Xena, Gabrielle, King Melos, Queen Mistria and Princess Alesia do not belong to me. They belong to MCA/Universal/Renaissance.

Small One

A mighty ship was sailing towards the island of Syra. Aboard it amongst others were two warriors and a bard, who had received word from King Melos and Queen Mistria and had caught the first ship to the island.

"The last time we saw King Melos was when we helped retrieve the crown jewels that had been stolen and took Princess Alesia back home after she ran away", Gabrielle explained when Exl had asked who were the Royalties who had asked for their help.

"Princess Alesia is King Melos' young daughter from his first marriage. After he was left widow, he married Queen Mistria and Alesia didn't like her stepmother at first, she thought she was an evil stepmother like in the fairytale", Xena said. Exl asked:

"Do you know why they asked us to arrive as soon as we could?" Gabrielle and Xena both shook their heads, usually when they were called to come and help, they had some idea what could be going on. Soon they arrived at Syra, and they made their way to the palace as soon as they could.

Arriving at the palace, they were escorted to see the King and Queen. Xena and Gabrielle bowed and Exl knelt in front of the Royals, and King Melos welcomed them:

"Greetings Xena and Gabrielle, thank you for arriving so quickly. I see you brought a companion." Gabrielle introduced Exl to the Royals:

"Your Highnesses, this is Exl, she is our Loyal and our Guardian." Exl stood up and greeted the King and Queen:

"It's my honor to meet you, your Royal Highnesses."

"Welcome all of you", Queen Mistria said.

"How is Princess Alesia?", Xena asked.

"She is the reason we asked you to come", King Melos answered.

"Why? Is she alright?", Gabrielle asked quickly.

"Yes she is. My wife and I need to go on a trip to my cousin's wedding and the journey is too long for Alesia. When she found about the fact that we need someone to look after her, Alesia insisted that we ask you to come here. We know we can trust you, you've helped us before and Alesia likes you", King Melos said. Exl looked a bit surprised and asked:

"So you asked us to come to be babysitters?"

"Well, yes", Queen Mistria said.

"We're glad to help you. How long will you be gone?", Gabrielle answered behalf of her family. Exl looked at Xena and Xena looked back at Exl, both agreeing with Gabrielle.

"Wonderful. Wait till Alesia hears the good news", King Melos said smiling. He stood up, walked to a guard and told him to get Princess Alesia. It was only a short moment when the small Princess came to the throne room and when she arrived, King Melos said to her:

"Alesia dear, look who's here." Alesia turned to look at the travelers and noticing familiar faces, she shouted gladly:

"Xena! Gabrielle!" and ran to her friends. Xena and Gabrielle knelt to hug the small Princess, Exl also dropped down to one knee to meet Alesia.

"Hi Alesia, it's nice to see you again", Xena said.

"I missed you two", Alesia said smiling.

"We missed you too, little Princess", Gabrielle said. Exl said:

"Hello Princess Alesia." When Alesia turned to look at Exl, it seemed like she was a bit scared of her. She just looked at Exl and ran to her father. Exl couldn't understand, did she appear frightening to Alesia? Xena and Gabrielle also noticed that Alesia seemed to avoid Exl.

"Alesia dear, Xena, Gabrielle and Exl have come here to look after you while we are on our trip", the King said to his small daughter. Alesia turned to look at the three women and then she said to her father smiling:

"Thank you father, I promise I'll be a good girl."

"When will you be leaving your Highness?", Gabrielle asked.

"We will leave before sunset, if that's fine with you?", Queen Mistria said.

"Everything is fine with us", Xena responded.

"Good, the servants will show you to your rooms", the King said and 3 servants came to escort Xena and Gabrielle to their shared room and Exl to her room.

The King and Queen left soon towards the harbor and after seeing them off, Xena, Gabrielle, Exl and Alesia sat down to eat dinner. Exl noticed that Alesia stared at her and when she turned to look at the Princess, she turned away her gaze from the young warrior. Alesia kept on asking Xena and Gabrielle about their adventures. Gabrielle told about what they had seen and where they had been and was telling about how they met Exl when Alesia interrupted.

"I want to hear some other story", she said. Exl stood up, said in an offended tone:

"Excuse me" and left. Xena and Gabrielle stared each other and Xena rose from her chair, looked at Gabrielle and said to Alesia:

"Alesia, Gabrielle will tell you another story, I have to go and check up on something." Gabrielle nodded, knowing what Xena had in mind and started telling Alesia a story.

Xena followed the sound of chopping and banging to the far end of the palace's courtyard and found Exl throwing her axes into large pieces of wood and she seemed to be very upset.

"Exl, Exl calm down", Xena said seeing Exl. Exl turned to look at her friend and asked: "Xena, why does Alesia fear me? Do I really seem that intimidating?" Xena looked into Exl's eyes and shook her head.

"No, I don't think you look intimidating. Maybe Alesia just doesn't like strangers that much", she said. Exl lowered her gaze and said:

"No, what I saw in her eyes was fear. I've seen that same look of fear many years ago, and I hoped I'd never see it again." Xena put her hand under Exl's chin and lifted Exl's head to look her in the eyes.

"When I first met you, I saw fear in your eyes too. But look at us now, we are part of the same family", Xena said.

"Xena, I was scared because I thought you were going to hurt me, of course you saw fear in my eyes. The fear in Alesia's eyes is a different kind of fear, the fear you sense when you see something monstrous or horrible", Exl continued.

"I'm sure there's a good explanation for why Alesia seems to fear you. Let's go back and find it out", Xena replied.

While Xena went to find Exl, Gabrielle had finished her story and Alesia asked her:

"Gabrielle, is Exl nice?" Gabrielle didn't quite understand Alesia's question.

"Yes she is. She is a warm, kind, loving person. She always thinks about others before thinking about herself. Why do you ask?", Gabrielle said to Alesia. Alesia took Gabrielle by the hands and answered:

"Well, she just looks a bit… odd."

"What do you mean odd? Does she scare you?", Gabrielle asked.

"No, I've never seen anyone like her before. She has that big scar on her eye and she seems so… she's not like you and Xena", Alesia explained. Gabrielle signaled Alesia to come and sit on her lap. Alesia asked:

"What was the first thing you felt when you met Exl?" Gabrielle knew the answer right away:

"It was sense of safety and protection. Exl saved me from some bandits that had taken me prisoner. She helped me, even though she was injured. When I noticed her beautiful eyes, I knew she must be a good person. I have never been afraid of Exl, her appearance or her actions. That scar on her eye was caused by an evil man she was fighting to save her people. She won the battle, but it nearly cost her her life. But that scar is a reminder of that day and of what she did for her people. Exl's cousin is now Queen of their nation, but she wanted to honor Exl by naming her as Queen Exl, the Valiant."

"Wow, you mean Exl is a Queen?", Alesia asked.

"Only in name, but in her heart she is like a noble Queen. I know she might seem intimidating and she's not like me and Xena, but she is part of our family. She will always be here to love and protect me and Xena, and we will be here to protect and love her. Look into Exl's eyes when you talk to her and you'll feel the same feel of love and kindness I feel when I look into them. Give Exl a chance to show her gentle side, once you get to know her you'll really like her", Gabrielle said smiling. Alesia nodded and she got off Gabrielle's lap.

"Will you come and tell me a bedtime story?", she asked Gabrielle.

"Sure I will, you go and get into bed, I'll come to your room after I find my two warriors", Gabrielle responded and Alesia left the dining hall.

Before Gabrielle had a chance to leave in search of her family, the two warriors entered the dining hall.

"There you are you two, I just was going to come and find you and then go tell Alesia a bedtime story", Gabrielle said to her family.

"Gabrielle, Exl and I talked about what happened earlier. I think Exl would like to talk to Alesia. Where is Alesia now?", Xena asked.

"She is preparing for bed, I also had talk with Alesia. She told me that she doesn't fear you but she has never seen anyone like you before", Gabrielle said to Exl.

"I think it's best if I talk to her tomorrow", Exl said.

"Let's go and see if she's ready for that story", Xena said leading them to Alesia's bedroom. When they opened the door, they saw the little Princess sound asleep. "Poor thing, she must have been exhausted, let's let her continue her slumber", Gabrielle said.

"Reminds me of a certain young one who I've watched sleep many times", Xena said smirking. Exl smiled, at what Xena said and at the sight of the sleeping Princess.

"I think we should go to bed too, it's been a long day", Xena continued.

"Yes we should", Exl agreed. Xena and Gabrielle went to their room and Exl to hers, but after she heard her Couple's bedroom door close, she left her room and went to sit in a comfortable armchair in front of the fireplace in the parlor. She sat there thinking for some time, staring at the fire and thinking about Alesia and about the fear she saw in her eyes. She was very tired and it was hard to keep her eyes open anymore, she didn't bother getting up and going back to her room.

Exl had nearly fallen asleep when she was woken up by a light touch on her arm and a gentle voice that said:

"Exl…" The warrior had her hand on her axe as a normal reflex but when she saw the small Princess next to her, she knelt in front of Alesia and asked:

"Alesia, what's the matter?" Alesia looked sad, she looked at Exl and said:

"I had a bad dream, I got really scared." Exl took Alesia's hand and softly touched the Princess' cheek with her other hand.

"Don't be afraid, I'm here. Let's get you back to bed", Exl said and walked Alesia back to her room. Alesia jumped in her bed and Exl sat close to her and tucked her in and asked:

"Now tell me, what kind of dream did you have?"

Alesia told Exl:

"I was going to play with some other kids and when they saw me and saw that I'm a princess, they started to tease me because I was different. I didn't like being different than everyone else, it wasn't nice at all." Exl smiled and put her hand on Alesia's hand and said:

"A long time ago, I also thought that being different wasn't a nice thing."

"You did?", Alesia asked.

"Yes I did. But being different is part of being human, and if I wouldn't have learned that, I wouldn't be who I am today", Exl said smiling.

"Tell me about it Exl, please", Alesia asked and seemed excited.

"Okay, okay, I'll tell you", Exl agreed.

Hearing someone moving in the hallway, Gabrielle and Xena had woken up and went to see what had caused the noise. They saw light in Alesia's room and heard Exl's voice, so they assumed that Exl was talking with Alesia. Gabrielle wanted to hear what Exl was telling Alesia, so she took Xena by the forearm and whispered: "Shh.. Listen…" Xena stopped and concentrated on listening to Exl's words.

Exl began:

"When I was a bit older than you are now, believe it or not, I was like the other girls in my village. You could say I was kind of cute, I had longer and lighter hair, I wore different kinds of clothes than now and inside I was much calmer. I spent my days playing with the other kids. Everything was alright, until came the day that would change my life for the first time. I was playing with some other girls and somehow I got into an argument with another girl. I got angry at her for saying something nasty to a dear friend of mine and then I punched her." Exl punched her palm to enliven her story. Alesia just stared at her, listening to this exciting story.

"I don't know what got over me. When she fell down and her nose started bleeding just a little bit, it was like someone had ripped my heart into shreds. All the girls just stared at me and pointed at me, one of them said I was scaring them, that I was somehow evil. I just ran home and cried. I had lost my parents when I was small, so I lived with my grandfather and when I got home and cried and threw my things, he calmed me down and asked me what had happened. I told him what I had done and he had somehow known something like this would happen. He asked me how I felt when I hit the girl. I said:

"I felt sad and scared, but also it felt like I had done what I thought was right." I knew hitting other kids wasn't right. My grandfather said he had always known that I wouldn't be like other girls or even like other children for that matter, he had just waited for the day something like this would happen. He looked into my sad eyes and said:

"Exl, you have inherited your mother's kindness, her care for others, her empathy and her ability to love. But also you have inherited your father's loyalty, his strong will, his strength and most important of all: his warrior-spirit." I didn't understand what he meant, I asked him:

"I've heard my father was a great warrior, many respected him. Do you mean that my aggressive behavior towards others could mean that… I'm supposed to become a warrior? I know I'm different from the other girls, but a warrior… How can I become a warrior when I do things that don't seem right, I hurt someone today?" He said:

"You protected your friend's honor, which is something a real warrior would do, help and protect others. Your father also had trouble finding his path, he never thought he would walk the path of the Warrior. He and your mother wanted me to raise you well, to raise you the way I see is best. I wanted to see how things would start turning out, then decide on your education. I will let you choose: choose the path of the Warrior or choose another path, I will respect your decision. Follow your heart, think about the things that happened today."

He left me alone to think. I tried remembering what was going in my mind and in my heart when I was in that argument and when I hit that girl. Then I understood my grandfather's words. I had my mother's care for others and my father's loyalty when I protected my friend and my father's warrior-spirit when I decided to teach that girl a lesson. I sat there thinking for a while, then I went to look at the last possessions I had that belonged to my parents. Amongst them I found my mother's mirror and my father's knives, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a person I had never seen before. On the outside it was a young, innocent girl, but on the inside was a strong, fiery warrior waiting to come out. I knew that the change in me would also change me on the outside. I took my father's knife, closed my eyes for a while and then I cut my long hair like they are now and after a while the shade of my hair darkened.

In the morning I went to grandfather wearing new clothes and said:

"Grandfather, I have decided to follow my father's path, the path of the Warrior. Please teach me how to become a great warrior." He looked at my new appearance, smiled and I saw a tear in his eye when he said he was proud of me and so would my parents be." Alesia didn't seem to be the least bit tired, she said:

"What happened next?"

Exl continued:

"My grandfather started teaching me the dignity and honor of a warrior. How a warrior must always be unselfish, to help and serve others before thinking of oneself and one's own well-being. He also taught my cousin Swyther, we learned that being a warrior isn't that easy, but life isn't easy either. I apologized to the girl I had hurt, but still some feared me, my new appearance and especially my erratic actions. But after time passed, they saw that deep down inside I was still the person I had always been. I still had fun with friends when I had some free time from training. Swyther and I learned how to use different weapons and basic battle skills, over time we learned more and more.

After several years of training, when we were about 16 summers old, our grandfather called Swyther and me to see him and told us to follow him to a cave that was quite a long walk from our village. When we got there, he gave us both a gift. To Swyther, he gave a sword that had belonged to his father many, many years earlier. A sword is the weapon of a leader, a weapon for those with great strength and a strong mind. To me, he gave these", Exl showed Alesia her axes. Alesia looked at them closely and was amazed.

"He said he had chosen these for me because I have a good, strong heart, quick, agile movements and a sly mind. I have always been able to trust them, they have never let me down. After all these years, I have never forgotten my grandfather's teachings. Not a single day goes by that I don't think about him and what he taught me. I have been trough a lot, I've been in many battles and I've been scarred quite badly, no wonder you got scared when you saw me for the first time. The fear I saw in your eyes was the same fear I saw in my friends' eyes when I had hit that girl." Alesia looked into Exl's eyes and wrapped her arms around Exl's neck to give her a hug.

"I don't think you look scary at all. You look like a warrior, and I've learned that what's on the outside isn't what's most important, it's what's on the inside." Exl smiled and squeezed Alesia close to her.

Gabrielle and Xena had been listening carefully to Exl's story and they had learned a lot about their dearly loved Guardian. Exl had been like any other girl, then she had a life-changing experience and started to train to become a warrior. Gabrielle thought Exl's grandfather was right, she did have her mother's features and also those of her father's. She had the ability to love, she was very loyal and Gabrielle also agreed with Alesia, Exl didn't look scary at all, she looked like a warrior. Xena knew that Exl's grandfather had made the right choice of weapons for Exl. Her axes were great weapons for her, and in battle she didn't need anything else but them and her battle skills. Xena gave Gabrielle a nudge signaling they should get back to their room and back to bed, Exl had everything under control.

"Exl, if becoming a warrior changed your life for the first time, what happened the next time your life changed?", Alesia asked.

"It was when I met Xena and Gabrielle for the first time, but that is another story", Exl said to Alesia.

"Now young Princess, it's late and you should be sound asleep, close your eyes and dream about something nice and beautiful." Alesia laid her head on the pillow and closed her eyes. Exl looked at the Princess and was walking to the door to leave, when Alesia said:

"Good night Exl." Exl saluted Alesia and replied:

"Good night Princess, if you need anything or something scares you, come and tell me." Having said that, Exl left Alesia's room and walked back to her own room and passing her Couple's room, she wished them quietly good night.

In the morning, Gabrielle woke up well-rested and went to have a quick bath before going to breakfast. As she entered the bathroom, she found Exl dressing after having taken a bath. Exl had her back to the door, and Gabrielle looked at her back that was full of scars and scratches. Exl had truly been in many battles and had been wounded several times, she had nearly as many scars as Xena did. Exl heard the door close behind her and turned to see who had entered.

"Good morning", Gabrielle said and walked to Exl. Exl answered:

"Morning Gabrielle, you're up fairly early."

"Well I wanted to have a nice bath before breakfast, it's nice to be able to bathe properly once in a while", Gabrielle smiled.

"So do I, even though I do like bathing in a cool river or lake. I had a talk with Alesia last night, she had a nightmare and I told her a story to help her fall asleep", Exl said. "What was your story about?", Gabrielle asked as if she had heard nothing in the night . Exl turned her sight to the floor and replied:

"Well… it was about a young girl and about changes in life."

"Would you like to tell me the story, it sounds very interesting?", Gabrielle asked trying to get Exl tell more about her past.

"Okay… Gabrielle, do you think that even though how much someone experiences, is that person deep, deep down inside always the same person? Because I've been thinking that people do change", Exl said looking into Gabrielle's bright emerald eyes. Gabrielle stared into Exl's eyes, smiled and said:

"Yes, I do. For example, let's talk about Xena. We know she is a great warrior and she has a dark past, but still inside she has always been very loving and caring towards me and many others."

"I know that. Gabrielle, I want you to know something about me. Something I've never told you or Xena. When I was younger, I was…", Exl started, but she stopped when Gabrielle put her hand on Exl's shoulder.

"Exl, I want to tell you that last night Xena and I heard someone moving in the hallway and when we went to see who was making that noise, we saw the light in Alesia's room and heard you telling her that story. We heard everything, about your past and about your training", Gabrielle said to Exl. Exl nodded and answered:

"I had a feeling someone other than Alesia was also listening to my story, but I thought I was imagining it. So now you know, I used to be just a normal girl before, but then…"

"Exl, I think you have inherited your parent's features like your grandfather said. I know that you changed very much, but I think that who you are now is more important than who you used to be. That change in your life was a very important one, do you regret that it happened?", Gabrielle asked. Exl walked to the mirror and said:

"No. It's just that… when I look at myself in the mirror, I can't see the person I was before. All these scars and scratches make me look so different, I barely recognize myself anymore." Exl looked at herself in the mirror and it felt like she looked at a stranger. Gabrielle walked to Exl and turned her that she faced Gabrielle.

"That is true, that short, darker hair and that scar do make you look different than the girl you described, but you're looking in the wrong place. Even though how much you change, your eyes always stay the same. The eyes are the mirror to one's soul. When I look into them, deep inside I can see that light-colored, long haired, beautiful young woman, she has always been there and there she will always remain. Look for yourself", Gabrielle said and pointed at the mirror. Exl turned to the mirror and looked deep into the eyes of her reflection. After a while, she could see herself the way she looked long ago. She saw a young woman, with longer and lighter hair, with no scars on her face smiling back at her. Exl sighed and closed her eyes, Gabrielle walked behind her and put her hands on Exl's shoulders.

Exl turned to look at Gabrielle and when Gabrielle saw the tears in Exl's gorgeous blue-green eyes, she said:

"Either way you look, I think you're beautiful, on the inside and on the outside. And I bet so does Xena and many others. Now, wipe your tears." Exl wiped her eyes and said:

"Thanks Gabrielle, it always amazes me how you and Xena bring out new sides in me."

"You're welcome, we're always here to help you and hopefully you'll always be here with us", Gabrielle said smiling. Exl took her towel and said:

"I'll go and see if breakfast is ready and wake the little Princess."

"Sounds good, after I'm done, I'll go and wake the Warrior Princess, if she's still sleeping", Gabrielle replied.

Alesia was already awake, and so was Xena. All four sat down for breakfast and the atmosphere was more pleasant than at dinner the evening before. After breakfast, Alesia wanted to go outside and play, that was fine with the others. As Gabrielle played with dolls with Alesia, Exl and Xena had a chance to spar and practice. Xena showed Exl a few moves and Exl copied the moves. After a while, Xena decided to "attack" Exl and Exl had to dodge Xena's attacks. Exl could expect Xena's movements and was about to surprise Xena with a quick flip, when Xena dropped down to her knees and swept Exl's feet from under her. Exl fell on her backside and saw the smirking Xena and applauding Gabrielle and Alesia looking at her. Xena offered Exl her hand and Exl grabbed it, to be pulled up on her feet.

"You were close, but still too far. I have to think of new techniques to surprise you", Xena said.

"Yay Xena! Yay Exl!", Alesia shouted and Xena and Exl bowed to her.

"It's nice you liked it, Princess", Exl said.

"Can we play hide and seek, please?", Alesia asked the others.

"That sounds like fun. Alesia and I will hide and you two seek", Gabrielle suggested. Exl and Xena knew that it would be easy for them to find them, they were good trackers.

"Okay, but find a very good place to hide", Xena replied. She and Exl closed their eyes and started counting. Gabrielle and Alesia ran away from them trying to find a place to hide. After counting, Exl said:

"I heard Alesia going this way." Xena replied:

"And I heard Gabrielle running this way, and here's her footprints."

"Let's find Gabrielle first, then Alesia", Exl said. They followed Gabrielle's footprints and they ended at a big barrel.

"Gee, I wonder where Gabrielle has gone to…", Exl "wondered".

"I haven't got a clue, maybe she's in… here!", Xena said removing the barrel's cover. They saw Gabrielle squatting down in the barrel. She stood up and was lifted from the barrel by her strong wife.

"I knew that you'd find me soon, but not this soon", Gabrielle said.

"Well it would have taken us longer, but you weren't hard to follow", Exl said pointing at Gabrielle's footprints.

"Of course, I forgot not to leave any tracks", Gabrielle said.

They went to look for Alesia and her footprints began to be harder to see. But where her footprints ended, they heard Alesia crying for help.

"Xena! Exl! Gabrielle! Help!" They ran to the direction where the cry for help came from and they reached a tall tree and saw Alesia hanging on to a branch high up in the air.

"You stay here, I'll go and get her", Xena said. Exl took Xena by the arm and said:

"No Xena, those branches won't hold you. I'll get Alesia, you be ready if something goes wrong." Gabrielle said to Xena:

"Xena, she's right. You and Alesia will both be in danger, those branches look very frail." Xena looked at Exl and said:

"Be careful." Exl nodded and shouted:

"Alesia, hold on tightly, I'm coming." She started climbing the tree with great speed and agility. She reached the branch above Alesia and said to her:

"Alesia, I'm here. Now, very carefully let go your other hand from the branch and take my hand." Alesia said with tears in her eyes:

"I can't Exl, I'm so scared."

"Alesia, trust me, everything will be okay. I won't let you fall, I promise. Look at me", Exl said comforting Alesia. Alesia looked into Exl's eyes and when she saw the calming blue-green eyes, she took Exl's hand. Just as Exl was about to lift Alesia, the branch the Princess was holding to snapped and broke. The branch fell to the ground, only a few feet from Gabrielle and Xena. They felt their heart beating unsteadily and they were worried and at the same time they knew Exl would make it. Exl was holding Alesia by both her hands and lifted her into her arms.

"Everything's okay, now let's get down. Hold on tight", Exl said to Alesia. Alesia wrapped her arms around Exl's neck. Exl carefully climbed down from the tree and when she got down, Gabrielle and Xena came to them and checked if they were alright.

"Alesia, are you okay?", Xena asked.

"Yes", Alesia answered.

"Why did you climb up that tree, it was very dangerous?", Gabrielle asked.

"I wanted to find a very good hiding place and then I saw that tree. I wanted to be like you, strong and courageous. But when I got up there, I realized how high I was and when I tried to climb down, I slipped and nearly fell", Alesia replied with teary eyes.

"Well, the main thing is that you're safe", Xena said. Alesia looked at Exl and said:

"Exl, thank you for saving me. You're a real hero and a real warrior." Exl was kneeling, she smiled and spread out her hands signaling Alesia she wanted to hug her. Alesia hugged Exl and Exl said:

"You're welcome, young Princess." They returned to the palace and had lunch. In the afternoon, they played inside and soon it was time to go to bed. Gabrielle told Alesia a bedtime story and Exl and Xena were also listening to it. Gabrielle told the story of how they met Exl and Alesia seemed to enjoy the story very much. Gabrielle had just finished the story when she noticed Alesia had fallen asleep and nearly so had her warriors. She quietly shook them awake and they left the sleeping Princess to continue dreaming.

In the morning, Alesia came to wake up Gabrielle and Xena. They went to have breakfast, letting Exl sleep late. It was after they had finished when Exl came to the dining hall, rubbing her eyes and yawning.

"Good morning", Exl said to the others.

"Morning sleepyhead", Xena answered.

"So what's the schedule for today?", Exl asked taking a seat.

"King Melos sent word that they will arrive today", Gabrielle answered.

"Aww, then that means you'll have to go", Alesia said with disappointment.

"Well, then we'll just have to have as much fun as we can before they arrive", Xena said smiling. And so they did, they had a very good time and when they heard the main gates open and the Royals arrive, they went to meet them.

"Daddy!", Alesia shouted when she saw her father. She ran to him and gave him a hug.

"Alesia darling, have you had fun, have you been a good little girl?", the King asked. "She has behaved very nicely", Xena answered behalf of Alesia.

"Thank you for taking care of her. We hope it wasn't too much trouble for you", Queen Mistria said.

"Trouble? No trouble at all", Gabrielle responded. All of them went inside and had a magnificent dinner, and after that, Xena, Gabrielle and Exl informed they had to get back to the mainland and back on the road. Alesia was a bit sad they had to go, but was happier when they said they'd come back and visit soon.

When they were on the ship taking from Syra to mainland, Exl was on deck looking at the sunset. Xena and Gabrielle came to her and asked:

"Exl, why haven't you told us more about yourself? We want to know you better, you're important to us." Exl said:

"You know, Alesia reminds me quite much of my old self. A young, beautiful and innocent girl knowing nothing about the cruel world. But my path wasn't that of an innocent girl, my path is the path of the Warrior, I thought that side of me and my past wasn't important. But now I realize it still is a part of me, deep down inside me. So, what more do you want to know about me?" Gabrielle said:

"Who you were before is an important part of you. Your heart is the heart of a warrior and also partly the heart of a young, innocent girl."

"When Alesia looked at you, she saw the tough warrior and when she looked into your eyes, she saw the kind, loving person you are", Xena said. Exl looked into the barrel of water next to her, and saw her reflection. The warrior with all her scars and short hair and next to her, the young girl with no scars and long hair. They both were smiling at her, and she could only smile back. Feeling two hands touch her shoulders, she took her gaze from her reflection and looked at her family. They loved her no matter who she was and she loved them back just as much.

End of "Small One"

The series will continue in: "White Solstice"

Please let me know what you honestly thought about the story. I am happy for every feedback I receive, it will give me a chance to know what you think about my writing. Thank you all the feedback so far.

To send feedback, write to: exl.theguardian@gmail.com

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