Story: Someone please believe in me
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to "Xena Warrior Princess", I'm just a big fan who is borrowing the characters.
Author's notes: Hi! Here is another update, a bigger one this time. I have some free time right now so I'm trying to spend it writing this story as much as possible. I hope you like the chapter.
Xena and Toris rented two stallions, hopped on them and headed south, towards the estate. They rode for three hours before reaching a hill covered in trees and bushes. Below that hill lay the estate. It was built in stone to keep the heat out and consisted of a main building that was stationed in the centre, two smaller and simpler buildings situated one to the right and one to the left of the main building. There were also stables that looked big enough to be the homes of approximately twenty horses each.
They stopped at the top of the hill. Hidden by the trees and bushes they stood looking down at the place holding Emarentia and many other slaves hostages. It was as the innkeeper had said a wall surrounding the estate. It was very high and many guards who were heavily armed were posted on it. The hill was high enough for the two warriors to see into the yard and what they saw were more guards. They were seated at a very large wooden table eating supper.
"I hate to admit it…but it is going to be difficult breaking in here and rescuing Emarentia without being seen." Xena said.
Toris nodded in silence. Suddenly the peace in the yard was broken when a guard exited one of the smaller buildings. He was dragging a woman behind him who had a rope around her neck. All the other guards stood up and stood at attention when the guard came out. In the yard there was a small well. The guard marched the woman straight there and forced her to her knees. He then placed her head on the edge of the well and called for one of the other guards to hold her in place.
"What are they going to do to her?" Toris asked.
Xena didn't answer because she didn't know.
They watched the guard pull out his sword and take a step back.
"Oh no." whispered Toris. He started twitching, desperately looking around for some miracle that could save the woman. Xena placed a hand on his arm.
"We're too far away." She whispered.
They watched the guard deliver a strike that severed the woman's head from the rest of her body, killing her instantly. The guard who had held the woman down received help from another guard to help dispose of the corpse. The guard who had performed the kill simply wiped off his sword and left the scene. As soon as he had left the rest of the guards returned to their meals.
"We have to get in there, Xena. We have to."
The two warriors took their horses' reins and left to find a place to set up camp for the night.
Gabrielle had rented a room for her and the kids to stay in while they waited for Xena and Toris to return. Annie was not happy with being forced to stay behind and Metaxas had been furious. He of course wanted to help save his sister and had refused to accept the adults' decision to leave without him at first. It wasn't until Xena had gotten really angry with him that he had calmed down and accepted his fate.
Annie stood looking out the window in their new temporary home and she felt the anger resurface again. "I can't believe this! Why are we even here if we're not allowed to help in any way?" she asked.
Gabrielle was busy preparing their beds for the night. "You are here because we decided to bring you along. You were supposed to be back at the school in Rome, remember?"
Annie became quiet. "Yes, I had almost forgotten about that. Sorry. It's a lot better here." she stated. Instead of focusing on the anger she had felt when Xena had told her she would have to stay in town, she focused on the joy she had felt when she had realized that Xena was going to take her with her to North Africa after all. That made her smile.
Gabrielle felt bad for Annie and Metaxas. She of all people knew how it felt to be left behind and not feel useful. That had happened to her a lot in the beginning when she and Xena had met, and it still happened sometimes. The Bard took a look at the young boy sitting sulking in a corner of the room. If it had been Lila who had been abducted she too would have wanted to be there to do everything in her power to help save her.
Gabrielle glanced outside the window and saw darkness approaching. It was evening but they didn't really have anything special they had to get up to in the morning.
Gabrielle grinned as an idea formed in her head. "Hey you two, what do you think about going out for a bite to eat and then going down to the market place for a while?"
Annie and Metaxas both looked up and stared at the Bard and then at each other. Metaxas pointed out the window with a questioning stare on his grim face.
"Yes." Gabrielle answered him. "Out there. If you want to?"
"But I thought we were getting ready to go to bed." Annie said.
"Yes, but I think you deserve to have some fun. I know you're disappointed to be left here in town while Xena and Toris are off being heroes and I just thought we could go out and take a look around. I haven't been here before either you know." Gabrielle could feel the curious side of her kick in and she knew she simply had to satisfy it. But she would make sure they would have their fun in a safe, controlled kind of way so that nothing bad would happen. She wouldn't know how to explain it to Xena if something went wrong.
A few minutes later the Bard and the two kids were out on the street crawling with people. They headed towards an inn on the other side of the street since the place where they rented the room didn't serve food. Inside they grabbed a table and quickly ordered. Neither one of them wanted to spend too much time eating when they could be experiencing the city and all of its people. They headed out into the street again and started walking towards the market place. Gabrielle argued that they should at least do something useful all evening so they should buy some food in the market place. That way they could avoid having all meals in taverns, which was pretty expensive.
They walked past shopping women carrying their babies in shawls on their backs and stomachs and men working in stores along the street, selling shoes, boots, knives and many more things and accessories. Every time Annie saw something she found fascinating she'd run over and look at it, but from a safe distance from the person selling it. Gabrielle had a tough job keeping track of the girl every second.
"I don't understand how Xena does it." She said to herself, shaking her head at the girl.
They reached the market place. "All right lets agree on not losing each other here. It's a big market and it could happen so let's stay close to…"
A big hand grabbed the Bard and relieved her of her staff. She was pulled into a nearby alley and blindfolded. She could hear Annie and Metaxas being dragged along behind her. It sounded as if Annie was trying to cry out but all that came out of her mouth were muffled cries. Whoever it was that was holding her probably had his or her hand covering the girl's mouth.
The attack had been so sudden and Gabrielle hadn't had any time what so ever to see who her attacker was. She had no idea what was going on and she was terrified for Annie and Metaxas' sake. Oh why did this always have to happen to her? It sometimes seemed like routine. Xena went away and left her alone and she would get kidnapped. So typical, the Bard thought. But who would want to kidnap them here? Very few even knew that they were in North Africa, let alone what they were doing here.
Gabrielle counted the turns from the alley where she had been blindfolded. One, two three, four turns. So they had probably walked four blocks away from the alley and the market place. She heard a door open and then she heard her capturer say "Watch your step." Gabrielle lifted her feet and felt the first step and then the next. They climbed the stairs and she heard the man pull out a key and unlock the door to a room. They entered the room and Gabrielle was forced to sit down on the floor. She felt two figures sit down, one on each side of her.
They waited a minute and then she heard a voice say "As long as you don't make trouble I will release you and take off the blindfold."
Gabrielle nodded and a second later the blindfold was taken off and she could take in the room before her and her capturer. Now that she could see she noticed that there were four of them and one was holding her staff. She looked at him and eyed her trusty weapon. "Can I have that back?" she asked sweetly.
The man just smiled at her with a "How stupid do you think I am look" on his face.
Gabrielle took a look at the kids sitting next to her. They were still blindfolded and their hands were bound in front of them. At least they had been spared having their hands bound behind their backs as the Bard herself had not been spared of. She hated that, it was so uncomfortable.
One of the five men gave Gabrielle the impression that he was the leader. For some reason she could also sense that he was the one who had grabbed her and escorted her here. He had blonde hair and blue eyes. He was obviously not from this part of the world but he still dressed like the locals. She figured it was probably to blend in. He was actually quite handsome, the Bard thought. He didn't look very dangerous and she thanked the Gods if that were true and they would get out of this alive.
"Take off their blindfolds." Gabrielle commanded.
The man scratched his chin and looked thoughtful for a moment, but then he did as she had asked. He moved slowly over to them and took of the kids' blindfolds as well.
"And untie them, please." Gabrielle continued. But the man shook his head no.
"Their ropes are not tied too tightly. I don't want them running around in here right now."
Gabrielle looked around. There room was full of weapons of all sorts. Crossbows, arrows, swords, daggers, staffs and so on. It looked like these guys were ready to take on an army. There were three windows but two of them were nailed shut. Gabrielle, Metaxas and Annie were seated in the middle of the room. The good looking man was standing in front of them now and the one with Gabrielle's staff in his hands were standing a few feet to their right. One man was standing by the door and one had gone over to the window.
"Perhaps I should introduce myself." The blond man with the blue eyes said. "I am Costa. Right now you are my prisoners but believe me, I mean you no harm, and once I'm done with you you may leave."
"Oh great, a polite kidnapper." Annie muttered.
Gabrielle turned her head and gave the girl a warning stare to let her know that she was doing the talking. "What do you want with us? "
"We want to talk to you. I heard you were on a ship headed for North Africa." He said. The man holding Gabrielle's staff handed it to Costa and he examined it carefully. "This is wood from Greece. I expected some of you to be from Rome."
That statement made Gabrielle sneeze a little too proudly. She quickly realized that it might have been inappropriate. These men could be Romans themselves, she had no way of knowing since they were disguised as the locals. "Why would we be Romans? No offence Metaxas."
The boy shrugged.
"Oh so you are a Roman?" he directed the question to Metaxas who just stared blankly at him. "Well, answer me."
"He doesn't speak. Leave the kids alone and talk to me." Gabrielle said annoyed that the man had changed his target. "I am from Greece, the boy is from Rome and the girl…well, she's… complicated."
Annie smiled at hearing that. It was true. She was complicated and there was no use trying to explain her presence.
"And what is your name if I may ask?" Costa asked and offered a small bow at the same time.
Annie thought she must be mistaken but for a moment she actually thought she saw Gabrielle slightly blushing.
"I'm Gabrielle. And my friends names are Metaxas and Annie." She found herself being captivated by the man's blue eyes. They were as blue as the ocean and seemed to have just as much power. She was released when Costa pulled away from her.
"Then it is as I hoped. You are the Bard of Potedia. I sincerely hope the Warrior Princess is close as well. Like I said, I was expecting you."
Gabrielle still felt confused. "How do you know who we are?"
Costa scratched his chin and then circled them. He bent down and started untying Gabrielle's hands. "Will these two" he pointed at Annie and Metaxas stay put if I untie them?" Gabrielle nodded so he undid their ropes as well. "You can stand if you wish. I now know that you are the right person." He looked at the Bard's confused expression and smiled. And oh that smile, Gabrielle had to force herself to look away.
"Please allow me to explain."
"Oh go right ahead. I'm waiting to hear your excuse to having abducted us and brought us here."
The man who had held Gabrielle's staff spoke up. "I like her spirit." He said and eyed the Bard.
"Well, I agree that our methods are a little exaggerated but we mean you no harm. The four of us are Romans. Me and Cicurinus have both had a sister each who has been abducted by the Zolicans, been sent here and sold into slavery. They were bought by Phyro." He pointed at the man by the window "This good man here, Trio, has a wife who has suffered the same fate." He pointed at the man by the door "And Agrippa unfortunately has a similar story with his daughter."
Gabrielle was beginning to realize that these four men probably weren't as bad as she had first thought. It sounded to her as if they were victims of the same torture that Toris and Metaxas were going through.
"All right, so why have you brought us here?"
"I actually wanted to speak to you or Xena but I figured it would be a bad idea to take you without bringing these kids along. I also wasn't sure if you were the Bard of Potedia, I had heard that Xena was travelling this way, but I wasn't sure about you. "He looked at Annie and Metaxas who sat listening to him but looking pretty tired. It had been a long day and they still hadn't gotten any sleep."
"But I don't understand…what do you want? It sounds like what happened to all of you is a horrible thing. But I don't understand what it has to do with us." Gabrielle said.
"A few months ago in Rome, I decided to find more people who's loved ones had been abducted by the Zolicans and sold into slavery here. I asked around and I found these three men. We decided to come together and go on a rescue mission."
Gabrielle was starting to understand these men's connection to herself and her travelling companions. Too bad Toris wasn't here though.
"We got on a ship to North Africa and when we arrived we found out where they had bee sent, Phyro's estate, and we went there to rescue them. By the Gods we carried weapons and we thought we were prepared. Unfortunately, we weren't."
"What happened?!" Annie asked. The fear and exhaustion that she had recently felt were beginning to fade and she felt she could talk now.
The blonde man smiled at her but then directed his answer more to the Bard again. Annie felt annoyed that he obviously viewed her as a child. She felt like getting up and kicking him or something but she remained seated and quiet for the time being. She wanted to hear his story.
"We got to the estate and I went in. There were a lot of guards but I even managed to find my sister. She spotted me hiding and I could see hope in her eyes at first…but then she signalled to me to get away from her. I didn't understand why. I grabbed her and brought her to a more private place. That's when I noticed the necklace that she was wearing." Costa was no longer smiling at this point. It was clear to Gabrielle that this necklace had not been a pretty gift to his sister. "When she had come to the estate the necklace had been placed around her neck and around the necks of half of the women there. She explained to me that it was to make sure people like us wouldn't start coming to their rescue and to make sure they wouldn't try to escape. You see, these necklaces have the effect that if the person carrying one moves outside the high wall surrounding the estate, that person will die. There is a crystal in one of the buildings somewhere inside the estate. The same sort of smaller crystals are inside the necklaces that the women are wearing and if the necklaces are moved too far away from the main crystal, in other words outside the gates, the person wearing it will explode."
No one in the room spoke. The silence was deafening in some way. Not that he could speak but Annie was sure that even if he could have spoken Metaxas still would have been quiet because of the shook. Because this meant that Emarentia might be wearing one of those necklaces. And it also meant that the difficulty to rescue her had increased a lot for Xena and Toris, who were out there somewhere.
Costa continued. "This is because the crystals inside the necklaces need to be close to the main crystal inside the estate. Otherwise they destroy themselves."
Gabrielle finally spoke. But she didn't say much "By the Gods." She whispered. She glanced at Metaxas to try to see his reaction to this. He looked blank in some way that she had never seen him before.
Costa added the two essential things that he had not yet said "The necklaces are also very effective in another way. Phyro has counted on the women's' compassion to each other. Because if one person blows herself up by trying to escape then the others wearing the necklaces suffer the exact same fate. They die as well."
This was horrible, and also frustrating. How were they going to get Emarentia out if she happened to be wearing one of those necklaces? "You said only half of the female slaves at the estate wear these necklaces. Why not all of them?" Gabrielle asked.
The man who had taken her staff, Cicurinus, spoke this time. "Because then he'd lose all of his female workers if one would decide to commit suicide. He'd lose too much money that way. "
This estate sounded more like a fortress with every security measure well thought through. Gabrielle's thoughts went to Xena and Toris and how they planned to get in. she was brought back from her thoughts when Costa took back the scene.
"So, we had to get out of there so we wouldn't risk a lot of people getting killed. We went back here to try and figure out a plan to rescue our loved ones. That was when we heard a rumour that Xena the Warrior Princess was coming this way. We have all heard of her exploits in Rome and how she has outsmarted Caesar, and we figured we had to get a hold of her when she arrived. Unfortunately we missed her the day she arrived but we did see you and another man come here on another ship not long afterwards. We suspected you might be the Bard so tonight, we followed you and well…brought you here."
"So you brought us here because you need to talk to Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Yes. We need reinforcements in order to succeed with this rescue. But we also figured that this might be our time to destroy Phyro, with the help of the Warrior Princess and you of course. We'd be strong enough. We also noticed that you travel with the other male warrior you came her with, who must have an interest in this somehow as well?"
Gabrielle cleared her throat. It was becoming a bit dry from sitting on this dusty floor for so long. "That is Xena's brother Toris. He and Metaxas here are the ones who lost someone to the Zolicans and then to Phyro. Her name is Emarentia and she is Metaxas's sister. We came her to save her"
"Good, then there are three of you able to fight and think and four of us…"
"Hey!" Annie finally exclaimed. "We exist here you know!" she was referring to herself and Metaxas "We're not ghosts!" she was very upset at being ignored like this. It was not something she could accept from anyone. Metaxas showed some frustration as well by giving the four men an icy stare almost challenging them.
"I'm sorry, honey, but I meant adults who are able to fight when it's needed."
Gabrielle put a hand on each kid's arm to keep them in place. "Don't you make any trouble now, Annie. I won't be happy if you do and XENA definitely won't be either."
At hearing those words Annie settled down a bit. She settled for just making eye contact with Costa, giving him a warning glare and thinking that he seemed really full of himself.
To be continued