AN: Welcome back. If you haven't read "The Commander's Poet" I suggest you do so because you will be very confused reading this story.
I missed writing these characters a lot and felt I left the end of the story really hanging on a thread. I don't normally write sequels and I've only written one and it was fun. I feel I can offer more to the Hun story arc. Perhaps, I shouldn't call this a sequel, but a continuation from where I left off. Do not be put off by this first chapter.
I really wanted to keep this story for myself and not share with everyone because I loved it so much LOL. It's been waiting in my computer to be published.
I had doubts about writing this second part of this series because I wonder who would read it, but since I have it, I thought I'd share it with you all.
This story will focus on the love and loyalty between Xena and Gabrielle as well as close family bond they have with the infamous Hun family. Enjoy ;)
The Huns: A Continuing Saga
Part I: The Commander's Poet
Part II: The Consul's Warrior
Once the infamous Huns were the most feared among several tribes spreading across the Baltic and Caspian Seas became the least of the Roman Empire's worries after Attila's death. After the Scourge of God's passing, his eldest son, Ellac, took the reign over the fierce Huns. Ellac met defeat against the Gepids and Visigoths when they invaded Pannonia only a year after his coronation.
Ellac's death was mourned among the Huns of Pannonia and his brother, Dengizich soon took the throne, but he was the least successful during his reign. Only ruling five years as a young Hun King, Pannonia dwindled as a raging power and force in the Balkans. The Bulgur Huns began to rival Dengizich and commanded him to surrender under them. Out of greed and ill will, Dengizich split his father's crumbling empire among the Bulgur and Atlyn Huns.
Dengizich slowly lost power and was forced to resign as a king thus giving his mantle to his brother, Ernak, the youngest prince and son of Attila. At the tender age of twenty one, Ernak was able to push the Bulgur Huns out of Pannonia, regaining his father's territory once more. He made an alliance with the Atlyn Huns and paid them a sum of coin to keep them out of his homeland.
Although, Ernak faced the ultimate challenge when the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian, was assassinated and a new emperor came to power soon after. Odoacer assumed the role of Roman Emperor counteracting the new Eastern Roman Emperor, Zeno. The two were at odds and always tried to compete with one another. Attila's scourge across the Roman Empire, was only the beginning of the fall of the Romans. This was the mark of the downfall of the Roman Empire, though the Eastern Empire continued to thrive and combat the Huns, threatening to exterminate them all and ripe their homeland from them.
The ambitious Hun King relied much on his mother, Kreka, for advice on how to push out Emperor Zeno and his army from Pannonia. He soon came to realize that no advice or guidance from his mother was enough to push the Romans out of his motherland. Kreka, still widely known as the Barbarian Queen across the Balkans, was stricken with grief when her stepson, Ellac, died soon after her husband.
She realized that there was no way to save her husband's empire against Zeno and his growing forces in Constantinople. Kreka relied on her husband's trusted Commander, Xena, to oversee Ernak and his reign as king, but she saw in Xena's eyes that this was a lost cause.
In the summer ten years after Attila's death, Ernak planned an attack to push out Emperor Zeno and allowed Xena to be his commander of his army. This battle changed the life of every Hun in Pannonia forever and it was the bloodiest battle in the history of all battles that the Huns ever fought.
Emperor Zeno's army was unforgiving and slaughtered hundreds of Huns in a three day battle. Knowing that the Huns would not surrender and having heard of Attila's infamous Commander, he knew that he had to take her out in order to win the war.
The blood of a thousand or more Huns was on Zeno's hands and he took his opportunity to put an end to the young Hun King's will to thrive. He took it upon him to strike Xena down and crucify her in the middle of a corpse filled Pannonia as a warning that nothing will stand in his way of victory.
While Ernak and the remainder of Huns fled from Pannonia, Xena, a once formidable foe to the Romans and great Commander of Attila, was left to die nailed to a cross. Ernak made a promise that Xena, his second mother as he called her, would be avenged.
Gabrielle, loyal to the Huns and an envoy of Ernak, was horrified to witness Xena's body being nailed to a cross and hung in the middle of the battlefield. Emperor Zeno humiliated Xena and her companion tried to bring her almost lifeless body from the crucifix but was taken by the Roman Emperor as Zeno thought she would be a great asset to defeat the last of the Huns.
This marks the fall of the Great Hun Empire that Attila and his father built so long ago. The fight against the Romans did not stop at Emperor Valentinian and Flavius Aetius. This is a continuation of the infamous Huns and the story of their existence before they were wiped from the earth –never to be heard from again.
A year after the bloody battle between Ernak's army and Emperor Zeno, the young king thought it best to flee to a secluded area of the Steppes. Ernak took his family, or what was left of it, to the Caucasus Mountains and sought refuge with the White Huns. The loss of Ellac, ten years ago was hard on everyone but Ernak noticed that his mother, Kreka, was most affected by the loss even though Ellac was not her blood son.
Anastasia became numb after the death of Ellac and father to her only son, Csaba. As the years passed by, she tried not to think much of Ellac even though they grew up together, almost as siblings and later lovers. She knew that one day that he would perish by someone's sword, although she did not know that day would come so soon when he was such a young king.
Her son would grow up fatherless, much like what happened to her own mother. She relied on her mother and Gabrielle to help cope with the loss of Ellac and help raise her son the proper way. She too knew that one day Csaba would grow to wield a sword in battle, but she didn't want him to suffer the same fate as Ellac.
The day after that battle when Xena was left to die in Pannonia, Anastasia didn't want to leave, but Ernak, being the smart young man he became to be, advised her to flee with them to the Caucasus. Although, she expected Gabrielle to come with them and when she learned that she was taken by Emperor Zeno, she felt she had lost two mothers in one day.
She too became numb after the loss of her mother and the displacement of Gabrielle. A year waiting and yearning, she did not want to believe that her mother was gone. She knew it deep it in her heart that she was not dead, but alive somewhere. And Gabrielle might as well have been dead to her once she was in the hands of the Romans.
A year. One year changed everything. The White Hun King, Navaz, welcomed the Pannonian Huns into his kingdom with open arms. He also sought after Anastasia due to her beauty as a young woman and desired her to be his wife. His mother, Tuya Khatun, had been pressuring him to find a young woman to marry.
Kreka presumed the role of Anastasia's mother once Xena was pronounced dead among the Huns. She told Anastasia never to tell these White Huns about Xena and that she was her mother for the sake of her safety and Csaba's.
Within a few months of arriving to Balaam in the Caucasus, Anastasia married King Navaz despite her reluctance. Kreka told her that if she married the king that it would be the ultimate sacrifice to save the last few of the true Huns –the Huns of Pannonia. Anastasia, too numb to care, she did as Kreka said and married the king. Anastasia, being the only young woman within the Hunnic tribe, King Navaz could not refuse the offer and her beauty was most promising to bearing him gorgeous White Hun children in the future.
Now, a year has passed and Tuya, the Hun Queen mother of Navaz had been most unruly towards Anastasia due to her barren womb. Navaz seemed less concerned that there were no children that sprung from his new wife, but his mother thought otherwise. Tuya and Kreka, being the elder mothers, never got along and it was a different relationship than what Kreka had with Xena. At least with Xena, she was able to tolerate her as the years went by, but Tuya was impossible.
Kreka walked across the grassy plains of Balaam and entered Anastasia's yurt suited for a fine Hun queen of course, which is what Anastasia was now, was finally. Xena did not allow her daughter to marry Ellac and when he was killed in battle, the two were never able to call themselves a married couple due to Xena's stubbornness.
She saw the young woman, now quite tall, the same as her mother, long dark straight hair, big blue eyes and sun-kissed skin, just like Xena. A mix of her mother and father alike. She saw the girl staring off into space on the bed, her eyes fixated on the dust particles roaming in the air. She would always be a girl in Kreka's eyes.
"Anastasia..." she said in a soft voice. Still, the young Hun Queen did not budge. "Anastasia," she spoke in a firmer tone, louder this time.
Anastasia lifted her eyes and saw Kreka gaping at her with her hazel eyes. Her hair now filled with streaks of silver, but her face remained the same. Her beauty all the same though still had that rigid queen-like attitude about her even though she was a queen no more.
"Yes?" she finally spoke.
Kreka smiled softly and saw the woman before her, no longer the outspoken teenager that she once was, but a quiet woman who barely said a word these days. She walked over and sat beside her on the bed, brushing her hair from her shoulders.
"Tuya is asking to see you in her yurt," she said and saw the color in Anastasia's blue eyes darken. "You know what she is going to ask of you."
The young Hun Queen nodded, "yes, I know," she rose from the bed and sighed heavily. "I do not want to bear Navaz's children. I do not love him. I've been lucky enough to remain barren for so long."
"But, you can't keep this up for long, Anastasia. She is going to think you are truly barren and we both know that you aren't," she smirked. "Teas will not save you forever and it is not as if he isn't handsome."
Anastasia frowned and turned to her adopted mother. "I do not care if he is the most gorgeous man in all the lands. I don't want his children. I fear that I would only hate the child and what of Csaba? He is a true Hun, from Attila's line."
Kreka's eyes widened and she grasped the girl's shoulders. "You cannot tell anyone about that, Anastasia. We've talked about this. It has been six months since you've married Navaz and Tuya will dissolve this marriage if you do not bear a son!" she griped.
A heavy burden weighed heavily on the daughter of Xena. She felt like she was betraying all of her people if she went against Kreka's wishes. She knew that Kreka was only trying her best to prolong the existence of her people, but as they lived among the White Huns, Anastasia felt like they were more like slaves than anything else. They weren't allowed the same freedoms as everyone else and were seen as outcasts from the rest.
"I will go meet with Tuya, but I want to lay down some rules. I still not stand by idly and be made a bearer of Navaz's children. I am more than a wife to him and more than a queen. I am a warrior's daughter and my mother would be ashamed to see what has become of me, what has become of our people!" Anastasia marched out of the yurt before Kreka could stop her and talk some sense into her.
Tuya Khatun, Queen Mother of King Navaz, stood in her yurt, leaned over a table filled with an abundance of jewelry from China, their neighboring country. She spoke softly to her maid beside her, picking up each necklace, observing it carefully.
Anastasia frowned upon entering the yurt and all the maids turned at her presence. Tuya lifted her head and turned slowly to see the young queen standing at the entrance. A smile graced her lips and she dismissed the young maids. Anastasia took note of her the glimmer in the woman's black eyes, a smile shown on her oval pale skinned face.
"Üm Anastasia," Tuya bowed her head curtly. "I have brought these jewels from China. They just arrived this morning," she picked up an emerald necklace and showcased it to the youthful queen. "You would look stunning in this, wouldn't you say so?"
"I suppose," Ana said and tried to keep her composure. "I'm sure you did not invite me here to look at simple jewelry, Khatun." She said with a firm voice and Tuya's smile died down and set the necklace on the table.
Tuya nodded and her long straight brown hair swayed as she walked towards the young queen. Anastasia stiffened upon the woman's touch. "Certainly not." She hooked arms with Anastasia. "My son is leaving to meet the Shah to negotiate a treaty between our people and his. He will be leaving in a few days and I am sure he would love to have you in his quarters before his departure," she grinned slyly and Anastasia's upper lip quivered.
"I'm sure he would." Ana inhaled heavily, holding her breath, trying not to let her temper get the best of her.
The Khatun gripped Anastasia's shoulders firmly and bore into her eyes. "I don't know what you've been doing to keep your womb empty of a child for over half a year, Anastasia, but I plan to put an end to it. God knows you are not barren since you have a grown child of your own. You are young and at a childbearing age. I care not if you have affection for my son or not. He will need an heir or I will throw you and your people out of Balaam."
Anastasia sensed such malice in this woman's voice. If her mother were here she was sure that Tuya would be long gone and this marriage would have never happened in the first place. She decided to play right into the woman's hands.
"I will give him a son," she said and saw Tuya's eyes widen with surprise and accomplishment. "But," she spoke and Tuya's eyes darkened once more with anticipation. "I have a few conditions." She grinned and watched as the Khatun grow impatient.
"I want to be the commander of my husband's army and oversee all his military plans that he wishes to carry out." Just like my mother before me, she thought. She had seen her mother use this game of riddles several times throughout her life and learned how to perfect it on her own without her mother by her side.
Tuya was almost choked up for words. She had never heard such a demand from a young woman before. No woman wanted to be on the battlefield, let alone a queen. "My dear child, that is impossible. My son would never agree to such terms."
"Then I guess he will have to wait another six months for me to finally give him an heir," Anastasia grinned and bat her long thick eyelashes at the Khatun. "These are my conditions. See them brought up to Navaz and then I will share a bed with him." She smiled subtly then left the yurt.
Kreka saw Anastasia storm out of Tuya's yurt with a mission in her eyes. She had seen that look before, that look resembling Xena. She caught her as she was passing by. "What did you say to her?" she whispered.
"I asked her to make me commander of Navaz's army," Ana answered curt as she briskly walked across the campgrounds.
Kreka gasped, "Anastasia!" she hissed and pulled her arm to stop her. "Why would you do an idiotic thing like that?! Now surely they will throw us out!"
"No they won't, Kreka. I promised to give Navaz a child if my terms are met. Tuya is so desperate to get her son's seed inside me she cannot refuse," Ana grinned eerily and Kreka frowned.
"You are acting as ambitious and unpredictable like your mother, Anastasia –"
"My mother is dead!" she spat and the widowed Hun's eyes grew. "If you all had listened to her then we wouldn't be left without a place to call home! She was right from the beginning and you didn't listen! None of you ever listen to her!"
"Mother!" the rippling tense conversation was ceased once Csaba ran up to his mother and Kreka, carrying a large sword, almost half his size.
Anastasia glared at Kreka and then looked down upon her twelve year old son. "Wow, that's a large sword you have there. Where did you come by it?" she inquired with a meek grin.
His eyes lit up, "Dengi gave it to me. He said I should learn how to fight so when I become king I will slay all of the Romans with my blade!"
Kreka rolled her eyes and Anastasia nodded, glancing over at Dengi talking with his brother, Ernak. Those two never seem to grow up despite their age. "How nice of him."
She smiled at her son's bright green eyes that reminded her so much of Ellac and his smile of her mother. She took the sword from his grasp and saw his smile fade. "I will keep the sword in my possession."
"But mother..." he began to complain and she held up her finger, silencing him.
"I will teach you how to use it responsibly." She said and his smile turned upward, each end reaching his ears with happiness. She winked and pat his cheek gently. "There is more to a sword than swinging it around mindlessly."
Csaba nodded, becoming very serious. "Like grandmother says," he said.
She nodded, lowering her eyes. "Yes, just like she said. I still don't think she likes being called that, Csaba," she teased and his cheeks flushed.
"I miss her," he said in a small voice and Kreka smiled weakly.
"tatlı çocuk," she whispered and kissed the top of his head. "Me too," she said and looked into his innocent eyes that reminded her of two very important people in her life that were ripped from her far too soon.
"Now," she hid her teary eyes and put on a smile. "Go with Kreka to get ready for tonight. We are having dinner with Navaz," she pushed him towards Kreka and she gladly took him by the hand.
Csaba furrowed his eyebrows, glaring up at his tall mother. "I don't want to go. İ don't like him," he said.
"I don't care if you don't like him. You are going," she pressed and narrowed her eyes and he bit his bottom lip and turned away from her gaze. He had seen that face before on his grandmother and his mother copied that look to perfection.
"Okay," he said lowly.
"Csaba!" Kreka hissed and pinched his arm.
He cringed, "yes mother!" he groaned and Anastasia smiled then walked off with sword in hand.
After dinner Anastasia went back with Navaz to his quarters in his Adame, much similar to Attila's although a bit smaller and more ornate. The entire place was covered in gold and fine furniture from China and even some from Persia, she recognized.
She walked over to the mirror and began taking off her jewelry and her jeweled crown. She gradually took the pins out of her bun and her hair came tumbling down her back, reaching her waist. Gazing into the mirror she caught sight of Navaz derobing and saw his bare muscular back. His broad large shoulders and cinched taut waist. Lowering her eyes, she began unlacing the front of her dress.
As she was undressing herself she couldn't help but think of the only few times they shared a bed together and she could count them on one hand. İt wasn't that he was ugly, because he was very handsome, but she just didn't love him. She'd only slept with one person and that was Ellac. Now that he was gone, she didn't think she could love anyone else and it has been eleven years since he passed.
She remembered the first time she told her mother that she was pregnant with Csaba at the time. She would never forget the look on her face. She was disappointed and she wanted to kill Ellac and she probably would have if he were not Attila's son. That seemed like a lifetime ago and now they were all gone from her life –Attila, her mother, Ellac. The people that influenced her most in life were dead.
The look of disappointment and rage in her mother's eyes was burned into her mind. She couldn't help but remember that expression at this very moment. Her mother would not approve of her marrying Ellac back then and she certainly wouldn't approve of this marriage either. Her mother was her ultimate protector all her life and now that she was gone, it was up to her to protect herself and her family, what little of it she had left.
She was going to use all the skills her mother taught her to get what she wanted no matter the costs. Anastasia's dress dropped to the floor and she wore a mesh black gown, covering her bare skin. Slowly, she turned around and saw Navaz sitting on the bed, naked from head to toe. She lowered her eyes and her cheeks flushed. He was obviously thirsting for her.
She smiled and lifted her eyes, brushing her long hair behind her bare shoulders. Sauntering over to him she ran her hand across his short black locks. "You heard my conditions relayed by your mother, yes?" she asked barely above a whisper.
The Hun King nodded and grabbed her soft curve of her hips, bringing her close. "You want to be my commander..." he said and kissed her flat abdomen through her dress, longing to feel her skin touching his lips.
"Yes, I do. I would be a great asset to your army." Her muscles tensed as his hands roamed around to the small of her back. He lifted his head and saw apprehension in her eyes and grinned lightly.
He stood and slipped the straps off her shoulders, not taking his eyes off of hers. She gasped once the dress fell to the floor, though the two remained locked in one other's eyes. She did not want to lose focus and get lost in the moment so she turned her cheek.
"I am a good warrior. My mother trained me well," she went on and he grazed his knuckles on her soft cheek.
"I have no doubt that you are considering you are from the same land as Attila. If not for my father's alliance with Attila, Balaam would cease to exist." He said and kissed her temple and turned her cheek to look into her blue eyes.
She smiled widely, "so, I can be your commander?"
Navaz chuckled and kissed her forehead. "You Pannonian women are used to getting what you want, aren't you?" he inquired and she arched an eyebrow, uncertain of his game. "You may be my commander if you give me an heir. Our agreement, yes?"
Agreement, she thought, yes I will agree to that. I will avenge all the deaths on Pannonia soil and gladly give this king an heir to get what I want, she thought. "A deal is a deal, right?" she winked.
At this very moment as she felt his hot breath against her neck she only saw the horrible look that her mother would give her when she was doing something wrong. Closing her eyes shut she tried to get that menacing glare of her mother's out of her mind. Not only could she see her angry face but heard her voice too –her voice filled with rage, anger and most of all disappointment.
"I'm sorry," she whispered as her eyes filled with tears.
Navaz frowned and pulled away, "sorry?" he asked.
She gasped and realized that she had spoke aloud by mistake. Smiling she wrapped her arms around his neck, flesh touching flesh. "Nothing," she said.
He gently pushed her onto the bed and began pressing his lips against her inner thigh. Her eyes were to the ceiling and though she tried to think of this as a business transaction, it was difficult. Her body was reacting completely different than what she wanted. She felt as if she were betraying Ellac, her only lover and her mother, her protector, and Gabrielle, her life mentor and former tutor.
Perhaps Kreka was right, Navaz was handsome and he was a good king. He was kind to her and was very patient with her. He never forced her to have sex with him even after months of leaving him high and dry. She wondered if she could open her heart once more and let someone in after so long. She had not allowed herself the chance to grieve properly after her mother's death and felt responsible. She also was unable to give her mother a proper burial was the most important thing in her culture –to send loved ones to a safe place in the afterlife.
And maybe, Navaz could teach her how to love again, if she permit her heart to do so. Maybe, just maybe, she could find love for her mother and Ellac through this child she hoped to conceive on this very night.