I make no claim to Xena, Ares or any other character associated with the show.
There is violence in this story, along with some disturbing themes. Plus there's a little language, so if you are offended by any of the above, maybe you should reconsider.
This story is continued from Goddess of War, so the sequence of events might not make sense to you if you haven't read Goddess of War.
The man hurtled her into the cell, smacking her head against the far wall. She recoiled, rubbing her bruise sorely, but the man gave her barely enough time to recover from the blow. He grabbed her wrists and forced her against the wall. Thick shackles closed on her wrists and legs, the heavy metal locking her in place. She attempted to kick at the man restraining her, but only managed to lift her leg several inches off the ground before the chains jerked her leg back against the cold floor. The man laughed heartily as he pocketed the keys to her freedom underneath his heavy cloak. She cursed and spat into the man's face, but it missed by a good couple feet, landing uselessly on the cell floor. He shook his head, chuckling to himself as he headed out the door of the cell.
Another man stood ominously at the cell door, watching her from a distance of several feet. As the first man left, he moved from the door deeper into the cell. His heavy boots echoed in the damp cell as he approached her. The scent of leather invaded her nostrils. She knew who he was even before he began to speak. He crouched beside her and demanded her eyes. She turned her head and closed her eyes in disgust. He nudged her chin forward, but she still refused to look at him.
"I'm sorry, Xena," he said. "But you need to be punished. I don't tolerate misdemeanors like that amusing little trick you tried to pull. Until you realize this, you'll spend your days here; ten feet underground, without sunlight, without human contact. The closet you'll get to the surface is the screaming of the other prisoners. They're all paying their time, too. You should know by now: anyone that messes with the God of War is a dead man." He looked upon her battered body and smiled. "Or woman."
She hissed at him and tried to deliver a swift kick to his midsection. Her leg returned to the floor with the clattering of her heavy chains following it. She shook her head and closed her eyes tightly with hopelessness. Ares looked on her, sympathetically, but said nothing. He stood, looking down on her for the last time, and headed out of the cell. "Good bye, Xena," he said forlornly.
"Fuck you," she spat more than said.
Her eyes clouded. A dry tear fell slowly down her cheek as she heard his fading footsteps. She managed to catch a few words he exchanged with the guard. "No visitors. . .watch her. . ." She heard the guard acknowledge his every demand and then heard Ares leave quietly through the hall door.
Her gut ached, but more importantly her head. Her head was throbbing with an immutable pain that pulsed through her temples with magnified suffering. Her thoughts were scattered and unchained, and she could not gather even two moments of solid concentration.
She tried the chains again, wrenching her arms forward, using her body's momentum as an aid. The chains jerked her back, smacking the back of her head against the concrete wall. She winced as pain centered around the new focus of hurt. She rattled her chains in frustration, choking on her sobs. The frightful noise of the chains clattering against the wall echoed for several moments after she stopped, returning to her unwanting ears moments later. Soon, the only sound in her cell was her faint breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. She closed her eyes.
Day One was over. Or at least she assumed it was. She couldn't tell in the damn day and nightless cell one day from the next. For all she knew, it could have been two days later. She guessed it had only been one full day because she had been lying restlessly awake for the greater part of it.
She had managed to calm herself down by focusing on her light breathing. She continued this exercise throughout most of the day, but thoughts of fervid hatred often broke her concentration and left her back in her former state of despair. Hatred was the one thing that motivated her with the will to live. Hatred was the one thing that kept her flesh burning against the cold concrete of the floor. Hatred was the one thing that forced her heart to pump endlessly through day and night. She cried hateful tears once again. Desperation was crawling through her veins and overwhelming the hatred. Soon she would lose the will to live.
Her throat was dry and her stomach ached of hunger. Each swallow was torment; the slow path of dry saliva edging down her throat, the muscles in her esophagus straining with all their might to force the secretion down. She felt her stomach tackling the saliva in hopes of it taking some form of food. It rumbled in response to the empty present and returned her favor with hunger pains. She winced with the cramps and tried to ignore them; tried to concentrate on her breath, but there was only desperation.
She heard the soft jingling of keys clinking to the gait of a heavy man. Her blue eyes flashed through the thick darkness, searing through the cell door with determination. She heard the man stop in front of the cell door and fumble with the keys. She held her breath as the man wrestled with the doorknob, eventually managing to force the door open and step inside. A thin shaft of light struck across the floor. The sudden brightness burned Xena's eyes, forcing them to shut tightly. The man grunted as he saw her chained to the wall. She managed to force her eyes open, so she could watch the heavy man waddle over to her and place a tray beside her. The tray had a bowl of shimmering water and another bowl full of something that vaguely resembled food. Xena was suddenly enlightened with a purpose. The man said nothing as he left, and turned only once more to look back at her. The door closed again and the light was suffocated. Xena contorted herself around to a position on her knees. She stooped over, her hair falling in greasy strands into the food and water and attempted to lap up the water from the bowl like a wild animal. The cool liquid entered her wanting mouth and flowed over the coarse lines of her throat, soothing them with a convincing touch. As she found the bottom of the bowl, she lapped uselessly at the empty saucer, wishing there was more. After she was convinced that she had stomached every last drop, she sank back against the wall, savoring the lasting feeling of the water against her throat. She looked skeptically to the bowl of food. Thoughts of disgust and pride almost led her to rejecting the food, but a voracious roar of objection from her stomach brought her back to the immediate issue of hunger. She returned to the bowls, and tested the unknown substance with her tongue. It was bland; probably a porridge of some sort. She tasted it once again. Her stomach rose in a chorus of praise as she swallowed a mouthful of the soupy mush. She coughed as the sour taste invaded her taste buds. The curd dribbled from her mouth, falling sloppy lines on her chest. She spat the porridge out to the side, and kicked the bowl away from her. This is what they feed the dogs, she concluded angrily.
Hours later, she wished she hadn't kicked the bowl away. She looked hopefully to the corner where it rested face up. She attempted to reach it, but the extent of her arm could only reach about five feet from it. She felt around on the floor. She found a thin stick resting on the floor beside her, presumably the walking stick of the cell's previous occupant. She began to feel extremely hopeful, as she transferred the stick to her other hand, and reached for the bowl. The stick came closer and closer to the bowl, but when she felt a straining pain in her arm, and she saw the stick only made it two inches from the bowl, she became hopeless again. She sank back against the wall, and tried to concentrate on her breath.
It was Day Three now; she could feel it; feel the days passing by in the grind of her bones and the howling stomach pains that rose up out of protest to malnutrition. Three days with her only accompaniment, her despair.
This morning she had woke up covered in urine.
Before the only sound to break the monotonous silence was her ragged breath, and now a new sound tormented her ears. It was the sound of steady water droplets falling from the ceiling and splattering on the floor with a small dull noise. Over and over again. By now the noise was in her ears, each drop a thundering explosion of repetition. She felt herself growing closer to insanity. She closed her eyes, and focused on her breath once again.
This time, when the man came in and brought her the food and water, she ate and drank all of it thankfully.
The food had made her horribly sick. She woke in the middle of the night from her light sleep with horrendous stomach cramps. She turned to her side and vomited violently all over the floor. Her stomach wrenched and turned as more vomit edged up her throat, burning her insides like acid. She fell back against the wall in pain. More vomit belched from her mouth unexpectantly and fell all over her clothes. She winced as another wave of cramps rose in her stomach. She would not eat that food again.
When the sickness had passed, she forced sleep upon herself again. Sleep was the only escape from reality, and it was the closest she could get to comfort in the dark cell. Unfortunately, sleep rejected her, and she was forced to listen to the tedious music of the water droplets hitting the stone floor. They were like tears dripping from the ceiling; tears for the prisoners who could not cry because there was barely enough moisture in them to weep one lonely tear.
Xena was in a state of unconsciousness, fainted from desperation. Her head fell on her shoulder and her eyes closed. Her bare skin against the cold, damp wall was the only vague reminder of her existence as she became senseless. She was slowly drifting towards something resembling sleep, but far deeper. Perhaps it was death, perhaps it was not. Xena would never know because moments later, the distant footsteps echoed in the hallway. The footsteps grew louder, lulling Xena to near consciousness. The cell door opened and a man stepped in. The man walked over to her, looked her over in pity, and knelt beside her. She could barely feel his hands undo the shackles, and lift her gently off the ground and out of the cell. The only thing she could distinctly remember was the heavy scent of leather entering her nostrils as they passed through the hallway in silence.
When she regained her senses, she found herself on a riverbank in the middle of the woods. Her first instinct was to crawl to the river, cup her hands and scoop water endlessly into her mouth. She drank so much she soon threw up on the riverbank, but still returned to drink again.
When she had satisfied her thirst, she clambered to her feet and studied her surroundings. It had just rained; she could tell from the light mist settling in around the thick trunks of the trees, and the drop in temperature. The earth was soggy with moisture, and the air smelled faintly of rain. She looked into the cloudless night sky, and did something strange. She thanked the gods. She thanked them all.
She lumbered through the forest in search of a path. Sure enough she found one not far from the river. Signs pointed east and west, one to Parnassus, and one to Athens. Xena stumbled down the road towards Parnassus. Her army was waiting for her return.
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