Disclaimer. This story contains violence, as well as love between two adult women.

Disclaimer. The Xena Warrior Princess series and its characters are all copyrighted property of MCA/universal

Disclaimer. This story is based on When Fates Collide and is set in an Alternate Universe.

PROLOGUE

"And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty, and beauty stayed his hand."

I've heard that line a thousand times, yet I've never understood its meaning not until now. How I perceived everything was wrong I had it all backwards. I believed monsters could destroy you, I believed that they could consume you and in part that's right. Its just she has consumed me but not in the way I ever thought possible. I'm afraid, I'm terrified and yet as I stand here watching her pace in that manner she does when something's bothering her, when I'm here with her I feel that I'm home. I now need to go in to the room I have so much to say and I haven't even begun. They say that taking the first step is easy yet I'm finding this so hard. She's fought me all the way right from the very beginning no one has ever fought me so much and I confess she's been a pain in the ass at times. She can be stubborn, difficult and she says just what she feels but I guess that's why I'm so attracted to her.

She wants to fight to survive to be someone, she survives despite being what she is she endures despite all that's put on her shoulders and she sees the world in a way I could never envision. Gods I love her and I need to tell her, I watch her in the light of her room I know I want to be with her for the rest of my life. I've never been so sure of anything in my life. We were both forced in to positions of power with out our consent and have been forced to make very difficult choices. Those choices have shaped us and moulded us both in ways we don't wish and cannot change. I feel for the first time in a long time that the things are crystal clear like a water spring in the early morning light. All this began some time ago when I took a long walk in the darkness one night and found something I shouldn't have, which changed everything.

In the Central Palace of Corinth six months ago

Betrayal it's a word I've come to know very well in these past five years, it's a word that fills me with self loathing and doubt. My name is Xena and I'm the ruler of Greece. I own every part of it from Sparta to Crete and right up to Thrace, everything beyond that used to be mine but not anymore, not since my betrayal. I was a fool I believed in the nobility of Julius Caesar he was my husband and I loved him. We both ruled Rome and the whole of Greece together for six years I was Empress. I was a fool for trusting him and for loving him and not seeing the truth, which was that I was his wife for no more than reason that I held peace over Greece.

He always intended to kill me, my death would have meant that Greece would have been his but he failed. I saw the truth and saw my destiny I saw the hired gladiator who had been sent to my room to kill me. He didn't live to talk about his actions, no I made sure that he died in that room but not before he told me the truth, which was that my death had to be made to look like an accident so my husband could take full control of Greece. Caesar forgot my back ground I was a warrior long before I was ruler, I was never a decadent spoilt roman wife. Though I may have dressed like one at times I still trained as a warrior and kept my skills sharp. I had to make a hard choice that night and I made it an ultimate act of revenge, I made sure that he died by my hand.

It wasn't a good death for him, the drop from the balcony was long and dark and his skull cracked open when he hit the ground. I'm not proud of what I did. I believe in honour and using my skills to save others and to help those who ask for it. Julius Caesar and I built this united world together as a couple and it all fell apart in an illusion and a lie. I had no choice but to flee Rome I could never rule Rome, as women cannot seat the throne, only a man chosen by the Roman senate can do so. It's true I could have stayed around to watch a new Caesar take the throne. I would never have been Empress again though and I feared that I'd never know peace, I'd be forever be looking over my shoulder for the next person trying to kill me.

I could have dealt with it but I saw no life in it, so I came back to Greece which was always mine Rome has no power over my country. I united this land through good deeds and I gave my soul to make it great, I didn't conquer it, I brought it together through diplomacy. I am now its Empress or at least that's what they call me. I should be happy I have control over my people and their happy but deep down I'm not happy. I find myself feeling so alone in side the very walls of my own palace. There is not a single Roman inside these walls their all Greek men and women, but despite that it changes nothing I don't trust any of them fully.

I treat them well but keep them all at arms length, there are no slaves here slavery is illegal through out my whole land. I guess I'm just unhappy and depressed because I feel so alone here. I don't have friends and I can't really make friends here. I guess that's why I find myself here alone in my room drinking to take away the unhappiness. I have never let anyone see me drunk I always keep it to myself I can't afford for them to see my weakness. When they saw my weakness in Rome it nearly caused my death, I must be strong they must never see my pain or know how I truly feel about being alone. Four years have passed since I left Rome and I feel like I'm just going through the motions now. I have no hire and my throne here is not secure.

Ever since I got here I've had to push away the advances of nobles who want power, my not having a child is another weakness and they know this. I wish I could conceive gods knows I've tried but I have not been able to get pregnant and that makes me even more depressed I have no child and no one really loves me in the way I'd like. After I killed my husband I never wanted another relationship I won't lie though since my return to Greece I've had sex with many noble men and women but it always felt dissatisfying and hollow like there was nothing really there. Maybe that's why I gave up that need for sex to satisfy myself a year after returning because I realized it didn't give me anything and it didn't make me happy.

I know that none of those who lay in my bed loved or cared for me they just wanted to ether boast about their time with me or they did it because they wanted something from me. Gods I'm bored, bored of everything I need to take a walk to clear my mind. I don't go around my own palace much and now feels like a good time to do so. Xena slowly got to her feet pushing her empty goblet aside she could feel the alcohol sinking in to her senses. She breathed in ignoring it as she walked out of her lavish study slamming the door behind her. It was dark and there were candle lit all around the halls to light passages but there was little or no movement or sound apart from the royal guards boots hitting the soft carpets as they did there rounds.

She began to walk through the long corridors not really caring where she was going it was very late at night and all her servants were in bed for the most part. She took in a deep breath walking down the long steps in to the outside courtyard. Despite all the glory of her palace with its white pillars and beautiful gardens and beautiful fountains and statues it felt like a tomb, a tomb which she was dying in slowly. She didn't go out much anymore and she did all her official business in her study or she used main throne room. She did the meetings and the parties though when need be but it was more to keep the people whose kingdoms she owned happy. Not because she cared for their company she just played the good hostess as was custom because it was expected of her.

She looked up catching a glimpse of the moon which was high in the sky and so far out of her reach. She breathed in painfully walking towards the old dungeon which had been out of use for a while. Three months ago someone had once again being hung outside her palace for trying to assassinate her in broad daylight in her own palace the betrayer had been some one who she had been part of her palace staff. A professional named Yet and he was insane but brilliant at covering his tracks and playing his role perfectly, it would have been a perfect hit she'd had her back turned she wouldn't have seen it coming if not for his reflection in a shield on the wall. She'd heard that he was good and he was she hadn't even heard his dagger leave its scabbard.

She'd missed the strike but what had brought him to his knees was a crossbow bolt in his knee. She knew who had sent him he was one of the three identical triplets the other was Jace who was a flamboyant warrior and a masochist. The leader though and the constant thorn in her side was Joxer the warlord king so to speak. She hated him, she'd never been able to find his hide out and she'd give anything to kill that bastard. He was constantly hitting regions of Greece and pillaging. He had no interest in slavery but he liked gold and he was happy to raid temples of the gods and kill anyone who got in his way, for two years she'd put up with him stealing from her people.

Some how she'd hoped that the public hanging of his youngest brother would get his attention and bring him in to the open. Of course she should have known better he was the thinker of the three, it was one of the reasons he was in charge. Because he was the strategists unlike the other two who were pure killers. She opened the metal creaking door to the dungeons watching as the young guard close by looked up the certainty in his eyes. "Empress?" She eased up her hand. "I'm just walking, there's no need to be concerned." The guard breathed in deeply. "But walking down here alone Empress? This is not a nice place for you to see, plus some say it's haunted."

Xena raised an eyebrow finally something interesting. "Do they now?" The guard breathed in looking uncomfortable. "Well they do it's an odd story Empress, they say that one of the pits in the bellow level screams at night. They always find it odd because the pits have been out of use for over a century and you do not use them as a punishment." Xena eyed the young man adjusting her sword slightly which was attached to her belt. "I realize that my palace was built on the ruins of an older one are the pits from the old palace?" The guard nodded. "They say that King Lycaon himself built the old palace before he lost control and was forced back in to Arcadia apparently he used to throw people in the pits so they'd starve and die."

He shook his head. "That's what I heard though Empress but it could be all rumour." Xena looked up slightly she'd heard so many rumours regarding the old palace as well. When she'd come to Corinth after escaping Rome the old palace had been in ruins, it had been the perfect place for her to set up her strong hold she had her people tear down most of the ruins. They'd then spent three years rebuilding the place in to the beautiful palace it was today. She walked forward looking at the cells before turning to the guard. "I think I'll be fine, thank you for your concern though." She watched as the guard nodded as she passed him by looking at the dimly lit corridors. She hardly ever walked her own palace despite that she'd lived here for such a long amount of time.

She carried on walking through the shadows seeing the empty cells in there rows she looked down catching sight of the ancient steps which led to the lower level. A level which wasn't built by her, it was the reminisce off a older cruller time when King Lycaon had been king and had shown no mercy instead he enjoyed watching those he hated suffer. She could still see the ancient dried blood stains haunting the wall she put her hands on the old stone as she caught sight of the deep pits people which people were lowered in to using a flat bed and a winding cog mechanism which was the same as they used in Rome to bring animals in to the arena, she could see the old rusty turning handles by each pit.

She moved closer to the pits seeing only pitch black darkness bellow she put her finger on one of the thick chains which was part of the pulley system. It was hardly surprising that people would think there would ghosts here this place was dismal and cold. The only light in this whole room was from a lit torch behind her. She walked over to the old metal torch looking at it, it seemed odd that someone would even light a torch here, why bother? There was no one here, may be it was lit purely so people would know where they going, but even then it seemed odd. There were plenty of oil burning touch mounts above the stairs to take down in to this area, so why have this one lit all the time?

She breathed in tapping the old fire torch seeing the rusted old palace designs. There was so much about the old palace that she didn't know and didn't understand and probably never would. She turned on her heels only to stop as a scratching sound hit her ears she felt her eyes dart as she looked around the half lit room. She stepped away from the wall half expected to see a rat run past her feet by but instead she saw nothing. The scratching sound came again only much loudly then there was silent once more. She moved forward realizing that the sound was loud because it was echoing from one of the pits, she rolled her eyes it was probably a male peacock.

She had been given two males and two hens as a gift from one of her royal guests two years back and frankly she hated the damn birds. The male birds did nothing but parade around her royal gardens like they owned the place and they had an annoying habit of going in side the palace itself and displaying. They also got stuck in places they shouldn't like down the deep pits where the gardeners were working putting statues in to the ground. The royal guest who had given her them had said that they matched the blue of her eyes. As far as she was concerned they didn't match her in any way they were noisy and annoying and she wished she could get rid of them.

No doubt one of them had fallen down the pit and was trying to find its way out she moved closer to the pit where the scratching sound had come from. She leaned down in to the darkness of the pit only to pull back as a horrible smell hit her nose. It was the intense smell or urine among other things. She put a hand to her nose as stepped something was very wrong here! She stood up fully grabbing the old torch pulling it free from its holder as she walked over to the pit pulling the touch outwards as she put a hand on her nose again. She hated the smell of rotting battle fields and though this smell was different it was just as pungent.

Prisoners were always given water in her cells to wash with what ever was down here hadn't been given water to wash with. She lowered the flaming torch watching as it lit up the pit fully. She felt herself freeze in shock as what had been causing the smell came in to view. A figure was laying at the bottom of the pit on its side unmoving only the persons long overgrown nails were moving as they scuffed against the stone. She could see long mattered dirty hair it was so dirty that she couldn't make out the colour. She couldn't even tell the gender from this distance because the person was so dirty. How in Tartarus had this person gotten down here!? Her warriors weren't allowed to throw anyone in these pits it was against the rules.

Worse still was that just by looking at the hair she could see that this person had been down here for a very long time. She moved to the side grabbing the old metal turning handle as she put the torch back in its holder. She didn't think as she turned it with all her might hearing the creaking as the huge lower section started to rise bringing up the person along with it. She jammed her leather boot in to the wall as she turned harder ignoring the pain in her palms as the huge section came up fully. She forced the handle in to its locked position as she grabbed the torch again moving towards the person who didn't move as she came closer. She could see now why that was they were starved, so much so that she could see bones under the skin.

They were very close to death she could tell from where she was standing and that disgusted her even more. She didn't starve prisoners her state prisons had three rules. Torture was only allowed if it was necessary and in the best interest of Greece and prisoners were always to be given food and water to wash with. She turned hearing the thundering as the guard who'd been looking after the area came running towards her. He'd obviously heard the sound and thought that she was in trouble. She watched as he ran down old steps stopping in front of her the shock showing in his face as he eyed the fallen figure in front of her.

She felt her teeth grind together. "What is the meaning of this!?" The guard eyed her then the starving figure before speaking in a small voice. "I had no idea." Xena eased out her hand pointing to the figure trying to control her rage. "You don't know who this is?!" She watched as the guard raised his hand. "No Empress, there aren't meant to be any prisoners down here." He breathed in sharply. "No one above me told me anything about anyone being in here. There's nothing even in our records, you have to believe me." Xena looked at him for a long moment he wasn't lying she could see it in his eyes that he was as confused as her about this. She breathed in deeply somehow she knew she'd have to deal with this later now was not the time.

She moved towards the person ignoring the smell as she took both their hands dragging them clear off the pits wooden plate in one swift movement. She leaned down seeing the tatters of what had been clothes she moved quickly putting her hand on the neck feeling a very swallow pulse. There was so much bone that it was hard to tell gender. She opened one of the eyes only to see an over dilated pupil which made the eye colour impossible to make out. She turned sharply eyeing him. "Get Phantasos the healer now!" She watched as the guard vanished out of sight doing as his told. She realized now that time was very much off the essence, this person who ever he or she was, was going to die very soon if they didn't get medical attention.

End of part 1

Silvermoonlight.

I confess this is a very much a guilty pleasure story on my part, I've always wanted to write a Conqueror story, but not the Conqueror of Hercules Armageddon Now. Instead this is set in the world of the Empress from When Fates Collide, the story is based on an idea I've had floating around in my head for a number of years. This story brings in characters from all The Waking Light series stories and it will run along side, Embrace The Waking Light.