AN: I promised myself I would write this story three years ago. I could never get a good plot down, but I have one, finally. I am having writer's block on my other story, so until then I will focus on this because it has a much bigger story line.
Enjoy, good luck and of course, be ready for a very interesting alternate story ;)
One Night With the Sultan
On a hot summer day in the holy city, Jerusalem, citizens from all walks of life lived as one under the rule of their new Sultan, Xenophon. The citizens spread rumors of the sultan and say that under his mask he is the most hideous, although his piercing blue eyes say otherwise. Children tell tales of the people who see the sultan and never come out of that enormous palace alive. Once you're in, you can never get out.
The previous sultan of the empire mysteriously disappeared and the people of Jerusalem doubted it was the holy Crusaders that set foot upon this land. They all knew that the new sultan disposed of him. Under the new rule of the sultan in recent years, life for the citizens of Jerusalem, Aleppo, Persepolis, Susa and others alike, were struggling. Food was scarce due to a massive drought and the sultan was more than unwilling to help them.
Xenophon was a mysterious sultan. He was never seen in public and if he was, he wore a veil shielding his face. His attire all black and hands donned with leather gloves. The people of Persia began to wonder if the sultan was even a real person and he sent out a double in disguise to fool them all. Lord only knows.
Criminals were sent to the palace immediately to face their crimes before the sultan. If these criminals were able to be set free, they told horror stories about meeting the sultan face to face. The piercing eyes of the sultan bore right into your soul, as if he were to rip it out. Though, the ruler was very lenient with the punishments these criminals received, unless it was a murder or rape charge. Those people were sent to death or lashed until their backs bled for weeks. They would forever be shamed by the citizens, per the sultan's request. Public humiliation was Xenophon's ultimate goal.
The Persian lands had been conquered several times and there had been many sultans. The last sultan was an honest man, though he was cruel to his people and kept all the empire's wealth to himself. The new sultan, traveling all the way from Greece, decided to overthrow him. Usually, the citizens knew quite a lot about their ruler, but Xenophon was full of secrets. He never allowed anyone to know his business or even allow anyone to see his face.
In one of the busiest streets in Jerusalem, boys carried buckets of water while the young girls carried baskets of fruit or bread over their heads. The group of children laughed with one another, playing jokes and the girls threw fruits at the annoying boys.
The children walked through the large street, pushing through the crowd of people and heard an extremely loud horn sounded at the gates. The boys dropped their buckets of water and lifted their heads slowly, gawking at the men dressed in all black, mounted on their huge horses.
The girls' jaws dropped and Sultan Xenophon narrowed his eyebrows, glaring down at the children. They all stared into his blue eyes, the only visible thing to the eye.
"Sultan Xenophon!" elite guard, Dajan spoke loudly and the crowd lifted their eyes and immediately cleared a path for the sultan and his guards to trot through the street.
Xenophon smirked at the children and trotted past them slowly, glancing at the citizens fearful eyes. He lead the way with Dajan following beside him. He frowned, looking at all the poor women and even some children, huddled in the streets together. He hadn't stepped outside the grand palace in so long and almost never came into the city unless he proclaimed war against opposing empires.
"Why are there so many impoverished people?" Xenophon asked, adjusting the black veil around his face.
Dajan frowned, glaring at the people gawking up at the military men in awe. "The previous sultan left his people with nothing, your highness."
Xenophon hummed lightly and then saw a few men grab a young girl, barely even sixteen, by her hair and drag her out of the fruit stand. His eyebrows creased and hopped off the horse, unsheathing the large scimitar.
"Your majesty!" Dajan gasped and hopped off the horse, following his master.
The fearless sultan stormed up to the men and pointed the sword at their faces. "Let her go," he warned. The men immediately dropped the woman and began backing away, fear instilled in their dark eyes.
"Why are you handling this girl like a piece of meat?" he asked, lifting his chin, towering over the men.
"She –she was stealing fruit, your highness!" one of the scrawny men of the bunch said.
The sultan lowered his sword and looked down at the frightened, sobbing girl. He then glanced over at the fruit stand and was outraged at the prices. "You charge seven dinars for one apple?"
The fruit merchant nervously smiled and clasped his hands together. "Your highness, we need money too. There is no income coming through this city. The Greek trades have stopped coming to Jerusalem."
The sultan frowned and sheathed his sword. He grabbed the girl by the arm and she squealed, avoiding the blue eyes of the sultan. He pulled out a small pouch of several dinars and threw it at the fruit merchant.
"That is enough to buy your entire fruit stand," he said and drug the girl off. The young maiden tried to pull away, fearful that she was going to be tried as a criminal and receive a harsh punishment.
"Please!" the girl begged and dropped to her knees. The sultan raised an eyebrow and saw the girl prostrating on her knees, asking for forgiveness. "I won't steal again, I promise!" she sobbed under her breath.
Xenophon rolled his eyes and lifted the girl up off the sandy ground. "You are coming with me," he handed the girl over to Dajan and mounted the horse. "Take her to the palace." He kicked the horse and rode off with the elite guards following quickly behind him.
Dajan looked at the girl and she was so thin, so filthy. Why in god's name would the sultan want a girl like this, he wondered? He grabbed the girl. "Come on," he gruffly said and the young girl sobbed then tried resisting. "You best not resist, girl!" he warned and threw her over his horse, scaring her half to death.
Xenophon stormed through the palace's doors and the guards inside immediately straightened themselves. He walked through the large corridor and handed his weapons to the nearest servant girl. Dajan brought in the poor girl, holding onto her arm so she wouldn't dare run away.
The sultan turned, placing his hands on his hips, cocking his head, staring at the girl. "You will stay here and work for me," he said.
"Please don't kill me!" the girl begged for mercy.
Xenophon rolled his eyes and grabbed the girl's cheeks, pinching them together. They were inches from each other's faces. "You need a lot of work," he hissed and the girl's eyes grew with fear. The sultan then circled around the young girl, touching her waist with his gloved hands and then her long dark hair. "And you smell like a pigsty." He crinkled his nose.
He sighed heavily and walked off, waving his hand dismissively to Dajan, "send her to the baths, Dajan. I will deal with her later."
The sultan entered his private quarters and slipped off the leather black gloves. He cracked his fingers and sighed heavily. Xenophon then unclipped the veil off his face and took off the turban. Long dark hair tumbled down his back.
Xenophon then took off the heavy black outer coat and leaned over a water basin, washing the sand imbedded in his cheeks. He wiped off his face and looked into the mirror, frowning.
A knock came to the door and Xenophon's heart stopped. "Who is it?"
"Kara, your highness!" the maid said and then opened the door. She smiled seeing the sultan finally undressed. She lay out a black abaya and jeweled khussas on the sultan's bed. "Is there anything else I can get you, mistress?" she asked in a soft voice.
The sultan looked to the young girl. "No thank you, this is fine. Tell Dajan to come to my quarters."
Kara nodded, "of course." She bowed her head then quickly left the room.
Dajan entered the sultan's room and saw he was no longer a sultan, but a sultana. He bowed his head and saw her long hair down her back, now dressed in a black form fitting abaya, brushing her long locks. He cleared his throat and she eyed him. He was not able to read her face.
"Xena, why have you brought me here?"
Xena set the brush down and looked at herself in the mirror, running her fingernails through her hair. "The women here are treated badly," she stated and Dajan remained silent. "Don't you agree?"
The military man smiled weakly, "well, Xena, the previous sultan did not care for his people. It is a hard adjustment having a new sultan in the empire."
She frowned and turned in her chair, as the abaya slipped and showed a good amount of her upper thigh. Dajan avoided her legs and looked to the far wall. "And what is this Greeks not trading with us anymore? I own Greece!" she growled.
He nodded. "Of course you do, but there has been a few problems with the Greeks and Romans, Xena."
"Such as?" she asked, crossing one leg over the other as she leaned back in the chair.
"The Holy Roman Empire does not wish to trade with Persia or Greece anymore. They believe you are the enemy." He said and finally looked at her and her face was not happy at all.
Xena pursed her lips and she tapped her fingers on her knee. "Is that so?" she smirked. "Well, we'll just have to change that." She stood and walked over to her bed, grabbing her book that she read during her spare time, too much spare time, she thought.
"I want to help these poor people. I want you to send out a team to find all the poor young girls in the streets of Persia and Greece and bring them to me." She said and sat down on her large bed with her book in her lap.
Dajan's jaw dropped. "But Xena, that will be a lot of women...here in the palace. Are you sure –"
"Are you questioning me, Dajan?" she smiled sneakily and he shook his head. "Good. Round up as many girls as you can. I will be waiting." She lay down on the pillows and opened her book. She saw the man still standing by the door and frowned. "What are you waiting for, an invitation?!"
He bowed his head and hastily exited the room. She groaned and snuggled down in the pillows, reading the book quietly to herself. "Stupid man," she murmured.
Thebes, one of the largest cities in Greece, and also home to Emperor Xenophon's main base. The city was thriving due to the emperor's hard work over the last ten years. Xenophon was renowned as being a harsh ruler, but was able to give the people what they wanted within means of course.
Gabrielle, a simple farmer's daughter from Potidaea, decided to leave her home with her friend, Lucia. The two were the best of friends and although they were from different villages, they managed to see each other several times a week throughout the year. Gabrielle desired to become a better person in the last year since she left home.
She told her parents that she was going to study in Athens, but she had no real desire to study in Athens. Thebes was where all the warriors were, minus Corinth, which held the largest military base in Greece.
Lucia was reluctant about traveling to Thebes with Gabrielle, but she couldn't let her best friend leave home alone. She too was curious about the rest of Greece and over the last year, the two saw some pretty strange yet interesting things.
Outside a small shop, Lucia waited for Gabrielle to finish her shopping. she groaned and tapped her foot rapidly. "Gabrielle, we've been here for hours! Are you finished yet?!"
The blonde farmer's daughter stepped out in a new outfit and Lucia's eyes bugged out of her head. "What do you think?" Gabrielle smiled.
Lucia shook her head and touched her curly red locks. "Gabrielle, you cannot wear that!" she exclaimed. The blonde admired herself in the mirror, loving the new attire. Lucia couldn't stop staring at the pants Gabrielle wore and a short crop top, exposing her midsection. "People are going to think we are harlots."
"You're overreacting," Gabrielle rolled her eyes and grabbed her friend's hand, skipping off outside the market square. "Where should we go first?!"
"How 'bout going back to get your old clothes?" Lucia offered as she was being pulled along by her rambunctious blonde friend.
Gabrielle sighed and looked into her friend's concerned eyes. "Lucia, we are in Thebes. We can wear whatever we want here. Life is different here!"
Lucia frowned, folding her arms, scanning Gabrielle's new 'look'. "Yeah...right," she mocked, rolling her eyes. "We don't belong here, Gabrielle. This city is full of warriors. We're farmer's daughters!"
The blonde groaned and walked off without her friend. "Potidaea is boring, Lucia. Thebes is really exciting! There are so many people here from all walks of life!"
She kept walking and spotted a horde of men in black, some on horseback and some not. Lucia caught up to her and grabbed her shoulder. "Does that include Persians too?" the redhead whispered.
"Haven't you heard, Lucia? The emperor of Greece moved to Persia. I wonder why his thugs are here," she frowned and walked towards the horde of Persian soldiers.
"Gabrielle!" Lucia hissed. "What are you doing?!" she panicked and followed her friend. "Gabrielle you can't just walk up to the emperor's soldiers. Who knows what they might do to you?" she drug Gabrielle off, out of sight from the Persians.
The blonde grunted and crouched down behind a tree with Lucia cowardly seated behind her. She saw the Persians rounding up young girls and putting them in a large wagon, a wagon with...bars? what is this? The roundup of prisoners? She saw some of the girls were resisting and fighting back, but the Persians tried their best not to hurt the young women and push them into the wagon one by one.
"We have to do something! They're taking those girls away!" Gabrielle gasped.
Lucia shook her head and held onto her friend's arm. "Gabrielle, no! this is none of our business!"
Gabrielle pulled away and stood, glaring at the Persians. "The emperor is probably preparing a large harem so he can marry all of those girls." She had an awful taste in her mouth. She then ran forward and Lucia hissed, trying to call her back.
"Hey!" Gabrielle yelled and the Persians turned their heads.
"Oh another one," one soldier muttered and approached the young blonde with a smile. "You are coming with us," he tried grabbing her arm and she snatched it away. "Don't be difficult, girl!" he warned.
Gabrielle stepped away and three other Persians surrounded her. Clad in their black armor and turbans they were definitely a scary sight. "Where are you taking those girls?!"
"To the Sultan," another soldier spoke up. "He requests many impoverished girls to come to his palace." He extended his hand. "Now, come with us before we have to hurt you."
"Are you insane?!" Gabrielle spat. "That awful emperor Xenophon is probably going to use those girls for sex slaves. How could you do this?"
The Persians eyed one another and then crowded around Gabrielle, towering over her. She smiled nervously at them all and began backing up slowly until she bumped into one soldier. Lifting her eyes she saw the Persian soldier glaring down at her with his big dark almond eyes.
"You know what, I think I should mind my own business..." Gabrielle chuckled anxiously and turned around to leave but she was blocked by a circle of Persians.
"Grab her!" one soldier said.
The soldiers grabbed Gabrielle's arms and began dragging her to the wagon, already filled with many other girls. Lucia gasped and hid behind a tree. The look on her friend's face was anger and fear all in one. She didn't want to let her friend be taken from her, but at the same time, she didn't want to be put in the same position either.
They threw Gabrielle into the wagon and closed the door. She grabbed the bars, pressing her body against the cage. "You are all disgusting!" she spat and the Persians smiled at her then mounted their horses. She eyed Lucia and frowned sadly. You did nothing, she thought.
The wagon jerked forward as they began riding away. Gabrielle stared off at Lucia, wondering where she was going and why. She hoped she wasn't going to be the emperor's wife. She grunted and sat down beside the rest of the young women. She bumped shoulders with another girl and smiled nervously.
"Do you know where we're going?" Gabrielle shyly asked.
The woman's head hung, "to Jerusalem where the Sultan lives."
"Xenophon, right?" she asked and the girl nodded. "What a sick man," she wagged her head.
Xena impatiently sat inside her private office, listening to these men spout off about the political alliance between Anatolia and the Holy Roman Empire. She tapped her gloved fingers on the armrest, trying to keep herself focused, but this man just kept talking and talking.
"That's enough," she raised her hand the talkative man bowed his head and stepped away. She groaned and turned to Dajan, adjusting the veil around her face. "Why is Anatolia allying with the Romans? I have given them everything."
Dajan nodded, "well, the Romans fear that the Mongolians will invade so they want Anatolia on their side."
Xena scoffed, "Mongolians," she mumbled. "They will never reach beyond the Russian Steppes, Dajan." With a wave of her hand she dismissed the man. "Next issue."
"But your highness, I think we should be aware of the Mongolians. They have already taken over China, specifically the Song and Lao kingdoms." He whispered and Xena rolled her eyes.
"I said, next issue," she said bluntly and wagged her fingers to the next man in line.
The man took off his turban and bowed, kneeling in front of the sultan. "Your highness," he began and Xena lifted her chin. He eyed her big blue eyes and tried to see beneath her veil and she leaned forward dangerously close to the petrified man.
"Yesss?" she hissed.
He averted his gaze to the floor, finding that more interesting. "I have received word that Anatolia and Hungary are working with the Romans and refuse to pay taxes to you..."
Xena balled up her fists and stood from her chair. All the men in the room took a generous step backward. "First the Greeks do not want to trade with me, and now this! I own Greece, they cannot stop trade with me. I am Greece!" she growled and sat back down in the chair, slumping down, resting her cheek against her leather gloved hand.
"I want to speak to Osman," she demanded and the man stepped away from her, taking his spot back in the line of councilmen.
Dajan nodded and took note of that. "I will write a letter to him and make sure it gets to Anatolia."
"No. I want him brought to me," she said and Dajan's eyes widened and he let out a large sigh then wrote that down on his notepad.
Kara, Xena's maid, came into the office and all eyes went to her. She lowered her gaze and wrapped her veil around her face and quickly approached Xena. "Forgive me," she apologized for interrupting and whispered into Xena's ear.
Xena tapped her fingers on the armrest then stood. "Council meeting is over," she said and walked off with Kara following behind her.
Dajan gasped and chased after her. "Sultan, we have not even discussed anything about the taxes the Romans have tried to put on Hungary and Anatolia!"
Xena spun around and narrowed her eyes at the man. "Let me worry about that," she said in a hushed tone. "You have other things to worry about. Where are my girls?" her eyebrow rose.
"They will be here soon. Your men are traveling from Thebes as we speak." He said and she nodded then sauntered off with Kara.
As soon as Xena was in her quarters she ripped off the veil from her face and turban off her head. She slipped off her leather gloves and threw them aside on the table. Kara took unveiled her hair then smiled at the sultana.
Kara hastily went to an adjoining room and Xena ruffled her long hair, staring at herself in the mirror, she took off the black shawl around her shoulders.
"Mistress," Kara cleared her throat and Xena turned around with a big smile.
She knelt down with her arms held out in front of her. The little brunette boy came running towards her and crashed into her. Xena smiled and hugged her son.
"Did you have a good time in Anatolia?" Xena asked and her son smiled widely, nodding his head.
"I brought you something," her son pulled out a gold necklace with an onyx jewel and Xena grinned.
She took the necklace. "Thank you, Alexander."
Alexander frowned, widening his big brown doe eyes. "Aren't you going to put it on?" he asked with a sad frown.
Xena unclasped the necklace and put her around her neck then saw her son's eyes light up. She grabbed her son's hand and picked him up, hoisting him on the bed. She knelt down in front of her son, eyeing him curiously.
"I thought your brother was supposed to come with you..." she slyly hinted. She hadn't seen either one of her sons in a year and was hoping to see both of them at once, but was only sent one son.
Alexander sighed heavily, "he told me to tell you that he doesn't want to come see you anymore."
Xena felt a stab in her heart and she frowned sadly. She grabbed her small son's hands and looked into his big brown eyes. "Really?" she asked and he nodded. "Did he say why?"
Her son shook his head and gave a big shrug. She decided not to let that spoil her mood, no matter how much it hurt her to hear that. She smiled and went to her table and picked up a box. "I have something for you too," she said and sat beside him on the bed. "I'm sorry I missed your birthday."
Alexander's eyes widened and he held the big box in his lap. "It's okay, Solan and Belach gave me presents."
Xena frowned as soon as she heard her son mention Belach's name. Her stepson was a really bad influence on Solan and she hoped that Alexander wouldn't succumb to that boy's devious ways when he gets older. Solan and Belach were only three years apart and the two apparently got along very well according to Alexander the last time he visited her.
He opened the box and pulled out a black and burgundy turban. He excitedly placed the turban on his head and it drooped down to his eyes. Xena smirked and lifted the turban above his eyes and adjusted it on his head properly.
"How do I look?" he asked, standing up, looking at himself in the mirror.
"Very handsome," she concluded and he grinned proudly then sat beside his mother again. She wrapped her arm around his small body, bringing him close to her. "So, what have Solan and Belach been doing in Anatolia?"
He groaned, "mother, I don't want to talk about it!" the seven year old hopped off the bed.
She sighed and watched him go through her belongings on the table, picking up her veil and turban. She didn't exactly know why she really didn't like Belach. Borias' wife, Natassa, had Belach three years before Solan was born and the two women never got along. She hadn't seen Borias in many years and although they had two sons together, she opted to have their sons spend time with him for half the year and she would get them the other half.
Lately though, her sons were staying longer in Anatolia than she wanted and apparently Solan didn't want to come to see her at all. She hadn't seen him in over a year, longer than when Alexander came to visit.
She just couldn't help herself and went ahead and asked her son. "Is Solan spending a lot of time with...Belach?" she pried.
Alexander turned around and folded his arms. "I said, I don't want to talk about it." he narrowed his dark eyes and she nodded slowly and smiled weakly.
"Alright," she said, changing the subject. "What do you want to do today?" she smiled.
Alexander lightened his mood and grabbed his mother's hand. "Can we go to the beach?"
Xena frowned. "No."
"Why not?" he pouted. "We went last time."
She shook her head. "I can't leave the palace right now, Alexander. Maybe we can go another time," she said and took off his turban setting it on the table then ruffled his dark hair.
"Okay, what 'bout riding instead?" he hoped and saw the frown on his mother's face. "Come on!"
"How about this," she bent down, staring into his dark eyes. "We stay inside and play a game."
Alexander pursed his lips. "That doesn't sound very exciting."
She smiled and grabbed his shoulders and began pushing him towards the other section of her large quarters. "It'll be fun."
"That's what you said last time," he grumbled.
Seven Years Ago
Xena's reign as emperor in Greece was short lived after she found out she was pregnant again. She stayed inside her palace in Thebes throughout most of her pregnancy. She didn't want to let anyone see her and discover that she was in fact a woman.
The Holy Roman Empire would never allow a woman to be an empress of an entire nation and neither would Anatolia, Persia or any other territory or country for that matter. She had worked very hard to remain seen as a male emperor in the public eye. She did most of her work inside the palace and would return to the public once her child was born. She could be more open with everyone.
It was definitely tricky to be known as an emperor and she constantly had to hide her face, as most men in her life have already seen her, including Borias, though he already knew of her plans. He chose not to say a word to anyone about it within the clan. Currently, he was in Persia, facing the wrath of the Sultan in charge there.
She worked day and night in her bedroom, going over documents and signing paper after paper. It had been almost a year since she had been in the field with her army. She was growing bored spending every day in her fortress looking over documents.
On a stormy night, she sat on her bed, tapping her pen against her lips as she went over the documents Raphael, her Grecian advisor at the time, gave her. They were delivered this morning from the Roman Pope. He wanted to tax her land because he did not want her to keep expanding the empire. Already, she had control over all of Greece, including Anatolia and her next goal was Persia.
Her door creaked open and she lifted her eyes and saw Solan enter the room. He waited by the door and she sighed. "What is it?" she asked.
The little blonde boy quirked his mouth to the side. "Can I come in?" he asked in a meek voice.
Xena raised her eyebrow then pushed aside some of the papers and nodded her head. He grinned widely and closed the door behind him then jumped onto the bed. He crawled over and lay down beside her. She tried to remain focused on the papers somewhat. She had barely made a dent in the stack and it was already well into the night by now.
"Why are you awake?" she asked and thunder roared across the sky. She saw the curtains swaying in the wind and rain pouring into her bedroom. She frowned and got up to close the large window and locked it.
When she turned around she saw Solan hunkered down in her pillows and she smirked. "It's just a storm, Solan." She walked over and carefully sat back down on the bed, crossing her legs. She frowned just looking at the stack of papers that seemed endless.
"That's a lot of papers," Solan mused.
Xena smiled and ruffled his short blonde hair. She then picked up a paper and read through it carefully in silence. She heard Solan sigh loudly and then he fidgeted with the blankets, making a lot of noise. She lifted her eyes, trying to ignore him. He then began looking through the papers.
"Solan!" she yelled and he immediately snatched his hand away from her work in fear. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Just...don't touch anything, alright?"
A few minutes later a knock came to her door and she groaned. "God...what is it?" she asked and the door opened and a large frown appeared on her lips. "What do you want Osman?"
The Turcman stepped inside and smiled at her blonde son. The man was in charge of the clan in Persia and was one of Borias' very good friends. She really didn't like him nor trust him. "Could I speak to you alone?" he requested.
Xena turned to her son and pat his cheek. "You can come back in when I'm finished," she said and he nodded then quickly ran off and out of the room. She folded her arms and looked to Osman. "What?"
He stepped closer to her bed but kept his distance. "Borias wanted me to tell you that we are leaving for Anatolia very soon." He began and saw her eyes darken. "And that he wishes you well."
"Oh, does he?" Xena gave a tight grin.
Osman nodded and continued, "also, he will send money to you for the baby."
Xena scoffed and rolled her eyes. "I don't want his money, Osman."
"I had a feeling you might say that," he chuckled lightly. "He also wants Solan to come with him to Anatolia."
Her eyes widened and she immediately got off the bed and marched towards him. "No!" she spat in his face and he took a generous step back. "He will stay with me."
"He hasn't seen his son in two years, Xena!" he yelled and she stepped closer to him. He increasingly became more nervous the closer she got.
"I'm not stopping him from coming here now am I?" she hissed with a iniquitous smile. "He can see Solan whenever he wants, but Solan is not going to Anatolia."
Osman sighed and Xena folded her arms defiantly glaring at him. "And what about the other child?" he asked, peering down at her abdomen.
She raised her eyebrow, "will also stay with me," she smiled. She waved her hand, "now if you excuse me, I have a lot of work to do. Why don't you run along and tell Borias the news," she winked and Osman snarled then left the room.
Solan saw Osman leave his mother's room and then he stepped inside, staring at her as she rubbed her forehead anxiously. "I'm going to Anatolia?" he asked with saddened eyes.
Xena looked to her son and knelt down in front of him, cupping his cheeks, staring into his blue eyes. "No, no. You'll stay here with me, I promise." She smiled and kissed his forehead.
Gabrielle fell asleep throughout most of the journey to Persia. It was hard enough traveling in this cramped cage with these other women, but it was even worse on the boat ride over the sea. They were back on land now and were traveling to Jerusalem.
She was jolted awake from the wagon rolling over a rock. She rubbed the back of her head and then her eyes widened when she saw the big tall columns outside, framing the streets. She crawled to the other side of the cage and saw a huge palace at the end of the long street they were on.
Her mouth gaped as soon as she saw the huge palace. She had seen Xenophon's palace before in Thebes, but nobody was allowed near it, except outside the gates. She also never saw the emperor before in real life.
She eyed the Persian horsemen that rode on both sides of the wagon, watching the girls carefully and the road as well. She frowned and leaned back, startling one of the girls.
"Sorry," she whispered and the girl shied away from her. "Have you been here before?" she asked, trying not to bring too much attention to herself.
The brunette shook her head. "Have you?" she whispered back.
Gabrielle shook her head at her as well. "Have you actually seen the emperor?"
The girl nodded, "once yes, when I was in Delphi. He wears a lot of black," her eyebrows creased as she tried to recall seeing the sultan. "And covers his entire face, except his eyes. He also wears gloves."
Gabrielle scoffed, "is he a leper or something?" she joked. The girl didn't seem to get the joke so she quieted down. "My name is Gabrielle." She introduced herself with a warm smile.
The brunette shyly smiled, "Helena," she spoke softly. "I hear that the sultan is very vicious."
"Must be. He obviously wants an entire harem of women to himself," Gabrielle sighed, folding her arms. She couldn't believe she got herself into this mess. She just wanted to live in Thebes, but no. And another thing, Lucia left her there to be captured and did nothing to help her. She would probably never forget that, but she couldn't blame Lucia.