LOST IN THE BLAZING STAR LIGHT
Xena turned eyeing the warrior opposite her. "What do mean you can't find her? She has to be in the palace!" Leuis raised his hands. "She's not in the palace Empress we've checked the whole place twice over." He turned as the double doors opened to the throne room and Demetrius walked in closely followed by Thaleia and Iona. He breathed out thank the gods they were here, the Empress was clearly becoming panicked and she was now starting to scare him. He adjusted his collar as who turned to Iona who looked nervous as she stopped close by the Empress the uncertainty in her eyes. Nether of them knew how to deal with the Empress when she was in this kind of mood but he knew that Demetrius did as he had, had experience with dealing with her anger and her bad moods. Demetrius looked up slightly clearly Iona wasn't over exaggerating the Empress really wasn't taking Gabrielle's leaving well, she was panicking. In all the years he'd known her he'd never ever seen her panic in this way, she was normally so level headed about everything. Right now though she wasn't the Empress she was a woman who had lost someone she loved and was having difficulty dealing with the situation.
He stepped forward meeting her gaze which was filled with anxiety. "You called for me Empress, Gabrielle is missing." Xena breathed in folding her arms trying to steady herself. "Yes she is, have you seen her?" Demetrius stepped closer to the dark haired woman. "No Empress…did she leave a note at all?" Xena shook her head. "No she didn't and so far they've checked the royal gardens and the palace twice." Demetrius breathed in deeply. "What about the stables, courtyard and the path?" Xena turned sharply. "There checking those now I haven't heard back yet." She put her through her hair in frustration. "Oh gods, this is all my fault…I called her a stupid overgrown dog who breaks things and a monster, I even told her that she wasn't worthy of her sword." Thaleia rolled her eyes no wonder Gabrielle had been so concerned about the out come off telling the Empress about her past. She breathed in deeply before speaking. "You know she hates being called a stupid overgrown dog, she also can't stand being called a monster ether Empress."
Xena turned sharply eyeing her. "I know that! I wish I could take it back it was wrong of me to say that to her." Thaleia turned meeting the taller woman's gaze which was now filled with pain. "Did you ask her to leave?" Xena breathed in sharply. "No I didn't tell to leave! I would never tell her to leave." Thaleia put her hands together. "I meant no offence Empress I only ask because this morning we had an argument and she was convinced that you would ask her to leave." She looked up slightly wording her next sentence carefully. "She felt very guilty about her past actions they were tormenting her deeply and she ended up throwing me out her room when the argument became more heated, she was so convinced that she wouldn't see me again. She had gotten it in to her head that I wouldn't be her friend anymore after she told me about the event despite that I would still be her friend regardless of her past." Xena ran her hand through her hair somehow Thaleia saying this made her feel even worse as she hadn't been nearly as understanding and she loved this woman, where as Thaleia was her family.
She looked down at her hand for a long moment she was the one who should have listened to her and not shouted at her. She would not make this mistake again. Twice now she had used Gabrielle's not being human against her and she deserved so much better than that, her werewolf form was not an excuse to throw insults at her. She'd had, had a far too much of that in her life time and most of it had come from Adrienne and she would not become like that evil bitch, the moment she did that she would loose her forever. She knew full well that Gabrielle wouldn't go through another abusive relationship the first one had been far to damaging for her both physically and mentally. Maybe that's why she'd left because the insults had cut her so deeply and caused her so much pain and looking at it from her perspective she could understand why. The person who claimed to love her and had kissed had suddenly been the one calling her names and accusing her of lying when she had been telling the truth all along. She turned to Thaleia feeling the pain in her chest as she spoke. "Where would she go in the palace if she was depressed?" Thaleia eyed the taller woman seeing the pain in her eyes as clear as day. "She would go and sit of her favourite lion or she'll go and sit by Damokles's grave, she does that from time to time I've seen her put flowers on it and speaks to him, even though she gets no answer."
She adjusted her robes. "Or she'd stay in her room and smoke opium when something has really hurt her feelings but in these past few weeks she been trying to stay away from opium and it's been very hard for her, she said she didn't want to be dependent on it anymore." Xena eyed her for a long moment. "She's clearly been true to her word, I saw the opium on her desk but it was unused and she left it behind. Despite how much she would have liked to have smoked it." Demetrius moved a step closer to the Empress. "This is Gabrielle's home I don't see her leaving here for good she probably just took a walk." Iona shook her head. "That must be some walk then if she decided to leave the palace, sounds more to me like she just wanted to get away from it all." She turned as the Empress gave her a cold look. "I mean no disrespect Empress it's just that's what I'd do." She was about to say more only to be stopped as doors were suddenly shoved open behind her and one of her men came in he had two guards with him who were clearly those who protected the front gate as they had a thick red leather tie on the front of their armour. He spoke not bothering to hide his sarcasm. "These two idiots know where Gabrielle went and both should have said something, instead of keeping quite."
Xena turned eyeing the guards watching as the first who was a young woman swallowed she was clearly nervous as was the young male guard who was next her. The young female guard's eyes darted as she spoke. "I didn't think it mattered Horn Hind is allowed to leave the palace when ever she wants!" Her companion looked up sharply. "Yes we were told she could come and go as she pleased." Xena moved forward she didn't think as she grabbed the woman by her collar pulling her forward in a violent motion ignoring the surprise and panic in her eyes. She spoke unable to keep the venom out of her tone. "It's your duty to report about everyone who comes and goes, regardless of whether or not I allow it!" Demetrius moved forward putting a hand gently on the Empress's shoulder watching as she looked up. "Empress I'll deal with both of these two but first you need to let this woman go." Xena didn't think as she let go of the warrior who stumbled back the fear in her eyes." Demetrius turned to the both of them putting his hands together. "Now how's about you both tell me when Gabrielle left?" He watched as Iona's man rolled his eyes and then left closing the doors behind him. "Or would you prefer it, if I get Leuis or Iona over there to twist both of your arms?"
He folded his arms watching as they both shook their heads. "Good now tell me what I need to know." The young man stepped forward. "She left four hours ago we had the guards above open the mechanised door for her." The woman opposite him adjusted her collar nervously. "She was high on something, she started talking to herself she even offered her coat to someone who wasn't there." Xena turned sharply. "You'll excuse me if I don't buy that concept and you making up that kind of accusation, is even more disgusting." The young man's eyes darted. "But we are not making this up she was talking to someone Empress." Demetrius eyed him. "Be quite! Before I have you both punished you both know the rules. It's an offence to speak slander about a royal and Gabrielle being a werewolf is no excuse for you to mock her ether!" He watched as they both fell silent not daring to say another word. "Now tell me did she tell ether of you where she was going?" The young woman shook her head. "No sir she didn't." Demetrius turned eyeing Leuis. "Please take these two out of here, before I throw them out." Leuis turned eyeing the two guards. "Come on idiot's move it now, I want you back to your posts!"
Iona watched as they all left the room closing the double doors behind them. "Well at least we know that she's in the city, I doubt she'd leave tonight, she wouldn't want to run in to her people, least of all those who are not loyal to her." Xena felt her body tensed. "She took her money so she clearly has plans to sleep somewhere and eat, no one would go in to Corinth with out coin and she has good coin even if it is old." She felt her eyes dart. "Gods I knew I should have given her some new coins to replace her old ones." Demetrius put both hands behind his back. "Well then we have a good chance of finding her then, we just need to search all the taverns and restaurants in Corinth." Thaleia shook her head. "There are hundreds of those here…Corinth is four times the size of Athens it's the biggest city in Greece. It will take you ages to search every one of them and that's assuming that Gabrielle doesn't decide that she wants to go and watch a play at the amphitheatre or a late night gladiatorial battle." Iona shrugged. "You're forgetting about the illegal brothels, you know those few that still survive despite than you banned prostitution and the fighting pits where people go to beat each other up for senseless coin."
The Empress turned giving her a look that could melt ice. "What I'm just saying, it's been a long time since she's had any two years in a pit does nothing for your sex drive she's probably about ready to burst." Thaleia shook her head. "Gabrielle's not like that she wouldn't bet sleazy money in a fighters ring and she doesn't care about sex just for the sake of it." Xena nodded as she turned to her. "I agree she also hates the gladiatorial games she wouldn't go and watch them and I've never seen her take any interest in plays or even talk about them." Demetrius raised an eyebrow. "Well that narrows it down." Xena stepped forward. "Well I'm going to find her even if it takes me all night." She turned to him. "You and Thaleia are coming with me." She turned to Iona. "You're going to stay here and your going to look after the palace in Demetrius's absence." Iona nodded her head. She had never been given responsibility like this before and she had no intention of letting the tall dark haired woman down. "As you wish Empress." Demetrius looked up sharply. "You can't go out in that armour you'll be recognised Empress."
Xena turned sharply. "Then I'll wear something to cover up my armour, in the darkness I doubt people will recognise who I am. It's not like they have ever seen me on foot I'm normally on my horse surrounded by the royal guard." Demetrius raised his hand. "So there's no way I can talk you out of going outside of the palace?" Xena eyed him. "No there isn't and it's about time I stopped being so being up tight about going outside my own palace walls to walk around Corinth." Demetrius took in a deep breath clearly there was no talking the Empress out of this. He wasn't even going to try it was clear by the look in her eye that she was set to go through the gates and search regardless of what he said. "Then I'll do everything in my power to protect you and I'll speak to the men and women in the city, maybe they can point us in the right direction." Thaleia looked up slightly. "I will get changed in to something else which won't give away that I'm from the palace." Demetrius nodded turning back to the tall dark haired woman. "I'll change my armour to one that won't draw attention though my ring will identify me to the city guard." Iona eyed them all she'd have one of her best men follow them regardless, just in case. She would send this man out after they left, it was her duty to protect the Empress regardless of whether she asked for it or not.
I've just been walking through these streets for a long while now taking in every sight, sound and smell it has been over two years since I have been here. I could barely remember how they looked or what goes on, I'd forgotten that the streets never sleep even at night, you can hear the voices as people speak to each other and trade items. You can buy things in the night markets there are foods roasting on the stalls along with the smell of smoke from fires which is almost comforting, in a strange way. It's just as busy in some areas of Corinth during the night as it is during the day. This massive city has two very different faces and I can remember the last time I was here, being really perplexed by it. I've been to Athens and its nothing like this at night it's very quite. You can literately jump the roofs in werewolf form and go completely unnoticed, you could never do that here in Corinth even the roof gardens of the villas are alive with people drinking and talking at night.
As I walk these streets I realise that I have no idea what to do or where to go, I feel so out of step with everything around me. I can't remember the last time I brought something for myself for personal enjoyment. I don't even remember what it's like to go in to a tavern or restaurant and order food. Walking through these streets has made me realize that there is so much off my life which I've forgotten. I don't even know how to have fun anymore. I've spent so much of my life watching the world pass me by, now watching these people live out their lives around me I just feel like I've missed out. I've been a prisoner of my own fears for so long, its true walking these streets does still scare me, I've already seen a Satyr buying goods from the market and a Centaur betting on a street card game. So it stands to reason there's a few of my own kind here somewhere and I know not all of them like me. I'm ignoring this though because I just want to keep walking and I really don't want to go back to the palace. I know I just have to keep walking something in my soul is telling me that this really matters.
Gabrielle turned sharply as a woman ran towards her dressed in red and purple robes she pulled out a parchment flyer putting it in her hand. "There's a party going on up the road you might be interested in." Gabrielle eyed the flyer with its depiction of Bacchus drinking wine surrounded by dancing people. "What kind of party is this?" The woman smiled. "It's an orgy party at the Rams Head Villa which is owned by my cousin we are celebrating Bacchus they'll be wine, song, dance and other pleasures." She smirked. "You look like the type who would be interested I mean you must have a Satyr in your family because you've got those reflective eyes." Gabrielle pushed the flyer back in to her chest harshly not bothering to hide the anger in her tone. "I'm sorry but you have me mistaken for someone else, I don't share with anyone and I don't care for that kind of party." The woman gave her a cold look. "Your loss." Gabrielle eyed her for a long moment. "Yes well I'm sure I'll get over it." She turned walking away she hated orgy parties. She knew they were popular but they had never been her thing she only cared for sharing her life with one person she didn't care for sex for the sake of it. She wanted to feel the one person intimately and passionately she also couldn't share ether she was far to jealous and possessive when it came to those she truly loved, she'd kill for them, die for them and go any distance for them.
Watching others have sex was just a bad habit she wanted kick just like opium, she looked up coming to a stop opposite a white concrete tavern which seemed quite inside unlike so many others she had passed. The name also made it stand out which was The Slaughtered Lamb as did the wolf head sign which had a bloody teeth. She smiled sadly wolves weren't like that they were timid and she had seen them look at her in the darkness in werewolf form many times. They seemed confused by her but they never stayed around for a long they'd look at her and then run away. Despite their simulates wolves weren't even kept as pets they were considered sacred animals, because it was believed that king Lycaon's blood had been merged with a wolves creating the first pure werewolf blood. Despite that king Lycaon had been overthrown centuries ago and was hated as a tyrant the idea of werewolves gaining there blood from wolves remained as strong as ever. She pushed her thoughts aside as she opened the tavern door walking in side seeing that is was quite place. Mostly filled with retired warriors and older people who were playing cards, there were also corner seats so you could sit out of sight and not be bothered by anyone.
She walked up to the bar watching as an barman eyed her he was missing his left hand and had a two clawed wooden hooks in place so he could grip things, he eyed her coldly before speaking. "You know you might want to try the Rams Head Villa up the road its more for people your age they have interesting parties up there." Gabrielle eased out her pipe she slowly lit it on one of the candles ignoring his surprise as she blew out the smoke. "Do I seriously look to you like someone who cares for that kind of party?" She watched as he leaned forward clearly seeing that her eyes were reflecting in the dim light of the room. "Oh I see well what can I get you then? Oh and before you ask I don't serve wine straight it's watered down as it should be, damn Norse and Celts never grasp that concept." Gabrielle eyed him for a long moment she could relate to that she had vivid memories of Adrienne giving the werewolf bar tenders a hard time because they watered down her wine which she'd always hated. She looked up slowly. "Do you have any Kykeon the type that's not alcoholic?" The man gave her a warm smile. "Yes we have but it's sweet." Gabrielle looked up breathing in her pipe. "That's good enough."
The bar tender grinned pulling up a thick leather tankard, which he filled with the drink which looked like mead but was much thicker in consistency. "Lets see them dinars, I need two." Gabrielle eased out a few diners tossing them on to the table he eyed them as he spoke. "These are old?" Gabrielle took the tankard. "Coin is coin." The bar tender raised an eyebrow picking one up. "Oh I'm not complaining and I agree coin is coin and these are still good but seriously have you been hiding under rock or something I don't see these older coins that much anymore." Gabrielle took a long drink from the tankard enjoying the sweet flavour. "It's a long story, safe to say I have not been out much lately." The bar tender smirked. "What your husband or wife keeping you locked up in the house?" Gabrielle laughed but it was a sad laugh even to her own ears. "I don't have a husband or a wife to even do that." She paused eyeing him. "How did you loose your hand?" The bar tender eyed his clawed hook. "I used to work in Rome as an animal trainer for the gladiatorial arena. One day a big wolf took offence to my hand, I saw loosing it as sign from the gods that I was being punished for forcing such magnificent beings to kill gladiators."
He shrugged. "I now run a tavern and make an honest living with my wife the wolf sign with blood outside is my way of telling my self I should always respect nature because it can be a killer at times." He smiled catching sight of scar on her right eye. "What about you, how did get that scar on your eye?" Gabrielle lowered her gaze sadly she didn't want to tell him but it was only fair to do so as he'd told his story and it would rude not to. "It was given to me by an illegal slave trader as a teenager he used his dagger on me, because I refused to call him master." The bar tender breathed in deeply. "I assume he didn't live as you're not a slave." Gabrielle took another drink from her tankard. "Oh yes he's dead now he had his head ripped off, I know I should feel some sense of sorrow for that but I never have looking back it was great to watch."
The bar tender nodded. "I understand my wife was a slave a long time ago she became my friend and helped me through the bad times as well as loosing my hand, I freed her and then we both left Rome together and came to live in Greece." He shook his head. "Like you she has no sympathy for those who caused her harm but when I met her I was a different man, I didn't respect life." He eyed his hooked hand. "It's true what say you know, you have to loose something sometimes to gain something greater." Gabrielle nodded. "Those are very wise words." The bar tender smiled tapping his hook on her shoulder. "Your right you don't belong in the Rams Head Villa please take a seat in one of the corners and if you want anything to eat or drink please tell me and I'll cook it up for you." Gabrielle nodded moving to sit on a corner table which was out of sight and private. She ignored the strange looks from the gambling table at the far side as she put her boots on the table breathing in her pipe she breathed out watching as the smoke floated through the air.
End of part 80
The Slaughtered Lamb is a nod to The American Werewolf in London film (One of the most iconic werewolf movies of the 80's)
Kykeon was an Ancient Greek drink which was made of water and barley it was thick much like mead.
Both the Greeks and the Romans liked to water down their wine, they found it odd that the Celts and Gaul's and other cultures preferred wine and beers straight. In some cases they referred to it as uncivilized behaviour.