Your Kind of Coward
I hate this part. We’ve done it so many times before. It’s that point in a relationship where you’ve had a serious argument and you’ve already resolved the issue, but you haven’t had time to really reconnect. It used to be easier when it was just the two of us, with no real responsibilities. If we needed time together we would just set up camp somewhere secluded in the woods, or board ourselves up in a room for a couple of days doing nothing but eat, sleep, and make love. We would even have long talks about how to avoid hurting each other the same way in the future. It may seem to other people that Xena doesn’t talk very much, but she can say some of the most beautiful things when she’s with me.
The problem with all of this is that the emotions lay dormant and start to ferment inside your soul. It’s a lot like fruit; you don’t want to eat it when it’s too young, but you also don’t want to wait until it’s gone rotten. Making up is all about timing, and finding that one point where both of you quit allowing the distractions to keep rolling in out of fear that you won’t be able to recover from the recent infractions against each other. I have to admit that the worst time this ever happened was after I found out Xena was pregnant with Eve. By the gods, the things I said to her that night were probably some of the most brutal words I’ve ever uttered. I just would not believe her. I mean, how could I? We’d been committed to each other for years and then suddenly she tells me that she has a child growing inside her and she doesn’t know how it got there! But she was able to shut me up with one question.
“Before tonight did you ever think it would be possible for me to cheat on you?” She asked me.
And as much as I wanted to tell her that I’d had my suspicions, I couldn’t. There wasn’t one moment that I ever thought it was possible for her to go outside our relationship.
“No.” I said without another word.
We didn’t say anything else about it after that. We also weren’t physically intimate for months. Both of us decided to just keep things platonic until Eve was born, and then figure out if we could still be together afterwards. Xena certainly couldn’t be alone throughout the dangerous circumstances of her pregnancy, and afterwards the whole world seemed to be against us. Luckily any kind of separation was impossible; otherwise we may never have reconnected. I secretly cherish the fact that I almost died on the riverbanks near those cannibals. It opened up an avenue to tell her how much I loved her.
But something happens with that time that you lose. If you stop looking at your partner as a lover it’s almost like the security of your bond is somehow compromised. At some point everything seemed so right; that the stars aligned just so we could be together, then you lose that connection for a while and you start to think that nothing lasts forever. Coexistence without passion is like poison to a relationship and if you don’t find the antidote soon enough it will just die.
“Hey, are you writing again?” Xena said with a smile as she towel dried her hair from the bath.
“Kind of.” Gabrielle said as Xena moved to sit next to her at the foot of the bed. Earlier she’d taken the time to relax in the tub for a bit before giving it up to Xena and now they were both damp in their matching silk robes. That’s what had prompted her musings about the current state of their relationship. Any other time they would have bathed together, but Xena was pretending to busy herself while the tub filled.
“What do you mean, kind of?” She asked. In truth she was trying to look busy because she didn’t think she could control herself if she had to bathe with Gabrielle. The thought of being denied at this point was just too terrifying.
“Well, it’s not really a scroll that I want other people to read, it’s more of a journal, I guess.” The bard said as Xena sat down next to her.
“Hmm.” The warrior made the noise and looked thoughtfully at the bard.
“What?” Gabrielle asked.
“It’s nothing.” Xena said, breaking eye contact as she started to stand.
“No,” Gabrielle stopped her. “You looked like you were thinking something.”
Xena looked sat back down and looked at the bard again.
“It’s just that you never cease to surprise me. Once I think I’ve got you figured out, you evolve into something else.” She paused to let out a small chuckle. “But then again as much as you change, I still always feel the same way about you.”
This could be it. Gabrielle thought. She just gave the opening and as long as we both say the right thing, right now we can come back together again.
“How do you feel about me?” The bard asked.
No, wait, that’s not going to sound right. It’s going to sound antagonistic. Fix it quick. She thought before quickly stammering what she meant.
“I mean, I know that you love me, but what are you feeling right now?”
“I,” She was going to sugar coat things. Give Gabrielle some grandiose speech about how wonderful she was, but that just wasn’t going to cut it here. The truth of that moment was what the bard wanted, and as imperfect as the truth was she was going to get it.
“I’m thinking that all I want to do is make love to you right now. And I want you to want me with that much enthusias. But I’m scared that you won’t because you can’t trust me just yet.”
“Oh Xena, I do too, I…” Oh screw it! She thought as she threw her scroll down and climbed into the warrior’s lap.
As their lips met she felt Xena wrap her arms around her and pull her in closer. The arms caressed her back sweetly at first, and then moved lower and sensually squeezed her ass. With that, Gabrielle ground her hips and Xena let out a moan as her hands removed the blonde’s robe. She felt Xena grasp her legs and stand up to move them onto the bed. The bard was laid on her back with the strong warrior kissing her as she removed her own robe.
Once they were both naked hands moved with reckless abandon against soft skin. Xena kissed and nipped her way down until she was languidly licking and sucking at a breast. Gabrielle gasped and dug her fingers into Xena’s damp hair. She allowed herself to enjoy the strong feelings that were so familiar, yet different every time. Then she quickly turned the tables and pushed Xena on her back, pressing a thigh between her legs and burying her head into the warrior’s neck. Xena threw her head back in ecstasy and grabbed at the bards back.
“Gabrielle, I want you so much.”
“I know. I can feel it.” She said, rocking her hips for emphasis. “I want you too, Xena.”
She didn’t have to say it; Xena could see it in her eyes. She moved her hands to the sides of the bard’s head and kissed her passionately. Once their tongues started moving together Gabrielle’s became more insistent and it was clear exactly how the bard was going to prove her passionate fervor tonight. As if she’d been reading Xena’s mind Gabrielle chose that moment to slowly break off and begin her journey down the smooth, toned body.
Xena had before expressed her appreciation of the bard’s skill in this particular area of the bedroom. Her body was rocking in anticipation as Gabrielle licked around her bellybutton then moved between her thighs. Reconnecting herself with this area was easy; she knew it like the back of her hand. This would be a slow build up. Right now the most important people in the world were the two bound by those walls.
The lithe form pushed at the heavy paneling above her. This was obviously one of the floor tiles to the room holding the two women she was supposed to kill. Placing the knife between her teeth she silently pushed up against the cold granite and peeked through the small crack between it and the floor. She could see a large bed with two figures in it; one of them was snoring rather loudly while the other’s slumber was more demure. With great patience she managed to move the heavy stone away from the hole enough to squeeze through.
In a crouched position she swiftly walked over to the bed while taking the knife back into her hand. She decided that the one who tackled her earlier in the evening would be the first to go because she was most likely to cause a commotion. If she killed her silently enough, the other woman would be very simple. Once she reached the side of the bed she realized that she had lucked out. The girl that pounced on her earlier in the evening was the snorer, and killing her first would mean less chance that the other one would wake up. She moved herself into position with one hand poised above the girl’s forehead and the other wielding the knife above her throat. Just as she was about to bare down on both of them the girl on the other side of the bed stirred and looked sleepily over at the scene. She knew she had to act quickly before consciousness truly set in. With one swift movement she viciously swiped the knife against the throat.
“No!” Eve screamed as she witnessed the scene.
“YES!” Came the opposite response from the room across the hall.
“Oh, right there baby. Please don’t stop!” Xena begged through ragged breath and she stroked the blonde head that was working so diligently to please her.
Gabrielle had teased her so much by this point that the very thought of her slowing down again for further torture was unbearable. But she didn’t think that was going to happen. Gabrielle had a little quirk that would sometimes clue Xena in to the fact that she was ready to let her climax; it was a little noise in the back of her throat somewhere between a growl and a whimper. The warrior had no idea how she managed to make that sound, but in every case it was music to her ears. Tonight would only prove to strengthen her theory because Gabrielle was picking up her tempo, with no signs of slowing down.
“You’re so good, Gabrielle.” She said, eyes closed and head back on the pillow. One hand moved to clutch the bed post as the other stayed holding on to the bard’s head. “So damn good.”
As her hips began to move with a distinctive urgency she knew she wouldn’t last much longer. Gabrielle’s fervor increased as she clutched at the warrior’s thighs; her own noises becoming almost as loud as the ones emanating from Xena. Within moments the warrior’s hips and moans reached their precipice and slowly started to float back down. Gabrielle adjusted the strokes of her tongue accordingly and eased Xena into blissful haze. Once the tremors had ceased the blonde made her way back up the body the same way she had traveled down it. Only the kisses this time were more loving and less sexual. Crawling to rest on Xena’s shoulder she threw an arm and a leg over the sweat soaked body.
“That was beautiful, sweetheart.” The warrior said as she stroked and kissed the blond head resting just beneath her chin.
“It was my pleasure.” Gabrielle said as a soft, contented smile graced her lips.
Xena allowed a predatory smirk to paint her face.
“On the contrary, love,” she said while moving to rest half on top of the bard. “Your pleasure is just about to begin.”
After the swift cut with the knife Rada quickly made her way to shut up the long haired brunette before she got any louder and the whole castle was in the room. Using the strength in her legs she leapt onto the bed stepping over the dead woman and lunging herself onto the other target. Eve used the force to throw her over her head and moved quickly to the other side of the bed.
“Why are you doing this?” She yelled as the girl regained her footing and stood up, preparing to strike again. They stayed like that for a few seconds, just staring when suddenly Sarah sat up groggily in bed.
“What the hell is going on?” She asked, confused. She was disturbed by the two women jumping around on the bed. Then she looked around and saw Eve to her left and the gladiator to her right, seemingly at a stand-off.
“You’re alive!” Eve exclaimed, moving closer and yanking her out of the bed so that they were both separated from the assassin.
“Ow, shit!” Sarah exclaimed after hitting her head on the floor from Eve’s drag and pull tactic.
“We’re in danger; she’s come to kill us.” Eve said pulling Sara to her feet and dragging her even further back.
Rada saw their retreat and bounded over the bed, knife in hand. How did I miss the snoring girl? She thought. I felt the knife slide against her throat. She should be dead.
As soon as Rada made her advance Sarah sprang into defensive mode. She saw her bag within arms length and grabbed at the softball bat sticking out of it. Swinging with more fury than accuracy she forced her attacker back a few steps.
“Eve, go get Xena!” She said.
“Are you crazy, she’ll tear you apart before I even reach their door!” Eve said, worried.
Sarah swung again and fired back, “Yeah, well you’re certainly not going to talk her out of this, I don’t think she can understand a word we’re saying.”
Before she knew what was happening she was being tackled by the aggressor. It felt like she’d been hit by a ton of bricks. The bat fell from her hand as she was straddled and stabbed in the gut.
“I understand you just fine, bitch.” Rada said coldly.
Oh god, this is it. I’m about to die. She thought as the air escaped her body.
Eve cringed as another blow was struck into Sarah’s stomach. It was followed by two more before the attacker stopped and stood up; moving in on Eve. The messenger backed up until she was stopped by the wall; the door inches away, but too far to reach at this point. She was breathing hard when she felt the knife at her neck and saw the dark eyes boring into her own. She wasn’t attacking right away, which was a small relief to Eve. Maybe she could talk her way out of it.
“Someone probably heard me screaming just a second ago. It would be more beneficial for you to leave now rather than waste time killing me.” She said firmly, with little fear showing through.
Rada put her left hand on the wall to the side of her prey and let most of her weight rest there as she brought her body closer to Eve.
“No, one’s coming for you, princess. That’s already been taken care of.” She said with a thick accent intertwined with alcohol breath. She moved the knife lower; following a path to the top of Eve’s bodice.
“So, what; you’re just going to rape me now, then slit my throat after you’ve had your fun?” The messenger said through gritted teeth.
Rada brought her eyes back up to meet Eve’s.
“No, I don’t do that. I was just thinking what a waste it is to kill something so beautiful.” Rada said. Eve thought she would have been charming if she weren’t so obviously psychotic. “But you have to die, beautiful or not. I’ll give you a couple of seconds to pray if you like.”
Eve said nothing, just looked down at the floor as she felt the knife being readied for attack. The sound of a vase breaking made her refocus her gaze to the woman in front of her. To her great surprise it was not her dark assailant.
“Forgive me father, for I have sinned.” Sarah said, with a small smirk as she looked down at the unconscious gladiator.
The warrior bit down on the bard’s shoulder as she entered her slick opening. Gabrielle wrenched her head back and moaned in pleasure at the delicious sensations. She was straddling Xena, who was sitting up and grasping at the bard’s back with her free hand; trying to keep up with the undulating hips.
“Xena.” Gabrielle said, putting her hands on the warrior’s face and moving in to kiss her soundly. Their tongues dueled for a while before Xena strengthened the enthusiasm of her thrusts and hastened the strokes of her thumb on the bard’s clit.
“Mmm, I love you, Xena.” She said digging her hands into the warrior’s scalp, and resting her cheek on the dark bangs.
“I love you too Gabrielle, so much.” She said as she licked and nipped at the bard’s collarbone.
Then within moments every muscle in the bard’s body was tense in preparation for her climax. This was Xena’s cue to put more fervor into her thumb strokes, and add slower more distinct thrusts to her fingers. This level of communication was extremely heartwarming to Xena when they were in the throes of passion. At the moment it was simply a matter of functionality, but later, when they were lying in bed together she would reflect on the countless moments of love making that brought them to this level of joint intuition. But right now she could tell that Gabrielle was right on the cusp of orgasm.
“It’s ok sweetheart, just let go.” She told her in a lower octave than normal.
It was when a litany of incoherencies started to flow loudly from Gabrielle’s mouth that Xena realized how much she liked the vocal part of their relationship as well.
Little did they know, Eve was standing outside, hand poised to knock and mouth open in shock. Quickly, she lowered the appendage and quietly walked back to her own room.
Sarah was tying the unconscious Slav to one of the legs at the foot of the bed. Trying to keep her sitting up, while securing her hands was more difficult than she thought. When she finally finished she noticed Eve entering the room alone.
“Are they coming?” Sarah asked, confused as to why she did not wait on the warrior and bard.
“Actually that’s the problem.” Eve said, uncomfortable with the irony of the situation. “They’re busy right now.”
“Busy? What are you talking about it’s the middle of the…Oooohhh.” She said as her eyes grew large. “Right, so we’re just gonna have to do this interrogation thing without the pinch.”
They both looked at the unconscious woman.
“Just as soon as she wakes up.” Sarah said, hoping she would wake up soon so they could change the conversation.
“Well, while she’s out we have something else very important to talk about.” Eve said, putting a hand on Sarah’s shoulder in an attempt to get the girl to face her. “I saw her stab you just moments ago, and I watched her slit your throat while you were sleeping. But now,” she lifted Sarah’s sleep shirt to see nothing more than smooth skin. “There’s not a scratch on you.”
“Hey, hey, hey! Have a little respect here.” Sarah said, pulling her shirt down. “I wasn’t awake for the throat slitting, but I will admit that the gut stabbing has got me scratching my head.” Moving away from the bed she traced the spot near the door where the knife had fallen and bent down to pick it up. She studied it carefully, stabbing it into wall test its integrity. It did not disappoint in its sturdiness. She then pricked her finger with the tip, watching the blood balloon on her skin. Wiping it off on her shirt she felt the holes where the knife had passed through just moments before.
I shouldn’t be breathing right now. Sarah thought, extreme confusion settling into her furrowed brow.
“Has anything like this ever happened to you before?” Eve asked her.
Sarah chuckled. “No, not unless I slept through prior knife attacks in addition to this one.” She continued to stare at the knife. “I felt the pressure of her blows. It was like she was punching me in the gut, but with a knife. There’s no way she could have missed, I have holes in my shirt.” Turning the knife in her hand, she pointed it at her stomach and held it with both hands connected to tense arms.
“Tell me you’re not thinking about stabbing yourself. I thought you were smarter than this.” Eve said as her eyes grew wide in surprise.
“Oh, I wouldn’t ever bet on that hand.” Sarah said, staring at the blade.
Can I do this? Sarah thought. Can I really stab myself? I was fine when she did it, so in theory it should work.
“You’re positive you saw her stab me?” She asked, looking up at Eve.
“I’m sure of it, but that doesn’t mean…” She was cut off by a gasp in her throat as she watched Sarah swiftly plunge the blade into her stomach and fall to her knees.
Rushing to her side, Eve grasped the girl’s shoulder and waited to see what damage had been done. But just as before, as Sarah slowly pulled the knife away there was no blood and no visible wound. They both just sat there dumbfounded.
“This just isn’t possible.” Sarah said.
Eve thought for a few minutes, and then spoke. “Maybe it was the prayer. You know from when you were in the bath tub? Maybe it made you completely invulnerable to harm.”
“Aw that’s ridiculous.” Sarah said.
“When I was cleansed in the ocean Mother attained the power to kill gods, when Gabrielle was possessed I made the demon come out, and then I made a crack in the world big enough to allow entrance into hell. I think history will prove that it’s not such a preposterous idea.” Eve said with annoyance tinting her voice.
“Yeah, well I wasn’t there for any of these miracles and I’m not the kinda girl that just takes things on faith. Plus I know I can still get hurt. I just used this knife to prick my finger. I’m not invulnerable to any attack.” Sarah said showing her the digit in question. “It seems the mortal wounds are the ones I’m impervious to.”
Their semi-argumentative chat was cut short by the bound gladiator who had just awakened.
“Ladies, ladies. Can we please focus on me now? I’ve got a splitting headache and would like either to die or try to make my escape from the palace.” Startled, Eve and Sarah turned around quickly and paid attention to their captor.
“We’re not going to kill you.” Eve said.
“Well you might not, but I guarantee you I’ll be dead by the end of the night all the same.” Rada said nonchalantly.
“So you came to kill us because you would be killed if you didn’t?” Sarah asked, amazed at how well the interrogation was going with simple words.
“Well, well, well. She’s not only super human; she can utilize logic as well. I’m so impressed.” The captive said, resting her head against the bed.
Sarah was quiet for a moment as she realized the gladiator was making fun of her.
“You know, I think I like her.” Eve said randomly to Sarah, who simply glared back then refocused her attetion.
“Ok smart ass, so who wants you to kill us?” Sarah asked.
“Eh, you’re not as perceptive as I would have hoped. But I’ll make it easy for you, here. Obviously someone in the royal family wants to go to war; a task that would be made much easier if he had a certain warrior princess on his side. Now I would imagine that Xena would be very inclined to fight if her precious daughter were found dead in the castle with a peasant knife lodged in her chest.” She nodded toward the blade that Sarah still clutched in her hand. “Can you see where I’m going with this?”
“So it’s the prince.” Eve said.
“You got it. So are you going to kill me now, or are you going to have pity on me and give me a chance to escape?” Rada asked.
Sarah crossed her arms and thought for a moment.
“Neither.” She said moving closer to the assassin. “You’re an impressive fighter and if you agree to help us out, you can have not only your freedom, but a chance to get back at the people who captured you.”
“What?” Eve asked.
“I want to see that guy whose ass you so thoroughly kicked today. If you take me to him I’ll convince the prince to let you live.” Sarah said, ignoring Eve.
“You can’t just make that decision.” Eve said. “We need to speak with mother and Gabrielle first.”
“And what about the second part of this deal?” Rada said, also ignoring Eve. “You gonna talk the Prince into giving himself over to me too? Because that will be much more impressive than your little trick with the knife earlier.”
“I’ll let you in on that once I see that I can trust you. That’s the deal.” She said, as she bent down in preparation to free her. “Take it, or leave it.”
Rada squinted her eyes and looked into Sarah’s as she made her decision.
“I guess I don’t have much of a choice, now do I?” She lunged at Sarah’s face and snapped her teeth, causing the girl to fall back and put the knife out in front of her in defense. The giggle that escaped from Rada at that moment was much more childlike than anyone would have expected.
“Ok, ok. I’ll take you up on your offer.” She said, still laughing.
Sarah exhaled the breath she was holding, picked herself up and moved again to release the gladiator.
“Tell me you aren’t serious.” Eve said as she watched the wild animal being set free. “Sarah, you can’t just let her go, she tried to kill both of us. Do you think any part of that has changed in the last ten minutes?”
Once the ropes were severed Rada pushed herself to her feet, cracked her neck and moved toward Eve until she was in her face.
“Don’t worry, baby. Between the two offers I’ve had tonight, this one is much better.” She saw that Eve was about to speak and then put a finger to the messenger’s lips. “Now don’t ruin that pretty face by talking anymore. Me and the brave one over here have business to attend to.” And with that she moved back to Sarah.
“I’ll tell Xena!” Eve threatened in a last minute attempt to stop them.
It worked; both women turned to look at her then regarded each other with identical thoughts.
Sweat soaked bodies melded together and breathing started to slow as Xena and Gabrielle finally ceased their sexual efforts for the night.
“Mmm.” The warrior sighed. “Sometimes I wonder how we ever go a day without this.”
“Let alone the better part of a year.” The bard agreed. She was referring to the sexual absence that persevered throughout Xena’s pregnancy.
“Uggh! Don’t remind me.” She said, snuggling in closer to Gabrielle. “That was not only a depressing time, but a scary one too.”
“I know. Just the thought of losing Eve sends chills down my spine now.” The blonde gave a soft kiss to the shoulder she was resting her head on.
“I’ll admit that was bad, but I was actually referring to you.” Xena said.
Gabrielle thought for a moment about her next response. They had never once addressed the tension that existed between them during the months during and after the pregnancy. Carefully, she picked her words.
“I never could tell if you were afraid of us separating back then. I wanted to believe it, but there was always some instance that would make me doubt how much you cared for me. Sometimes I would get so depressed arguing with myself over a no win situation. One side of me would say that you had already started to move on, and the other said that you were being so inattentive because you arrogantly thought you could never lose me. There were just so many innocent little things you did that broke my heart that year.”
Xena moved to brace herself on her elbow so she could look at the blonde while she spoke.
“Some of the
things I did weren’t so innocent, Gabrielle.”
“What do you mean?” She asked with a furrowed brow.
“Pretty much anything that happened with Ares or Antony. I’m not proud of it, Gabrielle, but deep down I knew that I didn’t have to use my sex appeal as much as I did with the two of them. I did it because I was trying to get a reaction out of you; even an angry one. I wanted you to confront me about it, so that maybe it would be possible for us to fight and make up the way we should have when you found out that I was pregnant with Eve. I played the scene a thousand times in my head. You would start yelling at me for flaunting my attraction in your face, then I would tell you that you had no right to be angry with me if you didn’t want me and then…hopefully…” she said while softly stroking the bards face, “you would tell me that you did want to be with me and that if I ever kissed anyone else again you’d make them wish they were facing the Destroyer of Nations, rather than the Battling Bard of Potidaea.”
Gabrielle smiled at this admission. Though it did denote a manipulative side to her lover it also freed her from so many terrible questions that she’d had from that period of their life together.
“And what happened after that in your imagination, ‘Destroyer of Nations’?” She asked.
“I’d run over and kiss you passionately and then we’d spend the rest of the night proving just how much we belonged to each other.” Xena said with a sexy grin, and then slowly let her face soften. “I am sorry that I hurt you with all of that, Gabrielle.”
“And I’m sorry that instead of giving in to you, I decided to become more and more distant.” She said, moving in for a chaste kiss to the Warrior’s lips.
Xena deepened it just for a moment, and then pulled back in an effort to bank the fire that would surely build. With a great weight off her shoulders she settled back on to them and pulled the bard with her. Small bursts of air floated across her chest and made the most perfect metronome for her heartbeat to follow. Sleep came easier to the two women that night than it had in a very long time.
“What was that? I couldn’t understand you?” Sarah asked, mock confusion plastered across her face as she finished dressing to go downstairs.
“MGHGHGHMMMG MGHGHGHM!” Eve muffled again against the pillow case that was now a makeshift gag across her mouth.
“Yeah, see, I just can’t make out what you’re saying with that thing in your mouth. If your hands weren’t tied you might be able to get it off, but I guess you should have thought about that before you decided to go tell Mommy on us, huh?” The young woman scoffed before sticking her new lucky knife into her belt; she would get a sheath for it later.
The child like laugh that was so misplaced on the assassin broke through the air again, as she finished making sure the ropes were secure.
“Ok, now like I said before, Rada and I are going to the dungeon to have a chat with the loser from tonight’s fight. I just have to make sure that things are going to go…”
She almost said “according to history”, but caught herself before it slipped and bent down to Eve’s level.
“…the way I want them to. Now you are perfectly safe here because the bedroom door is locked and barricaded, and we will be passing through the only other way in or out of this room. I am perfectly safe because now, out of the blue, I’ve miraculously lost the ability to die. Once we’re done down there we’re gonna come back up here and let you loose. Any questions?”
“Ha! Gotcha!” Sarah said, tweaking Eve’s nose before moving to her feet and motioning for Rada to follow her.
“Lead the way, killer.” She said after moving the heavy granite off of the opening in the floor.
After dropping down to follow Rada, Sarah noticed how incredibly dark it was through the passage way.
“How the hell were you able to see enough to get here?” She asked, pulling her Zippo out of her pocket and striking the flint.
“I didn’t really; just kind of felt my way through. Of course I’m sure my eyes are better adapted to the dark than yours are. I’ve lived in a dungeon for quite a while now. It’s been at least 3 years since I’ve seen the sun.”
This stopped Sarah in her tracks.
“Are you serious?” She asked, not even being able to imagine what something like that could do to a person.
“Do you think anyone would joke about something like that?” Rada said matter-of-factly.
Sarah just shivered and continued following her guide. She started to wonder what other terrible things Rada had been through, but didn’t dare ask. They were silent until they reached the lonely cell that held Liu Xiu.
“That’s him.” Rada said, making it a point to project how unimpressed she was.
The man barely even looked at them. He was lying curled on the floor trying to keep warm, but not having much luck with the small excuse for a blanket.
“Hey hero, you’ve got company! Wake up and show some respect.” Rada yelled at him and banged on the bars.
“Shhhh! The guards will hear us.” Sarah said with a staunch whisper.
“Heh. Are you kidding me? We could torture him to death and they wouldn’t come in here. They don’t care what happens to him.” The slave said.
“Well, just keep it down to humor me from here on out.” She said, turning toward the bars and grasping them. She didn’t exactly know how she was going to conduct the conversation that needed to follow. It wasn’t as if she could just say ‘Hey, you still planning on overthrowing the Emperor? K, check ya later.’ But she had to say something, otherwise things may have changed from that little stunt she pulled in the arena and Liu may have given up the dream.
“Liu Xiu.” She said in her most “Mr. Miagi” tone, deciding confidence was the way to go.
“What do you want?” He asked, without so much as even looking at her.
“I’m sure you’re tired of being treated this way by the men that conquered your masters. You are the only one left with the power to take back the thrown.” She said, trying to play it cool.
“I don’t care about taking back the throne. You must have me mistaken with someone else. All I want to do is die, something you prevented today.” There was still little emotion in his voice.
“What if I told you that it was your destiny to rule the Chinese empire?” She asked, hoping he would take that bait.
“I’d say you were a fool.” He countered.
Hmmph, she thought. I would have agreed with you a couple of days ago. Ok, new tactic, he wants to be a pain in the ass, I’ll handle him like everyone handles me.
“Ok, cut the brooding hero routine.” She said with disgust. “I am offering you a means of escape on a silver platter and you are so busy playing emo kid that you aren’t even listening to me. Now, do you want to fight back against these fuckers or not?”
With a swiftness her eyes didn’t register he got to his feet and punched an open hand toward her. A blast of some unseen force slammed into Sarah’s gut and threw her against the bars to her back. After landing hard on the ground she caught her breath and stared up at him.
“If I wanted to get out of here, I wouldn’t need your help to do it. I told you, I’m not interested. Now leave me alone before I throw you against something that will really hurt.”
A thought quickly occurred to her and she spoke before she could think.
“You know Lao Ma’s secrets.”
“And I won’t use them to try to win a war again.” He said. “Now I told you to leave.”
“Look, I can’t do that. I have to somehow make you see that you must use this power to take down the Emperor. People are starving out there. There is so much civil unrest that soon these cells will be full of militia members. All they need to succeed is one little edge on the competition and your powers more that fit that mold.”
He laughed at her.
“And what does a foreigner care about the peasants of Chin. How does it benefit you, because I know you’re not doing it out of the goodness of your own heart?”
“I’m not.” She said truthfully. “Part of me is doing it because I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I left this place in the hands of that monster that will soon be in control. Honestly I’d say I care way more about your people than you do.”
Mere seconds after the words came out of her mouth she was throttled even harder against the bars again. This time the force was stronger.
God, this is straight out of a scene from The Never Ending Story. She thought, as she picked herself back up and moved back to the bars. Holding on tight this time.
“How dare you presume to know how much I care for my people! It is for their safety that I do not strike out against the Emperor.” He said, anger raging in his voice.
“Oh ho ho, the plot thickens.” She said sarcastically. If this gets any more predictable I’m gonna start thinking that movie clichés may really be based in truth.
“Let me take a wild stab at the ‘cryptic’ message hidden under your statement. You probably studied Lao Ma’s writings and figured out you had a knack for putting her powers to good use, but you knew you couldn’t control them so well. After a while the fighting started to break out and you decided to throw caution to the wind and use the powers anyway. Now, I’m sure things worked out for a little while, but then one day the shit hit the fan and you bugged out killing not only the bad guys, but unintentionally nabbing a few of the good guys as well. How’m I doin’ so far?”
He simply stared at her with tempered anger.
“Right.” She said, continuing. “So after the ill-fated massacre you felt so bad that you vowed you’d never use this horrible power again. The battles were lost and the rest is history.” She could tell that she was right and that that very fact made him angrier. “Don’t worry, plenty of people hate the fact that I excel at being a smart ass.”
Lui exhaled an unreadable breath, and then spoke.
“You may be right about a lot of things, but that doesn’t mean you understand. I can’t start a war, not after the way things ended during the last one.”
“Believe me, honey; you won’t have to be the one to start this war. The prince is almost foaming at the mouth for one. He tried to start it tonight by sending Rada to kill Xena’s daughter, and if he’d succeeded he would have had the warrior princess on his side. It would have been nearly impossible for the peasants to come out victorious. War is coming whether you want it or not. The choice you have to make is whether or not you want to take the upper hand.”
She waited for him to speak, but no words came. It was time to gamble and put a little more weight on his decision.
“Fine, you wanna sit this one out because of the past, then go ahead. Just remember that people are going to die whether you fight or not, and a lot less of those corpses would be the peasant army if you helped out. You are lying not only to me, but to yourself if you say you don’t want to help. Let’s go Rada.”
As they both started to walk away Lui grasped the bars of his cell and called out to them.
“What part would you propose I play in the opposition?” He asked reluctantly.
Sarah smiled and turned around.
“A jail break for starters. Rally as many supporters as you can and use your convenient little gift to bust them out. Afterwards you’ll probably be named the leader of the rebellion and you need to take that title. If all goes as it should you’ll be able to take the castle at some point and Rada here will be more than happy to assist in taking out the prince. Actually I promised that to her, so you can pretty much take that off of your to do list.” Sarah said with a look toward the confirming gladiator.
“You stupid little girl. How can you speak so casually about war?” He asked, loathing in his voice.
Sarah thought for a moment and was actually taken aback by the statement. He was right. Whether or not this was the way things were supposed to pan out she was the one who was putting history into motion. People would die because she prompted the violence. A feeling of extreme anxiety filled her stomach, but she quickly pushed it down, knowing that things had to happen this way.
“The destiny of your people is to thrive, not live in squalor and famine, and the part you play is the leader of the people. I know this for a fact. So my part in it really isn’t that important.”
“And you said that I was lying to myself; that may be the one thing we have in common.” He looked deep into her eyes. She shivered with the honesty of his words and the coolness of his gaze. “I’ll start with the jail break late tomorrow night, and go from there. Then I’ll look for you afterwards and spread word to the peasants that you’ll be helping in the fight.”
This was something she hadn’t even considered. She thought that all she would have to do was get the ball rolling.
“No, I have to leave tomorrow night. I didn’t mean that I was going to be a part of the revolution.” She said.
He let out an agitated puff of air and spoke. “So you’re going to start all of this and not lift a finger to help. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across your kind of coward.”
She simply stared on at him, hating the fact that he was right.
“Look it’s not my place, alright. I’m not that good in a fight anyway, it shouldn’t change what you have to do.” She started to walk away, but her elbow as roughly caught by his hand.
“Just be glad that I’m not as good as you at walking away.” He said.
She jerked her arm away, and started toward the corridor that would lead back to her room.
“You know he’s got a point.” The Slav stated with detachment.
“Shut up, Rada.” Sarah shot back with less enthusiasm than she herself expected. “It doesn’t concern you.”
“You’re right.” Rada said, dropping it.
Stomping through the corridor Sarah had to defend herself.
“Look I’d help if I could, but it’s not my place.” The anger was coming back now.
“Ok!” Rada said, again dropping the subject.
After a few more steps Sarah spoke again. “I have obligations; I have to make sure that Eve makes it back to Greece.”
Rada made a noise in her throat that sounded like an annoyed growl.
“Could you please convince yourself that you’re not a piece of shit later? I’m bored with this conversation already.” She said before pushing her forward.
Sarah did exactly what she was told and pushed up on the panel that led to the room. As she raised her arms to push herself through a pair of rough hands yanked her onto the floor. She didn’t have to look up to know that Xena was standing over her, most likely shooting daggers out of her eyes.
She was right.
“You’ve got about thirty seconds to give me good a couple of good reasons not to kill you.” Xena said through clenched teeth.
“Heh.” Sarah coughed and laughed at the same time. “Well you might have a hard time keeping your word on that in light of recent events.” She thought joking might break the tension a little, but Xena barely flinched. Rada chose this moment to peek her head in.
“Speak for yourself.” The gladiator said to Sarah, then focused on Xena. “Are you gonna kill me too if she’s got a bad excuse?”
The warrior snarled and pulled her through as well and shoved her roughly on the floor. Rada stood up and complained.
“And to think I was so close to getting out of here alive.”
“Oh alright, don’t be so melodramatic. I made a deal with you and I’ll stick with it.” Sarah said to her, then focused on Xena. “Ok, here we go: this is Rada. She’s the gladiator that won in the arena earlier and she was sent by the Prince to kill me and Eve. Luckily it didn’t work because Eve did some weird chant thing on me when I was in the bathroom and now I’m impervious to mortal wounds, which is a good thing for Eve because if Rada did kill me I wouldn’t have been there to save your baby girl, which I’m sure she neglected to mention when she was snitching on me.” She shot an annoyed look Eve’s way and continued. “Anyway, I saved Eve, recruited the assassin and took a little trip downstairs to make sure the peasant war is still on. In closing I’ve saved the day like, three times over.”
She noticed that Xena still wore the scowl, but pressed her position.
“You can start lavishing me with praise whenever you’re ready.”
“Ha, first let me try and shovel through some of this bullshit you’re feeding us and then I’ll explain my perception of tonight’s events.” Xena started. “Sheer luck saved you from dying at the hands of your new buddy who also tried to kill my daughter. You then tied Eve up and left her helpless in the room all so you could start a war that we may not escape. Then you return to the room with the previously mentioned assassin. What were you planning to do, leave Eve tied to the bed while you and the murderer snuggled up together?” She said, getting right up in Sarah’s face.
“Actually I’d planned on tying them both up so I could really stretch out in the bed.”
Xena moved in to strangle her but was stopped by Gabrielle.
“Ok, now let’s all calm down here.” She softly stroked Xena’s arm until the warrior backed off, then addressed Sarah. “If the prince was the one that sent the assassin to kill you both, then what were you planning on saying to him in the morning?”
“That she tried to kill us, but we stopped her. Then we tried to question her, but she wouldn’t talk so we just assumed she was sent by the peasant militia because the knife isn’t that of the royal army.” Sarah answered as if the situation were as simple as deciding where to eat for dinner.
“And when the prince decides to have the gladiator killed to protect his secret are you just going to hand her over and expect her to go peacefully?” Gabrielle asked as she continued to hold Xena back.
“No, I was going to tell him that Rada should be our prisoner now since we were the wronged party. I’ll probably make up something about needing a new slave, but either way she stays alive because we made a deal.” Sarah said matter-of-factly.
“That’s right.” Rada concurred, crossing her arms.
“Well you’ve just got it all figured out then don’t you?” Xena said spitefully.
“Yeah, actually I do.” She said with confidence. “Xena, I didn’t plan on causing a lot of trouble just to piss you off. I honestly believe that everything was supposed to happen this way. I mean if Rada hadn’t come in here I wouldn’t have had a way to get to the dungeon to talk to Liu Xiu, and if I hadn’t done that he probably would never have started the war. And before you say anything about that, let me just say that there will be plenty of time for us to get out of here before all hell breaks loose.”
“I guess I just don’t understand why you didn’t come and get us as soon as the assassin was under control.” Gabrielle said.
Sarah looked straight at Eve, crossing her arms in a stance that mimicked Rada’s. The messenger spoke up.
“Um… well, technically Sarah did send me over to get you, but um… I could tell you were… busy.”
Xena just looked down at the floor while Gabrielle turned bright red.
“Oh, right.” The bard said. “Well I guess that would have been a bit awkward.”
“Yeah.” Eve agreed.
“Sooooo.” Sarah started. “Since we’ve obviously hit a stopping point, how ‘bout we try to get a little sleep and hope all goes well in the morning once the prince finds out we foiled his evil scheme.”
Xena thought for a moment and finally agreed after a roll of her eyes.
“Fine, but Eve stays on the couch in our room and you’re stuck here with the murderer and she’s to be bound in some way until we are safely on a boat back to Greece. You’re newly acquired skill should no doubt prove useful in putting your mind to rest enough to help you sleep. C’mon Eve.”
The messenger followed the duo with an almost apologetic glance back to Sarah. As the door closed the two women left inside the room looked curiously at one another.
“Are you really gonna tie me up?” Rada asked. “It’s not like I can actually kill you.”
“Ha. No, you can’t, but I assure you Xena will find a way if morning comes and you’re not strapped to something.” Sarah said moving to grab the ropes. “And despite this new camaraderie we’ve developed, you’re still a professional killer and I’ll sleep a lot better knowing I don’t have to worry about the non-life threatening wounds you could inflict on me.”
“Great, there goes any chance of me sleeping tonight.” Rada said.
“I promise to try to make the ropes as comfortable as possible.” Sarah said, rope in hand.
“No it’s not the ropes I’m worried about. You snore loud enough to wake the dead.” Rada countered.
Sarah looked at her with annoyance and said, “Well then I guess it won’t matter how tight the ropes are.”
Xena had hoped that once in the room Eve would be tired enough to pass right out so that she could get in some much needed cuddle time with Gabrielle. They had been interrupted during that phase of the night’s activities, when their daughter had burst through the door explaining the events that took place across the hall. Sadly, Eve was wide awake and full of questions.
“Mother, I want to know who she is. And don’t give me that story about her being an old friend. I’m not buying it.” Eve said sternly.
Xena swallowed hard, and moved closer to her daughter.
“Eve, sweetie, as much as it may not seem like it, she’s someone that wants to protect you.”
“Ha.” Eve replied sarcastically. “Protect me? She despises me. Ever since she got here she’s been nothing but rude and distant.”
Xena glanced at the bard whose eyes admitted defeat. They both knew they would have to tell the girl what was going on. Gabrielle was the first to speak. She was able to make it through the entire story without one interruption from Eve until the very end.
“So she’s from the future?” Eve asked.
“That’s what she says.” Gabrielle answered.
“And you believe her?” The young girl questioned again.
Both bard and warrior nodded their heads in agreement.
“Are you sure she’s not just crazy?”
“Well that’s debatable.” Xena said with a smirk. “But despite that she’s hard headed and determined to get things right and part of that is making sure you get out of here safely.”
“Well one thing is for sure; she came here to save you and thank Eli that worked out.” Eve said, moving to hug both the bard and warrior. After a few seconds she released them and spoke again. “And whether we like her or not she’s obviously here to do something important. The god of Eli doesn’t just bestow his gifts upon anyone. She’s his instrument now.”
“Heh, well I wouldn’t tell her that. I doubt she’d be happy about being called anyone’s instrument.” Xena said with a chuckle. “Now how about we set the couch up for you so we can all get some sleep. We’ve got a big day ahead of us tomorrow.”
And with that they all settled in for the rest of the night.
To be continued…
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