Copyright © October 29, 2001 L. Crystal Michallet-Romero
All Rights Reserved
Disclaimer: Xena Warrior Princess, its characters, and all related materials are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. All other characters are mine.
Sexual Violence: Yes.
Extra Warning: May trigger abuse issues.
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The early morning sun caused a glittering reflection on the soldier's armor. Their gruff voices and laughter rolled over the hills as they readied their weapons. When their leader, The Destroyer, rode by on a large black stallion, they grew silent and waited for their commander to pass. Once the rider was far from sight, they looked nervously at each other, the memories of their leader's quick temper was never far from their minds. In an attempt to feign an easy going appearance, the fighters returned to their slight laughter as they prepared for the upcoming battle.
The lone rider pushed the stallion to its very limits. Dressed in full armor, the Destroyer, as Ari had come to be known, rode through the throngs of men. Her attention was only partially on their forms as she pushed her beast to the top of the hill where her tent stood.
In the beginning, Ari was unaccustomed to the vivid colors that assaulted her eyes. The sounds around her, although intriguing, often times left her head hurting. At first, the sights and sounds around her were painfully amplified. But as the days past since Ari had returned to the universe of her birth, she was beginning to slowly acclimate to the surroundings of this world.
In the beginning when the destroyer first came to this brightly living world with her mother, Ari found it difficult being surrounded by so many people. Where she grew up there were only dark, stark colors and a cold wind that howled day and night until it's wailing sound chilled her to the very bone. When she first arrived in this new world, the world of her birth, it's vividly bright colors brought pain to her eyes. Thankfully she was able to become accustomed the numerous colors and contours.
With only her mother for company, Ari grew up surrounded by bitter coldness. The only home she ever knew was the cave that her mother had taken her to live many years ago. Aside for the few times when her mother brought an occasional man for sacrifice to their cave, Ari had never seen people from the outside in such large numbers. In her world, there was only herself and her mother and the few times that her mother left, she was alone with nothing but the empty cave and the constant sound of the frigid wind. The young warrior was accustomed to being alone with only her mother. Now that she was surrounded by so many other humans, she found their nearness oppressive at time. Their thoughts, like a thundering squall, raged within her mind until she was able to learn to silence the thoughts around her. Ignoring the silent feelings coming from the men in her army, she continued to ride up the hill toward her destination.
In full armor, with helmet drawn, it was easy to be confused for a man. The fact that she stood taller than most men, with hair barely touching her collar enhanced the ambiguity of her gender. Her armor of black that covered her torso, thighs, and arms managed to increase the illusion. The helmet, which was never removed in public, covered her face from the cheeks up, leaving her gently curving lips and firm chin exposed. All along the armor were designs inlaid with gold. For weapons, she had a battle sword strapped firmly on her hip and a shorter sword fastened on her right leg. To any who saw her, she would be confused for a very young man, but to those who encountered her first hand, the age was secondary to the skills of combat which she possessed.
When Ari reached her tent, she pulled in the reins and jumped off of her stallion as the beast reared up at her actions. Calm yourself, Thanatos, she cooed softly so that only the beast could hear as she lightly patted his dark muzzle with her gauntleted hand. With a groan and a snort, the beast butted his head against her hand. Ignoring his temperament, she smiled as she handed the reins to a solider then ran into her tent. The inside of the tent was lighted with candles. As her eyes became accustomed to the shadows, she glanced quickly around the area until her eyes fell on her prey.
You see, I told you it would be easy, the scratchy, deep voice from the shadows assured with a slight purr.
With a rueful grin, Ari moved to the bound and gagged woman. Her captive's eyes stared up at her with slight curiosity. The young warrior was filled with a pleasure as she gazed down into the blue eyes of her prisoner.
So you did, mother, the younger woman smiled as she moved to the captive. Ari knelt down and examined her captive closely, making certain that the kidnappers had not harmed or molested the prisoner in any way. When she was assured of her prisoner's health, she turned her attention to the young captive's face.
She doesn't look so special, are you certain she's the one? Ari asked as she turned to the older woman who moved from the shadows.
Of course she is, our spies in Chin had no problems finding her, the older woman said as she moved to stand next to Ari. Look at her for yourself. Don't you recognize her? How long have you looked at that face? Ari's mentor smiled as she stood by the warrior. Rising, the younger woman glanced down at her prisoner, the young commanders face breaking into a smile as she was assured that this was, indeed, the one she desired.
So we have the great Livia of Rome! the destroyer slightly chuckled, or should I call you Eve the prophet? the young warrior woman stared into her captives eyes. Should I kill her now, mother, or should I torture her first, then kill her? We could send what's left to her mother!
The older woman's hand lightly rested on her daughters armor clad shoulder. Patience, little one. Not yet. Not until we let Xena see her not until the Warrior Princess is able to witness the whole glorious carnage, a slight chuckle escaped the woman's control.
And then I can kill her, isn't that what you promised, Alti? the excitement in Ari made her momentarily forget, until she saw the harsh look from her mentor. With an apologetic nod, Ari lowered her head, waiting for the blow that would follow as she quickly amended her words. M-Mother, when Xena is watching, then is when I can ? the younger warrior's voice was softer as she removed her helmet. Her short, dark, straight hair fell disheveled as her piercing blue eyes glanced up at the only woman who had ever cared for her.
At the open obedience, Alti smiled as her mood softened. Yes, my lovely daughter, Alti assured as her long, slender fingers brushed through Ari's locks. Just as I promised, you will be able to seek your revenge! A deep, harsh laugh rolled easily from the powerful woman.
With a pleased smile, Ari looked back down at her captive. Her penetrating eyes searching into the depths of this young woman's soul. 'Finally, I shall have my vengeance,' Ari thought with a smile.
Xena, we have Ikus's troops gathered on the northern plains, Gabrielle's voice held all of the commanding authority needed to govern a regiment of men. As Xena glanced over the maps, she noticed the commanders nearby, their eyes glancing nervously from the bard, to her.
Good, we'll be able to strike down from the north if they break through the front lines, The warrior princess added.
I don't understand why we can't strike now! Delko moved close, his hand bunched up into a fist. We move now, they will never know what hit them!
The grumbling voices of the commanders echoed Delko's words. Each man, hungry for vengeance, longed to strike back at the force that was consuming their lands. With a frown, Xena turned on the men.
Because they called for a parley, that's why! And if there is any thing that can be done to avoid massive bloodshed, I will do it! Xena's voice was deep and commanding as her eyes dared any man to disobey her.
How do you know it's not a trap? Aleaster asked, his gray beard seemed to frown as the fatigue of the past days were etched on his tired features.
I don't know, but I'm willing to take the chance if it will save lives. In all of their campaigns in Macedonia, they have never called for a parley now they do and I'm curious to know why, so if anyone wants to take away the authority you gave me to lead your men in this battle, just say the word, Xena dared them to speak. With eyes downcast, the men frowned, then glanced nervously at one another. The warrior nodded understanding of their actions, Good. Since we're all in agreement, move to your areas and wait for my orders! her voice was coolly calm. As each man filed out, the tall woman turned to her lover, her blue eyes betraying all of her fears.
Xena, how bad is it? the bard asked as she moved closer.
We're outnumbered, and out maneuvered unless we're able to reach a truce Xena let her words trail off.
Seems like it's about time for you to ask me for something, a deep, all too familiar voice spoke from the shadows of the tent.
Ares! Figures you'd be here! Xena turned her back on the God of War as she gazed down at the maps.
Ares, you of all people are not welcomed here, Gabrielle added.
You know, I liked you better when all you did was tell your stories, Ares glared at the blonde with contempt.
Ares, what do you want? Xena interrupted the verbal argument that was about to start.
Just to offer my help, in whatever way I can, his tone sounded innocent.
And what is in it for you? Xena's eyes narrowed to slits as she stared at the God of War, trying to find out the gods motive.
Xena, I'm hurt that you would raise such an accusation. Can't I simply offer my help than for no other reason but to help? His voice took on the soft quality that always managed to sway Xena's resolve. He moved to her side, his finger reaching out to lightly touch the warrior princess's cheek. Realizing the presence of his intoxicating powers, Xena shook her head as she pulled away from his touch.
No, Ares, you never make things that easy! Xena seemed to hiss as she faced down the dark God.
For you, there's always a reason for what you do, Gabrielle snorted as she stated the obvious. Both Xena and Ares glanced at the bard as if they had noticed her for the first time. With a smile, the tall woman moved by her lover's side.
She's right, Ares. Why would you offer to help us. I would have figured that you were helping the Destroyer, Xena voiced, then, as a thought crossed her mind, she smiled as she leaned against the table. That is, unless you did offer your help to the destroyer, and he didn't accept it!
With a scowl, Ares frowned slightly. He turned his back to the women as his unconsciously stroked his dark beard. His brows were creased as the frown remained etched on his features.
That's it, isn't it! Gabrielle's voice shot up as a smile crossed her lips.
For your information, she wouldn't have anything to do with me! the warrior god turned on them as he spat out his anger. When he saw their surprised expressions, he smiled ruefully as he nodded. Oh yeah, the Destroyer is a woman, but you're actually going to be fighting against two women . and the Destroyer is the least of your worries.
How did you ? Gabrielle began to ask, but was silenced by the anger in Ares eyes.
I'm the God of War! I know things like this, he huffed as he took a few paces away, oh, that helmet on the face never fooled me. I knew from the very first day. And yes, I did go to her, but she refused my offer, so I'm placing my backing here. But if you don't want it, that's fine with me, he stated as he began to disappear.
Ares, wait! Xena kept him from leaving. What do you know about her? What are we up against?
Ares chuckled softly, shook his head, and then glanced down at her. Not that you need my help, but just to let you know, she isn't calling this parley in order to beg your forgiveness, he stated and then he was gone.
The destroyer sat on top of her steed, his hooves firmly planted in the green soil. Periodically, the beasts head would shake as he blew puffs of air from his nostrils. His flank was ready for battle, like his rider, his whole body was geared for the single action that would soon take place.
From behind her, she listened to the sound of the nail being hammered into the wooden stake. As the slight sounds of her men reached her hearing, her gaze remained focused on the opposing army on the other side of the hill. They were small in numbers, yet seemed battle ready. The apprehension in her masked by a stone expression.
She's there, I can feel her, the ragged whisper of her mother stated. Turning her glance slightly, Ari watched as the older woman sat on top of a white and gray spotted horse, her eyes closed as she reached out with her powers. Dressed in a full black cape, the hood pulled over her head, the enemy would not recognize Alti until the sorceress deemed it the right time.
At the thought of this confrontation, Ari turned her horse around and watched as the men pulled the young captive to the pole that was buried in the ground. With hands still bound and mouth gagged, the young woman was roughly placed against the wood, her arms lifted up until she slightly dangled in the air.
Ari smiled at the sight of the prophetess discomfort. How many years she had seen Eve living a life of peace and tranquility. While the destroyer was living with Alti in the outer realm of cold and darkness, the young warrior had watched the progress of this woman, and her brother Solan. Never a day went by that the destroyer wasn't gazing into the magic crystal pool to watch as Solan grew from a babe to a boy, until his death. Then when this woman Eve was born, Ari filled her life with watching the progress of this girl. Livia had been surrounded by wealth, she was given all the advantages that her foster parents could offer. Once Livia had met her real mother, the prophet was given the keys of the kingdom, Ari thought silently as she scowled and returned her gaze to the two figures that stood out from the other enemy soldiers.
With a guttural war cry, the destroyer yanked the reins of her horse, kicked its sides, and galloped down the hill toward the enemy. Filled with confidence, she cried out again as she rode directly toward the enemy ranks, then, at the last minute turned her horse away to ride in front of them. In a demonstration of her abilities, Ari rose and stood on her saddle, her perfect balance keen as she felt the animal move below her, then she dropped, waited a second, then leapt off to the side only to bounce on the earth and return to her saddle. At her antics, her men suddenly shouted out a cheer, the voices rising in a roar high above the wind.
The encouragement led her to another thought. With quickness, she turned her horse around and coaxed it back to her men. She rode up to the wood stake that had been concealed by the men's bodies, then reached down and with a single yank, pulled her captive's bindings from the nail and hauled the woman over the hard, leather saddle. Like a sack of flour, Ari held the woman face down as she rode back toward the enemy line. Stopping within a few paces of her target, Ari glanced down through the eye holes in her helmet. She noticed the stone expression from the warrior princess.
You wanted a parley? You've got it, Xena's voice was not at all what she expected.
As Ari's horse stomped in place with anticipation, the destroyer glanced from the dark warrior to her blonde companion. Ari took a moment to gaze at the blonde woman. Dressed in a red, two piece outfit, the woman's finely toned muscles were visible to anyone who looked.
With a sinister smile, Ari tilted her head as she leaned slightly toward the taller, dark warrior.
The only parley that will go on will be the conditions of your surrender, Ari stated with a slight hiss. When the Greek warrior moved from the ranks of her men, the young commander pulled her horse back, moving away from the warrior woman.
And what makes you think we'll surrender? Xena asked casually. Masking her curiosity, the warrior princess glanced at the figure of the woman over the saddle, then back to the black clad warrior.
Because if you don't, I will kill every last one of your soldiers, and when I'm done, my army will move on to Amphipolis. While Amphipolis burns to the ground and the stench of the townspeople fills the air, I will move toward Potidaea. No one in either village will ever live to see the rising sun once my army arrives. Ari's voice was deep and firm, a slight scowl crossing her lips.
And if we surrender, then the towns will be left alone? Xena's voice did not exhibit any emotions.
No, I will still burn them to the ground and kill every last one of the villagers. But I would also have killed all of your men here today. If you surrender, some of them might live to join my army, she informed as she suddenly smiled, then turned her horse around in order that the Greek warrior could see her prisoner. And if you surrender, then you'll have the privilege of witnessing my handiwork on this woman .I might even make it quick, she smiled as she grabbed a handful of hair and yanked the captive's head up.
Eve! Xena's mask of control quickly faded as she took a step forward.
With a smile, Ari pulled her stallion further away. No, Warrior Princess, there will be no mercy for Livia of Rome, or for Eve, the prophet of Eli.
Release my daughter NOW! a growl came from Xena.
Ari began to laugh at the woman's predicament, then shook her head. You are in no position to order me to do anything! the angry young woman hissed.
I promise you that if anything happens to my daughter, you will have to answer to me! Xena's deep fury stated in a firm voice.
As if suddenly in the picture, the shorter blonde stepped behind the taller warrior, And to me as well!
At their words, Ari suddenly smiled as a chuckle burst from her, That, I will welcome gladly! Her voice held all the venom that she had stored up within her life as she stared down at the two women.
A slight movement by her side caught Ari's attention. Knowing who it was, she smiled at her enemies as she pulled back until her stallion was beside her mentor her mother. With hood still concealing her features, the older woman remained motionless for only a moment.
Is it time, mother? Ari asked as she smiled at the only woman who filled her life with hope.
Yes, Alti's voice was a low whisper as she moved toward Xena. The sorceress glared down at the Greek warrior from her horse. As if she had been planning this all of her life, the older woman lowered her hood as she smiled down at her enemy.
Alti! B-But how ..how did you? the confusion was clearly heard in Xena's voice, then control returned. I might have known! anger raged in Xena.
How did I come back to life? Alti chuckled, No, Xena, I am not from this universe. But I am who I appear to be. You see, I am the strongest who ever lived and with my vast powers, I was able to travel between planes between various existences and different worlds. When I came to this universe and saw you were alive and Alti was dead... I knew you had to die, just like when I killed Xena in MY universe... Alti's ragged voice was firm and controlled as she gazed down at the warrior princess.
The Greek woman frowned as her palms bunched into a fist at her side. When the warrior took a step towards them, Ari moved forward slightly, her right hand pressing against the captive's spine. Seeing the destroyer's movement, Xena stood still.
Careful, or she stops feeling her feet! Ari warned. When Xena remained frozen in place, Ari released a slight chuckle. I think she's afraid of us, mother, Ari smiled at Alti.
And who wouldn't be, my precious darling! Alti's voice sounded like a coo as she lightly ran her fingers over Ari's exposed chin.
What fun it will be, mother, to have the warrior princess as my slave, to have her witness all that I will do to her precious daughter! Ari's deep laugh rang out as her gauntlet hand reached under the bound woman's skirt, rough fingers fondling the prophets sex. At this action, the prophet of Eli tried to struggle from Ari's touch while Xena's body grew stiff as the warrior princess fought for control. The destroyer took delight in watching the warrior's valiant battle at self-control.
Dressed as she was, Ari knew that her identity was concealed from both her men, and those of the enemy. Her actions of fondling the captive could lead the warrior princess to only one image of what was in store for her daughter. Pleased by this, the leader removed her hand from under the skirt and kept it firmly on the woman's back as she glanced at the older woman by her side.
Who are you? Why do you have my daughter? Xena asked in an angered whisper as she stared up at Ari, then looked at Alti. If you want a fight, let it be between us!
Alti chuckled deeply, then shook her head. You'd like that, wouldn't you, Xena? the older woman asked, but did not wait for an answer. This, Xena, is my ultimate revenge. The Destroyer, my daughter .your first born child, will slaughter your followers and in the end, you will be able to witness the death of your third child by her sisters hands! Alti's maniacal laugh rang out as the warrior princess's stunned gaze shifted from Ari, to Eve, then to Alti.
Yes, Xena. Did you think you could keep that little incident a secret? Alti asked, then gazed lovingly at Ari. As soon as I found out how you abandoned this poor baby, I adopted her as my own. That's right, Alti affirmed the warrior princess's shocked expression, your first born child, Xena. Think of it, what you abandoned and discarded, I adopted and cherished! Since the age of three she has lived with me in my world! How sweet the whole plan is, how deliciously pleasing, because in my world, the aging process is slower. Here she is, Xena, your daughter from forty years ago with the body of a young, strong warrior only half her true age! And with my tutelage, she is unstoppable! the craze cackle escaped Alti's control.
Wha ? Xena began to ask, but was silenced when Ari leaned slightly forward.
You didn't think I'd ever come back to claim my heritage my birthright, did you, mother, Ari spat out the words as the anger and hatred of abandonment filled her soul. You discarded me like rubbish, and now I'm here to repay you in kind!
Alti smiled at Xena, then glanced at Ari. Her hand reached out and lightly touched the black clad warrior's cheek, Poor thing, abandoned at birth by her mother well, I'm here to tell you, Xena, you may have birthed her, but I gave her life!
At her mentor's laughter, Ari smiled, then turned her horse toward camp. Mother, it is time we prepare for the slaughter, she stated as she made her way back to her men. Assured that her mother was following closely behind her, the one called the destroyer roughly grabbed her captive, took the bound wrists, and hung the prisoner like a side of meat from the large nail.
You will have a front row seat to the carnage that I will do, Ari hissed close to the prophets ear. At the look of panic in the woman's eyes, the young warrior smiled as she roughly grabbed the prophet's chin, pulled her face up until their eyes met. Yes, my little sister! Once I have our mother as my prisoner, then we shall get acquainted properly! Ari felt an uncontrollable laugh escape her control as Eve's eyes opened wide.
It will be so much fun taking you, Ari whispered close to her captive's ear, then leaned down and bit Eve's neck roughly, a muffled cry of pain came from the prisoner. With a rueful smile, the dark warrior lightly kissed, then licked the redness that formed on the prophets flesh. Yes so very much fun! the destroyer promised before galloping off to lead her men into battle.
Battle's were always predictable. With Alti instructing the generals, Ari watched and waited until she could join in the mêlée. Once her mother gave permission, the young leader rode into the thickest part of the fight, a battle cry released as she slashed her sword down on the enemy. As the adrenaline surged through her veins, Ari saw and felt nothing. All she felt was the anger which soared from her soul. Without a concern for the enemy, Ari sent them each to their own gods and never once cared if they suffered on their way.
In Ari's mind, she was the goddess Keres, the personification of violent death in battle, the goddess who craved the blood of her enemies. Like the goddess of Alti's lessons, Ari strived to bring as many men to a violent death all the while smiling in order that her image was the last thing they would remember before entering into the dark world. This image of the goddess always played within her mind as she rode her black beast through the throngs of men while her sword came crashing down on the enemies bodies.
Against other defense forces, her army easily finished all opposing factions. This time was different. With the advise of her mentor, the general's moved their units into the fighting. Joining the men, Ari worked her way from the center in a circle. With each thrust of her weapon, she felt the blood of the dying splattering against her leg and on the flank of her horse. Sometimes, it splattered against her mask, the oozing liquid momentarily blinding her until she shook it off and resumed her downward slashes.
Ari thought the battle would be over quickly, but she was wrong. As the setting sun fell over the mountains, she followed behind her mother's stiff form. At the entrance to their tent, Ari stood for a moment and glanced down at the shadows on the battle field. With the night came an uneasy truce which would allow for both sides to regroup for the next days battle. Those who were rested, were posted on the perimeters of the camp while the wounded were tended to in the field hospital. Angered that this battle had not gone as planned, the dark warrior turned and entered her tent. In fury, she removed her helmet and threw it against the canvas wall. For a moment, she paced the length of the tent, her head bent as her mind raced over the days event. Then she went to a table and sat grimly in a chair, her eyes unfocused as the fatigue of the battle weighed upon her body.
From the corner of the tent, she heard her mother's soft rustling. Ari glanced up in time to notice the older woman mixing her potions, the white substance was crushed with a pestle in a mortar then a yellow herb was added to the mixture. Not at all concerned with her mother's action, Ari turned her glance to their captive.
She noticed the young woman's alert eyes glancing from Alti, then to her. Although gagged, Ari felt as if the woman was asking a multitude of questions from her inquisitive eyes. With a scowl, the young leader turned away as her mother approached.
Here, my baby, Alti purred as she held a goblet to Ari's lips. Drink, my child, and you will be refreshed.
At the promise, Ari drank the bitter drink. She swallowed the thick port, it's liquid soothing to her taste buds. As she closed her eyes, she detected the faint taste of the herbal drug which was always present in her food and drink. Once the goblet was empty, Ari smiled at her mentor her mother. The young warrior's drowsy eyes fell down on her captive. With a rueful smile, Ari rose on wobbly legs. As she moved to the bound prisoner, the young woman removed her gauntlets and tossed them toward her helmet. Ari knelt in front of the woman, a slight smile crossed her lips as she reached out and lightly touched Eve's hair.
What are you going to do with your toy? she heard Alti ask with a slight chortle.
I do what I wish, was her only response as she glanced lustfully down at the captive woman. Pity that her mother isn't here to witness this, Ari added as she reached out and fondled the woman breasts. At her instant touch, the prisoner stiffened before her eyes closed tightly against Ari's assault. At Eve's reaction, Ari pulled her captives chin until she could gaze into the woman's eyes. For a moment, she was reminded of the warrior princess, the bluest eyes she'd ever seen gazed back at her. Remembering how badly the day had gone on the battle field, Ari scowled as she closed her eyes to the onslaught of images from the day. When she looked at her bound captive, Ari growled as she released her hold of the woman.
You! This is your doing! the young leader screamed as she shook Eve, her rough hold leaving bruises on the woman's shoulders. I will have pleasure with you first, and then I will kill you tonight! she shouted as she pushed the woman to the ground, her body covering the smaller form. Below her touch, the prophet struggled, her bound body wiggled as she tried be free from the groping fingers.
You will be still! Ari hissed as her fingers wrapped around the prophets neck. With an inner pleasure, Ari smiled as she watched the woman struggle, her mouth opened against the gag as she fought for air. From out of nowhere, a hardness landed against Ari's face. At the blinding pain, she released her grip from the prophet as she rolled over and ducked away from her mother's wrath. As a fear suddenly filled her soul, Ari wiped the fresh blood from her lips, careful to keep her head bowed in respect.
You stupid! Alti screamed as she raised the back of her hand in front of Ari's crouching form. Instinctively, Ari flinched, covered her face, and waited for the next blow. What came were two strong hands that grabbed her armor and pulled her to her feet. You would kill the only leverage we have against Xena! You stupid child!
What does it matter? We haven't won the battle, like you promised! You said it would be over within a day, Ari reminded. Her words bringing anger from her mentor.
Who are you to question me? Alti screamed as she shook Ari's armor until the young leaders teeth rattled, then dropped her to the floor unceremoniously. On her knees in front of her mother, Ari maintained her silence, her head bowed in subservience as she awaited her punishment. By tomorrow, Xena will be ours and then you can have your fun with your little sister, the dark sorceress promised as her touch suddenly became gentle. The tall sorceress lifted Ari to her feet and smiled at the younger woman. At her movement to unfasten Ari's armor, the dark warrior flinched as if waiting for a blow. With a slight smile, Alti lightly petted Ari's dark hair as if the give reassurance.
My poor, poor baby, her ragged voice cooed. You have waited for so long, and you are anxious, Alti's voice, although softer, still held a scratchy quality as her long, bony fingers began unfastening the clasps on the dark armor. When the front part was free, Alti tossed it aside, and continued removing the protection from the muscularly slender figure.
I promised you your revenge, Alti continued to whisper as she stood in front of Ari, her long, slender fingers brushing the younger woman's hair from her eyes. Then, with a knowing smile, the dark sorceress knelt in front of her and began to remove her armored leg coverings.
Ari heard her mother's words like a soft, soothing ballad, as she felt a part of her mind separating from her body. From somewhere in the back of her mind, she felt the ever present drug enhance her sensations. The young warrior had heard these promises everyday, and everyday Ari held on to them like a cherished gift. With eyes close, Ari remained silent as she felt Alti unclothing her, each movement done with care. Once she stood naked in front of her mentor, Alti took the water basin filled with steaming water and a wash cloth that had been left in the tent and began to wash the sweat and blood from Ari's body.
Tomorrow, Alti promised as she gently dabbed the cloth against the blood on Ari's lip, Tomorrow everything that I promised will come true, the older woman smiled as she turned and moved to the table. With a slight scowl, Ari glanced down at her captive prisoner. She had so wanted to seek her revenge on this woman tonight, but her mother had stopped her. Alti had a plan, and in all of her years of living with Alti, Ari quickly learned that Alti's words were always to be obeyed.
That's good, my child. You are such a good daughter, so special, Alti's softly soothing words rose in the tent like the wisps of smoke from a candle. Xena was a fool to have abandoned you, Alti said as she led Ari to the soft cushions of the bed in the corner. With soft, gentle touches, she guided the lithe warrior under the covers, then covered her with a blanket.
As Ari stared up at the ceiling of the tent, she watched the light of the flickering candle as she heard Alti speaking to their captive. Bet you didn't know that you had an older sister, did you? Ari heard as her eyes grew heavy from the port and drug. And you thought that you were the only one who Xena abandoned, didn't you? Well, Eve, the prophet of Eli, you weren't. And now, you will be paying for what your mother did.
Ari didn't know when Alti had joined her. As her mind conjured drug induced visions, she remained still as the older woman crawled naked under the covers with her. With only half awareness, the young, dark leader began to move gently against her mentor, her adopted mother. The blood lust of the battle still fresh within her, she longed for a physical release. Unable and unwilling to stop what her body craved, Ari moved against her guide, her body raged with a need fueled by the drug and control which Alti held over her. And as she had done since the first day that Alti had saved her, Ari allowed the older woman to guide her in all ways.
Xena? Gabrielle's voice was soft, her questions gently prying answers from her mate.
I-I . But Xena found it hard to explain. With only a shake of her head, she closed her eyes and turned away from their campfire. In the distance, she heard the slight sounds of the men settling in for the night. She felt a sigh escape her control as she lowered her eyes.
Xena did not know how to explain to her lover what had happened to her those many years ago. Within her own mind, it was hard to remember the incident that occurred when she was only fourteen. 'What happen in the woods should not have happened to anyone, least of all a child,' Xena thought grimly.
Xena, is it true, is she your daughter? Gabrielle asked.
With only a nod, the warrior princess wiped a single tear that fell down her cheek. I was only fourteen .it was . Her voice grew deep as she fought for control, then Xena shook her head as the memories of that day flooded past her vision. Gabrielle, there was nothing I could do. There were more of them, and I hadn't even started to train to fight yet .I-I just couldn't . a sigh escaped her control as she closed her eyes.
I couldn't stand the baby when she was first born. The first time I heard her cry and my mother gave her to me, all I could see where the men's hands as they held me down as each one took their turn. Xena shook her head as if reliving the memories. When a slight control returned, Xena continued, My mother tried for days, b-but I couldn't ..Gabrielle, I-I couldn't even stand to feed her oh, gods, I didn't even care if the little, innocent baby lived or died. When my mother took her to be fostered, I didn't even ask, and by the time I did, it was too late . Before she could feel the sorrow pull her under, Gabrielle moved beside Xena. Strong, gentle arms held her close as tender fingers ran through Xena's hair, the soft words of the blonde offering such compassion.
Oh, Xena! I'm so sorry, Gabrielle whispered as she offered her lover a comforting embrace.
With a shake of her head, Xena closed her eyes as she nestled her head against the bard's soft shoulder. Her mind raced through various plans to save both Eve and her first born child. Instinctively, she wanted to crash into their camp and physically remove the two from captivity. But knowing that her daughters was in Alti's tent, Xena knew that any rescue might result in the death of both women. Knowing this, she tried to think of a way to avoid the inevitable bloodshed that would happen when the sun rose in the sky.
The coolness of dawn was swallowed by the afternoon sun. As the crashing of metal reverberated over the hills, the sounds of men in battle echoed within Ari's ears. Although she was confident of her mother's guidance, as the day wore on, she began to feel her confidence wavering. This battle should have been won. According to her mother, the spies informed them that this army was outnumbered. Ari did not want to believe that the warrior princess was responsible for keeping Ari's army at bay.
From somewhere nearby, she heard the familiar battle cry that rang over the fray. Turning her horse around, Ari searched for the source. When she found the warrior princess in the middle of her men, Ari urged her stallion toward the source of all her pain. With a low growl, she swept by the woman, her sword grazing off of Xena's gauntlet. The warrior princess glanced down at her arm then stared up at her. Ari, angered that her blow had no impact, turned her horse around, then screamed as she jumped out of the saddle.
I've had enough of this! she heard Xena scream as the leather clad warrior moved toward her, sword coming down in a fierce blow.
Ari's body moved instinctively. Her arms, feet, and body had been trained for this single encounter. Remembering all of the lessons of her mother, the young warrior parried with the warrior princess. With each bone jarring blow, Ari returned the blows, guttural screams raging from her soul.
We don't have to do this! Xena screamed, her blows fending off Ari as she kept Ari's men at bay. The battle began to turn as Ari's warrior's began to advance upon the town folks land.
I have waited all my life for this! Ari hissed back, her sword moving to cut the older woman's mid-section, but missed as the warrior flipped backward out of reach of the sword.
Listen! I'm sorry about what happened, but I couldn't take care of you I-I wasn't in any shape to take care of myself, let alone a baby! Xena yelled as she fended Ari's blows. I tried to find you! As soon as I was able, I went to look for you . The warrior stated when she had fended off Ari's sword, then was able to get a tight grip of Ari's armor. Holding tightly, Xena pulled the younger woman close, and shook her slightly.
You liar! Ari screamed as she roughly pushed Xena back, causing the Greek warrior to fall on her back. In this vulnerable position, the young leader took a flying leap, landing squarely on the leather clad woman. You didn't try to find me, you didn't care if I lived or died! the younger warrior hissed as her gauntlet landed on the Greek warriors face. At the sight of spurting blood, Ari had a pleased smile as she watched the warrior spit out blood, a bruise forming on the older woman's cheek where Ari hit. Before Ari knew what happened, she felt herself flying off the woman, a hard blow landing on her chest, then she was pinned below Xena.
I went to the farm where my mother left you! the words hissed close to Ari's face as Xena slammed Ari's head back against the ground, a slight dizziness crossing the young woman's vision. The pain of the blow seared through Ari's head as she heard the warrior's desperation. I went there, but it was gone! The villagers said that raiders had murdered the family that lived there!
For a moment Ari saw a brief image flash before her eyes. She saw a chubby woman with rosy cheeks smiling down at her. The older man laughing loudly at the antics of the little girl. Then it was gone. Unable to move after the vision, Ari remained frozen on her back, her expression one of shock as the memories flooded over her.
Seeing Ari's expression, Xena no longer struck her. At the change, Ari felt Xena's hands moving to the helmet that concealed her features, then she felt the cold steel being removed from her head. As if looking upon a treasure, the warrior princess gazed down at Ari, her blue eyes taking in the younger woman's features.
The first thing Ari saw was the moist blue eye's gazing down at her. A quivering frown on Xena's lips as she shook her head, her fingers lightly brushing aside Ari's sweat drenched hair. Like an observer gazing upon a piece of art for the first time, Xena's eyes fell over Ari's face, her smile shinning down upon the fallen warrior.
Oh .Sweetheart .I-I'm so sorry, Ari heard the words like a distant chant as she tried to swallow down the pain that remained housed within her soul. For what felt like an eternity in time, their eyes locked, their gazes seemed to take in each other's intent. With a slight smile, Xena sat up on Ari's prone body, she sighed then nodded as if to ask for Ari's permission. At this openness, Ari blinked back her tears, then nodded acceptance.
All around her, the sounds of the battle raged on. Panting and out of breath, Ari glanced up and watched as Xena stood and moved on wobbly legs up the hill to where Eve was hanging, once again, on the wooden pillar. Although her mind was filled with confusion, Ari tried to sort out the images that were playing through her mind. Her childhood memories altered between those two people who she could barely remember, and her time with Alti. The words of Alti continually reminding Ari of Xena's crimes against her first born, then shifted to the images of her adopted mother, Alti.
Ari suddenly remembered all of the times when she felt outside of herself when in Alti's presence. As the child would look down from outside of herself, Ari would watch as her adopted mother held her down against her will. The young warrior remembered how the sorceress's touch made Ari feel dirty. Through it all, Alti repeated over and over how this was Xena's fault and Ari's inner child believed everything that the evil sorceress had told her. But now, as the vivid memories of her painful past returned, Ari's mind began to question everything that Alti had said.
From somewhere in the distance, she heard the all too familiar scream of Alti. Blinking away the memories that clouded her visions, Ari glanced up as Alti stood over her. The dark sorceress panted hard as she glared down at the fallen warrior with contempt.
You are useless! You're letting her get away when we're winning? Remember what she did to you? How she abandoned you! What you had to endure because she left you alone! Alti screamed, then, seeing Ari's unmoving form, shook her head then spit on the young woman's prone form. I should have known you wouldn't have it in you! You're pathetic worthless . I should have let you drown! Then the sorceress turned and was running up the hill toward Xena's back.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Rising from the ground, Ari screamed out a deafening cry, NO! as she chased behind her mother's running form. At the warning, Xena turned, her eyes wide as Alti raised her sword.
Mother, NO! Ari screamed again as she grabbed Alti's hand, stopping her from cutting down the warrior princess. Shocked by this action, Alti turned on her. Her gaze moving from Ari's hand that was on Alti's arm, then to Ari's face.
Mother .p-please .no Ari prayed that there was a part of her mentor who still felt the motherly ties that they had formed. For a moment, it seemed like Alti would listen to her. Then, with a smile and a shake of her head, the sorceress pulled her arm free.
You worthless . She hissed.
Ari closed her eyes and flinched as she waited for the blow to strike her face. Instead, she felt a sharp, hard impact against her torso, the sudden pain coming from the slight seam in her armor, and then a stinging pain in her midsection. Disbelief in her eyes, the young warrior glanced down at her abdomen in time to see Alti's sword being pulled from the only vulnerable place in her armor. At the excruciating pain, Ari's left hand covered the gaping hole that oozed blood, then looked back up at Alti.
M-Mother ? Ari felt the betraying tears sting her eyes as she tried to understand her adopted mother's actions.
What? Did you think I wasn't going to do this? Did you honestly think I would let you live? Alti's deep laugh reverberated in her throat. Little one, this was always in my plan .except, I was going to wait until you killed your sister in front of Xena's eyes, then I was going to kill you in front of your mother! The evil sorceress cackled, I was going to be the one to kill Xena. Your cowardice just made me change my plans, she hissed close to Ari's ear, then returned her attention to Xena, who was at the top of the hill freeing her daughter.
Ari's glance moved from her mother's back, to the sight of Xena running back down the hill to confront the sorceress. Without thought, the young warrior's grip tighten on her sword, then she grabbed Alti's arm before she ran too far. Confused, Alti frowned at Ari, her gaze fell on the gloved hand, then to her eyes. As the young warrior stared into the eyes of the woman she had called mother, Ari lifted her sword and shoved it upward into Alti's stomach. With no armor, the blade entered easily, cutting through leather, flesh, bones and organs until it poked out through the older woman's back. Although weak, Ari was able to grab a hold of the hilt with two hands as she yanked her sword upward, the sharp blade tearing apart any chance that Alti would survive. Then, the older woman took a few steps backward, her gaze glued to the hilt of Ari's sword before she fell backward and landed on the bloody grass, her body spasming before growing deathly still.
Unable to remain standing, Ari fell to her knees, the growing weakness filling her soul. The pain in her abdomen seared through her senses as a numbness slowly consumed her. Gulping down the pain, she allowed herself the lay upon the grass, her focus turned to the battle scene. She saw her men, their fear suddenly evident as they saw their two leaders fallen. Like rats leaving a sinking ship, the men quickly turned away from whoever they were fighting, and ran from the battle, their opponents quickly chasing after them.
In the haze of the moment, she felt herself being turned over, her eyes unable to focus. Then she felt herself being lifted, armor and all, as she was being carried from the battle. All around her she heard the commotion as the battle came to an end. When she opened her eyes, she saw Xena's grim expression. Feeling Ari's eyes on her, the warrior princess smiled reassuringly.
You're going to be ok .don't you worry. I'm not going to lose you now, not after all this time, the words took Ari by surprise. As she laid her head on Xena's shoulder, she closed her eyes as a dark blanket seemed to cover her senses. That's it sweet heart, you close your eyes and rest.
Mother .I-Is she going to be ok? a voice Ari had never heard sounded near her. Before she could hear Xena's response, she passed out as the flow of blood was slowly drained from her body.
Eve, help me get this off of her, Xena's panic was clear to those who knew her well. Obeying her mother's words, the prophet began to work the fastens on the armor, then removed each piece. The memories of her captivity brought an initial revulsion to her, but as Eve remembered the way the older woman pampered this woman, the way the sorceress forced the warrior to call her mother, and the way the older one abused this woman, was enough to make Eve pity the young warrior. Ignoring her initial revulsion, she moved quickly to help her mother save her former captor.
Xena, here, Gabrielle handed the medical satchel to Xena, as the dark woman carefully pulled away the material from her eldest daughter to exam the wound. As the warrior princess moved quickly to heal her child, Gabrielle glanced down at the fallen warriors face. Glancing from the woman, to her lover, Gabrielle began to notice the resemblances. The young woman's lips looked so much like her mothers, and even though her eyes were closed, the blonde bard could see the shape of her lover's eyes in this young woman. Then she took a moment to glance over her face and noticed the ashen color of her skin. When she touched the woman's forehead, the coldness registered immediately.
Xena, she's losing a lot of blood, Gabrielle failed to conceal the panic in her voice.
I know .Eve, lay down on that table. Gabrielle, I need you to find some items for me, Xena's voice was laced with urgency as her fingers began to work inside of the prone woman's wound. Following all of her lover's instructions, the bard turned and began her search for every item. The bard was not certain if Xena could save the injured woman, but she silently promised to do all that she could to assist her friend in saving her long lost daughter.
Ari felt herself drifting in and out of consciousness. Her dreams were a mixture of pain induced nightmares, and memories from long ago. At one point, she saw the images of the man and woman who she had always thought were her parents. Then, before the vision could continue, it was squelched by the image of a single raider. The tall, dark, leather clad woman seemed unstoppable as she slaughtered first her father, and then her mother before Ari was swooped away by the woman.
Waking from the dream, Ari opened her eyes in the dim light. She thought she heard her enemy's voice, the deepness taking her by surprise.
She is MY daughter, and if anything happens to her, someone here is going to have to pay! Xena was warning someone.
She is the Destroyer, how can you ask us to let her lay beside those that she wounded! Surely you understand how our people feel, the man's voice pleaded.
When she is able to travel, we'll leave here, not before then, Xena's voice was firm.
Ari turned her head slightly. Through a fog-like vision she saw her captive laying on a bed next to her, a contraption of thin hoses attached to the former prisoners arm, blood dripping from the hose and into a gourd that hung between their cots and above their heads. Glancing at the contraption, Ari noticed the wires which carried blood from the gourd to Ari's arm. With a slight smile, the prophet of Eli waved at Ari with her free hand before the weight of fatigue pulled Ari back into darkness.
Ari had never felt so alone in her life. Although intellectually she realized that her mother was the cause of her foster parents death, the absence of Alti in her life caused a loss within her heart and her soul felt empty of purpose. Ari knew that despite what Xena had done, the warrior princess's actions were not the cause for Ari's pain. The young woman knew that it was the sins of her mother that led her down this darken path. Regardless of this knowledge, the young woman felt the heavy burden of grief weigh heavily up her heart. When she would dwell on it, she felt her grief threaten to pull her under as she remembered her mother's eyes as she died from Ari's hand.
Even though no one spoke of it, the young warrior could tell that they were all grateful for Alti's death. Short of declaring her a hero, the three women she had come to know as her family shared little regarding their feelings for what she had done to Alti. Instead, they tried as best they could to cast no judgments on Ari as they defended her against the local authority.
While recuperating and laying in the bed, Ari's eyes were closed as she feigned sleep. It was then that she had heard Xena's arguments to the local authorities and understood that Xena placed all of the blame on Alti. Everything that Ari had done, all of the atrocities that she had committed, were at the orders of the evil sorceress, the Greek warrior argued. Later, when the men spoke to Ari, she said very little, her eyes avoiding their accusing glare as she tried to will herself to disappear from their anger and hatred. The guilt and shame of her actions made it impossible to look into the men's eyes. The pain of her healing wound, and the sudden loss of her adopted mother, brought a solemn, meek posture to Ari. Although she could not explain it, without Alti, Ari felt alone and lost. It was because of her bearing that the local authorities felt pity for the girl who had been kidnapped as a child, rather than hatred for the woman she had become under Alti's tutelage. With Xena's assurance that she would monitor Ari closely, the men allowed her to leave rather than commit her for her crimes.
Once she was able to travel, Ari joined her new family in hopes that she would be able to leave the nightmares of her past behind. As the four women rode away from the village and all it's memories, Ari remained silent. Xena and Gabrielle rode in front. Ari rode her large black stallion, Than, while the warrior princess was on her honey colored mare and the healer bard on a brown mare. Beside Ari, Eve, her sister, rode a white mare that was, in Ari's estimation, too fat to be of any use. But still the prophet, her sister, only pampered the beast.
Without her armor, Ari felt smaller than before. Her tall, looming frame seemed dwarfed without the concealing protection of the body armor and helmet, or so it felt to her. Ever since she entered this universe from the sorceress world, Ari was filled with a sense of power. But since her mother's death, she felt powerless in all ways.
The four women moved slowly down the road. Beside Ari, Eve's voice was prattling on. Part of her words drifted into Ari's senses, while another part of her was trying to calm her mind in order that the pain in her head would go away. Her body was beginning to miss the drugs which her mother had fed to her on a daily basis. Knowing this was the cause of her discomfort and irritation, Ari had been able to still her tongue as she fought for control.
and I just knew that through the love of Eli, I was able to be free of all my pain, guilt and suffering, Eve's voice prattled on.
With a grimace, Ari glanced at Eve. Since her freedom, Ari had never seen her sister without a smile, or kind word. Not even the thought of what Ari almost did to her got the woman mad or broke her spirit into silence. In fact, her words seemed to never stop and Ari at times regretted allowing the gag to be removed from her sisters mouth. Frowning, Ari sighed as she shook her head.
What? Eve caught her shaking her head.
After a moment of thought, Ari glance back at the woman. Would you just shut up already! the pain in her head combined with the slight tremors of her hands controlled Ari's actions.
What? Eve's voice sounded hurt.
Just shut up! All you ever prattle about is 'Eli' this and 'Eli' that! 'Love is the way,' 'only through non-violence!' All mighty Hades, it's enough to drive a person crazy! Ari shouted.
You didn't seem to mind in the hospice, Eve protested.
I was half out of mind or unconscious at the time! Ari stated. I'm not in a fevered state anymore, unfortunately! Because if I have to listen to your rubbish, I'd rather be unconscious!
But I'm only trying to help! With a little guidance, you'll be able to feel at peace too! Eve protested.
Well maybe I don't want your help, Ari mimicked her sister in a sing-song voice.
If anyone needs guidance, it's you! Eve nodded solemnly. At her words, Ari shook her head, then reached over and slightly shoved her sister. With a frown, Eve leaned over and pushed back. The open challenge could not be overlooked and Ari reached back and shoved even harder.
Hey! Eve protested, then reached over, and shoved back.
HEY! Ari shouted back then reach over and pulled a lock of Eve's hair, which brought a slight, high pitched scream from the prophet.
Why ! Eve began to protest as she was reaching over the pull Ari's hair, but was stopped in mid-stride by Xena's deep, commanding voice.
Hey! the warrior princess shouted back as she stopped in the road and turned in her saddle.
But, mother, she started it! Eve protested.
She's been doing nothing but going on and on about peace and love and all that dung! Ari defended herself, and she could see that Eve was about to open her mouth in protest.
Both of you, be quiet! Xena shouted back, as Eve was about to protest again. Before the younger one could speak, Xena pointed a finger at her, I said be quiet! Both of you! Eve, stop tormenting your sister, and Ari, stop touching your sister! she commanded.
In begrudging silence, Ari shot Eve a pure look of hatred. Seeing Ari's expression, Eve stuck her tongue out at Ari which brought a look of surprise. If Eve had not turned away, Ari might have caught the slight smile that crossed the young prophets lips. Instead, all Ari noted was the strange way that her sister chose to mock her.
I said both of you, Stop It! Xena ordered again as she shot Eve a warning glance. Don't make me come back there! the warrior princess voice held a menacing promise to both of the young women.
At the mysterious threat, Ari blinked at the commanding woman, then lowered her eyes as a show that she was backing away from a fight. Eve glanced over at the distant trees as a sigh escaped her control. As if pleased by their new silence, Xena nodded, then turned back to face the road they were traveling on, she goaded Argo forward.
In silence the party of four continued down the dirt road.
Xena, Gabrielle pulled her mare closer to her soul mate, What would you have done if you had to go back there?
Xena maintained her stoic expression, her eyes never wavering from the road, then she answered the bard.
I don't know, but it seemed to work on me and my brothers, so I thought I'd use it, Xena shrugged as she kept her voice low.
With a slight smile, Gabrielle nodded as she glanced back at the two silent figures. Hopefully you'll figure it out if it ever gets that far, the bard softly chuckled.
I hope so, Gabrielle, I really do. Was all the warrior said with a shake of her head.
(You tell me if you'd like to read more stories about this character.)
Part Two: Passions
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