The Children of Ares, Part 7
Copyright Disclaimers: Xena and Gabrielle are the property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. The author does not benefit financially in any way from this story.
Note: My thanks to my beta reader Jennifer for her wonderful help in writing this piece and for my new wife Shuana, who is helping me break down some walls. I introduce a new character in this part. The Celtic Warrior, Murphy, I promised to put a friend of mine into the story. Here you go Murph.
Summary: An alternate universe, where Romulus didn't kill Remus. They each founded a city. Romulus founded Rome. Remus founded Reme. Centuries later Romulus controls the Roman Empire, the lands of Southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily, Spain and Carthage. Remus controls the Kingdom of Reme, the lands of Northern Italy, Gaul, Britannia and the Norse Lands. Now the sons of Ares meet his daughter, Xena the Conqueror.
Chapter 26: Firm Advice
Murphy awoke before first light. The stoic warrior felt the warmth of her young lover next to her. For a moment, the powerful Celt had a vision of pastoral fields and this woman by her side. For another moment, the formidable warrior wondered if she was making the right decision by giving up that vision.
The fierce gladiator looked lovingly at the small figure that lay in a tangle of silken sheets. The dynamic woman felt soft flesh clinging to her body and relished the warmth that emanated from the firm limbs wrapped around her. Her resolve to leave this woman was dissolving.
The Celtic warrior knew she had to talk to someone about this difficult decision and there was only one person who would understand all the parameters and ramifications of her choices. Carefully, the stealthy woman removed herself from her young lover and slid quietly out of bed. The powerful fighter recovered her clothes and went to fight the sole individual who could comprehend her plight.
Murphy slipped out of the door and closed it noiselessly. The strong gladiator strode confidently through the corridors to her old room. As she approached the room the formidable Celt ran right into the object of her search.
The fierce warrior looked into the equally fierce blue eyes of the Conqueror and humbly pleaded with her, "Your Majesty, I have a decision to make and the only person I can think of who would understand my situation is you. Could give me some advice?"
The Dark Empress looked deep into the soul of the composed warrior and saw a kindred spirit. The tall woman understood what it took for the self-reliant Celt to ask for advice. So, the powerful monarch decided to help the Princes Champion and replied, "Im going to the training room. We can talk while we train. Ill even let you choose the weapons with which we practice."
The strong gladiator gave the raven-haired ruler a half smile and a nod as she followed the Warrior Empress to the training room. The passed through a large alcove into a spacious and airy room with a dirt floor that was empty except for various training weapons hanging along the wall and a few stone benches against those same walls.
The grim Celt walked over to the training weapons and chose a hooded spear. The muscular gladiator had used similar weapons many times in practice. The Majestic Empress smiled, she understood this warrior. The talented spear woman chose her weapon and hadnt allowed the Conqueror to influence the choice. Most of her sparring partners let the Greek monarch choose the weapons in hopes of currying favor, mostly it curried a busted head.
While the two combatants loosened their muscles that had been tightened from their previous nights activities, the normally stoic Celt told the Dark Empress of her vision in as much detail as she could remember. As the two warriors took position in the center of the practice ring, Murphy told the Conqueror of her dreams and aspirations. The Princes Champion then explained her dilemma and of her love for the young maid.
Suddenly, the quiet of the room erupted with the sounds of clashing weapons. It was soon obvious that the Celtic spear woman was the master of her weapon. It took all the Conquerors skills just to keep possession of her weapon. The Greek warrior was very impressed. The Dark ruler could not find an opening to even begin an offense against the skilled Celt.
For more than a candlemark, Murphy kept up her constant attack, taking advantage of every mistake the aggressive monarch made. The skilled warrior had marked the Conqueror several times during the practice, but none of them were marks that could end the contest. However, had this been a real battle, those marks would have bled and weakened her opponent. The athletic Celt was tiring and the half-Goddess was still fresh, the Conqueror had yet to call upon her reserves.
Desperately, the Celtic champion called upon her final reserves to make one more spectacular attack. The fierce warrior and the Dark monarch were oblivious to the crowd that had gathered to watch the contest between two great warriors. Cheers erupted each time one of the warriors marked the other or each time a sensational defense or evasion was made.
With her final reserves and with a surprisingly graceful flip the Champion of the Prince disarmed the Greek ruler. Then, by using her spear as a pole she vaulted over the tall monarch while executing a back flip. With the Conquerors back laid bare the dynamic spear woman plunged her practice spear toward the exposed back.
The Dark Empress tried to turn and block the blow, but was too late. The invincible warrior-demigod had lost for the second time in her life, once to her lover and once to this warrior.
Xena, the Destroyer of Nations, Empress of the East and the most feared warrior bowed to the victor and patted the gladiator on her back to the applause of the gathered crowd. The taller woman looked into the victorious womans eyes and said, "You are a great warrior. You are a credit to your people. I have my empire, my love, my dream and my happiness. I am truly blessed. I wish that you could have such a life. Unfortunately, a warrior like you is destined to die a hero with your name sung by the bards. "
Murphy nodded the acceptance of the Conquerors advice and knew that it was correct. The dynamic gladiator had only one destiny and it didnt include a path to her ultimate happiness. The Celtic champion laughed at her fate and basked in her great victory. Murphy left the chamber to go to her lover. She had many good byes to say.
Chapter 27: The Third Trial of Callisto
Callisto struggled to get from her shelter to her snares. If her traps were empty, the young blonde knew she would be in serious trouble. The little food that the wounded warrior was foraging wasnt enough to keep her alive and heal her damaged body. The desperate survivor desperately needed at least a small rabbit or fat squirrel for the fat as well as the meat.
The abused woman said a silent prayer to the Goddess and staggered to her snares. At her first snare she found a fat rabbit with its neck snapped by the whipping action of the small leather noose. The suffering warrior nearly cried in relief as she humbly thanked the Goddess for her salvation. The starving woman needed to skin and eat the rabbit in a hurry while she still had some strength left.
Using the smallest of her knives, the blonde warrior quickly skinned and gutted the fat gray rabbit. The young blonde licked chapped lips and wiped a small stream of drool from her cheek as she worked in anticipation of eating a full meal.
The injured survivor built a small fire and set up a spit to cook the fat juicy hare. She placed a piece of bark under the roasting coney to catch its dripping juices. When the piece of bark was full of juice she poured it into her cooking bowl. While the rabbit cooked, the young woman stretched the skin for tanning. The injured courier scraped the fat and extra flesh from the stretched hide.
By the time the rabbit was cooked enough to eat it, the hungry woman had the small hide primed with its own fat for softening and curing. The blonde survivor knew better than to eat quickly in her condition. If she ate too quickly, her shrunken stomach would rebel. So, she slowly cut away small strips of the cooked meat and put them in her bark bowl with the hares captured juices.
With measured care and slow movements the ravenous woman picked up a ribbon of meat and dipped it into the melted fat of the rabbit. The wounded blonde put the dripping ribbon of meat into her mouth and chewed it carefully, while licking a drop of juice from her cracked and dried lips. She repeated the process until all the strips in the bowl were consumed. With less deliberation, the hungry warrior cut larger bands of meat from the carcass of the roasted coney and put them in her bowl with more of the rabbits juices.
The hungry woman had built her strength up gradually and soon was strong enough to go to her next snare. After extinguishing her fire and picking up the stretched rabbit hide, she moved to her next trap. When the blonde survivor arrived at her next snare she found another gray hare. The young warrior closed her eyes and thanked the Goddess, again.
All five of her snares had a fat gray hare in them. The young blonde knew that the Goddess had saved her. That was the only explanation for her luck. The wounded warrior skinned and cooked each hare. She had no idea what she was going to do with the skins, but she knew they would come in handy for something.
The injured survivor spitted two of fresh coneys for roasting. However, this time she stuffed them with wild onions and green sage before the young woman started broiling the fat hares. While the two rabbits were roasting, the wounded warrior completed the finishing of the five rabbit pelts. Then she started dicing up the meat of the final two coneys.
Callisto had spied a small patch of wild turnips while she was checking her snares, but had been unable to carry the turnips and the fresh meat. So, while the rabbits were cooking, the hungry woman went back to collect a few of the valuable vegetables. While gathering the turnips, she spotted several acorns and walnuts on the ground.
It occurred to her that she needed to make a gathering basket. The observant woman had noticed some reeds by the river and made a mental note to herself to gather and dry some of the reeds for weaving a basket.
The young woman removed her outer jacket and put the turnips and several handfuls of the acorns and a few walnuts she found into the garment. Then the meticulous survivor rushed back to the fire, fearful of leaving her precious food unattended for too long.
The prudent woman put all her gathered food in the back of her shelter. Callisto covered the provisions with stones and fresh moss in an attempt to keep animals away from her precious cache of food. Then, the tenacious blonde walked down to creek and started gathering water reeds to dry by her fire.
When the persistent warrior got back to her fire the coneys were ready to eat. The dogged woman cut up the cooked meat into her makeshift bowl with the captured rabbit juice and the cooked onions. While the young woman ate her meal she put gathered reeds close to the fire to dry. When they dried, the resourceful courier was going to make a basket.
Using a flat stone and a leg bone from the hares the innovative woman started powdering the nuts. With it ground finely, the creative blonde would be able use the substance like flour to thicken a stew. In her mind, the imaginative survivor started thinking of what she would need to build up her strength and then to walk out of the woods. Her ultimate mission was waiting for Callisto.
Chapter 28: Vision Quest
It had been more than a fortnight since Murphy left Corinth on her quest to find Callisto. The mighty warrior still remembered her parting from her beloved Lena. The young maid cried and pleaded for her to stay. The Queen gave her Champion a chance to reconsider her decision by offering to send her to command the Picts in the Northern Kingdoms.
Lena had put a lot of pressure the fierce gladiator to take the command. It would have been a tough and challenging assignment. The Picts were unpredictable and it was vital to get them trained for modern warfare. However, Murphy was a warrior and understood duty.
The Conqueror rewarded the Celtic spear womans dedication and ability by freeing the young maid and granting her an estate in Southern Greece. The Dark monarch knew that the lovers would never see each other again. The ferocious Celt nodded her thanks; the two warriors understood each other well.
Murphy caught a ship from Corinth to Antipolis. The stoic warrior had no idea where to go from there. In Antipolis, the Celtic champion hired twenty-five Celtic mercenaries and moved north. The tall woman had no idea why she was going north. It was just a feeling.
Now, a fortnight away from her happiness, the Celtic woman had another vision. The strong warrior saw:
A beautiful young blonde woman, inadequately clothed for her situation was making something. The woman was taking clay from a river or creek bottom and molding it around a small woven reed basket. The struggling woman packed the clay on the inside and outside of the small basket and then set it in small kiln made of wet wood to fire-harden the pot completely.
She watched as the woman took the hardened pot out of the kiln. The young survivor pulled some vegetables and some meat from small reed baskets and used the ingredients to cook a stew. This woman was obviously very knowledgeable about survival and very confident in her craft.
She watched as the young woman made a pair of gloves out of rabbit skins sewn together with dried rabbit intestines. The experienced survivor had white hair and brown eyes. The tenacious blonde wore an ill-fitting tunic and large baggy pants. An emblem showed prominently on the sleeve of the tunic. It had to be Callisto.
The young woman looked up right at her savior and said, "Follow the northern bank of the Seine River. "
Murphy woke from her vision and order her men to break camp. The womanof action now knew where to go. So, they broke camp and went to Alexia to get a barge to cross the Seine River.
While following the northern bank of the river, the warband found a camp of intoxicated barbarians. The cautious commander had scouts and flankers encircle the encampment, while she investigated the bivouac more closely. Silently, the Celtic warrior crept up on the barbarian campsite. Murphy was about to just walk in and question them to see if they had made contact with the courier, when she noticed the emblem she had seen in her vision. Each barbarian wore one on their outer clothing. It was plain to see that the missing messenger had seen at least one of these barbarians.
Without preamble, the Celtic leader charged the half-drunk camp and rounded up all the villagers, who were mostly men. While searching the village, the fierce warrior found Callisto's belongings. The angry Celt went to the owner of the hut where she found the belongings and cut his throat.
Murphy had the barbarian leader, Vercingetorix brought to her in chains. The normally passive warrior had watched the ways the Queen and the Conqueror plied prisoners for information and both women were very good at it. The Celtic leader sent a prayer to the Gods for half their ability.
The direct warrior soon found she was not very good at using Gabrielles soothing and deceptive method. So, the formidable gladiator tried the Conquerors more direct and violent method. The Celtic woman started by crushing the little finger of his shield hand and continued crushing digits until he told her want she wanted to know. By the time, the efficient commander had crushed all Vercingetorixs fingers and toes, the barbarian leader confessed that he and his men had raped the young courier. The crime demanded justice.
So, Murphy castrated the rapist and staked him out in an open field for the scavengers to finish. His screams were heard all through the night and well into the next day. Vercinetorixs second-in-command confirmed that they had been paid by the territorial governor of Western Gaul from Reme to stop the courier from reaching Britannia. He was rewarded by being freed after he had his testicles removed. Murphy was not fond of rapists.
Nine barbarian rapists paid for their crimes at the Celtic warriors hand. Murphy emerged from the torture tent covered in their blood. The menacing commander found that her men had a new respect for their unrestrained leader as they mounted their horses to continue their search.
Chapter 29: The Fourth Trial of Callisto
Callisto was firing the tip of her new spear to harden it. The wounded woman had recovered somewhat from her injuries and the small animals that she snared kept her from starving but autumn was here and winter would soon be following. The tenacious survivor had improved her shelter, she had widened and deepened the hole and lined it with slabs of limestone and rocks.
The young blonde had covered the entrance to her shelter with hides sewn together with sinew. The injured woman had been here for over a month and had all but hunted out the nearby area. Her snares were now set nearly a three-hour walk from her campsite. The vegetables and nuts in the area had also been exhausted and her diet was becoming more and more restricted to meat.
Her main source of food at present was the fish she speared from the small river. Her primary hope now was to spear a couple of stags. The young woman hoped to get a couple of hides to make clothing and to get enough dried meat to enable her to hike out of the forest.
The experienced warrior had used a spear many times in battle, but had never hunted with the weapon. The young hunter had always used a bow but she lacked the materials to make a bow now. After a two-hour search, the blonde huntress found the tracks of a herd of deer.
Callisto tracked the deer to a place upstream from her campground. The accomplished huntress knew she had to get to the other side of the deer so the wind would not carry her scent. Carefully and quietly the skilled warrior circled the small herd. When the young blonde was satisfied with the range to the target, she launched her spear.
The spear sailed through the air and impaled a fairly large stag. The young male was thrown to the ground by the impact of the blow and staggered to get to its feet. The rest of the herd scampered away quickly. The capable huntress pounced upon the struggling deer and slit its throat.
With expert proficiency, the young woman quickly skinned the animal. She cut the majority of the meat from the carcass and placed the fresh meat in the untreated hide. The woman also kept several large bones, the skull, pelvis, stomach, intestines and the bladder of the animal.
The seasoned huntress moved closer to her camp and away from the kill. Then, with practiced skill, the blonde survivor washed and cleaned the stomach intestines and bladder of the deer. She set the intestines out to dry into sinew and filled the stomach and bladder with air planning to use them to make a couple of water skins.
Then the young blonde cleaned the pelvis, skull and leg bones. The pelvis was to be used as a platter for holding her cooked food and the leg bones were for making spearheads that could penetrate even the toughest hides. The top of the skull was cut off to make a cup to heat water and from which to drink. The accomplished huntress hoped to get a bear for its warm fur and fat.
After building a fairly large fire to help dry her items, the hungry woman put a large roast on a spit and started broiling it. Then she put one of the pelvic bones under the meat to collect the roasts juices.
While the venison roast was cooking, the skilled huntress, dressed the deers hide to tan into leather. Then started stripping the rest of the cuts of venison into small strips. Using a makeshift rack, she put the ribbons of meat close to the flames to quicken their drying.
When everything was set up for drying, Callisto took a rabbit rib bone from her rabbit hide pouch and starting making a new sewing needle. Her old one had broken while the young woman was making her new pouch last night. The skilled survivor planned on making two more water skins.
After the recovering warrior had finished making her new bone needle, she noticed that the venison roast was more than ready. The former courier put on her mittens and pulled out the hot pelvic platter and put the roast on it. Taking some of her nut flour from her pouch, the blonde cook added it to the juice to make a thick gravy in which to dip her lean meat.
While eating her broiled venison, Callisto noticed some medical herbs growing nearby. They made an excellent tea that purified the blood. The accomplished survivor filled her new skull cup with steaming water that she filtered through a piece of cloth torn from her tunic. She put it on a stone by the fire to heat the water for her tea, while she went to pick the herbs she required for her tea.
The experienced warrior gathered the herbs and cleaned them in the stream. When the water came to a boil, Callisto added the herbs and the juice from several blackberries she found clinging to a bush. After she had completed her meal and drank her tea, the young woman used her outer coat as a ground sheet and fell asleep.
The sleeping woman failed to notice the scavengers that her cooking had attracted and she forgot to bank her fire and it was soon out. The three wolves sniffed the air and found no danger. Stealthfully the wolves started creeping up on the makeshift campsite.
Awareness honed from years alone in the wilderness caused the woman to wake up with instant awareness. The experienced huntress spotted the approaching wolves. Cursing her carelessness with the fire, the warrior picked up her spear and readied herself to fight the advancing animals.
Chapter 30: Lost Lamb Found
Murphy found evidence of several snares being set in this area. The Greek woman was probably near, thought the Celtic warrior, Damn, I forgot, shes Greek. I wonder if any of my men speak Greek.
Murphy turned to her men and asked, "How many of you speak Greek?"
Two men came forward. Murphy cursed her lack of forethought. For several seconds, the war leader tried to think of way to keep these guys from killing the girl or getting killed by the dangerous courier.
Murphy addressed her men by saying, "We are here to find a young Greek woman. She is a skilled warrior and she has been abused by men. She may not be very friendly when we find her. She is not to be harmed! I repeat she is not to be harmed in any way. I hope to be the one to find her or one of you that speaks Greek. Be sure to tell the woman, we have been sent by the Conqueror to find her. "
It took them several hours to find the young Greeks home base. The Celtic warrior was justifiably impressed with what the courier had done with almost nothing. From what she could see from the campsite, the Princes Champion knew why the Aerwyn wanted to find her.
Murphy turned to one of her warband that spoke Greek and ordered, "Were going to find her. I want you to stay here in case she comes back. Shes not to be harmed. You understand me?"
The soldier replied, "Yes, Commander, I understand. "
Murphy smiled at him and said, "Good, now, form your search teams and spread out. If you find her, dont hurt her. "
Murphy had her men spread out searching for signs of the young warrior. The efficient war leader split her band into parties of three, except for herself, she had a sense that she had to hunt for the woman alone. The Celtic warrior thought that a woman might be able to approach the abused courier without drawing any weapons fire. Suddenly, in the distance, the competent commander saw a line of smoke and decided to investigate.
Cautiously, the experienced warrior circled the position of the rising smoke. The woman had hunted on many occasions and saw the sure sign of a pack of wolves. The accomplished tracker realized they were stalking the same position she was. The alert Celt listened hard to her surroundings as she tried to locate the wolf pack. The normally stoic woman cursed the Gods violently when she heard the sounds of a wolf pack attacking something.
The time for a quiet reconnoiter was over, Murphy ran toward the sounds of the fight with her spear ready for a battle. When she arrived the Celtic Champion saw a medium sized, blonde warrior, who was a little too thin to be healthy, jabbing her spear at a pack of six wolves.
The wolves were trying to circle the injured woman and attack her from behind, but the intelligent warrior keep her back to the river and manage to maintain her delicate position. Realizing she didnt have much time the best spear woman in Britannia made a mighty thrown. The spear went through two wolves before pinning a third animal to a tree.
Callisto was getting frantic. The recovering warrior was tiring, and searched her mind desperately for a solution. When she couldnt find one, she said a gentle prayer to the Goddess for help. Suddenly, her prayers were answered as a spear sailed through two animals and skewered a third.
Out of trees came a screaming madwoman swinging a deadly sword. Two more of the scavengers fell to the deadly blade before the remaining wolves ran away. After cleaning her blade, the Celtic Warrior sheathed it and said, "My name is Murphy and I was sent to find you and take you safely to Britannica.
The abused woman was looking for a place to run as she asked, "How can I be sure? You could be a slaver. "
Murphy gave her a half-grin and responded, "Because I was sent by the hooded woman, who is the keeper of love.
"Its about time. " The battered woman exclaimed as she collapsed to the ground.
End of Part 7
To be continued in Part 8
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