Disclaimer: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle and others mentioned, belong to MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement on their rights are intended.

Subtext Disclaimer: If you’ve been reading the series, you know that their two thousand years old, back in their original bodies, in love and have a very hot sex life, but not in this story. Sorry. In this story original bodies are really original.

Timeline: Plan D #8b. (Told ya there would be more. See note.)

Shock Factor: 4. This story has moments of extreme graphic violence.

Note: Okay, here’s the scoop. I’m introducing a new character to the Plan D series, but her origins go way back to the Greek times. So I’m doing a little sub-series called Ancient Secrets to lay the foundation for the character. Once that is completed, it will be back to Plan D as usual and you will catch glimpses of Grace and Faith along the way.

Send comments to asdease1@gte.net


Ancient Secrets (b)

By FlyBigD

“Show off.” Rolling her eyes, Xena rolled the scroll further up.

Turning Argo, Xena gave her a nudge and then another one, bringing the mare into a slow canter. Looking down, she shook her head as T smiled up at her, running along side.

“Won’t she go any faster?” T asked.

Scowling, Xena nudged the mare again, changing Argo to a fast canter. “How’s that?” Not looking at the woman.

Smiling at Gabrielle, T winked. “That’ll do for now.” Picking up the pace to match the mare.

Chuckling, Gabrielle tightened her hold on the warrior. “She’s getting to you, isn’t she?” Whispering into Xena’s ear.

“No.” Sneering, Xena ignored them both.

The day went on and the warrior continued to push deeper into the forest. Occasionally glancing at T and usually turning, once she’d been smiled at. As the sun crossed the sky above them, Xena saw the shadows getting longer and turned to T. “Are you okay,”

Nodding, T smiled. “I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.”

“We’re gonna have to push harder to get to the cave before sundown.” Keeping one eye on the trees and the other on the running woman.

“Let’s go.” Picking up the pace, T moved ahead of the mare.

“I may have to kill her.” Gritting her teeth, Xena nudged Argo to follow.

Gabrielle held her tongue and smiled. Watching T stretch out her legs, she wondered at the woman they’d found. Who are you? She asked herself, seeing T leap effortlessly over a log.

It was sundown when they finally reached the rock formation that held the cave, Xena had mentioned. Staring up a the over hang, Gabrielle slid out from behind the warrior and let T bring her to the ground. Turning, she noticed that T was breathing a little heavy, but didn’t really show any signs of wear for her run.

Dismounting, Xena sighed. “I’m gonna have to climb up and lower down a rope for you, Gabrielle.” Taking the rope from her saddle.

“That shouldn’t be necessary.” T said, looking at the rock face. “I can get her up there.”

“Pardon?” Xena and Gabrielle said in unison.

“Sure.” Removing her sack, T tossed it up at the overhang, where it went out of sight. Turning back to the bard, she smiled. “Think you can hang on?” Pointing at her neck.

“I guess so.” Wrapping her arms around T’s neck when she was presented with the woman’s back, Gabrielle’s feet left the ground as T straightened.

“Hang on tight.” Waking to the cliff, T took hold of a rock and pulled upward.

Watching in jealous amazement, Xena followed the progress, as T climbed up the rock face. Her eyes moving upward, she scowled when they reached the overhang. “I’m definitely going to kill her.” Turning back to Argo, she removed the saddle bags and the bard’s satchel, then turned back and startled when she saw the impish grin standing a few feet from her.

“She jumped.” Gabrielle smirked from the cave opening.

“I can see that.” Growling, Xena shoved the saddle bags at T.

Taking the bags, T continued to smile. “Anything else you need me to carry?”

“No!” Pushing past the bane of her existence, Xena went to the rock face and started up.

Gabrielle tried to hide her smile, seeing the array of angry emotions cross Xena’s face. She’s not happy. Seeing the warrior’s lips moving, she didn’t need to hear to know that there wasn’t anything nice coming out.

“I’ll go find us something to eat.” T shouted and tossed the saddlebags to the overhand. “Can you toss down my sack?”

“Sure.” Picking it up, Gabrielle almost fell over. “Good gods!” Staring at the bag, she strained to pick it up and felt the heavy weight. She carried this all day? Switching to both hands, the bard struggled to the edge of the ledge. “Here.” Dropping it, she saw T catch it and sling it over her shoulder. “No wonder she’s got muscles.” Watching T disappear into the night, Gabrielle turned to Xena as she came over the ledge. “Do you know how heavy that thing is?”

“Let me guess.” Pulling herself up, Xena rolled her eyes. “It’s got rocks in it.”

“Boulders.” Taking Xena’s arm, she limped into the cave. “What about a fire.” Standing in utter darkness.

“Damn.” Shrugging off the bard’s satchel, Xena sighed. “I’ll have to go down and get some firewood.” Returning to the cave opening, she stepped back as pieces of wood came hurtling at her. “What the . . .”

“Thought these might come in handy.” T shouted and tossed another log onto the ledge. Chuckling, she heard the warrior’s curses and turned back to the job of finding dinner.

Gabrielle covered her face and bit her tongue.

Xena kicked the wood.

“Should’ve thrown it at her.” Xena scowled and rolled the scroll up further.

With the fire built, Xena gave Gabrielle a side long glance. “What?”

“You don’t have to pretend she isn’t getting to you Xena.” Smiling. “It’s written all over your face.”

“I don’t know what you think you see, Gabrielle, but T is not getting to me.” Folding her arms across her chest.

“Glad to hear it.” T said from the opening. “I’d hate to think I was going to have to eat this by myself.” Lifting the boar by it’s feet, she smiled.

Gabrielle noticed that it had already been gutted and skinned. Shaking her head, she covered her eyes.

“I also got this.” Putting the boar down at Xena’s feet, she pulled on the rope attached to her waist, hauling in a large bundle of wood. “I figured we might run out.”

Peeking between her fingers, Gabrielle sighed, then closed them.

“Thanks.” Smiling smugly, Xena pointed to the boar. “Can you cook?”

“Xena!” Snapping her head up, Gabrielle gave the warrior a admonishing stare.

“Actually, yes.” Untying the rope, T picked out several sturdy branches and started making a spit.

“You don’t have to do that.” Speaking to T, Gabrielle still glared at the warrior.

“I like it, it’s fun.” Picking up the boar, T slid it onto the spit.

“It’s fun.” Raising her eyebrows, Xena smiled Gabrielle.

Making an unhappy face, Gabrielle moved closer to the fire. “Let me help.”

Pulling off her sack, T reached inside and pulled out a small pot. Handing it to the bard, she pulled out a water skin and handed it over. “I thought we might have some tea.” Reaching in the sack again, T pulled out a small jar.

“Is there anything you don’t have in there?” Xena asked.

“Ummmm?” Opening the sack, T stuck her head in, then popped back out. “No.” Smiling innocently.

Rubbing her face, Xena laid her head back. “Gods help me.” Whispering to the rocks overhead.

Sometime later, after they’d eaten and cleaned up, T made another trip to the ground and retrieved the bedrolls. Watching the warrior spread them out, she sat down by the cave opening and stretched her legs across the space. ‘I’ll take the first watch.”

“Aren’t you tired?” Gabrielle asked and glanced at the warrior.

“Nope.” Wiggling her feet, T smiled.

“She’s a night person, Gabrielle.” Smiling at the bard, Xena sat down on her bedroll.

“Yep.” Looking out into the darkness, T heard something and sighed.

“I guess it’d be useless for me to argue.” Moving to her bedroll, Gabrielle laid down.

“Absolutely.” T said, looking back at the pair.

Xena laid down as well and watched T for a time, through the fire, then sighed heavily and closed her eyes.

“Should’ve pushed her off the ledge when I had the chance.” Thumping the scroll, Xena sighed. “She probably would’ve bounced.” Smirking she read on.

Opening her eyes, Gabrielle lifted her head, looking over the warrior and around the dimly lit cave. Frowning, she raised up on her elbow. “T.” Whispering, she spotted a dark head peeking at her from outside. Smiling, she eased to her feet, testing her leg. When it bore her weight, she walked slowly to the cave opening and stepped onto the ledge. “Hey.” Smiling at the woman in the shadows to her left.

“Hi.” Sighing, T stood, staring outward, watching the movements in the shadows.

Looking around as well, Gabrielle saw nothing but the trees in the darkness, then shivered as a sense of uneasiness washed over her. As her eyes adjusted, she still saw nothing, but got the feeling she was being watched. “Is something out there?”

“Yes, but it’s nothing you should fear.” Smiling, T turned to the bard, placing her hand on Gabrielle’s shoulder. “You will always be safe in this forest.”

Feeling the heat from T’s hand, she moved closer. “What’s out there.” Staring into the night.

“My people.” Hearing distant cries, she smiled. “They’re watching.”

“Your people?” Lowering her voice to a whisper, Gabrielle shivered. “There are more of you?”

“Not of my kind, but there are others.” Sighing, T closed her eyes, removing her hand from the bard’s shoulder she folded her arms across her chest and opened her eyes. “The Ungara are a race of people made up of many clans, all stemming from the ancient gods.” Waiting for the next question, she glanced at the bard. “We’re all have origins to the ancients and are all predators.”

“Predators?” Staring at T.

“Each god chose an ensign, or a mentor, if you like and passed it’s essence onto their clan.” Smiling warmly, T chuckled at the bard’s face. “Don’t worry, Gabrielle. We’re here to protect mankind, not eat them.”

“Protect mankind?” Totally confused, Gabrielle shook her head.

“Yes, protect. Before the Olympian’s and before the Titans, before the dawn of time, there were the ancient gods, who chose to fight against the evil in the world.” Closing her eyes, T heard her mother’s voice. “In the time, long ago, the Ancients walked the earth. Following the rules passed down to them for the protection of the world they’d been given, but not all followed these rules. Some held no compassion for the world and used it for their pleasure, distorting it to their will, and taking mankind as pawns. These gods grew greedy, wanting more than they’d been given and plotted to overcome their brothers, taking the entire world for their playground, but Ungara and the other ancients, fought this and the struggle of good and evil began. The world reeled from the battles fought and soon, there was very little left to claim on either side. Knowing they could never truly defeat the evil, Ungara chose entrapment over continuing the struggle. Agreeing, his brothers combined their power and gave it to Ungara, their King, who succeeded, after a long battle, to drive the evil to the center of the earth. Locking it away, using most of power he had, Ungara added the key of mankind to it’s prison, for only through mortals can the evil return. Knowing this might someday happen, Ungara and his brothers took compassion on mankind and made the ultimate sacrifice. Using the last of their power, they created the race of the Ungara, giving them the essence of the ensigns they chose and charging them with the protection of mortal man against evil, but in doing so, condemned themselves to live forever in the Palace of the Ancients, away from the earth they’d fought to protect and unable to ever again hold sway over the world. In his last act as King of the Ancients, Ungara took the souls of his brothers, melded it with his own and gave it to his chosen, adding it to the mortal’s, passing on the essence and the true power of his ensign and giving up his sword and crown to the new King. The King of the Ungara.”

“I never heard that story before.” Leaning against T, Gabrielle shook her head. “It’s incredible.”

“It’s one of the world’s best kept secrets.” Pulling the bard to her, T kissed Gabrielle’s forehead.

“That’s why we have a really good safe.” Nodding in agreement, Xena continued reading.

“Why doesn't anybody know?” Resting her head on T’s shoulder.

“Because after they were created, the Ungara spread across the earth, returning to the land of their ensign and did their job.” Shaking her head, T sighed.

“What happened?” Closing her eyes.

“The people they were supposed to protect, turned against them. Afraid of anyone who was different, even thought the Ungara look like everybody else, they were still considered outsiders and were driven to near extinction.” Pointing to the forest. “After thousands of years, they started to gather here, in this forest. Taking refuge from the world and their own kind.”

Opening her eyes, Gabrielle looked into the darkness and still felt eyes on her, but didn’t have the same uneasy feeling. Instead, she felt only sadness. “Their own kind?”

“Just as with the Ancients, there was one clan that was turned by greed and hatred. They were twisted by an evil influence and as the generations passed, their hatred grew to an obsession for the crown.” Feeling a tear run down her cheek, T looked away. “When the clans began to gather, all came in time and the empire that once covered the earth, dwindled to a kingdom. The evil that permeated the souls of the one clan came too and they made their play for the crown by attrition. Secretly murdering the King’s clan, making it look like accidents. In their hearts, the Ungara could never understand the killing of one of their own and so it was sometime before the King realized what was happening, but even then, he wouldn’t kill. That’s when the attacks became obvious and despite all their abilities, the King’s family dwindled to near oblivion.”

“Why didn’t the others do something?” Frowning at the thought.

“The Kings wouldn’t let them. Over the next two hundred years the King’s of the Ungara tried to bring the evil clan back into the fold, with love and kindness, but they failed and in the end paid for their love with the lives of their loved ones.” Closing her eyes, T held back her tears. “And their own.”

“Gods.” Shaking her head, Gabrielle looked at T. “You’re Ungaran?”

“Yes.” Turning to the bard, T smiled warmly. “And we’re cute too.” Putting on her impish grin.

Letting T’s antics ease her sadness, Gabrielle chuckled. “I bet you are.” Shaking her head, the bard yawned.

“Oooo. I can see Athens from here.” Looking in Gabrielle’s mouth.

Rolling her eyes, Gabrielle smiled. “I’m going back to bed.” Giving T a playful shove, she turned then stopped. “Do you want me to wake Xena?”

“Naaaaa. She can use the beauty sleep.” Flicking her eyebrows a couple of times, T gave the bard a nudge.

“I’ll tell her you said so.” Chuckling, Gabrielle returned to her bed and laid down. Taking one last look at the cave opening, she smiled then closed her eyes.

“I’m gonna kill that witch!” Rolling the scroll up, Xena tossed it in the safe. “She can use her beauty sleep, my ass.” Flipping through the other scrolls, she found the next one in line. Spreading it out, she started on the conclusion of when they’d met. “Snot nosed brat. Should’ve left you by the road side.”

The next day, the trio made their way back towards the road. Xena led Argo, while Gabrielle took a different steed and was being carried on T’s back.

“Xena, have you seen Gabrielle?” T asked, looking around.

Ignoring the pair, Xena rolled her eyes and growled.

“She’s not very happy, right now T.” Resting her head on T’s shoulder. “I think she slept on a rock.”

“Ohhh.” Nodding, T moved closer to the warrior. “Rough night?”

“Why didn’t you wake me to take a watch?” Turning quickly, Xena snapped.

“I wasn’t tired.” Shrugging, T shook her head.

“Gods!” Stomping ahead, Xena punched a bush.

“Ease off, T.” Wrapping her arms around T’s neck. “She’s can be touchy.”

“Evidently.” Smiling, T held back and let the warrior take her frustrations out on the foliage. Continuing to follow the warrior, T felt the presence of people around them and glanced at someone, hidden in a tree.

“They’re there, aren’t they.” Gabrielle asked, having had the same watched feeling all day.

“Yes.” Whispering over her shoulder.

“Why hasn’t Xena picked up on it?” Watching another bush get smacked. “Never mind.”

“She is somewhat distracted.” Smiling, T cringed with the snapping of a sapling.

Stopping, Xena held up her hand. Looking around, she heard voices in the distance and crouched behind a tree.

“What’s going on?” Gabrielle whispered.

“Soldiers.” T whispered back and took a firmer grip on the bard’s legs around her waist. Creeping forward, she came up behind the warrior. “Xena.” Her voice barely audible.

Glancing up at T, Xena pointed in the direction the voices were coming from and drew her sword. “Stay here.” Getting to her feet, Xena made her way forward.

Staying behind the tree, T lowered Gabrielle to the ground. Listening closely, she heard the conversation and frowned. Damn, she cursed silently and opened her sack, but didn’t take anything out.

Coming closer, Xena spied the soldiers. They were gathered in a semi circle, laughing and poking at something. Raising her chakram, she was about to let it fly, when a familiar voice yelled.

“What in the name of Zeus do you think you’re doing?” Alancius shouted, riding up to the soldiers, he jumped off his horse and backhanded the nearest man. When the others backed away, he stared down at the cage and the boy inside.

“The King instructed that we’re to capture any people we come across in the forest.” Rubbing his jaw, the Captain scowled.

“I don’t care what my father said.” Pointing to the cage. “This is a boy, you idiot. What harm can he do?” Drawing his sword, Alancius turned then lowered his sword. “Xena!”

Sheathing her sword, Xena smiled. “Alancius.” Coming to the prince she hugged him. “It’s good to see you.”

“And you.” Stepping back, he put his sword away and smiled. “My wife isn’t going to be happy that you’re here.” Giving the warrior a once over. “You haven’t changed a bit. Beautiful as ever.”

“And you’re as dangerous as ever.” Squeezing his cheeks in one hand, she pushed him back. “What’s going on?” Looking down at the caged boy. “Who’s he?”

“No body. Just a boy.” Shaking his head, Alancius put his hands on his hips. “An innocent bystander.” Sighing he turned to signal the boy’s release, when he spotted T. “Are they with you?” Pointing past the warrior.

Turning, Xena smiled. “Yes. Unfortunately.” Seeing T carrying Gabrielle.

Moving closer, T kept her eyes on the warrior, but her ears on the trees. Reaching the cage, she eased Gabrielle to the ground.

“Alancius, this is Gabrielle. My friend.” Smiling at the bard.

“Oooo. My wife is definitely not going to be happy with two beautiful women around.” Alancius cooed.

“Is he always this way?” Extending her hand, Gabrielle smiled with it was taken and kissed.

“Yes.” Shaking her head, Xena folded her arms across her chest. “I don’t know how Patiera puts up with him.”

“She knows I’m harmless.” Patting the warrior’s shoulder, Alancius glanced at T. “And you are?”

“T.” Unsmiling, T didn’t extend her hand.

Gabrielle and Xena exchanged glances, but shrugged.

T knelt down, by the cage and smiled at the boy. Putting her fingers through the slats, she stared into fearful eyes. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t let anything happen to you.” Whispering, she felt his fingers touch hers.

Kneeling beside T, Gabrielle looked at the boy. “Is he?”

Nodding, T whispered again, but switched to Ungaran.

Frowning, Gabrielle didn’t ask.

“So what is going on?” Xena asked. “We were attacked by some of these men, yesterday.”

Closing his eyes, Alancius shook his head. “It’s my father. He’s gone insane.”

“What?” Dropping her arms, Xena couldn’t believe what she heard. “King Lavius is insane? Since when?”

Pointing at the cage, the prince signaled for it to be opened. “It’s been happening off and on for years now, but it seems to have gotten worse lately.”

Standing, T and Gabrielle stepped away from the cage as it was opened.

Latour crawled out, taking a few steps then looked at T.

Winking, T smiled.

Smiling back, the boy took off like a shot and quickly disappeared.

“Where in tartarus did he go?” The Captain asked, looking at where the boy just was.

“Back into the forest.” T said quietly. “Back home.” Sighing, she turned to Gabrielle.

Nodding, the bard smiled.

“So what happened yesterday?” Alancius asked Xena and started walking away.

Whistling, Xena waited for Argo to arrive, taking the reins, she followed the prince. “We were taking a break at the edge of the forest, when we were attacked.”

“How many men?” Asking for a death count.

“Nine. One we let go.” Looking at T meaningfully.

“Xena.” Stepping to the warrior, T smiled. “Since you’re in safe hands, maybe I should head out.” Nodding her head in the direction the boy had went.

“You’re leaving?” Looking up, Gabrielle shook her head.

“That wouldn’t be wise, I’m afraid.” Shaking his head, the prince sighed. “My father has virtually ever man in the army combing the woods for some mysterious assassin.”

“Assassin?” Throwing her arms up in the air, Xena spun around. “We’re assassin’s?”

“I know, Xena, but his instructions were broad.” Pointing to the cage. “Just like he ordered the capture of anyone in the forest. He’s lost his mind.”

“I can’t believe this.” Shaking her head, Xena stared at the ground.

“Well, either way, it wouldn’t be safe for your friend to be wandering around, right now. Until I can call back the men, it’s just not safe.” Looking at T. “I’m sorry.”

Nodding, T sighed. Another day, she thought. Turning to the smiling bard, she offered her back and grunted when Gabrielle climbed on. As the others turned to go, she looked up into the trees and smiled, seeing the hundred or so Ungaran’s looking down on her. I hope they get my message, she thought and started after the warrior.

“Oh they got it all right.” Xena sighed, rolling the scroll up further.

Alancius gave the men he’d found instructions to find every man they could and return them to the castle and to leave the natives alone.

“Okay, tell me everything.” Xena said to the prince.

Sighing, Alancius walked slowly. “He’s always had bouts with madness, but they were always few and very far between and brief. Usually lasting no more than an hour, or so, but in the last couple of months they’ve started coming more frequently. He has nightmares and wakes up screaming about the man coming to kill him and taking his crown. Now, in the past few weeks, his moments of sanity are the rare ones. Unfortunately, he’s still king and has control of the army. I’ve tried to override his orders, but some of the men are quite loyal, even though they know he’s mad.”

“Who’s this assassin supposed to be?” Xena asked, her face a mask of concern.

“He doesn’t really say.” Rubbing his cheek, the prince shook his head. “He just rants about the man, the man. I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Looking at the warrior. “You know my father. Who would want to kill him?”

“No body.” Shrugging, Xena bit her lip. “He’s always been known as a fair and kind king, I can’t believe that anyone would want him dead.”

“What about wanting his throne?” Gabrielle asked, resting her chin on T’s shoulder.

“Tarlon isn’t a large kingdom, Gabrielle.” Turning to the bard. “There really isn’t much here but the farms and this forest.”

“Not worth killing for.” Xena agreed. “Except for his reputation.”

“Reputation?” Perking up, Gabrielle gave the warrior a curious look.

“Xena’s talking about his reputation with a sword.” Smiling at the bard.

“He’s probably the best there is.” Nodding her head. “He always kicked my butt.”

“And what a spectacle it was to behold.” Smirking, Alancius chuckled.

“Laugh, Alancius,” raising her eyebrows, Xena smirked back, “I recall him sending you packing a lot.”

“Hmmmm.” Sobering, the prince nodded. “And I’ve got the scars to prove it.”

“How did you guys meet?” Setting her chin down again, Gabrielle hoped for a good story.

“It was during my warlord days.” Rolling her eyes, Xena sighed. “I’d been wounded in a battle and had hidden out in that cave.” Looking at the prince. “Alancius here found me and took me back to the castle. King Lavius took me in and cared for me until I recovered.”

“Then he whipped your butt.” Alancius added to the story.

“He gave me a few pointers in handling a sword.” Xena corrected.

“Same difference.” The prince shrugged.

“Not!” Grumbling, Xena pouted and read on.

Smiling, T adjusted the bard, who was apparently falling asleep. “How far is it to the castle?”

“Another couple of hours, walk.” Xena said and noticed the half lidded eyes of the bard. “Comfy, Gabrielle?”

“What?” Hearing her name, the bard looked around at the smiling faces. “I’m tired.”

“From what?” Xena asked incredulously.

“Thinking.” T added with an impish grin.

“Is that why you never get tired, T?” Raising her eyebrows in question, Xena smirked.

“Absolutely.” Smiling big. “It usually get me into trouble, so I avoid it.”

“Hmm.” Xena’s smirk faded with the failure of her baiting tactic.

“That’s quite a team you’ve got there, Xena.” Laughing at the three women.

“Yea.” Turning away from the smiling face, Xena huffed. “Some team.”

When they reached the castle, the trio were shown their rooms and since, Gabrielle was mostly immobile, T opted to stay with the bard, to the warrior’s annoyance, but wanting to get more details about the king, she relented and left with the prince. Gabrielle and T, sat in the bard’s room chatting about inconsequential things, until the bard drifted off to sleep, at which time, T sighed and brought a chair beside the bed and sat down. Closing her eyes, she let the world drift away and thought about anything else, but where she was and why she was there. Taking a tighter hold on her sack, she smiled. “Almost home.”

Sometime later, T opened her eyes when she heard footsteps coming down the hall. Standing she went to the door and listened, then stepped back when Xena entered. “Hi.”

“Hey.” Closing the door, Xena looked at the sleeping bard. “How long has she been out?”

“Awhile.” Following the warrior to the bed, T sat back down in the chair. “It must be left over from the tonic I gave her for the headache. I didn’t think I made it that strong.”

Sitting on the other bed in the room, Xena smiled. “She’s always been susceptible to drugs.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Smiling down at the bard. “How long before I can leave?” Looking at the warrior.

“Alancius says that he should have most of the men back by tomorrow afternoon.” Standing, Xena moved to the window, pushed open the shutter and took a deep breath. “You don’t have to go, you know. Gabrielle likes you.” Staring down at the surrounding village.

“I know.” Speaking softly, T smiled. “But I’ve got things to do, places to go and people to annoy.”

“You don’t have to go far for that.” Smirking over her shoulder.

“You know, Xena. If you weren’t such an easy target, it probably wouldn’t be near as much fun.” Peeking at the warrior.

“Thanks.” Rolling her eyes, Xena rolled the scroll further up.

“Thanks.” Rolling her eyes, the warrior came away from the window and stood by T. “Thank you for watching over her.”

“I always keep my promises.” Moving a stray blonde lock from the bard’s face. “Besides, she’s a lot of fun, too. I wouldn’t want to see her get hurt.”

“Then I guess we have something in common, after all.” Sitting down on the bard’s bed. “I’m having dinner sent up for Gabrielle, you’re welcome to join the prince and me in the dinning hall. In fact he almost insisted.”

“Unfortunately, I’m not the mingling type.” Smiling wickedly, T leaned back in the chair. “If you could send up two dinners, I’d appreciate it.”

“Wimping out?” Smirking, Xena tapped T’s knee.

“Bowing out.” Wiping the hand off her knee. “Plus I’ve got to keep Gabrielle safe.” Sticking out her tongue.

“She’s safe here.” Chuckling at the tongue.

“With a mad king running around?” Shaking her head, T sobered. “I’d rather be safe than sorry, Xena.”

“I know.” Sobering as well, Xena ran her tongue under her bottom lip. “We spent all day trying to find the king, but he’s hiding somewhere.”

“From the assassin?” Narrowing her eyes, T almost growled.

“Evidently.” Sighing, the warrior got to her feet. “Alancius is still looking. I think we’ll find him by morning. The castle’s not that big.” Moving to the door, she opened it, then glanced over her shoulder. “I’ll have two dinners sent up.”

“Thanks, Xena.” Smiling warmly, T winked.

Smiling back, Xena nodded then left, closing the door behind her.

A couple of hours later the dinner’s arrived and T managed to keep Gabrielle awake long enough for the bard to shovel the food in, then ate when Gabrielle went back to sleep. Stacking the dishes on the tray, she opened the door and put it outside. Looking up and down the hall, she heard faint voices echoing and listened for a moment, then closed the door and returned to the chair.

Around midnight, Xena came to the room, knocking on the door, before she opened it and smiled at T. “Don’t you ever sleep?” Closing the door, quietly.

“Yes.” Sitting up, T stretched. “But not when the sun’s down.”

Sighing, Xena went to the other bed and sat down. “You must really be a night person.” Shaking her head.

“Comes with the gene pool.” Standing T moved to the window. “Did you find the king?”

“Yes and we gave him a sedative and put him to bed.” Laying down. “What a nightmare that was.” Glancing at T, Xena thought she saw something in the woman’s expression, but didn’t have a word to describe it. “You all right?”

Staring into the darkness, T again saw the people in the shadows. “Almost.”

“What?” Lifting her head to get a better look.

“Nothing.” Sighing, T shook her head. “I guess I’m a little tired.”

“Finally, she admits she’s human.” Waving her arms in the air, Xena kicked her feet.

Turning to watch the amused warrior, T smiled. “Extremely so. I just have a higher tolerance for exhaustion.”

“You had to spoil it, didn’t you.” Letting her arms and legs fall limply to the bed, the warrior sighed. “And no body awake to hear her admit it.”

“Ask me tomorrow and I’ll tell you the same thing.” Leaning on the ceil, T chuckled.

“Promise?” Rolling on her side, Xena smiled.

“Absolutely.” Looking into the darkness again.

“Okay.” Nodding her head, the warrior rolled onto her back and put her hands behind her head. “T?” Closing her eyes.

“Yes?” Glancing at the warrior.

Opening her eyes, Xena stared at the ceiling. “Nothing.” Closing her eyes again, she rolled over, away from the bard and her new friend.

Smiling, T rolled her eyes. Yes, Xena. She thought. We’ve met before.

“I told you so.” Xena smirked and rolled the scroll up further.

“What the?” Jumping up, Xena drew her sword, hearing shouting coming from close by. Looking at T, she saw the sun reflecting on her face, then looked down at the bard. “Watch her.”

“Watch who?” Gabrielle mumbled, coming awake. “What’s going on?”

Cursing her luck, Xena scowled. “Trouble.”

Moving to the door, Xena opened it and looked out in the hall. The shouting was easier to hear, but still wasn’t intelligible.

Getting out of bed, Gabrielle picked up her staff. “Xena?”

Sighing and able to understand every word, T picked up her sack and put her arms through the straps. Cracking her neck, she went to stand beside the bard.

“Stay close.” Knowing she couldn’t keep Gabrielle from staying away, when she was awake, Xena cursed again. “Come on.”

Able to walk on her own, Gabrielle followed the warrior and was followed by T.

Looking around, T kept close behind the bard and opened the top of her sack, exposing the top of her sword.

Walking slowly down the hall, Xena turned a corner, then continued. Hearing the shouting getting louder. Glancing behind her, she waved the pair to her. “Stay here. I’m gonna check it out.”

Nodding, T put her hand on the bard’s shoulder. “Gotcha.”

Shrugging, Gabrielle nodded.

Turning toward the voices, Xena went around another corner and into a large room, spotting the king and prince having an argument. Sighing, she sheathed her sword and walked over.

“I was wrong son, I was wrong!” Shaking his son’s shoulder, Lavius shouted, his eyes wide.

“Father, calm down. No one is coming for you.” Trying to free himself from his fathers grasp, Alancius held on to the kings wrists.

“They’re here. They’re here. I’ve seen them.” Looking around frantically.

“Where?” Looking as well, the prince held out his arms. “There’s no one here but us.”

“In my dream. I saw her.” Staring at his son, Lavius shrieked. “I saw her.”

“I thought it was a man.” Alancius asked, totally confused.

“No, son. I was wrong. The tiger has come for me.” Running across the room, Lavius took the warrior by the arms. “She’s here to kill me. She wants my crown.”

“No one wants your crown, King Lavius.” Xena soothed, looking up at the towering form of the king. “It was only a dream”

“No. No. I can feel her.” Moving back to his son. “Alancius, she’s here.” Looking back at the warrior, Lavius gasped. “Nooo.” Seeing the bard and T come around the corner. “The tiger is here, kill her.” Pointing at T. “Kill her! Guards!”

“What?” Thinking he was point at her, Xena realized her mistake and turned. “They’re my friends.”

As the guards came in, T stepped back. “Gabrielle.” Whispering.

“What?” Feeling a hand on her arm, pushing her to the side. “What are you doing?”

“Kill her.” Lavius shouted to the guards and pointed to T. “Kill the tiger. She’s the assassin. Kill her.”

“Father!” Taking the king by the arms, Alancius shook him. “Stop this. No one is going to kill you, especially her.” Pointing to T. “She’s a friend.”

Sighing, Xena looked at T and suddenly something changed. The once dark brown eyes were a golden color and the irises were slits. “Oh, no.”

Realizing her slip up, T turned and bolted down the hall, the way she’d come.

Taking the woman’s flight as their cue, the guards ran after her, behind the warrior.

“Xena?” Against the wall, Gabrielle called after the warrior. “Would somebody please tell me what’s going on!”

Watching his father disappear behind the guards, Alancius grabbed the bard’s arm. “Come on.”

Following the prince, Gabrielle followed as close as she could and finally found a crowd around their door. Pushing through the guards, with the prince’s help they made it inside, just as Xena leaned out the window.

“Don’t let her escape.” Lavius shouted, seeing T jump out the window. “Sound the alarm.”

“T!” Shouting, Xena saw T hit the ground and get up.

“Xena.” Moving to the window, Gabrielle spotted her friend as she leapt onto the high wall surrounding the castle. “By the gods!”

Standing behind the bard, Alancius gasped. “How did she do that?”

Ignoring them, Xena shouted again. “T. Stop.”

Standing, T turned and looked up at the faces of her friends and the prince. Sighing, she brought her arm across her chest, placing her fist over her heart. Double pumping, she extended her arm to the window and pointed. Lowering her arm, she heard the alarm go up and smiled. Turning away, she jumped off the wall.

“No.” Gabrielle gasped, then a few seconds later, saw T running toward the forest.

“I knew I knew you.” Xena whispered. Recognizing the salute from somewhere in her past, she made the connection. “I can’t believe I didn’t remember.” Shaking her head, she watched T disappear into the thick forest.

“Guard! After her.” Lavius shouted.

“No.” Turning, Xena went to the door. “Don’t you move.” Giving the guard a true warrior princess stare down.

“After her.” The king shouted.

“Xena?” The prince gave the warrior a worried look.

“I’ll explain later, but right now, you’ve got to call off the guards.” Keeping her eyes on the men around her, Xena sneered at them.

“Call off the alarm.” Alancius shouted to the head guard. “And take my father to his room.”

“No, son. No.” Fighting the hands on him, the king wiggled out of their grasp and took off.

“Find him!” The prince shouted, then looked at the warrior. “This had better be good, Xena.”

“It is.” Knowing what she had to tell him wasn’t going to make Alancius happy, she sighed. “It is.”

Still staring out the window, Gabrielle waved to no one. “I don’t understand.” Whispering, she turned to the warrior. “Xena?”

Coming to the bard, Xena took her in her arms. “I’ll explain, Gabrielle.” Kissing the top of her head, the warrior led Gabrielle to the bed and sat her down. Looking up at the prince she moved the chair out and pointed at it. “You better sit down.”

Narrowing his eyes, Alancius complied. “Explain.”

Pacing for a moment, Xena scratched her head. “Okay. I know that this is going to sound fantastic and you probably won’t believe me, but do me a favor and save your questions till I’m done.” Looking at the bard, she smiled.

“Okay.” Gabrielle nodded and layed her staff on the bed.

Looking at the prince, Xena bit her lip. “T is here for a crown, but it’s not your father’s. It’s hers. Your father is the one who’s trying to get something that doesn’t belong to him.”

“What?” Standing, Alancius was gently pushed back down.

“Just listen.” Keeping her hand on his shoulder, Xena closed her eyes. “I met T along time ago, before I ever met you.” Opening her eyes, she looked at the bard. “It was during my warlord days, just after I’d hooked up with Barius. We were pirates then, and we were sailing east when the ship got caught in a storm. It wrecked on some rocks, near the Caspian and we had to abandon ship. Most of the crew were lost, but a few of us hung on to the wreckage and rode out the storm. Well, it was winter and the water was freezing and I must’ve gotten sick, because the next thing I remember was T’s stupid impish grin smiling at me.” Rolling her eyes with the memory. “I can’t believe I forgot that. Anyway, we were picked up by the ship she was first mate on and since she was the only female on board, I was put in her cabin. She’d taken care of me and nursed me back from a fever. After that, we kind of became friends, mainly because she could get a turnip to talk and because being bed ridden, I didn’t have anything else to do.”

Covering her mouth, Gabrielle hid a smile.

Taking a deep breath, Xena continued. “Evidentially, I’d been ranting during my fever and talked about Amphipolis, anyway we got into our families and I asked her about the claws.”

“She gets them from her father.” Gabrielle added and noticed the surprised look on Xena’s face. “We talked the night at the cave, while you were sleeping. She told me the story of the Ungara.”

“What’s Ungara?” Alancius asked both of them.

“That’s who she is.” Xena smiled at the bard. “She’s Ungaran. It’s the people in the forest.”

“They don’t have claws.” Shaking his head, the prince sighed.

“No. Only the King of the Ungara has claws, among other things.” Whispering the last bit, Xena sighed.

“T’s the King of the Ungara?” Slapping her forehead, Gabrielle winced when she hit her wound. “Ow.” Rubbing the spot.

“Yes. The last King of the Ungara.” Rubbing the top of the bard’s head in sympathy.

“What does that have to do with my father?” Feeling the need to slap his own head, the prince sighed instead.

“I’m getting to that.” Moving back to face them both, Xena put her hands on her hips. “Your father is Ungaran, too and so are you.”

“I’m Greek, just like you.” Sounding insulted.

“You were born here, yes and so was your father and so on, probably for many generations, but you are Ungaran.”

Standing, Alancius moved to leave.

“Was your father away a lot when you were growing up?” Xena asked.

Stopping, the prince turned to face the warrior. “I never told you that.”

“I know. T did.” Taking the prince’s arm, she led him back to the chair and squatted down in front of him. “Look, Alancius, I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true. You are Ungaran and your father knows it. The only reason you don’t is because while you were growing up, he was hunting T.”

Shaking his head, the prince closed his eyes.

Turning to the bard. “That’s why she left the day she was born. Her mother and aunt escaped after her father was killed, taking T with them.”

“I still don’t understand.” Gabrielle shook her head.

Smiling sadly, Xena sat beside the bard. “Lavius is of the Lion clan. They’re the ones that wanted the crown.” Hoping T had given the bard enough information to keep some of the questions at bay. “They’re the ones that hunted the Tigers. Lavius killed T’s father, hoping that he’d get the Crown of Ungara and become king.” Standing Xena went back to the prince. “I know you can’t understand, Alancius, but it’s true. After your father found out about T, he hunted her and her family and tried to kill them and when he couldn’t he hired Domacles to do it for him. That’s the madness your father has. That’s why he thinks she’s here to kill him. He thinks she’s come to avenge her father’s death.”

Opening his eyes, Alancius looked up at the warrior. “Then she is here to kill him.”

“I don’t think so.” Shaking her head, Xena paced for a minute. “She’s had more than enough chances to do that, if it was what she wanted. I think she’s here to give up the Crown.”

“Give it up?” Gabrielle asked. “Why?”

“When I was aboard her ship, she told me the story of what had happened over the generations and that one of the things that the heir is given is the choice of either accepting the crown, or turning it down. Ungara never intended it to be forced on anyone and made that stipulation.” Shaking her head, Xena frowned.

“But?” Gabrielle tried to understand.

“Think about it Gabrielle. She’s been hunted, since the day she was born. She’s never know a minutes peace and she’s the last of her kind, she’s got no family left, her mother and aunt died protecting her and she finally got away by going to sea. I think she just wants to be free. She told me, on the ship, that if she came back, she’d probably give up the Crown and return it to Ungara. I think she’s tired of running.” Closing her eyes, Xena folded her arms across her chest and opened her eyes.

“What if she’s not here to give up the Crown?” Getting up, Gabrielle started to pace. “What if she takes it?”

“Then we’ve got a problem.” Looking pointedly at the prince.

“My father.” Nodding, Alancius closed his eyes. “Somehow, it makes sense. His attitude toward the forest people. He hated them and I never knew why. He was afraid of them.”

“No,” Gabrielle whispered. “He hated them because they wouldn’t accept him as king.”

“She’s right. T said that the other clans were loyal and even let the Tigers get slaughtered because the King wouldn’t let them take up arms against each other.” Shaking her head, Xena sat on the bed.

Opening his eyes, the prince stared at the wall. “What do we do now?”

“There’s really only one way to find out what T’s going to do.” Smiling Gabrielle sat beside Xena.

“Gabrielle, no. It’s too dangerous.” Shaking her head, Xena got up and put her hands on her hips. “We’re not going after her.”

“Why not? She told me that we’d always be safe in the forest and if all the militia is in, who’s gonna bother us?” Looking up at the warrior, the bard shrugged. “It’s the only way we’re gonna know for sure.”

Looking from the bard to the prince, Xena sighed. “Do you have a map of the forest?”

“Of course, it’s in the library.” Getting to his feet, Alancius shook his head. “Xena you can’t be serious.”

“Just show me the map and I’ll let you know.” Grabbing the bard’s arm she pulled her along. “Come on, this was your idea.”

“And people thought I caused trouble.” Chuckling, Xena rolled the scroll up further.

Staring down at the map, Xena frowned. “Don’t you have anything else? This doesn’t show anything past the river.” Leaning on the large parchment.

“No body’s ever been past the river.” Alancius said from the other side of the table. “It was forbidden.”

“Typical.” Xena muttered and looked to the blank space on the other side of the blue squiggly line. Running her finger over the map, she stopped at the spot T had indicated on her map. “This is where she is.”

“That’s over half a day’s ride from here.” The prince said, staring at the void. “You’ll never make it by sundown.”

“We can if we leave in the morning.” Gabrielle piped in with a grin. “Nothing’s going to happen tonight. She’s hasn’t slept in almost three days, she’s probably napping as we speak.”

“She can’t be there yet.” Shaking his head at the bard. “She’s on foot.”

“You’ve never seen her run.” Xena chuckled, scanning the map. Biting her lip she looked over at the bard. “We’ll have to ride.”

“Everyone must be willing to make sacrifices in a crisis.” Grinning from ear to ear.

Straightening, Xena smiled at Alancius. “We’ll leave at dawn.”

“Xena.” Shaking his head, Alancius started to argue, but was cut off.

“We’re going.” Xena sighed. “The gods help us, but it’s the only way we can know.”

Smiling triumphantly, Gabrielle twirled her staff.

Standing in the highest turret, Alancius scanned the dark horizon, looking over the tops of the trees.

“What’s going on?” Xena asked, coming up the stairs with Gabrielle.

Pointing, Alancius shook his head. “Trouble.”

Coming to the edge, Xena scanned the tops of the trees and saw the glow far off in the distance, then the wind shifted and she heard the drums. “Damn.”

Hearing it as well, Gabrielle lowered her head.

“Is it a war party?” The prince asked, turning to the warrior.

“No. I think it’s just a party.” Gabrielle remarked and looked up again, sighing at the faux dawn. “I guess I was right.”

“What?” Alancius wondered, scanning the horizon.

“I think T’s accepted the Crown.” Xena muttered as the wind blew the drums closer. “That’s a coronation celebration. If it was a war party, you’d never know it till it was over.”

Smiling, Gabrielle remembered the watched feeling she got in the forest. “She’s right. When that boy was caged, we were surrounded.”

“Hmmmm.” The prince sighed, then placed his hand on Xena’s shoulder. “Do you still think it’s such a good idea to go in there tomorrow?”

Xena nodded. “Definitely.” With the recovered memory of their first meeting, the warrior had a few words to say to T.

“I’m going down.” Touching the warrior’s arm, Gabrielle smiled. “We’d better get some sleep. We’re not T, ya know.”

Turning to glare at the bard, Xena had to smile at the bard’s attempt at an impish grin. “Don’t let her teach you any bad habits, little girl.”

Gabrielle laughed and went downstairs.

“Xena?” Alancius spoke softly, after the bard had left.

“Yea?” Staring at the trees.

“My father.” Scratching his arm, the prince closed his eyes.

“I won’t let anything happen to him, Alancius.” Turning away, Xena left the prince to his contemplation and joined Gabrielle in slumber.

“If we’re not back by noon tomorrow, you can start worrying.” Climbing into the saddle, Xena held her arm out for the bard.

“Why that long?” Alancius helped Gabrielle up.

“We may have to wait till she wakes up.” The bard said with a smile. “She really hates it when her naps get interrupted.”

“So, this is important.” Folding his arms across his chest, the prince fidgeted.

“When we were attacked by your men,” Xena smirked, “they woke T up and look what happened.”

“I see your point.” Nodding his head, Alancius stepped back. “Noon tomorrow.”

Turning Argo, Xena waved and nudged her into a slow canter, headed in the direction the fires had been. A little ways into the forest, she felt the presence of others and had to fight the urge to do something about it. Looking up, she tried to spot a set of those watchful eyes, but found none, which made her more agitated. “These guys give me the creeps.”

“Why? Because you can’t find them?” Gabrielle chuckled, knowing that was the reason and how much it must be driving Xena crazy.

“Yes.” The warrior hissed.

“Well, Xena. If the story T told me is true, they’ve had a really long time to practice.” Wrapping her arm tighter around the warrior.

“Still gives me the creeps.” Scanning the foliage and finding foliage.

“Then why don’t we talk about something else.” Gabrielle suggested. “Tell me about when you were on her ship.”

“Maybe on another trip, Gabrielle.” Direction the mare through the trees, Xena smiled with the memory. “Right now I’d like it if we didn’t run into a tree.”

Gabrielle sighed, but let it go. “Okay.”


TBC - Part C

Move along. Move along. No epilogue here.

Thanks for reading


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