Xena: Little Warrior - The One

by Hamutal


General Copyright/Disclaimer: Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way.

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Nine-year-old Xena was squirming on the ground, her face completely flushed. Under her, pinned down was eleven-year-old Petrocylus, fighting his best to get loose. "Give it back!" Xena repeated quietly but forcefully. "Get your own," said Petrocylus. "This one is mine". "No, it's not," Xena shouted furiously. "You stole it. Now give it back!" Petrocylus stabilized himself. "You're a fine one to tell me what to do," he yelled as he rolled off from beneath her. "Everybody knows about you". Xena gave him an ice-cold look. "Knows what?" she asked impatiently. "Everybody knows about your father," Petrocylus laughed. "What about my father?" Xena's face was becoming even redder.

Toris, who stood with the other kids who circled Xena and Petrocylus could already see where this was going. "Come on, Xena," he called to his sister. "Don't listen to him. Let's go!" "No," Xena shouted. "What about my father?" "Everybody knows your father ran out on you." "No, he didn't!" Xena screamed. "Yes he did. But it's no big loss anyway. My father fought with him and he says your father is nothing but a coward." Xena's eyes were shooting bolts. "A coward? You wanna see a coward?" she screamed. "I'll show you a coward!" Xena rammed her head straight into Petrocylus's stomach. Petrocylus fell down to the ground. Xena threw herself on top of him and swung her fists at his face, arms and body.

The other kids surrounded them, shouting, encouraging. Only Toris noticed someone was getting near. "Xena, come on. Let's go!" he called. Xena didn't listen. She was too busy punching Petrocylus. "Xena, you'll get into trouble. Come on!" Still, there was no response from Xena. Toris knew that if he stayed he would probably get into trouble as well. He sneaked away and watched from the bushes while Doros, Amphipolis's butcher, paved his way into the circle and pulled the kicking Xena away from Petrocylus's weakening body. He found the boy heavily bleeding and his arm broken. Xena fought to get loose from Doros's firm grip, but he held her tightly as he dragged her home.

"I don't know what to do with you, Xena," Cyrene said as she paced back and forth in front of her daughter. "Lately you are just too hard to handle". Xena didn't say a word. She didn't even move a muscle. "Don't give me the silent treatment," Cyrene said sharply. "It isn't working with me. I'm very angry with you." Xena's face was frozen, but tears began to sneak into her eyes. "I really don't understand what's going on in this head of yours," Cyrene went on. "It's the fifth fight you've started in the last four months. It's the second time you break somebody's arm. If you don't think about yourself or the children you hurt for that matter, at least think about Lyceus. He worships you. What kind of an example do you give him by behaving so badly?" Xena began to grind her teeth. It was the only way she could think of to prevent herself from crying. She was determined not to cry. Nobody would get that satisfaction, not even her mother. "You sit here until I figure out what to do with you," Cyrene said. "One thing is certain. You're not going to the festivities tomorrow". Now Xena was really upset. All year long she had been waiting for the vine festivities. She couldn't believe her mother wouldn't let her attend them. But it only figured. Lately all her mother did was punish her. They hardly talked or did anything else anymore. Xena knew she just couldn't stand it much longer.

That night, Xena got up and got dressed. She took a pinch of bread, a small loaf of cheese, some water and a quilt and was going to sneak out when she spotted Lyceus's eyes sparkling in the dark. "Where are you going, Xena?" he asked sleepily. "Nowhere," Xena answered impatiently. "So why are you all dressed up?" Lyceus continued. "Stop asking questions and go back to sleep," Xena scolded her little brother. "I wanna go with you, Xena," Lyceus rose. "Shush!" Xena whispered. "You'll wake everybody up". "Don't leave me, Xena," Lyceus's voice trembled. "Take me with you". "You can't come with me and that's that. Now go back to sleep and don't tell anybody you've seen me." Lyceus did as Xena had told, but he wasn't at all happy. In fact he was crying. Xena quietly sneaked out and headed to the forest.

Xena hated to admit it, but she was scared. She had never been to the forest alone in the middle of the night. Her mother hardly liked her going there in midday. Who knew what lurked out there? Finally she got to a spot far enough from Amphipolis and was getting ready to go to sleep. She did intend on going further, but she was already so tired, and she figured if she woke up early enough she could cover some distance before she would be missed. She spread the quilt and was going to lie down when suddenly she had the distinct feeling that somebody was watching her. That was scary. She grabbed the first thing that came into her sight, a long branch, and called "I know you're there. You'd better come out now!" All she heard was an echoing laughter. That wasn't good. She hung tightly to the branch and walked forward. The laughter came from behind one of the trees. If she could only find out where it came from. She proceeded in the direction when suddenly she was grabbed and the branch fell from her hands.

"Let go of me!" Xena screamed while kicking, biting and scratching. "A feisty little thing you are," a deep voice noted amusingly. "Let me go orů" Xena started. "Or what?" the voice continued. "You don't wanna mess with me," uttered Xena, breathing heavily. The deep laughter was heard again. "Oh, you'll be just fine," the voice said in satisfaction. "You'll do great". "I'll do what?" Xena sounded surprised "Who are you?" The man let her go and she finally had a chance to look at his face. "Let's say I'mů a friend," said the tall, leathered, bearded man. "You're not my friend," Xena stepped away from him. "Friends don't laugh at each other," she noted. The man smiled. "Sensitive, aren't we? I can already see that this will get in the way. But you have so much potential, my dear, and I'll see that you live up to it." Xena was confused. That man spoke as if he knew her well. How could he know her so well if she didn't know him at all? That frightened her. "I can see you're afraid of me," the man seemed to read her mind. "But you shouldn't be." "Shouldn't I?" Xena tried to sound brave. The man gave her a long, intense look and smiled again. "You and me, we're two of the same kind. We know what we want and we know how to get it". "Not me," Xena said sadly. "Nothing happens the way I want lately." "That's because you have to make things happen!" the man said emphatically as he leaned at her side. "You know what you have to do, but you let people convince you not to do it. You see? That's your mistake right there." Xena was very much intrigued by the strange man, and flattered by the attention she had received from him. He kept talking for a while, about wishes and desires, about the fire within and the need to obey it and about how to make people do what she wanted them to do. Finally Xena felt her eyes were closing. She fought it for a while, but her head dropped and she fell asleep.

The next morning when Cyrene woke up she noticed Xena was missing. "This girl had better not disobeyed me and go to the festivities despite my direct orders," she said to herself, but she was uneasy. Something inside of her told her that wasn't the case. She decided to go look for her daughter. She took Lyceus with her and went to the festivities. Everybody was greeting her, but her mind wasn't into socializing. She knew she had to find Xena. She asked everybody about her, but nobody had seen her. Now she was getting seriously anxious. "Where could this sister of yours be?" Cyrene said partly to herself partly to her son. "I don't know," said Lyceus. "She wouldn't tell me." Cyrene turned around sharply. "What did you just say?" she questioned her son. "Nothing," Lyceus caught himself. "When didn't Xena tell you where she was going?" she asked piercingly. "Last night," Lyceus admitted weakly. "Why didn't you tell me? Couldn't you tell I was worried sick about her?" Cyrene was beginning to lose her calm. "She told me not to say anything," Lyceus explained defensively. "And naturally, you do everything Xena says, don't you?" Cyrene scolded her son. Lyceus didn't answer, but his silence was loud and clear. That got Cyrene really worried. She understood that if Xena ran away in the middle of the night she must have headed to the forest and the gods only knew what could have happened to her there. She quickly moved to arrange a group of men and women from the village to help her look for her daughter.

Xena woke up and didn't remember at first where she was and what she was doing there. Then it all came back to her: the fight, her mother, her running away in the middle of the night. The sun was already high in the sky and she was angry with herself for sleeping in so late and missing the opportunity of getting further away. She still felt very tired. It took her some time to remember that strange man from the night before. But as soon as she remembered she couldn't stop thinking about him and all the things that he had said to her. She didn't feel as strong and as determined as he had seemed to believe she was, but she really wished she could be. She had to admit that some of the things he had said did have a point. She did let other people get in her way. She did let them affect her too much, her mother in particular. But her mother had proved that she didn't really care and so she would just have to become tougher and pay no attention to what she had to say.

Xena was very hungry, but she already finished all her food and the water was running out as well. She knew there was a little stream not so far from where she was, where the water was clean and pure and there were plenty of fish. Her father used to take her and her brothers there all the time. He was a very good fisherman. He caught the biggest and slickest fish without even looking like he put any effort into it. It had been almost two years since he left, but the memories still seemed very vivid. Xena caught herself reminiscing and got angry with herself for being so emotional. "Remember what that man said," she said to herself. "You have to keep your eyes on the goal, be focused". She got to the stream and refilled her water supply. Then she tried fishing, but the fish were too big and she wasn't skilled enough. She decided she would just have to deal with the hunger until something better came along. She had to move on. By that time it was getting really hot and she felt tired again. She kept walking for a while, trying her best to ignore her fatigue, but finally she had to sit down and rest. She promised herself to delay only for a few minutes before pursuing, but she could not keep her eyes open.

It had been already a few hours, and there was no sign of Xena. Everybody in the village was doing their best, but to no avail. Cyrene's friend Selenia approached her, trying her best to be encouraging and full of hope, but Cyrene turned away angry and desperate. She needed to be alone. "It's all my fault," she thought to herself. "I sinned and now the gods are punishing my Xena for what I did". Horrible images kept popping into her mind, images of her daughter in the arms of danger. Devastated by the thought of something awful happening to her daughter, Cyrene fell down to her knees and cried out: "Please, good Artemis, protect my child. Don't let anything harm her".

Meanwhile, Xena was waking up as she spotted the strange man standing between the trees and watching her. "What are you doing here again?" she quickly asked him. "Were you following me?" He laughed. "Would that be a problem?" he asked her. Xena thought for a minute. "It depends," she replied in a contemplative tone. "Depends on what?" the man sounded amused. "Depends on why you did it," she answered earnestly. "You're a smart kid. Why won't you tell me why I followed you," the man answered with a question. "I don't know," Xena shrugged. Then she turned her look from him and began walking away, while stating "My mom said not to trust strange people, especially ones who follow you". "But your mom isn't here, is she?" the man quickly joined her side, "and I am. What do you think that means?" Xena didn't answer. Her face was sad. The man slid his hand across her cheek. "Your mother doesn't understand you as well as I do. You see, she's not like us. You and me, we think alike. We understand each other." Xena raised her eyes and looked at the man. It was the first time in a long time that anybody seemed to understand her, or at least to have tried. "Do you also get really angry sometimes?" she finally asked timidly. He laughed again. "Oh, sure I do. All the time. But I'm not afraid of it. Anger is a very valuable power. You just have to learn how to use it." Xena's eyes opened wide. "A power?" she asked. It sounded so simple the way he described it. Xena began to wonder. She looked down for a brief moment then raised her eyes again. "Can you teach me how to use it?" she quietly uttered. This time the man did not laugh. He seemed very serious when he answered "I thought you'd never ask."

Right then, a woman appeared from behind him, out of thin air. Xena was amazed. It was the strangest, most magnificent thing she had ever seen. "Ares," the woman called. Ares turned. "Artemis," he said with a distinct note of displeasure in his voice. "What are you doing here?" "I think you know what I'm doing here," replied Artemis. "Let the girl go". Now Xena was really excited. She watched carefully as the conversation continued. "You don't understand," Ares blurted hastily. "She's it. She's the one. I can't let her go." Artemis shook her head. "She's still a little girl, Ares," she said vigorously. "She's of no use to you. Release her. Let her go back to her mother." Ares was not at all happy. "I don't suppose I have a choice here," he said resentfully. Artemis shook her head again. "We can always take it up to Zeus, butů" "I know, I know. He always did like you better. He liked all of you better. But you'll just wait and see. This is far from finished." Ares gave Xena a long, profound look, then looked back at Artemis and said "Yes, I'll leave for now. But it's only for a little while. I'm coming back for this one. I've worked much too hard to let it all go to waste." And saying that, Ares disappeared. "Come on, girl", said the beautiful huntress to the astonished Xena. "Go home!"

Cyrene was still on her knees, praying, when she heard a strange noise from behind her. She turned around, and was all alert and ready, when she saw her daughter stepping from behind the bushes. She ran to her as quickly as she could, sweeping her in her arms. "Oh, my gods. Oh, my little one. You're all right. You're safe." Xena's face was expressionless. "Where were you? Why did you run away?" Xena still did not answer. Cyrene felt her daughter's motionless and unresponsive body within her embrace. She let go of the girl. "It's all right," she said, a little disappointedly. "We have plenty of time to discuss it when we get home. In the meantime just let me look at you. My gods, I was so worried about you." "Really?" Cyrene heard her daughter whisper faintly. "Xena," Cyrene stepped back completely shocked. "Why would you even ask such a thing? Of course I was. You're daughter. I love you. Nothing will ever change that." "Nothing?" Xena whispered again, her voice trembling. "Xena, you're really worrying me. Please, please tell me what is going on with you," Cyrene begged, but Xena turned around and started to walk away from her mother as quickly as she could.

Soon they arrived at the meeting point, where all the villagers were happy to see that the girl was safe and sound. Among the searchers were also Petrocylus's parents, Lydia and Nomius. As they were getting near them, Xena cringed. When they greeted her she remained silent and distant. "Don't you have anything to say to Lydia and Nomius?" Cyrene urged her. Xena's eyes lit, she paused for a moment and then turned to Nomius and blurred out "My dad is not a coward! He's not! And he didn't bail on us. He had to go. He had to!" The villagers all looked at each other as the girl burst into tears and ran off.

Cyrene knew exactly where her daughter was most likely to be found. The top of the old pine tree had always been Xena's favorite spot. "Get down from there, Xena," Cyrene called. There was no response. "Please, Xena, we need to talk," Cyrene's voice sounded exhausted and sad. Reluctantly the girl jumped down. "Is this what it was all about? Your father?" Xena did not answer. "I know you miss him," Cyrene said softly. "But he's gone now." "It's because of me, isn't it?" Xena said and Cyrene's face turned pale all of a sudden. "Where did you hear that?" she shouted. "Who told you this?" "Nobody told me anything," Xena screamed back "I just know. It was because I was bad, wasn't it? That's why he left." Cyrene took her daughter's face between her ragged palms and looked straight into her teary eyes. "No, Xena. It wasn't because you were bad. It wasn't because of anything you did. Your father is gone because that's just the way it had to be. Now I don't want you to blame yourself. None of it is your fault." The girl was completely puzzled by her mother's reaction. "Why are you crying, mom?" she asked. Cyrene threw her head back, trying to dry her tears. "I'm just happy I have you," she said, pulling her daughter close and holding her tightly. "That's all."

Behind the trees a bearded, leathered figure stood and watched.


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