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 getting closer and closer towards the end! I've spent the last few weeks seriously thinking about how I was going to end this story and in the past few days, I decided for good. I hope you all enjoy this chapter, which is in Gabrielle's POV. If you want to email me, my address is jacklavigne13@hotmail .com
I don't think that the past two days could have possibly gone any better for me. Once upon a time, I used to be the epitome of romance, kindness and love but these days I am better known for being a cold, heartless bitch that will do anything to get what I want. But in the last half a moon, I can feel that young girl creeping back into my heart and filling my head with romance, especially over the past two days. I have never been to a proper festival before and it's surpassed my wildest dreams. Sure, my village used to have small harvest festivals and the Amazon's had parties and even dances but it was nothing compared to this.
The best part is being able to spend so much time with Xena, who has been unbelievably agreeable over the past few days. Every day she seems to be opening up more and more until I can almost see the woman that I met in Egypt; the beautiful woman that had so much love inside of her. Not the Conqueror, but Xena, the woman that I fell so completely and utterly in love with in return. Things are moving slowly between the two of us and I'm okay with that, even though I long more than anything to touch her and love every inch of her body. It's like we're slowly getting to know each other all over again and it feels as if we're falling in love all over again too. We've danced, held hands, kissed and we even almost made love, but it was cut short. It had been nice enough to just lay my head on her chest and listen to her heart beat until I fell asleep.
I let my body sink lower into the large tub as I reminisced, in a room just off my main quarters. I let my mind wander as the warm water soothed my muscles, suddenly smiling as I think about how I spent my day today. I've never had so much fun as I had at the festival this morning.
And I've never been so in love.
"You are beautiful," the Conqueror whispered, her pale blue eyes twinkling as she gazed at me. I felt my cheek infuse with heat as I stared deeply into her eyes before looking down at my hands and whispering a 'thank you'.
I watched quietly as she turned her head to listen to a conversation between my regent and another amazon warrior named Lexi. Slowly, so I didn't startle her like a newborn colt, I stretched my hand out and gently covered hers with my own. A tiny smile tilted her lips as she wrapped her fingers around mine, giving my hand a soft squeeze.
"My Queen?" I turned my gaze towards Solari and another small group of Amazons that were glancing between the Conqueror and I. "We're going to go dance and I was wondering if you'd like to come with us?"
I felt my hand being squeezed in consent before I even opened my mouth and I nodded eagerly. I was pulled to my feet by the Conqueror, smiling at how my feet were almost lifted off the ground with such an unconscious gesture from the warrior. I don't possibly know how but sometimes I forget that this woman is the ruler of all of Greece and probably the strongest person that I will ever meet. I don't know if it's because of the circumstances in which we met or because I've seen her vulnerable, but I always forget that she could break my neck if she chose to.
Well, at least after I'd gotten a few kicks in anyway, I thought to myself with a smirk.
I'm modest enough to know that I'm more than a competent warrior. I was trained by elite Amazon warriors to fight with a staff and sword in dire situations. Even before I was captured and sold into slavery, I was a force to be reckoned with. But after being thrown into the gladiator pit... I changed.
I have no fond memories of the pit and I have never talked about it, not to Xena or to my Regent. The only good thing it ever did for me was make me hard. It built up a steel layer around my heart and helped me through the years I spent in slavery and for that, I'm thankful. But I will never forget looking into the eyes of other slaves, men and women that I knew and had even started to care for... People that I sl-
I was jerked out of my thoughts as Xena whispered softly into my ear, her warm breath sending shivers down my spine. So lost in my memories, I hadn't even noticed as my body went on automatic and that I was dancing with her in a sea of people. I looked up sheepishly at the woman before me, her eyes pulling me in as they always did. I could feel my heart beat a little faster as she licked her lips before smiling gently.
I may be a cold hearted bitch, but I'm just a puddle of goo when it comes to this woman.
"I called your name like six times, are you okay? Was that sandwich laced?" I smiled at her attempt to joke. I knew that she was trying to cheer me up, bringing me out of my momentary depression and I was thankful for it. She always surprised me like that.
And that's when it hit me.
"I don't feel so alone when I'm with you," I blurted out, unsure of whom I surprised more with my words, the Conqueror or myself. Despite my shock, I realized how true it was. I felt comfortable with the Conqueror because in a messed up way, we were very alike. We had both done horrible things, but we wanted to be better people and she understood me.
And the thing that had surprised me the most was that the Conqueror had a conscience; I could see it in her eyes. She felt guilty about the things she had done to get to where she was, just like I did. It made me think of something that Alexandria had said to me on the ship, after she had captured me.
"Why are you doing this?" I growled, straining against the ropes that bound me for the thousandth time.
"Stop doing that," Alexandria scolded, pushing her dark red hair from her eyes before tipping my chin back slightly. "I've got some water, drink it."
I fought the urge to spit it at her and continued to glare at her murderously as she poured the heavenly liquid down my throat. When I was sated, she pulled away and picked up an apple which she cut into bite size pieces with a small knife. I repeated my question.
"Doing what?" She asked.
"This," I gestured with my chin at myself and her. "Feeding me. Being nice to me. I betrayed all of you."
Alexandria tilted her head as she considered my words, twirling her knife in a way that made my heart beat faster with fear. I thought that maybe I had pushed her too far when she suddenly smiled beautifully, her perfect teeth almost blinding me in their brilliance.
"Because I'm a good person," she said cheerfully before turning serious. "And because I know that there are always two sides to every story. No matter what Xena says and no matter what you say, gladiator."
And then she pushed a piece of apple into my wide open mouth.
"You get me," I whispered, my voice so soft that it was barely audible. "There are two sides to every story, aren't there."
The Conqueror raised her eyebrow at me in question before cracking a smile. I was sure that I wasn't making any sense at all, but the look in her eyes told me that she understood. She slid her arms around my waist and pulled me closer before whispering. "I don't feel so alone with you either, Gabrielle."
While thinking about the past day, I had been getting ready for the evening that Xena had planned for us. I ran my fingers through my hair as I stared at my reflection thoughtfully. I was wearing a dark green silk dress with a red dragon stitched into the fabric, which highlighted my eyes. My hair was slicked back and intertwined with feathers and beads as usual and I was wearing a black pair of lacy sandals. 'You are beautiful.' The Conqueror's words echoed in my head, causing me to smile. And tonight, I truly did feel beautiful.
The sun was just starting to descend when I heard the knock on my door. I straightened my dress for the last time, smiling my brightest as I opened the door to reveal the Conqueror. She looked stunning in a tight, deep burgundy dress that clung to her curves and made my jaw drop. I couldn't tear my eyes away, even when the dark haired woman started to chuckle at my expression.
"W-wow," I stuttered, before taking a deep breath and looking up into the warrior's crystal blue eyes. "Hi."
"Hello," she practically purred in return, her deep voice sending shivers down my spine. "You look gorgeous."
"Thank you," I smiled bashfully, feeling my knees go weak at her compliment. "So do you."
She smiled and offered me her arm and it was then that I realized that the smile wasn't quite meeting her eyes.
"Are you okay, Xena?" I seldom used her given name, but I forgot protocol in my moment of concern. The Conqueror's usually bright eyes were dull and lifeless and her smile was forced and it looked like it almost pained her.
"Yes, why wouldn't I be?"
"Because you look like you just got punched in the gut," I replied, taking the sting out of my words with a smile. Xena smiled back somewhat wearily before giving a small sigh.
"I'll tell you after the show," she squeezed my hand that was resting on her forearm. "I don't want anything to put a cloud over meeting Sappho for you."
It was amazing how often this woman astounded me. She once told me in Egypt that I was the only person who could manage to sneak up on her. It was my unconscious stealth that constantly shocked her and her emotions that always surprised me. I don't think I ever thought that the Conqueror would have feelings, let alone emotions such as compassion and consideration. It was a most pleasant surprise.
We walked through the corridors of the palace and I took no notice of the beautiful tapestries or sculptures; all my attention was focused on the woman walking besides me. I listened quietly as she uncharacteristically chatted about nothing in particular. I knew she must have had something else on her mind that she didn't want to think of, so I did my best to take her mind off of it, hoping that she would tell me when she was ready, wanting her to trust me, despite everything.
We walked out of the palace and the first thing I noticed was the beautiful carriage awaiting us. The second thing I noticed was the amount of campfires I could see burning just outside the city of Corinth. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands of campfires.
Ten men to every campfire.
"Xena," I said softly as she took my hand and helped me into the carriage before stepping in behind me. "What's going on?"
"Well, we're going to Sappho's show, of course," she replied with a small grin as she settled into the seat across from me.
"No, I mean, what's going on out there?" I said, jerking my chin towards the window.
She opened her mouth to speak when suddenly the carriage came to a stop. She scowled as she the door was thrown open and the captain named Palaemon stuck his head inside.
"What is the meaning of this?" I watched the transformation with fascination as Xena became the Conqueror once more. "I told you, Palaemon-"
"My Lord," The blonde haired man said apologetically. "I'm sorry, but things have... progressed."
I watched silently as Xena's face hardened, her blue eyes turning freezing into shards of ice. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Palaemon glancing between us, throwing me faintly suspicious looks as he debated continuing in my presence. For a few moments, I wondered if Xena would allow him to or not and I was pleasantly surprised.
"Ships, my Lord. Warships, in facts."
Warships? What was this man talking about? I frowned as I turned to look back at Xena, whose face had paled considerably. Suddenly, it hit me with enough force to pull the air from my chest.
"Xena," I said breathlessly. "Is he talking about the Romans?"
"How many?" Xena ignored my question.
"Two hundred, at least, My Lord."
"With at least one hundred men on every ship," Xena whispered to herself. "Fuck!"
I sat back in my seat and took all of this information in as the three of us sat there in silence. The Conqueror was whispering under her breath and whether she was making plans or cursing the Gods, I couldn't tell. I wanted to ease the distress in her eyes but my own fear was holding me to my seat. It only got worse when Xena looked up at me with those beautiful eyes, full of as much fear as I'm sure mine were."I'm sorry, Gabrielle. I don't think I'll be accompanying you to Sappho tonight."
To Be Continued
Return to the Academy