"Don't forget his dragon," Lao Ma said handing her the wooden dragon with paper wings that flapped.
"Must you insist on guards?" Xena asked. "I can take care of myself now."
"I know, but I want to ensure that you and my Godson are safe," Lao Ma spoke with such love for her. "You're like a daughter to me Xena never forget that." Xena nodded and hugged Lao Ma. Dressed in blue silk with imperial yellow trimmings she got on her new Palomino horse that she had named Argo. Lao Ma hugged and kissed Janardan until his cheek was pink. She settled him in front of Xena in his imperial yellow robes.
"Thank you for all you've done and will continue to do," Xena said.
"It is yourself you should be thanking Xena, I merely showed you the way, it was you who took the steps." Xena smiled and nodded her head towards Lao Ma, who returned the gesture. Janardan waved to Lao Ma who blew him a kiss.
Soon Xena was leading twenty imperial soldiers towards India along with all six of her personal servants plus his ayah following in three wagons. Not including the four that followed for the soldiers.
They stopped that night after the horses neared their max. They watered the horses, cleaned their hooves, and let them graze tethered together. There was a guard to watch them. Three big tents were set up. Xena as always felt like a princess when she entered large tents decked out in riches. Lao Ma had bestowed on her many gifts for her services and her name would not be forgotten in Chin for as long as someone who knew her lived or told stories. She was a living legend in Chin and many came out to greet her inquire if they were in trouble or not. They also came to greet their future emperor. Janardan merely cooed and smiled at the attention.
"Regent, dinner will be ready momentarily." They had taken to calling her Regent ever since Janardan's coronation as heir. She nodded towards him as she smoothed Janardan's blond hair that was combed into a single braid while the rest of his head was shaved clean, and he looked up at her with his bright blue eyes. She kissed his forehead.
"You hungry baby?" Xena asked. Janardan nodded. "Good because dinner is almost ready, why don't you play with your toys over here." Janardan nodded as she put him down with a small pile of toys. Janardan was spoiled rotten and she knew it was going to be hard to teach him not to be so spoiled. Xena took off her hat and let down her hair. It had grown back down to the middle of her back. Women didn't generally grown their hair so long especially if they were noble women, but Xena did to show them that she was a noble woman and her hair was as long as the men's. She was relaying a message of power and wearing yellow silk just as Lao Ma instructed and practically demanded to help show she was serious. She tossed her cloak next to her hat.
"Mommy." Xena turned and looked down at her son in his pien-fu the silk tunic over white trousers with a red sash around his stomach and a charm to warn off bad spirits around his neck. She had on a similar outfit except she wore a light blue silk that went down to the middle of her calves in the front and back, but had two long splits on the side. Over the light blue tunic was a dark blue vest embroidered with the imperial yellow as the light blue was. She had on matching light blue trousers. "Hat." Xena smiled and motioned for him to come over. She untied the heavy hat. It was not his usual thin one hat that was worn by all. He ran back to his toys.
"I do hope she accepts us into her life again," Xena muttered as she watched Janardan playing and braided her long hair into one braid.
"Regent how can you be sure that we will be accepted in this new land you take us too." They were all sitting around the fire eating rice and chicken.
"I can't be sure Kai-liang, but my family they rule India justly and I have sent a letter ahead of me. They expect us, but it does not mean they will except us."
"We will treat them as if they are possibly hostile to make sure we are not caught off guard should they attack." Xena nodded.
"It is all a good soldier can do." Kai-liang was the Captain of what Lao Ma called Xena's personal guard. They were always riding with her and protected her from everyone and everything. Once Kai-liang had taken an arrow for Xena and Janardan. Lao Ma immediately made him a Captain of Xena's own guard and ordered nineteen more men be employed to join him. Instead Xena got seventeen men and two women warriors who had no experience, but Xena whipped them into shape and now they could fight with the best of the male fighters.
"Won't they demand we return to Chin if they accept you, Regent?" the oldest girl asked. Her name was Ji-Li and Mei-li was the second girl. If it wasn't Kai-liang who accompanied her every where it was those two flanked on either side of her. Xena often times assigned Kai-liang to the honorable job of protecting Janardan. The others chose to remain silent unless they needed to speak and nameless as well saying they did not want her to grieve over them. So she gave them numbers instead of their choosing.
"It is possible, but I will exercise any power I have to insist that you stay. You're a loyal personal guard and I will not betray you." They nodded pleased. Xena finished eating before Janardan and once he was done and had enjoyed the stories of everyone around the fire he was tired enough to close his eyes in her arms.
"Goodnight, now get some sleep we wake at Dawn." They nodded. The fire was banked and lamps were used. Xena undressed her son as the servants turned the furs in a comfortable pallet.
"Regent please it is my job." Xena shook her head at the ayah.
"No, I as his mother must take the time to do these things for him too, I can not and will not depend on you to raise him all his life." She nodded. Once he was properly tucked in they helped her undress as his ayah picked up his toys and stored them so they would be ready to go at Dawn. They had not set up much and it would not take long to dismantle the tent.
"Mei-xie you girls lay out your clothing and ours for in the morning. We will not waist time on that in the morning." Mei-xie nodded. She was the oldest of the ladies at twenty-five and in charge of the other girls including Janardan's ayah. She watched them lay out their clothing as the youngest brushed her hair. Lao Ma had never been one to have too many servants to do things she could easily do for herself. But when she saw how many jobs she could create by having more servants even for the stupidest tasks the economy flourish and poor families had a chance to make some money.
"Good night ladies."
"Goodnight," They said as she blew out all the candles herself." She settled down next to Janardan. She was up at Dawn and she dressed herself in her new yellow outfit. She dressed Janardan who had woken up at her movements in his favorite red outfit much like the one he had worn the day before.
"Shall we wake them all up?" Xena asked. Janardan nodded while he ate his breakfast. Once they were done they took a small gong and she let him beat it as loudly as he could. He enjoyed himself and was at it until everyone had packed up and was ready to go.
"Great now if you will please hurry and eat breakfast so we can get a move on." They nodded and ate their morning rice quickly. They continued for India. Finally after three months travel they reached India. In India no one recognized her and she was given weary looks. She only stopped to talk to people to be sure she was headed in the right direction. The smells were all so familiar and wonderful to her and for the life of her she couldn't figure out how her mother had ever left this beautiful land. She pointed things out to Janardan and her soldiers. They made it to Delhi where a large and beautiful palace had been built. They rode up and were not met by soldiers, but were stopped at the gate.
"Who are you?" The soldiers asked.
"I am rajakumari Xena, I've come to reconcile with my family." She showed the coin put around a royal child's neck at birth. It never leaves them. They let her through the gates. Solan lay back against her sleeping peacefully. She was amazed at his ability to fall asleep on a horse and didn't think she had ever been able to do so.
"You ten watch the wagons and horses with the servants. We may not stay at all if things go badly." They nodded as Kai-liang took Janardan while she dismounted before she took her son back.
"You will wait." Xena shook her head and walked passed the guard. Five soldiers flanked her and Solan on either side in neat lines. She went straight for the throne room. When she entered everyone turned to stare at her. What she found was Borias bowing to them on the floor trying to pull the same scheme he had pulled in Chin on her grandparents.
"What is the meaning of this?" The voice of her grandmother Maharani Jagrati's voice boomed over everyone's whispering.
"Forgive me for just barging in Grandmother, but I refused to be treated like a commoner." Xena's eyes rested on her mother who stared at her with love or hate. Xena could not tell. Xena felt as if they hadn't expected her to come even after her letter.
"Is it really you Xena?" Maharani Jagrati asked. Xena nodded as she walked forward. Her guards stopped where Borias was in the middle of the room on his knees. She gave Janardan to Kai-liang before she went forward and touched her head to the floor at her grandparent's feet. She raised up and sat back on her legs.
"I am pleased to see you are all in good health and I am sorry that it has taken me so long to return home once again. I bring to you a gift from Chin as a peace offering." Her grandfather nodded. She motioned for her guard to come forward.
"She asks that you accept these marble statues of Krishna and Shiva." They were pleased and nodded. A servant took them away. Xena wanted to hug her mother so badly, but she knew that would have to wait. Now was not a time for anything less than formalities.
"Who is the boy?" Maharani Jagrati asked. Xena turned back to Janardan and smiled a little.
"He is my son and heir to the throne in Chin." There was shock that went through the crowd. Let them think what they wanted about who his father was. She knew Borias would question her when and if he caught her a lone. Eventually he would, she knew him all to well.
"What have you been doing in Chin?" Cyrene asked. Xena told them of her work and status in Chin. They were pleased.
"What do you think of this man?" Her grandmother asked. Xena turned and faced Borias who dared to look up at her.
"I think…" Xena started. He pleaded with her not to give him away and to play a long. " I think that he is of no use to you and that he should return to his army quickly." Borias frowned at her.
"Please your highnesses I can help you win against your enemies."
"I will get rid of your enemies," Xena said. "I purged Chin, I can purge India in two years or less too." They nodded.
"Send him away." Borias was marched out. They dismissed the court and she was hugged and kissed especially Janardan, who woke up very confused. She introduced him to his grandmother and his great-grandparents.
"How long will you be staying?" Cyrene asked.
"A year and a half and than I must return to Chin for six months before I return." They understood that six months out of every year she had to return to Chin.
"Arihant go see to it that her rooms are prepared." Maharajadhiraj Arihant looked at his wife before he stood up. He walked with full confidence and strength. There were no signs that he would die any time soon. Xena never understood how her grandmother wielded so much power over man without sex, but now she understood that their love was so deep he would do anything for her no matter what. Xena looked at soldier number twelve and he nodded. He ran out to retrieve the servants so that they may see her rooms. Arihant seeing this sent a girl to start to retrieve all of Xena's things. He had already prepared for six girls to be her ladies in waiting plus one ayah for his grandson.
"Mother, have you seen or heard from Torres?" Xena asked. "And where is my sister?" Cyrene looked sad for a moment. Xena thought perhaps her half-sister had died and her brother hadn't contracted their mother yet.
"Oh um…your sister is finishing up things in Greece for me, but Torres is well dead." Xena stood frozen as she stared at both her grandmother and Mother. If Torres was dead that meant there was no heir. Her mother had long since forfeited her right to the throne when she married her father, but Torres had not.
"Who will take the throne if Torres is dead?" Xena asked. Her concern was immediately for the people of India.
"Arihant thought to give it to your son since he is the next male descendant, but if he is to take the throne in Chin we can not possibly have him take the throne here in India. Chin and India are two different worlds that must remain separate kingdoms." Xena nodded.
"Then if not Janardan who?" Xena asked.
"You," Cyrene answered.
"Me?" Xena asked. Cyrene nodded.
"You are the only one we trust and love you also have the ability to lead and you are a warrior. Every great ruler of India has been a warrior and you have proven yourself time and time again."
"But what about my past aren't you worried?" Xena asked. They shook their head.
"Even we can see you've changed Xena, and I don't think the Empress of Chin would be so stupid as to make you Regent of Chin if she knew you would be corrupt." Xena sighed and nodded.
"Then I accept my destiny."
"Great we will name you heir tonight at your welcome home speech." Xena nodded. After they walked around the gardens getting reacquainted with each other with Solan running around in front of them with a servant boy.
"Will your soldiers follow you anywhere?" Maharani Jagrati asked.
"Yes," Xena replied.
"Then you may keep them."
"I was going to keep them anyway." Maharani Jagrati looked at Xena and she stared right back at her.
"I told you mother she has grown even more stubborn, there's no ordering Xena around. You can believe those guards would have stayed if you had ordered them sent back to chin." They came into the courtyard where the rest of her men waited. Her wagons were unloaded.
"Our personal guard barracks are full you will have to figure out something for them." Xena looked at her grandmother and back to her men.
"They can sleep in my room until they've built their own home on the palace grounds." She nodded.
"Fourteen take Three, Seven, and Twenty-two out to scout a good place for you all to begin building barracks I'm afraid the personal guard barracks are already full. He nodded and departed out of the gates with Three, Seven, and Twenty-two.
" You gave them numbers instead of names?" Cyrene asked.
"It was their own choice not mine. Now they'll need a storage room for their things." Jagrati called a soldier over and he nodded.
"Two." Two nodded and followed the soldier.
"Will you have them train with our soldiers as well?" Maharani Jagrati asked.
"If you insist than of course." Maharani Jagrati smiled and patted her head.
"You don't wear those huge hair designs of seen on ladies of the Chin court, do you?" Cyrene asked as they headed for her room after her grandmother's departure to handle some business. Xena shook her head no.
"No, it's not practical for a woman in my line of work. My ladies in waiting wear it, but I think that will be changing soon."
"Xena," Cyrene said putting a hand on her arm and stopping her. Xena turned to face her mother. "I just want you to know I'm sorry and I shouldn't have pushed you away the way I did. No matter what you're still my daughter and I am deeply ashamed of myself." Xena frowned before she hugged her mother.
"Apology accepted, and I never hated you. I admit I was deeply upset with you and it hurt, but now I think what you did was for the best or I wouldn't have Janardan or have met Lao Ma. So now I feel I must thank you." Cyrene smiled glad her daughter had found some happiness. They continued to her rooms and were met there by Kai-liang and Janardan. The two Indian soldiers outside her door opened the door for her. Inside to the left of the parlor were her Chin Ladies in waiting in all their finery and their hair up in big hairstyles. To the right were six Indian Ladies in waiting with their hair down and dressed in plain Saris. They wore no jewelry unlike her Chinese ladies.
"I think a compromise needs to be made." They all bowed to her.
"I'll leave you to sort it all out." Xena nodded to her mother.
"Regent," They greeted.
"Yuvarani Xena," They greeted. She turned to her ladies in waiting from Chin and Indian ladies seemed to think they were going to be dismissed.
"Ladies, I must insist that outside of Chin you will wear your hair in a bun, down, or in a one braid like I do." She repeated her words in Hindi. "Who is the oldest?" The oldest stepped forward. She knew it was going to be annoying to switch back and forth.
"Yuvarani, I am Kaishori and the oldest." She bowed.
"How old are you?" Xena asked.
"Twenty-four." Xena nodded.
"Mei-xie step forward." Mei-xie walked over to her.
"Mei-xie will be in charge of everyone because she is the oldest. You will take orders from her. I suggest you all start learning the others language." She then repeated herself in Mandarin. Xena knew her ladies from Chin could speak Greek, but their new additions could not.
"Mei-xie find Seven he speaks your language and Hindi. Take Kaishori and together I want you to figure out how you are all going to work together." Mei-xie nodded and motioned for Kaishori to follow her. Xena noticed that there seemed to be an extra girl. She usually only had six ladies to wait on her when she was here. One woman stepped forward.
"Forgive me Yuvarani, I am Samiya, but where is the child so that I may take care of him." Xena pointed to Janardan.
"Janardan is not just your responsibility." She turned to Kai-liang and spoke to him.
"I think Eight also speaks both as well as Seven does. They did practice together." Xena nodded. She called Eight in and told him to help Samiya and Li-ying discuss how they're going to take care of my son in the most efficient way. Eight nodded and told them both to follow him. They looked around her rooms. There were twelve smaller rooms for her ladies. There was a washroom with a large indoor in bathtub she could swim in. She knew Solan would enjoy that at bath time. She could safely teach him to swim. Her room was by far the largest and the second largest room she made it Janardan's room. She purposely paired each Chinese lady in waiting with an Indian lady in waiting. So the soldiers gambled to see which three of them got to share a room and the last two would guard her room door and Janardan's room door.
Xena bathed and dressed herself in Sari as her ladies bathed as well. Janardan was content to splash around in the shallower end up of the pool she had created with some marble blocks.
"Regent, a soldier is here to see you," Kai-liang announced coming in after knocking. Some of her ladies were use to Kai-liang interrupting their mistress's bath, but the others were not and tried to cover up, but water was useless so they opted to use their long hair. Kai-liang didn't even glance at them. Xena hid nothing as he looked over her rather than at her.
"Send him in," Xena ordered. Kai-liang opened the door and he stepped in.
"Yuvarani I must insist that we not do this in the wash room."
"Nonsense now tell me why you have come." He looked nervous as he looked at her. "Look at the wall and not at me or my ladies." He nodded and stared at the wall like Kai-liang had been Kai-liang was now watching him.
"I am your captain of the guard."
"Kai-liang is the captain of my guard," Xena told him.
"But…but the Maharajadhiraj said that I was to be the Captain of your guard and protect you at all costs." Xena sighed. He was not cut out to be a Captain, she could tell from his tone of voice.
"Listen…?" She waited for him to tell her his name.
"Paandu, Yuvarani," He answered.
"Paandu, your services are greatly appreciated, but if you are to join my guard you take orders from Kai-liang." He nodded as he looked at Kai-liang. "How many men exactly were suppose to be under your command?"
"Twenty." Xena nodded.
"Assemble them I want to inspect them."
"In full armor?" He asked.
"Yes, why not the day is still early and after I've dined with my family for lunch I will inspect you." He nodded and quickly left out. Kai-liang bowed to her and left out.
"Yuvarani I must object to such men just walking in when we bath, what will people think?" One girl asked.
"Get use to it, and they will think what they will." She frowned as Xena stood up and got out of the water ringing out her long hair. She had it wrapped in a towel and the ladies followed suit as they all dried off. They helped each other rub fragrant oil all over their body and in their hair as they combed it out.
"Put my hair up." They nodded and did her hair in an intricate bun with many emerald hairpins and gold. She chose to wear a beautiful green pien-fu since she did not own any Saris as of yet. She dressed Solan and combed his hair. They had a lovely lunch in her dining room while she joined her family along with Solan along with the court. They asked her many questions and she answered as many as she didn't. After lunch she inspected all her guards and picked a training yard for them personally. She selected five men from each culture to become very skilled archers even on horseback. That night at the feast she was named heir to the throne and the people clapped politely and cheered. But time would tell what they thought of her.