Author's Note: See Haz I made VERY good on my threat *grins*


Part III

"Xena, Lyceus I know your practicing, but you promised!" Cyrene yelled out the door.

"We're coming Mommy!" Xena called back. Cyrene smiled her boys had stopped using that title now she was just mother. Xena and her were close in their own way, but Cyrene couldn't understand her love of war, but she took comfort in the fact that Xena wanted to be a great warrior like Hercules or join the Amazons.

"She's nothing like her father," Cyrene whispered to reassure herself just as Xena ran in.

"Mom, where's the baskets, Petrocles has come to help." Cyrene smiled. She was not happy that her daughter and Petrocles had found love and they were planning the wedding for that spring. Xena still had her dreams, but she was quite happy to be Petrocles wife even if it meant not being an Amazon, though she hoped to still be a hero anyway. Cyrene knew that naturally she would be more preoccupied with being a wife and a mother soon enough. She had hoped to convince a fifteen-year-old Xena, and an eighteen-year-old Petrocles to wait another year until Xena was at least sixteen, but young lovers never listen. Though secretly Cyrene would have betrothed her to Maphias, he at least would have waited until he was in a financially stable situation and Xena was older better equipped for the duties of wife and mother.

"Good morning Cyrene, great to see you as always," Petrocles greeted. Cyrene smiled at him praying to the Gods to get them apart. She didn't think he was good for Xena and she was sure he certainly didn't like her as much as she didn't like him. She didn't realize how soon her prayer would be answered. It was that spring on their wedding day that Petrocles ran off leaving nothing, but a note.

"He said he's run off to become a warlord," Xena told her mother. She wasn't crying, she couldn't cry. She refused too cry over a man who had lied about loving her. Cyrene looked at her all dressed up in her white dress with flowers in her hair. Xena pulled her knees up and rested her chin on them. "Men are all bastards, you can only trust your brothers." Cyrene sat down as Xena threw her wedding bracelet into the fire.

"Xena men will come and go in your life, you're so young and beautiful and strong. One day I know you will find a man worthy of such a woman as you will be," Cyrene told her.

"Your just trying to make me feel better, I'm ugly, if I can't even get a boy like Petrocles to marry me, who else will?"

"Xena, don't put yourself down, you and I both know you could have anyone in the village, but your heart thought it wanted Petrocles. The fates didn't have it in mind for you to be miserable."

"But I love him, I wouldn't have been miserable."

"Xena, you may have a weakness for the bad boys, but he's lacking a lot. Besides you want to be a hero and he wants to be a warlord, how would that work?" Xena chuckled at the thought.

"I would fight him all the time, and I'll win until he gives up." Cyrene chuckled and rubbed her face.

"Trust me darling when I say he's not the one."

"How will I know whose the one?" Xena asked looking to her mother for an answer.

"You'll just know, Xena, they'll be what keeps you from suffocating, your air. Even if you get raging mad, when its all said it done you'll be lying in each other arms reminding the other how much you love them. He will spoil you and when you have children it will be more than just another milestone of marriage. It'll be well I can't explain what love will feel like when you have child, its not a feeling you can capture with words." Xena smiled.

"I could only wish for such love," Xena told her. "But its not meant to be."

"Xena, you sell yourself short, but with your spirit I have no doubt that you will settle for nothing else, but the best, and the best is love." Xena lay her head on her mother.

"Would it have killed him to tell me to my face before the wedding?"

"No, but Petrocles is a complete coward. You keep your head up and be you. You'll find real love with a real mean not a Petrocles." Xena nodded saving her rage for one day to release on him as payback.

"Watching over warrior babe again?" Aphrodite asked.

"She's no babe anymore Dite," Ares told her as she looked into the mirror.

"I beg to differ bro, warrior babe may not be the babe in the sense I first intended, but she's definitely one smokin' babe." Ares chuckled, but made no comment. "What's she been up too?"

"Petrocles this con artist was all set to marry her and he jumped ship at the last minute to be one of my warlord's. You didn't have anything to do with this Petrocles, did you?"

"No, never, I'd sooner make him love a cow. But if he jumped ship it was a natural infatuation." Aphrodite told him with a nod.

"So Xena's love was natural too?"

"Ares, she's fifteen for the next two years everything is love at her age. Matter of fact she's going to make a fast recovery now that the wool isn't over her eyes for this love mistake. She's already looking the way of Maphias, a guy her mother would like her to fall in love with." Ares made a face.

"I hate the teen years." Aphrodite laughed.

"What so you hated us?"

"No, it is just so deceiving, it even had the Goddess of Love fooled into thinking she could love war." Aphrodite chuckled.

"Ares, I'll always love you, I just mistook it for romantic love, I was still learning back than just as you were. And from our love came a beautiful son, he is how I know what we had was true on some level." Ares looked uncomfortable not trashing love that Aphrodite never took it personally, but knew it wasn't something you just got when you were the God of War. His eyes rested on the mirror again.

"I can't wait to make her Goddess," Ares confided in Aphrodite.

"Zeus forbids it though," Aphrodite told him.

"Zeus forbid me to not interfere with her life as a child."

"And you didn't except for that one incident."

"I told you there was no need, the alcohol took care of it. Why do you think Zeus hasn't been down to kick my ass about that." Aphrodite nodded. " Besides he forbid me away from a mortal child, and she is no child anymore." Aphrodite sighed.

"All right well how do you plan on getting the love of your life."

"She's not the love of my life, I can't love like that, and you know it. Warrior babe is going to be my chosen, for years I couldn't figure out our connection, but she's destined to be my chosen I know it. Well I knew it when I saw how well she learned to fight just from watching her father and I've been training her when she has her mock battles. She senses it too, and that excites me. I'll never know how she does that."

"Lucky you, I have to take twenty minutes to get my chosen's attention," Aphrodite told me. Than she switched attention back to Ares. "But say what you will war god, I know you love her, that's why you never want to let her go."

"I don't love her."

"Aphrodite, I don't want you encouraging emotions that don't exist in the God of War," Zeus told her appearing to them.

"What are you doing here father?" Ares asked angrily. He didn't know why his mother was always mad when Zeus was with his whores at least than he was away from them.

"Just come to see what your up too," Zeus told him turning the mirror around which was now showing a war in progress. "You are still leaving that mortal child alone."

"Yes father," Ares told him tightly.

"Good, I'm watching you," Zeus told him. Ares gritted his teeth as Zeus disappeared.

"Leave me." Aphrodite nodded knowing he was holding back until she left. When she appeared in the Halls of Love she could hear the crashing and breaking of everything in the Halls of War.

"Thanks Maphias it was nice of you to come over and offer comfort," Xena told him. "But I really have to get up to the orphanage I promised the children we'd play kick ball."

"Well why don't I join you?" He asked. Lyceus rolled his eyes annoyed Maphias was now finding every excuse to be in his sister's company, he thought he'd finally get a break since Petrocles had left, but the other boys had wasted no time in moving in on Xena even if they were already promised to someone else. Mothers were angry with Xena more than the boys and told Cyrene that she needed to keep Xena in check. But Xena had done nothing to warrant any attentions than just be beautiful. She almost missed the good days when she was just one of the guys, but things had changed in the last two years. She looked like a woman and most of the girls in the village were still in their awkward phase or hadn't developed at all.

"Hey everybody look at Xena," a girl taunted. Xena had never particularly liked her. It wasn't like she was better than anyone just because her father worked up at the castle. Xena suspected he was a servant and nothing more. Not as important as he made himself out to be. However she never called the girl out on it, her mother had raised her better than that. She also sensed it might cause her some great embarrassment.

"Not now Dhalia," Lyceus told her enraged. Lyceus would never understand why Xena had no trouble beating up boys, but she never stood up for herself when the girls were attacking her. She tried to explain that girls fight differently than boys, and he retaliated with the fact that she didn't attack back in the same manner either.

"Shut up Lyceus no one is talking to you, we're talking to your slut of a sister." Xena noted that most of the girls behind Dhalia had fiancés that were chasing after her since her broken engagement. "That's why Petrocles ran off after all, he didn't want to marry a slut." Xena bit her tongue her only reason for doing so was because her mother had asked her too. Having your mother own a tavern opened the door to a world full of gossip. Xena had dirt on every last one of them and so to be fair Cyrene told to bite her tongue.

"You shut up, Petrocles ran off because he wanted to be a fucking murderer, we're for one glad the bastard left," Maphias told her.

"I bet you are Maphias, I don't know why you're following her around like a love sick puppy, she's nothing to look at, she's ugly. Why would you want someone with such cold eyes and a rough touch." Xena felt that familiar tingle go down her spine and out of habit she turned no longer concerned with Dhalia. "And apparently she's crazy too." They laughed as Xena frowned, turning back towards her.

"Xena has a very gentle touch," Maphias told her. Xena's eyes however could be quite cold when it came to men though with the exception of her brothers and Maphias hoped he too would become an exception. The girls laughed.

"Oh does she now, so the little slut has already given her virginity to Maphias or maybe she gave it first to Petrocles." Xena was very much still a virgin and all the adults knew it. However the anger they felt at her for stealing all the boys as they said prompted them to spread lies. "She's just like her mother, a whore, Lyceus isn't even her father's son, and everyone knows it." Xena fists clenched in anger Dhalia had crossed the line.

"I did no such thing Dhalia," Xena told her finally speaking. "And I don't appreciate you making remarks that I was dishonest before marriage like you. And you know what I don't like even more is that your insinuating that Lyceus and I don't share the same father. My mother is not a whore, you should be holding her on a fucking pedal stool you bitch!" Dhalia looked frightened at the fire Xena had just let out of her. Xena had to be held back by Maphias and her brother. Although she wasn't struggling to get to Dhalia they knew just how quick Xena could be if she decided that you needed to be whooped thoroughly. Dhalia however was too stupid not to back down. She laughed.

"You don't like it well too bad its time you heard the truth."

"Shut up Dhalia," Maphias warned he had heard all the rumors and he knew where she was going to try and make her cry.

"Your mother is a whore, she slept with someone in her tavern and your father walked in on them."

"Shut up Dhalia!" Lyceus yelled using all his strength not to hit a girl his mother had raised him better than that, however Xena was a girl and he let her go hoping she'd head straight for Dhalia, but he saw she hadn't lost all control yet. And he hoped yet was the key word.

"No," Dhalia told him. "Its time you two bastards heard the truth."

"Dhalia shut up, I'm warning you," Maphias told her gripping a little tighter around Xena and bracing himself.

"That's why your father left just like Petrocles, because your mother was fucking someone else when he wasn't home. Your family is one of whores I wouldn't be surprised if you weren't your father's daughter, that's why he hated you." The words rang through the clearing. "That's right he tried to kill you, he hates you Xena, because you're just like your mother a whore and worst of all your not his daughter!" Maphias couldn't hold her as she forced him off her. Before anyone could blink she had punched Dhalia in the nose and was choking her with both hands on the ground.

"You bitch don't you ever repeat that again, its not true, its not true and you know it!" Xena yelled. "My Daddy loved us and he will come back! And don't you ever call my mother a whore again, she would never sink to your level!" Lyceus and Maphias managed to pull off of Dhalia whose air pipe was crushed. Xena realizing she had probably killed Dhalia ran away not because she was afraid that she'd killed her, but because she wondered how much of the rumor was true. All rumors were based on some form of truth after all.

"Xena what's wrong?" Torres asked. He was tending to the horses. Xena didn't even notice him as she saddled her faithful horse Argo and rode out of the barn and out of the village for her grandmother's home in Cavalla, which was located in Thrace.

"Xena!" Torres called after her just as Cyrene came out to check on him.

"Torres where is your sister off too in such a hurry, I thought she was going to play with the orphans?" Cyrene asked.

"I thought so too, she just ran in, in tears. Something must have really got to her to make her so upset, you know how hard it is to make her cry." Cyrene nodded her agreement. "Go find Lyceus he'll know what's wrong if we don't." Torres nodded, but he was saved the run as Lyceus appeared looking worried.

"Where did Xena go?" Lyceus asked. They shrugged.

"She just took off on Argo."

"I'll never catch her," Lyceus said annoyed as he caught his breath.

"What happen, why is Xena so upset?" Cyrene asked. At her question Lyceus tensed up and his fists clinched.

"Well we'll just say that Dhalia finally got what she deserved, I don't think I ever want to repeat the things she said to us, you'll have to ask Maphias if you really want to hear, but I for one hope that bitch dies." Cyrene now worried hurried for the healers along with Torres. Lyceus merely followed in hopes he could watch Dhalia die.

"What happen?" Cyrene asked the healer as Dhalia's mother cried over her daughter while Lyceus looked on very pleased.

"Someone crushed her wind pipe, she's got a perfect handprint around her neck. Luckily we can put the murderer to justice if we just match the hand print up." Lyceus frowned slightly he didn't think about his sister going to jail and yet he strangely still felt Dhalia deserved to die.

"Why would you want to find the person who did it?" Lyceus told him. "If you ask me the person did us all a favor by getting rid of that whore."

"Cyrene you take your bastard son away, how dare he say such a horrid thing about my daughter!" Dhalia's mother screamed. Cyrene took Lyceus away and for the first time she saw him as cruel.

"Lyceus what has gotten into you, you never thought taking someone's life was a good thing."

"Mom, he's just angry right now," Torres told her after he came from talking to Maphias. He was angry now at the words that had come from Dhalia's mouth and he no longer had any remorse for her. "Let's get back to the tavern."

"What did Maphias say?" Cyrene asked.

"Nothing mother, nothing at all," Torres told her. "He wouldn't tell me, said he couldn't bare to say what she did. Said we'd have to ask Xena or Lyceus."

"Well Xena will tell us." Torres nodded, but he highly doubted Xena could bring herself to say those things in front of their mother. He also knew that Xena was hurt, most rumors were based on some type of assumed truth. But he didn't know if he would ever say their father ever hated Xena more it was her gender, well until she killed their half-brother.

"Mother, you might want to think about telling Xena the truth about Father."

"No, she loves him too much," Cyrene told him. "He'll never come back to prove otherwise, so let her keep her good memories and forget the bad. And you should too." Torres nodded.

"Who will never come back?" Lyceus asked.

"No one," Cyrene answered. "Let's just hope Xena comes back before dark." They nodded.

"Xena are you all right?" Cyrene asked when she came back late one night after being gone for three weeks. Xena had begged her grandmother not to send Cyrene a scroll and she had protected her. It had been refreshing to be away from Amphipolis and its people.

"I'm fine, I just went to visit grandmother."

"Three weeks and you couldn't send a message, I even sent her scroll asking if you had come there, I was worried you had been kidnapped and sold as a slave."

"That would never happen, I had my sword and Argo."

"Yes, but your not a well trained warrior Xena."

"Yeah, anyway I just came for a few things I'm going to go live with grandmother for awhile." Cyrene hugged her.

"You can talk to me Xena, you know that."

"I know, mother, but I can't stay here, I have to go away just for awhile." Cyrene nodded. If Xena needed space to get over whatever was bothering her than Cyrene would allow her that. Xena didn't tell her, her grandmother planned on taking her to Crete like she was supposed too. She would let her know they were in Crete in one of her letters home. "I promise to write."

"All I ask and that you keep up your studies." Xena nodded before going upstairs to pack. She would depart back to Cavalla in the morning.

"So you're just leaving?" Lyceus asked in the morning when she came out of her room.

"No, I'm going to visit Grandmother, I'll be back in a few weeks I'm still very angry with Dhalia."

"That bitch is dead, you don't have to worry about her anymore." Xena tensed but more at the carefree way her brother announced her death as if Xena had done something great rather than murder.

"I killed her?" The words sounded foreign on her tongue. Lyceus nodded. "You should hate me, you shouldn't idolize me." Lyceus shook his head.

"I follow you every where dear sister, so I am coming with you to grandmother."

"Please Lyceus don't follow me there, I really need to be on my own." Lyceus sighed and nodded.

"Don't think too much into her death, she isn't worth your guilt. Villains come in all shapes and sizes. We'll be the heroes we dream of becoming. Whether or not you run off and join the amazons or not." Xena hugged her brother.

"Never murder," Xena told him. "Stay innocent." He nodded knowing she felt bad, but he was confident that Xena would be back to practice with him in a few weeks and unconcerned about how Dhalia's death had come about.

"You'll see it my way one day," Lyceus told her. "You'll see."

"Somehow I don't think I will," Xena told him. "But I love you anyway."

"I love you anyway too." They squeezed each other's hand before they parted. She hugged Torres, she saw while he was leaning towards agreeing with Lyceus he understood. Xena said goodbye to her mother.

"Hang on Xena, I packed you some food supplies. It's a long way to Cavalla." Cyrene had never in her life sent her children anywhere unprepared unless of course they rushed off into the night. She had even repacked Xena's bags noticing there were more clothes than the usual couple of weeks stay. However she said nothing, Xena always came back home no matter how long she stayed away.

"Thanks mom," Xena told her as Cyrene placed it in her saddlebags.

"While your there why don't you ask your grandmother to give your cooking lessons a try." Xena chuckled. Cyrene smiled happy that Xena still chuckled when she teased her about her cooking, which had more to do with an incident when she was five more than her actual cooking. Cyrene wished desperately Xena was a little girl again in her arms and the outside world didn't matter. It was just them together as mother and daughter and the kitchen making all kinds of treats. Atrius of course denied the activity to her with Torres, but when he wasn't around Torres freely joined them and they were all happy. Now ever since the incident she felt like none of them were ever truly happy. Atrius had left his mark on them all whether they knew it or not, and Lyceus was an impressionable child took on their mood.

"Safe journey Xena," Torres told her. "Keep watch for bandits."

"And if you do run into bandits take one out especially for me and rob them, see how they like it." Xena laughed.

"Always with the jokes."

"Always," He told her. They were walking to the barn with her, so they could see her off like they would do if any of them were going away for however long when the villagers met them. The magistrate was at the head with Dhalia's mother.

"What's wrong?" Cyrene asked.

"You sending your murdering daughter away so she can attempt to escape justice," Dhalia's mother told her. "I know it was her, it's always her, she's been nothing but trouble since the day she arrived in the known world."

"Look lady this isn't a scroll, nothing that bad has happened to the village since my sister has been born," Torres told her defending Xena. "And she didn't murder your whore."

"Than why did she disappear so soon after she attacked my daughter."

"She hit Dhalia, but our grandmother was sick, mother sent her off without asking questions until she noticed something else was going on. Otherwise she would have waited if Xena had anything to do with Dhalia."

"Well we're here now." The magistrate looked at Xena. "Xena of Amphipolis you are being charged with murder, how do you plead?"

"Not guilty," Xena told him without hesitation, her eyes cold. But they warmed at the sight of some faces, she could plainly see that they were only around to find the truth not blame her without proof even though she did do it.

"There's no way my daughter crushed her wind pipe," Cyrene told the magistrate. "She's simply not strong enough." Cyrene was well aware that Xena had displaced moments of abnormal strength throughout her childhood after her return, but otherwise was about as strong as she was if not stronger from all the training.

"Healer bring forth the sheet." On the sheet was a handprint from Dhalia's neck. "This was taken from Dhalia's neck before we proceed with a formal trial if we need one, now just see if the print matches." Xena put her hand out and to her and her brother's surprise as well as Maphias the prints did not match, they were much bigger.

"She's a witch!" Dhalia's mother exclaimed angrily. Everyone had said it was Xena, but the prints didn't match.

"Shut up, for years now its been rumor after rumor, you quieted down before Petrocles decided to become a murderer, I'm for one thankful he didn't marry her and we'd have more than one of our own associated with murderers. Look its just too bad that Maphias didn't want to marry Dhalia and decided to try his luck with Xena."

"Oh like you weren't right beside me talking as well."

"I can humor you if I choose too."

"Shut up both of you, your both full of crap," Miss Carroll told them. "You all should be ashamed of yourselves for all the malicious gossip you had circulating around the town and spreading it to your daughters. Xena has done nothing except be herself and you need to accept the fact she's beautiful and until she's got another ring on her finger they will keep chasing."

"Fine well we should just marry her to Maphias right now," A woman said.

"No!" Cyrene exclaimed before Xena could and to her surprise. She was under the impression that her mother wanted her to marry Maphias. "You're not going to marry my daughter off because those boys want to chase after her. When Xena gets married it will be of a husband of her choosing whether or not I favor him." Cyrene had decided a long time ago that Xena deserved to choose her own husband and she would resign herself to making suggestions and nudging her in a more favorable direction.

"Fine, Xena why don't you tell your mother you would like to marry Maphias, you've already slept with him at his own admission according to the girls." Everyone looked shocked.

"I did no such thing," Xena told her angrily. "And no I will not marry Maphias, he's my friend, but I love him like a brother. Now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to my sick grandmother if we're done here magistrate."

"Yes, Xena we're done, I'm sorry we had to do this your such a good daughter. Try and forget about all this at your grandmother's." Xena nodded as he patted her head. The villagers left and they went to the barn where Torres and Lyceus saddled Argo while Cyrene took Xena to the tavern for a quick breakfast.

"Eat up." Xena nodded though she wasn't particular hungry. "I love you, you know that right?" Xena nodded again. "And we'll talk if you're ready when you return, okay."

"Okay mom."

"Xena please protect yourself well, you know I get anxious when you guys travel alone."

"I know mom, I've got my sword, and I've made the trip a thousand times before." Cyrene kissed her forehead.

"I know dear. You're my only daughter and I hate when we're apart."

"Yeah, I do too, but I need to get away."

"I know, and that's the only reason I'm letting you go." Xena was relieved when she finally got out of Amphipolis, but not without hearing Dhalia's mother comment that she would be back with a bastard child of either Maphias or Petrocles. Xena ignored her and rode off. Her grandmother had cautioned her that a few months away would do the town good, without her around the boys would go back to the girls they had been ignoring and hopefully get married in the time she was gone.

"Grandmother what's in Crete?" Xena asked as they sailed.

"We're not going to Crete."

"We're not?" Xena asked looking confused. Despite years being on earth, her grandmother still had smooth skin and only looked maybe twenty years older than her own mother. She only hoped that she could age as beautifully as she had. The only thing that gave away her grandmother's age was her white hair, but on closer inspection Xena noticed that she was a platinum blond unlike her, she was the direct opposite.

"No, you know my grandmother took me to where we're going at your age, I too had a tremendous beauty that the others couldn't handle."

"Your still beautiful Grandmother I could only hope to age as well as you."

"Nonsense we have the same blood therefore you will age beautifully."

"The place where we're going, did my mother go?" Xena asked.

"Yes, but you don't talk about it with your daughter, some day Xena, you will take your granddaughter to this place."

"I doubt it, warriors don't have a good life span."

"Ah yes that's true, but you my dear are very different."

"Different," Xena muttered with disgust. "Why am I always different?"

"Everyone is different Xena, someone like you does not the walk the path of others, you make your own path and they follow you. You were born to be a leader and that is what you shall be. You have beauty and skill."

"Maybe so, but we both know I'll just end up a housewife, I'm such an idiot, look at the way I fell for Petrocles." Her grandmother chuckled.

"Xena, that will pass, your nearly sixteen, when your at this age everything is love."

"Everything?"

"Yes, soon when your older you won't be so quick to jump the broom."

"Who's to say I won't get married in the next year before I change."

"No, not you, darling it'll take a special man to really win your heart, and he's not here." As soon as those words left her mouth a tingle went down Xena's spine.

"Yeah not here."

"In any case you'll love Lesbos."

"Lesbos, but that's an island full of women."

"That's the point dear."

"I don't get it, I'm at a loss."

"Darling, there are several things to do on Lesbos, become sexually free or just relax and take a break from reality and men."

"Which one have you brought me here for?" Xena asked.

"That's for you to discover as time passes by."

"Which one did my mother choose?"

"That's for you to ask her on your return. As her mother I chose not to know what she did the first time she came. I was with her the second time, so I know." Xena nodded. Soon they found themselves in Lesbos everyone was very relaxed and in heaven. Xena's body immediately relaxed to mirror the atmosphere.

"You're a little tense allow me to take your bags miss," The man told her. She handed him her bags. Another man came and started on a massage where she stood.

"Oh thanks, but I really need to rest before I look around." They nodded and led her to her room.

"We are here for you to do with as you wish, call us if you need anything." He stressed the word anything. They left out and she fell back onto the bed in exhaustion, perhaps she would be able to sleep that night, she wasn't sure. She unknowingly dropped off in the middle of her thought and when she awoke it was nighttime. Xena fully expected a wilder nightlife, but everything was calm and quiet as she walked around enjoying the night air. She had a little dinner before going back to bed and wondered where her grandmother had gotten off before deciding it was probably in her best interest to let her grandmother find her less she see something she would rather not.

"How are you enjoying yourself so far?" Xena jumped in her seat. Her grandmother was the only person that had ever been able to sneak up on her and get a sufficient reaction out of her.

"Great, the food is awesome, the night relaxing and quiet so I sleep very well, the beds are absolutely exquisite, I've met some Amazons and they've been training me for the pass few weeks, they say I'm very advanced for someone with no formal training. It's nice to have names to put to moves now though. But what I like best about the training is the tree climbing, they've been teaching me." Her grandmother smiled. She was glad to see a smile on Xena's face again. She hadn't seen one so genuine since before her father had come back for the last time. Naturally Cyrene had told her the entire truth. She was after all her mother and she needed her comfort after making her swear never to tell Xena the whole truth.

"So you haven't sampled the men."

"Grandmother, I'm suppose to remain a virgin until marriage."

"Old traditions this is the new age, a woman should be entitled to be just as free as any man without being called a whore, Xena. Even your mother I'm sure lost hers before she married your father."

"So what they said at the village was true."

"No, no your mother is not that kind of woman Xena, it happened before she was engaged. When your mother met your father she had eyes for him alone and every other man disappeared off the face of the earth until she started her tavern. What you do when you're not in a relationship is your business granddaughter. Its when you hurt the person you claim to love that it becomes a huge problem."

"I don't know grandmother I don't think I'm comfortable with losing my virginity before marriage."

"Maybe not now, but you'll meet someone and everything will change." Xena shook her head as her grandmother left again. Xena supposed she wouldn't see her again for another few weeks. Xena grabbed her sword and a snack for lunch before taking a ride out into the forest. She was riding when she felt a tingle go down her spine and another more familiar feeling usually recognized by her unconsciously. Something in Xena snapped though the feeling seemed to appear nearly every time she attempted to steal a few moments alone and it was as if she was never alone. She pulled the reins of her horse to a stop. She pulled out her sword and got down going to the river edge. Naturally the presence was directly behind her, watching her.

"Yah!" She swung and her sword hit steel to her amazement, but she fought whoever her invisible opponent was. She used every sense except her sight, which was obviously impaired to protect herself, she was wearing no armor and one false move would not only ruin her favorite white dress, but also take her life.

"Who's there!" Xena yelled. "I know your there, so why don't you face me instead of acting like a coward and hiding under your invisibility spell."

"You've improved since I've last seen you," Ares told her. Xena turned her sword up and to his neck. His voice made her knees buckle, but they held steady. The man before her was gorgeous, a complete Adonis. She had never met anyone as handsome as him in her life.

"Who are you, and why are you always watching me?"

"Oh Xena, I am the God that saved you after your birth." Xena's eyes lit up.

"The God of War," she whispered. He had a sexy grin displayed across his face.

"Yes, the one and only, and you my dear are going to be my chosen."

"No thanks, I don't fight to wage war. I wish to protect my family not slay millions."

"Oh Xena, you never know what you want until you try it." He brushed a hair out her face carefully. He had waited to do the act for so long. He wanted to take her into his arms, but he forced himself not too. Xena shivered under his touch and he pulled his hand back immediately thinking he had hurt her already.

"Maybe, but I'm sure on this matter, I'm sorry you've wasted your time wanting me as a chosen."

"No, no," Ares told her. " I haven't wasted anything. But its time for you young lady to be trained by me." Xena was thrilled with the idea of being taught by the God of War, but he still wanted her as his chosen.

"No, I can't be your chosen." Ares controlled his anger he had been expecting her to just willingly come. However looking into her soul he saw her darkness hadn't been nurtured nearly enough for him to be convincing and effective.

"No deals, all you have to do is train, nothing more and nothing less." Xena nodded trusting him. What was a few more years to wait and in the mean time he would train her.

"All right I will train with you."

"Good, we can get started than together." He loved the way together rolled off his tongue when he was talking about her. Xena nodded.

"Not today, I have to get back." Xena sheathed her sword and back flipped onto her horse, a trick she had been working on the pass few weeks. Ares was slightly impressed as she galloped off. Xena hid in her room under the covers for the rest of the day. The two men who had greeted her checked on her frequently and often.

"Sam."

"Yes?" He asked slightly hopeful, but he had become a friend. He may as well have been trying to get wet wood to catch fire.

"Do you think that if a girl met somebody she was really attracted too…"

"That she could give herself to him without fear of what would happen if her husband knew on their wedding night?" Xena nodded.

"But not his reaction, but more morally."

"Look Xe, every girl's path is different, for some girls it's for them to wait. And than there are people like us, who are not conformers."

"I conform, you must have me mistaken."

"No, I don't your just still trapped in your little shell. Don't worry in due time how you were raised and what you've learned will live in harmony. You'll learn to use your sex appeal to your advantage."

"Sex appeal?"

"Wow I didn't realize you were so behind or I would have forced you out at night long before now, child doesn't even know how sexy she is. All right come on get up."

"Wait so you think I should lose my virginity."

"Its not that I think you should its just I expect you'll find someone you feel you can be that vulnerable with. To be honest put it this way no matter the age of the guy you marry he'll expect you to sleep with him that night whether your ready or not. At least while you're here if you feel your ready lose it on your own terms not his. It doesn't have to be this time, it could even be the next time. Knowing your family you'll be at least eighteen before they attempt to marry you off."

"No, my mother says I can get married when I want."

"Good for you I expect several more visits out of you than." Xena smiled and hugged him. "Now come on time to try the night life." He dressed Xena in a tight and revealing top and short skirt. Xena felt like the wind was knocked out of her when she saw herself in the mirror.

"Oh Gods, Sam who is that?" She asked pointing in the mirror. "Wait does this mean I like women?" Sam laughed.

"No, that means you love yourself, honey maybe you should think about staying away from a mirror when someone else is in the room." Xena nodded as she turned to survey herself.

"I look sexy Sam."

"Yes, you do," Sam told her straightening her skirt.

"Is this what other people see."

"Yes, but with more clothes, I think tomorrow night I want to dress you in leather."

"Whatever as long as I look gorgeous."

"Honey you'd look gorgeous in a brown sack I guarantee it. Now come on." Xena nodded lightly. He took her into the forest to another building after putting a silver mask that just covered her eyes. Xena was surprised to see the place full of all the people she had gotten to know during the day except maybe other girls who were visiting for the first time, but than she spotted a few. There were all types of sexual relationships going on with no inhibitions, though they retired before any real fun started.

"Dance with me?" A man asked. He was kind of cute and attracted Xena. She nodded noting he was older than her. He put his cup down after draining the rest of the contents. Xena stood in front of him confused about how she was supposed to dance. He taught her to dance and she was moving her body soon just like everyone else if not still a little awkwardly. The weirdest part for her was being sandwiched between two hot guys who never touched her too inappropriately, but she suppose the line of inappropriate was a little thicker on Lesbos.

"First time?" He asked her.

"Yes," Xena answered as they were getting some air in the gardens.

"So you're a virgin."

"Yes," Xena said a little taken aback. No one was conservative on Lesbos after weeks in their company you think she would be use to it.

"So your looking to get rid of it I suppose."

"Well I haven't made that decision yet."

"Well let me help sway you to losing it." He kissed her almost roughly, but he became gentle seeming to realize it. Xena however was already turned off by his rough kiss. It was drunken and sloppy.

"Xena!" She pushed him away and turned to see her grandmother in a dress that was not nearly as revealing as what she was wearing.

"Grandmother."

"Come here Xena, women in our family do not lose our virginity with the drunk."

"I wasn't not with him," Xena told her walking over as she put an arm around her shoulder. Like her grandmother Xena was tall and no where near gangly, but very graceful.

"Good, now come on, its late you should be sleeping, its nearly dawn." Xena blinked at her.

"Is it really?" Xena asked. "Your not going to tell mother I was out all night are you?"

"Xena relax, relax if she knew we were here she'd expect it. Well maybe not from you, you've been forcing yourself to conform all these years."

"No, don't tell her, I don't want her to ever know I came here."

"Okay, okay stop panicking." Her Grandmother didn't judge her that was what Xena loved about her. "I remember my first night out, I too didn't want my mother to know."

"Did she find out?"

"Of course she did, but by that time I didn't care anymore. I had a husband and children just like she wanted."

"I miss Grandfather."

"Yeah he did have some qualities worth missing."

"You didn't love him," Xena observed turning to look at her grandmother.

"He was my husband of course I loved him."

"Than what was the problem?"

"Your grandfather became a better person by the time you were born, but he was a hard man to live with before that, that's all. I didn't like the way he married your mother off or her sisters. And your Uncle died young."

"How did he marry mother off?" Xena asked.

"Your father was a warrior in every sense. He raised hell like no other, and your grandfather love it. So one day he decided that your father needed a wife and threw Cyrene at him and said here she's yours."

"But mother loved him."

"Well yes eventually, not at first, don't be fooled she was all tears. She was thirteen when he did that and there was nothing I could do. Lucky for her the engagement had to last a few years because of a war with the Trojans. So she was eighteen when Atrius returned. By than she was prepared to marry him, I'll never forget the day she fell in love with him to my relief."

"Did father love her?" Xena asked.

"Yes, I think he did back than, when he looked at her, I saw him show emotion genuine emotion. What convinced me was when he took a year off war to spend with her after their marriage."

"How long had they been married when Torres was born?"

"Three years, after that first year and a miscarriage, Atrius chose not to get her pregnant."

"Why?"

"He wanted to preserve her life. Atrius loved Cyrene and didn't even want to think about marrying another woman for the sake of sons."

"What changed?" Xena asked. "Why did he hate me so much?"

"He didn't hate you."

"Grandmother." Her grandmother sighed as they reached her room. Xena followed her inside with no intention of going to her own room. Her grandmother sat down on the recliner in her room, and Xena sat on the floor under her. Her grandmother naturally rubbed her head.

"He didn't hate you Xena, not after he got use too you."

"I don't understand. He had Torres why couldn't he just accept me from the beginning."

"He thought of Torres as weak."

"Torres isn't weak, he's one of the strongest people I know."

"I know, but you see Torres spent most of his time in Cyrene's company, she was raising him not Atrius. Cyrene loves Torres as much as she loves you and Lyceus. She had waited three years and through a miscarriage for a child. She showered him with love when Atrius wasn't around. Atrius wanted her to show him tough love or really no love at all."

"He wanted Torres to be a warrior." Her grandmother nodded.

"Yes, he did, he wanted to dedicate him to Ares and if Cyrene had died I have no doubt your brother would be dead right now in a senseless war." Xena suddenly remembered her meeting with Ares, but chose to keep the incident to herself. "But thank the Gods Torres turned into a loving boy, but he was a source of tension between the two. Cyrene is fiercely protective of you children, she loved you more than she did her own husband, and they both realized that soon after Torres was born."

"So strange that someone they both wanted and love would be such a source of tension. I guess I didn't help matters either."

"No, but just talk of your gender didn't help, Cyrene had always wanted a daughter back than. That's what she didn't like about the match between her and Atrius. She would have been happier with someone who didn't mind having a daughter to go along with his sons. Someone who would love you much more than your father did."

"So he did love me?"

"More than he cared to admit, but that was after he attempted to sacrifice you."

"How was I saved?"

"No one knows, Xena to be honest we think the God of War has his eye on you. That's why it makes your mother anxious when you practice with a sword, but you comfort her slightly when you and Lyceus tell tales of how you'll protect the innocent or you'll join the Amazons who are ruled by Artemis."

"She doesn't like the God of war."

"No."

"How did I get back home?"

"Atrius didn't say, but according to Cyrene one night after another argument about what they both though he had done to you, you were just there with Atrius. And he told her to be thankful that the God of War had saved your life. He gave you to her before he left for a year."

"Doesn't sound like he warmed up to me. Maybe I was naïve"

"No, no Xena, it was that year he came back. You took one look at him and called him Da da. That was the day he began to let you in even a little. You had him wrapped around your finger to a certain extent, I imagine if he were still here, you'd have finished wrapping him around your finger by now. Your father was much to stubborn to admit that he did love you after all despite your gender."

"Oh, he got me such lovely presents though."

"Yes, I know. But I won't lie and say that he loved you so much that all the fighting and tension stopped. It got worse between them. He didn't treat you perfectly Xena, and it broke our hearts to see you love him so much without even a second thought to what he did."

"I always thought that, that's what fathers do to their daughters."

"No, there's a fine difference between love and mistreatment."

"So why didn't mother just have another baby to placate him, had Lyceus come earlier, maybe he would have been nicer and Torres wouldn't have had to prepare to run away because he didn't wish to fight."

"Maybe, but your parents had fallen out of love by than. They had become two different people over the years stronger in their beliefs and wants."

"If their marriage was over by the time I was seven, how did she get pregnant with Lyceus."

"Something about her and your father drinking too much when she was trying one last time to make it work," her Grandmother lied. "He's definitely your father's son, so don't listen to all those horrid rumors. Lyceus looks just like him, so I don't know how they could say such crap."

"Except his hair, mother says Torres and I have his hair."

"Yes, you do."

"I remember mother telling me that he went off to war and than on my birthday that he had left us, that was after he brought a mistress home. I don't remember much of what happens after that."

"Yes, he did bring a another woman to the tavern, she was pregnant with twins. A son and a daughter, but they all died in childbirth. He was upset and left the next day."

"So he wanted that daughter I suppose."

"No, he was upset about the son."

"If he wanted a son so bad again, why has he never come back to see Lyceus."

"Because Xena, he has abandoned our family. He's not the man some of us thought he could be."

"Do you know where he is?" Xena asked.

"No, maybe one day you'll run into him, but only by fate's hand. Now go get some sleep. I'm surprised you haven't fallen out after your first night." Xena chuckled.

"Good morning grandmother." She kissed her cheek before she hurried out to her own room where Sam was sleepily turning down the bed.

"Good morning," He told her.

"Morning Sam," Xena told him yawning as the other servant took off her sandals. She went behind the screen and undressed before putting on her nightgown. She jumped into bed and Sam pulled the covers over her.

"See you tonight." Xena nodded as she sank comfortably into the white feather bed. She felt like she was lying on a soft fluffy cloud and she never wanted to get up.

"I believe your looking for me." Xena nodded. "You know it's quicker if you just call me."

"I didn't think you would answer."

"Oh I'll always answer you Xena." He rubbed her face and she leaned into his touch. "Did you have fun last week?" Xena seemed slightly alarmed that he knew about that week of all the night parties though she was still a virgin, and probably the only virgin in the entire party she was sure. She didn't understand why she just couldn't pick someone and get it over with. "Oh yes I know all about it."

"Stop spying on me, it makes me uncomfortable," Xena told him leaving no room for argument. Ares put his hands up as if defensive as he laughed.

"I'll give you some privacy, if you want it."

"I do," Xena said as a shiver ran through her body at the way that his breath seemed to caress her ear.

"Well than why don't we get started on that training."

"No."

"No?" Ares asked. He separated from her, so he could look at her with a clear head. "Why, what do you mean no?"

"I said no, I don't want to train with you."

"You seemed eager at our last meeting."

"Well I'm not anymore, and I would rather die than be trained by the God of war." Ares was livid and almost struck her, but something internal that went deeper than his anger stopped him. "I cannot and will not train with you and if your not going to kill me your just going to have to accept that." Xena ran off and she was relieved when he didn't follow.


Author's Note: Sorry it took soooooooooo long but here it is Part III