Disclaimers: This story is a Uber Xena story with a twist. There is violence usually associated with BAD Xena. The characters of Xena, Gabrielle and Argo etc belong to Universal/Ren Pictures.
Out of Time
Part 1 of 2
by: Maureen McGowan
Kate Delaney sighed and popped in her favorite Veruca Salt CD. Traffic on and around the Washington, DC Beltway was horrendous under normal rush hour conditions. But when you combined a torrential downpour *and* the fact that it was Friday...well, suffice it to say the term parking lot took on a whole new meaning. Kate had left work over two hours ago and was still nowhere near home. Her head was pounding, her windows were fogging up, and she was hungry. At the rate she was going, she figured shed be home in time to watch the 11 oclock news. As the traffic slowly moved along, Kate began to force herself to relax. Theres nothing I can do about this. Just sit back, enjoy the music, and veg. This too will pass.
In what seemed like hours and CDs later, Kate neared her home. She debated stopping at McDonalds for dinner, but was just too tired to even consider trying to interpret the static-garbled sound she was sure to get out of the drive-thru window. Also, the rain had intensified as she neared her townhouse development. The skies were an eerie purple color, winds were churning, and the lightning was actually scary. Never one to be afraid of storms, this one seemed different. Kate had always been the first to stand outside on her parents balcony and watch as lightning beautifully brightened up the skies. But this was different...it almost seemed malevolent. As she neared a red light about a mile from her home, the lightning and thunder seemed to be closing in on her car. Im in my car. Thats a safe place to be...rubber tires...I remember that. Just relax. Its just a storm...nothing more.
As her car came to a complete stop, a tremendous, deafening thunder clap shook her car. Kate was actually really getting scared. Shed never in her entire life seen anything like this. The skies were such a strange color, and the winds seemed to be focusing all the power of the storm near her car. Thats ridiculous...its a storm for crying out loud. Youre tired.... Just then, a lightning bolt streaked from the sky and blew up a small tree not 5 feet away from her car. Before she could even yell, another thunder clap, louder than the first sounded. Raising her hands to cover her ears, she saw a bright light electrify the sky. The intensity nearly blinded her, and she moved to cover her eyes. She saw the lightning literally coming towards her, as if it had pinpointed her location and was actually attacking her. Instantly, pain flooded her body, and Kates world faded to black.
Am I dead? Barely conscious, that thought made its way into Kates head. I hurt too much to be dead. With that notion, Kate lost consciousness again.
"Look, I heard something. If someones made it past the perimeter guards this far, shell have our heads. Lets just look over the hill there. If theres nothing there, we can go back."
Darphus smirked at Cretis deciding to go along with him on this one. After all, he was second in command. Cant make it look like Im a slacker. Bad for moral. "Fine, lets go. Just over the hill and thats it. Im hungry, and the war councils meeting in about a candlemark or so. Lets get this over with."
The two men led their horses through the brush and over the top of the nearby hill. Once there, they both saw a womans body laying prone in a small clearing. Looking at each other, they dismounted their horses and slowly approached the interloper. As they made their way to the woman, they drew their swords, aware that the scene could be a trap. As Cretis kept watch, Darphus nudged the woman with his boot. Hearing her groan, he wedged his boot under her stomach and quickly flipped her over onto her back. Looking up at Cretis, Darphus shrugged his shoulders. "Go and have a look around. Lets make sure shes alone." Cretis nodded to his superior and left the clearing. Darphus bent down and watched the woman at his feet slowly open her eyes.
Kate heard sounds, strange sounds, then felt something hit her side. Her whole body ached and the slight nudge brought a groan to her mouth. The next thing she knew her body was flipping over, and new bolts of pain shot through her head. She tried, unsuccessfully at first, to open her eyes. When she was finally able to manage that small task, she was overwhelmed with vertigo. Her stomach turned over, her head exploded, and she groaned even louder as she clutched her head.
"Its clear! No one else is around." Cretis approached Darphus. Staring down at the strange woman, he finally got his first good look at her. "What kinda clothes are those?"
Ignoring the warrior, Darphus reached down and picked up Kate, throwing her over his shoulder. "Never mind. Shell talk once we get her back to camp. Probably just another runaway." Paying no attention to the muffled groans of his prisoner, Darphus threw her over the front of his saddle, then mounted his horse. "Xenas gonna love this one."
Time had no meaning to Kate. She drifted in and out of consciousness, only aware of the pain hammering her body, and the sickening feeling she had every time she attempted to open her eyes or clear her head. When she did reach some awareness, it seemed nothing made sense anyway. She had short glimpses of horses and strange men in archaic dress. It was just too much effort to try and make any sense of what was apparently happening to her. In her mind, she was hallucinating; sick from whatever had occurred in the storm. Ill wake up and thisll all be over. Trying again to open her eyes, her stomach lurched. The vertigo got worse and worse, her head pounded relentlessly. Kate, once again, fell unconscious.
"Think shes sick?" Cretis asked Darphus as they entered camp. He watched with interest as the various warriors within camp stopped what they were doing to see what Darphus was bringing to their leader.
"No...I think shes faking it. Probably ran from her owner and just got too tired to go any further. Shell wish for the day when she was back where she came from once Xenas done with her. Id like to know how she got through the guards though. Theyd better pray to the gods that the Warrior Princess is in a good mood today. Shell skin them alive for this breach in security."
As Darphus finished talking, he brought his horse to a halt outside of Xenas tent. Jumping down from his mount, he grabbed the unconscious woman and again threw her over his shoulder. Using one hand to steady his load, he opened the flap to the tent with his free hand and walked inside.
"Youre late." The Warrior Princess didnt turn around, but continued to stare at the battle plans in front of her.
"Ive brought you a little present." Darphus had walked to the far corner of Xenas tent, throwing the prisoner onto a mound of pillows near the Warrior Princess bedding.
Xena turned around and walked over to her bed. The strangely dressed woman at her feet seemed to be sick, groaning and clutching her head. The Warrior Princess cocked her head and smiled.
"Whered she come from?"
"Found her lying on the ground inside the southeast perimeter." Before Xena could say a word, Darphus continued. "Ive called out extra men to check the area and the guards who were on duty in that sector should be outside waiting for you."
Darphus had his faults, Xena pondered, but he was a good commander in her army. Shed only known him for about 5 years. During that time, hed risen from a low-ranking guard to her second in command. Although she could see some excesses in his conduct, so far, he was her trusted confidant, someone she would *almost* trust with her life. He knew that shed require some sort of penance from the guards who let this woman get close to their camp. As she walked towards the opening of her tent, she felt not one bit of pity for the men she was about to confront. Too bad for them...Im really in a horrid mood today.
Strange sounds were coming from someplace near her, and Kate tried as best she could to make out the source of the noise. Slowly sitting up, she held her head and then carefully opened her eyes. Although the vertigo returned, it was much less intense. The next thing she heard was a bloodcurdling yell, immediately propelling her to her unsteady feet. The vertigo maintained its hold on her, but she was frightened enough to try to move anyway. Stumbling forward, she grabbed onto the center pole holding the tent high overhead. Seeing a small opening in the back of the tent, Kate moved as quickly as her battered body would allow. Clutching her head, she reached down and pulled back the flap of the tent. As she tried to duck, she heard sounds behind her.
Kate turned too quickly, and she dizzily fell onto her backside. She looked up to see the woman who spoke walk casually over to her prone body as she slipped a bloody sword into a scabbard fastened to her side.
"I asked you a question...normally people dont make me repeat myself."
Kate stared at the tall warrior woman. Shaking her head, she tried to make sense of what was happening. "I...uh...oh god...." The blonde woman felt her body lift off the ground and found herself face to face with the dark warrior woman...her feet dangling off the ground. "Please...Im, I...I dont...my head...its splitting open."
Xena, seemingly with little effort, walked over to her bedding and dropped Kate back onto the pillows she was originally placed on. Looking down at the frightened woman, Xena again began to ask questions.
"Who are you and whered you come from?"
All Kate could think at this point was that she was in some bizarre dream, one that would surely end shortly. Even so, she was scared and she felt very sick.
"Um, my name is Kate...Kate Delaney. I was driving home...I think I had an accident. The car...uh, the car got hit by lightning I think....I dont know...um...." It took all Kates strength to get those words out. She collapsed onto the pillows barely conscious.
Xena continued to stare down at the beautiful woman and wondered who she was. This was the first real time the Warrior Princess had taken to really look at the young woman. She grinned in appreciation at what she saw. Although strangely dressed, she was an eye-catcher. This Kate person had only come up to Xenas shoulders; barely at that. Her long reddish blonde hair hung loosely around her shoulders, and although they had been hard to see, Xena had caught a glimpse of this strange womans piercing green eyes. Xena found herself smiling in appreciation and couldnt help but think, whoever owns this ones a lucky person.
It was dark outside when Kate regained consciousness. Her head was still pounding, but as she opened her eyes, she was pleased to feel no dizziness. She did have a sinking feeling, however, when she realized that she was still apparently hallucinating. The lighting was not good, but she could make out the bigger details of the tent she found herself in earlier. Why cant I wake up? Slowly sitting up, she looked at her surroundings. She was alone in the tent of that warrior woman...the one who had the bloody sword. Kate took her time, and ever so carefully rose from the pillow-covered bedding where she had been laying. Walking deliberately to get her legs under her, Kate made her way towards the front of the tent and opened the flap slightly to see outside.
All she could think was that it was like something out of a movie. There were fires spread out at intervals over a large area of land...as far as Kate could see. The men sitting around the closest fires were dressed in archaic leather getups. They all seemed to be armed, with swords and knives easily discernible on their bodies. She saw one or two men and the same number of women cowering near the fires, serving food to various warriors while taking any and all sorts of abuse from the armed men. It was just too much for Kate to digest and she turned back into the tent. Ive gotta get out of here.
Xena slowly made her way back to her tent. Dinner had been more than satisfying; the cook knowing all too well not to disappoint her when she was in a foul mood. Her disposition somewhat improved by the meal, the Warrior Princess stopped to acknowledge her men as she made her way through the camp.
The warriors thoughts kept going back to the strange woman in her tent. She seemingly had come out of nowhere. Xenas best trackers had been called out to look around the area where Kate was found, trying to figure out where she was from and who she belonged to. The men came back empty handed, as there were literally no signs showing where this woman had come from. Xena noted that from all appearances, the woman was well kept and nourished, something you usually didnt see with most slaves. Shaking her head, Xena arrived at her tent and ducked in. Shell tell me what I want to know soon enough.
It seemed like shed been running for hours. After slipping out the back of the warriors tent, Kate had made her way to the woods and began to jog at a steady pace away from the camp. The full moon was both a blessing and a curse, as Kate could somewhat make out what was in front of her. On the other hand, she was very aware that she was also more visible...all the more reason to continue running.
She had done some serious thinking as she made her way through the woods. She was frightened by the looming possibility that the entire situation wasnt a dream or a hallucination. It has to be a dream...things like this just dont happen! Maybe I really am dead...or maybe in a coma...something.... It just became too upsetting to think anymore, plus she tended to start tripping over her feet in the dark, so she began clearing her mind, thinking only of where she was going. God...I dont *know* where Im going...or where I am....please, please let me wake up.... Kate allowed herself some tears as she slowed down to catch her breath and walked deeper and deeper into the woods. She felt less than confident that she had put enough distance between herself and the camp.
Kates heart lurched into her throat as she heard the strange yell, only to stop dead in her tracks as the warrior woman seemingly flew out of nowhere, landing in front of her.
"Youre becoming a lot of trouble Kate."
Not thinking of anything but getting away, Kate turned and began to run. Xena, growing tired of the game, grabbed her whip and almost casually arched it toward the fleeing woman, allowing it to quickly wrap around her neck before she tugged back. Kates forward motion abruptly stopped as she was thrown backwards onto the ground, clutching the leather wrapped around her neck.
Xena took up the slack of the whip as she casually walked over to her captive. Staring down at the struggling woman, she smiled. Kate, although focused on getting the whip from around her neck, took that exact time to look into the warriors face. Chills ran through her body.
Before Kate knew what was happening, Xena bent down and turned her onto her stomach, tying her wrists together using the slack from the whip still secured around her neck. Kate then felt her body being lifted up and turned. Realizing that her eyes were closed, Kate opened them to see herself toe-to-toe with the larger-than-life warrior woman. Expecting her to say something, Kate was surprised when Xena brought two fingers up to her mouth and whistled into the air. She was even more astounded when a beautiful light colored horse made its way toward them from the surrounding woods.
The warrior took an iron hold on Kates right arm and led her to the horse. Before she even knew that her arm was free, Kate watched as the warrior vaulted up onto the saddle then reached down and grabbed the back of her collar. Kate could not believe the strength of this strange woman as she casually lifted her with one arm onto the front of the saddle, then turned the horse back towards the camp.
"No more games, and no more running. When we get back, I have some questions for you...and youll answer them one way or another."
Kate was dragged off the horse once Xena had stopped outside her tent. No words had been exchanged once the Warrior Princess had started back to camp. Kate was too scared to utter a sound, and Xena made it clear by her actions she wasnt one for small talk. Xena pulled back the flap to her tent and roughly shoved Kate inside. Not having her hands to steady her, the frightened woman fell onto her knees, then to her stomach in the middle of the tent, knocking the wind totally out of her body.
"Now, the ground rules are simple," Xena casually remarked as she began removing her armor. "I ask a question and you give me an answer. Dont make me angrier than I already am."
With tears streaming down her face, Kate finally got some air in her lungs and turned onto her back staring up at the Warrior Princess. "Please...I dont know...you wont believe me...I...."
"Well, I guess its up to you to convince me then, huh?"
Kate regained consciousness slowly. Looking to the far side of the tent, she saw the front flap open and realized it was morning. Tears flowed down her face as she thought back to the night before.
Xena, the woman holding her captive, had been brutal. As Kate had known would be the case, her story sounded preposterous. Kate acknowledged to herself that she never would have believed such a thing possible either! Unfortunately, true to her word, Xena had beaten her in attempts to get her to change her story. Kate started crying remembering her begging the warrior woman to stop hurting her. Finally she had. Kate only hoped that shed convinced this Xena woman that at least *she* believed the story she was telling, and couldnt tell her anything else.
Trying to calm down, the crying hurt her too much, Kate assessed the damage done. Her clothes were gone, taken at some point last night by Xena. The warrior woman seemed fascinated at the denim fabric in her jeans and jacket. Her tennis shoes were lying next to Xenas bedding.
Lying naked, covered only by a thin blanket, Kate looked at the bruises covering her entire body and the burns on her wrists from the whip. She hurt everywhere. She didnt even have the strength to sit up. Never having experienced violence in her life, Kate was shell-shocked by the utter brutality of the strange woman named Xena. The frightened woman pondered that Xena seemed to enjoy watching her beg. Kate dejectedly began to cry again, thinking that maybe this wasnt a dream or hallucination...but all too real.
Xena walked back into her tent after breakfast and sat down on her bedding, pulling out her sword and a sharpening stone. At first, Kate, who hadnt moved an inch since shed woken up, thought the warrior woman had forgotten about her. And frankly, she wasnt about to do anything to send the womans attention back her way.
"Thats quite a story youve given me. Unbelievable."
Kate began crying again...she couldnt help it. "Please...I swear...Im not lying! Ill say anything you want me to...just dont...dont hurt me anymore...please...."
Xena stopped sharpening her blade and stared at the woman cowering across the tent. She then reached down and picked up one of her shoes. "Whats this made of?"
Kate wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to compose herself. Keep her talking...maybe shell leave me alone if I keep her talking....
"Um...I think the top parts canvas of some sort. The bottoms rubber."
"Yeah, uh, its a...well, I think they make it from the sap of rubber trees."
"Yes, I think they grow in the tropics...South America...places like...." Seeing Xenas expression, Kate got scared and again stopped talking.
Xena dropped the shoe and stood up, all the while staring at Kate. Much to Kates relief, the warrior woman turned away and walked over to a chest near her bedding. After scavenging through the wooden box, Xena pulled out a few items and walked over to Kate.
As quickly as before, Xena bent down before Kate knew what was happening and turned her over onto her stomach, the thin blanket only partially covering her nakedness. Kate felt something being fastened around her neck. It seemed to be some sort of leather collar. She then heard, what sounded like a locking mechanism fastening the collar in place. Xena then grabbed her right arm, locking a metal cuff around her wrist. Kate began to understand what was happening and started pulling back against Xenas hold. The next thing she knew, a searing pain ran through her arm.
"Dont move again!"
Xena glared at Kate. The frightened woman froze as Xena locked on metal cuffs to her wrists and then her ankles. When she was done, Kate looked at the cuffs, seeing metal rings protruding from them, and intuitively knowing what they were for. She reached up and touched the collar around her neck, feeling the same sort of rings. She couldnt help but tear up again.
Xena walked away, returning to the chest. Once there she pulled out a peasant skirt and top. Sitting back down on her bedding, the warrior woman held the garments out to Kate.
"Here, put these on, then Ill get you started with some chores around the camp."
Kate sat motionless. Besides being extremely sore from the beating shed taken, her modesty made her hesitate.
Kate painfully bolted up and made her way to the warrior woman.
"Im not someone who likes repeating myself Kate...thats something it would behoove you to remember."
Kate, embarrassed and scared as she was, took the clothing from Xena and dressed as the warrior watched her. Once she was clothed, she bent down to pick up her shoes.
"No shoes." Xena watched as Kate quizzically looked up at her. "My slaves dont wear shoes unless weve broken camp and even then its my choice. Plus," Xena said grabbing Kates new collar, pulling her directly in front of her with a sharp tug, "you seem to have a penchant for running." Eyeing her new slave, Xena cocked her head as she stared at the frightened woman. She began to laugh as the young woman blushed. "Lets go."
Xena kept her fingers wrapped through the link in Kates new collar as she led the frightened woman outside. Kate had trouble keeping up with the long strides of the powerful warrior, and found herself having to painfully jog to keep up. Thankfully, that helped her ignore the stares and glares coming her way from the men and women in Xenas army as they made their way through the camp.
Kate finally got an idea of where they were headed, when she saw a makeshift corral in the distance tucked away in a corner of the camp. Xena practically dragged Kate into the enclosure and over to the horse theyd ridden into camp on last night. She was amazed at the change in Xenas demeanor when she approached the horse and began petting her gently on her nose with her free hand.
"This is Argo. Shes very temperamental around people, especially new people. But you both need to get used to each other. I want you to wash and brush her down, then feed her." Jerking Kates neck harshly, Xena continued. "Dont talk to anyone and dont leave the corral until I come back."
Kate meekly spoke up. "I...Ive never uh, cleaned or fed a horse before. I dont know what to do. Im sorry." She then cowered back, expecting Xena to react harshly.
Xena smirked, not exactly what Kate had expected. "Argoll let you know if youre doing something wrong." Xena turned and yelled to the camp horse handler. "Malik! When shes done grooming Argo, show her where the grains are. And check on her from time to time. Dont want Argo hurting my new slave."
The Warrior Princess let go of Kates collar and stepped back. "Ill be back in a while. Dont disobey...or disappoint me Kate. Last night was nothing compared to what I can do to you. Clear?"
"Yes," Kate replied meekly.
Xena turned and began to walk away, only to stop in mid-track. Walking back over to the side of the corral, she stopped and picked up a short chain. "Oh, forgot this." The Warrior Princess threw the chain in front of Kate. "Not that I think youd be stupid enough to run again, but I dont have the men right now to keep an eye on you. Wrap that through the links on your ankles."
Kate teared up again as she bent down and did as Xena instructed. The Warrior Princess then threw a small lock on the ground. "Lock it into place." Again, Kate knew better than to hesitate. Once finished, she stood up to see the warrior woman walking away.
The day went by in a blur of alien activity for Kate. Argo had eventually allowed the frightened woman to get near her, only then to seemingly taunt her. Kate lost count of how many buckets of water the horse knocked over on her...on purpose. If she had not known better, she would have thought the horse was snickering at her each time she got splashed. Between the water and constantly falling over her chained feet, she was filthy within minutes.
Kates persistence and total love of animals had eventually won Argo over. Once she was done with the grooming, Malik had shown her how to attach Argos feeder. Although she had new bruises and scrapes on her knees and elbows from constantly falling, she found herself relaxing a bit, trying to forget where she was and just enjoying petting Argo as the horse ate.
When Xena had come back for her, it seemed the warrior woman was surprised that Argo was treating her so nicely. Kates heart began to race when Xena approached her. Not knowing if what shed done for Argo would meet with her approval, or if the woman would find something else to be upset with her about, Kate began cowering back against the horse. Luckily, she seemed satisfied with Argos grooming. Kate continued to cower back as Xena looked her over and spoke.
"Youre a mess."
Kate looked down at herself, seeing both mud and some blood covering her skirt and top. She didnt need a mirror to know that her hair was a total disaster too. Not knowing how to respond to the warrior woman, Kate remained silent. As scared as she was, Kate was also exhausted, very hungry, and getting angry. Knowing her Irish temper would get her in trouble, she did everything she could to hold it in. However, instead of looking at her feet, knowing instinctively thats what she should be doing, Kate glared at Xena.
Xena smiled. "I see youre angry. Maybe thisll cool you off." Quickly reaching down, Xena grabbed a bucket of water and threw it on Kate, totally drenching her. "Thatll get most of the dirt off anyway."
Kate reacted before she could think. She lunged at Xena, tripping over her chained feet before she got within a foot of her. Before she could get up, Xenas booted foot came down hard on Kates back, forcing her flat onto the muddy ground. As hard as she tried to get up, she couldnt budge. She groaned, struggling with mounting frustration, then finally stopped moving.
"Wrong response Kate. However, I do like a bit of spirit in my slaves." Knowing shed won this battle, Xena removed her boot from Kates back. "Get up and get some water from Malik. Clean up as best you can then come back here."
Kate slowly got up and turned away teary-eyed, walking towards the opposite end of the corral to wash. Returning back to where Xena stood petting Argo, Kate had done the best she could to clean up, and to get her temper under control. She silently berated herself for her own stupidity. This was a very dangerous woman, one who had no scruples about inflicting pain. What was I thinking? God, how stupid can I be? Just hold it in....
Xena smiled when Kate returned. She was fairly clean, most of the mud washed off her face, neck, and arms. The dress, however, was a disaster.
Shaking her head and chuckling at the wet woman, Xena grabbed Kates arm and began leading her out of the corral. "Come on."
There was no way for the shorter woman to keep up with Xena now that her feet could only move about a foot forward at a time. "Wait, wait...please...." Xena stopped and glared at Kate.
"Look, either you can go slower, or youre gonna have to drag me. Or," Kate pointed down to the chain attached to her ankles, "you can let me take this off.".
Xena stared at Kate, thinking she was either very stupid, or very brave. She reached into a pouch on her side and removed the key to the lock and threw it at Kate. Watching the woman pull the metal links from her ankles, the Warrior Princess took back the lock, key and chain. "Dont make me regret doing this, cus youll regret it more. Got it?"
Xena grabbed Kates arm again and led her to the center of the encampment. "Okay, I want you to get firewood for tonight. Lay the piles in front of the tents...never be out of my line of sight. When youre finished, you can help the cook get dinner ready." Seeing Kate hesitate, the warrior pushed her towards the woods. "Go!"
Kate found herself walking to the edge of the woods and picking up twigs and small branches that had fallen off the nearby trees. She looked over her shoulder and saw that Xena had settled herself outside what looked like the cooking tent, and was reading some sort of scroll. What was also obvious to Kate was that Xena knew exactly where she was. She seemed to be able to read and watch her at the same time. Regardless, Kate made sure that she never went too far into the woods, and that she was never out of sight of Xena.
The mindless work did two things. It helped Kate to calm down some, get her temper under control, and it also reminded her that every bone in her body ached, not to mention her uncovered feet. After about an hour, it seemed like she could barely bend over anymore without letting out a groan. She would, from time to time, look over at Xena, who continued to read, watch her, and carry on conversations with various people. Men and women of the camp seemed drawn to this dangerous woman. As she deposited another load of wood outside one of the tents, Kate found herself admitting that Xena did have charisma. Watching her deal with her men, it was clear to her that this woman had total control over everything happening in the camp. Including, it seemed, her life.
"Kate, get over here!"
Xena had seen Kate stop working to stretch, and decided the woman had done enough collecting for the day. Besides, Damon, the camp cook, needed help with dinner. As she watched the tired woman slowly approach her, she also found herself admiring her new possession. After the beating shed taken last night, she was surprised that the woman was still standing. She admitted that she was fascinated with this strange woman. Her story about being brought by the bizarre storm theyd had yesterday was preposterous. Her descriptions of where she came from made absolutely no sense, but Xena was looking forward, for the entertainment value alone, to talking more with Kate after dinner tonight.
Kate finally made it to within an easy earshot of the Warrior Princess. "I think if you tried harder, you could walk slower."
Xenas sarcasm was not lost on Kate as she continued to make her way towards the woman. However, remembering her stupidity earlier in the day, she didnt respond.
"Damon!" Xena turned and greeted the cook as he walked out of his tent wiping his hands on a towel. "Heres your helper for the evening. See that she earns her keep." Reaching down to the ground, Xena grabbed the chain that had been removed from Kates ankles earlier. Standing up, she walked over to her new slave and offered her the shackle. "Ive got some business to take care of. Put this back on."
Kate shut her eyes for a moment and let out a tired sigh. Dont cry...dont let her see you cry anymore. Just do what she says.... She then reached out and took the chain from Xena, bent down and again, fed it through her ankle cuffs. She looked up as Xena handed her the lock. Locking the restraint in place, Kate slowly stood back up and looked at the Warrior Princess.
Xena stared at Kate for a moment, then turned to Damon. "Shes new here. Show her what you need done and keep an eye on her." Looking back at the tired woman, Xena smiled. "And Damon, no food or water...clear?"
The cook shook his head, "No problem." Turning to Kate, he motioned her into the tent. "Come on...lets get you started."
Knowing she was tearing up again, Kate avoided looking at Xena as she slowly slipped past her and walked into the tent with the cook.
Kate had never been so tired or hungry in her entire life. And watching Xena eagerly attack her meal while she stood by was one of the hardest things shed done in a very long time. Her time in the cooks tent had been pure torture. Damon was a taskmaster, ordering her to cut, peal, stir, carry, and any number of things that left her weary to the bone. He also made sure that she never brought anything close to her mouth. Kate was grateful that she had helped herself to some water while taking care of Argo earlier in the day. As it was, that was the only thing shed put on her stomach other than a Diet Coke or two since the morning of the day she came to this place. If shed lost no time, Kate surmised, that would have been yesterday morning. Slightly shaking her head, Kate knew that the snack she had that morning had long ago left her stomach. God...what Id do for a Pop Tart right now....
A startled Kate looked at Xena. "Im sorry, I was...."
"Daydreaming isnt something Id consider to be in your best interest Kate. Now go get me another plate and some fresh water. Be quick about it!"
Kate reached out and took Xenas plate from the table. Making her way though the crowd of warriors, she couldnt help but see them staring and talking about her. She also realized that as rowdy as they were, they would never take any liberties with her. It was clear why. She was Xenas property and the men knew that only with her approval would they be able to treat her the way they treated the other slaves in the camp. She then saw the looks of the slaves in the tent as they served the tables of warriors. Most of them avoided even looking her way, but those who did seemed to have a strange combination of hate and pity for her.
Kate tripped over her feet again, and slowed her pace down, focusing on her feet as she walked over to the steaming pots of food. Loading the plate down with a variety of stew, bread, fruits, and vegetables, Kate made her way over to the water flasks and grabbed one on the way back to Xena.
Xena watched as Kate slowly made her way back to her. When she put the tray of food in front of her, the Warrior Princess finally took a bit of pity out on her slave. "You can sit down," Xena offered as she pointed out the empty chair across from her.
Kate sat down and within seconds her head seemed to drop slowly down to her chest.
"I said you could sit, not sleep."
"Hungry?" Xena raised her eyebrow and seemed to smirk at the young woman as she chewed on some bread.
Mustering as much dignity as she could, Kate responded simply. "Yes, I am."
"Hm...well, maybe I can be talked into giving you some of this food." Xena looked down at her plate then over to Kate. "Ask nicely now."
Kate closed her eyes briefly and took a deep breath. "Xena, may I please have something to eat?"
"Im sorry, I didnt hear you."
Xenas sarcastic smile was not lost on the hungry woman. But at this point, she was just too tired to care and was not about to let Xena goad her into doing something stupid again. She knew she needed to eat something. "Im sorry. I asked if I might please have something to eat."
Xena continued to smile. "See, now that wasnt so difficult was it?" The Warrior Princess handed Kate a piece of bread and pushed the water flask over to her.
Kate accepted the food and water. "Thank you." She then began to eat, thinking that nothing had ever tasted so good. Unfortunately it was gone all too quickly. She timidly looked at Xena.
"More?" Xena was obviously enjoying the situation.
Kate hated begging, but she also realized that this was a no win situation. If she didnt play Xenas game, shed get no food. If she played along, she might. Taking another breath to calm her ragged nerves, she responded. "Yes, please." Xena handed over a small piece of fruit and watched as Kate greedily ate it down.
The game continued as Xena slowly allowed Kate, after asking properly, to eat half of her second plate of food. The Warrior Princess noticed that the food seemed to slightly rejuvenate her new slave, which was a good sign. She had a number of questions she wanted to ask Kate, and had begun to wonder if shed be alert enough to answer her adequately. But first, she had a meeting with Darphus to discuss their next raid.
"Come on...time to go." Xena rose up and began to leave the tent. Kate did the best she could to follow, but as happened earlier, the warriors stride was impossible to match with her ankles manacled together. This time, however, Xena seemed not to care and strode ahead of her towards her tent.
When Kate finally entered the shelter, Xena had already removed her armor and deposited it near her bed. "Were going to have another talk tonight, but Ive gotta take care of some business first."
At the mere mention of having another *talk* with Xena, Kates heart pummeled her chest, and she pleaded with the warrior. "Please Xena...I..." Staring down at her feet, tears in her eyes, she tried to continue. "I dont know what else I can tell you. Youve got to believe me...please...I...."
"Here." Xena handed Kate a towel and a jar of something she could not make out. "While I talk with Darphus, I want you to clean my armor. Get at it." Xena pushed Kate towards her bed. Kate fell towards the armor as Xena turned away and walked to the table near the back of her tent. Knowing shed been summarily dismissed, Kate crawled over to the bed and sat down, making herself as comfortable as possible. Picking up the towel, jar, and Xenas armor, she began her work, trying not to think about what was to come later.
Kate estimated that Darphus and Xena had been discussing battle plans for over an hour. An hour of pure horror as far as the frightened woman was concerned. She couldnt help but overhear the plans for taking a village named Sirus, located just a few days away. Apparently they were breaking camp tomorrow and heading towards the hamlet. Xenas scouts had returned, giving the Warrior Princess valuable information on the village defenses, while leaving part of her army near Sirus in preparation for the main warrior contingent to arrive. It was difficult to imagine the brutality needed to casually discuss the murder of innocent people, whos only crime was that they were in the Warrior Princess path.
Xena was not oblivious to Kates curiosity. She caught her new slave watching and listening to her discussions with Darphus on several occasions. Kate would always look away, down at her work, but both women knew that she was paying close attention to the talks. Xena knew shed have to *discuss* this with Kate later. Refocusing on the job at hand, the Warrior Princess went over the last points of strategy with Darphus, then dismissed him to start preparing for their departure tomorrow.
When Kate saw Darphus leave, she began to feel so afraid, she knew she would get physically sick at any moment. Besides their impending *talk* the young woman knew that Xena caught her listening to her conversation with Darphus. Assuming the worst, Kate nearly jumped out of her skin when Xena walked over to her and pulled her up to her feet.
Barely able to talk, Kate stuttered a reply. "I...um, I think...yes, I mean...."
"Come on." Xena grabbed hold of Kate and threw her over her shoulder, not wanting to wait for her to hobble behind or unlock the chain around her ankles. Walking out of her tent, the warrior quickly ducked into another nearby canopy, depositing her slave down next to a tub filled with steaming water. Kate was surprised and blushed deeply when Xena stripped out of her leathers and unabashedly slid into the steaming water. After settling in, she voiced her impatience. "Dont just stand there...get some soap and wash my back!"
Kate hurried to comply. With her shaking hands, she grabbed some nearby soap and a small towel, then timidly began to lather Xenas back. The warrior began to relax in the water, and Kate calmed down a small bit, not oblivious to Xenas obvious attributes.
"Bad manners Kate. Dont stare."
Kate blushed furiously, and fumbled for something to say, all the while thinking that Xena had to have eyes in the back of her head. "I...I dont know what...."
Changing the subject with a chuckle, the Warrior Princess asked. "So, since you heard what we were saying back in my tent, what do you think of the attack plans?
Kate had no idea how to answer the warrior. She stopped washing Xenas back, but seeing the Warrior Princess turn her head and stare at her, she resumed her work.
Xena, less than patient spoke again. "I asked what you think Kate. And if you continue to make me repeat myself...."
God...what do I say? "I...dont know how to answer. Im sorry."
Xena submerged herself under the water, then stood up and got out of the tub. A totally surprised Kate stumbled back, tripping over her feet and landing on her backside, staring up at the Warrior Princess.
"Wrong answer. Get me a towel."
Kate reached over and grabbed the closest towel from a pile near the tub. She then stood up and handed it to Xena.
"Get undressed and get in the tub. Youre still filthy."
Knowing she was on less than shaky ground at this point, her modesty went by the wayside, and Kate quickly began to undress as ordered. Once out of her clothing, she approached the tub and hesitated, trying to figure out the best way to get in with her ankles still shackled. Next thing she knew she was lifted off the ground and dropped down into the tub.
Xena handed Kate the soap, and the frightened woman began washing. She looked back at Xena, who had just finished drying off and was wrapping herself in the towel.
"Now, again, and this time Id strongly suggest you answer."
Im in trouble regardless of what I say at this point.... "I guess...I was um, upset." Kate avoided eye contact with Xena and continued to wash herself hoping the nonanswer would be sufficient. Next thing she knew she was under the water, unable to break the hold keeping her there. An eternity later, Xena pulled her up as she harshly coughed up water from her lungs.
"You know Kate, at this rate, youre not gonna last very long. Care to try again?"
Continuing to cough, Kate shook her head, barely able to get any words out of her mouth. "I...sorry...please...."
Xena gave her a few moments to collect herself, however she never released her ironlike grip from Kates shoulder. Seeing that her slaves coughing had somewhat subsided, Xena spun her around and looked directly into her eyes. "Well?"
Tears mixing with the water from the tub, Kate knew she had to answer truthfully. "I...I was horrified." Seeing Xena cock her head, she continued. "It sounded um, its like you have no regard for the people youre going to slaughter."
Xena let go of Kates shoulder. "Finish washing." Walking over to the towels, Xena grabbed one for the frightened woman. The Warrior Princess found herself growing impatient. "Get out and dry off." Xena stood back and watched as Kate got out of the tub and then handed her the towel. "You know, weve given the villagers a choice...some of their food and money, you know...a tribute, or their village. Theyve *chosen* to fight us. Whatever happens is on their heads."
Kate had barely finished drying off when Xena completed her sentence. Before she knew what she was doing, the young woman angrily responded back. "What kind of choice is that? Theyre fighting for their...." Kate stopped talking. Oh my god...what am I doing?
Xena smiled. "See, now that wasnt hard was it?" She walked up to Kate and roughly grabbed her chin, forcing the young woman to look directly into her eyes. "Never, and I mean never lie to me or evade questions again. Ya got that?"
Seeing the woman slightly nod, Xena let go and turned away. "Come on, time for our little talk." She grabbed her leathers and went to the front of the tent opening the flap. Again, her impatience got the better of her. "Kate! Youre making me angry."
Kate, who had actually gone back over to where her clothing was found herself tearing up again. "I was getting my...."
"Leave them. Theyre ruined. Just come on."
Resolved to have as much dignity as she could muster...which wasnt much considering she was almost nude with her ankles shackled together...Kate walked over to Xena. The Warrior Princess grabbed her collar and led her back into her own tent.
"Now," Xena sighed as they entered her shelter and looked at her slave visibly start shaking, "where were we?"
Xena moved over to her bedding and dropped the towel shed worn from the bathing tent. She glanced over at Kate, who quickly - but not quickly enough - dropped her eyes, as the Warrior Princess slipped a clean shift over her head. The warrior smiled at Kates blushing cheeks.
"Take that wet towel off...youre shaking and the last thing I needs for you to get sick."
Kate stumbled for words. "I...but I dont...I dont have anything to wear."
Xena watched as Kates shaking increased. "Its not like its something Ive never seen before Kate." Walking over to the frightened woman, the Warrior Princess grabbed the front of Kates towel pulling it off of her. Kate stood in agonizing humiliation as Xena made a point of casually looking her over. "Besides...you belong to me now."
Finally, the warrior turned and walked over to the table located on the other side of her tent. "You can wrap yourself in the blanket you used last night." Watching Kate scamper over and wrap herself with the cover, Xena sat down and motioned towards her slave. "Come over here and sit."
Kate did what Xena asked and found herself sitting across the table from the brutal woman. "Xena, please...."
The Warrior Princess had picked up a pitcher of water from the table and poured herself a goblet. When Kate began to speak, Xena cut her off. "Tell me about your family."
Surprised at Xenas question, Kate hesitated in responding. Seeing the Warrior Princess glare, she spoke up. "I...my family...okay. Um, I have a few cousins and nephews...two nieces, and uh...one aunt and two uncles."
"Parents? Brothers or sisters?"
Kate shook her head. "I was an only child. And, um...my parents, well, they died a few years ago."
"Howd they die?"
"They were killed in a...." Kate stopped and lowered her head. How can I explain what a plane is? "...an accident."
Sensing that her slave was holding back, the Warrior Princess changed the subject. "And you said you were from where?"
"Uh huh. Well, seeing as Ive never heard of this place, can you show it to me on these maps?" Xena pointed down at the maps she and Darphus used earlier in the day.
Kate began to visibly get nervous again. "I...its not going to be on your maps. Its...."
Seeing her unsettled, Xena continued to change the subject. "Its obvious that you dont do any kind of farm work, or any work outside for that matter. What is it that you do?"
"Do? Um...Im a reporter...a writer."
"Well thats how I make a living. I work for the Post. But Ive had a number of short stories published and I just finished a manuscript for Simon and Schuster...."
Cutting her off again, Xena probed further. "Whats the Post?"
Kate thought about the question for a moment before replying. "Earlier today you were reading a scroll of some sort." The frightened woman shifted uncomfortably under Xenas gaze. "Yeah, um...well, anyway, imagine having one of those scrolls with all sorts of information about local happenings, things going on elsewhere around the world, the weather forecasts, sporting events...things like that, and then think about having lots of copies made and selling it so people know whats going on around them. Thats kinda what the Post is. I write stories about things of interest to people and they pay to read it."
Xena gulped down her water while Kate finished her sentence. Wiping her mouth on the back of her hand, the warrior stared at Kate. "Youre a storyteller...sort of a bard."
Kate seemed to think about that for a second. "Um, well, yeah, I guess I am."
Xenas gaze turned slightly angry. "So, this could all just be a story youre making up now."
Any calmness Kate had been lulled into had drained from her body. "No...god, no. Xena, please...."
The Warrior Princess stood up and walked around the table. Placing her hand roughly on Kates shoulder, Xena bent down and whispered into the frightened womans ear. "Whyd you lie about your parents?"
"I...I didnt lie...I...they were killed in a plane crash two years ago!" Tears streamed down Kates face.
"Whats a plane?" Xenas hand gripped a little tighter around Kates shoulder.
"I...," How can I explain this? "Xena, youre not going to understand!"
Kate screamed out as Xenas grip practically crushed her shoulder bones. The pressure continued to increase and the frightened woman blurted out, "A planes a flying machine!"
Xena laughed and stood back. "A flying machine?" Shaking her head, she continued. "So, let me get this straight. You live someplace that doesnt exist, a place that has flying machines, and you got here when a storm somehow brought you here from your...what did you call it...your car...that metal wagon that moves without horses. That about sum it up?"
Kate was crying. "Xena...you told me not to lie. Im not lying. I know it sounds crazy." Letting the frightened woman continue to cry, the Warrior Princess saw her resolve slip away. "This is a nightmare. I keep telling myself Ill wake up and Ill be back home in bed. I know this is impossible...I cant explain how or why I got here. I dont belong here. Maybe Im just plain crazy...I dont know. I have no idea where I am, how I got here or how to get back home." Looking up at Xena, Kates eyes pleaded for the warrior to understand. "If I were you, I wouldnt believe me either." Wiping her eyes, Kate beseeched the Warrior Princess. "Please, just tell me what you want me to say and Ill say it."
Xena turned away from Kate and reached over to the pile of maps sitting on the ground near the table. Picking up a plain scroll, she placed it in front of Kate, then gave her a quill that was lying near her pitcher of water.
"I want you to draw a wagon without the horses...and the flying machine too. Then I want a map showing where this Washington place is."
Kates shaking hand took the quill and without any words, she began drawing on the parchment. Xena walked outside to get some fresh air and to think about what this strange woman had said to her. She shook her head as she thought about the unbelievable stories Kate was relating to her. Unbelievable. Impossible. Yet, against her better judgment, she found herself believing the woman. Xena pondered that maybe this woman was, as she herself had said, just crazy. But normally, the warrior thought, if a person is that unbalanced, they cant take care of themselves...and Kate was obviously well groomed and nourished. And Xena wasnt oblivious to Kates physical attributes. It just wasnt possible to be *that* crazy and to be as well kept as this woman surely was. Wondering what she should do with the woman, Xena dipped down and walked back inside her tent.
Kate had finished drawing and was still sitting at the table with her head cradled in her hands. She barely acknowledged the Warrior Princess return.
"Let me see." Xena sat down next to Kate.
Taking her hands away from her head, Kate slid the drawings over to the warrior. Clearing her throat, she spoke. "Im not really that good at drawing. Im sorry." Although she was still scared, Kate spoke in a steady voice. "Ill explain what I drew the best I can."
Xena took in what was in front of her and Kate slowly elaborated on each of her drawings. Most of Xenas questions were specific to the map. Kate had drawn a globe and then, as she remembered from the maps she had seen in school and in atlases, she spread out the world features into a flat surface...roughing out the continents.
When done much later that evening, the warrior found she had more questions than she had already asked. But she saw that Kate was barely conscious. Between her lack of food, the stress, and her physical batterings, the frightened woman could barely hold her head up. As scared as she was, Kate could not manage to keep alert.
"Thats enough for tonight. Were leaving tomorrow and have a long day ahead of us." Xena stood up and went over to her bedding. Slipping out of her shift, she laid down and settled under the covers. Turning to Kate, she ordered her back to the thin pallet shed slept on last evening. "Go lay down now and go to sleep." Knowing Kate would obey her, Xena turned onto her side and instantly fell asleep.
Kate knew it was morning when she felt a sharp pain in her side and open her eyes to see Xena standing over her. "Dont make me kick you again. We need to get moving." Kate slowly sat up and tried to focus. It took all her willpower to not break down and cry seeing that she was still not home. Also, shed never felt so tired in her life. Weary was a word that came to Kates mind as she tried to get herself to wake up.
"KATE! Get up and get over here now!"
Moving with as much speed as she could muster, she stood and wrapped the blanket around her while walking carefully over to Xena.
The Warrior Princess had gotten another skirt and blouse from the her chest. "Here," she said as she handed the clothing to Kate. "Dont ruin these or youll walk around naked."
Kate dropped her blanket and quickly put on the new clothing. Unlike her clothes yesterday, the skirt was fairly short, coming down about an inch from her knee. The top was similar to an oversized sleeping shirt. Once she was dressed, she looked up to see Xena staring at her.
Walking over to her slave, Xena commented on her clothing. "This wont do." Reaching into her boot, Xena took out a blade and grabbed Kates collar. Slicing through the cloth, she could feel Kate shaking. "Hold still or Ill cut you." Continuing her work, Xena finally seemed satisfied. She put the blade back into its sheath and reached out, taking the two hanging pieces of the shirt tail shed left in tact. Tying these in place, Kate finally had enough presence of mind to look and see that Xena had cut the bottom of the long shirt, tying it off above her stomach. Her attention went back to the Warrior Princess as she began to issue orders.
"All right, while Im eating, I want you to go and feed Argo. You go directly to the corral and come right back here once Argos done. Got it?"
"Kate, dont do anything stupid. And like yesterday, no talking to people or wasting time. I need you to come back here and get this stuff packed up. Oh, and you can have some water when youre done with Argo...but thats all...clear?"
Dejected, Kate shook her head and turned to leave the tent, the chain around her ankles making her watch her step.
Kate started back to the tent after about an hour. Luckily, the headway shed made with Argo the day before had not been lost and the horse was actually pleasant to her. She quickly brushed her down then put on her feeder all the while talking with the beautiful mare. Kates stomach growled loudly as she watched the horse eat. Seems shes more important than I am...thats for sure. When Argo was done, Kate removed her feeder, pet her for a few short moments, then headed towards Xenas tent.
Once she entered the canopy, she saw that Xena was nowhere to be found. Remembering her instructions, Kate began folding blankets and stacking piles of pillows together. She found some large canvas bags and assuming the tent contents went inside them, began to pack up. It didnt take her long to load everything located in the tent. Besides the bedding, the Warrior Princess really didnt have much in the way of possessions. Kate realized for the first time that this strange warrior, who obviously had control of a major army of men, lived a fairly spartan lifestyle. Besides her bedding, the chest where she kept clothing, and the table where she conducted business, there wasnt anything else in the tent.
Hearing her stomach growl again, Kate went to the table and sat down. She began pouring a goblet of water for herself, when she realized for the first time that there was a plate of grapes sitting on the table under a cloth napkin. The frightened woman sipped some water and began seriously considering eating a few of the grapes. Shed never know.... Standing up, Kate shuffled over to the tent opening and looked out. She continued to hear laughter from the eating tent and assumed that Xena was still there, enjoying herself.
Making her way back to the table, Kate found herself shaking. Xena had told her not to eat. But here was some food, obviously forgotten, and the warrior woman was nowhere to be seen. Who would be the wiser? Kate made her decision and reached over, picking up a grape from the bowl and putting it in her mouth.
"I see you still dont listen well."
All the color rushed out of Kates face when she heard the warrior woman speak. She didnt even try to make excuses. "Im sorry...I was hungry."
"You finished packing." Xena observed as she strode over to the middle of the tent. "Get these bags outside and put them on the wagon thats along the side of the tent."
Kate shot up from her seat and started walking over to the nearby packs. Before she knew what was happening, the Warrior Princess grabbed her arm, and swinging her around, threw a solid punch into Kates stomach. The frightened woman was lifted off of her feet by the impact, then dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes, unable to breathe.
Xena reached down and grabbed Kates collar, lifting the woman up off the ground. Kates head snapped to the side as she was savagely backhanded by the warrior. When it was clear that the womans senses had somewhat come back to her, Xena spoke in a low, ominous voice. "You disobey me one more time Kate, and I start breaking things. Ya got that?"
Unable to speak, Kate barely nodded.
Xena let the woman fall back down to the ground. "Im going to saddle up Argo. Get this stuff outta here now. Some men will be here shortly to take the tent down." The Warrior Princess turned and left the tent without another word.
Kate was shell-shocked at first and didnt - or couldnt - move. Finally, she was able to wipe the tears from her eyes and, clutching her stomach, stood up on her shaky legs. Grabbing what she could, she began taking the canvas bags out of the tent and loaded them on the wagon. She was finishing with the table when a number of men came by, and in short order took the tent down. Thankfully, they folded the canvas and lifted it onto the wagon while she was only required to get the stakes from the ground.
Kate took the time to see that everyone in the camp was packing, or had already packed and was ready to go. Then she saw Malik bringing two horses her way. He led them over to the front of the wagon. "Here girl, help me getum hitched up. Xenas on her way." Although unclear as to what to do, Malik showed her how to connect the horses bridles and hitch the horses to the wagon. By the time Xena showed up, they were done.
The Warrior Princess slid off Argo and strode over to Kate. Turning around, seeing Darphus ride up, Xena grabbed her slaves collar and walked up to the warrior, practically dragging Kate behind her. "Get everyone moving. Ill be up when I settle her in." Darphus nodded his head and rode towards what appeared to be the front of the caravan headed out of the camp area. The warrior then turned around and jerked on Kates collar, leading her over to the back of the wagon. Not letting go of her neck band, Xena reached down and placed her free hand on Kates rear, and in one motion, tossed her up into the wagon.
"Move to the front...now!"
Kate did what she was told and crawled over the canvas bags to the front of wagon. Xena hopped up into the wagon and opened her chest. Finding what she was looking for, the warrior turned towards Kate. "Sit down with your back against the side." Kate complied immediately with the order as Xena made her way over to her. The Warrior Princess grabbed Kates wrists and snaked another chain through her cuffs, then proceeded to chain her to the wagon. Once she was finished she stared down at her slave.
"Youre lucky that we dont have the time, or Id be tethering you to the back of Argo and making you walk barefoot." Xena hopped down off the wagon and strode back to her horse. Kate watched as she urged Argo towards the front of the caravan...then felt the wagon move also. They were on their way.
It was past midday when the caravan stopped for food and to allow the horses to rest. Kate had no choice but to sit and watch as everyone ate and drank...including the horses. Shed not seen Xena since she rode away earlier that morning, and was worried that the warrior would continue to take her anger out on her physically when she saw her again. Kate then saw that she was about to find out, as Xena made her way through the caravan towards her.
Without a word, the Warrior Princess hopped into the wagon and unchained Kates wrists from the carts side. Jumping down, she turned to her slave. "Come on...get out."
Kate did as she was told and found herself being led into the woods. Once they were out of the visual range of the other warriors, Xena stopped. "Do whatever you have to do now...this is the last stop were making till we make camp tonight."
Kate realized immediately what Xena was referring to...and moved to a nearby tree. She was past embarrassment at this point, and once she was done, Xena led her back to the wagon. As before, the warrior tossed her back into the wagon, and Kate silently went back to the front of the cab, where she had been earlier. Once Xena had reattached her with the chain, the warrior disappeared back towards the front of the caravan. Kate settled herself back down and tried to go to sleep. Her tired, weary and aching body refused to submit, however, and she found herself staring out at the passing wilderness as the caravan slowly made its way towards Sirus.
Kate was startled awake when the constant jostling of the wagon stopped. She had managed some hours ago to slide into a more comfortable corner, and although the chain that held her in place was pulling on her arms, she was able to settle down and finally fall asleep. Trying to focus on where they were, she saw that the caravan was stopped in a fairly large clearing along the roadside. Warriors were starting to settle in for the night...fires were being lit, bedrolls were being laid out. Not surprisingly, no one other than Malik had come near the wagon since theyd stopped. The horse handler had come to retrieve the horses, and once they were unhitched, hed left without a word.
Kate began to shiver. The sun had gone down about 30 minutes ago and the temperatures fell in short order. She was hungry, cold and uncomfortable. Kate couldnt remember a time when shed been so thirsty. And, she admitted, she was scared. She knew that Xena was more than angry with her and didnt know what to expect from her.
Kate nearly jumped out of her skin. How does she just appear out of nowhere? Looking up at Xena as she reached over and unlocked Kates chains, the frightened woman didnt know how to respond.
Once shed unlocked her slave, the warrior jumped down from the wagon. "Come on...follow me."
It took a while for Kate to scramble out of the wagon. Her limbs wouldnt work at all for a while, then with only minor success. Luckily, Xena seemed to understand her problem and didnt push her. Once she was able to stand, Xena led her into the woods again.
"Hurry up...my dinners getting cold."
Kate quickly finished and shuffled beside Xena, who had taken hold of her collar. The frightened woman had assumed that shed just be led back to the wagon, but the warrior took her over to one of the campfires.
Kate settled herself down near the fire, and watched as Xena sat down, picked up a plate and proceeded to start eating. She couldnt help but stare as the warrior seemingly took sadistic delight in watching Kate...knowing how hungry she had to be.
"I take it youd like some of this."
Kate dropped her gaze and stared at her hands. She was angry with herself that she was tearing up again. Taking a deep breath to get her emotions under control, she responded.
"Why should I?"
Kate looked up with a flash of anger that made Xena smile.
"Ah, I see theres still some spirit in there someplace."
Shaking her head, Kate let her gaze drop back down as she tried to concentrate on the warmth of the fire. Minutes passed in silence...then Xena spoke.
Kate looked up and saw that the Warrior Princess was offering her a cup of something hot. She reached out and took the mug from Xenas hand. Looking in, she saw that it was the same stew that Xena had been eating.
Kates eyes looked up at Xena. "Thank you."
"Look Kate, you have a choice to make here. You can do what youre told, in which case, youll probably get along fairly well. Youll have shelter and food...not such a terrible life. Or..." Xena dropped her voice back down to a tone that was definitely threatening. "You can continue to irritate me, in which case you can look forward to a short life filled with a lot of pain. I can make your life totally miserable, and trust me...I have no problems doing that. Your choice." Seeing her message sinking in, the Warrior Princess continued. "But be clear on this Kate. Those are your only choices. Youre here and youre not leaving...you belong to me now and youd better reconcile yourself with that. Now eat up."
Kate ate her stew trying to somehow adjust to what Xena had said to her. Im not gonna wake up...this is real. She was startled out of her thoughts when the warrior reached over and handed her some water.
"Drink this, its time to get some sleep. Tomorrow well leave at first light and meet up with the rest of my army by sundown."
As they walked back towards the wagon, Kate built up some courage and posed a question to the warrior. "Youre still going to invade that village?"
"Thats the plan. And Ill make sure you have a front row view...hows that?"
Kate was awakened by Xena when it was still dark outside. Shed slept on the ground next to the Warrior Princess wagon, her right wrist shackled to one of the wheels. When Xena woke her, she allowed her time to wash up a bit, and after having led her into the woods again, tossed her back into the wagon. Kate moved back to her place near the front of the cart, expecting Xena to chain her in like shed done yesterday. To her surprise, the Warrior Princess only chained one wrist to the side of the wagon, giving Kate much more freedom to move around and get comfortable. She was even more surprised when Xena gave her a pouch with a small bit of fruit and bread inside. As she jumped down from the wagon, the warrior reached down and picked up a water pouch. Handing it to Kate, Xena commented.
"Dont drink this all at once. Its supposed to be hot today and were not stopping until after midday." The warrior turned and left before Kate could say anything.
Kate sat at the campfire trying to be as invisible as possible. Xena had invited all her commanders to join her around the fire to go over their plans for the morning attack. Sickened by the talk around the fire, Kates mind went back to earlier that evening.
When theyd reached the staging area, Xena had made it a point, once their perimeter had been secured, to lead Kate over to the top of a nearby hill, allowing her to look down onto the large village of Sirus below. They could both see the frantic efforts of the townspeople in the distance fortifying their walls and preparing for the upcoming battle.
"Fools...they have no idea...."
"Xena, those people havent done anything to you.... Theyre farmers for crying out loud. How can you just...."
The Warrior Princess turned and glared at Kate. "Dont push me." Grabbing hold of Kates collar, she pulled her close. "Tomorrow we take that village and anyone who raises a hand to stop us dies. Thats what I do....Its what I am."
Now she was sitting at the campfire, listening to Xena and her men laugh about what would happen tomorrow. What made it worse is that Kate knew that there was absolutely nothing she could do about it.
Concluded - Part 2
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