Work Header

Angel's Breath

Chapter Text

AN: This is focused on several things, one being religion. I don't want to offend anyone but it will be one of the focuses in this story. Lots of demon themed stuff as well as canon Xena as well. This is quite a different journey and even a different time period but it's Xena...I think any era goes, right?

I have my own characters in here as well as canon characters. Follow along and you'll do just fine.

Nature, nurture, heaven and home
Sum of all, and by them, driven
To conquer every mountain shown
But I've never crossed the river

Braved the forests, braved the stone
Braved the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I'm helpless by the river

Angel, angel, what have I done?
I've faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I've conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can't I cross this river?

Angel's Breath


Rome 1450 AD

The burning of flesh can wake up anybody on a gloomy morning. The agonizing screams of a young maiden filled the square where people gathered to watch the doom of this maiden's death. Bound and shackled to a crucifix, her feet tied, bruised limbs and tattered clothing. Hundreds of Romans gathered around watching the maiden slowly burn on the crucifix for a crime that she committed against the Holy Roman Empire. Whispers circled around but the maiden's banshee-like scream drowned them all out.

"Please! Have mercy!" The maiden cried out as she began to smell of her own flesh burning. Tears streamed down her cheeks as black smoke clouded her vision. She no longer saw eyes gawking at her but the bright heavens staring down at her. Coughing she closed her eyes as her lungs began to fill with black smoke.

The crowd was silent. Ever so silent. The maiden was no older than twenty and yet here she was being showcased to the world for her punishment. Was it really worth it?

The bishop looked on from afar as he watched the maiden's flesh continue to burn. She had passed out by now and her head lolled, her body became limp. He sighed no longer wishing to look at the monstrosity any longer. He snapped his fingers and the accommodating priests followed him back to his caravan that awaits him. The bishop only wished to stay as long as the girl took her last breath. He didn't need to see any more of it. this wasn't a practice that he thoroughly enjoyed as it was rather boring and dull, but when it needed to be done he was there as ordered by the higher powers.

"I will give word to the archbishop that the task at hand is complete. It will serve as a warning to those who all oppose the Holy Roman Empire," he whispered with malice to the priests accompanying him. Once he left in the caravan back to the church the crowd began to disperse. Many stayed behind and put out the roaring fire that slowly began to die. The maiden's flesh was burnt to a crisp and she was no longer the gorgeous blonde that she once was. She was just a corpse now, destined for Hellfire.

In the alleyway nearby a hooded lurker watched the entire barbaric practice of burning the poor girl. The lurker rubbed his chin unsure what to make of this. It had been the third burning this month. That was far too many in his opinion. Most people that burned at the stake were those who practiced witchcraft and those who practice witchcraft defied the church. This had to be more than just witchcraft, unless there were witch hunters? There is such a thing in fairytale books perhaps, the lurker told himself.

Swiftly, the lurker hurried down the alleyway, his dark cloak swishing behind. He made sure his appearance was to be unknown as he was also wanted by the church, but he made sure he was never caught. The church may be powerful but the people inside...not so bright, he snickered at his own thoughts.

After a few more turns in the labyrinth of alleyways in this god-forsaken city he made it to the outskirts where someone was eagerly waiting for him. His cohort was standing next to a black horse and he pulled out a piece of paper from his cloak pocket. The mysterious rider looked to the lurker and stuffed the letter in the pocket of her cloak. The lurker saw a subtle smile appear under that dark hood. He felt that he did some good service. The lurker never asked questions of whom he met and nor did he need to as long as the message got to the right person it didn't matter.

The problem was...exchanging information often got messengers killed even when they are most stealthy and most careful. He was like a sub-messenger –relaying messages to other messengers so they could be delivered to their rightful owner or place. He didn't know the details but he knew the long ride to the source was a deadly one. The messenger might end up like that poor maiden or worse. He didn't want to think about that now. He needed to get out of this city and go back to his abode, hidden in a forest not too far from Rome.

In the dead of the night the messenger rode far from Rome, as far as she could. She needed to give this important note to her commander. She wasn't going to stop even if her horse gave out in the end. This was far too vital for any mistakes. As she continued to ride she heard a whistling sound come from behind her. Turning her head it was too late. An arrow struck her in the shoulder blade and she groaned in agonizing pain.

Soon, another arrow pierced her barely above her hip bone and she lost control, falling off her horse, tumbling down on the cold grassy planes. Moaning she snapped the arrow in her side off and persevered to get up and try to make a run for it. when she almost made it up a large black boot stomped on her hand and she screamed, feeling the small bones cracking and hissing beneath her flesh.

The invader ripped the hood off the rider and exposed her wild red curly hair. She gasped as her eyes traveled upward at the masked man. He grabbed her by her hair lifting her up off the ground. She yelped and grimaced at her attacker. He had a menacing smile and instantly she felt shivers travel up her spine.

"Who do you work for, lassie?" the gruff sounding man asked. Her response was a large glob of saliva in his face. He frowned and threw her on the ground. "Playing hard to get are ye?" he chuckled and walked over to his large steed to retrieve his enormous blade.

Looking back her eyes widened in fear once she saw the blade. It must have been the same size as she was. Crawling on her knees she scurried across the grassy planes tugging at her wounded side, she winced as the stinging pain worsened. As she desperately crawled on the cold soil she felt the cloak tighten on her neck and she choked. He stepped on her cloak and she coughed as she tried to undo the clasp about her neck.

"I know of you call yourselves the angels or some horseshit like that..." he snickered. "Seeking peace where it need not be! Passing notes like school children to your leader!" he raised the blade high in the sky with a beaming smile. "Not today, lassie!" he swung the blade down into her spine and a loud bellowing scream filled the silent night sky.

With her last breath her arm extended and became limp. Her bloody fingers slowly opened and the letter in her hand was tucked in her palm. Still hopeful.

Early the next morning the lurker was rudely awakened by someone stabbing him with an end of a broomstick. He grumbled and opened an eye, shying away from the bright sunlight beaming into his small shack. "What the hell..." he mumbled, rubbing his eyes he saw his elderly neighbor, Agatha, glaring at him.

"you got a lady visitor," Agatha chided with her arms folded, not very happy that there were visitors coming to her home. She had stayed hidden away from the Romans for quite some time and she didn't want unexpected people coming by. She walked around his room and picked up a few empty wine bottles and a pair of pants that looked like they hadn't been washed in weeks. She cringed and threw the pants over her shoulder. "This place is a pigsty! Didn't your mother teach you how to clean, boy?"

He chuckled, "my mother died when I was ten. Sorry for the inconvenience..." he rolled his eyes and rolled out of bed, completely nude. Agatha's eyes bulged out and she gasped, turning away slightly embarrassed. "Come on, Aggie, nothin' you ain't seen before!" he smiled. He slipped on a pair of pants that were laying casually on a chair near his bed and put on the tunic he wore the night before. "So who's this lady friend?"

Agatha cringed as she continued to look at his mess of a room. "How should I know? You know how much I love visitors..." she sarcastically added. "She said she had an important message for you."

He peered out the sheer curtain in the small window and saw a hooded woman waiting for him patiently. "Fuck..." he whispered.

"Language!" she interjected. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek as hard as he could and grabbed his cloak. She shook her head and wiped her cheek. That man is going to kill me one of these days, she thought.

Stepping outside he slipped his cloak on over his head to conceal his identity. He rarely had people come to his home let alone know where he lived. He cleared his throat getting the young woman's attention. She turned and he only saw her bright pink lips part beneath the dark hood. "You know, I don't really make house calls," he teased.

The woman stepped forward and concealed her face furthermore. "Forgive me...I found out where you lived by a friend of a friend. It was urgent..." she said in a hushed tone. He came closer to her and she shied her hooded face away. "The letter you gave to that messenger yesterday...she was..found dead," she admitted solemnly.

He sighed, "it happens. I'm sorry for your loss but I really can't do anything..."

She dug in her breast and pulled out the bloodied letter and extended her arm. "The letter...I don't know where to take it...I found her..."

The lurker saw the bloody letter in the woman's hands and he backed away shaking his head. "What makes you think I know where to take it? That's not how this works...I give you ladies the information and you leave then I go on about my merry little way," he scolded.

By her lack of response he wasn't sure what to make of this woman. She seemed confused or she was dumb, one or the other. He was growing frustrated and turned to go back to his bed for the rest of the day until he was needed again. The hooded woman spoke up finally. "Wait!"

He turned and she slipped the letter in her pocket. "I think you are mistaking me for someone else...I read the letter..." her head lowered. "I am not one of those angel girls who sends messages to distant lands..."

Now he was the confused one. Here he had a cloaked woman in front of his home asking him about this letter and she too was clueless. "Then who the hell are you?" he folded his arms, tempted to go grab his short sword inside his home.

"I can't say," she shied away. "It is forbidden to be who I am in Rome."

The lurker snickered, "well I am not a Roman, lady." He saw she turned her face away once more. "But I suppose you already knew that since you somehow found me...which I'd like to find out how exactly you did that..." he mumbled. This conversation had gone on far too long and he was rudely awoken by this woman he had no connection with. He had a lot of sleeping and drinking to catch up on and so far, she had ruined his morning routine of drunkenness. "Well it's been lovely talking to you but I have duties to take care if you don't mind," he bowed slightly with a smug grin.

The woman watched him walk towards his home once more. "Who are you?" she called out.

He paused and closed his eyes, feeling a headache coming on and it definitely wasn't from the alcohol he had last night. "I could ask you the same thing."

"You work with the resistance against the church. People call you the lurker but who are you...really?" she continued on with the questions and saw that he was becoming more irritated by the minute.

The lurker turned around to face the cloaked woman. "That's none of your business who I am," his tone darkened. He went back into his shack and disrobed. "God, that woman!" he rubbed his face out of frustration. He peeked out the window and saw the woman was still there, though she was slowly backing away. Agatha was cleaning his room and he pulled on his hair. "Now, what the hell are you doing! I just got those boots last week!" he grabbed the brown boots and hugged them to his chest.

"It's a mess in here!" she reprimanded. He shooed her away and she gasped as he was pushing her out of his room. He slammed the door and sighed throwing the boots down on the ground. He plopped down on his bed and lolled his head to the side. The mirror had shown his true self, his ugly self.

He touched his face gently with his fingertips. His once perfect face had been burned by a scorching crucifix some time ago when he defied the church. Able to escape he hid from the church and the archdioceses for many years now. The job that he had now was important only because he believed that there was evil within, a dark looming evil entity that would show itself and soon. He could feel it as every day passed by. Lately with all the burnings he had to relay many messages to these angel women. He didn't know if they called themselves that or if someone named them that.

They were obviously a very clandestine group because nobody else really knew about them. Deep down he wanted to know more about them but it was probably best if he didn't know the people he did business with. It often got them killed. He sighed as he laid in bed. He always wondered what would happen if he had shown his face in public. Would everyone have forgotten who he was? Or would he be reminded of what a heathen he was depicted to be?

A few days later loud bells were sounded off in the square in the center of Rome. The lurker hid next to a deserted fruit vendor's stand and saw a sea of people gathering around the square. The boy in the bell tower was definitely working his butt off this morning, the lurker chuckled to himself. A few moments of loud chattering and shuffling around he saw a group of men riding in on white horses with gold masks on. There was also a woman riding on a horse behind them. She looked to be important. Truth to be told, he never kept up with the latest kings and queens of various lands outside the papal states. There were far too many according to him and they always made things more complicated for Rome. They were either with the church or they weren't and when they weren't there were a lot of consequences.

"Another pompous queen, of course, because we all need more of those," he snickered and saw a few people turn around after he made his snide comment. He frowned and pulled away into another corner. He decided to climb up a shopkeeper's inn and sit on the stone column to oversee the crowd.

The woman was quite tall, dark wavy hair with a fair complexion, although not too fair, not like the Celts. She wore a black velvet dress with an empire waist style and puffy sleeves accentuating her broad square shoulders. The lurker saw the woman dismount her horse and the sea of people made a pathway for her. She simply smiled and picked up her large petticoat dress as she climbed the stairs inside of St. Peter's Basilica. He frowned as he saw the doors close and in that instant she was gone.

Too bad he still didn't have connections within the church so he could know all of their devious secrets and plans, but alas, he was exiled from the church. He didn't want to be associated with them and their dastardly ways.

Inside the Basilica the awaited guest was ushered inside to meet with the archbishop as planned. She had been waiting for this meeting for weeks now. She understood that the man was very busy but he couldn't possibly be more busy than the pope, she thought.

There he was, the elderly archbishop sitting on a rather extravagant throne waiting for her to arrive. He looked so decrepit that he could keel over at any time. She was not one with the church completely, but tolerated it and it's organized religion. She came up to the archbishop and knelt down showing her respect. He pat her shoulder and she smiled up at him as she stood up taking a few generous steps back. Two men brought out a chair for her and she sat down spreading her dress out. The circumference of the gown was quite elaborate and stretched at least two feet around the chair.

"Thank you for coming Queen Xayida of Macedonia," the archbishop smiled at her and she curtly bowed her head.

"I didn't think this meeting would ever come," she politely said while batting her long lashes. Her ice blue eyes pierced through the archbishop. He really admired her. She had always been so cooperative compared to other nation states outside of the papal states. Not to mention, she was really lovely to look at. Her beauty was too be admired. Her perfect cheekbones and sharp jaw line gave her the look of a true regal queen.

He coughed and drank some water quenching his dry throat. "Milady..." he began in a soft tone. "We both know why I have called you to this meeting, right?" she nodded her head. "As you know...the Turks are continuing to invade our land and yours as well."

"Yes, it is becoming quite a problem these days," she creased her brows, feeling her body tense up just thinking about it. She didn't want to lose her small empire to the Turks.

He bobbed his head and thought for a few moments before answering. "The Turks plan to invade Greece soon. I am not on good terms with Greece at the moment. In fact, I care little about Greece's future as long as it's a future of the church's," he grinned deviously. Xayida knew where this conversation was headed and knew it would be a disaster. Her blood was already beginning to boil. "Now...we both know Greece has a very large empire and also has an abundance of gunpowder."

Xayida frowned, "yes I am aware," she firmly replied. "If you are suggesting that Greece will give up its gunpowder treasury then you are mistaken, archbishop," she said as politely as she could.

The archbishop understood that. Greece would not give away their never-ending supply of gunpowder to Rome. He wagged his finger grabbing Xayida's attention. "I am not merely suggesting it, but I am enforcing it...your sister is the queen of Greece. You are the only one who might be able to persuade her –"

Xayida began laughing and then saw the serious expression upon his face. Her laughter slowly died off and she covered her mouth delicately. "I am not on good terms with my sister right now Your Grace..." she lowered her eyes.

He narrowed his eyes, "then I suggest you get on good terms with her and soon," he smiled tightly then got up to leave. She stood up and knelt down before she made her exit.

She stormed through the hall picking up her dress her loud clacking of her heels filled the Basilica's marble flooring; echoing off the walls. The doors were opened for her and she stormed out to see the sea of people still standing there waiting for her to come out. She curtly smiled at them all and hurried to her horse. Mounting her white steed she turned to Raul, her advisor, "When we arrive in Venice I want a letter sent out to my sister at once!"

Raul nodded and bowed his head at his queen. "Yes your majesty, it will be done."

"She thinks that she is god's infallible saint. She is a harpy in the devil's cave," Xayida mumbled to herself. Raul's eyes widened at the malicious words that came from his queen's mouth. He always knew that the queen had a sour relationship with her sister, but he never knew her hatred for her went so deep.

The lurker watched from afar as Queen Xayida departed from the square. He wondered what happened in there. She looked miffed and quite upset, but what royal isn't? they were always in such awful moods. He only presumed that it was because of the large amount of stress they were under all the time. He disappeared into the dark alleyway to go back to his shack. He liked to keep up with the times and occasionally dropped in to see who came to visit even if it was of no importance to him.

As he rounded a corner he bumped into a cloaked figure. He looked to the lower half of the figure's face and saw it was the same who came to see him a few days ago. He rolled his eyes and groaned. "You again? What do you want? I told you I can't help you..."

She followed him as they walked down the dark alleyway hidden from the public. "Did you see the Macedonian Queen?" she anxiously said.

The lurker nodded, "oh so that's where she's from?" he scoffed. "Don't hear too much from the Macedonians," he smugly grinned.

"I heard she was going to Venice for a meeting with the head cardinal in that state," she began. The lurker looked disinterested. "I also heard she was going to write to her sister by orders of the archbishop just after she left the square," she added, hoping that'd get his attention.

He turned to face his annoying shadow of a woman. "Do you really think that I care about queen sisters and their petty quarrels?" he shook his head. "It's always, 'my husband slept with my sister' or 'she bore the child of my lover now she must die!'" he mocked and began to laugh.

The hooded woman went in front of him blocking his path. He frowned and folded his arms trying to get past her. "You don't know the Queen's sister do you?" she said quietly.

"No I don't nor do I if you could just mo –"

She put her hands on his shoulders firmly, "she has been the center of chaos for over ten years. If the queen is to speak to her again...this will only create war and more chaos!" she almost yelled and remembered that she was supposed to be under cover.

The lurker gently pushed the woman aside and continued walking into the forest where his shack was. She continued to follow him and he didn't seem to mind except she was annoying the hell out of him now.

"She has been dormant for years now! I fear that this will cause destruction in Rome as well as surrounding empires!" she called out barely keeping up with the lurker. He continued to ignore her and she huffed, running to him. They had finally arrived a few blocks from his shack and she stopped him. She ripped the hood off her head and the lurker looked at the woman with large eyes under his hood.

She was quite a beautiful young woman with auburn wild wavy hair and fair skin with doe brown eyes. "I come from the land of the queen's sister. My leader told me to come to Rome so I could find's why I've been following you.."

The lurker didn't know what to say for once. His sarcastic aura had suddenly disappeared. "Well I...your leader? So you don't follow this queen's sister?" she shook her head vigorously. "Who is your leader?"

She lowered her eyes, "I am not allowed to say. She is also a queen..."

He set his hands on his hips. "Jesus, how many queens are there in this land?" he scoffed. "Which land is it that you're from, woman?"

"Greece," she answered rather proudly. He sighed and kept walking towards his home. She followed him and threw her hood back over head once more to conceal her identity.

Inside his shack he offered her a seat on a chair with many clothes on it. she took the hood off and brushed her finger on the chair. Feeling a bit disgusted she sat down gingerly, careful not to touch anything. The lurker took off his cloak with his back facing the woman. "So," he began to pour some wine for himself and his guest. "Your queen sent you here to find me...and suddenly this Macedonian Queen comes along and now it's a big deal, correct?" he turned around and his full face was revealed. He handed her the goblet of wine and her eyes grew in shock to see his half burned face. "Yes, I know, horrifying isn't it?" he joked.

"No, no. I think it gives you character," she smiled warmly as she sniffed the wine.

"Clever words," he sat on his bed and relaxed a bit. He hadn't shown his face to anyone except his annoying neighbor which wasn't around right now, thank god. "Who is this terrible queen that you're so worried about?"

The woman eyed him cautiously. "The Queen of Greece. You've never heard of her?"

"I've been a little out of the loop, woman," he grinned and sipped his wine.

She sighed and tapped the goblet with her fingers, a bit anxious all of a sudden. "Her name is Xena. She's the elder sister of Xayida, the Queen of Macedonia."

"Xena," he thought of the name. it sounded familiar but he couldn't put a face to the name. "She's the big bad queen, right?"

She nodded her head.

"But you don't follow her, have I got that right?" he raised a brow. She nodded once more. "So there's a another queen in Greece..." again she nodded. "And who is that?"

This time she shook her head and set the wine on a table nearby. "I'm not allowed to say. I'm here on a mission that is all."

"And what mission is that?" he asked out of curiosity.

"To overthrow Xena."

Athens, Greece

A young slave boy shook as he looked around him and there were several smashed apples on the ground. So far she had not missed a single apple throughout this little game she has been playing for a couple of hours.

"I haven't got all day, boy," she called out from a distance away. The slave boy sighed and picked up a fresh apple from the basket next to his feet. He set it atop of his head and closed his eyes, hoping that she would continue to hit the target and not blow his head off.

She settled the matchlock's butt stock against her shoulder and focused on the apple on the boy's head. Closing one eye her finger grazed the trigger, breathing in slowly and –

"Your highness!"

She pulled the trigger and missed the apple on top of the boy's head and nearly shot his foot. The boy yelped and fell to the ground in fear. She groaned, "for the love of Zeus!" she turned to her interruption and saw it was a messenger. "What is so important that you had to interrupt my game?" she frowned as her ice blue eyes widened, scaring the messenger.

He stuttered and dropped to his knees begging forgiveness. She smirked and looked to the frightened boy. "That's enough for today Demetrio," she waved him off. She turned her attention back to the shaking messenger. "Get up," she demanded.

He did as told and stood up rummaging through his bag filled with various letters he had to deliver. He pulled out the one appropriate for her and extended his hand making sure not to get too close. "For you, your majesty," he bowed his head.

She sighed and handed the matchlock to her hand maiden to grab the letter. She saw the seal and it was obviously from the papal states. She smirked and ripped open the letter reading over it carefully. A few silent moments passed and she began to laugh. The messenger looked up and saw her laughing uncontrollably. He didn't understand her odd behavior, but in truth, nobody did. He smiled hesitantly at her as she continued to laugh.

Her laughter died down and she let out an overdramatic sigh. "My sister wants to meet with me. Imagine that?" her eyes widened as did her eerie smile, staring at the messenger. "I haven't heard from her in ten years and suddenly she wants to see me," she crumbled the letter and threw it at the messenger.

She pointed at the low man and her eyes darkened. "You can tell her highness to go to Tartarus!" she yelled and the man's eyes grew in fear of the queen.

He bowed his head as the queen brushed past him. "Yes your majesty, God's speed," he said.

She rolled her eyes and waved her hand, "yes, yes. You and your god's speed." She dismissively said, retreating back to her castle.

As she entered her home she unrolled her flowing sleeves of her white button down tunic. It was seen as odd for women to wear pants but she defied all logic of that. She too had extravagant expensive dresses but when she was playing a game or something of the sort she wore pants and a simple tunic. Walking down the hall she saw Cacin, a visitor that she was expecting today. The letter she received from her sister was definitely unexpected.

"Cacin, my friend," she stretched her arms out and he grinned at her, anxious to even get close to her. She squeezed his hands then wrapped her arm around the lanky fellow. She forced him to walk with her down the long dark hall in her castle. "I hope you bring good news for me or else..."

"You will...impale me?" he smiled.

She laughed heartily, "you Turks and your jokes. I haven't impaled someone in years, Cacin," she said nonchalantly.

"What about that lad from Bulgaria? Didn't you kill him last month?" he frowned.

She nodded her head, "oh yes...that was different," she sighed. "Anyway, what news do you have for me today?" she smiled warmly. They stopped inside a spacious room with many couches and lounges. She gestured for him to sit and she sat down comfortably. He joined her but remained very cautious of her. Yes, she was his friend, but she was still a bit scary and he left the Ottoman Empire. Now he served no one as long as he had many connections.

"Queen Xayida came to Bulgaria last week before she went to Rome," he began and saw her eyes darken, almost as if they turned two shades darker. "She's trying to get Bulgaria to follow the Holy Roman Empire."

She traced her fingertips on her thigh as she listened intently. "Of course she is," she tartly said with a tight smile. "Funny that you mention her, she sent me a letter. She said she wants to meet with me," she snickered.

Cacin smiled, "that's most intriguing."

"It makes more sense now. She wants to be rid of me just like she did ten years ago," she laughed. "And she's trying to get those clergymen to do the dirty work for her!" she smiled biting her fingernail unconsciously. "She could never do anything for herself," she snuffed.

Cacin could only laugh at her words that spoke so ill of her sister. "Well, the church is a very powerful entity on its own, Xena."

She could agree to that. "But the church is not Greece, it is not me," she grinned wily.

He wagged his finger at Xena. "See that's what I've always liked about you. So confident and your beauty," he touched his heart, "only adds to how wonderful you are," he winked.

Xena rolled her eyes, "such flattery, Cacin," she extended her hand and he gladly kissed it. She winked at him and retracted her hand. "I should throw a party for my sister..." she tapped her chin with a devious smile.

"What a splendid idea," he added.

"Yes...yes it is," her grin widened.

Chapter Text

AN: I really don't want to reveal too much in this chapter but..Gabrielle is important here ;) let me know what your thoughts are so far!

Chapter One

Tempe Valley Castle, Macedonia: Territory of Greece

Xayida danced gracefully with her sword twirling in the air against her opponent. She had a hobby of sword fighting and although her empire was never under attack she wanted to be prepared constantly. In one of her large ballrooms she spared with one of her sword masters for over an hour. Spinning in her tightly fitted white dress she drove the blade into her opponent. He ultimately lost and she grinned taking off her protective on her face.

"I win again, Petro," she smirked and he got up off the floor taking off his mask to congratulate his queen in her earned winnings.

"Very good game your highness. We shall continue this spar tomorrow, yes?" he kissed her hand and she grinned, allowing her expression to speak for itself. He gathered his belongings and head out for the remainder of the day to relax and vegetate.

She soon exited the ballroom and closed the large doors behind her. Letting her dark hair down from a tight bun, she tousled her long wavy locks using her fingers as a comb. Her eyes glanced over at her distraught messenger coming towards her with a worrisome expression. Frowning she approached him and brushed the wrinkles out from her dress.

"Your majesty..." the messenger dropped to one knee and his breath was baited from the long journey he just embarked on from Athens.

Xayida lifted the poor man up and set a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Zakos, what is the matter with you?" she frowned. "Did you get my letter to Athens like I asked you to?"

He nodded his head and she stared at him patiently. He thought she must have been waiting for a letter of reply but he didn't have one. He only had one simple message for the queen. "Her majesty of Athens...she says you can go..." he didn't even want to say it. he really loved his queen and couldn't speak ill of her even though these were not his words.

Xaydia folded her arms, "what? What did she say?" her voice dripping with malice.

"She said you can go to Tartarus..." he whispered. Looking at her blue eyes he saw much anger frothing inside her as he said those words to her. She almost looked like she were going to gouge his eyes out right then and there with her sword.

Instead, she tapped her blade's tip against the stone cold floor and narrowed her eyebrows. She was not quite certain it was the best idea to contact her sister even though the archbishop said to. "I see. She's quite a treasure isn't she?" She sighed, "no matter. I will visit her personally even if it kills me." She swung the blade and Zakos flinched. She stared back at the frightened messenger, "were you able to get my..." she looked around to make sure nobody else was listening, "other letter?" she raised her eyebrows, hopeful enough.

Unfortunately he had horrid news for her. "No your highness. I found the rider dead in the middle of a Roman field. She didn't have the letter on her." He lowered his head, quite sorrowful that that poor young lady died for risking her life to deliver a piece of paper to a far distant land.

Xayida groaned, this news was worse than the first she received. Nothing was going according to plan, which wasn't so unusual for her but lately everything had been so disorderly. She wanted things to go smoothly and when they didn't, she felt her mind fill with deep thoughts and dark scenarios of what might happen if she indeed had gone into a madness spree. No, she wouldn't be known as a queen gone mad, not like her sister. Though, Xayida did not believe Xena was insane, no in fact, she is quite intelligent which is probably the only thing keeping her alive.

Xena's tactics to stay alive and keep her empire going were impeccable which made her an immediate enemy of the papal states and the Ottomans. Xena did not desire the world, no, she wasn't that foolish. She just wanted others to succumb to her way of going about things. She had the largest supply of gunpowder in the western world which made her basically untouchable. The church wanted Xena gone, that was clear ten years ago, but here she is, alive and well. The church had plenty of resources to oust Xena and her empire, but each attempt on her life was a fail not because the church was incompetent but because Xena was cunning, quick and was always one step ahead of everyone else.

Xayida had always admired Xena growing up, her elder sister only by two years, which was probably why they got along so well. They did everything together, they even had an empire together until one harsh winter, they split their ways because of various differences in how to govern. Xayida desired something different than Xena when it came to power. Their differences ultimately lead to a relationship of hate and abandonment.

Not long after the two split and went their separate ways Xayida was having a hard time establishing herself. Xena always had the best connections and she was no stranger to men in various lands. She used men to her advantage throughout her life. She told her little sister that men are just pawns in a world filled with women. They are to be used and discarded afterward, though sometimes they can be used multiple times, like a sword. Some men were good for something Xena often told her.

Xayida was not brave enough to make these so called connections with men like her sister did, so she found solace with other people, mainly women. She got along with them better and were less likely to betray her like men would. She found a particular group of women that would help her establish herself in her new home –Macedonia. Now it was considered a territory to Greece, but she would soon fix that.

Even to this day, Xayida was in close contact with a queen in a land close to Greece, far enough from Xena, thank god, she reminded herself every day. In fact, that was why she really was counting on that letter from her messenger. She needed to tell her dear friend what was happening in Rome but with Xena in the way, she would have to manage her emotions very carefully especially if she was going to see her face to face.

She turned to Zakos, her messenger, "can you deliver another letter for me?" she eyed him with a sweet mischievous smile. He nodded at her and she took him into another room whispering softly along the way.

The Caucasus Mountains: Province of Greece

Mira walked through the large eccentric palace, dressed in a thick red cloak and animal fur pelts wrapped around her, covered in snow. She ran her fingers through her hair to shake the snow out of her red locks. She noticed that the palace was very desolate. She didn't see a person in sight at all. She had been traveling for quite some time and it took her awhile to get back to her home with some devastating news for her queen.

She came to a room with two amazons guarding the entryway. She smiled, "I have news that I bring from Rome," she bowed her head. The two amazons looked to her then cleared the path pulling back their large javelins. Mira walked into the throne chamber and saw her queen standing reading a book, pacing around in a circle.

"My Queen," Mira dropped to her knee, bowing her head as her hair veiled her face. "I bring news from Rome," she announced loudly and she peered up to see her queen's reaction.

The blonde queen raised an eyebrow and told her to get up off the floor. She hated that people bowed to her as if she were someone special. Just because she was queen didn't mean she was above anyone morally. She ruled these amazons, but she was an amazon first before a queen.

"And what is the verdict?" she asked young Mira.

The redhead amazon's head lowered. "I'm afraid I was not able to retrieve the important message from the messenger," she admitted sadly. "She was found dead in a Roman field. I was told by one of the contacts while I was in Rome."

The queen sighed shaking her head. "We've had too many risk their lives to send these messages from land to land. It just is not fair," she concluded and closed the book, setting it down on the armrest of her throne.

Mira nodded, agreeing with her queen. "What shall we do now, my queen? Should I go back and –"

"No," the queen held up her hand, "it is too dangerous. We cannot lose you too. I won't allow it to happen again. This mission is not worth it if people keep dying."

The redhead stood at a standby, watching the queen ponder in her thoughts. "There is one more thing," she said twisting her fingers behind her back. The queen eyed her carefully with patient eyes. "Queen Xayida came to Rome for important business that which I do not know of, but she appeared to be very upset. I overheard that she is going to reconnect with her sister..." she let the rest speak for itself. She saw her queen's eyes widen and then she saw her express extreme sorrow and defeat.

"She is going to awaken a monster," the queen sighed softly, thinking of all the horrible consequences this will create. Everyone was going to pay all because of the Holy Roman Empire's meddling. Sometimes it is best to leave some people alone because they are far more dangerous than ever imagined. Her eyes softened and a small thankful smile crossed her lips. "Thank you for relaying these messages to me, Mira."

Mira smiled bowing her head, "of course. My pleasure," she turned on her heel and exited the throne room, passing by the two amazon guards once more.

The queen looked outside and saw the mountain tops starting to become covered with snow. Winter is coming and at the worst time, she thought. She sometimes winter would skip her home and spare her people from potential famine and starvation. That's where Macedonia came in. Queen Xayida was a great ally to have and sent supplies to the amazons during harsh winters. She always thought Xayida was so generous to do so when her empire is equally impacted by the snowy winters every year as well. But the Macedonian queen is selfless.

That evening she retired to her room but brought books with her. She always liked to read before bed, but she feared that she would not be getting sleep anytime soon with that awful news she got earlier. Xayida reconnecting with Xena? It didn't make sense at all, unless the archbishop had a special agenda planned for the Greek Queen.

Queen Gabrielle had a quite lovely relationship with Xena five years ago, but it ended sourly because of many reasons. Xena was on a different path than her. She believed that she could work with Xena until she found out that Xayida was her sister then things became more complicated. It became even more complex when Xena found out that Gabrielle befriended her younger queen sister. How could she know? Gabrielle constantly felt guilty for cutting off the five year relationship she had with Xena. She wasn't sure if it was all of her decision. Xayida told her that Xena was a bad person, someone who was on the path of destruction but Gabrielle thought differently.

The time she spent with her was great and they were partners together which also explained the strain between The Amazon Nation and Greece. Xena still technically controlled the Caucasus region due to past treaties and pacts that they made together. Everyday Gabrielle questioned her decision to separate herself from Xena and wondered if it was the right choice, but Xayida ensured her it was the best decision she would make. Gabrielle wasn't so sure. Xayida never spoke of Xena and vice versa. Xena never mentioned she had a sister when she was friends with Gabrielle and it was probably because their relationship was so strained and personal that she did not wish to share it.

She had come to the conclusion that Xena was misunderstood, not a malicious person. Xayida was obviously hurt by Xena many years ago, which Gabrielle did not know the reasons for. Every time Gabrielle visited Xayida in Macedonia and Xena came into the conversation accidentally she became so angry and raged; she wished her sister were dead. Gabrielle had not the courage to ask Xayida what happened between the sisters, but she hoped one day she would find out.

Gabrielle sighed heavily and ran her fingers through her blonde locks trying to refocus her mind on the issue at hand. She tried to forget about the Xena/Xayida complex for now. She was more worried about the messenger getting killed in that Roman field. She wondered how long she had been dead before Mira delivered the message to her. She also wanted to know what the message said but looks like she would never know. Whoever killed her knew about the mission at hand.

The Angel Messengers are their name. A very clandestine group organized by a resistance against the church in Rome. Xayida was connected in some way Gabrielle knew that much but she didn't know too much about these Angel Messengers. Mira was sent on a very special mission to find out who was the provider of these secret messages. Gabrielle never received word on that, she had forgotten but tomorrow she would make sure she'd ask Mira about it.

Mira was Gabrielle's best amazon warrior. She had been rescued from a prison in Greece when she was ten years old. Now at eighteen she was the best warrior in the Amazon Nation and so Gabrielle promoted her to special missions outside her small kingdom to seek valuable information in Rome and various papal states. Gabrielle made a note to write Xayida a letter tomorrow morning about the fallen Angel Messenger. She had to be very careful what she wrote in the letter because it was quite dangerous to travel across the Caucasus to Greece then to Macedonia. Her message could be compromised in the process.

Finally, she decided to open a book to read. She had been reading this one for awhile –The Odyssey. She always had an appreciation for Greek myths and tales ever since she was a child. How could she not? She too was from Greece.

As she began to read the first paragraph she was interrupted by a small figure coming into her room. She smiled and set her book aside, deciding it was just not the right time to read she concluded. "What are you doing up? Isn't it passed your bedtime?" she smirked.

The small blonde child grinned and climbed onto her bed. "I am not tired," she yawned and Gabrielle nodded, grabbing the child to sit in her lap. Freya, a child rescued from a wrecked Norse ship in the Mediterranean Sea as an infant. The Amazons were in the area and Gabrielle found the babe in the belly of the ship with everyone abandoned. She took it upon her that day to take the infant into her home and raise her as her own. Her family had never been found and she wouldn't leave a small creature to fend for herself.

Six years later, Freya now had well adjusted to the amazon way of life and had been accepted into the tribe as Gabrielle's adopted daughter. She was not treated any different, Gabrielle made sure she was treated the same as every child in her kingdom.

Freya snuggled against Gabrielle holding a stuffed animal in her arms. "It's snowing outside, did you see?" she pointed to the window. Gabrielle looked over and indeed saw snowflakes falling from the dark skies.

"I see it is." She smiled, hugging her tightly. "Do you want me to read you a story?" the child's eyes lit up and she nodded her head instantly intrigued. She always loved when Gabrielle read her stories, she was such a great story teller. Perhaps in another life, that was her occupation, but in this life, she is an Amazon Queen.

Mira lit a few candles in her room and closed the thick curtains to block out some of the cold wind coming in. she blew warm air into her palms and settled down in her bed. Grabbing her cloak off the chair she dug through the hidden pockets and pulled out the bloody letter. She sighed and stared at the folded letter. She had taken a quick look at it in Rome when she met with the lurker, but she didn't read the entire thing.

Opening the letter she read the entire text and her eyebrows creased. This information was deadly to the church, she knew that much. Why would the queen want to know about this? Burning women for witchcraft? That had nothing to do with the amazons, or did it? she told Queen Gabrielle that she did not receive the message from the fallen woman, but in fact she did. She stole it. Then hid the information from her queen.

She leaned over her bed and set the paper on fire with the candle flame. She set it in a tray and watched the embers fly off the paper, slowly melting it away into nonexistence.

Athenian Palace: Athens, Greece

"One, two, she's coming for you..." Xena twirled her pendant that was around her neck staring at the ceiling. "Three, four, lock your doors," she whispered. "Five...six, grab a crucifix," she smiled then began laughing quietly to herself.

Cacin eyed her cautiously and smirked as he sat in her bed with her. "What in god's name are you singing?" he chuckled as he smoked more opium from his long pipe.

She rolled over onto her stomach and her robe opened slightly. He tried to avert his eyes, but it was inevitable. "A song that children conjured up a few years ago about my sister," she bit her bottom lip and lowered her eyelids, enjoying the horror of the song altogether. "Do you want me to finish it?"

Cacin shook his head, "not really. It sounds like it could end badly." He coughed and handed her the pipe. She raised an eyebrow and inhaled a good bit of smoke, allowing it to fill her lungs then blew out a steady stream of smoke around him.

"Spoiler of all my fun," she blew out the remainder of smoke and passed the pipe back to her Turkic friend. She grinned and he bowed his head curtly lighting more of the deadly opium in the pipe. He had completely lost track of time when he was with Xena. She always kept him so entranced when he had business to do. He figured it was one of her spells to keep men in her room for as long as possible. Though, he did not engage in many of the pleasures from Xena as he voted for the opposite sex. He still enjoyed her company and entertainment when he visited her.

She grabbed the opened bottle of wine and her robe opened more. Cacin lowered his gaze and Xena took notice. She poured a glass for herself and him as well. He shook his head and she frowned. "You can smoke your opium and have sex with men but you refuse my wine every time, why?"

Cacin coughed as he laughed. "Against my religion, Xena," he set his hand on his chest. Xena nodded her head mockingly and poured his glass into her own.

"You and your religion," she sipped her wine and laid on her side watching him smoke his opium leisurely. He shrugged his shoulder and watched her as she snapped her fingers at her hand maid who stood off in the corner waiting quietly. The young maid took off Xena's robe, exposing her completely. Cacin's eyes widened and all he could do was smile, confused as to what she was doing, he watched curiously.

The hand maid came to him and took off his tunic and Cacin coughed, not quite ready for that. Xena grinned and crawled towards him, laying beside him. She snapped her fingers again and someone else came through her bedroom door. This time it was no woman, but a man, wearing nothing but a mask on his face. Her Turkic friend looked at the muscular male standing before them at the end of the bed and Xena raised an eyebrow, tracing her fingers along his chest. "We can share him together," she whispered in his ear.

Cacin smirked peering down at her devious blue eyes. "It's your home, your highness."

"And you're my guest. I like to please all of my guests," she hissed and waved her hand to the male to come forth to her bed. She scooted over and he was now wedged in between Xena and Cacin. Her hand maid ripped off Cacin's pants and smiled over at Xena. She came to Xena's side and grazed her fingers over the queen's thigh and kissed her collar bone.

Cacin looked over at Xena and saw a mischievous grin on her painted red lips. She either looked completely content or unaffected by her maid's hand groping her body. Meanwhile Xena's male cohort removed his mask and put it on Cacin. Now he truly felt like he was reliving the stories he heard about Xena's late night escapades. He grabbed the Turk's inner thigh and Cacin's eyes widened. Subtly he heard Xena's low cackle in the candlelit bedroom.

She truly reminded him of a succubus and knew too well that this night would not leave his lips. He would keep this a secret and only spread this through the grapevine. And all this time he thought that Xena's pleasure nights were a farce –he was wrong, so wrong, but everything about this felt so right.

The following morning Xena awoke to the bright sun beaming into her bedroom. She opened her eyes and saw snow falling from the sky. Winter is here. Fabulous, she thought. She rolled out of bed and grabbed her robe wrapping it around her body. She went to her mirror and saw a few bite marks on her neck. Touching her love bites she groaned. That girl does not know how to be discreet, does she? She looked to her bed and saw the three sleeping soundly, she smirked.

The laundry maid came into the bedroom and her eyes gouged as she saw three other bodies in her queen's bed. "Wake them up would you? I have business to take care of today," she smiled and left her room to go take a much needed bath. She smelled of smut, wine and opium. Not a great combination in the morning she noted.

Hours later she sat in front of her mirror covering up the marks on her neck with makeup. She leaned in closely to the mirror and powdered her neck as best as she could. Still frustrated at her maid, she grabbed her dress and slipped it on. Her chamber maid came behind her and pushed her forward so she could lean onto the wall. The maid pulled on the laces in the back of the dress and Xena gasped, feeling all air escape her lungs the tighter she tugged on the dress.

"Any tighter and I'll crack a rib," Xena hissed.

The chamber maid continued to lace the queen's dress. "Sorry my queen," she apologized softly.

After she had finished the Grecian queen took a good look at herself in the mirror. Her hands grazed over the black fur collar around her neck and combed back any lose hair on her head, fixing her large bun atop of her head. She smiled wiping off some smeared lip stain on her face. She touched the pendant, holding it close to her. She never took it off. It reminded her of different times –better times in her eyes. Simpler times.

Walking down the hall she found her scribe waiting for her anxiously. "You look like your mother just died," she smiled and he handed her a sealed letter. Xena took it and pursed her lips, smiling tightly waving the paper in the air. "I just love getting these," her voice dripped with sarcasm.

Breaking the seal she opened the lengthy letter reading over it carefully. After she finished reading she folded the letter with a sneaky smile. "My sister is coming to Athens to visit me. I need to plan a party," she tapped her cheek and quirked her mouth. She handed the scribe the letter forcefully. "I want invitations sent out to everyone immediately," she demanded. "She will be here within the week. I want her to be...surprised," her eyes sparkled with mirth and mischief.

He nodded his head, "yes your majesty," he followed her to his office to begin writing the said invitations.

Tempe Valley Castle, Macedonia

Xayida and her chamber maids were busy packing her clothes into large trunks early in the morning. She had a separate trunk for her perfume bottles and essential oils. She pointed to every item she wanted in the trunks and her chamber maids placed them neatly and carefully in them.

Forgetting a few items she left her bedroom and went to her study to retrieve them there. She gasped as she almost ran her torso into a sword playfully waving at her. She frowned and balled her fists up. "Just what on earth do you think you're doing?" she yelled.

The eleven year old boy giggled. "I was practicing my fighting skills!"

Xayida pinched the bride of her nose and exhaled slowly. "I thought I told you that you can't do that in the house..." using house loosely.

He sighed and lowered the sword. "Alright I'm sorry. I will practice outside," he felt a bit disappointed but he didn't want to disobey his mother.

After she gathered the items she needed from her study he followed her into her bedroom. She gave the books to her maids to pack in the trunks as well. The boy frowned, furrowing his eyebrows. "Where are you going?"

"On a trip," she smiled, patting his cheek lightly.

He bobbed his head, "back to Rome?" he asked curiously.

Xayida didn't want to lie to her son, but she needed to. He did not need to know where she was going. "No not Rome, somewhere else," she answered cryptically. She had to mentally prepare herself for this journey to Greece. She hadn't seen her elder sister in ten years. She had no idea what she looked like. The way she remembered Xena was in her youth. So wild and carefree at times with long straight, thick hair reaching to her navel. Her eyes filled with excitement all day every day and a smile that could bewitch anyone around her. She had a beautiful spirit but Xayida felt her heart was blackened over the years. She hoped when she saw her she would remind her of that old Xena she held dear to her heart.

He sat on her bed looking inside of the large trunks. "How long will you be gone this time?" his innocence so obvious to the queen.

She smiled and kissed the top of his blonde head. "Hopefully not too long. Wish you could come with me," she winked.

The boy smiled, "why can't I?"

The queen sighed, "not on this trip. Maybe the next one? We could go to Venice in the spring." She saw the sparkle in his blue eyes and she thought he'd might enjoy that. He had been to Venice many times in his life and always liked it there. Also, it would get his mind off the impending questions he had of her journey to see her sister that she loathed.

She had a letter sent out to Xena a few days ago and she was sure that she would have received it by now. It would take about four days by horse to arrive in the port of Athens. As she remembered, Xena's castle was on an island overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. She secretly wished that Xena lived near Mount Vesuvius, hoping the dormant volcano would succumb her palace.

Xayida felt anxious about sending her messenger, Zakos, to the Caucasus Mountains to deliver to her message to Gabrielle. She hadn't heard anything from her since the last mission in Rome and that was weeks ago. She needed to update her on what was going on, though she did not mention she was going to see Xena. That might invite some unneeded worries and she didn't want or need that.

She turned around and found her son gone. She heard some rustling on her vanity set and he was examining her various knives she had laid out that she was going to take with her to Greece. She rushed to him and snatched the knife from his hands. "You're being very nosy," she teased.

He smirked lightly, "I never seen these knives before. I didn't know you had them, mother," he smiled looking up into her warm blue eyes.

She brought her arm around his small frame, bringing him close to her. "It's a secret," she whispered. "I'm taking them just in case I need them."

He frowned not liking the sound of his mother being in any kind of dangerous situation. "Will you hurt someone with those?" his voice filled with concern.

Shaking her head she ran her fingers through his hair, "no I won't." At least I don't think so, she thought. "But just in case," she winked and he seemed satisfied with that answer, leaving it alone. She didn't want to worry her son any longer and she had to get going on this long journey that she was beginning to regret. She pat his shoulder firmly, "why don't you go play outside? I need to finish packing."

The boy brought his sword out and she put up her hands, fearful of his blade pointing in all directions. "Okay!" he ran out of the room with the sword up in the air. She placed her hand over her chest, recollecting herself. She didn't know what she was going to do with that boy.

AN: Gabrielle's kingdom in the Caucasus Mountains are supposed to be the northern Amazons by the way.

Chapter Text

AN: and the plot thickens.

Chapter Two

Athens, Greece

Xayida traveled by horse to her sister's fortress. She was dreading this entire trip to Greece. It only took a few hours for her to reach the borders of Macedonia and Greece. Now she was in Athens, miles away from Xena's castle. She squinted her eyes and could see the large fortress from afar overlooking the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. She truly had a gorgeous view, something they could have had together, but no, Xena had to ruin that for them both.

They would reach her fortress by the end of the day, before sunset. As she rode closer she felt her stomach knot up and instantly became ill from her nerves. She wasn't sure if she was nervous to see her sister again in ten years or nervous for the end outcome of this meeting. The response she received from Xena was definitely not welcoming. She did not expect it to be, but to damn someone to Tartarus was pretty harsh in her opinion.

She brought two of her maids with her as anyone would. They rode in the caravan while Xayida decided to ride by horse. She was of course offered to ride in the caravan but she kindly refused. It wasn't often that she got to enjoy such beautiful scenery of Greece –her home. She loved this land, she grew up here with her parents, her brothers and sister. She remembered such wonderful times she had in Greece. Greece would always be her home, but Macedonia was a close second. The atmosphere was almost the same but the landscape far different, more mountains in Macedonia, but there was one thing she missed and that was the beaches. She was envious that Xena's home was so close to the water while hers was landlocked; miles from water. She had to travel for half a day to see the beach and it wasn't as beautiful as the ones in Greece.

"My queen," Jesyka, Xayida's trusted assistant followed her everywhere she went. She was a young woman with fine swordsman skills. She used to live in the Ottoman Empire as a young assassin until she escaped and came to Macedonia. Xayida trusted her with her life and often thought of her as a little sister more than an assistant.

"Yes?" Xayida smiled at the brunette girl. She had sun kissed skin with blue woad painted on her face around her chin and eyes. She was such an interesting girl, she thought.

"We are getting close to Xena's fortress. There are two paths, that one there," she pointed to the left of the fork in the forestry. "It's shorter but quite an obstacle course."

Xayida sighed as she halted her horse, looking to her left and right, deciding which way would be better. "If we're going to see Xena, the quickest path would be the most difficult. Everything about that woman is difficult," she grumbled and guided her horse and company to the left path –the shortest path.

The Caucasus

Gabrielle waltzed through the long hallway inside of her castle to find Mira. Rounding the corner she bumped into the said woman and smiled. "Mira, I have been looking for you."

The redhead felt nervous to be around her queen. She had been looking for me? What could she possibly want from me? I gave her all the information I had yesterday, minus one special letter of course. Smiling in return she bowed her head, "what did you need from me, my queen?"

Gabrielle encouraged Mira to walk with her through the hall. The redhead amazon followed accordingly, feeling her heart beat quicken. "I sent you on a mission to Rome to find the supplier of the letters," she eyed the redhead. "Did you find him?"

Mira felt relieved. Is that all she wanted to know? "Yes, my queen, I found him. He goes by the name of the lurker, he did not reveal his true name to me." She wasn't going to tell her that she knew what he looked like. He appeared to be a reject of the church by the large crucifix burned into his face. She would keep that information from her queen for safety reasons of course.

The blonde amazon queen nodded, "and what information did you receive from this lurker fellow?"

Mira shrugged her shoulder. Truth be told she didn't really find out anything useful. "That he supplies the messages for the Angel Messengers, that is all." She saw Gabrielle's green eyes dance around as if thinking of something more peculiar. "My Queen..." she began and she turned to the redhead. "Who are the Angel Messengers and why are they so important to you?"

Gabrielle thought for a moment the best way to explain this to her trusted amazon sister. "The Angels...they are a group that corresponds to various lands carrying secretive information. They provide information from within the church and papal states. I count on them to deliver the dire information to me and others."

Mira nodded, not quite understanding Gabrielle's connection. "Is there anyone else that also receives this information?" she inquired.

"Mira," she halted and placed her hand on the girl's shoulder. "You know you are my best warrior here, but I cannot give you such access to information." She smiled and Mira smiled weakly, understanding her queen's words. She understood that she was not in the political arena, but maybe one day she could be. She hoped she would rise even further to help her queen. One day. "If you'll excuse me I have some business to do," she smiled kindly and left her side to go to her throne chamber. Mira quirked her mouth and sighed, thinking it may not have been a good idea to burn that letter after all. It could have helped her and her sisters.

Mira decided that she was going to go back to Rome to see the lurker and gather information by herself. Maybe then, she could find out more about those Angels. There had to be something going on within that church. She had to know.

Gabrielle sat down at her desk inside a small room within the throne chamber. There were several papers sent to her and she saw the wax Macedonian seal of a two headed lion. She smiled, hoping this would be good news. Opening the letter she read it silently, tapping her finger on the desk.

After she read the letter she felt a bit envious of Xayida. She had said in her letter that she was on her way to Athens to see Xena and it would be quite an endeavor because she hadn't seen her in ten years. Gabrielle hadn't seen Xena in five years. She wished she could see her again just to explain her reason for cutting off their friendship. She still felt guilty even after all these years for departing. Xena didn't give her a chance to explain but she supposed that she was hurt enough that she didn't want to hear any more excuses.

Gabrielle hoped that Xayida would at least make amends with Xena. There was a missing piece of the story that she didn't understand or know. What made Xayida hate Xena so much that they didn't talk or see one another for a decade? Ten years is a long time.

She wrote Xayida the night before and realized that once she got her letter that she wouldn't be in Macedonia, but on her way to Athens. She would have to hold off on writing for awhile until she found out when she would return to Macedonia. Gabrielle wasn't stupid enough to send her sisters to Athens to spy on Xena and Xayida, although it was rather tempting. Becoming curious Gabrielle left her study and opened a door to a library connected to the throne chamber.

Searching through a shelf full of old scrolls, letters and books she grumbled to herself as she pulled apart the shelf looking for something she had kept for years now. Grabbing a ladder she stepped up to the fifth shelf and pulled out a box. Smiling she climbed down and sat down back in her study.

Blowing the dust off she opened the old box and found all of the scrolls she kept for five years during the relationship she had with Xena. Opening one of the letters a smile crossed her lips. It was a letter Xena wrote her. Xena had written about her provincial tour in Cyprus and wished she could have joined her. She promised that she would take Gabrielle to Cyprus one day. Her smile died as she thought of that –a promise not fulfilled.

Looking off to the side she saw a blank piece of paper and a quill staring at her. Looking back at the letters she bit her bottom lip. Xena, what happened between us? Sighing she rubbed her face having an internal conflict whether to write Xena or not. She didn't know if it would be such a good idea with Xayida making her trek out there, but it could also be...the perfect time.

Pushing the box of old letters aside she grabbed the blank paper and dipped the quill in some ink. She almost wished that the letter would just write itself so she wouldn't have to do it. Breathing in slowly she held her breath as she wrote the first word.

"Xena," her letter began and she exhaled deeply. She thought it would be a lot easier if she let her mind do the talking and allow her hand to follow instead of over thinking the consequences. Smiling she began writing away.

Athenian Palace

Xena, on the second, overlooked the entrance to her palace. She saw Xayida dismount her horse and was talking to a guard. A smile appeared on her face as she saw her sister. Though she was far away she knew it was her. The same raven wavy hair and fair skin, her height and stature was but the same even after all these years.

She hustled to her room and looked at herself in the mirror. Her hands smoothed out her black and red dress with a very noticeable corset beneath that pushed her breasts upward and out. Her collar decorated in rabbit fur with long fitted sleeves. She smirked at her appearance, feeling it would suffice for this evening.

Xena hurried down the Grand staircase and a devious smile appeared on her lips, though she would be inviting, even welcoming. It is a party after all.

She waited by the entrance and felt her stomach tighten. The two guards opened the large doors and she saw Xayida standing on the other side, looking a bit tired, albeit beautiful of course. The two tall queens stared at each other for a long while, examining each other's blue mirrored eyes. Each scanned each other's bodies, attire and faces, almost waiting for an immediate fit of rage to bust out. Though it was quiet as the two stared.

Xena was the first to smile and she extended her hand to Xayida. "Little sister," she greeted her. The Macedonian queen eyed Xena's hand cautiously and stared back into Xena's sparkling blue eyes. She graciously took her hand and stepped inside her home not saying a word. The doors were closed and she flinched. Xena clung to her very closely and even hooked arms with her. "It has been a long time..." she said barely above a whisper.

Xayida walked with her sister down the long grand hallway. She looked up and saw glass candle chandeliers hanging above her. She also saw many statues of Greek gods as they waltzed through the hall. Xena noticed her wandering eyes. "You like my home?" she asked still grinning.

Xayida looked at all of the paintings Xena had on her walls. They were of past wars and conquests, those not of her own. "It is...auspicious." she said with a bit of a sour taste in her mouth. Her sister had obviously done very well for herself it seemed, even better off than she did. So far, her time with Xena had been very calm and quiet until Xayida noticed a sea of people and chatting in a ballroom not far from the Grand staircase, which was pompous enough, she thought.

Xena brought her sister into the ballroom and everyone turned to look at them. There must have been over two hundred guests here and everyone smiled. Xayida's eyes widened and suddenly she felt like she was the spotlight of this little party. "I have thrown a party in your honor, Xayida," she winked and took two glasses off a tray and handed one to her sister. Xayida took the glass and stared at her sister, narrowing her eyes.

Well played Xena. Too many witnesses in case something happens to you. Xena guided her around the outskirts of the crowd. She suddenly felt so overwhelmed being in a sea of unknown people especially in a home like this. It was so large, so aristocratic and dare she say...conceited. xena didn't throw this party in her honor, she threw this party as a distraction. Xayida could see through Xena's hard exterior better than anyone else.

Finally off to the side of the large party Xayida grabbed Xena's hand forcing her close to her. "You know how much I hate parties," she hissed.

Xena grazed her fingers over her sister's gown, fixing her collar. "Oh I remembered," she smiled. "That's why I decided to have one..." she winked and Xayida rolled her eyes, sighing heavily. She squeezed the bridge of her nose tightly, lowering her eyes to the floor. Xena pouted, "the least you could do is pretend that you're enjoying yourself, sister. You're hurting my feelings."

Xayida slowly lifted her head and saw a strange smile on Xena's face. "My god Xena, you're...incredible," she scoffed. She turned and walked away from her. Xena frowned and downed the wine and gave the empty wine glass to a guest then began walking hastily after her sister. Xayida turned a corner to find a place somewhere quiet. She went through some open double doors that lead to a smaller hallway still filled with guests talking among themselves. This place was like a labyrinth, she thought. She kept walking through the hall and found herself at the end and there were two other hallways that were on both sides of her. Looking to her left and right she sighed, feeling lost and hopeless.

"You don't get to come to my home and walk away from me!" Xena's voice was heard a few paces away in a very calm eerie tone. Xayida turned slowly to see Xena sauntering up to her with a stoic face. She couldn't read her expression at all. She was as if she were a walking statue, though her eyes said otherwise. She was upset, or perhaps distraught, she couldn't tell. Xena was wearing a mask.

"Or isn't what that what you do best?" Xena came closer to her and Xayida stood there motionless. "Walk away," she smirked and now was a foot away from her sister.

Xayida held back her temper. "You walked away, Xena, not me!" speaking ill of their past together this sparked Xena's interest immediately.

Xena smiled and clapped her hands together, "here it comes!" her smile disappeared now and a horrendous scowl crossed her face. "And here I thought this evening was going to be fun." She frowned, "now you've just ruined it," she smiled, shaking her head. Her wit had challenged her sister.

Xayida's mouth gaped. "It was...a mistake coming here," she held her chest and felt all breath leave her body. She began to walk away and Xena grabbed her arm, pulling her back. Her grip tightened on her arm and she groaned. "Let go of me!" she pushed Xena and walked away down the hall to her left.

Xena gasped and pulled out a small matchlock strapped to her thigh under her dress. She focused on her sister as she walked away then pulled the trigger, shooting a nearby wall. Xayida yelped and covered her head, turning to stare back at her sister. "Are you trying to kill me?!" she yelled.

Xena blew the smoke off the muzzle of the gun and walked forward to her frightened sister. "If I wanted to kill you I would have. I never miss," she smirked. "Now...why don't you tell me why you're here and I will be...civil to you," she saw the uncertainty in her eyes. "You don't trust me?" she raised an eyebrow. Xayida stood still with a large frown on her lips. Xena sighed and put the matchlock back on her thigh and lowered her dress. "Better?" she smiled.

After some coaxing Xena finally got her sister and herself into a quiet room upstairs away from the guests, but close enough to guards if Xena would need any, although she didn't think she'd need them. She could handle Xayida by herself.

Xena sat down sitting straight up, barely able to breathe with the corset cutting off her lung capacity. Xayida looked to her with malice in her eyes, the same look she had in her eyes ten years ago. "Now...why don't you tell me why you're here," Xena smiled, tapping her fingers on the armrests.

Xayida sighed, batting her long lashes, "well, I had a meeting with the archbishop of Rome. He was intrigued about your abundance of gunpowder," she eyed Xena and she had a tight smile. "He wanted me to become a good terms with you so –"

"The church wants my gunpowder yet they have made no contact with me," she shrugged sighing softly. "So they decide to use you to contact me. This is a proxy conversation," she quirked her mouth.

Xayida was growing impatient with her sister's witty words. "Xena please. I have come all this way to see you, could you at least listen to me?" she pleaded and Xena silenced, waiting for her to continue. "Thank you," she exhaled. She had been surprised by Xena's patience and manners. She didn't expect her to be like this at all. She was very calm and even decided to listen to her, of course, after almost blowing her head off. That was a nice touch, she thought. "I don't know what the church wants with you honestly. I was told to come here and speak with you. Get on good terms with you for the sake of business."

Xena smirked and scoffed, "you mean the church's business," she corrected. "You are not part of the church, Xayida. Stop pretending that you care! You never cared about the Roman church and here you are spreading your facade to me. You don't need to do that," she scowled.

"I am friends with the church because they aid my empire when I need it!" she stabbed back. "I never got any help from you, who was I supposed to turn to?" she folded her arms. "Oh and making allies with ones you don't like is something called common courtesy. You are allies with nobody but yourself, Xena."

Xena wagged her finger, "ah but I own all of your land, Xayida or did you forget that little detail? I am doing you a favor. If your empire falls it will belong to me...not the church. Remember that," she lowered her eyelids as she stared at her sister, glaring back at her. "I am your best ally," she smirked.

"Xena," she began softly, "you have not been my ally for ten years after you left," she said coldly.

Xena stood up towering over her sister. "I didn't leave! You forced me out of our empire we built together!"

Xayida stood up, looking into her eyes. Their height equally matched. "Because you were being irrational and acting insane!" she retorted. "You think I to leave me? You didn't give me a choice!"

"So you decided to join forces with Gabrielle to go against me instead?" Xena scoffed. Xayida stepped back a foot or so and sighed heavily. She didn't like that she brought Gabrielle into the mix of this heated conversation.

"I didn't want her poisoned by your path of destruction, Xena."

Xena shook her head, becoming more irate by the minute. "Gabrielle was my friend and you took that friendship away from me. Why would you do that?" she placed her hand over her heart but her eyes widened with fury.

Xayida placed a hand on Xena's shoulder and she shrugged it off. "Don't touch me," she hissed. Xayida sighed and was now starting to feel guilty, but she knew it was best for Gabrielle to stay away from her. Xena turned her back to her and suddenly she had seen a normal reaction from her sister. Perhaps she was not so long gone like she had thought. She had feelings as well, though she believed that Xena had locked those away in a box long ago. It was not true.

"I did a lot of things for you Xena and you took things away from me too," the Macedonian queen said softly. Xena shook her head and turned around with a blank face.

"Like what?" Xena folded her arms.

Xayida walked closer with a stern look in her eyes, "the battle in Delphi," that had seem to ring a bell in Xena's mind. She saw her eyes soften.

Twelve Years Ago –Battle of Delphi 1438

The two sisters were inseparable and traveled to every inch of Greece trying to make a claim to fame with their names. Two queens in the making and with kingship one must draw the sword and engage in warfare to be heard across many lands. Xena and Xayida had formed an army of people from various parts of Greece that they had already conquered together. The greater western world had yet to find out their sneaky plan to rise to the top with the Ottomans and Papal States.

In these times it was uncommon to find women in charge of the throne let alone in charge of an army leading the way. It was even more uncommon to find two women with the same ambition. Instead of the two women standing behind overlooking their army fighting the opponents, they too were in the battlefield.

Xena and Xayida were in a trench together, covered in mud and poor armor. They both only had tunics on and men's pants with steel boots. They peeked over the edge of the trench and saw their men fighting the enemies. Xena smiled and pulled out a bag from her pants and tugged on the string opening the bag.

Xayida's eyes widened, "where did you get that?" she eyed the bag of white gunpowder.

Xena smile deviously and packed the air rifle with the powder. "I borrowed it," she closed the butt stock and leveled the muzzle over the edge of the trench. With her luck it started to rain and the trench they were in was becoming muddier by the second. Xayida's and Xena's boots sunk deeper into the mud as they tried to keep quiet.

Their army was focused on using swords and not guns. The Delphi people also used swords due to their poor society but also because the Ottomans and Romanians were the only ones with gunpowder in this region. Although Xena managed to 'borrow' some powder from a dear friend of hers.

Xena closed one eye trying to focus on one person but they were moving far too fast for her to get a clear shot. Xayida eyed her sister and questioned her skills in using this weapon. "Do you know how to use that?" she yelled through all the yelling and wails of fallen soldiers in the battle field.

"No but I'm about to find out..." she whispered and pulled the trigger of the rifle and it knocked her back a few feet, falling rear ending straight into the mud. The muzzle of the rifle was smoking and laying next to her in the mud. She stared up at the dark sky as the rain poured down on her face then she saw Xayida's concerned face staring down at her. She shook her shoulder and Xena smiled, "that was..."

"Stupid?!" Xayida yelled and helped her sister out of the mud to stand up right. Both blue eyed sisters peered over the edge of the trench to see the smoky battlefield in front of them. "I hope you didn't give our position away..." she whispered.

Xena frowned, "shut up," nudging Xayida in her side. She scanned the area and heard footsteps coming closer to them. She clenched her teeth and brought her sword up, clashing into someone else's sword. The armored man jumped into the muddy trench and Xena blocked his moves clumsily as she slid in the mud. Xayida grabbed her two short swords and came up behind the man and sliced his shoulder.

He turned around and his eyes widened. Two of them? To him they looked almost identical, although it was hard to tell when both were covered in mud. He came at her and she smiled, eager for the fight. While she was busy handling the enemy Xena grabbed the rifle and gunpowder bag was somewhere in the mud. She dug her hand through at least two feet looking for the bag.

Panicking she wouldn't find it she dug deeper. Peering back she saw Xayida holding the guy off as best as she could, though his armor was much stronger and held up better than hers. Finally she found the bag of powder and put it in her pocket. She saw that she had killed the man and Xayida winked at her sister. Xena smiled at her then saw a distraught look on her face.

Xena saw Xayida jump out of the mud and on top of her. She grunted and saw an arrow sticking out from Xayida's shoulder blade. Gasping she held onto her tightly, covered in blood she saw the arrowhead wedged in between her breast and rib. Xena looked up and saw an archer from above the trench. Frowning she laid her sister down in the mud, propped up against the wall of the trench.

She climbed out of the trench, doused in thick clay mud and wiped her mouth, spitting out some dirt. She brought her sword forward with an inviting smile. "You want to shoot others but don't want to fight mono on mono?" she raised her eyebrows. "Come on..." she hissed. The archer frowned and drew a sword out, ready for her. "Oh so you do have a sword...smaller than mine too," she winked, teasing the archer. He charged at her and she cried out immediately clashing her sword with his. She head butted the guy and he was knocked back a few feet, stumbling to the ground.

A soldier on a horse came and stabbed the archer with a javelin and Xena looked up at him. He was not one of her own people nor was he from Delphi either. She raised an eyebrow at him and he smiled at her. "Do I know you?" she asked, still wary though thankful that he dealt with that problem.

"You're welcome," he said and tipped her off. Riding off to help the Greek soldiers. Xena eyed him and thought that was rather strange. He was not from Greece, simply because of his accent, his clothes and his appearance.

Turning around she had forgotten about Xayida in the trench. Picking up her sword she ran back and saw Xayida engulfed in mud. She jumped in and hoisted her up. A loud wail came from her as Xena forcefully moved her wounded sister. "I'm going to get you out of here.." Xena looked up and saw it was a long way up. "As soon as I figure out how..." she mumbled. She drug her through the mud and then set her down. "I'm going to get help," Xena climbed out of the muddy trench and looked up to see the man on the horse again.

He knelt down, "you need help?" he asked offering a hand. Xena noticed the sincerity in his eyes and normally would not take such help from strangers but he did save her life after all. She smirked, taking up his offer.

So, Xena jumped back into the trench and lifted Xayida up as high as she could and handed her off to the mysterious man. He grabbed her, cradling her in his arms and waited for Xena to climb up over the edge. She surveyed the battle field and it was still very much alive and active. She guided him to their large tent set up on the hill far from the battle below and well guarded by several soldiers. He stepped inside the tent and set Xayida down on the animal skins.

Xena smiled at her sister then stood up staring at the man. "So do I get to know your name?" she folded her arms waiting for a reply.

He smirked, "we will meet again, Xena." He bowed his head curtly and left the tent. Xena blinked, unsure how the man knew of her name and where he had come from. She would have to figure that out later. Turning to her wounded sister she knelt down and leaned her body against her own.

"Who...who was that?" Xayida asked in between labored breaths.

Xena looked over the arrowhead and its position in Xayida's collar bone and shoulder blade. "I don't know, but don't focus on that now..." she whispered and snapped the arrowhead off without giving her sister notice, Xayida let out a screeching scream. Xena winced, almost feeling the pain she was in. Shaking her head she took a cloth dipping it in water, dabbing the wound. "Why did you do that?"

"Do...what?" she breathed heavily and cringed every time the cloth came in contact with her open wound.

"You took an arrow for me," Xena looked into her sister's glossy blue eyes.

Xayida smiled through the pain. "Because you're my sister and I love you. I would do anything for you..." she hissed as Xena pushed a bit too hard with the dampened cloth.

Xena grabbed some alcohol and dipped the cloth in it, "well, don't do that again," she smiled teasing her sister a bit. She cleaned up the wound on her breast and rib area. She propped her sister up against her leaning her forward a bit. "This is going to hurt," she warned her. Xayida closed her eyes and Xena pushed the shaft of the arrow through her body slowly. Her eyes gouged and so much pain scorched through her body that she could not even scream, but gasp instead, almost as if she were holding her breath. Xena pulled the shaft out from the other side and finally, threw it aside.

She then ripped open her sister's tunic to get to the wound on her shoulder blade. She dabbed it a few times with the clean cloth then packed it with a poultice. "See, that wasn't so bad now was it?" she teased and Xayida sneered, thinking a time like this is not the time for jokes. Xena ripped off some of Xayida's tunic and used it so wrap her shoulder then underneath her arm and around her ribcage and breast.

After she cleaned her up she laid Xayida down carefully on a few animal skins. Xena smiled down at her then saw Xayida laughing slightly at her. "What's so funny?" she smiled, anxious to join in on the laughter.

"You look like a clay monster," Xayida laughed and Xena looked down at herself. She was doused in mud which most had hardened by now. Her hair was coated in the thick clay and she smirked.

"You don't look so good yourself," Xena teased and Xayida raised an eyebrow, also equally covered in mud. She sighed and the two stared at each other for a long while. "That was a very stupid thing you did," she reprimanded.

Xayida rolled her eyes, "and shooting that...that thing wasn't? Xena, you could have killed yourself."

The elder sister shrugged a shoulder nonchalantly. "But I'm still here aren't I?" she winked. She pulled out the bag of gunpowder from her pants pocket. "I still have some left." She stood up and grabbed her sword. "Excuse me I'm going to make some bombs." Her eyes became wild with excitement.

Xayida's eyes widened in fear, "Xena, what...Xena! Xena!" she yelled but Xena had left the tent already. She plopped her head back on the animal skins and sighed, staring up at the tent's point. "She makes it so difficult to love her."

Xena listened to her sister retell the story of that battle they fought in together so long ago. She folded her arms looking off to the side. "I didn't ask you to take that arrow for me," she mumbled.

Xayida frowned and grabbed onto her sister's shoulders. "You're missing the point!" she yelled and finally got Xena's attention. "I saved you because you're my sister. I said I would do anything for you! And you betrayed me! Betrayed my trust," she felt her heart ache. She saw Xena's eyes flicker and realized she had maybe struck a chord in her. Xena swept her hands off of her and took a few paces back. "I don't know why you're so angry with me! I helped you so much, Xena. I'm sorry what I did to you and Gabrielle, but I was protecting you."

Xena couldn't believe she would say that. "Protecting me?" she smiled disbelievingly. "From what? Gabrielle?"

The younger sister shook her head, "I wanted Gabrielle to stay away from you. She didn't know anything about you or your past. I told her to break off the friendship with you because I was afraid you would poison her."

Xena laughed, "I'm not a poisonous plant, Xayida. I never harmed Gabrielle. She was a dear friend to me."

Xayida folded her arms raising a curious brow. "She doesn't know anything about you! You were friends with her for five years. I've been friends with you for thirty! I know you better than anybody, even better than our brothers," she firmly replied. Xena listened, but said nothing, remaining quiet and stubborn. "Tell me..." she said in a more calm tone. "Does Gabrielle know about the death of our father?" still no response. "What about arrow that Lyceus took to save us from harm in Amphipolis?" still nothing. "And what about your son?"

Xena's eyes widened and she shook her head. "No! Just don't even bring him up," she demanded. Xayida knew that was a rather sore subject. She never spoke of that with her sister knowing it was an awful subject to bring up, but it just proved her point. Though, Xayida kept a deadly secret from her sister, she had to prove a simple point to her for her to understand and comprehend.

"See? She knows nothing about you. I spared her," the younger sister said and Xena was speechless.

"My past doesn't rule my life," Xena replied finally. "You really think me such an awful person but here you are...trying to seek peace with me because of a money hungry clergyman," she scoffed.

Xayida frowned, not sure what to make of Xena's sudden change in mood. She almost had her. She was never going to change. She was so quick to come back with a snide remark, putting her down. "You make it really hard to love you sometimes."

Xena shrugged, "I didn't know you still did."

"Unfortunately," she stared into Xena's blue icy eyes. "I still do." She admitted coldly.

"You were always more sentimental than I was," Xena winked with a smile and Xayida groaned shaking her head. She turned to exit the room they were in. "What's the matter? No more guilt trips for your big sister?" she called out and Xayida opened the door leaving once and for all. Xena scoffed folding her arms standing in the room alone.

Xayida stormed down the hallway and suddenly felt lost again. She groaned and looked at each hallway. Each one looked the same and she didn't know which one they came up. Turning to the left she marched down the hall hoping to find the stairs once more.

At the end of the hall she saw double white doors and she figured it was Xena's bedroom. Looking behind her she felt a bit curious to see what that looked like. She opened the door and stepped inside. There were six foot candles lit lighting up the entire room. It was a very large room. Her eyes wandered around and she walked around admiring all of the antiques that Xena had collected over the years.

She looked at her vanity set and found a gold pendant with a red jewel in the middle. Picking it up she thought that she had seen this before somewhere, she just didn't know where. Looking up she saw a large painting, about ten feet tall in length. Taking a step backward she picked up a candlestick looking at the painting with better lighting.

Her eyes may have deceived her but she looked again. It was a painting of Xena and...herself? Both of their faces looked austere and regal. The painter must be commended for this fine work, she thought. It looked like them both impeccably. Suddenly she felt like Xena was hiding her true emotions and they hard hardened over time, creating a shell.

Perhaps, her coming here was not such a mistake after all. She hoped.

Chapter Text

AN: this story will have a lot of flashbacks because it is very much needed. Feedback appreciated :D enjoy

Chapter Three

Five Years Ago 1445

Xena promised Gabrielle that she would come to her amazon kingdom for over two years now since they had been friends. Gabrielle had come to Athens many times and together they went various places besides Athens. They went around Greece during Xena's provincial tour that lasted for two years. She made many tours throughout the years to survey her empire making sure everyone was well employed and of course she had to make rounds to show that she cared about her people, which she did.

Arriving on horseback through the Turkish mountains into the Caucasus, Xena admired the landscape in this land. The mountains were beautiful in the summer and the air was not too crisp nor humid from the Black Sea. There was plenty of land which only made Gabrielle's empire a target for the Ottomans. They would want to expand into this area not because of its sheer beauty but because of the mountains. It made enemies turn back and of course would make it difficult to reach Turkey in case of an attack. Xena was always thinking tactically, which she was sure Gabrielle admired her for it.

As she approached the said castle she saw Gabrielle standing waiting for her with a large gaggle of amazons behind her. Xena smiled at her friend and dismounted her horse. The amazons were truly a remarkable people, she noted. They were a dying civilization and thanks to Gabrielle they remained alive and well in this secluded mountainous region.

"Xena, you finally made it!" Gabrielle cheered and embraced Xena tightly which the raven haired queen warmly returned the embrace. The amazons smiled at Xena. Despite what others said about Xena, the amazons enjoyed Xena's company. She was not a horrible person like people made her out to be.

Xena stepped back from the embrace and stared into Gabrielle's green eyes. "I am normally a good navigator but it was difficult finding your home, Gabrielle," she scoffed gesturing to all of the mountains. "It is beautiful here! I am sorry that I didn't come sooner." She apologized.

Gabrielle smiled, "better late than never," she grabbed Xena's hand pulling her along. "Come inside I want to show you my home!" she eagerly begged. Xena followed willingly, enjoying the scenery more than anything, as well as enjoying Gabrielle.

The two roamed the castle and Xena thought this place looked a lot different than her home for sure. It was indeed a castle, but it was not austere like hers in Athens. It looked more tribal and there were plant vines growing inside of the castle. It truly reminded her of a fairytale book. She thought this place must be so awful in the winter with the plants inside and large windows, though during the summer it was quite gorgeous.

They came into Gabrielle's bedroom and saw a young amazon on the floor playing with a child. Xena peered over Gabrielle's shoulder and saw a blonde baby no older than a year playing with the amazon girl. She looked about to be sixteen or so, she thought. Gabrielle smiled and intervened picking up the child in her arms. "This is Freya. I rescued her from a ship in the Mediterranean. I adopted her," she smiled as the child nuzzled her nose into Gabrielle's chest.

Xena stepped forward a bit hesitant to come close to the child. She felt instant sorrow overcome her as she thought of her own child. He would have been six years old if he would have been close to her. Gabrielle came closer to her and noticed the forlorn look in her eyes.

"Something wrong, Xena?" Gabrielle frowned and saw Xena blink then a soft smile appeared.

She shook her head, "no," she leaned in closely staring into Freya's blue eyes. "She is beautiful," she said as her hand touched Freya's blonde wispy hair. The child smiled looking into the Grecian queen's eyes and Xena grinned warmly.

Gabrielle noticed the exchange between the two. "I think she likes you," she told Xena. "Do you want to hold her?" she saw Xena's eyes light up instantly.

Xena nodded her head and stretched her arms out. Gabrielle placed Freya into her arms and she smiled looking into the child's big blue eyes, so blue they almost had a violet hue to them. She sat down on Gabrielle's bed and set Freya on her lap. It was not every day that she got to look into the eyes of an innocent human and this child was truly oblivious to the world. Must be nice, she thought.

Gabrielle folded her arms enjoying seeing Xena so excited to spend time with a small child. "You don't have any children of your own, do you Xena?"

Xena paused from playing with Freya and her smile disappeared. "No, I don't," she lied. She thought it would be best if Gabrielle did not know of her past. It was too painful and she remembered that night all too well when her son was taken away from her unwillingly. Sometimes she would have nightmares about that awful night, reliving it even after six years, it was still fresh in her mind. How could she forget something like that?

She put her past memories behind her and grinned at the blonde child staring up at her. Freya reached for her pendant around Xena's neck. "You are very lucky, Gabrielle," she grabbed onto Freya's small hand as she continued to play with the jeweled pendant. "Make sure never to let her out of your sight," she stared into Gabrielle's eyes.

"Oh don't worry she is safe with me," Gabrielle winked and Xena smiled. "Do you want to see the rest of the castle?" she saw the disappointment in Xena's eyes once she knew that she'd have to stop enjoying her time with Freya. "I'd hate to interrupt.." she teased.

Xena smiled and picked up the small child handing her back to the teenage amazon. "I am here to see you, Gabrielle. Please, by all means, entertain me," she hissed teasingly. "But I will come to steal her from you later," she smiled warmly at the child and Freya smiled back at her.

Inside the throne chamber Gabrielle showed Xena the library attached. She wandered around and saw many books from various lands and topics ranging from ancient Greece, Persia, Rome and even Western Europe. She admired Gabrielle's thirst for knowledge. She only wished she shared that same thirst, but that's why she had Gabrielle. "You must read some of these books to me someday Gabrielle," she pulled out a book of Caesar: Emperor of Rome. She scoffed, "Caesar did not last too long, did he? Divide and conquer. What a silly idea," she marveled and set the book back on the shelf.

Gabrielle giggled at Xena's awe of her collection of books. "Wouldn't you enjoy reading them by yourself?"

Xena smirked, "no, I much rather you read them to me. I have heard rumors that you're a great storyteller. I want to see if these rumors have some truth to them," she raised an eyebrow at her blonde friend and saw Gabrielle blush.

After Xena finished examining Gabrielle's library they stepped out of the throne room and the Greek queen had a grand smile on her face. She clasped her hands together, "so what next, Gabrielle?" she anxiously asked.

"Well..." Gabrielle dragged on her word longer than needed. "I'm glad you asked," she grabbed hold of Xena's hand tightly. "Since you traveled here after five years...long overdue."

Xena rolled her eyes, "I'm sorry, alright?" she grinned.

"I have decided to have a party tonight for you. I want to you have a true amazonian experience," her smile beamed and Xena's eyes lit up. She did enjoy parties quite a lot. She had many of them back in her palace, at least two grand ones every year and some small private ones in the comfort of her bedroom from time to time.

The Greek queen came closer to Gabrielle and brought her hands to rest on the shorter queen's shoulders. "Gabrielle..." she breathed in slowly, "how did you know I love parties..." she smiled and Gabrielle was almost afraid she'd say the opposite. Gabrielle chuckled lowly staring into Xena's eyes.

Later that evening Gabrielle told Xena she could use her quarters to prepare for the evening. She slipped away into her throne chamber to read some letters that had been sent to her. Xena understood all too well all the hard work a queen must put in day to day so she didn't mind being left alone for awhile. Gabrielle sat at her desk and saw the two headed lion wax seal on the letter. From Xayida, she smiled and opened the letter.

As her eyes scanned the short letter she frowned, a bit confused at her message. Xayida demanded that Gabrielle see her at once outside of the Caucasus region to discuss Xena. She set the letter down and rubbed her temple. What does Xayida know about Xena? Why does she care, she wondered? She couldn't think about that right now, she had to be with Xena. Stuffing the letter in her drawer she exited the throne room in a bit of a confused daze.

Entering her bedroom she saw Xena had barely done anything to prepare. No, she was too busy playing with Freya on the floor. Smiling she closed the door, alarming the two. Xena looked up dressed in a sheer robe of hers with a white slip underneath and her long hair hanging loosely around her shoulders. "I'm sorry I know you want me to be ready but I became...distracted," she smiled down at the blonde child.

Gabrielle nodded, "she's a wonderful distraction," she smiled and went into her wardrobe to find something Xena could wear for the evening. She pulled out a sleeveless brown dress that clung to the waist with two large slits on both sides of the gown. She brought to Xena whom was not paying any attention to her. "I think you would look great in this," she announced.

Xena looked up and saw the dress, it was simple yet sexy. "You are out of your mind if you think I'm wearing that." She scoffed.

"You would look great in a sack, Xena," she blushed, realizing what she had just said. Xena gleamed up at her with a smug smile.

"Is that so?" Xena stood up and let Freya play with her heels she left on the floor. She examined the gown feeling the fabric in between her fingers. "I would have thought the amazons danced naked under the night sky. Seems a bit conservative..." she teased.

Gabrielle's cheeks flushed. "That's a bit archaic don't you think?" she raised an eyebrow. Xena still had the smug look on her face, but she took the dress anyhow. Xena went behind a screen to change into the gown and Gabrielle looked at Freya chewing on Xena's heel. She cringed and grabbed the shoe away from her. "I'm afraid to say that Freya will not be joining us for the festivities tonight," she called out.

Xena slipped the gown over her head. She was relieved to not be wearing a corset right about now. It was so freeing to her at the moment. She pouted, "fine, then I will see her in the morning after," she smiled.

The raven haired queen stepped out in the gown and brushed the wrinkles out of the fabric. She felt more exposed than usual when wearing this. Gabrielle's eyes widened as soon as she laid eyes on her. She was truly the most beautiful woman she had seen in awhile. Tall, slender, olive skin and ice blue eyes to complement her dark hair. "It fits very nicely, Gabrielle. Well done," she smiled looking at her reflection. She fixed the golden pendant around her neck and found Gabrielle standing beside her. A smile came to her as she stared at Gabrielle's prying eyes.

Gabrielle noticed Xena's hands around the red jeweled pendant. "What is that around your neck?" she inquired.

Xena touched the red jewel and her smile faded. "A reminder to keep your friends close but your enemies closer," she showcased a weak smile. "It was given to me a long time ago on my seventeenth birthday." She felt a wave of emotions overcome her but then realized this wasn't the time. She turned to the blonde and said, "so when is this party?" her smile returned.

After the sun had set Gabrielle lead Xena to a secluded area in the forests, higher up in the mountains. They were about a mile or so from the castle. Xena had no idea where they were going and she was rather confused why the party wasn't inside Gabrielle's home. These amazons truly were a different people, she noted. She wore sandals gifted to her by one of the amazons and she followed Gabrielle careful not to step on anything as it was rather dark.

"This is quite a far walk for a party..." Xena chuckled nervously. Gabrielle smirked and kept walking staying quiet. Xena tripped over a branch and clung onto Gabrielle, nearly falling over. "These trees are trying to kill me," she joked.

Gabrielle pat Xena's hand on her shoulder, "we're almost there, don't worry I'm sure the trees won't mind. They can sense your anxiousness." She raised an eyebrow wryly.

Xena stood as Gabrielle continued walking. Looking up at the trees she suddenly felt as if they were looking down upon her. She couldn't tell if Gabrielle was joking or not, but she didn't play around with these amazons. She ran ahead to catch up with her friend hoping not to get lost in these dark eerie woods.

Upon arriving Xena was greeted by dozens of amazons. There was a big fire in the middle of the campsite and many were already beginning the festivities without them. Women dancing around the fire together, singing and laughing together. Xena smiled at them all and saw Gabrielle looked rather pleased.

Xena noticed that Gabrielle was treated as a regular amazon here and not a queen back in the castle. Tonight, she was just a normal amazonian sister, not their queen and Xena was their guest. Gabrielle handed her a wooden cup filled with alcohol. She sipped it and coughed, realizing it was not wine. "By the gods, what is this?" she felt the alcohol burn the back of her throat and her innards. It definitely wasn't sweet like her wine back in Athens.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders casually. "It's made with herbs and some other stuff. I don't know really. It's made by Vessa, one of our sisters. She studies alchemy." She saw Xena's eyes widen as she took another sip, allowing the drink to settle in her mouth before swallowing this time.

"Alchemy, huh?" Xena said in a coarse voice as she swallowed the deadly drink. "Remind me to get her to send some of this to my mortal enemies." She teased and Gabrielle hooked arms with her pulling her forward.

Gabrielle found a spot for them to sit around the fire together. Xena sat down slowly drinking the strange alcohol. The amazon queen laughed at Xena as she continued to drink. "You don't have to drink that, you know."

Xena shook her head, "no, I'm your guest. I'm doing as you amazons do," she smiled swallowing the liquid feeling it burn her throat as it went down. She leaned against a log and stared at all of the amazons dancing and talking with each other. Everything was different here. It was more relaxed and it was nice for a change. Xena wished her empire was so peaceful like this. These amazons didn't seem to care about the rest of the world tonight, nor did they need to. They were enjoying themselves and Xena thought, why can't I enjoy myself like this too?

"I wish I could be more like you, Gabrielle." Xena began in a soft longing voice.

The blonde queen turned to her friend. "What do you mean?"

Xena looked around at all the happy amazons. "You have everything you could ever want here. You have people who love you and follow your commands. This isn't a kingdom, it's a tribe of people who have come from many backgrounds to join and work together as a team." She shook her head, "the rest of the world does not work like this, including myself." She felt Gabrielle's eyes glaring at her. "I am the only ruler in my palace, but have a team of people. These women aren't your army," she smiled. "They love you and love their nation. It's truly remarkable. I am envious of you," she winked looking up at Gabrielle.

Gabrielle smiled at Xena's kind words. "Maybe one day you can become an honorary amazon," she nudged Xena's shoulder.

"Not for me, Gabrielle," she drank more of the awful bitter alcohol. "I wouldn't fit in here with your people. Some say I am insane..," she grinned.

The blonde frowned at that. She hated to think that people thought Xena was mad. She wasn't at all crazy but misunderstood. People had their right to fear Xena. She was a fierce warrior, she had seen it for herself in Greece, but she wasn't insane. For people to say that they must have not spoken to Xena face to face. She couldn't blame them, Xena was unstoppable and relentless when it came to getting what she wanted.

"Well, I don't think you are," Gabrielle said back. Xena sat up looking in her eyes. She saw sincerity there and that made her feel warm inside. "I think you are brave."

Xena hadn't heard that word before describing herself. "Brave?" she half smiled, not believing what her ears were hearing.

"Not many women can lead an empire alone the way you are." She smiled. "I admire you, Xena. You've had many people try and take you down but you kept going. It would have been cowardly of you to surrender but you haven't. And I think that is very brave of you." She felt her cheeks redden as Xena kept staring at her. "Bravery and courage are the two most important mottos in the amazon way of life."

The Greek queen smiled listening to Gabrielle's words. She hadn't heard such nice words be spoken to her in over a decade. It was nice to hear them for once instead of people calling her a tyrant or a mad queen. She didn't know what to say and instead stared into the green eyes staring back at her. Gabrielle's soft features looked beautiful in the dimly lit fire. Inches away from one another Xena came closer to Gabrielle, feeling her warm breath against her cheek. Slowly, she reached forward and kissed Gabrielle gently on the lips for a long moment.

Both pulled away slowly and Gabrielle touched her lips, not sure how to feel about that. Xena closed her mouth and waited for a reaction but all she got was silence. Suddenly, she felt a wave of awkward silence slip between them.

Gabrielle finally let a smile slip. "Is that your way of saying 'thank you'?" she saw Xena's stone cold face beam into a smile.

"Actions speak louder than words. That's my motto," Xena winked and Gabrielle chuckled her jesting.

Gabrielle abruptly woke up in her bed. She breathed heavily and saw it was the middle of the night and looked outside to see snow falling. She had remembered the first time Xena had come to her home after being friends with her for five years. Suddenly she felt that sending that letter to Xena was a mistake.

Xayida was with Xena at the moment in Athens and it had been a few days. She hoped that the two didn't rip each other apart just yet. She laid back down in bed, feeling her entire body sweating. Rolling over onto her side she felt the cold breeze come in through the large windows. She felt that sleep would not come easily to her especially after that dream she had. Although, it was no dream, it was real and everything really happened. She wished she were back there again with Xena. It was simpler back then when Xayida was not in the mix. She liked the Macedonian queen but she is the reason for the rift between her and Xena.

Gabrielle creased her brows thinking of the sisters. Xayida had to know Xena pretty well, but Gabrielle knew Xena too. Xena was not an evil person at all but Xayida seemed to think differently. She didn't even get an explanation because Xayida was so enraged that she was even friends with her elder sister. Gabrielle deserved an explanation from the both of them. She hoped the letter would reach Xena by the time Xayida left Athens just so it wouldn't stir the pot any more than it needed to be.

Chapter Text

AN: Warning -this chapter may be a bit disturbing to some. Something entirely different from normal Xena lore. Enjoy ;)

flashbacks as always.

Chapter Four

"Though my tale starts cold and lonely
The promise that I heard colored my world
To the - outline of a greater spectrum
Where chances are revealed fate will be sealed"

A brisk cold morning was exactly what Xena needed at the moment. Getting out of bed she slipped into a pair of black pants, boots and a white tunic, neatly tucked in her pants. Grabbing her sword she marched out of her room passing a few maidens, bowing graciously to her. Simply ignoring them she hurried down the staircase to the east wing of her palace to find her opponent.

She swung open the doors and saw Xayida asleep soundly in the large bed. Xena made sure her sister had the grandest suite in the east wing, fit for a queen of course. She stepped closer to the bed and stared at her slumbering sister, her chest slowly rising and falling in between deep breaths. The journey must have been hard and long for her. Xena smirked and threw the large duvet off Xayida and poked her with the end of her blade.

Xayida woke up cold and confused. She felt something poking her in her thigh and she opened her eyes grumpily and saw Xena standing in front of her with a large sword in her grasp. Xayida gasped and scooted to the headboard of the bed. "Just what do you think you are doing?!" she yelled and rubbed her eyes. Staring outside the large windows she saw the sun had not risen completely yet and snow yet to fall from the sky. "My god Xena, not even the birds are awake..." she saw her sister's eager eyes and twirling the sword in her wrist made her nervous.

"Meet me outside for a duel, sister?" Xena smiled deviously and Xayida yawned still not fully awake just yet. "Come now sleeping beauty," she teasingly poked her sister with the blade and the younger sister groaned pushing the sword away from her. Xena bit her bottom lip, feeling very mischievous this morning.

Xayida swung her legs over the bed and ran her fingers through her wild wavy hair. "Are you always this chipper in the morning?" she ran her hands over her tired face.

Xena circled around herself with her arms in the air, "there's so much to do in the morning and you want to spend it in bed," she smiled raising an eyebrow at her sister. "It's a demand. Meet me outside."

The younger sister shook her head not believing this woman right now. The sun had not yet risen and she wants a duel? "I don't have a sword."

"Oh don't worry I have one for you," she winked and went for the doors. She turned around before leaving and said, "don't take too long. My patience wears thin..." she smirked and left the bedroom to go outside to wait for her sister.

Xayida rolled her eyes and plopped back down on the bed staring at the ceiling and what a beautiful ceiling it was. Paintings of the Olympians fighting with angels. That wasn't something you saw every day, she thought. This woman is going to kill me, she kept reminding herself. She came here with a goal and while Xena had been more than civil towards her, she suspected something was going to send her sister over the edge any minute now.

Not long after Xena had barged into her sister's room Xayida stepped outside in a pair of brown pants and tan tunic, almost mirroring her sister. She was given a sword by a young boy. Xayida examined the blade and saw Xena waiting for her with an eager eerie expression. She was dying to do this. This is where I die, she thought.

"Do you always asks your guests to sword fight with you at the crack of dawn?" Xayida twirled the sword getting a good feel for it. it was a light sword, made for fencing not for battle. If Xena wanted to duel then she might be out of luck. Xena was never good at sword fighting unless her blade had a body at the end of it. She was more spontaneous and used the sword to kill. Xayida hadn't used a sword to kill in many moons, but she fenced often so she was sure she would best her sister in this skill.

Xena smiled, "I don't have anyone to play with," she teased and Xayida showcased a mocking smile. Xayida stood in a graceful fighting stance and this confused Xena. "Are you going to come at me or not, little sister?" she grinned anxiously waiting for her.

"Depends. Is this a fight to the death or a fencing match? If it is the latter, then you will lose, sister," she smiled tightly holding the blade far from her body.

The two looked at one another and Xena understood what she was doing. They began circling each other and Xena made the first move swinging her blade counterclockwise towards her sister with clenched teeth. Xayida side stepped her and swung her leg underneath Xena and knocked her off her feet. Xena's jaw dropped as her back hit the hard cold ground and she stared up at the dim lit sky. Xayida smirked and peered down at her sister.

"I thought this was supposed to be a duel?" The younger sister teased her elder sister and stepped back allowing Xena to get herself up off the ground.

Xena huffed and held her blade forward circling her sister, watching her graceful steps. Xena was never graceful though she blamed that on the many battles she fought. Although, while growing up Xayida was far more feminine than she ever was. She was everything Xena was not, though they looked similar, Xayida's features were softer and her hair much wilder, almost like the Celts up north.

"Very clever, Xayida. I want you to tell me a little story," she grinned impishly as she circled her. She swung her blade and it clashed with Xayida's. She pushed her weight onto the blade and saw Xayida's eyes narrow and struggle to get free of her hold.

Xayida clenched her teeth as she held back Xena's weight crushing her with the blade. She saw Xena's long hair and grabbed her dark locks and Xena gasped and that distracted her enough so Xayida kicked Xena in her side sending Xena stumbling backward. "What story would that be?" she breathed heavily collecting herself once more to face her opponent.

Xena rubbed her scalp and frowned at her sister, now becoming very irritated with her. She was playing dirty, she was always a hair grabber. She cracked her neck and smiled at her sister. "I want to know what you said to Gabrielle that caused our friendship to die." She stared at her shocked sister and she nodded. "Yes, tell me because you left me in the dark." Frowning now she circled around her in close proximity she kicked Xayida in the back of her knees and she stumbled into a tree nearby. "I never got an explanation. One day she was my friend and the next she was gone all because of you."

Xayida growled and was not really feeling like she needed to explain herself. She came at her sister and clashed her blade with hers and Xena blocked it very well. She blocked the next blow, and the next...and the next with ease. She was a better fighter in the battlefield, which had been proven many times when they were fighting alongside each other.

"Getting angry?" Xena smiled easily blocking her sister's blows. "Come now, little sister. I just want you to tell me a story. I think I deserve that much.." she head butted her sister sending her to the ground. Whistling she twirled her sword and Xayida groaned, rubbing her head.

The younger raven haired sister stood up stumbling a bit, she pointed her sword at her elder sister. "Why do...why do you care so much about my relationship with Gabrielle?" she exhaled heavily and shook her head, trying to make the pain subside to continue this duel.

"Because you don't deserve her friendship!" Xena spat and Xayida blinked, a bit shocked at the malice laced in her words. "You told Gabrielle that I was poisonous when it is you who is the poison," she pointed the tip of the blade at her as she circled her sister.

Xayida sighed heavily frowning at her sister. "You really want to know?" she asked.

"Yes!" Xena yelled back.

Unknown Territory 1445

Gabrielle traveled by horseback to get to the location that Xayida told her about. It was far enough from the Caucasus but far enough from the Ottomans as well. They were in unclaimed land and it was rather quiet. Gabrielle dismounted her horse almost feeling this was a bit strange Xayida would want to meet here. Xena was still visiting and lied to her about her sudden absence. She told Xena that she had some business to take care of and Xena understood that and didn't mind that she left for a few hours. She was rather preoccupied with Freya, her new favorite thing about Gabrielle's home.

She tied her horse to a tree branch and crept through the forest looking for Xayida. She felt an eerie feeling overcome her and almost felt like she was being tricked here. She then felt a hand come to her shoulder. "Gabrielle," Xayida whispered and Gabrielle gasped, shocked to see the Macedonian queen standing behind her wearing a luxurious red cloak and a green dress.

"Xayida...why did you want to meet out here?" she said and Xayida covered her mouth with a finger. She frowned, furrowing her brows, now feeling unsure about this meeting.

Xayida grabbed Gabrielle and lead her to a waterfall nearby to drown out any conversations. She had not come alone, she brought two guards with her and Jesyka with her as well for protection. The queen knew that Xena was at Gabrielle's castle and that is why she wanted to meet far enough from the kingdom as possible, but not too far that it would seem suspicious.

"You got my letter, didn't you?" Xayida asked as she enjoyed the beautiful scenery and waterfall beneath them.

Gabrielle frowned, nodding her head. "Yes I did. You said you wanted to talk about Xena," she paused. "Why?" she questioned.

The raven haired queen turned to the amazon. "You're my friend, aren't you?" she placed a warm hand on her shoulder. Gabrielle nodded unsurely. "As a friend I will tell you that Xena is not a good person." She saw the doubt in the blonde's eyes. "She betrays those who love her."

Gabrielle let out a mocking huff. "And you know this how? Do you know her personally?"

Xayida's eye twitched and her lip curled and she looked to the waterfall after a long pause. "She is my sister." She admitted sourly. She felt the awkward silence fill the air and saw Gabrielle's eyes wide as a doe. She knew she would be surprised, although she knew Xena would never tell Gabrielle about her being her sister. She was too proud for that. "She didn't tell you, did she?" she scoffed. "Figures. She's full of secrets Gabrielle –dark secrets."

Gabrielle scanned the queen and now saw the resemblance. Maybe if she had thick bangs like Xena then they would be mistaken for one another, except for Xayida's wild wavy hair. Their eyes were the same shade of blue, the same shape, though Xena's features were harder, stronger and sharper than Xayida's. they definitely looked like sisters and she felt silly for not connecting the two sooner.

"Why...why do you say Xena is not a good person?" she was desperate to know now.

Xayida smiled lamely, "she has done many horrible things to good people Gabrielle. Do you know the story of The Impaler?" she looked to her and Gabrielle nodded. "She was given that nickname after she met someone in Wallachia. Together they rampaged villages and large cities and those two conquered everything while I simply was there long for the ride. I am ashamed to say that I was involved in that bloodbath," she sighed. "After we left Transylvania, she couldn't stop. She wanted more. She was out for blood, but that soon came to an end for awhile." She stared into the confused blonde's green eyes. "We went back home to see our family and stayed there for a year after I forced her to stay."

Gabrielle listened to Xayida's story and she knew that people like Xena had a lot of baggage but it was what made Xena so great. She was a brave person, she kept going despite her flaws. "Nobody is perfect, Xayida. If you say that Xena did those awful things then you could see that she was not being herself. Even you could know that greed can corrupt the most innocent people." She saw the hatred burning in Xayida's eyes after she said that. Was she angry that she was sticking up for Xena or angry that she knew she was right?

"Xena is not innocent, Gabrielle. She is a betrayer and she will betray you too," she said lowly, narrowing her eyes at the waterfall, feeling a rush of emotions overcome her.

The blonde shook her head, "Xena would never do that to me. I've been friends with her for five years and she hasn't broken my trust."

Xayida turned her head with a deep frown. "I have been her friend for more years than you have been alive!" her voice began to rise as her blood boiled. "She is filled with broken promises and lies! She is a liar!" she yelled and then realized her temper was getting the best of her. She sighed recollecting her manners.

Gabrielle did not like that Xayida was talking so ill of Xena. Xena was her friend and Xayida was too but whatever happened between them was not her problem. She wasn't going to break her friendship with Xena because Xayida fed her past stories of Xena. "I don't know what she did to you to make your heart so black Xayida but Xena is my friend and I'm not going to break my friendship with her because of your vengeful heart."

"You are a fool to befriend a witch like her. Last week she killed someone because they took her name in vain in public. She impaled him publicly to scare off others." She saw the blonde's face remain stoic. She was not the least bit fazed. "Xena is an enemy to the Ottomans, to me and the Roman Church. She has many assassination attempts every day."

There was a long moment of silence and Gabrielle folded her arms suddenly feeling conflicted.

"If you stay friends with Xena then you will receive death threats, Gabrielle. They will come...and kill you," she said sadly. She smirked, "why do you think Xena came alone to come see you? She did not want to be followed and risk someone killing you because of her." She shook her head and saw the shock in Gabrielle's eyes. "She's poisonous and it would befit you if you ceased your friendship with her."

Gabrielle began to think about her people and she didn't want them to be slaughtered because of her friendship with Xena. She had worked so hard to get her people to a safe place and if Xena were to be the cause of the Amazons' end, she wouldn't forgive herself for that. If everything Xayida was saying were true, then she would like to talk to Xena about this before continuing.

"I need to talk to Xena about this," she said and Xayida's eyes widened, her icy blue eyes glaring at her. She had the same look Xena did and it was quite frightening. It was like Xena was standing before her.

"Gabrielle, no! you must not tell Xena that you spoke to me. Do not even mention my name to her! You believe that I hate her, but it is her who hates me the most."

Gabrielle was becoming frustrated. She began backing away from the tall Macedonian queen to go back to her horse. She untied her steed and mounted the brown horse. "I will take your words into consideration. I need to get back to my home before Xena suspects I have gone missing," she frowned and kicked the horse, riding off into the woods.

Xayida watched her leave and hoped that she would take her words to heart and get rid of Xena. Although if Gabrielle mentioned this conversation to Xena then her relationship would be doomed anyway. She motioned to her men and Jesyka waiting behind a hill so they could all leave the area and return to Macedonia at once. What needed to be done was done and it was all up to Gabrielle now.

Xena looked to her sister with the blade pointed at her. Xayida did not seem the least bit remorseful as she told Xena her story of when she met with Gabrielle. Five years later Xena had no idea where Gabrielle got this idea that she was an awful person but now she knew. Xayida told her such awful things about her and now she was feeling all sorts of emotions fill her heart. Anger. Hurt. Betrayal.

"Why would you tell Gabrielle such lies?" Xena demanded an answer now.

Xayida scoffed, "I did not lie, Xena. Everything I said was true. The rampages, Wallachia, murders. They are all true and you know it to be so!" she pointed the sword at her sister and while the two circled she sensed Xena's eyes were filled with sorrow yet hate at the same time.

"My business as queen has nothing to do with Gabrielle!" Xena swung around low to the ground sweeping her sword towards her sister's feet. Xayida jumped up missing the blade's sweeping motion by just a hair. "I would never harm Gabrielle and you poisoned her mind. You scared her away from me!"

Xayida smiled, "no Xena, you did that on your own. I didn't lie about anything. You did all of those thing to all those people and you don't feel the least bit terrible about you?" she saw Xena's expression was unreadable. "My point is made."

Xena nodded her head staring at her sister's clever words. "People say that I am crazy, but have you looked in the mirror lately?" she smiled. "One, two, she's coming for you..." she saw Xayida's smile wiped off her lips. "Three, four, lock your doors..." she sung in a low eerie voice.

"Stop it," Xayida's eyes widened as her frown deepened.

"Five, six...grab a crucifix..." Xena sang more and saw her sister breaking on the inside.

"Enough!" Xayida yelled.

Xena almost laughed at her sister's demise. "Oh you don't like that song do you, sister?" she mocked in a playful voice. "Allow me to finish it for you," she grinned. "Seven, eight, you become the bait..." her melodious voice carried in a whisper. "Nine, ten...she's back again..." she finished finally and saw Xayida break internally. She enjoyed seeing the perfect sister crumble from a little song that children had made up.

Xayida stood in silence as her mind became scattered. She hated hearing that awful singsong. She hated whoever made that song up and allowed children to sing it whenever they saw her coming through a village. She wasn't the evil one, no that was her sister. Her thoughts were broken as she heard Xena's loud laugh break the silence.

"Who's perfect now?" Xena raised an eyebrow curiously. She let out a loud cry and came for her sister. Xayida was still frozen not able to respond to her. Her eyes widened in fear and her body was so frozen that she couldn't react. Xena stuck the sword in the cold dirt and Xayida stared at the blade in between her feet. "If you want to fill people with poison perhaps you should tell them of the toxin that seeps from your pores," she hissed standing a mere two inches from her sister's face. Xayida had no response but continued to stare into her mirroring blue eyes. "You are not a saint my dear..." she touched her sister's cheek with her fingernail. "You forget that you too have done horrible things to people..." she winked and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

"My queen!" a voice was heard and Xena pulled her lips away. Xayida was still frozen but her eyes averted to the ground.

"What?!" she firmly asked.

Her scribe came running towards her and dropped to a knee, holding up a sealed letter in his hands. Xena eyed it carefully and hadn't seen that seal in a long time. She snatched the letter from his hand and shooed him away.

Carefully breaking the seal she saw handwriting that she definitely recognized and her heart stopped for a moment.

Dear Xena,

Hopefully you will read through this letter and not feel any anger towards me. I have been thinking about you lately ever since I found out that Xayida was coming to see you. I do not know the reason for her visit so don't get upset at me. I was told through the grapevine from one of my sisters who was in Rome on business on behalf of me.

I haven't heard of any news from your neck of the woods, figuratively speaking of course. I miss the beaches in Greece. It can get lonely in these mountains but I must make sure my people are safe. I'm sure you know how important that is to me.

An apology come too late, but I want to say that I am sorry for breaking our friendship. You didn't give me a chance to explain myself and I know you didn't get your say either. Both of us were cornered and I hope one day you can find a place in your heart to forgive me. I feel guilty that I did not write to you sooner but to be honest, I was afraid, not of you, but of myself. I wanted to give you space but it's been five years too long. I have tried to write you over the years but each letter ended up crumbled up in a corner of my room. I thought my letters would be of no worth to you after what happened between us.

I didn't get a chance to tell you this five years ago, but I did not know Xayida was your sister. I had befriended her not long before I met you. I hope you find it in your heart to forgive her too. I don't want to see sisters fight each other despite what she has done to you, which I also know nothing of. As you can see, I am clueless about you and your sister, but you shouldn't blame her, Xena. She is your sister, your only sister. I didn't have to listen to her but I did.

When Xayida told me to stop being friends with you she told me a bit of your past. Initially, I was shocked as you might know. I have come to realize that I only knew one side of you and I have been pondering about what the other half of you was or is. We cannot make up lost time, but I have been wanting to reach out to you for answers. Also, I have some information that you might want to know, but I cannot discuss it in this letter for safety precautions. I'm sure you understand.

I had hoped that you would receive this letter after Xayida left, but if she is still there... try not to kill her...too much.

I hope you respond back to me.



Xena clutched the letter to her chest and immediately felt breathless and speechless. She had finally received a letter from Gabrielle. What a special coincidence after that little story her sister had told her earlier. A smile crossed her lips and she was not angry at Gabrielle despite what she might think. She couldn't believe it was actually from her after so long. All this time she thought Gabrielle hated her but it was quite the opposite. She felt somewhat relieved and she always loved Gabrielle's way with words. She was truly a scholar at heart. Her writing reflected who she is and it was almost as if she were standing in front of her talking. She could hear her voice coming through the words in the letter.

She had a hard time reading the part where she said to forgive Xayida, but she understood Gabrielle was very loving and forgiving. She wanted peace while Xena wanted war and power. They were two opposite people that somehow meshed and got along, which was why they got along so well. She was the part of what Xena always wanted to be. She was almost like her conscious and she thought of Gabrielle every time she was about to do something she might regret later, although those thoughts slowly began to fade away when Xayida showed up.

It was hard to love to the woman, but if Gabrielle saw something in her, maybe Xena could too. Although, she doubted it. their past together went too deep and Xayida loves to portray herself as a saint and a good queen, but she was equally as vengeful as Xena was. Xena knew her sister well and knew of her past since they spent their entire life together until they split years ago. Nobody makes up songs about you unless you've done something awful. In Transylvania, Xayida beheaded people if they disagreed with her. Too bad Gabrielle probably doesn't know about that. Xena bet that Gabrielle didn't know a lot about Xayida. She was equally as vindictive as she was sometimes, maybe a bit worse in a few departments.

Although, Xayida had devoted most of her work to the church which Xena despised. She hated Rome and wished they would just disappear but Xayida made sure to ally with them and do their dirty work for them. She was intertwined in that city and Xena knew that one day, Xayida would come to regret it.

Turning around she saw Xayida standing frozen still. Xena's eyes calmed down and she felt herself breathing normally again. "I got a letter from Gabrielle," she said barely above a whisper.

Xayida's eyes grew in shock. She couldn't believe that Gabrielle would write Xena at a time like this. She probably got her letter, or she hoped that she did by now. But why write Xena? Why now? Didn't she forget about that relationship by now? Perhaps not. "What did she say?"

Xena half smiled, "she told me to forgive you," she folded the letter and tucked it inside her tunic. She waltzed over to her sister glaring at her in her ice blue eyes. She hoisted the blade out of the ground and smirked. "I'll never forgive you," she said in a low voice and Xayida stood still, not the least bit surprised.

She began walking away twirling the sword in her hand. "This letter is only a reminder of what a traitor you truly are, Xayida. And that's not just with Gabrielle..." she hissed.

Rome –St. Peter's Basilica

Many cardinals gathered around the basilica and the lurker watched from afar, observing all the cardinals. He saw a group of monks in black cloaks following the cardinals around. Now was his chance to get a closer look. He sneakily walked through the outskirts of the crowd to get to the cardinals and monks. He blended in with them perfectly with his dark cloak, they would have no idea he was even there. Something big must be going on otherwise why have everyone here?

He felt a hand come to his shoulder and his eyes bugged out. He turned around to see feminine lips beneath the cloak. He groaned, recognizing the said lips. "Not you again!"

Mira smiled, "nice to see you again too. What's going on?" she peered over a crowd of heads.

He took a few steps closer to the group ahead. "That's what I'm going to find out," he quickly ran forward to blend in with the monks and she gasped, following behind him cautiously.

"You're posing as a monk?" she whispered as she walked beside him, a few paces behind the group of monks.

The lurker rolled his eyes, growing tired of this woman. She wasn't even supposed to be here. "Not for long if you don't shut your mouth," he pushed her aside.

She frowned. She didn't like being pushed around especially by a man. She was an amazon and they didn't take too kindly to men. "Let me come with you!" she begged, whispering loudly to him.

"You're a woman! They're not allowed to be monks..." he whispered and came behind two monks and followed them up the staircase, coming so close to getting inside the basilica.

Mira smirked and kept following him, "you're not a monk either..." he sighed, noting that she made a good point, but this was his chance to figure out what strange acts were going on in this church. It was inevitable that she was going to follow him so he just let it happen.

Both trailed inside and the doors closed behind them. Mira felt so clandestine and was a bit excited to be here undercover. This was much better than sitting inside the palace waiting for nothing to happen. This was a story she surely was going to tell her queen when she returned. The monks in front of them began chanting in low voices and the two just followed along quietly, blending in.

Everyone was guided into a room and the archbishop was at the altar holding a crucifix in his hand quietly praying to himself. The lurker and Mira lifted their heads a bit to see what he was doing. Suddenly all the monks dropped to the floor and they followed quickly to blend in.

Mira lifted her head to see what was going on. The archbishop was surrounded by cardinals and he turned to the beautiful stained glass windows of angels behind him. Mira frowned, not sure exactly what was happening. She wasn't too familiar with these religious practices. In her kingdom, religion was far different and it was nothing like this. Religion was personal but this was far off from her vision.

The archbishop began speaking in Latin very loudly as he spoke to the stained glass windows. Mira raised an eyebrow, a bit confused and she didn't understand what the man was saying.

"Aperi portas inferos" he chanted and the monks did not respond nor did the cardinals. Everyone looked just confused as Mira was. "Et facti patitur hoc tabernaculo tuo", he continued. She looked to the lurker and his mouth was agape, which meant something was awry. "De profundis inferni. Et ego in te", he chanted loudly.

The cardinals looked to each other with confused expressions. Mira nudged the lurker lightly in the arm. "What does he say?" she whispered.

The lurker felt a presence in this place and it was not good. "He's letting someone in..."

She was still confused. "Letting who in?" she looked up and saw the cardinals whispering too one another. Whatever it was, this wasn't supposed to happen. He looked up and saw the archbishop reach under his cassock. He had been in the church too long to know that something was wrong here.

"This isn't right..." the lurker whispered and Mira looked up at the altar and the archbishop pulled out a dagger and stabbed a cardinal not once, but twice in the gut. "Yeah, we need to leave," he grabbed Mira's hand.

She pulled from his grasp and watched as the supposed holy man slaughtered four cardinals right before her eyes. The monks lifted their heads and were shocked. "What is he doing?!" she yelled out and the lurker pulled her arm forcing her to get up.

"Going on a killing spree, what does it look like to you?!" he yelled back and pulled her along no longer caring if they were caught. "Let's go!" they ran through the hall of the church and the archbishop looked to them as they ran off.

They ran out of the back entrance of the basilica so nobody would notice them. They hid behind a building a few blocks away and Mira pulled her hood off, trying to catch her breath. She put her hand on the wall still trying to process what she just saw.

"What was that we just saw?" she asked almost breathless.

The lurker shook his head and rubbed his chin. "Something very awful. I knew there was something going on!" he cursed to himself. "All those girls burning at the stake...three of them in a row in less than few months."

Mira frowned sadly. "Those women were of my people. They were amazons," she whispered. The lurker now felt guilty and now it all made sense why she was here. "It's why my queen sent me to find information about Rome and the papal states."

"Man," he sighed, "I'm sorry." He took his hood off, feeling comfortable around now, even though they did know each other's names, he did not think names were necessary especially for his line of work.

"It's not your fault..." Mira said with a soft smile then felt a droplet fall onto her hand. She peered down and saw the droplet was red. Looking up at the sky she felt another droplet fall onto her face. She wiped her face and saw smeared blood all over her hand. Her eyes widened in horror.

The lurker looked at her and saw blood on her face. He frowned and looked up to see rain coming down. He looked down at his hands and drops of blood were all over his hands. It began to rain down blood all over them and he shook his head, not understanding this. "Come, we need to get out of Rome!" he grabbed her hand and they would go back to his shack for shelter.


Xena was in her bedroom after she left Xayida to fend for herself after their little duel. She pulled out the letter and decided to sit on her balcony and read over it again. She still couldn't believe that she had written her after all these years.

A gust of wind blew her hair back and she looked to the sky. It had become dark and ominous, not sunny and beautiful like it was a few hours ago when she awoke. She stood up and the wind became stronger she tucked the letter into her tunic once more. Her hair wildly swaying in the wind she felt a droplet fall on her hand and saw it was bright red. "What is this..." she licked her hand and it tasted of, "blood?" she glanced up at the dark sky and saw it began to pour down blood and her tunic was now soaked in blood rain.

She retreated back into her bedroom slowly and watched her balcony become red with blood. She shut her windows and closed the curtains. Her hair was damp and looked like she just murdered someone. Quickly leaving her room she ran down the stairs and a maid screamed seeing the sight of her covered in blood. The young girl dropped a tray of tea and Xena frowned, not in the mood for this.

She went to the entrance and swung open the double doors to see the soil soaked in blood. Her beautiful white palace was now stained red. She frowned becoming very suspicious. She went to look for her sister.

"Xayida!" her voice boomed through the long marble halls. She looked through every room and didn't find her. She went up the stairs in the east wing, calling her sister's name. "Xayida!" she yelled loudly.

She opened the door and a loud thundering clap was heard in the sky. Xayida turned to see Xena covered in blood and she gasped. "Xena what in the name of Zeus...what did you do?"

Xena hadn't heard Xayida use an Olympian god's name in quite some time. It surprised her. But sadly she didn't have a good explanation. "Have you looked outside lately?" she pointed to the closed curtains. Xayida shook her head, still a bit afraid of her bloodied sister. Xena rolled her eyes and marched over to the window and pulled the curtains open. The dark sky filled the entire area and the sea was wild, waves crashing against the castle walls. Blood poured down the window pane.

Xayida stood up to get a good look and saw everything was stained with blood. The beautiful snowy mountains were now red. "By the gods, is this the apocalypse?" she whispered, covering her mouth.

Xena didn't have an answer and watched the blood rain down on her gorgeous gardens outside. Suddenly a raven flew into the window and Xayida gasped taking a step back. Xena's eyes widened and then another bird flew into the window. Soon enough many ravens crashed into the windows and Xena closed the curtains from the bird massacre.

"That can't be good," Xena said with a blank face. Xayida had a look of horror in her eyes. She stared at her sister as she was completely unfazed by what just happened. Xena began to go through all the scenarios in her mind and paced around in a circle.

"Xena...did you...did you see that? Birds were flying to their deaths!" Xayida cried out.

Xena put her hand up for silence and kept thinking. "I would say this is witchcraft.." she laughed, "but that would get me burned, now wouldn't it?" she glared at her sister. "I need to contact Gabrielle."

Xayida's jaw dropped, "at a time like this?" she yelled out as Xena was leaving her room.

"This is the perfect time, Xayida," she said sternly and disappeared.

The Caucasus

Gabrielle sat outside enjoying the crisp weather that winter had to offer. It had been a few days and she hoped that her letter reached Xena and she also hoped she would receive a response as well. She knew that there could be two reactions from her. Xena could either be very angry or very delighted. Gabrielle had no idea which one would come from the letter she sent. She could only hope for the best.

Amelia came running up to her with an urgency. Gabrielle stood up and looked to see Freya playing in the snow with some of the younger amazons. She smiled, thinking her safe she turned to Amelia. "What is wrong?" she saw her eyes were filled with worry.

The amazon breathed heavily. "Mira...she's gone! She didn't tell anyone where she went! My queen, I don't know where she is, I'm sorry," she begged dropping to her knees.

Gabrielle frowned and lifted the young girl up by her shoulders. "I'm sure she hasn't gone far..." she wondered where that wild girl could have gone. Sure she was ambitious but to not tell anyone where she was going was strange, even for her.

Freya came running up to them and Gabrielle smiled at her and saw the young child with a strange look in her eyes. She knelt down to eye level of the child. "Blood," she pointed to her finger and blood dripped off her finger onto the snow.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and scanned her hand for any open wounds. "What happened?"

Freya pointed to the sky. The five year old squinted her eyes and Gabrielle, confused, looked up with her then felt a droplet fall onto her face. She wiped her finger across her nose and saw blood. "What in Hades..." she saw the snow stained with blood now and it began down-pouring blood everywhere. Her mouth gaped and she quickly grabbed Freya, clutching her close to her body.

All the amazons outside began screaming as blood stained their skin and clothing. They ran inside of the castle and Gabrielle retreated inside and the amazons closed the doors from the fierce storm. She set Freya down and saw she was soaked in blood. Not a sight she'd ever want to see. She came closer to the windows and saw the snow was covered in blood. The river next to the castle was now red, once a beautiful blue.

Amelia came close to her queen with fear in her eyes. "What's going on my queen?" she asked fearful of the answer.

"I do not know, but it's not good," she looked up at the dark skies looming over her kingdom.

Chapter Text

AN: reunions are always nice ;)

Chapter Five

"In this world of a million religions everyone prays the same way."

"For whom the gun tolls
For whom the prey weeps
Bow before a war
Call it religion."

The day after the bloodbath Xena decided she was going to do some research and go outside of her castle to see what the damage was in her empire. She hadn't seen her people in quite some time, unless there was a public execution of course. She wouldn't miss that. Hopefully she would find the answers she was looking for outside her castle because she sure wasn't going to find them hiding away in her large home.

She put on a burgundy dress with a tight laced corset underneath, synching her waist to nonexistence. Her hair was neatly combed back and half was up while the remainder tumbled down her back, straight as a board. She grabbed her matchlock and strapped it to her thigh, thinking she might need that just in case. There was just one problem –her sister. Xayida was still here and she didn't know exactly when she was leaving but for an experiment, she wanted her to tag along to the city.

Walking down the stairs she saw her sister hovering around a statue of Aphrodite. "Enjoying the art?" Xena startled her sister and smiled. Xayida steadied herself and turned to see they were wearing almost exactly the same outfit, though Xayida's had black trim on her sleeves. Xena's eyes traveled up and down her sister's body and she frowned. "Perhaps we are more alike than you want to admit..." she sourly said and felt awkward wearing the dress now. She just had this one made too and now her sister was basically wearing the same outfit.

She began to walk away without uttering a word. Xayida frowned and followed her sister, "where are you off to?" she asked in a polite voice. It was so strange being around Xena but it was like time never escaped them. They spoke to one another like they had years ago. Xayida would not apologize for what she said to Xena yesterday but she figured that Xena expected it.

Xena turned around and threw a matchlock at her sister and Xayida caught it gracefully. "You're coming with me into the city outside these castle walls." She opened the doors to the entrance and saw snow was a light pink now from yesterday. It was so odd, but Xena knew that there had to be a reason for this strange phenomena to occur. Xayida followed her sister mounting a horse and together they left. Xena was thankful that Xayida did not try and argue with her about leaving. She figured it would be nice to spend more time together...maybe.

The two queen sisters rode into the city square and it was the first time Xayida had seen the heart of Athens, although she was sure Xena would say she was the heart of Athens. These people were the true heart. Casually riding in Xena observed that everyone's shops were covered in dried blood and there were dead ravens all over the ground.

Xayida crinkled her nose as she saw a cat pulling a dead raven off with its mouth. The sight of this disgusting scene was making her sick to her stomach. She looked to the fountain in the middle of the square and the water was a sickening dark red. The statue stained in blood. She took a closer look at the statue and saw it was a woman holding a scale in one hand and a sword in the other with a blindfold over her eyes. Lady of Justice. Interesting, she noted.

Xena came to her side on her black horse and saw her sister gawking at the statue. "Justitia," Xena spoke aloud and Xayida turned to her with soft eyes. "Goddess of Justice," she smiled at the bloodied statue. The Lady was not doing her city justice right about now.

"Interesting that you chose this statue to represent your capitol," Xayida said a bit amused considering Xena's past.

"Even I desire justice, Xayida. Despite what you believe," she guided her horse to circle around the square to examine the mess before her. Xayida smirked staring up at the Lady, she left and followed behind her sister in a slow steady pace on the horse. Xena saw a narrow alleyway and she smiled widely, kicking her horse she rode through the alley. Xayida's mouth gaped and she grunted, following her at a dangerous speed.

Xena rode through the alley ducking her head making sure not to hit any archways. She guided her horse to the left and right quickly dodging any passer biers. Xayida was having trouble keeping up. She was never much of a horse lover and was not skilled in guiding horses through such awful terrain like her elder sister but she managed to keep up.

Once she exited the alleyway labyrinth she halted the horse behind a large crowd of people outside a beautiful cathedral. Xayida halted her steed and breathed heavily, almost feeling breathless after that exciting ride. She was about to reprimand her sister for the dangerous path she just took but then saw a cathedral and a sea of people outside of it. She cocked her head to the side with a frown.

"You keep cathedrals in your city?" she asked curiously. She never expected Xena to keep churches in her empire since she hated the church so much.

Xena dismounted the horse and tried to see over the sea of people. "I may not like what the church does but it doesn't give me the right to take religion away from my people," she calmly said and strode in further to the crowd.

Xayida hopped off the horse fixing her dress and creased her eyebrows. Her sister was truly someone so strange, she thought. She allowed her people to practice any religion they wanted without any repercussions. Perhaps she was not so awful after all, but she had her doubts. She was still the same Xena she had always known.

Xena pushed her way through the crowd of people and she got a few grunts and then the people looked behind them and saw it was her –their queen. Their eyes widened and immediately a pathway was made for her. She smiled and casually walked through the manmade path. Xayida felt a bit out of place but followed behind her sister. She heard a few whispers asking who she was and that she resembled Xena.

Together the two sisters entered the cathedral and it was packed indeed. People in the back turned around and saw their queen enter and they got up, bowing their heads accordingly. Xena waved her hand asking them to go back to their business. The priest at the altar noticed her entrance and paused in his sermon. She smiled giving him the chance to continue. She didn't want to be a disturbance but she wanted to see what the commotion was. Today was not Sunday, she thought. Why were there so many people here? She walked down the aisle and Xayida followed behind a few paces back.

There was something strange here though. This section of the city was not doused in blood like everywhere else and nobody here seemed to be affected by it either. The priest continued his sermon and then began communion. A line of people formed and Xena stepped aside, feeling that she was in the way.

"Why are we here?" Xayida whispered, placing a hand on her sister's shoulder.

"Do you notice anything odd about these people?" Xena whispered back and her eyes lowered as she watched the line move forward slowly as they drank the wine and were given the sacramental bread. Xayida looked around and she wasn't catching on. "They aren't covered in blood like everyone else. This cathedral is untouched..." she frowned, feeling something odd was going on, she could feel it in her bones.

The priest noticed Xena standing off to the side and stopped giving communion. "We have a very special guest in our presence today," he said loudly and all eyes went to the queen. Xena felt put on the spotlight and her eyes widened. She didn't want to be the center of attention right now. "Your highness, it would be an honor if you could give communion to these people. They adore you," he pleaded and she smiled nervously.

"Oh no that is not necessary. It looks like you have it handled," she waved her hand and the priest insisted further.

"Please your highness. It is not every day that our queen comes to our service," he went on and Xena felt obligated now. She grinned at everyone's eyes on her and made her way to the altar. Xayida stayed behind off to the side to observe.

The priest handed Xena the goblet of wine in one hand and bread in the other. Her smile was weak and she felt a bit out of place. She knew the practices of the church but did not participate. She had no idea what to do and it felt a bit wrong to do this.

A young girl came up to her and she stared at her with wide eyes. The girl seemed shy and quite afraid of her. Xena knelt down and allowed her to sip the wine and placed the bread in her mouth. She sighed and looked to the priest, he seemed content enough. The line kept coming forward and while they were receiving communion Xena looked around the cathedral for anything strange, but so far she found nothing. She knew something was wrong but didn't know what.

The priest leaned in close to her and whispered in her ear, "they're coming for you..." his voice changed into a horrifying deep tone. Xena snapped her head around and saw the priest's eyes change from the kind blue to red in a flash. "You don't belong here with belong with us..." he hissed in her ear. She saw that everyone around her seemed to be acting normal and did not see the priest whispering to her, or if they did, they did not find it strange.

Us? What is this man talking about? Xena turned her attention to him and saw his irises were dark red now. This man was no priest, he was something else. Something evil was staring back at her. Xena's mouth gaped and then she looked to a woman before her, her eyes were red as well. "What is going on here?!" she demanded and set the wine and bread down. The priest came closer to her as she backed away.

"You are not one of us!" the priest shouted in his normal voice, though his eyes were still red. Xena's eyes widened as she had never seen anything like this before. "If you are not with us, you are against us!" he shouted and everyone started crowding around her.

Xena frowned and grabbed a six foot candlestick holder, pointing it at the bystanders. She waved the candlestick holder at them and they backed away but they were resilient. More people began to pour inside of the cathedral and she looked for another exit. There were large stained glass windows surrounding her. Xayida backed away and stood behind Xena, afraid of what they were going to do. This was like an awful nightmare.

With her quick thinking Xena let out a cry and smashed the stained glass window behind her with the candlestick holder and grabbed her sister's arm pulling her along with her. They jumped out the window and tumbled onto the ground with shattered glass scraping their arms and necks.

"You can't hide from us, Xena!" the priest yelled out but Xena knew that wasn't the kind priest, it was something inhuman. She grunted and got up and took off running to her horse. Xayida ran behind her looking behind to see people staring at them from inside the cathedral.

Mounting their horses Xena breathed heavily as she saw the crowd of people gawking at her. She had blood running down her neck from the small shards of glass in her flesh. Xayida had a look of fear in her eyes. Xena kept her eyes on the crowd to see if they were going to charge at any moment. "I suggest you get in contact with your Roman clergymen," Xena demanded of her sister.

"You believe the church has something to do with this?" she yelled back a bit uncertain of her sister's accusations.

Xena turned to her sister with determination in her eyes. "That priest is no priest. He spoke to me in a demonic voice," she gestured to their surroundings. "Look around you! This place is unstained from the blood rain! That doesn't seem the least bit odd to you?" she lifted her eyebrow and saw uncertainty in Xayida's eyes.

The Greek queen turned her horse about and rode away from the area. Xayida sighed and reluctantly followed.

Once they arrived back to the castle Xena stormed inside, picking glass shards out of her skin and throwing them on the ground. Xayida ran beside her and ran her fingers through her wavy hair. "What are you going to do now?"

Xena turned on her heel and halted. "I'll tell you what you're going to do..." she pointed her finger at her sister. "You're going to Rome to find out what the hell is going on! And I'm going to see Gabrielle. If this oddity affected my empire I am sure it has affected hers as well."

Xayida gasped, "you can't be serious?"

"I'm very serious. More serious than ever," Xena smiled tightly. "Go now! Get out of my empire, Xayida." She walked off to her bedroom upstairs. "You bring chaos wherever you go..." she said in a calm voice and trailed up the staircase with quick pace. She turned halfway up the stairs staring at her infuriated little sister. "You once said you would do anything for me." She said and Xayida lifted her chin arrogantly. "Will you do this one thing for me?" she almost begged.

Xayida thought it over and folded her arms sighing heavily. Xena always made it so hard to say no to her, which was probably how she got into the position of a queen and how she always got what she wanted. Nobody ever said no to her. "Fine, but I will return to Macedonia first to see if this strange phenomena affected my country." Xena nodded her head and stared at her, waiting for her to say more. "And what do I tell the archbishop"

Xena had seem to forgotten the real reason that her sister came to see her. The church wanted a hand in her gunpowder supply, but she had to be on 'good terms' with her sister first, which she didn't understand why that was relevant. The church was too cowardly and not stupid enough to come to Greece to negotiate. Well, she wasn't going to give her gunpowder up that's for sure.

"Tell him...that if he wants the powder, he'll have to come here to get it," Xena smiled sneakily.

"Those are fighting words, Xena. I can't tell him that," Xayida raised an eyebrow, not the least bit surprised.

Xena sighed, "then you figure it out, sister. I need to leave and so do you," she turned to head back up the stairs before hearing her sister's voice once more, halting her step.

"It was...nice to see you again," Xayida admitted, though she didn't want to. She could hardly believe those words came out of her mouth. Xena felt the longing in her sister's words but chose not to respond and kept walking up the stairs in silence.

Xena and four royal guardsmen took her private ship across the Aegean Sea to the eastern lands occupied by the Ottomans in order to get to the Caucasus region. Once they reached land they would take the rest of the journey on horseback which wouldn't take too long if Xena planned it correctly. She didn't have time to write Gabrielle back and hoped her sudden appearance would not cause too much trouble or disturbance in the amazon nation.

She was able to dock her ship in Ottoman territory because of the deal that she made with them a few years ago. She supplied the Caliph with artillery and gunpowder in exchange not to attack her empire. Xena and the Ottoman Caliph were somewhat allies but she would never fight alongside with them. The Ottomans had enough problems dealing with the Roman Empire and Transylvania next door. There were few things that Xayida truly knew about her and her business transactions with other people. Xayida believed that the Ottomans hated her but the truth was that the Ottomans could care less about Xena and her empire and territories as long as they stayed far away from each other. Xayida was inexperienced and clueless about the political world, Xena knew this.

Traveling through the beautiful rocky mountains of the Caucasus Xena wore a brown cloak with rabbit fur around the hood's trim. Her leather gloves matching her green and black dress, she rode through the cold snowy mountains hoping to arrive in Gabrielle's kingdom soon. She recognized the area but remembered it was quite difficult to find the amazons due to their location wedged in between two large mountains in the region.

On a narrow path Xena rounded a large mountain and saw two amazons guarding the entrance to their kingdom. She had finally made it and suddenly felt a bit nervous being here again. It had been five years too long as Gabrielle mentioned in her letter.

The amazons saw them approaching and held their hands up. Xena halted her steed and waved her hand to her guards to stop behind her. The brunette amazon stepped forward with a large frown. "Halt, state your business. This is amazon territory," she said firmly.

Xena took off her hood exposing her face to the amazons. Their expressions changed immediately and dropped to a knee bowing their heads respectively. "Your highness," both said in unison.

The Greek queen smiled, "is your queen available? I have come unannounced but it was urgent."

The amazons unblocked the entrance and gestured her to come through. "Of course. I'm sure our queen will make time for you," they bowed their heads as Xena trotted through the amazons and into the kingdom. She saw the snow was painted pink from the left over blood. So it did happen here too, she noted. She smiled at all of the amazons as they grinned up at her. Some of the teenage amazons she once saw when she came last were now young women and she recognized them all. She saw some amazons shoveling some of the pink snow into the woods nearby to make their home look more presentable.

Inside of the palace Amelia was watering some plants close to a window and peered outside to see Xena on her horse smiling at everyone. Amelia's mouth gaped and Gabrielle saw her overwatering the flowers at the window.

"You're going to drown the flowers," Gabrielle smiled and tipped the water vase then looked outside to see the cause of Amelia's shocked face. Her smile disappeared once she saw Xena dismount her horse. She almost felt like this was some kind of awful trick being played on her. Write a letter and she comes right to your home...should have thought of this earlier, Gabrielle chided herself. She saw Xena making her way towards the entrance and now it was Gabrielle who was frozen. Amelia nudged her queen and Gabrielle dropped the vase going to the entrance.

She swung open the doors just as Xena was about to knock. She saw the raven haired queen smile warmly at her. Gabrielle's eyes were wide and she wasn't sure what to do or say. "'re here. In my home..." she stuttered.

Xena bowed her head graciously and looked up to see her old friend's shocked face. "I got your letter. Five years too long," she winked and Gabrielle finally cracked a warm longing smile. Suddenly Gabrielle came up to her grabbing her hand, examining it, almost to see if she were real. Then she embraced her tightly, wrapping her arms around the tall Grecian queen.

"I've missed you," Gabrielle whispered and Xena smiled then pulled away to see tears in the amazon's eyes. She wiped her eyes and went inside the castle inviting Xena in after her. Amelia caught eyes with Xena and was speechless. Xena saw the young amazon staring at her and grinned.

"I remember you," Xena pointed at the young amazon. Grinning at the stunned amazon she followed Gabrielle further into the palace.

Gabrielle led them both into a private room in the middle of the palace. All doors were closed and Xena waltzed inside, admiring the subtle changes she had done to her home. She and Gabrielle shared the same homeland and she saw statues of Goddess Artemis carrying a bow and a fawn in her arms.

"When I wrote you...I never thought I'd get a reply let alone an in person visit," Gabrielle smiled and sat down. Xena sat next to her taking off her thick cloak, draping it over the sofa.

Xena's fingers grazed her amazon friend's blonde locks and she frowned, "you cut your hair." Her once long locks were now cut to her shoulders, making her look older and more mature than she remembered.

Gabrielle blushed and looked at Xena's hair that ended at her hips. "I see that you haven't." she eyed her hair and Xena smirked. Suddenly she stood up and laced her fingers preparing to say something. Xena looked up at her surprisingly. "Xena, I'm really sorry that I let you walk away from me. I'm sorry," she brought her fists up to her chin, hoping that the Greek queen would understand.

The brunette stood up slowly and grabbed onto Gabrielle's arms. "Don't apologize to me Gabrielle. I know it wasn't you. I never blamed you for breaking our friendship. I was angry yes...but anger fades."

The blonde covered her eyes feeling ashamed of herself. "I should have never listened to Xayida. She just said such awful things about you and I didn't believe them."

Xena was less sour when she heard her sister's name but the pain still lingered. "She was right about me, Gabrielle."

She looked up confused at Xena. " You're a good person, Xena. If anyone knows that it would be me!"

Xena told Gabrielle to sit down with her and stared into her wide green eyes. She looked very distraught and emotional. It was inevitable. "I'm not a good person, Gabrielle. I've done awful things to people and committed treacherous acts against those who defied me."

So all those thoughts Gabrielle had turned out to be true. She had only known one side of Xena. She never knew the dark side of Xena that everyone seemed to know better than her. "I only know the good Xena. Should I really come to know the dark side of you?"

Xena sighed figuring this was getting a bit uncomfortable for her and it was about to get a lot more uncomfortable for Gabrielle. "If you want to be my should know everything I have done to earn my title as queen." Gabrielle took off her shoes and curled her feet under her so she could listen to Xena.

"I have time," the blonde smiled and Xena smiled awkwardly.

"When I met you I had just earned the title as Queen of Greece. I was supposed to wipe out the amazon nation so I could not have any rivals against me," she eyed Gabrielle and she didn't seem surprised nor fazed. "At the time I had just split ways from my sister and she fled to Macedonia. We were supposed to rule Greece together as a team and since Greece was unclaimed by the papal states I saw it as the perfect opportunity. I convinced Xayida to join with me and split the role of queen but she didn't like the way I went about claiming lands."

Gabrielle stopped her for a moment, "you rampaged many villages and cities to get your title, right?" she wanted to clarify and Xena nodded sadly, not quite proud of what she did now, but back then, she was quite proud of herself.

"After we spent our time in Transylvania for a few years we left due to some...complications," she sighed. "Then we went back to our home in Amphipolis for a year because there was a war between the Ottomans and Transylvania."

This story seemed to ring a bell in Gabrielle's mind and she placed a hand over Xena's knee, stopping her once more though Xena didn't mind. She was here to answer questions. "Xayida mentioned something about Wallachia and your return to home. She said she forced you to that true?" she raised an eyebrow.

Xena rolled her eyes and regretfully nodded her head. "I didn't want to stay but she forced me to stay for my own safety." She saw Gabrielle's eyes flicker. "I had a vision to rule and she kept me locked away for an entire year."

The blonde shook her head. There was a missing piece to this story and she knew Xena wasn't telling her the entire truth. "Were you hiding from someone?" she asked. Xena remained silent. "I'm sorry Xena. I just want to know the truth. Xayida told me the same thing and it seems like...this was the beginning of your hatred for one another."

Xena shook her head, "no. I didn't hate her because she kept me locked away. I hated her for what she did after." She paused, "but to know why she kept me hidden you must know what happened in Wallachia." Gabrielle egged her to continue but Xena refused. "Another time perhaps..."

"No Xena. I want to know," she touched her thigh, "I want to know everything about you. The good and the bad, all of it," she smiled warmly and grabbed onto Xena's hand, squeezing tightly. Xena felt suddenly nervous. She never told anyone her personal life though Gabrielle was sure hard to refuse.

The Greek queen sighed and looked up at the ceiling, trying to put the puzzle together. Her life was such a mess and she didn't know where to begin. "I don't know where to start..." she whispered.

Gabrielle tapped her chin then thought of something. "You said you have family in Amphipolis. I'd like to hear about your family," she smiled and Xena lifted her to look into her eyes. It had been many years since she spoke of her family, she almost didn't remember everything but she did remember a few things.

"Well," Xena sat up now feeling warm inside that she finally got to speak of her family in a very long time. "I have two brothers, an older brother and a younger brother. I did have a third brother..." she sighed as a sad feeling overcame her. "He died when he was a year old. I was twelve, my sister ten and my brothers fifteen and five."

"I'm sorry," Gabrielle comforted her friend and Xena waved her hand dismissively.

"It was a long time ago," she sat in silence for awhile. She remembered that day very well. Her infant brother had been infected by the pox and was too young to recover. Her mother then decided to lock her children inside one room until the disease left their village. It was the most awful time only because four children of all ages had to sleep in one room and couldn't go outside for a few months.

It was interesting to hear that Xena had siblings other than her sister. She had no idea that Xena lived once a normal life before she became a queen, but what made her so thirsty for that power? She cleared her throat and caught her friend's attention. "How did you and Xayida go on your..." she paused thinking of the right word. " start an empire together?"

Xena touched the golden pendant she kept on her at all times, which didn't go unnoticed to Gabrielle. "I was seventeen and she was fifteen. There was a war," she stared off blankly into space remembering the memory so clear in her mind.

She smiled, "I thought it was a good idea to aid in the war effort. They were recruiting all the men in my village..."

Amphipolis 1436

For many years Greece was split into small districts by many noble families. Each noble family controlled an area of Greece to maintain peace and proper trade. There had been some discrepancies between the noble family in Amphipolis and neighboring region, Stagira. Amphipolis brought in many travelers and merchants from neighboring lands only because it was the gateway to the sea and was one of the major cities that was also a gateway into Greece. Everyone stopped in Amphipolis and then went on to Stagira for supplies and livestock. Stagira claimed that the noble family in Amphipolis had stolen money and goods from them, though they had little proof. This had been going on for a few years and had gone unnoticed until the noble family in Stagira had declared an unnecessary war with Amphipolis –their sister city.

The noble family belonging to Cyrene, and her children for many years. After a war between Greece and the Ottomans sparked three years ago she lost her husband in the war and was left with four children, two girls and two boys. Cyrene owned many vineyards and taverns in Amphipolis and her husband's fortune was able to keep their status and home intact after he passed.

The family lived in a large estate in the hillside of Amphipolis surrounded by a large vineyard behind the large manor. Their home was a few blocks away from the busy city down the hill. Cyrene's eldest son, Toris, worked in gathering supplies for her in neighboring cities. Her daughters, Xena and Xayida worked in the vineyard together to pick grapes for wine and her youngest son of thirteen spent most of his days studying in their home away from any activity.

Xena, just turned seventeen, had blossomed much earlier than other young girls in the village and many men had taken notice of her though she was oblivious. Xena wanted nothing to do with the young men in her village and ignored them every chance she got when she went into the city to deliver wine to vendors.

Xayida, just two years shy of Xena's age, had matched her sister in height and she too was a looker. Both with blue eyes and though Xayida's complexion was fairer than her sister's, they looked almost the same except for Xayida's wavy wild hair that mirrored her mother's, while Xena's was stick straight.

The two had spent the entire morning picking grapes for their mother. Xena and Xayida carried in baskets of grapes inside their home placing them on the kitchen table in the basement where the wine was made. Xena smirked at her sister as she saw her eating some grapes. Xayida looked up with a few grapes stuffed in her mouth.

"What?" Xayida mumbled and Xena shook her head. "They're so good," she grabbed a handful of grapes to hand to her sister. "You should eat some," she teased.

Xena pushed her sister's hand away. "If you keep eating those you're going to turn into a grape." She picked up a butcher knife and pointed it at her sister. Xayida did not seem the least bit amused. "So I heard they're recruiting people for the war..." she brought up the subject casually.

Xayida rolled her eyes and ate some more grapes. "They're recruiting men Xena, not women."

"And why can't women go to war too?" Xena stabbed the table causing her sister to jump. "Are we not fit enough? Strong enough?" she groaned, frustrated at this society she lived in.

"Mother says that women have a different purpose in life," Xayida interrupted, sounding very astute for her age. Xena mocked her and set her hands on her slim hips.

"Oh is that so? Women are the backbone of the world! Who is there when their husbands return from war? We are. Who is there to tend to their sick child? We are. Who is there when nobody else is? Women are." She folded her arms and Xayida looked to her sister with wide doe eyes. "And who is there to suffer when they discover their loved ones have died in war?"

"Women are," Xayida finished her sister's thought and Xena nodded. "You're saying that we don't get enough credit for what we do," she added on.

Xena sighed, "no I'm saying we are treated differently because we are women, Xayida. If men can go to war for silly things like money and power, then women should be able to as well."

Xayida smiled sneakily, "and you want to aid in the war, right?" Xena nodded, reading her mind exactly. "Let me help you," she took off her apron and threw it on her table. Xena raised an eyebrow at her younger sister, eager that she had the same feelings as she did.

Later in the week Xena and Xayida snuck into the armory they had in their home and Xena stole her brother's chainmail and sword. Xayida took a sword and shield and both took helmets to disguise themselves. The sun would be rising soon and their mother would be up at any moment to start the day. Both young girls crept out of the house slipping on the chainmail, steel boots and helmets.

Together they went to the stables and took two horses and took off to the halfway point between the warring cities. The head chairman of Amphipolis had already gotten the names every able male to fight in the war. The lead of the small village army would be expecting Toris to fight in the war, but instead Xena and Xayida posed as males to aid in the war.

Gabrielle stopped Xena from telling her story and had to understand this correctly. "You and your sister...posed as soldiers?" she raised an eyebrow and Xena nodded her head. "And you didn't get caught?"

Xena smiled, "oh we got caught alright. After the war was over..." she smirked. "The general returned us to our mother and we were banished from Amphipolis for two years for impersonating male soldiers," she felt the need to chuckle at that. That moment was the most embarrassing moment she ever had in her life. She remembered the disappointment in her mother's eyes when she saw her daughters delivered to her doorstep in shackles wearing armor, covered in dirt and blood.

Gabrielle frowned, "Two years? That seems a bit harsh..." she scooted closer to Xena and she took notice but did not say anything.

"He gave us a break because of the family we belonged to. It would have been longer." Xena explained. "I'll never forget the disappointment in her face," she shook her head.

Towards the end of the battle Xena rode on her horse in the middle of sword fighting looking for her sister. She saw her slender body from far away and she stabbed a man who was trying to shoot her with an arrow. Smiling she called out her sister's name. "Xayida!" she rode towards her.

Xayida looked up and took off her helmet and Xena did as well. She hopped off the horse and saw an invigorating smile on her little sister's face. Xayida looked at the dying man beneath her boot and ripped off a golden pendant around his neck. She presented it to her sister.

"Happy birthday," Xayida grinned and Xena smiled slipping the necklace around her neck.

The general saw two young women dressed in armor fighting alongside his men. He growled and rode his horse towards them both. No women should be fighting, he thought. Once he approached them he grabbed Xena by her hair and she gasped, holding onto her hair. Xayida frowned and the general turned Xena's face towards him.

His eyes widened, "Cyrene's girls?" he smiled shaking his head. "You two are in a lot of trouble." He whistled to another soldier nearby. "Arrest these two girls!" he demanded and he restrained Xayida and Xena, shackling their hands together.

Awhile later the general came to Cyrene's home and he pulled on Xena and Xayida and knocked on the door. The two sisters looked at one another and couldn't help but smile until he turned around and gave them a menacing glare. The two stopped smiling and lowered their eyes.

The door opened and a blonde thirteen year old opened the door. Lyceus looked at his sisters who were both tied together, covered in dried blood, mud and dressed in armor. He frowned cocking his head to the side. "Hey, mother has been looking for you guys!" he smiled.

Cyrene placed her hands on Lyceus to see who was at the door. She looked at the general and saw her daughters standing behind him, shackled and armored. She frowned and told her son to go back to his studies. Reluctantly he sighed and ran back into the house. "I see you found my daughters..." she eyed them and they lowered their heads, too ashamed to look into her eyes.

The general frowned, "your daughters decided to impersonate soldiers in the war, Cyrene," he pushed the girls forward and they grunted, giving him a dirty look.

She folded her arms, "I see..." and looked up at the furious general. "Well I will deal with them in my own way."

He smiled, "I'm afraid not. These two broke the law and will be exiled from Amphipolis for two years because they foolishly pretended to be soldiers."

Xena gasped, "we were just trying to help!" she spat at the general.

"Pretty girls like you shouldn't be helping in a war that is fought by men!" he yelled back at Xena. She huffed and remained quiet, biting her tongue.

Cyrene's eyes widened. She would hate to see her daughters exiled, even if it was for two years. "That seems a bit drastic..."

He smiled, "I can extend it if you wish..." he threatened her and Cyrene shook her head. Xayida's eyes widened, now suddenly thinking this was an awful idea to help her sister. Now they were banished from their home for two years. Where would they go now?

"Alright then. They will leave by morning," he unlocked the shackles and handed the girls over to their mother and left on his horse with his men.

Xena and Xayida stared at their mother and felt embarrassed. Cyrene went back into the house and they followed her in. Xena leaned in, "don't worry, we will show them what women can really do," she whispered with a smile and Xayida looked into her sister's blue eyes. They seemed so sure, though she had doubts.

Gabrielle saw the warmth in Xena's eyes despite the awful ending to her story. "We never came back to Amphipolis after our exile was lifted." She sighed. "And so we went on our quest, as you said," she smirked, "to prove to others what we could do."

"It sounds like you two were on a mission from a young age..." she smiled and Xena bobbed her head in complete agreement with her.

"We were fools," Xena sighed no longer wishing to continue. She had delved enough into her past for now. "Gabrielle, I don't want you to become bored listening to my life. I didn't come here to tell you stories of my past with my sister."

Gabrielle smiled not feeling the same as Xena did. "I'm sorry if it's making you remember things you don't want to. I just want to truly understand who you are. We are friends...right?" Xena liked hearing that word, she nodded her head with a big smile.

"On another subject...the blood rains. I saw it affected your region as it did mine," Xena became serious and saw the smile disappear from the blonde's face.

"Yes, it was really strange. I have no idea what caused it. do you? Is that why you came here?" she felt a bit saddened all of a sudden.

Xena saw the curiosity in her eyes. "Yes it's why I came but not the only reason. I see you again and used this as a poor excuse," she lowered her eyes. "You are the one who is apologizing but it is me who should be apologizing. I should have never left without hearing your side first. I'm...sorry," that felt like she took a body part in exchange for her apology. She never apologized to just anybody in her life.

The amazon queen felt the angst from Xena and knew it must have been pretty painful for her to say those words. She was definitely not a weak woman and she was full of surprises. She was once a normal girl and changed into a powerful woman, with the help of her sister of course. Xena didn't like her sister and vice versa but Gabrielle didn't understand why. By the small story she told she felt like Xena and her younger sister were inseparable. What happened to those two? Another story for another time, she thought.

"It means a lot to me that you came all this way to see me just to check up on me," Gabrielle chuckled and Xena smirked, feeling slightly embarrassed.

"I asked Xayida to return to Rome to find out if the church has anything to do with this bizarre phenomena. I have never seen anything like it before and I've seen a lot of strange things in my life, believe me."

Gabrielle certainly believed her when it came to that. She had a few more years experience than she did and she was older than she was. She had no doubt that she had seen some crazy things. "So you think Rome has something to do with this?"

Xena had an inkling, "yes I think so. I can't find any other explanation for it and –"

The doors creaked open and Gabrielle turned her head to see her blonde adopted daughter come in, interrupting her time with Xena. She smiled and stood up. "What are you doing in here?"

Freya grinned shrugging her shoulders, "I was looking for you."

Xena heard a tiny voice and her head snapped around to see the small blonde girl come in carrying a doll in her arms. Her hair was wavy and a little passed her shoulders. Her eyes resembled a doll, so blue and large. She remembered holding the girl in her arms when she was about a year old and now she was a small child, about five years old. A smile came to her lips as she saw her waltzing into the room like she owned the place.

Freya sat in between Xena and Gabrielle with her legs hanging off the sofa. She stared up at Xena and her eyes grew wider, as if they could become bigger. Xena smiled down at her sweetly. Gabrielle stifled a laugh once she saw Freya's shocked and timid expression.

"Freya, do you remember Xena?" Gabrielle nudged the girl's arm and she shook her tiny head. "She saw you when you were a baby."

Freya looked at Xena's dress and noticed that she was not an amazon. She didn't recognize her. "Are you a queen too?" she asked and Xena nodded her head.

"Yes, I am from Greece," she leaned her head against her palm admiring the blonde child sitting next to her. She touched the doll that Freya held close to her. "That's a pretty doll you have there."

Freya's eyes lit up and she grinned sweetly. "Thank you."

"You know..." Xena leaned in closer to the child and Freya's eyes blinked, staring at the raven haired queen. "We have many dolls in Greece. I know someone that can make a special one just for you." She whispered.

Gabrielle sighed, thinking that this girl didn't need any more presents or things in her possession. The amazons had that covered and to be honest they spoiled her more than she did on a daily basis.

Freya grinned, "really?" she whispered matching Xena's tone. The Greek queen smiled nodding her head. "Mother, we need to go to Greece." She turned her attention to Gabrielle.

The amazon queen rolled her eyes and Xena laughed freely for the first time in a long time. "Maybe one day. Xena and I were having a conversation.." she picked up the girl and placed her on the ground. "I will come see you later. Go play with Amelia for now, okay?" Freya sighed but left running out the door and Amelia smirked, closing the doors once more.

"I'm sorry...she's just –"

"Gabrielle, it's alright. She's sweet, like you," Xena winked and Gabrielle sighed, rolling her eyes.

"So...this blood," Gabrielle got her attention back.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

"To paradise with pleasure haunted, haunted by fear."

Later in the evening Gabrielle let Xena stay in a room close to hers down a long hallway. Xena didn't feel the need to sleep despite the long journey she had to get here. She was too wound up from meeting Gabrielle for the first time in five years. She didn't truly feel like it was real to her even though she talked with her for hours on end. Xena decided that she'd save more of her stories for later because she wanted to hear about how Gabrielle was doing in her kingdom.

Everything seemed to be going well as Gabrielle had no complaints. It was obvious to Xena that Gabrielle hadn't been away from her sisters in a very long time. The last time she said she left her kingdom was when Xena took her on a tour of the Greek islands. She promised she would take her to Cyprus but then they split. Xena brought up the subject of taking her to Cyprus someday again. She said she didn't like to break promises and she would definitely fulfill that one even if it was the last thing they did.

The amazons had little outside contact with other people and nobody traveled to the Caucasus because it was too far out of their way and it was very cold in the winter. Most of the amazons were getting ready for winter and would stay inside most of the time because of the harsh storms. Xena had always wondered why Gabrielle decided to move her people up to these secluded mountains when they could stay in Greece. She mentioned that the amazons were not liked in Greece, but Xena thought otherwise. Xena didn't mind the amazons but then it donned on her. They were considered pagans and those kind were not liked by the Roman church. Xena understood everything now, though technically the church branded Xena's empire a pagan one even though Xena did not participate in any religion. She welcomed many religions into her empire but she did not practice herself.

The statues of gods and goddesses in her home was to pay tribute to her culture and heritage. They meant nothing more to her than an average statue. Most polytheists had died out by now except for the amazons. Gabrielle wasn't truly religious but she did believe that the gods probably helped them more than the Roman's god ever did. Xena began to realize that she didn't know a lot about Gabrielle either even though they spent five years together, though most of the time they were far away from one another, keeping in contact by letters.

At that time Xena was doing a lot of provincial tours in her empire and was very busy. She barely made time for herself as she was just establishing herself as queen of her people. But now this was her chance to get to know Gabrielle for what she truly is –a good person, something that Xena claimed she was not although Gabrielle believed otherwise.

Xena laid in the bed staring at the ceiling. Everything in Gabrielle's palace was so much simpler compared to her home back in Athens. The ceilings were not painted with murals and there were no elaborate statues or decorations on the wall. It was a nice change, Xena thought. It actually cleared her mind without having to be overwhelmed by the elaborate bedroom she had.

She pulled out a journal from her chest that she brought with her. She had no idea how long she would be staying here. She wanted to stay here until Xayida wrote to her but she will have to see how that pans out. She climbed back onto the bed and opened the journal to write a bit. She had never been much of a writer but remembered that Gabrielle loved to write and so it inspired her to write as well. She wasn't going to be very good at this she knew. She hadn't written anything by herself in many years. Her mother had tutors brought in from other parts of Greece to teach her math, science and literature. The subjects tended to bore her and she didn't really pay attention much except to math. She used math a lot when she fought in battles. Math was very useful to her and she couldn't say the same for Xayida.

Her sister was a better writer than her and was more skilled in the arts. She enjoyed reading and writing a lot more than she did. When they were together Xayida would write everything while Xena stayed on the sidelines.

As she began to write she felt a cold breeze enter the room. She looked to the open window and got off the bed to close the window. She frowned when she saw someone down below coming in with a horse wearing a dark cloak and the girl had wild red hair. She raised an eyebrow thinking that was odd that the girl was sneaking around like that. If she were an amazon then why was she being so cautious and why is she alone? Xena seemed to notice that amazons never traveled alone unless it was a suicide mission.

Feeling curious she grabbed her burgundy robe wrapping it around her body. She opened the door to see the halls were clear and Gabrielle was probably asleep or she hoped she was. It was very late and Xena grabbed a torch hanging on the wall. She went down the stairs being as quiet as possible.

Hiding in the shadows she heard the young amazon enter the palace and close the door as the snow trickled in. Xena peered around a corner and saw the girl ruffle her hair and snow fell off her cloak. She looked tired and distraught. She casually walked out from the hidden corner she was in and brought the torch close to the girl. "What are you doing sneaking around like that?" Xena asked.

Mira gasped, afraid of the unknown voice. She squinted her eyes from the bright fire in her eyes and saw Xena staring at her. She remembered her when she used to be friends with her queen and now she suddenly appears. "You are not my mother.." she mumbled and Xena raised an eyebrow. Feisty one, she thought.

Mira turned and went the opposite direction and Xena took a few steps forward. "If I were your mother I would be very worried about you," she said aloud and Mira halted in step.

"Forgive me, your highness," she bowed her head to her, addressing her correctly. "The hour is late and I should be getting to bed..."

Xena grabbed Mira's arm pulling her back. "Where were you?" she hissed and Mira's eyes widened in fear at the Greek queen glaring down at her. "I heard Amelia speaking to your queen about a missing amazon. That missing amazon wouldn't happen to be you, would it?" she smiled. "Because if it is you...then I'm sure I will hear about it tomorrow, right?"

Mira remained quiet and very still. She almost wanted to jerk her arm away but Xena slowly released her grasp on her. "I was on a mission..." she whispered and Xena listened intently. "Allow me to explain to my queen tomorrow of my whereabouts..."

Xena smiled, "I will not say a word," she saw Mira relax a bit.

The amazon nodded her head and bowed curtly, "thank you your highness. Now if you would excuse me...goodnight," she disappeared into the darkness and Xena's eyes narrowed watching the girl retreat to her room. She couldn't wait to hear her explanation to Gabrielle in the morning. She decided to go back to her bedroom and hopefully get some sleep but she feared that she wouldn't be able to, especially with Gabrielle being so close to her.

Tempe Valley, Macedonia

Xayida returned in a more timely manner than she expected. She arrived in the evening in three days, she figured that Xena would be with Gabrielle by now. To be honest, she felt envious of Xena. She hadn't seen Gabrielle in awhile and they had exchanged many letters over the years but it wasn't the same. She also started to feel a bit guilty for what she did to her sister. She was the cause of their broken friendship and even though Xena had done many things over the years, she felt the most hurt about that.

She promised her sister that she would travel to Rome to find out the cause of this problem. She also needed to go out in her kingdom to see if the blood rains affected her area. She hoped that it didn't, but she would soon find out. Waking up to a cold breeze in her bedroom she rubbed her eyes and rolled over facing the dark side of her room. She liked sleep a lot more than Xena it seemed. Xena never slept it seemed like. She was up so late and up so early in the morning. She had always been an early riser but god, at the crack of dawn that woman was already dressed and ready to go while Xayida preferred to stay in bed until late in the morning. They had been like this since they were children and Xayida secretly hated sharing a room with Xena when they were growing up. She stayed up so late doing god knows what and she wasn't exactly quiet in the mornings either.

After staying in bed for an hour or so she finally got up and got dressed which took yet another two hours. She enjoyed taking her time in the mornings as she hated feeling rushed. Exiting her room she walked down the stairs and almost forgot she was in her own castle. She half expected to see Xena's elaborate grand staircase donned with vines wrapped around the railings and candles at the end of the posts, but she was in her home, which was far less elaborate.

She came to the table to see her son was just finishing eating his food and he smiled finally seeing her again after almost two weeks of being absent. He got up and she smiled at his big blue eyes. "Mother, you didn't tell me you were coming home!" he ran to her and hugged her tightly.

"I came in late last night I didn't want to wake you," she ruffled his sandy blonde hair and she sat down, sighing heavily still feeling tired. That was quite an emotional journey. She felt time had turned back ten years when she met Xena again.

He sat back down although he was finished with his meal already, he wanted to keep his mother company. "So how was your trip?" he asked curious where she went.

Xayida tried to think of the correct word to describe her trip. "It was...interesting," she smiled and took a sip of water, quenching her dry throat.

He nodded, feeling lucky. "What did you do there?"

"I was visiting an old friend of mine," she let a little bit slip out to just to satisfy his curiosity. Her son knew nothing of Xena being her sister nor did she want him to. All he knew was the castle and Macedonia as well as the papal states. He didn't need to know anything more.

He eyed her curiously with a sly grin. "Have I met your friend before?"

She pursed her lips and sighed, "no you haven't met her before." She grabbed a bowl of fruit scooping some onto her plate. Her son leaned back in the chair looking a bit sheepish.

"Will I get to meet her?" he asked hopeful.

Xayida set down the bowl and raised an eyebrow at him. "No I don't think you will meet her any time soon." She ate some of the fruit ignoring her son's irritating glare at her. She knew that he was bored and with winter coming he was going to be bored out of his mind which meant he was going to bother her.

He tapped his fingers in his lap and sat in silence as his mother picked at her food. He sighed, "so why can't I meet her?" he asked and Xayida put down her fork feeling annoyed.

Her laugh was anything but a happy laugh –she was annoyed. "Hey Solan, why are you asking me so many questions, hm?" she eyed him and he shrugged his shoulders, sinking lower into the chair.

"I just missed you. You're always gone and meeting new people that I never get to meet," he said in a quiet voice. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"I have to go survey the city in a little bit. Do you want to come with me?" she asked hoping that would get his mind off this subject of Xena. She didn't want to talk about her sister any more than she needed to.

His eyes lit up as soon as she said that. He was dying to get out of the castle walls. Winter was such a boring time for him every year but if she was giving him the opportunity to leave then he thought he should stop bothering her with questions. "I'll get my coat," he took off and then stopped turning around to face his mother. "Can I bring my sword?"

Xayida sighed, "fine, yes," she waved her hand and he ran off in a gleeful mood. The look in his eyes was all too familiar and reminded her of Xena's eyes when she was in a happy mood. Since she had seen Xena lately she did not see that joyful look in her eyes not once since she was with her. Solan's blonde hair reminded her of their little brother, Lyceus and he even shared the same excitement over every little thing. She often wondered how her family was doing. She hadn't seen them in so long.

She told Solan at a very young age that his father was not going to be in his life and he'd probably never meet him. He accepted it and sometimes he asked about his father but as he grew older his curiosity had slowly died out. Though she had raised Solan since he was born he would never know his birth mother. Although as the years passed by she began to notice more and more of a resemblance in his face and eyes.

Minutes later he returned wearing his warmest cloak and had his sword strapped to his side ready to go. She smiled and set her napkin down and her maid grabbed her cloak to get ready to leave. "Ready?" she walked up to him and he nodded his head then ran out the doors to the horses.

Gabrielle walked down the stairs and saw Xena was already awake and she was sitting at the table eating with Freya sitting across from her. She smiled and stood behind a large column watching the two have a quiet conversation together. How could a woman be known as a murderer yet be so kind to children all at once, Gabrielle asked herself.

"You two having a nice chat?" Gabrielle interrupted and Xena turned her head smiling at the amazon queen.

"Yes we are. Freya why don't you tell your mother what we talked about?" she smiled warmly at the blonde child. Freya's eyes lit up as she stared at Xena and the Greek queen winked at her. Gabrielle noticed the warmth in Xena's eyes and sat down at the end of the table, in between the two chatterboxes.

Freya laced her hands neatly on the edge of the table and stared at Gabrielle seriously. "Xena told me that there are a lot of amazon temples in Greece," she said with a serious face that made Gabrielle want to laugh, she was being so calm and sincere about it too. "She said she will take me to see them one day!" her smile beamed and Gabrielle looked at Xena who was completely engrossed in her food at the moment.

"Oh did she?" the blonde raised an eyebrow then set a hand over Freya's. "Maybe one day we will go see them then." She smiled patting her tiny hands.

Xena was feeling a bit playful at the moment. "Freya, you should invite your mother to come with us," she looked to the amazon queen and smirked. Gabrielle blinked a bit surprised at Xena's jesting mood.

Freya nodded, "mother," she placed her tiny hand over Gabrielle's arm. "You can come with us too," she said with a serious face.

Gabrielle stifled a laugh then nodded. "Thank you for inviting me." She eyed the Greek queen and Xena raised an eyebrow eating a piece of bread nonchalantly with a smug grin. Gabrielle looked up and saw Mira walking down the hallway coming towards the table. "Mira!" she was shocked to see her. She wondered where she had gone.

Mira saw Xena sitting at the table and her eyes grew in fear of her. Xena narrowed her eyes with a devious smile as she bit off an apple slice from her fork. Gabrielle stood up and helped Freya get out of the chair and shoo her away to Amelia for the remainder of the morning. She pulled out the chair for Mira and gestured her to sit with them. She had a few questions for her and the redhead was hesitant to sit down but when she did she felt Xena's piercing blue eyes jabbing into her like daggers. She also had a very sneaky smile which made her extremely nervous.

Gabrielle sat back down and stared at the young amazon. She seemed nervous or a bit out of place for some reason. "Amelia told me that you took off without letting anyone know where you went. You know our regulations...I didn't send you on a mission."

Mira kept staring at Xena and saw her take a long sip of water from her glass watching her every move. Gabrielle called her name and she shook her head then looked to her queen. "Yes...I'm sorry my queen. I decided to go on a mission on my own accord."

Xena smirked and kept eating the fruit, leaning back in the chair resting her arms on the armrests, tapping her fingers lightly on the wood. Mira had a reason to be afraid of Xena though she hoped that she would keep her word from last night.

"And what mission is that?" Gabrielle frowned. Mira looked to her with promise in her eyes.

"I discovered something my queen. I traveled back to Rome without your permission and I apologize but...I had a few questions that needed answering," she began slowly and looked over at Xena who was completely silent throughout this conversation.

"If this is about that letter I wouldn't worry about it," Gabrielle shook her head and took a sip of water suddenly feeling nervous. She also noticed Xena was very quiet, very odd for her. Xena always had something to say even if it wasn't her business. Perhaps she was being polite.

Mira sighed, "my queen I...saw something so terrible in Rome," her eyes shot to Xena and saw a sparkle in her blue eyes. "Maybe we should talk about this in...private," she raised her chin and Xena sat up straight in her chair.

Gabrielle frowned then saw Xena looking not so happy at the moment. Her face was blank and unreadable. "Whatever you say is safe with Xena and I. She is a friend. You remember her don't you?"

Mira nodded her head, "yes, very much," she bowed her head curtly at Xena and the Greek queen raised an eyebrow and returned the head bow allowing her to continue.

"Tell me what you saw," Gabrielle pressed further. She was very curious now even though Mira technically broke the law, if she had valuable information then it wouldn't matter.

The redhead exhaled slowly, "I managed to get inside the basilica. There were many cardinals and monks surrounding the archbishop inside the cathedral." She remembered it all and it was terrible. "There was blood, everywhere!" she shook her head going over the scene over and over again. This sparked Gabrielle's interest. "The archbishop was speaking in Latin. I didn't know what he said but...the person I was with, he told me that he was 'letting someone in'. I don't know what that means but then..." her eyes grew in horror thinking of it all over again. Reliving it was horrible enough. "He killed them all," she admitted softly. She continued, "I managed to escape and then not long began to rain down blood," she frowned thinking of the disgusting image. She probably still smelled of it even though she changed and bathed last night. She felt so violated.

Xena rested her elbows on the table listening to Mira's adventure. This was definitely helpful and since it happened in Rome then it was obviously the church at work here. She hoped Xayida would be able to find more information on that.

Gabrielle looked very concerned and now she knew this didn't just happen in her home but also in Rome, which seemed to be the cause of it. but just because an archbishop kills someone doesn't mean that it rains blood. It sounded like a horror story that one would tell their children if they were behaving badly. Didn't really make sense.

Xena thought of the cathedral that she visited in Athens just before she left to come here. There was no sign of blood anywhere in that area and the people seemed to be unaffected. The priest's eyes were also inhuman-like as was his voice. Mira mentioned the archbishop speaking in Latin. She chimed in, "do you remember what he said? The archbishop?" she frowned.

The redhead creased her eyebrows and thought really hard. She didn't really understand or know Latin but she did remember the first phrase. "Something about 'portas inferos'. I don't really remember," she sighed.

Xena knew enough Latin to get by and she seemed perplexed as she began translating the phrase. "Gates of Hell?" she said confusedly. She leaned in closer, "are you sure that's what he said?" she wanted to make sure. Mira nodded her head vigorously. Gabrielle stared at her with concerned eyes, not quite sure what to make of that. Xena tapped her fingers on the table top and frowned deeply. "I hope I didn't send my sister into a death trap."

Gabrielle was surprised at her words. If she didn't know it, she would say that Xena cared about her sister and her safety. Though she decided not to touch on that subject right now. It was too fresh in Xena's mind especially since the two just saw each other for the first time in ten years. Ten years too long. "Thank you for telling me this Mira. You can go now," she smiled and the redhead was thankful.

Mira got up abruptly so ready to leave the table of awkwardness. She stared at Xena and the queen stared back at her. She smiled weakly at her and Xena smirked and the young amazon turned and walked off.

The amazon turned her head to see Xena watching Mira disappear into a separate hallway. "She was afraid of you," she acknowledged this the moment Mira sat down.

Xena shrugged a shoulder and finished eating her fruit. "I don't have any idea why. I didn't do anything to her," she smugly smiled. Ignoring Gabrielle's strange glare she sat up and placed a hand over hers. "She gave us some very valuable information, Gabrielle." Her eyes widened. "Something is awry in the Roman church. There's a snake inside the church and it may have opened up another world..." she thought that something like that could never happen. Opening the gates of hell. How preposterous, she thought but it seemed that the archbishop had done it or at least hoaxed it.

Gabrielle was too nauseous to eat at the moment and pushed her plate aside. "It doesn't really surprise me," she said flat toned.

"What does that mean?" Xena was intrigued now.

The amazon queen sighed and leaned back in the chair staring up at the ceiling. "Three of my amazons were burned at the stake in Rome. I sent them on missions to retrieve information for me and the church caught them, accused them of witchcraft and burned them." She looked off into the distance. "That's why I was so worried about Mira's disappearance." She turned to Xena and saw her blue eyes were calm and intense all at once.

Xena frowned, feeling sorry for Gabrielle now. Her sisters were burned unrightfully and she had to live with that guilt forever. She knew that pain all too well. "Why were they accused of witchcraft?" she asked in a soft voice.

Gabrielle smiled meekly, "Romans don't like amazons Xena. I'm sure you can put two and two together," she played with the fork on the table as a subtle distraction from her guilt driven thoughts.

"They were an easy target," Xena said bluntly and Gabrielle had never thought of that way but it was probably true. Her hand reached for Gabrielle's and she stared at her solemn face. "I'm sorry Gabrielle. I understand how that feels."

The amazon queen looked up into her eyes. "Do you?" she asked curiously.

Xena felt a bit put off by that question but she wasn't offended. "Yes I do. I know what it feels like to watch innocent people die and you can't do anything about it."

Gabrielle's emotions softened when she said that. "I was thankful that I did not witness their deaths."

The Greek queen nodded. "Yes you should be thankful. I was not so lucky," she sadly smiled. Her hand slipped off of Gabrielle's slowly. "While I was in Transylvania I decided to go scouting with my sister. There was a burning village outside Wallachia caused by the Ottomans. They meant as a warning to the people of Wallachia." Her eyes widened thinking of the awful memory. "We rode into the village and saw regular people, farmers and sheep herders, fighting Ottomans with household tools. I saw two children inside of their burning home. I got off my horse and ran to the burning home to attempt to save them." She paused and Gabrielle looked into her glossy eyes. "The house collapsed before I got there to save them. My sister told me we needed to leave and I remember not being able to move. I felt I could have saved them and I failed."

Gabrielle saw a true emotional side of Xena she had never seen before. Xena was more than a tough warrior queen. She had many sides to her and she hoped the more time they spent together that other sides would come to light. "It wasn't your fault. You tried to save them."

"Their faces were burned into my brain after that. I was so young and traumatized at the time. I don't think I got over that until several years later." Xena sighed and wiped her eyes. "I made a promise to myself that I would never see a child die before my eyes by the hand of someone else or..myself," she added reluctantly.

The amazon smiled now grabbing onto Xena's free hand. "And were you successful with your promise?"

Xena sighed not sure if she was quite as successful as she wished. "Unfortunately, I cannot save everybody," she smiled at the blonde queen. "But anyway enough about that," she side stepped the subject as it was making her remember even more awful things about her past. "I think I should stay here until I hear word from Xayida..."

Gabrielle completely agreed. "You told her you're here, didn't you?" she asked almost afraid of the answer.

"Unfortunately." She rolled her eyes. "I asked her to do one last thing for me. I hope that she does it."

"Do you really believe that she hates you as much as she says she does?" Gabrielle wanted to know more about the rift between the two sisters.

Xena sighed feeling like that was a complicated and loaded question. "I don't know, Gabrielle. We've been through a lot together. One day I hope to forgive her. I envy your loving heart," she smiled.

The amazon grinned a bit cheerful at that. "You have a loving heart, Xena. You just don't know how to use it," she teased. "What's stopping you from forgiving her? It's been ten years."

The Greek queen quirked her mouth unsure how to answer. "My pride probably," she laughed half heartedly. "Gabrielle," she looked into those green eyes that haunted her for years. "I don't believe that she is truly sorry for what she did to me. That is why I cannot forgive her."

Gabrielle began to wonder what in the world Xayida did to Xena to make her not forgive her. She didn't really want to ask that question as it might spark unwanted emotions. "So that means you'll be staying here...with me," Gabrielle smirked.

Xena sensed the mirth in her eyes. "I'm sorry I showed up so randomly Gabrielle and I'm sorry for not writing you. I was never a writer..." she admitted lamely.

"I forgive your incompetence," the amazon teased. Xena blinked, shocked at her joking manner. Gabrielle laughed at Xena's flawless expression. It was too good.

Tempi, Macedonia

Xayida trotted in on her horse through the city and it was quite an awful sight to see. Dead birds in the streets and blood caked in the cobble stone paths. It looked just like Athens did. Xena was right about this being a problem and perhaps she was even right about the church being responsible but Xayida was skeptical.

Solan rode in beside her on his horse. "Mother this is terrible..." he had a sad frown across his face. Xayida smiled sadly at him and rubbed his back.

"Why don't you go help those children over there," she nudged her head and saw a few children trying to clean up their parents' shops and fruit stands. Solan jumped off his horse and ran over to the children who among his age group. She sighed looking around at the awful scene. She didn't know what to do nor did she have any idea where to begin to help.

She trotted around the square and many of her people looked to her with pleading eyes. She smiled at them all weakly, not knowing how to help. She then heard horse hooves on the cobble stone and she frowned. She saw a lead of black stallions riding in wearing red masks over the horses' faces. The riders passed her and she frowned, wondering why these people just figured they could just die past her without uttering a word. This was her kingdom.

She then saw someone she hadn't seen in years. Her eyes widened and she immediately knew who these riders were. The leader was in the middle of the other horse riders and he caught glimpse of her. She pulled her horse in front of his stopping him from going any further. "What are you doing here?" she asked in a harsh tone.

The dark haired Prince of Wallachia grinned at the queen. With the constant war between Transylvania and the Ottomans she would have thought he'd be dead by now but no he was quite alive –alive and well. "Xayida..." he bowed his head with a charismatic grin. "Your manners haven't changed," he smirked.

She scowled. "You can't just pass through here like tourists. What are you doing in Macedonia?" she demanded to know.

He adjusted his gloves and fur cloak, "I have business in Rome. Where's Xena?" he smiled.

Xayida half rolled her eyes. "You know where she is, Borias." She saw one of his guards come at her abruptly and she backed away on her horse.

"You may not address the prince in such a personal manner," the guard said aloud and Xayida blinked.

Is he serious? She scoffed and Borias waved his hand to his guard. "Relax. She and I know each other personally," he smiled. "I thought you two were supposed to rule an empire together. What happened to that?" he feigned innocence.

The Macedonian Queen frowned deeply at him. "That's none of your business. Why are you going to Rome?"

He wagged his finger at the queen in a teasing manner. "That's my business alone, Xayida." He looked around to see many dead birds laying on the ground and blood everywhere. "Something happen here?" he raised an eyebrow.

She smiled matching his teasing attitude. "I am heading to Rome myself soon. Perhaps we will see each other there," she challenged.

He nodded his head, "maybe. And Xena, will she be there?" he asked curiously.

Xayida's smiled disappeared. "If you want to see her so badly you know where she lives, unless your wife will disagree," her voice hinted a bit of playfulness.

Borias wasn't feeling so playful at the moment. "Fortunate for you, she died in childbirth a few years ago taking my son with her."

Xayida now didn't feel so malicious. She never liked his wife but to hear that she and the child died wasn't something she wanted to hear. Her eyes went to Solan and hoped he'd stay over there with the children a little while longer so he wouldn't see him and ask questions.

He smiled at her and grabbed the horse's reins. "Excuse me I have to be on my way now. Sorry for the intrusion," he bowed to her and left the square without giving her time to respond. Her mouth gaped as she watched him and his crew leave the area on their way to Rome.

What were they going to do in Rome she wondered? What a strange coincidence although she believed something truly odd was going on. Wallachia didn't have the best relationship with Rome as far as she knew unless something changed underneath her nose. If Xena knew about this, she thought, this would surely infuriate her.

She needed to go to Rome.

Chapter Text

AN: warning -disturbing scenes near the end. A little bit of horror for you all ;) enjoy this odd tale.

Chapter Seven

"I want to hunt with the tameless
I want to learn the wisdom of mountains afar
we will honor the angel in the snow"

Xena looked outside the window within the castle and saw amazons sparring with one another in the snow. They were so young to her, probably teenagers she guessed. She sometimes wished that she could have had that carefree life like those girls. She once had a normal life until she decided to change the course of it forever taking her sister along with her. Some part of her wished she would have gone alone and spared Xayida the pain and hardships they had together. Xayida could have had a normal life, a husband and children in Amphipolis and she took that away from her. Now her sister spent most of her life hating her and lived alone in an entirely different country hundreds of miles away from her.

The longer Xena spent in this castle the more she realized she had lost more than she gained in some areas of her life. She too could have had a nice life of leisure. It wasn't like her family couldn't afford it but she knew that she was destined to do more than sit at home as a housewife. But now she spent her life alone in her large palace by the sea with her sister despising her and no contact with her family. She had no idea if they even lived in the same large manor on the hillside of Amphipolis anymore. She didn't know anything about her mother or her brothers and watching the two young amazons spar outside only made her wish she would have stayed behind with her family a little while longer when she had the chance.

After she and Xayida escaped from Wallachia they fled back home and that was only a few years after they had been exiled. Xena and Xayida stayed there for a year then they left although, Xayida wanted to stay longer, Xena didn't want that. That was the last time she had seen her family and it wasn't a happy time for anybody especially her. She was confined to her home the entire time she stayed there per Xayida and her mother's advice. At the time she didn't understand that it was for her own good and the safety of herself and others, but now she understood it was a good thing she stayed.

Young and stupid, she thought. Those same feelings came back to her the more she watched the girls fight with each other with their staffs, laughing and grinning together. And to think that she almost wiped out this civilization. Her eyes widened as her mind kept ticking. She could have killed them all in one day and what would that make her? A bigger murderer than she was already claimed to be. She had no problem with murdering amazons, in fact, it was a mission to make her empire grow. Though, now Xena understood that wouldn't have made her empire grow. It grew in size and wealth without killing the amazons. She supposed she had Gabrielle to thank for that. These girls will never know what she had in mind for them all those years ago.

Amazon Territory, Greece 1440

Spring had arrived and the snow was beginning to melt in the land of Greece. Xena and her army traveled across Greece, claiming cities as her own before the Roman church could. Some were willing while others were not and because of that, she had to enforce scare tactics. She believed that anybody that defied Greece defied her. She was Greece's new queen now and she had been queen for a little more than a year now putting fear into the people of Greece to follow her or face the consequences.

She had her next stop ahead of her. The Amazons. She rode into the territory just off the coast of the Gulf of Corinth. She had already made her stop in Corinth and they put up quite a nasty fight against her. In the end, they lost and succumbed to her claiming herself as their new queen. People were terrified of her but since she was their leader, she promised they could keep their religion and cultural customs. She was not such an awful person to take away a person's rights just because she oversaw them as queen. She also told them all foreigners living in the area would not be taxed. She was able to win most of the cities over by that negotiation. Even though she was seen as a terrifying queen she was fair. Xena realized that to be queen one must give up some things to reign longer. She didn't care what god these people prayed to or if they prayed to any god at all. To be fair was the way. She learned this while in Wallachia and applied the practice to her own strategy to win these people over.

Coming up over a hill in the forest area of the outskirts of Corinth she saw the amazon territory not far ahead. She knew how stubborn amazons were and knew that they would put up a fight against her instantly. They didn't like visitors. Xena smiled raising a brow as she saw a wild fire in the middle of their camp and many of the amazons were dancing around the fire. A ceremony, of course. She clenched her teeth and waved her men to go into the camp intruding in on their ceremony.

She smiled and loud drums were heard in the background, though not drowning out the horses rampaging down the hill. The amazons saw the horde of men coming towards their camp and panicked, thinking they were not prepared for an attack at all. They were in the middle of an important ceremony and it would all have to come to an end.

Xena rode in last behind all of her men, wearing a black cloak, pants and a brown tunic. Her wild hair was yet to be tamed and brushed. She looked like she had been in battle for days. Her eyes were fiery and filled with excitement, though they were tired as was the rest of her body. She trotted through the pathway the men made for her and was met with a circle of amazons pointing javelins at her as they surrounded the fire.

She jumped off the horse and peered behind the amazons continuing to enclose around her. She pointed at the fire and saw a coffin up on burial stilts. "Who died?" she smiled placing her hands on her hips.

One of the elder amazons pushed her javelin forward and Xena remained still, staring down at the weapon. "Our queen," she growled. "This is sacred ground and visitors are not allowed. So I suggest that you leave at once!" she demanded and Xena smiled smugly at the amazon woman.

"I own this land! I can enter in any place that I want..." she winked and started to walk through until the amazons came closer to her with the javelins. "You amazons and your trivial weapons," she pulled out a matchlock from its holster on her thigh. She pointed the gun at them all and the amazons' eyes widened, suddenly feeling very afraid.

"She has gunpowder!" one of the amazons cried out.

Xena smiled and took a few steps closer and the amazons began backing away from her. "You can thank the Chinese for that. Now, we can make this easy or difficult." She smiled staring at all the frightened eyes staring back at her. "Submit to me or face the consequences," she hissed.

"Who is that?" a voice was heard from behind the crowd of amazons. Xena frowned and tried to see who was speaking. The amazons made a path and a young blonde stepped through and saw the raven haired woman with a gun in her hand. "What are you doing here?"

Xena grinned, "and who are you?" lowering her gun she stared at the petite blonde.

"Gabrielle, Queen of the Amazons," she said in a proud voice. Xena looked to the burning coffin and it was clear now. Their queen had just died and now this Gabrielle girl was their new queen.

She began to laugh, "you?" she scoffed. "You are probably the same age as some of these young amazons," she laughed more and her men laughed along with her.

Gabrielle frowned, not liking being laughed at for her age. She was these people's new queen and she had to do something. "Who are you and why have you come here? You interrupted a burial ceremony..." she stated and Xena's laughter died down.

She bowed mockingly to the amazon queen. "Xena, Queen of Greece," she smiled with a subtle smirk.

"Greece doesn't have a monarch," Gabrielle stated. As far as she knew, Greece was free of monarchy and this woman must be a pirate or a looter. She didn't know but she didn't want her to stay and find out. She might kill every single one of these amazons and she just couldn't let that happen.

Xena frowned, "it does now." She locked the bolt to the rear on the matchlock and pointed it at Gabrielle. "Submit or die," she demanded.

The young amazon queen looked to her sisters then stared at Xena who seemed more than willing to pull the trigger. She took a step closer and she put her hand up so her sisters would stay away. Xena lifted her chin, quite curious to see what this young girl was going to do. "If you are the Queen of Greece like you claim...I don't think violence is the way to recruit followers," she said eloquently, which shocked Xena.

She lowered the gun and pursed her lips. "Are you trying to tell me how to do my job, Gabrielle..."

Gabrielle shook her head, "no I'm not. I'm saying that perhaps we will accept you as...our overseer if we could compromise. Together," she smiled and Xena smirked at this girl.

Xena scoffed, "I don't compromise." She placed a hand on her hip, leaning to the left smiling at the young amazon queen.

The blonde felt like she needed to act quickly. She was good at talking and so far Xena hadn't destroyed them yet, perhaps she could convince her to let the amazons keep their land and she could still reign as queen. "My sisters and I will follow you if you agree to a few conditions." She stated and that wasn't up for negotiation.

Xena snickered. "I'm curious. Entertain me with these conditions," she grinned folding her arms staring at the queen.

She breathed in and exhaled deeply preparing herself. Inside she was a nervous wreck and technically this was her first day being queen and this woman comes along. She wasn't exactly prepared and it looked like Xena had a few years on her. Greece hasn't had a monarch in quite some time and if Xena was able to establish herself as queen and in a quick manner then she truly was someone not to mess with.

She began, "we keep our amazon traditions, religion and customs. We won't submit to any war efforts unless we are a last resort and..."

Xena's eyes widened, "and...?" she waited patiently though it was wearing thin.

Gabrielle looked into her icy blue eyes and felt even more nervous. Her stare was soul piercing. "And we are allowed to keep our amazon territory and borders."

There was a long moment of silence and Xena bit her tongue, unsure how to handle this queen. She was so young and it was obvious that she was new, but so was she. She had to keep in mind that she was to be fair to win people over. She put the matchlock back into the holster. Gabrielle stared at her hopeful she would comply. "I commend you for your pride in your people, Gabrielle," she smiled and mounted her horse. "You are the first to try and negotiate with me," she pulled on the horse's reins.

Gabrielle stepped forward, "so will you compromise with us?" she hoped, lacing her fingers together.

"You may keep your territories...for now," Xena said and Gabrielle felt like she could breathe again. She had agreed so far. "You are young and will make mistakes," she looked into her green eyes. "Don't make me regret my decision," she hissed and left the area.

All the amazons smiled and ran to Gabrielle, thanking her and praising her. Gabrielle was overwhelmed by the attention. She watched Xena leave the forest and she saw the Greek Queen look back at her with a subtle smile. Interesting, she thought.

Xena felt a hand come to her shoulder and she was startled. She turned to see Gabrielle staring at her with concern in her eyes. "I didn't mean to scare you..." she said with a warm smile.

Xena grinned and shook her head, "you didn't scare me. I was just thinking about something," she looked out the window again and saw the two girls continuing to spar.

"thinking about what?" Gabrielle asked.

The brunette waved it off. "Nothing. I was just thinking what a great job you've done as their queen," she gestured to the two amazons fighting together outside in the snow. Gabrielle looked to the young amazons with a smile, nodding her head at Xena.

"Well thank you...I think," the blonde smirked and Xena stepped away from the window. Gabrielle could tell that she was feeling rather restless and wanted to do something. She should have warned her how awful these winters can be here. Sometimes they were snowed inside the castle for days at a time due to the harsh storms. She knew in Greece that it snowed but not as heavily as it did in the mountains in the Caucasus region. But winter was just beginning and the snow fall was light and usually came in the evenings and the days were sunny and bright. "Do you want to come with to the village down the road?" she offered.

Xena raised a brow. "There are villages in this area?" she seemed surprised.

Gabrielle chuckled, "of course. Where do you think we get all of our food from?" she smirked. "Xena, amazons are not sufficient in everything..." she teased. Xena simply nodded, still shocked that the amazons would even live so close to neighboring villages. They didn't in Greece, although the landscape was different there and it wasn't guarded by mountains. They also had a sea next to their territory so it was easy to catch fish. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense that these amazons would need different food to sustain their population, and it was a much larger population than they had in Greece.

Xena had an idea and she smiled slyly, "can we bring Freya with us?" she asked hopeful that Gabrielle would say yes.

The blonde queen sighed and stared up at Xena. "You really like her don't you?"

"It is not every day that I get to see children, Gabrielle and the ones I do see are afraid of me," she smiled and Gabrielle agreed to take Freya with them.

"I guess it'll be good for her to get outside these castle walls..." she tapped her chin and smiled up at Xena. "You really are impossible to say no to."

Xena's eyes grew, "I have been told that," she grinned.

Gabrielle suggested that they walk to the village instead of taking horses. The scenery was beautiful and they walked through a large path of trees, arching over each other creating an arc over their heads. The snow was also glistening off the sunlight and the trees above them were beginning to shed pink small flowers. Xena looked around almost feeling like a curious cat. She hadn't seen such beauty in nature in such a long time. It had been awhile since she just walked around enjoying the peacefulness of nature. She almost expected someone to jump out and attack them, although she remembered they weren't in Greece and these people probably didn't know her or knew what she looked like, which was a good thing.

Freya walked in between Gabrielle and Xena. The blonde child looked up at Xena as she held her mother's hand. She saw that she was a lot taller than her mother and most amazons she grew up around. She reached for Xena's hand grabbing a few of her long slender fingers to hold onto. Xena peered down feeling a tiny hand reach for hers. She smiled down at her and Freya grinned showing her pearly whites.

Gabrielle glanced to her side and saw Freya holding onto Xena's hand and she smirked. "Do you like Xena?" she asked the blonde child.

Freya nodded her head, "yeah, she's nice. She has pretty dresses," she kicked the snow with her boots as she tried to keep up with the two women. "And pretty long hair too," the five year old complimented Xena further and Gabrielle saw Xena's face and she seemed to be enjoying the compliments given by a child.

"You don't think I have pretty hair too?" Gabrielle teased her daughter and Freya scoffed.

"Yes but Xena's hair is so long!" she peered behind Xena and saw her hair was in a long braid, reaching her hips

Xena kept walking and finally saw a few vendors up ahead. "If only adults were as innocent as children. I think we would have peaceful lives," she longed and Gabrielle grinned, walking along to keep up with Xena's long strides, though Freya was the one who was having trouble. Although she didn't seem to mind.

They came to the village and there were many fruit and vegetable vendors out and about. Most of them sold season vegetables and fruits catered to the region. Xena had never seen some of these fruits before as they walked around. Freya was busy looking at the clothes still holding hands with Gabrielle and Xena. Although she let go of her mother's hand to reach for a scarf, she held onto Xena's hand tightly.

Xena saw the girl struggling to see the scarves but her height was her only disadvantage. Gabrielle was occupied looking at jewelry. Xena would never depict Gabrielle being a jewelry lover but it appeared she was very enthralled with the earrings and necklaces. Freya's interest was much the same. She smiled as the child was on her tip toes trying to see the pretty hand sewn scarves. She picked her up in her arms and Freya squealed with delight and surprise.

Gabrielle looked over and saw Xena carrying Freya in her arms picking up various scarves for her to examine.

Freya took the scarf Xena handed her and wrapped it around her neck, feeling more like a princess now, though she was technically already an amazon princess. Xena smiled then saw Gabrielle looking at her with a warm expression. "She likes the latest fashion, Gabrielle," she teased. "I saw you eyeing those earrings. I wonder where she gets it from..."

"I was just looking..." Gabrielle lamely tried to save herself but Xena knew that she was being stubborn. "If I wasn't here I am almost sure you'd steal her from me."

Xena gasped, "Gabrielle. I don't steal children, except for the cute ones," she teased and Gabrielle rolled her eyes. She had missed Xena's odd sense of humor and even though she had been here for only two days she felt like she hadn't lost any time with her from their five year department. Throughout these last five years Gabrielle had often wondered how Xena was doing and she wouldn't dare ask Xayida because she probably wouldn't have known and that would just open a can of worms that was just unnecessary.

After about half an hour of debate between Gabrielle and Xena over getting a scarf for Freya, Xena ended up winning and Freya walked away with the scarf that she liked the most. The vendor was enjoying seeing the two bicker in front of him while Freya was completely oblivious and too enthralled with the scarf to notice. In the end she got what she wanted.

Walking through the rest of the village Xena continued carrying Freya in her arms. She was quite lithe for a five year old and very petite. Gabrielle walked alongside her and suggested they get back to the castle before it started to get dark outside.

On their way back Freya had fallen asleep in Xena's arms and rested her head on her shoulder. "I seen you've tired her out," Gabrielle said as she looked to see the child was passed out on Xena. "You don't have to carry her you know."

Xena smiled brushing a few tendrils away from Freya's face. "It's alright Gabrielle, I don't mind. She has a rather calming effect on me," she whispered. They finally arrived back to the castle just before it started snowing just as Gabrielle had predicted hours ago. Xena reluctantly gave the sleepy child to Amelia so she could sleep in her own bed for awhile.

Gabrielle invited Xena to her bedroom so they could be alone for awhile. With the snow coming in she was sure they weren't going to go anywhere although it was nice to spend a few hours outside the castle walls. Xena seemed to enjoy herself and she was definitely enraptured with Freya, which Gabrielle couldn't understand her infatuation with her daughter. It was a sweeter side of Xena that probably nobody got to witness except for her. She was a warrior but she had a love for small children apparently.

"Xena," she began and sat on her bed taking off her shoes getting comfortable. Xena sat down in a chair across from her. She was wearing an empire waist dress to get away from those terrible corsets for awhile was a blessing. Xena lifted her eyes and smiled at her making Gabrielle a bit nervous. "How come you didn't have any children of your own?" she was curious.

Xena's smile disappeared as she thought of her son that she couldn't have with her. She was a childless mother. She wouldn't wish that on anybody as it was a horrible feeling that haunted her for years. She counted the days every year and knew that her son would have been eleven years old by now and his birthday has just passed recently, which she remembered every year. His birthday fell on the last day of autumn, marking the first day of winter. She'd never forget that day the first and last day she saw her son.

"I..." she began softly having Gabrielle's full attention. "Just never got around to it," she smiled weakly. Gabrielle saw the doubt in Xena's eyes so she averted her gaze elsewhere.

Gabrielle squinted her eyes sensing sadness coming from Xena. She wasn't sure how she truly felt and suddenly felt bad for asking her that question. Xena nervously scratched her neck quirking her mouth to the side. "I'm sorry I shouldn't have asked you," she immediately said as soon as she saw the emptiness in Xena's eyes.

Xena shook her head, "there's nothing to apologize for, Gabrielle." She smiled, playing it off like it meant nothing to her. When she was younger, if she would have kept her son she probably wouldn't be where she was today, but would that have been such an awful choice? She would never know as the decision was not hers in the end and she had no idea where he would be now.

Xena began to think of what her sister said to her when she was visiting her in Athens. "She doesn't know anything about you". Her voice echoed in her mind and her eyes widened as she felt herself becoming distant. Gabrielle leaned forward on the edge of the bed staring into her blank eyes.

"Xena?" she called out waving her hand over her eyes for a response.

"She knows nothing about you." Xena's eye twitched as her sister's voice kept entering her mind and she saw that malevolent smile on her face staring back at her. "I would do anything for you." Her sister's voice kept taunting her. "You betrayed me!" she could almost see her sister's angry eyes as the voice became louder with her temper. "I helped you so much, Xena."

Xena shook her head and wiped her forehead, suddenly feeling as if her sister were in the same room as them. She looked to Gabrielle then saw Xayida behind her. Her eyes widened and Gabrielle continued to look confused. "I spared her." She blinked and the image of her sister was gone but Gabrielle was now concerned.

"Xena, are you alright?" she grabbed her hand and Xena nodded her head.

She felt like her sister was haunting her and she didn't understand why but it was too real, but Xayida wasn't here. She was in Macedonia...and hopefully on her way to Rome like she said she would be.

"How did you meet my sister?" Xena asked randomly. Gabrielle blinked not quite sure she wanted to answer that question. Xena waited for her answer patiently and her eyes softened.

"Are you want me to answer that?" Gabrielle hesitantly asked. Xena nodded her head then came to sit on the bed with her to get more comfortable. She exhaled softly then began her tale, "well, not long after you came to the amazon territory, Xayida came to see us with her army, though not as large as yours."

Xena interrupted, "she took the men that chose to follow her," she said sourly. Gabrielle nodded, now understanding a bit more.

"She offered to befriend us. As you can imagine my sisters and I were very weary of her because you had came not long before she did. She looked so much like you, one of the amazons even said she could be your sister, though it was just a rumor. Perhaps I should have listened to that rumor," she scoffed. "She did not approach us as you did. She offered us sanctuary in the Caucasus because she feared what the Greek Queen..." she eyed Xena carefully, "...would do to us. At the time we didn't know if we could trust her or not but she stayed with us for awhile. She got along very well with the amazons and myself. I enjoyed her company and befriended her, seeing her as a worthy ally." She took a deep breath in and stared at Xena's eyes, they were blank but curious. "After a few months she helped my entire tribe move to the Caucasus, convincing us that we would be safe from harm's way." She continued, "I had no idea she was your sister. I told myself that I would keep in contact with her and with you as well as the years went by, Xayida found out that I was talking to you know the rest from there," she finished and Xena sat very stilly and calm.

Xena finally nodded her head as the story finally sunk in. Xayida was pushing Gabrielle away from her long before she knew of their relationship. She had always wanted to be at the top even when she was a child. She was sweet and the men loved her because of her innocence and naivety. Though, little did they know that she was not innocent or naive, it was all an act so she could entice them and bewitch them. Xena had those spells as well and Xayida liked to make everyone believe that she was not good at befriending men, but she used them constantly in her young life.

"She always ruins everything," Xena said and Gabrielle blinked, remaining quiet. "She is not the kind queen that people think she is, Gabrielle. Let me tell you a story." Her eyes narrowed like daggers. Gabrielle scooted to her pillows and listened to Xena.


After Xayida dropped off her son back at their home she took a few guards and Jesyka with her to Rome. She would be behind Borias, but not too far behind him. She was on a mission not for herself but for Xena, like she promised, but she had another mission and that was to find out why Borias was in Rome. He never really cared for the Roman Empire but if he was going there then it must have been important, right?

She trotted into Rome and many people crowded around her. They smiled at her and she grinned at them all. The Roman people really admired her and she felt important here even though she wasn't from this land, she really liked Rome sometimes despite what they have done to neighboring empires.

She rode through the sea of people and saw Borias coming out of St. Peter's Basilica and she frowned. Jumping off her horse she handed the reins to Jesyka to handle her horse. Raul, one of her best royal guards followed behind her making sure nobody came too close to her. Borias turned around as he was talking to someone at the door step. Xayida picked up her dress walking up the stairs gracefully.

The Wallachian Prince turned to see the Macedonian Queen behind him with a sly smile. He grinned at her and thanked the man and the doors to the basilica were closed. She eyed him and he still looked the same in her eyes. Dressed in all black matching his long braided hair, yes definitely the same. She had never seen him wear another color.

"Are you spying on me?" he chided as he tucked something in his coat pocket. The tails of his coat drug on the stairs and Xayida walked beside him.

"No, I told you I was coming to Rome," she began, "I find it interesting to see you here. You never really cared for the Romans, did you?"

He turned to her with a smirk, "I still don't. And what are you doing here? I thought you and Xena hated this place," he chuckled and met with his men, who followed him. Xayida walked down the pathway with him keeping up with his pace.

"I've learned it's important to make allies. I'm afraid Xena has not learned that after many years," she said with malice.

Borias raised an eyebrow at the queen. She was younger than he was by a few years and was quite vicious like he remembered her to be. Xena was the same, but Xena was different to him. She had a desire to rule while Xayida had the will to destroy. "You are trouble, Xayida," he watched the passer biers making himself aware of his surroundings. He was always on alert and knew the Romans were not too fond of Transylvanians.

"That's not really a nice thing to say to an old friend," she teased with a sly smile, trying to get on his good side.

He frowned and stopped, grabbing her arm, "you are not my friend, Xayida." He hissed.

She grinned and wiggled out of his hold. "So Xena can be your friend and I can't?" she playfully toyed with his emotions.

He kept walking and she followed alongside him. "Xena was more than a friend to me you know that."

She nodded, "oh yes I know. You loved her didn't you?" she dug in deeper and she saw he was getting frustrated.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" He frowned as he stared into her ice blue eyes that deeply reminded him of Xena's. They looked so similar and even Xayida straightened her today, making her almost a mirror image of her, but Xayida was not Xena. Her nose longer, her face softer and paler than Xena's olive complexion and she was without thick bangs, parting her hair in the middle. Though, staring at her was enough to remind him of Xena and it disturbed him. He scoffed waving his hand at her hoping she'd go away.

Xayida smirked feeling very devious today she continued to walk with him putting on a smile for the Roman people. She leaned in close to him, "you find anything odd about Rome?" she casually asked.

He rolled his eyes. "I see there is blood just like there was in your kingdom." He grinned, knowing her game she was trying to play. "Maybe it's an omen from the gods or god above," he looked to the sky. "It's a sign for you to stop ruling as a queen," he teased, chuckling lowly. Xayida frowned no longer finding this game funny anymore.

"Well, I must be going," she kindly excused herself and Borias nodded at her as she turned the other way.

"Watch out for the dead ravens, Xayida. They might follow you home," he laughed and Xayida growled but kept walking in the opposite direction.

Xayida came back to St. Peter's Basilica and let herself in. Surely, nobody would notice her entrance since she had come here many times before. When she closed the doors behind her she noticed an eerie feeling about this place. The candles were not lit and it was dark and the sunlight was the only light inside the cathedral. Frowning she continued to walk deeper into the cathedral. There was nobody in here but how could that be? Borias had just left this place and he was speaking to someone.

She came to the archbishop's throne chamber and creaked the door open. She peered inside and saw the archbishop leaning over a marble table. There were candles lit in the room although nobody was inside. She took it upon herself to enter at her own will and saw a body on the table. She crept in further and then saw blood trickling down from the table and she covered her mouth. The body was of a dead person and he was completely naked. The corpse's face looked it had been tortured as his mouth was open looking as if he were screaming.

The archbishop turned around holding a dagger in his hand and his cassock was covered in blood. Xayida's eyes widened and he grinned at her. "Your majesty..." he said in a low voice. "So good of you to show up..." his eyes narrowed, "we've been waiting for you," his voice changed to an almost inhuman one.

"Gods above..." she whispered. He took a step to the side and the corpse's body was slit open and completely disemboweled. That poor man, she thought. What did he do? "What is this?" she pointed to the dead body.

He turned to see the screaming face of the corpse and grinned. "A sacrifice, my dear."

"Sacrifice?" she took another step forward and reached for her dagger beneath her dress.

He nodded and came closer to her and she stood still, unsure of his actions. "You see my dear, you can't have a ceremony like this one without a sacrifice."

She looked at the corpse, "he looks like he's been dead for awhile..." she noted trying to figure out what was going on.

"Only a few days. Would you like to help?" he gestured her to come forward and she shook her head then he frowned deeply. She saw his eyes change from a dark brown to a blood red. "If you are not with us, you are against us!" he yelled.

Xayida frowned narrowing her eyes. She heard this before when she was in Athens with Xena at that cathedral. The priest had yelled those same words to Xena as they escaped the mob of people inside the church. "Who am I against?" she asked calmly.

"The prince of darkness of course!" he laughed, coughing in between his chuckles. Xayida pursed her lips and now she was confused. "Join us, Xayida. You are one of us."

She shook her head, "I don't think so."

His eyes widened and he came at her with the dagger and she gasped, grabbing his arms they fell to the floor and he had been overcome with immense strength, pinning her to the floor. "You are like us, Xayida! You are a liar! A traitor!" he spat in her face in a demonic voice. She cringed as she felt his breath on her skin.

"I am not a liar!" she yelled back at him and he grinned, showing his bloodied teeth. Her eyes widened. By the gods was he eating the innards of that corpse? His breath was unbearable.

"That's not what he thinks," he hissed then licked her cheek and she groaned trying to push him off her. "Once we have you then maybe we'll go after your sister too!" he grinned and Xayida felt the malice in his words. She took her dagger beneath her dress and stabbed his thigh. He cried out in pain and she wiggled out of his hold as he held onto his now bleeding wound. She scooted on the floor and got up quickly.

"You stay away from her!" she demanded then saw the archbishop look up at her with an eerie evil grin and he began to laugh lowly.

"oh, you care about her..." he pouted. "Yet another lie!" he cringed as he held onto his bleeding leg. She frowned holding the dagger out in case he would get up. She began to back away and opened the door taking off in a hurry. "You can't run from your lies, Xayida!" he called out. "I love you Xena, I would do anything for you," he mocked in a sweet voice, mimicking her own voice.

Xayida stopped halfway down the corridor and her eyes grew in fear, hearing her own voice echo those same words that she told Xena.

"I'd never hurt you Xena, but you betrayed me," he continued to mock her in her own voice and she turned around to see he was still on the ground clutching to his open wound. "Bla, bla, bla!" he laughed seeing her expression. "Look at you. Even you cannot believe your own lies!" his laugh echoed in the marble halls and Xayida was horrified then turned and ran down the hall as fast as she could to get out of the basilica. "," he smugly grinned.

Xayida exited the basilica and closed the doors behind her, breathing heavily. She felt like been in a horrible nightmare. What an awful game he was playing. She felt her heart beating very fast and closed her eyes trying to get the image out of her head. "I never harmed Gabrielle. She was a dear friend to me." She heard Xena's voice in her head and that wasn't making things easier.

"I wanted Gabrielle to stay away from you. She didn't know anything about you or your past."

"My past doesn't rule my life."

"I didn't want her poisoned by your path of destruction, Xena."

"Why would you do that?"

Xayida held her head with her hands clenching her teeth. She wanted Xena out of her head, but she could still hear her voice echoing through her mind.

"You told Gabrielle that I was poisonous but it is you who is the poison!"

"No...just stop," she whispered to herself hoping the voices would stop. She then heard Xena's voice echo in her mind about the time they left Wallachia and spent a year in Amphipolis.

"I can't believe you did that to me!"

"It was for your own good, Xena!"

"I trusted you!"

She then heard a loud screeching scream from Xena in her mind and she dropped to her knees, no longer able to take it anymore. She felt like she was being tortured. She promised she would come to Rome to find out more of this phenomena and if Xena wanted to know..she would be told. She opened her eyes and saw many people looking at her strangely.

She got up off the stairs and quickly went to her horse and left the area, too embarrassed to look into the eyes staring at her.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

"Deliver me from this war
It's not for me it's because of you."

Wallachia, 1438

Xena and her sister traveled to Transylvania in hopes to make new allies and hopefully find more men to join them or women, whichever they preferred. They didn't really receive warm welcomes by the women because they were beautiful young women and seen as a threat. Xena at nineteen almost twenty felt more mature than she did two years ago for sure. She wondered what it would have been like if she stayed in Amphipolis doing the same routine over and over again. Xayida, just seventeen had blossomed into a very beautiful woman and also a very manipulative one. Xena believed her sister had changed the most since they left their home. She was no longer shy around men, no, she definitely wasn't, but she wasn't willing to get in bed with everyone she saw either. She chose wisely.

After a very long night Borias left Xena in his bed within his dark castle. He kissed her forehead and she groaned, shifting in her sleep. Her arm sprawled across the bed and the sheet draped over her naked body. Her chest slowly rising and falling as she slept soundly in the prince's bed. Her mouth slightly agape due to exhaustion. She didn't remember the last time she slept for so long, but that was all going to come to an end.

A loud whistling sound was heard from outside the castle walls and a loud explosion occurred causing some books and candles to fall over. Xena gasped and rolled over falling off the bed abruptly from her rude awakening. Her heart began to race as she had no idea what was going on. She rubbed her face groaning, she wrapped herself in the sheet and stood up. There was another loud explosion and she knocked into a book shelf clumsily.

She walked over to the window sleepily and looked out over a field a bit ways from the castle. She squinted her eyes and saw a row of cannons facing the opponent and they had cannons as well, those theirs were bigger and had longer barrels. "What in Tartarus..." she folded her arms as she stared at the battle before her. Since when was there a war and why didn't she know about it? this was definitely something she wasn't expecting to wake up to.

Suddenly she felt an arm wrap around her waist and she gasped, turning her head she saw Borias smiling at her. She sighed pointing out the window. "What is going on?"

He brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her shoulder gently. "My good friends, the Turks, decided to come into Wallachia. I tried to negotiate a deal with them but they refused so...this happened," he grinned mischievously.

Xena shrugged him off and sat down on the bed, covering herself with the sheet. "Where is my sister?" she frowned, having a feeling she was out there in the field.

Borias sighed, he didn't really like hearing about Xayida. She was very persistent and downright conniving. If only Xena had come alone without her sister then he would have liked that very much. When he first met the two his eyes immediately went to Xena. It was obvious she was the elder out of the two sisters and she was different from Xayida. She had more thrive in her and her beauty was also mystifying. He was constantly surprised by her. She was able to be a lady and a warrior all at once, which wasn't the norm for women in these times.

"She went out into the battlefield," he said and picked up her clothes off the floor with a grin on his face. Xena smirked at him then put that aside and thought of her sister.

"How come I wasn't invited to this impromptu battle?" she teased, laying down on her side, slipping the sheet off her body.

He sat down on the bed and grabbed her arm pulling her close to him. Her eyes widened and he stared at her with a knowing look. "I wanted to let you sleep."

"uh huh," she bit her bottom lip then snatched her arm away from him and quickly grabbed her pants, boots and tunic. "I'm going out there," she slipped on her pants and tunic then began lacing her boots.

He rolled his eyes and pulled her close to him, wrapping his arm around the small of her back. "Xena..." he hissed, "stay here and don't cause trouble."

She grinned and touched his long braids with her fingertips. "I like trouble, Borias," she leaned in to kiss his lips and instead she bit his bottom lip. He groaned and touched his lip that was now bleeding a little bit. She winked and grabbed her cloak and sword running out of the room.

Riding out to the battlefield there was a smog of smoke from the cannons and gunpowder misting in the air. Xena hopped off her horse and saw her sister standing next to a few of Borias' men, giving them commands, which they were actually listening to her. She frowned and grabbed her sister's arm pulling her side. Xayida groaned then saw it was her sister and she grinned.

"Xena, so glad to see you awake. I was beginning to think you were ill," she looked out to the battlefield and Xena was definitely ill due to large amount of wine she drank the night before.

The elder sister grabbed her sister's cheeks pinching them, turning her head towards her eyes. Xayida had a scowl and Xena's eyes narrowed. "Just what do you think you're doing?!" she yelled then heard a cannon go off. She felt ringing in her ears and she blinked, not expecting that. She wasn't ready.

"Helping your boyfriend," she teased and waved her hand over at the men ahead of her.

Xena frowned, "he's not my boyfriend," she hissed.

Xayida scoffed, "okay, Xena," she mocked. She could almost see the steam coming out from Xena's ears. She hadn't seen her so angry and she didn't understand why she was angry in the first place. They came here to make allies and isn't that she was doing? "He can barely keep his hands off of you."

"I didn't come here to get a lecture from my little sister," Xena said lowly. "Why are you out here? This isn't our fight. We promised that we wouldn't interfere!"

Xayida shrugged her shoulder then went to a chest and unlocked it. the chest had the supply of gunpowder Xena had been collecting during their travels. Xena's eyes widened and her blood began to boil. "What are you doing with that? That is mine!" she grabbed the bag of gunpowder from her sister's hand and Xayida stood up, glaring at her sister.

"Everything is always yours, Xena!" she yelled. "Swords are of no use in this kind of battle, can't you see?" she gestured to the cannons and guns the men had.

"You stole this from me..." she felt her temper rising and Xayida didn't seem to care for boundaries. No she just wanted to win. She didn't care about Xena's belongings at all. Xayida loaded a rifle with the powder and locked the bolt grinning at her elder sister. She walked up the hill and Xena followed after her.

"Don't just walk away when I'm talking to you!" Xena yelled as she ran up the hill after Xayida. A few Turks had invaded this side of the hill and were firing their weapons from afar at the Wallachian soldiers, while others used sword combat in close quarters.

Suddenly a young Turkish soldier came running up to Xayida and Xena had just made it up the hill. Xena's eyes widened and the soldier looked no older than thirteen. He was just a child. Xayida pointed the gun at the young boy and Xena wrapped her arms around her sister. "No! What are you doing?!" she screamed in fear for the boy. He didn't know what he was doing.

Xayida groaned trying to free herself from Xena's hold. The boy was coming at them with a scimitar and Xayida elbowed her sister in her face knocking her to the ground. She pointed the gun at the young Turkish boy and Xena touched her nose, it was bleeding. She saw her sister pointing the gun at the boy.

"No!" she cried out and a loud shot was heard. The boy fell to the ground, the boy had been hit in his gut, which was a sure way to die quickly. Xena stood up and ran to the boy lying on the ground, blood spilling from his wound. She cradled him in her arms and tears formed in her eyes. She frowned and glared up at her sister who seemed to have no remorse whatsoever. "He was just a boy!" she cried out and Xayida remained blank and unresponsive.

"He is the enemy," she said coldly and Xena blinked, shocked at her sister's cold behavior. She didn't care if she killed children or not. That was a boundary that Xena did not cross.

The boy coughed out blood onto Xena's cloak and she felt him take his last breath. She laid him back down on the grass and stood up slowly staring at her sister. She marched up the hill and saw Xayida smiling smugly. She swung her arm and punched her sister directly in the face sending her crashing down to her rear.

Xayida gasped and felt her lip already swelling from her sister's blow. Xena stood over her and grabbed the rifle from her hold. Xena glared down at her, "you just killed a child, Xayida. We don't kill children."

The little sister spat out blood and wiped her mouth. "If he is old enough to wear the armor of a soldier then he is a child no more..." she said narrowing her eyebrows. Xena kicked her sister in her stomach and she rolled over, clutching her midsection, moaning in pain.

Xena stepped over her sister with the rifle in her hand. "I hope you are barren," she cursed her sister the will to have any children of her own if that chance were to come.

Gabrielle blinked as Xena finished her story. She would have never guessed that Xayida would do something like that and at such a young age too. Xayida did love children though, Gabrielle had seen it with her own eyes so this story shocked her immensely.

"That boy had no chance in killing her. She knew that and killed him anyway," Xena remembered that day all too well. That was strike one in her book when she began to wonder about her sister's behavior and who she truly was.

Gabrielle couldn't believe it. "Does she have children of her own?"

Xena shrugged, "I doubt it and if she does...she has hidden them well," she sighed feeling emotionally drained all of a sudden.

"I can't believe she did that. She was so good with the children in our tribe," she shook her head still in disbelief.

Xena nodded, "she has always been good with children but at that moment, she didn't see a child before her. She saw a soldier. I saw a boy, not a man." She frowned deeply, "it just proved to me that she would cross all boundaries to be at the top. That is the difference between us Gabrielle. I will only go so far."

Gabrielle felt a bit betrayed by Xayida. She had portrayed herself as the good sister while putting her sister at the lowest level. She convinced her that Xena was chaos and poisonous, yet Xayida had hidden secrets that she was to make sure nobody ever found out about. She almost felt pity towards Xena. She was given a bad rap by her younger sister in order to make Xayida look better than her. Xena had a good heart, she knew that just by talking to her and just being in her presence, although her exterior was cold and hardened over the years which was inevitable due to the life that Xena had.

"I'm sorry Xena that I listened to her. I don't think I will ever feel the need not to apologize to you..." her head hung lowly and she felt Xena lift her chin gently. She stared into her blue eyes and saw a warm smile on her lips.

"Gabrielle, I forgive you and I'm sorry that I didn't let you explain yourself. I've learned something over the years. You can't ignore your past but you also can't dwell in it either. So please Gabrielle, forgive yourself," she brought her hand up to her lips and kissed her knuckles. She saw the blonde's cheeks flush in color.

Gabrielle smiled nodding her head agreeing with Xena. "I don't know how your sister could hate you so're nothing like she said you were..."

The brunette lowered her gaze, "I am not perfect Gabrielle. Everything she told you was true, but there are always two sides to every story." She grinned with hope in her eyes. The amazon enjoyed seeing her smile so much since she had been here. Although her stay here was unexpected it was more than welcome. She knew that Xena would have to leave eventually when she received word from her sister about Rome, but for now, she enjoyed her company.

"It seems very one sided if you ask me..." Gabrielle's eyes widened and Xena could agree with that. Xayida liked to tell only one part of the story in order to make herself look good. She always did that her entire life, even as a child.

Xena admitted, "Xayida used to be the quiet one out of the both of us. That all changed once we left Amphipolis together. We learned many lessons together that brought us closer, but also further apart at the same time," she frowned thinking how ironic that is. "People called us the warrior sisters since we did everything together. How could I know that we would end up the way we did is...beyond me."

Gabrielle smiled weakly at Xena and reached for her hand, squeezing it tightly. Snow was beginning to come down rather heavily outside and the breeze was crisp. "You two spent a lot of time in Transylvania," she pried, "did your problems start there?"

Xena sighed not quite sure she wanted to get into that mess again. Wallachia was one of the best places to be at the time, not anymore. It was a warzone now but back then, there were lavish balls filled with wealthy noble families, side parties, a lot of wine and sex. She doubted if it was still the same. She hadn't been to Wallachia in ten years and she probably would never return. Xayida and Xena were often invited to parties and there was at least one a week so it wasn't like there was a shortage on parties at the time.

She smiled thinking of those times, "I wouldn't say it was the start of our problems, but it certainly was a big factor. We befriended the Prince of Wallachia and I developed a close relationship with him..." her smile was sneaky and Gabrielle caught on and smirked at her. "I don't know if she was jealous but she began to act different towards me."

"Sisters often get jealous of one another especially since you two spent your entire lives together." Gabrielle noted.

"But she was never jealous of me before. Could that be the root of it all? Jealousy?" Xena was beginning to rethink everything about Xayida. Perhaps she was not black hearted or filled with hate because of what Xena did, but because she was..jealous?

Gabrielle shrugged, "I have a younger sister too. She was often jealous of me for silly things when we were growing up. I don't think we ever really close like you and your sister though..." she smiled, "we didn't try to start an empire together," she chuckled.

Xena had no idea that Gabrielle had a sister. In fact neither one of them spoke of their lives back home before they were queens. They seemed to have more in common than Xena ever dreamed of. "Well it obviously didn't work out," she grinned.

Gabrielle sat on her bed leaning on the headboard comfortably staring at Xena. She looked more at ease the more she spoke of her past. It appeared to Gabrielle that Xena had been keeping her past locked and hidden away for many years. She hadn't had the chance to vent or talk to anyone about it and now that she was slowly revealing herself it only made Gabrielle like her even more. She was more open to talking about herself. It looked like there was some weight lifted off of Xena's shoulders.

"So, I'm guessing you don't talk to the Prince of Wallachia anymore?" Gabrielle asked shyly. She was curious. Xena smirked then shook her head.

"No, we both cut ties after my sister and I fled Wallachia. It's probably best that I left. His wife did not like me very much and she certainly didn't like me when she found out we were sleeping together," Xena's eyebrows raised, remembering that woman's face. She was so upset and frightening all at the same time. Natasha was his wife, a woman from a wealthy family in Bulgaria. She was one of the baronesses in her family, the eldest of her siblings to be married off first. The first time she saw Xena she called her a whore and she didn't take a liking to Xayida either. To her they were one in the same, both manipulative foreign women in her kingdom, of course it didn't help that one of them was found in her bed with her husband after she returned from seeing her family in Bulgaria for a year.

Gabrielle could sense that Xena may have felt some guilt or embarrassment, though she was sure that Xena's actions were taken because she was much younger at the time. Xena probably wouldn't do that now, but back then, she was different, very different apparently. "I am glad that you are able to talk about your life with me you know," she smiled.

Xena looked in her green eyes and smirked at her smile. "I'm sorry you have to listen to this, but you asked," she teased.

The blonde chuckled lightly, "I did ask because I want to know everything about you." She paused. "Do you think Xayida will find anything in Rome?" she brought back the attention to the real star here, the blood rains.

The Greek queen frowned, rubbing her chin, unsure of her sister's actions, though she wished she were safe. "She's good at sticking her nose where it doesn't belong. I'm sure she'll find something," she tried to make light of the situation.

A couple of days later Xayida rode into the Caucasus with two male guards by her side. She left not long after she visited Rome. She decided a letter wasn't enough to describe what she saw in Rome. No, it was far worse. She had traveled non-stop, refusing to stop along the way. She traveled for three days straight. Tired, hungry and very cold. The snow was something she always hated and in this region, there was a lot of it.

She hadn't slept in three days and there were constant voices in her head. She felt like she was going crazy ever since she went to Rome and saw the archbishop standing over that corpse. She was horrified and didn't understand what he meant when he called her a liar and a traitor. She wasn't a liar. She hadn't lied about anything as far as she knew. He didn't believe a word she said and claimed that she was against them. Who was he talking about?

She looked up at the sky and the sun beamed into her eyes. Blinking she cringed at the sunlight suddenly feeling like a vampire. Reaching the amazon camp she saw the guards recognize her instantly. Amelia was outside playing with Freya and she gasped as she rode in on her exhausted horse.

"Queen Xayida!" Amelia walked forward while holding Freya's small hand.

Xayida looked dazed and confused, lost in the motion. She glanced around at all the amazons and then stared down at Amelia. "My she here?" she asked in a tired voice.

Amelia nodded, "yes she's with Queen Gabrielle right now inside..." she let go of Freya's hand to assist Xayida off the horse. "You look worn out," she said and Xayida looked as if she didn't understand what she said.

Freya walked up to the Macedonian Queen and tugged on her large dress. "Excuse me," she said from down below. Xayida peered down to see the small child tugging on her dress. Amelia gasped and snatched her hand away and the queen smiled softly at her. "You're Xena's sister?" she asked sweetly.

"Freya not now," Amelia hushed her and Freya bit her bottom lip now feeling embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Xena has been keeping her occupied. She is curious."

Xayida nodded, "it's alright," she pat Amelia's hand and began to make her way to the castle entrance slowly.

The queen was brought inside and she sat in a large room holding a glass of tea in her hands, warming her palms as she blankly stared off into space. Gabrielle was notified of Xayida's arrival and was shocked to hear that she came all this way. Xena followed Gabrielle into the room and stayed back a few paces.

The amazon queen looked at Xayida and she was staring off into space, completely unaware of her surroundings. "Xayida...?" she asked and the queen turned her head slowly and smiled at her. "I wasn't expecting you," she sat down across from her and the Macedonian queen stared her a bit speechless.

Xena walked in and she hadn't seen her sister look so lost in her life. She definitely wasn't acting like herself for sure. "You came all this way?" she said and Xayida turned her head to see Xena standing in the doorway wearing a purple empire waist dress and her hair loosely hanging over her shoulders.

"Xena," she got up and for once was happy to see her. Walking slowly to her Xena stood still. She was pale and looked like she hadn't slept in days. Unexpectedly she hugged Xena tightly and Xena's eyes widened. Gabrielle blinked, unsure what to think of that. Weren't they just arguing a few days ago? "I can't make them stop..." she whispered as she rested her head on Xena's shoulder.

Xena frowned and pulled her sister away from her, "what are you talking about?"

Xayida's eyes were wide and filled with fear and doubt. "The voices. They won't go away! For three days...I've been" she stared into the eyes that mirrored her own, "you."

Gabrielle frowned, "Xayida, did you go to Rome?"

The sister nodded her head and began fidgeting with her hands, looking a bit crazy. Xena hadn't seen her sister like this before but she wouldn't wish it on her even if she didn't like what she did sometimes. "I saw horrible things, Gabrielle. The archbishop had a body, a dead body! He was using it as a sacrifice...I...except the archbishop wasn't the archbishop. He was someone or something else." She blinked rapidly, "he told me I was a liar...a traitor –that I didn't love you," she pointed to Xena. "I couldn't get your voice out of my head after that..." she cringed. "You wouldn't stop! You..."

Xena placed her hands on Xayida's shoulders firmly. "Xayida...I'm going to need you to calm down," she said in a calm voice. Xayida nodded her head then sat down slowly, staring off into the distance again. Xena sat down beside her and Gabrielle knelt down in front of the two.

Gabrielle now saw the impeccable resemblance of the two sisters. They looked so much alike, how did she not see it before? She had been blinded. "Can you tell us what the archbishop was using the sacrifice for?" she placed her hand on Xayida's knee.

The queen shook her head, "I –I don't know." She paused and looked down at her pale hands. "He called me a liar," she reiterated. She couldn't fathom why he would do that. Xena raised an eyebrow, knowing full well her sister could be a liar sometimes and it didn't shock her that Xayida thought otherwise. The little sister turned to her elder sister with wild eyes, "I wouldn't lie to you Xena...I would do anything for you, you know that."

Xena frowned, "maybe at one time, Xayida that phrase would have saved you." Her sister looked to her with sorrowful eyes in complete shock that she disagreed with her. First the possessed archbishop now her too. What is wrong with these people? Xayida put her hands on her head feeling like she was being attacked from all angles.

"The archbishop called me a liar, now you agree with him too!" she yelled and Gabrielle's eyes widened, feeling tension rising, though Xena was not fazed at all. She remained still and quiet, fully expecting a reaction like this. Gabrielle hadn't seen a side like this in the Macedonian Queen. She looked like an insane person –a mad queen. "So many strange things happening at once," she shook her head not being able to take it anymore. "Borias shows up in Rome and then I meet the archbishop and now you...this is..this –"

Xena's attention was now caught once more when she heard Borias' name. "You saw Borias?"

Gabrielle could only jump to the conclusion that was the Prince of Wallachia that Xena briefly spoke about. She didn't mention his name before but the look in her eyes was the key to it all.

Xayida nodded, "yes he came to Rome. I saw him..I met with him..."

"Why was he in Rome?" Xena asked immediately. When her sister didn't answer her right away she grabbed her arm tightly, "Xayida, talk to me!" she hissed.

The sister winced as her elder sister's hold tightened. "I don't know...Xena," her eyes were large and fearful, her pupils fully dilated as well. "There is evil following us. It will come for you too Gabrielle," she eyed the amazon queen. The blonde bit her bottom lip then stood up staring at Xena for a reasonable explanation but she was too enraptured by all the events that occurred. There was so much happening at once that Gabrielle saw the gears in Xena's mind ticking away. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.

"Xena?" Gabrielle called out.

The Greek queen stared up at her blonde friend. "We might need some help figuring out what is going on," she stood up leaving her sister to sit and talk to herself. She grabbed Gabrielle's arm leading her away from her sister. She looked behind her and saw Xayida whispering to herself. "I've never seen her like this before," she whispered.

"She seems traumatized," Gabrielle noted staring at the queen. "Should we be worried?" she peered up at Xena.

The brunette shook her head, "not right now. She just needs sleep," she smiled deviously. "Do you have any of that strong concoction that your sisters make?" remembering the alcohol she had here. Gabrielle's eyes widened, thinking that was a bad idea. "That ought to knock her out for awhile and we can work together to find out what is going on," she smiled.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Gabrielle looked at Xayida and she was completely lost.

Xena folded her arms, "I could always punch her in the face to knock her out, but I'm feeling kindhearted today," she smirked. Gabrielle sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "Besides, it'll get her to shut up for awhile with her idiotic babbling."

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

"We are afraid of all the things we cannot see."

Xena and Gabrielle were able to get Xayida to bed in one piece after copious amounts of convincing her to sleep. About an hour of coaxing the two finally got the queen to bed in a room prepared for her next to the room that Xena stayed in.

Xayida fell asleep instantly after a few minutes of babbling away. Xena sat next to the bed alone watching her sister sleep soundly. It probably was the most peaceful that she had seen her sister in a long time. She twirled the golden pendant around her neck in her hand as she calmly watched over her. Xayida's chest slowly rising and falling as her slumber deepened. She had seen her sister act strangely before but nothing like what she saw earlier. Xayida was truly lost in her mind almost as if she were in another dimension.

Gabrielle entered the room and Xena turned her head smiling at the amazon queen. She made her way to the bed and saw Xayida finally sleeping. "You didn't punch her did you?" she teased.

Xena shook her head, "she knocked herself out before I got a chance to," she joked and Gabrielle sat down next to Xena watching her sister sleep soundly, completely oblivious to the two in the room.

"You don't have to sit here and look after her. She's safe here," Gabrielle placed her hand on Xena's shoulder.

The Greek queen sighed and saw Xayida stir in her sleep and shift on her side. Xena let out a sigh as she watched her sister. "I know Gabrielle, but if she wakes up I want to make sure she feels comfortable."

Gabrielle nodded, "you care about her even if you say you don't..." she smirked. Xena turned her head and frowned at her amazonian friend.

"I never said I didn't care about her," she pulled the blanket to cover Xayida shielding her from the cold breeze coming in from the window. "She is my little sister and even though we disagree on many things...I never stopped caring about her Gabrielle."

Gabrielle frowned thinking over what Xena said. It almost sounded contradictory to what Xena said about her before. "How can you care about someone that has wronged you so much?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder and kept twirling the pendant in her hand. "We have seen and been through a lot. I care for her but I can't forgive her." She sighed and her hand slipped to Gabrielle's knee and the amazon smiled at her. "That possessed archbishop was right about one thing." She paused and narrowed her eyes, "Xayida is a liar and a traitor. She is blinded by her own lies that she can't see the truth. Whatever she spoke to...was right about her and it must be driving her insane to think this."

"She can't face her own lies," Gabrielle finished Xena's thought exactly. She then thought of what Xayida had said about the archbishop. "He also said that she didn't love you. Do you believe that?"

Xena shook her head, "I don't know. She used to say she would do anything for me. She helped me a lot, but she is also hurt me. Let's just say that if she said that she loved me now, I probably wouldn't believe her," her eyebrow raised as she continued to watch her sister sleeping.

Gabrielle didn't know how Xena felt about everything and both of these women were still quite a mystery to her, but they had other things to worry about. She stood up grabbing Xena's hand tightly, "let's go to the library and see if we can find anything that is related to what's happening."

"I'll meet you there," Xena smiled and Gabrielle nodded, leaving the room quietly closing the door behind her. The Greek queen turned her attention back to her sister and brushed a few tendrils away from her sister's face. Xayida moaned subtly and furrowed her eyebrows, stirring in her sleep.

"Xena..." Xayida's eyes opened and saw her elder sister staring at her intensely. She felt like she was very lost as her eyes blurrily wandered around the room she was in. she had forgotten she came to see Gabrielle and didn't recognize where she was. She sat up blinking rapidly her head spun around to look at her surroundings. " did I get here?" she rubbed her eye, feeling exhaustion overcome her.

"Gabrielle and I brought you up to a room next to mine." Xena explained and looked into her sister's confused blue eyes. She pushed her sister back down onto the pillows and Xayida frowned, feeling so flustered from earlier. "I have to leave now," Xena stood up and her sister stared up at her with doe eyes. "You should go back to sleep."

Xayida leaned forward and grabbed Xena's arm. "Xena wait," she said and her sister turned around with open eyes. "Do you trust me?"

Complete silence. Xayida studied her sister's eyes but saw no emotion in them whatsoever.

"No," Xena said flatly and Xayida lost her grip on her arm then she left the room closing the door. Xayida's head hung lowly as she heard that from her elder sister. She sort of expected an answer like that but didn't expect Xena to be so cold about it.

Xena finally met up with Gabrielle in the library within the throne chamber. Gabrielle had several books on a desk and she was on the ladder searching for more books. The blonde turned her head to see Xena enter the room finally. Smiling she climbed down the ladder. "I was beginning to worry about you. You took awhile," she jumped down and found another book to add to the collection.

The Greek queen smiled at her, "Xayida woke up. She was confused as to where she was, which I knew would happen." Gabrielle seemed surprised by that but Xena brushed it off not wishing to talk about her sister anymore than she needed to. "So I see you found a lot of books..." she walked up to the table that had at least ten books sprawled across it. Xena picked up a book and read the title carefully. "Demonology? Really Gabrielle?" she smirked.

"It seemed fitting..." Gabrielle defended and picked up another book that was clearly about the gods and goddesses before the Holy Roman Empire immersed itself into a monotheistic religion. She held up the book, "we can look through this one if you want," she grinned and Xena took the book off her hands.

She opened it and saw it was in Latin and cringed. "Only if you read it for me," she slyly smiled. "I was never good at Latin...that is Xayida's department." She rolled her eyes. "She can read and write in four languages, meanwhile I have trouble with just one."

Gabrielle grinned finding it quite humorous that Xena admitted she was not very scholastically inclined and even pushed it on her to read the books instead of reading herself. "I have books that aren't in Latin..." she teased. Xena glared at her then she pursed her lips. "But if you insist I read it then I will..." she grinned and Xena nodded her head with a subtle smirk.

Awhile later Gabrielle sat at the table reading through two books at once trying to find something related to this phenomena. Raining blood wasn't very common and so far she didn't really find anything. Xena wandered around the library looking at all the books within the library as Gabrielle continued to research. She pulled out several books, skimming through them and casually put them back on the shelves. "Have you read all of these?" Xena flipped through the pages of a book and Gabrielle was in the middle of reading an ancient Greek text and she looked up to see Xena scanning her books, almost like a curious child.

"I'm sorry, what?" the blonde rubbed her forehead, feeling tired from all the reading.

Xena held a book in her hand, "the books. Have you read them all?" she flipped through a book about Helen of Troy and set it back on the shelf.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, "do you know how long it would take me to read all of these books?" she frowned and Xena smiled at her, then decided to sit down across from her.

"So did you find anything?" Xena curiously asked, lacing her fingers together on the table.

Gabrielle shook her head and flipped through a couple of pages. "Not really. I did find something about a demon that possess people. The dead ravens were described in his lore," she pointed to a painting of the demon in the book, turning the book to Xena. The Grecian queen took the book and looked at the hideous demon. It had its tongue like a dragon wrapped around a raven and had talons for feet and his hands were giant claws. His face looked like something out of a child's nightmare. Xena cringed at the painting and flipped to the next page.

"He's definitely a looker," Xena jested with a blank face. She saw a painting of a beautiful woman with long brown hair. Xena pointed to the painting and showed Gabrielle. She was very confused as to why there was a gorgeous woman in this demonology book. "Why is she in here?"

Gabrielle took the book and examined it closely and read over the small paragraph under the painting. "She's a Greek deity. She..." she cringed at the thought. "She eats children," she turned the page and the story of the woman continued on. There was now a picture of her once more but with dark wings and horns on her head. An artist's depiction of the demoness. "She's a succubus I think," she turned the page.

"Beware of the beautiful ones," Xena said, obviously referring to her sister. This didn't go unnoticed by Gabrielle.

"Right..." Gabrielle smirked. "I don't think she's what we're looking for though."

Xena picked up another book about Christian demonology and flipped through a few pages. Luckily for her the text was Greek and was able to understand it very well compared to Latin. Gabrielle seemed occupied enough with the opened books in front of her. Xena frowned as she turned the pages more and more.

"We seem to forget about the biggest evil of all," Xena flipped the book over and pushed it toward Gabrielle. She then pointed to a portrait of a more human-like demon. "Lucifer."

Gabrielle looked at the painting and then looked up at Xena. "You really believe the clergy would call upon him...?" she seemed skeptical.

Xena sat back in the chair and crossed one leg over the other. "Why not? If you're going to go all out why not call the boss?" she smirked. Gabrielle saw her point but still, it seemed a bit fishy. There were so many details that they didn't know yet and it made it very hard for them to know what they were up against.

"Obviously there is corruption in the Roman Church, Xayida saw it herself. If they called for Lucifer then I think maybe they have been doing this for a long time."

"They don't call him the Prince of Darkness for nothing..." Xena chided. "Whatever Xayida saw in Rome was not from the heavens." She sighed, "look Gabrielle, I was never really in favor with the Holy Roman Empire, but Xayida has been friends with them for many years, probably to incite me," she grumbled, "but because of her friendship with them, she is more connected than the both of us."

Gabrielle nodded, concluding that this was true, although there was a minor detail that she hadn't told Xena just yet. Those Angel Messengers that Gabrielle's amazons and Xayida's mercenaries kept in touch with were very important and valuable to this cause. "Xena, there's something I need to tell you..."

The Greek queen stared at her with warm eyes and grabbed her hand tightly. "You can tell me anything Gabrielle."

The Amazon queen sighed deeply, readying herself to explain this to Xena. She didn't know what her reaction would be. It could end in many different ways but she felt that Xena needed to know this bit of information. "Xayida and I have been involved in a trade of information for years now." She saw Xena's eyes light up as soon as she heard that. "There's a group of young women in Rome that are against the evils in the empire. They exchange messages through Xayida and myself so we both know what is happening in the Roman empire."

Xena interrupted before she could continue, "the Angels. I know them," she said softly. She saw the shock in Gabrielle's eyes and smirked. "I've known about them for years, but never paid any attention to them." She then frowned thinking that Gabrielle and her sister were working together in this effort against the Roman empire. "I didn't know that my sister was involved with that...and you and her, together?" she couldn't believe her ears.

Gabrielle smiled nervously. "You're upset..." she sighed, "I knew you would be." Her eyes lowered.

"I'm not upset," Xena tried to hide her emotions but she knew that she wasn't too good at that. "I'm just irritated," she smiled. Gabrielle looked at her for a split second then refrained from eye contact. "Too bad I was never involved in this little circle," she tapped her fingers on the table.

"Xena, how could I know that you and Xayida were enemies let alone sisters," she scoffed. "I was blinded obviously," she frowned feeling a bit sorry for herself at the moment. "The point is, if something was going on in Rome, which there is, I am actually surprised that the Angels didn't send me or Xayida anything about it."

Yes, Xena thought that was rather strange. Those young women were quite resilient when it came to protecting the public. "Or they're all dead," she said flatly. Gabrielle turned to her with wide fearful eyes. Xena felt that might have been too insensitive of her. "I didn't mean for that to come out like it did," she half smiled, trying to cover her tracks. "There has to be a leader of that group...they can't just operate by themselves."

The Amazon had never thought of that before. It never even crossed her mind. She grabbed both of Xena's hands and smiled looking into her eyes. "You're so right, Xena! That's why I have you here," she winked. Xena's cheeks blushed, avoiding the blonde's gazing green eyes. "But who could that be?" she frowned now the gears turning in her mind.

On the outskirts of Rome three cloaked women carefully tread through the dark alleyways. A small rundown home was at the edge of the town, where no prying eyes could lurk. One of the women knocked on the door with a special code. The door was slowly opened and a hooded woman appeared, looking at the three women at the door step. She nodded and allowed the three to enter.

"Quickly!" the woman hissed and she looked around to see if anyone was watching and closed the door, locking it tightly.

Together all four walked through a narrow hallway until they entered a dimly lit room, surrounded by candles and the windows were boarded up so no intruders could peek inside. There were three other women waiting inside with their cloaks off, uncovering their faces.

"I'm glad all of you could make it. I know it is...quite...dangerous," the leader of the group hissed then a smile appeared on her lips. She sat down in a chair, the head of the semi circle of all the women. She uncloaked herself as did the three women that joined them all.

One of the newcomers raised her hand to speak. "I heard one of ours was killed not too long ago. She was trying to deliver a message to the Macedonian Queen."

The leader nodded her head slowly. She ran her fingers through her blonde hair as her mind began to tick. She had heard so much about that Macedonian Queen, though never cared for her. She was no threat to her. She had a glimpse of her once a year ago when she arrived in Rome for business. She looked so much like her sister was...disgusting, in her mind at least. She didn't know all of the nobles and others who received these clandestine messages, but she knew about Xayida. Her girls, the Angels, really liked her.

Her brown eyes widened as she stared at the young brunette's concerned face. "I heard that too. Unfortunately, you can't save everyone...right?" the blonde smiled. The women lowered their eyes, feeling sorrowful since one of their members had died.

"We have lost too many!" another girl shouted.

"I should have gone instead of Ephela. She would still be alive right now. She was too inexperienced." Another girl chimed in. all agreed, nodding their heads.

The blonde leader waved her hands stopping the commotion. "Girls, it does not matter who is experienced enough or not. We all have to do our duty, but now, I don't think it's very wise to send anyone out..." she frowned, furrowing her eyebrows. "Strange things have been happening here."

A young redhead, named Kala interrupted, "everyone has been acting weird here. Haven't you noticed?" she asked her leader and the blonde sighed.

"Yes, but we can't send any information out now or we will be found the Romans," she banged her fist on the armrest and growled. She didn't care for the Romans at all, and she was stuck here. The only way to enact on her revenge was to form a group to go against the Roman Empire. It would be a secret group that only a few knew about. Everyone outside of the Roman walls knew of them, except those most important within the church.

She soon came to realize that she hated other people more than the Romans over the years. She touched the side of her face, her finger tips grazing the charred flesh she obtained so many years ago. It was not very noticeable when the lights were low and darkness was her friend. She wore cloaks so often so nobody really knew what she looked like except her group of Angels of course.

"Xayida came to Rome a few days ago. There was talk of her going to see her sister in Greece," Kala said grabbing her leader's attention.

The blonde's brown eyes widened and her fists tightened –fingernails digging into her palms. "Since when does Xayida speak to that wretched sister of hers?" she yelled out, frightening the girls around her. Her temper rose then realized she was acting rather irrational. She smiled, allowing herself to simmer down. She didn't mind Xayida, but she hated her sister, Xena. She never wanted to hear her name again and if she saw her again, she would definitely want to kill her.

"I don't know anything about Xena but –"

"Don't say her name!" the blonde shouted, scaring the other girls surrounding her. "I hate her!" she said and the girls blinked, a bit surprised at her malicious behavior. They did not know her past with the Greek Queen but it was obviously not a pleasant one. The blonde calmed herself then a smile appeared on her lips. She exhaled slowly as her blood pressure lowered.

"Anyway..." she said as her eyes wandered around at the others' shocked faces. "Sorry for my behavior..." she apologized with a tight smile. "She is not to be mentioned in our little circle again," she said firmly. The surrounding women nodded their heads as they lowered their eyes.

Kala, the young redhead thought it would be nice to ask something more fruitful instead of discussing Xayida and her elder sister, which seemed to be a sore in her leader's heart. "Callisto, what are we going to do about the Roman clergy? They've been sending scouts out to find any rebellious groups against the church. I heard they have killed some pagans in Florence just a few days ago."

Callisto rubbed her chin unsure how to deal with that situation. "We do nothing," she said blankly and everyone stared at one another, utterly confused. They always did something even though they did not resort to violence, their messages were enough to get them crucified for treason against the Roman church. "The Romans are our enemies, but we are too small...they will crush us!" she yelled, banging her fist on the armrest out of frustration. "They claim that they are holier than thou but they slaughter innocent people every day. I do have information that the Wallachian Prince is making a contract with the church so he can get rid of the Ottomans in his land," this begged the question about the position of the Macedonians. They were next to Transylvania and would be right in the middle of the Ottoman's invasion and they had close ties with the Romans.

She looked to Kala with mysterious eyes. "We will be going on a different mission and we need...some help from Xayida..." she smiled and Kala stared at her blankly, unsure how to respond to that. A mission? What kind of mission?

Late in the afternoon, approaching evening, Xayida wrapped herself in a silk caftan and opened the door, searching the hall before she exited. She remembered Xena saying that this room was near hers. She tread carefully and opened the room a good ways down the long corridor and opened the door. There was nobody in the room but it had to be Xena's because her gowns were laid across chairs and her boots on top of the chest of clothes that she must have brought with her. The curtains gently swayed in the cold breeze and she closed the door. Creasing her brows she wondered where her sister had gone.

Next, she walked down the stairs still wearing her dark stockings, she could feel the cold floor against the bottom of her feet. She could hear someone talking from a distance then heard Xena's laugh, which was unusual. She hadn't heard her sister laugh in a very long time. Frowning she followed the sound of Xena's carrying voice down a separate hallway.

Xayida peeked around a corner and saw Xena talking quietly and she squinted her eyes to see it was Freya she was talking to and Gabrielle was sitting on the floor with the two of them. Freya was smiling up at Xena and she saw her sister's eyes widen as the child beamed with excitement. Xayida smiled at the sight of seeing her sister interacting with the small blonde child. She couldn't remember the last time she had seen Xena with children, in fact, she usually kept her distance. Her smile soon faded as she thought of Xena's son. Her hand rest over her heart as she thought of that awful memory that seemed to play over in her mind lately. Xena was robbed from motherhood and Xayida felt responsible but she'd never admit that to her. No, it was too painful to bring that up and perhaps that archbishop was right, maybe she was a liar. She had lied to Xena before and kept secrets from her even to this day.

She turned and leaned her back against the wall, breathing in heavily thinking of those painful memories. She closed her eyes wishing it would just leave her mind but it wouldn't.

Wallachia 1439

Xena and Xayida rode through the forest of Wallachia with their many men behind them. Xayida was on high alert since the Ottomans were in the area but Xena did not seem to be worried at all. She peered over at her sister riding casually on her horse. "Why are you so calm?" she asked.

The elder sister turned her head with a subtle smile, "what are you so worried about?" she smirked. "Afraid the Turks will come for us?" she chuckled lowly.

Xayida rolled her eyes, "stop joking around Xena. You know that they're everywhere," her eyes scanned the area and Xena halted, holding her hand up for silence. Xayida's eyes widened, "what is it?" she whispered but her sister silenced her.

An arrow was shot not too far from them and Xena caught it in her hand before it hit Xayida's shoulder. Xayida's eyes widened in fear, not able to speak. She didn't even hear the arrow nor expect it to be shot at her. Xena growled and jumped off her horse. "We're being followed!" she unsheathed her sword and a few Turks came out from behind the trees like dark shadows. Xayida frowned and pulled out her sword, putting her back against Xena's as the Turks surrounded them in a circle.

"Is it a bad time to say I told you so?" Xayida teased and Xena groaned.

"Yes it is," Xena scanned their opponents. "You take the ones on the left and I'll take the ones on the right," she said and Xayida smiled looking forward to this. It had been awhile since they fought together since they had come to Transylvania.

Together both attacked the said men and Xayida swiftly swung her blade into a Turk's chest and kicked him to the ground. She heard one coming up from behind and grabbed a dagger from her boot and threw it backwards, landing straight into the man's windpipe. She smiled and wiped her blade on the dead Turk's tunic. Two more men came towards her and she kicked one in the groin then swiped her sword into the other's ribs. He groaned loudly in agony and then she plunged her sword into the moaning Turk's leg. He cried out in pain and she breathed heavily, taking the blade out she turned around to see Xena fighting four men at once. She clenched her teeth and ran forth to help her sister.

Xena head butted one of the Turk's then stabbed him in the side with a short sword she had in her left hand while carrying her long sword in the other. A man came from behind and she swiftly turned but his scimitar grazed her side. She cringed and looked down to see blood seeping from her wound, soaking her beige tunic. She gasped and distracted she was, another man kicked her down and she dropped her sword as she face planted into the cold dirt.

She lifted her head and spat out some dirt and growled. The frosty breath escaping her lips she got on her knee and cringed, holding her side trying to stop the bleeding. She turned and saw a man standing over her holding a large spear in his hand. Her eyes widened and then saw a blade pierce through his chest and the man grumbled as blood slowly trickled down his neck.

He fell down merely a foot away from her and Xena saw Xayida standing behind the dying Turk. She smiled down at her elder sister. More men were coming at them and then there were loud drums heard from a distance. Xayida pointed her blade at the men but they stopped, listening to the drums. They spoke to one another in their native language then jumped onto their horses and fled the area. Xena looked around as did her sister. Xayida lowered her sword as she watched all the Ottomans leave the forest not bothering to take the fallen with them.

"They're retreating," Xayida said and sighed sheathing her sword. She focused on her sister who was on the ground still. She frowned and knelt down she saw Xena's shirt was soaked in blood. "Xena!" she moved her hand and it was stained with blood. Xayida's eyes widened as she noticed a lot of blood was seeping out. That was not a mere scratch, but indeed a gash. She whistled for her horse and wrapped her arm around Xena and hoisted her up, slowly walking together.

It was too late to go back to the castle now and it would be dark soon. Xayida told their men to make camp a bit deeper in the woods away from the dead Turks' bodies. A large yurt was set up and it began raining, a very cold rain. She had a fire in the middle of the yurt and Xena was laying down on a pile of animal furs and blankets. Xayida took off her animal pelts and took off her gloves, warming her hands. She looked over at her sister who was holding onto her wound with her hands.

"You shouldn't have taken them all by yourself," Xayida said as she began washing her hands in a water basin. She crawled over to her sister and grabbed a bottle of alcohol and a sash for Xena to bite on. She rolled up her sleeves and began lifting Xena's tunic.

Xena stopped her, firmly gripping on her sister's wrist. "No," she managed to say and her sister raised an eyebrow.

"I need to dress the wound." Xayida slapped Xena's hand away and continued pulling the tunic up tucked into Xena's pants but she was stopped again. "Would you stop being so stubborn?!" she yelled and ripped Xena's tunic off becoming irritated with her sister at the moment. Xena stopped struggling and her eyes widened. Xayida saw the gash and it was close to her hip, about four inches long. It was deep too. She continued to rip the tunic exposing her entire torso including the black bralette Xena wore.

Xena was scanning Xayida as her eyes were focused on the wound. Her breath quickened as her sister touched the wound. Xayida frowned and her fingertips touched the surrounding area which was now slowly beginning to bruise. Xena hissed and Xayida smiled looking at her sister. "Sorry," her eyes drifted over to her stomach and frowned. Xena's eyes watched her sister's face change to concern in a split second. Xayida's fingers gently grazed over her sister's not so flat abdomen anymore and felt Xena's body stiffen.

Xayida's eyes traveled upward to look at her sister, " this?" knowing full well what that was growing inside her sister she felt the need to express her concern. Xena remained silent though her eyes were filled with fear of the unknown. Her hand slowly swiped over her sister's belly and though it was small, it was noticeable to her, since she had seen her sister naked before her many times.

Xena sat up further and winced. "Your hand is cold," she remarked and Xayida pulled her hand away, almost completely forgetting about the wound. She hurried and cleaned the wound in silence. Xena watched her sister work quickly without saying a word to her.

She poured some alcohol over the wound and Xena tightened her lips. Xayida grabbed a needle and thread and began sewing the wound up carefully. Xena sat quietly trying to ignore the pain she looked the other way. Xayida's eyes looked up to see her sister hiding her agony. "So, why didn't you say something..." she asked quietly.

Xena turned her head and Xayida bit the thread and finished sewing the wound. "I would have eventually," she admitted half heartedly.

Xayida cleaned off some of the blood with a moist cloth. "Eventually, huh?" she added with sarcasm. She cleaned her hands and grabbed a fresh tunic for her sister to change into. She tossed it her way and knelt down beside her. Xena slipped the tunic on over her head cautiously. "You could have told me," she said more gentle this time.

Her elder sister half smiled, "you would have told me 'I told you so' and I'd never hear the end of it," she teased.

Xayida smirked then started chuckling. After a few moments it became silent except for the violent rainstorm outside their yurt. "Did you tell him?" she asked. Xena shook her head and Xayida sighed loudly and leaned her head against Xena's shoulder. "It's probably best that you shouldn't." Her hand came to Xena's stomach again and Xena let out a sigh and Xayida saw the annoyance in her sister's silence. "Sorry it's really tempting," she smiled. "I will help you," she whispered and Xena looked over at her sister and smiled.

Xayida's eyes filled with tears and she heard Xena and Gabrielle talking among each other as well as Freya's sweet small voice. She covered her mouth and left the hallway in a hurry.

Xena heard footsteps and she smiled down at Freya, "I'll be right back," she stood up and Gabrielle frowned.

"What's wrong?" Gabrielle stood along with her and Xena held her hand up and smiled leaving the room. Freya tugged on Gabrielle's dress grabbing her attention. She grinned down at the blonde child then looked to see Xena had disappeared.

Xena saw Xayida hastily walking down the hall and raised a curious eyebrow. "Xayida?" she called out and her little sister halted.

Xayida's heart stopped as soon as she heard her sister's voice. She turned around and saw her slowly approaching her.

"I didn't know you were awake," Xena said in a calm voice. "What are you doing?" she grinned sneakily.

Xayida shook her head, "I'm sorry, I have to go," she rushed and turned about then hurried down the hall.

Xena frowned, thinking that was odd. She has been acting so strange. "Xayida!" she yelled and her sister's pace quickened. "Xayida, wait!" she saw Xayida turn the corner and her frown deepened.

Xayida found herself outside in the cold and it was snowing. She could see her icy breath and she wrapped the caftan around her body. Her breathing was unsteady and she couldn't face Xena nor Gabrielle. It was a mistake coming here and going to Rome like Xena asked her to. So many awful memories were flourishing inside her mind that she was beginning to think she was going insane. So many years she had forgotten about her sister but now that she was in her life again, she relived everything ten times over and far worse than she imagined. She felt like she was being tortured.

Gabrielle met with Xena as she was standing in the hallway looking a bit miffed. "What is going on?" the Amazon touched Xena's arm, startling her.

Xena turned, "something is not right with her," she frowned.

Chapter Text

AN: it's been awhile since I've updated this! I do enjoy writing this story quite a lot, so please, enjoy the alternate Xenaverse lol ;) thank you for reading.

Chapter Eleven

Xena stood with Gabrielle in the hallway and Freya had come along with her mother, tugging on her long skirt. Gabrielle peered down and waved her hand off. The small girl frowned displeased at the lack of attention she was getting.

"What's wrong with her?" Gabrielle asked Xena, touching her arm softly.

Xena's body tensed as soon as she felt Gabrielle's hand touch her flesh. "I'm going to talk to her," she sighed, frowning and began marching off to find her sister.

"Do you want me to come with you?" Gabrielle asked sweetly.

Xena smiled, "I think I need to talk to her alone," she said softly and left the hallway. She searched the other hallways and came to an archway leading into the gardens behind the palace. She saw Xayida standing out in the cold, snow falling gently on her raven hair.

Xayida shivered and she didn't know whether she was shivering because it was cold or because she was so distraught by her memories that seemed to haunt her indefinitely. Xena wrapped the cloak around her body and exhaled sharply stepping outside into the freezing cold. She tread carefully in the snow and kept her distance. "Xayida," she said barely above a whisper.

Her younger sister turned around and her cheeks were pale, her blue eyes wide stricken with fear, or maybe grief perhaps. Xena raised a curious eyebrow and watched her sister continue to stare at her in that odd way. "Do you remember when you were fourteen and..." she shivered, "I –I stole your go to a party?" she smiled and Xena sighed.

"It's freezing out here," she took a step forward and Xayida took a generous step back. Xena groaned, "Xayida, you will freeze to death, come inside!" she extended her hand to her sister and Xayida refused to move.

"You didn't...a-a-answer me!" she stuttered.

Xena folded her arms and defiantly stared at her idiot sister. "Yes, I remember," she said calmly.

Xayida smiled nodding her head, " were so upset with me. Y-you wouldn't...t-talk to me for a week," she added and Xena sighed heavily, growing tired of this story and she was becoming impatient.

"I forgave you," she extended her hand again, "come inside," she pleaded.

Xayida frowned, "and...remember when we went...t-to that party i-in Wallachia?" she said and Xena rolled her eyes, not wishing to rehash all of this especially outside in this harsh winter storm. "I let you borrow my earrings, and it just so happened t-that...they were y-yours," she stared at her sister, narrowing her eyes. "I –I took them from you and you –you didn't notice!"

"That is enough," Xena grabbed her sister's arm forcefully and began dragging her inside. Xayida pulled her arm from her and Xena's eyes grew wild with irritation. "You're testing my patience, Xayida."

"E-everything has," she stuttered, now her lips losing their color, "...has always been yours and I accepted that since we were children," she folded her arms, wrapping the silk caftan around her freezing body. "And I took a lot...of things f-from you," her eyes began to swell with tears.

Xena sighed and took a step forward as her hair began to sway violently in the snowstorm. "I know you did and I took a lot from you too," she said sincerely and Xayida smiled weakly. She extended her hand for the last time, "come inside," she raised her eyebrows, "don't make me say 'please'," she smirked.

After some coaxing Xena finally was able to get her sister inside. Gabrielle waited patiently, trying not to intrude on their conversation. She stood up once she saw the two enter the palace. Xayida was pale and both covered in snow. Xena patted herself off and took off her cloak shaking the snow off onto the floor.

"By the gods!" Gabrielle gasped, "what were you doing outside?" she looked to Xayida.

"What a great question," Xena said flatly. "Gabrielle could you get a blanket for me?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded immediately going off to find a thick blanket.

Xayida sat down in a chair and Xena took off her caftan throwing it aside. She ran her fingers through her sister's hair and Xayida was still shivering. "What was that about out there?" Xena asked politely, genuinely concerned for her sister's sanity.

The younger sister smiled, "I remembered s-something," she shivered and Xena knelt down beside her, eager to know what was making her sister act so insane since she arrived here from Rome. "I saw you...with Freya," she exhaled sharply, "it reminded me when –when I found out you were pregnant," she smiled softly and Xena's eyes widened, putting a finger to her sister's mouth.

"We are not to speak of that again, remember?" Xena whispered, afraid that Gabrielle would come back and hear too much.

Xayida frowned, "why...didn't you tell me?"

Xena began fidgeting nervously fixing her sister's hair and dress mindlessly, "tell you what?" she said sharply.

Her sister grabbed her hand to stop her from her mindless anxiousness. "That you were pregnant," she stated.

Xena frowned, "does it really matter? You found out eventually," she snapped. Xayida looked into her sister's eyes and immediately felt a tremendous amount of guilt invade her mind. The archbishop was right, she was indeed a liar. She had lied to her sister for a long time and kept a secret from her for many years. At the time, she thought she was saving her sister, but now, she felt so awful about it. She kept Xena's son for herself in secret and Xena had the notion that her son had died. She had no idea.

Xena then stared into her sister's wide teary eyes. "It does matter," Xayida croaked and her sister eyed her curiously and then Gabrielle arrived with a blanket and fresh stockings for Xayida to wear. Xena thanked her blonde friend and took Xayida's cold wet stockings off to put fresh ones on. Gabrielle stood back watching Xena mother her sister, which was most odd. For someone who claimed such hatred towards her own sister, she was being very kind to her and went out of her way to help her when she needed it most. Xena said that she did hate Xayida and still cared for her, which made Gabrielle believe that Xena did not hate her at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite. She loved her younger sister dearly, it was obvious as she watched Xena tend to Xayida calmly and without question.

Xena wrapped the blanket around her sister and stood up feeling that would suffice for now. "Better?" she asked and Xayida nodded her head slowly, unsure of her sister's act of kindness. "I will go get a fresh gown for you," she said and left her sister alone. Gabrielle smirked and then followed Xena hastily.

Gabrielle skipped to Xena and saw she was on a mission to find a gown in Xayida's belongings, which she brought few with her. "You were very nice to her," she said curiously and Xena said nothing. "Why?" she wondered.

Xena came to Xayida's room that she stayed in and rummaged through her trunk of clothes, pulling out three corsets cringing at the style. It was definitely outdated and she didn't need to bring so many with her, she thought. She pulled out another white gown for her to sleep in and turned to see Gabrielle blocking her way out the door. "What?"

"You're ignoring me," Gabrielle smirked. Xena stepped to the side to leave but Gabrielle shadowed her steps and the Greek queen groaned. "Why are you being so nice to her?"

Xena sighed, "she's sick, Gabrielle. She's been talking nonsense ever since she got here!" Gabrielle's eyes widened as a response. "Whatever she saw back in Rome is affecting her in the worse possible way." She brushed passed her exiting the room.

Gabrielle quirked her mouth to the side and followed Xena back to the seating area. She was very curious as to why Xena was acting like this. She said Xayida was her enemy, but that wasn't what she saw.

Xayida lifted her head and saw her sister come with a gown in her arms. She raised an eyebrow at her and Xena bent down reaching for her hand and Xayida pulled away. "Why are you doing this?" she asked staring into her elder sister's eyes.

"You aren't well, Xayida." Xena urged her sister to come with her up to her guest room and Xayida snatched her hand away from her.

"That wasn't an answer," Xayida frowned. "Avoiding my questions, are you?" she chuckled, "as always. You haven't changed a bit, Xena!" her smile widened and Xena frowned, not really feeling like helping her sister anymore. She stood up carefully and was eye level with her sister. "You are full of secrets," she whispered and looked behind her to see Gabrielle waiting patiently. Smiling she added, "I am too, yes?" Xena narrowed her eyes. "But I'm the bad one, right?" she frowned and snatched the gown out of Xena's hands and the blanket fell off her shoulders. She began making her way to the stairs to retire to her room.

Gabrielle stepped out of her way, "do you need help?" she asked politely.

"No, you've helped enough," Xayida said softly, "I'm sure you are enjoying my sister's company more than mine," she added and climbed the stairs steadily hanging onto the rail.

"She seems upset," Gabrielle said and stared at Xena. She was completely silent and hadn't said a word to her. She saw her eyes said otherwise thought. "Xena?" she came up to her and touched her shoulder. Xena was knocked out of her daze and shrugged Gabrielle's hand off then quickly left the room. "Where are you going?!" she called out and saw Xena disappear around the corner. She sighed and thought it might be best to leave her alone for awhile.

The following morning Gabrielle tread down the stairs from her room after checking Xena's room, but she didn't find her there. She decided to go look for her and hoped she didn't leave. Xayida was still asleep in bed, which was to be expected especially after her odd behavior last night.

Gabrielle found Mira hastily making her way down the hall and she smiled at her. The young amazon bowed her head, "my queen," she said and smiled at her.

"Have you seen Xena?" she asked curiously.

Mira nodded, "she's in the library," Gabrielle nodded and made her way to the library. "My queen," she said and the Amazon Queen turned her head, "she said she does not want to be disturbed," she said softly. Gabrielle smiled and nodded, continuing to the library to find Xena.

Xena had been up all night reading through the books that she and Gabrielle had picked out. She had made several notes and came up with nothing so far. Xayida's behavior was odd, but she figured that was just the ugly coming out of her and nothing else. She didn't use to be like this, she thought. Xayida was a kind girl, a sweet and naive girl. Xena had stolen that naivety from her sister long ago and she felt responsible for her outlandish behavior.

Xayida soon became irritable and difficult to work with as the years passed when they were younger. She wanted to do things her own way without her older sister's help which Xena felt that was her fault too. She had given her sister so much but also took a lot from her and vice versa. Xena showered her in power and glory which they shared together. When the power began to dwindle, Xayida didn't like that and desired more and it was power alone she seeks. Xena was off another path, but her sister wanted to continue onward, away from their past nomadic life. She figured that the grand parties and lavish palace and hospitality of the Wallachians would follow them everywhere, but in truth, Xayida found out that she was hated everywhere with Xena's name attached to her like a shadow, a shadow that she couldn't get rid of. She would always be known as the sister of Xena, nothing more.

Xena wanted to find more about this dark presence that was encompassing Rome, but in order to do that, she needed help from her sister, something she never wanted to revert back to again. She didn't want to ask for her help and if she did, Xayida would probably laugh and deny her. She kept flipping through the pages of this book she had been reading for a couple of hours. Demonology, she scoffed. This proved nothing except that demons were no better than the Greek gods. They liked to play games and Xena didn't like games unless it were by her rules.

Gabrielle entered the library and saw Xena surrounded by dozens of books. She looked tired and worn out. She felt like she needed to sleep or take a break. "Hi," she said and Xena lifted her head from the book. She closed the door behind her and smiled, "what are you reading?" she sat down opposite her.

"Bullshit," Xena tossed the book aside onto the ground and Gabrielle gasped. "This is stupid," Xena stood up and then threw all the books off the desk and Gabrielle's eyes grew in shock. She began pacing around the desk rubbing her chin pensively. "She's insane and I don't think she needs help from demons for that."

Gabrielle bit her bottom lip and felt Xena's tension rising. "Xena, you were being so nice to your sister last night, and now, you sound despise her." She couldn't make any sense of this at all. "I don't understand it."

"Join the club, Gabrielle," Xena growled and folded her arms staring at the books that were scattered all over the floor. She looked to her blonde friend and sighed, "I'm sorry. These are your books and I'm just...angry," she knelt down and began picking up all the books she threw down. As she picked up the third book she saw Gabrielle's hand on hers and she looked into her green eyes.

The blonde smiled, "It's okay to be angry," she picked up a book and set it on the desk. She sighed looking at all the books Xena picked out, "you read some Latin I see," she smirked flipping through the Latin book about demonology.

"I can read Latin just not very well, you know," Xena teased with a subtle grin. "I don't think these books are going to help us find out what is going on in Rome." She admitted sadly. She hoped that this would be easy but with Xayida's unwillingness to comply, she didn't see much progress in their future. "I think we need to go to Rome to see for ourselves."

Gabrielle blinked, "you want to go to Rome? But you just got here!" she felt saddened that Xena wanted to leave already. It had been so long since they had seen one another and now she was ready for another mission.

"I was going to ask would come with me?" Xena smiled. She witnessed a bright light in Gabrielle's eyes and knew that she was delighted to hear that.

"Of course I will!" Gabrielle said giddily and hugged Xena randomly, giving the Greek queen quite a shock. Then realization hit her and she pulled away from her brunette friend. "What about Xayida?"

Xena sighed, "she will have to come with us," she grumbled.

"You think she will come?" Gabrielle asked and seeing the look on Xena's face was the answer she needed.

Xena barged into her sister's room and saw she was still asleep. She came over to her and ripped the covers off the bed and Xayida cringed, bringing her knees close to her chest. "Get up," she threw a pillow at her sister and Xayida woke up grumpily staring at Xena.

"What for?" she sat up and saw Gabrielle was present. She fixed her gown as it was falling off her shoulder and grinned at the Amazon.

Xena began rummaging through her sister's clothes and picked out a dress for her then threw it on the bed. "We're leaving for Rome." She turned to leave and Gabrielle kept staring at Xayida blankly.

Xayida's jaw dropped, "excuse me? I'm not going back there!" she threw the dress at Xena's backside. "And I sure as hell am not going with you," she folded her arms.

Xena slowly turned around glaring at her sister. "This is not up for discussion," she picked up the dress and sauntered over to the side of the bed and handed the dress to her sister. "You're coming."

"You can't make me go with you," Xayida raised an eyebrow at her sister challenging her.

"I order you," Xena said with a firm tone. Gabrielle had never heard Xena's voice like that and it was almost scary. She was no longer playing games with her sister, she was being a queen at this moment, a scary one at that. "As your queen," Xena said with a curt nod and dropped the dress in her sister's lap.

Xayida laughed, "I am a queen! You can't order me to do anything," she stood up now facing her sister, both glaring at one another.

"I own your lands, that makes my status higher than yours. And if I say you're coming with me, then you're coming," she said seriously, "understand?" she hissed and Xayida looked away, grabbing her dress to change. Xena smiled and went to Gabrielle, grabbing her hand gently. "We will wait outside, Xayida," she said and both left the room.

Gabrielle walked with Xena to go outside to the horses that were being made ready for their journey, which was a bit out of the blue. Gabrielle wasn't quite used to how Xena went about things, but Xena worked quickly and on a whim. "Do you really own all of her land?" she asked.

Xena nodded, "yes. Something I did after she left me. I made sure everything she had belonged to me because I did not trust her," she fixed her horse's reins and pet his mane, calming the beast.

"And you still don't trust her, do you?" Gabrielle asked as she threw a saddle over her own horse.

"No," Xena fixed her saddle and buckled the pouches to it tightening the straps. "Gabrielle, there are a lot of things you don't know about Xayida. She is not to be trusted."

Gabrielle sighed growing tired of Xena's cryptic language. "You keep saying that but you haven't told me anything about her 'betrayal' and all the horrible things she has done."

"You don't believe me?" Xena said and kept her eyes on her horse. Gabrielle remained silent and now it was Xena's turn to glare at her.

"I didn't say that, but it's hard to side with you when I don't know anything."

Xena smirked, "I'm not asking you to pick sides, Gabrielle but beware of her."

Gabrielle lifted a brow, "would she try and kill me?"

The brunette shook her head, "no, she knows that you are dear to me. She would never hurt anything that is close to me," she winked.

"Well, I'm here!" Xayida walked out in a black dress with red trim and rabbit fur around her collar. Her eyes widened as she saw her sister was wearing a red dress with a black corset. "Your dress is out of fashion, sister," she smirked and climbed onto her horse. Xena rolled her eyes and mounted her horse. "When we arrive to Rome I'll make sure to buy you a new one."

"That won't be necessary. We aren't going to Rome to shop for clothes," she pulled on the reins and pulled up beside her sister.

Xayida shrugged her shoulder, "still, you can't wear clothes that are out of season around me," she sighed putting on her black gloves. "I'm very important in Rome, you know."

Xena nodded, "so I've heard," she rode ahead of her and Gabrielle mounted her horse following beside Xena. Xayida frowned and began trotting off behind them both. "We will stop in Athens along the way," she said and heard her sister's loud scoff.

"For what?" Gabrielle whispered closely towards Xena.

"I don't really feel comfortable going into Rome without at least some of my men with us," Xena whispered back. She turned around and saw Xayida's eyes wandering around as she rode behind them. "I'm giving you a task, Xayida," she said loudly catching her attention. "I want you to take us to the archbishop you met with."

Xayida's eyes widened and immediately felt fear overcome her. Xena turned around with an eerie smile. "Can you do that?" she asked and Xayida nodded, not saying a word. They continued to ride to Ottoman territory so Xena could retrieve her ship and sail to Athens to make a small stop then off to Rome. This journey was going to be long and so far, Xayida was very compliant. One moment she was acting insane and the next, she was completely fine. It was so odd to see her like this and honestly, Xena was saddened by this. She wished the best for her sister even after they parted ways, but to see her like this, was disturbing to say the least.

Later that day, the sun had set and Xena wanted to stop to rest for the night. She didn't feel safe traveling in Ottoman territory without any protection. Though she could protect herself, she wasn't so sure that she could protect both Gabrielle and Xayida by herself. She knew a few people and was able to find a very large home to stay in for the night. The house was owned by a very kind man, he wasn't Turkish, but Arab and lived here because the pay was better and was able to provide an income for his family back home in Syria.

Xayida looked at the room and saw that she had to share a room with Gabrielle and her sister and she grimaced as she saw Xena taking off her corset with her back turned to her. "This place is very odd," she said and Gabrielle lifted her head as she was taking off her boots. "Their customs are strange. I see why the Roman Church hates them so much."

Xena smirked and threw the corset onto the bed. "You are easily fooled by looks, Xayida. These people are very kind."

"Last time I checked, you weren't friends with the Ottomans," Xayida folded her arms.

"I'm not friends with their leader, he merely tolerates me. But the people are not to blame and you should be grateful that this man allowed us to stay here," she said and began taking off her boots as she sat on the bed.

Xayida shrugged her shoulder and sat on the bed, not very tired at the moment despite all the riding they did today. They literally traveled all day just to get to Anatolia and then they would go to Athens, the place she loved to hate and hated to love. She wished that Greece was hers and she would have shared with her sister, if she hadn't been so stubborn. She laid down and turned towards to face the wall, refusing to look at her sister. "Goodnight," she said to both of them.

Gabrielle smiled, "goodnight, Xayida," she said and Xena said nothing then stood up to light a few candles. Xayida waited for her sister to say something back but after a few silent moments, she closed her eyes and hoped that sleep would overcome her.

Xena sat down on the bed and ran her fingers through her long thick hair. She looked up at Gabrielle who was preoccupied with writing something. "What's that you have?" she asked.

Gabrielle blushed, "it's nothing," she closed her book and set it aside, getting comfortable on the bed she laid on her stomach staring at Xena. Her eyes went to Xayida who didn't make a sound and hoped she was asleep. "She wasn't so bad on the way here," she whispered.

Xena turned her head to see Xayida sleeping soundly with her back facing the wall. "She's putting on a front," she frowned and combed her hair getting the knots out, wincing as she pulled her hair with the comb. "She wants you to see the good side of her. She is a great magician," she smirked and Gabrielle sighed, resting her chin on her hands, casually kicking her legs back and forth mindlessly.

"I've only known one side of her, Xena," she whispered. "You both play this game of cat and mouse, but I'm the flea, left to bite both animals." She sighed and leaned on her elbows staring at the Greek queen. "I need information," she said seriously. "Tell me of a time when she betrayed you," she smiled.

Xena shook her head, "there are so many Gabrielle."

The blonde rolled her eyes, "and I don't know any of them. So far I've all heard are allegations from you both, but no context."

Xena looked over at her sleeping sister and sighed heavily, "fine I'll tell you of a time when she betrayed my trust," she whispered and Gabrielle got off her bed and hopped onto Xena's bed, eager to hear the story. "It's not that exciting," she smiled.

Gabrielle shrugged, "we'll see about that."

Xena was going to make sure that Gabrielle knew some stuff about her sister, but she decided to tell her this specific story, only because it was the first time Xayida actually betrayed her. Though this was after Xayida found out about her sister's baby, she would make sure to leave that part out of the story when she told Gabrielle.

Wallachia 1439

Xayida walked through the palace of Wallachia and there was supposed to be a big party tonight but she had heard talk of another attack from the Ottomans. She hoped it wasn't true, but she saw Xena talking with some of Borias' men and she frowned, making her way over once the man left her side.

Xena folded her arms and sighed heavily thinking to herself. "Sister," Xayida said and Xena lifted her head to see her sister smiling sweetly as she came up to her. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," she shushed her and grabbed her arm pulling her into another hallway away from prying eyes. "I thought we discussed to keep this a secret between us?" she whispered and Xayida nodded.

"Of course, Xena. I understand," she smiled and brushed her hand against her sister's cheek. "I just wanted to know how you were feeling that's all."

Xena nodded looking around and saw many people passing by them in the grand hallway. "Your concern is touching," she smirked.

Xayida looked at her paranoid sister and Xena began to bite her fingernails nervously. "Are you going to the party tonight?" she asked and Xena was too preoccupied by other things on her mind. "Xena?"

The elder sister looked to her and stopped biting her nails, "what?" and then she caught onto what she said and smiled, "of course the party...I'm going to pass," she pat her sister's shoulder and walked off. Xayida frowned and ran after her sister grabbing her hand.

"Pass? But Xena, it's the most important party of the year!" she said and Xena kept walking and she followed. "Xena," she stopped in front of her, "I'm really worried about you lately," she grabbed her hands gripping them tightly.

Xena sighed, "there's nothing to worry about," she smiled and Xayida was not convinced.

"You've been acting strange for awhile now," she said and Xena looked elsewhere avoiding her gaze. "I think we should go back home to be with mother and our brothers for awhile."

Xena's eyes widened, "no! are you insane?" she lowered her voice once she saw she was drawing unnecessary attention to herself. "I can't go back there, I have a lot to accomplish here."

"What does that mean?" she asked and Xena kissed her cheek then left her side. "Xena?" she called out and Xena ran down the hall and rounded the corner. She folded her arms and huffed, not satisfied with her sister's odd behavior.

Later Xayida was picking out a gown to wear to the party tonight. There would be a lot guests here and she wanted to make a good impression. She had been in this palace for over a year and everyone knew her well as they did Xena. Xena made a very good impression on everyone and a lot of the Wallachians loved her but some hated her, which she knew that'd happen. She pulled out a gold dress and a black mask to wear to the festivities tonight. She sighed and wondered why her sister would pass on parties, Xena loved parties especially since she made many new friends each time there was a party at this palace.

She left the room to go find her sister in hope's to persuade her to join the party. As she walked through the hall she heard muffled talking and saw a door cracked open. She looked around and saw the halls were empty, probably preparing for tonight. She crept closer to the door and peeked through the crack of the door and saw Xena talking with a group of men, they were soldiers, Borias' soldiers.

"I want everyone surrounding this area as well as the outskirts," Xena instructed and pointed at the map in front of her. "The Ottomans are going to attack tonight and I want to make sure to get rid of them." The men nodded. "I will meet with Esam at the front to command you all and Borias is not to know about this, understand?" she said and the men disappeared into an adjoining room.

Xayida's jaw dropped and she covered her mouth. Of course Xena would pass on a party if it meant she was going to attack the Turks. She promised Borias that she would not interfere with the conflict between the two warring parties, but she lied. She lied to her.

Xayida needed to tell someone about this and quickly. She stepped away from the door and began walking the opposite direction until she heard her sister's voice. "Xayida, aren't you supposed to be getting ready for the party?" she asked. The younger sister turned around and smiled falsely at her.

"I was just getting some flowers for my mask," Xayida said and Xena stepped forward looking for the flowers.

"And where are they?" she raised an eyebrow.

Xayida chuckled lightly, "well, I didn't find any that would match my dress so I guess I'll go without." She shrugged and turned to leave and her smile disappeared. Then she stopped and looked to her sister still standing there looking confused and miffed. "What are you going to do since you won't be coming to the party?" she asked curiously.

Xena smiled, "I think I will go to bed early. I feel very tired," she lied.

Xayida nodded, "you aren't sick, are you?" she said in a hushed tone.

"I don't like it when you fuss over me like that, you know," Xena was becoming irritated. Xayida smiled and let the subject go and was obviously oblivious to her lies that poured from her mouth. "You should get ready or you will be late."

"I hope you sleep well, then," Xayida said and turned to leave. She rounded the corner and breathed heavily. She heard footsteps and peeked out from the corner and saw Xena walking away hastily. She really needed to tell someone about what Xena was about to do. The Ottomans were fearless and had a lot more firepower than Xena had and she feared that she would get killed.

Running off she went to find Borias in hopes that he would help her. She came to his room and burst through the doors and saw his attendants getting him ready for tonight. "Xayida..." he said with a frown, not very pleased that she was able to just waltz in his room. His waved his hand at his servants and they left the room. "What do you want?"

"Xena is not going to the party, you know," she said and he smiled at her.

"She loves parties, why wouldn't she come?" he said as he looked at himself in the mirror.

She sighed, "Xena is going to do something very...stupid," she began and that caught his attention, "she's going to lead an attack on the Ottomans tonight."

Borias' eyes widened, "I told her to stay away from those Turks!" he growled and threw a chair and she cringed. "Where did you hear this?"

"From her own mouth. You have to do something!" she pleaded. "I fear she will be killed and I just can't allow her to do this..." she begged for his help.

He groaned grabbing his gun, "I'm getting tired of her games. We are at peace with the Ottomans right now and she wants to fight them?" he shook his head and grabbed her arm, "you're coming with me."

Xena rode on her horse into the lands and saw Ottoman territory not far from here. This was a perfect spot because she would be unseen. She smiled and saw all of the soldiers lined up accordingly. She heard a loud gunshot and she was startled as was her horse. Her eyes scanned the area and saw Borias with the elite guard surrounding her.

"Xena," he said and lowered the gun, "don't be stupid," he smiled and Xena growled at him.

"What are you doing here?!" she spat and then saw Xayida appear from behind him. "You!" she dismounted her horse and came marching towards her sister. Borias forcefully grabbed her shoulders holding her back. "Let go of me!" she demanded.

He frowned and kept holding her back and then slapped her. She gasped and touched her tingling cheek. She grit her teeth then slapped him back. He sneered and she glared at him. "I told you to stay away from the Turks, Xena!" he yelled.

"They were going to attack anyway! I wanted to get rid of them before they got the upper hand!" she spat back and got really close to his face. She then looked to her sister, "and you..." she hissed with an eerie smile, "you heard my plan, didn't you miss flowers?"

Xayida lowered her gaze and said nothing. He rolled his eyes and shook Xena's shoulders slightly, "don't blame her, she saved you!"

"She betrayed my trust," she scowled. "She knows when stay out of my business, but she just couldn't help herself. Could you, sister?" her lip quivered and Xayida looked into her sister's malicious eyes.

"Attacking the Ottomans is my business, Xena," Borias corrected her. He waved his hand to his elite guard, "arrest her," he commanded and Xena's eyes widened and she began laughing.

"Arrest me? You can't arrest me!" she said and the men grabbed her arms. "Get your hands off me!" she growled and the men didn't let go of their hold.

Borias folded his arms, "yes I can. I own these lands and you are a traitor in Wallachia, Xena." He looked to the solemn Xayida and grinned. "Perhaps you should be angry at your sister, not me." He walked off and the guards pulled Xena forward. Xayida stepped aside and looked at her sister feeling sorry that she got her arrested.

Xena spat at her sister and Xayida gasped and wiped the saliva off her face. "I'm sorry, Xena," she whispered and touched her cheek before the men took her.

An hour later Xayida found Borias and he didn't feel like joining the party now. He sat in his room drinking some wine and she barged into his room again. He looked to her and took another sip. "You like barging into prince's rooms, don't you?" he said sarcastically.

"You can't just arrest her!" she yelled and the servants closed the door so guests wouldn't hear. "She's my sister."

"And your sister is a traitor." He said casually and set the glass down on the table beside him.

She began pacing around nervously, "you can't keep her in there, Borias." She shook her head thinking this was a big mistake.

"Why not? She doesn't know when to stop with her games," he scoffed.

"Because she..." Xayida stopped herself as she promised Xena she wouldn't say a word about her condition especially to Borias. He looked at her to continue, "she's unwell. She's very sick and I know how you treat prisoners..."

That seemed to grab his attention, "sick?" he asked with a subtle smirk. "Sure she is."

"I'm serious," she said folding her arms. "She didn't want to tell you but she's been like this for months now." She lowered her gaze and his smirk disappeared.

He rubbed his chin pensively rethinking his decision once he saw the sincere look in her eyes. "You women are ridiculous." He stood up and began to leave.

"Where are you going?" she followed him, hoping he was going to release her sister.

"To the party. You can visit her if you want," he said and walked off. She stood with her mouth agape in complete shock and soon came to realize that she should have probably told Borias what was going on.

Gabrielle listened to Xena tell her story and she frowned, feeling like she was leaving out something. "Did you recover from your illness?" she asked.

Xena smirked, "yes I did, a few months later," she whispered.

"So, she got you arrested because you wanted to attack the Turks?" she wanted to clarify and Xena nodded. "She saved you from being killed and you consider that a betrayal?" she asked, a bit confused.

"It wasn't that Gabrielle. I knew what I was doing and I knew I was breaking the law, but she promised me that she would stay out of my business and she betrayed my trust in her. I trusted her and she went to Borias of all people and he arrested me."

Gabrielle nodded, "I understand," she paused. "How long were you in the prison for?" she wondered.

"A couple of weeks," she said and looked over at Xayida as she slept soundly. "She was able to convince him to release me then we left Wallachia after that."

"To go where?" Gabrielle leaned in closely and touched Xena's sleeve.

Xena looked down at her hand and then over at her sister. "Home," she said softly and then sighed. "We should sleep. We have to leave early in the morning for Athens." She said and Gabrielle hopped off the bed into her own and Xena brought the covers over herself and blew out the candle.

"Goodnight Xena," Gabrielle said and closed her eyes.

"Goodnight," Xena whispered and turned on her side, hoping she'd be able to sleep and soon.

Xayida opened her eyes and saw Xena asleep or appeared to be and Gabrielle as well. She had heard the entire story that Xena told Gabrielle and it was only a constant reminder of all the things she had done wrong in Xena's eyes. A single tear streamed down her cheek and she turned over facing the wall again, wide awake now.

Xena stared at the wall with her eyes wide open, unable to sleep especially after a memory like that which she shared with Gabrielle. She closed her eyes and a tear trickled down her cheek.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve


They traveled within a timely manner to Athens after they left Ottoman territory. It was easy to navigate through the calm seas to Greece. Xayida remained quiet the entire journey to Athens, secluding herself from Gabrielle and Xena. She didn't want to talk to her sister in fear that she would say something that might upset Xena. She obviously saw that Xena was still hurt by the things that she did to her in the past, but she thought that she was protecting her. Xayida looked up to Xena throughout their childhood and even in adulthood. To be honest, she still did. Xena was everything that Xayida wanted to be. She was incredibly smart, cunning, wise, resilient and resourceful. She always had a plan for everything and she was indeed a great warrior, Xayida saw it firsthand.

Xena had always received a bad rap for being an awful terrible person, but Xayida knew that Xena was not a terrible person. She was very kind and loving, though she had her moments and those were the times when she was not to be messed with. On their journey to conquer lands together, Xayida saw many of those moments. Xena did more than just pillage throughout Greece, she took lives away from families, though made sure not to touch children. Children were Xena's weakness and Xayida also took children away from Xena. Any chance that her elder sister got, she always saved a child before anyone else. She was sure that Xena would probably give her life for a child in danger first. She was selfless at times. And then there were times when Xena was incredibly selfish and even cruel. Her ways of torture were so awful and barbaric. Xayida witnessed some of the most horrifying acts committed by her sister and those images would forever be burned into her mind.

As she stood in the castle of her sister, she couldn't help but look at the grand austere place. It was huge and quite a labyrinth too, not to mention Xena had ten foot tall windows everywhere to let the light shine in no matter wherever you stood. It was definitely a palace fit for a queen and she was alone in this place. Why would anyone want to spend a life in this castle alone, she wondered? You don't have to be alone, Xena. I can be with you, like we planned.

Gabrielle was also walking around the castle and was in awe of it. This place was bigger than her castle in the mountains by ten times, at least! She turned and saw Xayida standing in the middle of the room, gazing around looking rather solemn.

"Xayida," she announced and the raven haired queen turned her head slowly to look at her. She smiled and walked over to her. "I think it's really nice of you to help your sister with this problem circling around us."

Xayida frowned, "she doesn't need my help. She never did and never will," she walked further and saw a separate hallway and it was darker than the rest of the rooms. Curiously she went through the doorway and saw guards posted at the door. She stepped aside from them and they were like statues, refusing to move. Feeling awkward she then saw what room this was. Her eyes widened and saw reflections of herself everywhere. Her heels clicked on the marble floor and she turned and wherever she looked, her reflection followed.

Gabrielle followed in after her and her eyes widened, "wow," her head lifted and saw a big dome above them allowing light to shine in on the floor in a beautiful star shaped pattern. "A hall of mirrors," she smiled looking at all the mirrors and herself in them.

"My sister has become so vain that she needs a hall of mirrors to look at herself," Xayida smirked, amused at her own judgment.

Gabrielle sighed, "I don't think Xena is fact, she's quite the opposite," she said softly and Xayida said nothing in return. She could understand why Xayida was so hateful towards Xena, but she wondered if she actually truly hated her but without Xena's forgiveness, they would forever be in this battle of hatred with one another. She wondered if the two could ever come to an agreement and be friends once more. They were both hurt by one another, that much was obvious, but Gabrielle thought that if they actually talked to one another instead of bickering and stabbing each other constantly, they would find solace. They supported each other before and it is inevitable that sisters will disagree and argue, but to hate? Something is missing here, Gabrielle knew it and neither one was willing to say anything about the large elephant in the room.

Xena gathered up a group of ten men to travel with them, she was sure they didn't need any more than that. She came into the grand entrance and saw Xayida and Gabrielle were gone. Frowning she looked around in the nearest rooms and found them all empty.

Listening carefully she heard heels clicking on the floor and she stopped and turned to see Xayida and Gabrielle in the hall of mirrors, staring at one another's reflections in complete awe. She came into the hall, "we are ready to leave," she smiled.

Gabrielle grinned turning around, "this is amazing! Why did you build it?" she asked.

Xayida scoffed, "because she is full of vanity, Gabrielle, didn't I tell you this?" she smirked and saw her sister's eyes darken.

"I didn't build it for myself. I collected all of this glass from around the world during my travels and decided to make a special place for them all," Xena said and Xayida rolled her eyes turning around not wishing to look at her anymore. "We need to go now, I promise you can look more when we come back," she smiled.

Gabrielle followed Xena and turned to see Xayida standing in the middle of the hall alone. "Are you coming?" she called out.

Xayida slowly faced Gabrielle and smiled tightly, "of course. Wouldn't want to keep my sister waiting, would we?" she brushed passed the blonde Amazon.

Xena decided that they should take a caravan for the remainder of the trip for safety purposes and she wouldn't want to be seen with her sister in public of course. Though, the most awkward part about this journey was that all three had to sit in the caravan together the entire way. Xena was sure that Xayida was not going to be thrilled with that idea.

A couple of hours passed and they were on the road to Rome. Gabrielle and Xena sat together on one bench while Xayida sat by herself on the one opposite them. Xayida had been quiet the entire three hours they had been traveling. Gabrielle had little to say and there was a large amount of tension and so little space too. Xena's and Xayida's dresses took up most of the little room they had and Gabrielle sat quietly looking out the window, admiring the scenery of Greece that she missed so much.

Xena moved her leg and her shoe touched her sister's. Xayida glared at her and moved her leg, crossing it over the other. "Are you going to be silent the entire trip?" the elder sister asked.

"I don't have anything to say to you," Xayida simply said and adjusted herself in her seat.

"You sure had a lot to say back at Gabrielle's place," Xena raised an eyebrow and Xayida began tapping her fingers on her knee impatiently.

An awkward moment passed and Gabrielle looked at them both. They were so stubborn, both of them, she couldn't stand it and she sure didn't want to spend the rest of the caravan ride like this. She fidgeted with her white robe and smiled nervously. "You two look a lot alike," she said awkwardly and Xayida looked to her incredulously. "If you cut your hair like Xena's I'm sure people wouldn't be able to tell you apart," she said to Xayida, noting Xena's bangs while Xayida had done and let her wavy dark hair hang neatly in front of her face, framing it perfectly.

The younger brunette sister rolled her eyes and looked outside the window. "As if I would want to look like my sister," she said firmly and Xena sighed, folding her hands in her lap. "It's bad enough that we share the same face."

Xena smirked, "would it be so bad to look like me?" she teased.

"The only thing that separates you and I are our names and countries which we rule." Xayida frowned, "I would never want to be like you, Xena."

Gabrielle groaned, "okay that's enough. I don't want to hear any more bickering between you two." She rubbed her forehead. "I can't listen to this the entire way to Rome..." she sighed feeling a headache coming on.

"Then you should stop saying such silly things, Gabrielle," Xayida falsely smiled at the blonde.

Xena frowned, "I'm trying to help solve this problem and I need your help. So for the sake of us all, we should at least pretend to get along, right?" she asked and saw her sister bat her long eyelashes at her with complete malice.

"Get along? With you?" she laughed, "impossible!" she folded her arms. "What should we talk about?" she challenged. "The weather? Our clothes? What kind of men we keep in our rooms at night?" she said and Gabrielle's eyes widened, not expecting that to come out of her mouth.

"I said we can pretend to get along, not make stupid small conversation, Xayida!" Xena said firmly and her sister slumped down in her seat, as much as her corset would allow her to.

Xena sighed and turned to Gabrielle, placing her hand on her knee. "I'm sorry you have to put up with us," she smiled weakly.

"I've dealt with worse," the blonde flatly said. "But you two can barely be in the same room with each other, how do you expect her to help you?" she whispered watching Xayida as she calmly looking out the window ignoring them both.

"Oh she will," Xena said with certainty.

The trip had been most awkward the entire way and Xayida's refusal to speak to her sister was the problem the entire time. Gabrielle wished that the two could speak to one another in a calm manner, but it appeared that would never happen at all unless a miracle occurred.

Arriving in Rome in the middle of the square, Xayida stepped out dying to get out of that small space with Gabrielle and Xena. She felt that she had been tortured enough. Xena stepped out after her and held her hand out to assist Gabrielle.

"Thank you," Gabrielle said and Xena smiled at her. Xayida looked around at everyone and she was recognized immediately, though eyes began to wander behind her and whispers circled the area. She turned around and saw Xena standing there. It was obvious they knew who she was and she felt her blood pressure rising as all the attention was focused on her sister instead of herself. Rome was her place, it was safe haven away from home in Macedonia, but now Xena took that from her as well.

It was most odd seeing the two queens together and of course not many, if not all, knew that Xena and Xayida were sisters, but Xayida was sure that any intelligent person would be able to put two and two together.

Off in a corner of the crowd Callisto remained hidden with her cloak hiding her face. She lurked in the crowd and slithered in the sea of people. She saw Xayida, just the person she wanted to see then a frown came to her lips when she saw Xena. That witch, she thought. Xena and Xayida together? What an odd concept. She thought she'd never see those two together in one place and they looked rather civil towards each other, though they were in smiled deviously as she thought of Xayida slowly killing her sister and she'd love to watch that. Kala stuck by her side and the weary girl saw the two queens, though both remained their distance. Callisto took out a dagger out that was concealed in her cloak. She tread closer watching Xena closely. The two sister queens walked together side by side with...a blonde guest? Callisto didn't know who that was, but she was considerably close to Xena, which she thought was strange. Though, it was no stranger than seeing the two sisters together in the public's eye.

Kala saw the blade poking out from Callisto's sleeve and gasped. "What are you doing?!" she whispered and came close to her, grabbing her shoulders.

The blonde groaned, "let go of me!" she demanded. "Relax, I'm not going to kill anyone," she smirked. "Even though it is so...inviting," she licked her lips as she saw Xena walk into St. Peter's Basilica with her sister and guest. "Did you see her?"

"Queen Xayida?" Kala asked in a hushed tone, watching all the people surrounding them.

"No, you idiot," Callisto sneered, "Xena," she slipped the dagger back into her cloak. "Why would Xena want to be with her sister? If I recall...the two hate each other, something Xayida and I have in common." She sighed, "I want her followed. I want her every move tracked and recorded," she hissed. Kala blinked at her, shocked at her mission. "Do it!"

"Alright, if that's what you wish..." Kala said and left her side to go tell the other girls of Callisto's message.

Callisto raised an eyebrow and decided to stick around for awhile to see if Xayida and Xena would exit the church anytime soon. She also knew that Xena hated Rome while Xayida loved it. something fishy is going on, she just knew it, especially when she saw those two together. "Oh Xena, how I've longed to see you again," she hissed.

Xena and Gabrielle looked around the Basilica and saw a group of cardinals conversing with each other. Xayida looked rather weary and cautious as she tread through the church. She began to feel very unsafe and like someone was always watching her even if there was nobody there. A hand came to her shoulder and she gasped.

"I didn't mean to scare you..." Xena said softly then grabbed her shoulders firmly pointing her in the direction of the cardinals. "Do you recognize any of those men?" she whispered.

Xayida shook her head, "when I came here there was nobody here...except the archbishop," her eyes were wide and refused to blink.

Xena marched forward towards the cardinals and Gabrielle followed her unsure what she was doing. She grabbed Xayida's arm pulling her forward reluctantly. "Don't be afraid, Xayida," Gabrielle said with a reassuring smile.

The cardinals stopped talking and raised curious eyebrows as they saw Xena approaching them. Cardinal Peter smiled and bowed his head curtly, "your highness..." he touched the crucifix around his neck, "your presence is most...unexpected," he smirked.

Xena smiled tightly, "I was just passing through," she lowered her eyes and saw Gabrielle with Xayida out the corner of her eye. "With my sister, you know her don't you?" she grabbed Xayida's hand bringing her close to her side.

Cardinal Peter nodded his head, "indeed, we know your sister very well. She is a great ally to the church," he smiled and Xayida lowered her eyes. "When will we gain your alliance with the church?" he questioned Xena with a subtle grin.

The Greek Queen chuckled under her breath, "I'm afraid you will not see that happen anytime soon, your eminence."

Cardinal Jacob smiled, "such a pity, you would be a great asset to the church, highness," he bowed his head curtly and Xena smirked. He eyed Gabrielle and frowned at her clothing. She was not of Rome certainly, but not from Greece either. "Who is your guest?" he asked curiously.

Xena eyed Gabrielle and saw the blonde's eyes widen, afraid to admit who she was. Amazons were not liked by the church and it was dangerous to be in Rome let alone a church, especially one of the most famous of churches in this area. She cleared her throat, "she is a friend of mine from Athens," Xena thought quickly to save Gabrielle. Jacob nodded his head and kept quiet. Xena was unsure what the cardinal was thinking but it was probably best not to give too much information about Gabrielle and her status as an Amazon Queen.

Cardinal Peter sighed after a long moment of silence between everyone. "Mass is within the hour. If you would excuse us?" he smiled at Xena and Xayida. Both cardinals left the area and Xena's smile disappeared and a large frown appeared.

"They don't seem to like you very much," Gabrielle whispered to Xena.

Xena nodded, "I'm aware. They want my gunpowder to defeat the Ottomans but in order to have that...they need my permission to ally with them," she smirked. "Not going to happen," she turned to her sister who had a forlorn look on her face. "Xayida, you spoke to the archbishop and he asked you to talk to me. He wants my gunpowder, doesn't he?"

Xayida agreed, "he does, but I told him that it would be impossible to convince you," she glanced around and saw someone lurking in the shadows in a narrow dark hallway. Frowning she left Xena's side and walked down the hallway.

Gabrielle frowned, "where is she going?"

Xena shook her head, "I don't know," she followed her sister into the dark hallway. "Xayida!" she hissed and her sister ignored her and kept walking, her pace quickening.

Xayida saw the shadow round a corner and she began running after it. "Wait!" she called out and rounded the corner but the lurking dark figure was gone. She breathed heavily and ran down the hall looking through several open rooms and saw nothing. "Dammit," she cursed under her breath.

Xena and Gabrielle managed to catch up to her and Xena looked around, "what are you doing?" her breathing began to slow down to a steady pace now.

"I saw someone," Xayida frowned and walked forward to a dead end. There was only a large stain glass window. There was no way this person could just vanish. "I saw it,'s gone now," she opened the window and looked down. It was too far down for any mortal to survive the fall and there was nothing to land on except the stone ground.

"Well, who was it?" Xena asked, unsure of her sister's judgment on anything this moment.

Xayida closed the window and locked it, "a dark figure...a shadow or something," she tapped her cheek, "it was running from me but there is no way that anyone could survive that fall and live to see another day."

" just...vanished?" Gabrielle folded her arms.

"Apparently!" Xayida placed her hands on her hips, "you believe me don't you?" she eyed her elder sister.

Xena sighed, "with all the strange activity going on, I'm afraid to say that I do believe you," she folded her arms trying to come up with a plan but in reality, she had nothing to work with. "We should go to Mass and see if anything strange happens there."

Gabrielle rubbed her forehead, "are you sure that is a good idea?" noting that Xena and Gabrielle were not friends with the church and considered heathens.

Xena smiled, "the church accepts anyone, right?" she winked.

All three women entered the large room where Mass took place and saw the place was crowded and people were still coming in. Xena suggested that they sit in the back row so they would not disturb anyone coming in. Xayida sat in between Xena and Gabrielle and felt a bit awkward sitting so close to both of them. She neatly placed her hands in her lap and watched as people began trickling in. many eyes went their way and there were confused glances as well as smiles since they recognized her, though the confused glances went to Xena and Gabrielle, mainly Xena.

Gabrielle looked around at all the prying eyes. She saw a child looking at her from a few rows ahead of them. "Ever get the feeling you don't belong?" she whispered.

Xena smirked, "do not worry Gabrielle, we're just observing."

Xayida looked around then saw the archbishop come up to the dais. She nudged her sister in her side, "there he is!" she whispered. Xena squinted her eyes and saw the elderly man speaking in Latin, saying a silent prayer to himself before Mass began. Everyone was seated and extremely quiet. Xayida's eyes scanned the area, "he doesn't look like the monster I saw when I was here last time..." she noted.

"Perhaps he is disguising himself," Xena whispered watching the man's every move. "He must bless the wine then drink from it. If he is who you say he is, he will not be able to do such a task."

Xayida raised an eyebrow, "he was eating a dead body in his office. I highly doubt that he will be able to bless wine, Xena." She whispered and a woman in front of them shushed her. She frowned at the woman, "do you know who you're talking to?!" she hissed. The woman turned around and Xena's eyes widened then grabbed her sister's arm tightly.

"Pay no attention to her," Xena said with a warm smile and the woman slowly turned around. She pinched Xayida's arm and she cringed. "Now is not the time to be on your high horse!"

Gabrielle saw the archbishop leave the dais before blessing the wine and she nudged Xayida, "he's leaving," she whispered. The two sisters stopped bickering with one another and saw the man leave behind a door.

"We should follow him," Xena said and immediately got up once she saw a line forming for communion. Gabrielle gasped.

"Excuse me?" the blonde stayed seated while Xayida and Xena left the room. She groaned and reluctantly got up following them both.

They all traveled through the Basilica quietly and since Mass was still ongoing, there was no one in sight which was a good thing for them. Xayida lead the way, assuming that the archbishop went to his office. Xena and Gabrielle followed her quietly as they zigzagged through the narrow halls. Xena was beginning to wonder how Xayida knew this place so well. Sure she was friends with the Romans but obviously she was very good friends with them since she knew every nook and cranny in this church.

Xayida came to a door at the end of the hall. "That's his office," she whispered. Xena marched forward and opened the door slowly. She poked her head inside and had her hand on the matchlock on her thigh beneath her petticoat. Gabrielle felt the need to hold onto something and she held onto Xayida's arm. The brunette turned to her and smiled warmly. "Scared, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle frowned, "no, of course not," though her grip said otherwise. Xayida stayed behind her sister and peeked inside to see the room was deserted.

"Looks like your man isn't here," Xena joked.

"On the contrary, your majesty!" the booming voice of the archbishop echoed in the marble tiled room. Xena scanned the room then saw him emerge from behind a curtain. "I see your sister has finally made you come to your senses in joining the church."

Xena raised an eyebrow, "afraid she didn't succeed in that department. Sorry," she smirked. She walked closer to him as he sat at his large desk, looking very austere and arrogant. "We missed you during communion," she slyly said coming closer and closer.

He sighed, "I had other duties to attend to. I'm sure you understand how that is," he smiled eerily at her. Xena nodded, playing along with this man. "It's not very often that I have two royals in my room, let alone sisters!" he chuckled. "What could the Queen of Greece possibly want from me?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder, "why don't you ask my sister," she smiled and turned towards Xayida who was standing in the doorway with Gabrielle hooked to her side. Her eyes widened and nudged her head for her to come stand next to her. Xayida pat Gabrielle's hand and walked forward, coming to stand next to her elder sister.

The archbishop grinned clasping his hands together, "look at both of you!" he bobbed his head, "such beauty in this room. May God watch over you both, always," he made the sign of the cross and Xena was not in the mood for this. "And may you find the true path, your highness," he bowed his head towards Xena.

"I've already found my path. I don't need the church," Xena smirked. "My sister came to see you, do you remember?" she questioned with Xayida standing close to her.

He nodded, "indeed I do!" his eyes averted to Xayida now with an eerie smile. "We had quite a discussion, didn't we?"

Xayida frowned, "you had a human sacrifice...on your desk..." she said bluntly.

The archbishop chuckled, "in your mind, child. Why would I do that?"

Xena looked around the room as the two were conversing with one another. She saw large bottles of water, though she suspected it was holy water. It looked like it hadn't been used in awhile, which was odd. She walked over to the wrack with the bottles and picked up a small vial and grinned.

Walking over to the desk she placed the bottle down in front of him. "Bless this water," she demanded.

He chuckled, "I don't take orders from you. I take orders from my Father, the Pope."

"But you can bless it, can't you?" Xena leaned on the table narrowing her eyes with a smug smile.

"Of course I can," a large frown appeared on his face as he glared at the queen.

"So do it," she challenged him. "Free me from all my sins!" she teased and winked. She saw him growing more irritated at her persistence. "Give me all the Hail Mary's that I need to set myself free from the wrong path I am on!" she grinned.

Grabbing the bottle and opened it and poured the water in her mouth and his jaw dropped. Xayida and Gabrielle thought she was out of her mind. She turned to the archbishop and spit the water in his face. He cried out in agony and covered his face with his hands.

Struggling to get out of the chair he fell over onto his knees and hissed in pain. He began crawling on the floor and Xena wiped her mouth with the backside of her hand. She came around the desk and saw burn marks all over his face and a satisfied smile came to her lips.

"You will burn in hell!" his voice changed to a darker tone and Xena frowned, kneeling down close to him. She grabbed him by his collar and stared into his charred face. He spat in her face and she hissed as it burned her cheek. A menacing laugh escaped his lips and Xena pulled out her matchlock and pointed the barrel at his forehead. He stopped laughing and smiled deviously. "Oh, you want to kill me do you?" he pouted.

"What are you?" Xena demanded an answer. Xayida came to her sister's side and saw his face was severely burned. So far, she didn't feel crazy anymore about what she saw before.

"A servant of the dark Lord himself," he hissed. Xena locked the bolt and forced the barrel into his head. He laughed, "come on, kill me. He is waiting for you, Xena. He has a special spot for you," he grinned and Xena growled. "What are you waiting for?" he teased. He placed his hand on the trigger and smiled up at her. Her eyes widened and he pulled the trigger and within an instant he was dead.

Xayida gasped covering her mouth. "He...he's dead?" she asked.

Gabrielle came to see and saw the archbishop was dead with a large bullet hole in his forehead. "you killed him?!"

Xena stood up and stared now not at the evil she once saw, but the archbishop himself. She sighed, "I didn't kill him. He sent himself back to where he belongs." She heard footsteps approaching and panicked. "We need to leave."

Xayida nodded, "I know a way out through the tunnels," she went behind the curtain and opened a door. Gabrielle looked at the door suspiciously and didn't really feel like going in dark tunnels right now especially after that happened. She then heard people enter the room and loud gasps were heard. "Come on!" she hissed and they all went inside the tunnels.

Gabrielle cringed and walked down the dark stairs leading into the unknown behind Xena. Xayida lead the way through the dark tunnel and there were torches barely lighting their pathway. "His voice..." Gabrielle began, "it was..."

"not of this earth?" Xena finished her sentence and Gabrielle nodded slowly. "The archbishop is no longer a problem but there are others."

Xayida frowned, "you think these demons are working together?"

Xena nodded, "there is a source. The archbishop was not the source. He gave up too easily."

"How do we find the source?" Gabrielle asked, feeling the creeps all around her in these tunnels.

"I don't know," Xena sighed then realized something. "Xayida, how do you know about these tunnels?" she questioned.

Xayida smiled, "I make it my business to know everything about Rome." She rounded a tight corner knowing the way immediately. "The Pope uses these tunnels to get out of harm's way if there is a threat. These tunnels are connected through the Vatican and the outskirts of Rome."

Xena nodded, "I underestimated you," she hated to admit.

"As always. You never had faith in me," Xayida jabbed at her sister and Xena frowned.

AN: sorry for the blasphemy lol.

Chapter Text

AN: and this is back and plot beginning to thicken here. Enjoy and thanks for reading! :D

Chapter Thirteen

"Making a final on your bias will never answer your suspicions."

Eventually, Xayida lead them out of the never-ending tunnels and into a garden behind a church that was yards away from St. Peter's Basilica. She was sure that the cardinals would question the archbishop's death and of course would immediately suspect Xena as the killer.

Gabrielle squinted her eyes at the bright sunlight and then smiled at the beautiful flowers around her. She walked forward and Xena smiled, admiring Gabrielle's love for life. She began to think that she too should enjoy more of the simple things in life, but not right now, maybe later, she told herself.

"This is awful," Xayida shook her head and Xena folded her arms staring at her. "They're going to come looking for us!" she glared at her elder sister.

Xena scoffed, "I didn't kill him. Afraid that your image will be ruined in Rome, now?" she teased with a smug grin.

Xayida rolled her eyes, "it doesn't matter if you killed him or not. The cardinals are going to think that you did it. There's a bullet in his head and since we just saw them, they will assume it is you!" she groaned and hated being in this place with her sister. She'd rather be alone. She loved Rome while her sister hated it and now since this happened, she will probably be hated too, just like Xena was hated.

Xena sighed and did not have the energy to fight right now. She wanted to get out of here and fast. The cardinals weren't stupid and they were good at finding people and killing them if needed. "Do you know another way out of here?" she asked in a hushed tone, a bit embarrassed to ask her.

"Are you asking me for help?" Xayida cackled and Gabrielle came to stand near Xena. Both of them looked at her with blank stares. "That's hilarious. I wish I could record that," her laughter died down.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "Xayida, I don't think you want to die. I don't want to die. So can you get us out of here or not?" she folded her arms.

Xayida sighed and tapped her shoe on the ground then shrugged. "Fine, but only for you Gabrielle," she smiled and went in between them both pushing Xena out of the way. "Follow me," she pointed to the outskirts of the gardens.

Xena grimaced and rubbed her shoulder, "I'm going to kill her," she grumbled and Gabrielle touched her hand softly.

"Xena, just let it go. She's helping us isn't she?"

"If she keeps treating me like this I'm going to make it a promise that she doesn't walk for a month," Xena's pace quickened following behind her sister. Gabrielle sighed and quickly caught up to them both.

They came out of the gardens and outside the Vatican walls to a separate part of Rome. There were many vendors and people walking around. The crowd was large, but all three stuck out like a sore thumb. Their dresses were obviously only worn by royals and would be recognized immediately if a search party came to look for them.

Xayida eased through the crowd and everyone seemed to not notice them and bumped into them as they tread through the sea of people. "We will have to stay out of the square for awhile so we won't be discovered," she said and finally stopped in a narrow alleyway. Xena brushed off some dirt from her shoulder from bumping into several people.

Gabrielle huffed and looked around at the people passing by, "so what do we do now?" she whispered.

Xena looked around in the crowd and saw a hooded figure staring at them. It was a woman obviously by her small build and lips she saw poorly hidden under the black hood. She frowned and saw the figure disappear behind another alleyway. She thought that was very odd and felt Gabrielle nudge her arm.

"What do you think, Xena?" she asked and Xena shook her head coming back to them both. Xayida raised an eyebrow at her.

"What do I think about what?" Xena said completely lost.

Xayida rolled her eyes and exhaled deeply, "I told Gabrielle that we should go stay with my friends down the road for awhile. Are you losing your hearing now?" she chuckled. Xena frowned at her. "Small joke, sister." She winked.

"Are your friends aristocrats? Because you know how much I love those people," Xena's voiced dripped with sarcasm. Xayida shrugged and left the small alleyway asking them to follow her. Xena was getting tired of following her sister around like a lost puppy. She hated Rome sure, but Xayida knew Rome very well and that was the only reason she kept her around.

Xena turned around and saw the hooded figure descend into the sea of people. She frowned and kept a note of that strange behavior. Gabrielle clung close to her, "something on your mind?" she asked with a small grin.

The queen shook her head, "it's nothing," she followed Xayida down the road and she was at a fair distance now. "I want you to be very careful, Gabrielle and stick close to me. Never leave my side, understand?"

Gabrielle frowned, "why? Is someone following us?"

Xena smiled weakly, "maybe, but I just want to be extra careful especially if we're traveling with my sister. She knows a lot of people and not all of them are good people."

"I'm sure she would say the same thing about you," Gabrielle said in a low voice.

Xena nodded, "I'm sure she would."

In the outskirts of Rome Kala returned to deliver some information to Callisto as promised. She knocked on the door and it slowly opened. Callisto looked at Kala and ushered her inside. She looked around to make sure that nobody was behind her.

Kala took off her hood and sighed heavily. Callisto locked the door and sat down in a chair by a few candles, "did you follow her?" she asked immediately.

Kala nodded, "yes I did. She and her sister are traveling down Joan D'Arc road."

Callisto rubbed her chin and thought of where Xayida was going. "Why would they go down that way?" she raised an eyebrow.

The young woman shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, but the Bulgarian Baroness lives down the road. Maybe she is going there?"

Callisto smiled deviously, "of course she is. Xayida is very friendly with everyone unlike her sister. The Baroness is known for befriending the Ottomans –the people that Xena hates, perhaps even more than the Romans!" she giggled in delight and bit her bottom lip. "I want a group of you to go to the Baroness's home. I heard she is having a party tonight." She tapped her fingers on her knee, "make sure to dress nicely and don't get too close to Xena. She's very clever," she slipped the dagger out from underneath her cloak and touched the tip of the blade. "Very clever..." she hissed.

Kala couldn't help but notice her malicious intent with Xena and wasn't so sure sending a group of Angels to this so called party was a good idea. " you plan to kill Xena?" she asked shyly.

The blonde frowned deeply, "no, she doesn't deserve to die. She needs to be tortured first!" she slammed her fist on the armrest and broke it. she chuckled nervously and stood up to look into Kala's frightened eyes. "Sister, you trust me don't you?" Kala nodded her head slowly with wide fearful eyes. "Good. Gather a group to go to the Baroness's home. I'm going to send a birdie to the church," she smiled and left her side to go write a letter.

Kala exhaled and felt her heart racing quickly. She was thinking that joining this group was not the best idea and she should have stayed home in Macedonia. Where it was safe! Callisto was a psychotic leader and her intent to kill was not the original message of the Angels.

Xayida, Xena and Gabrielle arrived to the large estate and Xena looked at the place. She saw many people in the mansion and thought this was just an awful idea to come here. Xayida knocked on the door and the doors opened. The Baroness smiled seeing Xayida and hugged her tightly.

"Xayida!" she exclaimed. "It's so nice to see you here! I didn't know you were in Rome!" she kissed her cheeks three times and Xayida grinned. The Baroness peered behind her and saw two guests. "And who are these lovely women?"

Xayida turned and sighed, "this is my sister, Xena, Queen of Greece and Gabrielle, my friend, Queen of..." she stopped and saw Gabrielle's eyes widen. "Queen of The Caucasus," she fixed herself and Gabrielle sighed a sigh of relief.

The Baroness smiled and came down the steps to greet them both. "Welcome to my home. I'm Baroness Sofia of Tapuzin," she extended her hand and Xena took her hand with a false smile and Gabrielle nervously took her hand. "I didn't know Xayida had a sister," she held her hand close to her heart and Xena was tempted to roll her eyes. "What a beautiful family you have, Xayida," she grinned and took Xena's hand. "Come inside, please," she walked up the steps and Xena glared at her sister.

"I hate you," Xena whispered.

Xayida smiled smugly, "come now sister, don't be a spoiled sport!" she kissed her cheek and Xena cringed as she was being pulled by the Baroness.

Everyone came inside and there was obviously a party going on. There were people from all over –Spanish counts and countesses, barons and baronesses from Austria, princes and princesses from Germany and France. Xena was beginning to hate this even more. She loved parties but only if they were her parties and she was surrounded by people she liked, not people like this. These people obviously weren't supposed to be here and were here in secret. She was not surprised that her sister knew people like this. Even though, Xayida hated parties, she seemed to like to party with these types of people.

Gabrielle saw a topless woman on the arm of a French prince. Her eyes widened, "what kind of party is this?" she whispered and grabbed Xena's arm for protection.

Xena sighed and frowned seeing a sea of people surrounding them. She saw Xayida talking with an Austrian prince and she was being very friendly with him, touching his arm and chest. "A cesspool, Gabrielle." She grumbled.

She walked over to her sister and squeezed her shoulder. "Xayida, I didn't know you knew so many people," she said and the Austrian prince's eyes widened, immediately in awe of Xena's beauty.

"And who is this?" he scanned her clothes and recognized that design anywhere. "Greece?" he looked to Xayida with raised eyebrows, "you know very wealthy people, Xayida," he winked and attempted to grab Xena's hand but she slapped his hand away. "Oh and playing hard to get too!" he chuckled, "I like it."

Xayida laughed nervously and pat Xena's shoulder lightly, "she's off limits."

The prince nodded, "married? Such a shame," he sighed and sipped his wine.

Xena raised an eyebrow, "I'd kill a man if he came close to me," she said flatly and Xayida sighed. The Austrian prince blinked in shock then started laughing.

"Oh, kinky! I like it. Perhaps I will you see later?" he winked and Xena cringed.

"Don't count on it," she said and he left their side. Xayida slapped her sister's shoulder and Xena's eyes widened.

"Xena!" she hissed, "we are guests in my friend's home and you just insulted the Austrian Prince of Hapsburg!" she rubbed her forehead.

Xena smirked, "I'm not friends with the Hapsburgs." She took another look at the people in this party and shook her head, "why are you friends with these people? They don't care about anything but getting drunk and high on opium," she hissed.

"Would you rather go back to the square and get arrested then?" Xayida said and Xena thought she did have a point there but she remained quiet. "I thought so," she picked up two glasses of wine and handed her sister one. "Enjoy the party and don't look for me," she said lowly and disappeared into the crowd.

Gabrielle came to Xena's side and saw Xayida leaving. "I just had three men hit on me and I've only been here less than five minutes," she said and Xena downed the wine, feeling like she needed that after what just happened. "Where is she off to?"

Xena shook her head, "probably going to flirt her way to the top of the food chain." She picked up two more glasses of wine and handed one to Gabrielle. "We might need a lot of that to get us through this ridiculous party," she groaned and sipped the wine.

A Spanish baron came to Xena and she frowned at him. "Would you like to dance?"

"No thank you, I don't dance," Xena said and he looked to Gabrielle.

"Perhaps your friend would –"

Xena pulled Gabrielle close to her, "don't even think about it." she said firmly and he backed off walking away. Gabrielle sighed heavily and clung close to her. "Stay close to me and you'll be fine," she smiled.

Gabrielle wasn't so sure about that. "The men keep staring at you. I think we're going to get a lot of offers tonight."

Xena smiled falsely at everyone passing her and she pulled Gabrielle closer to her and they stood next to the wall, watching everyone converse with one another. "They probably think I am my sister," she sipped her wine and a few men were looking her way. "I never thought Xayida would subject herself to this kind of lifestyle." She said in hushed tones.

Gabrielle sipped her wine and thought this was nothing compared to the Amazonian wine she had back home in her kingdom. "This wine is awful." She coughed. "Are we going to stay here all night? I don't really like being on the run from the church..."

Xena frowned and saw her sister talking with Baroness Sofia. "We should leave by nightfall. It will be easier to escape by then," she saw the sun and it was still high in the sky. She sighed, "we have a few hours to kill."

Sofia and Xayida sat in a corner in a sitting area. All the women came to this area to talk together while men had a separate room to converse among themselves. Sofia tapped Xayida's knee and smirked, "you should have told me you were in Rome, dear. I would have made special arrangements for you!"

Xayida smiled, "well it was an unexpected arrival. I came here with my sister," she lied. Sofia nodded and was intrigued.

"You've been keeping secrets from me! I didn't know you had a sister," she looked out into the crowd and saw Xena standing by the wall talking with her blonde friend. "She's gorgeous."

Xayida was tired of hearing how beautiful Xena was. She already knew that her sister was very pretty and she heard that all her life. Xayida herself was beautiful as well, but since she and Xena split ways, all she heard was how gorgeous she was until Xena showed up. Now it was all about Xena, all the time. Like always.

Sofia changed the subject, "how is your son? I haven't seen him in a few years. He is doing well, right?"

Xayida's eyes widened and she was glad that Xena was not standing close to them. She cleared her throat and smiled nervously, "he's doing well, thank you for asking."

"You must bring him to Venice to my vacation home. I know he loves it there!" Sofia winked and Xayida nodded her head slowly.

"Maybe I will," Xayida smiled and Sofia sipped her wine enjoying her guests having a good time in her home. "Where is your husband?"

Sofia rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, "Erik is off on a tour in Anatolia at the moment. He's trying to negotiate with the Caliph to stay out of Bulgaria," she shook her head. "Damn Ottomans."

Xayida thought that was very interesting. "Really? I didn't know the Bulgarians were on good terms with the Ottomans."

Sofia chuckled, "no that'd be the Transylvanians! The prince is very cozy with the Ottomans. He agreed to side with them against Rome. Imagine that? Transylvanians and Ottomans?" she sipped her wine and Xayida frowned. "But you didn't hear that from me."

Xayida smiled, "of course. Secret is safe with me." She then thought of Borias and her odd encounter with him when she was in Rome by herself. He was in the Basilica when she arrived and now she knew why he was there. He was probably lying to the church and told them he'd side with them against the Ottomans. Meanwhile, he already made an agreement with the Caliph against the Roman Church. Though, Sofia was a gossiper and probably shouldn't believe everything she heard because she got a lot of information from women in the salons.

She looked over and saw Xena threw her wine into a man's face and she gasped. "Excuse me," she left Sofia and walked over to her sister.

"I told you not to touch me!" Xena yelled and the man wiped his face with a napkin and he smiled at her. Xayida interrupted and he turned to her.

"Xayida?" he looked at her and then at the woman who looked just like her except for the bangs. "You have a twin?" he asked in shock.

Xayida nervously laughed, "she's not my twin, but she is my sister. I'm sorry about that," she helped him wipe the wine off his cheek.

He smiled, "I thought she was you!" he chuckled and turned to Xena, "my apologies," he bowed his head.

Xena raised her eyebrow and remained silent. Gabrielle casually sipped on her wine not saying a word. He thanked Xayida then left the area. "I'm tired of being mistaken for you!" she hissed.

Xayida frowned, "why did you do that? You're making me look bad!" she saw other people begin to stare at them as they were making a scene. She lowered her gaze.

Xena scoffed, "he tried to grope me!" she snapped back. "Why are you allowing these men to do that to you?" she said more calmly this time. "You shouldn't be around people like this, Xayida," she frowned and looked around at the prying eyes. "You're better than this," she shyly admitted.

Xayida felt her blood pressure rising. "You don't have any room to talk, Xena. You have been with many men in the past!"

"That was different. I was in control, are not." Xena folded her arms glaring at her younger sister.

The younger queen sister shook her head, feeling a headache coming on. "It's not different Xena. I am allowed to have fun, aren't I?"

Xena rolled her eyes, "Xayida, these men see you as eye candy and nothing more."

Xayida gasped, "are you trying to...protect me?" she laughed aloud at the audacity of her sister. "It's a little late to act like my big sister, don't you think?" she frowned and left, storming through a sea of people, pushing them out of her way.

"Xayida!" Xena called out and Gabrielle grabbed her arm.

"Just let her go," she said and Xena groaned. "She feels insulted," she said calmly.

Xena shook her head and saw Xayida exit the room. "She's still so naive. She cannot find love with these people," she cringed at the men as they continued to stare at her.

Gabrielle sighed and felt bold, "she wants your love. She's just trying to fill it with something else."

Xena turned to her and saw her sincerity in her green eyes. "I think she's made it very clear that she does not love me, Gabrielle."

"Then you are blind," she said and saw a frown appear on Xena's lips. She obviously disapproved of her input. "She wants your approval and looks up to you. She cannot gain your love back so she's using other ways to fill the void."

Xena didn't want to listen to this anymore. "I don't need to hear this," she left the area and dismissed Gabrielle with a wave of her hand. Gabrielle sighed and thought that Xena needed to be left alone but then she remembered to stick close to her. She set the half filled wine glass on a post with a statue on it. She followed Xena though kept her distance.

Xayida came outside and stood on the front porch. She set the wine glass down on the balustrade and wept silently. She wanted to be alone and she heard loud laughter from the guests inside.

"Xayida," Xena came outside and Xayida wiped her eyes and face. She did not want her sister to see her like this. Xena stood beside her and looked out into the dark woods beyond the entrance of the mansion. "I wasn't trying to make you feel inferior to me..." she began and saw Xayida's red eyes. "Were you crying?"

Xayida frowned, "no," she averted her eyes and Xena sighed heavily.

"Look, I don't like to apologize so –"

"You never did," Xayida interrupted. "Just like you never apologized for leaving me."

Xena frowned, "I didn't leave you!" she groaned, rubbing her forehead. Gabrielle came outside and saw Xena standing beside her sister. She decided to make herself a fly on the wall and listen from afar, letting them talk to each other. "You made yourself believe that I left, but I didn't Xayida. You forced me to leave. Don't you remember?"

Xayida stayed quiet and looked out at the sun beginning to set. Xena sighed and looked at her sister, who was completely ignoring her. "We built an empire together and you told me to get out. You banished me."

"You were acting insane, Xena," Xayida turned to her with icy blue eyes. "You don't remember what you did!"

"Yes I do," Xena said.

"You killed my men! You strung them up on ropes in front of the castle and then mutilated their bodies!" Xayida sneered.

Xena remembered that moment and the truth was, Xayida didn't know why she did that. She didn't know the full story. "You don't understand, Xayida. I had to do that."

The younger sister was appalled. "You were just trying to assert yourself, Xena. You didn't have to do that. You humiliated them even in death!"

"They were going to murder you!" Xena spat out finally and Xayida's eyes widened. She nodded, "yes," she affirmed her sister's shocked face. "They were planning to assassinate you and I...stopped them," she looked out at the sunset and Xayida was still gawking at her.

"You're welcome," Xena said and Xayida was a loss for words and she looked out at the sun setting slowly in the sky.

"What about all the other times?" Xayida asked softly, barely above a whisper.

Xena smirked, "those were just for fun," she smiled and Xayida raised an eyebrow at her sister. She reached for her sister's hand and Xayida looked down then slowly slipped her hand away.

Gabrielle watched the two sisters and smiled as she saw Xena trying to talk to her calmly and even saw her try to come close to her though Xayida shied away from it. she heard someone whispering behind her and turned around to see a gaggle of young woman talking to each other. She frowned and then the women noticed her and dispersed. She thought that was strange.

Turning around she saw Xena standing before her. She gasped and Xena smiled. "You scared me!"

"Sorry," Xena said.

"I was waiting for you," Gabrielle smiled and heard the women talking and their heels clicking against the marble floor.

"I know," Xena turned and looked at Xayida who was standing by herself staring at the sunset. "She didn't like what I had to say." She sighed.

Gabrielle lowered her gaze, "I heard you saved her from being killed." She whispered and Xena nodded with no response. "She doesn't appreciate that?"

Xena shook her head, "her heart is still black with her own self hatred, Gabrielle. She does not want to let anyone in, especially me." She felt a sting in her heart. She did love Xayida, but she did not love her actions in the past and currently. She was cold and distance at times, but she enjoyed inflicting painful riddles and cryptic messages towards her. She liked to play games. "She believes I have wronged her so much."

"And have you?" Gabrielle asked a reasonable question and saw Xena's eyes light up.

"Yes I have," she sadly admitted. "But we have wronged each other. It is a two way road. I am not alone in the blame, she just doesn't want to accept her faults."

Gabrielle could understand that. Xayida was smart and she was only two years younger than Xena, but she had an entirely different personality than Xena. She seemed like the sweet sister that everyone loved while Xena was a distraction, the sister everyone loved to hate. "Do you accept your faults?" she asked honestly.

Xena pursed her lips unsure how to answer that question. She had always thought that she was in the right all the time but Gabrielle made her think about her ways and questioned herself constantly. Xayida painted her as a tyrant and cruel queen, but Xena had come to accept that truth. But she was beginning to think that perhaps Xayida and Gabrielle were both right. She never liked to admit when she was wrong.

She looked behind Gabrielle and saw two women staring at her. She frowned and the women turned away from her. "Someone is watching us," Xena whispered.

Gabrielle didn't dare turn around, "I know. I heard them whispering earlier," she whispered back.

Xena decided to go inside the mansion once again and this time she would blend in. She saw the young women move away from where they were and she smirked. Following behind them she touched the gun that was strapped to her leg. Perhaps these girls could be harmless but she had no way of knowing for sure.

Gabrielle looked around for the other two women and saw them in a corner talking to each other. "There's two more over there," she whispered to Xena.

"I only need one," Xena smiled and saw one of the girls turn their head and saw her following them. Their pace quickened and Xena raised an eyebrow, "come now, don't run from me," she chuckled beneath her breath.

She disappeared into a hallway and the girls turned around and saw Xena was gone. "Where did she go?" one of the girls whispered. The other shrugged and kept looking for Xena but she was gone. Turning around to keep walking they bumped into Xena. They gasped and she towered over them.

Xena grabbed one of the girl's arms and shoved her into the nearby hallway. "Why are you following me, little bird?" she smiled and squeezed the girl's cheeks in between her firm grip.

The girl panicked and Xena saw that this girl was no older than sixteen. Just a child. "Who sent you?" Xena frowned, narrowing her eyes. Gabrielle watched the other girls gather up and saw them about to leave. She made sure that nobody went into the hallway covering for Xena.

"Callisto!" the teenager said aloud and Xena raised an eyebrow.

"Who is Callisto?" she asked, not recognizing that name at all. She peered down and saw a marking on the girl's wrist. She grabbed her wrist and the girl squealed. Xena squeezed her cheeks more, "quiet!" she hushed her and the girl went mute. She flipped the girl's arm over and saw a marking of 'A&R' on her wrist. That was interesting. "You're an Angel?" she asked and the girl nodded her head in fear.

Xena let go of the girl's face and frowned. The girl tried to escape and Xena smiled, pulling her back and pinned her to the wall. "Why are you following me?" she hissed.

"She told us to!" the girl said and Xena didn't really like that answer.

"Do you know Xayida?" Xena asked and the girl nodded. "Are you following her too?"

Gabrielle saw the other girls leaving the mansion. "Xena, the other girls are leaving!" she whispered harshly.

Xena smiled, "looks like your friends left you alone," she sighed and let the girl go. "You shouldn't be sneaking up on people like that, especially me," she placed a hand on her hip. "I will let you go if you answer me, alright?" she felt bad for the girl and the teenager nodded her head. "Are you following Queen Xayida?"

The girl stammered, "no...Callisto only told us to follow you," she breathed heavily and Xena rubbed her chin. "May I go now?" she asked.

Xena waved her hand, "you may," and she saw the girl run out of the hallway. Gabrielle watched her run around the corner and Xena folded her arms. "You are friends with the Angels, right?" she asked Gabrielle.

"Yes, but I don't know who Callisto is," she was at a loss. Xena groaned, feeling frustrated. "Whoever that is, is obviously fascinated by you."

Xena chuckled, "nobody is that fascinated. I am only followed when I am about to be killed." She sighed, "but those girls did not have a chance in Hell killing me."

"I'm really starting to dislike Rome," Gabrielle folded her arms.

"Join the club," Xena left the hall and saw Xayida coming towards her with a solemn face. "Xayida, I was being followed by a few of those Angels."

Xayida frowned, "you know about them?" she looked to Gabrielle.

"Yes," Xena turned to see Gabrielle's cheeks redden. "I knew about them for awhile, but I have discovered that you and Gabrielle work together, passing messages back and forth with the Angels."

Xayida didn't really understand that though. "But why would they follow you?" she questioned.

"I don't know, but I smell a rat. Do you know a woman named Callisto?" and Xayida shook her head. "Fantastic," she exhaled sharply folding her arms. "We should leave this place. It's not safe in Rome."

Awhile later the three queens returned to the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica and saw their caravan was up in flames and their horses were gone. Gabrielle gasped, covering her mouth. Xena groaned and Xayida shook her head staring at the burning caravan.

"I'm getting the feeling that we are not welcome here," Xena sarcastically said.

"What do we do now?" Gabrielle asked, not feeling entirely safe standing in the middle of the square.

"So good of you to join us," Cardinal Jacob said and Xena turned around to see a group of fifteen cardinals standing at the entrance of the Basilica. "Your majesty," he looked to Xayida, "too bad you have a sister who betrays the church." Xayida frowned at the cardinal.

"And we could have been such good friends," Cardinal Peter smiled deviously at Xena. "Arrest them!" he said and the Roman military came out armed with weapons and Gabrielle felt stupid for not having a weapon at all. Xayida began backing away and one of the men grabbed hold of her arms.

"Let go of me! I am Queen of Macedonia!" Xayida kicked one of the soldiers and he groaned in pain.

Xena took out the gun and shot at one of the soldier's boots. He cried in agony and fell over on his side, grabbing his foot wailing in agony. She took some powder out of her pouch in her bodice and lit it with a nearby torch and threw it on the ground. A screen of smoke appeared and the soldiers were instantly disoriented. Xena reached for Xayida's hand and pulled her out of the smoke.

"After them you fools!" Cardinal Peter demanded and more soldiers ran through the smoke as the three women began running as fast as possible.

Soldiers on horseback came riding behind them and they had a roped net. Gabrielle looked behind them and her eyes grew in fear. Xena held onto Xayida's hand as they ran together and saw Gabrielle slowing down. The men threw the net and all three of them tripped and fell face first into the dirt.

Xayida struggled to get free and Xena spat some dirt out of her mouth and saw her gun was at least ten feet away from her. She cursed to herself and Gabrielle winced as she hurt her ankle from the fall.

"You are under arrest for the assassination of Archbishop Maximilian!" one the soldiers said and Xayida turned to her sister.

"This is all your fault!" she blamed her sister and Xena frowned.

"Everything is always my fault!" Xena yelled back. "Just when I was beginning to feel sorry for you," she grumbled and the soldiers pulled on the net dragging them in the dirt.

Chapter Text

AN: more action in this chapter. Enjoy!

Chapter Fourteen

Xena, Xayida and Gabrielle were taken to the dungeon below the Vatican. They were thrown in and Cardinal Peter locked the door. Xena ran to the bars and gripped them tightly, glaring at the man. "You can't arrest me. I am Queen of Greece! This is unjust!" she spat.

Peter smirked, "we have reason to believe you are plotting against the church, your highness. Your past actions against Rome are proof enough."

Xena rolled her eyes, "oh please. Saying hateful things is different than acting upon them. I never did anything against Rome. There is not a single drop of blood in my name."

He frowned, "you are involved in illegal trade with the Ottomans. An enemy of the church. You also waged war against the Macedonians a few years ago. Not to mention you are not kind to those who betray you, majesty."

Xena sighed, figuring this was a losing battle anyway and she had no reason to argue with this cardinal. "At least let them go. They have nothing to do with my actions." She begged and Xayida folded her arms, quite shocked at her sister's humility and selflessness.

Peter smiled at Xayida and Gabrielle, "they are with you, your highness. They are equally as guilty as you." He tucked the keys into his pocket and Xena eyed his pocket carefully. She frowned deeply at him and he chuckled leaving the cell, "you will see the Pope soon."

Xena growled and shook the barred door, "when we will see him?" she asked.

"When he has time for you. He is a very busy man, you know," he smiled and descended into the darkness with the Roman military following behind him.

Gabrielle sat down on the stone bench and buried her face in her hands. She was beginning to think that befriending Xena was a bad idea. Xena was always running from some problem or issue and Xayida was right. Wherever Xena went, she was always targeted and now she was in prison and not just any prison, the papal prison for a crime she did not commit. She knew Xena didn't kill the archbishop but the cardinals did not see it that way. They saw her and knowing her past actions and behavior, they saw the dead archbishop with a bullet in his head and immediately assumed it was Xena. This was not how she wanted to spend her time with Xena at all. Not to mention, Xayida was a pain to be around. All she did was complain about awful her sister was and she never had anything positive to say.

It was bad enough she had to spend a few days with the two in one room and then in a small caravan on the way to Rome. Now, they were stuck in a small cell together and she knew this wasn't going to end well for everyone. Xayida was angry, she saw it in her eyes. She looked ready to kill her sister if she only had the weapon to do so, although she was sure that Xayida wouldn't need a weapon to kill Xena if she really tried.

Xena paced back and forth and Xayida groaned loudly. "Look what you did, Xena. You always get into trouble and now you roped me and Gabrielle into this mess!"

Xena snapped around and glared at her younger sister. "Why do you always blame me for everything? You know I didn't kill the archbishop. You were there with me!"

"That's not what the cardinals think! They think you killed him and now we're here!" she folded her arms and leaned against a wall in darkness. "I should have never sent that letter to meet with you. I should have never met you again and this wouldn't be happening," she mumbled.

Xena frowned, "that's enough, Xayida. Even if you didn't meet with me, something still would have happened and you could have been dead by now," she sighed and looked over to Gabrielle sitting alone in the corner being very quiet. She walked over to her and knelt down in front of her.

"I'm sorry Gabrielle. This is all just a giant mess and I've made it worse by dragging you along," she touched her knee gently.

Gabrielle lifted her face out of her hands and stared at the queen. "I agreed to come with you, remember?" she half smiled and Xena grinned at her grabbing her hand for comfort. "Hardly anyone comes out of these prisons alive, Xena. They are going to kill us."

Xena shook her head, "no they won't, I'll make sure they won't!"

"Do you know what they do to Amazons?" Gabrielle said seriously and Xena became silent. "They burn them in public. I am going to be burned at the stake!" her eyes filled with tears as she thought of all her sisters back home including Freya. She didn't want to leave them and die because of a misunderstanding in the church. She knew this wasn't Xena's fault but because of the misguided cardinals, they blamed her and now they were stuck in this together.

"No they're not Gabrielle. You're not going to die. None of us are going to die," she said calmly trying to reassure her friend.

Xayida scoffed, "that's right, you keep spewing those lies Xena. Gabrielle is right, we're not going to make it out alive. We're all going to die and who knows how long we'll be in here for?" she sighed folding her arms and she slid down the wall and sat on the cold hard ground.

Xena stood up and marched over to her sister and picked her up by her collar and pushed her against the wall. Xayida's eyes widened and she felt Xena's hand tighten around her throat. "You keep acting like this and I might just leave you in here to rot," she grimaced and tightened her grip. Xayida coughed and tried to pry her hand off her neck.

Gabrielle stood up now becoming concerned. "Xena, stop! You're killing her!" she yelled out and Xena ignored her. "Xena!" she yelled and Xena turned her head towards her. "Please," she shook her head and mouthed, 'don't'. Xena frowned and let go of her sister's throat. Xayida gasped for air as she fell to her knees, clutching her throat. She began coughing violently and dry heaving. Xena stared down at her and extended her hand to help her up.

Xayida lifted her eyes and saw Xena try to help her. She took her hand and Xena lifted her up. Xayida rubbed her neck and Xena lifted her eyebrow staring into the mirroring eyes. The younger queen left her side and went to sit in a corner on the opposite side of the cell. She curled up by herself and laid down facing the wall, refusing to talk.

Xena folded her arms watching her sister seclude herself. Gabrielle frowned, "you were choking her to death," she whispered.

"If I wanted to kill her I would have already," Xena turned and went to sit down on the bench. She rubbed her temples feeling her head pounding. Gabrielle sighed and came to sit next to her.

"Maybe you should stop trying to talk to her through violence and bickering." Gabrielle suggested and Xena gave her a curious glance. Gabrielle continued with a wary face, feeling her stomach begin to turn into knots, "you should try to be more sensitive."

"Sensitive?" Xena raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "I don't think we've met before. My name is Xena," she joked cynically.

Gabrielle smiled at her subtle jesting. "I'm serious Xena. Try it my way and if it doesn't work you can go back to...your way," she said and Xena remained silent. "I know there's love in that heart of yours," she poked her chest and Xena smirked.

"It's not about love, Gabrielle. My love for her never left my heart, but it has faded," she stared at Xayida and figured she might be sleeping by now as she was very quiet and the rise and fall of her chest was very subtle. "She almost escaped me once. I thought I had lost her for good," she thought of the time when they left Wallachia for good and remembered the time when she almost lost her sister for eternity.

Gabrielle was beginning to feel cold in this dark cell and scooted closer to Xena for warmth. "What happened?" she whispered, begging to know.

Xena sighed, "after we left Wallachia we were on our way back to Amphipolis. We stopped in Macedonia and I guess Borias was still angry with me that I went behind his back and tried to attack the Ottomans. He sent mercenaries after us and they poisoned our food..."

Macedonia 1439

Xayida and Xena traveled together for quite some time before they reached Macedonia to stay for a few days. It had been raining for the last three days and it was impossible to see the road not to mention it was incredibly dangerous to travel in a storm. Xayida was able to convince Borias to give them proper tents for their travel as long as they promised never to return to Wallachia.

Their men set up more than twenty tents and Xayida shared a tent with Xena, as usual. They always shared a tent unless Xena requested to have a separate tent for herself but that was usually only when there was a man with her, especially Borias. Xayida sat down in the tent polishing her swords and saw Xena come in with a soaking wet cloak.

"Where have you been?" Xayida set the sword down and looked at her sister. Xena threw the cloak down and let her hair down and it was very damp.

Xena threw down a bag and it made a loud thud on the floor. Xayida eyed her cautiously. "Look in it," Xena smiled and the young sister looked inside and pulled out many guns and pouches full of gunpowder.

"Xena, where did you get this?" she asked feeling nervous.

"Courtesy of the Ottomans," Xena smiled and sat down next to her sister and wrapped herself in a blanket, trying to warm her damp body off.

Xayida lifted her eyebrow, "the Ottomans just gave these to you?" she questioned feeling very skeptical. Xena remained quiet and Xayida sighed, "Xena, what did you do and should I be worried?"

Xena grinned, "relax. I didn't steal them. I met with Ottoman emissaries and agreed to fight with them. I wanted their gunpowder so they gave me an abundant supply," her eyes lit up and Xayida shook her head in disappointment.

"Xena, you know it is illegal to have gunpowder in Macedonia, don't you?" Xena nodded. "And...they gave you more than just this small bag?"

"The men are guarding the tent with the rest of the weapons and powder," Xena said casually and Xayida gasped.

"Xena!" she exclaimed. "Oh my god, we're going to get caught and thrown in jail, I just know it," she buried her face in her hands. "Why do you do this to me?"

Xena smiled and grabbed a bowl of rice and bread. She scooped up the rice with the bread and ate some of it. suddenly she tasted something sour and incredibly off about the rice. She spit it back into the bowl and wiped her mouth. "What did you do to this rice?"

Xayida frowned, "nothing. I ate some earlier. Why?" she saw Xena pick up some of the grain and smell it.

"Who is in charge of the grain?" Xena asked immediately.

"Marcus," she saw Xena get up quickly and she stood up grabbing her arm, "wait, Xena! What's wrong?"

Xena left the tent to find Marcus in the pouring rain. Xayida stayed behind and folded her arms very puzzled by her sister's behavior. Xena burst into the tent and saw Marcus on the floor vomiting blood. Her eyes widened and then realized Xayida at the rice as well.

"The grain is poisoned!" Xena came back into the tent and Xayida's eyes widened in fear. Xena rummaged through her bags and found an herb and told her sister to eat the leaf. "Eat this, quickly!" she urged and Xayida at the leaf, making a face of disgust at the sour bitter taste of the herb.

A couple of hours later Xayida laid down on some blankets and Xena sat beside her. Xayida coughed and spit up some blood in a bowl beside her face. "Am I going to die?" she croaked.

Xena smiled weakly, "no. I'm here, remember?" she brushed her sister's hair away from her sweaty forehead.

Xayida nodded her head and Xena propped more pillows behind her head. She breathed out heavily and felt her lungs become restricted. "I'm glad you...didn't eat anything," she smiled and Xena sighed. She wiped the blood off her sister's lips with a cloth and stayed beside her. She reached for her Xena's hand and gripped it weakly. "How do you feel?"

Xena frowned as she was more concerned for her sister than herself. "I'm fine, don't worry about me," she squeezed her sister's hand tightly.

"But.." Xayida's eyes drifted down towards Xena's stomach, worried for the life that was inside her. She coughed some more and Xena lifted her head and she spit some more blood into the bowl.

Xena sighed, "you don't need to worry about me, Xayida. Let me worry about you for once," she smiled and Xayida smiled at her, closing her eyes feeling exhausted.

The next morning Xena fell asleep next to Xayida ensuring her safety and she watched her as long as she could until sleep finally took over. One of their men came into the tent and cleared his throat. "Xena, we found the men responsible," he said and Xena groaned, not quite awake yet. She turned to her still sleeping sister and thought it would be alright to leave her for little while so she could meet these intruders.

"Show them to me," Xena grabbed her cloak and wrapped it around her body, pulling the hood over her head.

She followed him out into the field and saw the two mercenaries tied up and beaten pretty badly. She raised an eyebrow at them and saw the emblem on their cape clasps. She knelt down and ripped the clasp off and examined it, recognizing the design immediately. "Transylvanians," she smirked and put the clasp in her cloak pocket. "Borias sent you to kill me?" she asked.

One of the men spat in her face and she stood up wiping the saliva off her face. Doran, one of Xena's men pulled out his sword and Xena stopped him, preventing him from harming the man. Xena took the Wallachian's sword from its sheath and his eyes widened in fear. She smiled and lifted the sword in the air and he shut his eyes in fear of dying right then and there.

With a quick swipe Xena decapitated the other mercenary, freeing the other man allowing him to live. He opened his eyes and saw his comrade's head on the wet ground. He gasped and Xena wiped the blood off onto the dead man's clothing.

"I want you to deliver a message to Borias," she smiled and threw the sword down into the snow. Bending over she pinched his cheeks between her fingers, "tell him if he sends any more mercenaries my way, I will make sure to tell the Ottomans to blow his kingdom into smithereens," she hissed. "You got it?" she whispered and he nodded his head. She let go of his face and he blinked up at her. "Oh and, tell him that I want to talk to him in person," she said and the man remained silent. "Now, get out of here!" she demanded and Xena's men let him go and he took off running in a hurry, almost tripping over his own feet.

Xena sighed feeling tired and somewhat light headed. She returned to her tent and saw Xayida was awake, barely though. She smiled and took off the damp cloak. "you're awake," she grinned and grabbed some water for her. Xayida drank the water slowly and coughed slightly. "How do you feel?"

Xayida exhaled slowly, "better," she rubbed her eyes and frowned, "what's going on?"

"Borias sent mercenaries and they poisoned our food. I took care of the problem," she smiled and Xayida didn't like the sound of that. Usually when Xena took care of things, someone always died in the process.

"why would he do that?" Xayida croaked, feeling her dry throat not doing justice to her speech. Xena sighed and laid down beside her.

"He is very vengeful," she said and ran her fingers through Xayida's long dark hair. "I want to talk to him," she muttered.

Xayida turned her head towards her sister, "why would you want to –" she saw Xena's eyes and she knew instantly what she meant. "Xena, no. Don't do that. It's better that he doesn't know!" Xayida groaned now frustrated at her sister, completely forgetting her ill state. "He will come looking for you," she touched Xena's hand warmly.

Xena sat up leaning on her elbow, "Xayida, he will just keep coming after us if I don't tell him. If I tell him, he will stop sending his idiot men to kill us!" she firmly said and Xayida fell silent.

"Well," the younger sister sighed, "you know him better than I do," she smiled and now it was Xena's turn to be silent. "Thank you for watching over me," she whispered and kissed her sister's hand.

Xena smiled, "I would do anything for you, you know that." She leaned over and kissed her sister's forehead.

"I know," Xayida said in a raspy voice and coughed lightly. "Are you really going to tell him?" she furrowed her eyebrows a bit worried for her sister's safety.

Xena nodded, "yes I am. He has a right to know," she stopped and looked at her sister's worried face. "He should know, right?" she was starting to have second thoughts about this entire idea now.

Xayida shrugged her shoulder slightly, "if you want to tell him, do it. I'm not going to stop you," she smiled holding onto her hand and coughed lightly. "But could you tell him to not poison my food anymore?" she frowned and Xena smiled at her, watching her cough and then her smile died. She made her drink some water and decided to stay here in this area until Xayida was well enough to travel.

Gabrielle leaned against Xena's shoulder and exhaled slowly seeing her breath in the cold crisp air. "How long did it take for her to recover?" she looked up at Xena.

She sighed, "a few more days. We left the area quickly and I sent an emissary to Transylvania."

Gabrielle didn't forget that small part of the story that Xena seemed to glance over. "What was so important that you couldn't tell Borias?" she asked and saw Xena's eyes lower and scratch her arm anxiously. "Even your sister knew. What was it?" she saw Xena was not keen on answering, and thought she was being a bit too nosy. She sighed and leaned against the wall, wrapping her cape around herself. "You don't have to tell me," she smiled.

Xena turned her head and saw Gabrielle sitting curled up against the cold wall trying to get warm. "I'm sorry Gabrielle it's just...I haven't talked about myself a lot and –"

"It's okay Xena," Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hand warmly. "You don't need to tell me your secrets," she winked, "friends are allowed to keep secrets, aren't they?"

Xena smiled, "I guess so," she held Gabrielle's hand and sighed looking over at Xayida who was sleeping and curled up on the cold ground. She then stared at the cell across from theirs. It was dark and she couldn't see anything. "Gabrielle –" she turned her head and saw her friend was asleep and she smiled, slipping her hand out from under hers and she went to sit by herself against a wall close to the door to see if anyone would be coming by. She didn't feel like sleeping at all so she decided to keep watch. She didn't hear anything down in these tunnels so far, except a few small animals roaming around.

The following morning Xena woke up and she hadn't even noticed she fell asleep. She felt someone next to her and saw Xayida sleeping close to her with her head resting in her lap. Xena ran her fingers through Xayida's long locks and smiled down at her. She had always been there for her younger sister, even in their childhood together. Xayida always looked up to Xena and sought after comfort from her when she was upset, afraid or sad. This time was no different. Xena thought her sister was such a mess and she felt like she was to blame for a lot of it, but perhaps some things never change.

Gabrielle was curled up on the bench with her cape wrapped around her body. Xena squinted at the little sunlight that was in the cell and sighed. She needed to get out of here, but she was at a loss.

Suddenly a small rock was thrown at her from the dark cell across from hers. She frowned and picked up the rock and set it aside, choosing to ignore it. Then another rock was thrown and this time it hit her arm. She frowned and moved her sister out of the way and Xayida stirred in her sleep. Xena was careful not to wake her and she walked over to the door, staring at the dark cell.

"Why don't you show your face instead of throwing rocks at me?" Xena whispered. She heard some rustling in the cell and raised a curious eyebrow.

"You always liked a more direct approach," a sultry voice emerged from the darkness and Xena's eyes widened as she clearly recognized it. The voice now had a face and she came to the door, staring into Xena's shocked eyes, merely ten feet away from her. "I didn't expect to see you in here, Xena," she hissed.

"You!" Xena hissed. "I thought you were dead!" she growled and the woman opposite her chuckled lowly.

"I managed to get around. What's the matter, Xena? Not happy to see an old friend?" she smirked and Xena grabbed onto the bars and grimaced. She peered behind Xena and saw Xayida sleeping on the floor. "You brought the brat with you?" she raised an eyebrow.

Xena frowned and looked at Xayida who was now starting to wake up at the worst time possible. "I don't know why you ever kept her around..." she smiled as she saw she was getting under Xena's skin. "Although...she and I had quite the friendship at one time," she chuckled.

Xena didn't exactly know what she meant by that and that immediately stuck in her mind. Xayida yawned and turned around to see Xena standing against the door talking to someone. She frowned and stood up coming closer and her eyes widened.

"Alti?" Xayida said in disbelief and grabbed Xena's shoulders and felt her sister tense her body up.

Alti grinned, "little Greek flower," she waved at Xayida and she grimaced at her. "The sister that was never good enough," she frowned and Xayida shook her head. "But," her eyes narrowed and she smiled deviously, "she made up for it later, didn't you?" she winked.

Xayida cringed and Xena turned to her sister, "what is she talking about?" she asked.

Xayida pulled her sister away from the door, "Xena don't listen to her. She's evil and talks nothing but nonsense!"

"I know that," Xena snatched her arm away from Xayida. "You aren't still in contact with that piece of garbage are you?"

Xayida gasped, "of course not! I thought she died a long time ago!"

A Roman came to their cell and he brought some friends along with him. Gabrielle finally woke up to all the commotion and saw Xena and Xayida huddled together in a corner talking. The man opened the door and snapped his fingers, "take her," he pointed at Xena.

"No!" Xayida pulled on her arm and one of the men kicked her aside and she fell onto the ground. Xena growled and punched one of the guards in his face and stomped her heel on the other's foot and threw him on the floor.

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "what is going on?!" she tried to help and Xena held up her hand.

"Gabrielle, no, stay back!" she begged and then the head prison guard put a black bag over Xena's head and wrapped a rope around her neck. Xena tugged on the rope as he began pulling it tighter.

Xayida frowned and got up to attempt to help her sister and the man grabbed a dagger out of his sheath and stabbed Xayida's palm and stuck it into the stone wall. She cried out in pain and Gabrielle covered her eyes as she saw the dagger inside of Xayida's hand and blood poured down the wall.

Xena grumbled and was completely blind. The other two guards grabbed Xena's arms and tied them behind her back. She breathed heavily and tried to fight back but it was a bit useless now. They pushed her out the cell and the prison guard locked the door once more.

Gabrielle shook her hands trying to remain calm. She exhaled slowly and came to Xayida, "should...I...should I pull it out?" she asked, unsure what to do.

Xayida had tears rolling down her cheeks and she took the dagger and pulled it out herself. She cried out and dropped to her knees, holding her bleeding hand in her lap. Gabrielle knelt down and ripped a part of her cape off and grabbed Xayida's hand. "Let me see," she said and Xayida shook her head. "Let me see!" she forcefully grabbed her hand and saw the severe wound in her palm. She sighed and began wrapping her hand as carefully as she could.

The Macedonian queen wiped her eyes and her breathing soon turned to normal, "where are they taking my sister?" she stammered.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "I don't know, but it can't be good." She tied the fabric around her wrist and wiped the tears away from her cheeks. "Who were you two talking to at the door?" she whispered.

Xayida frowned, "somebody that I thought me and Xena got rid of a long time ago," she whispered and heard Alti talking to herself quietly in the opposite cell. She decided to go see her for herself now that Xena was gone. "Alti!" she shouted and the woman appeared from the darkness once more. "What are you doing here in Rome?"

Alti grinned, "business, my flower, but I think the better question is, what are you doing in Rome? And with your sister...I thought you two parted ways," she smiled eerily at the queen. Xayida cringed in disgust at the woman. Gabrielle appeared behind Xayida watching the two talk together.

"wouldn't you like to know?" Xayida sneered. Alti sighed and leaned against the wall casually. "Do you have anything to do with what has been happening in the church?" she was starting to feel bold for asking this.

Alti raised her eyebrows, "you wish, Xayida. I'm afraid the Romans don't like my kind too much," she shrugged and winked at her.

Gabrielle tugged on Xayida's sleeve, "she looks like the shamanesses from the Siberian Amazons," she whispered as she recognized her tattoos on her forehead. Though Alti was dressed in Turkish garb. A large green robe with a skirt to match and gold top. Her headpiece was even Turkish as well.

Xayida sighed and placed a hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, "she is...or was," she turned to look at Alti and saw that eerie smile on her lips. "She was banished by the Amazons and went to work for the Ottomans. I guess she was arrested," she sighed and bit her lip. "Xena and I befriended her once..." she sadly admitted. "And then...I did something very terrible..." he felt her head begin to throb and Gabrielle became concerned.

"Go on..." she said softly.

Xayida shook her head, "you don't understand Gabrielle. I went behind Xena's back and did something unforgiveable. Not even Xena knows what terrible things I did," she whispered and turned away from Gabrielle, not daring to show her face, feeling ashamed of herself.

Gabrielle frowned and came 'round to face her. "What did you do? I'm sure if you told Xena, she would forgive you," she encouraged her.

"No! She will never forgive me for what I did!" Xayida yelled and brushed past her, going to stand in a corner by herself. "Xena is right, I am a liar," she mumbled. Gabrielle stood at a fair distance listening to her. "I betrayed her many times," she turned to face Gabrielle with teary eyes, "everything I said to Gabrielle. I'm sorry," she shook her head, "I lied to you just like I lied to Xena for years. She is right, I did not tell you everything about me." She wiped her tears and Gabrielle folded her arms, willing to listen. "I hear the stories she tells you when you think I am sleeping. She cuts out the parts she doesn't want you to hear..." she sighed, running her fingers through her thick hair.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, "what does she not want to me to know?"

Xayida shrugged, "Xena has secrets as do I. The story she told you last night..." she saw the shocked look in her eyes. "Yes I heard her," she continued, "she left out a very important part of that story. And the story about when she attacked the Ottomans in Wallachia. It didn't end like that. She organized a party to ally with the Ottomans weeks prior. I knew about it and Xena told me to stay out of it."

Gabrielle couldn't wrap her head around this all. "Why would Xena leave out parts to her stories? It doesn't make sense."

"Secrets are very powerful, Gabrielle. We all have them, but some of us have deeper and darker secrets. She is probably trying to spare you of her dark past. I warned you about my sister before, Gabrielle. She knows a lot of dangerous people and I do too." She sighed and looked down at her wounded hand and saw blood seeping through the fabric. "You are not safe around her or me."

Xena was taken to a separate room in the opposite side of the prison and the men hooked Xena's wrist to a hook. She couldn't see a thing and she heard a lever and chains rattling. Her heart began racing and she winced as she was being hoisted up into the air with her arms attached to the pulley.

The guard ripped the bag off her head and she breathed out finally. She moved her legs and saw she was at least two feet up in the air. She groaned and kicked the man down with her leg and he fell down. Growling he wiped his bloody lip with a napkin.

"Restrain her legs!" he demanded and the men grabbed rope and tied her legs together. He smiled and stood up. Obviously he was not here to talk, he was here to play games and Xena watched his curious dark brown eyes. He flipped his long hair and smirked at her. "You are making this more difficult than necessary, your majesty."

Xena frowned and he grabbed her face. Her eyes widened and he was very close to her face. "Why did you kill Archbishop Maximilian?" he let go of her cheeks and she snapped at him.

"I didn't kill him," she said flatly. He nodded and grabbed a whip. She bit her tongue and looked up at the ceiling.

"Are you working with the Ottomans?" he asked and unraveled the whip. He nudged his head to his men and they tightened the ropes and she winced feeling her arms being pulled up.

"No," she managed to say and he came close to her face once more. "This is illegal. You can't keep me here and torture me without a trial first," she said and he smiled at her with his doe eyes.

He pulled out a matchlock from a bag on the table nearby. "This is yours isn't it?" he waved the gun in her face and she remained silent. "And you used this to kill the archbishop, didn't you?"

"I did not kill him!" she said angrily and he chuckled under his breath. He snapped his fingers and the men pulled the chains down and stretched her arms out even more. She cringed and still did not show any pain.

"That's not what the evidence says. You came to Rome with the Queen of Macedonia. Of all places, why come to Rome? You never liked Rome, your majesty," he smiled and continued, "you were set out on doing something devious, weren't you? So you decided to kill the archbishop because he wanted your gunpowder and you wouldn't give it to him, right?"

Xena felt her limbs stretching to their full capacity and she glared at the prison guard. "Maybe instead of torturing me you should focus on what real evil is going on in your precious church," she grumbled.

He frowned, "you dare say such blasphemous things?!" he grabbed a crowbar and hit her shins and finally she cried out in agony. "Just admit that you killed him and your life will be spared!"

She breathed heavily and smiled at him, "I didn't...kill him."

He threw down the crowbar nodded at his men. They pulled on the chains and her arms lifted higher in the air and she cringed, feeling a ligament tear in her arm. "Strip her down to her undergarments," he snapped his fingers and the men took a knife and cut her dress from the back and threw it aside.

A man grabbed a stool and cut off her sleeves and threw them on the ground. The prison guard lifted his brows and noticed her black heeled ankle boots. He took off her shoes and threw them into the fireplace. He then saw her hair up in a bun and he took out the broach and her long hair came tumbling down her back.

A Roman officer came into the room and saw the Greek Queen tied up and being tortured. "Sir, the Caliph is here to see you," he said.

Xena lifted her eyebrow finding that odd that the Ottoman Caliph would even dare step into Rome. He frowned at the officer and threw down the whip, "fine," he turned back to Xena. "I'll be back later," he looked to his men, "don't let her escape and don't let anyone in either," he commanded and left to follow the officer to meet with the Caliph.

She smiled at the two guards, "well this is fun, just the three of us," she said and the men frowned up at her. "Romans meeting with unusual..."

"Quiet!" one of the guards said and Xena smirked.

"You know...I can have you hanged for this illegal act," she hissed.

One of the guards took his staff and struck her right in her midsection. She coughed and felt that the wind was knocked out of her. "You stay quiet now." He demanded and she cringed at the pain traveling through her torso and her arms.

Xayida sat on the bench and heard some footsteps from the down the dark hallway. She stood up and went to the door and saw the same prison guard walking with someone. "Where did you take my sister?" she yelled.

The guard stopped and smiled at her, "she's receiving special treatment," he winked and walked away. Xayida shook the bars and saw him disappear up the stairs with the Roman officer.

Alti smiled, "I can help you, Xayida," she smiled and Xayida snarled through the barred cell door.

"I don't need your help. You've helped enough," she turned and began walking away then saw Alti standing in front of her. She gasped and Gabrielle backed up against the wall.

Gabrielle looked at the empty cell across from them and felt like this was a really bad nightmare. This woman was standing in their cell. What kind of sorcery is this, she thought?

Alti touched Xayida's cheek softly, "you used to be such a sweet girl..." she smiled, "and Xena ruined that for you didn't she?"

Xayida slapped her hand away and Alti glared at her and began choking her. Xayida held onto her throat and coughed, trying to breathe. Gabrielle panicked and frowned, running to help her and Alti shoved Gabrielle into the wall.

"And who is this annoying blonde friend you have here?" Alti smiled at Xayida. "Another one of Xena's victims I'm sure," she winked and finally let her hold on Xayida go and she dropped to her knees, coughing violently. She knelt down and lifted Xayida's chin and stared into her fearful blue eyes. "We have secrets, don't we, Xayida?" she smiled. "Even secrets we keep from those close to us..." she whispered in her ear, "just like you kept a secret from Xena for ten years, isn't that right?" she hissed.

Xayida snatched her face away from her and stood up, "stay away from me," she said and really wished she had a weapon right about now.

"Oh but we used to be such good friends once upon a time!" Alti smiled. Xayida shook her head and backed up against a wall, nowhere to run or hide from this woman.

"You were never my friend, you were a nightmare," Xayida said and Alti frowned.

"That's not what you said all those years ago," Alti chuckled beneath her breath. "You don't remember do you?" she walked closer to her, "let's make you remember," she frowned and placed her hands on either side of Xayida's head and closed her eyes channeling off her energy.

Gabrielle saw Xayida trying to fight back but then her eyes widened and saw both of the women collapse onto the floor beside one another. She ran over to Xayida and slapped her cheeks. "Xayida!" she yelled and still no response. "This is not good..." she whispered to herself.

Tempe Valley Castle, Macedonia

Xayida's messenger came into the room and handed the letter to the scribe. He opened the seal and read it immediately. He put his hand over his mouth and shook his head. "This is terrible!" he exclaimed.

Solan came running in from playing outside with one of the servant boys and he smiled seeing a letter in the scribe's hand. "Is that a letter?!" he ran over to him, "is it from mother?" he asked begging to see it.

Zakos, the messenger lowered his eyes and the scribe smiled sweetly at the boy, "why don't you go play outside?"

Solan frowned, "but I'm done playing outside. What does the letter say? Is she coming back soon?" he hoped that would be the case. She had been gone for a long time and he was used to her coming back within a week or so, but it had been almost three! "Please, can you tell me?" he pleaded and the scribe looked into his bright blue eyes.

He definitely wasn't going to tell him that his mother was imprisoned in Rome and was in quite a bit of trouble. He didn't want to let the boy hear such things. "I'm sure she will return soon. She's a very busy lady, you know."

Solan sighed. He hoped that it was a letter saying when she would return or at least tell him what she was doing. "She's been gone for a long time," he twirled the wooden sword with his wrist feeling a bit disappointed that she wasn't returning soon.

Zakos grinned at him and wrapped an arm around the boy's small frame, "she'll be back, she always comes back."

Solan nodded, "I know, but this time it's really long!" he grinned and the scribe left the area to go deliver this letter to the treasurer of Macedonia. Solan walked with Zakos outside again and he frowned, quirking his mouth to the side, "where did she go this time anyway?"

"I believe she went to Greece," he said and subtly skipped over the part where she traveled to Rome with Xena, her elder sister.

His eyes lit up, "oh Greece! I've never been there before. I'd like to go there one day," he smiled and then ran outside into the snow to play with his friend. Zakos' smile disappeared as soon as the boy left his side. He was worried for his queen and of course, for her sister as well.

Perhaps, it was a mistake allowing Xayida to meet with her sister after all these years, he thought.

Chapter Text

AN: a bit short, but straight to the point and a familiar guest has arrived. More explanation later. Good luck and enjoy! ;)

Chapter Fifteen

"shadow stay with me. Are you wandering around like me, in this reality?"

Xena was still suspended in the air as the men were watching her every move. She sighed heavily and tried to wiggle her arms, but that only made the strain on her ligaments even worse and she stopped. The men were staring straight at her and she frowned down at them.

Suddenly a cardinal came into the cell unlocking door with a key he had. The two guards looked to one another and the prison guard asked them not to let anyone in but they supposed cardinals were an exception?

"Eminence, we are guarding the Queen of Greece as instructed," one of the guards said and curtly bowed his head. Xena rolled her eyes at the hypocrisy of these people. The prison guard specifically said to let nobody in, yet they disobeyed him for the sake of this cardinal.

The cardinal smiled and he rubbed his black cleanly shaven beard and lifted an eyebrow at Xena. "The Queen of Greece, you say?" he asked and the guards nodded their heads. He walked forward and stared up at her. "And what a fine specimen she is..." he touched her blouse gently then his fingers traced the inside of her blouse, barely grazing her chest.

Xena raised an eyebrow as she saw his eyes continue to scan and roam her body. "You are a man of God are you not?" she smiled and he pulled his hand away from her blouse immediately.

"Why is a beautiful thing like you in an awful place like this?" he smirked and she frowned, her smile disappearing instantly.

"Oh you don't know? I'm apparently being accused of murder," she scoffed. He smiled at her enticingly. The cardinal turned around and looked at all of the torture tools and weapons laid out carefully on a table. He picked up a crowbar and examined it thoroughly. Xena was watching him like a hawk and once he turned around she averted her eyes, pretending not to look in his eyes.

The cardinal ran his fingers along the crowbar and smiled at the guards. He swung swiftly and knocked out of the guards. The other one unsheathed his sword and he plunged the crowbar into the man's skull and the guard fell to the ground, dead in an instant.

Xena's eyes widened and the cardinal smiled at her. He went over to the lever and pulled it and slowly she felt her arms relax and her feet touched the ground. Once the pulley was completely released she was able to pull her arms over her head and she winced in pain as the soreness began to kick in. the cardinal came to her and unlocked the chains around her wrists.

The chains fell to the floor and she rubbed her aching wrists. Frowning at the man, "who are you and why did you release me?"

He grinned at her, "I am your new best friend, Xena," he winked and she wasn't quite sure what he meant by that.

She scoffed at that idea, "you are not my friend, I don't even know you," she decided to get out of this place and he grabbed her arm forcefully pulling her close to him. She grit her teeth and tried to get out of the hold he had her in.

"You aren't even going to thank me for setting you free?" he smiled coming dangerously close to her face.

Xena snatched her arm away, "I don't trust people like you," she stormed out of the torture cell and went down the hallway. She had no idea where she was because she had a bag on her head when she was brought here. She came to two paths and looked to her left and right.

The cardinal smirked, "oh but you will," he whispered and casually sauntered out of the room to follow her.

She decided to go left not knowing where it might take her. She saw a couple of guards that spotted her and her eyes widened. Deciding that there was no way out she smiled at them and they came at her with giant spears.

She swung her arm at one of the guards and he fell to the ground instantly and she winced as her shoulder was sore and out of place, obviously. The other man came at her and she kicked him in the groin and he dropped the spear. Grabbing the spear for herself, she hit him across the face and dropped the spear on his body then stepped over both of them walking to see if she could find Gabrielle and Xayida in this labyrinth.

Rounding a corner she bumped into the same cardinal that freed her. She stepped back and looked around to see where he could have come from, but he was behind her the last time she checked. "Why are you following me?"

He smiled, chuckling under his breath, "I want to help you, if you let me..." he touched her cheek and she grimaced, slapping his hand away from her face.

"I don't need help from people like you!" she brushed past him and rounded another corner, becoming more lost in these tunnels and she grunted.

Turning around she saw he was behind her again and she was beginning to feel a creepy vibe from this so called cardinal. He was like a teleporter or some sort. Perhaps his body is inhabited by a demon as well...she couldn't tell especially by his dark brown eyes, staring into her soul. He was handsome for a cardinal, she had to admit. His perfect chiseled jaw and prominent cheekbones. She saw tuffs of his curly black hair peeking out from under his yarmulke. "What are you?" she hissed and he began circling around her and her head looked from left to right, watching his every move. "Are you a demon?" she whispered.

He snickered, "far from it, my queen," he touched her soft long black hair and sniffed it. She cringed and then felt his hand come to her arm and her body tensed up. "You believe in multiple gods, don't you?" he asked.

She raised an eyebrow and looked at his handsome face, "I don't believe in any god or gods," she eyed him cautiously as he continued to circle her.

"Yet your palace is decorated in statues of ancient Greek gods," he came around and looked at her shocked face.

"How do you know what is inside my home?" she asked now feeling defensive. She raised her hand to attack and he swiftly grabbed her wrist in a flash. She blinked and there was no way a human could have grabbed her wrist with that kind of speed. "Who are you and why do you know so much about me?" she demanded to know.

He smiled at her and released her wrist, "an admirer. I like what you do. You have such passion and fire and don't let anyone stand in your way..." he hissed and she began walking off, feeling this man was off. She went back to the way she came and decided to go the opposite way to see if she could find Xayida and Gabrielle.

As she came to back where she started he was there leaning against the wall smirking at her. She huffed and decided to ignore him and go down the hall. As she rounded the corner she came to another dead end and was starting to get frustrated at the lack of direction.

"Still don't want my help?" he appeared behind her and she rolled her eyes, turning towards him slowly folding her arms defiantly. "I know you want to get back to your little sister and friend," he sauntered over to her and now she was officially intimidated by this mysterious man. "You will be wandering around in circles. Allow me to show you the way," he smiled and walked away down a separate small hallway.

She frowned and then thought she had nothing to lose and followed him reluctantly. She didn't know who this man was or why he wanted to help her but she didn't really have another option right now and he did save her from possible death.

They came to a staircase leading upward and she saw it was completely dark from there on out. "Why should I trust you? I don't trust people that I do not know," she said refusing to move.

He grinned, "have some faith, Xena," he cleared the path and she eyed him cautiously then began to go up the stairs.

She frowned, a bit fearful of the unknown, "what is your name?" she turned around and her jaw dropped as he was gone –disappeared from the scene. She sighed and shook her head, almost feeling like she had seen a ghost and she didn't know if it was malevolent or not. The only way was up and she took in a deep breath and walked up the stairs slowly.

Gabrielle began pacing around as she saw Alti and Xayida on the floor still. She checked several times to see if Xayida was dead, but she wasn't, though she wasn't knocked out. She couldn't pinpoint it, but she was almost in a trance.

Xena finally found the cell and looked inside to see Gabrielle walking around anxiously. "Gabrielle!" she whispered and the blonde turned her head and ran to the door.

"Xena! I'm so glad to see you! What did they do to you? Where did they take you?" she frowned and saw she was not wearing her dress anymore, but just a tight blouse and pantaloons with tights. "Where are your clothes?" she eyed her, scanning her entire body.

"No time to explain," Xena looked around and saw Xayida's shoes from around the corner as well as...Alti's arm sprawled across the floor. "What happened to Xayida?" she asked, becoming concerned for her sister.

Gabrielle sighed, "that lady...Alti?" she shook her head, "I don't know how but she came in here and was saying all kinds of nonsense. I don't know what she did to Xayida but they've been laying on the floor unconscious for the last hour!"

Xena groaned and shook the barred door, but obviously there was no way inside without that stupid key that Cardinal Peter had with him. "Alti is an evil person, Gabrielle. I fear she is trying to pervert Xayida's mind like she did before."

"Alti said that she was going to make her remember what she did ten years ago..." Gabrielle whispered, not entirely sure what that meant at all.

"Remember? Remember what?" Xena frowned.

Gabrielle shrugged, "I don't know but that's what she said."

Xena placed her hands on her hips, "Gabrielle, I'm going to find a way to get you both out of there. Don't let that witch out of your sight careful," she touched her hand through the bars and Gabrielle smiled weakly at her.

As soon as Xena left Gabrielle went to sit down on the bench and stared at the two as they lay on the floor. The longer she stared the more they both looked dead. She sighed, leaning against the wall, hoping that Xena would find a way to get them out, but she also thought that might be a bad idea. Then she thought, how did Xena escape anyway? She frowned thinking about the entirety of the situation altogether.

Xena rounded the corner and heard footsteps. She stayed behind and hid herself behind a wall. They were obviously guards and heard them gossiping about the cardinals in the cathedral.

As soon as the guards rounded the corner Xena elbowed one of them in the back and she punched the other in the jaw and he fell to the ground. The still conscious guard groaned and looked up at her. "Sorry but I need this," she took off his helmet then head butted him in the forehead and he blacked out. She began stripping the guard of his armor quickly and dressed herself accordingly.

Looking down at herself she sighed, thinking that she should have chosen a bigger guard. The armor was tight on her and she was much taller than him, but it would have to work for now. She grabbed his sword and spear then marched out of the prison in hopes to find Cardinal Peter.

Tempe Valley Castle

Solan was in his room sitting at his desk building something with a few trinkets he found in his mother's room and around the house. He frowned and grabbed a tool and began hammering the metal necklace of his mother's to fit into his invention.

"Whatcha got there?" a voice appeared and Solan gasped, turning around to see a tall man, dressed in all black and had dark hair and olive skin.

"Wh –who are you?" the boy asked, hiding his Frankenstein invention, fearing that this might be one of his mother's guards.

The man smiled, "just think of me as a friend of your mother's."

Solan frowned at the man and scanned his attire. "You don't look familiar to me," he said with confidence. "Have I seen you before?" he asked, raising a brow at the mysterious man.

"No, you haven't," he knelt down to the boy's eye level, "I'm not from around here."

The blonde boy quirked his mouth, "where are you from?"

"A land called Greece, have you heard of it?" he smiled deviously at the boy.

Solan smiled brightly and nodded, "of course! Who hasn't?" he turned his full attention to this man. "My mother went to Greece on a trip. I always wanted to go there!"

The man nodded and ruffled the boy's blonde hair. "Why don't I take you there?" he said enticing the boy.

Solan's eyes lit up then he thought of his mother and his excitement died down. "I wish I could but I should wait until my mother comes back. She doesn't like me to leave the castle without her permission," he rolled his eyes, a bit disappointed at that.

The man pursed his lips, "why don't I take you to her?" he offered and Solan's smile appeared again.

"Really? You can take me to her?" then he frowned, "but wait, I don't even know your name. My mother said I should not talk to strange people."

"But your mother is my friend," the man pouted and then extended his hand, "my name is Ares," he smiled offering the boy to shake his hand.

Solan was hesitant at first then finally gripped the man's hand. "Solan," he smiled introducing himself.

Ares grinned mysteriously at the boy, "see now we know each other, right?" and Solan nodded. He stood up and grabbed the boy's hand. "Shall we go to Greece then?" knowing full well that his mother was indeed not in Greece.

Solan could barely contain his excitement, "we're leaving now?!" he asked with a big grin.

"What better time is there?" Ares smirked and disappeared from the room in an instant with Solan by his side.

One of the chambermaids came into the room to deliver some linens and sighed heavily as soon as she saw one of Xayida's necklaces on Solan's desk. She grabbed the weird thing that he was making and frowned. "Solan, your mother will not appreciate you going through her room when she is not here!" she yelled and the room was quiet. She looked around and saw the bedroom was empty. "Solan?" she called out and began looking in small places where sometimes he liked to hide and pop out to scare people.

She looked in a few closets and he was not there then she checked the baths and he was not there either. "Solan!" she yelled his name and began to panic. "Oh dear God in heaven," she whispered to herself and ran out of the room to go alert the guards of the young prince's disappearance.

"The prince is gone!" she shouted at one of the guards. He looked surprised and checked Solan's room once more for clarification. "I already looked in here!" she felt herself begin to lose it and thought Xayida would definitely kill her once she returned.

"I will search the palace," he told her and she nodded, fearing for her life. He whistled at a few other guards down the hall and began a small search party to find Solan.

She buried her face in her hands and thought this was probably the worst thing that could happen. "Her majesty is going to kill me," she said, damning herself already.

Somewhere in Greece

Ares and Solan appeared in Greece in less than five seconds and Solan's eyes widened. They were in a large abandoned building in Greece and he let go of Ares' hand and began roaming around.

"Wow!" Solan admired the architecture and saw vines growing from the windows inside the palace. "What is this place?" he asked.

Ares frowned folding his arms, "a temple," he sighed looking around. "One of the few that survived," he smirked.

Solan turned to him, "a temple?" he was confused. "It's not a church?"

Ares rolled his eyes, "no, it's not!" he said harshly and Solan raised an eyebrow. "This temple used to belong to the God of War," he said more calmly this time.

The boy nodded, "God of War huh?" he smirked and walked around the old temple and saw a shrine that was definitely old as sin. This place looked like it hadn't been inhabited in hundreds of years. He turned to the man and folded his arms, "when will I see my mother?" he asked.

Ares smiled, "soon, but I have to take care of something..." he turned and Solan felt so confused and lost now. "Stay here and don't even think of leaving," he frowned and disappeared. Solan's eyes widened as he saw him gone in a flash.

Solan didn't want to stay in this abandoned temple. All he wanted was to see his mother and there was no way she could be here. He ran to a door and grabbed the knob and felt an electric shock on his palm. "Ouch," he wagged his hand and frowned.

He sighed and looked to all the open windows. He smirked and ran to a window and put his foot on the sill to climb out and he was propelled backward against a wall. He hit his head and he grunted. Rubbing the back of his head he glanced upward and saw a few flower petals fall from the dome above. He was trapped here and not by choice. Sighing he folded his arms and sat against the wall, lowering his head.


Xena crept in the darkness of the hallways trying to conceal her femininity around the other guards. She passed a few already and lowered her gaze, making sure they did not see her face. From the room where Mass was held she heard a lot of voices and frowned, making her way there, hoping to find Cardinal Peter to steal the keys to the cell below.

She tread cautiously down the hall and peaked through the door and saw twelve cardinals standing around the altar. She heard them speaking a language that was not familiar to her ears. Squinting her eyes she looked further then saw they were not standing at the altar, but there was a pool of fire in the middle as they stood in a circle around it. The more they spoke the larger the flame became. Her eyes widened at the sight before her eyes and she didn't understand, but it was like they were feeding the fire.

A hand came over her mouth and she grunted as she was being drug away from the doors. She was pushed against a wall and it was that same so called cardinal standing in front of her. She narrowed her eyes and slapped his hand away from her mouth.

"You again!" she hissed and looked around to see if anyone was near.

"What are you doing poking your head where it does not belong?" he smirked at her and she tried to get away and he pushed her back against the wall again. She huffed and was about to draw the sword at her hip. He grabbed her hand and smiled. "You don't want to do that. It will be useless against me," he winked.

Xena sneered, "why do you keep following me? You're a stalker," she said and tried to listen to what the cardinals were saying but he was so distracting, especially since he was very handsome.

"A stalker? I said we are friends, if you let me be your friend," he leaned in closer to her and she eyed him as he came closer to her lips.

Xena pushed his face away, "I'm not your friend!" she grunted and pushed him out of the way going back to the doors. He then appeared in front of her blocking her way. "I don't know what you are, but you are not a cardinal and you aren't human either. No human can run that fast," she was starting to feel her heart beat quicken as he stared into her eyes.

He nodded quite impressed with her. "You are very observant and aware of your surroundings. That's good." He leaned in closely to her face again, "I like that," he whispered and kissed her lips.

Xena's eyes widened and she pulled away then slapped the cardinal's face. "Now I definitely know you are not a cardinal!" she wiped her mouth, though she hated to admit it, he was very hard to resist and he was a good kisser as well. She tried to peek into the doors behind him. "What is going on in there?" she asked, figuring that she would play this man's game.

He exhaled heavily, "A business transaction," he said flatly and Xena smirked at him.

She was about to say something and heard a loud roar coming from inside the Mass room. "What is that?" she asked and tried to see and he closed the doors.

"Nothing that concerns you, my queen," he smiled nervously and she frowned.

"Don't call me that," she thought this was hopeless and looked around for another way in. she really wished that Xayida was with her so she could guide her in the right direction.

The man watched her eyes dance around the area. "You want to help your sister and friend, right?" he said and that caught her attention. I have you now, Xena. "I can help you like I did before," he offered and he had a bit of mirth lingering in his brown eyes.

"I thank you for helping me earlier, but I don't trust you," Xena began walking off down a hallway. She tapped on the walls to see if there were any secret passageways. She knew these cathedrals had plenty of them. He walked towards her and leaned on the wall casually.

"What is with you and trust?" he scoffed. "You'll never know if you can trust someone if you don't get to know them first," he smiled.

She kept tapping on the walls and listened carefully, pressing her ear against the wall. "And what makes you think I want to get to know you?" she asked.

"Because, you and I could be such great friends," he smiled and she eyed him then shook her head and kept trying to find a way into the room. He sighed as he saw he was losing her attention. She was too focused on getting into that room and he needed to divert her. "Maybe I'll befriend that gorgeous little sister of yours if you're unwilling to accept my friendship?" he smiled and she frowned at him.

"You will not go near her," she said with malice in her tone.

He chuckled, "did I strike a nerve?" he sighed then pulled out a key. "I believe you want this, don't you?" he waved the prison key in front of her and she almost reached for it then retracted her hand. "Don't trust me?" his smile became more devious.

She was hesitant but everything that he said he would do, he did it and did not want anything in return, so far. Xena then reached for the key and grabbed it, examining it to make sure it was real. She wanted to free Gabrielle and Xayida and get rid of Alti, but she also wanted to know what was in that room as well. The roar appeared again and she heard the cardinals chanting loudly.

"too curious for your own good!" he frowned then saw her running towards the door once more. He blew a gust of wind and she flew across the hall and into a wall. She groaned and adjusted the helmet on her head. He sauntered over to her, "stubborn," he smirked, "I like it." Xena glared up at him and she was about to get up until he snapped his fingers making her disappear from the hallway and transported her to the prison below the basilica.

He groaned and felt like he should have a headache by now. Must be awful to be human, he thought.

Chapter Text

AN: a lot more going on in this chapter. Took awhile to get here! But enjoy for now ;)

Chapter Sixteen

The Other Side

Alti grabbed Xayida's hand and turned her around to see a memory that she did not want to see again. Xayida closed her eyes and Alti smiled and slapped her arm. Xayida yelped and folded her arms. They were virtually invisible and even though this was a memory from ten years ago, it felt like it was just yesterday and it was even stranger that she had to watch it all over again.

"Why are you showing me this?" Xayida frowned.

Alti wrapped her fingers around Xayida's shoulders and squeezed them tightly, "because Xayida, you are a liar and you've deceived your sister," her grin widened, "even though I think Xena deserved seemed to enjoy it," she hissed in her ear.

Xayida cringed and brushed Alti's hands off her shoulders, "no, I never enjoyed hurting Xena. That was you!" she growled and Alti grabbed her face and forcefully turned her to see the memory in front of them.

"But it was you who wanted it!" Alti sneered, "look at her!" she pinched her cheeks harder and Xayida shook her head. "Look at your sister!" she yelled.

Xayida's eyes widened as she saw Xena enter Borias' huge tent and shook her head. "No..." she whispered.

Alti grinned, "wish this was all just a dream, but it isn' it, little flower?" she turned Xayida over and there Xayida saw herself sitting by a fire watching Xena walk by her. "And here you are trying to convince her..." she smiled.

Xayida got up from the cold ground and grabbed Xena's hand as she walked by. Xena turned and raised an eyebrow at her younger sister. "Xena, are you sure you want to tell him?" she asked, very concerned.

Xena pulled her hand away, "I didn't come all this way for nothing, Xayida," she frowned and looked over at Alti sitting by the fire by herself. "Why do you talk to that woman?"

Xayida turned and saw Alti with a smug smile on her face. "You wanted her to come along with us when she met us in Macedonia," she folded her arms.

"That's right," Xena smiled tightly, "and I don't want you to talk to her. Only I will talk to her, understand?" she walked off and entered Borias' tent.

Xayida frowned and went to the fire and sat back down beside Alti. The Shamaness touched the young woman's cheek with her cold hands. "She always wants to be on top of you, doesn't she?" Alti smiled.

"She thinks she can boss me around. I am only two years younger than her!" Xayida stared into the flames and Alti nodded her head, scooting closer to the young warrior. "I'm not her little kid sister anymore."

Alti smirked, "you are not a little child anymore, yes," she hissed and grabbed Xayida's hand. The young warrior looked down and raised a confused eyebrow. "And what do you think will happen to her child inside her?"

Xayida frowned, "she will probably return to Transylvania. She always liked it there anyway." She sighed heavily and looked at the tent and saw Xena talking to Borias through the candlelit tent.

"And she will leave you out of everything just as she has done before, right?" Alti smiled and Xayida huffed and averted her eyes elsewhere. "What if you make a deal with me?" she enticed her and Xayida looked to her a bit intrigued. "I can make you very powerful, more powerful than your sister," she turned her face towards the tent and saw Borias and Xena arguing with one another.

Xayida shook her head in disbelief, "Xena is a very powerful and influential woman, Alti. I will never be more than her."

Alti smiled, "that's before you had me." She wrapped her arm around Xayida's small frame. "What if I made her child disappear?" she said and Xayida's eyes widened.

"You would kill my sister's baby?" her jaw dropped and Alti shook her head.

"No, I'm not a monster you know," she chuckled softly and Xayida's mouth closed and she focused on the fire in front of her. "What if you take care of her child for her without...her knowing," her eyebrows rose in excitement and Xayida wasn't too sure about that idea. "Make her think that her child is dead," she snapped her fingers, "and there you go, both of you can rule the empire you always wanted. Together..." she whispered.

Xayida smiled and turned to Alti, "and you can help me and Xena succeed in building our empire together?" she hoped that was the case. Alti nodded, enjoying the warrior's excitement. "And my sister's won't be harmed, right?"

"Of course not," Alti smiled sneakily and then Xena came storming out of the tent. Xayida's eyes widened and she stood up.

"Xena!" Borias called out to her and he groaned as she continued to walk away. He waved his hand in frustration then saw Xayida glaring at him. Rolling his eyes he went back into his tent.

Xayida ran after Xena up the hill and picked up her cloak, careful not to trip over herself. "Xena, wait!" she said and finally Xena stopped. She breathed heavily and finally made it up the hill and placed a hand on her shoulder warmly. "What happened?"

Xena folded her arms looking out at the dark starry sky, "he wants me to go back to Transylvania with him," she grumbled.

"I knew he would ask you to do that," she took another step closer to her sister. "What did you tell him?"

"I told him no!" Xena snapped back and Xayida blinked in shock. "I don't need him to follow me like a puppy," she scoffed.

Xayida hid her smirk. "We don't need him, we can go on without him like we planned!" she smiled and Xena turned to her with an angry expression. "No?" her smile disappeared.

"You honestly believe that we can fight off the Ottomans alone? We don't have enough men." She sighed heavily.

"We are still going to Amphipolis aren't we? I know we would be safe there..." Xayida suggested.

"Xayida, no. I'm not going back there!" Xena turned around and stormed down the hill. Xayida frowned watching her sister march off in a foul mood. She was always making the decisions and never even took her thoughts into consideration especially these last few months. Xena always wanted it her way and nobody else's.

"We'll see about that..." Xayida put the hood over her head and sauntered down the hill back to the campsite.

Alti forced Xayida took look at herself in the vision before her eyes. "And that night you decided to take me up on my offer, don't you remember, Xayida?" she smiled.

Xayida shook her head and saw herself moving passed the fire and walk into Borias' tent by herself and Xena was nowhere to be find. She remembered that night very well. She told Borias to leave and never come back, little did she know, that Borias would show up later on their journey to Amphipolis. She was never able to convince Xena to go back until Alti intervened.

"I remember that was the night I betrayed my sister and lied to her for the next five months and I continue to lie to her..." Xayida frowned and pushed Alti off of her. "This is all your fault!" she yelled.

Alti frowned, "my fault?! Little flower, it was you who betrayed Xena, not me. It's your job to make her suffer, that was all on you," she smiled deviously. "You got what you wanted didn't you? You are Queen of Macedonia, aren't you?"

"I lost my sister's friendship because of you. You're like a poison," Xayida frowned and came at her and Alti disappeared. Her eyes widened and turned to see Alti standing behind her.

"It's you who is this poison, Xayida," Alti folded her arms, enjoying the queen's wrath. "Those words ring a bell?" she chuckled. Xayida came at her and wrapped her hands around her neck. Alti snarled and began choking her back.

Xena returned to the cell and saw Gabrielle sitting in a corner by herself watching Xayida and Alti like she asked her to. "Gabrielle!" she smiled.

Gabrielle turned and smiled seeing her. Xena held up the keys to the cell and unlocked the door. Gabrielle swung her arms open and hugged Xena was tightly as she could. Then she pulled away and saw she was wearing Roman armor. "What in Gaia's name are you wearing?"

Xena shook her head, "never mind that. We need to leave," she came inside and saw the two still lying on the floor.

Gabrielle sighed, "they've just been laying there..." she folded her arms then squinted her eyes, noticing blood coming out of Xayida's nose. "Xena! Look!" she pointed to Xayida and saw her nose bleeding profusely.

Xena knelt down and frowned, "she's killing her!" she grabbed Xayida by her arms and shook her. "Xayida!" she yelled then slapped her cheek.

Xayida's eyes opened and she felt air escaping her. She coughed violently and breathed heavily. Finally seeing Xena she smiled. "Xena, you came back..."

Xena smirked, "if anyone is going to kill you, it will be me, not anyone else," she stood up and drew the sword at her hip and drove it into Alti's chest. Alti woke up screaming in agony, blood pouring from her mouth. She took the sword out she spat on the witch. "That will hold her off for awhile."

Gabrielle helped Xayida up off the floor. "Awhile? What do you mean awhile?!" she cried.

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand and looked at the hallway to make sure it was deserted. "I'm sure Xayida would love to tell you all about Alti," she muttered. As soon as the coast was clear she began pulling them along. "Let's go."

They came to the labyrinth of the prison and Xena groaned. She turned to Xayida with the blade pointed directly at her. "You know the way out of this maze, don't you?"

Xayida nodded. Xena sighed, "good, now get us out of here," she demanded and Xayida went in front of her and began leading the way through the maze as quickly as possible.

Gabrielle held onto Xena's hand as they rounded corners and it was hard to keep up with both of them and their long strides. "Xena, what did Alti do to Xayida?" she asked.

"Took her to a place that humans can't enter. If anyone should burn at the stake, it should be her," Xena frowned, her heart beat quickening as she followed Xayida.

Xayida stopped at a small door and lifted it up. Xena looked down the dark tunnel, "what is this?" Xena asked.

"The way out," Xayida smiled nervously. "I'll say this now, you're not going to like what is down there." She said seriously and Gabrielle looked worried.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Gabrielle asked.

The prison warden came running at them, "get them!" he yelled and Xayida's eyes widened.

"Go!" Xayida pushed Xena down the shoot and then Gabrielle next. Gabrielle screamed all the way down. Xayida smiled and closed the door behind her.

The guards and prison warden halted at the door. He cringed, "that is foul. They're going to the morgue." He snapped his fingers, "go to the back entrance of the morgue. Quickly! Don't let them escape!" he yelled.

Xena tumbled out of the tunnel and then Gabrielle landed on top of her, knocking her down again. Xayida came out last and landed on top of them both. Xena growled, "get off of me, both of you!" she grunted and all three stood up.

Gabrielle covered her mouth from the smell and then looked to her left and saw a pile of dead bodies. "Oh gods!" she felt sick to her stomach instantly and gagged.

Xena covered her nose and Xayida came to her side. "I told you, you weren't going to like it," Xayida said and Xena rolled her eyes.

"Just get us out of here," Xena's voice muffled behind her hand. She grabbed Gabrielle's hand pulling her along. "Come on, Gabrielle. Just ignore the smell."

Gabrielle's face paled, "by the gods, how can you?" she felt her throat tighten up.

They finally exited the morgue and Gabrielle let out a large gasp and began dry heaving. Xena smirked then Xayida kept staring at her. Xena was about to keep walking and Xayida grabbed her hand. "Wait, you can't wear that..." she gestured to the Roman armor.

Xena raised an eyebrow, "I'm not going out in my underwear, Xayida." The younger sister looked around and saw a wagon outside the door with a bunch of fresh dead bodies. She lifted up the blanket and saw a woman wearing a black dress. Xena's eyes widened, "no way!"

Xayida lifted the woman's dress up and examined the size, "it will be a bit tight, but it should fit you," she smugly grinned. Xena sighed heavily and began stripping herself of the armor as Xayida was prying the dress off the woman.

Gabrielle looked behind her as she was just calming down and saw Xayida taking a dead woman's dress off and Xena taking the armor off. She put two and two together and immediately felt sick again. "Are you serious!" her eyes widened in horror.

Xena slipped on the black dress and it reeked of death. She cringed and Xayida began to lace the back of the dress up. "You got any better ideas, Gabrielle?"

"that's just...wrong on so many levels," Gabrielle turned around not able to look at both of them. "Are you done yet?" she dared to ask.

Xena smiled and placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder, startling her a bit. "Remind me to burn this later..." she grabbed Xayida's arm. "Now you, we need horses. Where can we get them?" she asked.

Xayida tapped her chin thinking of the layout of the city. "There is a stable not far from here, but those horses are for the military."

"Fantastic," Xena walked off pulling Gabrielle along.

Ares returned to his temple and found Solan making a horse out of the vines in the temple. He smiled folding his arms. "Entertaining yourself, I see."

Solan looked up and frowned up at him. "Where did you go? You left me in this place!" he stood up throwing the vine horse aside. "You are supposed to take me to see my mother."

Ares nodded, "I did promise you that, didn't I?" he chuckled and grabbed the boy's hand talking a walk around the temple. "Tell me Solan, do you believe in God?" he asked.

Solan shrugged his shoulder, "I donno. Never seen him before so how would I believe in him?" he said honestly and Ares could agree with that.

"If you did see him, would you believe in him then?" Ares smiled leaning down towards the boy and again Solan was unsure.

"I guess so," he answered, a bit unsure of himself. Ares chuckled softly. "Do you?"

Ares was caught off guard by the boy's question, "me?" he laughed, "of course not!" he saw Solan look even more confused. "There are many gods, Solan, not just one," he winked.

Solan blinked, "really? My mother never mentioned that to me before." He frowned and kept walking with Ares.

"Of course she wouldn't. Your sweet mother likes to keep you locked away, doesn't she?"

Solan sighed, "sometimes I think she loves me too much! She's always looking after me."

Ares smirked, "as she is supposed to. She is your mother," he stopped in the middle of the temple and knelt down to Solan's eye level. "How would you like to meet a god?"

Solan raised a curious eyebrow, "if I see this god, then can I see my mother?" he hoped.

Ares pat the boy's cheek, "sure!" he chuckled and grabbed his hand then both disappeared from the temple in Greece.

Moments later Ares appeared in St. Peter's Basilica with Solan by his side. All the cardinals turned from the altar and saw the God of War with a boy beside him.

"Gentlemen," Ares smiled and grabbed Solan's shoulders, "this is a friend of mine," he pushed Solan forward. "Don't be shy Solan," he whispered.

The cardinals surrounded Solan and touched his golden locks and looked into his big blue eyes. "He is perfect, where did you find him?" Cardinal Peter said and Solan frowned, slapping his hand away from his face.

"I don't want to be here," Solan began backing up and he bumped into Ares. "Where is my mother?" he folded his arms.

Ares frowned down at the ten year old, "oh don't worry you'll see her again, but not now. You must have patience, young Solan," he winked.

One of the cardinals put a bag over Solan's head and grabbed his arms. Solan began yelling and kicking his legs trying to get away from them. Ares folded his arms, "don't hurt the boy. I still need him." He said and the cardinals smiled at him then drug Solan off into a separate room.

Once the room was cleared Ares went to the altar and saw the pool of fire rising even higher. "I brought the boy like you asked," he said, furrowing his eyebrows. The flames grew in height answering the War God. Ares rolled his eyes, "I wasn't able to lure Xena here," he admitted and the flame grew violently and Ares' eyes widened and he took a step back. "I'll be sure to get her on my side, eventually," he smiled nervously and the flames shrunk in size.

Ares turned around and began walking off, annoyed that he was taking orders from another being. He didn't even listen to his own father.

Xena, Xayida and Gabrielle hid behind a few barrels of hay and poked their heads over the top of the barrels. Xena narrowed her eyes as she saw two soldiers guarding the horses and two at the exit of the city.

Gabrielle sighed, "there's only four of them. We can take them," she whispered.

Xena nodded, "right. Gabrielle you distract them while Xayida and I free the horses."

Gabrielle smiled, "well don't mind if I do," she popped out from the barrels and whistled at the guards. "Hey you two!" she yelled out and the guards turned to her as she was waving her hand.

They came running towards her and Gabrielle's eyes widened as soon as she saw they had guns, not swords. She began running for her life. Xena and Xayida crept out from behind the barrels and Xena opened two gates and hit the back of horses' and they took off running. The guards at the exit gate panicked and began chasing after the horses.

Xayida smiled and grabbed two horses by their reins and passed one off to her sister. There was a loud gunshot and Xayida turned her head, "Gabrielle!" she gasped and mounted the horse. Xena groaned and got on the horse riding behind Xayida. She still had the sword with her and rode behind the guard and smiled, stabbing the man in the back.

The man cried out in agony and Xena picked up the gun from his hand. "Thank you," she smiled and halted the horse, bringing the gun up to her shoulder she squinted her left eye and focused in on the other guard trying to attack Gabrielle.

Xayida was riding to help then heard a loud gunshot and the guard fell to the ground. Gabrielle's clothes were covered in blood and her eyes widened in disgust and wiped her mouth. Xayida turned around and saw Xena with a gun in her hand.

"After them!" ten soldiers came running after them and Gabrielle panicked.

Xena frowned and rode in front of her sister and picked Gabrielle up, throwing her onto the horse and Xayida followed behind her. Gabrielle adjusted herself on the horse and wrapped her arms around Xena's waist. Her eyes widened when she saw the gate was closed and she shook her head. "Xena, what are you doing?!" she cried out.

"Just hang on, Gabrielle," Xena smirked and ducked her head down as the horse was picking up speed. Xayida rode behind them and looked to see guards pointing their guns at them. She held her breath and kept riding forward.

"Xena..." Gabrielle closed her eyes and clung onto her for dear life. Xena smiled and lifted the horse's reins and they jumped over the tall gates.

Xayida grunted, "are you kidding me," she mumbled and rode faster aiming to copy her sister's move. One of the guards shot at her and she ducked her head.

Gabrielle opened her eyes and saw she was alive and breathed heavily. "You're crazy," she said as her heart was about to pop out of her chest.

Xena smiled, "some say that," she turned back and saw Xayida jump over the gates on the horse.

Xayida's horse skid in the dirt and she came beside her sister. "You're a show off, you know that?" she frowned. The guards were aiming through the gates at them and they ducked their heads. "We need to leave!" she said and began riding off. Gabrielle sighed and wrapped her arms around Xena's waist again as they rode off outside of Rome.

Two hours later they came to the countryside of Italia and Gabrielle was still holding onto Xena tightly. "Any tighter and you're going to break my ribs, Gabrielle," Xena teased.

Gabrielle smiled nervously, "sorry," she sighed heavily and was finally able to enjoy the scenery around her. "I'm so glad to be out of Rome."

Xena nodded then turned her eyes to her sister who was awfully quiet. "Just what were you doing back there with Alti?" she asked.

Xayida lifted her eyes, "I didn't do anything! She invited herself in. You know how she is!"

"Mhm," Xena trotted off and frowned, "what did she do to you?"

The younger sister would rather not talk about this right now, especially with her. She didn't want to tell Xena about her son, not now. "Nothing," she lied.

"You're lying, Xayida..." Xena smirked.

Xayida groaned and trotted alongside her, "she just showed me something I forgot about, that's all," she smiled nervously and that didn't seem to convince Xena.

Xena nodded her head and kept quiet. "We need a place to stay. We should go to your palace in Tempe," she suggested.

Xayida's eyes widened and thought that was definitely a bad idea. "No!" she said and Xena halted the horse glaring at her. "I mean...wouldn't they find us there? Can't we go back to your place?" she had hope.

"Athens is too far from here, Xayida. Tempe is only a couple of days ride from Rome," Xena sensed some hostility in her sister. "What is the matter with you?"

Xayida shook her head, "nothing."

Xena raised a suspicious eyebrow at her sister. " you will take us to your palace then?" she smiled at her and Xayida nodded her head. "I think I remember the way,'d like to lead the way?"

"You were always better at maps, Xena," Xayida smiled nervously at her and gestured for her to take the lead. Xena nodded and trotted off. Xayida sighed heavily and followed behind slowly.

Tempe Valley Castle

A messenger from the Ottoman Empire came to the castle and bowed his head at the scribe. "Letter from the Caliph to the Queen of Macedonia," he presented the envelope and the scribe took it reluctantly.

"The Caliph wants to meet with the queen?" the scribe asked and the messenger nodded. "Why?"

"The Queen is the sister of the Queen of Greece. He believes it would beneficial if Queen Xayida teamed up with him to take back his gunpowder that Xena has stolen from him." The messenger said quickly.

The scribe nodded, "I see. I thought the Caliph was on good terms with Xena?"

"The Caliph constantly changes his mind, sir," the messenger had a blank face, "with the Romans invading Constantinople, he thinks Queen Xayida will be a good ally to get rid of Xena." He bowed his head and exited the castle.

The scribe sighed and Zakos, the Macedonian messenger came to his side. "The Caliph wants to war with the queen's sister?"

"I'm afraid so and it seems that Transylvania has allied with the Ottoman dogs."

Zakos shook his head, "what terrible news this is, sir."

"Indeed." He handed the letter to Zakos. "Put this in her majesty's office. When she returns, she must be aware of this immediately." Zakos nodded and ran off down the hallway.

The scribe came to the window and overlooked the beautiful scenery before his eyes. "My queen, where are you?" he groaned inwardly.

Chapter Text

AN: quite long this time and a bit heavy, beware. This is now coming to the major climax of the story. War, so much war! Holy wars :D good luck and thanks for reading along.

Chapter Seventeen

Altogether they rode through the outskirts of Macedonia and the closer they got to Tempe, the more Xayida began to hide. She didn't say anything when they stopped to rest last night and hadn't said anything the rest of the ride the following day either.

Gabrielle looked behind her and saw Xayida was riding behind them at an incredibly fair distance. She sighed and cleared her throat, "Xena, she's being very quiet," she observed.

Xena turned her head and noticed Xayida was off in a daze, trotting slowly behind them. "I noticed. She didn't want to talk to me last night." She frowned and focused on the road in front of her. "Something is on her mind."

"I'll say. I wonder what Alti made her 'remember'?" Gabrielle whispered and Xena sighed heavily.

"Xayida," Xena called out and she received no answer, "would you like to stop and rest for awhile?" she asked, hoping that she would comply. She halted her horse and Gabrielle unwrapped her arms from Xena's waist.

Xayida caught up with them and smiled weakly at her sister, "I'd like that, thank you," she looked for an area and knew it well, obviously, it was her land. "There is a stream ahead. We can stop there."

"You lead the way then," Xena smiled and Xayida rode ahead of them.

Gabrielle smiled and leaned against Xena's back, "you're being very nice. I'm impressed."

Xena smirked and followed behind her sister. "You don't think I can be nice, Gabrielle?" she teased.

"I didn't say that, but you two were fighting and bickering majority of the time I've been with you guys and it's nice to see that you are being nice to your sister," she smiled and Xena grinned at her.

Awhile later they stopped at the stream and Xayida took off her tights and shoes. She lifted her dress and slipped her feet in the cool water and sat down on the warm grassland. For now, she was able to let her mind escape her and forget about everything for a short while.

Xena sat down beside Gabrielle bringing her knees close to her she watched Xayida sit by herself next to the stream. Gabrielle took off her shoes and sighed heavily. "You want to talk to her?" Gabrielle asked randomly.

"Talk to her? Why?" Xena asked, a bit confused.

Gabrielle shrugged a shoulder, "something is on her mind," she tapped her shoe on the ground getting the dirt out. "You know it always made me feel better when my sister would talk to me when I was upset or feeling down," she hinted. Xena nodded her head and sat silently, staring at Xayida by her lonesome self. Gabrielle nudged Xena's arm, "just do it. Be the good big sister you are," she chuckled.

"I haven't been that in a long time," Xena sighed and relented. She got up and walked over to her sister.

Xayida noticed her sister's presence and scooted over to make room for her. Xena sat beside her and wrapped her arms around her knees while Xayida twiddled her thumbs in her lap. "So, what is wrong with you?" Xena asked bluntly.

Xayida frowned turning her head to her, "what's wrong with me? There's a lot of things wrong with me Xena." She squinted her eyes looking up at the sun above them.

"We both have that in common," Xena smiled trying her best to talk to her though Xayida remained quiet and said nothing. She sighed heavily and stretched her legs out, leaning back on her palms. "I'm not very good at talking you know."

Xayida nodded, "I know," she answered immediately. "You've always been like that." She picked up a flower and broke the stem in half and threw it the water. "I'm surprised you stayed friends with Gabrielle because she is so talkative," she smirked.

Xena smiled, "she talks so I don't have to," she chuckled, "plus, she listens to me."

"I have no doubt she does," Xayida sighed and thought about Solan and what Xena might do if she saw him. First, she would be very confused to see a child in the castle and it was going to be difficult to explain everything to her, but the more Xayida lied to Xena, the more awful she felt about it and the more shameful memories came back in her mind.

She turned to her elder sister, "Xena," she said and Xena lifted her eyebrows, giving her full attention. "I know you don't trust me and I've done very bad things to you. I know you probably hate me –"

Xena half smiled, "I don't hate you Xayida –"

"Let me finish," Xayida said and Xena's smile disappeared and she sat up to listen to her more intently now. "When we arrive to my castle, you're going to have a lot of questions and I'll be there to answer them. If you don't hate me now, you will when you see what I've hidden from you."

Xena frowned, "what are you talking about?"

"I just want to let you know that I did it to protect you and because I cared about you," Xayida said then exhaled sharply. "But you should also know I did it because I was...jealous of you and I wanted to be better than you, but it seems that didn't turn out like how I wanted," she chuckled sadly.

Xena grabbed a hold of her sister's hand, "what did you do?" she was now extremely worried and concerned.

Xayida stood up and grabbed her stockings and shoes, holding onto Xena's hand. She stared down at her, "you will see when we get there," she smiled solemnly and walked off to her horse leaving Xena confused and dazed.

Gabrielle looked up and saw Xayida walking back to her horse and smiled at her. Xayida avoided her and walked passed her. Frowning, Gabrielle looked behind and saw Xena sitting by herself by the stream. She jumped up and ran over to the stream to see what happened.

"Hey Xena," Gabrielle stared down at Xena and she was lost in her own thoughts. She knelt down and tapped her shoulder. "What's going on?"

Xena shook her head, "I don't know. Xayida was saying that she did something to protect me and that I would hate her when we arrive to her palace," she frowned looking into Gabrielle's concerned eyes.

"What else could she have done?" Gabrielle sighed and saw Xayida getting on her horse. "She's about to leave," she grabbed Xena's hand and hoisted her off the ground.

Xena returned to her horse and helped Gabrielle climb aboard first. She then mounted the steed and Xayida looked to her. "Ready to go?" she smiled nervously at her elder sister. Xena raised a suspicious eyebrow and said nothing.

Macedonia 1439

Borias was talking to a few of his men to survey the area for any Ottomans. He knew that the Caliph would be sending his mercenaries to follow him and he didn't want them to come here, though he believed they definitely would. He knew that the Caliph had many military posts in Macedonia but he didn't know where.

His men left and Borias looked around to see if he could find Xena. He had quite an encounter with her sister a few weeks ago and she asked him to leave, but he refused. Though, he knew that he couldn't stay here forever as he had to get back to Wallachia and soon too.

He walked off and saw Xena sitting by the fire reading a map in her lap. He smiled and approached her slowly from behind. She was busy marking up the map with a quill and completely focused. He knelt down and wrapped his arms around her from behind and she gasped.

She frowned turning her head, "what are you doing?" she grabbed his arm and took it off her shoulder. Borias came to sit beside her and observed her map covered in black. "I thought you were leaving."

"Your sister told me to leave three weeks ago," he smiled and Xena's eyes widened, infuriated that Xayida would have the audacity to demand that. "She's your sister," he scoffed. She shook her head and went back to her map. "It's not safe for you to stay in Macedonia, Xena."

Xena frowned and narrowed her eyes. "No place is safe enough for you, is it?" she smirked at him and he sighed, rolling his eyes.

He grabbed her wrist firmly and she snarled, trying to pull away. "Why didn't you tell me about the baby?" he stared in her wild eyes.

"I didn't think it was important," she snatched her arm away and picked up the quill and began writing more notes on the paper. He then ripped the map out from her hands and she growled and reached for it and he stood up rolling the paper up and slipping it in his vest. "Borias!" she stood up and tried to pry her way into his vest and he grabbed her wrists, restraining her. She tried to wriggle her out and he pulled her close to his chest, wrapping his arms around her and she huffed, staring up at him.

"Didn't think it was important huh?" he frowned down at her and she pushed him backward.

She brushed the wrinkles out of her black tunic and placed her hands on her hips. "I told you, didn't I?" she cocked her head to the side and widened her eyes.

"I was the last to know!" he threw his hands up in frustration. "You can't keep something like that a secret, Xena." He folded his arms glaring at her.

She rolled her eyes and began walking off, "I don't need to listen to this."

His jaw dropped, "now where are you going?!" he yelled.

"To find Xayida!" she waved her hand dismissively and stormed off to Xayida's tent. He groaned and decided to follow her.

Xena stormed inside her sister's tent and saw Alti lying on the floor and Xayida laying right next to her. Her eyes widened in fear and she ran to her sister, kneeling down she saw blood around her mouth. "Xayida!" she shook her sister and still no response.

Borias entered the tent and saw that Turkic witch lying next to Xayida. "What is this?" he frowned and kicked Alti in her side and she grunted then woke up, coughing violently. He picked up Alti by her robes and tossed her aside. "What kind of devil magic are you doing?!"

"Xayida!" Xena slapped her sister's cheek and Xayida woke up gasping for air. Xena brought her sister close to her and hugged her tightly. "What is wrong with you?!" she hit her arm and Xayida frowned, rubbing her arm.

"Why are you so concerned?" Xayida stood up and pushed her sister off of her and Xena fell to the ground. Borias turned and helped Xena off the floor. "Xena..I'm sorry," she tried to comfort her and Xena took a generous step back from her and the younger sister lowered her gaze.

Borias frowned and pushed Alti away, "leave! Stay away from them and if I find you here again, I will kill you."

Alti smirked, "we'll see about that." Borias growled at her and she left the tent in a hurry.

Xena came forward and slapped her sister across the face. Xayida gasped and touched her burning cheek. "What do you think you were doing?!" she yelled. "I told you not to talk to her!"

Xayida frowned, "you always want everything for yourself Xena. Everything is always yours!" she snapped back. "You have everything! You have an army –"

"It's our army!" Xena corrected.

Xayida smiled, "no it's not Xena, it's yours. You have gunpowder, you even have him," she eyed Borias standing beside Xena. "And a baby too," she folded her arms.

Xena raised an eyebrow, "we work together, Xayida. I share everything with you, you know that." She looked in her sister's angry eyes.

Borias turned to Xena, "you have gunpowder?" it finally donned on him and Xena groaned rolling her eyes.

Xayida looked down at her sister's midsection and her anger dissipated, "it's a boy," she muttered and Xena's eyes widened. "Alti told me."

Borias laughed, "and you believe that witch? Please, Xayida." Xayida narrowed her eyes at him and stormed out of her own tent. Xena folded her arms and stood in silence. "You don't believe her do you Xena?"

"I don't know," Xena felt a headache coming on and she left her sister's tent and felt like she needed to give her some space.

A few days later Borias' men informed him that the Ottomans were getting ready to head for this area to attack soon. He walked to Xena's tent and opened the flap to see Xena sleeping. He sighed and walked over to her kneeling down beside her. Touching her forehead she stirred in her slumber, "Xena..." he whispered.

Her eyes fluttered open and frowned seeing him, "what is it?"

"Caliph Mehmet's men are coming this way." He said with worry in his voice and she sat up, now more awake. "I want you and Xayida to leave Macedonia."

She shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair, "but what about you? I can help you. I have gunpowder."

Borias frowned, "no! I don't want you anywhere near here. You leave this place and go as far as you can," he placed his hand on her shoulder and she didn't like to hear that even if she needed to. He sensed her apprehension and then placed his hand over small but noticeable bump. "I want you to take care of our child," he smiled.

Xena rolled her eyes and saw the sincerity in his eyes. "Fine," she pushed him off her, "I will go tell Xayida that we're leaving," she got up and grabbed her cloak to leave the tent.

As soon as she left her tent she saw Xayida talking to all of the men and she was dressed already. The men dispersed and Xayida turned around to see her sister. She tread closer to her, "Xena, I'm sorry I pushed you and got so upset at you."

Xena shook her head dismissing it, "forget it. What are you doing?"

Xayida sighed, "I told the men that we are leaving. Borias' men told me that the Ottomans are coming," she grabbed her sister's hands, "we need to leave immediately."

"Everyone knows about this attack and I'm the last to know," Xena frowned and saw the men hurrying around them to gather up the tents and supplies.

"We just found out," Xayida turned Xena's cheek towards her. "I want you and your son to be safe," she smiled warmly.

Xayida expected Xena to return the smile but instead saw a large frown on her lips. That was definitely most disconcerting. "I really wish you and Borias would stop talking about that. It's just a baby," she snatched her hands away and turned to go back to her tent to pack her belongings.

Xayida blinked, quite shocked to hear her sister say that. She was not the least bit concerned for her child and showed no emotion towards it at all. She frowned and went to the horses to get them ready to leave. She hoped that Xena would not be difficult and now actually dread the journey with her because of her bitter attitude.

Now, Xayida thought of that memory and it haunted her to this day, even more now that they were reaching close to the Tempe castle. She did not want to see her sister's wrath when she was to find out that her son was kept inside her home all these years without her knowledge.

Rounding a few trees they came to the gates of the large Tempe castle on a hillside. Xena looked at the large castle and was quite impressed. It was no Greek palace, but it definitely was a huge European castle and she was even more impressed that her little sister was able to acquire such a big estate.

The guards saw their queen and immediately opened the gates. "The Queen!" one guard announced, his voice echoed and the other guards' eyes widened and opened the large doors to the castle.

Gabrielle's eyes widened seeing the large castle. "Wow, look at this place."

"I know, it's impressive," Xena smirked and hopped off the horse then helped Gabrielle off.

Xayida took in a deep breath and walked to the stairs, "shall we?" she smiled at her sister and stretched her hand out for her to grab. Xena grabbed her hand and felt her sister's firm grip as they walked up the stairs together.

The scribe ran to the entrance and was pleased to his queen but then was shocked to see her elder sister walk in with her. He bowed his head generously at both of them. "My Queen," he said and felt his brow begin to sweat. "Queen of Greece," he lifted his head, "I was not expecting you here."

Xena smirked, "me either, it's been quite a journey for us all," she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and brought her forward. "This is Queen Gabrielle of the Amazons."

The scribe smiled, "Your majesty, so nice to see your lovely face again after all these years. Welcome back," he bowed and Gabrielle grinned at the man, remembering him. Xena frowned and realized that she was the odd one out here. She had never once set foot in her sister's home but obviously Gabrielle had and probably more than once. She felt for the first time, envious.

Xayida stepped forward, "Jason, has anything happened while I was gone?" she said in hushed tones.

He nodded, "yes my queen. The prince is missing," he whispered and Xayida's heart sank and turned to see Xena and Gabrielle looking around the large entrance, completely unaware.

"What do you mean he's missing?!" she hissed now worried and angry all at the same time.

Jason stammered, "my queen I don't know! He's been missing for days. We've sent search parties for him. He just vanished!"

Xayida groaned and rubbed her forehead nervously. "Anything else?" she said calmly, trying to keep herself together.

"A letter from the Caliph came for you a few days ago. I had delivered to your office," he whispered and she nodded her head.

She then turned to her sister and Gabrielle. "Why don't we get you out of that dress?" she smiled at her sister.

Awhile later Xayida's maids showed Gabrielle and Xena to the baths and she told her chambermaid to pick out a dress for Xena to wear. It probably would fit her since they were virtually the same size, though it definitely wouldn't be her style for sure.

Xayida went to Solan's room and saw his bed was made and looked untouched. Going to his desk she saw her necklace. She sighed and picked up the odd invention he made out of the castle's trinkets and random objects he found around the estate.

"Solan, where did you go?" she mumbled to herself and clutched her necklace close to her chest.

She exited the bedroom and went to her royal guard. He bowed his head towards her and she tucked the necklace in her bodice. "Where have the search parties gone so far?"

"They're searching all of Macedonia, my queen. We are doing the best we can to find the young prince," he said firmly.

"Well, try harder!" she groaned and stormed off suddenly feeling sick to her stomach knowing that Solan was nowhere to be found and to make it even more complicated, Xena was here and she didn't know anything about this.

She came to her office and saw the letter sitting on her desk. Sighing she ripped the letter open and read over it carefully. Jason came in the room carrying a few books and saw Xayida reading the letter. She turned to him pointing to the text. "The Caliph wants me to ally with him to get rid of Xena?!"

Jason lowered his eyes, "yes my queen. Imagine me when I saw your sister enter the castle with you."

She crumbled the paper up and threw it into the fireplace. "I am not going to wage war against my own sister. I've done that before and I failed miserably and I'm certainly not going to team up with that Ottoman dog."

"Perhaps you should talk to the Transylvanian Prince, your majesty? He has allied with the Caliph." He suggested.

Xayida scoffed, "Borias allying with the Ottomans?" she laughed mockingly. "He hates them! Why would he do a stupid thing like that? Unless he was bribed that would make more sense..." she tapped her chin thinking that might be it, but she wasn't too sure.

Jason sighed heavily, "the Caliph is awaiting your answer your highness. You need to tell him if you're allying with him or not."

"The answer is no! Absolutely not!" she began pacing around the room frantically.

He nodded, "yes my queen I shall get on the letter. I will let you know if I find anything about your son," he said.

Xena stood in the doorway with wide eyes, "you have a son?" she asked and Xayida stopped pacing to see the surprised look on her sister's face.

"Leave us," Xayida said to her scribe and he bowed his head then hurried out of the room closing the door behind him. Xena stood still as stone and Xayida sighed. "How much did you hear?" she asked softly.

"I heard enough," Xena said and felt like her body was immobile. "You have a child?" she couldn't believe her ears.

Xayida sighed and didn't want Xena to find out like this. She took a step closer and grabbed Xena's hand and told her to sit down. Xena was in a velvet dark robe and her hair was still wet from the bath she had earlier. "You're going to hate me forever," she admitted and already felt Xena's angst even from afar.


She took in a deep breath and pulled up a chair to sit opposite her sister. "I don't have a son, Xena," she saw her sister's face contort in confusion. "Remember the night you had your son in Amphipolis? It was raining and Borias just came to see you," she smiled weakly and Xena still looked puzzled. "You were so tired and weak after the birth. You were confused and I gave you a sedative." Xena stared at her with wide eyes and Xayida saw Xena's fingers gripping the armrest, slowly understanding. "You asked if you could see your son and I told you that...he passed away minutes after the birth, remember?"

Xena nodded her head slowly and remained quiet.

Xayida rubbed her forehead and exhaled deeply. "But the truth is Xena. He didn't die and I had him taken away to a convent outside Amphipolis. Until I established myself as queen of Macedonia a few years later, I...took him so I could raise him myself." She finally finished explaining herself and saw Xena's eyes widen even more. She could feel the anger setting in, though she was sitting so still it was almost eerie. "I thought I was helping you! But now I know that it wasn't helping you at all and –"

Xena slapped her sister's face and Xayida's jaw dropped and then Xena kicked her out of the chair and she fell to the floor. "You made me believe my son was dead!" she kicked Xayida in her ribs and she cringed, grunting. "And then you –you stole him from me?" Xena couldn't believe the nonsense she was hearing.

Xayida held her midsection and coughed staring up at her sister's eyes filled with fury. "Xena, I'm sorry! I didn't know what I was doing!"

"Is that so?" Xena smiled and grabbed a poker from the fireplace and began heating the end of the poker in the fire. Xayida's eyes widened in fear and began scooting away from her sister. "We were friends once, weren't we, sister?" she smirked and took the hot poker out of the fire and blew against the radiating end of the poker.

"you know what Xayida? I forgive you for all the awful things you said about me over the years," Xena took a step closer and stomped on Xayida's dress preventing from her escaping. "I forgive you for all the times you betrayed me." She smiled down at her, "I'll even forgive you for all the lies you told me!" she then frowned and her eyes widened wildly, "except this one."

Xayida shook her head seeing the hot poker in her sister's hand. "Xena, please!" she pleaded and Xena's frown deepened and now she saw the true look on her sister's face when she was about to kill someone. She had seen her do it before many times, but was never on the other end.

"Are you trying to ask for my forgiveness?" Xena smiled. "I already forgave you but you want...more?"

Gabrielle opened the door once she finally found Xena after asking around. She saw Xena standing over Xayida with a hot poker in her hand and she gasped. "Xena, what are you doing?!"

Xena turned her head and saw Gabrielle standing at the door. "Stay out of this Gabrielle."

"You can't kill her!" Gabrielle ran forward and grabbed Xena's arm. Xena grunted and pushed Gabrielle aside and she fell into a chair. "Xena!"

Xayida looked at her sister and she seemed conflicted, although not that conflicted. Her eyes were already set on her and the only thing preventing her from stabbing her flesh was Gabrielle in the room. "His name is Solan," she said and Xena's eyes widened. She was trying to distract her though she didn't know if it was working. "He looks just like you," she saw Xena's eyes soften a little bit. "Even when I was far away from you, I always felt like I had a piece of you with me all the time."

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow and stood up slowly, wary of Xena's stance. She was very unpredictable and also, she had no idea what the two were talking about.

"He has blue eyes, just like you," Xayida slowly began to sit up and saw Xena's grip on the poker tighten, infuriating her even more. "He's smart and funny like you," she slowly began to stand up and Xena lowered the poker slowly but surely. "He has Lyceus' golden hair too," she smiled weakly. "He even likes sword fighting."

Xena's eyes swelled with tears and she dropped the poker, covering her mouth. Gabrielle knelt down and grabbed the poker before Xena could pick it back up.

Xayida had only seen her sister cry a few times in her life and whenever she did, it was definitely for a good reason. She touched her arm and Xena pushed her away from her.

"How could you do that to me?" Xena frowned and pushed her again. "You lied to me deliberately and for ten years!" she pushed her again and Xayida hit the wall, not even begging to fight back against her.

"I'm sorry. I know you will never forgive me for what I did to you Xena," Xayida lowered her head in shame.

Xena wiped her cheeks and glared at her sister. "Where is he?" she asked and Xayida remained quiet. "Where is he?" she asked again.

Xayida had already disappointed Xena enough today and now she was going to disappoint her even more. "I was informed that he's been missing for days...nobody knows where he is..." she admitted quietly.

Xena felt her blood boiling even more than it was before. "I'm going to find him," she frowned. "And you're going to help me." Xayida lifted her head, a bit surprised to hear her say that. "He knows you better anyway," she turned to leave and Gabrielle's eyes were wide with shock and didn't know what to say. She had pretty much caught on by the time Xayida was describing the boy's appearance and now she definitely couldn't look at the Macedonian queen the same ever again.

Gabrielle began backing away slowly and Xayida didn't look at her, turning her back away from her. She left the room in suit to find Xena. If she hadn't intervened, she probably would have killed Xayida and Gabrielle couldn't blame her either, but perhaps this was the better way.

Xena went outside of the castle and the ground was covered in melted snow. She walked through the gardens of her sister's castle barefoot and wrapped her arms around herself, breathing out slowly, feeling the crispness of the air graze her skin.

The longer she walked in the gardens the more angry she became. She always thought that Xayida was awful at times, even though she was such a loving sister growing up, she changed indefinitely when they were kicked out of Amphipolis. Xena often wondered what would have happened if they returned to their village after their two year exile. If they did return then maybe Xayida would have been different. She probably would have never become the woman she was now. She could have a family of her own but instead she stole her family, Xena's family. She took her child only moments after he was born and claimed that he was dead. Xena remembered that moment like it was yesterday. She absolutely horrified and depressed for days on end, even months afterward.

Her entire pregnancy was not easy and they were constantly moving around, trying to escape the Ottomans though they seemed to miss the Turkmen every time, luckily. Xayida became increasingly protective of her elder sister and always aimed to help her even when Xena refused. Xena was not used to people helping her and when they tried, she would become irritated, though it was hard to be irritated at Xayida, despite her protective nature. After two months of convincing Xena, they were able to travel to Amphipolis on the outskirts close to Stagera, a neighboring sister city of Amphipolis. Xayida promised that they would be safe there, which they were, but the last three months of waiting idly was not entirely Xena's style.

Xayida managed to use one of their family's estates in the outskirts that their mother bought many years ago. It was used as a safe haven home in case something happened in Amphipolis and they'd have to evacuate. Luckily for them, they didn't have to, but Xayida knew that was the safest place. Xena was constantly worried that their mother or brothers would find them there, but it was far away from their home, so Xayida was convinced that nobody would find them there. Borias was able to pinpoint where they were at all times even though they were far from one another. Xayida made sure that his letters got to Xena even though she didn't want to talk to him or even respond at times.

Xena recalled that night of her son's birth perfectly, something that she'd never forget. Xayida had their men scouting the area at the time and it was raining heavily the last few days and areas around them began to flood. Borias found them in the estate, though he was sure that the Ottomans weren't following him, only to find out that there was a mole in his own army feeding information to the Caliph's mercenaries. The Turkmen knew exactly where they were all the time, though at the time, he wasn't aware and neither was Xayida or Xena.

Xena looked out at the dark clouds looming over the castle and frowned, wrapping her arms tightly around her. A single tear streamed down her cheek as she thought of her son and her own sister's betrayal. She could handle Xayida's extravagant killing sprees and her wrath against her before, but she never thought her sister would betray her like this. Xayida was right when she said that she'd hate her forever. Xena somehow didn't hate Xayida, but instead...she loathed her and almost killed her were it not for Gabrielle standing there. She began to think if she did in fact kill her, it wouldn't solve anything at all. She'd be gone and then Solan would have no mother at all, though Xena was his mother in reality. Xayida had been his mother all his life and if she was dead, he would have nothing to go back on and probably would break his heart. Xena didn't even know what he looked like, or sounded like, but she wouldn't want to take that away from him. He was innocent in all of this and none of it was his fault.

Gabrielle found Xena walking outside by herself with her bare feet in the few inches of snow in the grass. She wrapped the cloak around her body and took in a deep breath to go approach her. She knew that Xena was incredibly upset and was obviously hurting immensely. It was none of her business but being her friend was her business. Xena was allowed to keep secrets but now that she had rekindled the stressful relationship with her sister, her secrets began to slowly pour out as well Xayida's. xena always said that Xayida was an awful person and she betrayed her, though she didn't know the extent of it. Xayida was in pain for a long time and Gabrielle saw the sincerity in her eyes when she apologized to her sister. Xayida was truly sorry, but she knew that Xena was not going to accept her apology or forgive her, at least not easily.

"It's cold out here," Gabrielle broke the ice and Xena sniffled and wiped her cheeks, surprised to find Gabrielle out here with her. She remained with her back turned and Gabrielle took a few steps further and took off her cloak and wrapped it around Xena. "You're going to get sick if you stay out here," she smiled and Xena didn't even look to her.

"I'd rather die of hypothermia than be inside that castle," Xena said coldly but took Gabrielle's cloak and wrapped it around her tightly. She saw her breath in the crisp air and huffed softly. "She lied to me for the last time."

Gabrielle sighed and touched Xena's arm warmly and felt her body tense up. "She feels bad Xena. She's been carrying out that with her for ten years."

Xena turned her finally with wild eyes, "are you defending her?" she asked and Gabrielle lowered her eyes.

"No, I'm not. I saw the pain in her eyes, Xena. She is truly sorry, I know she is," she said softly and Xena glared at her then looked back out into the sky.

"Why would she do that to me? I thought she loved me...cared for me. She took my child away from me," she sighed, frowning up at the dark clouds. "She is a curse. Everything she touches, dies."

Gabrielle quirked her mouth and felt like she was a bit out of her element. They stood in silence for awhile and wrapped her arms around herself, feeling colder as they stood outside together. "When I brought Freya home with me, she was alone. Her parents were dead and she didn't have anyone to take care of her. I took her with her back to my palace and I fell in love with her. Her parents, I knew, probably loved her, but they weren't able to take care of her." She sighed heavily, "perhaps Xayida thought that she was helping you. You were very young at the time, weren't you?" she looked to Xena and she averted her eyes elsewhere. "What would you have done with your son if she hadn't taken him from you?"

Xena frowned, "I loved my son, Gabrielle." She admitted softly. "I didn't truly understand the love for a child until he was born. I guess, I didn't think it was real until it actually happened." She felt herself giving into her emotions again and turned her face away from Gabrielle.

"You were lost, it's understandable. That happened to many of my sisters before. They were scared even though they had many people around for support."

Xena shook her head and wiped her nose, "I didn't even get to hold him, Gabrielle." She paused and Gabrielle's eyes widened. "I saw him in her arms and I wanted to hold him but she took him away." She smiled sadly, "he was so small and I never thought I could give birth to something so small and fragile. And then he was gone before I could even blink twice."

"I don't know what that must have been like for you..." Gabrielle sighed and Xena remained quiet. "I think you should go talk to her."

Xena turned her head and frowned, "I'm not going to talk to her. She doesn't have anything left to say to me. What she did has been done."

Gabrielle nodded, understanding Xena's anger entirely. "But Xena, he is missing and you wouldn't want him to escape from you again...would you?" she said and Xena exhaled heavily, thinking that Gabrielle was right. "Can we go inside now? It's freezing," she smiled, trying to lighten the mood. Xena grabbed her hand and went inside with her.

Xayida was speaking to Jason and saw Xena come in with Gabrielle, covered in snow and obviously spent some time outside. Jason lowered his eyes and bowed to her then quickly left to go alert the military. Xena stared at her blankly and Xayida stared back, not quite sure what to say.

She began walking towards her elder sister and Gabrielle felt Xena's grip tighten immensely. Xayida now stood a few feet in front of Xena and looked into her mirroring eyes. "I have something to show you," she said and Xena let go of Gabrielle's hand and folded her arms, raising her eyebrow. "Trust me this time." She extended her hand, "please?" she smiled weakly at her sister.

Xena looked at her hand and Xayida saw she was not feeling very warm at the moment so she retracted her hand and began walking off. "Follow me," she said softly and Gabrielle looked up at Xena, both staring at one another. Gabrielle raised her eyebrows and nodded her head to follow her. Xena groaned and followed her sister down a long hallway.

They came to a room with two large doors and Xayida took a key out of her pocket and unlocked the doors. Xena frowned, not sure what she was doing. The doors opened and Xayida gestured her to go inside. Reluctantly Xena walked into the room and she saw a reasonably sized bed, blue large curtains on the three large windows next to the bed.

She walked in further and saw a desk filled with tools and papers with an ink pad next to it. curiously she looked at the papers and saw drawings on them. Obviously, she clicked, and knew this was Solan's room. Above the desk were shelves filled with books of stories she had heard of when she was a child herself, even some that were read to her when she was young, sharing a room with her sister. She also read the stories to her younger brother, Lyceus during his bedtime.

Gabrielle stood beside Xayida and watched Xena look at all of the books on the shelves. She peered up at Xayida and saw a smile on her face, though she was wary around her. She took a step away and felt cloistered.

Xena saw a few toys on the next shelf and picked up a wooden horse with a man wielding a sword. It didn't look like the best craftsmanship she had seen, but it was still nice to look at.

"He made that last summer. He spent weeks carving it and convinced me that it wasn't good enough, but I told him it was perfect," Xayida said and Xena touched the wooden figurine and set it back on the shelf. "He has a fascination with soldiers. He thinks they are heroes and hopes one day to become one."

Xena frowned and turned to her sister, "he likes swords?" she asked and Xayida nodded. She turned and saw his clothes laying on a chair nearby and picked up the tunic and sniffed it, holding it close to her chest. His scent was enough to make her feel like he was with her, even though he didn't even know about her. "And he doesn't know about me, does he?" she asked softly.

Xayida lowered her eyes, "no, but I told him about your adventures. He thinks you're a great queen and I told him you are my friend."

Xena nodded and placed the tunic back on the chair. "You've given him more than I could have," she hated to admit that but to be honest, she didn't even think of what she would have done with her son after he was born. She didn't ignore the fact that he existed, but she had no plans and no safe place for him. "A battlefield is not for the eyes of a child."

"Xena, I am really, truly, deeply...sorry. After I claimed Macedonia for myself, I regretted my decision to hide him from you and –"

"But you still did it," Xena said folding her arms. "Why did you do it?" she asked calmly this time, no longer feeling angry, but now just hurt and confused.

Xayida sighed, "I was jealous of you and the power you had. Alti told me I could be better than you," she began and saw Xena's eyes widen and fill with fury once more. "She told me to take your son from you because it would make me more powerful than you. She promised me so many things and they all failed. My dreams of becoming a great queen were tarnished and you became the great one. You rule all of Greece plus various territories and have more influence than I would ever have."

Xena felt her blood begin to boil. "You took advice from Alti? She put you up to this?" she snarled.

"I had no idea it would end like this, Xena. I was young and foolish and betrayed my best friend. I didn't know what I was doing."

Xena folded her arms and bit her tongue. "What did you expect from her, Xayida? She's a liar and she made you a liar too! You lied to me, and I am not innocent either, but you...sisters don't do things like this to each other. I trusted you and you let that witch pervert your mind!"

Xayida said nothing, taking her sister's harsh words and they were all true. Xena grunted and looked around the rest of her son's room. "I should have killed her long ago when Borias said to. I should have listened to him and because of you, I lost him and lost my son all in one night."

"I know, I can't apologize anymore because you will not forgive me." Xayida folded her arms, feeling ashamed of herself.

Xena shook her head and bit her bottom lip, looking at Solan's desk full of drawings. She turned to her sister, "where is Borias now?"

Xayida lifted her head, "I don't know, probably in Transylvania." Her eyes widened, "Xena, there is something I need to tell you about Borias." She now had Xena's full attention. "He allied with the Caliph and the Ottomans want me to ally with them to...get rid" she said lowly.

Xena smiled, "is that so?" she pursed her lips nodding her head. "Tell the Caliph you will ally with him."

Gabrielle's jaw dropped. "What?! Xena, are you serious?"

"I don't think that's a good idea. I don't want to war with you," Xayida said.

"You're not," Xena smirked and came to her sister, grabbing her hands, "we will work together," she frowned staring into her eyes, "and we're going to find out what is going on in the Church and find Solan." She paused and Xayida stared at her with wide fearful eyes. "And if we don't find him...I will kill you."

She brushed passed her and Xayida blinked, now feeling incredibly nervous. Gabrielle ran after her Xena and Xayida remained still as stone, in complete shock. She never liked Xena's plans, though she wasn't called a conqueror of Greece for nothing.

Chapter Text

AN: again, I'm surprised people are reading this story lol. Forgive me, this is probably the slowest plot I've ever written in my life. It's picking up in this chapter and you will all find out that Ares has more to his plan -later to be revealed. More Xena/Gabrielle interaction in this chapter too! Enjoy and Merry Christmas to you all!

Chapter Eighteen

"once upon a time I was falling in love and now I'm falling apart."

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

Solan was kept in a dark room though he was not chained up courtesy of Ares' request. Instead he was locked in a room and given adequate food but there was no sunlight in the room. He didn't know how long he had been in the room and he was getting bored and worried that he would never see his mother again. He began tinkering with some broken wood from the bed he hardly slept on. He was making a tool to stab people with and he was sure if his mother saw it, she would disapprove immediately.

The door unlocked and creaked open. Solan gasped and hid the tool under his pillow then jumped up and saw Ares standing there. "Why am I here?" he asked.

Ares smirked, folding his arms. "Because I need you for bait."

"Bait?" Solan questioned with a curious look on his face. "I want to see my mother," he folded his arms and frowned.

The war god laughed, "Solan, your mother is a liar."

Solan blinked, "no she's not! She's the best person in the world," he stared at the war god, challenging him. Ares walked towards the boy and touched his long blonde braid.

"Did your mother tell you she has a sister?" Ares smiled and Solan's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. "I didn't think so." He chuckled and sat on the bed, pinching the boy's cheek and Solan cringed and pulled away. "Would you like to see your mother?" he smirked and Solan nodded in silence.

Ares stood up and walked over to the mirror on the wall and waved his hand over their reflection and Solan walked forward to see the vision in the mirror. And his Xayida walking down a long hallway in her home. "Hey that's my home," he smiled seeing his mother then frowned seeing her expression. "She looks sad," he noted. Ares smiled and the picture showed Xayida talking to someone but they couldn't hear their words. Solan stepped closer and frowned staring at his mother's troubled face.

The picture panned over to Xena standing opposite Xayida and she was firmly speaking to her and kept pointing her finger at her younger sister. Solan's eyes widened as he laid eyes on Xena for the first time. "She looks like mother," he marveled and was instantly dazed staring into Xena's bright blue eyes, which reminded him of his mother's eyes. "But a little different..." he muttered.

Within the mirror Xena grabbed hold of Xayida's arm and pulled her closer to her body and frowned deeply at her, whispering something in her ear and Xayida blinked. Solan cocked his head, "she looks upset." Ares sighed and waved his hand and the vision was gone. Solan looked at his own reflection and touched the glass with his fingers. "My mother is at the castle with...her sister?" he tried to get that straight in his mind, almost unable to fathom that.

"That's right," Ares smiled and Solan folded his arms staring up at the god of war.

"I want to go see my mother," he went for the door and Ares grabbed the boy's shoulder and pushed him onto the bed and Solan huffed. "What are you? You are not my mother's friend."

Ares smiled, "I will be your mother's friend if she lets me..." he whispered and Solan folded his arms, not happy about staying this dark place. "Your mother's sister...she is beautiful isn't she?"

Solan nodded, "she is, but...why was so upset with my mother?"

"She has her reasons," Ares sighed and began walking to the door. "You know Xena, don't you?"

Solan smiled, "who doesn't? She's the Queen of Greece! She's a great warrior!"

Ares nodded, "Xena is your mother's older sister." He saw the realization on Solan's face and he looked shocked to say the least. The god of war chuckled then became serious. "Sorry to cut this meeting short, but I have something to do." He disappeared in a flash and Solan scratched his head, puzzled at this news.

Xena went into her sister's room and began rummaging through her clothes. Gabrielle followed behind her while Xayida went to her office. She just received an intense lecture from Xena and didn't feel the need to be around her. She knew she deserved it, but she also didn't want Xena to be angry with her despite everything that she has done.

Gabrielle frowned, "what are you doing?" she asked as Xena began throwing dresses all over the floor. Xena then opened a different wardrobe and threw out stockings, shoes, and more dresses. "Xena!"

"I'm looking for something," Xena said and threw out all the dresses and smiled, finding exactly what she needed. She pulled out a silver set of armor and it had a red cape attached to it. "Perfect," she grinned and threw the armor on Xayida's bed.

"What are you doing with that armor?" Gabrielle stepped forward and Xena stripped herself of her robe and Gabrielle's eyes widened then turned around.

Xena slipped on the black stockings then a black tunic to go with the armor. She then placed the chest piece on and shoulder pieces as well. "I'm not going to wear her dresses."

Gabrielle shook her head and rubbed her forehead. "so you're going to steal her armor?" she raised an eyebrow hearing how ridiculous that sounded.

"That's right."

Gabrielle turned around and saw Xena tightening the gauntlets around her arms and slipped on a pair of black knee high boots. "Wow," she folded her arms and that was quite a nice set of armor that Xayida had, it even had her Greek crest on it. "It's a Greek design."

Xena smiled and brushed her long hair behind her shoulders. "She wore this when we were in the Athenian war together. I always thought it would look better on me," she smirked and Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"You're right, it does look better on you," Ares appeared in the room and Gabrielle turned around seeing a man appear out nowhere.

Xena frowned, "you again!" she frowned and Ares waltzed forward and attempted to touch her face and she swiftly grabbed his wrist. "Why are you following me?"

Gabrielle narrowed her eyes and watched the man's subtle moves and he was obviously enticed with Xena. "You know him?" she questioned and Xena ignored her.

Ares smirked, "why yes, Gabrielle, who do you think helped Xena save you and Xayida..." Xena glared at him and pushed him aside. "Whoa, testy," his hands went in the air as submission. "Come on Xena! We can be friends!"

"I don't even know you," Xena brushed passed him and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "Come on Gabrielle," she mumbled and they were heading for the door until Ares appeared in front of it, blocking their exit. Xena rolled her eyes.

"What are you?" Gabrielle asked, scanning his body. "You aren't a demon..." she observed and Ares smiled.

"No, guess again, blondie," he teased.

"Or an angel..." she noticed the lack of wings, though perhaps angels could appear in all sorts of forms and didn't necessarily need wings. That was just a figment of the imagination created by various artists over the years.

"I'm better than an angel," Ares smirked at her then eyed Xena. "So, how 'bout that friendship?" he grinned at her and Xena shook her head.

"Forget it, move out of the way," she tried to pry his arms off the doorframe and it was nearly impossible.

The god of war chuckled, "you can keep trying but I'm not going to budge. I have something you want," he whispered and Xena eyed him carefully. "I heard you're looking for your son..." that caught her attention. "Ah, I got your attention now, don't I? yes, I heard the little conversation you had with your dear little sister, Xena."

"How do you know about him?" Xena asked, almost afraid to know. This man knew so much about her, yet she knew nothing about him.

Gabrielle shook his head, "don't listen to him Xena. He's trying to trick you," she clung onto Xena's arm trying to snap her out of her daze.

"I can show you where he is.." Ares smiled and Xena's eyes widened.

"Xena, you said it yourself, you don't even know him! You can't trust what he says!" Gabrielle frowned seeing that Xena was not listening at all.

Ares leaned in closer to Xena and whispered in ear, "but you have to do something for me..." and Xena became conflicted. "Follow me, befriend me...and your son is yours," he grinned deviously.

Xena snapped out of her daze and stared at him curiously. "Follow you?" she said, confused at what he meant.

Gabrielle looked at the symbols on Ares' gauntlets and saw the sign of fire and two swords crossed with one another. She recognized that symbol, she had seen it before and studied it well. As Xena was talking to him she was wracking her brain trying to figure out where she had seen that symbol before. It was right on the tip of her tongue and it was so frustrating that she couldn't figure it out.

"Gabrielle is right, I don't know you and I don't need your help finding my son." She pushed him aside and left the room.

Ares frowned, "we'll see about that, my warrior queen." He disappeared as he watched Xena drag Gabrielle with her down the hall.

Gabrielle pulled back and let go of Xena's firm grip. "Xena, who is that and how does he know you?"

Xena sighed, "I don't know obviously. He was in Rome and helped me save you and Xayida. He keeps stalking me."

Gabrielle nodded, "did you see the symbol on his armor?" she asked and Xena shook her head. "I know it. I've seen it before," she groaned, "I just can't remember!" she held her head in between her hands, stressed about this entire situation. Xena walked off without her and she gasped. "Where are you going?!" she ran after her.

Xena burst into her sister's office and found her looking over some documents. Xayida lifted her head and saw Xena wearing her armor and stood up. "Why are you wearing my armor?!"

"What's yours is mine, since we're sharing," Xena smirked and Xayida groaned then sat back down. "Did you tell the Caliph you want to ally with him?"

Xayida nodded, "I sent the letter earlier...I don't think this is a good idea, Xena."

Xena smiled and went to her desk, leaning on it and stared into her sister's eyes. "What's the matter? You've become a grumpy old lady, sister."

Xayida sighed, "Xena, this is not one of your fun games you like to play. This is serious!"

"And hiding my son from me isn't?!" Xena slammed her fist on the table and Xayida jumped. "From now on, I'm in charge and you're going to do everything I say understand?"

"As always," the younger sister mumbled and Xena frowned at her. Xena was not in the mood for Xayida's envy and Xayida brushed it off. "What is your plan, since I know you already have one."

Xena smiled and stood up straight. "I'm glad you asked," she began pacing back and forth and Gabrielle joined them both, standing at a fair distance. "We make the Caliph believe you have allied with him against me," she chuckled and continued, "and then you're going to go meet with the Caliph to commence the deal."

Xayida frowned, "excuse me?"

"But here's the catch," Xena held up her finger then leaned on the desk again, a few inches from her sister's face. "I'm going to take your place," she smirked. "And since we don't want any suspicion will take my place in Athens."

Gabrielle slapped her forehead, shaking her head. "That will never work."

Xena pulled out a dagger from her sheath and grazed the blade along Xayida's hair. "You're going to need a haircut," she smiled smugly.

Xayida slapped her sister's hand away from her and stood up, "are you insane?!" she yelled and began pacing. "I don't want to cut my hair and have...bangs," she cringed. "I'll look just!"

"That's the idea," Xena's voice dripped with sarcasm. "We look enough alike," she smiled. "It'll be fun," she winked.

"Xena, this isn't a game." Xayida said and came around the desk to face her sister, equal in height. "We need to find Solan."

Xena smiled, "I haven't forgot about that," she turned to Gabrielle. "Have we Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle sighed heavily folding her arms. "No...definitely not. Where do I fit in all of this?"

"That's easy. You're going to accompany me to Constantinople as the queen's friend," Xena smiled and Gabrielle sighed again, feeling like this was definitely going to be a bad idea.

In the evening Xena went into a bedroom that her sister had set up for her and began looking through some maps she stole from Xayida's office. Gabrielle knocked on the door then waltzed in without Xena's permission, though by the looks of it, she seemed pretty occupied enough as it is.

Gabrielle sat on the bed next to her and stared at the maps, "what are you looking at?" she asked curiously.

Xena smiled and pointed to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. "A map of Anatolia. I want to be prepared once we go see the Caliph."

Gabrielle sighed, "look Xena, I don't know if that's such a good idea. Do you honestly think that Xayida will stick to your plan? You know how she is, she never wants to listen to you."

Xena frowned, "she's going to listen alright. She stole and hide my son from me for ten years, the least she could do is take orders from her older sister, right?" she smirked and Gabrielle remained quiet. She set the map aside and crossed her legs in front of her giving Gabrielle her undivided attention. "I'm sorry I dragged you into this mess, Gabrielle. You deserve so much more."

"I've been absent from my sisters for awhile now, they will begin to worry about me," she sighed, lowering her gaze, now the realization setting in.

Xena sat and saw Gabrielle was equally as stressed as she was, possibly even more. Here she was, giving her sister orders and took Gabrielle along with her and never even once asked of her opinion on anything. Perhaps Xayida was right, she was too greedy and selfish at times and completely ignored other people when she had a goal in mind. She wanted to find her son and she also wanted Gabrielle, but she couldn't have it all. She seemed to forget that Gabrielle had her own opinions and feelings too.

"You can return to your sisters anytime, you know," Xena offered quietly, a bit sad to see a smile emerge on Gabrielle's face.

Gabrielle saw the look of disappointment on Xena's face. "Well, I do want to help you Xena. You are my friend and friends look after each other, don't they?" she grinned.

"But I never even asked you to go along with this plan. I just put you in it without your consent." Xena pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration at herself. "I don't want to force you to be here with me. Xayida is my problem and –"

"She's as much your problem as she is mine. She deceived me too and I thought she was my friend and she pushed me away from you because of her jealousy. And by the way, I offered to come with you, remember?" the blonde smiled and Xena nodded, agreeing with her. "Don't put all of this on yourself Xena. I'm here to help you, so let me..."

Xena sighed heavily, "I don't want you to feel like I'm using you to get what I want. Xayida always told me that's what I used to do and she's right. I didn't and still don't care about other people's feelings."

Gabrielle frowned then scooted closer to her then grabbed her hand tightly. "Xena, you put a lot of pressure on yourself, I noticed. You've always done that since I've known you and it's increased ever since you reunited with Xayida again. She puts a lot of stress on you and you feel obligated to protect her," Xena then gave her a nasty look and she smiled nervously at her. "I didn't mean it like's just, she is still your sister and even though you two haven't seen eye to eye on everything and she's wronged you, you still feel like she's the little girl you remember her to be. Trust me, she's not. She knows what she's doing and she does it well, obviously..." she rolled her eyes. "She looks up to you and wants to be like you."

Xena shook her head in disbelief then got off the bed to begin pacing back and forth. "Why would she want to be like me? All she's done is talk trash about me for years. Everyone hates me because of her!"

She looked at the Greek Queen with concern, "I think you've done a good job at making people hate you on your own, Xena," she said bluntly and Xena's eyes widened, shocked to hear those words come out of her friend's mouth. "I know what you do to people, Xena. You kill people who don't comply with your rules. You conquered so many territories through brute force and threats and what's to stop you from conquering other lands? What's next? The Roman Church? The Ottoman Empire?"

"you don't understand Gabrielle. It's politics," Xena brushed it off and kept pacing back and forth.

"I don't have to listen to your sister's words about you Xena. You are hated by everyone. People say you are a tyrant. Even the people of Greece hate you and you're their Queen for Gaia's sake!" she sighed and Xena stopped then glared at her. "Why do you do it?"

"Do what?" Xena snapped.

"Why are you so awful to everyone around you? You always think someone is going to attack you so you attack them first so they don't even have a fighting chance," Gabrielle stared into those icy blue eyes that seemed to grow infuriated the more she spoke.

Xena frowned and folded her arms, "if you think I'm so terrible then why are you my friend?" she asked, growing angrier by the second.

Gabrielle smiled, "because I like you and I see the potential of you doing so much good, Xena. I don't want to see you spiral down into the pool of hatred that you feed into."

Xena clenched her jaw listening to Gabrielle and she hated to admit it, but she was right. She was so god awful to her own people. She didn't care about them and certainly didn't care about making friends. She wanted to conquer, not to ally, which was why she controlled Macedonia and the Caucasus Mountains. Soon she wanted to conquer the Ottomans to be rid of them once and for all and then maybe if she was lucky, she'd take Rome too. She wanted it be all hers, and have no enemies whatsoever.

She couldn't fathom why Gabrielle would still want to be her friend even with knowing all the horrible things she has done and did to all those innocent people. "Why do you care about me?" she asked softly.

Gabrielle grinned and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. "You're a good person Xena, you just don't recognize it. I see it, but you don't believe it. You have a lot of compassion and you use your sword to fuel your passion, but you don't always need violence to solve your problems. In fact, sometimes violence pushes people away and you're left with nobody." She saw the gears ticking in Xena's mind. "What do you think your brothers say about you?"

Xena scoffed, "they probably think that I bring dishonor to our family. Nobody wants to be related to a tyrannical leader, Gabrielle. They would be ashamed to call me their sister."

"And what about Xayida?" Gabrielle asked, seeing her frown deepen as she mentioned her sister.

"I don't know. They probably think I perverted her mind and in a way I did. She followed my footsteps in every way possible." She sighed and sat back down on the bed, lowering her head. "I took her life away from her. I promised her we would rule together under one empire. We would have been unstoppable," she smiled, reminiscing on those days. "Until she wanted her own empire, then we began fighting and disagreeing with each other. Each day was a chore to communicate with her. Every time we tried to talk we would just end up arguing and never solved anything. She was fed up with me and perhaps she was right to leave," she sighed. "She's done well for herself," she frowned now, "she even raised my son for me."

Gabrielle grabbed her hand firmly and intertwined their fingers together. "She was obviously hurting a lot back then. She was probably too ashamed to be around you because of what she did. I agree that what she did was wrong and the important thing is that she recognized it. She didn't lie to you now, she told you the truth."

"That doesn't make it any less painful," Xena folded her arms, staring off at the wall, glaring at it, almost wishing it would break in a million pieces. "I'm going to find him," her voice cracked, but she remained determined. Gabrielle smiled, nodding her head and rested her head on her shoulder. "When I find him...I don't even know what to say to him. I don't know him and he doesn't know me."

"Just say what is on your mind," Gabrielle encouraged.

Xena felt her throat tighten and her eyes swell with imminent tears. "He doesn't even know I exist. If he knows that Xayida is not his true mother, he will hate her forever. How could I take that away from him when I haven't been there for him all these years? Xayida is his mother, I am not. I gave birth to him, but I didn't raise him, he's not mine, he's...hers." she wiped her eyes and sighed. "She may have lied to me and taken him from me, but he doesn't know any better. It's not his fault."

Gabrielle understood why Xena would conflicted about this and it was quite complicated. She felt Xena's anxiousness and apprehension but she was determined to find Solan, which was a normal reaction. Though, she saw the side of Xena that nobody else saw. She had a heart and it wasn't as black as everyone thinks. She cared about Solan and even considered his feelings as well as her sister's feelings in this awkward situation.

She tried to make her feel better, "he might like you," she said and Xena smiled.

"Nobody likes me Gabrielle, not even I like myself," she replied and Gabrielle felt that cut a bit deep.

"I like you and I'm sure that Solan will like you too. I bet he thinks you're really awesome," she smiled and Xena gave her a knowing look.

Xena sighed and sniffled and felt embarrassed allowing her friend to see her like this, in this state. "How will I find him? I don't even know where to look and Xayida has had her military searching for him for days now."

Gabrielle nodded, "what about that guy that keeps following you around? He seems to know a lot about you and even knows about your son," she frowned, thinking of that symbol again. She jumped off the bed and grabbed a fresh piece of paper and picked up the quill on the desk. She drew the symbol that was on his armor that she remembered. Xena lifted a curious brow and Gabrielle showed her the paper. "This symbol, it's Greek, I know I've seen it before. It's ancient."

Xena grabbed the paper and looked at the symbol, not recognizing it all. She shook her head and was at a loss. "I don't know it."

"I do. Fire and swords together means war and aggression. Whoever he is...he is not from here for sure. His strength is amazing," Gabrielle rubbed her chin. "And he just appears and disappears whenever he wants to. He's not a human," she gathered.

Xena remembered something that she thought she would have forgotten and it felt like a lifetime ago now. "When I was in the basilica in Rome, he offered to help me several times. He was dressed as a cardinal, but obviously he's not. He kissed me," she touched her lips and frowned. "He kept asking me to be his friend, but I refused." She scratched her head then stared at Gabrielle. "Inside the cathedral there was a ritual ceremony going on. It was a secret and he didn't want me to see what was going on in that room. The cardinals were chanting and there was a loud roar coming from behind the door. He appeared and swayed me to stay away. He is hiding something."

Gabrielle thought information would have been nice to know awhile ago. She hadn't said a word about that at all the entire way to Macedonia. Xena and her secrets, she thought. "You believe he's behind all this strange activity in Rome?"

"It's possible," Xena shrugged.

"Does Xayida have a library in this castle?" Gabrielle smiled mischievously.

Xena frowned and shook her head, "I have no idea. It's my first time being here if you don't remember..."

Gabrielle grabbed Xena's hand and pulled her off the bed, forcing her to go along with her. "Only one way to find out!" she smiled and both left the room as Xena reluctantly was being pulled along for the ride.

Constantinople, Ottoman Empire

The Caliph, Mehmet II, sat in his throne as his advisor gave him the letter that he received earlier this morning. He was carried by a falcon, the best way to exchange letters. He always did it this way and so his letters were not compromised or destroyed. He also didn't have to worry about his messengers suddenly disappearing.

He read the letter and smiled, "the Macedonian Queen has agreed to ally with us. Good, very good." He gave the letter back to his advisor and stood up, adjusting his robes and crown atop his head. "I will take down the Church and Xena in one strike. The Macedonian Queen is a foe of her sister, I am not surprised that she agreed to ally with me. Xena is a witch. She is a pagan," he scoffed. "She is blasphemous and follows no god. Her entire empire is godless. She will become a god fearing woman, God willing!"

"May she be shown mercy from the all merciful God, sir," his advisor smiled, bowing his head.

The young king smiled and nodded. He had taken the throne not long after his father died and was the youngest ruler in the western world, just at twenty four. He was younger than Xayida and Xena and certainly younger than the Pope for sure. "The Byzantine Emperor will be wiped out of Constantinople. Augustus Constantine only follows the Roman church because he receives money to keep us out of his previous holy city." He chuckled and poured a glass of wine for himself and looked to his advisor. "He tried to retake Athens once...that didn't work out for him now did it?"

The advisor grinned, "certainly did not sir."

"Xena obliterated his army and went crying back to the church for help," he sipped his wine and exhaled softly. "If Xena wasn't so difficult, I would love to have her as an ally. She is a great warrior queen and the only woman that hasn't been assassinated," he chuckled.

Constantine used to be ruler of Athens until 1443, when Xena overthrow him and pushed his entire army out Athens. She claimed the city as her capital and he cowardly fled the city and returned to Constantinople to hide for years onward. Xena took Athens without remorse and made sure to let the church know that she was in charge and the empire was not a Christian empire any longer. In 1449 he tried to claim Athens again and even sent out mercenaries to assassinate Xena late at night. He was unsuccessful to say the least. Xena burned down all of his forts and beheaded his men publically, herself to make a statement. A year passed and now it was currently the year 1450, almost 1451 and there was no way in hell that he was going to try and reclaim Athens as a holy city again.

He downed his wine and sighed heavily. "Inform the Transylvanian Prince that I wish to meet with him about this alliance with Macedonia."

"Of course, sir," the advisor bowed and left the room to go write a letter.

Mehmet sat back down on his throne and was now alone in the room minus the guards standing by the doors. He sighed and swished the new glass of wine in his hand, glaring at the dark liquid. He suddenly felt a hand come to his shoulder and he jumped. He turned and grunted, "oh it's just you," he grumbled.

Ares smiled, "were you expecting someone else?"

"I have Xayida's alliance now," the king grinned and Ares nodded. "Soon, Xena will be annihilated as well as Constantine. Those two are a sore in my eye."

Ares chuckled, "they are annoying aren't they? You better be careful of Xena. She is a tricky one."

Mehmet agreed, "indeed she is." He sipped his wine. "You say you do the work of my god, right?" he asked and Ares frowned and nodded his head reluctantly. "Do you think that god approves of such violence in the world?"

Ares smiled and squeezed Mehmet's shoulders. "He only wants you to rise to the top and you can't do that with Xena, the church or the Byzantines, right?" the king nodded. "Think of it as a holy war. You are doing god's work and I am here to help you achieve those goals."

"You speak to god directly, don't you?" the king turned and stared at the war god.

Ares was tired of playing these charades with this Ottoman sultan. He didn't believe there was a special god. Each religion had their own version of god, but Ares knew that there was only one god and it wasn't the one that these people prayed to day and night. "You asked for my help and I am here to serve you," he smiled, "your god believes that if this war will will claim Constantinople for yourself. You will be the most powerful person on the planet, even more than the church! They are slowly losing followers day by day anyway," he smirked, thinking of his plan that was slowly coming together. "You want that power don't you?"

Mehmet nodded, "I want it," he sipped the wine. "I can't have that power without god by my side and these lesser rulers like Xena and Constantine. They are just puppets, waiting for their strings to be cut."

"I promise your god will be most pleased," Ares smiled.

Chapter Text

AN: and finally some action here! And some other stuff enjoy for now ;)

Chapter Nineteen

Xayida's large castle did indeed have a library, though it was hardly used unless Solan was with his mentor studying various subjects, especially math and sciences of Greece. Gabrielle looked through the mythology books Xayida had on her shelves and there were hardly any of them. She flipped through many pages but so far found nothing yet.

Xayida walked into the library and saw Gabrielle studying two books at once while Xena sat with her boots propped up on the table, or rather, Xayida's boots. Xena caught eye of her and took her feet off the table. She walked up to them and ran her finger on the table, noting the dust and rubbed her fingers together. "Did you two find what you are looking for?" she asked.

Gabrielle frowned, "not yet," she replied, "but I think I am getting closer." She flipped the next few pages and shook her head. "Don't you have any more books on Greek mythology?"

Xayida shook her head, "sorry Gabrielle. Those were all taken out of my library a few years ago."

Xena lifted a curious eyebrow, "and why's that? You always loved studying Greek deities," she remembered.

The sister sighed and stared at her shelves of hundreds of books collected over the years from different parts of the world. "The Byzantines came to Macedonia during one of their raids. Constantine wanted all of the mythological books burned and instead wanted only Roman history books in everyone's libraries."

Xena rubbed her chin and frowned, "Constantine is such a cheeky bastard," she scoffed, "he should stay where he belongs –in hellfire." She tapped her fingers on the table and Gabrielle lifted her eyes, blinking at the shocking words that slipped out of Xena's mouth.

"I know you don't like him very much, but he is an ally of the Roman church, so it's not likely he will disappear soon," Xayida said.

"I took Athens from him, he's still upset about it. Last year he tried to kill me," she smirked, "didn't work out," she sighed and Gabrielle shook her head and went back to reading.

Gabrielle flipped a page and found something about the symbol she saw on the man's armor. She pointed to the symbol, "I found it!" she smiled and flipped through another few pages, "fire...swords," she mumbled and Xena leaned in closer to look along with her. Xayida peered over the table casually looking with them. "War..." she pointed to the text, "god of war!" she smiled, feeling quite proud of herself.

Xayida frowned, "Mars?"

The blonde shook her head, "no not the Roman god, the Greek one –Ares!" she nodded and read the old Greek text while the two sisters remained confused. "It is Ares, I know it is. It describes him perfectly. It all makes sense now."

Xena stood up, "Ares? The god of war? He's the one who's been stalking me?" she questioned, not sure if she was going crazy or not.

Xayida's eyes widened, "stalking you? Wait, what?" she rubbed her forehead. "Someone is stalking you? Why are you reading about Greek gods anyway?" she turned to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle sighed, "it's a long story, but he's been following Xena since we were in Rome. He met with her earlier in the day. He said that he knows where Solan is and gave Xena an ultimatum..."

Xayida laughed aloud and Xena glared at her. "Greek gods don't exist! They're just silly stories that people made up because they did not know about the one god," she folded her arms and both women stared at her blankly, then her smile died.

"Xayida, as much as I want to agree with you..." Xena said softly, "he appears and disappears out of nowhere. It's true he's been following me and he keeps asking me to be his friend."

"Actually, he told you to follow him. Now it makes sense," Gabrielle smiled at her achievement.

"Xena, you can't be serious?" Xayida said, furrowing her brows. She saw that her sister was quite serious and so was Gabrielle. "This is ridiculous and you both sound crazy." She shook her head and began walking out of the library.

Xena followed her, "he said he knows where Solan is. How could he possibly know that? And he went missing while we were gone. He knows too much about me and I know it sounds crazy, but it's true Xayida, it's true."

Her sister looked at her with wild eyes, "so you're telling me, a god –"

"Ares," Gabrielle interjected.

Xayida frowned, "Ares...took Solan? Why would he want to talk to you and not me?" she folded her arms and Xena raised her eyebrow.

"Maybe because I am his mother, not you and he knows that," Xena copied her sister's stance and both glared at each other. "Are you jealous?" she smirked.

"No, I'm not," Xayida protested, "just confused that's all..." she looked to Gabrielle. "You saw him?"

"Yes I did. Don't ask me how this is possible, because I don't have the answer," Gabrielle smiled weakly. He saw the two staring at one another and got up and stood in between them. "Now isn't the time for petty arguments. You both want to find Solan, right?" Xena lowered her eyes and Xayida nodded. "So, we should work together not against one another."

Xayida sighed, "Gabrielle is right, but will you do what this 'Ares' says to get Solan?" she asked her elder sister.

Xena smirked, "gods are known to play games in the stories. I can play too," she shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly.

"What about the plan with the Caliph?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena smiled at her sister and touched her hair, "oh yes. I haven't forgotten about that."

A few days later Xena organized a meeting with her best man on the borders of Macedonia and Greece. Xayida was to ride on her own horses with a few men escorting her and when she reached the border, she would switch horses and ride with the Greek soldiers the rest of the way to Athens. Xena told her men about the plan and knew that Xayida would be posing as her, but nobody else would have to know. It was unlikely that someone would mistake her for a fake because people rarely saw Xena in person and very few people truly knew what she looked like, minus a few people in Rome and Transylvania of course. The Ottoman Sultan was lucky enough to have never met with Xena face to face despite their gunpowder deals they made through the militia.

Xayida sat in a chair and closed her eyes as she saw Xena coming at her with a pair of shears. Xena smiled and snipped her long hair and Xayida bit her bottom lip. "Don't be scared," Xena said softly and Xayida opened her eyes to see at least fifteen inches taken off of her head and she immediately felt frightened at the thought of looking like her sister.

An hour later Xayida laid down with her hair sprawled out on a table and Gabrielle ironed her hair with hot rods and Xena smiled standing over her. Her wavy locks were no more, but now straight like Xena's. the process was quite long and took the entire hour but once Gabrielle finished she brushed Xayida's now straight hair.

Xayida stood up and walked to the mirror and gasped, touching her bangs and silky straight hair. "Dear god," she whispered and couldn't stop looking at herself.

"You look good," Xena smiled smugly and Xayida turned to her, almost looking exactly like her, despite the minor difference in features such as their noses and lips. She hooked arms with her sister, "now when you arrive to Athens you will need to change into something more suitable. Your dresses are far too European to be considered Greek," she smirked.

Xayida frowned, "are you sure this is going to work?"

"of course!" Xena clung onto her sister making her as uncomfortable as possible. "Don't throw any parties at my palace."

"I hate parties," Xayida said flatly.

Later in the day Xayida mounted her horse and wrapped her black cloak around her body. Xena and Gabrielle stood beside her and for once, she felt incredibly worried about going to Athens. She hadn't been there in so long and it would be strange to be there in her sister's place.

Gabrielle walked up to her and grabbed her hand, "remember not to make eye contact with anyone until you reach Athens." Xayida nodded.

"And don't say any of those smart remarks of yours either," Xena reminded her.

Xayida fumbled, "what if someone important comes to the palace? They will know it is not me!"

Xena smiled, "no they won't and if someone comes then just say you are...ill," she eyed the fear in her sister's eyes. "Act like me and you won't have any problems."

"So, act like a bitch, got it," Xayida said and Xena frowned. Gabrielle hid her smile and turned away making sure Xena would not notice.

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way but...whatever helps you," Xena groaned and Xayida smiled brightly down at her. "You should get going because Gabrielle and I have to leave now," she smirked. "Have fun."

Xayida frowned and turned on her horse and trotted out of the castle walls with her men following her. Xena and Gabrielle watched her leave until they couldn't see her anymore. "I saw you laughing," Xena said with a smirk.

"Oh..." the blonde blushed, "it was kind of funny, I mean..."

"It's alright Gabrielle. I've heard worse things said about me," Xena grabbed her hand. "Come on, we have to leave soon," she pulled her along to get ready for their journey to Constantinople.


Mehmet sat in his council room with the prince of Transylvania and offered him wine and many sweets as disposal. A maid came to the table and the sultan smiled, "Turkish delight?" he asked.

Borias shook his head and Mehmet nodded his maid to leave the tray on the table. He poured some coffee in his cup and dropped two cubes of sugar in it, stirring it with his small spoon. "You asked me to come negotiate with you," he said taking the sultan off guard.

The caliph swallowed some of the hot coffee and set his cup down. "Why yes, I did. You know that I want Xena's gunpowder, don't you?" Borias nodded in response. "I have allied with the Queen of Macedonia to attack Xena's empire."

Borias' eyes widened, "you allied with Xayida?" he asked and Mehmet folded his hands on the table.

"You don't agree with me?" he asked.

"Sir, you know that Xayida is Xena's sister don't you?" Borias whispered, almost feeling like someone was listening to them.

Mehmet nodded, "indeed I do. I also know that the Macedonian Queen loathes her sister so it was easy to gain her friendship," he smiled, quite proud of the alliance.

Borias pinched the bridge of his nose and he knew that this was definitely a bad idea. He knew Xayida and Xena parted ways a long time ago and if Xayida were to attack Xena, it would definitely end in bloodshed for sure. "Have you actually met Xena?"

The sultan shook his head, "no I've never met the pagan witch. I do know that she has stolen hundreds of pounds of gunpowder from my empire, though and that I will not tolerate!" he slammed his fist on the table.

Borias began laughing, "you allowed her to take it!" the sultan frowned at this insulting manner. "She's been stealing gunpowder from you for over ten years and now you want to get rid of her?" he shook his head thinking this was a disaster waiting to happen.

Mehmet stood up, sliding his chair out from underneath him, "you were aware of this?" he raised his eyebrow and Borias was now quiet. "What else do you know about the Greek witch?"

"I haven't seen her in ten years," he admitted. "I don't know anything about her empire now."

The sultan nodded and rubbed his beard, "but you do know things about her, don't you?" he smiled and walked over to Borias, tapping his fingers on the table. "Perhaps, personally?" he hissed.

Borias frowned and stood up, "no," he lied. "I don't know anything about Xena, but I do know one thing –if you attack her, she will kill you."

Mehmet's eyes widened with fury and his jaw clenched. "You dare mock me?" he asked and Borias smirked at him, challenging his stance. "You are quite confident in your accusation." He lamented.

"It's not an accusation," Borias replied, "it's a statement of fact," he frowned, furrowing his thick dark brows. "Don't underestimate her," he said in a hushed tone.

The sultan chuckled softly and sat down in his chair once more. "Interesting," he gestured for Borias to sit. "Shall we negotiate then?" Borias sat down opposite him, now wary of the sultan's mood. "So, what does your kingdom have to offer in the war effort?" he smiled deviously and Borias stared at him despairingly.

Xena and Gabrielle rode in the black carriage through the forests of Constantinople. It wasn't too bad of a ride and luckily Anatolia wasn't too far either. Xena made sure that they took alternate routes so they wouldn't enter Wallachia through their route.

Gabrielle kept staring at Xena and saw she was distracted and kept looking out the window, peeking through the curtains. Xena's bangs were pinned back with a circlet around her head, making sure her hair stayed in place. "You look so much like her," she said aloud.

Xena turned her head and adjusted in her seat, "that's the idea," she mumbled and kept looking out the window. She was able to see the divide in the city. Half belonged to the Ottomans and the other to the Byzantines. "Constantine's men guard this area heavily up ahead. We will need to provide papers for us to pass through the border."

Gabrielle felt worried about that, "do you think they will let us through?" she asked then thought that was odd. "Constantinople is split in half?" it just donned on her.

Xena nodded, "the Sultan controls the east side of the city and Constantine controls the west. Rome wants the entire city like they did before the sultan claimed it. They have been warring over the city for years."

Gabrielle knew that wasn't news to her. These people seemed to fight over every little thing. She was glad that she didn't have to deal with these people on a daily basis. To be truthfully honest, she was glad that she did not have a position like Xena had. "What did...Xayida mean that you didn't like Constantine?"

The Greek queen sighed and kept an eye out for any soldiers passing by, "Athens used to belong to Constantine. I took it from him," she said and Gabrielle pursed her lips. "I won fair and square. I knew that Athens was the capital of Greece and I wanted it to be mine so –I took it." she turned and saw the disappointment on Gabrielle's face. "He's hated me ever since then."

"So why didn't you just kill him?" Gabrielle asked, feeling that was an appropriate question.

Xena smiled, "politics, Gabrielle." She sighed and peeked out the window again, "if I had killed Constantine, the entire Roman church would have started a huge campaign against me and at that time, I would have lost. Now, I'm not so sure I would lose," she smiled just thinking about it. "But that's another day, another battle," she winked at Gabrielle.

The next half hour was pretty quiet and Xena noticed that Gabrielle was feeling very restless. "I want to thank you for coming with me. This wouldn't have worked without you, Gabrielle," she said, hoping to make her feel better.

Gabrielle grinned, "of course. I've been wanting to spend time with you for five years and now I can't seem to get away from you," she chuckled and Xena frowned sadly.

"You want to leave?" Xena asked with a bit of sadness in her voice.

"No, no! I like spending time with you, Xena. I never knew your life would be so...exciting," she smiled and Xena smiled along with her.

"Well, I like spending time with you too," the Greek queen admitted shyly. "I don't want to keep you from your sisters or your daughter. I know she must miss you a lot..."

Gabrielle sighed, "yeah, I miss her, but I know she is in good hands, but I want to help you find your son," she grabbed Xena's hand across the seat and smiled at her warmly. "I know that means a lot to you."

Xena nodded, lowering her eyes, "do you think Ares will show up again?" she whispered.

"I have no doubt he will turn up. He has an obsession with you, obviously. If he knows where Solan is, you will have to play his silly games to get what you want." Gabrielle eyed her and Xena smirked.

"That's what I'm best at," she said and Gabrielle giggled. Suddenly the carriage stopped and Xena peeked out the window and saw a Byzantine soldier asking the driver where they were heading. "Constantine's men," she whispered.

The soldier came up the window and opened the door looking at both Xena and Gabrielle. He frowned and checked the rest of the cabin making sure nobody else was with them. He eyed Xena and lifted an eyebrow. "Queen of Macedonia?" he asked.

"Yes?" Xena said, trying to seem as much like her sister as she possibly could.

"I need to see your papers," he stated and folded his arms. Gabrielle felt nervous and Xena began rummaging through her bag and pulled out a sealed document, written by Xayida herself before she left. She handed it to him and smiled. He frowned and opened the document, reading it over carefully. He lifted his eyes and stared at her for a moment longer. "What is your business in Constantinople?" he questioned.

Xena looked to Gabrielle then back at the soldier, "I am meeting with the Sultan on business..." she lifted her eyebrows and smiled at him

The soldier grumbled and gave the paper back to her. "I need to search the rest of your belongings," he said.

"Of course," Xena said and he turned to go back to the cargo behind the caravan. She frowned and tapped her fingers on her knee. "This is ridiculous," she hissed.

Gabrielle fidgeted with her thumbs, "does he suspect something is wrong?"

"He's an idiot, Gabrielle. He doesn't know anything. He gets paid to do this," Xena rolled her eyes.

The soldier came back and she smiled at him once again. "I had to make sure you weren't carrying gunpowder," he smiled at her finally.

"You know I don't have any gunpowder," she said with a tight forced smile.

He nodded, "I understand your majesty, but I just have to make sure," he whistled at the driver and allowed them to pass.

Gabrielle sunk down in her seat and felt her heart beating quickly. "Are there any more checkpoints?" she hoped not.

Xena frowned and closed the curtain. "I don't think so," she saw the relief on her face and began chuckling. "Are you alright?"

Gabrielle nodded, "I think so. You are too dangerous for me, Xena," she let out a large sigh and hoped that there wouldn't be any trouble ahead.

"The fun is just beginning!" Xena beamed.

"Excuse me?" Gabrielle sighed heavily, not liking the look on Xena's face at all.

Mehmet's advisor interrupted the meeting with him and Borias. He bowed his head, "your majesty, the Queen of Macedonia has arrived to see you."

The sultan stood up with a frown and adjusted his coat, "she came here? I was not expecting her."

His advisor nodded his head, feeling awkward in the room with the two men staring at him. "Shall I send her away, then?"

Mehmet smiled, "no of course not. I would love to meet with her. Send her to my meeting room," he commanded and the advisor nodded then left the room in a hurry. Borias stood up and felt something was wrong here.

"you were not expecting the queen?" Borias asked and the sultan shook his head.

"She is full of surprises! Come with me to meet her," he smiled and walked out of the room. Borias groaned then followed the caliph, not very excited to see Xayida again. It was bad enough he saw her in Rome for a short time, but now this. This was turning out to be a very interesting day, he told himself.

Xena and Gabrielle were shown inside the grand palace and were treated very nicely. Immediately were offered to take their cloaks and wine as well. Xena lifted her eyebrow, "perhaps I should have allied with the caliph," she teased and Gabrielle turned around walking backwards looking at all the gold columns.

"Is that real gold?" she asked and Xena looked up at the ceiling.

"I'm sure it is," she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and whispered, "remember not to call me Xena, I'm Xayida, got it?"

"I know, I remember the plan," Gabrielle smiled.

A nice man showed them to a room in the west wing of the palace. Xena looked around saw this place was quite different than her conference rooms. There were pillows everywhere and low couches. The windows had thick drapes to keep the sunlight out. She thought this was rather odd, but she wasn't here to ask questions, she was here on a mission.

The doors on the opposite side of the room opened and the caliph, Mehmet II, walked through them wearing a gold and black outfit with a crown atop his head with his curly black hair perfectly framing his face. Gabrielle saw guards now posted inside the room at all the exits. Of course, she thought, nobody is escaping now.

"Queen Xayida!" Mehmet greeted her and kissed both of her hands generously. "I was not expecting you," he smiled.

Xena smiled graciously, "I thought I would pay a visit to you to seal our...alliance?" she said and the caliph nodded his head and noticed Gabrielle. "Oh, this is my friend, Gabrielle. She will be accompanying me during the meeting."

Mehmet didn't argue, "of course. Any guest of yours is welcome in my home," he said and Xena grinned tightly at him.

Borias came out from behind the sultan and Xena immediately looked at him. He lifted an eyebrow and scanned her face. Her eyes widened and her smile disappeared instantly. The sultan smiled and placed a hand on Borias' shoulder. "The Prince of Transylvania will be allying with us," he said.

Xena said nothing and Borias couldn't take his eyes off of her. He reached for her hand and she was hesitant at first, but then caught herself. She was not Xena, no, she was Xayida right now. He kissed her hand, "Queen of Macedonia," he didn't even blink and Xena knew that he was able to see right through her. He knew that was not Xayida, but in fact Xena. He recognized her face anywhere and her stature. Xayida looked very much like Xena did, equal in height, the same skin complexion, even the dark long hair, but Xayida was a bit thinner and had a longer nose and she just wasn't...Xena.

Gabrielle noticed the tense exchange between the two and sensed that this might turn badly if Xena let anything slip, though she feared that Borias knew everything and why wouldn't he? He knew Xena all too well. She grabbed Xena's hand and squeezed it, making sure to remind her of the plan.

Xena smiled at Borias, "nice to see you again," she forced herself to say.

Mehmet smiled, "you both know each other?" he sat down, "fantastic, then this should be easy!"

Borias sat down and Xena sat opposite him with Gabrielle by her side, clinging closely to her. "It should be..." Borias said and smirked at Xena and she averted her gaze elsewhere.

A few minutes later the servants brought in a slew of desserts, coffee, tea and wine for them all. Xena had suddenly lost her appetite and was the only one not eating anything or drinking. She refused to look at Borias, though she knew she would have to remain calm.

Mehmet sipped some wine, "Xayida," he said and Xena snapped, lifting her head, "may I call you that?" she nodded in reply. "You haven't eaten anything."

Xena smiled, "I'm not very hungry, but thank you for your kind offer," she smiled weakly.

Gabrielle sipped on the tea and felt like this was definitely going to be a very long awkward conversation. Only Xena would run into a problem such as this, she thought.

Mehmet set down his wine, "so, let's talk about Xena, shall we?"

Borias smirked, "yes, let's talk about Xena." Xena shot him a look and he sipped the wine generously, keeping his eyes on her.

The sultan began, "Xena has been a formidable foe of yours for years, Xayida and mine too. She has an abundance of gunpowder that has been stolen from me. That powder makes her the most powerful person in this world. She could destroy empires with it. I allied with you because I knew that you are not on good terms with your sister, but I understand you know her strategies in war since you two fought together for quite some time, is that right?"

Xena smiled nervously, "why yes, I used to be friends with my sister until she betrayed my trust," she eyed Borias again. "But why would you say that she has stolen gunpowder from you? It was from my understanding...that you let her have it."

"No she stole it," Borias interrupted and Xena frowned.

Mehmet cleared his throat, "I never allowed Xena to have my gunpowder. She must have convinced my men that she could take it. She's quite cunning." He sipped on his wine.

Xena laughed lowly, "she is a very smart woman, I would know. Perhaps you should be careful who you employ in your army, your majesty," she lifted her eyebrow, taking a jab at the sultan.

"Are you doubting my choices in my pick of soldiers, your highness?" Mehmet frowned and Xena shook her head.

"No, I'm just saying that you might have a few snakes in your garden," she smiled and Borias scoffed, sipping the coffee silently. "Something to say?" she frowned towards him.

Borias shook his head, "no I just think it's funny that you are talking about snakes when your sister is one herself," he was now speaking directly to Xena herself and her frown deepened.

"You obviously agree that my sister is a snake then?" Xena said with malice in her voice.

"No, you are," Borias frowned and Xena stood up and he followed suit.

Mehmet frowned, "I sense some tension with you two," he chuckled, enjoying this. Gabrielle sighed and rubbed her forehead seeing Xena inches away from Borias' face.

"Excuse me," Xena picked up her dress and the guards opened the door and she stormed out. Gabrielle sat opposite of the sultan, uncertain if she should follow Xena or not.

"Well then, that was interesting," Mehmet sipped his wine and leaned back on some large pillows.

Borias adjusted his vest and cleared his throat, "I'll be right back," he grumbled and walked out. Now it was just Gabrielle and Mehmet.

"This never happens," the sultan smiled at the blonde.

Gabrielle grinned nervously, nodding her head then sipped some tea to calm her nerves.

Xena marched down the long hallway and Borias finally spotted her and quickened his pace. "Xena!" he hissed and she only walked faster. "Stop!" he whispered in a harsh voice. "Xena!" he said and she finally stopped.

She turned to him and he finally caught up to her. "What are you doing?" he whispered.

"No, what are you doing?!" she snapped back and he looked around to see other people watching. He grabbed her arm and lead them to a smaller hallway with less eyes. She snatched her arm away from him.

"The caliph thinks that you're Xayida! What is going on here?" he kept his voice low, cautious of the prying eyes and ears around them.

Xena folded her arms, "it's none of your business."

"You may be able to fool the sultan, but you can't fool me," he touched her arm and she slapped his hand away from her.

"You're allies with the Ottomans?! How could you do that? You hate them!" she hissed and looked to see a few servants pass by them and they both lowered their gazes and remained quiet for a few moments.

He sighed, "it's not what you think," he looked around to make sure nobody was listening.

"You want to attack me? My empire? Why would you do that?!" she hit his chest and he groaned.

"I was forced to ally with the Ottomans so my own kingdom wouldn't be taken over," he whispered and he saw her eyes widen. "Where is Xayida? Did you kill her?"

Xena hit him again, "no I didn't! not yet..." she mumbled.

"Stop hitting me," he hissed and she pursed her lips, folding her arms, averting her gaze elsewhere. "Why are you disguised as her?"

"I can't tell you," she lifted her chin and he grabbed her cheeks and she frowned.

He frowned at her, "if you tell me, we could be friends, Xena, like we used to be."

She snatched her face away from his hold and rubbed her jaw. "Friends?" she smirked, "that's real cute, Borias. We stopped talking to each other after..." then it finally hit her. He didn't know about their son still being alive and she wasn't even sure it would be a good idea to tell him, especially right now. She shook her head and sighed heavily, "I just need to do this and you better not ruin it for me." She began walking off and he grabbed her arm, pulling her back.

"Just tell me what's going on, Xena. I can probably help you," he smiled at her and she only frowned.

She was starting to feel like Xayida now, keeping secrets from people. She was never a person to keep secrets, especially from Borias since they had known each other for awhile and well too. "I can't," she shook her head, "not right now," she whispered and she left the small hallway to join the sultan and Gabrielle again.

He stood in the hallway, confused at Xena's behavior but he was more concerned that she was posing as her sister, which was never good. He began to wonder if Xayida and her planned this all along. Xayida wasn't dead, so she must have known about this exchange, which perplexed him even more, especially since they hated each other so much as he remembered.

Xena returned to the room and sat down next Gabrielle. Mehmet smiled at her then saw Borias come in not long after her. Gabrielle nudged her, "is everything okay?" she whispered. Xena nodded, though she remained doubtful.

Borias sat down next to the sultan and kept looking at Xena, wondering what her game was. The sultan smiled, "I hope you two settled whatever was on your minds..."

"We did," Borias said and Xena lowered her eyes. "The Queen of Greece is a sensitive subject for..both of us," Xena lifted her eyes and stared at him blankly.

"Isn't it for us all?" Mehmet chuckled and downed the rest of his wine. He sighed and leaned forward, "so, I have a plan already in action for Greece," he said and that interested the party before him. "I have men already in Athens and when the full moon rises in the next few hours, they're going to blow up the east wing of Xena's Athenian castle," he smiled, quite satisfied with his plan.

Xena's eyes widened, thinking of her sister in Athens right now and she would have no idea. If that would have been her in Xayida's place, she would have no idea about this plan and be completely off guard. Gabrielle tried not to let her expression show, but it was hard not to. "Are you sure that is a good idea? That will only anger the queen..." she offered some advice.

The sultan nodded, "I know, it's perfect," he laughed, "imagine the look on her face! All hell will break loose in Athens. She won't be expecting it!"

Borias looked at Xena and saw she was quite shocked to hear this news. It was probably a good thing that she wasn't in Athens after all.


It was evening and she had arrived in Athens early in the afternoon after quite a long ride there. Xayida changed into a gown and looked around at her sister's room. She touched the bed and sighed, sitting on it carefully as if it were lava. She didn't feel right being in this place –it just wasn't right. She crawled on the bed and got under the covers, leaning against the headboard of the large bed. It was so lonely in this large palace and not to mention, it wasn't her style.

She picked up a handheld mirror on the bedside table and looked at her reflection. She touched her face then her straight hair and fringe covering her eyebrows. Sighing she threw the mirror on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "Oh Xena, you like to torture me, don't you?" she whispered to herself and laid down on her side, unable to sleep. "I guess I deserve it," she smiled sadly and turned over on her other side, staring at the window. "I'm talking to myself..." she frowned and groaned, rubbing her face out of frustration.

An hour or so later she closed her eyes and was finally able to relax, though it was hard being in her sister's bed, in her house and her city. This entire plan better work, she told herself before she finally fell asleep.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion and Xayida woke up and saw the entire sky was red. She jumped out of bed and looked out the window to see this side of the palace on fire and men below, invading the inside of the castle. She gasped and looked through her sister's belongings, hoping to find a sword or some kind of weapon.

She rummaged through the chest and found a gun. "Of course," she muttered and cocked the gun back and ran out of the room. Immediately she covered her mouth and saw the entire hall was engulfed in flames.

Running to the other side of the hallway she saw it was a dead end. "Fantastic!" she groaned and opened the window as the smoke began to fill her lungs. She coughed and looked down to see it was too high of a jump to survive. She stepped out of the window onto a ledge and clung onto the wall, looking down she tried not to think of the height. The cold wind blew against her body and she shivered, inching across the wall as slowly as possible. She looked to her right and saw a window and told herself, just a few more steps and she'd be safe. Although, she had no idea where the window would lead her to.

Finally reaching the window she smashed it with the butt stock of the gun and opened the window from the locked hinge on the other side. Jumping in she saw it lead to a separate hallway in the massive palace. "Xena, why do you have such a big castle..." she mumbled to herself and took off running down the unknown hallway.

The guards ran and were pouring water on the drapes. Xayida saw that this end was up in flames as well, but not as badly as the other side. They saw her and immediately felt thankful. "Your majesty! We thought something happened to you!"

Xayida frowned, "I'm fine," she waved the smoke out of her face as soon as they put out the small fire. "Who did this?" she asked.

"The Ottomans, my queen!" one of the soldiers said.

She nodded and looked out the window and saw most of the Ottomans retreating. "Where are they going?" she narrowed her eyes trying to see in the dark, but it was difficult. "I want them followed!" the men nodded then began running off, "and prepare a horse for me," she added.

The men stopped and turned to her, flabbergasted at her request, "but your highness, it's too dangerous. Something might –"

"I said...I want a horse!" she yelled and they nodded, running off as fast as they could. She turned and looked out the window once more and frowned deeply, now wondering if Xena was doing alright in the caliph's hands at this very moment. "Bastard," she hissed, speaking of the sultan.

Chapter Text

AN: congratulations everyone, I have a lot more action in this lol and I didn't forget about this story, just needed some time to think of my plan...good luck and thanks for reading this odd tale ;)

Chapter Twenty

Xayida rode through the snowy plains on the outskirts of Athens, following the Ottoman soldiers' tracks easily. They had gunpowder and fancy explosions but they were not very good at getting rid of their tracks. She had learned a long time ago to learn how to trace people through Xena's lessons of course. She and Xena's men followed her as the snow began falling more heavily on the ground, obstructing their view. Xayida frowned and halted her horse, overlooking the snowy land.

Squinting her eyes, she pulled the hood over her head and the wind picked up some. She had lost the horse tracks awhile back because of the continuous snow falling to ground, covering all the evidence. As she looked out into the snow she knew that these Ottomans must have a camp somewhere, there was no way they traveled all the way across the ocean and continued on horseback nonstop. There had to be a place where they stayed for the time being. Athens was not her homeland and she was not very familiar with these mountains, plains or desert outskirts. Now she was beginning to think this plan was indeed very stupid and she had to thank her elder sister for that.

"Which way do we go now, your majesty?" one of the soldiers asked.

Xayida frowned and pulled on the reins of her horse and trotted forward. She was becoming frustrated not knowing this area as well as she should. If Xena were here, she probably would have caught them already.

"I am not sure," she answered barely above a whisper. She turned to see all the soldiers glance over and give her confused facial expressions. Oh yes, Xena, what a brilliant idea it was to switch places.

Remaining silent for a few moments she sighed heavily and trotted over to the men. "I want everyone to split up to find the Ottomans. I know they have not gotten very far." She said and they immediately split off into four different directions.

Xayida returned to the palace and ripped the hood off her head, growling out of frustration. She almost felt bad for her sister. If Xena would have been instead of her, things would probably be different. Obviously, she had underestimated the Sultan and his agenda to get rid of her sister. She didn't even think that Xena would have seen this one coming even though she was always one step ahead of everyone, this was an ambush and it worked. She felt disappointed in herself, though she was thrown into a palace that wasn't hers, a city that was not hers and people believed she was really Xena. Well, she had come to the conclusion that Xena was a much better queen and strategist than she could ever be.


Mehmet allowed Xena and Gabrielle to stay in a separate wing made especially for guests inside the palace. He treated them well, though he had no idea that a snake lay in his own backyard. Xena came into the bedroom and ripped off the circlet around her head and threw it at the wall. Gabrielle closed the door quietly behind her and then Xena ruffled her bangs and then kicked down a table with her heel.

Gabrielle was glued to the door and watched Xena have basically a small tantrum. Her eyes widened and she cautiously slithered along the wall, far away from her. "Xena...are you okay..." she asked hesitantly.

Xena groaned and took off her high heeled shoes and threw them into the fireplace. Gabrielle gasped and she carefully sat down in a chair. Xena then halted, staring at the shoes burn in the fire slowly, watching the pearls melt and the leather curl in on itself.

"That bastard has probably attacked my palace already!" Xena growled and folded her arms, tapping her fingers against her long sleeves. "And my sister is there..." she sighed.

Gabrielle lowered her eyes, "she'll be alright. She knows what to do when those kind of things happen," she tried to offer some sympathy but Xena was too angry to listen to her. She watched the Greek queen begin to pace back and forth in front of the roaring fire.

"I should have seen something like this coming," Xena rubbed her chin as she continued to make a hole in the marble flooring. She shook her head, thinking of all the consequences. "Mehmet wants to get rid of me, that much is obvious, but why attack me first?" she couldn't make any sense of it.

Gabrielle crossed one leg over the other, "well, maybe he is the one who is underestimating you."

"But why attack me first? He should have attacked Constantine first, he is closer. Now that Xayida is there, she won't lead an attack against Mehmet because I am not there," she groaned and sat down in a chair, crossing her ankle over the other, stretching her legs out. "This does not make any sense to attack an enemy that is thousands of miles away."

"Maybe he knows that you would retaliate and he has many troops here in Constantinople and at the coast of Turkey too. He is ready for you," Gabrielle said and Xena lifted an eyebrow, staring at her blankly. She continued nervously, "well, maybe he wants to attack Constantine last...because he know you will be harder to defeat," she suggested.

Xena shook her head, "no Gabrielle, that's not it. He knows that I will not attack head first..." she bit her bottom lip, thinking about all the possibilities until a smile came to her lips. "Or maybe...he does know what I will do to him so he seeks to wipe me out first."

Gabrielle nodded, thinking that might be a good strategy but it was still a poor one. Frowning she asked, "but doesn't that mean that he has technically declared war on Greece?"

The smile on Xena's lips grew and she leaned forward grabbing Gabrielle's knee firmly, "yes...yes indeed he has and since I am here as Xayida...he has no idea that I will know all of his plans," her eyes narrowed as she thought of all the ways she could obliterate the Sultan through proxy. "I need to write my sister a letter and tell her everything that Mehmet is planning to do." She got up and began searching for some paper to write on.

Gabrielle stood up and saw some paper sitting on a desk, she walked over and grabbed the stack of papers then searched for a quill. "I found some," she smiled and Xena turned, hastily walking towards her and almost snatched the paper from her hands until Gabrielle clung the papers to her chest. "I'll write the letter for you," she smirked.

"You don't think I can write a letter, Gabrielle?" Xena teased.

"No, I'm just better at it," the blonde chuckled and sat down, dipping the quill in the ink. "Go on, tell me what you want me to say and I'll write it for you," she winked up at the raven haired queen. Xena smiled and sat down beside her.

Borias sat in the Caliph's company in his private quarters, talking of war plans for the last two hours and he was not interested in attacking Xena's capital. He also was extremely distracted and couldn't stop thinking why Xena was here in her little sister's place and he had to wonder where Xayida was anyway. As the Caliph kept talking, Borias occasionally zoned out and didn't hear a word he said, casually turning the wine glass on the table, lost in his own thoughts.

Mehmet leaned back in his chair, staring at the Wallachian prince, smiling, he saw he was not listening. "Distracted, Borias?" he asked.

He lifted his eyes and smiled nervously, "I am just thinking, I apologize."

The Sultan nodded and sipped his wine, "you seem to know the Macedonian queen very well," he wriggled his eyebrows and Borias cleared his throat, feeling awkward and adjusted in his chair several times. "You two used to be an item?" he asked curiously.

Borias laughed, "no," he shook his head. "Pardon me for saying this, but Xayida is a very tricky woman, your majesty. You should be wary of her," he warned.

"Oh is that so?" Mehmet smiled. "And so you must know that her sister, Xena, is a tricky woman as well? Xayida has agreed to ally with me so obviously she doesn't think very highly of her own sister!" he chuckled and grabbed some marzipan, chewing on small pieces slowly.

Borias nodded, though this sultan was a fool, he had no idea that Xayida was not Xayida, in fact she was Xena. He was already being fooled and with Xena here, she knew about the attack and all of his plans. Very sneaky, Xena. He did not expect anything less from her, though he wondered why though? Why was she here? She obviously had something else planned out beforehand.

"Xena is very good at wiping out people she does not like," Borias tapped his fingers on the wine glass. He wasn't going to give away Xena's position, for one, he didn't know her reasoning and two, he wanted to find out for himself. "She has spies everywhere," he lifted his eyebrow and took a big swig of the wine.

Gabrielle finished writing the letter and once it was to Xena's satisfaction, she rolled it up and tied a ribbon around it. "How are you going to get this to Xayida?" she had been wondering this the entire time she was writing.

Xena tapped the scroll against her cheek and smiled, "Mehmet has a falcon room, I will find the room and send it myself," she grabbed her cloak and draped it overself.

Gabrielle stood, "do you want me to come with you?"

"No, you stay here and if someone comes, tell them I was sent by the Caliph," she pulled the hood over her head and tucked the letter in her pocket before exiting the room.

She tread down the long dark hallway and it was empty in this wing, not even the servants were out and about. She would have expected at least some people were still awake, after all, the night was young and she knew the Ottoman Turks to be nightowls so to speak. She had a map layout of the entire palace and memorized it during the journey over here, so she had plenty of time to find the falconry room.

Rounding a corner she frowned, looking at the many hallways the palace split off into. Glancing around, she tried to remember how in the world she came in and knew the falcon room had to be on the third floor, not the first. But...she had to find the stairs and of course, it wouldn't be an obvious place for the safety of the Sultan and his falconer.

Walking slowly down the long hallway she peered into several smaller narrower hallways and kept treading forward, hoping this would lead her to the south hall that was close to the east wing. She was almost certain that the falconry room was in the east wing if she had the map correct.

Turning to her left she walked through the maze of halls and suddenly a hand came to her mouth and she was dragged into a separate hallway. She bit her kidnapper's hand then he ripped off her hood, exposing her face. He groaned and pulled his hood off his face and her eyes widened.

"For the love of all gods, Borias!" she hit his chest and he winced.

He smiled at her seeing her hair back to normal as it should be. "Now you are looking more like yourself," he teased and she peered out from the corner, making sure nobody was around then spun around and clocked him in the jaw. He gasped and rubbed his jaw. "Xena!"

"Just what did you think you were doing?!" she hissed, now wary if someone might be following them, her heart raced and was now nervous.

He frowned at her and placed his hand on her shoulder firmly, "what are you doing sneaking around like that?"

She snarled, slapping his hand away, "why are you following me?" she smiled deviously.

He rolled his eyes and folded his arms, "because you are up to no good, Xena. I know you."

She scoffed, "oh, you know me?" she pointed to herself, "you keep telling yourself that Borias," she began to leave the hallway and he yanked her back, pulling her arm. She huffed, "Borias! This does not concern you!" she hissed, snatching her arm away.

"What are you doing here in Xayida's place?" he asked for the third time.

She folded her arms, "why would I tell you that? Aren't you..." she traced her finger along his neck, "my enemy now?" she pouted and he frowned, glaring into her eyes. She smiled, "what happened to all that talk of killing off the Ottomans and here you of their allies!" she laughed, "you are walking into a trap."

He smirked, "I think you're the one who's walking into a trap, Xena. Mehmet has already attacked your fortress in Athens, you are," he folded his arms and then his eyes widened. Xena lifted her eyebrow curiously. "She's in Athens, isn't she?" it just donned on him and she averted her eyes elsewhere, avoiding his piercing gaze. "Oh my god, Xena!" he ran his hand over his face, letting out a huge sigh.

"Congratulations, you found me out," she grumbled.

He stood, shaking his head. "Very clever, Xena," he smiled, scoffing at his former lover. She was always one step ahead, though this time, she was not ahead, she was behind because Mehmet already attacked her and her sister was there to take the brunt of it all.

"you tell anyone and I will –" she was interrupted by a loud explosion outside and both their heads turned to the open windows inside the palace. Together they ran to the windows and saw blazing comets falling from the sky onto the city of Constantinople.

Borias' eyes widened and Xena looked up at the sky, sticking her head out the window. "Someone is using catapults?" he asked, very confused at what was going on.

Xena frowned and saw several more comets come crashing down inside the city walls, destroying civilian homes and wiping out people. "No..." she whispered, "something else..." she said and her eyes grew as she saw a comet coming right for them. She grabbed Borias' hand and ran down the maze of hallways together.

He looked back and then the comet hit inside of the palace and both of them fell to the floor and Xena fell on top of him. The palace walls crumbled around them and burst into flames, burning the curtains and she coughed then opened her eyes, seeing herself on top of Borias. "Oh god," she grumbled and rolled off of his body and the foundation underneath them began shaking. Xena's eyes widened and she was on her knees and hands, looking beneath her.

He scooted back and immediately stood up. Xena got off her knees and the floor beneath her collapsed and she gasped, falling from the second floor and Borias grabbed her arm. She looked down and saw the first floor at least fifty feet beneath her, as her legs dangled in midair.

Borias looked up above him and saw the ceiling beginning to crack above them. "Give me your other hand!" he yelled and she reached for his hand and he gripped her wrist firmly. He stood up and began slowly pulling her up and the weight of her large dress definitely was not helping. Straining he kept pulling her arms and Xena looked down and saw the letter from her pocket fall down to the first floor.

"No!" she cried out and Borias pulled her up and grabbed her waist, lifting her further. He breathed heavily and stood up, extending his hand.

"We need to leave!" he demanded, now seeing rumble falling from above. "Xena!" he hissed.

She groaned and took his hand and ran down the hallway. "I dropped something important back there!" she yelled as they continued to run down the hall and he glared at her.

"Forget about it, Xena," he said and she took off running in a different direction and he growled.

"Xena!" he sighed and then saw a bunch of Mehmet's men were panicking, obviously had no idea what was going. Well, that makes two of us, he thought and watched Xena disappear around a corner. He shook his head and decided not to follow her.

Xena ran into the room and saw Gabrielle glancing out the window, curious as to what was going on. "Gabrielle!" she announced and the blonde turned to see Xena covered in soot and her dress ruined.

"What in Hades happened to you?!" her eyes widened, "and what is going on out there?"

Xena shook her head, "I dropped the letter on the first floor. I need to get it before someone picks it up," she rummaged through her belongings and found her sword and smiled. "And you're coming with me," she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and the Amazon queen quickly picked up the circlet that Xena threw earlier.

"Wait!" Gabrielle yanked her arm away and Xena sighed heavily. She smiled and brushed Xena's bangs away and set the circlet on her head. "Okay, you're ready!" she said and Xena smiled, then took hold of her hand once more and the two ran out of the room together.

St. Peter's Basilica, Rome –earlier

Solan sat in the dark room, tinkering with something he had been working on for days now with the wood from the bed. He heard the door open and saw a cluster of cardinals wearing dark robes instead of their crimson ones. They came towards him and he stood up as soon as he saw one of the cardinals holding a rope loosely in his hands.

"Grab him," cardinal Peter demanded and the other two cardinals grabbed the boy's arms and Solan breathed heavily, staring into the dark hoods. His eyes danced back and forth, afraid what was going to happen now. So far, everything had been very slow here and he wasn't treated badly

"Where are you taking me?!" Solan cried out and a bag was thrown over his head. His breathing hastened and he couldn't see a thing. Cardinal Peter tied the rope around Solan's wrists as he tried to resist and fight back. "What's going on?!"

Cardinal Peter frowned and pushed the boy forward, "walk," he instructed and the other two cardinals held onto Solan's arms guiding him through his blind path. The ten year old walked steadily, unsure where he was going and why.

Inside the center of the cathedral the cardinals lifted up Solan and placed him on a table and untied his wrists. Solan breathed harder and harder, once he felt himself being untied he tried to escape but was forcefully pushed down on the table. A cardinal on each side of him tied down his arms to the table then his ankles as well.

Ares smiled walking over to the boy and ripped off the black bag from Solan's head. The boy's big blue eyes blinked and widened seeing Ares standing over him. "Good morning, Solan, how are you today?" he teased.

Solan's eyes glanced around and saw paintings of angels fighting demons painted on the ceiling. He yanked his arms and bent his legs, trying his best to get free. Ares leaned down over the boy and put his finger to his mouth, "don't struggle, Solan. It will be easier if you just cooperate."

The boy's breathing slowed down as he kept gawking up at Ares. "What are going to do? Why am I here?"

The War God smiled and rest his elbows on the table close to Solan's face. "Oh, well..." he chuckled lowly, "your mother has been very naughty," he said playfully. Solan frowned, not entirely sure what he was talking about. "She's not playing by the rules you see. I asked her to be my friend and she said no," he sighed and stood up, pacing around the table slowly. Solan's eyes followed the war god as he circled around him.

"Will you hurt her?" he asked, afraid to know the answer.

Ares shook his head, "no, I am not going to hurt her," he smiled and stared down at the frightened boy. "Do you know what a sacrifice is?" he asked.

Solan's eyes widened, "sacrifice?"

"Right! You help me, and you get your mother, deal?" he raised an eyebrow with a sneaky grin and Solan nodded his head slowly, gazing up at the war god. He began backing away and a swarm of cardinals wearing dark cloaks surrounded the table.

Solan's eyes danced around, staring at all the hooded men around him. His heart began to race and then the cardinals began chanting a Latin hymn softly. Solan closed his eyes, trying to block out the chanting, though it seemed to become louder and louder the more he tried to block it out.

"A te disfrenarsi, Il verso ardito, Te invoco O Satana, Re del convito. Tu spiri, O Satana, nel virso mio, se dal sen rompeni, sfidando il dio."

The chanting continued and the volume only increased. The cardinals grabbed onto Solan's arms and forced his eye to open. Solan gasped and looked at the dark hoods surrounding him. Cardinal Peter withdrew a dagger from his cloak and Solan shook his head and tried to wiggle his way out but a cardinal put a hand over his mouth, muffling his screams. Cardinal Peter cut Solan's palm and the boy's eyes widened, his screams muffled. The blood poured down onto the ground and soaked into the cracks of the floor.

The floor began shaking and the candlesticks fell to the floor, lighting the wooden pews on fire. Solan yelled out and a stinging pain coursed through his body. He clenched his fist and blood dripped down his arm, staining his palm. His eyes widened and wriggled his arms and legs in thriving pain.

Suddenly he stopped moving and his eyes closed, slowly unclenching his fist. The cardinals took a step back and watched the boy closely.

"Is he alive?" Cardinal Peter asked, leaning forward and placed his hand on the boy's chest to see if he was still breathing. Then, Solan ripped his arm out of the ropes and grabbed the cardinal's arm firmly. Peter's eyes grew and felt the boy's grip tighten so hard that he heard his bones cracking and twisting. He cried out in agony and Solan released his arm then yanked his other tied arm out from the hold.

Solan opened his eyes, blinking up at the ceiling. The other cardinals stood around him and saw both of his eyes were black as kohl. He rose up slowly and stared at the cardinals as they began slowly backing away from the blonde boy. He untied the ropes around his ankles and swung his legs over the side of the table. The cardinals gasped as they were gawking at him. Solan's head wandered around staring at the burning cathedral and frowned at Cardinal Peter, narrowing his darkened eyes.

Cardinal Peter was thrown across the room into a wall and the other cardinals' mouths gaped then slowly turned to the boy. Solan blinked at all the men and smiled at them all.


Xayida sat in her sister's throne room, sitting on the throne with her leg draped over the armrest nonchalantly twirling her sword with her wrist. She had been waiting for hours to hear back from Xena's men on the Ottomans but so far there had not been any news and it was super frustrating and causing her anxiety the longer she waited.

She groaned, throwing her head back against the back of the chair, gawking at the marble ceiling. The fire was now put out on the west wing of the palace. Though, she was sure that she wouldn't be able to sleep in that wing now and really wished that Xena was here. This would be handled so differently and probably would have found those Ottomans by now.

"Enjoying your sister's lifestyle, Xayida?" a voice appeared and Xayida sat up, looking at the strange man in the throne chamber.

"Who are you?" Xayida stood up, pointing her blade at him and he simply smiled at her. "How do you know my name?"

Ares shrugged his shoulder, "let's just say, you remind me of someone," he teased and Xayida kept pointing the blade at him and he walked forward and the blade was pushed through his body without effort. Her eyes widened and he grabbed the sword and pulled it out of his chest and threw it aside. "You won't be needing that."

"Ares?" she guessed and he nodded. "What are you doing here? Why are you here? Why are you stalking my sister?" she kept on and on and Ares covered her mouth with his hand and her eyes grew in shock.

"You talk a lot," he mused and then touched her silky long dark hair, "you do look a lot like her, you know," he smiled and traced his finger along her cheek, " aren't her, but it's a good look for you!" he grinned and she frowned, slapping his hand away from her face. "What is it with you two hitting people? It's not very nice," he winked and she took a step backward.

"I don't want anything to do with you and you shouldn't even exist!" Xayida frowned, folding her arms.

Ares nodded, "I knew you would say that. Listen, I have a proposition for you and I think you might find it very interesting," he extended his hand and she looked at his hand, raising her eyebrow. "Oh, come now," he grabbed her hand and pulled her from the room.

They appeared in a dark room, definitely not in Xena's palace. Xayida's eyes wandered around in the dark room of nothingness. "What is this..." she mumbled and he whistled to her and her head snapped around.

He waved his hand and her eyes squinted, looking at a large mirror, only seeing a reflection of herself, which was disturbing to say the least because she looked like Xena and not like herself. Suddenly, her reflection disappeared and an image of the cathedral in Rome appeared. The cathedral was burning and there were men dressed in black cloaks surrounding a boy.

She walked forward and looked closely and realized the boy was Solan. Her eyes widened, "you do have him!" she frowned and he grabbed her hand before she could hit him.

"No hitting," he frowned and she clenched her teeth then snatched her arm away.

She looked back and saw Solan's eyes weren't the pretty blue as she remembered, but they were black. "What have you done to him?!" she nervously scratched her arm and Ares smirked.

The war god circled around and placed his hand on Xayida's shoulder, "I am using him to unleash chaos into the world, which I'm sure your sister will see soon in Constantinople. Because...that's where she is, right?" he whispered in her ear and she kept staring at Solan. He was not a sweet boy in her eyes anymore. He was evil, his eyes were evil, everything about him was not the same. "Listen, I'll make a deal with you..." he said and Xayida turned around, staring into his dark eyes. "I'll release him if you...take his place," he touched her cheek and her eyes widened in fear.

"But...what about Xena...that's her son," she finally admitted out loud to someone else besides her sister and she felt somewhat relieved, but not enough. He was trapped there, alone, being used.

Ares grinned, "oh yes that..." he folded his arms, pursing his lips. "She can have him if and only if, you take his place." Xayida lowered her head and he lifted her chin, staring into her watery eyes. "Deal?" he raised his eyebrows with a devious grin on his lips.

Chapter Text

AN: greetings! I know there has been something wrong with FF lately, so I guess we're still waiting for the glitches to be fixed. Anyway, enjoy this piece. #teamXayida lol.

Chapter Twenty One

"Forgive me, I'm so sorry."

Xayida and Ares were now transported back into Xena's palace in Athens. She glanced around at the throne and tapestries on the wall. Her hands roamed over her body to make sure she was in once piece. Turning around she saw the dark haired god smugly grinning at her and she frowned deeply, glaring.

She marched up to him and pointed her finger in his face, "I want to see Solan," she demanded and Ares chuckled.

"So does that mean you're taking me up on my offer?" he raised an eyebrow and she slowly lowered her finger, contemplating everything in just a matter of seconds.

She didn't want Solan to suffer for something as evil was this. Using a young boy as a sacrifice to bring true evil into the world and cause chaos everywhere, what disgusting and not to mention Satanic and ancient. She didn't think that people still practiced these things in this era, but apparently so. Also, the god of war? Ares? Wasn't he from the ancient Greco-Roman times? Those gods were not real, only myths, yet here he was standing before her. Xayida began wondering if this god was in fact disguises himself and he was Lucifer in the flesh. Why else would he be able to convince a bunch of corrupt cardinals to do his biddings? And using a boy as a sacrifice...very barbaric.

Lifting her eyes, staring into Ares' brown pupils she folded her arms, sighing heavily. "If I do agree to take his place, you will guarantee his safety back to Xena?" she asked.

Ares chortled, "I can't guarantee anything, your highness," he teased. "What a move you did, huh? Stealing your sister's child to what was it...'protect her'?" he laughed aloud and she averted her eyes, feeling ashamed of herself. He sighed and touched her cheek, "you are a beautiful woman, Xayida. You allowed your jealousy to encompass you. You've been jealous of Xena for a long time, haven't you?" her silence was just the answer he needed. She had no need to reply and he grinned deviously. "She's a special woman," he grazed his finger along her soft cheek then added, "but so are you..." he whispered and leaned in closer to her lips.

Xayida felt herself become extremely distracted and she leaned in further to kiss him then came to her senses. She shook her head and took a step back, breathing heavily. "I don't need more men bewitching me," she said softly and began pacing around back and forth.

The war god smirked and circled around the Macedonian queen. "You are a great queen Xayida, almost as great as Xena," he said and figured that took a stab in the woman's heart hearing that out loud.

"My sister has always been a great leader. I will not deny that," she said firmly.

He nodded and then squeezed her shoulders. "But doesn't it just...get you riled up listening to other people talk about how great and wonderful your older sister is?" he hissed in her ear and she frowned, narrowing her eyes.

She turned and pushed him away from her, "I know what you're doing," she smiled, "you're trying to anger me, well it's not going to work because I am already angry and you can't possibly make it worse!" she groaned and wrapped her arms around her. "I want to see Solan."

Ares folded his arms, "alright, Xayida. You can see Solan," he grabbed her hand and disappeared to Rome with her.

Xena and Gabrielle ran down to the first floor where the ceiling had collapsed earlier. Gabrielle saw the pile of debris and rubble. What a mess, she thought. "Xena, I don't think we're going to be able to find that letter."

Xena kicked some of the stone out of the way and looked up at the gaping hole from the second floor. She sighed, "yes...we have a problem. I can't just leave it here. Somebody will find it and then we're going to get caught!" she groaned and picked up one of the stone pieces and tossed it aside. Gabrielle sighed and helped her move the larger pieces of stone. Xena smiled at her, silently thanking her.

She got down on her knees and began digging through the debris hastily. Coughing from the dust, she saw some paper sticking out from underneath a very large stone. "I found it!" she grinned and Gabrielle smiled, hoping that she was able to get the letter in time before someone saw them digging in this mess.

The Amazon looked out the window and saw comets falling from the sky on various other parts of the city. "Um Xena, you are aware of the comets right?"

Xena grunted and sat down leaning against a column, pushing the stone with her shoes as hard as she could. "I'm a little busy, Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle frowned, not helping Xena, completely enamored in the sight before her eyes. She had never seen something like this before. As she stayed close to the window she then saw a bird fly towards her and she gasped, ducking her head and the bird flew directly into the wall. Xena snapped her head around and saw blood splattered all over the wall and the bird slid down the stone. "Oh gods..." Gabrielle covered her mouth. "This is not good, Xena. We need to get out of here!"

"Not..." Xena grunted and pushed the stone further away from her, " letter!" she moaned and finally moved the stone out of the way and smiled. She reached forward and grabbed the letter, exhaling heavily, finally something going the way she wanted, sort of. She tucked the paper in her pocket and grabbed Gabrielle's hand. "Let's go!" the blonde nearly tripped as she ran alongside her.

They ran down the hallway then saw the Sultan, Mehmet, speaking with Borias and a few of his Ottoman soldiers. Xena skid to a stop, "shit," she muttered and Gabrielle's eyes widened as the Sultan looked their way. Xena nervously smiled and Borias folded his arms, glaring at her.

Mehmet smiled and sauntered over, "'re in a hurry..." he looked to the blonde and raised an eyebrow. "With your friend," he observed.

Xena's eyes looked from Mehmet then to Borias. "I got lost," she grinned nervously and the Sultan smirked at her, not entirely believing her. " seen what's going on outside? It's chaotic out there!"

He nodded, "indeed it is. I think everything is going according to plan."

Xena raised her eyebrow then she and Gabrielle shared a glance with one another. She let go of her hand and brushed some of the dust off of her already ruined dress. "What do you mean by that?" she asked curiously.

The Sultan walked back to his men and Borias. "Yes, I have been in contact with a Jinn and he has told me this would happen," he said and his men stared at him as if he were insane. Borias frowned and looked to Xena.

Gabrielle tugged on the Greek queen's arm, "what is going on here?" she whispered.

"I don't know," Xena hissed and shrugged her arm off. She approached the Sultan, "pardon me for my ignorance," she put on a fake smile, "but what is a Jinn?"

Mehmet chuckled, "it is like an angel, but they are humans like us. Some are evil and some are good. They walk on the earth with us all the time and we use them as guides. I'm sure you have something similar in your religion?"

Xena blinked and almost forgot that Xayida had gone more of the religious route while she remained neutral. She saw Borias hiding a smile and she turned back to the caliph. "I have no doubt we have something like that," she grinned tightly, clenching her teeth. Gabrielle sighed, shaking her head, thinking this was turning out to be such a confusing and not to mention disastrous trip. "So...what does this Jinn exactly tell you?" she folded her hands behind her back and wagged her fingers, pointing to the left side of the hallway.

Gabrielle frowned, seeing Xena's hand signal and saw her slowly slip the letter out of her pocket. Her eyes widened and she casually walked up to stand beside her and snatch the letter from her and slip it in her sleeve sneakily.

As the caliph kept talking Gabrielle slipped away, sure that she would not be noticed and she walked briskly down the hall as Xena stood, listening to Mehmet's jargon. Xena kept bobbing her head listening to this idiocy. "And this Jinn says that he is relaying these messages from God?" she asked skeptically, though tried to remain a neutral front.

Mehmet nodded, "yes. He says that as long as I follow his words from God himself, that my empire will thrive over the Church in Rome and Constantinople." Xena raised her eyebrows, trying to figure all of this out. Either this man was a crazy person, or he was actually talking to someone as he didn't seem too concerned about his entire half of the city being engulfed in flames. She smiled apprehensively and desperately needed to get away to help Gabrielle find the falcon room before it was too late. She saw Borias leave the area and her eyes widened. He was heading in the same direction as Gabrielle was.

Gabrielle returned to the bedroom and tucked the letter into her pocket. She began pacing the room. "Okay Gabrielle, what do I do? Wait for Xena to come back?" she groaned and was feeling incredibly anxious about this whole situation. She didn't know if this plan was going to work or not.

The door opened and she swiftly turned around and saw Borias enter. She folded her arms and frowned, "what are you doing in here?" she asked.

He smirked, "relax," he closed the door. "What is Xena planning?" he asked and saw her eyes widened. "I know everything," he folded his arms, "tell me what she's doing."

The Amazon queen wagged her head, "no way. Xena will kill me if I told you."

Borias rolled his eyes, not in the mood for this at all. "I know Xayida is in Athens right now," he saw yet another shocked expression on her face and he chuckled. "I know Xena very well. Tell me," he narrowed his eyes and she slapped her forehead, frustrated.

Gabrielle pulled out the letter from her pocket and thought instantly that Xena was definitely going to be very upset about this, but Borias already knew everything and she was sure that Xena was the one who told him since the Sultan was too blind and stupid to see what exactly he was getting into. He stepped forward and she snatched the letter from him. "Xena wants this sent to her sister immediately."

He scoffed, "now I know why she was sneaking around," he muttered.

She frowned, "what?"

"Nothing. What is the letter for?" he asked, forgetting what he mentioned.

She sighed, "it's a letter explaining what Mehmet is planning to do. She was trying to find the falcon room, but then..." she looked outside and saw fire filling the dark skies. "That happened."

He nodded and rubbed his goatee, "I know where the room is," he said and Gabrielle lifted her eyebrows. "I can help."

Gabrielle laughed nervously, "and why would you want to help Xena?" she knew that Xena had probably not told him about Solan, otherwise this conversation would be singing a different tune entirely.

Borias raised an eyebrow at the blonde Amazon, "because she got herself into this mess and I don't understand why she would do something so stupid..." he groaned and Gabrielle frowned, staring at him. "I want to help." He sighed.

She tapped the letter on her arm and went over several scenarios how this could go horribly wrong or...terribly right. "If you are able to deliver this letter...will you help Xena against Mehmet?"

The Wallachian smirked and stared down at the feisty blonde. "You are very manipulative..." he observed and she winked. He snatched the letter from her hands, "I will think about it," he walked towards the door, "don't tell Xena to come find me. I think the Sultan is onto her." He left the room and Gabrielle buried her face in her hands, questioning her decision.

A half hour later Xena came bursting into the room and she looked around for her friend. She rounded the corner and saw Gabrielle sitting on the bed writing. She smiled and walked over towards the bed. "I think there's seriously something wrong with that Sultan," she began and Gabrielle remained quiet. "He is convinced that this Jinn keeps talking to him, but you know what is odd? He knew what was going to happen, almost like he wanted it to happen," she folded her arms and received no response. "What's wrong with you?"

Gabrielle refused to look at her, "nothing wrong," she continued writing her thoughts down.

Xena sighed, shaking it off and extended her palm outwards, "okay hand over the letter. I'm going to take it to the falcon room."

The Amazon froze up and widened her eyes, halting her writing session. She lifted her head and laughed nervously. "Um...about that..." she smiled weakly.

Xena frowned, "what did you with it? Did you lose it?!" she folded her arms and Gabrielle shook her head.

"Not exactly..." she mumbled. "I kind of gave it to Borias so he could deliver it to," she felt a bit afraid and ashamed all at once and saw the angered look in Xena's eyes.

"Gabrielle!" Xena groaned and kicked a chair over. "" she placed her hands on her hips and looked outside. The flaming comets were gone now, though the entire eastern side of the city was up in flames.

She felt terrible about this, "look Xena, he said he wanted to help and I believe he really does. What's so bad about him helping anyway? He knows about you and Xayida!"

Xena growled, "because he's not supposed to be a part of this!" she yelled furiously.

Gabrielle pushed the parchment aside, "and you didn't tell him about his own son being alive did you?" Xena lowered her eyes and her heart beat started to come to a steadier pace. She sighed and got off the bed, setting her hand on her raven haired friend's shoulder. " need to tell him. He's his father..."

Xena folded her arms, grimacing at the fireplace. "I know he is..." she grumbled. She felt herself losing to her emotions getting to her. Tears began to form in her eyes and she turned to Gabrielle. "What will happen when I tell him?"

Gabrielle smiled and placed both hands on her friend's shoulders. "Just tell him the truth. He won't be upset at you because it's not your fault." Xena lowered her head and a tear streamed down her cheek. Gabrielle wiped the tear with her finger and hugged her warmly. "I'll be here for you. Always," she grinned and leaned her head against Xena's chest.

"I just...wonder what it would have been like if...things were different, you know?" Xena whispered and Gabrielle pulled away.

"I know, but that was the past and sometimes you just have to let things go and let things work out for themselves," she smiled and Xena smirked. "Your smile makes me happy, you should smile more."

Xena grinned wider now, "you always know what to say Gabrielle."

"That's my job," the Amazon winked and grabbed Xena's hand, lacing their fingers together.

St. Peter's Basilica

Ares and Xayida appeared inside the basilica and the group of black hooded cardinals were huddled in a circle talking among themselves. Xayida saw Solan sitting on a table by himself, staring off in the distance. She held her breath and approached him slowly, rounding around the table. Solan's eyes were black and his pale as well as emotionless.

She folded her arms, "what...what's wrong with him?" she was more concerned and seeing him like this was not what she wanted to see in a million years at all.

Ares smirked, "he's in a certain...coma if you will..." he chuckled, "he won't be able to talk to you."

Xayida sighed and knelt down in front of the blonde boy. "Solan..." she touched his hand and he was unresponsive, almost like a body without a soul. "Solan, I know you can hear me..." she whispered and Ares rolled his eyes. He walked off to go meet with the cardinals to talk to them. Her throat began closing up and tears swelled in her eyes. "You remember me, don't you?" she choked out. She buried her face in her hands as he kept staring off into space.

She wiped her eyes and then grabbed his hands, squeezing tightly. "Solan, you aren't yourself right now," she stared into his soulless black eyes and frowned sadly. "You don't belong here and this was all a big mistake..." she sighed heavily. " don't belong to me," she whispered. "You deserve so much more than this, more than what I could give you..."

Solan turned his head and his eyes turned back to the bright blue. He gasped for air and she smiled happily up at him. "Mother!" he hopped off the table and hugged her. She squeezed him, and he pulled away, touching her hair. "You cut your hair..."

She chuckled and sniffled, "yes, I did," she ran her fingers through his long blonde hair. "Solan," she began seriously and felt her heart racing as he stared at her innocently. "I...I'm not your mother."

He frowned, cocking his head to the side, "what? Yes you are. What are you talking about?" he grinned.

Why are you making this so difficult for me? "No Solan, you don't understand," she began and he continued staring. "I did something very bad a long time ago..." she felt her eyes tearing up again and tried to control herself, taking in a deep breath. "I have a sister."

Solan raised his eyebrow, "I know, your friend told me."

Xayida frowned, "my friend?" she asked and he nodded, pointing to Ares and she grimaced. "Oh...he's not my friend," she hissed. "Listen to me, Solan. My sister is actually your mother, not me."

Solan couldn't believe what he was hearing and he was suddenly so confused. " come I don't know her?"

She sighed and brushed his hair behind his ears, "because I took you from her."

His eyes widened, "why?"

Xayida groaned inwardly, "because I thought I was doing the right thing and sometimes when we think we're doing the right thing, we're actually doing the wrong thing. Do you understand?"

He nodded, "I understand..." he lowered his head. He thought of something and looked into Xayida's eyes, "does she know about me?"

She smiled, "yes she does. She really wants to meet you," she poked his chest and he grinned widely, happy to hear that.

"Do you think she will like me?" he asked, hoping that she would.

Xayida cupped his cheek, "I think she will like you a lot," she winked. "Can you forgive me?" before he could answer his eyes turned black again and he became emotionless. Her eyes grew in fear and shook his shoulders, "Solan!" she cried out.

Ares frowned, "enough of this chitchat, Xayida. You made a deal with me," he folded his arms and she stood with teary eyes. "Oh come on," he rolled his eyes.

"What are you doing to him? Make it stop!" she yelled and he chuckled.

"Not until you agree to this, Xayida or he'll be stuck like that forever. I'm sure Xena will be less understanding..." he winked.

The doors swung open and a bunch of hooded people walked through the doors. Cardinal Peter frowned and pointed at the intruders, "this is a private ceremony!"

One of the hooded figures took off the hood and smiled at the cardinals. Callisto winked at everyone, "oh is it?" she teased. "Committing sinful acts in a church..." she looked around and saw the possessed boy with black eyes. "How very blasphemous of you, cardinal," she smiled.

Ares groaned, "who are these clowns?" he growled, turning to the cardinals.

Callisto stepped forward, "God's messengers," she glared at the cardinals and waved her hand. All the other women took knives out hidden beneath their cloaks and the cardinals began backing away slowly. A few moments later other doors opened and there appeared more cardinals dressed in red, walking through the church. The blonde smiled and cardinal Peter began to panic, seeing his fellow cardinals glaring at him.

Cardinal George walked forward, "what is this blasphemy, Peter?" he asked. "Turning the work of God into Satan's work."

Peter smirked, "he is better than Satan," he chided and other cardinals came through as well as Roman soldiers, blocking all of the exits.

Xayida grabbed Solan's hand and slowly began slipping away as everyone seemed very distracted. She wrapped her arm around him and slapped his cheek softly. Solan breathed heavily turning back to normal. He glanced around at all the people in the church now. "What's going on?!" he frantically asked and she covered his mouth.

"Shh..." she ran out one of the doors and Ares turned to see Xayida escaping with Solan.

"Xayida!" he screamed and all the cardinals turned to see Xayida running into the catacombs beneath the church. "After her!" he yelled and rolled his eyes. He didn't want to deal with this and disappeared instantly.

Callisto saw cardinal Peter running away with his comrades and growled. "Don't let him get away!" she pointed and the Roman soldiers ran after the cardinals.

Below in the catacombs of the basilica Xayida ran through the narrow halls holding Solan's hand tightly. He breathed heavily, "where are we going?"

"Getting the hell out of here," she grumbled and rounded a corner and came to the center with four separate hallways. She stopped and looked in all directions. "Great..." she chose the hall on the left and hoped that it would lead them out of here, if she remembered these catacombs correctly.

"Where will we go?" he asked as he tried to keep up with her long strides as best as he could.

She turned a corner and saw a door and light coming through. She smiled, "we're going to find your mother," she ran forward and kicked the door open and saw a bunch of Roman soldiers looking at her. Her smile disappeared and she pushed Solan aside. "Stay there and don't move..." she muttered.

"Hello boys," she grinned and grabbed one of the soldier's swords and stabbed him with it then kicked the other one in the groin. Two more Romans came running towards her and she sighed, steadying herself and grabbed him by the throat and head butted him and he fell to the ground, unconscious. She then thrust the sword into another soldier's chest and blood poured from his mouth. Kicking him to the ground she breathed heavily.

Xayida grabbed Solan's hand and helped him on a horse nearby. She climbed aboard and sheathed the sword. He had a goofy grin on his face. "Wow, that was awesome!"

She shook his head, "remember, never kill someone unless it's self defense," she yanked on the reins and rode off outside the back gates of the basilica.

"But doesn't your sister...I mother, kill people?" he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist.

Smiling, she answered, "only when she has to..."


Xena waited behind a wall near the falcon room and saw Borias walking down the hallway casually. She reached out and grabbed his arm, pulling him into the narrow hallway. He frowned and she pulled back her hood. "Delivering messages for me, are you?" she smiled.

"I want to help you, Xena. Don't push me away. We've been apart for a long time," he said and she nodded her head slowly, agreeing with him. "Why don't you tell me what is really going on?"

She exhaled heavily, "I will, but not here..." she whispered, beginning to feel paranoid. "I need to leave Constantinople immediately. I need to return to Athens to see if Xayida is alright."

He nodded, "I can come with you," he smiled sneakily and she rolled her eyes and hit his chest. He grunted and rubbed his chest and hit her back. She gasped and he raised an eyebrow. "Don't play this game, Xena," he teased.

"Oh I'm playing the game alright," she smirked. "Mehmet is insane, he talks to these Jinn and it tells him what to do. It's all so strange..." she looked around to make sure nobody was listening.

Borias touched her arm and she looked down at his hand and raised her eyebrow. "He is more insane than you," he joked. "When are you leaving?"

"I hope to leave tomorrow. I will need to make an excuse that I need to return to Macedonia," she remembered that she was still playing the role of her sister.

He agreed, "I will follow behind you," he offered and saw that she was not too keen on the idea. "Your blonde friend is very persuasive," he grinned.

Xena frowned, "Gabrielle?" she wondered what exactly those two spoke about. "What did she tell you?"

"She just told me to help you," he winked and Xena groaned, folding her arms. "Why are you getting so upset?"

"I'm not upset!" she yelled and then lowered her head, embarrassed of her temper sneaking up on her.

Borias frowned, "yes you are. You don't need to lie around me, Xena," he touched her cheek and she grimaced, slapping his hand away.

"No, Borias. We are not doing this, not right now," she sighed. "We are not together anymore."

He chuckled mockingly, "that isn't fair Xena. You told me to leave the night our son was born, remember?" he frowned.

Xena sighed, growing more frustrated. "I remember..." she grumbled. She now understood why she needed to tell him the truth and Gabrielle was right, but not here. It was too dangerous here and even them talking here together was dangerous in itself.

Amphipolis 1439

Xayida and Xena stayed in their family's old estate on the outskirts of their hometown, Amphipolis for the last few months. Xena was growing tired of staying inside the house every day and Xayida forbade her to leave just in case something happened or if they were being followed by someone.

Xena sighed as she sat on the bed, looking at a map of the growing Ottoman Empire in Anatolia. Everything was coming to heads between the Church and the Ottomans and there was no way of stopping Caliph Mehmet. He had thousands of men, gunpowder and even canons, something Constantine did not have nor the Church. The Church had plenty of funds though they didn't spend much on warfare.

It had been raining for three days in a row and this night was no different. The rivers were probably overflowing which would cause the roads to flood eventually, it was only a matter of time. Xena waited for her sister to return from scouting the area with what little men they had with them, only a few hundred, but it would have to do.

The door opened and Xayida exhaled heavily, throwing her drenched cloak on the chair. She ran upstairs and smiled, seeing her sister on the bed, reading silently to herself. Xena lifted her eyes and Xayida's hair was soaked, though she was in a good mood. Xayida came to sit on the bed, opposite her sister.

"How are you feeling?" she asked and Xena frowned.

"I'm fine," she answered then went back to reading the map and circled a few key spots that Mehmet liked to attack the most.

Xayida nodded and tapped her knee anxiously. "No pains today then?" she asked eagerly and Xena rolled her eyes.

"Xayida, please," she held her hand up and her little sister smiled sheepishly. "Stop looking at me like that."

The little sister shrugged her shoulder, "I'm just worried about you!" she hopped off the bed and stripped out of her soaked clothes and changed into something more comfortable for the evening. Xena was still reading the map and Xayida shook her head.

She walked over to the bed and snatched the parchment off the bed and Xena gasped. "Xayida!" she groaned and reached to grab and Xayida smirked, rolling the map up and setting it on the table by the window. She jumped on the bed and cuddled close to her sister. Xena rolled her eyes and Xayida leaned her head against her shoulder.

"The baby will be here any day now and so I just want you to be comfortable," Xayida smiled goofily up at her elder sister and Xena glared down at her.

"I'm bored out of my mind," she sighed and laid down on her side, facing her sister. Both smiled at one another and Xayida brushed a few tendrils away from her sister's cheek. "Xayida..." she began softly and lowered her eyes, "thank you for staying with me."

Xayida grinned, "of course Xena. I love you and would do anything for you," she kissed her sister's forehead and Xena smiled weakly. "Hey!" she got off the bed and Xena sat up slowly, leaning against some pillows. "I have someone that wants to see you."

Xena frowned and then saw Borias walk through the door, drenched. "Xayida..." she warned and her sister winked at her then left the room. "Xayida!" she griped.

Borias smiled at her softly and came to sit on the bed beside her. She averted her eyes and folded her arms. He showed his bare hands, "I'm unarmed this time," he joked and she glared at him. He sighed, "I came here with very few of my men. I wanted to see you," he grabbed her hand and she snatched it away. "Xena."

"What?" she snapped back.

"You should have come to Transylvania with me. You would be safe there," he urged and she smirked.

"Is that so?" she teased and he bit his tongue, not entirely in the mood for this, though she wasn't either. "Is that why you decided to poison my grain?"

He groaned, "that was a mistake. It should have never happened. Xena, just listen to me. We can leave and go back to Wallachia together," she raised an eyebrow at him and he frowned, "and Xayida too..."

"What makes you so sure I would want to go back with you?" she asked and he rubbed his chin, thinking that over. She had a point of course, he thought.

The two sat on the bed together for awhile, saying nothing to one another. Xena winced, feeling a subtle pain in her lower abdomen and she adjusted her body uncomfortably. Borias sighed then turned to finally face her and saw pain written all over her face. His eyes widened and he scooted closer, touching her arm. "Something wrong?" he asked as his eyes scanned her body.

She cringed and pushed his hand away from her body, "go get Xayida," she asked and he just sat there, staring mindlessly. "Please?" she asked nicely and he smiled, nodding, then went to find Xayida.

Xena looked up at Borias and grabbed his hand. He raised an eyebrow, suddenly seeing her mood change instantly. "Follow me tomorrow once I get half way out of the city limits," she said and he grinned down at her. She stood against the wall and finally smiled.

Chapter Text

AN: well, it's been so sorry about that. I plan to finish this soon since I'm on a break from classes until next month.

Chapter Twenty Two

Xayida and Solan rode through the grassy plains outside of Rome, hoping to reach Macedonia in a few days if nothing else strange happened on the way. Throughout the journey, she noticed that Solan was rather quiet, more quiet than he had ever been. He always very talkative, but ever since he found out that she wasn't really his mother, his biological mother, he seemed indifferent. She understood the silence, but at the same time she wanted to talk to him to let him know that her intentions were good at the time.

She halted the horse near a river and dismounted, smiling up at Solan she lend her hand to him but he ignored it and hopped off the horse on his own. She frowned sadly and walked over to the river, scooping water into her palms she washed her face thoroughly. He sat against a tree quietly and then heard loud church bells from a distance.

Frowning, he lifted his head and saw a huge church bell tower beyond the forest and sighed. Xayida turned and dried her face with her dress, then walked over to him. He turned his face away, casually picking at a long grass stalk. She sat down in front of him, spreading her large dress out around herself.

"Solan..." she began softly, "I know you're angry with me and have every right to be!"

He sighed heavily, "why did you lie to me?"

She hung her head, feeling ashamed of herself. Shaking her head, she answered in a meek voice, "I don't have a good excuse anymore. I thought what I was doing was the best thing at the moment. I wasn't thinking and I'm sorry, very sorry."

Solan turned and looked at the person that raised him his entire life, believing that she was truly his mother. Now that he knew that she wasn't his mother, he didn't know how to feel. He wasn't angry or upset, he was just confused. She smiled at him sadly and he furrowed his blonde thick eyebrows. "My mother –my real mother –did she not want me?"

Xayida's eyes grew in shock and immediately her stomach tightened. "No, no, she loved you a lot. She wanted you, I promise you that."

"Then why am I not with her?" he asked confusedly.

She groaned inwardly, "because I made a mistake and I told her everything. She really wants to meet you."

Solan nodded and broke the grass stalk in half, tossing it aside. "And what about my father? Is he alive?"

Xayida bit her bottom lip and she nodded, "yes he is, but I don't know if he knows about you."

"He doesn't want me?" Solan asked and Xayida smiled, placing her hand on his thigh.

"He does –he will. I know it," she winked and he exhaled. "We should get going. We have a long journey ahead of us." He got up and they both began walking back to the horse together.

Ares appeared in front of the horse, leaning against the animal with a smirk on his face. Xayida's eyes darkened immediately and she held Solan close to her. " made a deal with me and here you are, trying to run away again. What you're best at."

She snarled, "I don't want any part of your deal anymore Ares."

He laughed, "that's not how this works!" his roaring laughter filled the sky and Solan huddled against Xayida's dress, hiding behind her. "You can go confess your sins in your church and forget what you have done. I am the God of War, I don't require repentance. You either submit to me or you suffer." He frowned and walked closer to her and she backed away slowly. "Hand over the boy or you hand over yourself. That was the deal."

She stared down at the young blonde prince and glared at Ares. "I want to take Solan to see Xena. I promised her that I would do that. I have already hurt her so much, I can't go back on this promise."

"He can see his mother, belong to me," he smiled.

Xayida stood in front of Solan, protecting him. "What if I refuse? I can't trust you to deliver Solan to Xena, now can I?"

Ares sighed, "are you really trying to negotiate with me? You're worse than your sister!" he laughed and then waltzed over to her then grazed his finger along her cheek. "I would much rather have your sister, but you're second best. Everything you do you come in second to her, don't you?" he winked and her eyes lowered. "You're very jealous Xayida. You say that you would never hurt Xena, but that's all you do –hurt her. You like hurting her, you enjoy it..." he whispered in her ear.

She lifted her blue eyes, frowning deeply. "You're psychotic."

"I think that's your department, isn't it Xayida?" he smiled and she pushed him out of her way and stormed to the horse, mounting quickly. He growled, "you are making a mistake running from me, Xayida! I will go after Xena!"

Xayida shook her head and rode off with Solan. "Good luck with that!" she called out and he groaned, then disappeared from the area.


Gabrielle just finished packing her belongings as quickly as possible and Xena was hovering over the bed staring at a pair of her sister's shoes for the last ten minutes or so. She leaned over and saw Xena was in a daze, unable to concentrate on anything it seemed.

"Xena..." she placed her hand on Xena's shoulder, startling her. "Are you okay? You don't seem like yourself."

Xena kept staring at the shoes in her hands and they were exactly her size. Everything she wore was Xayida's size, they were the same height, the same build almost and even had similar features, especially when they had their hair styled the same way. They looked so much alike, but they were nothing alike at the same time. It was hard to pretend to be Xayida, and she thought it would have been easy, but it wasn't. And of course Borias was able to see right through the disguise because he knew what both women looked like, but she was able to fool the sultan, she believed.

"Xayida and I are very different people, Gabrielle. I just wish we didn't drift away from each other like we did."

Gabrielle nodded and wrapped her arm around her friend, giving her a warm hug. "I know, but you can't redo your past. The best thing you can do is move forward and rebuild a better relationship with your sister. I know she feels terrible about what she did and she wants your forgiveness."

Xena frowned, shaking her head. "I can't forgive her." She threw the pearled white shoes into the bag and stuffed the dark stockings into the bag as well.

"I think it would be good for you to forgive her," the Amazon queen said and Xena kept stuffing clothes into the bag angrily. She cringed and then put her hand over the bag, closing it. "You don't have to do it now or even next year, but you will eventually."

The Greek queen sighed, "Borias will never forgive Xayida. He hates her. They never got along when we were living together."

Gabrielle could understand that. From what she saw, Borias didn't like to play games and Xayida was very manipulative at times just as Xena can be from time to time. Though, Xena was different. She didn't threaten, she simply acted upon what she said. Xayida was full of threats and hardly acted on them, but she had a lot of anger and remorse in her heart, which made it difficult for the two women to be in the same room together. Xayida and Xena were both very hard headed and stubborn, which was probably one of the reasons why they began to grow apart from each other. Both wanted more and were unwilling to compromise.

"He will forgive her too, I know he will," she smiled and Xena was unconvinced.

"We should leave soon. I will tell Mehmet that I have received word from Macedonia that I need to return," she grabbed the bags and head out of the room. Gabrielle quickly grabbed her bag and followed her out into the hallway.

As they stepped into the hallway Borias was waiting, leaning against the wall, casually twirling his sword. He smirked at Xena and Gabrielle. "I told the sultan that you are planning to leave," he said.

Xena frowned, "and why would you do that?"

"You need to learn to trust me, Xena, something you were never good at," he sheathed his sword and approached her, standing barely a foot from her. "I will follow you when you're a day's ride ahead," he whispered then briskly walked down a separate hallway.

Gabrielle clung close to Xena, "do you trust him?"

Xena raised her eyebrow as she watched Borias round a corner, disappearing from her sight. "I don't have a reason not to. It's Mehmet I don't trust. Let's go," she turned on her heel and marched down the hall to exit the large Ottoman palace.

Sultan Mehmet stood on the floor that had been demolished hours earlier. The strange phenomenon outside in the skies had ceased and all was calm, despite all the burning buildings and homes in the city. He folded his arms, sighing heavily, looking at the destruction of his lovely large palace.

Ares walked behind the sultan, placing his hand on his shoulder. Mehmet felt his presence and smiled. "Have there been any developments?"

The war god groaned, "we have a bit of a problem. Our disciple has escaped with someone," he mentioned Solan and Xayida. Though, Ares made sure the sultan had no idea who these two were, especially Solan. Mehmet believed that Ares was a Jinn, giving him advice from the Heavens above, though he was being deceived. Solan was to be a sacrifice for the greatest evil to lurk on earth, but any mention of that, the sultan would immediately cut everything off with Ares.

Ares contrived this plan to stick close to the sultan, feeding on his positivity and optimism. He was only using the Ottoman caliph as a pawn in this bigger evil plan he had been keeping a secret. The Ottomans were a growing nation and peoples, spreading across the Mediterranean and near eastern lands. Ares wanted a part in that and make sure that the Ottomans rise to the top and wipe out all of Constantine's holy cities and people that follow the Orthodox faiths in Anatolia. Too bad for the sultan that he was completely naive and had no idea that Xena was right under his nose the entire time and the real Xayida was far away from Constantinople.

Mehmet frowned and turned to face the war god. "Well, hopefully you will find this disciple?" he hoped and Ares smiled.

"Of course, but I need something from you..." he inched closer and the caliph nodded.

"Anything," Mehmet answered eagerly. He wanted his empire to trump Constantine's and to be rid of all the Christian Orthodoxy in Anatolia for good. He didn't want any more wars with the Church. His ancestors had fought for a long time claiming this territory as their own until the Church believed that this land was theirs and wanted to war to reclaim what they believed was rightfully theirs from the start.

Ares nodded, "you need to keep an eye on Xayida," he smiled. "She is not who she seems to be..." he said and saw the sultan's face contort in confusion. "She is a liar. She is just as devious as her elder sister, Xena. I'm sure you know of her."

Mehmet curtly nodded, "I do, but I have not met Xena. She claims that I gave her permission to take my gunpowder, but there was no such agreement. She's been stealing my gunpowder for years. Every assassination attempt on Xena has failed. She is just as bad as Constantine."

"I agree with you entirely!" the war god wrapped his arm around the Ottoman caliph. "She needs to be eliminated," he said and the sultan smiled. "Let me take care of her for you..."

Gabrielle sat with Xena inside Xayida's large caravan and they left the palace without even speaking to Mehmet, which worried Gabrielle to no end. She looked at Xena, whom was sitting across from her in one of her sister's elaborate dresses and she too looked uncomfortable.

"I have a weird feeling about this," the Amazon said.

Xena pursed her lips and pulled back the curtains, looking at the mountains ahead. There would be checkpoints of course when they reached the rim of Constantinople. She hated that these two arrogant men split the city in half to suit their needs and authority over each other. "Me too," she answered then she began unlacing her tight corset.

Gabrielle frowned watching Xena toss the corset aside then unlace the large skirt of the dress. She was now wearing a white loose tunic and dug in a bag next to her and slipped on some brown pants and knee high boots. Xena took the matchlock off her thigh and placed it in a holster on her belt and Gabrielle folded her arms, cocking her head as she was now dressed like a completely different person.

"What are you doing?" she mused.

Xena grabbed a bag of powder and ripped it open with her teeth then unlatched the gun and began loading the powder. "I don't know if you realized this Gabrielle, but I really hate wearing dresses." She smiled and finished loading the matchlock and placed it back in its holster.

They both felt the caravan swerve to the side abruptly and the horses screeching. Gabrielle held onto the walls inside and Xena steadied herself on the bench, then poked her head out of the window and saw a horde of men, dressed in all black on horseback, firing arrows at the horses and carriage. She frowned and turned her head. "Stay here," she urged and climbed outside the window.

Gabrielle gasped and saw Xena climbing on top of the caravan. She panicked and looked out the window. "Xena! Are you crazy?!" she yelled and then an arrow flew right by her face and her eyes widened, she quickly went back inside the caravan and heard Xena's boots above, walking on the carriage.

Xena pulled out the matchlock and rested the butt stock on her shoulder, then tried to aim for one of the horseman's heads, which was difficult, given that the driver kept swerving from side to side, trying to evade the arrows and attacks from these men. She closed an eye and then shot one of the horseman directly in his head and she smiled.

A few seconds later her smile faded and saw the horseman still alive and headless, riding in front of the horde, drawing his bow and arrow. "What the hell," she muttered. A few arrows were shot and she ducked and saw them fly directly over her head. Growling she aimed again at the same headless man, directly at his chest and fired.

The horseman was knocked back but grabbed the horse's reins and continued riding. Her eyes widened in fear and then she climbed back inside the caravan, startling Gabrielle.

"Something is wrong with those men," she said breathlessly. "I just shot one of them in the head and he is still alive!

Gabrielle's jaw dropped, "that's impossible!" a black gloved arm reached inside the caravan and she yelped. She instantly pulled out Xena's sword and chopped the arm off and it fell to the floor. The fingers were still moving and Xena stomped her boot on the severed arm, crushing the fingers with all her weight. " the work of something evil, Xena." The Amazon kept shaking her head in disbelief.

Xena pulled out the gun and shot the severed arm and it was now in two pieces and still moving. She groaned and looked out the window and saw the horseman riding beside the caravan. Gabrielle looked out the other window and saw more on her side. "They're everywhere!"

One of the horseman pulled up beside the driver of the carriage and swung the large scimitar, slicing the man's head off. The horses panicked and reared off into a different direction, stampeding through the desert plain.

The caravan hit a large rock and nearly tipped them over. Xena hung onto the sides of the inside of the caravan. She poked her head out and saw the horses riding with no direction at all. She cursed to herself. "They killed the driver," she began climbing out the window again. "Gabrielle, I need you to steer the horses while I hold these...things off."

Gabrielle breathed in slowly, "are you serious?"

Xena frowned, "do you have any better ideas?" she climbed on top of the carriage again. Gabrielle then decided to climb out of the window and onto the step of the carriage, fearing that she might fall. She saw Xena above, loading the gun, it was too slow obviously. She clung to the caravan and finally made it to the driver's seat and saw the headless driver.

Cringing, she pushed the body aside and sat down, grabbing onto the reins, trying her best to control the horses. Xena shot a few of the horsemen to slow them down, but they were still alive and riding beside the caravan, tempting to knock it over. Xena crouched down and crawled to the front where Gabrielle was.

"There should be a cathedral up ahead!" she yelled and Gabrielle looked at her incredulously.

"A cathedral?!"

Xena ducked her head from the arrows flying past her. "Yes! We should be safe there, I hope..." she stood back up and one of the men grabbed her leg and she growled. "Son of a bitch," she kicked the man in his head and he was unfazed. She grabbed her dagger and stabbed the man's arm and he pulled away, severing his own arm, whilst his hand was still holding onto her leg. "Nothing fazes these things!" she kept stabbing the hand and finally it let go and fell off the caravan.

Gabrielle saw the cathedral and she steered the horses towards the right, riding as quickly as possible. She looked over her shoulder and saw Xena was struggling to keep these dark horsemen away and it wasn't as if they had an abundance of weapons at the moment either. Not to mention, they had no idea what they were dealing with.

She halted the caravan and hopped off, running towards the cathedral. Xena followed quickly behind her. The horsemen rode quickly and the two ran inside, bursting through the doors of the empty church. Gabrielle breathed heavily and the horsemen came to a staggering halt altogether and trotted around the church grounds, unwilling to take another step closer to the cathedral.

Xena smiled and stared at the horsemen and they rode off into the dark. Gabrielle collapsed onto one of the benches and exhaled heavily, slowing her breathing. "Good call," she said and Xena nodded. "What were those things?"

The Greek queen shook her head, "I have no idea, but whatever they are, they aren't from our world."

"I say from now on we carry a jar of holy water," Gabrielle said teasingly, though Xena's face said otherwise. She was quite serious and didn't mind the idea.

Somewhere in Macedonia

Midmorning Xayida and Solan were slowly riding through the mountains. He slept behind her, holding onto her waist. Xayida knew that Solan was upset that he had been lied to his entire life, but she could tell that he was still reliant on her as a mother figure and wanted her comfort.

Solan opened his eyes and groaned. He looked around and his surroundings seemed very familiar. "Are we close to home?"

Xayida smiled, "almost."

He yawned and ran his fingers through his blonde locks. "Where is Xena?" he asked.

She quirked her mouth, "she is in Constantinople right now, pretending to"

He raised his eyebrows in shock and folded his arms. "What?! That's crazy. Why would she do that?"

She sighed, "it's a long story, Solan." She trotted faster through the mountains and saw the sky darken and clouds fold in on themselves. A loud clap of thunder roared across the sky and she frowned, starting to feel uneasy. She rode faster through the mountains, though made sure not to make Solan any more worried than he already was. She then felt a drop hit her hand and she saw it was not water, but blood. "Great," she muttered.

Solan felt a few drops hit his cheeks and he smeared his fingers across his face then saw blood on his fingers. "Blood?" he questioned, then glanced up at the sky and saw blood raining down on them. "It's raining blood!" he wrapped his arms around her taut waist.

Xayida frowned and steered towards the left to find somewhere to hide to wait out this storm. She found an opening in one of the mountains and halted, hopping off the horse. She extended her hand, "come!" she begged and he was less reluctant to take her hand now than he was before. She pulled him off and they ran inside the small alcove, hiding from the rain.

He looked down at himself and saw he was soaked in blood and so was she. Her dark hair drenched in burgundy rain. "Why is it raining blood?" he asked.

She looked out at the grass that was now drenched in blood and the trees violently blowing in the wind. "I don't know," which was an honest answer. She had seen this happen before, but never had an explanation for it.

Suddenly a bird fell from the sky right in front of the alcove and Solan jumped back. The bird flinched and then his wings relaxed. He frowned, approaching the bird and knelt down, touching its black wings. "Is it dead?" he asked sadly.

Xayida grabbed his arm and pulled him away to sit down with her. He stared into her bright blue eyes and she sighed heavily. "Solan, do you remember what happened in Rome?"

He raised his eyebrow, "what do you mean?"

"You don't remember what those cardinals did to you in the church?" she asked and he shook his head. "Nothing at all?" she asked once more and he shook his head, completely clueless. "This is a mess..." she muttered.

Solan scooted closer to her and tried not to touch his clothes, as he was disgusted by all the blood. "What happened? Did it have something to do with me?"

Xayida smiled and grabbed his hand, "I don't know, but whatever they were doing to you was not good Solan." He pulled his hand away awkwardly and she cleared her throat. "I know you're upset and it's okay to be upset. I just want you to know that I have always loved you and I'd do anything for you." She looked to him for a response, but he stayed silent and watched the rain. "I know I'm not your real mother, but I've always taken care of you like you were my son."

Solan lowered his eyes, unsure of what to say. She continued, "I'll always love you, no matter what happens. I know your real mother loves you a lot."

She saw his eyes light up and he looked towards her with hopeful eyes. "Really?" Xayida nodded with a subtle smile on her lips. "Does she sound like you?"

Xayida shrugged, "not really."

He frowned, "is she older than you?" and Xayida nodded. "Are you both the same height?"

She smiled, "yes, we're very similar, but we're not the same. You remind me of her."

Solan grinned from ear to ear. "I look like her?"

"A little bit, but you're sweet like she is," she said and by his smile, she hoped that he was at least happy to hear that about Xena. After all, he had never seen her and didn't know anything about her, until now. He was probably still in shock about this entire situation and when they finally would meet, she feared that he might shy away from Xena. It was nerve-wracking to meet someone who was not only your mother, but to be raised by someone completely different, only to find out you've been lied to your whole life. She felt even worse that she had to tell Solan this way, but he needed to know and Xena had to know as well. She had lied for a long time, a very long time. Lied and betrayed.

He asked, "she's a queen too, right?"

Xayida nodded, "yes she is. Queen of Athens," she winked and Solan sat in silence, thinking to himself. "She loves you."

He smiled weakly, "she does?"

"She loved you before you were born. I was there," she said warmly and his smile grew, happy to hear her say that. "Don't be nervous to meet her. I'm sure she's far more nervous than you." She paused for a brief moment and the rain slowly began to subside. "I hope you can forgive me one day, Solan. I never wanted to hurt you and I still love you a lot, I always will."

Solan nodded his head slowly and stared at Xayida with a blank face. "I really want to meet her," he looked outside and stood from the cold ground. "It stopped raining," he ran outside and his boots sank in the blood soaked grass. "We should keep going, right...Xayida?" he said her name for the first time instead of calling her his mother and she smiled, making her way over to him.

Borias rode to the outskirts of Constantinople the next day and saw tracks of the caravan that Xena traveled in. He followed the tracks and saw that they were once straight, but then zigzagged through the grass, going right and left.

He rode further into the forests and saw the caravan outside of a large cathedral and dismounted the horse then opened the large door. Peeking inside he saw Xena and Gabrielle sitting on one of the benches, talking among themselves.

Xena stood up as soon as she saw him and he folded his arms. "What happened?" he asked. She sighed and looked to Gabrielle for help, she didn't know how to explain any of this but figured that there have been a lot of strange things going on around here so it couldn't sound that odd.

"We were being chased by horsemen," she began and he kept listening, waiting for more. "I tried to kill them but...they wouldn't die, no matter how many times I shot them."

Borias raised an eyebrow and stared at Gabrielle for clarification but she smiled weakly at him, giving him no answers. "Where...are these men now?"

Xena shrugged, "we came in here and they left last night. I need to get back to Athens. I don't need any more distractions."

He nodded, agreeing with her. "We will get there," he said and she smiled softly. "Are you going to tell me what is really going on between you and Xayida?"

Xena folded her arms and averted her eyes. He kept gawking and she felt his eyes on her. "I will tell you when we meet up with her. I swear."

He rolled his eyes, "Xayida is trouble Xena. Every time you two are together, something is wrong. I don't trust her."

"That makes two of us," she muttered.

Chapter Text

AN: I must say this story really haunts me. It gives me really bad writer's block even though I enjoy writing it. I am so thrilled that people enjoy this weird story arch. Anyway, in this chapter, I have finally revealed the true madness and evil behind all the strange occurrences. Enjoy and I will definitely work on this story more without leaving it in the back of my mind for awhile...enjoy ;)

Chapter Twenty Three

Xena, Gabrielle and Borias trotted through the forests on the outskirts of Constantinople. They left the Cathedral once they realized it was probably safe to leave again since they wouldn't be followed by those horsemen any longer.

Gabrielle sat behind Xena on the horse and admired all of the tall trees surrounding them. She spotted Borias riding a few paces ahead of them, scoping out the area. Although, this area was pretty barren and nobody rode this area because it was deemed unsafe for travelers by Constantine and Caliph Mehmet.

"This reminds me of my home," the Amazon queen said aloud.

Xena frowned sadly and looked around, but she did not see the same beauty that Gabrielle saw. "I'm sorry for keeping you from your sisters for so long, Gabrielle." She finally had the courage to say so. She loved spending time with Gabrielle and it had been a long time since the two saw each other due to Xayida's meddling.

Gabrielle smiled gently and placed her hand on Xena's broad shoulder. "I am going to help you find your son, Xena. I would never abandon you. You're my friend and always will be, no matter what."

Xena scoffed, "not even if Xayida was still your friend?"

"I really wish you two would make up," the blonde sighed. "It's not healthy to live like this, Xena. I know what your sister was wrong but you have to forgive her."

"Never," Xena answered immediately and heard Gabrielle groan.

Borias halted and he frowned, looking at the dark clouds ahead of them in the forest. "We should stop and camp somewhere..." noting the storm ahead.

Xena trotted up beside him and eyed the looming black clouds over the mountains heading into Macedonia. "We can't stop now. We need to get to Athens so I can meet with Xayida."

"Xena!" he growled and gestured to the dark skies. "There is a storm coming! We will never make it through!" he spat and she glared at him. Gabrielle eyed both of them and bit her bottom lip, trying her best to stay quiet, though the tension between the two rose immensely the longer they stared at each other.

Gabrielle spoke up, "maybe we could find a different route?" she offered and then got a menacing glare from both Borias and Xena at once. "Okay, or not."

"Oh look who it is!" Ares' booming voice appeared in front of them outside the forest. Borias pulled out his sword and Xena's eyebrow rose. The god chuckled, eyeing Xena's former lover, pointing the weapon at him.

"No need for that." With a wave of his hand he knocked Borias' sword from his grasp, throwing it deep into the forest's abyss. Borias' eyes widened and then Ares approached the group slowly. "Xena, Xena, Xena..." he gave her a sly smile while she snarled. "Where are you off to? I see that my horsemen did not deter you..." he sighed.

Xena's jaw dropped and pulled out her matchlock and shot the god right through his chest. Ares gasped and saw a gaping hole in his chest and she smiled.

"You know that won't work on me, although...this is going to be a problem," he groaned. He couldn't exactly heal himself as fast as he did thousands of years ago. Being resurrected came with some consequences as he soon found out. He brushed the gun powder off his vest and looked to Borias' shocked face.

"I see we have not been properly introduced..." Ares smiled.

"What are you?" Borias asked curiously and couldn't take his eyes off the gaping hole in Ares' chest. He should have been dead, he thought. Nobody could survive that.

Ares chuckled and released a dramatic sigh. "God of War, well, formally, God of War. It's quite a complicated story. I am sure I will be able to explain it once I have my disciple back."

Xena frowned and pointed the gun at Ares again. He put up his hands for surrender and began backing away. "What do you want?"

"Your sister has something that we both want," the war god smiled and eyed Borias once more. "Xayida has your son, whom she stole from me!" he growled and really wanted a piece of Xayida. She had no idea what she was dealing with.

Borias' eyes widened and his head slowly turned to Xena. "Son?" he barely said aloud and Xena averted her eyes elsewhere. "What is he talking about?"

Xena lowered her eyes and frowned sadly. She could feel his eyes burrowing into her skin like a hot poker.

"Xena!" Borias yelled and he grabbed her arm forcefully and she snarled then turned to him with wide furious eyes.

"Not now!" she spat and snatched her arm from him. "I will explain later."

Ares laughed and folded his arms. "I'll bet you will," he snidely remarked. "Listen, Xena. We both want your son and your sister just keeps stealing him from us. She is heading to Macedonia as we speak...if we work together..."

"Xena, no!" Gabrielle cried out and grasped the warrior's shoulders. "Don't trust him, Xena! He is just using you just like he is using Solan. Xayida obviously doesn't want him to be hurt anymore. There is a good explanation for her taking Solan, I know there is."

Xena frowned and never felt so conflicted in her life, not to mention Borias glaring at her like she was game. She didn't trust Xayida and she was lied to for ten years. Then suddenly this god, Ares, appears out of nowhere and wants Solan for himself? This was a giant mess and she didn't know who to trust at this point, but she knew Gabrielle was right.

"He has a name?" Borias said and Xena turned to him. "Why didn't you tell me? Did you know the entire time?!" he snarled.

"Borias!" Xena interrupted. "Enough. I told you I will tell you about it later.." she sighed and turned back to Ares. "I am not going to help you. What were you doing with Solan anyway?" she pried.

The war god smiled deviously and rubbed his hands together. "That is a private matter, your highness. Now, how about working together? We can both get your son back and live happily ever after. How does that sound?"

"Xena..." Gabrielle grumbled in her friend's ear lowly. "Don't."

Borias pulled out a dagger from his belt and threw it directly into Ares' chest. The war god groaned and he pulled out the dagger. Growling, Ares turned to Borias and tossed him off the horse and into a tree. Xena's and Gabrielle's eyes watched Borias being thrown off the horse and gasped.

Xena hopped off the horse and took out her long sword and thrust it directly into Ares' gut. He gasped for air and looked down at the sword sticking out of his body. Xena smiled widely and then he sighed.

"You are so aggravating..." he growled and grabbed Xena by her throat, lifting her off the ground and Gabrielle immediately got off the horse and pulled out a sword from the holster on the horse's saddle. Ares spotted the short blonde and he raised his hand, grounding her feet into the soil.

"And so is your friend," Ares smirked and Xena coughed, wrapping her hands around his, trying to pry them from her throat.

Gabrielle tried to pry her boots out of the soil but they wouldn't budge. She dropped to her knees and looked up at Xena, being choked to death and then to Borias, whom was knocked out, slumped under a tree. "Stop it!" she cried out and the war god lifted his eyebrow.

"Stop?" Ares smiled and dropped Xena to the ground. "If you insist..." he pulled out the sword from his gut and sighed heavily. He tossed the sword down in front of the Grecian Queen. "Now will you help me?"

Xena rubbed her throat and glance up at the arrogant god. "No..." she croaked. Ares' smile disappeared and he kicked Xena across the field and she grunted. He marched up to her and with a swift kick to her midsection she cringed and she wrapped her arm around herself, gasping for air.

He stomped on her back and pushed her body into the ground. She felt her lungs constricting as the weight of his entire body weighed on her back. He then stomped on her hand and her eyes widened.

"You will help me, Xena! Or so your sister shall feel the same pain as you." He smiled and put more force on her hand and she growled. "Or maybe you'd like that?" he sneered.

Xayida rode with Solan in the open field of Macedonia. She thought they would never make it even close to the castle especially with Ares following them around like hawks. Solan had barely said a word since they left their campsite a few days ago. She could understand why he was so quiet, but at the same time, she wanted to help him and help Xena too.

"I know you're angry with me," she said. "Your mother, I know, is really looking forward to meeting with you."

Solan frowned and folded his arms, looking around at the familiar land that he called home. "I just...don't understand this at all."

Xayida sighed, "I know. It must be hard for you to understand. I barely understand it myself." She thought that sounded more lame coming out of her mouth than it did in her head and with Solan's silence, it wasn't helping.

"Solan," she began, "I've been a mother to you for all of your life. I have given you everything that you ever wanted. I love you and will always love you, but I did something unforgiveable. My sister is your mother and I'm not. I thought that I was helping you but it seemed that I only hurt you and my sister more by keeping you two away from each other."

Solan frowned and saw the sadness in her eyes. "Even though you are not my real will always be my mother," he said and saw a small smile on her lips. "Maybe I can have two mothers?" he implied with a big grin.

Xayida's smile widened. "I don't think your mother will ever want to see me again, Solan."

"But, I do," he said and she looked over her shoulder, staring into his blue eyes.

She felt her hand suddenly writhe in agony and she hissed, halting the horse. Solan frowned and she held her hand. She looked down and saw a huge bruise forming on her fingers and palm. A finger broke and she cried out loudly, holding her hand close to her chest.

"What's wrong?" Solan asked concernedly and hopped off the horse.

Salty tears formed in her eyes and she then felt a sharp stinging pain on her arm and hissed. Solan looked at her arm and saw blood seeping from her sleeve. He gasped and then she felt blood dripping from her nose. She saw the blood drip onto her dress and her eyes widened in fear.

Xena wiped the blood from her nose and got off the ground, glaring at Ares. "I will not help you!" she yelled and they clashed their swords together, circling each other.

Ares smiled. "The more you fight me, the more your sister feels your pain, Xena. You don't want to hurt her? Or do you?" he head butted her and she fell onto her back.

Gabrielle groaned and tried to crawl on the ground, trying to pry her legs out of the soil. "Xena! Don't do it! Don't listen to him! He is lying!"

Xena breathed heavily and looked into Gabrielle's pleading eyes. She jumped to her feet and held her sword in hand, pointing it directly at the war god. "What are you planning to do with Solan?!"

Ares sighed, "I told you, I can't tell you that. Help me get him and then I will tell you."

"I don't trust you," Xena said and licked the blood off her lips.

"Trust? You don't trust anyone, especially Xayida. She has your son and yet you don't seem to care..." he grinned and then appeared behind her. She gasped breathlessly and he touched her neck sensually. He pointed to the dark clouds ahead over the mountains. "You see those clouds?" he whispered in her ear. "That is no storm...but a storm of death that will surround Athens and spread across Greece." He smiled.

Xena's eyes widened and she immediately thought of her city, her people, everything she worked so hard for the last ten years. Ares was obviously a liar, but whatever he was doing was sinister and perhaps maybe that explained all the other strange things happening lately too. Blood rain, comets soaring across Constantinople, dead animals everywhere. Yes, that had to be it, she thought.

"And you're working with the forces of the devil himself, aren't you?" Xena asked.

Ares chuckled and he walked around her slowly. "Satan?" he laughed more and she eyed him cautiously. "No, no, my dear Xena. This is not the work of the devil, but someone far greater than the fallen angel himself. Satan would weep at his feet. This force of evil is from thousands of years ago, before there was a church or the religion of the one 'true God'," he mocked. "Even the sultan is engulfed in the force of evil that waits upon us."

Xena was starting to put together the pieces now. "Jinn," she whispered and Ares frowned. "You are the Jinn Mehmet was talking about, aren't you?"

The god snickered. "You are a good detective, Xena."

"The fire, the blood...was all you?" she spat and he shrugged a shoulder.

"Not me, but the one god, the one god that will rule over this world. We will create a new line of gods that would have rivaled the Gods of Olympus!" he roared and Gabrielle's jaw hung open, listening to insanity.

He cupped her cheek softly and she closed her eyes, trying to focus herself not to succumb to him. "Now, about your son," he hissed. "You want him don't you?" he cocked his head and she nodded. "Good," he grinned maliciously. "Then help me get him from your treacherous sister and you will have him."

"No, Xena!" Gabrielle cried out.

"Quiet you!" Ares yelled and shut Gabrielle's mouth. Her eyes widened as she touched her lips and was unable to talk or even scream. "So, do we have a deal?" he turned back to Xena.

She frowned, glaring into his dark eyes. "What are planning to do with him?"

"I need him for a little game. The one god will thank him for his service." He eyed her and saw she was not convinced. "Or perhaps...I could take your sister instead? An exchange if you will..." he smiled then saw her eyes darken at the mention of her sister. He knew that he had her. Gabrielle's muffled yelling could be heard behind them both and he frowned at the blonde, trying to ignore her.

"And I can have my son?" Xena asked and Ares nodded.

"He's all yours," he smiled and she furrowed her eyebrows. "No time to waste. The road to Macedonia is just down that way," he cleared a path for them and she looked to her right and saw the forest had disappeared.

He began backing away from her slowly and she kept eyeing the open road. They would arrive in Macedonia less than a day. It was a lot closer than Athens and if Xayida was in Macedonia like Ares said, she had nothing to lose.

"Dahak will thank you all," he winked then disappeared.

Gabrielle could finally open her mouth and was unfrozen from the soil. She quickly jumped up and ran to Xena, grasping her arm firmly. "Xena, what are you doing?! You can't trust Ares. He has been nothing but trouble since we met him! He is just trying to manipulate you!"

Xena frowned, "but Xayida has my son. He said so himself. I can finally see him."

Gabrielle shook her head and couldn't believe that Xena would blind herself this easily, though she understood her pain. "But Xena, he said that he could take Xayida instead of Solan. That doesn't sound promising to me."

The dark haired queen grimaced. "He can do whatever he wants to her. She is no longer a problem of mine."

Borias groaned and both women turned to see he had finally come to, being knocked out the entire time. Xena ran to him and knelt down, inspecting the wound upon his forehead. "You're bleeding," she noted and ripped a piece of her sleeve off and dabbed his wound.

Gabrielle raised her eyebrow and folded her arms, eyeing Xena. She looked at the dark clouds looming over the mountains and didn't think that Ares was lying about his plan to bring this new god into the world. There was too much at stake here. She also didn't trust Ares, knowing what he is capable of and now Xena suddenly wants to work with him? She didn't understand.

Hours later after they set onto the road to Macedonia, Xena had a lengthy discussion with Borias while Gabrielle stayed off in a corner by herself, thinking silently.

Borias stared at Xena as the two remained silent for the last half hour. She sighed and folded her arms. "Aren't you going to say anything?" she muttered.

He raised his eyebrow and kept staring at her blankly, not sure what to say. After Xena told him that Xayida took their son from them ten years ago, he stopped listening after that. He had believed that his child had died after birth but learning that was definitely not true, he wasn't sure what Xena was true at all. He always disliked Xena's younger sister and now he more than disliked her –he hated her.

"Where is Xayida now?" he finally said something.

This wasn't exactly what Xena wanted to hear. "She's in Macedonia with...our son," her eyes lowered and suddenly this felt even more awkward than the night their son supposedly died. After that night the two parted their separate ways and never spoke to one another again, until now that is.

He nodded his head slowly and scratched his chin, pursing his lips. "I'm surprised you did not kill her..." he mused and she smiled slightly.

"I almost did but...Gabrielle told me not to and –"

"You always listen to that blonde friend of yours?" he smirked.

Xena frowned and continued, "she convinced me that we needed Xayida to find Solan. And we still do..."

Borias nodded again and stared into Xena's sad eyes. "And after we get our son, I will kill her," he frowned and stood up then began walking off into the darkness, passing by Gabrielle.

Gabrielle lifted her eyes from the campfire and saw Xena sitting by herself and Borias walk off hastily. She quickly ran over to Xena and leered over her. "Xena..." said began softly, "are you alright?"

When Xena didn't answer her she decided to sit down beside her in the dark. She let out a heavy sigh and could feel Xena's pain and confliction.

"Xena, we need to talk about Xayida and Ares. I know you want to get Solan back but I don't think you should listen to Ares. He just wants to use you. You don't think it's strange that a mythological god appears out of nowhere and tries to summon this 'one God' to take over the world?"

The more Xena listened to Gabrielle, the more confused she became. She buried her face in her hands and Gabrielle wrapped her arm around her shoulders. "I don't know what to do." She mumbled.

Gabrielle smiled and nodded. "It's a lot to take in but I think if you follow Ares' path you won't get what you want. He mentioned this name 'Dahak'. That must be the 'one God' he was talking about. He doesn't sound like the one true God of the church, Xena." She paused and Xena lifted her head from her hands.

She continued, "think of all the bizarre things that have been happening. A merciful god wouldn't do that to his people."

Xena scoffed, "you do not believe in that religion, Gabrielle."

"Neither do you," the blonde Amazon Queen nudged her friend's arm. "But you can't deny that is not heavenly, it is evil. This Dahak is evil and so is Ares. He said so himself that he wants to exchange your sister for Solan. Do you really want to find out what that means when it comes down to getting Solan back?"

The Greek queen groaned and folded her arms in her lap. "But I want to see my son, Gabrielle. I only saw him once –when he was born. I didn't get to watch him grow up into the person he is today. Xayida took that away from me. How could I ever forgive her for doing that to me?"

Gabrielle could understand why Xena felt that way and what Xayida was awful. "Well, despite the feelings you have towards your sister, do you honestly believe she would raise him to be a horrible person?"

Xena shook her head slowly and the Amazon nodded, grabbing her hand, giving it a firm squeeze.

"And would you want to take away the only mother that Solan has ever known his entire life?" she asked and Xena creased her eyebrows together, brooding in silence. "I know she took the opportunity of motherhood away from you, but she gave your son a good life, Xena. She said so herself. He lives in a really nice castle and she's always cared for him. You shouldn't take that away from him. Don't let Ares persuade you to make the wrong decision," she said and Xena turned to her with teary eyes.

"What should I do? Borias said he wants to kill Xayida for what she did."

Gabrielle sighed and rest her head on the queen's shoulder. "Do what you always do, convince people to do the right thing. Killing Xayida isn't going to make you or Borias feel better and it certainly won't make Solan feel better either."

Xayida dismounted her horse and Solan followed her inside their large castle in Tempe Valley. She saw the doors were open and she frowned, holding her bruised hand close to her chest. Her aching back caused her to limp and her entire arm was covered in her own dried blood.

They both entered and saw the castle was deserted, all except Zakos, sweeping up broken vases. He lifted his head and was overjoyed seeing his queen and the prince by her side, unharmed.

"Your majesty!" Zakos grinned and ran to her. He saw her blood drenched sleeve and her limping inside. "What happened?"

Xayida shook her head. "Never mind that." She eyed the destruction inside her palace and grimaced. "What happened in here?"

The messenger sighed, "the Romans came and ransacked the palace, your highness. They took all of the women, all your soldiers! Everyone!" he wagged his head and leaned against the broom. "It was terrible."

"Romans?" she questioned and he nodded. "Why would the Romans invade me? I am friends with the Church."

Zakos looked into the queen's concerned blue eyes. "The Romans said they were needed for a religious ceremony."

Xayida immediately thought of Ares and those corrupt cardinals in the Roman Cathedral inside Vatican City. Ares had Solan held hostage and they were going to use him as a sacrifice. Maybe Ares wanted to gather up every person in the neighboring kingdoms for new sacrifices? Or maybe not...maybe he was up to something else? But what? Her brain couldn't wrap around this oddity, though she couldn't stay here. She needed to talk to her sister.

"We aren't staying long. We will be leaving to see my sister in Constantinople," she said and turned to Solan. "Come with me," she said and the young boy followed her.

Zakos was now the one who was confused. "But my queen, the Caliph is sending troops into Athens. Why would you endanger yourself and go to Constantinople?" he ran after her.

She came into her room which was also destroyed. Grumbling, she limped over to her vanity set and pulled out some bandages and began wrapping it around her hand and more specifically around her broken finger. No doubt this was Ares' work too.

"First...the sultan attacks my sister from afar. Now...he wants to invade her kingdom," she hissed and ripped the bandage with her teeth and tied it off. "I can't stop Mehmet from attacking Athens, but I have something important to do first." She sighed and grabbed some alcohol from her shelf across the way and poured it on her open wound on her arm.

She bit her lip and grunted loudly, stomping her heel on the ground. Solan cringed and watched her hissing and exhaling heavily. Very painful, he gathered.

"Can we stay here for the night?" Solan asked sweetly and Xayida smiled at him.

"We really need to be going, Solan. I made a promise to my sister." She wrapped the bandage around her arm and limped over to him, touching his cheek softly. "I have already disappointed her so much, I don't want to wait any longer."

Zakos butted in, "I think the prince is right, my queen. You should stay the night. Xena will be there tomorrow.

Solan looked into her eyes pleading to stay and she relented. He grinned then hugged her warmly. She cringed and he immediately pulled away, forgetting about her odd injuries. "Sorry..." he mumbled.

The following day Xena, Gabrielle and Borias arrived at Xayida's palace in Tempe Valley. Xena walked up to the palace doors and looked at the entrance for the longest time. She felt a subtle push from Gabrielle and turned to her.

"It'll be fine," she smiled and Xena exhaled heavily, nodding.

All three of them walked into the palace and saw it was a ghost town. Nobody appeared to be here. Borias drew his sword and walked ahead of Xena, eyeing the empty hallways. Xena put her arm in front of Gabrielle and went to inspect the destruction inside for herself. Gabrielle folded her arms and eyed the hallways. There was nobody here.

"Maybe she's not here and Ares lied?" Gabrielle whispered.

Xena shushed her and walked through the large corridor. "Xayida?!" she yelled out and her voice echoed in the marble palace.

"Or she's hiding," Borias hissed.

All three turned when they heard loud heels against the marble. Xayida limped down the hallway and saw Xena with Gabrielle and...Borias. She didn't expect him to be here and now she was worried that he might do something to her.

She nervously smiled and Xena's eyes widened, seeing her sister's hand and arm bandaged. She looked awful and not to mention she wasn't dressed in her usual ridiculous extravagant gowns, but in a simple beige form fitting dress.

"Xayida..." Xena ran forward and touched her bruised cheek. "What...what happened to you?"

Her younger sister hissed at the touch and turned her cheek. "I was something I couldn't see."

Xena's heart sank once she heard that. Ares had warned her that every time she got hurt, it would hurt Xayida too, but she didn't believe him until she saw the horrible condition her sister was in. "This is all my fault..."

Xayida smiled softly, "no it's not."

Borias stepped in between them and grabbed Xayida's arm. "Where is my son?" he growled and Xena frowned, pushing him away. "Xena!"

"Don't Borias." Xena warned and Xayida stepped away, coming closer to her elder sister.

"Don't hide behind your sister, Xayida. If I were her, I would have killed you already." He snarled and Xayida lowered her eyes.

"I have been dead a long time," the younger sister said softly. "Come with me." She walked off and Xena glared at Borias. She snapped her fingers and he slowly sheathed the sword in its holster again.

Solan was in his room trying to put everything back where it was. The Romans really did destroy everything in sight. He began to wonder why they would come here anyway and he should have never listened to Ares in the first place. He was definitely not a friend of his mother's...Xayida, he corrected himself.

A knock came to his door and he turned around. Xayida opened the door and Xena stood behind her sister, peering over her shoulder. Solan set down a chair and his cheeks reddened. Xayida smiled and opened the door fully and gestured for Xena to come inside.

Xena scanned Solan up and down, examining him silently to herself. Upon seeing him for the first time as a grown child was something she thought would never happen. She saw he was not a scrawny eleven year old, but quite tall, like his parents, of course. His big blue eyes reminded her of her own and Lyceus' and his strong jaw much like Borias' and his long nose.

She smiled and stepped inside the room, approaching Solan slowly. Borias stepped in after Xena, though kept his distance. Gabrielle smiled and clung to Xayida, watching the three silently study one another.

Solan's large eyes peered up at Xena and his mouth gaped slightly, seeing her for the first time. Xena grinned and touched his sandy blonde long hair. She then grazed his cheek and he was frozen, unable to move. She knelt down in front of him and looked at his hands, smiling widely.

"I know...this must be strange for you. You don't know me," Xena began and Solan kept staring her.

"You're my mother," he said and Xena's eyes widened. "She told me," he looked to Xayida and Xena turned to her sister. Xayida half smiled and both Xena and Borias stared at her in shock.

She definitely wasn't expecting Xayida to tell Solan anything. Xena turned back to her son and smiled, trying to hold back tears.

"Oh..." she said softly and grasped his hands in hers. "I never thought I would have this chance to meet you," she said with a big grin and Solan blinked, staring into her eyes, remaining silent. "I...just want to let you know that I loved you very much and I never stopped thinking about you."

Solan cocked his head to the side and kept staring at her. She was so much like his adopted mother that he almost felt confused, but she definitely wasn't the same as Xayida at all. Her face was different, her touch, her smile and hair too. He reached forward and Xena watched him cautiously. His fingers traced her face and then her long dark straight hair, much different than Xayida's wavy hair.

"Does this mean...I will go live with you?" he asked sadly and looked over to Xayida.

Xena sighed and looked at her sister's distraught face. She stood and grabbed his hands. "Maybe, if you want to," she said with a smile and she finally saw him smile brightly. Gabrielle was right, Xayida was a part of Solan's life, a big part of his life. It's all that he knew.

"But you don't have to right now if you don't want to..." she added and Solan nodded. She turned to Borias who was still gawking at his son in silence. She pushed him forward gently. "And this is your father, Borias," she introduced.

Solan stepped forward, examining his father's face. He held out his hand, "hello," he said with a smile and Borias grinned and shook the boy's hand. He frowned now looking at both of his parents standing before him.

"You both have dark hair..." he observed and Xena smiled as did Borias.

"My brother has hair like yours," Xena said and he frowned, still a bit miffed.

The boy sighed heavily. "I don't really understand all of this..." he said, folding his arms.

Xena sat down in the chair and touched his cheek gently. "I know and maybe one day I could tell you everything, but not now."

Solan looked up at his father and then back to his mother then to Xayida standing in the doorway. "Do you live together?" he asked.

Xena and Borias lowered their eyes and Solan's eyes darted between them. "No, we don't," Xena answered for them both. "Not anymore."

"Why not?" he asked innocently.

Borias interrupted, placing a hand on Xena's shoulder. "It's a long story," he said and Xena weakly smiled.

"Where do you live then?" he asked his father.

"In Wallachia," Borias smiled, folding his arms. Xena was tempted to roll her eyes, but she kept her composure. Solan's eyes lit up as soon as he heard that.

"Don't vampires live there?!" he asked with a big grin.

Borias' eyebrow raised and Xena frowned. "I don't think so..." he answered and then continued, "one day I could show you the city."

Solan nodded then turned to his mother. "Do you have a big palace in Athens?" and she nodded. "I would like to see it someday if I can..."

"Of course you can!" Xena smiled and ran her fingers through his long locks.

Loud clapping was heard inside the room and Xena stood from the chair. Ares chuckled and appeared in the room, smiling at them all. Gabrielle frowned as soon as she saw the war god and Xayida grabbed her shoulders.

"How cute, very nice family reunion," Ares said.

Xena pulled out her sword and pushed Solan behind her. Borias unsheathed his sword and grabbed Solan, pulling him close to his body. She pointed the blade directly at Ares and grimaced.

"What do you want now?"

The war god sighed heavily. "You got what you wanted. You have your son." He frowned deeply. "Now Xayida is mine."

Xayida gasped. "What?!" she turned to her sister. "Xena, what is he talking about?!"

Ares laughed, "oh you didn't tell her?" he chided and Xena stepped forward, holding onto her sword firmly. "I shouldn't expect anything less, I guess. We made a deal, Xena. You get your son and I get your sister. You can't have both."

"I've changed my mind," Xena said, now realizing that this plan was terrible. She didn't want her sister to die, no matter how much distain she had for her after all her secrets and betrayal.

"Too bad," Ares said with a smirk. "I need a sacrifice and since you won't give up your precious son, I need someone." He saw the boy cowering in fear, holding onto Borias' coat.

He appeared beside Xayida and pushed Gabrielle aside. She fell to the ground and he grabbed Xayida's shoulder. Xena whipped around and growled. She ran forward and then Ares disappeared with her sister just as she drove her sword into the floor.

Gabrielle groaned and stood up. "Now what?!"

Xena frowned and turned to see the frightened look on Solan's face. "We go after her."

Borias scoffed, "and how are we going to do that?" he asked.

Solan spoke up, "they are in Rome."