"You have my word that I will come back in autumn, but I'm staying too."
"You stay in the winter so it'll just be me and him." Xena sighed.
"Agreed." They shook hands on it. Xena helped Solan finish packing some of his things. She hitched Flash up to his Chariot and put Solan in it. Flash led them out in a gallop, which was no faster than Argo's trot so it was a good pace for them. Xena scouted for a camp early and had them set up in a camp sight in no time. Solan enjoyed his first time under the stars even though he missed his Uncle. They reached Cornith in three days and got Flash some horse shoes after cleaning his hooves.
"Xena!" Xena turned to see Hercules as she walked back from the carnival that had shown up in Cornith a little after they had taken Flash for his first horse shoes. Solan had insisted they go. Now he was sleeping contently in her arms as they headed for the tavern. She stopped and turned to face him. He jogged up to her and kissed her cheek careful of Solan, in greeting. She returned the chaste kiss on his cheek. "What are you doing in Cornith."
"Getting his pony some horse shoes. What about you last I heard you were in Egypt." Hercules shook his head.
"No, I was actually in Gaul and I just got back." Xena nodded. "Who is he, orphan? He's very handsome." Xena shook her head no, but smiled at his compliment.
"This is Solan, I was telling you about him remember."
"Oh, wow, how could I not think that, I should have seen it immediately he looks like you when he sleeps."
"Did he enjoy the carnival?" Hercules asked taking the big bear she had won for him and the bag of confections so she was free to hold him a little easier as they continued to walk. Xena nodded.
"His first carnival, it was great to see such a big smile on his face." Hercules smiled.
"I remember my kids first carnival, it makes things happier better somehow." Xena nodded in agreement.
"So what have you been up too?" Hercules asked.
"Nothing, just kind of settling down, I adopted my best friend's daughter when she died in child birth."
"Gabrielle's dead?" Hercules asked alarmed. Xena shook her head quickly.
"No, no it was an old best friend, I grew up with her and we even had the same first name."
"Oh which one Anastasia Alexandra, Victoria, or Cerelia?" Hercules asked. He didn't know about her sister.
"None of them Aleathia remember."
"Oh her," Hercules said in a sad voice. "Well it was only a matter of time, but how did she get pregnant."
"I'm not sure, she was pregnant when I got there. I suspect that one really perverted and disgusting man probably went into her home while one of the girls were only at the market or taking a bath maybe and she got pregnant." Hercules shook his head in disgust.
"Men like that belong in hell."
"Yes, and if I ever find him, he had better pray to the Gods for mercy." Hercules nodded.
"Why are you back in Cornith, I thought you didn't come home to the summer?" Xena asked.
"Well someone put a hit on Iphicles so he asked me back to frighten off the assassin."
"Does he have a name?" Xena asked.
"She and they call her the silent assassin, because you never hear her, you never see her coming. She's been described as having your stealth except much better. Worse thing about this I have no idea what she looks like and there's usually a description on assassins, but not this one. Anyone who has ever laid eyes on her is dead." Xena remained silent, she knew exactly who the silent assassin was. "Do you know who she is or know anything about her?"
"There's no way to stop her, you will try and fail without my help," Xena replied.
"Why do you make the difference?" Hercules asked.
"I know her, for now put your brother under heavy guard she won't strike until she's been here a few days."
"I already am." They stopped and saw Iphicles approaching them with his son and daughter. Guards that were standing around him and others blending in the crowds around them surrounded him.
"Good stay that way."
"If you can help please come stay at the palace," Iphicles said. Xena shook her head. Xena shook her head.
"No, I'm better off among everyone else." He nodded. "Keep yourself well guarded and whatever you do don't fall asleep."
"What if she poisons me?" Iphicles asked. Xena shook her head.
"She won't its not as fun to poison someone by assassination. You can bet she was sent by an enemy she works for money and any other perk she wants." He nodded.
"Perhaps we can pay her off."
"No, we're not going to pay an assassin," Hercules said.
"No, actually its perfect, she is that greedy. I'll be by in the morning to pick out something that might tempt her, some things won't sway her I know." Iphicles nodded and they left for fear of crossbows. Hercules argued with Xena about the money and she told him ultimately it would be a trap and they had a score to settle. Hercules finally left and Xena had just tucked Solan in when she kicked her leg back and struck Sophia. She shook her head.
"Will you ever learn you can't sneak up on me?" Xena asked turning around. Sophia sat on the floor looking up at her as Xena held her hand out to her.
"Never, besides I was only going to give you a hug. Nice kick though."
"So what's this I hear about a bribe because I'll take it all the more money for me what do I care if he lives or dies?" Sophia asked.
"Yes, when I knew it was you I proposed a bribe because I knew it was the only thing that would make you change your mind." Sophia nodded.
"Good thinking." Sophia took out a cookie as she sat down at the table in the room. Xena sat across from her. Sophia offered a cookie and she accepted. "So if I let you interfere with my work how am I to prove to my employer that I killed the King of Cornith?" Xena shrugged.
"I'm sure we can think of something now who is your employer?" Xena asked.
"You know I don't reveal who my employers are."
"I know, but we need to capture someone, now that I know what to look for I'm sure everyone knows. They'll be expecting a prisoner."
"People they're no better than warlords sometimes," Sophia sighed.
"I'll never understand how you can kill the way you do without a hateful bone in your body." Sophia shrugged as she looked around the room. She spotted Solan lying in bed.
"Who's the handsome boy?" Sophia asked walking over to him. She saw that he resembled her and Xena. She looked at Xena suddenly. "He's not mine is he, I didn't think I had one so young. He looks like you when he sleeps." Xena shook her head.
"No, Solan is mine."
"Oh, Borias is his father right?" Sophia asked. Xena nodded.
"He's three and your youngest son only just reached his first birthday."
"Hmm…you keep better tabs on my children than I do, that's sad."
"Some one has too."
"Yes, and I'm glad its you, I'd get my kids killed."
"No one even knows who you are."
"No, I meant I'd leave them somewhere and forget or if I didn't do that I'd forget to feed them. Children whine to much." Xena shook her head at Sophia. "How old are they all and what are their names?"
"Anastasia Sophia is seven because you had her when we were still living at home. Fiona is five, Colin is four, and the youngest, you're one year old doesn't have a name. His father refuses to name him."
"Tell him to name him Darren when you see him."
"Would it kill you to at least visit them?" Xena asked. Sophia nodded.
"If I visit than they'll give those kids to me so fast my head will spend. No thanks, I'll stay away. Besides I'd rather they felt wanted by at least one of us. So drop it or I'll forget about the deal." Xena sighed.
"Fine, who's your employer."
"I won't tell you, but meet her a mile North near the river, do me a favor and collect my money. Figure out a way to provide proof. I'll break in and pretend to hold the king, you hand over a bag of rubies specifically nothing else or Emeralds will do. I leave. I'll come tomorrow with a matching dress and cloak for you. We'll need to practice being each other." Xena nodded accepting her plan. They practiced walking and talking in the same tone of voice before Sophia left.
"All right, come on let's go to the treasury," Xena said after they discussed faking his death. Iphicles retired to the throne room at Xena's suggestion.
"I can't believe we're actually going to pay the assassin."
"Hercules stop whining this way we get to the person who sent her in the first place. That person will just keep sending more assassins and Iphicles can't fake his death forever." Hercules sighed.
"Fine you're right again as usual." Xena nodded. They entered the treasury to fine one of Iphicles's advisors stealing and singing a little song.
"Hey!" Hercules yelled. He jumped with fright and turned as he dropped his bag.
"Hold him while I get what we came for, this for Iphicles to handle." Hercules nodded and grabbed the man. Xena filled a small back with a mixture of emeralds and one big one.
"Just emeralds?" Hercules asked. Xena nodded as they left locking the door behind them. They walked into the throne room to find the guards all knocked out. Sophia held a dagger to Iphicles throat.
"Xena give her the bribe hurry, she's very impatient." Sophia indicated for her to show her. Xena showed her the handful and the large emerald. She threw Iphicles to the side and Xena tossed her the bag.
"Don't be late Xena." Xena nodded. "And you'll want to start an uproar in about five minutes because I am about to announce his death."
"His chest wound should be enough if he can lie still and not breathe." Sophia exited quickly before Hercules could react. He let go of the advisor who tried to run and ran to Iphicles.
"Oh no you don't." Xena dragged him over to Iphicles as Hercules inspected the S shaped wound over his entire chest. It was just deep enough to look fatal. Iphicles would heal except for a scar.
"Iphicles, your advisor tried to steal I recommend the traditional punishment of imprisonment, loss of position, and loss of limb."
"Do it, it is the law." Xena nodded. She took her sword and sliced off his hand there. It sprayed every where. She told two dazed guards to take him to the dungeons.
"Do it if you want to save your King's life its part of the plan." They nodded trusting her. When his wife ran in he pretended to die. Xena bagged the advisor's hand this was a bonus. She walked out as family surrounded Iphicles, while Hercules ordered the healer to sew his wound up anyway. Xena changed so that her and Sofia were dressed a like. She met Sophia's employer a mile North by the river after she stood in the trees waiting for four hours.
"Do you have proof?" The woman asked.
"Yes," Xena said and threw the bag at the woman. The woman suspected nothing as she sounded and acted just like Sophia. She pulled out the hand and dropped it. "Is there a reason why you wanted him dead?"
"That bastard was suppose to marry me and the moment he became King he dropped me like yesterday's trash." Xena remained silent. The woman was crazy. "But now that Iphicles is gone I want you to go back and finish off his family."
"Pay me." She tossed Xena a bag before continuing to rant about destroying the entire royal family.
"You know I think I may want you to kidnap the boy, I want to see him die myself or perhaps maybe the wife. Yes the wife and her son. They can die together."
"There's only five thousand dinars here, the deal was twenty thousand. Ten thousand up front and ten thousand when the job was done."
"You can have your other five thousand when the others are dead."
"The hell I will you lying bitch," Sophia said coming out of trees. She had the hood of cloak up that casted a shadow on her face. She sounded exactly like Xena. "Its twenty thousand a person so you will pay me all for the King of Cornith and as for everyone else if you want them you'll have to come up with sixty thousand dinars and even you don't have that. Because you're just a peasant girl in the first place." The woman growled.
"Its all I have, I only ever had fifteen thousand."
"Well from now on I'll be paying a monthly visit until my fee is met. You're bill for the King of Cornith is gonna cost you another fifteen thousand for lying."
"That's twenty thousand dinars."
"Well to bad, and you'll be wanting to harass her little boy friend hiding in the trees over there. This one is catching a one way horse ride to Shark Island."
"No!" The woman screamed as Xena slapped some shackles on her. Sophia ran after the boy friend that took off running. Xena dragged the woman back to the castle. Iphicles was pronounced alive after a miracle from the Gods. The woman was locked up and prepared for trial.
"Did you catch the actual assassin?" Iphicles asked Xena at dinner. "She got off with my emeralds."
"No, those are her property now, Iphicles."
"You mean you didn't switch bags?" Hercules asked.
"I didn't think she'd get away, but your life is more important right Iphicles." He nodded. That night in the tavern Sophia showed up and hugged her sister goodbye.
"See ya sis, I'd come home with you, but I have a very wealthy employer to meet."
"Be careful, and I think I should tell you that Aleathia died a few months ago." Sophia looked down and shed a few tears.
"How?" She asked.
"Childbirth?" Sophia asked confused and Xena explained to her.
"Come see Allissia sometime and get to know your nephew as well." Sophia nodded.
"All right as soon as I finish my next job, I promise you that I will show up in Amphipolis and I will personally send you a message saying exactly when I'll arrive so if you're not in town you can make it there." Xena nodded.
"Good, and I'll hunt you down if you're lying, and you'll know I'll do it."
"Yes, yes I know." They kissed each other's cheek and hugged. Parting was always hard for them to do. They were twins after all. Sophia was gone before the sun finished setting that day.