Joxer stumbled over to the Amazon Queen, and sank to his knees, holding out the beautiful, swaddled baby. “You have to take her, please,” he panted.
The journey to the land of the Amazons had been a long and painful one, especially when he’d been protecting a baby from all who would harm her if they knew who she was. He was out of breath.
“And why should I do that?” demanded the Queen.
“She’s Gabrielle’s heir. Queen Gabrielle,” he added, holding the infant higher.
The Queen raised one eyebrow. “Is she now? Well, we are dutybound to look after our own.” A beat. “Where is Gabrielle?”
Joxer’s lip wobbled. “She… She’s dead,” he sobbed, collapsing in on himself.
The Queen grabbed the baby before he dropped her. “I’m grieved to hear that. Did she die honourably, in battle?”
Joxer stared at the ground and shook his head, unable to answer.
The Queen sighed. “Does this child have a name?”
Joxer sniffed, and peered up. He’d been thinking an awful lot during the journey, and he’d decided that for Eve’s safety, it was best to give her a new identity so the gods would never discover that she’d survived.
He nodded. “Her name is Livia,” he said, wiping the tears from his cheeks. “She’s Gabrielle’s daughter.”
That was true, even though Gabrielle hadn’t carried her in her womb.
The Queen nodded, glancing at the baby’s innocent face. “Thank you for bringing her to us. We will raise her and initiate her into the Amazon sisterhood.”
“Th-thank you,” Joxer stuttered.
He got to his feet and peered at Eve sleeping in the Queen’s arms. He pressed a kiss to Eve’s little cheek.
“Goodbye, little one. I hope you grow up just as beautiful and brave as your mothers. You be good now,” he said, voice wavering as he turned and left the Amazon village behind him.
Even as his heart broke, he knew he was doing the right thing. He hoped that Xena and Gabrielle were watching, wherever they were, and that they approved. He missed them so much, and it wasn’t fair that they wouldn’t get to see Eve grow up. The gods had a lot to answer for.
Twenty years later, Livia had grown into a fierce Amazon warrior who resembled both her mothers, though she had no knowledge of who they were. Like her sisters, she had been raised by the whole village, and had no concept of parents.
Today, the Amazons faced a great battle against a Roman army, and Livia prepared for it beside her close childhood friend, Varia. Livia glanced at her friend, who was lacing her boots with intense concentration.
“Nah,” claimed Varia. Then she met Livia’s eye, and they laughed. “A little. You?”
“I’m channelling my nervous energy into useful energy,” admitted Livia, grabbing her sword. “You should do the same.”
“I will. I am.” Varia chuckled. “We’re going to make the Roman scum wish they’d never been born.”
“That’s the spirit.” Livia laughed, her bright blue eyes sparkling. “You ready?” she asked.
“Yeah.” Varia stood. “Let’s go.”
Side by side, as they had been ever since they were children, they ran into battle. Although it was neither their first nor their last battle together, it was one to remember, ending in high Roman casualties and a great amount of glory for the Amazons.
Afterwards, Livia limped into the healer’s hut, covered in blood. It was not her own. She found Varia sitting upright on a stretcher, and ran over to her.
“Are you okay? I saw you go down, but it was awesome the way you killed that soldier with-” she broke off. “Varia?”
Varia’s face was pale and strained. She managed a weak smile. “I’ll live. I could use your help, though.”
She drew Livia’s gaze to her thigh, which had a long scratch down its length.
Livia whistled. “That’ll leave an impressive scar.” At Varia’s furrowed brow, she added, “Scars are hot, don’t worry.”
Varia brightened. “Really?”
“Oh yeah.” Livia smirked, and got to work, grabbing the water and cloth that lay beside Varia’s stretcher.
Varia hissed as wet cloth touched her broken skin.
“They show that a warrior has survived multiple battles. Very sexy,” Livia continued as she cleaned Varia’s injury.
Livia looked up into Varia’s dark brown eyes. The hunger in them made her swallow. “I do,” she whispered, and ducked her head again, blushing.
As she wrapped the bandage around Varia’s thigh, she tried not to think about how intimate this was. The light in the healer’s hut had grown dim, most of the occupants were asleep, and she had never touched this part of Varia’s body before. The possibilities of how this could end were dangerous.
She knotted the bandage and sat back on the stretcher, at Varia’s feet. “How’s that?” she asked.
“Good. Never been better,” quipped Varia. “Can you help me up? I want to celebrate with the others.”
“Are you sure?” Livia frowned. “You are hurt.”
“It’s just a scratch. Come on, gimme a hand.” Varia held out her own hand and pleaded with her dark eyes.
Sighing, Livia got to her feet and helped Varia to stand. She slung her arm around her friend’s waist and they went to join the party, where their sisters gathered around a fire, singing and eating and drinking. Like Livia, many of them still carried the blood of their enemies upon their skin.
“It’s a turn-on,” Varia offered when Livia asked. “Like scars.”
“Really?” Livia raised one brow, folding her arms.
“Really.” Varia’s lips turned up at the ends.
“And does it turn you on?”
“It might.” Varia grinned.
Livia uncrossed her arms and murmured in her friend’s ear, “I’ll be back soon.”
She got up and weaved her way through the crowd until she got to the bathing hut, having been reminded that she was covered in blood and sweat and that she would hate to wake in the morning, lying in her own filth. The hut was deserted. She began to fill a tub with a mixture of boiling water from over the fire, and cold river water from a barrel. She stripped off her clothes and sank into the bath.
She scrubbed her face and the rest of her body until the bathwater turned pink, a stark reminder of the lives she’d taken today. She and Varia had had a competition as to who could kill the most Romans. She'd won.
She fetched some clean water with which to clean her hair, and sighed as she poured the water over her head, washing away the grime. She felt human again. Fresh. Civilised.
“There you are,” announced Varia, stepping inside the bathing hut. “You’ve been gone ages. Thought I’d come to your rescue.”
Livia froze, not knowing what to do. Varia had seen her naked before, but something between them had changed in the past few hours, making her shy. They stood there, staring at each other. Drops of water landed on the floor at Livia’s feet, creating puddles.
“Interesting thing to do in the middle of a party,” Varia commented. “Everything okay?
“Yeah. Just wanted the hut to myself. This way I only have to smell my own sweat instead of the others’.”
“Fair enough.” Varia kept her eyes on Livia’s, clearly trying not to let her gaze wander southwards.
Livia commended the effort, but at the same time came to an awkward realisation. “I don’t have any clean clothes,” she stated, wide-eyed.
“Oh.” Varia’s eyebrows went up. “I can…get you some. Anything in particular?”
“Nothing complicated to put on,” requested Livia. “Thanks, Varia. You’re a good friend.”
Varia smiled. “Least I can do.” She turned and strode out of the hut, leaving Livia on her own.
Livia grabbed two towels, wrapping one around her body and the other around her soaking wet hair. Then she poured out her dirty bathwater.
This time, when Varia entered the hut, Livia wasn’t caught off guard. “Thanks,” she said as Varia handed her a plain dress the colour of Livia's eyes.
She pulled it over her head, struggling a little with getting it over the towel, and made it sit on her body. She reached under the dress and pulled off the towel she’d wrapped around her. She glanced down, aware that her nipples, cold from being out of the bath so long, poked through the fabric. She crossed her arms across her chest.
Varia chuckled. “Could’ve just told me to turn around,” she said, folding her own arms as she smirked, shaking her head.
Livia groaned, making Varia laugh harder. She used her towel to dry her hair as much as she could, then said, “Come on. Let’s get back to the party.”
“Yeah. Why?” Livia’s pulse quickened.
“It’s just… I can think of something else I’d rather be doing. Someone else.” Varia reached out and stroked Livia’s cheek.
Livia reddened under Varia’s touch. “I’m going back to my hut.” She forced herself to hold Varia’s strong, heated gaze. She murmured, “You’re welcome to join me.”
Varia inhaled. “I’d like that.” Her voice was low, a dangerous sound that made Livia step closer.
“Good,” she whispered against Varia’s lips, right before kissing her.
The kiss, awkward but hot, had them grasping for each other, desperate to touch. They had to breathe sooner rather than later, however, and when they parted, Livia twined her fingers with Varia’s.
She nodded towards the entranceway and said, “Let’s go.”
This new chapter of their lives - Livia’s favourite, as they couldn’t get enough of each other - started with a bang. She thought it could last forever.
She was wrong.
It could have lasted, if Callisto’s soul were not inside her. Perhaps even then, it could have lasted, if she had never met the god of war, who trained her for his own amusement and taught her things of which she never could have conceived.
One morning when Livia was twenty-five, she woke up, a glint in her eyes, in the bed she shared with Varia. The current Amazon Queen had made Varia her second in command, and the confidence and authority the position gave her attracted Livia to her friend and lover even more. But, as Ares, had told her, what was better than sleeping with the Queen’s second? Being the Queen yourself.
Livia stole into the Queen’s hut, pulled her into the centre of the village, and accused her of refusing to honour the old gods and instead turning to the god of Eli. Gasps echoed all around.
“I challenge you!” shouted Livia, lifting her sword, given to her by Ares.
The Queen glared. “I accept,” she spat, “if only to prove you unworthy of your right of caste.”
Varia ran forwards and stepped between them. “Don’t do this,” she ordered. Her face was stern. “Is this what we've come to, fighting each other over religious differences? If you go ahead, you’ll divide us.”
Livia turned to her with freezing cold eyes. “Don’t tell me you’ve become one of those damned Elijians too.”
Varia’s eyes widened. “Of course not. Livia, leave this alone. Don’t speed up the Amazons’ demise.”
Livia tossed her head, wavy brown hair swinging around her shoulders. “I won’t sit by and watch the ones who gave us life die. Our traditions are sacred, you know that. Now step aside.”
Varia planted her feet wider and straightened her back.
“Step aside!” Livia screeched, blood boiling.
Again, Varia refused.
“It’s all right, Varia,” said the Queen. “This is between Livia and me.”
Varia hesitated, but at the Queen’s insistence, stepped back. She joined their sisters and watched the terrific fight with weak legs, using her sister, Tura, and the other woman next to her for support.
Livia, of course, did not notice this. Instead, all her attention went to defeating the Queen so that she could rule an army of her own, an army of Amazons. According to the rules, this challenge would end at first blood, but she ignored this, thinking only of her lessons from Ares. Injured is not enough, you must kill your enemy so they can't rise again to kill you.
The fight went on for some time, and Livia was pleased that her opponent’s skill and strength almost matched her own, for a short fight never provided much satisfaction. The Queen made a fatal mistake, though, when she failed to protect her side as she swung at Livia's head. Livia didn’t give her a chance to make a second mistake, and stabbed her through the heart. As their eyes met, she twisted the blade and watched the life drain out of the Queen.
Complete silence followed the Queen’s body falling to the ground. Livia yanked her sword out of the Queen’s chest and wiped off the blood, then turned in a circle, gauging her audience. Shocked, pale faces stared back at her, unspeaking.
Only Varia dared to move, striding into the middle of the circle with a murderous glare. “You’d better watch your back, Queen Livia. You’ve betrayed us all. You’ve betrayed me. You will pay for your actions this day.”
Livia felt something like guilt as she watched Varia’s retreating back. They’d shared so much of their lives with each other and had so many wonderful years together, and she’d ended it all with one blow of her sword.
But the darker part of her relished the knowledge that she had succeeded in her first task: she was now an Amazon Queen, ready to unite all the Amazons under one banner and unleash Tartarus on Earth. That part of her, with the soul of Callisto, the blood of Xena, and the training of Ares, was stronger. That part of her promised to complete her quest for domination.
A week later, two legendary women, searching for their long-lost daughter, walked into the village. The first thing they did was ask to speak with the Queen. Although she - and the reunion - were not what they were expecting, they found their daughter. It just took a while.