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The Conqueror Series

Tale Three: Time's Fell Hand

LJ Maas

Chapter 28: A Little Learning Is A Dang'rous Thing...

Addendum to the Lord Conqueror's Manuscript: Separate Parchment
Added in Xena, the Lord Conqueror's presence by Queen Gabrielle of Potidaea

I popped another piece of dried fruit into my mouth, hoping that I hadn't been caught. We worked in the kitchen, Cyrene, Delia, and I. I assisted the two women as much to have something to do as to assimilate some of their culinary skills. They made an unbelievable team in the kitchen and I felt rather like a useless limb at times. On this day, we prepared desserts and pastries. The kitchen had become like a warm comfortable haven.

"Gabrielle, are you filling the pastries with that fruit or eating it yourself?" Delia asked me as a smiling Cyrene looked over from the bowl she stirred briskly with a flat sort of wooden spoon.

"Pwetty muth eathing 'em," I answered, unable to even hide my mouth full of food.

Both women broke into a long bout of laughter. "For Gaia's sake, child. Are you sure you're not with child?" Cyrene teased.

My face grew red, which caused my tormentors to laugh even more. I never knew why discussing such aspects of life in front of people embarrassed me so. I knew their jests were in good fun, however, and so I laughed along with the two older women.

"Xena better get back here quick," I said. "I've eaten everything that wasn't fastened down since she's been gone. I'm afraid I'll be so big that she won't recognize me when she returns. I do wish I knew why she went with Acasia, though," I mused aloud.

"Oh, that one. He scares me something fierce," Cyrene pretended to shiver.

"No, really, he's as gentle as a lamb," I answered quickly. "I know that sounds odd for a soldier, but Acasia really is quite learned and a perfect gentleman."

"I can vouch for that, Cyrene," Delia added. "Granted, his looks could frighten the life from you if you met him on a dark night, but his behavior is just as Gabrielle says."

"Well, that's good to know. I should be ashamed for judging him on looks alone, but I suppose it was just a first impression. Now wait just a moment," Cyrene stopped to say. She set the clay bowl upon the table and looked up at me.

"Did you say that you wonder why Xena went to Ambracia?" Cyrene asked.

"I thought an old friend had died," Delia said.

"Yes, that's what she said," I replied. I placed a ball of dough into a bowl and covered it with a piece of cloth.

"You sound as though you don't believe that," Cyrene said.

"I don't," I answered, followed by light laughter. "Not for a moment." Both women continued to stare at me, glancing away only once to exchange their own looks.

"I don't mean to say that Xena's off doing something she oughtn't," I quickly explained. "I'm certain it's something regarding the Empire, or even something that she feels might be too dangerous for me to know about right now. She wouldn't have fibbed to me unless there'd been a good reason."

"I must say, child, you're awfully…well, restrained about it," Cyrene said. "If it was me, I would have tried to beat the truth out of her before she left." We all chuckled, knowing that it was human nature to want to do so.

"I suppose I might have been tempted, but I'm certain that she'll tell me in time."

"You're a trustworthy soul, Gabrielle," Cyrene responded.

I smiled back at the woman who had become like a mother to me in the last fortnight. "Not with everyone…only Xena. She's earned that trust."

End Gabrielle's Addendum


I had been poor company the last few days. I suppose the bright spot had been that neither Atrius nor Acasia were the type of men to care much for witty banter anyway. It preyed on my mind, the fact that I had deftly hidden the truth of my journey from Gabrielle. More simply put, I had lied to her. The act didn't sit well with me.

I spoke to Atrius about that very thing as we sat around the campfire one evening. I made him privy to all that Acasia had done for me in this matter, every detail about what I knew of the child that I had suspected of being Gabrielle's daughter.

Atrius rarely gave me advice, but since our relationship had become closer to friendship than ever before, I suppose he felt comfortable in sending a little wisdom my way. He spoke of a number of things, but I believe I'll always remember his last few words.

"What would you do if it was yours…the child? What would you do to find it?" he asked.

"Anything," I answered. "Anything it took." I didn't have to think long about my answer.

"Then I suppose anything is what you have to do."

I took that to include lying to my wife. The ends justified the means, meaning…anything it took. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this might be the first time in my life where such a rationalization was actually true. All along, I had been pursuing this fool's venture for Gabrielle. I loved her and this was important, or would be, to her. What mattered to Gabrielle affected me. It wasn't direct, but simply because of my love for her. Now, it had become significant to me. This child mattered to me. Now, it was personal.

By the time we arrived at the Governor's palace, I was hot, dusty, and tired. Perhaps that was why I had been in no mood at all for games. It had been bad luck for the first soldier we ran into at the palace.

"Who wants to know about the old healer?" the guard asked.

"The Conqueror!" I said as I stepped from the shadows of a nearby column. "Why? Is it a secret?"

"N-no, my apologies, Lord Conqueror," his voice shook as he spoke. I realized he wasn't quite bright enough to lie about the matter. "I have my orders. I mean, I was told by my Captain--"

"I get the picture," I interrupted. "Take us to Lord Telamon."

"Yes, Lord Conqueror. I believe he's in his private rooms. I'll send a runner for him right away."

"No, I believe I'll see him in his private chambers," I answered. "Take us there…now."

I can only believe that the soldier saw something in my eyes, something that caused him to immediately obey my order. I left our Royal Guard inside the gates of the palace, as Atrius, Acasia, and I made our way to Telamon's private rooms.

"Lord Conqueror, I had no idea…no one told me of a Royal visit." Telamon bustled about as he spoke.

He ushered us into what must have been his private study. I had not considered Telamon a man of letters, but his many shelves of scrolls and free parchments easily surpassed my collection. My appointed official out past the Pindus Range was short, but well muscled. His sandy colored hair grew out from his head like a lion's thick, reddish mane. While I had kept many men on the Empire's payroll who were not completely trustworthy, Telamon had always been one of the few. I had actually known him to be an honorable man. I suppose that was why it disappointed me so, the fact that he could have been involved in any illegal slave trade.

"This isn't an official visit, Telamon," I responded.

"Oh, I see," he answered. An unofficial visit from one's superior was never a good thing, and I could see that Telamon was just beginning to feel the impact of my answer.

"May I offer you good wishes on your recent marriage," he said.

"Thank you. I'll pass along your good wishes." I rubbed my temples and sank into the nearest chair. "My head is killing me. It feels as though I got stomped by a full grown centaur."

"Shall I obtain something for you, Lord Conqueror?" Atrius asked me.

"By all means, Lord Conqueror, please allow me to call the healer to fix a pain draught for you," Telamon added. "I have an excellent man living within the palace walls."

I perked up at his words. "Healer? You still have a healer here in the palace?" I admit that I had held out some little hope that we had been wrong, that Acasia had been misinformed in some way about the old healer. I wanted there to be a miracle, that somehow I could still find out if this girl belonged to Gabrielle.

"Why yes, you might remember him," Telamon replied. "He treated an injury you suffered when we last did battle together. Your shoulder, I believe."

"Oh, yes, I remember him. No, I don't want that butcher near me. You had another man, skin like the men of the Land of the Pharaohs."

An odd expression crossed his face. I couldn't tell what he was thinking, but it was apparent that it came about because I had mentioned the old healer.

"Yes," he answered slowly. "Artus."

The name hit me like a lightning bolt. That was the name that Gabrielle had called me when she had been delirious with fever. Although it was odd that she had mistaken me for an elderly, dark-skinned man, there was no mistaking the name.

I sighed. "Telamon, I could play the cat and mouse game with you, enjoying myself while I give you just enough cord to hang yourself. I rather like toying with people that way or at least I did, but frankly, I haven't the time or inclination at present. So, I suppose I must forgo my usual pleasure and get to the point. I happen to know you've been holding the healer, this Artus, here within the palace walls, and I want to know why."

Telamon still hadn't figured it out, but he now knew that my visit held a much larger purpose. It was obvious, by the expression on his face, that my purpose caused him some concern.

"I--I'm not exactly sure what you mean. I--"

I held up my hand and the man stopped speaking immediately. "Please, Telamon, don't lie to me. You would be amazed at what I already know. Now…please, sit. Atrius, bring our friend a seat."

Atrius pushed forward a chair and indicated that the Governor should sit.

"Now…where was I? Oh, yes. Now, Telamon, I'm going to make this as pain free as possible. I'm going to ask you a question and you're going to answer it as truthfully as you know how. Do not insult me with weak lies that I already know aren't the truth. Can you manage that?"

"Lord Conqueror, I still don't know--"

"Oh, yes. Let me explain what happens if you lie, interrupt me, or generally do anything to upset me. Acasia?"

Acasia stepped forward and drew a long, thin knife such as the one I carried in my left boot. He said nothing, but by simply being there, he made for an intimidating presence. He twirled the blade within his hands.

"We'll start with fingers. If you're foolish enough to go through all of them, then we'll move on to toes until we eventually work up to your most prized appendages. Understood?"

The man nodded quickly. Telamon was no weakling, but I'm certain that my voice was deadly earnest. Like many before him, he was now eager to tell me what he knew. Well, perhaps eager was the wrong word to use. Perhaps resigned might have been better, for he still tried to skip around the issue at hand.

"Now," I began. "I want to hear the truth about why Artus was so recently moved into the palace."

"Really, Lord Conqueror, I have no idea--"

I motioned to Acasia who took hold of Telamon's hand, placing it flat on the desk before us. I certainly had no intention of cutting off the man's fingers, but he didn't know that. To those who knew me a few seasons back, it would have been the sort of thing I would have ordered.

"Wait a moment…just one moment!" Telamon cried out. His posture went from a tense nervousness to a jumpy fear. Now, he appeared to slump in his chair and he sighed deeply. "I don't know why I should hide it from you, anyway," he said.

"Hide what from me?" I asked.

"The children," he replied.

His willingness to admit it all surprised me some. Why would a man go to such lengths to hide a trail from me, and then when confronted, confess all?

"You said children," I prompted.

"You must understand, Conqueror, that it was only the children I thought of. It was only their welfare I was thinking of."

"Are you insane?" I shouted out at him. "They needed this?"

"Well…surely you understand what having parents can do to children."

"I don't even believe I'm hearing this," I said as I leaned back in my chair, stunned at the man's callousness.

"Lord Conqueror," Atrius called out from the other side of the room. He held unrolled scrolls in each hand, tossing one aside all of a sudden to quickly grab a new one.

"I have an odd feeling, Conqueror, that you and Telamon are not speaking of the same thing."

"We're not what?" I asked in surprise.

"I don't think you're talking about the same thing at all," he replied.

"Were not--what in Hades' name is going on here?"

"What are you talking about, Lord Conqueror?" Telamon asked.

"What in Hades' name do you mean? I'll ask the questions around here!" I shouted back like a cranky child. I didn't like being in the dark and at this very moment, I felt as though I was sitting in an inkwell. "So," I began. There was an extremely long pause and everyone stopped to stare at me. "Telamon, what are you talking about?"

"I…well…the adoptions?"

"Adoptions?" I asked. I had no earthly idea what the man was talking about, no clue at all. I looked over at Atrius and Acasia, who would have made excellent bookends with their identical shrugs and blank looks.

"All right, let's start this conversation over, shall we?" I rubbed my face with one hand, realizing in the process that my headache had disappeared. "Telamon, I already know that you sold children to slavers. We--"

"No, My Lord, never!" Telamon cried out, rising to his feet. The strength of his denial surprised me.

"I have spent the last ten seasons finding homes for these children!" Telamon said.

I was not only confused, but rather stunned, as well. Such a silence hung within the room that I could hear the breathing of the men around me. "I--I…" I had no idea how to continue.

"My Lord, may I be allowed to ask who has made such an accusation against me?" Telamon asked. He was sincere. I heard it in his voice.

I sat there in continued silence for a few moments longer trying to figure out how I had made the leap to thinking Telamon a kidnapper, worse, a slaver. That's when I realized just who Telamon's accuser was.

"Um…I'm afraid that would be…me."

"My Lord?"

"Let me be honest with you, Telamon…"

I told him everything then, what I knew and how I had found out about it. I wasn't too often wrong about a man's character and something told me that he had earned my trust. I told him about my wife, about Gabrielle's past. He had never connected the pieces to realize that the Empire's new Queen was the slave I had selected in this very palace. He listened intently as I explained about Gabrielle's child and how a physician named Artus had helped her. Finally, I told him of the people who had the child, what they were like, and how Acasia had literally purchased the girl.

"Gods, forgive me. I try to place them in proper homes, but sometimes we get fooled. Lord Conqueror, I can honestly say that I feel our Queen's pain. I lost my wife to illness when I was just a young man, but she left me with two fine sons. They were killed three seasons after I lost her. I felt responsible for their deaths because I had been away in some campaign or another when the Persians attacked our village. I promised the Gods that if I ever had the opportunity, I would find a way to be there for some child. I had been your Governor here for only a few seasons. That's when Artus came to me.

"Between the wars and the pirates that sailed along this coast, we had more orphaned children than even the Empire could support. Artus usually petitioned my office for food, supplies, and money. I didn't know him very well, actually. That sounds strange, I know, considering that we were partners for over ten seasons, but we remained strangers out of necessity."

"Necessity?" I interrupted to ask.

"Lord Conqueror, the children that we found homes for were often thought dead by the men who fathered them. These men would have preferred that the children stay dead, if you know what I mean. There were a hundred reasons why, their religion, their wives, or simply the fact that they wanted to pass the female slaves, the mothers of these children, off as virgins when they sold them. More than once, one of these men came back looking when they heard a rumor that their bastard child was still alive. And it wasn't to welcome the child into the bosom of their family."

"So, you two distanced yourself from one another in order to keep nosy people from learning anything and passing it on," I said.

"You would be surprised what people would do for a few pieces of silver. Neither Artus nor myself were in a hurry to meet up with any of these men."

"Is that how Artus ended up in the palace?" I asked.

"That among other things. He had become ill, age and too much hard work most probably. He wasn't a young man. There was also the fact that we had heard inquiries being made into the whereabouts of a certain pirate's child. I knew Abdular was dead by your hand, but I thought that perhaps another family member had come to make some claim or worse, exact a sort of revenge. I realize now, from what you've said, that our fears were unfounded. It must have been your man that made my own spies nervous."

I smiled. "Even the watcher has watchers, eh?"

"Something like that, Conqueror. Artus died almost a fortnight ago. Celeste came for him as he slept. After all he had done for this valley, he deserved to be taken in such a peaceful manner."

"You have no idea how much I counted on seeing this Artus," I said.

"I'm sorry, My Lord, but perhaps I could help," Telamon offered.

"I appreciate your willingness to assist, and all that you've done over the seasons for these children. I'm afraid, though, that Artus was the only one privy to the knowledge I needed. Only he would know where Gabrielle's baby ended up. You see, I wanted to know for sure if the child I have in my custody is actually Gabrielle's daughter."

The man smiled at me for a few moments before speaking. "Lord Conqueror, I believe I may be of some help after all," Telamon said. He rose and raised both his arms, indicating the many shelves filled with scrolls. "You can plainly see that I have kept a detailed record of each child that we placed with a family."

I sat there, unable to speak, looking at the shelves that surrounded us. I had thought the number of scrolls odd when I first entered the room, but I had no idea, at the time, what they contained.

"You can see," Telamon explained as he lay unfurled a scroll on the desk before me, "That I have the name of the child, if the parent gave them one."

"How do you have them organized…by name?"

"Oh no. I'm afraid there are too many to reference in any way with that information alone. Besides, many of the children came to us with no names, especially the babies. I have them categorized by region and approximate age of the child."

"Acasia, what was the girl's name?" I asked.

"I…uh…" The strained look on his face made it look as though I'd just asked him to explain the meaning of life.

"You mean to say you kidnapped the child and traveled with her for three days, but never asked her name?" It was almost amusing, the look Acasia graced me with.

"Forgive me, Conqueror, but I told you I wasn't good with that sort of work."

"Oh, all right, all right. Telamon, let's try with region and time period alone."

I gave him the necessary information and he searched through a couple of shelves before opening a scroll, perusing it, and setting it before me.

"If Artus did indeed have a hand in secreting that baby away, it would be on this scroll, Lord Conqueror," Telamon said.

I searched the parchment for any familiar names in the scenario. It looked as though the mother's name went first if she was known. Since Artus had been summoned by Abdular to see Gabrielle as a patient, I was fairly certain he would have known her name.

I read through the entire scroll. With a sigh, I went back to the beginning and started over once more just to be certain. My shoulders suddenly felt as though they bore a great weight. I'm not sure what I thought I would feel. I suppose I had expected to experience a certain relief if this happened.

I handed the open scroll to Atrius. "I don't know whether to be pleased or sick," I told my Captain.

"What do you think?" he asked me.

"Gabrielle never named her child. At least that's the way she remembers it." I sighed again, an action that was becoming second nature to me. "I suppose we should bring the scroll with us for proof. Telamon, I'll return this parchment to you by way of a Royal messenger."

"Of course, Lord Conqueror. Did you find the answers that you seek…about the Queen's child?" he asked.

I took a moment before answering. "I'm not sure."

"There is one last place you might look," Telamon added. "Artus had a sort of cottage by the hospice. As a healer, he saw patients there. Perhaps he kept some sort of written record that I didn't know about."

Atrius and Acasia both looked at me and I nodded. "That sounds like an excellent suggestion. One last thing, Telamon. I did you a great disservice by suspecting you of wrongdoing. Know one thing. You won't have to spend your own fortune on this any longer. I'll see that a proper orphanage is set up and the money will come from the Empire's coffers."

"Many thanks for your generosity, Lord Conqueror. The rumors of your change are indeed true."

"Change?" I asked. I knew of what he spoke, but I was curious to hear what people had said about me. Yes, it was vain, I know, but I was only human.

"They say that the Gods have blessed you and that you're no longer the same woman."

I chuckled at the thought. "And what do you say?"

"That they are right," he said with a smile. "The Gods have certainly blessed you."

The people always wanted to believe in their Gods. Well, let them have faith in what they would. I had been blessed, but my good fortune took the form of a beautiful blonde, who waited for me even now in Amphipolis.


We rode up to the small building to find it bustling with activity. The commotion surprised me considering there wasn't a healer here any longer. We dismounted and, of course, caused some disturbance ourselves. Being the ruler of the Empire, I could not travel without a suitable number of guards and soldiers. I had learned from a good many seasons of experience that pulling an escapade such as Gabrielle had recently become famous for could eventually get a ruler killed. I had no wish to ever meet Hades because some farmer, disgruntled about the amount of his taxes, surprised me by sinking a pitchfork in my back. It would not only be an extremely painful way to die, but as a warrior, most humiliating.

We were met by an older woman, perhaps my mother's age. She wore a modest gray skirt and blouse, her hair tied back with a scarf. I noticed she had a blue flame embroidered onto her apron. The blue flame was the traditional mark for a priest or priestess of Apollo. It made sense then that she and her sisters of that order would be working at a hospice.

"Lord Conqueror," the woman addressed me.

Even with a squad of soldiers around me, I was a little surprised that she recognized me. I suppose I hadn't much of a feel for how the people of the Empire thought of me, or even if they would recognize me walking down the road. My profile had been stamped across most of the coins we used on an everyday basis, but who really looks at those things anyway?

"Holy One," I said. I used the form of address that the priestesses in Athena's temple preferred.

She looked surprised, as if she hadn't been afforded that measure of respect in some time. "We are honored by your presence," she responded. "How may we serve you?"

"Do the Holy Ones of Apollo's temple work here? I mean, have you been here long?" I asked.

"No, Lord Conqueror, to both of your questions. We have just recently come to assist, for the community's sake. The healer took ill some time back and was moved to the palace. I understand it was because of his faithful service to the Empire that he was provided such comfort. He has only recently left our mortal world."

"I see. There is a new healer here, then?"

"Yes, My Lord. At this moment, he is in town, purchasing some supplies. Our order will do our best to see that he receives enough help to get him on his way."

"Many thanks for that. I promise to make an offering to Apollo's temple in order to assist you and your sister priestesses." I nodded to Atrius and as usual, he read my thoughts.

"I'll make it so, Conqueror," he said.

"I take it this new man didn't know the previous healer, Artus?" I asked her.

"I cannot say, My Lord, for I have not yet met the man myself. He arrived only one day ago. I suspect not, however, since he traveled here from Athens."

"I see. Holy One, I seek some information that the old healer may have had among his personal possessions. Do you know where he lived?"

"Yes, My Lord. There is a small cottage behind the hospice. The new healer has taken up residence there, but I suspect that he hasn't had the time yet to dispose of Lord Artus's personal items."

"Then that is where we shall be. Many thanks, Holy One."

She curtsied before me, a sign of respect for my office. Under Greek law, priests and priestesses, although they had to obey the laws, were considered to be of equal status with the ruler of the land. I figured that she was simply returning the same regard I had shown her.

Atrius stationed the soldiers loosely around the area so as not to disturb the locals. I took Atrius and Acasia with me and we began to examine the healer's cottage. The place was no more than a room really. I guessed that the man had spent precious little time relaxing here. It had been arranged much as any other healer's cottage with shelves filled with jars and parchments, herbs hung from the rafters to dry.

Atrius and Acasia were both men trained in their letters; so all three of us took up the search for any sort of records that Artus may have kept. The majority of the scrolls that we found were methods of healing scribed in many different hands. Apparently, he used them as instructions or tutorials on the healer's craft.

"Just what in Hades' name do you think you're doing?"

The voice surprised all three of us, so intent had we been in our search. We turned quickly, all three of us drawing our weapons as the stranger approached.

"And just who are you?" I asked, once I realized the young man was unarmed. In fact, he took three strides backward upon seeing our blades, fear emblazoned on his face.

"I--I…I'm the healer and this is my house. Look, if you're thieves I have nothing at all of value but my name."

"And that would be?" I asked.


"You lie!" Atrius barked. "The healer Artus died nearly a fortnight ago."

It came to me in a flash. Before the young man even answered, I knew what he was going to say. My epiphany explained so much as the answers to one riddle fell neatly into place.

"Stand down, Atrius," I said as I replaced my own sword in its scabbard. "I think what this young man would like to say is that his name is Artus also and the old healer was his father."

"Do I know you?" the young man asked me.

"No, but I feel as though I already know you," I responded.

He looked at me oddly. He was correct. We had never met. As I gazed at him, however, I could suddenly see how anyone might think us physically similar, especially a young woman delirious with fever. He was slightly taller than I was with long dark hair that fell just past his shoulders. His skin was not nearly as dark as his father's, rather the same olive tone as my own. Gray almond shaped eyes told me that his mother had probably been from the East, perhaps Chin, Japa, or even the land of the Scythians.

Yes, now I could easily see how Gabrielle had seen this young man's face in place of mine that day in the wagon. When I remembered her words, "Artus, please help me. I know you're not like them," I could see that this was the healer who had assisted her and not his father.

"Young man, you don't know how happy I am to finally meet you," I said.


"I'm not sure I understand, Conqueror," Artus said as we rode along the path that would eventually lead us to Amphipolis. Flanked by Atrius, Acasia, and surrounded by nearly thirty soldiers, the young man didn't look overjoyed at his current position.

"Tell me again why I'm being forc--"

My glare stopped him.

"Um, I mean, why I volunteered to go back to Amphipolis with you? I'm needed at the hospice."

"I won't keep you any longer than necessary, Artus, and when I send you back, I'll donate enough help and money to your hospice to make the trip worth your while." I hadn't told him that I already left the priestess from Apollo's temple with enough money to provide for the hospice for an entire season.

"I'm going to need your help in filling in some of the holes in this scenario. For some reason, Gabrielle doesn't remember the day she gave you her child, and since you can't remember the child's name, I thought if we all put our heads together we might determine if this girl is truly Gabrielle's daughter or not."

He didn't look much happier, but he was a nice enough fellow and so rode along in relative silence. I did, during evenings by the campfire, learn a great deal about the young man who had followed in his father's footsteps. After his mother died, the old healer had sent him to train in Athens where the younger Artus decided to live. In fact, he had actually been working in a small village outside of Athens when Gabrielle and I rode into the city and did battle with the Persians not too long ago.

Artus admitted that he had helped a young woman, a slave to Abdular the pirate. He had been only fourteen at the time, but the girl's desperate and passionate pleas broke his heart. He had been an apprentice to his father when the girl, not much older than himself, had paid him in gold and silver to rescue her child. He did exactly as promised, offering the majority of the money to the guard whose duty it had been to destroy the baby girl.

The disconcerting part to all of this was that Artus said that the child did indeed have a name. Even worse, he couldn't remember what the young woman's name was, but swore he would recognize her face if he saw her again. I promised him that I would put his oath to the test.

My confusion regarding the entire convoluted mess stemmed from Gabrielle's memory of the incident. She told me the tale on two occasions, but the details from the day she had to give her baby up were sketchy, at best. I understood that some people preferred to forget painful details in their lives, but Gabrielle had recalled every other moment in her with such startling clarity. After Yu Pan, that is.

I suddenly thought of the day when Gabrielle challenged and fought Queen Melosa of the Amazons. Gabrielle had not remembered that she even possessed the necessary skills for hand-to-hand combat. To save her life, Yu Pan had temporarily restrained Gabrielle's memories. It was a hypnosis of a sort, not meant to erase the hard to bear memories, but to assist Gabrielle in placing them in a safe place until she was strong enough to deal with them.

In that particular case, the memories were actually the knowledge of such skills that would have put Gabrielle in grave harm if she had displayed them as a slave. I wondered then what Yu Pan might have done in order to help Gabrielle over the apparent death of her child. He had spent quite some time with her the day she had told me about her child and Gabrielle had felt so much better afterwards. It looked like a visit to the healer would be a priority once we arrived in Amphipolis.

Unlike the rainfall we had experienced traveling west, the weather was on our side for the return trip. We arrived three days sooner than on the trip to Ambracia. I couldn't wait to see my family and, of course, Gabrielle. To hold her in my arms seemed like such a glorious luxury and I promised myself that I would never again take it for granted. It rather surprised me, however, that I was actually looking forward to seeing friends and family. I couldn't describe the feeling and I certainly didn't understand it. I think it was simply one more of the many changes I had undergone for which would be eternally thankful.

I had asked Atrius to set up a private tent for Artus at our camp just outside the town. I also explained that even though Artus was on our side, I wanted someone to keep an unobtrusive eye on the young man. He was a gentle young man, but he seemed rather…I don't know, rather like those creative types who acted without a wit of common sense half the time even though he meant well. I suppose I didn't want him wandering off and, like Gabrielle, have trouble find him.

To be continued in : Chapter 29: There Is A Road That Turning Always…

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