AN: this was quite intense. More interaction in the following chapter :)
King Leonidas had gone over Xena's plan with his wife and concluded that it was probably the best plan he had heard. He never thought of destroying Athens' ships at their port in the night before dusk. It was definitely a brilliant plan. He was able to steal ships from Corinth, given they weren't an ally anymore, it was rather easy.
The Corinthians tried to invade Sparta twice in the last four months but they were extremely unsuccessful. Their army was lead by Borias, which Leonidas soon came to find out was Xena's lover at the time she was taken. He realized that Borias wanted Xena back, but the truth was, she belonged to Sparta now and Xena had no intention of leaving, unless she wanted to die.
Gorgo made it perfectly clear to Xena that if she ever tried to escape or revolt against Sparta that she would have her head, and for once Xena believed her. She remained compliant and did as Gorgo said for the last few months during her stay in the palace. When Xena was captured from Corinth she feared that she would be treated terribly but she saw that the slaves in Sparta weren't treated the same as the slaves from Athens.
Many Athenian slaves escaped Athens to take refuge in Corinth and Xena heard many horror stories. The slaves there were not treated as people and were not able to leave their masters unless they died or were dismissed, which rarely happened. Spartan slaves were allowed to marry whoever they wished and even have children of their own. During Xena's stay in Sparta she witnessed many of the warrior slaves wives or husbands coming to see them every week or so and some brought their children with them. If the slaves in Sparta earned enough money, they could eventually buy their freedom and keep their land they lived on as well. Life here was different than Athens for sure.
Xena began thinking about her own child. She wondered if she would be allowed to keep it just like the rest of the slaves in Sparta. But since she was taken under Gorgo's watch, she didn't exactly know what was going to happen. She just had to wait until her child was born and she hated waiting for anything and anyone. She didn't like playing this waiting game. She definitely thought drinking that tea would have gotten rid of the child as she planned, but she had a feeling that the healer, Pricilla, had something to do with this situation she was currently in. She wouldn't put it passed Pricilla to deceive her like this. That woman was insistent on her keeping the child from the beginning, but it was a little late for that now, she thought.
A few ships were docked at Marathon and more than half of the Spartan soldiers went on foot days ahead so they could arrive in Athens at the same time as Leonidas' ships. Xena and Queen Gorgo stayed in the captain's quarters underneath the ship that Leonidas sailed through the dark skies, careful not to let anyone at Athens' port. All torches were unlit and the captain of the ship steered the ship as carefully as he could, but it was incredibly dark and hard to see anything in the dark sea.
Gorgo sat across from Xena, sharpening her arrowheads. The ship rocked back and forth as they sailed through the dark Aegean Sea. The queen lifted her eyes and kept staring at Xena as she calmly sharpened her arrowheads as well. "How are you feeling?"
Xena stopped sharpening the arrowheads and eyed the concerned queen. "I'm fine," she answered curtly. "I'm used to traveling on ships."
The queen nodded. "I used to travel by ship all the time. It was like second nature to me," she smiled, reminiscing those days. "I loved it until my son came. I hated traveling by ship so much that I opted to stay in Sparta until my son was born. Now," she shook her head, "every time I am on a ship, I only think of the awful times I had and I remember why I hated it so much."
Xena smirked, listening to the queen tell her awful experience. Though, she could understand why Gorgo hated it, but Xena really loved the sea and a child wasn't going to change that for her, she was sure of it.
Suddenly the ship came to an abrupt stop and Xena leapt forward, holding onto a wooden beam. Queen Gorgo frowned and heard footsteps descending down the stairs. It was Leonidas, her husband. "You two are needed on the deck," he said and quickly ran back up the stairs.
Gorgo and Xena arrived on the deck and saw flaming bottles being thrown at all of the Athenian ships on the docks. Each ship slowly caught fire and below, Gorgo saw the Spartan soldiers waiting behind the brush behind the largest building in Athens. Of course, the senate building –the most important building in Athens. Filled with elderly politicians that thought they knew how to rule the entire Greek nation.
Xena donned a gold helm with a large black plume and fixed the black armor on her shoulders. She may not be allowed on the field per Gorgo's request, but she could still do a lot of damage from the ship. The black knee length dress she wore, synched at her waist, gently swayed in the cool breeze. She took out one of her sharp arrows and dipped it in hot oil.
Gorgo frowned and watched Xena's every move. Xena then lit the arrowhead on fire. "What do you think you're doing?"
"It's not much of a fight without the enemy there to see the destruction, is it?" Xena smiled and pulled the arrow back, aiming directly into one of the open balconies of the senate building. The tautness of the bow creaked and she shot the arrow high into the sky. Gorgo's eyes traveled the flaming arrow and saw it land directly inside a room within the senate.
Within moments Gorgo saw the entire room within the building set aflame and she smirked at Xena, nudging her arm lightly.
Aristides ran through the hallway of the building and saw one of the largest sitting areas completely engulfed in flames. His eyes widened and he opened every single bedroom door, alerting all of the councilmen. "The building is on fire!" he yelled and repeated several times.
Gabrielle awoke from her slumber and smelled smoke. She rubbed her eyes and saw smoke traveling inside her room from underneath the door. She quickly slipped on her sandals and rushed to the door.
Once she opened the door she saw many of the councilmen running back and forth and the entire hallway was filled with a thick dark fog. She covered her mouth, coughing slightly and ran down the hall. She was pushed around by the frantic politicians running around like monkeys. She growled and then abruptly stopped when she saw ships docked at the port.
She ran to the nearest balcony and saw people shooting flaming arrows at Athens' ships and throwing bombs of gods' knows what. No, not today. She did not come to Athens only for it to be destroyed in one night. Her eyes lingered on the burning ships then below in the gardens, she saw dark figures running towards the building. They were Spartans. "No, no, no!" she ran down the hallway.
Gabrielle came upon Xanthippus and a few of his comrades quickly running down the stairs. She frowned and caught up to them. "Xanthippus!" she yelled out and her mentor didn't even stop at the sound of her voice. "The Spartans are attacking!"
The mentor nodded. "I am aware, Gabrielle and that is why we must leave," he urgently said and grabbed her hand, pulling her with him.
She growled and snatched her hand away. "You're running away?" she said with disbelief.
"There is no time, Gabrielle! We must leave at once! Come with me or die!" he threatened.
She shook her head and slowly backed away on the staircase. "You are a coward..." she narrowed her eyes. "We need to stand and fight or they will destroy Athens!"
"If the Spartans are already here, it is too late for us now. We must leave!" Xanthippus said and looked into her angry eyes.
"I won't leave the city and allow it to be destroyed!" she said and ran back into the burning building.
"Gabrielle!" her mentor called out but his friends ushered him out of the building. He frowned sadly, watching her leave his side. She was so loyal, he thought.
The hungry young blonde ran through the burning building, shielding her mouth with the loose scarves draped on her dress. "Themistocles!" she called out and saw the building was basically abandoned by now except for a few men that were hurrying to leave, without even trying to put up a fight against the savage Spartans.
Themistocles ran through the fire and coughed violently, covered in blacken ash. "Gabrielle!" he smiled and she was so glad to see him. They ran to one another and he grabbed her hand, running out of the fire.
Together they ran out of the senate building. Gabrielle saw the Athenian army fighting the Spartans in the marsh and they kept running, but she saw they were running towards the burning ships. She panicked and let go of Themistocles' hand. "Why are we running towards the ships?!"
He frowned, "somebody needs to fight back! There are a few ships left untouched by Leonidas' men! Let's go, come on!" he stretched his hand out and she reluctantly grabbed it and took off running again.
Xena smiled seeing all the Athenians run like chickens with their heads cut off. They were completely ambushed and had nowhere left to run. They were also really bad fighters on land. Too bad almost all of their ships were destroyed at this point. The navy men tried to put out the fires on the ships as fast as they could, but most of them were being slaughtered by the Spartans, so the ships continued to burn. The bright light from the fire filled the night sky and a thick black smoke cloud surrounded the Athenian port.
She frowned once she saw some more men running and a woman. She raised an eyebrow and pulled out one of her arrows and lit the arrowhead on fire. She aimed at the politicians fleeing for their lives and released the arrow.
The arrow pierced one of the men and he collapsed into the marsh. Xena smiled but there were still so many trying to escape. She grabbed two arrows this time and aimed for the woman and man running together. Squinting her left eye she moved the arrowheads slowly and focused on the two running through the thick marsh. Her arm shook slightly as she kept the bow taut.
Gabrielle and Themistocles kept running and they were so close to the ships. She tripped over a few rocks and fell into the marsh. Groaning she lifted her head and saw two arrows land a few inches from her head. Her eyes widened and she panicked, getting to her feet quickly, she ran behind Themistocles.
She looked at the Spartan ship and saw someone with a huge war bow, wearing a large plumed helmet. She frowned and kept running, trying not to get hit again. The Spartan drew another arrow and she ran faster, passing Themistocles.
Gabrielle finally made it to a ship and quickly ran up the ramp with Themistocles and the few men they had left. An arrow pierced the side of the ship and she yelped. Themistocles pushed her aboard. "Go, Gabrielle!" he yelled and she breathed heavily, running onto the deck.
Xena snarled, upset that she missed not once, but twice. She ran to the foremast and climbed the ladder to the top. She hoisted herself up and was able to spot the ship from up top. She pulled out another arrow and aimed at the blonde. She smiled, "dead." She released the arrow, watching her target completely oblivious.
Themistocles aboard saw the arrow coming straight for Gabrielle and panicked. He ran over and grabbed her body. They both soared and he landed on top of her on the deck. The arrow pierced the mainmast and Gabrielle spat some of her hair out of her mouth and looked up at the beam, where she arrow would have went through her head.
He got up and hoisted her off the floor. Gabrielle huffed and looked at the bowman at the top of the foremast. "He just won't stop will he?!"
Themistocles eyed the archer climbing down the foremast and relocating to the bow. He saw the archer's silhouette and frowned deeply. "That is not a man," he said and Gabrielle eyed him. "That is a woman."
Gabrielle ran to the bow and looked at the woman's long hair beneath the helm, though she was a mere shadow, it was obvious the archer was a woman. "Why does she keep shooting at us?"
"Because she wants us dead, Gabrielle." He said and yelled out to his men. "Raise the sails!"
Her eyes widened and she snapped her head around. "We're going out there?!" her heart raced just thinking about it. Half their fleet was up in flames and we have this woman trying to shoot everyone down. This was such a bad idea, she thought.
"We must fight back," Themistocles smiled. "For Athens."
"For Athens," she smiled back and then another arrow grazed by her, slicing a few strands of her hair off. Her eyes grew in fear and looked at the female archer. She was on the bow of the ship, talking to someone, another female, Gabrielle noticed. The archer wearing the large flume helmet stepped off the bow and then walked to the other side of the ship to the wheel, the captain's deck.
Oh dear gods, Gabrielle repeated and saw her steering the ship over in their direction. "Themistocles!" she yelled. "Themistocles!"
"What is it Gabrielle?" he ran towards her.
"They're coming this way!" she frantically said and he sighed, looking at the battle ram ship. It definitely wasn't a Spartan ship that's for sure. It was stolen and looked like an Egyptian ship.
Gabrielle didn't know what to do. She wasn't ready for this and the navy obviously wasn't ready either. Spartans were slaughtering the navy left and right. And here she was, on a ship, sailing out into the sea. She suddenly felt so ill and didn't even dare look over the railing, though she felt curious, she peered out from behind the foremast and saw the Spartan battle ram ship coming closer and closer.
Themistocles placed a hand on her shoulder and she jumped. He pulled out a sword. "Do you know how to use this?"
The blonde looked up at him in fear. "Not really..." she grabbed the heavy sword and the ship jolted forward. Too late to turn back now, she supposed. "You actually expect me to fight these people?"
He grinned, "only if you have to. Oh, and steer clear of that archer," he pat her shoulder then ran off to help gather weapons.
"Steer clear of the archer...okay," she readied herself and saw the Spartan ship coming closer and closer. She felt like she was going to pass out at any moment.
Xena grinned and left the wheel then jumped onto the bow of the ship, overseeing the Athenian ship sailing nearer and nearer. She saw the timid blonde woman by the foremast and smiled. Her flowy dress rippled in the heavy breeze and her hair whipped behind her, beneath her helm. She pulled out an arrow and aimed at her head. Xena then saw how scared the blonde was and lowered her aim to the blonde's leg instead.
Gabrielle caught the archer woman standing on the bow, clear as day now. She was no mere shadow anymore thanks to the fire surrounded them, she was able to see the archer clearly now. Her helmet hid her face, though she was quite tall.
She panicked and started running to the other end of the ship. She heard the whistle of the arrow and it pierced the train of her dress and she frantically ripped the back of her long gown and stared at the archer. Gabrielle saw her reaching for another arrow on her back and she frowned.
Themistocles looked up and saw the archer pointing her arrow directly at Gabrielle. He growled and grabbed a dagger from his belt and tossed at the archer.
Xena's arrow was knocked from her bow and she gasped. Turning her head she saw Themistocles glaring at her from the Athenian ship. She smiled and pulled out two arrows, both aimed towards him.
Gabrielle panicked and grabbed one of the men's bows and one arrow. She used to shoot with her father and sister from time to time when they went hunting together. If she could at least get one good shot, then she might save Themistocles' life. She pulled the arrow back, seeing the Spartan archer was too distracted. She released the arrow.
Xena's ears perked up and grabbed the soaring arrow in midair. She eyed the blonde woman and broke the arrow on her knee then tossed it into the sea. The look on the Athenian woman's face was priceless.
Leonidas ran to the bow, grabbing Xena's hand. "We are retreating!" he said and she nodded her head. He ran back to the deck and Xena kept smiling at the young blonde and put her arrows back in the holster on her back.
Gabrielle breathed heavily and saw the archer grinning at her. The only thing that was visible on the woman's face was her mouth and it was eerie. Not even her eyes were visible. Lowering the bow she saw the Spartan archer step off the bow and retreat to the back of the ship where the captain's deck was.
Raising an eyebrow she watched the Spartan ship sailing backwards and Themistocles hugged her warmly. "Well done, Gabrielle!" he smiled and she kept staring at the ship.
"What?" she turned. "I –I didn't hit her. She caught my arrow..."
He nodded. "But you tried to hit her, that's important. You saved my life," he kissed her forehead and then went back to the captain's deck. "Retreat back to the port!"
Gabrielle dropped the bow and looked over the railing, she saw the Spartan archer glaring at her from afar. She could feel the woman's eyes on her even from beneath the helmet that she wore.
Later that day the Spartans had left Athens and Gabrielle sat on the grass by the coast, wondering why she was even here. Xanthippus and the rest of the men in the council were cowards. Everyone ran but Themistocles and his followers. She felt so stupid for even trusting Xanthippus in the first place. Miltiades was right, Xanthippus was not a good person. Themistocles was also right. She felt so embarrassed for being so blinded for so long.
Themistocles sat beside Gabrielle, looking out at the burnt ships and the navy trying to repair the lesser damaged ones. "Those Spartans sure know how to ambush, don't they?" he chuckled.
She frowned, turning to stare at him. "I don't think this is funny."
He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. "It's not, but what can we do about it?" he smiled and wrapped his arm around her small frame. "You were very brave today, Gabrielle. You were the only woman out in the field today."
"I didn't do anything but run and hide in fear," she ripped a weed from the ground and threw it in the sea.
"I think I recall you shooting an arrow at that Spartan woman," he smirked and she shied away, shaking her head. "I'm surprised she kept missing."
Gabrielle lifted her head, "you know who she is?"
Themistocles shrugged his shoulders. "I have an idea of who she is, but can't say for certain. If she is who I think she is, then she was off her game. She never misses, Gabrielle."
"Then I should thank the gods for her poor aim," she smiled and he nodded, playfully nudging her shoulder.
"More like luck," Themistocles stood. "Come with me, we have much work to do." He stared at the Athenian corpses scattered across the gardens and open field. "A lot of work..."
Leonidas and his entire army returned to Sparta shortly once he realized that all that was done completely devastated Athens. He sat in his quarters with his wife and with Xena, along with a few handmaids coming in and out of the room.
The Spartan king smiled at Xena, "you are very vigilant and persistent..." he alleged and Xena smiled at his compliments. "Shame you are not born a Spartan," he sipped his wine and Gorgo ran her fingers through her hair distractedly. "You are from Corinth, yes?"
"Not originally," she corrected him.
The king frowned, "of course not. Corinth is filled with foreigners. I am not surprised," he smiled. "Well, regardless of where you're from, you are a great strategist." He said and she nodded slowly, lowering her eyes, drinking from her glass.
A servant came in, directing her attention to the wife of the king. "Queen Gorgo, your presence is requested." She bowed her head.
Gorgo frowned and set her glass down. "I will not be long," she addressed them both and followed the servant girl outside of the large room.
King Leonidas scoffed, sipping his wine, he lounged on the chaise and eyed Xena carefully, scanning her body. He stared at her long legs, one crossed over the other as she sat comfortably in the chair across from him.
"You know, if you were not such a good strategist I would have sent you to a different camp. Perhaps my younger brother's palace over the desert plane." He said and Xena simply eyed him, not saying a word. "Oh suddenly you are shy for words?" he teased.
"You don't want to hear what is on my mind, Leonidas," Xena brought the glass to her lips and drank slowly, glaring at the Spartan.
He snorted and leaned forward. "You believe I am a fair man, don't you, Xena?"
She smiled tightly. "Depends on who you ask."
"Well, I'm asking you."
"I guess," she eyed him as he inched closer to her. She eyed his hand coming near her knee and she turned her body, smirking at the king. "I'd keep your hands to yourself if I were you."
The king frowned, staring at her icy blue eyes until Gorgo came back into the room. She caught the two having an intense staring contest with one another. She stepped in between them and smiled. "Did I miss something?" she asked.
Xena leaned back in the chair, tapping her fingers on the glass. "No, not at all."
Leonidas smiled and his wife sat next to him once again. "I was just telling Xena what a fair king I am."
"Man," Xena interrupted and Leonidas' smile faded. "You said a fair man, not king," she stated bluntly.
Gorgo raised an eyebrow and ran her palm along Leonidas' thigh. "And what do you think Xena? Is he fair?"
The king glared at Xena and the Corinthian hid her smile. "I'm not sure," she toyed with her words and Leonidas' eyes widened. Gorgo stared at her husband and then felt really awkward in the middle of these two. Xena then began laughing and Leonidas relaxed slowly, laughing along with her.
Gorgo smiled and sipped her wine.
"You are full of surprises, Xena," the king said, raising his glass.
Xena's eyebrows rose as she sipped from her glass. "So are you," she muttered.
"What was that?" Leonidas said and Xena smiled, pulling the glass from her mouth.
The king turned his attention to his wife. "So, what was so important that you had to leave this lovely conversation?" he grinned and Xena rolled her eyes, sulking in her chair.
Gorgo sighed heavily. "I received another shipment of silk from King Xerxes. You have to do something about him, Leonidas. He has been sending gifts for months."
"I don't want to talk to that pompous Persian," the king frowned, setting the glass of wine on the table beside the chaise.
"He's going to keep sending these lavish gifts until you agree to meet with him." Gorgo reminded him and Leonidas rubbed his bearded chin.
Xena frowned, suddenly finding this change of subject very interesting. "Perhaps he could talk to Gorgo instead?"
Leonidas chuckled. "Xerxes does not talk to women. He barely even talks to his own wife. Yet, they managed to have three children."
"Maybe if a woman talks to the king's wife she can persuade him to stop sending the gifts and then.." Xena eyed Leonidas, "you could meet with him in person."
Gorgo nodded and looked at her husband. Leonidas sighed and rubbed his beard. "He doesn't want to invade otherwise he would have already done it."
"Right, so he wants to ally with you. Why not make him think that you are? Once you ally with him, you both can attack Athens," Xena grinned maliciously.
Later that evening Xena sat on her bed in her room near Queen Gorgo's room. She sighed and wrapped her hands around her belly. The longer she stayed here in the fortress, she thought about her child and what would happen to her after she gave birth. At first, when Pricilla told her that she was pregnant, she didn't want the child at all. She went to the lengths to get rid of the baby but it didn't end up the way she wanted. She was stuck with this baby and she wasn't exactly sure what she wanted anymore.
She also thought of Borias and knew how many times he and the other Corinthians tried to invade Sparta and failed miserably. She didn't even tell Borias about their child and wondered if she could tell him, if Gorgo allowed her. She did not want to let this child grow up in a slave trade either but at the same time, she didn't want to give the child up either.
The moment she went on that ship with Gorgo and Leonidas she knew that she was meant to be in the middle of battle. It called to her and a child would change that for her. She would constantly be worried about her child if she was caught in the middle of a battle.
On the ship she couldn't stop shooting at the Athenians off the coast. She wanted them dead and she wasn't going to stop until they were, but she missed not once, but several times. The blonde woman she saw was definitely unusual. She had never seen a woman on an Athenian ship with a bunch of men. That was the thing that stuck out to her the most.
The blonde even tried to shoot at her and she would have got her in the shoulder if she had not caught the arrow in midair. A small smile graced her lips and she tapped her fingers against her knees, thinking that if she ever saw the blonde woman again, she will be dead. Any Athenian had the same fate, but the Athenian woman that dared to shoot her, will definitely have a grave with her name on it.