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: Here we are, finally, at the last chapter! I've loved writing this story and I'm so grateful to everyone that has read it and sent me emails/comments. Hopefully now that this story is over, I can finish off several of my other pieces! If you want to email me about this last chapter or the story in general, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
Chapter Twenty Four
After I defeated Antony, the battle continued to rage for several more candlemarks, long after the sun had set. My sword was a continuous blur of motion, slicing through armor and flesh until all I could see was blood. After realizing their leader had fallen, the Roman's continued to fight though they lost their confidence quickly and my men eventually overpowered them until the last soldier was on his knees. The few Roman's that surrendered were taken to the large dungeon underneath my palace until I decided what to do with them. Part of me wanted to kill them for stepping on Greek soil and taking the lives of my soldiers, while another part of me wanted to see no more death this day. There had been too much already.
I stayed in the clearing in front of my palace until the last Greek soldier had left, leaving me standing alone in the middle of the muddy field. The sun was now rising, the soft light reflecting on the surface of the ocean as I watched it climb high into the sky. The dead bodies had been removed from the city and from outside the palace; the Greek soldiers to have their own separate funeral pyres while the Romans were all thrown into three large separate pyre's on the beach, so that when the flames burned down, their ashes would be taken to the ocean where Poseidon could deal with them.
I cocked my head as I heard three sets of footsteps walk towards me, knowing who they were before I even turned around. I straightened my shoulders as I swung around to face Alexandria, Palaemon and Niko who were all looking at me with different expressions.
"Casualties?" I directed the question towards Alexandria who was gazing at me with concern. All three of them had taken baths to wash the blood and grime from the battle from their skin, while I hadn't yet had a chance and was still completely covered in gore and dried blood.
"A little under three thousand, my Lord," Alexandria said softly, regret shining in her midnight blue eyes. I felt my heart cramp painfully in my chest at her words, knowing that these men shouldn't have died. None of this should have happened and wouldn't have, if a certain slave had told me the truth. I could only imagine what Alexandria would say when I sent Niko on a mission shortly.
"How's the city?" I asked Palaemon, knowing that the Captain had sent several groups of soldiers around the large city to check the damage.
"Not too bad, considering," Palaemon replied with a small smile. "The docks and the markets both need repairs, but no fires broke out during the battle so it's nothing too serious. In less than a moon there will be no evidence of Rome's soldiers."
I nodded at this information, knowing that despite Palaemon's words, none of us would ever forget the past twenty four candlemarks. I made sure to burn every single moment of the past day into my mind, so that I would never forget Rome's betrayal. Finally, I took a deep breath and turned to Niko, who straightened visibly at my gaze.
"Captain, I need you to go down to the docks for me and escort the slave back to the palace," I ignored Alexandria's raised eyebrow as I continued. "Have her bathed and brought to my room, but take several men with you and don't remove the binds on her hands... and maybe even attach some manacles to her ankles. She's dangerous."
Niko nodded smartly, raising his hand to his chest in salute before making an about face and turning on his heel. I watched as he strode away until he was out of sight before finally turning back to my second in command.
"What?" I growled at the red headed woman that continued to stare at me with an expression that I couldn't define.
"Nothing, Conqueror," Alexandria replied, a small smile tugging at the corner of her lips. I sneered at her before pushing past her to enter the castle, eager for a hot bath to soothe my aching muscles.
It was just over two candlemarks later when I had finally finished bathing, after filling my empty stomach with food and several mugs of port to soothe my nervous belly. The thought of seeing the slave again after regaining control of my Empire made so many emotions race through me that I wasn't sure how I felt. I was excited to see her and to speak to her, but I was still angry with the blonde bard. Despite how much I cared for her, she had still deceived me and I needed to see how she truly felt before I made any drastic choices.
I was in my bedchamber, sitting on the edge of my large bed and steadfastly ignoring Alexandria's gaze from where she leant against the wall on the other side of the room. I felt my heart jump into my throat when I finally heard a knock on my bedroom door.
"Come," I said loudly, praying that Alexandria didn't hear the catch in my voice. Her small smirk confirmed that she did.
The door opened slowly and Niko entered the room, alone, which caused my brows to furrow in confusion. The man looked extremely nervous as he held his hands behind his back, his fingers fiddling with something I couldn't see.
"What is it, Niko?" I asked the man that was standing before me, his eyes full of fear as he trembled violently.
"It's the slave, Lord Conqueror," Niko trailed off, his eyes darting around the room as if searching for an escape. I felt a small ball of dread start to grow in my stomach, as bile rose up in my throat. Something was wrong; where was the slave?
"What about her?" I asked slowly, feeling my heart start to race. Had the ship been attacked while we were fighting the Roman's? Was Gabrielle hurt, or even worse, dead?
"W-well, my Lord, she's... she's gone."
There was silence for several moments as I slowly processed the man's words. The slave was gone? The first thought that ran through my mind was that she was indeed dead, but then where was the body? As my mind conjured up several different situations that the slave could be in, the beast that had been curiously absent since my fight with Antony returned, prowling in my chest and releasing a growl that echoed throughout the room.
"What?" I finally snarled, my eyes burning with fury as I suddenly understood. "What do you mean, she's gone? How is she gone?"
"She escaped, my Lord," Niko's said shakily, his hands trembling as he held up the ropes that had bound the slave. "She somehow cut through her binds, took out the guards and disappeared."
With those words, I felt something inside of me snap. All the emotions from the past week flowed through me with abandon as my heart tightened painfully in my chest. I felt an uncontrollable burst of rage build up inside of me as I realized that the fragile cage holding the beast inside of me had been destroyed, allowing it full reign of my body.
The slave hadn't been taken, instead she had escaped; she had truly left me. At least I knew how she felt, I thought to myself bitterly. Gabrielle had never loved me and she never would.
"Get out," I said, my voice dangerously soft as I let my eyes flutter closed. My whole body was shaking in an attempt to control the beast and Niko didn't need to be told twice as he raced from the room.
"Xena..." I heard Alexandria whisper from behind me and I whirled to face her, my hand shooting out so fast that she didn't have time to block it. I wrapped my fingers tightly around her throat, pushing her up against the wall and growled menacingly at her.
"Never call me that again," I hissed, my eyes burning with anger. I knew if I was to look in the mirror that my eyes would be colorless, as they always were when the beast took over. Except this time, I didn't think I'd ever be able to regain control again. "I never want to hear that name again. That woman was destroyed the second she found out that that fucking slave betrayed her and she died when the slave escaped. I am the Conqueror and I will never let anyone forget that, ever again. Do you understand?"
Her eyes were filled with sorrow as she gazed back at me, her hands gripping my wrist as she finally nodded and I let her drop to the floor, gasping for breath. I turned my back to her and walked towards the window, looking out into the city of Corinth. I had no idea how long it had been since Gabrielle had escaped, and by now she could be miles away. I considered sending a search party out for her, but decided not to. If the slave wanted to run, I would let her run, but only because I was scared of what I would do if I found her.
Part of me wanted to find her and kill her, but a bigger part of me just wanted her to disappear, so that it was like she never existed at all. I wanted to forget about the past several weeks; forget Egypt, forget the betrayal, forget the slave and most importantly, I wanted to forget the woman I had started to become.
Gabrielle's presence and her 'love' had begun to change me, bringing forth something that had been buried inside my chest for years. I had become Xena again, not the Warrior Princess, but the girl from the village of Amphipolis that had hopes and dreams before they were all crushed by the warlord Cortese, when his men killed my brother and set me on a path of blood and violence.
I hadn't been lying when I told Alexandria that Xena was now dead. With that final betrayal, the crushing pain to my heart and soul to find out that the slave didn't love me and never had, that girl from Amphipolis had disappeared. I could no longer feel the warmth in my chest, only emptiness and the cold ice that was wrapped around my heart.
Gabrielle had taken that heart and destroyed it, leaving me with only fragments. I vowed then, like I once did in a small hut on top of Mount Nestos while holding M'lila's lifeless body; I would never love again.
I am the Conqueror and I will not be tamed.
The End.Authors Note: I know I didn't end it the way most of you wanted, but I think it was the only real way to end this story. But, good news, there will be a sequel! But not until after I've finished my other pieces. The sequel will be called To Mend A Wild Heart, so look out for it in the future! Thank you all so much for reading.
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