by Leslie Ann Miller
Disclaimers- The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement is intended.
Violence - Yes, some. Nothing worse than what you'd see in the show.
Subtext / sex - Yes, this story depicts sexual acts between women. If that is illegal where you are, or it gives you the willies, you should try reading something else.
Hurt / Comfort - Yes
Other - This story is loosely based on the Hercules episode "Armageddon Now"
Thanks - I'm especially grateful to Fizz for all the help. Also thanks to Ellen and the ex-guards for their feedback and assistance.
Let me know what you think, good or bad! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am Gabrielle, perhaps best known as the one-legged Poet of Potidaea; historian, orator, and chronicler for the great Emperor, Alexander. This tale, unlike all my others, is about me. If you're expecting a story about the heroic deeds of the rebellion, I'm afraid you will be disappointed, and I recommend you read my other works. Here, you will hear what happened to me when the war was over, when I left the palace in Corinth and went to Shark Island to speak to Xena in her prison cell, and what transpired thereafter.
I'll begin with some background first, however, in case you're unfamiliar with my past.
I was only seventeen when Xena, Destroyer of Nations and Empress of the Known World, crucified me for speaking out against her. The accusation was unjust. Truth is, at the time, I had done little more than tell some bawdy tales at an inn where some of Xena's soldiers were having an evening of drink. When I refused their advances after my performance, they accused me of treachery against the state, and I was brought before Xena to receive my punishment. Xena was not known for her mercy, particularly when it came to the fledgling rebellion, and she ordered me nailed to the cross.
I do not like to think about that day; the pain, the agony, the despair. Suffice to say, that when I thought I would surely die; when, indeed, I begged to die, I received a vision. I was surrounded in a white light that took away the pain and replaced it instead with warmth, comfort, and love such as I have never experienced before. In the white light was a being with wings, and the being told me that I would survive the cross and live to conquer Xena, and that this would be a good thing for the world. And though it seemed a ridiculous thought that I, a peasant from Potidaea, would conquer the Empress of the Known World, I did not die then, when I longed so much to do so.
My friend Alexander rescued me from the cross. Alexander was brilliant, an excellent warrior, and he easily outsmarted Xena's guards to save my life. My recovery was slow, and I lost my leg to gangrene, but I told Alexander of my vision, and we vowed to join the rebellion and make the prophesy come true. I had the words, and Alexander the wits, and together we built an army to challenge the might of an Empress… and ultimately, to topple her.
My undying hatred for Xena kept me going through seven heartbreaking years of war. I lost friends and companions, watched entire cities burn to the ground. After the razing of Athens, I was certain we had lost the war; but it was then that Xena began to make mistakes. Perhaps Athena herself turned the tide in our favor; two years later the final bloody battle was fought on the plain beneath Mt. Cithaeron.
Never in our discussions did we ever consider that the Destroyer of Nations would outlive her army. We expected suicide, or death in battle, but never capture alive. So when the soldiers of Hephaestion's phalanx brought her before us covered in her victims' blood, I knew that Alexander was at a loss for what to do.
Xena's blue eyes flashed with lightning , and she spat on Alexander's sandalled foot. "You may have defeated my army," she hissed, "but you will never conquer me."
Alexander smiled, running fingers through his golden hair, but I could see the strain on his face. I watched him closely, so I could accurately record his reaction to the Destroyer's words. With my crutches, I was unable to carry parchment and quill with me, so I needed to remember. I did not forget.
His smile deepened as he raised his bloody sword to swing, to put an end to Xena once and for all, to avenge our losses, to appease our hate. "Xena, you ARE conquered," he said slowly, and I watched as his muscles tensed to throw the blow.
It may sound odd, but in that instant, a war was fought within me. Part of me wanted Xena dead, would have loved nothing better than to see her body fall bloody and decapitated in the dust so I could impale her head upon a spear and parade it around for all to see, but the poet in my heart knew that this was not how Alexander should begin a reign of peace and justice.
"Wait," I cried, the poet winning the battle inside, and Alexander froze with his sword mid air, still poised to strike.
"Why?" he asked, his eyes not leaving Xena's.
"We have fulfilled the prophesy. Do not begin your rule with blood, " I said hesitantly.
He gave a harsh laugh. "And what do you call this, Gabrielle?" He touched the red gore upon his breast plate. "How can I begin my rule without blood when I am fairly bathing in it?!"
I fought the tears that threatened to spill out of my eyes. "We had to fight this battle," I said. "In this," I pointed at Xena, "you have a choice. You have the choice to begin your reign with vengeance or with mercy."
Alexander hesitated, staring at Xena with hatred.
I continued. "I want her dead, too, Alexander, believe me. But you must think of the future, of how they will look back on you. This is your chance to show the world that you are different, that you're better than Xena, that you're not blinded by hatred like she is. Don't give in to hate, Alexander, not now, not ever, I beg you. Mercy is the better way." It was hard for me to say it; and harder still to believe. But the poet in me knew it was true.
He turned back to Xena, torn by indecision.
She sneered at him. "Showing mercy is a sign of weakness," she jeered.
Hephaestion stepped to Alexander's side and put his hand upon the general's shoulder. "Xena's words prove the truth of Gabrielle's," he said quietly.
Alexander lowered his sword, and pointed at me. "See there, Xena. There stands Gabrielle, the Poet of Potidaea. Seven years ago you crucified her, my dearest friend, for telling stories at an inn. But I rescued her, and she survived your torture, and she began to speak against you." He spread his arms. "Her wisdom, her vision, led me on this path. Her words helped raise an army to defeat you. And because of my love for her, I will not betray that vision now. May Athena strike me dead if I should ever become a leader like you, without conscience, mercy, or compassion."
Xena snorted. "You won't remain a leader very long, then. While Athena may not be the one to kill you, some traitor will. You can't hold power with compassion, and mercy will be your downfall."
Alexander laughed, and I could tell he was truly amused. "You're a brilliant warrior, Xena. It amazes me that you can be such a fool in other matters."
The former Destroyer of Nations snarled at this. Apparently she was unused to being called a fool.
"You'll see!" she spat. "I'll give it less than a year before you're dead! Do you honestly expect to be able to hold my empire together?! You?! And your little one-legged bard?! You'll both be torn to pieces!"
I smiled. Alexander would hold the empire together, I had no doubts. He possessed a charisma that would lead men to do anything for him. Xena held her empire together by fear until it crumbled in the face of a greater force. Alexander would hold his empire together through love. His army loved him; his followers loved him; and soon, I was certain; the world itself would love him.
Alexander, too, smiled at Xena's words. "I do not profess to see the future, Xena. I only know this: that you, who once claimed to be invincible, kneel before me, defeated. I do not trust your gift of foresight."
Several of the surrounding commanders chuckled.
Xena was livid. "Go ahead and kill me now, you bastard son of a whore."
"No, Xena. You will be imprisoned until you admit to me that you are conquered. And since I suspect you are far too proud to ever do that, I do not expect to have to consider further judgement against you." He looked to Hephaestion. "See to it that she is not hurt. Place her in sturdy chains, and do not release her arms for any reason. Make sure that they are secured to her ankles. Remember that she can kill with a touch. She is dangerous, even now."
Hephaestion nodded. "It will be done."
I watched in satisfaction as the Destroyer of Nations was hauled away by guards, her normally beautiful face twisted by anger. There was one, I thought, who would never be healed by love.
"Letting her live will be a greater punishment to her than a quick death," Alexander said at my side.
"Good," I said, without thinking.
Alexander raised an eyebrow, and I regretted my words. He smiled. "You once told me that with execution, there is no hope of redemption."
"Do you honestly expect the Destroyer of Nations to redeem herself?" I asked bitterly.
"No. But ,Gabrielle, you know we have to hope."
I snorted. Alexander was a better person than I, despite his fierceness as a warrior.
He sighed wearily. "As long as she is alive, she represents a threat. I will have to keep her someplace safe." He considered for a moment. "I will send her to Shark Island prison, and surround her with guards from Athens."
"They will kill her."
"Perhaps, but I will not worry that they will ever release her."
It was true. If Xena was to be allowed to live, Alexander needed to ensure that she would not be freed by treachery. I nodded.
Alexander stepped before me and squeezed my shoulders, looking down into my eyes. "Gabrielle, today, we have achieved our victory. Xena is defeated. The reign of Ares is over. Tomorrow we march in triumph to Corinth, and I will crown myself emperor. When the Parthenon is restored, I will make my capitol in Athens." He touched my cheek. "Xena is conquered, just as your vision predicted. Forget her now, since I know you cannot forgive."
He was right. It was better to forget and focus on the future. Finally, I met his eyes and smiled. "You have much to do, and I, well, I've got a lot to write."
Eleven months after Alexander's triumphant march into Corinth the empire still held together. A single upstart satrap in Persia had tried to take advantage of the change in leadership, and Alexander's general, Parmenio, quickly crushed the uprising.
I was given rooms on the first floor of the palace so I would not have to navigate as many stairs. While I was fairly mobile on my crutches , my good leg and foot still ached after standing or walking for too long, and stairs were particularly painful to traverse.
I had a small bedroom and a study with a door that led to the gardens. As well, I was tended by a young servant who looked after my needs. She ran errands for me to the city and fetched my meals from the kitchen when I was not dining with Alexander.
I would not accept the huge gifts of wealth the Emperor offered me; only a small salary appropriate to a royal historian and poet. Compared to what I'd had before, it was a life of luxury. I had all the parchment I needed, and I could purchase ink instead of making it myself. I had medications that helped my pain. The excessive wealth he offered me, I told him, was better spent helping the poor. Eventually, he agreed, and a public bath in the poor section of Corinth was built in my honor.
Even more precious to me was the time I had to put my words to paper. During the rebellion, there was always the fear, the running, the fighting. Whereas before I'd spent much of my effort writing speeches and orations, I was now able to write the histories.
The problem was, I wasn't satisfied with them. The poet in me was displeased. It was my portrayal of Xena that bothered me most. Oh, I did not lack for material to demonstrate how evil she was; and she made the perfect contrast to Alexander. It was classic good versus evil, gold hair versus raven. It was easy to show the folly of her ways; how cruelty wrought her downfall; how arrogance failed to serve her in the end. It was one long discourse in the triumph of light over darkness.
But Homer, whose hero was Achilles, portrayed Hector, his foil, in the most sympathetic terms. Truth is, it made for a better story. And while I did not want the future to sympathize with Xena, I did not believe that any human being was born as evil as she had become. I could not explain why she was the way she was. I could not explain her cruelty; I could not explain her hate. She had built an empire to rule with a heart of ice, and yet I, a poet, could not explain why.
Without that explanation, my story was incomplete. Without that explanation, Alexander's story was incomplete, for his fate and Xena's were inseparably entwined.
I realized, then, that for history's sake, I would have to face the Destroyer again, to find the answers to my questions.
Alexander, of course, objected. "I need you to record my actions as emperor!"
"You have scribes to record your actions as emperor. They record your rulings, your new codes of law. They will record whatever you need or want. I am telling the story of the war, Alexander, and I can't do that without learning her history."
"I still don't understand why."
"That's because you're a warrior, not a poet."
"You're my conscience."
"You have your own conscience, and I trust it with my heart."
"You're my inspiration.
"The prospect of continuing to undo the injustices of Xena's reign should be far more inspiring than me."
He laughed. "I love you."
"Like a sister! Your true love is Hephaestion, and don't try to deny it." I squeezed his hand. "I realize this doesn't make much sense to you now. But I have to do this, Alexander. I'm recording history, and I have to do this for the future."
He looked at me seriously. "Ever since your crucifixion, you have followed your heart with the certainty of a wisdom I don't understand. I know you say you don't understand this gift yourself, but I will not stand in your way. If you wish to go, I won't stop you. But you must promise not to let that monster hurt you. Take no risks. Even in prison, Xena is dangerous."
I nodded. "I know. I promise."
Continued in part 2
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