Chapter 4




The night air was cool, as was the breeze that blew through the surrounding trees every so often. A weapon, a staff that whirled in perfect, fluid sequence, broke that air and increased the intensity of the slight wind.

Every movement was followed by another motion as a shadowed being defended against an invisible enemy. Sweat glistened on exposed skin defying the chill. Every now and then the sound of wood cracking against wood could be heard as the master manipulated the instrument of defense and attack, contacting with nearby trees or logs.

Vibrations from the contact caused the weapon to hum, which was quickly silenced as another hum of different pitch emerged when yet another nearby object was struck. The warrior struck out with all the power that could be mustered from within, not holding anything back from the rage that engulfed her body.

Rage… the only thing that had pushed Camrynn this far. Rage for the loss of her sister, for Laterian who had taken her sister’s life, rage for even Eli.

It was Eli who brought her here, who had disrupted the balance of Nature; it was the only way Camrynn could describe what seemed to be happening around her. Rage toward Eli for her feelings of guilt at the destruction caused by bringing her here. Rage was her life since that day not so long ago.

She had tried to conquer the rage, but was losing the battle she was so desperately trying to win. She had felt like she was fighting a lost cause and that her energy to fight it was quickly disappearing. She had felt like there was no hope.

She had felt hopeless until her eyes had fallen upon Gabrielle when she first arrived here. Just seeing the face of her "sister" immediately sparked to life the energy she had been lacking. It had renewed her hope that she could change events and make everything better.

It still stung her heart that she had hurt Gabrielle when she charged into the camp the previous day. If only the rage hadn’t had such a strong hold on her at that time, she could have prevented it.

Camrynn also wished that her own presence here hadn’t caused so many problems. She knew she must be confusing her new friends. She had tried to make herself understood, but not completely getting through to them. It didn’t make complete sense to her so how could she get it across to her friends.

Then to not only realize, but also to see and sense that she was what caused Nature to weep in pain didn’t help Camrynn feel any better. Confusion clouded her mind and she needed to escape the pain. So she ran in an effort to rid herself of it all.

Concentration had overtaken her mind long ago, liberating her from that confusion and protecting her from the horrible feelings she had experienced on that hilltop. Camrynn had fled quickly after fully coming to the realization that the destruction around her was the fault of no one but herself.

She still blamed Eli for not telling her the entire truth of what her presence here would cause, but it had been her choice. She hated herself for not asking more questions, for not insisting on more thorough answers. Why hadn’t she thought about it more than she actually had? Why did she let the emotions of losing Gabrielle dominate her decision?

She couldn’t deal with the questions running through her head. She needed an escape. Camrynn didn’t know what else to do but run. She had ignored the hails from Gabrielle, too distraught at her role in Nature's suffering. She had to get away, had to run from it all. And she did until her leg muscles burned in protest, begging her to stop. She ignored the pain, controlled it, pushing herself harder with no set destination in mind nor did she care for one; she wanted nothing more than to get away.

But what am I trying to get away from exactly?

She had asked herself that question several times. It echoed in her head, demanding an answer, but she didn’t have the answers.

Nature? Is that what she was trying to run from? She couldn’t escape Nature, for it surrounded her. It really made no sense to run, but Camrynn continued nonetheless. Maybe subconsciously punishing herself for her role in the damage being caused to everything around her. She couldn’t explain it, so she gave up trying to do so. It did nothing but frustrate her further.

Reaching the forest that moments ago had seemed forever away, she made her way around the trees and over rocks. The dense forest engulfed her and, whatever light from the moon that had been present, soon was swallowed up as well. She continued for several minutes, seeing less and less that was around her from the dissipating light. She didn’t know where she was, but she didn’t care either. It didn’t matter.

Her legs burned, her lungs seared, but she wouldn’t stop…couldn’t stop. Faster and faster, pumping her arms as she ran. Soon she started to notice that she could make out objects here and there as she approached a clearing and the moonlight started to break through the darkness. But it didn’t register to her why she could see them.

Suddenly there was an object in her way. She tried to side step the obstacle, but failed to see the vines that lay across the forest floor. She caught her foot just right and found herself face down in the dirt. Her mind nearly released its pain and sorrow in a wave of tears, but Camrynn refused to feel the despair.

Screaming to herself to get up, she grabbed her staff that had fallen from her grasp and quickly flipped to her feet. Replacing her pain with aggression, Camrynn began a solitary assault unlike any other. Najara had once shown her a harmless way of relieving her anger and frustration in what she had called Katalinqua.

The Katalinqua consisted of an organized series of offensive and defensive postures, a way to practice with your weapon in a strict manner. It was created in such a way that a person appeared to be defending themselves from one or more attackers. The Katalinqua was for focus and concentration.

In reality, there wasn’t a single form; the Katalinqua was a general term that covered the numerous forms of organized fighting maneuvers, each one having its own specific name. A weapon wasn’t always required either. Some of the Katalinqua was free hand. But each form was made to center oneself and concentrate on the task that was presented. But the ultimate purpose of the Katalinqua was discipline, to make every movement perfect and precise; to learn to defend against an opponent as though they were attacking you and to return the assault with your own form of attack.

Camrynn moved from one Katalinqua form to the next without pausing at the end of each one. She couldn’t stop…wouldn’t stop because if she did it would all come crashing down on her. She didn’t want to feel or think; she didn’t want anything but to relieve the rage. She engrossed herself in every Katalinqua she ever learned. She jabbed, blocked, thrusted, swept, kicked and punched with every bit of power that was within her.

In the shadows, Gabrielle watched Camrynn. She had long since stopped calling to the young warrior. The bard had actually only been a few feet behind Camrynn, seeing everything that had happened. She had watched as her friend fell to the ground and refused to let herself cry out and become lost in her tears. She had watched as a pain and anger filled scream escaped Camrynn’s throat and how she jumped to her feet and immediately began to wield her staff.

Gabrielle knew better than to physically try and get Camrynn’s attention. She knew that when someone was as livid as the young warrior was or as focused, they wouldn’t realize or care that there was the presence of another body near them. Gabrielle wasn’t about to get herself cracked across the face with a staff; it wasn’t her idea of a good time.

The bard had remembered a time that she too had been so angry that all she could do was attack a poor defenseless tree. It had been right after Xena had died; one of many times Xena died and was, thankfully, returned to her. But Gabrielle remembered that if anyone had attempted to get her attention, it would have been a painful greeting. That is why she had fled, away from everyone, kind of like Camrynn had done.

Gabrielle had seen the expression on the young warrior’s face when she looked up the hillside and caught her friend’s eyes. It was almost like the bard knew that Camrynn was going to run, so she herself had started to run so as not to lose sight of her.

Now that she had caught up with Camrynn, Gabrielle watched in amazement as the girl moved. If she hadn’t known better, Gabrielle would have thought Camrynn was fighting a real person. She had never seen anything quite like what the young warrior was doing. Xena had done things to hone her skills and had taught Gabrielle, but it had been basic weapons training and hand-to-hand combat. Nothing they had ever done resembled the organization or discipline Camrynn was displaying. The storyteller was in complete awe at the sight. Everything was so precise and fluid and full of incredible power.

As Gabrielle watched intently, a strange recognition filled her mind. Camrynn stood with her feet shoulder width apart, a typical fighting stance, but she began a series of strikes that looked so familiar. Alternating sides of her staff, the young warrior struck her "opponent" in what would have been the head, waist, and legs, then finishing off with a spin on the ball of her foot, whipping around while sliding the staff under her arm, extending it so that a full force blow to the opponent's cheek was delivered. A yell from deep within Camrynn pierced the night at this final move, almost adding to the power that the strike already possessed.

Camrynn stopped the spinning momentum by swinging her right leg behind her left and planting it on the ground, bending at the waist with her arms extended, staff still under her right arm, as though she was taking a bow in front of an audience for her magnificent presentation, concluding her assault.

Aside from the bow at the end, which seemed to Gabrielle to just add to the beauty of the performance, but not to be used in a real fight, this was the assault Camrynn had used against Xena when she first appeared in their camp the night before.

Amazing, the bard thought to herself. That would account for the ease Camrynn had portrayed when she faced Xena. It all makes sense.

Suddenly, after the momentary bow, Camrynn fell forward from her pose to the ground beneath her, wailing and sobbing. Gabrielle ran to her side, wrapping her up in her arms and cradling the weeping warrior. Gabrielle could tell that Camrynn was completely exhausted and that alone prevented her from continuing her workout. Tears streamed down Camrynn’s face, her body shook in Gabrielle’s arms.

"It’s all my fault!"

The words were barely audible, but Gabrielle heard them as easily as she would have if Camrynn screamed them. All of her attention was focused on the young warrior. Gabrielle squeezed Camrynn to her chest, letting the weeping spirit know she was safe. The bard lowered her own voice to just above a whisper.

"What’s your fault, sweetie?" Gabrielle whispered.


"Shhh, it’s okay. Nothing is your fault, sweetie. You didn’t do anything."

"But it is. My sister’s death, and now the problems around us, all the devastation. It’s all my fault!"

Gabrielle held Camrynn to her, rocking her back and forth ever so slightly. She bent her head forward and kissed the young warrior on the forehead. Her own eyes filled with tears in sympathy for the one in her arms. She held her friend until silence replaced the sobs and Camrynn lost consciousness. Her muscles relaxed beneath her soft skin and her mind was finally at ease.


"Mother?" Eve moved up silently behind Xena, sliding her hands over her mother’s tense shoulders, squeezing them over so gently.

Xena’s eyes remained focused on the tree line that she had been scanning for an hour now. She sensed her daughter’s concerned eyes regarding her and relaxed her muscles slightly in response.

"I’m sure they are okay, mother. They are both strong and can take care of themselves." Eve continued.

The warrior tore her gaze from the trees and looked into Eve’s eyes, flashing her a reassuring smile she didn’t fully feel. "I know, Evie."

Not completely convinced, Eve held the glance a moment longer. Realizing that was possibly the best response she was going to get, Eve pursed her lips together briefly. "I wish you would come sit by the fire and have something to eat."

Reaching one hand across her body and resting it on top of her daughter’s, Xena simply nodded. "I will in a minute okay?"

Eve allowed a slight sigh of disapproval escape her lips then smiled. She nodded a bit, then returned to the fire, placing another log in the center of the flames.

Xena’s icy blue gaze returned to its previous position. She knew Gabrielle could take care of herself, but that didn’t stop the worry that had clouded her thoughts. In any normal situation, she wouldn’t be so concerned that her beloved bard was out of sight.

But this wasn’t any normal situation. The day had been strange indeed. It was in the air, but Xena couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Something had been unsettling from the instant she had awoke. She didn’t want to worry anyone so she had remained silent.

It was there, regardless. Whatever it was. The feeling had grown steadily with each passing minute, but on the return trip from Laterian’s camp, it escalated at an astounding rate. The disturbance had actually stopped Xena in her tracks and not her alone. Eve, too, must have felt the jump in intensity of the problem.

It could only be described as a blow to the stomach and instant dizziness, because Eve had grabbed a hold of her mother's arm. Xena was thankful for that because she too had needed a little support before she fell from the disorientation. Grabbing her daughter with her free hand, the pair blinked away the fogginess before trying to move.

"What was that? You alright Eve?"

Still using her mother for support, Eve straightened herself before responding. Confusion creased her soft features. "I think so. But something is seriously wrong. I think we had better get back to camp."

Upon returning, their eyes were greeted with the recent devastation. Shock soon was washed from their faces only to be replaced with opposing expressions. Eve was completely saddened, yet Xena’s face was stone cold, her jaw set and pale eyes narrowed.

"By Eli, what has happened?" Eve’s words were laced in pain and horror.

"I’m not sure." The warrior’s response was flat and cold, matching her expression.

A quick glance and scan of the camp revealed a fire still burning, but no one tending to it. Both Gabrielle and Camrynn had disappeared. Panic streaked though Xena’s body as the thoughts of possible scenarios ran threw her head, but she kept herself in check. With all the destruction, could it be that the bard and young warrior were hurt…or worse?

Xena quickly extended her search outside that of the camp hoping beyond hope that something would give her a sign that her soul mate was okay. Out of the corner of her eye, a flash of blonde grabbed at her attention. But by the time her head whipped toward the trees, nothing was to be found.

The momentary sight of the pale locks was enough to ease Xena’s panic for the time being. Her eyes never left the tree line, nor did she move from her position, not until Gabrielle would emerge from the darkness. Hopefully with Camrynn, but Xena’s concern lay mainly with the storyteller.

And there she remained. Xena was unsure of how much time had past since Eve had tried to coax her into sitting down by the fire. It seemed like forever, but from the position of the sun that had just disappeared behind the horizon, it couldn’t have been more than two, maybe three hours.

The warrior grew more concerned as the darkness covered the land. Where could she be and what could she possibly be doing? Maybe I should go look for her, what if she needs me? Cursing herself for the conflict that raged inside her, Xena turned on her heal, deciding that too much time had passed. It was time for her to search the bard out.

Her strides were longer than usual as she reached the campsite in seconds. Eyeing her mother through the flames, Eve watched with concern as her mother grabbed for her bag.

"I’m going to look for them." Xena stated matter-of-factly.

"Do you want me to come with you?"

Considering this for a second, Xena shook her head. "No, stay here in case they return. If I don’t find them before sunrise, I’ll come back."

Leaving no room for question, the warrior whirled around and headed in the direction she had seen the flash of blonde locks disappear. Eve stood with her mouth half open in astonishment at her mother’s abruptness. She understood why Xena had been acting strangely and didn’t blame her. Eve knew the love that the warrior and bard had for each other and how happy they were. She would be the same way for the person she loved. She would do it for her mother and Gabrielle as well. A smile crept across her face at the absolute love, despite the current situation. As quickly as the smile had appeared, it was ripped away as Xena’s yell cut through the air.


Xena took off running; Eve was startled, but jumped to her feet instantly and quickly followed her lead only a few feet back. The warrior had started for the woods to begin her search when almost immediately she saw Gabrielle emerging from the forests depths carrying a limp figure in her arms that Xena assumed was Camrynn. In one second there was nothing but trees, in the next the blonde was there as though out of a dream.

Xena’s legs couldn’t carry her fast enough to her friend’s side. All of her fears and concerns evaporated with Gabrielle’s appearance. All she wanted was to reach her bard…. and within seconds she did. Quickly relieving the storyteller of Camrynn’s weight, Xena looked down at her face. Blue locked with green, unspoken messages of relief, worry, and love passed between the two.

Gabrielle smiled at the warrior’s hard features that, obvious to the bard alone, contradicted her eyes, which were filled with anxiety and relief at the same time. The chiseled face relaxed slightly as she settled Camrynn in her arms and softly whispered the first words between the two, eyes still holding to Gabrielle’s.

"Are you okay?"

A slight nod and smile was the only response, but Xena was satisfied nonetheless. Unwilling to break the loving gaze they shared, Gabrielle stood still enjoying the moment. They spent a small eternity together until Eve caught up with Xena, also relieved to see that Gabrielle and Camrynn were safe.

"What happened?"

Eve’s voice snatched Xena and Gabrielle back to the world they seemed to lose when caught in a look like they had just shared. It was as though they were the only two people that existed to each other. Simply amazed at the pair Eve thought to herself that no matter where her mother and aunt were, no matter what the situation, they always managed to share the moments as if it were their first or last. She secretly hoped that one day she too would know that kind of bond.

Eve quickly tore herself from those thoughts as Gabrielle broke her hold over Xena and began telling them what had transpired while they were gone to visit Laterian. Mother and daughter listened at the amazing tale as the group started back to the camp. The story certainly explained the recent feelings Xena had been experiencing.

What didn’t make any sense, however, was if Camrynn’s presence in their world was killing Nature, why would Eli risk sending her. Unless he hadn’t planned on keeping her here. And, Xena figured, the Gods must know what is going on. The chances of them standing by and doing nothing were slim.

Xena sighed inwardly. This could make things more difficult. If we have to deal with the Olympian Gods along with Laterian… She didn’t want to even conceive the notion.

It wasn’t going to be easy. Then again, Xena thought to herself, when is it easy?


Darkness surrounded her. An uncanny fatigue clouded her mind and body. But all she could see was the blackness and she didn’t comprehend why. Her body was shaking unnaturally, perhaps caused by her fatigue.

No, it’s not that, what is it? And what are those muffled sounds anyway? Camrynn thought to herself.

Regaining consciousness was a slow process, for what reason Camrynn didn’t know. But slowly it came and she couldn’t speed it up. She could hear Gabrielle, or at least she thought that was who it was because the sound was so subdued it was hard to make out.

Just relax…give yourself some time. A few seconds more passed and the sounds became comprehendible. Unfortunately, Camrynn had missed so much before what she was hearing now; it made no sense to her.

Okay, yeah that is Gabrielle. Oh, Xena and Eve as well. Now easy, easy…. open your eyes.

Ever so gently Camrynn peeked through her eyelids. The light, however dull to everyone else, pierced her eyes, she had to squeeze them shut again. Cursing the pain that had caused, she relaxed once more before attempting that again. Trying once more she found it to be easier this time.

Looking up she found herself in the arms of Xena and, with a brief glance around to find her bearing, Camrynn noticed she was being carried back to camp.

The shaking Camrynn had been trying to decipher before wasn’t that of her own body, but that of the Warrior Princess as she walked.

A quick glance down at the shifting in weight in her arms, Xena noticed that the young warrior had awoken.

"Um I…. I can walk." Camrynn’s voice was hoarse and unsteady.

A slight smirk played across the chiseled features. "I’m sure you can."

"So…why…." Camrynn trailed off in her words as a sharp, yet caring, icy gaze was cast her way. Slamming her mouth shut, the young warrior knew better than to continue.

Even though Camrynn had felt such animosity for Xena back in her own world, she realized that there had been a time that she had cared for the fierce warrior. When she had looked at her sister's eyes, she couldn't help but notice the love and admiration the bard held for Xena. Camrynn had figured that if her sister could love the Warrior Princess, then the respect was deserved from her as well.

Xena loved Gabrielle very much, more than Camrynn could understand. At the same time, however, the young warrior never felt neglected because Xena had cared and always watched out for her on several occasions as well.

One time that she had experienced Xena’s care for her was when they had all been traveling in the woods and a group of thieves had mistaken the quartet for nothing more than simple village women.

"All right ladies," the leader sneered with rotting teeth, "let’s make this easy on all of us, shall we?"

The disgusting man held Camrynn tightly against him with his arm wrapped around her and a knife to her throat. The sharp edge gouged into her skin causing some pain, but drawing no blood.

The young warrior sighed to herself. How did I get into this situation in the first place…where was my head?

Camrynn had just walked over to the bushes in search of dinner as it hopped into its hideaway. She had just lost focus for one second…. serves her right she supposed. Najara had told her there should never be rest for the senses.

In that instant, this retched scum had appeared from behind a tree and grabbed Camrynn. He smelled like horse dung and his breath wasn’t much better. Xena and Gabrielle had immediately drawn their weapons where Eve had raised her hands as though trying to calm the thief. The man had merely laughed at them thinking them nothing more than village women, incapable of anything. At that point his buddies joined him from the woods.

And so here they all were. The thief continued. "You keep the strugglin’ down and I will make this as short and as painless as I want."

"Well it will be short all right." A searing hiss escaped Xena’s lips.

At that, the thief’s attention was drawn to Xena, she and Camrynn took advantage. A quick expressionless glance and a side roll of her eyes so that only the Warrior Princess could see, the young warrior grabbed the knife with her right hand and elbowed the thief in the head with her other arm. If it hadn’t been for the situation, Xena would have laughed. She knew the look was due to the stupidity of the thieves and because Camrynn was mildly annoyed at getting herself into the situation, nothing more. Xena, however, recognized the message from Camrynn that she was about to attack so she moved toward another thug as the young warrior contacted with the thief’s nose.

Since the thief had been ignorant enough to actually rest his head on Camrynn’s shoulder while threatening her, she also took advantage of the man’s miscalculation of the four women as mere peasants.

Her elbow contacted his nose, smashing it into his face as she twisted the knife away from her throat. She whipped around and punched him in the chin sending him into the tree behind him. On cue, the others began to attack, following Camrynn and Xena’s lead.

Camrynn’s opponent shook his head and moved forward at her again. A grin pulled at her lips as the thief rushed her. Waiting for just the right time, Camrynn bounced on her feet a few times, then jumped straight up into the air. She extended her right leg and contacted his temple with the top of her foot, launching him to the left and into a rock that knocked him unconscious.

The young warrior landed and immediately kicked her left leg back as yet another thief attempted an attack. She firmly planted her left foot she had just kicked with and spun on it, whipping around in a crescent kick, nailing the thug in the head with her right. Camrynn stood there regarding her fallen opponent with great pride at her handy work. This, however, was her undoing, for another thug jumped from the trees, landed behind her and slammed her cheek with the hilt of his sword. A white flash of light filled her head…. then blackness.

The next thing Camrynn knew, she awoke with a splitting headache and felt the warmth of the blood oozing down her cheek. She also found herself in the arms of the Warrior Princess carrying her to what she could only deduce as the night's campsite.

"Ugh, what happened?" Camrynn reached up and ran her fingers over her forehead.

"You got hit from behind." The low rumble of Xena’s voice replied. "You couldn’t walk obviously, so I decided to carry you. How is your head?"

"Painful…it's felt better. Um, I think I can walk."

A chuckle rose from her throat. "I bet it has." The warrior pinned Camrynn with a caring gaze. "I am sure you can, I will set you down when we reach camp. No arguments"

Xena kept her stride as steady as she could while carrying Camrynn. Unsure of how hard the blow had been, Xena didn’t want to jar the girl’s head any more than was necessary in case there was damage.

Reaching a relatively flat area to make camp, Xena carefully set Camrynn on a nearby log, pinning her with that look again as the young warrior started to stir. "You relax. I am going to go wash up. Let Eve take a look at that alright."

Lost in the eyes that pinned her with such intensity, Camrynn wasn’t about to argue. Xena had such a presence about her; it wasn’t possible to escape the look once fixed with it. "Um...Yeah...I…sure."

The tall figure flashed a smile and turned around, heading toward the stream they passed a moment ago. Gabrielle joined the tall warrior as Eve grabbed some bandages and sat next to Camrynn.

"You are that much worse for wear aren’t you?"

Camrynn shook her head and grunted slightly. "Yeah, I guess so. Shoulda been paying a little bit more attention."

The young warrior inhaled sharply as Eve began cleaning the wound on Camrynn’s cheek. Wincing in sympathy, Eve eased up on the pressure to try and alleviate some of the pain.

In a few minutes, patched up and tired, Camrynn laid out her bedroll and started a fire. Soon there after she was asleep before Xena and Gabrielle ever returned from their bath.

Snapping out of her memories, Camrynn looked at the warrior once again. An eerie recognition settled over her at the feeling surrounding her. Xena had assumed the same steady pace as she had in the other world.

Not only that, Camrynn could feel the warmth of blood oozing down her cheek. Her brow furrowed as she reached a hand to her cheek and felt the crimson liquid as it slid down the side of her face. Pulling her hand away she regarded the blood and rubbed her fingers together to assure herself it was indeed blood and that it had came from the same place it had in the other world.

Oh Gods, it’s starting already. But I just got here. Why so soon?

Reaching the campsite, Xena carefully set Camrynn down on the log next to the fire Eve had started earlier. The young warrior began to move and was almost afraid to look up, but she had to be sure it was all truly the same as before or just imagination. Facing her fears, she glanced upward and nearly gasped, Xena was pinning her with the all too familiar gaze. OH GODS!

"You relax. I am going to go wash up. Let Eve take a look at that alright."

For the love of Eli. "Um...Yeah...I…sure"

Xena flashed the young warrior a slight smile and then turned around walking toward the nearby stream. Gabrielle joined the tall figure as Eve grabbed some bandages and headed toward Camrynn.

"You are that much worse for wear aren’t you?"

Camrynn froze as Eve started to rip a piece of cloth so she could tend to her face. Eve frowned slightly when she received no response.

"How…" Camrynn’s words caught in her throat, she cleared it and tried again. "How did this happen?" She motioned to the side of her face.

"Gabrielle said that when you fell, you hit a rock or something and it split open your cheek. It matches the other one." Eve joked as she pointed toward Camrynn’s temple.

The young warrior’s eyes trailed off to the side and seemed worlds away. Eve let her friend sit in silence as she worked to clean off the blood and tend to the wound.

Suddenly, Camrynn shattered the distant stare she had briefly fallen victim to and grabbed at Eve’s hands. Startled from the contact, she jumped slightly before fixing her eyes on the young warrior.

"Eve, I have to tell you something." Fear laced Camrynn’s words as she spoke.

"Okay, okay. Calm down." Eve grasped her friend’s hands trying desperately to soothe the young girl from the terror that seemed to possess her.

"It’s starting already, Eve. It’s starting."

"What? What is starting?"

"The path that led to Gabrielle’s death."

Her own fear matched the terror that Eve saw in Camrynn’s eyes as she listened to the young warrior speed through her explanation.

"It’s all happening. It was only slightly different in my world. I mean we were attacked by thieves and one got in a good shot, but he hit me right here." Indicating the bruised cut. Continuing, "Same spot and everything. Then Xena carrying me back here…the same…her not letting me walk…the same…. her setting me down here, telling me to relax as she and Gabrielle go off to take a bath…. the same…and then you helping me and saying I’m all that worse for wear. Don’t you see, from the moment that I woke up, it has followed the exact same path as before.

Eve stared at her friend bewildered and scared all at the same time. "Are you…. sure?"

Camrynn fixed Eve with a deep penetrating look. "Yes…. I am positive. It has begun Eve. And if we don’t be careful, it will all happen again. Gabrielle will die."


Her eyes blazed at the scene before her. She trembled from the absolute fury. Every muscle in her body clenched as mad ideas and enraged wonder filled her at the identity of the person she locked onto with her sapphire orbs.

Through grinding teeth, Livia managed to develop her words that quivered with rage. "Who in blazes is that?"

"That, my dear Livia, is your undoing."

Livia wrenched herself from the pair that sat next to the fire not to far from them and pinned Ares with a deadly regard. "What do you mean by that?"

Ares and Livia had watched, invisible to everyone, as the scene played before them. Each second that passed found Rome’s Champion more and more infuriated. Questions ran through her head at alarming speed, crazy conspiracies, thoughts of being overthrown, and the ferocity that coursed through her veins nearly caused her to explode. Livia was on the verge of outright detonation.

An evil delighted smile crossed Ares lips as he watched the young Livia fume over Eve. He never told her that he brought them to a different world. It worked to his advantage to keep that from her. And in a sick sort of way it brought him pleasure to see her lose control.

He missed the protégé and lover he once had. That brought another evil thought to mind…. Later…he thought to himself as a single brow rose in sadistic mischief.

"What I mean is that she," Ares pointed to Eve as she finished off bandaging Camrynn’s head, "is the person who will destroy your status."

Livia spun around and was in Ares face in a second. "They can’t do that!" She hissed.

Ares planted his palms on Livia’s shoulders and shoved her away from him. "Oh yes they can. And they will if you don’t do something about it."

Blue eyes seared toward her twin for a small eternity and then looked back to Ares. "Who is she?"

"She is your replacement. They found her, trained her to match your every move, and they will set their plan in motion to bring down Caesar. But first they’d have to get rid of who they are copying wouldn’t they? Wow, doesn’t it suck to be you." A triumphant expression possessed his features, which drove Livia crazy, just as he had intended it to.

"I’ll KILL HER!"

Perfect. Ares thought to himself. Now to put it all together. "You? All by yourself, huh? Yeah that’ll be the day"

Daggers shot from the Champion’s eyes. "Yes me, Ares. You got a problem with that?"

"Oh come on Livia. Tell me you can’t be that stupid. Have you seen who she is with? Darlin’, you’re good, but you aren’t that good."

"I don’t care. No one is going to take over my position as Rome’s Champion. I don’t care who she has with her."

"Then you are a fool."

"I’m Livia!" she growled at the god standing before her. She wanted nothing more than to beat that self-satisfying grin off his face. He was pushing her buttons and she knew it. But she would be damned if she were going to let anyone take her place. "You don’t really expect me to sit back and let that imposter take my place do you?"

Ares moved within an inch of Livia, towering over her with darkness like that of the night. His tone was low and deadly. "I would hope not. But I don’t think you can do this one alone. You are out numbered sweetie and out classed."

Stepping away from Ares, Livia’s anger increased at him for his lack of faith in her. "What are you suggesting? That I can’t handle them?"

"Not alone you can’t, you are gonna need help."

"And just who should I get to do that? I should just send word to Caesar, have him send my legion to me that way I can…" Livia stopped short; a sick feeling captured her stomach as she remembered the events prior to her coming here.

"That’s right Livia. There is no legion. Your lack of judgment killed them all. And look at you, running to Caesar every time the situation gets a little too sticky" Ares voice emulated that of a whining child.

"Don’t patronize me, Ares." She was enraged at how demeaning the God of War was being. She wasn’t an infant and didn’t turn to Caesar unless absolutely necessary. "What else am I supposed to do?"

"Well now that you mention it…."

In yet another flash and a snap of his fingers, they were gone.


Hundreds of warriors stood in ranks before their second in command. They were tired and in pain, but still the leader did nothing to ease that suffering. He called out yet another maneuver and the army complied. As they moved with the commands to thrust and parry, they wouldn’t allow the aching muscles to detract from the actions. They knew that they had to get it perfect or suffer through another hour of training.

Several minds wondered what they had done to deserve such punishment. Others cursed themselves for being so careless. At the exact moment, a yell echoed through the air as they all bended to one knee and drove their swords into the ground.

"Get up and do it again!" The second in command screamed at them

A weary look passed over all of the army but did as they were instructed. When would this hell end?

Laterian stood in his tent looking at his map, occasionally glancing up at the yells from outside. I small grin pulled at his lips. They deserved their punishment. He didn’t care how long they had been out there or how long they stayed. His army had let him down allowing those two whores into his tent and now they were paying for it.

The warlord looked over at his candle. Hmmm. He thought to himself. They’ve been at it at least a good 2 hours now, maybe a bit more. Let them suffer a while longer. Then I will let them eat and rest.

It definitely wouldn’t be in his best interests to have them too weak. The upcoming battle was upon him and he needed his troops fresh. But they also had to learn when they messed up as well. This should be sufficient to teach them…all of them.

Laterian realized that not all the army had been at fault directly to the invasion of his tent. But it wasn’t just the troops guarding the tent that deserved punishment. It was the troops surrounding the camp that were to watch out for intruders as well. And the fault of one is the fault of the whole, so then you must punish them as a whole. One troop can learn from the mistakes of others and not have those mistakes repeated.

Studying the map for a second more, Laterian pushed himself away from the table and grabbed the goblet of wine that had been refilled after he had spilled it earlier. Yeah he had thrown the table and spilled his wine, but he would have been damned to let those women get the upper hand. Moving to a nearby chair, he let himself ease into its comforts and laid his head back, closing his eyes.

He let the tensions of the day drain away as he relaxed himself. There was so much that had to be done. He wanted to attack the next village the following day, but they weren’t ready just yet. It was best to wait a day longer because soon all the medicines would be delivered to that village along with a few other supplies. Those were worth the wait because the army needed supplies desperately. They had long ago run out of them and were running on just what they pillaged from around them.

The army didn’t know how much trouble there really was. The warlord kept it from them because he didn’t want to bring morale down. But they needed help. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed help. And soon. Breaking himself away from his thoughts he looked over to his candle to find that another half-hour had gone by.

He stood up and exited his tent, walking straight over to his second in command and his army. Laterian pulled the commander to the side, and spoke to him briefly.

"You are to meet me in my tent. Go and wait there. I will dismiss the army."

"Yes sir." The commander replied and then headed to the tent behind them.

Laterian turned to his army raising his voice for them all to hear. "I know most of you are wondering why you have had to train for long hours tonight; it is because you failed me today. You must all learn from not only yours but others mistakes."

He scanned the army for reactions. Some were surprised others had a knowing expression. He continued. "Two intruders were able to enter the camp today and make it into my tent. This is unacceptable. You must learn to keep all your senses open and aware or you and others around you will die. Now, you have trained hard and I have faith that you have learned from the mistakes that occurred today. You are dismissed to eat and to relax the rest of the night."

At that, the army snapped to attention until Laterian had turned from them and walked away. As soon as their leader had reached the tent and disappeared behind the flaps, the army relaxed and their shoulders slumped. A sigh escaped them all as they started for the dinner tent; thankful that the day was over and they could finally get some rest. Each made a mental note to never allow such carelessness to happen again.

Nicholayus snapped to attention as his commander entered. He tried to gauge Laterian’s features to see how much trouble he was about to be in. The warlord didn’t look happy which was understandable seeing how he could have easily been killed before knowing any one was in his tent.

Cursing himself for allowing the intrusion to happen, Nicholayus whipped his eyes straight ahead before Laterian could catch him.

"At ease Nicholayus. Sit down."

Complying with his commander’s order, he grabbed the nearest chair and planted himself in it. His eyes hesitantly followed Laterian until he was seated before him. The warlord locked eyes with his second in command, staring him down. They remained like this for a moment before Laterian spoke.

"I am very disappointed in you, Nicholayus."

"I know. I am sorry for my lack of control over the situation today, I…"

Laterian cut him off before he could continue. "Wait until I am done." He screamed. His second in command dropped his jaw and quickly clamped it back into place. "It is your job to make sure nothing happens to me. No one should be allowed to get into the camp never mind into my tent. I am holding you personally responsible. Now you listen to me…I will gut you myself if this ever happens again. You make sure it doesn’t. Do you understand me?"

Pausing to make sure it was okay to speak, he received a questioning look. "Uh, yes sir, I understand completely."

Laterian nodded his head slightly. "Okay, now let me tell you where we stand. We are going to hold off attacking that village until the day after tomorrow. They have a shipment coming in with supplies and we need those. So I want the army to rest tomorrow. Nothing heavy. A light workout in the morning. Alright?"

"Yes commander. A light workout nothing more."

"Nicholayus. Do not let my threatening you turn you into a spineless weasel. You are in the position you are in because you were the best for the job. You challenge me when you think I am wrong and I allow that because you have a good head for this. Now do you have something to say?"

Cursing himself once again for allowing his feelings to be evident, he spoke up. "Commander, I just think that there is another reason for this delay. I know you have kept it secret and the rest of the army doesn’t know. But Commander, I know we are hurting more than you let on."

Laterian sighed before speaking. "That is right; we are hurting more than I say. I do not want to ruin morale, so I keep it to myself. And yes that is why I am waiting a day to have us attack. We need those supplies. You are not to say a word to anyone else. Is that also understood?"

"Yes commander I understand. I will not bring it up. I will back you and encourage the army. I have no doubt that they mind waiting a day though."

"I believe you are correct. In all honesty Nicholayus, we may need help."

"Yes sir, I have thought that as well. But I would not have said anything. I figured you already knew and were working on it."

"Well I haven’t been able to figure anything out yet. But I will let you know when I do."

"Thank you commander."

"You are welcome Nicholayus. You are dismissed, go get something to eat and rest."

"Yes sir."

The tall, brown haired commander stood from his seat and exited the tent. Laterian watched as his second in command left. He briefly wondered to himself how a muscular, chiseled-featured warrior could have eyes that defied his standing. They seemed too calm and peaceful for the trail of gore he had made. They just didn’t fit.

Laterian shook his head at his thoughts. It didn’t matter he supposed. As long as Nicholayus supported him in front of the army and stood by him in battle, that was all that counted.

The battle. Laterian thought to himself. This had better work, or they were in some deep trouble.

Above him, the God of war heard the warlord’s thoughts and chuckled to himself.


"Are you paying attention, cause this is gonna go fast!"

Livia looked at the God of War with bitterness in her eyes. "Yes, Ares." She snarled through clenched teeth.

Before the two of them, appeared a village. It was thriving with several small shops and lots of people bustling around going about their day. All seemed carefree. They could hear some of the villagers talking. A tall lanky man dressed it typical clothes for a farmer was speaking to a shorter more stocky man, the blacksmith of the village, standing next to him.

"Yup, that’s right. They’re bringing in the harvest today."

"That’s great. You know it was a good plan to make that deal with the next village over. Now we both prosper. So it is their turn to come here right?"

The tall man nodded his head. "Yup, then next month we go there." Glancing up toward the sky revealed the positioning of the sun. "Well I better get going so that we have their meats, medicines and herbs ready to go when they get here. Talk to you later." With a pat on the shorter man's shoulder, the farmer walked away.

The blacksmith shook his head as a smile played across his face. "Good luck." He wondered to himself how one farmer could be so diverse in his crops. Herbs for medicine were one thing. But the tall farmer raised the cows and pigs a long with tending to that crop.

Turning back to his work, the blacksmith raised his hammer over his head and slammed it down on a glowing horseshoe. Sparks flew from both sides and a loud clang echoed through the town.

A quick flash and Ares and Livia appeared next to a wagon cart. It was set out in a clearing away from the village. A second later the tall farmer came from around a store heading straight toward the cart carrying an arm full of different packages. He set down the parcels into the cart and headed toward his barn not too far away. He emerged with larger packages wrapped the same as the smaller ones and stacked those in the cart as well. The wagon cart slowly but surely was being filled with all the supplies for the visiting nearby villager.

The farmer wiped the sweat from his brow as he set the last batch of parcels into the cart. "There that should do it." He turned away from the cart and headed to the house.

"You got that?" Ares asked.

Another flash of fury from his companion and the God of War snapped his fingers again. This time, Ares and Livia were sitting in the back of a wagon on top of a variety of baskets full of vegetables. A slight look of puzzlement crossed Livia’s face, then she realized this must have been the harvest the two village people were discussing.

The harvest was huge, surprisingly. There were at least 10 to 15 good-sized baskets all filled to the top and some over flowing. The wagon was bouncing a long a dirt road, some of the vegetables falling out of their homes.

"Alright this is the harvest they were talking about. You following me so far?"

Ares condescending tone was wearing very thin on Livia’s nerves. "Yeah, Ares. I get where you are going with this. I am not stupid or a child…"

You act like one though, my dear sweet Livia. Ares thought to himself. "Uh huh." Ares snapped his fingers again at the malicious fire emanating from Livia’s cold glare.

Livia and Ares now hovered over a vast army of soldiers. They seemed to be running drills and with great intensity, but Livia could see the weariness in their eyes. She had seen that many times when drilling her legion for hours. She remembered how she would punish them if ever they showed one bit of slack in a maneuver. Apparently whoever ran this army had the same kind of agenda. Not once did their form falter even with the weakness they had in their eyes.

Very good. Livia thought to herself.

Ares glanced toward his young protégé with a smirk. So glad you approve.

He stayed silent for several minutes allowing Livia to soak in the scene before them. Just as Livia got the look of confusion on her face and turned to ask him something, he snapped his fingers again and brought them into a tent where two men were talking.

Ares loved to keep the young Livia wondering. He knew she was smart enough to put it all together, but it amused him to rip the rug out from under her as she started to put the pieces together.

Rome’s Champion listened to the conversation between the two men. They were discussing the current situation of the army. It was becoming clearer to Livia as they talked that the army was in a bit more trouble than even they might think. A plan started to form in her head. She knew what Ares had in mind, but wasn’t sure why he wanted it.

She brushed it off. Livia needed an army and here was one that was in desperate need of a better leader. The current leader seemed to be holding it together well, but Livia could always do it better. As she continued to listen, she looked at the map on the table between them and frowned.

You’ve got to be kidding me. It is so obvious. They should be attacking both villages, not just the one receiving the harvest. What is he thinking?

Ares’ grin widened as he watched all the pieces fall into place for Livia. It was exactly what he wanted, for her to take over this army, gain the trust of Laterian, win his army and then attack Xena. Ares paused for a second at the sudden thought. Xena? Where did that come from? He meant Camrynn. Don’t I? Shaking his head for a moment he cleared his mind. Of course he meant Camrynn it was just a slip of thought really. Wasn’t it?


"What!!!" He glared at her. Being lost in his thoughts, he could tell it wasn’t the first time she had called his name.

"If you are done staring off into space, are you gonna let me go do this or what."

Fury coursed through him and his voice lowered to a near growl. "You better watch your tone, I am not in the mood today Livia. You don’t even know what you are supposed to do." She did know and he knew that, but he was challenging her to reveal her plan.

A smirk pulled at her lips, showing him she wasn’t afraid of him in the slightest. "Of course I do Ares; it isn’t that hard to figure out. You handed it right to me. You want me to take over his army."

"And how are you going to do that dear Livia?"

"Watch and see Ares."

Glancing down at the now alone warlord, Ares decided to let her go and see what she was capable of. It was perfect timing as well for the thoughts of the warlord traveled to Ares mind: This had better work, or they were in some deep trouble.

With a wave of his hand, Livia disappeared and he chuckled at the warlord’s thoughts and what was going to happen next. As a little pay back for her tone earlier, Ares had purposely forgotten to tell Livia of the visit Xena had made to Laterian’s camp. How will she deal with this one?



Laterian bowed his head and sighed trying to clear his mind. He had to think about what he was going to do. There was so much to figure out and it was weighing heavily on his shoulders. Rubbing his temples mildly, he inhaled deeply and released it.

Reaching for his goblet of wine, he suddenly felt someone behind him. He whirled around as he stood to face whoever it was. She stood there with a cool stare as though she was studying him from within. Her ice eyes penetrating to his very soul as she looked him up and down quickly and then locked them back to his own black eyes. He recognized her immediately even though she wasn’t wearing the same clothing nor did she carry herself exactly as she had before.

His anger and fury nearly ripped from him, but he kept it in check as much as he could. "You again!"

A perplexed feeling was hidden from Livia’s features at his words. She maintained her cool expression. Again? Blast you Ares I will get you for this. Rome’s Champion quickly deduced that if this warlord recognized her it was because the imposter had been here before. She had to play it off.

A mere raise of an eyebrow answered his question. But she continued ahead nonetheless. She decided to keep her speaking to a minimum so that his words would shed some light on the imposter’s previous visit. "Yes."

"What the hell do you want anyway?" Laterian roared. "Get the hell out of my tent. You may have gotten away with getting in and out of here last time, but I won’t let it happen again."

Livia never stopped scanning the man before her. Her eyes paused on a slight discoloration on the warlord’s head. A quick scenario played in her mind and she figured that her imposter visited him and either she or someone else knocked him in the head before escaping.

Thinking quickly, Livia proceeded so as to get to her point and a new army. She was at least thankful she had listened to the conversation he had with his second in command so she could pick up this warlord’s name or this wouldn’t have played out very well.

"Well it seems to me that you don’t have this camp very secure if I was able to just walk in here again, now do you Laterian?"

His eyes grew blacker still as the rage began to boil over. "You whore!"

Livia’s amused expression vanished. In two steps she was on him, glaring into his eyes with sheer hatred. "You listen to me," her words came out in a hiss, "your pathetic excuse for an army let me into your tent for the second time. I think that would clue me into a problem. So why don’t you sit down and shut up!"

Laterian froze as Livia loomed over him, as he stood slightly shorter than she did. Clearing his throat as best he could from the dryness he cocked his head and spoke. "Why are you here?"

She took a step back, confident she had his attention. "I’m here because you are in trouble. I’m gonna change that."

"HA! You expect me to believe that? You and Xena threatened to knock my block off if I made one move toward any village. And now you are here saying you are gonna change my army? And you really expect me to go along with that?" Laterian’s laughter filled the tent.

I see now. Livia thought to herself. So that is what happened, they came to threaten him. All right let’s try this. "You mindless fool. Why do you think I was here earlier?"

"Well it seemed quite obvious to me, Eve! You and your dear sweet mother wanted to stop me from achieving my destiny!"

Eve, is that her name? And my mother!!!! Livia cringed at that thought. She had long ago denied her connection to Xena. She had to play this off so as not to screw up her plans. "And what would your destiny be, Laterian?" Livia stressed the word destiny so as to mock the simple mindedness of the warlord in front of her.

"To dominate this area right now, then spread beyond her to all of Greece." Laterian stated matter of factly.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Oh spare me, will you."

"Believe what you will, Eve."

"My name…. is Livia." Clenching her jaw muscles at the name of that imposter.

"Oh is that who you are now? And why was it you were here earlier, Livia if not for what you have claimed?"

"It is who I have always been." Stepping a bit close for emphasis. "I was here before to assess your situation. To see how weak your defenses really were and to see where you were gonna need the most work."

"Well you can’t have my army."

An idea struck her. Provoke him, then challenge him. "You are going to fail Laterian. Your plans are weak and foolhardy at best. I am offering the victory you desire." Livia saw the detestation for her in his eyes. Got his attention, now reel him in. "A battle. You and me. Whoever wins, takes control of your army."

"Why should I? I already have my army; I don’t need to fight you to get what I already have."

Smirking at him and causing him to grow more enraged, Livia continued. "I am offering you the chance to maintain your dignity. I can go out there right now, offer your army what they want and need. Trust me, they will have no choice but to accept my offer and you will have the disgrace of knowing you lost to a woman and never putting up a fight."

Laterian glowered at his foe. She was threatening to take his army away and because of the problems, he would have nothing to offer the army. The food was already running short and it wouldn’t go unnoticed for long.

She continued. "I will go out there and show them everything you have been keeping secret. How do you think they will look at you Laterian? A warlord that lies to his army and will soon not be able to offer them even a scrap of food." Livia knew she was pushing on his pride right now. She knew she had him and continued to press.

"This way, if you fight me…you fight with honor. If I win, I get your army and you will be my second in command. I will make this army great and we will dominate together. If I lose, you get the army and do with me as you please. But you will not dominate."

Laterian considered Livia’s offer. He knew his army was suffering and he wouldn’t be able to hold it together long. But he also couldn’t just hand over the army to her either. If he lost he would keep his pride even though he lost to a woman. But she wasn’t just any woman, everyone knew her as the Champion of Rome. It would be an honorable fight. He would still have his army, just some help. But if he refused, he would become the laughing stock and his father would be right. He wouldn’t be able to run an army. Agghhh. If I fight, even if I lose, I win. Don’t fight and I lose no matter what.

Making his decision, he looked Livia dead in her steel blue eyes. "Fine, I accept your challenge. Under one condition."

Chuckling out loud, Livia grinned. "I don’t think you are in any position to impose conditions Laterian. But I will listen."

Gritting his teeth at his predicament, the warlord sneered at her. "I ask that Nicholayus remain in his position. I know that if I lose I will take his spot as second in command, but I ask that he be third under me."

Considering his request, Rome’s Champion cocked her head to the side and nodded slightly. "Alright, but you both are under my command. You can keep him as your right hand man, but you are both mine!"

‘Understood…. let’s go."

Outside in the center of the camp, Livia and Laterian stood in the center of a circle of warriors. Both stood with swords in hand, ready for battle. Laterian had explained to his army that he had been challenged and never does a true warrior back down from a challenge with his army at stake. He omitted the reasoning of the battle, but Nicholayus knew it was due to the strained situation they had discussed earlier.

Nicholayus stood on the inside of the circle as well. His duty was to prevent anyone from offering Laterian assistance. Anyone that did so was to be run through. This would be a fair fight; Nicholayus was entrusted to keep it that way. With this understood by the whole army, the battle was to commence.

Livia and Laterian started circling one another, blue eyes locked with black. Both of the warriors assessed the other as they moved. What seemed like an eternity passed before either of them attacked.

The warlord moved first. He raised his weapon above his head and slashed at Livia’s neck. She easily parried the attack and pushed him back. Charging forward, she let her conscious self go and allowed her warrior self to be set free.

Livia blazed from one attack to the next with ease as Laterian blocked and dodged her assault. He was pushed back against the wall of warriors in an instant. Seeing a slight opening, he thrust forward at her stomach, which Livia side-stepped harmlessly. The warlord stepped to his right, and launched himself of the ground, planting his foot in Livia’s chest sending her stumbling backwards.

Recovering quickly, she pushed ahead again and slashed at her enemy left and right, blocking his attacks as she went. Livia swung around and kicked Laterian's sword from his hand with her left and then continued the momentum to kick him in the face with her right. Laterian fell to the ground and scrambled up to find his sword. It was nowhere to be seen and he grew uneasy as his foe approached, sword lifted high.

A grunt was heard and the sound of quickly shifted sand, the next thing Laterian knew, his sword was sliding toward him. He quickly snatched the weapon and raised it to barely block the deadly assault. He whipped his free leg around and contacted with Livia’s knee, knocking her to the ground next to him. Laterian flipped to his feet and turned to Livia, who was no longer there.

Nicholayus scanned the crowd with an angry eye. He didn’t catch who it was that assisted their commander, but he wouldn’t allow it to happen again. He raced over to the section that the sword had appeared from and glared at each and every one of them. Nicholayus’ message was received without words as the warriors lowered their heads in shame. He turned back to the battle to make sure no one else made the same mistake these warriors had.

Livia had rolled out of the way and sprang to her feet before Laterian had reached his own. But this time, it was the warlord’s turn to charge forward. He raced at her with his sword blazing. She stepped back a few feet and felt the warriors behind her as she pressed up against them. She blocked his side attack, swiping the blade away from her and cracking him in the head with the hilt of her own. He reared back from the pain.

Just as she started to move away from the crowd, a fist slammed down on her temple, dazing her. Pain flew through her head as she squeezed her eyes shut, willing the pain away.

Nicholayus was on the traitor in a second. He pulled his sword from its sheath without a moment’s hesitation and drove it into the heart of the warrior. The surprise in the traitor's eyes was priceless, however sad it may have been. Nicholayus never wanted to take the life of one of his own men, but when he was ordered to do so, he would. His uncanny gentle eyes looked deeply into the man he had just run his sword through. Pain for having to kill him was ever present.

"I’m sorry my friend. I hope to find you with a stronger control of will in the next life."

With his words, the warrior’s pain seeped from his eyes and his body slumped. Nicholayus closed his own eyes momentarily, then allowed the traitor to fall to the ground as he yanked the sword from his chest.

Both Livia and Laterian shook the fuzziness from their heads and locked eyes once again. Livia was growing tired of this battle. She loved to fight, but she didn’t have time to waste in the pursuit of her primary enemy. I’m going to end this now!

Her thoughts barely entered her mind as Laterian lunged at her. Livia bounced on her toes and at the exact moment, she planted a foot on his hip and used it to jump up and spin backward, cracking him in the chin as she flipped around. His head snapped back, she left no time for him to recover.

Her battle cry echoed through the camp as she leapt into the air, grabbed the top of his shoulders as she flipped over his head. She whipped her lower body down, snapping her upper body along with it as she pulled him around with her. The force of her maneuver smashed the warlord to the ground with incredible power. His body quaked at the shock and a sickening snap was heard as his left arm broke in two. Livia stood over him instantly, whirled her sword in her hand and placed the point to his throat. She could see in his eyes that he was completely dazed and unable to continue. A triumphant smile pulled at her lips.

"You’re army…is mine!"

With that, Laterian was clouded in darkness as he fell unconscious. Before he lost all awareness, he heard a shuffle of his army move and a fading phrase.

Livia raised her eyes to her new army. They had fallen to one knee; heads were bowed as they spoke music to her ears.

"Hail Livia, our new commander!"


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