The Unchained Heart



The yurt was sweltering, or at least it was to the very pregnant woman lying on the pallet. A rustle of the yurt’s flaps caused her smaller companion to look up in surprise, and she started to scream. A large hand clamped over her mouth, and she was lifted off the floor, her arms pinned to her sides. Xena looked up at her in horror, as Kaliepus held Satrina off the floor.

“You vicious little traitor,” a voice above Xena’s head growled.

She looked up into the angry eyes of her lover, and felt relief flood through her body almost at once. She looked down again to a sickening pop, as Satrina’s limp body slid to the floor.

“Fortunately for us, and for you Xena, there are a few men left here who are loyal to you alone. Satrina had under laid plans with Dagine, to make sure Borias appeared to be here to kill you, and your son. She’s not dead, but she’s seen enough to be able to know what we’ll make it look like happened to you,” Kaliepus explained.

“What?” Xena asked groggily, the labor pains making it hard to concentrate.

Borias knelt next to her, pushing sweat soaked hair off her face, and kissing her temple.

“Before Alti, before all this, we had love, Xena. Maybe we confused it with power, but it was there…is still there. For the sake of our son, and us, I am taking you away,” he murmured gently.

“But the army…” she started to question. What she wanted was to do nothing more at that moment, than to wrap herself in Borias’ strong arms, and let his solid heart beat soothe her. However she knew that her army would not just sit quietly by and let her leave, especially in the company of the two people she’d only days earlier ordered killed on sight.

“Tyldus and the other warriors are making sure that all they’ll see will be their commander being carried off into the darkness by a centaur. They won’t even be sure which centaur it is. By the time it’s all over, Satrina will wake to tell Dagine and what’s left of your army that you’ve been kidnapped by Borias and the centaurs. And you have my word that as of now, all of us will fight to the death in order to keep both you, and your son from harm,” Kaliepus explained.

Xena’s eyes closed in utter relief. Perhaps Alti’s disgusting prophecy wasn’t going to be after all. Borias pulled the blanket from her body, and Kaliepus gently picked her up from the bed.

“You might do better to tuck your head into my shoulder, and close your eyes; the jarring motion when I walk might make you sick to your stomach,” Kaliepus said quietly.

Borias braced himself, fully expecting his lover’s nasty temper to rear its head. To his surprise Xena merely nodded, and did as the centaur had suggested. Kaliepus backed out of the tent, and turned and trotted into the darkness of the nearby tree line. Borias followed moments later, and Xena lifted her head from Kaliepus’ shoulder to see him leap onto the back of another centaur, who she thought was named Etymon.

For seemingly no apparent reason Kaliepus chuckled. Borias and Etymon both looked at the older centaur, confused, and Xena smiled.

“From the strength of that kick, I’d say he’s got your temper warrior,” the centaur laughed.

Borias chuckled and shook his head. “Neither of us has much restraint of that to speak of Kaliepus, so to say that, would be to say he gets it honestly,” he said.

Etymon held out a large hand, and offered the warrior a piece of leather. She took it, and looked at him, her eyes holding a mixture of question, and confusion.

“We’ll get back to the village faster if we run. However doing so may jar you, and cause you a great deal of pain. While I know you understand that silence is of the utmost importance, the leather is only for you should the pain become so that you cannot keep quiet,” Etymon explained.

Xena nodded, and both centaurs turned, and headed for their nearby village at a dead run.


Several candlemarks later, the warrior was lying on a cot in a hut in the centaur village. She was nude, and a soft cotton quilt had been drawn up over her sweating form. She was resting comfortably, curled against several pillows, having drunk down an infusion that the centaur’s healer had prepared for her, which made her body stop trying to fight itself in order for her son to be born.

She ran a hand over her distended stomach, grinning as a series of kicks and punches followed her hand.

“You have to come out soon you know, you can’t live in there forever,” she said with a giggle.

She shook her head at herself, noting that a day earlier, had anyone told her she’d be where she presently was, let alone behaving like this, she would’ve ordered that person killed, because the thought was ludicrous.

“Really, it’s okay to come out now. I’m safe, and your daddy’s here. Well, sort of. He’s outside the hut, the big chicken,” she laughed, her head dropping back to the pillows. A moment or so later, her features changed again, and she grimaced as another contraction hit.

The healer looked up from his place by the fire, and quickly stood up, crossing to the cot, he folded the blanket back, up to her knees and smiled.

“Apparently Kaliepus was right. He’s just as impatient as the two of you. A couple of strong pushes, and you’ll get to see him,” he said.

She nodded her head, and bore down with the next contraction, as he’d told her to do. When it was over she drew in air, preparing to do it again, when the healer clamped a hand around her knee.

“Stop! Whatever you do, don’t push. The cord is around his neck. Any sudden movement from you could kill him,” the healer said.

Panic instantly swept over the warrior. Here it was, Alti’s prophecy was going to come true after all. Her decision to run away had been for nothing. The gentle voice of the healer spoke again, and his next words abated her fear into nothingness.

“Alright mommy, it wasn’t as bad as it appeared. With one more good push to get those shoulder’s through, this young man will be ready to see you,” the healer replied.

A wave of relief washed over the warrior, and with the next contraction she gave it everything she had. The healer gently caught the squirming body, and with a quick flash of a knife, separated mother from child.

A mild cramp rippled through her, and she felt the sac leave her. She slumped back against the bedding; her chest heaving as the pounding in her head slowly receded.

The healer turned with the newborn in his arms, and walked towards a nearby table laden with warm water and swaddling clothes. He paused, halfway there, and looked at the hanging leather that covered the door.

“You can come in now Borias,” he said, before walking on to the table.

The leather was pushed back, and Borias entered the hut and quickly padded over to the cot, dropping down to one knee. He ran a hand behind her head, gently stroking the sweat stiffened locks of her right temple, while placing a gentle kiss to her left.

They both looked up as they heard the angry squalls of a baby, and noticed the healer approaching, with a squirming bundle.

“Alright young man, now that you’re all nice and clean, I want you to meet your mom and dad,” the healer said placing the wriggling bundle in Xena’s arms, before excusing himself from the hut.

She gently peeled the blanket back for the two of them to see their son.

“So Alti was half right,” Xena murmured. “He is indeed healthy, has my eyes and your mouth.”

“But unlike what she predicted, I am going to name my son,” Borias said softly.

“And what name have you decided to give him?” she asked.

Before he could answer, there was a soft rap on the door frame, and the leather was gathered back just enough for Kaliepus and Tyldus to peek inside at them.

“Come,” Borias said motioning them forward. “I would like to introduce you to our son, Solan.”

They did not enter however, though Kaliepus was quick to explain.

“Word shall be passed among the village, and I’ll have someone bring you something to eat. I should tell you we have also received news, that as planned, Satrina has informed Dagine that you’ve been kidnapped by the centaurs. From what I’ve heard, he’s debating on whether to take the risk and rescue you, or take over the army,” Kaliepus said.

“He’s in a no win situation then. To chicken to do one, too greedy to do the other well,” Xena rumbled.

Borias chuckled.

“Finally you believe what I’ve been telling you for nearly a year,” he said.

Despite everything and how serious the situation actually was, Xena laughed.

“I’ll send one of the young ones over with some food shortly, and Etymon has volunteered to be on sentry duty til daybreak. He’ll be just outside if you need anything, “Kaliepus said, before dropping the leather that covered the door.

Solan fussed, and wriggled impatiently, bringing his parents attention back. Xena clicked her tongue gently, and peeled off his blanket, leaving him only in the linen wrapping the healer had dressed him in. She tucked him under the soft quilt and gently rubbed a nipple against his cheek, as a memory of her mother doing the same with Lyceus came drifting to her from the past.

Solan’s head turned and he latched onto it, and began to suckle contently, one hand coming up to grasp at her. She took the tiny hand in her much larger one, the world outside her drifting away to nothingness. For now, all that mattered to her was her son.

Xena smiled, and found an old lullaby from somewhere in her memories, which she began to hum. There was a soft knock at the doorpost, and she looked up, her hand letting go of the tiny fist she’d been studying, drawing the blanket up to cover her son from view. That same hand rested against him protectively from atop the blanket.

Borias crossed to the doorway looking back at her, to see that her defenses had risen, and he knew that the centaur’s words had put a small measure of fear into her, due mostly in part to the old hag’s prediction. He swore to himself that if he ever found her again he’d kill her for that. He took a deep breath and pulled back the leather.

A young centaur, with russet colored hair and coat, bore a large tray in his hands. From what little of him Xena could see he appeared to be no more than nine, ten at most.

“Hello Atrayeu,” Borias rumbled gently, smiling down at the boy.

“Is he okay? Da said that there were problems,” Atrayeu asked.

“He’s just fine. I’m afraid he’s already turned in for the night, but I’ll make sure you get to see him tomorrow,” Borias replied, taking the tray.

“Really? Wow, thanks!” Atrayeu said before backing up and trotting off into the darkness.

“Please send word to Kaliepus that tomorrow once we’re awake, Atrayeu is to be allowed to visit,” Borias said, gently clapping Etymon on the shoulder, before re-entering the hut.

“Who was that?” Xena asked, peeling the blanket back again, and checking Solan’s progress.

“Atrayeu? His father is the healer here,” Borias explained, uncovering a tray that held a selection of meats, and a loaf of bread, along with a pitcher of cider.

“I hope that’s for you,” Xena murmured, lost in fascination of watching her son.

“Actually no, it’s for you,” Borias replied.

“I’m not really all that hungry,” she said, her eyes beginning to droop.

“There’s enough here for you when you wake again, but you really should eat something now,” he replied.

“I know, but I just don’t have the energy,” she replied glancing down.

She began to giggle, and when Borias drew closer she gently drew back the quilt.

“He is definitely, your son,” she said.

Solan had fallen asleep with his cheek pillowed against the soft swell of her breast, his left hand protectively covering the nipple he’d previously been sucking on.

Borias chuckled.

“He’s only defending what belongs to him, in a manner of speaking,” he said, drawing a laugh from her.

She gently lifted him from his comfortable spot and he protested sleepily, until she resettled him, in the soft hollow between her breasts. He settled down, and drifted back to sleep almost instantly. The warrior yawned, and her head dropped back onto the pillow, her adrenaline gone at last.

“Sleep now. I promise you, no harm will come to you or our son,” Borias said quietly, sitting on the edge of the bed, and taking her hand into his own.

Xena splayed her free hand across her newborn son’s back, and with a sigh, her eyes drifted closed, and she submitted to Morpheus ‘gentle demand.


“And then what happened?” Gabrielle asked as she lifted her head from where it was resting against the warrior’s knees.

Xena chuckled.

“I woke up, because someone decided she wanted a midnight snack,” Xena replied, looking down on her nursing daughter.

Gabrielle laughed softly.

“Well, we know it wasn’t a premonition, but I think it had some value,” she said.

“So do I Gabrielle. It’s a reminder of what might’ve been had I not been so stupid and pig headed. The entire time I was pregnant he kept pleading with me. He wanted to find somewhere to settle down, and raise our child, and what he hoped would be several siblings. But you just couldn’t stop doing what we did; people wouldn’t have just suddenly decided to accept us with open arms. There was a part of him that was wild, that I knew would die if we did, and I didn’t want to see that go away. So you might say, my son, and his father both died all because I couldn’t stop being selfish” Xena whispered, gazing unseeingly into the fire, as a tear slipped down her cheek.

A gentle touch to her cheek brought her out of the haze, and she found two sets of concerned eyes watching her. Gabrielle had taken her free hand in her own, and Eve had stopped nursing, and was now watching her mother’s face with serious eyes.

“I don’t think you were selfish at all. His death was because someone else wasn’t about to let him attempt to take you away, because that would’ve meant the end of their own good time. So as a result of that, you were forced to grow up quickly, and you did what you thought was the right thing to do, which was give up your child,” Gabrielle said.

“I spent the rest of that night vomiting until I ended up with the dry heaves. I was consumed with guilt for what I had done. I could hear him crying for me as I walked away. He was only a few days old, but already the bond was there. Four times that night I started to go back to the centaur village, and take him back and run away with him,” Xena replied.

“But you didn’t,” Gabrielle said softly.

“No, because I knew that if I did, we’d both have been dead within months. So I left him, and turned my guilt into anger, and took it out on every living thing for the next year,” Xena replied.

Eve whimpered, feeling the waves of unease coming from her mother. The warrior sat her up, and pulled her shift back down. She snuggled the infant against her shoulder, and began to rub her back to soothe her into sleep.

“Things turned out the way they did in the end, and now I have her. And I don’t intend to make any of those mistakes again. I won’t leave her,” Xena said glancing down into green eyes that were quickly shifting from concern to irritation. “Sorry, we won’t leave her,” she amended.

Gabrielle settled down and returned her gaze to the fireplace of the room they were in. Tomorrow they would be boarding a ship, headed to Egypt.

Warrior and Bard both glanced to the nearby window, as the rain pelted against the glass. A loud crack of thunder echoed, and Gabrielle jumped, quickly reaching out to wrap an arm around the warrior’s legs. A touch to the top of her head caused her to look up, into warm blue eyes.

“Still have problems with storms,” Xena rumbled.

“Ever since the trip to Niklios,” Gabrielle replied putting her head back in its spot against the warrior’s knees. She sighed and her eyes drifted closed as gentle fingers began sifting through her cropped blonde locks.

Several minutes passed, and Gabrielle felt sleep washing over her in long waves, when there was a light pat to her face. She looked up into soft blue eyes, and smiled.

“You’re falling asleep. Why don’t you get in bed? I’m gonna go put her in with mom for the night, and I’ll be right back,” Xena said.

Gabrielle nodded and they both stood. As the warrior left the room, the bard wandered over to the large bed, and turned it down. She looked up at the closed door with a mischievous twinkle, and slipped out of her shift, tossing it to the middle of the room, before slipping beneath the blankets.

When the warrior returned, she paused as she picked up her partner’s discarded shift, and an eyebrow quirked. She tugged off her own shift, and discarded both items at the foot of the bed. Another loud crack of thunder echoed, and whatever plans the bard may have had were quickly discarded, as the sound left her curled into a ball shaking.

The warrior slid beneath the blankets, and gently reached out a comforting hand. Gabrielle instantly turned towards her taller partner, curling completely against her, drawing comfort from both the touch of her partner’s hands, and the sound of the solid heartbeat against her ear, where it was pressed against the warrior’s shoulder.

Xena began to hum, and Gabrielle recognized the tune by the third note. It was a love song she’d written for a story once, and had discarded, only to discover several months later, that Xena had salvaged it, and sent it to a friend to be put to music.

Ever since it was something the warrior would often sing to her in one form or another, when they were alone. Whenever Gabrielle heard it, she knew that all was right, in the world she lived in.

“So what was originally on your mind for this evening?” Xena asked, gently tracing slow circles down the bard’s back.

“Honestly? Nothing, other than to curl up with you and be skin on skin again. Didn’t get much chance to do that with the Amazons,” Gabrielle replied.

Xena sighed and placed a kiss to the bard’s head.

“I spoke to mother, earlier. She’s coming with us to Alexandria. And since Eve has begun to wean herself, she’s going to stay there with her for a few weeks, and you and I are going to Cairo alone,” she said.

“Just us?” Gabrielle asked.

“Just us. I’ve missed that,” the warrior replied.

“Me too.” Gabrielle responded, placing a series of soft kisses to the skin her cheek had been pillowed on.

Green eyes met blue for a long moment, and a soft kiss was shared, before the bard returned her head to the warrior’s shoulder, wrapping an arm across her rib cage and squeezing gently, and sighing softly. Xena listened for a few moments, until the bard’s breathing evened out, a sign she’d slipped into sleep.

She spared another thought for her son, and what might’ve been so long ago, before her own eyes closed, and she joined the bard in a world of dreams.

In the fields of Elysia, a young boy smiled and took his father’s hand. “You may wish things were different mother, but I wouldn’t separate you and Gabrielle for all the gold in the world. And if my father dying meant the two of you met, then so be it. Give my sister a kiss for me. I love you.”

Xena’s eyes opened, and she smiled. “I love you too Solan,” she whispered, before her eyes closed and she resettled into sleep.

Back to the Academy