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: Hey guys, I'm slipping, I know. It's been really hard for me to find time to write lately, and I'm someone who doesn't like updating chapters half assed. This last chapter has taken me almost two weeks to write, cause I was still trying to decide how I wanted to do it. I hope you all enjoy it and I want to thank you for being patient and not sending me hate ;) If you want to email me, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
"What is she doing here?"
My eyes narrowed slightly at Palaemon's angrily spoken words, but before I could answer, Glyphera spoke for me. "Oh shut up, Pally. She's on our side."
"How do you know?" Palaemon asked, still glaring venomously at the Amazon Queen, who stared back at him coolly from her seat beside me. "She's a lying bi-"
"Enough," I growled, my eyes flashing dangerously. Palaemon's mouth snapped shut, though he continued to glare at the blonde. "She's with us now, Palaemon. Get used to it."
"Where's Alexandria?" Draco asked suddenly, causing everyone to glance around the room in surprise, looking for the red headed General.
"In court," I replied.
"Why?" Darnelle asked curiously.
"Because I didn't want her here for this meeting," I said evenly, watching the reactions my captains displayed at this news intently. There were several different emotions as these words set in. I could see barely masked anger on Palaemon's face, surprise lightening Darnelle's eyes and thoughtfulness etched into Melegers rugged features.
"It's her, then?" Glyphera asked in a slightly disbelieving tone. "Alexandria, really? I never..."
"I would," Theodorus said, running his hands through his dark hair. "She's practically been named Queen. Power and greed can do crazy things to a person's mind, even one as honorable as Alexandria."
I leant back in my seat as I listened to my captain's converse over this new information. I waited until most of them fell into a thoughtful and somber silence before continuing. "Now, some of you may know, but for those who don't; chances are, we'll have some very unwanted visitors on Greek soil soon."
I once again watched the reactions of my captains, seeing the ones who were surprised, and the ones who kept their faces carefully neutral at my words.
"Brutus is coming here then, my Lord?" Niko asked, a mixture between excitement and determination etched on his young face. I nodded in reply, listening to the muttered words between the soldiers around the table.
"He dares to set foot in Greece after we decimated half his army already? Idiot," Glyphera laughed.
"We will crush him, my Lord," Petracles said confidently as he leant back in his seat. "As soon as his ships enter the harbour, we can take down his forces with the catapults and then leave to take Rome!"
"What if he doesn't come straight to Corinth?" Marcus asked logically. "What if he takes his forces somewhere else and then travels by land, conquering as he goes?"
"I've already sent messages to the first army," I said, gesturing to Draco who sat up straighter in his seat. "We've sent our men to Macedonia and Thessaly to make up for the loss of the Third and Fifth army being in Corinth during the festival. If he tries to come get through anywhere but Corinth, his army will be destroyed either way. It will be sad that we won't get to join in on the action though."
My captains nodded in agreement and I straightened my shoulders as I readied myself for the real reasons for calling my most loyal soldiers to my room. I felt Gabrielle's hand on my thigh under the table, giving me an encouraging squeeze as I stared at my captains seriously.
"You all know that I don't allow treason," I started, speaking slowly and meaningfully as my captains gave me their full attention. "And I will not allow any more of our plans to be heard by Brutus's ears."
"What are you saying, Conqueror?" Palaemon asked, though by the look in his eyes I could tell he already knew.
"I'm saying that's it's time to rid this palace of traitors to Greece," I said, feeling the painful ache in my chest grow with every word. "And I have information that has led me to believe that my consort is one of those traitors."
The silence was deafening as I slowly leant forward, resting my elbows on the table. The shock was genuine now as my captains stared back at me with wide eyes. They had all been with me from the start and I knew they were surprised to hear my plans for Alexandria, even if she had sided against us.
"You would kill her, Xena?" Meleger asked. I noticed the use of my name and I allowed it in the seriousness of this conversation.
"If I have to," I replied firmly. "Though, that is not my plan. I plan to force her to confess in court and then banish her from Greek soil."
The room was once again silent as they everyone digested this information, though most seemed more relaxed to know that I wouldn't be killing Alexandria. My own back released its tension as I spoke the words out loud, as though my mind and body hadn't really believed them until now. I felt Gabrielle's thumb gently caressing the skin of my thigh and I flashed her a grateful smile as my body relaxed further.
"When?" Palaemon finally asked, his shoulders slumped in defeat. I drew my lips into a grim line as I let my gaze wander around the table, before sighing softly.
I went through what I would say over and over in my head as I stood outside the door to the hall where court was taking place. Right at this moment, the room was full of unsuspecting noblemen and peasants who were reading their petitions to my consort. Try as I might to stay focused, the only thing running through my mind was; this was not a part of the plan.
I nodded towards the guard that stood just inside the large double doors, attempting to ignore my captains that stood behind me. I could feel Gabrielle's warm presence at my side and for the barest of moments; I wished that she hadn't come. Having her there when I maneuvered Alexandria into confessing her crimes would surely make things worse, possibly even dangerous. But, at the same time, her being here comforted me beyond reason. Plus, she was a witness.
"Most honored noblemen and citizens of Greece, I present the Lord Conqueror, Empress of Greece."
The room went silent immediately as I strode confidently into the room, my eyes almost instantly meeting Alexandria's. Her midnight blue orbs conveyed her confusion and a slight bit of suspicion as she noticed the captains that trailed in behind me. Her eyes narrowed as she caught sight of the former slave and I sighed inwardly, accepting the battle that lay before me.
"My Lord," Alexandria nodded her head respectfully as she stood from her chair that was placed next to my throne. She hardly ever used it, preferring to stand behind me with her hand on the hilt of the ceremonial sword sheathed at her hip. When I asked her why, a few years ago, she told me that she wanted the people to know whose side she was on. She wanted them to know that she would defend me if needed, fight for me and die for me.
Gods, how things have changed.
"General Alexandria," I replied, watching as a perfect eyebrow arched at the formal greeting. I took a deep breath as I stopped in the middle of the room, watching as my captains placed themselves in strategic places around the hall. I could see Gabrielle out of the corner of my eye, her hand resting casually on a dagger that was attached to the belt at her waist. The entire room was focused on me, everyone holding their breath as they seemed to realize that this was going to be something big.
"Citizens of Greece, I have an important issue that needs to be dealt with today," I started, letting my eyes wander around the room, taking in the rapt faces of the people surrounding me. "As some of you may have heard, Rome seeks to bring it's army back to Greek soil."
I waited patiently as the room exploded in hushed whispers, catching the shocked looks from some and the unsurprised expressions of others.
"I do not fear the threat of the Roman army," I continued with a dangerous smile playing my lips. "Brutus and his soldiers will be shown no mercy, as will anyone who stands with him."
At this point, I stared directly into Alexandria's eyes. The room was now deathly silent as everyone followed my gaze to my second in command who was staring back at me with a cool expression. I felt my heart hammering in my chest as I held her stare despite the intense urge to look away.
"I offered everything to you, and this is how you repay me, my dear consort?"
I flinched inwardly at my own words and I caught the flash of shock and hurt that crossed Alexandria's face before it was replaced with a sneer. The room once again exploded into whispers, several of the noblemen shouting at my consort, but neither of us heard them.
"You offered me nothing, except second place to the whore that shares your bed," Alexandria spat over the roar of the crowd, her shoulders tense as her hands clenched into fists at her side. "All of the gold in Greece would not be worth living with that kind of disrespect, Conqueror."
"So, you turned to Brutus instead?" I replied, a hint of sadness in my voice, choosing not to deny her accusations despite their falsehood. "You turned your back on the country you claim to love so much, because of your pride? You are not worthy to call yourself Greek."
Alexandria actually flinched at these words before her skin flushed red with anger. Her hands shook as she stepped slowly down the steps that led up to my throne, to stop before me. Her eyes burned into mine as I continued, my voice echoing off the walls of the silent hall.
"Where is your loyalty?" I asked her, disgustedly. "After everything we've been through, you turn your back on me for Brutus? You offer your sword to Rome, our greatest enemy?"
"That's so easy for you to say, Conqueror," Alexandria spoke, venom dripping from every word. "Where is your loyalty, Xena? Tell me, what have I recieved in return from you after everything I have given you? "
"I offered you the world," I hissed in reply.
"You don't own the world, Xena! You can hardly control Greece as it is. All you have given me is your shadow to walk in. But once you are gone, I will be free to return Greece to her proper glory. She will strive under my rule and the people will obey me out of respect and admiration, not out of fear for their own lives."
"You admit it then?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper. "You have truly sided with Rome?"
"I have chosen the more honourable side," Alexandria replied with her head held high. "I am not ashamed."
"The punishment for treason is death, Alexandria, as you know very well," I said slowly. "But that would be much too easy for you."
The whole room seemed to hold their breath as I paused. I hardly even noticed the people surrounding my consort and I now; all my attention was focused on Alexandria. I'm sure at this moment if I was to turn my head, I would be surprised that there were so many eyes watching our exchange. It honestly felt like for these few critical moments, we were the only ones in the room.
"I banish you from this country that you turned your back on, the country that you love so much. I strip you of your rank and your citizenship. You are no longer a woman of Greece and are no longer welcome on Greek soil. To return is to die. You will be chained and escorted from this palace, with nothing but the clothes on your back."
Alexandria's eyes were wide with shock during my sentencing, though they narrowed with rage when I finished. "Xena, you will regret this."
"Not as much as you will," I replied, watching as Palaemon reluctantly motioned to the soldiers guarding the room. They were even more hesitant to step forward and chain Alexandria, whether it was because she was one of their mentors and they respected her, or because they knew she could kick their asses, I don't know.
Alexandria didn't struggle when one of the guard's uncertainly held out the manacles. She offered her wrists to be chained, her midnight blue eyes never leaving mine. The anger in her dark pools was slowly evaporating, replaced by defeat and even a little bit of acceptance. For how long this would last though, I didn't want to find out. If Alexandria had chosen to fight then despite the amount of soldiers in the room, we would have been hard pressed to capture her, at least with out many casualties.
“This won't be the last you see of me,” Alexandria said as she was led past me. In the silence of the room, I had no doubt that everyone could hear her softly spoken threat. I couldn't bear to turn and watch as she was escorted from the court room, though my entire body shuddered as I heard the wooden doors slam closed behind her.
“Gods,” I whispered to myself as the room exploded into chaos around me. I walked slowly up the steps towards my throne and sat down wearily on the padded seat and waited for the noise to stop, hardly hearing the words of outrage and anger.
Well, there goes my dreams of wedded bliss , I thought to myself bitterly. Could things get any worse?As soon as the thought entered my mind, I immediately touched the wooden arm rest of my throne. Gods, I fucking hope not.
To Be Continued
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