Summary: The Conqueror leaves Greece to visit Cleopatra and meets a slave/gladiator named Gabrielle but all is not what it seems.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
Authors Note: We're almost at the end of our journey now! There's only two more chapters after this and then it's all over! If you want to email about this story, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
Chapter Twenty Two
I landed on the docks with a soft thump, bending my knees to absorb the impact as my pale blue eyes took in the bloody mess surrounding us. My black leather boots almost slipped out from underneath me, the ground was so slick with blood and I frowned, not looking forward to the chore of having everything cleaned up after the battle was over. I absentmindedly wondered how my castle was faring against the onslaught of Roman soldiers as Alexandria dropped to the ground behind me with her swords drawn, a feral grin on her face. The ship's gangplank dropped down a few moments later but by then, Alexandria and I were already on the move.
The docks were completely deserted, despite the dead bodies that were scattered around the ground surrounding us. I followed the sounds of battle and made my way quickly through the harbour, the beast shivering at the sweet smell of blood that was almost overwhelming.
"Xena," Alexandria whispered into my ear as she raised one of her swords to point at something above us. "Look!"
I followed her gaze and my eyes narrowed as I looked up to see my palace on the cliff overlooking the ocean. It was surrounded my Romans that were bravely being fought off by the Royal Guards that had been left behind on my trip to Egypt. I could see Antony's banner waving in the wind and I knew instantly that the Roman pig was trying to enter the castle.
"We need to get to the tunnels," I said to Alexandria, who nodded her head in agreement.
"The only problem is that the tunnel we need is in the middle of the markets," Alexandria replied with a concerned, yet excited look in her eyes. "Which is where it sounds like most of the fighting is coming from."
"I can hear Marcus shouting," I said to the red headed woman as I listened to the dark skinned man yelling orders. "Which means that Palaemon must have gotten your message and the fourth army has returned from Sparta. We should easily be able to fight our way through and make our way into the tunnels."
As Alexandria opened her mouth to reply, Niko, the captain of the Royal Guard came up behind us, followed by the twenty other soldiers we had brought with us to Egypt. I watched silently as Alexandria sent them all to the entrance of the palace, to help Palaemon fight off the Romans before we hurriedly made our way to the markets.
More and more bodies littered the sides of the streets as we got closer. I could feel the adrenaline racing through my blood as the screams of dying men got louder and I could hear the sound of metal cutting through muscle and splintering bone, making me shiver in excitement. We took the main street to the markets, not bothering to hide our presence, our heads held high as we cut down every stray Roman that we passed. It wasn't enough for the beast inside me, the animal that wanted to feel the blood of it's enemies splattering across it's face.
We turned the final corner and I heard Alexandria gasp at the sight before us. The slave hadn't lied when she said that Antony would come prepared and true to her word, the streets were filled with men. The ground was slippery with spilt blood and the smell was enough to make even my stomach heave, but my heart glowed with pride as I watched my men battle valiantly against the Roman's that were slowly overpowering them.
The Fourth Army consisted of almost three thousand men, though it seemed only half of them were in the markets. I suspected that the rest were at the palace gates, helping the Royal Guard fight Antony. I turned my head to catch Alexandria's eye and gave her a feral grin that she returned whole heartedly before making a decision to let my men know that they weren't alone.
I raised my sword in the air and screamed my battle cry, which was followed by Alexandria's own. Thousands of men seemed to pause in their separate fights as all eyes turned towards the two of us. The silence was deafening before my men started to cheer loudly at our arrival then throwing themselves back into battle, more confident than before.
I charged into the chaos, the beast roaring in my chest as it's thirst finally started to be sated. It was starving and I held back nothing as I sunk my sword into the chest of the closest Roman soldiers, a crazed smile lighting up my features. It wasn't long before my sword was so soaked in blood that my hand started to slip from the hilt. I relished the terrified faces of the Roman men that fell under my sword, their screams ringing in my ears. I could faintly hear Alexandria shouting encouragement to the Greek men surrounding us as her swords sliced expertly through a man's neck, so deep that his head was attached to his shoulders only by the smallest thread of skin as he dropped lifelessly to the ground.
In the middle of thousands of men, I finally caught sight of what I had been searching for; the well that would lead us into the tunnels under the palace. I could feel Alexandria at my back as I cut a path for us, until I was finally standing beside the small stone well.
"Hey, you!" I snarled, grabbing a soldier by the back of his neck. He looked at me with a mix of fear and admiration and I grinned at him. "I need you to get as many men as you can to guard this well. Make sure that no Romans follow us, or I'll gut your from your cock to your chin, understand?"
The man nodded shakily and I released him as I turned back to the well. Without another thought, I climbed up onto the ledge, sheathed my sword at my back and then stepped off, falling into the black depths below.
I held my breath before I hit the freezing cold water, my nerves screaming at the sudden change in temperature. I quickly swam away from the opening in the tunnel ceiling, moving only moments before Alexandria hit the water behind me, hardly making a splash. I blinked my eyes rapidly as I attempted to adjust to the darkness and watched as Alexandria broke through the water, pushing her hair out of her eyes.
"Xena, are you okay?" She asked as she swam gracefully towards me.
"I'm fine," I replied as I unhooked my chakram from my belt, holding it in my hand as I glanced around the small underground cave. I assumed that this tunnel was yet to be used, due to the lack of torches. "Where will this lead us?"
I had most of the tunnels created after I took over Corinth, but I never had any reason to use them so far, which is why I was unsure as to where all of them led. Only my most trusted captains knew that they existed and even less knew where the entrances to each were. Alexandria was one of those few, having been one of the people that helped dig and create the small underground caves.
"This should bring us straight to the kitchen," Alexandria replied as she pulled a dagger from her boot. I nodded as we started swimming in the direction of the castle in silence, both lost in our own thoughts. The past week had been leading up to this moment, and I was impatient for my battle with Antony to be over. Though, not impatient enough for me not to enjoy torturing him for what he put me through before ending his miserable life.
Ready or not, Antony, here I come, I grinned evilly to myself.
"I don't want to do that again anytime soon," said Alexandria as she pushed her wet hair away from her face, the soaked locks almost black in the dark kitchen. I smiled at her words as I shook my own hair out of my eyes while weaving through the many tables that filled the large cooking area. We had climbed from the well in the small courtyard behind the kitchen and we were now making our way towards the entrance of the palace, where I hoped we would find Palaemon, one of my trusted advisors and the Captain of the Second Army that was situated in Corinth, along with the Royal Guard.
The kitchen had been completely deserted and I once again assumed that Palaemon had evacuated most of the palace staff, along with the people of Corinth. The city had been much too empty and I hadn't seen one person that wasn't a soldier on my way to the markets. I pushed open the double doors to the kitchen and walked cautiously out into the hallway that would lead us to the palace doors on the other side of the castle. I could faintly hear the sounds of battle, but the thick stone walls stopped most of the noise from reaching us. I drew my sword and started the journey towards the main entrance, not bothering to check if Alexandria was behind me, just knowing she was.
I once again took the time to thank whatever God had sent Alexandria to me. I had hurt her so much in the past and had hurt her even recently, yet I still knew that I could trust her to have my back. Even now, I could practically feel her warm breath on the back on my neck as she walked behind me, her midnight blue eyes darting around the dim corridor, searching for anyone that might dare to attack her leader. It felt good knowing that if I let my guard drop for even a second and was attacked and unable to defend myself, Alexandria would be there to protect me.
It wasn't long until I could hear the deep voice of Palaemon shouting orders in the main hall. I could tell by the frustration in the man's voice that we weren't faring as well as I had hoped. I was almost running when I finally turned the last corner and walked into the chaos. Palaemon was standing in the center of the hall, his scared but handsome face furrowed as he directed orders to several different soldiers at once. His normally impeccable uniform was basically shredded and I could see a few once white bandages wrapped around several of his limbs, drenched in blood.
The giant double doors at the entrance of my palace were swung wide open and I could see the battle raging in the clearing in front of my castle. My eyes scanned the men that were fighting and I almost immediately locked my gaze on the man that had started all of this. Marc Antony was seated on top of a massive white stallion, his golden armor gleaming in the dying sunlight as he pranced along the edge of the mighty battle. I was disgusted at the state of the man, hardly a bit of dirt on his body, telling me that he was a leader that let his men fight his wars for him. I would more than enjoy staining his white tunic with his cowardly blood."Palaemon!" I shouted.
To Be Continued
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