Disclaimer: Xena Warrior Princess and that world of hers, including Gabrielle and all of the others, do not belong to me. They're RENPIC's. I guess, though I don't really know and that's what the end credits say. Xena is the foundation but the house is mine. I won't make any dollars, dinars, drachmas, lira, (or insert your monetary unit) on this. I didn't write this for money. So, I hope you enjoy it. Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Violence: Yes, something graphic.
Special Thanks: To the Bardic Circle members for their feedback and support. To Kamouraskan for beta reading and keeping me working on the story. Your help and feedback is sincerely appreciated.
This story occurs a few days after the episode Motherhood.
My Daughter, My Nemesis
Tall meandering grass danced lazily in the breeze; slow, delicate, like a flouted cobra. Captivated, Xena watched and rested in the field. Her shift moved in the gentle stirring and the light winds coolness felt good to her skin and face. She kept her sword at the ready. The battle on Mount Olympus still raged in her psyche. Athena's handiwork on her face turned from purple into a green that matched the color of the blades in the field.
Her daughter and her best friend had trekked to the beach. Xena wanted them to have some quality time without her, and actually needed time to ponder her future, their future. The harrowing battle with the Athena, Aphrodite's help and Ares' gift of life to Eve and Gabrielle hadn't left her. Still, there were many loose ends. She didn't like things to be left loose; because she'd learned many times over they would interlace, form a whip, and brutally strike her before she knew what happened.
One thing perplexed her more than any other: she'd nearly killed Gabrielle after Gabrielle had nearly killed Eve. If Ares hadn't saved them· Xena banished the thought. One day she would be able to sort the vivid details, but it wouldn't be anytime soon. She stretched her long and sore body and rested. Really rested, for the first time in over a season.
The gods had backed off.
Probably not for long. Xena knew from the past they weren't the patient types. She wondered where the next attack would come from. Ares could no longer assist her, Aphrodite had alienated her family by aiding the trio, Athena and the majority of the stronger gods had perished by Xena's sword, but she still had to face the wrath of the remaining gods, and the followers of the martyrs she'd been forced to kill. Xena looked at her hands, stained by God's blood, small links etched across and traced her lifelines. Stains she'd seen before. They'd fade.
Xena lay back in the flowers and studied the clouds. She liked to watch different shapes form and disappear. Much like her life, she pondered thoughtfully, wearily; soft fluff, growing, more joining to it, and suddenly, when met with atmospheric disruptions, evolving into a huge, fierce, malicious storm, turning, destroying, and never relenting.
She flashed back: horses, galloping wildly, fleeing, from a spiraling angry tornado, stirred by hated and seasoned with murder; her mind racing with her frantic pace, where, when, or how she'd escape this attack, and then a black robed man had shown her the route. Straight into the arms of assassins! Xena shook the image from her head.
She listened for Gabrielle and Eve's animated words. Alarmed when she didn't hear their voices, Xena instantly grabbed for her sword- it was gone! She jumped from her back to her feet prepared to fight. In the grass, not far from where she lay, blond and brunette heads tossed with laughter, and a tanned arm waved her sword. They'd caught her off guard. She smiled despite herself. They were good, she had to give them that."
Okay, okay," Xena said. "Ya got me."
"Listen to her, giving in to us. Ha! What are you thinking, Xena?" Gabrielle asked, crawling her way to her feet. "I'd fall for your admission of defeat? Hmm?"
"Uhm, Aunty Gabrielle, should I be worried?" Eve asked, looking back and forth at the two women. "I'm not sure, it depends on which one of us she wants," Gabrielle replied.
"Heh, heh, heh, Mom·me? Har de, har, har," Xena said as she launched her body into a human missile into the air and struck both of her practical jokers. Both flew backwards, landed in the thick grasses and wildflowers, and rolled, gaining speed, down the slope of the valley.
"Xe..Na·hay·elp!" Gabrielle said.
"Mmm·other·.help!" Eve yelped too.
Cackling Xena watched as the two landed softly and squishy in a bog at the bottom. She stood on her tiptoes and laughed harder as the two of them shook their heads, their fists, and their tongues in her direction. She whispered in the breeze, "Gotcha!"
That night Xena erupted with laughter at least ten times. "You started, I finished," Xena said to them. "I take care of all loose ends. All of them."
"I won't listen to Aunty Gabrielle anymore when it concerns getting you," Eve said in a pouty voice.
"Hey! It was your idea!" Gabrielle's eyes widened, shocked, and looked at a smiling Eve and then her mother.
"My idea?" Eve smiled impishly. "Who do you think thought it up, Mother?"
"Uh huh, nope. Not going there," Xena said.
Gabrielle threw a tiny stick at Eve and grinned. She knew Eve was joking, but she felt uncomfortable with the conversation. At least Xena didn't get involved, and besides it was just a silly joke.
The warm night air crackled in the flickering flames of the campfire. Built for aesthetic value rather than heat, it was soothing to watch. Xena had learned the value of fire many times over in the past. The last few weeks had been harrowing and she hoped the worst of her enemies were finished. The last three days had passed without so much as a sparkle in the air. No one disturbed the trio, and Xena liked the peace and quiet. She was glad to be done with Athena's incessant urge to rid the earth of Eve.
The people seemed to be accepting Eve, too. No one at the village where they'd stocked up their supplies, on the roads, or at the nearest watering well bothered them at all. Xena also liked the time Gabrielle and Eve shared alone. She tried to remove herself from their presence as much as possible in hopes they would bond. She knew Gabrielle cared about her daughter, but she wasn't sure how much. Her heart soared when they pulled their prank; the bonding time she'd given them was working. Her two favorite people in the world plotted against her and she couldn't have been given a greater gift.
She watched Gabrielle get her scroll and sit near the firelight. She studied Eve's features, which reminded her of an image she'd seen in calm lake surfaces about ten seasons ago before. 'Wait, that would have been thirty-five seasons now. There was still so much to learn about-Mother, Toris, Gabrielle's parents, Hercules, Iolaus, Autolycus,' Xena inadvertently shivered. 'It's confusing, annoying and frightening. Did Gabrielle sense it, did Eve?' Xena smiled when Eve's eyes met hers. 'My daughter, a grown woman.'
"What?" Eve asked. She looked at Gabrielle who busily filled her scroll.
"Nothing," Xena answered sheepishly. She didn't want to talk about her thoughts at this point. She glanced away; Eve was the only person who made her self-conscious.
"Aunty Gabrielle?" Eve called, thinking her mother was up to something.
"Yes?" Gabrielle answered without looking up.
"Is it safe?" Eve asked in mock fear.
"Of course it's safe, Xena just checked the perimeter·" She looked up and saw two sets of the same eyes watch and laugh at her. She smiled evilly and went back to her words.
'I like this feeling,' Xena thought to herself. 'It's good.'
Eve felt happy, too. She had her mother, a loving family· maybe she'd learn more about her father, if her mother was willing, or able, to talk about him. "Mother?"
"Hmm," Xena answered.
"Can I ask you about·uh·my," Eve stammered.
"Yes, Eve, what is it?" Xena urged her daughter.
"My·my life is so good now and I'm not knocking it, but I'd like to ask about·my·uhm·this is hard." Eve stumbled over the words.
"What is it?" Xena prodded gently.
"You've never mentioned my father? I know the gods wanted me dead because of a prophecy and I know that my conception was· different. I just feel a need to know who he was. I know he is not in the flesh and you met him after you·. died, but still·." Eve tripped over the words. She knew there was so much to learn and she knew the man had to have been special. She wanted to know him, his family- if he had one- his life's story- if he had other children. The urge to know had overpowered her. She needed to know, like a drunkard needed wine. A need buried deep within, and unrelenting until met.
"Your father, uh huh." Xena's mind raced. She'd known she'd have to explain that eventually. Eventually just came a lot sooner than she had anticipated. Gabrielle's scrolls had explained so much, but she'd never gotten to that subject. So· "Eve, your father is not of this world, she·." Xena began.
Gabrielle yelped after a large crack of thunder shook the campsite. Rain and hail pelted them. She jumped to her feet and the three of them gathered all they needed and headed for shelter.
Xena wondered about the origin of the storm. It hit so quickly after Eve's question, was it·. a message? Or a simple heat-related summer storm? She usually knew when they would need shelter. Xena shook her head to rid the questions; she'd been caught in rain before.
The storm slacked off after a few moments. Drenched, Xena tried to find some dry wood and light a warming fire. The cool air raised goose bumps and she shivered. Looking around, she saw Gabrielle and Eve doing the same thing. They'd gathered enough twigs to get a smoking, smoldering fire going enough to warm them. They found some dry brush and sat down half a candlemark later. Eve waited and anxiously wanted to finish the conversation about her father.
Xena had pondered what she would explain, how she would explain. But, after some of the battles they'd just faced, Eve knew anything was possible. Eve glanced at her mother and Gabrielle. Who was the soul that had tamed her mother? Was he kind, dark, happy? Bard, farmer or a warrior? How did he capture her long enough to give and convince the destroyer of nations to be with child, and where did he go, why did he go?
"Eve," Xena cleared her throat. "Your father is in essence goodness and purity. But he is not of this earth. You are the result of a gift to me by someone whom I'd hurt terribly. Someone I'd never have guessed to be so·"
"Good," Gabrielle said, as she could tell Xena's memories perplexed her mind's eye.
"Good. Yes, good," Xena smiled and patted Gabrielle's shoulder.
"I'm not quite following you," Eve said. She felt was bewildered and had felt a strange sensation in her chest.
"Michael, the archangel of heaven, allowed a woman from my past to give me a child·." Xena explained.
Eve bolted to her feet and threw a quick glance to Gabrielle. Shaking her head, she returned a bewildered gaze to her mother. "A woman got you pregnant?"
Gabrielle stood about a foot behind Eve. She could understand Eve's confusion, and her heart went out to Xena.
Her blue eyes wide with shock and amazement at the quickness of her daughter, Xena rose slowly. "No, she didn't get me pregnant. She was allowed to give me a child. A child to renew my feelings as a mother, and for her a mother to help her, she was a wounded child. A child wounded by me, but she was good until I destroyed her innocence, you have that essence. She was a·a·."
Eve's chest tightened and she turned her back to Xena. She massaged her chest trying to loosen the feeling that settled there. She twisted her head and shoulders. A pop in the vertebrae and she turned to her mother and smiled as she said, "Bitch?"
"What did you say?" Gabrielle said and a sinking feeling assaulted her gut.
Eve turned to the bard. "My, my, Aunty Gabrielle, have I offended you? Was the bitch· I mean, woman, a friend of yours?"
"Stop it, Eve," Xena snapped in disbelief. For a moment her daughter's voice sounded like·.
"Callisto," Gabrielle whispered and took a step backwards.
"What?" Xena asked. She searched the bard's face, and shared her horror and shock. "Eve!" She couldn't see the impish smile etched in her daughter's face. Even the lines in her face seemed to change and her eyes darkened. The eyes Xena saw brought back not just memories, but sheer, raw emotions.
To Gabrielle, Eve had the eyes of the woman she once had hated, eyes that had hated her too. Eyes that gleamed with joy at the murder of one she loved, eyes that sought out pain and feasted upon it. And the smile, curled into an emblem of pure evil. But how? How? Gabrielle's head began to pound and her heart thundered into full-blown panic.
Slowly the girl turned to face her mother. "Yes, mommy."
"What are you doing?" Xena asked, recognizing the eyes of a nemesis.
"Doing? Why mother, surely you know me by now? How old am I? Twenty something?" Eve asked sweetly.
Gabrielle walked past Eve to Xena's side. She noticed that Xena's voice had deepened and her right hand twitched. Instinct told her to be on the alert. Gabrielle peered around the area, trying to understand the feeling she had, but it was clear where the threatening sensation wafted from· Eve.
"Aunty Gabrielle, is my mommy feeling alright?" Eve asked still with Callisto's voice and turned to the fire.
"Xena?" Gabrielle whispered.
"I don't know," Xena whispered back.
"What's wrong?" Gabrielle pressed Xena, sensing something terrible had happened.
"Wrong, Aunty Gabrielle? Wrong. Hmm, no. I wouldn't call a beautiful rebirth wrong. Would you?" Eve asked, her voice strange and threatening.
"N-No, I mean you seem," Gabrielle struggled uncharacteristically with words, groping for the right way to talk to Eve without alarming her. "·changed."
Xena reached out her hand to Eve, as if trying to stop her from falling into a great chasm. "Come here, Eve."
"Huh?" Eve asked. She didn't understand her mother. She didn't move.
"Come here, come to your mother," Xena asked again and took a small step and leaned forward.
"Mother," Eve trembled and suddenly she emitted a high-pitched, feral wail. "You· killed· my· mother!" She spewed fury. "You'll NEVER forget Cirra! Never!"
Xena's heart shattered and she took a step back, and dropping her arm to her side. She had suspected there was a reason behind Callisto's impregnating her. She had hoped the pure essence she'd pretended to be was real. Xena had never been wrong and now she wished with all her being to be mistaken. "Eve?"
"How sweet, no, no, not Eve, but I think you know who I am. Xena, dear heart, you couldn't forget me, could you?" the woman said, her eyes flickering like black stars.
"Callisto," Xena said, defeated. How many times would she pay for Cirra? Her son, taken from her, had suffered and now another child might be taken too. The debt of the past snaked its hand into her chest and clutched her heart. Darkness was costly to the repentant. 'But no matter what, Eve,' even though you're trapped inside the monster standing before me, I will see that you're saved,' Xena thought.
Gabrielle wept bitter tears, enraged by the deception Callisto had carried off, she drew her sais and went after the woman. Xena flipped in front of her and stopped her. "Gabrielle! No!"
"Xena!" Garbrielle wailed.
"Garbrielle! Stop! It's Eve!" Xena pleaded. She turned and fixed her darkened blues in a fierce stare at Eve, but she knew the soul that was speaking was not her beloved daughter. Blood raged through her body and raised the vein on her forehead. "What do you want?" Xena sneered, and the dark animal inside sprang to life.
"Oh nothing, just to live life. It feels goood to be alive again. That's all," Callisto said.
"I don't think so. You will NOT take another child of mine," Xena said.
"Oh, I think I will. If you try to stop me, you'll have to kill me, and you don't want to kill your little girl, do you?" Callisto asked sardonically "That's what you'd have to do." Callisto launched herself towards Gabrielle and struck her in the head with her boot. Gabrielle went down hard and Callisto landed on her feet. She turned to face Xena. "Mommy-daughter spat coming," she screamed, and grabbing Xena's sword she ran at her.
Xena rolled out of the way, Callisto's boot glancing off the side of her head as she turned. Dazed, she struck out at Callisto and, seeing the face of her daughter, she stopped. Callisto took advantage of the situation and clubbed Xena with the pommel of her sword. Darkness swept over the warrior and she fell beside her soulmate.
A familiar voice brought Xena back to consciousness. Sitting up, she felt nauseated and her head thumped with every heartbeat. "Yeah?"
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Xena said opening her eyes. The archangel Michael sat next to her. "Michael?"
"Yes, it's me," he said. He wore the armour of a warrior and didn't appear angelic at all. He looked as if ready to take on the whole world, again.
"Eve? Gabrielle? Where are they?" Xena asked, and looking for them.
"Gabrielle is here, she'll be fine. Xena, there could be trouble·" Michael started.
"Because of Eve," Xena asked as she rubbed her temples. She rose, then, after gaining her balance walked by Michael and over to Gabrielle.
"Gabrielle?" she called gently. Gabrielle opened her eyes. Xena smiled. She checked her friend. Gabrielle would be okay, with a very bad headache, but okay.
"Where's Eve?" Gabrielle asked, and winced.
"Rome," Xena answered.
"Yes, Rome," Michael echoed.
"She has a loyal Roman army there. Evil found its way into her soul, but how?" Xena asked, slightly angry, and cast a stern look toward Michael.
"Xena, Eve is your child and darkness invaded your soul, Callisto was a dark soul until you gave her your goodness. But, you must remember that while you slept for the past twenty-five years, Eve was taught the darkness of selfishness, of senseless murder," Michael tried to be sensitive as he explained. "She didn't have you or Gabrielle to show her the way. She fought against it for so long. When she killed Joxer I sensed a rift, or a split in her soul. "
Xena turned away, a tear made its way down her tanned cheek. Gabrielle wiped it away. "Xena, we can reach her again," the bard said, trying to convince herself as well.
"We'll need to get to Rome, Michael can you help us get there before she does?"
"I can, but you have to know something Xena." Michael said, his eyes clear and determined.
"What's that?" Xena asked and sniffed.
"I'm not here because of the change in Eve," he said and watched her eyes. "I've come for her. The only thing you can do for her is to make sure where she ends up."
"You're here to take her?" Gabrielle asked. "Why?"
Xena couldn't find her chakram, she figured Eve had taken it, but she didn't know why. Her mind whirled, and revelation set in. "Eve was here to start the twilight, but not to live in its aftermath?" Xena said angrily.
"Yes," Michael could feel the anguish of the two women.
"You don't have to do this Michael. You don't have to kill her," Xena couldn't let go, she'd only got her back and then Michael shows up.
Michael knew that he would take Eve, and Xena too, if she interfered. "Xena, don't try to stop me. You can't defeat me. You know that."
"Let's go Gabrielle," Xena said and left camp.
"Gabrielle?" Michael said as she gathered their things.
"Yes," she answered Michael.
"Xena will die if she gets in my way. You must keep her away when the time comes. If you want to save her soul from hell, you'll help me." Michael said.
"Can I make a simple request, Michael?" Gabrielle reached for his arm. "Can you take me instead?"
He looked hard at her hand clenching his forearm and then to her. "Unselfish love, Gabrielle? The ultimate sacrifice is possible, right now I don't know. I'll consider it." A flash and she was left alone with Xena approaching.
"What did he say?" Xena asked after she saw the troubled look of her friend.
"That there might be a way to save Eve·" Gabrielle said, but before she could finish Xena cut her off.
"Anything!" Xena said. "Did you hear me Michael? Anything!"
Gabrielle turned and mounted her horse. "We'd better get to Rome."
"Yeah," Xena said and flipped onto Argo II.
The streets of the empire city were quiet. Few vendors hawked their wares, and even they spoke in barely audible voices. Xena dismounted and went to a fabric stand. Piles of rich, colorful fabrics lined three tables. A small girl ran to the booth with a bolt of what appeared to be silk and handed it to a small man. His clothing and stance told Xena he was Roman citizen. He took the bolt and started to yell at the slave girl.
The vendor turned his gaze to Xena. "What would you like today, eh," he looked Xena up and down, "warrior lady?"
"I'm no lady. Where is everyone?" Xena searched for any threat; Callisto knew she was coming.
"At the coliseum. There's a large battle going today. It's odd too, how it came about, some old guy came looking for Livia. She's been gone since a warrior woman kicked her butt, and suddenly, she just shows up out of the heavens, ready to fight. I had heard she was dead." the vendor turned back to the slave. "Silk, silk! You idiot!" To Xena, "You can't buy good slaves anymore. Did you want to purchase anything?"
"Yeah," Xena said. She nodded in the slave girl's direction. "Her."
"She's not·" Xena grabbed his throat. "Okay, twenty dinars sound right· please."
Gabrielle dropped the money on the counter and helped the girl get out from behind the large table. They headed toward the arena.
Xena joined them. "How is she?"
"Okay, I think, she's a follower of Eli," the girl bobbed her head excitedly to Gabrielle.
"E·li," she said in an Egyptian accent.
"Uh huh," Xena said and frowned. "What do we do with you?"
"M..my family is there," she said pointing.
"Looks like she knows where to go," Gabrielle said.
Xena smiled sadly.
The roar of the crowd shook the ground as they approached. Xena caught sight of four men circling around them. Four others hid on opposite sides of the roadway. Xena nodded to Gabrielle, and she had seen them too.
"You go to a safe place, and we'll help you find your family, okay?" Xena told the nervous young girl, and she ran back toward the road they'd just left. "Ready?"
Gabrielle nodded. They kept walking straight ahead and met their enemy. Two men rushed Gabrielle; she grabbed her sais and tossed one on top the other. A third came behind and Xena sent him into Morpheus' realm. One man slashed out at Xena's left arm barely creasing her elbow, she catapulted straight up and kicked him in the neck. She came down on two men hiding in amongst some large baskets. She flipped one into, and the other on top of them and rolled them into two others running full steam at her.
Gabrielle joined her after the men having had enough limped away. "What now?"
"We'll go around to the slave chamber, I'd like to know who's looking for Eve," Xena said and took off.
"Okay," Gabrielle close behind.
Two guards, engrossed the battle in the arena, failed to detect Xena coming up behind the other two at the door. A melon-thump whack, their heads met, and darkness swept through their minds. Xena opened the door and Gabrielle stepped inside. She urged the people to leave. Xena help an elderly man to his feet, and a younger man ran to help him exit the cell. A woman sat unmoving, and she watched and waited. Gabrielle reached out to her, after a moments hesitation she took the offered hand and got to her feet. Finally convinced they were really being freed, they started to leave; one by one, they left the enclosure. Xena watched for the arena guards and secured their exit.
Gabrielle ushered them out of the stronghold. A feeling of de ja vu. She stopped dead in her tracks when a flashback lit up her mind. 'She stood at the door and the last of Eli's followers got out of the compound. She stopped to wait for Xena. Fighting a stream of large Roman guards, Xena didn't have a chance to flee. A woman perched atop of the roof screamed "NO!" The chakram whooshed and resounded into her being. Glinted silver and inlaid gold bounced off a wall and plowed straight into Xena's unprotected back. Knees arcing inward, her body slowly dropped and then pitched forward, and her face slammed into the ground. In horror, Gabrielle saw a guard racing toward her friend.' No time to act this time she screamed, No!
Suddenly time seemed to stand still, flashes of the past entered Gabrielle's mind: the missed spear that might have saved Flanagus, the crunching sound of the chakram hitting Xena's unprotected spine. But there wasn't time to consider all of the memories. Gabrielle acted. "Xena!" Gabrielle threw her sai and it sunk into the neck of the undetected guard. Xena whirled around and then took out the two whose attention had just been gained.
After clearing the exit Xena and Gabrielle entered the cell, they saw an old man quietly approached him, oblivious to them, he didn't move. Xena touched his shoulder, he lowered his head and he slowly turned. "I know, it's time, face to face with death herself·."
"Autolycus?" Gabrielle asked.
His eyes had the twinkle, his hair silver and long, goatee now the length of his arm and as white as Argo II's mane. He looked back forth at the two and sheer amazement sped across his face. "Well, what a pleasant surprise. Xena, Gabrielle, I wondered who'd come and gods be damned if I thought it'd be you two! Now I dreamed it would, mind you, but never thought you'd be the ones to come and take me to the land of the dead·."
Xena smiled and glanced at Gabrielle and back at Autolycus, "You're not dead, Autolycus."
"Huh? I've got to be dead, or I'm losing my mind," he grabbed his head. "Damned headaches! Now making me hallucinate·. I see dead people!"
"We're not dead either," Gabrielle joined in.
"Of course you're dead. Nobody told you? How cruel! Hades be damned for his cruelty! I know why, the twilight thing and he might have wanted you to suffer by not knowing you're dead. Xena, Gabrielle, I hate to break it to you like this; you've been dead for twenty-five seasons! You died on the beach, cradling your little baby·." Autolycus dropped to his knees and sobbed.
Xena's heart went out to the man and knelt beside him. "Autolycus," she lifted his chin. "We're not dead. It was a trick, to fool Olympus, so they'd quit trying to kill Eve."
Tear-filled gray eyes looked at her, and then to Gabrielle. "A trick? Really?"
Xena and Gabrielle nodded.
"It was good one, b'cause it worked. I can't believe you're here, after being gone for twenty-five years! You had one of the biggest funerals to hit Greece, thousands came, Amazons from the world over, Centaurs, villagers you've helped, y'know Minya and Hower? Hercules and Iolaus, your parents·.your parents!" Autolycus cocked his head and thought for moment, and then angrily he shook his head. "That was a helluva thing to do to them, Xena! Gabrielle! That was a bad thing to do to us, the people who loved you!"
"Auto, they were trying to kill my baby," Xena said brushing away the wetness from his filled eyes. "I didn't have the luxury of time to let my family know, and I couldn't take the chance. I had no choice," Xena explained. "It worked. I saved my daughter, but I lost twenty five years·."
Autolycus nodded and hugged Xena and Gabrielle "I'm sorry, I heard about all that, but I guess I forgot it," Autolycus apologized.
Gabrielle took the sight of him in; the years had not been good. His fingers curled awkwardly, thick in the knuckles, and he appeared to have difficulty clenching into a fist. He noticed Gabrielle's gaze.
"Can't do much with 'em," he said rubbing his hands together, and then put them behind his back. "The King of Thieves is gone. Gone. The only thing left of him is this bent shell, but a very handsome shell nonetheless," he chuckled and presented himself with a bow to Xena, then Gabrielle. "A lot has happened in my life since you've been gone. I spied, swabbed decks of wealthy ship owners, and believe if you will, a hairdresser!"
Xena arched her brow, nodding with a smirk.
"Really, I'm not kidding! The finest heads in Rome sat under my comb," he laughed. "And, they all appreciated my sophisticated techniques. Heh heh."
Xena smiled at what he said, and believed part of it.
Gabrielle blushed; he still had the ability to make her feel like a babe in the forest, innocent and dumb.
"Autolycus, I'm looking for my daughter," Xena looked past him and drew her sword.
"What is it? Are they coming for me?" Autolycus asked, abruptly turning to the door and roughly pushing Xena aside.
"No," Xena said gaining her balance. "It's Eve."
Xena peered out of the bars and took in the scene. Rome's great colesium full of blood thirsty Roman noble men. Xena noted that the cost of the silk flowing off the shoulders of the men sitting on both sides of Caesar's vacant throne could feed many villagers. The gold the men wore around there wrists could've really tempted the King of Thieves. People of lesser rank lined the upper tiers and there were venders hawking cheap port and sold fresh cooked meats and breads. The people were screaming and waving white pieces of fabric in protest of waiting. They needed to see something happening. Gladiators stood in the center of the arena.
Xena saw Eve addressing Caesar and watched intently the eyes of the Roman leader. Caesar motioned for his second to join them and then the second spoke to the trumpeters. The noise from the horns announced an event. Xena watched her daughter speak to Augustus and just as the trumpet noise halted. Eve flipped out into the center of the arena and raised her hands to quite the masses.
"People of Rome, it is I, Livia!" Eve raised her arms and walked triumphantly around the coliseum. Her smile curled and her eyes sparkled, she loved the attention.
The arena erupted with cheers and people stamped their feet.
"I promise you tonight, under the light of the full moon and a thousand torches, a battle unlike any other! A battle between good and evil. Between Xena!" Eve emphasized her mother's name. "And me, Rome's Champion! A battle until·. the DEATH!" Eve walked around the arena and soaked in all the admiration. The people cheer for about a quarter candlemark, and she addressed the masses once more. "Go now, rest and return as the moon rises and the trumpets sound. You will not be dissatisfied!"
The people started to leave the arena and Eve turned to a guard.
"That is my daughter Autolycus, that's Eve," Xena said and a sadness shrouded her chisled features. Autolycus felt for Xena but felt sure she was mistaken.
"No Xena, Eve died with you holding her, that is Livia," He said sadly and wept again for innocence lost. "I cry so easily now. Such a mess·."
"That is my daughter Autolycus," Xena asserted.
"Livia, Xena's little daughter?" Autolycus almost yelled in his old man's voice.
Gabrielle reached for his elbow to steady him. "Autolycus?"
"It is difficult to believe, Livia's your daughter," he shook his head again, and thoughtfully looked into the blue eyes he cherished. "It must be so, I believe it," he sat on a rock used as a trough for food, which fed the slaves that were to fight in the arena.
Gabrielle knelt and took his shaking hand. "What is it?"
"Livia. Xena's daughter, I would never have guessed. How?" Autolycus said.
"I'll explain, but it'll have to wait for a bit, because Eve's coming this way," Xena said and motioned for Gabrielle to flatten her body next to the wall.
Eve drew a stick across the bars, and Autolycus stood.
"Do you remember Xena?" Eve asked the former king of thieves.
"Xena, huh? She died, 'bout twenty-five years ago. Yeah, I knew her," Autolycus said and searched Eve's eyes for any remnant of her mother. She possessed a look familiar enough to cause the hairs on the back of his neck to rise.
"What do you see old man?" Eve didn't like the way Autolycus looked into her soul.
"I see a very charming young woman," Autolycus said with bravado.
"Well, isn't that amazing. You dare to flirt with me? Augustus Caesar wouldn't even attempt something so vile as to flirt with me," Eve said annoyed, but in control.
"Well," Autolycus began in his deepest and, he hoped, believable voice. "I'm not Augustus Caesar am I?"
"No, you're not, but right now, you'e more important to me than he is," Eve said and smiled. "Besides, you're my new best friend now. Get ready!"
"You'll fit in nicely. Now, like I said, rest my dear Autolycus, you will need your strength. We have a little trip we need to start, make yourself ready, I'll be back in a few moments to get you," Eve said and started to walk away.
"Trip?" Autolycus said after Xena poked him.
"Yes, we're going to reminisce about my mother's return from the dead. You remember that don't you?" Eve sarcastically spoke.
Xena watched her daughter disappear through a door leading out of the arena. She looked at Autolycus and he was shaking. She sat beside him and draped her arm across his shoulder. Not saying a word he sat for a few moments.
"You're ill aren't you?" Gabrielle asked the upset man.
"Autolycus?" Xena said his name quietly.
"I'm here, Xena," he said passively.
"You're sick," Xena searched his eyes.
"I don't know. Yes, I've been having really bad headaches. Now, I meet you and I thought it was time, and even though it wasn't now, it won't be much longer." He ran his hand through his graying hair, and smiled sadly.
"Are you sure?" Xena asked.
"Yes. I'm tired Xena. I'm not afraid of it anymore. After I lost you twenty-five years ago, I had finally come to grip with that fact that people die, and now, you're back. My heart isn't what it used to be, but I'll help in whatever you need me to do. I'll try anyway," he said.
"Eve must be planning on taking power from Augustus and bestowing upon herself, and she's planning on using you. What role do you play in this, do you have any idea?" Xena asked.
"I don't have a clue," Autolycus answered.
Marching boots drew Xena's attention and she flattened against the wall again. Eve opened the door to Autolycus's cell and stepped inside.
Eve caught a movement as she entered the cell. Instinctively she knew Xena was there. She looked quickly and figured out where Xena was. She then latched onto the King of Thieves arm. "Come with me 'Auto', and mother you and Gabrielle stay right where you are or he dies!" Eve said grabbing the man and positioning a blade under his chin. "You know I'll do it!"
Xena cursed to herself and stepped out of the shadows of the cell. "Eve," Xena quietly called her daughter's name. "Listen·"
"Shut up, Xena! Guards!" A group of the Roman centurion guard entered the cell and grabbed Gabrielle. "Mother, surrender your weapon at once!"
Xena prepared herself for battle, but she realized it wouldn't be in Gabrielle or Autolycus' best interest to fight just then and she dropped her sword.
"That's a good mother," Eve chided. "Now, we've got a little jewelry for you and Gabrielle." Eve motioned the guards toward Xena and she shoved Gabrielle at them after Xena had been shackled. The guards chained Gabrielle's hands and pulled her wrists sharply. A length of chain was threaded through a loop hanging from the ceiling and attached to Xena and Gabrielle's wrist manacles. The guards pulled the chain tightly, adjusted the height difference and left only enough room for them to stand on their tiptoes.
"That'll do," Eve said. "Let's go, Autolycus. We have a gift for me to fetch. I'll be back soon Mommy." She pushed the King of Thieves out of the cell and followed. After the door clanged shut Eve told the guards, "If they escape you'll die in the worst way possible."
"Xena?" Gabrielle said hoarsely.
"Yeah," Xena replied taking in the room, the chain, and how easily it would be to break Gabrielle's arms.
"Do you think she'll kill him?" Gabrielle asked and tried to see where Eve headed.
"I don't know Gabrielle. I hope there is some goodness still in her," Xena said. She hoped Eve was still in Livia somewhere and the goodness she had will prevent her from murdering Autolycus. She pulled the chains gently and Gabrielle yelped. The guard came into the cell to see what was happening. Xena smiled at him and he backed away. "C'mere," she said to him sweetly.
"No, I ain't gonna die because you tricked me," the guard answered. "Livia said you would try to talk to me."
"Her name is Eve," Gabrielle corrected.
"I know what her name is," he said. He turned abruptly and left the cell.
"Gabrielle, I don't think I can get the chains free without breaking your arms."
"I really don't want my arms broken," Gabrielle anxiously replied.
"Then we'll have to wait and see what happens," Xena said annoyed at the situation.
Augustus Caesar stood looking at the steeds he'd just been presented. The finest and top of their bloodlines, welcome additions to his army. He particularly liked the golden stallion with a white flowing mane. The horse pawed the ground, snorting, it broke free from the corral and charged at Caesar. As the animal neared he didn't move, and at the moment just before he would be run-over by the great beast, it slowed and stopped suddenly. Caesar raised his hand and the horse slowly approached. Smiling, the ruler of the mighty Roman Empire gently stroked its golden muzzle.
"Fraud," he said to the great horse. "Almost like myself."
"I wouldn't say that," Eve said.
He turned and in wide-eyed shock said, "Eve·"
"Eve, yes well, let's just call me Livia for now," Eve said.
Walking past her, Caesar asked, "Where's your mother? And Gabrielle?"
"Xena isn't with me," Eve said and moved close enough to breath down the back of Caesar's neck. "You couldn't want her when I'm around."
Caesar turned again and faced the brunette. "What's going on here?"
"Well, let me say I've come to my senses," Eve kissed him slowly, passionately.
He found himself responding as a fire lit his eyes and fever raced through his groin. He kissed her back, hard and thirsting. "Oh Livia," he said huskily, "I hoped for this day." He pulled her into a tack room, and then down on a small caretakers cot, all the while she tore at his clothing.
"So have I, and you'll get all you ever dreamed of," Eve said and they curled into a heated mass of sweating skin and probing mouths.
Suddenly the large golden stallion kicked in the door. Caesar jumped to his feet knocking Eve on her bottom. "By the gods," he said. "Once a fool, always a fool. No!" facing her, "I won't let you play me again, Livia!"
Sitting on the dirt floor Eve smiled and pulled her clothing and self together. Getting up she said, "I have the knowledge that'll curl your toes."
"What is this about, Livia?" Caesar demanded.
"I want my power back. I am Rome's Champion!" Eve demanded.
"So, being Xena's little girl wasn't exciting enough for you?" Caesar asked heatedly.
"Just know this, Octavius, Livia is here now and Eve is...put it this way, not here anymore. She was never here, really," Eve laughed.
"Livia?" Caesar asked. He felt threatened.
"Livia? Well, actually," Eve flipped to his side and clenched him by the throat. "Ever hear of Callisto?"
"Uh," Caesar was thoroughly confused.
"I'll tell you about her later, for now, Mommy is going to try and mess with my plans. You must stop her," Eve demanded.
"What plans?" Caesar choked out. He watched Eve's eyes; they seemed to have a different person behind them.
"I will take my place as ruler at the coronation. I've dispatched my elite troops to destroy a couple little towns in Greece. Xena won't like it, and she'll try to stop me. You mustn't allow that to happen," Eve said sweetly.
"No?" Caesar said glassy eyed.
"No," Eve smiled and relaxed her grip.
Caesar choked and coughed.
"Shall we discuss the plan?" Eve asked and smiled at Caesar.
The Roman arena was full. Any place a person could stand was filled. Everyone wanted to watch Rome's champion in action. She was back in all her perfect warrior glory.
Xena and Gabrielle waited, still chained, and suffered with screaming muscles. The guard stood at the entrance to the cell and watched for Eve. Eve entered the coliseum on a great black warhorse. Decked out in full roman armour, her eyes color seemed to have changed to a sparkling black. Her shoulders pulled back and she set high in the saddle as she rode proudly into the arena. The people there erupted into thunderous applause. The noise was deafening, many couldn't hear anything but a loud ringing in their ears.
Eve stopped in front of Caesar and nodded. "Citizens today we have a special guest, Autolycus, enter!" Caesar commanded. A guard led the man to a seat near Caesar, and he sat. "This is the King of Thieves and he has bestowed upon Rome a terrific gift. But first," Caesar stood and looked regally down at her. "Livia, what have you done for Rome today?" He announced exactly as she had scripted.
"Caesar, I am here to announce the addition of lands and thousands of prisoners. All their gold, their livestock, their property is ripe for the taking. I am the one to do it. I will take Rome to the height of Olympia. I am the daughter of Xena!" Eve had her mount prance around the arena. The people went wild. "Xena! The killer of Gods! I have her blood and her power!" Eve held up a shimmering red substance. "Citizens of Rome, with this ambrosia, I become your Goddess!"
"Xena?" Gabrielle gasped.
"So that's it," Xena said. She understood what was going on and she was going to stop it.
Eve rode back and forth. "I will give the people of Rome something Caesar couldn't, what Eli couldn't, I am the Goddess of Rome and you are my patrons!"
The crowd cheered.
"Livia!" Caesar boomed over the crowd. "You must defeat the God killer, Xena! Bring out the Warrior Princess!" Caesar bellowed.
"And kill her, I will!" Eve sneered and held up Xena's chakram.
Several guards rushed into the cell and they grabbed the two women and freed their bleeding wrists. Xena was held by three men, one held Gabrielle and another punched Xena into the stomach. Gabrielle screamed for them to stop. As Xena doubled over, another guard hit her in the back of her head. A third kicked her in the head too. Flashing stars burst forth in her eyes and a sick feeling joined the pounding in her head. Gabrielle broke free and ran to Xena, but before she could get to her the guards grabbed her around the waist and pulled her into the arena.
The crowd quietened when a guard dragged Xena into the arena. Three other guards held their swords on her. Two others held Gabrielle and she fought them trying to get to Xena. Xena wasn't moving.
Caesar looked at Autolycus and then at Gabrielle. Autolycus slid his foot behind a spear that leaned against Caesar's throne. To his relief it was not fastened.
Eve laughed evilly. "People of Rome, this is Xena the mighty God killer, my mother! She destroyed the Olympia Gods! She left the void for your Warrior Goddess to fill!" Eve held up the Dagger of Helios in one hand, and ambrosia in the other. "The King of Thieves has shown me the location of the ambrosia of the Gods," Eve laughed shrilly.
Eve lifted the ambrosia. "But with this I defy myself to all those who would dare oppose me-- all those who would dare prey on Rome! Behold the birth of Rome's Warrior Goddess!" Eve said and started to bite into the ambrosia. Autolycus grabbed and threw the spear at Eve and it's blunt end struck her hand, causing her to drop the ambrosia. It splatted on the ground and a small piece of it landed near Gabrielle's foot.
"By the gods!" Gabrielle gasped.
Xena's head pounded and she pushed her face out of the dirt. As she got to her feet her heart raced into overdrive. Running to fight Eve away from the ambrosia, she tripped over the spear that had knocked the ambrosia from her daughter's hand.
The crowd roared and screamed "Livia, Livia! LIVIA!"
Spurred by the enthusiasm Eve screamed and jumped after ambrosia, Xena tried but couldn't get to it, and Eve pulled it away. Eve looked down at her mother and smiled an angry, vicious grin. "Mommy, I've missed you."
"Kill her!' A man's voice from the people shouted.
"Now!" Another voice.
"Livia! Livia!" Chanted from the crowd, and the sound grew louder and louder. "Livia!"
"Stop this! Eve," Xena yelled. The crowd stunned by the strength of Xena's voice died down. "What are you doing?"
"You get to watch me become a Goddess mother, all the work you did to save me, all the effort you took to fight the Gods of Olympia, and now here I am, the very embodiment of your once great self." Eve spat. She sniffed the ambrosia. She took a bite; the stadium was jolted by a large crack of thunder.
Xena fought Gabrielle's guards and took their swords. She knocked them out and Gabrielle grabbed the spear and broke the tip off making a staff about the length and size of the one she had thrown into the river in India.
The guard near Autolycus called out to Livia and threw the former thief into the arena and Eve galloped towards him. She drew her sword and as she swiped at the man, but Xena flipped in front of him and rolled him out of the way.
"Goody," Eve said when she saw the bard. "Aunty Gabrielle."
"Eve stop!" Gabrielle cried. "Enough!"
"Not quite enough, dear," Eve said and she rode the powerful steed and threw a net over Gabrielle's head and dragged her around the arena.
Xena felt for her chakram and remembered Eve had it. She flipped into the air and landed behind her daughter. With a mighty swipe she cut Gabrielle free.
Eve jumped from the horse and grabbed Autolycus. With the blade at his throat she screamed. She raised the chakram and watched Xena's eyes. "Who do you save mommy?"
"Kill them! Kill them!" Voices rang out again. Eve looked around the arena and thousands of thumbs down waved violently toward the fighters.
"Eve," Gabrielle pleaded. "I know you're in there! Fight the darkness!"
"Okay," Eve snarled. "Aunty Gabrielle, did you ever wonder why mommy smacked you in the head with this little toy?"
Xena flinched like she'd been slapped.
"Because she's sick of your righteous mouth!" Eve laughed. "Am I right, Mother!"
"That's enough, Eve!" Xena said bitterly.
"Is it?" Eve asked.
"Don't do this. You're better than this," Gabrielle said, but with less conviction.
"I know, blah, blah, blah. Maybe I'll do it right this time mother!" Eve said and hurled the chakram at Gabrielle. It struck Caesars throne, a shield and then a sickening crunch sounded as the chakram hit Gabrielle mid spine.
"Gabrielle!" Xena screamed.
She flipped through the air and landed on Eve's chest knocking her backwards. Eve jumped back up and landed on her feet, face to face with her mother. "Mother, can you kill your little girl?" Eve cried.
"No, but I can kill an evil goddess," Xena said and brought her sword down against Eve's.
The chakram flew towards the two women and both stood their ground. Just before it was to strike Eve, Xena yanked it out of the air. Eve parried and rolled to the left. Xena adjusted and blocked a sword coming at her back. She flipped into the air and landed on top of Eve. She put the pinch on her and Eve couldn't move.
"Noooo!" Eve struggled to speak. "You can't· do· this to·me.!"
"I just did," Xena said and looked at Gabrielle.
Autolycus was at Gabrielle's side, she had been struck in the spine, and gravely injured. Autolycus held her head and consoled her. "It's okay Gabrielle, it's not a bad injury."
"Autolycus?" Gabrielle said meekly.
"Yes, sweetheart," he answered trying not to cry.
"I can't feel my legs."
"I see, well I might be holding you wrong. I'm sorry, Xena will be here in a minute and she'll fix it. Okay? Hang on," Autolycus demanded.
"Okay," Gabrielle replied weakly.
Tears streamed down Xena's face, torn she didn't know which way to go. She couldn't release Eve because she would fight her and she couldn't make it over to check on Gabrielle without time running out on her daughter. Xena screamed a guttoral, ear-piercing cry and went to her knees. She punched the ground beside Eve's head. Xena saw the bit of ambrosia that had landed beside Gabrielle's boot earlier and quickly grabbed it. She jumped to her feet and went to Gabrielle's side. She put the ambrosia in Gabrielle's mouth, sat beside the bard and waited.
Eve gasped, "Mother! Don't· let·me·die! Please!" A rattled breath escaped Eve's lungs and she let out her last breath.
Xena dropped her head and silently cried. Gabrielle reached out to Xena, and held her hand. Gabrielle raised herself up and hugged Xena tightly.
A large bright flash occurred. Xena and Gabrielle watched as Michael bent down and touched Eve's hand. A light surrounded her and a blackness erupted from her chest and flew into the heavens. Eve sat up and blinked. Xena's heart pounded. Michael stood beside Eve and didn't move.
Xena searched her daughter's face.
"It's okay mother," Eve said and smiled. "It's me."
"Eve?" Xena whispered as a tears slid down her cheek.
"Michael·" Gabrielle started to speak.
"Unselfish love, Gabrielle," Michael said. "It freed her soul. When Xena chose love, evil lost. Xena knew the darkside in Eve and the light of love in you. Your light helped her find the way through the darkness. Eve was never gone, but she was unable to act with the evil essense of Callisto. The essense isn't dead. But it will never be able to take Eve again. For that reason, Eve can live among the people now. The threat that was evil is forever gone. Thank you Xena, and thank you Gabrielle."
"Michael, I·I·" Xena struggled with the words and decided on two short ones. "Thank you."
Michael nodded, he reached his hand to Autolycus. Xena and Gabrielle wondered what was happening, and finally the King of Thieves resolved his fate and shook the archangel's hand. Michael pumped his hand twice and then let go. He smiled at the group and then disappeared.
Eve helped steady a shaken Autolycus. "You okay?" she asked.
Autolycus just looked at her blank-faced.
"I'm sorry if I injured you," Eve apologized.
"Oh that's okay, women have been doing that to me for at least fifty years. Heh heh." Autolycus laughed. He picked up Xena's weapon. "I believe this is yours," he said and handed the chakram to Xena.
Xena took it and looked at Gabrielle. "I don't know how to say I'm sorry."
"Then don't, at least for now, don't," Gabrielle answered. "But Xena, I will want to know why, one day."
"I know, I'm trying to figure it out too," Xena said and pulled her into a hug.
"I love you," Gabrielle whispered to Xena.
"I love you too," Xena whispered back.
Caesar sat stoically in his throne as Xena made her way to talk to him. The people of the arena filtered out. He sat impassively and angrily stared at Eve when she approached him.
"So, now you're Xena's little girl again?" Caesar said viciously. "And how do I know that for sure?"
"Because I know it for sure," Xena answered for Eve.
"Now what? You rule Rome?" Caesar nervously asked.
"I don't rule anything," Xena responded. "I think you are doing a good job."
"What now?" Caesar asked a little more confident.
"We're going home," Xena laid her arm across Gabrielle's shoulder.
Eve and Gabrielle helped Autolycus walk out of the arena.
After watching the three of them get out of earshot Caesar turned to Xena and smiled a tired smile. "Do you trust me, Xena?" he whispered to Xena.
"Shouldn't I?" Xena looked into his eyes. "I know Callisto, through Eve's body forced you to help her. I don't hold that against you."
"Good. I want you to know if there is anything I can do," Caesar replied.
"I need to borrow a ship," Xena said and smiled.
Caesar nodded and he and Xena left the coliseum.
A day later Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve left the Senate chamber and were headed to the docks to go home.
"I think Autolycus will thrive with all the attention the women of the place are giving him," Gabrielle announced.
"Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Caesar can learn a lot from him. Auto knows a lot about the heads of state you know," Xena retorted.
"Ew, Mother," Eve groaned.
As they passed fabric vendor, the girl they had freed ran to Xena. She had a pack ready and bowed and said to the Warrior Princess. "I am ready to serve you master."
"What?" Xena asked.
"You bought me," the girl said.
"Yes, I did, but I set you free," Xena said and smiled.
"No, you cannot do that. I cost you, you paid real dinars for my freedom, and I am from a proud family. I will honor you, repay you with my work and earn my freedom," the girl bantered.
"Okay, I'll give you twenty dinars to go to your family," Xena offered.
"Oh no, they gave me five dinars to go with you," the girl said and dropped to her knees. "I will work for a dinar a week until I have paid for my freedom."
"A dinar a week!" Xena yelped.
The bard giggled.
"Gabri·elle!" Xena screamed. "Did you know about this? Gabrielle?"
The bard ran ahead to join Eve, and left Xena to deal with her new personal servant.
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