A VERY UNLIKELY PLACE IN PLAIN SIGHT FOR ALL TO SEE

Gabrielle watched as a big boned woman in thick velvet red robes which were more Roman fashion than Greek took her empty plate giving her smile. "Would you like anymore dear?" Gabrielle shook her head breathing in her pipe as she turned the silver sovereign between her fingers. "No I'm fine thank you it was a wonderful meal." The wife of the barman eyed her for a long moment. "You've been turning that silver between your fingers all night, is something on your mind dear?" Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe meeting her soft green gaze. "I can control this coin every time I turn it in between my fingers I'm just wondering why I can't do that with other aspects of my life." The woman folded her arms as a knowing smile formed on her lips. "Oh now you have that look." Gabrielle looked up sharply. "What look?" The woman shook her head. "You have the look of someone who is in love but is running away from it, my son used to have that same look on his face a lot of the time, when he was younger." Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. "I'm not running away." The woman's smile widened. "Then why are you in a bar drinking dear?"

Gabrielle put the sovereign away about to speak only to stop she knew the woman was right there was no denying her words, she lowered her gaze. "Fine, I'm running away but I had no intention on leaving I just wanted space." The woman nodded. "Well a time will come when you'll have to face that person who you care about and if you ask me you should just tell them how you feel, once the weights of your shoulders you'll feel much better." Gabrielle gave her a half hearted smile. "I'll think about that." The woman's put her plate to one side. "You do that dear." She put her hand in her pocket easing out a playing card putting it face down in front of her. "Before I forget the people over there playing cards asked me to give you this, they said if you're interested they'd like you to join their game. You should be flattered they play cards here most nights and they never invite anyone to join in, it's a private game." Gabrielle watched as she walked away she eyed the card frankly she didn't care for gambling mostly because she hated to loose money.

She turned the card over only to feel her body tense as she stared at the image on it which was a sketch from the Ethereal Ark Of Fire scroll of the Emerald Hind slaying king Lycaon. She stared at the card realizing what it was, this was the one of the playing cards from a werewolf set, all werewolf cards had stories and moments from the legendary scroll and at their edges were numbers. She slowly got up from her seat taking the card along with her half finished tankard with her. She watched as two women and two men who were in their late sixties looked up as she came towards them she could see the curiosity in there eyes, which were all slightly reflecting in the candle light. She put the card down in front of them. "You wanted me to join you in a game?" The older man closest to her leaned over looking at the ring on her finger the awe appeared in his eyes as he pulled up a chair. "We would be most honoured if you would join us after all very few of us have ever seen a ring like the one you're wearing up close."

Gabrielle slowly seated herself watching as the white haired woman sitting opposite her put the werewolf playing card away, all four of them were werewolves but they had to be run a ways just like Iris. They weren't from her rule though they had to all be from her predecessors because of their age. She could see in all there eyes that they knew just who she was as her ring gave her away. The woman on the opposite side of the table wasn't Greek she was Gaul as was the man next to her who smiled as she spoke. "Would you like to join us in a game of Biriba?" Gabrielle looked up. "Yes but I confess I'm not that good." The man closest to her adjusted his shirt as he smirked. "Not good at winning?" Gabrielle watched as the woman on the opposite side shuffled the double deck which was all full of normal cards and not werewolf cards. "Something like that, I normally loose all my coin." The man next to her turned his smile widening. "Then you we won't play for coin how about we play and just talk?" Gabrielle looked at him for a long moment. "Okay but I would prefer that you played like you normally do, I hate games where people let me win." She breathed in her pipe. "I like a challenge even if that means I have to loose."

The man on the opposite side of the table adjusted his robe as he spoke. "Oh we will do our best to give you a worthy challenge." He watched his wife began to deal out the double deck. "Am I right that your name is Gabrielle?" Gabrielle looked up. "Yes." He put a hand on his chest. "My name is Ceyx my wife here whose dealing the deck is Elma, we both used to be blacksmiths, we used to make armour for great warriors once but we were forced to leave due to our twin's birthright." Gabrielle looked down sadly. "I'm sorry." Ceyx shook his head. "Don't be our son and daughter are both safe and are living here in Corinth they both have children of there own now." He turned watching as the other man smirked. "The man opposite us is Quentin and next to him is his wife Galiena, they ran away as teenagers because Galiena was not like us but you know what it's like when that mating urges kicks in and you bite the one you love." Gabrielle watched as Elma began to deal out the deck to each of them. "Sadly I wouldn't know it's never happened to me." Ceyx raised an eyebrow. "I heard that you had a lover." Gabrielle put her first card down watching as the others started to play. "I've only had two people who were lovers the first was a kind man who I loved very deeply but he was murdered, the second was a cruel Norse woman who I'd rather not talk about."

Elma pushed her white hair back. "Ah I see, you see there was a rumour floating around that you liked a tall dark haired woman someone of high social standing." Gabrielle pushed her cards forward loosing her turn. "That would be true I won't hide that truth it seems everyone can see through it, I mean the bar man's wife has already seen my feelings." Quentin eyed his cards. "Ah yes well Flora is like us as well but her husband Philo well lets just say that it wasn't a wolf that eat his hand in the Roman Gladiatorial arena animal cage and his wolf symbol on this tavern sign isn't just about him having an ironic sense of humour." Gabrielle felt her body freeze. "Wait you mean this a tavern is just for people like us?" Quentin placed down his card beating everyone's hand. "Run by yes and people like us can come and go, there are also normal people who come here who have friends, family who are like us while some just come to help us because they know the truth about us. The rest who come here to drink are obvious to what this establishment is really all about."

Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. "I'm guessing that there are a lot people like us." Quentin put down his cards beating everyone's hand again. "Let's just say that the council have been very foolish there are now enough of us to start a civil war, we have no contacts in the old cities and we don't exist to them but while they've been causing suffering our numbers have been growing with in this city. We are more than ready to pick a side and overthrow our pure blood brothers along with the council who have made us all suffer in some way, shape or form." Gabrielle felt her eyes dart. "Whose side do you wish to be on?" Elma put down her cards only to be beaten once more by Quentin's hand. "We want to be on yours, we approve of your passing the new law with your friend at the palace it means a lot to us, as you did the one your predecessor couldn't." Gabrielle eyed her cards. "My predecessor preferred decadence over his people in the end it cost him his life, I do not intend to be as foolish." Elma looked up. "Well you're clearly not that foolish, you got the law passed which has already saved us from being slaughtered and has given us all equal rights."

She paused eyeing her cards. "The truth is this problem with the council can not go on any longer they once stood for something important back in the glory days but not anymore, they have become to corrupt and decadent, they are now a crippling burden and they need to be removed." Gabrielle breathed in her pipe. "I don't want them to suit their thrones any longer ether I just need more time." Quentin smiled. "Well the Greek Empire wasn't built in a day and nether was Rome so we respect your position. We also respect that from the councils view point you're defining them by being with your friend in the palace. We have heard whispers that their is burning rage and disgust at your actions, in fact they want to skin you alive and turn you in to pelt because they say what you've done is treason." Gabrielle breathed out the smoke from her pipe. "I'll do much worse to them to them if I ever get the chance. They have tried to have me killed twice and the second time around they almost succeeded but they won't ever get that close again believe me and them trying to kill me is high treason." Quentin looked up sharply. "Clearly no sin is beyond them."

Galiena breathed in as she lost again as everyone put down their hand. "I am curious as to why you're not with your friend in the palace?" Gabrielle eyed her cards. "I needed to get out for a while that's all I intend to return, I just need to think a few thing through that's all." Ceyx felt his smile turn to a wide grin. "I understand sometimes it's just nice to get away from it all, having so much reasonability must be daunting at times." Gabrielle looked at her cards she had a winning hand but she didn't want to place it down. "It's not the responsibility I need to work through it's my feelings for the person I care about." Elma put down her cards which were close to a winning hand. "That would be a very powerful union it would change a lot if it happened." Quentin looked at his cards. "I understand your hesitation though to do this would truly enrage the council beyond all measure but it would bring so many more of us to your side." He paused. "But I accept that your need to deal with your feelings first as this is a matter of the heart, not a union brought about because of politics." He blinked watching as she laid down her winning hand. "Wait you could have won on the last turn why didn't you place your cards down?" Gabrielle eyed her cards. "I didn't feel the need to win, I wanted to wait till it really mattered."

8

Demetrius eyed the armoured woman who was called Thera her commander Elpidios was engaged in other business and unavailable at present as he was currently talking with a witness regarding a family depute, he was a stern man but very good hearted. He eyed the woman in front of him who looked similar to her sister Kolina who served Sophia and Heli as there lady in waiting. The only difference was her height she was much shorter and had dark plated brown hair and very dark green eyes. She was wearing the normal leather armour which all the city guards had unlike the hoplites they could have there own choice in weapons, hers was sword and cleaving axe. The city guard's job was to keep the peace and sort out disputes and problems and they were allowed to be very hands on at times. The idea was similar to that of the Vigiles in Rome but with one huge different the city guard here were not thugs or mercenaries. They had all been trained as warriors and they had to serve a term in the normal army along with hoplites before they could even join the city guard.

The hoplites who served with them were there for the cities defence and were a serious fighting force and most had also served a more than one term in the army it was their job is to command the city guard should war break out. He raised his hands. "So you haven't seen her?" Thera shook her head. "Trust me I'd know if I saw someone like that not many young women walk around with deep scars on their faces, well other than the Red Griffin but she's another story." Demetrius narrowed his gaze. "Red Griffin who is that, the name isn't familiar?" Thera rolled her eyes. "She's this mercenary with a Satyr friend, they bring their bounties here and collect rewards. Don't get me wrong they do a good job but she has no manners and she a pain to reason with. I don't need to tell you what Satyr's are like when they don't get their way, they don't understand the word no, when it comes to money." Demetrius rolled his eyes. "Oh yes I know all about that, Minotaurs and Centaurs are easier to train but Satyrs can be a pain when they don't get their own way they try everything under the sun to change your mind." Thera shook her head. "On the point though the Red Griffin has a deep scar on her cheek old one really faded but you couldn't miss it, don't know how she got it, never asked her but she's one of the few women I know who has a bad scar like the woman's you mentioned."

Demetrius put a hand on his beard eyeing the Empress who looked frustrated now, so far no one had realized who she was the cloak was working as it covered her armour and her head he turned back to Thera. "I need you to send out a message to everyone in the city to find this woman." Thera pulled up a peace of scroll writing on it. "Is she to be arrested?" Xena looked up sharply. "No she's not to be arrested we just need to know where she is!" Thera breathed in eyeing the tall woman. "I meant no offence it's just normally when we go looking for someone it's not for a good reason." Demetrius raised his hands. "We need to find her as she's an important person of high social standing and we don't want any danger to come to her." Thera looked up. "I'll send out my petrol and have them, pass on this information to the rest of the city guard and the hoplites trust me if she's in this city we are going to find her." She looked up. "It's nice to see you outside the palace sir it's been a long time since our last meeting." Demetrius nodded as he patted her shoulder. "It's good to see you to Thera, wish your older sister well from me next you two meet again." Thera nodded a wide smile forming. "I will thank you sir."

He turned walked out of the building watching as the Empress followed. "Well as she says she will find her, I know the city guard and the hoplites their good men and women and I served with many of them during the Spartan up rising." Xena slowly met his gaze as they walked down the dark street. "Maybe she's right maybe I don't let you out enough." Demetrius shook his head. "I like my life in side the palace, I got there through hard work and I now consider it my home and I enjoy being there with you and your staff." He looked up as Thaleia ran towards them he watched as she breathed in catching her breath before she spoke. "I've checked the taverns on this street she's not here and I'm getting really tired of people giving me parchments to go to some place called Rams Head Villa which is having a party, something for Bacchus." Demetrius smirked as he eyed her. "Really?" Thaleia eyed him. "What's so funny?" Demetrius folded his arms. "Rams Head Villa is a place where people go to have orgy parties, I used to go there when I was a very young man." Xena shook her head trying to calm herself down despite how she felt. "I think just about everyone in Corinth has been there once in their life."

Demetrius raised an eyebrow. "You sound like you speak from experience." Xena shook her head. "Well I was young once but it's no longer my thing." Thaleia rolled her eyes. "Why do I get the feeling that I've spent to long inside the palace walls, I feel like I don't know about anything that's going on in Corinth." Demetrius turned putting a hand on her arm. "Don't worry about it Thaleia, I think it's good that you have been brought up so well." Thaleia breathed in deeply wanting to change the subject. "Did you speak with the city guard?" Demetrius nodded. "Yes we did they will be sending out a petrol and passing on the word to the hoplites, we told them that Gabrielle was an important person and that we are concerned for her safety." Thaleia breathed in deeply that wasn't really true Gabrielle had taken her weapons with her if anyone did try to attack her they'd be in for a shock but it was a great excuse. "Well that makes a lot of sense I hope they are able to find her." Her gaze drifted to the Empress who still looked deeply frustrated by all this. She hoped for her sake that they found her soon as she had never seen her this way. This was a woman who wasn't fazed by anything and was always so strong willed yet at this moment she was a woman missing someone she clearly loved and she was very concerned for her safety.

She pulled up the map of the city she had opening it. "We have checked all of the western district maybe we should check the district to the east I know it's a long walk from here but I think it's worth a try. Demetrius eyed the map. "Why there, I mean it's quite district? There are only twelve taverns in that area and only one night market." Xena looked up sharply realizing why Thaleia was saying this, she eyed the map. "No this makes perfect sense Gabrielle likes quite places. She would go somewhere, where she could be out of the way of nosy people and the parties the eastern side is very quite it always has been. It's filled with the homes of retired war veterans and diplomats and families with children it's a place where people go to relax. The area has two public baths houses complete with gymnasia and showers there's also massage areas and the taverns are very quite places." Demetrius took the parchment add from Thaleia. "The Rams Head Villa is also there, though I doubt Gabrielle would go there but your right the quite district makes a lot of sense it fits her personality." Xena looked up. "I agree it's our best option thank you for pointing this out Thaleia."

Thaleia looked up slightly. "Your welcome Em…." She stopped catching herself mid sentence the Empress had said not to call her by her title outside the walls, because she wanted to go unnoticed and so far that had worked well. No one had recognised her despite that her face was on every coin. Xena turned slowly frankly she hoped that the district would come up with something it had to. It was the type of place Gabrielle would go she was sure of it, gods she was missing her now. She hadn't felt this way in such a long time but she knew that it was the feeling of being in love with someone that you loved them so deeply that you missed them so much when they weren't around. She was also concerned that someone might try to hurt the younger woman she knew she could take care of herself but she hated the idea of any harm coming to her regardless. They had been through to much together for her to loose her now, all she wanted was to find her and make things right and then take her home.

End of part 81

Silvermoonlight

Biriba is a Greek card game similar to Rummy it's played with a double deck of cards with two to six players.

Gymnasia Greek for gymnasium though in ancient Greece this was training facility for competitors in public games It was also a place for socializing and engaging in intellectual pursuits. Though in this stories universe it's for men and women of all ages to train and stay fit and healthy.

Vigiles were called watchmen of the city, these men in ancient Rome acted as the fire force putting out fires and as a police force. They caught run away slaves and stopped riots and dealt with other petty crimes, they did not deal with murders though that fell to cohortes urbanae who dealt with serious crime. The idea is that the City Guard in Corinth deal with both hard and petty crime and other problems, they are meant be a much better hybrid based on both the Roman counterparts.