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Destroyer Of Nations: Book One

Part 3 of 4

by Gabrielle, Warrior Bard

translated by Phillip Howell

Copyright Statement

'Destroyer of Nations Book One' and "Song of the Warrior Princess" -- all:

© Copyright 1997 by Phillip Howell, Powder Springs, Georgia

Xena: Warrior Princess and the names, titles, and backstory used in 'Destroyer of Nations' are the sole property of MCA. The author intends no copyright infringement through the writing of this work of fiction.

This story may not be sold and may be archived only with direct permission of the author. Any archive must carry this entire copyright statement.

**WARNING: This story contains graphic sexual activity between male/female and female/female participants. If you are under 18 years of age (or the legal age in your country) please do not read this story.

It took the army four days to recross the mountains, four days to manhandle the cumbersome and fully loaded wagon train back across the dusty trails. The mountains were devoid of water during this time of year and the cavalry suffered the most from its lack along the route of march. Any extra went to the dray animals that pulled the wagons over the rugged mountains.

By the fifth day, the army was once again on flat land. The Amyrus River replenished the dry water bags and the cavalry mounts began recovering from the drought of the march through the mountains. The dust of heavy marching along dry roadways in the summer heat plagued everyone.

As the days passed, and the march toward the Thessalian capitol of Larisa continued, the men became dazed by the metronome of the march. Tramp all day, dusty and hot, make camp in the heat of afternoon, tramp dusty roads again, make another hot camp in the dirt, and so on, day after day. Xena and Borias became concerned that the Thessalians were leaving the army alone. While they were glad to avoid the ambushes and raids they had expected to encounter, the lack of a response grated on their nerves.

The enemy's silence began to haunt them. The horse-archer scouts continued to report all was secure along the route of march. But every one from Xena on down the ranks to her stable boy, Solan, could feel the enemy's eyes on the back of their necks. The Thessalians were out there somewhere. The army just had to find them.

Finally, a month into the long march toward Larisa, the Thessalian cavalry began once again to make its presence known. Soon, the horse-archer scouts were in constant contact with the Thessalian light cavalry. Every day, a skirmish erupted along the route of march. Every night, the Thessalians attempted to raid the army's baggage train. What bothered Xena the most, however, was that the rumors of centaur involvement with the Thessalians had yet to be proven.

The centaurs had not been seen since that day Samos was killed in combat by that ugly centaur, the centaur that plagued Xena's sleep. Every night, Xena watched as the army encamped, watched the gathering darkness and wondered where that old centaur was, wondered when she'd make his acquaintance again.

Six weeks into her pregnancy, Xena found out what morning sickness was really like. As her body changed and her baby grew inside her womb, Xena wished she were back on board ship. At least the sea sickness had left her after two days. But this, this morning sickness had plagued her every day, day after day, for over a week now, and no end in sight.

At least she had been able to disguise the sickness from Borias. Xena took to riding with the morning patrols, or so Borias thought. Little did he know that Xena and Solan rode out each morning as far from the army as safety would permit. Solan stood guard over his mistress as she was royally sick, every morning, every day.

Solan was overjoyed that Xena confided in him. He knew he was the only person aware of Xena's secret. Every morning he sat and helped his friend, sat in wonderment as she told him what it was like to create another human being. Xena was glad she had Solan to talk to about the changes her body was going through. She was far to embarrassed to talk with Lykus or Manus, the only other men beside Borias she would ever have thought to bring up such delicate matters with. No, Xena relished telling Solan the joy that invaded her body as her baby grew.

Solan also became quite a scrounger. As the days dragged on and the march continued, Xena began to crave a weird assortment of strange foods. But Solan was always able to find whatever she needed to satisfy those bizarre cravings. Solan had become an indispensable part of Xena's life as a mother- to-be. And he had become dear to her heart. At night, her nightmares became dreams of Solan and her own son romping through golden meadows, the smoke and flames of the burning village banished by the boys as they played childhood games.

Sometimes, Xena felt guilty, guilty that she was not sharing this time with the baby's father. But Borias was much too occupied, much too worried by the army's situation as the Thessalian harassing attacks became more numerous. Borias would have to wait until after the battle that brewed just over the horizon.

During the middle hours of the night, Xena slept a dreamless sleep, her head on Borias' shoulder. The cool night wind ruffled the sides of their tent, whispering through the stillness of the late hours. Off in the distance a sudden rumbling could be heard, building up steadily until the vibrating pounding of many hooves brought Xena and Borias to their feet, their battle senses alert and awake.

"Centaurs!" Xena hissed, pulling on her leather breeches and linen underblouse. "They're after the wagon train."

"Damn it, what about the night patrols!" Borias cried, likewise pulling on his breeches and leather vest. "You head for the wagons, I'll go round up Manus and find out what happened to the night patrols. GO!"

"Right! I'll set up behind the wagon train. Keep your men away from the south side of the circle," Xena told him as they ran for the entrance, swords in hand. "I'll have the wagon guards clear the rest of the circle with their crossbows. Remember, only the south side will be safe."

"Okay. I'll herd those centaur bastards in that direction," Borias replied, clearing the entrance flap and running out into the night.

Watching Borias head for the horse lines, Xena sprinted toward where the wagons were drawn up in a defensive circle. Already, she could tell by the tell tale twang of bow strings that Pelius and his guards where engaging the centaur cavalry. As she sprinted the short distance to the safety of the circle, Xena felt the presence of her close guard following her in the dark night. The ten men who kept constant vigil around her tent would provide a much needed reinforcement for the outnumbered wagon guard.

Already the centaur cavalry could be seen trying to break into the circle of wagons and angry crossbowmen. As Xena vaulted the line of wagons and rolled into the midst of her startled infantrymen, she could feel that something was wrong. They're not trying near hard enough, she thought, coming to her feet and grabbing a discarded crossbow. Bending over to load the weapon, Xena suddenly realized what was wrong. Coming to her feet, she shot her bolt at the nearest centaur, yelling defiance when the bolt pierced the centaur's chest.

Throwing down the crossbow, Xena looked around, trying to determine if her hunch was correct. The circle had not been broken. No, she was correct, the centaurs were not after the wagons and precious supplies. If they had been, those tall brutes would be amongst us by now, she thought, trying to pierce the darkness and discover just what her enemy intended.

The squeals of many frightened horses assaulted her ears as she peered into the night. The horses! They're after the cavalry mounts, she suddenly realized. Running over to Pelius, Xena shouted at him to continue defending the wagon train. Noting his wave of acknowledgement, Xena vaulted back over the nearest wagon and began sprinting in the direction of the horse lines, staying low to the ground in the hope that the centaurs would not notice her in the darkness.

As Xena closed the distance separating the wagon train and the horse lines, she could hear the rest of her army forming up in the distance, the pipes and drums of her makeshift band beating the call-to-arms. The frightened squeals of many horses riveted her attention, the hoof beats causing the ground to vibrate under her running bare feet. Xena didn't notice that her close guard had not followed her. The guard had not noticed her frantic charge to defend the horses.

And then she was there, amidst a mass of scared and frightened horseflesh. Jumping from side to side to keep from being trampled, Xena sought the one horse, that one frightened horse, that meant the most to her. Where's Argo, she cried to herself, trying to see her friend in the looming darkness.

And where's Borias, he should be here by now with the cavalrymen. Looking around frantically, Xena suddenly noticed a pale horse and rider come galloping toward her at a furious pace, followed closely by a huge centaur swinging its two- handed broadsword in sweeping arcs.

"Solan! ARGO!" Xena screamed as she recognized the pair fleeing toward her, fleeing the long sword of the centaur. "Solan! LOOK OUT!" she screamed, sprinting in the direction of her horse and its rider. Xena reached instinctively for the chakram but discovered that in her haste to dress she had left it in her tent.

Solan heard her screams and angled Argo in her direction, the boy staying low in the saddle, hoping to avoid the centaur's sweeping sword. As Argo and Xena met, as Xena tried frantically to clear the horse and bring her sword into play against the centaur pursuer, the long two-handed sword finally met its prey.

With a spray of blood, the sword caught Solan across the shoulders, throwing the small child from the horse. Xena stumbled as Solan was swept from Argo's back by the force of the blow. The dying boy knocked her to the ground, his blood covering the poor woman who tried to catch him.

"NO! Solan! NO!" Xena screamed, wiping blood from her eyes as she knelt beside the dying boy. Xena knew instinctively that her young friend was already dead, that he could no longer hear her voice.

Coming to her feet, Xena turned and faced the centaur who had killed her only friend from another life. Rage and awesome power coursed through her veins. And she charged, her battle cry splitting the night.

Xena ran straight at the towering centaur. The half-man half- horse reared up and slashed at her with his fore hooves. Ducking, Xena came back to her feet directly underneath the rearing centaur. With all the power of her shoulders and body, Xena slashed upward into the centaur's chest. Hot blood flowed over her as the centaur's heart was pierced.

Rolling out form under her enemy, Xena vaulted onto the centaur's back and forced his neck rearward. Dropping her sword and drawing her hunting dagger, she sawed at his exposed neck. The slick blood that fountained out of the ripped artery coated her hand and dagger as she continued to saw until the bones of the centaur's backbone halted any further progress. Leaning back, Xena vaulted to the ground as the centaur finally collapsed. Picking up her sword from where it had fallen, Xena beheaded the dying centaur. Dragging up the severed head, she ran back to where Solan lay dying.

"Oh Solan," Xena cried, kneeling beside the boy and cradling his head in her bloody lap, the centaur's severed head forgotten where she had dropped it. "You should have stayed out of it, my little friend," she told his still form, tears washing the blood from her face.

Solan's eyes fluttered open one last time. "Princess, is Argo safe?" the boy asked haltingly, his voice ragged and hoarse. "Xena, I had to save Argo."

"I know you did," Xena told him, reaching down to kiss the boy's already cold lips. "My poor little baby. Oh, Solan."

"I love you, Xena," the boy said, blood flowing freely from his mouth. Choking on the blood, the boy whispered to her one last time before he died.

Xena keened the ritual death song, grasping the dead body of her young friend to her breast. She chanted the dirge, the song for a dead Hero. Her anguished voice ripped the night air and won out over the din of the continuing battle that swirled around her. Her men heard her death song and an angry growl rose up and melded with her death chant.


The chant ripped through the night, ripped through the centaur cavalry and brought panic to even the strongest heart amongst them. XENA! XENA! XENA!

Xena heard her army' battle chant and her heavy heart soared as she continued the death song for a fallen Hero. Standing, the dead boy in her arms, Xena walked back across the battlefield toward the circle of wagons. Before she reached the circle of chanting men, Borias and Manus and a long line of horse-archer scouts intercepted her.

Borias jumped from his horse and stumbled toward a bloody and grieving Xena. Reaching her side, Borias took the dead boy from her arms. He looked into her unfocused eyes as his lover continued keening her song of death. Laying the boy's dead body on the ground, Borias turned and shook Xena's shoulders. Xena continued to keen, her eyes unseeing. A slap rocked her head back as Borias hit her in the face, finally breaking her concentration and shock.

Xena's hand reached up to massage the welt already forming on her cheek, her hands smearing blood across everything it touched. Drenched in blood, Solan's and the centaur's, Xena looked down at her hands and began trembling. She felt Borias' arm cross over her shoulders as the man drew her to his chest. Xena felt his hand on her neck, drawing her head forward to rest on his shoulder. She allowed her lover to lead her back in the direction of their tent. Xena said nothing as Borias led her from the field of battle. She just let him take the lead.

As Borias led his young lover back toward their tent, Manus and Pelius picked up Solan's tiny lifeless body and carried him back to the circle of wagons. All the while, a frightened Argo continued following the dead body of her stable friend, continued following the little boy who had feed her since she was a small filly.

As the sun came up in the east, Xena held a council of war. She had recovered a little from the agonizing death of Solan and in that recovery had come to a decision. She vowed vengeance against the centaurs, she vowed that they would feel her wrath like no other living thing ever had. She vowed to destroy the entire race. Death to all centaurs became the rallying cry of her sorrow and grief.

"Manus, you're too old for me to beat so I won't try, but you're wearing our friendship pretty thin. What the hell happened last night?" Xena said coldly, her blue eyes piercing the old mercenary with their coldness. "Why is it that this army is always surprised at night?"

"Well, for one thing, there wasn't that many of them. We killed fifteen of the ugly brutes. I figure there couldn't have been more than fifty of them," Manus told her, not flinching from her well deserved admonition. "And they came from all four directions at once. Moving in small groups across terrain they probably knew very well, they just flowed around our patrol. Shit happens."

"Well, this kind of 'shit', as you call it, had better not happen again. If it does, I'll kill you myself, you hear me, Manus. Single combat -- to the death. Think you can take me, old man?" Xena spit at the older man, walking to within a finger's breadth of his chest, glaring into his eyes.

Despite his self assurance, Manus stepped back a pace, to put some distance between himself and the angry woman who dressed him down. "No Xena, I'll make sure it never happens again."

"Xena, they made so much noise once the attacked commenced we couldn't tell what their objective was," Borias said, moving to stand beside Manus just in case Xena decided to carry out her threat here and now. "Our biggest loss was in horses. We lost, or had run off, a hundred and fifty cavalry mounts last night."

"And how many humans were killed?" Xena asked angrily, turning from Manus and looking at Borias. "How many of our soldiers died in a stupid night attack that could have been avoided?"

"Only ten men, Xena," Pelius said from the rear of the tent. "And Lykus was wounded in the legs. He's over with the healers getting the wounds dressed."

"Only ten men! Very well. Get everything cleaned up and order restored," Xena commanded, turning her back on Manus and Borias and walking over to a chair and sitting down. "From now on, I have a special order for this army and I expect it to be carried out. From now on we kill any centaur we find, no matter the age, no matter the situation. Combatants, non- combatants -- makes no difference. Just kill'em all, do you all hear me?"

"Xena, you can't do that. I mean killing the combatants is all well and good, but to kill the others would be murder," Borias said from his place by Manus' side. "And what about the centaur children? Do you want us to kill them as well?"

Xena sat and stared at her lover, stared in silence, stared until everyone began to fidget, waiting for her reaction to Borias' defiance. Her eyes began to blink rapidly as tears began to form, her hands beating a nervous tattoo across her leather clad thighs. With a flash she was out of her chair and running from the tent.

The men stood and looked at each other, waiting for her return. When Xena came running back into the tent, she brought them all up short, her surprise hanging from her hand, blood still dripping from the severed neck. Xena threw the severed head of the centaur who had killed Solan at Borias' feet. Borias jumped back as the bloody missile landed on the toes of his boots.

"There's your answer, Borias. That's what I expect to see whenever we do battle with these filthy animals," Xena hissed at the man.

"OUT! EVERYONE OUT!" Borias roared, shoving their startled lieutenants from the tent.

As the other men fled the tent, Borias advanced on Xena. Grabbing her shoulders, he hauled her around and thrust her into the chair by the entrance. Xena allowed the man to sit her down, looking up at him as he stood in front of her, his arms crossed over his chest, waiting her reaction.

"I'm not going to fight with you, Borias," Xena said, resignation in her voice. "These dirty animals killed my little friend. They killed Solan. It wasn't that dark last night. That centaur could tell he pursued a boy. No, he just killed Solan for the sport. Another human, another notch on his sword."

"That doesn't warrant us killing their children as well, does it?" Borias asked, looking down into her anguished eyes. "I won't let you do it, I'll stop you if I have to."

"What if Solan had been our son, Borias. Would you be so complacent then, huh?" she asked him. "If Solan had been a child of our blood wouldn't you want to avenge his death?"

"Yes, of course I would. But not like this, not indiscriminately," he told her. "But Xena, we don't have children so the question is rather pointless don't you think?"

"Is it, my friend? Why shouldn't we have children? You've made love to me at every opportunity since you returned," Xena said, a brief smile coming over her face, "so why can't we have children, huh?"

Suddenly, Borias caught on and the blood drained from his face. The man staggered as the knowledge of impending fatherhood crashed over him. Borias sat down hard on the earth next to Xena's chair. Rubbing his face with callused hands, he looked up at her smiling face.

"You're not....".

"Two months, give or take a week," Xena interrupted him, her smile going wide at his consternation. "Boy, you're as dumb as Petracles. You didn't think you could make love to a woman as many times as you've made love to me without something taking hold, did you?. Or did you think yourself too old to make babies? Well, my stomach can tell you differently, every morning!"

"But...why didn't you....ah".

"Why didn't I tell you before? Or ask your permission?" Xena said. "To be quite frank, my worthy Borias, your concerns were secondary. I wanted a child -- simple as that."

"So I'm just your stud?" Borias asked, his eyes wide at her stinging words.

"No, that's not it at all. I spoke badly. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," Xena relented. "You said I was a woman, well making babies is what women do, you stupid man. Surely, you knew we'd have them someday?"

"Well yes, of course. I just thought that the middle of a campaign was the wrong time, is all," Borias said.

"That's why I lied about my bleeding cycle. Why I didn't tell you or talk to you about it before hand," Xena told him. "You see, I view things differently, Borias. I don't care what's going on around us. The time is right -- right for me! The rest of the world can go to hades for all I care. The Dorians will be around for years to come. I realize that now. I decided I couldn't wait for them to leave. When the time comes, say in...oh...three months, You'll be in charge of the army and I'll just disappear for the rest of my term."

"But where will you go?" Borias asked. "And who'll go with you?"

"I had thought maybe a sea voyage would be nice. After the birth, the sea can rock the cradle just nicely, don't you think," Xena smiled at him. "And I think I'll take Lykus with me. He likes children, if I remember correctly."

"You've got this all figured out, don't you?" Borias asked. "Just like a battle, you've got all the angles covered."

"General, admiral, warrior princess, and now mother-to-be. Yeah, Borias, you could say I've got all the angles covered," Xena laughed as she rose from her chair and helped Borias back to his feet. "But while I'm still in command, we kill centaurs, you hear me Borias. I'll back off on the non- combatant part, but for the rest -- we kill them all, understand?"

"Sure, Xena," Borias relented, realizing that he had won the only concession possible from his lover. "And I am happy that we're going to have children, Xena. Never doubt my love for you, or our child," he told her, placing his hand against her stomach, down near where their child continued to grow.

Xena drew him into a tight embrace, her head resting on his shoulder. Crying softly, Xena whispered in his ear. "Borias, they killed Solan. My last friend from home is dead."

Chapter 4

Xena was in a fight now. The Thessalian cavalry gave the army no peace. Every day, and again every night, the enemy cavalry raided along the route of march. The sleepless nights of constant vigilance told on Xena and her men. Tempers were frayed and manners were put aside as the army continued its march toward the Thessalian capitol of Larisa. Philemon and the horse-archer scouts came close to using up the army's supply of arrows. It got so bad, as the end of the second month of marching drew to a close, that the fletchers were forced to use chicken and grouse feathers on the replacement arrows. Fortunately, the local area was dense with beech trees, a ready source for long straight limbs to replace arrow shafts.

And the army was forced to learn new fighting methods, in between fighting off the endless raids and ambushes. The centaurs were now plentiful and the army was preparing for the day when it would square off against a large body of brutish centaur cavalry. Pelius had taken up training the lightly armed peltist auxiliary to use the lariat and long throwing ropes that had once been the main weapon of the women warriors who had soldiered in Lyceus' crusading army. The army that had dissolved in the aftermath of the sack of Aroilus.

The auxiliary were broken up into two man teams, teams that would use the weighted throwing ropes to entangle the hooves of the centaur cavalry and bring them down. The lariat would then be used to strangle the huge creatures while the ever present swordsmen moved in for the kill. The short thrusting spears used by the auxiliary were also modified, a long spike being added to the shaft, just behind the killing blade. The light spear could not be thrust with enough force to pierce the heavily muscled breast of the average centaur, but the swing of the spike, backed up by the force of shoulders and back, could easily be driven home. The twelve inch spike was guaranteed to reach the heart of any centaur. At every opportunity, the swordsmen and auxiliary trained with lariat and throwing ropes, spear and spike.

Manus and Philemon also devised a method of dealing with the much lager centaurs, a method best suited for the mercenary cavalry. Liking the idea of using long spikes, Philemon devised a heavy wooden beam that could be carried between two riders. Along the beam at intervals, twelve inch spikes protruded through the wood. The two human cavalrymen, with the beam tied to their saddle horns, would ride down the centaur, forcing it onto the spikes as they rode around him. The heavy iron broadsword carried by the average cavalryman would finish the job.

So, the army marched and trained and fought the Thessalian cavalry, in an endless escalation of violence. The route of march was littered with the hanging bodies of Thessalian cavalrymen luckless enough to be captured by Xena and her army. The line of march was also littered with the severed heads of those few centaurs who had ventured too close.

Yes, the army carried out Xena's commands and dispatched the centaur prisoners as she had prescribed. The army had come to hate the centaurs as much as Xena did. Village after village, town after town visited by the army as it marched toward Larisa, told tales of centaur rapes of local girls and woman. No village had been spared, the village men watching sullenly as the centaurs culled their female family members for the new herd.

Xena's army reaped a wind fall from the centaur depredation of the local female population. They were welcomed once again as heroes, as liberators. The local villagers began to help Xena's army against their own Thessalian army, an army forced to stand aside as the centaurs went about their business with the local girls. The centaurs were allies, after all. The march continued, but at least the army did not want for supplies and forage for the cavalry mounts and dray animals.

Borias sulked as he stood aside and watched his centaur friends slaughtered whenever they were captured. The old mercenary had a soft spot for the half-man, half-horse creation. Oh, he hated the rapes, but Borias loved the natural grace of the centaur. And he knew how noble they could be, how kind they were to the females they were forced, by nature, to use so violently. Borias well remembered the gentleness shown to centaur children, and to the few human children that were allowed to grow up with the herds.

He continued trying to force Xena to realize that what she had ordered was wrong, that it bordered on barbarism. But to no avail, Xena remained adamantly opposed to mercy for the centaurs. She lived up to her bargain that the non-combatants were to be spared, but swore all others would die, die as mercilessly as Solan had died. Soon, Borias ceased trying to win her over for he saw how the endless argument was straining their relationship. Xena's pregnancy was progressing and the thoughts of fatherhood stilled his argument, for now.

Xena's morning sickness disappeared as her body changed and became familiar with the new life that grew in her womb. And she started putting on weight, her armor needing constant adjustment. Her breasts became fuller, her slim waist growing rounded and plump. While overjoyed with the changes, Xena wondered if she would be able to fight in the upcoming battle. Every day, she trained her battle hardened muscles to accept the new balance, trained her body to the new weight distribution and the dulling of her reactions. She could still dance her sword-dance of death, but she wondered for how long.

"You can get dressed now, Xena," Lamia the healer told her, standing from between the younger woman's thighs. "Everything looks as it should for a woman three months pregnant."

"How long can I continue training? When do I have to give up command?" Xena asked, eyes wide at the prospect of the eminent loss of her mobility and strength.

"Fairly soon, I'd say. Couple of weeks at most," Lamia informed her as she washed her hands in a bowl beside the bed Xena lay upon. "You really should give it all up now. Remember Aroilus."

"Not you too, Lamia! You sound like Borias," Xena scolded, reaching down for her loincloth and breeches. "I still have centaurs to kill. After this next battle, I'll quit. I promise."

"Don't promise me, Xena, promise your child. The child you want so badly," Lamia told her, her voice angry at Xena's refusal to see reason. "But a miscarriage at this point in a pregnancy is usually mortal to the mother as well as to the child."

"I know, I know. I'll be careful," Xena told the other woman as she finished dressing. "I'll quit right after the battle. It should all be over in three days."

"As I said, don't tell me, tell your child. Just make sure he doesn't grow up an orphan," Lamia told her, turning away from the warrior woman to be about her rounds, to tend the wounded men.

Xena stood and stared at the retreating back, caught by the healers parting words. Orphan! Never, she vowed to herself. Her child would not grow up as her young friend, Solan, had. Her son would not be an orphan of war. Never!

Xena walked out of the hospital tent and made her way across the encampment to her tent, set back from the rest and at its usual place near the circle of supply wagons. She saluted her close guard before entering the tent. Xena turned around in the entrance and drew the heavy canvas flap across the opening, lacing it tightly. She wanted no interruption, no one to enter her tent that night. Let them fight the battle, if it occurs, she thought as she finished lacing the flap tightly shut. Turning, Xena watched as Borias rose from his desk and walked over to stand beside her.

"What did Lamia say, my love?" Borias asked, his eyes full of concern for his young lover, and his future child.

"Everything is all right. Lamia says not to worry," Xena lied, her face flushing scarlet in the half-light cast by the many candles. "I've still got some time until I have to give up command to you, my friend."


"What's wrong, Borias. Do pregnant women steal your tongue?" Xena laughed, her arms going around Borias' shoulders in a light embrace.

" my tongue. It's just that you look more lovely every day," he stammered, his face blushing as red as hers. "I guess the old wives tale is true. Pregnant woman DO grow in beauty. What did she say about...ah...well....".

"Yes Borias, you can still sniff my backside for a few more weeks. Up for it tonight, are we?" Xena laughed at the flushed embarrassment on Borias' face.

"Xena, you'll miss it as much as I will. You love it same as me," Borias chided, his embarrassment dissolving as the young woman kissed his cheek. "Show me, please?"

Xena looked up into Borias' eyes, her tiny reflection starring back at her. And in those liquid depths, she found the all consuming love this man had for her. Despite their difference in age, despite their many differences in matters of the world, this man loved her to the depths of his soul. Leaning back from their embrace, Xena grasped his hand and led him into the tent, over to the curtained alcove where their bed stood.

Borias sat at the foot of the bed and watched as Xena undressed, watched as she turned the act into a sensuous play on his taut nerves. Xena turned away, drawing her loincloth down across muscled thighs and calves. As the young woman bent over before him, Borias reached forward and caressed her lower back, his finger tracing patterns in her warm flesh. Slowly, his fingers wound their way down and around her thighs, down towards the back of her extended knees.

Xena giggled as Borias' questing fingers came into contact with that one part of her anatomy that was ticklish. She giggled and shivered as his caress lingered. Turning swiftly, Xena knocked his hands aside.

"Naughty, naughty!" she squealed. "It's not nice to tickle your commander like that."

Borias looked up into her smiling eyes and grinned. Looking downward toward her waist, he reached forward and touched the tiny puncture wounds lying just above the patch of sparse black hair between her thighs. Bending forward, he kissed the spot, his tongue caressing her flesh.

"Is this the spot?" he asked, his voice husky and drawn with emotion. "Is he here?"

"No silly, a little higher," Xena laughed, drawing his hand up closer to her navel. "The poor thing's head would be smashed that low. Right about her, Lamia tells me."

"But, I don't feel anything?" Borias said, wonder in his voice at touching the spot where his child lay at peace with its world.

"Borias, at your age I'd expect you to know a little more about women and their anatomy," she laughed, looking down at his flushed face. "Where have you been all your life?"

"Killing other men and their sons," he told her, a grimace coming to his face. "I've never spent much time worrying about anatomy, except that required to kill without effort."

"You mean you've travelled the known world, as you say, and never fathered children? Must have been boring travels!" Xena said, her voice suddenly serious. "Please, lets not talk of killing."

Borias looked up from his inspection of her lower body, looked up into her concerned eyes and frowned. "I've no children that I know of. And I would know, Xena. No, as I told you, I've been searching all my life for you. Just you, Xena. Oh, I've bedded other woman, a man needs release after all. But never more than once and then only when necessary. My whole life has revolved around battle and finding you." Borias looked down at the Borilus Token grasped tightly in his hand.

Xena squatted down in front of him and reaching forward, stroked his beard roughened cheeks. She saw the pain in her lover's eyes, saw in them the many years of his search. Xena laid her head down on his thigh and looked up at his face. "You've found me, my worthy Borias. I'm here for all times."

Borias reached forward and stroked her long black hair, drew it across her shoulder to fall over her naked breasts. He entwined his hands in her hair, feeling the silky softness of the glistening strands. Looking down into her eyes, he whispered to her softly, "I love you, Xena. And, I love our child."

Xena rose from her crouch and sat down on the bed beside the man, drawing his head onto her shoulders. She grasped his hand and drew it over to rest in her lap, near where their child grew. Xena held her lover as he quietly cried on her shoulder. "I love you too, my worthy Borias."

Later that night, after making love one last time before the battle both knew was inevitable, Xena and Borias lay side by side in their bed, legs and arms entangled. Both were lost in their own internal private world. Borias thought about what it would be like to have a child, to watch the child grow into adulthood.

At his age, he never expected to have children, or a steady mate, and now that he had both he was happier than he had ever thought possible. He knew his days of soldiering were over, that battle would never again twine its deadly fingers about his soul. His war was over, he had found what he most desired and nothing would stand in his way of keeping it, keeping it safe and sound, safe by his side.

Borias looked over at Xena as he heard a stifled sob escape her lips. "What's wrong, my love."

"I was thinking of Solan. I miss him dearly. And I was thinking about Samos, and Lyceus, and all the others who have died over the last year," Xena told him, reaching up to wipe the tears from her eyes. "So many. So many of my friends and those I loved will never know my son, never know the joy he will bring me. Lyceus would be very proud of us, Borias. And Cassy, and Argus, and all the rest. They'll never have a chance to know our son."

"That was the hardest lesson I ever learned," Borias told her, reaching over to dab at a puddle of salty tears on her cheek. "Learning to forget those who pass over to the other side before you do. I've lost so many friends over the years I finally stopped making them. Are you so sure its going to be a boy?"

"Yes I am. As sure as if Zeus himself had come to earth and told me personally," Xena told him, her voice grave. "You see, my friend, that was the last thing Solan told me before he died. I watched the blood run from his mouth, but his words were as plain to me as if he had shouted with a man's lungs. He told me 'to love your son as much as I have loved you'. And he asked one last favor. Borias, our son will be named after my young friend. Our son's name will be Solan. To honor my last friend from a time now dead to me. That was his last request, his last words to me before he died. Solan, our son."

Borias reached over and placed his hand on Xena's stomach, searching for his son. "A worthy name. Yes, our son -- Solan."

Continued - Part 4

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