Summary: Begins within "The Price" along with dealing with the effects of "Ties That Bind". Xena came close to returning to her old ways during Ares's plot, however, having Gabrielle there foiled his attempts. Still, the woman she used to be lurks just beneath the surface; and re-facing the horde will bring that side of her back, especially when they capture her close companion.

A/n: Yeah, so first Xena: Warrior Princess story, hope I do a bit of justice to one of my all time favorite TV series. This is going to have a mixture of canon and non-canon aspects (so, if you're looking for solid cannon, you won't find it here and I suggest you continue to scroll along). Hope you all enjoy it and aren't shy about dropping reviews, and depending on how well this goes over my next update might be soon (no promises of course).

Disclaimer: I do NOT own anything. This is simply for entertainment/leisure purposes only (also, this will be the only disclaimer I put up, I'll simply direct you back here to see it as the story progresses.)

Chapter 1: Price Paid

The warrior princess angrily paced back and forth within the commander's quarters. Her boots echoing off the stone floor causing the sound to bounce off the walls. Several underlings stood nervously in the entranceway, fearful that their new commander would turn her wrath upon them.

"X-xena," one solider struggled to say the name. Voice holding more fear than the horde outside the fortress walls instilled in him.

Suddenly, the ink haired fighter turned and flipped the decent sized island that was within the room. Her strength and anger making the action simple; yet, the destruction of the table-sending quills, scrolls, and candles scattered about the floor-did nothing to sooth her mood.

Baby blue eyes snapped towards the soldiers with all the intensity of a bear biting at it's prey. The men wanted to shrink back beneath her gaze, but they forced themselves to remain firm-figuratively speaking if nothing else. They knew that any weakness shown would only serve to stir the flames even further.

How was the blonde able to not only be subjected to the gaze, from what they had witnessed over the past few days, but also meet the older woman's stare head on? They were all seasoned fighters, Athens elite guard, and they all felt like new recruits to the army being addressed by their superior officer for the first time.

Between clenched teeth Xena accused, "You let her out!" The heated exclamation filling the room from ceiling to floor.

A second solider stepped forward, the one who was escaping from reality when the duo first arrived. "She said it was on your orders," he told her, fighting to keep the tremble out of his voice.

"She sounded very convincing," came the hasty addition when he noticed Xena's eyes had narrowed dangerously.

The Amazon of a woman stared at her troops. Her nostrils flared as her chest heaved in her rage; calculating in her mind what her next course of action would be.

"Mercer, Menticles," Xena called, gaining the two Athenian commanders attention, who'd been standing off to the side watching the entire scene.

Mercer stepped forward. "Yes Xena?" he inquired, offering himself up for service.

"Have these three taken to the holding area," she instructed. "I'll deal with them later," came the dark addition.

Visible fear etched itself onto the mens' faces, as the two Athenian commanders approached them-calling for guards to help them with the trio. As the men were taken out, they wondered just what the warrior princess would do to them. And, would she be merciful to them unlike the horde that lurked within the woods?

Leaving the former Destroyer of Nations alone.

After several heartbeats, a powerful cry tore its way from her throat. The guards posted outside were startled from the noise but they dared not enter into the room. It took no philosopher to know that the fair skinned woman wanted, needed, her space.

Inside, the fighter was filled with turmoil.

During these tense days, Xena knew that she had been treating Gabrielle harshly. She was treating her friend like an experienced solider; expecting the bard to simply and easily hop into things and make decisions that the warrior knew went against the blonde's own moral code.

Yes, she saw the way her actions and persona were driving down on the younger woman, but she'd done nothing about it. She presented the younger woman with only a single way, Xena's way, and had left no room for argument; and, when Gabrielle did resist, she was quick to assert herself to her partner-uncaring of the shorter woman's feelings.

Ironically, Xena had done, was continuing to do, all this for the bard's sake.

It was the fighter's goal to protect her friend and to make sure, if nothing else, that the two of them escaped with their lives. She'd cut off giving food and water to the seriously injured so that Gabrielle could survive. She'd hung the bodies of the dead over the side of the wall so that the horde would believe reinforcements had come and they'd be discouraged to increase Gabrielle's survival. All of it, was for her friend, her companion, her...

The black haired woman released a growl as she slammed her fist against the wall. When she said she'd pay any price to get them out of this, she never meant her companion; Gabrielle had no selling price.

"Xena," Mercer's voice resounded, pulling her from her inner musings. "What will we do now?"

She stood straighter, squaring her broad shoulders, forcing herself to recompose. She stared at the two men, whom she outranked in both skill and troop affection.

"Simple," Xena responded voice coming out in a low, menacing tone. "We're going to get her back!" Was the declaration, resolve on display for all to see.

Menticles looked aghast by the information. He took a sharp step forward then said, "Are you mad?" he demanded to know. "Our forces and supplies are low enough as it is and now you wish to exhaust them on some girl?" He was bewildered by the very idea of it all.

Xena stared down at him, arching an eyebrow at how he dared to challenge her, but he did not back down.

"If we leave outside the walls for anything it should be to escape from here and put as much distance between them," Taking a moment to point in the direction of the woods, which signified their common enemy. "And us.

Besides, the girl knew the risk she took by setting foot outside these walls," Menticles added. "She made her choice, making her downfall no one's but her own. They've probably killed her by now anyway."

It was his final comment that set Xena off.

Quicker than either man could comprehend, Xena's hand was wrapped around his throat. He dangled off the ground while helplessly clawing at her gauntlet covered arm, trying to release himself from her hold. It was a fruitless endeavor.

"Never," came her whispered hiss. "Allow those words to fall from your mouth about my friend ever, ever again." Xena enforced her warning by squeezing his throat a bit harder, feeling the muscles, bones, and tendons shifting beneath her fingers, before easily tossing him aside.

The red haired man landed with a thud on the ground. He grasped at his now aching throat as he coughed numerous times, while taking in lung full's of air.

"I, am in command of these troops," the warrior princess stated, as she asserted herself. "Their morale, their fighting...all possible, all existing, because of meee..." As she drew out the last word for emphasis.

"They fight, for me, they die, for me. They may have fought for you at one point in time when this all started," Referring to the first time the horde attacked. "But not anymore. You allowed their spirits to die and came close to having a mutiny on your hands. ...You lost them, and I've claimed them."

Mercer attempted to speak up. While he had grown fond of the bard, her caring nature was a nice reprieve from all the death surrounding them, he knew a suicide mission when he heard one. In all honesty, he was surprised that the horde members hadn't killed Gabrielle outright.

It was unlike the horde to take hostages to his limited knowledge of them.

"Xena," but the warrior held up her hand, immediately silencing him.

"If neither of you wishes to join me, fine," she began. "But, I won't have either of you getting in my way of saving my friend. Are we clear?"

The warrior's blue eyes shifted between the two; glinting with the promise that her threat would not be empty if they got in her way. She received a sharp nod from Mercer, while receiving a hesitant, near reluctant one, from Menticles. Satisfied, she turned on her heels and exited the building. She needed some fresh air to help clear her head and to think about her next course of action.

Don't worry, I'm coming for ya Gabrielle, Xena mentally promised.