If You Can’t Say Something Nice…
Xena was nearly shaking as the young bard started to slowly and diligently remove her breast plate. She hadn’t done that since they’d reached the fort near the grounds of the horde. It was a constant shock to the warrior just how much forgiveness Gabrielle had inside her. She’d even had a taste of the conqueror in the past few days and all it took was a small apology and they were right back where they were before they’d found those men dead on the river banks. She could see the passion in the bard’s eyes, but couldn’t be sure how far she wanted to take things. Cautiously she stroked Gabrielle’s cheek, her thumb coming to rest at the corner of her mouth. Looking deep into green eyes Xena slowly stroked her lower lip. The urge to close the distance between them was almost unbearable but it just didn’t feel right for her to make the first move. Luckily she didn’t have to. Gabrielle reached up and put her arms around Xena’s neck, eliminating any fears Xena may have had.
The room they had been given during this little stint with the horde was nothing impressive even though it was the best the Athenian fort had to offer, but for all the two women cared it was a temple fit for Aphrodite. Gabrielle moved in carefully and kissed the warrior with purpose. She had to let her know that they were ok; that the events of the past couple of days hadn’t scared her off. It took a small amount of prodding, but finally the warrior let go of her insecurities and pulled her in tighter. The bard smiled inwardly and met her lover with equal fervor, pulling at the straps of her leather bodice.
“Gabrielle, I’m so sorry for what I became these past few days.” Xena said, breaking off from the kiss. She had to make sure that the bard truly understood the depth of her sincerity.
“I know that, Xena.” Gabrielle said, before plunging back in to much more enticing oral pursuits. Xena moaned into her mouth as the young blonde languidly slid her tongue past the warrior’s lips. It was the moment that Xena’s tongue overtook her own when the bard’s knees began to give way and the kissing stopped yet again.
“No, Gabrielle, wait; I need to say this.” Xena said, breathing heavily and warring with her libido. “I need you to know that I would never hurt you. I know it looked pretty bad earlier, but no matter how deep into the dark side I dove, I would never have hurt you. You have to know that no matter how bad things may get in the future, I will never purposefully harm you. Please tell me you know that.”
“I know it, Xena.” She said softly stroking the warrior’s cheek. “I know it with every fiber of my being.” She moved in for a small simple kiss, and then continued. “And if you remember correctly I didn’t act very afraid of you at all when you sank into your warlord mode. In fact I argued with you every chance I got. I may not always agree with the way you handle every situation, but I know that when it comes to me I have nothing to worry about. I trust you completely. Now can we please make up? I‘ve been waiting for this since we started fighting.”
Xena grinned and kissed the bard soundly, while simultaneously moving them both to the bed. An ease born of continuity, aided her as she removed Gabrielle’s green top and brown skirt quickly. The bard matched her excitement and soon the leathers were keeping her own clothing company on the floor. The warrior plastered herself to the bard, slipping a knee between the two shorter legs and balancing herself on her strong arms as she sucked at a very inviting neck. This particular interlude wasn’t about a slow gentle exploration; it was about passion and reaffirmation. They’d both just realized that whether they always agreed or not, they were still on the same side. That, and the fact that Xena would have been lying if she said she hadn’t wanted this ever since the first time Gabrielle stood up to her in the fort.
The memory of Gabrielle’s bravery made her want her even more. A soft growl rose in her throat as the thought passed through her head and she added a bit more pressure to the knee that was pressed against the bard’s sex. Gabrielle let out an audible gasp and gripped at Xena’s back. They both needed this so badly. Xena moved so that she was holding her upper body with her left arm as she used the right to firmly stroke the bard’s face as they rocked ambitiously together. Blue eyes focused in on the green ones in front of them as she dragged her thumb across the expanse of the blonde’s jaw. With torturous slowness she moved in to kiss those lips as the hand in question traveled further south. As Xena slowly circled Gabrielle’s nipple with her finger she was chastised by the bard’s teeth on her lips then praised with a loud moan when she moved in for a quick pinch of said nipple.
It didn’t take long before the taunting just wasn’t enough and to Xena’s surprise the bard took the lead and moved Xena’ s hand from her breast further down her body. The damp blonde curls were incredibly inviting to the warrior, but still she took things slower than the bard wanted. As she applied slow pressure to the area in question she watched Gabrielle’s brow furrow. Xena couldn’t help the feral grin that spread across her face, but quickly extinguished when the bard’s eyes opened.
“Xena, please. I need you.” She said earnestly.
And that was all it took to end the game and melt the warrior. She returned her lips to their former place on Gabrielle’s and slowly parted them with her tongue as she used her fingers to do the same on parts of the bard that were even warmer and wetter. She sought out the small bundle of nerves that she already knew so well and found it with great ease. Swallowing the blonde’s moans she applied generous pressure in a circular motion. She didn’t even realize that she was riding Gabrielle’s thigh to the tune of the same rhythm that slowly escalated.
“More, Xena, please. I want more.” She said, struggling to remember basic semantics.
Xena knew exactly what she meant by “more” and quickly made adjustments to give her “more.” Replacing her fingers with her thumb on the bard’s clit she quickly positioned them near her entrance. But she wouldn’t give in just yet. She knew Gabrielle would ask again.
“Xena please.” She said predictably, causing the warrior to smile.
“Please what, my bard?” She asked.
“Tell me what you want, baby.”
“Xena! Are you ok?”
“Huh?” The warrior asked, confused and waking from her dream.
“Are you ok?” The bard asked, worry evident in her tone.
Her hair was shorter than it was moments before and Xena detected the soft rocking of the boat in contrast to the stability of the Athenian fort. It was then she realized that she had been dreaming.
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” She said, quickly putting a small amount of distance between herself and Gabrielle. “I was just dreaming I guess.”
“Were you having a nightmare? You were moving pretty erratically.” She said.
“I um… I don’t remember actually.” She lied. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“Don’t worry about that, Xena. I’m just glad you’re ok now.” The bard said as she sunk into the warrior’s arms.
“I’m fine, sweetheart.” I want nothing more than to turn you over and ravish you, but I’ll survive. She thought.
The bards gentle snores served to calm her a bit, but she knew sleep was a far away dream at this point. The dream had been so sweet, but at the same time had served to sting a bit. Everything had played out exactly as it had the night at the fort including the small bits of conversation they’d had.
She’d told Gabrielle she’d never purposely hurt her.
What a lie that had been.
The actions she’d taken after Solan was murdered alone drove that promise right into the trash. Not to mention all the emotional pain she’d put her through after that.
Will I ever stop hurting you, my bard? You are the one person in my life that has never deserted me and still I continue to cause you so much pain. When will I ever learn?
She continued to torture herself until Morpheus finally took her into his realm. For even the Gods feel pity sometimes.
Upon arriving in Chin all three women noticed that the tension in the air was palpable. They were even warned by the workers on the dock that it was not safe to stay in the country for very long. Even foreigners were being taken into custody, or worse, killed in the cross-fire. The first order of business was to simply get information about Eve, so they asked around at the market place. One of the merchants proved especially informative.
“Oh, yes. I think she called herself the Messenger of Eli. She arrived here a little over a week ago. Incredible girl, that one. She tried to teach people the ways of peace.” The merchant shook his head, and then added. “She came at the wrong time.”
“What happened to her?” Xena pressed on with a twinge of anxiety in her voice.
“The peasants weren’t too happy to hear about peaceful resolutions in the face of a ruthless dictator. The Emperor’s power has been threatened and the resistance is proving to be a worthy adversary. But a charismatic peacemaker who could turn soldiers away from the fight was a liability. The resistance soon made plans to assassinate her.”
“Oh shit.” Sarah said under her breath.
Xena grabbed the man by his tunic as if by threatening him she could influence the path of the story he was telling.
“Is she alive?”
“Yes…” The man said, stammering with fear. “The rebellion didn’t move quickly enough. She was picked up by the Imperial army for protection. They‘re planning to send her back to Greece; she couldn‘t be more safe. Now will you please let go of me.”
Xena moved away from the frightened man and turned to Sarah with questioning features.
“Hey don’t look at me. The scroll said she was killed in Chin and that’s about all it said. It wasn’t the most detailed account Gabrielle ever wrote.” Sarah said. It earned her a roll of the eyes from Gabrielle.
“So now we go to the palace. Maybe if we tell them we mean them no harm they’ll let us in to see Eve.” The bard stated.
“Sounds like a plan to me.” Xena agreed.
“Are you serious? We’re actually going to go to the palace… See the Chin Emperor?” Sarah said with excitement.
“That would be the gist of what Gabrielle just said.” Xena stated with sarcasm and confusion.
“It’s just that this is my thing. I’ve spent all my life reading and studying the past and now I get to live it. I’m not just going to look at a thousand year old stone from the palace; I’m going to get to walk inside it.”
Both warriors simply smiled and nodded. Not quite appreciating the experience as much as Sarah due to their concern for Eve.
“It’s a geek thing. Let’s move on.” Sarah said shaking her head.
The palace was about an hour away from the dock. They moved quickly as both bard and warrior were anxious.
Gabrielle decided to stir up some small talk to pass the time.
“You must be almost as excited to see Eve as we are, being that saving her was part of your reason for coming here.” She said.
“Yeah, I guess.” Sarah said nonchalantly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Xena asked with suspicion.
“Look, no offense to either of you, but I’m really not a big fan of Eve. She just seems self righteous and obnoxious to me. I’m only helping out here because it’s what my Aunt wanted.”
“Are you always this brutally honest?” Gabrielle asked.
“Just seems to save time when you cut out the bullshit.”
“Speaking of which how ‘bout we drop the small talk and start discussing the way things are supposed to pan out with this war. Little Miss History expert should know the outcome.” Xena said.
“That’s right, we have an advantage here. You essentially know the future.” Gabrielle said.
“Hold on ladies, let’s not grant me more importance than I’m worth. You see, the thing with history is that it’s told from the winner’s perspective and every historian has a bias. I do know who the victor of this war is going to be, but as far as specifics go it’s a crap shoot. Not to mention the fact that it’s incredibly hard to trace time periods with any precision. As far as I know the Qin dynasty will fall. The “when” of that defeat could be tomorrow, or it could be a hundred years from now.”
“So the peasants will be victorious in their fight.” Xena said with confidence.
“Yeah, pretty much. But the good news is it’s looking like it’ll be later than sooner here because I haven’t heard the name of the next ruling family even mentioned. The Han family will be the victors of this war.”
“So maybe we are in luck.” Gabrielle said.
“Well we’re certainly due for some.” Xena noted with a soft glance toward the blonde.
“Looks like we’ve got some in the way of making time. I can see the palace. We’re almost there.” Sarah said with excitement.
The gates were heavily guarded as the three women approached. Countless numbers of swords were soon drawn as they reached a proximity that was apparently too close.
“We mean no harm to the emperor or his royal guard. We are here to protect Eve, the Messenger of Eli. One of the townsfolk said we could find her here.”
The soldiers talked amongst themselves and then decided to send a runner inside to ask for instruction. He returned promptly with the message that they should be taken inside to meet the leader of the royal guard.
They waited inside a large receiving room for only a short while before they were greeted by the general.
“Xena Warrior Princess!” He exclaimed as the three women turned to face him. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I weren’t seeing it with my own two eyes. I am General Zheng.” He bowed stiffly. “We had heard rumors that you were dead. Then that you were brought back to life as a God, not to mention a God killer. It wasn’t until we met your lovely daughter that we started to believe that you may not have traveled to the next life.”
“Eve. Where is she?” Xena got straight to the point.
“Do not fret over that Warrior Princess. We have well protected her from the peasant pigs who would threaten her life. It was the least we could do for your family after saving Chin from the evil Ming Tien and his sister.”
“I’d like to see her now, please General.” The warrior replied.
“Of course, I can take you and your friends to her quarters. She is expecting you. Told us that you would be here as soon as you heard of the danger she was in. Follow me, please.” He said leading the way.
Xena gritted her jaw at that last remark about Eve. I wasn’t going to be there for you. She thought as she followed the stalky man. Gabrielle noticed the tension in the warrior’s demeanor after the last comment and grabbed her hand. Xena squeezed the bard’s hand in thanks for the kind gesture and all three followed the General to Eve’s room.
The quarters were lavish to say the least. Though Eve was seeking asylum with the Chinese government she certainly wasn’t roughing it. Xena’s eyes scanned the room and finally landed on her daughter standing in the balcony. Eve turned when she noticed that she was no longer alone and saw the two people she loved most in the world walking toward her.
“Mother, Gabrielle.” She said with a smile as she ran toward both of them.
Sarah stood back as warrior and Bard took turns hugging the daughter they feared so much for. She knew all three were feeling great relief at the moment. With Xena here nothing bad could happen to Eve. Disaster had been averted it seemed. She wondered what this meant. Obviously her missions had been accomplished, so the only thing left to do would be activate the chrono stone and head home. These thoughts would have to be put aside till later though, because now she was being led into an introduction.
“Sarah, come here.” Xena said with a smile. “This is Eve. Eve, this is Sarah. She helped us find you.”
Sarah held out her hand only to be enveloped in an unexpected hug.
“Thank you so much for bringing them to me.” Eve said still holding on to an uncomfortable Sarah. She finally broke away and asked. “How did you hear of my capture? Were you passing through the country, or was it one of the followers of Eli?”
“Um, the answer to that is a little tricky.” She said, looking to Xena for some help on the explanation she wanted Eve to have.
“We can talk about that later,” Xena said in understanding “the important thing is that you’re safe and now that we’re here you’ll remain that way. Gabrielle, why don’t you keep Eve company while Sarah and I speak with the General?”
Gabrielle nodded, knowing Xena was really going to talk to Sarah about how much information Eve should have. She walked Eve back over to the balcony asking her questions about her journey as the other two women exited the room with the General.
“Do not worry, Xena. Eve is in great hands in the palace. The Emperor has the greatest respect for you and your family. His army will defend you all.” Remarked the General.
“Thank you very much for your hospitality, we appreciate it greatly. But I was wondering how dangerous the situation actually is. Do you think it advisable for us to leave with Eve on the next boat out?” Xena asked.
“It would look suspicious if you were to take the royal guard with you to the docks and it would be very dangerous to go without them. I know your abilities are unmatched Xena, but I’m sure you’ll agree that combat is more difficult when you have to worry about another person’s safety. You are of course free to leave whenever you like, but I would advise not straying from the plan we have already put into place. Tomorrow night all of the peasants will be asleep in anticipation for the work day. Tonight they may be more active for they do not have to work tomorrow.”
Xena thought for a moment. “I agree, General, tomorrow night would be a better time.”
“Good, then you will stay here tonight. We can make up rooms for you and your friends and tonight you will dine with the Emperor.”
“Dinner sounds wonderful, but as far as the rooms go we’ll only need one more. Gabrielle and I will be staying together and Sarah,” Xena said, gently placing her hand on Sarah’s back, “is Eve’s personal body guard, so she’ll be staying with her tonight.”
“What?” Sarah said, both confused and annoyed. Xena smacked her on the back to emphasize that there was no arguing here. “I mean. Yes, of course, I’ll be staying with Eve.” She said grumpily.
“I’m sure your guards are fantastic General, but as a precaution I’d still like to keep Sarah around. Her fighting skills are some of the best I’ve seen. Even gives me a hard time.”
Sarah just smiled in what she hoped looked like agreement. Who knew what Xena was going to pull out of her ass next.
“Of course, Xena, we will accommodate you in whatever way you wish. Your room shall be right across the hall. It will be ready momentarily.” He then bowed, which was returned by Xena who had to elbow Sarah before the girl remembered her manners. The General walked away and Sarah was finally able to inquire about this new development.
“Ok, what the hell was that all about? Eve’s bodyguard? Are you kidding me?” She asked, her hand movements becoming erratic.
“Look we still don’t know what’s going to happen here. As far as you know Eve could have died in this castle, killed by someone on the Emperor’s staff. She’s not safe until her feet touch Greek soil, and until then I think it would be a good idea to keep you around.”
“But you just told that guy that I was some bad-ass warrior. The bruises that your little girlfriend dealt out seem to prove otherwise. So what advantage does that give us?”
Xena glared at Sarah a little for the “girlfriend” remark, but decided not to push it.
“That comment was kind of like an extra precaution. Right now any assassin would think that it would be easy to take Eve out, but if they believe the task to be more difficult they might just back out. And even if they don’t, having you in the room guarantees that Eve will be safe long enough to scream for me and Gabrielle. I know you can hold some thug off for a couple of seconds.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Sarah said with a hint of sarcasm. “But, listen, staying here is a bad idea. This is what always happens in the horror movies. People decide to wait around because they think it’s safe, then WHAM all hell breaks loose and the supporting characters are missing body parts.”
Xena just looked at her confused and annoyed.
“God, this ‘not being understood’ thing is getting really old.” Sarah said in response. “My point is that we should leave now. Screw taking the royal guard. We’ll cover up Eve’s face and sneak out on a boat. With three of us on the alert surely we can make it to the docks.”
“No, I’m not going to risk it. Not with the predictions of the future. We wait.” Xena said, moving on to her idea of more important matters. “Now, I’m not sure exactly how much information I want Eve to have on the subject of who you are and where you came from. So, I think the best plan of action is to tell her that you are an old friend of mine and you are here to help keep her safe. You don’t have to tell her that lie about you being a seasoned warrior. She probably won’t buy that.”
“Thanks a lot.” She said with sarcasm. “Look, Xena I may not be sure of when, but this Empire is going to fall. It’s a fact and there is nothing you can or should do to change it. We should not stick around.”
“Well we’re going to, and that’s final. If you know anything about me you should know that when I’ve made a decision I stick with it. Now, I don’t want to hear another word about it.”
With that they both walked into the room with Gabrielle and Eve. The two were chatting about Japa, but stopped when Xena and Sarah came upon them.
“Is everything ok?” Gabrielle asked.
“Yeah, it’s all fine. We’re going to stay here until tomorrow night. The general said it was the best time to make a move with Eve toward the docks and I agreed. So we’ll be staying the night and attending dinner with the Emperor. Afterwards, Sarah will be staying with Eve and we’ll be in the room right across from them just in case anything happens.”
“Great!” Eve said moving to Sarah’s side and taking her arm. “I haven’t had anyone to talk to the entire time I’ve been here; company would be such a blessing.”
The look Sarah gave Xena at that moment could have melted glass.
“I’m sure Sarah’s just overjoyed as well, sweetie.” The warrior said with a smirk.
Dinner was interesting enough in itself. No one had any idea the Emperor was going to be that old. The man could barely speak, let alone introduce Xena and Gabrielle. Therefore it was his son who had to make a big deal of their being there. Once dinner was served it was he that conversed with his two important guests over the affairs of the country. Hard as she tried Sarah couldn’t hear everything he was saying because of the distance away from the young prince and the incessant chatter in her ear coming from Eve.
“So where exactly are you from Sarah? Your clothing is the likes of which I’ve never seen before and I’ve done quite a bit a traveling...”
“Yeah, especially in your warlord days right?” Sarah asked hoping it would shut her up. “I mean you covered a lot of ground when you were fighting for Rome. I’d love to hear about all the places you visited.”
Eve got a sullen look on her face. “Um, actually I don’t really like to relive those memories. They’re quite painful for me now.” She said pushing her food around on her plate.
“I understand.” Sarah said, trying to sound sincere. Mission accomplished. She thought to herself. Then she turned her attention to the conversation Xena was having with the Emperor’s son.
“So what exactly is the problem you’re having with them?” Xena asked the prince about the peasants.
“Well, the Empire is not in the greatest shape as far as our resources go. One of the first actions taken by my father was to enact laws prohibiting the sale of lands. Land now passes down from family to family. The peasants who have fields with failing crops simply do not wish to move outside of the simple farming life that they are accustomed to.” He explained.
“So they’re starving?” Sarah asked.
“Well, yes, you could say that; but only certain people. You see, food has become a more precious commodity, so the prices have greatly increased. You can still find something to eat if you have enough money to pay for it. The peasants simply choose to steal and fight rather than work a bit harder to earn their keep.”
“Yes, I can see here that everyone in the country is suffering from the pangs of hunger.” Sarah said, taking a gulp of her wine and gesturing towards the overly impressive amount of food before them.
It looked like Xena was ready to crawl across the table and strangle her for that remark.
“I’m sorry your highness, you must forgive my friend. She’s been on a long journey and has obviously forgotten her manners.” The warrior said.
“Not to worry Xena. She has the sentiments of my father. He too has a soft spot for the peasants, not seeing their aptitude for violence. The same violence that your own daughter might have faced.” The prince said.
“And we are very grateful to you for saving her.” Xena said.
“Why, it was the honor of our country to help the great Xena who saved us so many years ago. I only regret that we do not take retribution on them now and get it over with. At this point all the escalations can lead to is war.”
“NO WAR!” The emperor yelled clearly and loudly as he stood up straight.
The entire table got quiet; everyone stopped what they were doing.
“Yes, father, of course.” The young prince said. “I was making an unintelligent statement, please forgive me.” Finally after a few seconds he gently pulled the old man back to his seat.
Sarah took a sip from her wine and looked at Xena to gauge her reaction. The warrior, though angered from the prompting by Sarah, could see what was going on between the father and son. The old man was obviously not alert enough to be Emperor anymore, and the son was trying to do whatever he could to start a war to suppress the resistance. The rest of the dinner was eaten in a tense silence that was finally broken by the young prince.
“Now, if our honored guests would move into the arena the evening’s entertainment will commence.” He said, helping the Emperor out of his seat.
They all moved into the impressive indoor arena. The seats weren’t nearly filled to capacity which led them to believe that tonight’s entertainment was a grand spectacle meant for the most prestigious citizens of Chin, not the small entourage that accompanied Xena followed by a gaggle of nobles that were invited to dinner. Xena’s arrival must have been truly respected for the Emperor to have gone to all this trouble.
As they took their seats Sarah chose one at the very end of the row. Eve moved to sit next to her, but was quickly stopped by Xena.
“Why don’t you let me sit next to Sarah, sweetie, then you can sit between Gabrielle and I.”
Eve looked at her quizzically. Xena was acting a little more touchy feely than normal.
Seeing the strange look on Eve’s face Xena decided to explain a little further.
“We’ve just missed you so much, is all.” She said, grabbing Eve in a one armed hug.
“Ok.” She said, moving over to give Xena room.
Sarah, knowing that this wouldn’t be a pleasant chat fired back, “Xena don’t you think it would be nice if I had a little more time to get to know Eve; we are sharing a room and all?”
“Oh, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to talk later.” This time it was Gabrielle who spoke. And Sarah knew that if both warrior and bard were teaming up against her she better cut out the attitude. “I want to get in as much time with her as I can before we head off to bed.” She said with a smile and directed Eve into another conversation, giving Xena the opening she needed to chastise Sarah.
Once the young messenger’s attention was occupied the barrage of finger pointing and verbal assaults commenced with Xena and Sarah.
“Those were some nice table manners you showed us back there.” Xena said through the gritted teeth of a fake grin. “Did you really think insulting the ruling people of this land was the best way to make sure Eve stay’s protected?”
“Xena, I-” she was cut off.
“You what, Sarah? Couldn’t hold your tongue for one dinner? Let me explain something; we are here to do one thing and that is get Eve home safely. What part of that plan made you think it would be ok to insult the very people who are protecting her? And what is the big problem here anyway? So what if you don’t like the way the peasants are being treated, you already know they’re going to overthrow the Emperor.” Xena said with a snarl.
“Look, it’s not like I’m trying to lead the revolution myself, but you have to understand that it’s not that easy for me to simply overlook the way the masses are being treated when I have a chance to say something about it. You don’t know what it’s like in my time. There are so many people that the only way to have a voice is if you have money or power and I had neither. But tonight I was sitting at the table with a scummy dictator and I had the chance to say something so I took it. And believe me what came out of my mouth was much more mild than I would have preferred.” Sarah said in her own defense.
Xena ran a hand through her bangs and then down her face as tried to find a delicate way to placate her young, aspiring hero.
“Sarah,” She said putting a gentle hand to the girl’s knee. “I know how important it is to stand up to bad men. I’ve spent half my life doing just that. But something I’ve learned is that sometimes the greater good is found in the ones you love. Is it important to save as many people as you possibly can? Of course it is. But as much as you wish it would fulfill you like family, it won’t. You could save everyone that came in your path, but they still can’t hold you at night, or stand by you when the rest of the world hates you. They won’t always be there for you. And as selfish as it is to want that stability, it’s what makes us human. Not these soulless heroes that save the world without being a part of it.”
“C’mon Xena, I’ve read Gabrielle’s scrolls. Since when have you ever put anything before the greater good?” Sarah asked.
“Since now.” Gabrielle answered, not being able to keep herself from intervening. And it was in a tone that was not to be questioned. “From now on my greater good is the people that we love.” Gabrielle turned towards Xena and gave her a look that said that no matter what had happened in the past, they were still on the same side. Leaving no doubt that the next time they were alone a long, welcoming talk would be in order.
Eve had no idea what was going on, but luckily the conversation was tabled as the Prince started to announce what the entertainment for the night was to be.
“In honor of Xena and Gabrielle, revered friends to the people of Chin, we present a tradition made popular by the Greek people: a challenge of the Gladiators.”
He paused for applause and continued once he was satisfied with the response.
“To your right we have the most revered fighter in Mang arena. Once a barbarian from the north, this human weapon now bows down to the emperor’s might and fights for our favor. For the enjoyment of our guests, I give you Rada: the undefeated.”
The crowd burst into a raucous bout of cheers as the warrior came out of the gates. But to the surprise of Xena and her crew, the person before them was short, skinny and… female.
“Is that a…” Sarah said as Xena finished for her.
“Girl.” The older woman said as she looked on in awe.
Though Rada’s size may have thrown them off, her demeanor fit the Prince’s description perfectly. She came out punching into the air and shouting what were no doubt obscenities in a foreign tongue. Before moving to her corner to allow the announcement of the next contestant she launched an impressive amount of spit at his gate. The prince grinned in acceptance, and then continued.
“To your left you will see Liu Xiu. Former member of the defeated Han dynasty and conquered prisoner of the Xin dynasty.” He said with a leer
Rounds of “boos” emanated from the small contingency of nobles as the young man made his way into the arena. He looked defeated already, but even so a great challenge for the slight, but muscular woman before him.
“Warriors will bow to the Emperor.” The prince said, and both turned to bow.
“Warriors will bow to each other.”
As they both moved to bow the woman quickly rose back up and kicked the sand that covered the floor into the man’s face. He lurched back and quickly swiped at his eyes in an attempt to remove the burning grit. The crowd cheered on and the Prince smiled, pleased, as he commanded them to fight.
It was at this point that Sarah remembered a very integral part to the PowerPoint history lesson Janice had given her before leaving home.
“Oh holy shit, Xena. That’s…”
“Quiet Sarah or you’ll appear even ruder than you were at dinner.” The warrior whispered.
“But, Xena that’s…”
“I said shut your mouth if you want to keep it functional.”
Deciding that retaining use of her mouth was most definitely in her best interest; Sarah bit her tongue and watched the fight.
The remarkable thing about it was that though the girl was certainly out matched as far as stature went, she fought with a passion that was lethal. Every punch seemed to hold a ferocity that had been ingrained from a plethora of intense life experience. She took her opponents punches with equal fervor, allowing only a grunt to escape her lips before sneering and launching herself headlong into the fight again.
Though the man fought with a great deal of skill and grace, it was apparent that his heart was not in the fight. He had obviously been defeated and demoralized to the point of giving up and with that did not stand a chance against the fierce Slavic warrior.
He’ll be ok, though. Sarah thought, almost feeling sorry for the man as his attacks started loosing their edge.
Within minutes he was at the point where simply standing was becoming difficult. As the sweat soaked his body and blood streaked his face the girl moved in for the kill. With a swift back kick she hit him so hard his body turned in mid air as he fell flat on his face. The fight was over, and the victor was staring proudly at the crowd.
The young prince rose from his seat in order to command his champion.
“Finish him.” He said sternly.
And with a nod she moved to do just that.
“Xena, this can’t happen.” Sarah said with even more urgency than before.
“Hush Sarah.” Xena countered.
“God damn it.” Sarah yelled as she bounded out of her chair and over the steep railing separating her from the ring. At break neck speed she barreled toward the slight form that was hunched over the beaten man.
Rada had planned on simply breaking Liu’s neck and calling it a day. What she did not plan on was one of the Emperor’s guests tackling her to the ground from behind.
“Oh for the love of Zeus.” Xena said as she followed the path taken by her new ‘pain in the ass.’ As she quickly made her way over to the scene she grabbed Sarah by the scruff of her neck as if she were a puppy.
“Kid, you better start listening to me when I tell you sit down and shut up.” She said in a low voice as she started to drag her back to her seat.
“And you better listen to me right now, you stubborn oaf. That guy back there is Lui Xui, leader of the peasant rebellion against the Xin dynasty. If you’d been listening to my history lesson back at the inn in Japa, instead of brooding obnoxiously in front of Gabrielle you would know that. He has to stay alive.” Sarah said quietly as they moved toward the crowd. “Now you’ve got about five seconds to make up a convincing enough reason for that crazed Russian mutant not to kill him, or the entire future could pay the price.”
Xena paused for just a second to collect her thoughts then moved closer to the emperor and threw Sarah to the ground.
“Emperor, I ask that you accept my deepest apologies for the actions of my friend here. You see the violence was upsetting my daughter Eve and Sarah was simply trying to alleviate some of her emotional distress. She meant no disrespect to you.”
The emperor looked at Xena for a moment in deep thought, then gave a mild grunt of approval for her apology and amusement at her daughter‘s sensitivities.
“The emperor accepts your apology.” The son said. “With hopes that you will forgive him for the unacceptable form of entertainment. The man will be spared as a gift to your daughter and shall remain in the palace prison for the rest of his days.”
“You’re kindness is greatly appreciated, my lord.” Xena said, as she exhaled a small sigh of relief and picked Sarah back up, dragging her away. “And now, with your permission of course, we will all retire to our rooms in search of a good night’s rest.”
With that they all exited the arena.
“We’ll talk about this tomorrow.” Xena said, angrily. “For tonight, just try to do what you came here for and protect my daughter.”
“Whatever.” Sarah growled, jerking herself out of Xena’s grasp.
The warrior held her tongue, too tired to continue a pointless conversation. Sarah had that youthful spark that could fan the flames of an argument all night and Xena just didn’t want to deal with it. They departed from each other eagerly. Sarah stalked off to her room with a confused Eve following a few steps behind as Gabrielle sidled up to Xena.
“I must say it’s pretty obvious whose genetic line that one stems from.” Gabrielle said to Xena with a playful jab to the side.
“Oh believe me; your descendant had plenty of influence on her from what I can tell.” Xena fired back jokingly as she put an arm around the bard and led her back to their room.
By the time Eve reached her room Sarah had already brought out her staff and was drilling in the spacious accommodations. She decided it wasn’t the best time to bring up what just happened and instead started talking about the reason she’d been traveling all around Asia in the first place in hopes to calm the girl down.
“Have you ever heard of Eli, Sarah?” The messenger said in a tone that was all too familiar to Sarah.
“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me.” Sarah said under her breath as she slapped a hand to her forehead.
“What was that?” Eve asked.
“I said I’ve heard of him.” Was the quick response she got as Sarah started her drills again.
“Well, please allow me to tell you about his message, then?”
With a low grow she thought over her options. She could listen to the whole schpeel now and get it over with, or she could delay the inevitable and let it hang over her head for the next couple of days. Better to get it over with now and let her get her little pitch out of the way.
“I’m listening.” She said begrudgingly.
Inside Xena and Gabrielle’s room there was a careful silence being maintained. The small, but important words that had been spoken earlier in the arena were permeating the air and both women were trying to choose their words carefully in hopes of continuing the conversation.
“You know,” Gabrielle started “that was good advice you gave to Sarah back there.”
Xena looked at her quizzically. I remember berating her, but the advice part isn’t ringing a bell. The warrior thought.
Taking her cue from Xena’s confusion, the bard continued. “Um, when you said that sometimes the greater good is found in the ones you love.”
“Oh, yeah, well I should have learned to practice what I preach a long time ago, huh?” Xena said solemnly. “Gabrielle the only time I want to fight from here on out is to protect you and Eve. I know you wanted to go home to the Amazons and rule as queen, and I’m telling you right now that I’d be honored to live with you there.”
“But Xena I know you, you hate being tied down to one place. I’d never want you to change for me.”
“I’m not changing for you; I’m changing because of you.” She put a hand to the bard’s face, her thumb stroking her cheek. “Gabrielle, I have wandered for so long because I never thought I’d be able to have a home again. So all I could do was focus on redeeming myself through actions. Well, as much as I hate to admit it I’ll never be able to help enough people to redeem myself. My past will always be there. But even though I can’t make up for my past, I did find my home along the way and it’s with you. Wherever you are is where I want to be. That is if you’ll still have me.”
“I don’t want to tie you down, Xena.” She said with conviction, then jokingly finished. “Besides you’d never make it with the Amazons. They’d drive you to murder again.”
“I want to be with you Gabrielle, and I want to be there for a long time. Whether it’s with the Amazons or in some musty old cave. I want to grow old with you and that’s something I never thought about doing even by myself. So if you’ll have-” She was cut off by the sweetest lips she’d ever tasted; ones that she was happy to reacquaint herself with.
“… So you see the path of non-violence is attainable for anyone. You simply must choose that path and work hard to not deviate from it.”
“Uh-huh.” Sarah said whilst finishing off her staff drills. She was trying to be civil to Eve, she really was. But she was also sure that the dark haired woman could sense her hostility.
She was right. Eve sighed and finally stated, “I get the feeling that you don’t like me.”
Sarah wondered how to work around that.
“Maybe I just don’t talk much.” She finally said as she twirled the staff.
“You didn’t seem to have a problem expressing yourself at dinner.”
This finally forced the drill to a halt. Sarah turned and walked a few steps away from Eve.
“You’re right Eve. I don’t have a problem talking at all. My problem lies in the people who don’t fight oppression. Don’t get me wrong, I like the politics of the tree hugging flower children. I don’t like wars because they are violent, I don’t eat meat because it’s cruel, and I try real hard to turn the other cheek when faced with petty aggression. But what I don’t put up with are people like you who live this life of piety so they can feel better about themselves. Violence is a necessary evil because people are evil. If I see someone beating a child to death in the street and my only means of stopping them is violence I’m going to fuck their world up. And whether you like to admit it or not violence has kept you alive plenty of times so you can go forth and spread Eli’s precious message, all so it can get corrupted and used to control people. You support a religion; religion is based on fear and ignorance. No matter how good the message is. And one day even Eli’s message is going to be used to oppress people. And it’ll be people like me who stand up against that oppression.”
Eve stood there silently for a few seconds watching Sarah’s jaw clench and unclench.
“So you do like to talk?” Eve said, antagonistically, as if she were simply making an observation, ignoring the passion behind Sarah’s speech.
Sarah rolled her eyes at this and started toward the bathing chambers. Eve was behind her before she reached the door and grabbed her by the arm to turn her around.
“There are too many things about you that just don’t add up.” She said with a hint of anger in her voice. “Your clothes, your mannerisms, your language. And don’t think for a second I believe that story about you being old friends with my mother. By the looks of you I’d say you were quite a few years younger than me and that would mean Xena and Gabrielle were asleep and frozen in the Arctic wasteland the entire course of your life.They never said a word to me about you before and I want to know just who you really are.”
Sarah looked down from Eve’s eyes to the arm that was firmly in the woman’s hand and said coyly, “You’ll have to beat it out of me.” She then yanked the appendage away from Eve and stormed toward her destination, leaving the Messenger to her thoughts in the bedroom. She decided to meditate in an effort to calm her nerves.
Inside the bathing chambers there was a large tub with a spout above it. A rope hung next to the spout and Sarah decided to give it a small tug. Within seconds steaming water started pouring from the spout into the tub.
“Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!” Sarah said with delight as she held down the rope until the tub was nearly filled to the rim.
She then grabbed one of the vials sitting on the ledge and poured an ample amount in the water. Stirring it with her hand then quickly pulling the appendage out due to the heat. The bubbles started to form as she disrobed and slowly lowered herself in, letting her skin adapt to the heat.
Just as the relaxing properties of the water started to take effect she felt hands on her head and Eve’s voice speaking in a language she had never heard before. If she had turned around she would have noticed the blank stare plastered to the messenger’s face as she spoke in the ancient tongue, but Sarah was preoccupied with slipping lower into the water so that all of her unmentionables were easily covered by the bubbles.
“Hello! Ever heard of privacy?” She said with a voice that was much higher than her normal alto.
Eve gave no reaction; she simply kept her hands in place on Sarah’s head and continued with the strange monologue.
“I swear if this is some kind of fucked up forced baptism thing I’ll drown you in this tub.”
Still there was no response.
Should I just wait this out and see what happens? I hope it’s not some weird sexual thing. Is she even allowed to be sexual under all the weird stipulations her title inflicts upon her?
As she continued the argument in her mind, she noticed that the hands on her head were removed and the unintelligible speech had silenced. She turned to see Eve slowly making her way back to the bedroom.
“So that’s it” Sarah yelled. “You just come in here, interrupt my bath and start speaking some mumbo jumbo above my head without so much as an explanation?”
There was still no answer from the dark haired messenger.
“What a freak!” Sarah said as she gave up relaxing in the tub for a quick scrub down.
Once finished she dressed in the pajamas she’d packed in her sack, grabbed her brush and moved into the room.
Eve was sitting in the lotus position and obviously deep into the trance of meditation.
As Sarah ran the brush through her damp hair as she moved closer to the other woman. Once she was within arms reach, she noticed small movements starting to spark her out of the trance.
“Can I help you?” Eve said, not even bothering to open her eyes.
“Uh, yeah, you can tell me just what the hell was going on in the bathroom back there.”
“I would assume that whatever transpired in there is your business, not mine.”
“Well, see it was my business until you traipsed in there and started speaking in tongues over my head.”
At this point the messenger opened her eyes in disbelief and stood up.
“I did no such thing.” She said indignantly.
“Are you fucking with me or are you telling me you honestly don’t remember what happened barely five minutes ago?” Sarah asked.
“I’m not going to even pretend that I know exactly what you just said, but I assure you I don’t have any recollection of coming into the bathing chamber while you were in there.”
The sincerity in her reaction confused Sarah even more. She really did believe that Eve didn’t remember anything.
“Well, you were damn deep into your little meditation because you walked straight into that room, put your hands on my head, and said a bunch of words that I didn’t recognize.”
Eve looked deep in thought for a moment before she spoke.
“What do you think it means?” She asked.
“Nothing. Just that you probably had a long day, passed out while you were meditating, and sleep walked into the bathroom speaking gibberish.” She said as she moved to pull her side of the large bed down.
“No, I don’t think so. When I put my hands on something and speak, it’s usually to perform some kind of miracle.” She said, walking over to the bed as well.
“Well I’m not trying to say your hands don’t do “special things”, sweetie, but the earth certainly did not move. You didn’t even get so much as some bubbles in the water.” She said sarcastically.
“Fine, let’s just go to bed.” Eve said dismissively. Something was definitely going on, but she figured she would just have to wait and find out what that something was.
The room was dank and the smell of alcohol assaulted the prince’s nose as soon as he walked in. He wrinkled his nose with distaste. Dealing with thugs was not normally within the realm of his patience, but tonight he had an important task to assign.
Moving over to the snoring figure he gave a swift kick to the stomach, causing a rank cough to invade his nostrils. Once the coughing stopped, Slavic curses assaulted his ears. It was only when the Gladiator realized who had invaded her cell that she stopped and moved back.
“Rada. You pathetic, drunken, dog. You can’t even kill the simple bait I sent out to you tonight.” He said then spit on her shoes.
Anger boiled under her skin. Her fists tightened and every muscle connected followed suit as she let this spoiled weakling talk to her. She didn’t say a word, simply looked at him through the dark bangs that curtained her eyes.
“I should have you killed where you stand.” He started circling her as he spoke. “Lucky for you I have decided to give you one more chance to earn the wasted breath that flows through your body.”
She knew he was waiting for her to inquire into her further uses, but she stayed quiet and patient.
“Ughh. Your mysterious silence does not impress me and I’m bored with this conversation already. Here is what I want. Eve, daughter of Xena, has been placed in a special room. It is connected to the slave quarters in which you should thank whatever barbaric god you worship for letting you live in. I want you to sneak through the connecting tunnels, kill Eve and the ungrateful bitch that is protecting her, and come back here so that no one is ever the wiser. If you are caught I will kill you on the spot without even a second thought. If you succeed I will continue to allow you to live this worthless, booze soaked existence that you seem to subside on.”
She still continued to stare at him; imagining a number of ways to torture him. The silence would have to be enough for now.
“Does the animal understand?” He asked demeaningly.
She gave the smallest nod of comprehension and watched as he stormed out of the cell, dropping a knife and making sure to leave the door open. She wiped the blood from her palms where her finger nails dug in and bent over to pick up the knife. She wouldn’t want it to slip as she slit the girls’ throats.
To be continued…
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