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
Cyane shot up in bed, coated in sweat, and her eyes adjusting to the darkness of her hut. She thought she heard something then she heard the noise again; somebody was knocking at her door. She slipped out of her bed in only her sleeping shift. She cracked the door open and oddly stared at the Amazon. "What is it?"
"My queen, I'm sorry to disturb you so early." The Amazon was pensive as she shuffled from foot to foot. "There's a problem…" She paused then quietly explained, "It is the apprentice shaman, Yakut, she will not awake and has been asleep for over a day."
Queen Cyane hadn't heard anything about this and the confusion was evident on her face. "Um…." She shook her head and touched her forehead. "Give me a beat so I can get changed. Has the healer seen to her?"
"She is there now," the Amazon informed.
"Alright, wait here for me." Queen Cyane close the door, and she ran her fingers through her long, blond hair as she tried to fathom what she'd just learned. She shook off her confusion and fears then hastily got her leathers on and boots.
The Amazon Queen hastened out of her hut and followed the Amazon to Yakut's hut. She charged through the door, entered the dim hut, and her presence seemed to fill the small hut. She slotted her eyes at the still, breathing form on the bed and the healer beside the bed.
"What has happened?" Cyane barked. She stepped up to the healer.
The Amazon healer didn't acknowledge the queen and kept at her work on the apprentice shaman. "Yakut will not awaken, my queen."
The queen stood beside the healer, faced the bed, and placed her hands on her hips. "You have tried smelling salt?"
"Yes, of course." The healer then shook her head and pressed her fingertips against the small Amazon's throat. She felt for a pulse. "She will not respond to anything." She stopped and peered up at the queen. "She is not sick either." She turned back to the apprentice shaman.
Cyane stared at the unmoving Amazon, who was her adopted sister. She clenched her teeth and urged her anger to remain quiet. "Then what is it, Lena?"
The healer, Lena, straightened up then turned to her queen. "It is not something I, a healer, can explain," She tilted her head then sadly suggested, "You must speak to Alti." She stretched out her hand and touched the queen's tense arm. "I'm sorry, my queen." She turned and collected her supplies from the nightstand.
Queen Cyane gripped her leather belt tightly. She blinked away the stings in her eyes and listened to the healer's footfall to the door. "Lena?"
The healer stopped by the door and turned her head sidelong.
"Thank you," the queen whispered.
Lena hated this – she hated when she couldn't help because what good was she as a healer otherwise. "I'll check on her regularly, my queen." She opened the door then silently left.
The queen lost her resolve, so, one by one a tear rolled down her cheeks. She was full of anger and also passion for Yakut's condition. She came to the head of the bed and touched the Amazon's forehead. "Yakut?"
The young Amazon did not stir, but she remained at peace.
Cyane ran her fingers down the petite woman's soft cheeks then over her chin. "Alti did this, didn't she?" She pressed her palm against Yakut's cheek. "I know you can fight her spell, Yakut... you're stronger than her."
Yakut only continued to breathe in a rhythmic manner while in a peaceful state.
Cyane collapsed her sister's small hand, lifted it, and kissed the warm knuckles. "Hang in there, sister." She gave a squeeze for good measure and lowered Yakut's hand back onto the bed. She quickly left the hut.
Yakut's fingers slowly curled into a fist then stopped. Then her eyelids started to flicker from the side to side movement of her eyes.
The queen just came outside of the hut. She faced the Amazon, who had retrieved her earlier, and she ordered, "You are to stay here on guard. I will be sending another Amazon to join you."
The Amazon nodded her understanding.
"Nobody is to go into Yakut's hut except for me, the healer, and Ino. Am I clear?"
"Yes, my queen." The guard again nodded and stepped back so that she was close to the door.
The Amazon Queen felt satisfied so she marched off but stopped and came back. She then growled, "And do not let Alti anywhere near here."
The guard blinked, yet before she could say anything the queen stormed off. She shook her head and wondered what Alti had to do with this. Then again, that dark shaman seemed to cause plenty of mayhem anymore. Of course if Alti had purposely target the queen's sister then there would be much to pay.
Queen Cyane quickly crossed the village and hurried up the steps of the temple. As she ascended each step, her rage overcame her greatly. She threw open the double doors, and her fire eyes landed on the shaman's back.
Alti was in mid sentence when the doors boomed. She side stepped back once and turned her head to the left. She locked on the angry queen, who's wide strides brought her down the aisle.
Cyane stopped in front of the shaman, but she set her angry sights on the other Amazon, who was Xena. "Leave us."
Xena had a stiff back, and she lifted her chin at the queen's chilled tone.
Alti lightly touched the Amazon's cloaked covered arm. "Later," she simply promised.
Xena glanced at Alti then back at the queen. She stepped forward, which brought her closer to Cyane.
Cyane slowly turned her head while Xena moved past her. She gave Xena every warning she could with her eyes.
Xena did not fear the queen but silently challenged her back with her will. She held eye contact until she was too far past the queen's side then she marched down the aisle. Her boot's carried an echo through the temple until she left and closed the doors behind her.
Alti lowered her attention from the doors to the queen. "Yes, my queen?"
"Yakut will not awaken," Cyane drew out dangerously.
Alti remained passive but asked, "Has Lena seen to her?"
"Yes, and still Yakut will not awaken." Cyane stepped into the dark shaman's space. "Lena concluded that Yakut is healthy and that it is something spiritual."
The shaman locked her hands together in front of her. "I would be happy to assist, my queen."
Queen Cyane lost the scrap of politeness she'd had, and she growled, "You obviously have done enough, Alti."
Alti shook her head then calmly replied, "I have not harmed my apprentice in anyway, my queen. I am offering my help."
Cyane pointed a finger at the shaman. "I do not want your help." She lowered her hand then lifted her face closer to Alti's. "This Nation no longer needs your... help, Alti."
Alti's eyes lit up with amusement. "That is not for you to decide, my queen... that is up to the council. And as I see it, there is no other shaman trained enough to run this temple." She cocked her head and taunted, "The Amazons cannot be a true Nation without a guide for the worship of Artemis."
"And as if you even follow the religious ways of Artemis," Cyane snapped.
"Artemis has not told me that I do not," the shaman chided. "Has she told you otherwise, my queen?"
Queen Cyane clenched her hands at her sides. "Artemis hasn't stopped me from my mission to rid of you, and I will."
"Indeed your wish will come true, my queen." Alti lowered her head close to the queen's and murmured, "Perhaps not in the way you so wish it." She straightened up and walked away from the queen. "You know the way to the door, my queen... keep me posted of Yakut's wellbeing." She disappeared behind a curtain off to the right.
The confrontation did nothing to soothe the queen's anger. She vowed to have Yakut awaken, Alti thrown out of the Nation, and Xena's dark nature revealed to all. Cyane knew these pieces were connected, and she had excellent insight. So she took the first step to putting her plans into motion, and she called a secret, emergency meeting with the council. She had a lot to discuss with them and see to a safer future for her Nation.
The day crawled by for anybody that was concerned about Yakut. Ino spent much of her time in the hut and worked to find out what'd happened. She would be well spent by the end of the day and especially because she'd find no solution. Then close friends of Yakut tried to visit the apprentice shaman but were turned away by the guards. And one friend happened to be Xena.
Xena had attempted to the visit her friend when she'd heard the news. For a heartbeat, it did shock her, and yet she knew who was most likely responsible for this strange sleeping spell on Yakut. Xena and the rest of the Nation knew it was Alti but there was no proof.
Xena spent most of her day on patrol duty. Then when she was relieved, she hurried back to the village and marched threw the sunset lit huts. She aimed for the temple, quietly entered, and didn't find the shaman right away. She went behind the curtain and down to the small office.
Alti lifted her head up when the dark Amazon entered her office. "You forget how to knock?"
Xena slammed the door, and her lips curled in a snarl. "What have you done to Yakut?"
The shaman set her quill down on the desk then carefully studied the angry warlord. After several beats, she calmly answered, "She's under a sleeping spell until I revive her."
The warlord's long strides brought her quickly across the office. She grabbed the edge of the desk, leaned over, and held the shaman's gaze. "She is not to be harmed, Alti."
The shaman read the angry warlord's threatening body language. She knew Xena had some strange infinitive for the apprentice shaman, and she didn't quite understand why. "And she won't be, Xena."
Xena was no shaman, yet she had the uncanny ability to read somebody as if they were words on parchment. She suddenly growled when she read something she didn't like in the shaman.
Alti cried out. She hadn't expected the lightening motions from the warlord. She was grabbed by the throat, hauled out of her chair, and dragged across her desk.
The office filled with the din of items spilling off the desk and hitting the rock floor. Then there was a brief silence.
The warlord lowered her face into the shaman's. "She won't be harmed now or later, Alti." She tightened the grip around Alti's throat. "If she dies then so do you." She let her piercing gaze go through the shaman then she coldly questioned, "Do we have an understanding?"
Alti's vision darkened, yet she held off from fainting. "Yesss."
The warlord revealed a vicious grin then deeply laughed. "Excellent." She tossed the shaman back towards the chair.
Alti slammed into her chair then her head snapped back and hit the hard wood wall. She hissed between pain and anger but steadied her body in the chair. She flashed her rage at the warlord.
Xena was not at all intimidated but more amused. "Without my help, Alti you'll be cooked on the Amazon's pyres." She tilted her head then reminded, "Do not cross me." She stormed out of the office.
Alti touched her sore neck and stared darkly at the door. She wanted nothing more than to fight back the warlord, but she knew it would severe her important relationship that she required. She'd just have to endure it until it was time.
Across the village, the council and the queen were finishing up a meeting that'd been exhausting for everybody. Queen Cyane had greatly debated her points against the council's stubborn attitude. She finally won out though, and the council agreed with her plans wholly. And Cyane thanked Artemis for the support.
The entire council filed out of the hut, except for the head councilor, who waited in her chair. Cyane remained in her chair as well because she knew the head councilor, Talia, wanted to have a word with her.
Talia focused on the queen once the hut was quiet. "Are you sure of this, Cyane?"
The queen met the councilor's stern expression. "More than ever... we can't continue this way."
"I agree that Alti is dangerous," Talia relented. "And I trust your judgment, Cyane... we've been friends far too long for me not to."
The queen dipped her head and showed her appreciation for the councilor's words. She raised her head up again. "I believe between Yakut and Ino, they can run the temple together." She laced her hands together on top of the council table. "Ino knows more practices than Alti can perform."
Talia agreed, but she reminded, "It has been many moons since Ino has performed any."
"I don't think that'll matter," Cyane argued. "Ino was a shaman most of her life... I don't believe that's something you forget one day."
Talia faintly smiled because it was true. She lost the smile and seriously stated, "I would like the request one thing if this works out as so."
Queen Cyane bowed her head in agreement to listen.
"When Yakut takes the position, I would like for her to study the priesthood." Talia fell silent and gathered her words carefully. "I can remember the days, even before you were born, when we were solely a priesthood. There was no shamanism in this village, and all we knew was Artemis."
Cyane carefully asked, "Do you regret that we've brought shamanism into the Nation?"
"Not at all... that is not my fears." Talia shook her head then solemnly murmured, "Ceit was a woman with a lost soul. The Amazons gave her the inspiration to find her soul again, and Ceit gave the Nation the power of shamanism. It has only been Atli that has corrupted it."
"Yakut can fix that," Cyane urged.
Talia smiled at the queen's faith in the young apprentice shaman. "I believe you're right, Cyane." She stretched out her hand and collapsed the queen's much younger one. "Promise me that Yakut will study the priesthood?"
Cyane shook her head and asked, "How? Even Ino is limited in her knowledge. The priesthood has been slowly crumbling over the moons."
The head councilor sadly smiled and released the queen's hand. "All is not lost, Cyane." She had a more confident smile. "I know an old friend in the Macedonia Nation."
"Melosa's Nation?" Queen Cyane was surprised, and she'd heard a lot about the powerful queen. "Who is this friend?"
"She goes by the name of Narkissa," Talia revealed, "and she's currently the priestess for the Nation." She paused and considered something then mentioned, "I believe she'll be stepping down soon, and her daughter will be taking over." She shook her head then focused back on the queen. "It does not matter though. What matters is that when it is Yakut's time, she must travel to the Macedonia Nation and learn from Priestess Narkissa."
Cyane nodded and smiled. "It'll be done, Talia. I'm sure Yakut will agree with me when I say that she enjoys learning as much as she can."
The head councilor felt a sense of relief at knowing her Nation would reclaim its connection to Artemis. She was an aging Amazon, and she'd sadly watched the disintegration of the priesthood. Now she prayed that her request would help save the priesthood before it all but disappeared.
"Thank you, Cyane," Talia emotionally spoke.
Cyane grabbed the elder's hand and tightly squeezed. "By my honor, Talia it will be done."
The sun was now gone behind the western horizon. The band of Amazons that'd been sent out by Queen Cyane was only a day away from the Nation. They'd stopped for the evening and made a small camp near an open field next to the woodland. They had two fires going and on them both were skewered rabbits being cooked. The Amazons sat around the fires and idly chitchatted. They were especially happy to be going home tomorrow despite the bad news they would bring to the queen. However they knew it was important that the truth would now be revealed, and their Nation would be protected.
When Apollo mounted his chariot, the Amazons also mounted their steeds and charged towards the Amazon Nation in the early dawn. While Apollo brought the sun up higher, the Amazons pressed harder to ride the road. Somehow, the Amazons beat Apollo and made it back to the Nation a candlemark before sunset.
Thaddea ordered everybody to the stables where they dismounted and cared for their worn horses. The left their saddlebags in the stables and would return for them later. Thaddea decided it was more important to seek out the queen and relay their findings.
Queen Cyane sat at her desk when the knock came at the door. "Come," she ordered and straightened up when the three Amazons entered. "You've returned." She instantly stood up.
Thaddea bowed to the queen as did her comrades. "We were successful with our mission, my queen."
Queen Cyane became a mix of relief and fear, but she rounded the desk and stood in front of the Amazons. "Tell me."
Thaddea and her comrades explained their mission and how everything turned out. Queen Cyane had originally been concerned when they had not returned with the young woman, Dasha, who had seen Xena. She then understood Thaddea's decision and was grateful there was a signed and sealed letter. Queen Cyane now gripped the scroll in her right hand.
Cyane commended her Amazons for the hard work and thanked them several times. She escorted them out of the dim office and promised she'd find them later. Afterwards, Cyane hurried to the neighboring office hut that the head councilor occupied.
Talia gazed upon the stricken queen and jumped from her seat. "What is it, Cyane?"
The queen closed the door then hastily explained what'd happened. She told of her search party's results, and her fears were completely true.
Talia shook her head in disbelief, but it was all true. She stared at the words on the scroll and touched the seal at the bottom. Cyane then asked her the waited question. Talia lifted her head and held the queen's gaze. "Yes," she simply answered.
Cyane collected the scroll from the head councilor then excused herself from the hut. She tied the scroll to her side then her pace grew faster. She went directly to the training grounds and entered Yalena's office.
Yalena read the dire seriousness from the queen. "It's true then?"
"Yes," Cyane replied, "I'll need at least six Amazons."
Yalena jmped out of her chair and walked the queen out of the hut. "I'll quickly gather them. Wait here, my queen."
Queen Cyane tried to be patient, and she wondered where she would catch Xena right now. She figured Yalena most likely knew.
Yalena returned with eight Amazons and reported, "She's on patrol duty on the west side."
The queen nodded then focused on the eight selected Amazons. "We are arresting Xena for crimes against the Amazon Nation. We must be careful and not give alarm to the rest of the Nation. Is this clear?"
The Amazons all nodded and mentally prepared to capture the highly skilled, dark Amazon. They each prayed to Artemis that this would turn out okay.
"Let's go then." Queen Cyane and the weapons master led the group through the village, which caught some attention. They exited the gates then headed west in the woods.
Syrinx stopped walking when she heard a lot of movement behind her. "What is that?"
Xena stopped and so did Hadrea. Xena tilted her head and listened more carefully. "It's eight Amazons."
Syrinx was surprised by how Xena seemed to know so well. She then noticed the Amazons forming in the trees ahead. She shook her head because Xena had been right.
"Ho, Syrinx," Yalena called.
Queen Cyane ordered the group to stop behind her.
"My queen," Syrinx greeted and bowed like Hadrea.
Xena didn't and wouldn't lose eye contact with the Amazon Queen.
"What is the matter, my queen?" Syrinx glanced between the queen and weapons master.
Queen Cyane's response was a hasty wave to her eight Amazons.
The eight Amazons fulfilled the instructions they'd received earlier. They unsheathed swords, fanned out, and completely encircled the three patrol Amazons.
Syrinx was dumbfounded and held up her hands. She then was further confused when another Amazon grabbed her wrist and yanked her out of the circle.
The same happened to Hadrea, who looked to the queen in question.
Queen Cyane didn't acknowledge the stunned patrol Amazons and merely focused her angry face on the dark Amazon. "Xena, you are under arrest for crimes against the Nation. You are to relinquish your sword to us, and you'll be escorted back to the village."
Xena kept a calm exterior and questioned, "And what crimes do you speak of?"
Queen Cyane narrowed her eyes. "You have hidden your true nature from the Amazon Nation. It has been confirmed that you are the true leader of Borias's army, who attacked us. You are also responsible for the kidnapping of Yakut." Cyane wouldn't added that there was a possible conspiracy between Xena and the shaman. "You will have an Amazon trial."
The warlord slowly revealed her cat grin. "I don't have time for that nonsense."
The queen's eyes widened when she saw the muscles in Xena's legs ripple. "Stop her!"
It was far too late. The warlord gave a powerful battle cry that nobody had ever heard before. Xena launched straight up into the air and landed high on a tree branch.
"Get her!" Cyane hotly ordered.
Four Amazons took the trees and chased after the fast warlord.
Queen Cyane and the rest of the band followed but on the ground.
Xena's laugh could be heard echoing through the woods, and she easily escaped the Amazons.
Cyane wouldn't let this warlord escape her Nation after everything that'd happened. She surged her strength from her passions, and she ran faster than the rest of the Amazons. She quickly caught up to the warlord, but she still needed a plan.
Queen Cyane freed the dagger from its sheath on her hip. She held the dagger by its blade then aimed for the fast warlord. She cried out when she threw the dagger.
The dagger sore through the air, ripped through some new leaves, and made its mark.
Xena hissed and almost lost her balance when a blade buried into her right thigh. She briefly stopped because she knew she had enough time to get rid of the dagger and still be ahead of the Amazons.
Queen Cyane took her opportunity and jumped into the trees. She landed on the tree's branch that was near Xena's, and she was eye level. "You won't escape, Xena... as long as I'm alive."
The warlord sneered at the queen and threatened, "Then we'll have to correct that." She held the bloody dagger by the hilt. She gave a power cry then jumped after the Amazon Queen.
Cyane took two running steps and jumped. Just before she met Xena in midair, she brought out her right foot in front of her. She easily struck the warlord in the chest.
Xena fell towards the ground from the unexpected attack. She caught a tree branch and spun on the branch until she let go.
Queen Cyane watched the warlord rocket into the air in a spinning motion. She unsheathed her sword when Xena landed on the same tree branch as before.
"My queen!" Yalena called.
"Stay back," the queen ordered.
The warlord swayed up and down on the branch, but she removed her sword from her back. She pointed the tip at the queen and smirked.
Queen Cyane wasn't fearful of losing against the warlord. Even if she died then there were still a handful of Amazons Xena had to contend. She gave a cry then ran down the branch.
The warlord mimicked the queen's technique and jumped through the air. She held out her sword horizontally.
Queen Cyane's blade met Xena's in midair then she made a clean landing on the branch Xena had been on earlier. She knew this game could keep up if she didn't finish it quickly.
"We have to help the queen," Hadrea desperately urged. She started to move but the weapons master stopped her.
"No, Hadrea... she must do this alone." Yalena held the Amazon still despite she wanted to help Cyane just as much.
Cyane and Xena now shared the same branch. Cyane brought her blade across the warlord's then kicked at the warlord's unprotected stomach.
Xena growled and stumbled back a few paces on the branch. She held up her hands and steadied her body.
The Amazon Queen bounced the branch harshly and watched as Xena lost her balance.
"Chaaaaayaaaaa!" the warlord cried out and flipped in air and landed on a lower branch. She dropped her head back and shot the queen an amused expression.
Cyane growled then jumped off the branch and aimed for the one Xena occupied. She landed neatly, spun her sword then engaged her enemy.
The warlord parried every blow, and she knew Cyane was an excellent fighter. She gave a few kicks but Cyane blocked them or moved away. Xena grew impatient and took a wild swipe with her sword.
Queen Cyane used it as her opening, parried the blow, and brought her sword around quickly. She slashed Xena's right arm.
Xena moved back and revealed her surprise. She caught how the Amazon Queen was quite pleased so Xena wiped away her expression. She made a mental note never to reveal her fears like that again before her opponents.
The warlord tossed her sword into her left hand and gave a spin. She and Cyane both knew she wasn't quite as effective with her left hand, but Xena would not back down.
"Just surrender, Xena," the queen ordered. "You're just making this worse for yourself."
Xena's answer was harsh, and she lunged.
Queen Cyane defended herself and kept up to the fast pace. She could tell the wound had slightly tired the warlord. She was done letting the warlord toy with her. She gave a sharp scissor kick. She landed a kick to Xena's chin.
The warlord hadn't expected the kick at all. She lost her sword and fell back from the power behind the kick.
Cyane remained still, legs bent, and sword at the ready. She watched Xena fall backwards, losing her footing, and the sword clinked against a rock far below.
Xena went off the branch and tumbled towards the ground without any control. She slammed on her back in the ground then the back of her head roughly collided with a fallen tree branch. She groaned, and the world spun around her. "No," she murmured.
The Amazons hastily encircled the betrayer and pointed swords at her.
The warlord slumped then blacked out completely.
Queen Cyane sheathed her sword and continued to stare down at the unconscious warlord. She narrowed her eyes at the slowly forming stream of blood coming out from under the warlord's head. She partially wished that the warlord was dead, but she studied the rise and fall of the warlord's chest.
The Amazons marched back to the village and with them was the unconscious warlord. The warlord was taken directly to a prison hut and tossed inside of it. Two guards were station outside the locked prison hut and occasionally rotated when their duty was over.
Queen Cyane filled out her report about Xena, the results from the secret mission, and prepared everything to take before the council. The next step to her plans was to take Alti out of power, and she couldn't wait. She already had the council's permission to seize Alti, yet she waited for the right moment. She knew it was now because rumor of Xena's captured has floated around.
So Cyane left her office, and gathered five Amazons that Yalena had selected. She marched them to the temple, climbed the steps, and and shoved the doors open. Cyane scanned the empty, dimly lit temple and strolled deeper into the temple. "Let's check her office."
The Amazons followed their queen behind the curtain and walked two by two down the hallway. The queen opened the door to the office, which was lit only by a few candles much like the temple. There was nobody in the office either.
"Damn," Cyane grumbled, "Let's go to her hut. Hurry!" The waited may have cost her heavily
The Amazons turned and sprinted down the hallway. The group raced across the village and rammed through Alti's locked door. Cyane entered last and saw that the hut was empty of any person.
"My queen, it looks as if she's left." The spoken Amazon observed that the room was somewhat bare other than what was too heavy to carry.
"Sweep through the village," Cyane hotly ordered. "I want her found and arrested. Talk to anybody that's seen her."
"Yes, my queen," several Amazons replied, and they left.
Queen Cyane closed the shaman's door and decided she'd get a guard to watch the hut. She started back across the village but was halted by a running Amazon.
"My queen, it's Yakut."
The queen became alarmed again. "What's happened?"
"She is awake," the Amazon happily informed. "She's asking for you."
"By Artemis," the queen rasped and faintly smiled. "Yes." She quickly jogged in the direction of the apprentice shaman's hut. When she entered the guarded hut, she found Ino sitting beside the bed. She then smiled upon seeing the awaken Amazon. "Yakut." She hastily came over to the bed.
Yakut smiled and pulled her queen, her sister into a warm hug. "Did you miss me?"
Cyane pulled away from the hug and observed that the upright Amazon was in perfect health. "Yes." She had her hands on either side of the apprentice shaman's cheeks. "How do you feel, sister?"
Yakut smiled and covered the queen's hands. "I'm perfectly fine... just a little mentally worn."
"Nothing some real sleep won't cure," Ino concluded.
Cyane nodded then relinquished her hold. "You must rest then."
"No," Yakut argued and grabbed the queen's hand. "What has happened? I know something has changed in the Nation."
Cyane sighed and exchanged glances with Ino.
Yakut gripped the queen's hand more then used her two-spirit. She sought the answers she wished and found them. She stiffened and whispered, "It's Xena and Alti."
The queen studied how she held the apprentice shaman's hand and wondered if that'd helped Yakut somehow. She released Yakut's hand and stated, "Yes... Xena has been arrested."
"And Alti has disappeared," Yakut muttered.
"Typical," Ino quipped.
"Let me speak to Xena," Yakut urged and started to get up.
Queen Cyane grabbed the young Amazon's shoulders. "No, Yakut." She pushed back and ordered, "You need to rest." She bowed her head closer. "Besides that, Xena is still unconscious." When she was satisfied that Yakut wouldn't move, she lowered her hands to her side. "There's not much that can be done now that it is dark. Tomorrow we'll continue our hunt for Alti."
"I can help," Yakut offered. "I know Alti's spirit well enough."
Cyane sighed because she didn't want her sister to face the dark shaman again. "We'll see tomorrow, okay?"
Yakut could tell that the queen was antsy about letting her find Alti, but she accepted Cyane's concerns. "Alright." She nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Cyane slightly smiled and felt happy to hear that. "Tomorrow, Yakut." She glanced at Ino and gratefully stated, "Thank you, Ino."
Ino bowed her head then lifted it when the queen said goodnight and left.
"Alti went to Xena's army," Yakut stated once the queen was gone.
"Most likely," the aged shaman agreed.
"I have to stop her." Yakut clenched her hands. "She'll destroy Xena's soul."
Ino sighed and dipped her head. "I think Xena's soul is already blackened, Yakut. There's not much hope left for her."
The apprentice shaman turned her head to her mentor. "Ino, she has a good soul... it's her heart that's been blackened."
"And what can you possibly do or say to change her, Yakut?" Ino took the young Amazon's hand into hers. "She has to want to change, and I don't think she has any reason to do it."
Yakut lowered her head and frowned. She knew everything about Xena now that she was in better control of her two-spirit. She found it ironic how Alti's sleeping spell had the reverse effect on Yakut than Alti intended. The sleeping spell had forced Yakut to become better in touch with her two-spirit so that she could conquer the sleeping spell. It had worked perfectly, and now she saw the world in a different light than anybody else.
"Get some rest, Yakut." Ino stood up and kissed the young shaman on the temple. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Goodnight, Ino." Yakut grumbled once the elder was gone. She slipped out of her bed after being in it for so long. She wandered over to the window and watched the stars overhead. She lowered her eyes and stared in the direction of the jail huts.
She shook her head then mumbled, "You can't hide anymore, Xena. Not now." Yakut had a day of fate with the warlord tomorrow before first light.
The warlord was still motionless in the cell and slumped on the floor where she'd be thrown. The only movement were her closed eyes. She was deep in a dreamscape.
"Kill them all!" the warlord commanded loudly to her men. She rode her golden mare and headed down the valley towards the quaint village.
The hundred or so well-trained warriors flooded into the village and swarmed the unsuspecting villagers. They killed anybody that opposed them and burned every house or building in sight. They then rounded up the few survivors and brought them to the center of town like always.
Xena remained astride her mare, who pranced a few times. She settled her normally calm horse down then looked to her men that encircled the few, frightened villagers. "I want crosses built."
"Yes, my liege," called a warrior's voice.
"Line the crosses along the entrance road to the town," Xena further ordered, "I want anybody that comes here to know what's happened." She narrowed her icy eyes at the villagers. "Any village that refuses to annex to my Nation will be destroyed, and the people made an example."
"No!" a villager cried out.
The warlord lifted her chin when she heard the outcry. She twirled her bloody sword then ordered to a soldier. "Bring her forward."
A warrior slipped into the masses of villagers and drew out a petite blond. He hauled her out then threw her at the golden mare.
Xena coldly studied the fallen woman before her war horse. She easily dismounted her mare and landed loudly on her boots.
The woman was on her hands and knees but climbed onto her feet. She straightened up to her short height and leveled her defiance before the warlord. "My village will never annex to your tyranny."
Xena ruthlessly smiled at the woman's words. She briefly admired the woman's golden hair, defiant green eyes, and pride. "What is your name?"
"Gabrielle," the villager supplied.
The warlord had wild blue eyes now, and she imaged what rested under those peasant clothes. She slowly walked around the villager and raked over the villager's beautiful body.
"Gabrielle of Potidaea," Xena started, "you defy me?" She stopped in front of the villager again.
"Yes," Gabrielle hotly declared, "you're a monster."
The bemused warlord stepped closer and huskily asked, "Am I really, Gabrielle?" She lifted her free left hand and touched the villager's chin. "Tell me how evil I am, Gabrielle."
The villager felt the warmth in the touch and refused to enjoy it. "You're a heartless murderer."
Xena fakely gasped as if it the words stung her. "No!" She laughed and pulled her hand away. She strolled behind the villager and stopped. She easily towered over the small woman so she lowered her head close to a tantalizing ear. "Tell me again... it just warms me each time you tell me."
Gabrielle clenched her teeth at the warlord's game.
Xena received no response so she came to the front of her prey again. "You want to know the truth, Gabrielle?" She touched the woman's chin again and tilted the blond beauty's head back. "You really want to know?" She lowered her head. "Your words are nothing... compared to my blade." She traced her bloody, dirty thumb over the villager's firm lips. "Your words have no weight, but this..." She lifted her bloody sword. "This does."
Gabrielle gasped when the blade pressed into her stomach.
"You feel that, don't you?" the warlord murmured. She then tilted the blade so that the sharp edge pressed into the woman's stomach. She read the fear that instantly materialized in the woman's green eyes. "The fear is real too, Gabrielle."
Gabrielle tried to shove her fears away, but the coldness in the warlord's face told her more than she wanted to know. She saw nothing in those blue eyes but a hollowness.
"You're right," Xena whispered, "I am a monster." She tilted her head and let her fingertips trail down the woman's neck. "And I like it." She ran her fingertips across Gabrielle's collarbone. "I take what is mine... whenever I desire it."
Gabrielle's heartbeat grew rapid, and she tried to stop her body's natural reaction to the warlord's tantalizing touch. "You might be able to take my body," she whispered, "but you'll never take my soul."
Xena laughed and ran her hand over the villager's other collarbone. "I will take everything else of yours... your dreams and hopes. Your future... your very life." She suddenly grabbed the peasant by her golden locks and jerked her head down. "By the time I finish with you, you'll never want your soul back."
"No!" Gabrielle screamed.
The warlord violently threw the villager down onto the ground. She then quickly knelt down beside Gabrielle. She brought her blade down in a blur.
Gabrielle was partially sat up and gasped when the blade touched her neck. "Please, no."
Xena leaned closer and murmured, "No what?"
"Don't kill me," Gabrielle begged. "Don't do this to my village. Take me but don't harm them."
The warlord smirked and dipped her head. She had a deep, amused voice when she responded. "But then, Gabrielle I wouldn't live up to the monster that you see me." She licked her lips then whispered, "First, I will burn the rest of your village. Then the crosses will be made, and your people tied to them."
Gabrielle frantically shook her head.
"And just because I like you so much," Xena amusingly informed, "I'll be sure to gift your villagers with broken legs." She chuckled at Gabrielle's rising fears and horror. "And tonight, Gabrielle it will be me and you in my tent." She leaned forward and brushed her lips over the bard's soft ones then bit it harshly.
Gabrielle cried when her lip was broken open and bled.
The dark warlord chuckled and brought her lips close to the peasant's soft ear. "Tonight I will rape you over and over until you wish you were on one of those crosses." She drew back, and she couldn't even count the many tears that streamed down the woman's flushed cheeks. She quickly extracted a dagger from her left boot and brought it at Gabrielle.
The villager screamed when the hot blade dug across her chest and left a bleeding wound that was similar to an 'x' design.
Xena sheathed her bloody dagger then amusingly informed, "You'll always be mine, Gabrielle." She quickly stood up and ordered to her soldiers. "Take her away and build me my damn crosses!"
Two warriors quickly stepped forward, grabbed the fallen villager's arms, and hauled her away on her back.
"No!" Gabrielle's scream erupted, "Xena, please no!"
The monstrous warlord smiled coldly at the villager's cries, then she beautifully mounted her mare. "To my Nation!"
The soldiers raised their bloody swords and hailed, "To the Nation! Xeeena! Xeeena!"
Xena held Argo's reins tightly and kept her sword up to the skies. She then gazed far off and stared at the villager being dragged. She felt the last morsel of life in her slowly die when her two soldiers lifted Gabrielle and beat her so she'd stop yelling.
The warlord dropped her head back and smiled darkly at her bloody sword.
The sword shined red back then a droplet of blood collected on the edge of the blade. The droplet freed, fell, and landed right over the warlord's lips.
Xena tasted the mixed blood, and it fueled her darkness. Today was indeed a good day of fighting, and just over the next few hills her two legions waited for her. Greece was almost completely hers! She closed her eyes and basked in her conquest; she felt like a goddess among these weak mortals. She was destined to be the Conqueror.
"No," Xena rasped, and shook her head. "No." She suddenly dropped her head back and screamed at the sky. "Gaabrielleeeee!"
The warlord's confused eyes flew open and absorbed the darkness.
"Keep it quiet," barked a voice from outside.
Xena gasped for air, lifted her body up with her hands, and raised her head up. She felt so incredibly sore, yet she ignored it. She recalled what'd happened last. She quickly scanned over her current situation, and she knew she was locked away in one of the cell huts.
To be continued in part 4...
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