Disclaimer: This is a work of fan fiction. The characters in this story: Xena, Gabrielle, Eve or Livia (and any mention to characters from the television show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys)are the property of Renaissance Pictures and Universal MCA. This story is not meant to infringe upon their rights or the rights of the actors who portray them. Also, no part of the story entitled Growing up "Livia" is to be copied, whole or in part, without the author's permission. It is not to be copied for public use or for profit by any person or organization.
Growing Up Livia
Written By: Caina Q. Fuller
"Livia! Come on child! We're going to be late."
Six-year-old Livia sat up in bed and rubbed the sleep from her large blue eyes. The first rays of light had just begun to stain the cloudy eastern sky a steel gray color as she slipped to the floor and slid her tiny feet into the fur slippers her nanny had laid out for her the night before. As usual her favorite breakfast of fresh fruit and vegetables waited for her on the massive twelve-seat dining table in the main hall of the guesthouse she had called home for as long as she could remember. For Livia it was a gilded cage that offered her a life of miserable solitude, and the only one she had to turn to was her hateful caretaker Delphia.
She didn't know why the woman hated her, but every time she tried to engage Delphia in any kind of conversation she was greeted with a cold stare and icy silence. Shed spent hours of her life, pondering in her innocent mind what she could have possibly done to make the woman despise her so she could do something to rectify the situation. She tried everything to make Delphia like her. She made her presents, complimented her dress or her hair, told her how pretty she was. She did everything she saw the slave children do for their mothers, but instead of receiving a warm hug or a kiss and a cheerful thank you, she was lucky if Delphia would say thank you.
After awhile she just stopped trying. What was the point, Livia wondered, of trying to be nice to someone who was only going to ignore you? Instead Livia played her own little game of eating her breakfast quietly, while she carried on a mental conversation with the one person she so desperately wanted most in this world to come and rescue her: Mother.
Livia imagined her mother was sitting at the opposite end of the table, eating a feast of the same fruits she was. Like herself, Mother hated all meat except for fish. Unlike herself however, Mother was as strong as she was beautiful. She took nothing from anyone, and whenever Delphia did or said something that hurt Livia she would always march right up to Delphia and stand up for her baby. She would brandished her sword and say all the things Livia wanted to say in her defense, making it all too clear she would only take so much before she made Delphia pay for her abuse of her little girl.
As for the sport of fishing, it was the one passion Delphia allowed Livia and she indulged every opportunity she got. Why she liked fishing so much was beyond her. It could become quite boring at times, and on certain days she would sit at the stream that flowed through the palace grounds for hours, talking with Mother who also loved fishing. Sometimes Livia would brush Mother's luxurious blond hair away from her face and tell her how beautiful she was while she waited for a bite.
Livia was always careful to make certain evil old Delphia never caught her getting close to Mother. Livia's six-year-old mind instinctively knew that if her nanny ever discovered she had someone to love her Delphia would find a way to take that love away. Making her miserable seemed to be the hateful old hags sole mission in life.
Love. Livia wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like to have a real mother scoop her up in an embrace and tell her how much she was loved and cared for. She was always filled with intense jealousy when the slave women would bring their children to labor with them and when they thought no one of importance was watching, they would do these very same things with their son or their daughter. They would kiss them, or maybe stroke their hair gently away from their face and tell them the three most precious words in all the world: I love you. Never had anyone said that to Livia before. Though she was only six years old it wasn't lost on her that no one had ever told her they even remotely cared about her. She may be rich beyond most people's wildest dreams, but she was lonely beyond most people's darkest nightmares.
This day, which seemed to start out like all the others of her life, progressed from breakfast, getting dressed and then following Delphia out to meet with her tutor. He was a man every bit as wicked as Delphia and he stubbornly refused to tell her his name. She was only to call him School Master and nothing else. Any other title, no matter how playfully she intended it to be, was rewarded with a solid smack to the rear with a paddle. Livia hated him even more than she hated Delphia, but he was familiar. She was used to him and when she came out that morning to find a handsome, dark haired man in full military uniform standing in School Master's place, fear flooded her little chest in a hot wave of panic.
It didnt help any that upon sight of him Delphia knelt to her knees in reverence. This also frightened Livia, for Delphia was to be feared right up there with Hera herself. Who was this man to command such respect from Delphia?
Seeing Livia was not bowing, Delphia shot Livia her most stern look of disapproval and motioned with her eyes for Livia to come to her knees. Livia immediately obeyed, and took up a place on her knees beside the woman who had taken care of her all her life, and made Livia painfully aware she resented the responsibility with every opportunity she got.
The dark haired man studied Delphia with a measure of distaste and shook his head. "Delphia, you may leave Livia to me."
"Yes My Lord."
Delphia scurried away, leaving Livia alone with this frightening man. Who was he? How did he know her name? Was he a god? He must be for Delphia to bow down to him. Before she could consider the consequences of her actions, her tongue got the best of her and she blurted out a question she immediately regretted.
"Are you a god?"
Expecting an angry rebuke, Livia naturally cringed when he knelt down before her. Instead of unkind words however, he laughed and ruffled her hair. This was new. He was being friendly, just like Mother! Her lips curled up in an involuntary smile as she responded to his kindness.
"No, but one day I will be revered as one. My name is Octavious. I'm a...friend of yours."
By the gods, she thought with joy. Ive got a friend and I didnt even know it! "You're my friend?"
"Of course! I've known you all your life. Come with me now."
How come Ive never seen you before?
Her new friend offered her another sweet smile and did something no one else had ever done before either. He picked her up and kissed her! Her heart began to pound within her chest so hard she feared it would burst. This man seemed to genuinely like her. Just in the few moments shed met him he had managed to treat her with more love and kindness than Delphia had given her in her entire life it seemed.
She wondered if perhaps she was dreaming, or if something happened to her and shed gone to be in the Elysian Fields. She had never even considered there were people in the world that liked her. Delphia had never allowed her to make friends with the slaves and there was no one else of her station allowed around her. It was like she was some kind of secret to be kept away from the rest of the world.
No matter that now. She had a friend now, and he was the most wonderful man shed ever met before in her life. "Where are we going?"
"We're going on a long journey. I know this is your home, but it will be many years before you some back here."
Octavious looked into the large, soulful blue eyes of the beautiful child that stared up at him with innocent trust and excitement. He saw so much of Xena in her that it was almost like looking into a portrait of the Warrior Princess. He couldn't dare tell her that rumor had escaped of her true identity and that a group of assassins dispatched by Minerva herself were on their way here, to kill her.
A soldier walked by then, leading another child who was identical in height, weight and other physical attributes to Livia toward Delphia who was now emerging from the guesthouse with her usual stern expression.
"Livia, I need you to do something for me, will you?"
"Sure!" She would do anything for him if it meant he would just be nice to her. She liked the way it made her feel when he smiled at her, the way he was now.
"I want you to stay in the wagon with the curtains closed and no matter what happens or how hot you get, I want you to stay quiet. Don't move and don't speak. Can you do that for Octavious?"
Livia nodded excitedly, and was rewarded with yet another kiss on the forehead. Two kisses in one day and she couldnt, for the life of her, figure out what shed done to earn it. He just seemed to care a great deal about her for no reason at all. She felt as privileged as the slave children shed seen receiving love from their parents as theyd labored away to provide her with a life of luxury.
"Good girl. No matter how scared you get, don't panic and don't say anything. Don't look from behind the curtain. Promise?"
Even with her head reeling from the attention hed given her, something about the look in his eyes and the words he was saying seemed off, and a tickle of fear settled in her chest. "I promise. Is something wrong?
Nothing for you to worry your pretty little head over, he said. He placed her in the wagon and hurriedly pulled the curtains closed.
For the second time since Octavious arrived Livia felt afraid. She could sense by the looks shed seen on the soldiers faces that something bad was about to happen, but she had no clue as to what that would be. Though the large space was quickly heating up, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut and prayed Mother would come stay with her until whatever badness she felt coming went away.
After awhile the heat and her curiosity got the better of her and she pulled open the curtain. Maybe, she thought after a moment, she could just peak and see what was going on. The fear that was growing with each passing second might not be so bad if she could just see what was going on outside.
Livia peeled the curtain open just enough to catch sight of five men riding toward the guesthouse on black horses. Octavious and a group of the soldiers greeted them, and her new friend clasped arms with the leader of the new group.
"So you were sent by the great Minerva?"
"We prefer to call her Athena."
Octavious bowed his head in a sign of respect. "Athena, of course. And you believe my charge to be someone named Eve, the daughter of some warrior-
The leader of the warriors whod ridden into the estate began to look impatient. "The bringer of Twilight. Athena has sent us to see the girl you have in your custody."
Octavious motioned to the new little girl holding tightly to Delphia's hand. "Here she is."
"That will be all. You may go."
Livia watched Octavious' handsome face draw up with indignation. "You cant just dismiss me like some lowly servant! Do you know who I am?"
"Of course we do. You're Octavious, Rome's new lap dog. Now step aside."
The Leader of the temple warriors drew his sword and Livia heart jumped into her throat. Oh no! They were going to hurt her new friend, just when she found him!
Delphia stepped back, pulling the new child with her. "My lord? May I ask what is going on here?"
"No, you may not!" Octavious answered briskly. "As a matter of fact, you are not to ask anything and you are not to say anything, or I will kill you myself. Have I made myself clear?"
Delphia bowed her head in fear, and stepped away again. Livia wanted to feel pity for Delphia mentally, but deep down inside she gave a quiet cheer that finally the bully was the one being bullied.
"This is her, I'm sure of it," the assassin leader barked. "This is what the goddess said Eve would look like if she were alive today. Kill her."
Delphia gasped and Livia's heart began to race, threatening to burst in her chest yet again. She was young, but she was also very smart. These men plAnnd to kill the child her new friend had brought with him. She had a feeling she knew why, though she didn't dare speak it.
Octavious stepped between the frightened child and the assassin. "Wait. You can't just go around murdering children because you think they might be someone who supposedly died years ago. Along with Xena I might add."
The lead assassin was through playing nice, even with Rome's leader. "I'm here on a divine mission. I cannot fail. If you don't get out of my way, Athena herself will come and finish the job. And you with it."
The two men stared one another down for a long moment before Octavious stepped aside. Livia couldn't believe it! How could such a nice man let someone kill a little girl? Livia watched in horror as the lead assassin drew his sword and faced the child who stood quivering in fear.
"Please don't hurt me," the little girl begged him with fat tears sliding down cheeks still chubby with baby fat. "I'll be good I promise!"
Octavious heart broke within his chest at the girls words, but he had no choice. It was either this peasant child or Eve, the daughter of a woman he owed his very life to. He'd promised Xena that he would protect Eve and that meant at all costs. Now it would seem an innocent child would pay the price of his promise. He also knew he would spend the rest of his life knowing he'd allowed an innocent six year old girl die. Her blood would stain his hands, and his very soul, forever.
The cold-hearted lead assassin had enough mercy to kill the child quickly by beheading her, but that was little comfort to anyone witnessing this horrible, tragic event. Especially Livia, who watched from the safety of Octavious wagon. She may be young, but she knew that the child who had just lost her life, for some reason, had died in her place. Her only question was, what could she have possibly done to make someone want to kill her?
Rain poured down as the wagon carrying Octavious and Livia arrived at the Minerva Academy for Girls in Alexandria. This was where the wealthiest men in Rome sent their daughters to train to become the perfect aristocratic wives that Rome was so well known for. Livia had lost all the joy she had felt when she first met this man that claimed to be her friend. She was afraid of anyone that would let someone kill a little girl, no matter their reasons. Would he get mad at her and let somebody do something horrible to her too?
"You've been quiet since we left Rome. Care to tell me what's going on?"
Livia shook her head no and scooted away from Octavious. The older man sighed and rubbed a hand over his moist face. The wagon was covered, but wind still blew the occasional drop inside.
"You watched didn't you? Even after I told you not too."
He was angry with her and this frightened Livia in ways she couldn't put into words. Every time Delphia or School Master was angry with her she received a beating. Now this man, whod allowed a child to be murdered was angry with her. She could only feel the fear that had become a constant part of her life since...since she could remember. If he didn't kill her, would he beat her? Would he yell at her and say hateful things to hurt her like Delphia and School Master did?
The last thing she expected Octavious to do was pull her onto his lap and gently cover her head with a scarf to protect her from the cold blowing wind and rain outside. He gave her another kiss on her forehead and rubbed her back. When he spoke, it was with the gentlest of tones.
"I'm so sorry you had to see that Livia. I can't begin to explain why that little girl had to die but-"
"She died for me."
Livia's words were a statement, not a question, and Octavious was impressed with how intelligent this child was. What could one expect though, from a child of Xena? He nodded and looked away into the warm lights of the Academy that Livia would grow up in. He wondered if, when he left this place, he would ever see her again. He had made all the necessary arrangements for her future should anything happen to him as he secured his place in history, but still...
"That I will never tell you Livia. I'm sorry but it's a secret that you can't know."
"Can you tell me her name?"
Why would she want to know that? Octavious frowned and wondered, not for the first time, if it was wise to leave her now. He knew how uncaring Delphia could be towards children but shed come highly recommended by his closest advisors so hed left Livia in her care. Perhaps that had been a mistake. He couldnt help but remember how Livia had eaten up the affection he'd shown her, as if shed never received love before shed met him. Maybe she needed someone to be there to hold her and love her until she could recover from the shock of what shed witnessed earlier the day before.
He sighed and forced himself to put away such thoughts. He'd risked his life to save this child, on more than once occasion, and he was still doing so to keep her safe from gods who were still searching for any possibility that Eve was still alive. He had a career to forge and a life of his own to live, and that was that. He was her protector, not her father.
"I don't know her name," he said truthfully, and he was glad he didn't. "Don't bother yourself with that, alright? You must never tell what happened today. Never. If you do, you could get me into a lot of trouble with the gods. You don't want to do that to your friend, do you?"
Livia shook her head vehemently and hugged him fiercely, drawing a laugh from Octavious. Apparently shed forgiven him. "Good girl Livia. Now lets go. We've arrived at your new home."
Livia continued to hold him tight as he carried her inside where the Head Mistress herself waited for Livia's arrival. The Head Mistress was a sturdy, middle-aged woman with plenty of lines on the bridge of her nose and forehead from frowning but no lines around the mouth from smiling. It wasn't lost of Octavious that if Odessa, the head Mistress of the academy, was everything she was rumored to be, he may have been taking Livia from the frying pan and tossing her in the fire, but once again this place was the best that money could buy. He was the wealthiest man in Rome and he would see to it that Livia had the best of everything, even at the risk that the people providing it might not be as tender toward Livia as he would like them to be.
Welcome my Lord, Odessa said, bowing to him.
Mistress Odessa. Youre the Head Mistress I take it?
I am my Lord.
And Livias quarters? Have they been prepared for her?
"She will, of course, have the very best quarters," the Head Mistress said in a harsh voice. She sounded as if someone had burned her vocal cords with acid. Livia found her more frightening than Delphia had ever been at her worst.
"Not just the best quarters. She is to have the best tutors, the best clothing. The best of everything. Am I understood?"
The Head Mistress nodded and snapped her fingers so loudly Octavious himself started. This bewildered little Livia even more. Who was this woman? Why was every grown up woman in the world always so mean? "Alethea!"
Another little girl, about eight years old, stepped from her hiding place behind the Head Mistress' skirts. She was a cute little auburn-haired girl. That kind of hair color was very rare in the Mediterranean, and she looked up at Livia with eyes the same color as the Jade stones that decorated her mantel piece in the Roman prison Octavious had liberated her from. These were set in the cutest pudgy face Livia had ever seen. The girl also had more freckles than shed ever seen on an individual before as well. Livia found her to be the most interesting child she'd ever seen.
"Alethea and her mother will tend to all of your child's needs. I would recommend them for my own children."
"Very good then. This is Livia, my charge not my child."
"Very good my Lord. Alethea, show Livia to her quarters."
Livia backed away from Alethea immediately. She had known why she was coming to Alexandria, but she was still unprepared to leave Octavious. He was the only one to have ever shown her love and kindness, and she just couldn't bear lose him now.
Octavious sensed her reservation and knelt down to talk to Livia on her level. He could see the Head Mistress' disapproval at his being so soft with the girl as she rolled her eyes, but he ignored her until Livia was gone. Then he would deal with her attitude.
"You'll like it here Livia. They're going to treat you like a queen. Octavious directed his words to Odessa. If they dont theyll wish theyd never been born. Knowing Odessa understood exactly what he was saying, he turned back to Livia. Once a year I will have someone check on you to make sure you're doing all right. You tell him everything that happens to you here. If theres anything wrong, it will be dealt with immediately. Don't be afraid."
"But I want you to stay here with me. Don't leave me, please!"
Octavious, now a hardened soldier who was quite capable of being ruthless to defeat his enemies in battle, felt his steel reserve being tested by the pain and fear in this beautiful child's face.
"I'm sorry Livia. I have to go. I'll tell you what. I'll send someone every six months instead of once a year. Remember, you're the boss of yourself here. No one else."
Will you come see me?
Well see ok? When youve learned how to write bigger words well begin a correspondence. Well send scrolls to one another as often as you like, alright darling?
Livia nodded and he pulled her to him in the last embrace of her childhood. Though they had no idea of it now, the next time Octavious would hold Livia in his arms would be eleven years into their future. He will be Augustus Caesar, and Livia will be the eighteen-year-old Champion of Rome.
"Where are you from?" Livia inquired of her new personal servant, eight year old Alethea. They had just entered the lavish quarters that were; at least in the estimation of six-year-old Livia, ten times better than anything she'd ever had in Rome. As Alethea shut the door behind them and placed her hands behind her back, Livia couldn't help but notice a distinctive birthmark in the crook of Alethea's right arm. The more Livia studied it, the more the small half-moon shaped mark looked more like a brand than a birthmark.
Alethea noticed Livia's staring and rubbed the mark absent-mindedly. "They branded us when we first got here. The Head Mistress said it's to tell us apart from the slaves." Alethea rolled her eyes at the memory. "It hurt like crazy too."
Livia re-stated her earlier question which had still not gotten a response. Was the girl ashamed of where she was from? "Where did you say you were from?"
"Mommy says we're from a far off land called Ireland."
"I've never heard of it."
"Me either, 'cept when she talks about it. She says she met some man named Hercules and followed him back with his woman Morrigan. She's a Druid you know?"
Livia shook her head no. She had no idea what a Druid was, so she said so. "What's a Druid?"
Alethea shrugged her shoulders. "Darned if I know. Some kind of god I think."
Livia was impressed. She had a half-god for a servant! "Wow, you're Mother is a god!"
Alethea rolled her eyes again, as if this were the most ridiculous statement she'd ever heard. "No, no! Not my Mom. Morrigan. Do you think I'd be your servant if my Mommy was a god?"
"Oh!" Livia felt her cheeks grow warm with embarrassment at her mistake. How could she have thought something so terribly stupid? "You're very pretty. You look so...different. And you talk funny!"
"The word's exotic sweetie, and I don't talk funny."
Livia could sense her words had upset her young servant. She didn't want to do this, for Alethea was the only other little girl she'd been allowed such close contact with in her entire life, and she wanted to make this girl her next friend.
The doors to the room opened and the Head Mistress entered. The older woman looked down at Livia with disdain clear on her ugly face. "You're Greek aren't you child?"
Now Livia was upset. Shed thought that perhaps Octavious had scared the woman into being nice to her, but obviously she was wrong. The woman was coming into her quarters and insulting her for no reason. Livia had been raised to be a proud Roman and now this woman would insult her? After all she'd been through with seeing a child die for her, Livia was far from afraid of rebuke from this woman. For the first time in her life, Livia talked back to an adult. She remembered Octavious' words. She was the boss of herself now.
"I'm Roman. You ever call me Greek again, I'll tell Octavious!"
One of the Head Mistress' eyebrows shot up so high in surprise her stern face suddenly looked comical to Livia, but she wasn't about to make the mistake of laughing. Instead, she turned and sauntered over to her bed. What had gotten into her?
"Any Roman worth her heritage will know that to converse with the help is distasteful to say the least. Remember that."
"What was your name again?" Livia asked, unaware her words sounded like a veiled threat to the Head Mistress. She kept her eyes on the ceiling as she lay down to keep the older woman from seeing the fear of rebuke burning within them. There was such a long hesitation that Livia wondered if perhaps her luck had run out and she was going to be punished for her sudden display of bravery after all. Just as she was about to look over and accept defeat, the Head Mistress answered.
"My name, again, is Odessa. You may call me Head Mistress or Mistress Odessa."
Ever the intelligent little girl, Livia knew she had fooled Odessa into believing she wasn't afraid of her. She did, after all, have Octavious, Rome's commander, on her side. "You may call me Mistress Livia."
"Humph!" Odessa turned on her heel and stormed from the room, slamming the door shut behind her and Alethea looked at Livia with an expression of pure awe.
"I can't believe what you just did!"
"Neither can I."
Slowly, and with much caution, Alethea approached this incredible child named Livia. "Mistress Livia, why did your father bring you here? Isn't your mother alive to raise you?"
Livia hesitated in her answer. She didn't want the girl to think she was strange or different by saying she didn't have a mother or a father, but she had also been taught that lies were severely punished. If not by Delphia or School Master then by the gods. Livia believed she had successfully escaped Delphia and School Master, but the gods wouldn't be so easy to avoid. She opted for the truth.
"I never knew either of my parents."
"Then who was that man that brought you here?"
"Octavious. He's my friend."
"Octavious The Octavious? Wow! His face in on all the coins! He's your friend?"
"He sure is. Would you like to be my friend too?" Livia was fully expecting the girl to laugh at her or refuse her offer to be friends. Instead she was pleasantly surprised when she got a gleeful response from Alethea.
"Sure! Id love to be your friend."
Livia was ecstatic. She had made her second friend in life in as many days and...Now what? What did one do when they had a friend? She was sorely lacking experience in the friendship department.
"Mistress Livia, what's it like-"
"Wait. Stop calling me Mistress Livia. Just call me Livia."
"O.K. Better yet, why dont I give you a nick name?"
A nick name, Alethea said, plopping down on the bed next to her. Its a special name that friends give each other.
Wow, Livia thought. Since Octavious had come into her life, more things good than bad had happened to her. Shed made another friend and was learning that there were indeed people out there that were nice and wanted to like her. Not only that, she had also discovered she was someone of importance and she didnt have to allow the evil old women of the world treat her unkindly. She wasnt about to push her luck with Odessa, but she had seen with her own eyes goodness really did exist, and she could be a part of that.
What kind of nickname will I have? Livia asked, all but bouncing with excitement. She was had found a friend and was going to get a new nickname all in a matter of minutes.
I think Ill call you Livie.
Livie, Livia said, trying it out for the first time. It was like her own name, but different and she liked it a lot. I like that. Can I give you a name?
I dont know yet. Let me think about it for a little bit. I want to get to know you and give you a really good name.
Alethea began to look around as if she suspected the Head Mistress to be lurking in some corner, waiting to jump out at them and punish them. "My name isn't really Alethea. That's just what Mistress Odessa calls me. My name is really Brigid. I was named after Morrigan's daughter. She and my Mom were friends."
"Brigid," Livia repeated, trying the foreign name out on her tongue. It was so strange and it drew Livia's interest in her new friend up yet another notch. She wanted to know everything about this girl, and she prayed the Fates would be nice to her just this once and let her keep her new companion. "Why does Mistress Odessa call you Alethea?"
Brigid shrugged, and rubbed at the brand on her arm. "She says I'm a heathen and the only civilized thing I was smart enough to learn was a new name."
"Thats not true! Youre very smart, and pretty. From now on" Livia said, enjoying her first taste of independence and power, "You'll be called by your real name. It's a lot better than Alethea."
"Really," Livia assured her, loving the excitement and happiness that twinkled in Brigid's eyes. Happiness that she had put there. "Brigid. Sweetie, that's so...exotic."
The two girls shared a moment of quiet as Livia realized she had just made her first joke. Thinking it funny, they fell back onto the plush pillows, helpless with childish laughter, and for the first time in her life Livia knew what happiness was.
The next day Livia awoke to find Brigid waiting patiently at the foot of her bed. The auburn-haired angel was studying her as if she were waiting for some kind of re-action from Livia, or maybe an order.
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