by Joseph Anderson

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 iteslf 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.

This story contains graphic violence and sexual situations.

Note: I wrote this story before I was aware that Cyrene was the name of Xena's mother. It really IS the name of a city.

The small woman pushed her reddish blond hair out of her eyes, squinting against the setting sun. She stood with her staff a safe distance from the warlord, who even though she had a broken arm had her hands and feet chained together and attached to four widely separated stakes driven into the ground. Two Centaur guards watched her. The other prisoners, Callisto's few surviving men, were chained together and under Amazon guard on the other side of the large military encampment.

Callisto, her blonde hair matted with blood and one side of her face horribly bruised, looked over at Gabrielle and said sweetly, "Gabby, oh Gabby, you should be my friend too since you love Xena so much. We are exactly alike, you know."

The young bard looked away. Callisto spat out venomously, "There's a part of Xena you'll never understand. Everything you hate in me--I am Xena." Then smiling widely, "but I'm not as good at it as she used to be."

Taking the bait, Gabrielle rejoined passionately, "You're wrong, Callisto! Xena could never have been like you. I know that. She may not but I do. She didn't order your village burned or your family killed. She may feel responsible but I know she was never a monster like you!"

Reeling the young woman in, Callisto giggled, then sarcastically said, "Oh, REALLY? My, my, but you're a true believer." Her whole demeanor instantly changed and she said seriously, looking Gabrielle directly in the eye, "Let me tell you something. All the people I've killed with my army don't add up to the victims of your precious Xena by her own hands. Though it wasn't for my lack of trying, I admit." Smiling seductively at Gabrielle she said in a sing-song voice, "Ask Xena about her little contest at Cyrene, why don't you?" Gabrielle jumped as Callisto suddenly leaped at her screaming, her face contorted in hatred, only to be brutally stopped by the chains wrenching her broken arm. Crying childishly, Callisto crumpled to the ground into as much of a fetal position as her bonds would allow.

Gabrielle shuddered, trying not to hate Callisto, trying to think of her as sick. Callisto was mad with hatred of Xena and would say or do anything. She walked back to the center of the encampment. Xena was busy with Ephiny and the Centaur commander discussing the border conflicts stirred up by Callisto's raiding, so the bard worked on revising a scroll. Her older work no longer satisfied her. Involuntarily she kept wondering about what Callisto had said. She knew Xena was haunted by her past but Gabrielle felt her friend was too hard on herself. However, she wondered what had happened at Cyrene. Gabrielle had no intention of playing along with what Callisto wanted, though. That evening after their meal Xena wrecked that plan.

"Gabrielle," she heard Xena say. "What did Callisto say to you that's bothering you?"

"Gods!" she thought but she mildly answered, "Nothing. She just makes me sad, you know. It's such a waste."

Xena eyed her skeptically. "She told you something else about me. Is that it? Another story like her village. Just tell me, Gabrielle."


"C'mon, Gabrielle. What did she say? I need to know. Please."

The young bard was incapable of resisting a direct request from Xena. She knew it and Xena knew it.

"All right, Xena. I said she was worse than you ever could have been--which I know is true!," the younger woman said staunchly. "And Callisto said you'd killed more people by yourself than she had with her army."

"Probably," the warrior said. "I was out there ten years and we stopped Callisto pretty quickly, considering." She considered her young friend. "There's more. What is it, Gabrielle?"

"Xena, what happened at Cyrene?" Gabrielle asked involuntarily, and immediately wished she had been able to say no to Xena this once. Though there was no obvious change in her expression, the pain in the warrior's eyes speared the younger woman.

"Not that many people know about that and it was before Callisto's time. I wonder how she heard about it," Xena said seemingly to herself. She had to steel herself to tell the story to Gabrielle, to try and exorcise her old self and so Gabrielle would know the truth about her. Maybe she'd come to her senses and leave in revulsion, finally--though that would leave the warrior shattered. It seemed to Xena now like another person but she knew it wasn't and she remembered everything.

"Commander Xena, here's two more for you," a rough voice yelled. Xena waited calmly. Her men were several hundred yards away across a field already littered with bodies. Two figures detached themselves and slowly grew in size, running toward her in a zigzag pattern. One of them stopped in one spot but started moving again as an arrow from her men fell near. Xena gauged the distance of the bobbing, weaving men running towards her with swords drawn. She smiled slightly as she began to make out their terrified faces. Often these farmers wet their pants. They were hilarious. Xena took the chakram from her belt.

She had only recently obtained this new weapon and was learning to handle it. She'd taken it from a rich merchant who collected rare weapons. Xena was so pleased she had let him go after perfunctorily making him plead for his life. There were all manner of ornate daggers, ancient spears, poison rings and swords of ingenious design, but the most fascinating prize was this "chakram." All the merchant had known was its name. He naturally had kept it in a beautiful ivory case--risking damage to it by trying to learn its use was the last thing he would do.

Now Xena adjusted for the slight westerly breeze and threw the disk-like weapon. She was pleased to see her first target's head smoothly fall from his body. The weapon continued on its path, now arcing toward the other man who cried out and dropped to his knees. It passed safely over his head and returned to Xena, who reached up and caught it deftly. It cut into her palm but she ignored that; it was less each time. She frowned at the blade and at the farmer or tradesman--whatever he was--that she had missed. He was huddled down in a ball.

Xena yelled, "Hey you. You. I'm not going to hurt you. You can't stay there. C'mere. You win. I'm going let you go since you beat me." When he raised his head a fraction to look at her, the chakram took the top of his head off. Xena could hear her men burst out in laughter and she couldn't help smiling herself at the look on the poor scum's face. She caught the chakram as it returned to her, this time a smooth catch. She was lucky she hadn't cut her fingers off when she first tried it. She'd worn a heavy leather gauntlet that was now in shreds.

Cyrene was profitable for her. A key trade route juncture, Xena had defeated the local garrison easily and beaten back forces sent by a far-off king to defeat her. The city and countryside was actually safer than it had previously been, since she had cleaned out the swarming bandits. She did not occupy the city itself though she could have. It was smarter to camp outside and collect tolls for the right to travel unharmed. She had actually defended Cyrene once; another warlord had made the mistake of trying to move in on her. Xena smiled at the memory of the fighting, the screams of the dying men. It made her wet just thinking about it.

Occasionally she liked to make examples so she would remain feared. The weapon collection she'd taken had escalated that practice. When she had gotten the chakram she sent out men with instructions to bring in targets--nobody rich, of course, who could be ransomed.

Raising her red eyes, Gabrielle looked at the clouds slowly moving across the silvery half moon. She felt dizzy. Callisto's laugh sounded somewhere off in the darkness. Xena, sitting on the ground and staring moodily into the fire, had paused in her story. The flickering flames made her features dance between soft beauty and frightening harshness, so Gabrielle couldn't tell which was real.

"Xena, it's all right," Gabrielle said. Her voice choking at first then becoming clearer. "You don't have to tell me this. You're a different person now," she compassionately said. She wanted Xena to stop because of the pain she knew telling her story caused her; but Gabrielle was also fascinated and wanted to hear more. Her eyes strayed to the chakram and then she looked quickly away. The warrior's eyes flickered, having caught the glance.

The dark woman stood and said, "I'll be right back." Gabrielle watched her walk towards the Centaur tents. In a few moments she returned with a jug and two cups. She sat down and filled one for herself, and looked questioningly at the young woman.

"Please," Gabrielle said. She sipped it tentatively and exploded in coughing, her face red and eyes watering. Xena ignored her and drank one cup down quickly and filled another.

"Thanks, Xena. Smooth," Gabrielle said. She assayed another sip and managed it this time, though it burned like nothing she could have ever imagined and the ground seemed to be moving.

Gabrielle saw that Xena's blue eyes had taken on a somewhat dulled expression though her movements were as deft as ever. There was a sensuality about her different than she had seen before: a kind of cruel, dark grace.

She realized with shock that Xena was intentionally letting herself revert for her benefit--so she would really know her. And that it was dangerous for Xena to do because part of her still loved being like that.

Finishing her second cup and filling a third, the warlord said with a smile, "Let's see. The old days in Cyrene." Then Xena's face filled with pain again as she heard herself. Gabrielle shuddered, hearing Callisto for a moment.

The warlord's tent was large. Naked, Xena lay with her hands clasped behind her head, thinking. The furnishings were lush but disorganized, as she simply took whatever caught her eye when the merchants stopped to pay her tribute. Ingots of gold, gems, crystal goblets, jade statuettes, rich furs and inlaid saddles lay haphazardly about. Only the weapon collection seemed to have a special place in the tent, taking up a full wall. A prize she had taken early on was an ornate silver and brass bathtub, from which she had just emerged. Dolon, a young eunuch she had won gambling, had dried her and was now methodically oiling her body as she thought of the future. She enjoyed the feeling of his slender skilled hands working their way up her muscular legs. She obligingly let him open them as she considered how boring Cyrene was becoming. She'd been here eight months now, and if she chose she could stay for years--probably get herself appointed governor by the king if she cared to. Dolon poured more scented oil on his hand and inserted three fingers inside her. But she was bored. It was time to move on. Time to find some excitement, some real fighting. Maybe go to sea.

"Lady Xena," Dolon murmured; Xena glanced at him and rolled over, sticking her rump up. He poured more oil. But Cyrene had been good to her, especially getting that weapon, that chakram. She had a good feeling about that. Dolon cleaned his hands and she rolled back over and let him begin oiling her abdomen and breasts. His soft face was expressionless. As much as she allowed herself to like anyone, Xena liked Dolon. Not that she'd ever spoken to him much, but she appreciated his skill. She had seen him be kind to wounded and dying men, which Xena guessed was a good trait if you were a eunuch. She remembered he had said he was also a storyteller but she had just used the 16-year-old boy as her personal servant. Whatever dreams he ever had must've ended when he was cut, after he had been taken as a slave to pay his father's debts. When she returned to real fighting she wouldn't be able to haul him around with her; maybe she could sell him for a good price. His fingers were massaging her shoulders now. Gods, he was good. Maybe she could haul him around with her.

"Commander Xena," a deep voice from outside the tent said. Xena was instantly standing and Dolon had put a rich robe over her.

"Enter," she said. Dolon had melted into the background, a tool set aside.

One of her two captains, a huge southerner named Jedic, came in. She could see the lust in his eyes as he looked at her, and she realized her robe was open. She left it that way and said, "What is it?"

Jedic said, "There's a large caravan approaching, Xena." He enjoyed the view Xena was giving him. He knew better than to think it was an invitation, though. Jedic knew how dangerous she was. She had rewarded him with sex several times; the first time after he had stopped an assassin sent to kill her. When he started losing control and got too rough, he had found himself with a knife at his throat and his hands chained to her bed. She'd laughed and climbed back on him.

Outside her tent minutes later, Jedic said, "There's something funny about it." He was standing next to a now-armored Xena surveying the approaching column.

Xena said, "How?"

"The way they move, like they're used to marching and taking orders. The quality of the horses," he answered.

"You are smart, Jedic. I'm going to have to watch you. If you're right, I'll see you later tonight," Xena said. "The king may be trying something. Position archers where they won't be obvious. There's someone I need to talk to."

Gabrielle took another sip from her cup. It didn't seem so bad anymore--or it made listening to Xena's story easier, anyway. She thought of Jedic. She couldn't look at her friend at the moment. The bard remembered how much Xena enjoyed it when she rubbed her shoulders. When Gabrielle tried to use a little oil once though, her friend had grabbed her hand and said she didn't like that and walked away quickly. Gabrielle stared at her hands.

Xena had paused again; her lips were pursed and she was aimlessly running her fingers around her chakram. The fire had burned down and Xena got up to toss some more wood on it. The bard felt afraid of her though she knew that was ridiculous. She felt the warrior looking at her and Gabrielle raised her eyes to look at her friend.

"How are you feeling, Gabrielle?" Xena said in a low voice. The warrior reached down and touched her face caressingly, and Gabrielle took her hand. The bard's eyes filled with tears. Xena quickly pulled her hand back and looked away. Then she grabbed the jug of liquor unsteadily and poured herself another cup. She sat back down heavily, further away this time.

"Oh, Xena!" Gabrielle said helplessly.

Xena spoke, slightly slurring her words now. "You know how I told Callisto I never made war on helpless old people, or women and children? I don't blame her for laughing. They just weren't good adversaries, not worth my time; there was nothing moral about it."

Gabrielle was appalled, watching Xena seem to drunkenly slide from personality to personality; going from someone more frightening than Callisto to the guilt-stricken friend she loved. And Gabrielle couldn't help her because for some reason Xena was doing this because of her. Gabrielle went over to put her arm around Xena's shoulders but froze when the face that looked up at her was seductively smiling. She backed away and sat back down. Xena continued her story.

Xena's commanders were in her tent gathered around a table Dolon had set up: her two captains Jedic and Antonius, and their four aids. She looked around at them.

"What's the situation?" Xena asked.

Jedic answered, "The caravan is the point for three regiments of Royal infantry and supporting cavalry a day away. They are probably supposed to take us by surprise when we go to face the main body of troops. Pick off our commanders. Not a bad plan, actually."

"Smart," Xena said. "You missed one thing though, Jedic. Antonius here sold us out."

The Latin officer leaped up but was immediately grabbed by rough hands all around him. Xena walked over to the shaking man.

"Antonius, how could you think I'm stupid? You've been with me a long time. Were you supposed to become governor? Could you really believe they would give that to you?" Xena's voice was cold.

Antonius knew he was dead. How depended on Xena's mood. "I had to make my move," he said quietly.

Xena nodded, then said, "Kill him, Jedic." The huge warrior stepped behind Antonius, grabbed his head and twisted it completely around with a crunching snap.

Xena looked at Antonius's two aids. They were motionless. She said, "I'm going to give you two the benefit of the doubt. Report directly to me from now on. You won't be as lucky as Antonius if you betray me. He was my friend. Now take him out and bury him." They left quickly with the body.

Xena said to Jedic's aids, "Leave us alone."

The warlord poured them each wine and handed one exquisite crystal goblet to the massive man towering over her. The southerner had thick black hair in several long braids and a long beard. He was wearing heavy, black leather and a necklace of human teeth which made Xena want to laugh.

"Don't you ever lose your head and cross me," she said smiling coldly at him. He grunted noncommittally as he sipped the wine. Xena pulled his scarred face down to hers and kissed him. Dolon glided up and began removing their clothes. Jedic grinned as the eunuch knelt to unlace his leggings. He brought a hand back to slap the boy but Xena caught it and shook her head, then kissed his palm. Dolon's slim fingers removed her breastplate, the boy expertly anticipating his mistress's moves.

With one arm, Jedic picked Xena up as if she were weightless. Xena was excited by Jedic, by his complexity and unpredictability. She had seen him kill people and spare them or even help them in identical situations. He could easily crush the life out of her in a second if she gave him the chance and Xena remained aware of her proximity to every weapon in the tent--that was part of the excitement. She always knew what she would do if he, intentionally or not, tried to kill her. Their tongues were intertwined now, and Dolon was dimming the lamps. Sex was his only weakness: Jedic lost control and sometimes even seemed crazy. Xena was glad she had that to manipulate him since he was far more intelligent than he looked; a characteristic he cultivated for his own amusement. Xena was the only one to appreciate the joke, though. The necklace of teeth scared everyone else.

Gabrielle had her head in her hands. She had nightmares about Jedic. He had almost raped her months earlier, only to be killed on top of her. She could taste his blood in her mouth, feel his hands on her. She tried reconciling that with the affection in Xena's voice and couldn't. She understood why Xena was so upset, now. Gabrielle raised her head and saw Xena looking at her.

"I had to tell you, Gabrielle," the warrior said.

The young woman said quietly, "Finish the story, please."

The ten soldiers looked with fear around the dark room they had had been herded into. Some were praying. Their company found itself surrounded before they knew anything. They were sent to help liberate Cyrene from the warlord, Xena, and somehow they had been discovered. There were two-hundred men in the false caravan. Small groups of ten had been taken every fifteen minutes or so from the horse corral where they had all been placed. Now it was their turn. They had been led at spear point to a small building and forced inside.

A door opened at the opposite end of the room from where they had entered, and several men entered with swords and roughly forced them out. The soldiers found themselves looking across a field illumined by torchlight. Torches and armed men lined both sides of it, and a woman and a huge man could be made out at the far end.

"Run toward that woman, scum." A man yelled at them. "If you make it you go free." Spears began jabbing at them. A corporal who refused was cut down right there. They started running toward the far torches.

Xena stood near Jedic, looking at the men who began coming in their direction, their forms shadowy in the torchlight.

"Where are we now?" the warlord said.

"Twenty-six to twenty-three, your favor," Jedic answered. He took a spear from a fresh rack that had been brought up. Xena and Jedic exchanged a glance, and then he began hurling spears as Xena threw her chakram. Several of the running figures were down. She caught the chakram and threw it again, as Jedic continued throwing spears.

"Damn," Xena said after a moment.

The big southerner said with a smile, "Twenty-eight to thirty, my favor." He called out loudly, "Ready the next group and clear the field." Slaves ran out with torches to remove the bodies and recover the spears.

Xena glanced around her and saw Dolon had his eyes closed and hands over his ears. "Dolon, Dolon," she called. "Go back to my tent." Looking at the boy's shaking form as he walked away, Xena felt odd but she didn't know what it could be.

"Ready?" Jedic asked.

"Ready," Xena answered.

"So what about the main army that was coming for you, Xena?" Gabrielle asked. Her voice was just above a whisper. Gabrielle had her arms wrapped around herself protectively. The fire had burned low again.

Xena answered quietly, "We abandoned Cyrene to them. It would have meant a pitched battle and it just wasn't worth it to me at that point. I wanted to leave them something to remember me, though."

"So what did you do?"

"Eventually I went to sea and handed my army over to Jedic."

"What about Dolon?" Gabrielle asked.

Xena said, "I took him to sea with me for a while but he got seasick and it never went away. I bought him a perfume shop in Carthage. As far as I know, that's where he still is."

"Xena, who won? You or Jedic?" Gabrielle asked.

"I did," she answered, "by one."

The young bard looked over at her friend. If she didn't know better she would think that Xena looked terrified. Gabrielle slowly stood up, looking at the dying fire. She walked over to the warrior and squatted down, putting her arm around her.

"I know I usually don't tell you what to do, Xena. But why don't you go to bed. You really need the sleep. We've got a lot to do tomorrow."

Xena had finished her story and was watching her friend. She tried to keep her face from showing how she felt, how frightened she was that Gabrielle would leave her now that she knew the truth. She didn't deserve to have someone like Gabrielle for a friend. Xena found herself not breathing as she watched the younger woman stand and come over to her. When she felt Gabrielle's arm around her and heard her comforting banal words with relief, Xena slowly let herself exhale.

The End