Reviews and PM's keep me going, and the lack of them have begun to kill my motivation.
Bithynia was a city on the westernmost edge of Anatolia, and it was an autonomous nation state subservient to the Seleucid Empire. The city itself was a fortress that stared out at the Aegean Sea, daring anyone to try to take it. The fortress city was home to the Bithynian king Nicodemes. This place was the first stopping point for anyone wishing to cross Anatolia on their way east towards Chin.
Dagnine mused, "Welcome to Bithynia, servant of the Seleucid Empire.
The boat brought them slowly into the docks as Borias Queried, "Seleucid Empire?"
Dagnine smiled arrogantly. "That's right… you people in Greece thinks that the Persian Empire still exists, and because of that, you think of the Seleucid Empire as the Persian Empire, and you call yourselves the educated of the world. Pfft."
Xena interjected before an annoyed Borias could speak, "Whoever they are, we need money, and they must have jobs for us to take advantage of. I take it you've been through here…"
Dagnine grinned, "Before I became a guard under the honorable Seducas, I lived in Bactra which is much further east than this. I've been through a lot of cities in Anatolia, so… to say… yes I know all about them."
Xena rolled her eyes at the arrogance of Dagnine. "But could there be a job offer or two?"
"I have a contact that works for the King of Bithynia. He might have something for us."
Xena nodded reluctantly, "Hopefully…"
Xena, Borias, and Dagnine stepped off of the ship they stole from Byzantium, and approached the docks of Bithynia. The town was as busy as any port city would be expected to be, people going about loading and unloading ships and doing what other daily tasks that needed to be done. Xena smiled, ports like these were always a place where opportunity knocks.
The city itself was smaller than Byzantium but not by much. Bithynia was much like Byzantium in that it was a port trade center between east and west. Bithynia was where east met the west. That subtle difference showed in their architecture. It was Persian in shape and design showing it had a long history that predated even the Golden Age of Greece, but the presence of Greek culture was present among the city as well. It was like Persia was the skeleton and Greece was the meat.
Xena reasoned that this metaphor could be assigned to the whole of the Seleucid Empire. However, unlike Greece that was strong, there was something different about the Seleucids world. This world seemed stretched or thin for lack of a better word. Xena noted the guards weren't the best trained, nor did they seem to have to the best gear. Instead it seemed that guards of the city just had to make do with what they had. All of it showed signs of decline of Greek culture in Anatolia.
While it was true that the King of Bithynia ruled this city with some autonomy, it was clear that this place was suffering, and Xena quickly perceived that it didn't just end here, but it likely carried into the whole empire.
Dagnine stated as they stood in front of a magnificent palace, "Xena, we're here, the castle of Bithynia."
Xena smiled faintly as she stared at the palace in front her. It was clear that no expense was spared in creating such a place, "All that money not spent on their soldiers clearly had a destination after all."
Dagnine nodded at Xena's deduction. "Yes, they spend too much money enjoying their wealth and not enough taking care of their kingdom. Anyway, we'll probably find work in here."
"Good…" Grunted Borias.
Dagnine approached the guard, "Is Telverits available?"
The guard ignored him as Dagnine spoke a little louder this time. "I'm looking for Telvrits."
Borias mused, shooting a glance at the now annoyed Dagnine, "You sure these people know you?"
Dagnine grabbed the guard by the armor, "Stop giving me bullshit, where is Telvrits?"
The guard said, "Our orders are to not allow you in."
Xena raised an eyebrow, "I thought you and Telvrits go way back?"
Dagnine paused, reluctantly acknowledging the current situation. "Well, it was a long time ago, I'm sure he forgot by now."
Then a man emerged from the gate as Dagnine exclaimed, "Telvrits!"
He sighed, "Just my luck… Dagnine… say what you want and then leave."
"We're looking for work…"
"Do I look like an unemployment office?"
Xena knew she needed to take control of the situation, or she and the rest of them might not be able take this opportunity upon themselves, "Telvrits, we three have many skills. Surely there must be something we can do for a Dinar or two."
Telvrits stared down at Xena and her walking stick, "A cripple? What can a cripple do?"
Xena shot her fingers through the air dropping the man to his knees.
"I've cut off the flow of blood to your brain; you'll be dead in seconds."
Telvrits struggled as he was now looking up that the crippled woman. "I guess can do something… now please, take it off!"
Xena released the pinch allowing Telvrits to get back to his feet, saying, "Look, it's just that Dagnine made a few people angry last time he was here…"
Borias asked, "He slept with the daughter of someone important?"
"No, he just insulted the king by calling him a pompous fat ass," Answered Telvrits.
Dagnine fought a snicker.
Xena asked, "Can the king get over that?"
Telvrits rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, "I suppose he might, and there is a pressing need on the King's plate. I can take you to meet him."
Borias nodded, "Very well…"
The trio entered the Castle as Xena raised an eyebrow as it turned out that the king really was a giant fat ass. The man stood up, "Dagnine, what is that bastard doing here!"
Telvrits sighed, "He wants to help you with a little problem."
The fat and sweaty king paused staring out at Telvrits dimly, "Which one?"
The King sighed, "Yea… I guess I don't have much of a choice on this one. Walk this way."
As the king waddled away Dagnine imitated his Waddle from behind resulting in a fierce elbow in the side from Xena."
Once they were out of the throne room the King took a seat in a rather large chair. He stated, "Nicodemes used to serve here, but I sent him away to Rome as he was a rival for my power. He is an arrogant young kid and he does not deserve the throne. I'd like you three to eliminate him, he should be arriving here today."
Xena paused, "How is it he is a threat to your power?"
The king sneered, "Never you mind that."
Dagnine interjected dryly, "Nicodemes is his son."
Xena and Borias did a double take at Dagnine as the King shot a very cold look at all of them. The king paused for a few moments, drawing in breath, "Well… my son is a foolish bastard and he thinks that just because he is my son he is automatically entitled to my kingdom. I will not stand for it. I'll give you 5,000 dinars for the job."
Borias stated, "We'll take it."
Xena quickly argued, "10,000!"
The King eyed Xena and then Borias, "What? You'll take 5,000!"
Xena didn't give Borias a chance to speak, "You want us to kill a man that is supposed to inherit the throne, 5,000 is trash for that task and even 10,000 is cheap."
The King wanted to argue as the other two warriors followed stood with Xena, giving the king a cold and determined look. Finally he bowed his head, "10,000, now get the hell out of my sight!"
"Gladly," nodded Dagnine.
Telvrits caught up with Xena and the others as he said, "Nicodemes will be returning tomorrow, then you shall have your chance."
Xena nodded, "Very well, we'll take care of Nicodemes then."
The three stared at the man waiting for him to say something else, finally Telvrits nodded, "I'll leave you to it then. Here's enough for a room at an Inn. Be discreet, it must not be known that the king is doing this."
The trio nodded as Telvrits took off.
Borias stated, "We'll, let's find an Inn then."
Dagnine grumbled, "I don't like being paid to kill the son of the person paying me…
The other two didn't react, but Xena had a similar thought in her mind, but she cast it aside as she focused on a small Inn, this place would do nicely for a place to sleep.
Xena suddenly awoke in a dark stone palace, or at least she thought she was awake.
"I assure you Xena that you are not awake, but I'm not a figment of your imagination either."
Xena spun around to see a man dressed in a leather vest with a pair of pants and a sword that looked to be very valuable, but his face was obscured for some reason.
Xena asked, remaining stern before her mysterious guest, "Where am I?"
"At the Inn, as you said, you're asleep."
"What do you want?"
His tone changed, it seemed to get shorter with her, "Enough questions Xena, listen to me. A man who plans own son's assassination can't be trusted. You must be wary Xena… you must focus."
Xena paused, his words seemed to confirm her own thoughts on the matter, "It's a trap?"
The figure breathed heavily, "If a king's son is murdered in the street, they must find someone to blame for the crime."
Xena realized what he was saying, just as she about to ask another question suddenly her eyes opened. The figure was gone, and Xena was in the Inn again across the way from Dagnine and Borias.
Xena seeing that it was still dark out, she laid back to sleep, but sleep didn't come. She had to ponder the words that she had been told. Being paid by a father to kill the son on the streets of Bithynia no less, bad prospect indeed.
The Next morning came as Xena was the first to awake, followed closely by Gabrielle. Seeing Dagnine still asleep Xena grasped an empty mug and chucked at the sleeping warrior. Dagnine awoke pulling out his sword while holding the side of his head in pain
Xena laughed darkly.
Dagnine stared at her coldly, "Xena… that wasn't funny."
"It was for me."
Dagnine grumbled as Xena continued, "We shouldn't assassinate Nicodemes."
Borias shot a double take, "What?"
Xena wanted to say what she saw in the dream but thought better of it. Instead she focused on logic to explain her newfound point of view. "Would you trust a man who wants you to murder his own son?"
Borias paused. The reality of such a question hit him like a ton of bricks, "I wouldn't…"
"Add that to the fact that he's a king, and his son is the heir, we're being set up to take the fall."
Dagnine asked, "What should we do about it? We need the money for our journey west."
Xena stated, "We need to reach Nicodemes some other way, maybe…"
Dagnine interrupted, "Nicodemes might be interested in having us help him take out his father instead. But how do we get to him without being spotted?"
Xena shot him a cold look, she detested being interrupted.
Borias mused, "We have the answer in front of us."
The other two shot him a questioning look as Xena asked, "What do you mean?"
Borias added, "Xena. She is a cripple."
Xena shot daggers from her eyes, "Your point?"
"We give her a hooded cloak and we have her play into the crippled look. No one would think she is one of us. They'd think she is just some old woman. She'd get to Nicodemes and talk to him all without drawing attention to herself."
Xena smiled, "I like it…"
Dagnine asked, "What about the two of us?"
Xena quickly inserted, "You two need to scout. If the king wants his own son murdered and wants to make sure we get the blame, then he's got people watching. We need to know who, and where. He might even go so far as to have someone to make sure Nicodemes gets killed in case we fail."
Dagnine interrupted Xena again, "We need to know who they are and what they are doing."
Xena replied in an Icy tone, "Yes… of course."
Xena stumbled through the Bithynia streets avoiding direct eye contact. It wasn't too hard to do as most people tried to avoid the crippled woman for free that somehow being crippled could be contagious. She had to hurry but she needed to be careful, there were people looking for her and she needed to make sure they were fooled.
Xena's eyes shot up to the building tops. There were a few people going about their normal daily choirs, nothing out of the ordinary. She knew that behind her somewhere was Borias and somewhere on the roofs was Dagnine. They'd reason he was more familiar with the Bithynia officials than the other two so he should stay out of sight more, or at least look like he was doing what the King wanted him to do.
Dagnine leapt from one building to the other as he scooped the world below. He didn't know exactly who he was looking for but he was looking for whatever seemed out of place. His eyes studied Xena closely, he had to admit for an apparent broken woman, she was a force to be reckoned with. She had some inner strength that seemed like it could resist a raging flood. He didn't want to think about her without her shattered legs, she might be unstoppable.
To Dagnine's regret, she didn't really seem to like him that much, but he was working on winning her over. But the question was… was he succeeding? The cold looks she had shot him earlier had told him that maybe he shouldn't interrupt her in the future.
Suddenly his eyes caught a man who took to his feet. He seemed out of place. His garments did reflect Anatolia, but it didn't reflect this part of the region. His black shroud was very much what they would find further east, but Bithynia was very Greek in nature. If that wasn't enough, the man seemed to be following Borias.
Borias stopped and so did the man who took a seat for a moment. As Dagnine had expected from Borias he varied his path, but the man wasn't being fooled. He was following Borias. Dagnine couldn't signal Borias so he had to move himself to get the man's attention.
Dagnine's eyes studied the crowd and instantly he had a plan. Sliding down a ladder he ran up to a woman who appeared to be a beggar. He shouted pointing at the shrouded man, "That man gave me 100 dinars, he's a truly wonderful man!"
The beggar's face took a look of excitement as she asked, "Sir? Did he really?"
Dagnine continued his excited tone, "Yes… thank the gods for that man!"
The beggar shot off towards the shrouded man as Borias suddenly looked behind him eyeing Dagnine. Dagnine shot back a single nod. With the Shrouded man distracted by the beggar, Borias disappeared into the crowd.
The Shrouded man shoved the woman beggar to the ground as Dagnine himself disappeared back up the ladder, and out of sight. His eyes focused back on the shrouded man, Dagnine could see the shrouded man silently cursing to himself for losing Borias.
Xena finally found Nicodemes. He was traveling under what Xena would call, low profile. He only had a couple servants with him. Xena carefully approached, she knew that someone had to be watching him too so now more than ever Xena needed to be careful.
The time was now to make her approach towards the man. Naturally he tried to alter the direction of his walk to avoid her, but Xena wasn't letting him get away. His life, and more importantly, her purse depended on it.
Finally with some very difficult and very overt hobbling, Xena reached him. He strongly demanded, "What do you want woman?"
Xena smiled, "Only to save my lord's life."
Nicodemes stopped suddenly, "What did you say?"
Xena quickly chided, "Keep walking. We're being watched, and by the Gods… don't look around!"
Nicodemes quickly resumed his pace, "What is going on?"
"Your father has hired some people to kill you, but they believe he is going to double cross them…"
Xena admired his quick grasp of the subject as she continued, "They'd like to help you take care of him."
Nicodemes fought a smile, "I just might… Tell your people I will be interested in hearing what they have to say."
"Meet us near the main temple."
Nicodemes nodded silently.
With that, Xena dropped off from him walking into a shop. Xena smiled, things were looking up for her. Now she only needed to make sure that she and the others could come out of this with more than enough money to continue her journey east.
AN: Details about Bithynia may or MAY not be historically accurate, this is a story, not an encyclopedia.