AN: After many failed attempts and rewriting, I think I have something that might work. Sometimes it takes several drafts to figure out exactly what you want and I wish to share this with you all.
Warning of strong language, sexual intentions implied, although nothing explicit as of yet. Good luck to all and hope you enjoy :)
In the snowy mountains of tribal Thrace, the Roman army, commanded by Gaius Julius Caesar, waited on the hillside. Overlooking on the tribesmen gorging themselves on wine and having their fill with the flesh of their women. The thought of these Thracians celebrating their victories against Rome made Gaius Julius Caesar ill. Those savages had rivaled an entire army to overthrow Caesar and Rome altogether. Once, servants of Rome, these Thracians were, but no longer, all due to one person –one woman.
A woman that Julius Caesar had grown to hate over the last year. She had become a formidable foe and chose to build her people up to rise against his expanding republic of Rome. One day, she will be mine, Caesar kept telling himself. Not only was she able to form all of the tribes in Thrace against Caesar and his army, but she lead the attack as well. She was a fine warrior, Roman trained, which the Roman noble immediately regretted. She was ruthless and those Thracian brutes gave great help to rebel against Rome. She had everything.
Almost, Julius Caesar thought. She almost had everything, except one small detail that the Thracian woman had forgotten. She was extremely outnumbered and he was going to put a stop to her little rebellion before she gathered all the tribes from Italy and revolt against him. One person can change the world. One person could change the fate of the world. One person.
"It only takes one," Gaius Caesar growled as he gazed upon the dimly lit tribe below on the bottom of the mountains. Snow falling ever so slightly upon his armor and on the bare skin of the Thracian dogs.
Noble Marcus Licinus Crassus trotted in on his horse, finishing scouting the tribe below. "Caesar!" he yelled and the Roman elite turned his head ever so slightly, not amused to see his comrade riding in so late.
"The Thracians are piss drunk. They make a mockery out of Rome," Crassus frowned heavily as he lay eyes upon the roaring dogs below, celebrating their short victory.
Julius Caesar turned and he too lay eyes on the Thracians. A small smile graced his lips and he fastened the leather strap of his helmet on his chin. "They fill their bellies with drink and fuck their women, feasting on them as if they will not live to see the next day." He snickered.
"They are open for attack, Caesar. We should strike while the iron is hot," Crassus advised.
"Indeed, my dear friend, Crassus. We will show them who the ruler of Mother Rome truly is. We shall end this celebration. Leave no one alive," he said and his comrade gave him a slow nod with a grand smile.
Crassus whistled and ordered the first legion of Romans to ride down to the bottom of the mountains. Those Thracians had no idea what was coming and they will be sorry that they ever tried to challenge the Roman Republic.
"What of the Thracian woman?" Crassus asked.
Julius Caesar bit his bottom lip and caught eye of the dark haired beauty below, sharing drink with several of the men, smiling, enjoying her evening. "Bring her to me alive. I wish to have words with the Thracian woman whom bested my men in combat. She is dear to my heart, too dear to toss her aside and leave her for the coyotes to feed off of."
"As you command, Caesar," Crassus bowed his head then rode off with the second legion, through the rough rocky terrain.
In the middle of the Thracians' celebration of victory over the Roman army, they were interrupted by the Caesar's army riding into their camp. The men quickly grabbed their weapons, only too late to save themselves. The Roman soldiers thrust their swords into the guts of the Thracians and severed their heads from body, tearing limb from limb. Slicing through the spines of Rome's most hated enemy.
The women screeched and panicked, running wild trying to be free of the Roman beasts rampaging throughout the camp. The snow once white, turned crimson in a matter of minutes. Roman horses stampeding inside the Thracian camp, swords in hands, loud war cries, screams of terror and agony echoed in the mountains of lower Thrace.
Crassus pulled his bloodied sword from a Thracian's gut, leaving entrails to fall in the crisp snow. His eyes scanned the camp and within all the chaos he saw her. The woman that started this all, the woman that will fall or die trying if he were lucky enough. He licked his lips once he saw that she made eye contact with him.
"Thracian bitch," he muttered under his breath. The dark haired beauty came charging right at him, wielding two large swords, wearing next to nothing in this harsh winter storm. Her body riddled with dirt and snow fluttering off her long unkempt midnight mane.
He anxiously hopped of his steed and readied himself for her attack. He had waited two years to be rid of this savage woman, though he knew he could not dispose of her now. She belonged to Caesar.
They clashed swords together and danced around one another. He stared into her ice chip colored eyes. So much fire, so much will to live and fight. It was such a shame that she decided to rebel against Mother Rome. "Give up Xena! You are not going to win here!" he hissed and she pushed him backwards with all of her weight.
He shook his head and laughed. He pointed his sword at the chaos surrounding them. "Look what your treachery has caused you! You gain nothing from this folly! See what happens when you betray Mother Rome and all of her offerings, Xena! See!" he growled.
Her mouth turned up into a sly grin. Lowering her stance, she gripped her swords tightly, her body writhing with heat from anger and rage. "Why don't you put your money where your mouth is, Roman? Less talking, more fighting. I'm in the mood for some Roman blood." She smiled deviously, lowering her hooded eyes, engaging in the heat of the moment –heat of the battle.
"As much as I'd love to spill your blood, Xena. I have orders," he lowered his sword and she frowned confusedly.
Two Roman soldiers stood behind her and knocked her on the head with the hilt of a sword. She fell into the snow, groaning lightly. The two soldiers lifted her from beneath her arms and drug her off as she was barely able to make way of where she was. Her weapons fell from her grasp and she lifted her head to see snow flurries falling furiously down upon her head.
Julius Caesar dismounted his horse and the Thracian woman was thrown to his feet. He cocked his head and lifted her chin, staring at the blood dripping from her fresh wound. He grinned out of satisfaction and kicked her in her side and she winced, holding in all her emotion.
"Your tribe is defeated, Xena. You are a treacherous serpent. If not for your savagery I might have taken you for myself." He knelt down and pinched her cheeks. She breathed heavily through her flared nostrils and he brushed a few tendrils from her cheeks. "Acts of pleasure of course..." he leaned in closer.
She grinned, almost on the verge of laughing. "I didn't know you liked women, Caesar."
His lip quivered and he growled as he stood, stepping away from her. "And then I am reminded that you are not a woman, but a snake. I ought to kill you where you are." He pulled out his blade and Xena narrowed her eyes, struggling to free herself from the ropes tied about her wrists.
"I'd love to see if a Thracian bleeds red but..." Caesar lowered his sword. "You are not worthy of my blade. You would become a martyr for your people and I can't have that, now can I?" he chuckled and sheathed his sword.
He lowered to one knee and touched her cheek softly and she cringed, gaping into his dark eyes. "I hear my dear friend is looking for a few slaves to add to his collection. I'm sure you will fair there and make quite a show of yourself," he whispered in her ear and she snarled, nearly biting off his cheek.
He quickly hopped to his feet and frowned. He nodded to his soldiers and they smacked her in the face with the dull end of the sword and she slumped into the arms of a Roman, falling unconscious.
A few days later Xena awoke abruptly, exhaling heavily. Her vision blurred and she blinked several times, trying to make out what was in front of her. She looked to her left and saw a man sitting beside her, a muscular tanned man. She crinkled her nose and then saw another man, shackled to the wall, of what appeared to be a ship, gawking at her. In fact, she noticed this ship was filled with men and they were staring at her like a piece of meat. She glanced to her right and saw a slew of women huddled in a corner. Thin little things, she witnessed.
"The lady finally wakes," the brute across from her chuckled. He saw she was a bit dazed and disarrayed at how she came about this ship. "You been out for days, princess."
She scowled, "I'm not your princess." She wriggled her wrists in the shackles chained to the wall and forcefully pulled her arms, groaning, trying to set herself free.
"Best of luck trying to get out of those," the man to her left mused and she huffed, settling back in her seat, her arms collapsed into her lap.
The brute sneered and looked at the woman across from him, idolizing her stunning features and her blue eyes, clear as the Aegean Sea. "I hear Thracian women can fuck for days and always leave their men begging for more," he said and Xena frowned, lifting her eyes, glaring at him.
All the men surrounding her began laughing and she smirked, laughing along with them. The man to her left scooted closer to her and grabbed her inner thigh. Her eyes widened and her jaw tightened.
"They say Thracian women are capable of pleasuring their men in bed," he bit his lip and Xena smiled mockingly.
"You know what else we Thracian women are capable of?" she whispered sensually and he raised an eyebrow. She leaned in close and then cried out and head butted him and he hit the back of his head on the wall of the ship.
All the men inside the belly of the ship roared with laughter and Xena smirked, leaning back against the wall. She eyed the brute in front of her and asked, "where are we going?"
The brute's laughter died down quickly. "We are to be sold to some Roman."
"Sold? As in slavery?" she asked and the brute let out a laugh deep from within his belly and she snarled, furrowing her eyebrows. "Which Roman is it?"
"Does it matter? They're all cocksuckers, all of them, especially Caesar," the brute spat on the floor in the Roman's name. Xena groaned lowly and thought it best to remain silent throughout the rest of this journey.
Julia, wife of Pompey, the finest General of Rome and loyal friend to Caesar, also Julia's father, looked over the balcony, admiring the gladiator women fighting one another. She suckled on a strawberry, biting off bits of the fruit slowly as she was completely engaged in the training below her.
She grinned with glee when she saw one of the women fall in defeat, raising her hand for surrender. She handed her chalice of empty wine to her slave behind her.
"My father should have thought of bringing in female gladiators a long time ago!" she laughed as she saw one of the women bleed profusely from her arm due to a severe swing of her opponent's sword. "It is far more entertaining than watching men, although their bodies are not the same of the fine specimen of the male gladiators," she mused.
Pompey arrived on the balcony and grasped his young wife's shoulder. Julia spun around and kissed him gently on the lips. "Having your fill of the women?" he mused and she nodded her head vigorously. "Had I known you'd enjoy the female gladiators I would have convinced Caesar to invite them into the games long ago."
Julia grabbed the wine from her slave and sipped it gingerly. He wrapped his around her taut waist and grinned at his gentle touch. "I was just saying the same." She lifted her eyes to her husband. "When will they actually compete? Surely they are ready, especially the blonde down there."
Pompey sighed and his hand slid off her. "When Caesar permits it, Julia. I have no control over that." He saw the disappointment in her eyes and frowned sadly, bringing her close. "But I have purchased some more slaves for your enjoyment and mine alike. I am sure you will be amused to have a few Thracian men and a woman in the arena soon enough."
She gasped. "A Thracian woman? Unheard of, Pompey! They are said to be impossible to train and you bring a woman? I am intrigued..."
He kissed the top of her head and pat her shoulder. "I make leave for Neapolis to bring back the slaves. I will return this evening."
Julia smiled as she watched her husband leave her side. She turned around and looked to her young slave. "Nara, go fetch some wine. I wish to drink my fill tonight when the recruits arrive."
The blonde nodded, "of course," she lowered her eyes and turned to make her leave.
"And make sure it's the Sicilian wine, not that shit from Ostia."
Nara nodded once more. "Yes Miss Julia."
The male gladiators down below on the training grounds stood on the sidelines watching the female gladiators spar with each other. They had grown rather amused watching women fight over the last year. They were beginning to prefer gladiator women over the whores in the streets of the republic.
"Callisto will become the best gladiator Rome has ever seen, don't you think so, Humarous?" Abder, one of the tallest, yet slimmest gladiators that Pompey owned.
Humarous scoffed and wiped his mouth, dropping the ladle of water back into the well. "She is a wiry one, she would never make it in a match against a man," he laughed and Abder chuckled along with him.
"Callisto! I hope you are better in bed than you are in the sands!" Humarous croaked out and all the male gladiators cackled.
The slender blonde shot a glare at the boys as she called them. She shoved her sparring partner, Gulsen, to the ground and stomped her foot on the woman's neck, constricting her air flow. "You wanna come play with me, Humarous? Or am I too much for you?" she teased and all the men's laughter heightened, filling the training grounds.
"Rumor has it that you can't last but a breath in the sheets. Care to test that?" Callisto winked and Humarous growled.
The instructor cracked his whip, silencing all gladiators, female and male alike. "Callisto! You pair up with Gabrielle," the tall muscular Syrian instructor of the ludi said and he snapped his around to the males. "Humarous, why don't you cease tongue and spar with Abder since you are full of words today?"
Callisto gathered herself and smiled at her opponent. Gabrielle wrapped the bandages around her wrists, standing back, stalling time to spar with her partner. The stocky petite short haired blonde gawked at Callisto, finding her demur the most amusing thing she had ever seen.
"Come on, Gabrielle. I haven't got all day!" the thin tall blonde whipped her wild sun colored locks behind her shoulders. She eyed her with a mischievous grin.
Gabrielle snuffed and picked up her sword. "Patience is not one your assets, Callisto."
"You're damn right about that. Now, fight me!" Callisto ran after her opponent, swinging both practice swords, screeching loudly.
Gabrielle ducked and swung her leg around, knocking her opponent off her feet. Callisto growled and rolled over before Gabrielle could thrust her sword into her chest. Gabrielle chuckled softly once she saw the anger rising in her sparring partner.
"Maybe you should pay attention to training instead of occupying yourself with the men," she teased.
Callisto scoffed. "Enough talk, Gabrielle. Your tongue keeps wagging, but your sword doesn't!" she charged right for her and Gabrielle's eyes widened and quickly rolled onto the sand, dodging her attack.
Julia watched, completely engaged with the fight between Callisto and Gabrielle. The only two blonde Grecian women in this training ludi and they were said to be among the best fighters. She longed to see the two go head to head in the arena one day.
"Isn't it positively exhilarating watching the women, Nara?" she smiled and saw Gabrielle draw first blood and she gasped.
Her slave nodded, "most exciting, Miss Julia."
The daughter of Julius Caesar sighed heavily, quite disappointed once she saw that the instructor ended training for the time being. She sighed and frowned sadly, handing her chalice to Nara. "The evening cannot come fast enough!" she grinned and waltzed back into her luxurious home.
"Nara, prepare the atrium for the new recruits before they arrive. I wish to surprise my husband in his quarters tonight," she smiled with glee and practically skipped through the marble halls.
Down below in the barracks Gabrielle sat by the pools, cleaning the dirt and filth from her body from today's training. She glanced down at the cut that Callisto gave her earlier and she would be sure to get her back for that, one day, if not tomorrow.
Callisto slipped into the cool waters and drenched her locks. She swam close to her opponent from earlier and grinned deviously. "I'll make sure to deepen that cut for you tomorrow, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and turned around to see Callisto wading in the water with that crazy look in her eyes. "Well, I'd like to see you try," she smirked playfully.
"I'm counting on it," Callisto frowned and dunked herself under the bath water.
Gabrielle shook her head, sighing heavily and continued cleaning her body with the dampened cloth. She worked very hard to remain neutral with all the women in this ludi, but that proved very difficult since she arrived last year. Callisto was but a huge problem to all the women. She was a good fighter, but a bit unpredictable. All the women feared her and the men only wished to sleep with her. A formidable woman on both sides it seemed.
The Syrian instructed walked into the female bathing room and frowned deeply, staring at them all. "Pompey wishes your presence outside, ladies."
Callisto stepped out of the baths and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around herself. She saw Gabrielle passing her by and couldn't resist the urge to test her. "Maybe I will have that chance to spar with you after all, Gabby." She winked and Gabrielle scoffed, brushing by her, quickly leaving the barracks.
Pompey walked along the line of his new recruits and all were men, except one. He smiled and looked to each man. "Gaul..." he pointed to one man, "Roman," he nodded. "Greek," he continued down the line and stopped in front of Xena. "Thracian." He sighed, folding his arms.
Xena frowned and glared into his green eyes. He smugly grinned. "You must be the woman that Caesar sent to me. I should be forever grateful to my old friend for sending such a fine specimen to my home."
He reached out to touch her face and Xena grabbed his wrist firmly. Pompey's mouth gaped and he chuckled lightly. "A feisty one you are and also incredibly arrogant..." he snatched his hand away and heard the whip from his instructor. "No need for that, Sorso," he called out and kept gazing into her eyes.
"You rebelled against Rome, against Gaius Julius Caesar. You are a traitor of Mother Rome, but now, you are mine and you belong to Rome once more. Funny how that works, eh?" he leaned in closer and she grit her teeth.
"I will never submit to Rome or Caesar," she spat.
Pompey laughed aloud and the male slaves beside her remained quiet, lowering their heads. "You have quite a tongue, Thracian. You go by the name of Xena. What a fine name that is. It means 'stranger' doesn't it?" he rubbed his chin and Xena lifted hers, refusing to let her guard down. "We'll have to make sure that we won't remain strangers for long, huh?" he winked.
She eyed the sword in its sheath, resting on Pompey's hip. Seizing the opportunity she spat in his face and then grabbed his sword, pointing the blade directly in his face. Sorso marched over to her and Pompey held up his hand.
He wiped the saliva off his face and smiled as he backed away from Xena holding the sword dangerously close. "Oh, you are the treacherous snake that Caesar warned me about!" he cackled loudly.
"Careful, Pompey, I might accidentally miss and aim below your belt," Xena smirked.
Callisto leaned on the wooden post beside Gabrielle and saw the dark haired woman, pointing Pompey's sword directly at his heart. "Oh, what did I miss?" she grinned and folded her arms. "Who's miss tall, dark and dangerous over there?" she nudged her head towards Xena.
Gabrielle raised her eyebrow and folded her arms, witnessing the spectacle before her. She had never seen such a slave be as bold as to draw a Roman's sword and threaten his life with it.
"New recruit," she finally answered once Callisto's question registered in her mind.
Callisto grinned, marveling at the new site before her eyes. "She would make a great opponent in the arena." She peered over at the male gladiators who were all staring in awe at the brunette and couldn't help but laugh loudly. "Or in the bed."
"If you value your life, you will drop the sword, Xena," Pompey warned and she kept smiling eerily at him, moving forward. "Sorso!"
The instructor cracked his whip and knocked the sword from Xena's hand and slashed her wrist. She hissed and grabbed her wrist, wincing in agony.
Pompey brushed his hands along his toga and smirked at his new slave. "Teach her that I run this place, she does not. See it done," he gave a curt nod and took his leave to go inside his home.
"Yes, sir," Sorso said and walked slowly over to Xena, towering over her. She lifted her head and frowned, straightening herself out, forgetting about her aching wrist.
"I will break you," he said in a low tone.
Xena smirked. "Try me."
Callisto let out a maniacal cackle watching this new recruit giving Sorso a run for his money. She gripped Gabrielle's shoulders firmly and leaned downward, touching cheeks with her. "I take it back, I'd rather see you fight her than spar with you again. It would be very comical," she hissed and kissed Gabrielle's cheek.
The short blonde cringed in disgust and wiped her face as she continued to gawk at the tall lean brunette across the field, challenging Sorso with her tongue and riddles. There were other slaves beside the Thracian woman, but none were quick to challenge Pompey himself. This woman was obviously hated by the Romans long ago before she even got here.
Gabrielle folded her arms and cocked her head watching Sorso yell in this woman's face, basically telling her that she was nothing, a worm in Rome's eye. Something that was said to all the new recruits when they arrived in Pompey's territory. The Roman general wanted to make sure that these gladiators, men and women alike, submit to Caesar and the entire Republic or face the consequences –in or out of the arena.
Sorso cracked his whip around Xena's wrist and pulled her to the ground. Gabrielle winced, feeling the woman's pain even from afar. She bet that this recruit would be hard to train and Pompey seemed to know exactly who she was from his reaction upon seeing her face for the first time.
Olympia rounded the corner and stood beside Gabrielle, twirling her long sandy tendrils around her finger lazily. "That woman refuses to submit to Sorso. She will have it tough around here," she snickered and Gabrielle eyed her. "When it's time to train tomorrow I will gladly best her in the sands." She said proudly.
Gabrielle scoffed. "I doubt that, Olympia. She is twice your size. She rivals the men."
Olympia and Gabrielle were the smallest classes among the women, yet were always able to keep up with the rest of the gladiators during training. Olympia, a strong Gaul from one of the largest tribes seized by Julius Caesar himself only six months ago.
"The males already fancy her," Olympia stifled a laugh when she saw the look in the men's eyes. They were enthralled with her fighting skills as well as her beauty.
She whistled, "Adonis, get your head out of your ass. Have you never seen a woman before?" she laughed and Gabrielle bit her bottom lip, enjoying the reddening of Adonis' cheeks as the rest of the men roared, teasing the blonde Greek gladiator.
"Not by the looks of you, Olympia!" Adonis shouted.
She chuckled softly and walked up to the tall gladiator, shoving him backwards. "Come on big boy, you want to go? I'll fight you in the sands right now. Let's go," she shoved him again and he growled.
Sorso snapped his head around, distracted by the female and male gladiators behind him. He cracked the whip against the sands. "Enough!" he shouted and Olympia punched Adonis in the chest lightly. "Go back to the barracks. All of you!"
"Next time, huh?" Olympia winked and Adonis snarled at her while his brothers pulled him away to return to the barracks on the other side of the field.
Gabrielle turned around, wrapping her arm around the post, watching the Thracian spit blood from her mouth, crawling across the sands. She shook her head. Her backside already filled with Sorso's lashes due to her disobedience. She began walking back to the barracks trailing behind Olympia and heard the whip crack against bare flesh again and cringed slightly. A sound she would never get used to no matter how long she stayed in this ludi.
Sorso raveled up his whip and stared down at the defeated Thracian woman, crawling on her knees, blood poured from her mouth. "Let me get this through your thick skull, Xena. You are a slave. You belong to Rome."
Xena lifted her eyes and gave him a bloody smile, "I am no one's slave."
He shook his head and turned to the rest of the slaves remaining silent and still as stone. "You all will stay in the male barracks. Xena will stay outside like the dog she is," he grinned and one of Pompey's guards showed the male slaves to their sleeping quarters.
He knelt down and grabbed her jaw, staring into her icy eyes. "You will learn the hard way. This is not your turf anymore. Your words have no value and neither does the mouth that bears them," he hissed with a smile and Xena spat blood into his face.
Sorso groaned and ran his hand across his face, saliva dripping from his chin and the Thracian woman grinned cheekily. "I'm definitely going to have my fill training you." He muttered and wiped his hand on his vest.
The early morning sun beamed down on the hot sands of the training grounds within the ludi. Gabrielle and Olympia stepped out of the barracks, wrapping their wrists. Both of them turned their attention to the male gladiators, already sparring with each other so early in the day. A few of the men were always eager to rise early and train without Sorso's command and supervision.
Olympia smirked and motioned to Humarous sparring with Sefius. "Look at those two. I'd place bets on Sefius if he hadn't had his fill with wine. He does not know when to cease cup from hand."
Gabrielle smirked and continued wrapping her wrists with the rough cloth. Her eyes lingered on the Thracian woman on the opposite side of the grounds. She looked awful –circles beneath her eyes, lashes upon her bare flesh, blood dried knuckles and her hair wild and untamed. Gabrielle remembered the first day she came here under the order of Pompey. The women did not make it easy for her but she wasn't treated in such a manner like this recruit was.
Olympia caught her sister gawking at the Thracian. "Best be careful of that one, Gabrielle. She will not last long here if she continues this act against Pompey."
"Who is she? Pompey looked as if he wanted to kill her last night," Gabrielle mused and cocked her head. The Thracian lolled her head and ran her fingers through her long midnight tresses.
"Does it matter? She is but a slave like the rest of us," Olympia walked over to the wrack of practice weapons and grabbed one for herself and Gabrielle.
"It mattered to Pompey," Gabrielle said and Olympia shook her head at her curiosity.
Callisto walked out onto the field, stretching her arms over head. She peered upward at the balcony and saw Julia leaning over the balustrade anxiously waiting for everyone to begin the day's training. Although, she saw that the men already began their training and out walked Sorso, whip in hand of course.
Her eyes traveled over to the Thracian woman and a devious smile crossed her lips. "Oh, fresh meat awakens," she folded her arms. "I wish to fight her and see what is so special about her. It's not often that a Thracian walks into this ludi, let alone a Thracian woman."
She marched over to the wrack and pulled two practice swords and licked her upper lip, sauntering over to the Thracian with a mission at hand. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she ran to her, grabbing her arm. "Callisto, you weren't ordered to go over to her."
The feisty thin blonde pushed Gabrielle aside. "Do not let your sensitive nature get in the way of this, Gabrielle! Stand aside!"
Xena clenched her fists and opened them several times, feeling the aches and pains along with it. Her body felt as if she had been stomped on by several horse hooves and her back stung from the lashes and harsh wind grazing her bare skin. She heard loud footsteps on the sand and lifted her eyes to see a lithe blonde marching towards her with weapons in hand.
Callisto halted a mere three feet from her and clashed the wooden swords together. "Allow me to welcome you to this ludi. You put up quite a fight last night against Sorso and Pompey. Won't you show me the kind favor of challenging me next?"
Xena scoffed and smiled smugly, hanging her head. "I do not have time to deal with little girls," she said softly, her voice dripping with exhaustion.
"You think very highly of yourself, Thracian!" Callisto cackled. "Get up and fight me!"
Xena turned away and watched the men sparring with each other. Some of them looking her way, completely distracted by her or by this annoying blonde in front of her, she did not know. She kept hearing this girl talking to her, or rather yelling, and she tried to ignore it.
Callisto continued on and on until Xena abruptly stood from the bench and towered over her. Her eyebrows rose and she lifted her chin, staring into Xena's eyes. "Glad to see you're finally awake. Now grab sword and I'll teach you who runs this ludi around here," she hissed.
Xena raised an eyebrow and eyed all the other females gawking at them. "I don't need wooden toys to prove to you that I am a better fighter," she whispered and then an eerie smile graced her cracked dry lips. Callisto groaned lowly then shoved Xena backwards in a fit of rage.
Sorso turned his head and saw Callisto trying to fight his new recruit. "Callisto!" he shouted and the blonde did not lower her weapons, but had her eyes fixated on the Thracian woman. "Stand down!" he ordered.
Xena's smile widened and she placed her hands on her hips, which only angered the thin blonde even more so. Callisto's nostrils flared as the swords in her hands began shaking from the rage rising within her.
"I said, stand down!" Sorso cracked his whip against the sand and everyone ceased training with each other to look upon the two women gaping into their eyes. The entire ludi was silent.
"Better do as he says before you get hurt," Xena winked and Callisto lowered her weapons slowly without taking her eyes off of her. She watched the furious blonde turn and walk in the opposite direction back to the other women.
Callisto let out an ear piercing scream and charged right for Xena, thrusting her wooden sword directly at her face. Xena reacted quickly and grabbed the blonde's wrist firmly, twisting it slowly. Callisto gasped in agony as she felt the bones in her small wrist begin to snap and wither. She dropped her sword and Xena sent a swift kick to her gut and she flew across the field a few feet, onto her backside.
Xena huffed and grabbed the woman's sword from the sands and walked slowly, barefoot, towards Callisto and stood over her. Callisto lifted her head, moaning lightly. She saw the dark haired Thracian woman smiling over her and was met with the point of the practice blade in her face.
"I told you that you'd get hurt, little girl," the Thracian grinned and Callisto growled, eager to hop to feet, but Xena stomped on her, pinning her to the hot sands.
"Xena!" Pompey announced from the balcony above and she snapped her head upwards. "She is defeated. You need not prove your opulence so soon. You will spoil everyone," he teased. He saw that smile, that smile of horror, on her face and he wished it wiped from her face.
"Put the sword down," he said in a calm firm tone and Xena pressed the tip of the blade into Callisto's neck ever so slightly.
"Or what?" Xena's eyes wild as she challenged the Roman general.
Pompey chuckled and his wife smiled, cuddling close to him. "Perhaps you would like to demonstrate your fine combat skills to the rest of the gladiatrices and gladiators?" he offered.
"I do not fight girls," Xena pressed the blade deeper into the blonde's skin. Callisto felt the wooden weapon constrict her air flow and she lolled her head back, staring up at the blue sky above.
"No matter. Perhaps a male gladiator would be more to your...standards?" his eyes went to Sorso and saw the shock on his face. He gave a curt nod and the Syrian walked over to the males to choose one for Pompey's new pet to fight with.
Julia frowned. "Pompey, the women do not fight against men. My father would never permit it."
He clenched his jaw at the audacity of his wife, though he was quickly reminded that Caesar was her father and above his station as well. "My dear Julia, this woman is different. I doubt Caesar would mind if I engage in sport with this Thracian."
"You are not to go against my father, Pompey. You dare go up against a higher rank than your own? I shall remind you that my father will rule Rome one day. Let you not forget that, husband," she said in low tone.
Pompey frowned and looked down upon Xena glaring with those piercing eyes of hers. She was so unworthy of being a gladiator. She was a skilled fighter Caesar explained, but she was vicious and liked to follow her own rules. He feared that this new recruit of his would not be able to be broken. But they can all be broken, somehow, some way. He just needed something that was very special to Xena, something that she held dear to her heart. That was the only way to entice the Thracian to make her submit to Mother Rome and his ludi filled with gladiators and gladiatrices. Now, what could be important to you, Xena? What is most dear to you? Do you have such a wonder in your life? Let us find out.
He raised his hand and Sorso lowered his whip in confusion. "On second thought, let her fight one of the women to show her true worth. A male gladiator would be far too much of a challenge for her," he teased and hoped to get a rise out of Xena.
Sorso gave a curt bob of his head and turned to the Thracian. "Xena! Drop your weapon and retract!"
Xena lowered her eyes and bore her soul into the skinny blonde beneath her. The brown eyes filled with fear, desire and rage. She was afraid, this blonde was afraid of being bested in front of everyone –in front of her peers –by this new recruit. By me, Xena thought.
She took a good look around her and all the gladiatrices eyed her with awe, bemusement, rage and determination even. They all wanted to fight her. She did not see anyone that could rival her in size, except two women and they were thin and wiry unlike the male gladiators. She was not bulky nor too thin, but certainly larger than all the women here and was of the same stature and height as most of the men. This is not a challenge, she thought, this will become a bloodbath.
Finally, she dropped the practice sword and Callisto rose to her feet, spitting sand from her mouth. The feiry eyes that glared into Xena's soul was still present. This fight is not over, Xena could tell. The blonde wanted more.
Pompey smiled seeing Xena obey for the first time. A step in the right direction. "Gabrielle!" he shouted and his eyes grabbed the petite blonde's attention from below. "Show Xena how this place is run."
Xena frowned and saw the short haired blonde walk into the center of the field, all the men and women scattered around, leaving them space. Gabrielle tied the wraps around her wrists tightly and was handed a wooden sword and shield. Xena began laughing under her breath at the sight of the woman or girl, which seemed to suit her more. Very young, very small, too small for her. I'd break her in half, she thought.
"You must think this is some kind of joke, Pompey?" Xena squinted her eyes from the bright sunlight and saw the blonde Roman with a smug grin plastered on his rugged face.
"Are you not up to the challenge, Xena?" he said in a playful tone.
She snickered and her eyes roamed the blonde's stocky body and taut abdominal muscles. She certainly was not lithe and wiry like Callisto. "What challenge?"
Sorso shouted to the squire behind him. "Sword and shield!" he shouted and the young boy ran to the weapons wrack to retrieve the items.
Pompey raised his hand and called out, "no weapons, Sorso," he grinned and the Syrian instructor arched an eyebrow. The squire paused with weapon in hand, unsure what to do next. "Let us see what she can do with nothing to aid her since she does not think this is a challenge worthy of her time."
"You believe in this woman's capabilities, Pompey?" Julia whispered.
"I want to see why she is so arrogant that she can spout off at any time she wants, Julia. She believes herself to be the best fighter, but I will see that for myself." He looked to Sorso and nodded.
"Begin," Sorso said and stepped back giving the two women room on the grounds.
At this very moment, Gabrielle began studying the way Xena held her body and stance. She witnessed the way she fought Pompey and Callisto. She did not play dirty, which was an advantage for her and thought she was a worthy opponent. Her eyes looked to the Thracian's legs and her thighs large and muscular, though slender and feminine. Her hair wild as her eyes were. Her bare feet planted firmly in the sand and abdominal muscles tightened and chest rising and falling so softly. She was calm, too calm, Gabrielle noticed.
She had fought like this before and won. Otherwise, why would she be in here Pompey's ludi? The moment she lay eyes upon Xena, she knew that she was someone of great importance and great nuisance to Caesar and Rome. Pompey thought he had the upper hand giving Xena the disadvantage of no weapons and proper sparring gear, but he underestimates this woman.
"They are not fighting..." Julia grew impatient up on the balcony and clung to her husband's arm.
Xena's eyebrow arched and she waited for the blonde to attack her, but she was simply staring at her intensely. "Are we going to stare at each other all day?" she said with a grin.
Stare? No, I am not staring at you, I am studying you, Gabrielle told herself. I want to know what makes you tick and how I can defeat you in a few easy blows, but not enough to hurt your already beaten body. Gabrielle smiled and rolled her shoulders back bringing her weapon and shield close to her body and face, ready for the woman's attack.
"I'm waiting for you," Gabrielle said.
Xena wagged her hand with a hint of a grin. She ran forward and immediately went to strike the blonde in her face, but was blocked by the metal shield crashing into her knuckles. She winced at the pain coursing through her already wounded hand.
Gabrielle swung her sword around and tried to jab Xena in her ribcage, but the tall brunette swerved out of the direction of the blade and danced around her. Gabrielle whipped her head around, noticing this woman was extremely fast with her reflexes and knew the exact moment when to evade an attack. A worthy opponent indeed.
Xena kicked Gabrielle in the spine, sending her stumbling forward a few paces. She smirked and paced around, clenching and unclenching her fists watching the blonde regain her composure. When the blonde gladiatrix finally turned, arching her back, Xena saw a fire in her eyes. She was angry, very angry. Good, be angry, easier for me to get you when your guard is down, she thought.
The men and women surrounding the two were cheering, some booing, some screaming out inaudible phrases. Some placing their bet on Gabrielle while others placed them on Xena. Pompey above in the balcony thought this spar was very entertaining, given Xena's disadvantages. Perhaps, Caesar was right all along –she was a dangerous foe to behold, or a beauty.
"They have yet to draw blood," Julia noted, a little disappointed.
"We must have patience," her husband insisted and grabbed hold of her nervous hand.
Gabrielle lifted her sword and creased her eyebrows, glaring at Xena. She studied the position she took opposite her. Light on her feet yet her blows were excruciatingly painful and strong. Even with the shin guards strapped around Gabrielle's legs, she did not feel weighed down, but now she began to think that she was the one who was at disadvantage now.
Her eyes roamed to the women around her, screaming at her, yelling profanities and rooting for her. She blocked out the sounds around her and focused on the task at hand, getting Xena out of her way. She inhaled deeply and ran forward, thrusting her sword towards Xena's face.
Xena dodged the sword, swiftly turning her body from side to side, evading her opponent's attack. She grabbed Gabrielle's wrist and saw the shock in the young gladiatrix's jade colored eyes. Xena's eyes grew wild as did her smile. She bent Gabrielle's arm downward, tempting to break it with a simple snap. She had complete control now.
I am going to be made a fool of by this woman and she just got here, Gabrielle told herself. I cannot let that happen. She peered down at the hold Xena had on her wrapped wrist, bending her arm ever so slightly, almost to breaking point. Her veins engorged and knuckles white with tension.
Thinking quickly, Gabrielle jolted her shield forward, smacking Xena in her face which caused release of the wrist. She grinned and saw blood draining from the Thracian's nose, running down her chin and neck.
Xena wiped her nose and saw blood, a lot of it. slowly, she lifted her eyes, glaring at the blonde gladiatrix who did this to her. The blonde had quite a chagrin on her lips and all the women cheered her on, while some of the men were enthralled that first blood was finally drawn, not caring whom it came from. She was proud of herself, Xena noticed, too proud in fact.
She spat blood on the sand and began sauntering towards Gabrielle with a bit of sway in her hips. Gabrielle's smile faded from her lips and she geared herself up to fight once more. She circled around Gabrielle, eyeing her carefully, not willing to attack her with her bare hands.
"You kill for sport in this ludi," Xena stated as fact.
"I am ordered to fight you, not to talk!" Gabrielle spun around, creating a circle of sunken sand with her gladiator boots. Xena kept circling around her, continuing to wipe blood from face. "Why won't you fight me?!" she challenged.
Xena stopped and took a couple of steps backwards. "Oh, I was waiting for you," she winked.
"Kill her, Gabrielle!" Callisto shouted from behind.
Julia laughed at the response from the women and men on the sidelines. "They surely want to see your Thracian dead, Pompey."
"She will not be killed. If Caesar's men were unable to kill her, I doubt that these gladiatrices will." He lifted his chin with arrogance and pride as such, watching Gabrielle swing her sword around and finally draw blood from Xena's arm. Then proceed to give a nice uppercut to the Thracian's jaw, sending her stumbling.
"Xena is tired, she grows weak from her continual disobedience," Pompey chuckled watching Xena being beaten by the small Greek gladiatrix.
Gabrielle let out a loud cry and charged for Xena, ramming her into the wall. Xena lolled her head back against the stone and felt the hot sun beaming onto her skin. The blood drying on her chin and Gabrielle grabbed her by the shoulders and tossed her onto the scorching sand.
She stomped her boot on Xena's chest and lifted her sword high into the air, ready to slice right through her flesh. Feeding into the crowd surrounding her, she heard the women begging her to kill Xena. She lifted her eyes to Pompey and his wife, remaining silent on the matter. Usually, such matches were ended at this moment before the opponent was to be killed if this were the arena. This was a training exercise, no deaths were to be had here.
Gabrielle breathed heavily, glaring at the Romans above, relishing in this spar. She blocked out all sounds around her and waited for Pompey to give the command to cease this exercise, but he did not. Instead, he had a smug grin on his face as did Julia.
He wants me to kill her? She looked down and saw Xena coughing softly, blood pouring from her nose, her muscles swollen from heat and exhaustion from her journey and treatment from the night before. She was beaten, she was defeated and this would not be an honorable death.
Her eyes went back to Pompey and still, she waited for his signal. She felt Xena stir beneath her boot and forced more weight upon her, crushing her chest. "Come on, say it," Gabrielle hissed, gaping at the blonde Roman General. "Say it..."
Pompey finally raised his hand to cease the fight and Gabrielle let her boot rise from Xena's chest, stepping backward and dropped her weapon, completely out of breath and a bit relieved. Gabrielle peered down at the defeated woman and almost felt sorry for her, but she had her orders and she could not defy them.
"What a show you have given us!" The Roman General roared and everyone below clapped their hands, cheering.
Gabrielle was met with a few of her sisters running to her side, congratulating her in the fight. She smiled softly, not entirely too proud of herself. She did not like to fight someone who is so badly beaten and utterly exhausted. It was unfair and she always fought fair unlike Callisto.
Two Roman guards grabbed Xena by her arms and drug her off of the field. She didn't even put up a fight against them. Too tired to try. Gabrielle watched Xena being taken away into the healer's room within the barracks. She frowned softly, trying to hide her emotions from the rest of the women. She couldn't show favor to others, she promised herself that, but she knew that Xena was a good fighter, she was just too drained to show her true skills.
Callisto slapped her hand on Gabrielle's shoulder. "Should have driven your sword into her heart, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle pried her fingers off and grimaced. "She had no weapon. She was unarmed."
"Well, we can't all play fair like you, now can we? If I were in your position I would not hesitate," the lithe blonde laughed and walked off to grab weapon and shield to begin training with the other women.
"I expect nothing less, coming from you," Gabrielle wagged her head and walked off, unwrapping the bandages from her wrists. She rolled her wrist around and hissed. The same wrist that Xena held and almost broke and she could have, but she didn't. Xena was taunting her, trying to instill fear in her.
And it worked.
Julia waltzed into her husband's office and saw he was busy discussing matters with his men. He heard that he was to send some of his fleet to her father in the coming days. Upon her entering, Pompey dismissed his men and he greeted her with a warm smile.
"I am surprised to find you awake. The hour is late..." he mused and stood from his chair to embrace her with open arms.
She grinned and kissed his cheek gingerly. "I am filled with such excitement after today's training." She looked into his light eyes so filled with desire and power. "I admit, I was unsure if Gabrielle could hold her own against the Thracian."
Pompey scoffed and rounded his wife to leave the office and saunter to the bedroom across the hall. "Xena is an excellent fighter, Julia, lest you not forget that."
She trailed beside him, clinging to his arm. "But Gabrielle is good too," she said meekly.
He nodded, "that she is, although if Xena were not so riddled with exhaustion she would have bested Gabrielle in the sands today."
"You have a lot of faith in this Xena. She is the woman that rivaled against my father and Rome. I am a bit surprised to see that she yet lives when my father had opportunity to seize life from her."
Pompey sighed heavily and took off his robes, throwing them to a slave girl. He turned around and saw his wife lingering on the bed with her wavy chocolate brown hair set down from the elaborate style from earlier in the day.
"Caesar obviously does not want her life to end. He had the chance to kill her several times, yet he did not..." he frowned and rubbed his wrists, taking off his bracelets and jewelry. "He must fancy her, especially if he sent her to me."
Julia quirked her mouth and lounged on the bed, staring up at the ceiling mindlessly. "You honestly believe that my father would grant Xena life only to see it end in the arena if she should get that far." She chuckled softly.
"I await his command to send the women to the arena. They have yet to show their true worth in my house. The men have proven fruitful several times in the games. But, I long to see the women fight one another on the hot sands of the colosseum. They are very good fighters, if only some were allowed to fight the males," he wagged his head and slipped into something more comfortable.
Julia lifted her head and turned over onto her stomach. "You mean, you long to see Xena fight against the gladiators?" she mused with a subtle grin.
"She is an arrogant woman, Julia. She believes this is all a game, but she will learn. I will drive it into that thick head of hers until she bleeds red upon the sands." He sat next to his wife and kissed her hand gently, gaping into her lustful eyes.
Gabrielle walked through the barracks quietly by herself. She saw a few of the women playing a game with each other in one of the cells while others were trying to rest for tomorrow's training. She held her bowl of food and a large piece of bread as she trailed back to her cell that she shared with Olympia.
Callisto caught eye of her and blocked the hallway, clicking her tongue against her cheek, staring at her with certain intent.
"Out of my way, Callisto," Gabrielle frowned and tried to side step her but Callisto continued blocking her way.
"Your cell is the other way, Gabrielle. Just where do you think you're going?" she hissed and crossed her arms.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes. "I don't have time to deal with you. Just get out of my way before I hurt you."
"Oooo, I'm shaking," the lithe blonde laughed aloud, her voice echoing through the barrack pathways. "Tomorrow, you and I will have words."
"Right," Gabrielle pushed the thin blonde out of her way and Callisto huffed under her breath then made her way back to her cell.
She rounded the corner and saw Xena sitting by herself in a secluded corner of a cell. She was given choice of any cell that she wanted, yet she chose the one furthest away from everyone else. Gabrielle frowned softly and approached Xena and stepped inside the cell. She witnessed the gashes upon her arms, bruises on her knuckles and of course her slightly swollen nose and lip from earlier.
Xena ran her fingers through her long dark hair and Gabrielle felt she was unaware of her presence.
"Sorry about your nose," she spoke softly and Xena lifted her eyes. "I had my orders, you understand?" she half smiled. Though, Xena did not respond but hung her head once more.
She sighed lightly and stepped further into the cell, holding the food cupped in her palms. She took a seat down next to Xena and broke half of her bread and placed it in her lap. Xena frowned, arching an eyebrow and lifted the hard bread.
"You are a good fighter," Gabrielle mused as she tore off small bits of the bread and chewed them slowly. Still, Xena did not answer. "I could tell that you were not at your best. I would like to fight you again once you are healed," she grinned.
Xena finally lifted her eyes and turned to the blonde beside her. "No, you wouldn't." she answered curtly.
"I'm up for the challenge," Gabrielle lifted her eyebrows with a smug grin on her lips as she continued eating the bread. "What did you do to get yourself in here?" she asked on a more serious note.
"I tried to kill Caesar," Xena frowned and her grip on the bread tightened. Slowly, it crumbled within her grasp and she winced from her aching hands and wrists.
Gabrielle blinked and then she began laughing lightly, slightly amused. "Caesar? Gaius Julius Caesar?" she asked and Xena shot her a glare. "Wow," she cleared her throat and averted gaze. "Then I should be careful around you, huh?" she teased.
"I don't want to kill you, I don't even know you," the Thracian set the bread back into Gabrielle's lap and brought her legs close to her chest, staring off into the abyss.
"You will make a lot of enemies in here with an attitude like that," the blonde said and Xena looked to her with a stone cold expression. "It might do you some good to lighten your mood around the women. There's talk of you already among them. They want to fight you, especially Callisto. She wanted me to kill you today."
"And why didn't you?" Xena's lips turned up into a slight grin.
Gabrielle wiped her hands on her bare thighs and turned to the blue eyes that met with hers. "I won't kill someone that is unarmed. It is dishonorable and Callisto has no honor."
"A woman of honor in a place of filth," Xena scoffed and stretched her aching sore legs out in front of her, wrapping her arms around herself.
"You must have a gloomy outlook on life," Gabrielle snickered and finished her bread then stood from the ground. She tossed the bread and Xena caught it swiftly. "Don't be a lone wolf, Xena. It will be the end of you in here."
Xena raised an eyebrow and pursed her lips. "And I should...make friends?" she snorted at the idea.
Gabrielle held her empty bowl close to her. "Nobody is your friend in here."
"Yet, you share your food with me and talk to me while nobody else does?" Xena gave a tight grin and narrowed her eyes.
The linger in her eyes is eerie and dangerous, Gabrielle noticed. This woman was used to fighting against men and women alike, especially Romans. She was also not willing to commence with the other women, which was not such a shock.
"Tomorrow, we'll meet again. You should eat that and rest," Gabrielle smiled softly and left the cell, not even bothered to answer Xena's partial question of intimidation.
Xena awoke just as dawn approached. Her eyes fluttered open and all she saw was darkness around her. These barracks lacked sunlight and she wasn't sure if it was actually morning or the middle of the night. She lifted herself up off the hard cold ground and winced at the slightest movement. Her ribs ached and her shoulders were sore from the journey and from yesterday.
She leaned against the wall and wrapped an arm around her exposed midsection. Taking a glance down at her legs she saw bruises in places she had never seen before. The stone against her blazing backside caused her to cringe. Lashes, Sorso gave her so many lashes.
Being a slave was not something that Xena had planned or had in mind when she decided to attack Caesar. She once worked for the Romans and her tribe were servants for Caesar. Of course her people decided to join Rome only because the job paid well and everyone had their fill of blood and battle, but Caesar wanted more. He wanted to control all the tribes of Thrace. That was his plan all along.
Xena knew that Caesar wanted the Roman Republic for himself and no one else. Catching onto his plan immediately after he conquered the Gaul territories, she knew that her people and alike were next. She couldn't and didn't allow that to happen. So, she attacked his army when they marched through the mountains of Thrace months ago.
The mighty Julius Caesar thought that he could take Thrace and all of her tribes under his belt without a fight. The Gauls put up a fight but it was short and he threatened them to surrender or thousands more would die. The Gauls not only surrendered but allowed Caesar to take their land under Roman rule. Gaul was part of the Republic now and Thrace would be too.
Leading her people and other adjoining tribes against Caesar, she was able to push him out of her territory catching the Roman army off guard in the dead of night. Caesar lost thousands of men that night, and that was when he knew that Xena was going to be a problem. He needed to eradicate her and make her people submit.
Being in the ludi under Pompey's rule, Xena figured that she would be stuck here for a long while. She could not just simply escape without being bumbled by Roman guards and soldiers. She wanted to escape this horrible place. She wanted to return to her home and live a normal life –the life she had before Caesar came along.
She feared that day would never come. She was once a free woman but now she was a slave. A slave of Rome and Caesar was going to make sure she'd never forget it and would also make sure she'd never forget the pain that she caused him and his elite army.
He's got to go, Xena thought. Somehow, some way, Caesar and his Roman Republic needed to be eliminated.
"Sleep is for the weak, Thracian," Callisto appeared in the cell doorway. She sprawled her arms on the iron rods and smiled wickedly down at Xena. "My sword awaits you on the sands." She gave her a slow wink and tapped her fingers on the wall as she left the cell.
Xena frowned and stood slowly, feeling all the aches and pains from yesterday fighting against Gabrielle. She had the opportunity to take her life yet the blonde did not. Gabrielle said it would be dishonorable to kill someone who is unarmed. Xena did not know the meaning of honor and apparently, according to Gabrielle, neither did Callisto.
Callisto ran up behind her blonde Greek counterpart and wrapped her arms around her neck. Gabrielle's eyebrows furrowed upon feeling her rival's touch, her sensual yet sadistic touch. "I know we haven't settled our differences yet, Gabby, but I want the Thracian. She is mine."
Gabrielle let out a scoff and wrapped her wrists for today's training. She shrugged the wiry blonde off her shoulders. "Somehow, I don't think Xena is going to let you have her." She turned and saw the determination in those big brown eyes. "She tried to kill Julius Caesar, that's why she's in here."
The thin blonde let out a loud cackle, alarming the other gladiatrices around them. "She is insane!" she shouted and folded her arms allowing her laughter to dissipate. "I'm going to have fun with her."
"Have fun with who?" Xena appeared and all the women turned at the sight of her. Many stopped eating their morning meals and chewed quietly as they gawked at the tall brunette.
Callisto turned around and Gabrielle's eyes grew in fear seeing Xena. Callisto playfully hit the Thracian in the shoulder and Xena flinched, refraining from showing any sign of weakness or pain. "We were just talking about you, my dear. I was telling sweet Gabrielle that you will be mine."
"I belong to no one," Xena said, lifting her chin.
The wiry blonde laughed on a one note. "We'll see about that. I'd like to see what you're capable of. Yesterday was just a test and you were very good." She sauntered around Xena, circling her like a vulture. "I want to see what else you can do when you're fully healed," she hissed.
Callisto left the barracks and grabbed two practice swords to begin training with anyone who dared to challenge her for the day. The male gladiators were already training with each other as usual. Gabrielle lowered her gaze, trying to not stare at Xena for too long.
"Callisto is all words no action," Gabrielle mentioned and Xena shot her a glare. "She talks a good fight but doesn't deliver. She is reckless in her training and that's why she falls to my sword every time," she chuckled at that, finding it very amusing.
"Yet she challenges everyone," Xena alleged and the blonde nodded. "She would be the first one to die in battle."
Gabrielle arched a brow at that. She had never been in a battle before. She was taken here when she was rounded up by slavers in her home town, Potidaea. All healthy young women were gathered up by Roman slavers and delivered to the nearest Roman noble.
She was auctioned off like a piece of jewelry and Pompey saw potential in her and she was sort of grateful to be in this place instead of living as a sex slave in Greece. Her life was better here than it could have been, but she saw that Xena didn't think so. Xena didn't want to be here and she resisted every command given to her.
A lone wolf for sure, she thought. "You're obviously a warrior." She mused and Xena's eyes softened.
"My people have fought for centuries against people that threatened to invade. Caesar was no exception."
"But now you are a slave. You have no freedom anymore," Gabrielle said, darkening the mood. "Julius Caesar will put us in The Games soon. With enough coin you are able to buy your freedom."
Freedom. Xena wanted to be free but she didn't want to fight mindlessly in a bloodbath fight to win it. She didn't want people to bet on her to gain freedom. She wanted to revolt, but knew she couldn't do that. It would prove too difficult.
"Is that what you're doing? Buying your freedom?" Xena asked.
Gabrielle nodded. "I don't have any other choice and neither do you."
"There's always another choice."
"Not here, Xena. You are someone else's property. It would do you good to realize that and maybe life won't be so hard for you here." Gabrielle gave a brief smile then walked onto the training grounds, grabbing a shield and sword.
Xena quirked her mouth and leaned on a large wooden post, watching Callisto fighting one of the women and Gabrielle getting ready to spar with Olympia. Two women of almost equal height and stature. None of the women here matched Xena's build except a few. She didn't fit in here, but who could? These people were from all over the Roman Republic and Greek states. Nobody was from the same walk of life. The only thing everyone had in common was that they were...
The men from afar observed Xena. While some gawked, others made leering gestures at her, which she was absent minded of. Adonis leaned against the wall, taking a short break from sparring with his partner, Sefius. Both Greek men who were trained in a different ludi before being bought out by Pompey and his cohort, Caesar.
Adonis, matching the Greek God description of blonde hair and tanned skin, ladled water into his mouth without taking his eyes off of Xena. His jaw tightened as soon as he saw Xena's eyes cast a glance over at him. Embarrassed for gawking like an awkward school boy, he averted gaze.
Sefius, a dark haired tanned young man, no older than a simple teenager, nudged Adonis' shoulder. "You fancy the new recruit?" he wriggled his eyebrows.
"I fancy no woman, but only wish to be in the arena," Adonis geared himself to fight again. He stretched his arms over his head and exhaled heavily. He began walking onto the hot sands until a hand grabbed his arm and he was flung to the ground.
He blinked, staring up at the man who flipped him onto the hot sand. Frowning he hopped to his feet and got within inches of the dark haired man's face, challenging him. "You got a problem?" he spat, touching foreheads with the gladiator.
A man with a stout haircut, muscular arms, broad shoulders and sun-kissed skin rivaled Adonis in size. He cast his pearly whites with a cheeky grin and shoved Adonis backward, sauntering towards him, rubbing his wrists.
"I don't have a problem," he said and Adonis growled.
He charged right for him and Sefius wrapped his arm around his training partner. "No! Don't!" he warned. Adonis huffed and his chest rose and fell heavily as he stared at the dark haired Spartan gladiator.
"I will best you in the sands," Adonis spat at the Spartan's feet. "Given the title of the God, Ares, means nothing. Your title as champion in the arena will be forfeited." He threatened.
The Spartan, who was given the title of Ares due to his strength and thirst for blood in the arena, stood glaring at the young gladiator. "I am undefeated and will remain that way." He said and waved as Sefius pushed Adonis onto the grounds, convincing him to spar instead of argue.
Ares smirked and began wrapping his wrists. The young boy held his practice swords behind him. His eyes lingered on the new recruit. The Thracian. He had never seen a woman like her before. The other women in this ludi were nice to look at. All had chiseled arms, thighs and taut washboard abs and some were good looking enough. But the Thracian had a different beauty about her. She was different than other women.
"The Thracian," he turned to another gladiator by the name of Kai. "I hear she was giving Sorso the run around. Is it true?" he peered over at Kai.
The long haired gladiator nodded. "She is not obedient. I think she will have a hard time fitting in here, especially with the women. Callisto claims she is good in bed but I bet the Thracian could rival her." He snickered at the thought.
Ares frowned and snatched the wooden sword from the young squire boy. He walked into the hot sun and his eyes never left Xena and she caught him looking her way. He gave her a half faint grin and she raised a brow at his flirtatious behavior from afar.
Sorso cracked his whip against the hot sands and snapped his head around towards the new recruit. "Xena, pair with Gabrielle." He ordered and the squire handed Xena a practice sword.
She slowly waltzed onto the training grounds and Gabrielle smiled at her, holding her shield and sword close. She didn't want to fight anyone and she certainly didn't like being told what to do. But if she must fight then she wasn't going to turn that down, especially being paired with someone so much smaller than her.
She swung her sword around and Gabrielle blocked the blow with the wooden shield and then thrust her sword forward close to Xena's calf. Xena grinned and grabbed Gabrielle's arm and tripped her with a simple flick of her leg.
Gabrielle landed hard on the sand and gasped as Xena held the sword to her throat. "This is a sparring exercise," she reminded her.
"I know," Xena stepped away allowing the blonde to gather herself. "I am feeling a lot better than I was yesterday," she smugly grinned and Gabrielle shook the sand out of her hair. She caught the dark haired gladiator looking her way again and a frown crossed her lips.
Gabrielle charged forward to ram her into the ground. Xena, distracted, quickly recovered and dodged Gabrielle's attack and elbowed her in the back, causing the blonde to groan loudly. The petite blonde gladiatrix's eyes darkened and turned around to see a big grin on Xena's face. She did not seem to understand that this was a sparring exercise.
"You fight as if you want to kill me," Gabrielle alleged.
"Isn't that the idea?" Xena teased.
"In the arena maybe, but not here. You don't fight like you want to win. You fight like you want to kill. That's not how it's done around here," Gabrielle straightened her posture and twirled the sword with her wrist.
Xena bowed from the waist, "oh, please, show me the way, Gabrielle." She said in a most playful voice that irritated Gabrielle, she could tell.
Gabrielle cocked her head and hummed softly with a faint tight lipped smile. She flung her sword and shield aside. Xena looked at her confusedly and held the sword close to her. "Fight me bare handed."
"Are you sure you want to do that?" Xena asked, a bit concerned for this young woman.
"Well, I already broke your nose. I'm sure I can break something else," Gabrielle's eyebrows creased and her smile widened with glee. She held her wrapped fists close to her face. She wanted Xena to get angry, she wanted to see what she could do. Weapons were a distraction and only skilled gladiatrices and gladiators used them. The true test would be hand to hand combat.
Xena scoffed mockingly and tossed her sword aside. She didn't even bother to set her stance but instead walked right towards Gabrielle, towering over her, twice her size in weight and height. "I'll give you the first hit," she whispered sensually, teasingly, almost maliciously.
The Greek felt her stomach knot up and her throat form a lump. Glaring up into those steely eyes she saw a challenge or perhaps she was making fun of her. "You don't think I'm a challenge?" she asked in a curious tone.
Xena leaned into Gabrielle and whispered, "I was trying to be polite." She grabbed Gabrielle by the shoulders and flipped her over onto her back.
Callisto stopped sparring with Olympia and laughed seeing Gabrielle lying flat on her back with the Thracian woman leering over her. "I told you that she would be mine, Gabby! I told you so!"
Gabrielle groaned and hearing Callisto's maniacal laughter was enough to set her off. She hopped to her feet and threw a punch directly at Xena's jaw, which was quickly avoided. Xena side stepped her and then grabbed her wrist, locking her elbow in place. Fear instilled in Gabrielle's eyes as soon as she saw Xena's palm ready to strike her elbow.
She's going to break my arm. Gabrielle was not one for playing dirty but she decided that Xena was definitely a challenge for her. It wasn't her size, it was the way she fought. She fought like a warrior not a gladiatrix. She fought to kill. There was a difference.
She kicked Xena in the shin and then bent down picking up a handful of sand and threw it in Xena's eyes. The tall Thracian covered her eyes with a single hand and groaned lowly.
Ares watched from afar, no longer finding his sparring partner nearly as interesting as the spar between the Greek and Thracian. He grinned and saw Xena stumble, trying to rid the sand from her eyes and Gabrielle breathing heavily, sweat dripping down her back and glistening abdomen.
"Finish her, Gabrielle!" Callisto shouted.
Her vision blurry and disoriented, Xena still had her eyes on Gabrielle. The fuzzy picture of the blonde taunting her from a few paces away. Shards of the sand invaded her eyes, causing her ducts to tear. She shook her head, blinking rapidly and calmly smiled, lowering her stance. She now understood that Gabrielle was fearful of her.
"You are afraid," Xena's voice eerie and still.
Gabrielle stood straight, not bothering to match Xena's fighting stance. "I am not afraid of you."
"You said you were a woman of honor yet you throw sand in my eyes. You play unfairly. What are you now? A hypocrite?" Xena tried to get a rise out of the petite gladiatrix.
Gabrielle's heart skipped a beat and surely she now understood Xena's tactics. She was a woman of many words an she sure knew how to use them especially at the opportune time.
Callisto almost felt jealous that Xena was able to get to Gabrielle so easily. She wanted to have that honor of besting Gabrielle not only with a sword but with words. She was also jealous that Gabrielle was given the chance to fight Xena.
"Why is she not fighting back?" she growled and kept watching the two having a staring contest. "Blood will be mine," she smiled deviously and marched over to Xena with swords in hand.
Ares grabbed Callisto by her arm and flung her onto the sands a few feet from where he stood. "You will not interfere." He advised.
Callisto growled and stood, shoving her palms into Ares' chest. "You are not in charge of this ludi, Ares!" she spat in his face and he shoved her away, putting hand to her face and she growled, almost biting one of his fingers.
She saw that look in the Spartan's eyes and smirked. "Oh Ares, you naughty boy, you," she said playfully in a high pitched tone. "You want Xena all to yourself, don't you?" she came closer to him and her fingers roamed his bare muscular chest. Her fingertips swirled around his nipple. "Well, you can't have her because she is mine."
Ares grabbed her wrist firmly and she flinched, trying to pry his fingers off of her aching wrist. "Doesn't look like she's anyone's bitch, Callisto and certainly not yours." He tossed her aside and continued to watch Xena and Gabrielle, folding his large arms with a big smug grin on his face.
Gabrielle threw a punch and Xena blocked it with her elbow. She threw her other fist forward and Xena grabbed it with ease. Gabrielle growled and threw her arms out to the side, releasing herself from Xena's hold. She was growing impatient. She swung her leg around to roundhouse kick Xena but her counterpart seemed to know her every move. In a split second her eyes widened and she gasped.
Gabrielle felt heat radiating off her entire body. She was mad, very mad. She looked up to see Xena gaping down at her.
"Have you had enough?" Xena asked with a sly grin.
Callisto chuckled, biting her fingernail. She marched forward with no weapons in hand. "You've had your fun, Gabrielle. Now it's my turn."
Gabrielle snarled and jumped to her feet. "No, she's mine!" she yelled and Callisto bat her eyes, surprised at such behavior coming from her Greek counterpart.
Julia above in the balcony arose late in the morning and leaned on the balustrade observing the gladiators and gladiatrices. She saw the men were not fighting and neither were the women. All except two. Her eyes lit up as she saw Gabrielle and Xena at it once again.
Nara, her slave came to her side with a fresh glass of wine. She took the glass without taking a glance. "The Greek and Thracian are at it again! How exciting," she mused and sipped the wine.
Pompey joined his young wife on the balcony and smiled seeing Gabrielle and Xena once more. "It seems that Xena is feeling better," he noted.
His wife nodded. "Do you see the way Gabrielle is glaring at Xena? She wants to kill her."
Pompey hummed and rubbed his chin. "Such fire in those Greek women. Callisto I would have thought would best Xena, but Gabrielle must have it in for the Thracian bitch."
Gabrielle charged right for Xena and wrapped her arms around the tall brunette. Both crashed into the hot sand and debris filled with air. Gabrielle wrapped her strong thighs around Xena and stared into her blue eyes with a wild smile.
Xena frowned and grabbed Gabrielle's arms and rolled over and was now on top of the petite gladiatrix. Still, Gabrielle had her thighs clinging to Xena like a boa constrictor squeezing its prey. Xena pinned Gabrielle's arms to the hot sand.
Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. Nowhere to escape.
She leaned into the blonde's face with a big cheeky grin. Sweat dripping onto Gabrielle's forehead. "You fight well." She whispered. "For a Greek."
Sorso cracked his whip against the hot sand, alarming everyone. "Xena, that is enough!" he yelled and still the Thracian did not obey. "Release her!"
Gabrielle's chest rose and fell heavily as she stared into Xena's eyes –her very enchanting eyes. She was defeated this time. Perhaps this was payback for yesterday. She kept hearing Sorso yelling and another crack of the whip, yet Xena still lingered, her fingers firmly wrapped around her arms. Pinned to the sands below.
"Are you two going to swap spit or fight?!" Adonis joked and began laughing. Soon the other gladiators laughed along with him.
Sorso grabbed Xena by the arm and without resisting, Xena climbed off the blonde and Gabrielle's thigh muscles relaxed, releasing Xena from the constricting hold. There, she lay on the sands, defeated, bemused and maybe even a bit excited. Her belly swelled with a odd sensation that she had not felt before. Almost like nausea but not quite so.
Gabrielle rose from the sands and locked eyes with Xena before she was taken away into the barracks. We will meet again.
That evening after training was complete, Gabrielle sat outside the barracks, under the roof, staring at the sands. She didn't know why Xena was such a difficult opponent. She thought she would have a tough time facing the Thracian because of her size, but her size didn't mean anything. Despite Xena's height and weight, she was very light on her feet, almost like a dancer. She didn't even use her height to her advantage like most people would in a match.
Gabrielle couldn't figure this woman out. She was everything that a gladiatrix should be. Strong, good fighter, quick reflexes and not to mention, she wasn't bad looking either. Everyone seemed to notice that, especially the male gladiators. Gabrielle was sure that's all the men could talk about. They probably didn't even care for Xena's combat skills. Typical, she thought.
Lifting her eyes she heard footsteps and saw the champion of the Republic approaching. She was tempted to roll her eyes, but did not and remained stoic. "Ares," she said flatly.
The Spartan smiled and leaned on the wooden post, admiring the full moon in the sky. "I saw the little spar you had with the Thracian," he mused.
Gabrielle couldn't refrain anymore and she gave a dramatic eye roll. She didn't feel like discussing this and heard the women in the barracks cackling over her defeat which was why she came outside to avoid it all.
"You enjoyed that, huh?" she said with little to no emotion.
"Enjoyed it?" Ares scoffed. "I loved it." He took the empty seat next to her and she stiffened, scooting away. "You underestimated her, Gabrielle."
The blonde sighed. "I know. I thought I understood the way she fights, but I don't."
"Obviously," he teased and she shot him a glare. "Don't be so sensitive, Gabrielle. The boys and I are placing bets for when you fight Xena again. My money is all on you," he winked and nudged her arm.
She cringed in disgust and stood, no longer finding his presence worth her while. "I'd rather you place a bet when we enter the arena." She walked off to back into the female barracks to face her doom.
"Don't be a spoiled sport, Gabrielle!" he called out. Sighing, he looked to the moon, sitting by himself in the darkness. Not such a bad idea, he thought. Although, he longed to see Xena fight with Gabrielle again. He could almost feel Gabrielle's hatred seeping from her skin during that match. He wanted to see more, plus he did not mind seeing the Thracian wearing next to nothing, drenched in sweat and sand, fighting other women.
He nodded, pursing his lips, reliving the memory of Xena besting Gabrielle in his mind over and over again.
Gabrielle walked through the barrack halls and saw Callisto locking lips with a Gaul woman by the name of Talrissa. She raised an eyebrow and Callisto reared her head backward as Talrissa pressed her lips onto her sternum. Her head lolled and eyes locked with Gabrielle. Both women staring at one another and Callisto smiled from ear to ear.
Her hand reached out and Talrissa wrapped her arm around Callisto's back, bringing her close. "Would you like to join us, Gabrielle? There's always room for more," the wiry blonde teased and wiggled her fingers trying to entice Gabrielle.
"I'll have to pass," Gabrielle said politely and walked onward hearing Callisto moan loudly. She shook her head, disgusted and that image of a topless Callisto forever burned into her mind and Talrissa suckling her skin like a succubus.
She was about to pass Xena's cell and she lurked in the dark, observing the brunette in the shadows. Xena sat by herself, tending her wounds from yesterday's fight. Now she would have new ones to bear but only a few bruises, nothing more.
"You don't have to hide," Xena called out as she was picking at a scab on her arm.
Gabrielle gasped lightly and emerged from the dark corners. She stepped inside the cell shyly. "How did you know I was there?" she asked.
Xena bit her bottom lip and kept picking at the scab with her fingernail. "I have good hearing," she muttered and then lifted her eyes to see the shocked blonde in her doorway. "Are you going to just stand there or what?"
"I...was just going to my cell." Gabrielle pointed down the hall. "It's that way."
Xena smirked and brought her knees close to her and hung her arms over her knees, staring at the blonde. "Is this going to be a regular thing?" she asked and Gabrielle furrowed her eyebrows. "We fight. And then you appear in my cell at night."
Gabrielle felt that odd sensation rippling inside her gut again. "We are not enemies."
"And we are also not friends," Xena mused.
Silence fell between them.
"Your words, not mine," Xena added and couldn't help but smile as she saw the gears turning in the blonde's head.
Gabrielle thought it best not to get too close to Xena, especially at a time like this. This wasn't the place for friends.
"Right," she smiled briefly and then went on about her way to her cell.
Xena watched her walk down the hall and turn left into a cell. She bit her fingernail and kept grinning, leaning against the wall.
AN: Ares is in human form, not a God.
AN: hope everyone is enjoying so far :) let me know your thoughts and enjoy!
The wife of Julius Caesar, Calpurnia, came to the home of Pompey and her stepdaughter, Julia. She had traveled a long way from Rome. She walked through the home of her husband's General of the Republic and saw Julia awaiting her right by her husband's side.
"Calpurnia, so good of you to come. I was not expecting your arrival until tomorrow," Julia said with a tight lipped smile. She really did not care for her father's wife, his third wife in a row. After all, Calpurnia was only a few years older than her and that made things awkward sometimes.
The Roman wife grinned and kissed the cheeks of her stepdaughter. "Caesar wanted me to come early. He will arrive tomorrow. I hope it is not an inconvenience." She eyed Julia and Pompey simply grinned, delighted to see the Roman wife of his cohort.
"Not at all, Calpurnia. We are elated by your presence." He grabbed her hand and kissed the knuckles being charming as always. "I have quite a surprise for you tonight."
He lead her to the balcony that overlooked the training grounds of all his gladiators and gladiatrices. Julia, not amused by her stepmother, followed behind them with a scowl on her face, contorting her beautiful features.
Calpurnia looked over the balustrade and saw male gladiators sparring with one another and also females. She knew that her husband had commissioned such a thing but she didn't know if it were true until now. Right before her eyes she smiled, enthralled to see female gladiators –a feat that hadn't been done before.
Pompey pointed to the dark haired man below sparring with Adonis. "That is Ares. He is from Sparta and he is the reigning champion of the arena."
She smirked, "he takes the name of the God of War? He is rather presumptuous." She snorted.
"But he is one of our best," Pompey combated.
Julia butt into the conversation and pointed at the females. "Pompey has a new recruit. She is from Thrace. She is the woman who tried to overthrow my father," she lifted her chin proudly that her father was able to bring his foe to face her consequences.
Calpurnia's mouth turned sour upon seeing Xena. She had heard much of Xena and her Thracian tribe in the mountains. "Yes, I am aware of the woman. How does she fair here? Does she suffer under Sorso's instruction?"
"She is very disobedient, but she is learning." Pompey said and saw Xena push down one of the girls with ease and point her sword at the gladiatrix's throat. "It's a work in process."
Still bitter over the way her husband handled Xena she turned around and smiled at Julia and Pompey. "You mentioned something about a surprise?" she offered to change the subject.
Xena fell to her back harshly and she spat out some blood draining from her mouth. She lifted herself up and glared at her opponent. She was given the opportunity to fight someone of her own height. A woman from the Russian Steppes by the name of Cyane. A gorgeous blonde with brown doe-like eyes, but a body of a goddess and a punch that could kill.
She was finally able to fight someone at the same level as her. She rose to her feet and spotted Gabrielle sparring with a redhead and gave her a brief smile. Gabrielle, distracted was knocked down by her opponent and Xena cringed slightly.
"You are a good fighter," Cyane said and twirled her sword.
Xena rolled her shoulders back and focused on the blonde woman. "So are you. You fight like a warrior not like any of these female gladiators." She lowered her stance, ready for another attack.
Cyane grit her teeth and spun around, thrusting her wooden sword into Xena's exposed abdomen and the brunette gasped for air, wrapping her arm around herself. Cyane seized the opportunity and grabbed Xena by her long tresses and tossed her onto the sand.
Ares saw the Thracian woman being bested by the Russian woman and smirked. He waltzed over to Xena and leered over her. She looked up into his dark eyes and frowned. He lend her a hand and Cyane folded her arms, waiting on the sidelines.
"Looks like you've finally met your match," he said.
Xena wiped her hand on her cloth shorts and gazed into his eyes, not sure whether it was wise to talk to this man or not. She did not know him and he did not know her. "You're in my way," she snidely said.
"Well, excuse me, princess," he teased then backed off.
She scoffed and pushed him aside, ready to fight this blonde Russian. She held up her sword and smiled. "Your moves are impeccable."
Cyane smiled smugly and raised her weapon. "As are yours but I'm afraid that they aren't good enough. You will never best me, Xena."
"You're so sure of yourself. Why don't you put your sword where your mouth is," an eerie grin appeared on her lips.
Cyane turned sharply and swung her leg around, tempting to knock the Thracian off her feet. Xena jumped aside and then her wooden sword came crashing down and Cyane blocked the blow. The two grew closer as Xena applied all of her weight onto the sword, lowering Cyane to a knee.
Xena's mouth parted and Cyane grunted, her arms shaking, struggling to keep her weapon upright and Xena far from her. Their faces inched closer and closer.
"I smell defeat," Xena hissed.
Cyane growled and head butt Xena in the forehead sending her staggering backwards. In a fit of rage she charged right for her and sliced Xena's arm with the sharp edge of the wooden sword. Xena hissed in agony and gripped her bleeding arm. Cyane then grabbed Xena by her hair and kneed her in the nose, her already broken nose then reared her head backward, kicking her in the back of the knees into a kneeling position.
She pointed the blade to Xena's throat and breathed heavily with a wild smile. "Who's defeated now?" she said.
Ares laughed and clapped his hands slowly. Cyane released Xena and took a step backward, brushing her bloodied weapon on her cloth shorts. Xena rose to her feet and saw blood draining down her arm. Ares approached Xena and grasped her shoulder which caused her to stiffen.
"The blondes seem to have a thing for you," he whispered in her ear.
In the middle of Gabrielle's break she drank water from the well and eyed Ares cautiously. She saw that he was incredibly close to her, too close in fact. He had never shown such interest in any female before and the thought of him coming near anyone made her angry.
She threw the ladle into the well and folded her arms, watching the exchange between Xena and Ares. A dark cloud hovered over Gabrielle as she saw them together. Xena was miffed by Cyane as much as she was by Ares.
After the morning training exercise, the women ate their food beneath the roof of the villa, close to their barracks while the men ate outside on the training field. Gabrielle walked over to sit by a lonely Thracian and Xena lifted her eyes upon seeing her.
Gabrielle slowly descended to the ground, digging her fingers into the grain, eating quietly, watching all the women eat. Callisto was with Cyane having a heated conversation and she even threw her bowl of grain across the room and begged the Russian to fight her.
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and wagged her head. Xena smirked, finding the situation amusing. The blonde's eyes then went to Ares who kept glancing over at them, at Xena especially.
Lowering her gaze into her bowl of food she spoke in between chewing. "You know," she began and Xena turned her head. "You should be careful of Ares." She said and didn't look Xena in the eye as she kept eating.
"What's so special about him?" Xena turned her head and glanced over at the champion of Rome who was laughing and conversing with a few other gladiators.
Nothing, nothing is special about him. "He's been Rome's champion for five years. He's not known to take interest in any of the women." Gabrielle began and saw Xena's eyes lingering far too long on the champion. "But he took an interest in you."
She nudged Xena out of her daydreaming daze and saw the look in Xena's eyes. Frowning in disgust she turned back to her food. "Just be wary of him, that's all."
Xena scoffed and her gaze upon Gabrielle remained stoic yet curious. "Are you trying to be friendly with me, Gabrielle?"
"No..." she took awhile to answer that question.
"Right," Xena nodded and finished off her food and set her bowl aside. She walked through the tables filled with women and then Cyane tossed Callisto onto one of the tables and Xena stepped back. She leered down at the wiry blonde and chuckled then went on her about her way into the barracks.
Sorso stood in front of all the gladiators and gladiatrices, walking in between the separated group of sexes. He held his whip close to him and eyed all the women and turned and did the same to the men.
"There will be a party this evening," he said and saw the men's eyes lit up at that while the women seemed less enthused. "Pompey has selected a few of you to attend the festivities tonight."
He stopped at the end of the line. "Ares," he said and the champion stepped out of line and smiled grandly. He looked to the women. "Cyane."
She smiled and stepped forward, glad to be selected.
"Adonis," Sorso said and the blonde gladiator stepped forward.
She stepped forward with a less eager thanks than everyone else did. She did not like Roman parties and could only imagine what was going to happen tonight.
"And Xena," he said the last name and her eyes widened as she lifted her head. All the women turned their heads, envious of her and the other two women that accompanied her.
"Three women?!" Humarous griped. "This is horseshit," he folded his arms.
Sorso cracked his whip, silencing Humarous and the other males gossiping beneath their breaths. "You will go to the baths and be prepared for tonight. You are all dismissed for the day."
In the baths within the female barracks, Xena, Cyane and Gabrielle all washed their bodies free of dirt, blood and sweat for tonight. Cyane soaked in the lukewarm water eyeing Xena as she watched the Thracian shave her legs cleanly and with such precision.
Gabrielle caught Cyane's eyes boring into Xena's backside. She couldn't blame her after what she did to Xena on the grounds today. Cyane was a very good fighter, an excellent warrior from the cold Siberian Steppes. She rivaled Xena and Gabrielle wanted to have another opportunity to fight Xena, but she needed to observe, she needed to study Xena. It was to be her new project.
"Why do you think Pompey selected us for tonight?" Gabrielle broke the ice. It was like cutting air with a knife, the tension so thick and awkward.
Cyane smirked and rose from the water and Xena ignored them both, wiping her legs down with a fresh cloth. "Who knows but I'm sure we'll have to be on our best behavior." She began drying off her muscular olive colored body and glanced at the Thracian.
"Right, Xena?" she said sharply.
Xena smiled and turned slowly with the shaving knife in her grasp. She slowly walked over to the arrogant Russian and Cyane eyed the knife and then Xena's eyes. She handed the knife over to her, still smiling.
"Of course," she said in a calm voice and Gabrielle's eyebrow arched.
Cyane took the knife from the Thracian's grip and Xena sauntered off to take a dip in the water with her freshly shaven body from head to toe. She dunked her head beneath the surface, wetting her long locks.
Xena lifted her head from the water and ran her hand across her hair. "Rumor has it that you tried to kill Caesar," Cyane said as she sat down on the stone bench and began shaving her legs, not taking her eyes off of the woman.
"That is no rumor," Xena said and her eyes cast a glance over at the worried Gabrielle beside her outside of the baths. She swam over to the edge of the bath and smiled. "Aren't you going to come in?" she teased.
There were no secrets in this ludi and there was no privacy either. While Gabrielle had dressed and undressed in front of all the women before she had yet to do so in front of just two women and one of those women being Xena. She was hesitant and she wasn't sure why she felt this way either. All the women had the same parts, but this was different.
"There is room for both of us," Xena enticed her and swam to the opposite side of the bath.
Cyane's eyes darted back and forth between the two women. "Do not let her intimidate you, Gabrielle."
"She doesn't intimidate me," Gabrielle said. She intrigues me.
Cyane wiped the shaving knife clean before she began shaving the next section of her long lean, muscular leg. "She is not the fiercest warrior that everyone claims her to be," she smirked and cast a glance over at Xena wading in the water, her eyes just above the surface.
"Who knows, maybe we will be given the chance to spar tonight at the party?" she glide the knife along her glistening tanned leg. "It should be fun to beat you again in front of a more...noble audience."
Xena lifted out of the water, glaring at the Russian gladiatrix. Cyane lifted her eyes and stared at the Thracian's naked body, her soft curves and slender waist, large thighs and broad shoulders.
Gabrielle's eyes looked up and down as she scanned Xena's body, not able to find any imperfections minus the bruises and cuts along her legs, arms and bruised ribcage. Her body was nearly perfect and water dripped down her bare flesh. Xena smirked at the blonde Russian and whipped her wet hair around as she stepped out of the bath, wrapping a towel around herself.
"How's that little gift I left on your arm, Xena?" Cyane teased the Thracian further.
Xena half smiled and turned to gaze at the arrogant warrior. "How rude of me," her eyes narrowed, "I did not get you gift. I'll have to do that sometime." She winked then grabbed her clothes to wear for tonight and walked off.
Inside the villa of Pompey the place was swarming with Roman nobles, ogling over the slaves dressed in next to nothing and feasting on wine, desserts and small horderves being passed around by the male waiters in masks, hiding their faces.
Julia had invited all of her friends from Ravenna and some were members of her husband's court. She was to be on her best behavior since her father was the prefect of Rome and soon the emperor, she hoped and wished one day. The women sauntered around, whispering among themselves as Julia showed them around her villa.
In the center of the villa on a dais in the middle of a large pool with two small fountains on each side, the male and female gladiators stood. They were all lined up according to height and males were on the far left, starting with Ares and ending with Gabrielle. They were dressed in black clothing. The men wearing far less than the three women, though not too much less.
Gabrielle had her hair slicked back with pomade and wore heavy kohl liner around her eyes. Xena had her hair pulled back in a tight bun as did Cyane. Xena grimaced as she saw a lot of Roman men gawking at her, Cyane and Gabrielle. The women fawned over Ares and Adonis of course. The two didn't seem to mind but Xena was less than enthused about being used as a human trophy to be gawked at.
She saw eyes lingering in places she wouldn't even allow her bed mates to look at without her permission. For the first time she felt so exposed and there was nothing she could do about it except give the Romans glares and sneers.
The women were shackled together by their wrists and were unable to move without one following the other. Gabrielle's eyes turned upward to stare at Xena and saw she was unhappy, angry perhaps. She too, had never been to a Roman party before and she didn't know what was going to happen here. So far, everything had been alright, minus the dirty looks she was given by Roman noblemen, whispering dirty nothings in each other's ears.
Cyane on the other hand was emotionless to it all. She completely blocked out everything around her and tried to ignore the whispers behind her and focused on what was important. The arena awaits ahead and that's all that mattered to her. She couldn't care less if a Roman gawked at her. They were deemed untouchable by Pompey so no hands were to come upon their flesh, only lustful and greedy eyes were allowed.
Julia met with Brutus, one of her father's dearest friends. He was much younger than Caesar, but still a fine adversary and a great military strategist in the making. The two walked together with a gaggle of Julia's friends following behind.
Brutus eyed the gladiators and gladiatrices standing in the center of the pool. He gave a crooked smile and Julia saw his eyes lingering on the females. She saw a great opportunity and grabbed his hand, leading him closer to the dais.
"You enjoy The Games, Brutus?" she asked with a bit of glee in her tone, almost childlike.
He nodded, "sometimes, yes." He cocked his head and stared at all three women of all three different heights and each so different from one another. "I was unaware that Pompey had female gladiators."
Julia's grin widened wickedly and she stepped closer to him, gripping his shoulder. "They are called gladiatrices." She pointed to Xena in between the blondes. "That's the Thracian that tried to kill my father and overthrow him."
Brutus' eyes grew and he folded his arms. "She is quite a looker," his eyes roamed around her body and Xena pursed her lips, trying to do her best to behave. Gabrielle's eyes darted from Xena to Brutus worriedly.
"She is a good fighter?" he asked.
"Oh yes, very good. She is a bit disobedient but I am sure Sorso can break her," she said and saw Xena's eyes flicker.
Brutus nodded and rubbed his young face that had yet to grow a beard or even stubble. He unsheathed his sword at his hip and pointed the blade at Xena's exposed midsection. Everyone in the room ceased conversation and looked over at him and the gladiators in the center of it all.
"Will she be willing to demonstrate her skills?" he turned to Julia's sweet face and saw her lips part. "It would be very entertaining for all the guests," he suggested with a sneaky smile.
Pompey made his way through the silent crowd and saw Brutus pointing his blade at Xena's abdomen. "Brutus, my friend," he chuckled nervously and slapped his hand on the young man's shoulder. "What is going on here?"
Julia turned to her husband, "our friend wishes to see a demonstration." She turned to the Thracian woman, "with Xena."
Pompey's eyebrow arched and Brutus was most persistent. It was hard to say no to him considering he was Caesar's right hand man as well. It would seem rude and Julia would surely tell her father about it. the blonde Roman General smiled grandly and waved his hand at the guards on the sides of the dais.
"Of course. A demonstration it is," he lifted his cup and grabbed his wife's hand leading her to the side. "I did not bring my gladiators here to this party to fight, Julia," he hissed.
"But Brutus is my father's trusted ally. We must do what he says. He is one of our most important guests, Pompey!" she whispered and watched as eyes lingered their way. "It won't be a death match." She persisted and rubbed his arm. "My father will be pleased and Calpurnia hates Xena anyway. I am sure she will be amused." She lifted her eyebrows.
It wasn't like Pompey had any say in the matter anymore. The Romans unshackled Xena's wrists and brought the others to the side off the dais. Xena was given a wooden sword to demonstrate her fighting skills.
Brutus couldn't take his eyes off the Thracian and he bit his bottom lip, instantly attracted to her physique. Smiling, he eyed the male and female gladiators waiting off on the sidelines. "She will need a partner. I will choose one for her," he walked over to the males and females.
He quirked his mouth and pointed to Ares. "You will do just fine." He smiled and the guards unshackled his wrists and pushed him forward to follow Brutus to the dais.
Ares was handed a wooden sword and both stood together, a couple of feet apart. Ares turned his head slightly and eyed Xena but she remained stoic and head facing forward. Refusing to give any acknowledgement he scoffed and rolled his shoulders back, grinning at Brutus and a shocked Pompey in the corner with his wife.
Pompey walked forward and whispered into Brutus' ear. "The women are not allowed to fight with the men, Brutus."
"Who says?" the young Roman almost scoffed.
"Julius Caesar," Pompey answered sharply. His tone firm and serious.
Brutus shrugged a shoulder, "I am sure he will not mind. We are close allies and dear friends. If this Thracian was able to take down Caesar's army, which is an army of men, I do not see what a small demonstration with a male gladiator could be any different."
Pompey and Julia both shared a nervous glance and then he put on a fake smile and pat Brutus on the shoulder. He turned around to his adoring guests.
"Brutus, friend of Gaius Julius Caesar, wishes to challenge our female and male gladiators in a small demonstration," he said and everyone smiled, clapping their hands. He turned and presented the two opponents. "Ares from Sparta, Rome's Champion," he began and everyone clapped more.
Ares smirked and Xena rolled her eyes and tapped her wooden sword against her thigh, ready to get this over with.
"And Xena from Thrace, Rome's enemy," Pompey said and all the guests murmured in each other's ears. He waved his hand, "begin." He bowed his head and stepped back with Brutus joining him by his side.
Xena turned and faced Ares. She saw that arrogant pearly white smile of his. She looked past his shoulder and saw Gabrielle and Cyane staring at her. Cyane with a smirk on her face while Gabrielle had a huge frown on hers.
Ares lowered his stance and saw her eyes focused elsewhere. "Are we going to get this over with, princess?" he teased.
Her eyes shot to his eager face and she gave a crooked smile. "I'm not your princess."
"Oh that's right, you belong to no one, right?" he winked and her smile disappeared in an instant and her lip quivered. She swung her sword around and he blocked it with his, their swords smashing against each other.
The two inches away from each other, eyes locked. They began circling around one another and heard the Romans around them, yelling, cheering for Ares mostly, while yelling obscenities at Xena. He had a nonchalant grin on his face and she couldn't wait to wipe that smile away.
She thrust her sword forward and he grabbed her wrist and flipped her over onto her back. She gasped and then somersaulted backward and quickly hopped to her feet before he could strike down upon her.
Xena grinned wildly and then swung her sword to the left, to the right and left again, each time Ares clashing his weapon against hers. She kept at it and he continued backing up, fighting against her blows with each swift swing of her sword. He teetered on the edge of the dais threatening to fall into the water.
She cocked her head and then kicked him in the chest and he flew a few feet, landing in the water below. Everyone around them gasped and Brutus chuckled softly, folding his arms.
"She is impressive," Brutus turned to Pompey.
"That...she is," the general raised an eyebrow and had never thought Xena was to send his champion to the ground and so quick.
Ares growled and leapt to his feet then came at her, grabbing her bun and unraveling her long hair as it tumbled down her backside. She elbowed him in the jaw and he hissed in slight pain and released her. She then kneed him in the face and before she could head butt him he grabbed her hair and flung her across the dais and she smashed into one of the large marble columns.
Gabrielle flinched and saw Xena slide down the column, blood dripping from her mouth. Cyane turned and saw the apprehension in the Greek's eyes.
She lifted a brow and averted gaze to the match. "I can see who you are rooting for then," she hinted and Gabrielle spun her head around and eyed Cyane with wide eyes though the Russian did not meet her eyes and kept her attention on Ares and Xena.
Xena recovered quickly and spat some blood onto the floor. Ares had a smug grin on his face and she sauntered slowly towards him, her body aching enough as it is and her head throbbing from the impact. She was determined and would not be defeated by a man, any man for that matter.
She threw her weapon and Ares tilted to the side, the weapon grazing his cheek slightly. He spun around with wide eyes and she cocked her head then ran right for him and tackled him to the ground. Both hit the ground hard and she straddled his legs, sitting atop of him, grasping her thighs, squeezing his taut waist just as Gabrielle did to her.
She wrapped her hands around his neck, her grip tightening. "Who's the princess now?!" she hissed and kept choking him. He gasped for air and he grabbed her waist, pressing his thumbs into her bruised ribs, though she did not care. She ignored the pain.
Pompey saw that Xena was not going to stop. She was going to kill him. "Xena!" he yelled, but she ignored him. "Stop her!"
Sorso stepped forward and cracked his whip against her back and she moaned in agony and fell to the ground. Ares let out a large exhale and rubbed his throat. His head lolled to the side and saw Xena glaring at him as she lay on the marble floor. A bit of mirth in her eyes, he noticed.
The Romans grabbed Xena by her arms and lifted her off the floor. Ares stood for himself and wiped his bleeding upper lip and could still feel her grip around his throat. She smiled deviously at him as she was being taken away to join Gabrielle and Cyane on the side. Ares frowned and breathed heavily and their eyes never lost contact as she was being shackled with the other women once more.
Brutus clapped his hands and turned to Pompey and Julia with a big smile. "What a show!" he cheered in delight. "I would love to see her in the arena against any male gladiator. She almost choked your champion to death, Pompey. Perhaps, he is not a true champion if a woman is able to best him," he chuckled and sauntered off to join other nobles waiting to speak with him.
Now Xena was in between Cyane and Gabrielle. Cyane eyed Xena and saw blood caked on her throat and lips. Her chest rising and falling heavily and her eyes still on Ares standing on the dais.
"Your fight was impressive to watch," Cyane said. "A moment longer and you would have killed the Spartan." She mused with a crooked smile. "Killing must be in your nature."
Gabrielle grimaced hearing Cyane say such words. "I told you to be careful of him," she whispered to Xena without making eye contact.
"What's there to be careful of? He is no match for me," Xena smirked and Ares walked right by her, eyeing her with vengeance in his dark eyes. "Champion of Rome," she said beneath her breath, mocking the Spartan.
Ares' eyes grew with fury as he heard Xena's snide sarcastic remark. He wriggled out of the Roman guard's hold and marched over to her. Their faces inches apart and his nostrils flared while she had a big grin on her bloodied, plump, bruised lips.
"Care to test your mouth on the sands, princess?" he hissed and the Roman grabbed his arm, forcefully trying to pull him away.
"I told you, I'm not your princess," she said calmly. "But I count on it." she winked and he growled lowly and was ushered away to be placed next to Adonis and shackled by his wrists.
Gabrielle's jaw clenched and she felt a fire within her. She wanted to be the one to fight Xena again, to test her skills and learn from her. She wanted to better herself but Ares was getting in the way. This night was turning into something that she did not expect. A male gladiator fighting against a gladiatrix was unheard of until now. She regretted everything she said about being friends with Xena. She needed to stick close by her side, she told herself. She didn't want anyone else to have Xena. She wanted her all to herself.
Pompey walked over to his gladiators and gladiatrices and stopped in front of Xena. Both stared into each other's eyes and he half smiled. "You gave quite a show out there, Xena. Quite a dangerous move at attempting to kill my champion."
"He was not the challenge that you thought he would be," Xena said and lifted an eyebrow at the General.
He let out a slow and heavy exhale. "See that it does not happen again." He pinched her cheeks in between his fingers and she stiffened. "Or I will make sure you are not able to fight again," he threatened and let go of her face and she breathed heavily, her nostrils flaring.
"Are we clear?" his voice loud and firm.
Xena hesitated for a moment and he leaned in closer. She bit her tongue and lowered gaze. "Yes," she said beneath her breath. Finally submitting to a Roman. She cursed herself for even allowing herself to agree, but she remembered what Gabrielle said. She was not free anymore.
He smiled, "good." He turned to his guards, "see the women and men back to their barracks. Caesar will be arriving tomorrow and I wish to have them well rested for training."
Below the villa filled with guests, Callisto came by Gabrielle's cell watching her scrub off the kohl from her eyes. "How was the party?" she asked with a teasing smile on her lips. She leaned on the cell rods and Gabrielle lifted her head for a brief moment.
"Interesting," she answered curtly.
Callisto gave an unimpressed look, slowly batting her eyes. "That's it? No details? Were there Romans there? Did they fawn all over Xena?" she licked her lips.
Gabrielle washed her face and frowned, wiping the makeup off her eyes and turned to the wiry blonde. "What is it with you and her?"
Callisto laughed and folded her arms. "Do I detect a hint of jealousy in your tone, Gabby?" she pried and Gabrielle did not answer and stood, wiping her face with a cloth. "Listen, Gabrielle," the name rolled off her tongue like a syrup, "you can have the Thracian on the sands. I'll have her in my bed. We can share her."
Gabrielle's eyes widened and she swiftly turned around at that, seeing the malicious intent in those brown eyes.
"Unless, you want to swap?" Callisto offered and waved her hand back and forth playfully. She waltzed off down the dark hallway. "Your choice!" she called out.
Gabrielle huffed and folded her arms. She didn't understand why Callisto wanted Xena so badly. Although, she began to realize everyone wanted Xena, even Ares cast his eyes upon her as if she was some kind of toy to be played with. A doll. She kept reminding herself that Xena belonged to no one and that relieved some of her worry and tension.
She walked down the hall and saw Xena sitting on the floor, running her fingers through her smooth locks. Xena lifted her eyes and half grinned.
"Back again," she said and Gabrielle said nothing and leaned against the cell iron rods, wrapping her fingers around a rod.
"I warned you about Ares."
Xena scoffed and extended her legs, crossing an ankle over the other. "You want him for yourself?" she teased.
Gabrielle's face contorted in disgust. "No! Gods, no!" she could vomit at the thought.
"I can take care of myself, Gabrielle. I know how to handle lustful men. I've dealt with them all my life," Xena said and hung her head, picking at the wound that Cyane gave her. She would have to thank the Russian for that later in their next sparring match.
The blonde felt her stomach tighten and she watched Xena pay close attention to the gash on her arm. "I know I said that you can't have friends in this place but you should at least have someone to look out for you."
Xena lifted her eyes and raised a brow. "Someone...like you?"
Gabrielle half smiled, "someone."
Xena grinned and bobbed her head. "Alright, someone," she teased. She pat the empty spot next to her. "Come here, someone, no point in you visiting each night if we don't get to know more about each other."
Gabrielle smiled and stepped into Xena's cell and sat beside her.
AN: a bit of a triangular relationship with Xena, Ares and Gabrielle going on, as usual ;)
"So, you're from Amphipolis," Gabrielle stated and Xena nodded as she ate her food. "I've heard of the city. Although I didn't know there were warriors like you from there," she half smiled.
Xena finished off her food and set her bowl aside, gazing at the other women sitting together while she sat with Gabrielle on the floor, secluded from everyone. "The Romans came into my village. They offered all of my people a job. We were to keep the Greeks out of Thrace," she turned to the blonde with a crooked smile. "No offense," she continued, "we heard rumors of other tribes in Thrace that were being taken over by Julius Caesar. At that point, my people and I decided to revolt and attack his army in the middle of the night."
She sighed, "I was foolish to think that an army of tribal men and women could take on the Romans." She cursed herself for going through with that plan. If she didn't do that then she wouldn't be here –be a slave.
Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm, alarming her by the subtle touch. "You were just trying to protect your people. Everyone is here for a reason." Her eyes lingered among the women. "Olympia is from Athens. She was rounded up by slavers and brought here. She fights for her brother's freedom from slavery in Athens."
Xena frowned, furrowing her eyebrows. "She does not fight for her own freedom?" she asked.
"She wants her brother to be free. She has a kind heart, but she's a great fighter." She pointed to Cyane, the Russian Steppe woman that Xena had yet to best in the sands. "Cyane is from Siberia. She's from a tribe of Amazons. She was captured by pirates from Chin. They sold her at auction in Syria and she was brought here. She fights for the freedom of her sisters and herself so one day she will rise up against Chin."
Xena nodded, finding that these women were more than slaves and gladiatrices. Each one had a special story and they were fighting for something good and for something selfless. Fighting was important to them and they'd never earn their freedom unless they were granted permission to enter the arena.
Her eyes focused on the wiry blonde who seemed to pick fights with everyone. "And Callisto?"
Gabrielle let out a heavy exasperated sigh. She didn't care for Callisto that much. "She was taken by the Romans from her village, Cirra. She killed one of Caesar's commanding officers." She smiled lightly, "I guess she is closer to the reason why you're in here than anyone else." Xena slowly turned her head and frowned deeply.
Clearing her throat she focused on Callisto again. "I'm not sure what she fights for. She is a woman without honor. I am afraid that if she gains freedom she will burn Rome to the ground or worse."
I plan to do the same one day. "She and I are nothing alike." She witnessed Callisto tip over a woman sitting on one of the benches. "She is insane." Xena growled and stood, marching over to the maniacal blonde.
Callisto's laughter faded and she saw Xena standing right in front of her. "Oh, Xena," she grinned from ear to ear. She twirled a long tendril of her golden locks around her finger teasingly. Her large brown eyes widening at the sight of the Thracian. "How 'bout you and I go back to my cell after training today and I'll show you a real...good time," she bit her bottom lip and her hand came close to Xena's cheek to caress it.
Xena firmly gripped Callisto's wrist and the blonde winced in pain. "Apologize to her," she noted the woman she knocked over.
Callisto let out a screeching laugh and Xena narrowed her eyes. "Apologize? The big bad Thracian has a soft heart?" she teased, licking her lips. "I bet that's not all the soft spots you have..." she hissed.
Xena's eyes widened and she threw Callisto across the room and she crashed into the table filled with the food and water.
She groaned and laughed then slowly stood with a hurt arm and dislocated shoulder. "That's right, get angry. You're gorgeous when you're angry, Xena." She saw the Thracian's eyes darken at those words. Anger fueled her and she enjoyed seeing that rage, that fire. "What's the matter, Xena? Cat got your tongue?" she winked.
Xena was about to raise her arm until Gabrielle grabbed it. "Xena!" she yelled, holding her back with all the strength she had. "She is not worth it!" she said and much to her surprise, Xena's will to strike Callisto lessened and she lowered her arm, breathing heavily through her nostrils.
Callisto frowned. "Playing the sensitive card, Gabrielle?" she hissed. "Why don't you let Xena finish what she started?" she grinned with wild eyes and Xena's lip quivered.
Gabrielle grabbed Xena's arm, pulling her away from the situation. "Ignore her," she whispered.
She lead them both to the training grounds and picked up a sword and handed it to Xena, while she picked up a sword for herself. Cyane grabbed a sword from the rack as well and smiled deviously at the Thracian.
"I've been dying to hit her since I got here," Cyane said towards Xena. "Someone had to put her in her place," she snorted and walked off.
"She didn't apologize," Xena said flatly.
Cyane turned around, walking backwards and shrugged her shoulders. "You'll be waiting a century for that to happen, Xena! She's a lost cause!" she laughed and shook her head.
Nobody is a lost cause. Xena's eyes lowered as she stared down at the bruises on her arms, now slowly fading. She sighed and then felt someone staring at her. She turned and saw Gabrielle's lingering and grinned.
"What?" she asked.
Gabrielle shook her head. "Nothing. You're just the only person that actually stood up for someone in this place." She eyed all the women now gossiping and glaring at Xena with confused and some angry expressions. This worried her.
She finished wrapping her wrists and kicked the sword with the toe of her boot and walked onto the sands, exhaling heavily. "The women don't like that, you know," she said and swung the sword around, practicing her swings.
Xena's eyebrow arched and turned around to see the women glaring at her from beneath the barracks' roof. She gave them a menacing glare then walked onto the sands, ready to spar with Gabrielle, the only person she could trust in this place. For now.
"They don't like it when someone does the right thing?" she asked and gripped her sword, ready for the blonde's attack.
Gabrielle playfully attacked Xena, not bothering to spar with her seriously and Xena played along. They continued their conversation. "It's not that. There are no friends in this place, Xena. I thought you figured that out by now." She grinned and their swords clashed together and they began circling each other.
"Oh, right," Xena half grinned and thrust her sword forward and Gabrielle smacked the blade out of her area. "They are full of 'someones'." She teased. "I guess you're the one who should be careful, Gabrielle."
The blonde huffed and pushed Xena off of her and they continued circling. "Why's that?"
Xena nudged her head at the women behind them, staring into her backside. "They're going to see you show favoritism towards me," her grin widened and Gabrielle shook her head, waving it off. "In case you haven't noticed, I'm not well liked around here."
She swung her blade around and Gabrielle came up behind her and wrapped her arm around her neck, holding the wooden sword close to Xena's neck. "You don't conform to the rules," she whispered in her ear and the hairs on the back of Xena's neck rose.
Xena smirked and grabbed Gabrielle's arm and flipped her over her head and onto her back. Gabrielle gasped and stared up at the sky, groaning in agony. Xena leaned over her with a big smile and Gabrielle pursed her lips, feeling defeated and completely off guard.
"Who wants to conform, Gabrielle? That's boring," she helped her up and took a step backward, ready for her attack.
"This isn't Amphipolis. You can't do things your way around here."
The brunette nodded. "So we do it the Roman's way? That's the right way?" she questioned and Gabrielle paused for a brief moment to think about such words of wisdom that Xena said. Maybe from someone it wouldn't mean anything, but from Xena, it meant so much more. They were all slaves here. They weren't even considered people in the Roman's eyes.
Getting off track again, Xena tripped her up and she fell on her back again. Damn, she cursed beneath her breath and slowly rose to her feet, pointing her blade at her with a sly grin.
"I'll get you back for that," she said.
"Oh, I'm real scared," Xena teased.
Gabrielle let out a light chuckle and held her sword in front of her. Her smile faded once she saw Callisto running up behind Xena. "Xena!" she shouted and pointed her blade over her shoulder.
Xena spun around and Callisto jumped on top of her and tackled her to the ground. Callisto smashed her palm into Xena's face and wrapped her thighs around Xena's waist like a boa constrictor. Xena growled and looked into the crazed woman's brown eyes through the fingers plastered on her face. She grabbed Callisto by her hair and rolled over, now on top of the blonde.
Callisto smiled and Xena gripped her arms and Callisto did the same. Their eyes locked with one another. "You like to be on top or bottom, Thracian?" she hissed and Xena crinkled her nose in disgust. "I prefer...the top!" she snarled and punched Xena in the jaw and rolled over again, now on top of Xena once more.
Gabrielle stood on the sidelines watching the two tuff it out in the sands, kicking up debris as they continued with this absurdity. She had complete faith in Xena especially since she fights much better than Callisto ever could.
Cyane walked up beside Gabrielle and smiled. "I root for Xena," she said and Gabrielle gave her an incredulous stare. "She is a good warrior," she shrugged a shoulder, almost hating to admit it. "And I hate Callisto."
All the male gladiators stopped training and crowded around to watch the match between Xena and Callisto. While they found the fight amusing, Gabrielle did not the share the same amusement.
Adonis folded his arms and watched as Callisto clock Xena in the jaw several times. "Women and their cat fights," he rolled his eyes. "They do not belong in the arena."
Sefius scoffed. "Speak for yourself, brother. I'd rather watch the gladiatrices fuck than fight in the arena any day. You don't get this kind of entertainment every day," he smiled and Adonis raised his eyebrow. "You placin' a bet on the Thracian or Greek?"
"Neither," Adonis walked off and bumped into Ares just coming out of his private barracks. "Word of advice, don't go over there."
Ares, now curious, he waltzed over to the crowd and saw Xena and Callisto rolling around on the sands. Everyone was yelling, cheering and screaming, root for one or the other. He came up beside Gabrielle and saw malice in her eyes.
He grinned and placed a warm hand on her shoulder and she flinched. "You irritating blondes are attracted to Xena."
Gabrielle groaned lowly. "Go away," she said firmly.
"Jealous, Gabrielle?" he whispered in her ear. "I would be," his words slithered off his tongue. He traced his finger along her bare arm and she stiffened. "The way Callisto caresses Xena's legs in the middle of the fight. The look in her eyes..." he leaned in and whispered, "you're going to let her take that away from you?"
Gabrielle's eyes widened as she watched Xena get repeatedly punched in the face by Callisto. The heat from within slowly rising the longer she watched the insane blonde in complete control of the fight and Xena was allowing it. Gabrielle wasn't going to allow it to happen.
She narrowed her eyes and frowned, marching forward. She grabbed Callisto by her hair and tossed her aside. Ares let out a deep throaty laugh as he watched Gabrielle hand it to Callisto. He did not think the small blonde had it in her.
Xena lifted herself to her elbows and saw Gabrielle going after Callisto. She shook her head and rose to her feet slowly, stumbling to the side. "Gabrielle," she said softly but her voice went unheard. "Gabrielle!"
Callisto rubbed the back of her head and rose to her feet. Her eyes lifted and she saw Gabrielle charging right for her. She grinned and saw Xena in the background calling out Gabrielle's name. "Looks like someone wants your attention," she said and laughed.
Gabrielle cried out and grabbed Callisto by her shoulders and head butt her in the forehead then kicked her shins and the wiry blonde collapsed to her knees.
Sorso walked out of the villa and saw Gabrielle beating Callisto and everyone was crowded around, cheering, doing nothing to stop it. "What the fuck is this debauchery?!" he growled and uncoiled his whip.
He walked to the center of the field and everyone's eyes turned to him and immediately stopped cheering and their eyes widened. "Gabrielle!" he cracked his whip against her back and she cried out in agony and fell to her palms and knees.
He spun around and saw Xena was badly injured as well but not as bad as Callisto. "Who started this fight?!" he yelled and no one answered, remaining silent. Gabrielle rose to her feet and she had her eyes on Callisto as she lay on the sand unconscious, blood seeping from a wound on the side of her head.
"No one will come forward?" his eyes focused on Xena and then turned to Gabrielle. "Get Callisto to the healer," he ordered quietly to squire boy. A frown formed on his lips and he looked to the mute women and men.
"Alright, since no one is willing to say anything then you will all be punished. Males included," he added and moans and whines were heard among the gladiators and eye rolls from the gladiatrices. He cracked the whip against the sands. "Go back to your training, all of you!" he ordered and everyone dispersed from the scene. "Not you," he pointed to Xena.
Sorso narrowed his dark eyes at Gabrielle as she stood frozen, staring at the blood all over the sand from Callisto's multiple wounds. He grabbed her arm, spinning her round to look into her jade colored eyes. "Due to your actions you will be punished more than the rest," he hissed. "If Callisto dies you will be put into the care of Pompey." He let go of her arm and she glared into his eyes. She saw he was a little disappointed in her.
Xena stood all alone and watched Gabrielle walk by her, covered in blood. The two shared a glance with one another and Xena frowned sadly. Sorso walked towards Xena. "You are summoned by Pompey. I will deal with you when you are released."
Gabrielle walked to the other side of the training grounds to a line of wooden practice posts. Her fists clenched, still angry and filled with rage. She let out a loud cry and punched the post and broke off a large chunk of wood. She breathed heavily and stared down at her bleeding knuckles.
"Bravo Gab-ri-elle!" Ares clapped his hands slowly as he came up behind her.
"What do you want?" she hissed over her shoulder.
"I didn't think you had it in you," he walked over to the post and she kept clenching her fists and unclenching them. He had never seen the blonde so angry before since she got here. Once a meek Greek girl when she arrived, and then a decent fighter, but this, this was gold. The fire within Gabrielle nearly had his entire body heated with desires he had longed for.
He leaned against the post and she punched it again with less force. "The fire in your eyes. Your driven passion. Your hands on Callisto's neck, repeatedly punching her in the face like a soft rag doll." Their eyes locked and she lowered her fists. "Would you have fought anyone else like that if it wasn't Xena you were defending?" his brown eyes twinkling and his crooked smile irritated her to no end.
"Shut up, Ares."
"I don't blame you." He went on, ignoring his cue to leave. "She has it all. Beauty. Brains. Physique." His grinned widened and she glared. "My coin was well spent on you after all," he pat her on the shoulder firmly and left her side, sauntering off.
Julius Caesar stood in the office of his friend, Pompey, with Marcus Licinus Crassus by his side. His wife and daughter were off in the villa elsewhere attending to womanly things he was sure.
Pompey rose from his chair when he saw Sorso bringing Xena in with shackles around her wrists and ankles. "The woman of the hour arrives," he grinned, interrupting Caesar mid-sentence.
The prefect of Rome turned and grinned maliciously when he lay eyes upon the Thracian that threatened to take his life and also attacked his army. He saw her eyes grow with fire and rage, which he basked in. He enjoyed seeing her angry and so filled with hatred when they were in a room together. The thought of it excites him and he had been waiting to see her again after their last encounter.
Xena felt her stomach tighten upon the man she hated the most in the world. The man that sent her here to suffer and live as a slave, as a piece of nothing in this life. She wanted to choke him to death, but her ankles and wrists were bound and now she knew why.
Caesar chuckled softly and walked towards the warrior turned gladiatrix and his eyes scanned her exposed body, all but her breasts and groin. He saw the bruise on her jaw, the cuts on her arms and legs, the bruise around her ribcage.
He clicked his tongue against his cheek and rubbed his chin. "Your disobedience shows on your skin, Xena," he smiled and she inhaled deeply, trying to restrain herself from doing something she'd regret later. She was already in enough trouble as it is.
"How are you fitting in with the rest of the women?" he asked and her eyes were straight forward and refused to answer. "No words? No smart remarks?" he stepped in front of her vision and they locked eyes. His smile widened. "Looks like you can be trained after all."
That was the last straw. She spit in his face and he cringed in disgust. Crassus ordered the guards to immediately seize her but Caesar held up his hand and the guards halted. He wiped the saliva off his cheek and rubbed it in between his fingers, eyes boring into hers and she had a subtle smirk on her bruised lips.
"Still as endearing as ever, I see." He snorted and circled around her body, observing all the bruises, cuts and injuries she had received and some were fresh. He saw blood on her arm that had not yet dried. "You fought before you came to grace me with your presence."
Sorso spoke up, "an issue that will be dealt with later, sir," he bowed his head.
Caesar nodded. "Good."
Pompey folded his arms and couldn't believe the teasing manner that Caesar had with Xena. He was being very flirtatious with her and wondered if Calpurnia was aware of this or even Julia. "Caesar," he spoke up. "Brutus attended my bacchanalia last night. He ordered Xena to fight Ares, our Champion."
The prefect's eyes widened as did his eerie smile and Xena frowned deeply. "Did he?" he mused. "Too bad I wasn't there to witness such a fight. Did the Champion beat her senseless? Did he inflict any of these injuries on her body?" his eyes roamed her meaty thighs and Xena held her breath and bit her tongue at his roaming perverted eyes.
Pompey raised an eyebrow. "Actually no. She nearly killed him. I put a stop to it immediately. The guests thought it was entertaining. Brutus suggested that she should fight the male gladiators in the arena." He eyed the woman. "If she gets that far."
Caesar laughed lightly under his breath. "Why did you stop her?" he turned to his friend and Pompey's lips parted.
"Caesar, he is Rome's Champion. I cannot allow her to kill him." He protested.
"Maybe he is not our true champion if this piece of Thracian shit could best him?" Caesar's eyebrows rose and Xena exhaled slowly through her nostrils, trying to be patient and not strangle him.
Pompey held his tongue and looked to Marcus Crassus but he was also as miffed as he was.
Caesar turned and took one last look at Xena, his foe, yet he wanted more from her, something he could never get from her. At least not now, not here, not with his wife present in this villa. "I wish to enter the gladiatrices in the arena next week. Make sure to put Xena up against the males. I will witness her fighting capabilities with my own eyes." He said and Xena glared at him.
"You may take her away now." He waved his hand and Pompey nodded to Sorso and guards to escort Xena to the barracks below to be treated for her wounds.
Xena sat on a table inside the infirmary while the healer tended to her wounds. She continually refused his attention and he ignored her, doing his job. She looked behind the elderly man and saw Callisto laying on a table with her head bandaged and her arm in a splint.
The healer saw the woman's eyes focused on Callisto. "You really fucked her up good," he remarked and wiped the blood off her arm and wrapped it with a bandage.
She frowned sadly, almost feeling bad for the woman. "I didn't do that to her." Gabrielle did.
He scoffed, "well whoever did, really did a number on her. I can't blame them though. She's a pain in my ass. Always sending gladiatrices to my infirmary," he groaned, wagging his head. He finished wrapping her arm. "You are good to go. Sorso is waiting for you in the training grounds."
She hopped off the table and glanced over at Callisto again. "Will she be alright?" her voice soft and filled with subtle concern.
He let out a heavy sigh. "Time will tell." He turned to her, "now get out! I have a lot of work to do!" He griped and she frowned then quickly left the infirmary.
After the day's training was over everyone retired to their separate barracks, all except two. Xena and Gabrielle remained outside, carrying large wooden beams over their shoulders, walking in circles in the dark as Sorso oversaw them, keeping his watchful eye on the two.
Sweat drenched Gabrielle and it was becoming increasingly hard to carry the wooden beam over her head, the beam crushing the back of her neck and weighing down her shoulders with every step she took. They had been at this punishment for hours now. Xena trailed behind her, carrying the beam with less struggle.
Xena teetered the beam on her shoulders and re-positioned it, groaning slightly. It was bad enough that she had all these other wounds and carrying this beam on her shoulders was not helping. She saw Gabrielle was struggling to keep the beam up, though she didn't stop and kept her pace.
"You shouldn't have done that," Xena whispered.
Gabrielle heard her voice and eyed Sorso, careful to not allow him to see her lips move. She waited until her back was turned to respond. "She was beating you senseless," she hissed and groaned as she felt her shoulder cramp.
Sorso yelled, "keep your pace, Gabrielle!"
She huffed and her short hair was drenched in her own sweat. Xena quirked her mouth. "I could've handled it by myself," she whispered.
"Didn't...look like it to me," Gabrielle mumbled, her pace slowing.
Xena gasped. "I don't need you to protect me!" she hissed.
Sorso cracked his whip. "No talking!" he ordered and Xena groaned.
"Gabrielle," she whispered but there was no answer. "Gabrielle!" she lost her balance and dropped the wooden beam and collapsed onto the sand. Gabrielle turned, still holding the beam and stared down at Xena with concern.
Sorso cracked his whip against the sands. "Another hour for you, Xena." He said and she kept staring up at Gabrielle. "Xena!" he growled and she picked up the beam and hoisted it onto her shoulders again, keeping pace behind Gabrielle in the circle they were digging their boots in for the last four hours now.
Dawn approached and Gabrielle saw the sun rising in the sky. She held onto the wooden beam and kept going in a circle, her shoulders now numb to the pain, her legs aching and her feet sore. She didn't think she could endure much more of this.
The male gladiators came out of their barracks and saw Xena and Gabrielle carrying out their punishment, literally. Humarous let out a belly laugh and soon the other men did as well. Xena shot them a menacing glare as sweat continually poured down her body.
Sorso uncrossed his arms. "You may drop the beams now," he said. Both of them dropped the beams on the sand and exhaled heavily. Gabrielle set her palms on her knees, bending at the waist, very relieved. Xena placed her hands on her hips, closing her eyes, exhaling deeply. Her back was sore, in fact, her entire body was sore. Every limb felt weak and useless at this point.
The Syrian frowned upon hearing the males laughing. He cracked his whip against the warming sands. "You wish to join them, gladiators?" he asked and all mean ceased laughter. "I didn't think so. Tend to your weapons and begin training." He turned to the women and frowned. "Grab your swords and begin training with the other women." He ordered then left their side.
Gabrielle's lips parted. She couldn't believe after all that, walking in circles, carrying a heavy beam over their heads for hours, that they had to train with everyone else. Xena didn't seem too fazed by the instruction, though Gabrielle suspected she was putting on a face.
She walked off and Xena rolled her head around, stretching her neck she saw Gabrielle walk off without a saying a word to her. "Gabrielle," she called out in a soft voice, but the blonde did not turn to acknowledge her. She kicked herself inwardly and felt awful for allowing Gabrielle to be punished for something that wasn't even her fault. She didn't start the fight, Callisto did, but Gabrielle ended it.
She wondered what provoked Gabrielle to react like that. She didn't know why someone would come to her defense like that. She had never seen someone inflict such pain on someone else, not even people that close to her in her tribe and village.
Her nose crinkled at a familiar smell or stench she should say. "Ares," she turned around and there he was, adjusting his gauntlets, dressed and ready to spar for the day.
He smiled sweetly and sauntered over to her. "I'm flattered. You know when I'm around."
"I can smell you," she hissed and watched him as he circle around her.
"You know..." he touched her long wild locks that reached her waist. He smelled her hair and it smelt of sweat, sand, flowers, and yet it reminded him of defeat and fire. "Gladiators are rewarded for their victories in the arena. The option of coin or woman," his smile lingered and her lips turned into a snarl. "Maybe you could be my reward in my next victory..." he whispered in her ear.
She spun around and took a step back from him and saw the arrogance in his eyes and smile. "And what makes you think I would lay with you?" she folded her arms.
He snorted, "you and I are of one mind, Xena," he walked closer to her and this time she did not back away. He grazed his finger along her dirty cheek. "War, anger, rage. We are the same," he looked to her steely gaze and became lost in those icy blue eyes of hers.
Her stance softened at his touch and his smile grew. She felt his fingers upon her bare arms and felt goose bumps rising and the hair on the back of her neck prickled. Rolling her tongue in her mouth, she regained herself. She pushed him away gently with a soft hand on his bare chest.
"You're delusional," she smirked and walked off.
He frowned. He thought he nearly had her for a brief moment. "You will come to me, Xena!" he yelled as she kept her pace steadily walking across the hot sands. I will make you mine.
She approached the barracks and all the women stopped conversing with one another. She stared at them all and quickly averted their eyes and picked up a weapon from the rack. She saw Gabrielle wrapping her wrists and smiled.
Walking over to the blonde, "Gabrielle," she began and Gabrielle lifted her eyes then left her side. "Gabrielle?" she frowned sadly when was left alone and Gabrielle chose a different partner to spar with instead of her.
Cyane pulled a sword from the rack and smiled at Xena, seeing her else focused elsewhere. "I will spar with you, Xena."
But Xena didn't want to spar with Cyane, she wanted to spar with Gabrielle. Now, she realized that she may have been insensitive, dismissing Gabrielle's concern for her. She was angry at her, Xena saw it in those jade colored eyes. She didn't want anyone to be angry with her, especially someone who saved her from further beatings and thrashings. Because of her ill actions Gabrielle also paid for it.
The Steppe Amazon saw Xena's eyes focused on Gabrielle and smirked. "Doesn't look like she wants anything to do with you." She gently slapped her on the shoulder. "We never got to finish our session together," she teased playfully and Xena half smiled for a brief moment.
That night Xena was in her cell, contemplating what happened yesterday. She didn't want any of that to happen and it probably wouldn't have if she didn't provoke Callisto in the eating area. She really didn't like the way that Callisto treated all the women, but she blamed herself for not listening to Gabrielle. Everything that Gabrielle said she was right. There are no friends in this place, but there are someones to look after you. Gabrielle was trying to be someone and warn her to stay away, but she didn't listen.
She never listened to anyone and that was the reason why she was stuck in this ludi under Pompey's care in the first place. She rebelled and revolted against anyone and everyone that opposed her views. She was stubborn and never wanted to admit it even though she knew it.
Xena waited for Gabrielle to come to her cell just like she had for several nights in a row. But the longer she waited the more she realized that Gabrielle was not coming. Not tonight. And why would she? Xena knew that Gabrielle was upset with her and she had every right to be. Xena was acting selfishly and prideful, resisting any advice or help from anyone or someone.
Throwing her pride away for a moment she leapt to her feet and walked down the hallway. She peered behind the wall and saw Gabrielle washing her legs from the sand with a cloth. She wrapped her arm around her bare midsection and took in a deep breath.
She entered the cell and Gabrielle dipped the cloth in the water basin, very aware that Xena was standing behind her.
"You didn't come by tonight," Xena's voice soft and forgiving.
Gabrielle wiped her legs down with the cloth and dipped it into the water once more. "You didn't listen," she said calmly, her back turned to the warrior.
She heard Xena exhale softly and there was a pause before she spoke. "I know," Xena said. "I should have listened to you and stayed away from Callisto."
Gabrielle smiled softly and dropped the cloth and spun around seeing the sadness in those big blue eyes. Ares was right about one thing, Xena did have it all.
"Do you trust me?" she asked and Xena cocked her head.
"Y...yes," she answered quite unsure of herself.
Gabrielle smiled and sat up against the wall and pat the spot next to her. Xena hesitantly sat beside her and both grinned, gazing into each other's eyes.
"Will you listen to me from now on?" she said and Xena nodded silently. "From someone to someone," she teased.
"From someone to someone," Xena repeated.
Battle of The Sexes
The word of the gladiatrices going into the arena the following week spread quickly around Rome and various other cities. Other Roman nobles that trained women and men were eager to allow their gladiatrices to compete in the games, especially against Pompey's women. He had the most women in his possession but none knew of their capabilities.
Here on out the women trained much harder than they had before while the men seemed more relaxed because they'd already been to the arena. Not all, but most of the men have, especially Ares. He competed every time there was a Game held in the arena and won every single time.
Xena continued training with Gabrielle and just when she thought she couldn't learn any more moves, she learned quite a few from Gabrielle. She held a large spear in her hands and barely blocked Gabrielle's attack. Her eyes wide and the blonde stared at her, their arms raised above their heads.
They circled one another with their spears clashed against one another, Gabrielle digging her boots into the sand, pushing Xena backward as they continued circling. The blonde smiled deviously and narrowed her eyes. Xena gave her a brief smile and then forced her weight forward, knocking Gabrielle a few feet back.
"Who taught you how to wield a javelin?" the Thracian asked.
Gabrielle leisurely twirled the spear with one hand and shrugged a shoulder. "I taught myself with the help of Cyane."
That Russian Amazon. Xena frowned at the sound of her name and Gabrielle took notice of it.
"You don't like her, I can tell." She mused and saw Xena's eyes lower. "Come on, Xena. Don't be a sore loser." She teased.
Xena's lips parted, "I am not a sore loser," she frowned.
"You kind of are," Gabrielle chuckled lightly. "Are you going to come at me or what?" she stopped twirling the javelin and held it with both of her hands, spreading her legs apart in the sand.
"Be careful what you wish for, Gabrielle." Xena grinned and then thrust the javelin forward and Gabrielle grabbed her javelin and stomped on it, breaking it in half. Xena's eyes widened and Gabrielle flipped Xena's broken spear upward and held one whole javelin and the broken one in her hands.
She held the javelins on either side of Xena's ears, tightening the spears around her throat. "You were saying?" Gabrielle arched an eyebrow.
Xena's eyes darted from side to side at the javelins close to her neck. She smirked crookedly at Gabrielle and grabbed the two javelins and flipped Gabrielle over her head and she landed ten feet away onto her stomach.
Gabrielle breathed heavily and groaned, rolling over on her back. She gasped when she saw Xena holding the sharp end of the javelin to her throat.
"Your defense is really quite bad, Gabrielle," she grinned and held out her hand to aid the blonde up.
Gabrielle was helped up and she brushed the sand off her thighs. "You distracted me. I could have handled it." she said, a bit embarrassed and her cheeks flushed.
"Oh so it's my fault?" Xena teased and Gabrielle shot her a glare.
"We go again!" Gabrielle snatched the javelin from Xena's grasp and walked back to their training area. Xena played along and grabbed a new javelin and stepped forward. "Teach me how you did that." She ordered.
Xena scoffed, "really? You want me to teach you?"
Gabrielle nodded. "I want to learn how you did that. Teach me," she gripped the javelin, sweat dripping down her cheeks and saw Xena roll her eyes halfway.
Sorso yelled from across the sands. "Xena!" he shouted and she spun around just as she was about to spar with Gabrielle again. "You will no longer train with the women. You train among the men now."
She frowned and eyed all the men who ceased sparring and had their lustful eyes set upon her. "Why?"
"Pompey said so!" he uncoiled his whip and her eyes immediately went to that torturous weapon and lowered her guard. "Pair with Ares."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes and twirled the javelin. She eyed Ares who was finishing his spar with Humarous. He had the most sickening smile she'd ever seen on a man. Xena grimaced as soon as she spotted him coming her way.
Ares grabbed a sword and sauntered over to her. "Swords are my weapon of choice. We spar with swords," he grinned and she dropped the javelin, snatching the wooden sword from his grasp.
She walked over to a secluded area in the sands and twirled the sword as their eyes locked. "And here I thought I was going to fight with someone who would be a challenge for me." She grinned, "guess not." She gave him a wink and he laughed.
"I went easy on you at the bacchanalia, Xena." He grabbed another sword, holding both weapons as he readied himself to fight her. "I wanted to make you look good for those Romans. I could kill you in two swings."
She scoffed, "alright, let's find out." She held the sword in front of her and they began circling each other.
Gabrielle sighed, now bored that she'd have to spar with someone else. She wanted to watch Xena and Ares together, but knew she couldn't. She'd get in trouble if she didn't have a partner. She waltzed back to the weapon rack to grab two swords and there she spotted Callisto underneath the roof, glaring at her.
A few stitches on her left temple and her arm bandaged, not yet healed. Gabrielle immediately felt her heart sink as she saw the wiry blonde staring at her from across the field. Nearly a week after she fought Callisto, she didn't expect her to return to fighting so soon. She was sure that she'd be out for another week at most.
Callisto leaned on a column and her brown eyes widened. "You're dead, Gabrielle."
"Callisto...I didn't mean to hurt you that badly I just –"
"Save your words for someone who cares," Callisto cut her off. "Because of you I won't be able to compete in the games this week." She grabbed two swords and held them out in front of the blonde.
Gabrielle cautiously took the swords from her and their eyes never left contact with each other. Callisto smirked. "When my arm is healed, I'm coming for you, Gabby. You're mine!" she hissed then stormed off back into the barracks since being outside proved of no use to her since she couldn't fight.
She exhaled heavily and felt bad for hurting Callisto as badly as she did, but it wasn't like the woman didn't deserve it. Callisto was the worst gladiatrix here –always causing trouble for the women and men. Xena shouldn't have picked a fight with her, but Gabrielle thought she shouldn't have beat her senseless either. She thought of what Ares said to her last week. Would she have defended anyone against Callisto if that person wasn't Xena? She didn't know.
A loud cry was heard from across the field and Gabrielle spun around. She saw Xena laying on her back and Ares standing over her with his sword to her throat. She grimaced at those two. Why would Pompey allow Xena to fight with the men? Why now?
Ares chuckled and backed away, allowing Xena to get to her feet and ground herself. "Am I not challenge for you, Xena? Huh?" he teased with his pearly white smile.
She spat some blood from her mouth and snarled. "One for you, one for me. Now we're even." She grinned and ran to attack him and his eyes widened.
He quickly blocked her, crossing his swords together. She pressed all her weight onto the sword, sending him to one knee. He looked into her wild eyes. Such fire. He enjoyed seeing that rage swelling within her, but he couldn't let her have him. Not yet.
Ares head butt her in the forehead and she groaned, staggering backwards. He swiftly kicked her in the gut and she gasped, dropping to her knees, wrapping an arm around her bare stomach. He walked over and grabbed her by her hair, rearing her head backward.
"Such a pretty face," he sighed and then kneed her in the jaw and she fell to her back, coughing. He grabbed her by the ankle and drug her across the sands. "You want more, Xena?! Do you?!" he laughed and flung her across the sands and she landed, back against the wall and she fell face flat on the sands.
All the women turned and saw Xena on the ground, struggling to stand to her feet. She breathed heavily and lifted her eyes to see the satisfaction in his dark eyes. Her eyes darted to Olympia sparing with a sword and she had lost hers, too far to grab and Ares walking towards her.
Smiling, she got to her feet and ran across the field, snatching Olympia's sword. She jumped in the air and thrust her sword down upon Ares and he panicked, not able to dodge her. They tumbled onto the ground and she held her sword to his throat.
"You want more?" she teased and he grabbed her hair and flung her aside. She somersaulted backward into a standing position, gripping the sword, blood running down her chin. She gave him a bloody smile and he growled.
He ran forward and their swords clashed with each other, again and again and again. She kept backing away as they continued to fight fiercely. She backed into the barracks, knocking over tables and all the women moved out of their way.
"You will be mine!" he yelled.
"In your dreams!" she spat and he kicked her in the jaw and she stumbled backwards into a pool of drinking water, splashing all of the male gladiators. She rubbed her jaw and growled, jumping out of the water, drenched and her wet hair swung around, slapping her bare skin as their swords kept clashing together.
Adonis dropped the ladle into the well and watched the two sparring together, going around the entire grounds. Sorso stood off on the sidelines, watching them closely. "That looks like it's getting a lil' heated." He folded his arms.
Sefius scoffed. "Those two should really get a room." He nudged his friend and Adonis rolled his eyes.
Xena gave a roundhouse kick and knocked one sword from Ares' hand. "Now, we are evenly matched," she cocked her head and he swung his blade around and she blocked it, glaring into his eyes. "Getting mad, Ares?" she whispered.
He reached for her throat and gripped her neck, forcefully pushing her into the stone wall of the male barracks. She gasped and tried to pry his hand off her. He pressed his body against hers and smiled deviously.
His smile softened once he looked into her icy blue eyes. Her hot breath caressing his cheek, he loosened the grip on her throat and she let out a gasp of relief, finally able to breathe properly again. He leaned in closer to her face and her eyes widened, his body pressing harder on hers.
She felt his manhood pressing against her inner thigh as their bare flesh touched. She growled and head butt him and he moaned, placing his hand on his forehead. She then brought her knee up to his groin and he dropped to his knees, gasping for air.
"Men," she grumbled and walked off with sword draped over her shoulder. She spotted Sorso. "I want a new partner." She said and the Syrian raised his eyebrow.
Ares groaned and grabbed Xena's ankle and pulled her leg backward and she fell face first into the sand and her weapon slid ten feet across the sands. He pulled her leg and her body drug across the sands. She dug her fingernails into the sand, trying to get away.
He smiled and flipped her over onto her back and pinned her arms to the ground and leaned in close. "You are mine," he spat in her face and she grimaced, narrowing her eyes. He raised his sword and let out a loud cry to strike her in the shoulder, only to injure her slightly.
Sorso uncoiled his whip and flung it forward, wrapping it around Ares' wrist and flung him off of her body. "Ares!" he snarled. "Enough!"
Cyane folded her arms alongside Gabrielle and chuckled lightly. "Any closer and those two would have a baby in the making." She joked.
Gabrielle slowly turned her head upward at the Amazon. "That is not funny." She crossed her arms, fuming as she saw Xena slowly rise from the sand and Ares' wrist wrapped with Sorso's whip.
"You're not jealous are you?" Cyane hinted.
"I didn't say anything."
The Amazon nodded. "My point exactly," she walked off with her weapon to go grab some water.
Gabrielle's cheeks flushed and the more she stared at Ares and Xena, the more angry she became. She wasn't sure if she was angry that Xena got to train with the males and not her, or that her partner was Ares. If she didn't know any better, she'd say that Xena was enjoying the spar with Ares by the sparkle in her eyes.
Jealous. Gabrielle scoffed at Cyane's remark. She wasn't jealous of Xena or Ares. She hated Ares with a passion. The more she stood there fuming like a volcano threatening to explode, the more she realized that may be she was jealous because she didn't want to share Xena with anyone –not even with the other gladiatrices. She is mine.
Sorso coiled his whip back up and Ares rubbed his wrist. Xena had a spark in her eyes and she came for Ares as he was unarmed now. "Xena!" Sorso growled and all the men started laughing as Xena was on top of Ares, both rolling all over the sands.
"Bash her head, Ares!" Sefius cried out.
Adonis gave him a disgusted look. "You are disgusting."
Ares grabbed Xena's arms, making sure she was not able to use the sword on him. Both staring into each other's eyes and water dripped from her face, her clothes drenched from her fall earlier. "Sorso said enough! You don't give up do you?" he half smiled and she shook her head.
"Never!" she snarled and bit his hand and he loosened the grip on her arm.
"For fuck's sake..." Sorso rolled his eyes. "Get her off of him!" he ordered to the Roman guards.
The guards grabbed Xena by her arms and hoisted her off of Ares without any restrain. She winked at him and he rose to his feet, brushing the sand off his body and saw that look in her eyes. He looked down at his hand that had a huge bite mark. Her teeth sunk into his flesh and droplets of blood seeped from the teeth marks she gave him. His eyebrow arched and clutched his wounded hand.
"I knew training with the men was a bad idea. Fucking noblemen," Sorso muttered. "Take a break! All of you! We will resume training within the following hour!" he shook his head and walked off, feeling a headache emerging.
Olympia walked by Xena and Gabrielle seated together eating. Xena lifted her head once she saw the petite blonde with a big smile on her face. "You were a great match for Ares. I'd like to see you fight amongst my Gaul sisters!" she grinned and walked off.
Xena raised an eyebrow and turned to Gabrielle. "I thought you said she was from Athens?"
Gabrielle nodded. "She is but originally she's from Gaul territory." She answered curtly, still annoyed at the fact that Xena would no longer be her sparring partner. "So..." she began and Xena turned her head, "your fight with Ares was –"
"Very entertaining!" Cyane butt in and sat across from them on a bench.
Gabrielle groaned slightly and slammed the bowl of food down beside her, no longer hungry and really irritated. She wanted to talk with Xena alone, but that wasn't going to happen with all these interruptions.
Cyane smirked and dug her spoon into her food. "I would pay to see that again."
Xena's eyes lowered and she half smiled and spooned some food into her mouth. Gabrielle shot the Amazon a glare.
"Do you mind? We're trying to have a conversation."
The Russian scoffed and hopped off the bench. "Sorry Gabrielle. I'll leave you to your girlfriend, then." She winked and walked off.
Gabrielle gasped. "She's not my girlfriend!"
Xena snorted and she received a glare from the feisty blonde sitting beside her. "Why're you so heated, Gabrielle?"
"I am not heated!" she spat and then realized her voice was rising and eyes were starting to linger over to them. She sighed and folded her arms, leaning against the wall, her head hanging. "I was just upset that you...were sparring with Ares," she grumbled, hating to admit it aloud.
The Thracian's eyebrows rose into her dark thick bangs. "You mean you were jealous." She stated. It was not a question.
Gabrielle scoffed. "I am not jealous." She wagged her head and averted her eyes elsewhere.
"Then why are you getting so mad?" Xena half smiled, finding the blonde's attitude very amusing. It was probably the best entertainment she had since she got here.
"I just told you," the blonde turned around. "You are sparring with Ares."
"So, jealous." Xena went on, getting a rise out of the short blonde.
"Yes you are."
"No. I'm. Not." Her lips tight.
Xena showcased a crooked smile and set her spoon in her half eaten grain and folded her arms. "Prove it," she leaned in towards the blonde.
Gabrielle's heat beat quickened as she stared into those blue eyes –Xena's piercing gaze, her playful smile on her lips. She knew that she couldn't prove that she wasn't jealous and Xena knew it too. But if they both knew, why is Xena playing this game with her? She must find this funny, the blonde thought.
"I...I can't," she answered softly, the blood rising to her cheeks. She brushed a short lock of hair behind her ear.
"Mhm," Xena rose from her spot, grabbing hers and Gabrielle's bowl.
Gabrielle snarled and ran forward, grabbing Xena's arm. "We're not finished!"
Xena spun around and saw malice in those sweet eyes. "I'd say...we are," she pried Gabrielle's fingers off her arm. "What's the matter with you?" she cocked her head.
Gabrielle waved her hand and marched out of the eating area and picked up a sword from the rack to train by herself. Olympia walked over to Xena, both watching the short haired blonde storming off to the opposite side of the field.
"You should be wary around Gabrielle," Olympia whispered and Xena eyed her curiously.
She couldn't possibly imagine Gabrielle someone to be wary of. Ares, yes, Callisto, definitely, Cyane, maybe, but Gabrielle? No way. She was a good gladiatrix and fought well, but she was kind to everyone.
"Why?" Xena went ahead and asked.
Olympia sighed. "Maybe you should ask her how she got in here then you'll know," she winked and pat Xena on the shoulder blade then sauntered off to talk to some of the males outside.
What is that supposed to mean? Xena walked forward and leaned on the large wooden column, watching Gabrielle swing her sword continuously at the practice post afar. She now couldn't get her mind off of what Olympia said and wondered if Gabrielle wasn't the sweet blonde she originally thought she was. But at the same time, Xena didn't want to know what Gabrielle did. It probably wouldn't change her opinion of her, but sometimes, things were better left unsaid. Sometimes.
Three days later, a handful of gladiatrices were chosen to fight against other noblemen's gladiatrices. The gladiators also attended but that was a regular thing. The crowd was eager to witness the women fight. After the male gladiators from opposing sides fought and finished their matches, the women were allowed to enter.
Pompey's gladiatrices stood below the large colosseum, hearing the crowd roaring and cheering from above. Gabrielle's eyes lifted to the ceiling and could feel the entire place rumbling and shaking from the amount of people in the stands. Her heart raced as the time neared. She glanced down at her bronze gauntlets and looked to Cyane whom stood next to her, watching Ares fighting his opponent through the metal gates.
Cyane held her helmet underneath her arm and saw Ares drive his sword into the gladiator's chest, blood splattering all over the sands. She cringed and Gabrielle's eyes widened. She had never seen so much blood in her life. She'd trained at the ludi for almost a year now and each sparring session was not a death match. Now that she was inside the colosseum, ready to fight, it was all too real for her.
"You look nervous," Cyane noted.
Gabrielle turned away and clutched onto her helmet. "I'm not nervous."
"It's natural to be nervous, Gabrielle. I would be more nervous if I were in Xena's position," she turned over her shoulder and saw Xena sitting by herself in a dark corner.
Gabrielle almost forgot about Xena. Unlike the other women, Xena was to fight against male gladiators, per Pompey's request. She deemed that it was a cruel joke put on by Caesar, that had to be it, Gabrielle thought. She eyed the warrior, dressed in a black leotard, hiked up to her waist, showing off her large cut hips. The men were not allowed to wear chest armor, but the women wore bronze or silver breastplates with shoulder guards.
Somehow, Gabrielle figured that this plate wasn't enough protection and faired far worse off than the men.
She heard the gates open and saw Ares walking in, ripping off his bloodied helmet. He gave her a brief smile and she frowned. He walked over to Xena and she lifted her eyes. "Good luck, princess. You're gonna need it." he pat her harshly on the shoulder.
Xena grumbled and rose to her feet. "I don't need your sarcasm, Ares." She spat.
He splashed some water on his face and gave her a big smile. "Who said I was being sarcastic?" he chuckled. "Best of luck to you, Xena. I'll be waiting in my barracks for you," he winked and walked off, unbuckling his gauntlets.
Sorso tapped Cyane's shoulder. "You're first, Cyane," he said.
She nodded and put the helmet over her head and two swords, real sharp swords, not practice ones, were handed to her. The gates opened and she inhaled heavily then walked out onto the sands, hearing the crowd yelling at her.
Gabrielle bit her bottom lip, feeling more nervous than before. The crowd did not like Cyane. It didn't sound like they liked any of the women so far and she was the first one to go out and fight her opponent.
She walked over to Xena as she saw her sharpening her sword. "I...I want to apologize for the way I acted in the ludi."
Xena half smiled, lifting her head. "It's alright, Gabrielle."
"No it's not. I was...jealous," she admitted and her gaze dipped to the floor. "I didn't want you to spar with anyone else but...me."
Xena's smile widened and she went back to sharpening her sword. "I feel honored." She said softly.
"Just come back alive," Gabrielle said.
The sharpening stopped and Xena lifted her eyes and frowned. "What is this? Confessing your goodbyes?" she rose from the bench, towering over the small gladiatrix. She raised her sword, admiring the fine work she had done to it. "I plan to wipe those men clean with my sword like the true warrior I am." She grinned.
Gabrielle smiled in response.
In The Pulvinus sat Julius Caesar along with his ally, Pompey and his wife, Julia, daughter of Caesar. Calpurnia sat with her husband and on the opposite end sat the enemy of The Games. Claudius Marcellus, the opposing party that provided his share of gladiators and gladiatrices for the games.
The crowd gasped as they saw Cyane fall flat on her back. Marcellus grinned and clenched his fist, awaiting for his gladiatrix to kill Pompey's fighter, Cyane.
"Your gladiatrix is most impressive, Pompey," Claudius Marcellus noted with a sly grin.
Cyane quickly recovered and sliced the opposing gladiatrix with her sword in the meaty part of her thigh. The crowd cheered and Marcellus frowned.
Caesar grinned and eyed his friend, Pompey. "She is one of my best fighters. She is but a taste of what my women have to offer." He sipped his wine leisurely. Basking in the glory at Marcellus' demise.
"Word has it that you have chosen a gladiatrix to fight a male gladiator. Is the rumor true?" he turned and eyed the prefect.
Julius Caesar glared at the arrogant Roman. "Of course it's true, Marcellus. I wouldn't want to disappoint the crowd. I have saved her for the last match."
"Saving the best for last, eh?" Marcellus chuckled and nodded. "Well played, Caesar. We will see how your other gladiatrices fair in the arena." He snapped his fingers ordering the slave to bring him wine.
Cyane let out a screeching war cry and thrust her blade into the opposing woman's breastplate. Marcellus' gladiatrix moaned in agony. Cyane, breathing heavily, walked over a few feet and picked up her sword that had fallen from her grasp. She eyed the Pulvinus above, eyeing the prefect and General of Rome.
Sauntering back to the fallen gladiatrix she stomped her boot on the woman's bleeding chest. Raising her sword up she waited for Pompey to give her the go ahead to finish her off.
Pompey rose from his eat and approached the balustrade with a huge smile. He held up his thumb, pointing sideways and Cyane's hand shook, gripping the sword, waiting for his command. His thumb turned downward.
She grinned and plunged her sword into the gladiatrix's gut and blood poured from the woman's mouth. She took the blade from the woman's body out and raised her sword, smiling as the crowd cheered for her.
Pompey chuckled and turned to a very angry Marcellus. "One gladiatrix down, two more to go. This is fun indeed, isn't it?"
Claudius Marcellus groaned and sunk in his chair, sipping his wine.
Cyane ran back into the holding area beneath the colosseum and took her helmet off with a big smile. Gabrielle stood by the gates. "You did well," she said.
"So will you," Cyane pat Gabrielle's cheek. "Good luck, Gabrielle."
Sorso nudged his head to the sands awaiting. "Gabrielle, your turn." He said and she inhaled deeply and glanced back at Xena. The Thracian smiled at her and Gabrielle nodded, trying to hide her smile from Sorso. She slipped on her helmet and grabbed a sword and shield.
The gates opening. The crowd. The sands. All eyes on her. This was more frightening than she ever imagined it would be.
She walked toward the center of the colosseum and eyed all the people yelling, booing and cheering all at the same time. She saw Roman guards dragging the fallen gladiatrix off into a holding cell on the opposite side of the colosseum. A trail of blood followed the woman's corpse. Suddenly, she felt sick and unfocused.
Pompey announced to the crowd, "Gabrielle!" he said and the crowd roared. Her eyes widened at the loud echoes of voices ringing inside her helmet. "Gabrielle, gladiatrix of Potidaea!" he yelled and her eyes scanned the crowd, focusing on the angry eyes that lay upon her small body. She felt like an ant in this place.
She saw the gates from the opposing side open and a petite gladiatrix walked out, wearing silver armor and black boots, holding a large javelin and shield. Gabrielle turned and saw the woman was thin, not as thin as Callisto, and she was her height. Shouldn't be a big challenge, she supposed.
"Najara! Gladiatrix of Indus!" Pompey announced then took his seat.
The blonde by the name of Najara stepped into the center of the sands, a mere five feet from Gabrielle. She smiled beneath her helmet and Gabrielle's eyes narrowed.
"Begin!" Caesar called out.
Najara turned to Gabrielle and gripped her javelin. "May the Djinn guide you to the light, Gabrielle."
"The what?" Gabrielle said and gasped as Najara swung her javelin around to smack her in the face. She quickly held up her shield and rolled on the sands to evade the javelin driving into the ground.
Xena looked at the fight behind the gates with her arms crossed. She saw Gabrielle kept dodging Najara's attacks, but she wasn't doing her best to fight back. It was the only time she saw Gabrielle using her defense. Why wouldn't she use that tactic with me? She wondered. She saw Gabrielle fall on her back and flinched.
"She's afraid of death," Ares' voice crept up behind her and she groaned lowly.
"Get lost," she spat and he chuckled, inching closer to her backside.
"You have a soft spot for the little blonde, don't you?" he whispered in her ear and she spun around.
"Don't you have somewhere to be?" she said and his eyes roamed her entire body, especially to her bare thighs. She grabbed his cheeks and rammed him into the wall, straddling his legs. He inhaled deeply and looked down at her breasts inside the armored plate.
She raised an eyebrow. "You never quit do you?" she half smiled and let go of his cheeks.
He shook his head with an endearing grin. "Around you? Never." He felt her thighs pressed against his and closed his lips, gazing into her eyes.
Xena chuckled and stepped away, shoving his chest lightly with her palms. "Pathetic," she scoffed and walked back to the gates to continue watching the fight.
He rubbed his jaw and stepped off the wall. "Just think about my offer, Xena. It still stands." He walked off.
"In your dreams, Spartan," he rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, crossing her arms. Although the offer was tempting, she tried to remember what she was here for. Freedom.
She saw Gabrielle's arm receive a nasty gash from her opponent and gasped lightly. She wrapped her hands around the gate iron bars, pressing herself against it. "Get up," she hissed. She then saw Gabrielle slowly rise to her feet and she grinned.
Najara smiled and circled around Gabrielle, holding her javelin. "Not bad for a farm girl," she teased and thrust her javelin forward and Gabrielle wack the spear with her sword, breaking the wooden weapon in half just as she did to Xena's back in the ludi.
Gabrielle looked back and saw Xena looking at her with concerned eyes. A small grin crossed her lips and she turned to her opponent, now without a weapon, only a shield. She snarled and cried out then kicked Najara in the gut and she flew backward onto her back. The crowd cheered and she kicked the broken javelin aside.
She stared down at Najara and lifted her boot to stomp on her chest. Najara gasped and brought her shield up to protect her body and roll out of harm's way. Gabrielle spun her head around and marched right for Najara, now weaponless this should be an easy feat.
She swung her blade and Najara blocked it with her shield then rammed her shield into Gabrielle's helmet. She groaned and stumbled off to the side. Najara kicked Gabrielle in the back of her knees and she fell flat on the sands.
As she lay on the hot sands she heard the crowd booing at her. She remembered what Xena did to her back on the training grounds. She heard footsteps coming near her and waited until she was close. Close enough.
Najara reached down and attempted to flip Gabrielle over. The Greek gladiatrix grabbed Najara by the arm and flipped her over onto her back. She quickly jumped up and stomped her foot on the woman's chest and pointed the blade to her enemy's throat.
"Not bad," Gabrielle grinned beneath her helmet. "For an Indus girl." She looked to the Pulvinus and saw Claudius Marcellus was peeved and Caesar had a huge smile on his face as did Pompey. She did not wait for the command and plunged her sword into Najara's shoulder.
Lifting her arms in the air, the crowd cheered and she breathed heavily. Pompey gave her a curt nod and she walked back to the gates. Najara, though not dead, was drug off by Roman guards.
Xena smiled and Gabrielle threw her helm aside and much to her surprise she was brought into a warm embrace by Xena.
"You did an amazing job, Gabrielle! I was watching the entire time," she said and pulled away to see the bruise on the blonde's face.
"Well, I didn't die," the blonde blushed.
"You've been holding out on me," Xena cocked her eyebrow and Gabrielle scoffed, walking by her to grab some water.
Sorso grabbed Xena's arm. "Xena, you are next and you are our last gladiatrix in the games. Do not disappoint Pompey." He handed her two swords and she sighed.
She took one last glance at Gabrielle and gave her a weak grin then slipped her helmet on, grabbing the swords from Sorso.
Julius Caesar was growing bored waiting for Xena to make her appearance. He hoped that she would forfeit in the arena. The whole idea to challenge Xena with male gladiators was so that she would fall to her death. He longed for her heart to be ripped from her chest after what she did to his army. She humiliated him in front of Rome and for that, she must die.
Pompey rose from his chair once he saw Xena exit from the gates. "She arrives," he grins and Caesar grumbled in his seat. "Prepare for the best event of your life, Marcellus."
"We'll see about that, Pompey," Marcellus said.
Pompey went over to the head of the Pulvinus and grinned, raising his hand to the crowd. "The moment you all have been waiting for! A gladiatrix to fight a gladiator!" he yelled and the crowd cheered. He saw Xena walk to the center of the arena and his eyebrow arched.
"Xena! Gladiatrix of Amphipolis!" he yelled.
Xena's eyes roamed the entire colosseum and then saw the gates from the opposite side open and out came the male gladiator she was to fight.
"Cortese! Gladiator of...Amphipolis!" Pompey grinned. "It seems the two of the same land must fight one another!" he laughed.
Xena's eyes widened as she lay eyes upon Cortese. The man that came into her village and attacked everyone. The man who was responsible for her little brother's death. The man that killed hundreds of her people.
Cortese stepped the center, a few feet from her and smiled underneath his silver mask. "Xena, we meet again," he said a sensual voice and raised his sword and shield.
"You!" she said, her blood boiling at the sight of him. She let out a screeching war cry and charged for him, swinging her swords furiously, banging against his shield, not allowing him a chance to defend himself.
Pompey's eyes widened as he witnessed Xena attacking Cortese with such fire, such rage. He turned to Caesar. "She is angry, Caesar."
"She has a lot of pent up anger," Caesar groaned and watched the fight, hoping Xena would perish but it did not seem that was going to happen anytime soon.
Xena kept swinging her blades against Cortese's shield and he groaned. He dug his boots in the sand and smacked her in the helmet and she stumbled backward. He flipped the shield to its side and rammed it into her stomach and she groaned.
He growled and then slammed the shield onto her back and she fell to the sands and he stomped on her spine with his boot, crushing her body. She grunted and felt his boot sinking deeper into her spine and her bones popped. She gripped her sword and cried out then stabbed him in the boot.
He let out a cry of agony and she grinned, rising to her feet, taking the blade out from his foot. She circled around him. "You killed my brother," she said calmly.
Cortese groaned and drug his bleeding foot across the sands, glaring at her. "He's just another face long forgotten. What color hair did he have? Blonde, was it?" he laughed.
Xena growled and ran forward, tackling him to the sands and sliced his arm with her blade. In the midst of the tussle he grabbed her long hair and she yelped. He kicked her off of him and she flew across the sands and landed onto her back.
He grunted and grabbed his sword and walked over to her laying on the sands. "Now, you will join your brother in the afterlife, Xena." He grinned and twirled the sword, lifting it in the air, ready to strike through her heart.
"Over my dead body," she grumbled and plunged her sword into his gut and he gasped. She grabbed his arm and pulled him closer, driving the blade further through his body.
She lifted herself off the sands and leaned close to his ear. "Tell Lyceus I said hello," she whispered with a smile and tossed his body aside with her sword sticking out of his body. She heard the crowd cheering for her and she grinned, placing a hand on her hip.
Glancing over she saw Gabrielle looking at her with a big smile. She nodded at her then her attention drew to the Pulvinus. She saw the dissatisfied look in Caesar's eyes and that warmed her body. A devious smile crossed her lips. I'm not dead yet, Caesar.
Claudius Marcellus rose from his chair and sourly frowned at Pompey. "Your gladiatrix is impressive. I will send my coin to your household within the week, Pompey." He grunted then quickly exited the royal box.
Pompey laughed and slapped a hand on his friend's shoulder. "She was marvelous!" he cheered.
Caesar frowned, rubbing his chin. "Yes. She was." He said curtly, disappointed that the Thracian yet lives.
Coin and Whores
A week had passed since the first game involving both gladiators and gladiatrices. As Ares said, the gladiators were rewarded with either coin or women. Xena looked on underneath the barrack's roof at dusk, watching Roman whores walking into the male barracks. She gathered that most of the men preferred to be with a woman than have money in their pockets. Sorso handed out the coin that the women won in the games to everyone, but Xena refused the coin.
"Do you want to know why gladiatrices can't have men in their beds after a game?" Callisto's voice came up from behind Xena.
The raven haired Thracian snarled and whipped her head round to see the wiry blonde standing dangerously close to her. She chose to ignore her this time instead of getting into a heated argument that later would turn into a brawl between the two.
Callisto trailed her fingertips along Xena's arm. "Come now, Xena. Can't we be friends? That little incident is behind us now..." she hissed.
Xena frowned and looked into those menacing brown eyes almost eye level to her. "Do you want another broken arm, Callisto?" she said and Callisto backed away, surrendering herself.
"Well, do you?" the blonde leaned up against the wooden column.
"Do I what?" Xena asked in a flat tone, her eyes focused on the whores walking into the male barracks across the sands.
Callisto chuckled, "want to know why the men can lay with women and we are not offered the same reward?" she said and Xena folded her arms, ignoring her. "I knew you'd want to know," she giggled lightly. "Pompey doesn't want to risk having his gladiatrices spawn little brats. I suppose that's one thing that is unfair about this reward of coin," she lifted her palms in the air like a balance, "or whores."
Xena had been here long enough to know that most of these women did not care for the company of any male. Some of the women didn't even prefer the company of other women and often wanted to be alone, but surely, these women wouldn't argue about having a man in their bed. They didn't care for that, but Callisto was right about one thing –it was unfair. This place was not about being fair, Xena figured that out the first day she arrived in this ludi. Everyone was a servant to Rome. Nobody was special. Nobody.
"If your bed gets cold, you know where to find me," Callisto cast a wink and a sinister smile towards the Thracian then trailed off to the barracks. Xena cringed and took one last look at the women, now all inside the male barracks then turned slowly to go to her cell for the evening.
She walked through the dark halls and was expecting Gabrielle to be waiting for her, but when she wasn't there she wondered why the blonde gladiatrix wasn't in her cell. Sauntering down the hall see peered through the bars and saw Gabrielle cleaning a fresh wound she got from sparring with Olympia earlier today.
Gabrielle hissed as she dabbed her wound with the warm washcloth. Xena smiled softly and came up behind her, grabbing the cloth from her hand. Gabrielle gasped and turned to see the dark haired Thracian kneeling beside her. With ease, Xena brushed the cloth against the large gash on Gabrielle's arm.
"I told you your defense was bad," Xena mused and sat down, tending to the wound gently. She dipped the cloth in the water basin, washing it of blood.
"It wouldn't be as bad if you were able to teach me some of those moves of yours," Gabrielle said and Xena cast her a knowing look. "Sorso is making you fight with the men still."
And you're still jealous. "Learning to conform is not my strong suit but I am trying slowly. Day by day."
Gabrielle nodded and winced as Xena kept cleaning the fresh wound. "I saw that you refused the money from Sorso today. Why?" she creased her eyebrows.
The Thracian's blood boiled at the thought. She didn't want Caesar's or Pompey's money. She was trapped here against her will. "I don't want blood money from a Roman." She said.
Gabrielle could understand that but there was just one thing that was very wrong about what Xena just said. "If you don't accept the money then you will never be able to buy your freedom."
Xena scoffed, "who says I'm going to buy it?"
The Greek gladiatrix grabbed Xena's wrist firmly and gaped in her eyes. Her stomach churning at the thought. She knew exactly what this daring woman was planning. "You're going to escape?" she whispered, afraid that others might be listening. Her eyes went to the cell across from hers and saw one gladiatrix sleeping soundly.
"Escape?" Xena snorted. "I'm going to kill them all."
Gabrielle's eyes widened and she let go of the Thracian's wrist, allowing her to continue cleaning the wound. "Kill...the Romans?" she whispered so low only Xena could hear her. The brunette nodded slowly. "That is punishable by death, Xena."
Xena sighed and dropped the cloth in her lap. "And I would rather die trying than stay in this place!" she hissed. "You don't want to be here anymore than I do, Gabrielle. Join me. We can convince all the women to join us and revolt against the Republic." Her eyes wild with excitement and a thirst for blood –Roman blood.
The thought of revolt had crossed Gabrielle's mind several times but she couldn't do it alone. She also wouldn't be able to convince everyone else to join her, especially the male gladiators. Xena had been planning this for awhile it seemed. Now it made sense that Xena didn't accept the money she rightfully won in the games last week. She didn't care about winning her freedom because she wasn't going to win it. She was going to take it.
"We are stronger in number," Xena said and Gabrielle looked into the fiery blue eyes. "Join me so we can kill those bastards." She smiled and stretched her hand out.
Gabrielle's eyes darted from the open palm and then to the Thracian's grin. That grin firmly planted on those lips of hers –the irresistible lips. She finally grabbed hold of Xena's hand and gasped as the grip tightened.
"How are we going to do this?" she asked and Xena's pupils enlarged, a plan already stirring in her mind to take over this den of filth.
"Carefully and silently," Xena whispered.
Ares stood off on the sidelines after coming out of his private barracks. He leaned against the wall, lacing up his gauntlets, admiring Xena sparring with one of the gladiators. He cocked his head, his mouth parted as he gaped at her shapely thighs and glistening taut abdomen. Her body drenched in sweat and her hair wild and tamed, long enough to reach her hips –the appearance of making her seem animal-like the way she grit her teeth and growled wielding her sword at her opponent. He inhaled heavily as he continued watching her attack with such fire, such vigor.
Adonis knocked Xena back a few feet with a swift kick to her jaw and she groaned, rubbing her face. Quickly recovering she charged at him and tackled him to the ground. The blonde gladiator grabbed her hair and flung her aside and she rolled on the hot sands, kicking up debris, surrounding her.
She breathed heavily and her hair now covered in sand. Her body filled with cuts and impending bruises soon to come by nightfall. She grinned maliciously at Adonis and rose from the sands, rolling her shoulders back, stretching out her neck.
Crying out loudly she ran after Adonis and swung her sword repeatedly and he blocked every move, his eyes filled with fear when he realized that she wasn't going to stop. Their swords clashed together and she pushed him against the wall of the male barracks, pressing her body against his bare torso.
He grunted and felt her inner thigh press against his and her hot breath against his cheek. "You...win..." he said with clenched teeth and she backed off. He shook his head and rubbed his sore shoulder. She twirled the sword in hand and he spat at her feet. "Animal," he snarled and walked off to grab some water.
Ares chuckled and made his way over to his favorite Thracian, the only Thracian in this ludi. "Well done, Xena," he said in a sultry voice and her upper lip quivered at his tone. He ran his fingers through the ends of her dirty long locks, circling around her.
"Me and the others were rewarded last night for our victories in the arena," he said with a deceitful grin on his face and he came closer to her, invading her personal space. He smelled her hair and she cringed, though did not budge from her stance. "We are rewarded with coin or women. I expected you in my barracks," he whispered in her ear.
She whipped her head round and glared into his brown eyes. "What is it with you?" she asked with malice in her tone. He circled her again like a vulture would with its prey. Her head spun around to the other side and their eyes met once more. "There are plenty of other women you can have."
He let out a light laugh and came to face her from the front. His eyes roamed her body and could feel the heat radiating off of her as their proximity came to a very dangerously limited amount of space between them both.
"Yes, yes there are but I want you."
She rolled her eyes. "Let's get this straight, Spartan," she took a step closer and his eyes bugged. She jabbed her finger into his chest. "You. And. I. are never going to be a thing. You got that?" she smiled and noticed he was too focused on her assets to even bother to answer.
Chuckling beneath her breath she sauntered off, throwing the sword on her shoulder. He growled, cursing himself for becoming so distracted. "You will change your mind, Xena. I bet on it."
"Not in your wildest dreams, Ares." She called out and walked towards the female barracks to pick a different weapon to spar with her next opponent.
"We'll see about that, Xena," he muttered and smiled. Walking off he shoved one of his brothers into the wall and grabbed two swords to begin his morning training.
Calpurnia sat inside one of the guest rooms with in Pompey's home that he was so gracious to allow her and her husband to stay in. She fanned herself and glared at her husband that sat in a chair, brooding silently.
"Caesar, I thought the whole point of putting that Thracian in the arena was so we could be rid of her," she said.
The prefect's eyes lifted, staring at his irate wife. He growled and hopped up from the chair and swung his arm across the dresser behind him, knocking over candles and expensive marble vases. He thought that if he allowed the women to compete in the games that they would perish quickly but they didn't. Much to his disappointment, all of Pompey's gladiatrices won against Claudius Marcellus' females. Putting Xena up against male gladiators was Caesar's only hope to get rid of the Thracian but his plan obviously didn't work. She didn't just wound Cortese, she killed him.
He recalled that day of disappointment. He didn't care much for the other gladiatrices because they weren't his true enemy. He would never forget the way Xena looked into his eyes after she defeated Cortese. She knew what he was doing. She knew all along. That fire in her eyes. Her desire was not to kill gladiators or to fight. Her desire was to kill Rome and all of the nobles in it.
Caesar inhaled deeply, composing himself once again. He turned to his wife with a forced tight lipped smile. "It seems that I underestimated Xena and her skills as a warrior." He said calmly.
"I'd say so," Calpurnia scoffed. "You should have killed her when you had the chance Caesar. Now she is a reminder of your failures."
He snarled and smacked the fan out of her hand and she gasped. "You dare mock me?" he hissed and her eyes widened. He grabbed her arms firmly, glaring into her light frightened eyes.
Julia walked into the room and saw her father leering over her stepmother. "Father," she said, grabbing his attention, he spun around, releasing Calpurnia. "Pompey wishes to see you."
Caesar grinned. "Of course, must not keep the general waiting, right?" he sneered then brushed by his daughter, quickly exiting the room. Julia eyed Calpurnia for a few moments, gawking at her fretful eyes and lack of composure. She wondered what the two were talking about before she entered the room.
The blonde Roman general smiled at his friend upon his entrance. "Caesar, how are you fairing today?"
"Good enough," Caesar said curtly. "What do you need from me?"
Pompey sighed heavily and handed his friend a letter. "This came from Mithridates. It has come to my attention that he has seized all of the eastern Greek states under his control. He is threatening to control Rome's Republic again."
Caesar rubbed his chin and tossed the letter on the table then crossed his arms, staring out the window at the flat land below this mountain the villa was perched on. "You have beaten this Mithridates before, haven't you?" he asked.
The prefect chuckled lightly and turned to his worried friend. "Let him come to Rome and see what awaits him. We will show him that we are gracious people. Invite him to the games. I am sure a man like himself would not refuse such a fine invitation."
Pompey frowned. "But Caesar, why would you invite an enemy to observe the games? He says all Romans are barbarians."
Barbarians. He had heard this before. "And we believe the Thracians are barbarians, do we not, Pompey?" Caesar crookedly smiled. "Barbarian is a relative word. Invite Mithridates and if he has a few gladiators at his disposal then ask him to bring them to participate."
"Are you sure that is a wise idea, Caesar?"
"You must keep your enemies close, Pompey so we can divide and conquer and that's exactly what we're going to do with Mithridates." Caesar smiled and pat his friend's shoulder then sauntered off.
Xena and Gabrielle sat together underneath the barracks roof, eating quietly. They spoke to each other in hushed tones without making eye contact to keep their friendship together a secret among the others, especially those like Callisto and the males of course.
Gabrielle eyed Cyane from afar, talking with Olympia. She licked her fingers and frowned. "How will you convince everyone to join us?" she whispered.
Xena tapped her spoon against the wooden bowl and her eyes darted to Callisto. She knew it would be nearly impossible to recruit Callisto to revolt or perhaps not? The insane woman did kill a Roman officer. A little bit of insanity could go a long way.
"We will talk to each woman we can trust individually. Don't make it seem like we are working together." She said and lowered her eyes to her food.
The blonde arched an eyebrow and briefly eyed the Thracian. "How are we going to do that? I don't trust anyone in this place."
"Not even me?" Xena smirked and Gabrielle turned to her with a weak grin. Xena quickly averted her gaze to make it seem less suspicious. She eyed the male gladiators from afar and Ares was staring directly at her. She narrowed her eyes and tossed her spoon into her bowl, not taking her eyes off the Spartan.
"We need to get the men on our side too," she added.
Gabrielle coughed lightly and rubbed her chest. "Excuse me? You're way out of line, Xena. You are crazy. There is no way in Tartarus that they will ever agree!"
"There's more of them. We could use their help," she said and cocked her head, still gaping at the champion across the sands. Ares smirked and turned back to his brothers, talking among themselves quite loudly. She could hear some snippets of their conversations even from afar.
The blonde noticed Xena staring at Ares and in an instant she felt her chest constrict. That jealousy. The envy. She didn't want Ares to come anywhere Xena, but he tried very hard to get close to her any chance he got. It was so obvious to everyone.
She decided to suck it up and put her feelings aside for now. "And how are we going to convince them to help us?" she muttered, stabbing her grain with her spoon.
Xena smiled. "Leave that to me."
Callisto sauntered over to the two women talking in a corner all by their lonesome selves. She leaned one of her arms against a wooden post and smiled at the two. "What are you two ladies talking about?" she asked.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Xena scoffed.
"I wouldn't ask otherwise," Callisto sneered and eyed her Greek counterpart. "Gabrielle..." she hissed. "Remember what I said. When my arm is healed I am coming for you." She licked her upper lip and Gabrielle crinkled her nose in disgust.
Xena rolled her eyes. "Why don't you go make empty threats somewhere else, Callisto?"
The wiry blonde groaned lowly. "I still have one good arm, Xena." She spat and the Thracian stood up, meeting eye to eye with her. Callisto laughed and twirled a single strand of Xena's hair around her finger. "A head full of luxurious hair..." she whispered and sniffed Xena's lock of hair. "Gives something good to grab onto in bed," she winked.
Xena swat Callisto's hand away from her and widened her eyes. "Touch me again and I'll break your other arm."
Callisto snickered. "Playing hard to get, huh? Two can play at that game." She turned and walked off whistling aloud.
"I told you to stay away from her," Gabrielle advised.
Xena sighed. "She is a pain in my neck."
"In everyone's neck," Gabrielle teased and Xena gave a smug smile.
The gates that lead into the training grounds opened, catching everyone's attention. Roman guards brought in a line full of women clad in leather and skirts and cotton brassieres. They were shackled from their ankles and wrists. Xena walked outside and leaned on the wooden post, observing the women coming inside. The males across the way of course were eyeing them like pieces of meat and whistling at them.
Cyane scoffed and came to stand beside Xena, observing the new recruits. She was surprised that Pompey ordered more women to be brought to the ludi instead of men. Her eyes scanned the gates and saw a woman dressed in noble clothing, instructing the guards, telling them what to do with the women. Cyane raised an eyebrow and unfolded her arms, gawking at the woman. She recognized her. Those piercing kohl lined eyes, broad shoulders, long wavy dark hair and harsh facial features.
The noble woman caught Cyane's gaze and gave her a menacing smile then the gates were closed. She threw the shawl over her shoulders and was escorted to the villa portion of the ludi. The Russian Amazon's eyes widened and she ran out to the gates, gripping the bars, watching the woman walk down the dirt path.
"Traitor!" she yelled and the woman didn't even bother to turn around before she rounded a corner to walk up the stairs to Pompey's villa.
Sorso spun around and snarled at his gladiatrix. "Cyane!" he yelled. "Back to your post!" he demanded.
Cyane growled and kicked the iron gates, breathing heavily. Slowly she backed away and snarled at the gladiators snickering behind her back.
Xena frowned and Gabrielle crossed her arms. "What's wrong with her?" Gabrielle whispered.
"I don't know."
Cyane huffed and leaned against the post next Xena, her eyes focused on the new female recruits. "Those women are Amazons."
"How do you know?" Gabrielle asked.
Cyane's eyes narrowed and her heart rate increased just gawking at the Amazons being scolded by Sorso. "Because I know the woman who sold them."
Callisto walked out onto the sands, standing in front of her fellow gladiatrices. She placed her hands on her hips, smiling maliciously at the new females. "Fresh meat," she said with a light chuckle. "If only my arm were healed," she slowly turned around and glared at Gabrielle.
"Would you quit it already?" Cyane rolled her eyes.
"Oh there's plenty of room for you in my cell too, Cyane," Callisto smiled and winked at the Russian Amazon.
Cyane balled her fist and she grabbed a javelin and jabbed the dull end in Callisto's back. The wiry blonde fell to her knees and Xena laughed while Gabrielle covered her mouth. "You should think before you speak," the Amazon said.
Callisto growled and rose to her feet, glaring at Cyane and spun around to see Xena stifling a laugh as well as Gabrielle. "You think this is amusing?" she spat at the three women. "I will burn this entire ludi to the ground with all of you in it!" she yelled.
"Callisto!" Sorso cracked his whip against the sands, silencing everyone surrounding the irate blonde. "Go to the infirmary." He noted the wound on her head leaking blood down her cheek. She grunted and stormed off, bumping into Cyane's shoulder purposely.
Gabrielle's laughter calmed and she turned to Cyane. "Do you know these Amazons?"
"They're from the Telaquire tribe in Greece. I have crossed paths with their queen before." Cyane folded her arms. "I am ashamed to see them here."
Xena cocked her eyebrow, staring at the Amazons. "You know their queen?"
Cyane smirked. "I make it my business to know all the queens in the Amazon Nation."
Xena scoffed, "you're some kind of queen or something?" she jested. Cyane gave her a look and winked then walked off.
Gabrielle gasped and slapped Xena's arm. "She's an Amazon Queen..." she whispered.
"All the more reason for her to join our cause," the Thracian grinned and sauntered off into the barracks. Gabrielle took one last look at the Amazon women, frowning sadly, then trailed behind Xena.
who do you think the noble woman is?