The Children of Ares
Disclaimer: Xena and Gabrielle belong to Renaissance Pictures and no copyright infringement is intended. This story is alternative in nature and deal with Xena in a "conquerer" mode. I would rate it NC-17.
Mythos Warning: I have mixed several mythologies. I have combined the mythologies of the Romans, Greeks and Celts into a single mythology for this story. An apology to XWP Fanatic, it has been pointed out to me that my meeting of Gabrielle and the Conqueror resembles hers. Well, I wrote this meeting long before I read her story.
This was actually the first Xena story I ever wrote. I just got involved with Seven Circles of Hell and put this one away. When it was suggested that I was losing focus on Gang Relations and that I should start working on something else. I brought this story out from storage.
To be honest, I actually stole the scene from the Celtic oral myth of Taliesin, the last of the Great Bards. The tale is from the Celtic myths of Arthur and Merlin. Taliesin was reputed to be the father of Merlin. It was said his voice could influence destiny and that he had the gift of prophecy.
The tale from which I actually stole the scene was from the meeting of Taliesin and Macsen, the Roman Governor of Britain, who eventually became an Emperor of Rome. The myth goes that the High King of the Celts was entertaining the Roman Governor and had asked Taliesin to sing. The High King was so impressed that he offered Taliesin up to half his lands as a reward.
Instead Taliesin made a simple request that he be allowed to give the governor a prophecy. Macsen received the prophecy, which was that he would be Emperor and never set foot upon Celtic Land again. However, his sword would determine the next High King. When Macsen died his sword was sent to Merlin, the Son of Taliesin, who set it into a stone to be drawn by the next High King.Summary: An alternate universe, where Romulus didn't kill Remus. They each founded a city. Romulus founded Rome. Remus founded Reme. Centuries later Romulus controls the Roman Empire, the lands of Southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Spain and Carthage. Remus controls the Kingdom of Reme, the lands of Northern Italy, Gaul, Britannia and the Norse Lands. Now the sons of Ares meet his daughter, Xena the Conqueror.
A young bard of only 16 summers came into an inn in Corinth, the Capital of the Conqueror Xena. It was inn like any other in Corinth with a mixture of the patrons from all over the Conqueror’s realm. All here to see the Conqueror, some to curry favor and others seeking a way to siphon some of her wealth. All except the gangly youth that was seeking a night’s wage by providing entertainment.
Tomorrow, the youth was to perform before the Conqueror. It was a singular honor that he was loath to perform. His former teacher was jealous of the lad’s voice and had convinced the local lord that the boy was a talent the Conqueror would appreciate. Thus the teacher eliminated a rival and gained a fee.
The nervous lad was under no illusions of his talent. He had an excellent voice, but he was inexperienced and not ready to perform before such a deadly critic. All knew that there was only one price for failure before the Conqueror. However, the lad was running out of funds and needed to replenish his coinage, if he were to continue his quest of the time of his life. So he loosened his lyre and started playing while he announced, "Let me tell you the tale of Ares's Children."
He started the tale with the polish of a schoolboy recounting his lessons. He was too drunk and untutored at being drunk to do more. However, he knew the tale well and it should be worth a few copper coins. He strummed a melody to set the mood and recited:
"King Numitor lay dead upon his throne. His brother, Amulius, had the body removed. Amulius wanted no heirs of Numitor to take the throne of Alba Longa from him. So he had the King's daughter Rhea Silvia made a priestess of Artemis. Thus she become one of Artemis's vestal virgins.
However, Ares’s eyes fell upon her beauty and like his father he coveted the feel of beauty. So the God of War visited Rhea Silvia in her priestly cell and seduced her. He visited her cell many times. In time, she knew she was with child.
When she could no longer hide her pregnancy, Amulius arrested her. He needed no more rivals for his throne. In her locked room, she gave birth to twin sons named Romulus and Remus. After the birth of her two boys, to remove any threat against him, Amulius had them placed in a basket thrown in into the Tiber River."
The customers had quieted to listen to the tale and many had ordered fresh drinks during the lull in their conversations. The innkeeper knew that the lad had earned his dinner, as the rangy bard continued:
"Ares had plans for his sons. So, he sought the aid of Poseidon to save his sons. The twins found the safety of the Palatine Hills, where the boys were rescued and nursed by a she-wolf with her other cubs. One day the wild boys were spied playing by the shepherd Faustulus, who captured them and brought them to his wife, Acca Larentia. She nurtured and reared the wild boys, who loved her dearly.
When the boys had grown, Ares revealed himself as their father, calling himself Mars after the Latin fashion. He told them of their true mother’s plight and of how their uncle kept her locked in her rooms.
The young princes sought Alba Longa and their mother. Once they located the city, they freed their mother and took revenge on their uncle. The damage wrought by the civil war had damaged the land and the young men decided they must build a new city. However, each brother had a different site in mind. They were fighting over the location, when Mars intervened and bade each son to build a city in his name on the site they preferred."
The crowd was getting restless from the long tale so the young lad played a short tune on his lyre. The willowy youth paused to give them a break to finish their drinks and order more, before he started anew:
"Romulus built his city on the Seven Hills on the Tiber River and called it Rome. Remus built his city on the Po River and called it Reme. Each brother dedicated his city to Mars. Each city prospered.
At their father’s bidding, they went on campaigns of war to build an empire. The children of the Gods aged slowly so that after four centuries, the brothers showed no gray, but did show facial lines wrought by anger and hate.
By this time, a new child of Ares was born and her name was Xena. She was born to the soil. She was born to pain. Little is known of her early life. It is known that she once roamed the seas taking what she pleased. Until she captured one of Romulus's generals named Caesar. During this time Ares revealed himself to her. He bade her to release her brother's general.
She refused, so Ares decided to punish her. To make her understand that she was his child, his property, his weapon to wield against the other Gods, he arranged Caesar's escape. Caesar killed Xena's crew and crucified Xena."
A pair of men got up to leave but were stared back to their seat by a small hooded figured:
"Somehow she escaped to the East, where she learned the art of war and combat. Upon her return to Greece, she killed the Warlord Cortese and took over his army. Within five years Greece was united under the thumb of Xena the Conqueror. The Conqueror forged an alliance on Chin and moved to conquer the East. Persia fell first. Then Egypt fell. Then Syria and Babylon started paying tribute.
Now, eight years after the rise of the Conqueror, the world is divided into three parts, each ruled by a child of Ares. The Roman Empire controls the lands of Southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Spain and Carthage. The Kingdom of Reme controls the lands of Northern Italy, Upper Gaul, Lower Britannia, and the Steppes of the Ukraine and the Norse Lands. Greece controls the Eastern lands and Lower Gaul."
"Thus ends the tale of the Children of Ares," said the Bard as he collected the tossed coins, meager though they be. The innkeeper brought him his drink and meal, which was common payment to a Bard for a tale. The young Bard spotted a young hooded woman with the staff studying him. She was pretty enough and not much older than he. So he sauntered over and said, "May I buy you a drink?"
The baby-faced youth could not make out the woman’s features very well. The shadows of the hood protected her comeliness. However, a sweet voice faintly echoed from the shadows and replied, "No, I want to buy you one for another tale."
The young man pulled back her light brown hair as he considered the offer. He sought to impress the young woman. So, the youth retrieved his lyre and asked, "And what tale would that be little one?"
Her voice answered with a smile, "The Tale of the True Bard."
The young boy closed his eyes and summoned his skills. For some reason, impressing this hooded woman became important to him, "Okay. Let me tell you the Tale of the True Bard:
In the early days of the Conqueror, two maids were taken from their home in Potadeia. Artemis took the two young maids of ten and eight to the Isle of the Druids for training in the high arts. For there, Artemis is known as Dana. As she is known as Diana to the Romans and Remians. The younger was trained as a Druid Priestess and keeper of Love. While the older was trained in the arts of the Bard. It is said that so great was her learning of the bardic art that the Druids bestowed upon her the title "True Bard."
Causally the voice from the hood asked, "Does anyone know her name or what she looks like?"
"Her name is hidden. There is a description. She is small of stature. She has the hair the color of a misty sunset. Her eyes are as green as the Emerald Isle. Her heart is true. She never lies. She carries two items that mark her, a silver harp and a staff of rowan, which is intricately carved with one tip covered with gold and the other bronze. None can say which is more deadly her harp or her staff… ", the bard said with a pause as he noticed the staff.
He looked down and on the floor was a silver harp. He gasped and nearly fell from his chair. He knelt before her and said, "It is you."
The woman removed her hood and smiled down at the youth. She lifted from the floor and declared, "Yes, young Bard, I am the True Bard and I need your help."
The young man sat heavily on the chair by the greatest of his kind and stammered, "Mistress of the Harp, how may one so humble as I help you?"
The Master Bard learned forward so that only the young man could hear her as she whispered, "I must see the Conqueror and I understand that you have an audience tomorrow."
The light left the gray eyes of the young bard as he sighed, "Yes, I was partying the night away. Bards who do not please the Conqueror have no future. I've gotten a good reputation, but I'm not as good as at least three bards that failed to please her."
Her green eyes twinkled as she quietly said, "Then you won't mind if I take your place."
Chapter 1: Of Foxes, Eagles and Hawks
The arena was filled with throngs of blood-thirsty on-lookers. They were here for two spectacles, the entertainment of the performers and the entertainment of the Conqueror’s pronouncements. Soldiers were strategically placed among the crowd to prevent any interference with the games. Macedonian archers were there to encourage the enthusiasm of all the participants of the games. Sharp arrows prodded gladiators and performers who didn’t fight or perform with enough zeal.
The Conqueror was bored and that was a dangerous situation for everyone around her. A solemn expression marked her face as the Empress of the East idly played with a loose string on her throne. The Warrior Empress hadn't seen combat in six months and she saw no opening on her real target ... Rome.
Ares had visited his daughter on the previous night with promises that she knew he wouldn’t, probably couldn’t, keep. The God of War had never had much influence over his daughter and it was diminishing with every visit. The visits from her father were unfulfilling and irritating, which made the Conqueror’s mood unpredictable at best.
The gladiators had held the Dark Warrior’s interest for a bit. One Norse giant had held the raven-haired woman’s attention for over half a candlemark. The blue-eyed Empress ordered more wine as she watched the contest with ever increasing interest. The hulk had been disarmed early in the contest and used everything he could get his hands on as a weapon. At one point the blonde titan used a severed arm of an opponent to bash another warrior to death. The maneuver made the monarch grin as she ate some fresh delicacies from her new chef. The former chef couldn’t survive his thin soups. The behemoth’s display had been so pleasing that the tall woman had him freed and made one of her guard.
The act of the animal trainer had been very exciting, until one of his tigers mauled him. His performance had pleased the Conqueror so much that she had his wounds treated before his execution. The tumbling act was skillful, but not really something she liked. So, the Empress of Greece had the man who hired them executed instead of the acrobats as a gesture to their skill. The last performer was called the True Bard.
‘This one had confidence at least,' the tall Conqueror thought with a smirk, 'He had better be as good as his name.'
A small hooded figure strode confidently onto the raised stage beneath the Conqueror’s Royal Platform. In the Bard’s delicate left hand was a leather case and in her right was an intricately carved staff. The Bard jammed the staff in the gap between two boards and set down her case. With a slight movement the hooded cloak fell to the ground to reveal a beautiful young woman. The green-eyed woman had golden hair that shone red when the sun glinted off of it. Complex patterns of color and shapes were tattooed onto her limbs and stomach.
The Conqueror was shocked to see it was a small woman, maybe even a girl. The Dark Warrior scanned the petite strawberry blond with an excellent and fit figure. Her stomach, which was exposed, was trim and muscular. Her reaction to the lithe Bard scared the tall Monarch.
The black-haired Empress’s throat and mouth became parched and the wine was not helping. She called for her slave and ordered fresh spring water. From her reaction between her legs maybe she should have ordered a cold bath.
The diminutive performer looked like a miniature Amazon, which was a possibility since she had taken their land, not their heads. Most of those annoying females had escaped and were a constant irritant. However, they were Artemis' chosen. So, unless she sought and got Ares's help, she could not exterminate them.
The blonde bard removed her harp from its leather case. It was made of pure silver with intricate patterns of trees and animals. She started by playing the harp, so well that everyone was silenced. The music flowed from her fingers and then words seemed to float from her lips:
"Listen to the story of the Fox and the Eagles. Once the forest was ruled by a great eagle. He ruled wisely and well. But, he couldn't rule the forest and hunt as well. So he went to his friend the fox and asked him to rule while the great eagle hunted. The fox was of a great service to the King. While hunting, the King’s mate had a daughter.
The fox undercut the King's eerie and caused the King to fall to his death. The young she-eagle was taken to another forest. The King of the Sky was angry at the fox, so he granted the she-eagle two special eggs. She hatched her eggs and two strong eaglets were born. The fox found out about these Eaglets and had them taken from the nest and cast into the sea. The fox had the she-eagle tied to a tree branch with her wings clipped.
The King of the Sky saw what the fox had done and rescued the eaglets from the sea. He gave them to the owls to raise. One day, the two eagles were grown and the King of the Sky came and told the young eagles of the fox's deeds. So, they flew against him. The fox ran away to another forest. The young eagles split the forest and rule to this day."
The sweet music stopped and everyone was afraid to breathe, fearing they might be the one to break the spell. The lithe woman put down her lyre as she recovered her cloaked and donned it. She retrieved her harp and continued:
"But that is not end of this tale. The King of Sky wanted further vengeance on the fox. So he gave two eggs to a falcon, one special and one ordinary. The ordinary egg hatched a fine male falcon. But the special egg hatched into a beautiful female falcon, one of great stature and skill. Her brother was her only friend. And they grew very close.
The fox had come to this forest and talked some large rats into joining him. They ravaged the new forest. Then one day they attacked the home of the falcons. They fought bravely, but were killed when the fox set the tree on fire. The young female falcon was not in the nest, she had been hunting that day. When she returned, her tree was in ashes and her family was dead."
Water was no longer going to do it. The normally stoic Conqueror was agitated. The Dark Empress couldn’t figure out how this strange woman knew about Lyceus. She ordered mead and slapped the slave who brought it. The raven-haired Monarch was desperate to recover her composure as her attention went back to the story:
"She hunted the killers for years. Occasionally she found one of the rats, but never the fox. For a while, she searched the eagle's sea. While she searched she fed herself and several small hawks with fish from the eagle's sea. She grew and grew.
The brother eagles became upset with this upstart falcon and sent a silver eagle to stop her. She defeated the silver eagle, but became enamoured by his plumage. She let him go. The silver eagle enlisted the aid of the King of the Sky to entrap the she-falcon. However, the silver eagle defied the King of the Sky and nailed her wings to a dead tree and broke her talons.
The young she-falcon was left to die, but a she-hawk, which had fed with the she-falcon, freed her and healed her wings. The silver eagle found out about the she-hawk and killed her."
The young bard raised her sea green eyes toward the Dais of the Conqueror and began to sing directly to her. The True Bard let her emotions drift into her voice and amplify the words meaning:
"The young she-falcon flew east with painful talons. In pain and anger she killed every animal in her path. Until at last she came upon a small she-owl. The she-falcon attacked the small she-owl, only to lose. The she-owl saw the she-falcon's pain and healed her. The she-falcon also learned the fighting techniques of the she-owl.
Finally, the she-falcon headed west to return home and get revenge. She came upon the fox, who had grown fat on the bounty of her forest realm. The young she-falcon killed the fox and took command of his rat army. And she rules her forest to this day. Never forgetting the treachery and pain caused by the silver eagle."
With the last chord, she pulled her hood over her head. The arena was silent, the spell of the tale was still upon the crowd. Everyone knew the story of Ares's Children, but this one was new with many of the holes filled in. The Empress of the East never showed emotion, but if anyone was near enough to the dais to see her eyes they would see tears. Then the Ruler of Greece announced, "Let no one call themselves Bard in my presence again except this woman. How may I reward you, Bard?"
The golden Bard retrieved her staff and stepped to the rear of the platform. Then the athletic woman ran forward and planted her staff, somersaulting onto the Empress’s dais. The young Bard looked directly in swollen blue eyes and quietly responded, "Great ruler, you can reward me by calling me Gabrielle and allowing me to speak freely to you."
This woman was dangerous. The move she just performed could have gotten her killed and the effect this Bard was having on the Monarch was scaring the Dark Empress. Fear was not a good thing for someone who ruled her people with it. So the Warrior Empress decided to replace the fear with anger.
"And what will you tell me? Will you become one of my advisors and line your purse with the gold of the empire? Will your honey tongue seek to gain your own kingdom? What will you sing in my ear, Gabrielle?" asked the Conqueror, who was nearing a rage.
Again the young Bard gave a quiet answer, "I will speak the truth loudly and clearly."
Chapter 2: Assassins
The Conqueror snickered, "The truth! Is there a truth?"
The quiet Bard let the Conqueror’s anger wash over her and replied, "Yes, great ruler, I am truth."
Sarcasm laced the Conqueror’s reply as she said, "So, Gabrielle, you are an oracle as well as a bard."
Gabrielle spread her hands and responded, "I cannot tell you the future, I was not granted that power. That power is given to another, I can only speak the truth."
The Conqueror was impressed with this young woman and very attracted to her. The dark ruler was beginning to harbor some dreams involving this woman. So cautiously she asked, "What truth can you tell me?"
A simple reply caused the Conqueror to wince as if she hit with a physical blow, "I can tell you that there are those who love you besides Lyceus."
The arrow found its mark. The Conqueror was numb with her thoughts, 'How does she know so much? No one is supposed to know the tale about M'Lila. Caesar knew. But no one knew about Lyceus or Lao Ma. I never shared those tales with anyone. Can she read my thoughts? Look at the way she carries that staff. She knows that weapon. Could she be an assassin? I must look in her eyes.'
The Conqueror rose from her throne and walked toward the young Bard. As she approached twenty Macedonian archers fired at the Conqueror from all four sides of the arena. Even the great Warrior Empress couldn't block them all, but she didn't have to.
Suddenly, the hooded figure moved with blazing speed and intercepted one flight of arrows with her staff then blocked four more arrows with her second move. The Conqueror blocked and dodged all but one arrow, which struck her in the back high on her shoulder. Instantly other warriors moved to capture or kill the renegade bowmen. The Conqueror yelled, "I need them alive."
The Conqueror rolled toward her throne and recovered her shield from its resting-place to help protect herself. A whirling staff covered her back. She knew it was a whirling staff by sound; she couldn't afford to look. Three more flights of arrows were released before all the bowmen were captured or killed. Xena could smell the poison on the arrow tips and knew that she couldn’t let anymore arrows touch her; the Monarch could already feel the poison in her blood stream.
Many of the nearby courtiers started to approach the Conqueror, but none were allowed close. Each approaching figure was driven back by the fierce staff attack of the Bard. The Conqueror started to stay her, but stopped to admire the grace and the staff work. It looked like those acrobats, she had scorned before. Finally, her guard arrived and the Bard relented.
The youthful blonde was suddenly behind Xena, who tried to move away from the soft touch that was making her sexual fluids flow. The Bard whispered some strange words into her ear. The Conqueror relaxed and the arrow was gone. Xena felt Gabrielle's hand on her wound. The Conqueror heard the young Bard say some strange words again and the pain was gone. Xena looked around to see the girl. The young Bard rocked a bit and then started to fall. The Conqueror caught her and yelled, "Out of my way. Guard clear me a path to my quarters, now!"
End of Part 1. Continue to Part 2
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