|DISCLAIMER: Characters which have
appeared in the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess or Hercules:
The Legendary Journeys are the sole property of MCA/Universal
and Renaissance Pictures. Their use in this story does not
represent the intent to make a profit or otherwise infringe on
the existing copyright. All other characters are the clever
invention of the author. Copyright for this fanfiction held by
Eva Allen, July 1998
BE ADVISED: This story includes the depiction of sex between two
consenting adult women. If this offends you, please find
something else to read! Special thanks to Mary for taking time
to read, advise, and encourage. And thanks to Jeanne for
answering my many questions about giving birth and nursing.
and unadulterated praise are always welcome! Write to me at email@example.com.
The Birth of Solan
All day the dull, cramplike sensations had come and gone, moving
through her body like a long, tired funeral procession. But later, in
the darkness of the night, when the pains began in earnest, she started
to hope that her time was near at last. Even so, she did not move, but
lay there on her side in the darkness, waiting for what was to come. She
lay unmoving, staring at the thin cloth walls of the tent, wondering how
they managed to support such a heavy weight of moonlight and shadows.
She had not really been asleep when the pains began, had not slept
well for weeks now, with the child kicking and shifting inside her each
time her own body was still. So she had lain there, night after night,
on the low, fur-covered bed where she had once lain with Borias, and
sometimes she still reached out without thinking, reached out for his
warm, sinewy body, and found only cold, empty air.
She lay there now, alone in the darkness. She lay in the place where
she and Borias had lusted and panted for each other, moaning and
sweating, bruising and cursing each other in the power struggle they
called sex. On this bed where she now lay, the child had been conceived,
the child they had neither dreamed of nor wanted, the child who had no
place in the lives of two warlords driven only by the desire for wealth
For a time, there was no more pain, and then it came again, pushing
its way sharply through her body before fading away. There was no need
to go yet, no need to move, even, no need to do anything but wait.
Outside the tent, men's voices and footsteps sifted through the night.
It was the changing of the guard, which meant it must be nearly
She had kept her secret well, had guarded it as zealously as the
centaurs guarded the secret location of the Ixion stone. Thank the gods
it was winter and she could wear a heavy cloak to hide her swollen
belly. Even on the warmest days she wore it, keeping it draped carefully
about her so that it hid the grotesquely misshapen figure that was now
hers. The cloak had been her salvation, the cloak and some old tunics
that had belonged to Borias. She had worn his trousers, too, with darts
cut in them and a drawstring loosely run through and tied above the
swelling -- the swelling that grew within her day by day, threatening to
reveal her weakness and give her army reason to question her command.
She could not lose control, could not show herself to be weak in any
way. She was the Warrior Princess, Destroyer of Nations, delighting in
the terror she saw in her victims' eyes.
She had not even told Borias that she was pregnant, had been afraid
to let him gain the upper hand. Yet he had gained it anyway, betraying
her to the enemy, going to the centaur camp and revealing all her plans
to Kaleipus. That filthy bastard Borias, that scum, that low-down dirty
dog! He had once wanted the power of the Ixion stone as much as she did,
but he had turned on her, and in some fit of cowardly nobility had
betrayed her quest.
Another pain moved through her and she eased herself over onto her
back in a futile effort to relieve her discomfort. When the pain had
passed, she pushed herself up to a sitting position, hating the
awkwardness with which she was forced to move, hating the pain she knew
had barely begun, hating the child within her and the man who had
fathered that child, the man who had betrayed her. And this hadn't been
the first time. He had betrayed her once before, in the land of Chin,
had betrayed her to Ming Tzu, who had had her hunted like an animal by
his dogs. Borias had never loved her, had never cared about her except
insofar as she was useful to his purposes. Nor had she loved him. Their
relationship had been nothing but a battlefield, a place where each one
tried to outsmart and use the other in a bid to gain the ultimate power.
Well, she had won, in the end. Borias had betrayed her, but he was dead
now. He had paid for his betrayal with his worthless excuse for a life.
But if she had told him, what then? If he had known that she carried
his child, would he have been as quick to betray her? She closed her
eyes and wrapped her arms around her chest, rocking slowly back and
forth. She had not known, herself, had not admitted that she could be
with child until she was into her fourth month. The morning sickness,
the missed moontime bleedings, the thickening of her waistline -- all of
these she had ignored or explained away. And when at last she could
disregard the signs no longer, she had tried to rid herself of the
child, having heard old women whisper that such things could be done.
She had sought out a healer, a man known for his skill with herbs. She
had gone to his hut, and had stood looking at the multitude of dried and
packaged herbs, knowing there must be some among them which would
achieve her purpose. She had gone there and begged him for the herbs
that would cure her, had begged and pleaded to be relieved of the burden
she carried. But he had refused to hear her pleas, had turned away,
saying he was a healer, not a murderer. He had scorned her and called
her a wanton killer, a destroyer of life. He had withheld from her what
she needed so desperately, and no amount of money she offered him or
even rough threats could make him change his mind.
Another pain came, and she waited with bowed head for it to pass,
remembering now the old woman she had visited, a creature with clawlike
hands and a strange, raspy voice. The old woman had cast a spell, using
many smoky incantations, a spell which she claimed would bring the birth
to pass long before the proper time. But the spell had not worked. The
thickening and swelling of her body had continued against her will, and
although she rode hard and fought hard and took long swims in cold lakes
and encouraged Borias to vent all the force of his passion on her body,
nothing produced the result she so desired. Day after horrible day, the
child continued to grow within her, and she knew that Borias would soon
notice, would soon perceive her weakness. She knew she could not keep
her secret from him much longer.
But on the very night she had meant to tell him -- that very night he
had come to her talking like a madman, talking of a change of heart,
professing his admiration for the centaurs, for their honesty and
courage. He had tried to persuade her to give up her quest for the Ixion
stone, but she had refused. She wanted -- no, desperately needed -- the
power it would give her, needed that power now, especially, when her
condition rendered her so vulnerable. She needed all the wicked power
trapped within the stone, needed it to conquer all her enemies, to
conquer the whole world, and to destroy Caesar, above all. If Borias
didn't want to share in her conquests, that was fine, but she herself
would not be dissuaded.
She should have seen it coming, his betrayal, should have recognized
his unexplained absences and increasing moodiness as signs. But so
preoccupied was she by then with her pregnancy that her ears refused to
listen and her eyes refused to see. The morning after their
confrontation, he was gone -- gone to betray her to the enemy, to those
despicable, not-even-human centaurs he now claimed to admire.
With a heavy sigh, she wrapped one of the furs around herself and
staggered clumsily to her feet. She had gone to bed with all her clothes
on, even her boots, which she had taken to leaving on anyway because it
was so difficult these days to reach them to lace them up. And besides
that, they served to lend support to her swollen ankles. Slowly, she
began to pace back and forth within the confines of the tent, to pace as
she had so many nights over the worn rugs that covered the dry, matted
grass. The tent had stood on this spot for almost three weeks now, the
length of time her army had held the centaurs under siege. Borias'
betrayal had given the initial advantage to the enemy, and they had used
it to drive her forces back. But she had quickly seized control,
regrouping the men, inspiring them, and leading them into battle again
and again, until at last the centaurs were trapped, cornered like rats
behind their fortifications.
Yes, she had them where she wanted them now, surrounded and at her
mercy. She felt certain she could crush them with one last, all-out
offensive, yet she waited. She waited for the centaurs to run out of
food and arrows, to weaken and perhaps surrender -- although they had
proved such fierce fighters that she doubted they would. She told her
impatient troops that they were waiting for the centaurs to weaken so
that they could be more safely attacked, but in reality she was waiting
only for her child to be born. No longer able to haul her heavy body
into the saddle, she could not ride, as she should, at the head of the
attacking force. And so, day after day, the siege dragged on, the siege
which her men hated, but which she welcomed as good fortune. Soon it
would be over, though. Once the child was out of her body -- and she
hoped that within a few hours now it would be -- she needed only a day
or so to recover and the final battle could begin.
She smiled, thinking of the victory that would be hers, then grimaced
as another, sharper contraction took hold of her. Stopping near one of
the center tent poles, she gripped it with both hands and leaned her
head against it. Her labor had surely begun. She felt certain the time
was near, but how long should she wait? The midwife had told her she
would have plenty of time, that first babies almost always took many
hours to be born. Still, she would feel better if she could get out of
the camp, away from anyone who might hear if she cried out or made some
other sound. Yes, she would go very soon.
But when the pain had subsided, she stood, still clutching the tent
pole, feeling, if not frightened, then at least profoundly alone. "Borias,"
she murmured, and in spite of the rage she still felt toward him, at
that moment she wished for nothing more than to feel the comfort of his
arms around her.
She had sent three of her best men out to capture him, had sent
Estragon, Dagnine, and Cretus. She had sent them with the strictest
orders that Borias was to be brought to her unharmed. She had given them
to understand that she wanted to deal with him herself, that she planned
to avenge his betrayal in her own chosen way. And she had her plan all
ready, her trap neatly set. She would punish him with his own remorse,
would take his hand and lay it on her swollen belly, would let him feel
the child kick and move, the child he had planted within her. When he
learned the full extent of his betrayal, he would be sorry, she knew. He
would come back to her then, and they would make up just as they always
did, with a night of wild passion, rutting like animals on a bed covered
with animal skins. She remembered now that she had smiled, thinking
about how it would be, anticipating the excitement and the pleasure of
But late that night Estragon had come to tell her that Borias was
dead, that they had found his sword-pierced body in the woods near the
centaur camp. And she had been totally unprepared for the chilling pain
that clutched her gut, or for the way her hands began to tremble
uncontrollably. She could not even speak at first, but luckily there was
no need to do so. Estragon had talked blithely on, as if he were
delivering the best of news. He told her they had left the body for the
centaurs to discover, having first performed a few mutilations well
befitting the traitor dog Borias had been. Let the centaurs honor him if
they had a mind to, he had said, laughing. Let them honor him as the
hero they apparently believed him to be.
She had responded then, at last, had said something like it was about
time someone killed the bastard, or something lame like that. Then she
had thanked Estragon and dismissed him with the order that she was not
to be disturbed again that night. After which she had spent the long,
torturous hours in the tent alone, alternately pacing and lying,
unsleeping, on the bed. How had it happened? Who had killed him? Had her
own men done it? They would deny it, she knew, but she also knew their
anger at Borias' betrayal was almost as great as her own. Or maybe
someone in the centaur camp had done it, had wanted to make it look as
if she were the murderer. In the end, it did not matter. Both the
centaurs and her own men would believe she had ordered him killed.
There had been so many times when she had thought she wanted him
dead, but now that he was, she felt no relief. He had managed to betray
her once again, had betrayed her one last time, leaving her alone to
deal with the odious burden of her pregnancy. It had been the ultimate
betrayal, and she pictured him now, watching her from the Other Side,
watching and laughing at her in that irritating way he had, and she
hated him for it. She hated him for betraying her, for impregnating her
and then leaving her. She hated him for being dead. And through all the
hours of that long, dark night, she had nursed her hatred, had clung to
it like a life raft in an angry sea, had used it as a shield to keep
herself from knowing, to keep herself from feeling what she did not want
to feel, to keep herself from missing him as she did, with every fiber
of her being.
* * * * *
She released her hold on the tent pole and began to pace again. Her
memories had grown as heavy as the unborn child within her. She did not
want those memories, did not need or want the added burden of them. She
felt another pain beginning, but she set her mind against it, ignoring
it as she paced steadfastly back and forth within the tent. Were the
pains coming closer together? She could not tell for sure. Certainly
they were coming regularly now, as they had not earlier in the day. Was
it time to go, or should she wait a while longer? She came to an abrupt
halt as she felt a sudden rush of warm liquid pouring down her legs,
soaking her trousers and running into her boots. Embarrassed to think
that she had lost control of her bodily functions, she ran one hand over
the wet fabric and sniffed her fingers. It was not urine, she realized
with relief. Her water had broken. It was time to go.
Shrugging off the fur she had wrapped around her shoulders, she
dropped it on the bed and picked up her heavy woolen cloak. Putting this
on, she moved to the opening of the tent, pushed aside the flap, and
stepped outside. The camp was drenched in moonlight, a thick, oppressive
moonlight which revealed no human activity, but only the long rows of
tents standing still as stones. She crossed to a small tent nearby,
hesitated briefly at the doorway, and then ducked inside. Four figures
wrapped in blankets lay sleeping on the ground. Approaching one of
these, she bent down as far as she was able and nudged it with her toe.
"Deros," she whispered.
"Huh?" the young man mumbled, then turned over and peered
up at her with sleepy eyes. "Xena?"
"I need you to deliver a message for me," she said, still
in a whisper.
"Yes. Come outside."
She backed out of the tent and moved a few paces away to wait for him
in the shadow of a tree. In a few moments he emerged, his feet in
unlaced boots and a blanket clutched around his shoulders.
"I'm sorry to wake you," she said softly when he came to
where she stood, "but I need you to take an urgent message to the
village. Do you know where the blacksmith's shop is?"
"Yes," he said, nodding. "I was there two days ago
when I took Darphus' horse to be shod."
"Good," she said. "There's a house next to the shop,
on the east side, with a small fig tree in the yard. Go there and ask
for Calandra. Tell her Xena sent you to say that the moon has
"The moon has risen," he repeated, giving her a quizzical
look. "Is that the whole message?"
"Yes. She'll know what it means."
"Should I wait for an answer?"
"No. Just come back here when you've delivered it. And then at
first light I want you to go to Darphus and tell him--" She
stopped, gritting her teeth as another pain ran through her, hoping
Deros could not see her face in the shadows.
"And tell him what?" the messenger asked. "I'm
sorry," said Xena as soon as she was able to speak again. "I
thought I heard something."
He glanced around apprehensively.
"No, don't worry," she said quickly. "It was just my
"So what should I tell Darphus?"
"Tell him that I had some business to take care of and that it
may be a day or two before I get back. Until then, he's in charge. He
knows what to do to maintain the siege."
"All right," said Deros. "Is there anything
"No, that's all," she said, "But Deros," she
added, moving closer and putting her hand on his shoulder, "don't
tell anyone about your trip into the village. That message is to be
delivered in the strictest confidence. Can I count on you?"
"Of course, Commander," he said with a grin. "Have I
ever let you down?"
"No, you haven't," she said, squeezing his shoulder and
then releasing it. "You've been a trustworthy aide and a brave
fighter. In fact, I've been wondering whether you wouldn't make a good
scout for me -- if you think you would like that kind of work."
"Yes, I think I'd like it very much!"
"Good. Next week I'll arrange for you to start training. Now go
and deliver my message."
"Consider it done, Xena," he said, and with a salute-like
wave, he turned and disappeared into his tent.
She walked slowly back to her own tent and slipped inside. Picking up
her sword, she hooked its scabbard to a strap which she then looped over
her right shoulder so that the sword hung down her back. In the past,
she had worn the weapon on a belt at her waist -- in the past, when life
was simpler and there had been no need to hide her body under a heavy
cloak. But the past was gone now and the present required her to make
Moving about the tent in the cloth-filtered moonlight, she opened a
wicker chest and knelt in front of it, pulled out a clean tunic and then
dug down until she found an old, loose-fitting chiton. She had not worn
the garment for many months, but she hoped to wear it again soon, maybe
tomorrow, as soon as this ordeal was over, as soon as the child was out
of her, and her body had resumed a more normal shape. And then, within a
couple of days, she would surely be able to wear her leathers again, her
leathers and her armor -- the battle dress she had so missed wearing
during these last few months.
The cold, damp trousers clinging to her legs made her wish she had a
dry pair to put on, but Borias had left only one pair behind, and that
was the pair she now wore. Well, it didn't matter. When she got to the
cave, she could take the horrible things off. She wouldn't need them
anyway for what she was about to go through.
A new contraction began and she sighed deeply, closing her eyes until
it had passed. Afterwards, she rummaged in the chest again and pulled
out a section of an old, frayed blanket. Then, closing the chest, she
lurched awkwardly to her feet. She spread the blanket out on top of the
chest and laid the chiton and tunic on it. Next, she added a hairbrush,
two small loaves of bread, a handful of olives, several figs, and two
apples. Wrapping everything in the blanket, she tied the bundle up and
tucked it under one arm. Then she crossed to the tent's opening, lifted
the waterskin from the hook where it hung on a tent pole, and took a
long drink. With a last, quick glance around, she hung the skin over her
shoulder and stepped out into the night again.
When she reached the edge of the camp, she stopped in the shadows and
looked to see who was on guard duty. After a couple of minutes, she saw
him, moving slowly along the camp's perimeter. It was Dagnine. At the
other end of the camp, around the centaur fortifications, the guard was
much heavier, but a few watchmen had also been posted here, where there
was little potential for action. She could pretty much predict that
Dagnine was not happy to have drawn so boring an assignment.
Standing still in the shadows, she waited, knowing she must let the
next pain pass before she approached him. Dagnine was a skilled warrior
and a fearless fighter, but he was clever in a sneaky, conniving sort of
way, and for that reason she considered him dangerous. Neither Borias
nor she had ever trusted him, and in fact, Borias had ordered Dagnine
flogged on more than one occasion as punishment for his insubordination.
And while he had not caused any real problems since she herself had
taken command of the army, she knew it was just a matter of time until
The pain began, and she steeled herself to endure it silently and
without moving. Concentrating her thoughts on Dagnine, she watched how
he walked, his body slightly twisted, his head thrust forward. Severe
battle wounds received some years ago had left him marked forever with a
grotesque scar on the left side of his face and a left arm that was
virtually useless. But he had refused to give up the warrior life,
compensating for the weakness of his left side with the skill of his
right, as well as with the strength of his cunning.
Feeling the pain ease up, she stepped quietly out of the shadows and
moved towards him. "Dagnine," she called in a low voice.
He whirled to face her, clearly startled, but just as clearly trying
to hide the fact that he was. "Xena!" he exclaimed, smiling in
that false way she hated. "Did you get lonely in your little tent
and decide to come out and visit me?"
"Don't flatter yourself, Dagnine," she said with her own
false smile, "I just need to leave the camp to attend to some
business, and I want to make sure you don't mistake me for a deserter
and stab me in the back."
"Very prudent of you," he said, laughing. "But surely
you don't think I would do such a thing."
"No, of course not," she said sweetly. "I expect my
soldiers to recognize me at any hour of the day or night -- to recognize
both my person and my command." She paused for a moment to let the
words sink in, then continued, "Darphus will be in charge while I'm
gone, and I don't want to hear you've given him any trouble."
He grinned. "Now Xena, you know I would never think of giving my
commanders even a moment of trouble."
"If I knew that, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would
we?" she returned, then added, "I'll be back in a day or
so." She started moving away, but stopped when he spoke again.
"When are we going to get up enough nerve to attack those
stinking centaurs?" he asked.
She turned back to face him, deciding to ignore his insinuation of
cowardice. "Very, very soon," she said, and this time her
smile was genuine.
He seemed pleased with this answer and she walked away from him
across the moonlit field, aware of his eyes on her back. She walked as
deliberately and as confidently as she could, although her pace was, of
necessity, somewhat heavy and awkward. And as she felt the next pain
coming on, she made herself keep walking, concentrating on putting one
foot steadily in front of the other. She walked away without looking
back, walked away from Dagnine, whom she did not trust in the slightest,
and to whom she could never give the power of knowing her secret.
* * * * *
In the woods on the other side of the field, she stopped and leaned
her back against a tree for several minutes while she caught her breath.
Everything seemed so difficult these days -- sleeping, walking, getting
dressed, sometimes even breathing. How could this small thing growing
inside her cause such a huge disruption in her life? It didn't seem fair
that this should have happened. She had done nothing to deserve it,
other than to be born a woman. Could this be why so few women became
warriors? Well, men were the lucky ones, she had always known that.
Glancing back towards the camp, she saw that Dagnine had resumed his
rounds. The cold night air was creeping under her cloak and making the
still-wet trousers feel icy. She needed to get moving. She needed to get
to the cave, where she could light a fire and warm herself.
Straightening up, she drew a deep breath and let it out, then began to
make her way through the deep shadows among the trees. She knew the
route well, but could not travel very fast, both because of the partial
darkness and because of the heaviness of her body. After a time, she
came to a more open area, a place where dry grasses poked up between the
rocks, and where a stream, swollen by the winter rains, made its turgid
way down from the hills.
She walked along beside the stream for some distance, following
a dim game trail, pausing periodically to rest and wait for contractions
to pass. Eventually, the path began to climb, leading slowly and
gradually upwards, with rocky outcroppings on one side and the stream on
the other. She continued her laborious trek for a while longer, watching
the landmarks closely. Then, finally, she turned off the trail and
rounded the large boulder which hid the entrance to the cave.
Standing beside the opening, she listened carefully for a short time,
then drew her sword and stepped into the black interior. The moonlight
did not penetrate here, but she knew the contours of the small cavern
well, knew where everything was -- or knew, at least, where she had left
everything at the end of her last visit a few days ago. She felt her way
slowly along the left wall until she came to the blankets and furs which
lay spread out on the ground, like a gentle invitation to her tired
body. Kneeling on the bedding, she listened again, but heard no sound
other than her own labored breathing. Cautiously, she laid down her
sword, her bundle, and the waterskin, then took off the belt which held
her scabbard. Crawling forward a couple of paces, she located the
woodpile by touch and began to lay a fire on the ashes within the circle
of stones. When the kindling was ready, and the tinder in place, she
struck two flints together and quickly blew the spark into a flame.
A new contraction began, but she ignored it as best she could,
continuing to nurse the tiny flame, bending over it on hands and knees,
fanning it carefully until the bigger pieces of wood started to catch.
When the fire was burning well at last, she clambered to her feet and
opened her cloak, found the knotted drawstring of her trousers and
untied it, then slid the damp garment down over her belly. It dropped to
her feet and she kicked it aside, then stepped to the fire and held the
cloak open so that the heat could warm and dry her legs.
In a short time, the yellow firelight flickered its way into the dark
corners of the cavern, making the stone walls appear strangely soft and
warm. It was not a particularly large cave -- perhaps some eight paces
by twelve -- but it was plenty big enough for her purposes. She had
found it soon after the siege began, had sought it out in the same
instinctual way that a mother wolf seeks a den. And after having found
it, she had visited the place often, gradually stocking it with food,
bedding, and a good supply of firewood.
She had spent the night there, too, on more than one occasion, trying
to accustom her troops to her eccentric pattern of comings and goings.
And her ploy had apparently been successful. Deros and Dagnine had both
accepted her leaving tonight without blinking an eye. Darphus, too,
would think of it as a now-normal occurrence, and command of the army
would pass smoothly to him. And if she died this day in childbirth and
never returned? Well, she suspected that Darphus had certain ambitions
of leadership. He would be a happy man.
She smiled grimly and stepped away from the fire, then lowered her
heavy body onto the bedroll. After checking to make sure her sword was
within easy reach, she leaned back against the wall of the cave, covered
her now-bare legs with her cloak, and took a long drink from the
waterskin. She had considered coming here alone to give birth, had
considered it very seriously, in fact, aware that her secret would be
safer if no one else was involved. But although she knew a great deal
about healing, and about treating every manner of battle wound, she had
had little contact with other women, and almost no experience with
That's why she had decided, in the end, to hire the midwife. She had
realized, at a certain point, that while she was not afraid to die in
battle, she was indeed afraid to die in childbirth, as so many women
did. Above all, she was afraid to die alone, in this weak, woman's way,
alone in a cave where her body might never be found and given a
warrior's final rites.
The pain gathered once more within her, stronger this time, and she
allowed herself a low moan. How bad would the pain get? Would it be more
than she could bear? Surely not, for she had known much pain already --
had known the pain of battle wounds, had felt swords and arrows pierce
and tear her flesh. And she had known the pain of crucifixion, the agony
of having both her legs broken at Caesar's command. Yes, she had known
pain, had endured it, had lived with it, had triumphed over it. Surely
she could do so again.
But she kept remembering the screams, kept remembering how, as a
young girl, she and the other children had sometimes stood outside one
of the homes in their village, hearing a woman's screams from within,
feeling both the fear and the fascination of knowing what those screams
meant. And she remembered most vividly of all the night her brother
Lyceus was born, remembered it clearly even though she had been only two
years old, remembered the pure terror she had felt at hearing her own
Her mother. Cyrene. Suddenly, Xena found herself wishing she could
simply conjure her up from one of the rocks inside this cave. Cyrene had
suffered through this ordeal not once, but three times. She would know
what to do. She would know what words to say to comfort her daughter.
She would hold her hand and smooth her brow just as she had when Xena
was a child. Yes, maybe she should have gone home to Amphipolis to have
her baby. Maybe she should have abandoned her army, turned her back on
the warrior life, and gone home to her mother.
But no. To arrive home as she was, unmarried and heavily pregnant,
would have only added to her mother's shame. Cyrene would reject her, as
would the people of Amphipolis. Oh, they had been happy enough in the
beginning to have her lead the defense of their town, but their pride
had soon turned to anger. When their sons marched eagerly off to battle
and never came home again, the villagers blamed Xena. The fools! Didn't
they realize that wars could not be fought nor peace won without some
loss of life? Did they think she did not feel their pain? Her own
brother, Lyceus, had also been killed. Lyceus, the little brother she
adored, the little brother she had taken care of and played with for so
many years. He had been brutally killed in that first fight against
Cortese. She had always done everything she could to protect her
soldiers, but she was not a miracle worker, after all. What did they
But soon she would have all the power she needed to triumph. Soon she
would crush the centaurs and capture the Ixion stone. With the power of
the stone, and with Ares' blessing, she would conquer the world and rule
in peace as the Warrior Queen. Then she would go back to Amphipolis and
they would have to honor her. They would see then that she had chosen
the right path. They would wave palms to welcome her and would fall down
at her feet. They would love her then, would be glad to claim her as one
of their own. They would honor her as their beloved daughter, the
peasant girl who had become the all-powerful Conqueror.
Another contraction gripped her and she gasped, not so much because
of the pain as because of the words which suddenly sounded in her head.
"To conquer others is to have power. To conquer yourself is to know
the Way." And in her mind's eye, the speaker of those words
appeared, a slender, silk-clad woman with black hair and almond skin, a
woman whose dark eyes shone with wisdom and peace. Lao Ma. Xena clamped
her hands over her eyes, trying to erase the image. She did not want to
think about Lao Ma. She had enough pain to deal with right now without
the added pain of those memories. When she had left the Kingdom of Chin,
she had shut all those memories away in a corner of her mind, had closed
the door on them and resolutely turned the key in the lock. But now it
seemed they had escaped. How had it happened? And why now? Had Lao Ma
herself somehow set them free? Had she used her powers to break down the
door and release the memories just to torment her warrior princess?
Xena opened her eyes, sighed a deep sigh of frustration, and heaved
herself awkwardly to her feet. Moving to the fire, she added more wood,
then began to pace distractedly the length of the cavern and back again.
Lao Ma had saved her life -- there could be no question about that. She
had saved her from the fangs of Ming Tzu's dogs. "Come with me, if
you want your freedom," she had told the warrior, and Xena had gone
with her, seeking freedom only from a horrible, bloody death. But later
Lao Ma had offered her freedom of a different sort, had handed her the
key that could unlock the cage of anger in which Xena had imprisoned
But it had been so hard, so very hard to give up the bloodlust that
had nourished and sustained her ever since Caesar's betrayal and
M'Lila's death. Her rage was the focus of her life, the only meaning in
her existence. If she gave it up, what would be left? The thought was
much too frightening to contemplate.
And yet, out of devotion to Lao Ma, she had indeed tried to give it
up, and had made some poor attempt to bring her feral will under
control. Out of her devotion to the woman who had saved her life, she
had done this. And she had done it, too, out of awe for Lao Ma's power,
and out of a certain desire to gain that same kind of power for herself.
The surprising thing was that there had been moments -- entire hours,
even -- when her efforts had met with success. She would never forget
the day Lao Ma had healed her legs, would never forget the exquisite
sense of wholeness she had experienced while the other woman's hands
moved over her. She had felt Lao Ma's healing power like a glow of
perfect peace within her body. She had never known anything like it
before, and probably never would again.
Xena paused in her pacing, sensing the start of another contraction.
She slid her hands under her tunic, running them slowly over the bare
flesh of her distended belly, wishing that it were Lao Ma's hands which
touched her, wishing for the deep comfort that only that gentle woman
could bring. "Lao Ma," she moaned softly, bending over
slightly as the pain increased. "I betrayed your trust. I'm so
sorry," she whispered. Then, after a minute or so, when the pain
eased, she slowly straightened, and began to walk again.
She should have known the joy could not last, that the ecstasy of
healing love she had felt that day would quickly vanish. Yet for a brief
time she had managed to surrender her will, and her legs had been made
well and strong again. Afterwards, she had actually floated in the air
with Lao Ma, serenely radiant, basking in the warmth of her teacher's
smile and soft caresses. How long would it have lasted if Borias had not
walked in? Why had he come and spoiled everything, the bastard? She had
been making such progress, and she had seen the pride and love in Lao
Ma's eyes. But Borias' arrival had shattered the golden peace within her
just as Lao Ma had shattered that vase a few days before. Everything
Xena had gained was lost, and it was all his fault.
Coming to a stop near one of the cavern's walls, she kicked at it
angrily. Then, leaning her head against the cool, rough surface, she
closed her eyes and sighed. No, it had not been Borias' fault. She knew
that. Lao Ma had invited him to the palace, apparently believing that
Xena was now ready to forgive. But Lao Ma had been gravely mistaken. One
glimpse of Borias was all it took to bring the warrior's lust for
vengeance pouring back through the floodgates of her soul. She could not
let his cruel betrayal simply go unpunished, and so she had attacked him
viciously, with all the fury of her fists and the strength of her
newly-healed legs. But, to her surprise, he did not lift a finger to
defend himself. Lao Ma was forced to protect him, Lao Ma, who must have
been feeling such pain to see the fruits of her labors so quickly thrown
away. But for Xena, the old ways had proved too powerful, too alluring,
too familiar, and in the end, they had won out.
Oh, she and Borias had been reconciled, all right -- in an act of
wild, sexual frenzy. And afterwards, he had helped her snare the
barbarous Ming Tzu in a dice game, and then murder him. Only Lao Ma's
fierce intervention had kept Ming T'ien from meeting the same fate as
his father. Xena and Borias had left the Kingdom of Chin a few days
later, had left at the fervent request of Lao Ma, whose trust they had
betrayed and whose dreams for peace they had laid waste. After a long
journey by sea and by land, they had at last arrived in Greece, where
they had soon managed to kill three warlords, take over their armies,
and continue their quest for power and wealth. And in all that time, in
all the months since leaving Chin, in all their long days and long
nights together, they had not even once spoken of Lao Ma.
Continue to Part 2
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