AN: this story is an AU setting of Xena's life into darkness. It starts off slow as she is in her teenage years so bear with me here. Enjoy for now ;)
Disclaimer: I don't own Xena or it's characters.

Chapter 1

Amphipolis was an interesting city in Greece, it was filled with many blacksmiths, farmers, carpenters, fallen soldiers and commoners, much like Cyrene's family. After she gave birth to her only daughter, Xena, she decided to move to the outskirts of Amphipolis to look for a bigger home. Five years after Xena was born, a son was born, Lyceus, Xena's younger brother. Xena and her elder brother, Toris, by four years, looked after their baby brother any chance they got.

By the time Xena turned six years old her father had left her mother and brothers by themselves. Cyrene had relied on her husband to support the entire family, but once he left she had decided to open a tavern located in the inner city of their village. She would bring the children with her very early in the morning before sunrise to prep the kitchen and tavern before guests would arrive.

Xena often looked after Lyceus when her mother was too busy with the guests. Toris would help his mother serving and mostly cleaning tables afterwards at the end of the night.

It took a couple of years before Cyrene was able to provide a good enough income for her children to live off of. She also had to thank her daughter and eldest son for helping her the most.

But now, the years were slowly escaping Cyrene as she watched all three of her children grow up before her eyes. Xena was now eighteen, Lyceus thirteen and Toris twenty three. Each child had developed their own outlook on life and each child was definitely different from one another. Lyceus was constantly sparring with the neighborhood boys, Toris was off by himself trying to learn the art of blacksmithing, but Xena was different than her brothers. Being the only girl in the family she had learned to act tough around her brothers and didn't really fit in with the other girls her age in the village either.

Her friends had all the same opportunities as Xena and were expected to live nice and quiet lives. Get married, have children and raise them in Amphipolis just as their mothers and their grandmothers had done for decades. There were about six girls the same age as Xena and were now expected by their families to become engaged to a man very soon. None of those thoughts had entered Xena's mind at her age, she truly wished to become something more than a simple housewife.

Xena sat with a couple of her friends at a table inside her mother's tavern, listening to them chatting away about the boys they had met a couple of weeks ago. She rolled her eyes constantly, trying to block out the entirety of the conversation.

"What do you think Xena?" Elissa asked, batting her blonde eyelashes.

Xena blinked and realized that she had not been listening to anything Elissa had been talking about for the last half hour. ""

Elissa sighed and rolled her eyes. "You didn't listen to anything I said did you?"

Xena shrugged her shoulder and sighed, leaning back in the chair folding her arms. "I just don't see the point talking about men all the time. Don't you ever talk about anything else?"

Mala, the redhead smiled at Xena, placing her hand on Xena's shoulder. "Come on Xena, don't you want to get married? You're getting old," she teased. Elissa and Mala shared a laugh and Xena groaned, getting up from her chair abruptly.

Both of the girls frowned and Mala stood up, "Xena, come back! It's just a joke..." she sighed and sat back down with Elissa.

The blonde girl smirked, "just let her go. She obviously doesn't care much about us or our conversations."

Mala sighed and nursed the cup of wine in her hands, contemplating her life choices at the moment. She and Xena had been friends for a long time now, since they were six years old and she thought that she had a connection with Xena, unlike Elissa. She was kind of stuck up and a bit boy crazy ever since she was fifteen and developed breasts. She had made sure that she showed them off to all the available men, often making Xena feel inferior to the boys. Mala had noticed even though Elissa was a beautiful girl and a little too showy, they seemed to always gawk at Xena, even if she didn't notice it, Elissa did. Elissa was a jealous girl, jealous of Xena, at the constant attention she got from the village boys and outsiders as well.

Xena stepped outside behind her mother's tavern and saw Lyceus swinging his sword he made in blacksmithing school. He was a very good student and the youngest one in the class. She smiled as she watched her little brother become enthralled with the sword in his hands.

"Can you teach me to do that?" Xena called out distracting Lyceus causing him to drop the sword on his foot.

He groaned and rubbed his foot. Frowning he picked up the sword and sheathed it. "You shouldn't sneak up on people like that Xena!"

She came forward and grabbed Lyceus in a friendly headlock so he wouldn't be able to fight back. "Xena! Stop it!" he yelled as her grip became stronger around his neck.

Xena let go and pushed him backward, landing on his back he frowned at his elder sister.

"Come on Lyceus, teach me how to use the sword," she prompted tapping her foot on the grassy soil. Lyceus smiled and then stood up brushing some dirt off his pants.

He came up to her and started mocking her, "you want me to teach you how to use a sword?" he said in a high pitched voice, trying his best to mimic his sister. "To do what? You want to impress the boys..oooo," he laughed

Xena punched her brother in the shoulder and he winced. "Knock it off!" she said firmly.

Toris interrupted his siblings' little playdate and whistled at his sister. "Hey Xena! Mother needs you."

Xena frowned and stared at Lyceus, "this isn't over. Teach me before sunset, alright?" she smiled as she walked backwards towards Toris. Lyceus smiled, nodding his head and pulled out his sword getting ready to battle some invisible enemies.

Later that evening the sun started setting and Xena was washing clothes when she looked out the window and saw the sun retreating. Smiling she set the damp clothes aside, taking off her apron she set it aside on a chair.

Cyrene entered the room and saw Xena hastily making her way out of the room. "Where are you going? These clothes aren't going to wash themselves," she folded her arms.

Xena rolled her eyes and then turned to face her mother. "I'll get to it when I can, mother. I have to do this..thing," she thumbed to the grassy area behind their house.

Cyrene sighed, "Xena, don't stay out late. I have someone for you to meet tomorrow."

"Not another suitor. Listen mother, I appreciate it but I really don't want to get married right now. I have bigger plans to accomplish," she smiled and ran to the door to visit her brother outside.

Her mother called out, "Xena! Xena..." she groaned. Toris entered the room and saw a basket full of dirty clothes and smiled.

"Xena didn't do her chores yet again huh? Typical Xena," he shook his head and grabbed an apple, waltzing out of the room to go sit outside with a few friends of his.

Xena ran out to the fields and she didn't see Lyceus. She frowned looking around the area to see if he was trying to trick her. She smirked, "alright Lyceus, stop kidding around. You know I can get in you in the tightest headlock you've ever seen!" she called out but received no sneak attack and no response from her little brother.

Starting to become worried she tread into the woods looking for her brother. She stepped over a few broken tree branches, watching her every step. "Lyceus?" she called again after the second time.

She stood in the middle of the forest now, surrounded by tall ominous trees. "This isn't funny anymore, Lyceus."

Xena heard some rustling in the trees and then suddenly Lyceus jumped on top of Xena's shoulders scaring her half to death. She flipped his body over onto the ground and then she saw it was her brother lying on the ground.

"Zeus, Lyceus! What did you think you were doing?" she frowned, furrowing her eyebrows.

Lyceus rubbed the back of his head and stood up facing Xena, nearly as tall as she was now even at thirteen. "I finally got you though," he slyly smiled.

Xena huffed and gestured to his sword, "fine, you got me. Now can you teach me some of those moves you do?"

Both of them practiced until the skies were dark. Must have been a couple of hours but Xena felt that the sword was the one that completed her. She was so quick, so nimble and graceful with the sword. She scoffed at the idea of marriage –it just wasn't for her.

The following day Xena was out buying fruit from a vendor in the inner part of the village. She examined the peaches and frowned at how much the man was asking for them. "You sure you want these peaches for five dinars?"

The man sighed, "yes, Xena, you ask me this every time. Come on you're like Alibaba. Always trying to steal my money," he grinned at the young woman.

Xena smirked, "three dinars for twelve peaches then?" she bargained. She juggled the single peach in her hand with a challenging look on her face, arching her left brow. The vendor finally relented and handed her a bag of the dozen peaches. She grinned giving the man his money and set the fruit in her basket.

As she turned around she bumped into someone, knocking all of her fruit on the ground. Gasping she immediately went to pick up the possibly bruised fruits.

"I'm sorry, I should have looked where I was going," a masculine voice spoke to Xena. Her eyes traveled upward as she finished putting the fruit in her basket. She stood slowly smiling at the young man.

"It's alright, I bumped into you." The two looked at each other and her cheeks reddened. "Excuse me," she brushed passed the young man and hurried out of the market back to her mother's tavern. The young man watched Xena as she continued onward. A smile came to his lips and he casually followed her pathway a good distance apart.

Xena returned with the fruit and found Mala and Elissa cleaning off some tables inside the dining room of the tavern. She plopped the basket down on the bar and wiped her brow. Elissa grinned at her brunette friend.

"basket of bricks, Xena?" the blonde teased.

Xena frowned, "just clean the tables. I'll be right back. I have to get some things from the kitchen," she wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt and made her way to the kitchen.

Mala peeked into the fruit basket and saw a plethora of peaches and strawberries. "What's got her so worked up?" Elissa shrugged in response and continued cleaning the tables. Cyrene allowed the two girls to work two days out of the week in her tavern for pay and to spend time with Xena. Cyrene always thought Xena didn't have enough friends and was far too occupied with her brothers and being by herself began to worry her.

A knock alerted the two young girls and they looked up to see a young man with long brown hair standing at the entrance of the tavern. It was very early in the morning and they weren't exactly ready for guests at the moment. Mala put her hand on her hip, "we'll be open in an hour."

The young man smiled, "no worries, I'm not here for food and drink. Is there a girl that works here...a girl with a basket of peaches perhaps?" he eyed the basket on the bar and grinned.

Mala nodded, "oh you mean Xe –"

Elissa stepped forward, "no there's not," she straightened her posture making sure she looked taller and more alluring. Mala rolled her eyes in the background, trying not to disgust herself watching Elissa work her magic on every man she saw.

Xena came out of the kitchen with a tray of wine glasses. She looked to the entrance and saw the same man she bumped into in the market earlier. Her eyes widened and suddenly felt a bit embarrassed and yet uneasy that he had followed her to her mother's tavern.

The tall brunette young lad stepped aside from Elissa and came forward closer to Xena. She watched his every move and he pulled something out of his coat pocket.

"Is this yours? Seems you've dropped it on your way over here..." he grinned slyly and Xena looked at the necklace.

Xena looked at the necklace and shook her head, "you must be mistaken. I don't wear jewelry," she smiled softly trying to hide her apprehension.

The man clutched the necklace in his hand and stared at the brunette in her glacial eyes for a long while. He tucked the jewelry inside his pocket again. "My mistake then," he bowed his head slowly and made his way out of the tavern, looking back at her with mischievous eyes. Xena arched her eyebrow as he exited. Elissa and Mala both had puzzled faces and then stared at Xena as she seemed to be cast into stone.

Elissa came to Xena and grinned widely. "Who is that handsome man, Xena?" she egged on her friend.

Xena set down the wine glasses. "Nobody of concern to me," she shrugged and walked over to the window, brushing the dust off the curtains. She peered out the window and saw the man sharpening a dagger casually leaning on a hay barrel. He caught a glimpse of her and she shied away, continuing the clean the curtains. Hoping that he stopped staring her eyes reverted back to the man but he was no longer standing there. Frowning she poked her head out and tried to look for him but he had seemed to disappear.

Later in the day Xena retreated back to their home and she finished washing the clothes that she neglected yesterday. Lyceus entered the room with his hands behind his back.

"Hey Xena, I got a surprise for you," he grinned and Xena rolled her eyes. "No really, I do!"

Xena threw the clean clothes in a basket and dried her hands off on a cloth. "Is it a sucker punch to the face? Because I fell for that when we were kids," she teased.

Lyceus sighed, "come on Xena," he pleaded like a small boy. Xena sighed relenting to her brother's surprise. He grinned widely. "Okay close your eyes!"

"What?" she questioned.

"Just do it Xena. It's not a snake this time," he promised and she hesitantly closed her eyes tightly holding out her hands. Lyceus pulled out a long sword and placed it in her hands. Xena felt something cold in her hands and frowned, furrowing her eyebrows.

Finally she opened her eyes and saw a sword in her lap. She stood up and glanced at the mighty blade in her hand. She began swinging it around furiously. Lyceus took a step backward quite proud that he was able to give his sister such a grand present.

"Lyceus, this is...thank you!" she embraced her brother and he choked from the tight hug from his sister.

He patted her back, "you're...welcome," he choked out and Xena let go continuing to admire the sword.

"How did you come by this? It must have been very expensive!" she admired the craftsmanship of the weapon.

Lyceus nodded, "yeah it was but I didn't pay for it."

Xena frowned and assumed that he stole it. Before she could get a word in Lyceus held his hand up. "A man gave it to me to give to you." He grinned.

She blinked a few times and then immediately went outside the house and saw the same man with the long brunette hair staring at her. He casually walked away twirling the dagger in his hand. Xena looked down at the blade and then became irritated.

Making a quick move she ran after the man. "Hey!" she called out. "Stop!" she ran towards him and he finally stopped. She made her way towards him with baited breath. The young man turned around with a smug smile and looked at Xena in the moonlight.

"Did you buy this sword for me?" she asked a bit skeptical.

He shrugged, "what does it matter if I bought it...stole it..made it. it's a gift. For you." He winked.

She looked at the blade and shoved it into his chest. "Then I don't want it." she frowned at the man and he seemed surprised that she rejected his gift to her.

"You seem like a girl who likes weapons not jewelry," he teased, referring to earlier when he tried to sway her with a necklace.

Xena folded her arms. "Are you one of the suitors my mother found? If so..then you should know I'm not looking for a husband right now."

The young man chuckled and stuck the sword in the ground. "I'm not a suitor. If you won't accept my gift then I will just keep trying," he picked the sword up and whistled as he left Xena standing by herself in the dark. She stared at him as he left her side and he descended into the darkness.

Xena returned home and went to her room immediately shutting the door behind her. She lit the candles in her room and went for her oils. As she looked to her bed she saw a flower on her bed. Confused she picked it up and looked outside her window to see if anybody was around but nobody was there. She closed her curtains feeling a bit suspicious of everything at the moment.

She also saw a note on her bed next to her pillow. Cautiously she picked it up and read it silently to herself.

If you're not a jewelry girl then perhaps,

A flower girl instead.

Xena held the note to her chest feeling her heart beating faster. She held the note over the candle's flame and watched the parchment burn slowly.