Disclaimer & Notices
Copyright: Many of these characters do not belong to me, and we know which ones do not. I, however, own the plot and other certain characters.
Violence: There is violence in this story.
Subtext: Any subtext becomes main text here.
Summary: This dramatic epic opens up to Xena and Gabrielle's childhood when they are best friends with an growing friendship. One day, Gabrielle's hometown is attacked while Xena is visiting her. Xena tries desperately to protect Gabrielle but ultimately fails. Xena will not stop believing that Gabrielle is alive, and she hunts for her friend. Along Xena's journey, things become darker and lead her further from Gabrielle and the memories. Meanwhile, Gabrielle is taken into slavery but it isn't for some time before her luck comes back. She meets a very caring master, who sends her away to be schooled as a bard. Later, Gabrielle befriends a very unusual girl, and the girl claims to be an Amazon. It isn't long before Gabrielle discovers how real the Amazons are, and that she's fated to be more than just a slave.
Update List: http://tv.groups.yahoo.com/group/redhope/
Started: March 33, 2003
Ended: April 24, 2007
by Red Hope
Part 8: Xena's Fifth Year
When the summer was warm but breezy thanks to the seas, the army uprooted from their camp in a matter of days. The vincente was disassembled under the warlord's command and it was packed into its specially designed wagons. Next, the onager and ballista were hitched to workhorses much like the wagons. Then Xena rode at the head of her army and marched them north. They slipped through the mountain pass and came out just south of Prasiae, which was a fair sized town because it was the only town on the eastern coast of the Peloponnese.
The Warrior Princess stationed her army just southwest of the town. She ordered another temporary camp to be made. Then she split the army and took all but twenty-five warriors with her. She marched them, the onager, and ballista to the town of Prasiae.
The town had heard about the possibility of a warlord in the southern peninsula. They were prepared with a small city wall being built. The hundred farmers were prepared with their dull blades and pitch forks.
Xena saw no challenge. She merely ordered the ballista and onager to make quick work of the gates of the small wall. Then she and her men rained down on the sheep-herding town. The afternoon battle ended with only six of her men dead, twenty villagers killed, and plenty of frightened villagers gathered in the town center.
The peasants thought they'd be killed. They thought their town would be sacked. They instead were confused when the warlord offered her flag to them. She promised an alliance that would offer the village protection from other warlords and in return she wanted supplies. The villagers hastened to agree despite they were almost sure the warlord would renag on the deal.
Yet, the warlord, who they came to know as the Warrior Princess, merely signed the alliance and walked her warriors out of the crumbled gates with a few carts of supplies. They were stumped yet grateful too. And about eight days after the attack, Prasiae flew a purple flag in their town center.
When Xena rejoined her split army, she was none too surprised to discover that new recruits had come to her army. A moon after the alliance with Prasiae, the army had expanded to three hundred warriors, two hundred horseman, and a hundred fifty archers. And Xena expected Tracker to return with some mercenaries in a moon or two which was just in time.
Several of the warriors were sent out into the neighboring woods, and they hacked down countless trees. They worked hard to begin the build of two new vincentes, three more ballistas, and three more onagers. Xena then sent a request to Prasiae for some blacksmith work done to be done on some strong metal. Along with the request was sent plenty of money.
"The third full moon is a perfect time to strike," Borias suggested.
Xena walked around the enlarged map of Sparta. "It will be enough time." She tilted her head and thought it out more.
Chuang had his hands collapsed behind his back. "Several thousand hoplites will be away. It is a good time to strike Sparta."
The warlord paused at the head of the table and stared at the map. She, like everybody else, heard of the woes of Roman attacks on Greek borders. Even Xena despised the Romans but this time it would serve her well. While a large portion of the Spartan military was away and fighting the Romans this left an opportunity that could not be ignored.
"Nor do we have to worry about the Delian League allying with Sparta to stop our attack." Borias carefully watched Xena's face for any way to tell what she was thinking. He couldn't guess it despite he'd been riding beside her for so long. He still didn't understand what the Amazon Nation had done to the warlord to change her around, but he knew he was grateful.
Xena lifted her head and met her officers' gazes. "When Tracker returns with the mercenaries then we will dispatch." She rested her hands on her leather clad hips, and the movement caused her chakram to reflect the candlelight. "The onagers, ballistas, and vincentes must be built by then."
"They are on schedule," Chuang promised.
"Good." Xena then studied the map carefully. "The vincentes will be positioned in Mount Taygetus. One will be in the north, one to the east, and the other on the west side. Their main purpose is to destroy the barracks."
"Will they be able to erect the vincentes in time?" Borias asked.
The warlord peered up with hooded eyes. "The hoplomaches has been training his team to assemble or disassemble the vincente within four candlemarks." She folded her arms over her bronze chest. "He will be selecting two other teams to operate the other two vincentes."
Chuang slightly grinned at the news. "Four candlemarks should be enough time for the vincente units to trek up the mountain passes and assemble the weapons."
"If the assembly stays on schedule, then the vincentes should be prepared to fire a candlemark before dawn." Xena narrowed her eyes at the map of Sparta. "That'll cause plenty of alarm in the city." She lowered her right hand and pointed her finger at a river. "The Eurotas flows through Sparta from the Taygetus mountain range." She tapped the point where the city walls stopped on the river's banks. "That is the weakest point in the city walls."
"That's where we'll focus our onagers and ballistas," Borias concluded.
"Yes." The warlord removed her hand. "Once we break the wall there, the rest will fall easily." She then tilted her head and grinned at the small port in Sparta. "I've also called in a favor from an old friend."
Chuang perked up at the news.
Xena grinned and explained, "An empty merchant ship will be stopping several leagues south of Sparta on the Eurotas. The captain will be giving several of our warriors a ride."
Chuang chuckled deeply and admired the warlord's rise of inspirations lately. "Sparta will not suspect a merchant vessel to bring in a load of warriors."
Borias smirked and muttered, "Beware merchants bearing heavy loads."
Xena and the two officers continued to talk for several candlemarks into the night. They thoroughly mapped out the plans along with a plan B and even plan C just to be cautious. Although Xena felt rather satisfied that the plan would work out considering most of the hoplites were far away.
And it wasn't long before Tracker reappeared with a healthy size of mercenaries. The mercenaries were a rough group of about two hundred warriors. Xena wasn't too concerned about that factor since they would be brute force. She just needed them to support her in taking the city. Once she had Sparta, then she'd have to quickly mount a defense for the returning hoplites that would surely hear word.
It was two moons after the Summer Solstice when the small army and mercenaries took arms and marched to Sparta. Xena, however, didn't head the army, and instead she led the small fifty warrior party to the Eurotas's banks. She met the captain of the merchant ship and quickly embarked it in the early afternoon.
Borias and Chuang had sent off the covered wagons with the vincentes a day prior. The operators of the vincentes had changed into regular peasantry clothes, stashed their armor and weapons in the wagons, and started north. The group went off the main roads and continued north around the city walls towards the Taygetus Mountain.
Finally, at sunset the army broke camp and made the slow march north. They wouldn't make Sparta until quite late at night. Just as planned.
"We're here," the captain hollered below deck.
Xena climbed the ladder and popped up on deck after the merchant ship rocked from the docking. She wore simply clothes so it wouldn't draw any attention. She found the captain down on the deck and worked with his sailors.
The captain finished a few orders then turned to Xena. "Sunset will be shortly."
The warlord glanced west and found it to be true. She turned back to the captain. "What time do they close the gates in the city?"
The captain tilted his head and dug through his memory. "In the summer... its about two candlemarks after sunset." He focused back on his old friend. "You should make it to the gates far ahead of that."
The Warrior Princess grinned. "I think so." She patted the man's shoulder. "Thanks for the help, Trenton."
"Well, don't you forget my name if you capture Sparta," Trenton muttered, "And if you fail then please forget it."
Xena softly laughed, but there was a glint in her eyes. "No matter the outcome, the Spartans will never forget this night." The darkness flashed over her hardened face, and she turned away. Xena went below deck and collected Prostig and two other warriors.
The small group of warriors hurried off the merchant ship once the gangplank was down. They weren't noticed by anybody because they looked like any other peasant. The warlord and the warriors went across the city and made it to the gates.
The warriors carefully observed the gates, but Xena already had the lay of the gates. What interested her was getting the knowledge about how the gates opened and closed. She and her men waited until late night when the Spartan guards were ordered to close the heavy doors.
The warriors carefully observed the guards closing the gates and noted that four to six men could easily open or close it. The wood beam across the doors required two men to pull on a thick rope, which would lift it. It was not at all complex.
Xena ordered them back to the merchant ship. She got onboard then went below deck. There she spent the final candlemarks preparing herself and the men for tonight's battle. She had everything mapped out accordingly.
Xena finished sharpening her sword. She wiped the blade clean with a rag then sheathed it in her loose scarab. She then set the sheathed sword in the hammock next to her. Next she checked her bronze armor over her black leathers. She had everything situated except for her cape. She plucked it off the hammock and attached it to her shoulders. The purple interior of the cape stood out against her black leathers and swirly bronze armor. Finally, the warlord attached her scarab to her left side and double checked her chakram.
"We're ready," Prostig said from the small doorway behind his leader.
The Warrior Princess slowly rotated on her boots, and her dark grin showed. She said nothing and quickly followed the well armored warrior. She hastened down the long, tight corridor where her men lined with their backs to the wall. She quickly ascended to the upper deck with Prostig on her heels.
The captain was waiting above deck and in his right hand was an unlit torch. He held it out to Xena when she was close enough. "Good luck, my friend."
"Keep your sails at the ready," Xena warned. After Trenton's nod, Xena faced the mainmast and quickly assessed the distance to the top. She held tightly to the torch then ran towards the mainmast.
Prostig watched in awe when the warlord gave a faint cry then launched upwards. He couldn't guess how and when Xena learned such a fine skill.
The warlord made it three-quarters up the mast. She then climbed the rest of the way and popped up into the crow's nest. She then fished out the flint stones from her well hidden pocket in the front of her leathers.
Xena held the torch between her knees and clapped the flint stones over the torch. She smiled when the torch began to burn. She dropped the stones to the nest's floor then she raised the torch up as high as she could.
"There's the signal, Vincien!" an operator called.
Vincien was already on his feet from sitting on the stone. He smiled then ordered, "Quickly, light the torch."
An operator hastened to carry out the duty. He clapped two flint stones over a torch then once it was lit, he waved it high over his head.
The hoplomaches gazed off to the west and saw a low firelight being waved. He turned his head due east, and he spotted the second signal. "Perfect." Then he waved for his operator to put out the torch before it was spotted. "Break the wine over the boulder. Prepare to light the fire."
"Ay!" an operator agreed. He in his eleven comrades easily carried out the prep-work to have the projectile at the ready. "We're ready, hoplomaches."
Vincien grew excited and clenched his sweaty hands as he neared the edge. "Light the fire."
Another operator was already by the campfire, and he knelt beside it. He cracked the flint stones until the sparks set the dried leaves ablaze.
Vincien waited a few heartbeats while the campfire grew in strength. He then saw the two other hidden locations of the vincentes followed suit. He put his hands behind his back then commanded, "Light the boulder."
The operations soldier by the campfire removed the torch from the campfire. He marched back to the wine soaked boulder and carefully lowered it.
The boulder came to life with hungry yellow flames.
"We're ready, Vincien. On your order."
The hoplomaches assessed that the other two vincentes had lit boulders. He couldn't wait any longer because the slings could catch on fire. "Fire!" He sucked in his breath when his ears filled with what would become a horrifying whistle during later battles.
The burning boulder was hurled several hundred pous and streaked through the sky. Right behind it came two other boulders, but they were aimed for different targets than the first.
Vincien gritted his teeth and leaned to his right some as he hoped the boulder would go that way. His eyes grew bright yellow just as the boulder made its final descent upon its target.
Quiet Sparta suddenly erupted into chaos when the central barrack exploded into a burst of flames. A handful of unarmed and unprepared hoplites ran screaming from the barrack. Some were on fire and others quite nude.
The city was shaken again when the east barrack was slammed by a burning boulder. The walls of the barrack spewed up into the night sky and landed back into the flames. Another eruption of screams filled the shaken city when the third flaming projectile smashed into the west barrack.
"Hurry, hurry!" Vincien barked at his operators. He smiled ruthlessly when the din of screams and yells faintly crept up the mountainside to his ears. "Good luck, Warrior Princess," he murmured to himself.
"Move, move!" Xena called to her fifty warriors. "To the gates." She dodged around the frantic people that ran from their homes in a panic. This was exactly what she wanted so they wouldn't be noticed too soon. Just ahead she spotted the gates. "Take the gates!"
The fifty warriors surged ahead of the warlord and charged the confused guards at the gates. Xena had purposefully fallen behind and spotted the handful of Spartan archers on the wall that hastily collected themselves.
"Stop them!" a Spartan officer cried out. "Don't let them get to the gates! Archers!"
The Warrior Princess stopped, ripped her chakram free, and waited a beat until several of the archers strung arrows. She gave a sharp warcry then launched her weapon at the archers.
"Fire, fire!" the Spartan officer commanded.
The archers prepared to release their arrows on the enemy, but they all heard the whistle sound. Then one by one, the archers lowered their bows when a strange, circular object cut off the arrowheads.
Xena stretched out her hand and neatly caught her chakram. She laughed at the archers' stunned faces, yet she threw her chakram again. This time she aimed for their strings so that they'd be useless. She retrieved her returning chakram once it was finished its mission. She then glanced at her fighting men.
"Get the gates opened," Xena demanded and spun her sword just as a hoplite came at her.
Chuang was down by the riverbank and controlled the ballista and onagers. He ordered the operators to launched the third attack on the falling wall. He'd briefly heard Xena's voice carry in the wind, and he smirked. Behind Chuang was the two hundred strong cavalry and a hundred fifty hired mercenaries.
Chuang gazed off to his right in the direction of the gates. He heard a sudden surge of battle cries fill the air. He knew it was Borias.
Borias remained mounted on his gelding and listened the whistle of arrows as the archers picked off the Spartans that lined the walls. He glared at the closed gates and growled, "Come on, Xeeena." His wish was fulfilled, and the heavy gates loudly opened. He twisted in his saddle and ordered, "Through the gates!" He pointed his sword at the opening gates then spurred his horse.
The two hundred fifty warriors bellowed out warcries then ran forward. They waved their swords in the air and followed Borias through the gates of Sparta.
The archers that were left behind, tightened formation, and continued to pluck off the Spartans on the walls. Slowly the archers inched further forward as backup for the warriors.
"Launch!" Vincien snapped to his operators.
The frightening whistle filled the sky again, and the boulder was now targeted for the king's fortress. The flaming boulder made its mark on the western side of the fortress. The fortress crumbled under the boulder then the fire lapped at the fortress's wall and took control.
Finally, the wall by the river broke apart from the continued onslaught of the siege engines. Chuang ordered the cavalry and mercenaries to takeover the city. He then stayed neared the siege engines, which were slowly rolled deeper into the city. The siege weapons were rarely used at this point other than to disperse some formed groups of hoplites.
Sparta was taken by surprise for the first time in their too proud history. Xena's army swept through the city and engaged any stunned hoplite that dared challenge them. The warlord cut her way through the city until she was on the steps of the fortress of the kings.
Xena was happily rewarded when the armored king hastened out of his fortress and stared at her. She grinned at his speechless and shocked demeanor that he'd been completely surprised and by a woman no less.
The Spartan king shook past his anger then raised his sword at the warlord. He jumped down two steps then brought his blade vertically down at the warlord. "You will not have my city," he snarled at the woman. He pressed his blade down.
Xena's knees bent under the great pressure of the king. She kept her sword up though and halted the king's blade from her face. "It is for the taking because you cannot defend it," she threatened.
The king growled then tried to kick at the warlord.
Xena surged her strength just before the kick. She gave a sharp cry and jumped back. She flipped backwards, landed on her hands a few steps below, and pushed up into the air. She came to her feet at the bottom of the steps. She smirked at the king's awed face. "If you bow now, I may let you live."
"You bitch," the king hissed then hastened down the steps.
The bemused Warrior Princess merely engaged her enemy. She had fast swipes and unexpected technique compared to any enemy the king had ever fought.
The Spartan king faltered when he stepped backwards. He'd tripped over a piece of fallen material from the fortress. He almost fell but recovered and lost his sword from a swift kick. He went for his dagger yet was stopped short by the sword tip under his neck.
"I wouldn't," Xena warned. She ruthlessly smiled at the fear filling the king's eyes. She laughed deeply and sauntered closer to the king while she carefully ran her blade over the Spartan ruler's neck.
The king dipped his head back and stared into primal blue eyes. He felt as if she could read his soul, and it terrified him. "You're not going to kill me, are you?"
Xena smiled at the king's trembling voice. She easily towered over him and enjoyed the fear she placed in him. "Why shouldn't I?" She lowered her face closer to his. "You're a cruel tyrant." She pressed her sword closer against the king's throat so that it started to nick. "Tell me, King Nabis why do you deserve to live?"
King Nabis closed his eyes and lost his voice.
"I actually have a better idea," the warlord murmured. When frightened, black eyes opened to her again, she darkly explained, "I think the people should decide your fate." She chuckled at Nabis suddenly wide eyes.
The warlord spotted several of her men behind the king. "Take him," she commanded.
The observing warriors quickly came over and grabbed the king by his arms.
"No, you can't do that!" King Nabis screamed while he was hauled away. "I am the descendant of King Demaratus!" He struggled against the three warriors but made his situation worse. "Nooooo!"
The Warrior Princess briefly watched him go then she sensed a familiar presence beside her.
"Xena," Chuang greeted and clapped his fist over his chest. "I sent orders for the vincente units to cease fire." He dipped his head when he noted the warlord's silence and angry profile. "Your orders?"
Xena briefly shook her head then turned to her officer. "Round up any prisoners." She lifted her chin and inquired, "Are there many citizen casualties?"
"There are few," Chuang promised, "as you requested."
"Good." Xena wiped her bloody sword on her cape then ordered, "Let's find out what the damage is."
Chuang fell into step beside the warlord.
"Begin to spread word to the people," Xena informed, "that we plan to restore proper order."
Xena knew that King Nabis had turned Sparta upside down by freeing many slaves and made the slaves citizens. King Nabis alienated the wealthy by taking their lands, splitting it up, and took their money. Then the increase of citizens, from the freed slaves, allowed for more crime because Sparta did not have enough jobs for all the citizens. Sparta had become a dangerous city much like its king. Finally what pushed the sword's blade through the people's hearts was that King Nabis highly favored torture.
It took countless days for the Sparta to calm down from the surprised attack. The news that Sparta had been overthrown swept through the country like Greek fire. The towns that were originally in the Spartan territory remained with Sparta. Then the four towns that'd allied with the warlord continued with their purple flags.
The Warrior Princess kept King Naris silent down in the dungeons until it would be his time. In the mean time, she paid off the mercenaries then cared for the citizens as her top priority. She knew any city or town was nothing but wood and clay without the people.
By the first moon cycle since the takeover, Sparta slowly transformed from a dangerous and depressing city into a stable one. The central barrack went under reconstruction just after the wall's hole was rebuilt. The Spartan hoplites at first refused to follow the warlord so they were disarmed but allowed to live. Then one day a former hoplite swore allegiance to the Warrior Princess. The following day, two hoplites swore their allegiance then a wave followed.
Xena stood on the balcony of the fortress that overlooked the city. She gripped the rail and smugly studied what was now her city. She heard her name on every citizens' sweet lips. Every converting hoplite proclaimed her as the Warrior Princess. And her original men crowned her as something much more grand – the Conqueror.
Xena repeated the crowned title in her mind, and she dropped her head back with her eyes closed. She inhaled as the title repeated again, and she happily drowned in it. She opened her eyes slowly and smirked at the murky clouds over her head. She knew it would rain soon and wash away all the blood in the city.
The gray clouds developed a crack and the beautiful sky mirrored Xena's eyes.
Xena searched the blue sky for answers to questions she didn't have yet. She then felt a smile touch her lips as the gap opened wider in the clouds.
The sunlight pierced through the clouds' opening and shined down to the earth. The golden rays washed over the dark woman that proudly stood in them.
Xena's blue eyes burned brilliantly in the sunlight. She felt her skin and black leathers warm, and she glowed a bright amber before the Spartan people that saw her on the balcony. Xena lifted her head and studied the people that watched her back. She grinned at the awe and admiration that pulsed from them.
Abruptly the clouds closed and sealed off the sunlight. Then Xena was startled by the footfall from behind. She turned and raised an eyebrow at Chuang.
Chuang clapped his leather chest and greeted, "Conqueror."
The warlord's lips curled into a cat grin. "Yes, Chuang?"
The Chin warrior lowered his fisted hand to his side. "The plans are on track." He cocked his head then mentioned, "Athens, Corinth, and Thebes have entered an alliance, declared war on Sparta, and vowed to kill you." He then held up his left hand, which contained a scroll. "They sent the declaration."
Xena received the scroll, broke the seal, and unrolled the formal letter. She quickly glazed over it and slowed at the bottom. "If we," she read aloud, "enter Laconia, we will level Sparta to the ground." She lifted her head and deeply laughed. She rolled up the scroll.
"What is your reply to them, Conqueror?"
The warlord held up the scroll and tightly clenched it. She then tersely replied, "If."
Chuang's grin met his eyes, and he bowed his head. "I'll send the reply." He, like Xena, knew that many would be too frightened to enter Laconia and try to battle for Sparta. It was too risky, and Xena was too formidable now.
The warlord lowered her hand with the scroll at her side. She scanned the city that required repair on many levels. She would see that the city would receive it, and in return the citizens would remain loyal to her. Not only would she conquer these lands, these cities, and armies but she would conquer the peoples' hearts unlike so many previous rulers.
Xena, the Warrior Princess, now knew what she was destined for – Yakut was right. She would make every cruel king or warlord fall to her sword. She could already see Sparta required such guidance. There would be nothing that would stop her, and she would free Greece from the cruelty and tyranny. And Xena would take her destiny and bend it to her will.
She would become the Conqueror of Greece!
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