AN: a bit short, but straight to the point and a familiar guest has arrived. More explanation later. Good luck and enjoy! ;)

Chapter Fifteen

"shadow stay with me. Are you wandering around like me, in this reality?"

Xena was still suspended in the air as the men were watching her every move. She sighed heavily and tried to wiggle her arms, but that only made the strain on her ligaments even worse and she stopped. The men were staring straight at her and she frowned down at them.

Suddenly a cardinal came into the cell unlocking door with a key he had. The two guards looked to one another and the prison guard asked them not to let anyone in but they supposed cardinals were an exception?

"Eminence, we are guarding the Queen of Greece as instructed," one of the guards said and curtly bowed his head. Xena rolled her eyes at the hypocrisy of these people. The prison guard specifically said to let nobody in, yet they disobeyed him for the sake of this cardinal.

The cardinal smiled and he rubbed his black cleanly shaven beard and lifted an eyebrow at Xena. "The Queen of Greece, you say?" he asked and the guards nodded their heads. He walked forward and stared up at her. "And what a fine specimen she is..." he touched her blouse gently then his fingers traced the inside of her blouse, barely grazing her chest.

Xena raised an eyebrow as she saw his eyes continue to scan and roam her body. "You are a man of God are you not?" she smiled and he pulled his hand away from her blouse immediately.

"Why is a beautiful thing like you in an awful place like this?" he smirked and she frowned, her smile disappearing instantly.

"Oh you don't know? I'm apparently being accused of murder," she scoffed. He smiled at her enticingly. The cardinal turned around and looked at all of the torture tools and weapons laid out carefully on a table. He picked up a crowbar and examined it thoroughly. Xena was watching him like a hawk and once he turned around she averted her eyes, pretending not to look in his eyes.

The cardinal ran his fingers along the crowbar and smiled at the guards. He swung swiftly and knocked out of the guards. The other one unsheathed his sword and he plunged the crowbar into the man's skull and the guard fell to the ground, dead in an instant.

Xena's eyes widened and the cardinal smiled at her. He went over to the lever and pulled it and slowly she felt her arms relax and her feet touched the ground. Once the pulley was completely released she was able to pull her arms over her head and she winced in pain as the soreness began to kick in. the cardinal came to her and unlocked the chains around her wrists.

The chains fell to the floor and she rubbed her aching wrists. Frowning at the man, "who are you and why did you release me?"

He grinned at her, "I am your new best friend, Xena," he winked and she wasn't quite sure what he meant by that.

She scoffed at that idea, "you are not my friend, I don't even know you," she decided to get out of this place and he grabbed her arm forcefully pulling her close to him. She grit her teeth and tried to get out of the hold he had her in.

"You aren't even going to thank me for setting you free?" he smiled coming dangerously close to her face.

Xena snatched her arm away, "I don't trust people like you," she stormed out of the torture cell and went down the hallway. She had no idea where she was because she had a bag on her head when she was brought here. She came to two paths and looked to her left and right.

The cardinal smirked, "oh but you will," he whispered and casually sauntered out of the room to follow her.

She decided to go left not knowing where it might take her. She saw a couple of guards that spotted her and her eyes widened. Deciding that there was no way out she smiled at them and they came at her with giant spears.

She swung her arm at one of the guards and he fell to the ground instantly and she winced as her shoulder was sore and out of place, obviously. The other man came at her and she kicked him in the groin and he dropped the spear. Grabbing the spear for herself, she hit him across the face and dropped the spear on his body then stepped over both of them walking to see if she could find Gabrielle and Xayida in this labyrinth.

Rounding a corner she bumped into the same cardinal that freed her. She stepped back and looked around to see where he could have come from, but he was behind her the last time she checked. "Why are you following me?"

He smiled, chuckling under his breath, "I want to help you, if you let me..." he touched her cheek and she grimaced, slapping his hand away from her face.

"I don't need help from people like you!" she brushed past him and rounded another corner, becoming more lost in these tunnels and she grunted.

Turning around she saw he was behind her again and she was beginning to feel a creepy vibe from this so called cardinal. He was like a teleporter or some sort. Perhaps his body is inhabited by a demon as well...she couldn't tell especially by his dark brown eyes, staring into her soul. He was handsome for a cardinal, she had to admit. His perfect chiseled jaw and prominent cheekbones. She saw tuffs of his curly black hair peeking out from under his yarmulke. "What are you?" she hissed and he began circling around her and her head looked from left to right, watching his every move. "Are you a demon?" she whispered.

He snickered, "far from it, my queen," he touched her soft long black hair and sniffed it. She cringed and then felt his hand come to her arm and her body tensed up. "You believe in multiple gods, don't you?" he asked.

She raised an eyebrow and looked at his handsome face, "I don't believe in any god or gods," she eyed him cautiously as he continued to circle her.

"Yet your palace is decorated in statues of ancient Greek gods," he came around and looked at her shocked face.

"How do you know what is inside my home?" she asked now feeling defensive. She raised her hand to attack and he swiftly grabbed her wrist in a flash. She blinked and there was no way a human could have grabbed her wrist with that kind of speed. "Who are you and why do you know so much about me?" she demanded to know.

He smiled at her and released her wrist, "an admirer. I like what you do. You have such passion and fire and don't let anyone stand in your way..." he hissed and she began walking off, feeling this man was off. She went back to the way she came and decided to go the opposite way to see if she could find Xayida and Gabrielle.

As she came to back where she started he was there leaning against the wall smirking at her. She huffed and decided to ignore him and go down the hall. As she rounded the corner she came to another dead end and was starting to get frustrated at the lack of direction.

"Still don't want my help?" he appeared behind her and she rolled her eyes, turning towards him slowly folding her arms defiantly. "I know you want to get back to your little sister and friend," he sauntered over to her and now she was officially intimidated by this mysterious man. "You will be wandering around in circles. Allow me to show you the way," he smiled and walked away down a separate small hallway.

She frowned and then thought she had nothing to lose and followed him reluctantly. She didn't know who this man was or why he wanted to help her but she didn't really have another option right now and he did save her from possible death.

They came to a staircase leading upward and she saw it was completely dark from there on out. "Why should I trust you? I don't trust people that I do not know," she said refusing to move.

He grinned, "have some faith, Xena," he cleared the path and she eyed him cautiously then began to go up the stairs.

She frowned, a bit fearful of the unknown, "what is your name?" she turned around and her jaw dropped as he was gone –disappeared from the scene. She sighed and shook her head, almost feeling like she had seen a ghost and she didn't know if it was malevolent or not. The only way was up and she took in a deep breath and walked up the stairs slowly.


Gabrielle began pacing around as she saw Alti and Xayida on the floor still. She checked several times to see if Xayida was dead, but she wasn't, though she wasn't knocked out. She couldn't pinpoint it, but she was almost in a trance.

Xena finally found the cell and looked inside to see Gabrielle walking around anxiously. "Gabrielle!" she whispered and the blonde turned her head and ran to the door.

"Xena! I'm so glad to see you! What did they do to you? Where did they take you?" she frowned and saw she was not wearing her dress anymore, but just a tight blouse and pantaloons with tights. "Where are your clothes?" she eyed her, scanning her entire body.

"No time to explain," Xena looked around and saw Xayida's shoes from around the corner as well as...Alti's arm sprawled across the floor. "What happened to Xayida?" she asked, becoming concerned for her sister.

Gabrielle sighed, "that lady...Alti?" she shook her head, "I don't know how but she came in here and was saying all kinds of nonsense. I don't know what she did to Xayida but they've been laying on the floor unconscious for the last hour!"

Xena groaned and shook the barred door, but obviously there was no way inside without that stupid key that Cardinal Peter had with him. "Alti is an evil person, Gabrielle. I fear she is trying to pervert Xayida's mind like she did before."

"Alti said that she was going to make her remember what she did ten years ago..." Gabrielle whispered, not entirely sure what that meant at all.

"Remember? Remember what?" Xena frowned.

Gabrielle shrugged, "I don't know but that's what she said."

Xena placed her hands on her hips, "Gabrielle, I'm going to find a way to get you both out of there. Don't let that witch out of your sight and...be careful," she touched her hand through the bars and Gabrielle smiled weakly at her.

As soon as Xena left Gabrielle went to sit down on the bench and stared at the two as they lay on the floor. The longer she stared the more they both looked dead. She sighed, leaning against the wall, hoping that Xena would find a way to get them out, but she also thought that might be a bad idea. Then she thought, how did Xena escape anyway? She frowned thinking about the entirety of the situation altogether.

Xena rounded the corner and heard footsteps. She stayed behind and hid herself behind a wall. They were obviously guards and heard them gossiping about the cardinals in the cathedral.

As soon as the guards rounded the corner Xena elbowed one of them in the back and she punched the other in the jaw and he fell to the ground. The still conscious guard groaned and looked up at her. "Sorry but I need this," she took off his helmet then head butted him in the forehead and he blacked out. She began stripping the guard of his armor quickly and dressed herself accordingly.

Looking down at herself she sighed, thinking that she should have chosen a bigger guard. The armor was tight on her and she was much taller than him, but it would have to work for now. She grabbed his sword and spear then marched out of the prison in hopes to find Cardinal Peter.


Tempe Valley Castle

Solan was in his room sitting at his desk building something with a few trinkets he found in his mother's room and around the house. He frowned and grabbed a tool and began hammering the metal necklace of his mother's to fit into his invention.

"Whatcha got there?" a voice appeared and Solan gasped, turning around to see a tall man, dressed in all black and had dark hair and olive skin.

"Wh –who are you?" the boy asked, hiding his Frankenstein invention, fearing that this might be one of his mother's guards.

The man smiled, "just think of me as a friend of your mother's."

Solan frowned at the man and scanned his attire. "You don't look familiar to me," he said with confidence. "Have I seen you before?" he asked, raising a brow at the mysterious man.

"No, you haven't," he knelt down to the boy's eye level, "I'm not from around here."

The blonde boy quirked his mouth, "where are you from?"

"A land called Greece, have you heard of it?" he smiled deviously at the boy.

Solan smiled brightly and nodded, "of course! Who hasn't?" he turned his full attention to this man. "My mother went to Greece on a trip. I always wanted to go there!"

The man nodded and ruffled the boy's blonde hair. "Why don't I take you there?" he said enticing the boy.

Solan's eyes lit up then he thought of his mother and his excitement died down. "I wish I could but I should wait until my mother comes back. She doesn't like me to leave the castle without her permission," he rolled his eyes, a bit disappointed at that.

The man pursed his lips, "why don't I take you to her?" he offered and Solan's smile appeared again.

"Really? You can take me to her?" then he frowned, "but wait, I don't even know your name. My mother said I should not talk to strange people."

"But your mother is my friend," the man pouted and then extended his hand, "my name is Ares," he smiled offering the boy to shake his hand.

Solan was hesitant at first then finally gripped the man's hand. "Solan," he smiled introducing himself.

Ares grinned mysteriously at the boy, "see now we know each other, right?" and Solan nodded. He stood up and grabbed the boy's hand. "Shall we go to Greece then?" knowing full well that his mother was indeed not in Greece.

Solan could barely contain his excitement, "we're leaving now?!" he asked with a big grin.

"What better time is there?" Ares smirked and disappeared from the room in an instant with Solan by his side.

One of the chambermaids came into the room to deliver some linens and sighed heavily as soon as she saw one of Xayida's necklaces on Solan's desk. She grabbed the weird thing that he was making and frowned. "Solan, your mother will not appreciate you going through her room when she is not here!" she yelled and the room was quiet. She looked around and saw the bedroom was empty. "Solan?" she called out and began looking in small places where sometimes he liked to hide and pop out to scare people.

She looked in a few closets and he was not there then she checked the baths and he was not there either. "Solan!" she yelled his name and began to panic. "Oh dear God in heaven," she whispered to herself and ran out of the room to go alert the guards of the young prince's disappearance.

"The prince is gone!" she shouted at one of the guards. He looked surprised and checked Solan's room once more for clarification. "I already looked in here!" she felt herself begin to lose it and thought Xayida would definitely kill her once she returned.

"I will search the palace," he told her and she nodded, fearing for her life. He whistled at a few other guards down the hall and began a small search party to find Solan.

She buried her face in her hands and thought this was probably the worst thing that could happen. "Her majesty is going to kill me," she said, damning herself already.


Somewhere in Greece

Ares and Solan appeared in Greece in less than five seconds and Solan's eyes widened. They were in a large abandoned building in Greece and he let go of Ares' hand and began roaming around.

"Wow!" Solan admired the architecture and saw vines growing from the windows inside the palace. "What is this place?" he asked.

Ares frowned folding his arms, "a temple," he sighed looking around. "One of the few that survived," he smirked.

Solan turned to him, "a temple?" he was confused. "It's not a church?"

Ares rolled his eyes, "no, it's not!" he said harshly and Solan raised an eyebrow. "This temple used to belong to the God of War," he said more calmly this time.

The boy nodded, "God of War huh?" he smirked and walked around the old temple and saw a shrine that was definitely old as sin. This place looked like it hadn't been inhabited in hundreds of years. He turned to the man and folded his arms, "when will I see my mother?" he asked.

Ares smiled, "soon, but I have to take care of something..." he turned and Solan felt so confused and lost now. "Stay here and don't even think of leaving," he frowned and disappeared. Solan's eyes widened as he saw him gone in a flash.

Solan didn't want to stay in this abandoned temple. All he wanted was to see his mother and there was no way she could be here. He ran to a door and grabbed the knob and felt an electric shock on his palm. "Ouch," he wagged his hand and frowned.

He sighed and looked to all the open windows. He smirked and ran to a window and put his foot on the sill to climb out and he was propelled backward against a wall. He hit his head and he grunted. Rubbing the back of his head he glanced upward and saw a few flower petals fall from the dome above. He was trapped here and not by choice. Sighing he folded his arms and sat against the wall, lowering his head.


Rome

Xena crept in the darkness of the hallways trying to conceal her femininity around the other guards. She passed a few already and lowered her gaze, making sure they did not see her face. From the room where Mass was held she heard a lot of voices and frowned, making her way there, hoping to find Cardinal Peter to steal the keys to the cell below.

She tread cautiously down the hall and peaked through the door and saw twelve cardinals standing around the altar. She heard them speaking a language that was not familiar to her ears. Squinting her eyes she looked further then saw they were not standing at the altar, but there was a pool of fire in the middle as they stood in a circle around it. The more they spoke the larger the flame became. Her eyes widened at the sight before her eyes and she didn't understand, but it was like they were feeding the fire.

A hand came over her mouth and she grunted as she was being drug away from the doors. She was pushed against a wall and it was that same so called cardinal standing in front of her. She narrowed her eyes and slapped his hand away from her mouth.

"You again!" she hissed and looked around to see if anyone was near.

"What are you doing poking your head where it does not belong?" he smirked at her and she tried to get away and he pushed her back against the wall again. She huffed and was about to draw the sword at her hip. He grabbed her hand and smiled. "You don't want to do that. It will be useless against me," he winked.

Xena sneered, "why do you keep following me? You're a stalker," she said and tried to listen to what the cardinals were saying but he was so distracting, especially since he was very handsome.

"A stalker? I said we are friends, if you let me be your friend," he leaned in closer to her and she eyed him as he came closer to her lips.

Xena pushed his face away, "I'm not your friend!" she grunted and pushed him out of the way going back to the doors. He then appeared in front of her blocking her way. "I don't know what you are, but you are not a cardinal and you aren't human either. No human can run that fast," she was starting to feel her heart beat quicken as he stared into her eyes.

He nodded quite impressed with her. "You are very observant and aware of your surroundings. That's good." He leaned in closely to her face again, "I like that," he whispered and kissed her lips.

Xena's eyes widened and she pulled away then slapped the cardinal's face. "Now I definitely know you are not a cardinal!" she wiped her mouth, though she hated to admit it, he was very hard to resist and he was a good kisser as well. She tried to peek into the doors behind him. "What is going on in there?" she asked, figuring that she would play this man's game.

He exhaled heavily, "A business transaction," he said flatly and Xena smirked at him.

She was about to say something and heard a loud roar coming from inside the Mass room. "What is that?" she asked and tried to see and he closed the doors.

"Nothing that concerns you, my queen," he smiled nervously and she frowned.

"Don't call me that," she thought this was hopeless and looked around for another way in. she really wished that Xayida was with her so she could guide her in the right direction.

The man watched her eyes dance around the area. "You want to help your sister and friend, right?" he said and that caught her attention. I have you now, Xena. "I can help you like I did before," he offered and he had a bit of mirth lingering in his brown eyes.

"I thank you for helping me earlier, but I don't trust you," Xena began walking off down a hallway. She tapped on the walls to see if there were any secret passageways. She knew these cathedrals had plenty of them. He walked towards her and leaned on the wall casually.

"What is with you and trust?" he scoffed. "You'll never know if you can trust someone if you don't get to know them first," he smiled.

She kept tapping on the walls and listened carefully, pressing her ear against the wall. "And what makes you think I want to get to know you?" she asked.

"Because, you and I could be such great friends," he smiled and she eyed him then shook her head and kept trying to find a way into the room. He sighed as he saw he was losing her attention. She was too focused on getting into that room and he needed to divert her. "Maybe I'll befriend that gorgeous little sister of yours if you're unwilling to accept my friendship?" he smiled and she frowned at him.

"You will not go near her," she said with malice in her tone.

He chuckled, "did I strike a nerve?" he sighed then pulled out a key. "I believe you want this, don't you?" he waved the prison key in front of her and she almost reached for it then retracted her hand. "Don't trust me?" his smile became more devious.

She was hesitant but everything that he said he would do, he did it and did not want anything in return, so far. Xena then reached for the key and grabbed it, examining it to make sure it was real. She wanted to free Gabrielle and Xayida and get rid of Alti, but she also wanted to know what was in that room as well. The roar appeared again and she heard the cardinals chanting loudly.

"too curious for your own good!" he frowned then saw her running towards the door once more. He blew a gust of wind and she flew across the hall and into a wall. She groaned and adjusted the helmet on her head. He sauntered over to her, "stubborn," he smirked, "I like it." Xena glared up at him and she was about to get up until he snapped his fingers making her disappear from the hallway and transported her to the prison below the basilica.

He groaned and felt like he should have a headache by now. Must be awful to be human, he thought.