AN: I said I would write a sequel and so I did. Probably a giant twist from the last story, obviously, but if you haven't read The Lady of Shanghai, you probably should as ties from the previous story are put into this one. I listed Discord as one of the characters, but I used her Latin name instead and changed her appearance.
Enjoy and feedback much appreciated!
The Snow Queen
Fifteen years later
Summary: Xena's Grecian Empire has lost the African countries she won from Octavius fifteen years ago through two longer battles in a span of six years. Octavius has expanded his Roman Empire to Assyria and Persia making an alliance with the new Persian King and colonizing Assyria with Allat as its King. Too many rulers among these lands and Xena's Empire is wedged in the middle of the conflict and territories. Octavius is at his peak meanwhile Xena is losing control of her Empire. Solan is now working with Allat in Assyria to push back the Roman elites and regain control of their land. Eve has taken initiative to spread her mother's empire to Eastern Asia in the territories of Qin and India and occasionally works with Qin's mercenaries in secret.
While Xena senses that her prophecy may come true she wishes not to rule Greece for an extended period of time and decides to leave Athens and go settle her Empire in the land of the Pharaohs. Although, Xena has kept this vision that Ares showed her many years ago, to herself and did not even tell Gabrielle, keeping it locked away inside of her. As she ages she realizes that she will not live forever and is twice the age of Octavius. She fears that time is not on her side and soon her empire will fall to the Romans –her greatest enemy for over thirty five years.
Gabrielle goes back and forth from Athens to Cairo to be with Xena and keep the fort down in Athens as well. Though, Gabrielle begins to notice a change in Xena. Even after all these years of being together, she still couldn't figure her out completely. She could be so secretive and though Xena had opened up about a lot of things over the years, she still remained locked away in her mind. Gabrielle began to think that Xena's worst enemy was her mind.
She noticed that Xena was changing back into the person she used to be over two decades ago and she hadn't the slightest idea why.
On Mount Parnassus the Greek Muses gather every afternoon to enjoy their festivities together and even invite a few Olympians to join in on all the fun. Erato, Muse of love, spooned some wine into Apollo's mouth and he relaxed comfortably underneath a canopy. A bright light appeared before all nine Muses and they gasped.
Terpsichore, Muse of song and dance, smiled at the Olympian God who appeared before them. She sauntered over to him and traced her fingers along his black vest. "Ares, God of War, what brings you to Mount Parnassus?"
Thalia, Muse of comedy, came to approach her sister and greet the War God. She smiled at him and took off her mask showcasing her beaming face. Ares rolled his eyes and brushed off the Muses. "Ladies, I'm looking for Erato. We have business to discuss," he eyed the love Muse placating his brother, Apollo, under a canopy, getting him very drunk. He marched over to her and she stood up grinning at him mischievously.
"Ares, I have what you want," she snapped her fingers and a blue vial appeared in her palm. He reached for it and she snatched it away wagging her finger. "Not so fast, dark and mysterious." Ares frowned, as he didn't really have time for this he folded his arms and raised a thick dark brow at the Muse. "you have to tell me what you're using this for. It could be dangerous, you know?" she smirked.
He sighed heavily, "I just need it. Do I have to explain anything to you? I'm a god!" he laughed loudly and Erato frowned circling him sensually.
"Yes indeed you are which makes me not trust you!" she pouted. "Does Aphrodite know you are using this?"
Ares blew in her face and sent her flying backwards about ten feet and she landed on top of Apollo. The sun god smiled and she kissed his cheek then stood up to face Ares again. "My sister does not need to know my business with you unless you want to die a horrible death?" he grinned.
Erato handed the vial to him reluctantly and frowned. "Fine! But if you must know, if you use this on a mortal it could end very badly if not used correctly."
He rolled his eyes, "use it sparingly, yadayada yeah I got it. Anything else I should know?" he folded his arms tucking the vial into his vest pocket.
The love Muse smiled and came within inches of the War God's face. "Yes..." she hissed, "it only works if the person is willing to use it. You can't force it on the person," she whispered.
Ares groaned and pushed her away. "You didn't tell me about that!" he yelled and Erato blinked, shocked at his tone.
She shrugged her shoulders, "you wanted it, Ares. Besides, I have never seen a mortal use that before, only immortals use it," she sighed, "well, if you don't mind I have some business of my own to fulfill!" she grinned and went back to Apollo under the canopy. Ares shook his head and soon disappeared leaving the Muse to attend to his rotten brother.
Ares beamed back into his Halls of War and took out the blue vial from his vest pocket examining it carefully. He unscrewed the cork and smelled the liquid within the bottle. It smelled like violets mixed with a hint of vanilla. Frowning he corked the bottle again and set it on his throne staring at it as if waiting for something magical to happen.
"so you finally had the balls to get it, huh?" a familiar feminine voice startled Ares and he groaned.
"Don't do that again, Eris," he demanded. He normally did not like unannounced guests coming into his temple but he rather liked Eris, Goddess of Chaos, she was something he had been waiting for.
The raven haired goddess floated around him and grabbed the vial. Ares tried to snatch it from her but she disappeared to the other side of the room. Her golden eyes narrowed with a devious smile. She held up the bottle into the light and tapped the glass with her long fingernails. The vial lifted out of her hands and floated high into the air as she admired its strange liquid inside.
"I can't believe you actually got it from...what's her name?" she grinned and laughed under her breath. "Oh that's right, Erato."
Ares marched over to the goddess and he snapped his fingers then the bottle appeared in his palm once more. "Why are you interested? It has no affect on us gods," he scoffed and opened a box placing the vial inside. Eris glided on the floor and leaned over her elder brother's shoulder as the box locked keeping the vial safe and sound.
Eris sat down on Ares throne and he rolled his eyes growing tired of this goddess' games and arrogance. She began twirling her fingers casually and a star from the night sky appeared in her fingers, spinning the star slowly. "So what mortal are you going to use that on?" she inquired and the star spun faster as Ares avoided the question. The raven haired beauty smiled evilly, "oh I know who. Xena...isn't she a little old to be your warrior queen?" she scoffed. "You need a new warrior queen, Ares. Someone younger, more vibrant, someone...fresh!"
Ares grabbed his sword and began swinging aimlessly in the air. "Oh someone like..you?" he laughed and Eris crushed the star in her palm. The star dust crumbled to the ground and she crossed one leg over the other, tapping her fingers on the armrests.
"Well we both know that'll never happen. Chaos and war? Those go together during a battle but for love? It just doesn't work," her golden eyes sparkled and Ares rolled his eyes. She sauntered over to the War God and traced her long fingernails on his arm, making him lose concentration. "Besides, I want someone better than Xena." She circled him with a sly smile. "How 'bout that daughter of hers? She's perfect. Spitting image of your old worn out warrior queen and she's very young." She whispered in his ear, "easy to manipulate..." she hissed. "Easy to mold..."
Ares shook his head and continued to sparing, "Eve is off limits, Eris."
Eris laughed audibly, "afraid your warrior woman will kill you if you go near her?" he didn't answer and she giggled. "Oh Ares. Just because you won't go near her doesn't mean that I won't..."
With that she exited the room with a hushed laugh as she disappeared into thin air. Ares growled and looked around still hearing her menacing laugh. "Eris!" he cursed to himself and threw his sword into the wall. "Damn I hate her," his eyes glanced over at the box and it was as if the bottle spoke to him. He trailed over to the box and opened it slowly. Lifting the vial out of the box he tilted the bottle watching the purple liquid sway side to side. He furrowed his brows as he continued to stare at it. He hadn't ever used this before on anyone and truthfully he had no idea how he was going to get Xena to agree to this plan of his.
Xena swung her sword around in midair inside her bedroom in the Egyptian fortress. She had completely redone Cleopatra's palace and made it her own. Keeping with the Greek-Egyptian theme she added a few touches from her homeland to keep her sane. She sliced the sheer red curtain in half and sweat droplets formed on her forehead.
She heard the door open and spun around with the sword pointed at the intruder. Gabrielle's eyes blinked and Xena breathed heavily as she saw her friend standing a few inches away from the blade. She realized that Gabrielle was the intruder and shook her head, lowering the blade.
"Are you alright? You've been acting strange for a few days now." Gabrielle said and sat on Xena's bed.
Xena paced around the room and put the sword on the wall away from harm's way. "Yes..." she walked towards the mirror and saw her reflection. A few wrinkles were now apparent around her blue eyes. Her hair was wrapped up in a tight bun with her bangs slicked back. "I am old, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle smirked, "people get older, Xena. It happens to everybody, even you," she teased.
Xena shook her head and looked away no longer wanting to stare at her aging face. Though to others, she looked just the same, maybe even wiser as she aged. "It's not that Gabrielle," she walked out onto the balcony and her blonde companion followed her, wrapping her arm around her friend. "I am too old for this..." she waved her hand at the city of Cairo before her. "I will never defeat Octavius and his Empire. "My Empire is dying and I'm...afraid."
Gabrielle frowned, sensing her friend's distress in her voice. Her quietness was most upsetting. Xena never doubted herself and always had a plan but it was obvious that she was tired. Her eyes showed it well. The fire in her eyes had gone and it was almost as if she were losing herself in the process. She squeezed Xena's arm and received no response of affection towards her.
"It's okay to feel afraid, Xena. Everyone feels fear some time in their life," Gabrielle reassured her.
Xena shook her head once more, "no Gabrielle, I am not afraid. I do not fear the loss of my empire. I do not even fear death," she smiled weakly. Gabrielle's eyes widened and she did not want to think of that. They still had so many years left and the thought of death or even losing Xena was not an option, at least not now.
"so what are you afraid of?" Gabrielle asked quietly.
Xena peered down at her blonde friend with a smirk, "losing myself." Her eyes glanced over at the grand city below her and sighed deeply.
Gabrielle understood that. Xena had been going and going for over two decades now and it was not likely that she'd stop, but she sensed some defeat in her friend. She feared for her that she'd give up just for the sake of not losing. Xena was a sore loser and that was not in her vocabulary.
"Sometimes..." she looked up at Xena as she continued to gaze off at the city. "We need to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves."
Xena wrapped her arms around herself as a gush of wind blew by them. She smirked, "and who told you that? Some great philosopher?" she teased.
Gabrielle smiled as her cheeks blushed, "you. You told me that." She left Xena's side and sat on her bed chuckling to herself. Xena turned and saw her amused friend. "When I was young and lost I told myself that I would never forgive you for what you did, but I did, remember? It was like you were a different person in those days, now I feel as if...you're becoming a different person for the third time, Xena..." she glanced up at her friend's confused expression.
She sighed and rubbed her head anxiously, ruffling her short blonde locks. "You were a horrible person when I met you then over the years you've changed, changed for good. Now when I look at you...I see that your eyes are not the same. You're not the same person any more, Xena and that's what scares me," she placed a warm hand over her heart.
Xena smiled sadly and sat down next to Gabrielle. "Sometimes, Gabrielle, people change as the years go by. I was not the same person I was twenty years ago and you aren't either. I am not the same person as I was yesterday or even a few hours ago," she smiled. "That's the good thing about being human, we change," her eyes traveled around the room in deep thought. She began to think she was spending so much time with Gabrielle, that she was beginning to sound like her.
Gabrielle nodded, "if that's true then...I don't like the way you've changed in these last few minutes," she grinned and stared into Xena's blue eyes. "I once saw a powerful woman and now I see an empty one with dull eyes staring back into my soul." She stood up and placed a hand on Xena's shoulder. "Whatever decisions you make you know I'll be there with you until the end."
"Like always," Xena admitted softly.
Gabrielle smiled, "like always," she repeated then left the room as Xena sat alone self pitying herself. Xena stood up and walked over to the mirror staring at her reflection again. She took the pins out of her bun and let her hair tumble down her back all the way to her waist. She ruffled her bangs separating each strand with her fingers. She took a cloth and wiped the black kohl off her eyes and took off the lip stain from her lips. The longer she stared at herself the more she saw the woman that Gabrielle explained. She was lost, not confused, but just lost.
Eve had been in the outskirts of Qin for the last week or so. Her mother insisted that she'd take a large group of men with her just in case something happened. At the age of twenty two she was quite independent and basically did whatever she wanted. As a princess of Greece she wanted to make sure that her message of the empire was spread peacefully and not by bloodshed –something Xena was not keen on.
Xena and Eve were vastly different in the sense that Eve wanted more peace and Xena constantly won wars through bloodshed over the years she tagged along in battles or stayed back in Athens listening to her mother argue with Gabrielle in her office about the Romans. Eve never understood why her mother hated the Romans so much as she did, but it wasn't like she didn't have good reason. The Roman Empire was expanding quickly and the Greek Empire was dwindling as the years went on. Xena was not winning small battles and though her people had faith in her, she lied to them, telling them everything was fine, when it definitely wasn't.
Eve came out of her tent and wrapped her red cape around her black armor, mimicking her mother's armor she wore so long ago. She appeared menacing but it was just for looks, nothing more. She walked to her men sitting around a fire and sat down with them warming her hands from the cold desert breeze.
"We should leave tomorrow morning to arrive in the Kingdom of Qin. We can't get anything done if we're out here," Eve smiled. The men nodded and then a scout came running towards them, a bit out of breath. Eve stood up ignoring the man's pleas and message when she saw a group of riders coming in on black horses, wearing dark clothes and had their faces covered except their eyes.
"Oh good, company," Eve smiled and grabbed her sword wrapping her black veil around her face, exposing only her bluest eyes. The riders came to a halt and the leader, she assumed, hopped off the giant stallion and approached her with a special hand signal, which she picked up on immediately. She had worked with mercenaries before but these people were a new group she hadn't seen before.
"What brings you to the land of Qin?" the rider asked in a muffled voice.
Eve's eyes darted from her men to his. "I could ask you the same question. I'm on a mission to spread the message of peace from the Greek Empire."
The man chuckled and sheathed his sword. "Message of peace from the Greeks? I find that hard to believe."
She smiled beneath her veil, "it's fine if you don't believe. What I say is true. If you trust me, disarm yourself of your weapons and my men will do the same."
The man eyed her carefully then looked to his men. He dropped his sword and his men followed suit. Eve nodded her head at her men and they did the same as her. She threw her sword in the sand and the man bowed his head generously at the Greek Princess.
Awhile later Eve sat down with the black riders. Both of the leaders, Eve and this mysterious man, did not reveal their true identities and remained shielded by their black face veils. Eve shared food and wine with the men and they agreed to join in with the others. Eve stared at the man and his eyes were so green, they reminded her of Gabrielle's eyes –so sweet, kind and yet strong.
"I never heard of the Greek Empire spreading peace," the man blurted out.
Eve smiled fixing her veil around her face. "It is the only way to keep the Romans at bay. The more peace we spread, the more followers we have."
The man nodded in silence and watched the fire burn. "You are not a mercenary." He stated. This caught Eve off guard and she didn't really know how to answer this man. It was true she was not a mercenary but he was so bold to say so.
He chuckled, "for all I know you could be..." he stared at her blue eyes for quite some time then looked away.
Eve frowned, "could be what?" she asked and when he didn't answer she started to become irritated. Standing up she put her hands on her hips.
The man glanced up at her, "nothing. You just remind me of someone I used to know a long time ago."
Eve's temper died down and she sat next to the cloaked man again, feeling a bit embarrassed getting so angry so quickly. "She had eyes as blue as the Aegean Sea and she was wild, like the fire here," he smiled beneath his veil.
She grinned at his kind words. "She sounds beautiful." He bobbed his head in agreement and sat in silence for a few minutes thinking quietly to himself. "To be honest, you look like a mercenary but you aren't one," she slyly said.
The man frowned, "what makes you say that?"
She shrugged, "mercenaries don't sit down and talk for hours on end. They get told a command and go on about their duties. I've been working with them for awhile now. The Empress wants a lot of feedback on her empire," she proudly smiled, thinking of her mother and her strides.
The man scoffed, "I have not seen the Empress come out of her grand palace in years," he mocked.
Eve let that comment slide. She didn't want to give this person too many details about her mother or herself so she changed the subject. "You've met the empress before?" she curiously asked.
He nodded, "once. A really long time ago. I'm sure if she saw me again she wouldn't recognize me, but I would definitely recognize her..." he snarled.
"I know that she hurt a lot of people in her past," Eve admitted sadly. She had seen many deaths in her short life by her mother's sword and she couldn't say she was proud of it.
"She killed my father," he said bluntly and Eve felt a knot in her throat. Though she had seen many deaths in her life she had never really spoke to someone who's loved one died by her mother's blade or army. The only person she saw die was Phraates and she was a child then. She couldn't grasp anything that went on during that innocent part of her life.
Eve didn't quite know what to say and the man chuckled. "It's alright, that was a long time ago and I have forgiven the empress for that. I am a better person than my father ever was!" he said proudly. Eve smiled, glad to hear something positive come out of this tragedy.
"so what are you doing in Qin? I know you're not working for the Greek Empire," she teased.
The man sighed and smoothed out his face veil, concealing his identity. "I am scouting the area for a special someone." He winked, "secret business." Eve smiled nodding her head, completely understanding. He stood up and stretched his legs. "My men and I must be going. We have a lot more land to cover. Thank you for the hospitality," he extended his hand and Eve shook it firmly. "Perhaps we will cross paths again."
"Perhaps we will," Eve stood up and he left with his men following behind him. She watched them mount their horses and ride off into the darkness of the desert. She removed the face veil and squinted her eyes as she saw them disappear from the campsite. She snapped to one of her mother's men and the commander came running to her aid. "I want them followed," she demanded.
Lykus frowned, "Xena does not want you to engage in dangerous missions, princess," he advised as politely as he could.
Eve frowned, "I said I want them followed!" she retreated to her tent and Lykus groaned commanding some men to go follow the black riders and report back what they saw if they found anything.
As she entered her tent she gasped as she saw a woman laying down on the ground wearing a purple gown. Her raven straight hair draped over her shoulders and her golden eyes pierced through her soul.
"Hello there," Eris smiled.