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 breakdown 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 21: A Motherís Pride
The raven-haired Empress strode confidently into her throne room with several generals and courtiers riding in her wake. She looked very regal in her embroidered kimono with a slain green dragon on the back.
The young Chin prince would cause her no more trouble. His mother sent him to command the garrison in Korea. The Napanese were causing a lot of problems in Korea and the young dragon was going to learn how to rule or he was going to die.
The chancellor of the Empire looked on the scene with a wide grin. The young blonde thought the dead dragon was a nice touch. It was a message to any of those who would rebel against the Conqueror. The green-eyed bard signaled Solan and Murphy to her side. The young adolescent girl was left bound to the whipping post.
The Dark Empress scanned the scene and saw the predicament of the half-nude child. The Warrior Empress didnít like whipping children, so she made a mental note to see what the hell was going on. This action seemed so out of character for the gentle Bard.
The Conqueror marched up to the youngster. The raven-haired Warrior drew her sword and in one motion snapped the adolescentís bounds. Quickly she examined the marks on the child's back and saw that the whip had barely touched the childís skin. The tall ruler glanced at the young Queen with a silent question. Their eyes met and the Conqueror knew that this action was not her work.
Solan had observed the exchange between the two women and had
deduced incorrectly that his foster sister was in trouble. So, the young Prince
said, "Your Majesty, I did this. It was my misjudgment and my mistake that caused
the girl pain. I will pay any penalty for my mistake."
The Warrior Empress needed no introduction to the Young Warrior before her. Her son looked just like Lyceus, so much so the hardened Monarch was moved to mourn her brother all over again. Solan and Gabrielle saw the pained expression cross the Dark Empressís eyes. The blonde Bard knew the real reason for the look. The Prince interpreted it as anger at him for his misdeed.
The Conqueror saw the fear in the ladís eyes, but watched the boy as he squared his shoulders and prepared to stand his ground. The Young Warriorís action pleased Xena immensely. The boy had been well trained well.
However, her pleasure in her sonís demeanor were negated by the marks on the young girlís back. So, the Conqueror gave him her best scowl as she walked up the dais toward her son. As an after thought she commanded, "Have the girlís wounds tended. Then have her washed and dressed and sent to my quarters. I have many questions to ask of this girl."
The tall Monarch walked silently around the obviously nervous boy. The blue-eyed warrior noticed the long braids that the Britons used to wrap around their warriorsí neck for partial protection against close sword cuts as was the custom of the Celts. The Dark Empress had always doubted the practiceís effectiveness, but she saw the reasoning behind it.
The Conqueror made a special note of the silver torc around the young adolescentís neck. It was the symbol of high rank and power, which was only right for the son of Xena, the Conqueror.
The raven-haired woman circled the young adolescent, while visibility inspecting him for flaws. A Celtic Warrior that seemed to be the Celtic Princeís bodyguard twice blocked the Conquerorís view. The second time the Conqueror moved the woman with a backhand blow that knocked the bodyguard down. The lad swallowed a couple of times. Suddenly, the tall ruler stopped behind the boy and leaned over to whisper, "What were you doing?"
The young Prince stammered as he radiated the story of how he had made an unjust sentence in order to cover up his inattention. He related how he had been given the job to administer the punishment to teach him humility. He left out how the girl had been his friend and how he barely marked the girlís skin. He made no excuses. Murphy recovered and picked up her spear and went to hurl it at the tall monarch, but was stayed by the Amazon Queen with only a look.
The Warrior Empress went to her throne and sat slowly upon it. The Empress of the East turned to the Amazon Queen and gave her a smile and a wink. Then the tall ruler turned to the assemblage and announced, "I can find no fault with your action. A ruler must rule even when they are wrong. However, let this teach you a valuable lesson. Every decision you make, every law you decree, every pronouncement you announce effects someoneís life. I want to see you and Queen Gabrielle in my chambers in two candlemarks. You can bring the bodyguard. By the way, your Queen saved your life. We have plans to make. Now, I want my advisors to tell me whatís been going on while I was gone."
For one candlemark the Empress of Greece listened to the reports from her many administrators. The Dark Empress called for wine and sat with one leg dangling over the arm of her throne. The tall monarch asked several questions between sips of wine. The wine was a bit bitter so she called for a new vintage.
Murphy opened her pack and brought out a Celtic Vintage. The tough bodyguard handed it to her Prince, who opened the bottle and took a swig before pouring the Empress a cup full. The Dark Monarch was surprised by the action, but took the offered cup and tasted the exotically flavored wine. With a nod of her head, the tall ruler pronounced the vintage good.
After the Conqueror had heard from each administrator, she dismissed the court, except for the Prince and Gabrielle. Murphy refused to leave until Prince Solan ordered it personally. After the Celtic Warrior left, the Empress of the East asked, "Do you like your bodyguard?"
With a confused look, the boy answered, "She is my best warrior."
Then with a smile that would wilt flowers, the Dark Warrior said, "Then keep her out of my way. Iíd hate to have to kill your best warrior."
With a different smile that said much to the young Bard, the Warrior Empress ordered, "Get ready for our conversation. Bring the Prince and meet me in my chambers in one candlemark. You can still bring the bodyguard, but she better be tamed."
Chapter 22: Private Discussions
The young girl sat unmoving and terrified. Her doe eyes darted around the room, imagining monsters in every shadow and demons under every piece of furniture. Her young heart was racing in anticipation of seeing the Conqueror in her chambers, alone.
Everyone knew of the Empressís sexual appetite, so the young girl was both terrified and excited by the prospect of being the Dark Monarchís latest victim. At the window, a curtain moved and a same brass urn was knocked to the floor and the clanking noise of the fall caused the girl to pull her knees into her chest.
The small sandy blonde jumped when the chamber door opened and the raven-haired monarch glided into the room. The Express of Greece walked briskly passed the terrified girl as if she didnít know the child was there. Actually the Conqueror could smell the girlís fear and excitement. The tall ruler decided to have some fun.
The exquisitely shaped Empress dropped her kimono and walked sensually toward her robe, giving the girl amble opportunity to gaze at her naked form. The beautiful monarch grabbed her robe but turned towards the girl to give her a frontal view before she put her robe on.
Nonchalantly the raven-haired ruler strode toward the youngster. The Conqueror left her robe slightly open to reveal a portion of breast and ample leg. As the Dark Empress turned to get her wine she revealed her full breast and could feel the girlís eyes on her. The Empress of the East grinned widely as she heard a small moan escape from the youngsterís lips.
Righting herself in the chair and sitting back with her legs crossed, the Conqueror asked as she sipped her wine, "What is your name child?"
The girl was too terrified to answer, a dry "Ganieda" squeaked from her dry throat. Then the child managed a small plea for water. The Conqueror had no water, so she poured the girl some of her wine, which the girl accepted and drank quickly and greedily. The Dark Monarch asked, "How are you feeling? Does your back hurt?"
Suddenly, her fear changed from herself to for her friend, Solan. So, she quickly answered, "I have gotten worse beatings from my father. Solan was gentle, he did what he had to do. I understand. He is my friend, please donít punish him. I did steal that apple. I was hungry and forgot the rules."
The Conqueror nearly laughed. The girl was terrified for her
son. I must investigate this relationship much closer. The Dark Empress knew
that the Celts married early and this child was a potential daughter-in-law.
The tall ruler made a mental note to herself to question her son on his feelings,
she could see what the girlís were. So, to reassure the child, the Conqueror
said, "There is no need to worry. I have already pronounced Solan innocent and
you have been punished, so there is no more need to worry. The matter is closed."
"Now, I want you to go with my maid. She will find you some appropriate clothes and you will have dinner at my table tonight," No harm in playing a little matchmaker, she thought. The Conqueror liked this girlís spunk, she would make a worthy mate for her son. The Empress signaled for her maid and gave her the proper instructions.
As the girl left, her son, his bodyguard and her heart entered the room. The Empress of Greece lost her speech for a moment as she was forced to signal for her son and her love to be seated.
The raven-haired ruler could see the uneasiness in her sonís eyes, so she decided to put the matter to rest, by saying, "I have ordered the girl dressed for dinner with us tonight. I have arranged for us to have dinner out on the terrace. I love to eat under the stars."
The young Bard smiled as she said, "The stars are the best witnesses for doing many things. Many of my Druid rites are performed naked under the stars."
The Conqueror made a mental note to witness these rituals first hand. The young woman had no idea what she was doing to the excited monarch, but she must remind her soon, it is not smart to bait a hungry lioness. To cover her feelings the Conqueror replied, "Well, we shall dine clothed tonight. Maybe later we could snack under stars in the nude."
The young blonde blushed at the rush of passion that coursed through her body at that image and the Empress smirked at her embarrassment. The Dark Monarch mentally said, ĎPaybacks are a bitch, arenít they?'
The tall ruler decided it was time for business, pleasure would come later, she promised herself. So the blue-eyed Empress announced, "Letís discuss our plans to rid ourselves of Reme in the north."
Chapter 23: Pleasures
A small table was placed on the large terrace that overlooked Corinth. In the distance, you could see the field that was covered with crosses. They were empty now, but that would change soon the Empress promised herself. They would be soon filled with Remians.
A canopy of stars provided the only light. Diane had blessed them with a full and bright moon, so the Conqueror had ordered the candles to remain unlit, so as not to spoil the natural light. When Ganieda arrived she was dressing a long flowing blue dress that seemed to highlight her sandy blonde hair.
Solan sat quietly beside the young Celt and shyly attempted to make his heart know to her. The boy had a lot to learn about romance the Conqueror concluded and she decided she needed to take an open hand in the game. So she said, "After dinner, why donít you show your friend the garden, Prince Solan? It is very special in the moonlight. I have two plants in there that only bloom on the full moon."
The young Prince lit up at the suggestion and asked his friend, "Would you like to see the gardens?"
The adolescent girl replied, "Yes, I would my Prince."
Green-eyes questioned blue with a silent understanding. Gabrielle looked at the couple and sighed. She knew Celtic traditions. Once the boy raised his warband, he was a man. As a man, he would be expected to start a hearth and raise a family.
Ganieda was a good match for Solan. Her father was of the fair folk and ranked high among them. A match with Ganieda would mean Solan would have an ally among the powerful in Lloynesse. The young Queen mourned the loss of her brotherís childhood, but reveled in his ascension into manhood. It was a bonus that two obviously cared for each other.
The True Bard and Druid of the Healing Hand decided to talk to her sister, so she could arrange the bands for the two young people. The wedding would be after the upcoming campaign against Reme, but then there would be a grand wedding.
The Dark Empress knew that her love had already decided that the match would be made, the Bardís eyes were guileless. So, she asked, "When will the wedding take place, Gabrielle?"
The young Queen responded, "After his campaign against Reme, he must prove himself a man before starting his hearth."
The Conqueror knew what her wedding present would be. So, she made a small announcement, "Prince Solan, it is my understanding that you will be raising a warband. Is this correct?"
The Prince put down his fork, swallowed his food and proudly answered, "Yes, Your Majesty. I will be raising it as soon as I return to my homeland."
The mother in the Dark Empress beamed with pride at her son and asked, "How many men do you plan to raise for your warband?"
The Prince smiled as he replied, "I have weapons, armor and horse for twenty-five men. The High King has pledged me one hundred and twenty-five more. My sister the Queen has pledged one hundred, which will give me two hundred and fifty men, if I can find that many."
The Conqueror smiled and decreed, "Then as a token of friendship between our people and as a present for your upcoming birthday, I pledge two-hundred and fifty weapons, armor and horses, plus the men to fill the armor. I will give you two hundred and fifty of my Persian guard."
The boy was dumfounded. This was a gift beyond measure. Two hundred and fifty trained men would be a boon to his warband and he could not refuse a birthday gift. So, the young warrior replied, "I thank Your Majesty for her generosity and hope to reward her faith in me with a victory over Reme."
The Amazon Queen saw one problem and moved to answer it, "Your Majesty, how will the Prince command them when he doesnít speak their language?"
The raven-haired Monarch smiled as she answered, "I have thought of that. I am given to understand that Murphy speaks Greek, as do my Persians. Everyone in my army is required to learn Greek. Do you not speak Greek, Murphy?"
The silent bodyguard knew the Conqueror knew her secret. Yes she had learned craft in the Conquerorís army. When the Remian invaders killed her family, Murphy had sought a place in the Conquerorís army to gain revenge. She learned her skills as a warrior there, but she soon found out that the Conqueror was bound by the Edicts. So, she deserted the Army of the West and went home to war against Reme. The Celtic Warrior asked, "How did you know?"
The Conqueror drank some wine and shrugged, "You hold a spear like a Spartan, not a Celt. You could have only learned that from one of my trainers. Did you desert?"
Murphy steady her gazed and said loudly, "I went home to fight Reme, which you could not. I did not ask for permission to go."
The Conqueror picked up an apple and took a bite. After she chewed the bite and swallowed, she responded, "Good then you were on leave and are still a member of my army. I release you and assign you with the task of guarding the Prince."
Murphy had been granted a reprieve. The Dark Ruler had well been within her right to have the warrior executed and there was nothing either the Prince or the Queen could have done to save her. Had she answered that she had deserted, she would have forced the Conquerorís hand.
Chapter 24: In the Garden
Solan walked with Ganieda down the stone stairway that led to the hedges that protected the garden. They stopped by a silent mutual consent and looked up at the full moon. Solan wanted to speak sweet words and poetry, but he didnít know what to say.
Ganieda wanted to give the boy a couple dinars, so he could buy a clue. She had waited for more than a year now for the young warrior to speak his mind. The girl knew her mind and had pretty much figured his out. ĎBoys can be so dense,í she thought.
If they were going to get anywhere, Ganieda knew that she would have to take the lead. So, the girl kissed the boy on his lips and ran through hedge and into the garden. Solan just stood there unable to move. The lad touched his lips to feel the kiss and looked at his hand. Then, a light burst into his eyes and he smiled as he followed Ganieda into the moonlit garden.
The young Prince had an immediate decision the path though the labyrth of hedges went right or left. He strained his hearing in an effort to detect which direction she went. Then he examined the ground. He turned left in persuit.
Ganieda had made a wrong turn somewhere, because she found herself facing a hedge on three sides. The girl was forced to retrace her steps. Silently as possible in her long flowing dress the young maiden retreated in the direction she had came, only to run into the Prince she was trying to catch.
Her doe eyes looked into his blue ones and a quiet message of emotion was exchanged. In other times, they would be considered young, but in their society it was the time of betrothal and both knew that each had found their mate. Solan gently brushed his closed lips against hers and asked, "What dowry should I ask of your father?"
The young maiden smiled and replied, "Ten men with horse, armor and weapons."
The young Prince laughed loudly and responded, "Thatís a steep price for such a little girl."
Shyly she ran her hand across his chest and looked deeply into his eyes. With her other hand she ran her fingers through her hair and gently pulled his lips to hers. Then she kneed him in the lightly groin and shouted as ran away, "Not so little as that."
Solan was quick to recover. It wasnít that hard of a blow, though any blow in that region was painful. With a slight limp and damaged pride, the young Prince resumed his chase through the rows of hedges. He was determined to extract his revenge, but in a more pleasant manner.
Chapter 25: Loveís Promise
After the two young lovers left, the two older women had an intimate discussion about many things. The first subject was the couple that had just left. The Conqueror asked, "I know it is the custom of the Celts to make a boy a man at twelve, but arenít they young to be getting married? I encourage the romance, but I favor a long engagement."
The True Bard sighed and answered, "He will be expected to start a hearth as soon as he has tasted battle. It is the Celtic tradition that all warriors have a wife and a hearth. I would hope that they wait to have children, but it is quite common for a girl of her age to be expecting a child."
A wry smile appeared on her lips, as the tall monarch said, "It is so sad to find my son, then lose him to that slip of a girl. I can see you think it is a good match. I want to know about this girl that has obviously captured my sonís heart. I have seen her courage, but is she of good family?"
The Amazon Queen poured they both a glass of fruit juice. The young blonde handed the Dark Empress her cup and sipped upon the sweet cool liquid. Then she answered, "Her father is one of the fair folk. He is the leader of a tribe that lives in Northern Britannica. He has many friends among the Picts. His name is Custennin and is King of Upper York. The girlís mother was named Gwendau and she was Scotti, one of the northern tribes.
Politically this marriage is perfect for Solan. He would have blood relations among the fair folk and the Scotti, plus friends among the Picts. Solan would get men as part of the dowry and he would be able to raise other followers with the promise of booty.
But most of all, I like the girl. They grew up together and have known each other since Solan came to Britannica. Ganieda was given to the High King as a fosterling. She was Custenninís pledge of loyalty."
The Empress of Greece also had such "fosterlings", they were hostages to guarantee the loyalty of the childís parents. She had known that the practice was more widely used among the Britons. The tall ruler drained her glass of fruit juice and smiled. It seems the young Queen wanted her sober. The Dark Empress raised a single eyebrow as she asked, "When will you make the arrangements?"
The True Bard chuckled as she replied, "Iíve already started. All the arrangements should be ready by the time he gets back to Britannica. Iíve sent Murphy to make arrangements for their passage tomorrow. I want him back and in place to build his warband by his birthday. Iíve also had her arrange passage for your gift, which by the way was a great gesture."
"Gesture nothing. Iím having my best men protecting my son and soon-to-be heir. I wanted to send a thousand, but that would have looked suspicious," responded the raven-haired monarch.
An awkward silence replaced the quiet and confident conversation of a few seconds earlier. Both women wanted to explore their deep feelings for one another, but each was unsure of how to proceed. The young blonde was inexperienced and shy. The Empress was afraid of exposing her feelings without knowing the green-eyed Bardís intentions.
The silence continued for nearly a quarter of a candlemark, when laughter came from the garden maze. The inexperience Bard said, "They donít seem to be having any trouble communicating. Whatís our problem?"
"Do we have a problem?" replied the Conqueror.
The young woman reached for the raven-haired monarchís hand and felt energy being exchanged by the contact. Each woman was amazed at the intense feelings and desires that the light touch had created. The two powerful women were powerless before the other. Finally the Druid of the Healing Hand answered, "Our problem is that we have too many clothes on and are not in the right room."
A knowing half smile appeared on Xenaís face as she rose from her seat, held out her hand to Gabrielle and said, "Well, then letís go into my bedroom and solve both of those problems and maybe a couple more."
The blonde Bard rose and took the offered hand and accompanied the Dark Empress to her bedroom. They walked unsteadily into the ornate bedroom. The bed was made of black teak decorated with gold and pearl inlays. It was draped with bolts of golden silk with gold thread embroidering intricate patterns. The sheets and pillows were made of white silk. It was a bed made to seduce and seen many a conquest.
Xena looked at the bed and scanned the superficial room and felt shame. This was not the place to make love to Gabrielle. This room was a place for one night ravishings of willing sluts and whores or unwilling slaves. Xena pulled her heart into her arms and gently kissed her gently. Gabrielle had longed for this moment and released herself to the kiss. The young woman opened her mouth to receive the Conqueror.
However, Xena pulled away and looked into the deep green eyes that had stolen her soul and said, "This is not the place nor the time. I donít want this to be so trivial. I want our first time to be a special moment that will live in our hearts forever. I want to grow old with you."
The young inexperience woman was slightly confused. The dinner, the moon, the stars and her lover all made this special to her. The True Bard knew that Xena meant her words, but the words confused her. Green eyes scanned the room and tried to see what her lover saw and then it occurred to her. The Conqueror of the East and Daughter of Ares, the God of War was unwilling to bring her love into her past.
Taking her lover by the hand the young Bard led her out of the bedroom and down the corridor to a smaller and less ornate bedroom. It was Murphyís room. The Queen smiled as she found the Celtic Warrior sitting in a chair romancing a young maid. The Amazonian ruler cleared her throat to announce her presence. The tall lean Warrior leaped her feet and knelt before her Queen and asked, "What can I do for you, My Queen?"
The young blonde blushed and was unable to make her request. It was obvious that Murphy had need of her bed. However, the Conqueror knew what the young Queen had in mind and replied for her, "Weíd like to exchange rooms."
Murphy looked at the two rulers and smiled. She gathered some belongings and started to leave. The house maid grabbed her hand and said, "Iíll show the way."
End of Part 5.
Continue to Part 6
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