Something More Than This
By Ariel (email@example.com)Disclaimers: See prologue.
Chapter Specific Disclaimers: This chapter contains scenes of explicit heterosexual sex. If the idea of a man and a woman having sex is offensive to you please read some other story.
Reminder: This story contains both consensual and non-consensual sex and bdsm, though which is which may not always be readily apparent at first.
The decisions we make that eat away at our soul,
leave us feeling empty, evil takes its toll.
6 MONTHS LATER
Xena walked silently through the Amazon village. She had been quite surprised at how easily she'd gotten past the night guard. The warrior had checked all the senior Amazon yurts and so far there was no sign of Gabrielle. Surely Melosa would have sent word if there was a problem. Maybe the child's father had tracked her down? Xena had intended to sneak in, speak with the girl and leave. She didn't want to see anyone else, especially Melosa. Now… now she had to go see the Queen and find out where the child was.
Xena backtracked to the Queen's yurt. She'd have to explain to Melosa why she had snuck into the village. Just as well. Melosa should know that her night guard had some security lapses. She tested the rear window of the Queen's yurt. It opened easily. The warrior vaulted herself through and into the sitting room. Something was different. The room was smaller than she remembered. She looked around and tried to put her finger on the change. From the way the candles had burned down in the room, Xena could tell Melosa had been asleep for a while. Where was the Royal Guard? The warrior entered the hallway that separated the sitting room from the bedchamber. Then she saw it. It was different. There was another door. A room had been made in front of the sitting room. Most likely the Royal Guard were in there. Xena pushed open the door intending to chastise the Guards, but when the candlelight from the hallway spilled inside the room, Xena saw a child sleeping on a cot. Gabrielle. Xena smiled. Melosa must have a reason for keeping the child. Was she difficult? Unruly? No matter, Melosa was great with kids. It was unfortunate that she couldn't have one of her own. A childhood illness had seen to that. Perhaps Gabrielle filled that void for the Queen.
"Xena?" A voice whispered from inside the room. "Xena is that you?"
The warrior entered the small room and saw the child sitting up, blinking sleep from her eyes.
"Yes, it's me Gabrielle."
"What's wrong Xena? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine... I'm fine," Xena assured her. The warrior walked to the cot and sat next to the child.
"What's wrong Xena? Why are you sneaking in here in the middle of the night?"
"I wanted to talk to you Gabrielle".
The child moved over and patted the space beside her.
"I... I can't stay," Xena told the girl.
"Gabrielle, I'm riding into battle at the next full moon," she explained. Gabrielle moved to sit next to the warrior, resting her small head on a large soft shoulder.
"Gabrielle, I have to win this battle. I have to do something I don't want to do to ensure this victory. I just…" The warrior looked away.
After a few moments Gabrielle spoke. "It's okay Xena. It will be okay."
"That's the thing, Gabrielle," Xena said quietly. "I'm not sure that it will be…" she paused again.
"Gabrielle, everything is changing for me. I just want you to know…"
Another few moments passed.
"What do you want me to know Xena?" the child said, wrapping her tiny hands around one large warrior hand.
Xena watched the hands holding hers.
"I want you to know I don't think I'll be coming back here. I need to say goodbye Gabrielle."
The child crawled into the warrior's lap, wrapped her small arms around Xena's neck and kissed her gently on the cheek. Xena hugged the girl to herself tightly. Finally, Gabrielle pulled back and looked deeply into Xena's cerulean blue eyes.
"It will be okay, Xena. You keep yourself safe. It will be okay eventually. I believe in you."
"Thank you Gabrielle," the warrior said, giving the child one more squeeze then laying her on the bed again. Pulling the furs up to the girl's chin to ward off chill, Xena asked "Is everything okay here? Are they treating you well?"
"Yes, Xena. I'm very happy here. I'm learning a lot. They taught me to read and write so I can write down my stories."
"Do you miss your family, Gabrielle?"
"Sometimes… I miss Mother and Lila, my sister. But mostly I'm very happy here."
"I'm glad Gabrielle," the warrior told her. "I have to go," she said, standing up and kissing the child's forehead.
"How did you get in here without being seen?"
"I have many skills," the warrior chuckled. "But when you tell Melosa of my visit, you might want to tell her she has a severe security lapse in the northwest corner."
"I will Xena, thank you!"
"Goodbye, Gabrielle. Be good."
"Goodbye again, Xena," the child replied. "Take care of yourself, be safe."
"Thank you, Gabrielle."
Xena turned and left the room as quietly as she had come in.
"We'll meet again, warrior," the child said to the empty room. "I'm sure of it!"
Laying her head back down on the pillow, Gabrielle noticed a small scroll on the table beside her cot. She reached out and unrolled it. It was a beautiful drawing of Xena standing beside her horse, smiling as if she had not a care in the world. The note inside said:
One of my men drew this. I want you to have it. Always remember me this way.
Gabrielle re-rolled the scroll and lay down again. "Yes, we will meet again," she said quietly. Then she closed her eyes and Morpheus took her.
Xena got out of the village and off Amazon land quickly. Before she left, she created a ruckus where the security was lacking. Not enough to get caught, but enough to let the guards know they had a problem. More than likely there would be no other intruders tonight. Knowing the Amazons as she did, the problem would be fixed by morning. The rest of the border was seamlessly secure. Xena wondered how this lapse could escape the security mistress. No matter. The warrior had done what she had come to do and helped the tribe in the process. She could only hope they would remember this in the future.
The warrior found her horse in the clearing where they had parted. She was far enough from the Amazons to go undetected, even by their scouts. She was also well off any trail that her enemies might find. Still, it wasn't safe to make a fire. Xena pulled out some jerky and a fresh waterskin. She took care of her own needs while she tended to Argo. Soon she and the horse were fed and watered. The horse was clean and brushed. Xena reached into her pocket and pulled out an apple.
"Here ya go girl. I brought you a present."
The horse sniggered and accepted the treat.
Xena pulled out her bedroll and laid it down near Argo. She'd sleep for a few candlemarks, then set out to meet up with her army. She was just about to lie down when she felt a familiar presence.
"I know you're out there," she said aloud. "You may as well show yourself."
A blinding flash of blue light appeared for an instant. When the warrior looked up she saw a tall, handsome man dressed in black leather walking towards her.
"Hello Ares," she said, moving to put her waterskin on the saddlebag.
"Xena," the war god said, stopping behind her. "You look stunning as usual."
The warrior rolled her eyes.
"I trust you've taken care of your little problem," he continued.
Xena turned, one hand on her hip. "Of course. I still don't get it though, Ares. She's just a kid."
"It's best this way Xena," the god said, circling the tall woman. "This way she doesn't have to worry about you and you can forget about those pesky Amazons. I still think you should have killed her though."
"She's a child, Ares," Xena said sharply. "I DON'T kill children. AND she's an Amazon. I won't betray the Amazons that way."
"All right, princess," he said. "Just as long as you stay away from them; I won't push the matter."
"Thank you," she said quietly.
Ares moved to stand behind the young warrior again. He ran his hands up her body, reaching around to cup her full breasts.
"Now," he said quietly in her ear, "I believe we have one more matter to attend to before we ride into battle together." He dropped his arms to his sides. "Turn around please."
Again she complied.
"So obedient. I knew there was a reason I liked you kid," Ares chuckled sardonically while petting the warrior's hair. "Take it out."
Xena smiled up at the war god seductively. She let her hands slide up his legs until they met at the buttons on his leather trousers.
"Wait!" He grabbed her hands. "Open your shirt."
Xena began to unbutton her shirt on command. She did it slowly, arching her back and looking deeply into Ares' eyes. When she was done she sat back on her heels, her hands resting on her thighs. Ares reached down and pushed the shirt just off her broad shoulders.
"Oh baby!" He threw his head back and laughed. "Oh yeah! This is what I've been waiting for," he said staring at the large breasts exposed for his pleasure.
The warrior's seductive smile never wavered. Ares bent over her shoulder and pushed the shirt to her elbows. A few twists and tugs and Xena's arms were secured behind her back. The war god stood and gawked at the image he created. The tall warrior was knelling submissively at his feet. The way her arms were tied forced her back to arch and her chest to jut upwards.
The summer air was warm but Xena felt a chill run through her. She glanced down and watched her nipples pucker and harden, the skin around them turning a deep rose. She looked up and met Ares' gaze.
"I please you?" she asked.
"Oh yeah," he told her, smiling ferally. "You please me." He moved forward and let his fingers explore and pinch the nipples he had waited so long to see. "Now," he whispered seductively, dropping his hands to his sides again. "Take it out."
Xena rose on her knees and nuzzled her face into the soft, leather covered bulge. Using her lips and teeth, she began to unbutton the war god's trousers. She felt the bulge get larger as she progressed. When she was done she nosed her way inside his pants and used the tip of her tongue to tease out his semi hard godhood.
Ares meanwhile was watching the show intently. He petted Xena's hair while she worked. Using his knees, he tried to bump her breasts. She arched and lowered herself to accommodate the obscene request. Xena opened her mouth and sucked in the hardening tool completely.
"Ummmmmmmm," she moaned around him, knowing the vibration in her mouth would spur him on.
Ares continued watching with hooded, lust filled eyes. His warrior princess was obediently attending to his godly needs. He slapped her breasts with his knees and felt himself harden in her mouth as they jiggled and bounced. When his cock was completely hard, Xena bobbed her head sliding her mouth up and down his tumescent member. After several strokes she released him and tilted her head to lick at his testicles. Slowly she ran her tongue over the hairy globes before gently sucking them into her mouth.
"Oh yeah. Ahhhhhhh," Ares moaned, tossing his head back. Looking down at her again he said, "You are so good Xena. So good."
Ares put his hands on either side of her face.
"Suck it again baby," he whispered breathlessly.
She complied, wrapping her lips around his thick pole and sliding down until his wiry hairs tickled her nose. Ares was impressed. He felt the head of his cock slide into her throat and the warrior didn't gag. In fact her breathing didn't even change. Suddenly, with his tool fully inside her mouth, he felt her massage the underside with her tongue.
"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh," he moaned in spite of himself.
He grabbed her head tightly to still her, and then thrust himself into her mouth. Again and again he pushed himself into her talented face. Again and again he felt himself enter her throat. He put his hand on her neck to feel his hard tool enter her. Still she didn't gag. She wasn't even breathing hard. Finally he was approaching the edge. The war god didn't want this to end too quickly. He forced himself to pull out of her mouth but kept his hand on her soft throat. Xena worked her jaw a few times then smiled up at him.
"I'd ask you where you learned to do that, Xena, but I don't want to have to kill anyone tonight," Ares said gasping for air.
He reached down and pulled the tall woman to her feet. Pulling the shirt from her arms and tossing it aside, he crushed his mouth to hers fiercely. Their tongues danced as Ares' large hands rose and kneaded her swollen breasts. She moaned into his mouth at the contact. Her already stiff nipples hardened even more. One large hand reached between their bodies and began to unbutton her calfskin pants. Once opened, he slid his hand inside and ran thick fingers through her coarse hair. Cupping her mound, he wrapped his other arm around her body and whispered in her ear.
"Do you know how long I've wanted this Xena? Wanted to have this?" He tightened his hold on her vulva. "Wanted to own this?"
Suddenly she pushed him away.
"NO!" she growled. "That was NOT our agreement. I am offering my sword and the body that wields it. But no one, and I do mean no one Ares, owns me. I will be available to you when it suits us both but my body is mine to use however I wish."
"Ok, Ok," he conceded, hands up in surrender. His cock bobbed obscenely from his trousers. "You're right. I don't own you. I just want to borrow you from time to time." He spoke seductively as she leaned into him again, his fingers on her chin, her fingers lightly stroking his godhood.
"Like now," he said, kissing her face. Her lips curled into a seductive smile.
"Now, where were we?" he asked rhetorically, moving to suck on her neck.
Ares let one hand tickle and squeeze a taut nipple while the other one snaked back into her trousers. Running his fingers over her mound and between her labia he found that she was already damp. The war god dipped his head to suck at a deep red nipple as two large fingers entered her body. She grunted and moaned at the sudden invasion. The warrior rocked her hips as his fingers twisted and curled inside her.
"That's right Xena," Ares purred. "Show me how much you want it."
He flicked his tongue over her painfully erect nipple as he thrust into her. His wrist rubbed against her growing bud creating a delicious friction. After several long moments of enjoying her body this way, the war god pulled out of her and stepped back.
"I need to be inside you," he told her. His hands reached to push her trousers over her hips and down her long legs until they reached her ankles. She kicked off her boots and stepped out of the pants, kicking them aside also. Ares let his gaze wander over the now naked warrior. Her body was luscious, soft and curvy; but also hard and muscular. The war god pulled off his vest and dropped it beside a large log. He grabbed his turgid pole in one hand and began stroking it slowly.
"Touch yourself Xena. Rub your tits for me," he whispered breathlessly, backing up and sitting on the nearby log to enjoy the show.
Xena raised her hands to her breasts and caressed them, slowly at first. Her piercing blue eyes watching him watch her perform. Gradually she increased the pressure of her groping until she was squeezing her breasts roughly, the soft tissue bulging out between insistent fingers. When she pinched and pulled on her nipples she groaned. Xena ran her tongue over dry lips as she tortured the swollen nubs. She continued to moan as she excited herself.
Ares' hand moved slowly on his cock as he watched the warrior touch herself. This was intense. The fierce warrior princess was doing his bidding without question. If he weren't witnessing this with his own eyes he would never believe it.
"Touch your clit," he directed.
Instantly one hand glided down her body towards its new goal. She cupped her mound and squeezed forcing wetness from within her out onto her fingers. Coating her hand with her own essence she moved her fingers to her clit. The contact forced a loud groan from her lips. Again she started slowly, working up to pinching and shaking the sensitive bundle of nerves.
They were both thoroughly aroused. Ares felt he could not wait another moment before burying himself in her hot tunnel.
"Stop!" he commanded.
Xena's hands dropped to her sides instantly. She groaned at the loss of contact and her hips bucked slightly. Ares watched the frustrated warrior for a few moments, still stroking his cock.
"Come here," he spoke finally.
She walked to where he was sitting and stood between his legs. Looking down at his enormous tool she groaned quietly. Ares leaned against the tree behind him, his cock pointing skyward.
"Sit princess," he demanded.
Xena put one leg on the other side of the log the war god was reclining on. Putting her hands on his shoulders to steady herself, she moved the other leg over the log, effectively straddling the handsome man. Slowly she lowered herself into his lap. He used one hand to guide the thick pole into her while the other caressed her soft ass. She stopped her descent for a moment, holding just the tip of him inside her. She used her inner muscles to squeeze him tightly, pulling a tortured groan from him lips. Finally she dropped the rest of the way, impaling herself on his massive organ.
"Ahhhhh Ahhhhhhhh," he groaned again. "You are so tight Xena. I'm so deep inside you," he rasped as she lifted her hips up and down on his shaft. Ares buried his face in her cleavage, sucking and licking the soft flesh while she writhed seductively in his lap.
Xena knew very well what she was doing. By moving slowly she was keeping the war god close to the edge without the chance of going over. Every few thrusts she would grind her pelvis into his rock hard abdomen to keep herself stimulated and wet. Ares gripped her ass with his large hands and moved her up and down, increasing the speed of her strokes. When she used her muscles again to squeeze him even tighter, he cried out.
After only a moment of this he felt himself losing control. Moving his hands to her waist, he lifted her off his lap and placed her gently on the ground in front of him. She leaned back on her elbows to ease the strain on her stomach muscles. With her legs over the log, this position was strenuous. She didn't dare move until he directed her.
Ares stood over the tall woman and spoke.
"You're very good Xena. If I had any doubts about you before, they are gone. But now I want to look into your eyes while I'm inside you," he told her. The war god moved to her bedroll and knelt next to it.
"Come princess," he beckoned, patting the blanket.
Xena pulled her legs awkwardly over the log and moved to stand.
"No. Crawl," Ares instructed. "I want to watch your tits bounce."
It was about three horselenghts to the blanket. Xena had no time for shame. She crawled towards him slowly.
"Shake your tits more sweetheart."
She began to shake her shoulders while she crawled. Apparently the god of war wanted to be stimulated visually as well as physically. Reaching the blanket she remained on hands and knees and looked into his eyes, awaiting instruction.
"Lie down princess," he directed. "And spread your legs."
The warrior complied, bending her knees slightly to spread her legs as far as they would go. Ares moved to kneel between her legs. Taking himself in hand, he rubbed his thick pole through her wetness before positioning himself at her entrance. Gently he lifted her long legs onto his shoulders and thrust into her. He leaned over and looked into blue eyes now dark with lust. They locked eyes as he remained fully inside her, unmoving.
"I'm so deep inside you Xena. Do you feel me? Can you feel my cock throbbing?"
"Yes," she rasped, grinding her head into the blanket beneath her.
"How does it feel warrior? How does it feel to be impaled on me?"
"Ohhhhhhh," she moaned, fighting to keep her hips still.
"Tell me," he demanded.
"So full," she gasped. "You're so big inside me. I'm so full Ares."
She reached up and pulled him into a scorching kiss, burying her tongue in his mouth. As their tongues battled Ares began to thrust in and out of her slowly. He pushed himself up on his hands, pulling away from her mouth. He wanted to see… everything!
His eyes swept over the warrior. Her breasts bouncing as he pounded into her faster. Her vulva swelling each time he filled her. Her eyes glazed over in thrall. His fierce, hard, warrior reduced to nothing but a common whore. A magnificent whore, but a whore nonetheless.
"Come for me princess," he said breathlessly. "I want to feel you come all over the cock that fills you so completely."
Xena rocked her hips in time with the war god's thrusting. They continued this way for what seemed like an eternity, bodies hunching together then apart as Ares pounded himself into her with a vengeance.
"C'mon Xena," he urged. "Come for me."
Xena's body shuddered and went stiff. Her eyes squeezed shut.
"Arrrrrrrreeeeeeeeesssssssssss!" she screamed.
It was enough to push him over the edge. The war god exploded into his warrior princess. Again and again his cock pulsed, pouring his godly seed inside her. With any luck this woman would rule the mortals and bear him a son.
Finally spent, Ares pushed long legs from his shoulders and collapsed onto the woman beneath him. He nuzzled into her neck; his face surrounded by her long, silky hair, and whispered promises of their future together into her ear.
For the next candlemark they remained this way. The war god snuggled into Xena while she scratched his back softly and soothingly.
"I have to go," he said finally. "I have a lot to do. The full moon is in two days time."
Ares raised his head and kissed her gently on the lips. A strange sensation passed through the warrior. She suddenly felt feverish and shivered. As quickly as it came, the feeling was gone. The war god stood and tucked himself into his pants. He picked up his vest from the log and put it on.
"Sleep well princess," he told her, blowing a kiss to where she remained, lying on the bedroll, legs spread invitingly.
'If only I had more time,' he thought.
"Thank you Ares," she said quietly. "See you back at camp."
"Until then," he waved.
"Til then," she waved back.
Another flash of brilliant blue light and he was gone.
Xena waited until she could no longer feel his presence before she collected herself and stood. She brushed her hands off on her thighs and walked over to where she left the saddlebag. Reaching in she collected a soft flannel and a small piece of soap. The warrior grabbed two waterskins and walked towards a nearby stream.
After she filled the skins and set them on the bank, she picked up the soap and waded into the cool water. The water at midstream reached her hips and her loins burned from the sudden change in temperature as much as from the recent abuse. Xena submerged herself then stood again. She shook the water from her hair, then used the soap to wash it. When her hair was clean and rinsed she squatted in the water, legs spread wide. Ignoring the pain, the warrior reached into herself with her thumb and forefinger. She fumbled around for a moment before grasping and pulling out a small, thick round sponge. The object had been a gift from the first god she'd ever encountered. Aphrodite had given the gift to a fifteen-year-old Xena who had learned far too early what a powerful weapon sex could be. The goddess of love assured her that the sponge, accompanied by a brew of strong herbs ingested soon after coupling, would prevent conception. Aphrodite had sworn to its effectiveness, cautioning Xena that failure only resulted from human error. For the tall warrior, this had proved to be quite true.
Xena washed and rinsed the sponge before bathing herself. The cool water was causing her to shiver so she washed her body quickly. When she was done she stepped up on the bank and dried herself as best she could with the flannel. Still wet and shivering she grabbed the waterskins and made her way back her bedroll.
When she reached her blanket and Argo, Xena decided that tea and warmth were more important than being completely undetectable. She gathered up some wood and made a small fire. The water in the small pot she had with her heated quickly. She sprinkled a small packet of herbs into her cup and poured the steaming water over them. As she gave the mixture time to brew, she gathered her clothes and dressed. Xena checked the tea and decided it needed more time. She took a comb out of her bag and began to restore order to her tangled locks. When she was done, she sat close to the fire and sipped the strong but not unpleasant tea.
The flames danced before her eyes but the warrior didn't see them. She was thinking about the evening's events. Everything came rushing at her and she felt overwhelmed. She'd taken her army so far towards their goal, but never counted on King Baylor calling in reinforcements from Athens. This army was fresh and complete. Her men, however talented, had been fighting for the better part of a year. They'd done well but had suffered their share of losses. The battle for Corinth would be a tough fight. Even if she won, her army would be so depleted any warlord with a half dozen troops would be able to overthrow her. She had little choice though. Her army expected this battle. Even if she gave up now; if her own men didn't kill her, Baylor's men surely would.
Then five days ago, as she was pouring over maps and ticking off her lack of options, the god of war had shown up. He promised to bring more men into her army and ensure her victory over Baylor. He also promised that in time he would help her conquer the known world. People everywhere, from Athens and Rome to Japa and Chin would bow to her. In return he wanted her to agree to do his bidding, not only with her sword but with her body also. To sweeten the deal he told her if she refused, he would see to it that her mother, her brother Toris, Melosa, the whole of Amphipolis and the entire Amazon Nation would be slaughtered by his worshippers. What choice did she have? More important than taking Corinth was her responsibility to the people she cared about.
Xena had consented but she drew the line at killing the child. She didn't understand why distancing herself from Gabrielle was so important to him, but it would keep her mother and only surviving brother safe so she did as he asked. The warrior thought briefly of her brother Lyceus. If Ares had shown up before Cortese attacked her village would Lyceus still be alive today? It was hard to believe he had been dead for four years.
Xena banished the gloomy thoughts from her mind. She'd had no choice, she told herself. She'd submitted to him like a strumpet because she had no choice. She'd gone too far. There was no way out other than raising her sword and spreading her legs. Xena curled herself up on the bedroll and wrapped warm furs tightly around herself. At least she hadn't risked bearing him a child. She closed her eyes as silent tears began to make their way down her cheeks.
Ares had called her his champion. She had not accepted the title but she hadn't denied it either. They both knew her verbal agreement only mattered to the other Olympians. Gods were forbidden from pursuing each other's champions. But who else would want her now that she was Ares little fuck-toy?
Xena opened her eyes and again forced morose thoughts from her head. Wiping her tears, she called up memories of a much happier time.
Xena and Borias had gone to Chin. A wealthy man, Yodoshi, had hired them to bring his daughter home. A warlord had kidnapped her and was demanding ransom. Yodoshi had given Borias enough gold to pay the ransom and finance the expedition, with a promise of ten times that amount if his daughter was brought back unharmed. The girl's name was Akemi.
The warriors found the girl easily. They took her and killed her kidnapper, keeping the gold for themselves. The girl was seventeen, a year older than Xena, with a nice body and a pleasant enough face.
The trip back to Yodoshi's castle took several days by sea and several more on land. Xena passed the time by fucking her new friend senseless. The warrior was only a few moons past Melosa's instruction and eager to make use of her new skills. Akemi liked it best when Xena would tie her up like livestock and leave her alone in the hold for candlemarks before returning to take the girl roughly, again and again.
Borias got tired of watching Xena and her new conquest. When they reached land he took his leave of them with a promise to meet them at Yodoshi's castle. Akemi took Xena on some wild goose chase through the snowy mountains of Chin. The only redeeming part of the journey was when the girl took Xena to a place where they made swords called Katana. Akemi dared Xena to go in and take the one hanging on the wall. The warrior stormed in and kicked ass before claiming her prize. She emerged with a wound on her right breast and a very fine example of a Katana. Consequently they were three days late in meeting Borias.
When they finally reached the castle, Xena and Akemi found Yodoshi and the rest of the girl's family slaughtered, the gold gone. Akemi was so happy about this development that she celebrated by going outside to the family altar and stabbing herself in the chest. Xena rushed to the crazy girl's side but there was nothing she could do. The wound was too deep.
As Akemi lay dying she asked Xena to cut off her head, burn her ashes and bring them to the family crypt. Xena cut off the girl's head as requested. She even burned the body. Just as she finished gathering Akemi's ashes into a decorative pot a castle guard appeared and attacked her. He must have somehow escaped Borias' raid. Xena buried the Katana in his chest. Just then another guard appeared. The warrior could hear more voices approaching. Not wanting to bother with a long, pointless fight, she tossed the pot to the surprised guard and took off.
Xena met up with Borias at a tavern in Higuchi where they had left the boat. They shared a good meal and toasted their trip. The two were richer and happier for having traveled to Chin.
'Ahhhhhhhh good times," Xena thought as she drifted closer to sleep. Her last thought before Morpheus took her was that she missed Borias. Her victory at Corinth would be in his name.
Xena woke several candlemarks later, angry and frustrated. Maybe it was the way she'd slept. Maybe it was the fact that she'd faked climax and was now suffering the female equivalent of blue balls. Either way, she had the urge to bury her sword in the first person that crossed her path. No matter. It was time to get moving. She busied herself packing her saddlebag and readying Argo for the trip.
The warrior was just about to attach her bag to the saddle when she caught a flash of pink light out of the corner of her eye. Turning with the bag still held to her chest she growled, "Not now Aphrodite, I'm in no mood."
"Gee, nice way to greet an old friend," the love goddess replied.
"What do you want Aphrodite?" Xena asked as she turned and finished attaching the bag to Argo's saddle.
The goddess approached the tall woman and put a hand on the warrior's shoulder. Xena grabbed the hand and threw it off.
"I SAID NOT NOW!" she shouted and whirled around to face the goddess.
Xena's face was sharp and tight with anger. Seeing the look of hurt and confusion on Aphrodite's face, she stuffed her anger and tried to explain.
"I'm sorry Aphrodite," the warrior said. "I feel so angry and I don't know why. I shouldn't take it out on you."
The blonde goddess shook her head sadly.
"It's ok, I understand," she told the tall woman.
"No it's not," Xena said, "But thanks. So what brings you here?"
"I wanted to replace the gift I gave you."
"Replace it? Why?"
"Give it to me. I'll show you."
Xena reached into her saddlebag and pulled out a small cloth pouch. She handed it to the goddess with a shrug. Aphrodite opened the pouch and placed the small sponge in the palm of her hand.
"See?" she asked, holding up her hand for inspection.
Xena looked at the sponge but saw nothing unusual.
"What am I looking for?" she asked.
"Here." Aphrodite moved her finger over the object and a small tear became apparent. Xena's eyes widened. Her face blanched. Aphrodite looked at her and winked.
"Don't worry warrior babe. It happened when you washed it in the stream."
Xena relaxed visibly and let out a long breath. For a moment the women just looked at each other. Finally the goddess passed her hand over the sponge and the tear was gone.
"How did you know? About the tear I mean?"
The blonde goddess looked at the warrior sheepishly.
"You were spying on me, weren't you?" Xena was both astonished and amused
"It's not what you think," Aphrodite stammered.
"Oh no?" Xena folded her arms across her chest. "Tell me then. How is it?" She was smiling with incredulous disbelief.
"I wanted to make sure you were ok. Ya know. Like make sure he wasn't forcing you or something."
"Well? Were you satisfied?"
"With my brother, things are rarely as they seem." Aphrodite put her hand on Xena's arm and looked down. "So no, I'm not satisfied. She looked into the warrior's eyes and brushed a lock of dark hair from her face. "And neither were you," she said quietly as Xena met her gaze.
"There was nothing I could do Xena. I'm sorry." Aphrodite cupped Xena's face in her hand and used her thumb to caress the warrior's cheek.
"Don't be sorry," Xena told her. "I'm a big girl. I can handle it." Their eyes were still locked on one another.
Aphrodite leaned in and pressed her lips to the warrior's cheek. "If love needed a champion Xena, I'd have taken you the moment I laid eyes on you," she said softly. "And I'd notice if you were faking." She winked and they shared a laugh.
Xena took Aphrodite's hand in her own.
"Thank you," she said, leaning in to kiss the blonde's cheek in return.
"Xena, you know I can't break the rules of Olympus…"
"I know Aphrodite, it's ok."
"No Xena, listen to what I'm about to say. I need you to focus and think. Ok?"
"Your destiny is linked to the women in your life. If you speak you seal your fate."
"Shhhhhhhh," the goddess pressed her fingers to Xena's lips. "I can't say any more. I've probably said too much as it is. Just think about it Xena. You'll understand if you think about it."
Again Xena nodded. "Ok Aphrodite, I'll think on it."
"I have to go Xena. You know what they say… There's not enough love in the world." The goddess smiled and winked. "Keep yourself safe warrior."
"You too Aphrodite."
Another flash of pink light and the goddess was gone.
Xena looked at the sponge in her hand and shook her head.
"What in Tartarus was she talking about, Argo?"
The horse sniggered and snorted.
Xena put the sponge in its pouch and stowed the pouch in the saddlebag. She grabbed a waterskin, mounted Argo and began the journey back to her army's camp.
"Do you think she understood?"
"No, but she will," Aphrodite told her sister.
"Well, I'll go tell my Amazons to prepare for some rough terrain ahead," Artemis shook her head sadly. "I thought Melosa would be able to help her, but I fear my Queen has only made her worse."
"It's only for a few years Artemis. As long as Xena doesn't accept Ares offer to be his champion things will work out. I don't think she'll accept."
"I hope you're right sister. My chosen won't be ready for another ten years."
"Ares won't push it. He has no idea what's at stake. All he knows is that Xena's destiny is somehow linked to the girl. He doesn't know how or why."
"And if he speaks with the fates? They are bound by Olympian law to tell him exactly what they told us."
"He won't," Aphrodite shook her head. "He's not that smart."
"I hope you're right," Artemis said as they watched the young woman ride off towards war. "I do hope you're right."
To Be Continued In Chapter 2