him. "Xena, we have some news."
"And what news is that?" she placed her hands on her hips.
He pursed his lips, "Theodosius pulled back his men from the borders around Troy."
She frowned, "and why would he do that?" she asked.
He shrugged, "we do not know but your men spotted Romans going north into the Balkans. Do Romans have territory up there?"
She lifted an eyebrow and stared at the map on the table. She pointed to where Troy was and Constantinople wasn't too far from them, but Romans going north? Towards Attila's territories? "No..they do not..." she looked up, staring at the wall, thinking this was news interesting, yet odd. "Have a group of mercenaries follow the Romans," she said and he blinked.
"This could be a trap!"
A smile graced her lips, "for them maybe," she winked.
Xena hadn't returned yet and Gabrielle still knew that she had some time to return, as it hadn't been an hour yet and she was sure Xena would keep her word to return. She decided to write while she waited, though not about Xena, but about her adventures being here. So far, it wasn't so bad, but she feared it might become worse especially Tanranus' urgency earlier. Whatever Xena had planned was not going to be good, Gabrielle knew that, but she had to remind herself, it was none of her business.
Anastasia frowned and her eyes fluttered open. She looked around the room and forgot where she was. She felt a hand come to her arm and she gasped, scooting away. Gabrielle frowned and then Anastasia relaxed, once she saw it was Gabrielle.
"Ana..." Gabrielle whispered. "Are you alright?" she asked and pulled her hand away.
The girl wrapped her arms around her knees, feeling safer this way. "Y...es..." she couldn't stop looking around the room. "Where is my mother?" she asked and Gabrielle was about to answer, "where is she?!"
"She's busy right now," Gabrielle frowned and sat on the bed, seeing the panic in the girl's eyes. "Hey, calm down," she touched her shoulder and Anastasia flinched, scooting away from her. "She'll be back soon, I promise," she smiled, trying to ease the girl's nerves, though it didn't seem to be working at all.
Xena walked into the room and saw her daughter was finally awake. She smiled and saw Gabrielle was trying to talk to her. She walked over to the bed and Gabrielle got up, taking a few steps back. "Do you feel better?" she touched her daughter's cheek and she leapt forward, wrapping her arms around her. Xena was stunned and she pried her daughter off of her. "What is wrong with you?"
Anastasia's eyes filled with tears again and Xena shook her head, "don't cry again, please," she begged and the girl stopped herself short of having another sobbing fit. "Why are you acting like this?" she grazed her cheek with her fingers.
"Mother..." she tried to speak but ended up sobbing some more. Xena sighed and Gabrielle folded her arms, leaning on the bed post.
Xena pulled her daughter close to her, "did something happen?" she asked softly and Anastasia nodded her head. "What happened?"
"I...I can't tell you," she said in between breaths then began unconsciously braiding her long hair trying to distract herself.
"Why not?" Xena frowned and lifted her daughter's chin. "You can tell me," she tried and her daughter shook her head, continuing to braid her hair.
Gabrielle felt like this definitely was not going anywhere and she interrupted, "hey Anastasia, do you want to look at some dresses? I think you will like them. They have burgundy ones, and blue too," she smiled and Anastasia grinned up at her brightly. Xena frowned and Gabrielle extended her hand to the girl.
"We can talk about this later," Xena said and Ana nodded her head, grabbing Gabrielle's hand. She watched the two leave and sighed. Gabrielle was right after all, she really didn't know her daughter too well and obviously couldn't even talk to her like a human being.