AN: and finally some action here! And some other stuff too...lol enjoy for now ;)

Chapter Nineteen

Xayida's large castle did indeed have a library, though it was hardly used unless Solan was with his mentor studying various subjects, especially math and sciences of Greece. Gabrielle looked through the mythology books Xayida had on her shelves and there were hardly any of them. She flipped through many pages but so far found nothing yet.

Xayida walked into the library and saw Gabrielle studying two books at once while Xena sat with her boots propped up on the table, or rather, Xayida's boots. Xena caught eye of her and took her feet off the table. She walked up to them and ran her finger on the table, noting the dust and rubbed her fingers together. "Did you two find what you are looking for?" she asked.

Gabrielle frowned, "not yet," she replied, "but I think I am getting closer." She flipped the next few pages and shook her head. "Don't you have any more books on Greek mythology?"

Xayida shook her head, "sorry Gabrielle. Those were all taken out of my library a few years ago."

Xena lifted a curious eyebrow, "and why's that? You always loved studying Greek deities," she remembered.

The sister sighed and stared at her shelves of hundreds of books collected over the years from different parts of the world. "The Byzantines came to Macedonia during one of their raids. Constantine wanted all of the mythological books burned and instead wanted only Roman history books in everyone's libraries."

Xena rubbed her chin and frowned, "Constantine is such a cheeky bastard," she scoffed, "he should stay where he belongs –in hellfire." She tapped her fingers on the table and Gabrielle lifted her eyes, blinking at the shocking words that slipped out of Xena's mouth.

"I know you don't like him very much, but he is an ally of the Roman church, so it's not likely he will disappear soon," Xayida said.

"I took Athens from him, he's still upset about it. Last year he tried to kill me," she smirked, "didn't work out," she sighed and Gabrielle shook her head and went back to reading.

Gabrielle flipped a page and found something about the symbol she saw on the man's armor. She pointed to the symbol, "I found it!" she smiled and flipped through another few pages, "fire...swords," she mumbled and Xena leaned in closer to look along with her. Xayida peered over the table casually looking with them. "War..." she pointed to the text, "god of war!" she smiled, feeling quite proud of herself.

Xayida frowned, "Mars?"

The blonde shook her head, "no not the Roman god, the Greek one –Ares!" she nodded and read the old Greek text while the two sisters remained confused. "It is Ares, I know it is. It describes him perfectly. It all makes sense now."

Xena stood up, "Ares? The god of war? He's the one who's been stalking me?" she questioned, not sure if she was going crazy or not.

Xayida's eyes widened, "stalking you? Wait, what?" she rubbed her forehead. "Someone is stalking you? Why are you reading about Greek gods anyway?" she turned to Gabrielle.

Gabrielle sighed, "it's a long story, but he's been following Xena since we were in Rome. He met with her earlier in the day. He said that he knows where Solan is and gave Xena an ultimatum..."

Xayida laughed aloud and Xena glared at her. "Greek gods don't exist! They're just silly stories that people made up because they did not know about the one god," she folded her arms and both women stared at her blankly, then her smile died.

"Xayida, as much as I want to agree with you..." Xena said softly, "he appears and disappears out of nowhere. It's true he's been following me and he keeps asking me to be his friend."

"Actually, he told you to follow him. Now it makes sense," Gabrielle smiled at her achievement.

"Xena, you can't be serious?" Xayida said, furrowing her brows. She saw that her sister was quite serious and so was Gabrielle. "This is ridiculous and you both sound crazy." She shook her head and began walking out of the library.

Xena followed her, "he said he knows where Solan is. How could he possibly know that? And he went missing while we were gone. He knows too much about me and I know it sounds crazy, but it's true Xayida, it's true."

Her sister looked at her with wild eyes, "so you're telling me, a god –"

"Ares," Gabrielle interjected.

Xayida frowned, "Ares...took Solan? Why would he want to talk to you and not me?" she folded her arms and Xena raised her eyebrow.

"Maybe because I am his mother, not you and he knows that," Xena copied her sister's stance and both glared at each other. "Are you jealous?" she smirked.

"No, I'm not," Xayida protested, "just confused that's all..." she looked to Gabrielle. "You saw him?"

"Yes I did. Don't ask me how this is possible, because I don't have the answer," Gabrielle smiled weakly. He saw the two staring at one another and got up and stood in between them. "Now isn't the time for petty arguments. You both want to find Solan, right?" Xena lowered her eyes and Xayida nodded. "So, we should work together not against one another."

Xayida sighed, "Gabrielle is right, but will you do what this 'Ares' says to get Solan?" she asked her elder sister.

Xena smirked, "gods are known to play games in the stories. I can play too," she shrugged her shoulder nonchalantly.

"What about the plan with the Caliph?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena smiled at her sister and touched her hair, "oh yes. I haven't forgotten about that."


A few days later Xena organized a meeting with her best man on the borders of Macedonia and Greece. Xayida was to ride on her own horses with a few men escorting her and when she reached the border, she would switch horses and ride with the Greek soldiers the rest of the way to Athens. Xena told her men about the plan and knew that Xayida would be posing as her, but nobody else would have to know. It was unlikely that someone would mistake her for a fake because people rarely saw Xena in person and very few people truly knew what she looked like, minus a few people in Rome and Transylvania of course. The Ottoman Sultan was lucky enough to have never met with Xena face to face despite their gunpowder deals they made through the militia.

Xayida sat in a chair and closed her eyes as she saw Xena coming at her with a pair of shears. Xena smiled and snipped her long hair and Xayida bit her bottom lip. "Don't be scared," Xena said softly and Xayida opened her eyes to see at least fifteen inches taken off of her head and she immediately felt frightened at the thought of looking like her sister.

An hour later Xayida laid down with her hair sprawled out on a table and Gabrielle ironed her hair with hot rods and Xena smiled standing over her. Her wavy locks were no more, but now straight like Xena's. the process was quite long and took the entire hour but once Gabrielle finished she brushed Xayida's now straight hair.

Xayida stood up and walked to the mirror and gasped, touching her bangs and silky straight hair. "Dear god," she whispered and couldn't stop looking at herself.

"You look good," Xena smiled smugly and Xayida turned to her, almost looking exactly like her, despite the minor difference in features such as their noses and lips. She hooked arms with her sister, "now when you arrive to Athens you will need to change into something more suitable. Your dresses are far too European to be considered Greek," she smirked.

Xayida frowned, "are you sure this is going to work?"

"of course!" Xena clung onto her sister making her as uncomfortable as possible. "Don't throw any parties at my palace."

"I hate parties," Xayida said flatly.

Later in the day Xayida mounted her horse and wrapped her black cloak around her body. Xena and Gabrielle stood beside her and for once, she felt incredibly worried about going to Athens. She hadn't been there in so long and it would be strange to be there in her sister's place.

Gabrielle walked up to her and grabbed her hand, "remember not to make eye contact with anyone until you reach Athens." Xayida nodded.

"And don't say any of those smart remarks of yours either," Xena reminded her.

Xayida fumbled, "what if someone important comes to the palace? They will know it is not me!"

Xena smiled, "no they won't and if someone comes then just say you are...ill," she eyed the fear in her sister's eyes. "Act like me and you won't have any problems."

"So, act like a bitch, got it," Xayida said and Xena frowned. Gabrielle hid her smile and turned away making sure Xena would not notice.

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way but...whatever helps you," Xena groaned and Xayida smiled brightly down at her. "You should get going because Gabrielle and I have to leave now," she smirked. "Have fun."

Xayida frowned and turned on her horse and trotted out of the castle walls with her men following her. Xena and Gabrielle watched her leave until they couldn't see her anymore. "I saw you laughing," Xena said with a smirk.

"Oh..." the blonde blushed, "it was kind of funny, I mean..."

"It's alright Gabrielle. I've heard worse things said about me," Xena grabbed her hand. "Come on, we have to leave soon," she pulled her along to get ready for their journey to Constantinople.


Constantinople

Mehmet sat in his council room with the prince of Transylvania and offered him wine and many sweets as disposal. A maid came to the table and the sultan smiled, "Turkish delight?" he asked.

Borias shook his head and Mehmet nodded his maid to leave the tray on the table. He poured some coffee in his cup and dropped two cubes of sugar in it, stirring it with his small spoon. "You asked me to come negotiate with you," he said taking the sultan off guard.

The caliph swallowed some of the hot coffee and set his cup down. "Why yes, I did. You know that I want Xena's gunpowder, don't you?" Borias nodded in response. "I have allied with the Queen of Macedonia to attack Xena's empire."

Borias' eyes widened, "you allied with Xayida?" he asked and Mehmet folded his hands on the table.

"You don't agree with me?" he asked.

"Sir, you know that Xayida is Xena's sister don't you?" Borias whispered, almost feeling like someone was listening to them.

Mehmet nodded, "indeed I do. I also know that the Macedonian Queen loathes her sister so it was easy to gain her friendship," he smiled, quite proud of the alliance.

Borias pinched the bridge of his nose and he knew that this was definitely a bad idea. He knew Xayida and Xena parted ways a long time ago and if Xayida were to attack Xena, it would definitely end in bloodshed for sure. "Have you actually met Xena?"

The sultan shook his head, "no I've never met the pagan witch. I do know that she has stolen hundreds of pounds of gunpowder from my empire, though and that I will not tolerate!" he slammed his fist on the table.

Borias began laughing, "you allowed her to take it!" the sultan frowned at this insulting manner. "She's been stealing gunpowder from you for over ten years and now you want to get rid of her?" he shook his head thinking this was a disaster waiting to happen.

Mehmet stood up, sliding his chair out from underneath him, "you were aware of this?" he raised his eyebrow and Borias was now quiet. "What else do you know about the Greek witch?"

"I haven't seen her in ten years," he admitted. "I don't know anything about her empire now."

The sultan nodded and rubbed his beard, "but you do know things about her, don't you?" he smiled and walked over to Borias, tapping his fingers on the table. "Perhaps, personally?" he hissed.

Borias frowned and stood up, "no," he lied. "I don't know anything about Xena, but I do know one thing –if you attack her, she will kill you."

Mehmet's eyes widened with fury and his jaw clenched. "You dare mock me?" he asked and Borias smirked at him, challenging his stance. "You are quite confident in your accusation." He lamented.

"It's not an accusation," Borias replied, "it's a statement of fact," he frowned, furrowing his thick dark brows. "Don't underestimate her," he said in a hushed tone.

The sultan chuckled softly and sat down in his chair once more. "Interesting," he gestured for Borias to sit. "Shall we negotiate then?" Borias sat down opposite him, now wary of the sultan's mood. "So, what does your kingdom have to offer in the war effort?" he smiled deviously and Borias stared at him despairingly.


Xena and Gabrielle rode in the black carriage through the forests of Constantinople. It wasn't too bad of a ride and luckily Anatolia wasn't too far either. Xena made sure that they took alternate routes so they wouldn't enter Wallachia through their route.

Gabrielle kept staring at Xena and saw she was distracted and kept looking out the window, peeking through the curtains. Xena's bangs were pinned back with a circlet around her head, making sure her hair stayed in place. "You look so much like her," she said aloud.

Xena turned her head and adjusted in her seat, "that's the idea," she mumbled and kept looking out the window. She was able to see the divide in the city. Half belonged to the Ottomans and the other to the Byzantines. "Constantine's men guard this area heavily up ahead. We will need to provide papers for us to pass through the border."

Gabrielle felt worried about that, "do you think they will let us through?" she asked then thought that was odd. "Constantinople is split in half?" it just donned on her.

Xena nodded, "the Sultan controls the east side of the city and Constantine controls the west. Rome wants the entire city like they did before the sultan claimed it. They have been warring over the city for years."

Gabrielle knew that wasn't news to her. These people seemed to fight over every little thing. She was glad that she didn't have to deal with these people on a daily basis. To be truthfully honest, she was glad that she did not have a position like Xena had. "What did...Xayida mean that you didn't like Constantine?"

The Greek queen sighed and kept an eye out for any soldiers passing by, "Athens used to belong to Constantine. I took it from him," she said and Gabrielle pursed her lips. "I won fair and square. I knew that Athens was the capital of Greece and I wanted it to be mine so –I took it." she turned and saw the disappointment on Gabrielle's face. "He's hated me ever since then."

"So why didn't you just kill him?" Gabrielle asked, feeling that was an appropriate question.

Xena smiled, "politics, Gabrielle." She sighed and peeked out the window again, "if I had killed Constantine, the entire Roman church would have started a huge campaign against me and at that time, I would have lost. Now, I'm not so sure I would lose," she smiled just thinking about it. "But that's another day, another battle," she winked at Gabrielle.


The next half hour was pretty quiet and Xena noticed that Gabrielle was feeling very restless. "I want to thank you for coming with me. This wouldn't have worked without you, Gabrielle," she said, hoping to make her feel better.

Gabrielle grinned, "of course. I've been wanting to spend time with you for five years and now I can't seem to get away from you," she chuckled and Xena frowned sadly.

"You want to leave?" Xena asked with a bit of sadness in her voice.

"No, no! I like spending time with you, Xena. I never knew your life would be so...exciting," she smiled and Xena smiled along with her.

"Well, I like spending time with you too," the Greek queen admitted shyly. "I don't want to keep you from your sisters or your daughter. I know she must miss you a lot..."

Gabrielle sighed, "yeah, I miss her, but I know she is in good hands, but I want to help you find your son," she grabbed Xena's hand across the seat and smiled at her warmly. "I know that means a lot to you."

Xena nodded, lowering her eyes, "do you think Ares will show up again?" she whispered.

"I have no doubt he will turn up. He has an obsession with you, obviously. If he knows where Solan is, you will have to play his silly games to get what you want." Gabrielle eyed her and Xena smirked.

"That's what I'm best at," she said and Gabrielle giggled. Suddenly the carriage stopped and Xena peeked out the window and saw a Byzantine soldier asking the driver where they were heading. "Constantine's men," she whispered.

The soldier came up the window and opened the door looking at both Xena and Gabrielle. He frowned and checked the rest of the cabin making sure nobody else was with them. He eyed Xena and lifted an eyebrow. "Queen of Macedonia?" he asked.

"Yes?" Xena said, trying to seem as much like her sister as she possibly could.

"I need to see your papers," he stated and folded his arms. Gabrielle felt nervous and Xena began rummaging through her bag and pulled out a sealed document, written by Xayida herself before she left. She handed it to him and smiled. He frowned and opened the document, reading it over carefully. He lifted his eyes and stared at her for a moment longer. "What is your business in Constantinople?" he questioned.

Xena looked to Gabrielle then back at the soldier, "I am meeting with the Sultan on business..." she lifted her eyebrows and smiled at him

The soldier grumbled and gave the paper back to her. "I need to search the rest of your belongings," he said.

"Of course," Xena said and he turned to go back to the cargo behind the caravan. She frowned and tapped her fingers on her knee. "This is ridiculous," she hissed.

Gabrielle fidgeted with her thumbs, "does he suspect something is wrong?"

"He's an idiot, Gabrielle. He doesn't know anything. He gets paid to do this," Xena rolled her eyes.

The soldier came back and she smiled at him once again. "I had to make sure you weren't carrying gunpowder," he smiled at her finally.

"You know I don't have any gunpowder," she said with a tight forced smile.

He nodded, "I understand your majesty, but I just have to make sure," he whistled at the driver and allowed them to pass.

Gabrielle sunk down in her seat and felt her heart beating quickly. "Are there any more checkpoints?" she hoped not.

Xena frowned and closed the curtain. "I don't think so," she saw the relief on her face and began chuckling. "Are you alright?"

Gabrielle nodded, "I think so. You are too dangerous for me, Xena," she let out a large sigh and hoped that there wouldn't be any trouble ahead.

"The fun is just beginning!" Xena beamed.

"Excuse me?" Gabrielle sighed heavily, not liking the look on Xena's face at all.


Mehmet's advisor interrupted the meeting with him and Borias. He bowed his head, "your majesty, the Queen of Macedonia has arrived to see you."

The sultan stood up with a frown and adjusted his coat, "she came here? I was not expecting her."

His advisor nodded his head, feeling awkward in the room with the two men staring at him. "Shall I send her away, then?"

Mehmet smiled, "no of course not. I would love to meet with her. Send her to my meeting room," he commanded and the advisor nodded then left the room in a hurry. Borias stood up and felt something was wrong here.

"you were not expecting the queen?" Borias asked and the sultan shook his head.

"She is full of surprises! Come with me to meet her," he smiled and walked out of the room. Borias groaned then followed the caliph, not very excited to see Xayida again. It was bad enough he saw her in Rome for a short time, but now this. This was turning out to be a very interesting day, he told himself.


Xena and Gabrielle were shown inside the grand palace and were treated very nicely. Immediately were offered to take their cloaks and wine as well. Xena lifted her eyebrow, "perhaps I should have allied with the caliph," she teased and Gabrielle turned around walking backwards looking at all the gold columns.

"Is that real gold?" she asked and Xena looked up at the ceiling.

"I'm sure it is," she grabbed Gabrielle's hand and whispered, "remember not to call me Xena, I'm Xayida, got it?"

"I know, I remember the plan," Gabrielle smiled.

A nice man showed them to a room in the west wing of the palace. Xena looked around saw this place was quite different than her conference rooms. There were pillows everywhere and low couches. The windows had thick drapes to keep the sunlight out. She thought this was rather odd, but she wasn't here to ask questions, she was here on a mission.

The doors on the opposite side of the room opened and the caliph, Mehmet II, walked through them wearing a gold and black outfit with a crown atop his head with his curly black hair perfectly framing his face. Gabrielle saw guards now posted inside the room at all the exits. Of course, she thought, nobody is escaping now.

"Queen Xayida!" Mehmet greeted her and kissed both of her hands generously. "I was not expecting you," he smiled.

Xena smiled graciously, "I thought I would pay a visit to you to seal our...alliance?" she said and the caliph nodded his head and noticed Gabrielle. "Oh, this is my friend, Gabrielle. She will be accompanying me during the meeting."

Mehmet didn't argue, "of course. Any guest of yours is welcome in my home," he said and Xena grinned tightly at him.

Borias came out from behind the sultan and Xena immediately looked at him. He lifted an eyebrow and scanned her face. Her eyes widened and her smile disappeared instantly. The sultan smiled and placed a hand on Borias' shoulder. "The Prince of Transylvania will be allying with us," he said.

Xena said nothing and Borias couldn't take his eyes off of her. He reached for her hand and she was hesitant at first, but then caught herself. She was not Xena, no, she was Xayida right now. He kissed her hand, "Queen of Macedonia," he didn't even blink and Xena knew that he was able to see right through her. He knew that was not Xayida, but in fact Xena. He recognized her face anywhere and her stature. Xayida looked very much like Xena did, equal in height, the same skin complexion, even the dark long hair, but Xayida was a bit thinner and had a longer nose and she just wasn't...Xena.

Gabrielle noticed the tense exchange between the two and sensed that this might turn badly if Xena let anything slip, though she feared that Borias knew everything and why wouldn't he? He knew Xena all too well. She grabbed Xena's hand and squeezed it, making sure to remind her of the plan.

Xena smiled at Borias, "nice to see you again," she forced herself to say.

Mehmet smiled, "you both know each other?" he sat down, "fantastic, then this should be easy!"

Borias sat down and Xena sat opposite him with Gabrielle by her side, clinging closely to her. "It should be..." Borias said and smirked at Xena and she averted her gaze elsewhere.

A few minutes later the servants brought in a slew of desserts, coffee, tea and wine for them all. Xena had suddenly lost her appetite and was the only one not eating anything or drinking. She refused to look at Borias, though she knew she would have to remain calm.

Mehmet sipped some wine, "Xayida," he said and Xena snapped, lifting her head, "may I call you that?" she nodded in reply. "You haven't eaten anything."

Xena smiled, "I'm not very hungry, but thank you for your kind offer," she smiled weakly.

Gabrielle sipped on the tea and felt like this was definitely going to be a very long awkward conversation. Only Xena would run into a problem such as this, she thought.

Mehmet set down his wine, "so, let's talk about Xena, shall we?"

Borias smirked, "yes, let's talk about Xena." Xena shot him a look and he sipped the wine generously, keeping his eyes on her.

The sultan began, "Xena has been a formidable foe of yours for years, Xayida and mine too. She has an abundance of gunpowder that has been stolen from me. That powder makes her the most powerful person in this world. She could destroy empires with it. I allied with you because I knew that you are not on good terms with your sister, but I understand you know her strategies in war since you two fought together for quite some time, is that right?"

Xena smiled nervously, "why yes, I used to be friends with my sister until she betrayed my trust," she eyed Borias again. "But why would you say that she has stolen gunpowder from you? It was from my understanding...that you let her have it."

"No she stole it," Borias interrupted and Xena frowned.

Mehmet cleared his throat, "I never allowed Xena to have my gunpowder. She must have convinced my men that she could take it. She's quite cunning." He sipped on his wine.

Xena laughed lowly, "she is a very smart woman, I would know. Perhaps you should be careful who you employ in your army, your majesty," she lifted her eyebrow, taking a jab at the sultan.

"Are you doubting my choices in my pick of soldiers, your highness?" Mehmet frowned and Xena shook her head.

"No, I'm just saying that you might have a few snakes in your garden," she smiled and Borias scoffed, sipping the coffee silently. "Something to say?" she frowned towards him.

Borias shook his head, "no I just think it's funny that you are talking about snakes when your sister is one herself," he was now speaking directly to Xena herself and her frown deepened.

"You obviously agree that my sister is a snake then?" Xena said with malice in her voice.

"No, you are," Borias frowned and Xena stood up and he followed suit.

Mehmet frowned, "I sense some tension with you two," he chuckled, enjoying this. Gabrielle sighed and rubbed her forehead seeing Xena inches away from Borias' face.

"Excuse me," Xena picked up her dress and the guards opened the door and she stormed out. Gabrielle sat opposite of the sultan, uncertain if she should follow Xena or not.

"Well then, that was interesting," Mehmet sipped his wine and leaned back on some large pillows.

Borias adjusted his vest and cleared his throat, "I'll be right back," he grumbled and walked out. Now it was just Gabrielle and Mehmet.

"This never happens," the sultan smiled at the blonde.

Gabrielle grinned nervously, nodding her head then sipped some tea to calm her nerves.


Xena marched down the long hallway and Borias finally spotted her and quickened his pace. "Xena!" he hissed and she only walked faster. "Stop!" he whispered in a harsh voice. "Xena!" he said and she finally stopped.

She turned to him and he finally caught up to her. "What are you doing?" he whispered.

"No, what are you doing?!" she snapped back and he looked around to see other people watching. He grabbed her arm and lead them to a smaller hallway with less eyes. She snatched her arm away from him.

"The caliph thinks that you're Xayida! What is going on here?" he kept his voice low, cautious of the prying eyes and ears around them.

Xena folded her arms, "it's none of your business."

"You may be able to fool the sultan, but you can't fool me," he touched her arm and she slapped his hand away from her.

"You're allies with the Ottomans?! How could you do that? You hate them!" she hissed and looked to see a few servants pass by them and they both lowered their gazes and remained quiet for a few moments.

He sighed, "it's not what you think," he looked around to make sure nobody was listening.

"You want to attack me? My empire? Why would you do that?!" she hit his chest and he groaned.

"I was forced to ally with the Ottomans so my own kingdom wouldn't be taken over," he whispered and he saw her eyes widen. "Where is Xayida? Did you kill her?"

Xena hit him again, "no I didn't! not yet..." she mumbled.

"Stop hitting me," he hissed and she pursed her lips, folding her arms, averting her gaze elsewhere. "Why are you disguised as her?"

"I can't tell you," she lifted her chin and he grabbed her cheeks and she frowned.

He frowned at her, "if you tell me, we could be friends, Xena, like we used to be."

She snatched her face away from his hold and rubbed her jaw. "Friends?" she smirked, "that's real cute, Borias. We stopped talking to each other after..." then it finally hit her. He didn't know about their son still being alive and she wasn't even sure it would be a good idea to tell him, especially right now. She shook her head and sighed heavily, "I just need to do this and you better not ruin it for me." She began walking off and he grabbed her arm, pulling her back.

"Just tell me what's going on, Xena. I can probably help you," he smiled at her and she only frowned.

She was starting to feel like Xayida now, keeping secrets from people. She was never a person to keep secrets, especially from Borias since they had known each other for awhile and well too. "I can't," she shook her head, "not right now," she whispered and she left the small hallway to join the sultan and Gabrielle again.

He stood in the hallway, confused at Xena's behavior but he was more concerned that she was posing as her sister, which was never good. He began to wonder if Xayida and her planned this all along. Xayida wasn't dead, so she must have known about this exchange, which perplexed him even more, especially since they hated each other so much as he remembered.


Xena returned to the room and sat down next Gabrielle. Mehmet smiled at her then saw Borias come in not long after her. Gabrielle nudged her, "is everything okay?" she whispered. Xena nodded, though she remained doubtful.

Borias sat down next to the sultan and kept looking at Xena, wondering what her game was. The sultan smiled, "I hope you two settled whatever was on your minds..."

"We did," Borias said and Xena lowered her eyes. "The Queen of Greece is a sensitive subject for..both of us," Xena lifted her eyes and stared at him blankly.

"Isn't it for us all?" Mehmet chuckled and downed the rest of his wine. He sighed and leaned forward, "so, I have a plan already in action for Greece," he said and that interested the party before him. "I have men already in Athens and when the full moon rises in the next few hours, they're going to blow up the east wing of Xena's Athenian castle," he smiled, quite satisfied with his plan.

Xena's eyes widened, thinking of her sister in Athens right now and she would have no idea. If that would have been her in Xayida's place, she would have no idea about this plan and be completely off guard. Gabrielle tried not to let her expression show, but it was hard not to. "Are you sure that is a good idea? That will only anger the queen..." she offered some advice.

The sultan nodded, "I know, it's perfect," he laughed, "imagine the look on her face! All hell will break loose in Athens. She won't be expecting it!"

Borias looked at Xena and saw she was quite shocked to hear this news. It was probably a good thing that she wasn't in Athens after all.


Athens

It was evening and she had arrived in Athens early in the afternoon after quite a long ride there. Xayida changed into a gown and looked around at her sister's room. She touched the bed and sighed, sitting on it carefully as if it were lava. She didn't feel right being in this place –it just wasn't right. She crawled on the bed and got under the covers, leaning against the headboard of the large bed. It was so lonely in this large palace and not to mention, it wasn't her style.

She picked up a handheld mirror on the bedside table and looked at her reflection. She touched her face then her straight hair and fringe covering her eyebrows. Sighing she threw the mirror on the bed and stared at the ceiling. "Oh Xena, you like to torture me, don't you?" she whispered to herself and laid down on her side, unable to sleep. "I guess I deserve it," she smiled sadly and turned over on her other side, staring at the window. "I'm talking to myself..." she frowned and groaned, rubbing her face out of frustration.

An hour or so later she closed her eyes and was finally able to relax, though it was hard being in her sister's bed, in her house and her city. This entire plan better work, she told herself before she finally fell asleep.

Suddenly there was a loud explosion and Xayida woke up and saw the entire sky was red. She jumped out of bed and looked out the window to see this side of the palace on fire and men below, invading the inside of the castle. She gasped and looked through her sister's belongings, hoping to find a sword or some kind of weapon.

She rummaged through the chest and found a gun. "Of course," she muttered and cocked the gun back and ran out of the room. Immediately she covered her mouth and saw the entire hall was engulfed in flames.

Running to the other side of the hallway she saw it was a dead end. "Fantastic!" she groaned and opened the window as the smoke began to fill her lungs. She coughed and looked down to see it was too high of a jump to survive. She stepped out of the window onto a ledge and clung onto the wall, looking down she tried not to think of the height. The cold wind blew against her body and she shivered, inching across the wall as slowly as possible. She looked to her right and saw a window and told herself, just a few more steps and she'd be safe. Although, she had no idea where the window would lead her to.

Finally reaching the window she smashed it with the butt stock of the gun and opened the window from the locked hinge on the other side. Jumping in she saw it lead to a separate hallway in the massive palace. "Xena, why do you have such a big castle..." she mumbled to herself and took off running down the unknown hallway.

The guards ran and were pouring water on the drapes. Xayida saw that this end was up in flames as well, but not as badly as the other side. They saw her and immediately felt thankful. "Your majesty! We thought something happened to you!"

Xayida frowned, "I'm fine," she waved the smoke out of her face as soon as they put out the small fire. "Who did this?" she asked.

"The Ottomans, my queen!" one of the soldiers said.

She nodded and looked out the window and saw most of the Ottomans retreating. "Where are they going?" she narrowed her eyes trying to see in the dark, but it was difficult. "I want them followed!" the men nodded then began running off, "and prepare a horse for me," she added.

The men stopped and turned to her, flabbergasted at her request, "but your highness, it's too dangerous. Something might –"

"I said...I want a horse!" she yelled and they nodded, running off as fast as they could. She turned and looked out the window once more and frowned deeply, now wondering if Xena was doing alright in the caliph's hands at this very moment. "Bastard," she hissed, speaking of the sultan.