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 20

The Conqueror remained seated at the throne. She scanned the numerous torches that lit the room. Then her eyes lowered to the bronze hoplites that lined the walls of the throne room. Only moments ago, she had been prepared to lay down until word arrived that a visitor was coming into Pella. Despite the late time, the Conqueror quickly donned her leathers and fine bronze armor. Her black cape cascaded over the thrown chair until it spilled over the floor. She sat too casually, not quite caring about it.

The entrance door's hinges squealed briefly and announced the arrival of Pella's guest. A few hoplites escorted the visitor followed by guards, who were not anything like the hoplites. The guards' dark eyes scanned the interior of the throne room. Behind them, their treasured jewel followed in their wake.

The Conqueror sharply sat up upon seeing the Jewel of Kemet approach her. She carefully studied the dark haired and tanned features of the well dressed woman. She admired every detail.

The Jewel of Kemet, Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator, seemed to glide across the marble mosaic floor. Her sandals barely made noise. Her white sari was tight against her lean frame and was accented by a gold sash across her waist. She adorned several gold pieces including an arm bracelet and two matching wrist bands. But it was her golden headdress of a bird that made her stand out.

Once Cleopatra was close enough, the Conqueror recognized the distinct features that still made Cleopatra a Greek native. Even though Cleopatra was the Jewel of Kemet, she bore the larger Greek nose and curly, black hair passed down to her from Ptolemy I. In a heartbeat, the Conqueror was most pleased by Cleopatra's early arrival.

Cleopatra waited until her guards parted to the right and left, still near her. She then bowed to the dark ruler on the stone throne.

"Cleopatra Thea Philopator," the Conqueror warmly greeted, "Welcome to Greece." Slowly her smile grew wider. "And welcome to Macedon."

Cleopatra straightened up and returned the smile. "It is good to be here, Conqueror." She scanned the interior of the room before she focused on the ruler. "To be in the place of my heritage. I have wished to visit Pella for many anni."

The Conqueror finally stood up and slowly descended the dais as she spoke to Cleopatra. "It is an honor to have a descendant from the Ptolemy line here in Pella." She studied Cleopatra's features more carefully and suspected she was between sixteen and perhaps eighteen, close to Gabrielle's age.

"Thank you for the invite," Cleopatra softly offered. She was quite shorter than the Conqueror. She kept her head tilted back and gazed up into brilliant blue eyes. She then received the Conqueror's arm in a brief shake.

The Conqueror was about to release arms until Cleopatra took a step closer. She stiffened when soft lips brushed against her lips, but Cleopatra moved her head to the side so quickly.

"This is how we shake arms in Kemet," Cleopatra breathed into the Conqueror's ear. She rocked back onto her sandals and took a step out of the Conqueror's space.

The Conqueror's pulse had quickened without control, and she let out a low breath. She cleared her throat before she spoke. "You must be worn from your travels." She signaled a hoplite to come to her side. "I have a room ready for you. Whatever you require, my handmaidens or hoplites will assist you."

Cleopatra gave a low chuckle and suggested, "I could use a few strong arms. I tend to travel with heavy items."

The Conqueror was hardly surprised and grinned. "Of course." She signaled several hoplites to help the Kemet guards to bring in Cleopatra's things. "We will meet for a morning meal. I tend to wake at sunrise, but I can wait longer."

Cleopatra reached up and grasped the ruler's thick bicep. "Only if you wish to wait. I too tend to wake at sunrise or shortly thereafter, but I may rest a bit longer after the sea voyage here."

The Conqueror dipped her head in understanding then she studied Cleopatra's grip on her arm. She felt a gentle squeeze before Cleopatra relinquished her hold.

"Until the morning," Cleopatra huskily murmured. She stepped around the Conqueror and spoke to her guards in familiar tongue.

The Conqueror briefly watched Cleopatra leave with a few Kemet guards and the Greek hoplite. She noted Cleopatra's ability to easily switch between Greek and a dialect tongue of Kemet. She had learned that Cleopatra mastered several languages, including Greek, Phoenician, and Latin. The Conqueror set aside her thoughts and quietly left the throne room to retire to her room.

Once in the quiet room, Xena stripped of her attire again and crawled into the cool bed. She sighed contently and started relaxing again. For a bit, she considered Cleopatra's early arrival in Pella. There was much she had to discuss with Cleopatra, especially because she needed Kemet's armada until she could build her own.

After awhile, Xena rolled onto her side and her thoughts switched to Gabrielle. She imagined her best friend resting next to her, with worn features and a sleepy smile. If Gabrielle had witnessed Cleopatra's greeting, Xena had little doubt Gabrielle would have inserted herself. Cleopatra's charm was a known fact that would make her a celebrated ruler one day. It was similar to Gabrielle's own charm that made her a strong Amazon Queen.

After a sigh, Xena wondered what Gabrielle was doing tonight, but she had an idea. Amphipolis was full of stress and doom right now. Hundreds of lives were hinged on Gabrielle's strength. There was no greater heartbreak than innocent people dying under one's hands.

Such dark thoughts made Xena roll onto her back. Borias's words from today echoed in her ears. He thought her a scared dog that hid in Pella. However, Xena refused to kneel to Rome and especially Caesar. There was a right moment to strike. Right now it was much too soon to unsheathe her sword. Amphipolis would only call to her once the city was on its knees. Until then, Xena could only watch the legion bare down on Aphipolis, but she would be ready. Xena could almost taste the Roman blood on her blade. Xena had dreamed of this day for many anni.

The Conqueror would be the one to divide and conqueror.

And the Conqueror would be celebrated as the Destroyer of Rome.

"Soon, my old friend," Xena whispered, "It will be you nailed upon the cross." She darkly smiled at the image of Julius Caesar broken and beaten upon a cross. She swore to return him the favor, and she always kept her promises.

Eventually Xena dozed off and slept restlessly through much of the night. As normal, she awoke at dawn and was greeted by her handmaidens, who were eager to help her. Xena was barely accustomed to the servants' assistance. However, she keenly noticed their extra attention with her after they were told they were freewomen. Like many former polis slaves, they continued their duties within the palace but with pay and freedom.

At such thoughts of slavery, Xena's mood dampened because she had a long way to go before she could free all slaves in Greece. She started with slaves she captured, which included ones used by former enemies and poleis. One day it would all stop so long as Greece's economy stayed afloat too.

"My liege," a handmaiden, Hagne, arrived in the room after the ruler exited the washroom. She noted the other handmaiden was quietly leaving the quarters.

Xena adjusted the gauntlet around her left wrist then looked to Hagne. "Yes?"

"Your guest has risen and soon will meet you." Hagne remained a few paces within the quarters. She waited for further instructions.

The ruler approached the handmaiden, who been King Cortese's personal slave on many levels. Days ago, she noticed the bruises and marks on Hagne's were finally gone. "Thank you."

Hagne bowed and was prepared to leave until the Conqueror's deep voice halted her.

"How do you feel these days, Hagne?"

The handmaiden turned on her heels and softly smiled at the ruler. "It is a new life, my liege." She bowed her head. "I thank the gods every day that you freed us and defeated King Cortese."

Xena was warmed by the former slave's words. She went over to the nightstand and retrieved her last weapon, an ivy dagger. "Thank you for your help, Hagne." She glanced at the young woman, who bowed to her and quietly left. Xena returned her attention to the dagger, which was in a sheath. She knelt and slipped it into her boot.

As Xena traveled through the palace, she was greeted by servants and hoplites. She returned the greeting each time. Finally she made it to the andron and discovered that Cleopatra already awaited her.

Cleopatra rose from the kline and smiled warmly at the ruler.

"Good morning," Xena greeted first. This time she was ready for Cleopatra's more intimate greeting. She coolly received the chaste kiss to her lips.

"To you as well, Conqueror." Cleopatra released the tall ruler and took a step back. Her hair was tight in a bun with gold pieces standing out in her braids. Her eyes were dark with makeup, and her lips ruby red. Like last night, she wore a white sari but a different sash.

"I hope you are hungry." Xena indicated the kline that Cleopatra was on earlier.

Cleopatra returned to the kline and noted the ruler took the other one that was perpendicular to hers. Like the ruler, she became comfortable in it.

The Conqueror's seating signaled the servants to bring out the meal and drink. She easily sparked a conversation between them. "How was your voyage here?"

"Much quicker than I anticipated but perhaps only because I had naive ideas that traversing the Mediterranean would take a lifetime." Cleopatra traded a soft laugh with the ruler. "We were fortunate not to come upon any storms."

"Yes." Xena recalled weathering many ugly storms on the seas. "When Poseidon is in a mood, he can be quite unforgiving on those that sail his waters."

Cleopatra shook her head and waited until the servant passed her view. "I wish not to experience his mood." She shifted on the kline when a servant handed her a bowl of grapes. "How does Greece fair?" She had an interest in the country's health since her family originated from Macedon.

"Every day is a step into the light," Xena replied.

"What you have done," Cleopatra started, "Has not been seen since my great descendent." She ate several grapes while she spoke to the ruler.

"Greece is weak when it is many poleis, but we will be formidable as one." Xena was confident in her ability to unite all the Greek poleis into one nation.

Cleopatra had a pleased smile, but she became serious. She shifted and placed the half eaten bowl of grapes onto the table. She retrieved the goblet of wine next, but she rested the base in her palm. "And what of Rome?" She tilted her head. "Their young consul, Gaius Julius Caesar, is carving out quite the name for himself." Cleopatra saw the ruler's hesitation and a dark veil fell over the Conqueror. "His eyes have been on Greece for many anni despite his focus has been on Hispania."

"That is only because the Republic keeps him focused on Hispania," the Conqueror agreed. She tried the fish. "Soon the Republic may send him to Kemet."

"My father is ailing," Cleopatra softly mentioned. "He could not withstand such a war."

The Conqueror considered this as she ate more fish. She nodded and argued, "It would be best for Kemet if a young, healthy ruler sat on the throne." She picked up a piece of bread, which she ripped into smaller pieces. "Kemet would be more prepared for Rome."

Cleopatra was quiet and tempted the wine, which was sweet on her tongue.

"Kemet greatly suffers," the Conqueror continued, "The ruler weak and the economy far weaker."

Cleopatra peered up from the goblet and held the ruler's blue eyes.

"That is not the heritage of a Greek ruler."

Cleopatra set the wine goblet on the table. The wine's fruity flavor still danced on her tongue. The discussion about her father, Ptolemy XII, was incredibly hard especially when the wine jarred bad memories about her father. "My father has a drinking problem," she quietly confessed to the ruler.

The Conqueror tilted her head now that Cleopatra opened up to her.

"He has always meant well," Cleopatra continued.

"A rulership is not for all," the Conqueror reminded.

Cleopatra was quiet and reclaimed the bowl of grapes. "I am coregent until my father's passing." She curiously studied the Conqueror. "I wish not to throw Kemet into civil war again. There have been enough deaths."

The Conqueror knew the recent ongoings in Kemet since Ptolemy was deposed from his throne then reinstated by Rome's support. "Yes, apparently the throne is worth ten thousand talents."

Cleopatra recalled her father paying Aulus Gabinius, a Roman commander, the gold to overthrow the rebels in Kemet and return the power to her father.

"The Ptolemy line may end soon," the Conqueror honestly spoke. "Your brother is far too young to rule. Not only will Rome laugh but so will Kemet when you rule in your brother's place." She took the wine goblet but kept her attention on Cleopatra. "Kemet will be ripe for Rome."

Cleopatra swallowed hard and lost her appetite. "Did you invite me here to insult me, Conqueror?" She sat up and set the bowl on the table. "Because my ship awaits me."

The Conqueror had a sudden smirk and sat up too. She set her goblet down.

"Do I amuse you, Conqueror?"

"Not at all." The Conqueror's features went serious, and she indicated Cleopatra's stiff posture. "You are beautiful when you are angry." She liked how her words broke Cleopatra's ire. She lowered her hand to her lap. "It suits you better than submission."

Cleopatra considered the ruler's words carefully. But, she held her tongue when the ruler spoke again.

"Now is your opportunity," the ruler stated, "And it is your best opportunity." She tilted her head. "Your father is ill. Kemet is shaken. Your brother is far too young." She narrowed her eyes and posed, "When will you and your brother wed?"

Cleopatra clenched her teeth but quietly replied, "Within an annus."

The Conqueror nodded a few times as she weighed the situations in Kemet. "You do not have much time," she murmured.

Cleopatra slotted her eyes at the ruler and argued, "A pharaoh is not a woman." She hardly expected the Conqueror's laugh.

The Conqueror stood and approached Cleopatra. "There have been other female pharaohs." She sat on Cleopatra's kline, beside her. "You are next."

Cleopatra was breathing hard as she tried fathoming such a feat. A fingertip under her chin made her peer up at the ruler.

"I can show you how," the Conqueror promised. "There is a way." She lowered her hand to her lap. "Your charm and beauty will be a great asset."

Cleopatra sat there, unsure and unmoving, as she weighed the Conqueror's words. As her mind worked through it, she took in the Conqueror's warrior attire and sword. Cleopatra was by far a lady first and only had her educated mind as a weapon. However, it was plainly obvious that the Conqueror could handle any battle of the wits, not just brawns. After a long moment, she dipped her head and smiled at the ruler.

"What is it that you had in mind, Conqueror?"

The Conqueror had a sly smile and glint in her blue eyes. She touched Cleopatra's covered knee and squeezed gently. "Call me Xena."

Cleopatra smiled in kind and continued conversing with the ruler. For awhile, she and Xena spoke about Kemet and how to take power. Only in the past annus, she had learned about Kemet's politics, but she was hardly an expert. However, Xena's intelligence and power would aid Cleopatra greatly.

After the long conversation, Cleopatra wished to retire to her room for a bit. Xena sympathized and promised to give Cleopatra a tour of Pella this afternoon. She and Cleopatra bid farewell and went their separate ways. On the way to the office, the Conqueror was quite pleased with her plans for Cleopatra. Indeed Cleopatra could be a favored ruler and also an essential ally once she gained Kemet's throne.

The Conqueror entered her office and sealed the doors. She went to the fireplace and started a small fire before she went to the desk. Just as she finished with the fire, she was disturbed by a hoplite at the door. Xena stood up and approached the hoplite that entered the room.

"My liege," the hoplite explained, "I have a message for you." He held out the tied scroll.

The Conqueror received the scroll. "Thank you." She waited until the hoplite left before she opened it. She sat at the desk and instantly recognized Gabrielle's neat handwriting. Xena rested back in the seat as she read Gabrielle's message.

Xena,

This may be my last message to you. The reports are showing that the Legion will be here any day. Perhaps by the time you receive this, they will have stepped onto our soils. We are prepared as best as possible to battle them. Queen Cyane arrived many days ago and my Amazons arrive four days ago. Amphipolis's walls are bulging from all the occupancy of a militia and two Amazon armies. However, I suspect that will not be the case once arrows fly and blades are crossed.

I must say that all your advice has assisted me greatly. But, I know only experience could prepare me for this. I pray I have the intelligence to handle what the Romans throw at me. So many lives rest on my shoulders. If I fail, I will never sleep again.

I am confident I will see you again. It is reasonable to assume your reach extends even into Amphipolis. However, if it is my body placed upon the pyres then I must leave you with my last words. Thank you for your friendship when we were children. Each memory from my childhood has carried me through the hardest anni. Your love and loyalty to me has always been unwavering, and I am blessed by you.

As an adult, I am learning who I really am after growing up as a slave. To find myself back at your side has been both wonderful and scary. What lies ahead of us is very daunting, like this upcoming war. I am finding out exactly what I am made of and whether I can hold my own next to you.

I hid from you for many anni. As kids, we never spoke about ruling Greece. Politics, armies, war, and slavery were far from our minds. One day soon, very soon, you will be the sole ruler of Greece. I knew that the day I heard you conquered Sparta. I had a choice to stay in the shadows where it was safer. Or I could show my face. I made the right choice to come forward, no matter your anger. One day you will fully forgive me because you will come to understand my fears. Only my best friend could understand me. Until that day, I will strive to improve and be worthy to stand beside you.

I promise you, Xena.

In these next moons, please be safe. As you have told me, these Roman dogs are sneaky. I pray that I see you, soon. And know that I miss you, terribly.

Love,

Gabrielle

Xena sat slumped in her chair. She stared at the scroll that now rested on her desk. She reread the message many times. Gabrielle's words weighed heavy on her. She ran her thumb across the ink and felt how the quill scratched the words into the parchment.

Slowly, Xena lifted her eyes from the scroll to the wall map off to her left. She stared at what was her domain and what Rome controlled to the west and north-west. By far, Rome was at least three times the size of Greece. However, the Senate was very focused on their battles in Hispania and southern Gaul. Those wars were buying Greece more time to grow and for Xena to plot. As her eyes traversed the map, she settled her focus on Amphipolis, which was the gateway between Macedon and Thrace. Indeed Rome would be on her doorstep if Amphipolis was captured by the legion.

After a heavy sigh, Xena stared at Gabrielle's message again. She considered the bard's words about hiding and finding forgiveness. It was true that Xena still harbored ill will about Gabrielle hiding from her. She was letting the bitterness go, but it was a process that required time and Gabrielle's own devotion. As Xena thought harder about it, she debated whether it affected her decisions now.

The Conqueror shook off her dark thoughts and put away the debate for another time. She rolled up the scroll and tucked it in a drawer. Once on her feet, she needed to clear her head so she left the office. There were plenty of things to check on within Pella. The city had much healing to do after King Cortese's greedy ways.

As the day wore on, Xena found herself quite busy with Cleopatra, who had an eager ear for Pella. Xena admired Cleopatra's interests in Pella and Macedon. It was all too obvious that Cleopatra was proud of her Greek heritage. Such pride solidified Xena's desires to make Cleopatra the Queen of Kemet.

Once the long tour completed, it was well after sunset and Xena guided them back to the palace for their last meal. She was thankful the meal went quickly tonight. Afterwards, the Conqueror performed her usual walk around the palace and to the closest barracks. It helped her digest her heavy meals of lately, plus it gave her a chance to check on her hoplites. But, she was pleased to crawl into her bed later.

Xena's sleep was quite restless at first, her mind turning over Gabrielle's message. The words on the parchment induced Xena's memories from ages ago, to a life nearly gone. Xena had lost years, muscles, and a few hands worth of height. Her smile was more frequent too. She found herself back in Potidaea's agora. Her mother, Cyrene, was handling the butcher so Xena had some time alone.

Xena was inspecting a few pieces of clothing but rarely did anything capture her attention. She noted the merchant coming down to her.

"Need any help?" The merchant eyed the teen, who obviously had some coin by the nice necklace.

"No thanks," Xena politely offered. She moved out of the stall and then sensed somebody looking at her. She honed in on the short blond girl down at the other stall. Xena recognized the younger girl as the one that followed her the last two times she had come to the agora with her mother.  Quickly, Xena moved on and hoped the girl would also go her own way.

A quick glance over her shoulder told Xena that the girl was following her. Xena blew out a breath and darted into a building. She realized it was a weapon's shop. She hoped the owner would allow her to browse even though she was so young. Xena took her time once she discovered that the shop owner was nice to her. After she looked at all the weapons, she started to the door and said goodbye to the owner.

Outside of the building, Xena scanned for the younger girl but was relieved she was gone. Xena hurried down the steps, her sandals making quite the noise. She went onto the busy street but a low cry caught her ear.

"Stop it, Siors!"

"It is just a kiss, Gabrielle," a boy taunted. "It won't kill you."

"Get off me!"

Xena had darted through the street and went to the side of the weapon's shop. She grew wide eye at seeing two boys that had the blond girl cornered against the building.

The girl, Gabrielle, shoved Siors off her but the other boy, Aeschylus, grabbed her long hair. Gabrielle yelped and kicked at him, but Aeschylus was mad and spun her around to face the building.

Siors jumped forward and pinned her with his own body. "You probably touch your sister in bed." He used both his hands and body to hold her against the building. "You are-" His lost his words when a strong force collided with him. Siors stumbled to his right and slammed into Aeschylus.

Both boys tripped over each other and collapsed to the ground. Siors was first on his feet and saw the taller, older girl coming at him. Before he could do anything, a punch landed square in his face. He cried out and went down again.

Aeschylus was up, and he looked from Siors's bloody face to the dark haired girl.

Xena barred her teeth at the boys. She had her fists at the ready. She grew up wrestling with two brothers so she knew she could handle Siors and Aeschylus. Xena charged at Aeschylus and used her whole body to tackle him.

Aeschylus hollered and tried fighting back, but a knee hit him in the gut. He groaned and took a punch to his right cheek.

Xena nearly hit him again except she saw Siors now coming at her. She was struck from her side and landed on her back with Siors overtop of her. Xena hastily rammed her knee between Siors's legs then threw the groaning boy off.

Aeschylus was barely on his feet and clutched his stomach. He wearily eyed the older girl that stood up on front of him.

"You touch her again, and I will make you hurt ten times worse than this." Xena's bright eyes blazed a fiery blue. "Got me?" she hissed.

Aeschylus vigorously nodded and helped Siors get up. He and his friend hurried off after they backed away from the girls.

Xena calmed after they left then she looked over at the blond girl, who was still frightened by what happened moments ago. "Are you alright?" She approached the girl.

However, Gabrielle shrunk away and took a few steps back.

"It's okay," Xena insisted. "I won't hurt you." She remained in the same spot. "My name is Xena." She hoped to work the girl out of her shell, which was obviously difficult. She gently tried, "What is your name?"

"G-g-gabrielle," the girl stuttered.

Xena offered a smile. "I like that name."

Gabrielle swallowed and whispered, "I like yours better."

Xena softly chuckled. She dared to take another step and was relieved Gabrielle stayed this time. "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Gabrielle softly replied. She was still quite hesitant and guarded with Xena. "You heard what they said," she whispered. She bit her lip hard then shook her head. "I do not do anything to my sister."

Xena frowned at the girl's concerns. "I know. I do not believe them." She decided it was best to try another tactic that might help her earn the girl's trust. Xena placed a hand on her stomach. "I am a bit hungry after beating them up." She now held out that same hand to Gabrielle. "You want to grab a bit of food with me?"

Gabrielle peered down at the older girl's hand then up into soft blue eyes. Earlier she missed that Xena had blue eyes and had never been this close to Xena to see them until now. Gabrielle saw the gentleness in Xena's beautiful eyes. Carefully, she reached for Xena's hand and held onto it.

Xena smiled and started back to the busy street. "You must live in town?"

"Just outside of town," Gabrielle revealed. "My father has a small farm." She stayed close to Xena because it was so busy today. "Where are you from?"

It was obvious to Xena that Gabrielle knew Xena was an outsider. Xena shifted behind the smaller girl and placed a hand on her shoulder. She guided Gabrielle through the crowd until they were on a quieter street alongside the agora. "I am from Amphipolis."

"Amphipolis," Gabrielle repeated. She knew where it was located, further to the east. She peered up at her new friend, who walked alongside her again. "I have never been there." She frowned and admitted, "I have never been outside of Potidaea."

Xena tenderly smiled at Gabrielle. "I travel some with my mother. We come here for the lamb." Potidaea was known for the finest lamb in all of Macedon.

Gabrielle was confused by this and shook her head. "Why do you travel here just for a lamb?"

Xena grinned and explained, "My mother owns a taverna." She enjoyed Gabrielle's dazzled look.

"I bet you meet lots of bards," Gabrielle gushed.

Xena tilted her head at the girl's obvious awe about bards. "They do come in on occasions." She smiled and asked, "Do you like bards?"

"Once a year I get to see one here in the local taverna," Gabrielle hastily explained. Her excitement was quite clear. "I get to go for my birthday present. My poppa takes me."

Xena was intrigued especially because she was use to bards. However, Gabrielle's lifestyle as a farmer hardly allowed for such luxury, like Xena. "They tell very good tales about heroes."

"My favorite is the one about the Trojan War," Gabrielle revealed.

Xena grinned again and was hardly surprised by Gabrielle's favorite story. She then noticed they were beside the vendors that sold food. "What do you like to eat?"

Gabrielle faltered and shook her head. "I have no coin."

Xena was barely deterred and reached for her coin purse. "That is okay." She retrieved two coins and placed them in Gabrielle's hand. "You can have some of mine." She closed Gabrielle's hand around the small coins. "I will see you in a beat." Xena refused to let Gabrielle protest about the coin so she separated and went to the food vendors.

Gabrielle stood there beside a stall. She looked in her hand at the two silver obolos. There was enough coin for two meals, in her opinion. Gabrielle lifted her head and gazed across to where Xena was talking to a vendor. She was amazed by Xena's generosity.

Soon, the two girls met up and shared their meal together. Gabrielle returned the extra obol. She enjoyed talking to Xena while they ate their food. Xena could tell the girl was opening up more as they formed a friendship. She grinned out how talkative Gabrielle could be once she was comfortable with Xena.

After they ate, Xena explained she had to go meet her mother. Gabrielle decided to join Xena and followed her across the agora. Just on the other side, Xena turned to the girl and offered her last words.

Gabrielle was curious about Xena's mother, but she held back from prying further. It was enough that Xena had saved her from the boys and treated her to a nice midday meal. She brushed back her blond bangs and asked, "Will you come to Potidaea again?" Gabrielle kind of knew about Xena's travels to the town because she had followed Xena on numerous occasions.

"We usually come once a moon." Xena canted her head and studied the girl. She could sense another question on Gabrielle's tongue.

Gabrielle bit her lower lip then gathered her courage. "Will we… meet again?" She saw Xena's hesitation at first then it was gone.

"We can meet again," Xena replied. She was uneasy by the girl's excitement, but she calmed her fears. "I know you will find me." For the past few visits, she had seen Gabrielle following her around the agora.

Gabrielle nodded. "I will," she promised. Just as she was about to say goodbye, she heard a woman's voice call for Xena. Most likely it was Xena's mother.

"I have to go." Xena took a step back.

Gabrielle followed Xena and hastily grabbed Xena's hand. She realized her one mistake and quickly corrected it before it was too late. "Thank you for stopping those boys."

Xena squeezed the smaller hand in hers. "Let me know if they bother you again." She had sworn she would beat them harder if they hurt Gabrielle again. She would hold her promise.

Gabrielle simply nodded then finally let go of Xena's hand. She heard Xena's mother call again. "Bye," she offered.

Xena flashed a smile and then hurried off at a jog. She hated to have her mother wait on her.

Gabrielle stayed in the same spot and watched the older girl hurry off. A few people passed in front of her view, but Gabrielle remained there until Xena was gone. She sadly smiled at the fact she was finally able to meet Xena. She prayed to the gods that they would meet again.

Gabrielle really liked Xena.

 

To be continued.