THE CONQUEROR’S CAMPAIGN
By CJ Wells
Disclaimers: For full disclaimers‚ see Part 1. In addition to the aforementioned fabrications of TPTB‚ Lao Ma belongs to that happy-go-lucky bunch as well. As originally mentioned in "The Antonius Situation‚" Gaius Octavius a.k.a. Augustus (63 B.C.-14 A.D.) was a real Ancient Roman guy. I also want to add that the word "Oiorpata" stated within this chapter was the ancient Scythian word for Amazons.
VII. THE CONQUEROR’S LOG
Unlike earlier battles‚ Gabrielle was the only thing on my mind when I began my attack on the enemy. My goal was to take out as many men as possible so as to limit the opportunity for any of them to get to her. It was a preposterous goal‚ but one I could not ignore. It helped that the Amazons in the trees lived up to every expectation. Their arrow shots upon the enemy were precise and exceptionally helpful to my troops on the ground. Although dawn was on the horizon‚ they were still hard to spot from their positions in the trees. A few of them moved from tree to tree‚ advancing as we advanced.
After most of the advance scouts had fallen‚ I briefly looked back to check on Gabrielle. She stood ready for an opponent‚ but had a combined expression of fear and shock on her face. For the first time‚ she saw what I was fully capable of doing on the battlefield. I knew that many questions were awaiting me‚ but I couldn’t dwell on that at that time. I was on a mission to stop Shaikheti…
… and to keep Gabrielle alive.
The main flanking force approached us in phalanx formations. They protected themselves with shields‚ but the shields were useless against the Amazons once they were under the trees where the Amazons were positioned. As some of the enemy troops started dropping randomly from the shadow fire‚ the group’s commander yelled out an order to attack. They began running toward us. Since none of them were armed with bows and arrows‚ there was nothing they could do against the Amazons firing upon them. Their only hope was to become so entangled with my troops that the Amazons would risk accidentally firing upon us.
What the enemy didn’t know‚ but what I did‚ was that the Amazons were keen sharpshooters. Once their chosen target was in sight‚ virtually nothing stood in their way. I appreciated this skill as I saw an enemy soldier approach Gabrielle from behind. She was doing battle with a fairly large man armed with a broad sword. I felt a strange sense of pride at her fighting ability‚ but when that other enemy soldier approached her‚ I quickly gutted the man I was fighting and raised my chakram to throw at his head. Before I could release it‚ an arrow shot down from one of the trees and hit the man’s chest. As he fell to his death‚ Gabrielle was distracted by the movement and turned her head slightly. The man she was fighting saw this as an opportunity to run her through. As I saw him lift his sword‚ I took a leaping dive onto him. Gabrielle stood startled as I knocked the sword out of the man’s hand and then took my boot dagger and plunged it in his throat.
I looked up at Gabrielle. "Are you alright?" I asked.
Her startled expression was quickly replaced by discernible resolve. "I can take care of myself‚" she said. "But… but thank you."
"I know you can‚" I responded. But I still worry‚ I thought.
As more enemies approached‚ Gabrielle began frantically hitting them at random. It was as if‚ in an instant‚ she became a woman possessed. I‚ of course‚ continued my killing spree. This went on for quite a while before I was able to assess the full situation. Taking a break from the carnage‚ I looked around and surveyed the area. The number of enemy troops was dwindling fast. Our losses seemed to be minimal‚ thanks to the Amazons. I gauged that it would not be long before I would put the next part of my plan into motion. I looked over at Bahri‚ who had pinned a man to a tree and was grinding her sword into his chest. "Bahri!" I yelled. "Be ready!"
"Aye‚ Conqueror!" she responded before returning her attention to her latest victim. "Die‚ you gutless bastard‚" I heard her say to the lifeless body.
Gabrielle heard it too. "It’s war‚ Gabrielle‚" was all I could say to her about Bahri’s ruthless glee before it was necessary for me to kill yet more enemy soldiers.
Moments later‚ I yelled over to Bahri‚ "Now!"
"Rejea nyuma!" she yelled. It was the Bantu command for "retreat." As Hadiya‚ Charicleia and then Gabrielle shouted the same command‚ the Amazons began their descent from the trees. Once on the ground‚ they began running back toward the horses. As Lieutenant Agenta and my ground troops continued fighting‚ I grabbed Gabrielle’s arm.
"Go with the Amazons‚ Gabrielle‚" I told her.
"What about you?"
"Don’t worry about me… just go."
"No‚ Xena‚" she said. "I want to stay with you."
"We can’t argue about this now!" I insisted. "Just do as I say and go."
I wanted to wrap her in my arms and kiss her so badly that my heart ached‚ but I couldn’t afford any enemy that might survive this fight to witness my one permanent weakness. "Go with your Sisters‚ Gabrielle‚" I pleaded. "Trust me."
At that moment‚ Bahri gently grabbed Gabrielle’s arm. "Come on‚ Gab."
Gabrielle grabbed my hand and held it for a single moment before retreating with Bahri.
I ran over to Agenta. "You know what to do‚" I simply said to her before taking to task what the great Queen Cyane had taught me as well.
I took to the trees.
Forging ahead many lengths from the battle‚ I finally stopped at an area where I could clearly make out Shaikheti’s camp from my position in a tall pine tree. His camp was in chaos. The unexpected attacks from both the east and west had apparently caused a panic. I could see from my position that many men were leaving the camp individually. They were deserters and most carried sacks probably filled with warm clothing or food stolen from the supply huts. It was obvious that morale had been vastly deteriorating since our first attack a week ago.
Perfect‚ I thought as I jumped down from the tree and leapt upon one of those deserters. Snapping his neck‚ I took the helmet and Scythian cloak from the body and put them on. I then inventoried the dead man’s sack. He had stolen two bags of grain‚ a cooking pot and spoon‚ a loaf of bread and some Thracian coins. I pocketed the coins and wolfed down half of the loaf before burying the sack in the snow. I also buried the man’s weapons; a crossbow and sword. I had my own weapons‚ so I didn’t need them‚ but I planned to return for them later. In the winter‚ especially‚ it’s utter foolishness to waste food or discard weapons. Finally‚ I made some distinct markers as to my presence in the area. I took thin strips of black colored cloth that I earlier placed in my satchel and tied them to low branches on several trees. My markers covered an area that spanned about sixty paces in a path leading to the enemy camp.
Fully disguised‚ I proceeded on to Shaikheti’s stronghold.
* * * *
Agenta’s orders‚ like those of Glaphyra and Diomedes‚ were to keep fighting until the enemies’ retreat. Once they did‚ my troops would likewise pull back‚ but not do a full retreat. They were to continue surrounding the outer perimeter‚ essentially imprisoning Shaikheti’s troops in their own war camp. Once this occurred‚ the Amazons were to advance again with Bahri‚ Hadiya and Charicleia as their eyes on the ground‚ to that area where I descended from the trees‚ took my disguise and set my first markers. They were to then either wait for my signal from the camp or my return to them.
I ordered Bahri and Agenta to insist that Gabrielle remain with the fallback troops rather than advance with the Amazons‚ and I hoped that Gabrielle wouldn’t defy those orders.
I sneaked into Shaikheti’s camp as night fell and coyly maneuvered my way around it. I began making a mental record of the camp’s condition and the status of the soldiers and their supplies. It didn’t take long for me to determine from overhearing the Persian and Scythian soldiers’ various diatribes that food was scarce and weapons were low. Most of the men were thin‚ too thin‚ suggesting that food had not been properly rationed since they had embarked on their mission. Some of the men had visible signs of untreated frostbite. Other men had strange rashes on their skin. I looked for some kind of healing tent but only found one where sick soldiers were going to smoke pipes‚ drink ale or inhale fumes from a low burning fire. I immediately recognized the odor emanating from the tent and suspected that crushed opium was placed in the pipes and in the drinks‚ as well as in the fire.
Borias had introduced me to opium when we were fighting in Pontes years ago. The plant grew in abundance there‚ so I would crush its poppy‚ place it in a pipe and smoke it on occasion. I enjoyed the stuff because it relaxed me and made fucking him much more enjoyable. But soon thereafter‚ we journeyed to Chin. After befriending Lao Ma there‚ she told me that if I didn’t stop smoking opium‚ I’d become dependent on it to simply function. I didn’t believe her‚ so she challenged me to stop smoking it for a week. I wasn’t even using it on a daily basis and was convinced that she was overreacting. However‚ I began suffering body chills and nausea after only four days without it. I was then so thoroughly convinced of its danger that I swore never to touch the stuff again.
I continued my survey until I came upon what I believed was Shaikheti’s tent. It was large‚ ornate and had two healthy looking armed guards protecting the entrance. His men are dying and he’s probably in there‚ as fat as a hog and sitting on his ass‚ I thought as I hunkered down next to a barrel and decided what my next move would be. I had several options. I could simply walk up on the two guards‚ kill them both and enter the tent. That‚ of course‚ would generate plenty of attention‚ something I didn’t want just yet. I could covertly enter the tent from the rear and take out whatever protection Shaikheti had in there with him. Or‚ I could find a place to rest and deal with Shaikheti in the morning.
I chose to deal with him in the morning.
As I had slipped in‚ I easily slipped out of the camp. Instead of going back to where Agenta or the Amazons were positioned‚ however‚ I headed north. The area was rocky and hilly and climbing it buried under two layers of heavy clothing gave me the necessary temporary heat that I needed. I listened to the sounds of warfare off in the distance. What I heard suggested that Diomedes’ troops had retreated from the east and that Glaphyra‚ although still engaging the enemy‚ had likely ordered at least some of her troops to the fallback position. When I was slipping around Shaikheti’s camp‚ the number of men that I had observed returning to it after their respective retreats further confirmed my suspicions.
I found a ditch in the hill that would be a perfect nesting place for the night. I spent half of the night gathering twigs to make a shelter for myself‚ the exertion from the work further serving to keep me warm. I then started a small fire. The ditch was deep enough that the smoke from the fire‚ in the dead of night‚ would not be seen by the enemy camp below. Once my work was done‚ I hunkered down under my little shelter and slept.
I dreamt about Gabrielle and me. We were in a strange bed in a very unusual looking bedchamber. The bed was small and the chamber had dozens of lit candles and other strangely illuminated objects throughout it. Strange looking tapestries hung from the walls and somewhere inside of the room‚ strange music could be heard‚ although there were no musicians present. It was as if she and I were in a different place and time‚ but it was definitely Gabrielle with me in that bed. She was lying on top of me and began suckling my nipples before bringing her lips to mine. We began making love. My entire body quivered at the feel of her pulsating sex upon mine. I grabbed the creamy backs of her upper thighs and let out a deeply throaty moan as I felt heat‚ moisture‚ passion. As we made love‚ the bed mysteriously creaked to the rhythmic movement of our bodies. Gabrielle then broke the kiss‚ ran her luscious tongue across my lips and then looked at me with those sea-green eyes. "I’m coming‚ Warrior Princess‚" she said. "I’m coming." At that moment‚ climax hit her in the dream and me in my reality. I was jarred awake by the pleasurable pain of my throbbing center. The little fire that I started the night before had died out‚ but I was sweating as if I had spent several candlemarks in an Amazon steam yurt.
My sleep had apparently been very sound‚ because dawn had already arrived and a bright winter sun was shining down upon me. I rose up to check out my surroundings‚ but not before grabbing myself and taking in the last jolts from that mysteriously incredible dream.
The enemy camp below looked worse than it did the night before. Disheveled‚ tired and hungry men were wandering aimlessly around the camp. Fights were breaking out. Attempts on the officers’ parts to form up platoons were proving futile. I then looked to the north and saw what I had been waiting for coming down from the hills.
Gathering up my bearings‚ I pulled out the other half of the loaf of bread that I had taken from the deserter I had killed and ate it before climbing down the hill and sneaking back into the enemy camp. It was time for me to pay Shaikheti that long-awaited visit.
I entered his command tent the way I had entered Gabrielle’s royal yurt last summer. I took my chakram and quietly sliced an opening in the tent’s rear. It would be much easier than trying to go under the tent’s bottom‚ since much of it had been covered under layers of snow. When I poked my head in‚ a guard was right there to greet me. I reached my hand in and‚ grabbing him by his neck‚ I flung him away. I entered the tent just in time to take on two more guards. I waved my chakram in front of me and slit both of their throats. As they fell‚ the first guard that I had pushed got up and came at me. I slit his throat as well.
Shaikheti‚ who was sitting when I arrived‚ was on his feet and going for his sword. "Guards!" he yelled for the two men standing outside. "Guards!"
They entered and briefly eyed their fallen comrades before coming at me. I kicked one in his throat‚ sending him to the ground gasping for air. I kicked the sword out of the other one’s hand before unsheathing my sword and running him through. As the one surviving guard gagged on the floor‚ I walked over to the two naked whores who had been screaming incessantly since my arrival and‚ pointing my bloodied sword at them‚ told them in their native Persian tongue to "get out." Grabbing anything that would remotely serve as garments‚ the two women were gone as quickly as fleeing rabbits.
I looked up at Shaikheti. He stood there‚ tightly holding his sword with both hands and shaking like a leaf. I sheathed my sword and confidently removed the helmet that concealed my identity.
"Xe-na…" he whispered.
"You surprised‚ Shaikheti?"
"How did you…?"
"Oh‚ I’ve been checking out your camp for a while‚" I quipped as I folded my arms. "I’ve noticed that opium seems to be the intoxicant of choice around here."
He was still holding the sword in attack position. "Put the sword down‚ Shaikheti‚" I said. "You know that you don’t stand a chance against me."
He completely dropped the sword. "So‚ are you going to kill me now?" he asked.
"If I was going to do that‚ you’d be dead already‚" I replied. "No‚ Shaikheti‚ I have better plans for you." I walked over to him and‚ putting my arm around his shoulder‚ I guided him over to some cushions on the floor that had apparently served as his pleasure center with the whores. "Sit‚" I said. He stood there dumbfounded. "I said sit down!"
As Shaikheti sat down on the cushions‚ I went over to the guard that I had kicked. "Let’s see how he’s doing‚" I said as I turned the guard on his back. His eyes were open and his tongue was sticking out‚ but he was otherwise lifeless. "Ooh‚ not too good it seems."
I walked back over to Shaikheti and stood over him and folded my arms again. "Why attack the Germans‚ Shaikheti?" I asked. "Why now?"
"What answer will spare me my life‚ Destroyer of Nations?" he replied.
In that instant I wanted to kill him. There was a time when I relished the opportunity of the battle‚ the challenge of the campaign. But my priorities had changed drastically. I wanted to end his miserable life for forcing me to leave the comfort of my homeland and the loving arms of my Gabrielle‚ for placing her and hundreds of my best fighters‚ and yes‚ many of my closest friends in danger‚ and for disrupting and threatening the lives of hundreds of innocent Germanic villagers. All of this for probably no other reason than to make a name for himself in the history annals.
I had done what Shaikheti set out to do countless times. I was successful at it. But for the first time in my life‚ as I recalled the expression of Gabrielle’s face on the battlefield the day before‚ I realized just how high of a price I’d paid for my power.
"I’m not going to kill you‚ Shaikheti‚" I told him. "I don’t need the glory."
A smile of relief appeared on that homely face of his. "Don’t celebrate yet‚" I added. The growing sounds of panicked soldiers came at precisely the right time.
Just then‚ a voice from outside of the tent entrance spoke. "Lord Shaikheti‚" the voice said‚ "a pack of wild dogs are coming down from the north hills."
"Wild dogs?" Shaikheti posed as he looked at me.
"Yes‚ O Great One‚" replied the voice.
I could hardly contain my laughter at the absurd honorific as I grabbed Shaikheti by his ornate robe collar and brought him to his feet. "Let’s go have a look-see‚" I said.
We exited the tent and walked to a spot where we could see the northern horizon. Coming down from the rocky hills was a pack of dogs. Some stopped and began howling. Others continued their descent.
I looked at Shaikheti. He reminded me of the cowardly warlord Cortese; clean‚ well nourished‚ finely attired‚ with bodyguards and slave girls‚ while the men around him were dirty‚ sullen‚ beaten. "Those aren’t wild dogs‚ are they‚ Shaikheti?" I stated‚ as both he and I knew the answer.
"They’re shepherd dogs‚" he replied. "German shepherds."
"Scouts‚" I said. "Who will be behind them?"
Shaikheti sighed and looked to the sky. "The Goths‚" he whispered‚ probably realizing that he was truly defeated.
Only moments later‚ hundreds of warriors appeared at the top of the hill. "Look at them‚" I said to Shaikheti. "Look at the man who leads them‚ the one dressed in orange and black. He is the true ‘Great One.’"
"Lord Orocovis‚" Shaikheti acknowledged.
I grabbed his collar with both hands‚ looked him in his eyes and continued‚ "You have two options here. You can fight Orocovis and the Goths to the death or you can spare the lives of what’s left of your men and surrender. Orocovis and I have allied with all of the German clans in the region. This camp is completely surrounded. For once‚ be a man and do the right thing."
I released him. "Their fate is in your hands now‚" I finished as I turned to walk away.
From my back‚ I heard the words‚ "It’s the Conqueror. KILL HER!"
Wrong option‚ I thought as I unsheathed my sword and prepared to fight my way out of the war camp‚ but not before sending my signal to Lord Orocovis‚ Palaemon‚ Stanislas and the chieftain of the Goths up on that hill‚ "Alalalalalalalalalalala!"
Orocovis raised his sword and a huge battle cry of hundreds of Gothic men erupted as they began anxiously climbing down from the hill. From that first battle cry came the shouts of Glaphyra’s troops from the west and Diomedes’ troops from the east. Agenta and her troops‚ per my orders‚ stood fast at their retreat position. It was time for me to return to the Amazons.
* * * *
I was able to return to where I had buried the grain. The Amazons had advanced and were there‚ positioned in the trees. Bahri‚ Charicleia and Hadiya were relaxing on the ground. Gabrielle was with them. Upon seeing me‚ the three Guardsmen leapt to their feet. Charicleia dropped the nuts she had been eating. Gabrielle also stood‚ but she ran to me and threw her arms around my waist.
"My Liege‚" Bahri began‚ "Please let me explain…"
"You don’t have to‚ Field Sergeant‚" I stated as I returned Gabrielle’s wonderfully warm embrace. "I just knew that Gabrielle wasn’t going to follow orders and stay back with Agenta’s troops."
"You know me all too well‚ Warrior Princess‚" Gabrielle quipped. The sound of those last two words temporarily took me back to that blissful dream.
I walked us both over to a tree and we plopped down next to it. She resumed devouring the nuts she had been eating as well. "You three can sit‚" I said to the others.
"Are you alright‚ Xena?" Gabrielle asked.
"Just a little tired‚" I responded. Actually‚ I was exhausted.
Gabrielle displayed a handful of nuts under my chin. "Have some‚" she said. "We have plenty since silly Bahri won’t eat any."
"I hate nuts‚" Bahri exclaimed as she reclaimed her comfortable spot on the ground.
Gabrielle reached for my water skin. "Yours is empty‚ Xena‚" she observed. "Have some water from mine."
After sipping some water‚ I looked over at my love. She was obviously making a strong effort not to notice the stains of blood on my woolen cloak and the smeared blood on my hands. I greatly wanted to hold hers‚ but I hated to touch her when I had blood on me. I felt as if I was defiling her somehow. "You look beautiful‚ Gabrielle‚" I said softly.
"I missed you‚ Xena‚" she replied.
"I missed you too."
* * * *
We waited there in the calm of the German forest for some time. All of the Amazons were positioned in trees in close proximity to us and were relaxing. I suspected that some had even drifted off to sleep. Hadiya leaned against a tree and started humming a Parisii folk song. Bahri and Charicleia napped in an affectionate huddle while Gabrielle peppered me with questions about what happened after I had left her the day before.
I explained to her the remainder of my full battle plan. I told her about how I penetrated the enemy war camp to see its condition and then returned to confront Shaikheti. I told her that I really didn’t expect him to surrender. Surrendering would have been the smart move to make‚ especially after I had assured him that I wouldn’t kill him. But Shaikheti wasn’t smart. I knew that he figured that if he had succeeded in having me killed‚ he could somehow rattle the foundation of Lord Orocovis and my fighting force. He was apparently unrealistic about just how formidable I had become since those days when I was rolling around with Borias.
I also told Gabrielle that Agenta’s troops were to be used to stop any enemy soldiers who might escape the siege on Shaikheti’s war camp by my other troops and the Goths. "How long are we to wait here‚ Xena?" she asked after I had fully updated her on my plan.
"Once the war camp is completely taken by our troops and allies‚ Commander Palaemon is to report to me here."
"He knows to come directly here?"
"He knows to come south of the camp‚" I responded. "These markers that you found are the first of many that I left. They’re for him as well. The Amazons will tell me when he is in sight."
"I thought that they were back up in the trees to stop escapees?"
A few moments later‚ the Amazon Amarice‚ in a low voice‚ spoke from her position in a tree‚ "There’s someone coming."
"How many?" I asked.
"Just one‚ Conqueror‚" she replied.
I stood. "Is it an officer from my army?"
"I don’t think so‚ Conqueror‚" she said. "He’s not dressed like any kind of warrior that I’ve ever seen before."
I leapt into the same tree and positioned myself just under Amarice. "It’s Shaikheti‚" I said.
Amarice raised her bow to fire upon him. "No‚" I said to her as I looked down at Hadiya‚ Bahri‚ Charicleia and Gabrielle‚ who were all now alert and standing.
"Hapana‚ hapana!" Gabrielle yelled to her Sisters the "no" command. I smiled to myself at the recognition that my love had rightfully earned from her Nation.
Shaikheti was running as if those shepherd scout dogs were chasing him. When he was practically under us‚ I spoke. "Shaikheti…" I said down to him in a very casual tone. "Where do you think you’re going?"
He stopped and started looking around until his eyes fell upon the four women. Hadiya and Charicleia drew their swords. Bahri drew her crossbow. Gabrielle held her staff in a ready position.
"Look around you‚ Shaikheti‚" I said. He did and started to see some of the Amazons perched in their respective trees aiming arrows at him.
"Why am I not surprised that I would find you out here‚ running away from your own army‚ from your responsibility‚ like a spineless worm?" I quipped. "I just knew that you wouldn’t stay and have it out with the strong‚ virile and infinitely smarter Orocovis."
"Let’s talk about this‚ Conqueror‚" he said as he began moving slowly‚ specifically toward Gabrielle. His increasing proximity to her was making me more and more uneasy‚ but the last thing I wanted him to discover was that she was my consort. "I’m not surprised that you would enlist the aid of the Oiorpata‚ but surely your… ‘warriors’… here on the ground don’t want to spill any more blood‚" he added.
In an instant‚ his arm raised to reveal that he was carrying a short sword. He lunged at Gabrielle. Although she appeared ready for him‚ I jumped down from the tree to protect her. As my feet hit the ground‚ however‚ I looked down to see Shaikheti on the snowy ground‚ face down with several arrows sticking out of his back. I knelt and turned him on his side. He was amazingly still alive.
"She’s… yours… isn’t… she?" he whispered.
"She’s an Amazon Princess‚" I stated.
"I knew… that too‚" he said as his eyes looked up at Gabrielle‚ who knelt next to me. He smiled at her. "I was spared by Xena… because of you‚" he said to her.
He looked at me. "Gab…ri…elle… the Conqueror’s… Conqueror." With those last words spoken‚ the Scythian warlord Shaikheti died.
I looked over at Gabrielle. "He died because of me‚" she said.
I placed my hand on her shoulder. "No‚ sweetheart‚" I assured her. "He died because he didn’t want to face judgment. He sealed his own fate the way he wanted it sealed. It was his way of ending his own life.
A moment later‚ a group of my warriors led by Palaemon ran up to us. "My Liege‚" he announced. "The enemy is neutralized." Stanislas was with the group and immediately ran over to lovingly hug and kiss her lover‚ Hadiya.
I got up. "Anyone left standing?"
"Yes‚ Majesty‚" he said. "When HE ran off‚ they didn’t take long to surrender."
"Let’s head back to camp‚" I said. "Send a couple of these men back to give the order for Commander Glaphyra and Lieutenant Diomedes to fall back to camp. I’ll collect Lieutenant Agenta and her troops on our way back. Lord Orocovis will handle matters at the enemy camp.
"What about him‚ Conqueror?" Palaemon inquired referring to Shaikheti.
"We’ll take the body back to camp‚" I said.
"By your will‚ Conqueror‚" Palaemon stated.
Hadiya‚ Bahri and Charicleia called up to the Amazons in the trees‚ "Enda‚ enda!" It was the command "to go." Almost in unison they leapt down from the trees. I helped Palaemon‚ Charicleia and the massive Escritt carry Shaikheti’s body back to our camp.
When we arrived‚ the victorious Amazons took the body of our enemy and placed it in the central square of the camp. Once all of the troops‚ Orocovis and his army and the Germans arrived‚ a massive celebration would ensue. The first thing I wanted to do‚ however‚ was check on Seumius. With my Gabrielle by my side‚ we proceeded to the Hospice tent. When we went inside‚ my mouth nearly dropped.
"Commander Marius!" I cried out.
"Greetings‚ Conqueror‚" he said. He stood next to Seumius‚ who was sitting up on his hospice bunk and looked greatly improved.
"What brings you here?"
"A situation in Rome that needs your attention‚ Majesty."
"Dammit!" I exclaimed. "We just had our victory here and I still don’t get to go home to Corinth? What is it now? Has this something to do with Proconsul Octavius?"
"No‚ my Liege‚" Marius replied.
"What then?" I asked. "What’s the situation?"
"In general‚ the gladiators‚ my Liege‚" Marius advised. "Specifically‚ my wife."
Gabrielle and I looked at each other and sighed‚ "Callisto‚" we said in tandem.
CONTINUED IN PART EIGHT
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