Disclaimer & Notices

Copyright: Many of these characters do not belong to me, and we know which ones do not. I, however, own the plot and other certain characters.

Violence: There is violence in this story.

Subtext: Any subtext becomes main text here.

 

Summary: The sequel to To Take What is Mine. The Conqueror continues her campaign to the Macedon Kingdom, and she already knows the odds are in her favor. Yet without warning, the Romans invade the Thrace Providence and take aim for the Conqueror's hometown. The Conqueror though bitterly holds back from saving Amphipolis. However Queen Gabrielle and Queen Cyane join together at the Siege of Amphipolis and try to stop the Romans before they overtake Thrace.

 

Feedback: redhope@redhope.net

Homepage: http://www.redhope.net

 

Started: June 6, 2008

Series 9: Destiny of Mine – Story #3

 


 

To Fight for What is Mine

by Red Hope

 

 

Chapter 18

Cameron Philip dismounted from her black mare and approached the single tree next to the cave's mouth. She tied off her horse then ducked into the pitch black cave's entrance. Without any need for light, she continued deeper into the cave and occasionally ducked at low spots. She followed her mental map until she finally came to her destination deep in the cave. Cameron approached a dead end but knelt down in the middle of the small room.

The centurion brushed away the soft dirt in front of her boot tip. She kept moving it and eventually revealed a metal ring in the ground. She worked her fingers under it, lifted it, and better gripped it. Carefully Cameron twisted the ring counter clockwise and then gently lifted up, which caused a large lid to rise from the floor. Instantly air started hissing about and moving the dirt around her boots.

Cameron opened the lid all the way then gazed into the buried chest's contents. She reached in and carefully extracted bronze armor pieces. She set each piece off to her right. Cameron then retrieved a bronze helmet that had lost its horsehair fan on the top. She placed it on top of the armor. Then she retrieved the last item in the chest, which was a beautiful dagger still in its aged sheath.

After examining the dagger, Cameron reseathed it and placed it by the armor. She then shut the lid, relocked it with the ring, and pushed the dirt back over the lid. Once satisfied it was concealed again, the centurion gathered the old armor, helmet, and dagger then started out of the cave.

The black mare whined at seeing her mistress. She lifted her head from the grass and flicked her tail a few times. She curiously watched her mistress.

Cameron set the items on the ground near her horse. She put away each item one at a time in the saddlebags including the dagger. But when she came to the gorgeous bronze breastplate, Cameron paused and lifted it up closer to her face. Despite its tarnished age, the breastplate still shined in the sunlight and proudly bore its unusual symbol over the chest and muscled stomach. Cameron toyed with the brittle leather weakly attached to the breastplate's lower half.

After studying the breastplate, Cameron faced the saddlebags again and started lashing down the breastplate to the bag. She knew it'd be enough for the candlemark ride to the nearby village. She mounted her mare and started the short journey to the local village. It would give her plenty of time to find the local blacksmith and have a few alterations taken care of.

Cameron stabled her horse once she arrived in the village. She retrieved her belongings and picked out an inn for the night. She quickly left the inn but with all the aged armor strapped together in a tarnished mass. Cameron hurried across town and finally laid eyes on the popular blacksmith in Thrace.

The blacksmith heard a customer's arrival, but he kept his back to them thanks to his delicate work. "Give me a beat."

The centurion didn't reply and instead scanned about the shop. She caught the distinct scent of fire and metal. She knew metal all too well. She moved to the worn counter top when the blacksmith came to her. She placed the bronze armor onto the counter.

The blacksmith went directly for the breastplate and yanked on the dried out leather straps. He huffed and peered up at the tall woman.

"I want it reshaped for my figure," Cameron instructed. "New leather strapping, polished, and any repairs needed." But she knew there wasn't any damage done to the strong armor.

The blacksmith dropped the breastplate with a clunk onto the counter. He pressed the flat of his palms against the counter. "Let me guess, you want it done by yesterday?"

The centurion slotted her eyes. "By tomorrow at this time," she replied.

The blacksmith folded his muscular arms. "I'm a mortal… not Hephaestus." He leaned his hip against the counter's leg.

Cameron reached to her belt. "Then I suggest you get started now." She freed a leather purse and tossed it onto the counter. "That's half," she informed then walked away.

The blacksmith parted his lips, but his words failed after he noted how the purse bulged against the seams. He picked up the purse, which was plenty heavy. He licked his dry lips and studied the bronze armor. The unique symbol on the chest called to him, and he ran his hand over the tarnished symbol.

"I haven't seen you in ages," he muttered to himself. He ran his thumb across one of the symbol's rays. He had thin lips and lifted his hooded eyes in the woman's direction, but she was gone from sight. The blacksmith twisted around and studied his current work on a sword. He huffed yet again and decided it could wait until tomorrow night.

Cameron had returned to her room. She spent time cleaning, polishing, and sharpening her kopis, which had been in storage for nearly a generation. It wasn't until the legatus legionis had explained his wishes that Cameron retrieved her favored sword from storage. For a third of a lifetime, she'd been only with a gladius since she'd joined the Roman ranks. From her highly trained eye, she concluded that her kopis was superior over her gladius. But she'd sworn some time ago that her kopis would never take a Greek's life. Now as she headed for Amphipolis, she considered whether or not she'd break that oath in the coming moons.

It would indeed be a test from the Fates.

The centurion finished with her kopis after a few meticulous candlemarks. She resheathed the favored weapon then checked over her saddlebags. Cameron then took a seat by the small table and sat stiffly in it. She rested her arms on the chair, closed her eyes, and remained motionless for several candlemarks. Only her minimal breathing was a sign of life.

Cameron's processes were solely focused on different plans and methods for the fall of Amphipolis. She plotted various courses and cataloged them each in her head. Once she arrived there, she would then gauge the most appropriate course of action. There was little that could undermine her plans.

However, the only minor concern was the rumors about another demi-god at Amphipolis. Like the legatus legionis, she too had heard about a demi-god that was forged by Hephaestus and blessed by Ares. If it were true then Cameron would have to include assassinating the other demi-god for any of her plans to be successful. Her initial priority would be to assess the possible demi-god and determine her weaknesses. However, it did not overly concern the centurion.

By early morning, Cameron seemed to awake from her statues position in the hard, wood chair near the small table. She stiffly rose, scanned the sunny room, and settled her cold brown eyes on the table. She canted her head but picked up her renewed kopis. She hooked it to her left side and started out of the room. She didn't bother with breakfast nor with lunch later. She spent much of her day in the market and merely studied the interactions of the humans. It was an old habit from her earlier days. It'd provided her with a lot of insight when it came to human behavior, customs, and culture. She'd lost contact with human culture thanks to her service in the Roman legion. She had to understand if anything had since changed within the Greek culture.

Once sunset approached, Cameron moved through the large village and went to the edge of the agora where the blacksmith was located. She noted how he spotted her from afar and was already gathering her things.

The blacksmith only greeted the centurion with a brisk nod. He held out his hand at the beautiful armor on the counter.

The centurion carefully assessed each piece and even ran her fingers through the new, red horsehair on the bronze helmet. She was extremely pleased, especially with the breastplates alterations to accommodate her feminine figure rather than a male's.

"You've done well," Cameron commended. She knew just a few candlemarks were put into polishing the tarnished metal.

"Thank you," the blacksmith replied in his deep voice. He too was pleased and happily received another heavy purse of drachmas. He helped the owner lashed all the armor together then bid her goodbye. Despite he wanted to know where and why the woman had the rare armor, he would not question her.

Cameron went directly to the inn. She changed from her common leathers and put on a bright red tunic, which she tied with a leather girdle. She retrieved her greaves, sat down, and buckled the leather around her thick calf. She found they fit well over her boots. Next she put on the shiny cuff gauntlets that sat well over her wrists and forearm. Satisfied with the results so far, Cameron picked up the modified breastplate. She eyed the new leather straps that were thicker than the old set.

With expert skill, the centurion put on the breastplate and tightened the straps until they were right. She was able to easily breathe despite the armor hugged her front and back. Cameron was still pleased with the blacksmith's work. Finally, she took her dagger and kopis and hooked them to her sides. She gathered her saddlebags and went to the stable where her mare waited for her. There was much traveling she had to do before she made it to Amphipolis.

The long ride to Amphipolis took a solid three days. The nights were cold and the days were becoming blustery. It wasn't the kind of weather soldiers prefer to fight in, but it would be more tolerable than summer heat or ice and snow. No oracle or scholar could gauge how long the battle for Amphipolis would take before one side surrendered. But favor seemed to be on the Roman's side thanks to their sheer number, drive, and weapons.

Cameron Philip arrived midday at Amphipolis when the sun had reached its highest zenith. She studied the small city that thrived alongside the Strymon River. Cameron decided on a bird's eye view and turned her horse to the left. She started a half a candlemark ride up the side of a small mountain that hid the city from any attacks coming from the east.

The centurion only went partially up the terrain until she had a good spot. She dismounted and allowed her horse a break while she worked through the trees until she was on a small ridge. Cameron stood still on the ledge, but her eyes were trained on the city nestled in the valley. In small increments, she surveyed the city and stored it in her memory for future use. She needed to know the lands as much as the people.

What captured the centurion's focus the most was the bridge to the north-west of the city. It was a heavy stone bridge, but she could already understand its vast importance to Amphipolis and Rome. It would not be easily won from the Amphipolitans. However, Cameron suspected that the city may also destroy it just to slow the legion down. She'd have to determine what the Amphipolitans planned to do with it.

Satisfied that she had a strong understanding of the lands, Cameron returned to her mount and decided on a walk back down. She carefully guided her mare down the small path to the road that went south to Amphipolis. She knew the city was bustling with life of those that wished to fight and those that would hide in their homes. It was only natural for humans to be controlled by fear.

The centurion traveled the short distance on foot so that it'd cool down her black horse. As she came closer to the city, she inhaled the distinct scents of civilization. Cameron's sharp vision caught the sight of a caravan of wagons being towed by horses and taken into the city's open gates. She counted thirty hoplites that guarded the wagons. They were the Conqueror's hoplites, who bore the distinct markings on their bronze armor, helmet, and purple tunics. Most likely they were bearing Amphipolis with supplies for the future war. Cameron filed away this information away.

At the gates were half a dozen militia hoplites, who held their dory in strong grips. They were not highly trained like the Conqueror's hoplites, but they were skilled and dedicated to their city. Immediately when one gate guard spotted the approaching woman with a horse, he called his comrades to attention.

"Who goes there?" the captain stepped ahead of his men.

The centurion softly clicked once at her horse. She took two more steps until she was close enough to the guard. "I am Cameron Philip of Pella," she calmly stated.

The captain slotted his eyes behind his helmet. He looked the unusual woman from head to toe then settled on her stoic features. "What business do you have here?"

"I have come to join the battle," Cameron replied.

The captain was uneasy and questioned, "Are you expected?"

"I am not." The centurion wrapped the horse's reins in her right hand after the mare stomped once. "I wish to speak to your eirenarchos." She canted her head.

The captain bit the inside of his mouth and decided on his options. He surely knew that Amphipolis could use all hands and swords in the battle. He'd been instructed to allow other outsiders to join them but Commander Nikostratos did wish to meet each outsider first.

After a long pause, the captain turned on his heels and ordered, "Jason, take her to the eirenarchos."

"Yes, sir." The hoplite, Jason, broke from the right door and waited in the mouth of the gates for the stranger.

The captain allowed Cameron Philip to pass him, but he again looked over her beautiful bronze armor. He recognized the aged symbol on the woman's breastplate. He could not argue that she was most likely from Pella.

"This way," Jason ordered the newcomer. He accompanied the female hoplite into the beautiful city.

Cameron scanned about her new surroundings as she went deeper into the city. She was appreciative that they were following not far behind the supply wagons that'd come from the Conqueror. It gave her some chance to determine what the Conqueror had sent to the city. Despite the Conqueror's lack of presence, it did not surprise Cameron that somehow the Conqueror would try to influence the outcome.

Jason looked over his shoulder at the female hoplite. He cleared his throat and asked, "It was a long ride from Pella?"

Cameron's honey brown eyes flickered over to the young man. "Not too long." She didn't add anymore.

Jason nodded then gazed ahead just as they came to the agora's open center. He felt some relief at seeing the supply wagons that the Conqueror had gifted them with. He licked his dry lips then mentioned, "The eirenarchos will be here." He shifted through the small crowd that'd formed around the wagons. He visually spotted the eirenarchos with Queen Gabrielle, Commander Kaylee, Councilor Delos, and the nauarchos. "Wait here," he ordered the outsider.

Cameron Philip halted as requested, but her eyes followed the hoplite. She watched the hoplite weave through the crowd until he joined the group of officers.

"The Conqueror has been generous," the eirenarchos commented. He had his arms folded and studied the open scroll in Queen Gabrielle's hands.

Commander Kaylee shook her head and glanced back at all the wagons then to the list again. "There is no listing for what's in the last wagon."

The Amazon Queen furrowed her eyebrows after she realized that Kaylee was correct. "That is… strange."

"And highly unlike the Conqueror," the stratègos piped up. She shook her head and looked from the list to the befuddled queen. "What do you make of it?"

"Perhaps it's a mistake," the nauarchos, Xander, suggested. He had his thick arms folded and his dark stare on the last wagon. All he could make out were boards and wood pegs under the canvas cover.

"No," Gabrielle whispered. She lowered the list and began rolling it up. "The Conqueror doesn't make mistakes." But her attention was drawn away when a city hoplite spoke to the eirenarchos about a volunteer newcomer.

"Yes, sir," Jason replied. "She says she's from Pella."

Queen Gabrielle was instantly charged by the information about a female hoplite from Pella. She seriously wondered if the Conqueror had sent the hoplite. She quickly scanned the crowd, and it only took her a few beats to pinpoint the stranger.

"Excuse me." Gabrielle shifted closer to Commander Nikostratos and cut into the conversation. "What did you say the woman's name was?" She looked at the city hoplite.

Jason turned to the Amazon Queen and briefly dipped his head in respect. He greatly appreciated Queen Gabrielle's assistance against the Roman legion. "Her name is Cameron Philip, Queen Gabrielle."

The bard's lips slightly thinned, and a crease formed in her brow. She didn't know the name, at all. "You say she's from Pella?"

"Yes." The hoplite glanced between his superior and Queen Gabrielle. "She is most likely speaking the truth." Jason thought perhaps the Amazon Queen did not believe him.

"Why do you say that?" Nikostratos inquired.

Jason shifted on his feet but focused back on his commander. "She bears the Star of Vergina on her breastplate."

The bard slightly narrowed her eyes. She knew the symbol all too well after being in Pella. It was an ancient symbol that represented Macedonia's great kings and warriors including Alexander the Great. In casual discussions about the future, Xena told Gabrielle she had made plans to rekindle the golden sunburst as a symbol of Greece's rich history and strength. Gabrielle summarized the Star of Vergina would become Greece's emblem once the Conqueror had all of the beautiful country under her rule.

"I would like to meet her," Gabrielle declared to the hoplite.

Nikostratos gave a firm nod.

"I'd like to join you, my queen." Commander Kaylee followed the small group through the crowd. Her eyes honed in on the newcomer to the pending war. She and Queen Gabrielle broke through the crowd and took in the bronze-clad warrior. Kaylee had only seen such beautiful armor on the Conqueror's hoplites.

Gabrielle's pace briefly slowed until she widened her gait and returned to Kaylee's side. She was astounded by the newcomer from Pella. All the shining bronze made Gabrielle think of the gods.

Jason stepped aside once he brought the leaders to the newcomer. "Sir, this is Cameron Philip."

The eirenarchos, Nikostratos, approached the bronze hoplite and visually assessed her. "I am Nikostratos, the eirenarchos of Amphipolis." He held out his arm, which was accepted after the stranger traded the reins into her left hand.

"I am Cameron Philip of Pella," Cameron formally introduced while she shook his arm.

Nikostratos released arms then indicated the Amazon Queen at his left. "This is Queen Gabrielle of the Macedonia Amazon Nation."

Queen Gabrielle was clearly intrigued and stepped forward with her arm coming out in offer. "Welcome to Amphipolis," she politely stated after linking arms. She instantly wished to know more about Cameron Philip.

"Your name is beginning to travel, Queen Gabrielle," Cameron revealed.

The Amazon Queen arched an eyebrow in curiosity. "I hope it is in good taste."

Cameron didn't comment and instead shifted her attention to the redhead, who was obviously also an Amazon.

Nikostratos indicated Kaylee and introduced, "And this is Queen Gabrielle's stratègos, Commander Kaylee."

Cameron received the stratègos's arm in a strong shake. She reversed a step, next to her horse and took in the three leaders.

"What brings you here from Pella?" Nikostratos inquired.

"I hear that Amphipolis is in need of a sword." Cameron placed her right hand on her kopis's hilt. "I wish to provide my services in the war against Rome."

"Word would be right," Nikostratos granted. "There have been other outsiders coming to Amphipolis to help us."

"Many from Macedon?" Cameron questioned.

"Yes, there have been over thirty now from Macedon," Nikostratos answered. He watched Cameron nod then he remarked, "But none have been as well equipped as yourself." Indeed many were peasants, who arrived with crude leathers, aged blades, and tattered sheathes. All arrived in their worn sandals and surely not by horseback. However, Amphipolis needed any support that was being offered to the city.

Cameron slightly canted her head and informed, "My bronze has been passed to me from my father and refashioned for me." A thin cloud of darkness entered her eyes. "But if it is too glaring then I will not blind you or your militia with my presence."

Queen Gabrielle hastily stepped into the conversation before it took a wrong turn. "The eirenarchos was not insulting you." She caught Nikostratos agreeing nod. "We just have not had any hoplites arrive so well prepared for battle. We are grateful to have any help let alone such preparedness." She sensed Cameron's defenses lower, and Gabrielle inwardly sighed.

"Queen Gabrielle is right," Nikostratos insisted. "We appreciate your offer and support." He signaled Jason to rejoin the group. "Jason will escort you to the barrack's stable then give you quarters."

Cameron moved her head in agreement, but she hesitated once the Amazon Queen spoke up.

"Actually," Gabrielle cut in. She softly touched Nikostratos's arm above his gauntlet. "Perhaps Cameron would be more comfortable with my Amazons."

The eirenarchos frowned until he realized Gabrielle's thinking of locating the female hoplite with Amazons, who were females. He bashfully smiled at Cameron Philip. "I believe Queen Gabrielle may have a better offer than mine."

Gabrielle nodded once at Nikostratos but looked at Cameron Philip. "Of course it is your choice." She read the careful consideration on Cameron's face.

Cameron focused her attention on the Amazon Queen. "I accept your hospitality, Queen Gabrielle."

Gabrielle softly smiled. "Excellent." She looked at her stratègos. "I'll see to getting Cameron settled in if you can care for the new supplies."

Kaylee's grey eyes were slightly stormy with concern, but she didn't voice it. "Very well, my queen." She tilted her head and asked, "And what of the last wagon?"

Gabrielle knew exactly which wagon Kaylee was referring to so she considered their options. She tapped her staff once in the dirt then ordered, "We keep it... just store it somewhere safe."

"As you wish," Kaylee agreed.

 "I will assist you," Nikostratos offered. He could tell the stratègos appreciated it.

Queen Gabrielle touched Kaylee's arm before she left and quietly promised, "I'll catch up with you in a candlemark."

Kaylee nodded then slipped away with the eirenarchos.

Jason shifted on his sandals and inquired, "Do you need..." He faltered but curiously studied the Amazon Queen.

Gabrielle shook her head and replied, "You can return to your post." She gave him a smile. "Thank you, Jason."

The hoplite returned the smile then marched off.

Cameron Philip signaled her horse with a gentle tug of the reins. She fell into step alongside the Amazon Queen.

"You're from Pella," Gabrielle brought up. "Have you met the Conqueror then?"

Cameron remained passive and coolly answered, "Only from a distance."

The queen considered this but mentioned, "We didn't expect any outside help, but other hoplites, like yourself, have come to us." She sadly smiled at the hoplite. "We can use every hand possible."

Cameron found it intriguing that other humans were coming to Amphipolis. Any right minded human knew that the pending war meant suicide. She didn't quite understand how humans could be so foolish to join the war, on the losing side.

Gabrielle allowed the silence to pass, yet she could sense Cameron was thinking over something. She didn't have to wait too long.

"Have you met the Conqueror?"

Queen Gabrielle shifted her grip on the staff as she continued through the small city. "I have."  She decided not to put it into finer detail. She hardly knew Cameron.

Cameron briefly studied the human, who was obviously holding something back. She didn't pry because she already knew Queen Gabrielle's relationship with the Conqueror. She instead turned her eyes away and studied the city. Later she planned to map out the city for the legatus legionis.

Gabrielle was fairly use to quiet individuals between Xena and especially Seven of Nine. However, the passing silence between herself and Cameron was somewhat eerie to her. She noticed how Cameron was keenly taking in her surroundings. Gabrielle bit her bottom lip after a knot twisted in her belly.

"So what is it that you do in Pella?" the Amazon Queen prompted. She watched how Cameron's scanning features sharply shifted to her. Gabrielle's eerie sensation doubled at how Cameron gave a smile that was forced and hollow.

"My brother and I are mere farmers," Cameron answered. She kept her smile in place like a command. "We also raise and sell horses."

Gabrielle clutched her staff harder after Cameron's smile vanished like a ghost. "You must be close to your brother then."

Cameron glanced at her horse and quietly replied, "Very much so."

Gabrielle curiously glanced at the black horse and realized just how large she was for a mare. "Does she have a name?"

Cameron focused on the Amazon Queen. "Bucephalus."

Gabrielle parted her lips some after the name triggered her history. She hesitated from asking and first spotted the white triangle on the mare's brow. Gabrielle shook her thoughts away and asked, "As in Alexander the Great's horse?"

"It is the same name," Cameron agreed.

Gabrielle scratched her nose briefly then remarked, "Alexander's Bucephalus is described similar to yours."

"Yes, similar," Cameron softly echoed.

"He was a great ruler." Gabrielle was quite fascinated by Alexander the Great.

Cameron didn't comment and instead switched topics. "Where shall I stable my horse?"

Queen Gabrielle indicated  with her staff a stable straight ahead that rested in front of Cyrene's taverna. "Right there." She returned her staff to a walking stick. "We have been erecting semi-permanent huts for the Amazons. There are two Amazons to every hut."

Cameron thoroughly understood, but she didn't care either. She decided being with the Amazons was her best option and kept her close to Queen Gabrielle.

"It'll be tight quarters, but you'll probably be more comfortable here than at the barracks." Gabrielle slowed in front of the stable. "There's a stall or two left if you'd like to stable her." She shifted aside. "I'll wait here for you."

Cameron nodded and entered the stable that was nearly full. She found a clean stall and took Bucephalus into it. In short order, Cameron had her horse untacked and the saddlebags in her right arm. She left the stall and discovered the Amazon Queen still there.

"This way," the bard softly instructed Cameron. She guided the hoplite down a dirt road that would take them to the farm that was turning into a miniature Amazon Nation. Gabrielle had been extremely grateful that the farmer consented to donate his land to the Amazons until after the war.

"There are many huts already," Cameron noted aloud. She counted at least fifty.

Gabrielle gave a small grin. "It has to accommodate two Amazon Nations."

Cameron pretended to be somewhat impressed despite she'd already been informed by the legion's spies that the Thrace Amazon Nation was on the move. Cameron was more aware of the Thrace Amazon Nation's location than Queen Gabrielle. "What other nation is joining?"

Gabrielle didn't see any harm in telling since Queen Cyane would be here within days. "The Thrace Amazon Nation has sent their army to protect Amphipolis."

"It is understandable why," Cameron granted.

Queen Gabrielle was about to add more, but she faltered after her name was being called by Seven of Nine. She and Cameron waited on the dirt road for Seven to came to them. "Hello, Seven," she greeted now that the automaton was in earshot.

Seven of Nine joined the pair and carefully studied the female hoplite with Gabrielle. Her eyes flickered to the queen. "Commander Kaylee mentioned you had gone this way."

Gabrielle suspiciously eyed the Amazon. "Anything the matter?"

"Nothing that we can't discuss in private, my queen." Seven placed her hands behind her back in her traditional stance. But her attention shifted to the hoplite, who was clearly assessing Seven.

Gabrielle felt a thick air develop between Seven and Cameron, and she wasn't sure what caused it. She held out her hand at Cameron. "This is Cameron Philip of Pella, Seven."

Cameron extended her right arm. Once they locked arms, she immediately collected more information about the taller, bulkier woman. "And you are?"

Gabrielle was cut off from introductions by Seven.

"My designation is Seven of Nine," the automaton answered. She held Cameron Philip's eyes and assessed the lack of light in them. "I am from Cirra, but am an Amazon now."

Cameron released arms and stated, "Thank you for explaining." She already counted at least five metal disfigurements on the Amazon's face, neck, arm, and hand. She was assured that the rumors about another demi-god were becoming fact.

The Amazon Queen cleared her throat and looked at Seven. "I was showing Cameron to her hut since she's come to join the battle against the legion."

"I will accompany you," Seven declared. She fell into step with the pair.

Gabrielle decided to fill in the gap of silence and mentioned, "You'll be staying with Eponin. She is the weapons master from my Nation." She tilted her head and peered up at the hoplite's profile. "However, my Nation hasn't arrived yet so you'll have the quarters to yourself until they arrive."

Cameron adjusted the saddlebags in her right arm. "When do you expect them?"

"Any day now," Gabrielle answered. However, she estimated them to show up in five days. She hoped there'd be several more huts built until her Nation arrived and could pour out the rest of the huts in a few days.

"Do you know where the legion is located?" the hoplite asked.

Queen Gabrielle considered her answer and softly replied, "Further away than the armies coming to help." She was leery to reveal much more since she didn't know Cameron. She gave a smile to Cameron and assured, "We have plenty of time to prepare."

"Preparedness is utmost important," Cameron conceded.

Gabrielle slowed in front of the small hut. "This'll be your hut." She pointed to the neighboring ones and mentioned, "Those are occupied already by Amazons. They will be happy to assist you with anything." She opened the front door. "I suggest you get some rest before dinner. I know you've traveled far."

Cameron dipped her head and offered an empty smile. "I appreciate your hospitality, Queen Gabrielle."

Gabrielle nodded and stepped aside so Cameron could go into the hut. She peered up at Seven of Nine and gave an inquisitive look.

Seven of Nine watched the door shut then she raised her metallic eyebrow at Gabrielle.

The queen nodded off to the right and started down the dirt road with her friend. "Kaylee sent you?" she softly checked.

Seven was unsure why Gabrielle was being quiet, but she kept her own voice low. "Yes."

Gabrielle pursed her lips then looked up at Seven. "She is concerned about the hoplite."

Seven of Nine peered over her shoulder back at the hut. She returned her attention to the queen. "Commander Kaylee asked that I assess her."

"And what do you think of her?" Gabrielle had a faint grin as she waited for Seven's response.

Seven developed a slight frown. "I am unsure, currently."

Queen Gabrielle brushed her hair from her face then mentioned, "She does act... odd."

"And so do I to many humans," Seven reminded.

Gabrielle softly snorted then amusingly studied her friend. "To anybody that doesn't know you."

The Amazon nodded and reminded, "And we do not know her."

Gabrielle went serious again and silently agreed with Seven's words. "Alright." She walked slightly closer to the automaton. "Then you can keep an eye on her." She had to admit letting strangers enter the city and join the battle against the Romans was risky business. She hoped it didn't come to haunt them later despite they needed every and able sword for the battle.

"Agreed," Seven conceded. She felt satisfied now that she had the queen's approval too, not just Kaylee's. A stolen glance at the newcomer's hut made Seven slot her eyes. She had every intent to figure out what made this Cameron Philip work. Something told Seven that whatever made Cameron Philip wasn't that far off from Seven's own background. However, that was just a feeling, and Seven liked facts.

"I have to get back to Kaylee," Gabrielle mentioned.

Seven remained beside the queen. "I will accompany you."

"I'm fine, Seven," the bard insisted.

Seven canted her head, slightly. "It was not an offer." She continued alongside the queen. "How were the supplies from the Conqueror?"

Gabrielle decided not to fuss further with Seven. "Generous." Yet a thin furrow across her brow gave her away to Seven. She sighed when the automaton questioned her further. "There was an extra wagon with..." She pierced her lips. "Items that we cannot discern what they're meant for."

Seven found it rather interesting. "Did the Conqueror not disclose the items?"

"No." The queen peered up at the automaton.

"That is... highly unusual." Seven was just as intrigued and as baffled as the queen.

Queen Gabrielle ran her fingers through her hair. "I won't refuse the extra cart... just store it." She met Seven's gaze. "I thought perhaps this Cameron Philip was sent by Xena."

"That is not the case," Seven deduced.

Gabrielle nibbled on her bottom lip. "Doubtful." She paused beside the taverna where Kaylee was probably waiting for her. She noted Seven was about to leave her side. "Do you wish to join us?"

Seven considered the taverna's closed door then shifted her attention to Gabrielle. "It is not my place." She started away from the queen, who was also her friend.

Gabrielle went up a step yet paused and whispered, "That can be changed, my friend." She suspected Seven of Nine heard her because Seven had stopped walking, briefly. Gabrielle was smug as she climbed the steps to the front door. Indeed, she had plans to promote Seven through the ranks, with Kaylee's blessing. Future ideas of an internal security division in the army danced around in Gabrielle's mind. But once in the taverna, Gabrielle set aside her distant plans because Amphipolis needed her right now, and she would devote all she had to Amphipolis, her home.

 

To be continued.