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The Commander's Poet

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AN: this story has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, probably over a year. I've always enjoyed the history of the Huns and Attila. I think Xena would definitely fit in with these people considering her background with warlords and battle skills. Plus, I just love conqueror Xena and felt like we didn't see enough of her in the show. I wish to share with you all my stories and many ideas that pop in my head.

I've been working on this plot for a long time, though I will not ignore my other stories, but was too hyped to not at least write a prologue. I will make it as detailed as possible, as always, creating a different verse entirely. Hope you all enjoy and feedback would be great, makes authors happy to hear reader's thoughts lol ;)

Visual representation for non canon characters: images from Xena: Warrior Princess, Ertugrul, Magnificent Century, Rome, Attila The Hun, The Bible, The Eagle, Atlantis, Agora, Gladiator.

The Commander's Poet


One of the largest tribes settled in the center of the Balkans, belonged to King Rua, the uncle of Attila and his elder brother, Bleda. Attila's father died in battle fighting against the Visigoths that charged through the Balkan territory close to the Caspian Sea, leaving Attila an orphan of war, abandoned and the only survivor of his tribe. It wasn't until his uncle, Rua, came to his rescue and took him under his wing. Bleda lived with King Rua from birth due to his mother dying of a fever when he was a babe.

Attila trained from a young boy and grew into a fierce warrior, rivaling his uncle in combat. He desired an army of his own and one day when his uncle died, he wanted to be king, but since Bleda was the eldest, the crown would indefinitely go to him. He knew that Bleda was not fit to be king because he was lazy and never drew a sword his entire life. He had never experienced war or true loss like Attila did.

As Attila grew older he realized that he needed to establish himself as a fine ruler and sought out recruits to be his military commander to help him lead his people into victory for the future. He searched for years and found someone who might be able to help him. Borias, a man from the Caspian tribes, a great noble fighter and was renowned as a great Hun warrior for several years.

He employed Borias as his commander in chief of the Hunnic military and offered to take in Borias' entire tribe into the Balkans as gratitude and to show his loyalty. Little did he know that a certain woman that accompanied Borias, would bring the light to his eyes. She too, was a great warrior and Borias' lover at the time. She was feared by many people in the Caspian tribes because of her savagery and ferocity. Attila grew to adore her and treated her as his little sister thus appointing her to second in command of his military alongside Borias. He was impressed by her fighting skills and someday he knew he would need her support to conquer all the lands that belonged to Valentinian and Theodosius.

This woman was Xena, born a Thracian in the Balkans, and Queen of the Caspian Sea. She was feared by many and was able to conquer all of the Caspian tribes with Borias by her side. Together they ruled the Caspian and Black Seas. Attila knew with Xena's knowledge of war and swordsmanship, she would be a great fit for his expedition against Constantinople and one day, Rome.

This time marked the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire and was taken by a group of tribal warriors known as the Huns. The Roman Empire had seen darkness fall upon the world when they realized that their land was being turned over to the Huns and their leader, the great vicious warlord, Attila, and his army of savage tribal men. Attila and his men conquered over the Eastern Roman Empire in a span of ten years –rain of blood came crashing down on the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Empire feared that one day, Attila and his men would conquer them too.

The Western Roman emperor, Valentinian III, a childish ruler, guided by his elderly mother, Placida, and his military commander in chief, Flavius Aetius, was not concerned by the Huns early on. The young foolish emperor believed that Attila's men would not dare come and invade Rome, the holy city of both East and West of the greatest empire that the world had ever seen. The Huns were barbaric in nature and were considered savages by the Roman people. They were people from various ethnic backgrounds that congregated to form a nation that united as one ethnicity, one kind; the Huns. A nation under God to destroy the Holy Roman Empire and claim it for themselves with Attila as their leader.

The Huns at first, did not despise the Roman elites and the emperor, Valentinian or even the Eastern emperor, Theodosius. Attila, a young warlord would lead his people to victory in a vicious ongoing battle that lasted for more than forty years, trying to claim the Roman's lands and one day, to rule the world and create an empire so great that God would fear it. The Huns would keep expanding until the Romans were obsolete thus creating a Hunnic Empire with Attila as its king.

This century, this era, marks the turning point of the rise of a Hun king and a battle with the Roman Emperors to fight valiantly and declare what they think is rightfully theirs, but not without help from friends.

Prologue Part I

Pannonia, the capital of King Rua's tribe, hosted a celebration for the wedding of Attila and his lover, Cera. She was once a captured slave girl and Attila desired her from the start and wanted his brother, Bleda, to stay away from her, knowing he would be jealous of the beautiful red haired tribal woman. But this night, they were married and the entire tribe gathered outside in the center of the grounds, drinking and dancing together.

The men of the tribe joined in a giant circle and practiced a ritual dance, clapping and chanting in their native tongue to celebrate the union of Attila and Cera. The women had a circle of their own, joining hands together and dropped to their knees and jumped back up, alternating between both steps whilst singing a tribal wedding song to correlate with the men's dance and chanting during this happy time.

Xena sat in a chair, overlooking the dancing women and men of the tribe. She did not really care for such celebrations all that much but knew that these people loved to party as well as fight. She did not oppose parties, because she too loved to splurge every now and then when there was a victory or special occasion.

Borias left the circle of men and laughed, picking up a bottle of mead, pouring himself a glass. He caught his breath and saw Xena sitting by herself, far from the festivities. He decided to go and join her so she wouldn't be alone as he knew that she would not be feeling up to joining in. Xena noticed him walking towards her and she smiled, seeing that he was enjoying himself. She adjusted in her chair and he sat beside her on an empty wooden stool, sipping the mead.

"Why are you sitting by yourself?" he asked and then kissed her hand gently. She smirked and with every movement her entire outfit jingled with her. She wore a black long dress that reached the floor, covering her black close-toed burgundy sandals. Her headdress had many coins and silver chains on it, covering her long raven hair that barely reached her hips.

"Unlike you and Attila, I enjoy watching, not partaking in parties," she replied and looked out at the smiling women, dancing in a circle around the large bonfire.

Borias scoffed and held onto her hand firmly, "I thought you enjoyed parties, Xena..." he said in his thick, raspy accented voice. Staring into her crisp bright blue eyes he saw that she was mildly enjoying his teasing nature.

"Only when they benefit me," chuckling softly and he rolled his eyes, groaning at her response, though he knew she was right. She tended to want to be the center of attention at most times, though she was not so greedy to put herself or the tribe in danger for the sake of winning a battle.

Attila came running forth and wrapped his arms around Xena from behind. She jumped and he kissed her cheek. "Xena!" he exclaimed, spilling some of his mead on her dress due to his drunken nature. Xena frowned, lifting an eyebrow up at him. His eyes widened and he took the scarf hanging around his neck and began wiping the alcohol off her shoulder. "Forgive me," he shook his head, now embarrassed.

Xena grunted and slapped his hand away, "it's fine," she brushed off some of the mead from her dress and adjusted herself in the chair, leaning her cheek on her palm, now annoyed and slightly irritated. "Can't you go be drunk somewhere else?" she rolled her eyes.

Borias smirked and stood up, hugging his tribal brother, "where is your new wife?" he asked.

Attila had a smug smile on his face, "she's waiting for me," he whispered and Borias' eyebrows lifted then he smiled, both began laughing together, knowing exactly what that meant.

"Oh please," Xena snickered and turned to see both the men ceased laughing. Borias folded his arms and she looked at him incredulously. "What?" she frowned.

"Oh now you've spoiled her mood, Borias," Attila chuckled and that only irritated Xena more and she turned around, looking at the dancing people, enjoying themselves while she sulked. He knelt down and wrapped his arm around her, hugging her warmly and she cringed. "You know how much I love you as a sister," he said sweetly and Xena sighed heavily and she was unresponsive.

His eyes traveled to her swollen abdomen and he looked up at her, "and how is the child?" he was obviously concerned for her well being, though she didn't appreciate it much. She snapped her head towards him and glared into his bright green eyes. He sensed her negativity and stood up, taking some generous steps away from her. Attila stood next to Borias and smiled at him, "God shall grant you both a healthy boy!"

Borias nodded and hugged his friend before he went off to consummate his marriage with his new wife. Xena sat in her chair, lowering eyes at what Attila had said. She hoped that her child was a boy, fearing that a daughter would bring her and Borias trouble ahead in the future.

He walked and brought the stool to sit on in front of her. He lifted her chin and saw sadness in her eyes. "You, the mighty Caspian Queen...afraid?" he teased, hoping to lighten her mood. She hinted at a small smile but it soon disappeared. He sighed and grasped both of her hands, gripping tightly then kissed her knuckles gingerly. "You have nothing to fear, Xena," he whispered. Still the party continued behind him and she said nothing as her reply.

He had never seen her afraid before and he saw it in her eyes, though she tried to hide it, this was probably the one thing she was bad at –hiding her true emotions. She never liked to admit it, but she was only human and it was inevitable that she showed her emotions when need be. Curious, he set both his hands on her belly, he felt his unborn child kicking his palms, then a smile came to him.

She smirked and placed her slender hand over his, intertwining their fingers. He had a big grin upon his face and she sighed and lifted his chin with her free hand. "What if the Visigoths invade us?" her eyebrows creased, now fear setting in.

He touched her cheek and put on a smile for her sake, "if they do, Attila and I will handle them. You don't need to worry," he stood up and kissed her forehead and she frowned, not satisfied with the answer. She gripped his hand and he halted, staring in her anger filled eyes.

"If you don't get rid of them, I will do it myself," her voice filled with determination, anger, malice and valor all in one. "You know what they did to the other Balkan tribes' children, Borias," her eyes narrowed as her frown deepened.

He cupped her cheeks in his large palms and stared at her, firmly replying, "your job is to protect our child, Xena. I know what those savages do to our tribes, you don't need to remind me," he groaned. Deciding to put that in the back of his mind he grinned at her and grabbed her hand, pulling her away from the chair, "come to bed with me," his voice sultry and she lifted an eyebrow, smiling at his current mood. He helped her out of the chair and they left to go to their large yurt, three times the size as any of the other yurts and next to Attila's large dwelling.

Roman soldiers walked the plains of the Balkans, searching for a spot to camp in. The campaign against the Visigoths was longer than expected and the Western Roman commander in chief, Flavius Aetius, lead a ferocious battle against King Theodoric of the Visigoth kingdom in the eastern Balkans.

The group of soldiers walked across the large wheat stalks and saw smoke not far from where they stood. Figuring they should check it out, they had no idea there would be people in this area, at least not live people. They feared there would be more Goths to sabotage. Coming over the hill one of the men whistled to his men.

"Quick!" he yelled and the others joined him. Together they saw a huge tribe, thousands of people probably and hundreds of yurts, a large abode in the outskirts of the tribe. The man who found the tribe saw a yellow flag with a bull on it and frowned, squinting his eyes, trying to see any more clues he could find. "We must report to Sir Aetius about this," he smiled.

Another soldier seemed less enthused, "what if they are more Goths? Probably spies of King Theodoric himself!" he said and the man shook his head at him.

"No, these are not the Visigoths, my friend. These are the Huns," he smiled, proud of his treasure and couldn't wait to tell his commander. "I will wait here. You go to our commander, tell him at once! It is urgent!" he demanded and the others ran off. Smiling, folding his arms he saw a few people coming out of their yurts to start the day, though the morning was gloomy and sun had not yet risen, it would be a lovely day. A bonus he would receive from his emperor Valentinian for his discovery of the valiant Huns.

King Rua dressed in his armor with animal pelts draped over his shoulders. He stepped out of his yurt and noticed all of the women and men preparing for the day. All looked a bit hung over from the festivities the night before. Of course, wedding celebrations were quite grand and special in the Hun tribes. They were nights to be remembered and Rua made sure that everyone had plenty of wine, mead and food to share with all the tribe members.

Bleda, his eldest nephew emerged from his yurt, looking a bit haggard from the ceremonies last night. He walked over to him and pat his back harshly. "Bleda! You have enjoyed yourself surely?" he had a bit of mirth in his eyes.

The young man held his head, feeling his head throbbing harder the more his uncle spoke loudly. "My brother knows how to throw a party, that's for sure." He walked to the well and took the ladle drinking some much needed water. As he drank his eyes traveled to the hill and saw many Roman soldiers peering at them, probably twenty of them at least and a man that looked of utmost importance. "Uncle!" he called out, wiping his mouth.

Rua hurried over and he too now saw the Romans spying on their tribe. "Romans in the Balkans?" he couldn't believe it. "Go wake Attila and Borias," he said and Bleda refused to move, now angered by the Romans daring to come to their land. "Go!" he pushed him and Bleda groaned then ran off to get his brother and Borias. He didn't want to see the shocked look on their faces from this sudden news.

Attila woke up, stretching his arms over his head then glanced over at his newlywed wife, sleeping soundly. The covers draped over her body perfectly shaping her slender curved body. He leaned over and pulled down the blanket uncovering her medium sized breast. Tracing his finger over her nipple she stirred and shivered at his touch.

Cera's eyes fluttered open and he kissed her shoulder, cupping her breast in his palm. She smirked at him, "you didn't get enough last night?" she said in a husky sleepy voice. His hand traveled under the sheets and she felt his hand graze over her flat abdomen, grabbing her inner thigh and her body tensed. She turned over on her side and kissed his lips gingerly. Attila smiled and began kissing her neck as his fingers slipped inside her. Cera's eyes widened and she bit her bottom lip. "Attila..." she hissed.

Bleda came into his brother's room and Attila turned, hearing footsteps. Cera gasped and covered herself with the blankets. Bleda smirked, "brother I see you are having your fill with your redhead goddess," he folded his arms.

Attila frowned and now his was in no mood to have sex with his new wife courtesy of his dear brother. "What do you want, Bleda?" he stood up, naked, and grabbed the goblet of mead that was leftover from last night and took a generous swig.

"There are Romans over the hill. Our uncle demands your presence," Bleda said and Attila set the goblet down.

"Romans?" he wanted to make sure he heard that right. Bleda nodded, "tell him I will be there in a moment. Wake Borias," he grabbed his pants and began dressing as fast as possible. His brother left the room and went to inform King Rua, after he awakened Borias.

Cera crawled to the end of the bed with an imminent frown on her lips, "Attila, what did he mean that Romans were here?"

Attila slipped on his boots and threw his animal pelts over his shoulders. "I am going to find out," he grunted then got up, adjusting his belt. He leaned down and kissed her lips with force. He pulled away and brushed a few tendrils behind her ear, "stay here where you are safe." He smiled then grabbed his sword, hurrying out of the room to meet his uncle and brother to see these so called Romans and why they were here in the first place.

Bleda entered Borias' and Xena's yurt, seeing they were both still sleeping and he had his arm draped over Xena. He cleared his throat and Borias opened his eyes, sitting up on his elbow. "Attila and King Rua need you at the front of the hill."

He yawned, "what is it this time?" he was not in the mood for this especially so early in the morning. He couldn't even see the sun yet that's how early it was.

"It's urgent. The Romans are here," Bleda said and was going to stand there until he agreed to come out with him. Xena opened her eyes and frowned seeing Attila's brother in their yurt. "Good morning, Xena," he smiled at her sweetly. She rolled her eyes and rested her head back down on the pillow.

Borias sighed and rubbed his face, "give me some time and I will be there," he said, waving his hand at him. Bleda nodded, content with that, he knew he could trust Borias and left the yurt in a haste. He stood up slowly and grabbed his pants and tunic, not happy about being woken up, but it must be urgent otherwise Bleda wouldn't come in here personally. And if the king said it was important, then it must be serious.

Xena sat up, covering her upper half with the warm wool blanket and smiled at him smugly. His eyes lowered to her and saw that enticing smile. She grabbed his hand, "last night was fun," her eyes squinted as her smile widened.

He chuckled softly, "was it?" he tightened his belt around his slender waist. "I have to go meet with Attila and the king about some Romans," he sighed, rolling his eyes then grabbed his sword, sheathing it in its holster.

She frowned at that and grabbed his hand, not wishing him to leave, "I'll come with you." He quirked his mouth then knelt down in front of her and looked into her glowing blue eyes that would enchant anyone.

"I want you to stay here," he whispered.

She shook her head, "but I am second in command. I should be there too," her voice filled with determination and he knew better than to argue with her and decided to keep his mouth shut. She smiled, knowing that he would not dare detest her and since she was the second in command in the military, she was just as important as Attila, his brother, Borias and King Rua. "Go on without me, I will be there," she winked.

He sighed and kissed her forehead, "I'll be waiting for you by the front," he groaned inwardly, not happy that she was joining in, fearing that she might be harmed, but it was almost impossible to reason with her, especially when she wanted to do what she wanted, when she wanted. He grabbed an extra sword and left the yurt to meet with everyone by the hill.

Attila and Borias met halfway as they walked to the front of the hill together. Attila looked at the gaggle of Romans, huddling together like a herd of sheep. "Romans never come here," Attila frowned, his pace quickening.

"They are not attacking." Borias noticed, as they kept staring at King Rua and Bleda, waiting for them. "What do they want?" he hissed.

"We're going to find out," Attila ran to the front and Borias followed shortly.

They joined the others and King Rua turned his head at the arrivals. "I am not sure of their intentions," he said to his youngest nephew.

Attila nodded and saw the commander of the Romans staring down at them with curious eyes. "I say we meet with them, uncle," he said and Rua shot him a look. "We see what they want with us. We don't need conflict with the Romans. Besides, I want to see what their game is," he smiled deviously at the thought of Romans entering his people's domain. The Romans were now in their realm and it was time to play a game.

Borias frowned, folding his arms, "Romans are known for trickery, Attila. We need to be on our guard," he pressed.

"Indeed Borias, which is why I want to interrogate the commander," he nudged his head at the tall meaty one glaring at them. Some men began walking up the hill to tell the Romans they wished to converse. "Look at the pig," he chuckled.

Flavius Aetius was brought into the large abode of the gracious Hun King Rua. Attila made the rest of the Romans stay outside the fort, not trusting them at all. The Roman commander sat down on a large pillow, opposite the king, Attila, Bleda and Borias. He admired these people as they lived as such barbarians and were completely uncivilized in his eyes, coming from a wealthy elite background.

Xena entered the room and all eyes went to her. Aetius turned his head and saw a striking raven haired woman, wearing a coined headpiece draped over her long locks. His eyes grew as he gawked over her beauty. His eyes scanned her body and she wore black fur covering her dress and she eyed him staring at her. She walked over behind him and sat next to Borias on the pillow, tucking her legs under her. Smiling at Attila he simply gave her a small head nod, glad she was here to see the interrogation process, though he hoped she would keep her mouth shut. She never was a talker, but when she was, she said some of the most cruel things that could scare off the most ruthless warlords ever to walk this earth. He hoped she'd cooperate.

King Rua cleared his throat, now grabbing everyone's attention. "Welcome to my home, commander," he smiled at the Roman.

Aetius bowed his head graciously, "it is an honor to be in your presence," he smirked.

"you know of us, then?" the king asked, hesitant of this Roman and his lies.

Flavius Aetius smiled, nodding, "of course. I know of the Huns, your highness," he eyed Attila, "and I know of you," he said and Attila raised his eyebrow suspiciously. "Your people have a large some of land that rivals the Visigoth king," he chuckled and everyone in the room remained silent, not getting the joke. His laughter died and he extended his hand and the Hun guards came closer to the king. Aetius saw the guards out of the corner of his eye and retracted his hand. "I have come to make a proposition for you all."

Xena frowned, not liking the sound of that. "What kind of proposition?" she asked and all eyes went to her. The Roman turned his head and couldn't help but smile at her, smitten by her beauty.

"I didn't know the Huns had such gorgeous women," Aetius smiled and Xena was less enthused by his flattery.

Attila sighed, "Xena is my second in command. She is to be respected," he said and the Roman nodded, understanding fully.

"Of course," he continued smiling at the raven haired splendor. He redirected his attention to the king, "I want to ally with your people. Rome needs to expand her empire and I think you are great warriors to have on Rome's side."

King Rua frowned and looked to his nephews, waiting for their response, but everyone was quite surprised. Xena was the only one who seemed to have a voice today. "Why would we want to join Rome?" she asked and Attila shot her a glare. He knew she was going to do this, though she seemed to be behaving herself and he trusted her judgment in matters like these.

Aetius turned to her, "your people would prosper in Rome's wealth and you would receive all the glory of course, dedicating yourself to Rome as an ally –friends," he grinned and she turned to Borias, and both shared a look.

"What will you give us if we decide to ally with you?" Xena asked and King Rua nodded, very happy to see that she was asking all the right questions while everyone remained flabbergasted at this sudden proposition.

The Roman eyed everyone and grinned nervously at the Hun king. "Two thousand Roman soldiers and one fourth Roman pounds for your alliance and you may keep half of what you plunder along Rome's expansion." He said and Attila looked to his uncle, wondering if this was a good deal.

"One fourth is not enough!" Xena reprimanded. "Two fourths Roman pounds and seventy percent of anything we may find during our excursions."

Attila frowned, "we will not exceed our greed," he eyed Xena and Borias grabbed her hand, squeezing it tightly so she wouldn't argue. "We will take the one fourth pounds, but keep the seventy percent commerce," he said and Aetius sighed.

"I'm sure the emperor would have no problem with that deal," Aetius smiled, bowing his head. Xena frowned, narrowing her eyes at the Roman. He turned to the king, "so we have a deal?" he paused, "unless the lady objects..." his eyes traveled to Xena.

King Rua shook his head, "no, we will take the offer," he stood up and everyone else stood. Aetius smiled and extended his hand to shake it. The king looked at his hand, puzzled at what he was supposed to do with it. Aetius sensed that these people definitely not up to par on civil meetings and slowly retracted his hand.

"I will notify the emperor of our meeting then. I will send a currier for more information," he said and he was shown the way out of the conference.

Xena stood up and now that the Roman was gone Attila approached her, "Xena, you were out of line," he hissed, inches from her face.

"You were going to let that Roman pig walk all over you!" Xena yelled at him and Attila groaned, frustrated with her obstinacy. He was a gentle man, except when it came to war and he realized that she was indeed a skilled warrior and knew how to negotiate but she was not queen here, she was not in charge. He also reminded himself that she was pregnant and took a step back from her, giving her personal space.

He exhaled heavily, "you are my best commander, Xena. I trust you and you know I trust your judgment, but if we ally with the Romans, we want them on our side, not against us. We will work together, as a team," he said, making sure he made himself clear. He left her side and Bleda smirked, following his little brother.

Borias grabbed her arms and held her close to his body, "Xena," he hissed, "you need to learn your boundaries!"

She growled and pushed him away from her, "you need to learn to sense a snake when you see one, Borias!" she brushed passed him and stormed out of the small room. He rubbed his face, frustrated with her actions, though she had a point, he thought.

Flavius Aetius returned to his camp in one piece, he expected nothing less since the Huns decided to meet with him. He met with his soldiers, "inform Valentinian that we have the Huns on our side. I am sure he will be pleased," he smiled, slipping his red plumed feather helmet on his head. The men nodded and ran off to inform their messenger and their soon return to Rome about this grand news.

He turned back and looked at the tribe and couldn't stop thinking of that raven haired woman. She was definitely smart as well as beautiful. But he sensed that she was dangerous and he did not trust her. She was so quick to denounce his offer and create one for herself. Because of this, he admired her bravery not to stand down against newcomers in the area. She might be a problem, he told himself. He needed to keep an eye on her, but he saw that the king and Attila were fond of her opinions and that too could be dangerous.

He only hoped that she would not be an issue as the alliance between Mother Rome and the Huns. He would definitely have her investigated when he returned to Rome, that was a promise.

AN: save for a part II

Chapter Text

AN: Holy mother of God. I never wrote such a long chapter in my entire life of writing stories. I wanted to make this really long so I wouldn't have to split it up into three parts. This chapter is very intense with a lot of information that is vital and will probably intrigue you all some more. Maybe lol.

Enjoy and good luck, everyone! Hope you enjoy this adventure.

Prologue Part II

In Rome, Valentinian, the youngest Roman Emperor in the history of the entire empire, sat in a chair opposite his military commander, Flavius Aetius. He grew bored of Aetius' strategic planning lessons and desired more to be with his younger sister, Honoria. His entire life, after his uncle died and he became his successor of mother Rome, his mother, Placida, was in charge of all the politics and meetings. Valentinian yawned as Aetius kept pointing to spots on the map tacked to the wall.

He leaned his cheek on his palm and Aetius turned around to see that his emperor was not listening. He was expecting that and nothing less from the young foolish emperor. "You are tired, your highness?" he smiled tightly, trying to contain his temper, which was rising by the second.

The emperor nodded, "this is so boring, Aetius," scoffing he stood up and walked to the map. He noticed the city Pannonia, noting that was the capital of the Hunnic tribes in the Balkans. "What is it with you and these Huns?" he laughed, "they are savages from what I hear." He shrugged a shoulder and folded his arms, then looked at the large amount of land the Huns had and it bordered the Eastern Roman Empire's holy city, Constantinople. "You said you allied with these barbarians?" he looked up at the commander.

Aetius nodded, "I did sire. They are great fighters and rose to power so quickly," he frowned, thinking that was quite remarkable of them. Though when he met with King Rua and his nephews, they did not seem like savages or barbarians whilst in his presence. "I thought to ally with them so they would not try and overthrow Rome."

Valentinian cackled loudly, "overthrow Rome? That's ridiculous, Aetius!" he shook his head, still laughing at the preposterous idea.

"Beware those that rise to power quickly, sire," Aetius stressed but the young emperor was not interested in talking of these Huns anymore.

Honoria ran into the room, being chased by her elder cousin, Petronius. Her white Roman gown trailed behind her and she giggled as she ran behind her elder emperor brother, trying to get away from their cousin. Valentinian smiled seeing his little sister, only a few years younger than he. "Petronius, you dare attack my sister?" he joked.

Petronius leaned on the table and Honoria grabbed Valentinian's hand and they ran from behind the table and knocked over a vase with orchids. Placida, their mother, entered the room and clung to the wall as she saw her adult children running from their cousin. "Excuse us, mummy!" Honoria said aloud and they rounded the corner.

Aetius groaned and slammed the quill down on the table. Placida walked over to him and saw the map hanging on the wall. "Your son does not pay attention to anything I say, Placida," he growled.

She folded her arms, "I know my son can be very childish sometimes, Aetius. He just needs time."

"He needs to grow up!" Aetius raised his voice and some of the slaves looked their way. He sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose. He saw her looking at the map and a large area was outlined in black ink.

"I was informed that you have allied with the savage Huns..." she turned to him with a frown, "is this true?"

He affirmed her question, "yes, I did. I feel that an alliance will keep them from trying to conquer Rome in the future. It will be best if we are friends with these people, Placida," he said and she did not seem convinced.

She looked at the circled city, Pannonia and thought that was an interesting city for a capital. "You honestly believe those barbaric Bedouins would try and take Rome for themselves?" she turned to him.

"Just to be on the safe side, your highness," he smiled, "those who rise to power quickly, often conquer quickly."

Placida's eyes scanned the map and saw the Huns had quite a large amount of land at their disposal already. They bordered Northern Gaul and also Constantinople. Those places were sacred to the Western Empire and could not be compromised. "I'd like to meet these Huns," she blinked and Aetius was surprised to hear that. "Invite them to Rome," she trailed off and left the room, rounding the corner without giving the commander time to refute her request.

Cera walked out of the large wooden dwelling as she waited for Attila to finish hunting with his men out in the forests, miles from their campsite. It had been weeks since the Romans came to Pannonia and all seemed quiet for now, though she was very untrusting of the Romans because she used to live in the Roman Empire as a slave girl and was transferred to the Hunnic lands. It was then, a year ago, that she met Attila and the two remained together for that year and finally married almost a month ago.

She came to the well and began filling her bucket with water to take back to her bedroom. Bleda saw her by the well and grinned. He ran his fingers through his long black hair and approached her silently.

He grabbed her from behind and Cera gasped loudly. She lifted her eyes and saw Attila's brother. "Bleda! Get off of me!" she groaned and tried to get free from his hold, but he squeezed her harder so she was unable to fight back.

His hand traveled down her soft neck and slipped off her dress from her rounded shoulders. Slipping his hand underneath her dress, he grabbed her breast and her eyes widened. "My brother does not deserve a beautiful woman such as yourself," he whispered in her ear as he sniffed her red long locks.

"Attila will scalp you when he finds out!" she growled and he tugged on her hair and she winced. He licked her cheek and her face contorted in disgust and felt his hand traveling lower under her dress and she was unable to break free, squirming as hard as she could.

Borias came walking into the center of the camp, just finishing meeting with King Rua about a message he received from Rome. He tucked the scroll in his vest then noticed Bleda groping Cera by the well with such force and even heard her cursing at him. It was obvious that she was not enjoying his company to put it nicely. He grabbed a dagger from his belt and marched over to the well.

Bleda smiled and kissed her neck and she restrained his hold. Borias held the tip of the dagger close to Bleda's neck with a devious smile. "What are you doing, Bleda?" he hissed in his ear. The Hun prince turned and threw Cera on the ground and she ate dirt. Rolling up his sleeves he attempted to attack Borias but he failed as Borias side stepped him and tripped him.

"This is none of your business, Borias!" he growled and Borias smiled enticingly at the man.

"That is not your woman, but your brother's. Walk away and no one gets hurt," he frowned and gripped the dagger's handle tightly. Bleda was not going to walk away and he knew that. The Hun prince ran for him and Borias pushed him on the ground and straddled his legs over the sore fighter and sat on top of his back. Grabbing his long hair, lifting his head off the ground, the dagger came to a vital vein in his neck. "Stop embarrassing yourself, Bleda," he smugly grinned. "Or I'll scalp you myself," he hissed.

Borias sheathed his dagger and stood up then grabbed Cera's hand. "Are you alright?" he asked, peering down at her torn dress. He took off a scarf from his neck and wrapped it around Cera to cover herself. She nodded and he kissed her forehead and told her to go back to her room to wait for Attila to return and make sure she wouldn't leave either.

Bleda got up and rubbed his sore ribs, "Borias!" he yelled and he turned to face him. "I am the king's nephew! You will not treat me like that!" he was still trying to redeem himself.

Though, Borias chuckled and began walking away from the prince, "you may be a prince, but you are not a man," he shook his head and kept walking. Bleda's eyes widened and he stood in shock, unable to move at the audacity of Borias to say such things. He would definitely not tell anyone of his failure today. He was an awful fighter, nothing like his younger brother that's for sure.

Inside the yurt Xena stood over a high shelf, pouring liquid into small vials. She frowned, concentrating on pouring the liquid from a large canister into the small bottles. She corked the last bottle and shook the liquid, examining the color change from dark blue to clear. She smiled and placed the vial next to the others. Counting silently to herself there were ten vials lined up accordingly, though she still had some liquid left in the canister, she would need more bottles.

Borias came from behind her and wrapped his arms around her, beneath her breasts and sniffed her hair. Xena smirked and grabbed his wrist, "you smell like lavender," he whispered in her ear then kissed her cheek.

She turned her head and lifted an eyebrow at him, "you smell like trouble," she frowned, then turned around, wrapping her arms around his neck, coming closer to him. "I heard someone yelling outside, what did you do?" she was suspicious already without knowing what happened.

He sighed, "Bleda was trying to have his way with Cera," he saw her eyes narrow.

"I don't like that idiot," she toyed with his long hair and pursed her lips, staring into his dark brown eyes, "he should be gotten rid of. He is of no use to us. He is a poor fighter and a poor excuse for a prince."

He agreed with her and rested his hands on her hips, "we can't do anything about it," he sighed, wishing that he could, though he was sure Rua would have him on a pike the second he killed Bleda for his incompetence. She nodded and smiled enchantingly at him, distracting him, she pulled him as close as possible and then it donned on him. "I have something for you," he smiled and pulled away from her, digging in his vest. She frowned and he presented a scroll with a red ribbon tied around it.

She took the scroll and instantly knew it was from Rome. "What is this?" her eyes traveled up to him.

"A message from Rome sent by Emperor Valentinian. It was delivered this morning to Rua," he said and Xena's lips curled into a sly smile.

"And the king wants me to read it for him?" she asked, though she need not to. She was the only person in the camp that could read Latin, or read anything for that matter. Everyone here was uneducated and did not know how to read or write, only speaking in their native tongues and even learned Latin for the sake of the Roman's expansion. All of the messages sent to the king were given to Xena to read, though they had few messages sent to them but when they did, she was the one to read them.

Borias lowered his eyes, feeling embarrassed for himself, his people and the king not being able to read a lick of anything. She smiled and pat his cheek gently, "see why it is so important to know how to read, Borias?" she teased and walked to sit on the bed. He sighed and turned to see her dress slit, opened and fell exposing her leg slender legs as she crossed one over the other.

She ripped the ribbon off and threw it on the floor, unrolling the scroll, "I will make sure our baby knows how to read when he is old enough," she said and he sat next to her, inching closely to her and put his hand on the small of her back.

"Our baby?" he whispered and before she could read the note, she looked at him with flushed cheeks. He grinned, "before you were saying it was yours," he chuckled softly and touched her cheek with the backside of his hand.

"What's mine is yours now," she said in a soft voice and he was happy to hear those words coming from her. She could be incredibly stubborn and though she was a fierce warrior queen, she had softened the moment she found out that she was carrying a child. Xena would not let him distract her further and she cleared her throat, beginning to read the Roman letter silently to herself.

He waited patiently for her to finish reading the lengthy letter. Finally done reading she finished reading and set the parchment in her lap. He frowned seeing her expression was blank, or shocked, he couldn't tell. Rubbing his hand along her back he asked, "what does it say, Xena?"

She turned her body to him and a curious smile graced her plump lips, "this is an invitation to Rome. The emperor wants us to go meet with him."

Borias's eyes widened at that news. He never expected the emperor to approve the deal that Aetius proposed and the Huns befriending the Romans was unheard of. He kissed her lips, catching her off guard, then grabbed hold of her shoulders firmly. "Attila will be pleased!" Xena smiled, nodding her head. "I will tell him when he returns from hunting."

"I never thought that the Romans would agree to ally with us," Xena frowned, thinking something was wrong and Borias saw that look in her eyes.

He turned her face towards his, "you need to stop thinking like everyone is going to attack, Xena. Have some trust," he smiled and she was skeptical.

"I trust no one," she smiled mischievously, leaning in closer and kissed him generously and he began unlacing the front of her dress, slipping it down her shoulders, he kissed her collar bone and she untied his belt about his waist hastily and threw it on the floor.

He lifted her up and gently placed her on the bed, slipping her dress further down her body and she lifted a curious brow up at him. He stared down at her and her long dark hair was sprawled across the sheets. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he grinned mischievously down at her, admiring her beauty and olive toned skin that complimented her icy blue eyes. For a moment, he couldn't stop staring at her, completely lost in her, though she didn't seem to protest his wandering eyes. Over the last few months he noticed a complete change in her body, her thighs fuller and her cheeks filled out. Her hips became more prominent opposed to her previous slim frame, giving her a very curvy shape.

As he continued to gawk at her she chuckled at his dumbfounded expression. "Are you going to stare at me for eternity?" she ran her fingers through his thick dark hair and he smirked at her, simply appreciating her as a whole. He leaned down and kissed her neck, then collar bone, traveling down further he continued to slip her dress down. His eyes traveled to her breasts and they were considerably larger since the last time he saw them, which he was not one to complain.

She stretched her arms over her head as she felt his lips travel down her body, closing her eyes, she smiled widely, biting her lower lip as her body tensed. His hand gripped her hip and he looked up to see her relaxed and enjoying herself, he smiled cleverly. Inching her dress down further, exposing all of her flesh. His eyes widened and she lifted her leg, wrapping it around his thigh. She smirked at him and he kissed her swollen abdomen, carrying their child. His fingers traced her soft skin and her leg tightened around his, he smiled.

Tracing down her body he squeezed her thigh gently and her hips lifted slightly as his mouth inched closer to her hot spot, feeling her body temperature rising, he reached under her dress with gentle hands, careful not to be too rough with her.

Orestes, Attila's right hand man and one of his best friends came into Borias' and Xena's yurt. His eyes widened as he saw Xena topless, flesh exposed. "Sir," he cleared his throat and Borias stopped, completely ruining the mood.

Xena covered her body with the sheet and frowned, sitting up on her elbows. "For the love of God!" Borias stood up and slipped his pants back over his hips. He turned to Orestes, "what is it?" he hissed.

He lowered his eyes, quite embarrassed to walk in on the two. "Attila is back from the hunt, sir. He wants to see you immediately," he said and Borias sighed heavily, nodding his head. Orestes bowed curtly then left the yurt in a hurry, dying to get out of there.

Borias grabbed his sword and sheathed it in its holster. Xena sat up, crinkling the sheets close to her skin. He stared at her apologetically, "we will...continue this later?" he smirked and she smiled up at him, he then leaned down and kissed her forehead before leaving to meet with Attila.

Attila was speaking with his uncle about the message that he received while he was on his hunt. He brought back a stag and some fish, enough for everyone to feast on later tonight. Borias entered King Rua's room and Attila smiled at him. "Borias! My brother!" he embraced him warmly. "How is Xena?"

Borias sighed, still annoyed that their time together was interrupted as they didn't spend a lot of time together as of late. He would make it a promise to make it up to her later. "She is well," he replied and Attila nodded, happy to hear that.

"I'm glad to hear that, you know how special she is to me," the Hun prince smiled and Borias appreciated his soft spot for Xena. "So, my uncle told me that a message from Rome came. Was Xena able to decipher it?"

"Yes she was. The emperor invited us to Rome," Borias said and King Rua stood from his chair.

"This is great news!" Rua smiled, hugging his nephew tightly, clapping his back pridefully. "We will leave at once."

Attila's eyes widened, "how soon?"

"How about tomorrow?" Rua suggested. Borias and Attila shared a glance with one another, then the Hun prince smiled at his uncle, thrilled at this opportunity to expand their alliance. They were hated by the Visigoths and the Franks in Northern Gaul, but it was an honor to even be considered partners with the Roman empire. The most powerful empire to date and it was still expanding.

King Rua sent Attila, Borias and Xena to Rome while he stayed behind in Pannonia with Bleda to keep things afloat. He knew that he could count on his nephew to bring the Hunnic culture to the pompous Romans and trusted Borias and Xena's judgment. He would make sure that all accounts were recorded for safety purposes and had no idea how long they would stay in Rome, but he hoped it would be long enough to sway the emperor to continue to be allies with their people in the future.

Attila rode on his black stallion, dressed in red robes with hair braided. Xena and Borias rode on their horses behind him, trotting slowly. As soon as they passed the large archway into the palace of Rome, Attila's eyes lit up at all the decorations hanging from the columns and this place was much bigger than he anticipated. There were hundreds of people lined up on the street watching him ride behind the Roman elite soldiers, leading them to the emperor, who sat on his throne, smiling at the Huns.

Xena's eyes wandered around and people from balconies above threw down flower petals for their grand entrance and there was music as well, horns, drums and loud flutes. Borias reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly. She turned to him, "the Romans know how to make someone feel welcome," he said and she showed her pearly whites, feeling important riding alongside him and Attila.

She looked down at the people who were gawking at her and she frowned, seeing the gorgeous women dressed in silk and chaffon gowns and all donned expensive jewelry around their necks and fingers. These people were obviously the elites of Rome, not the poor.

Honoria stood with her friends watching Attila pass them by on his large horse. She nudged her friend, "he is more handsome than I predicted," she smiled with glee.

"I expected him to be hideous," her friend added.

"They wear animal skins..." Honoria thought that odd. "So tribal," she chuckled then looked on to see who else was following behind the handsome Hun prince.

Honoria watched the other two Huns pass by and saw Xena, riding beside another man with equally as long hair as Attila and also handsome as well. She gawked at Xena and saw her hair reached her hips and it was wild, in a few braids framing her face. She wore a chained headpiece on her head, the chains trailing down her back, intertwining with her thick raven hair. She pointed to Xena, "who is that?" she whispered and could not look away.

Her friend's eyes widened seeing Xena ride passed them on her large dark horse, wearing a black dress with black fur coat draped over her body. "She looks terrifying," she said and Honoria nodded, agreeing with her.

Xena felt someone watching her and she turned her head to her right and saw Honoria and her friend staring at her. She smiled at them both and Honoria's eyes grew as she was spotted. She lowered her eyes and Xena sneered then kept riding along close to Borias' horse so she wouldn't stomp on anyone in her way.

Valentinian stood from his throne as Attila dismounted his horse. He walked up to him and kissed the Hun's cheeks twice. Attila was not used to these Roman customs, but was overwhelmed by the welcome he received when he arrived. "Attila, I'm sure you will enjoy yourself in Rome." He smiled.

Attila nodded, "I'm sure I will emperor," he thanked him then the emperor looked at Borias and Xena, dismounting their horses, coming forth to meet them. "These are military commanders, Borias and Xena," he introduced them.

Valentinian smiled at them both and Borias bowed his head curtly, though Xena refused. "You have beautiful women in your lands, Attila," he winked at Xena and she gave a forced tight lipped smile towards the emperor. "Come inside, we have a nice venue for you all," he hooked arms with Attila and lead him inside the palace away from the peering eyes of the open crowd.

Xena lifted her eyebrow and grabbed Borias' hand, trailing behind the two. "He is younger than me," she whispered, already annoyed and she hadn't even been here five minutes. She was very young, in her early twenties and this man looked like he was barely reaching manhood. She suspected that he never laid in bed with a real woman.

"Behave yourself, Xena," Borias hissed and gripped her hand as they entered the palace.

They were escorted into a private room filled with female servants, barely wearing any clothing. Attila's eyes widened seeing the bare chest women pass by him carrying trays of fruit and wine. Xena cringed in disgust and Borias was shocked to see so many freely nude women and even some men too. In Hunnic culture, the Romans veered them as savages and barbarians. Some even say that their women walk around topless or fully naked at all times, though that was far from the truth. Hunnic women were fully clothed and considered modest women, always covering themselves around other men, because a woman only belonged to a man if she sired his child, then she was his forever.

Valentinian saw the shocked faces of his guests, "hopefully this is more to your liking?" completely ignorant of their culture.

Attila smiled nervously, "we don't have parties like these back home, your majesty..." he said trying not to insult the emperor.

The emperor put his hand over his heart, "forgive me, I thought you liked naked women," he chuckled.

Borias smirked, "one woman is enough," he said and Xena jabbed her elbow in his side and he winced, groaning quietly.

Valentinian laughed at the Hun, "I like you," he shook his head and linked arms with Attila. "I will show you the rest of the palace, yes?" he walked with the Hun prince.

Xena grunted, "this ought to be interesting," she mumbled.

King Rua had settled in his bed after a long day. He hoped that Attila, Borias and Xena reached Rome safely and things were going well with the emperor. He slipped in his bed, shirtless, covering himself with the sheer sheets since the weather was not kind and was rather warm during this time of year.

Outside of the king's room Bleda told the guards that their duty was finished for the evening. Luckily for him, the guards listened to him like he was the king himself. The perks of being a prince. Smiling he slipped inside the large dwelling and peered into his uncle's room. He was fast asleep already and he just got in bed not more than a half hour ago.

Stepping into the room quietly he was careful not to make a sound. A few large candles were lit in the room and the flames whispered and cackled. Drawing a short sword from his sheath he tip toed closer to his uncle's bed. He stood over him, staring at him sleeping soundly, oblivious to the world.

"I will be king," he whispered and Rua's chest rose and fell gently as his slumber deepened, which meant he couldn't hear anything and was unaware. Bleda climbed on top of his uncle and wrapped his fingers around his throat. Rua's eyes opened and he saw his eldest nephew, wielding a dagger and he was being choked.

"Bleda?" he choked and the nephew smiled maliciously at his uncle.

Bleda cut into his uncle's throat slowly and blood began pouring out of his neck, all over his chest and the beautiful silk sheets on the bed. He smiled and decided to cut deeper. Thick clots of blood began spilling out of the fresh wound. The white sheets were now crimson. Rua coughed and the viscous dark bodily fluids flowed from his mouth. He looked into his nephew's eyes. "Why..." he choked then lolled his head to the side and blood continued to spew from his neck, covering his torso and Bleda wiped his sword on the sheets and licked his fingers.

He ran out of the room and saw a guard watching at the forefront of the dwelling and he grabbed him from behind, covering his mouth. He dragged the guard into his now dead uncle's room and then stabbed the man in the side with the dagger. The man cried out in pain then Bleda growled, grabbing a pillow and began smothering him. His arms flayed in the air and he kicked his legs trying to free himself.

Bleda's eyes were filled with ambition as he continued to smother the poor guard. Finally after a couple of minutes, the man's arms flopped to the ground and his legs ceased movement. Bleda removed the pillow and saw the man's eyes wide open and his mouth agape. Blood poured onto the floor in a giant pool from the rib wound.

The Hun prince wiped his bloodied hands on the guard's clothing and then stood up walking over to Rua. He stared at him and smiled. Then he opened his uncle's hand and placed the short sword in his palm, making it look like a struggle. He was quite pleased with himself and now that his uncle was dead, he would become the new king, not Attila. He was the eldest and should be king, though he was not a fighter and was quite lazy, it was his birthright.

He would have to wait until morning so the guards could find the precious king dead and his killer lying on the floor as well. He smiled then hurried out of the room so he would not risk being caught by any prying eyes.

Xena walked in the Roman gardens alone and Aetius spotted her wandering by herself without Attila and Borias. He smiled and headed her way, trying to make himself not seem anxious or needy he would pretend to bump into her.

She looked at the vase filled with wine and some glasses on a table filled with fruit outside. She picked up the vase and smelled the sweet wine. Aetius came behind her, "you enjoy wine?" he said and she jumped, turning to find the commander sneaking up on her. "Sorry, I did not mean to scare you," he apologized. He offered to take the wine from her, "allow me?" she eyed him cautiously and he poured wine in two glasses then handed her one.

She sipped the wine, tasting it carefully. He smiled and sipped the wine as well. "I'm surprised to find you out here alone," he enjoyed the singing birds around them and she said nothing, sipping the wine in silence. "Where is your husband?"

Xena choked on the wine, "he is not my husband," she answered curtly.

Aetius nodded, "forgive me. I am not aware of your customs," he said politely and she smiled falsely at him, trying to be on her best behavior like Borias asked of her. "So, you are Attila's military commander?" she nodded as a reply. "How did you come by that opportunity?" he pried, trying to get as much information from her as possible.

"Wouldn't you like to know?" she chuckled under her breath and sipped some more of the dark wine.

"You are very assertive," he noted and she shrugged her shoulder, "I can tell that Attila values your words." He remembered when he first met her back in Pannonia when he offered his alliance with King Rua. She was the first to disagree and actually negotiate with him, something he did not expect a woman to do. He was not aware that the Huns took their women so seriously. "You must be very important from where you are from," he pressed.

Xena was growing tired of this man's insinuation to seek information from her. She wasn't stupid and obviously because she wasn't a Roman and she was a woman, she would not be taken seriously here. "Are you trying to flirt with me?" she smirked, catching him off guard, her favorite thing to do. She set the glass of wine back on the table and grabbed some grapes, lifting an eyebrow at him while she had a big smug grin on her lips.

He set the wine down as well and hooked arms with her leading her away from the table. She frowned, but played along. "I want this alliance to be as friendly as possible, you understand don't you?"

"I think so," she folded her arms as she chewed on a few small grapes. "Why did you want to ally with us? You think we are savages, don't you?" now it was her turn to pry for information.

A servant saw the Hun woman and commander talking with each other. He looked at the two wine goblets sitting on the table and watched the two carefully. He pulled out a vial and poured some powder into both glasses then saw the commander coming for the glasses, he casually walked away like nothing happened.

Aetius smiled and brought Xena her glass, "you seem like a smart woman, Xena. I admire you," he said and she smiled anxiously and shook her head as he tried to hand her the wine again. He set the glass on the table and continued staring into her mysterious eyes. "There is a campaign I am working on against Theodoric, the Visigoth king. I wanted to tell Attila about it first, but I think you are second best," he winked and she tried not to vomit at his constant flirtatious nature. He wasn't going to stop. She couldn't remember the last time a man tried this hard to be close to her and it was honestly pathetic on his part.

Borias saw Xena speaking with the commander in the garden and frowned. He walked by and wrapped his arm around Xena's waist. She smirked at him as he pulled her closer to him. Aetius took a generous step back and set the glass of wine on the table. "Attila wants us to meet with the emperor," he whispered in her ear and she nodded, then smiled at the commander.

"It was very nice talking to you, Xena," Aetius bowed his head and Borias lifted a disapproving brow at this man. He definitely did not trust him and especially did not like that he was talking to Xena alone with nobody around.

A slave came to the wine and took Xena's glass and sipped it. Aetius caught the slave drinking the wine and frowned. "Oh sire, forgive me, I was just..." his lungs began to tighten and felt his stomach churn in knots. Xena frowned at the slave then the young man coughed blood all over the table then collapsed onto the ground.

Borias' mouth gaped as he saw the young slave die right before him, almost instantly. Aetius's eyes grew in fear as he realized the wine was poisoned, though it couldn't have been while they were drinking it. perhaps someone slipped in something while they were not aware.

Xena smirked, folding her arms, "oh yes, Aetius, it was very nice speaking with you..." she chuckled lowly and walked off with Borias to meet with Attila and Valentinian.

Aetius took the glass of wine and dipped his finger in it and saw a film over the liquid. He frowned and threw the glass onto the ground. He stormed back into the palace to speak with his soldiers about this, though he feared that the emperor would be poisoned...he secretly desired such a fate for the foolish ruler.

A couple of weeks later Attila, Borias and Xena returned to Pannonia with good news. Valentinian and his commander, Flavius Aetius, were hosting a war campaign against the Visigoths. They were definitely enemies of both parties, but the Romans wanted to weaken the Goth king so he wouldn't try to plunder the Hunnic lands anymore. Attila had agreed to join the Romans in the battle campaign with Borias and Xena by his side, leading all the attacks though it was tough to make Xena agree, she would have to wait for Aetius' command to attack. So this meant they would have to wait on the sidelines until told to do so. Xena did not like waiting, she wanted to do everything on her terms, not some Roman pig's terms. Though, Borias convinced her that Aetius was a fair Roman commander and he would obviously give her the chance to attack if need be.

Attila rode into the camp and saw a crowd of people surrounding the front of the large abode. He frowned as he saw his elder brother, Bleda, about to wear the crown of their uncle. Xena and Borias trotted forth and Xena smirked, seeing Bleda claiming the crown for himself.

Attila growled and threw his dagger, knocking the crown out of the high priest's hands and Bleda snapped his head to see his angry little brother. "Bleda!" he yelled and charged forward on his horse.

"I wanted to kill him myself, but this should be more interesting," Xena smiled and trotted forward slowly on her horse. Borias sighed and followed beside her.

"Brother, how was your trip to Rome?" Bleda asked calmly with his voice dripping in arrogance.

Attila hopped off the horse and took two swords out from his sheaths. "You killed our uncle!" he spat and Bleda laughed.

"You have no proof of that, brother. He was found dead."

"Lies!" he yelled and Bleda rolled his eyes at his little brother, quite tired of him.

"Rua is dead, so that means I am king now, brother! Not you!" Bleda stepped down off the dais and Attila growled. Borias came to his side and held the young Hun prince back from doing something he might regret later.

Xena walked forward with a smug grin, "oh Borias, you should let him kill the fool," she stared at Bleda and he glared at her.

Bleda pointed at Xena, "I am the new king and I am tired of you, Xena!" he growled and her eyes widened then she let out a mocking laugh, not the least bit insulted by this idiot poser king. "You are no longer the military commander. You are a whore and a lone wolf, you obey no one."

She was willing to let that go until he called her a whore. She frowned and took out her dagger from her cloak and Borias watched her carefully. Attila saw her dagger and he grabbed her wrist, "Xena no!" he came inches away from her face. "He is mine," he snarled and she groaned, lowering her gaze and Borias felt relieved that Attila was able to sway her from killing Bleda right then and there. She acted quickly, that was for sure.

Attila pointed his sword at his brother, "you would make a poor king, brother! I am the rightful leader, even our uncle said so!" he yelled.

Bleda folded his arms, "is that so? What would you do as king then, Attila?"

"Rule the world!" he lifted his blades in the air and Bleda's eyes widened. "I challenge you for the crown, brother. If I win, I am king, and if you will be king," he smiled, noticing some fear in his elder brother's eyes.

Later in the afternoon Attila and Bleda faced back to back with another and each were given the same weapon to fight with so nobody had the upper hand in the fight. It was a custom in Hunnic culture that if one man wanted to claim kinghood, they would have to fight for it. Attila was not worried to fight with his brother because he was a far better fighter than Bleda could ever be.

The high priest raised his hands in the air and backed away ten steps before giving them the signal. Attila and Bleda walked off in opposite directions until they were far from one another. This was to be a fair fight, though Attila believed that his brother was not going to play by the rules.

Xena and Borias sat at the front of the hill, watching the duel about the begin between the two. Xena was ecstatic to see this fight. She had been waiting for Bleda to be killed ever since she met him. Borias turned and saw a big smile on her face. He rolled his eyes and slouched in the chair, wanting this ridiculous duel to be over before it even began.

Both brothers turned around and Attila smiled at him, twirling the blade with his wrist, enraging his brother. Bleda came running first and Attila blocked his blow easily then kicked him down to the ground. He thrust his sword downward and Bleda's eyes widened, rolling out of the way and the blade stabbed the grass.

Attila growled and saw his brother escaping. He ran after him and jumped on his back, pulling on his hair. Bleda flipped him over on his back and drew his sword, ready to strike him. Attila then kicked him in the groin and then punched him in the jaw. Bleda stumbled backward and wiped the blood off his lips.

The elder brother smiled maliciously at him and came running for him again. Attila's sword was knocked out of his hand, his mouth gaped as he saw his only weapon, flying yards away from him.

"This is supposed to be a fair fight!" Attila growled and charged forward, grabbing hold of his brother's waist, pushing backwards into the grass and Bleda gasped as his sword was then knocked out of his hand as well, but only a few feet away. Attila sat atop his brother and began choking him. Bleda's eyes looked to the sword and began reaching for it as far as his limbs would allow.

Attila eyed the sword and grabbed it before his brother got the chance to. He smiled at him then yelled before plunging the sword into his brother's gut. Bleda gasped for air then blood began trickling out of his mouth. Attila took the sword out of his brother and tossed it aside.

"I am your king now," he hissed and spat on him. He turned to see everyone staring at him with shocked faces. He smiled at them and soon he heard the glorious sound of cheers and clapping. They too hated Bleda and thought he would be an unfit king –everyone knew, except for Bleda himself.

Xena stood up and folded her arms, "that was...amusing," she smirked and Borias shook his head, but couldn't help but laugh at her excited good mood she was in despite Bleda being killed, though it was a fair fight.

After the fight the high priest then picked up the crown from the dirt and Attila sat down on his uncle's throne, destined to be his. The priest then set the crown atop his head and everyone smiled. "The new King of the Huns," the priest smiled and Attila saw Xena with a smirk on her face and he winked at her.

One month later Attila lead a slew of his army to the Goth city, Aquincum, to fight with the Romans against the ruthless Goths and its leader, Theordoric. The Romans obviously wanted to get rid of the king as he was an issue for everyone, including the Huns.

The Roman army was twice as large as the Hun army, though Attila knew that his men would be able to hold their own if need be. He rode on his horse back up the hill into the woods after meeting with Flavius Aetius. Xena and Borias waited on horseback, in front of the army.

"He will give us the signal to attack," he said and Borias nodded.

Xena frowned, "why should we follow what he says? We are more than capable of attacking the Goths," she knew that the Roman commander wanted this to be a Roman victory, not a Hunnic victory. Rome would take all the glory while the Hun army stayed behind, not knowing if they were going to attack or not.

"We do not have enough men, Xena," Borias said, sensing her anger rising the more she sat in silence. She was brooding and it was not good when that happened. She kept her anger bottled inside her most of the time and when that bottle exploded, so did she.

"Spartacus took down the Romans once, with an army of slaves," Xena chided, "we don't need Aetius to take complete control." She groaned, feeling her blood beginning to boil the longer she thought of standing on the sidelines waiting for this so called signal.

Aetius waited on his horse and spoke to his second in command, Felix. "Send in the middle front for the first attack. Hold the second and third fronts. We will send in the archers after the middle front reaches halfway down the hill," he gave his command and Felix nodded his head then trotted off to go tell the men of the plan. He looked up the hill and saw Theodoric waiting with his army, ready to attack them. He smiled then turned to see the Huns waiting in the woods with Xena and Borias in the front. He waved to them and Xena glared at him with her icy blue eyes. He didn't like that look, and wondered if he could trust her, though Attila seemed to trust her and that was good enough for him.

The field was silent and Aetius waited for Theodoric to make his first move. He waved his hand to the middle front and the Romans began marching with their shields covering their bodies. Theodoric then sent his men running down into the field with full force. They had no shields or any cover at all. He smiled, thinking this was definitely going to be an easy victory for mother Rome.

"Archers!" Aetius yelled and the Roman archers knelt down pulling their arrows back and soon a rain of black arrows filled the cloudy sky.

Theodoric growled seeing his men being slaughtered by arrows and the Roman soldiers had not even reached halfway into the battlefield yet.

The Roman soldiers created a massive shield and huddled together as the Goth archers shot at them from a fair distance. A few soldiers fell and cried in agony. Aetius frowned and yelled to Felix, "second front!"

Xena's eyes widened as he saw the Romans attacking the Goths, though the Visigoth king had more men than the Romans, it was a sea of red and black armor fighting one another. Cries of agony and arrows filled the sky. She looked up and felt a rain drop fall on her cheek. She frowned and pulled on her reins of the horse, "he is not giving us the signal!"

Attila frowned, noticing that as well. "We will wait, Xena!" he grabbed her arm and her eyes narrowed, waiting for the stupid Roman commander to signal them.

The Goth soldiers were slaughtering Romans left and right due to their size and brute force, something the Romans did not have. They had fancy weapons and armor, but lacked skill in handling large weapons such as maces and clubs. They were more well skilled in swords and bows than anything else. Aetius trotted forth to the left side of the third front.

"Archers!" he waved his hand and the archers pulled their bows back. He was not expecting the Goths to fight with such vengeance. His entire middle front had been slaughtered even though they had worked on these tactics for months, it was not working. He normally never had to use the third front, but maybe in this fight, he would have to in order to save his men from being slaughtered even more than they already were.

Xena saw the Romans being slaughtered and she couldn't take it anymore. "He isn't going to give us the signal, Attila," she turned to him, ready to send the men into the battlefield.

Attila frowned, "so it seems," he drew his sword and continued to wait for the commander, but after a few minutes, he knew this signal wasn't going to happen. "He makes a mockery of us all!" he yelled, lifting his sword high in the air.

"We should attack now!" Xena demanded and Borias hated to agree with her, but she was right. This Roman has played them for a fool and it was embarrassing.

Attila smiled and cried out, "for the Huns!" all the men behind him lifted their swords in the air and yelled out. Attila kicked his horse and began riding down the hill out of the woods, with his slew of men following behind him.

Aetius heard a horde of horse hooves and turned to see the Hun army riding down into the battlefield. His eyes widened and Felix saw the Huns driving their swords into the Goths. "Those fools!" he growled and slapped his thigh out of frustration. Snarling, he turned and saw Xena with Borias, in the woods, watching. She had a smug grin on her face and her frightening blue eyes were piercing right through him. "Xena..." he hissed.

Borias watched from the woods beside Xena on his black horse. He saw Attila attack the Goth soldiers with fury and such ferocity. "Romans are full of tricks," he scoffed, shaking his head.

Xena felt cramping in her lower abdomen and groaned. Her hand digging into the horse's mane. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, feeling the cramps and pain worsen. Borias turned and saw Xena's face, obviously in pain. He grabbed her arm, "Xena!" he hopped off his horse and she moaned softly. Her breathing became heavy and her heart raced as the pain heightened in a matter of seconds.

Frowning, she felt something wet in between her legs and pulled her hand away and saw blood on her fingers. Her eyes widened and Borias reached forward and grabbed her, cradling her in his arms. He saw the blood smeared on her fingers and carried her to their camp they had deep in the woods. "I'm taking you somewhere safe."

She breathed heavily, "what about Attila?" she threw her head back and moaned in agony as the intense contractions returned with a vengeance this time.

"Forget about it, Xena!" he groaned and felt rain begin to fall on them. Great, he thought.

He arrived to their yurt with the midwife inside. He dipped his head under the entrance and the midwife stood up, seeing Xena in his arms. "Set her down here," she said and he gently laid Xena down on some blankets and animal skins. He stood with his arms folded and felt like he was of no use here. The midwife washed her hands and stuck her hand under Xena's dress. Borias frowned, leaning forward to see what she was doing. When she pulled her arm out it was covered in blood and his hand came to his mouth. "She will be alright?" he asked.

The midwife sighed and said nothing. He grabbed the woman by her shoulders, shaking her firmly, "you will take care of her!" he demanded and the woman nodded in fear. She then began cleaning her hands and grabbed some cloths and herbs to prepare. Meanwhile, Xena was moaning in agony and she curled her legs close to her.

Suddenly, an arrow shot threw the yurt and landed close to Borias' boot. Xena was too out of it to notice. He growled and didn't want to leave her, but obviously, the Goths had come into the woods to fight and destroy their campsite.

He knelt down and brushed her bangs away from her sweaty forehead. "I'll come back for you," he smiled and kissed her forehead.

"Wh..what if it's a girl?" Xena's eyes grew in fear just thinking about it. A year ago, the Visigoths invaded Pannonia and killed all of the female infants and children. They wanted to wipe out all of the girls in the Hunnic tribes, believing them unworthy and filthy. It was then after that, pregnant women in the Hunnic tribes began to live in fear that their child would be born a girl, instead of a boy.

He smiled at her, "don't worry about that," he kissed her hand and unsheathed his sword, running out of the yurt into the rain to find the attackers.

Attila came running into the woods and sliced through two Goth soldiers who were invading his camp. He heard some rustling in the bushes and was ready to attack. Though, he saw Borias emerge from the trees and was glad to see him. He was drenched in rain and blood from the Goths in the battlefield. "Where is Xena?" noticing she was not here.

Borias frowned, "having a baby," he said and Attila smiled, happy to hear that.

"What a bad time to give birth," he teased then a Goth came running for them and he growled, crying out as he threw his sword into the soldier's chest. "Come, brother, we shall kill the Goths together and celebrate the birth of your child later!" he smiled and grabbed his sword from the dead Goth soldier.

On the battlefield Aetius sent in his third front as his last resort. He even began fighting off some of the Goths as well. He was not expecting the Huns to invade, though they seemed to be doing a fine job of slaughtering the Goths. He relished the idea of Theodoric falling to the Roman empire after over a decade of warring.

Borias and Attila came running forth and Aetius frowned. "You were supposed to wait for the signal!" Aetius yelled through the rainstorm and the battle below them.

Attila smiled, "Huns must fight, Aetius. It is in our blood!" he ran down the hill and Borias followed behind him.

Together, both of them fought side by side, fending off the Goths, though they disobeyed direct orders from the Romans, they would surely become enemies now. Attila sliced a Goth in half and Borias kicked another coming for them. Both stood back to back now, now completely surrounded.

"There's too many of them!" Borias frowned, eyeing all of the Goths with their clubs and javelins.

"I'm aware..." the Hun prince snarled. The Goths came charging for them and they worked together to keep them at bay, though the more they attacked, more seemed to come their way. It was like a never ending line of them. "God of War protects us!" he yelled and let out a loud war cry and plunged his blade into three Goth soldiers at once, driving them into the ground with such force. Blood poured from their mouths.

Back in the yurt Xena sat up and the midwife smiled at her, trying to make her feel better, though Xena wasn't listening. She couldn't hear anything, but the sound of her heart about to pound out of her chest. "You can do it, your highness, just a few more pushes and then you will see your child!" she grinned and Xena let out an ear piercing scream that would scare even the birds.

She clenched her fingers and gripped onto the blankets causing her knuckles to turn white. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she cried, fearing that this would never end. "Borias!" she cried out, now wishing he were here beside her instead of fighting alongside Attila and the rest of the Huns.

Borias took out his sword from the last Goth soldier and Attila turned to him, already feeling victory in his veins. Both embraced one another as they saw Theodoric pull back the rest of his men and there were very few left. The Romans backed off and ran back to their front while the Huns all grinned and cheered for their victory against their greatest enemy. Aetius now felt he could breathe again seeing the Goths retreating back to their king on the hill.

"We defeated them!" Attila said and Borias smiled then gasped. Attila frowned and Borias fell on him. He saw two arrows sticking out his back and a Visigoth soldier smirking at him with his bow in hand. "No!" he cried out and held Borias close to him and laid him on the ground.

Borias' breathing began to slow and he knew that two arrows were not enough to kill, but he felt his veins begin to tighten and that's when he knew that the arrowheads were poisoned. Attila held him in his lap, pain and hurt overcoming him. "I will have your death avenged," he said and Borias smiled weakly up at him.

Aetius stood aside on his horse and saw the Hun cradling his military commander. Attila stood up and took Borias sword and sheathed it. He looked to the man who killed Borias and came storming for him. "Attila, it is not worth it!"

"This is about honor, Aetius! Something you know nothing is part of our culture," he smiled deviously and saw the Goth running back to his king. He saw nothing in his path and felt like it was just him and this pathetic soldier. He did not even have the courage to stand up and fight like a real man with a sword, he thought. He just stood with a bow and fought from afar after the battle had already been lost by the Visigoths.

Attila ran forward and threw his sword into the back of the soldier. He moaned in agony and fell forward into the mud, blood filling the grass. Slowly, he walked up to the soldier and retrieved his sword and spat on him. He then thought of Xena and their child. Their child would be fatherless, all because of this stupid soldier.

The midwife smiled and Xena heard the wails of an infant finally. She reared her head back onto the animal skins below her and breathed heavily, glad that the worst part was now over. The midwife cleaned the baby with a warm cloth and wrapped it in a wool blanket.

Xena sat up carefully and saw the woman holding the small fragile child in her arms. She smiled and stretched her arms out to finally hold the child that she carried for nine long months. The midwife handed her the baby and Xena leaned back, staring at the tiny human in her arms. She lifted her eyes at the woman with fearful eyes.

The woman knew that look, she had seen it all too much back in Pannonia when she delivered babies of other women. "It is a girl," she said softly and Xena's eyes widened, then peered down at her daughter in her arms, and she kept crying.

She felt instant fear set in, though she remembered that the Romans were on their side and Attila would lead a victory against the Visigoths. She only hoped that she could keep her daughter safe in the future.

Attila walked into the yurt and Xena looked up to see a solemn expression on his face. He did not smile seeing the child in Xena's arms, only felt sorrow overcome him. "What is it?" Xena asked.

He walked forward and pulled out Borias' sword, covered in blood and soaked from the pouring rain. "He fought well," he said quietly and Xena's eyes widened, before she was overcome with sadness and joy at the same time, now she was just in shock. Attila knelt down and placed the sword next to Xena and stared at the baby in her arms, finally a sad smile crossed his face. The child had stopped crying and Xena remained in shock, unable to speak. "He's beautiful," he grinned.

Xena had tears in her eyes and she stared at Attila, "she," she corrected and the Hun king's eyes grew, surprised to hear that, though he knew why Xena was so fearful.

"You have nothing to fear, Xena. I will protect you and your daughter," he kissed her forehead and stood up to leave.

She buried her face into her hand and sobbed quietly to herself as the baby in her arms squirmed subtly.

Chapter Text

AN: takes place thirteen years later. Enjoy and feedback appreciated, of course ;) good luck to all.

Chapter 1

In the center of Athens, Greece, there was an academy of learning hauling the subjects such as philosophy, science, mathematics, literature and arithmetic. The school is funded by the Western Roman Empire and Valentinian often employed teachers from Arabia, Persia and Greater Media. These people from these lands were highly educated in science and math as well as astrology and arithmetic. Locally, the emperor hired native Greeks to teach philosophy and literature, since those subjects were birthed in Greece thousands of years ago.

The students were normally from the bourgeoisie class of Athens, Corinth and Delphi. The poorer families could not afford to go to this academy to learn these great subjects. The school offered classes as soon as the child turned six years old and usually left when the child reached the age of fifteen to go learn a trade. Girls were not allowed to attend the academy, only boys and young men were allowed. Though, one teacher inside the academy sought to change the old ways of the Greco-Roman style.

She thought it had become outdated and everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to read, write and learn, this included girls too. Women of the house normally taught their daughters inside the home while their sons attended school during the daytime. Teachers were brought to homes for the safety of the young girls. Mothers preferably sought out female teachers over males, but there were hardly any female teachers especially in Greece. They would have to travel to Persia or Arabia to be taught by the greatest female teachers for homeschooling.

One of the head teachers in the school taught philosophy, his name is Nikoli. The academy was not very large due to the low amount of money they received from Rome's treasury. He figured that the emperor was spending money on other frivolous things such as booze, whores and drugs. Luckily for Nikoli, his most diligent teacher in the academy was able to fund most of the needs for the school out of her own pocket or even organized charities she put together.

Nikoli had just finished his last lesson of the day, teaching young teenage boys about the famous philosophers, Plato, Aristotle and Socrates. The lesson was over two hours long and talking of philosophy for so long was very taxing on the mind. He only taught three classes a day, mostly to the elder students, per his request.

He dismissed his students and sighed, grabbing his parchments and quill in his arms. The young teenagers were still talking among themselves as they waltzed out of the classroom. One of his best students turned around and blocked the doorway with a big smile on his face. "Professor, what do you think Aristotle says about life? Surely he believes that there is more to life than working hard and seeking out a greater power, such as God. What do you say?" he was dying to know and had remained quiet throughout the entire session.

Nikoli smirked, "well Izak, I think that question is for you to decide. We will read the next chapter in our session tomorrow. I expect you to come up with an answer," he winked, patting the young man on the back. Izak frowned, rubbing his chin, surely in deep thought as he ran to catch up with his friends to continue this discussion.

Nikoli was an older man, sprouting a few grey hairs in his dark wavy locks. He was also incredibly clumsy and wore bright colored robes and tunics. Most Greeks did not wear such bright colors as it reminded them of the Persians and Indo-Persians across the Mediterranean. He held his stack of parchments in his hands and walked down the narrow hallway, then spotted his favorite teacher. "Oh Gabrielle!" he yelled out.

The blonde turned around and smiled at the man. Nikoli then dropped all of the parchment onto the floor. Gabrielle ran over and knelt down on the floor, picking up all the parchment. He groaned and aided her. "My apologies. I can be so clumsy..." he shook his head, feeling embarrassed.

She chuckled, picking up the last few pieces and stood up, "it's okay Nikoli, it happens to the best of us," he stood then she handed him the parchments. "You should really carry a bag with you then maybe you will stop dropping all of your work!" she smiled and he pinched her cheek.

"Who has time for bags?" he chuckled and together they walked down the hallway to his office at the very back of the school. "How was your literature lesson?" he asked, quite intrigued. This was the first week she decided to teach literature to small children, around the ages of eight to ten.

She sighed, shaking her head, feeling a headache coming on already just thinking about it. "I wish I could give you good news, Nikoli, but..." she paused and they came to his office and he plopped down the stack of documents. "They were terrible!" she threw her hands in the air expressing her frustration. "I couldn't get their attention for more than a couple of minutes." She saw some amusement in the old man's hazel eyes. Folding her arms she added, "one of them threw an apple at me."

Nikoli turned and sat down in his chair, exhaling heavily. "The little ones take time. You must be patient with them Gabrielle," he laced his fingers together atop his desk.

She nodded, knowing he was right, "but it's so hard!" she folded her arms, getting more frustrated at herself than anything.

He could feel her pain. He too had to teach the little students for quite some time until she came to the academy three years ago and she was a Godsend to him. She was good with the children and enjoyed teaching them Latin, but only began teaching literature this week and it wasn't going very well, as she explained. "You might need to change your tactics with them," she looked to him, confused at what he meant. "They are children, not adults." He smiled, leaning back in his chair, "so you need to get on their level."

Gabrielle rubbed her chin, talking to herself in silence. "Get on their level..." she whispered. She sighed, thinking she would have to change her entire curriculum before the next class, which would be tomorrow afternoon. She needed to prepare. She ran her fingers through her curly blonde hair and was very distressed.

Nikoli chuckled seeing the struggle inside her. "I have faith in you, Gabrielle!" he stood up and placed his hands on her shoulders. "You are my best teacher," he kissed her forehead and she blushed at such flattery.

She pulled away, "well, I gotta get going. I have to prepare an entire new lesson for tomorrow!" she smiled and left his office, treading down the hallway to grab her bag and head home. Nikoli sighed, leaning on his desk, watching her leave. She truly was a remarkable young woman, beautiful and smart too. He hoped that one day she would move up in the world and become one of the best teachers, traveling the world, spreading her imagination and brilliant mind.

Gabrielle walked down Athenios street and came to her home where she had been staying for the last two years. She smiled at her neighbors and waved to them. She lived next to a butcher and his son, which was nice because she often got discounts whenever she wanted. Her other neighbor was an elderly lady from Carthage and lived with her daughter, whom took care of her since she was losing her mind. Gabrielle prayed that one day, the gods would grant that old woman some peace.

She walked inside the small apartment and set her bag on the dining table, sighing heavily. It had been a very long day. "Kat!" she called out, "are you home?" she walked to the kitchen and poured herself some water and downed it immediately. It was quite hot outside and she hated the summers here in Athens. It was either scorching hot during the day or it rained all day and then that made the weather incredibly humid.

Still no sound from Kat, she frowned and decided to wander around the apartment looking for her. "Kat?" she opened the bedroom door and saw the bed was made and hadn't been touched since last night. She tread down the hallway and looked into the sitting room. "Hello?" she was now becoming a bit worried.

Out of the blue hands came to cover Gabrielle's eyes from behind and she gasped. Turning around she saw Kat, giggling at her. "Kathyrn!" she pushed her playfully. "Don't do that!" she smiled and the young redheaded woman only laughed more. Gabrielle was so easy to scare, she couldn't help herself.

"You should have seen your face!" Kat chuckled and Gabrielle folded her arms.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "you're going to give me a heart attack one day, I hope you know that," she brushed passed her and went to grab another glass of water. She definitely didn't need that after the day she had.

Kat frowned sadly, now feeling bad for scaring Gabrielle. She leaned on the counter, "hey, I'm sorry. I was just playing around," she smirked and the blonde nodded, drinking some more water. Kat leaned on the counter, resting her chin on her palms. "So how was school?"

Gabrielle groaned and slammed the glass on the counter. Kat cringed, "not good?" she presumed.

"You have no idea, Kat," she shook her head, just thinking of those little monsters. "Nikoli has me teaching children literature! What does an eight year old know about Homer and the Odyssey?" she scoffed.

Kat smiled seeing the frustration on Gabrielle's face. "If anyone can teach those little twirps about ancient Greek stories, it would be you, Gabrielle," she said sweetly and Gabrielle blushed at her kind words.

The blonde sighed heavily, "enough about my day, how was yours?" she smiled thinking she should return the courtesy of asking.

Kathyrn was bought as a slave by the Roman elites when she was just fifteen years old. She had been working in Rome for the longest time. The emperor sold her to another sect of the Roman army in Athens and there she worked as maid and servant of many tasks. Often times the emperor's sister, Honoria, would visit Athens because her cousin, Petronius, lived there and had quite a large palace in the outskirts of the city. Kat was lucky enough to work in such a large palace and the pay was not bad either.

"Well," Kat circled around the counter and grabbed Gabrielle's hand leading her to sofa. Gabrielle frowned and sat down as Kat had a devious look in her eyes. "Honoria came to the palace today and I heard something very interesting..." she whispered.

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "what kind of interesting? Is it bad?" she immediately became worried. "You know you aren't supposed to repeat what happens in that palace, Kat."

The redhead playfully slapped Gabrielle's shoulder, "well I can trust you," she smiled and the blonde sighed, though she secretly wanted to know what kind of secrets were discussed in the palace. "So I heard Honoria talking to her cousin about Attila," her eyes grew.

Gabrielle stayed still, completely confused at what she was talking about. "Who is Attila?"

Kat gasped, "tell me you don't know who the Hun King is? Attila is the greatest warrior in the eastern Balkans!" she was shocked to see Gabrielle shake her head. "Gods, Gabrielle..." she rubbed her forehead.

She chuckled, "what? Okay, what's so special about this Hun King?"

"Well, apparently the emperor was supposed to give Attila some land to please him and he didn't." she saw Gabrielle awaiting the next piece of information, now fully intrigued. "Attila might attack Northern Gaul if the emperor doesn't give him what he wants."

Gabrielle frowned, "what does that exactly mean?" she asked and Kat's grin grew wider. "The emperor is not known for having the best relationships with people," she rolled her eyes thinking of the emperor. She had seen him only twice in her life and he was a joke –super immature and too young to be a leader.

"Honoria was told by Petronius that he fears maybe the Huns will come to Greece. They've already conquered Troy!" Kat exclaimed and now saw Gabrielle become concerned.

"But Troy is so close to Greece," Gabrielle shook her head, thinking that this could be so awful for Greece and if the Huns dared, they might come to Athens, which was the land's capital. "I've heard about the Huns. They are savages."

Kat nodded, "yes they are. Did you know they wear animal skins?" she cringed, thinking of having a dead animal on her skin just disgusted her. "And their women walk around naked!"

Gabrielle's eyes grew, blinking rapidly. "Naked?" she sighed, "might be nice to see," she chuckled.

The redhead rolled her eyes, "their women also don't cut their hair. Could you imagine? Their hair must be down to their ankles!" she gasped, just thinking what a hassle that must be. She could barely handle her hair and it reached to the middle of her back at its longest strand. "And do you know what they do to their enemies?" she asked and Gabrielle shook her head, almost afraid to know. "They cut off their heads and put their bodies on pikes! Creating a fence of dead bodies to claim their land!" Gabrielle cringed at that imagery now stuck in her mind. "The smell would be awful after a couple of days."

Gabrielle didn't want to hear any more of the horrible acts of these barbarians. "Isn't the emperor allies with the Huns?"

Kat nodded, "yes! I can't believe a Roman would ever befriend people like that." She stuck her tongue out, disgusted by the Huns themselves.

"Hopefully they won't come to Greece," Gabrielle said softly and Kat grabbed her hand for comfort. She sighed, "I have to go prepare a new lessons for my students," she groaned. "I'm going to be up for awhile," she stood up and began walking to her room to come up with a new lesson plan. It wasn't going to difficult, given the children were so misbehaved.

Kat trailed behind her and grabbed hold of Gabrielle's hand, "maybe I could help you?" she smiled sneakily and her fingers traced along Gabrielle's neck. Gabrielle closed her eyes, trying to not let Kat distract her, though she was pretty irresistible. The redhead leaned in and kissed her neck then her bare shoulder.

Gabrielle smiled and grabbed Kat's hand, turning to face her. "I think it would be better if I do this by myself," she saw Kat pout sadly.

"At least come eat with me in an hour? I don't want you to stay in your room all night without eating," Kat said and Gabrielle smiled, touching her cheek softly.

"Okay, but don't make any fish dishes," she frowned, "I'm tired of fish and that's all we've been eating for the last month."

Kat grinned, "deal! I'll go see if I can snag some meat from Helios," speaking of their butcher neighbor. She grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder.

Gabrielle frowned, "but I thought you already bought food for tonight? I saw the bag on the counter..."

Kat smiled nervously, "yeah I's fish," she said apologetically and Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "Fish is cheap Gabrielle. We live right by the sea!"

Gabrielle grabbed Kat's bag and set it on the table. "Just never mind about the meat, I'll eat the fish," she sighed, "I don't want you to spend your money just because I am complaining..."

The redhead raised her eyebrow, "are you sure? Helios always gives us great deals on his cuts."

The blonde nodded reluctantly, "It's fine really. I'll eat the fish."

"Last chance, Gabrielle," Kat teased.

"I'll eat the fish, alright!" Gabrielle chuckled and Kat grinned then kissed her on the cheek before running off to the kitchen. Gabrielle sighed and went to her room to go plan this lesson for her students. She didn't know how she was going to do this to be honest. They were such a handful.

Shortly after Attila, Xena and his men returned to Pannonia after the war between the Visigoths and Romans, Cera, Attila's wife, found out she was pregnant and gave birth to Attila's first child six months later. Not long after the birth of his son, Cera died due to complications during her labor. Attila named his son Ellac and two years later, he married another woman, named Kreka, a brunette from the upper lands of the Hunnic tribes.

Kreka gave birth to two boys in a span of four years. The second eldest son, name Dengi and the youngest son, Ernak. Ellac was thirteen presently and his brothers, ages ten and nine. Ellac was definitely a leader, like his father, and enjoyed bossing his younger brothers around, though his stepmother was not too fond of Ellac, due to his aggressive nature. Attila had told her that he would grow out of it, but she had her doubts.

Ellac looked much like his father, light olive skin and green eyes, as well as dark reddish brown hair, similar to his late mother's hair.

It was a sunny day outside and Ellac ran up the hill, breathing heavily trying to get away from his opponent. He smiled, looking back to see Annas, a crowned prince that his father adopted ten years ago. "You won't catch up to me Annas!" he grinned and then tripped over a rock and face planted into the dirt.

Annas ran up the hill and jumped on top of Ellac, pinning him into the grass. "You are defeated!" he grinned happily and Ellac groaned.

"Come on, that's not fair, I tripped!" the Hun prince was not happy being conquered by his friend, especially since it wasn't his fault.

Annas smirked, "it doesn't matter how you lose, Ellac! I won!" he chuckled and Ellac grabbed his opponent by the shoulder and flipped him over onto the grass. Now Ellac was on top of Annas, pinning his arms into the ground.

The dark prince smiled widely, "now, it is you who has lost, friend! Or shall I say...enemy!" he said and Annas frowned deeply. He stared into Annas's bright blue eyes and saw he was super angry and it was never good when he was angry. Ellac may be a greater fighter, but Annas was too, probably even better than he was.

"I'm going to kill you!" Annas said in rage and Ellac's green eyes grew in fear and he quickly got off and began running down the hill. Annas adjusted the turban on his head and growled. "Come back here!" he skid down the hill and grabbed Ellac's legs and the Hun prince yelped and both tumbled down the hill together.

Dengi stood with his little brother, Ernak in the middle of the camp. Dengi squinted his eyes and saw two people tumbling down the hill together. "Is that Ellac?" he asked and Ernak folded his arms.

"He probably angered Annas again," the nine year old, Ernak, answered, shaking his head at his elder brother. "When will he ever learn?" he chuckled.

Annas and Ellac, the two thirteen year olds finally came to a halt and ended up at the front of the hill. Annas was wrestling with Ellac, flipping over each other. Dengi and Ernak ran over and the smallest brother cheered on Annas. "Punch him in the face!" he grinned.

Dengi frowned, "Ernak! That's not nice," he did have a point though. Annas was winning in this wrestling match and Ellac had no chance. Annas punched Ellac in his nose and the Hun prince gasped, holding his nose. "That's gotta hurt..." Dengi cringed.

Ellac wiped his nose and saw blood on his hands. "You're dead, Annas!" he kicked Annas off him and tackled him to the ground. Annas gasped and rolled over just as Ellac was about to sock him in the face. Ernak's eyes lit up as he saw his brother was losing. He always liked Annas, even though he seemed to cream his brother every time they played with one another.

Annas was able to get up off the ground and run to the well. He grabbed a bucket of water and Ellac's eyes widened as he saw a tidal wave coming straight for him. Annas laughed loudly as he saw the prince soaking wet. Ellac wiped his eyes and growled, then Annas began circling the well, trying to get away from the prince.

"What's the matter, Ellac? Afraid of a little water?" Annas teased, his blue eyes twinkling in the bright sunlight. This only angered Ellac even more and he jumped on top of the well, running around the edge trying to get to get to Annas.

Galena, a wet-nurse that Attila employed not long after Cera died, came out of her yurt and saw Ellac chasing Annas around the water well. She folded her arms watching the two teenagers have their daily wrestling match. She wiped her hands with her dress and whistled over at the two boys.

"Annas! You need to come inside!" she called out and both Ellac and Annas turned to the woman. "It's time for your bath," she said with a frown.

Annas sighed and he smiled at Ellac. "I'll get you later!" he winked and spit in his hand, Ellac smiled and did the same and both boys shook their hands. Annas ran off to go with Galena and entered the yurt. Galena frowned and closed the flaps of the yurt so no prying eyes would be able to see inside.

Ellac wiped his nose and still felt blood coming out of his nostrils. Dengi walked up to his elder brother, "he got you good!" he chuckled and Ellac nodded.

"I'll get him back later," he was determined.

Ernak cocked his head to the side, "how come Annas doesn't come to the river to bathe with us anymore?" he asked both his brothers.

Ellac stared at the yurt, wondering that himself. He shrugged his shoulder, "I don't know," he didn't think too much about it and ran off, "come on, let's go riding!" his little brothers ran behind him to go find their horses to have some more fun together.

Galena grabbed the teen's arm and frowned, "you shouldn't be playing with those boys anymore!"

Annas frowned, "but why not? I always play with Ellac," he snatched his arm from the woman, not like being handled like that.

The woman shook her head, "your mother doesn't want you to play with them." She poured some warm water that she heated up over the fire into the tub. "Take off your clothes," she demanded. Annas sighed and took off his clothes, unbuttoning the tunic and slipping off his boots.

Annas took off the turban and down came long black wavy hair, tumbling down his back. Taking off the tunic and pants, he stepped inside the tub, curling his legs close to him. Galena sighed, looking at the teen's body and saw a lot of changes over the last year and feared that this would start to become a problem as Annas aged. She poured the water over Annas's long wavy hair.

"Anastasia, you can't play with those boys anymore," Galena said and then the teenage girl turned around with pouting eyes.

"But I like them," she sighed, "they are my friends and don't call me that. My name is Annas."

Galena poured some more water over her hair and the girl wrapped her arms around her slender body. "Your name is Anastasia!" she said and the girl said nothing. She sensed the young teen was obviously upset about staying inside more and away from the boys she grew up with. "Your mother just wants to keep you safe, you know that," she said in a softer voice.

Anastasia sighed and looked down at her body and it was more developed than a year ago. Now she was thirteen and was turning 'into a woman' as her mother said, which meant she couldn't play with Ellac and his brothers anymore, even though she loved them as if they were her own brothers. She didn't have any girls to play with her in Pannonia, only boys. She touched her small firm breasts and instantly felt unlike herself.

Galena brushed through Anastasia's long dark hair with a comb and knelt down looking into the girl's big blue eyes. "You are a gorgeous girl," she smiled and Anastasia frowned at her.

"I'm not a girl, I'm a boy," she splashed the water and folded her arms. "I've always been a boy. Why do I suddenly have to be a girl now?"

The woman could see the confusion and frustration in the girl's eyes and truthfully she couldn't make her feel better, but all she could do was take care of her until her mother came back from her trip in Sciri. She was traveling with Attila, trying to reason with the other Hunnic tribes and had been gone for three months.

"Girls are different than boys and when you...reach a certain age, your bodies change and your emotions change too," Galena tried to explain in simple terms so she'd understand.

Anastasia frowned bemusedly. "But I don't feel different," she felt more confused than ever. Since birth she had been raised as a boy in Pannonia and lived like a boy. This year, her mother forbade her to play with Ellac and his prince brothers, though she didn't understand why. She knew she was a girl inside, but enjoyed being a boy. She could do whatever she wanted and when she wanted. Since her thirteenth birthday, her mother was adamant about Anastasia becoming more secluded, though since she was absent, those rules went out the window and the teenager disobeyed all her mother's wishes.

"You will, I promise you that," Galena smiled and grabbed a cloth, rubbing the girl's arms and chest.

Anastasia sighed, "when is she coming back?" she asked of her mother.

Galena lifted her eyes, "soon, I hope. God grants her safe travel throughout the lands," she smiled.

The raven haired beauty frowned, folding her arms, not very excited about her mother coming back because that meant more rules and she hated rules. "I wish she'd stay away forever," she pouted and then got out of the tub before Galena was finished washing her. She grabbed a silk caftan and tied the sash about her small waist. She sat on the bed and brushed her wet wavy locks. "She's always making all these rules! I hate it when she does that," she tugged on a knot in her hair.

Galena sighed and took the comb from her and began combing the teen's hair for her. "She's only trying to protect you."

Anastasia scoffed, "what's next? She's going to make me wear dresses?" she chuckled under her breath. She enjoyed wearing pants, boots and tunics like Ellac.

"you would look very pretty in a dress, Anastasia," Galena said with a subtle grin.

The teen gasped and pushed the woman away and stood up, her wet hair wiping around behind her. "I'm not going to look like a girl or wear stupid dresses!" she stormed off to her room in the connecting yurt. Galena scratched her head and exhaled heavily, thinking this was not going to be very easy. She was obviously unwilling to change and knew this would happen when she reached a certain age.

She had hoped that Anastasia would develop later, maybe around age fifteen, but she was already starting to look like a young woman and this was problematic.

Anastasia was in her room, sitting on her bed, she began braiding her long hair. It had grown to her hips and she saw Galena enter her room. "What do you want?" she griped.

"Your mother wants you to read each night remember?" she grabbed a few parchments with writing on it that her mother took from different cities she traveled to.

Anastasia groaned, "I don't want to read tonight," she laid down, rolling over on her side, her back facing the woman. Galena sat on the bed and the girl frowned, not liking the lack of privacy at the moment. Technically, Attila appointed her a prince under his name and she was as much royalty as Ellac, Dengi and Ernak were. She didn't want her life to change and suddenly be called a 'princess'. Just the thought of it angered her.

"You haven't read anything in the last two months because you keep going off with Ellac and his friends," Galena was now becoming frustrated with the girl.

Anastasia turned around, "I don't want to read, okay?" she rolled over again, "I just want to be alone," she said barely above a whisper. Galena sighed and set the parchment down on the bed and pat the girl's hip gently before leaving her room. The raven haired teenager looked behind her and saw she was gone. She kicked the parchments off her bed and frowned, cuddling against her pillow, glaring at the growing candle flame next to her bed.

Xena rode with a few men through the forests of Sciri, a small city that was close to Italy, which meant they were dangerously close to Rome. Attila sat next to a fire talking with a few of his men and heard a loud stampede of horse hooves. He stood up and saw Xena riding in with a group of ten men.

She took off the scarf that covered her face and hair, dismounting her horse. She took off her gloves and sighed heavily, staring into Attila's green curious eyes. "There is no sign of anyone in West Sciri." She was sad to say. Attila sent her to scout the area two days ago to see if they could negotiate with the Bey of the Sciri Hun tribe, but it seems there was no leader after all.

"What do you mean? People don't just disappear!" the Hun king asked and Xena drank some water, exhausted after the long hot ride.

"They probably fled once they found out we were coming in the area," she folded her arms and Attila groaned, pacing around the fire anxiously. She sat down next to the fire taking off her animal pelts, sweating from the awful heat of the summer season. Even though they were in the mountains, it was still so terribly hot.

He sat down next to her and rubbed his chin. "We need to unite all of our tribes! Without unification we are not an empire!" he slammed his fist on his knee.

Xena smirked, thinking of something so devious. "Maybe we are going about this whole empire thing wrong..." she hinted and grabbed his attention. She scooted closer to him and began drawing a circle in the dirt with her sword. "Instead of negotiating with these tribe leaders..." she drew an X in the dirt and stabbed the point of the blade straight in the middle of the circle and Attila jumped. "We kill them."

Attila frowned, staring into her wild blue eyes, "but we would be attacking our own people, Xena."

She nodded with a smile on her face, "Attila, do you think Rome negotiated with all of her conquered lands?" she said and he hummed to himself, thinking she may have a point. "They killed people who did not listen. And these Hun leaders do not want to listen to us so..." she leaned in closer to him, "we will make them listen..." she hissed in his ear. "They will be begging for mercy at our feet..." she chuckled lowly and he lifted a skeptical eyebrow at her.

He stood up, shaking his head, "I don't know Xena. That seems a bit drastic." He began thinking of all the consequences this would entail in the end.

She stood up, frowning, "you trust me don't you?" she folded her arms and he waved his hand at her dismissively. She shouldn't even have to ask that, because of course he trusted her otherwise she still wouldn't be his commander in chief of the army. "Then why don't we attack these tribe leaders?" she walked up to him, and he stared at her fiery eyes, inches from her face.

Attila sighed, "you will lead the attack," he said and she smiled, liking that he agreed with her on this matter. "Make sure to send a message home to my wife in Pannonia that we will be gone a bit longer," he asked of her and she nodded. Xena walked off to her tent and he called out, "oh Xena," she turned around, "Valentinian refused to give us Northern Gaul like we hoped."

Xena groaned, cursing to herself, "then we will attack Gaul?" she was not planning to be away from Pannonia this long, though she secretly knew the emperor would not give them Gaul like he said he would.

He nodded, "but not yet. We return to Pannonia after we finish the Sciri raid," he said and she walked off going to her tent. He sat down by the fire, staring at the flames, thinking this was more than he had bargained for. He hoped the Hun Beys would compromise, but since they wouldn't, he'd have to attack his own people to truly be a conqueror, a king, a great leader like his father told him he'd be when he was little boy.

Xena took off her leather armor and threw it on the floor. She sat down on the blankets and animal skins, sighing, rubbing her face. She was extremely tired and had been on this journey away from Pannonia for three months and now she had to be away longer than expected.

Throughout this excursion she had only received one letter from her daughter, even though she wrote to her many times. She figured that her daughter did not want to speak to her, especially since she gave her a set of rules before she left three months ago. As Anastasia grew older, Xena began to realize that she couldn't keep her hidden as a boy anymore.

One day she saw Anastasia undressing in her room and noticed her daughter had breasts, though small, they were still there and her hips were slightly more curved than a year before, when she still had a boyish figure. Fear of her daughter being exposed, she told her to stay inside the yurt as much as possible and even told her not to play with Ellac anymore. The young prince, only six months younger than her daughter, was growing older as well and were not children anymore. Both were thirteen and Xena didn't want her daughter to continue to be around the boys.

From Anastasia's birth Xena decided to raise her as a boy because she feared that she might be killed if the Goths came to rise against the Huns again, which they would, those Visigoths always came back. They lay dormant for now, but they would return to attack just as all empires did. It was a known fact in history and history repeated itself. Anastasia was a beautiful girl, pale skin, blue eyes and black hair, matching both her parents hair. She was also very tall, a few inches taller than Ellac for the time being until Ellac aged, he would tower over her just like all boys did in their youth.

She feared that the more time she spent away from her daughter, she would rebel and disobey her. Surely, Xena knew that her daughter had already disobeyed her since nobody was there to tell her what to do. Galena was nice, but she wasn't her mother.

Sighing, she picked up her quill and grabbed the last parchment she had in her tent. She would definitely have to buy more when they reached their next destination. She began writing to her daughter that she would have to stay away awhile longer.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Galena was outside grabbing a bucket of water and a young messenger came up to her with a letter. He bowed to her, "a message from the commander," he said then disappeared to go back to his horse and leave the area. Galena sighed and tucked the letter in her apron, picking up the bucket she walked back to the yurt, hoping that Anastasia was still inside and off with those princes.

She set the water down by the fire and exhaled heavily, wiping her sweaty brow. "Ana!" she called out and the teenager came out of her room wearing pants and tunic with her wild black hair. "A letter from your mother."

Anastasia rolled her eyes and snatched the letter from the woman and sat down in a chair, reading over it carefully and quickly. Galena poured the water into a pot over the fire and Anastasia had a sneaky smile on her lips. "She will be gone longer than expected," she crumbled up the letter and threw it in the fire. Galena gasped as she saw the paper burning in the fire and the teen ran back to her room.

"Anastasia!" she called out, "what else did it say? Where is she going?"

The girl came out of her room, wrapping the turban fabric around her head, concealing her long hair. She shrugged her shoulders, "who cares?" she smiled, "she's not coming back anytime soon!" she ran and grabbed her belt on the way out.

"Where do you think you're going?" Galena grabbed the girl's arm and the teen's eyes widened, snatching her arm away from her.

"I'm going to go riding with Ellac and Dengi!" she looped the belt around her waist and tightened it.

"Your mother forbade you from seeing them!" Galena protested.

Anastasia folded her arms, lifting her chin arrogantly, "my mother isn't here! So, she's not here to stop me and you can't do anything about it," she smirked. Galena gasped at the audacity of the girl. Anastasia went outside and grabbed the reins of her horse and mounted the large black stallion.

Galena came outside, folding her arms at the sassy teenager. "Your mother is going to be very upset once she finds out you've been hanging out with those boys!"

She lifted an eyebrow, "she can go to hell with all her rules," she clicked her tongue, kicking the horse and rode off to meet with Ellac and his younger brother. She saw Ellac and Dengi waiting for her by the hill and waved at them.

Ellac smiled and waved back. She rode up to them, yanking on the horse's reins. "I didn't think you were gonna make it!"

Dengi nodded, "yeah, we were about to leave without you!"

Anastasia turned back and saw Galena glaring at her. "Well, I'm here anyway. So where are we riding off to first?" she grinned, eager to get away from the campgrounds.

Xena and Attila rode in the south Balkans looking for the Bey leaders of the tribes. They stopped at the Adriatic Sea and Xena growled, coming to a dead end. "They are not in the Balkans!" she said and the Hun king nodded, seeing that was quite obvious since they were riding for weeks trying to find everyone, but all the tribes were deserted.

Lessa, one of the best soldiers rode up to Xena, breathing heavily. He had just come from the coast with some viable information. "Commander, we have news about the Beys," he said and she frowned at him.

"Well, out with it!" she said and he took in a deep breath, pointing at the sea below them on the hilltop.

"Some merchants at the port saw some Huns taking a ship. They are going to Athens to escape," he said and Xena's eyes widened, staring out at the large open sea. She had never been on a ship or even close to the ocean. The only seas she had been close to, were the Black and Caspian seas and those were incredibly smaller than the Adriatic and Mediterranean.

She pulled on her horse's reins and began riding down the hill. Attila growled, "Xena!" he called out and snapped his head towards Lessa, "what does she think she's doing?!" many of the men followed behind her and he realized that this woman was incredibly ambitious and couldn't be stopped no matter what. Rolling his eyes he kicked his horse and followed the crowd to the port of Durres.

Xena stopped at the port and growled, seeing the large sea, only a few hundred miles away was Italy, the home of the Western Roman Empire. Why would they go to Athens? She kept asking herself this question over and over again, but it wouldn't make sense to run all the way to Greece.

Attila caught up with her and squinted his eyes at the sparkling ocean. "What's wrong with you?" he hissed.

"They fled to Athens, Attila. We should follow them and bring back to the Balkans," she said, already making the decision up in her mind.

He shook his head, "Xena, no! Athens is out of our range. They are already half way there by now!" he rubbed his forehead, feeling more frustrated by the minute.

She turned towards him with fury in her eyes, "you want these people to walk all over us? The Romans are already spitting on our graves!" her heart began racing as she thought of killing those Beys. They wanted to make their own rules and run from their true leaders, well she wasn't about to let that happen, no definitely not. She rode down to a merchant and he gawked up at her in fear, dropping his bag of gold.

"I want one of your ships," she demanded and he kept staring up at her. She pulled out her sword and grabbed the man by his collar, lifting him up in the air. He yelped and sweat began dripping down his cheek. "I said, I want one of your ships," she smiled deviously at him and he nodded.

"I'll give you a ship!" he squealed and she dropped him on the ground, riding passed him, sheathing her sword on her hip. She rubbed her chin, staring at all the ships and pointed to one of the biggest ones that was docked at the port.

"What about that one?" she asked and the poor merchant picked up his bag of gold and ran up to her, fearful that she might hurt him.

He stammered, "oh no, my lady...that is too expensive."

She turned to him, lifting an eyebrow and laughed mockingly, "I'm not going to pay you!" she snarled, "you give the ship to me or I'll slice you in half, got it?" she smiled and he wasn't going to refuse. He bowed his head to her nervously and she trotted off to the large ship.

Attila frowned and rode over to her and grabbed her arm. She growled at him, snatching her arm away. "You're going to Athens to get the Beys? Are you insane?"

She shrugged, "some may say that, depends who you ask," she winked. She hopped off her horse and threw him the reins, adjusting her gloves, her eyes scanned the large boat and she bit her bottom lip, thinking this was going to be quite an adventure. "You will return to Pannonia and I will bring you back your betrayers," she chuckled and walked ahead onto the ship, looking at the deck, admiring the beauty of it all.

The king shook his head, and snapped his fingers at his men, "go with her," he instructed and twenty men went to join Xena. He called out to her, "I want all those men alive, Xena! You hear me?!"

Xena sighed heavily, "I can't make any promises...but," she narrowed her eyes with a wicked grin, "I'll try my best," she bowed her head mockingly and he grunted, trotting back up the hill with the rest of his men.

Lessa waited for his king at the top of the hill and saw he was rather distressed. "Your highness, do you trust your commander to do her job?"

Attila frowned, staring down at the ship. "She's a mad woman, but I do trust her," he trotted off, "for now," he grumbled.

Gabrielle sat in a chair and after a few lessons she had finally got the children to pay attention to her. Instead of sitting at their desks she made them sit on the floor in a circle, while she taught them. She figured that since they were children, they would do better with storytelling instead of her just reading off the pages like some kind of boring teacher.

She even drew pictures of all the characters, which took her a long time to do. Though, she realized this would be the best way to grab their attention for a whole hour. For the last three lessons of the week they had been discussing the Odyssey, which was a very long story and she knew it would take at least another two classes to cover everything.

Two hours flew by faster than she thought and she hated to end the lesson since the children were enjoying it so much. She sighed and placed her hands on her knees, "the lesson for today is over!" she smiled and all the children sighed with disappointed looks on their faces.

"Come on Miss Gabrielle, why don't you tell us what happens with Calypso?" a boy asked, running up to her.

Gabrielle chuckled, "we'll have to save that story for tomorrow!" she began putting all her paperwork inside her bag. She was glad that they seemed to enjoy the lessons over the last few weeks, but she was exhausted and needed get back home.

She said goodbye to all her students and Nikoli before she left the academy. She decided to take a different route home today because she needed to stop and buy some more ink and parchment for her lessons. The academy was already out of all the supplies and she would have to use the last of her money for the week to buy all the necessities. She hoped that Kat had bought food for tonight because she certainly wouldn't have anything to spare after today.

She strode down market street and saw all of the vendors. She told herself not to get distracted by all the pretty dresses and jewelry. I'm here to buy parchment and ink. She had to keep telling herself this over and over. Walking down the square she passed by the apothecary shop and waved at the elderly man. She always loved him, he was such a kind person and his herbs, spices and potions were always on point and not very expensive either.

She passed a few more shops and came to a small shop that carried a minimal amount of writing supplies. She smiled seeing Kelix, a young teenager who ran his father's shop most of the time. He stood up as soon as he saw her, "Gabrielle! My favorite customer!" he said and she blushed. "What will it be today? I got some new parchment in, yesterday, it's from Egypt."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and examined the parchment, it was such great quality. "Wow, Egypt? That is some of the best parchment..." she sighed, "but I can't afford it," she hated to admit.

Kelix knew she would say that and he pulled out some parchment that was shipped in from Rome. "This is from Rome, also really good quality," he offered.

She rubbed her chin and touched the parchment. The weaving was really nice and tight, so she knew that it wouldn't tear so easily. "How much is it?" she lifted an eyebrow.

The boy smiled, "for you, only five pounds," he offered and she smiled, instantly taking him up on his offer. It was too good to pass up. He cut the parchment and began rolling it up tightly and tied a ribbon around the roll.

"I need some ink too," she said and he nodded, running to the back of the shop to grab a large bottle of ink. She rummaged through her bag to find the money and heard someone talking from a fair distance away. She lifted her head and saw a group of men arguing with an innkeeper. The men wore black clothing and animal pelts around their shoulders and fur hats to match. Her eyes squinted as she tried to see what else was happening but she couldn't really make out what they were saying.

Kelix returned with the bottle of ink, "okay so that will be seven pounds altogether," he smiled and saw Gabrielle gawking at something. He stepped out of his shop and saw large men bickering with the innkeeper, Mason. "Man, what's going on there?" he frowned, folding his arms.

Gabrielle saw the men fumble their way through the inn, pushing the man down and she frowned. "I don't know...they don't look like they're from Greece."

The boy agreed, "they look like those savages," he chuckled, "you know, the Huns?" he said and Gabrielle turned to him with wide eyes, now quite afraid. It was just as Kat said, Honoria was worried that the Huns would come to Athens and now they were here. "I got the ink for you."

She shook her head and grabbed the ink bottle stuffing it in her bag and also grabbed the roll of fresh parchment. She handed Kelix the seven pounds she owed him, "thanks," she smiled and walked off, still staring at the inn, too curious to let that one go. She wanted to know if those men were really the famous savage Huns that everyone was so worried about.

Gabrielle returned to her apartment and set the bag of supplies in her bedroom. "Kat, are you home?"

Kathyrn came running in from outside and wiped her forehead. "Gabrielle!" she ran up and hugged her tightly, "how was your day at school?"

The blonde smiled, "it went really well! I'm so proud of those students, they are learning so much and I haven't had a single fruit thrown at me in a week."

Kat laughed, "that's great news, Gabrielle," she grabbed her hand, "come, I've done some work to our garden," she pulled her outside and Gabrielle looked at their small garden. Kat wiped her hands on her skirt and shrugged a shoulder, "it's not much, but I think we will have some squash coming soon in the winter!"

Gabrielle smiled softly at their sad garden. They hadn't been able to grow anything in the last two years, why should this year be any different? "In the winter, huh?" she chuckled anxiously. "We'll see about that," she went back inside as the heat was dreadful out there. She went into their small kitchen and poured a glass of wine for herself and for Kat too. "Kat, I saw the weirdest thing in the market today.."

Kat sipped the wine and wiped her brow with her apron. "Oh yeah? That ink boy, Kelix, wasn't trying to hit on you again was he?" she frowned and Gabrielle chuckled, "you're like seven years older than him!"

"No, he didn't. He's my friend," Gabrielle said and tapped the wine glass with her fingernails. "I saw the Huns in the market..." she muttered, not really believing it herself.

Kat's big light eyes widened at that. "Are you serious? Are you sure it was them?"

Gabrielle nodded, "they wore animal skins and everything! They definitely didn't look like they were from Athens..." she sighed heavily and set the glass on the counter, no longer thirsty anymore. "Why would they come all the way to Athens? Aren't they from the Balkans or something?"

The redhead nodded, "I mean, I guess that's what Honoria and Petronius were so worried about. Did you happen to see a man with a crown on?"

The blonde shook her head, "no just a bunch of really big men. They entered Mason's inn and I'm sure they have taken over that place now," she was worried about the innkeeper. He was so nice and these tribal people were obviously used to getting what they want through force and nothing else.

Kat sighed, leaning her elbow on the counting, continuing to drink the wine. This was really big news as well as scary news too. "I don't think you should go to the academy tomorrow," she said and Gabrielle gasped.

"I have to go! Those children are counting on me to be there, Kat," she grabbed her hand and squeezed it, "I highly doubt they will come to a school," she chuckled, shaking her head at the stupid idea.

Kat looked at her with worried eyes, "I don't want anything to happen to you, Gabrielle," she kissed her hand and the blonde sighed, sensing that her little joke was probably a bit insensitive.

"Alright, what if I make the classes only an hour long?" she hoped that would please her. Kat smiled and hugged her tightly. "Are you happy now?"

Kat nodded, "yes, very happy! Hey there's a party over at Mariso's house tomorrow. We should go together," she wriggled her eyebrows sneakily.

Gabrielle raised her eyebrow, "I don't know Kat, his parties can get a little wild..." she didn't even want to think of the last party Mariso had last year. She lost Kat for three hours and found her passed out with two topless women in the back of the large house. It took her an hour to get her home and then Kat spent the entire night vomiting outside and pledged she would never drink wine ever again, what a lie.

Kat teased, "oh come on Gabrielle, it'll be fun. I promise I won't get super drunk this time!" she swore and Gabrielle wasn't inclined to believe her.

Xena's men docked the ship at Athens and she smiled, leaning over the rails she saw the city was busy, filled with people. This was going to be difficult to find the traitors. She unsheathed her sword and stepped off the ship. "Find them!" she yelled and all the men spread out into the city.

She charged through the streets and saw many children running from her as her cloak swished behind her and the chains on her boots jingled as she stormed through the busy streets. Women gasped, grabbing their children, clinging onto their husbands as she came through with her men following behind her. There was an immediate path made for her and she stopped, staring at all the shops. She sniffed the air and smiled, pointing her blade at the fruit merchant.

"You!" she said and the man backed away from her into the wall behind him. "Where is the busiest part of this city?" she asked and he was barely able to talk. "Are you mute?!" she growled and grabbed his tunic and threw him on the ground. She pointed the blade at his neck, "tell me or you die right here!"

He shielded his face, "right down the road!" he breathed heavily, "a market square!" he curled up in a ball and she smirked, kicking him aside, storming through the streets with her men trailing behind.

She stopped in the middle of the square and saw fearful eyes staring at her. Her eyes scanned the area and she saw a fox fur hat sitting on a table outside an inn. She smiled and grabbed a torch from one of the buildings and entered the inn. All the men's eyes widened at her and she saw a small group of the Western Sciri Huns gawking at her, knowing exactly who she was and why she was here.

"Traitors!" she pointed her blade at them. "Get them!" she cried out and the men behind her came charging in. all the civilians began running out of the inn. Xena grabbed a mug of ale and the innkeeper ducked down as she breathed fire with the torch, igniting the wooden interior of the building.

The Hun soldiers grabbed two of the Sciri men trying to escape and wrapped their whips around their necks, tightening them. Xena smiled and a column inside burned down, falling right in front of her. "Don't kill them, I'm going to need them later..." she pinched one of the Sciri men's cheeks and hummed to herself. He growled and tried to bite her finger. "Extra points for you!" she pat his cheek and frowned, turning around. "Where is the Bey?" she saw people running out of the inn as it continued to engulf in flames.

She ran out of the burning inn and smoke filled the square. She waft the smoke away from her face and squinted her eyes, looking for any escapees. She saw many civilians screaming and running away in different directions. She saw a man wearing an animal pelt and grinned.

Charging forward she walked briskly down the street. A boy gasped as he saw her and ran away from her into a pile of hay. His mother grabbed him, "mother, who is that?!"

"We need to get inside, hurry!" she said, pulling him into their home.

Xena rounded the corner and saw the man and his helpers running away from her. She unsheathed her second sword and twirled both of them in her wrists, smiling as they tried to run away. The men turned around and saw her twirling her swords as she marched down the alleyway.

The Bey's eyes widened, "I won't go back with that insane woman!" he growled and came to the eastern side of the city and there weren't many places to run and hide. He saw an academy and grabbed his men and entered through there.

Gabrielle was in the middle of teaching until she heard a lot of ruckus outside her classroom. She frowned and told her students to stay put. She stepped outside and saw those same men she saw a few days ago and now they were in her school!

"What the hell?!" she grabbed a torch off the wall and wacked one of the men over the head with it. "Get out of my school!" she kicked the man lying on the ground.

Nikoli came running out of his office and gasped seeing Gabrielle beating up a strange man in the hallway. He smiled nervously at all the children gawking, peeking through the hallway to see what was going on.

The man picked up Gabrielle and threw her outside. She grunted, rubbing her back and stood up, "hey! You can't just throw me out!" she looked around and picked up a pitchfork from the farmer that lived next to the school. She banged on the door, scraping it with the pitchfork, grunting heavily. This is not working.

Xena came now with her entourage of men and held her swords close to her body as they stormed through the streets. She saw a blonde young woman banging on the door and she smirked. Through the windows she saw the Bey and his loyal follower, running through the building.

She grabbed Gabrielle by her dress and tossed her aside. "Out of my way!" she said and Gabrielle blew her curly hair away from her eyes. She picked up the pitchfork again and wacked Xena's backside. Xena's eyes widened and she slowly turned around, glaring at the short woman. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear as she stared into this tall woman's eyes. Obviously, this woman was one of them, given by her clothing and long hair too. She obviously didn't think this one through.

Gabrielle slowly began backing away and Xena kicked her down swiftly and grabbed the pitchfork tossing it aside. "Detain her!" she said and went through the school. The men snatched her up off the ground and she grunted, trying to get free from their hold.

As Xena entered the building she saw this was a school. Many children were there and they cowered in fear as she charged through the hallways. Nikoli frowned and stepped in front of her. She smirked, "get out of my way, old man," she hissed and he wouldn't move. She grabbed his arm and threw him across the hallway.

A teenage boy came up to her with some sort of staff and Xena frowned, glaring at the boy. She had no desire to hurt a child, that wasn't why she was here. "I don't have time for these games!" she yelled and kicked the staff out of the boy's hands and pushed him aside into a wall.

She came to a dead end and saw the Bey was talking with his loyal friend. She chuckled, "well, well. Looks like I finally have you in my grasp now," she unsheathed her swords and twirled one of them with her strong wrists. The tribal leader was now truly afraid he was going to die.

Xena grabbed the Bey and broke his arm, kneeing him in the elbow. He cried out loudly in agony. "Attila wants you alive..." she hissed in his ear, "so I will make sure you stay alive, but if you make this difficult..." she scraped the edge of her blade along the Bey's cheek, drawing a small amount of blood, "then you won't make it back alive, got it?" she whispered and he nodded.

The men tied up the Bey and his other followers from back at the inn a few blocks away. Xena folded her arms looking down at the defeated Hunnic leaders. "We could have been friends, but you decided to flee like cowards," she smiled.

Gabrielle frowned as her hands and legs were tied up with ropes. She had never seen such thick rope in her entire life. "You're all barbarians!" she yelled and Xena turned her head, looking at her with a devious smile.

Xena walked slowly over to the blonde and Gabrielle watched her knee high boots, coming closer to her and the silver chains jingling the more steps she took. The blonde's eyes widened and then Xena stopped a foot away from her. Gabrielle lifted her head and the brunette woman bent down, her hair creating a veil around her upper half and her lips broke out into a smile, an eerie smile. Gabrielle almost felt sick.

She grabbed Gabrielle's cheeks and pinched them in between her fingers, examining her face. She then opened her mouth, touching her teeth with her gloved hands, noting that she had perfect white teeth. Xena lifted an eyebrow, "you are not a slave," she smiled and Gabrielle spat her feet, trying to get that nasty taste out of her mouth. Xena frowned seeing her boots covered in saliva. "But you are annoying," she thought out loud.

Gabrielle breathed heavily as she saw Xena thinking to herself. "Let me go," she asked and then lowered her voice, "please."

Xena looked to her men and began laughing. She bent down and grabbed Gabrielle's face again, pinching her cheeks together. "You attacked me and you want me to free you?" she tisked and winked at the girl, "you must be mistaken," she grabbed Gabrielle's hair, pulling her head back and Xena stared into her bright green eyes. "If you are not a slave, then what are you?" she felt curious and was inches away from her face.

Gabrielle had never felt fear before in her entire life until now. This woman was tall and intimidating, not to mention she could kill anything in a split second. "I'm...a teacher," she replied softly and Xena smiled, releasing her hair.

"A teacher?" Xena folded her arms and scoffed, "a teacher attacked me," she pointed to herself and Gabrielle eyed her cautiously. "You must have death wish," she chuckled and leaned down in front of the blonde. "Tell me, can you read?" Gabrielle nodded, "write?" she asked and yet again the blonde nodded. Xena thought to herself that may be she could be of use to her and the children in Pannonia. None of them knew how to read or write, except her daughter and even her reading and writing wasn't that great because she decided to become a rebel and refuse to do anything she said especially when she wasn't there. She was far too busy to keep up with her daughter's misbehaving.

She waved her hand to her men, "take her with us."

The men lifted Gabrielle off the ground and her heart sank as soon as she heard the woman say that. She would be taken as a slave for these Huns and would leave Kat and her students all alone. "No!" she shouted and Xena stopped walking, turning on her heel, lifting her eyebrows at the blonde. "Let me go! I won't be of any use to you!"

Xena walked up to the blonde and grabbed her neck, lifting her up in the air, "I have a special job for you," she grinned and Gabrielle choked, becoming red in the face. She dropped her on the ground and Gabrielle exhaled sharply, coughing violently. "You may not have been a slave before, but are my slave," she smirked and walked off and the men carried Gabrielle and the other traitors behind her.

They came to the port and Xena sighed as she saw a slew of Roman soldiers blocking the path to her stolen ship from Durres. She smiled, folding her arms. "Are they kidding?" she unsheathed both her swords. "Attack them!" she yelled and the men unsheathed their blades, running for the Roman soldiers.

Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw the Huns attacking the Romans, slicing their bodies up. A Roman soldier had his arm cut off and blood spewed everywhere. Gabrielle felt her stomach churning and she looked away, not baring to be able to see those men get slaughtered.

Xena drove her blade into a Roman's chest and threw her other sword in another's backside. She pulled the blade out and blood splattered on her cheek. She walked over to the other fallen soldier and pulled her second sword out. Growling she spun around and saw one by one the Romans falling to their deaths. "I want their heads! All of them!" she yelled and marched forward twirling the swords in her wrists.

Gabrielle was curious enough and turned her head slowly and saw the woman swing both of her blades at two Romans and sliced their legs off. Her eyes widened and now surely she knew this was horrible. She was going to die, she kept telling herself that. There was no way she could be a slave for this awful woman. She was a savage and had no remorse killing these people.

The men gathered up the dead Romans and drug their bodies towards Xena. She smiled and lifted a Roman up and sliced his head off. Gabrielle gasped, closing her eyes. Xena then took the Roman's sword and drove dug a hole with her boot and stuck the hilt of the sword into the soil. She stabbed the Roman's head through the tip of the blade.

She did the heinous act to each and every Roman soldier along the coast of Athens. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear and then she vomited in the grass, dry heaving heavily seeing the heads of the Hun's enemies on the swords, just like Kat had said. She thought that was a made up story, but it was far from a folktale.

Xena sheathed her swords and sighed heavily, feeling like her work was done here. "Roman scum," she spat on the ground and whistled at her men to grab the prisoners and head towards the ship. She smiled at the blonde's frightened face then marched over to the ship. They would have to hurry and escape before more Romans were sent their way.

Anastasia and Ellac were wrestling in the grass together in the outskirts of the camp. Ellac rolled over on top of her and she breathed heavily, staring into his green eyes. He grinned down at her and punched her in the jaw. She gasped and rubbed her jaw. "That's for throwing me in that mud pit last week, Annas!" he said and she growled, kicking him off of her.

He ran away from her, now afraid he was going to get creamed again. She lunged forward in the air and grabbed his legs causing him to fall face first into the grass. "You always hated getting dirty!" she climbed on top of his back, pinning him down with her strong thighs. "You going to cry to your mommy now?" she teased.

Ellac groaned, "no! And she's not my mother! She's my stepmother!" he kicked Anastasia in her back and she groaned, becoming distracted and released her hold on him. Ellac wiggled out and grabbed her arms, throwing her on the ground. "I win!"

Anastasia frowned, "for now..." she said and then they both heard loud drumming. Ellac stood up and she followed suit.

"Father is back!" he smiled and jumped on his horse, riding towards the center of the camp. Anastasia frowned, folding her arms, not happy to hear those drums, which meant her mother was back too. She thought she would have been gone longer. She jumped on her horse and followed the Hun prince.

Attila came riding into the camp and was greeted by all of his people. He smiled at them and then saw his son and Xena's daughter riding together. His smile disappeared as soon as he saw them together. He was sure that Xena told her to stay away from his son, though Ellac was young and hadn't even realized Annas was in fact a girl.

Ellac smiled and dismounted his horse, running up to his father. "You're back!" he grinned and Attila ruffled the boy's dark hair.

Anastasia came riding up on her horse and saw all the men that came in with Attila and noticed her mother was not with them. She was fully expecting to get a reprimanding from her mother and now that she wasn't here, she was starting to become worried. She hopped off the horse and walked over to Ellac and his father.

"Where's my mother?" she asked and Attila frowned at her.

"She's on a mission," Attila said and Anastasia folded her arms, though this meant more time for her to hang out with Ellac as long as her mother was away.

She smiled and placed her hand on the prince's shoulder, "are we still going to the river later?" she asked and Ellac nodded, quite excited to spend more time with his adopted prince brother.

Attila frowned at her, "Ellac will not be joining you Annas," he said and the teenage girl glared up at the king. "Come inside with me son," he said and Ellac looked to Anastasia and felt sorry that he wasn't able to go with her to the river.

She watched both of them trot off to their large home and she huffed, running into her yurt. She came charging through the yurt and Galena saw her enter.

"Ana!" she called out and the girl ran to her room without another word. The woman shook her head, "that girl..." she sighed and dropped a few lamb bones into the soup she was making.

Anastasia ripped off the turban off her head and her long dark hair tumbled down her back. She plopped down on her bed and sobbed in her pillow. She clutched the pillow close to her face and cried softly.

Galena pushed the curtains aside and carried a bowl of soup in with her. She saw Anastasia crying softly on her bed and smiled sadly at the girl. She walked over and sat on the cushioned bed, and touched the girl's back. "I brought you some soup," she said and Anastasia sniffled.

"I'm not hungry," she said and turned her face away from the woman, embarrassed to be even seen like this.

The woman sighed heavily and set the soup on the bedside table. She ran her fingers through the teen's long dark wavy hair. "I heard the king has returned, yet...I don't see your mother."

Anastasia frowned, "she's on a mission," she mumbled in her pillow and wiped her cheeks from the tears streaming down her face.

"Well, the soup is there if you want it," Galena pat the girl's back then got up to leave the room so the girl could sulk. She entered the main part of the yurt and sighed, sitting in the chair she decided to knit something to get her mind off of things. She obviously saw that Xena's daughter was upset and probably because she couldn't spend time with Ellac, which she knew would happen once either Xena or Attila returned.

Later in the evening Anastasia fell asleep after she decided to eat the soup. She didn't even bother to take off her clothes or boots. Her arms were sprawled across the bed and a gentle breeze filtered in the room from the window inside the yurt.

As she was sleeping peacefully a rock was thrown at her face. She groaned and woke up immediately. "Annas..." she heard her name whispered from the window. She sat up in her bed, rubbing her eyes and frowned. "It's me, Ellac!" he whispered again.

Her eyes widened and she grabbed a scarf, covering her hair quickly then walked up to the window, seeing Ellac waiting for her outside the yurt. He contorted his face in confusion and he chuckled, "what's with the scarf?" he asked.

She shrugged her shoulder, "what are you doing here?" she whispered.

Ellac had a sneaky look on his face, "me and my friends are going to the river. Do you want to come with us?" her eyes lit up at that and she nodded her head.

"One second!" she smiled and grabbed her turban, quickly rolling her hair into a bun and placed the turban over her hair. She then ran to the window and climbed out as quietly as she could. Ellac grabbed her hand and smiled at her. "Does your father know you're not in your room?" she whispered as she could hear a lot of the men and women were still awake, inside and outside their yurts.

He put his finger over his mouth and winked. "I won't tell if you don't."

Anastasia grinned and they crept down together as they quickly left the campgrounds to go meet their friends by the river.

Chapter Text

AN: evil Xena is a delight, isn't she?

Chapter 3

Xena and Attila's army stopped at Sklaveni on their way back to Pannonia. She decided to camp out in this city and travel in the morning to Pannonia. The journey from Athens was incredibly long and she burned the ship once they arrived in Durres so the Romans could not track them. Xena had no remorse for burning the ship and possibly ruining the relationship the Huns had with the Western Romans, but she didn't care. She wanted to capture the Beys and she did.

Tomorrow they would travel to Pannonia and it was only a day's ride there, which was considerably short compared to all the other journeys she went on these last few months with Attila. He would have been back in Pannonia by now and hopefully he would been talking with his head men in the militia about the Northern Gaul territory that the Romans promised to give them and they didn't.

Tents were set up around three campfires and Xena hunted a rabbit in the forest a few hours ago and finally cooked it over the fire, slowly for the last two hours. Slow and long was the best way. She took a leg of the rabbit off the cooked animal and bit into it. Her eyes traveled to her little blonde teacher who was tied up leaning against a tree, being very quiet.

She smirked and turned around, staring at the young woman. Gabrielle caught Xena looking at her and she frowned, scooting away from the tree so she wouldn't have to stare at her blue piercing eyes. Xena chuckled lowly and drank some wine from her wineskin, glaring at the blonde. "You seem uncomfortable..." Xena said with a bit of mirth lingering in her eyes.

Gabrielle tightened her lips and felt her blood boiling already. She didn't want to have a conversation with this savage woman and still felt sick remembering the heads she stabbed through the Romans' swords. Xena hummed to herself and kept eating the rabbit, realizing that the woman wasn't going to talk to her.

Gabrielle turned her head slightly and saw the raven haired woman was eating by herself around the campfire. "You slaughtered all of those men..." she said quietly and Xena stopped chewing, slowly turning her head towards her. Instantly she felt fear enter her body and became breathless.

"Did you say something?" Xena smirked and Gabrielle averted her eyes. "Come now, if you have something on your mind, you should say it," she challenged her captured slave.

The blonde felt like she was walking into a trap here but she didn't care, "you killed all those Romans!" she yelled and Xena smiled. "You mutilated their bodies!" she felt sick just recalling that moment again. Xena chuckled and threw down the rabbit leg onto the ground and stood up, slowly walking towards the woman. Gabrielle's eyes widened, but she furrowed her eyebrows, frowning up at the Hunnic woman.

"You know," Xena pulled out a dagger from her belt and knelt down in front of the blonde slave. "You're very outspoken for a school teacher," she whispered and inched closer to her. She traced her fingers along the sharp blade and drew some blood from her fingers and grinned wickedly. Gabrielle cringed seeing the blood all over her fingers and thought this woman was crazy, yes, definitely crazy, she thought. "I don't like that," she hissed and wiped her fingers on the blonde's cheek. Gabrielle closed her eyes, breathing heavily trying to contain herself from screaming out like a frightened little girl.

Xena stood up and sheathed her dagger and Gabrielle opened her eyes, her heart beating incredibly fast, staring up at the woman. Though, she saw she was quite gorgeous, she thought the Hunnic women were hideous but this woman wasn't. Her hair was incredibly long, reaching to her waist and her eyes were reminiscent of the Aegean Sea. Her lips were just the right size too, not too small or too large and her skin was a perfect olive complexion due to spending most of her time outside. Gabrielle blinked as Xena kept staring down at her with a big grin. Her teeth were also perfect, which she thought odd. Gabrielle was sure that this woman had many men coming after her, or perhaps she had many suitors because she was so beautiful.

"I want to make you as comfortable as possible," Xena said with an eerie smile. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and lowered her head, refusing to gaze at the tall intimidating woman anymore.

"Is this what you call comfortable?" Gabrielle mumbled and then her eyes widened, thinking what an idiotic thing to say. She sometimes felt like she couldn't control her mouth at times and this was one of those times she wished she were mute. Xena frowned and knelt down, pinching the woman's cheeks in between her fingers harshly.

Xena snarled and stared into Gabrielle's green big eyes. "I know you were not a slave before..." she grinned and hummed to herself. "But I will make sure to break you in," she pat Gabrielle's cheek and traced her fingers on her lips before standing up and walking back to sit by the campfire again.

Gabrielle licked her lips and tasted the blood on Xena's fingers lingering on her lips. She kept glaring at her, watching her every move. She didn't know this woman and she was deathly afraid of what she might do to her if she spoke out like that again. She promised herself not to speak like that again because something worse might happen to her and she didn't want that. Savage woman.

Anastasia snuck off with Ellac to the woods behind the camp and they were alone this time. The river was fun and exciting with their friends, but she really liked spending time alone with him. They had just finished sparring with one another and walked together in the woods under an archway of trees filled with autumn leaves, just beginning to fall. She glanced over at him and he was enjoying the nice weather.

"The leaves are beautiful this year, aren't they?" she said and Ellac nodded.

"Yeah, but that means winter is coming sooner this year. It'll probably be really cold this time," he smiled and she shrugged her shoulder, walking along side him in silence.

She nudged him in his arm with her elbow, "come on let's go to the alcove!" she grinned and took off running.

Ellac smiled, "Annas wait for me!" he took off running behind her, trying to catch up. He never understood how Annas could run so much faster than him and he hated to admit it, but he thought his friend was a better fighter than him too.

Anastasia came to the alcove and Ellac finally caught up, trying to catch his breath. She smiled at him and he shook his head, bending over feeling a cramp in his side. "You sure run fast!" he breathed and Anastasia smirked, walking around nature's alcove. It was so beautiful here and she always loved coming here.

"wow, look at this place! How did you come by it?" Ellac asked and she smirked.

"My mother showed it to me," she said and he nodded, walking beside her, enjoying the scenery. "She used to take me here when I was little. Sometimes I had trouble sleeping at night and this place always calmed me down." She admitted spending some good times with her mother even though she didn't want to be near her at all. She was always making these stupid rules and before she loved spending time with her but now she wished she'd stay gone on her missions all the time.

Ellac sat down on a stump and she sat next to him. "Hey, I'm sorry about my father. I don't know why he doesn't want us to hang out," he sighed heavily, feeling embarrassed for his father's behavior.

Anastasia lowered her eyes, knowing exactly why Attila didn't want her near his son. Attila knew that she was a girl since her birth and was kind enough to keep it a secret from everyone, including his second wife. In the entire tribe, only Xena and Attila knew, though she feared that other people would begin to catch on the more her mother secluded her from the public eye. She ran her hands over her body and felt her breasts against her palms and inwardly hated it. Her face was also changing a lot and was beginning to look a lot like her mother, which she despised. The more time she spent with the Hun prince, the more she liked him and she knew that he liked her too, but not in the way she thought.

Ellac sensed her silence and nudged her gently with his elbow. "You okay?" he asked and she turned staring at him with her big blue eyes, batting her long eyelashes.

"Do you like girls, Ellac?" she randomly asked, catching the prince off guard.

He shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know, I never been around a girl before," he laughed nervously and knew that his father would find him a nice girl to marry once he turned fifteen, but that was nearly two years from now and he didn't want to marry a girl anytime soon. Though he knew he'd have to court the girl until he was eighteen he just wasn't ready for that commitment at thirteen. He hated that his birthday was in a few months and he would be fourteen, which was one year before finding a girl to court.

Anastasia smiled sadly and felt stupid for even asking such a question. "Yeah, girls are kind of weird, aren't they?"

Ellac didn't quite agree with that, "they're kind of pretty," the teen said shyly and Ana smiled, feeling a bit hopeful now, though reality hit her, realizing that she was a boy to Ellac and always would be.

Loud drums were heard in the tribe and Anastasia stood up, knowing that her mother was back. She grabbed his hand, "we should get back!" she took off running with Ellac skipping behind her barely able to keep up.

Xena trotted in on her black stallion with the men following her and the prisoners in cages on a wagon, pulled by a couple of horses. Gabrielle's eyes wandered around as she sat on a horse, being guided by one of the Hun soldiers. She saw many yurts in the campground and a large abode in the outskirts of the camp, she thought that was quite impressive. A bunch of women and men came out of their yurts, wearing dark dresses and coined headdresses and the men wore large coyote pelts around their shoulders. Gabrielle felt like she traveled back in time, seeing how these people lived. Their lives were simpler here and they didn't have to worry about the caste system in Greece or Italy, which she thought might be kind of nice.

Attila walked out of his abode and smiled seeing Xena and saw the prisoners locked in wooden cages. He had no idea how she was able to do it, but she did it. Xena dismounted her horse and walked up the Hun king, wrapping her arms around him, nice to see one another again.

"Xena! Well done," he grinned and she looked back the Beys and his few loyal followers trapped in the cages.

"I've brought your traitors and then some," she smiled, eyeing the blonde woman and Gabrielle turned her head away, not baring to look at her.

Attila walked up to the cages and saw the Bey of Sciri tribe stuffed in a small cage. "Welcome home, Bey," he chuckled and the elderly man growled at him like an animal. He clapped his hands, "take them to the barracks," he demanded of his men. He turned to Xena, "you will be in charge of interrogation."

Her eyes lit up at that, quite eager to use her skills. "I get to capture the traitors and interrogate them? You are in a good mood," she teased.

Anastasia and Ellac emerged from the forest and Xena caught them immediately out of the corner of her eye. She saw her daughter holding hands with the prince and frowned, feeling her anger rising rapidly. Attila turned around and saw his son with Xena's daughter and folded his arms. Anastasia let go of Ellac's hand and they both stared at their parents with wide doe eyes, fearing for their lives. The teenage girl felt her heart about to beat out of her chest the longer she stared into her mother's dangerously frightening eyes. She felt like she was being burned at the stake just by her mother's piercing glare.

"Ellac!" Attila called out, "come here," he said and the prince lowered his head, running towards his father, feeling ashamed of himself. He had disobeyed his father not once, but many times, and it was all behind his back. He didn't think he was going to be caught. Attila grabbed his son's arm and slapped him across his face. Ellac gasped and touched his cheek. Anastasia's eyes widened, her mouth gaped as she saw the prince being publically humiliated. Everyone was staring and soon dispersed, minding their own business. "I told you to stay away from Annas!" he reprimanded.

Ellac bowed his head to his father, "I'm sorry father," he muttered. Attila pushed his son forward and grabbed his shoulder, walking with him back to their dwelling. Now he was sure he was going to get beaten in private and he was not happy about it.

Xena folded her arms and kept glaring at her daughter. Anastasia thought that she should make a run for it, but then that'd just anger her mother even more. She kept thinking all of the consequences that would happen and either way she was doomed. Xena wagged her finger towards her, non-verbally telling her to come by her side. The teenager slowly walked towards her mother with shame.

Gabrielle frowned still sitting on top of the horse, seeing a young teenage boy coming towards Xena and thought that was odd. Does this woman actually have a child? No she couldn't have a child. How could a horrible woman like that give birth to another human being? She watched the teenager come closer and Xena made no sudden moves. Interesting.

Anastasia came to her mother with her head hanging lowly. Xena still had a huge disapproving frown on her face and the girl looked up at her tall mother, glaring down at her. She thought she was going to get slapped like Ellac did by his father, but all she did was stare at her, which was even worse than getting hit, she thought.

Xena grabbed her daughter's arm and marched to their yurt. Gabrielle's eyes widened, now seeing the fury in the woman's eyes. She truly felt afraid for the teenager, though she had to think of herself since she was stuck here as her captive. Life was so much better in Athens, she told herself over and over again.

Xena threw Anastasia on the floor and the girl's eyes widened and she scooted along the floor, trying to get away from her as she kept walking towards her. She breathed heavily and all those awful things she said about her mother while she was away didn't seem to matter now. She talked like she knew everything, but in reality she did not.

"I told you to stay away from that boy!" Xena said and Anastasia cowered in fear, backing up into a chair. She grabbed the girl by her arms and stood her up, staring into her scared blue eyes. "You disobeyed me!"

Anastasia eyes widened as she stared into her mother's eyes, inches away from her face. "I like spending time with him!" she said and Xena lifted her eyebrows, pulling away from her daughter.

"You like him?" she hissed and her daughter fell silent. She shook her daughter, "did he touch you?!" she asked.

The teen's face contorted, confused at her mother's accusation. She frowned, shaking her head, "no!" she yelled back and Xena stared into her eyes, trying to find out if she was lying or not.

"Did you touch him?" she asked in a more calm voice.

Anastasia scoffed at her mother, "no!" Xena let go of her and scratched her cheek anxiously and began pacing around. She watched her mother carefully, unsure of what she was going to do now. "I don't see what the big deal is..." she folded her arms, finding her cocky attitude within her.

Xena stopped pacing and turned on her heel, glaring at her daughter. "The big deal is...I don't want you ever seeing him ever again! I gave you an order and you disobeyed me!" she yelled and Anastasia's mouth gaped.

"I'm not one of your soldiers! You can't give me orders!" she spat back and Xena clenched her fists, becoming angrier by the second.

Xena laughed mockingly and her daughter frowned deeply at her. She realized she had spent far too many months away from her daughter and obviously she needed more guidance than what she could offer. She walked over to her and ripped the turban off her daughter's head. Anastasia gasped as her hair came tumbling down her back. "You are not Annas anymore, you are Anastasia. You will never come out of this yurt again," she said seriously and her daughter widened her eyes.

"Mom!" Anastasia begged. She didn't want to stay in this yurt forever, she would be so lonely and miserable.

Xena pinched her daughter's cheeks together, lifting her chin up to look in her sad eyes. "I don't want you ever to disobey me again, understand?" she hissed and her daughter said nothing. She released her cheeks and sighed heavily, now feeling like she was interrogating one of her captives and felt bad for treating her daughter like so. "I don't want any boy to come near you," she said quietly.

Anastasia frowned, "it's not like we were having sex!" she yelled back and Xena's eyes widened, shocked to hear that come out of her mouth.

"You will stay in your room and finish your studies that I know you have been ignoring," Xena said and her daughter groaned, not happy to hear that in the least.

Her daughter looked up at her once more, "I can never see Ellac again?" she asked in a soft voice.

Xena frowned, "no!" she yelled and Anastasia's eyes filled with tears, running to her room. Xena sighed, rubbing her forehead then ran her fingers through her hair. She threw the turban in the fire then kicked over a table, letting out her frustration.

She exited the yurt and placed her hands on her hips, still fuming at her daughter's cocky attitude. She looked at the blonde still sitting on the horse. She smiled smugly and walked over to her. Gabrielle saw that creepy smile on the woman's lips again and she instantly felt sick. She heard a lot of yelling in the yurt but couldn't make out what was being said. Obviously, that teenager was this woman's child and she was very upset over something. Soyou do have feelings.

"Welcome to Pannonia," Xena said and grabbed the blonde off the horse as her hands were still tied up. She grabbed her arm and brought her inside the yurt. Gabrielle grunted and then Xena threw her onto a floor mattress. She looked around and saw this was quite a huge place she had here. Although, it was very tribal, it was nice. Gabrielle noticed the flipped over table and Xena took off her cloak, throwing it on an empty chair.

Xena smirked at the blonde and walked over to her. Gabrielle held her breath, fearing the worst. "If I untie you, I sure hope you won't run away..." she whispered and Gabrielle shook her head. Xena then untied Gabrielle's hands and she felt so relieved. She rubbed her wrists and stared into the woman's enchanting eyes, feeling lost in them, but also she feared those dangerous eyes.

Gabrielle watched the raven haired woman walk around and poured some wine into a mug and fidgeted with her hands. "What is your name?" Xena asked.

The blonde's eyes widened, "Gabrielle..." she answered barely above a whisper.

"Gabrielle," Xena smiled, turning around, leaning on a chair. "That's such a Greek name," she winked and sipped the wine slowly. "So, Gabrielle..." she spun the chair around and sat in it, leaning her elbows over the back of the chair. "You were a teacher in Athens, right?" Gabrielle nodded, "in that academy where you...attacked me..." she mused with a big smirk on her face. The blonde lowered her eyes and sighed heavily. "What's the matter? No smart remarks?" she chuckled.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her, averting her eyes away from the woman. "What's your name?" she asked quietly and Xena frowned, continuing to sip her wine in silence as she gawked at the woman. Gabrielle chastised herself, feeling like her mouth would only get her in trouble here. This woman had a temper and anything set her off, obviously.

"Well Gabrielle, if you must know..." Xena grinned cunningly, "I have many names." She spoke in riddles and the blonde stared at her patiently. "Some call me the Caspian Queen," she mentioned with a big sigh then continued, "or the Black Sea Queen," she smiled, narrowing her eyes. "Savage, barbarian, monster...murderer," she grinned evilly, sipping the wine and Gabrielle's eyes widened.

Gabrielle felt the word vomit about the come up again and she breathed out a large exhale. "What do you want me to call you?"

Xena licked her lips, frowning at the blonde woman. "Well this is odd..." she grinned and the blonde raised an eyebrow at her, bemused. "Nobody has ever asked me that before...probably because they're usually dead before they get a chance to speak," she chuckled and finished off the wine, slamming the mug on the table, causing Gabrielle to jump in her seat. "My name is Xena," she said finally, "but you won't address me as Xena, got it?" she said firmly and the blonde nodded her head slowly, staring into her eyes.

The raven haired woman stood up from the chair and picked at a bowl of rice with her fingers and Gabrielle sighed quietly, sitting on the bed. "You didn't answer my question..." Gabrielle spoke again. Xena dropped the rice from her fingers and turned around, placing her hand on her hip.

"And what exactly...was your question?" Xena creased her eyebrows together, not appreciating how talkative this teacher was.

Gabrielle felt her throat begin to close up the longer Xena stared at her. "I asked you what you want me to call you and you said I couldn't call you by your name..." she lamented.

Xena wiped her fingers on her pants and walked closer to Gabrielle. The blonde stared up at her and Xena leaned forward, putting her hands on either side of Gabrielle. The blonde began leaning backwards as Xena came closer. The military commander smiled, humming to herself, making the teacher very nervous. "You have a lot of questions..." she hissed and Gabrielle scooted away from her inch by inch. "You are my slave and I am your master..." she said and widened her wild eyes, "so you may call me master," she grinned and winked at her then stood up.

Gabrielle felt like she could breathe again as soon as Xena stepped away from her. She thought her heart was about to explode. Xena spooned some of the rice into a separate bowl and tore up some bread as well. Gabrielle frowned, watching what she was doing. Xena spun around and Gabrielle nervously rubbed the back her neck pretending like she wasn't looking. Xena smirked, "you may eat something, I am not inhuman." She said and disappeared behind a curtain. The blonde stood up slowly and walked over to the table, seeing a large bowl of rice, some lamb she guessed and thick bread. She hadn't eaten in days throughout their journey, she was almost afraid to eat something in fear that Xena might retaliate, though...she did tell her to eat something. Slowly she reached for the bowl of bread and ripped a piece off, chewing on it. She didn't think that these people knew how to cook at all, but this bread was probably the fluffiest bread she had ever eaten.

Xena walked into her daughter's room with the bowl of food in her hands. Anastasia was laying on her bed, sniffling softly to herself. She sighed and sat on the bed beside her. She touched her daughter's shoulder and she shrugged her hand off, scooting away from her.

She sighed, "I brought you some food," she offered and Anastasia wiped her eyes, refusing to look at her mother.

"I'm not hungry," the girl muttered under her breath.

Xena set the bowl of food on the ground and folded her hands in her lap, "Anastasia, I'm sorry but you can't keep disobeying me every time I leave." She said and her daughter shifted, bringing her knees closer to her chest. She sighed as her daughter was giving her a very cold shoulder. "You know that I love you a lot." Anastasia frowned and cuddled against her pillow. "It's are getting older and I can't allow you to keep spending your life as a boy anymore," she said and her daughter turned over, frowning at her deeply.

"Then why raise me as a boy anyway?" she asked sincerely, feeling more confused than angry at the moment.

Xena rubbed her forehead and tapped her fingers on her knee. "To protect you."

Anastasia scoffed, "protect me? Protect me from what?!" she was now getting angry.

"Look around, Ana!" Xena frowned, "do you see any girls in this tribe?" she asked and her daughter lowered her eyes. She lifted her daughter's chin, "you are the only girl here and you may not understand now, but you will later." She said and her daughter grimaced.

"Well maybe it would have been better if I was never born then," the girl rolled over on her side, her back facing towards her mother. Xena's eyes widened and felt like someone had just stabbed her in the heart hearing those words come out of her daughter's mouth.

Gabrielle heard some hushed tones behind the curtain and continued chewing on the fluffy bread. Curious, she stepped closer to the curtain and peered behind it. She saw Xena sitting on a bed and that same teenager she saw earlier, which she thought was a boy, but once she saw the long wavy hair, she knew that couldn't be a boy at all. Not only was this woman a mother, but she kept her daughter as a boy...she frowned, thinking that was odd. She thought it must have been because of their culture and she would never understand these people and their strange ways.

She saw Xena getting up and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She ran back to the table and pretended to pick at the rice and continued eating the bread. Xena appeared from behind the curtain with a distressed look on her face. Gabrielle lowered her eyes immediately and Xena frowned at the blonde, casually eating.

"Enjoying our food?" Xena mused and Gabrielle said nothing in response. "I'm sure it's nothing compared your olives, cheeses and lavish desserts," she brushed passed her and Gabrielle exhaled slowly, feeling safe. Good, she didn't see me. Xena folded her arms, seeing the blonde picking at the food, even though she must have been starving. "You will sleep in the room over there," she pointed to the left and Gabrielle turned to see which room then nodded curtly at her.

Gabrielle finished the bread off and wiped her hands on her white gown, feeling super dirty. Xena smirked and nudged her head over to the right, "my room is there. Do not..." she said firmly, "go in there. At all." She finished and the blonde said nothing, but continued staring at her. Xena then pointed to the curtain at the back of the yurt, "or in there either," she said and Gabrielle turned around to see that was where the Hun's woman child's room was. The slave turned around and saw that Xena had already disappeared into her room, which meant that she should probably go in her room as well. She turned her head, looking one last time at the curtain that lead into the girl's room and sighed, making her way to her new room.

She entered the room and it was a separate yurt that was connected to the other three. She looked around and saw a mattress on the floor and a large rug covering the dirt floor. For a slave's quarters, it looked pretty nice, she thought. Gabrielle sat on the bed and stared up at the dome ceiling, rethinking what an adventure she already had. She laid down, spreading her arms out and sighed heavily thinking of Kathryn. She was probably worried sick about her and didn't even want to think of her face. She shut her eyes, trying to block it out, but she couldn't. She had been roommates with Kat for two years now and what started out as a friendly relationship ended up being more than that after a year spending together.

Now, she was stuck here in this backwards society and she couldn't do anything about it. She already thought of escaping the moment she was kidnapped in Athens but after she saw what Xena did to those Romans, she completely abandoned the idea altogether. She didn't want to end up like those men. She couldn't get that image out of her head and closed her eyes tightly, trying to think of something happy, but it wasn't really working. She groaned and rolled over on her side, trying to sleep, though her mind kept fighting it. This was going to be awful, she told herself.

Early the next morning Galena came into the yurt and saw a blonde girl sleeping on the bed. Xena had informed her that she captured a slave for herself and noticed the girl's clothing. She was not a Hun, perhaps a Roman or even a Greek woman? She grabbed a bucket of water and threw it on top of the young woman.

Gabrielle woke up startled and was soaked. She spat some water out of her mouth and saw an elderly woman with grey hair staring down at her with dark eyes. Galena set the bucket down. "You are the commander's new slave girl, yes?" she asked and Gabrielle wiped her eyes, nodding her head, though she hated to admit that. She never thought she'd be a slave, she was always a free woman. Galena grabbed her arm and yanked her out of bed.

"Hey!" Gabrielle grunted and did not appreciate being pushed around like some donkey. Galena frowned and pulled her along. She then ripped Gabrielle's once pristine white gown that was now covered in blood and dirt, off her body and Gabrielle gasped, covering herself, feeling totally exposed to a woman she barely knew. Galena had already filled the tub up with water and it didn't look warm at all.

"Get in," the brute woman said and Gabrielle dipped her foot in the cold water and shivered. Galena pushed her in and Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her. She hated cold water especially cold baths. This would be a time to go to her happy place and think of the nice heated baths she had back home in Athens right about now.

The woman pulled up a stool and grabbed a cloth, dipping it in the water, she began scrubbing Gabrielle's dirty arms harshly and the blonde cringed. She didn't think the woman could scrub any harder or she might lose a layer of skin. "Who are you?" she asked and the woman stared into her green eyes with a frown.

"The commander's assistant," she said, not revealing her name. She scooped some water into a large bowl and poured it over Gabrielle's curly blonde locks. Gabrielle frowned and shivered some more, continuing the cover her breasts from this strange woman. Galena forcefully lifted up Gabrielle's arms and scrubbed underneath her arms and the blonde sighed.

"I think I can bathe myself!" Gabrielle fought back and Galena frowned at the girl's lively outspoken nature.

"The commander does not like dirty slaves in her home," Galena said and dipped the cloth in the water and stuck her arm in the water, cleaning Gabrielle in between her legs. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she felt so violated at this very moment.

Gabrielle stood up in the bath, wrapping her arms around herself, feeling very uncomfortable. "I think I'm clean enough," she smiled nervously. Galena shook her head and threw the wet cloth on the side of the tub and gave Gabrielle a soft towel to dry off with.

Later after Gabrielle dried herself off she sat on the bed and Galena threw some clothes at her. She picked up the blouse and it was a dark brown blouse that tied in the front and a dark brown skirt to match. She didn't want to wear these clothes at all and felt disgusted looking at them. Galena also threw her some shoes and Gabrielle stared down at them. They definitely weren't like Grecian shoes at all. They were black slippers of some sort with red beads on them. So tribal, she thought.

"Get dressed, you have work to do." The woman said and Gabrielle sighed, running her fingers over the animal skin clothing. She definitely wasn't going to get used to this at all. The woman turned to leave, allowing Gabrielle some privacy to dress on her own, thinking her capable enough.

Gabrielle stood up, "what does...the commander want me to do?" she asked and Galena turned around, shocked to hear her ask such a question.

Galena folded her arms, "you will wait here until the commander calls for you," she turned and disappeared behind the curtain. Gabrielle frowned and glared at her new clothes, shaking her head she dropped the towel on the floor, putting on the top and skirt. She didn't know how long Xena was going to be and obviously she wasn't here, she assumed. She could be stuck here for hours on end without any direction and it's not like she could leave this yurt, or risk being hurt or even worse –killed.

As soon as she finished dressing herself she plopped back down on the fluffy mattress and held the shoes in her hands, staring at them. She then slipped them on her feet and twiddled her thumbs in her lap, exhaling heavily. Now, she would wait and wait, and wait some more until the commander called for her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

In the barracks Xena tied up the Sciri Bey by his feet, hanging his body upside down. She cracked the whip on the ground and the man was already cut up from previous lashes and had a swollen eye. He spat some blood out of his mouth and Xena smiled at him.

"Now, you will submit to us or die trying," Xena said and the Bey snarled at her. She chuckled under her breath and set the whip down on the table, grabbing a long sword. She tapped the tip of the blade with her fingertip, testing the sharpness of the weapon. She had been interrogating this man for over two hours and made sure she arrived early as soon as she woke up because she wanted to spend plenty of time with him.

The Bey watched Xena as she paced slowly around the small room. "You are an insane woman!" he spat and she lifted her eyebrows, glaring at the man. "The Sciri tribe will never follow you and Attila!" he yelled, defending his own people. He thought it was ridiculous that Attila would succumb to attacking his own people to gain respect and reign as the Hun king.

She waltzed over to him and he stared into her blue eyes. Breathing heavily, he felt his lungs restrict and felt breathless around her. He was afraid that she was going to slice through him like a pig on a spit, though she just stared at him, cocking her head to the side. "You will follow Pannonia and you will submit to me!" she growled and he laughed mockingly at her and she frowned. Grabbing his throat she was inches away from his face now and he kept laughing.

"I'll never...submit to you..." he hissed and she pushed him away from her and his body began swaying as he remained hanging in the air, at least three feet off the floor.

Lessa walked into the barracks as the soldiers let him through and he saw Xena standing barely a foot away from the traitor. He cleared his throat, "commander," he announced and slowly Xena turned around, gripping the hilt of the sword tightly. "Attila wants to see you."

She groaned and pinched the Bey's cheeks in between her fingers, "I'm not finished here..." she smiled and winked at the defeated tribe leader.

Lessa sighed, "he says it is urgent," he pressed further and Xena frowned, throwing the sword onto the table and stormed out of the barracks. The Bey breathed out a sigh of relief now that she was gone, but he knew that she would be back later. He would have to wait here until she returned and he hated that game of waiting.

Xena marched into Attila's home and he sat in his throne, waiting for her patiently. She frowned, trying to conceal her true feelings about being interrupted and she had plenty of other things on her mind as well, one being her daughter and two that blonde teacher she captured. "You wanted to see me?" she folded her arms.

Attila nodded, standing from his throne and walked down the steps, closer to her. She furrowed her eyebrows and kept glaring into his green eyes. "I want a full report of what happened in Athens." He placed his hands on his hips and she lowered her eyes, knowing that he didn't want a written report because he could not read and would be of no use to him. He wanted a verbal report and when he wanted a report, he meant right here, right now.

She smiled tightly, "I found the Sciri men in Athens. I captured the Bey and brought them back here," she said quickly, leaving the part out of the burning ship and killing all those Roman soldiers. Technically, they were still allied with the Western Roman Empire and because of what she did, they could damage their relationship with the Romans. She definitely wasn't going to tell him that last bit.

Attila nodded, "is that all that happened in Athens?" he questioned her.

Xena let out a laugh, "you don't trust me?" she hissed as he began circling around her, scanning her body and looking into her eyes, trying to find out if she was lying or not.

"Yes I do," he said and smiled at her and she half smiled, looking into his eyes. He placed his hands on her shoulders and shook her slightly. "You are like my sister, you know. We make a remarkable team," he complimented her and she lowered her eyes, now grinning widely. He kissed her forehead and lifted her chin to stare into her eyes, "what are you going to do...about your daughter?" he whispered, noticing eyes all around them.

Xena frowned, not wishing to think of her daughter at the moment. "I don't know. I told her to stay in her room," she sighed heavily, furrowing her eyebrows.

Attila nodded his head and pat her shoulder, "and what of your new slave?" he smirked, recalling that petite blonde woman he saw yesterday.

Xena's lips curled into a smile, "you will find out."

Gabrielle had decided to take a nap after she waited about an hour for Xena to come back from wherever she was. She was curled up on the bed, sleeping lightly. She really didn't like that elderly woman and thought that she was rather brash. In her slight slumber she heard some hushed talking from behind the curtain and woke up, her eyes fluttering open.

She felt like she had a small headache and was probably hungry, she was sure she slept through the first meal of the day and by the sunlight coming through the opening in the yurt, she definitely knew it was early afternoon. Getting up, she stretched her arms out and peeked through the side of the curtains and saw Xena talking with that woman and held some clothes in her arms.

"She hasn't come out of her room all morning?" Xena asked.

Galena sighed sadly, shaking her head. "No ma'am. I tried to give her some food, but she refused."

Gabrielle frowned and surely Xena wouldn't be talking about her. She watched her disappear behind the curtain where her daughter's room was. She folded her arms, frowning and rubbed her chin. Obviously something was going on between those two and Xena was so hard, yet when it came to her daughter, she softened quite a bit. Gabrielle thought she would keep that in mind for later.

Xena stepped into her daughter's room and saw she hadn't even got up from her bed at all. The food she brought in last night was still on the floor and remained untouched. Anastasia was staring out the window as she laid on the bed, still in her clothes from yesterday.

"I brought some dresses from Aykis," Xena said, "you two are about the same size." She offered and her daughter didn't even budge. It was hard to contain her temper, though she really loved her daughter and knew that this day would come. She thought this would have been so much easier if Borias was here, raising their daughter together, but the reality is, that he wasn't here and Anastasia had no idea who he was and she'd never understand why she was kept from the public eye.

"Won't you talk to me?" Xena said, holding the dresses in her arms and Ana frowned, bringing her knees close to her chest. She sighed, "will you at least look at me?" she pleaded.

Anastasia rolled her eyes and she sat up, turning around to face her mother. She saw the pile of dresses her mother was holding and she was not happy about that at all. She didn't want to wear dresses and act like a girl. One day she was a boy and the next her entire life changed and she turned into a girl overnight.

Xena smiled and knelt down in front of her daughter, setting the dresses in her daughter's lap. "I think you might like these," she offered and Anastasia lowered her eyes, staring at the dresses. The first one atop of the pile was burgundy and had silver beads across the chest and cuffs of the sleeves. Xena cupped Ana's cheek, "you will look very nice in these colors."

Anastasia sighed and lifted the dresses, looking at each one of them in silence. She held the navy blue one against her body and Xena smiled, hoping that she would at least try one of the dresses on. The teen lifted her eyes and saw a big smile on her mother's face and she nervously grinned back at her. Xena kissed her forehead, "my pretty girl," she pat her cheek gently and left her room.

Gabrielle still peeked her head out of the curtain and saw Xena emerge from her daughter's room and came walking right towards her. She gasped and ran away from the curtain and sat back down on the bed, fixing her skirt and adjusting her top.

Xena pushed the curtain aside with her hand and smirked at the blonde slave. "You slept well I hope?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded, though she lied. She had hardly slept at all being in this new place, new room and surrounded by new people as well. She hated it here and she'd only been here for a day. "I'm taking you to meet Attila."

Gabrielle's eyes widened and she wasn't exactly sure what Xena had planned for her but it couldn't be that bad because she wasn't hurt yet and she even slept in her own room, which she was not expecting. She felt like she couldn't move and Xena smirked at her. "Come now, I don't have all day, Gabrielle!"

Xena and Gabrielle left the yurt together and walked side by side as they came closer to Attila's large home. Gabrielle's eyes were wandering around, looking at all the men and their wives. She noticed the children playing in front of the water well and frowned. They're all boys, she realized, but Xena had a daughter, she only assumed, but she was pretty sure she had a daughter by the looks of the girl's hair she saw. Of course the men commonly had long hair here but the children did not, they had short hair, which separated Xena's daughter from the rest of them.

Xena glanced over and saw Gabrielle looking around like a small lost child. "Stop staring so much," she said and the blonde lowered her head, walking with her, feeling a bit embarrassed to be caught staring at everyone. It was so different here, much different than Athens that's for sure.

Attila saw Xena enter with her blonde slave and stood from his throne. Xena curtly bowed her head and Gabrielle was looking around at the large dwelling, completely distracted. Xena frowned and glared down at the blonde. Gabrielle slowly turned up towards Xena and saw a big frown and bowed her head towards the Hun king.

"So this is your slave?" Attila asked and walked towards her. She stared at him and expected him to be frightening but he wasn't, in fact he was less scary than Xena was. He was also quite handsome to look at too with his long brown hair, braided in several small braids, framing his face and short beard.

Xena smiled, "this is Gabrielle, she is from Athens," she said and Gabrielle's cheeks blushed. "She is a teacher."

Attila lifted his eyebrows and touched Gabrielle's curly locks, "a teacher? That is interesting. What kind of subjects do you teach, Gabrielle?"

The blonde's eyes grew and she stared at the king, not really knowing what to say. All the word vomit that she had last night had suddenly left her body and she felt frozen. She didn't know what to say to him and she felt Xena's eyes staring at her like they were stabbing her in the side of her ribs. She cleared her throat, finally finding her voice, "well...I used to teach literature and Latin back in...Athens."

Attila smiled and Xena decided to speak her mind, "I thought it would be a good idea to allow Gabrielle to teach the children how to read and write, since none of them know how to..." she offered and the king kept smiling, nodding his head, quite pleased to hear that. Gabrielle turned and looked up at the brunette woman. Is this what she brought me here for? To teach children?

"What a fantastic idea, Xena!" he hugged her curtly and she smiled, seeing that he approved of her use of Gabrielle's skills. He looked over to the shocked blonde once more, "do you need any tools, Gabrielle?"

The blonde nodded, "some parchment...and quills..and ink too," she requested softly and Attila nodded his head snapping his fingers to his advisor.

The young man ran up to his king and bowed at his knees, "yes, your majesty?"

"Make sure our teacher has the proper supplies," he said and the man nodded, running off to ride to the next largest city to buy some parchment and ink like he requested. Attila turned and smiled at Gabrielle. "You will be treated well here Gabrielle, have no fear," he ran his fingers through Gabrielle's curly locks. She felt like the king was being sincere and felt safe around him. The slaves in his home were obviously treated well and were not incredibly thin like the slaves she often saw in Greece. They were considered worthless and of course since they were slaves, they were not paid. Though, she knew she wasn't going to get paid here but at least she had a place to stay and she was clothed and fed. Wait, what am I thinking? Am I okay with being a slave? I used to be renowned teacher in Athens and now I've been captured by this Hun woman to teach these savage children...what kind of life will be this be like?

Xena instructed Gabrielle to leave with her and Attila watched them walk out together. Kreka, his wife, emerged from the back of their home and frowned seeing Xena. She never really liked Xena all that much because her more barbaric ways of fighting and negotiating.

She walked over to her husband and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I don't know why you keep her around," she said, nudging her head towards Xena.

Attila sighed, turning around he set his hands on her hips, "she is my best commander and I trust her. Why do you dislike her?"

The brunette woman cringed, "she crosses boundaries, Attila! She's why the Romans call us savages!"

The king frowned, "they called us savages even before I appointed Xena and Borias to be my commanders. Her way is a little bit...unusual, but it works and she hasn't disappointed me yet," he kissed her forehead and she sighed, leaning into him, wrapping her arms around his muscular body.

"I fear that she will turn against you one day, Attila," she whispered, and he rubbed her back gently comforting her. "She is very powerful and your men listen to her over you."

Attila sighed, "Xena would never betray me. She has always been loyal to me."

Flavius Aetius walked into the baths in the Roman palace and saw the young emperor laying comfortably in the milk bath surrounded by beautiful young women. He sighed and bowed towards the emperor. Valentinian barely even noticed the military commander in chief and enjoyed all the women scrubbing his body with essential oils and flower petal olive oil soap.

"Sir, I have news from your cousin and sister in Athens," Aetius said and Valentinian chuckled, ignoring the man. The women groped his slender body, wrapping their arms around his neck as they kissed his neck and collar bone. "It's very important, sir. I think you'd like to hear it," he averted his eyes to the ceiling, trying not to gawk at the women surrounded by the childish emperor.

One of the servant women smiled and dipped her arm underneath the milk bathwater groping his manhood. Valentinian reared his head back and let out a satisfied sigh. He then opened his eyes and noticed his commander still standing there, waiting patiently. "Alright, Aetius, you have my attention."

The commander cleared his throat, "sir, that Hun woman, Xena, came to Athens and ransacked the entire city!" he said, quite infuriated. He pulled out a sealed letter from Honoria. "Your sister sent this last week. Our men found Roman soldiers with their heads decapitated and severed on their swords by the port."

Valentinian's eyes widened in shock and pushed the women away. He swam over to the opposite end of the long rectangular bath and leaned over the floor, staring up at his commander. "Why was this...woman in Athens anyway?"

Aetius opened the letter, reading over it again. "She captured a few Huns bringing them back to the Balkans." He said and the emperor scratched his head, feeling conflicted on what to do. "We tried to follow her but our soldiers found no trace of an Athenian ship. She must have fled to Pannonia," he groaned, tucking the letter in his armored vest.

The emperor laughed, "well what do you want me to do with Xena? She doesn't want to be found!"

The commander tried to contain his anger at this man. He thought he didn't deserve to be emperor because he obviously had no idea how to rule and he'd been in charge for fourteen years now. It was ridiculous. "Sir, I believe that we should cut ties with the Huns. Xena is dangerous and she will cross the ocean to get what she wants!" he growled and Valentinian chuckled at how angry his commander was becoming. He always thought it was funny to see him so angry because he was so passionate about his work.

"Aetius, do what you must. I've always thought she was a mad woman," he smiled and grabbed the wine bottle pouring himself a glass. Two of the women came swimming towards him and kissed his neck gingerly. Aetius was becoming more and more disgusted with the way the emperor was taking this situation so lightly. If they were to get rid of the Huns as allies then he was sure that Attila would retaliate for sure, or perhaps, his precious military commanding officer would be killed for her ill actions against her king.

"You give me permission to cease our relationship with the Huns then, sir?" Flavius Aetius smiled and the emperor waved his hand dismissing him as he was clearly busy with other things at the moment. The commander bowed his head and stormed out of the bath chamber to go tell Placida of this news. He hated the Huns, and hated Xena, and now they would not be allies with them any longer.

Xena and Gabrielle returned back to the yurt and found Galena spreading out a large bowl of rice and she was kneading some dough for fresh bread. Gabrielle admired the woman's hard work and she saw that these people obviously did not have anything else but rice, bread, meat and soup. This was definitely going to be an adjustment. She stood awkwardly as Xena took off her coined headdress and her cloak, disappearing into her room for a short while.

Gabrielle always thought cooking was great therapy and she watched Kat cook a lot back home. Home, what a nice place that was and that place she would probably never see again. She kept staring at the woman as she pounded the dough with her bare hands and Galena peered over at the green eyed woman.

"You never seen bread before, girl?" Galena asked in a gruff voice and Gabrielle turned away, not even bothering to answer her. These people were not polite at all, she gathered. They were nothing like the nice people in Greece. She was really beginning to miss Athens right now and couldn't stop thinking about it either.

Xena emerged from her room and saw Gabrielle huddled, secluded from everyone else. "Attila seemed to like you," she said and the blonde turned around, thankful to hear that. It was probably the best news she received since she was taken from Athens. The commander sat down, stretching her legs out in the chair and Gabrielle folded her arms, seeing how un-ladylike this woman was, though she definitely looked like a woman, she was far from proper. She saw her pull out a letter from her vest and read over it carefully.

Gabrielle frowned and saw that this woman could read, though she mentioned earlier that none of the children could. "You can read?" she asked in a soft voice and Xena lifted her eyes, frowning at the blonde woman. This was the first time in her life that she actually had trouble keeping her mouth shut. In Athens she could say whatever she wanted, when she wanted, but here, all she got was a frown, a glare or a grimace every time she spoke.

"Education is important," Xena smirked, "wouldn't you agree, Gabrielle?" she folded the letter up and tucked it back in her vest. Gabrielle said nothing and sat down on the floor mattress, resting her chin on her palm. Xena crossed one leg over the other and folded her arms, observing the woman's behavior. She was being so quiet, though back in Greece she had loads to say. "You can talk Gabrielle," she said and the blonde lifted her head, not really sure if this was a trap or not. "If I ask you a question, I expect you to answer..."

Gabrielle straightened up and fidgeted with her animal hide skirt. "Education is the most important thing in the world," she smiled and Xena lifted an eyebrow and kept staring at her. "Without it there wouldn't be great inventors, poets and thinkers."

Xena leaned forward in her chair and Gabrielle wiped that smile right off her face, afraid that she spoke too much this time. The commander smirked, "you like poetry, Gabrielle?" she nodded, "and I suppose you like those philosophers, don't you?" she chided and now Gabrielle felt like this woman was mocking her. She chuckled to herself and picked up some almonds, eating them one by one, lifting a suspicious eyebrow at the slave. "I know you Greeks are all about free thinking," she hummed to herself, still snacking on the almonds.

"Do you like philosophy?" Gabrielle asked, feeling brave and didn't like that this woman was making fun of her culture.

Xena frowned and wiped her hands on her pants before standing up abruptly. Gabrielle's body tensed up and she scooted backward on the mattress. "I don't have time for philosopher jargon, and you ask too many questions," she walked towards her with an eerie smile and Gabrielle's eyes widened.

"Mother!" Anastasia called out from her room just as Xena was inching closer to Gabrielle. The blonde's eyes looked to the curtains and Xena sighed, closing her eyes as frustration overcame her body. She did not want to deal with her daughter as she was in the middle of a conversation with her slave woman.

Xena opened her eyes and looked at Gabrielle, frowning, then left her side, disappearing behind the curtain to see what her daughter wanted from her. What an awful time to call my name, she told herself. Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief, afraid that Xena was going to have one of those creepy staring contests with her again like she did last night. Gabrielle sat on the mattress patiently and Galena was baking the dough over the fire and saw she was putting spices onto the meat. She sighed and waited patiently. Still, she couldn't believe that Xena had a child of her own. She never thought a woman like that would have any man come near her with the way she acted.

Anastasia took it upon herself to change into one of the dresses that her mother brought for her and she stared in the mirror, fixing the dress on her slim frame. Aykis was a petite woman for her age, though she figured that she would definitely outgrow these dresses soon. She looked down at herself and felt so out of place. She lifted her head and heard her mother come into her room.

Xena's eyes widened as she saw her daughter wearing one of the dresses, the dark blue one, which she knew she'd look beautiful in. A smile came to her lips and her daughter turned around, her cheeks reddening as she felt her mother's eyes on her. Xena walked over to her daughter and lifted her chin, fixing her hair. "You look very pretty," she smiled and Anastasia nervously grinned.

"You think so? I feel weird," she said and Xena touched her cheek softly, lifting her chin to stare in her blue eyes.

"I know this will be a big adjustment for you," Xena sighed, feeling her daughter's angst and anxiety over this change, but it would have to happen sooner or later.

Ana felt hopeful and a big smile emerged on her face, "does this mean I can go outside?"

Xena lowered her eyes and straightened herself out. Anastasia saw that her mother wasn't going to let her out of here anytime soon and now she frowned, folding her arms. "I'm sorry, but no." she turned to leave and her daughter grabbed her arm.

"But mom! You can't keep me locked in my room forever!" she pleaded as her eyes filled with tears. Xena didn't like to see her daughter upset and certainly never liked to see her cry, but she wasn't going to change her mind. "I'll be good, I promise! I won't see Ellac and his brothers, mother please..." she begged and Xena snatched her hand away from her and left her room. Anastasia sat down on her bed and buried her face in her hands, sobbing softly.

Xena came back into the separate yurt and saw Gabrielle staring at her. She groaned and stormed off to her room. Galena had prepared some food for everyone and Gabrielle figured that Xena was not going to eat and was upset. She sighed and politely walked over to the table, asking if she could join Galena to eat, though the woman refused and left the yurt as her duties were done for today.

After about a half hour Gabrielle sat on the floor, eating the last of her rice, dipping the bread into blood of the lamb. She came to realize that these people did not eat at the table, which she found so strange since there was in fact a table and chairs. She wasn't going to argue though and went with the flow of things. She sighed and looked to Xena's room and she stayed in there ever since she came back from her daughter's room. She really wished she had some parchment right about now so she could write and knew that it would be awhile before she came by that.

Anastasia came out of her room and pulled the curtains apart. She frowned as she saw a strange woman sitting on the floor eating by herself. Gabrielle lifted her head and chewed slowly as both of them continued staring at one another. "Who are you?" the teen asked.

Gabrielle swallowed and looked over to Xena's room and hoped that she would not come out anytime soon, but that was unlikely. "Um..." she wiped her hands on her skirt, though she hated doing that, she didn't have anything else. Anastasia folded her arms, glaring at her. "The commander's..slave," she choked out.

The girl lifted an eyebrow and kept staring at her with her icy blue eyes. Gabrielle saw the remarkable resemblance in this girl –she looked a lot like Xena did, though she had thicker eyebrows and a stronger jaw line. "A slave?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded. She chuckled, "my mother doesn't have slaves!" she walked over to the table and poured some rice into a bowl along with some meat and two pieces of bread. Gabrielle frowned, thinking that was odd. She was taken in as a slave, though her daughter told her Xena never had slaves. Ana sat down on the floor opposite Gabrielle, eating with her hands and the blonde felt a bit awkward sitting next to her. "What's your name?" she asked in between bites.

Gabrielle pushed her empty bowl away from her and felt nervous that Xena might come out of her room any minute now. "Gabrielle..." she said and the girl nodded, wiping her mouth and the blonde cringed.

"My name is...Anastasia," she said, almost forgetting her real name since she had been called Annas her entire life, unless she was around her mother or Galena inside her home. She looked up at the slave woman and smirked, "you are not a Hun," she observed and Gabrielle shook her head. "Are you a Thracian?" she asked and Gabrielle shook her head again. "A Roman?" Gabrielle disagreed once more. "A Greek?" finally she had gotten it right and Anastasia furrowed her eyebrows, finding that news interesting. "I've always wanted to go to Greece," she admitted.

Gabrielle smiled hearing that. She would have never thought these people ventured out that far, but she was happy to hear that at least someone wanted to see her land and people. "Why haven't you?" she asked quietly, casually looking back at Xena's room.

Anastasia shrugged her shoulder and finished her food in a matter of minutes and began sopping up the juices in her bowl with the bread. "I've lived in Pannonia my entire life," she said and Gabrielle frowned, finding that very sad. "Say," she wagged the bread towards Gabrielle, "you don't look like a slave," she raised a skeptical eyebrow. She saw Gabrielle's eyes glance over at her mother's room and she chuckled. Gabrielle frowned, staring at the girl, though she didn't understand how this could possibly be funny. "She's probably drank herself to sleep again," she shook her head and Gabrielle's eyes widened. "What does my mother have you for? No offense but, you don't look very useful to my mom um..." she frowned, "what was your name again?"

"Gabrielle," she answered and saw that this teenager was quite talkative and surely Xena hated that. Though, every time she saw Xena disappear behind those curtains she always left so distressed and upset, she couldn't understand why. "I was a teacher in Athens..." she said lowly and saw the girl's eye light up at that which brought a smile to her face. She always liked seeing a child's eyes grow in awe when she taught her lessons.

Ana finished off her bread and wiped her hands on her dress, "really? What do you teach?" she was more interested in this blonde slave woman now.

Gabrielle smiled finally feeling like she was being of use here. "I taught literature, Latin and some philosophy."

Anastasia scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Latin!" she folded her arms, "my mother has been trying to get me to learn that stupid language for two years!"

The blonde smirked, obviously the girl did not like Latin and even hated it more since Xena was urging her to learn it unwillingly. She could understand why Anastasia hated Latin, it was a difficult language if it was used all the time. "I can teach you..." she whispered and the girl smiled.

Suddenly the girl jumped up off the floor and smiled, "one moment," she waltzed over to her mother's room and disappeared behind the curtains. Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear. This is where I die and I don't want to die. Gabrielle had a feeling that Xena did not want her to meet her daughter otherwise she would have introduced them to one another since her arrival. Xena was quite reluctant to even speak of her daughter, even though it was obvious she had one, Xena chose to ignore the matter like she didn't even exist. She felt the pit of her stomach knot up as she waited for Anastasia to emerge from her mother's room, fully expecting Xena to be with her.

Anastasia crept into her mother's room and saw she was sleeping on her bed, no longer in her regular commander attire, but instead wore a long black sleeveless dress that tied in the front. She tip toed as quietly as possible over to her mother's chest at the end of her bed. She knelt down and eyed her mother careful not to wake her.

She opened the chest slowly and Xena stirred in her sleep, rolling over on her side and Ana cringed, fearing that she would wake up and be in a heap of trouble. She opened the chest more trying to be quiet and Xena exhaled softly. Anastasia's eyes widened and she began rummaging through the chest as quietly as possible. Frowning, she couldn't find what she was looking for and hoped that the wine her mother drowned in would keep her from waking up.

She smiled finally found what she was looking for and pulled out a flat box that had painted orchids on it. She closed the lid of the chest and stood up, staring at her mother who was still sleeping, she thanked God for that and quickly ran out of her room.

Xena opened her eyes as she lay in bed and frowned, fully aware that her daughter came into her room and stole something from her. What did you take?

Gabrielle was beginning to become nervous the longer she waited for Anastasia to come out of Xena's room and felt like she should go in there to check on her, though she didn't hear anything so that might a good thing, or a really bad thing.

Anastasia returned and Gabrielle felt herself relax, seeing the girl in one piece and thankfully Xena was not with her either. The teen ran over to her and sat back down, placing the box on the floor, she opened it and Gabrielle peered inside to see fresh parchment and an ink and quill set too. Her eyes lit up as soon as she saw that and felt like she had been away from her parchment far too long.

"My mom keeps this in her room and sends out Kriso, our messenger boy, to get more from Thrace each month," she smiled and pulled out the crisp parchment and ink bottle and a large feathered quill pen.

Gabrielle's excitement died as she realized that these things belonged to Xena and she might get in trouble for using them without her permission. "Are you sure your mother won't mind we are using this?" she asked.

Anastasia smiled, shaking her head, "we're just borrowing it. I'll give it back when we're done," she had a sneaky grin on her face and Gabrielle sighed, grabbing the parchment, she felt like she had lost a long lost friend and now it had returned to her. "So are you going to teach some Latin, Gabrielle?" she hoped and Gabrielle grinned seeing the thrilled look on the girl's face. She couldn't say no to that.

Xena got out of her bed and quietly walked over to the curtain and heard her slave speaking in hushed tones. She frowned and peeked from behind the curtain and saw Anastasia sitting on the floor writing with a quill pen on the parchment as Gabrielle guided her, showing her how to write the words correctly. Gabrielle shook her head and showed Anastasia how to write the letters more proper and saw her daughter was actually paying attention to her.

"Like this?" Ana showed Gabrielle the word she had rewritten several times and Gabrielle nodded her head. She grinned, proud of herself and continued writing some more words down. "You're a much better teacher than my mom."

Xena closed the curtains and folded her arms, listening to the quill gently scratching against the parchment. She had no real intention of ever introducing Gabrielle to her daughter let alone teach her Latin. She had been trying to teach Anastasia Latin for two years and she had absolutely zero interest in it and always got frustrated at her, which frustrated Xena as well. She often had to leave to go on raids of missions alone or with Attila and did not have time to constantly school her daughter properly.

She pushed the curtain aside, looking at the two still sitting on the rug together and her daughter was very focused. She suddenly became incredibly jealous that her daughter was taking a stranger's word over hers and allowed her to teach her Latin, and not to mention she stole the parchment and ink from her room. She frowned and left, going to back to her bed to sulk by herself.


Chapter Text

Chapter 5

After many hours of teaching Anastasia how to read and write some Latin, which proved to be even more difficult than Gabrielle could imagine. The girl knew how to read Greek, but not Latin, and she could barely write anything but her own name, which didn't look like that fabulous either. Gabrielle saw that the young teenager was a fast learner though and was able to teach her some common phrases and she memorized them in less than half the time compared to her students in Athens. To be honest, she was impressed with how well Anastasia was able to comprehend words and sentences so quickly especially since she couldn't read Latin at all. She hoped that one day she would be able to read it entirely without any help.

Gabrielle went to her room and fell asleep very late, only a few hours from sunrise and she was exhausted. She didn't think that lesson was going to last for hours into the early morning, but she was glad that at least someone appreciated her skills as a teacher here and didn't treat her differently. Day three of being here, she reminded herself and had to reminding herself that her life wasn't completely over. She hoped that one day she would return to Greece and live happily with her old job, but she knew there was little chance she could get out of this mess.

She didn't know how to fight or wield a sword at all. That horrid attempt trying to attack Xena back in Athens was pathetic and to be truthfully honest, she had no idea why she attacked her in the first place. Perhaps, she thought that Xena was going in there to harm children, but she had no desire to hurt the students in the academy. That was one thing that Gabrielle couldn't get out of her mind but it all made sense when she came to live in her home. Xena had a child of her own and she was a beautiful girl too –she had no will to harm children. Gabrielle wondered how many other slaves lived in Pannonia due to attacking Xena, or anyone else for that matter, but it struck her as odd when Anastasia said that 'her mother' didn't have slaves. So what was Galena? Was she not a slave? Surely, Gabrielle thought, she was not special in the eyes of the commander.

Xena walked into Gabrielle's room with a large frown on her face, dressed in her harem pants, knee high boots and black corset with silver chains all over it. She took a few steps closer and saw Gabrielle's palms were stained with black ink. She smirked and grabbed a pillow and threw it in Gabrielle's face. The blonde groaned and rolled over onto her stomach.

"Go away Galena! I am perfectly capable of bathing myself!" Gabrielle said and Xena's eyebrows lifted, disappearing into her thick dark bangs.

Xena grabbed the blonde's arm and lifted her upper half off the bed and Gabrielle groaned, her eyes fluttering open to see not Galena, but the commander staring at her with a big grin. The blonde's eyes grew in fear as soon as she saw her. She was not expecting her to be in her room. "You might want to wash...your hands," she chuckled to herself and Gabrielle couldn't stop staring at her. She glanced over and noticed the ink stained on her hands from last night and her heart began racing extremely fast. She let go of Gabrielle's arm and now frowned, gawking at her.

"Nobody gave you permission to teach my daughter!" Xena snarled and came closer to her face, leaning downward.

Gabrielle scooted away from her in fear she might do something to her. She knew that Xena would find out about last night, it was too easy. Anastasia stole her mother's belongings from her room and Xena wasn't called the best military commander in all of the Hunnic tribes for nothing. She was always ready for an attack and of course her senses were incredibly heightened at all times. What was I thinking?

"No harm came of it," Gabrielle muttered and that only angered the commander even more. "She's a fast learner..." she attempted to save herself, but it wasn't working apparently because she saw Xena's eyes grow with fury and resentment.

"Perhaps..." Xena smiled, "you would like to work along with the other slaves outside?" she suggested and Gabrielle said nothing in response. "I didn't think so," she adjusted her gloves and the blonde exhaled slowly, feeling a bit relieved.

Gabrielle didn't really understand why Xena was being so harsh towards her about something so simple and harmless. "Why did you bring me here?" she asked in a soft voice and Xena lifted an eyebrow, suspicious of her question. "You told Attila you want me to teach the children how to read and write. What was so wrong about me teaching Anastasia?"

Xena's eyes grew and she grabbed Gabrielle by her arm, forcing her to follow her. They came out of her room and she threw Gabrielle on the floor. Anastasia came out of her room, wearing a burgundy dress and a small veiled headdress on. The girl peered down at Gabrielle on the floor and saw how angry her mother was.

"What are you doing?" Ana asked and Xena folded her arms, glaring at her daughter.

"You went in my room and stole my parchment, Anastasia," Xena said and her daughter lowered her gaze to her shoes. "And you took it upon yourself to use my slave as your teacher without my permission!" she yelled.

Anastasia lifted her head and frowned, "so? You don't have time to teach me and Gabrielle is a good teacher!" she folded her arms and Xena stared down at Gabrielle on the floor, unmoving from her spot.

Xena laughed softly under her breath, "so you two know each other very well, I see." She said and her daughter averted her eyes elsewhere. "I have a liar and a thief for a daughter," she nodded to herself and Anastasia gasped.

Gabrielle frowned, "she is not a liar or a thief," she said and Xena snapped her head staring down at her, though this time Gabrielle didn't turn away. "She just wanted to learn!" she said and Xena kept glaring at her. "And I don't think it's right that you keep her locked away in her room."

Anastasia face paled, not expecting Gabrielle to out her secrets that she told her. Xena turned her head towards her daughter. "You don't want to be locked away anymore, do you?" Xena grabbed her daughter's hand and marched out of the yurt.

Gabrielle stood up and was expected to be hit or something but she wasn't, which she thought odd. She stood up and walked over to the entrance of the yurt and Xena pushed her daughter outside. She stayed watching on the sidelines and saw that the poor girl didn't know what to do with herself. She stood silently to herself and saw many eyes facing her. Gabrielle folded her arms, watching Xena humiliate her daughter like this and now she felt bad for even mentioning this.

Xena pointed to Ellac and his brothers sword fighting together in the middle of the camp, "do you want to go play with them now?" she asked and Anastasia's eyes watched the boy princes play with one another while she knew that she couldn't. Her eyes scanned the area and saw many people staring at her, not recognizing her at all, though she saw people whispering and gossiping already. "You wanted to go outside," Xena folded her arms and her daughter balled her fists up, her eyes filling with tears, feeling embarrassed. "Not so nice outside, is it?"

Ellac rolled over and lifted his head to see a pretty young girl standing next to his father's commander and his eyes widened. Both his brothers piled on top of him and they laughed, though Ellac was too distracted. He grunted and pushed them off. "Get off me!" he demanded and stood up, brushing his hands over his clothes.

Dengi smiled and helped his little brother off the grass. They both saw who Ellac was looking at and their jaws dropped. "Who's that?" Dengi asked.

Ellac took a few steps forward and the girl saw him and their eyes locked with one another. Ernak came up to his brother, "she's pretty," he chuckled seeing his brother was obviously infatuated with the raven haired girl.

"Yeah..." Ellac folded his arms and kept gawking at the girl, cocking his head, furrowing his brows. She reminded him of someone, someone so familiar but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Doesn't she look familiar to you guys?" he asked.

Dengi shook his head, "nope," he saw his brother was immediately awestruck by the girl. He nudged his brother with his elbow, "you don't actually think she's pretty do you? Do you like girls now, Ellac?" he laughed and his brother punched him in the chest.

"Shut up!" Ellac frowned.

Gabrielle shook her head and stepped out of the yurt. "You're embarrassing her," she said and Xena turned around with an infuriated look in her eyes, though she was not afraid of her this time.

Xena charged for her and pushed her back into the yurt. Gabrielle fell on the floor and glared up at her. "You have no right to tell me how I should parent my daughter, Gabrielle!"

The blonde frowned, "you're right. If I was her mother I wouldn't keep her locked away in her room all her life." She said and Xena's jaw dropped. She saw Xena's hand reach for her whip and now Gabrielle was fearing for her life. She was going to get lashes for what she said and she couldn't fight back and if she did, she'd definitely lose.

Just as Xena was about to grab her whip she heard horses hooves and frowned, turning around she ran out of the yurt and saw her daughter taking off with her horse. She growled and saw Attila's sons staring at her and once they saw her gaze, they quickly turned and ran off back to their home. "Great!" she placed her hands on her hips and then heard more horses coming this way. Frowning she looked over the hill and saw no other than Flavius Aetius himself riding down with a few of his men.

Her eyes widened and she went back into her yurt and Gabrielle was still on the floor. She frowned down at her and went to grab her sword and sheath it. she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and stormed out of the yurt.

"Where are you taking me?!" Gabrielle grunted as she was being forcefully pulled by this woman.

Xena frowned seeing all eyes on her as she dragged her blonde slave with her. "To Attila," she said calmly and kept marching towards the king's home before the Romans could reach it.

Gabrielle looked around and frowned, trying to pull away, "where is Anastasia?" she asked and Xena halted, gripping her wrist tighter. She winced and breathed heavily as she stared into Xena's big blue eyes.

"She...stole my horse," she muttered, "and don't call her that when we are outside," she hissed and then proceeded onward, pulling Gabrielle along for the ride. Gabrielle couldn't believe that they weren't going to go after her daughter, but instead go talk to the king? Is she serious right now?

Gabrielle groaned inwardly, "aren't you going to go after her?" she asked as she was being dragged up the stairs and Xena pulled her arm more, ignoring her question. "She's your daughter!"

Xena frowned, turning around seeing the Romans riding towards them as they were only a few feet away from entering Attila's home. She pulled Gabrielle aside outside the king's home and placed her hands on her shoulders firmly, "there's a lot of things you don't understand, Gabrielle," she whispered and she felt more anxious as Aetius was coming closer and closer by the second on his horse.

Gabrielle folded her arms, staring up at the nervous commander, "then help me to understand. I don't think it's fair that you treat her like that."

Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm again and they entered the king's home. "You are starting to get on my nerves," she grumbled.

Attila walked in and saw Xena with her blonde slave storming through. He folded his arms, "Xena, what's the hurry?" he asked then behind her he saw the Roman commander, Flavius Aetius. He soon forgot about Xena and smiled at the Roman. Xena dared to not turn around, fearing that Aetius had some very important news from Athens that he needed to report to Attila.

"Flavius Aetius!" Attila smiled and shook his hand. The Roman smirked and took off his helm then handed it to one of his men. He curtly bowed his head to the king and his eyes drifted to Xena and she wasn't even going to greet him. Good, he thought.

"Attila, your majesty, so nice to see you again," he said kindly and the king invited him in to sit with him, though he refused. "I have some news for you," he smiled and Attila folded his arms, not expecting any news from the Romans. He only assumed that they were still on good terms. "Your commander was in Athens recently..." he looked to Xena and saw her hands ball up.

Xena felt herself about to be shamed and secretly she knew that this was going to happen, though she didn't think the Roman commander himself would come all the way to Pannonia to deliver his message. She gripped Gabrielle's arm tighter and she winced, trying to get free of her hold. "You will stay!" she hissed and the blonde sighed.

The commander smirked, continuing, enjoying Xena's anxiety and nervousness. "She came into contact with a few of my men on her way back here..." he said and Attila looked to Xena with a confused face. "It seems that she killed many Roman soldiers and left their bodies for the vultures –decapitated." He frowned.

Attila's eyes widened hearing of this news and he glared at Xena and she didn't look at him. "Xena, is this true?"

She finally looked at him with an apologetic face, "they were in my way. I had to get out of Athens quickly!" she tried to defend herself and Aetius chuckled softly.

"Xena!" Attila growled and went over to her and pinched her cheeks in between his fingers harshly. She clenched her teeth and he was inches from her face. "You killed our allies! And you...lied to me," he whispered now and let go of her face.

Aetius smiled seeing the woman defeated and publically humiliated. He had always known that she was trouble and would be the end of herself eventually. He cleared his throat, "you see Attila, because of your commander's actions, we can no longer be allies with you."

The king was shocked to hear that and was still upset that his loyal commander whom he thought was his like a sister to him, lied to him. He was beginning to think that his wife was right about Xena. She would do anything in her power to get to the top and this was the first step down that road. "I will make sure she is punished severely." He said and continued, "it is not necessary to cut ties with us, Aetius, you know I am –"

"Oh no, your highness," Aetius smiled, fixing his gauntlets, "Xena committed a crime on Roman land, so she is no longer yours. She is our prisoner now," he smiled and Xena's eyes widened. She didn't want to be a criminal held in Rome, she'd rather die first. He sighed, "starting now," he snapped his fingers and his men began marching forward.

Xena unsheathed her swords and pointed the blade at all the men. "I'd rather be cut into pieces than be Rome's prisoner!" she growled and many of them surrounded her. Gabrielle stood behind her, slowly backing away, not sure if it was a good idea to run or not. She thought that Xena deserved to be imprisoned for what she did, though none of this was good news for her, because she was still stuck here and not in Athens like she was supposed to be!

Aetius chuckled, "that can be arranged too, Xena."

The Roman soldiers came forward and lunged at her and she blocked their swords with ease. Attila frowned, folding his arms, watching Xena fight all these men off. She was good, too good. He did enjoy this though but she wouldn't win that's for sure and he wasn't going to help her either. She betrayed him, betrayed their people and their allies.

Xena growled and stabbed her sword through a Roman and Attila shook his head. Aetius was growing more frustrated by the minute as more of his men died because of this woman. She then grabbed Gabrielle's hand and they jumped out the window and took off running.

Gabrielle gasped and tried to set herself free from her hold, "excuse me! I am not going to be kidnapped by you again!" she growled and Xena ran faster towards Attila's horse pen. She peered behind them and saw many Romans running after them. Her eyes widened in fear and almost tripped trying to keep up with her.

Xena grabbed a horse and grabbed Gabrielle forcefully setting her on the horse first then climbed on it. she pulled on the reins and frowned, staring at the Romans running after them. "You think you were going to stay here, Gabrielle?" she smirked, "the Romans would have taken you too." She kicked open the horse pen and all the horse began stampeding towards the Romans and she took off into the forest behind Pannonia. Gabrielle sighed heavily and gasped as soon as she saw a tree branch, she ducked her head and instinctively wrapped her arms around Xena's waist for dear life.

Aetius growled as he saw Xena ride off into the woods. "After her!" he demanded and ran for his horse as did the rest of his men. Attila stood by the window and watched Xena escape with that slave of hers. He shook his head, thinking what a horrible decision Xena had made killing those Romans. It cost him his Roman alliance and now he was never to be trusted again.

Anastasia was in the alcove sitting down on a stump with her mother's horse standing beside her. She sighed and kept drawing circles in the dirt with a stick that she found. She frowned as soon as she heard horse hooves and stood up, running outside the alcove. She hid behind a tree and saw her mother and Gabrielle riding quickly through the forest. "Mother?" she blinked and it was obvious that she was running from something, she never rode like that before.

She gasped and ducked down, hiding behind a tree and saw Roman soldiers riding after her mother, a whole group of them. She covered her mouth as her eyes widened in shock. She knew in that moment that her mother obviously did something to piss off the Romans otherwise why would they be chasing her?

She ran back to get the horse and mounted it quickly. She didn't really want to show her face in the camp again, but she also couldn't stay here forever. She kicked the horse and rode through the forest to find out what exactly was going on.

Attila was speaking to some of his men and instructed them to guard Pannonia in case Xena would return, but he highly doubted that she would considering Romans were chasing her. One of his men bowed his head, "but sir, do you think they will catch her?"

He frowned and looked out the window again at the woods, "no they will never catch her," he sighed and heard a lot of commotion outside. He walked towards the entrance and saw Xena's daughter riding towards his home and on...Xena's horse? He frowned, folding his arms. He saw everyone stare at her, being the only girl in this place, it was quite strange.

Anastasia dismounted the horse and ran up the stairs towards the king. She knelt down, bowing her head, then stood up. "Where's my mother? Why is she riding off into the woods? Why are Romans chasing her?" she asked a million questions and Attila sighed heavily.

Attila sighed and walked up to her, running his fingers through her long hair that he hadn't ever seen before. She truly was a beautiful young girl and soon she would be a woman and he knew she was nothing like Xena, she was too sweet to be like her mother. "Your mother did something unforgiveable and she...betrayed her people," he said and the girl's eyes widened, hearing this news was probably shocking and devastating to her. "But, I promise nothing will happen to you," he smiled and kissed her forehead.

She couldn't believe that her mother would do such a thing and almost felt like this was her fault for some reason. She shouldn't have spoken to her mother like that earlier and she felt bad for disobeying her all those times and now she wouldn't know if she'd ever see her again especially if the Romans were after her. She would continue to live here known as the daughter of a traitor. She didn't know if she could do that but it's not like she could leave any time soon.

"But, what will happen to her? Is she going to be arrested?" she asked and the king sighed heavily.

"I don't know what is going to happen to her, Ana, but you will be safe here," he said, trying not to worry the girl.

Ellac came running in with his two brothers and then came to a skidding stop as soon as they saw their father talking to that girl they had seen earlier. Dengi ran forward, "father, why were the Romans here?" he asked and Anastasia looked at him and his eyes widened. He kept staring at her, contorting his face and pointed at her face. "Annas?" he said barely above a whisper and she blushed.

Attila ruffled his son's hair, "why don't you go find your mother?" he asked and Dengi ran off as did Ernak. Ellac walked forward and stared at Anastasia and as soon as his brother said Annas, he took a good look at her and she smiled weakly at him.

"Annas, is that really you?" he asked, stepping closer and touched her hair. She tensed up and took a step backwards. She brushed a tendril behind her ear then ran off outside to get on her mother's horse. He began to run after her until Attila grabbed his arm. "Father, is that really Annas? I didn't know Annas was a girl..." he felt so confused and had been lied to for thirteen years and even more so, he also saw that she was beautiful.

"Her name is Anastasia," Attila said and his son watched her ride off on her mother's horse. "And you will be nice to her."

Ellac folded his arms, "Anastasia..." he whispered to himself.

Xena rode into the desert outside of Pannonia and pulled on the horse's reins, looking behind her she smirked. "I think we lost them," she said.

Gabrielle grunted and jumped off the horse, placing her hands on her hips, staring at the desert. They were in the middle of nowhere and they were all alone. She didn't want to be alone with Xena at all, especially after being kidnapped by her for the second time. "This is just great, now I am stuck here, with you!"

Xena jumped off the Roman horse and groaned, "you would be dead if it weren't for me!"

"I would be dead? Are you serious?!" Gabrielle scuffed her shoe in the sand. "We're in no man's land thanks to you!" she felt like she should scream and she opened her mouth, screaming loudly in the middle of the desert. Xena ran up to her and covered her mouth. Gabrielle groaned and tried to wriggle her way out of Xena's hold. She bit her hand and Xena gasped, retracting her hand.

"You bit me!" Xena pulled off her glove and saw a huge bite mark in between her thumb and index finger. She took the whip out from her belt and grabbed Gabrielle's hands and tied her up with the whip. "You are annoying, you talk too much and –"

Gabrielle frowned and interrupted, "and you're...insane!" she said and Xena ripped off a piece of her blouse and wrapped it around Gabrielle's mouth, stuffing the fabric into her mouth.

"Now, isn't that better?" Xena smiled and winked at her. She pat Gabrielle's back and the blonde groaned and felt her wrists begin to bruise already since Xena tied her up so well. She was stuck here in this place again as a fugitive with this awful woman. She couldn't understand why Xena didn't just turn herself in, but no, that would be too good for her, wouldn't it?

Xena began cleaning her blade with a cloth and leaned on a leafless tree as Gabrielle stood, gagged and tied up. Xena smirked as she kept her eye on her. "I think we should ride to Troy. I have men there and plenty of resources. What do you think?" Gabrielle grumbled and Xena chuckled under her breath then sheathed one of her clean swords. "Got nothing to say?" she teased. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and Xena walked over to her slowly then uncovered Gabrielle's mouth.

"I want to go back to Athens. I don't belong here especially," she cringed in disgust and Xena smirked, tracing her gloved finger along Gabrielle's cheek.

"You could learn a lot from me Gabrielle..." she hissed and the blonde backed away from her. "Are you...afraid of me?" she leaned in closer to her mouth and Gabrielle took another step back.

"No, you disgust me," Gabrielle frowned.

Xena laughed mockingly, "I disgust you? Oh Gabrielle..." she circled around her, her fingers running along the blonde's neck and shoulder blades. "You don't even know me, what a harsh thing to say!" she smiled and Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"I don't think I want to know you," the blonde said, not entirely sure what to think about her. She was so creepy and apparently enjoyed creeping people out too, as well as running from all her problems. "What about Anastasia?" she asked quietly.

Xena frowned, no longer finding this game amusing anymore. She snatched Gabrielle's arm and breathed heavily, staring into her eyes. She wasn't scared that's for sure, but she was somewhat curious, which only angered her more. "Don't talk about my daughter," she hissed and let go of her arm, walking to the horse with her back facing towards her.

Gabrielle sighed and walked over to her, trying to wriggle out of the whip, though it wasn't working at all. "She's a smart girl, you know," she said softly and saw Xena brush some hair behind her ears, remaining quiet. "She was really excited to learn Latin," she added and Xena began picking at her fingernails, trying to calm her nerves. "Look, I didn't want to teach her and step all over you but –"

"Gabrielle," Xena began quietly, "stop talking."

"Why are you so mean?" Gabrielle scoffed and began walking around, looking at the desert. It was getting colder and she barely had any clothes on, which was just great, she thought.

Xena smirked and grabbed Gabrielle's arms pushing her into the tree, blocking her way out from escaping. "Do you have children, Gabrielle?" she asked and the blonde shook her head, "ever have sex?" she hinted and Gabrielle's eyes widened, "I take that as a no," she smiled. "You see," she adjusted her gloves and poked Gabrielle's nose, "I don't want my daughter anywhere near those boys. She is a beautiful girl, you saw her," the blonde nodded her head slowly. "I don't want Attila's son touching her, groping her or even looking at her!"

Gabrielle understood that Xena was extremely overprotective over the girl, but she couldn't keep her locked away forever even though Anastasia was a gorgeous girl. Her precious mind was going to be wasted the longer she'd stay in Pannonia especially being the only girl there. "She's only thirteen..." she said and she saw a huge frown on Xena's face. "Has she had her cycle?" she asked and Xena lowered her eyes. Gabrielle chuckled, "you don't even know do you?!" she sighed heavily and Xena glared at her. "You don't know anything about her!"

Xena grabbed her cheeks firmly in between her fingers and Gabrielle blinked rapidly. "I sure hope not all Greeks are like you..." she hissed and let go of her cheeks then walked over to the horse. "We're going to Troy," she mounted the horse and Gabrielle refused to move. " could freeze out here all by yourself," she teased and Gabrielle sighed, walking over and Xena lifted her up on the horse. "I think you and I will get along fine, as long as you don't talk," she chuckled and pulled the fabric over Gabrielle's mouth before riding off.

Chapter Text

AN: enjoy and good luck to all ;)

Chapter 6

Flavius Aetius and his troops searched along Pannonia's bordering cities, including the dry desert plains and the mountains as well. The commander was getting tired of searching for Xena and realized that he probably would never find her and he couldn't ask Attila for help since he broke off their relationship due to Xena's actions against the Romans. He knew that Xena would eventually do something stupid and irresponsible, but he didn't know when, but he was always ready for her. She was a very good commander and remembered when he first laid eyes on her –she was so beautiful, cunning and wickedly smart. The Huns trusted her and she'd been allies with Attila for a very long time. Aetius will never forget the moment he saw the Hun king's face when he revealed Xena's treachery.

They stopped in Aquincicum and the place was deserted. All the yurts were empty and it looked like there hadn't been any sign of life for weeks. Aetius jumped off his horse and knelt down, picking up some soil in his hands. He sniffed it then growled as his troops waited behind him patiently. "That cunt," he hissed and stood up, waving down his men. "I want her found and I want her dead!" he commanded and his men sat on their horses, confused at their commander's orders. "Now!" he yelled.

Marcus, the second in command, rode up to his commander in chief, bowing his head curtly. Aetius was fuming and felt humiliated for losing one woman, not an army, but one woman. He had one job, and he failed. "Sire, our men are tired. We will not be able to keep riding if we do not take a break..." he suggested. Aetius turned to him with a grimace. "What does the emperor say about the Hun woman?" he asked, begging to change the subject.

"The emperor gave me permission to cease the relationship with Attila," Aetius said, folding his arms.

Marcus frowned, "he said nothing about Xena then?" he wanted to clarify. His commander said nothing and he sighed, "sire, it is like finding a needle in a haystack. We will never find her."

Aetius walked up to him with a sly grin, "Marcus, my best man, my partner..." he leaned on his horse casually, "we will find her and we will bring her to Rome to be executed. The emperor is a childish fool and he does not care for alliances or enemies at his feet. He cares more about fucking whores than he does about Rome! Once Theodosius finds out that Xena has betrayed Attila, he will wage war against the Huns and our problems will be solved," he exhaled and Marcus blinked at him, trying to process everything. "So, it is our duty to find Xena before she attacks anyone I make myself clear?" he asked firmly.

Marcus nodded his head slowly, "where do you want us to look, sire?" Aetius grinned as his second in command had come to an agreement with him. He pat Marcus's leg and mounted his horse. They shall head north to find the savage woman once and for all, even if they had to search for weeks.

"We will search for another three days. If we do not find her, then we return to Rome to report this to Valentinian," Aetius kicked his horse and rode off with his troops following behind him.

After a few days riding Xena and Gabrielle finally reached Troy, the lost city as the Greeks called it. Attila had taken over Troy five years ago during a raid, pushing out Greeks and Eastern Roman citizens, though Rome did not seem to care that the Huns took Troy, because it was considered a useless city. Though, Xena found out, the city was far from useless. It was on the coast of the Aegean Sea in a southern province of the Balkan territories.

Gabrielle was still tied up with Xena's whip with her arms behind her back, though Xena was kind enough to take the cloth out of her mouth so she could talk, though throughout the entire journey, she barely said anything, which was a delight in Xena's eyes.

Her eyes wandered around the area and looked over the stone walls and her mouth gaped. She saw they were many feet above the sea, on a cliff. The water was crashing against the rocks and she immediately felt queasy looking at how far down the drop was. They were trotting along the narrow path on the wall and heard Xena say something, though she was distracted.

"Are you listening to me?" Xena asked and Gabrielle shook her head, coming back to reality. "I may not be Attila's commander anymore, but I am still a military commander here. You are still my slave and you will not leave my side unless told to do so, understand?" she hissed and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, remaining quiet.

They rode to the doors and one of the guards in the tower peered down at them. He squinted his eyes, frowning. "Who goes there?" he called out.

Xena frowned, "Xena, military commander of Pannonia!" she announced and the man's eyes widened and whistled to the men to open the doors. Gabrielle looked around, feeling a bit out of place here. Troy was so secluded from the world it seemed like they were on a different planet altogether.

The doors opened and Xena trotted inside. "Welcome to Troy, Gabrielle," she smirked and the blonde's eyes grew in awe of the city. It reminded her so much of Greece. The buildings were the same and even the people dressed like Grecians, though she saw many men wearing black clothes and silver armor just like the men she saw in Pannonia. Her dreams of a reminder of home were soon forgotten when she realized this place was conquered by the Huns themselves.

Tanranus, the leader of Troy, appointed by Attila, was standing on the entrance of the big fortress at the center of the city. He smiled as soon as he saw Xena riding up on her horse. Xena jumped off the horse and both walked towards one another. "Xena!" he grinned and hugged her warmly. "I was not expecting you here," he pulled away, looking at her face. He saw she was tired and her hair was wild, though that was not unusual. He hadn't seen her in five years when she was with Attila, though she was alone and brought a guest with her, which he thought was odd.

She smirked and pat his shoulder, "Tanranus, you and I have things to discuss..." she whispered in his ear as they walked together over to her horse. "This is Gabrielle," she smiled and Gabrielle frowned down at her. "She's my slave I captured in Athens," she grabbed Gabrielle's cheeks, showing off her blonde slave to her longtime friend. "Nice, isn't she?" she chuckled softly and she traced her fingertips along the blonde's lips and Gabrielle almost bit her finger. Tanranus's eyes widened at that and Xena lifted an eyebrow. "She's working on it," she said.

Tanranus smiled, "it seems we have a lot of catching up to do," he folded his arms. "I'm having a party tonight, but I guess now, there's a better reason to celebrate!" he linked arms with Xena. "Come and bring your slave too..." his eyes lingered on the blonde and his men went immediately to retrieve Gabrielle off the horse.

Gabrielle grunted, "don't touch me!" she finagled her way out of the men's arms and walked by herself behind Xena and Tanranus. This was probably going to be a lot worse than her few days she spent in Pannonia and now she kind of wanted to go back there. She liked parties, but she didn't know what these parties entailed and she wasn't sure if she wanted to know.

Inside the large fortress Tanranus's men were kind enough to show Xena to the large heated baths, which were in the basement of the fortress. It was dark and there were hundreds of candles lit in the large bath chambers. Xena walked in wearing a green silk robe wrapped around her body and smirked, seeing all the men and women in the baths. She casually walked over to a smaller bath in a secluded corner.

She knelt down and dipped her hand in the hot water. It was more custom to have heated baths in Greece and Rome and that was one thing she loved the most about these places. Pannonia did not have heated baths, or even baths at all in most people's homes. She would have loved to stay in Troy, but had other obligations at the time, she felt happy just being here.

Turning around she saw Gabrielle being escorted by two slave women, wearing a white chiffon gown. Xena smirked and stood up, calling her over, "Gabrielle, come here," she said and Gabrielle rubbed her wrists. They had rope burn on them and after being tied up for days, she didn't want that to happen again, and now she'd have to do whatever Xena said or else.

The women walked over with Gabrielle and Xena smiled eerily at her. The commander then untied the sash around her waist and dropped the robe to the floor. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she immediately turned her head away. It was bad enough that she had to follow what Xena said, but it was even worse to see the woman naked. Xena began walking into the bath slowly, step by step. "Don't look away, Gabrielle," she smirked, "we are all women here," she sat down in the bath and leaned against the bath's wall.

Gabrielle felt a lump in her throat and finally looked at Xena. At least she was covered finally, she thought. The slave women knelt down behind Xena and poured water onto her bare shoulders. The longer Gabrielle stared the more uncomfortable she felt, especially with Xena staring at her intensely. Xena dipped her head into the water, soaking her long locks and ran her palms over her scalp.

The women poured oils onto Xena's skin and rubbed her shoulders gently. Xena slapped their hands away and swam over towards Gabrielle. She leaned her elbows over the sides of the floor bath, grinning up at her slave. "You should come in Gabrielle, it's warm..." she kept smiling.

Gabrielle noticed the steam coming off Xena's arms and nodded, "I can tell," she observed and Xena smirked. "I'll just go over in that bath..." she pointed to another bath that was far away, though not too far. Xena frowned as she began walking away and grabbed her ankle firmly.

"You will join me," she commanded and Gabrielle almost felt like running away. "You do as I say, or don't you remember?" she chuckled softly and the blonde sighed. She definitely didn't want to get in a bath with Xena, especially since she was naked, but of course, nobody wears clothes while taking a bath, she thought, what a stupid thought.

She walked over to the opposite end of the bath and turned around, her back facing Xena. She closed her eyes and felt extremely nervous unclothing in front of her. She didn't know what was worse –getting naked while looking into Xena's piercing eyes or getting naked with her back turned but Xena's eyes gawking at her. Gabrielle loosened the sash around her waist and slowly slipped the dress off her shoulders, one by one. The dress dropped to her waist and she covered her breasts with her arm, breathing in slowly, she hesitantly let the dress fall to the floor.

Turning around slowly she saw what she had expected to see –Xena staring at her with her mysterious eyes. She knelt down and jumped into the water, lowering into the bath, covering her entire body and neck. Xena smiled and swam over to her. She reached for Gabrielle's arm and began pulling her towards her. "For someone who talks a lot you are very shy..." she inquired and Gabrielle could barely even look at her as she drug her along in the water. "We will fix that soon enough," she hummed and waved her hands to the women to tend to Gabrielle while she waded off on the side.

Gabrielle had quite enough of people bathing her, but these girls were no Galena that's for sure. They were more gentle than her. She hated to say it, but she enjoyed the pampering until she caught a glimpse of Xena staring at her. She definitely didn't feel like a chatterbox right now and she hoped that Xena wouldn't ask any questions for her to forcibly answer.

Xena rubbed her arms with the scented oils and dipped her arms into the water, casually glancing at Gabrielle, whom seemed to be enjoying herself. "Do you like parties...Gabrielle?" she asked.

The blonde looked over to her and began to feel herself close up again and averted her eyes. "Sometimes," she answered softly, "it depends what kind of party it is..." she said and Xena bobbed her head. Gabrielle wanted to hit herself for continuing to talk. Maybe Xena had something planned already for this stupid party and she was just giving her ideas.

Xena smiled and swam over to her, touching her cheek softly, "I like parties..." she whispered and Gabrielle's eyes grew as she stared into Xena's dangerous enlarged pupils. Suddenly she felt Xena's leg come into contact with her and she jumped, backing up against the bath's wall. Xena smiled, inching closer to her, "have you ever been touched by a man, Gabrielle?" she felt curious.

Gabrielle shook her head as her cheeks blushed. Xena's smile grew and she traced her fingers along Gabrielle's bare shoulder. She didn't like that this woman was so close to her, but she was kind of hard to say no to. She now knew why Attila liked her so much. She was a good military commander, but she was also a good at persuading people too, which was a dangerous sorceress trick. She held her breath as Xena's eyes scanned her face as if she were some kind of animal, sniffing out her prey.

"What are you doing?" Gabrielle dared to ask.

Xena smiled and swam away a few feet, "making sure you are suitable for tonight's festivities," she winked and dunk her head under the water, wetting her hair once again.

Later, Tanranus saw Xena emerge from the baths wearing a dark purple gown. He smiled seeing her and couldn't help himself but admire her beauty that he admired so much. She turned around herself and his eyes widened just looking at her, age had done her well it seemed. The gown was backless and off the shoulder as well, exposing her broad shoulders.

"You look like a queen," Tanranus grinned and she rolled her eyes.

"I am not a queen yet, Tanranus," she pat his cheek and turned to see Gabrielle trail in after her, wearing a light pink gown, very suiting to her skin complexion and wavy blonde hair. Xena folded her arms and smirked, "don't you look nice," she teased and Gabrielle sighed heavily.

Tanranus chuckled under his breath. He had missed Xena's teasing and certainly admired Gabrielle, her slave too, she was a pretty young woman. He wondered if all Greek women were like her. "So, Xena, you will come sit with me in the peristylium?" he offered and she had a big smile on her face.

Xena turned her head over her shoulder, "Gabrielle?" she extended her hand and the blonde reluctantly grabbed her hand, walking with the two. She felt so awkward being around Xena now especially since they shared a bath together, though Xena didn't do anything to her, she saw things she didn't want to see.

They walked in the back of the villa and Gabrielle definitely didn't want to be here now. What kind of party is this? Her eyes traveled around the gardened area and saw gold painted nude women on top of muscular men. They were on the floor, on the sofas, in chairs, just everywhere imaginable. Gabrielle cringed as she passed two men kissing one another, groping against a large column. Oh god, what kind of filth is this? She didn't even want to know what else was in this party.

Xena grabbed a glass of wine off of a tray and peered over to see Gabrielle's head wandering around, observing all the entertainers, as people politely called them. "Remind you of Bacchanalias in Greece, Gabrielle?" she raised a curious eyebrow.

Gabrielle felt her heart sink as she saw two women all over one man and he had his finger inside one woman as he was sucking on the other woman's breast. She somehow couldn't take her eyes off the trio and answered softly, "I...I uh, never been to one..."

"What a shame," Xena teased and then sat down on a comfortable chair next to Tanranus. Gabrielle stood by and Xena pat the seat next to her. "You are my guest tonight, Gabrielle, not my slave," she winked and Gabrielle hinted at a small smile and sat next to her nervously.

Tanranus sipped on his wine, leaning back in the chair as he watched two women performing acrobatic skills in the fountain in the middle of the peristylium. "You said you had something to discuss with me?" he asked curiously.

Xena set her wine glass on a table and turned towards him, "I killed a few Romans in Athens and their commander was a little upset," she smiled uneasily, "they tried to arrest me and take me to Rome, key word, tried," she chuckled.

Her friend exhaled heavily and rubbed his forehead, "I'm guessing Attila was not happy to hear this..." he presumed and she didn't say a thing. "And you came to Troy to hide?" he asked, feeling like that's why she came here after all and that's also why she came alone.

Xena smiled and grasped his arm, "no, Tanranus, I never hide! I want you to join me, build an army and rise against Attila and the Romans!" her eyes lit up and he was so shocked, he became speechless.

"I don't know Xena. Attila is a great friend of mine."

She frowned, "we can be better than him. We can rule all of the Balkans, the Goths and Northern Gaul! We can create a bigger empire than Attila ever could, Tanranus," she leaned in closer and traced her finger along his chest, "you can be my commander..." she whispered in a sultry voice, "and I will be Queen of the Balkans."

Gabrielle slapped her forehead listening to Xena's proposition to her friend and thought this was a horrible idea. They were already runaways from the Romans and now this insane woman wants to create an empire to rival Attila's? She's truly a mad woman, she shook her head at this whole thing.

Tanranus found it hard to resist Xena especially when she was so close to him. He smiled nervously and gently pulled away from her. "And what will I gain from all of this?"

Xena grinned, narrowing her eyes, "I knew you would ask that," she leaned back in her chair, sipping her wine again, looking at the entertainment before her. "We split everything in half between us." She turned to him, "so, what do you say?"

He grabbed her hand and kissed her knuckles gingerly, looking into her devious eyes. "Whatever you want, your highness," he winked and she smiled at him, liking that he was agreeing with her. He snapped his fingers at two men and they quickly walked towards him. They stood with their legs spread apart slightly with their hands behind their backs, refusing to look into his eyes. "I must give you a gift," he lifted his eyebrows and Xena smirked.

She stood up and sauntered over to the two men and circled around them, tracing her fingers along one of the men's bare shoulders. Her fingertips were stained gold and she rubbed the gold paint in between her fingers. Circling around the other man she looked into his eyes beneath the golden mask and grinned mischievously.

Gabrielle watched her circle the men like an animal once again. She had that same look in her eyes and as she got closer to the muscular golden man she felt her heart racing and sank in her chair, almost wanting to look away.

Xena's eyes peered down and ripped the cloth off of the man's waist and his body tensed up slightly. Her hand roamed his chest and she then looked up into his eyes, though he was staring passed her, refusing to gaze into the treacherous blue marbles. She turned around and smiled at her blonde guest. "What do you think of this man, Gabrielle? Too small?" she lifted an eyebrow.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and her mouth gaped, not sure what to say at the moment. She folded her hands in her lap and heard Tanranus laughing beside her. "You desire a man with a bigger cock, Xena?!" he shook his head and Gabrielle buried her face in her hand, barely able to look.

Xena smiled, "I want Gabrielle's opinion," she turned to her again, "Gabrielle?"

The blonde peeked in between her fingers and bit her bottom lip, "um, he...looks fine to me."

Xena placed her hand on her hip, "fine is not good enough. This is for you Gabrielle, not for me," she teased.

Gabrielle lifted her head up and felt her heart sunk to her stomach, "oh no, no. I don't want a man, I mean, you don't have to, it's nice of you but I really don't...need a man, that man...," she lamely said and felt her cheeks flush as she kept staring.

Tanranus rubbed his chin observing Xena's slave girl and admired her polite nature. "Your slave is very modest," he chuckled.

"So she is..." Xena smirked and waved the men to go away and she sat back down next to her, smirking while she drank the wine. Gabrielle nervously smiled and sunk down in the chair feeling so embarrassed.

Hours later Tanranus was kind enough to allow Xena and Gabrielle to stay in his quarters while he found a separate bedroom to sleep in for the time being. Gabrielle closed the door behind her and saw Xena beginning to undress again. She cringed and looked away, her eyes finding the wall more fascinating at the moment. She sighed and felt she needed to talk to Xena, though she was afraid something might happen if she said something out of line.

"So, you want to be a queen?" she asked quietly.

Xena wrapped a loose burgundy robe around her body and turned to see Gabrielle staring at the wall. She sat on the bed comfortably and crossed one leg over the other. "You may turn around, Gabrielle," she said and the blonde slowly turned with a shy grin. "I must break you of this shyness you have," she hummed to herself and Gabrielle folded her arms, feeling very uncomfortable. "And to answer your question...I've always wanted to be a queen," she winked.

Gabrielle nodded and stood in place, her eyes wandering around the ornate room. This was nothing like the yurt she stayed in Pannonia. It reminded her of a Greek or Roman villa, which was one step closer to home, she thought, but not close enough. "Even are now considered a traitor of the Roman Empire?" she asked and saw Xena's eyes darken.

"You're full of questions all of sudden," Xena chuckled, "where was that talkative mouth of yours at the party earlier?" she stood up and walked over to her blonde slave and touched her soft pink gown, her fingers trailing down Gabrielle's arm. She sighed, "plans change Gabrielle," she turned around and lit a few candles by the bed. "I brought you to be a teacher in Pannonia and're here with me in Troy. What use do I have for you now?" she turned to her with a large frown.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "I don't know, could let me go back to Athens?" she smiled weakly and Xena laughed loudly, obviously finding her pain very funny.

"Let you go?!" Xena smiled, placing her hands on her hips, "come now Gabrielle, you know I can't do that..." she walked closer to her and stared down into the blonde's green eyes. "You belong to me.." she hissed. She touched Gabrielle's wavy blonde locks and sighed, "perhaps you could still be of some use to me..." she wondered.

Gabrielle tensed her body as she felt Xena's skin radiating inches away from her. "Like...what?" she choked out, barely, and cleared her throat.

Xena smirked, "you can write...and read...can you not?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded, "you can be a scribe for Troy..." she ran her fingers through Gabrielle's hair once more, feeling the silky locks against her palm. "I will even pay you," she lifted an eyebrow, "oh but wouldn't be a slave anymore, now would you?" she chuckled softly and walked back to the bed, taking a seat.

Gabrielle nervously fidgeted with her fingers behind her back and she remained standing, not entirely sure what to do now. She breathed in deeply, "all of Western Rome hates you," she said.

"Everyone hates me Gabrielle, it's just a way of life," Xena scoffed. "And don't you hate me too?" she smirked and ate some grapes off a tray, feeling very playful at the moment. Gabrielle opened her mouth but before she could answer Xena interrupted, "I took you from your home, but you cannot hate me too much, now can you?" she teased, "after all, I did not harm you," she tapped her fingers on her knee, staring at the aghast blonde woman. "And don't give me a reason to," she said firmly.

"Do you...enjoy hurting people?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena leaned back on the bed on her elbows and frowned, chewing on a few grapes. "Enjoy?" she smiled, "my, my, you and your questions!" she sat up quickly and Gabrielle jumped back, afraid of her. "What will I ever do with you?" she hummed and ate some more grapes. "I don't simply enjoy hurting people, Gabrielle." She frowned and poured some wine into a glass. Gabrielle eyed her and thought she really shouldn't be drinking more wine after that party.

"You know of the Olympic games in Greece, don't you?" Xena asked and Gabrielle nodded. "And they have all sorts of competitions, right?" Gabrielle agreed with her. She sipped her wine and held up her finger, "some people are good in javelin throwing, some in archery, some in discus throwing..." she shrugged, "and some wrestling, am I right?" Gabrielle bobbed her head, listening to her cautiously. Xena smiled widely, "those are all," she pointed to herself, "what I do is a sport," she winked and sipped her wine.

Gabrielle frowned, folding her arms. "Killing is a sport to you?" she couldn't believe that explanation Xena just gave, she almost had her until she implied killing was like a sport to her.

Xena swallowed the wine, "it's not all about the killing Gabrielle," she wagged her head, "no, it's torture and interrogation too," she waved her hand in the air, suddenly being reminded of Attila and she didn't want that man on her mind at the moment. She smiled and gawked at Gabrielle. "Let's play a game..." she suggested.

"What sort of game?" Gabrielle was almost afraid to know what was going on inside that head of hers.

Xena pointed to that chair and asked Gabrielle to sit across from her. Gabrielle pulled up the chair and carefully sat down, looking into her eyes. "I ask you some questions and you answer with a simple 'yes' or 'no', okay?" she smiled and the blonde said nothing in response.

She went ahead and asked the first question, "have you ever killed anyone?"


"Would you like to kill someone?" Xena smirked.


"Have you thought of killing anyone in your life?"


"," she said as a late response and Xena noticed and Gabrielle saw a smirk on the woman's face, which wasn't good.

"Would you kill someone that harmed you?"

Another late response and Gabrielle shook her head, "no."

Xena smiled, "would you like to"

Gabrielle frowned, "no, I would not."

Xena laughed, "I said yes or no answers Gabrielle!" she snarled.

The blonde sighed, "no," she mumbled.

"Why not?" Xena frowned.

Gabrielle now had a smirk on her lips, "that isn't a yes or no question," she folded her arms. Xena glared at her and now Gabrielle felt a bit nervous the longer she stared at her.

Xena smiled, "very clever," she sipped the wine gradually.

Gabrielle was feeling more brave now and she leaned forward with her elbows resting on her knees, "can I ask you something?" she asked.

Xena lifted her eyebrow and sneered, "I am in a good mood, Gabrielle," she winked and downed some more wine.

"Do you care about people?" she asked and saw Xena frown, "maybe someone in your life?" she hinted and Xena lowered her eyes.

"This game is beginning to bore me," she finished off the glass of wine and stood up and Gabrielle somehow knew that was going to happen but she at least thought she should try since Xena was in a so-called 'good mood', though now it was spoiled. Xena scratched her head and pointed to a floor bed with an abundance of pillows. "You will sleep there," she said and Gabrielle stood up, walking over to the bed and sat down on the floor, bringing her knees close to her.

She watched Xena pour another glass of wine and she walked out of the room in a hurry. Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she stood up, running to the door, she peeked out into the hallway and saw Xena walking briskly down the hallway and saw her disappear into a room. Frowning, she walked back into the bedroom and closed the door, her back sliding down against it and sat on the floor.

She sat with her knees close to her chest and couldn't fathom this woman at all. She was a mystery to her, yet she was plain as day. Anyone could see that she was a savage woman because of what she did to people. She remembered what happened in Athens and was sure that was just a fun casual thing for Xena, but Gabrielle had that image burned in her head forever. What a confusing woman she was indeed...

Chapter Text

AN: oh, Xena ;)

Chapter 7

Xena returned to the bedroom in the morning and saw Gabrielle was still sleeping in the dress she had worn last night. Smirking subtly she walked over to her own bed and poured some water in a glass, downing it immediately.

Gabrielle's eyes fluttered open as soon as she heard some rustling around in the room. The bright sun shined into the room and she rubbed her eye while her vision adjusted. She sat up and saw Xena standing by her bed drinking some water and wearing her black and silver chained armor with her knee high boots. She had waited for Xena to return to the room for about two hours and when she realized she wasn't going to return she passed out.

Xena turned around with a hand on her hip, cocking her head, "sleep well?" she asked. Gabrielle shook her head and Xena smiled then grabbed Gabrielle's arm lifting her up. "Come with me," she pulled her along and then halted, her eyes scanning Gabrielle's attire. "You're still wearing the gown from last night?" she raised an eyebrow.

Gabrielle blushed and wrapped her arms around herself, now feeling self conscious. "I don't have any other clothes..." she gave a lame excuse, though it was a good lame excuse. All she had were the clothes that she came here in from Pannonia and this gown from last night.

"We'll have to fix that," Xena pulled her out of the room and saw a servant woman walking by. She grabbed the woman by her wrist and the young woman gasped, staring into Xena's eyes. "Make sure Gabrielle here has proper clothing," she said and the woman nodded her head. Xena took a good look at Gabrielle and frowned, taking in account to her petite frame. "What would you like, Gabrielle? Dresses, skirts, pants, boots, sandals?"

Gabrielle was shocked that she was actually being given a choice on what to wear. In Pannonia she was just told to wear whatever she was given, but here, she actually got to choose what to wear, which was nice, but why, she wondered?

"Well? I will decide for you if –"

"Dresses are fine," Gabrielle smiled and Xena let go of the woman's wrist.

Xena nodded and told Gabrielle to go with the woman to pick out some dresses like she wanted and to meet her in the atrium once she was finished. "Make sure to pick some pink dresses," she continued walking off adjusting her gauntlets. "I like you in pink," she turned her head over her shoulder with a smirk of a smile and disappeared around a corner.

Gabrielle's eyes widened and the woman grabbed her hand, pulling her down the long hallway. What was that supposed to mean? The servant clung closely to her as they walked together. "So, you are friends with the commander?" the woman pried.

The blonde nervously smiled and shook her head, "oh no, we are not friends." No definitely not friends, she kept telling herself that. She didn't think she could ever befriend someone like Xena. She was too cruel and somehow had no emotions at all when it came to killing people, though she wasn't a walking corpse –she had feelings, they were just hidden deep inside her. Even Gabrielle could see that and she hadn't known Xena very long.

The woman chuckled, "slaves don't get to choose their clothing. She must like you," she mused and Gabrielle turned around almost as if she could feel Xena's eyes on her the entire time, but she wasn't there. Like me? Xena doesn't like anyone.

Tanranus brought over a map that he stole from the Romans awhile back and spread it across the table. Xena leaned forward on the table and observed all the land the Western Empire had and all the land the Eastern Empire had. The Hunnic Empire had land too, but it just wasn't enough. She frowned, tapping her fingers on the table then pointed to the Caspian Sea, the area in which she lived for years before relocating to Pannonia long ago.

"Attila does not claim the Caspian tribes?" she asked and Tanranus shook his head. She smiled, "then I want to claim it for myself."

He smiled, "excellent choice, Xena. It is your land after all."

She nodded, "we will send troops through Akitziri first and claim the Black Sea," her finger traced across the map, "then we cross the Ural river to reach the Caspians. We will need roughly a hundred men no less, to claim these areas."

Tanranus looked at the map and pointed to the area close to the Black Sea, "the Onogur tribes are close to Akitziri. They are loyal to Attila. How will we get passed them?" he asked, looking to see if she had an answer.

She smiled and stood up, folding her arms, thinking of the perfect idea. "Through force of course. I will make them submit to me and even go on the expedition myself to make sure they do not cause any trouble." He had to agree with her, though he was wary of her plan. She was a very headfirst kind of person, though her tactics were always on point from working with her for years now.

Gabrielle entered the room and all eyes went to her. She felt extremely nervous and even saw Xena smiling at her. She picked out an abundance of dresses and chose to wear a light blue gown.

Xena had her eye on her and thought she would look much better in pink than in blue, but she looked beautiful in any color. She was an interesting woman to say the least and she was very talkative and always seeks answers, though Xena wasn't too fond of her blabbering mouth, she admired her will to keep seeking answers. "Just the woman I wanted to talk to," she said and walked over grabbing her hand to join them at the table. Tanranus smiled at the blonde slave and Gabrielle lowered her gaze, feeling slightly embarrassed. "Are you good at math, Gabrielle?" she asked.

Gabrielle lifted her eyes and saw Xena staring at her with calm eyes this time unlike last night. Anastasia was right, she really does drink herself to sleep it seemed. Wine was not Xena's friend obviously. "Well, I don't know too much, but I can try. What do you want me to do?" she asked.

Xena smirked, "nothing mathematical. Are you good at deciphering codes?" she asked and Gabrielle frowned, unsure what she meant. "If I gave you say...a letter that was nonsense and it had a hidden message within it, could you decipher it?" she leaned in closer and Gabrielle slowly inched away from her, though she smelled really nice, like vanilla or something. She probably had a super long bath this morning after last night, whatever she did last night in her sudden absence.

She felt herself becoming distracted and looked down at the map, trying to focus. "Maybe, I am not sure..." she admitted she had no skills in deciphering codes, though she had heard it was a good way to keep secrets hidden from other empires. "Perhaps I could if...I had enough time and –"

"What if you wrote it yourself?" Xena asked with a sly smile.

Gabrielle lifted her head with her mouth agape. "Well I –I suppose I could do that."

Xena smiled and snapped her fingers for some parchment and a fresh quill. "I want you to write a letter to the Bey of Akitziri," she was handed the parchment and gave it to Gabrielle. "And I want you to make it seem like Attila wrote it," she narrowed her eyebrows and Gabrielle blinked rapidly at her.

"Why...why would I do that?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena frowned, folding her arms, "because I am asking you to do it. You ask too many questions," she sighed rolling her eyes. "We will work on it together in our room," she said and Gabrielle nodded, rolling up the parchment and held it in front of her. She turned to Tanranus, "I want to send a group of stealthy men to Pannonia," she said.

Tanranus lifted a skeptical eyebrow, "I thought you and Attila are at odds now?" he presumed.

"Yes we are, but my..." she looked to Gabrielle and saw a glimmer in her green eyes, "...daughter is there," she said, scratching her nose as a distraction and Tanranus remained quiet, not sure what to say. He had no idea Xena had a child in all their years they spent together. "I want her brought to me."

"So, you want our men to kidnap her?" he wanted to clarify.

She frowned, "it is not kidnapping if it's my daughter!" she clenched her fist and Gabrielle saw how angry she got in such a short amount of time. Interesting, she thought. "I don't want anything to happen to her and if something does, I will skin Attila and all of his men. Slowly."

He sighed and tapped the quill on the table. "Alright then. How do you want us to go by taking her?" he asked.

Ellac sat on the stairs outside of his home, wrapping more twine around the medium sized ball he had been working on for months now. He always did this out of boredom and it was evening now, which meant his stepmother was making his brothers go to sleep early for the night. He lifted his head and looked at the large yurts next to the forest and kept thinking about Anastasia. He still couldn't believe that his childhood friend was actually a girl and nobody else knew apparently, except his father.

He wasn't angry, but he was confused as to why his father and Xena kept that a secret for so long. One day she was known as Annas and now, she was Anastasia. Sighing he took out his dagger and began carving into the wooden stairs to quench his boredom.

As he kept carving he lifted his head and saw three older boys coming towards Xena's home and he frowned, squinting his eyes trying to see who they were. It was dark and hard to see but he recognized that long black braid anywhere. Gurgis, the eldest son of Orestes, one of Attila's best men, was marching through the campgrounds to get to Xena's yurt. Ellac stood up and noticed the other two were Gurgis's friends. He always hated Gurgis and his friends. They were only three years older than him and often tried to boss the younger boys around, including Annas, but she was able to hold them off, even though she was much smaller than them.

Ellac folded his arms and watched Gurgis and his friends enter the yurt and his eyes widened. He felt like he should go get his father, but that might cause even more trouble than necessary. He grabbed his dagger and stuck it back into his belt and started running towards the yurt.

Galena poured some rice into a bowl and tore off two pieces of bread just like Anastasia liked it. Xena may not be here, but she felt it her obligation to watch over the girl since she was by herself. "Ana, I have your food!" she called out.

"One minute!" Anastasia replied and the woman shook her head. When that girl said 'one minute' she really meant one hour or more. She often wondered what that girl did in her room. Galena turned around with the bowl of food in her hands and gasped seeing Gurgis and his two friends inside the yurt.

The teenagers smiled at her and the woman frowned. "What are you doing?!" she yelled and Gurgis pulled out his dagger, pointing it directly at her throat.

He turned to his friends, "make sure she stays quiet," Gurgis said and sheathed his dagger. Galena dropped the bowl and Gurgis saw a shadow behind the curtain and smiled, walking towards the room.

Anastasia was busy practicing her writing in Latin like Gabrielle had taught her. She realized that her mother was going to be gone for awhile and perhaps will return later, she didn't know, but she did something her mother always wanted her to do. She heard a loud crash and frowned, setting the parchment down. "Galena?" she called out and received no answer. Groaning, she got up and then saw Gurgis enter her room and she gasped.

"You aren't supposed to be in here!" Anastasia yelled and Gurgis smiled down at her. She backed away and he grabbed her arm, pushing her down onto her bed. Her eyes widened and scooted away from him. He grabbed her ankle and pulled her towards him.

Gurgis caught a glimpse of her leg as her dress slipped and he lifted his eyebrows. Her skin looked very soft and it was a perfect cream color. He smiled down at her frightened face and climbed on top of her, pinning her to the bed. "Your mother was right to keep you hidden away all these years..." he whispered and she breathed heavily, staring into his dark brown eyes. He pulled out his dagger and she tried to get away. "Now, don't make any sudden moves, Annas...or shall I call you Anastasia now?" he grinned and began cutting open her dress from the top down.

She closed her eyes and tried her best to get free but he was much bigger than her. She stared down and saw her dress was halfway open. He eyed her small breasts and he raised an eyebrow. "I'm sure you will have your mother's figure soon enough..." he hissed and ripped the dress off of her. She gasped and felt her heart racing as his fingers grazed her chest, she tensed up.

"My mother will scalp you!" she spat and he frowned, grabbing her jaw firmly.

"Your mother is a traitor! She left you. What kind of a mother does that?" he chuckled and traced his hands closer to her inner thigh and her eyes widened. He lifted her leg and she shook her head pleadingly. He smiled down at her and saw fear in her eyes. He leaned down and kissed her jaw and she cringed, closing her eyes.

Her head rolled over looking at the wall and her eyes filled with tears suddenly wishing her mother were here, otherwise this wouldn't be happening. She felt him penetrate through her and she let out an ear piercing scream. Gurgis covered her mouth with his hand and tears rolled down her cheeks.

Ellac came running into the yurt and found Gurgis's cronies holding Galena down to the ground. "Get out!" he yelled. "You aren't allowed in here!"

Hurual, one of the teenage boys, stood up smiling at the thirteen year old prince. "What are you going to do about it?" he pulled out a dagger and Ellac pulled out his own dagger. Hurual laughed, "what are you going to do with that thing?!" he mocked and Kajal, the other teenager laughed along with him.

"My father will have your heads for this! Where is Gurgis?!" Ellac pointed the dagger at Hurual's chest and the older teenager frowned, grabbing the boy and threw him across the room. Ellac groaned and stood up slowly, rubbing his hurt arm.

Hurual sauntered over to him, "he's busy," he grinned and Ellac's eyes went towards the shielded off room and took off running, pushing Hurual onto the ground. "You little cocksucker!" he growled and got off the floor.

Kajal saw torches from outside the yurt and heard horses riding towards them. "Hurual! Forget him!" he said and Hurual turned around and heard the horses hooves as well. Kajal stood up releasing the old woman and ran out of the yurt with Hurual behind him, leaving Gurgis behind.

As they exited the yurt they saw Xena's best soldiers riding towards them. They panicked and started running far away and up the hill.

Ellac ran into the room and saw Gurgis on top of Anastasia and his eyes widened. "Get off of her!" he grabbed his dagger and sliced Gurgis's arm.

Gurgis moaned in pain and turned around seeing the annoying little prince. "You!" he pulled away from Anastasia and Ellac thrust the dagger close to him. Gurgis put his hands up, "now Ellac..." he smiled nervously, backing away.

"I am a prince!" Ellac said and sliced his chest with a clean swipe. Gurgis groaned and grabbed the boy, pinning him to the wall. Anastasia sat up, scooting away from them both and dropped to the floor, huddling behind her bedside table. Ellac smiled, "you should probably father's men are here," he teased and Gurgis lifted his head and heard horses riding. Gurgis grabbed his vest and jumped over the bed, hopping out the window in a flash.

Ellac sighed and sheathed his dagger. He saw Anastasia hiding behind the table and he grabbed a blanket from the bed and walked over to her. She wrapped her arms around her naked body and he smiled, kneeling down beside her and wrapped her body with the blanket. He sat by her and she wrapped the blanket tightly around herself.

"Are you okay?" he asked quietly and saw a single tear streaming down her cheek. He wiped her face with his finger, "I'm sorry for what Gurgis did to you..." he muttered.

She sniffled and turned away from him, not able to look her childhood friend in the eyes especially after that. She felt so safe in Pannonia but now she was alone without her mother and felt more unsafe than ever.

A group of men entered the room and saw Anastasia on the floor with the prince sitting beside her. "Your highness," he addressed the boy, "has anything happened to you?"

Ellac stood up and frowned, "I'm fine. Gurgis and his friends came! They escaped," he said and pointed to the window. The men looked down at the girl and were not sure what to do. She huddled to herself, averting her eyes from their stares. Ellac folded his arms, "what are you waiting for?! Go after them!" he said and the men left the room to find the teenage boys.

Galena came into the room and saw Anastasia in a secluded part of the room and gasped. She ran to her and grabbed the girl's arms, adjusting the blanket around her body. She turned around and smiled softly at the young prince, silently thanking him.

As they walked out of the room Anastasia turned her head over her shoulder and smiled softly at Ellac. He grinned sadly back at her before they exited.

Xena sat on the bed while Gabrielle sat beside her in a chair. She had her parchment ready and she didn't really understand why she wanted her to write a letter, let alone a forged letter, but she wasn't here to ask questions. Xena leaned forward, "now, I want this letter addressed to the Bey in Aktiziri. He is very fond of Attila. I want to make sure it sounds just like Attila's words."

Gabrielle nodded and dipped the quill into the ink ready to write. "What is this letter for?" she asked, lifting her eyes she saw a big frown on Xena's face. She smiled weakly, "I need to know what it's for to give me some...context."

Xena smiled, nodding, "I want to take the Black Sea and it belongs to Attila. So simply, if you write the letter stating that Attila is giving the land to me...there will be no questions asked," she said and Gabrielle sighed, widening her eyes, not sure if that was such a good idea but she was going to write whatever Xena said.

After an hour or so Gabrielle finished the letter and Xena grabbed the parchment, staring at it, reading over it to make sure it sounded correct. She frowned and peered over at Gabrielle whom calmly sat in the chair waiting patiently. "You signed his name." she stated.

Gabrielle felt like she had done something wrong and what she learned in school was that all Romans signed their names at the bottom of all their manuscripts. "Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" she asked bemused.

Xena smirked, glancing at the signature. "You write well, Gabrielle," she tossed the parchment and Gabrielle caught it midair. She walked around and poured a glass of wine for herself, "where did you learn how to do signatures like that?" she asked.

The blonde lifted her head, not expecting Xena to be so curious about her writing skills. "I took a calligraphy class. Someone was brought in from Persia. My teacher thought it would be a good idea for us to learn calligraphy so we could...write...better," she noticed Xena staring at her with confused wondering eyes and now felt embarrassed for talking so much. She sighed and Xena smirked, sitting back on the bed. She was feeling a bit brave now that Xena was talking to her more like a human being since they left Pannonia, "where did you learn to read and write?"

Xena lifted an eyebrow, sipping her wine, staring into Gabrielle's eyes. "In Thrace," she curtly answered and Gabrielle frowned, lowering her eyes. "I am from there," she added.

"I thought you were from the Caspian Sea?" she asked, now feeling so confused.

Xena smiled, "I am from there too. I am from many places," she said cryptically and that only confused Gabrielle even more. She sighed and tapped her fingers on the glass, "look, I don't normally let people ask me so many questions," she said and Gabrielle stared at her, "but you are different," she winked and sipped some more of the wine.

Gabrielle now felt extremely nervous and remembered when Xena said she liked her in pink gowns. That was so incredibly awkward and apparently super out of character for her according to that servant woman. "Why did you leave Thrace?" she asked and Xena eyed her cautiously. "Thrace is beautiful. Actually...I am from there too," she hinted a smile and Xena chuckled under her breath.

"And look how different we are!" Xena mused and Gabrielle definitely agreed to that. "Why did you leave?" she winked, spitting the question right back at her.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "better opportunities in Athens I guess."

"Opportunities," Xena bobbed her head slowly, staring off into space. "I used to think of opportunities but now I just think about goals." She sighed and drank more wine, quenching her thirst.

A few silent moments passed between them and Gabrielle noticed that Xena was already on her second glass of wine. Nobody drank that much wine, she thought, at least she hoped not. "Why do you drink so much?" she asked.

Xena set the bottle down and glared at her. "You're starting to annoy me with your questions again," she said and Gabrielle backed down, sinking into the chair. "So, how do you like Troy so far?"

Gabrielle smirked, "it kind of reminds me of Greece. It's nice."

"Not nicer than Athens I'm sure," Xena teased and Gabrielle said nothing in response.

"Can I ask you a question?" Gabrielle hoped she'd comply, though Xena's mood constantly changed within seconds.

Xena frowned, "why not? Since you're already asking me questions," she mumbled.

"Why did you take me from Athens? You could have killed me for attacking you."

Xena no longer found this wine suitable to her taste and set the glass down on the table. She smiled tightly at Gabrielle and leaned in closely towards her. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she slowly leaned backwards, tipping the chair. Xena grabbed the chair and narrowed her hooded eyes, "you really want to know?" she whispered and Gabrielle slowly nodded. "I saw you opportunity." She hummed, "you seem to like that word, don't you?" she hissed and Gabrielle stared at her mouth and then her ice blue eyes. "You like opportunities. I like opportunities. Everyone likes opportunities." She said in a soft voice. "But they are not opportunities if we do not act on them, am I right?" she smiled.

She stood up and Gabrielle felt like she could breathe again. Sometimes Xena could be so creepy at times and she never had met someone like that before until now. She wasn't sure what her game was and why she acted like this from time to time, but it only intrigued Gabrielle more to keep asking questions. She figured that if she kept asking questions then Xena might open up some more. So far, she hadn't lashed out at her since they got to Troy, but she might if she asked the wrong question.

"Do you still think that I am an 'opportunity'?" Gabrielle felt courageous asking such a question.

Xena turned and faced her with a bemused expression. "No," she answered curtly, "you are my goal," she smirked and now Gabrielle felt herself become even more confused than when this conversation first started. "You're a smart girl, Gabrielle," she added and continued, "and brave," she scoffed. "How would you feel if you were involved in the making of a new empire?"

Gabrielle shook her head, "terrible," she answered honestly.

"You are looking at this all wrong Gabrielle," Xena frowned. "Not everyone can live in paradise like you. Some of us have to work for what we want in life."

"Killing people is considered work to you?" she asked, now not liking that explanation at all.

Xena sat on the bed, glaring at the blonde woman. "What is it with you and killing?!" she groaned, "I do more than kill people, Gabrielle. I pillage and rape too," she chuckled, jesting a bit.

"Does that...include children too?"

Xena frowned, lowering her eyes and sipped more of the wine that she had rejected earlier. "I am not a monster," she said, "I would never kill a child intentionally." Gabrielle smiled at that, folding her arms and saw that this commander too has feelings. She began to think that Xena acted so tough in front of her men to keep up her status and even one slip of kindness would ruin her and they wouldn't take her seriously. I think I understand you now, Xena.

Clearing her throat she felt a bit shy all of a sudden and looked at Gabrielle's smug face. "Why are you smiling?!" she chided and Gabrielle's grin disappeared so fast. "I will send my men to Pannonia tomorrow evening to bring my daughter here."

Gabrielle saw Xena's face soften at the mention of her daughter. "You love her a lot don't you?" she pried.

Xena frowned, "what kind of stupid question is that?" she snarled and Gabrielle now felt that anger radiating off of Xena's skin once again. She got so angry every time she mentioned her daughter. She sighed, "of course I love her," she muttered and sipped the wine. Gabrielle hid her smile, folding her arms as she sat comfortably in the chair. "I would do anything for her."

"I have no doubts about that," Gabrielle said and Xena smirked at her playfully. "Why did you hide her identity as a girl for so long?" she asked, remembering when she first saw Anastasia and she was dressed like a boy.

The commander licked her lips and stared at Gabrielle intensely, "you don't know me well enough to know that," she set the glass down and then Tanranus barged into the room. Gabrielle turned her head and saw he looked very concerned.

"Xena, there are Romans outside!" he said.

Xena immediately stood up and her eyes lit up as soon as she heard that. "I love when people come to visit," she smiled and grabbed her swords, briskly walking out of the room. Tanranus followed her and Gabrielle refused to move from her spot. Instead, she ran to the window and since they were on the second floor, she had a good view of the outside walls of the city. She indeed saw four Romans parked on their horses, waiting patiently.

Xena ran up the stairs to the wall that surrounded the city and ducked her head under the guards' tower. She peered over the wall and smiled at the Romans. "Did your rat, Aetius, send you?!" she yelled from up top and the Roman soldiers glanced up at her.

"There's a warrant out for your arrest, Xena!" one of the Romans shouted.

She tapped her cheek nonchalantly, playing along. "Oh, there is?" she grinned deviously down at the Romans.

"I have orders from the emperor himself!" he yelled, "you are under arrest for killing Roman soldiers! Come with us and you won't die." The other three pulled out their bows and arrows.

Xena laughed and turned to Tanranus, "he actually thinks I'm going to go with them!" she brought her attention to the soldiers and frowned at them. "Bite me." She whistled over to the men on the wall and they pushed a large cauldron over to her and she folded her arms.

"I'm warning you Xena!" the Roman shouted up at her.

She rolled her eyes, "yeah, yeah," she waved her hand and the men on the wall, held the cauldron and tipped it over with incredible force and the Romans frowned, looking up at the cauldron. Hot boiling oil came pouring down on top of the soldiers. Xena's eyes lit up as she saw their skin begin to boil and bubble from the blazing oil being dumped on them. One of the Romans fell off his horse, touching his skin, screaming in excruciating agony.

Sighing, she waved her hand to Tanranus, "bring them to me once you've made sure they're dead," she walked off no longer amused.

Tanranus's eyes widened, "for what?!" he called out and Xena turned around with a sneaky grin.

"A message for our Roman friends," she winked and ran down the stairs, disappearing back into the fortress.

Hours later Xena rode on her horse to the outskirts of Troy, beyond the city walls and into an open field. She stopped and held up her hand, looking at the scenery, "this spot is fine," she smiled. Turning around she frowned, "bring them to me..." she demanded and the men brought the wagon of the dead four Roman soldiers to her.

She grabbed four pikes from the wagon and dug a hole for each one with her boot and stuck each pike into the ground one by one. All her men watched her and she snapped her fingers, "that one, bring him," she said and two men carried of the charred soldiers over to her. She smiled, "impale him," she said and the men looked up at her, confused. "Do it!"

The men hoisted the Roman up and plunged his body onto the pike then blood began spilling from his gut and mouth. They repeated the process for the other three Romans and she watched carefully.

Once they finished Xena walked in front of the impaled Romans and smiled, looking at the fine work she had done. If any more Romans showed their faces here, they would definitely get the message. She was sure of it.

"It's a lovely view, isn't it?" she marveled and all the men remained quiet. She felt something fall from the sky and touch her face. She glanced up and saw snow slowly trickling down from the skies above. Winter is here early, she thought. She climbed on her horse and trotted off back to the fortress within the city and soon the troops trailed behind.

Chapter Text

AN: and the tension builds! Enjoy for now ;)

Chapter 8

Theodosius, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, circled around his study for over ten minutes, contemplating what his men had just told him. He rubbed his chin pensively as he paced anxiously around the room. His soldiers' eyes kept dancing back and forth as they watched him pace around like a lost immobile animal with its leg cut off.

He stopped and stared at the soldiers, "are you sure Xena is in Troy?" he asked. The two men nodded, not saying a word. Grimacing, he sat down at his desk and tapped his fingers generously, thinking of the Hun woman being so close to his city. Constantinople was only a few days ride from Troy and if Xena really was there, he definitely didn't want her to come here. He hadn't ever met the woman, but his comrade, Flavius Aetius, told him stories about her and what an awesome ferocious warrior she is. He thought it odd to have a woman in charge, especially in Attila's horde. He too is a great warrior and even announced himself as the king of his people thirteen years ago.

He felt like it just happened yesterday though –Attila being king and all –and he wondered how the man was able to conquer his people so easily. Attila did not use force to gain his own kind's trust, no he did not, but Theodosius knew that Xena did not operate like Attila did. She was a snake slithering in the grass waiting for her prey and then...she would sneak up on her prey, crushing it with innumerable force like a python.

Her plans were so well thought out and Theodosius supposed that is why Attila granted her the position of military commander in chief. She was very good at her job –while Attila was off in Pannonia she was often sent on raids to conquer various lands in the Hunnic region –and it was only a matter of time before Xena crushed her enemies and claimed a new land. This is what Theodosius feared the most and he also knew that his Western ally, Valentinian, was not much help regarding keeping borders closed.

The emperor stood up, alarming his soldiers and inquired, "I thought Xena lived in Pannonia? Isn't it the capital of Attila's empire?"

"There's a rumor going around that Xena and Attila parted ways, sir," one of the wary soldiers spoke up. The emperor was not happy to hear about that. If what was said was true, then he definitely feared Xena's wrath on the Romans. "Commander Aetius said that Xena has a warrant out for her arrest because she slaughtered Roman soldiers in Athens."

Theodosius lifted a curious brow, "Athens?" he questioned, "what was she doing in Athens?" he smirked, loving to know the answer as to why that Hun woman would cross the Ionian and Aegean to reach Greece.

The two soldiers shared a look with one another until one uttered, "she was capturing a Hun Bey from Sciri, sir."

The emperor rubbed his left temple then sighed heavily, "that woman is deceitful," he began, "if she was willing to cross the seas to get what she wants then what is to stop her from attacking Constantinople?" he muttered, more speaking to himself than the men around him. He waved his hand, dismissing the Roman soldiers and asked for his advisor to enter the room.

Arcadius, his trusted advisor entered the room after the doors were shut behind him. Now he was alone with the emperor. He tucked his arms inside his large cloak sleeves, folding his arms close to his body. "It seems that you have heard the news of the Hun woman?" he guessed.

Theodosius nodded, "indeed," he stood up, rounding his desk and walked over to the map planted on the wall. He pointed to Troy, the forbidden city, as the Greeks called it for centuries. It supposedly was never supposed to be conquered, until that is, Attila and Xena came along. Xena wiped out all the Romans and kicked them out of the city, taking over the large military base. Theodosius should have known that was when Valentinian should have cut ties with those Huns. Technically, Troy belonged to no side, not to the Greeks nor the Romans. It was used as a scarce military base and housed weapons and wounded soldiers. It was considered neutral territory, but now, Xena has claimed it for herself, so that is what he was told, and he feared for the safety of his empire.

"Arcadius, why don't we have our troops go into Troy and remove the Hun witch?" he smiled, staring at the map.

The elderly man sighed heavily and walked over to his leader, "sire, it is not so easy. Aetius's men have tried already and they were...brutally mutilated," he spoke softly, not wanting to imagine what Xena had done to those men. The description was enough. "They were terribly burned...she..." he held his tongue and Theodosius turned to him with a grim frown. "She poured boiling hot oil on their bodies and then put their bodies on pikes outside of Troy's walls."

Theodosius grinned, rubbing his jaw, "she always comes up with new ways to murder people, doesn't she?" he chortled. "She impresses me," he said with honesty, "but she is a ruthless killer and I will stop at nothing to keep her out of Constantinople." He turned on his heel and began jotting down some words hastily.

Arcadius blinked and looked at the map. Troy was dangerously close to the Eastern Roman capital and if that's what she did to those men was a small feat for her, he couldn't imagine what she'd do to hundreds or even thousands of Roman soldiers. "Your highness," he voiced quietly, "shouldn't we worry about Attila attacking us instead of Xena?" he frowned.

The emperor lifted his eyes, halting his writing, "Arcadius, my friend, Attila would not dare attack Constantinople. Xena is who I am worried about. If the rumor is true then –"

"Sir, there is no rumor," the advisor interrupted, "Attila wants Xena killed for her treason. Huns kill those who betray them –there is no other way to escape treason except for death. My guess is that the Hun king doesn't know of Xena's whereabouts, at least not yet."

Theodosius smiled and finished writing and signed his name, folding the letter up and stamped it with the wax royal seal. He stood up, handing the letter to Arcadius. "I want this delivered to Valentinian immediately." The advisor nodded, bowing his head about to leave, "oh and Arcadius," he called out, "I believe we should reach out to Attila," he grinned and added, "he has no relation with our Western Roman friends, but there is no use of us being enemies with the savages." Arcadius left the room in a hurry and the emperor poured some wine, sauntering over to the large map again.

As he stood staring at it he saw Pannonia, the capital of the Hunnic Empire. What a small city it is, he thought. It was nothing but many tribes living together on a large piece of land, surrounded by grassy mountains and hills. Beautiful area, but why that place, he wondered? His eyes traveled to the Visigoths' capital, Aquincicum and smiled, remembering when the Goths were destroyed by Aetius's men and Attila's as well. Those two worked so well together, but as he recalled, Aetius had no plan in allowing Attila's men to attack. He was fooled, but if the Huns didn't attack, the Goths would have won. Theodosius would have thought that Attila would move his capital to Aquincicum. It was in a much better location, right in the center of the large lands and closer to Rome but equally as close to Constantinople.

Sipping his wine he contemplated on building a relationship with the Hun king. If he could get on his good side, then perhaps they could work together and crush Xena before she became too powerful. "Yes, that is exactly what I will do..."

Xena walked briskly down the long hallway inside the fortress with Tanranus by her side. "You sent the men to Pannonia, right?" she asked.

"Yes, they were sent out a few days ago. They should arrive by this evening," he said and tried to keep up with her fast pace.

Good, she thought. "And they know what to do, right?" she questioned, "I don't want them to make a lot of noise otherwise my daughter will be stuck there. Attila will kill our men."

He nodded, "they know the plan, Xena. Get in and get out," he was beginning to feel sweat drip down his forehead with all these stressful missions Xena was asking him to propose to the troops. "These men are very good at what they do. You don't have to worry."

"Who says I'm worried?" she scoffed, "if they can't do the job I will go there myself," she rounded the corner and bumped into Gabrielle. A smile graced her lips, "did you write the letter I asked for?" she asked the blonde.

Gabrielle nodded, "I think you should read it over," she presumed and Xena nodded.

"Fine," she placed her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder and told her to walk with her to the bedroom. "I want a report on the Aktiziri Bey," she demanded of Tanranus. He nodded then ran down the hall to check on that separate mission.

Xena read the letter that Gabrielle wrote and it was written so well she crumbled it up and threw it on the floor. Gabrielle's eyes widened as her mouth gaped. She had worked for hours on that piece and she watched Xena just toss it out like garbage!

"Not good enough," Xena reached for the wine bottle then suddenly Gabrielle grabbed her wrist.

"Now wait just a minute!" Gabrielle frowned and Xena's eyes grew with fury. "I worked very hard on that letter and you could you do that?!" she felt like a piece of her soul was just ripped out. Writing to her was very special and she normally wrote things that she liked, but she didn't expect to be writing forged letters to Hun Beys. She'd rather write poetry or something, but no, she was stuck here doing this and Xena totally dismissed her work.

Xena snatched her wrist away and stood up, towering over the blonde woman still sitting in the chair. Gabrielle glanced up at her, frightened and unsure of what she might do. Xena held the wine glass in her hand and squeezed it tightly. The glass broke in pieces and shattered on the ground. Gabrielle gasped and sunk in her chair. She looked up with one eye squinted and saw Xena's hand covered in blood, trickling down her forearm.

"You're bleeding..." Gabrielle mumbled.

Xena groaned and dipped her hand into the water basin. The once clear water turned a bright red, now feeling stupid for her overreaction, though Gabrielle touched her, no she more than touched her, she grabbed her wrist. Slaves don't touch their masters and normally would be beaten, but she didn't want to hit Gabrielle. She needed her.

Gabrielle ran to the other room and grabbed a clean cloth. She returned and saw Xena cleaning her open gash on the side of her hand. She approached her slowly, clenching the cloth close to her chest. "Let me help you..." she aided and Xena frowned at her, glaring at her, though Gabrielle went ahead and grabbed Xena's arm out of the water and this time, she didn't pull away vehemently. She wrapped the cloth around Xena's hand, pressing gently on the wound.

"You shouldn't have done that, Gabrielle," Xena spoke in a more calm voice. The blonde's eyes traveled up to her, not really feeling ashamed of what she just did. "I should strike you for what you just did," she stated.

Gabrielle looked at the wound and saw glass shards inside of the wound. She looked up at the raven haired woman, seeing her eyes so bright and frightening. "Then, why don't you?" she asked. She felt like she should have a muzzle on her mouth at all times around this woman because she just said things that came to her mind and it didn't usually turn out very well in the end.

"And ruin that pretty face of yours?" Xena smirked and Gabrielle immediately left to go find a needle and some cloths. She sat down on the bed, examining her hand, frowning at what she had done to herself. She had been wounded many times, though not for such stupid reasons like this one. She saw Gabrielle return with a large leather needle and two more clean cloths.

The blonde knelt down and began picking out the glass shards from the wound gently. She saw Xena's face contort in pain. She smiled subtly and Xena frowned down at her. "Something funny?" Xena asked.

"No," Gabrielle cleaned the wound with the cloth and looked up at Xena, "I'm going to need you to apply some this part," she pointed to the spot on her hand and Xena lifted an eyebrow and pinched her hand on either side of the gash. "Perfect," Gabrielle squinted her eyes and cut the thread with her teeth before threading the large needle.

Slowly she stuck the large thick needle into Xena's skin and gently pulled the thread through as carefully as she could. Xena eyed her as she continued to work on her wound and thought Gabrielle had many crafts apparently, not just writing and reading silly philosophy. "Where did you learn how to do this?" she asked.

Gabrielle lifted her head, now staring into the commander's soft eyes. "My father taught me a long time ago when I had a gash on my leg. He thought I should learn how to look out after myself." She pulled the needle through Xena's gash and had one more spot to thread and she'd be done.

"Your father is a smart man," Xena said and Gabrielle cut the thread, tying it around in a knot. She looked at the stitches and they were quite nice. It had been a long time since she had any stitches on her body for whatever reason.

Gabrielle stood up and brought the bloodied cloths with her, "he was," she said and put the water basin in the adjacent room. She returned and found Xena staring at her as she sat on the bed patiently.

Xena smirked, "we are not so different," she winked, "my father died a long time ago," she stood up and went searching for a new wine glass, casually stepping on the already broken one on the floor. Gabrielle sighed, slapping her forehead with her palm.

Oh no, Xena, we are so different. "Was he...a good man?" Gabrielle felt curious.

The commander returned with a new glass and shrugged, "don't know, don't care," she sipped the wine, trying to forget the throbbing in her hand. "I have come to a conclusion Gabrielle," she began and leaned on the bed post, "all men are the same. They all want sex, women, booze, power...but you know what they don't want?" she smiled deviously. Gabrielle wagged her head and Xena said, "children." She drank some more wine.

Gabrielle folded her arms, hiding her small grin. "Not all men are like that..." she stated and Xena didn't seem convinced, "my father wasn't like that, but you're right, there are many men like that unfortunately." She watched Xena as her eyes stared right into her. She was feeling nervous and on the spotlight now. Exhaling out briefly she asked, "what about your daughter's father?"

Xena lowered her eyes and tapped her fingers on the glass impatiently, "what about him?"

Gabrielle was surprised that Xena even answered and perhaps this means that she was opening up some, which was a good thing. "Did he leave you?" she asked.

"He died while I was giving birth to our daughter," Xena sipped the wine and Gabrielle's eyes widened as her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "A Visigoth killed him," she hated to remember that day and even though it was more than ten years ago, she would never forget it, and it felt like it was just yesterday. She thought about it often especially when she looked at her daughter. She had blue eyes yes, but they definitely looked like Borias' eyes and her jaw was like his as well, very strong and stern. Even they shared the same endearing smile.

Gabrielle rubbed her arm anxiously, "I'm sorry," she sighed, "I shouldn't have asked, I should just mind my own business."

Xena smirked, "now you're catching on Gabrielle," she winked.

A few silent moments passed between them and Gabrielle noticed that Xena was just trying to pass this situation off using some kind of joke to cope with her true feelings and emotions. "Do you miss him?"

Xena pulled the wine glass away from her lips, lifting her eyebrow at the blonde. She walked over to her and sat down on the bed continuing to stare at her curiously. "Do you think I am a heartless person, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle blinked, "no, I didn't say anything like that, I was just –"

"Everyone else does, why don't you? you?" she stood up and opened the drawer in the bedside table and pulled out a stack of parchments. Gabrielle's eyes widened and her entire body tensed. Xena smiled waving the stack of notes in her hands, "I know everything about you Gabrielle. I know what you write when I am not around," she set the wine glass down and read one page of Gabrielle's secret letters.

She quoted, "this Hun woman named Xena, is cruel and I fear that she has a black heart," Xena scoffed and tossed the parchment and read the next one. Gabrielle frowned, now furious that Xena actually looked through her stuff and found her notes that she wrote in private. "Oh this is a good one," she chuckled, "I don't think I can live with her anymore. She has no feelings and seems to be emotionless –it's like living with a walking corpse." She tossed the parchment and read the next page.

Gabrielle stood up infuriated, "you looked through my notes?!" she yelled and Xena lifted her eyebrows, staring down at the blonde petite woman.

Xena smiled, "you belong to me. What is yours, is mine," she licked her finger and turned the page over. "Oh wait, this is a really good line right here," she winked and Gabrielle growled, ripping the parchment out from her hands. Xena frowned and grabbed Gabrielle's arm, pinning her to the wall and unsheathed her sword. Gabrielle breathed heavily and stared at the shiny blade. "You must have a warm heart, Gabrielle," she hissed and the blonde carefully eyed the blade as Xena toyed with it. "You say my heart is black...yet I don't write horrible things about you," she teased with a wicked smile.

Gabrielle frowned, "can you blame me?" she asked and Xena's eyes widened and pushed her arm against Gabrielle's collar bone. She groaned and felt herself being crushed slowly, almost like a python. "You have no idea what it's like to be me!" she croaked.

Xena laughed, "are you angry Gabrielle? That I took you away from your home, your life, your career? Is that it?" she said and Gabrielle frowned, refusing to answer. "I am giving you a..." she paused then smiled deviously, "opportunity," she hummed to herself, leaning in closer to Gabrielle's face. "What's the matter? You don't like that word anymore?" she chuckled.

"You are sick," Gabrielle choked out and Xena lifted Gabrielle's dress up with her sword. Gabrielle's eyes grew in her fear and Xena looked down at her slim yet shapely legs.

Xena kept her eyes on Gabrielle's legs and then saw her flat abdomen and a smile came to her lips. "How old are you, Gabrielle?" she asked.

Gabrielle held her breath and Xena ripped the dress with her blade and she cringed, closing her eyes. "Twenty!" she yelled out and Xena smiled, nodding her head.

"I remember being that age," Xena lifted her eyebrow, "it was a difficult year for me," she grinned. "You see, I was pregnant with my daughter and I had so many goals..." she sighed, "yet I did not complete all of them. I made sure to keep a list of those goals in my head to save for later," she winked and Gabrielle's breathing quickened as she felt Xena inching closer to her.

"If you're going to kill me just do it," Gabrielle looked at the ceiling fearing for the worse. Xena stared at her confusedly and began laughing. Gabrielle lowered her eyes and frowned, staring at Xena's large grin on her face. What the Hell?

Xena's laughter died down, "if I was going to kill you, I would have already," she narrowed her eyes and Gabrielle gulped, staring into her dangerous eyes. She looked under her dress, lifting it further with her sword then her fingers traced along Gabrielle's abdomen and felt her body tense at her touch, which caused her to grin to further grow with curiosity. "You are a virgin?" she asked.

Gabrielle lifted her eyebrows, "what?" she stammered.

"Oh now that it is my turn to ask questions you suddenly become mute," Xena smirked. "Are you...a virgin?" she repeated. Gabrielle said nothing and saw Xena chuckle under her breath. "Your silence is answer enough." She carefully traced the blade along Gabrielle's dress and sliced it open, revealing her chest and Gabrielle's eyes widened, staring down at herself. As if the bath was not enough, Gabrielle reminded herself.

Xena took a step back and with her sword, brushed the dress off of Gabrielle's body, now fully examining her. "You are right to keep your body as a sacred temple, Gabrielle. It will serve you well in the future," she smiled and Gabrielle kept staring at her with wide doe eyes. "If only all Greek girls were as innocent as you..." she sighed.

She walked forward and held the blade close to Gabrielle's soft creamy skin. She smiled and gently she grazed the blade into Gabrielle's chest, above her bare breast, cutting into her skin. Gabrielle cringed and blood trickled down her body and Xena grinned then pulled her sword away, wiping the blood off her fingers.

"That is a warning," Xena said and rubbed the blood in between her fingers. "If I catch you writing anything about me again, I will cut you, and cut you some more, and continue to do so until you get the message. Understand?" she said lowly and Gabrielle frowned up at her.

"I have the freedom to write what I want," Gabrielle stated and touched the small cut on her breast. It wasn't enough to get infected and it wasn't deep either but it stung. Somehow she felt fearless all of a sudden regardless of Xena's threats.

Xena frowned, "this is not Greece! You have no freedom here! Do you understand what you are?!" she grabbed her by her jaw, staring into her eyes, "you are a slave. Slaves don't have freedom and in my are," she hissed.

Gabrielle looked up at her with wary eyes, "slavery was abolished in Athens fifty years ago," she said and Xena glared at her, only inches from her face. "All pre-owned slaves still lived with their masters but were paid for their work..." she added, "they have better relationships with their masters now. They became...friends," she whispered. "Athens is the only city to begin this movement and other cities are following. Corinth has released their slaves as well as Delphi..."

"Does this look like Athens to you?" Xena asked and Gabrielle shook her head. She released Gabrielle and sheathed her sword, "put on some clothes," she turned and left the room in a hurry.

Gabrielle let out a large exhale and dropped to her knees, wondering what the hell just happened just then. She could have been killed not once, but three or more times perhaps if she kept opening her mouth, but Xena did no such thing. Why, Xena?

Anastasia decided to stay in her room and not leave the yurt at all, not even to eat sometimes. Galena stayed with her of course, but she never felt so unsafe in her life after that night more than a week ago. She constantly woke up in the middle of the night thinking that somebody was in her room, when in fact, she was alone, wallowing in her own misery.

Attila's men had found the teenagers trying to make a run for it that night they entered Xena's home, but they didn't get very far. Attila reprimanded Gurgis and his two friends as well as Orestes, Gurgis' father. He was a trusted and loyal friend, though he wouldn't allow his son to do what he wants. If there were perhaps other girls in this city, then maybe this would be more of a problem.

Attila swore to Xena that he would protect her daughter for her no matter what and he kept his promises, even though Xena was a traitor. Her daughter was special to him and he wanted to make sure she was safe. He opted to station a few soldiers outside the yurt for Anastasia's safety and let Orestes deal with his son on his own accord. He knew that Gurgis was not going to get away with something such as horrendous as this.

Xena's men arrived in Pannonia in the middle of the night and left their horses in the woods behind the yurts. Two men crept in the bushes and saw some candles lit inside the yurt and figured that was Xena's daughter's room. They crawled on the ground with daggers in their mouths and faces hidden, wearing all black to shield them from prying eyes.

One of the men cut into the yurt's cloth steadily. He peered around the yurt and saw Attila's men walking around the front of the yurt and he crept down on his belly, cutting into the cloth more trying to be as quiet as possible. He ripped open the yurt and waved to his comrade to come forward.

The other soldier crawled into the yurt and saw the girl sleeping in her bed with a few candles lit around her. She looked so peaceful and he came around beside the bed and covered her mouth. Anastasia woke up and her eyes widened, trying to scream and he applied pressure to her mouth.

The other man slipped inside and pulled off his scarf around his face and her eyes widened and tried to get away. He put up his hand, "don't scream," he whispered and he heard muffled screaming. He groaned, "your mother sent us!" he hissed.

Anastasia stopped squirming and she relaxed a bit, her heart still pounding in her chest. The man let go of her mouth and she exhaled heavily. "My mother?" she asked.

He nodded, "yes, she is waiting for us to bring you to her," he said and extended his hand.

"W-where is she?" she asked, now feeling so confused. Her mother just left her here and now she sent mercenaries to take her?

"In Troy," he proceeded and started to feel nervous the longer they stayed here with Attila's men so close. He grabbed her hand hoisting her out of the bed. "We need to hurry," he whispered and she gasped as he guided her out of the yurt.

The soldier wrapped the scarf around his face and lifted her onto the horse and he climbed aboard, sitting in front of her. She looked around, now scared, she had never been outside of Pannonia before, not even to travel with her mother and now suddenly she was going to Troy? She didn't understand why her mother went through all this trouble to get her. He pulled on the reins and rode off in the forest, catching up with the other soldiers waiting for them on the outskirts.

One of Tanranus' best men saw the two approaching with the girl on the horse. "You got the princess. Did anyone see you?"

"Princess?" Anastasia questioned with furrowed brows.

He shook his head, "no sir, but we should leave. Attila's men are everywhere," he said and the others nodded, kicking their horses, riding off into the dark hills. Ana gasped and wrapped her arms around the man's waist, hanging on for dear life.

As they were riding her hair wisped in the air violently and suddenly felt very cold. She was wearing a long sleeve black dress and it wasn't very thick either since she slept in it, also she didn't have time to grab any warm boots either, instead she had her black slippers on. "How far is Troy?" she asked the horseman.

"A few days princess," he answered.

She frowned, "why do you keep calling me that?!"

He smiled beneath his scarf, "because that is what you are," he trotted through a cold river and she felt her body shivering against him. "There is a cloak in the bag on your left. I would advise putting it on," he said and she looked at him curiously, not fully trusting this man, though he seemed to be who he said he was, she was now more scared to leave her home than staying in her room for days on end.

She pulled out the cloak and slung it over her body, already feeling warmer. She wrapped her arms around the soldier once the horse's pace sped up. "What is my mother doing in Troy?" she asked.

"Conquering, princess," he answered and she leaned her head against his back, feeling so lost and confused.

A few days later Gabrielle had rewritten the letter that Xena once asked for and tried her best to tone down the language. She decided to stay in the room until the letter was perfect, otherwise Xena would probably crumble it up again. She also decided not to write anything about Xena anymore or her time being spent with her.

She sighed and set down the quill, finally finishing her fifth draft of the letter. She leaned back in the chair and peered down at the small cut above her breast. Her fingertips grazed it gently and thankfully was already scarring over. She'd never do that again, she told herself.

Xena stepped into the room and Gabrielle sat up, acting like she was busy with her work. "Did you finish the letter?" she asked, throwing her cloak on a chair casually.

Gabrielle handed her the letter, "yes and I rewrote it five times," she smiled tightly and Xena smirked, snatching the letter and read it carefully, pacing around slowly. Gabrielle folded her arms and watched her.

"Very nice, Gabrielle," she said and handed the letter back to her. "I will send that letter to the Onogur Bey tomorrow morning. It seems like you've learned your lesson, yes?" she lifted her eyebrow.

Gabrielle tapped the quill on the desk impatiently and sighed heavily. "There is nothing wrong with speaking your mind, you know..." she shyly spoke.

"You don't seem to have a problem doing that," Xena eyed Gabrielle's cut and the blonde covered her chest with the scarf around her shoulders. She chuckled and sat on the bed. "I don't want to hurt you Gabrielle." She said and the blonde's eyes widened at that. What a shock to hear that. "You are smart and I like you, but sometimes you just keep talking and talking and..." she smiled, "talking leads to consequences, you understand, don't you?"

Gabrielle nodded and both fell silent for a couple of moments. She frowned and stared at Xena as she was lacing a new set of boots in her lap quietly. "You aren't used to people talking back to you, are you?"

Xena lifted her eyes and pulled the lace through the boot's hole, "people who talk back to me lose their tongues," she smirked and Gabrielle indistinctively grasped her throat. "And that is not a figure of speech," she chuckled and went back to lacing her boots. "One time, one of Attila's soldiers disobeyed my command I gave him," she began and Gabrielle listened intently, "I tied him to a tree and cut out his tongue then I left him there to die." She laced the boot and then sighed, "I came back and saw he escaped. As if not cutting his tongue wasn't enough, he wrote messages conspiring against me," she smiled. "So I found him again and cut off his hands."

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "you really did that?" she couldn't believe that.

Xena smiled at her blonde slave, "no, that was a joke," she winked and Gabrielle hinted at a small smile. "But I did kill him," she sighed and finished lacing her boot. "It's best not to get on my bad side, you know?" she said and Gabrielle nodded, agreeing to that. It was just a statement of fact.

As Gabrielle watched Xena lace up her other boot she couldn't help but feel that Xena was a nice person deep down. If she were truly as cruel as people say, she wouldn't keep her alive for this long according to all the stories of how she brutally murdered people. She wanted to see the good in her, but somehow, she just couldn't do that just yet. Xena didn't trust anyone and obviously Gabrielle was one of those people. She had no trust and without trust, what do you have in life? Nothing.

A servant woman came into the room and Xena lifted her head. The woman lowered her eyes, "the soldiers have returned from Pannonia, your highness," she said.

Xena's eyes lit up and she placed the boot on the bed, leaving the room at once. Gabrielle got up quickly and followed behind her but not after grabbing a cloak to face the harsh weather.

Tanranus stood outside watching his group of men trot in on their horses and saw the girl riding on the back of a horse. He blinked, staring at the girl. She looked very much like Xena did especially with her long dark hair and piercing blue eyes. He had no idea that Xena even had a daughter or a child for that matter.

Xena quickly ran down the steps of the entrance of the fortress and saw her daughter on the horse. She smiled at her and the soldier helped Anastasia off the horse, wrapping the cloak tighter around her body. Anastasia stared at her mother with a blank stare and refused to move.

Xena came forward and cupped her daughter's face, staring into her eyes. She was not happy to be here obviously and she seemed different. "How was your ride here?" she asked.

Anastasia's eyes filled with tears and she began crying loudly and wrapped her arms around her mother, whimpering in her chest. Xena's eyes widened and she embraced her warmly, running her fingers through her long locks. She felt her daughter's body shaking against her and she frowned, pulling her away. "What's the matter?" she asked, wiping her tear stained cheeks.

Her daughter frowned and hit her mother's chest and Xena's mouth gaped. "You left me!" she yelled as tears kept streaming down her cheeks. "How could you do that?!" she raised her fist again and Xena grasped her wrist. She whimpered more and leaned into her mother's chest.

"I didn't want to leave you," Xena sighed and turned around to see Gabrielle watching from a distance. "I'm sorry," she whispered and kissed the top of her daughter's head.

She wrapped her arm around her daughter and lead her inside. Gabrielle lifted her eyebrow and followed them both.

After about an hour Anastasia cried herself to sleep in Xena's bed. Xena sat beside her and brushed a few hairs away from her daughter's cheek. She kept staring at her as she peacefully slept finally, though she tried to ask why she kept crying and why she was so upset, but the more she asked, the more Anastasia kept sobbing.

Gabrielle walked into the room and closed the door behind her. She tread carefully and sat in the chair beside the bed, peering over at the slumbering teen. "She finally fell asleep," she whispered.

Xena's eyes were locked on her daughter and sat in silence, now feeling awful for leaving her daughter behind but she didn't really have a choice then. She was being chased by Romans at the time and also, Anastasia stole her horse and took off to god knows where.

"She was really upset," Gabrielle said and Xena nodded, grasping her daughter's hand.

"I have never seen her like this before," she frowned, concerned.

Tanranus came into the room and saw Xena and Gabrielle hovering around the bed. "Xena...I need you to go over some plans with me.." he said, embarrassed to even ask for her help.

Xena frowned and was about to get angry though Gabrielle touched her hand. Xena's eyes widened and Gabrielle pulled her hand away so fast it was like it never happened. "I can watch her for you," the blonde offered.

Xena lifted an eyebrow and stood up, taking one last look at her daughter, "I will be back in one hour," she left with Tanranus down the hall and Gabrielle scooted the chair closer to the bed, watching Anastasia sleeping soundly and would wait patiently until she woke up.

Tanranus walked into the atrium and Xena walked in behind him. "Xena, we have some news."

"And what news is that?" she placed her hands on her hips.

He pursed his lips, "Theodosius pulled back his men from the borders around Troy."

She frowned, "and why would he do that?" she asked.

He shrugged, "we do not know but your men spotted Romans going north into the Balkans. Do Romans have territory up there?"

She lifted an eyebrow and stared at the map on the table. She pointed to where Troy was and Constantinople wasn't too far from them, but Romans going north? Towards Attila's territories? "No..they do not..." she looked up, staring at the wall, thinking this was news interesting, yet odd. "Have a group of mercenaries follow the Romans," she said and he blinked.

"This could be a trap!"

A smile graced her lips, "for them maybe," she winked.

Xena hadn't returned yet and Gabrielle still knew that she had some time to return, as it hadn't been an hour yet and she was sure Xena would keep her word to return. She decided to write while she waited, though not about Xena, but about her adventures being here. So far, it wasn't so bad, but she feared it might become worse especially Tanranus' urgency earlier. Whatever Xena had planned was not going to be good, Gabrielle knew that, but she had to remind herself, it was none of her business.

Anastasia frowned and her eyes fluttered open. She looked around the room and forgot where she was. She felt a hand come to her arm and she gasped, scooting away. Gabrielle frowned and then Anastasia relaxed, once she saw it was Gabrielle.

"Ana..." Gabrielle whispered. "Are you alright?" she asked and pulled her hand away.

The girl wrapped her arms around her knees, feeling safer this way. "" she couldn't stop looking around the room. "Where is my mother?" she asked and Gabrielle was about to answer, "where is she?!"

"She's busy right now," Gabrielle frowned and sat on the bed, seeing the panic in the girl's eyes. "Hey, calm down," she touched her shoulder and Anastasia flinched, scooting away from her. "She'll be back soon, I promise," she smiled, trying to ease the girl's nerves, though it didn't seem to be working at all.

Xena walked into the room and saw her daughter was finally awake. She smiled and saw Gabrielle was trying to talk to her. She walked over to the bed and Gabrielle got up, taking a few steps back. "Do you feel better?" she touched her daughter's cheek and she leapt forward, wrapping her arms around her. Xena was stunned and she pried her daughter off of her. "What is wrong with you?"

Anastasia's eyes filled with tears again and Xena shook her head, "don't cry again, please," she begged and the girl stopped herself short of having another sobbing fit. "Why are you acting like this?" she grazed her cheek with her fingers.

"Mother..." she tried to speak but ended up sobbing some more. Xena sighed and Gabrielle folded her arms, leaning on the bed post.

Xena pulled her daughter close to her, "did something happen?" she asked softly and Anastasia nodded her head. "What happened?"

"I...I can't tell you," she said in between breaths then began unconsciously braiding her long hair trying to distract herself.

"Why not?" Xena frowned and lifted her daughter's chin. "You can tell me," she tried and her daughter shook her head, continuing to braid her hair.

Gabrielle felt like this definitely was not going anywhere and she interrupted, "hey Anastasia, do you want to look at some dresses? I think you will like them. They have burgundy ones, and blue too," she smiled and Anastasia grinned up at her brightly. Xena frowned and Gabrielle extended her hand to the girl.

"We can talk about this later," Xena said and Ana nodded her head, grabbing Gabrielle's hand. She watched the two leave and sighed. Gabrielle was right after all, she really didn't know her daughter too well and obviously couldn't even talk to her like a human being.

Chapter Text

AN: war, war and punishments commence! Good luck and let me know what you all think ;)

Chapter 9 –The Punishment

Anastasia was looking through the dresses with Gabrielle and she examined each one very carefully. These dresses were definitely different than the ones her mother brought her back in Pannonia. These gowns were much prettier and softer material too. She picked up a dark blue sleeveless dress and held it up against her body.

"What do you think Gabrielle?" she asked with a smile.

Gabrielle took a step back and looked at the gown, and thought it was very beautiful, but she figured Anastasia would look beautiful in anything, just like Xena would. "Well, it's very nice, but I think it's a bit too...revealing for you," she nervously laughed and put the dress away and grabbed a long sleeved blue dress instead. "What about this one?" she offered.

Anastasia frowned, folding her arms as she saw the dress was indeed pretty, but not as pretty as the other one. "I don't like that one that much," she sighed and Gabrielle smirked. She then picked up a dark red dress with off the shoulder sleeves, "this one is nice!"

Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw that dress and Xena would definitely kill her for sure if she saw her daughter walking around in a gown like that. "You know what? We should probably stick to the long sleeved dresses." She grabbed her hand and lead her to the more modest gowns.

"But, you don't wear those dresses," Ana said and Gabrielle was caught there, but she was also older than her by seven years.

"I don't think your mom would want you to wear something that an older woman should wear," Gabrielle tried to relate to the girl and Anastasia didn't rebut that. She didn't want to upset her mother either, but maybe in a few years she could wear those dresses like Gabrielle.

The two began picking through the dresses and Gabrielle was glad to see that the girl's mood had changed, but still, she was acting so strangely ever since she came here. Perhaps she truly was just upset that she was left behind, but she definitely wasn't forgotten. Xena loved her a lot and it showed when she was alone with her, watching her by her side the entire time, but Gabrielle felt like something else was going on.

"Hey so," she nudged Ana's arm, "you were pretty upset earlier," she pried and the girl remained quiet, continuing to look through the dresses. "You said something happened..." she urged further and Anastasia moved to the other side of the table, picking through the gowns mindlessly. "I'm not your mother, you can tell me," she smiled.

The girl weakly grinned and lifted her eyes, "I just...can't tell her," she mumbled, "she will be angry."

Gabrielle frowned and stopped looking through dresses then stared at the teen, "well, maybe she has a right to be angry. I know she cares about you a lot and I think you know that too."

Anastasia nodded, "I know but she will be really...really angry," she exhaled heavily. "Gabrielle..." she said softly, "have you..ever been..." she couldn't bring herself to say it and suddenly felt super nervous and shy. She rubbed her arm unconsciously. "Have you ever been touched by someone before?" she asked with wary eyes.

Gabrielle lifted her eyebrow, "touched?" she saw the girl's eyes lower and then realization hit her. "Did a boy touch you?" she asked quietly and Anastasia nodded her head. "Did he do more than touch you?" she almost didn't want to know the answer and the girl nodded once more. Her eyes widened and now she felt terrible, no wonder the girl was so scared of everything and extremely upset. She also realized that Xena didn't know this, only she did and she needed to know, but Xena would probably be upset that Anastasia told her about this before her.

She walked towards her and embraced her warmly, "I'm sorry," she whispered and Anastasia remained silent. "You need to tell your mother," she said and the girl shook her head. "You have to! She will not be upset at you."

Anastasia picked up a dark purple gown, "what about this one, Gabrielle?"

The Onogur Bey received the letter from Attila early this morning and he frowned, reading it over for the second time. He looked to his advisor, "Attila is giving our land to Xena?" he wanted to make sure that was what he read.

His advisor nodded, "yes, Bey," he looked to his leader and saw the frustration written all over his face. "What do you say, Bey?"

The Bey sighed heavily and rolled up the parchment, tapping it on his knee. "If Attila wants to grant his land to Xena, then he must have a good reason to do it, right?" he asked, unsure of himself and his advisor lowered his eyes. "She is the most mad woman I've ever seen."

"She is a good warrior, Bey, but she is definitely an insane woman," he said and the Bey agreed. "Should we write Attila back, sir?"

"Yes, write him back immediately," he got up and left the room in a confused daze.

The Bey of the Akitziri territory close to the Caspian Sea, read the letter and scoffed, throwing the parchment into the fire inside of his yurt. His two eldest sons stood from the floor, wondering what the letter has said. "That woman!" he growled.

His eldest son, Uzale, grasped his father's shoulder, "what does the letter say, father?"

"Attila is giving our land to Xena!" the Bey began pacing around the fire, watching the letter slowly burn, though he wished it were Xena instead of words burning in that fire.

Uzale frowned, remembering Xena when he was a boy when she lived close to their tribe. She was awful, more than awful actually. She and her lover, Borias. He was not as bad as her, but she did whatever she wanted when she wanted and got away with it. though, in her tribe, people really liked her because she kept them safe. That all changed when she left to join Attila's army as her military commander years and years ago.

"Why would Attila allow Xena to have our land?" Uzale asked his father. He was already outraged that this woman was going to be in control of this area. They were doing just fine without her under Attila's reign.

The Bey shook his head, contemplating this decision. "I will not allow her to take over our land!" he left the yurt then saw a horde of men wearing all black with their faces covered. His eyes widened and his sons stood behind him, staring at the foreigners. The horsemen had a bunch of Akitziri soldiers tied up with ropes around their necks.

"Surrender yourself to Xena or die," one masked man said.

The Bey frowned, folding his arms arrogantly, "I refuse to submit to that Thracian harlot."

The Troy soldier waved his hand, "cut their heads off," he said and all the troops lined up on either side of him, unsheathed their swords, yanking on the ropes. The Akitziri soldiers groaned and looked to their Bey for some help.

"You are all barbarians!" the Bey yelled and he didn't wish to see his men slaughtered right before his eyes.

The Troy soldier grinned and held up her hand to halt Xena's men from decapitating all these Caspian men. "This is your last chance, Akitziri Bey. Xena takes all of your land, your weapons, your men and control of the Caspian Sea trade."

The Bey gasped, "no! She will not have our trade! The trade does not belong to her, it never has and never will!"

The Troy soldier waved his hand, "kill them," he commanded and the soldiers sliced the Akitziri men's throats with their swords swiftly then kicked their bodies to the ground.

Uzale stepped in front of his father, "you and Xena can go to hell!" he unsheathed his sword and other men around them pulled out their swords, surrounding the horsemen. "We will kill all of Xena's men, then fuck your women, then slaughter them afterwards!"

The Troy soldiers laughed and smiled at the Akitziri Lesser Bey. "We wish for peace, yet you want to fight," he teased.

Uzale grinned deviously, "once we kill you all, I will fuck your Thracian leader too," he lifted his eyebrows, "she's always had a beautiful figure. I will make her bleed from all her orifices as she begs for mercy," he chuckled.

The Troy soldiers pointed their blades at the Akitziri young Bey, "you will die first, boy."

Xena sat in her room sitting at the desk, signing documents over and over again for the last hour. Tanranus handed her the following parchment and she groaned, quickly signing her name. "Is that all?" she asked and he looked at her apologetically and brought out yet another document.

"Your men arrived in Akitziri yesterday. I should have a report later this evening about the Bey," he said and Xena signed her name for the final time and slammed the quill on the desk, already exhausted. She hated signing things, it was so boring and definitely her least favorite part about leading an army. Luckily for her, she never had to sign anything under Attila's rule because he signed his name on everything even if he was not responsible for it.

Xena nodded, "good and I want those mercenaries sent out immediately. I don't know what that emperor is doing sending men to Attila's territories."

Gabrielle and Anastasia walked in the room together and Xena smiled at her daughter. She looked a lot better since she saw her last and even had a plethora of dresses. Tanranus smiled nervously and grabbed all the parchments, exiting the room to leave them alone.

"I see you found a few dresses," Xena grinned and her daughter nodded her head. She touched her cheek softly and her daughter shied away from her. Xena felt a bit worried about her daughter being so distant and acting so strange with her, but she couldn't make her talk to her, she wasn't being interrogated.

Gabrielle felt Xena's tension from a few feet away and now she felt knots in her stomach as Anastasia stood silently. She nervously smiled and gently guided Anastasia away, "why don't you try one of those dresses on so your mother can see?" she suggested and the girl smiled weakly, then disappeared into a separate room.

Xena frowned, folding her arms. "What is going on?" she asked suspiciously.

Gabrielle felt a lump in her throat and she kept staring at Xena, trying to think of something quick to say. "Nothing," she shook her head, "she's still a little upset about earlier," she nervously said behind a smile. Xena eyed her cautiously then sat down on the bed, beginning to unlace her boots. "She picked out some pretty dresses."

Xena smiled, "I see that. I'm glad that she is starting to like them," she took off one boot and began unlacing the other. Gabrielle stood silently and felt incredibly nervous standing so close to her so she took a couple of steps back. Xena lifted her head and smirked, "am I a natural repellent to you now?" she teased. "You made a mistake Gabrielle, but the important thing is to learn from our mistakes," she winked up at her and took off her other boot, tossing it aside.

"I'll be sure to keep that in mind for next time," Gabrielle mused.

Xena lifted her eyebrow, "and you'll make sure there won't be a next time."

"Anastasia is a really beautiful girl. It's a shame you kept her hidden for so long..." Gabrielle hinted and Xena sighed heavily.

"Yes, she is," Xena ignored the second half of what Gabrielle had said. She slipped her stockings off underneath her pants and threw them aside. "You know, when I found out I was pregnant I didn't know what to do," she said and Gabrielle grabbed the chair, pulling it away at a fair distance and sat down. "Attila decided to raid Suevi in Visigoth territory during that time. I thought my life was going to end," she smirked, "knowing my life was forever going to be changed because of a baby."

Gabrielle lowered her eyes, listening to Xena's past life and she seemed very sincere and honest. She was acting normal for once and it surprised her that she was actually talking about herself without any boundaries at all. "Children change everything," she spoke from experience when her sister was born, her parents were constantly giving attention to her little sister instead of her.

Xena agreed, "yes they do. Attila allowed me to raid the eastern side of Suevi and Borias," she paused and saw Gabrielle listening, "Anastasia's father," she added and Gabrielle nodded. She continued, "he took the west. I didn't bother to tell him about the baby until we returned to Pannonia a couple of months later." She ran her fingers through her long hair and sighed, "I expected him to be really upset with me and leave but he didn't," she frowned.

Gabrielle smiled, "he seemed like a good man then," she said and Xena remained silent. "I guess that disproves your theory about all men being the same?" she teased.

Xena looked at her with a subtle smirk, "I still stand by what I said about men but you are right, Gabrielle, not all men are the same," she hated to admit that. "But he did stay with me," she smiled. "It didn't feel real to me until I felt her move for the first time," her hand came to her stomach and she grinned. "I promised myself at that moment that I would do anything to protect my child."

Gabrielle sunk in her chair now feeling incredibly nervous once Xena was to find out what happened to her daughter. She was being so kind and sweet right now, but she was sure she'd blow up once the news was broken to her. Anastasia came out of the room wearing a long sleeved burgundy chiffon gown.

"How does it look?" the girl asked, lifting the dress with her hands and Xena's eyes widened. She definitely didn't look like a Hun child then, she looked like a Greek woman in that dress. "Gabrielle picked it out for me."

Xena turned her head, staring at the blonde and smirked at her. Gabrielle nervously smiled and turned away. "Did she?" she walked forward and circled around her daughter, examining the dress. "She did a nice job," she complimented. Gabrielle turned her head around and her mouth gaped. Did she just give me a compliment?

Gabrielle cleared her throat, "don't you have something to tell your mother?" she eyed Anastasia. The girl's eyes widened and Xena frowned, staring at her daughter.

"Tell me what?" Xena asked.

The teen shook her head, staring up into her mother's eyes. "You will be really angry," she mumbled.

"I won't be angry at you, just tell me," Xena smiled and ran her fingers through her daughter's long hair.

Anastasia sighed and lowered her head, refusing to look into her mother's eyes, fearing the worst. "Some boys...came into our home and..." she wrapped her arms around herself. Xena frowned, not entirely sure she wanted to hear the rest of this story anymore. "One of them..." she sighed, "came into my room," her eyes slowly lifted up and saw her mother's eyes big eyes.

"Who?" Xena asked and her daughter shied away from her. "Who was it? Was it Ellac?"

The girl frowned, shaking her head. "No! It was Gurgis..." she muttered.

Xena folded her arms and felt her blood already boiling. She hated Orestes' son, he had always been a troublemaker and picked on the younger children his entire life. She placed her hands on her daughter's shoulders, "did he touch you?" she asked and the girl slowly nodded. "Did he hurt you?" she pried and Anastasia's eyes filled with tears. Xena frowned and grabbed her boots, immediately slipping them on, lacing them as quick as possible.

Gabrielle stood up and Anastasia wiped her eyes. "Where are you going?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena finished tying her boots and grabbed her cloak, "I'm going to scalp a few heads," she opened the door and briskly walked down the hall.

Gabrielle gasped and grabbed her cloak then touched Anastasia's cheek. "You stay here," she smiled and ran after Xena.

She ran down the hall and breathed heavily, wrapping the cloak around her body. Xena grabbed Tanranus's arm and glared into his dark eyes. "I'm going to Pannonia. My daughter stays here and I want her watched at all times. If anything happens to her," she grabbed his tunic, bringing him closer to her, "I will slice you into pieces and feed you to the hounds." She hissed and he nodded vigorously.

He rubbed his throat and stared at her with wide eyes. "Will you be taking men with you?" he asked.

"I want the entire front fleet to come with me," she exited the fortress and Gabrielle groaned, running after her still.

"Wait!" Gabrielle called and Xena jumped on her horse. "What are you planning to do?!"

Xena frowned, "I told you, I'm going to scalp that bastard," she pulled on her reins and the horse backed up slowly. Gabrielle couldn't believe she was really going to do that, well she could believe it, but already? So soon?

"Can I come with you?" the blonde asked, hoping she could, even though she wouldn't really be of much help there. Xena rolled her eyes and grabbed Gabrielle's arm hoisting her up on the horse. She squealed and then wrapped her arms around Xena's waist.

Theodosius' Roman soldiers trotted into Pannonia after a few days riding and Attila stood outside his home teaching his eldest son how to sword fight since he was not doing much else. With Xena gone, he no longer had a commander and therefore had to take care of everything himself, but he had no idea where she had run off to. He was positive that the Romans did not catch her otherwise he would know by now. It had been weeks and she disappeared.

Ellac looked over the hill and saw men on horses riding in, "father, Romans!" he shouted, pointing at the soldiers.

Attila frowned and ruffled his son's hair, "go inside," he pat his shoulder and Ellac ran inside with his sword. He watched the Romans come closer and noticed that their armor was different, not by much, but it was different for sure. And he also noticed Flavius Aetius was not with them either.

The general of the entourage got off his sword and bowed his head at the Hun king, "your majesty," he stood straight, "I'm Commander Honos of Emperor Theodosius army from Constantinople," he introduced himself.

"The Eastern emperor?" Attila asked, not quite sure what was going on. He had no interest in Constantinople especially after Aetius cut ties with him. Honos nodded his head at the king. "What brings you to Pannonia?" he was curious now.

Honos dug in his vest and pulled out a scroll, handing it to his second in command to take to Attila. The Hun king snatched the parchment and didn't even bother reading it because he could not. He always relied on Xena for these meetings and now that she was gone...this was going to be rather embarrassing. Honos cleared his throat, "the emperor wishes to make an alliance with you and your empire."

"Why?" Attila folded his arms defiantly.

"The emperor fears that Xena will attack Constantinople and since Valentinian is no longer allies with you, the eastern emperor would like to join forces with you, your highness," he bowed curtly.

Attila frowned and turned to walk inside his home, "follow me," he waved his hand. Honos looked to his men and left his horse, following the Hun king inside with his men.

Once everyone was inside the throne chamber, Attila sat down on his throne and the Romans remained standing. He smirked at the commander and though he was quite tall and muscular, he was nothing like the fierce blonde commander, Aetius. Wine was brought to them all and Attila took a glass, sipping slowly. He leaned back in the throne, completely relaxed. "So," he began, "Xena is not captured then?" he supposed.

Honos nodded and refused the wine, "yes your majesty. She is located in Troy at the moment. She has killed Commander Aetius' men when they tried to arrest her." He lowered his eyes and felt an instant pain in his gut just thinking about it. "She burned their bodies and impaled them on pikes outside of Troy as a –"

"A warning," the king interrupted. He chuckled and swished the wine leisurely. "She has done this before. You are not telling me anything new, commander." He leaned forward, "but Troy?" he rubbed his chin, "what a good spot to run away to," he smiled deviously. "What has your emperor done so far?"

Honos's eyes widened, "nothing yet your highness. He wanted us to make an alliance with you to ensure your loyalty to move forward and get rid of Xena."

Attila stood up, setting his wine on the armrest of the throne, "you mean to tell me...she is a few days ride from your holy city and you have done nothing?!" he growled and the Roman took a generous step back. "She probably has an army of three thousand by now!" he couldn't believe the incompetence of these Romans, perhaps Xena was right all those years ago. She was skeptical from the beginning when the alliance was sealed. She always hated Aetius and the Romans, but Attila refused to listen to her, but now...they couldn't do their job and arrest her, let alone kill her.

The Roman commander chuckled, "your highness, surely you don't believe she could build an army in a matter of less than a month's time..." he didn't want to believe that.

Attila shook his head and came within inches from the Roman's face, "you don't know her," he hissed. "There is a reason why she is known as the best military commander in all of the tribes." He folded his arms and began pacing. "Your emperor is a fool."

Honos was about to abject to that until a messenger came running in and grabbed the king's attention. The man whispered into Attila's ear and Honos watched the king's eyes widen with fury and an imminent frown appear on his face. Attila growled, "Xena!" he yelled and swiped his hand across the table, knocking all the wine glass onto the table. The Romans jumped and Honos was beginning to think this was a bad time.

Attila huffed and breathed heavily, clenching his fists over and over in waves, trying to calm himself. He turned to Honos, "she has taken the Onogur tribe and the Black Sea," his blood began boiling.

The commander frowned and asked, "how was she able to do that?"

"She told the Onogur Bey that I gave her the territories!" he growled and kicked the table over, now furious. His wife had been right about Xena all along –she was meant to take over his empire and she had already taken the Black Sea tribes and was sure she was willing to go as far to take the Caspian tribes as well. He took a step back and exhaled heavily, "I have underestimated her," he muttered to himself.

Honos looked to the angry king, "does this mean we have your alliance against her?" he hoped.

Attila frowned, "yes," he waved his hand and gestured them to follow him to the back of his home where his conference room was.

A dark blanket covered the sun and Xena's mercenaries that she had sent to follow the Eastern Roman soldiers arrived in Pannonia. A group of ten men left their horses in the woods and spread out across the large tribe. Each soldier dressed in all black and covered their faces with scarves to hide their identities.

Two men crawled on the floor close to Attila's home and saw three Romans guarding the horses outside the large dwelling. The two mercenaries split off into different directions and crawled on the grass, approaching the Romans. One man smiled and unsheathed a dagger, inching closer to the Roman. He sliced the Roman's ankles and jumped up, wrapping his gloved hand around the soldier's mouth, dragging him into the darkness.

The other Troy mercenary crept low to the ground and grabbed the Roman by his ankles and he fell to the ground. He drug him off into the darkness. There was only one Roman left and he looked around to see both of his comrades gone. The mercenary threw his dagger and it landed in the Roman's throat. He croaked and blood poured from his mouth. He took the blade out of his throat and placed his hand over the wound, though he was already dying. He collapsed to the ground, bleeding profusely.

Both mercenaries met up together with the Romans and pinned the soldiers against the wall of Attila's home. "Why are you here?" one of the mercenaries asked either of the Romans.

One Roman spoke up, "we were sent by our emperor!" he said and the mercenary covered his mouth to prevent him from screaming or talking any louder than he should have.

"Why?!" he hissed.

"Theodosius wants an alliance!" the Roman breathed heavily and begged, "please don't kill us!"

The mercenaries gave each other a look and then whipped out their daggers in their boots and thrust them in the Romans' guts, twisting the blade, covering their mouths as they cried out in agony. As soon as their job was done they sheathed their weapons and ran back into the dark woods.

Xena rode with her men into the woods in Pannonia. She tread carefully then saw horses already in the woods and smirked, knowing her mercenaries were already here. Gabrielle's eyes traveled around the creepy woods and never realized how strange this place looked at night. All the leaves were gone from the trees because of the early winter season, and the tree branches arched over one another, creating a spooky atmosphere.

Xena halted her horse and spoke quietly to her men, "I want you all to spread out and cover the entire perimeter. Do not make yourselves known," she said and the horsemen spread out in different directions of the woods. She smirked and caught a glimpse of Attila's home. She has able to see that his throne chamber was empty, which was a good thing on her part.

She hopped of her horse and looked to Gabrielle, "I have a special job for you Gabrielle," she smiled wickedly and the blonde hopped off the horse, wary of what her job was about to be. She didn't want to kill anybody that's for sure. "I'm going to find Gurgis and bring him to Attila's throne chamber. I will give the signal for my men to attack and when they do..." she leaned closely to her, "get all the children out of harm's way, think you can do that for me?"

Gabrielle shook her head, "I don't think so..." she sighed and Xena frowned down at her unhappily. "There must be hundreds of children here!"

Xena nodded, "right and you will have help, but I want this to work and I am counting on you," she winked.

"How will I know when you give the signal?" Gabrielle asked, not entirely sure she was going to be able to do what Xena asked of her, though at least she had a heart to save innocent lives, that's what mattered.

"Oh trust me, you'll know," she leaned down and kissed Gabrielle's forehead and disappeared into the dark woods, pulling her hood over her head.

Gabrielle blushed and she touched her forehead with her palm. Did she just kiss meWhat did I do to deserve that?

In the outskirts of Pannonia Gurgis carried two buckets of water back from the well to his yurt. He sighed and felt his arms becoming more sore than they already were. Ever since Attila's men brought him to the king's side, his father was reprimanded for over an hour. For this consequence he was beaten badly and had a black eye and lashes on his back. He was also confined to his home for a few months, though it didn't seem to matter because he heard a rumor that Anastasia was missing. He hoped that was true, then maybe his punishment might be lifted.

He picked up the buckets again and saw his home was not too far, but it felt like miles away. He groaned and kept walking slowly to the yurt. He stopped for a brief moment trying to gain his strength back and rubbed his upper arms.

Suddenly he was grabbed and drug behind a yurt with a gloved hand covering his mouth. His eyes widened and his muffled screams were deaf to those neighbors around him. He was pinned on the outside of a yurt and saw a black hooded person staring at him. He breathed heavily and then saw the hood slip off the head of his capturer.

Xena smiled at the teenager, "hello Gurgis," she hissed and he now wanted to get away more than ever. She pressed her hand on his mouth harder as he tried to scream louder. "You and I should talk," she winked then socked him in the face. He fell to the ground unconscious and she grabbed his arm, dragging him on the grass.

She walked to the center of the village and grabbed a torch along the way. Everyone outside their yurts, surrounding their fires gawked at her and thought she'd be dead, but no, she was here. She kept her eyes on Attila's home and drug Gurgis across the ground, carrying the torch with her.

Her eyes glanced around and she casually lit a yurt on fire as she passed through the city and lit the next one on fire as well. She began hearing screams and cries for help already and she smiled. She threw the torch on the blacksmith's yurt and it burst into flames, spreading rapidly.

Everyone ran out of their yurts and immediately started to put out the fires. In a distance, a horde of horse hooves was heard from around the outskirts. The people of Pannonia scrambled as they saw Xena's men riding into the city, lighting yurts on fire with lit torches.

Gabrielle waited in the woods and saw the entire city being burst into flames and her eyes widened. Her eyes traveled over and saw Xena walking up the steps inside Attila's home dragging a boy, which she assumed was Gurgis, behind her. Is this the signal? She noticed children running for their lives and she sighed, jumping onto Xena's horse, riding into the burning city.

Xena's men grabbed women by their hair as they tried to escape and sliced the Pannonian men as they tried to attack with swords and various farming tools. Gabrielle frowned and hastily rode over to the man, holding onto the woman's hair as she cried for help.

"Let her go!" Gabrielle yelled, "we are not here to murder women too!" she said and the soldier frowned at her then dropped the woman and rode off. She thanked the gods that worked otherwise she didn't know what to do. She didn't have another plan in mind.

She saw a group of children huddled behind a yurt and she rode over to them. "You need to get out of here!" she yelled and the children cowered in fear of her. She smiled, "I'm not going to hurt you, I promise. Run to the woods, you will be safe there!" she said and the group of children didn't take no for an answer and took off running into the dark woods. Frowning, Gabrielle turned around and saw people running around, panicking. This is going to be difficult.

Xena came inside Attila's throne room and dropped the teen boy onto the floor, kicking his body over onto his back. She grabbed a pitcher of water and dumped it on him. Gurgis breathed heavily and blinked rapidly. His blurry vision came to and he saw Xena glaring down at him. He gasped and tried to crawl away.

She smiled and stomped on his ankle and he cried out in agony. She leaned down and grabbed Gurgis by his belt and slid him close to her. She lifted him up by his shirt and he kicked his legs in the air. She lifted an eyebrow at the boy.

"You like to rape little girls, Gurgis?" she smiled deviously and he shook his head. "Oh? You don't?" she pulled out her dagger and held it up to his throat. His eyes widened in fear and she dropped him onto the ground. He began scooting away from her and she walked slowly over to him. He looked at the chains on her boots and with every step she took, they had a musical jingle to them.

He bumped into a statue and breathed heavily, staring up at her. She knelt down in front of him and slit open his shirt, exposing his chest. She traced the blade along his bare skin and he trembled in fear. "Are you afraid?" she whispered and he said nothing, and began sweating. "You didn't seem afraid when you were taking advantage of my daughter," she smiled and she cut into his skin slowly. He winced, closing his eyes, embracing the pain.

She grabbed the boy by his hair and reared his head back. She traced the dagger along his cheek slowly. He watched the dagger out of the corner of his eye, feeling as if his heart was going to pound out of his chest. "So tell me," she alleged, "how was it? Was it good? Did you enjoy it?" she hissed with a big grin on her face. "Did you enjoy it?!" she growled and he shook his head.

"I'm sorry!" he begged for his life.

"You're sorry?" she pouted, "oh but 'I'm sorry' isn't going to be good enough," she smiled and cut his cheek with the dagger's tip. "You are trembling like a child, Gurgis, but you were not acting like a child when you were inside my daughter, were you?" she frowned, looking into the teenager's dark eyes. "I bet you think you're a real man now, huh?" she chuckled lowly and he cringed as she cut deeper into his cheek. "Would you like to bed me next? Would you like that? You are a man after all, Gurgis," she winked.

"Please!" he begged and she snarled at him, rearing his head back and then stabbed the boy in his gut. He gasped audibly and dug the blade deeper into his body. He spat out blood and she took the dagger out, standing up, wiping the blood off onto her pants. He rolled over onto his side and blood poured from his wound and she turned around, walking off.

She sheathed her dagger and smiled seeing Attila's throne. She sat in it comfortably, tapping her fingers on the armrests. Looking out beyond the columns she saw people running in fear and the entire place burning to the ground.

Attila came running out from his conference room once he was alerted that his entire city was being burned to the ground. Honos and the other Roman soldiers followed behind him. He ran into his throne room and saw Gurgis dead on the floor in a puddle of blood. His eyes widened and heard screams from afar.

Xena smiled, "Attila, so nice to see you," she announced and Attila spun around, seeing Xena sitting in his throne. She grabbed his jeweled crown donned with gold chains and emeralds. She looked at it, "this is a nice crown," she mused.

The Hun king pointed at her, "did you kill Gurgis?!" he yelled and she just looked at him with that eerie smile. "He was just a child!"

She frowned, "he raped my daughter! Is she not a child?"

"I made sure he was punished for what he did, Xena!" Attila grabbed a sword off the wall and pointed the blade at her. "Why are you attacking my city?!"

She tapped her fingers on the armrests casually as he pointed the blade towards her. "" she grinned. "No, you see, Attila, the Romans tried to arrest me and they couldn't even do that. Now I am here and you cannot even protect your own people!" she laughed mockingly and he charged forward towards her. She blocked him with her sword as she sat in his throne. He pressed down harder and she smiled up at his green furious eyes, "careful, Attila, you might ruin that pretty face of yours," she teased. She then kicked his leg and he faltered, stumbling backward. She stood up and pointed her sword at the Romans. "Your emperor is a fool to ally with Attila! He will be betraying his Western allies and you will end up dead, all of you!"

Honos unsheathed his sword, "surround her!" he demanded and his men pulled out their swords, forming a circle around Xena.

Xena smiled, "oh boys, please," she scoffed. "Save it for later when I take Attila's spot in his empire," she grinned at the Hun king.

Attila frowned, "you can't be serious?" he chuckled, "you will never be queen of the Huns, Xena!"

She looked up and saw a candle chandelier hanging above them. "Oh we will see about that," she grabbed her whip and yanked on the chandelier, pulling the chains down. She ran out of the way and Attila tumbled on the floor out of the way as the chandelier came crashing down. The Romans scattered and she smiled at them all. "Well, this has been fun, but I must be going," she winked at Attila and ran down the stairs.

Gabrielle spotted Xena coming out of Attila's home and she breathed heavily, riding up to her. Xena looked around and saw dead bodies all over the place. "Did you get the children to safety?" she asked.

Gabrielle nodded, "yes but I...I think we should leave," she didn't like this entire idea of raiding a city and especially since these were Xena's people, it felt even more wrong. Although, Gabrielle did not physically kill anyone, she felt like she had killed hundreds in just a few moments. Death surrounded her and she had never seen so much destruction in such a short amount of time. Xena hopped on the horse in front of her and yanked on the reins, riding off beyond the burning yurts and back into the woods. Her men followed shortly after.

"What did you do to Gurgis?" Gabrielle was almost afraid to know.

Xena frowned, "I killed him," she stated bluntly and the blonde's eyes grew. She couldn't believe that Xena would do that, if he was only a teenager like Anastasia said.

"But he was a child!" Gabrielle protested and wrapped her arms around Xena's waist as they rode through the creepy forest, getting away from Pannonia as quickly as possible.

Xena halted the horse abruptly and the horse reared on its hind legs. Gabrielle gasped and wrapped her arms tighter around Xena's waist. "He is not a child! He is a rapist, Gabrielle! Who knows, if there were other girls there, he might have raped them too!" she said and Gabrielle glared at her.

"You didn't have to kill him," she replied.

"Since when do I take orders from you?" Xena growled, circling on her horse waiting for the rest of her men to catch up.

Gabrielle groaned, "what if it was your child that was killed?!"

"But she wasn't and she is the victim here! Why are you defending that scum?" Xena yelled back, becoming more infuriated by the minute.

"Because it's wrong, Xena!" Gabrielle yelled, letting all her frustration out.

Xena widened her eyes and slowly turned her head over her shoulder, "what did you call me?" she said barely above a whisper. Gabrielle hadn't felt afraid of Xena before but now she felt very afraid at this very moment. The blonde's eyes grew as she felt Xena's eyes stab through her soul and then heard a really loud explosion. Xena lifted her head and saw the city had burst into flames, the fire spreading. The fire must have spread to the oil, she gathered.

All of the men caught up with them and Xena grunted, pulling on the reins, riding off into the darkness, though she wouldn't forget that, she wouldn't let Gabrielle forget that. Mistake number two, Gabrielle.


Chapter Text

AN: Xena gets in touch with another side of herself, perhaps for the better ;) good luck to all and thank you for reading along.

Chapter 10 –The Philosopher

The Troy army stopped a good distance away from Pannonia, right in between Troy and Attila's capital. The winter weather was too strong to ride during the night and Xena's men decided to allow the now orphaned children from Pannonia, ride with them and after the tents were set up, all the children, which weren't that many, stayed in a tent together close to the center of the camp.

Gabrielle stayed outside sitting next to the fire with her cloak wrapped tightly around her body, shivering slightly. The snow flurries were light, but she expected the snowfall to become heavier as the night went on. Her eyes traveled to Xena's tent which was on the outskirts of the camp, and of course, she had the largest most ornate tent out of everyone. Figures, she thought. Breathing curtly, it wasn't helping that it was deathly freezing out here and usually, she stayed in Xena's tent in a separate room during their short travels together, but not this time. Xena made her stay outside in the snow and Gabrielle definitely was not going to sleep in one of the soldier's tents. She'd be damned if she shared a tent with these men only because she didn't trust them and these men probably haven't seen a woman in years and if they did, they were whores they paid, and she was no whore that's for sure.

She really didn't want to stay outside and she was positive that no sleep would come her way either. As she cuddled up closer to the fire she heard a baby crying from the children's tent not too far from her. Frowning, she saw a small boy leave the tent with a baby no older than a year old, in his arms, red faced and wailing so loud that could alarm enemies around.

The boy caught Gabrielle's eye and worriedly walked over to her, trying to support the baby against his small frame. She smiled and stood up, towering over the boy whom didn't look any older than eight years old. The boy couldn't keep quiet and began complaining to Gabrielle, "he keeps crying, I don't know what to do!" he cried.

Gabrielle took the baby from the boy's arms and the infant continued to wail in her ear. She cringed and covered the baby with the blanket he was wrapped in. "Is he your brother?" she asked and he wagged his head. Sighing she touched the baby's head, trying to soothe him, but it wasn't working at all. "Why don't you go back in the tent and I'll take care of him, okay?" she smiled and the boy ran off back to the tent, desperate to get away from the cold.

Holding the baby in her arms she eyed Xena's tent and she really didn't know anything about children, especially babies, but Xena did. She breathed in heavily then marched over to Xena's tent, bypassing the guards outside the large tent.

Xena lifted her eyes from her bed on the floor and frowned deeply at Gabrielle. "What do you think you're doing in here?" she hissed and Gabrielle uncovered the blanket around the baby and Xena lifted her eyebrow.

"A boy brought this baby to me and he said he won't stop crying," Gabrielle said calmly and watched Xena's eyes soften a bit. "I don't know what to do with him...I..." she lowered her eyes, feeling her body already shaking from nerves. "I know that you might know so you," she managed to say and lifted her eyes, staring at Xena's blank face.

Xena sighed and tapped her fingers on her knee. She didn't really appreciate Gabrielle barging into her tent like so considering she had demanded she'd stay outside. "Bring him here," she mumbled and Gabrielle hurried over, kneeling down beside her and Xena grabbed the infant into her arms, folding the blanket around his small body. Her finger traced the baby's cheek and she smiled down at him as he kept crying. She reached for the glass of wine and Gabrielle frowned as she was curious to what she was doing. Is she seriously going to drink wine right now?

She dipped her finger in the wine and stuck her finger inside the baby's mouth, gently rubbing his gums. Gabrielle cringed and then saw the infant slowly stopped crying as he kept suckling on Xena's finger, grabbing her hand. Gabrielle leaned in closer and the baby's eyes grew widely as he gazed up at Xena.

"What are you doing?" the blonde asked in awe.

Xena grinned down at the baby in her arms and looked to Gabrielle's confused face. "He's teething," she alleged, "I used to do this to Anastasia when she was teething. I found that it worked well."

Gabrielle smiled and saw the baby slowly closing his eyes in Xena's arms. "That's amazing! You made him stop crying!"

Xena lifted her eyebrow incuriously, "it's not an amazing feat, Gabrielle," she said bluntly. "I still haven't forgotten what you said back there," she grinned.

Gabrielle sighed and scooted away from her, feeling nervous once more. "It was an accident," she defended herself. "I won't do it again, but it is...your name," she said and Xena glared at her. "I don't feel comfortable calling you 'master' or 'ma'am' or 'queen'", she finally said something that had been on her mind since the day she met Xena. She wasn't a slave and never will be even though Xena claimed that she was.

The raven haired warrior smirked and adjusted the slumbering baby in her lap, "you really do speak your mind don't you?" she watched Gabrielle as she continued to stare at her intensely with those wide green eyes. "I like your honesty, Gabrielle, but..." of course there was a 'but' Gabrielle thought. "You and I are not equal and we are not the same and never will be the same, understand?"

Gabrielle did not feel satisfied with that answer, so she asked, "why do think we can't be equal? Do you not believe in treating people with respect?"

"You don't think I respect you Gabrielle?" Xena smiled cunningly. "I gave you a place to sleep, I feed you and I let you wear whatever you want. Is that not enough for you?" she hissed and saw a frown appear on Gabrielle's lips. "Oh but you want more, right? You want to go back to Greece, to your happy paradise of bliss, correct?" she sneered, "you can forget that life, Gabrielle, you'll never go back to Athens, not as long as you're with me."

Gabrielle folded her arms and crossed both of her legs, glaring at the woman. "You think giving me food and clothes is a sign of respect?" she scoffed and Xena snarled at her, though mindful that she had a baby in her arms, she remained cool and collected for the time being. "If you treat others with respect then maybe people would like you more."

Xena scoffed, stifling a laugh, "nobody likes me Gabrielle and respect has nothing to do with that. They cross boundaries with me and when they do this...they must face consequences." She bundled the blanket around the infant as he slept soundly in her arms. She glanced over to her blonde slave, "you said I was heartless, is that how you show respect?" she spat back Gabrielle's own words at her.

The blonde's eyes widened, "that was different! You kidnapped me! You expect me to show my undying gratitude to you because of that? I've never been a slave my entire life and suddenly you come along and tell me I'm your slave!" she stood up and Xena looked up at her angry expression. "My family is not from a line of slaves and if they ever found out that I have become a slave, I bring dishonor to my mother and my sister!" she folded her arms, glaring at the Hun woman. "Does that mean anything to you? Have you no honor?"

Xena lifted her eyebrow and set the baby on a pile of pillows, wrapping the blanket around him tightly then stood up, coming closer to Gabrielle. "People think of me as a savage, as you do too. Just because I things...differently than you does not mean I don't understand what honor is," she glared down at her, towering over the blonde. "You must think of me as uneducated and unintelligent. I am from the same land as you, Gabrielle. I know how our kind operates –they believe anyone who cannot read or write is worth nothing. Why would anyone want to stay in a society like that?" she scoffed, folding her arms.

She continued, "honor is subjective Gabrielle. You understand this word, yes?" she nodded mockingly at the blonde and she remained quiet, staring into Xena's blue eyes. "I killed Gurgis because I was defending my daughter's honor and mine. You and I may disagree on what the true meaning of honor is, but certainly your definition will always be different than mine. It has nothing to do with our backgrounds."

Gabrielle mirrored Xena's defensive stance and exhaled sharply, "you want your honor respected by others. That we can agree on," she stated and Xena leaned down closer to her face and she took a step backward. "So, why won't you respect mine?"


Xena frowned then turned and walked back to the bed, staring at the sleeping infant on the pillows. Must be nice to be oblivious and have no problems to worry about, she thought to herself. She opened and closed her fist over and over, going over her thoughts running through her mind. Gabrielle had stumped her and she made a valuable point. She never liked Greeks, they always used debates and intelligent arguments to win, though they won gracefully and lost gracefully, she just wasn't wired to think the same as Gabrielle was.

"True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us," Gabrielle said and Xena slowly turned around with a surprised look in her eyes. "It's a quote by –"

Xena interrupted, "I know who it's by," she replied bluntly.

Gabrielle blinked and was not expecting Xena to know the quote at all, especially not the source it was from. She tried hard to hide her smile but it was inevitable. "You've read philosophy before..."

"To find yourself, think for yourself," Xena smirked and nodded her head, "you assume that I know so little, Gabrielle. You shouldn't make assumptions about me."

The blonde grinned finally and Xena kept glaring at her with that unknowing look in her icy eyes. "You surprise me."

Xena smiled softly and looked over at the sleeping baby once more. "Stick around and I may surprise you some more," she winked and bent down, picking up the infant in her arms. "Take him back to the tent," she said and Gabrielle grabbed the baby, heading out of the tent. Xena watched her leave and then called out, "Gabrielle," she said and the blonde turned around, "you can..." she sighed, "sleep over there," she pointed to the separate room in her large tent. Gabrielle smiled and disappeared to deliver the baby back to the tent with the rest of the children.

After Gabrielle had finally settled the baby in the tent with the rest of the children she hesitantly entered Xena's tent and saw that she was already asleep with most of the candles blown out. She smiled and silently thanked her saving her from the cold and went into the separate room to sleep as well. They would have to get up in a few short hours to leave this place anyway.

It was early in the morning and Attila stood on the steps of his unburned home and saw the destruction that Xena had done to this city, this wondrous city that his uncle and father had built together so long ago. All the hard work of his family was gone in just one night, one short night, one careless night. He saw dead bodies all over the snowy soil and most of his men still left alive carried the dead bodies, mostly men and a few women that burned alive in their homes, unable to escape. The bodies were to be burned in order to not spread disease and he hated to see his own people be slaughtered by someone who had thought was like a sister to him, a friend. Xena was not a friend, she was his enemy and even a greater foe after what she did.

Kreka, his wife, came to join him by his side. She grabbed his shoulder, gently squeezing it. His eyes glanced to her and she gave him an apologetic grin. "I told you she would turn against you," she whispered.

Attila growled, "she desecrated everything!" he waved his hand over the land, "it's gone!" he frowned and his wife kissed his shoulder gently. "She took the lives of my men and stole all the Pannonian children," he rubbed his forehead in frustration.

"Perhaps her defeat will burn that ice around her black heart one day," she said and he turned to her with a curious expression. "You have to kill her, Attila, or she will come back and obliterate you."

"What else could she do? I have nothing!" he growled and folded his arms, staring at all the dead bodies being drug off into the outskirts of the city.

Kreka shrugged her shoulder, grabbing a hold of her husband's forearm. "You have Theodosius on your side. His army is larger than Xena's...surely," her finger traced along his bicep, "he will help you get rid of her."

He shook his head, "size does not matter with Xena. She came here with less than a hundred men and killed thousands in one night. Imagine what she could do with a fleet of five thousand?" he eyed his wife and saw fear in her eyes.

She frowned at him and turned his cheek towards her, staring into his bright green eyes, "how would she be able to accumulate so many men on such short notice?" she questioned.

He chuckled and kissed his wife's forehead gingerly and grazed his palm along her soft cheek. "You obviously don't know anything about Xena," he walked off and she followed beside him. "Do you know what the Caspian tribes call her?" he asked and she wagged her head, of course. He linked arms with her as they walked side by side down the long hallway of their home. "The scourge sent by the gods above," he stated and she lowered her eyes, leaning into his body. "She is also known as the Caspian Queen, you know."

His wife looked up to him, "I thought she was never a queen? Wasn't she just a military commander?" she was now super confused. She had known Xena for a decade now, and she was much younger than Xena, so if she was as cruel as she is now, she couldn't imagine what she was like when she was in her youth.

Attila laughed under his breath, "you truly know nothing of Xena, my dear wife." He said and her face contorted with confusion. "She is a foreigner, she is not of Hunnic blood," he explained and Kreka's eyes widened hearing that shocking news. "She is from Thrace and the Visigoths invaded her land, which at her young age, she fought against them. The Caspian Huns also fought off the Goths, protecting my uncle's land. They recruited her to join them and she did." He sighed heavily and continued, "she took over everything in the Caspian Sea tribes after her recruitment. I probably should have known that she was dangerous from the start, but I was young and so was she but...she was smarter than me," he shook his head, upset at his naivety at the time all those years ago. "How does a foreigner gain land and take control of an entire tribe of thousands?" he couldn't wrap his head around it.

She tightened her hold around his arm and leaned her head against his shoulder, "you are not young anymore Attila and you have seen war many times. You are smarter now –you can outsmart her."

He was skeptical of his wife's words and appreciated her confidence in him, but he didn't think he could 'outsmart' Xena for the life of him. "She is always one step ahead of me, Kreka."

"So," she stopped in front of him, grasping his hands, "get one step ahead of her..." she slyly grinned up at him. "She is not queen until she kills you."

He nodded and kissed his wife on her lips unexpectedly. "I'm going to take the emperor's offer and move the capital to Aquincicum. Sometimes you must lose everything to gain everything," he winked and walked off to meet with the Romans sitting in the conference room, waiting patiently.

Ellac passed by his father and saw his stepmother standing in the middle of the hall. He walked over to her and she looked down at the teen. "Is Xena really in Troy?" he asked.

"Yes, she is," she walked off and he followed her.

"Is Anastasia there too?" he inquired, quite curious.

Kreka frowned, halting mid-step, glaring down at Attila's eldest son. "What does it matter where that girl is?!" she harshly said and Ellac frowned. "You shouldn't care about that girl, she is the daughter of your father's traitor." She walked briskly down the hall and he ran ahead of her, blocking her path.

"I want to know if she is safe!" Ellac stood his ground and she gently pushed him aside. "Hey!" he pushed her back and she gasped. "You can't push me, I am a prince!"

She marched over to the boy and smiled tightly down at him, trying to be patient with him. "And I am married to your father, the king. You will show me respect, I am your mother now."

"Stepmother," he corrected her. "You will bow to me once I am king and have a wife of my own," he grinned sneakily and walked off to his room. She frowned, watching the arrogant prince disappear round a corner. The two had never really gotten along their entire lives, despite Kreka being a mother figure to him since he was a small boy, he never really attached himself to her.

Xena rode into the outskirts of Troy with her men following behind her only a few days after the Pannonia raid. The older children walked most of the way while the younger ones rode on horseback with some of the soldiers. She came over the hill and saw a wall of Romans guarding Troy and she smiled. She halted and put her hand up for her men to stop behind.

She trotted up the hill and the Romans unsheathed their swords. She smiled, "oh, a party? You shouldn't have," she chuckled under her breath at her own joke.

Marcus, the second in command of Flavius Aetius sat on his horse in the center of the wall of Romans. "We have you surrounded Xena, give up now and this won't get bloody."

"I like blood," she smiled and turned her head over her shoulder, "Gabrielle take the children away from here," she instructed and pulled out her sword, turning her attention back to the Romans. "Now, where were we? Oh yes, blood," she frowned and waved her hand to her men to attack the Romans. The horde of Troy soldiers rode forward towards the wall of Romans and Xena pulled on her reins retreating from the battlefield.

"If a man dies without a drop of blood on their blade, I will castrate him!" she yelled and rode off beyond the hill leaving her men to fight by themselves.

Marcus frowned seeing Xena retreating and he pulled on his reins, following her. Xena looked behind her and smiled as the Roman was riding a few paces behind her. She yanked on the reins and rode faster, through the woods. Marcus growled and ducked his head under the tree branches, chasing after her.

Her eyes widened as she rode through the forest and knew there was a cliff here that dropped directly into the sea below that surrounded Troy. Grinning deviously, she picked up speed and saw the cliff approaching as she raced through the opening of the forest.

Marcus gasped as he saw the cliff and pulled on the horse's reins, skidding to a stop. He saw that Xena was not stopping, in fact, she was gaining incredible speed. "By God, she is insane..." he muttered and then he saw Xena's horse leap into the air, soaring across the cliff and land on the other side effortlessly. A few rocks fell from the cliff as the horse's hooves came to a stop.

She smiled, trotting around in a circle, staring at the dazed Roman. "Aren't you going to come for me?" she begged. "What a poor excuse of a soldier you are, Roman," she sheathed her sword and rode off down the cliff and headed for the fortress within the inner part of Troy.

He grumbled and watched her retreat back to her safe haven. He rode off back into the forest to go back with his men, disappointed in himself.

Xena rode into the fortress grounds after the doors were opened. She hopped off the horse and marched directly over to Tanranus and he was already fearful, seeing her angry face, glaring at him. "Are you aware that there is a horde of Romans outside these walls?!" she yelled, inches from his face.

His mouth gaped, "no, I...Xena, we did not hear any word from the guards..."

She grimaced and pushed him out of the way, "I ought to kill all of these so-called guards in this establishment!" she placed her hands on her hips and turned around. "I want the entire fleet out there immediately." She walked off into the palace then called out, "oh and prepare the catapults," she instructed.

Tanranus cleared his throat and whistled at the men to gather around to tell them of Xena's plan. He never thought he'd use those catapults again and in fact they were in the large armory room and haven't been touched for over five years since the Hun invasion of Troy. He thought that Xena's plan to use the catapults was definitely a good way to get rid of Romans, but the enemy did not have such amenities at their disposal. They were unprepared which only meant that this fight...was...unfair –just Xena's style, of course.

Xena briskly walked down the hallway and opened her bedroom door to see Anastasia sitting in bed, writing something. Her daughter lifted her head and was rather anxious to see her, instead of pleased. Xena walked over to her and grabbed her hand, pulling her down the hallway.

"Where are we going?!" Ana had a hard time keeping up with her mother as she was being forcefully dragged down the hall.

"Somewhere safe," she opened a door and pointed to the staircase that lead to darkness. "I want you to go down there and don't come out until I call for you."

Anastasia looked up at her mother and frowned, "what is down there?"

"Nothing, just go," she gently pushed her daughter and she refused to go any further. "Ana, please, just do what I say. I don't have time to argue with you." Her daughter sighed and walked down the stairs hastily then Xena disappeared through the back exit of the fortress which lead to the outskirts of Troy.

Gabrielle was definitely not familiar with this area and she had the small group of children huddled around her as they hid behind a large cluster of trees, far away enough from the battle. All the boys looked up at her as she peeked out from behind the tree and saw the Troy soldiers slaughtering the Romans and Xena was nowhere to be found.

Groaning she turned around and sat back down in front of the children. She smiled at them, trying not to let them get distracted. "Everything will be fine don't worry," she calmly explained.

One of the smaller boys stood up and pointed beyond the trees, "Xena!" he yelled out and Gabrielle turned her head to see Xena walking towards them. For once, she was relieved to see Xena, though, why wasn't she fighting with her men?

Xena exhaled heavily and saw her men fighting against the Romans only a few yards away. "Gabrielle, I want you to take all the children and follow me," she instructed and saw a boy holding the baby she had taken care of a few nights ago. She smiled and grabbed the baby out of the boy's arms and walked off with the trail of young boys following.

Gabrielle frowned and walked alongside Xena, "where are we going and why aren't you fighting them?" she asked.

"Safety first, Gabrielle," Xena walked faster and lead them inside the fortress and waited until everyone was inside and closed the door behind her. The baby in her arms started crying again and she sighed. "This way," she pointed down the hallway and lead the way.

Anastasia sat down in the windowless cellar, wandering around looking at all the boxes and barrels filled with wine she supposed. She heard footsteps from the stairs and backed away, afraid that someone was going to come in here and attack her or perhaps even take advantage of her. She looked around and grabbed a staff, ready for anything.

Gabrielle emerged in the room with a slew of children running in front of her and then Xena came walking down the stairs with the baby in her arms. Anastasia breathed a sigh of relief and hid the staff behind her back, smiling at her mother and Gabrielle.

"Gabrielle!" Anastasia ran forward and hugged the petite blonde warmly. Gabrielle grinned and pat her shoulder, happy to see her. Pulling away she saw the children climbing on all the boxes and frowned, "what are these children doing here?" she squinted her eyes and saw some of the boys she definitely recognized and turned to her mother. "Are those Yasmine's twin boys?" she asked, now very confused.

Xena grinned nervously, "it's a very long story," she explained roughly and her daughter kept staring at her curiously. "You all are staying down here until it's safe to come out, understand?" Gabrielle and Anastasia nodded. Xena sighed and handed the baby off to her daughter.

Anastasia's eyes lit up as she looked into the baby's eyes and he immediately stopped crying, in awe of her. "He's so adorable!" she grinned and sat down on a large chest, settling the infant in her lap. "I want one," her eyes grew playfully, subtly playing with the child.

Xena's eyes widened, "if the Romans don't give me a heart attack, then she surely will," she muttered and Gabrielle stifled a laugh. She turned and went for the stairs.

Gabrielle ran up to her and grabbed her hand and Xena swiftly snapped her head around, and Gabrielle immediately pulled her hand away. " will we know when it is safe to come out?" she asked.

"When I come for you," Xena said and looked at the boys who were already getting into boxes that they shouldn't. "Watch them," she instructed and ran up the stairs to the battlefield above.

Tanranus stood on the top of the fortress walls and saw there were more Romans coming out of the woods, apparently this was a surprise attack. He had no idea and he was already thinking of his death warrant sent out by Xena. She didn't like surprises, she was the one who surprised people, not the other way around.

Xena ran up the stairs to the second floor of the military compound and overlooked the city, seeing Romans riding towards the building. She frowned and Tanranus inched away from her. "Where are the catapults?" she demanded.

He tapped his fingers on the edge of the wall, "inside the center of the compound." He nervously looked at Xena and she was pissed, he could tell. "Are you sure it's a good idea to use those, Xena?"

Her eyes grew in fury and glared at Tanranus. She grabbed him by his vest and pulled him close to her, "are you questioning me, Tanranus?" she hissed.

He shook his head, "no, it's just that...they haven't been used in a long time's going to wipe them all out in one blow."

Xena smiled wickedly, "then they should have thought twice about coming here, shouldn't they?" she released him and whistled to the men below, seeing three catapults lined up in a row. "Fire on my command!" she yelled and the men began loading the machines accordingly.

She looked over the wall and saw the Romans approaching faster and her smile widened. Marcus was staring dead at her from afar. What a coward you are. She waited until they were close enough and raised her hand, "fire!" she yelled and Tanranus turned away, not really wanting to look.

The Roman soldiers rode towards the fortress then saw several flaming projectiles coming straight towards them. They halted their horses and mouths gaped in fear. "She has catapults!" one soldier cried out and retreated the other way.

Xena's eyes grew excitedly as she saw the field below explode into flames and Romans were blown to smithereens, being thrown yards away off their horses. She turned her head over her shoulder, "again!" she yelled.

Marcus gasped and pulled on his reins, riding backwards from the blow and saw one of his soldiers blown into pieces, his limbs scattered all over the field. "Ballistic weapons..." he growled. A few of his men rode towards him and they had blood splattered all over their faces.

"Sir, we need to retreat!" one soldier suggested and heard the catapults release more projectiles, soaring into the grim winter skies. "Dear God in Heaven!" he cried and rode off further into the outskirts, fearing death itself. Marcus frowned and saw that this definitely was hopeless to win against Xena. He shouldn't have even bothered trying. Aetius, you are a fool.

The snowy ground was filled with ashes, severed limbs and blood. Marcus glared at Xena and huffed, "burn in hellfire, Xena!" he spat on the ground and rode off with the rest of his men.

Xena laughed mockingly at the Roman commander, "oh, don't flatter me!" she called out and he rode off. She smiled and held her hand up to cease the men below controlling the machines. Turning to Tanranus she pulled out her dagger and held it close to his throat, "you had one job!" she hissed and his eyes grew in fear. "I left you in charge and you failed..." she smiled and withdrew her dagger. "But I will forgive you..." she hummed quietly, "after all, we all make mistakes...don't we?" she winked and walked off, going back inside to the fortress.

Tanranus exhaled heavily and wrapped his hand around his neck. At that moment, he thought she was going to slice him open, though she gave him a second chance. He would have to thank God for that later in the quiet of his own room.

Later in the evening Xena decided to allow the children to stay in one room altogether and it wouldn't be too hard since they were all boys. The servant girls watched over them which was a huge load off Xena's shoulder. She decided to keep her distance from Tanranus ever since she approached him on the wall earlier in the day during the attack. She could have slit his throat right then and there, but she decided to give him another chance to redeem himself and if he failed again, he would face the consequences.

Though now, she had to worry about Flavius Aetius and his idiot men attacking Troy. Everyone knew where she was, which wouldn't be a problem for her. She now understood that the Eastern Emperor wanted to befriend Attila and she definitely didn't expect that curveball coming at all. After Valentinian, or more appropriately, Aetius, cut ties with Attila, she didn't expect Theodosius to ally with the Huns. He was barely allies with his Western Roman counterpart, though it was hard to take that young foolish emperor seriously.

Xena came into her bedroom after spending hours alone marking up a map as well as jotting down some notes for herself. Tomorrow, she'd tell Tanranus about the plans and would need Gabrielle to write some more letters for her, but this time, they will be political letters, something that the Hunnic peoples are not known for conducting. Politics did not exist in the Hun's culture unlike the Romans and Greeks. The Huns were a monarchy and very tribal, which made it difficult for outsiders to ally with them, though they had done well with the Western Romans until recently. Xena knew that relationship wouldn't have lasted and knew it would end as soon as they fought the Visigoths together. Aetius had his own agenda, as did she.

Gabrielle sat behind Anastasia on the bed brushing her damp locks. Both lifted their eyes and saw Xena enter, looking very exhausted and drained. Xena threw her cloak on a chair and then glanced over to see two pairs of eyes gawking at her.

"Mother...what happened in Pannonia?" Anastasia asked and Gabrielle pulled on her hair by accident, "ouch!" she frowned and rubbed her scalp.

Gabrielle nervously grinned and pulled the comb out of the teen's hair, "sorry..." she looked at Xena whom seem to be ignoring her daughter's question indefinitely.

Xena began unlacing her corset from behind, her back facing Gabrielle and her daughter. "Nothing that concerns you," she said plainly.

Anastasia folded her arms and Gabrielle kept combing her hair in silence. "What did you do to Gurgis?"

Xena sighed and turned to her daughter with a small smile, "you don't have to worry about him anymore, Ana. He has been..." she eyed Gabrielle, "taken care of," she put it lightly and her daughter bobbed her head, lowering her eyes, contemplating her mother's words silently to herself. Xena took off her corset and exhaled deeply, finally feeling able to breathe again.

"Can I ask you a question?" Ana asked and Xena disappeared into a separate room, changing her clothes.

"Shoot," Xena called out as she stripped herself from her pants and stockings. She grabbed a tight fitting black sleeveless top and slipped it over her head.

Gabrielle felt the girl's tension rising as she sat behind her and began braiding her hair. Anastasia breathed in deeply and stared up at the ceiling, wondering how to word this without her mother getting upset. "Why...did you raise a boy?" she asked.

Xena slipped a black floor length skirt over her hips and halted, staring at the wall in silence. She knew that her daughter would ask that question sooner or later. It was much easier when she was a child, but she was not a small girl anymore and even worse, she spoke her feelings. She laced the skirt tighter around her slender waist and walked out of the room, staring at her daughter.

"Why the sudden curiosity?" she asked and saw Gabrielle eye her curiously.

Anastasia shrugged her shoulder and Gabrielle finished braiding her long hair then scooted away from her to sit beside her. "Well, forgive me mom, but you lied to me my entire life and lied to everyone else about who I was. I think I deserve the right to know..."

Xena sat down in a chair and folded her arms, furrowing her eyebrows at her curious daughter. Gabrielle cleared her throat and decided to give her unwanted opinion, "I'm sure your mother has a good reason for lying to you all these years," she said and Xena lifted her eyebrow at the blonde. "I think 'lie' is a strong word, maybe she was just trying to protect you?" she smiled and Xena kept staring at Gabrielle, wondering why she was defending her instead of speaking out against her like she normally did.

Ana rolled her eyes, "protect me from what, Gabrielle?!"

Xena leaned forward and grabbed her daughter's hands firmly, "Anastasia, Gabrielle is...right," she frowned as her eyes traveled to the blonde sitting off on the edge of the bed sheepishly rubbing the back of her neck. "I wanted to protect you and that was the only way I could. Do you want to know what happens to newborn girls in Pannonia?" she asked and her daughter nodded her head. She sighed and this was going to be difficult to explain to a child, she didn't think she would be able to understand, even though she was far beyond her years in maturity. "Not everyone is lucky enough to have sons in Pannonia..."

Anastasia frowned, "I am curse then?"

Xena smiled anxiously, "no, you are not. Newborn girls are taken away from their mothers and sent to other villages in the Balkans. This practice has been happening for fourteen years."

Her daughter's face contorted in confusion, "why didn't you send me away too?" she asked curiously.

"Because I didn't want to and if I did...I'd never see you again," Xena explained and her daughter's eyes widened hearing that. She sighed, "you see, a year before you were born the Visigoths and Attila's uncle were warring against each other for years. Out of spite of losing, the Goths came to Pannonia and killed all female children and babies. This produced massive amounts of fear into the people of Pannonia and when mothers gave birth to girls they decided to send them away elsewhere to have a better life, a safer life." She said and her daughter lowered her head.

Gabrielle listened to Xena and carefully watched her eyes. Instead of the cold stare she usually had, her eyes were warm and apologetic, much like when she was in the tent with her a few nights ago. There indeed is a soft side to you, Xena. But, she couldn't help but feel sad for the women in Pannonia and now understood why Xena was extremely overprotective of her daughter. Not to mention, what she did was dangerous considering the ongoing threat from the Visigoths nearby. They were known foes and were neighbors of the Hunnic tribes. She had to commend Xena on her bravery to keep her daughter, though she thought that what she did was very risky.

Anastasia lifted her blue eyes, staring at her mother, "and what about my father?" she saw her mother's eyes widen slightly. "Did he love me?"

Xena smiled tenderly, "yes he did, very much," she could at least say that with sincerity.

Her daughter frowned in bemusement, "but you told me he died before I was born."

The raven haired warrior nodded, "he did, but I promise you, he loved you more than you could imagine," she touched her daughter's cheek and Anastasia grinned weakly as her cheeks blushed.

Thirteen Years Ago

A few months after raiding Suevi, Attila's army returned to Pannonia and would remain there for the rest of the spring, summer and winter seasons until something of interest came along. Xena's command in the east side of Suevi conquered and destroyed all the villages, though were able to bring back some slaves and riches for Attila in the end. Borias' raid in the west was left with nothing but corpses, which was disappointing but his numbers were far greater than Xena's in the end, which he was quite proud of.

They had begun a contest between their commanding fleets and counted the number of men killed in each pillage as competition. Though, Borias saw it more of a joke, Xena was quite competitive, but that was something he loved about her, even if she went too far sometimes.

A week had only passed by since their return and the spring here in Pannonia was very wet. It constantly rained, which was good for crops but bad for everything else because the river near them usually flooded into the city if the rainfall was heavy for days on end.

Borias laid in bed with the light sheet draped over his body and he woke up, hearing rain coming down harshly on the yurt. He yawned and rolled over seeing Xena sleeping on her back with her arm above her head. He smiled at her and laid on his side, staring at her as she slept peacefully. Her upper half was uncovered and her wild long hair sprawled on the pillows and bed. His eyes glanced down at her breasts and watched her chest gently rise and fall in her slumber. He hadn't had the chance be alone with Xena for a long time during their time in Suevi, but he couldn't help but notice her breasts were a lot larger than he remembered.

He grazed his finger along her ribs and noticed she didn't even stir. Smiling at her, his hand traveled along her sternum gently and saw her exhale deeper and loll her head to the side, adjusting her body slightly. Leaning forward he kissed her collar bone then cupped her breast, continuing to kiss her soft skin.

Xena frowned, awakening from her slumber, groaning, feeling his hand grab hold of her breast she rolled over on her side, pulling the blankets closer to her chest. "Borias..." she moaned, tucking her arm underneath her head, trying to get comfortable again.

Borias blinked and scooted closer to her, wrapping his arm around her slender frame. "It's been awhile, Xena," he teased and kissed her along her arm and she exhaled heavily.

"So?" she griped and tucked the blankets around her tightly. She felt his hand cup her breast again and her eyes shot open and turned to see a sneaky smile on his face. She slapped his hand away from her and wrapped the blanket around herself.

He frowned and sat up in the bed, "what's wrong with you?!"

She groaned and refused to look at him and rolled over onto her side again, staring at the rain outside the yurt. He obviously had no idea what was going on within her, but she kept thinking about it for the last few months since they came from Suevi. She just wanted to be left alone and certainly didn't want him touching her as she had come to find out the last few weeks her breasts were incredibly tender, but she wasn't going to tell him that, definitely not.

"I'm not in the mood," she muttered and he got up from the bed and slipped on his pants. She watched him make his way to the entrance of the yurt and he stood, glancing out at the rain.

He turned and looked at her as she was cuddled up in the blanket. He chuckled at her, "you were 'in the mood' back in Suevi," his eyebrow lifted slyly and she smirked.

She sighed and sat up in bed, folding her arms. "Borias," she began and he looked to her, "I have something I need to tell you," she lifted her frightened eyes and he frowned, feeling concerned. He walked over and knelt down beside the bed and grasped her hand firmly in his. She felt a knot in her stomach and instantly felt sick, not knowing what his reaction might be like. She had seen men react so badly to news like this and they sometimes even left, never to return.

"What is it?" he asked, waiting patiently as she sat in silence for a few moments.

"I..." she stammered and he kept his eyes locked on her. She lifted her eyes and saw him staring intensely which only made her more nervous. "Well, I," she smiled, her eyes drifting to her lap again, "I'm pregnant," she blurted out and saw his eyes widen.

Borias firmly gripped Xena's hand and sat in silence for a moment, though to Xena it felt like a lifetime. "Say something at least," she said. He looked at her and finally a smile broke out on his face.

"A baby?" he asked to confirm what she said and she slowly nodded her head. His eyes drifted to her exposed midsection and his smile widened. He cupped her cheeks and kissed her on the lips. Xena's eyes widened at that unexpected kiss. She wasn't expecting him to do that, she more expected him to react in a fit of rage or some sort. He pulled away and stared at her wide confused eyes. "When did this happen?"

"During the northern raid in Suevi," she admitted with a soft voice.

He grinned, nodding his head, "ah yes," he remembered that night. It was a wild night for everyone since they won that territory in one night and didn't lose any men either. It was a successful night in many ways.

"You are not upset?" she asked curiously. Though, truly, she had never feared anything in her life, not even death, but she feared this, and his reaction.

Borias frowned at her question, "why would I be?" he asked and she remained silent. He chuckled at her reaction and she grimaced, obviously embarrassed. "I'll make sure nothing happens to you or...the baby," he winked and placed his large hands over her stomach. She placed her slender hand over his and he lifted his eyes to see a smile on her lips.

"I'm glad you didn't give me away," Anastasia said with a smile and Xena lifted her eyes, staring warmly at her daughter.

She got up and kissed her daughter's forehead gently, "me too," she whispered and then grabbed her hand, "time for bed," she said.

The teen groaned, "but I am not tired!" she protested.

Xena rolled her eyes, "I don't care if you're not tired. I have to discuss some things with Gabrielle," she said and Gabrielle blinked. She had no idea that Xena wanted to speak with her and at this hour...what is on her mind, she thought?

Anastasia sighed and got off the bed, "warfare?" she asked and Xena pushed her along to the adjoining room. "Okay, okay!" she brushed her mother's hands off her shoulders. "I'm going," she walked off and turned, smiling at her mother. Xena winked at her and the girl disappeared into the room on the opposite side of the room.

Now, Gabrielle was alone with Xena and she nervously wrapped her arms around herself. She felt like she should break the ice, "you surprise me yet again," she alleged and saw Xena hint at a small grin. "I think I am beginning to understand you."

Xena lifted her eyebrow curiously, "are you?" she asked playfully.

The blonde blushed, her eyes avoiding Xena's piercing blue eyes. "You have a lot of love in your heart, Xena." She covered her mouth, saying her name for the second time and Xena glared at her but said nothing.

"Go on," Xena asked of her and Gabrielle uncovered her mouth. She expected her to lash out again like she did back in Pannonia, but...she didn't, not this time.

", do you bury your love and replace it with hate and cruelty?" Gabrielle feared she would be asking too much of the woman now.

Xena sighed and grabbed the bottle of wine now that her daughter was gone. She didn't like to drink in front of her ever. She grabbed two glasses instead of one and poured a generous amount in both. Gabrielle watched her and saw a glass just for her and Xena alike –and she poured an equal amount. Interesting.

"To move the world, we must first move ourselves," Xena quoted and handed Gabrielle the glass of wine. The blonde took it with caution and Xena sat down in the chair, crossing one leg over the other comfortably staring into those green eyes opposite her. She had a sly grin as she sipped her wine. "I don't expect you to understand why I am the way I am Gabrielle," she said and gestured for her to sit. "We are equals tonight, you like that word, right?" she winked and raised her glass.

Gabrielle smiled and sat in a chair opposite her, sipping the wine gingerly. "Maybe one day, I will figure you out," she teased.

Xena grinned, swishing the wine in her glass, "I'd like to see the day when you do."

AN: all quotes taken from the greatest Greek philosopher, Socrates.

Chapter Text

AN: a lot happening in this chapter. Xena can't seem to get her nose out of anyone's business ;) good luck and thank you for reading. Feedback appreciated all! Enjoy.

Chapter 11 –Holy Games

Valentinian sat on his throne listening to his commander, Aetius, grill his second in command, Marcus. He returned to Rome this morning after his failed expedition to attack Xena's fortress in Troy. Aetius had been yelling at Marcus for over half an hour and the young emperor was growing tired and bored listening to the blonde man yell and gripe over something so trivial.

"Aetius," the emperor spoke and the commander ceased talking, "it is obvious that you sent my men on a death mission," he chuckled, shaking his head. He felt bad that his commander sent out his troops to go against Xena. In truth, he knew they were going to lose, but allowed the man to do what he wanted.

Placida walked into the room and saw Marcus with his eyes lowered and his cheeks flushed, not to mention her son was laughing in his throne while Flavius Aetius was getting ready to explode. She grinned and stood by her emperor son. "How was the mission in Troy?" she asked.

Aetius groaned and Valentinian smirked, "your appointed commander lost three fourths of my men due to an ancient machine!" he chuckled and Placida's mouth gaped. "She actually used catapults! Can you believe it mother? Catapults!" he sighed, rubbing his chin, mocking his commanders.

Placida folded her arms, glaring at Aetius. "You had Xena in your grasp and failed to arrest her, again?" she frowned and Aetius began circling around himself, remaining silent. "This is the third time, Aetius! You allow one woman to defeat the greatest army in the world!" she huffed, wagging her head in disappointment. "You have underestimated Xena, commander."

"If I were there, I would have her hands bound and her mouth gagged!" Aetius growled and Placida smiled mockingly, nodding her head.

"Sure you would have, Aetius. It is obvious you are not fit to be commander of the Roman army," Placida walked off and Valentinian yawned and jumped off his throne.

"Well, if you boys would excuse me, I have a date with my sister in the atrium," the emperor smirked and leisurely walked off whistling blissfully.

The mother empress walked down the hallway and Aetius followed her and touched her shoulder gently. She turned to see an angry man staring into her eyes. He exhaled sharply, "your highness, I have done the best that I could, you of all people should know that to be true!" he cried.

She smiled tightly, "not good enough, Aetius. Xena is a bigger threat than you thought. How many men does she have? A hundred? Two hundred? Three?" she smirked.

Aetius groaned, "I don't know how many men she has, your majesty and you're right, I have underestimated Xena. She has a bigger following than I thought she would have. I received word that she ransacked Pannonia with less than one hundred men."

Placida kept walking and he joined her by her side. "I see. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to keep our alliance with Attila."

The commander smiled, "your highness, Xena betrayed our alliance when she murdered our soldiers in Greece. If we kept our relationship with Attila then it would make us seem weak."

"Attila is not our enemy, Xena is. And now that Xena has attacked her own people, it would have been beneficial to be on the Huns' side so we could join forces against her," she said and he frowned at the empress.

"How can someone like her wipe out entire Roman fleets?" he wondered about this for the last few weeks especially after Xena left Pannonia. She immediately fled to Troy not to hide, but to conquer.

Placida grinned slightly, "it is not the number of men that make a conqueror successful, it is how you use the men in warfare. It's all about strategy, Aetius –something that you have not learned yet," she winked and walked off leaving the commander bemused. "Perhaps you should try a different method," she called out and disappeared around the corner.

The commander walked back into the throne chamber to see Marcus had not left his spot, waiting to be relieved. "Marcus," he announced and the second in command turned with wide frightened eyes. "It is not your fault that you were unable to arrest Xena," he began and Marcus nodded his head slowly. "I think we should try a different approach to attack Xena." He walked over to the map on the wall and looked at Troy, frowning deeply.

Marcus cleared his throat, "what do you suggest, sir?"

"Xena expects front attacks from us, but you see...we need to get on her level. She is treacherous and dangerous. She is not afraid to go off the deep end and show us that she's in charge," Aetius smiled at the map and slammed a dart right in the center of Troy. "She has enemies all around her, yet she is not afraid..." he chuckled underneath his breath.

"Maybe she is not afraid because she knows that she can win and she has...several times," Marcus interrupted.

Aetius nodded his head and turned towards his second in command, "she has won yes, she's very good at winning. And is time for us to join with our sister empire in Constantinople for aid."

Marcus' eyes widened, "Theodosius has no quarrels with Xena, sire. He will not join with us to overthrow her."

The commander snarled at the brown haired man, "you honestly believe that Xena will not attack Constantinople, Marcus?! She already pillaged Pannonia! What's to stop her from going next door and killing everyone in Rome's counterpart?"

"Pannonia is a lot smaller than Constantinople, commander. She does not have enough men to take down a holy city," Marcus smiled weakly and saw Aetius' frown deepen and soon his grin disappeared.

"I see where we have gone wrong here, Marcus. Everyone is underestimating her. She is hibernating like a bear in winter." He smiled as he looked at the marked map and kept his eye on the small secluded city of Troy. "And we shall hibernate too..." he whispered to himself.

Marcus tapped his fingers against his helmet, "sir?"

"I wish to make a trip to Constantinople at once. Theodosius and I will have a little chat about our friend, Xena," Aetius smiled and walked off with his hands behind his back. "Make the arrangements, Marcus."

Gabrielle stayed with Anastasia in the bedroom through most of the morning since Xena was off in meetings with Tanranus almost every day now for the last week. She didn't mind staying with Xena's daughter and liked teaching her how to write Latin, which she knew the girl didn't like too much, but she was getting better the more she practiced.

Anastasia sat at the desk, writing very slowly with the quill, concentrating on each letter until it was perfect. Gabrielle leaned over her, watching her carefully. She smiled, looking at Anastasia's bright blue eyes that were just like Xena's. She couldn't believe how different Anastasia was compared to Xena. She was a sweet girl, though she had quite the mouth and was not afraid to speak her mind when she wanted to. In spite of Xena's position as military commander for Attila's army, Gabrielle thought that she had done well raising her daughter on her own considering everything that happened.

The more she stayed with Xena, she was beginning to realize that Xena was a very good commander, in fact, she was the best. Her skills in warfare rivaled the Roman army, which was not an easy feat and certainly an honor to say this. She also realized that Xena was a good mother, though a bit unorthodox, but Gabrielle couldn't blame her for that. It must have been difficult to have a woman like Xena as their mother.

Anastasia smiled and lifted the parchment in the air, "what do you think Gabrielle? It looks better, right?"

Gabrielle looked at the writing and nodded, "yes, it's very nice. Your writing has improved a lot since you started."

The girl's smile widened and she turned around in the chair, looking up at the blonde. "Do you think my mother will like it?" she asked with hope in her eyes.

The blonde smiled down at her and ran her fingers through the girl's long locks, "if it's from you, I'm sure she will love it," she winked.

Xena walked into the room and saw Anastasia sitting at the desk with Gabrielle by her side. Her daughter noticed her immediately and ran towards her with a parchment in her hand. "Look, mother!" she grinned and Xena looked at the writing, reading it silently to herself. A subtle frown appeared on her face and her eyes lifted to Gabrielle. Gabrielle's cheeks flushed and she lowered her eyes.

The commander smirked, "why don't read it for me?" she placed her hand on her hip, staring at her daughter.

Anastasia sighed, "well, I don't know what it says, but...doesn't it look pretty?" she smiled widely and Xena had a smug grin on her face and nodded.

"Mhm," she unsheathed her dagger and examined the dull blade in the candle light. "Ana, would you like to go on a trip with me?" she asked, tapping the point of the blade.

The girl's eyes widened anxiously, "a trip?! Where to?" she was already excited.

Xena turned and smiled down at her, "I am leaving for Nicaea tomorrow morning to visit our second military base," she eyed Gabrielle and saw she was avoiding eye contact indefinitely. "And maybe we can buy you some pretty dresses while we are there," she enticed her daughter.

Anastasia's mouth gaped, "really? Can I pick them out myself?" she asked with a sneaky smile on her lips.

Xena lifted her eyebrow, "we'll see," she smiled and pushed her daughter gently, "go pack your things," she said and Anastasia walked back to her room and Gabrielle began following behind her. "Not you," she called out and Gabrielle halted midstep. She smirked, "oh Gabrielle..." she hissed with a playful tone.

Gabrielle turned around nervously, "yesss?" she grinned and Xena had a big smile on her face.

"You are very clever," she wagged her dagger at the blonde. "Teaching my daughter how to write poetry when she doesn't even know how to read it.." she smirked and Gabrielle's cheeks blushed again. "No need to be shy, Gabrielle. You must stop acting so shy around me or are you not comfortable around me yet?" she teased.

The blonde held her breath, "I didn't say I was uncomfortable."

"But you didn't say you were comfortable either," Xena chuckled softly, "so which is it?" she asked.

Gabrielle laughed nervously, "I'm...content," she managed to say and Xena laughed at that, which now was making her feel uncomfortable for real this time.

"Content?" Xena's laughter died down slowly, "alright Gabrielle, have it your way. You can be shy forever," she teased.

"I'm not shy," Gabrielle scoffed and Xena sat down sharpening the dagger.

"Oh?" Xena smirked and kept sharpening the blade with the stone and examining the blade carefully.

Gabrielle leaned against the chair, staring at the raven haired woman, "no, I'm not," she protested, "I'm just shy...around you," she admitted softly and her cheeks blushed. Xena lifted her eyes and had a big grin on her face especially seeing Gabrielle's reddened cheeks.

"Oh Gabrielle," Xena kept smiling, "you're such a flatterer," she said playfully. She then set down the sharpening stone and looked over towards the blonde slave and asked, "why do you feel shy around me?"

The slave lifted her eyes and saw that Xena was not joking or teasing, but actually quite curious and genuine asking her question. "Well," she began quietly, "at first, I hated you, then I was afraid of you," she chortled at that and Xena lifted an eyebrow, gawking at her. She cleared her throat, "I guess now, I don't know what to think about you anymore."

Xena set her dagger on the bed and leaned on her palms, "you don't hate me anymore? Me? The woman with the black heart?" she smiled and the blonde sighed, rolling her eyes at Xena's teasing manner.

Gabrielle smiled, shaking her head, "I'm not going to lie and say I don't miss my home in Athens and I do miss teaching my students and Kat."

Xena frowned, "who's Kat?" she asked.

Gabrielle's face paled and she lowered her head, avoiding eye contact with Xena. "My friend I lived with for the last two years," she mumbled.

The commander grinned sneakily, "a friend, huh?" she hummed to herself, "what did she look like?" she bobbed her leg over knee impatiently.

A smile came to the blonde's face remembering Kathryn and she missed her a lot. She couldn't even imagine her face when she didn't come home that day. She was all alone now in Athens and had no idea where she was now. "She has red hair and pale skin, a beautiful voice and a great sense of humor." Her smile turned into sadness and she sighed, tapping her fingers on the chair.

Xena's smile disappeared and obviously knew how that felt to lose someone that cared a lot for her and she took that away from Gabrielle. "I'm sure you miss her a lot," she said and Gabrielle nodded her head. "You might like it here if you give it a chance," she offered.

Gabrielle lifted her eyes and smiled weakly, "I don't hate it here," she shrugged her shoulder. "I like spending time with Anastasia," she admitted, "it reminds me of teaching back in Athens. She's a really bright girl and very sweet." She saw Xena lower her eyes and saw now that she was the one who was shy. "I think you're a good mother, Xena," she complimented.

Xena hid her smile and unconsciously tapped the flat edge of the dagger against her thigh. "That's very kind of you to say, Gabrielle," she said barely above a whisper.

"Well, it's true," the blonde added. She saw that Xena remained quiet and decided to change the subject, "so, why are you going to Nicaea?" she asked.

The commander sheathed her blade and stood up, brushing her hands along her corset. "I have another military base in Nicaea and I'd like to go see it for myself."

Gabrielle frowned, "have you ever been to Nicaea?" she asked, kind of confused as to why Xena would ever have a military base in that city. It was close to Constantinople and definitely not known for being a war torn city.

"Of course I have," Xena grinned, "why do you ask?"

"Well, it's just that...Nicaea is a Christian city. I find it very hard to believe that Nicaea would have a military compound. It's surrounded by churches!" she said and saw Xena have a very sneaky grin on her lips. "There isn't a military base in Nicaea is there?" she hinted.

Xena chuckled under her breath, "oh Gabrielle, you are a very good detective. Perhaps I should promote you from slave to spy!" she joked. She began walking out of the bedroom, "you will be joining me on this trip, Gabrielle," she said without turning around.

Gabrielle smiled, "I didn't think otherwise." She watched Xena leave the room and exhaled heavily, finally able to breathe again. Another peaceful conversation written down in her mind once again.

Early in the morning before the sun rose in the sky, Xena already had everything packed and ready to go. She would be traveling with as few men as possible just to make herself less obvious. Gabrielle was in the bedroom gathering the last of her belongings as Xena was readying the horses outside. Anastasia had the servants carry out her chest of clothes for her to the horses.

A knock came to the door and Gabrielle lifted her head, but Anastasia smiled. "I'll get it," she ran to the door allowing Gabrielle to finish packing. She opened the door and a servant girl held a letter in her hand. She took it from her and smiled, "I'll make sure this gets to my mother."

The servant frowned, "it is for you, princess," she bowed her head then quickly left. Anastasia furrowed her eyebrows and closed the door quietly. She ripped open the letter quite curious as to why someone was sending her a letter. She never got any letters except when her mother was away on missions, but her mother was here with her.

She opened the letter and it was written very sloppily, and was not in Latin, but in her native Hunnic language, which she recognized immediately. She usually only got these types of letters from her mother in these languages. She read through it quickly and saw Ellac's name signed at the bottom. Her eyes widened and she became breathless, unable to finish reading the message.

"Who was at the door?" Gabrielle asked.

Anastasia folded the letter and stuffed it in her bodice. "Um, it was nobody," she turned and saw Gabrielle staring at her curiously.

Gabrielle chuckled seeing the girl's eyes huge and doe-like. "Okay then..."

"Are you ready to go?" Xena appeared in the room and Anastasia yelped. Xena blinked and smiled down at her daughter, "something wrong?" she touched her cheek and her daughter shook her head vigorously. "I didn't mean to scare you..."

Ana smiled nervously, "you just surprised me...I...I'm going to get my cloak in my room," she ran off in a hurry and Gabrielle frowned, not quite sure what was going on with that girl.

"Is she alright?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulders, "she's probably nervous about the trip," she said unsure of herself, though she knew that Xena thought otherwise as well as did she.

Once they set out on their journey to Nicaea, which was only three days ride from Troy, Xena decided to stop in the evening to camp out. She knew that her daughter was not used to traveling such long distances, as she had never traveled in her entire life, she figured it would be best to stop every evening just to be courteous and considerate of her daughter.

Tents were set up in the desert plains far away from any Roman territory. Anastasia had a tent of her own next to Xena's and Gabrielle stayed in Xena's tent with her.

Gabrielle came into the tent from the cold and took off her snow covered cloak and saw Xena sitting down on her bed, looking at a map of the area. It was obvious to Gabrielle that Xena had indeed never been to Nicaea and there was no military base there, but why that holy city? It was probably even holier than Constantinople. Xena had no business in such a Christian dominant city such as that.

She casually walked over to her and sat down beside her bed on the floor. "What are you looking at?" she asked curiously.

Xena lifted her eyes with a small grin, "oh just a map of Nicaea," she winked and circled a few spots within the city. Gabrielle frowned, leaning forward to see exactly what she was doing. Xena could feel Gabrielle's breath on her arm and she slowly lifted her head. "Do you mind?"

Gabrielle grinned sheepishly, "sorry," she scooted away from her. "So, why exactly are we going to Nicaea?" she asked.

"Gabrielle, Gabrielle, Gabrielle..." the commander sighed and circled a hot spot within the holy city. "You and your questions are going to get you killed one day."

"Not by you, though!" Gabrielle joked and Xena lifted an eyebrow at her. "It's a joke..."

Xena smiled widely, "I know," she set the map aside and folded her arms in her lap. "I want to see what Nicaea has to offer and if I like it, I will turn it into my second military city. It is closer to the Eastern Empire's capital and also closer to the Black Sea."

Gabrielle nodded, "I see. So you just want to conquer the city?" she wanted clarification.

"Now you're catching on!" Xena teased. She scooped some grain into a bowl and ripped off some bread then grabbed a spoon before standing up. "I'm going to check on Anastasia," she smiled and left her tent. Gabrielle stayed behind and once she saw Xena was gone she looked at the marked map of Nicaea to see what areas exactly Xena circled.

Anastasia laid down on her side in the bed and read over the letter that Ellac sent her. She didn't understand why Ellac would risk sending anything to her especially knowing that Attila hated her mother and probably wanted her dead.

Anastasia, I wanted to write this letter to you because I was worried about you since you left Pannonia. It's really weird that I have to call you Anastasia now instead of Annas. My stepmother told my father that he wants Xena dead and we are moving to Aquincicum soon. Probably after the winter season, I think.

I didn't write this letter by the way, I had someone else write it for me because you know I can't write, but I know you can and you can read too!

Anyway, I hope you are doing okay and you probably shouldn't write me back just in case.


She sighed and kept staring at the letter in the candlelight then heard someone come into her tent. She hurriedly tucked the letter under her pillow and turned around to see her mother with a bowl of food in her hands. "I didn't know you were still awake..." she lamely said.

Xena smiled and knelt down beside the bed, giving her the bowl which Ana gladly took. "Do you feel alright?" she touched her daughter's forehead, then her cheek for a fever. Anastasia frowned, slapping her mother's hand away.

"I'm fine, god," she grimaced and ate some of the bread. "When do we reach Nicaea?" she asked with a mouthful of food in her mouth.

Xena smirked, "in two days," she saw her daughter's eyes widen. "I know this is a long journey for you, but it will go by quickly, I promise." She kissed her forehead and stood, "don't stay up late, we are leaving early in the morning."

Anastasia gave her a thumbs up with a smile and Xena left the tent. She exhaled heavily and wiped her mouth, setting the bowl on the ground. She dug underneath her pillow and decided to burn the letter from Ellac because she didn't trust herself to keep it around as long as her mother was so close to her.

Xena returned and Gabrielle immediately jumped back from the bed and fell down on her back. Xena smiled and folded her arms. "What are you doing?"

The blonde sat up and fixed her wavy hair, "oh nothing."

"You better not be looking at my work, Gabrielle," Xena walked over and sat down on the bed, crossing her legs, "you can get killed for that."

Gabrielle inched away from her, "how is Anastasia?" she changed the subject.

Xena sighed and rolled up the map no longer wanting to look at it anymore for the night. "She's fine, but she is acting strange," she noted and leaned back on the pillows, staring up at the tent's ceiling. "It is her first mission with me," she grinned and reached for the wine. Gabrielle eyed her and palmed her forehead. Of course wine, Xena, of course.

"Can I ask you a personal question?" Gabrielle was feeling brave and so far, she hadn't died yet so anything was game at this point.

"I suppose so," Xena poured some wine in a glass and then reached for a second glass, feeling generous tonight.

Gabrielle was handed a wine glass and she thanked her. "Do you...have family in Thrace?" she asked and Xena halted in sipping her wine.

Xena turned to her with a fierce look in her eyes, "why would you want to know that?"

Gabrielle sensed that Xena turned from good to bad in just a few seconds and she was not in the mood to deal with that side of Xena. "Forget it," she sipped the wine in silence. Xena kept quiet and drank her wine generously.

A few moments passed by and Gabrielle had a sly idea. She smiled and scooted closer to the bed while Xena eyed her from her peripheral view. "How 'bout we play a game? I know you like those," she offered and Xena turned her head slowly. "If I ask you questions, all you have to say is yes or no. Does that sound fair?" she hoped.

Xena frowned and thought it over for a few seconds. "Alright," she laid on her side getting comfortable and gestured for Gabrielle to begin.

Gabrielle tapped her chin and then sat on her knees, "are you from the city of Larissa in Thrace?" she started off easy.

"No," Xena sipped her wine with a playful grin.

"What about Philippi?" she asked.



"No," Xena grinned seeing the gears turning in the blonde's head.

"Abdera?" she was running out of cities to name, she could only think of so many big ones.


"Amphipolis?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena swallowed the wine slowly and licked her bottom lip then answered in a soft voice, "yes."

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "wow Amphipolis! What a great city! I've been there once when I was eight years old and –" she stopped once she saw Xena glaring at her. She cleared her throat, "right you have parents?"

"No," Xena answered immediately and Gabrielle frowned sadly at that.


Xena tapped her fingers on the pillow and lifted her eyebrow, narrowing her eyes at Gabrielle. She indeed was trying to figure out who she really was through a game that she had tried on her at one point, though for a different reason. "Yes..."

Gabrielle blinked, quite surprised to hear that and she was even more surprised that Xena was still playing along and doing so well too. She hadn't said any smart remarks the entire game, though she was sure that would come to an end soon enough. "A sister?"

"No," Xena sighed heavily, drinking the wine until she finished the entire glass in one swig.

"A brother?"


"One brother?"

Xena poured another glass of wine, "no," she answered and relaxed on the pillows.

"Two brothers?" Gabrielle pressed further.


Gabrielle frowned, "three?" she guessed.

"No," Xena answered, staring at Gabrielle intensely.

By the gods, how many brothers does she have? "Four...?" she asked again.

Xena smiled seeing the stunned look on the blonde's face. "No."

"Oh come on," Gabrielle folded her arms. "Five brothers?" she hoped that'd be the last number she'd guess.

"Yes," Xena smirked continually sipping the dark wine.

Gabrielle breathed heavily and rubbed her forehead, "that's gotta be a joke."

Xena smiled, "that is not a yes or no question, Gabrielle," she teased and winked at her, feeling rather playful at the moment, quite enjoying this game and the shock on her face as well.

Gabrielle blushed, "alright, alright," she hummed to herself and sipped on the wine, "do they know where you are?"

"No," she admitted softly and lowered her eyes.

"Do they still live in Amphipolis?" Gabrielle asked and saw Xena frown, pursing her lips, thinking silently to herself.

"I don't know," Xena said and Gabrielle didn't even correct her, that definitely was not a yes or no answer.

Gabrielle had a feeling that her questions were getting a little too personal for her and so she stopped. "Well, I think I've kept you up long enough," she finished off the wine and stood up, fixing her gown. "Good night," she smiled and walked off to go sleep on the other side of the large tent in a separate room.

Xena sat up, "Gabrielle?" she called out and the blonde turned around slowly, "where are you Thrace?" she asked.

The blonde grinned, "Potidaea," she answered and left the room.

Xena sat on her bed and set her half filled glass of wine on the floor, thinking to herself. She wondered why Gabrielle was so curious about her life or why she even cared. She got up and left the tent out into the snow.

She entered her daughter's tent and saw she was sound asleep. Slowly walking over to her she covered Anastasia with the wool blanket and she stirred in her sleep, curling her legs close to her chest. She knelt down and kissed the top of her head, then brushed a few tendrils away from her cheek.

Two days later they arrived in the holy city of Nicaea and Gabrielle had never seen anything like it. The architecture was nothing like Greece at all, it was its own style. There was a large cathedral in the center of the city. It was blue with hand painted windows. It was no Greece for sure, but it was beautiful nonetheless. She rode on a horse behind Xena and Anastasia rode beside her.

They all trotted into the city and all eyes were on them. Suddenly a loud chime came from the church and Anastasia's eyes grew. "What is that?" she asked and saw all the civilians walking towards the large cathedral.

"Church bells," Gabrielle smiled as she saw the huge cathedral quickly being filled with hundreds of people.

"Quite annoying, isn't it?" Xena smirked and halted her horse seeing the crowd of people blocking her way through the city. She whistled at her men behind her, "we go east from here," she kicked her horse and rode through the city streets east of the large cathedral.

Anastasia kept staring at the large church and was in awe of it. Gabrielle turned her head and saw the girl gawking at the cathedral. "Anastasia?"

She shook her head coming out of her daze, "coming," she pulled on the horse's reins and trotted alongside Gabrielle. She turned her head over her shoulder and couldn't help but stare at the church. "Is that like a temple?" she asked.

Gabrielle stifled a laugh, "something like that."

"Which god do they pray to?" Ana asked as she watched the civilians walk passed her and enter the cathedral.

"The one God," Gabrielle answered in honesty and Anastasia smiled.

"Oh so these people pray to Isten," she said and Gabrielle frowned in confusion.

"Who?" she asked, not familiar with this deity at all. She had read many stories on Greek mythology and their gods and goddesses, but she had a guess that these Huns had their own religion, far off from the Greeks and Romans did in the past.

Ana explained, "Isten is the god of the sun and skies."

Gabrielle nodded, now feeling like she was the student and Anastasia was the teacher for once. She had learned something new. "I don't think that's who they are praying to," she put it nicely and saw the girl's face contort in bemusement. "You see, in this land, there is only one God, not multiple gods."

"Only one?!" the teenager asked with a gaping mouth. She couldn't believe there could only be one god to rule over everyone and everything. "What is his name?" she asked.

Gabrielle smiled, "I don't think he has one," appreciating the girl's curiosity.

Anastasia frowned, not liking that answer. "Must be some powerful god to not even know his name," she looked at the large cathedral one last time then trotted off to catch up with her mother and the troops. Gabrielle quickly followed behind her.

On the east side of the city they came to a large wall with a statue of the late emperor, Constantine The Great, whom founded the city and claimed it the city of Christendom as an example for the Christian world with Constantinople soon to follow. Xena lead the way through the large arched entrance and saw yet another huge cathedral inside but soon saw many Nicaean soldiers guarding the entire compound which was enclosed by twenty foot stone walls.

Gabrielle rode in behind Xena with Anastasia by her side and immediately noticed the soldiers. "Xena..." she whispered and Xena glared at her. "There's a lot of soldiers here..." she gathered. Then she saw the Nicaean soldiers marching towards them. "And they're coming right for us!"

"I'm aware," Xena smiled tightly at the troops.

The Nicaean soldiers surrounded her and one stepped forward. "What is your business in Nicaea?" he demanded.

"We are travelers and we seek to invest in your military compound, by orders of your emperor," Xena lied.

The soldier frowned, scanning her attire and looked to the young girl sitting on the horse. She was not dressed like a Roman nor like a Greek either. Everyone was wearing black and red clothing and the girl wore a black veil over her head, covering her dark hair.

"Are you Gokturks?" he asked and Xena remained quiet. "Where are you from?" he asked and unsheathed his sword.

"From the north," she answered cryptically with a smug smile.

Another soldier shouted aloud, "they're Huns!" he exclaimed and then more soldiers began surrounding the invaders. Xena snarled and pulled out her sword and plunged it into the soldier's chest.

"Kill them all!" Xena cried out and rode forward, dodging all of the Nicaean soldiers charging straight for her. Her men behind her began attacking the Nicaeans.

Gabrielle gasped and then saw a bunch of archers on top of the wall, aiming directly at her and Anastasia. For the love of all what is good, why Xena? She grabbed Ana's reins and rode off to the west side of the wall. "Come on!"

In all her life, Anastasia had never seen her mother in action before and when she saw her killing man after man without second thought, she was shocked and felt frozen, unable to move. Until Gabrielle spoke to her, she snapped to and realized that they too were being attacked. She grabbed the horse's reins and followed alongside Gabrielle, constantly looking back and saw Nicaean horsemen chasing them. "Gabrielle!" she said and the blonde turned around seeing that they were being followed.

A Nicaean soldier took out his whip and slung it forward, wrapping the whip around Anastasia's neck. She choked and fell off her horse, trying to get the whip off from around her throat.

Gabrielle halted her horse and gasped seeing Anastasia on the ground, struggling to get free. She frowned and grabbed a short flag pole with the Nicaean cross painted on it. She had never used a weapon before in her life, but anything could be a weapon, right? She kicked the horse and rode forward and swung the wooden pole, knocking off one of the men off his horse.

She smiled quite proud of herself then saw more soldiers coming her way and her smile disappeared. Oh shit. The Nicaean soldier grabbed Anastasia and hoisted her on his horse.

Another soldier rode up and held his sword in his hands, just glaring at Gabrielle, cocking his head to the side. "You are not a Hun..." he mused, then sliced the flag pole in half and she gasped. "Christ will forgive you," he bowed his head curtly and whistled at his men. "Who is the girl?" he asked.

Gabrielle lifted her eyebrow at the soldier, "what?"

The soldier nudged his head towards Xena, "the Hun woman's daughter I assume," he said and the Nicaean soldier turned to see Xena ripping his troops to shreds.

He nodded, "take her," he instructed.

Anastasia's eyes widened, "Gabrielle!" she yelled and another soldier gagged her mouth with a cloth with her arms tied around her back. He kicked his horse and took off exiting the walled area and Gabrielle's mouth gaped.

She threw down the broken flag pole and frowned, turning her head to see Xena slice a Nicaean soldier's head off. There were too many men here and what exactly was she trying to do here? All she saw was a giant cathedral but she was looking for a military compound. Just exactly where was this military compound that Xena was so set on, she wondered?

The Nicaean general came forward on his horse and faced Xena as she held up her bloodied sword, "you must be Xena," he smiled and she lowered her blade slowly. "Perhaps we can talk in a more calm setting?" he hoped.

She smirked, "your men attacked me first," she chided and wiped the blood off her blade onto her pantleg.

"But you drew first blood," he said and she couldn't disagree with that, it was just a natural reaction for her. "I would be honored to talk to you if you call off," he eyed all of them with swords ready in hand.

Xena frowned, turning her head over her shoulder then nodded curtly at her men. They sheathed their swords and faced the Nicaean general with a tight grin. "You were saying?" she pulled on her horse's reins and the general smiled at her, riding on his horse entering the cathedral with his horse. Xena lifted her eyebrow at that. Is he seriously riding into a church with a horse? Alright.

Gabrielle breathed heavily and finally caught up with Xena. She coughed and Xena frowned at her. "Xena!" she took a deep breath. "Anastasia...they took her!"

Xena's eyes widened and she shouted over her shoulder, "stop!" she held up her hand and the Nicaean general turned around seeing she was not entering in behind him like he hoped. "You have something that belongs to me," she hissed.

The general smirked, "and what might that be?" he asked.

"A girl, your men took her. She is mine," she narrowed her eyes and his smile disappeared.

"Your daughter perhaps?" he asked and she unsheathed both of her swords, crossing them over her horse's head. He blinked, "you may have her back once we have our peaceful discussion."

She smiled wickedly, "or I could just cut you up into pieces right here?" she suggested. "I will burn your holy city to the ground," she threatened.

"And then you would be arrested, tried and executed for such an act," he frowned, folding his arms defiantly.

Xena laughed, "your western allies tried that several times, or haven't you heard?" she grinned, "they failed..." she hissed.

He smiled at her and tried a different approach. "You don't get her back until we talk. If you refuse...I can't promise that she will be unharmed..." he had a smug smirk on his face and saw Xena's smile disappear. She frowned, glancing over at the blonde beside her.

Gabrielle nudged her head at her, silently telling her to obey. "You can't fight your way out of this one, Xena," she whispered. "Cooperate with them," she begged and Xena frowned at her, though Gabrielle saw in Xena's eyes that she knew she was right. She saw Xena lower her swords and sheath them and she smiled softly, grateful that Xena had listened to her, which never happened.

"Fine," Xena hated to admit to submission, but she didn't want to risk her daughter's life for the sake of her pride.

The Nicaean general smiled, "good, follow me," he trotted inside the cathedral and then called over his shoulder, "but leave your men outside," he said and Xena's eyes widened. She turned to her men and told them to stay, though she brought Gabrielle inside with her, following behind the general.

Once they entered the cathedral Xena saw that it was no cathedral at all and a smile came to her lips. This was a military base in disguise. She turned to see Gabrielle's shocked face. She had been right all along. Holy city my ass, she thought. Hiding behind a god in order to pursue to their military agenda and calling their wars 'holy wars' to justify the slaughtering of people. She didn't need a deity to hide behind, she did it right out in the open, which was probably why she could never get along with these Romans, whether they were from the West or the East.

He hopped off his horse and handed it off to one of the squires. Xena dismounted her horse as well as Gabrielle. Their horses were taken from them and Xena snarled at the Nicaean men. The general slipped off his gloves and eyed the blonde. "Who is this?" he asked.

"My...advisor," Xena grinned and Gabrielle slowly looked up at her with a confused expression.

The general nodded, "uh huh," he turned and walked off, "follow me please," he instructed. "I heard that you have taken Troy and destroyed Attila's capital."

"That's right," Xena nudged Gabrielle to walk with her and the blonde sighed, walking briskly to keep up with her long strides.

"You have become a formidable foe of the great Hun Empire and Western Roman Empire. That is quite extraordinary," he mused and Xena remained quiet, walking behind him. "And you even slaughtered more than half my men out there," he chuckled and Xena pursed her lips. He halted and turned around and she skid to a stop, barely a foot away from him. "It's no matter...I can always recruit more men," he grinned and she lifted a suspicious eyebrow. He turned on his heel and kept walking, "you are an impressive woman, Xena. I admire your strengths, but we all have weaknesses don't we?"

"Yes..." Xena said in a calmer tone, remembering her daughter's life was in this hands of this man, so she opted to play along.

They walked into what must be his office and Xena looked around the room. It was very empty and ordinary looking. He smiled standing in the doorway, "I will be right back, if you will excuse me," he closed the door and Xena folded her arms.

Gabrielle held her head in her hands and exhaled heavily, "are you seriously going to talk with this man?!"

Xena frowned, "quiet Gabrielle," she walked around the room and saw a huge Nicaean cross painted on the wall behind the general's desk and she smirked.

"What about Anastasia?!" Gabrielle gasped, not believing this and paced around in a circle. "She's your daughter and you're just going to let them take her like that?!"

Xena turned around and grabbed Gabrielle's arm, pushing her into the wall. "I know what I am doing, Gabrielle," she hissed. "It is obvious that he wants to play games with me so I shall play too," she let go of her and Gabrielle rubbed her arm, wincing slightly. She walked over to his desk and found a golden crucifix sitting by his quill and ink pad. She picked it up, examining it with curiosity. "Did you see all of those weapons?" she asked.

Gabrielle folded her arms, "how did you know there was a military base here?"

She grinned, "lucky guess," she set the crucifix down on the desk again and saw a painting of the virgin Mary hanging on the wall. "These people use religion to get what they want," she folded her arms, lifting her eyebrow, staring at the tapestry of the Holy mother of heaven. "They have fallen into the same trap the Greeks did hundreds of years ago." She scoffed and turned around, "what do you think, Gabrielle?"

Gabrielle's eyes grew wider and she stared at Xena, "what do I think about what exactly?"

Xena waved her hand around this room filled with religious artifacts and tapestries. "This!" she said.

The blonde shrugged and stepped forward looking at the tapestry of Mary. "I think...these people take their religion very seriously."

Xena smirked, "are you serious?" she walked to the tapestry and stared at it intensely. "This city was founded through war by proxy of religion. Do you not think it is vain of them to do this?" she asked and Gabrielle's mouth gaped. Now she was getting philosophical on her, another side of Xena she had not seen come through in bright colors before.

"Well," the blonde began, "I think it depends on who you ask," she was very careful with the words she chose. "Don't the Huns rely on their deities and ask for their guidance during tough times?"

"They do but I don't," Xena folded her arms. "It is better to rely on yourself for answers instead of preaching to a higher power that may not even exist." She smiled seeing Gabrielle's aghast face. "Wouldn't you agree?"

Gabrielle was about to answer until the Nicaean general made an entrance and Xena turned to face the man. He grinned at the two women and closed the door behind him. He saw that Xena was admiring the portrait of the virgin Mary. "She's a stunning woman, is she not?" he said and Xena said nothing through her tight lipped smile. "Mother of the heavens –truly the most powerful woman in the world," he walked around and sat behind his desk. "Please, sit," he gestured and Xena refused.

"I'd rather stand, I'm sure this won't take long," she teased and he chuckled at her nervously. Gabrielle did on the other hand, take a seat behind Xena to watch this exchange of games as Xena put it.

He cleared his throat, "you said you wanted to invest in our military base by orders of the emperor. That was a lie, Xena."

"Yes it was," she smiled at him and he nodded, now understanding her game here.

"so...why exactly are you here then?" he asked with a serious tone, folding his hands atop of the tabletop.

She leaned on the desk and he leaned backward in the chair. "I want your base." She grinned smugly and he smiled anxiously, trying his best to avoid her enchanting eyes.

He stood up and went behind his chair feeling more comfortable the further away he was from her. He leaned on the chair and stared into her dangerous blue eyes. "I have your daughter, you know. There is no chance in Hell I would give you our base."

She sighed, "if you don't give it to me...I will just take it from you," she winked, tracing her finger along the golden crucifix sitting on his desk. He eyed her finger and pulled away from his chair, now seeing that Xena was indeed being more threatening than reasonable. "And if anything happens to her...I will put you on a pike," she slammed her fist on the desk and he jumped, "alive," she added.

He chuckled under his breath, "how about I just give you your daughter and you can leave Nicaea with no harm done to you."

Xena laughed mockingly at him, "who is lying now?" she teased and her eyes drifted over to the painting of the virgin Mary. "Lying in front of your heavenly mother?" she tisked, "looks like the gates of heaven are closing in on you," she grinned.

Gabrielle buried her face in her hands listening to Xena. She really was pushing her luck here. She wasn't full of bluffs like this man was. All her threats were rule and she was good at this word game, though he was not very skilled apparently. She really didn't want to end up in jail or something for anything she did not do. Guilt by association. Thank you Xena.

"Careful Xena, you are not in your territory," he warned.

Xena blinked with wide eyes, "oh? You are right," she nodded and paced back and forth slowly in front of his desk. "I will take your territory, all of the Roman territory and even Attila's too, oh but wait...I already took Attila's lands in the Caspian and Black Seas," she sighed. "I would hate to see all of those gorgeous cathedrals burned to the ground," she pouted and he snarled at her. "I'll tell you what, you give me my daughter and your base and I won't kill any more of your men, how's that sound?" she smiled.

He shook his head, "you're insane."

"So it's a deal then?" she folded her arms and he frowned at her.

"You cannot take Nicaea without going through the council first and you are not part of the council nor are you allies with our emperor."

She scoffed, "councils, meetings, conferences. A bunch of old men gathered around a table every week deciding whether what time of the day is suitable to pray is not ideal for sustaining a city," she frowned at the man, "give me your base and I will make sure your city will prosper tenfold," she negotiated and he was refusing to renege on his decision. She folded her arms with a smug smile. "Alright, we will do this the hard way then." She turned and opened the door leaving the room. Gabrielle got up and quickly followed her.

"What are you planning on doing?" Gabrielle skipped ahead trying to keep up.

"I'm going to burn this holy hell hole to the ground," she walked out of the cathedral and her men were waiting for her. She grabbed her horse's reins and mounted it swiftly.

The Nicaean general ran out of the base and saw Xena on her horse. "I will have you executed for this!" he yelled.

She smiled at him, "I'll be waiting for you," she blew him a kiss and yanked on the reins, circling around herself. "I will be back and when I return I am giving you one last chance to submit to me and give me my daughter," she promised and he groaned, folding his arms. "And if you refuse...I'll have a pike with your name on it –or better yet –a crucifix," she winked and trotted off with her men trailing behind.

A soldier ran up to the general, watching the Hun woman ride off freely. "Should we follow her, sire?" he asked.

The general shook his head, "no, let her go. Inform the emperor that I have Xena's daughter," he smiled.

Chapter Text

AN: I'm beginning to believe that Xena is a psychopath. Alright, enjoy and good luck lol. I have introduced a new character here that is important to Xena's background in her life that I have drastically changed ;)

Chapter 12

The Nicaean soldiers drug Anastasia down to the prison cells below the military base. She had put up quite a fight and even tried to escape twice. The soldiers bound her ankles and gagged her mouth so they were forced to carry her down to the prison until further instruction was given to them.

Coming down the stairwell one soldier whistled at the prison warden whom was leaning against the wall, obviously bored with the lack of prisoners. There were a couple of men there in the cells only because they betrayed the Nicean Council and were awaiting their hearing for weeks now.

"Xander, we have a special prisoner for you," the soldier smiled and put Anastasia down on the ground. She glared at the warden and he raised an eyebrow, staring at his fellow comrades.

"You brought me a girl?" Xander looked at the young girl and saw that she couldn't be any older than fourteen or so.

The soldier chuckled with a smug grin on his lips, "oh not just any girl. She is a Hun," he pushed Anastasia forward and she grimaced at the soldier, snarling.

Xander circled around the girl and touched her long dark hair that reached her hips. "You're far from home, aren't you?" he smirked and Anastasia glared up at him. If she were not gagged and tied up, she'd definitely hit him where it hurt the most. "What am I supposed to do with her?" he asked the soldiers.

"The General told us to take her to you and wait until he says to release her," the soldier said.

Xander nodded and dismissed the soldiers. He knelt down and untied Anastasia's ankles. This was a bad move on his part and she kicked his shin then took off running and he grabbed hold of her black dress and she fell on the ground, grumbling. "You're a tough girl, aren't you?" he groaned and grabbed hold of her, picking her up and she kicked her legs trying to get free. "You're going to cause me a lot of trouble..." he huffed and opened a cell and set her down in a chair, tying rope around her body. She mumbled something and he tied her to the chair tightly and she moaned.

He sighed and brushed his hands off on his pants then folded his arms, gawking at the girl. "What is a girl like you doing in the Nicean prison?" he smirked and took the cloth out of her mouth.

"Scum!" she spat out and his eyes widened.

"Hey relax, I'm not going to hurt you, just here to keep an eye on you," he winked and she spat in his face. He frowned and took out a handkerchief and wiped his face. "Alright then," he sighed and pulled up a chair, getting ready to interrogate her. "If you behave, I won't gag your mouth, got it?"

Anastasia glared into his blue eyes as he calmly stared back at her. A smile came to his lips and she immediately distrusted him, though he seemed nice enough and looked a bit too young to be working in the prison as a warden no less. She lowered her eyes, feeling paranoid that he too might take advantage of her like Gurgis did in Pannonia.

Xander leaned back in his chair, examining the girl. "So, are you one of Attila's daughters?" he asked.

She lifted her head immediately, "no!"

"No? You were brought here because you are important, are you not?" he grinned and she remained silent, wiggling in the chair. "You are a Hun, right?" he wanted to make sure and she nodded. "Who do you belong to?" he asked.

"The Queen of Troy..." Anastasia muttered.

Xander scoffed, "there is no Queen of Troy, girl! Come now, tell me who you belong to!" he frowned, staring at the girl.

She smiled and lifted her chin, "there is now," she said lowly, "I'm sure you've heard of her. Long black hair, blue eyes, warrior and conqueror," she teased playfully and he was growing impatient with her.

To be honest, he had little knowledge of anything outside of the walls of Nicaea and even less knowledge of his own city since he was mainly down here in the prison most of the time. "I don't have time for your riddles, girl," he folded his arms, glaring at the Hun child.

"Xena," she said finally and his eyes widened. "She is my mother and when she finds out what you people have done she will come for me and kill all of you!" she yelled and he stood up from his chair and kept scanning her body then began walking around her. She frowned and watched him carefully, wary of his intentions.

Xander had not heard that name in such a long time and now that he knew that Xena had a daughter and she was kept as prisoner, he knew this was not good. Either Xena had done something to piss off the Nicean General, or the emperor had a few tricks up his sleeve. He circled her and touched her hair gently then came round to look at her face and her big blue eyes that looked so much like Xena's. Of course, why didn't I see it sooner?

"'re Xena's daughter, you said?" he asked.

"That's right and she will come for me, just you wait," she frowned and wiggled in the chair, trying to get comfortable, but it was no use.

He couldn't keep his eyes off of her and then quickly left the cell and locked the door. He ran up to the prison guards and grabbed his sword. "Keep an eye on the girl," he instructed then bolted out of the prison.

The Nicean General, Saxu, was busy discussing his plans with his scribe. He was to send a message to Theodosius at once to inform him of Xena's arrival and that he had her daughter as his captive. He knew that the emperor would be very pleased with this information.

Xander marched into the conference chamber unnaounced and took off his helmet, ruffling his short black hair and cleared his throat. Saxu turned around, smiling at his fine Nicean soldier. "Xander, what brings you here?" he asked and he dismissed the scribe to go ahead and send the letter off to the emperor.

"Sir, I need to speak with you about the Hun girl..." he began and Saxu nodded, grabbing a goblet of wine. He was offered some and Xander refused the wine. "Sir, you do know that girl is Xena's daughter, right?" he asked with wide frightened eyes.

Saxu drank some wine and sat down in the chair comfortably. "Of course I do, why do you think I have her?" he chuckled.

Xander exhaled softly, "if I may be so bold sir, I don't think it is wise to get on Xena's bad side. She is very stubborn and when she wants something, she takes it without any thought of the consequences." He said and the general didn't seem fazed at all. He frowned, "sir, I know Xena very well –"

This caught the general's attention, "do you, Xander? How fascinating..." he smiled as he sipped his wine. "How do you know the Hun woman?"

Xander sighed, "she is not a Hun first of all," he said and this shocked the general. "And I just know her from past encounters..." he said lightly, trying not to give his boss any vital information.

"Look Xander, I don't have a problem with the girl, it's Xena that is the problem. She wants our military base and she must understand that she can't have everything she desires, so I took her daughter," he grinned and stood up coming closer to his soldier. "You are a fine soldier, Xander. Don't disappoint me," he pat his cheek then walked off.

Xander frowned and stormed off out of the chamber room. He rounded a corner and was now alone, he leaned against the wall, staring at the long foreboding hallway that lead to the prison down below. He didn't know why Xena would come all the way to Nicaea in the first place. He hadn't heard from her in many, many years and never expected to hear about her ever again. He didn't want to go down into that prison again to see Xena's daughter. She looked so much like her and he couldn't believe that Xena had a daughter anyway –he never thought that Xena would have any children of her own and didn't even know if she was alive after she left Amphipolis so long ago.

He walked back into the prison and peered into the cell where Anastasia was. She was still trying to get out of the chair and he kept staring at her, though she was oblivious to his presence. The longer he stared at the girl the more she reminded him of Xena when she was that age. She was beautiful and had long dark hair and big blue eyes as well. He never thought he'd see something that reminded of him of all the years he missed.

Stepping away from the cell he took a seat on the bench in the hallway. He reached in his pouch on his belt and pulled out two blue green stones that he had kept for years when he was a child. A smile came to his lips as he stared at the stones in his palm. He enclosed his fingers around the stones and kissed his palm, putting them back in his pouch. It was probably a silly thing to keep stones around in your pocket for years, but they were special to him. It reminded him of a much simpler time and reminded him of his best friend –his sister, his twin sister, that he had not seen in so many years and feared that she had disappeared off the face of the earth never to be heard from again.

Xena set up camp outside of Nicaea and unfortunately it was not far enough to get away from those awful church bells that she hated so much. No matter how far they were, she was sure one could hear them even from miles away. She told her men to keep an eye open for any attacks though she knew that the Nicaean army would not dare attack her, even though she was dangerously close.

She stood outside of her tent and threw daggers at a tree, hitting the center of the trunk each time. Gabrielle walked over with a bag filled with fresh parchment and ink. She set the bag down and watched Xena throwing daggers at the tree mindlessly. Everyone else seemed to be minding their own business and her men were guarding the area thoroughly. She saw that Xena was extremely upset and instead of talking about it, she decided to use daggers to release her tension deep within her.

Gabrielle carefully approached Xena and folded her arms and watched her throw yet another dagger at the tree. "You have very good aim," she said and Xena turned around with wild eyes. She cleared her throat, "I know you're angry about what happened, Xena."

Xena smirked and threw another dagger at the tree, straight in the center once again for the tenth time. "You think you know me so well, don't you?" she teased and picked up another dagger, closing one eye, focusing on her aim. She tossed it forward and it landed two inches away from the bull's eye. She grimaced and picked up another dagger.

"Do you want to talk about it?" the blonde offered.

"What's there to talk about?" Xena frowned and threw the dagger and missed the center yet again. "God damn it!" she growled and marched over to the tree, retrieving all of the daggers yanking them out the bark.

Gabrielle sighed, "I think it would be good for you to talk about it Xena. It might make you feel better," she said and Xena walked over to her with a handful of very sharp daggers. The warrior woman smiled at her deviously and placed the daggers into Gabrielle's arms. She huffed and tried not to drop them all at once. Xena picked up a dagger and aimed at the tree. "It's not your fault that the Nicaean soldiers took your daughter, you know," she said, struggling to keep the daggers in her arms as well as not to get cut by their sharp blades.

Xena threw the dagger and hit the center at the first try. She smiled and took another one from her slave's arms. "It is my fault, Gabrielle. I became distracted," she grunted and threw another dagger at the tree and it struck the hilt of the previous dagger.

"How were you supposed to know they were going to take her?" Gabrielle frowned.

"I should have been more careful, but I was not thinking about her, I just wanted to kill all of those men!" Xena snarled and continued throwing the dagger one after the other, missing every time now. "I made a promise to myself," her eyes narrowed and threw another dagger at the tree, "and I failed!" she turned and Gabrielle held the last dagger in her hand. She reached for the blade and Gabrielle pulled her hand away and her eyes widened with fury.

"Throwing daggers mindlessly at a tree isn't going to get you anywhere, especially when you're upset," the blonde said and tapped the blade against her palm. "Anger clouds the mind, Xena and you're fuming. I can almost the smell the burning of your flesh from here," she philosophized and Xena raised an eyebrow.

Xena folded her arms with a sneaky smile, "you're right Gabrielle," she nodded, "I should use a human target," she turned and walked off to go find some unlucky soldier to be her victim.

Gabrielle gasped and ran after her, "that's not what I meant!" she ran in front of her and Xena glared down at her. She pointed the dagger at her, "just stop, please, for the love of god!" she begged and Xena placed her hands on her hips, frowning deeply. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment and she threw the dagger into a filled wine skin and it squirted all over one of the men. He growled and stood up, glaring at the blonde. Xena smiled and waved her hand, dismissing him. He wiped off of his face with the back of his hand and sat down grumbling to himself. "Now...will you talk with me?" she asked hopefully.

They sat inside of Xena's tent and obviously Xena was not keen on "talking" with Gabrielle but she insisted and she was willing to listen to what she had to say. Gabrielle sat down on the bed, opposite her and eyed the wine bottle Xena had close to her bed. She grabbed it and put it behind her back with a smug grin. Xena eyed her cautiously and folded her arms, leaning against the pillows.

"Stealing my wine, Gabrielle?" Xena smirked.

"No, I just don't want you to drink any of it," the blonde teased back. "So, what is your plan to get Anastasia back?" she asked.

Xena's frown reappeared on her lips, "I'm going to burn that city to the ground like I said. That was not a bluff."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "don't you think that is a bit much?"

Xena leaned forward with a grand smile, "I want their base and I'm going to take it. Who are you to question me anyway?" she scoffed.

"Someone who cares," the blonde added and Xena averted her eyes from her gaze. "Burning down the city isn't going to make the general give your daughter back to you. In fact, it is going to do the opposite –he'll never give her back to you if you continue to threaten him and his holy city."

The raven haired woman sighed, "I want her back, Gabrielle," she lifted her eyes and Gabrielle saw sadness in those eyes of hers.

Gabrielle nodded, "I know you do and we're going to get her back," she smiled. "I tried to save her..." she admitted and that sparked Xena's interest immediately. "I hit one of the soldiers with a flag pole," her cheeks blushed, "it didn't work obviously," she mumbled.

"You don't know how to fight, Gabrielle. You hit me with a pitch fork," Xena chuckled and Gabrielle rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly, slightly ashamed at her poor intent to attack Xena and it was very poor. "Perhaps you should learn," Xena raised her eyebrows and leaned against the pillows, relaxing, folding her arms, staring mysteriously at the blonde.

Gabrielle shook her head, "no thank you. I don't want to kill people for a living like you," she kept shaking her head and Xena kept grinning at her like she had an evil plan in her mind, she saw it in her steely eyes. She took out a quill from her bag and brought it forth, waving it in Xena's face. "This is my weapon," she smiled.

Xena laughed mockingly, "what will you do with that? Stab people with it?" she slapped Gabrielle's hand away from her face as her laughter died down.

"Words can be more powerful than swords, Xena," she replied and put the quill back into her bag.

Xena stopped laughing and her eyes widened, staring at Gabrielle as she reorganized the things in her bag. She suddenly had a brilliant idea. "Gabrielle, you are the light of my eyes," she said and the blonde lifted her wide confused eyes.

"Excuse me?" Gabrielle barely said above a whisper.

"I use fancy words to get what I want without threatening the Nicaean general," Xena leaned forward and grabbed onto Gabrielle's arm. The blonde's eyes grew warily and kept looking at Xena's hand and back into her eyes. "I –no, you –will write a letter to the Nicaea Council explaining why I want the military base," she tapped her chin, letting go of Gabrielle's arm and the blonde held in her breath. "Yes, they use religion and politics to get things done here. It's like Greece, yes?" she asked.

Gabrielle cleared her throat, "I guess it is."

Xena scooted forward and Gabrielle leaned back slightly, feeling like her personal space was indeed being invaded. "How does one go about seeing the council? Surely you know the process?" she asked for her help and the blonde blinked rapidly at her, unsure what to say.

"Well, first present your case to the councilmen in court," she said and Xena listened intently. Gabrielle smiled nervously and scooted away from her slightly. "And then they weigh the pros and cons of your case," she continued, "and then they see if it will benefit them and go over the case to see if they approve it or not."

Xena nodded, "and how long does that take?" she felt super ignorant at this moment, but was glad she had Gabrielle here with her.

Gabrielle frowned, " could take days, weeks, even months..." she hated to admit and saw Xena frown.

"Months?!" she growled, "I don't have time like that to waste. Time is too precious to me..." she frowned and tapped her fingers on her knee impatiently.

"There is another way," Gabrielle interjected and that caught Xena's attention. "You could give them an ultimatum." She offered and Xena frowned, lifting her eyebrow suspiciously. "Look, you go in there and present your case as to why you want their military base and your daughter, and if they refuse, you can..." she couldn't believe she was about to say this, "wage war against them..." she muttered, feeling ashamed for saying such a thing. She hated violence, though she realized that being with Xena, violence was inevitable and unavoidable.

Xena smiled wickedly, "I like the way you think Gabrielle."

"I just want to say that I condone violence and think it should be avoided at all costs..." the blonde said and avoided Xena's smile.

Xena stood up and adjusted her corset, and brushed her hair behind her shoulders. "Sometimes violence is the way to victory although...speaking your mind can be another way," she hummed to herself and exited the tent.

Gabrielle followed her hastily and saw she was already on her horse. She stuttered, "w-where are you going?!"

"I'm going to see that Nicaean General and give him another chance," she whistled at her men and they immediately hopped on their horses.

"Are you kidding?" Gabrielle shook her head, "you're just going to waltz in there? I don't think they're going to allow that..."

Xena frowned, "I am coming in peace, Gabrielle." She yanked on the reins and Gabrielle ran in front of her before she took off. "Out of my way!" she growled.

The blonde panicked and she put her hands up, trying to think of something to stall Xena. "Let me go in your place," she offered and Xena scoffed.

"Yeah right," she pulled the reins and Gabrielle grabbed the reins, preventing the horse from riding. She glared at her with squinted eyes.

"I am not a threat to them. If you let me be your voice, I can get through to the general," Gabrielle hoped that she had convinced the woman. She saw the gears turning inside of Xena's head and her eyes flicker back and forth thinking silently to herself. "I can talk my way out of anything," she gave a big cheesy smile and Xena rolled her eyes.

"You're not wrong on that, you talk a lot," Xena sighed, "fine Gabrielle, you can talk for me, but I want everything that I say to come out of your mouth!" she frowned and the blonde bobbed her head anxiously. "Or you won't have a mouth," she smirked and traced her lips with her fingertip and Gabrielle nodded her head slowly, getting the picture.

Flavius Aetius waltzed into the throne chamber inside the grand fortress in the heart of the Eastern Empire –Constantinople. The city founded by Constantine The Great himself –what a legend, Aetius thought. He probably never knew what an impact that this city would make on the rest of the world, if only he were here to see it in all of its glory.

He walked forward and bowed his head to the emperor, Theodosius, smiling at the middle aged emperor. In his mind he thought that Theodosius would make a far better emperor of Rome than that silly numskull of an emperor, Valentinian. He put all his predecessors to shame. He was not fit to be the face of Rome, yet his dear mother was the real head figure in Rome, making all of his decisions for him while he simply wore the laurels.

"Your majesty, I apologize for coming on such short notice," the commander said.

Theodosius shook his head and stood from his throne, walking over to the blonde commander. "I am glad that you have come here, Aetius. Trouble arises in the east as it does in the west, am I right?" he smirked, hinting that Xena was the trouble he spoke of.

Aetius nodded, "yes sir, I'm aware of Xena. She is in dangerous proximity to your city."

The emperor chuckled a bit, "oh she is even closer than you think, Aetius..." he stared at the tapestry of the holy war fought in Constantinople hundreds of years ago, only to remind him that Constantine was a great emperor as was Justinian, and they had foes. Now he had one too –Xena. He turned around facing the Roman commander, "I have just received word from General Saxu in Nicaea," he snapped his fingers to his scribe and the man ran to get the letter that was sent just this morning.

The Roman frowned, "and what news did he bring?"

Theodosius was brought the letter and he handed it to the commander. Aetius opened it and quickly skimmed the words on the parchment. "It seems that our Hun woman has entered Nicaea and wants to take our famous military compound."

Aetius groaned and folded the letter back up, "how did she know that you have a military base in Nicaea?"

The man chuckled, "you underestimate Xena –something that I did not do, my friend," he sighed and sat back down in his throne, tapping his fingers on the armrests. "I have agreed to ally with Attila and move his capital to Aquincicum and I'm glad that I did because Xena ransacked Pannonia with less than one hundred men –one hundred men!" he reiterated. "She is dangerous."

"You allied with Attila?" Aetius couldn't believe it. Perhaps Placida was right and he should have stayed allies with the Hun king and now he was allies with Rome's eastern counterpart, which meant they had the upper hand now in everything. Not like Valentinian would care anyhow, he told himself.

"You and your emperor left the Huns alone and defenseless, knowing that Xena would return with a vengeance," Theodosius said and the commander frowned deeply. "It would have befitted you to remain friends with the Huns, Aetius." He grinned, "and perhaps we would not be having this discussion."

Aetius cleared his throat, "well actually your highness, I wanted to come here to rebuild bridges between Constantinople and Rome. As you said, we underestimated Xena and made a mistake breaking our alliance with Attila. I see now that you have more control than Rome's emperor..."

Theodosius' batted his eyelashes, "come now, Aetius, don't say such words. They could get you killed," he chortled. "But, I must agree with you. Valentinian is not fit to be a ruler and allows his old hag of a mother make all of his decisions," he rolled his eyes.

The commander nodded with a subtle smirk, "quite right, your grace," he stood and tapped his boot on the floor. "What can Rome do to aid you? You have Xena in your backyard yet you do nothing to stop her. Why?" he had been trying to catch Xena for a month now and so far she had caused so much death and destruction than any war that lasted for a couple of days.

The emperor sighed, "ah yes well, she has not done anything to Nicaea so far. She has made numerous threats to burn down cathedrals in Nicaea but she is as dormant as Mount Vesuvius."

"All volcanoes erupt sir," Aetius grinned mischievously.

"Yes...yes they do and she comes through so quickly, destroying everything in her path," the emperor added and rubbed his bearded chin contemplatively. "I'm sure General Saxu has the entire base guarded, waiting for her return," he could only hope. Aetius nodded and then a smile appeared on Theodosius' face. "Oh and one more thing," he held up his finger and the commander lifted an eyebrow. "General Saxu took it upon himself to capture Xena's daughter in order to negotiate with her, so now...we are sure she will not leave Nicaea until she gets her teenage daughter back."

Aetius' eyes widened as the emperor said that. He had no idea that Xena had a child let alone a daughter and what a brilliant plan. That black hearted witch must have some light in her heart after all, he thought. He furrowed his eyebrows thinking back more than a decade ago or so and rubbed his chin pensively, recalling when he first met Xena and then saw her again when she came to Rome. His memory was so fuzzy of that moment but then he frowned thinking about it. Yes, now he remembered. When he recalled his memory of meeting Xena, she was pregnant and it was pretty obvious, though nobody batted an eye about it, not even him.

He smiled towards the emperor, "our Hun foe is a mother and like all mothers –"

"They will do anything to protect their young," Theodosius took the words right out of the commander's mouth.

"I'd like to see this daughter of hers," Aetius folded his arms and the emperor smiled widely.

Xena sat on her horse waiting outside the gates of the military base and Gabrielle looked at all the guards. "You remember what I told you?" Xena asked.

Gabrielle nodded, "I got it, don't worry," she smiled and walked off. Xena sighed and really wanted to go with her, but obviously those guards weren't going to let her through at all, but as Gabrielle said, she was not a threat nor was she a Hun –this could prove to be an advantage in the long run, Xena told herself.

Gabrielle approached the gates and the guards immediately blocked the entrance with their javelins. She pulled the blue veil over her wavy blonde locks and smiled at the men. "I have a message for your general," she said and the men glared down at her. "I come as Xena's emissary to negotiate," she said firmly, crossing her arms. "She's not going to come close to your base, you have her word," she leaned forward and the men looked to one another then stared down at Gabrielle.

"One moment," one of the guards disappeared into the compound and Gabrielle turned her head over her shoulder looking at Xena sitting on her horse patiently from a fair distance. She smiled at her softly and Xena narrowed her eyes.

Moments later the guard returned and allowed her to pass, "General Saxu awaits you," he said and she exhaled sharply, feeling her stomach in knots already. She entered the base and the guards blocked the gates, gawking at Xena as she waited on her horse with a horde of men behind her.

General Saxu stepped out of the cathedral disguised as the base and smiled at the blonde petite woman. "Xena has sent you to negotiate has she?" he smugly grinned. "What was your name again?"

"Gabrielle," she answered and he nodded. She began slow, remembering to pace herself and not seem like she was nervous at all. "Xena wishes to make a case with the Nicaea Council."

Saxu's eyes widened, "a case? On what grounds?!"

"She wants your base and as we both know, you're not going to give it to her," she smiled nervously, then continued, "if she represents herself in court to take your base then you will give her daughter back as part of the deal."

The general laughed, "she is mad!" he yelled, "there is no way in Hell the council will ever agree to give her this base! This is a holy city, a Christian city might I add and she is no way a devout Christian!"

Gabrielle felt herself losing this negotiation and if she did then she'd have to return to a very angry Xena and she didn't want that. The general had already made up his mind about the deal and she began to think on her feet. "What if she gave you half of her men from Troy? She has one thousand Hun soldiers. They are fierce warriors and were able to take on the Romans and Attila's men with few casualties," she grinned and he frowned, thinking it over. Now she had abandoned Xena's plan and made up her own plan to win this Nicaean general over. She didn't really know what side she was on anymore –Xena was a terrible person, yet, she wanted her to win at the same time. The irony, she thought.

"She has agreed to this?" he asked and she nodded her head slowly. "A thousand soldiers?" he asked and she nodded once more. "And what of her wealth?"

Gabrielle froze and hadn't really discussed that part with Xena and had no idea how much money that Xena had at all. She assumed that she didn't have much because it wasn't like Attila paid her to do her job and she probably stole money from various clans and places she raided in the past. "That is...up for discussion..." she lamely said.

Saxu smiled at the blonde, "alright Gabrielle, Xena may present her case to the council, but I will not release her daughter until the negotiation process is complete.

She nodded, "understandable," she smiled and turned to walk away. She exhaled heavily and felt like a heavy brick was on her chest the entire time. She looked beyond the gates and saw Xena still sitting on her horse surrounded by her men. Oh no Gabrielle, what did you just do to yourself? Signed your own death warrant that's what.

Xander heard someone talking to General Saxu from the prison below. He stood up from the bench and walked over to the barred window. He stood on a bench underneath the small opening and saw Saxu speaking with a blonde woman and heard Xena's name mentioned. He then saw the woman walking away and he squinted his eyes trying to see beyond the gates. He saw a horde of horsemen outside the base. Must be Xena, he thought.

He jumped off the bench and walked over to the cell with Xena's daughter and leaned on the bars staring at her with a small grin. She had not even bothered to get free from the chair anymore. She casually kicked a few rocks on the ground with her boot. He couldn't stop staring at her and was amazed at how much she reminded him of his sister when she was younger.

Anastasia lifted her head and saw Xander glancing at her. She frowned, "what are you staring at?" she asked and he felt a bit embarrassed for looking so long, he averted his eyes.

He opened the cell with the key and walked in, closing the gate behind him. He was not usually so nice to his prisoners, though he would a special exception just for her. He smiled and pulled out his wine skin filled with water. He pushed the wine skin close to her face and she cringed, pulling away. "It's just water," he grinned, "I am sure you are thirsty."

She frowned and leaned forward, sniffing the tip of the opening of the wine skin. "My mother told me not to trust people who offer you water."

Xander grinned and he drank from the wine skin, "it's not poisoned, see?" he wiped his mouth and she raised an eyebrow and then decided to take him up on the water, as she was thirsty. "Your mother is smart to tell you that."

Anastasia coughed as she ingested the water too quickly. "Do you know my mother?" she asked suspiciously.

He shrugged a shoulder lightly, "I've seen her once or twice," he winked, keeping secrets to himself. She eyed him cautiously. "But that was a long time ago."

She was curious now, "how long ago?" she asked.

He sighed, trying to count how many years since he had seen Xena. "Before you were born for sure," he teased and she frowned at him, not quite sure of his motives. "What is your name?"

"Anastasia..." she replied warily.

He nodded, "Anastasia. That's a pretty name."

"You did what?!" Xena screeched and grabbed Gabrielle and threw her on the ground inside the tent, pinning her to the floor, straddling her legs as she sat on top of her. She took out her dagger from her belt and held it dangerously close to Gabrielle's face.

The blonde's eyes widened, "now Xena...let's not get out of hand..." she said and eyed the point of the blade coming closer to her cheek.

"This was not part of the plan!" Xena snarled and pushed the blade into Gabrielle's cheek slightly and saw her cringe, awaiting for the pain to emerge.

"I didn't have a choice! He wasn't going to agree with what you said! So I just..."

"Devised your own plan?" the brunette hissed, inching closer to her slave's face. "I trusted you Gabrielle..." she looked down at her dress and grinned deviously. She sliced open her dress with the dagger in one clean sweep and Gabrielle's body tensed. She traced the point of the short blade along Gabrielle's bare chest. "Such soft skin you have..." she mused and grazed her fingertips around the blonde's small breast. "Unscathed...intact...unscarred" she eyed the healing scar above Gabrielle's right breast and smiled smugly, "oh, except for that..." she chuckled and Gabrielle frowned, staring at how she was enjoying this a little too much. "No battle scars for you, sweet Gabrielle," she smirked.

Gabrielle felt like words have saved her from Xena's wrath not once but multiple times. She figured she should at least try one more time to save her skin –save her life. "I did not lie to the general for my own benefit," she spoke aloud and Xena lifted her eyes, glaring at her. "I was losing the negotiation and needed something to entice him..." she added and Xena lifted a dark eyebrow, continuing to stare at her intensely with those steely blue eyes. "It was the only way I could get him to agree!" she frowned. "Don't you want your daughter back?"

Xena's eyes widened and her grip on the dagger tightened. "Yes..." she whispered.

She felt like Xena was starting to come to her senses and took that opportunity to talk some more, slowly invoking her to release her. "And isn't she worth more than a thousand men and some military base?"

The warrior frowned, "she is my world," she said and Gabrielle smiled nervously at her as she still held the dagger in her hand. "I would do anything for her. I'd die for her if I had to."

Gabrielle nodded her head slowly, "I didn't do this to make you angry I hope you know that. I was trying to help you..."

An eerie grin appeared on the Hun woman's lips again and pointed the dagger down at Gabrielle's bare chest. "Oh yes, you sure know how to help someone..." she replied in a low tone of voice. She glanced down at her breasts again and then slowly sliced the dagger into her sternum and Gabrielle bit her bottom lip, feeling the stinging pain. Blood dripped down to her navel and Xena wiped her finger along her bare skin. She looked at her blood stained fingers and glanced at the blonde below her. Then, she licked her fingers and saw Gabrielle cringe in disgust.

"Virgin blood is always sweeter," she winked. She got off of Gabrielle and wiped her dagger on her pants, "this has been fun Gabrielle, we should do this more often." She teased and Gabrielle sat up, covering her chest with her arms. "You should put some rosemary on that wound before it gets infected," she smiled and left her tent.

Gabrielle's mouth gaped and she looked down at her chest and saw a small cut along her skin. She touched it gently and hissed at the subtle pain. She has an odd way of saying thank you...

Chapter Text

AN: and Gabrielle is slowly getting inside Xena's head...enjoy and thank you for reading, all!

Chapter 13

Gabrielle awoke inside Xena's tent that she so graciously allowed her to stay in. Yawning, she sat up from the floor and winced at the wound Xena gave her a few days ago. Her fingers grazed her chest and sighed heavily then she stood up slowly, running her fingers through her wavy blonde locks. She came out of her adjoined room and saw Xena's bed was empty and her armor was hanging up on a rack by her bed. Frowning, she grabbed her coat and stepped outside of the tent.

The sun had barely risen and she saw hardly anyone was awake at this hour except for a few men that were guarding the campsite as usual. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her body from the crisp morning breeze. Shivering, she walked through the camp cautiously, almost afraid that someone from the Nicaean army would come ambush them, but that was unlikely.

As she passed through the campground a few of the soldiers grinned up at her and she shyly turned away, going on about her business. At first, she thought she wasn't going to survive living with Xena and her people, but it hadn't been as bad as she expected it to be. Growing up she was taught that anyone who was not of Greek blood was a barbarian and uneducated. Because, why would anyone be educated outside of Greece anyway? When she was first brought to Pannonia she thought she was in for it being surrounded by savages as the Athenians would say. She soon realized that the Huns were not as barbaric as everyone in the western world made them out to be. They were known for going on raids and pillaging villages and lands, but that didn't mean they did not have feelings too.

When she first saw Xena in Athens, she thought she was horrifying, but now, she wasn't quite sure what to think of her anymore. Xena was indeed educated because she could read and write, and not just in Greek but in Latin as well as the Hunnic language too. She was very intelligent, Gabrielle recognized, and probably because of her intelligence, she was still alive. Though, Gabrielle knew that Xena was on many kill lists by many people especially by the Eastern and Western Romans. She had a lot of drive and when she wanted something, she just took it. Gabrielle couldn't fathom that at all –how could someone just take something that is not theirs to begin with?

She was slowly beginning to realize that she had lived in a very sheltered life and being with Xena, she came to find out that she was more naive than she thought. Xena was older than her but with age does not always bring wisdom. Xena was smart, but she was not wise –she is a good huntress, but that's all she is.

Gabrielle walked further out into the less populated area of the campgrounds where all their weapons were held and extra food supply. She squinted her eyes and saw someone standing in the river, surrounded by huge pine trees. Subtly frowning she walked closer to the river.

Xena stood in the river wearing only a short black skirt and bandeau around her breasts. Her hair was drenched and cascaded down her back, reaching to her hips. She lifted her eyes, looking up at the rising sun and breathed out slowly. Bringing her hands together she then closed her eyes, listening to the fish in the water surrounding her and the birds in the trees nearby.

Gabrielle hid behind a tree and saw Xena standing in the middle of the river, the water reaching to her upper thighs and she raised an eyebrow. What in the world is she doing? She pulled her coat tighter around her and saw the fog hovering above the cold river. Isn't she freezing? She exhaled and saw her breath escape her lips and shook her head, observing Xena standing so stilly and silently.

Xena heard some rustling and opened her eyes. She sensed someone was nearby and smirked, having an idea who that might be. She held her breath and slowly descended into the water, disappearing entirely.

The blonde's eyes widened and she came out from behind the tree to see Xena go underneath the surface of the water. She took a few steps closer and didn't see Xena anywhere. The river was calm and she figured that Xena would have to come up eventually. Nobody could hold their breath for that long, could they?

After a couple of minutes she expected Xena to rise out of the water but she didn't. Becoming concerned she took a few steps closer to the water and tried to see through the dark river and the fog was not helping. "Xena?" she whispered and got no response. There was no sound at all and why was she in the freezing water anyway? "Xena!" she hissed, but still nothing. She hated to say, but she was beginning to panic and actually worry for the woman's safety.

Xena smirked and walked behind Gabrielle. She rung out the excess water from her long thick hair and stared as Gabrielle bent over, nearly falling into the river. "Looking for something?" she said.

Gabrielle gasped and turned around to see none other than Xena standing behind her, soaking wet. She felt her heart stop for a moment and frowned at her. She adjusted her coat and tried to brush it off like nothing happened and definitely wasn't going to show that she cared in the least. "What kind of idiot goes into the water during winter?" she folded her arms.

Xena raised an eyebrow and grabbed her coat that hung on a tree branch. "This idiot, apparently," she winked and wrapped the large dark cloak around her soaking wet body then walked off without saying another word.

The blonde's mouth gaped and she ran after her then winced as any subtle movements caused her chest wound to hurt worse than it should. She wrapped her arm around her torso and skipped ahead to join Xena by her side. "What were you doing in that river? It's freezing outside!"

"Why were you spying on me?" Xena smiled playfully as they walked through the campground together.

Gabrielle laughed nervously, "I wasn't spying on you!" she scoffed and Xena glanced down at her with teasing eyes. "I woke up and saw you weren't in the tent anymore..." she lamely added.

Xena hid her smug grin and headed towards her tent. "So, you went looking for me?" she teased and entered the tent alone. Gabrielle sighed heavily and stood outside the tent, not sure if she should go in or not. She took in a deep breath and entered through the tent.

Xena dropped her cloak to the ground and walked over to the fire in the center of the tent. Water dripped off her legs and arms and her long wet hair gently draped over her bare shoulders. She took off her skirt and bandeau. Gabrielle's eyes widened and before, she would have turned away, but this time, she couldn't stop looking at her. She was frozen.

The warrior woman lifted her eyes and smiled seeing Gabrielle gawking at her with wide doe eyes. She rung out her skirt and bandeau over the fire, getting rid of the excess water and lowered her eyes as she draped the clothes on a rack over the small fire.

Standing up she smirked at Gabrielle's shocked expression, though she was not being shy and glancing away like the good girl she was when they met. "Gabrielle," she walked over and grabbed a gold and black robe, wrapping the sash around her slim waist.

Gabrielle shook her head and folded her arms, staring at Xena's back. She couldn't believe that she just gawked at her like that and longer than she should have. She cleared her throat, "yes?" her voice cracked.

Xena turned around and ran her fingers through her damp hair, fixing her bangs. "Why did you come looking for me?" she smirked, folding her arms, staring at the dumbfounded blonde.

"Well...I wasn't looking for you," Gabrielle grinned as her cheeks flushed, "I just didn't know where you were and I thought maybe something happened because you left your armor here," she said very quickly and looked at Xena's big grin on her lips. She was now mortified and can't believe that she actually admitted that.

The Hun woman smiled, nodding her head. "Alright Gabrielle," she sighed and sat down on her bed, combing her hair silently to herself.

Gabrielle felt anxious and then she sat down on the floor at a fair distance. She was very curious though and asked, "why were you in the river?" she saw Xena didn't even lift her eyes nor respond to her question. "You were so still and focused..." she added in a hushed voice.

Xena lifted her eyes and weakly grinned, "it's something I do before I go to war," she said and combed the ends of her damp hair. Gabrielle frowned and didn't quite understand.

"War? But we're not going to war with anyone..." the blonde supposed. "Are you going to attack Nicaea? Is this about what I did? Listen, Xena, I was just trying to help and if your reaction is to fight, then maybe I've failed but –"

Xena frowned, growing irritated listening to the blonde's babbling going on and on. "Gabrielle!" she hissed and Gabrielle closed her mouth instantly. She exhaled heavily, "thank you," she continued combing her hair. "This is a different war: a war with words and I don't do that," she said shyly.

Gabrielle nodded, "what is the point of taking Nicaea's military base anyway? What is your goal here? What do you really want?" she scooted closer and Xena lifted an eyebrow at her, seeing her inch closer and closer.

"Attila has been the enemy of everyone for a long time and I was the one who did all of the work for him," Xena frowned. "I want to make myself known throughout the world and I don't need anybody's help."

"So you'll kill everyone in your path just to get what? A savage? A tyrant?" Gabrielle shook her head, "I don't understand you."

Xena smirked and set the comb down, "I'm afraid you never will and that's what makes us so different, Gabrielle," she stood up and stripped down to her bare body again then began putting on her undergarments before strapping herself into her armor. Gabrielle's cheeks blushed and she turned away this time, wrapping her arms around herself. "You're a good girl, Gabrielle," she said and slipped her tight black pants on, lacing them underneath her bust.

Gabrielle turned and quirked her mouth to the side, "what is that supposed to mean?"

Xena cringed and put on her corset, tightening the laces behind her as tight as she could. "You were raised in a respectful family and were taught good values. You were destined to be good, live well and be well." She hissed and tried to tighten the corset further.

Gabrielle quickly stood up and grabbed Xena's hands, "let me help you," she offered and Xena let go of the laces slowly. She smiled and pulled the laces tightly, looping them through the eyes and hooks of the corset. "Just because I was raised differently than you doesn't mean that makes me a good person," she said and heard Xena scoff. "We aren't taught to be virtuous," she said and pulled tightly on the corset and Xena groaned, straightening her spine. She continued, "we learn how to be virtuous. Some people live by virtues and some by vices but I don't think that anyone can be truly virtuous because then we'd be as perfect as god." She tied the corset and took a step backward.

Xena turned around and adjusted the plates on her shoulders, "we aren't perfect, I get it," she rolled her eyes. "Being in this holy place..." she shook her head and grabbed her sword and belt, wrapping it around her waist. "...really gets to you," she sheathed her blade and smiled curtly at her blonde slave.

Her opposite shrugged a shoulder coyly. "You know, you could live virtuously too if you really wanted to."

The Hun woman scoffed and grabbed her boots and sat down on her bed, beginning to lace them up quickly. "And what would I do? Work for the greater good?" she chuckled at that idea.

Gabrielle smiled and knelt down in front of her, "it could work!" she said and Xena glared at her. "People would love you, Xena. You have a big heart, I've seen it especially around your daughter," she said and Xena turned away from her, continuing to lace her boots. "You turn off your warrior mode when you're around her, why can't you do that around everyone else?"

Xena finished lacing her boots and grimaced, glaring into Gabrielle's eyes. "In case you haven't noticed, Gabrielle, there are no female leaders in this world. Do you honestly think anyone would listen to me if I were nice to them?" she frowned and stood up, grabbing her cloak.

Gabrielle gasped and stood up and blocked the exit of the tent. "What about the warrior woman, Boudicca? She stood against the Roman Emperor, Nero! She was very fierce!"

"And she made the mistake of allying with the Romans and ended getting herself killed," Xena pushed her out of the way gently and exited the tent, adjusting her gauntlets around her arms.

Gabrielle grunted and followed after her, "well what about Cleopatra VIII? She was allies with Julius Caesar at one point and was the most powerful Queen of Egypt."

Xena frowned, growing tired of these little history lessons Gabrielle was giving her. "And then she had an affair with him and was murdered and that was the end of the Pharisaic dynasty," she placed her hands on her hips, looking at the men getting ready as the sun had risen fully now. "Anything else Gabrielle? Or haven't you been paying attention, all of these brave women died," she replied tersely.

"I think you're missing the point, Xena," the blonde frowned, now she was the one getting frustrated. How could someone so smart be so blind at the same time? "They fought for what they believed in and they were kind to their people."

"So what if they were kind? They still had to war against others to get what they wanted and why am I so different from those women?" Xena frowned and circled around the tents, observing her men cautiously. " just don't agree with my way at all. Is that what it is?" she smirked deviously.

Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "of course I don't agree with you, but that's beside the point."

Xena growled and turned around swiftly, "then what is the point, Gabrielle?!" she hissed.

The blonde exhaled sharply, "the point is...people would follow you if you weren't so barbaric and tyrannical."

Xena laughed mockingly, "oh Gabrielle, I don't want followers!" she frowned deeply. "I want to conquer all of the lands around the Black, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas. I don't need followers to do that, I need submitters."

Gabrielle slowly nodded her head, now understanding the direction Xena was going in and it was a dark direction. "So you want to be a queen is that what you're saying?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder, "empress sounds better," she winked. "I will take Valetinian's laurels and Theodosius' throne, but first...I need to play their little game of politics," she folded her arms, tapping her fingers on her silver gauntlets. "I need to get Anastasia back first and if anything happens to her, I will burn this holy city to the ground and abandon my case with the Nicene Council."

"And what of the military base? Isn't that why you came here in the first place?" Gabrielle raised her eyebrow confusedly.

The warrior woman turned around slowly, "I will just build a new one," she smiled wickedly and left the campgrounds to survey the surrounding area. They were pretty secluded in this forest, but she knew that the Nicaean General would come looking for her eventually. He was probably nervous about her being so close to his precious city.

She heard horse hooves trampling on the ground and hid behind a tree, carefully looking at who was entering the city. Gabrielle crept down beside her and she frowned down at her as the blonde nervously smiled up at her. Ignoring her blonde slave next to her she peered through the branches and saw Roman elite soldiers riding into Nicaea. Immediately her blood began to boil and especially when she saw Flavius Aetius riding in the middle, surrounded by his lackeys.

"That self righteous bastard!" Xena growled and stood up, watching as the Romans rode into the city's main road.

Gabrielle squinted her eyes and frowned, recognizing that man. "Is that the Roman that tried to kill you?" she asked.

Xena snarled, "what is he doing in Nicaea..." she tapped her finger against her chin, thinking of all the possibilities.

"He probably knows you are here..." Gabrielle gathered and stood up once the Romans were far off onto the road, now not visible anymore. She watched Xena contemplating in silence. "What are you going to do?"

A smile appeared on the warrior's lips and folded her arms, "I'm going to go find out for myself." She turned and briskly walked off back to the camp.

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "wait a minute!" she grabbed Xena's hand and the warrior snarled, snatching her arm away from her. "Don't do this, Xena. It will ruin any chance of you getting that hearing with the council," she tried to sound reasonable but she saw in Xena's eyes that reason and rationality had left her body entirely. "Don't sacrifice this opportunity just because a Roman came here. You don't even know why he is here..."

"Stop philosophizing, Gabrielle!" Xena growled then turned to her men, whistling at one of them. "Prepare my horse!" she demanded and glared back at Gabrielle before walking away.

Gabrielle frowned, folding her arms, huffing as she saw Xena walk away from her. She was doing so well, she thought.

Aetius rode inside the gates of the military base and was met with General Saxu waiting at the entrance. He smiled at him and took off his helmet before dismounting his steed. "General," he bowed his head.

Saxu bowed his head in return, "commander, I was not expecting your arrival..." he eyed the plethora of soldiers behind him. "Are you preparing for an attack?" he asked with a sly grin.

The blonde commander chuckled anxiously, "I hear you have a Hun in dangerous proximity..." he raised an eyebrow and saw the general's smile fade away quickly. "Do you know where she is perhaps? Xena, I mean..." he had an arrogant smile on his face at this point.

The general frowned, "I do not know where she is, but I fear she is not far," he curtly replied. "I heard you were not able to catch her not once, but three times," he chuckled and the commander grimaced.

"She has been underestimated," Aetius grumbled. "But..." he smiled, "I was informed that you have her...daughter?" he whispered.

Saxu shared a smile, "oh yes, I have her," he moved out of the way, gesturing for him to come inside his compound, "please, after you, commander," he bowed his head.

Xander made his rounds to check on the said prisoners and glanced over at his youngest prisoner of war and frowned sadly at her. Anastasia was sleeping sitting up in the chair and he couldn't go against his master's orders to release her, but if he could, he definitely would.

Suddenly, he heard the door open and he turned to see a Roman elite enter the prison. He stood up straight and put on a stoic face. Aetius grinned at him and waved his hand, "you are in charge of this prison, boy?" he asked.

Xander nodded, "yes sir," he answered curtly.

Aetius glanced inside some cells and most were older men, Roman men. He frowned and walked further down the small hallway. He came to the cell that he supposed held Xena's daughter and smiled. "And who is this lovely creature?"

Xander's mouth gaped slightly and he turned to see Anastasia still sleeping. "A Hun girl, sir."

The commander nodded, "open the door," he demanded and Xander stood still. "I said open it!" he yelled and Xander quickly unlocked the cell door and Aetius stepped inside. He walked over to the tied up girl and Anastasia's eyes fluttered open. She groaned and lifted her head and gasped, seeing exactly who he was. He knelt down and saw fear in her big blue eyes. "I'm not going to hurt you," he smiled and she tried to scoot away from him.

He reached forward and touched her cheek and she closed her eyes, fearing the worst. He examined her face and then grazed her long dark hair. "You look so much like your mother –a spitting image!" he mused and Anastasia's eyes opened widely. "Although...I see much of your father in you as well."

She blinked, "you knew my father?" she asked and he grinned sneakily at her.

"Of course. What a fine warrior he was..." he sighed and she lowered her eyes sadly. "Your mother and I used to be such friends when you were still in her womb," he winked and she lifted her chin slowly, looking into his light eyes.

Anastasia frowned, "I have a hard time believing that my mother would ever be friends with someone like you."

Aetius frowned, "smart mouth, just like your mother," he stood up and circled the girl. He snapped his fingers at Xander, "I want to take her with me to Constantinople."

Xander's eyes widened, "I don't think you can do that sir. I have orders to keep her here," he said, hoping that his sister's daughter wouldn't leave his side. If she went with him then something might happen to her and at least she was safe here.

The commander chuckled, "I rank above your general, boy. I was sent by the emperor himself." He snapped to his soldiers, "take her," he walked out of the cell and brushed by Xander.

The Romans grabbed Anastasia and she fought back desperately trying to get away. "Let go of me!" she yelled and then bit one of the Roman's arms and he dropped her on the ground. She wiggled her arms and the other Roman grabbed her by her hair and she yelped as he lifted her off the cold hard ground. Xander shied away, not willing himself to look any longer.

"My mother will kill you all!" she cried out and then the Roman gagged her mouth with a cloth and she groaned. She was lifted over the man's shoulder and he carried her out of the cell, walking passed his commander.

Aetius smirked watching the girl kicking her legs and listened to her muffled screams. "She's got quite a mouth doesn't she?" he winked at Xander and followed his men up the stairs. Xander groaned and hit the wall with his fist, feeling useless. But there was perhaps another way...

Xena rode into the military compound after her men took care of the guards at the entrance. They broke through the gates and she eyed all the men on the wall above her, panicking and running around like ants. She grinned and trotted into the center of the compound and then she saw Aetius on his horse getting ready to leave.

"Leaving so soon?" she smiled and the commander turned, frowning seeing her once again.

Aetius pulled on his reins and saw his men readying their weapons. He put his hand up, "hold your fire," he announced and Xena smiled at him deviously. "What are you doing here, Xena?"

"I could ask you the same thing," she teased.

He smiled and then Anastasia was brought out gagged and tied on a horse with a Roman riding in front of the commander. Xena's smile disappeared once she saw her daughter in the hands of the western Roman. Aetius relished in seeing the woman's defeat in her eyes and desperation settle into her face.

"Oh yes, I have found your prized possession. She's a stunning girl Xena," he winked and saw he had awoken the savagery inside of her. "She will make a beautiful wife to someone one day," he chuckled and Xena narrowed her eyebrows, glaring at him.

"Give her to me," she said very calmly and her men surrounded her, forming a wall on each side of her.

Aetius grinned, "that's not how this works Xena. She belongs to Rome now. I'm sure she will make a wonderful slave," he enticed her.

Xena's eyes widened with fury and she unsheathed her sword, "she has nothing to do with this, Aetius. Give her to me now or I will cut you into pieces."

He tisked and shook his head at the arrogance of this woman. "No," he laughed and waved his hand, allowing his men to charge forward towards her and her troops. He pulled on the reins and went in the opposite direction with his elite guards following behind him with Xena's daughter in tow.

Anastasia looked back and took one last look at her mother fighting off Romans. A tear fell down her cheek and they left the compound through a back exit.

Xena growled and thrust her sword into a Roman's chest and kicked him off his horse. She glanced up and saw archers above her and rode away from the wall as far as possible. She stopped in the center of the compound and her eyes danced around looking for her daughter. She wiped her head around and it was as if everything was in slow motion around her as everyone was fighting one another. The Troy soldiers surrounded her in a circle and she sat on her horse, motionless. I lost her again.

General Saxu stayed inside his safe haven and watched Xena's men tear up the Roman soldiers. He shook his head. She will stop at nothing, he told himself. He felt a hand to come to his shoulder and turned to see Xander.

"Sir, you are aware that the commander took Anastasia, right?" he asked.

Saxu frowned and folded his arms, "you know her name?" he was skeptical and Xander avoided his gaze.

"You will only anger her more, sir. You need to stop attacking her!" he begged and Saxu waved his hand, dismissing his soldier.

"Xander, my boy, that cunt is angered by anything," he chuckled and walked off. Xander frowned and he hadn't seen Xena in many years, but he definitely didn't appreciate her being called such foul names. He grabbed a sword and went outside the compound in the midst of the battle between three sides. Too many men, he saw. Niceans, Romans, Huns.

Xena growled and caught an arrow shooting right at her and broke it in half on her knee. She came out of her daze and left the center of the circle and trotted around as arrows were being shot straight for her. She ducked her head and saw more Nicaean men charging right at her. Her eyes widened and she yanked on the horse's reins and turned around, riding in the opposite direction.

Xander sliced through a Roman soldier and technically they were his allies, but it seemed that in the midst of all this chaos, nobody knew which side they were on. He kicked the dying Roman away and saw Xena riding in circles, trying to escape the arrows. His eyes widened and he hadn't seen her in so long, but she looked just the same to him.

Xena frowned and turned her horse around and decided riding in circles was not helping at all. She rode towards the compound and saw a Nicaean soldier gawking at her. She skid to a stop as she nearly toppled over him and her eyes grew in awe. She recognized that face anywhere and that face was of her brother's –he brother she thought was still in Amphipolis, but apparently not.

Both stared at one another in silence and he smiled at her softly, though she was at a loss for words at the moment. In the midst of being in their own little world he saw an arrow strike right through Xena's left shoulder and she cried out then fell backwards off her horse.

"Xena!" he threw his sword and ran to her, kneeling by her side. She breathed heavily and then stared up at the eyes that mirrored her own. He smiled down at her and then picked her up from under her arms and drug her off away from the battle grounds.

Grunting he put her in the narrow hallway on the left side of the compound and leaned her against the wall. "I'm going to get your horse," he said and ran off.

"Wait!" she called out then winced as she moved her arm. She looked at the large arrow sticking out of her shoulder and broke off the large end of the shaft painfully then threw it aside.

General Saxu came back to the window and saw Xander get on Xena's horse and ride off to the other side of the base. "What the fuck is he doing?!" he yelled and then saw him carrying Xena carefully and throw her over the horse. "What in blazing hell..." he whispered and saw the two riding off out of the base, while everyone else was completely oblivious.

He ran outside and pointed at the two, "follow those two!" he demanded and a horde of Nicaean men quickly mounted their horses, riding off. He growled and then saw the Hun men were obviously not going to let them through. He cursed to himself and watched as some of his men were killed in a matter of seconds. "Bastards..." he grumbled.

Gabrielle waited back at the camp, sitting by Xena's tent, awaiting for her return. She should have never gone there, she kept going over the scenarios that could happen. She sighed and mindlessly poked at the fire alone, still waiting. Waiting seemed like an eternity right about now.

She heard horse hooves and immediately stood up. She hoped that it was not Romans or Nicaeans because she had no way to defend herself. Xena was right, she didn't know how to fight at all, and perhaps she should learn. She ran to the outskirts and saw a man riding in on Xena's horse with...Xena behind him? What in the world...

Xander skid to a stop and hopped off the horse. Xena glared at him and he lifted her off the horse carefully. Gabrielle gasped and covered her mouth seeing the large arrow sticking out of her shoulder. "What happened?!" she asked and then turned to the mysterious man, "and who are you?" she frowned, seeing he was dressed in pristine Nicaean armor.

He aided Xena as they walked into the camp and Xena pushed him away and punched him in his jaw. He stumbled into a tree and she cringed, putting her hand over her bleeding wound. He rubbed his jaw and found his footing. " doing in Nicaea?!" Xena yelled and unsheathed her sword, coming closer to him.

"Xena..." he put his hands up, "I'm not here to harm you..." he steered away from her blade as she was dangerously coming closer to him. "I saved you!" he frowned and she let out a loud cry and swung her sword across and he dodged it, stepping to the side. "Would you stop?!" he tried to persuade her and she came at him again and he kicked the sword out of her hand and she gasped. He picked up the blade and pointed it at her. "Xena," he began slowly and she frowned, looking down at her own sword pointing at her. "I know about your daughter."

Xena stopped and felt her heart stop for a moment as she looked into his concerned eyes.

Gabrielle folded her arms and was very confused. "What is going on here?" she asked and Xander turned towards her.

"I'm her brother," he said and the blonde's eyes widened. Brother? "Her twin brother," he smiled at Xena, "isn't that right, sister?" he said playfully and Xena glared at him. Twin brother?! Gabrielle definitely thought that Xena was not lying about having siblings but a twin brother? What the hell? And he was here in odd and he knows about Anastasia too. Even more odd. And he's helping her too...even more strange, she thought.

He sighed and flipped the sword around and Xena cautiously took it from him then winced at her shoulder. Shaking his head he wrapped his arm around her and this time, she didn't fight back and Gabrielle lead them both to her tent.

Xena laid down on the bed and Xander grabbed a dagger from his boot and began cutting off Xena's armor buckles around her shoulders. She grabbed his wrist and he smirked down at her. "You don't want to die do you?" he implied and she let go of his wrist and he continued to cut her armor.

Gabrielle brought over some wet cloths and herbs then sat beside Xena. She hated to admit it, but she didn't want Xena to die, nor did she want to see her hurt either. "Where is Anastasia?" she looked up at Xena's brother.

He shook his head, "a Roman commander took her," he threw Xena's armor off to the side and saw her entire chest was covered in blood and he sighed, judging the size of the arrowhead, this was going to have to be extracted and not pushed through her body to get it out. He looked down at his pained sister, "does Saxu know where this camp is?" and she shook her head in silence. "Well, I'm sure they're sending a party of men to come find us." He grabbed one of the cloths from Gabrielle's hand and dabbed the blood around her wound.

Gabrielle didn't realize how so many things could change or go wrong in such a short time until now. "Are you a Nicaean soldier?" she asked and he didn't answer.

Xander looked apologetically down at Xena and then gripped the shaft and broke it off and she cried out, clenching her fists. Sighing, he threw the shaft aside and opened the wound with his fingers carefully and saw the large arrowhead inside her shoulder. "Do you have any forceps or tweezers?" he turned to Gabrielle.

She nervously looked through Xena's belongings and found a short dagger. She nervously grinned at him and he raised an eyebrow at the dagger. He snatched it from her hand and sighed heavily. "This will have to do I guess," he looked down at his angry sister's face. "Sorry for this..." he began digging inside the wound trying to pry out the arrowhead and Xena cringed, biting her bottom lip.

Xena's hand stretched outward and grabbed onto Gabrielle's arm and then nervously searched for her hand and tightly gripped onto her slave's hand. Gabrielle looked down and saw her fingers intertwined with Xena's and her grip tightened as the pain worsened as Xander continued to dig in the fresh wound. Gabrielle smiled shyly and put her other hand over Xena's.

After a few minutes of prying, Xander finally pulled out the bloody arrowhead. He lifted it up and it was quite large, the size of half his palm. "A souvenir from Nicaea," he joked and Xena breathed heavily, glaring at him. He cleared his throat and wiped his hands on a cloth then stood up. "I'm going to see if your men came back and if we're being followed," he left the tent.

Xena realized she was still holding onto Gabrielle's hand and immediately let go, pulling her arm away. She sat up slowly and Gabrielle pushed her back down on the pillows. Xena awkwardly looked away from her and her cheeks flushed.

"I'll treat the wound for you," Gabrielle offered with a small grin and went off to grab some bandages somewhere in this tent. She knew she had seen them before, but she was searching everywhere for them.

"They're in the red bag," Xena said and Gabrielle looked in the bag and found bandages. She smiled and came back to sit beside her. She began mixing the herbs together and then gently packed the wound with the herbs. Xena winced and the blonde pulled her hand away.

"I'm sorry," she said and Xena shook her head, allowing Gabrielle to continue. She was a bit more careful this time and dabbed the blood around the wound with a clean cloth. "So...your brother..."

Xena shied away, "I don't want to talk about it," she muttered and Gabrielle continued to pack the wound.

"He knows about Anastasia..." the blonde pried further and this time Xena didn't even look at her and said nothing in response. "He saved you..." she mumbled, "and he's a Nicaean soldier," she added.

The warrior turned her head slowly and raised an eyebrow at the blonde slave. "Are you finished?" she asked bluntly.

Gabrielle shut her mouth and once she was finished packing the wound she began bandaging Xena's shoulder. She sighed, "don't you think it's strange that he saved you? I mean...Nicaean soldiers don't just do that for anyone you know..."

"Gabrielle!" Xena yelled and the blonde lowered her eyes.

She decided not to bring that up again, obviously it was a sensitive subject. "I was worried something like this would happen," Gabrielle tied the bandage underneath Xena's arm.

Xena frowned, "you were?" she seemed surprised and saw Gabrielle's cheeks flush a vibrant red.

The blonde shrugged a shoulder with a coy smile, "it's really upsets me when you do these things..." she said shyly and was finished fixing her wound then stood to leave her side until Xena grabbed her hand.

Xena raised an eyebrow at the petite woman curiously, "why would you be upset by the things I do? And what things are you talking about...?"

Gabrielle now felt all her hairs stand up on her body as she felt Xena's hand wrapped around hers. "Your...irrational decisions," she admitted timidly. "And it's just...I don't like to see people get hurt," she let go of Xena's hand and walked away quickly to put the cloths back where she found them. She exhaled slowly, staring at the tent wall, trying to collect her thoughts. What are you doing, Gabrielle?

Xena sat up and was about to say something until Xander burst into the tent. He said in baited breath, "your men have returned and said that Saxu sent out some mercenaries to find you –me," he lowered his eyes and Gabrielle didn't dare turn around. He felt a lot of tension in this tent and he looked to his sister. "We need to leave this place."

"We?" Xena frowned, "since when are you part of this?" she stood up and pulled her cloak over her, trying not to move her shoulder too much.

He folded his arms, "I saved you, Xena and I betrayed my leader for you."

"I didn't ask you to do that," she grumbled and brushed passed him, exiting the tent. Gabrielle finally let out her breath she had been holding in once she left.

Xander chuckled at his sister's behavior and marched after her. "Hey!" he yelled and Xena didn't even bother turning around. "When did you become such a bitch, Xena?!" he said and she mounted her horse, staring at him with a blank expression.

"I'm not the Xena you once knew, Xander," she pulled on her reins and saw Gabrielle exit the tent, looking very sheepish.

He stood shaking his head and all of her men were surrounding behind her on the lookout for Saxu's men. "I save you and this is how you treat me!" he couldn't believe it. "I even treated your daughter better than any of my other prisoners!"

She smiled, "oh, so you're a prison guard?" she chuckled softly. "Figures."

"And you're an insane warlord!" he spat back and her smile disappeared. "You should have never joined those Caspian Huns!"

Gabrielle looked to Xena with a confused face and now she really needed to know more about Xena, though now was not the time. She felt the need to interject, "um, Xena," she said and the warrior turned her head towards her. "He knows this area very well. He could help us find Anastasia."

Xena lowered her eyes and thought of her daughter in the hands of Aetius. She had no idea where he would take her and why he even cared, but obviously he had some kind of agenda. She wasn't willing to risk everything in order to lose her daughter. She let out a heavy sigh and turned to her brother.

"Fine," she said then whistled at one of her men. "Give him a horse," she demanded and Xander frowned up at her. She then looked to Gabrielle and stretched her arm out with a subtle smile. Gabrielle looked at her hand then to her warm eyes. She smiled and grabbed her hand, and climbed atop the horse.

Xander mounted the horse and stared into his sister's eyes. She frowned then softened for a moment, "thank you," she said.

"That's a start." He pulled on the reins and trotted off. Xena grimaced and then trailed behind him, allowing him to lead the way.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Xena's waist tightly as they rode off through the thick forest. Xena smirked and followed her brother.

Chapter Text

AN: title means "calm army" in ancient Hunnic language. Very tense stuff here. Good luck all and thanks for reading along ;)

Chapter 14 -оъда пһілліпұһіл

Aetius rode into Constantinople after he fled from Nicaea only a couple of days earlier. He was sure that Xena was going to stop at nothing to get what she wanted and she obviously not the best at negotiating either. He knew that little fight between the Nicaean soldiers and Romans were just a minor distraction for her. She was alive, he knew that. She always managed to live even in the hardest times. He could never understand how God could be on her side constantly. She had many angels guarding her that's for sure.

He dismounted his horse outside Theodosius' fortress and took a good look at the Hun girl, tied up sitting on the horse. He gave her a big grin and she snarled at him. He snapped his fingers at the man holding Anastasia. "Bring her inside with me," he instructed and waltzed into the palace.

The Roman lifted Anastasia off the horse and she kicked him in the shin. He growled and grabbed her by her arm firmly and she winced. "Don't make this more difficult on yourself, girl!" he hissed in her ear and pushed her forward to walk behind his commander.

Flavius Aetius entered the throne chamber and he saw the emperor speaking with Attila. All eyes were on him now and the Hun king frowned deeply once their eyes locked. "Your highness..." he bowed his head and Theodosius stood from his throne and stepped aside from Attila.

"Commander, you are back from Nicaea so soon..." the emperor observed and then saw a Roman manhandling a young girl, which by the looks of it, he proposed it was Xena's daughter. He grinned and stepped closer, "is this the daughter?" he touched Anastasia's cheek and she snapped her head away from him.

Attila's eyes widened and he locked eyes with Anastasia. Her eyes were pleading and begging to be saved. He felt bad for her and why in the world would Romans want this girl? "You kidnapped Xena's daughter?" he asked as his temper was rising slowly. He and Xena may not be allies anymore, but her child had nothing to do with this feud and he too promised to protect her daughter since the day she was born, no matter the circumstance.

Aetius nodded, "why yes Attila. She looks just like her doesn't she?" he mused and the Hun king stood shaking his head in shame then he began laughing.

Theodosius turned and frowned at the Hun's laughter, "what exactly is so funny?"

"You need to give her back to Xena," he chuckled and the two Romans were glaring at him now. "She will come here and destroy everything," he warned them and his laughter died and he folded his arms. "You are opening your city to the gates of Hell. Give her back before she comes here and kills you both." He eyed Anastasia and she smiled at him through her gagged mouth. A small glimmer of hope was in her eyes and he smirked at her.

It was now the emperor's turn to laugh and Aetius shortly joined in with him. "Attila, my friend!" he sighed and placed his hand on the Hun's shoulder. "You worry too much. She doesn't even know where her daughter has been taken."

Attila shook his head, "no Theodosius, you don't understand. Xena will find her and when she does, she's going to crucify you. I'm trying to warn you, I know her very well."

Aetius frowned and glared at the dark haired Hun. "You seem to care a lot about Xena's daughter," he observed and Attila averted his eyes elsewhere, pretending he didn't say that. "Disappointed that she isn't yours?" he chuckled, teasing lightly.

Attila snarled and came within inches of the commander's face, "you are repulsive! I would never bed Xena. She was like a sister to me and despite our differences...I made a promise to her!" he looked at Anastasia and sighed softly. "Let her go before Xena comes here and burns your city to the ground," he shook his head and marched over to Anastasia and took the cloth out of her mouth.

"Attila!" she smiled up at him with teary eyes. He winked at her and he pushed the Roman off of her and untied her arms and wrists. She flung her arms around the king's neck and he embraced her warmly. "Thank you," she whispered in his ear.

Theodosius clapped his hands slowly, "well isn't this little reunion so nice," he sarcastically said and Attila turned with his arm wrapped around Anastasia. "You can't do this, Attila. She is my bargaining tool to get Xena to leave Constantinople."

Attila smirked, "you are a fool if you think she is going to leave without a fight." He saw the anger in the emperor's eyes and the arrogance steaming off of Aetius. "I'm taking Anastasia with me. When Xena comes here, tell her that I have her daughter and I will deal with her," he frowned and grabbed the teen's hand, storming out of the throne chamber.

Aetius' mouth gaped, "you're going to just let him walk away with her?!" he shouted at the emperor.

Theodosius waltzed back to his throne and wiped his finger on the armrest. He smiled sneakily and looked up at the Nicene cross above his throne. "Attila says he knows Xena very well, which he does," he paused and the commander folded his arms, loving to hear this. "Perhaps this will be better. We will simply tell Xena that Attila kidnapped her daughter," he turned and saw the shock on the Roman's face.

"Sir," Aetius laughed nervously, "that is not going to work!" he growled, "did you not see how he reacted when he saw the girl?! He loves her as if she were his own blood!"

"You're missing one thing, Aetius," the emperor smiled eerily, "Xena hates Attila now and he hates her. Why would she trust him with her daughter now?"

Attila walked with Anastasia outside Constantinople's palace walls and she clung to him tightly. He had his camp with his wife and with little men he had left outside the city. He refused to take any hospitality from the emperor, due to his own pride of course.

He peered down at the girl and she was obviously shook. "What are you doing in the Eastern Empire?" he asked in a calm voice.

She looked up at him, "my mother brought me here," she frowned, "she wanted a military base or something," she sighed and Attila brought her closer to his body.

"Military base, huh?" Attila smirked. Oh Xena, you are ambitious.

"If you...hate my mother," Anastasia began quietly and picked at her fingernails as they walked together down the dirt road. "Why don't you hate me too?"

Attila's eyes widened and he stopped mid-step and placed his hands on the teen's shoulders, staring at her tear filled blue eyes. He smiled softly, "I don't hate you, Anastasia and I don't think I ever could," he said and she lowered her head shamefully. "And I don't hate your mother either."

She lifted her chin and frowned confusedly at the Hun king, "you don't?" she shook her head, "but...but she killed all of your men and burned down Pannonia!"

He grinned and definitely remembered that night for sure. Xena came in as quickly as she left and wiped out everything in one night then disappeared again. "Your mother and I have known each other for a very long time. Even with everything she has done, I don't hate her and I would never hate you either and your mother knows that," he touched her cheek and a smile formed on her lips. "You will be safe with me, I promise."

"Ana!" Ellac saw her standing with his father and she quickly turned her head, seeing the Hun prince for the first time in a very long time. He grinned and ran over to her, almost tripping over a few loose branches in the process.

Her face broke out in a huge smile and he ran into her, wrapping his arms around her. She nearly fell over and hugged him tightly. "It's nice to see you, Ellac."

He pulled away and touched her pale face, "you look really...terrible," he said and she sighed heavily. "What are you doing here in Constantinople?" he smiled, anxious about seeing her again after so long.

"It's a long story," she put it nicely and he grabbed her hand, pulling her along with him down the dirt trail.

"I have time!" he grinned and she smiled as he was forcibly dragging her with him. "Dengi and Ernak will be really happy to see you!"

Attila sighed, shaking his head, as he walked behind those two running off back to the campgrounds.

Xander saw Xena riding in front of him with Gabrielle and he grunted. He kicked his horse and rode up beside her and she glared at him. "We need to stop!" he yelled and she rode faster. "Is she serious?" he grumbled and grabbed the whip around his belt loop and rode behind her.

Gabrielle looked behind her and saw Xena's brother unraveling a whip. Her eyes widened and she pulled on Xena's cloak, "Xena!" she shook her shoulder and she ignored her. "Xena! I think we should stop now!" she begged her but Xena had shut her out and kept riding faster.

He rode up alongside his sister and threw forward the whip and wrapped it around her horse's neck. He skid to a stop and Xena's horse reared back onto his hind legs. Gabrielle gasped and wrapped her arms around Xena's waist tightly so she wouldn't fall off. Xena groaned and pulled on the reins, finally able to settle the horse down enough and he was on all fours now. Snapping her head around she saw her brother holding onto his whip tightly.

"I told you to stop," he frowned and retracted the whip, coiling it around his arm. Xena trotted over to him and he slyly smiled at her angry face. Xena unsheathed her sword and pointed it at his neck.

"Nobody tells me what to do," she hissed and rested the tip of the blade under his chin. He peered down at the long sword dangerously close to his main arteries. She smiled and lifted his chin with a gentle tilt of the sword. "Understand?"

Xander carefully pushed the sword away from his face and hooked the whip back onto his belt. "Whatever you say," he replied tersely. She pulled her blade back and raised an eyebrow at her brother. He sighed, "the horses need to rest. We've been riding for hours." Xena grimaced and wasn't too happy to hear that. His face contorted with concern and he pointed to her shoulder, "you're bleeding."

She looked down and saw blood seeping through her bandages. Gabrielle shook her head and touched Xena's shoulder, "he's right, we should rest for awhile and I can fix that for you."

Later, after everyone had time to rest for awhile per Xander's request. Xena and Gabrielle were secluded from everyone else by a group of trees in the open field on the outer rim of Nicaea. Saxu's men wouldn't dare follow them out this far and even Xena said that they weren't able to catch them outside the military base's gates.

Gabrielle took the soiled bandages off of Xena's shoulder and began packing her wound with fresh herbs. She gently traced her fingers over the wound and Xena looked away to block out the stinging pain. She smiled softly and wiped her hands off on her dress then grabbed some fresh bandages out of the red tote. "You should really be careful you know," she said and the warrior slowly turned and glared at her. "If you keep moving around like this, your wound will never heal," she lamely added and began bandaging Xena's shoulder tightly.

"I've had worse wounds," Xena replied firmly.

The blonde nodded with a small grin on her lips, "I have no doubt. You're really lucky that Xander was there to save you."

Xena frowned and grabbed Gabrielle's wrist tightly, "don't do this, Gabrielle, I'm not in the mood," she threw her arm aside and the blonde sighed and continued wrapping her shoulder.

"Why are you being so mean to him?" she asked curiously and ripped the gauze and tucked it into a layer. Xena wrapped her cloak around herself and winced as she gradually moved her shoulder. "Do you two hate each other?"

Xena turned and saw Xander standing by himself, casually cutting the wheat stalks with a short sword. "No..." she folded her arms and felt Gabrielle come sit beside her. She looked back and smirked slightly. "I never expected him to work as a soldier especially in a place like Nicaea."

Gabrielle leaned against the tree and touched shoulders with Xena's as she inched closer for warmth against the cold breeze coming through. "I don't think he expected you to be what was it he called 'insane warlord'?" she chuckled and received a subtle glare from the dark haired woman. Her smile disappeared and she averted her eyes from her steely gaze. "So...what did you expect from him then if he wasn't to be a soldier?"

Xena shook her head and kept staring at her brother, "I don't know. He hated fighting and war. I guess I'm just surprised." She narrowed her eyes and scooted away from the blonde slave. "Why do you care?" she frowned.

The blonde shrugged her shoulders, "if I was given the chance to see my sister, I'd be so happy. I certainly wouldn't punch her in the face or threaten her with weapons..." she hinted and Xena groaned softly. "He looks a lot like you," she mused.

Xena raised her eyebrow as she stared at her slave, "really Gabrielle?" she scoffed and stood up from the grassy field as she saw her brother making his way over.

He smiled curtly at his sister and she folded her arms defensively. "How's your shoulder?" he looked to the fresh bandages.

"We should get moving," she brushed passed him and briskly headed towards her horse. He sighed and saw a smile on the blonde's face. He raised an eyebrow at her not-so-subtle expression and then she walked off to go join Xena. He scratched the back of his neck and sighed heavily.

Xander trotted on his horse over to his sister and she was adjusting her cloak clasp around her shoulder and fixing her boots. He cleared his throat and she looked up to him. "I know that the Romans took Anastasia to Constantinople. It's not that far from here. We should arrive by nightfall."

She nodded and said nothing, avoiding his gaze. Allowing the horses a break, she decided not to ride with the speed of Hermes, but to casually trot the rest of the way since they were close to the holy city of the Eastern empire.

A few hours into the journey to Constantinople, Xander rode beside Xena while Gabrielle decided to walk next to Xena's horse. She decided that she was done riding horses for awhile and not to mention Xena was a crazy horseman riding with the speed of lightning.

Xander looked at his sister and smiled at her. She caught him staring and frowned at his goofy expression. "What?" she asked.

He sighed, "nothing," he turned away and looked ahead of them at the dark trail in the forest. " had a baby," he brought up casually and she rolled her eyes. "When?"

"Thirteen years ago," she replied curtly.

He nodded, "she's a beautiful girl, Xena. She reminds me of you –"

"Xander, just stop," she interrupted and his mouth gaped, though he didn't bother to retort back. "This isn't about you and I. I just want to get her back and then we can go our separate ways."

Xander frowned and he grabbed her arm, "what is your problem?" she snarled and snatched her arm away, then he grabbed her horse's reins and stopped her in her tracks. "We aren't enemies, Xena. We are friends."

"Why did you become a soldier, Xander?" she asked and Gabrielle's eyes widened, feeling the tension between those two, she decided to step away from Xena's horse.

He laughed, "are you serious?!" he continued chuckling and her eyes grew with fury as he continued to mock her. "Why did you become a blood thirsty Hun queen or...or...whatever you are!"

"What happened to the nonviolent brother I used to know? What changed your mind?" she leaned in closer and he frowned deeply at her, his blood pressure rising.

"You didn't give me a choice after you left home, Xena," he admitted quietly and she pulled back, raising an eyebrow at him, not sure what he meant by that. "You remember our younger brother, Lyceus, or did you forget that you got him killed that day?"

Xena's mouth gaped, "I didn't kill him! The Visigoths did and I didn't force him to fight!" she defended herself and he trotted off. She groaned and rode in front of him, grabbing his reins. "I didn't murder him, and you know that!"

"Well, you didn't stop him either," he spat back.

"Neither did you!" she yelled and Gabrielle blinked, watching these two fight in front of all these men behind them as they awkwardly waited on their horses. "You and Toris hid like cowards. You two are the eldest sons, yet you did not fight."

Xander scoffed, "we were losing!" he yanked his reins back from her grasp. "Lyceus was fourteen when he died, Xena, does that mean nothing to you?" he shook his head glaring at her blank slate. "Ditron and Pirro were scared of you –scared of their older sister," he sighed.

Xena lowered her eyes, remembering the frightened looks in her two youngest brothers' eyes. They were only eight and nine years old at the time. They didn't want to come near her especially when she returned home with blood all over her clothes and face, only at seventeen, she thought she knew everything, but apparently not, and still didn't.

"Forget it," he slowly trotted away and whistled to the men to follow him. Xena frowned seeing all of her men following her brother.

"Where are they now?" she called out and he turned around, halting his steed.

"Stagira," he replied and kept riding off in the thick of the forest.

Gabrielle walked over to Xena and tapped her leg gently, "are you alright?" she asked and she looked down at her with soft eyes. "Hey, I don't think he meant what he said. He's just upset."

"Sure," Xena said, though she was completely unsure herself. "Are you going to walk the entire way?"

The blonde chuckled nervously, "no offense Xena, but your riding scares me. You're worse than those chariot racers."

Xena smirked, "suit yourself, Gabrielle," she trotted off and Gabrielle smiled, wrapping her arms around herself, walking beside the horse.

Attila sat with his wife outside of their tent watching the children sit around the fire, talking to themselves and playing a game. Kreka frowned, seeing Ellac and Anastasia sitting so close to one another. "Why did you bring her here?" she asked.

He was watching his sons and Xena's daughter sitting together and turned to his wife, "what?"

She scoffed, "you brought that woman's daughter here to our camp! Why did you do that?!"

Attila rolled his eyes, "Anastasia is a child and has nothing to do with this...thing between me and Xena," he put it lightly and felt his wife's eyes burning a hole into his face as she glared at him.

"She is not a child, Attila," she shook her head and saw her two sons pile on top of Anastasia, wrestling with her. "In a couple of years she will be a woman and she will be exactly like her mother," she folded her arms.

He chuckled to himself, "sixteen is hardly what I call a woman," he sighed and Ellac pulled his brothers off of the girl and help her off the ground. He brushed her hair behind her ears and Attila frowned.

Kreka smirked as she saw her husband growing irritated seeing the two so close. "At sixteen, she is old enough to carry a child, Attila. If I were you, I'd steer Ellac away from her so she doesn't bear any illegitimate children in the future," she chuckled and stood up to disappear inside the tent.

He rubbed his chin watching those two talking quietly by themselves as Dengi and Ernak played with their wooden swords on the opposite side of the fire pit.

Ellac gasped, "she tried to take Nicaea?!" he asked and Anastasia smiled, nodding her head. "Wow," he stared at the roaring fire in front of them. "Don't take this the wrong way, Ana, but your mom is crazy sometimes," he smiled and she lowered her head, her cheeks flushing. "I mean, she's pretty nice too, don't get me wrong. She gave me that awesome sword for my tenth birthday!"

Ana smiled widely, "I remember. You know what she gave me on my tenth birthday?" she raised her eyebrow and he shook his head. "A dress," she stated flatly and he didn't quite know what to say to that. Suddenly she smiled and eased the tension. "She gives you a sword and gives me a dress! How 'bout that?"

Ellac laughed, "well...swords aren't really for girls." Anastasia frowned and punched him in the arm. He winced, "ouch!" he rubbed his arm and scooted away from her.

"My mother uses a sword!" she folded her arms.

He smiled nervously, nodding slowly, "yes that's true, but she's different than you," he saw the perplexed look in her eyes. "Don't hit me," he cringed and she laughed playfully and leaned closer to him, grabbing his hand intertwining her fingers with his.

Attila stood up and folded his arms, "Ellac!" he called out and his son turned around, immediately letting go of Anastasia's hand. "I think that's enough visiting for tonight."

The teen boy sighed heavily, "okay..." he turned back to see Ana's sad face and he grinned at her. "We can talk tomorrow, right?"

"Sure," she smiled, "and maybe you can teach me some of those new moves you learned," she hoped and he nodded then ran off to meet with his father.

Xena followed behind her brother and saw the Roman palace in the center of Constantinople lit by many candles in and outside. She stopped and sighed heavily. Gabrielle looked up at her worriedly, "you're going to kill someone aren't you?"

The warrior peered down at her with a smile, "does that bother you, Gabrielle?"

The blonde wagged her head, "you know it does. But this is your way of handling things and it's none of my business anyway."

"You're right," Xena said and tightened the laces on her gauntlets. Glancing over she saw the distained look on Gabrielle's face, obviously disapproving of her 'ways' as she called it. "You want to know something about me?"

Gabrielle lifted her head curiously and stepped closer to the horse, intrigued, of course.

Xena sighed and looked at the beautiful lit palace up ahead, "when I was pregnant with Anastasia, Attila's uncle was in the middle of a war with the Visigoths. I was commander in chief alongside Borias in Attila's army. After I found out I was carrying a child I demoted myself to second in command and stayed in Pannonia while the army went off on raids and missions without me. I didn't want to risk anything happening to me or her, so I chose to stay behind." She looked at the grin on Gabrielle's face, though she didn't quite understand why she was grinning like a child at the moment. She added, "and now, I will risk everything to get her back."

Gabrielle turned and looked at the palace, "well, I don't know what it feels like to have a child, but I know if I had one, I would do anything to protect him or her."

Xena smiled weakly, "would you kill for this child?" she asked.

The blonde turned around, unsure how to answer and she lowered her head, contemplating. "Probably, I mean...I would try to," she grinned nervously.

"So you understand why I have to do this my way, don't you?" Xena reiterated and Gabrielle nodded her head, now understanding Xena a bit more if she were to be in her shoes.

Aetius and Theodosius sat inside his personal chambers drinking wine and playing a card game quietly enjoying the evening together. Arcadius waltzed into the emperor's room and bowed his head generously, interrupting their game.

"Your highness," the advisor lifted his head with fear in his eyes, "that Hun woman is here," he said and Theodosius set his wine glass down, frowning.

"Right now?!" he exclaimed and Arcadius nodded. "Brilliant," he groaned and folded his arms. How did she get here so fast? And how did she know that her daughter was brought here? He didn't understand how this woman could be so quick and cunning. "Allow her safe passage through the palace gates."

"But sire..." Arcadius shook his head, fearing that would be a horrible idea.

"Just do it!" the emperor growled and his advisor nodded and quickly left the room to tell the palace guards at the entrance.

Aetius set his goblet down and stood from his comfortable chair, "your majesty, pardon me, but are you insane?" he couldn't believe that he was going to allow Xena just to waltz into his home like this. He paced around the room, "we should have listened to Attila. That woman is mad."

Theodosius nodded with a sneaky grin, "no doubt, but I don't have her daughter, remember?"

The commander laughed aloud, "and you think that will stop her from killing you? Please. May God grant you safe ascension into heaven, your highness," he rolled his eyes.

"Let's not talk of death too soon, commander," the emperor exited his room to go meet with Xena.

He walked into his throne chamber and in came marching through the long hallway, Xena. He smiled at her as her cloak flew behind her as her pace quickened and her hair was wild and untamed, just as much as she was. He tried not to seem on the defensive mode and laced his hands together behind him, casually waiting for her.

Xena was granted entrance into the room and she saw Aetius coming through a separate hall and frowned at him. "Bonjour, salut, salve, avete." She eyed the emperor, "where is my daughter?"

Theodosius chuckled and brushed a few dark tendrils behind his ear, "I don't have her, sorry to say."

Xena's eyes widened and she unsheathed her sword and the emperor's guards immediately surrounded her with javelins and blades. "I was told that she was brought here," she growled.

The emperor nodded, "careful Xena, you are speaking to royalty. Where is your appreciation?" he smirked.

She scoffed, "I don't bow to kings nor emperors and I will never bow to you."

He frowned, "only a person with equal status does not have to bow..." he warned and she smiled smugly at him. His eyes widened seeing the arrogance of this woman in his presence. "Such bravery Xena..." he chuckled and Aetius rolled his eyes.

"I'm not going to ask again," she said and looked at all the men surrounding her in a circle. "She does not belong to you. It is me you want," she pressed and pulled out her second sword and groaned inwardly feeling her shoulder aching.

Xander walked in and saw many Roman soldiers surrounding Xena and he looked around the room, noticing the commander. Aetius saw him immediately and pointed directly in his direction. "You are from Nicaea!" he shouted and all eyes went to him. Xena turned and her eyes grew in fear as she saw her brother standing in the entrance, very baffled. "What are you doing here?!"

Xena shook her head at her brother and he unsheathed his sword, standing his ground. She rolled her eyes and turned around, "forget him. I want her back and I will kill all of your men if you do not comply with me."

Theodosius eyed the young warrior behind her and saw similar features between the two. Both had dark hair, olive skin and icy blue eyes as well as the same nose and even the same height. He smirked and brought his attention back to his guest. "I told you, I don't have her. You might want to look closer to home," he winked and she raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Attila came to visit if you must know. He kidnapped your daughter."

Xena's eyes widened, "what?" she spoke in a raspy voice. She shook her head, refusing to believe that. "He would never betray me."

The emperor smiled, "oh, but you have no problem doing that, right?" he toyed with her and she frowned, narrowing her eyes. "That girl is very special to you, isn't she? I'm sure she will make a fine warrior like you someday, unless of course, something happens to her..." he teased.

Xena snarled and swung both her blades around and sliced two Romans in half. Xander's eyes widened and saw more Romans running to attack her. He ran forward and thrust his sword in one of the men's backs and kicked him down. Xena turned around and saw her brother come beside her and she smiled at him and he smiled back at her.

She swung her sword swiftly and decapitated a soldier before her. He fell to his knees and Aetius' eyes widened. This was not working, he thought, she's insane. Another soldier came up from behind and stabbed Xena in her side. She cried out and Xander frowned, grabbing the Roman and threw him across the room.

Aetius approached the emperor, "we should get to safety, sir," he urged as he saw those two were not going to stop.

Theodosius waved his hand dismissively, "oh no, I want to watch this," he grinned.

Xena and Xander killed the last two Romans standing and both breathed heavily. Xena pointed her blade towards the emperor, "where is Attila?" she asked.

He smiled, "outside the walls of the city," he informed her and the commander gasped. Is he seriously telling her where he is? What is his goal here?

Xander looked to his sister and both ran out of the throne chamber outside where the rest of the men were.

Aetius growled, "what are you doing?! She's going to attack your ally!"

The emperor nodded, "I know and Attila will come begging to me, just watch," he sighed and walked off, having enough entertainment for tonight.

Xena and Xander ran outside and Xena groaned, holding her hand over her wound in her side. She bent over and exhaled sharply. He sheathed his sword and wrapped his arm around her, "you are hurt."

She looked up and saw all her men staring at her, including Gabrielle. She cringed and stood up straight, "we need to find Attila," she walked to her horse and mounted it carefully. Gabrielle saw blood on her hand and her mouth gaped.

"You got hurt, again?!" the blonde exclaimed. "You need to fix that!" she touched Xena's wound and she hissed, slapping Gabrielle's hand away.

"I don't have time for that!" Xena grimaced and Gabrielle grabbed her wrist firmly.

"What good are you if you can't fight?" Gabrielle said and Xena rolled her eyes. Xena pulled on the reins and rode off into the forest outside the palace walls to get as far away as possible from the emperor and his men. She wasn't sure if they would follow her or not, but if they were smart, they'd stay away.

A couple of miles out from the palace Xena halted and winced in pain, seeing blood staining her corset and tunic underneath. Gabrielle shook her head and reached into the bag with the bandages. "Gabrielle, don't," she said breathlessly.

"Xena, you are being ridiculous," the blonde replied and Xena glared at her. Xena then pushed Gabrielle off her horse and she fell to the ground. She gasped and looked up at her. "Xena!"

"You stay here," Xena rode off without her and Xander shook his head then followed his sister with the rest of the men.

Gabrielle scoffed and stood from the ground, brushing the dirt off her cloak and dress. That's it, she's crazy. I officially don't understand this woman.

Attila was inside the tent with his wife and he woke up to a loud stampede of horse hooves. He sat up and grabbed his cloak. Kreka's eyes fluttered open and she groaned, "where are you going?"

"Stay here," he grabbed his sword and left the tent. It was dark but a few torches were lit around their small campsite. He saw Xena riding in on her horse with a horde of men behind her. "Oh God," he whispered under his breath.

Xena saw Attila outside of his tent and completely forgot about her seeping wound. "Attila!" she skid to a stop and dismounted her horse, unsheathing her sword. She smiled at him, "I was told that you have Anastasia," she stepped closer.

He nodded, "I do," he saw others coming out of their tents and put his hand up. He put his sword into the ground. "I don't want to fight you," he said, folding his arms.

She smiled, raising an eyebrow, "oh?" she took another step closer.

Kreka stepped out of the tent with a caftan wrapped around her body. She gasped once she saw Xena with a sword, incredibly close to Attila. Xena smirked at the Hun queen, "hello," she winked and Kreka cringed in disgust.

Anastasia came out of her tent and yawned. She saw her mother standing in front of Attila, holding a sword. Her eyes widened, "mother!" she yelled out and Xena turned around swiftly. She grinned and ran to her as fast as possible.

Xena smiled happily and Anastasia crashed into her, embracing her warmly. "You came for me!" her daughter clung to her tightly.

"Of course I did," Xena winced as her daughter was pressing against her fresh wound she received back at the palace. She then pushed her daughter away from her and pointed her blade at the Hun king. "As for you," she raised an eyebrow.

Anastasia frowned, "mother no," she stepped in between Attila and the blade.

"Get out of the way, Ana!"

"Mother you don't understand!" she begged, "Attila saved me from the Romans," she said and Xena looked to Attila and he lowered his eyes. She then lowered her sword and Anastasia let out a sigh of relief.

"Is this true?" Xena addressed the king.

Attila nodded, "I made a promise to you and I made sure to keep it," he smiled and Xena raised an eyebrow then sheathed her sword.

Kreka folded her arms, "you made a promise to protect her whore of a daughter?" she narrowed at her husband and Attila's eyes widened, turning towards her.

Xena chuckled softly, "I liked your first wife a lot better," she winked at the Hun king's wife.

Attila pinched the bridge of his nose and turned back to Xena. "We can be friends without being allies, can't we?"

Xena smirked, "I think our friendship has been long gone by now," she grabbed Anastasia's arm. "But...thank you for keeping her safe." Attila smiled softly and nodded.

Ellac saw Xena and that meant that Anastasia was leaving. He ran forward, "Ana!" he yelled out and Xena turned around to see the Hun prince skipping towards them and she frowned.

Anastasia smiled, "hey!" the two embraced warmly and Xena's eyes grew in shock.

"Are you leaving?" he asked sadly, wishing she wouldn't, at least not so soon. She nodded. "I hoped you might stay longer."

Anastasia smiled and grabbed his hands in her own. "Maybe you could show me those moves some other time?" she tried to make this situation better but both of them knew they'd probably never see one another again.

Xena frowned, "Ana..." she extended her hand and the girl turned around, seeing the anger in her mother's eyes.

Ana nodded and then hugged Ellac one last time. "We'll always be friends," she whispered in his ear and a smile came to his lips. She pulled away and then grabbed her mother's hand, walking off with her to leave this campsite.

Kreka watched Xena leave with her daughter on horseback, riding into the darkness. She scoffed, "you're just going to let her go?!" she yelled at her husband.

Attila grabbed his wife's wrist firmly and stared into her eyes, "she did not attack me. I gave her what she wanted. Let it go," he groaned and walked back into the tent. Ellac stood watching Ana leave as quickly as she arrived. Sighing, the prince turned and frowned deeply at his stepmother then marched off back to his tent with his brothers.

Gabrielle sat down leaning up against a tree, ripping petals from a flower. She grumbled to herself then heard horses coming her way. She stood up and saw Xena riding with Anastasia sitting behind her. She folded her arms and Xena halted her horse. "Oh look who decided to come back?" she glared at the warrior woman.

Xena sighed, "I didn't want you to get in the way if there was a fight," she winced and pressed her hand on her side.

Gabrielle wasn't expecting her to say that. She was expecting her to make some smart remark, but instead...she said something that might actually imply that she cared for her safety. Why Xena? She looked to the girl and smiled, finally seeing her face again.

Anastasia hopped off the horse and hugged Gabrielle warmly. "Gabrielle, I am so happy to see you!"

"Me too!" the blonde smiled then pulled away seeing Xena struggle to get off her horse. "Excuse me..." she stepped aside and grabbed Xena's arm, aiding her off the horse.

Ana frowned and saw blood all over her mother's armor and hand, "you are injured!"

Xander rode up on his horse and Anastasia locked eyes with him. He smiled at her, giving her a salute. "We can't stay in this area, it's too dangerous," he told his sister.

Gabrielle looked at Xena's wound and shook her head, "she's going to bleed to death, we can't wait any longer. That trip to find Attila was too much as it is..." she sighed.

Xander looked around and saw it was quite dark, though there was no one around at the moment. "Alright, but be quick and we'll scout the area," he whistled to Xena's men and they rode to the perimeters of the field.

Gabrielle guided Xena to the tree and she slowly sat down, leaning against the large trunk. Anastasia folded her arms and kept staring at Xander. She approached him and tapped his knee and he jumped, staring down at the girl. "Haven't I seen you before?" she smirked.

Xander looked at her nervously and saw Gabrielle ripping Xena's armor off of her. "Yes, Anastasia, right?" he playfully asked and she cocked her head to the side. "I'm a friend of your mother's...remember I told you?"

The teen nodded and had a smug grin on her face, "how exactly do you know my mom again?" she pressed further and took a step closer to his horse.

He didn't feel it was his place to tell his sister's daughter that in fact, he was her uncle. He lowered his eyes, "just a long time friend," he lied and she didn't seem too satisfied with that answer. He cleared his throat, "you should help your mother," he kicked the horse and trotted off to scout the area for any attacks or ambushes.

Gabrielle ripped Xena's tunic open and saw the large gash on her side. "Xena..." she whispered and immediately grabbed some cloths to clot the blood flowing from the wound. "You shouldn't have gone off like that." She shook her head, feeling frustrated now able to see the severity of her wound.

"I'm...sorry for leaving you," Xena said and the blonde looked at her pained face.

"Don't worry about it," Gabrielle smiled and rummaged through the bag to find a needle. This wound was a lot more severe than the arrow she took the other day and she'd definitely need stitches.

Anastasia walked to her mother and peeked over Gabrielle to see the horrible gash on her mother's torso. "Can I help?" she offered.

Gabrielle lifted her head and smiled at the girl, "yes, press on the wound with this cloth while I look...for...this stupid needle," she mumbled and kept searching. Ana sat down beside her mother and did as Gabrielle instructed her.

Xena closed her eyes and breathed out slowly, trying to ignore the pain as best as she could. Her eyes fluttered open and turned to see her daughter sitting next to her. She smiled weakly at her and Ana grinned, resting her head on her shoulder. "I'm glad you are safe," she whispered.

Anastasia sighed, "me too." She saw Gabrielle finally find the needle and took her hand off her mother's wound. "Mother...I'm sorry for how I've been acting. I was just...upset at you and after everything you have done to save me, I feel really awful."

Xena smiled and then felt the needle pierce her skin and glare down at Gabrielle. The blonde sheepishly grinned, "sorry..." she was trying to be as gentle as possible.

The warrior rolled her eyes and turned to her daughter, cupping her cheek warmly, "I would do anything for you," she kissed her forehead and Anastasia smiled, grabbing her hand. "And...I know someone is having a birthday soon," she teased and her daughter rolled her eyes.

This caught Gabrielle's attention, "birthdays? I love parties!" she smiled and dug the needle into Xena's skin once more.

Anastasia shook her head, "mother no, I don't want a party."

Gabrielle looked up at the teen, "what?! A teenager not wanting a party? What world am I living in?" she teased and snipped the thread from the needle and dabbed the wound with the cloth, getting rid of excess blood. "So, fourteen huh?" she grinned sneakily at Anastasia.

The teen sighed heavily, "Gabrielle, seriously, I don't like parties."

"Come on, it'll be fun! I can organize it for you!" she smiled and then looked to Xena. Her smile disappeared, "that is...if your mother wants me to..." she muttered.

Anastasia begged her mother, "please say no."

Xena smirked and slowly got off the ground, wincing slightly. She wrapped her cloak around her body and then grabbed her daughter's hand. "It will be fun, Ana," she said and Anastasia rolled her eyes. "You only turn fourteen once."

"So?" the teen scoffed. She then went on and on talking about how parties were stupid and incredibly outdated.

Gabrielle smiled and slung the bag over her shoulder following the mother and daughter. Xena turned her head over her shoulder and smiled at her warmly. Gabrielle brushed her hair behind her ear, averting her gaze as her cheeks flushed a bright red.

In Rome, Honoria, the sister of Valentinian, was in her room, cuddled against her elder cousin, Petronius. She grinned up at him and pressed her bare body against his chest then climbed atop of his body.

His eyes widened and he grabbed her narrow hips firmly. She bent down and began kissing his collar bone then traveled further down his chest. "What...what if someone catches us?" he whispered, closing his eyes, feeling her lips against his skin.

Honoria glanced upward and ran her fingers along his muscular chest with a devious grin, "they won't," she hissed, "not unless you can't keep a secret. You can keep a secret, can't you?" she winked and he nodded with a big grin on his face. She kissed his cheek and then his neck as her hands roamed around his broad chest and shoulders.

He was barely able to keep focus as she kept smothering him with her lips generously. He ran his fingers through her dark hair and then pulled her away. "What of our plan?"

Honoria chuckled softly, "oh we're still going to go through with it're backing out?" she pouted.

He shook his head, "no I would never."

She smiled, "good because once we kill my brother..." she traced her finger around his pectoral muscle and his body tensed slightly, "you will be next in line for the laurel." She leaned down and kissed his lips forcefully and he smiled, flipping her over onto her back. She squealed and he brushed her hair away from her face.

"Your brother is not fit to be emperor," he whispered and cupped her breast as he bit her neck softly. She arched her back and gripped the sheets tightly.

Chapter Text

AN: ignoring the politics of the empires for just one special night ;) enjoy and good luck, seriously.

Chapter 15 –Fermented Grapes

"No," Xena said aloud.

Anastasia sighed and pulled out a blue and silver sleeveless dress. She smiled and held up the gown to her body and Xena folded her arms, crossing one leg over the other. Ana raised her eyebrows hoping that her mother would approve of this dress for her birthday celebration. This was the fourth dress and so far she had declined every single one.

The warrior mother shook her head, "no," she saw her daughter frown heavily and throw the dress aside. Gabrielle sighed as she sat beside Xena, watching the disappointment on the girl's face every time Xena rejected her choice in gowns.

"What about this one?" Ana grinned and held up a dark green gown strapless dress that was obviously very formfitting. She brushed the soft fabric as she held up the gown to her body.

Xena's eyes widened, "absolutely not!" Anastasia huffed and tossed the dress onto the chair filled with the other rejected gowns.

Gabrielle sighed, shaking her head and leaned over towards Xena. "She's not a nun," she whispered.

Xena frowned and turned, glaring at the blonde. "I am not going to let her look like an available woman in those revealing dresses," she hissed back.

"Xena...she is turning into a woman," Gabrielle said and Anastasia held up the red and gold gown up to her body and looked at her reflection in the mirror. "You could compromise?" she offered.

Realization began to hit Xena when she continued staring at her daughter gazing at the gowns that she desperately wanted to wear. Gabrielle was right, she was not a child anymore and was turning into a young woman, a gorgeous woman. At fourteen she would always be Xena's little girl, but she wasn't going to be little or innocent forever. Most women get married when they're sixteen or seventeen and Anastasia was developing faster than Xena had expected, which she knew would be a problem. She too at her daughter's age, developed quicker than other girls in her village and was noticed by many boys. Luckily, Anastasia was not around any boys her age...or girls either, she was soon realizing this might be a problem and was starting to regret keeping her daughter hidden away as a boy for her entire life. She didn't know how to interact with other girls her age since she had never been around them before. Only boys, just boys.

Xena sighed and stood up, walking over to her daughter. Anastasia sighed sadly staring at the red gown against her body. Xena smiled, placing her hands on her shoulders. "You would look very pretty in that dress."

Anastasia's face broke out into a big grin and turned around, gazing up at her mother. "Really? I can wear this dress?" she hoped and Xena sighed, looking over at the pile of dresses over on the chair nearby.

"I'll tell you what, you can choose any dress you want. It's your party," she winked and cupped her daughter's cheek. Ana's smile widened and she grabbed the pile of dresses in her arms.

"I'm going to try them all on!" she said and disappeared into her room.

Gabrielle chuckled seeing the girl so excited then she saw Xena standing alone by herself somberly. She stood and made her way over to her. "What changed your mind?" she asked quietly.

Xena shook her head and looked at her own reflection in the mirror. She saw Gabrielle staring at her from behind and a small smile came to her lips. "I can't stop her from growing up, Gabrielle."

The blonde nodded and touched the warrior's arm for comfort, "you did a really good job raising her." Xena looked down at Gabrielle's hand and she slowly retracted her hand away.

"I'm not so sure about that," Xena sighed. Gabrielle frowned, contorting her face, unsure what she meant. She walked over to the bed and sat down, fidgeting with her hands in her lap. "She's never been around girls her age, Gabrielle. She's only been around boys and she deserves so much more than staying in Troy or...wherever I go..." she groaned inwardly, thinking about her life decisions.

Gabrielle took the empty seat next to her and scooted closer. "Well, what do you think you should do? You obviously want more for her, right?"

"I don't know," Xena shook her head and buried her face in her hands. She never felt so lost about anything until now. She never thought she'd see her daughter grow up right before her eyes. She remembered when she was just a toddler and so innocent. Now she had a mind of her own, smart and beautiful as well as clever.

"I have an idea," Gabrielle proposed and Xena lifted her head up from her hands. She smiled, "why don't you send her to an academy in Greece?"

Xena wagged her head and stood up, pacing around in a circle. "No, no, no!"

Gabrielle sighed, "it would be good for her, Xena. She would find friends, girl friends, and she would get a great education there."

"But..." Xena stopped pacing and folded her arms contemplating everything Gabrielle said and even though she was right, she hated to admit it. "...she will be so far away from me."

The blonde chuckled softly under her breath, "Xena, I know it will be hard for you. You love her a lot and she loves you too, but she can't stay here in Troy with you for the rest of her life!" she said and Xena looked at her with teary eyes. Gabrielle's eyes widened, seeing some humility for the first time since she met the Hun woman. "She will learn how to read and write properly in Greek and...Latin," she grinned and Xena softly smiled. "And she will learn how to be independent without you."

Xena nodded and turned away, wiping the tears from her cheeks and exhaled heavily. "You're right Gabrielle," she mumbled. "But I think we should wait until after her birthday to tell her."

We? Did she just say we? Gabrielle nodded slowly, not really expecting that to come out of her mouth. "Sure, whatever you want, Xena," she smiled anxiously.

Anastasia came out in the dark green strapless gown with a big smile on her face. Xena turned around and her eyes widened, seeing her daughter wearing a dress that was far ahead of her years. "So, how do I look?"

Xena folded her arms as her eyes scanned her daughter's body up and down, noticing the gown clung to her every subtle curve. She pursed her lips, "maybe we could sew some sleeves on the dress?" she nervously grinned.

Ana frowned, folding her arms, " said I could pick whatever dress I want."

Xena sighed, "you're right, I did say that," she rolled her eyes then saw her daughter's eyes lit up and that immediately put a smile on her face seeing her so happy. "But you could wear a caftan or something, or maybe even a veil?" she offered and Anastasia shook her head then looked at herself in the mirror.

Gabrielle chuckled as she sat on the bed. Obviously, Xena wasn't going to give up on this, though she already decided that Ana could pick any dress she liked and she liked that one –the one that Xena really hated, of course.

Xander walked through the halls and saw Gabrielle coming around the corner. He ran over to her and she smiled at him. "Have you seen Xena?"

She raised an eyebrow, "I think she's still in a meeting with Tanranus," she saw the disappointment in his eyes and folded her arms, "you wanted to talk to her?" she asked with a sly grin.

He sighed, "kind of," he rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. "Do you know when she will be finished?"

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder and he began walking away. Her mouth gaped and she ran forward, grabbing his arm. "Hey, you know, I could tell her you want to speak with her if you want?" she offered.

He grinned weakly, "thanks Gabrielle, but I think I'm the last person she wants to talk to right now."

She frowned and watched all the servant girls walking around with platters of food for Anastasia's party later this evening. "Are you staying for Anastasia's birthday?"

Xander folded his arms and looked around him at all the lavish decorations. He really wanted to stay and he couldn't exactly go back to Nicaea because he was technically a traitor to his leader, emperor and army. He risked everything to save Xena and now he was here in Troy for the last couple of weeks and it was awkward to say the least. Every chance he got, he avoided his sister at all costs. He hadn't spoken to her since they arrived in Troy.

"I think I'm going to somewhere else for tonight," he smiled sadly, "I'll see you later Gabrielle," he walked off then saw Xena come out of the conference room with Tanranus by her side. His eyes widened and she blankly stared at him. He lowered his head and kept walking passed her.

Xena turned around and saw Xander walking outside of the fortress alone and she raised an eyebrow. Tanranus touched her arm and she tensed up immediately. "Your men are stationed in the Onogur tribes surrounding the Black Sea. The Akitziri Bey has refused to give up his land and has been detained. What do you want them to do with him? Kill him?"

Xena frowned and folded her arms, "no." she replied and Tanranus frowned, unsure why she would change her mind. A smile came to her lips, "I want him brought to me."

He scoffed, "you want him brought here? In Troy?" he chuckled.

Xena grabbed him by the throat and slammed him against the wall. His eyes grew in fear, staring into her steely blue eyes. "Don't question me, Tanranus, unless you want to be on the end of my sword?" she graced an eerie smile and he shook his head vigorously. She released him and he exhaled heavily. "Good. Bring the Bey to me, I will deal with him."

Gabrielle walked up to Xena with a distained look upon her face and Xena raised an eyebrow down at her. "Xander wanted to talk to you," she said and then realized it probably wasn't any of her business to butt into Xena's life, but the guy just looked so depressed and alone for the last couple of weeks.

Xena nodded, "I see," she walked to her room and Gabrielle gasped then followed her. Xena took off her armor and began looking for her gown she was going to wear tonight.

"Are you going to ignore him forever?" the blonde asked as Xena kept rummaging through her chest of clothes.

"I don't need a lecture, especially from you," Xena found her dress and went into the other room to go change.

Gabrielle sighed and leaned on the doorway, waiting for Xena to change into her dress. "I don't get what the big deal is between you two!" she sighed heavily and heard armor drop to the floor. "Back in Constantinople...he said that your little brother died. He seemed really upset about it.."

Xena frowned and slipped the dress over her body slowly then paused for a moment. That day, many years ago, was a painful reminder and she kept trying to forget it, but it was hard to especially having Xander here. Lyceus was a smart kid and very funny. He also was incredibly brave and even though he chose to fight and he died in the process, he didn't die in vain, though Xander refused to see it like that.

Gabrielle didn't hear any rustling around and she poked her head around the corner and saw Xena behind the screen, lifting her arms up to continue dressing herself. "What happened?" she asked quietly.

Xena sighed and finally finished putting on her dress and stepped out from behind the screen. Gabrielle's eyes widened as soon as she laid eyes on her. She had a black sparkly off the shoulder dress that had an open slit along both sides of her legs.

"You look...really...nice," Gabrielle smiled and Xena walked by her and sat down in front of the mirror, brushing her long hair.

Xena smirked and kept combing through the knots in her hair gradually. "And what are you going to wear?" she asked.

Gabrielle shrugged, "I'll find something I already have I guess," she turned away, not really sure if it was a god idea to keep staring at the woman.

"You should look in that chest over there," she gestured to the one in front of her bed. Gabrielle raised a suspicious eyebrow and casually sauntered over to the chest and lifted the top. Her eyes widened and Xena peered through the mirror seeing her reaction. She then pulled out the light blue floor length gown that was also off the shoulder. Xena turned in the chair and saw Gabrielle put the dress over her body, brushing her fingers along the fabric. "You like it?"

The blonde smiled and nodded rapidly, "why...why would you give me a dress like this?" she was really curious now. Xena was being so nice to her and she hadn't the slightest idea why.

"Can't have you walking around in mediocre dresses, now can I?" Xena hummed to herself and wrapped her long tresses up into a bun atop of her head. "It's a party, Gabrielle." She lifted her head looking into the mirror and saw the petite blonde blush slightly.

"Thank you," Gabrielle smiled then took a seat in a chair beside Xena as she was pinning her hair. "So, I don't want to butt into your business or anything..."

"But you're going to anyway," Xena stated as she stuck some pins in her mouth, trying to finagle her hair into the style she wanted.

Gabrielle chuckled nervously and pushed a wavy tendril behind her ear, averting her eyes. "I'm good at that, apparently."

"That, you are," the warrior sighed heavily.

"When Xander was talking about your little brother...what exactly happened?" she asked, hoping that wasn't too intrusive of a question.

Xena looked down at her lap and kept pinning her hair back. "The Visigoth army came to my village one day, looking to conquer land," she began and Gabrielle leaned forward to listen. She felt her warmth come closer and her body tensed. "Men in the village decided to fight back and I wanted to help, but my older brother and Xander told me not to. My younger brother, Lyceus, wanted to help too. He went off to fight after I said I was going to fight the Goths. He was trying to protect me and a Caspian Hun tribe came to our aid. Before I knew it, he was dead –stabbed by a Visigoth soldier."

Gabrielle reached out and touched Xena's shoulder softly. "I'm sorry." She admitted barely above a whisper.

Xena shrugged her shoulder and let her hand slip off gradually. "Now you know what happened. Are we done here?" her mood changed immediately from soft to cold in a split second. Gabrielle quirked her mouth to the side and leaned back in the chair, watching Xena continue to fix her hair.

"I was just trying to be friendly..."

Xena frowned and turned in her chair, glaring at the slave. "We are not friends, Gabrielle. I don't want friends."

Gabrielle folded her arms, scowling. "You probably need one," she mumbled.

Xena smiled, "what was that?"

Gabrielle shook her head and got up, grabbing the gown and walked off, "nothing, never mind," she opened the door and paused. "I'll see you tonight," she muttered and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her.

Xena groaned and threw a hair pin at the wall letting out her frustration.

That evening Xena invited all of the people in the city to come to the fortress for Anastasia's birthday. She made it clear that she didn't want any sex parties or orgies and that everyone at least remain civilized for the celebration, considering her daughter was only fourteen. These people obviously didn't care who's birthday it was because they loved any excuse to have a good time with wine and plenty of food.

The boys from Pannonia were invited as well and played off in a corner together in the atrium and Anastasia was dancing with one of the younger soldiers in her mother's army. Xena sat in a chair in the front of the atrium watching her daughter dance with the soldier. She sipped her wine casually and lifted her eyebrow, thinking of her daughter's future. She shouldn't be dancing with a soldier, she should be around people her own age, not with people she barely knew. She kept thinking about what Gabrielle said about the school in Greece. Anastasia would be better off with people her own age and around other girls too.

Tanranus came and blocked Xena's view of her daughter. She lifted her eyes and he smiled at her. "Do you want to dance?" he offered and extended his hand.

"Get lost, Tanranus," she scoffed and grinned, sipping her wine. He smiled and walked off to go meet with a few other women from the city that came to this party.

Gabrielle came into the atrium and looked around at all the people in the room. It was so crowded that she could barely move around. Her eyes danced around and she spotted Xena sitting secluded from everyone. Nobody came within ten feet of her and she sighed, making her way through the sea of people.

Xena turned her head and sat up in the chair once she saw Gabrielle in the light blue dress that she gave her. Her wavy hair was piled on top of her head and had a jeweled headpiece circled around her bun. She tapped her fingers on the armrest as she saw Gabrielle walking closer to her.

"Sitting by yourself?" Gabrielle offered a small grin and Xena frowned, lowering her head, unable to reply. She looked to the chair beside her and nervously fidgeted with the fabric of the dress. "May I sit with you?"

Xena said nothing and waved her hand to the chair beside her. Gabrielle smiled and sat down, watching all the people dance together. Anastasia had her hair braided, cascading down her back. She twirled around holding the soldier's hand, smiling happily. Gabrielle leaned back in her chair, "Anastasia looks happy," she observed.

Xena finished off the glass of wine and lifted her glass to ask the servant for more wine. The girl poured the wine and she narrowed her eyes, keeping a sharp eye out on that soldier as he wrapped his arms around the small of her back.

Gabrielle peered over and saw Xena glaring at her daughter and the soldier. "I'm sorry about earlier, if I upset you...I didn't mean to make you feel that way."

The raven haired warrior chuckled, shaking her head. "Gabrielle, it takes a lot to upset me."

"Okay, good," the blonde smiled and bit her bottom lip.

Anastasia ran to her mother, breathing heavily, barely able to contain her excitement. "Mom, thank you so much for this party," she grinned and Xena tried to hide her smile. "You're right, parties are fun. Niko asked me to come with him to see his friends in the square."

Xena frowned and stared at the soldier waiting by the entrance, talking with a few of his friends. "Niko?" she reiterated and her daughter bobbed her head. The soldier looked about six years older than her at least. He was obviously far too old for her. "No," she said.

The teen's mouth gaped, "but mother this is my party. He's really nice, I just want to see his friends!"

Xena stood up, towering over her teenage daughter. "I said no."

"I can take care of myself!" Anastasia folded her arms, defiantly glaring up at her mother.

"You're fourteen not twenty four!" Xena shouted and a few eyes glanced over at them both. "You absolutely cannot be alone with any man."

Anastasia huffed and looked to Gabrielle for help but she just sunk in her chair, avoiding the teen's helpless stare. "I'm not a child, mother. You can't tell me what to do," she ran off and grabbed Niko's hand and walked out of the atrium.

Xena's eyes widened and she set her wine glass down, ready to storm after her daughter. Gabrielle grabbed her hand and she turned, scowling. "Xena, let her go. She would have gone without telling you anyway."

She snatched her arm away from Gabrielle and snarled. "What are you now? My conscious?" she plopped back down in the chair and downed the rest of the wine in the glass and asked for more.

Gabrielle sighed as she watched Xena keep drinking the wine as if it were holy water, trying to cleanse her soul. She slumped in the chair and watched everyone else drinking and dancing, completely oblivious as to what was really going on.

An hour later Anastasia was with Niko's group of friends outside in the square, far from the party, far from her mother. They all talked with one another as they stole a bottle of wine from the party and sat around on the stairs, joking and laughing. Niko wrapped his arm around her and her body stiffened.

Belso, one of the merchant's sons stood drinking wine and chuckled at the awkward tension coming from her. "Hey, you need to relax princess," he shook his head and she lifted her eyes, frowning at him.

She stood up, "I should go," she began walking off and Niko grabbed her hand.

"Don't leave, we're having fun, right?" he smiled and she grinned awkwardly, brushing a tendril behind her ear. She agreed to come back to hang out with his friends and she stood in between Niko and Belso.

Alex smiled and pulled out some seeds from his pocket, "hey princess, you know what poppy seeds are?" he asked and Anastasia folded her arms, shaking her head. He nodded and popped some of the seeds in his mouth. He extended his hand to her, "it's your birthday," he winked. "It'll relax you."

Anastasia frowned, stepping forward looking at the seeds in Alexa's palm. "What does it do?" she asked curiously.

Niko grinned and stood beside the Hun princess. "It's just to mellow you out, don't worry," he urged her and she smiled, taking a few seeds and swallowed them instantly. "Are you having fun?"

She smiled, "yeah," she answered and sat down beside Alex on the steps.

Gabrielle saw that Xena had a lot of wine and she was being awfully quiet, not saying much at all. She was starting to become concerned and she herself, only had one glass of wine and was nursing her second glass. She turned and Xena was working on another glass. "You've been drinking nonstop for an hour..."

Xena smirked, "and what is your point, Gabrielle? Or do you even have a point?" she chuckled and finished her wine with a swift swig.

Gabrielle pinched the bridge of her nose and she stood up, grabbing Xena's hand. "You should stop," she said and Xena looked up at her with glossy eyes. "Come on," she pulled her out of the chair and Xena nearly fell on top of her. She grunted and wrapped her arm around her waist.

After quite awhile later Gabrielle swung open the door and pulled Xena along with her into the bedroom. She sighed and finally making it to the bed, Xena plopped down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. "This is why nobody should consume two bottles of wine," Gabrielle shook her head and Xena grabbed her arm, pulling her close to her.

"You know what, Gabrielle? You talk too much," Xena smiled and Gabrielle laid down close to her and felt nervous and anxious all at the same time. She had been close to Xena before, but definitely not like this. Xena's fingers grazed her arm and the blonde's eyes widened.

She sat up, "I think I should go somewhere else..." she began scooting off the bed and Xena sat up, grabbing her arm, preventing her from leaving. She sighed and averted her eyes, feeling her entire body begin to heat up by Xena's touch.

Xena smiled, "why would you leave Gabrielle? It's a party, you know.." she hissed and leaned in closely to her. She grabbed her chin and slowly turned her face towards her. Gabrielle looked at her and she was inches away from her face. Xena's smile disappeared and she gradually leaned forward and kissed Gabrielle's lips gently.

Once she pulled away Gabrielle felt her heart stop for a moment and she looked away, nervously fixing her hair. Xena grinned sneakily and touched her arm gingerly. "Um, so, you should sleep and I can go check on Anastasia, okay?" she got off the bed and turned away.

"What's the matter, Gabrielle? Feeling shy again?" Xena laid on her back again and smiled goofily.

Gabrielle wrapped her arms around her and turned around to see Xena in her black sparkly gown, looking, of course, beautiful and not to mention drunk out of her mind. Clearly, she doesn't know what she's doing, right? "You should really sleep," she said again and began walking to the door.

Xena laughed lightly, "it's a bit early for sleep, isn't it?"

Gabrielle shook her head and left the room. She closed the door and leaned against it, closing her eyes, thinking about what just happened. She's drunk, Gabrielle, she doesn't know what she's doing. She touched her lips and couldn't stop thinking about it though. Groaning she left and decided to go look for Anastasia, like she said she would.

Walking outside in the dark she searched for the birthday girl. "Ana?" she called out and saw many party guests talking with one another. She frowned and kept walking and saw the square up ahead. "Anastasia?" she yelled out and received no answer.

She squinted her eyes and saw Ana sitting with that soldier, Niko, and a small group of his friends. They were laughing and giggling with one another. Niko had his arm around Anastasia and Gabrielle frowned. "Anastasia!"

The Hun princess ceased laughing and looked up and saw Gabrielle marching towards her. She sighed and Niko brought her closer to his body. "She looks so...angry," she laughed and all the young men laughed along with her.

Gabrielle folded her arms and Ana kept laughing. "What are you doing out here?" she asked and Anastasia kept laughing. She leaned forward and saw her pupils were incredibly dilated and eyelids hooded. "Did you drink something?"

Anastasia frowned as she tried to focus her eyes on Gabrielle, but her vision blurred. She cleared her throat and leaned into Niko's chest. "You know what Gabrielle? Have you ever tried poppy seeds?" she chuckled.

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "you mean opium?" she asked and Anastasia shrugged her shoulders, continuously giggling. "Ana...did you take drugs?"

The teen laughed, "no...Gabrielle...what kind of girl do you think I am?" she smiled smugly and Gabrielle buried her face in her hands. She grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the soldiers. "Hey, what are you doing?" she groaned and tried to pull away.

"Anastasia, you cannot be here. Your mother will kill all of those boys," she whispered and the girl laughed.

"I don't see her," the teen smiled, "if you don't tell her, I won't," she winked and Gabrielle rolled her eyes, dragging the girl along. "Come on, it's my birthday, Gabrielle!"

Gabrielle frowned and drug the girl inside the fortress, "birthday party is over," she grumbled and marched straight to the bedroom.

When they entered Xena was on the bed, asleep, still in her gown. Ana kept giggling and Gabrielle hushed her. "Anastasia!" she hissed, "be quiet," she pushed her forward, making sure not to wake Xena, though that seemed unlikely because she was dead to the world.

Ana squinted her eyes as she stared at her mother passed out in bed, "is she asleep already?" she smiled.

Gabrielle sighed and pushed her into the separate bedroom. Anastasia fell on top of the bed, laughing quietly. "You'll feel better in the morning," she said and took off Ana's shoes and pulled the blankets over her. Ana closed her eyes and exhaled heavily, slowly drifting off to sleep.


"Yes?" Gabrielle sat down on the bed.

"You're really nice," the teen mumbled then suddenly she fell asleep. Gabrielle sighed as she watched the girl pass out so quickly.

Gabrielle waltzed back into the bedroom after closing the door and she saw Xena sleeping soundly in bed. She exhaled heavily then made her way over to the bed and sat beside her. Xena stirred in her sleep and rolled over on her side, her back turned towards Gabrielle. Xena, why? Why did you do that?

The following morning Xena's eyes fluttered open and she sat up slowly, feeling her head pounding. She groaned and saw she was still in her dress from last night. Turning over she saw Gabrielle writing at the desk silently.

Gabrielle lifted her eyes and smiled at her nervously. "Good morning," she announced loudly and Xena frowned, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed. Secretly, she was relishing in Xena's misery of her hangover.

Xena pulled the pins out of her hair and her long tresses came tumbling down her back. She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed heavily. "How did I get to my bed?"

Gabrielle stopped writing and put the quill down, "we walked together. Remember?"

Xena frowned, "not really," she stood up and moaned, feeling her balance was extremely off. Gabrielle tapped the feathered quill against the tabletop as she couldn't stop thinking about what happened last night and if Xena didn't remember coming to the bedroom, then how could she remember anything else?

"You don't remember what happened last night?" the blonde asked eagerly.

Xena turned around and Gabrielle gazed at her wavy long hair. She looked away from her and Xena folded her arms, "should I remember?" she scoffed, "did I miss a wild orgy?" she chuckled and Gabrielle sunk in her chair, refusing to say anything. "Where's Anastasia? Did she come back?"

Gabrielle sunk in her chair more now and bit her bottom lip. This is even more awkward than she expected. Xena didn't remember anything and now she somehow had to explain to her that her daughter was extremely high last night.


"Yes?" she answered as her voice cracked.

Xena smirked, "you didn't answer. Did Ana come back?"

Gabrielle laughed fearfully, "oh yeah...she came back alright," she muttered. "Xena, there's something I need to tell you..." she began and saw Xena glaring at her. She really wanted to talk about the kiss last night, but she blocked it out.

"Did something happen to her?" Xena asked, placing her hands on her hips. Gabrielle was now extremely unsure how to answer that. "Gabrielle...tell me. Is she hurt? Is she alright?"

"She's fine," Gabrielle sighed heavily and tapped the quill on the desk apprehensively. "She's just...a little sleepy," she smiled sheepishly.

Xena raised her eyebrow and walked into the room connecting with hers and Gabrielle gasped. Xena opened the door and saw Ana sleeping in her bed, still wearing the green dress from last night. Gabrielle followed her in and exhaled a sigh of relief.

"See, she's fine," she whispered and Xena frowned, walking out of the room. Gabrielle rolled her eyes, thinking this was a bad idea, this entire situation was bad and last night, was awkward and the worst part is, Xena didn't remember any of it.

"Uh huh," Xena turned around and Gabrielle nearly ran into her. "What actually happened Gabrielle?" she asked and saw her face pale instantly.


Gabrielle frantically went over different scenarios in her head of how to tell Xena about what happened. How could she forget? She kissed me and she just forgot about that? Is she serious? "Um...what do you mean?" she finally asked.

Xena frowned, staring into Gabrielle's eyes and she was avoiding her gaze indefinitely. "About Anastasia?" she asked and the blonde exhaled sharply. "I know something happened and you're not telling me what it is."

Oh yeah, definitely not going to do that. "What makes you think that?" she nervously smiled.

"Because my daughter went off with a soldier to have 'fun'," Xena smirked, folding her arms.

She remembers that, but nothing else? "Nothing happened, just forget about it," she sighed and went back to her desk, feeling frustrated that Xena seemed to not remember anything.

Xena frowned and marched back into her daughter's room and ripped the blankets off of her. Anastasia groaned and rolled over on her stomach, facing away from her mother. "Ana, where did you go last night?"

"Why do you care?" she mumbled and Xena's raised her eyebrows and grabbed her daughter by her arm and lifted her out of bed. "What the hell!" she pulled away and was dropped back onto the bed. She rubbed her arm and scowled then held her head in her hand, feeling a headache coming on.

Xena bent down, staring into her daughter's eyes, "I'm not going to ask again..." she whispered.

Gabrielle came into the room, though kept her distance and Ana looked over at her, remembering everything. She sighed and turned away from her mother, "I was with Niko and his friends. We just talked for a few hours..."

"Just talked?" Xena raised her eyebrow skeptically. Ana lowered her head as she could no longer look into her eyes and lie to her.

Gabrielle interrupted, "I found her asleep on the stairs in the square last night." She said and Ana lifted her eyes, furrowing her eyebrows confusedly. "I helped her get to bed."

Xena frowned and she looked back to her daughter then to Gabrielle again. "If either one of you are lying, you are going to wish I was never born," she shook her head and brushed past Gabrielle, leaving the room.

Anastasia gasped, "Gabrielle, why did you do that?" she whispered. "You heard her! She doesn't joke about that kind of stuff..."

The blonde nodded, "I know," she turned and saw Xena take her armor and a towel with her and slip her shoes off quickly then disappeared to the baths. "It'll be our secret," she smiled and the teenager grinned back at her. Yes, Gabrielle, you are very good at keeping secrets.

"Do you know how to get rid of headaches?" Anastasia asked.

Gabrielle hid her amusement, though it was like looking in the mirror. Both Xena and Anastasia had pretty rough nights except Xena didn't remember anything while Anastasia remembered far too much. "Sleep is probably the best."

The teen rolled her eyes, "my mother isn't going to let me stay in bed all day," she sighed and grabbed a towel, "thanks anyway, Gabrielle," she smiled and disappeared.

"You're welcome," she answered, but Anastasia was too far from her at this point. She leaned against the doorframe and frowned, contemplating why on earth Xena would do that. I thought she said we weren't friends?

Chapter Text

AN: some awkward tension, politics, greed and desire all in one. Thank you for reading ;)

Chapter 16

Anastasia walked through the halls of her mother's military fortress by herself. She had secluded herself in her bedroom after that little incident on her birthday last week, she didn't want her mother catching her doing anything else. Xena and Gabrielle were in a meeting with Tanranus and had been in that room all morning and most of the early afternoon. She always wanted to sit in one of her mother's meetings to see what exactly went on.

Passing by the room she heard her mother yelling behind closed doors. Her eyes widened and that was her cue to walk even faster. She stepped outside to see what else she could do for the day, since she was extremely bored. She wrapped her arms around herself, protecting her from the cold winter breeze coming in.

Inside the square she saw many different merchants –jewelry, clothing, fruit, vegetables, oils, herbs, basically everything anyone could want. They didn't have these vendors in Pannonia, everything was so different here. Back in her home city everyone worked together and lived among one another. The Pannonia people were of mixed tribes gathered together over several decades, but here in Troy, everyone was on their own and worked separately. They were not one large family.

Niko spotted the princess walking by herself and he smiled, leaving his group of friends. He ran over and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. She gasped and turned to see him by her side. "What's a girl like you doing walking alone out here?" he teased.

She frowned and picked his arm off her shoulder, "look Niko, I can't be seen with you anymore," she said firmly and he lowered his head, disappointed to hear that. Sighing she added, "my birthday was fun and I had a really good time with you and your friends –"

He grinned, "so, we can party again sometime?" he hoped and stepped closer. She shook her head then pushed him away.

"You know who my mother is, right?" she scoffed and he rolled his eyes. "She will kill you if I'm seen with you again. I just think we should stop talking to each other, okay?" she exhaled and turned walking away to go look at the jewelry stand on the other end of the square.

Niko frowned watching her walk away and his friend Alex came up to join him, wrapping his arm around his friend's shoulder. "She's too young for you, brother," Alex chuckled.

Belso joined them both, "yeah and she's way out of your league. By the time she turns seventeen I'm sure the commander will marry her off to some rich guy," he smiled. He pat Niko's back playfully and held up his cup of mead, "Alex and I are having a card game later, you want to join?" he wiggled his eyebrows.

Niko smirked, "gambling is illegal in Troy..."

Belso shrugged his shoulders, "it's not illegal if you don't tell your boss," he teased. "Come on, it'll be fun," he winked and Niko shook his head, walking with his friends back to Alex's home.

Xena sat at the table inside the conference room, not saying a word for the last five minutes. Tanranus paced around mindlessly and Gabrielle tapped her quill on the table. Xena frowned and grabbed the blonde's hand. "Could you stop that infernal tapping?!" she hissed and Gabrielle dropped her quill pen.

Tanranus sighed and stopped pacing. He leaned his hands on the table, opposite from his commander. "How was I supposed to know that one of your men was going to kill the Akitizir Bey?"

Xena snarled and slammed her fist on the table, knocking over a wine glass, spilling all over the parchment. Gabrielle gasped and quickly began dabbing the soiled parchment and frowned sadly, seeing all her hard work she had been working on for hours, be destroyed in a couple of seconds. "Great!" she griped and Xena shot her a glare.

Standing up she smiled tightly at Tanranus, "I told you I wanted him brought to me and he's dead!" she growled.

"Lucas said that the Bey's sons were fighting back! What were they supposed to do?" he spat back and Xena folded her arms.

"Subdue him?" she frowned, glaring at her second in command. "You failed!" she unsheathed her sword and Tanranus' eyes widened, immediately backing away from her. Gabrielle wiped off the wine stained parchment and looked up to see Xena walking with blade in hand, coming straight for Tanranus.

"Xena!" Gabrielle stood up and Xena didn't even bother acknowledging her. "Is this how you solve all your problems? Just kill them when they make a mistake?!"

Xena spun around and pointed the blade at Gabrielle, "not one more word out of you," she warned and the blonde folded her arms, staring into her blue eyes. Xena raised her eyebrow then turned back to Tanranus. "As for you..." she smiled. "This is the second time you failed me. I should have never given you a second chance..." she ripped his vest open then sliced through his tunic. Tanranus' heart beat hastened and he backed up against the wall.

"Commander please, I will get the Bey's sons to come here instead!" he pleaded and Xena smiled eerily at him, stepping closer.

"Oh...look at you, quivering in fear," she laughed, though all the soldiers in the room remained quiet, staring straight ahead, though tempted to look. She stepped closer and touched his cheek then plunged her blade into his gut. His mouth gaped and he let out a breathless gasp. She clenched her teeth and pushed the sword further into his body and saw blood pouring from his mouth.

The doors opened and Xander walked in. He saw Gabrielle with her back faced away from the doors and then his eyes traveled to the left side of the room and a pool of blood was underneath Tanranus' body. Xena pulled out her sword and he slid along the wall, his blood staining the wall. Xander's eyes widened, "dear God in heaven!" he exclaimed and his sister turned around, surprised to see him in the room. "Xena...what? why?!"

Xena wiped the blood off her blade with Tanranus' ripped tunic. "He didn't follow the rules," she shrugged.

Her brother frowned, folding his arms, "so you just killed him? That's it?"

Xena raised her eyebrow, glaring at her brother, "you sound like Gabrielle. Maybe you two should get together and have philosophical discussions?" she smirked and snapped her fingers at the guards. "Clean this mess up," she stepped over Tanranus' body and exited the room.

Gabrielle groaned and grabbed all the wine stained parchments in her hands, brushing past Xander, she followed Xena into the hallway. Xander rubbed his chin watching the soldiers pick up Tanranus and carry him out of the room. He stood, shaking his head, ashamed of his sister's ill actions.

"Hey!" Gabrielle called out as she trailed behind the commander. "I'm talking to you!" she yelled and Xena halted in mid-step.

Xena slowly turned on her heel and sheathed her sword, folding her arms as Gabrielle marched up to her. She smirked, "what is it now? Here to give me some more of your philosophical life lessons?" she teased.

Gabrielle frowned, "you just killed your second in command –"

"I don't need a second in command!" Xena yelled back and the blonde pursed her lips.

"It wasn't his fault that the Bey was killed and you know that. You've just been wanting to dig your blade into someone," she alleged and Xena raised her eyebrow skeptically down at her blonde slave.

"I don't need this," Xena waved her hand then stormed off to her room. Gabrielle huffed and followed behind her quickly, careful not to drop any of the documents in her arms.

Entering the bedroom Gabrielle threw down the stack of parchment on the desk and slammed the door. Xena frowned, turning around as she began taking off her cape, throwing it onto the bed. "What is your problem?" the blonde asked, folding her arms beneath her breasts. Xena refused to answer and Gabrielle chuckled softly. "You are a piece of work, you know that?"

Xena growled and threw down her belt, "and you forget your place, Gabrielle!" she yelled and the blonde slave was unfazed. "You are a slave. Your words are empty. Your opinion means nothing to me – you are nothing."

Gabrielle's eyes widened, "I'm nothing?" she pointed to herself and Xena frowned, turning her back on her. "For someone that means nothing, you're sure getting real upset," she teased.

Xena slowly turned her head over her shoulder and then marched towards the arrogant blonde. She grabbed her by her arm and threw her onto the bed. She got on top of her, straddling her legs on either side of her. She smiled deviously down at Gabrielle. "You have a nice gig going for you, Gabrielle, and you just want to ruin it all?" she hissed and Gabrielle tried to get up and Xena pinned her arms down on the sheets. "You want to know what real slaves are good for?" she smiled and saw Gabrielle's eyes widen in fear.

"You and your perfect Greek society..." Xena hissed and inched closer to the blonde's face. "Greek slaves are used for pleasure yet...I keep you around to write and talk –talk a lot," she tisked, "perhaps I have made a mistake..." she leaned in closer and Gabrielle's heart raced as Xena stared at her with those enchanting blue eyes of hers. Her grip tightened on Gabrielle's arms and her smile disappeared, staring in those fear stricken green eyes below her.

Slowly leaning in, her lips grazed Gabrielle's gently and her grip loosened on her arms. She frowned and pulled away, staring at Gabrielle's wide eyes. As both kept playing this staring contest game Xena suddenly remembered that night of Anastasia's party. She couldn't recall anything the day afterward, or even a week after, that is, until now. She didn't come here by herself and she certainly wasn't alone either. She let go of Gabrielle's arms and grazed her lips, remembering it all. She kissed Gabrielle that night and she didn't remember and now, she just did it again.

Xena got off of Gabrielle and stepped off the bed, her back turned to her. Gabrielle exhaled softly as she felt her heart about to burst out of her chest. She immediately thought she was going to get another lesson per Xena's dagger again, but that was...unexpected to say the least.

"Leave," Xena said softly. Gabrielle sat up on the bed and Xena frowned, turning around, "I said leave!" she demanded. Gabrielle scooted off the bed and grabbed her cloak, leaving the room quietly. Xena sighed heavily and folded her arms, staring at the closed door in front of her.

Xander leaned on a column outside of the fortress's entrance, bouncing a twine ball on his boot casually. He looked down the stairs and saw Anastasia carrying a bag with her and he smiled. "Where have you been?" he asked and tucked the ball into his pocket.

Ana grinned, "I got some necklaces. They're from Egypt!" she took out the gold necklace and Xander's eyes widened. "Isn't it pretty?"

"Oh yeah, very pretty," he nodded, "just like you," he winked and she shook her head, putting the necklace back into the bag. She sighed and looked up at the gloomy sky above them.

"So..." she began awkwardly and he folded his arms, leaning against the column again. "How exactly did you meet my mother?" she asked.

Xander sighed and sat down on the steps. He pat the empty spot next to him and she took the offer and set the bag beside her. "I never met your mother before," he began and she frowned confusedly, glancing over at him. "I've known her for a very long time –our whole life actually." He didn't know exactly how to say this and he was sure that Xena didn't tell her, especially since the girl was so curious. "I'm her brother," he said aloud.

Ana blinked and fidgeted with her thumbs in her lap. "Wow..." she barely said above a whisper. Then she turned towards him and looked into his blue eyes. "How come I've never heard about you before? And why didn't you live with us in Pannonia?"

Xander chuckled, "I don't think your mother and I remained very good friends after she left home."

She raised her eyebrow curiously. "You mean in the Caspian tribes?"

He frowned and looked at her, "she really doesn't tell you anything, does she?" he wagged his head and ran his fingers through his short raven locks. He didn't really feel like ousting his sister to her own daughter so he remained quiet. "You know what? Maybe you should ask your mother these questions?" he smiled and walked off. Ana huffed and watched him leave to the square. She quirked her mouth then ran off back into the fortress.

She ran into her mother's bedroom with a big smile on her face. She noticed her mother sitting at the desk with her head on her arms. Frowning she dropped the bag on a nearby chair, "are you okay mom?"

Xena lifted her head and ran her fingers through her hair then smiled at her daughter. "I'm fine," she peered over at the bag, "what's that?"

Ana grinned, "I got a necklace in the square today! It's from Egypt, you want to see?" she grabbed the bag and plopped down on the bed.

"I didn't give you permission to spend money..." Xena turned in her chair and still her daughter had a beaming smile.

"Oh I didn't buy it! The merchant gave it to me," she answered and her mother looked confused. "Since I'm the commander's daughter..." she winked and Xena sighed, shaking her head. "So you want to see it or not?" her mother nodded and then she pulled out the gold necklace with green gems. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

Xena blinked, "very nice," she saw the excitement in her daughter's eyes and then remembered Gabrielle and her idea to send her to Greece. She got up and sat beside her on the bed. "Anastasia, we need to talk."

The girl frowned and put the necklace down, "okay..." she folded her hands in her lap and Xena brushed her hair behind her ear.

"I think...that you should go to school," Xena began and Ana remained quiet. " Greece."

Anastasia's mouth gaped and faced her mother, "Greece?!" she gasped, "mom, that's...that's so far away! I'm not smart enough to go to a school in Greece!"

Xena smirked and wrapped her arm around her, "you are very smart, Ana. You know how to read and write."

She stood up and paced around in a circle, "barely!" Ana scoffed, "I am not cut out for those competitive schools, mother!"

Xena sighed and thought this was going to be a lot easier than what she imagined. Gabrielle's idea made it seem so easy, but her daughter was totally against the idea. "Anastasia, you a very smart girl, Gabrielle...agrees," she frowned, thinking of that woman. Keeping secrets, Gabrielle. "You don't want to be here with me do you? You need to be around other people your age and have a life of your own."

Anastasia's eyes swelled with tears, "but I want to stay here with you," she turned around and Xena's eyes widened seeing tears stream down her daughter's face.

"Don't cry," Xena embraced her tightly, "I hate it when you do that," she whispered and kissed the top of her daughter's head as she continued to sob in her chest.

"I never get to spend a lot of time with you..." her voice muffled in her mother's chest and Xena pulled away from the embrace. Anastasia wiped the tears from her cheeks. "And...what if nobody likes me there?"

Xena smiled, "they will love you. You're smart, funny and sweet," she fixed Ana's hair, brushing it behind her shoulders. "I think this will be a great opportunity for you."

Anastasia sighed and folded her arms, "okay..." she nodded, "I will go." She looked up at her mother then frowned, "but I want to ask you something."

Xena sat back down on the bed, "alright," she was starting to feel nervous. What could be on that girl's mind? Ana sat beside her and took in a deep breath, readying herself to ask this question since she had that little chat with Xander outside.

"Is...Xander really your brother?" she asked and Xena frowned.

"Who told you that?"

"He did," the girl answered then saw her mother's eyes darken and she was definitely upset now. "So, it's true?" she asked and Xena ran her fingers through her hair, ignoring her daughter. "How come you didn't tell me you had a brother? And he didn't live with us in Pannonia. All family members live together."

Xena anxiously tapped her fingers on her knees then looked at her daughter's confused expression. "He never lived with us, because he is not from any tribe..." she muttered, though finally speaking the truth was quite nice.

Anastasia folded her arms, "well, where is he from? He can't be from the Caspian Sea like you," she supposed.

Xena frowned and thought this was such an awkward conversation. "I'm not from the Caspian Sea. I moved there a long time ago when I met your father." She sighed and stood up, turning her back towards her daughter. "I'm from Thrace," she said finally.

The teenager's eyes grew in shock. "You're a Thracian?!" she gasped and then thought everything she knew about her mother was a lie. "You are not a Hun then..." she muttered.

The warrior turned and saw the shock and disappointment on her daughter's face. She knelt down in front of her, grasping her hands. "No, I'm not, but you are," she smiled, touching her cheek. "Half..." she corrected herself.

Anastasia shook her head, "why did you leave? Thrace is a wealthy territory."

Xena laughed nervously, "that is a long story and I think you're too young to hear about it, alright?" she spat her cheek then stood to leave.

"Is there anything else that I should know? Since you're shipping me off to school!" Ana scowled and Xena stopped in her tracks.

"What do you want to know?" Xena asked in a low voice.

"Do you have any other siblings?"

Xena nodded, "yes I do. Four other brothers," she answered then left the room. Anastasia's mouth gaped at that news. She could hardly believe it. Her mother was a sister not to one brother, but to three other brothers?

Inside the Roman household Honoria sat with her cousin, Petronius, with her emperor brother and mother at the dinner table. She made eye contact with Petronius and winked as she sipped her wine. His cheeks blushed and it was hard to keep their relationship a secret especially with Valentinian around and his pesky mother.

Valentinian leaned back in his chair, observing the coziness between his little sister and cousin. "Petronius, we should go hunting tomorrow," he said aloud and his cousin turned to him nervously.

He coughed and nodded, "of course, I would love to accompany you, your highness," he smiled, raising his glass.

Honoria sighed dramatically, "this dinner is such a bore," she swished the wine in her glass. She suddenly had a devious idea swimming in her mind. "Hey, let's talk about that alliance between Attila and Theodosius." She raised her eyebrows.

Placida rolled her eyes, "Honoria, no politics at the table, please," she frowned at her daughter and Valentinian chuckled.

"It's alright, mother. I love politics," he winked at his sister. "I think it's really foolish of Theodosius to ally with Attila! I did and look where that got me," he wagged his head in shame.

Honoria gleefully grinned, "but brother, that wasn't your fault! That was Attila's commander's fault. What was her name?"

"Xena," Placida answered.

The emperor's sister nodded her head, "oh right, Xena. Hey you know, this might sound crazy but..." she eyed her brother and then her cousin. "You should ally with Xena!"

Valentinian let out a loud laugh, "have you been slipping opiates into your wine, sister?" he kept laughing and Honoria folded her arms. "Have you lost your mind?! Why would I ally with someone who betrayed the Hun-Roman alliance?"

Petronius chimed in, "it might work, your highness would have to compromise with her. You know how she is..."

The emperor nodded, "oh yes, I know how she is," he finished off his wine. "She came here some odd years ago and I was impressed with her negotiation skills. That woman can get anything she wants if she is willing to fight for it."

Honoria nodded, "exactly! And that is why you need to ally with her. You could take Constantinople and there would be no eastern empire anymore! It's a brilliant plan, isn't it?" she smiled and sipped her wine.

Placida frowned, "Honoria, you do not understand politics. Xena does not do 'political alliances'. She cannot even get along with her own people. What makes you think she will ally with us?"

Her daughter grimaced, now getting frustrated with her mother. "Maybe Xena is not as ferocious as you all make her out to be," she smiled deviously and tapped her fingers on the dining table. "I think I could convince her."

Valentinian nearly spit out his wine, "Honoria! Are you insane?" he wiped his mouth with the backside of his hand. "You want to actually negotiate with that Hun witch?"

Honoria hummed, "well I heard from the grapevine that she is not even a blood Hun," she said and all eyes were on her.

Placida frowned, "what are you saying?"

The daughter sighed exasperatingly, "well, I heard that she is actually a Thracian," her eyes glanced over at her cousin and he smiled at her, casually eating his food.

Valentinian, "a Thracian?" he rubbed his chin, "she is more closely related to us than she is to those barbarians!" he grinned. "It is no wonder that she is so smart and cunning..." he stood up from his chair, "I think we should arrange a meeting with Xena," he winked at his sister and Honoria squealed. Placida buried her face in her hands, thinking of the worst possible outcome of this meeting. They could both be killed and they weren't thinking straight.

After dinner Honoria and Petronius came into her bedroom and she shut the door, locking it. She took off his tunic and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing his lips furiously. They backed up and both fell onto her bed. She pulled away and straddled her arms over his head. His eyes widened and touched her soft cheek.

"Are you seriously going to Troy to negotiate with Xena?" he asked.

Honoria smiled deviously and kissed him again before answering. "Of course, silly." She giggled, "you see...if I get my brother to come with me then it will be a serious negotiation." She traced her fingers along his bare chest, causing him to quiver from her touch. "I want to be taken seriously and Xena is a fierce warrior. I wouldn't stand a chance against her."

Her cousin frowned and pushed her away, "but what if she kills you? Remember when Aetius came back and he said there was a row of impaled Romans in front of her base?"

She grinned and rolled over on her side, "I guess I will just have to make myself very convincing, now won't I?"

Xena walked outside into the atrium and saw Gabrielle sitting by herself, writing, of course. She sighed and tapped her fingers together as she stood at the entrance, going unnoticed. She thought it was pretty silly to just stand around and creep on her, but she honestly didn't know what to say to her after what happened earlier.

Readying herself, she walked over to the bench Gabrielle sat on and stood in front of her. Slowly, the blonde lifted her head and immediately her face paled. "What...are you writing?" she asked.

Gabrielle clutched the parchment to her chest, "it's nothing," she scooted to the far end of the bench and Xena sat next to her. Oh please, go somewhere elseplease. She felt her chest constrict the closer Xena was beside her. She had nothing to say to her and if things weren't awkward before, they were far more awkward now.

Xena nodded and glanced around at the plants inside the atrium. "I...I um, told Anastasia about the school in Greece."

The blonde nodded slowly, "that's great," she felt herself crushing the parchment against her chest. This was definitely more awkward than she imagined it would be. "I should go...somewhere else, where it's more quiet and where there'," she smiled nervously and stood up then Xena grabbed her hand. Immediately, her body froze and felt goose bumps along her arms.

"Gabrielle, I'm not going to hurt you," Xena said and slowly Gabrielle sat down next to her again, averting her eyes, of course.

"I understand if you're angry..." Gabrielle managed to choke out surprisingly, for someone who talks a lot. "I should tell you something that happened on Anastasia's birthday..."

Xena smiled softly, "I know Gabrielle. I remember what happened," she admitted and both sat in silence, refusing to make eye contact.

"'re not mad?" the blonde asked and Xena shook her head.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Xena asked curiously.

Gabrielle laughed, "excuse me, but you're not exactly the easiest person to talk to, Xena!" she shook her head, having a good laugh at that.

Xena frowned and tapped her fingers on her knee leisurely. She didn't think that she was hard to talk to. She had been very friendly towards Gabrielle, considering she was her slave. She had treated her far better than anyone she had met outside of her circle of people. Perhaps she was as heartless as everyone thought she was and she never actually considered that it might be true.

"I appreciate your honesty, Gabrielle," Xena stood up and was ready to leave, seeing that Gabrielle thought so low of her.

Gabrielle's smile disappeared and she saw Xena leaving. She set her parchment on the bench, "wait!" she called out and the warrior halted. "Should I...apologize?" she felt that was a bit lame to say this but she didn't know what to say.

Xena smiled weakly, "no, you shouldn't," she turned and walked out of the atrium. Gabrielle's cheeks flushed and she exhaled heavily, feeling a bit relieved that Xena didn't lash out or say something irrational for once.

A few days later Xena sat with Gabrielle and Anastasia at the table outside eating together. Xena finished eating her fruit and eyed a certain blonde sitting across from her. Gabrielle lifted her head and caught Xena looking at her and she smiled subtly as she finished eating her food.

Gabrielle looked at Anastasia, "so, are you excited about going to school?"

The girl shrugged her shoulder, "I'm not sure about it yet," she pushed her food around on her plate and groaned. "This food is terrible!"

Xena smirked and figured that this type of lifestyle was going to be even more difficult for her daughter than she expected, especially if she was complaining about the food here.

Gabrielle finished off her water, "in Greece they have amazing food. I think you might like it there."

Ana sighed and tapped her fork on the plate, "aren't you from Greece?"

She cleared her throat, "yeah," she looked over at Xena and saw that she avoided eye contact with her as she casually traced the rim of her water glass with her finger. "It's very pretty. A lot of beaches," she smiled.

Anastasia looked to her mother, "I've never been to the ocean before," she turned back to Gabrielle and set her fork down. "Gabrielle, is school hard?"

Xena raised her eyebrow, waiting for her to answer. Gabrielle smiled, "sometimes, but I think you'll do great. You're very smart."

The teen rolled her eyes, "you and mom," she stood from the table, "I'm going to go to my room," she left the room and bumped into Xander. She gasped and then looked down at her feet, "sorry..." she quickly brushed by to her room down the hall.

Xander sighed and he waltzed in, seeing Xena sitting alone with Gabrielle, but it appears they were done eating. He stood beside his sister, "can I talk to you?" he asked and Xena didn't even bother looking at him. "Alone?"

Gabrielle cleared her throat and she smiled at Xander, getting ready to leave. "You should talk to him," she urged her then left the room. Xena inwardly groaned and he now sat in the chair beside her, just staring, so much staring.

Xena pursed her lips and tapped her fingers on the table impatiently. "Well?"

He leaned in closer to her and she frowned, pushing him away. He scoffed, "I heard that you're sending Anastasia to Greece for school." She simply gave him a curt nod. "I want to take her there, if you let me?" he swallowed and she slowly turned towards him.

"Why would you do that?" she asked curiously.

Xander sighed, "because I want to help you and it's not like you can leave anytime you want." He offered and she kept staring at him intensely. "Xena, come on," he sighed seeing that his sister wasn't too keen on the idea. "I can stay with her in Greece while she goes to school so she won't be alone," he smirked.

Xena frowned and sat for a few moments longer, thinking over what her brother proposed. "You would do that for me?"

He smiled, "yeah, I like your daughter. She's a neat girl and I'll make sure that nothing happens to her while I'm there," he winked and Xena quirked her mouth, thinking this over.

"Alright," she exhaled heavily. Xander grinned and he kissed her cheek unexpectedly and her eyes widened.

"I promise that I will keep her safe," he took her hand and kissed it gingerly. She smirked and nodded her head then he took off.

Xena turned, "and no boys," she stated firmly.

Xander smiled, "I'll try my best to fend them off."

Later Xena came into her room and saw Gabrielle writing away. Anastasia was busy packing her stuff to leave for Greece, which she didn't want to, obviously, but Xena actually trusted her brother to keep her safe. She had always trusted him and he always did the right thing. She wished she could say the same for herself.

She peered over at the blonde and took off her cape, watching her continue to write. She was completely focused on her writing because she hadn't even acknowledged her existence yet. She kept thinking about what happened between them a few days ago and she herself felt confused. She wasn't sure if Gabrielle felt as confused as she did –probably more scared than confused, she thought.

"What are you writing?" she asked and Gabrielle was startled. She smiled, "I didn't mean to scare you..." she sighed. I seem to do that a lot.

Gabrielle grinned, "you didn't," she closed her binder of parchment and set her quill down. "It's just mindless drabble," she shrugged.

Xena walked forward and placed her hand on her hip and Gabrielle looked up at her with wide eyes. "I want to see." Gabrielle sighed and she wasn't willing to give up her work so Xena placed her hand on top of the leather binder. "I command you," she smirked.

Gabrielle opened up her binder and Xena leaned down, peering at the Greek letters on the page. She snatched the page into her hands and Gabrielle gasped. Xena walked away slowly, reading the words silently to herself and Gabrielle nervously sat in the chair, shaking her leg anxiously.

The warrior turned around with a bemused frown, "you wrote this?"

She shrugged, "not exactly. It's from a poet –just a quote that's been in my head for awhile," she said and saw Xena read over it again to herself.

"May I write words more naked than flesh, stronger than bone, more resilient than sinew, sensitive than nerve," Xena read aloud and Gabrielle sank in the chair as her cheeks reddened. "And in time, one's mask becomes one's face," she continued. Xena's eyes widened once she read the next stanza of the poem. "Awed by her splendor. Stars near the lovely moon cover their own faces when she is roundest, and lights earth with her silver..."

You can stop anytime now, Xena. She looked at the warrior's face and couldn't tell what she was thinking at the moment. She certainly didn't want to think that poem meant anything implying her, or them for that matter. "I told you it was drabble," she lamely tried to defend herself.

Xena smirked and set the parchment back into the binder. "Very nice, Gabrielle," she walked off with a smug grin and began adjusting her gauntlets. "But I think it would be better if you wrote your own poetry..." she implied.

Gabrielle closed the binder and let out a soft sigh. "I could never write anything like that!"

"You underestimate yourself Gabrielle," Xena turned around, leaning against the chair nonchalantly. She saw her cheeks were red with embarrassment and she smiled.

Gabrielle sighed and lowered her eyes, "Xena, I don't want you to think that I like you or anything –"

"Because I kissed you," Xena stated and that only made Gabrielle more nervous.

" were just confused that's all."

Xena raised her eyebrow, "confused? I was not confused, Gabrielle. When I want something I get it. It would be wise of you to adopt the same mindset," she smirked and then grabbed her swords, sheathing them on both hips. "And I do like you," she smiled, "even if you're a bit annoying," she left her room.

Gabrielle's jaw dropped and then a smile came to her lips. She sunk in her chair, clutching her binder close to her chest.

The following morning Anastasia mounted her horse and Xander was waiting for her by the gate. Xena smiled and walked forward, grasping her hand tightly. "I've never been on a ship before..." she admitted, feeling more nervous about that than the actual school she was going to attend.

"You'll be fine," Xena kissed her daughter's hand.

Ana sighed, "promise?"

"I promise."

"And you will write to me, won't you?" her daughter stared at her with frightened eyes.

Xena smiled, nodding her head. "Of course I will. You'll be safe with Xander," she eyed her brother and he saluted her, grinning gleefully. "You should go before I change my mind," she frowned and took a step back. Anastasia blinked and she pulled the reins, trotting off to join Xander by the gates.

She stood back and watched her daughter leave with her brother, riding beyond the gates along the bridge , heading towards the coast. She sighed and tears filled her eyes.

Gabrielle smiled and joined her by her side, "I think she will really like it there," she said and Xena wiped her eyes.

A soldier on top of the wall guarding the fortress shouted, "Commander! Romans approaching!"

Xena frowned and ran up the stairs to the wall and saw a small group of Romans riding into Troy. She smirked once she saw the young emperor riding with his dear little sister. "This is going to be interesting," she chuckled and walked to the other side of the wall towards the entrance.

Valentinian trotted on the bridge, hundreds of feet above the ocean. Waves crashed along the rocky cliff and Honoria peered down, seeing how far down the fall would be. "Scared, sister?"

She shook her head, "no, not at all," she avoided looking down and kept her eyes straight forward. She saw the large gates ahead of Troy ahead of them. She had always wanted to come to this mysterious city. There were legends of this hidden city, even some people said it didn't even exist. Well, obviously, they were wrong.

Both stopped at the gates and guards up top glared down at them. Valentinian smiled, blocking the sun with his hand, "I would like to speak with your commander!"

Xena came sauntering over and peered over the edge of the wall, leaning her elbows on the ledge. "Valentinian," she smiled and his eyes drifted to her. "Aetius has sent you here to die, I'm assuming?"

The emperor smiled nervously, "no he hasn't. I've come on my own accord. My sister wishes to negotiate with you."

Xena looked down at Honoria and snorted, "her?" she laughed, "it's too early in the morning for jokes, Valentinian!"

"It is no joke, Xena," he answered. "How would you feel if both of us allied together?"

Xena ceased laughing and glared at the emperor, shouting from above, "alliance? Look how well that turned out the first time!"

Honoria groaned and trotted in front of her brother, "negotiate with us and we could take down Theodosius and his empire in Constantinople. As a team," she smiled deviously and Xena stood up, tapping her fingers on the ledge.

"And why would I ally with you? Romans are full of trickery. I cannot trust either one of you," Xena answered, though she had thought about this before. It would be nice to take down Nicaea and Constantinople, but she needed help, certainly not from Attila though.

"This alliance is not about trust. It's about war and conquest," Honoria said, raising her eyebrow up at the warrior woman.

Xena chuckled beneath her breath, "divide and conquer," she muttered, "Julius Caesar. Yet another fool that was blinded by the laurels." She folded her arms, staring down the emperor's sister. "Romans don't bode well with alliances."

Honoria smirked, "and neither do you."

Valentinian frowned, "what say you, Xena? Shall we negotiate or not?" he yelled up at her.

Xena pursed her lips and waved her hand to the guards near the gates. The emperor smiled once he saw the large gates open and Honoria's eyes widened, grabbing her brother's hand, trotting into the forbidden city, as the Romans called it.

Gabrielle was talking to one of the soldiers until she saw the emperor ride into the base. She frowned and then Xena walked down the stairs from the wall above. Making her way over to her she whispered, "what is the Roman emperor doing here?"

Xena smiled, "politics Gabrielle," she walked off, "I expect you in the conference room with us, yes?" she winked and went to meet with Valentinian and Honoria.

Gabrielle folded her arms, raising an eyebrow seeing the young emperor shaking hands with Xena and Honoria standing beside her brother. She never liked Valentinian but why would he come to Troy to see Xena? The Romans hated her and for a very good reason. She betrayed them and now they want another alliance? Something is very fishy here.

AN: all quotes taken from the ancient Greek poet, Sappho ;)

Chapter Text

AN: some fluff and a bit of a twist. Enjoy ;)

Chapter 17 –The Student and The Teacher

Xena and Gabrielle waited atop of the military base in Nicaea. Her army surrounded the base waiting for Theodosius' army to attack her for three days now. So far there had been many small ambushes in the fields outside of Nicaea, but nothing major.

Gabrielle tugged Xena's arm and looked up at her worriedly, "are you sure Valentinian and his men will show up for the attack?" she asked.

Xena's eyes surveyed the area and it was quiet, too quiet. Frowning, she squinted her eyes finally seeing the Western Roman army riding in the outfield. She smirked, "I think they're here..." she grabbed hold of Gabrielle's hand tightly.

Grinning, the blonde looked outward at the Romans trotting in, but then she noticed something very odd. She grimaced and saw Aetius leading the army towards a different direction away from the base. "Wh...where are they going?" she hit Xena's shoulder several times, "they're leaving! This isn't part of the plan!"

Xena snarled and ran along the wall to see where Aetius was going. She climbed the stairs to the highest tower on the wall and was able to see Theodosius' army waiting on the hillside. Gabrielle followed behind and stood beside her. Aetius spoke to Theodosius' commander, Magnus, then shook his hand, smiling with one another.

"They switched sides..." the warrior hissed. "They're going to attack us together..."

Gabrielle's breathing hastened as her heart raced, "what are we going to do? I thought Valentinian was on our side!"

Xena frowned, "so did I. Lesson number one, this is why you don't trust Romans, Gabrielle!" she ran down the stairs to meet with her artillery men below inside the center of the base. "I want all of you to prepare the catapults outside the base. We've been betrayed by our allies," she folded her arms and all of the men began whispering with each other then ran off in separate directions.

Gabrielle ran to join Xena, "I don't know if catapults are going to stop them, Xena. Do we have anything else?"

Xena smiled deviously, "we do have one thing," she tapped her fingers on her arms attentively. "Black powder," she chuckled softly.

The blonde's eyes widened, "Xena..." she spoke warily, "where did you get that?"

"Courtesy of the Chinese Emperor, Sui Gaozu," Xena smiled and Gabrielle gasped.

"When we went to China, I didn't think you were going to steal black powder while we were there!" she growled.

Xena snapped her head around, glaring at the petite blonde. "I didn't steal it Gabrielle! I made an alliance..."

"Is that what you're calling it now?" Gabrielle shook her head, thinking this was going to end poorly for sure.


One Year and Six months Earlier

Valentinian and Honoria sat with one another inside Xena's conference room, waiting patiently for Xena to arrive. Honoria looked around at the dark walls with swords on racks and weapons mounted on the wall. "This place is so grim," she leaned in, whispering to her brother.

The emperor smirked, "doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is that she actually let us in!" he chuckled and tapped his fingers on the table, impatiently.

"Let's not push our luck, brother. We still have to talk to her and make it very convincing, remember?" she said and then the doors opened. Xena waltzed in with Gabrielle and she had a huge smirk on her face. "Exhibit A, arrogance awaits us," she chuckled and her brother laughed with her.

Xena sat across from the two and Gabrielle sighed, sitting a few chairs away from her. She frowned, looking over and gestured for her to sit next to her, but Gabrielle ignored her and opened her leather binder of parchment and dipped her quill in the ink.

"So, I hope you don't mind but everything you say will be recorded by my..." she looked over at Gabrielle and smiled at the Roman siblings, "my scribe, Gabrielle."

Valentinian nodded, "it's no problem for me, Xena." He leaned forward, arms on the table, "let's talk business. We both know that alliances between us haven't worked in the past –"

"But this alliance will be different," Honoria interrupted and her brother glared at her. "We don't have to be friends to be allies. Aetius allied with Attila because he wanted financial gain and you broke that alliance by killing Romans when you were in Athens, isn't that right?"

Xena nodded, "yes that's right. I knew from the beginning of the alliance that it would not last," she said with a smirk.

Valentinian cleared his throat, "Aetius and myself, underestimated you and your people. Everyone in Rome called you savages and uneducated barbarians –I even said the same thing."

"And what do you think of us now?" Xena raised a curious brow, staring into his nervous eyes.

He chortled, "well, you are no Attila or Rua, that's for sure. Attila is a king, but it is you who made all the decisions behind the scenes, am I right?" he smugly grinned.

"Just like your mother does for you, am I right?" she smiled and he frowned, leaning back in his chair. "All leaders must have advisors, Valentinian, and now that Attila doesn't have me anymore he turned to Theodosius for aid. As if more Romans could help him," she snorted.

Honoria narrowed her eyes at the warrior woman, "so you and Attila are enemies now?"

Xena frowned, "no we are not."

"You would ally with him again?" she dug deeper.

"I would never ally with Attila again but we are not enemies. We never were and never will be," Xena stated and Gabrielle hinted a small grin as she heard that and kept writing down everything Xena and Honoria exchanged.

Honoria smiled and folded her arms, sitting back in the chair. Very interesting indeed. "If you ally with us, then you become Attila's enemy. We will be fighting against Theodosius to gain the eastern territories again. You understand that don't you?"

Xena lowered her eyes and contemplated what this alliance might entail, but she wanted this alliance, not for herself, but in the end, to wipe out the Romans and claim the territories for herself –an ultimate betrayal. She lifted her head and the two were gawking, awaiting her answer. "It is not personal," she stated.

The Roman empress smiled, "good! Wouldn't want our emotions to get in the way of the plan."

Xena smirked and leaned on the table, "now I have a question for you," she hissed, "why do you want ally with me? Your army is big enough to take down the eastern empire. I don't even have half the men you do."

Valentinian interjected, "I will make you the new commander in chief of my men, all 70,000 of them," he smiled, hoping that would entice her enough.

She pursed her lips and tapped on the table with her fingernails, "don't you already have a commander in chief? What was his name...." she rubbed her chin then a wicked smile formed on her lips, "oh yes...Flavius Aetius –the man who tried to arrest me several times and failed."

"He has been proven unworthy of my allegiance. I will demote him to second in command per our agreement." He smiled and saw the gears ticking in Xena's mind. "Do we have a deal?" he enticed her further.

Xena shook her head, "no." Valentinian's eyes widened, not expecting her to turn down an offer like this. He would never give up his army to just anyone, especially someone like her. She grinned sneakily, "I already have the position of commander here in Troy. Why would I trade myself into the Roman army for exactly same position?" she questioned.

The emperor laughed nervously, "Xena, this is an opportunity that will never come by again. I suggest that you take it," he urged.

She stood up and leaned her body across the table. Honoria blinked and scooted away from her as she kept leaning in closer. "I will take your men, Valentinian but," she furrowed her eyebrows, "I want to be the General."

Honoria scoffed, "the General is the highest command in the army!"

"You're catching on fast," Xena winked at her and the Roman empress groaned.

Valentinian shook his head, "Xena, you cannot just become a Roman General. You are not even a Roman citizen!"

Xena sighed and pulled away from the table. "Then no deal. You may show yourselves out," she smiled and walked away, about to leave the room.

Honoria jabbed her brother in his side, "do something!" she whispered.

Valentinian groaned and stood from his eat, "wait!" he called out and Xena turned around on her heels, grinning widely. "If I make you my General you will have to come to Rome for a coronation process. It's...tradition," he muttered.

Xena smiled, "of course I will come. Until then...our negotiation will remain stagnant," she opened the door and waved her hand for them to leave.

The two Romans left the room and walked through the hallway, leading outside. Honoria frowned, "I can't believe you gave her the leadership role of General!" she growled.

"What was I supposed to do? She wasn't going to accept any other offer," he hissed back.

She rolled her eyes and mounted her horse, "wait until mother hears about this."

He scoffed and hopped onto his steed, "mother is not the leader of Rome, I am!"

"She was right. You are not to fit to make any deals with anyone. You let Xena walk all over you. Now she will think she is in charge," she shook her head and pulled on the reins, trotting off. He gasped and followed behind her shortly.


Gabrielle finished up her last few words then closed her binder. She saw Xena watch the emperor and his sister leaving through the gates and decided to approach her. "General huh?"

Xena turned and smiled, "nothing is final until they come to an agreement in Rome," she walked off. "Did you write down everything?" she opened the doors to her room and waltzed in casually.

Gabrielle sighed, "I don't think this is a good idea," she admitted and got an evil glare from her opposite. "I know you don't care about what I have to say, but, you said it yourself, you don't trust Romans. Why would you ally with them? Is it to get back at Attila?"

Xena scoffed, "this has nothing to do with Attila." She began stripping of her armor. "I'm playing the politics game, Gabrielle. Nobody can survive in this world without political warfare and alliances. If Attila can make a political alliance with a Roman, not once but twice, then so can I."

The blonde nodded and sat down at the desk. "I understand now," she said and Xena wrapped a caftan loosely around her body. "You really want to take down Attila, don't you?"

"This isn't about eliminating Attila, focus Gabrielle!" she groaned and grabbed a towel. "Attila never was and never will be the enemy. Maybe once he sees that I have allied with the opposite party, he will join with me and we can take over the Roman empires together," she smiled.

Gabrielle frowned, now completely lost. "But I thought you wanted Attila out of the picture? I remember you saying that you wanted to be queen..."

Xena shrugged, "I will be. One day," she winked and threw a towel at her. "Are you coming?" she folded her arms.

Gabrielle ripped the towel off her face and lifted an eyebrow, "to the baths?" she asked hesitantly.

"You're not getting shy again are you?" Xena smiled and Gabrielle's cheeks flushed with color. "I promise to keep my hands to myself this time," she winked and walked off through separate doors.

She sighed and stood, watching Xena saunter down through the various connecting rooms. If I didn't understand you before, I definitely don't understand you now, Xena.


A month later Xander was able to find a really nice villa in the center of Thebes, a close neighbor of Athens. Anastasia walked into the villa and looked around at all the windows and there was even a small atrium like the fortress in Troy.

Xander came in carrying Anastasia's belongings and plopped them down on the floor. He smiled, "so, what do you think?"

She turned with a gleeful grin, "it's wonderful! How did you get it so fast?" she wondered.

He shrugged, "I know someone that lives in the area," he sighed and looked at the place. It quite nice and big enough for a family of four at least, so it was plenty of room for them. "So, I guess you can pick your room then I'll take you to the academy for girls later today?" he hinted school and she let out an exasperated sigh. "Your mother sent you here to go to school and I promised her I would look after you."

She nodded, "I know, but..." she wrapped her arms around her, "I'm nervous and my clothes..." she touched her green cotton long sleeved dress. "I won't fit in here."

Xander chuckled and he touched her cheek softly, "we can buy you some new clothes if you want? You'll look like a proper Greek girl," he winked and she smiled finally.

She picked up her bags, "I'll go put these in my room and then we can go pick out clothes!" she walked off down the hall and he shook his head. Shopping with a teenage girl, what did I get myself into?

In the market square Anastasia picked out four dresses and piled them on her arms. Xander saw the multitude of clothes on her arms and was starting to get nervous. Xena gave him a reasonable amount of money to live off for a few months, but this definitely didn't include expensive dresses. He would need to find somewhere to work for the meantime especially if Anastasia was to stay here and go to school.

"I have a white one, a dark blue, red and yellow dress, what do you think Xander?" she asked and his eyes widened, looking at all the gowns and all he could think of was the price.

He scratched the back of his neck anxiously, "maybe you could just get three dresses?" he hoped and she frowned sadly. "Just for now until your mom sends more money," he smiled and she nodded, putting back the yellow dress onto the rack.

Taking the dresses to the merchant he examined all of the dresses and folded them up, setting them into a box. "That'll be eighty dinars for you."

Xander's mouth gaped, "eighty?!" Anastasia looked up to him with pouty eyes and he groaned, shaking his head. "Fine...." he mumbled and handed over the coins and the merchant smiled.

Back at the house Xander waited for Anastasia to try on all the dresses and she was taking an incredibly long time just for three dresses. "Anastasia we need to go to the academy before it closes!" he griped.

He heard some rustling around and she called out, "I'm coming!" she opened the door and wore the red chiffon dress she picked out –something her mother would never allow her to wear, which was perhaps one of the reasons why she chose it. she adjusted the one shoulder strap and brushed her hands along the fabric. "Do I look like a Greek woman now?" she smiled.

He grabbed her hand, heading out of the villa, "don't let your mother see you in that," he grumbled.


They arrived at the academy right as classes were being let out, which was a good thing because they'd be able to talk to one of the teachers there alone without any students around. Luckily, the school wasn't that far from the villa and she could walk to school on her own.

Anastasia looked at all the girls walking out of the academy and most were dressed very well, probably from Roman and Greek elite families, she guessed. She suddenly felt very paranoid and looked at all of their dresses, admiring how well made they were, though the one she wore, wasn't cheaply made. He touched her shoulder warmly and her body tensed.

"Don't be nervous," he whispered and she exhaled heavily, nodding. They both stepped inside the empty academy and saw a female teacher speaking with one of her colleagues. "Excuse me..." he cleared his throat and the teacher smiled at him and noticed the young teen standing beside him.

She approached them both, fixing her long straight dark hair, "what can I do for you?" she asked with a big grin.

He peered down at Anastasia and felt her grip tighten as she held onto his hand. He chuckled softly, "my niece wants to enroll in your academy. She would really like to attend."

The woman nodded looking at how nervous the girl was and frowned, "and where are you from?"

Xander's eyes widened, "um, we're from Thrace," he said and Ana looked up at him confusedly. "We traveled a long way to come here."

"Thrace? We don't have any students from there," the teacher smiled, "what part of Thrace are you from?"

"Amphipolis," he said and Anastasia lowered her eyes, remaining quiet.

The teacher smiled, "Amphipolis is a nice city," she took a step towards the girl. "And what is your name?"

Ana looked up with wide eyes and her uncle nudged her arm, "Anastasia," she answered.

"Anastasia. What a nice name you have. It means resurrection," the teacher grinned and the teen smiled weakly. "Have you attended an academy before?" she asked and Ana shook her head. "What kind of schooling have you had?"

She cleared her throat, "my mother taught me how to read and write in Greek and Latin."

The woman blinked, "Latin? Not even our students know how to write in Latin. Only the elite students in Athens know Latin. You are one step ahead," she saw the girl's face break out into a big smile. She lend out her hand, "my name is Ms. Alexandria and I would love to have you in our academy, Anastasia. I would like to speak with your mother if –"

Anastasia interrupted, "oh you can't, she lives in –"

"In Rome," Xander interrupted and Ana frowned up at him.

Alexandria's mouth gaped, "your mother works in Rome?" she folded her arms, now quite impressed, "what does she do?"

Xander answered for his niece, "she's a commander in the military," he said and Ana lifted her eyebrow. He hoped that she would stay quiet and gripped her hand tightly.

"A military commander? Looks like you are a daughter of a diplomat," Alexandria smiled then sighed, "well, I have to get going, but I'll see you tomorrow Anastasia?" she brushed past them with a few scrolls in her arms.

Xander let out a sigh and felt sweat forming on his brow. Anastasia frowned, "you just lied to her," she hissed.

They both walked out of the school and he felt bad for lying, especially in front of her but he had no choice. "Anastasia if she had any idea who your mother really was, she wouldn't let you into the academy."

Ana scoffed, "so I'm just supposed to pretend that my mother is a Roman military commander? This place is strange," she shook her head and walked off without him.


Later in the evening Anastasia was busy unpacking her things in her room upstairs and Xander sat in the atrium, drinking some wine. He promised his sister that he would look after Anastasia but given that she was a teenager, he probably didn't think this through at all. Not to mention, she is Xena's daughter, and that probably meant that she was just as adventurous as Xena was at her age. Xena always got into so much trouble at that age and he expected nothing less from her daughter.

A knock came to the door and he jumped out of the chair and saw his guest enter the house unannounced. He gasped, "what are you doing here?!" he whispered.

Toris smiled, "I pulled a lot of string to get you this villa. You could at least tell me why you wanted it." he waltzed in with a bottle of wine and Xander groaned, smacking his forehead.

"Look, you can't stay here...." he urged and his elder brother ignored him.

"Xander!" Anastasia called out and ran down the stairs, "I think I should buy new shoes tomorrow after school..." she entered the atrium and saw someone else was here. "Oh, I didn't know you had company," she shied away.

Xander sighed and Toris looked at the teenager with weary eyes. "Who is that?" he whispered to his little brother. "Did you have a kid and not tell me?" he smirked.

The younger brother hit Toris on his chest and walked over to his niece. He smiled, "I'll take you to get new shoes tomorrow, alright?" he looked back at his older brother then touched her shoulder, "we will eat soon, so once you're done unpacking you'll come downstairs, right?"

She nodded, "sure..." she looked at the guest curiously then ran back upstairs to her room.

Toris chuckled, "so who is that?"

Xander folded his arms, "if I tell you, promise not to get angry."

Toris frowned, "okay, I promise," he sat down in a chair inside the atrium and Xander sat opposite him.

He didn't know how to begin exactly and felt like he shouldn't dance around the subject. "So um...her name is Anastasia," he began, "and...she's our niece," he continued and saw Toris' face contort in confusion. "She's Xena's daughter –our sister's daughter," he finally said.

Toris rubbed his chin and he started laughing, "Xena?" he wagged his head. "That's funny, Xander. Good one. So who is she really?"

"I'm serious, Toris."

The elder brother stood up infuriated, "you saw Xena?" he hissed. "Did she give her to you because she couldn't take care of her or something?!" he yelled.

Xander frowned, standing opposite of his brother, "no! She has taken care of her daughter by herself for fourteen years! She wanted her to have an education. I offered to take Anastasia..."

Toris scoffed, "so you're friends with her now?" he paced around, "I thought we agreed never to talk about her again and now you are babysitting her daughter while she's off killing people?!"

"Our sister has problems, I won't deny that," Xander said in a calm voice, "but she cared enough to let her daughter live hundreds of miles away from her to have a better life."

"Back up," Toris held his hands up, "how did you meet Xena?"

Xander lowered his eyes, "her daughter was held prisoner in Nicaea..." he muttered.

The older brother laughed, "oh that's nice! And I'm sure Xena is to blame for that, of course," he shrugged nonchalantly. "Why are you helping her? She ran off to go live with those Huns a long time ago!"

Xander groaned, "because I wanted to! What's so bad about that?"

"Because she's insane, Xander!" Toris yelled. "I can't say I'm surprised. You two always had a special relationship growing up –you feel obligated to help her," he wagged his head, pitying his brother.

Anastasia came down the stairs, entering the atrium. "I'm...done unpacking," she said awkwardly and both men gawked at her. "I can wait in my room..." she sensed the awkwardness and tension in the room.

Toris folded his arms and couldn't take his eyes off of her, "she looks so much like her," he mumbled.

Xander rolled his eyes and he approached his niece with a faint smile, "no it's okay, we're finished here," he turned and glared at his brother.


Xena was sparring by herself outside behind the base, early in the morning, without any distractions. It was rare that she was ever able to have time like this to herself and with the Romans negotiating about her proposition all she had to do was wait until they came to an agreement and if they didn't, she would find some other way to succeed. It had been a month since her daughter left for Greece and she hadn't received a letter from her or from her brother and that was sort of worrisome.

Slowly, she spun around with her sword and swung it sideways, almost hitting the statue, barely missing it by an inch. She smiled and twirled the blade with her wrist gracefully then tossed the sword into the air and closed her eyes, channeling all of her energy into catching the sword.

She stepped to the side and opened her eyes, catching the hilt of the sword. She sighed and paced around, becoming quite bored sparring with herself for over two hours now.

Gabrielle walked through the hallway and then halted once she saw Xena standing outside pacing around, casually thrusting the sword in different directions, remaining so focused. Smirking she hid behind a window and watched the warrior's skills in action. Leaning against the wall she saw sweat dripping off Xena's arms and neck, slowly trickling down her bare midsection. Only wearing a bandeau and loose pants with her tattered boots, and her wild hair, whipping around her as she swiftly turned. Now in this moment, she definitely looked like a tribal woman for sure, she thought.

As she watched Xena move gracefully around the desolate piece of land, she couldn't help but think that she was a great fighter. She had so many skills, although talking to people definitely wasn't one of them.

Xena turned around and caught a pair of green eyes staring at her. She smiled and Gabrielle gasped, scooting along the wall, pretending that she didn't see her. "Might as well come out now," Xena called out.

Gabrielle sighed and stepped outside sheepishly. She wrapped her arms around herself and tried to avoid Xena's gaze. "'re very good," she admitted shyly.

Xena smirked and twirled the sword, "my enemies know this," she walked over to the rack of weapons and picked up a javelin and stuck her sword into the dirt. Throwing the javelin into the air, she turned to Gabrielle. "You want to learn?" she looked up and caught the javelin with ease.

The blonde shook her head, "oh no, no, no. I'm alright..." she ran her fingers through her long blonde wavy locks.

"I can teach you," Xena spun the javelin with both hands and saw her now scribe's cheeks flush with vibrant color. "What are you afraid of?" she asked.

"Fighting isn't really my thing," she defended.

Xena nodded, "I know, the quill is your weapon," she sighed and jabbed the butt of the javelin into the dirt. "You can only do so much with a quill and parchment, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle smiled shyly, "well, you have your hobbies and I have mine."

The warrior scoffed, "fighting isn't a hobby Gabrielle –it's a sport," she winked and that obviously made her uncomfortable, Xena immediately noticed. "You like poetry, right?"


"Just think of fighting as poetry," Xena smiled and grabbed another javelin and threw it at the scribe. Gabrielle gasped and caught the weapon clumsily. "Not all poetry is pretty...right?" she circled around her cautiously and Gabrielle's eyes danced around, seeing Xena out of the corner of her eyes.

"Some...poetry is sad," Gabrielle answered and felt extremely nervous as she felt Xena come dangerously close to her and kept circling her like a hawk.

Xena stopped behind her and grabbed the javelin in Gabrielle's hands, guiding her. She leaned in closely, "and some poetry is violent, right?" she whispered in her ear.

"Yes..." she answered almost breathlessly and gripped onto the spear as Xena's hands held onto the ends of the spear as she stood behind her. "Healing is a matter of time, but is sometimes also a matter of opportunity."

Xena smirked, "more of your philosophical jargon?"

Gabrielle smiled, "it's not jargon. It's a good way to find our way in life through free thinking. You should try it sometime," she teased.

Xena raised an eyebrow and kicked Gabrielle in the back of her knees. She instantly fell to her knees and gasped, dropping the javelin on the ground. "Where does your free thinking get you if you're dead?" she folded her arms and Gabrielle gasped, getting up from the dirt ground.

"You kicked me down! How is that fair?!" Gabrielle groaned.

Xena shrugged, "life isn't fair," she teased and turned her back, picking up her javelin.

Gabrielle felt a spark inside of her and she wacked Xena in her back with the javelin and she stumbled into the wall. Slowly Xena turned around with wide eyes and Gabrielle suddenly felt like that was a bad idea. It was like Athens and the pitchfork all over again. She dropped the javelin and started backing away.                               

Xena smiled and twirled the spear in her hands, "you like to attack people once their back is turned. Why don't you try it from the front this time?" she said playfully and halted spinning the javelin, holding it horizontally.

"I don't want to fight you," the blonde shook her head, folding her arms as she backed away slowly.

"But you sure like to hit me when I'm not looking," Xena chuckled. "Wise to resolve, patient to perform," she quoted. "I'll be patient with you," she urged and picked up Gabrielle's javelin and threw it to her then steadied her ground.

Gabrielle ran her hands along the wooden staff and sighed, "I don't see the point in fighting. People get hurt, they die and lose their loved ones."

Xena frowned, "I know what that feels like to lose someone close to me because of war. You don't need to preach to me."

She exhaled heavily and looked into those haunting blue eyes opposite her, "so why do you keep fighting others knowing they will die and it will affect their loved ones?" she asked sincerely.

"Because they deserve to die," Xena sighed seriously and planted the javelin in the ground. "There are evil people and there are good people, Gabrielle. Romans are evil and so are the Visigoths. They stole lives that were closest to me."

Gabrielle snorted, "and you think killing people will make you feel better? Killing won't bring back your brother or Anastasia's father. I'm sure you figured that out by now."

Xena frowned and hung her head, thinking of what Gabrielle said. She knew that fighting people would not bring people back and perhaps for some time when she was younger, she thought that, but not anymore. "Would it be wrong to say that it gives me satisfaction?"

Gabrielle shrugged her shoulder, "we all have our ways coping with pain and loss, Xena."

Xena smiled and stepped forward, very close to her blonde scribe, "will you make a deal with me?" she tested her and Gabrielle frowned, bemused by her words.

"What kind of deal?"

"You...teach me how to be a kinder person and I teach you how to fight," she tapped the javelin with hers.

Gabrielle smiled, lowering her head, "that doesn't seem fair. My end of the deal is much harder..."

Xena stepped closer, "you're doing a nice job so far," she whispered and winked. Stepping away she thrust the javelin forward. "Do we have a deal?"

The blonde sighed and she finally relented. "Alright patient with me," she huffed and gripped the javelin tightly, ready for the attack.

"As long as you're patient with me," Xena grinned. "Patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet."

Gabrielle chuckled, "for a person who claims to hate philosophy, you sure know a lot of philosophers' quotes," she teased.

"Just trying to appeal to your sense of mind, Gabrielle," she spun around and swung the spear towards her and Gabrielle blocked it instantly. "Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior."

Gabrielle breathed heavily and was surprised that she was able to block Xena's first attack, but she was positive that would be the last as well. "You believe that you are courageous when in battle? Are you not afraid to fight?"

Her opposite smirked, "courage is an act of fear. Without fear there would not be courage," she said and the blonde cocked her head. "Let me ask you, are you afraid right now Gabrielle?"

"I'm sparring with you, of course I'm afraid!" she answered.

"But you did not run away," Xena smiled and pulled the javelin back, ready to strike again, "that makes you courageous," she swung the spear underneath Gabrielle and knocked her off her feet, her back hitting the ground with an audible thump. She walked over to her and stood over her, watching her chest rise and fall, adrenaline pumping through her veins. "I have much to teach you."

Gabrielle groaned and jumped up off the ground, brushing the dirt off her dress. "So do I," she grinned and swept her hair away from her face. "Show me how you did that."

Xena smiled, appreciating her will to learn from her. "We should start with the basics first."


Placida paced around listening to this absurd plan of her children. She groaned, "how could you offer Xena such a position?!" she yelled at them both.

Honoria glared at her brother and Valentinian spoke up, "she wasn't going to ally with us unless she becomes the General of the army, mother. What was I supposed to do?"

"You could have chosen not to ally with her!" she grunted, "look what you two have gotten us into," she wagged her head in shame of her irresponsible adult children. "What is the reason for this sudden alliance with her anyway? Theodosius is not a problem."

Honoria frowned, "but he will be, mother. We need to get rid of him and he has Attila as his ally, so we need an ally from his neck of the woods."

Placida scoffed, "and you chose the worst possible woman to ally with of course, what was I thinking? How silly of me," she chuckled. "How do you know she won't betray you like she did before?"

Valentinian stood up from his throne, "if she is the General of the army, she will have no reason to betray us. She remained loyal to Attila for over a decade."

"She is irrational and unpredictable, Valentinian. Has it ever crossed your mind that she might want the position of General in order to kill you later?"

The emperor shook his head, "Xena may be irrational and unpredictable but she is not foolish, mother."

Placida nodded and sat down in a chair, feeling rather faint, listening to this nonsense. "And what happens if you and Xena overthrow the eastern empire?" she tapped her fingers on the armrests of the chair. "Will you give her a large sum of land for her aid?"

He broke out into a hearty laugh, "of course not! Do I look stupid? Then she would have an empire of her own."

His mother smiled, "and why do you think she decided to ally with you in the first place? Out of the goodness of her heart?" she saw her son's smile disappear instantly. "You are naive, my son. Xena is smarter than you. This might be a hard lesson for you," she stood and waltzed out of the throne chamber.

Honoria chuckled, "our own mother doesn't even trust you. How does that make you feel?"

Valentinian snarled, "shut up! Get out!"

She frowned, "fine. Good luck telling Aetius about his new boss," she smirked and briskly walked away to go talk with their cousin.



Chapter Text

Chapter 18

After three months of waiting patiently Xena finally got the word from the emperor himself to travel to Rome to be given the position of General like she asked for. She had almost lost hope in the young emperor but she didn't really have any other plans, knowing that he would give in because he had no other choice at this point.

Xena and her small elite soldiers followed her to Rome and by now they were in the Balkans, incredibly close to Rome, perhaps another few days until they arrived to the holy city. It had been awhile since she had traveled with her men. The journey to Nicaea was a disaster but also a blessing. Truthfully she was glad that she ran into her twin brother, especially since he was helping her with Anastasia going to academy in Greece.

Late at night Xena sat in her large tent, eating by herself and then Gabrielle peeked through the tent's flaps. Lifting her eyes she smirked weakly, "can I help you?"

Gabrielle pulled out a letter from her cloak, "I got something that you might want to read," she wagged the letter in her hands and Xena's eyes lit up immediately, knowing it was from her daughter. She wiped her hands on her pants and stood up, running to her. Gabrielle smiled, shying away.

Ripping open the letter she saw Anastasia's handwriting had improved a lot since she had read a letter from her. She grinned as she read through the lengthy letter and walked over to her bed, sitting down slowly. Gabrielle waited patiently at the entrance watching Xena's face break out into a huge smile, which was always nice to see.

"She has the highest marks in her class," Xena said and Gabrielle grinned. "Her handwriting is good too," she observed and sighed, folding up the letter in her lap. The blonde furrowed her eyebrows as she saw the gloomy expression on the warrior's face.

"What's wrong?" she approached her slowly and Xena hung her head.

"I should have sent her to a school a long time ago," Xena sighed and threw the letter aside, burying her face in her hands.

Gabrielle sadly frowned and then sat beside her, keeping her hands to herself. "You didn't exactly have a lot of options back then..." she offered to make her feel better but it didn't seem to be working. Is she crying? "You did what you had to do. Things change and you protected her all her life and I know you would do anything for her. I've seen it."

Xena lifted her head and pushed Gabrielle away, "enough of this sappy talk, Gabrielle," she hissed. Gabrielle exhaled heavily, thinking she might have said something wrong, but everything she said was true and Xena knew that and when this happens, she becomes incredibly defensive. Xena grabbed the bottle of wine, pouring some into two glasses.

Gabrielle quirked her mouth, "I have a question," she blurted out.

"Don't you always?" Xena smirked and gave her a glass of wine, which she took graciously.

She breathed in, hoping she wouldn't regret this question, but so far Xena had been nice to her over the last few months. "Am I still considered your slave?" she asked.

Xena lifted her eyebrow, sipping the alcohol. "You're my scribe, Gabrielle," she answered and winked. Gabrielle smiled, knowing her answer immediately after she said that. She sat down beside her on the bed very closely. "How about a lesson?"

Gabrielle choked on the wine, "a sparring lesson? Right now? In the middle of the night?" she wiped her mouth with the backside of her hand.

The warrior shied away, "no, not sparring. My lesson..." she admitted softly and Gabrielle nodded.

"Oh I see," the blonde smiled, taking another sip of the dark wine. "Alright," she sat more comfortably, bringing her knees close to her as she laid on her side. "What made you want to fight the Visigoths when they attacked your village?"

Xena sighed, not really wanting to talk about that, but this was Gabrielle's lesson after all and she asked for it. "People in my village are not warriors. Most are blacksmiths and sheep herders." She swished the wine in her glass. "My...mother died when I was fifteen and my father left a year before. He was a soldier for the army of Stagira and was not around a lot."

Gabrielle frowned, hearing that news. She couldn't relate to anything Xena was saying. Her mother dying and her father leaving the family with five children and Xena being the only girl, surrounded by boys. "So, I guess you took over the role of your mother after she..." her sentence trailed off.

Xena nodded, "my older brother had a job and Xander did too, but my youngest brothers..." she frowned, "I had to take care of them at home by myself. Lyceus helped with Pirro and Ditron, but it wasn't enough." She felt her blood boiling remembering that day when Lyceus' life was taken and she felt responsible for it and Toris, her elder brother, probably would never forgive her.

"I'm sure your little brothers appreciate everything you did for them," Gabrielle said and Xena downed her wine, she noticed.

"Until I slaughtered those Visigoth bastards. My brothers looked at me differently and were afraid to be around me," Xena gripped the glass, almost shattering it. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she placed her hand over the wine glass and slowly Xena's grip loosened. "They looked at me like I was a monster."

Gabrielle shook her head, "you're not a monster, Xena."

Xena chuckled, "Gabrielle, I don't kill people because I have to. I hunt them for sport –it's all a game."

The scribe frowned and sat up on the bed, "why do you do that? You had a normal life once. What changed?"

"I saw what a sword is capable of –what I was capable of," she grabbed the scribe's arm, "it's a rush!" her eyes grew wild and Gabrielle blinked, a bit afraid of her passionate language. "You wouldn't understand."

"You're right," she sighed, "I don't understand and I probably never will, but I know you care about the people close to you."


The blonde let out a sigh and set the wine on the floor, "we should go to sleep. We have to travel early in the morning," she stood slowly, brushing the wrinkles out of her dress and began heading towards the exit.

Xena called out, "Gabrielle..." and she turned around, "thank you for talking to me."

Gabrielle smiled, "that was part of the deal, right?"

As soon as she left Xena smirked and then grabbed some parchment from her bag and held the quill in her mouth as she opened the ink bottle. Dabbing the quill in the ink she began writing a letter back to her daughter, a much needed distraction in the midst of everything.

In Aquincicum Theodosius sent a messenger to Attila to tell him of the news that he received from the western Roman emperor a few days ago. Attila frowned, hearing the oral news of the emperor's messenger with his wife by his side.

Kreka rolled her eyes and Attila dismissed the messenger so he could be left alone. She approached her husband, "Valentinian is a crock. I can't believe he hired Xena as his General of the elite Roman army." She scoffed, "the most powerful army in the world!"

Attila rubbed his goatee, "what did she do to convince him?" he wondered and couldn't put his finger on it. The emperor wouldn't just give her that high ranking position for no reason. She must have threatened him, yes that's it, he guessed.

"She is going to wipe you out, Attila!" she growled and he turned to her, grabbing her arm firmly and her eyes widened.

"She would never do that to me," he hissed close to her face and she groaned, wiping her arm away.

"I can't believe you're actually defending her!" she yelled. "Why do you trust her so much?" she chuckled, folding her arms, glaring into her husband's light eyes. "Did you fuck her?"

Attila's mouth gaped, "no! Absolutely not!" wagging his head in disgust, "why would you say such a thing?"

Kreka shrugged her shoulder, "she's a beautiful woman, Attila. I'm sure you've thought about it before," she raised an eyebrow and he couldn't believe what she was saying. He scoffed and walked away, outside of their large home.

He sighed heavily as he stood outside in the open field. He saw his three sons playing together, sparring with each other, completely oblivious to the world. Ellac fought his younger brother, Dengi, with a short sword and he couldn't help but think about his future as a prince and a leader. He had spent his entire life playing as a child but next year he will be fifteen and technically he is old enough to be a king at that age. It was time for him to learn how to be a king and prepare for his grooming as a warrior prince.

Setting his hands on his hips he smiled as Ellac caught Dengi into a headlock, disarming him instantly without any effort. He was proud of his eldest son and was such a great fighter, but then he frowned, thinking of Xena's daughter. Anastasia was a very good fighter too, taught by Xena at a young age. She was better than Ellac and always won in a fight when they wrestled together growing up. He had no idea what Xena had planned for her daughter in the future, but he knew that she would be safe with her, like always.

Attila couldn't help but think about what his wife said to him regarding having sex with Xena. He had indeed thought about it before and it was hard not to. Xena was irresistible in many ways –striking, smart, cunning, great fighting skills. It was hard for anyone to dislike her for her attractiveness and her sex appeal, though she was hated for other reasons, and Attila ignored those.

"Ellac!" he yelled out and his son lifted his head as he was laying on his brother. He waved his hand and Ellac smiled, running over to his father.

"What do you need, father?" Ellac breathed heavily as he was just getting over wrestling with his brother.

Attila sighed, "it's time for you to learn how to become a king, Ellac." He saw his son's face twist in confusion. "And once you are groomed properly, I will look for a wife for you," he smiled and pat his son's cheek.

Ellac gasped, "wife?"

"You won't get married until many years later, don't worry," Attila winked and Ellac lowered his eyes, not sure how to process that news at all.

"But father..." Ellac walked beside Attila as they head back to their home, "I don't want to get married to anybody. I'm only fourteen!"

Attila smiled, wrapping his arm around his son, "you won't be fourteen forever. You will be married when you're eighteen but you will meet her when you're sixteen so you can get to know each other." His son remained quiet and his eyes widened, stoic and blank in thought. It was a lot to process for a teenager. A wife. Marriage.

Xena strode into Rome through a sea of people crowding around the emperor's palace. She looked down at all the fearful eyes gawking up at her. It was as if they had seen some kind of anomaly or a creature from a different planet. She remembered riding through this area once before, fourteen years ago. Back then, she got the same stares as she did now. The Romans and others often criticized the Huns for being uneducated and barbaric but she had come to the conclusion that it was the Romans who were uneducated. They knew nothing about her or where she came from. They had already made up their minds of who she was and who she represented. The judgers under the eye of the Judge –how hypocritical, she thought.

In front of the palace stood Valentinian with his mother, sister and none other than Flavius Aetius. Xena smiled at them all and winked at Aetius and he continued to glare at her. If she didn't know any better, she thought that the man would explode or obliterate her with the fire burning in his eyes. He was passed angry; he was livid, especially since he would be in a lower rank, making her his superior.

The emperor sighed as Xena dismounted her horse and walked up the stairs by herself with her men on horseback waiting below. Her smile was most eerie and he was beginning to regret this decision, seeing that hungry look in her eyes.

"Xena," Valentinian put on a false smile and she curtly bowed her head, glancing over at the fuming commander beside him. "You made it here so quickly."

She raised her thick dark eyebrow, "wouldn't want to keep you waiting, would I?" she teased with a playful grin and he cringed slightly, not even trying to hide it.

He nodded and waved his hand to his assistant and the young man brought out a golden necklace with the Roman arms engraved in the pendant. He took the heavy gold necklace and his mother rolled her eyes, trying to keep her composure. He stared at it and thought this would either be the best decision or the worst decision he was ever going to make in his life. Looking up he saw Xena smiling at him and he stepped forward.

Holding up the necklace he held his breath, speaking loudly so everyone could hear around him, "do you promise to protect the Roman Empire even if it costs you your life?" he asked.

Xena placed her hand over her heart, "of course."

"And if you betray the Holy Roman Empire you will be sentenced to death, do you understand?"

"Yes," she answered.

He exhaled out and then said, "do you promise to protect the Empire under the name of God and all of His glory?" he asked and saw her hesitate a bit. Placida frowned and saw Xena's eyes change from a light blue to an eerie dark color in a matter of seconds. "Xena?"

"...yes," she choked out and the emperor smiled, seeing her falter the first time.

"And do good by the Mother of the Heavens, may she bless us all in name of Jesus Christ himself?" he smiled and saw her lip quiver slightly.

Xena lifted her dark eyes, "yes." She spoke in a low voice and Valentinian placed the necklace over her head and long dark hair. She smirked and he waved his hand to Aetius.

The commander walked over, stepping in front of the emperor, glaring at Xena. He held the golden laurel crown in his hands, almost snapping it in half as he grip tightened. She kept smiling at him, knowing that this coronation was killing him inside. Clearing his throat he held the laurel over her head and the two kept glaring at one another.

"Once I place this laurel upon your head you will become the General of the Roman army. Do you have anything to say?" he asked, biting his tongue, clenching his jaw.

Xena raised her eyebrows, "no," she winked and he inwardly groaned and placed the laurel on her head, brushing her hair away from her cheeks. She turned around and everyone in the crowd clapped and she saw many confused faces in the sea of people. She expected nothing less, of course. She slipped her arm with his, bringing him close to her as she smiled at everyone. "I want this alliance to be as friendly as possible, you understand don't you?" she whispered.

Aetius frowned and remembered those exact words. His words, from so long ago when he first met with her in Rome.

Xena was growing tired of this man's insinuation to seek information from her. She wasn't stupid and obviously because she wasn't a Roman and she was a woman, she would not be taken seriously here. "Are you trying to flirt with me?" she smirked, catching him off guard, her favorite thing to do. She set the glass of wine back on the table and grabbed some grapes, lifting an eyebrow at him while she had a big smug grin on her lips.

He set the wine down as well and hooked arms with her leading her away from the table. She frowned, but played along. "I want this alliance to be as friendly as possible, you understand don't you?"

He smiled weakly at the people and waved his hand as Xena kept her arm hooked with his. "You have weaseled your way into this position, Xena," he whispered back to her.

Her eyes traveled around the sea of people, refusing to look at him. "I won this position," she whispered through her tight smile. "My name isn't Xena to you, it's General," she turned her head and he frowned, seeing the ugly smirk on her face.

Placida folded her arms and saw Xena walk down the stairs to meet with her men. She scoffed, "this is disgusting. I can't watch any longer. This empire is folding in on itself as we speak!"

Honoria frowned and grabbed her arm, "mother, you need to trust Valentinian."

The elderly woman snapped her head around, gawking at her daughter. "My son just gave this foreigner the highest ranking position in the army. She doesn't need to take orders from the emperor to lead attacks, do you understand what this means?!"

"You need to trust Xena, mother. Without trust, we will crumble."

Placida shook her head, "we are already crumbling, dear," she sighed and stormed off into the palace to sulk alone away from this atrocious sight before her.

Later after the coronation Xena and Gabrielle were lead inside of the palace so Xena could sign a few documents in front of the emperor. Formalities, so many formalities, she noticed. Nothing was like this when she was with Attila. If you proved your worth to him then he granted you a position through trial and error. This was quite different.

Gabrielle's eyes looked around at the grand palace and smiled, remembering Greece. The architecture was so similar and it was one thing that reminded her of her home she left nearly half a year ago. She couldn't believe that she had been away from Athens for so long and another thing, she couldn't believe she was still alive.

Xena peered through open corridors and saw Gabrielle in complete awe. "Remind you of Greece?"

Gabrielle was caught off guard and she smiled up at her, "yes, a lot actually."

"You must miss Athens," Xena said with a bit of terseness in her voice.

"Some things I miss, yes..." the blonde answered softly, brushing her hair behind her ears. "But I've put Athens in the back of my mind since I've been um...with you," she added nervously.

The guards opened the doors and Valentinian sat in his throne chamber, waiting behind his desk. Xena smiled and stepped inside with Gabrielle trailing behind. The doors closed abruptly and Gabrielle jumped, feeling extremely on edge being in this place. She would have never thought she'd be in the same palace as the emperor, or the same room nonetheless.

He leaned back in his chair, "you put on quite a show out there, Xena," he smirked.

Xena lifted her eyebrow, "oh I meant every word," she put her hands behind her back and Gabrielle frowned seeing Xena twiddling with her thumbs.

He nodded and gestured for her to sit in front of him. Gabrielle stood a few steps behind, watching the emperor's face and playful eyes. Snapping his fingers his scribe brought out a stack of parchment and slammed it on his desk. "You have done the easy part, but now you must read through all of the regulations of the empire," he smugly grinned and took the quill from the ink bottle and stretched his arm over the table.

Xena eyed the large stack of documents and looked at the emperor's eager eyes. She took the quill and his scribe presented her with the first page. Quickly reading over it she frowned, seeing that being a general in the Roman army was no walk in the park at all. She didn't even bother reading the rest and signed her name at the bottom of the page. The scribe turned the parchment around and Valentinian signed his name beside hers.

Reaching the tenth page Valentinian stopped Xena from signing. She lifted her eyes with a deep frown, obliviously getting frustrated. "You understand that since you are the leader of my army that you will need to reside in Rome."

Her eyes widened, "and what about my base in Troy?"

He chuckled, "you can keep your base, but you will live here," he saw the fury in her eyes and she signed her name, nearly breaking the tip of the quill. He grinned and then signed his name as well. "All soldiers live on the military base in the country. There is a villa near the training grounds where you will stay. I'm sure you will find it suitable," he winked and she kept glaring at him.

Finally after an hour of signing documents they reached the last page and Xena was so thankful. She hadn't even truly read the regulations but she was sure Valentinian saw right through that. He wasn't smart enough to know her tricks.

"As general of the Roman army you will receive a sum of one hundred thousand pounds each month. Thirty percent will go towards the soldiers' expenses and training, but the rest is yours to use at your disposal," the emperor said and Xena's eyes widened. He smiled seeing the shock on her face. "A lot of coin in your pocket, yes?" he teased. She signed her name and the scribe took the parchment and stacked it on the rest of them. Valentinian leaned back in his chair. "We take care of our soldiers here, Xena."

She stood up and clenched her teeth, "I would like to send a letter to someone."

He nodded, "my sister will take care of it for you. She will show you to your new home," he waved his hands and the doors opened and Honoria walked in. Xena turned and frowned at the emperor's sister, not exactly thrilled to see her.

Nearing sundown Honoria rode in on her horse with Xena trailing behind with Gabrielle sitting on the horse with her. Xena's men also followed and the Roman soldiers opened the large gates. Everyone rode in and Xena raised her eyebrow, looking around at the area. It was definitely a training ground with sand and dirt everywhere. Gabrielle looked up and saw a slave girl cleaning the balcony above the grounds. "This place smells like death," she whispered in Xena's ear.

"You should be used to that Gabrielle," she smirked.

Honoria pointed to the balcony, "this is the Ludus. You are able to watch the soldiers train from above and give commands as necessary."

Xena frowned, "and that is the villa?" she asked, slightly confused.

Honoria chuckled, "no," she trotted into the training grounds and Xena followed behind cautiously. She came to a halt and pointed over the hill. "That is your villa," she said and Xena looked at the huge villa on the hill, only a few blocks away from the training grounds. That wasn't a villa, that was a miniature palace.

Gabrielle laid eyes on the large palace, "wow," she gasped, "that's some house."

Xena smirked, "and you said this was a bad idea," she whispered. She turned to Honoria, "if I want to send letters to...somebody, where would I go?"

Honoria sighed, "you have a messenger in your new home. He will deliver your messages anywhere you'd like, but not to Constantinople."

Xena thought that was odd. "And why is that?"

The young empress frowned, "Constantinople is off limits. Only direct letters from the emperor can be sent there." She sighed heavily, "I need to return to my home, but my brother's men will lead you to the villa." She smiled and trotted off with her elite guards to return to the palace.

Interesting, Xena thought. She felt a hand come to her shoulder and turned her head, looking at Gabrielle's anxious eyes.

"Are we going to go see the place or just stand here?" Gabrielle cracked an eager grin.

Arcadius came into his emperor's bedroom unannounced and Theodosius sighed. He hated being interrupted by people especially if it was politics. He had had enough of political matters for today. He had to deal with General Saxu in Nicaea just this morning and even though he was the protector of the holy city of Nicaea, he despised that council that Saxu adored so much. Councils only create more problems and he couldn't escape them, not even when he visited Rome to see his co-emperor.

"What is it now, Arcadius?" he set down his goblet of wine.

"Sir, I have just received word from Rome," he pulled out the letter and bowed his head. "Valentinian has crowned Xena as his General."

The emperor laughed, "I didn't think that bastard had it in him," he rubbed his bearded chin, "he must be just as insane as she is," he muttered to himself.

Arcadius frowned, still holding the letter in his hands, "don't you want to read the message, sire?"

Theodosius shook his head, "no need, Arcadius. You have given me the juiciest part of the news," he stood and sipped his wine. "I suppose the young emperor wants a few favors from me?"

The advisor lowered his eyes, "no your highness," he mumbled and the emperor frowned. "He wants to cut the ties with the Nicene Council."

"He what?" Theodosius threw the cup at the wall and Arcadius gasped, slowly backing away. "Who does he think he is?!" he growled and began pacing around, ruffling his dark hair in between his ringed fingers. He laughed aloud and Arcadius' eyes widened, seeing such a strange sight of his leader before him. "Xena must have his cock wrapped around her finger," he folded his arms, looking out the window in his large bed chambers. "Holy Roman Empire my ass," he grumbled. "He will bring shame to the entire empire with Xena by his side."

Arcadius nodded, "of course sire," he began backing away, trying to leave as quickly as possible.

Theodosius turned just as the elderly advisor was about to make his hasty exit. "Inform Attila about this and I want to see him immediately," he frowned and Arcadius nodded. "He knows Xena very well, perhaps he could be of some use to me at last..."

"Oh your majesty, I have news from Attila as well," he spoke softly and the emperor frowned confusedly. "He has requested to find a suitable potential wife for his eldest son."

Theodosius smiled, bobbing his head slowly. "Ah, those arranged marriages are quite annoying, are they not?" he chuckled. "Get in touch with my cousin, Marcellinus, in Antioch. His daughter, Sasha, is around the boy's age I'm sure –beautiful blonde hair blue eyed girl," he tapped his fingers on his arm as he gazed at the midnight sky. "Those Huns need some color in their life," he teased.

"Yes sir, I will get right on that," Arcadius sighed and quickly exited the bed chamber.

Gabrielle walked through the long hallway in the new Roman villa that Valentinian gave Xena. She really liked it here, only because it reminded her of her home back in Athens, but this place was definitely not Athens and a certain warrior was a sure reminder of that.

She came to Xena's room and saw one of the doors was slightly ajar. She peeked inside and saw Xena writing, sitting on the bed. She smiled giddily as she watched Xena write so focused on what she was doing. Who says a quill is not useful? Leaning in closer the door creaked and she gasped, covering her mouth.

Xena lifted her head and smirked, setting the parchment down in her lap. "Yes?" she called out.

Gabrielle sheepishly stepped inside the room with her hands behind her back, sort of embarrassed. "You're writing," she gestured to the parchment.

Xena smiled, nodding her head. "A letter to my brother," she set the parchment aside. "But it can wait, she folded her hands in her lap and Gabrielle stood by the doors awkwardly swaying back and forth. "What do you think of this place?"

Gabrielle looked around at the well decorated bedroom and really liked it. "It's lovely," she said shyly and Xena hinted at a grin.

"And your room?" Xena asked and the blonde lifted her eyes, blinking at her blankly. "Do you like it?"

"Oh..." Gabrielle bobbed her head, "yes, it's really nice. Much bigger than my apartment in Athens," she joked and the warrior lifted an eyebrow at her. " is life as a Roman General so far?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder, "only a couple of days and it's been smooth sailing," she winked and Gabrielle stifled a tiny laugh under her breath. The two looked at one another and she hopped off the bed grabbing both of her swords. "You want another lesson?"

Gabrielle eyed the swords and she had only sparred with staffs and javelins but never swords, which were sharp, very sharp. "Um, I don't think so. I kind of have somewhere to –"

"What else do you have to do?" Xena twirled the swords with her wrists and Gabrielle sighed heavily, rubbing her arm unconsciously. "I always keep my end of any deal, Gabrielle," she smiled and handed her the sword.

The blonde looked at Xena then at the sharp sword in her hand. Sighing greatly she grabbed the blade and felt the weight of it immediately. Definitely a lot heavier than a javelin or staff.

Outside in the sands behind the villa Xena swung her sword and knocked Gabrielle's sword out of her hand. Sweat poured down her forehead and Gabrielle huffed, kicking the sand with her boot. Xena wiped her forehead with the backside of her hand and breathed heavily.

"I'm not good at this!" Gabrielle griped.

Xena sighed, placing a hand on her hip, "you'll get better." She said with hope in her voice, but Gabrielle was not convinced. "The first time I taught Anastasia how to use a sword she was seven years old. She was terrible," she smiled reminiscing about her daughter. "She sliced my arm on her first swing. The look of disappointment in her eyes was...the worst thing I've ever seen in my life."

Gabrielle sighed, "well, she was seven years old. I'm definitely not seven years old," she folded her arms. "I'm not cut out for this."

Xena frowned, "are you reneging on our deal, Gabrielle? You know, when I make a promise, I intend to keep it," she pointed the blade towards the blonde's chest. "And I hope you'd do the same..."

Gabrielle picked up her sword with both hands. She felt butterflies in her stomach as she stepped forward, ready for Xena to attack her, though she was waiting. She didn't want to disappoint Xena and she was right, she should keep her promise. After all, Xena had been willing to actually talk to her and not violently like she used to.

Xena smiled and twirled the sword in her wrist then spun around, swinging the blade around slower than usual so she gave Gabrielle a chance to block. The two blades clashed with one another and Xena pushed her weight on the sword and Gabrielle cringed, trying to fend off her strength. Pushing down harder, her counterpart was barely able to hold the sword up with two hands.

"You are weak, Gabrielle," she hissed and lifted the weapon up before clashing with her blade once more and Gabrielle fell on her rear, though still holding onto the sword.

She huffed, "what are you doing?!"

Xena looked down on her and kicked her leg, "you are not strong enough and you know what happens when you're not strong enough? You die!" she kicked her again and Gabrielle groaned, feeling a bruise already forming on her shin.

Gabrielle felt Xena kick her in the spine and she moaned, "stop!" she cried out and Xena kicked her again and she rolled over onto her stomach with a mouthful of sand. Lifting her head she felt her heart beating so fast and Xena's boots stepping closer to her, hearing the crackling sound of the sand beneath her heels.

She then reached for the sword and rolled over blocking Xena's attack and smiled up at her. Xena grinned and took a step back, allowing Gabrielle to regroup herself. Getting up off the ground she spit the remaining sand out of her mouth and pointed the blade towards her opponent.

"I haven't got all day, Gabrielle," Xena bent her knees, holding the blade close to her body and freed her other hand. Gabrielle then came at her and Xena grabbed Gabrielle's arm, flipping her over onto her back and she landed with an audible thump. Chuckling she stepped over her opponent's body. "Perhaps you are not cut out for this," she whistled and walked off with her back turned.

Gabrielle growled and got up and was ready to attack Xena again, but then she stopped herself. She wants me to attack her from behind. Well played, Xena. A devious grin appeared on her lips and she ran forward, slicing into Xena's tunic from behind. Xena's eyes widened and she touched her ripped tunic and slowly turned around.

Xena nodded with a subtle smirk, and then took off her tunic, throwing it aside. The blonde's eyes widened as she saw Xena flip her hair behind her shoulder and fix the bandeau around her breasts and adjust her pants at her slim waist. Maybe this was a bad idea.

"I'm all yours, Gabrielle," she teased and the blonde shook her head while her eyes roamed over her bare midsection and slim muscular arms.

Her blonde counterpart charged at her and swung the blade and Xena swiped her leg underneath Gabrielle, knocking her off her feet. She grunted, "how is that fair?! You are bigger than me!"

Xena chuckled, "size has nothing to do with it," she shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly.

Gabrielle then looked down at Xena's pants and suddenly had an idea. She smiled and threw her sword in the air. Xena looked up and Gabrielle leapt forward, grabbing hold of the warrior's waist with incredible force and knocked her down on the ground, falling on top of her. The sword landed a few feet away from them, sticking straight up in the sand and Gabrielle looked into Xena's wide surprised eyes as she laid beneath her, staring in awe.

"You're right. Size doesn't matter," Gabrielle taunted.

Xena's face broke out into a cheeky grin, "you surprised me."

"I'm full of surprises!"

"You sure are..." Xena's smile disappeared and stared into those green eyes looking down on her. Gabrielle held her breath as she was dangerously close to her lips again, suddenly feeling awkward and her palms began to sweat.

"Auxilia General!" the messenger inside the villa ran outside and Xena gently pushed Gabrielle off her, rising quickly. She wiped the sand from her sweaty arms and stared at the man, not quite thrilled that she was interrupted. He cleared his throat, averting her awful glare. "The Emperor has requested your presence in the Roman palace."

Xena sighed heavily, "for what?" she asked breathlessly.

He shook his head, "I do not know, ma'am. I'm just the messenger. He said...he wants you there immediately," he quickly said and left to go back inside the large villa.

Gabrielle got off the ground and brushed the sand off her body as best as possible. She joined Xena by her side, "do you want me to come with you?"

Xena slowly turned around, "I gave you your lesson, now it's time for Valentinian's lesson," she smiled, "you expect me to record all of the details?" she winked and ran inside to go change into her armor, not even bothering to bathe before she met with the emperor, since it seemed urgent.

Gabrielle's cheeks blushed and she grabbed the sword sticking out of the sand and studied the sharpness of the blade and smiled, watching Xena run up the stairs through the large hallway archway. Who would've thought that I would be using a sword? Not me, that's for sure.

Inside the emperor's throne chamber Valentinian waited patiently for Xena to arrive. Aetius was waiting as well and he sighed heavily, tapping his fingers on the desk. "Where is she?!" he yelled.

The doors swung open and Xena walked briskly inside and Aetius chuckled. The emperor frowned, "you're late," he said firmly.

Xena smirked, "I was busy." Gabrielle lowered her head and nervously scratched her scalp, pretending that Xena did not just say that. Busy, she thought, is that what she calls it? "You wanted to see me?"

He rolled his eyes, nodding his head and the doors were closed so it was just the four of them together in the room. "I want you and Aetius to come up with a plan to push Theodosius' men out of Rome."

Xena looked to the commander and he seemed less than pleased to be working with her, which gave her major satisfaction that she was now higher than him in rank. "Brute force?" she offered.

Valentinian's mouth gaped, "um, I'd rather you not do that. We aren't waging war on him yet. I don't want to give our position away."

She smiled, "of course..." she eyed Aetius. "I'm sure the commander and I will come up with something, right?" she teased.

"Right," Aetius answered in a gruff voice.

Valentinian was eyeing the two of them having a staring contest and he grinned, leaning back in his seat, enjoying this. He knew that the two did not like each other but he didn't think it would be this amusing. "I'd like a full report when you're done."

Xena nodded, "Gabrielle will write the report," she turned behind her and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She smiled and brought her attention back to her blonde commander. "Shall we?" she winked and Aetius rolled his eyes, walking passed her exiting the room. "Oh come now, Aetius, we are friends!" she called out and chuckled under her breath.

Chapter Text

AN: I wanted to reiterate that every single person in this story that is  not  canon to the Xena: Warrior Princess series is in fact a historical character and  all  of these events between Attila, Theodosius and Valentinian III actually happened. The added characters (ex. Ellac, Kreka, Dengi, Ernak etc), the Hun tribes, and places, are real as well.

In the series when Xena was with Borias, judging by their clothing, lived together in a Hunnic tribe in the Balkans (Pannonia/Aquincicum/Onogur/Akitziri), Anatolia (Nicaea/Constantinople/Troy), China (Chin [Qin]) and Mongolia (Ashina/Gokturk). Just to give a better visual for you all.

Reading reinvented history , guys. Enjoy and I appreciate your feedback, it's great ;)

Also, sorry for the really long author's note.

Edited the first chapter of photos of non-canon characters as a visual representation.

Chapter 19 –Art of Seduction

"We should attack from the sides," Xena traced her finger along the map. "They won't be able to escape. They'll be surrounded by us." Aetius scoffed and she frowned, glaring at her commander. "Is something funny?"

He folded his arms and looked down at the map, shaking his head. "That is an old tactic. We will be attacked in a matter of seconds. It's better if we attack from the front."

She placed her hands on her hips, cocking her head. "And risk losing most of the best men? I don't think so," she pointed to the map once more and placed a marker on the outer circle of Rome. She picked up two more markers and set them on either side of the lonely marker, representing Theodosius' men. "We attack from the sides," she moved the two markers further out on the map. "We spread out and use archers in the back of the line, hidden in the trees."

Aetius frowned, not understanding why Xena wanted to use this tactic. It was outdated and nobody used it anymore. It has proven to fail over the years which is why the Roman army had stopped employing it. "Our front will be open and they'll see our plan if we spread out."

She smiled, nodding. "I had a feeling you'd say that," she moved one marker to the front line, "once they start moving in on us, the two front lines move to the center of the field. With the hidden archers in a circle they will be completely surrounded and have nowhere to flee." He sighed and rubbed his chin, now understanding why Xena wanted to use this strategy. She liked to trap her enemies and did not like to drag out battles. She liked to avoid lengthy battles and usually finished wiping everyone out in a few hours or a day at most. "Does my commander approve of the plan?" she hissed, narrowing her eyes and he glared at her.

"Fine, but I want to lead the charge."

She shrugged, "oh, you'll be in the front line, no worries," she winked and walked off out of the conference room. "I want to ride out tomorrow morning before sunrise. Be ready."

Lucas stepped beside Aetius once he waited until Xena was gone. "She put you in the front line, sir..." he felt worried and the commander exhaled heavily.

"Make sure the men are ready for tomorrow. Wouldn't want to disappoint the general now would we?" he sarcastically said and stormed off.

Gabrielle walked down the hall with Xena, holding her stack of parchment in her arms. "Did I hear you say you want Aetius in the front line?" she frowned.

Xena turned to her scribe, "he wants to lead the charge. Why not give the man what he wants?" she chuckled.

"That is the quickest way to die, Xena," Gabrielle didn't know much about warfare but she knew that the men in the front always died first. Putting Aetius in the front line of the charge was risky for Xena to do so. Aetius may be bitter about his demotion and Xena as his superior, but she wasn't thinking straight.

"Then I guess he should learn to be quick on his feet," Xena walked into her bedroom and took off her cape clasps and began unbuckling her gauntlets around her arms. "Why do you care what happens to Aetius, anyway?"

Gabrielle set her parchment on the table near the vanity set. "I don't, but you made a promise to the emperor –to Rome –to protect the people, soldiers and empire. Putting Aetius in the front line is a death sentence and you know it."

Xena sat on her bed and began taking off her boots. "Aetius doesn't like me, we both know this. He undermines my authority. Perhaps when he stares death in the eye, he will listen to me," she showcased an eerie smile and Gabrielle rolled her eyes.

"You're treating this like a game," she sat down in the chair at the table, folding her arms disapprovingly.

Xena threw her boots aside, "you still don't get it do you?" she scoffed and began unlacing her corset. "I don't care about Rome, Gabrielle. I couldn't give two shits about the Roman Empire," she exhaled heavily as the corset loosened and she tossed it on the bed. "I already have the Black and Caspian Seas that I took from Attila," she grinned, "and what has he done? Absolutely nothing. He hasn't even tried to attack me even after what I did in Pannonia."

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, "so what are you saying? You want Attila to attack you?"

"No, I want him to join with me. He doesn't need any Roman by his side whether it is Valentinian or Theodosius. He only allied with the emperor because he was upset at me. I can make him join me and attacking Theodosius' men will be the perfect opportunity to reunite." Her eyes widened with excitement and Gabrielle wasn't so sure she liked that face at all.

Sighing, the scribe leaned her cheek on her palm, staring at Xena bemusedly. "And how exactly will you do that?" she wondered.

Xena stood up and walked over to her wardrobe filled with new dresses that she had made for her. She hadn't been one to wear dresses at all, especially Roman ones. She pulled out an off white gown, "with some persuasion," her smirk grew and Gabrielle's eyes widened.

"You're going to sleep with him?!" she exclaimed.

Xena raised an eyebrow, seeing the reaction from her scribe was most odd and not the one she had been expecting. "It's a business transaction, Gabrielle. Not personal."

Gabrielle frowned and instantly felt her body heat up once she heard Xena say that. If she didn't know better, she'd say that she actually liked the warrior woman, but she didn't want Xena to know that. She didn't want to ruin what they had and what they had so far was nice when they were alone.

"If you're not waging war, you're having sex?" Gabrielle shook her head, not believing this at all.

"I get whatever I want in whichever way possible. Attila and I have always been very close which is why it will be easy to seduce him," she placed the dress back onto the hanger and noticed her scribe wasn't too happy to hear that.

"He has a wife," Gabrielle muttered.

Xena sauntered over to Gabrielle and lifted her chin with her finger, staring into her green eyes. "I don't care," she smirked. "That wife of his and I have never gotten along. She hates it when I'm around him. If his first wife hadn't died, I would never dare come close to Attila."

Gabrielle's eyes grew, "he had a previous wife?"

Xena let go of Gabrielle's chin and nodded, "she was a very nice woman. We got along very well. She is Ellac's mother."

Gabrielle's head hung as she thought that must have been devastating for Ellac to lose his mother, but she still didn't think it was right for Xena to go through with this little persuasive plan of hers either. "Why does Attila's wife hate you?"

Xena chuckled, "jealousy is an ugly thing, Gabrielle."

Oh, so she doesn't like jealous women. Note to self, don't show any sort of jealousy at all in the future, if there is a future. She cleared her throat and grabbed the parchment, organizing the pages accordingly of the meeting with Aetius. "I should prepare the report for the emperor. He will be expecting it by the end of the day," she looked outside and saw the sun setting and sighed. "Which will be soon..." she muttered and began jotting down a few notes on the pages of Xena's additional commentary on the attack for tomorrow.

Xena smiled and grabbed a bottle of wine on her way out of the room. "Well, don't let me distract you."

Gabrielle turned and saw Xena about to leave even though they just got here. "Where are you going?" she tapped the quill on the desk anxiously.

"Going to celebrate with my new soldiers before the battle tomorrow," Xena smiled.

Gabrielle snorted, "you're going to have a party before a giant massacre?"

"Very optimistic, Gabrielle," the warrior said playfully. "I would invite you, but you're busy," she eyed the report and Gabrielle nodded, getting back to work.

Once Xena left Gabrielle looked at the door and threw the quill down on the desk. She stared at the lengthy report and knew that she would probably be here for hours. A party? She's going to celebrate pre-death of hundreds of men? Scoffing she couldn't believe that Xena would do that, although, she couldn't believe a lot of the things she did. As she continued gawking at the pages spread out across the large desk she sighed heavily. She began contemplating why she felt the way she did right now. She wanted to go to the party with Xena and ignore this report but if she did that then it would ruin any future relationship between the emperor and his new general. She just couldn't do that to Xena then she questioned why she was even helping her in the first place. She kidnapped me, cut me, hit me and treated me horribly many timesWhy am I even here? With her of all people? She is the kind of people that people run from and fear. Yet, Gabrielle had lost her fear of Xena awhile ago once she decided to open up to her, but Xena was a ticking time bomb. She was very unpredictable at times and Gabrielle never knew when she'd turn into a horrible tyrant. Anything set her off it seemed like.

"Focus Gabrielle!" she groaned and picked up the quill to correct a few things on the report, watching the sun setting in the sky.

Anastasia sat at her desk inside the classroom of the school. Ms. Alexandria was giving a lecture about a few ancient Greek philosophers though Anastasia wasn't paying attention. She had received a letter from her mother this morning and was dying to read it. She slipped the letter out from her bag and carefully opened it, reading it silently to herself.

Her eyebrows furrowed and she gasped, "WHAT?!" she yelled out, interrupting the class and the teacher paused in her lecture.

Ms. Alexandria frowned, folding her arms. All the girls in the room turned around staring at Anastasia in the back of the classroom. "Something you want to share with us, Anastasia?"

She lifted her eyes and saw everyone gawking at her confusedly. Her cheeks reddened and she tucked the letter underneath her thigh. "No, that's okay," she smiled nervously.

Ms. Alexandria nodded, "good, then you can explain this quote by Plato for us," she grinned and Ana's eyes widened. Ana sighed and stood up, walking to the front of the class, embarrassed at herself for her little outburst.

After school ended Anastasia grabbed her bag and walked out, holding her mother's letter in her hands. A voice from behind called out, "Ana, do you want to come to Larissa's house tonight?"

Anastasia slipped the letter in her bag and turned, smiling at the three girls. "Oh, no thanks. I think I'm going to go home and write a letter to my mother."

Larissa smirked, "how come she doesn't live with you?"

"She...she lives in Rome," Ana sighed and folded her arms. If only that was still a lie, but after she read her mother's message, it was definitely true now. Xander's lie came true somehow and she had no idea how her mother was able to land a position in Rome, especially as a General of the Roman army.

Larissa nodded, "well, if you change your mind you know where to find us." She smiled and walked off with her friends. Anastasia frowned then stormed down the street to go back to her home.

"Xander!" Anastasia slammed the door and charged through the hallway and found him sitting down reading a letter. She threw her bag on the chair and he lifted his head, raising a curious brow. "Mother is a Roman General?!"

He smirked, "I know, she sent me a letter too," he pulled out a box and set it on the table. Anastasia walked forward, glaring at the box.

"What is that?" she asked curiously.

Xander opened the heavy box and it was filled with Roman pounds and her jaw dropped. "Your mother sent this over this morning. I may have told her that you wanted some more dresses," he teased and the teen smiled.

"Wow, I've never seen so much money in my life," she sat beside him and then sighed. "How did she get that position, Xander?" she was more curious about that instead of the large box of coin sitting on the table in front of her.

He sighed, "your mother has her ways," he exhaled heavily and saw a solemn look on her face. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be out with your friends instead of hanging out here with me?" he nudged her arm and she smiled.

She turned to him with a devious grin on her lips, "well, there is a party at Larissa's house tonight."

He frowned, "no boys, right?"

"No of course not. I remember the rules," she raised her eyebrows, leaning into his chest. "Can I go?" she begged and he rolled his eyes. "Please?" sighing, he finally relented and she kissed his cheek. "Thank you!" she hopped off the sofa and took a handful of the coin and he gasped.

"What are you doing?" he watched as she grabbed her bag, already heading out of the room.

"Going to buy some new dresses," she winked and ran off, "I won't be back late!" she called out and shut the door behind her.

Xander folded his arms, shaking his head. "Teenagers," he scoffed.

Anastasia came into Larissa's home and all the girls from the academy turned, gawking at her as their eyes scanned her gold dress. Julie ran over to her and touched her dress, "wow, where did you get this?"

Anastasia smirked, "I bought it."

Julie's eyes widened, "this dress must have cost a fortune!" she grinned, linking arms with her friend, "how did you get it?"

"My mother sends money from Rome," Ana grinned and all the girls surrounded her, awing over her gorgeous dress.

Larissa raised an eyebrow, "what does your mother do in Rome exactly?" she asked and Anastasia lifted her eyes nervously.

"She works in the military..." she didn't want to tell anybody that her mother was the general of the Roman Empire. That would probably give everything away, but these people were pretty much clueless about the Roman political climate and affairs. She noticed Larissa staring at her longer than usual.

Julie pulled her along, "you should meet some of the boys from the academy. I'm sure they would love to meet you!"

Anastasia's eyes widened and she halted, "boys?" she whispered and Julie frowned. "I can't be around boys, Julie."

"Why not? Come on, you're gorgeous. Any boy would fall for you!" the brunette grinned and all other girls agreed.

The dark haired Hun teen smiled nervously and began backing away from her group of friends, "no you don't understand. My mother will kill me if she finds out I were around boys."

Larissa smirked deviously and linked arms with Anastasia, "well, she's not here, is she?" she teased. "What is she going to do? Kill them?" she laughed and the other girls joined in.

Anastasia sighed. If only you knew, Larissa. She was now being forced to go outside in the atrium where all the boys were mingling with the girls from the academy. Her eyes widened as Larissa dragged her along with her. She was pushed outside and a few boys turned their heads, staring at her.

Julie whispered in her ear, "you should talk to Said, he's from Antioch," she urged her and Anastasia remained frozen.

Larissa saw Anastasia falter and chuckled, "what's the matter, Thrace?" she teased her calling her by her school nickname she received on the first day of class, "haven't you ever been around anyone from the opposite sex before?"

Anastasia frowned at her redheaded friend, "of course I have." I used to be one of the boys. "I told my uncle that there were no boys at this party. If he finds out that I lied, he's never going to let me hang out with you again."

Larissa laughed, "relax, Ana. He's not going to find out because you aren't going to tell him, are you?" she frowned, semi threatening her.

Said, the boy from Antioch in the eastern Roman Empire, approached her and her eyes grew anxiously as she stared into his dark brown eyes. Well, this can't be worse than that opium party on my birthday. "Anastasia, right?" he asked and she nodded. "I've heard a lot of things about you."

Her cheeks paled, "you have? What did you hear?" she was beginning to become paranoid that her Thrace story had failed and everyone would know who she really is.

He raised an eyebrow, "Larissa told me you're from Amphipolis. My cousin lives there. Maybe he knows your family?"

She laughed nervously. "Highly unlikely," she mumbled.

"What was that?"


The Roman army stood in the outfield of the country side of the city. Xena rode in on her horse to join Aetius by his side. She adjusted her red plumed helmet and surveyed the area. Theodosius' men saw them immediately and began scrambling, mounting their horses and grabbing their weapons.

She smirked, "we will ask if they want to surrender before attacking them," she said and her commander frowned towards her.

"I beg your pardon? That was not part of the plan."

Xena chuckled, "that is the problem with you Romans –you always follow the rules," she kicked her horse and rode down in between her army and Theodosius' army.

Aetius' eyes widened, "she's mad!" he growled and Lucas joined him.

"What is she doing?" he asked.

The commander shook his head, "acting like a fool..." he muttered and folded his arms as he sat upon his horse, watching Xena approach the horde of men fearlessly.

Xena halted and frowned, looking around at all the men. They all appeared to be the same, dress the same and everything, but someone had to be the leader here, but who? "Who is in charge?" she yelled out.

A man trotted forward, raising his sword, "I am," he smiled, bowing his head at her and she lifted her chin, scanning the man. He looked too ordinary, she thought –just like every other soldier here. "Commander Magnus of Constantinople," he announced himself.

She nodded, "I am giving you a chance to surrender to me. If you behave," an eerie smile graced her lips, "then we can go our separate ways, deal?" she hissed.

Magnus frowned, peering behind her he saw Flavius Aetius sitting on his horse impatiently. "Surrender for what exactly? We were given this land by Emperor Valentinian," he was so confused as to what was going on. He hadn't heard word from Theodosius about this at all and definitely didn't know that Xena was in charge of this expedition, especially working with Aetius.

"It's not your land anymore by orders of Valentinian himself. One last chance..." she teased and he frowned, pulling out his second sword from its sheath. She sighed, rolling her eyes. "Alright, if that's the way you want to go about this," she pulled out her sword, lifting it high in the air.

Magnus cried out and thrust his sword forward alerting his men to attack and suddenly a wave of arrows came out of nowhere and struck his army from the sides, front and rear. His eyes widened as he spun around to see most of his front lines being shot and falling off their horses, crying in agony.

Xena laughed and yanked on the horse's reins and rode up the hill to join her army. Aetius' jaw dropped and saw Theodosius' men dropping like flies. Xena rode along the front line waving her sword for the first row to attack with full force. She turned around then rode behind to the second row and pointed to her left then to her right. "Spread out!" she yelled and the soldiers dispersed at her command.

Trotting to Aetius she grinned cheekily, "front line is all yours," she said and rode off to the top of the hill to observe from afar. He groaned and pulled on the reins as he began riding down the hill to the middle of the battlefield.

Magnus fought off Xena's men as quickly as he could, slicing through their thick armor wasn't working. He began attacking their exposed legs instead, able to hold them off as long as he possibly could. Growling he pulled his blade out of a Roman's chest and breathed heavily, lifting his eyes to see none other than Flavius Aetius riding towards him.

"Aetius!" he frowned and the blonde commander halted on his horse in the middle of the battle. "What is the meaning of this?!" he shouted.

The commander glanced around and saw Theodosius' men falling, some retreating, others fighting for their lives. He never thought that the two Roman co-emperors would be fighting against one another and he certainly never thought that Xena would be in charge either. What was Valentinian thinking? Oh that's right he wasn't. Ever.

"The emperor wants your men gone from Rome!" Aetius answered.

Magnus scoffed, "and Xena is the General?!" he couldn't believe it and by the looks of it, he saw Aetius felt the same. "This is madness!"

Aetius sighed, "call off this fight and surrender, Magnus. You are losing," he begged him though he knew his counterpart would not be willing to give up a fight. He leaned down atop of his steed, "is she watching?"

Magnus looked passed Aetius and saw Xena on her horse, watching the entire massacre on the top of the hill by herself. He nodded slowly, "yes."

"Surrender now! Call off your men!" the Roman commander was now pleading and Magnus frowned, looking around at his defeated men. He had already lost too many and the archers in the shrubbery was not helping either.

Magnus lifted his sword, "halt!" he yelled out and his men left standing stopped fighting and began backing away from the Romans. He pointed his sword at Aetius as he slowly stepped away from him, ashamed that he had succumb to this woman and to Valentinian as well. He was the emperor yes, but an awful one at that.

Moments later Xena rode down to the middle of the field and saw Magnus lined up with his men, at least fifty of them, glaring at her. She smiled at them all. "Should have surrendered when I gave you the chance," she sighed and Mangus' lip quivered as his blood began boiling. She slowly trotted along the front line of the eastern Romans left standing and frowned. "I want all of these men."

Aetius' eyes widened, "for what?!" he snarled.

Xena turned around and smirked at the commander, "to teach them a lesson," she waved her hand, "tie them up," she commanded. Aetius pinched the bridge of his nose and he knew what was coming. This was Rome, this is not Pannonia, he kept telling himself, though Xena didn't seem to care where she was. She would never change.

Once all fifty of the men were tied up they were brought to the center of the field and forced down to their knees. Xena smiled, taking off her gloves and unsheathing her sword, her eyes grew wild, staring at the unfortunate souls in front of her. She walked over to Aetius and handed him her sword. "Execute them," she hissed.

He turned to her with malice in his eyes, "are you insane?!"

She gripped his wrist as he held her sword tightly in his hand. "I command you!" she yelled. "Execute them all!" He stood, refusing to move and she growled, snatching the sword from his grasp and went over to the first man in line and with a quick swing, she decapitated the soldier. "I will kill them all by myself if need be," her eyes widened as she stared at the soldier, staring up at her with mercy in his eyes. She smiled and thrust her blade forward right into his throat and blood poured from his mouth onto his armor.

She kicked the man in his chest, pulling her blade out and he fell onto his back. She turned around and looked at all of her men. "I want all of these men beheaded except Magnus," she demanded and the soldiers pulled out their swords, nervously staring at each other. She wiped the sword on one of Theodosius' soldier's clothing and walked over to Aetius. "You ever defy me again and I will have your head mounted on my wall," she whispered and stormed off back to her horse.

Aetius folded his arms and Magnus approached him, grabbing his arm firmly. "Am I supposed to stand here and watch all my men die by her hands?!" he hissed.

Aetius sighed, "she is my superior, Magnus. I cannot defy her."

"Bullshit!" Magnus growled, "she is out of line! You must go tell Valentinian about this!"

"I can't!" the commander shouted back, "he's the one who hired the woman! I can't go against her word or she will have me removed from my position," he groaned, glaring at Xena as she trotted off with a group of soldiers back to her villa in Rome. He saw the Romans beheading all of his Theodosius' men one by one and he could tell none of them wanted to do this, but since Xena commanded them, they had no choice. "She has so much power."

Magnus nodded, "do you believe she is incompetent in fulfilling her duties as a general?"

Aetius disagreed, "she is not incompetent, my friend. She knows what she is doing," he rubbed his chin, "I just need to find out what her motive is..."

In the evening Xena and Aetius were summoned to the Roman palace to meet with Valentinian to tell him of the outcome of the exclusion of Theodosius' men from the city. Xena walked into the throne chamber with Gabrielle by her side. She noticed Valentinian had his scribe next to him as well and frowned, feeling a bit worried that her plan wasn't going to go accordingly if he too had his scribe, though she trusted Gabrielle to record everything just as she had before.

Aetius came in after her and the doors were closed. The emperor sighed and looked to both of them, addressing Xena first. "I trust the plan was successful?"

Xena smiled, "of course. Everything has been taken care of," she eyed her commander and his face said otherwise.

"And what say you Aetius?" Valentinian asked.

The blonde commander glanced over at his superior then to his emperor. "All those men were brutally executed," he sold out his general and Xena's eyes widened.

"You had them executed?" the emperor turned to Xena now.

She smirked, "not me, emperor. Aetius wanted to lead the charge. I gave him the go ahead to execute the soldiers at his disposal," she alleged and Aetius snapped his head around, with his mouth agape. Gabrielle sat behind them, looking from Xena to Aetius and felt the tension rising between the two. She didn't think that's what happened given by the commander's shocked expression.

"Excuse me?!" Aetius yelled and pointed at the emperor, "I did no such thing! She is insane!" Xena kept smiling and Valentinian frowned, not sure who to believe. "Your majesty..."

"I asked for them to be pushed out, not to be brutally massacred like a flock of sheep," Valentinian spoke directly to the commander and Aetius' eyes grew in shock and he became speechless.

"But your highness, I did not execute anybody!" he shouted back and the emperor rose from his throne.

"Commander! You are on thin ice, I suggest you fix yourself," he urged and the commander folded his arms, quieting down. Xena had a smug smirk on her lips watching the emperor reprimand him and rightfully so, she thought. "Xena, Theodosius is inviting Attila to Constantinople next month. There will be a bacchanalia there and I want you to attend. You will spy for me and find out what Theodosius is telling Attila."

Xena's eyes lit up, "of course," she turned around and took one last look at Aetius and he was furious. She laughed underneath her breath and walked out with Gabrielle trailing behind her.

Arriving back in her new home Gabrielle folded her arms, "you beheaded all of those men didn't you?" she asked.

Xena said nothing in reply and began picking out some dresses to bring with her to Constantinople. Gabrielle let out an exasperated sigh and plopped down on a chair. Xena turned around with two dresses, one a dark navy color and the other an old fashioned white Grecian dress. "Which one do you think is better?"

"Which one is Attila's favorite color?" the blonde replied with some bitterness in her tone.

Xena smirked and threw the white dress on the bed, "why do you care who I sleep with?" Gabrielle's face paled once she heard that and Xena glanced over her shoulder, "nothing to say?"

"I just don't see the point of having sex with Attila. You worked with him for many years and you two never slept with each other before," she assumed and Xena remained quiet. She raised a curious eyebrow and her eyes glared at Xena's backside as she casually kept searching through her wardrobe. "Did you...?"

Xena frowned and folded her arms, "almost," she muttered and heard Gabrielle's audible gasp, not even trying to hide her reactions at all. "Am I in the confessional now?" she scoffed, "it's really none of your business nor do I care what your opinions of me are."

Gabrielle bit her tongue at that. She was so tempted to say something but figured that she had already crossed her boundaries and she didn't want to incite Xena any more than necessary. It was obvious that she had struck a chord in Xena and she was irritated even talking about the subject. Though Xena said she didn't care what people thought of her but she sure got angry whenever her life or motives were questioned, or perhaps that was only when she was around her, Gabrielle thought.

She decided to change the subject, "so you gave Aetius the front line because you wanted to frame him?"

Xena smiled, "you're catching on now, Gabrielle."


"Because Aetius is scum and he doesn't deserve the position he has in the army. He has been a commander for fifteen years and Valentinian never once offered him the position of General?" she laughed, "he is useless, but then is Valentinian," she smiled. Sitting down on the bed she thought of something. "Although Theodosius' commander was very chummy with Aetius. They must be friends," she tapped her fingers on the bed as she contemplated. "Friends do not belong in the art of war."

"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," Gabrielle spoke aloud and Xena lifted her head, staring at her with confused muddled eyes.

"I thought you only quoted Greek philosophers?" Xena teased.

Gabrielle shyly glanced away, "I study all philosophers from around the world, including the ones who study war, not just love and life, you know," she protested and Xena nodded, finding that rather interesting to know. "To know your enemy you –"

"...must become your enemy" Xena finished her sentence and her eyes widened as did the smile on her face. "You are a genius, Gabrielle!"

The blonde's mouth gaped and Xena began picking out more dresses for the bacchanalia for next month. "What...what are you talking about?" she felt so lost all of a sudden and what did this have to do with dresses.

"Attila is not my enemy, but Theodosius is just as much as Valentinian is!"

"So you're not going to sleep with him?" she asked.

Xena smirked, "oh no, I'm still going to do that." She picked up the golden laurel crown that she was given at her coronation and held it in her hands, admiring it like it was some treasure from the heavens itself. "I have been going about this all wrong. I need Aetius to trust me or he will turn against me. I will have to keep up this charade for awhile longer..."

Gabrielle frowned, "charade?" she was definitely lost now.

"The Roman Empires are going to fall, but not by my hands," Xena smiled deviously and Gabrielle didn't like the sound of that or the look on her face either. She had known her long enough to know that face was never a good sign. "It is better to capture the enemy's army than to destroy it..."

"I don't follow." Gabrielle folded her arms, leaning back in the chair.

Xena turned around and set the laurel down on the table, "I need allies to fight in this political world, Gabrielle."

"What about the Onogur and Akitziri tribes that you captured? Will they help you?"

The warrior frowned, shaking her head. "They are not my allies, they are my prisoners. I need to go further east, beyond the Caspian Sea."

Gabrielle lowered her eyes, trying to think of what could be further east. She didn't know much about that world, but Xena certainly did because she lived over there for many years. "China?"

"I like your thinking, Gabrielle," Xena smiled. "The Ashina Tribes in the Gokturk Empire know Attila very well. We should go there and I can convince them to ally with me."

Gabrielle blinked, "we?!" she couldn't believe she was being roped into Xena's plans all of a sudden. Before nothing was her business, but now it seemed all of Xena's plans had her incorporated in them and she wasn't sure it was such a good idea. She wasn't supposed to be here, she was supposed to be teaching in Greece and now her job was to help this crazy woman overthrow an empire and go across the world to find allies. She really is insane, she thought. "Do you honestly think that these...Gok..people will ally with you? Do they even know who you are?!"

Xena frowned, "Borias used to live with the Ashina until he moved to the Caspian Sea. They will know me."

"Oh god..." the scribe muttered.

"What did you say?"

Gabrielle smiled falsely, "I said, oh great," she chuckled nervously thinking this was either going to be a disaster, definitely a disaster.

"And what will you be wearing to the bacchanalia, Gabrielle?" Xena decided to switch subjects, now that her mind was flourishing with ideas and goals as the seconds passed by.

"Will I be jumping into bed with Attila too?" Gabrielle laughed jokingly.

Xena raised an eyebrow, "do you want to?" she had a sly grin.

Gabrielle ceased laughing and cleared her throat, "no, that's all on you. I want no part of this ridic –of your plan," she carefully corrected herself.

Xena chuckled softly, "and you must think of me as a harlot now too, right?" she walked over to her, standing in front of Gabrielle, towering over her.

Gabrielle nervously shifted in her seat seeing Xena so close to her. "I didn't say any of the sort..." Xena then placed her hands on the armrests, leaning downwards, close to her face, too close in fact. This made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as she felt her breath against her cheek. She tried to look away.

"Seduction..." Xena hissed, "has nothing to do with pleasing the other person." She smiled seeing the blonde quite nervous at their close proximity. "Verbal the surest road to actual seduction. Sexual seduction..." she leaned in closer, "is an opportunity. Wouldn't you agree, Gabrielle?" her smug grin widened, "you remember that word don't you?"

Gabrielle nodded, "yes I definitely remember that word," she lamely replied, feeling a bit uncomfortable, yet, exhilarated and wily at the moment.

Xena pulled away and hummed lightly, "good," she waltzed over back to her bed, "so what dresses are you going to bring?" she winked.

Gabrielle held in her breath and was still not able to process what just happened. She was so close, yet not close enough, or maybe she was too close. It was like she wanted to get inside my head and make me think but in reality, all she does it make me jumpy, nervous, anxious and yet happy? No Gabrielle, not happy, wrong adjective. Scared? No, not anymore, sort of. Courageous? No, not there yet. Curious? Yes, definitely curious.

"Um, maybe the pink dress I got in Troy?"

Xena nodded, "excellent choice."

AN: quotes taken from Chinese philosopher, Sun Tzu.


Chapter Text

AN: I'm finally finished with my exams and am on a break, a short break lol. Enjoy and preparing for something big later.

Chapter 20 –Tribal Warfare

The following month Xena and Gabrielle traveled to Constantinople per Valentinian's request for Xena to spy on Attila and Theodosius. She figured it would be easy enough especially considering how many people attended these silly parties. She hadn't been to a party like this, they were definitely different than the ones in Pannonia when she was with Attila and the tribe. Those festivities lasted until sunrise and were usually held outside and in the Adame, Attila's grand hall in his home. He was definitely a gracious host, though a bacchanalia was different and more proper. Diplomats came to these sorts of things and suddenly Xena didn't feel like she fit in here at all with these types of people. They were not of her kind.

Xena stepped inside the large ballroom surrounded by hundreds of people and Gabrielle trailed in behind her. Her eyes scanned the area and even though she was surrounded by a sea of people she felt so alone. A servant carrying a tray of wine passed by and she smiled, grabbing two glasses for herself and her guest.

Gabrielle took the glass from her and sighed, looking around at all the women dressed in the latest Roman and Greek fashion, of course. She felt so outdated right now and it had been a very long time since she had attended a bacchanalia but it seemed that the ones in the east were the same as the ones in Greece. She glanced upward at her raven haired hostess and saw she looked a bit bewildered and maybe even overwhelmed.

"You've never been to a bacchanalia have you?" the blonde asked.

Xena blinked and her eyes kept looking at all the women and men passing by her as if she were invisible. "It's just a party," she smirked, "it cannot be any different than the parties from Pannonia."

Gabrielle chuckled, "you have a lot to learn about Roman culture," she muttered and sipped the wine quietly. She then got a glare from Xena and turned away. Frowning, she saw Attila talking with a woman that was a lot younger than him, probably the same age as her, and he wasn't with his wife. "Is that Attila?"

Xena turned her head immediately and she too saw the Hun King chatting with a young brunette woman. A smile appeared on her face, "this should be interesting," she downed the wine and set the glass on a colonnade before heading his way. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she quickly ran in front of her, blocking her path. "What are you doing?"

"I don't think you should have sex with Attila," she blurted out and she had been waiting to say that for a month now and felt there was no appropriate time to do that.

The general chuckled, folding her arms, and asked, "and why is that?"

Gabrielle shrugged a shoulder, "you two have...a good relationship together and I think...sleeping with each other would ruin it." she said lamely and Xena had a sly smile on her face, obviously finding this very amusing. "He probably wouldn't trust you again if you tried to ally with him like you still want to do that don't you?"

Xena sighed, rolling her eyes. "You're talking too much Gabrielle. Men are all the same. Attila is no different," she pushed her blonde scribe, "now, you're in my way," she weaved through the crowd of people and Gabrielle huffed, downing her wine and marching after Xena.

Attila lifted his head and saw Xena approaching him and he stood straight, taking a step away from the young woman he was speaking with. He smiled at his ex-commander and she returned the grin. "Xena, what a surprise."

Xena eyed the woman who was obviously much younger than she was and he was as well. "Surprise indeed. Who is this?" she asked with a curious smug smile. The young brunette shied away from her, fully knowing who she was and was quite fearful to just be a few feet away from her.

The Hun king cleared his throat and wrapped his arm around the young woman, "this is my wife, Kriemhild," he said and saw Xena's eyes widen.

"Wife?" she frowned and grabbed hold of Attila's arm, "can I speak with you?" she hissed and he turned to his young wife silently apologizing to her then Xena drug him off to the side. "Since when did you get married? What about Kreka? Where is she?"

He sighed, "she's in Aquincicum with the children," he said nervously looking back at his wife.

Xena laughed, "and you decided to get married!" shaking her head she slapped his arm. "Does Kreka know about this little arrangement?"

Attila frowned and rubbed his arm then slapped her back and she gasped, "no she doesn't, but she will when I return to Aquincicum." He groaned, "what are you doing here anyway?" he whispered feeling extremely paranoid right about now.

She grabbed him by the arm and lead him into a hallway away from all the commotion in the ballroom. She pinned him to the wall and he dropped his glass of wine, staring into her wide hungry eyes. "I don't care if you are the king of the world, you do not hit me," she hissed.

He chuckled, "then I guess you better keep your hands to yourself," he winked and her jaw dropped. "You didn't answer my question..." she eyed him cautiously and he took her hands off his vest, "why are you here?"

Xena frowned and folded her arms, now thinking about what Gabrielle said. She was right, always right, she thought. Attila had found a second wife and he didn't even mention it to Kreka. Although, she didn't really care for Kreka, she should have a right to know about her husband's little marriage ceremony. She definitely couldn't have sex with him to persuade him now, that would make things incredibly hairy and awkward. She wanted to stay on good terms with Attila and sex was not the answer, not this time.

"I like parties," she smirked with a small shrug. Attila raised an eyebrow, gawking at her as if she were ill.

"You don't like parties, Xena. You never came out of your yurt when we had celebrations in Pannonia." He chuckled, not believing anything she was saying, especially since she was lying.

Rolling her eyes she cocked her head to the side, "I changed my mind. Why did you get married to a woman who is only a few years older than my daughter?"

He quirked his mouth, "how is Anastasia? Does she live in Rome with you?"

"Don't change the subject." She firmly replied and he sighed, folding his arms.

"It's none of your business, Xena," he walked off and she grabbed his arm pulling him back. "Xena!" he growled.

She raised an eyebrow, "I don't like your wife, but she has a right to know about this little girl you just married."

He snatched his arm away from her, "stop acting like you care Xena, because you don't. You're up to something. Why else would you be here in Constantinople –during a party no less?" he smirked. "Go back to Rome, Xena," he sighed and sauntered off back to his young wife.

Gabrielle searched for Xena and found her standing by a wall by herself with a shocked look on her face. She approached her cautiously and then saw Attila talking with that woman. "Who is the woman?" she asked.

Xena narrowed her eyes, glaring at Attila and Kriemhild. "His new wife." She muttered and Gabrielle nodded.

"So I'm guessing sex is off the table?" she said half heartedly and Xena glared at her then stormed off, pushing people out of her way. Sighing, she followed her, trying to make her way through the crowd, though Xena was quite a force and people soon got out of her path once she made it clear that she wanted to leave.

Gabrielle saw Xena hastily running down the stairs outside the palace and she called out, "wait!" she yelled and ran quickly catching up to her. Xena halted and stared at the guards, trying to be completely oblivious to what is going on. Standing beside Xena she breathed heavily, "you can't leave! You were sent here on a mission by the emperor," she whispered.

"I don't care about the mission, Gabrielle!" Xena yelled back and continued treading down the steps.

Gabrielle grunted and grabbed Xena's arm firmly, "are you upset that Attila won't choose you over that woman?" she asked and Xena averted her eyes elsewhere. Her silent answer was enough. "I told you that you should have never thought about having sex with him and you are so arrogant that you believe any man will have you!"

Xena's eyes widened and she slowly turned around, looking up at Gabrielle. She picked up her dress and slowly walked up the few steps, now towering over the scribe. "What gives you the right to say those things to me?" she hissed.

"This wasn't about sex, it was about power," Gabrielle folded her arms. "You wanted to get Attila in bed not because you love him or even like him. You wanted to conquer him like a piece of land."

The Hun woman chuckled softly, "oh Gabrielle, you don't know anything about me." She turned and walked off, ignoring her and ready to get out of this holy hell place.

The blonde gasped and ran after her, "yes I do!" she yelled and Xena stopped in her tracks. "You want so much but you give so little, Xena. You can't conquer the world with one sword, you need many. You act like you're alone, but you're not."

Xena turned around, "I don't need friends, Gabrielle."

Gabrielle folded her arms, "I think you do." She said and the raven haired Hun kept glaring at her, completely void of words. "You're dead inside, Xena. All you want to do is conquer and kill then conquer and kill some more. You have no allies and the one friend that you had was Attila and now he doesn't want to be around you anymore. You're alone." She felt her words were extremely harsh but Xena probably needed to hear that and she figured she had heard worse in her life anyway.

"You're a piece of work, you know that?" Xena placed her hands on her hips, smirking at the young blonde. "You're going to have to do better than to get under my skin, Gabrielle. Better luck next time. I'm leaving this place." She waved her hand and walked beyond the palace staircase and towards the gates.

The scribe ran after her and blocked her way to the gates. "You made a promise to Valentinian! You are the General of Rome now! You are not a commander for the Hun Empire anymore, Xena. To play the game you have to understand the game and you don't understand anything!"

Xena was starting to get extremely annoyed with her now. "And I suppose you do?" she mocked.

Gabrielle smiled, "I know a thing or two about Roman politics, yes," she felt quite proud of herself for only a few seconds until Xena crushed it.

"Why do you care?" she scoffed, "you are all peace and no war. We are total opposites!"

Alright, Gabrielle, it's now or never. "Because I care about you!" she yelled out and Xena's eyes grew in shock to hear this and to be honest, Gabrielle was shocked herself. "Forget what I said."

Xena raised a dark thick eyebrow, "you care about me?" wagging her head, bemused at the thought. "Why, of all people, me? I am everything you hate!"

Gabrielle exhaled slowly, trying to make her hands stop shaking. She placed her hands behind her back, hoping Xena wouldn't notice. "I don't hate everything about you. I may not agree with everything that you do, but I don't hate you."

Xena frowned, looking away, gazing at the stars above. "Gabrielle, you should go back to Greece. You shouldn't be around me."

The blonde's mouth gaped hearing that. She wasn't expecting that reaction at all. "No way! Greece is no longer my home. I would feel like a stranger there if I returned. Please..."

Xena shook her head, "no, just no!" she groaned and began pacing in a circle, thinking silently to herself. "You can't be here, not around me, not anymore."

Gabrielle was getting frustrated and though she expected a different reaction from her, but not this. "You kissed me!" she huffed, "does that mean anything to you?!"

"Yes!" Xena snapped back and her scribe's eyes widened, immediately changing her mood. "You are a distraction. Anastasia has been my distraction all my life and now that she isn't here, I am able to think more clearly but you..." she frowned, "you cloud my mind. A cloud minded is not sane."

"You don't need me to make you insane, Xena. You make all the decisions by yourself and it's my job to record those decisions," the blonde smiled weakly and Xena sighed heavily, not liking this conversation at all, she could tell by her body language and lack of facial expressions. "Besides, if I go back to Greece that would mean you'd break our deal and I know how you are with promises..."

Xena raised an eyebrow at the smug blonde opposite her. "You're willing to help me gain my trust back with Attila then?"

Gabrielle nodded, "I will help you but on one condition!" Xena replied with an exaggerated eye roll. "You continue to teach me how to fight," she held out her hand, "deal?"

Xena smiled and spit in her hand and grabbed Gabrielle's. The blonde cringed in disgust, "deal," she winked. She began walking back to the palace to go finish her mission and Gabrielle wiped her hand on her dress. "Why do you want to learn to fight all of a sudden?"

Gabrielle ran to catch up with her, "I should try new things and you should too."

"Let's not get carried away," Xena frowned.

"I have a plan for us to travel to China to ally with those..." the names of the tribes escaped her, "...those people," she grinned. Xena eyed her curiously and was anxious to hear this plan. She may find her annoying at times but definitely knew how to talk her way in and out of things. Lesson one, learn how to speak eloquently like Gabrielle.

Theodosius and Attila left the ballroom and decided to go into the throne chamber to discuss certain plans about Valentinian. Attila had alerted the emperor that Xena was at the party and of course this didn't surprise him at all, considering how Xena was. She was very tricky, even more so than the Romans.

Xena spotted the two walking into the throne chamber and Gabrielle stood beside her, watching as well. Xena unwrapped the long sheer scarf off of her neck and tied it around Gabrielle's lower half of her face. "I want you to go in there as a servant and listen to everything they say."

Gabrielle adjusted the scarf so she could breathe and stared at Xena, "excuse me?"

Xena nodded, "they know that I am here, but as far as they know, I am alone. You said you wanted to help," she frowned and the blonde sighed, not really liking this idea at all. She wrapped the scarf around her blonde hair and grabbed a pitcher of water sitting on a colonnade and followed a few other servants into the room.

The doors closed behind the servants and Gabrielle jumped, feeling a bit on edge. She had to make sure to stay far away from Attila as possible. He knew what she looked like, even though her hair and face were covered, she was sure he wasn't stupid. He didn't have an empire for nothing, he worked for it and had Xena's help, but he still had his empire didn't he? And meanwhile Xena had no empire, though she wanted one.

Theodosius sat across from his ally, "so, Xena is here?" he smirked as one of the servant girls poured two glasses of wine for them both.

Attila sighed, "yes she is. I spoke with her. I fear that she is up to something."

The emperor nodded, "she is probably trying to fish for information," he eyed the Hun king, "and I trust that our alliance means more than your relationship with Xena?" he said lowly.

Attila almost choked on his wine, "of course. Xena and I were friends and allies for a long time, but I would never betray your trust," he saw a smile appear on the emperor's lips and that made him feel more at ease.

"Though you two are not warring with each other," Theodosius sipped his wine, "very interesting."

"Xena and I have no quarrels with one another –"

"But she betrayed you," he interrupted.

The Hun king nodded, "she did, but I do not resent her for that. She tends to act spontaneously without thinking first."

Gabrielle heard that and couldn't agree more. That was what made Xena so dangerous –her unpredictability scared everyone and not knowing what she may do next kept people on their toes. She wouldn't doubt that Valentinian had those same feelings and probably wanted to stay on her good side.

Theodosius felt curious and leaned in, "did you have sex with her?" he whispered and Attila's eyes widened and the emperor laughed heartily. "I wouldn't blame you if you did!" he sighed heavily, finishing off his wine. "She is a fine woman, isn't she?" he sensed his partner's awkwardness and tension rising. "Have you seen her legs?" he raised his eyebrows, only wishing that his wife had only looked as beautiful as she did. "She has a very curvy figure," he winked, "childbearing does that to a woman, don't you agree?"

Attila nodded curtly, not sure exactly what to say. All he could think of now was when he and Xena almost had sex with each other. A year after Borias and Cera died, the two were left alone and obviously not in a good place. Both with children and somehow they thought it was a good idea to get close to one another. Although, he recalled that he was the one who stopped her. She wanted more, or perhaps her loneliness got the best of her. He told her to leave his home and they never spoke of that night again and only a year after that, he married Kreka and all feelings between them were lost, though his wife thought otherwise and hated Xena ever since.

The emperor chuckled, "I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, Attila. It's just talk," he said and Attila smiled, nodding his head. Just talk, he thought. "Let's talk about Valentinian," he sat up straighter.

Gabrielle slinked against the wall, trying to get closer to the table once she heard Valentinian's name. After that awkward conversation about Xena's legs and hips she definitely didn't want to hear two men talking about her body like she was a piece of meat.

"Xena killed all of Magnus' men in Rome," Attila began. "She beheaded them all. I've seen her do this before."

The emperor was interested now and asked for more wine. "What is her game? What does she want?"

The Hun shook his head, "I don't know. She is a wild card sometimes," he smirked. "But nobody becomes a General of the Roman army without threatening them. She is not even Roman for God's sake. She has plans, but I don't know what they are."

"And you can't find out?" Theodosius asked.

Attila laughed, "you know who Xena is right?" he drank his wine, thinking that was hilarious. "She is not stupid. She is here to seek information from me, why else would she come here? If I give her what she wants then she will suspect something. You don't know how to play Xena's game, your grace."

The emperor frowned, "how does she operate like this? She has outsmarted the Roman empire several times and she is still alive, not by the grace of God, of course."

"Listen, your highness, you will never be able to outsmart Xena. The best way to stay on her good side is to stay out of her way. Do not attack her or she will come for your head. Both of them," he smirked and Theodosius' eyes widened in fear.

"What if...Flavius Aetius allies with Magnus behind her back? How would she know?" he grinned and Gabrielle's ears perked up, listening more intently now.

Attila quirked his mouth, "how would that help you? She is the General of the army. Nothing gets passed her unless it is approved by her and only her."

The emperor sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin. "Aetius has always been a snake. He will have no problem betraying his superior," he smirked. "I want to arrange a meeting with Aetius as soon as possible. I'll send a letter to Rome immediately," he snapped his fingers and Arcadius came to his side. "Write a letter to Valentinian saying that I request to see his commander at once." The scribe nodded and left the room to begin writing.

Attila sighed heavily, "I want no part of this," he quietly slunk in his seat and casually sipped the wine.

"You are my ally, Attila. Whatever I say goes and vice versa."

The Hun shook his head, "no that is where you are wrong," he stood up, "you all will be slaughtered and I will not ruin my relationship with Xena due to your incompetence." He adjusted his cloak and hastily head towards the doors. Gabrielle hid her face away as he was coming her way.

Theodosius laughed loudly, "you should just fuck her Attila! Don't deny yourself!" he called out and Attila left the room, swinging the doors wide open, still hearing the emperor cackling by himself.

Gabrielle let out a sigh of relief and slipped out of the throne room, immediately looking for Xena, but she was obviously lost in the crowd. She unwrapped the scarf from her face and scanned the room. Finally, she spotted Xena standing by herself, unwilling to converse with anyone and...Attila was walking towards her. Dear God, why?

Xena spotted Attila marching towards her and she folded her arms. He sighed, "Xena, I am sorry I snapped at you earlier."

She shrugged, "it's in the past, Attila," she avoided eye contact with him, looking for Gabrielle, hoping that she wasn't stuck in that room with the emperor.

Attila frowned and grabbed her arms and she turned to him, shocked. "I don't know what you're doing, but I would be careful if I were you," he whispered then brushed passed her to find his newlywed wife. Xena blinked and she turned around, dumbfounded. What did he mean by that?

Gabrielle finally came to her and touched her shoulder, "I have the information we need. What did Attila say to you?"

Xena saw Attila leaving with his young wife and eyed them. He looked very flustered and not his usual self. "Nothing important..." she raised an eyebrow and then turned to Gabrielle. "We should leave now before Theodosius finds me."

Honoria slipped into her room with her cousin, Petronius and he smiled seeing the gleeful look in her eyes. "What is so important that you drug me away from hunting with your brother?" he asked.

She grabbed his hand and sat on the bed together. "I want to get rid of my brother, like I mentioned. I need to make it look like someone else did it."

He frowned, "you want to murder him?"

She rolled her eyes, "such harsh words, my love," she tapped his cheek. "He is a useless emperor and with him gone, Theodosius will be the emperor of both east and west and I will marry him."

Petronius stood up, "marry him?!" he yelled and her eyes widened and shushed him. "I thought you loved me?"

Honoria laughed nervously, "of course I do, this is all political," she grabbed his hand, forcing him to sit down beside her again. "He is old enough to be my father. You will always be my first choice," she smiled and that didn't seem to make him feel better. "And that's why I want you to kill my brother for me."

He stood and began pacing, "no way!" he yelled, "you are insane! You are trying to frame me!"

She grabbed his hand and touched his cheek softly, "no I'm not! You know I can't do blood on my hands, no seat on the throne. You understand, don't you?" she smiled and he pushed her away from him. "Petronius!"

"You are a cunt.." he shook his head and ran out of the room.

She gasped, "Petronius!" she growled, folding her arms.

Gabrielle sat with Xena in her bedroom in Rome and told her everything that Theodosius and Attila spoke about. Xena sat on her bed, thinking all of the possible scenarios. "He wants Magnus to ally with Aetius behind my back?" she wanted to confirm and the blonde nodded. "And Attila wanted no part of it?" Gabrielle nodded once more. "Well that explains everything..." she muttered.

"Explains what?" Gabrielle asked, leaning in closer.

Xena shook her head, "never mind." She stood from her bed and smiled, "I will let Aetius go to Constantinople to ally with Magnus."

Gabrielle frowned, "you will?" she asked surprised that Xena was being so calm about this.

"Of course and since I know the plan, I will simply tell Valentinian what is going on once it is confirmed," she turned around to see the scribe's shocked expression. "I am learning how to play the game, remember?"

For once Gabrielle kind of hoped that Xena would be chopping off heads but instead she decides to play politician. "But how will you prove it?"

Xena folded her arms, "I'm glad you asked!" she sat down on the bed opposite of Gabrielle. "I will catch them in the act. Send out mercenaries to spy for me. They will have eyes on them the entire time. It is a fool proof plan. Do you agree?"

Gabrielle smiled weakly, nodding. "I guess so, but do you really think Valentinian is going to side with you? He's scared of you."

The dark haired woman chuckled under her breath, "that's where my allies from China come in. But...I need to convince them to join me without pillaging their tribes." She frowned, thinking this might be harder than she thought.

"Money?" Gabrielle suggested.

Xena shook her head, "Roman pounds mean nothing to these people Gabrielle. They cannot be bribed with money, I need something else."

An idea popped into Gabrielle's mind and she lifted her finger, alarming Xena. "You can tell them that you are still allies with Attila and you can offer them land."

"I don't have any land."

Gabrielle smugly grinned, "they don't need to know that."

Lesson two, lying is okay in politics and you don't always need a sword to get what you want. "And what is your plan to get us to China?" she asked.

Two months later

Attila returned to Aquincicum with his new wife and once he arrived his wife, Kreka, definitely didn't take the news lightly.

Dengi, Ernak and Ellac were standing outside of their Adame, listening to Kreka yelling at Attila and his new wife was inside with them as well. Ernak tugged on his elder brother's sleeve, "so does that mean we'll have two mothers?" he asked.

Dengi shrugged, "I guess so," he cringed once he heard something shatter and his mother stormed out of their home, running down the stairs. She paused once she saw the three boys looking at her with wide frightened eyes. She turned to Ellac, her stepson and he folded his arms, staring at her angry green eyes.

"Ellac, your father wants to speak with you," she frowned and grabbed her sons' hands taking them away from the area.

Ernak gasped and turned to see Ellac standing there a bit confused. He was being drug away by his mother and tried to pull from her hold. "Where are we going?!" he asked, almost worried that something bad was going to happen since his father came home with a new wife.

"We're going to Ashina," Kreka said and her sons began protesting.

Dengi grunted and snatched his hand away from her, "we're going to China?! But mother, I don't want to leave. This is my home and what about Ellac? And father?"

Kreka frowned and grabbed Dengi's hand firmly, "we are leaving! We still stay with my brother for awhile," she pulled his hand and he refused to move.

Ellac sighed, "Dengi just do what she says."

The younger brother gasped, glaring at his elder half brother, "since when do you take her side?!" Ellac shrugged his shoulders and he growled then began walking beside his mother to prepare to leave. He didn't want to leave Aquincicum, this was his new home. After Xena destroyed Pannonia, his first and only home, he actually liked this place, but because his mother didn't like his father's new wife, they had to leave and he wasn't old enough to live on his own.

Ernak looked up at his mother, "is Ashina like Aquincicum?"

Kreka smiled sadly down at her son, "I'm sure you will love it."

Ellac entered his home and found his father talking with his new young wife. What a surprise, he thought. Folding his arms he stood at a fair distance from the two. Attila smiled at his eldest son and approached him but Ellac took a step backward. "Who is that?" he asked.

Attila's smile disappeared and Kriemhild shied away, covering her face with the black veil on her head. "This is Kriemhild, she is from Antioch."

Ellac scoffed, "you are marrying Romans now? You realize that Kreka is taking Dengi and Ernak to Ashina, right?"

His father nodded, "we decided it would be good for them all."

"Or good for you and your new wife," Ellac stared beyond his father and saw the young Antioch woman. She was indeed very beautiful and obviously his stepmother was not keen on her at all. She probably hated her more than she hated Xena, he supposed.

Attila frowned and was now inches away from his son's face. "She is a Queen of the Huns now, Ellac. You will respect her just like you respect your mother."

"Stepmother," he corrected. "And now I have two stepmothers," he smirked staring at Kriemhild then turned back to his father. "I think I like Kreka better and maybe I should go to Ashina with her," he laughed.

"No! You are staying here with me. You are not a boy anymore, Ellac. You are destined to be king one day." Attila folded his arms and his son rolled his eyes then left the Adame. "Where are you going?!"

"To say goodbye to my brothers!" Ellac called out and ran down the stairs outside.

Kriemhild slid the black veil off her head and smoothed out her dark straight hair. "I don't think he likes me very much," she whispered to Attila.

Her husband sighed heavily, "he will, I promise," he turned and kissed her forehead softly.

Xander received a letter from Xena early this morning and he didn't want to open it until Anastasia returned home from the academy. He sighed and kept staring at the letter, eager to open it and read it but he needed to distract himself until Anastasia got home, which would be in a few minutes anyway, unless she was going to study at her friend's house again.

The door opened and he smiled, walking away from the kitchen and stopped in his tracks, expecting to see Anastasia, but it wasn't her. He frowned, "what are you doing here?"

Toris walked inside, closing the door behind him. "I thought I'd bring you some food from my house."

Xander turned and walked away, "we don't need any food. We're taken care of," he grabbed the letter and tucked it in his pocket. Toris frowned and set the bag of food onto the kitchen table. "Why are you here?"

His elder brother shrugged a shoulder, "I wanted to check on you."

"You mean spy on me," Xander folded his arms and Toris remained silent. "Look, Anastasia will be back any minute now and I don't think it's a good idea that you're here so..." he was gesturing for him to leave and Toris smirked.

"Xander, you and I need to talk –"

Anastasia came home and waltzed through the hallway, carrying her binder of parchment with her. She came into the kitchen and saw her uncle with the same man she had seen months earlier. "Oh, should I leave or..." she was inching to the staircase and Xander frowned, pushing his brother out of the way.

He smiled down at her, pulling the letter out from his pocket, "this came for you today." Her eyes lit up, recognizing the handwriting immediately. She snatched the letter from his hands and opened it, reading the letter to herself silently. Toris folded his arms, leaning against a column, watching the girl's face instantly change from ecstatic to worried in a split second. "What does it say?" Xander asked.

Anastasia set her binder down on the table and sighed heavily. "She said I can't come see her for my birthday because she'll be traveling for the next few months," she pulled out something else in the envelope and saw her mother sent a golden necklace. She frowned sadly and set the letter down.

Xander placed his hand on her shoulder, "I know she cares about you. Maybe for your sixteenth birthday you can go see her?" he tried to lighten the mood, but Anastasia was too depressed at this news.

"I guess," she grabbed her school bag, flinging it over her shoulder.

Toris raised an eyebrow, "your mother is a busy woman, always has been."

Anastasia frowned, turning towards him, "you know my mother?" she asked suspiciously.

Xander eyed his brother, slowly shaking his head and Toris nodded. "I did know her," he answered, "but I haven't seen her in a long time," he simply smiled and Xander hung his head, relieved that he didn't say anything about Xena being his younger sister. That probably wouldn't be such a great idea at the moment.

She tapped her arm gently and rubbed her fingers against the golden chain of the necklace. "She is very popular it seems..." she sighed and turned to Xander, "I'm going to study in my room," she walked up the stairs then stopped, turning around. "What was your name?"

Toris lifted his head and blinked at her, "Toris," he straightened up and Anastasia hummed to herself then continued to go to her room. He turned to his younger brother, "so mommy is away traveling," he chuckled, "I wonder what she is doing now? Imposing her murderous ideology in unconquered territory?" he wondered.

Xander frowned, "look, I know you don't like Xena but I promised I would take care of Anastasia like I've told you before."

Toris nodded, "I understand, she is innocent, though her mother isn't." He turned to leave and then asked, "what does Xena exactly do for a living these days?"

Xander froze and he wasn't sure it was such a good idea to say that their sister was the General of Rome, so he lied, sort of. "She works in the military."

"I'm not surprised," he smirked, glancing around at the large villa that he was able to acquire for his brother on such short notice. "I'm sure she is very wealthy...since you are able to live here in one of the most expensive villas in Thebes..." he sighed and walked to the door, "keep the food, not like you need it."

Xander groaned and sat down in a chair, rubbing his face, thinking this was going to be difficult especially if Toris was going to keep stopping by like this. He also thought that Anastasia was a bit upset that she wouldn't be able to see Xena in a few months for her birthday since she'd be away, but that's what happens when you work in the military. You're always away from home and your family. He dug into the bag that Toris brought over and found a box of marzipan. Grinning he remembered that he used to eat a lot of this when he was younger.

A knock came to Ana's door and she lifted her eyes from her studies and Xander walked into her room. "I brought something for you," he sat on her bed and he showed her the box of marzipan. Her mouth contorted and she obviously had no idea what it was. "This is marzipan, a really sweet dessert. I think you will like it."

She took the box and stared at it, sighing. "I'm going to have to wait another whole year to see my mother."

He nodded, "I know you're upset, but she's very busy and you are used to her not being around a lot right?"

Anastasia folded her arms, now angry instead of sad, "but she never misses my birthday. Ever." She pushed her parchment aside, no longer feeling like studying anymore for tomorrow's class. "She always came back in the middle of missions for my birthday."

Xander pinched the bridge of his nose tightly and then grabbed her hand, "I'm sure she'll make up for it for your sixteenth birthday. Just try to focus on school for now, alright?" she nodded, finally relenting. "So about this marzipan," he smirked and she smiled, picking up the box, inspecting it thoroughly.

She opened the box and wiped her finger along the sticky dessert, tasting it for herself. "Tastes like rahat lokum," she frowned, not sure how to take this.

He raised an eyebrow, "what?"

Anastasia chuckled, "it's a powdery chewy dessert. Some of the women in Pannonia used to make it for parties."

Gabrielle's plan to get Valentinian to agree for Xena to travel to China was perfect. Xena would have never thought of a plan as perfect as that. Perhaps, she was more useful after all when it came to this politics business. Gabrielle had done some research on the relations between Rome and China and found that there was an abundance of trading done between the two entities along the silk road through the Eastern Roman Empire and Persian Empire.

In order for Valentinian to agree to this trip, Gabrielle advised Xena to tell him about the poor trading of ammunition and medicine through the silk road. The proposition was for Xena to go to the silk road and convince the Chinese emperor to update his trading agreement in order to obtain more ammunition for the Roman Empire in exchange for two hundred thousand Roman pounds.

Eventually, after a few days of negotiating and convincing, the emperor relented and allowed Xena to go on this excursion, and also allowed Aetius to travel to Constantinople for a meeting with Theodosius. In lieu of this plan, Xena had one as well. She did what she had promised to do and that was to send mercenaries to follow the commander to Constantinople to fish for information, already knowing the plan, it was perfect. Gabrielle's spying was the key to win and yet sabotage the Romans indefinitely.

Xena began to think a lot about what Gabrielle told her at the bacchanalia a couple of months ago. She had told her that she cared about her, but she couldn't figure out why someone so opposite of her views would even bat an eyelash in her direction. Gabrielle was all about peace and no war and Xena's middle name was violence and bloodshed. They were polar opposites yet Gabrielle may have seen something in her that she didn't, but what could that be?

They traveled through the Steppes, traveling closer to China and hopefully, if Xena's coordinates were correct, they would run into the Ashina and Gokturk tribes a few miles from the outskirts of the desert Steppes. She had only been here once before when she met Borias before they moved to the Caspian Sea. She knew these people were more tribal than Attila's tribes in the west and Balkans. Since they were more east Asian, Xena knew that a language barrier would be a problem and hopefully they spoke at least one of the Altaic languages.

Gabrielle sat behind Xena on her horse as they traveled through the harsh wintery storms of the Steppes. She covered her face with a scarf and clung onto Xena's waist, fearing she'd fall off from the heavy sandy winds crashing into them.

"Is this safe to ride in this weather?!" she yelled and Xena looked over her shoulder.

"What?!" she yelled back, unable to hear Gabrielle through the whistling gusts of wind. She sighed and put her hand up, adjusting the thick scarf covering her face. Squinting her eyes she looked at the sand dunes and mountains that were barely visible. "We'll stop here!" she said and her men began scouting for a more covered area, hopefully with trees so they could stay out of the sand storms.

Hours later after finally setting up their small camp in the middle of a group of trees found by one of the mountains Gabrielle came inside of Xena's tent, covered in sand. Groaning she pat her sleeves and ruffled her long hair, sand falling onto the floor. She coughed as a cloud of sand and dust surrounded her.

Xena smirked and took off her boots, emptying them of sand onto the floor. "I never said this journey was going to be easy."

Gabrielle sighed and felt so out of place here, probably more than she did when she was in Pannonia with Xena. She had recruited these men from Troy to travel with her along with bringing a few Romans too, though the Troy party knew what was going on and what was to happen, the Roman soldiers were ignorant.

"I didn't know these places were so sandy," Gabrielle took off her white cloak and threw it aside, adjusting her beige tunic. Xena thought it would be best not to dress like a Greek or a Roman given where they were going. Gabrielle trusted Xena and she obviously knew these people better than she did for sure, but she didn't really like wearing animal hides, colorless outfits, pants or knee high boots. She had to remember this was Xena's mission and she had to play along. I help you with Roman politics and you help me understand tribal politics.

Xena sighed and pat the bottom of her boot trying to get the excess sand out. Gabrielle sat down on the floor and decided to do the same, though she was not particularly happy to have sand in her long blonde locks. "I hope Anastasia is not upset that I can't see her for her birthday."

Gabrielle lifted her eyes and saw irrefutable sadness in the brunette's eyes. "She'll forgive you. You can see her on her sixteenth birthday," she smiled and Xena ran her fingers through her thick hair.

"Do you remember your fifteenth birthday, Gabrielle?"

The blonde smirked, "of course I do. My sister and I went to the beach and stayed there until sunrise. It was nice," she sighed and then saw Xena glaring at her. "Do you?"

Xena leaned back on the floor, "yes. You only turn fifteen once," she frowned, thinking she was a horrible mother for missing her daughter's birthday to go on a mission. She had never missed her birthday, even if she was in the middle of something important and late at night, she never missed it. She promised herself she would always be there for her.

"Well..." Gabrielle tossed her boot aside, "for her next birthday you can make it up to her."

Xena finally smiled, "you're right Gabrielle. We will have a party."

Gabrielle raised a skeptical eyebrow, "I thought you didn't like parties...especially after what happened on her last birthday," she chuckled and then her face paled, not realizing what she had just said. Xena didn't know anything about that little incident that happened to her daughter when she went off with those soldiers.

"What happened..." Xena narrowed her eyes, leaning forward, intensely staring at the blonde.

Gabrielle nervously laughed, "you're going to think this is really funny..." she saw those blue steely eyes glaring at her and she cleared her throat, " day," she mumbled. She exhaled heavily, "okay you see, after I got you to your bed, I went to search for Anastasia and found her outside with those boys and she took opiates, but I took her to her room immediately. Nothing happened, I swear!" she said quickly, hoping that Xena wouldn't be too angry.

"Let me get this straight," Xena folded her hands in her lap, "my daughter took drugs and you said nothing to me about it?" she hissed.

The blonde nodded, "well you would have killed those guys, Xena! And...she was fine!"

Xena took in a deep breath, trying to calm herself down. There was really nothing she could do about it now since it happened more than half a year ago.

"Are you upset?" Gabrielle dared to ask.

Xena raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips. "No," she said through clenched teeth. "I'm trying this new thing where I try not to get upset."

Gabrielle smiled shyly, "that's very virtuous of you..."

Xena finally smiled and gave her a wink then grabbed a blanket throwing it at her. "We are leaving by first light. Be ready, sand or no sand." She then laid down on the floor without a blanket and rested her cheek on her hand, closing her eyes.

Gabrielle smiled and slept opposite her cuddling up with the blanket Xena gave her. She laid down and felt the cold breeze enter the tent and scrunched her legs close to her chest. She lay there alone, staring at the dark floor and then peered over seeing Xena was already asleep, clad in her animal hides and dark thick clothing. She got up and crawled over next to Xena and threw half of the blanket over her and closed her eyes, with their backs facing one another.

The next two days were brutal traveling through the Steppes but once the worst part was over they were now journeying on flat desert and luckily, no more sand storms or gusts of violent wind. Xena rode in the front, leading her group of men and she saw a wooden archway with a black flag swaying gently in the wind. Four men were guarding the entrance to the tribe and pulled out their swords.

Skidding to a stop, Xena pulled the scarf away from the lower half of her face and saw more of the citizens inside the camp gawking at them. "Ashina tribe," she whispered and the men approached her, surrounding her horse. They began yelling at her in curt tones and Gabrielle frowned.

"What are they saying?" she asked, watching their every move. One of the dark haired men was staring directly at her and she cringed, turning away, not liking these people already.

"They're asking who we are," Xena whispered back to her. She replied back, "I'm a friend of Attila. I want to talk to your Bey."

Gabrielle frowned and felt so lost not knowing what Xena was saying at all. They were definitely foreigners here, though Xena wasn't, she knew the ways of these people and very well.

One man approached Xena, pointing his sword up at her chin, "why do you want to speak with our Bey?" he asked.

Xena frowned and backed away on her horse, steering clear of the blade. "I have a proposition for him to take down the Roman Empire." She said and the four men spoke softly to each other then sheathed their swords.

"This way," one man instructed and allowed them entrance to their tribe. Xena smirked and trotted in along with her entourage.

Gabrielle glanced around and this place definitely reminded her of Pannonia. They were dressed similarly and even all the women had long dark hair, no blonde hair and blue eyes here. She tapped Xena's shoulder. "So, what did he say?"

"He asked why I wanted to speak with their Bey," she said and turned to see Gabrielle's confused face. "Their leader." Two of the men ran ahead to the largest tent in the center of the tribe and Xena halted her horse.

The Ashina Bey emerged from his tent, putting on his furred turban, looking at Xena. Once one of his men said that she knew Attila, he knew that it had to be Xena. They stared at one another and then a woman emerged from his tent.

Xena's eyes widened and then grimaced seeing the woman standing beside the Bey. "Son of a bitch," she grumbled.

Gabrielle peered over Xena's shoulder and wasn't sure why she was suddenly so irritated. "What is it?"

"Attila's wife is here," she frowned seeing Kreka standing by the tent with a smug grin on her face.

The Ashina Bey approached her horse with a subtle grin, "you must be Xena. Attila doesn't have many female friends. My name is Peticus, welcome to Ashina," he warmly greeted her and she smiled at him, dismounting from her horse. He turned and saw Kreka standing by the tent and Xena glared at her. "You must know my sister, right?"

Xena smiled falsely, "oh yes, I know her."

Dengi and Ernak emerged from the tent, standing by their mother and Ernak gasped loudly. "Xena!" he quickly ran over to her and Kreka groaned, trying to grab him before he decided to run off like that. Dengi chuckled then received a harsh glare from his mother and he averted his eyes, then decided to go after his little brother.

The boy ran up to Xena and she smiled seeing him for the first time in a very long time. Ernak grinned, "Xena, what are you doing here?!" he exclaimed, excitement overcoming him completely. He grabbed her hand, "did my father send you?"

Xena sighed, not used to a child's excitement and abundance of questions as of late. "No, he didn't."

Ernak nodded, "how is Rome?" he asked and then his elder brother grabbed a hold of him, pulling him away from Xena.

"Sorry," Dengi apologized and Xena winked at the boy then Peticus gestured for her to enter his tent and she followed beside him with Gabrielle behind her.

"Attila's sons are fond of you," he noticed.

"At least somebody is," Xena muttered and passed by Kreka, receiving a cold stare as she entered the tent.

Chapter Text

AN: enjoy this piece here ;) more action in every way possible. Thank you for reading!

Chapter 21 –A Friend is a Second Self

Honoria sat on her bed with all her jewelry spread in front of her. She wanted to pick the perfect necklace to wear to her brother's crowning ceremony. Valentinian had been given a coronation from the Roman Council for most valiant victory against the Constantinople army. She had decided if she pitied her brother for this honor or not.

He had done nothing to earn anything his entire life and the pushing out of Theodosius' men was not his doing, it was Xena. She was the one who pushed them or rather she killed them all –or her latest story, Aetius killed them all per his request and Xena's approval. Honoria had her doubts about that. Xena was very good at what she did and she knew that Xena was the one who beheaded all of those men. Flavius Aetius did not have the backbone to do something like that, not in a million years since she had known him most of her life.

Sighing she continued looking at all of her jewelry, finding this ceremony extremely pointless. Her door slammed open and she saw a horde of Roman soldiers enter her room. She gasped and two Romans grabbed her by the arms, dragging her off her bed. "What are you doing? I am an empress of Rome!" she griped and tried to wiggle her way out.

Lucas unrolled a scroll, reading over the proclamation sent by the emperor himself, "you are under arrest for attempting the emperor's life," he tucked the scroll in his vest, "take her away," he nodded to his men and they drug her out of her room.

They came through the hallway and Petronius waited outside her bedroom and her eyes widened. "You!" she growled. "You lied to me! You wanted to help me! I loved you!" she pleaded and her cousin avoided eye contact with her as she was being drug away. "Unhand me!" she jabbed one of the soldiers in his ribs.

Honoria was brought to the throne chamber and the soldiers kicked her to her knees, restraining her arms behind her back. He grabbed her hair, lifting her head and she stared at her elder brother with teary eyes. "Valentinian..."

The emperor frowned and their mother stood by his side, ashamed and disappointed. "You were plotting to kill me?" he couldn't believe it himself.

She shook her head, "I can explain!"

Placida scoffed, "you bring shame and dishonor to our family, Honoria!" she yelled and her daughter sobbed quietly. "Crocodile tears won't save you now, daughter."

Valentinian sighed seeing his little sister so upset and distraught, although he had to remember, she was plotting to assassinate him and he hadn't the slightest idea. "We were such good friends, Honoria. Why would you do this to me?"

Honoria lifted her eyes, "please, forgive me..." she begged and the Roman soldier reared her head back and she yelped.

He rubbed his left temple, thinking of how he could punish his sister. Treason was punishable by death, but he couldn't kill her, she was still his sister. "I will not execute you," he began and Placida turned to him with surprise. "You will go to Nicaea's St. Leander's Convent to repent for your sins."

Honoria's mouth gaped and she immediately stopped sobbing. "'re sending me to a nunnery?!" she shook her head vehemently, "brother please!" Valentinian waved his hand, dismissing her and the Romans lifted her off the floor, dragging her off. "Please!" she begged. "Valentinian!" she yelled and the doors were closed once she was taken away from his sight.

Valentinian sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose and Placida folded her arms. "You're sending her to a convent?" she asked.

He frowned, "I can't kill my sister, mother."

She laughed mockingly, "she tried to kill you, Valentinian! You are either a very merciful emperor or a very foolish one." Valentinian stood and grabbed a much needed glass of wine, especially after he just sent his sister to the best place possible, though Honoria probably wouldn't see it that way. Placida sighed and pulled out a scroll that she received earlier this morning. "This came for you," she handed him the scroll and he saw the seal.

"Theodosius sent me a personal letter?" he asked and opened the letter, reading it over carefully and laughed aloud. "He is proposing that I marry his daughter! He has lost his damn mind," he tossed the letter aside.

Placida grabbed the scroll and read it for herself. "Why wouldn't you jump on this, Valentinian?" she asked.

He shook his head, downing a full glass of wine, "I do not want to marry a woman who is a Pagan. This is the Holy Roman Empire, mother. Pagans are sinners and heathens. I will not taint my name and marry a sacrilegious woman." He couldn't believe Theodosius would stoop as low to propose a blasphemous marriage in the eyes of God. He lived in the holiest city in the world, yet he wants his daughter to wed a Roman emperor? Not a chance, he thought.

"What if she was baptized? Will you consider marrying her then?" she offered, trying to sway her son's decision. "It could be good to be friends with Theodosius especially since you attacked his men..."

Valentinian slowly turned his head, glaring at his mother. "There is only room for one emperor in this empire and I am that emperor. I will not marry his daughter, end of story." He took the bottle of wine with him, leaving the room.

She frowned and hurried out of the throne chamber to go to her room. Her son was known to make ill decisions and he was not very wise when it came to politics. Marrying Theodosius' daughter would help him in the long run and he was too ignorant and arrogant to see that. She was going to write the emperor back and tell him to baptize his daughter then see if Valentinian approves a marriage proposal.

Xena sat in Peticus' large yurt on a pillow and Gabrielle sat beside her. She glanced around and saw the fire in the middle of the yurt and smoke rising through the small opening in the center of the yurt's ceiling. All the rugs inside the yurt reminded her of Pannonia. She felt like she was home, the only thing missing was Attila sitting beside her, but he wasn't. instead, she had the next best thing –his wife.

Kreka brought a tray of tea glasses and set them in between her brother and Xena. She knelt down and poured the tea in the colorful small glasses, staring at Xena out of the corner of her eye. She handed the glass to Xena and the warrior took it graciously and was careful not to make eye contact with her. Kreka then handed Gabrielle a glass and then grabbed the tray, leaving the yurt to an adjoining yurt, disappearing behind the curtains.

Peticus crossed his legs, sipping his tea. "You said you know my sister because she is Attila's wife, is that right?" Xena simply nodded. "I'm sorry about Borias, he was one of our best warriors."

Xena nearly choked she set down the glass, "it was a long time ago," she set her hands in her lap, now feeling incredibly awkward. Gabrielle casually nursed the warm glass in her palms, her eyes dancing back and forth between the Bey and Xena. Silence.

"So, what is this about taking down the Roman Empire?" Peticus began and sat up straighter, asserting his authority. "I'm afraid I am out of the loop from Roman politics. Not even Attila and I keep in contact."

She nodded with a sly smile, "yes well, the western empire wants to eliminate the east and I have taken it upon myself to help the emperor," she said and he frowned, unsure what she meant by that. "I have the position of General in the emperor's army."

Peticus exhaled slightly, "you work for the Roman army yet you want to take them down? I don't understand."

Xena figured that this might happen and she needed Peticus to trust her, though she figured that might be difficult considering Kreka was his sister and she looked very close to him. She also knew why Kreka was here and that she probably found out about Attila's new young wife and wasn't too happy about it. "The empires are both falling apart. I believe that all the Hun tribes should unify together and create the largest empire, bigger than the two Roman empires combined!"

The Bey tapped his fingers on his knees, "have you spoken to Attila about this? I am just a Bey, Xena. He is the king of all the tribes."

She nervously smiled, "Attila and I do not work together anymore, but I have no doubt that he would ally with me if your tribe agrees to my proposal..." her eyes widened, hoping that Peticus would oblige.

"I will discuss it with my men and come to a decision in the morning," he rose from his floor pillow and Xena did the same. Gabrielle quickly stood up, following Xena's moves exactly. She felt so lost being back in a place like this again. She preferred to be in Rome again or even Troy, but not Ashina, not Pannonia, not Aquincicum. It was super foreign.

He smiled and kissed her hand, "you are welcome to sleep in my sister's yurt during your stay, Xena. She will show you where it is," he nodded curtly then left the yurt to go discuss with his soldiers about her proposal.

Kreka stood by the curtains, arms folded and glaring at Xena. Gabrielle grabbed her hand, immediately seeing that Attila's wife was sending some pretty fiery signals from the across the room. "Are we really going to stay with her? She looks really angry..."

Xena's grip tightened on Gabrielle's hand, "it is custom to stay with friends during their travels...must not be rude, right?" she walked over to Kreka and smiled at her.

"Follow me," Kreka muttered and walked out of the yurt, across the camp to another large yurt, lit with torches outside.

Once inside the yurt Xena glanced around, almost hoping to see Dengi and Ernak, but they weren't here at all. Gabrielle fumbled in, almost tripping over the rug and Xena rolled her eyes. Kreka grabbed a couple of warm wool blankets and shoved them into Xena's arms. "Your room is to the right over there," she pointed to the curtains and Xena frowned, tucking the blankets under her arm. "The boys' room is to the left as is mine. Do not bother me." She walked off and grabbed a spoon to stir the soup she was making over the fire.

"What are you doing in Ashina?" Xena asked.

Kreka frowned, "I could ask you the same thing," she stood, folding her arms. "Are you eating here or somewhere else?"

Gabrielle definitely felt some passive aggressiveness between the two women and didn't quite understand why Kreka was being so cold to Xena and vice versa. "We can eat here," she said and both women turned, staring at her. "Or not?" she smiled nervously.

The Hun queen smirked, "your friend is polite," Gabrielle smiled and then received a glare from Xena and her smile disappeared. "Why are you trying to find allies, Xena? Have you nothing better to do than to destroy everything in your path?"

Xena threw the blankets on the floor and the Hun queen's eyes widened. "Why do you hate me so much?" she asked.

Kreka laughed, "you're kidding, right?"

"I never had sex with Attila and I don't plan to," not anymore, she kept reminding herself and especially since he has new eye candy clinging to his hip like a lost puppy. "You and I..." she stepped closer, grabbing Kreka's hand, "could be such friends," she smiled deviously.

"Why would I be friends with you?" Kreka folded her arms.

Xena rolled her eyes playfully, "I have done nothing to you all of these years we lived together. We can work together."

"For now, let's just get through dinner," Kreka knelt down near the pot and stirred the soup around with the large spoon. Xena smirked and grabbed the blankets, walking through the curtains with Gabrielle.

She threw the blankets on the floor bed and Gabrielle scoffed. "So, you want to be friends with her all of a sudden?"

"Jealous?" Xena sat down on the bed, smirking and the blonde rolled her eyes.

"No, of course not, but you said that she hated you and now you want to be friends with her? I don't understand you, Xena!" Gabrielle plopped down on the bed beside her. Xena scooted closer and immediately felt her body heat up.

Xena sighed, laying down on the bed comfortably, "you don't have to understand me to know me, do you?"

Gabrielle cocked her head to the side and turned, staring into those dangerous blue eyes. "That is such an oxymoron, Xena," she smiled and the warrior rolled her eyes, rolling over onto her side. Gabrielle crawled over, sitting beside her, against the large tasseled pillows. "This place must remind you of your home."

The raven haired warrior nodded, "it does and it reminds me of simpler times."

Gabrielle smiled and laid down on her side, facing Xena. "I feel like I should apologize to you."

"For what?" she frowned, leaning head cheek on her palm, staring into the green eyes opposite of her, giving Gabrielle her full attention.

The blonde sighed, "I used to think you were such a savage and barbaric even! But now I see that these people have rich culture and I never realized they were so family oriented." She shrugged her shoulder, "it's nice."

Xena grinned, "well, I'm glad that you are able to appreciate my culture and people. Maybe you can teach me more about your culture?" she reached forward and touched Gabrielle's hand gently and felt her arm twitch. "Feeling shy?" she teased.

Gabrielle sighed, "I like you, Xena and I feel like I shouldn't. People like us don't like each other," she said and then instantly regretted everything. "You don't like me, do you?" she panicked.

Xena chuckled softly, "I do like you Gabrielle. A little too much..." she admitted shyly, now she was the one being shy.

There was an awkward silence between the two and Gabrielle leaned forward and kissed Xena's lips quickly and pulled away with wide eyes. Xena stared at her then leaned in closely and kissed her lips gingerly and grazed her cheek softly. She slipped Gabrielle's dress off her shoulder and then pulled away, seeing some apprehension from her. "Are you alright?" she asked.

Gabrielle smiled, nodding, "yeah, I'm alright," she slipped her dress off and Xena smiled softly at her and kissed her shoulder and slowly Gabrielle laid down, breathing in cautiously and Xena slipped off the entire top half of her dress. Gabrielle stopped Xena, grabbing her hand. "Wait..." and Xena stopped, almost fearing that she had done something wrong. Gabrielle got up and gently pushed Xena down on the bed, against the pillows. She smiled down at the warrior and saw confusion in her eyes. "You teach me how to fight, I teach you how to be gentle..."

Xena smiled softly, agreeing, though she was always the one who was in charge in the bed, even with Borias most of the time, unless she was in a sharing mood. She felt Gabrielle's fingers trace along her sleeve and slowly slipped her coat off her shoulder, tossing it aside then she unlaced Xena's long sleeved top. Gabrielle grinned warmly up at her and then slipped Xena's top off her and her eyes widened, seeing her bare chest, and by choice, not by accident this time. Leaning in closely, she kissed her sternum and traveled down to her navel along her flat abdomen.

Lifting her eyes she felt Xena's body tense at her touch. "You've never been with a woman have you?" she asked with a sly smile and the warrior shook her head. Gabrielle quirked her mouth, "we will go slow then?" she suggested and Xena didn't respond, though her face was blank, Gabrielle sensed fear for the first time from the mighty warrior. She ran her fingers along Xena's bare skin and scooted closer to her, "what would you like to do?" she asked.

Xena frowned, "you're asking me?" she had never been asked something like that before, not with Borias, not with Attila, not with any other man she had laid in bed with.

Gabrielle giggled, finally seeing a soft side to Xena that she had never seen before. It was almost childlike in a way. "I want you to be comfortable and you look...scared," she said.

Xena turned to look at the blonde next to her, "I'm not scared it's just...nobody has ever asked me that before."

"Let's start over," Gabrielle cleared her throat and sat up and grabbed Xena's blouse throwing it on top of her bare chest. "Do you consider me to be your friend?" she asked.

Xena was unsure how to answer that, "I don't know."

Gabrielle smiled, "then let's work on being friends first, deal?" she offered and Xena smirked at her. "And when you're ready, you tell me. Seem fair?"

Xena slipped her blouse back on, lacing it up slowly as she sat up. "Why are you being so nice to me?"

The blonde shrugged her shoulder, "I like you but I don't want anything to ruin what we have, so I'll wait for you," she smiled and Xena remained quiet, not quite sure how to respond that. Slow, friends first, I'll wait for you? Xena was not used to this kind of treatment towards her, but it was kind of nice not to be put on the spot like she had been before in the past. This wasn't about sex, not according to Gabrielle, friendship was important to her obviously and Xena thought that she should respect that. Respect, yes that word, a very important word that Gabrielle loves which I do not know the meaning of.

Aetius paced around Theodosius' throne chamber with Magnus by his side. "I do not know if this is a good idea," he claimed. He knew that Xena would find out eventually and everything would change. He'd probably be killed for turning to the other side to rise against her, but not only her, the Western Roman Empire. He just couldn't risk his position or his life for Theodosius.

The emperor sighed heavily, "you are dwelling on this matter far too much, Aetius. Valentinian doesn't know what he is doing!" he laughed heartily. "He is a foolish emperor and I am ashamed to say that I am related to the fool." He tapped his fingers on the armrest of the throne. "I have proposed a marriage for Valentinian, but I am sure he will deny it. If my daughter marries him, we can unite our empires. There is no need for this quarrel."

Magnus frowned, "but your highness, Xena killed all of my men! She is nothing but a barbarian queen. Are you sure you can trust Attila? He is from the same land as Xena and they worked together for a long time."

"Of course I can rely on Attila. He remained faithful to Valentinian did he not? Xena was the one who broke the alliance, not him."

Aetius nodded, "Magnus is right, your grace. Attila should not be trusted either. They are one in the same. He was once called the Scourge of God but he lays dormant as does Xena. She has bigger plans and I fear that if I ally with you, I will lose my position and my life. Xena is my superior, whether I like it or not, I must abide by her rules and regulations."

Magnus laughed, "she is not even Roman! She is not a woman of God. She is a Pagan, a heathen, a hypocrite. She took an oath before God to protect Rome, yet she lies, pretending to be something she is not." He folded his arms, glaring at the Roman commander. "Ally with us and your life will be guaranteed."

Aetius shook his head, "no. The fact that she allowed me to come here is suspicious enough. She is in China scouting the silk road," he scoffed, "nobody cares about the silk road. She is doing something else, just you wait. She will come for you all," he turned and left the room, desperate to get out of Constantinople and he wasn't going to wait until morning to do it either.

Theodosius rolled his eyes, "he is very dramatic," he stood and sauntered off to go to his bedroom. "I want you to rally a group of men and head to China to see what Xena is up to, if she is even there."

The commander frowned, "but your highness, what if she really is scouting the silk road? It will be a waste of our time!"

"Do it!" the emperor yelled. "I command you. I don't want Xena to outsmart a Roman again, you understand me?" he hissed and Magnus nodded, saluting him then hurried out of the room to go do as he was told.

The following morning Xena was called to meet with Peticus about his decision to ally with her or not. She sat in the yurt and he walked in then sat down opposite of her. "I've thought about your proposal," he began and Xena leaned in, eager to hear his answer. "I have decided to ally with you, but on one condition," he said and Xena held her breath, knowing that these Beys always wanted more than what they could offer. "We split everything fifty/fifty, and I would like to run this by Attila as well."

She smiled, "of course," she was happy to hear that Peticus had agreed to ally with her and even more happy to hear that he was going to talk to Attila. If it came from her, he probably wouldn't agree but if the news came from a Bey of a prestigious tribe, then he might actually consider it. "Oh and...I'd like to add something as well..." her eyes narrowed as a devious smile graced her lips. "I will be the commander of this alliance and everything is run by me –the decision making, the attacks, the ammunition supply, everything."

Peticus frowned and sighed, knowing that Xena was going to suggest something like this, but she had done this before but on a much smaller scale. "Fine."

"Good," she stood and he stood up, facing her. She pursed her lips and curtly bowed her head then left the yurt.

She returned to Kreka's yurt where Gabrielle was probably still sleeping. She saw the boys eating some rice and bread sitting on the floor. Ernak smiled at her and she winked then she disappeared behind the curtain.

Gabrielle was of course, still asleep and Xena kicked her leg to wake her. Gabrielle groaned and her eyes fluttered open to see Xena dressed in her dark clothes, animal hides and her coined headpiece. The sun probably hadn't risen at all. She got up so early. "Peticus has agreed to ally with me and he is going to tell Attila."

Gabrielle sat up, rubbing her eyes, yawning audibly. "That's good, right? I mean...about Attila," she groaned, still trying to wake up.

Xena knelt down beside her, "yes Gabrielle, it's very good news. Now when we return to Rome, we will ransack the entire place," her eyes grew wild and Gabrielle didn't like that look at all.

"I think you should think about this carefully..." she advised.

Xena was about to object until she heard loud horse hooves riding into the camp. Frowning she left the yurt and saw a horde of men riding into the Ashina camp and they didn't look like Huns at all. Peticus came out of his yurt, opposite of Xena and men in dark clothing and turbans came riding through the camp, there must have been over a hundred of them.

Peticus stepped forward, "who are you? You are not from any Hunnic tribe, are you?" he asked.

The man with kohl lined eyes unveiled his face and unsheathed his scimitar, pointing it at the Bey. "No, we are Persians," he chuckled. Men from the Ashina tribe surrounded the Persians on horseback with their swords and other weapons of choice. "Surrender your territory to the Great Shah Yazdgard and your lives spared."

"I will not surrender any of my land to a Persian king," Peticus folded his arms.

The Persian soldier growled and pointed the blade closer to the Bey's throat. "We have already conquered Syria and Armenia. You Huns are a hindrance to our king. Surrender or die!"

Xena frowned and stepped forward in between Peticus and the Persian's sword. She smiled, pushing te sword out of harm's way. "You wish the invade the Hun borders, why haven't you attacked Attila, the King of the Huns?"

The Persian lifted a thick brow, glaring at the dark haired woman standing in front of him. "The Hun Empire will be wiped out and be replaced with the Sasanian Empire as God wills it."

Xena rolled her eyes. "And what of the Roman Empire? Will you try and conquer that next?" she teased.

He frowned, "who are you?" he leaned down on his tall steed.

"General of the Roman army and commander of the Huns," she folded her arms and he raised his eyebrows, looking to his men behind him. "We are not enemies, we can be friends, yes?" she pressed and the Persian spoke to two of his men behind him in hushed tones.

He turned around, clearing his throat, "and why would we want to ally with barbarians such as yourselves?" he sheathed his scimitar.

Xena smiled, walking closer to his horse and touched the horse's mane. "Because...the Huns will invade the Roman Empire. We could work together..." she looked up at the Persian and he glared at her. "You could take the east and we will take the west."

The Persian thought it over. "This information will need to be brought up with the Shah. I am not capable of discussing such matters with...a woman no less" he chuckled and Xena drew her sword and swung it around, slicing his belt off his waist and his scimitar fell to the ground. His eyes widened.

"I'll aim lower next time," she smirked. The Persian soldiers surrounded her and the obvious commanding officer held his hand up for them to stand down. Smiling she lowered her sword, "so, your Shah needs approval? When can I meet him?" she looked at her fingernails casually and Peticus' eyes widened. What in god's name is she doing?

The Persian commander fumbled with his words, unsure how to address this woman now. He cleared his throat, "come to Persia with me by nightfall." He yanked his horse's reins and then halted, "and your name?"

"Xena," she answered with a smug grin and he nodded, trotting off with his horde of men following him.

Gabrielle ran over towards Xena and saw the black sea of Persian horsemen leaving. "Did you just make an alliance with the Persians?!"

Xena sheathed her sword and folded her arms. "Not yet, Gabrielle," she stared at the Persian commander's sword in the dirt and picked it up, examining the fine craftsmanship of the blade.

"How are you going to explain this to Valentinian? He thinks you're here to search the silk road..."

The general shrugged her shoulder, "I will tell him we had a minor setback...those sand storms can be so bothersome can't they?" she winked and walked off to Kreka's yurt to pack her belongings to leave this evening. Gabrielle huffed and looked at the people gawking at her as if she were some different kind of species. Her cheeks reddened and she hurried back to the yurt.

Peticus entered his younger sister's tent and saw her with her sons eating together on the floor. "Where is Xena?" he asked.

Xena appeared from behind the curtain with a smile, "yes?"

He frowned, folding his arms, "why did you do that?" his irritation in his voice was unmistakable. "The Persians are not our friends. Attila's uncle, King Rua, invaded Persia's capitol a long time ago once he heard that the Shah wanted to invade the Hun borders."

She shrugged her shoulders, "well, Rua is dead and we should expand our horizons. It is better to have more allies on our side, right?" she smirked and the Bey sighed heavily, not really finding any good coming out of this little agreement.

"The Shah does not like us, Xena. What makes you think he will listen to you? And no offense but, you are a woman and the Persians are not known for respecting women in authority because those don't exist over there!" he yelled.

Dengi put down his bowl of rice, "Xena is a great warrior, right mother?" he turned towards her and Xena peered down.

Kreka drank some water and looked into Xena's eyes. "Yes she is," she admitted and set down her cup of water. "Perhaps you should trust her, brother," she stood and picked up her sons' empty bowls.

Peticus glared at his sister then turned back to Xena. "What if the Shah does not ally with you? Then we will have to war with the Persians to maintain our territories. We need to tell Attila about this immediately!"

Xena chuckled taking a step closer to the Bey, "I can be very...convincing," she whispered in his ear then disappeared into the bedroom to gather her things to leave with the Persians this evening.

Scoffing he turned to his sister, "you are friends with this woman?" he asked disbelievingly.

Kreka smirked, "not really, but she is usually not wrong. As much as I'd hate to admit it, she is a very skilled warrior and was Attila's best commander," she knelt down dipping the bowls in a water basin to rinse them off. "But be careful, she will surprise you when you least expect it."

He nodded slowly then left the yurt. With him gone Kreka knelt down to her two sons, "why don't you go outside and play for awhile?" she smiled and Dengi eyed his mother cautiously. She pushed them, "go, go." Dengi sighed and grabbed his brother's hand and exited the yurt. Sighing she turned towards Xena's room and entered.

Xena was talking with Gabrielle, examining the Persian scimitar and turned to see the Hun queen in the room. "You said some surprising things back there," she smiled.

Kreka sighed, folding her arms and replied, "everything I said was true. You are the best warrior I have ever seen, but Xena, Attila will never agree to ally with Yazdgard. And I think you know that."

Xena smirked, "then I guess he will have to be convinced otherwise."

The Hun queen's jaw dropped, "and how do you plan to do that?"

Xena sheathed the scimitar on her belt, "I'm not. You are," she smiled and grabbed her bag slinging it over her shoulder. "Come on Gabrielle."

Gabrielle grabbed her bag and hurried out of the yurt, brushing passed the Hun queen whom was still in shock from what Xena said.

Xena mounted her horse and spoke to the Roman soldier that accompanied her. "Go back to Rome and tell Valentinian that I am going to explore the silk road further." They nodded and got on their horses, trotting off out of the Ashina camp. Xena grabbed Gabrielle's hand helping her aboard.

Kreka ran out of the yurt towards Xena. "Xena! I can't convince Attila to do anything! I have no power over him!"

Xena smiled down at the queen, "you are Queen of the Huns, aren't you?" Kreka's eyes lowered, "you will find a way. Don't...disappoint me. I am just starting to like you," she clicked her tongue and rode out of the camp with the remainder of her Troy soldiers following behind her to go meet with the Persians.

Gabrielle looked behind her shoulder and saw Kreka standing by herself watching them leave the camp. Frowning sadly she wrapped her arms around Xena's waist. "You really believe that she can convince Attila to ally with the Persians?"

"She does not give herself enough credit," Xena wrapped the scarf around the lower half of her face from the harsh winds. "She used to be a warrior for the Ashina before she got married to Attila. She has lost her warrior spirit and hopefully with this new task I have given her, she will be able to convince Attila." She grinned sneakily.

Gabrielle sighed and wrapped the scarf around her face, "just for the record, I think this is a horrible idea."

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake," Xena smirked. "Not all alliances are friendly."

Honoria was transported to St. Leander's Convent in Nicaea and she sat in a dark candlelit room surrounded by three nuns. They stripped her of her fine white gown and drenched her in water. Honoria gasped and wrapped her arms around herself, shivering from the cold blast of water that was dumped on her. One of the nuns grabbed her hair gently and cut her long locks with a pair of sharp sheers. Honoria sat and sobbed as she saw her long dark hair fall to the ground in large chunks.

She was wrapped in a blanket and one of the sisters of the convent gave her a black scapular with a habit to match. She smiled at Honoria, "you will learn to love it here."

Honoria took the clothes and she stopped sobbing, now completely frozen and not knowing what to do with her life anymore. Instead of being executed her brother sent her to a convent, which was probably worse than dying, in her opinion. She peered up at the nun in front of her, "could I write a letter to someone?" she asked.

The nun looked to the mother superior with concern and sighed, "we are not allowed to make outside contact with anyone, but...we will make an exception for you." She said and Honoria smiled weakly at that.

After she got dressed she was shown to her room that she'd be sharing with another sister in the convent. She was given some parchment and quill to write her letter. She sat at the desk and adjusted the veil on her head then began writing rapidly.


I have been wrongfully accused of attempting to murder my brother. I have been sent to a convent in Nicaea in Theodosius' empire. My cousin, Petronius lied to the emperor and claimed that I had a set plan to assassinate Valentinian.

I send this ring to you as an offer of marriage if you are able to help me escape from this holy prison. I will not be able to write anymore letters from now on. This is my first and last letter.


She smiled and took off the ring around her finger and folded the parchment and sealed it with wax, then ran out of the room so it could be delivered to Aquincicum immediately.

A week or so later Magnus and a horde of Roman soldiers rode through the mountainous terrain of Persian territory to get to China. They would probably arrive in a few days if they remained on track and did not stop for numerous breaks. He was beginning to think this trip was pointless but all because of Theodosius' paranoia he had to do as his emperor said or else.

And to make matters even worse the silk road stretched across thousands of miles of land. He had no idea which part Xena was in and they already passed the silk road in Persian territory and there was no sign of her there. This was like searching for a needle in a haystack.

A few soldiers scouted ahead for enemies during their travels, just in case. Magnus yawned and had forgotten how old these desert lands could be, especially since winter was nearing in this area. Squinting his eyes he saw one of his soldiers riding back frantically.

"What is it?" Magnus was now on full alert.

The soldier exhaled heavily, "over the hill, sir! There is a horde of men riding in!" he pointed behind him and Magnus trotted forward. He saw a sea of black heading their way through the windy fog surrounding them, only made it look more ominous.

He snapped his fingers and one of his men rode towards him with a telescope. He looked through the lens and saw men with black turbans and dark clothing riding in and then he saw Xena riding in the front line. He gasped and lowered the telescope. "Persians!" he shouted. "Brace yourselves for an attack!" he commanded and all of the men began scrambling, not knowing what to do.

The Persian commander halted and put his hand up, seeing red plumed helmets in the distance. "Friends of yours?" he turned to Xena.

Xena frowned and trotted forward, squinting her eyes. "Theodosius' men, not mine."

"Forward," the Persian commander said and they rode down the hill slowly. "You will prove your worth to me at this very moment," he smirked as he told Xena this.

She smiled, "if you insist," she kicked her horse and rode quickly down the hill quickly. Gabrielle yelped and clenched her hold around her waist so she wouldn't fall off.

"What are you doing?!" Gabrielle's eyes widened as they were nearing the center of the desert land. "Are you insane?!" she yelled as they were nearing Magnus and his horde of Romans alone. She turned and saw the Persian army riding behind her at a slow pace.

Magnus adjusted his helm and frowned, seeing Xena approaching them, coming closer and closer. "What is she doing with the Persians..." he muttered and suddenly Xena halted in the middle of the field in between the Romans and Persians.

"Magnus, we meet again!" Xena called out. "Have you come to spy on me?" she grinned.

The commander snarled and rode forward, a few meters away from her. "Why are you in Persian territory, Xena?"

"I'm afraid that's confidential, commander," she winked and reached for the hilt of her sword. Magnus watched her cautiously. "Get out of my way and there will be no bloodshed."

"Are you looking for a fight?" the commander chuckled.

"I'm giving you one chance to surrender, but we both know you are a sore loser, Magnus," she drew a dagger from her belt and tossed it at one of his men's chests. The Roman gasped for air as blood poured from his chest and he collapsed onto the ground, falling off his horse. Magnus unsheathed his sword and his men did the same. Xena nudged Gabrielle and dismounted her horse. "Get out of here Gabrielle," she hissed.

Gabrielle sat frozen on the horse. "But, what about you?"

"Don't worry about me!" Xena growled, "go!" she kicked the horse and Gabrielle yelped and held onto the reins as the horse rode off far away from the field.

The Persian smirked, shaking his head. "She is mad," he chuckled. He waved his hand, "archers!" he called out and the front row of men lined up, pulling their bows out. "Fire at will," he smiled and unsheathed his scimitar and rode down with his swordsmen following behind him.

Magnus' men charged forward, riding towards the Persian army and Xena heard a whistling sound above her. She looked up and saw a cloud of black arrows raining down on the Roman army. Magnus' eyes widened and grabbed his shield, protecting himself from the rain of death.

Xena laughed and sliced his horse's legs and the animal screeched and collapsed to the ground and Magnus rolled off the horse and dropped his shield. She walked towards him and stomped on his hand with her boot. "I gave you a chance to surrender and you denied me, again!" she dug her boot deeper into his hand and his bones cracked and he moaned loudly.

He growled and picked up a handful of sand and threw it in her eyes. She gasped and blinked rapidly, trying to get the sand out of her eyes. He stood up and clocked her in the jaw and she stumbled backward. Her vision blurred and she widened her eyes, staring at Magnus coming at her again. He swung at her again and punched her in the nose and she fell on her back, staring at the overcast sky above her.

Groaning she kicked Magnus in the groin and jumped up. As he was collecting himself she wiped her nose and saw blood on her fingers. Smiling, "one for me, one for you," she hissed and twirled the sword with her wrist and plunged it downward with a loud cry and Magnus gasped, rolling to the side and her sword dug into the sand, tearing his crimson cape. Snarling she thrust her sword out of the sand and marched towards him.

Magnus groaned, rolling over on his back and saw Xena marching towards him. He panicked and she leaned down smiling at him eerily. He grabbed her by her coat and flipped her over on her back behind him. He quickly got to his feet and turned to see she was already on her feet. What in God's name...

Xena kicked him in his gut and he stumbled backwards. She unsheathed her second sword and twirled them both once. "Enough of this dance," she growled and marched forward, swinging the swords in unison and he blocked her blow. She grinned and crossed her swords over his and pushed down with all of her strength, lowering him to one knee. "Yes...kneel for me," she hissed and pushed the blades down further and he winced, trying to hold her off.

A rope was thrown over Magnus' neck and he was drug off. Xena's eyes widened and she saw the Persian commander yank the commander with his tight rope. "I was not finished with him!"

The Persian frowned, "he is more important if he is alive, God willing."

"You and your God," she scoffed, "well, my instincts tell me he is better off dead!" she smiled at the commander as she saw fear in his eyes.

The Persian held up his hand, "this is enough! His army is losing! Surrender or forever be shamed." He narrowed his eyes and Xena lifted her eyebrow then slowly lowered her swords.

Gabrielle hopped off of Xena's horse and hid behind a large tree, listening to all the cries in battle and she closed her eyes, praying that this would end soon. This probably didn't need to happen but Xena was obviously looking for a fight and she just couldn't resist especially since it was Magnus, Theodosius' commander.

He arm was grabbed and she gasped as she was being manhandled by two Roman soldiers. Growling she kicked one of them in the shin and grabbed his sword and stabbed the other Roman in his foot. He cried out in agony and let go of her arm and she took off running.

Breathing heavily she ran as fast as she could then stopped, realizing that she was running right towards the battle and that was not a good idea. She didn't have anywhere else to run. She saw Xena standing with that Persian officer with Magnus tied up, but everyone was still fighting.

The Roman stumbled forward and drew his bow, grabbing an arrow he aimed at the petite blonde, squinting an eye he smiled. He released the arrow and it went right through her left shoulder.

Gabrielle gasped and she looked down seeing an arrowhead sticking out of her shoulder. Tears of pain formed in her eyes and tried to pull the arrow out but she cried, murmuring miserably.

Xena frowned and turned to see an arrow sticking out of Gabrielle's shoulder and her eyes widened. "Gabrielle!" she left Magnus' side and ran forward. She saw the Roman running up from behind Gabrielle with his sword. Narrowing her eyes she halted, skidding along the sand and threw her sword forward, passed Gabrielle and into the Roman's chest. He dropped his blade and fell to the ground, driving the sword further into his body.

Gabrielle collapsed to her knees and Xena sheathed her other sword and knelt beside her, touching her cheeks with her bloodied soiled hands. "What were you doing?!" she yelled.

The blonde shook her head as tears rolled down her cheeks, "escaping..." she choked and tried her best not to move her shoulder. Xena sighed heavily and without giving her warning, she broke off the arrowhead and Gabrielle let out a loud screech. Xena then pushed the shaft out from the other side and Gabrielle bit down on her tongue, enduring the pain. Xena ripped a piece of her cloak off and wrapped it around Gabrielle's shoulder.

"You have a lot to learn," Xena groaned and wrapped Gabrielle's arm around her shoulder, lifting her off the ground.

The Persian army gathered up the Romans left standing since they were refusing to surrender. After Xena hoisted Gabrielle on her horse she turned to the Persian officer.

He yanked the rope around Magnus' neck. "What do you want to do with these Romans? Your call," he smirked.

Xena turned and looked at all the Romans lined up in a row. "Kill them," she said and the Persian's eyes widened, not expecting that to come out of her mouth.

"As you wish," he smiled then nodded to his men and they unsheathed their swords. "And what of the commander?"

She mounted her horse and Gabrielle leaned on her, wrapping her arm around her bleeding wound. "Release him so he can run back to his master," she smirked. The Persian smiled, nodding his head and untied the rope from Magnus' neck. Gabrielle moaned and Xena sighed, "I will treat your wound once we reach safer territory."

"Am I going to die?" Gabrielle pulled her hand from her wound and saw a large amount of blood on her palm.

Xena smiled, "I won't let that happen," she pulled on the horse's reins and rode off following the Persian army.

Chapter Text

AN: this is a very heavy political chapter, so bear with me lol. Beginning of trouble here, so many things going on at once. Good luck ;)

Chapter 22 –Silks and Swords Part I

Ellac ran to his father's room and found him speaking to his wife alone. Attila lifted his eyes and Ellac's cheeks blushed, feeling like he had interrupted something. He stepped forward with a letter in his hands, "this came for you from Nicaea," he said and his father walked over, grabbing the letter, opening it and sighed. His wife, Kriemhild, sauntered over with a smirk on her lips, knowing he could not read, she decided to read the letter for him. Ellac frowned, folding his arms. He really did not like his father's new wife, she put on quite a show. She was shy and reserved, but inside, he knew that the woman was not like this –she was probably evil incarnate, putting on an act for everyone. He soon began to realize how much he missed his stepmother and he never thought he'd admit that.

Kriemhild's dark eyes widened and grimaced at what she had just read. Attila awaited for the response, but instead he got silence and a harsh, cold glare. "Honoria is asking for your hand in marriage?!" she blurted out and Ellac laughed out loud. Attila shot him a glare and tried to snatch the letter from his wife's hands. "You are intimate with the Roman empress?!" she screeched and Attila shook his head.

"What? No, I have never been alone with her!" he protested, shocked to hear what the letter had said. It obviously wasn't fake because why would Kriemhild be so upset. "I've only met her a few times, are you sure that's what it says?"

She scoffed, "you do not trust me?" she stared into his light eyes and his silence was enough of an answer. Huffing, she threw the parchment in his face and stormed out of the Adame.

Ellac chuckled watching Kriemhild leave whilst throwing a tantrum. "I got to hand it to you father, it takes a special man to make two women upset."

Attila growled and grabbed his son's tunic and slammed him against the wall. "You forget who you speak to, Ellac," he snarled and his son's green eyes widened in fear. Backing off he suddenly realized something and grinned. "If I agree to Honoria's proposal I can attack Rome as a reward to save her from this prison in Nicaea."

Ellac frowned, "you aren't actually going to marry Honoria are you?" he hoped not.

His father laughed, "of course not, but it will give me an opportunity to invade Rome since Xena attacked Theodosius' men. Rome is the enemy." He quickly walked out of the Adame and his son followed him outside.

"But father, what about Xena? She is the General of Rome now. What if she attacks you?" he was now becoming concerned and Attila mounted his horse.

Attila smiled at his son, "Rome is Xena's enemy, son. You are foolish to think that she would ever side with the Romans," he kicked his horse and rode off to meet with his army to discuss plans to invade Rome. Ellac stood dumbfounded and couldn't believe his father was actually going to go through with this plan of his.

A day away from Persia's capitol, the Persian officer stopped in a field so Xena could address her friend's wound and it would give his men time to recuperate and heal from the Romans' attack earlier. A tent was set up for Xena and Gabrielle, given they were the only women, the Persian soldiers gladly lent their tent to them while they remained outside in the sandy cold desert.

Xena ripped a bandage with her teeth and gave Gabrielle a sedative a few hours ago so she could work on the wound without Gabrielle whining and making a fuss out of things. She grabbed a leather needle and thread it then dipped the needle in the fire within the tent and held the bandage in between her teeth. Slowly she leaned in and dug the needle in Gabrielle's shoulder, sewing as fast as she could, knowing that the sedative wasn't going to work forever and she'd awake soon.

She bit the thread with her teeth then tied it and began wrapping her shoulder with the small bandage, just enough to keep it from reopening again. Sighing, she grabbed Gabrielle and gently placed her down on the animal skins and tore off her tunic, exposing the gaping hole on her backside. She stood and grabbed her sword and sat by the fire, heating up the end of the blade.

Gabrielle groaned and opened her eyes, barely coming to, she saw Xena sitting by the fire with her heated blade. "What..." she moaned feeling her wound for the first time in hours and tried to get up.

Xena frowned, "stay down," she urged and Gabrielle lowered herself back on the floor, resting her head on her hands. She lifted her sword from the fire and the blonde's eyes widened seeing the scorching red hot metal. Xena walked over to her and knelt beside her.

"What are you doing?" Gabrielle's breathing increased and she heard Xena sigh heavily. Without warning Xena placed the scorching hot blade on her wound and she screamed and bit her tongue as tears rolled down her cheeks.

The wound sizzled and Xena pulled the blade away, wafting away the smoke and took a closer look at the wound, she smiled and grabbed a bandage, wrapping it underneath Gabrielle's arm in several layers. "Remember when I told you that it was cowardice to attack an enemy from behind?" she said and Gabrielle breathed heavily, barely able to speak a word. "This is what I was talking about," she tucked the bandage under the layers and lifted Gabrielle up slowly.

Gabrielle wiped her cheeks and groaned, moving her shoulder slightly. "Thanks for the sympathy..." she grumbled.

Xena smiled and dipped her sword in some water. "Still think a quill is a good weapon?"

She sighed, "obviously not," she muttered. "I could have died!"

"But you didn't," Xena interjected and sat beside her.

Gabrielle sat, shaking her head and her nerves heightened and began shaking. "Only because you were there. What if you weren't there to help me? Those Romans would have killed –"

Xena frowned, "stop it. It is my fault because I told you to leave. I should have been more careful..." she sighed, running her fingers through her hair, now rethinking all of her decisions in the last few hours.

"What exactly, were you trying to prove out there?" Gabrielle asked genuinely.

The warrior crossed one ankle over the other, leaning back slightly, "that I am a threat to Theodosius," she grinned and Gabrielle lifted a disbelieving eyebrow.

"I think you already proved that. You just wanted someone to fight, like always. The Persians like you because you allowed them to slaughter Romans. You've just made a deal with the devil, Xena."

Xena narrowed her eyes, glaring at Gabrielle. "What are you saying? That I made a mistake trying to ally with the Persians?"

Gabrielle sighed, "will you listen to what I have to say?" and Xena was about to interrupt until she put her finger over Xena's mouth, "and don't interrupt me." Xena's eyes widened and Gabrielle smiled. "Yazdgard has attacked the eastern empire before. He even came to Greece to conquer the land that Theodosius claimed under his rule. The Romans were able to push the Shah and his army out and they failed. If the Persians have you and Attila by their side, this will give them another opportunity to pillage Constantinople and possibly Greece's large ports like Athens and Sparta. I'm afraid they will use you as a pawn in their game of conquest."

Xena lifted her eyebrow, "are you done?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded silently. "If the Shah agrees to ally with me, why should I stop them from ransacking Constantinople? Isn't that the point of this alliance? Valentinian wants Theodosius gone and I want a vast Hun Empire. I see no losers here," she smiled.

"Attila doesn't even know about this and what if he doesn't want to ally with you? He is allies with Theodosius, remember? Your little sex idea didn't exactly go too well." Gabrielle folded her arms.

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Xena mumbled. "Since when did you become such an expert on politics, anyway?" she scoffed.

Gabrielle smirked, "politics is war without bloodshed. War never stops as long as politics reign. War does not determine who is right –only who is left."

Xena stared at her blonde counterpart and laughed softly, "you and your poetry."

"You may not like poetry, but it never lies," Gabrielle smiled as her cheeks blushed.

"I can learn to like it," Xena winked then stood up, grabbing her bags and cloak. "Are you ready to leave? We will have to put off our lessons until your shoulder heals."

Gabrielle gradually stood, "I can handle it!" moving her shoulder slightly she winced and Xena laughed underneath her breath. "Okay maybe a little time off wouldn't hurt..." she muttered. "Are you sure about this meeting with the Shah?"

Xena rolled her eyes and grabbed Gabrielle's arm gently, pulling her out of the tent. The Persian officer was waiting beside the tent and averted his eyes. "Are you two finished?" he asked and Xena raised an eyebrow.

"Yes..." she smiled and Gabrielle stifled a laugh seeing how awkward the officer was being around them. It wasn't as if they were naked or anything.

He nodded, still not able to look at them, "good, we will be leaving shortly. Make sure you two have everything with you," he fixed his turban then hurried over to his horse, whistling to his army.

"He needs a cold bath," Xena mumbled and Gabrielle frowned and watched her walk to her horse with her bags slung over her shoulders.

Kreka trotted into Aquincicum and as she strolled in with a few of her brother's men she saw that there barely any of Attila's men here, in fact, all of them were gone and there were only women in the camp. Strolling through the camp, passing yurts, many of the women shied away from her and wouldn't look at her in the eye. Kreka didn't like that feeling and had never experienced it before unless it was from Xena, but that was about it. But even Xena would look at her and she would never dare ignore her existence.

Finally she spotted one male and that was Ellac, standing outside the Adame practicing her swordsman moves. "Ellac!" she called out and he lifted his eyes, smiling at her. That is surprising, she thought. Dismounting her horse she approached him and saw Attila's wife inside the home talking with one of the servants. This brought a terrible frown upon her face.

Ellac turned around and saw Kriemhild and thought that his stepmother hated her so much that with a simple look she could kill her in one second. "I thought you were in Ashina?" he awkwardly said, trying to take her mind off of his father's wife, more like his toy.

Kreka folded her arms, "I was," she turned her attention to her stepson, "where is your father?"

He twirled the sword in his hand and hung his head, "he's not here..." he muttered.

"Well, where is he? I have something important to discuss with him," she rose her eyebrows and waited for his response, but he was deathly silent. "Ellac?"

He groaned, "he's heading towards Rome. He left last night."

Her eyes widened, "I beg your pardon?" she scoffed, "why would he go to Rome?!" this little plan of Xena's was definitely not going to work, considering Attila was attacking the wrong side of the empire. Xena was on her way to meet with the Shah and she promised that she'd speak to Attila, but she had no idea this was going to happen.

Ellac sheathed his sword, "Honoria sent him a marriage proposal and he decided that it would be a good opportunity to attack Rome," he blurted out and saw Kreka's green eyes widen, filled with malice and hatred, though he wasn't sure it was for Honoria. He was positive it was for his father. "Xena is going to attack him, I just know it."

"Xena isn't in Rome!" she yelled and paced around, "god dammit!"

He frowned and heard Kreka continuing to curse beneath her breath, pacing around in circles. "Wait, Xena isn't in Rome? Where is she?"

"Never mind that," she curtly replied, "Ellac, I want you to stay here. I'm going to Rome," she walked towards her horse and he gasped, running after her.

"But Kreka, why would you do that? It's too dangerous!" he folded his arms, "I'll come with you."

She smiled softly for the first time in a long time. "No, you stay here. Someone has to be in charge, right?" she mounted her horse. She eyed her husband's second wife and frowned. "Keep an eye on her as well." She clicked her tongue and rode off with her brother's men. Ellac raised an eyebrow and wagged his head, thinking this was such a bad idea.

Yazdgard adjusted his crown upon his head, brushing his dark long tendrils behind his ear, lounging in his throne. He crossed one leg over the other and smiled seeing the doors open and his officer walk in and then saw a woman with him, actually two women with him. He frowned, uncrossing his legs and stood from his throne.

"You have brought a concubine back with you, Romi?" he chuckled and Xena glared at the dark haired, pale faced Shah.

The Persian officer, Romi, cleared his throat and curtly bowed his head at the Shah, "no, your highness. This is Xena, commander of the Huns."

Yazdgard widened his dark eyes, clenching his fists seeing this savage woman in his palace. "You brought a piece of garbage to Persia?!" his voice boomed through the marble hall. He looked to the Hun woman, "I know who you are, you are Attila's whore, are you not?"

Xena bit her tongue, smiling through clenched teeth, "Attila and I were never together," she bluntly stated. "Your officer brought me here to discuss an alliance with you and your kingdom."

The Shah let out a hearty laugh and bent over, clutching his knees in order not to fall over from the hysterical proposal. "That is hilarious!" his laugh slowly died down, "as if I would ever ally with barbarians."

She lifted an eyebrow, already feeling like this Persian king was not taking her seriously. "Not even if you are able to attack Constantinople?" she said and his smile disappeared while one appeared on her face, an eager, eerie smile at that. "I want to wage a war against Theodosius with Valentinian's army by our side, including Attila's army."

Yazdgard folded his arms then took a seat on his throne, rubbing his bearded chin. "You? A Woman? Wants to wage war against the Holy Roman Empire?" he questioned and she pursed her lips, raising her chin. "And tell me what I will get out of this alliance, supposing I agree with you?"

Xena smiled, "you can have Constantinople if you succeed and I will take Nicaea."

He nodded, "and how will you get Valentinian's army to side with you?" he curiously asked.

She chuckled, "I am the General of his army," she saw his eyes widen and he definitely wasn't expecting to hear that. "So do we have a deal or not?"

The Shah frowned and tapped his fingers on his knee, not sure if this was a good idea or not. "If I ally with you, you will get Nicaea and I will get Constantinople. How can I be sure that you won't betray me like you did to Attila?"

She stepped forward and his guards blocked her way with javelins and she sighed. "You get what you want and I do too. I have no reason to betray you and for the record...I didn't betray Attila, I betrayed Flavius Aetius. Now that I am his superior, I can assure you...he will not get in the way."

He chuckled, "and what exactly makes you so special? You were Attila's best military commander and the Huns rival the Persians in their acts of violence and torture. How can I be sure I can trust you to fulfill your end of the deal?"

Xena looked to the Persian officer, Romi, then back to the king. "I will attack Nicaea first. Theodosius will be so distracted by me, giving you the opportunity to attack Constantinople when his guard is down the most," she smirked and the Shah frowned, being outsmarted once was enough, he didn't need it again, especially from her.

"Fine, we will see what you can offer my kingdom. I will wait for your attack," he smiled and she nodded, pleased to hear that.

The guards began showing Xena and Gabrielle out of the room and Xena turned around. "Oh but one more thing," she grinned and the Shah looked at her warily. "I want to take a trip to the silk road in the mountains." Gabrielle eyed her curiously and was very confused. This entire trip had nothing to do with the silk road and now suddenly she wants to go there?

Yazdgard frowned, "and why would you want to do that?"

She shrugged, "I made a promise to Valentinian that I would search the silk road for black market deals..." she smiled eerily and the Shah lifted a dark eyebrow, unsure of her request. He nodded and waved his hand, dismissing her for the day.

Gabrielle clung to Xena as they exited the throne chamber, "we're going to the silk road?" she asked, bemused at this plan.

Xena looked outside the palace walls as her men waited for her on their horses. "Ammunition Gabrielle, ammunition."

Gabrielle gasped, "you're going to illegally take weapons from the silk road? Xena..." she hissed and grabbed her arm, "this is not China, we are in Persia," she whispered. Xena yanked her arm away, grimacing at her blonde counterpart.

"The Shah is our ally now and China will be by proxy," she smirked and hastily left the palace to mount her horse. Gabrielle huffed and ran after her.

Mounting her horse she extended her hand to the blonde poet, "do you trust me?"

Gabrielle grabbed her hand and swung her leg over the horse, wrapping her arms around Xena's waist. "No," she grumbled.

After school Anastasia sat outside in the courtyard studying her presentation she had to give in front of the class tomorrow. Larissa and Julie sat beside her talking non-stop and Anastasia tried not to let their gossip distract her, but it was extremely difficult. She rolled her eyes and scooted on the bench away from the two talkative girls and started eating some marzipan that Xander gave her.

Larissa leaned in closer to her friend, "did you hear what happened in Rome yesterday?" she whispered and Julie shook her head. "The King of the Huns barricaded the entire city!"

Julie gasped, "there are Huns in Rome?"

Anastasia's eyes widened and she turned to the girls, "Attila is in Rome?" she asked and the two girls gave her a strange look.

Larissa smirked, "that's what I've heard," she folded her arms, raising an eyebrow at the dark haired friend of hers. "Doesn't your mother work in Rome? Maybe she can push the barbarian king out?" she smiled.

Anastasia frowned and closed her binder, stuffing everything in her bag. "He's not a barbarian," she stated and Larissa blinked her light eyes, surprised at the anger in her voice.

Julie laughed, "Do you even know anything about those savage people? They've murdered so many people!"

Larissa nodded, "yeah and now that they're in Rome, they might even pillage Greece next."

Anastasia rolled her eyes and slung her bag over her shoulder, leaving the courtyard in a hurry. Julie frowned and stood, "Anastasia! Where are you going?!" she called out but she was already far too gone, heading down the road back to her home. She turned back to Larissa, "what's her problem?" Larissa shrugged her shoulder as response and continued talking about Attila and his men in Rome.

A few minutes later she arrived home and slammed the door behind her, storming into the house. "Xander!" she yelled and threw her bag on the table in the kitchen. Walking around she searched the area and didn't find her uncle anywhere. "Xander?" she said barely above a whisper.

Walking through the villa she came to the atrium and saw Roman soldiers looking through all their belongings, throwing chairs around and lifting up tables. Her eyes widened and she saw Xander standing off watching them destroy the place. "What are you doing?!" she yelled and the Roman soldiers frowned seeing her.

They grabbed her arm and began searching her body. Clenching her teeth she kicked them both in the shin and ran to the other side of the room to stand beside Xander. "Why are they here?" she clutched onto his arm.

Xander wrapped his arm around her, bringing her close. "They're looking for evidence," he whispered.

One Roman walked over to Anastasia and towered over her. "You better watch yourself next time, girl," he threatened and she grimaced as her lip quivered, glaring up at the tall soldier.

"Sir," another soldier called for his superior and held a box in his hands. Ana's eyes widened, now feeling incredibly nervous. The superior officer walked over and lifted the lid of the box and saw hundreds, if not thousands, Roman pounds.

The officer lifted an eyebrow and turned to Xander, "where did you come by all of his money?"

Xander lost his voice and wasn't sure how to come up with a lie so quickly so Anastasia butted in, "it is my...inheritance," she said and her uncle sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose.

The Roman chuckled and picked up some of the coin in his hands, "inheritance?" he said and the teen nodded her head. "Are you some kind of princess, girl? Not even the wealthiest Greek citizens have this much coin."

" is very wealthy," she lied again and Xander folded his arms, watching this teenager lie through her teeth and she wasn't very convincing either, not like Xena, which was probably a good thing.

"Uh huh, and exactly...where is your family from, girl?" he pulled out his sword, holding it dangerously close to her neck. Her eyes widened and then grabbed his wrist and jabbed her palm into his elbow, breaking his arm and he groaned in agony, dropping his sword.

She ran out of the room and the other two Roman soldiers began chasing after her. Xander gasped and followed them, grabbing a sword off the wall.

Anastasia ran into the street and panicked seeing the Romans following not far behind her. She ran through the street vendors, heading east in the city. She thought that she should at least improve on her lies to stay alive here and she had no idea why those Romans were in her home anyway, but it couldn't be good that's for sure.

Larissa and Julie were walking home and saw Anastasia sprinting right towards them. "What in the world..." Larissa whispered and Anastasia ran right by them and the two girls saw Roman soldiers running behind her.

Julie gasped, "God, what did she do?"

Larissa smirked, "obviously something not very good if she's running from Roman soldiers. I always knew there was something strange about her."

Anastasia came to the square and now four other Romans were surrounding her. She had eyes all on her and many of the vendors and merchants were curious, yet did not dare get in the way. Breathing heavily she saw the Roman officer step forward, twirling his sore wrist. "Now, little girl," he smiled, "you are about to become a prisoner of the Roman council if you do not tell me where that money came from."

"I told you where it came from," she glanced around and saw a sword sitting on a blacksmith's table, all by itself. She couldn't grab it but she needed some kind of distraction.

He laughed, "are you spying for Attila the Hun?" he asked and she scoffed.

"No! I didn't even know he was in Rome!" that for once was not a lie.

"Then tell me or I will arrest you!" he growled.

Xander ran in the circle and the other soldiers pointed their swords at his throat once they saw he was armed. "If you harm her, horrible things will happen to you. I swear to you..." he hissed.

The officer raised an eyebrow, "is that so?"

"Her mother will find you and she will kill you," he said and Ana shook her head, thinking what he said could ruin everything that Xena had planned for her.

"Her mother? Don't make me laugh," the officer sighed, "take her."

Xander saw the Romans circling Anastasia, getting ready to grab her and he panicked, "Xena!" he yelled out and the officer slowly turned around, "the General of your army," he exhaled sharply, "she will kill you."

The officer held up his hand and his men halted. "This girl is Xena's daughter?" he asked and Xander nodded fearful of the blades inching closer to his throat. Turning around he looked into the girl's big blue eyes and frowned. "Do not touch her," he ordered his men. He approached the teenager as his men backed away from her. Anastasia frowned, folding her arms. "You should not be here in Thebes. You are not safe here."

"I was fine until you came along," she protested and he smirked, not in the mood to deal with her attitude.

"You should be in Athens where it is heavily guarded," he snapped his fingers and two men grabbed her arms gently pulling her along.

"What!" she gasped, "no! I don't want to go to Athens! Xander!" she called out as she was being pulled along to a nearby caravan.

The officer walked over to Xander, releasing his men, he adjusted his gauntlets. "I have orders from Valentinian to search every home in Greece for Hun spies. Xena's daughter should be in Athens. These are my orders, you understand don't you?" he smiled.

Xander pushed a Roman off of him and folded his arms, "and what will you tell Xena? You cannot go against your superior."

He nodded, "indeed but the emperor is above Xena. Her daughter will be taken to Athens."

"I can come with her, can't I? I swore to Xena that I would protect her daughter," Xander alleged.

The officer scoffed, "I don't care what you do," he walked off with his men ready to continue searching the area.

Emperor Valentinian traveled to the other side of Rome to the holiest place there could be in the entire world –the Papal States. He was called upon by Pope Leo I by reasons unknown to him. Placida chose to stay in the palace while her son made his impromptu visit with the Pope. He had never met the Pope before but he knew that his word definitely trumped his word and he was the true backbone to this empire, though he did not engage in warfare, his words and guidance were taken into consideration.

He thought that it must be pretty important for him to be called upon. He had just received word that Attila had Rome surrounded and gathered that's probably why Pope Leo requested his presence. Going through the city was dangerous enough considering the Huns surrounded every inch of land with hundreds of men and Xena wasn't here, which Valentinian wasn't starting to reconsider his decision to send her to the silk road and Aetius was in Constantinople. He had nobody here to protect the city and perhaps his mother was right –he was indeed a foolish ruler whom often made bad choices and decisions.

He walked inside of the large cathedral and saw the Pope sitting in his not so lavish chair. He was beginning to think that his throne was far too expensive and gaudy compared to the vicar of Christ on earth. The doors were now closed behind him and there were several cardinals standing on either side of him, lined up accordingly. Smiling softly, he walked up to the Pope and knelt down on one knee, kissing his shoe and ring on his finger.

Pope Leo raised an eyebrow and pat the emperor's shoulder. "You are unaware of my request to bring you here," he stated.

Valentinian stood and nervously stared down at the Pope, who was actually quite young considering most popes were older, much older and some didn't even rule three days and died shortly after the coronation process. "Is it about Attila, your holiness?" he supposed.

Pope Leo nodded his head, "yes it is. He has the entire city surrounded, waiting for the perfect opportunity to attack. Where is your general?" he asked.

The emperor anxiously grinned, feeling sweat begin to form on his palms the longer he stood silent. "She is scouting the silk road for black market trades, holiness..." he cleared his throat, lowering his eyes, feeling ashamed of himself and very embarrassed.

The pope frowned and waved his hand, dismissing his cardinals. He stood from his chair, adjusting his white robes. "Your General is a Hun, is she not?" the emperor nodded. "And she is not here but instead, she is in the east. You are aware that there are no black market trades in the silk road?"

Valentinian's jaw dropped and saw the smug look on the pope's face. "Holiness, she requested to go there, insisting that there were illegal arms deals being smuggled into the empire from Persia and China."

Pope Leo chuckled and walked past the young emperor. "Your General either has a sixth sense or she is playing you for a fool and plotting something devious." He turned and laced his fingers together, "I would like to speak with Attila to perhaps persuade him to keep his nose out of Rome."

The emperor smirked, "Attila will not meet with you, your holiness. He is not the one to negotiate."

"But his ex-commander did all the negotiating for him, is that correct?" he said and Valentinian shut his mouth quickly. "I am sure he is capable of talking with me. He is God's child," he smiled. Little did the pope know that Attila was once called the Scourge of God and that was not something to be taken lightly considering all of his pillages and raids over the last decade with Xena by his side. Now that she was gone, his raids had grown few, but suddenly he has the bright idea of invading Rome with no help other than his own men. Not even Theodosius could back his little plan up because he was unaware. Valentinian knew that the pope was going to come to regret this meeting between the Hun King and he really wished that Xena was here and was now reconsidering making her his general of the entire Roman army.

Attila awaited outside the city of Rome with his men patiently. They had been here for a few days now and the Roman army guarded the palace and outskirts of the holy city. Attila was waiting for the right time to attack, when they least expected it of course.

He walked through their camp near a large forest and then he saw in the distance a group of horsemen riding towards them. Frowning, he then saw a woman and his eyes widened once he realized it was no woman –it was his wife.

Kreka narrowed her eyes and pulled on the reins of the horse, skidding to a stop nearly knocking over her husband. "Attila!" she circled him on her horse and his eyes followed her. "What in God's name are you doing in Rome?!"

He grimaced, "the real question is, what are you doing in Rome, Kreka?" he grabbed her horse's reins and the animal backed away and she growled, not able to control her own horse.

"You are making a huge mistake, Attila!" she snarled and he let go of the horse's reins.

"Is that right?" he chuckled, "and why's that?" he folded his arms defiantly. She hopped off her horse and slapped him. He gasped and touched his stinging cheek.

She placed her hands on her hips, "you fool!" she growled and all eyes were on them now as they were creating a large scene. "Xena was in Ashina recently. She has allied with my brother's tribe and now she is allying with the Persians too!"

"Persians?!" he yelled, now his blood boiling once he heard that. He hated Yazdgard and his entire empire, but now Xena has not betrayed him before, letting go of the Roman situation –he now felt Xena had truly betrayed him going after the enemy to befriend them. "Why would she do something idiotic like that?"

She huffed, "she is planning to take down the Roman empire. She sent me here to tell you to ally with her, but if you attack Rome, you will ruin everything, Attila!"

His eyes widened, "excuse me? She wants to take down the entire empire?" he laughed, "she is truly insane. Why would I want to ally with her? She is technically my enemy now because she is allying with the Persians and she is a traitor to Rome."

Kreka frowned, realizing this wasn't working. She grabbed his arm and lead them away from prying eyes. She pushed him against the tree and he blinked rapidly, not quite used to her acting this way before in the thirteen years of marriage together. "Xena was your best commander and warrior combined with all of your men. If you think she cannot take down an entire empire then you are mistaken. She has already claimed her position in Rome and gained Troy back. She will probably take Antioch next, maybe Constantinople too if she is ambitious: and she is, you know it. You would be foolish not to ally with her, Attila. You've always wanted Rome, why not join with her and work together like you used to?"

Attila quirked his mouth, "don't you hate her?" he just recalled all of those years of hatred for Xena and now suddenly she is defending the barbarian queen as many have called her in the past.

She sighed heavily, "I don't hate Xena, but I don't like her either," she stepped closer, grabbing his hand. "You are making a mistake. If you attack Rome then you will not only ruin everything, you will make Xena your enemy and somehow I don't think you want to do that. You know how she is," she smiled.

Isaac ran forward interrupting their conversation. "Your highness," he began in baited breath. Kreka stepped away from Attila, shying away from the young soldier. "A message from Pope Leo I. He wants to meet with you."

Kreka turned around and she shared a nervous stare with Attila. He then addressed the Hun soldier, nodding his head, agreeing to meet with his holiness, now thinking about what his wife said, he might be making a mistake and why would the pope want a meeting with him anyway? It was hard enough to see him in person, let alone have private meetings.

Xena and Gabrielle arrived at the silk road in the Persian mountains, very close to the eastern Roman empire's borders. Her men from Troy trotted behind the two women, surveying the area, making sure nobody tried to do anything stupid like attack Xena, which was a death wish on its own.

Gabrielle walked beside Xena and spotted a man with a huge caravan filled with baskets and heavy bags. He was traveling along the dirt road with two strong horses and she frowned, seeing Xena eying the caravan. "He's from China..." she whispered.

Xena smiled wickedly, "indeed he is," she was bumped into by a man carrying a basket of silks over his head and she snarled. She moved her boot in front of the man and he tripped over, dropping all the colorful silk fabric on the ground. He turned around and she laughed.

Gabrielle frowned, "that is not nice, Xena," she folded her arms.

"He should watch where he is going," the warrior shrugged a shoulder and walked through the large crowd of people passing in all different directions. "I want that caravan. He is probably carrying weapon supplies to Constantinople." She unsheathed her sword and Gabrielle's eyes widened as she saw the sword clung to Xena's leg, moving through the sea of people and her blade going completely unnoticed.

As she tried to follow her, she was slowly losing her in the crowd. "Xena!" she whispered harshly and pushed through, trying to find her way. She then tripped over someone's foot and fell face first in the dirt. Groaning she lifted her head and saw Xena's black boots in the crowd, sauntering, or more like slithering, closer to the caravan. As she focused in on her boots she blocked out all of the sounds and bustling around her and could only hear the chains on Xena's boots jingling with every gracious step she took.

Xena went up to the back of the caravan and hopped aboard. Smiling, she crawled over the baskets and heavy bags and wrapped her arm around the Asian man's shoulder and covered his mouth. Holding the blade close to his neck she whispered in his ear, "you will keep driving and stop at that large oak tree ahead, understand?" she pressed the blade against his skin and he nodded vigorously.

Her men gathered up around the caravan and Xena hopped off, grabbing the man by his tunic and threw him down on the ground. Gabrielle finally caught up to them and saw her men searching through the baskets and slicing open bags. "What the Hell are you doing?!" she exclaimed.

The driver began crawling away and Xena stomped her boot on top of his spine, preventing him from escaping. She pointed the blade to the back of his neck. "If you want to keep your head, I suggest you stay down," she smirked. She turned to the blonde, "I'm searching for weapons, don't you remember?"

"Xena, let him go, he is just a delivery man, he probably doesn't even know what he is transporting."

Xena frowned, "all the more reason to kill him so he doesn't talk." She turned to her men, "did you find anything?"

One of the man plopped one of the heavy bags on the ground and dug his gloved hand inside and found some kind of dark sand. "He is transporting sand?" he scoffed.

Xena raised an eyebrow and pushed her sword into Gabrielle's chest, "don't let him get away," she said and walked over to the bag. Gabrielle grabbed Xena's sword and immediately felt the weight of it in her wrists. She could barely hold it with two hands. How does she wield two of these things? Lifting it up she sighed, staring at the man on the ground, whimpering, mumbling to himself in his native language.

The General scooped up the dark substance in her palm and rubbed her fingers together, feeling the coarseness of it. A smile came to her lips and she lifted her head looking into the confused eyes of her soldier. "This is black powder..." she waved her hand, "take the entire caravan. We will bring it back to Ashina on our way back to Rome," she ordered.

Sighing, she placed her hands on her hips as she saw Gabrielle struggling to hold her sword to the man's neck. She laughed softly and came up behind the petite blonde, grabbing onto her hands. Gabrielle's eyes widened and her body tensed the closer she got. "You're holding it wrong," she said and guided Gabrielle's hand along the hilt of the sword and gripped tightly over her hand. "Like this," she lifted the sword higher and extended Gabrielle's arms until they were taut and straight.

Gabrielle smiled softly, "how do you use two swords at once? This one is so heavy!"

Xena raised an eyebrow and stepped away from her, "practice. You will learn," she sighed and wagged her fingers towards herself, "give it to me now. Your wound isn't even healed yet." Gabrielle quirked her mouth and handed over the blade. Xena grabbed the Asian man by his arm and thrust him against the trunk of the large oak tree. "Where did you come from?" she hissed and pressed her sword against his throat.

"C-China!" he closed his eyes, fearful of his life.

"Where were you traveling to?" Xena frowned and saw he was not answering, she pressed the blade against his skin and he whimpered.

" Constantinople!" he breathed heavily. "Please don't kill me!" he pleaded. She hummed and then pulled her sword away and he sighed, quite relieved. She then clocked him in the jaw and he fell to the ground, slumping against the tree.

Gabrielle's mouth gaped, "Xena!" she couldn't believe she just did that, after all, the man was innocent. Xena began walking away as her men towed the caravan to their horses and were already heading back down the road. Gabrielle knelt down by the man and frowned sadly.

She ran towards Xena and grabbed her shoulder firmly, "what did you do that for?!"

Xena smiled, "I didn't kill him, did I? He will wake up in a couple of hours."

She does have a point, she didn't kill the man, but she might have if I wasn't standing right there. "What is in those bags anyway?" she asked curiously, trailing beside her.

"The key to victory," Xena gave an eerie grin and Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, not exactly sure what that meant and she wasn't sure she was willing to find out.

Chapter Text

AN: and so the war begins ;)

Chapter 23 –Silks and Swords Part II

Xena and Gabrielle returned to Rome after dropping off the caravan of black powder in Ashina. Upon returning to Rome Xena found a group of Roman elite soldiers hovering outside of her large villa. Approaching on her horse she frowned and waved her hand for her men to stop behind her.

"What is the meaning of this?" she asked, quite curious as to why a bunch of Valentinian's men were around her home.

Romulus stepped forward, adjusting the buckles on his gauntlets, grinning up at the general, "Valentinian has summoned you to his palace."

Xena lifted an eyebrow, "did he say why?" the soldier shook his head and mounted his horse then rode off with the rest of the group back to the emperor's palace.

Gabrielle frowned watching the soldiers nonchalantly pass them by. "What do you think he wants?"

"I don't know, but we should get going. Wouldn't want to keep his highness waiting," she mocked in a tight lipped smile then turned her horse around, heading back down the road from which they came.

Valentinian was pacing around the room and finally saw the doors open and Xena briskly walked in with Gabrielle beside her. He frowned, folding his arms and spoke in a harsh tone, "were you aware that your little trip to the silk road nearly cost the entire city?!"

Xena frowned and her eyes glanced over towards the courtyard outside. Her eyes widened and saw Attila talking with Kreka alone and they appeared to be fighting. "What are you talking about?" her heart raced, now furious to see Attila here and why on earth was he here anyway?

The emperor chuckled and walked over to his general and wiped his finger along her black coat. "Attila and his army tried to attack Rome while you were gone. You and Aetius left Rome unguarded. Pope Leo I convinced Attila to back off. The Hun King insisted he was not going to leave until you returned."

Xena took in a deep breath and folded her arms, "oh, is that right?" she smirked. "And why exactly would Attila want to attack Rome?" she asked, quite unsure why he would do that as well.

"I don't know, you tell me," he protested and saw her eyes widen with fury and her pupils enlarge at his accusation. He laughed, "it is no secret that you and Attila are close, Xena. Perhaps you may have tricked me and traveled to Aquincicum to arrange this little plan between you two!"

Xena was about to throw a fit of rage until Gabrielle spoke before her, "we went to the silk road in China to search for illegal trading of weapons," she said and Xena snapped her head around and glared at her. The emperor frowned, and kept staring at her. "We found a man transporting...weapons to Constantinople. We –Xena, was able to dispose of the weapons and arrest the man before we returned to Rome."

The emperor eyed Xena, "is this true?" he asked.

The general's mouth gaped and Gabrielle smiled softly, taking a step back. "Yes..." she managed to say. "Theodosius is most likely working with the Chinese emperor to illegally transport weapons for his army."

Valentinian nodded and then the doors opened once more. Aetius walked in, out of breath and Xena turned around and a devious smile crossed her lips. The commander bowed his head to the emperor and then stood beside Xena, giving her a curt nod. "Aetius, I trust your trip went will in Constantinople?"

The blonde commander nodded, "yes, your majesty. Theodosius offered me a position in his army," he said and felt Xena's eyes on him and saw her snicker out of the corner of his eye. He sighed and saw the surprised look on the emperor's face. "But I declined," he announced.

Xena's smile disappeared and she turned to him, cocking her head. "It must have been...difficult for you to turn that opportunity down," she slyly said and Aetius frowned, slowly turning his head to face her. "Theodosius will do anything to get to the top," she grinned.

Valentinian sighed heavily and his general and commander turned their attention back to him. "We need to stop him. He believes that he can turn my own officers against me," he growled and swiped his hand across the table and knocked off all the vases, parchment and wine glasses to the ground. "I need to stop him, convince him to give me his share of the empire."

Xena smiled, "perhaps I can come up with a plan with Aetius to stop the tyrannical emperor," she offered and Valentinian nodded, dismissing them both. She turned around and frowned heavily, exiting the room with Aetius behind her.

Gabrielle trailed behind Xena and Aetius skipped ahead, grabbing Xena's arm. "I am on to you, Xena," he hissed. "Magnus returned to Constantinople with no men, bruised and nearly dead," she snatched her arm away from him and he smiled widely. "And he said that he was attacked by Persians," he chuckled, "now, what were you doing with Persians, Xena?"

Xena narrowed her eyes, "nothing that concerns you," she walked off and Gabrielle followed behind her. Aetius smiled as he watched her walk away, furious and caught in the act of course. He decided to keep this little secret to himself until he could use it against his superior.

Gabrielle ran ahead and they came outside of the palace in a courtyard. "Xena, wait!" she called out and Xena finally stopped. "I told you that allying with the Persians was a bad idea."

The general nodded, "I should have killed Magnus when I had the chance," she cursed to herself. Turning around with a face of disgust, "and what exactly, were you doing back there, Gabrielle?" she chastised her scribe and the blonde lowered her eyes. "You lied to the emperor, you lied for me. Why would you do that?"

"Because he was going to suspect something! You can't exactly tell him that you stole black powder from the silk road, Xena," she folded her arms.

Xena shook her head, smiling mockingly. "A poet and a liar," she sighed and Gabrielle scoffed.

"Excuse me? Who's the liar? You stole illegal weapons and explosives! I tried to help you and you're angry at me for it?! What kind of a person are you?" Gabrielle frowned and Xena lifted an eyebrow, glaring down at her.

"A very different person from you, Gabrielle," she brushed past her, "I'm going to invite Attila back to the villa."

Attila and Kreka sat inside Xena's villa and Gabrielle sat opposite Xena, slinking down in her seat, refusing to say anything. Attila leaned forward in the chair, "Kreka told me what you plan to do, Xena." He sighed, "you shouldn't have allied with Yazdgard. He is a viper, he will betray you."

Xena smirked, "you have little faith in me, Attila. Haven't you trusted me in the past?"

The Hun king rolled his eyes, "yes of course, but this is different. Persians aren't like us, Xena. They are vicious and Yazdgard will try and take over my empire, he has tried to do it before and failed. He will do it again and you've let the gate open for him to come waltzing in."

Xena tapped her fingers on her knee impatiently, "Attila, why did you ally with Theodosius?" she asked and he remained quiet. "You were allies with Valentinian for thirteen years and what suddenly changed?" she smiled deliciously and laughed aloud, startling the Hun king. "It was because of me, wasn't it?" sighing, she readjusted herself in her seat. "I kill a few Romans and they go crazy and try to capture me then they try to kill me and...where were you?" she narrowed her eyes, "oh that's right, you allied with the empire's counterpart to keep you safe."

Attila's temper was rising and he folded his arms, "what are you saying, Xena?"

"You are a coward, Attila," she hissed, "you don't need Romans by your side to rule your empire. You should have listened to me when Aetius first came to us all those years ago! You didn't need them then and you don't need them now!"

He stood up abruptly and she stood up as well, both staring into each other's eyes. Kreka looked back and forth between the two and Gabrielle blinked, feeling the tension in the room rising by the second. "My uncle was king at the time, I had no choice," his tone harsh.

She raised an eyebrow and took a step closer, inches from his face. "We could have defeated the Visigoths if we didn't have Aetius by our side. We lost because of him."

He scoffed, "we won that war, Xena. You were there!"

"We lost hundreds of men because of his poor war tactics! You won a war with the loss of many men, men that shouldn't have died at all –all because of your alliance with the Romans," she whispered and he sighed, looking away from her icy eyes. "And it will happen again. You will lose men fighting against me while you still continue to ally with the Romans. I'd think about your decision wisely, Attila," she stormed off and Kreka sighed heavily, rubbing her forehead.

Attila plopped down in his chair and his wife touched his hand softly. "She is right. You are letting Roman politics interfere with your mind."

He glared at her and pulled his arm from her hold, "you side with her?" he shook his head and left the room. His wife groaned and got up to quickly follow him. Meanwhile, Gabrielle was now alone in the room and saw Kreka running after her husband, trying to talk to him and Xena was probably in her room either sulking or smashing things into pieces.

Gabrielle left the room in search of Xena and checked her bedroom first but she wasn't there. Even her sword wasn't with her. She saw it laying on the bed and her black coat was on the bed as well. Frowning, she left and descended down the long hallway, searching through all of the empty rooms.

As she passed by the prayer room inside of the villa she saw Xena in the room standing by herself in front of a large crucifix. Gabrielle entered the candlelit room and felt confused as to why Xena would come here in the first place. She walked over and stood beside her, glancing up at the crucifix lit by several candles around it and the window shedding a small amount of light onto the floor.

"You don't seem like the religious type," Gabrielle managed to say and Xena continued staring up at Christ crucified on the wooden large cross.

"People don't die in vain –they all die for a reason and if it's useless, then they are forever shamed, destined to hellfire after their death," Xena spoke and Gabrielle lowered her head. "The Holy Roman Empire would be considered sacrilegious in his eyes, wouldn't you say so?" she spoke of Christ and Gabrielle was stumped.

"I guess so," the blonde answered softly, not feeling where Xena was getting at here.

Xena smirked, shaking her head, "Rome is a joke. They preach peace, but they are not tolerant of other religions. Everything they do is in the name of 'God' and they use that as an excuse to wage war against other nations."

Gabrielle nodded slowly, "and you believe that is wrong?" she pressed. Xena shook her head and turned around to face her. Gabrielle widened her eyes as she stepped closer and closer.

"People call me a savage and barbarian," Xena smiled, "some believe I am crazy and that I am tyrannical and...maybe they're right."

"Well, you are kind of crazy sometimes," Gabrielle grinned weakly, "but..." she began quietly, "you recognize that the Roman empire is intolerant, so that's a step in the right direction."

Xena frowned, "what are you talking about?"

Gabrielle fumbled and stuttered, "that want peace in the end...?" she now saw the smile on Xena's face and knew that she was wrong, so terribly wrong.

"Peace? You believe I want peace, Gabrielle?" she laughed, "I want the entire Roman race wiped out!" she growled and left the small prayer room. The blonde held in her breath and thought that Xena was slowly changing, but it appeared that was not the case at all.

Gabrielle ran after her down the hallway, "you want to slaughter everyone in your path to get what you want?!" she yelled.

Xena smiled, folding her arms, halting in her step. "I will have every head of a Roman on stakes by the time I'm finished with them, with or without Attila's help."

I thought I was just getting through to you, Xena. "Wait just a minute!" Gabrielle ran forward and grabbed Xena's wrist, pulling her back. "You said yourself you have lost many people and some were close to you. Why would you want to do that to others? Have you no compassion?"

Xena growled and threw Gabrielle against the wall, pressing her weight against her. Smiling deviously, "another vocabulary lesson, huh?" she whispered and felt Gabrielle's heart racing against her chest. "Your heart is racing..." she hissed. "Why should I be concerned for someone's suffering and misfortunes? War is not about compassion –those words will never go together –they're opposite in meaning..." she hummed and Gabrielle huffed. "Just"

"You can't stop war from happening, but peace is all what people want. You can't have war without peace," Gabrielle said and pushed Xena away from her and the Hun woman's eyes widened, though she didn't retaliate. "What will you do when you have conquered all of Rome? Will you keep killing until no one is left? What about your daughter? She is a sweet smart girl and nothing like you and I hope she doesn't turn out like you," she brushed past Xena walking down the hall by herself.

Xena turned around and frowned watching Gabrielle leave. Groaning she stormed outside to find Attila and Kreka to find out if he wanted to agree to ally with her or not.

Kreka stood outside with Attila and watched him pace around like a worried child. "Attila, you will have to give Xena your decision."

He ran his hands through his long dark hair, "if she is allying with the Persians, then I want to speak to them myself!"

"You are considering speaking with the Shah?" Kreka frowned, folding her arms, thinking that might ruin everything. "Xena knows what she is doing."

He turned and grabbed her shoulders firmly, "I don't recall crowning Xena as queen of my empire! She is playing with fire!"

Xena interrupted, "who's playing with fire?" she folded her arms and Attila stepped away from his wife. She smiled and walked down the staircase, approaching the Hun king. "Are you going to be my ally or my enemy?"

Attila pinched the bridge of his nose, "I want to meet with the Shah and discuss this alliance you have made. If I'm going to ally with you, I need to know what I'm getting myself into..."

She grinned widely, "of course, but I want one thing from you..." she stepped forward and Kreka eyed them carefully. "I want you to reinstate me as your commander again."

His eyes enlarged and his mouth gaped, "excuse me?"

"You heard me, reinstate me as your commander in chief unless...someone has already filled the position," she laughed under her breath and the king shook his head and walked away from her, thinking silently to himself.

Stopping, he looked at the ludus a couple of blocks away from this large villa and raised an eyebrow. "And you will still be the Roman General?" he asked, his back turned to her.

Xena nodded, "for the time being," she answered and he turned around giving her a nod. She smiled, thanking him with a curt nod back. "Oh and one more thing..."

"Xena!" he growled.

She held up her hand, "I want your wife to be your second in command alongside me." She proposed and Kreka turned to her with wide, shocked eyes.

Gabrielle grabbed one of the horses from the stables outside in the back of the villa. She slung over a blanket on the back of the horse and strapped her bags to the animal. Xena came outside and saw Gabrielle looking to leave and her heart stopped for a moment. She ran forward, "where are you going?" she asked.

Gabrielle frowned, refusing to look at her, "I'm going back to Athens where I belong."

Xena shook her head and grabbed the scribe's hand, "you can't leave!"

She resisted Xena's grip and struggled to get free, "let go of me! I can leave, I'm not your slave anymore, remember?"

" can't leave," Xena protested with a soft voice.

"Why not? I don't belong here and we are too different from each other!" she wagged her head and climbed up on the horse, wincing at her shoulder's wound that was still fresh and bothered her a lot even after a week of healing.

Xena grabbed the reins and looked up at Gabrielle with wide solemn eyes. "You can't leave because..." she sighed and Gabrielle stared down at her, waiting for her answer, "because I need you."

Gabrielle laughed, "you were doing fine without me before I came along, Xena." She yanked on the reins and was ready to leave.

Xena breathed heavily and she stood in front of the horse, blocking her way. "Gabrielle, please!" she begged and the blonde's smile disappeared as soon as she saw the sincerity in her eyes. "I like you and I like...having you around."

"Give me one good reason to stay," the blonde let go of the reins and folded her arms, glaring at the warrior woman below her.

The Hun woman sighed, lowering her eyes, unsure how to answer that. Gabrielle rolled her eyes and grabbed the reins and slowly turned around. Xena lifted her head, gasping, she ran in front of her path preventing her from leaving. "It's been a long time," she said and saw her opponent's face contort in confusion. "...since...I've liked being around anyone as much as I do when I'm with you," she breathed in heavily, holding her breath. "You make me feel different, think different..." she sighed, "but I can't stop you from leaving," she stepped back, "you're free to go," she frowned and stormed off heading towards the villa.

Gabrielle raised an eyebrow, watching Xena walk away from her. I'm going to regret this later probably. She exhaled sharply then hopped off the horse, running towards Xena, then halted, breathing heavily. "That is the first time I've seen you so vulnerable," she called out and Xena stopped walking then slowly turned around, facing her once again. "Vulnerability isn't a weakness, you know," she smiled.

Xena smirked, "I thought my heart was black," she teased.

"Look, I only wrote that because you were being so awful and cruel towards me. Just forget I even wrote that," Gabrielle sighed and Xena's smile disappeared. She took that chance to walk up to her and grab her hand, "you have a big heart Xena, I just'd show it more," her cheeks reddened.

The brunette squeezed Gabrielle's hand, "on the battlefield I can't have a heart, otherwise I'd lose every war I fight in."

Gabrielle nodded, "sometimes by losing a battle, you find a new way to win the war."

Xena gave her a questionable look, "and by what way is that?" she tested her.

"War can't kill love. Love can kill a war," Gabrielle smiled and Xena raised an eyebrow, distorting her face, which only made her laugh seeing the confusion and bemusement settle in the warrior's face.

"Are you sure you aren't a priest?" Xena joked and the blonde rolled her eyes. She grabbed both of her hands firmly and stared into the green eyes opposite her. "Gabrielle...I'm...sorry for what I said to you...earlier," her cheeks paled and Gabrielle smiled.

The blonde nodded, "me too, but you're still crazy," she chuckled and Xena sighed. "I want to help you in this war with Attila, but I want there to be peace in the end, will you at least consider it?" she offered and saw Xena's eyes darken. Okay, too far Gabrielle.

"I'll...consider it," Xena finally said as much as it pained her to say that, she grabbed Gabrielle's arm, pulling her inside. "Why did you want to leave anyway?"

Gabrielle shrugged a shoulder, "because you don't respect me still, Xena," she saw the warrior's head hang in shame. Very interesting, she thought. "But I know that you are working on it."

Xena frowned, "respect," she repeated, "respect is supposed to be earned, right?" she asked and Gabrielle nodded quietly. "And to earn respect, someone must show it," she stated then halted and Gabrielle nearly bumped into her. "How do I earn your respect?" she asked innocently.

Gabrielle's eyes widened, ", for one, you could stop treating me like you're an interrogator. I'm here to help you, to be...your friend. Friends don't disrespect each other."

Friends, she still wants to be friends. Patience is a virtue. "And people who are...more than friends?"

The blonde snorted softly, brushing a long blonde tendril behind her ear. "They have mutual respect for one another –they care about each other's feelings and thoughts, it's not just being nice to each other all the time."


Gabrielle smiled, "you don't know anything about that do you?" she asked and she received nothing from Xena but a blank stare. "Okay..." she sighed and linked arms with Xena urging her to walk down the hall. "I can't teach you how to respect people, but I there for a friend," she smiled.

"Friends," Xena sighed and Gabrielle hid her shy smile and colored cheeks.

"I'm sure you've had friends in your life once, Xena," she said and a smile came to the warrior's face.

"My brother, Xander, was my friend, my best friend." But I don't want to be just friends with you, Gabrielle. "And Lyceus," she added.

The blonde nodded, "and you trusted them didn't you?" Xena agreed. "So, trust me."

Xena frowned, "but you don't trust me do you?" she regretted to admit that.

Gabrielle chuckled, letting go of her arm, "you need to earn my trust, Xena. Relationships are based on trust and respect –without them, we are nothing." She smiled and turned to walk away. Xena folded her arms and stood dumbfounded and was still processing everything Gabrielle just told her.

The Romans escorted Anastasia and Xander to Athens like they promised. Both stepped out of the caravan and they were in front of a large villa, much larger than the one in Thebes –in fact, it looked more like a miniature palace. Anastasia's eyes widened as she stepped closer to the large white villa. "Wow," she uttered.

The Roman officer trotted beside her on his horse, "you will stay here, it is Honoria's summer home," he hopped off the horse and Xander placed his hand on his niece's shoulder.

"And she won't mind that we are using it?" Xander supposed.

The Roman chuckled, "the empress won't be using it anytime soon," he snapped his fingers and the box of Roman coins was brought to him. He handed it over to Xander, "this belongs with you. I will have a message sent out to Xena that you are here," he nodded and rounded up his men to leave the area.

Anastasia frowned as she watched the Romans leaving, and so quickly. "Why did they bring us here?" she asked, folding her arms.

Xander raised an eyebrow, also quite curious at that as well. "I don't know."

"They were raiding our home, Xander. They thought we were spies for Attila. I didn't see any of the soldiers looking in anyone else's homes..." she hummed to herself and her uncle nodded, grabbing her arm, pulling her close. "They didn't even know who I was and they only stopped when you said who my mother was."

Xander frowned deeply, "let's not worry about that right now," he pulled her along, heading up the stairs leading into the large villa. Despite Attila being in Rome, he had a feeling that someone must have been spying on them the entire time they were in Thebes. Xena told no one that she sent Anastasia to Thebes yet here they were, out of harm's way, supposedly. Those Romans were on a mission to kill. They didn't search any of the other homes, otherwise why were they brought here to Athens? The capital couldn't be any less dangerous than the other Greek cities. Athens was probably even less safe compared to Thebes, considering it was the capital of the nation and one of the largest ports in the eastern empire.

Anastasia entered the large villa and her mouth gaped. She had never been in a nicer place. It was huge and everything looked so expensive. Definitely better than the yurt she lived in for all her life. "Do you think I could go to the Athens Academy for girls?" she asked as her uncle was trailing in behind her.

He sighed, looking around at this place, it reminded him of living in Nicaea. Everything had to be so extravagant. He looked at the statues of ancient Roman gods and goddesses and rolled his eyes. He was tempted to knock them over, but controlled himself. "I don't see why not. You were the best in your class in Thebes."

She nodded, "but Athens is so competitive. Students from all over the world come to study here and I never been to a school before until last year! I'm not smart enough."

Xander shook his head and lifted her chin, staring into her eyes that mirrored his sister's perfectly. "You're very smart and maybe...they might treat you differently if they knew you were Xena's daughter..." he implied and she immediately began wagging her head and pushed him away.

"No! They will say I'm a savage!" she folded her arms angrily. "You didn't hear what those girls said back there, Xander. They always said horrible things about my people. You wouldn't understand, you're not from where I am..." she sighed and he touched her cheek softly.

"They're just words, Anastasia," he smiled softly. "Do you think your mother listens to what people say about her?" the teen shook her head in silence. "And you shouldn't either. You're a strong person, just like your mother," he winked.

She grinned shyly, "could we go to the academy tomorrow?"

"Sure we can," he looked around the large empty home and her eyes lit up.

"I think I'm going to write my mother before those Romans get a chance to. I want her to hear it from me," she trailed down the hallway into the unknown, "I don't trust them."

And you shouldn't, he thought. She disappeared into a room and he frowned, thinking of who could have told the Roman soldiers about them. It was obvious that Xena had no idea about the raid and she probably had no idea Attila was in Rome either considering her last letter said that she would be traveling for awhile.

A week later Gabrielle walked through the halls of the Roman villa in search of Xena. She briskly tread through the villa and found Xena outside by herself in the scorching sun, practicing her swordsman skills. She cleared her throat loudly and Xena halted swinging her sword around.

"I have a letter from Anastasia..." Gabrielle held out the parchment and Xena smiled, running towards her, though Gabrielle didn't really have a good feeling about this letter and took a step backward, ready for anything.

Xena took the letter and frowned, seeing the wax seal on the parchment. "This is from Athens," she ripped open the letter and read over it. "What is this? A joke?" her eyes widened.

"What does it say?" Gabrielle was more than curious.

She crumbled the letter and threw it on the ground, marching inside the villa. Gabrielle gasped and picked up the letter then ran after her. "Those bastards," she threw her sword down and folded her arms, breathing heavily. "They raided their home and took her to Athens!"

Gabrielle blinked, "but...but why? Wait, who did this?" she felt confused.

"Romans! By orders of Valentinian!" Xena growled, "nobody was supposed to know that she was in Thebes," she sighed heavily then calmed herself. "Xander enrolled her into the Artemis Academy in Athens."

Gabrielle's jaw dropped and Xena stared at her anxiously. "Artemis Academy?" she repeated and Xena nodded. "Um..." she fumbled with the crumbled note in her hands.

Xena placed her hands on her hips, "what's the matter? You know the school? Is it good?" she asked and Gabrielle stayed quiet. "Gabrielle!" she yelled.

The blonde smiled nervously, "well, it's a good school, yes..." she began and felt Xena's eyes burning her skin even from afar. "For...warriors in training," she blurted out and Xena's eyes widened with fury.

"I'm going to kill Xander," she picked up her sword and stormed off.

"Xena, wait! Come on, I'm sure it'll be fine..." she ran behind her, trying to catch up, but Xena was walking too quickly. "Only the best of the best can get into that academy!"

Xena halted and Gabrielle nearly ran into her. "Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she hissed. "I sent my daughter to get an education not learn how to kill people."

Gabrielle frowned, "isn't that what you do?"

"That's not the point!" Xena turned and kept walking to her bedroom.

Gabrielle walked into Xena's bedroom and saw her taking off her clothes and she folded her arms, staring at her as she was hurrying to change. "They have regular classes in mathematics, science and literature too. Combat is a minor requirement for the academy," she admitted softly. "Xena, stop!" she yelled and Xena pulled her black tunic over her head and stopped, lowering her head. "You're not going to Athens and you're not going to kill your brother. I think you need to find out why the Romans came to Thebes in the first place..." she tried to talk some sense into her.

Xena let out a large sigh, "alright, fine," she mumbled and grabbed her boots, heading out the door. "But if I don't get answers, someone is going to die."

Gabrielle slapped her forehead and closed her eyes, feeling a headache coming on soon.

Yazdgard sat on his horse outside of the walls of Constantinople in an open field. His officer, Romi, rode in beside him. "How many men?" the Shah asked.

Romi sighed, "two hundred guarding the palace, your highness."

The Shah smiled, "prepare the catapults then," he waved his hand and the front line behind him trotted down the hill towards Theodosius' domain.

"Sir, shouldn't we await for Xena's attack first?" Romi asked, now feeling nervous attacking Constantinople for the second time and the first time they failed miserably. Xena and Attila were far from the holy city and there wouldn't enough time for them to come to their aid if they crashed and burned.

The Persian King sighed heavily, "I grow tired waiting for Xena's attack. I want Constantinople now. It belongs to me. She will have her holy city, Nicaea, just as we agreed." He pulled on the horse's reins and rode up further on the hill. "Attack once you reach the outskirts of the palace," he commanded and Romi shook his head, looking down the hill seeing the soldiers preparing the catapults. And of course, they were attacking at night, which made it very difficult to fight back if the Romans decided to retaliate.

Inside the palace Theodosius sat with his commander, Magnus, in his bedroom discussing Xena and her Persian alliance. The emperor leaned forward, "you say that Xena has befriended the Persian Shah?" he asked.

Magnus nodded, "yes, your grace, I saw it with my own two eyes," he adjusted in his chair, feeling his body aching the more he moved. "You need to kill her. Only an insane person would befriend the Persians!"

Theodosius sighed heavily, "or a very intelligent person," he rubbed his bearded chin. "She is building an empire from the outside. She will do whatever it takes to get rid of me and possibly Rome."

The commander laughed, "she despises Rome! Valentinian would never employ the Persians to get rid of you, your highness. This is all Xena. When I get a hold of her, I'm going to fuck her, then break her legs and crucify her. She will burn like the witch that she is, damning the entire holy empire! Pagan witch –sacrilegious, blasphemous..." he muttered, cursing under his breath, growing angrier by the second the more he thought about Xena being the General of Rome, made him sick.

Suddenly a loud whistling sound was heard from outside and both men frowned, remaining quiet. A loud explosion hit the palace and shook the walls. Statues fell and tapestries fell off the wall. The emperor peered down at their filled glasses and saw the wine swishing side and to side gently. Magnus stood and walked over to the window and saw the west wing of the palace engulfed in flames.

"Jesus Christ!" he yelled and grabbed the emperor, pulling him out of the bedroom. "We need to leave at once!" another explosion hit the palace and they fell to the ground and two large columns holding up the palace, cracked and crumbled, falling in front of them. Theodosius' eyes widened and Magnus lifted him up, running together down a separate hallway.

Yazdgard sat upon his horse watching the Roman palace down the hill burst into flames. Romi stood beside him, watching as well. The Shah laughed aloud, "where is your God now, Romans?!" he mocked.

Romi sighed as he watched the Roman soldiers struggle to escape the burning palace, but the Shah's men were too much for them. They were dying left and right. "Your highness, I believe we should have waited for Xena's attack."

The young Shah growled, "she was taking far too long, Romi! You dare question me?" he threatened and his officer said nothing in return. "This will give her the incentive to act quickly," he chuckled maniacally. "I long to see Attila and her work together again. It will be a treat," he smiled and trotted off. "I'm heading back to my tent. Wake me when it is over."

Chapter Text

Chapter 24 –Valor

Flavius Aetius barged into the emperor's bedroom, pushing through the guards, he walked in and threw the blankets off of him. Valentinian awoke and gasped as soon as he saw the commander standing over him in the dark. "We have a problem," he stated in a gruff voice.

Valentinian sat up, leaning against the headboard of the bed, "what is the meaning of this? This couldn't wait until daylight?!" he groaned and folded his arms, not very happy about being woken up in the middle of the night and especially by his commander.

"The Persians have attacked Constantinople, your highness," he blurted out and saw the emperor's eyes widen. "Theodosius has been taken away from the city for safety precautions."

The emperor got out of bed and began pacing around, "Persians?" he shook his head, running his fingers through his short hair. "Why would the Persians attack Constantinople?! We don't have any quarrels with the Shah!"

Aetius rolled his eyes and immediately thought of Xena. When he was visiting the holy city in the eastern empire, Magnus had mentioned he was attacked by the Persian army and Xena was with them. He assumed that Xena had allied with the Shah and now Aetius was beginning to think that this rumor was definitely true, considering what just happened. Although, another strange thing crossed his mind –Xena was in Rome again and she wouldn't be stupid enough to allow the Shah to attack a Roman emperor. Unless, she really was that stupid, but he had a hard time swallowing that. Xena was not unintelligent and everyone knew that, despite where she came from, she put a whole new meaning to cunning and devious when it came to warfare.

He decided not to mention Xena for now. "Just because you do not have any issues with the Persians does not mean that Theodosius doesn't. Yazdgard has attacked Constantinople before and failed. His entire army was pushed out, but this time...he has won. Constantinople is burning to the ground as we speak." He sighed heavily and the emperor kept staring at him blankly, as if he were waiting for good news.

Valentinian stuttered, "w-what...what will we do?" he smiled nervously, scratching the back of his neck. "I wanted Theodosius to submit to me and give me his share of the empire, not to be attacked by heathens and barbarians!" he went to his commander and clutched onto his armor. "The Persians will come to Rome! We will all die!" he panicked and Aetius frowned, grabbing the emperor's hands and slowly pushing him away.

"Now, your majesty, let's not be dramatic about this," the commander smiled, "I will alert Xena and we will devise a plan to hold off these Persians." Valentinian nodded, liking that idea. Aetius turned and scowled as he marched down the hall to ride to Xena's villa in the country side. You're dead, Xena.

Xena lay asleep in her bed with the silk sheets draped lightly over her body. She rolled over onto her side and suddenly the sheets were ripped off of her. Her eyes shot open and grabbed her sword from underneath the bed and sat up, pointing it at her intruder. As soon as she saw Aetius she scoffed and lowered her weapon. "What the hell are you doing here in my room?" she looked out the window, "in the middle of the night..." she grumbled.

Aetius raised an eyebrow, "your Persian friends have attacked Constantinople," he said and saw her eyes widen. He then realized that she had no idea what he was talking about. "You didn't know about the ambush?" he asked.

She climbed out of bed and suddenly felt panic sit in. Gabrielle, you were right. "Where is the Shah and his army now?"

The commander groaned, now feeling like this was pointless. He wanted to pin Xena down with her treachery but it seemed that she was clueless about this attack or...she was an incredibly good liar. "They are still in Constantinople, burning every last building standing," he folded his arms. "You really didn't know?" he wanted to make sure.

She pointed the blade to his chin and he held his breath. "If I did, why would I be here?" she hissed and then smiled, lowering the blade. "You came here to try and arrest me, didn't you?" she twirled her sword with her wrist and Aetius remained quiet. Laughing, she waltzed around him slowly, "oh have much to learn. You need proof to arrest me for a crime, don't have any, do you?" she teased and he turned to leave the room. "Where are you going now?!" she laughed, "to round up my men to attack the Persians?!" she called out and he stormed out of her bedroom.

Gabrielle frowned as she heard some yelling and came to Xena's room only to find Aetius and a couple of Romans exiting her bedroom. Nearly running into them, she gasped and then peered inside Xena's room to find her wide awake and with a sword in hand. Waltzing in cautiously, she wrapped the shawl around her shoulders. "What just happened?"

Xena frowned and threw her sword on the bed, "Yazdgard attacked Constantinople. We agreed to wait until my attack!" she growled and scratched her scalp anxiously.

Gabrielle sighed, "I told you that he was going to do something like this and Attila did too." She said and Xena shot her a wicked glare. She lowered her eyes and cleared her throat, "so what are you going to do now?"

"If I go to Constantinople, Yazdgard will be expecting me to do that, but if I stay here...I can plan an attack on Nicaea with Attila," she smiled and sat on the bed, contemplating her plan.

The blonde scoffed and stepped forward, "I thought you and Valentinian both wanted Theodosius gone? The Shah has already attacked the holiest city in the empire and you don't want to confront him? He broke your agreement!"

"If you are far from the enemy, make him believe that you are near..." the warrior whispered, nodding her head slowly. Lifting her head she saw a rather displeased friend at her disposal and she smiled, grabbing her arm and setting her down beside her on the bed. "Gabrielle, remember when I said that your quill was not a weapon?" she asked and the blonde nodded. She held her hand, gripping firmly. "To hold a pen is to be at war," she said in a soft voice.

Gabrielle frowned weakly, "I don't understand..."

Xena smiled, inching closer, "you are the weapon, Gabrielle!" exclaiming this caused Gabrielle's eyes to widen and she stood up, snatching her hands away.

" way!" Gabrielle put her hands up as she continued backing away.

The general sighed, "I need you to write a treaty of peace to the Shah. I will give him half of my earnings if he stays in Persia until my attack on the eastern empire."

The blonde closed her eyes, breathing in slowly. " you know how insane that sounds? He will never agree to that! He doesn't need your money, he has his own kingdom, his own empire."

Xena stood and walked over to her worried scribe, "but Attila is my ally and I am his commander again. And I'm not talking about money...I'm talking about land," her eyes narrowed and now Gabrielle was really frightened.

"You don't have any land, Xena," Gabrielle mentioned.

"But you said to me that nobody has to know that...and besides," she sighed with a sly grin, "Kreka's brother is my ally now. If I have Persia, Ashina, and Attila by my side, all of our men outnumber the Roman empire's army!"

Gabrielle rubbed her temples and exhaled sharply, "and why would you think that the Shah will agree to this? He already broke an agreement with you and attacked Theodosius' empire without your consent."

Xena grinned deviously, "because...I will kill him if he disagrees." She walked out of her room.

Gabrielle's jaw dropped, "that's one way..." she whispered to herself then groaned and ran after Xena. "You can't just kill a king, Xena!"

"Why not? People do it all the time," she grabbed her armor and head to the baths below the villa. "Attila killed his brother for the crown, why couldn't I kill the Shah?"

Gabrielle halted and her eyes widened, "Attila killed his brother?"

Xena chuckled, heading down the stairs to the baths. "He didn't kill him for no reason. His brother killed their uncle for the crown," she said and turned to see the shocked look on the scribe's face. "Anyway, that's not the point," she descended down the stairs. "Are you coming or what?" she halted and waited for Gabrielle. Sighing, "will you...please come with me?" she grinned. Gabrielle shook her head, cursing under her breath and followed Xena to the baths.

"Are you really going to bathe in the middle of the night?" Gabrielle asked.

"Why not?" Xena threw her armor to the side and stripped down to her bare body. "We have a lot of work to do," she winked and placed her hands on her hips, waiting for Gabrielle to do the same. "Well?"

Gabrielle's cheeks reddened and she took off her shawl and then turned around, slipping the straps off her shoulders. Xena eyed her backside and smirked, folding her arms, watching Gabrielle act so shy around her. "Why are you acting so shy all of a sudden?"

"We're supposed to be friends first, remember?" Gabrielle's gown fell to the floor and she turned to see a smug, sneaky look on the dark haired woman's face.

Xena pursed her lips, nodding, "friends. Of course, I didn't forget," she smiled and stepped into the warm water, drenching her long locks. Swimming to the edge, she leaned her head on her elbows, staring up at Gabrielle. "You know who the two most powerful warriors are?"

Gabrielle walked over to the bath and sat down, dipping her legs in the water. She shook her head and Xena smiled softly, "patience and time," she waded past Gabrielle. "And I will be patient with you," she dipped her long hair in the water again and ran her hand over her head, smoothing out her wet hair. "And you will be patient with me, right?"

The blonde smiled and slipped into the water, wrapping her arms around her breasts, "it is hard to be patient with you sometimes, but I will try my best."

Xena nodded, "trying is better than not trying at all," she supposed. She poured some water on her bare arms and looked at Gabrielle's shoulder. "Your wound is healing nicely..." she noticed.

Gabrielle stared at her and gave her a tiny grin, "and soon you will teach me more of your moves, right?" she teased and Xena shook her head lightly. "What? You don't want to teach me anymore?"

The warrior laughed, "it's not that Gabrielle, but I'd rather you use your mind instead of your will to fight right now," she sighed and frowned, thinking of her daughter again. "I can't believe Xander allowed Anastasia to enroll into that academy."

Gabrielle knew that conversation was going to come back up again. "It's a good school, Xena, but I really don't think your brother can force your daughter to do anything," she scoffed and Xena shot her a glare.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"'s just...she gets her way all the time, no matter what," Gabrielle nervously averted her eyes and dipped her hair into the water, slightly turning away from Xena's harsh glare. "She isn't exactly a pushover and maybe...she wanted to go to that academy?" she hinted and she saw Xena's eyes darken. She soon regretted everything she just said.

Xena rested her arms along the edge of the bath and tapped her fingers rapidly on the marble floor. "I still don't understand why the Romans took her to Athens," she avoided the topic and Gabrielle exhaled heavily, quite relieved. "Do you think someone was spying on her?"

Gabrielle shrugged, "it's possible. People know who you are and Theodosius knows about Anastasia and so does Attila."

"But I didn't tell anyone that I sent her away," she groaned, "I smell a rat." Sighing she waded in the water, coming closer to Gabrielle. "I don't want anyone to know about this but you and me, understand?" she asked very seriously.

Gabrielle nodded slowly, "of course, Xena. Secret is safe with me. Always," she smiled and she saw a bit of relief from her and also realized Xena was coming closer and closer. Nervously, she waded away from her with a shy giggle. "Xena..." whispering she sunk down under the water, water rising to her chin. "We talked about this."

Xena smiled, rolling her eyes, "respect, I remember," she shrugged a shoulder and Gabrielle smirked. "So...when are we going to write that treaty?" she hinted and Gabrielle sighed heavily and dipped further in the water, swimming far away from her. Xena raised her eyebrow, watching Gabrielle swim to the opposite side of the bath.

Yazdgard camped out in the outskirts of Constantinople a couple of weeks after attacking, knowing that the emperor was definitely alive, he decided to stay in the empire awhile longer to scope out the area. Inside his lavish tent he laid down, smoking from an opium pipe and was rudely interrupted by his leading officer, Romi.

"What is it now?" the Shah breathed out a cloud of smoke and Romi averted his eyes.

"Your majesty, we have blocked all of the exits from the city. The emperor has fled to a safe city," he announced and the Persian king frowned, rolling over on his back, lighting another bowl of the powerful flower.

Sighing, he spoke softly, "and...why...haven't you found him yet?" he inhaled deeply and blew out a trail of smoke, smiling, completely relaxed.

Romi was almost tempted to roll his eyes, "I do not think it is best to capture the emperor. Xena will be very upset, your highness."

Yazdgard growled and looked up at his commander upside down as he laid sprawled across the pillows. "Xena?! I do not care what that savage woman thinks. She is beneath me –I am a king, she is..." he furrowed his eyebrows, "what is she exactly?" he chuckled. "Certainly not a queen," he muttered.

"Your majesty, Xena has Attila and his entire empire by her side. I do not think it would be wise to wake a slumbering dragon..." he pressed, not understanding why his leader was being so lackadaisical about this ambush and also, Xena's lack of response to it was very concerning. "She has more power than you think."

The Shah laughed heartily as he nearly choked smoking from his pipe. Slowly sitting up he leaned against some pillows and smiled, breathing heavily. "Romi, you are quite funny sometimes, you know that?" he scoffed, "and what will Xena do to me? She can't touch me or I will kill her...although," he raised his eyebrows, "perhaps I should invite her into bed with me first," he smiled deviously and Romi rolled his eyes. "I never thought that she would be so breathtaking given...her origins," he cringed in disgust just thinking about those Huns.

Suddenly the horns were sounded by the men guarding their large camp area. Romi's eyes widened and he quickly ran out of the king's tent and saw a woman perched on her horse outside the rim of their camp. His men were obviously not letting her through, but she trotted along the wall of men. Romi raised an eyebrow and definitely recognized that woman and she wore the same clothes as Xena, although, she was a bit paler and her face more hard, though had a beauty about her as well.

He approached the woman sitting on her horse and folded his arms, standing behind his men. "Who are you?"

"Wife of Attila, Queen of the Huns," Kreka smiled and eyed the Persian officer. "Aren't you going to invite me in?" she asked nicely and Romi grinned weakly and allowed her to pass with the Hun soldiers trotting in behind her.

Once in the middle of the camp, a fair distance from the Shah's tent, Kreka dismounted her horse and Romi bowed his head curtly towards her. "What brings you here?" he asked, very confused why Attila would send his wife to a dangerous zone like this. This was technically declared a war zone and Xena was not here, neither was Attila and both Roman armies were absent as well.

She pulled out a scroll from her coat, "I have a message for your king," she smiled, her light eyes lit up seeing the worry and fear set in the man's face. "A treaty from Xena herself."

Romi unrolled the scroll and read it over and it was quite lengthy. Kreka waited patiently and expected Yazdgard to show his face anytime now. "She wants us to return to Persia?" he asked and she nodded silently. He looked at the bottom and saw that it was signed by Attila, Peticus the Bey from the Ashina tribe, and Xena. "They...all agreed to this treaty?" he asked and she nodded once more. He was beginning to think that allying with Xena was a bad idea. She knew a lot of people and especially with Attila by her side, she was willing to maneuver her way around in the political field –which Huns were not known for, but it seemed that being in the Roman atmosphere had done Xena good in the last year. "Very clever.." he grumbled.

"So, what should I report back to Xena? Will your king agree?" Kreka smiled, folding her arms and Romi rolled up the scroll, tucking it in his vest.

"I will have to discuss it with his majesty and see what he says," he looked over at the tent and assumed that the king was passed out by now from smoking for hours on end.

Kreka nodded and peered over at the large lavish tent. "I think he should make his decision very soon. Attila does not like to wait, he is very impatient," she turned back to the officer with a smug grin on her lips. "And Xena...well, you know how she is," she chuckled under her breath and walked back to her horse getting ready to leave. Once she mounted her horse, she stared down at the Persian. "I wouldn't wait long," she threatened with malice in her voice and rode off with Attila's men following.

Romi watched the Hun Queen ride off in the large open field and shook his head. He then marched straight into the king's tent and saw he was not asleep, but still smoking. "Your highness!" he growled, grabbing Yazdgard's attention. "Xena wants us to return to Persia immediately," he pulled out the scroll.

The Shah laughed, "right! I'm not going to return to Persia. I do not take orders from her!"

Kreka reached the outskirts of the city and met with her husband and he was patiently waiting on his horse with a horde of his men behind him. She abruptly stopped and he lifted his eyes, staring at her harsh expression. "He will not agree," she said.

Attila frowned, "is that what he said?"

She scoffed, "the king did not even make an appearance while I was there," she turned her head over her shoulder, looking at the large Persian camp. "Kill them all," she commanded and trotted off.

The Hun King's eyes widened, "you want us to attack the Persian camp? Why?" not that he wouldn't, because he definitely would, but he didn't expect something like that to come out of his wife's mouth –Xena's yes, but not hers.

She halted and scowled at her husband, "do it or I'll do it myself." Attila smiled, nodding at her and waved his hand to his archers in the back to ride to the front. She then rode off to a safer area so she could report back to Xena as soon as possible.

Xena sat at a table in a large room with Gabrielle sitting next to her and both listened to Aetius go on and on about how they should solve this Persian invasion in Constantinople. Xena had been barely listening and tuned him out halfway through the meeting. Meanwhile, Gabrielle was writing away, trying to record everything he was saying and yet Xena had said nothing for the last two hours.

As he kept talking Xena was growing irritated and more impatient the longer she listened to him gripe about how awful the Persians were. She stood up and slammed a dagger into the table, a few inches from Aetius' fingers. "Are you...finished?" she hissed through clenched teeth.

His hand slowly inched away from the dagger and Xena glared at him with those icy blue eyes of hers. Clearing his throat, "don't you have anything to say?" he added.

She pulled the dagger out of the table and threw it at the map on the wall, landing right on Constantinople. "This meeting has gone on long enough," she breathed out heavily and Gabrielle nervously looked up at her, forgetting to write down everything that was being said. "Theodosius has fled Constantinople. Do you know where he has gone?" she asked.

Aetius chuckled, "as if I would tell you. You almost killed Magnus and you were seen with the Shah's army."

Xena folded her arms, "Magnus is a liar. He is our enemy or...maybe...he is your...friend?" she grinned wickedly and the commander shied away from her.

"You are good at many things, Xena, but lying is not one of them," he walked over to the map and yanked out her dagger from the wall. Little did he know that she had allied with Attila once again and the Ashina tribe in China as well, right under everyone's noses. Persia was just a distraction and a very good distraction, though she would have wished that the Shah would have waited for her to attack first.

She chuckled lowly, "I'm sure...I will learn how to get good at it," he turned towards her and she folded her arms, "just like you," she winked and he cringed. "Aetius..." she walked around the table, coming dangerously close to him as he still held her dagger. She continued, "do you know if Valentinian ordered some Romans to raid Greece?" she hissed.

He frowned and now she was inches from his face. He could feel the hatred radiating off of her body. "We have no business in Greece," he said and she snatched her dagger from his hands and he eyed the blade cautiously and saw she put it back in its sheath.

Nodding, she stepped away, "that's very interesting," she waltzed around the table and eyed Gabrielle as she kept jotting everything down meticulously. "I received some information that Roman soldiers were going around Greece, raiding homes to look for Hun spies..."

Aetius' eyes widened, "Xena, I don't know anything of those orders."

"But I'm sure your friend, Magnus, does..." she implied he was lying and the commander became defensive.

"I do not have any sort of relationship with Magnus anymore!" he growled and saw a smile appear on her face, a smile he distained. "Why are you so concerned about these raids anyway?" he hinted and walked around the opposite side of the table. Her smile disappeared and a full grimace was prominent on her face. "Having second thoughts about leaving Attila for Mother Rome?" he smiled and she averted her eyes. "Are you hiding something in Greece?" he chuckled.

Gabrielle stopped writing and lifted her eyes to see Xena's face in panic and her eyes grew in fear once Aetius said that. Xena was unable to say anything and that was only giving Aetius more suspicion that Xena was up to something. So, she decided to speak on her behalf, "she doesn't want the Persians to invade Greece like they've done in the past. Greece is part of the empire, isn't it?" she said and the commander raised an eyebrow towards the blonde scribe.

"Who gave you a voice?" Aetius laughed and Gabrielle frowned deeply. "I think Xena can answer for herself. Xena?"

Xena eyed the scribe and Gabrielle nodded with a subtle smirk. Turning around she felt her stomach tighten, just thinking of how close she was to losing it, until Gabrielle covered for her. "Gabrielle is just as important as you are in this empire, Aetius. She is my scribe, she works for me and whatever she says should be counted as a valid point," she said and Gabrielle smiled, then returned to writing again. Xena grinned and saw the commander was not happy about that –being put in his place. "The Persians have attacked Constantinople and you believe that I had something to do with it, yet...I am here," she said with a cheeky grin. "I want Theodosius' whereabouts by the end of the month." She turned and head for the door.

Gabrielle panicked and grabbed all the parchment she had wrote on for the last couple of hours, hurrying to follow her. Aetius' jaw dropped, "and what if I don't find him?"

Xena stopped just as she was about to grab the door handle and turned around slowly. "Do you really want to find out what happens?" she threatened and opened the door and walked out.

As the two women walked down the hall, Gabrielle struggled to keep all the parchment in her arms as well as keeping up with Xena's long strides. "I thought you were going to crack back there," she said and Xena stopped and suddenly she ran into her and dropped everything. "Great!"

Xena sighed, placing her hands on her hips and Gabrielle knelt down, gathering up all her notes. "You saved me," she knelt down and picked up the last page and handed it to Gabrielle with a smile.

Gabrielle's cheeks flushed and she stood slowly, "that's what friends are for," she walked off, brushing by Xena. "Still, you didn't find anything about those Romans taking Anastasia to Athens."

"I know," Xena walked alongside Gabrielle, "I don't understand it," she was growing more frustrated just thinking about it. "But, the important thing is that she is safe. I trust Xander," she sauntered off and Gabrielle halted, her mouth agape.

The blonde then ran up to Xena, grabbing her arm. "Did you just say you trust your brother?" she wanted to make sure and Xena fell silent. "That's a first."

Xena smirked, "there is a first for everything, right?" she teased. " don't trust me yet, do you?"

Gabrielle sighed, "I'm working on it. Give me time," she smiled and walked off out of the emperor's palace to Xena's horse outside. Xena folded her arms as she watched her gracefully walk down the stairs carrying the abundant amount of parchment in her hands.

After some adjusting, Anastasia was doing quite well in the academy she chose to go to. And also, after she convinced her uncle to attend the school, which took a lot of convincing, he decided to allow her to attend only if she was able to keep up her grades in all of the subjects including the combat training after school.

At the end of the day class was released and Anastasia quickly grabbed her bag trying to make herself less noticeable until her instructor stopped her. "Anastasia..." her young teacher from Antioch called out and she stopped in tracks and the other girls trailed out of the classroom, leaving her behind. Nervously, she turned around with a big cheeky grin.

"Yes sir?" she folded her arms and he walked over to her with a parchment in his hand and her smile disappeared as soon as she saw it was the last exam that they did last week.

"You're doing very badly in my class, Anastasia," he sighed and pointed at all of the answers. "You really should get a tutor."

She lowered her eyes, "I'll do better next time," she grabbed the exam from his hand and stuffed it in her bag. "Can I go now?" she turned and hastily walked away, desperate to get out of his class.

The teacher frowned, folding his arms, "wait a minute," he said and she halted, tapping her fingers on the wall. "You can't participate in the combat arms training unless you have better grades. You know the rules."

Anastasia gasped and faced her teacher, "but sir, I am trying really hard! I am just not good at math!"

He smiled, "we are not good at everything, but you're very good at writing and literature," he gave her some positive feedback, though it didn't seem to be enough as he saw the grimace on her face. "You aren't from Greece are you?" he asked and she lifted her head with wide eyes. "Where are you from?"

She wrapped her arms around her, feeling panic set in, "Thrace..." she uttered and he gave her a simple nod.

"Where exactly in Thrace?" he asked with a smirk and Anastasia's eyes wandered around the room. She didn't know where Thrace was or even what it looked like. She had never been there and that was her mother's place of birth and childhood, but she definitely wasn't a part of that culture at all.

"Amphipolis," she answered finally, remembering the name of her mother's home village.

He smiled, staring at the nervous teenager, "very nice city. Are both of your parents from there?"

Shaking her head she answered, "my father is from...somewhere else," she anxiously adjusted the bag's strap on her shoulder. "I should go. I promise I'll do better on the next test," she smiled and hurried out of the school.

She ran to the training grounds around the front of the school and saw a few girls putting on their boots outside on a few benches. She smiled at them all and dropped her bag on the ground, then pulled out her boots. Alexandria raised an eyebrow, "what are you doing here?"

Anastasia frowned and slipped on her boots and began to lace them, "what do you mean?"

Alexandria chuckled and tightened her laces on her boots, "I saw your last grade in mathematics Anastasia. You know you aren't supposed to be here if you can't pass all your subjects," she said and tied up her long straight auburn hair. Anastasia frowned and the way Alexandria looked reminded her of some of the women back in her tribe in Pannonia. She had olive skin, green eyes and dark red hair, much like the northern Huns, where Attila's first wife, Cera, was from.

"Well, nobody has to know that, right?" Ana grinned mischievously and the redhead shook her head and stood to grab her gloves sitting beside her. "Alexandria..." she said and the redhead smiled down at her, "where are you from?"

Alexandria's smile faded away, "far from here," she said and turned and walked off.

Anastasia raised an eyebrow watching the girl leave and tightened the laces on her boots. She grabbed her bag and ran inside the training area with the rest of the girls.

After the two hour long training session ended all of the girls left and Titus, the combat instructor, saw Anastasia leaving and frowned. "Anastasia," he said and she groaned. "You know you aren't supposed to be here."

She nodded, "I already spoke to my teacher about this. I said I'd do better on my next exam. Alright?" she said with a sassy attitude and turned to leave. Titus shook his head, thinking that girl was going to give him a lot of trouble.

She soon caught up with Alexandria and grabbed her shoulder, startling her. "Hey, sorry about your nose."

Alexandria smiled, shrugging it off. "It's okay, I'll make sure you to get you back next time pass your exam," she teased and Ana gasped. "We can't all be good at everything. I'll tell you what, you help me in Latin and I help you in math, deal?"

Anastasia's eyes lit up, "really?" she asked hesitantly and Alexandria shoved her playfully and she took that as a yes. As they walked together down Athens road they saw a horde of men in black armor and fur coats surrounding the square, frightening all of the citizens. Anastasia squinted her eyes and Alexandria grabbed her hand, pulling her away.

"We should go, I don't want to get into...whatever is going on here," the redhead implied and Anastasia refused to move. "Anastasia!" she growled.

The Hun teenager frowned, cocking her head as she continued staring at the armored men. Her head snapped around and recognized an emblem on their belts and swords. "Attila..." she whispered. Those soldiers were from Aquincicum and they were in Athens, but why? Not to mention they were scaring everyone, searching through their homes and vendors' carts and merchants' shops. She saw a tall slender man in the middle pull out his sword and point it at a small boy. "Hey!" she yelled and ran from her friend's side.

"Anastasia, what are you doing?!" Alexandria called out and stood by herself watching Anastasia run towards the horde of men in the middle of the square. "Dear god, she is crazy..." she mumbled.

Anastasia frowned and marched towards the man holding his sword to the child's throat. She pushed the man down on the ground and fell on top of him. The Hun sold