The Children of Ares
Copyright Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The author does not benefit financially in any way from this story.
Note: My thanks to my beta reader Jennifer for her wonderful help in writing this piece and for my new wife Shuana, who is helping me break down some walls. I introduce a new character in this part. The Celtic Warrior, Murphy, I promised to put a friend of mine into the story. Here you go Murph.
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.
Chapter 16: The Place of All Power
The Dark Conqueror went into the Temple of Ares in the lands north the Forbidden City of Chin. The Warrior Empress ignored the craven displays of bowing and scraping of the temple priests and strode defiantly into the altar room. With a look, the blue-eyed beauty dismissed the worrisome priests.
The tall woman knelt in front of Aresís altar of warrior skulls and concentrated on the place of all power. Her spirit rose from her body and went to the place she sought. There she found her heart waiting for her.
The hooded figure smiled, the Dark Empress couldnít see her face, but could feel that smile. The young blonde removed her hood and said, "I love this place, because it is the first place I ever saw you."
The statement made the normally stoic woman smile and blush slightly. The Empress of Greece was having trouble feeling like a hormonal teenager whenever she was in this womanís presence. Soon, the raven-haired Warrior would have to deal with her feelings and express them properly. The Spirit of the Warrior took a deep breath and asked, "How are things in Corinth? I hear you saved Borias. I thank you. He means a lot to me."
The young Bard lifted out her arms and shrugged, "I know how much. I know that he is the father of your son, Solan. Remember, I have seen all your life unfold in this place."
The Conqueror looked at the Bard with confusion lining her face as she asked, "Why do you say Ďis the fatherí, my son is dead!"
"It is time for you to know that your son did not die in the Amazon/Centaur War. Amazons would never kill a child in battle. He has been raised by my people in the Land of the Celts. We have brought him home with us," answered the True Bard in the voice of Truth.
The heart that had for so long been trapped behind strong walls burst forth in rapture. Tears fell from the phlegmatic Warriorís eyes as she proclaimed, "Ares lied to me. He told me he had witnessed my sonís death. He lied about his own grandson to gain my favor. He lied to me in order to gain the power he needed to rule Olympus and I fell for it. I was such a fool."
Then Xena realized how unjust her war on the Amazons had been. Yet, they had saved her Empire and their Queen now professed her love for Xena. Confusion was pounding in her brain. The Dark Empress, who for so long had had to deal with courtiers who sought favors for every act, could not understand such selfless acts. They wanted their land back, but they could not be sure that they would get it. They might seek reward, but there were no guarantees, so the Xena asked, "What will you do if I do not return your lands to your people?"
The Queenís answer was simple, "Love you."
The truth of the Bardís words was plain and unquestionable. The Conqueror knew she had found what she had not known she was seeking; love. Then, practicality took rein over the Empressís emotions, "I need you to send an army to Chin immediately. We have rebellion here. Have my son brought to Corinth for protection and send reinforcements to Lower Gaul."
The Queen of the Amazons smiled, "I am not stupid. Did you not make me Chancellor? I have sent reinforcement to Lower Gaul from Britannia. They are Celts and Amazons. I have sent the Army of the West to meet you. They will meet you in two days. Your son is in the chambers next to yours. His own men guard him. He is a Celtic Prince as well as your son."
The Conqueror needed to make plans, so she finished by saying, "We have much to discuss upon my return."
"I know," said the young Bard as she replaced her hood and faded from the Conquerorís sight.
The Conqueror watched the spirit of her true love fade and return to her body. Then she too returned to her own body. Upon awaking, the Dark Warrior drew her blade and hacked the altar to pieces. When the priests attempted to stop her, she killed them. Ares appeared before her and asked, "Why do you do this, my Daughter?"
The Dark Empress pushed passed her father and said only three words, "Solan is alive."
Recognition of the truth shone from the War Godís eyes as he left. He knew now was not the time to try to reclaim his daughter. When the Warrior Empress opened the doors of the temple, she was greeted by a friendly smile. She returned it and hugged her mentor tightly. She had been afraid for the small womanís safety, but should have known better.
Chapter 17: Plans within Plans
With her arm around her mentorís shoulder, the Dark Empress strode into her war camp. The Conqueror of the Eastern World had plans to make, but she needed more information from her scouts and her spies. She also needed to talk with the Empress of Chin.
They moved into the tent of the Empress of Greece. It was lavishly furnished for being a hastily constructed tent. The Empress was a hedonist when it came to comfort and she had enough personal slaves and servants to make her life as comfortable as she wanted.
The Warrior Empress took her large seat behind the table full of scrolls and maps. The tall woman draped one leg casually over the left leg of the throne-like chair and motioned for the Empress of Chin to sit down on a very comfortable looking chair. The small women prefer cushions, but knew that this was for the best. So, she sat upon the chair.
All the Dark Empress asked was, "What happened?"
For next candlemark, the Lady Dragon told the raven-haired woman of her capture, her imprisonment and her escape. The Conqueror listened quietly, only occasionally interrupting the older woman with short insightful questions until she was satisfied she had all the answers she needed.
Quietly, the Empress of Chin contemplated how she would broach the next question. Finally she decided the only way was a direct approach. So the Lady Dragon asked, "Is there anyway to spare my son?"
The Empress of the East thought for a moment. A few months ago, her answer would have been quick and simple, "no". However, with Solan alive and her heir, she knew there was another course now. Additionally, she did not want to harm the child of her mentor and former lover. So she answered, "We can yet save him, but it will be his choice."
Tears flowed down the motherís cheeks as she bowed her thanks to the Empress of the East. The oriental woman had not expected that answer. Something had changed in her student. Something was different; she could feel it. It occurred to her that her deepest wish had been granted; Xena was in love. However, that was not the total answer. Her son was too close to the throne to be granted this boon of leniency.
The Conqueror could hear the wheels turning in her mentorís mind. The raven-haired warrior needed the insights of this gentlewoman. So, Xena poured out her heart and her hopes to the wise oriental woman, who she loved more than any others save two. Xena told her of her love for the Bard and how she hoped her son could step in as her heir. She explained her pain at discovering how her father had used her so badly. Finally, she asked the question foremost in her mind, "Now, what do I do? I am not good at such things. Iím afraid."
The Empress of Chin nearly laughed at the desperation in the questions. The Empress of Greece and Egypt, the Conqueror of Persia, the Destroyer of Nations and the Warrior Empress of the East was asking love advice of her, like a hormonal teenager. Life was certainly ironic.
Chapter 18: The Plains of the Forbidden City
A sparrow flew silently between the two armies. It was trying to escape a diving hawk. The warriors of both armies watched intently as the small bird desperately evaded the onslaught of the deadly predator. In a final act of courage and recklessness the brown bird flew under the horse of the Conqueror.
Argo steadfastly stood her ground undisturbed by the aerial stunt. The hawk attempted to pull up but couldnít stop her forward momentum. The small bird was about to crash into the Warrior Empress, when the tall woman reached out and captured the creature by its throat.
Itís talons wrapped around the Conquerorís exposed arm, sinking sharp claws into her flesh. Blood oozed from the tears in her skin, but the Dark Monarch did not release the fighting predator. Finally the captured predator ceased its struggles and squawked surrender to itís new master.
The Dark Warrior turned in her saddle and called for her falconer. The Warrior Monarch handed the Merlin hawk into the falconerís care. The stoic ruler called for some clean linen to wrap her wound. Then she rode out onto the open field between the two armies and into bow range.
Liu Bu saw the impressive display with the hawk and smiled broadly. At last the great warrior had a truly worthy opponent. The display would show that this was no mere woman and when he killed her there would no taint on his accomplishment. When the Dragon warrior saw woman ride out onto the plain and took it for what it was; a challenge.
With a nod the Green Dragon released his warrior to do what he was born to do. The Chinese warrior spurred his mount onto the plain to meet the obvious challenge of the Warrior Empress. The Red Horse of China rode out onto the plain and drew his sword. Xena smiled broadly and drew her sword; she was no longer bored.
The two horses charged toward each other. As they passed each other, the two warriors clashed swords and the sound reverberated through the valley. The Conqueror knew she could end this quickly when their swords crossed for the first time. However, her men werenít in position. So, the superior warrior knew the Warrior Empress had to carry the Red Horse for at least another half a candlemark.
The raven-haired Warrior didnít want Argo harmed so she decided that this battle needed to be fought on the ground. Springing from he saddle the tall Empress flew into the startled warrior. They both rolled free from each other. Slowly they circled. Liu Bu was nervous. The female has dictated the fight from the beginning and the warrior knew that could prove to be fatal if it continued.
To take the initiative, Liu Bu attacked with several impressive arcing sword blows. Several times the Chinese warrior knew he had the retreating woman at his mercy, only to have her spin, roll or somersault out of trouble. Frustration was starting to be replaced by fear. The Red Horse of the Green Dragon feared that the Warrior Empress was holding back and if she was, then he was in real trouble.
The Chinese Champion performed a double kick combined with a sweeping and arcing combination of sword assaults. The Experienced Warrior Empress could feel the desperation in the manís attack. The Oriental Warrior was actually a great fighter and swordsmen and if Xena werenít a half God, he might have a chance.
ĎItís a shame that this swordsman has to die,í the Conqueror thought, ĎThe fighter was so good and could go far in my army. However, it was either the warrior or Mien Tieng.í
The Warrior Empress made up her mind and rammed her sword through the red horse embroidered on the Oriental manís tunic. Then the Dark Monarch pulled her sword down through the manís tunic and chest all the way to his crotch. When the victorious fighter removed her sword, the body of Liu Bu collapsed to the ground. Holding her sword over her head, the Warrior Empress exploded with her famous war cry.
With her cry, the Conquerorís army charged the opposing army. The Chinese archers had received the signal for which they were waiting. The composite bows they used gave them more range and better accuracy than the Western bows. The archers were about to end the Conquerorís life and destroy her army, when they were suddenly being slaughtered by horsemen. The surprise was total. It was a hopeless slaughter. The Conqueror had sent the horsemen circling this position three days earlier. The archers never released one arrow.
Yuan Fu was ready to signal his archers. He didnít have any faith that Liu Bu could defeat the Conqueror. The advisor just wanted the warrior out the way so he could have total control over the young Emperor. When the Red Horse fell, Fu signaled the release of his bowmen.
The thin advisor looked around to see why his archers had not released their arrows. Then he saw that the Conquerorís cavalry had gotten behind them and were destroying his archers. He had little time to contemplate his strategic position, because his head was removed by the Conquerorís chakram.
Xena signaled for the return of Argo and the dark rider mounted the horse as she came by at half gallop. Her next move would either save or kill her mentorís son. The Destroyer of Nations was on a mission to save a single life. The Warrior Empress had to eliminate the young Princeís final influence. The Dark Warrior took her chakram and sailed it toward Yuan Fu. After the chakram beheaded the shocked advisor, it returned to its owner.
The Young Dragon watched his last advisor fall from his horse, headless. The young Prince had lost so he did the honorable thing, he surrendered before his men were all slaughtered. The Green Dragon had no illusions as to his fate.
Chapter 19: The Beginning of the End Game
The Dark Empress looked down from her dais upon the chained boy. She sipped some chilled wine, while letting the young man sweat a while longer. Her friend and mentor sat on a smaller throne on the left side of the Empress. Slowly the Empress of Greece rose to her feet and said, "I forgive you. I have turned your case over to your Empress and leave you to her mercy."
The tall woman turned on her heels and headed towards her quarters, she had something she needed to do, wanted to do. Now, it was up to her former lover to save her own son. The Conqueror had done everything she could do to save the boy. Now, it was up to the Empress of Chin to do the rest.
Xena wanted to go to the Place of Power, but didnít want to ask Aresís help, so she called upon the soul within her. She concentrated on the place and found herself there. This place was different from the place she usually experienced. The place she was used to was normally void, but this place was beautiful with a small stream. There was a forest decorated with flowers and leaves of every color and hue.
Seated on a bench next to the stream was the reason the Dark Warrior came here. The lovely Bard sat on the bench in a delicate green outfit that highlighted her hair and eyes. The Warrior Empress could feel her lust rise. The young Bard laughed as she said, "We have to talk."
A half smile formed on the raven-haired womanís lips as she said, "I know, but when I get back we need to go beyond talking."
The blonde woman blushed while she grinned, "I know. You canít tell Solan youíre his mother yet."
The words hurt the dark woman and the scene changed as a cloud covered the sun and it started to rain. The sudden change in weather surprised the Warrior Empress. The surprised look on her face caused the green-eyed blonde to say, "This is how you want the place to be. As you can see, your perception of this place has changed. Solan is a Celtic Prince. He can get many warriors we need. But if you tell him who he really is, then he will be under the power of the Edicts of Ares."
The clouds drifted away and the sun shone brightly as Xena replied, "Letís hear your plan."
Gabrielle gave Xena a conspiratorial wink and said, "You cannot take direct action against your brothers, because of the Edicts. However, my Amazons and Solanís Celts and their Pict allies arenít restricted by the Edicts. You know who was behind the Barbarian attack?"
The tall image of the Conqueror shook her head and replied, "Remus."
Gabrielle smiled and continued to outline her plan, "I want you to grant Lower Gaul to the Amazons a new homeland for helping stop the Barbarian threat. We will agree to giving you an annual tribute of goods and services with a value of 100 bars of gold."
The Conqueror shook her head in the negative, "Wonít work. The Amazons want their original homeland, not a place so far from it."
The Queen of the Amazons laughed and responded, "You are going to tell me what we want? I know what our ultimate goal is, but I am the chosen of Artemis. If I tell them this is just an intermediate step theyíll listen. One day you will give us our homelands back."
The Dark Empress smirked with a half-smile, "Youíre sure of yourself."
Her green-eyes flared as she took the blue-eyed womanís hands in hers and replied, "Iím sure of us."
The Empress of the East blushed and cleared her throat as she said, "Ah, what about Remus? Iím sure heís going to stop your movement into Upper Gaul."
The blonde Bard chuckled, "Iím sure he would if we were going after Upper Gaul and he was there. Heíll be in Corinth when I seize Reme."
The Destroyer of Nations and the Empress of the East was dumbfounded as she asked, "How are going to accomplish this miracle? Remus never leaves his city."
The True Bard answered simply, "Ares will order him to do it."
The facial features of fearsome female burst forth, as she stated, "No way! I am not asking that asshole for anything. If I ask even once for something, Iíll never be free of him."
The little blonde let the womanís anger brush past her and said, "You wonít have to ask. Heís going to do it himself."
The angry snarl softened to a mask of curiosity as she asked, "I have to hear this! How do you plan to accomplish this feat of magic?"
"Actually, I plan on you performing that particular feat of magic," replied the young Bard with a wicked grin, "I want to build the greatest temple in the world and dedicate it to your father. I want you to declare a festival in his name and to invite all the rulers in your empire and the surrounding kingdoms. I want you to invite everyone you can think of, except your brothers. Your father will see it as a slight to them and he will encourage their attendance.
While they are partying in Corinth, The Celt and Picts will drive the Remians out of Britianna and I will take Reme. My Amazons will sack the city and burn it to the ground. Then weíll strike north into Upper Gaul and seize it. Then you will announce that Solan is your son. We announce a mutual defense treaty with Britannia.
It will prevent Remus from counterattacking, because of the Edicts and it will leave the Amazons and the Picts free to continue the conquest of the Kingdom."
The Conqueror burst out into laughter. It was so out of character; she hadnít laughed so hard since Lyceus was alive. Tears ran down her cheeks and she lost her balance from laughing so hard. After a short time, the Dark Empress gained control of herself and said, "You only look innocent. Oh, what a plan. My brother is going to be livid and he isnít as smart as Romulus. He wonít know what to do. Oh, it is too perfect. Except as a tributary you will already have a defense treaty with me. Or did you count on that to protect you from a sea invasion?"
Her innocent face became corrupted with a condemning blush and smirk. The Dark Empress started laughing again as she begged the smaller woman to stop tormenting her. Finally gaining control of herself, the Destroy of Nations said, "Start on the temple tomorrow. Iíll complete it when I get back."
Guilt showed in the Bardís green eyes as she responded, "We started three days again."
For the third time, the Conqueror laughed uncontrollably.
Chapter 20: Solan
A boy of eleven stood beside the Queen of the Amazons as she held judgment over several Amazon prisoners. The young prince was dressed in his ceremonial dark red-dyed woolen kilt and was bare-chested except for a bright red woolen slash. Tattoos decorated his body, neck and arms. The Celtic prince wore a silver torc as a symbol of his rank and status. The thick, circular, silver rod formed a necklace and had a wolfís head at one end and a bearís head at the other.
The Queen had ordered him here to meet the Empress of Greece. The Queen was his foster sister and he knew he owned her a huge debt. The young adolescent had been rescued by the Amazons during the Centaur/Amazon Wars when he was three. The young toddler had then been sent to then Princess Gabrielle for training in the arts of war.
The lad had been fostered by the High King Avallach, who also fostered both the sacred sisters. He had grown up with the knowledge that one day he would have to lead a great army. So the sandy haired boy was taught weaponry, tactics, strategy and logistics from an early age. In four months he would be a man and would be expected to raise his own warband.
Standing next to the young prince was his personal bodyguard, Murphy. The woman was a Cymyr, the Celts that had defeated the Remians at Yr Widdfa. The warrior stood 5í11" with rich brown eyes and hair. Her prowess with the lance was legendary. During the Battle Yr Widdfa she spear two armored soldiers with one throw, which brought her to the attention of the High King. The High King made the great warrior his foster sonís personal bodyguard. Through the years, the woman came to love the boy as her own son.
Solan listened intently to the wise judgments of his sister. The Queen was famous for her wisdom and her skill with a Rowan staff. The lad was here to learn and he was doing his best to do so. He was surprised by the respect and protectiveness shown him by the Conqueror's guard. He had been to many lands as a prince, but had never been shown such consideration.
The young warrior was becoming anxious, because today was day he was to meet the Conqueror, the Empress of the East. His sister had told him that she was beautiful and the greatest warrior in the world. The blue-eyed boy had learned of the attack on the Greek Empress and how she had caught several arrows out of the air. It was a feat that the young warrior could appreciate and desire.
The young prince was awoken from his thoughts by a question from his sister, "Brother, what should we do with this prisoner?"
The boy had not been paying attention to the last case. The young warrior knew his sister had noticed his inattention and was punishing him with embarrassment. So, the young man decided to deprive her of her pleasure. I think we should give her ten (10) lashes.
The young blonde was disappointed in her brother, he had not been paying attention and she hoped to point out to the boy the need to pay attention. But he covered his lack of duty with a sentence, when he had not heard the case. Now she had to give an innocent girl ten lashes. She had to show him how he had compounded his error, "That is a harsh judgment for a girl of 12 years for stealing an apple from the stores, but you have made the judgment little brother. Since you have made the judgment I will leave it to you to carry out personally."
The young prince looked at the prisoner for the first time and saw fear and betrayal in the wide doe eyes of Ganieda, the young Celt who had been his constant playmate in their youth. He had condemned his best friend to be lashed for taking an apple. How could the boy bring himself to lash his young friend?
Murphy knew what was going through the ladís mind. The boy knew he had condemned his friend to protect his pride. This lesson had to be taught the young prince. He needed to learn that his pronouncements were on real people. This lesson would be hard, but one that the boy needed to learn.
A whip was handed to the boy and the young girl was chained to the whipping post. The guard removed her tunic so that her bare skin would feel the lash. Gabrielle felt pity for the girl and the boy. They both would suffer because of youthful pride.
The young boy loosened the whip but leaned forward to whisper in the girlís ear, "Iím sorry, Ganieda. I made a mistake and will make it up to you, I promise."
Murphy walked over to the lad and whispered, "Remember you lessons. You have the skill to whip the girl without breaking the skin. Call upon the Awen to help you. You have it in you."
As Murphy moved away, the young warrior closed his eyes and called upon his inner soul, his Awen, to help guide his hand. Quickly he lashed the whip out ten times. Each time the whip tapped the girlís back leaving a five-toed bird track without breaking the skin. Each time the girl yelped, but they were mostly cries of surprise, because the pain was minimal.
The Queen of the Amazons, the True Bard, the Keeper of Healing and the Chancellor of the Empire of the East was proud of her foster brother. The lad had done his duty, but with skill and justice. The young adolescent strode up to his sisterís throne and said, "Sister, I say now that this girl is to be my ward. I have done her an injustice and will do my best to make it up to her."
The young Queen nodded at the justice of this gesture and was about to say more, when the trumpets sounded. They announced the arrival of the Conqueror.
End of Part 4. Continue to Part 5
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