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Xena: Warrior Princess, Gabrielle, Argo and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
1: The story contains mild to severe violence. If you could be offended by violent stories, please read something else.
2: The story contains sensual circumstances about the same degree as the TV series.
3: The story is long. If you don’t have time, just read the odd chapters. The odd chapters describe an advanture which invulves both Xena and Gabrielle. The even chapters were put in as back ground information which involve only the "BAD" Xena. The even chapters contain most of the violent and all the sensual parts.
4: The idea of the story started before the arrival of the third season of the series. Therefor some sentiments were outdated. I updated the story a little bit, but not too much.
5: The story itself has absolutely no historical value. The characteristic of Caesar in this story differs violently from that of the REAL Caesar.
1: Thanks to my sister for her help on creating this story.
2: Some of the battle strategies are replicas of historical battle strategies, but most of them are my own creations.
Chapter 1: The Way to Thermopylae
Gabrielle stopped as soon as she noticed the serious expression on Xena's face. The situation had became very familiar over the years. She made a stand and hold on her staff tight. Xena didn’t draw her sword. Xena got into fist fight much more than sword fight lately. With local bandits sword fight proved to cause too much unnecessary injuries.
Five mean looking attackers jumped out from behind the bushes. Two of them charged directly at Gabrielle. Seeing the number of attackers, Gabrielle knew the bandits were sure going to loose. She can handle all five of them herself, not to mention Xena was there. She smiled at the attackers and hold up one hand. "Wait! I really think attacking us is gonna seriously damage your health."
"HA-HA-HA" All five attackers burst into laughter. The girl was either insane or just stupid. "You just try to tell me that by the time I finished having fun with you." The leader of the group eyed the red-headed girl with filthy expression on his face.
Gabrielle looked at Xena's icy countenance and knew the bandits were in real trouble, but still, maybe they didn’t have to fight after all. "Just don't kill them, XENA." Gabrielle hoped maybe the mention of Xena's name will scare the attackers away.
"XENA!! GET HER!!" With that all five attackers charged on Xena. The expressions of obscenity on the bandit's faces were replaced by plane anger.
After a short while, all five men were unconscious on the ground. It took longer than Xena thought. Unlike normal bandits who would run away after a few unsuccessful assaults, these bandits stuck to the very end.
"Gabrielle, I know. We are approaching Anticyra. I have done bad things to that city and some other ones around Thermopylae area eight winters ago. And it looks like even the bandits here still hate me with a passion."
"It is going to make our mission much harder if they cannot forget the pass." Gabrielle said with a sad tone, then, she suddenly got an idea "Xena?"
"I want to go to Thermopylae first as a bard and change people's perception about you."
"No! It's too dangerous Gabrielle! Caesar’s army is nearby, if Caesar knows I'm here, then you will be one of his major target."
"No! It's too dangerous Gabrielle! I haven’t heard this from you for years. What is the danger now? I thought I am a decent fighter now and I ..."
"Gabrielle!" Xena cut the younger woman short. "Caesar has no hart. But his mind is superb. He will do anything as long has he wins. I do not take chances when dealing with him." Xena's tone become softer " We have being doing good for more than five winters, and you have never been slow to advertise anything we did. I hope at least the leaders in this area would tolerate me for just as long as Caesar is here."
"The Great Caesar."
"What is it?"
"The woman, Xena. She has arrived just as you've predicted."
"Good! I think, my dear friends, you still remember the last encounter with that woman in Thermopylae."
"I could never forget that Caesar!"
"It is time we’ll get her for good. Not only her lifeless body, that is too easy now she is not a warlord, but also her reason of being. As long as she still has the mental power to fight, she always imposes a threat to Rome, and to my goal of conquering Greece. She has a little friend called Gabrielle. We'll get her first."
Chapter 2: (Eight Winters Back) King Phocy
"What is that?" Xena was in discussion inside her tent with two of her generals Otho and Gordian.
"King Phocy agreed Caesar’s deal of alignment."
"So, that stupid old fool rather befriend a Roman than pay me some protection money!"
"What shall we do?"
"Kill them all, Otho!" The fact that Caesar was involved made Xena's blood boil, she needed to get into a fight, to hear the scream of men in the battle and to taste the blood of her enemies. "Otho, send a messenger to give King of Syracuse my letter."
"But Xena! My Princess, it is going to take days for any message to be sent to Syracuse, what is the use of it?"
"Otho, obey me." Xena gave Otho her characteristic cold stare while handing over the letter.
"Yes my Princess." Otho knew that Xena some times thinks days ahead into the events. That was why she could always control the outcome of battles. But Otho could not see how a King so far away could effect the war against Caesar. But the very fact that Xena had already had the letter written before the news of the Thermopylae-Rome alignment told Otho Xena knew what she was doing.
"Gordian, bring five hundred men, march to the upper stream of river Spercheios, and build a dam. Bring some horses, you are to break the dam when you see fire in Anticyra. If any Roman troops come upstream, hide your soldiers. After the dam is destroyed, go straight to Oeta mountain to join general Darphus."
"Yes, but it is going to take one full day to build the dam, my Princess."
"I know. And, call Darphus, Valerian and Otho to come immediately. Now move!"
After Gordian left the tent, Xena proceeded to look at her map and to think again about her strategy. Thermopylae was a narrow path way between Mt. Callidromus and the Malian Gulf. It is about the only land path that connects mid-Greece cities like Athen to northern Greece cities. It is very important to have this path under control.
Located to the north of the horizontal Malian gulf, there is a city called Lamia, where Caesar’s troop of six thousand soldiers were at. To the west, river Spercheios stream into the gulf. Near the sea entrance of the river was the city Anticyra. To the south of Anticyra, over mountain Oeta, was Heraclea, where Xena's army of eight thousands was at. To the south of Malian Gulf, there were three cities, from west to east, they are Heraclea, Thermopylae and Alpenio. King Phocy has about four thousand soldiers in Thermopylae.
Xena realized that with the alignment of King Phocy and Caesar, her army was going to be between the attack of Caesar’s Romans from the North and King Phocy's soldiers from the east. She had to take King Phocy in a day or two and occupy Thermopylae or it'll be all over for her. But there was a strong defense in Thermopylae. Because the South of Thermopylae was Mt. Callidromus and the North was the Malian Gulf, King Phocy built a defensive wall between the sea and the mountain called Phocian Wall. It was estimated an army of thirty-thousand wouldn't pass the wall even when their is only two thousand soldiers defending it.
"My Princess!" Otho, Darphus and Valerian arrived in the tent.
"Darphus, lead fifteen hundred men to Anticyra, and block Caesar’s army for at least one full day. After that, torch the city and retreat your men to Mountain Oeta where you will be joined by Gordian and his men."
"But Princess, Caesar has six thousand men, what if I cannot hold on?"
"Darphus, I don't take nonsense!" Xena's cold glare made Darphus fell it is better to be killed in the battle than to be punished by Xena.
"Xena, torching the town will severely hurt the residences, but do very small damage to the newly arrived Roman army. Shouldn't we at least ask the people in Anticyra to leave?" Otho asked.
"Otho, take five thousand men and attack Thermopylae. We have to win in a day or two or it'll be over, Anticyra and its residence shouldn't be your concern right now, understand?"
"Yes my Princess."
"Move! Valerian stay, there is something for you too."
"Xena's general Otho is marching toward us. It looks like they are going to attack us Your Majesty."
"How many soldiers?"
"About five thousand Your Majesty."
"What about the remains of her troop?"
"She sent about two thousand men up to Anticyra against Caesar, and she herself stood in Heraclea with about a thousand soldiers Your Majesty."
"Why does she put a full one thousand soldiers in idle?"
"I don't know Your Majesty. Maybe she wants some mobile troops so she can help either side if in need. Your Majesty."
"She can help one side but not both. Send words to Caesar and ask him to attack. We just need to hold on until Caesar finishes the entire Xena's army. Ask people to retreat inside the Phocian Wall. And tell my army to stay in full alert. Five thousand men you say? That shouldn't be too much of a problem. I hope we'll see peace again very soon. We'll get rid of Xena for Greece once and for all. I think the money we give to Caesar is well spend in that sense."
"Yes Your Majesty."
Chapter 3: The old ghost.
"Here it is, Gabrielle!" Xena stood on the peak of Mountain Oeta and looked down on Anticyra to her north and the Malian Gulf to her east.
"It is so beautiful! Look at the forest over there Xena! Look how the newly grown young trees rooted from the black dead ones. It is a miracle of life!" Gabrielle exclaimed in a excited voice.
"Those black ones that you see are torched down by my forces Gabrielle." Xena's voice was low and try.
"Xena, your troop went all over Greek and did lots of bad things. But now you are going again all over Greek to help people. Through your help, your care and your love, you have and you will influence and inspire hundreds of people to love and care and fight for the good. Just like those trees over there, consider the old you dead, Xena, and cherish and love the new you which is truly who you are."
"Thank you Gabrielle." was all Xena could say. "But we have to deal with Caesar’s troop. And that needs more wisdom and less emotion."
"Now don’t avoid the question, Xena. What is important for you now, is that you have to forget about the old you. Only that way can you deal with the possible hostility that Thermopylae people might have on you." Gabrielle had to speak her thought.
Xena looked at her companion with a half smile on her face. "I know. Thank you."
"Do you think Caesar is going to attack Anticyra again?" The bard change the subject finally.
"No, Caesar wants Thermopylae. We have to get to Thermopylae as fast as possible and discuss the entire issue with the elders of the city and the commander of war."
"After I killed their King, no one is influential enough to replace the King's place, so they formed a system that takes votes from the elite class for three elders to be the leader of the Thermopylae area for a period of five years. And they have one Commander of War just in case they are attacked."
"Let's get there then."
After one night's marching, Gabrielle find herself sleeping in a peaceful room of a tavern in Thermopylae. In the morning, after three candlemarks’ sleep, Xena and Gabrielle were up and ready to meet the four leaders of the area.
"Xena!" Diocletian, the first elder was surprised to see Xena in front of him.
"Yes?" Xena regarded all four of them with some confusion.
"I thought you would never return to this place again, after what you've done to us." Diocletian was not amused.
"I am sorry for what I have done. I know there is no way I can take that back. I only wish that will never happen again and that is precisely why I came back here -- to help you fight Caesar and his army."
"Xena, we don't need your help." Constantine, the second elder, broke in.
"Xena, I learned that you have changed, but our citizens here can never forgave you. We know you have done some good recently, for that we might forget your pass. But that doesn't mean we can forgave you. No one could follow your command here, so please leave." The first elder concluded with a straight face.
"Look, I didn't come here to bother you. Someone invited me here, here is the letter, and I naturally assume it is one of you who wrote this." Xena felt very odd. All the elders should act in unison.
"I did that." The commander of war walked toward Xena and then turned and faced the three elders. "I heard about Xena and studied her battles when I was still a tyro in Sparta. To face and defeat Caesar, we need someone like Xena."
"Commander, you should have discussed the issue with us, that is the law." The third elder could no longer remain silence.
"Under the law, I can act on myself under special circumstances. And I consider the threat of Caesar’s army a very special circumstance." Titus replied with a straight face. The elders didn’t know what to do now.
"Xena, would you wait in the tavern until we discussed this matter within ourselves?" The first elder pointed toward the door.
"Certainly. Let's go Gabrielle."
Outside the central building, Gabrielle was not happy with the outcome of this morning's event. "Xena, while Titus is trying to persuade the elders, I'm going to do my job among the people."
"I'm going to tell stories about you in the tavern, so people will understand you better."
"Alright, But don’t get into a fight." The situation was familiar to Xena, and she is confident about the bard’s skill.
"You don't worry about Caesar knowing that you are here anymore?"
"If I am right, he already known by now."
Chapter 4: (Eight Winters back) The battle of Themopylae
"The Great Caesar."
"News from Xena?"
"Here is a letter from King Phocy."
"Good. Call my generals to come immediately."
Caesar finished reading the letter when the generals got into his tent. "King Phocy wants us to attack Xena while he holds on to Xena's attack."
"That should be easy the Great Caesar."
"No, Nero, it is Xena we are talking about. That old fool Phocy has neither the wisdom nor the men power to hold on to Xena's attack for more than two days."
"But they have a very strong Phocian Wall Caesar."
"My dear Brutus, an over trusted defense system is worse than no defense system at all. I think by the time when we've taken Anticyra, Phocy would not be in one piece. Severus, lead an army of two thousand and attack Anticyra. That'll keep Xena busy for a wile, I'll lead the rest of the army following you. In case of Xena's ambush, you need to hold on till I get there. Now go."
"Yes, the Great Caesar."
"Nero, I give you one thousand soldiers to do something special."
In Thermopylae, General Otho was trying his best to break through the Phocian Wall. It was proven to be a severe damage to his soldiers. The wall was too high, rope, ladder, or even the war tank was not high enough to rich the top of the wall. Flying arrows, fire balls and boiling oil were constantly shooting from the top of the wall and give his attacking force disastrous destruction.
After a few hours of attack, Otho realized it was truly an impossible mission for him to take Thermopylae. But the fear of Xena's temper kept him going. "Xena is definitely not stupid enough to count on attacking the Phocian Wall the conventional way." He thought to himself. "But she did give me five thousand men. Well, the hell with it. I'll just do my job. I'm too old, and war generals don't usually live that long anywise." Eyeing the his wounded soldiers, hearing their scream and the laughter of the enemies on top of the Phocian Wall, Otho lunched another attack.
Meanwhile, General Darphus was facing Severus and his two thousand men. Darphus knew that if the Romans cross the Spercheios river, it will be difficult for him to hold on to Anticyra. Therefore he has to block the Roman’s way crossing the river. The only bridge is destroyed as soon as he arrived at Anticyra. The two sides just used archers shooting each other across the very shallow river.
A few candlemarks later, Darphus realized the roman has began to divide into two groups. One stay at the same place, the other goes up stream. "Great!" Darphus murmured to himself. The upper stream of the river is very narrow. The Roman troop can easily go across it. A sword fight seemed to be inevitable now. "Lieutenant Licinius, stable your men and continual shoot the Roman bastards. I'll have to go up stream and start a real fight." Darphus knew it is better if they start the attack first. As soon as they get to the more shallow water, Darphus ordered his men to go across Spercheios river and start to attack the Romans on the other bank. The Romans, seeing the action, also ran toward Xena's army. All of the sudden, the crashing of sword, the crying of the men and the desperate screams of the wounded people filled the area. By the lower stream, lieutenant Licinius could hear the sound of the not too remote battle. After a short while, he could see the color of the river is beginning to turn red......
"Attack!!!!!!!" General Otho started his fifth assault toward the damned wall. The sun was already setting toward the west side of the mountain, which means the first day is almost over. If he doesn't get over the wall by noon the next day, it is all over for them. "Watch out the archers on the north side of the wall you idiots!!!!" General Otho was becoming desperate. One fifth of his men, a duly one thousand, were either dead or wounded. The rest of the soldiers have lost their hope. They have never experienced a sense of hopelessness ever since they joined Xena's army. Pressed by the circumstance, Otho has to lead the fifth assault personally.
Body are falling down left and right, still general Otho pressed on. His personal death is not of his concern right know. The only wish he has is to get this thing over with, one way or the other. An arrow dug deep through the general's left leg. He struggled to regain his balance and command his men to fight. But he know the chance of him getting out of the place alive is great diminished, for his is too close to the wall.
Suddenly, here comes, out of nowhere, a distinctive battle cry. "Ahyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi." The cry came directly from the behind of the wall. General Otho's heart leaped with joy. Many a time in the battle, this cry leaded to victory. General Otho saw the clear form of Xena's on the top of the wall.
The archers and soldiers on the wall were so shocked by the appearing of Xena that some of them almost dropped their weapon. Others almost fall down the wall.
Xena stopped and take a look down the wall at the body of those who once were her soldiers, then turned to her enemies. "Nice job boys, but you'll soon join them."
In the palace, a soldier ran into King Phocy's bed room.
"What is that."
"Xena's army has taken the Phocian Wall Your Majesty."
"What! ... ... How?"
"Xena and a few hundred her soldiers appeared inside the wall and opened the gate Your Majesty."
"How did she get in then?"
"I climbed over Callidromus Mountain. Ah, Your Majesty." Here came Xena's cold voice. Following that is Valerian and a few of his soldiers who surrounded the King.
"It is impossible to climb over Callidromus."
"Yes it is possible. I lost nearly half of my men but the rest served the purpose."
"And you pulled on a full frontal attack to the wall, and suffer heavy loses?" The King was surprised.
"Although you are not clever, some of your commanders are not stupid. I don't want them to stop and think too soon."
"Xena, you win, but please spare my soldiers."
Xena arched an eyebrow. "They are not of your concern right now. Valerian, take some soldiers to guide the wall. I want the rest of my men have a good night of rest in Thermopylae," Then, she pointed at one of the soldiers around. "You, send this command to general Gordian and Darphus on Oeta mountain. The rest of you report back to your rank. Move now! Now King Phocy, at what time should I kill you?"
"I am guilty of not be able to protect my citizen from creatures like you. For that, the sooner my life ends, the better."
"I didn't come here to kill your citizens you old fool. I come here to fight Caesar and the Romans. And you joined them instead of giving me some money I needed. All the same, I'll just take the money. As of Caesar, I have a little something for him as well. You go tell Hades to prepare a place for a Roman called Julius Caesar." With that, a knife was struck through the King's heart.
When the sun was set, General Darphus knew he has already accomplished his mission of hold the enemy for a day. He and the remained of his men start to retreat. They passed Anticyra and set fire on all the building they came across without too much hope of delaying their enemy. Hope or no hope, they all gathered on Oeta mountain. At least with some height advantage, they can hold onto the attack of the Roman army the next day for a longer period of time. With the counting of number, General Darphus realized two third of his men were already down. Those Roman soldiers are good!
Severus occupied Anticyra with little trouble. He hoped to obliterate the entire Xena’s army before the sun set. But he still let a small portion of it escaped. They were tough. In fact they were tougher than any other Greek army he's ever meet, but they were still no match to the Romans. He still have fifteen hundred men left. The little fire they put on in an attempt to stop his army was really ridiculous. "I need more water!" the general commanded. "Put off the fire and we will rest here tonight. Go, take more water from the river, more water!"
With his last cry for water, Severus heard some strange noise coming from the upper stream of the river. "Ambush General!" A soldier cried out. "No it can't be. Doesn't sound like it." Severus muttered to himself. "Flood!" some one cried out in terror. It is indeed flood. From the upper stream, a huge water wall was raging against Anticyra carrying tree branches and stones that. Panic broke out. People are running left and right. The yelling of the lieutenant, the screaming of the women and children in the city and the crushing of bodies are mixed together. And then the water come, carrying everything with it directly into the Malian Gulf.
On top of the Oeta mountain. General Darphus witnessed the amazing spectacle. There was nothing left of what was a city. No houses, no animals, no people, but the most important, no Roman soldiers. "General, there are some soldiers coming form the west." A soldier reported.
"Who goes there?"
"Darphus is that you?"
"General Gordian, Xena told me you will be here. Did you do that?" Darphus pointed toward the place that was once Anticyra."
"Xena told me to make a dam and destroy it once I see fire in the city. So what did I do?"
"You flooded all the Roman bastards."
"You know Darphus, that's one thing I like about Xena, she wins."
"Yah, and She doesn't care about anything else."
Chapter 5: Caesar meet Gabrielle.
"But she cares about is the lives of innocent people now! She stopped the battle between the Centaurs and the Amazons; In Cira, she risked her own life to save a little girl's; She fought Giant in order to save the Israeli from been suppressed by warlord." Gabrielle was frustrated.
"My sister's family was flooded in Anticyra thanks to Xena." One person snared.
"She captured the four thousand soldiers that Good King Phocy had and killed every on of them. And my brother was one of them!" Another one spoke with obvious passion.
"I don't expect you to understand little girl. But aside from the physical destruction, Xena put most of us into mental torture of the lost of our loved ones. I don't care if Xena is good or not now. I cannot accept her being here." Another one said more thoughtfully.
"But you don't right some wrong by wrong some right!" Gabrielle didn't want to give up. "It was wrong for Xena to kill innocent people. But it is also wrong to reject Xena for what she did in the pass. For she is really changed!"
"We cannot forget the pass, little girl, we cannot!" With that all the people left the tavern.
Gabrielle eyed the corner where Xena was. Xena was still there listening to the conversation, bearing the hateful glances people through to her. It hurt Gabrielle to know that she is powerless to help Xena. "I am sorry Xena, I'll try again tomorrow."
"No need to apologize Gabrielle, It is my fault, not yours."
"No more argument Gabrielle, we need to rest now, there will be very hard days ahead."
"Xena, I think the villagers should give you and your friend a chance." One boy in the tavern broke in.
"Thanks. Who are you?" Xena asked with curiosity.
"My name is Geta, I got here two winters ago. I was on my way to Krannon, but I ran out of money. I heard a lot of things about you while I was traveling, Xena, and I believe you are really changed." The young man smiled at the women.
"Thank you very much for your ..." Gabrielle was happy to find at least one person here tolerate them, but she is cut short by two soldiers entering the tavern door.
"Xena, the elders want you to come immediately."
"We'll be there. Gabrielle, let's go." Xena started to walk toward the door.
"Xena, can I stay here and have a chat with Geta? I need to gather more information about these towns and their people." Gabrielle was eager to find out a way to communicate with the local people.
"Gabrielle, considering we are dealing with Caesar, we shouldn't separate from each other while we are here."
"Xena, I'll be alright. Look, I'll just stay in the tavern. There are going to be lots of people coming in and out, I wouldn't just disappear without being noticed. Please, Xena, getting to know these people is very important." Gabrielle wondered what makes Xena worry about her safety that much. "It is not like you to be so agitated about me." Gabrielle added.
"OK, OK, just be safe, I'll be back very soon." Xena didn't want to start a argument right now, there were enough things to consider already.
"You know, there is an old healer called Caligula. People say he is really good at dealing with problems of mind. Maybe he can help you and your friend. Do you want me to take you to where he leaves." The young man offered after Xena was gone.
"That'll be great!" Gabrielle was excited that she could yet make another new friend.
"Xena, we have decided that it is important for you to stay and help us. But you cannot lead the army. If you do, they wouldn't follow anyway." The first elder said dryly.
"How do you suppose I will help you without be able to command your soldiers?"
"You shall fight side by side with me Xena, and I'll carry out any ideas you have." The commander draw a raised eyebrow from Xena.
"Alright, but you have to provide me with all the information I want." Xena looked at Titus straight into his eyes. She then turned to face the three elders. "What do you do in a war?"
"According to the law, we have to let the commander of war take total control. But under the case of migration of citizens, the commander needs to consult with us." Again the first elder answered in a dry tone.
"Good. Now commander, I want to know how many men do you have, the distribution of them. And what do you know about Caesar and his army." Xena asked in a low voice.
"Frankly we are out numbered ten to one, Xena. I have only three thousand men all gathered inside the back gate of the city." The general reported with a heavy heart.
"No you are not out numbered. Caesar didn't bring one fourth of Roman army here just to conquer Thermopylae. What Caesar wants is Greek. If I am right, he will ship most of his men south to attack Athen, and leave only the necessary amount to fight here." Xena's cool voice surprised all her audiences.
"That means a war between Greek and Rome then!" The third elder burst out.
"I'm afraid so. The southern cities are not prepared for the war, and we have to warn them of the danger. Do you have messengers you can send out Titus?"
"Yes, I'll arrange that right now." The commander left with a mixture feeling of worry for Greek and relief for his eased burden.
"How about your citizens Diocletian? Are they willing to fight for Thermopylae?" Xena turned to the first elder.
"Yes they are. Ever since your last visit, all of the citizens decided that we'll not let it happen again. Our army right now is much stronger than the one you fought, Xena." The first elder said matter of factedly.
"What about those newly arrived to this place?" Xena was not offended at all.
"We have a lot of visitors and tourists as you know, but very less of them actually settle down here. All the workers, peasants and merchandisers are residents here for at least five or six winters." The second elder gave a nice report.
"Even tavern boys?" Xena's sense tensed.
"Yes, especially them, they have to know this place very well. It's their job to tour the guests sometimes." The second elder couldn't understand why the special concern about tavern boys.
"Gabrielle!" Xena muttered under her breath, then run out of the conference room, left the three elders to face each other in perplexity.
"We meet again, Gabrielle, the queen of the amazon nation, Xena's best friend. You are more stupid than I thought." Caesar regarded the red headed woman with some amusement. His thought drift back to when he was Gabrielle's age. He was almost sure he wasn't as famous as the woman in bondage before him. But then again, Gabrielle was not destined to conquer the world, but he himself was.
"And you, the Great Caesar, the one who's destined to conquer the world. You are more despicable than I thought." Gabrielle was positively angry at the person who injured Xena both physically and mentally.
"And why is that?" Caesar was amused at the woman. She was definitely something special.
"I thought a BRAVE MAN like you will conquer cities with wits and force rather than murdering and KIDNAPPING." Gabrielle stared Caesar right into the eyes.
"Conquest comes in many forms, and different method is needed to deal with different situation. You are right, conquering city needs neither kidnapping nor murdering. But conquering Xena, I need you." Caesar looked down at Gabrielle who was still struggling against her bondage.
"What good would I do to you?" Gabrielle asked absent mindedly, knowing the answer already. The love between Xena and herself was well known. And this was not the first time people wanted to control Xena through capturing her.
"Normal warlords want to control Xena through controlling you. I, on the other hand, want to DESTROY Xena through controlling you. You are the only person who has the most influence in Xena's life. You changed her from a powerful worrier into a timid sentimental rat like yourself. Although Xena is becoming a legend in Greece, she is at her most vulnerable state. I want to destroy Xena, but before that, I want to destroy the righteousness and love believe you sentimental pests hold so dearly. Before Xena dies, she is going to feel both purposeless and miserable. I planed this special treatment for her because she always holds a special place among my conquered." Caesar could see all the plane working out right now in his mind's eyes.
"Dream on! Xena's mind is so steady and firm that even the Gods cannot change her, not to mention you, a mortal." Gabrielle hated the conceded Caesar even more now.
"All through my life, I've been changing people and things around me to fit my need. I have never failed at any one instance. You will be surprised by the change I can make on you by the time you cross the river." With that Caesar waved to one solider who immediately took Gabrielle into an dungeon.
Chapter 6: (Eight winters back) The trick of Caesar's
Caesar looked over the remains of Anticyra with fascination. Although the capture of King Phocy by Xena is hardly unexpected, the flood of one third of his army is not within his consideration. That Xena was really good. Although having only four thousand soldiers against Xena's six, Caesar was sure he is still going to win.
In Xena's tent, all the generals were gathered to discuss the next round of battle, when a solider came in. "Xena, Princess, Caesar and his army are in Heraclea now. It looks like they have no intention on advance to here to fight."
"Of course they don't. They are planing on something different than a conventional attack. Otho, bring five hundred men with you, camp outside the P wall, slow down Caesar's progress if he does attack. Don’t waste your hands, get into the P wall quickly if you know you can’t handle Caesar. Valerian, bring two hundred men and hide them in Callidromus mountain. Stop them if Caesar's men try to avoid Phocian Wall they way we did. Go!" Xena felt sure she is going to capture Caesar this time for good.
At the end of the day, there was still no report of Caesar's movement. Xena began to worry. She sent out an solider to spy on Caesar's camp. The report that came the next day was that didn't seems to be eager on fighting. It was very peaceful in Caesar's camp.
Xena started to worry about what Caesar was planning on doing. With Thermopylae newly conquered, Xena had food and other supply which can outlast at least a few moons. Waiting was only going to do Caesar harm. Xena decided to send the soldier out again.
"Pay special attention to the food supply channel. I want to know how does he feed his four thousand soldiers."
"It doesn't look like he has four thousand soldiers my Princess. I think they have only one fourth of that amount." The solider searched his memory more thoroughly this time.
"Only about one thousand?" Xena stared right at her spy.
"Yyyyyes, my Princess." The solider became very afraid.
"Get Gordian and Darphus back here and Report back to your rank." Xena ordered with a cold voice.
"I give you fifteen hundred men each, make sure you understand what I want." Xena felt better after she has told Gordian and Darphus her intention. "And I'll take the rest of the army and fight Caesar directly."
"My princess, wouldn't it be better if we stay inside the Phocian Wall and try to make Caesar attack us." Darphus offered.
"No it wouldn't." With that Xena gave Darphus a don't-question-me look.
Otho was surprised when he meet Xena and her twenty three hundred men. "My Princess, I don't know you are coming here."
"Otho, stay here with one thousand soldiers, I'll take the rest to attack Caesar. If I'm not back by dusk, come and find me. And don't you fail me on that, understand?"
"Yes, my princess."
"Xena and her army is heading toward us the Great Caesar."
"Good, she finally came. Call on my army to get ready for a battle at once." Caesar was amused.
A few minutes later, after more than four winters, Caesar and Xena meet each other again.
"ATTACK!!!" Xena ordered as soon as Caesar was within site. She herself rode Argo straight toward the enemy, her soldiers followed her.
"Soldiers, Attack!" Caesar drew his sword and cried out. Within a blink of an eye, Xena was in front of Caesar, and a single combat between these two worriers broke out.
Xena had a huge grin on her face. The site of Caesar and the battle environment both excited her. She felt both a great joy and a deep anger toward fighting the men she hated. Caesar, on the other hand, fought very carefully. Although with all the training he had, fighting an excited Xena is more than Caesar could handle. Not before long, his hands started to bleed, and his arms started to feel heavy. Xena's excitement came to a new peak when she saw Caesar was not going to hold on for long. But Caesar's soldiers obviously noticed the same thing, for there are four of them rides toward the pair of fighters and surrounded Xena. At that brief juncture, Caesar got himself out from the pursue of Xena. "Retreat!!" Caesar commanded the rest of his rapidly weakening army.
Xena and her soldiers followed the Romans closely. The two armies run head to tell across H and toward A. Just before they enter the flooded Anticyra, Caesar commanded a stop. His army turned around and faced Xena's soldiers again.
Xena was surprised by this sudden turn out. From a short distance, she could see Caesar's eyes glistened. Although his countenance still appear to be stern, Caesar had a slight mocking smile that he used so well on his face. "Retreat!!" Xena cried out too late. One army leaded by Philip has already blocked the way; Another troop leaded by Brutus appears from the Oeta mountain and started charging Xena's men from the side; And Caesar's men started to fight back. Caught between a mountain and a gulf with three armies around her, Xena knew her troop cannot stand for long. The only possibility to escape was to concentrate her force to fight a way back. Commands were shouted to her lieutenants to hold Brutes and Caesar's troops for as long as possible until Xena broke Philip's army. It is going to be a long battle.
"You are a good fighter, Xena, but this time I got you for good." Caesar was now overviewing the entire battle field from a vantage point with Brutus on a peak of the O mountain, watching Xena's men making a desperate attempt for survival.
Meanwhile, Xena's force were fighting for their lives. Xena's sword, hair, even armor are red with blood. Already dismounted Argo, the fighting Xena sent her scarlet chakram to fly again, and within a fracture of a second, five more Roman were down. Another act with her sword, two more Roman were sent over the river. With a summersault, she jumped over a flying spear and picked up another sword from a dead soldier. Her own sword was not sharp enough now for the number of men it destroyed. Although fighting an overwhelming force, Xena still had that half grin on her face. The danger and the challenge thrilled her. She kicked, stabbed, summersault and cried out her battle cries. Every passing minute only added on her strength. Her soldiers were closely following her, for only that way, can they have a chance of survival in this horrible battle.
As Caesar watched, Xena's army was slowly breaking general Philip's defense system. Caesar cannot believe his eyes. "I have to go down and stop the savage woman from escaping." Caesar told himself.
But it was too late. The remains of Roman soldiers in Philip’s army realized it was only suicidal to fight the woman and her desperate army. Before Caesar got to the foot of Oeta mountain, the group of Roman soldiers already gave way to Xena's force.
"Run back to Otho’s camp!!!!!" Seeing the chance to escape, Xena yelled to the remains of her men. Then, with a sharp whistle, Xena called to Argo. If she run with her army, Xena was sure Caesar will follow her and damage her army. Therefore, instead of running with her soldiers, with a mocking grin on her face Xena turned Argo and faced the Romans, who were now on one side of her rather than surrounding her. Time was passing, and Xena's army were now already ran out of sight, but Xena remained at the same place, sword in hand, facing the entire Roman army.
"Get her!!" eyeing Caesar's present, Philip commanded his solider to fight yet once more. But no one moved, for to get close to this impossible woman in front of them was no different than to say hello to Hades himself. Caesar was so amazed by the sight that for the first time in years he kept very quiet while facing his enemy. There was an unbelievable silence over the blood stained battle field.
"Ha ha ha ha!" Xena was the first to break the silence. "So long boys. For those I haven't got to fight with this time, I'll get you latter on." With that she kicked Argo into a gallop and rode out of sight.
"Until next time Xena, until next time." Caesar muttered under his breath.
Moments latter, Xena caught up with her army which had only about five hundred soldiers left, comparing with the eighteen hundred she had to began with.
"By the Gods, what happened!" Otho cried out when seeing Xena and her tired army.
"Caesar’s got the rest of them." Was Xena's simple explanation.
Chapter 7: What's love got to do with it.
"Caesar has got her." Xena thought to herself. The boy by the name of Geta was obviously a paid spy of Caesar's. The tavern owner had known him for years. He was smart but he worshiped powerful figures like Aces and Caesar.
Inside her room in the tavern, Xena was thinking her next step. Caesar had never conquered a city with kidnapping, therefore Xena believed the kidnapping of Gabrielle was obviously a trick Caesar played in order to get Xena herself. If Caesar wanted Xena dead, he can do that easily now she’s not a warlord. Although a plane attack on Xena might not grand Caesar a dead Xena, but assassination will do very well. When she was a warlord, Xena made it her business to know as many people as possible in her army, not by their names, but just their personalities, what can they do, what do they feel, and how would they react to her commands. It was that tight control over her army made Xena really hard to be assassinated nor defeated. But now Xena was along, learning to love and to trust people, which made her very vulnerable. Yet it was not Xena's life that Caesar wanted, it was something more. But no matter what it was, Xena cannot bare the thought that Gabrielle was again used as a mean to the despicable end. Although Xena hated Caesar, she'll do anything to make sure that Gabrielle was safe, even if it meant to comply to Caesar's wishes.
"Here she is!" A solider broke into Xena's room. A group of soldiers followed him. "Xena, by the order from the elders, we are taking you to the dungeon."
"Why?" instinctively sword in hand, Xena was surprised by this newly added complication.
"You are charged of murdering the first elder Diocletian. Now put down your sword and come with us." The solider answered then eyed his followers who drew their weapon with hatred.
"How did you know I did it?" Xena threw down her sword.
"On the first elder’s neck, we found a wound that can be caused by nothing but your chakram." The solider was now bonding Xena's arms with rope.
Xena had got to get to Caesar's army to save Gabrielle. Although she knew Caesar will not kill Gabrielle, but she understood Caesar might make Gabrielle's life miserable. To save Gabrielle, she needed to confront Caesar directly. Any plan to sneak-in Caesar's camp was no difference than to give herself up. Caesar was too clever and knew Xena too well to not prepare for that. But if Xena were to confront Caesar, and Caesar threaten to harm Gabrielle, Xena knew she has no choice but to surrender. And knowing Caesar, the very moment when Xena was under his control, he would have the tendency to make it permanent. He might break Xena's legs for good this time. Then what could she do? There must to be a plan.
Xena didn't realize until stones were thrown toward her and hurt her head. Sharply came back to herself, Xena realized that she was taken into the city jail through the main street. And there are people on each side of the road cursing her and throwing stuff on her. "Kill the worrier bitch!" The people yelled, "She is coming here again to destroy us." Xena's frustration built on her. When she took Thermopylae last time, she also marched over the main street. People were angry but afraid at her and they watch her army sullenly. Now she was not a warlord anymore, people started to pay her a revenge. Unlike the old Xena who would instantly free herself, jump into the mob and start killing, the Xena right now remained on the road. It took more self-control than Xena thought to remain clam and analysis the present situation. Xena felt she deserved the punishment, after what she had done to the people here eight winters ago. Yet the bitterness of misunderstanding still crept up Xena's thought. Last few times when she was mistreated by the villagers, Gabrielle was with her, now she had to fight the thing alone. The thought of Gabrielle made Xena's mind work again.
"If you don't want me to die right now, you should at least give me some food!" Gabrielle yelled at Caesar as soon as he came into the dungeon. A dozen candlemarks without food was more than Gabrielle could bear.
"Untie her." Caesar ordered to his soldiers. One of them walked toward the back of the pole on which Gabrielle was tied to, and loosed the rope. Another put a plat of food in front of her. In the mean time, Caesar was talking: "I came to tell you Xena is heading her way here."
"What do you mean?" Temporarily forgetting the food, Gabrielle stared at Caesar right into his eyes.
"I killed the first elder of Thermopylae and now the people in the city has through Xena in jail. By the end of the day, she is going to be here with you." Caesar was not surprised that his plane had worked so well. "I could have never captured her so easily if she is still the warlord she once were. And I should thank you for your help Gabrielle, for weakened her significantly."
"You haven't got her yet Caesar, what makes you so sure that she'll fall into your trap." Gabrielle started to sit down and eat. She really didn't like this conceded Roman.
"You can ask her when she got here. When I have you, I'm sure Xena will follow. I personally would like to have another campaign with Xena, but since you have changed her by so much, there is no chance of that. I'll have to undo all the silly ideas you put into her mind." Caesar spoke without even looking at Gabrielle, who never stopped stuffing food into her mouth.
"Did it ... Did it ever occur to you ... that there are more important things in life than conquering the world?" Gabrielle felt this Roman really needed help.
"Like what?" Caesar laughed at the question.
"Like make the world a better place to live in; like help people around you; like love. When you are conquering Caesar, your hart is empty, that's why you need to have all the material good you can get to satisfy your void. But even that is not enough to make you happy, for you need constant filling to compensate your eternal emptiness. But when you love your hart is full, therefore you give what you have to help others, and even when you are giving, you are happy cause you are always satisfied by what you've already got. And ...." Gabrielle was cut short by the mocking laugh of Caesar's.
"Ha, ha, ha. What is love go to do with it?" Caesar was amused by this woman who is more energetic than he thought. "When I conquered the world, everyone obey me without fault, but if I love, even those whom I love betray me. Tie her up!" With that Caesar left the dark dungeon.
"But ... I haven't finish ... Ahh!" Gabrielle was frustrated to find herself tied up again uncomfortably. Then her thought drifted to what Xena might be underwent.
"Ahh!!!" Xena couldn't help to cry out when being kicked by the soldiers who were suppose to guard her. They toke the liberty of getting into her cell and torturing her. All of them had their excuses. It was either for their brother, father, mother, sister or some combination of those titles whom Xena had killed during her last visit. Xena felt an aching pain growing inside her body. Trying to help Greece for years, it seemed to take an eternity to undo what she has down for this country and its people. Why did she have to be misunderstood so much by so many. She needed Gabrielle to comfort her especially. But, oh, Gabrielle. How can Xena get her out of danger?
When the beating hardened, Xena felt she was out of focus. It was not the most severe torture Xena had endured, but the stones she received on the long way to jail was very bad. Xena feared that she might just die there. She remembered the last time she was in the edge of life and death was caused by the Gauntlet. She felt no pain then. Nor sorrow of been mistreated. She felt only a overwhelming desire to live. To live right there and than. Her animal instinct blended with her hatred rushed up from within her body and that power made it possible for her to survive the most severe torture. But she felt no hate at this moment, only sorrow. The sorrow of being mistreated. "Death might be just as well." Xena thought to herself. She forcibly opened her eyes and looked at the soldiers around her. But another slap descend upon her face.
"Coward!!!" The soldiers cried. "Why don’t you fight us now Xena? When did you change your way from killing to murdering? You are weak now aren’t you? You know you can not win us in a fight, so you came and murder our elder, you coward."
"Coward I am." Xena thought to herself. "Always trying to find the easy way out. Like me or not, these people are going to be more miserable if I die. And Gabrielle is going to be miserable too." Xena refused to imaging a grief stricken Gabrielle, especially when Xena promised her not to die on her again. "I have to live." Xena was thinking more clearly this time.
After a long time, all the soldiers were tired of beating Xena. They got out of the cell and leave an unconscious Xena lying on the ground. Xena didn't know how long did it take for her to come back to her senses. But she did wake up with pain all over her body. She struggled to get up, but the chain on her feet failed her. Again, she struck heavily on the ground. Although very frustrated, she didn't hate the soldiers who tortured her. She needed to get to Gabrielle. Nothing else mattered.
It was dark outside, and Xena was trying to work herself out of the chains when another group of soldiers came in exchange of the original group. "Oh great!" Xena muttered under her breath. "If they, too, want to beat me, I'll have to fight back." One thing Xena knew for sure was it was stupid to die in a city dungeon by some hatred blind soldiers.
To Xena's surprise though, the newly arrived group of soldiers suddenly charged on the original group and took them off guarded.
"Xena, Commander Titus asked us to get you out of here." The captain of the newly arrived group opened the door of the cell.
"Really?" Xena responded with a half grin on her face. "Then help me out of these chains."
In a matter of seconds, Xena and her seven rescuer were inside the protection of the Callidromus mountain. It was very dark then. And they all traveled very fast. Xena was kept in the middle of the group. Suddenly, Xena stopped. Without warning, she started to fight the soldiers around her. Four men were knocked unconscious before they realized what's going on. A short moment later two more soldiers were disabled. The captain of the group started to run. But not before long, he felt two fingers pressed on his neck and his eyesight was blurred.
"I've cut out the blood flow to your brain. You'll die a painful death in thirty seconds. Now, were did Caesar put Gabrielle?" Xena asked with her cold voice.
"I .. I dddon't know what are yyyyou talking about." The captain struggled.
"Oh!" Xena hated it when soldiers don't give her what she need to know quickly. "Obviously Titus needn't kill his guards and break the jail in order to get me out. Nor would he lead me into Callidromus mountain. It is Caesar who sent you. Now were did he put Gabrielle!"
"Iiiiiiin Hi .. Histiaea."
"That's better." Xena released the mounting blood pressure in the soldier's head and knocked him off. "Now Caesar, I shall have a surprise for you."
Chapter 8: (eight winters back) The battle of Thermopylae -- again.
"Is that savage woman a mortal or not?" Philip was frustrated by the out come of the latest battle.
"SHE IS A MORTAL, I got her once and broke her legs." Caesar eyed his general with anger.
"How did you know she will attack us instead of waiting inside of the Phocian Wall, Caesar?" Brutus wanted to remind Caesar about his success in this battle.
"That is easy, Xena is an emotional woman, she is eager to fight with me personally. Therefore when she learned I only have an army of a thousand she cannot help the idea of capturing me in the battlefield herself. And she cannot wait for me to attack her."
"It is brilliant Caesar!" Brutus exclaimed. "We only lost three hundred soldiers, but Xena lost one forth of her army."
"But what would we do now to get Xena for good? I heard she is very clever." Philip cannot help to break into the conversation again, which draw another angry look from Caesar. Yet at the same moment, Caesar realized there are elements of truth in Philip’s words. Xena was a very clever commander, would she allow her emotion overcome her senses? True, Xena was a emotional woman, and Caesar did use that emotion to win her in battel. But Xena had grown into a fine worrier who has never lost a battle. If she still cannot control her emotion to certain degree, she could never have been the worrier princess in the legend. Suddenly, the full implication of Xena's attack hit Caesar. His face started to turn white. His pupils widened in a horrible remorse of having down something very wrong.
"What happened? Are you OK Caesar?" Brutus realized Caesar's facial change.
With a barely audible voice, Caesar muttered to Philip: "Philip, I want you to do something for me."
"Otho, I need to get back to Thermopylae tomorrow. You and the rest of the army stay here. If Caesar's attacks, block them until further instruction." Xena was determined to teach Caesar a lesson.
"What just happened Xena, why did you suddenly decided to fight Caesar on the plane ground instead of waiting inside of Phcian Wall for Caesar to attack you?" Otho didn't share Xena's vision.
"Otho, just do what I ask!" Xena was on the top of her temper.
Tired of the life as a general for warlords, Otho stood up against Xena for the first time in his life. "Xena, we have already lost one half of our soldiers since the beginning of this series of battles, I think we might want to stop this fight with Caesar and give the soldiers a rest. The on going killing is bad for everyone. And I think ..."
"SHUT UP!!! Guard! Through this idiot into the dungeon!!" Was Xena's last word for that day.
First thing the next morning, Xena visited Otho in the dungeon. Eyeing the depressed figure on the corner of the cell, Xena asked in a cold voice: "Are you tired of working for me, Otho?"
"Yes, I am."
"You wouldn't afraid of me killing you for your betrayal."
"No." Otho answered bravely.
"Coward!" Xena's voice remained cold. "Rome has influence over the entire northern Greek, and its' influence is expanding. If I don't defeat Caesar, there will be no one in Greek dare to challenge his power again. You are a good warrior Otho, and to die in a dungeon is cowardly. You should at least die a warrior’s death: to die in a battle field."
"What are you asking Xena?" Otho asked with some surprise for he just heard the longest sentence Xena has ever said.
"Caesar is going to attack Thermopylae soon. I need you to lead five hundred men and slow him down for as long as you can. Considering Caesar's men power, it is a suicide mission. But it is very important for GREECE." Xena's cold tone changed a little bit.
"And for you too." Otho added matter_of_factedly.
"Will you do it?" Xena's eyes were threatening, she was tired of talking.
Gordian spotted an figure coming toward Callidromus mountain where his army is hiding. "Who goes there?" Gordian asked with some perplexity. No one would climb up the mountain from Thermopylae during a time of war.
"It's me Gordian."
"Xena! What .. What are you doing here?" Gordian could not believe his ears until his eyes confirmed his hearing was correct.
"There is a change of plane." Was Xena's simple answer.
"Xena!!" Darphus was surprised when finding Xena in his room late the afternoon. "How did you get into the Procian Wall without my notice?"
"There is a change of plane," Xena put on a straight face without answering Darphus's question. "Now open the gate. I have a few hundred soldiers to let in."
Nero and his one thousand soldier arrived at Thronium. To avoid been spotted by Xena's army, instead of traveling inside the Malian Gulf, they have to walk across the Othrys mountain. Then they took boats to get to Euboea island. When Xena is trapped inside Caesar's army, they are on boats again toward Thronium.
"We'll make camp here tonight." Nero told his army with some excitement. "And then we'll take Thermopylae by surprises. Xena will rely on the Phocian Wall to block Roman force from attacking, but we already got around the wall, and now if we time things right, Caesar is going to attack the wall from the outside and we attack Thermopylae from the other inside. In two days, soldiers, Xena will be no more."
Another day has passed. Nero find himself looking at Thermopylae from behind a tree. There seems to be no alert in the city. Xena's soldiers are doing their normal patrol. Nero had a grin on his face. Secretly, he was admiring Caesar's plane which was working out as always.
"Attack!" Nero commanded his soldiers. Romans rapidly closed onto Thermopylae.
"Romans are coming in from behind us!!" Panic break out from Xena's troop, everyone is running away from the back gate of the city toward the front gate, the mountain or just toward the bay. Before long, Nero find himself heading toward the palace which was once occupied by King Phocy. Fighting the desire of visiting the exquisite palace, Nero has to carry out his mission: to fight his way to the Phocian wall, open the gate and let Caesar's army come into the city. "Toward the Phocian wall!!" Nero commands his army.
"Aaayiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi" A familiar battle cry was suddenly let out of no where. Nero felt a chill rising from his spine. Being a experienced worrier, Nero controlled his emotion and faced the challenge. Noticing Xena was heading toward him, Nero steadied his sword and prepared for a fierce encounter.
Fighting bravely, Nero was no match for Xena. And before long, he was unconscious on the ground. Although Nero couldn't witness it, leading by Gordian, Xena's army was flooding from the Callidromus mountain. Another army leading by Darphus has already blocked the Romans’ retreat from the back gate of the city. Within hours, all the Romans are wiped out. Save only Nero.
"That's amazing my princess." Gordian never stopped appreciating the warlord's wisdom. "How did you know they are going to attack us from behind?"
"When I learned Caesar only has one thousand men, I thought he asked the rest of them to attack us from somewhere else. It couldn't have come from the mountain, for Valerian would inform us then. I also learned that Caesar is waiting. So he must have send some troop to travel far and try to get behind us. But I assume that Caesar has only one thousand men with him and send the rest of them away to attack us from behind. And that is why I wanted to attack him right outside in the fields. When I fought them, I realized he had about three thousand men with him. So I know the missing one thousand will be here." Although the battle has not finished, Xena felt much better with Caesar on one side of the Phocian Wall, under her careful control. And that sense of good humor made her related her entire thought process to her soldiers.
"What are we doing to do with him?" eyeing Nero who suddenly made a small move, Darphus asked.
"I think Caesar wants him to get the city and open the gate for the rest of the army. But we need to know the correct code they use to recognize each other." Was Xena's answer.
"That would be easy." Gordian was amused by the thought of this Roman general's facial expression under Xena's pressure point on the neck.
"No Gordian, Roman has stupid honors, they rather die than betray their country. I have to do something different."
Chapter 9: The Question of Good and Evil.
Titus was informed about Xena's escape and the death of the jail guards. "I can't believe Xena is still her old self!" Titus was enraged by the seriousness of the events. "Go prepare our men. We shall guard our homeland with our lives. And our enemy: both Caesar and Xena."
After his solders had gone, Titus still stepped around his room. He was really confused. Is Xena good or bad? The question winded around in his mind and he could not get rid of it. If she is good, then how could she do what she did to the first elder and the jail guards. But if she is bad, then why are there so many stories about Xena being a heroin figure.
"Titus." Suddenly heard a cold voice come from the back, Titus instinctively drew his sword and turned around.
"Xena! Are you here to murder me too?!" Titus was almost shouting with rage.
"Shhhh! Titus, I haven't murder your elder, and I have proof for it." Xena’s' voice was sincere and Titus was still confused both by the present situation and the swelling and blood on Xena's face. It is not likely anyone would give these to Xena the worrier princess.
"Show me your proves."
Caesar was going down the dungeon to visit Gabrielle once more, when he hard her voice.
"If you can just loosen here a little bit, we will both enjoy our time together much more! Hhhha! There, that's better. I can't keep struggling forever you know, I need food, but you don't...."
"Who are you talking to?" Caesar asked with some amusement after entering the dungeon.
"If I can talk these bondage out of their stubbornness, I might have some chance of talking you out of ours!" Gabrielle instantly snapped noticing Caesar's present.
"My stubbornness? Gabrielle, you are the one who is being stubborn." Caesar looked at the red head with mocking smile on his face.
"What do you mean?"
"I make efforts to know my opponents. And since I knew I'll run into Xena sooner or later, I trace her steps closely. As I said before, your effort weakened Xena significantly, and you are still unabashed about what you are doing. Believing that you are off to something great, you hand over Greece to me."
"Handing over Greece to you?"
"Yes. Xena is the only one in Greece who is powerful and witty enough to fight against my army. If she were still a warlord, it is only a matter of time before she would control the entire Greece. I was a little worried then about the possibility of fighting her to get Greece. But so it is part of my destine, Hercules deprived her of her army and you made sure that she will never become a competing force to me. Although her present is still a potential threat, but drugged by the love and caring idea that you installed into her, she is much easier to deal with. And so is Greece."
"Why do you have to fight and kill just to conquer the world?"
"That is what life is all about."
"But you destroy lives in war."
"Caesar! What is a person's life to you?" Gabrielle cannot understand why people live on conquering and fighting and still be proud of themselves.
"Life? It is the cheapest thing around! Nature spread them out with a ravish hand. Have you ever seen crabs spread seeds into the ocean? They spread millions of seeds, and out of them only a very feel could return and become adults. Human are not much different. A family give birth to more children than they can or care to handle, hoping out of them some will survive the fame, the diseases, the war and the wanton play of the gods. The loss of lives are balanced by bring out more than needed. Therefore lives become cheep. Life eats life that’s how life survive. The weak has to make room for the ong. And only those who are fierce and witty get to live their lives to their fullest extend. Therefore, individual lives only care about themselves, to be honor and true to the life that is in themselves. They hold their lives as the most precious thing in the world, because that is all they have and care to serve for. The lives of others are irrelevant in this account. Consequently, I live my most precious life full and true. I conquer the world and command all the lives that's in it. But the lives of others that I have to spend are irrelevant to me."
Gabrielle's eyes were widened and mouth open. For the first time in a long time she was actually speechless. She had never heard of such argument before. She was told to be good and do good and believe that is good. "But it is right and good to help people and bad and evil to kill." was all she can say.
"Why?" Gabrielle was again speechless.
"Why is it good to help people and bad to kill? Xena is helping people now, but have you ever stop and think that chance is till good that she is going to Tartarus rather than Ethenfeild. Other than Hades, no one really judge good nor evil. But even Hades makes mistakes. Asclepius was killed by Hades for being a healer and preventing people from being dead. Persephone was kidnapped by Hades just because he wants a wife. So what is good and what is evil. How can we trust Hades who, although an immortal, could be swayed by emotion? Again why is good good and evil evil?"
"People know what is good and what is evil!"
"Do they? Do you, Gabrielle, know what is good?"
"Really. Would you feel the same way about Xena if she killed your sister?"
"What do you mean?"
"If Xena raided your village when she was still a warlord. And you witnessed she thrust her sword into your father in front of your own eyes; you saw her army burned down your house and kidnapped your sisters to sell as slaves. And years later, the changed Xena came to you, would you feel the same way toward her as you do now?"
"I yaa.." Gabrielle was struggling with words.
"See. the people you were talking about were emotion driven. Their senses of right and wrong are driven by their feelings. And the unreasonable feeling render them vulnerable to political influences. I just successfully used the feeling of those people in T to through Xena into dungeon even though Xena is there to save them. Killing such fools doesn’t give me more compunction than killing cattle and rats. Yet there is no time when Xena wasn't tortured by the fools she killed during her pass. Thanks to you."
"But human lives!"
"What about it? Human are just toys for the gods to amuse and subjects for nature to destroy. As between human, one has to make sure one gets the upper most from one's life. What do you think the value of human life is?"
"Ah ..." Gabrielle was again speechless. The value of a human life. There is no value one can put on it. It is so intangible that Gabrielle didn't really know how to answer the question.
"Ha ha ha... think about it." Caesar then vanished into the dark dungeon door.
For the first time, Gabrielle fully realized the power of Caesar. Unlike other bandits who just do bad things for the sake of doing them. Caesar was conscious about his entire existence. He believed good is wrong and evil is right. And he had reason to support it. He was not immoral, he was simply amoral. Now Gabrielle began to worry about Xena, would Caesar really influence Xena's mind? They were both good fighters and they must have shared much of the same view.
Chapter 10: (eight winters ago) The passion, the danger.
Nero woke up to find himself in a comfortable bed and was free to move around. But the room he was in were guarded. There was food and wine already on the table, therefore Nero decided to help himself. Who knows when would be the last meal he is going to have.
Before lone Xena went inside the tent. Nero stood up immediately and took a fighting stand but soon realized that Xena was not in her usual armor. Instead, she was in a very beautiful night dress.
Xena asked the guards to leave and then gave Nero a dashing smile. "No need to be so defensive Roman, just sit down and enjoy your food."
"What do you want from me?"
"Whatever a handsome warrior can provide."
"I’ve seen you fight in the battle and I like your skill. It’ll be great if you are in my army."
"Xena, if that is what you want from me, you better off kill me right now."
"I don’t want to force you to do anything you don’t want to do. I want to get to know you better, see if you are worthy of my attention. But from the appearance...." Xena stopped and looked at the Roman with her half smile "You are a handsome prey." With that Xena’s finger tenderly touched the young Roman’s face and turned his head around to face her.
Nero looked directly into Xena’s electrifying blue eyes. The passion of the woman warrior radiates out and it excited the soldier. "Ahhhh, sooo, you see everyone as your prey don’t you?"
"Yes, life is a game of conquer and been conquered. Win me over and I’m yours." Xena sat down facing the Roman and casually put a cherry into her month.
"Just how can I win?" Nero asked with some curiosity.
"Care to wrestle?" Xena put up her right arm on the table.
Nero almost laughed at the idea. He has never seen a woman challenging a man like that. Beside even the senior soldiers in Caesar’s army know better and challenge Nero arm wrestling. But he soon dismissed the air of playfulness when he realized it is the warrior princess that he had to answer to. "We’ll see." Nero also put up his right arm The two started.
Xena put another cherry into her month using her left hand and with a mocking smile looked at Nero who’s face is turning red. "You are quite good at it." she commanded on the Roman. Nero couldn’t utter a word and was fighting with all his strength. Xena put another cherry into her month. Then she noticed the Roman’s face was turning purple. "I haven’t seen anyone who stood against me for nearly as long." At that Nero looked up toward Xena who was not even breaking a sweat. He wanted to say something, but he was in no position to do so. Noticing the Roman was trying to communicate, Xena finished the wrestling with one quick motion. "Xena wins again. So you want to say something?" she asked with some interest.
Nero panted but quickly recovered himself, as it is a worrier’s discipline to control his breath and not to show any weakness in front of his enemy. "You, ah, you are good. It is truly amazing."
"Well, I have many skills." Xena eyed the Roman who is still very defensive. "Here, have some wine."
Nero couldn’t refuse the offer especially after a good wrestling. He toke the cup Xena handed over and gulped down the sweet liquid.
"You have been with Caesar for many winters haven’t you?"
"About ten winters ago, I joined Caesar’s army."
"What did you do to earn you your rank?"
"It started when I single handedly crashed a slave rebel in Siselly"
"Have some wind and tell me all about it." At that Xena gave the soldier a very warm smile.
Otho realized there aren’t many of those five hundred men left. Caesar’s formation was invulnerable and despise Otho and his brave soldier’s effort, Caesar’s troop was constantly advancing toward T. "Soldiers, let’s get it over with. Our blood wouldn’t shed in vain. After this strategically delay, Xena and the rest of the army will crash those Roman bastards in no time. Now attack." With that Otho started to run toward the Romans. Otho’s intense patriotism was so contagious that all his soldiers felt a warmth of courage surging up their bodies. They too followed their beloved commander to finish the last part of their lives’ journey.
It was very strange that someone like Otho would join Xena’s army of destroyers. Rumor was that Otho secretly loved Xena, but nothing has been proven. All that the soldiers knew was that Otho is the only commander in Xena’s army who actually have integrity as well as fighting skills. For that all the soldiers respected the commander. The other commanders had only cruelty. Xena herself was a complicated character. Her legendary wrath was feared by men and gods. But it seamed her wisdom and warrior’s code of honor distinct her from the normal bandits.
At the moment the soldiers were not afraid of their death. They rather wanted to follow their commander to wherever he leads.
"That was very brave of you." Xena exclaimed, and handed over yet another cup of wine.
"And so were you when you handled the rear guard position in Anticyra." Nero and Xena had exchanged their stories of coquets from the old day’s glory to the recent battle. And every minute, Nero’s respect toward Xena grow. Nero only felt this kind of respect once before and that was toward Caesar. Caesar and Xena were very alike in the sense that they both predict exactly what their opponents would react and both control the outcome of the battle. Furthermore they both know exactly what to do in case of an emergency. But there was a big difference between Xena and the Great Caesar. That was Xena’s femininity that Nero saw right in front of his eyes. The beautiful face, the smooth long dark hair, and the electrical blue eyes which reflected passion. In those eyes Nero could almost see love. ‘Could I be in love with this woman?’ It was a very interesting idea to Nero. For Roman, women were just subject to animal lust. Soldiers normally don’t love their woman. Woman are price to be conquered. The love that touches one’s soul, renders one sleepless and makes one jealous is reserved to men. Yet at the precise moment, Nero felt love and lust all together. He loved Xena’s warrior half and lusted her woman half
Xena was studying the Roman. His face was turning red, his eyes were flowing. It was time to go on to the next step. "It is late, I want to take a bath, you want to come?"
"Sure." Nero didn’t really know what to do expect to follow Xena.
The water was warm and Xena was pleased. She didn’t want Nero to get sober again. Following Xena’s order, more wine was put beside the bath tub so they can enjoy themselves. As Xena unrobed herself in the candle light and revealed her full glory, Nero’s eyes grow wide. Xena looked into Nero’s eyes, and smiled. "Well?" she asked with some interest.
"Aaah, the gods have made you well." Nero couldn’t help marveling that this sight. The fine curved body conveyed every sign of femininity; the delicate skin, although marked by battle wound at few places, was intensely white and smooth; and the overall balanced development of each muscle. Nero had seen many woman warrior. None of which can be compared with Xena. Some of them had too much muscle on the legs, others had too much fat on the stomach. But Xena’s body was exquisite. During the wrestling Nero felt Xena’s hand was coarse like a warrior’s. But now her body radiated inside candle light. "I cannot believe you are a warrior, you look so .... beautiful."
"Really? Feel it." Xena extended her left arm.
Nero touched Xena’s soft skin. It was intensely soft. Nero almost lingered too long before he pressed onto Xena’s muscle. It was hard as iron! "Strange woman! soft and hard at the same time." Nero uttered under his breath.
Xena’s eyes clouded. This command reminded her of her mentor long ago. But then she felt hands wrapped around her body and heat coming toward her neck. She smiled a half smile at herself, disentangled from the Roman officer’s embrace and stepped into the bathtub.
Nero undressed and followed Xena, his eyes cannot kept away from her.
Xena put another cup of wind into Nero’s hand and kissed him on the lips. "Now, what was the idea of Caesar’s."
chapter 11 The kidnapped Roman.
"The Great Caesar."
"Xena has been brought here."
"Good. Bring her in." Caesar was happy. His plan worked very well indeed.
Xena was in bondage and surrounded by seven Roman soldiers. Noticing the extra wounds on Xena’s face, Caesar laughed the triumphant laughter. "Ha ha ha ha. I see Thermopylae people treated you well."
"Where is Gabrielle." Xena asked dryly.
"You will see her soon enough, but first of all I’ll make sure you will not escape. Break her legs." Caesar commanded.
"You don’t want to do that Caesar." Xena gave Caesar an icy stare
"Cause I’ll get really mad."
"Ha ha ha." Caesar laughed a mocking laugh. This was the Xena he remembered. A woman who had no fear. Deep down in Caesar, he liked the Xena that he knew. The Xena who cared to serve no other, not even the gods. A Xena who was wild and free. I Xena who was without restrictions morally or otherwise. A Xena who was unstoppable. He didn’t really know why did he want to challenge Xena’s mental stage. For Caesar it was just pathetic that a person like Xena would care so much about the cheap lives of the others to a extent of risking her own life. "Carry on!" He commanded his soldier.
"Ayiyiyiyiyiy" Before Caesar realized what was happening. Xena had already gotten out of her bondage, jumped through two soldiers, landed beside Caesar and placed a dagger near Caesar’s thought. The seven soldiers who brought Xena in also quickly drew their swords. They dispatched the nearby Romans, surrounded Xena and face outward to prevent anyone from saving Caesar.
Caesar was stunned.
"Get out of the way or Caesar dies." Xena barked at the other Roman soldiers who were trying to attack the small group.
"Don’t move! Get out of their way." Brutus worried about Caesar’s life. The Romans back up at the command.
The group of nine quickly moved toward the gate of Caesar’s camp. Followed by the entire Roman army. But no one dared to attack them because they fear Caesar might get hurt.
"If you ever want to see Caesar again, exchange Gabrielle with him tomorrow morning at the west side clearing of the forest." was Xena’s parting farewell to them.
Hearing footstep toward her cell, Gabrielle was excited. She had already find a good argument against Caesar. A group of people can build temples and palaces that would be impossible for any individual to accomplish in his life time. Therefore in order for people to come together and have greater achievement, every individual life is important. Gabrielle was rather proud of herself of not taken in by Caesar’s argument. And she was eager to talk to Caesar.
But instead, Brutus stepped inside. "Prepare yourself, prisoner."
"No, to be exchanged."
"To be exchanged for whom?"
"Someone kidnapped Caesar?"
"Xena kidnapped him and she wants you to ...."
"Shut up woman!!"
"I’m sorry. hehehe. Ahm." Gabrielle could not help but to laugh. Although the situation was not that funny but Gabrielle’s laughter was rather a release of the days’ stress that was building on to her. She was worried bout Xena and what Caesar was going to do to her. She was worried about the fact that Xena might be worrying about her. Now it seamed Xena was going well and even kidnapped Caesar. And more over Gabrielle was confident that she’s going to get out of the dark dungeon soon. Therefore the minute when Brutus left the dungeon, Gabrielle laughed her tires out again.
Caesar was tied to a tree. The group of ‘Roman’ reviled their true identity. They were all Thermopylae soldiers, commander Titus included. Caesar cursed himself of been so careless. If he hadn’t been so full of confident he could have realized these were not familiar faces. Or he could have read some air of hostility amount this group of person. The pass years’ triumph over other countries had done some damage. Caesar now realized that he hadn’t been defeated ever since his last encounter with Xena. Xena was really a formidable foe.
After the camp had settled, Xena walked toward Caesar. "It’s been quite some time, and you are still so cunning." Xena looked into Caesar’s eyes with a cold stare.
"And you, still so troublesome." Caesar looked up to Xena. He could see no hate in her eyes this time. Only cold indifference.
"What have you done to Gabrielle?"
"Nothing special. I could have broken her legs but I wanted you to witness that. So she is intact right now."
Xena was relieved. At least Gabrielle is OK.
"I wonder Xena, how could you stand such an irritating brat all day?"
"If you ever call her that again, I’ll cut your tone out." Xena sneered.
"Ha ha ha, so you do still have your temper."
"I don’t see anything amusing about that, especially in your position." was Xena’s cold answer.
"I often wonder just how much have you been changed. I know the old you well. And I always thought of you as a thinking machine without emotion other than hate. It is interesting to see how much of the emotion you possess right now."
"Why are you interested in that?"
"Com’on Xena, you know why."
"To conquer your opponent, you have to know them first. So you can divide their emotion from their sensibility."
"You learned that well."
"Too well. You used my emotion once, and that caused me plenty."
"And for a long time I thought I could never do that again. There were no emotion in you for years. And those years were the best years in your life so far as I can tell. You lived true to yourself and afar from any human constraint. Your life was in your hands and you controlled the outcome of events. Greece was a play ground to your own well. That is exactly what I will do. Only I’ll control in a bigger magnitude. I’ll control the known world."
"You make me sick!"
"What is wrong with pursuing one’s destiny."
"Nothing if you don’t interfere with others’ freedom."
"Others’ freedom? Xena, in order to get your upper most freedom you are destined to destroy others. The world is too small for all the people to survive in it. Therefore only the stronger have the right to live. What is the value of people’s freedom or people’s lives when thousands lives are born and put to death each day?"
"There is no value in life if you don’t have the right attitude."
"What are you talking about?"
"Caesar, granted you have controlled the entire world, what would you feel at the moment of your death?"
"A sense of satisfactory that I have achieved what is impossible for anyone else."
"Well, you are merely satisfied of controlling this part of the world. There is a country of Chin many moon’s ride toward the rising sun. Would you like to conquer that too?"
"I have no interest in them. They are different from us."
"I know an emperor there who once ruled the entire family of Chin. And their land seams to be bigger than ours. You are not achieving what is impossible for others Caesar, you are just following other’s footstep and be lucky enough to have became a better commander of one of the stronger army."
"What is your point." Caesar was annoyed.
"That their is no end to this pursue of honor, fame and material richness. And if you do pursue them, you will not be satisfied ever. You might be a strong figure from the outside, but you are a pauper at heart. For if you fill yourself with desire then you see only a illusion."
"Where did you learn that? From the bard?"
"No, from someone who is very different from us. What I mean is it is wrong for you to conquer man, you should serve them."
"Xena. All through my life, I have heard one voice that is I shall rule the world. And I answer to that voice. I am strong and capable, and that is all I have to know. The lives of others are irrelevant. What I don’t understand is, what profit can you possibly get out of helping those stupid commoners? You have done more than enough to put your soul into Tartarus. Whatever you do, chance is still good you are going there. And if you think by doing good, those people will forgave you, then you are wrong. What ever you do, you are still going to be the one who killed their brothers or fathers or husbands. Even if you might save their lives right now, they can only think of you as a criminal who is trying to redeem your own soul rather than a hero who acts on the interest of others. After this event, when they are talking about the death of their relatives, they are going to say ‘he is killed a few winters ago by Xena the destroyer of nations.’ And they are NOT going to kindly add on ‘But she is already changed and she is a wonderful person now.’ What do you have to gain in these?"
"Nothing, and that is precisely why am I doing this. You are right, I might still go to Tartarus, but that is beside the point. The point is not what is good for me, but what is right and what is wrong."
"Then what is right?"
"Whatever ensures the existence of our kind. Caesar, I’m sure you have heard of the Titans. They were big and powerful men. But however powerful they were, they are extinct. And there is no one left to tell their tales. But who knows, there might be glory and honor, love and hate. There might be Titans who are more cunning and powerful than anyone of us. There might as well be some Titans who had controlled the entire known world. But they were gone and forgotten, and so were all their endeavors. The only thing that put meaning to our labor is our existence Caesar. And to ensure our existence, every man’s live is precious because every one of them is capable of realizing such wonderful dreams. You are wrong, Caesar, of choosing our kind as your subject of conquest. What we need to conquer is the ruthless nature and the equally cunning gods. All I wish to do for as long as I live is to serve our kind, because that is all we have. If we go extinct, then even your best conquest will be meaningless. Therefore I can be mistreated, humiliated or killed, that is not the point. The point is doing what is right, not for me, but for our kind."
Caesar was stunned again. This Xena was not the confused Xena he captured once, nor was this the fierce Xena he fought before. The Xena was once again committed to something, only this time she was committed to good. This Xena was reasonable in her choice. But Caesar knew there must be some emotion in Xena that can be used to his advantage. Gabrielle! Caesar knew it must be Gabrielle and the love she offered Xena that kept her going. "I take you learned to love over the years." Caesar asked with that mocking smile on his face.
"Yes." Xena became alert at the question because it will involve Gabrielle.
"When you have emotions Xena, you cannot make clear choices. If Zeus asks you for Gabrielle’s life in exchange of the lives of those citizens in Thermopylae, would you do it?"
Xena was silenced. Her eyes grew in anger because she realized that she really cannot make a choice here. To give up Gabrielle was to give up her soul, but to give up the citizens was against her principle.
"Hahahahah..." Caesar was happy he finally got Xena.
"SHUT UP!!! OR THERE WILL BE NOTHING FOR YOU TO CONQUER!!" With that Xena squeezed Caesar’s neck and cut the air off. But under her rage she still controlled herself. She finally released the choking Caesar and walked away.
Caesar was pleased. Now he knew that Gabrielle was definitely the key to defeat Xena.
Chapter12 (eight winters back) The battle of Thermopylae -- Yet again.
"The key of defeating Xena’s army is surprise attack. Philip, I hope you are ready." Caesar told the general his plan after they finished dispatching the small resistance they met on their way to Thermopylae.
"What if Nero did take the city successfully? Then we run a risk of killing our own people." Brutus was concerned.
"You can forget that Brutus. Xena’s attack on us was not entirely out of her uncontrollable hatred toward me. When she learned I have only one thousand soldier she thought I used all the rest of them to attack Thermopylae elsewhere, that is why she is confident to get me in the battle."
"Why do you think we can take the city tonight?"
"If I were Xena, and I got Nero, I’ll use him to lure the rest of the Roman army inside the wall and attack. As a commander of Xena’s intelligence, I know she will do just that."
"Nero will never tell her our code of communication. He is an honorable Roman." Brutus was confident.
"No, he will not under normal circumstances. But one should never underestimate the power of Xena." With that Caesar looked round, the moon was bright, the stars were shining. It was a peaceful night.
"Caesar’s army is approaching."
"Send out the signals, and ask your men to get ready."
"What about him?" Gordian looked at the sleeping form of Nero.
"Kill him before he wakes up." Xena looked at the handsome young officer for the last time. Xena liked him for his nobility, but loathed him for his stupidity. Xena then walked out of the palace. On the Phocian wall, she joined five hundreds of her soldiers who were now dressing in Roman uniforms. The rest of the soldiers were hidden in the city, commanded by Gordian and Darphus. "Now don’t get down Phocian wall, or you will be regarded as those Romans and get killed. And once the gate is closed, just shoot arrows to those Romans." Xena whispered to her soldiers. Gordian and Darphus were ordered to attack anyone who look like Roman as long as they are not on the Phocian wall.
"The Great Caesar, the signals were right." Brutus noticed the obvious. "Shall we still pursue as planed?"
"Yes, we can’t take any risk Brutus. Philip, attack as planed."
On top of the wall, Xena watched Roman army’s approach with anticipation. Her eyes were flashing and her hand griped firmly on her sword. The first group of soldiers had already entered the opened gate, and the second group followed closely, carrying carts and other heavy ammunitions. Suddenly, the Roman soldiers in the first group started to threw spears at Xena’s soldiers on the wall, and the soldiers in the second group drew out woods from their carts and blocked the gate so it cannot be closed again. Signal was sent and the rest of the Roman army was running toward the gate.
"Shoot the bastards!!" Xena cursed out loud. The fighting started. There were a few choices that Xena could take. She could signal Gordian and Darphus to come out from their hiding places and try to block the Romans from flooding inside Phocian wall. But that will mean a one on one combat. Beside, the Romans and her soldiers on the wall dressed alike, therefore would cause confusion. The alternative was to sacrifice the soldiers on the wall. Xena could escape from this confusion into Gordian and Darphus’s army and they could wait where they were until the Romans got into the city. And then they can attack from their hiding places which will give them more advantage and less confusion. All these thoughts came into Xena when she was aiming, shooting and killing the Romans.
By the time Roman soldiers were attacking Phocian wall from both sides. "Get down there and kill those Bastards inside the city!!" was Xena’s command. This meant they have to be mingled inside the Romans. This was not originally planed. The soldiers hesitated. But Xena leaded the way down the wall, therefore they followed her.
Now the Roman soldiers were confused. As long as Xena’s soldiers were on top of the wall, they can be picked out according to their geographic location. But as soon as all the soldiers got down, it was hard to tell who was the true Roman soldier and who was Xena’s man. It was in the dark, and that added onto the difficulty of recognizing each other. Every one was fighting something and they formed a cluster of body right inside the gate. That, in turn, blocked the Roman outside of the wall from getting inside. Before long, Xena fought her way out of the mass and joined Gordian and Darphus.
"My princess, what is going on?" Darphus asked with anxiety.
"Caesar has guessed of my plan."
"What should we do know?"
"Wait for them to come inside the city and then attack."
"My princess, I just learned the people of the city are going to rebel against us and to help Caesar’s army."
Xena cursed at this complication. In order to hide her soldier inside the city and attack Caesar’s army, she had already ordered all the citizens live near west side of the city -- where the Phocian wall is located -- to be removed elsewhere. Those who dare to refuse would be executed at the spot. Now she doubled the population on the east side of the city. And the dense population was favorable for people to communicate and form alliance. "Gordian, lead five hundred men to the east side of the city. Round up half of the male citizens and keep them outside the back gate for three candlemarks."
"What kind of male citizens, My princess?"
"Any kind, just leave those who is too young or too old."
"Yes, my princess."
"Those cattle and rats, if they interfere with my plan, they will pay hard." Xena snared.
By the time Caesar had already cleared the gate. The method he used was simple. He sent archers on top the Phocian wall. Then he issued commands for the rest of the Romans to form turtles -- a typical Roman formation in which iron shells were held outside a group of soldiers to avoid arrows. Xena’s army had no discipline of such formation at all, and they stood stunned when the Romans hid themselves inside their fellow soldiers shells. Then the archers just simply shoot arrows down the Phocian wall. Therefore, in very short account, the fake Romans were all eliminated. After that, Caesar commanded his soldiers to take the palace directly.
Xena’s keen hearing picked up Roman troop’s movement long before her visual confirmation. She was surprised by the speed at which Caesar pulled his troop out of the mess she made. But then again, knowing Caesar, it was expected performance. Xena felt lucky that Caesar decided to attack the palace. If he were clever enough to notice that there were only five hundred Xena’s soldiers blocking the Romans’ way, he might think otherwise. But in the dark and due to the confusion, Caesar might thought all Xena’s army was used to block his soldiers from getting inside the wall.
And so was exactly what Caesar’s thought. To Caesar the war was almost over, with the Phocian wall already taken, and Xena’s army destroyed, Caesar was eager to take hold of Thermopylae. With this city under his command, he will wait for more Roman troop to arrive and plan an attack on Athian and other southern Greek cities. With Greece under control, he can then turn to his old enemy: the King of Syracuse. Who knows, he might rule the world sooner than he thought. Yet the thought came to Caesar that everything was too easy. Philip’s words played in Caesar’s mind’s ears. Xena was clever, could she be waiting somewhere for the Romans? Suddenly it occurred to Caesar that he haven’t noticed Xena’s present for the latter part of the battle. "Hold!!!!" Caesar commanded.
"What is wrong, Caesar?" Brutus asked.
"Retreat!!" Caesar gave the order without any further explanation.
But it was too late. At the very moment arrows were flying from houses toward the unprepared Roman soldiers. After quickly formed turtle formation, the Romans found the arrows stopped. Then with a piercing cry "Ayiyiyiyiy". Xena and her army came out of their shelter and attacked.
Under the torch light Caesar could see Xena charging right toward his direction. Xena’s eyes reflected pure anger. It was as if they were burning fire. Her sword was swung with deadly precision. Although dispatching the Roman soldiers around her, Xena’s eyes never got of Caesar and she was getting closer. "Get the Tartarus out of here." Caesar was desperate. With Philip on one side and Brutus on the other and a few dozen personal guards around him, Caesar started to retreat toward the Phocian wall. The rest of the Roman soldiers were in panic. Since their commander was running, they also started to retreat.
"Follow!!" Xena led her army to chase on. With Caesar took over the Phocian wall, Xena couldn’t keep the Romans inside the city and she was not pleased. Her hope then was to chase onto Caesar and kill him at the spot.
"XENA, Xena, my princess!" A soldier was running toward her on horse back from inside of the city.
"WHAT!" Xena barked. She hated to be delayed at the juncture.
"The citizen’s rebellion has already started, and General Gordian is attacked by the local people, we need help."
"THOSE RATS!!! Darphus take your men and continue chase Caesar out of Thermopylae, and then guard the Phocian wall. Don’t let anyone get in."
"Yes, my princess."
"The rest of you, follow me." Xena leaded her army toward east. It was dawn then, and everything started to get clear. Xena could hear the angry cries of the men in battle coming from the east end of the city. She rode Argo fervently, leaving the rest of her troop behind. Xena was enraged by the turning of the event. She asked Otho to block Caesar for half a day so she could spend the first half of the night to get Caesar’s communication code from Nero. All these was planed so that she can capture Caesar and his entire army the rest of the night. But Caesar undermined the entire plane, and lead to the lose of more soldier than she expected. Furthermore, she had to spend energy on putting down the civil rebellion that the citizens put up against her. Xena decided to teach the citizens a lesson they will never forget.
Ridding toward where the noices came from, Xena steadied her sword. Turning over a street corner, Xena could see Gordian and his army were in deep trouble. The citizens had already forced them into a local square and surrounded them. Outnumbered and surprised, the soldiers were taken down one by one. Gordian was wounded, but he was still trying to hang on until Xena’s arrival.
"Ayiyiyiyiyiyiy" Xena cried in anger while rode Argo into the mob.
The citizens had already prepared for the arrival of the hated warrior. Arrows were pulled out and people were ready to prick the Destroyer of Nations out of her horse.
But before they could do anything, Xena released her chakram. Instantly the archers on the roof were drooping down like flies. Xena waved her already blood stained sword and rode Argo directly toward the mass. On her way in, Xena chopped of the head of anyone who dare to stop her or was unlucky enough to stand on her way. Her sword was fast and precise. All one could see was flashes of lights which marked the trajectory of her sword, then the warrior had rode over like a black tornado. Only her victims were left behind covered by their own blood and dead.
Xena left a trace of blood behind her when she fought her way close to Gordian. When finally got the inside of the square, without top and talk to her soldiers, Xena turned Argo around and started fighting her way out of the mob again, killing people like chopping melons. She wasn’t interested in rescuing her soldiers. All she wanted to do was to show the citizens what kind of power does the Warrior Princess possess. And in so doing, she knew she could scare the citizens into despair. Once outside of the square, she proceeded on getting in again.
The citizens started to run for their lives. They learned then, it was impossible to stop the Destroyer of Nations. For she alone could have destroyed the entire city if she set her mind of doing so.
Even before the rescuing army arrive, Gordian already found his soldiers and himself left alone in the square of Thermopylae with the dead citizens. Then Gordian saw Xena on her horse back. She and her horse were both covered in blood which was made more crimson by the risen sun. Xena rode near Gordian, looked at him without any emotion on her face and said "Com’on, let’s go."
Chapter 13 -- Prepare for battle.
"Com’on, let’s go." said a Roman officer after he untied Gabrielle’s hands and freed her of the bondage she had been in for the recent two days.
"Thank you." Gabrielle was happy to get out of the dark dungeon. She started to walk outside of the shell.
"No! Don’t go this way." The officer commanded.
"You are places in a special cell just in case Xena might come and rescue you. There are traps around. Now you step where I step and you’ll get out, or you’ll be sorry."
"Alright." Gabrielle smiled at the soldier, but she was cursing Caesar in her mind. ‘What kind of person would do such things.’ she thought to herself. It is really strange to Gabrielle that Xena and Caesar behave differently when dealing with each other. Xena became very careful and worried about Gabrielle a lot. But that was justified. Caesar, on the other hand, do things such as kidnap, murder in such a way that a normal honorable Roman wouldn’t do. And that is quite different from Caesar’s reputation of being a confident and conceded leader.
"Xena, why don’t we just kill Caesar right now? Then the Romans will not attack Thermopylae or the rest of Greece any more." Titus asked in curiosity.
"No Titus, killing Caesar cannot stop Roman army from attacking us. Antoney, Octavious, or anyone of those top Roman commanders would have the ambition to conquer the world. Beside, If Caesar is killed, then Rome councilors will have to appoint someone to revenge his death. A war will be inevitable. No, we don’t want to kill Caesar. We want to frustrate the Romans, to show them that it is impossible to take on Greece."
"Do you have a plan?" Titus asked with anticipation.
Xena didn’t speak. Her look was clouded.
"Well?" Titus prompted again.
"Yes." Xena looked at Titus in his eyes. "But it is risky."
"Xena, I want you to realize, there are lots of people’s lives in your hands. I know you regard your sidekick highly, but you have to think about the common good first." Titus felt uneasy telling Xena these, but as the commander of Thermopylae’s army, he had to.
"I know, and I didn’t spare Caesar’s life just for Gabrielle."
"Good, I trust you know what you are doing. Now let’s get Caesar ready for the exchange. Do you think the Roman are going to trick us in the exchange?"
"No, they are used to be commanded by Caesar, and without Caesar, they don’t really have the nerve to do anything special."
Gabrielle was in a good mood.
She had a good breakfast in the morning outside the dungeon, and she had no bondage on her. She was now riding on a horse, on her way to see Xena again. In such a high humor, Gabrielle started to talk to the Roman soldiers around her. "You know, I think is must be very tiresome going around the world fighting others. Don’t you guys get a break once in a wile?"
No one answered her.
"Well, come to think about it, Xena and I never had any break. Maybe we can use a vacation after this war thing is over."
"Shut up." The centanor beside Gabrielle was annoyed.
"Tell me officer, what are you going to do when you don’t have to fight anymore?"
"If I can leave that long." the centanor laughed a bitter laugh.
"Well have some confidence!! You know, my life is in danger ever since I started to be with Xena. Yet I am still confident that I’ll live to see my grand children." Gabrielle frowned at that assumption. But she wanted to keep a good mood, so she talked on. "I found out that there are much more than conquering and killing even in a warrior’s life after I started traveling with Xena."
"You’ve got to be kiting!"
"No it is true, Xena told me how not to kill in a battle and yet still protect myself."
"So that’s why you got captured isn’t it? Just shut up, woman."
"Hey, I think you are just too tensed up. Most of the times people just THINK there is a life and death situation therefore they react more violently than necessary. I wonder if you are told when you were young, that human lives are precious. So we do our best to preserve them, even in battle."
By then some marching soldiers turned and looked at the red -headed woman. The officer got very annoyed. "SHUT UP!!!"
Gabrielle smiled at him and shut up -- for a wile. "You know, I think you really needn’t react so violent at my casual conversation ....."
Therefore it was a gagged Gabrielle that Xena found on the other side of the clearing. Xena was relieved, however, that Gabrielle was otherwise intact. "Take her forward twenty paces." Xena shouted toward the other side.
"Why is that?" Brutus shouts back.
"She runs slower than Caesar. Now if you want to get your commander unharmed, do what I day."
Three soldiers accompanied Gabrielle twenty paces into the clearing. With the drum, the exchange began. Xena held her chakram in case of emergency until Gabrielle arrived. They hugged briefly than then left the forest in a hurry.
"I WANT HER DEAD!!!" was Caesar’s first and last word for that morning. He had never been so humiliated in his life.
In the afternoon, Caesar had already had a plan to kill Xena in the upcoming battle. Three hundred his best soldiers were called in.
"Your job is to keep Xena busy, don’t fight her to death, just waste her energy. And each of you carry wood shield. If she uses her chakram, trap that into the shield. I want her to be without her chakram the first time she uses it."
Following that, another twenty soldiers were called in.
"Keep your eyes on the red-head sidekick of Xena’s, she is the key of the event. She has some fighting skill, but nothing like Xena’s. Xena will do anything to save the brat. So you will try to separate the brat from Xena, far enough for Xena to get worried, but close enough so Xena can still reach her in time. Threaten the brat’s life if Xena is going too far away, let the brat fights her way out if Xena starts to get closer to her. This shall keep Xena’s mind unfocused. But under no condition shall any of you kill the brat, understand?"
Finally, ten best archers and three hundred more soldiers were called in.
"The soldiers, your job is to protect the archers so they will not get hurt under any circumstance until they killed Xena. The archers. When Xena’s chakram is taken out from her, pay attention to her sidekick. The red head small woman. When she is far enough from Xena, take aim at her, but don’t kill her just yet. Make sure Xena sees it. When Xena realize you are going to kill her friend, she will give up her life to save this brat. At the time when she flings herself before her friend, kill them both. But you will be dead if you kill the brat before Xena. It is Xena I want, not the brat."
Eventually, order was given to the rest of Caesar’s army that Gabrielle is not to be harmed, unless told otherwise. With all the planning done. Caesar returned to ponder about the battle itself. This time, he was taking Thermophlae from the sea, so he needn’t worry about the Phocian wall. The only thing was to use his army to Thermophlae’s army away from their city. Then Caesar’s battle ship can take enough men to block their way back into city and get them all. But to get their army outside the city needed some thinking, for Xena was not easy to fool. Than Caesar realized he need not do that. Originally, Caesar only wanted to attack Thermopylae with a portion of his army, and save the rest for the army so they can attack south Greece. Now, he realized he would use all his thirty thousand soldiers on the battle of Thermopylae. That will surly defeat what ever resistance Thermopylae army might have. Most important of all, that will surely kill Xena. With that Caesar was relieved. Then he put himself in Xena’s situation and thought hard. Until he was totally convinced that there is nothing Xena could do to stop him from taking Thermopylae and her own life.
Xena was very silent on their way back to Thermopylae. Gabrielle started to get concerned. "Xena, are you all right?" with that Gabrielle tenderly checked on Xena’s wound on her head.
Xena shocked her head and stopped her friend. "There is something I want to talk to you, alone. Just wait until we get to Thermopylae."
"All right." Gabrielle felt strange about the way Xena looked at her, but she hoped everything will be clear as soon as they got to the palace of Thermopylae.
After they finally arrived at Thermopylae, Xena ordered Titus to inform the elders to arrange a meeting to discuss the upcoming encounter with Caesar. Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle were placed inside the palace. It was not suitable for Xena to stay in a tavern since the citizens were still not clear of what was going on.
While Titus was busy arranging for the meeting, explaining to the citizens about the recent event and preparing his soldier for a battle, Xena was trying to figure out how to talk to Gabrielle. Xena stood near one of the palace window and looked down to the city. There was a market place not far from the palace, and Xena would see every activity in the market. The citizens were purchasing necessary goods in case of the attack.
"Xena?" Gabrielle walked in.
"Gabrielle, over here." Xena waved to the younger woman.
"What are you going to talk about?"
"Gabrielle, If I am right, Caesar is going to be very mad of me kidnapping him."
"Will I hope so." Gabrielle laughed at the fact that Caesar been captured.
"It’s not that funny. This means he will want to get Thermopylae and kill me at all cause. Which means he might use all his thirty thousand soldiers to attack this city."
"What are we going to do?" Gabrielle started to see the danger now.
"There is nothing we can do. Against Caesar’s thirty thousand well trained and well armed soldiers with only three thousand our men is suicide."
"What are you saying?"
"We cannot fight them."
"We don’t have to, if I can talk to Caesar about this ..." Gabrielle felt there might be some alternative to a blood bath.
"NO, I just got you out of Caesar’s camp, I don’t want you to get captured again."
"Xena, Caesar talked about lots of philosophy with me when I was there. He has strange ideas, and he is very logical and hard to argue with. But I think if we can shake his philosophical basis, he might think twice about attacking Thermopylae."
"No it’s not going to work. I tried it when he was captured by me."
"What did you say?" Gabrielle was interested.
"This is beside the point Gabrielle. The concern right now is how to prevent Caesar’s army from killing the three thousand Thermopylae soldiers. I have an idea but .." Xena stopped and slowly looked away into the market place.
"What?" Gabrielle was very concerned. It is not like Xena to be so restrained.
"I have a question Gabrielle." Xena finally looked into her bard’s intense green eyes.
"Are you willing to risk your life?"
Gabrielle was shocked. She can risk her life for anything good and pure, it was not that. Gabrielle felt strange because Xena never put her friend’s life in danger. Gabrielle realized unconsciously that the situation must be very bad. "I’ll do anything for you Xena, you know that." was her answer.
"No, not for me Gabrielle. It is for the three thousand soldiers who’s relatives have been killed by me years ago, and for the same soldiers who mistreated me recently." with that Xena turned again and looked down to the market place.
"Of course." Gabrielle answered. She, too, looked down to the market place. There was no soldiers down there. Customers were primary women and children. "Those women need husbands, and children need fathers. They all deserve better lives than they have right now."
"That is my sidekick." Xena smiled her half smiled at the determined Gabrielle and pulled her into a tight embrace.
"What do I have to do Xena?" Gabrielle asked softly into Xena’s ear.
"Just prepare a nice long story." Breaking the embrace, Xena looked directly into the pair of green eyes she loved.
"What’s so risky about that?" Gabrielle was confused.
"Wait till I explain. Now the main purpose of Caesar’s attack is to conquer the entire Greece. And Thermopylae holds one of the better army. Therefore what we should do is to preserve this army. I’ll ask Titus to send the soldiers across Callidromns mountain to the south."
"I thought Callidronus mountain is not passable." Gabrielle remembered what she heard from the local people.
"It is hard to get from outside Thermopylae to the inside through Calldronus mountain. But to the west of Thermopylae there is one ravine between Callidronus and Oetu which leads to south. The way we used to get here. If the three thousand soldiers were to move to south and unite with the Athanian’s army they will be much stronger. What we need is to buy them some time to escape."
"What about the citizens here?" Gabrielle found it hard to leave the citizens behind. Many a time it was the citizens who were moved first when dealing with ruthless warlords.
"Caesar is a conqueror, not a raider. He wants to destroy armis and resistance that might post threat to his authority. But he doesn’t rule or raid citizens. They will be safe. The question is how to delay Caesar long enough without the Thermopylae army."
"How would you do that then?"
"Gabrielle, have you ever seen me lost a battle?"
"Never, you always end up winning no matter what the odds is."
"And what about my wit?" Xena added with a smile.
"You can trick even the gods themselves." Gabrielle was proud of her friend but felt strange that Xena shall ask her these questions. Xena never boost herself.
"And I believe that is exactly what Caesar thinks of me. Now I can use that reputation to my advantage."
"What exactly are you talking about?" Gabrielle was even more confused.
"If you were Caesar. You lead your army to take Thermopylae. But instead of any trace of defense, you merely find Xena chatting with her best friend in front of the back gate of the city. There is no soldiers around, the back gate is open and the citizens are doing what they normally do. What would you think?"
"You mean ... What if Caesar does attack?" Gabrielle now realized what Xena is about to do.
"Will, in that case, the citizens will be all right, the soldiers might be chased, but the chance of their survival is still better than that of them fighting Caesar directly. Because if they fight Caesar, they have no chance. The only thing is it involves the migration of the soldiers which cannot be determined by Titus himself."
"But do you think the elders will approve your plan? You are asking them to give up their city to Caesar."
"That Gabrielle, I’ll need your bardly skills." Xena smiled at the younger woman warmly. It was not the first time she appreciated the bard’s gifted skill.
Gabrielle smiled back at her warrior. There is never a dull moment with Xena.
Chapter 14 -- (eight winters ago) The waiting.
Caesar gathered his soldiers and made camp outside Thermopylae. Very frustrated by the outcome of the last attack, Caesar locked himself inside his tent all day without calling for anyone. He had to make a decision now. With Xena occupied Thermopylae and the Phocian wall. It’ll take more than the amount of soldiers he had to conquer Xena. Caesar was seriously thinking about abandoning the plan of attacking Greece for some more suitable time. But then he will lose face in front of his people. It was impossible for Caesar to accept his failure. Therefore he decided to stay outside Thermopylae for the time being. And try to get some help from the Greece people. Caesar knew most Greece people would rather befriend himself than been controlled by the Destroyer of Nations.
"Urgent message from Rome, the Great Caesar." A soldier reported from outside Caesar’s tent.
"What is that?" Caesar was annoyed.
"I have to report to the great Caesar in person."
"Come in then, dame it!" Caesar was really mad.
The soldier got into the tent and hand over a metal board, which Caesar washed and decoded. The message was that the King of Syracuse was attacking Rome, and the Roman councils wanted Caesar to return immediately. Caesar realized it was a good excuse for him to give up the warfare in Greece and still emerge as a hero. But there were still two more stumble-stones. The first and most important was still Xena. If Xena knew Caesar would retreat, she will chase onto Roman army and give them heavy casualties and she might even capture Caesar himself. Therefore how to trick Xena needed consideration. The second was the fact that days were needed for Caesar to travel back to Rome. And by then the war with Syracuse King might be different. But Caesar had the confidence on Roman soldiers to sustain Syracuse army long enough for him to get back. "Go back to Rome and tell them I’ll be back as soon as possible." Caesar told the soldier "And ask them to hold onto Syracuse’s attack."
"Yes, the Great Caesar." With that the soldier left.
"What do we do now, my princess?" Gordian asked Xena in the palace.
"We wait." Xena answered without looking at Gordian.
"Wait!!" Gordian was surprised. It was not like the take-it-to-action Xena. "Wait for what?"
"For Caesar to retreat."
"How do you know they will retreat, My Princess?"
"Few days ago, I sent a message to the King of Syracuse. I asked him to attack Rome. If I’m right, Caesar will be noticed by now."
"So you knew the outcome is going to be like this?"
"I knew Caesar is tough. And I need to prepare for the worst."
"What are we going to do if they do retreat?" Darphus joined in.
"We control the gulf, they have to go over the mountain. Which requires one day. If we attack them as soon as they start, they will be blocked between us and the mountain."
"That’s great my princess." Gordian ejaculated.
"Caesar knew his danger." Was Xena’s reply.
"Well what could he do? He cannot attack the Phocian wall, nor can he go over Valerian’s defense on the mountain." Darphus shown his confidence.
"I hasn’t hit me yet" Xena replied.
"My princess, do you plan for Caesar all the time?" Gordian asked in astonishment.
"I have to. If I were to defeat him."
Chapter 15: Confronting Caesar.
Caesar led his army directly toward Thermopylae. To Caesar’s surprise, there was no resistance on his way. Caesar prepared for ambush which didn’t come. But then again, any ambush against his thirty thousand soldiers will not be effective only normal commanders would plan ambush in such circumstances. And Xena was not an embesil. The golden roof of the palace could be seen now from behind a hill. In his mind, Caesar quickly checked yet again his strategy. Then he led his army on and got closer to Thermopylae. Before long, the back gate of Thermopylae came into sight.
The gate was open.
Sitting on a rock beside the road leading to Thermopylae were no other than Xena, Gabrielle and Xena’s horse Argo. The small group looked like normal travelers who were tired of walking and were taking a break before they take the final walk into the city. The horse was peacefully eating grass. Gabrielle was sitting facing Xena, telling Xena a tale about a powerful king who once ruled a strong kingdom. Xena, like what she did many nights in camp sites, was stretching her long legs forward, leaning back lazily on the rock and enjoying her bard’s performance. They both noticed the coming of Caesar’s army, but neither pay any attention to it.
It was a sunny day.
Caesar was stunned -- again. What was Xena doing? It was impossibly strange to Caesar that anyone would just face an army alone. Ambush? What ambush can do to such a strong army as the one he was leading? Caesar led his army close enough to Xena to talk but far enough so no arrow nor chakram would be able to do any severe damage. Then Caesar stopped and looked around while trying to figure out what was going on.
"Hello Caesar," Xena suddenly stood up and shouted toward Caesar’s army. "How are you?"
"Fine. You?" Caesar shouted back.
"Good. It is a beautiful day and I’m in a good mood," Xena replied. "My friend here is an achieved bard, and she is telling me a story. If you come closer we might all enjoy it." With that Xena smiled toward Gabrielle.
Gabrielle also smiled and turned toward Caesar’s army with the liveliness that only she possessed and shouted. "Yes, it is a wonderful story. I’ll start over again if you want."
"That is not necessary right now Gabrielle," shouted Caesar "However, I will hear your story inside the Thermopylae palace."
"But I want for some entertainment right now," replied Xena. "I think you can also relax and enjoy something. If you don’t like a story, how about a song?"
"Your bard can sing too?" Caesar asked absentmindedly. He could see inside the back gate of the city. And there were some citizens walking around as if nothing was happening. Caesar was more confused.
"Well, I can sing myself." Was Xena’s answer.
"Good, I’m listening." Caesar was amused. It was rare to hear Xena sing anything but funeral songs. However, people say she’s got silver voice.
"But Caesar, there is no time for this." Brutus, confused himself, could not help to speak to Caesar.
"I know what I’m doing Brutus," Caesar answered in a low voice. "There are two possibilities right now. The first one, Xena has no army, and is trying to trick us into thinking that she has a strong back-up somewhere. If that is the case, she is risking her life here, and her mind cannot be clear. Then the song she sings will be less than perfect. There might be high pitch when it’s suppose to be low and vise versa. There might also be places where the note lasts too long or too short. Listen to those marks Brutus, that will tell you if she is faking confidence. If, however, Xena does have everything under control, she would be confident, and her song will be wonderful."
"What could she possibly have that can defeat us, Caesar?" Brutus was still confused.
"I don’t know, Brutus," Caesar answered dryly "But I know anything is possible when dealing with Xena."
All the time Xena had already began her song. She sang the song about a kingdom faraway.
There was once a powerful king. The king had lots of conquest when he was young. And during his stay in an alliance country, the king met a beautiful princess. Behind the father of the princess, the two had many moons wonderful time together. But then the king had to move on to his battles because nothing could stop him from his conquest....
Xena’s voice soared around the old battle field. The Romans were very quiet. Caesar lost himself in the song. Xena was every bit of the legend Caesar had heard. Her voice was perfect. Sometimes it was hard as the worrier’s drum and sometimes soft as lover’s tender chat. Xena’s movement accompanied her song gave it even more dramatic effect. Even Gabrielle was surprised by the skill of Xena’s. Gabrielle had heard Xena sing before, but never for such a long song. Nor did Gabrielle know where did Xena get the story itself. For it was the first time even Gabrielle had ever heard such a interesting story.
The king’s conquests were successful as always. But the king was not satisfied with it. And for many winters he went on conquering other lands and did not return to the princess. In the mean time, the princess had gave birth to a little girl. But the princess’s father eventually find out the truth and expelled the princess and her daughter. And the princess’s father became foe to the king. The princess was grief stricken and would go back to neither her father nor her hartless lover. She became a hermit.....
Caesar was more confused. From the appearance Xena had no worry at all. Her hart was at peace, and her mind was in the singing rather than in something else. But what, just as Brutus said, could Xena possibly do to defeat the thirty thousand Rome’s best soldiers? Caesar looked around, there seamed to be no ambush. Their was no sign what so ever of any danger. "I’ll just attack and kill Xena. She is desperately playing a trick in order to buy her army some time," Caesar thought to himself. "Maybe her army is running away from Thermopylae even right now." With that Caesar raised his right hand signaling his soldiers to get ready.
Eyeing Caesar’s signal, Gabrielle gave Xena a quick glance. Xena looked at Gabrielle with a half smile. But Gabrielle looked into Xena’s electrifying blue eyes and read more sorrow than amusement. "This is it then," Gabrielle thought to herself. Trying to let Xena know that she is ready, Gabrielle gave Xena a confident smile and a slight node and uttered a silent farewell. Through out the process, Xena never stopped her performance. Her hart-stirring voice enveloped the entire field.
The king had finally conquered the entire know world. But for many winters, he found no happiness. Bored of conquest and destruction, the king longed for the princess. But the princess was no where to be found. Many winters had passed. The king’s emptiness added on to his decrepitude. He realized that there are times when jadeite stop to sine, when gold cease its glistening, when all the richness of the world could not fill an empty heart.....
All the Roman’s eyes were now fixed on Caesar’s hand. As soon as it descends, the soldiers would rush on and destroy anything that’s on their way. But Caesar held still. He vaguely saw Xena and Gabrielle smiling at each other. That confused him even further. "Are they nuts?" Caesar asked himself. Then he realized the implication of Gabrielle’s present. Gabrielle! The single person in the entire world that Xena will not put into danger was present. Without Gabrielle, Caesar was almost certain this was some trick that Xena used to delay the Roman soldiers. But with Gabrielle, Caesar failed once again to doubt. Xena’s voice was ever so clear.
Suddenly one day, a woman came to the king’s palace and asked to see the king. The king was overwhelmed to see the face of his long gone lover once more. But how could it be? When the king was wane and haggard, the person in front of him was as beautiful as a goddess. The woman was the king’s daughter whom he has never seen. The King was overjoyed and treated his daughter with the greatest love that a father could give.....
As the song rapidly coming into an end, Caesar grew more anxious. If Xena really had a strong backup, then the ending of the song might signal something and it might even be a signal of an attack. Caesar knew it was too much of a risk to put his army at danger this early. He needed them to conquer the entire Greece. Caesar’s mind was rasing. The filed was silent except Xena’s voice which was still strong and steady. Suddenly, a crow flu near and cried out. The extra noise startled Caesar so much from his troubled mind, that without thinking, he yielded "RETREAT!!!!!" The Roman soldiers started to run.
As soon as the Romans started running, Thermopylae soldiers emerged from the mountain, yielded out their battle cries and chased on to the Romans. Xena stopped her song and stood on the rock to watch the Romans running away. Soon, the Romans are out of sight. Titus returned with three hundred soldiers and six captured Romans.
"Thank you Xena," Titus was more than rejoiced. "The rest of the army should be over the mountain within a few candlemarks. We will be with them soon, do you want to come?"
"No, I think my friend and I will walk from a different way, but we will meet in Athen eventually." Replied Xena.
"What do we do with them?" Asked Titus pointing to the captured Romans.
"I’ll say keep them with you until you have gotten over the mountain, and let them bring the news to Caesar." Xena answered with a grin.
"I know I asked before," Titus ejaculated finally "but how do you know Caesar will not attack?"
"I don’t." Xena answered calmly.
"But ... But your friend vowed on that." Titus began to realize how close he was to destruction. "And she will be hanged if Caesar does attack."
"If Caesar attacks I die anyway Titus." Gabrielle broke in with a sweet smile.
"Oh, the Gods!!!" was all Titus can say.
Chapter 16: Caesar’s escape (eight winters ago)
"Xena, Caesar started to retreat toward Heraclea." Darphus run into the palace and shouted.
"Gather all the army, and ask Valerian to come down here." Xena was excited.
Within minutes, all the army were gathered. With the exception of Gordian who was to lead about five hundred soldiers to hold onto Thermopylae and the Phocian wall, the remains of the soldiers were all used to the final chase. "Follow the Romans and destroy them!!" was Xena’s command. And all the soldiers rushed outside the city into the chase of the hated Romans.
The Romans were running quickly. They had already passed Hereclea and heading into the only passway between Callidronus and Oeto mountains. Their enemy would get them at anytime. And they have to have enough lead to climb over the narrow ravine. But as soon as their first region started the climbing, Xena’s army had chased onto them. The battle began.
The Romans were prepared for the attack from behind. There formation was in such a way that whoever attack will inevitably get between two of Roman regions and suffer a pincer attack from the Romans. Xena, on the other hand, only sent a small group for the job of the first attack. Once the group got into Roman’s converging trap, the Roman forces were all lured out of their formation and vulnerable for the second assault.
The battle was a fierce one. The Romans, better trained and better equipped, were fighting for their lives. They were cornered and desperate, which rendered them daring for the most dangerous act. But they were in a bad position between a mountain and an army. Xena’s army, on the other hand, had Xena with them leading the battle, which was all they need to boost up their confidence. No leader, not even Caesar, could give the enemy an effect of hopelessness. The Roman soldiers who confronted Xena all had the singular feeling of death. Xena was not only a warrior anymore, she had become a symbol of fear. The mere present of her figure and sound of her battle cry was enough to disarm the best Roman soldiers and render them hopeless.
After many candlemarks, the battle cries inside the ravine subsided. The morning of the wounded started to become more distinct. The Romans were either dead, seriously wounded or captured. Xena grew increasingly agitated, Caesar was nowhere to be find.
After the remains of Xena’s army had collected all the alive Romans in one group, Xena’s annoyance was barely controllable. She grabbed an officer who were leading the Romans for most part of the battle and shouted. "Where in the Tartarus is Caesar?"
Looking at Xena’s distorted face the officer laughed. Xena’s rage was uncontrollable, she flung the officer onto a rock and slapped his face. The officer was almost bitten unconscious by the treatment. But he soon looked up to Xena with a mocking smile that resembled so much of Caesar’s. "With some luck Caesar and his group would already gotten inside Thermopylae and maybe on a ship toward Rome." Was the officer’s simple answer.
"Caesar realized you will chase us if we just retreat like we did today. So he and the generals and some personal guards hid themselves inside Heraclea and I lead the rest of the army coming this way. After your army has passed Heraclea, Caesar will dress in your army’s uniform and go back into Thermopylae as the wounded soldiers. I believe they can get themselves inside Thermopylae and try to find a ship and sail away before anyone of your soldiers realize what was going on," Then the officer looked at the captured Roman soldiers. "These soldiers are not told of Caesar’s intention. Otherwise they will not fight as good as they did today."
"Caesar!!!" Xena let her rage flow. She punched the officer’s head, smashed it, and her fist drove through and fractured the rock behind. Then she turned her head toward the remains of the Romans who were shivering like withered leaves under bitter winter rain. Her eyes were flashing blue fire.
The captured soldiers’ faces were dead pale when they heard the enraged voice. "KILL THEM ALL!!!" was the last thing Xena said for the day. Darphus and Valerian looked at each other in absolute awe. Moments like these kept them completely loyal to the warrior princess.
Chapter 17: Away form Thermopylae.
"XENA!!!!!!!!" Roared Caesar when the captured Romans finally got the information to him. Only three hundred soldiers were chasing them at that time. To Caesar it felt like the entire Greece army were there. Now Caesar realized that Xena was more formidable then ever. "Get all the army ready, we are going east."
"But Caesar, what about Greece?" Brutus broke in.
"With Thermopylae’s soldier combined with the rest of the Athenians, we’ll have to face hard battles. I think we’ll take eastern countries first before we return to Greece. And attack them when they are less prepared." Caesar paused when Xena came again into his mind. "And I’ll have to deal with THAT woman later!!!" was Caesar’s angry sneer.
"The song you sang to Caesar," Gabrielle asked with great curiosity. "I have never heard of that story before."
"I made it up."
"YOU DID WHAT?!" Gabrielle’s eyes grow large.
"I made it up when you were having your discussion with the elders," Xena looked at her stunned companion with amusement. Gabrielle had grown smarter and it was increasing difficult for Xena to surprise her. Xena loved it when Gabrielle was absolutely stunned. "As you can tell, the music were picked here and there from existing songs. I just changed the lyrics."
"That was amazing! Do you think you can perform in taverns with me someday? We’d be prefect!. And you can even make up such wonderful stories to go with your song. You must sing for me more often Xena, I can’t get enough of that. And what other abilities do you have that I still don’t know off?"
"Well, I have many skills. But I will attribute this story totally to your inspiration. I did no more than twisting and combining some of your stories to fit the circumstance."
"So what is the ending of this story?"
"Well, the king quickly died of old age. But because he learned love and experienced the giving of such to his daughter, he confessed that the last few moons’ of time were the happiest of his life. And that was all."
"Why didn’t you make the king live longer, he was just beginning to live," Gabrielle frowned and looked up to Xena. "I’ll prefer a better ending than that."
"A happy ending looks less real. I think this ending is more believable."
"Why do you have to be so morbid all the time!!" Gabrielle was annoyed once more by the dark woman’s’ dark philosophy.
"I’m sorry Gabrielle, I’m sure you can make a better conclusion out of it."
"I sure will when I write it into my new adventure of Xena saves the Thermopylae soldiers." Replied Gabrielle with ambition.
Xena was amused. She smiled at her friend with her signature half smile. Only Gabrielle can give Xena this joy from the very depth of her heart.
"Xena?" Gabrielle asked after a long time with a heavy tone.
"Yes?" Xena was concerned.
"Have you ever thought about what would happen if Caesar does attack?" Gabrielle looked into Xena’s blue eyes with hesitation, not sure if it was the right question to ask, but unable to resist the opportunity to probe into Xena’s mind once again.
"I have never thought too much about it Gabrielle. I will, in that case, die a warrior’s death. Titus and his soldiers will be wiped out also. But I hope by the time Caesar chased onto the rest of the Thermopylae army, they will be over the ravine already, since they started marching the night before. The only question is what will happen to you after my death."
"Xena, in case of Caesar’s attack, I’ll die with you." Gabrielle said. Then she smiled again and added. "And I’ll become a part of your legend. That is the dream of every bard: to become part of the legend of their favorite hero."
"You are a legend already Gabrielle." Xena was amazed once more by the thoughts of her lovely friend. "But to go back to the point. All Caesar really wanted is me. He is not interested in you. So I figure if I die first, he will not be keen on killing you. I thought of telling you to leave the battle field as soon as the attack began, but then I thought you wouldn’t. I don’t want you to witness my death, but I don’t know what else to do. I know you well enough to know my death will have a tremendous emotional effect on you. But I’m never quiet sure what would you do then. And I always avoid thinking about it." With that Xena’s eyes were clouded again.
Gabrielle thought for a wile and answered. "I’ll grief, but then I’ll carry on your quest. I don’t think I can become as good a warrior as you are Xena, but I’ll use my influence to make this land a better place to live in." Then Gabrielle looked at Xena with an air of confidence.
Xena looked at her friend. Appreciation and love shined out of Xena’s eyes. "You have grown up Gabrielle. I have my principals and I can give up anything that is mine to stick to those principals. It is easy for me because I have never experienced too much emotion. I spend most of my life acting as a machine. With you however, to do the right thing without be swayed by emotion is much harder. And I am glad that you have chosen the right path for you," Then Xena’s eyes lowered to the ground "When I said I can give up anything for my principals, that meant my emotion and my life. But I do feel guilty to have to risk not only my love but also the one I love." Then Xena paused for a long wile to find the right words.
Gabrielle was silent. She knew word still doesn’t come easy to her friend sometimes.
"During the conversation I had with Caesar when he was captured," Xena went on. "Caesar asked me if Zeus wants to exchange your life with those of the citizens’ in Thermopylae, what would I do. I couldn’t answer him. I knew by then that he knew I cannot hurt you. He was almost right. I knew by myself I can never trick Caesar into retreating from Thermopylae, you have to be there with me. It was a question of the greater good Gabrielle, and it was also a game between good and evil. I hate to have to put you as a pawn on the board, but that was the only right thing to do."
"It’s OK Xena," Gabrielle raised Xena’s head so she could look into the warrior’s sad but beautiful blue eyes. "It’s OK. Many times in history, there were those who wanted to free slaves from their arduous labor but have to labor much more then the slaves they wanted to free; Those who thought life is priceless, but who would willingly give their own lives for the lives of others; And those who love so much that they are willing to forfeit their own love for the ones they love. Xena, you have done the right thing, and I can only respect and love you more for what you did."
"What have I done to deserve such a noble friend!" Xena exclaimed to herself. Not knowing how to express her feeling, Xena pulled Gabrielle close again for a tight embrace.
"Everything you did." was the soft answer the warrior heard.
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