AN: this is the first time ever that I write a story, I'm Italian, which means English is not my first language, so be kind please. any review, and critic that can help me is truly welcome! if I find at least one person who leaves a comment, likes the story or simply enjoys it, then just for that one guy I will continue this story I have planned for so long, and that I've finally decided to start writing

This great evil, where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might've known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night? – The Thin Red Line

Chapter 1

It all started like any other day, the sun was up, shining in the sky and the birds were singing their songs, the warlords were being warlords and Xena, well Xena was being herself, punctually kicking their butts in the heat of battle. And that's when I saw it, once again, that shadows, looming over my friends eyes, that lust for violence and control over other people that slowly crept into her heart like an illness that would kill his host. It was there when we fought Kallias, it's here now I can see it clear as the day, I fear for her, I fear for the day that this evil will take over her heart and perhaps take her away from me one day she thought but those last words never made it to the scroll, instead she focused on her surroundings and soon she found herself looking at the woman of her scroll, returning from her hunting session, with a couple of rabbits in her hands.

"I see you took your time there, where they too cunning for the mighty warrior princess?" she said teasing her, referring to the poor creatures in her hands. "not that cunning if they still end up here". She punctually answered raising lightly her hands to prove her point

"point taken.." was the only answer Gabrielle could come up with and soon a slightly embarrassing silence crept over the couple, in which the two of them found themselves staring intently at each other, but soon those stares became smiles "and now what are you smiling for?" asked Xena "you're smiling as well" answered Gabrielle, trying to contain her laugh

"looks like we got a smartass over here" said Xena, with an un indecipherable look in her eyes, walking towards her bard, "do you want me to cook them or are you too cunning to let that happen?" she said, underlying the world cunning "not a chance, if we want to make it to tomorrow"

"hey..! it's not that bad" exclaimed an offended Xena "or is it?" she quietly added after an instant as an afterthought, Gabrielle smiled at that but soon her good heart took over her and words of comfort left her mouth towards the warrior princess "it is not that that bad, ok? I just don't want to take any chances" she said, yet maintaining a light tease in her words, reinforced with a smile.

After dinner they headed over to their bedrolls, looking forward to the next day to come, and the things it will bring. Gabrielle briefly thought about the words in her scroll, and to the warlords they fought few days ago, Kallias, he managed to escape them and she could tell that this was bothering her partner a lot, she didn't say a word about it, but this dark look that would take over her face and that anger, when they happened to be talking about him were all too evident and real. Truly few people managed to outsmart them whatever the reason was and Gabrielle was afraid that when the time will come for him, Xena's anger would cloud her judgment, and led her to do something stupid that they will later regrets. She believed in second chances and she had this unexplainable empathy for this guy. Yes he was a warlord and yes he did awful things but still, it wasn't their role to judge him, they were only supposed to stop him and deliver him to the local court, who will pass the sentence whatever that was, she didn't believe in personal justice and she promised to herself that she would stop Xena from doing something stupid if they ever crossed that bridge.

If they ever crossed that bridge. She thought about that again, and perhaps she realized that she was over worrying about this all thing and that she should trust Xena more. She finally decided that only time will tell who was right.

By the time the sun was at his highest in the sky they had reached the town of Abdera the small town that was located in southern Thrace, on the Aegean sea and quiet close to Xena's hometown, which Gabrielle earlier suggested to take a visit after this situation had been solved. They were now lead by the indications of a few town's folks towards the house of the village leader, heading there with the intention of discussing the incoming threats of the warlord Kallias. This place actually surprised Gabrielle, she half expected a few huts and maybe a tavern, yet in front of her eyes laid down a crowded and busy marketplace surrounded by houses and small shops, when they crossed the main street she realized the real extension of the city and a few paces away she spotted dozens of mainmasts, towering over the huts, from the fishing boats and the commercial vessel she guessed, and she truly was ecstatic at the prospect to perhaps have some fun while they were there, maybe Xena would find some time to go shopping with her she thought, peeking at the warrior princess on her side, hardly containing her enthusiasm, which wasn't going unnoticed by the warrior, in fact, She's been giving Gabrielle a few annoyed Glares, but at the end, powerless in front of the bard's pouting she gave up on their silent conversation with a snort

"you know" she started "you could go on and take a look around while I talk to the town's chief, what do you say?"

Xena asked, but obviously she didn't need an answer to her question, because if anything, the reaction on Gabrielle face was enough for an answer. "all right then" she continued her one sided conversation, trying to share the enthusiasm of her little companion who could barely contain herself on not jumping around her taller friend "works fine for me" she finally answered thinking to sound completely calm and composed yet ending up pretty far from that, which caused a genuine smile to leave Xena's lips while looking at her blonde girl. "so I'll see you in a couple of candlemarks in front of the chief's house ok? Do you know where it is? You remember how to get there?" she started, only to receive an eye roll from the little one "off course Xena, who you think I am?"

"I'm just making sure.."

"don't worry about me" the bard promptly interrupted her, "I'll see you later ok?"

"all right then" Xena finally gave up, "just stay out of trouble, will you"

"you know me..!"

"that's what I'm worried about.." she uttered under her breath, watching her bard leave her in the market's crowd, immediately feeling an inexplicable pull in her heart.

As soon as Xena left, the little bard started to walk around looking for something to buy, that she truly didn't need to, and that Xena would probably frown upon, she didn't even had to walk that far In all honesty for the first stall she came upon immediately caught her attention, there, between the countless items, and sundries a little parakeet among others had her fall in love with it, but unfortunately she had to look elsewhere for something else, again, in a short amount of time caught her attention, only this time, it was no parakeet, but a man.

There, standing between two huts, about 20 paces away, was a dark figure, studying the blonde girl, with a curious expression in his eyes, she barely had the time to study him back for as soon as he noticed that the pair of green eyes were looking back at him he was gone, disappeared in the dirty alley and in the streets of the city behind the market. But it was too late, for our bard is curious by nature, and sure that dark man aroused her curiosity more then she'd like to admit to herself, and now she found herself walking in the path between those two huts, following the steps of the mysterious figure she had seen but a few seconds ago, but the streets resembled more the one of a maze, no more than two feet wide and truly suffocating which inevitably led her to lose her path among the small houses and dirty alleys, so she decided to give up and head back to the market

".. only, which way is the market..?"

she vocalized the last part of her thoughts, taking a good look around she finally decided which way to go, but soon she found herself backing on her steps, looking for a new way to go, she suddenly felt her chest heavy, and her breath unsteady, she finally realized that she was lost and the first thing that come up on her mind was her warrior friend, who wasn't there this time to help her out. Collecting herself she headed off In a random direction hoping to find someone that was willing to help her out of here, she turned to the next alley, thinking what else could possibly go wrong "Xena's going to kill me this time.." she whispered to herself, failing to notice the shadow approaching from behind and soon she found a cold blade on her neck and a shadow on her back

"not if I kill you first"

Whispered back the shadow, not even letting her the time to scream for help.