Title: Trial and Retribution
Author: Alan Hitchen
Feedback: Would be nice
Disclaimer: X: WP is owned by Renaissance Pictures – Universal Television
In a time of ancient Gods, Warlords and Kings
A land in turmoil cried out for a hero
But in this reality he was never born
So now there is Xena: The Conqueror
Warrior Queen and Destroyer of Nations
Wherever there is injustice, tyranny and corruption
She is there, leading the attack on the weak and helpless
Her cruelty has changed the world
The Conquerer’s court was in session. The guards entered with a female prisoner. The petite honey blonde was thrown at Xena’s feet. The Destroyer of Nations seemed to be bored with the proceedings as she looked at her officials with disinterest, ignoring the woman at her feet.
“What is her crime?” she enquired of the accused.
“I spoke,” replied the prostrate figure.
“She encouraged the people to revolt against you,” the court recorder confirmed.
“Are you guilty?” Xena asked the prisoner.
Gabrielle rose to her knees; her green eyes gazed at the Warrior Queen with contempt. “I gave voice to the people: the fearful, the starving, the dispossessed and the disappeared. They could not speak, so I spoke for them. Yes, in your eyes I am guilty.”
“I see.” Xena approached, and lifted Gabrielle to her feet in order to look closely at the intriguing young woman. “You are not afraid of me?”
“No,” said Gabrielle, as Xena’s ice blue eyes burned into her. She returned the stare without flinching.
“You should be. I have the power of life and death over you,” said Xena with silky menace and a mirthless smile.
“Oh yes, you have power and all the trappings that go with it.” Gabrielle looked about the elegant room. “You have the palaces.” She looked at Xena’s finery. “The fancy clothing.” She looked at the court officials awaiting her command. “The servants, and all that - but what do you really have?”
Xena was puzzled by her response. “Tell me.”
“Nothing. - You have no friends. Only lickspittles and yes men. You have no lovers.” Xena looked surprised. “Oh, you have people that you take to your bed, and they say that they love you, but their eyes tell you differently.” Xena was visibly discomforted by her words. “You have no family. Your mother killed herself when she could no longer stand the shame. Your elder brother died at your hands opposing you. Your few remaining kinsmen deny they are related to you - and then there is Solan.”
Xena’s face, already severe, was suddenly contorted with rage. “Shut up! Shut up!! Shut up!!!” She screamed, as she struck Gabrielle hard and sent her flying across the room. Realising this outburst had all eyes in the room upon her, she struggled to regain her composure, and returned to the throne, her face an unreadable mask.
Gabrielle staggered to her feet, wiping the blood from her face as she did so. “You have no-one’s respect. Only their fear and hatred, which you seem to think is enough. You have gained the whole world, only to lose everything that matters. That is why you make the peoples’ lives a misery. To try and make them feel like you do, desolate and unloved.”
“That is a lie!” Xena’s denial sounded flat and hollow as it echoed across the silent room.
“You know it isn’t, but that’s not why I’m here. I arranged to be arrested so I could tell you personally that your nemesis is fast approaching. I have always had prophetic dreams, and the one I have long waited for is now revealed to me. I see a figure coming. She is blonde. She is implacable. She is like you - barely human. Warped by past events of your making, she seeks revenge. She will destroy you; I have no doubt about that. So enjoy your power while you still can. My death might provide you with some amusement, but rest assured no matter what you do to me I will be having the last laugh.”
Xena looked shaken. “More lies! Your empty threats mean nothing to me.”
With as much defiance as she could muster, certain that these words would be her last, Gabrielle replied. “I think they do, and they are not empty, but even if I am mistaken, I can only hope that my courage here will embolden others to act against your monstrous regime and bring its end closer still.”
“Guards! To the cells with her - and call my seer to me - the court is adjourned for today.” Xena said unexpectedly, and withdrew to her private chambers in haste.
In the dank cells Gabrielle contemplated her fate, death was certain in any event, but what gruesome torture would Xena put her through first? Her bold front was now gone, as head in hands she began to weep. A sudden noise outside caught her attention and she braced herself against the inevitable. The door opened and an attractive young woman dressed as one of Xena’s entourage entered the cell.
“Don’t be alarmed,” said the woman in a low voice. “My name is Ameran, I am here to rescue you.”
“Oh really?” replied Gabrielle with renewed bravado. “I know what’s happening, it’s another of Xena’s little games isn’t it? She’s famous for them. You pretend you’re letting me go, but you’re really taking me to my death aren’t you? Well, I’m not going anywhere with you.”
Ameran looked nonplussed and sighed. “I don’t know what to say to that, except ask that you trust me. You can stay in this cell and die if you’d prefer, or come with me and live. I’d rather you came with me and lived.” She smiled encouragingly at Gabrielle, then added. “You have information that is vital to the resistance and I can take you to them.”
Gabrielle took a moment to weigh up the stranger, she seemed genuine, and half a chance of escape was better than none, so she decided to go with her.
“Okay, you’ve convinced me,” she said. “Take me to your leader.”
Ameran produced a purple cloak like her own. “Put this on, we must go quickly before Xena decides what to do with you.”
They left the unguarded cellblock, pausing only to replace the cell key.
“The Gaoler is on a meal break and his deputy has been detained elsewhere.” Ameran explained. “Take this basket, we’re leaving by a side entrance as if to buy provisions. No-one will challenge us, I hope.”
“You hope?” queried Gabrielle.
“If we hesitate all will be lost. It’s a risk, but I believe you are worth it.”
Ameran’s words touched Gabrielle in a way she couldn’t explain, and a warm glow enveloped her as she studied Ameran’s earnest expression. She had been overlooked her entire life. Now here was someone risking everything for her. Why was that? she thought.
“Is something the matter?” asked Ameran, noticing her indecision.
“I was just thinking, if we had met in the market place you wouldn’t have given me a second look, now suddenly I’m the centre of attention, just because I dared to speak the truth.”
“Oh, I’d have noticed you, Gabrielle, no matter what the circumstance,” said Ameran.
There was something about the way she spoke and looked at her that made Gabrielle blush.
“Don’t underestimate yourself,” she continued. “You frightened her. You do realise that don’t you? She was frightened of you Gabrielle, that makes you very special, if not unique.” She squeezed Gabrielle’s hand in reassurance. “Now follow my lead and say nothing,” she instructed.
They left the palace with barely a glance from the guard at the gate. They quickly made their way to a house in a secluded courtyard not far away. Ameran immediately scribbled a note on a scrap of parchment, got a pigeon from a basket, attached the message to its leg, and sent it on its way.
“I’ve sent word ahead so we will be expected,” she said. “Can you ride a horse?”
“No, I don’t even like horses that much.” said Gabrielle.
“Well, you do now,” Ameran stated, “and we’ll need to ride hard to reach safety before nightfall, but first we’ll need a change of clothing. I need to get out of this uniform and you need something to replace those rags.
“Well, what can you see!” demanded an agitated Xena, as she paced about the room.
The court seer, Mendex by name, quivered with every word spoken by the Conquerer as he struggled to make sense of the portents in the smoke.
“I see nothing, your Majesty. There is no threat against you,” he said at last.
“And what of the girl? How does she know so much about me and my family?”
“I know not, your Majesty. She has no supernatural powers, of that I am sure,” he said, with his fingers mentally crossed.
“Very well. Then I’ll have to use more direct methods to discover the truth. I think I’ll break every bone in her body to begin with.”
With that she swept out of the room leaving Mendex in a state of nervous collapse. He had seen something, or rather someone. He only hoped she would kill Xena before Xena killed him.
The tactical outpost of the Amazons was well hidden in the middle of a wood. Gabrielle could not see the entrance even when standing next to it. On the other side of the door was another world free from the dead hand of the Conqueror. The colour and bustle of everyday life within amazed Gabrielle.
Once inside Ameran took her to the main hut and made the introductions.
“Gabrielle of Potideia, this is Terreis, Queen of the Amazon Nation.”
Terreis smiled broadly at the nervous Gabrielle. “Don’t be too impressed, it is not the honour once it was, our nation is all but destroyed, but as long as one of us lives we will go on and rebuild what was once ours. Now, Ameran, what exactly is the vital information you wished to tell me?”
Ameran briefly outlined what she knew about Gabrielle and her encounter with the Conqueror.
“You may not look like an Amazon, but you certainly have the heart of one,” Terreis said in admiration. “Is what Amaran says true? Are Xena’s days numbered?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes they are,” said Gabrielle. “She is doomed. I am certain of it. I’m not sure when, but soon.”
“I’m glad to hear it, but Ameran mentioned something else that interested me. Xena’s reaction when you mentioned Solan. Who is he?”
“He is Xena’s son.”
“Her son!” said the astonished Terreis.
“Yes,” said Gabrielle. “He is about ten years old and lives in ignorance of his parentage. She was softer hearted then and gave him away to be brought up by others, so that he might live a normal life and not become a target for her enemies.”
“How do you know this?”
“The dreams. I have had dreams about Xena and her family for as long as I can remember. At times it seems I have dreamed about nothing else. I used to wonder why Morpheus tortured me so, but now I see there was a reason. It is my destiny to help you in any way I can.”
“I see,“ said Terreis thoughtfully, “could he be used against her? Ephiny, what do you say?”
Her second in command had been attentively listening in the background, now she made her presence felt. In contrast to Terreis’ easy manner and effortless authority, Ephiny radiated a cooler, more aggressive personality. She ignored the question and asked another of her own.
“How do we know she is not a spy sent to betray us?” Ephiny said, looking at Ameran.
“She’s no spy. I’d trust her with my life,” said Amaran vehemently. Once again Gabrielle blushed for reasons she could not yet identify.
“You’ve trusted her with all our lives,” Ephiny pointed out.
“A test then, if Solan can be located that would prove her story, wouldn’t it?” said Terreis.
“I suppose so,” said Ephiny reluctantly. “In the meantime Gabrielle must be watched at all times, and not just by Ameran,” she said pointedly.
Amaran took Gabrielle to her quarters for the night. Two guards were posted outside to comply with Ephiny’s demands.
Gabrielle sat on the bunk and looked at Ameran quizzically.
“Why do you trust me?” she asked. “I could be a spy as Ephiny says.”
“No, you’re not, I knew that from the first moment I saw you.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. Can I ask you something?”
“Why do you look at me the way you do?”
“That’s easy, I like you Gabrielle.”
She smiled and Gabrielle smiled back.
“Has no-one complimented you before?”
“So there has been no-one special in your life. No special man – or woman?”
Gabrielle couldn’t understand the emphasis placed on the latter part of the question, but answered truthfully anyway.
“No-one, unless you count my husband to be, and I don’t.”
“My foster family decided to marry me off to some clod of a farm boy. That’s when I decided to run away to the city, to try and find the resistance I had heard whispers about. Of course I didn’t find it. I couldn’t find anything but the most menial work to do either, but then I had the dream about the blonde nemesis and I decided to confront the Conqueror with the truth. I knew it would mean my death but by then I didn’t much care. So you see if you hadn’t saved me I’d be dead and glad of it.”
“Well, I’m very glad I did save you. The world needs people like you.”
“Thanks, but I think it needs people like you more.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Ameran smiled. “You said foster family, what happened to your parents?”
“My mother died when I was young and father was killed by Xena’s men shortly afterwards. My sister, Lilla, was sent to live with one family, I don’t know what happened to her after that,” Gabrielle fell silent for a moment, “I wish I did. Anyway, I was sent to another family. They treated me like dirt from the beginning; I was never a daughter to them, merely an unpaid skivvy constantly at their beck and call. I hated every minute of my day with them, then at night I would be assaulted by dreams of Xena and her family. Life was just one long streak of misery.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Ameran, moving next to Gabrielle so she could hug her and kiss her cheek, “but all that is behind you now. You can have a new life with us, with me, if you want it.”
Gabrielle looked deep into Ameran’s hazel eyes and wondered what it was that she was proposing.
Dagnine knocked at the door of Xena’s apartments.
“Enter,” she growled from within.
He entered the room boldly.
“What is it?” she snapped at him. “Have you found her yet?”
“No, your Majesty, not yet, but here is a message from your pet Amazon that explains why.”
“Give it here.” She snatched the parchment out of his hands and read it eagerly.
“So, the prophetic peasant is with them – and they are looking for Solan!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“Who is Solan? “ Dagnine asked with studied nonchalance, hoping to learn something to his advantage.
“My weakness,” she said under her breath, and then out loud. “No-one of importance. However… he may be useful to the Amazons. Take some men to the village west of the city, kill the boy called Solan you will find there and bring his body back to me.”
Dagnine seemed about to say something but was forestalled by Xena.
“Do it now!” she barked.
“As you command, Majesty.” He would have liked to pursue the matter, but Xena’s expression brooked no argument.
After he left Xena turned to the window; her normally impassive face etched with regret. She spoke quietly to herself.
“Please forgive me my son. I had hoped this day would never come, but I can’t allow you to be used by my enemies. Even in this palace you would not be safe from those who would intrigue against me. So you must die to protect the mother you have never known. How I wish it were otherwise.”
She would have cried, but years of emotional detachment had robbed her of the ability to do so.
Ephiny, Ameran, Gabrielle and a small bodyguard set off for the village next day. It wasn’t hard to locate the village thanks to Gabrielle’s vivid dreams, but when they arrived late that evening the newcomers were shunned by all, bar for one household.
The grieving couple explained what had happened, unlike the other villagers, their natural reluctance to talk to strangers had gone. After all, they no longer had anything left to lose.
“They came in the morning,” said the man. “They said they had orders from Xena herself. They said he was a danger to national security. Then they killed him there and then, right in front of us, and took his body away so that she would know he was dead. My son, my Solan, how could they be so cruel?”
Gabrielle was shocked and whispered to Ameran. “I knew she was heartless but I thought Solan meant something to her, it seems I was wrong. I didn’t like the idea of using Solan against her and now I feel responsible for his death.”
Ameran could do nothing but look sympathetic and reach out to hold Gabrielle’s hand.
“Was he your natural son?” asked Ephiny.
“No, we couldn’t have children of our own,” she said regretfully. “He was given to us nearly ten years ago.”
“What did you know of his origins?”
“Nothing beyond his name,” she replied. “He was a gift from the Gods. I pray he is now with them in the Isles of the Blessed.”
Her brittle façade cracked and she dissolved into tears. As her husband tried his best to comfort her the Amazons quietly withdrew.
Ameran turned to Ephiny, “How did Xena know? Who could have told her? It couldn’t be Gabrielle, she has had no opportunity to communicate with anyone.”
“I don’t know, “ said Ephiny, avoiding her gaze.
Ameran peered back at her with an uncertain look as if she knew something. Ephiny shivered involuntarily. Have I been found out? she thought. Did she see me release the pigeon? I’ve too much to lose to be exposed now. I must away at the first opportunity.
On their return to the outpost they immediately conferred with Terreis and told her what had transpired. The fact that they had returned without Ephiny had not gone unnoticed and whispers quickly swept the camp.
“You are telling me she just disappeared?” Terreis spoke in astonishment.
“Yes, my Queen,” replied Ameran.” It would seem she left of her own accord, but why and where to, I do not know.”
“This is very serious,” Terreis frowned, “could it be that she is the one that betrayed our plans to Xena? If that is true then we are undone. We must move at once before we are attacked. Make the preparations with all speed.”
Xena was extremely displeased to see Ephiny upon her on her arrival at the palace.
“Thanks to your incompetence I’ve had to kill my own son and lost the chance to wipe out the Amazons once and for all,” she snarled at her.
“Wipe them out? You said I would be the Queen of the Amazons.” Ephiny interjected. “You promised me. I give you the Amazons and you would make me Queen. You gave me your word.”
“So I did, and so you shall.” Xena’s growl became a purr. ”You can be Queen - for a day or two - until I have you publicly executed, so all can see that the Amazons are no threat to me, no matter what the resistance might say.”
“What?” Ephiny began to protest, but was cut off.
“Guards! Take the Amazon Queen to the guest quarters. Let her have what she wants as befits her station.”
Xena turned to her prisoner. “Make the most of it Ephiny, your reign will not be a long one.”
After receiving a message from another Amazon spy, Terreis called Gabrielle and Ameran to her.
“Strella reports that Ephiny is with Xena, as we feared she was, but not as her ally, but as her prisoner!”
“How can that be?” Gabrielle asked in puzzlement.
“Strella does not know, but it seems that she is being treated as if she is the Amazon Queen, and she is to be executed in two days time.”
Gabrielle shook with excitement. “This is it!” she exclaimed.
“What is?” asked Terreis.
“Xena’s downfall. It will occur at this execution, I am sure of it!”
“Then we must be there in force to make sure it happens and to rescue Ephiny if we can.”
“Even though she may be a traitor?”
“Everyone deserves a fair hearing before condemnation, Ameran, you ought to know that.”
“Apologies, my Queen, you are right as always.”
“With the world the way it is, to live in peace we must prepare for war, this has always been the Amazon way. This was why we were able to resist the Conqueror, we were prepared, while others were not.”
“So I see,” said Gabrielle, as she watched Ameran expertly wielding her staff and tried to replicate the moves.
She had been teaching Gabrielle all day, and not just about the arts of war. The fascinated Gabrielle had drunk in every aspect of Amazon life including how female-female relationships were conducted. A subject which seemed to strike a particular chord within her. Now, as evening fell, they retired from practice with the staff to enjoy the evening meal together.
“You have asked me many questions today Gabrielle,” Ameran said after the meal. “Now I have a question for you,” she clasped Gabrielle’s hands in hers and said. “Will you marry me?”
Gabrielle was stunned and for the first time in her life found herself lost for words as strange new emotions churned within her.
“I’m sorry, I’ve shocked you,” Ameran apologised. “That was not my intention. It’s just that I’ve loved you from the very first moment I saw you. I was going to break it to you gently but I couldn’t hold it in a moment longer. I love you and I want to marry you.” She kissed Gabrielle’s hands. “What do you say?”
Gabrielle eventually recovered her power of speech and replied. “Can I think about it?” she said, when in reality she longed to say yes.
“Of course,” Ameran smiled reassuringly, “there is no need to reply now, all you need know is that I will always be yours whatever you decide.”
A large uneasy crowd had been gathered in the square in front of the palace. Xena addressed the multitude with her customary ease whilst at the same time carrying a large axe as easily as if it were a toothpick.
“Your Warrior Queen presents the people with a special treat today. The death of the Amazon Queen herself. No doubt you have heard baseless rumours that the Amazons are still defying my right to rule over you good people. Here you have the proof that the rumours are wrong. No-one dares dispute me and live!”
The crowd gasped as Ephiny, in full Amazon finery, was escorted out towards the execution block. Ephiny had determined to die with as much dignity as she could command and so held herself, as an Amazon Queen would do, as a last service to those she had betrayed.
“Not so fast Xena!” came a voice from the crowd. “Not all your enemies have been conquered or are so easily despatched. There is still one who would oppose you here and now!”
“Who are you that dares to challenge me?” Xena barked.
The hooded figure uncovered herself to reveal a grim face set in blonde tresses exactly as Gabrielle had seen in her dreams.
“My name is Callisto, but does it really matter to you what my name is? None of your other victims had names, faces, families or loved ones, did they? To you they were just ants to be crushed underfoot at your will. Well, I am an ant you missed, an ant that is here to crush you!”
With that she threw off her cloak and launched herself at Xena, while instinctively dodging the axe that Xena threw at her head. She chortled as she heard it decapitate the guard who was coming up behind her.
Xena grabbed the guard nearest to her and used his body as a shield as she fought Callisto with his sword. Callisto pressed home her attack with unmatched ferocity, forcing Xena back despite her best efforts to resist. The crowd stood transfixed as the white tornado of vengeance brushed aside all Xena’s guards with ease as they attempted to intervene.
Dagnine contemplated the scene for a short while before deciding that he had urgent business elsewhere and rushed to gather his loyal men about him.
Xena found herself quite unable to withstand the withering onslaught and was soon at the point of Callisto’s sword without weapons or hope of rescue. She had not even the breath to beg for mercy; not that she would have done under any circumstance. She simply stood there, eyes blazing with defiance. As she couldn’t speak, she spat at Callisto as if daring her to act, and act she did.
Callisto sliced off Xena’s left arm, screaming: “This is for my mother!”
Then the right arm. “This is for my father!”
Then the left leg. “This is for my sister!”
And finally the head. “This is for me!”
She held the bloody object up for all to see. The crowd roared its approbation.
Gabrielle felt sick and buried her head in Ameran’s chest to block out the awful sight. She felt something snap inside her and knew that she would never dream of Xena again. Ameran held her tight and kissed the top of her head, as she too averted her gaze.
Callisto began to sway about as if drunk; she looked down at herself. Seeing the bright arterial blood, that she now realised was not Xena’s but her own, it dawned on her that her own end was at hand.
“Arleia – Pankos – Baigent - I come to you victorious!” she cried, before collapsing to the floor, her blood mixing with Xena’s to form a crimson lake of death, hatred and destruction.
Terreis stepped forward as her Amazons emerged from the crowd to disarm and take into custody what was left of Xena’s entourage, as well as the shamed Ephiny. Terreis climbed up to the dais and addressed the expectant crowd.
“A great victory has been won here today. Xena: The Conqueror is no more – but her legacy still lives on, throughout the land Xena’s place men still wield power over the people in her name. It will take time, and no doubt cost more lives, but these obstacles to peace and justice will be removed and the land will be free again. This I promise you in the name of all the people.”
The crowd cheered her to the echo and everyone rejoiced. Especially Gabrielle and Ameran who had other reasons to celebrate, for Ameran had again proposed marriage and this time Gabrielle had accepted, and their joy would be unconfined and everlasting.
|Alan Hitchen||Xena||Main Index|