A Different Time, A Better Time
By: ARS Williams

Disclaimer: Xena and all other characters from Xena: Warrior Princess are not mine, they don't belong to me. They belong to USA Universal Studios and all those other great people. All of the rest of the characters in this story are mine. There are also a few songs in the story, don't worry this isn't a musical. The songs aren't mine either.

Sex Warning: Yes there is some sex between a male and female as well as implications towards sex in this story. It wouldn't be a story with out a little lovemaking. <lol>

Subtext Warning: There's a little cursing but nothing to run home and tell mother about. And there is also reference to two women being together.

Chapter Seven: Facing the Past

A week passed at sea and with good wind Ulysses was standing up top and saw Ithaca not far away, "home already," Virgil said and Ulysses nodded. "Seemed like it took us longer to leave," he said and Ulysses chuckled at him. "When you think about it, it did take us longer to leave; we were sneaking around," Ulysses said and Virgil nodded. An hour later they were walking off of the ship with their bags in hand and when they hit the ground there was a carriage waiting for them. "My lord," the guard who opened the door to carriage said as Ulysses approached and the guard bowed his head. Ulysses put his things in the back of the carriage as did Virgil and then they got into the carriage. Horses waited for the guards who were instructed not to let them out of their sights. Word had already been sent up to the palace of their arrival, so in the ten minutes that it took for them to reach the palace, Julian, Marguerite and Lucius and Virgil's mother, Marina, were waiting for them.

When they got out of the carriage they looked up at their parents then at each other, "are you ready?" Ulysses asked, "I think we can take the guards and run for it," Virgil said and Ulysses grinned at his friend. They walked up the stairs until Ulysses was looking into his father's eyes where he saw anger but also a great deal of relief. Julian stepped down and looked into his son's eyes before hugged him and Ulysses closed his eyes and returned his father's hug. "I could kill you Virgil," Lucius said as he hugged his son then pulled him back and before Lucius could say anything his wife stepped up and hugged her son. "Let me have a look at you. Are you alright? Are you hurt?" Marina asked and Virgil grinned a tolerant grin at his mother, "I'm fine mom, I'm fine," he said and Lucius looked at him. "You're gonna be far from fine when your mother and I get through with you," Lucius said to his son and Virgil groaned.

"My lord with your leave," Lucius said to Julian who nodded and watched as he walked away dragging Virgil with him. Marguerite walked down to Ulysses and looked at him before she slapped him, "ow," he said, the slap having really stung. Marguerite cried as she pulled her son into her arms and Ulysses hugged her back, "I'm okay mom, really," he said and she just cried harder and he continued to hold her. "Come, we'll talk in my office," Julian said as he gently pulled his wife away while looking at his son and Ulysses looked at him. "Well I have to get my things," he said, "leave them, the servants will see to them," Julian said and Ulysses nodded and walked into the palace followed by his mother and father. Once in the palace the doors were closed behind them and all three of them walked in silence to Julian's office. Once there they walked in and the door was closed. "Sit down Ulysses," Julian said and Ulysses looked at his father then sat down in the char; Marguerite walked up to Julian so that she was standing next to him.

"First off are you alright? You're not hurt or anything?" Julian asked and Ulysses shook his head, "I'm fine," he said and Julian nodded as he looked at his son. "Secondly, what in the world possessed you and Virgil to do what you did? I mean were you trying to prove something to your mother and I?" Julian asked and Ulysses looked at him, "first off you should know Virgil had nothing to do with this, it was all my idea. Secondly, I left partly because of you and mom but mostly for myself. No matter how I tried to tell you dad," Ulysses said as he looked at his father, "or explain it to you mom," he said his sight switching to her. "You guys never listened and you never understood, I was dying here and nothing was fixing it. You tried to fix it with work and that only made it worse. I felt like I was slowly suffocating and there was nothing I could do about it and the people I needed most to understand me, to me you couldn't or wouldn't." Ulysses said as he looked at his parents and they looked back at him.

"Still Ulysses, running away was not the answer, you scared you mother and I to death. We didn't know if you were okay, if you were alive, if you had money to take care of yourself, where you were, nothing." Julian said and Ulysses nodded, "I know and I'm sorry for making you both worry, especially you mom and maybe running away wasn't the answer but it was the only choice left to me so I took it and as it turns out, it was what I needed more than I even knew," Ulysses said and Julian let out a breath as he looked at his son as he sat down in his chair at the head of the table and Marguerite sat down next to her husband. "We will need to talk more about this Ulysses and if I could I would punish you for this I am your father, I am your King so I can punish you but I won't. I understand that you thought you had a choice to make and you made it, I will however, express my disappointment in you."

Julian said as he looked into his son's eyes and Ulysses let out a breath as he looked down, his father's disappointment in him, hitting him like it was a sword running through his chest. "I did not raise a runner Ulysses and I understand that I can be complicated and stubborn at times but as my son, it is your duty, it is your right to make me see and listen to what it is you think I'm not seeing or listening to. Keep pushing at me Ulysses and keep pushing at your mother until we understand you because I agree with you, we are the most important people in your life and we should understand you and I am disappointed not only in you but also in myself."

He said then let out a breath as he leaned back in his chair and looked at Ulysses, Marguerite placed her hand on top of Julian's and he turned his hand over and squeezed her hand for comfort and reassurance that she was always by his side. "I'm disappointed that I didn't know what my own child, my own son needed. I was too consumed by other things, things that I thought you needed to make you a good man and a great King. My failure was that I didn't recognize the great man you already are and the fantastic King I know you will be." Julian said then let out a breath as he sat up, "we'll talk more about this later but right now there are more important things going on," Julian said. "We are at war with Paxos, King Dartanion has declared war on us," Marguerite said. "What? Why?" Ulysses asked and Julian let out a breath, "we were having a small dispute over trading and whose waters were whose. The next thing I know he's talking about Ithaca should be under his rule and I told him that was never going to happen. I told him we could negotiate some things but everything we talked about he had a negative look on and so this morning he has declared war on us."

Julian said and Ulysses shook his head, "that's why it is imperative that whatever your issues Ulysses we work them out together," Marguerite said to her son and he looked at her then at his father. "Your mother is right Ulysses, whatever is going on with you, whatever your problems or fears, we should work through them together. You're not alone and I don't want you to ever fell that you are, not as long as you have your mother and I." Julian said and Ulysses looked at him then nodded and Julian nodded as well. "Now I have some things to see to, I'm sure you need to clean up and you're tired so I'll see you at dinner." Julian told Ulysses who knew that was him being dismissed so he stood and walked over to the door, "oh and the two guards that are following you are just a reminder that some things will not go without repercussions," Julian said and Ulysses didn't argue he just nodded and left his father's office. "That went well," Julian said and Marguerite nodded, "there's something different about him. He's changed," she said and Julian looked at her. "Perhaps only time will tell," Julian said then placed a soft kiss on his wife's lips and she knew that was her queue to leave as well.

Ulysses walked back to his room with two guards following him and they stayed outside of his room while he was in there. He walked to his bedroom where his bags were placed on the bed along side his lyre. He remembered the letter he had written Xena and he went to his bag and pulled it out then got some wax and sealed it with his signet ring. He then walked to the front door and looked at one of the guards, "can you send this to the message room please and make sure it's sent out as soon as possible?" Ulysses asked and the guard bowed his head, "yes my lord," he said and Ulysses nodded then closed the door and headed back to his room. His father was right, he did need to clean up so he went and took a shower then came back to his room where he put on some baggy pants and a loose shirt. He placed his bags on the floor, having put his money back in its hiding place before he took a shower. He stood his lyre up next to the bed by his sword, then lay down on his soft bed and silk sheets, he hugged the pillow and in moments he had fallen asleep.

He woke an hour before dinner and by the time he was dressed it was ten minutes before dinner. He walked out of his room locking the door behind him and the guards followed him to the dinning hall. When he got there his mother and sister were already there and Camilla jumped out of her seat and hugged her brother. "I missed you," she said and he grinned as he placed a kiss on the side of her forehead. "I missed you too," Ulysses said and when the hug ended Camilla slapped him. "Ow," he said again and she looked at him with her hands on her hips, "serves you right for making us worry half to death," she said and Ulysses looked at his sister and shook his head as he walked over to his chair and sat down. The servant walked over and poured Ulysses a glass of wine and when he picked his glass up his sister caught sight of the tattoo on his arm. "You got a tattoo," Camilla said and Marguerite looked at her son's arm.

"Ulysses, why did you go and vandalize yourself like that?" Marguerite asked her son and Ulysses let out a breath, "mom, please, it's just something I wanted to do." He said and Marguerite shook her head at her son, "did it hurt?" Camilla asked and Ulysses nodded, "yea," he said. "What's it say?" She asked, "what does what say?" Julian asked as he walked over to the table and sat down. "Your son got a tattoo," Marguerite said. "Really? I've always wanted one," Julian said and Marguerite hit him on his arm as she gave him a disapproving stare. "I mean Ulysses you shouldn't have gotten that," Julian said and Ulysses grinned at him. "I think it looks sexy on him, I bet that's why you got it, to impress women," Camilla said and Ulysses looked into his sisters eyes. "No," he said and she looked at him and saw he meant it. "Ulysses," a familiar voice called and Ulysses turned his head to see Victoria and he smiled as he stood. "Hey," he said as he walked over to her and she over to him, until they were embraced in a hug.

Victoria closed her eyes as she clung to him tightly, fearing that if she let him go he would leave again. Ulysses pulled back and looked at her, "I've missed you," she said and he grinned at her. "I've missed you too, I've thought about you too. Wondering what you were up to, if some young man had sweeped you off your feet," he said with a grin and Victoria grinned as she shook her head. "No just the usual and missing you," she said and he grinned at her. Victoria turned her head as her father called her, "you better go," Ulysses said and she turned back to look at Ulysses. "I wanted to talk to you," she said and he looked at her, "we can talk tomorrow," he said and she looked into his eyes and nodded. Ulysses watched as she walked over to her normal table where he family and another sat and he let out a breath as he walked back over to his table and sat down. "Ulysses," Camilla called and he looked at her as he took a small gulp of wine, "hmmm?" He asked and Camilla let out a breath, "can you please leave Victoria be?

She was very heart broken when you left and it's taken her a while to get over you. You're not going to do anything but hurt her more if you don't have honorable intentions towards her," Camilla said and Ulysses looked at his sister. "Camilla I promise you, all I'm interested in Victoria is a friendship and nothing more, no strings attached and I will let her know that." He said and Camilla looked at him, "okay, who are you and what have you done with my brother?" She asked and Ulysses grinned at her then looked at Virgil who sat down next to Ulysses and Lucius and his wife and daughter sat down at the table as well. "Virgil are you sure you brought back my brother because he's acting weird," Camilla said and Virgil looked at her then at Ulysses. "As far as I know this is Ulysses," he said and Ulysses just grinned as he shook his head at them. Everyone at the table talked until dinner was brought out and even then there was conversation going on.

When dinner was over, Ulysses went back to his room where he unpacked his things and in the midst of it he found one of the pictures of Xena. He pulled the band from around it and unrolled it; it was the picture of Xena he loved the most with her so relaxed and looking so sexy yet so innocent. He sat the picture down on his night stand then finished going through his bags. When he was done he placed them in his closet then got ready for bed, but having taken a nap earlier he wasn't that tired, so he picked up his lyre and placed it on his lap getting ready to play while he sat the picture of Xena on his legs so that he could see her while he thought of music and lyrics to go with the music. He played until he started getting tired; he placed his lyre back beside the bed and looked at Xena's picture once more, "good night my love," Ulysses said then opened the drawer on the stand and placed the picture in it. He turned down the only lantern lit then scooted down under the covers, closed his eyes and thought of Xena. With thoughts of his love in his head he happily fell asleep.

When morning came Ulysses woke up and took a shower to help himself wake up, he dressed then left his room with the guards following him still. "Ulysses," Victoria called as she walked from the opposite way and he looked at her, "hey," he said as he continued to walk until they met up. "So how was your first day back?" She asked and Ulysses nodded, "better than I thought it would go," he said and Victoria nodded then slapped Ulysses. "Ow," he said as he looked at her, "I'm going to need for everyone to stop hitting me," he said and she looked at him. "Do you know how much you leaving hurt me?" She asked and he let out a breath as he stopped walking and looked at her, "I know I hurt you Victoria but I warned you, I told you before we started, what I wasn't looking for. You said you understood," he said and she let out a breath and nodded. "I did at first but I couldn't stop myself from feeling and believe me I tried but…" she said then shook her head and Ulysses let out a breath at he looked at Victoria.

"Victoria I never meant to hurt you and I should have stopped it before it began but you were right I needed comfort. You were a great friend to me, you listened and helped me through things. I hope we can remain good friends," he said and she looked at him. "That's all just friends?" Victoria asked and Ulysses looked into her eyes and nodded, "I can't give you anything else," Ulysses said and she looked at him and nodded. "Well I guess I'll see you around," she said then turned to leave, "Victoria," Ulysses called then let out a breath as she walked away. 'This day is not starting off well' Ulysses thought to himself then headed to the Dinning Hall taking the long way since he needed to clear his head. When he got to the hall everyone was at the table so he sat down, "what did you do to Victoria?" Camilla asked and Ulysses let out a breath, "I'm not home one day and already you're harassing me," Ulysses said and Camilla just looked at him. "What did you do? I know it was you because when I passed her in the hall she was crying and she was saying something about you."

Camilla said and Ulysses looked at her, "look I just told her all we could be is friends and nothing more because I have nothing to give her," he said. "Are you sure?" Camilla asked, "maybe it was the way you said it," his mother said and Ulysses let out a breath. "Look I told her as gently as possible that all we could be is friends. Now I'm sorry if that has upset her but that's just the way it is." He said and Camilla was about to say something but he looked at her, "is this not what you wanted? Can you please leave me alone about it," he said and she looked at him and let out a breath. Breakfast was brought out and they all began to eat, "Ulysses we're having council today with the war advisors and captains and generals, I want you to be there," Julian said and Ulysses nodded. When they were finished breakfast Ulysses followed Julian to his office and the day was spent going over war plans and deciding the best tactics.

Ulysses' days pretty much passed like this; in the mornings he ran then did some exercises and the rest of the day he handled business pertaining to Ithaca, his father having actually asked him if he wanted his duties back and Ulysses feeling like he could do them, told him yes. The punishment he and Virgil had received was that they weren't allowed to go any where without the guards and they also weren't allowed to leave the palace for personal reasons. "So much for getting laid," Virgil said as he and Ulysses sparred and Ulysses grinned at his friend. "I find it funny that we're twenty five years old and still being punished by our parents," Ulysses said as he swung at Virgil who ducked and nodded. "My little sister has more freedom than we do," Virgil said and Ulysses chuckled while they continued sparring. After dinner Ulysses' nights were filled with sitting down and writing to Xena since there were a million things he wanted to tell her or if he wasn't doing that he was writing music and lyrics for the songs he had come up with.

The only downside to all of it was that he was missing Xena terribly, it had been almost two weeks since he had been home, three weeks since he had last seen Xena. He found himself day dreaming about her while he had breaks or when he was at lunch or dinner. Yes Xena not being there was a huge down side, that and Victoria wasn't talking to him. She had become a good friend and to lose her hurt but there was nothing he could do about it, she wanted something he couldn't give her; his heart, body and soul belonged to Xena. "I was wrong Ulysses," Camilla said at dinner and he looked at her. "What are you talking about?" He asked as he ate his dinner, "Victoria, she's been sulking ever since you got back. Whatever you told her take it back and do what it is you do," Camilla said and Ulysses grinned at his sister. "What I do?" He asked, "yea you know, make women drool all over themselves for you," Camilla said and Ulysses chuckled at his sister.

"I'm serious Ulysses," Camilla said and he looked at her, "I know you are, that's why I'm laughing." He said and she let out a frustrating breath, "look Camilla, believe it or not I didn't leave Victoria alone because you said so. I did it because it was the right thing to do and like I told her, I can't give her what she wants." Ulysses said, "why not?" Camilla asked, "Its just sex," Camilla said. "Camilla," Marguerite said and Camilla looked at her mother. "What? It is just sex," she said. "I believe your mother is referring to the way you're saying it," Julian said as he looked at his daughter. "Fine it's just you penetrating her for the sake of pleasure," Camilla said and Ulysses laughed at his sister and at the way their parents were looking. "Ulysses you're rubbing off on your sister," Julian said and he grinned at his father, "I didn't teach her that and she sure didn't hear those words from me." Ulysses said and Camilla rolled her eyes, "look Ulysses I'm serious please talk to her," Camilla said and Ulysses looked at her.

"I'll talk to her Camilla but my feelings haven't changed on the subject, I'm not having sex with her," Ulysses said. "Really, has dinner become talking about sex?" Marguerite asked her children and they looked at her, "language mom," they both said then laughed. Marguerite chuckled as did Julian, both of them finally thinking their family was whole again, yes life was good for them but it wouldn't stay that way for long.


"Come on pick up your feet," Athena yelled to her elite archers, who were being beaten badly by her chosen whom she was very proud of. Xena wore all black and she even wore a hood, the only thing anyone could see were her eyes and her moves were fast, precise and perfect. Where she once started off with a staff in training she was now using two swords. She hadn't been using two swords long she just wanted to try it at this drill session and found she was good at it. "Enough," Athena yelled, shaking her head at her archers who were picking themselves up off of the ground as she walked over to them. "Elainis you're not concentrating like I taught you. Your thinking more on how to defeat Xena rather than concentrating on your moves," Athena said and Elainis bowed her head when Athena was done. "The rest of you," she yelled as she spoke to the rest of her archers, "Xena is good, I know that, that's why she's my chosen but you are my elite archers, you're supposed to be able to give her more of a challenge that what you just did."

Athena said and they all bowed their heads in respect, "I am disappointed but we will work on this together," she told them. "You are dismissed for lunch, be back here in an hour," Athena said and they walked out of the training arena. Xena pulled off her hood running her fingers through her hair and loosening it up, "you were harder on me," Xena said and Athena looked at her. "I expect a lot more from you than I do from them," Athena said and Xena nodded then walked over to a bench where she let out a breath as she sat down. "Is everything alright Xena?" Athena asked and Xena nodded as she took a couple of deep gulps from her water skin, "I'm fine," Xena said and Athena looked at her and nodded. "Good because I think you're ready for you first mission," Athena said and Xena looked at her. "Really?" She asked and Athena nodded, "there is someone I need you to protect, one of my head priestesses of one of my temples.

Gods aren't allowed to interfere with a mortal's life directly, that's why most of us have chosen's, but as you'll soon learn we don't all follow those rules. You'll be protecting her from a local warlord in the town of Larissa, if you can manage to get rid of him you'll be doing more than Annette a favor." Athena said and Xena nodded, "so Annette is her name?" Xena asked and Athena nodded, "you'll be leaving tomorrow morning and I suggest you bring Argo," Athena said and Xena nodded. "I'll be ready," Xena said and Athena looked at her and nodded. "I'll take you back now," Athena said and Xena stood standing next to Athena and in a minute she was back at the Inn at the back entrance. "Get some rest," Athena said and Xena nodded then watched her goddess disappear. Xena let out a breath and walked in through the back door, Gemini running her over if she could, "Xena next time please take that wolf where ever you go. She was crying and howling the whole time you were gone," Cyrene told her daughter and Xena grinned as she picked up Gemini.

"I'm going for a ride on Argo I'll be back," Xena said and Cyrene nodded as she watched her daughter walk out of the kitchen. Xena walked into the stable and talked to Argo for a bit before she saddled her then lead her outside, "stop that Gemini," Xena told the wolf as she jumped up and down trying to catch Argo's tail, the mare being very patient with her. Xena picked Gemini up and placed her in the saddle bag then got up on Argo, "soon you're going to be too big to ride there," Xena told Gemini who looked at Xena as she panted. Xena grinned as she shook her head then led Argo out the back way out of town and once they were clear of people Xena rode Argo and just let the mare be free and go where ever she wanted to go. After an hour of riding Xena got off of Argo and let her roam and cool off, and Gemini ran trying to catch whatever it is she saw. Another hour passed and Xena rode back into town where she stabled Argo, fed her and gave her clean water while she brushed her down.

"We're going on a trip tomorrow girl, I bet you'll like it," Xena told the horse smiling as Argo bobbed her head up and down as though she were agreeing. Twenty minutes later Xena patted Argo on her side, "have a good night girl," Xena told Argo who neighed; Xena walked out of the stables with Gemini behind her. She went into the Inn where she talked to her mother briefly, "there's a hot bath waiting for you, Lyceus said he thought you would need it," Cyrene said and Xena nodded. "Oh and there's a letter on your bed, it's from Ithaca," Cyrene said and Xena looked at her and grinned then ran down the stairs, all Cyrene could do was smile at her daughter. When Xena got to her room she opened the door and ran over to the bed and picked up the letter where she saw the seal. She quickly took off her clothes and wrapped herself in a towel then headed to the bathing room, glad to see that it was empty. She walked over to the tub with the steaming water, undid her towel letting it drop to the floor where she sat the letter.

She got into the tub moaning at the warmth of the water which immediately began to ease her sore muscles and relax tensed ones. She dunked her head under the water then came back up running her hands over her hair to ring the water out before she let out a breath and leaned back against the tub. Now that she was relaxed, she dried her hands on her towel then picked up the letter looking at it as if it were going to open itself and inside, hold Ulysses. Xena let out a breath as she opened the seal then unfold the letter and began reading it.

Dear Xena,

You yell to me from the docks, don't forget to write and I stand on the ship and watch as I sail away from you my love. I stand there until I can no longer see you and I am sure you can no longer see me. I go down to the cabin where I lay down on the bed and think of you until I have fallen asleep, I guess I was more tired from our lovemaking that morning than I thought.

He wrote in the letter and Xena smiled as she read it.

As I sleep, I dream wonderful dreams of you and I together. When I wake, I immediately find parchment, ink and a quill and start writing. Gods Xena I miss you terribly already, I have thought several times that I can jump off of the ship and swim back to you and then we can run away to a place where no one would ever find us and we would be happy. But then I remember your words and how you tell me I can't run, I have to face my problems which I think would be so much easier if you were by my side holding my hand. Have I mentioned I'm missing you terribly? Anyway, there are so many things I want to tell you, things that I was too afraid to utter to you for fear you wouldn't feel the same way. You ask what has changed my mind? The tears you shed for me as we said our last goodbyes, I don't know, I guess in a way your tears and my tears have sealed what we feel for each other, or it could be my crazy thinking.

As I sit her and write this letter to you, I think where to start? There are so many things I love about you, in my eyes you are perfect, heart, body and soul. Am I making you smile? Am I making you blush?

Ulysses asked in the letter and Xena smiled and blushed as she brought her fingers up to lips while continuing to read the letter.

I think the perfect place to start, is how you make me feel. You already know when I first laid eyes on you I thought you were a goddess and I think it's important for you to know that my feelings have changed on the subject. You are so beautiful Xena, there are just no words to describe your beauty, but I think it's also important for you to know, your beauty isn't the only thing that attracted me to you. It's hard for me to explain but from the moment I looked into your eyes I knew, I knew you were the one for me. Something clicked inside me that yelled, this is what you have been missing in your life, this is what you have been searching for. You know people go their entire lives feeling empty and lost, never finding that one thing that they were missing. I'm happy to say that I found mine, that I have found my soulmate.

There is no other way to explain how I feel complete when I'm around you. Or when you smile you light up my world. How can I explain that your happiness means more to me than my own, for if you are unhappy so am I. When you're cut I bleed; you are apart of, me as I am you. I bet you think I'm crazy now, that you've fallen in love with a crazy guy.

Ulysses said in the letter and Xena shook her head as she read it, 'no you're not crazy my love, I feel those same things' Xena thought to herself then continued to read the letter that she was all wrapped up in.

That's okay if you do think that, I just felt you had the right to know how I was feeling, I don't want us to ever have secrets in our relationship. In saying that, I wanted to let you know that I'm sacred. I'm scared of returning home and that everything will be the same. That I'll die in the inside and never see you again, the thought of never seeing you again scares me more than anything is this world. Then I think, when in our relationship have I come to depend on you so much, not that it's a problem, I was just wondering when did I fall this deeply in love with you? Was it our first time together, when you gave yourself to me? And on that night I gave myself to you. I bet you didn't know that did you? On that glorious night I gave you my heart and bared my soul to you. I had never done that before with any woman and I thought it should have been scary but it wasn't, it was as if, I knew everything was going to be alright, that this, that we, were meant to be.

Strange isn't it? That two people who haven't known each other for that long, to feel so much for each other, yet I saw nothing wrong with it, it felt so right. You know what? I think I'm talking too much, so what I'll do is quickly finish up this letter and then send you another next week, which will go exactly with this letter. I'll pick up on the many things I love about you, how much I miss you, what's going on with me and when it was that we fell so deeply in love with each other. I hope getting this letter has somehow brightened your day, I know its not much but I like to think these words hold my love for you and are expressing that love as best as possible. I hope to hear from you soon my love, oh and how are Gemini and Argo. Strangely enough I miss that wolf. I know, I know, if I keep calling her wolf she'll never learn her name. Oh Xena I miss you so much, at night I look up at the stars and wonder what you are doing and wishing I could be by your side.

I do nothing but dream of you and it is those dreams that comfort me and ease the pain in my chest. Who knew us being separated would be so hard, but hopefully I'll see you in a couple of months and then, we'll be together once more. There I go again talking too much, so I'll just end this letter saying I love you so much.


P.S I wanted to let you know that the seal on the letter is my own personal seal, so all my letters should have that seal on it. I love you and I miss you.

By the time Xena was finished reading the letter the water had cooled down significantly and her heart was pounding as she read every word. She closed the letter up and sat it back down on her towel then took her bath, then washed her hair then got out and dried off. She wrapped the towel around her body, picked up her letter and headed back to her room. When she got there she put on some underwear then immediately put on Ulysses' shirt. She laid down on her back on the bed and reread Ulysses' letter again and she was smiling like a fool. It was no where dinner time but she was relaxed and tired so when she was finished reading the letter she placed it under her pillow then got under the cover. Gemini put her paws up on the bed standing up on her hind legs as she looked at Xena who shook her head as she picked the cub up and placed her on the bed. "You know you're gonna have to learn how to get up here," Xena said and Gemini looked at her as she licked her lips then laid her head down on Xena's thigh.

Xena shook her head and just pushed into the pillow, closed her eyes and was asleep in a matter of few minutes. When she woke it was an hour before dinner. She found some parchment and ink on one of the shelves in her room then walked over to the table in her room and sat down. She sat there and started writing her letter to Ulysses and just like him she had so many things she wanted to tell him. Before she knew it dinner time snuck up on her but she didn't stop writing until she was finished and that was an hour later, by then her mother had brought her some dinner and Xena barely spared her a thank you as she wrote to Ulysses. When she was finally finished, she folded the letter then thought she didn't have a seal to seal the letter which would say it was from Xena. "Athena," Xena called and it took the goddess too long to answer, "Athena," Xena called again and then Athena appeared.

"What's the matter?" Athena asked and Xena looked at her disheveled appearance, "were you busy?" Xena asked and Athena let out a breath. "As a matter of fact I was getting a little rest," Athena said and Xena looked at her, "I didn't know gods slept," Xena said and Athena nodded. "Not all the time like mortals mind you, but we do sleep," Athena said, "oh," Xena replied. "I'm sure you didn't call me here to discuss my sleeping patterns so what is it you needed?" Athena asked, "oh I got a letter from Ulysses and I was writing him back. I just finished the letter and wanted to seal it when I realized I didn't have a signet ring, I mean besides the regular old seal mark of Amphipolis but I want him to know it's from me personally, I want his heart to jump and flip when he sees the seal because he knows the letter is from me." Xena said and Athena looked at her then shook her head, "it's amazing that I understood that," Athena said then held out her hand and Xena watched as a small golden figure appeared in it and when the glow was gone there lay a signet ring.

"This was going to be a surprise but since you need it now," Athena said and Xena took the ring from her and looked at it. In the middle of the mold was an 'X', the 'X' being made with two crossed swords. Between the parts of the 'X' lay Athena's signs of wisdom and war which were on top and bottom and on the sides were a horse and a wolf then smack dab in the middle was a rose, Aphrodite's sign of love. "This is beautiful, I love it," Xena said and Athena grinned at her, "I'm glad, you are to especially use this signet ring when you're sending messages to me, I won't except any another seal." Athena said and Xena nodded, "now that that's settled I'm going back to bed and you should do the same," Athena said then disappeared. Xena grabbed the letter and wrote something down in it real quick before she closed it back up then walked over to a shelf where she grabbed a stick of wax and ran the tip through a near by candle. Once the wax was soft enough she pressed it down on the letter where the two edges met then pressed the mold of the ring into the warm wax seeing her seal in the wax.

She left the letter sitting on the table where it was in sight so she would remember to send it out. With that done, she went up to the kitchen where she helped her mother with the patrons and as usual when closing time came she helped clean up then went back down to her room. She wasn't that sleepy so she lay in the bed staring up at the ceiling as she thought about Ulysses and about half an hour later she fell asleep and had wonderful dreams of Ulysses. When morning came Xena was up bright and early getting dressed and ready for her first mission. She put on a black leather skirt that came down just below her knee and a blue sleeveless shirt that she tucked into her skirt; on top of that went and black leather vest which she laced up in the back then tied it. Athena had given her this outfit, one of many pieces of clothes the goddess had given her. She sat down on the bed and put on her black boots that came up to her calves.

When she was done, she stood and walked over to her mirror where she brushed her hair back into a ponytail and then tied it with a hair tie. When she was done, she packed a few light things then went upstairs to the kitchen where he mother whistled at her and Xena grinned at her. "Here I packed you some food," Cyrene said as she pushed a small sack on the counter over to Xena. "Thanks," Xena said as she sat her bag down on the counter, opened it up then placed the small sack of food in the bag. "Are you sure you don't know how long you're going to be gone?" Cyrene asked and Xena looked at her, "I'm sure mom, I could be gone a few days or a few weeks." Xena said, "well, you will be careful won't you?" Cyrene asked her daughter with concern in her eyes and Xena nodded. "Yes mom, you don't need to worry," Xena said, "and neither do you Corrinna," Xena said without turning around knowing it was the healer walking in through the back door.

"How did you know it was me?" Corrinna asked as she walked over to the counter where Xena was leaning. "I'm that good," Xena said with a grin and Corrinna rolled her eyes. "Yea well in case you're not that good, I brought something for you," Corrinna said then sat the small sack down on the table and it was Xena who rolled her eyes. "Between you and mom you're gonna make my saddle bags too heavy," Xena said and Corrinna looked at her. "You may be complaining now but if you get cut you'll be thanking me that you have the necessary herbs to clean it and bandages to wrap it, so it doesn't get infected." Corrinna said and Xena nodded, "and I got this made for you," Corrinna said as she placed a leather bag on the counter and Xena looked at it. "Corrinna this is beautiful," Xena said as she ran her hand over the blue and gold fine stitching all along the bag and then an 'x' stitching with a circle around it.

"A present from your mother and I," Corrinna said as she walked over to Cyrene and stood next to her, "I love it, thank you both," Xena said and they both nodded. "Now that you have another bag you have room for more food," Cyrene said as she pulled another small sack from the side and handed it to Xena who smiled at her mother. "Well at least I won't go hungry," Xena said and Cyrene and Corrinna both nodded. Xena stood there and packed that bag while she talked with her mother and Corrinna and when she was done she headed outside to the stables and meeting her at the door was Gemini who was ready to go. "Alright, alright we'll be leaving in a little bit," Xena told the wolf smiling at her as she walked into the stable. When Argo spotted her the horse neighed as she bobbed her head up and down, "you're excited too huh girl?" Xena asked the golden palomino. "Let's get you ready," Xena said as she went to another stall and picked up Argo's saddle carrying it back over to the horse and putting it on, Xena then got Argo's bridle and put it on her as well.

When she was done she opened the main stall door and guided Argo out, "out of the way Gemini," Xena told the wolf making sure she didn't get stepped on especially by Argo. "Come on girl," Xena said in a soft voice as she clicked her tongue telling Argo to come on. When Argo was outside she shook her head and began prancing around and Xena smiled as she looked at her beautiful horse. "She's a beautiful horse, I couldn't have found one better for you," Athena said after she had appeared and Xena looked at her. "I see you're woke," Xena said with a grin and Athena grinned at her as she walked over to Xena holding a long covered item in her hand. "Yes well, after our little discussion I went back to get some sleep but Aphrodite came bothering me, then Hermes, then Zeus, like I'm everybody's counselor." Athena said and Xena nodded, "sounds tough," Xena said, "you have no idea." Athena said then looked over Xena, "I see you're all ready," Athena said and Xena nodded.

"I knew that outfit would look great on you," Athena said as she looked over it then shook her head, "look at me I'm sounding like Aphrodite," Athena said and Xena grinned. "I do believe you're lacking one thing," Athena said then brought the covered object up to her other hand pulling the cloth off to reveal a sword. Xena looked at the sword in awe and she walked up closer reaching her hand out to touch it but stopped and looked at Athena for permission. "Can I?" Xena asked and Athena nodded, "it's your sword," Athena said and Xena looked at her then back down at the sword. She took it from Athena's hands then pulled it out of the scabbard, holding it up and if it was possible, looking at it in more awe. The blade was perfect in every way and it was polished so it shined. "This sword is…is," Xena said then shook her head as she couldn't find a word to describe the sword and how she felt about it. "I know its some of Hephaestus' best work," Athena said and Xena looked at her.

"This sword is unbreakable, it has its little gifts that you will find out one by one," Athena said with a grin and Xena nodded then looked at the sword which had writing etched into the blade. "Chosen of wisdom, chosen of war but only chosen of one, wisdom of mind, heart, body and soul," Xena read then looked at Athena. "I don't know this language yet I can read it," Xena said and Athena nodded. "It's an ancient language only a few people know, a gift from me," Athena said and Xena nodded then looked at the hilt of the sword which was gold and had the same symbols on it as her signet ring. "Thank you so much Athena this is absolutely beautiful," Xena said then walked up to Athena and hugged her. "You're welcome," Athena said as she hugged Xena back. When the hug ended Athena stepped back then waved her hand over Xena's body and the sword that was in Xena's hand was now on her back and she now had multiple daggers hidden everywhere.

"You're like a personal armory," Xena told Athena as she pulled out a dagger from her belt and Athena grinned at her. "I have to make sure you're prepared," Athena said and Xena nodded as she replaced the dagger. "Now are you ready to go?" Athena asked and Xena nodded, "just let me say goodbye to my mom real quick," Xena said and Athena nodded. Xena went back into the inn and hugged her mother, Corrinna and her brothers who were sitting down for breakfast. When she was done she walked back outside picking up Gemini on her way to Argo and placing the wolf in one of the saddle bags. She got up on the horse and Athena looked at her, "when you get there, look for a cave, that's where Annette should be hiding, you'll know the cave when you see it. I won't be there with you but I will be watching, just remember your training Xena and go with you instincts." Athena said and Xena let out a breath and nodded, "I'm ready," she said and Athena nodded then concentrated and both she and Xena were gone.

In the blink of an eye Xena found herself on a hill top and as Athena said she wasn't there; Xena looked around taking in her surroundings. She then looked for some sign of which way to go and then she heard it before she saw a woman running and six men chasing her. "Yah Argo," Xena said and she galloped down the hill and headed towards where the men were running after the woman. Xena rode Argo hard and fast and got there just in time as the woman tripped and fell and one of the men were about to attack when Xena rode up next to him and kicked him hard in the face. She back flipped off of Argo pulling her sword at the same time and when she landed on her feet they attacked her and she fought them back beating every last one of them. Two were on the ground unconscious and the other four were trying to drag them away while tending to their own wounds.

Xena made sure they were leaving then looked around making sure her surroundings were okay before she walked over to Annette, "are you okay?" Xena asked as she reached down and helped her up, "I'm okay thank you," she said as she looked at Xena who nodded. "I'm Annette," she said and Xena nodded as she sheathed her sword, "I know, my name is Xena," Xena said. "Thank you Xena for saving my life," Annette said and Xena nodded. "No problem, is there a safe place where you are staying?" Xena asked and Annette nodded, "yes my goddess provided me with a safe cave and warned me not to leave but I had been cooped up in that cave for a week and I wanted some fresh air. Before I knew it I wandered off and Egan's men found me," she said and Xena nodded. "Well let's get you back to that cave," Xena said as she walked over to Argo then got on to her. "Uh…I don't like horses," Annette said and Xena looked down at her, "Argo won't hurt you, she's gentle."

Xena said then reached down her hand and Annette looked at Argo then at Xena and let out a breath. She took Xena's hand and let out a gasp of surprise at how easily Xena lifted her up onto the horse so that she was sitting in front of Xena. "Wow you're strong," she said and Xena grinned then clicked her tongue while kicking Argo slightly on the sides to get her to move ahead. Once they found the cave Xena made sure Annette was safe inside, "aww you got a puppy," she said as Xena took Gemini out of the saddle bag and placed her on the ground. "She's not a puppy, she's a wolf," Xena said, "now stay here I'll be right back, Gemini will keep you company," Xena said to Annette who nodded. "Stay," Xena told Gemini who looked at Xena but stayed like she was told. Xena went back and covered her tracks making sure they weren't able to be followed.

Once Xena had made sure that she had covered her tracks she went back to the cave where she found the priestess sitting there on a boulder looking at something while Gemini sat by the entrance of the cave keeping guard and basically waiting for Xena to return. The priestess looked up as Xena entered; Xena walked over to her and leaned against the wall where she looked at the priestess and they began talking, basically Xena asking the priestess why this particular warlord was after her. "I suppose he's after me because he thought I was very beautiful and wanted me to marry him. I told him no, I could not, I was one of Athena's most valued priestesses and my duty was to serve her, that and I couldn't imagine marrying such a horrible man. Why would I want to marry a man who goes around killing and stealing from people and the gods only know what else?" She said and Xena grinned at her, "I understand, did you tell him what you just told me word for word?" Xena asked and Annette nodded, "basically and then he went on to threaten the temple, thinking if there were no temple then I would be free to marry him.

Obviously he hadn't heard a word I said after that," Annette said and Xena and nodded. "So he threatened to destroy the temple?" Xena asked and Annette nodded, "yea but I told him it wouldn't do him any good because I would just find another temple where I was needed, plus by destroying Athena's temple he would incur her wrath," Annette said and Xena looked at her giving her a dangerous grin that reached her eyes. "Believe me he has already done that, Athena has sent me to protect you and stop him," Xena said and the priestess looked at her and nodded. "I figured as much, what are you, one of her elite archers?" Annette asked and Xena shook her head, "I'm her Chosen," Xena said and Annette looked at her for a moment then quickly stood and bowed her head.

"Forgive me I didn't know," she said and Xena looked at her in a weird way not use to people bowing to her. "It's fine, why are you bowing?" Xena asked as she walked over to the priestess helping her to stand up straight. The priestess looked into Xena's eyes, "you are Athena's Chosen, I am to show you as much respect as I would show the goddess herself," she said and Xena looked at her. "Well you don't have to do that, just treat me like any other regular person because that's all I am," Xena said and Annette looked at her almost in outrage. "That's not all you are, you are Athena's Chosen, do you know what it means to be her Chosen? To be any gods Chosen?" She asked and Xena just looked at her, "I know it's a big thing," Xena said, "oh its more than that. The goddess has chosen you out of all the people of the world to be her Chosen. She has linked herself with to you, meaning she feels what you feel, she hurts when you hurt.

This is a huge and honorable gift that has been stowed upon you. Priestesses all over would die to be Athena's Chosen as would her elite archers and any other woman warrior who worships Athena." Annette finished and Xena nodded while she looked at her, "okay I see your point now and believe me I know what an honor it is to be chosen by Athena, but that doesn't mean I have to go around shouting it to people." Xena said and Annette nodded, "I suppose you're right," she said and Xena let out a breath. "I'm famished," Annette said and Xena walked over to one of her bags and pulled out some of the food her mother had wrapped up for her. "Here," Xena said as she handed the food to Annette who quickly unwrapped it and found a sandwich there and began to eat.

"I'm going to go and see what I can do about Egan," Xena said as she stood up straight and straightened her gauntlet. "What, you're leaving me again?" Annette asked and Xena looked at her, "you'll be fine as long as you stay here in the cave. I understand that you have been cooped up here for a while but this cave is the only safe place for you. Gemini will keep an eye on things until I get back, I promise I won't be that long," Xena said as she looked at Annette who let out a breath. "Aren't you supposed to be protecting me, how can you do that if you're not here?" The priestess asked and Xena looked at Annette, finding patience deep within her. "As I said before Annette, if you stay here in this cave you will be fine. I need to go and see what kind of man Egan is for myself, so that I can make the next move. I need to see if there is anyway I can bargain with him," Xena said then held up her hand before Annette could say something else.

"You need to trust me," Xena said and Annette let out a breath, "fine, but that savage can't be bargained with. I don't see why you don't just listen to me," she said and Xena kind of tuned her out. "Stay here," Xena said then walked out of the cave before Annette could breathe another word. Xena left the cave and headed to the spot where she last saw the bandits and from there she began to track them. "So, how goes everything?" Athena asked as she appeared next to Xena, falling into step with her as she continued to walk. "Everything is going fine," Xena said, keeping her mind on tracking as she talked to Athena. "And Annette?" Athena asked, "is very annoying," Xena said and Athena chuckled, "yes she can be but she is one of my best priestesses."

Athena said and Xena nodded, "she's right though, trying to negotiate with Egan won't do you any good, he's one of Ares' best warlords." She said, "the God War, interesting," Xena said then stopped and looked at Athena. "What does he want with Annette?" She asked and Athena let out a breath, "Ares is Ares, I don't think he wants Annette personally, it's probably more of a case that Annette has caught Egan's eye and he has decided that he wants her and he will have her no matter the cost." Athena said, "I'll take that answer for now but you know that there's probably more to it than that," Xena said then continued walking once again, keeping her eyes and ears open for anything as she continued to track Egan's men.

"And I'm not really going to negotiate with Egan, I'm just going to see what type of man he is, what are his strengths and weaknesses." Xena said and Athena grinned to herself, "I'll leave you to it then," Athena said then disappeared and Xena shook her head at the goddess. When the tracks started getting more frequent she jumped into the trees and continued tracking from there until she came upon their camp and she sat there in the tree for a bit and watched everything. She found the tent that looked as if it were the leader's tent and she made her way over to it, being as stealthy as a cat. Although she had never seen Egan before she knew who he was the moment she laid eyes on him. He was talking to one of him men and she took that time to jump down from the tree and make her way over to his tent.

He had guards, guarding his tent in the front and the back and there was only one guard at the back so that was the way she chose to go in. she knocked him out, dragging him behind some bushes they pulled her knife and made a long, large slit in his tent so that she could walk through. She looked around his tent, not finding anything useful or important as far as Annette was concerned. When she heard footsteps approaching she hid behind a curtain that was attached to his bed and was very quiet as she listened. "Have you found out who that woman was?" Egan asked his captain, "no my lord," the man said as he looked at Egan who walked over to his throne chair and sat down. "I don't think you will find out who she is, Dudley," he said then let out a breath as he ran his fingers over his forehead.

"Is this priestess really worth all of this trouble?" Dudley asked and Egan looked at him, "I'm sure there are others we can find for you," Dudley said and Egan let out a breath as he looked at his captain. "I want her, she has something that I want, that's all you need to know," Egan said then waved his hand dismissing Dudley who turned and left. Xena waited a minute as she looked over Egan before she made her move, "so what does she have that you want?" Xena asked as she walked from behind the curtain and Egan turned his head sharply and looked at Xena as he stood and pulled his sword. "Who are you?" He asked and Xena looked into his eyes as she walked over to him, "answer my question, what is it that you want from the priestess?"

Xena asked and Egan looked at Xena as he walked up to her, "what does a man want from any woman?" He said and Xena shook her finger at him as she grinned a dangerous grin at him. "Stsk…stsk…stsk, lying is not a good way to start things off," Xena said, "neither is sneaking into my tent. Now I'll ask you one last time, who are you?" He asked as he pointed his sword at Xena and she quickly pulled her sword and knocked his from his hand then pointed her sword at his neck. "No, I'll ask you again, what do you want with the priestess?" Xena asked, her eyes having gone cold and hard as she looked at Egan, who was a stocky, well built man with brown hair and a goatee. He wasn't a bad looking man but she could tell by looking into his eyes that he was a hard and intelligent man.

Egan looked into Xena's eyes and saw that she would have to problem with pushing the sword through his neck, "my interest in her is purely sexual," he said, "and?" Xena asked, seeing that there was something more he wasn't saying. "And, it'll earn me some bonus points with Ares if I take away one of Athena's most prized priestesses and if she so happens to bare my child, a son, then its all the better for me." Egan said and Xena looked at him then lowered her sword, "and the fact that if she bore you a son, he would mostly likely be trained to become Ares' chose and that would hold you in a high esteem." Xena said and Egan grinned at Xena as he raised his eyebrow then walked over to a table and poured himself as glass of wine.

"There's nothing wrong with that," Egan said and Xena looked at him, "but all of this still doesn't explain why you want Annette. Any woman can bare you a child, can bare you a son," Xena said as she began to walk around the tent, slowly making her way over to a table with some documents on them. "True but there's something about her that's attracting me, and when I want something I will have it," he said and Xena nodded. "So what will it take for you to leave her alone?" Xena asked, "are you offering me anything?" He asked as he sat down in his chair and she turned her head and looked at him. "Is there something you want? You're a warlord, so is there so money or jewels you want?" Xena asked and Egan looked at her, "those I can take," he said and Xena nodded as she turned her head back and looked on the table, scattering papers about until she really did find something.

"You know, you haven't answered my question. Who are you?" He asked and Xena grinned as she turned and faced Egan but her hands were behind her as she took the document, being real sneaky about it as she folded it up and placed it in the back of her belt. "Xena, my name is Xena," she said and Egan nodded as he looked at Xena. "An exotic name for a very beautiful woman," he said as he looked over Xena's body and she grinned at him as she walked over to him. "I know what you're thinking," she said and he looked at her, "oh really?" He asked and Xena nodded as she walked up to him until she was standing face to face with him. "Well I'm thinking that I could maybe be persuaded to leave Annette alone," he said, "if?" Xena asked as she ran her hand over his chest, "if you would consider taking her place," he said and Xena grinned as she kneed him in his stomach unexpectedly then punched him hard so that he fell to the floor.

"Not in this lifetime," she said then quickly left through the same slit she came through and jumped up into the tree, looking on as Egan's men came when he called for them and his camp was in an uproar as they began looking for Xena. She grinned as she looked down at the men scattering like ants, she made her way through the trees until she felt that she was clear of Egan's men. She jumped down from the tree and quickly made her way back to the cave making sure her tracks were untraceable. When she got to the cave, Gemini of course greeted her and she found Annette pacing back and forth like a caged animal. Annette looked up just as Xena walked in and she let out a breath as she walked over to Xena, "well it's about time, I thought he had killed you."

She said, "ye of little faith," Xena said as she let out a breath and sat down on a boulder, pulling the piece of parchment from her belt that she had taken from Egan's tent. "So, what did you find out?" Annette asked, "he wants you for sex," Xena said and Annette let out a breath as she rolled her eyes. "I knew that already," she said then let out a breath. "Look, I have a life to get back to, a temple to run, so can you turn him in to the appropriate authorities or whatever it is that Athena wants you to do, so that I can leave this cave?" Annette asked and Xena looked at her, "are you finished?" Xena asked and Annette folded her arms across her chest, "for the moment," she said and Xena nodded. "As I was saying, he wants you for sex, he wants you to bare him a child, preferably a son," Xena said then unfolded the parchment in her hands.

"But why? Why me? There are other women out there, I'm sure one he can find that actually likes him, so why has he chosen me?" Annette asked and Xena held up the parchment, "because of this," she said. "What is that?" Annette asked, "the gods have many prophecies. Egan is one of Ares' best warlords, of course he wants to know how he can be in Ares' great favor for the rest of his life. The answer would be to provide Ares with a Chosen," Xena said. "And?" Annette asked, "and he was some how able to his hands on a prophecy that belongs to Ares about a Chosen he would have. This is that prophecy and it says that a Chosen of Ares would be born of a most beloved priestess of Athena."

"That can be a lot of priestesses, I'm not the only one favored by Athena," Annette said and Xena looked at her, "for whatever reason, he has decided to go with you. He's probably rationalized it in his mind, for reasons that he has chosen you. Nothing will persuade him to leave you alone," Xena said, "well I told you that," Annette said and Xena ignored her comment. "Believe it or not Annette, I do know what I'm doing," Xena said. "It won't take long to deal with this problem," Xena said and Annette nodded, "good," she said then went and sat down on a stone bench. "I'm not usually like this," Annette said and Xena looked at her. "It's understandable; your life has been turned upside down because some warlord wants to fulfill a personal and creepy fantasy of his."

Xena said and Annette grinned at that, "I haven't said it and I know my actions don't show it but thank you for helping me," Annette said and Xena grinned at her, "you're welcome," she said and Annette grinned at Xena. "So what's your plan?" She asked, "I'm going to beat Egan at his own game," Xena said and Annette hunched her shoulders. "Whatever that means, I know you warriors have your own code or whatever," she said and Xena grinned at that. "Something like that," she said then walked over to Annette. "This will take a couple of days but what I need from you is to trust me. Trust that I am here to protect you and help you and everything that I do is in your best interest," Xena said and Annette let out a breath as she nodded. "Okay," she said and Xena looked at her.

"So, you're clear that you need to stay here, I can't protect you if you're running around the country side and I can't deal with Egan if I'm running after you around the country side," Xena said and Annette nodded. "Okay, I get it," she said and Xena looked at Annette, "I want to hear the words its clear," Xena said and Annette let out a breath as she looked at Xena. "Its clear, I won't leave this cave until you have dealt with Egan," she said and Xena looked into her eyes for a minute before she nodded her head in acceptance that Annette understood how important it was for her to stay in the cave a while longer. "You look tired, why don't you get some rest," Xena suggested to Annette who nodded as she made her way over to the pallet she had been sleeping on for the past week.

"I am a little tired," she said as she sat down then laid down. Xena walked back over to the boulder she had been previously sitting on. She leaned back against the wall, bringing one of her legs up. She pulled her knife from her boot and began to fiddle with it as she thought about the best possible way to deal with Egan. She looked over at Annette who was more tired than she thought because she was already asleep. As Xena sat there and thought about the situation and while later she came up with the best plan which was to lower Egan's defenses. She needed to get rid of the majority of his men, she knew there was a town near by and that they would probably go and cause problems there so she knew that was the next place for her to go.

"Gemini," Xena called to the wolf, who was sniffing around in curiosity but when she heard her mistress' call she ran happily over to Xena. "Stay and protect," she said as she rubbed behind her ears and Gemini looked into her eyes with understanding then went over to Annette and laid down next to her. Xena stood and placed her sword back on before she left the cave and saddled Argo then got on and rode into town. The town was pretty impressive compared to most and Xena made her way over to the local tavern. She got off of Argo and hitched her to a hitching post in front of the tavern then walked in. The tavern was pretty full and conversation didn't stop when she walked in but all eyes did go to her as she made her way over to the bar and sat down.

"Port," Xena said and the bartender nodded, "two dinar," he said and Xena pulled out two dinars and handed them to him and he pushed the mug of port towards her. "What brings you here to Acerson?" The man asked and Xena looked at him, "just passing through," she said and he nodded. "Are you part of Egan's group?" He asked and Xena shook her head, "whose Egan?" She asked and the bartender looked at her, "he's the local warlord around here. Every business here pays him protection money, the only protection we need is from him." He said and Xena nodded as she took a small gulp port and was about to say something when a drunk man walked up behind her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder. "How's about you and me get to know each other better," he said and Xena's response to that was to raise her fist and him in straight in his face, without a thought.

"Do you guys have a jail around here?" Xena asked and the bartender looked at the man on the floor then at Xena. "Yea, we have a jail but any law that will be taken will be done at Loxia, it's the closest kingdom near by." He said and Xena thought about that, "and they handle things pretty well?" Xena asked and the man nodded, "yea, King Garius is a fair and just King, its just that he doesn't really have the men to cover every area that he rules, especially out here where there's so much land." He said and Xena nodded, "do you send word when you have someone for them to pick up?" Xena asked and he nodded, "the town elder sends word to the castle and in two days at the most, the king's guards come to pick up the prisoner or prisoners." He said and Xena nodded then took a deep gulp of port, "thanks for the information," she said and the man nodded as he watched her walk away.

Just as she was about to leave the tavern, a group of Egan's men came into the tavern and they didn't even wait until they sat down to start causing trouble. "Mead," the one in charge yelled as he and his men grabbed women that didn't want to be grabbed while the barkeep rushed and poured them all mugs of mead. One guy tried to stand up to them when it was his girlfriend that was grabbed but the quickly punched him away. Xena didn't even think about it as she went over to them, "why don't you try beating on someone your own size," she said and one of the men looked at her. "Disrespectful winch," he said as he went to slap her but she ducked and punched him in his stomach then backhanded and he landed on the floor. "Why you," another guy said and he tried to hit Xena as well but just like his friend before him, he was knocked to the ground.

"Get her," the one in charge said and Xena grinned a dangerous grin as she began to fight them all. In less than ten minutes she had them all on the ground unconscious. "About that jail we talked about earlier," Xena said to the barkeep who grinned at her. They got a couple of hard workers to drag the men to the jail, where they threw them into the cell and locked them up, thankfully they were all still unconscious or being to come around but not that much. "We don't know how to thank you," an elderly man said as he walked up to Xena who was looking at the men in the cell. "Are you the town elder?" She asked and he nodded, "my name is Silas," he said. "It's nice to meet you Silas, you have to send a message to King Garius to let him know that you have these men in custody, correct?" Xena asked and he nodded, "I do," he said.

"Well, when you send the message, tell him that you have Egan's entire band of goons as well as Egan himself," Xena said. "But we don't have Egan or him men, we have a handful of Egan's men when he's got a lot more back at his camp." Silas said and Xena grinned at him, "but in a couple of days, you will have Silas and his men will gladly surrender to King Garius." She said and Silas looked at her as if she were crazy, "trust me," she said as she placed her hand on his shoulder and he looked into her eyes and nodded, feeling as if he could indeed trust her. Once that was taken care of she headed back to the cave where she found Annette still there, awake and walking around talking to herself.

"Are you okay?" Xena asked and Annette spun around and looked at her, "yea, I'm fine, where did you go?" She asked, "I went into town," Xena said as she took off her sword. "Do you always talk to yourself?" Xena asked Annette, "only since I've been here in this cave, I don't have anyone to talk to so…" she said and Xena nodded her head then went into her bag and pulled out something to eat. "What did you go into town for?" Annette asked, "find out some things about Egan and I got the chance to put some of his goons in the local town jail. By tomorrow evening I expect to have Egan and the rest of his men in jail as well," Xena said. "Well how are you going to do that?" Annette asked, "by challenging Egan to a fight to the death. If I win, I gain the right to his army," Xena said and Annette looked at her.

"And if you loose?" Annette asked, "well I guess I'll be dead and Athena will take care of you," Xena said. "That's not funny," Annette said. "Do you see me laughing?" Xena asked Annette as she looked at her and the priestess looked back at her, "well, do you're going to win? How good are you at fighting?" Annette asked and Xena looked at her, "I'm pretty good, Athena has trained me herself and I have confidence that my skill is as great as his if not better, so everything should be fine," Xena said and Annette let out a breath. "Should be," she said, "if I had a dinar for ever time someone said should be about something, I would be rich," Annette said and Xena stood and approached her.

She stood in front of Annette and placed her hand on her shoulder, "everything will be fine, we both have too much to live for," she said and Annette looked into Xena's eyes and found warmth and caring there. "You're not at all what I imagined Athena's chosen to be like," she said and Xena grinned as she walked back over to the boulder she was sitting on. "You thought her chosen would be a hard, still warrior," Xena said and Annette hunched her shoulders. "I guess," she said and Xena looked at her, "Athena isn't that way so she wouldn't choose a warrior to represent her who is that way," Xena said and Annette nodded. "You're right; the goddess is warm, caring and gentle," Annette said and Xena looked at her for a moment before Annette cleared her throat.

"But yea you're right, I don't know what I was thinking," Annette said as she sat down on her pallet and brought her knees up to her chest where she hugged them. "I just want my life to get back to normal," she said and Xena nodded, "it's understandable and believe me when I say I'm trying my hardest to make that happen." Xena said and Annette nodded the just sat there and let her thoughts go through her mind and Xena sat there and ate and when she was finished her thoughts consumed her as well. In the beginning she mostly thought about what would go down with Egan and his men but later on, her thought began to drift towards Ulysses and how much she missed him. Her hand went up to the half of her necklace and she closed her eyes as she could feel his presence.

"It's a beautiful a necklace," Annette said, brining Xena out of her wonderful bliss. "What?" Xena asked, "I said it's a beautiful necklace," Annette said, "oh, thank you," Xena said as she looked down at it. "Someone very dear, must have given it to you," she said and Xena nodded and grinned as she thought about Ulysses, "yes, someone very dear to me did give me this necklace," she said and Annette nodded. "Are you in love with him?" She asked Xena after a couple of minutes of silence and Xena looked at Annette, "very," she said after a minute and Annette nodded. "That's good," she said as she looked down, "just make sure that he loves you just the same," she said. "It's hard when you've given someone your heart only to find that they haven't given theirs to you.

You can be so stupid and so naïve when it comes to love, you can be so blind to the truth that's right there in front of you." Annette said and Xena looked at her as she leaned back against the wall and she brought her leg up so that her arm was resting on her knee. "It sounds like you're speaking from experience," Xena said and Annette looked at her, giving her a small, sad grin as she hunched her shoulders. Xena looked at the priestess as she sat there and after a couple of minutes she asked the question that was on her mind. "Who was he?" Xena asked and Annette looked down and found a rock to toy with. "She, was a warrior," Annette said, "or is a warrior, she's not dead, far from it," Annette said then let out a breath. "She was everything and more I had imagined and she just stole my heart," Annette said as she looked up at Xena.

"I found myself telling her everything about myself, about my dreams and hopes. We would talk for hours on end," Annette said then looked down once again. "She uh…she asked me to give myself to her and I did…" Annette said as she nodded her head. "I did and it was everything I could have ever dreamed of. She was gentle with me and caring, warm and loving," Annette said. "So what happened?" Xena asked and Annette hunched her shoulders, "we two entirely different people I suppose, but I was under the impression that it didn't matter who we were, that our love should have been enough. I guess I made the mistake and thought that she was in love with me," Annette said then let out a breath and hunched her shoulders.

"I expected too much I suppose," she said and Xena shook her head as she looked at Annette. "No, you didn't expect too much, you expected what you had given to be given in return," Xena said and Annette grinned as she looked at Xena. "From her, it was too much to be expected," Annette said and Xena let out a breath as she lowered her leg. "It's never too much to expect to be loved in return," Xena said then let out a breath and she looked at Annette who laid down and turned on her side, facing the wall. 'It's never too much to expect to be loved in return' Xena thought to herself. The rest of the day passed by fairly quickly and Xena and Annette got to know each other a little better.

Xena thought this mission was fairly easy, when day break came she went to the area around Egan's camp where she drew some men out and away from the camp into a trap where she captured them all. All morning, bit by bit, she captured five to ten of Egan's men in her clever traps until Egan found himself left only with forty men and by then he was raving around the camp. "What kind of warriors are you to let your fellow comrades be captured?" He yelled to his men, "not very good warrior I would say," Xena said as she leaned against a tree with her arms folded and Egan spun around and looked at her. "You, you did this?" He said and Xena pointed at herself, "me?" She asked, "I must say that I'm impressed that you think that I can pull off such a feat as getting rid of half of your army," Xena said and Egan let out a frustrated breath as he pulled his sword.

"What is it that you want?" He asked and Xena looked at him as she walked up to him, "your army," she said and Egan laughed as did some of his men. "You? A woman? Lead my army?" He asked then laughed some more, "oh that was good, I haven't laughed that hard in a long time," he said and Xena grinned as she nodded. "Is the great Egan afraid that I can do a better job at leading his men than he is doing now," Xena shouted so that everyone could hear her. "If I were in control of this army, none of you would be slowly disappearing," she said then turned and looked at Egan. "I challenge you to a fight to the death," she said and Egan looked at her trying to figure out what she was up to. "You know the rules," she said, "don't speak to me about the rules of war," he said, his brown eyes hard like the bark of a tree.

"Choose the weapons and if you loose your army is mine," Xena said and Egan looked at her. "As I said before, you're a woman," Egan said. "But I can't dismiss a challenge that has been given to me, despite who gave the challenge," Egan said and his men surrounded them in a huge circle they created with their bodies. "What will be your weapon of choice?" Xena asked, "swords," Egan said and Xena grinned as she pulled her sword. "I doubt this will be long but you all know the code of war, if she should win, which I highly doubt," he said as he looked at Xena. "Then this army is hers but when you win, I won't kill you, I'll just make you mine," he said and Xena grinned a dangerous grin at him as she prepared and focused her mind on the task at hand. They began to circle each other and Egan was the one to make the first move and Xena counteracted the move then put in a few of her own.

Egan was surprised at how hard her hits were and how good she was. He quickly saw that he had to pay attention and put in everything he had or she would quickly take it from him. Egan was quickly getting frustrate that this woman was beating him and every move he tried on her she came back harder and faster. Twenty minutes later she kicked his sword out of his hand, then punched him hard in his face but she kicked him in his stomach and finally dealt the last blow, which was a round house kick to his face. When he was on the ground Xena was on him before he could even move, the sharp end of her sword, pressing hard into his neck, actually to the point where she drew a drop of blood but it was enough for him to see that she was serious and that if he moved she would likely kill him without a thought.

"I do believe I've won," she said, "you haven't killed me so you haven't won," he said and Xena pressed the sword deeper into his flesh and he went as still and stiff as a board. "You want me to kill you?" She asked and Egan looked at him, "I am a warrior, if you're going to take my army I will be dead before you do so," he said and Xena looked into his eyes. "I have other plans for you," she said then turned and looked at two men, "get some rope and bind his hands," Xena said and they looked at him. "Do I need to kill one of you before you all listen?" She shouted and they began to murmur amongst themselves as they shook their heads, "then do as I say or trust me, I won't hesitate to lessen the problem by lessening the men here," she said and from that point all no one question what was asked of them to do, they just did it because they wanted to stay alive.

Once Egan was bound and gagged Xena went into his tent and looked around for anything else she wanted to know about Egan. "Is there anything else you want us to do?" Dudley asked and Xena looked up at him, "pack up the camp, we're leaving," Xena said, "but…" Dudley was about to say but one look from Xena and he quickly shut up. "It will be done," he said then left the tent and spread the word to pack up because they were leaving. In two hours they were ready to go and Xena burned everything in Egan's tent including the tent itself. Once she was ready to go, she whistles for Argo who came trotting into what was left of the camp. She got onto Argo, "we ride to Loxia, your future's begin there," she shouted to them and they all got onto their horses and followed Xena out of the camp and they rode hard towards Loxia.

They only stopped at night, for rest and to basically rest the horses. That night at the camp fire she asked the men questions, such as what made them come and join Egan's army. "Revenge," one said and most of them nodded. "To get back at those who had hurt us, who hurt our families," another said and Xena nodded. "But have you realized that in doing so, you have become the very thing that you despise?" Xena asked and the camp became so quiet then that the only thing that could be heard was the music of the mosquitoes. "And what, you're here to make it better, to help them redeem themselves?" Egan asked since he was no longer gagged since he had to eat and drink.

Xena looked at him and shook her head then looked back at the men who looked at her for an answer, "I can't redeem you, only you can redeem yourselves," she said. "I understand why you joined Egan in the beginning but you went further than any of you would have thought. You've hurt people, you've hurt families and all in the name of revenge," Xena said as she looked out at them, "ask yourselves, was it worth it? Have you sated your lust for revenge?" Xena asked then stood and left them there to think about it. "Don't listen to her, you've all lead a great life," Egan said and one of the men leaned over and replaced the gag and they continued to sit there and think about what Xena had said to them.

When morning came they continued to ride towards Loxia and once they were there Xena had the men wait in the court yard. "I demand an audience with your King," she said to the guards standing guard at the door. "Who is asking for this audience?" The captain of the guard asked, "Xena of Amphipolis, Chosen of Athena," she said and the guard looked into her eyes. "Right this way," he said and Xena followed him into the castle and to the throne room, "wait here," he said then left the room and Xena looked around until the doors opened and King Garius walked in and two guards walked in with him and two more closed the doors and stood outside the room.

"You asked to speak with me?" He asked and Xena nodded, "the warlord Egan, has been a huge problem for some of your provinces," Xena said and Garius nodded. "Yes but I unfortunately don't have the man power to deal with him as of yet," Garius said and Xena nodded. "Go look out of the window," Xena said and he looked at her before he walked over to his huge window and looked down into the court yard where he saw Egan tied up and gagged. "How did you?" He asked as he turned and looked at Xena, "it was my pleasure to get rid of such a nuisance," Xena said and Garius looked at her as he walked back over to her. "What do you want of me?" He asked and Xena let out a breath, "some of Egan's men are actually good men, provided that they get the chance to prove it.

I'm sure you'll see the ones who want the chance and be able to tell them apart from the ones who want to continue stealing, bullying and killing." She said, "and you want me to…?" He asked, "I realize that they all have committed numerous crimes, some which are punishable by death but I'm asking you to take them into indentured servitude." Xena said and Garius looked at her, "go on," he said as he sat down in a chair. "Judge them all separately by the crimes they have committed and their sentence is to be however many years you choose for them to be in indentured servitude. Five to ten years at the most, helping out around the kingdom, doing what needs to be done and what you don't have the hands to do.

And at the end of their contract, they'll in a way be redeemed and be able to rejoin the community," Xena said and Garius sat there and thought about that. "And what of the ones who want to continue on the wrong path?" He asked, "then sentence them and imprison them according to their offenses." Xena said, "of course it won't be easy, they'll all have to be watched carefully. You can give Egan the option but I doubt he will take it or if he does he'll find a way to turn it to his advantage and to your disadvantage," Xena said and Garius nodded his head. "You know I have the right to imprison them all, I don't have to give them this chance," he said and Xena nodded. "True but I heard that you were a fair and just King, there are enough men imprisoned, we should try and help instead of hinder. We shouldn't just lock them up and throw away the key, some of them actually need help in changing because they want to change.

And others…?" Xena said then hunched her shoulders, "some, I have to admit are lost causes," Xena said and Garius nodded his head. "I think what you've proposed is a good idea, I'm not to sure about it but something's telling me I should try it." He said and Xena grinned then tilted her head in respect before she turned and headed towards the door. "Oh and in various places around Egan's camp are about seven groups tied up," Xena said. "Wait," Garius said as he walked over to the door and Xena turned and looked at him, "you're a good person, a good warrior, I could use your help from time to time." He said and Xena grinned at him, "my services aren't exactly up for the highest bidder, however, if you should ever really need my help again, I will know it and I will be here," she said then winked at him before she left the room closing the door behind her.

Xena made her way out of the castle and back to the court yard where all the men looked up as she walked over to them. "Listen up," she yelled to them and they looked at her, "you've all made your choices in life and most of them have not been good," she said. "But if you want to change your life for the better, then now is the time," she said then looked at King Garius who walked out of the castle. "I have talked with King Garius and he has agreed to try you all against your crimes and your punishment will not be time in jail," she said, "then what will it be?" Douglas asked and she looked at him then at all of them, "indentured servitude," she said and they all began to murmur and there were some cries of protest.

"Look, I know some of you wish you could go back and undo what has been done but the fact is you can't. But you can begin to try and make up for all the lives you have destroyed and the trouble you've caused. This isn't bad, you'll just be helping around where ever you're needed, for however long your contract states and once that time is up, you'll be free to live your lives the way you want to live them, hopefully better than you live them now," Xena said and they looked at her then began to talk amongst themselves. "What if we don't want this? We could just leave right now," two of the men hollered, "no, you wouldn't be able to just leave, I would make sure of that as would King Garius' soldiers," Xena said. "And you can not choose this but you're other option will probably be spending the rest of your lives in jail."

She said and they all talked amongst themselves about it, "make your decisions now," she said and she watched as they looked around each other. Dudley walked up to Xena and looked into her eyes, "I'm not too proud of the man I've become but if you were in my place, would you choose this option?" He asked and Xena nodded, "yes I would, the fact that Garius is doing this, says a lot about the man he is. He didn't have to take my suggestion, he could have just locked you all up but he has chosen to help you rather than get rid of you." She said and Dudley looked at her, looked at Garius then looked down as he warred with himself on what choice to make.

In the end he pulled his sword and walked over to King Garius and looked into his eyes as he dropped his sword in front of his feet in surrender. "You've made the right choice," Garius said and Dudley continued to look into his eyes as guards came and placed shackles on his wrists before they lead him away. Once Dudley had surrendered, the others began to follow suit and Xena nodded to Garius before she got on Argo, "oh and if you haven't gotten the message by now, there are some of Egan's men in Acerson locked up in the jail," Xena said and with that she left the Kingdom. Once she was outside of the kingdom, she headed back towards the cave, but she wouldn't make it by night fall so when the sun began setting, she found a suitable place to camp.

She made a fire, then tended to Argo and when she was finished she sat down on the ground and ate some of what her mother had packed for her. "I was wonder when you were going to pop up," Xena said as she stared into the fire and Athena appeared on the other side of the fire. "That was…unusual what you did for Egan's men but I liked it," Athena said and Xena nodded. "Everyone deserves a second chance, they're not all lost causes," Xena said and Athena nodded as she placed her hands over the fire as though she were warming them. "Since the problem with Egan is settled, I'll be taking her back to the temple but she wanted to say goodbye to you before I did, it seems that she's gotten quite attached to you," Athena said.

"I'll be careful not to break her heart," Xena said as she looked at Athena who looked at her, "don't do it, don't judge me," Athena said and Xena shook her head as she stood. "You broke her heart Athena," Xena said and Athena let out a breath as she looked at Xena, "this is a situation you know nothing about." Athena said, "I know she gave you her heart and when you asked, she gave herself to you," Xena said and Athena looked at her. "You lead her on and let her fall in love with you," Xena said, "I love all of my priestess," Athena said, "but do you have sex with them all? Do you go around seducing them until they fall in love with you and after you've gotten what you want, you just throw them away?"

"No, I don't sleep with them all," Athena said, "then what happened?" Xena asked, "ENOUGH," Athena shouted to Xena. "I don't have to explain myself to you nor will I," Athena said to Xena as she walked up to her and Xena met her half way. "Was it your plan to sleep with me?" Xena asked, "never," Athena said and Xena looked into her eyes. "You mouth says one thing but your eyes say another," Xena said then turned her back to the goddess but Athena only appeared in front of her. "I love all of my priestesses but there have only been a handful that I have asked them to give themselves to me. There are things that you can't possibly understand Xena but I would never breech that boundary with you, never," Athena said and Xena looked into her eyes and saw that Athena really meant that.

"You hurt her deeply," Xena said and Athena nodded, "I know and I will always regret how much pain I've put her through but Annette has worked through it and she has come out stronger. Yes, she gave me her heart, she gave me her trust and her body and I haven't taken either of those lightly but she understands what happened had to happen." Athena said and Xena looked at the goddess then shook her head as she sat back down. "All of you gods have a category in which you live by, it may be your very essence but you're all the same in one way and that way is, you take what you want, no matter the price, as long as it's not hurting you, you don't care." Xena said as she looked up at Athena who looked at her before she disappeared and Xena let out a breath as she poked the fire with a stick.

She sat there and thought about that and thought about some other things, even when she laid down on her bedroll, she continued to think until she dosed off. When first light came, she rode back to the cave and when she got near by she saw Annette walking about with Gemini walking next to her and when she spotted Xena she grinned as she waved her hand and Xena grinned as she hopped down off of Argo and walked over to Annette. "Since you're out and about, I guess Athena told you the great news," Xena said and Annette nodded then hugged Xena. "Yes and thank you so much," she said and Xena grinned, "you are most welcomed," she said then pulled back.

"Athena should be coming in a little bit to take you back to your temple," Xena said and Annette nodded, "yea, she would have taken me back last night except I told her I wanted to say goodbye to you," she said and Xena nodded. "Yea, Athena and I had a little chat last night," Xena said. "I'm sorry that she broke your heart," Xena said and Annette stopped cold and turned and looked at Xena. "How did you know?" She asked and Xena grinned, "I just knew," she said and Annette nodded. "Well, what's done is done, it can't be undone so I no longer worry about it. Yes it does hurt, it hurts a lot but I've come out stronger for it and I guess in a way it has made me a stronger and better person, woman and priestess, to better serve Athena."

Annette said and Xena nodded, "well if you're okay about it, I really can't be mad at her about it. I just don't understand some of the things gods do," Xena said as she shook her head and Annette grinned as she looked up at the clear blue sky. "Who really understands why they do what they do but over the ions, we have come to accept them for who they are." She said and Xena thought about that as they continued to have for the cave. Once they were there they said their goodbyes once again and then Athena appeared, "have your things ready, I'll be right back to take you back to Amphipolis," Athena said to Xena then disappeared with Annette. Xena shook her head then headed into the cave to make sure she hadn't forgot anything and when she was ready she walked outside with Gemini following her.

She played with her for a while until Athena appeared ten minutes later, "are you ready?" Athena asked and Xena looked at the goddess and nodded then picked Gemini up before she headed over to Argo. "Yea I'm ready," Xena said and Athena nodded and before Xena could say or doing anything else, they were gone in the blink of an eye and just as quickly as they disappeared, they reappeared in the back yard of Cyrene's Inn. "Athena," Xena called when the goddess was about to leave, "I'm sorry for judging you," she said and Athena looked into her eyes and nodded. "Perhaps one day you will explain things to me," Xena said. "In due time," Athena said then disappeared and Xena let out a breath, "come on girl, lets go get you settled in," Xena said as she lead Argo to the stables where she unsaddled her then gave her food and water before she brushed her down.

"You did good on our first mission girl," Xena said as she patted Argo's neck and Argo butted her head into Xena's stomach and Xena grinned as she rubbed behind Argo's ears. "I'll see you later," Xena said then left the stables with her bags in her hands and Gemini hot on her heels. "Xena, you're back," her mother said as she walked in through the back door to the kitchen and Xena grinned. "Yes, I wasn't a real serious problem," she said as she walked over to her mother and placed a kiss on her cheek. "So everything went well?" Cyrene asked and Xena nodded, "yea, everything went pretty smoothly," she said then walked over to the table and picked up a cookie. "You're going to ruin your appetite," Cyrene told her daughter and Xena shook her head.

"I doubt it, I've missed your hot cooking," Xena said and Cyrene grinned. "I'm gonna go get cleaned up and relax for a while, that is if you don't need my help with anything," Xena said. "No, we're all covered, go take a nice hot bath and relax." Cyrene said and Xena nodded and grabbed her bags once again and headed down the stairs to her room. When she walked into her room she let out a breath as she placed her bags by the bed and Gemini went over to her favorite spot, which was on the rug by the fireplace. Xena took off all of her clothes until she was naked, then wrapped her body in a towel and headed to the bathing room.

She prepared a hot bath for herself, moaning as she eased her body into the soothing water which was beginning to turn her muscles to mush. "Mmmm," Xena moaned as she dunked her head under water before she leaned back against the tub. She sat there and soaked until the water was luke warm and that's when she washed her hair then bathed her body. When she was done she got out and dried off then headed back to her room, where she oiled her body down then went into her drawer and pulled out the shirt that Ulysses left, which she refused to wash because it smelled just like him and it was a comfort to Xena. Once she had the shirt and her underwear on, she tended to her hair, drying it with the towel before she added oil to it and brushed the tangles out of it.

When she was finished she braided her hair into one large braid then let out a breath as she walked over to her bed and began to un pack the bags, all except for one and that was the one Corrinna had given her which held her medicinal herbs and bandages. Once everything was put up she laid down on the bed and let out a breath as she stared up at the ceiling for a minute. She found that her eyes began to get heavy, so she turned on her side and pulled the blanket that she kept at the foot of the bed, up over her body and in ten minutes she was asleep and she dreamt wonderful dreams of Ulysses. With Xena back at home, she went back to her regular routine of exercising and training as well as helping her mother out around the Inn while her brothers tended to the fields.

Before Xena knew it, days passed by before her very eyes as if it were happening at the blink of an eye. However, only some days passed that quickly, while other days passed by so slowly, it was a slow and painful torture for Xena. Those days turned into weeks and those weeks turned into a month and before Xena knew it, a month had passed by and then another and all she knew was that she was missing Ulysses terribly but it did help that Athena often had missions for her and when she was at home, she relaxed for about a day or two before she helped her mother and her brothers out. She found that if she worked hard enough, she exhausted herself and it made it a lot easier for her to go to sleep at night but those times when she wasn't exhausted, she often lay there for hours and hours thinking about Ulysses, wondering what he was doing and if he was okay. It had been a couple of weeks since she last got a message from him and sent hers out.

She knew from Ulysses' messages that Ithaca was at war with a neighboring kingdom and in the beginning it was just a few skirmishes but it was quickly becoming more. In a matter of a couple of weeks, they had gone from small skirmishes to all out war and Xena was worried about Ulysses. She knew he was capable of protecting himself and others but she was in love with him and she just hoped he would be careful and realize how much she loved him, how much she needed him. There was one time when she really needed him, she had been on a mission for about a week and so far this was her toughest mission.

She had to save an entire village from a warlord who was bent on destroying the village because they wouldn't pay him protection money. So Athena sent her there to protect them but she had no help, so she had to train the villagers on how to fight in such a short time. When the time came to fight they did and they were getting wounded, however the leader whose name was Cortese was a greater fighter and commander. He came after Xena and they started fighting. For Xena the fighting was getting intense but she wasn't worried about it, especially since she was taught by the best and her body began to just flow with everything.

She knew Cortese would kill her given the chance and if she died then there would be no hope for these people. Still she had never killed before and she wasn't going to start now, so she did her best to disarm him and when she had him on the ground he looked into her eyes and surrendered. She looked back at him knowing she couldn't trust him so she kept her eyes on him while she called over two of the strongest villagers. They came over and picked Cortese up from the ground and as soon as he was up on his feet, he pushed one away hard and punched the other guy and took that moment and pulled a hidden dagger from his arm band and went after Xena. By then she had her back turned and there were yells for her to watch out but she didn't need them, she felt him long before he could even get close to her.

Her instincts kicked in and when she turned around, she ran him through with her sword and looked into his eyes as he looked into hers and grinned. "Your first kill," he said as blood ran from his mouth and she looked at him then pulled her sword free and dropped it to the ground. "Help," she cried as Cortese fell to the ground and she went with him still yelling for someone to help her. "Xena you can't help him but you can help everyone else," Athena said as she appeared next to her chosen and Xena looked at her. "You can heal him," Xena said and Athena looked at her.

"I can't, this is how it's supposed to be," Athena said and Xena stood and looked into Athena's eyes where Athena could see the turmoil in Xena's eyes. "You need to help the rest of these people Xena," Athena said and Xena looked at her then around her at the people who were still fighting Cortese's men. Xena let out a breath and went to help them all and when it was all over she was just numb. Xena helped out the villagers since she was great in healing she helped all those who were hurt and anything else she could do before she left she did.

Two and a half weeks later she returned home and she was quiet and withdrawn as she thought about her first kill. She talked to no one about it not even Lyceus who begged her to tell him or anyone what was wrong. Instead she kept to herself and at night she cried for Ulysses wishing her were here to comfort her. A week after that, she started to get back to normal and trained by herself not really wanting to talk to Athena, somewhat mad a the goddess for putting her in a situation where she had to take someone's life. "Are you ready to talk to me now?" Athena asked Xena as she appeared by her in Xena's room and Xena turned and looked at her. "No," Xena said and Athena looked into the eyes of her chosen, "I know you're hurting Xena," she said and Xena looked at her. "Do you?" She asked in a sarcastic way then turned and continued picking up in her room.

"He was your first kill and I know you didn't want to kill him, you just wanted to stop him from hurting those people and anyone else he would hurt." Athena said and Xena shook her head, "he was scum," Xena said and Athena looked at her, "and it's alright that you feel for killing him. I would be worried if you didn't feel anything at all," Athena said and Xena closed her eyes and let out a breath as she turned and looked at Athena. "I never wanted to take someone's life, I just wanted to protect and help people," Xena said and Athena looked into her eyes and nodded as she took a couple of steps forward. "I know and to tell you the truth I never wanted you to kill but sadly doing what you want to do, you had to know that it would eventually come to it." Athena said and Xena looked down for a minute as Athena continued to speak to her.

"Xena you are my chosen and there is so much in the world that you have yet to experience but I believe you already know that to survive, sometimes you will have to take a life maybe more than one. I don't encourage you to kill, in fact if you can find a way to solve a problem without violence then I'm all for it. Wisdom before weapons," Athena said and Xena looked into her eyes and nodded. "I understand, I may not always like it but I understand," Xena said and Athena looked into her eyes. "Do you? Xena being my chosen means more than you know right now, but there will come a time when you will have to take a life. Tell me now if you will be able to handle it. If you can't I'll understand, there are only a handful that are meant for this," Athena said and Xena looked into her goddess' eyes. "No I am meant for this, there is a reason that you chose me and I swear to you I will live up to the title you have bestowed upon me.

You're right I don't fully know what it means to be you're chosen yet and there is a lot I haven't experienced in this world but there is one thing that I do know and that's the greater good. To help and save people whenever and however I can, and that's what I'll do." Xena said then let out a breath, "I'll never be okay with taking someone's life but I'll be able to deal with it by knowing I've saved a lot of lives." Xena said and Athena looked at Xena then brought her hand up and placed a lock of hair behind Xena's ear, "you continue to surprise even me." Athena said then let out a breath and lowered her hand, "I'm giving you some time off, I think you need it but don't worry you'll be back to work sooner than you know." Athena said and Xena looked at her and nodded then let out a breath as she sat down on her bed, "I miss him," Xena said and Athena looked at her. "I know but be strong Xena and everything will be alright," Athena said, "rest and relax, I'll see you later," Athena said and Xena nodded.

"Thank you Athena," Xena said and Athena looked at her, "for what?" Athena asked and Xena looked at her, "for helping me deal and understand everything." Xena said and Athena grinned at her, "you already understood Xena, you just needed someone to show you." Athena said then grinned as she disappeared and Xena grinned as she shook her head then laid back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling as she thought about what Athena said and then she thought of more pleasant things like Ulysses. She thought about the time she spent with Ulysses, the things they did and the fun they had. She thought about the great love that they made and how he always held her in his arms afterwards and there were time when he would lay his head on her breast or stomach, holding her tight as she ran her fingers through his hair; sometimes they talked for hours on end and other times they laid there in silence and eventually dosed off to sleep in each other's loving embrace.

Xena let out a breath as she rolled on her side pulling her pillow closer to her as she continued to think about Ulysses and all the good times they had. She looked at Gemini who hopped onto the bed since she was big enough now though sometimes she struggled. Xena grinned as the cub walked up by her stomach and Xena scratched behind her ears and stroked her coat before Gemini laid down snuggling against Xena. Xena grinned and continued to stroke Gemini as she continued to think until she started dosing off. As Xena slept she started dreaming of Ulysses and her hand instantly came up to the half of her necklace that she wore and her finger rubbed the stone as she felt Ulysses presence.

Continued In
Chapter Eight: The War with Paxos and
the Connection of Soulmates

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