AN: happy new year! A new chapter to start off the new year ;) good luck and enjoy, everyone
Gabrielle found an outfit that would fit Xena from one of the taller amazon women. A brown leather outfit with a revealing skirt to say the least and sandals that laced up her calves. Xena adjusted the gauntlets around her arms and Gabrielle had a sword for Xena and a staff for herself. Xena peered over at her and smirked. "Do I look like an amazon now?" she teased.
"Definitely!" Gabrielle smiled, and handed her the sword which she gladly took. Sighing she leaned half her weight on her staff, "what if the Romans are looking for you? Will you give yourself up to them?" she hoped not.
Xena scoffed, "as if I'd go back to that hell hole again. You have nothing to worry about, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle exhaled heavily, "I have plenty to worry about."
"Come on, let's go," Xena smiled and sheathed her sword on her back and exited the hut with Gabrielle following her.
Reaching the entrance of the campgrounds Alexa stood waiting for them both and had two horses and held the tied up man to accompany them on the journey. The redhead turned and saw Xena wearing one of her sister's armor, she was almost tempted to roll her eyes but she kept her cool, for now. Xena halted and scanned the horses with a frown.
"We will go on foot, it will be quieter," Xena said and Alexa's jaw dropped.
"But it will take us a long time to reach the Romans if we walk!" she protested. Gabrielle sighed, knowing that this trip was going to be awfully long if Alexa was going to complain the entire time.
Xena smiled, "this is my expedition and what I say goes," she said her final word and Alexa groaned and left the horses with the guards posted before they took off together. Xena smirked then turned to the man, "do you remember the way back to the Roman camp?" she asked.
The man frowned trying to think about the way he came about the amazon territory but it was very fuzzy since he was running for his life. "I will try to remember. I know they are by a river," he said and Xena nodded, trying to remember the landscape of Anatolia but she hadn't been here in so long and didn't exactly stay in one place very long when she was here.
Gabrielle spoke for everyone, "it's probably the Euphrates river. A lot of people pass through there."
Xena nodded, "so we go east then," she began walking off and Gabrielle looked to Alexa and saw a scowl on her face. Alexa pulled on the man's ropes around his neck and marched behind Xena. Gabrielle sighed and trailed behind them both.
All four of them traveled for hours and the sun would be setting soon. The warm sun began fading and it was starting to get cold. Gabrielle used her staff to aid her during the journey and she couldn't understand how Xena was able to walk such a long way without being so tired and exhausted. She turned behind her and saw Alexa was far behind them. She tapped Xena's shoulder, "I think we should stop soon," she advised and Xena halted. "She's pretty far behind us," she tried to sound sympathetic.
Xena sighed, "alright," she looked around and found a forest not too far from where they were, "we will camp out there," she pointed to the trees and Gabrielle saw an opening in it that would be perfect. She smiled up at her and decided to wait for Alexa to catch up with them.
Alexa breathed heavily and finally caught up to Gabrielle and saw Xena was walking on without them. "Does she ever stop to take breaks?"
Gabrielle smirked, "not really. When she has her mind set on something, she goes for it," she nudged her head for her to follow, "come on, we're camping out in the forest." Alexa groaned and followed behind her.
Xena gathered up some firewood and Gabrielle helped of course. Alexa tied up the man to a tree and sat down by the fire waiting for them to return. She folded her arms, shivering from the crisp air surrounding her. The trees weren't helping, creating a wind vortex and she should have brought more blankets with her but she only brought one and it wasn't very thick either.
Gabrielle picked up some more sticks and followed behind Xena, "do you think that man is telling the truth about the Roman camp?" she asked.
Xena picked up some wood and piled it onto Gabrielle's arms. "I don't know yet, but if there's one thing I know about the Romans is that they are sneaky bastards," she smirked. "I would know, I was technically a Roman once."
Gabrielle still couldn't believe that she actually worked for Julius Caesar at one time. It was so strange considering that Xena was difficult to get along with sometimes. Caesar also must have had a thing for Xena for keeping her there so long as his military commander. She assumed that Xena rebelled against him because she wanted more, but ultimately failed. She began to wonder if Xena would ever stray away from that dark path, though now that she has reunited with her after a year, she saw Xena had changed a little bit. She wasn't so hostile and obnoxious like she once was. She actually listened to her this time around and didn't argue with her. Perhaps a year away at sea was good for Xena after all, she thought.
They returned to their small campsite and Gabrielle set the sticks into the fire and poked at it, watching the flames rise high into the skies above them. Alexa scooted closer to the fire and smiled at Gabrielle. Xena appeared and then the amazon's smile disappeared and she turned away from the fire, refusing to look at her.
Xena noticed Alexa's apprehension and sat down on the ground close to the fire while Gabrielle kept feeding the flames. "You don't like me, I know," Xena spoke and Alexa frowned, trying not to look at her directly. "We still have to work together even though you aren't fond of me," she said and the amazon finally faced towards her.
"I'm only here because my queen commanded me to come with you." She chided and Xena sighed, rubbing the back of her neck anxiously. Gabrielle frowned and sat next to Xena, very close in fact, to keep warm of course.
"Alexa, give it a rest already?" the blonde sighed and reached into her bag and pulled out some bread and stretched her arm out, "here, eat something," she smiled softly and the redhead was hesitant at first but took her kind offer. Gabrielle looked over at their prisoner and felt bad for him. "Give him some too," she tore off a hunk of the bread and Alexa frowned.
"He's a prisoner, why should we share food with him?" she frowned.
Xena lifted an eyebrow, "we still need him. We can't use him if he dies from starvation," she said bluntly and Alexa groaned inwardly then snatched the bread from Gabrielle and walked over to the man to give it to him.
Gabrielle smirked, "you have empathy," she nodded, "something I've never seen before from you."
"Don't get soft Gabrielle, we're on a mission," Xena smiled teasingly and Gabrielle nudged her arm, offering her some of her bread.
Gabrielle chewed on some of the bread and looked out at the dark wilderness in front of their campsite. "You know," she swallowed, "this is weird being here with you again."
"oh?" Xena drank some water from the wineskin and Gabrielle nodded her head slowly.
"I feel as if no time has passed. We traveled together all across Greece and Anatolia. Now, here we are again, traveling together," she smiled shyly and Xena hinted at a subtle grin.
Xena ate some bread and looked at the fire in silence. Gabrielle cleared her throat and drank some water, now feeling kind of awkward for saying what she said. It was obvious that Xena was focused on something else and was probably thinking of the Romans. Gabrielle knew that Caesar would want to find Xena and kill her, he tried to kill her three times already and Xena always managed to escape whether it be by herself, Gabrielle or Ares. She was always saved from the Roman torture.
Alexa curled up close to the fire on the ground and covered herself with the thin blanket, trying to get some sleep, and hoped that Xena and Gabrielle wouldn't talk the entire night, she knew how Gabrielle was. She talked so much and when that happened, she could talk for hours on end, though she hoped that Xena was not as talkative. She gathered that Xena was really nothing like Gabrielle at all and wondered how the two could be friends or even get along for that matter.
Julius Caesar sat in his tent with many candles surrounding his desk. He was looking over at a map of Anatolia and knew that the amazons were close to this area, though he was not here to cause trouble for the amazon nation. He didn't care about them nor did he care for the centaurs either, which were south of the river and closer to the Aegean Sea. No, he was going to find Xena. He received word that she stopped in Athens then traveled to Anatolia leaving her ship behind for her men to have.
He was becoming more annoyed that Xena seemed to find these men to follow her wherever she went. They did everything for her and he wondered how she was able to do it. she was once a Roman commander, and he gave her the will to do anything with his army until she became too large –her ego too big for Rome. She wanted more than Rome and secretly Caesar knew that would happen. Xena was really headstrong and desired so much more in life than to be a military commander and he saw that in her from the beginning. She was a very admirable woman and rivaled many people in the Roman territories. She was able to get rid of the Illyrian queen's men and send her to Rome as a present of her victory getting ahead of him.
Caesar was jealous that Xena was able to make anybody bend to her will whenever she wanted and people actually listened to her! This is why she needed to die so she wouldn't create an empire for herself. He knew she was more than capable of creating an empire, but he figured she was alone now since she abandoned her pirate lifestyle and went to Anatolia, as told by his spies in Greece and Aegean Sea ports. The problem with Xena is that she was incredibly recognizable and would not be able to hide from any Roman elites wherever she went, though she seemed to be very good at hiding, too good, he thought.
He crumbled a parchment in his hands out of frustration and threw it on the floor. Sighing, he leaned back in his chair and someone entered his tent. Folding his arms he frowned, "what is it?" he asked, not really wanting to speak to anyone right now.
The man took off his mask from his face and bowed curtly to the emperor, "we spotted a messenger from Athens earlier today."
Caesar tapped his fingers on his arm and then stood up, "why wasn't I informed of this?" he growled, "is he working for Xena?" he asked with malice in his voice.
He shook his head, "we do not know sir, but it's unlikely he works for Xena. She's been at sea for over a year and never stepped foot in Athens until recently." He looked at the emperor and saw his eyes widen, not quite happy to hear this news. "The messenger fled our camps and went west to the amazon territory."
Caesar smirked, "he will have a rude awakening with those amazons," he chuckled thinking of the poor man's demise and death from Queen Melosa and her people. They hated men and Caesar could understand why, men were pigs, and the amazons had no relations with men unless it was to procreate. He had no quarrels with the amazons and wished not to go there to meet with them. "Perhaps this messenger is from a Roman fort in Athens?" he hoped so.
"We don't know, sir," the man said. "Do you know why Xena would come back to Anatolia?" he asked, raising a curious brow.
"I'm sure she has people here she knows. She hid here for quite some time," he rubbed his chin, "I want you to scout the area and look for any tracks. We don't know where she is hiding." He waved his hand to dismiss the man and he left his tent. Caesar paced around his tent and looked to a box filled with fine jewelry. He picked up a necklace with a red ruby carved into the pendant. "You could have had the world, Xena," he frowned and threw the necklace back into the box. "But you chose to betray me instead."
The man went to the leader of the elite Roman army and tapped on his shoulder, "the emperor wants us to scout the area," he said and the general nodded.
"Good. It is too quiet in this area," the general said. "Toris, you believe that Xena is in this land, right?" he raised an eyebrow.
Toris nodded, "I have no doubt that she is here, sir. Trust me, I know her very well," he frowned, thinking of his little sister. He never thought that Xena would go down such a dark path as this and she really needed to be stopped. He decided to work for the Roman army to find Xena, convincing that Caesar that Xena was never going to stop what she was doing. She would always find someone else to use and abuse for her personal goals and gains.
He also vowed that Xena would be imprisoned for her treasonous acts against the Roman Empire. She obviously lead an interesting life since she left and he had no idea that she would become a military officer, let alone for the Romans. She always talked so badly about the Romans and said they were tyrannical and tricky. She never trusted them and Toris wondered why she would become one of them, a Greek woman no less, working for the Roman emperor? It was odd to say the least, but secretly, he was quite proud of his sister for making it up to the top of food chain. As a roman officer he figured that she was treated like royalty and could basically do whatever she wanted, that is, until she betrayed the Romans and set her own campaign against them. He was astonished that Xena attacked Greece –her own people –to gain power and recognition. Toris always knew that Xena was different than the other girls in Amphipolis. A simple life of wife and mother was definitely not for her. Though, he never expected her to turn out like this – a rebel and fugitive of the Roman empire. She obviously got herself into a heap of mayhem and disaster.
Mounting his horse he lead the men into the outer lands of the camp, to scout and find his sister. Tiberius rode beside him and put on his helmet. Toris pulled on the reins of his horse, "we should be very quiet," he said and his eyes scanned the darkness before them. "Xena is sneaky."
Tiberius smirked, "but she is no thief, Toris! How sneaky can she be?" he chuckled and rode down the hill to lead the Roman soldiers to search for possible tracks.
Toris frowned, "you obviously don't know her," he muttered and kicked the horse and rode down to meet the rest of the men.
The following morning Xena woke up and saw Gabrielle was curled up against her, resting her head on her thigh. She smiled down at her and almost hated to wake her up, but they really needed to get going. The fire looked to have died out a few hours ago, though there were some embers still sparking, slowly. Alexa was asleep as well with her knees close to her chest to keep her warm.
Xena moved and Gabrielle stirred in her slumber and slowly she moved her leg and the blonde woke up. She sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Why are you awake so early?" she griped.
"We need to get moving soon," Xena stood up and brushed her hair with her fingernails and adjusted the amazon warrior clothing she wore, which definitely wasn't her style, but it was better than nothing. "Wake her up and him too," she pointed to the snoring prisoner still tied to the tree. "I'm going to get some water from the pond over there," she grabbed the wineskins and smiled at the still sleepy Gabrielle.
Gabrielle yawned then crawled over to Alexa, shaking her shoulder gently, "hey, wake up," she said and the redhead groaned, pulling the blanket tighter around her body. "Xena says we need to leave soon!" she said and shook her shoulder harder this time around.
Alexa growled and threw the blanket off and sat up, glaring at Gabrielle. "Do you always listen to everything she says?" she scratched her head and Gabrielle frowned, not appreciating the tone of voice of hers.
"If Xena says we need to leave, then we do. This is her mission, remember?" Gabrielle stood up and began packing her bags to travel with. She knew Xena wouldn't take long, she worked very fast.
The young redhead amazon stood up and brushed off the dirt from her blanket and folded it back up to put in her bag. "Why are you friends with her, Gabrielle? You two are polar opposites!"
Gabrielle smirked and slung the bag over her shoulder, "sometimes opposites attract, Alexa" she saw that her friend was not convinced. "She's not so bad once you get to know her."
Alexa scoffed, "yeah, you would know, since you were kidnapped by her," she stuffed the blanket in her bag and Gabrielle glared at her, folding her arms. "Why didn't you escape from her?"
"I tried," the blonde sighed, "but she found me and took me. She didn't kidnap me first actually. She took me into Caesar's palace because I was performing at a Bacchanalia. She didn't want me to travel alone."
Alexa couldn't believe that story, "so out of the goodness of her heart, she took you in? that's it?" she shook her head. "I don't believe it."
Gabrielle rolled her eyes, "don't believe me all you want. It was when I tried to escape, she kidnapped me. It wasn't as bad as you think it is. It did get worse though when she met..." she trailed off, thinking of Sinbad and that stupid woman, Maeve, who seemed to have Xena under some kind of a spell at the time. Xena wouldn't listen to anyone but her and Sinbad was a nice guy, a thief, but nice. He really loved Xena and she just used him. Gabrielle figured that Xena probably regrets ever treating Sinbad so horribly, but she didn't know because she hadn't even spoke of him since Xena arrived at the amazon grounds.
"Until she met who?" Alexa said, blocking Gabrielle's memories.
The blonde shook her head, "never mind. Just get your stuff and wake him up. Xena will be back soon," she turned and made sure the fire was completely out before they left. She needed to get rid of this campsite just in case the Romans came this way and they would surely know they were here.
Xena finished filling up the fourth wineskin and corked it. she sighed and stood up to leave to get back to the campsite hopefully everyone was awake by the time she returned. Turning around she bumped into Ares, of course, she thought.
"What do you want?" Xena frowned and he smiled at her.
"Don't you remember our deal, Xena? You're mine. I let you see your blonde girlfriend and son, didn't I?" he folded his arms and saw her eyes narrow at him.
"Yes, I didn't forget," she admitted softly, almost wanting to forget about this entire thing altogether. She brushed passed him and he grabbed her arm, pulling her back. "Ares!"
He raised an eyebrow, "you're going to spy on the Romans, aren't you?" he said and she didn't protest. He chuckled, "they're looking for you. Caesar is obsessed with you!"
"And you aren't?" Xena replied with a small smirk on her lips.
Ares didn't like the sound of that, though he couldn't deny that he always had a soft spot for her ever since they met. He let go of her arm and she threw two of the wineskins over her left shoulder. "You made a deal with a god, Xena. You can't break that deal or –"
Xena pursed her lips, "or what? You'll turn me into Caesar and his cronies?" she smiled. "What if I turn myself in?" she inched closer to his face.
The war god laughed, "now would you do a stupid thing like that? After I worked so hard to get you out of his hands," he smirked, folding his arms, refusing to let her pass. "Besides, I can't let you do that..." he touched her cheek softly, "because you belong to me now."
Xena closed her eyes, feeling his soft touch and almost instantly felt disgusted. All of this was so wrong and Gabrielle was right, she was trapped in her own mess, once again, but this time it was different, Ares was more involved than ever before. She knew that if she took this deal that she would be intertwined with him, and technically be a queen, a wife –she didn't want to be a queen or a wife, especially not a wife. She worked hard to get away from that life.
She looked up into his dark mysterious eyes, "and what about my son?"
Ares cocked his head, "what about him?" he saw the look in her eyes, "oh, I see, you want to keep him don't you?" he smiled, nodding his head as she remained silent, staring at him intensely. "Well, mortals can't live in Olympus, you know that Xena." He chuckled under his breath. "But you can see him whenever you want of course," he winked and she still was silent, though her eyes lowered.
Xena was now regretting everything she had ever done in her life, including this decision to take Ares' offer. She should have never taken the offer in the first place. She didn't need his help, it always ended so badly for her in the end. It appeared as if she would never learn her lesson, like Gabrielle told her once before, a year ago. She was selfish and never thought about her consequences of her ill actions. Now that she had a child, it became even more complicated. She thought she'd never have children, though she loved her son before he was born, she didn't want to admit that, but it was true. He was a constant reminder of something good in her life and if she couldn't have him with her, then what was the point?
"Are you really going to help those two nitwits find the Roman camp? What are you going to do when you get there, huh?" Ares frowned.
She lifted her chin and folded her arms, "I'm going to give Caesar what he wants," she smirked and walked off. His eyes widened.
"Don't do anything stupid, Xena!" he yelled out and she ignored him, walking away back to the campsite. He groaned and disappeared, making sure to follow her the rest of the journey.