Wheels In Motion
Elissa fell back into a troubled sleep, only to dream once more. This time her dream was a normal prophetic dream showing her the enemy's plan. She saw Livia commanding a large contingent of Roman soldiers, who were marching toward the encampment. She heard Livia order the soldiers to leave no one alive and to desecrate the bodies as a warning to any who dare raise arms against Rome.
She got up quietly from the bed so as not to wake her mother. Slipping through the camp toward Xena and Gabrielle's tent, Elissa silently entered.
Xena sat up and looked at their intruder in question. Elissa silenced her then motioned to the still sleeping Gabrielle, and Xena nodded.
The two stepped outside and before Xena could say a word, Elissa spoke. "I had a prophetic dream. The Romans know about us and will march on us in the morning. There were legions of them led by Livia. I have an idea of how we can surprise them, but you lead this army and it is your decision."
She explained her idea, and Xena agreed. The Warrior Princess had used similar method and had found them highly effective. They separated and went about quietly waking the camp, and explaining the plan.
They assigned different work details, each glad to go about their duties as far away from each other as possible. Personalities so similar in nature would either mesh or clash. Unfortunately, they were destined to clash.
Lysippe found her daughter ordering people about, and her face glowing with exhilaration. She couldn't help but smile at her child, there was nothing Elissa liked better than a good campaign. She was able to see the weakness in plans and solve problems with ease.
"You seem much better. Why didn't you wake me? I know you had another dream."
"I wanted to let you sleep after waking you earlier. I told Xena since it was her decision to make as the leader. We are getting along, mother."
Elissa stopped what she was doing to send her mother an impish smile.
"As long as we stay on opposite sides of the camp."
The queen knew that smile well, and her daughter's next words only confirmed it. She sent Elissa a knowing wink as her honeyed laughter filled the air. The Amazons stopped to turn in their queen's direction. Lysippe's joy filled that place that connected them as sisters. They turned back to their work with lightened hearts.
"What do you want me to do? I already have our area taken care."
"They need some help over there with those pits. Go and show them what it means to have a real leader."
Livia addressed her troops as she rode back and forth before them. Her back was ramrod straight, and her voice boomed across the open field.
"These savages need to be taught a lesson once and for all. We will give no quarter. Once they lay dead at our feet, we leave their bodies for the carrion.
She paused to allow her words to sink in, knowing they would not sit well with the soldiers. Livia didn't care what they thought. She planned to ensure the victory she won for Rome had far reaching affects. Livia knew this was her ticket to Rome, and eventually the throne.
"They dare to defy Caesar, to defy Rome. We will show them the error of their ways in the most painful ways possible. Who is with me?"
She threw her arm high, allowing the sun to shine off her sword and armor. Livia understood the dramatic sight she portrayed.
"LIVIA…LIVIA…FOR CAESAR…FOR ROME."
They stomped their feet and started their battle march. The higher-ranking soldiers rode behind her, while the large contingent followed on foot. Swords beat on shields in time with marching feet and drums.
They had shouted her name before Caesar or Rome. Her destiny was to rule Rome with or without Ares' help. As soon as she returned victorious once more, Augustus would take her back to Rome and marry her. Livia knew she needed to bide her time before taking his place to rule Rome - possibly the world. She kicked her horse anxious to begin the battle that would begin her true destiny.
They thundered into the camp only to find it empty. There wasn't a single sound and the campfires were stone cold. Livia went into a rage tearing apart anything within her reach. She stormed through the camp and the others didn't know what to do, but follow along behind her.
Once they were directly in the middle, surrounded by tents, all hell broke loose. People appeared as if by magic. They dropped down from the trees, from pits dug in the ground even tarps laid on the tent floors. They surrounded the Roman army like locusts with wild battle cries. The soldiers were used to overpowering their enemies by sheer numbers combined with fear and surprise. They had none of these this time. This was guerilla warfare and the 'enemy' was the only one who knew the rules. The savages were experienced warriors used to fighting in close conditions.
Roman after Roman fell to a spear, arrow or sword. This battle would note battle was not going to end in Roman victory.
Elissa saw Livia fighting not far from her and headed over to finally put an end to the Roman bitch. She stopped Livia's sword from cutting a young man in half.
"Why don't you try me? I understand you have a taste for Amazon blood. Care to try mine?"
"I thought I took care of all your kind, but will happily remedy that fast enough."
Livia lunged forward only to be blocked. Her arm tingling all the way to her shoulder, while her eyes widened in shock. Once again, she knew fear, and wanted to call Ares, but knew he wouldn't answer.
"You aren't as good as you thought - what a pity. Won't your lover come and rescue you?"
Elissa swung at Livia repeatedly, forcing her to the ground. She knocked the sword out of her hand and was about to administer the killing blow.
"Get ready to die like the bitch you are."
Xena fought two Roman soldiers at once finishing them quickly. She looked for her next target, when she stopped dead in her tracks. It couldn't be but it was - Eve. Xena took off running to get to her daughter, before Elissa struck the killing blow. She shoved the Amazon from behind to stop her from stabbing Eve.
Elissa turned around in shock. When she saw who stood there, her eyes narrowed and turned into green ice.
"I should have known you would betray us. Were you working with her and Ares all along?"
"Elissa, you don't understand she isn't who you think she is. She's..."
The Amazon princess didn't care to listen to Xena. She knew exactly what and who Livia was.
"She is the person responsible for wiping out entire tribes of my sisters. Livia slaughtered your own people, Xena." She spat her next words as if they were a curse. "Warrior Princess. That doesn't matter, does it; you brought us here to help her finish what she started. You make me sick. I've heard talk about how you and Gabrielle help people; that you are trying to make up for your past, but you're no different than this animal and never will be."
She started to turn back to finally finish Livia. Elissa would deal with Xena next if it came to that. She never got the chance to do either.
Livia watched as the two women argued and inched toward her sword. Once it was in her hand, she stabbed Elissa through the back. She smiled at Xena in thanks, while Xena watched in horror at what her daughter had done to an honorable woman. What had her daughter become and would she be able to protect her from not only the Gods, but also every remaining Amazon?
Lysippe ran across the clearing after watching Xena's part in her daughter's death. She skidded to a stop as fury filled her body.
"I will kill you myself then finish what my daughter started. I told you that you should step down if you couldn't lead. Elissa warned me you would betray us, but just this once I wanted her dreams to be wrong."
The queen was an excellent fighter. Strength filled her, fueled by a mother's anguish and rage at child's murder.
"It was an accident. I didn't want Elissa to die, even though we didn't see eye to eye I admired her skill. Please, Lysippe let me explain."
Xena merely defended herself from the Amazon who seemed to have grown several additional arms and legs.
"No, no more explaining. Fight or die."
She swung her sword again followed by a fist to Xena's face. Gabrielle saw her lover and friend fighting and didn't understand what was happening. She rushed over to stop them.
In the confusion, Eve slipped away from the battle. It was the first she had ever lost, and she found that pill bitter.
Xena kept an eye on her retreating back. She sighed in relief, when Gabrielle stepped forward.
"Lysippe, what is going on? Stop this now. Xena isn't the enemy."
A hysterical laugh burst from Lysippe's lips.
"You are wrong, old friend. Are you part of this? Have you betrayed us as well? Did you lure us here to wipe out the Amazon nation?"
"I don't understand what you are talking about. Xena, what is going on?"
"What we have been searching for is here, and I need to go, before we lose it again."
Understanding lit Gabrielle's face and she nodded. Xena ran off after Eve and Lysippe tried to follow but the blonde stopped her. The former friends struggled to get the upper hand. It ended tragically, when Gabrielle accidentally stabbed Lysippe with her Sais. Falling to her knees, she gathered the Amazon queen into her arms.
"I'm sorry; Xena is only trying to save someone's life, someone very important to her."
"Like she saved the life of that Roman bitch?" Lysippe coughed up blood. "Like she stopped that same bitch from killing my child. I curse you, Gabrielle. You are Amazon no more. Each time you meet the one who holds your heart, you will lose them. It will become an endless cycle. The same one that played a thousand times as I watched my child die."
Gabrielle looked on in horror. Eve killed Elissa. This news saddened her even more than the Lysippe's death by her own hands. She carefully laid her old friend down then rushed after Xena. The curse rang in her ears with each step.
Elissa sat up and gasped as her lungs struggled for breath. Standing on shaky legs, she looked around only to find dead bodies everywhere, their own army and Romans. Her legs quickly returned to their normal strength and she rushed over to any bodies she recognized. Her search continued and her hope soared with each body she turned over that wasn't her mother. Finally, she turned over the last one with a shaking hand, her head fell back and a scream tore from her lips that echoed throughout the empty valley.
There was a ritual known only to Amazons. Elissa used it now. She touched her fingers to her own eyes then pressed them to her mother's.
"From sister to sister, mother to daughter, share you last moments with me so I may know whether you died with honor or by deceit."
Her mother's last moments replayed in Elissa's mind. Tears trailed down her cheeks. She picked up her mother's body and carried it deep into the woods. Elissa made several more trips for her sister Amazons, placing them in their tribal symbol, and then set them on fire.
"Artemis, hear my plea. One who took the right of caste betrayed your daughters. They fought honorably and should pass into Eternity. I will avenge their deaths and make those responsible pay. Take care of my mother and my tribe. I am as always your servant."
Elissa walked away after calling for her horse and happy to have him answer. She made special note of those not among the dead, and swore to find them no matter how long it took her. She knew how most men felt about Amazons. If her sisters were injured, they were easy targets for capture. Some they would keep, while selling the others to slave traders. Elissa would not allow this to happen and she didn't care if she went to the ends of the Earth to find them; she would return her remaining sisters to their home.
She gathered what was left of family's belongings, and rode toward the highest point she could reach. Perched above the valley, Elissa witnessed the battle's complete destruction. Bodies lay haphazardly as far as the eye could see.
"Mighty Hades, do not allow these brave warrior's bodies to lay victim to the shameful desecration of carrion and thieves. Please, send them on their way into the afterlife."
The gods who remained on Olympus watched the scene unfold. This new Amazon queen asked mercy for her enemy, along with her own fallen comrades. She did the unthinkable - intrigued them.
"Do you think she knows yet what she is, and what is yet to come?"
Athena turned to her half-sister, Artemis.
"She is a child of prophecy. She knows more than any mortal should, but she isn't a mere mortal. When Dhaka impregnated Gabrielle, the two parts of the child's soul fought within, and the dark side, with Dahak's help, won. That doesn't mean Elissa is still not the daughter of a god, each of us have a light and dark side. She is all that was once good in Dahak before his corruption. We have seen it before sister, even in our own father. Now, that Xena has chosen this course, I am afraid Elissa will remember everything. There is no turning back this time, and no way to stop what will happen. Our time is fading and we have not the power to stop. The Fates are already weaving our last days. The only remaining threads shining throughout their weaving are Elissa and Hercules. They are the only remaining children of the true gods. The offspring of lesser deities have scattered across the globe. Alas, they have no real power and are not true
Artemis stopped talking to watch the young woman whom she personally removed from the Amazon Land of the Dead. She watched over this particular Amazon since her second birth.
Elissa was soon to learn about her heritage, her past and her gifts. Artemis wondered exactly what she would do with the knowledge. Elissa watched as the bodies melted into the ground as if pulled under by invisible hands. She sighed with relief to know the dead would rest.
Elissa's horse walked as if it knew exactly where it was going. She watched for signs from her sisters and wasn't surprised to find one not far from the encampment. There attached to a bush was a small lock of hair, it could easily pass for an animal's fur except for the intricate braiding. She followed the trail to a camp of roughly twenty men. They sat around the fires while three women, whom Elissa recognized as Phoebe, Celaneo and Eurybe, pouring wine in waiting flagons. Her eyes narrowed when she saw their legs shackled with short ropes. It caused them to shuffle. The indignity was something no warrior should have to endure.
She watched the men laugh and grab at the women, making ribald jokes about what they planned to do with them. How they would teach them about being real women.
Elissa moved forward silently, waiting for her chance to free her sisters. It came quickly and she acted in response to the opening provided to her. Her knife sliced through Phoebe's bindings and the Amazon guard found a sword once more in her hand. She freed Celaneo and Eurybe then went to help Elissa teach the men what it meant to treat Amazons dishonorably.
Elissa flipped through the air straight into the men. Her loud war cry scared them almost as much as her sudden appearance. They stared in shocked wonder when she knocked the wine from their hands with her foot. Her sword moved around her wrist in a blur, while her hands and feet lashed out administering Amazon justice. The others joined her happy to have their honor returned to them. They didn't mind losing in battle, any warrior expected their time to come in that manner. It was the fact that the men who they had allied with betrayed then captured them. With Elissa, there to lead them, it didn't take them too long to overpower the men.
"Who leads you?" Elissa demanded, pushing the tip of her sword into the side of the closest man.
"We aren't telling you anything, Amazon."
A burly man near her spat out only to receive a foot in the face.
"When I want your opinion I will ask it. Now, who leads here? If you do not speak up, I will kill you, one by one."
The men laughed nervously but stopped abruptly when Elissa's sword cleanly skewered the first man.
"Anyone else think I speak falsely?" Complete silence met her question. "I will ask until I have my answer."
"I am the leader here."
A middle age man spoke for the first time. She walked over and bent down so she could look into his eyes.
"Did you order these men to capture my sisters?
Elissa's voice was barely more than a whisper. It skimmed over their skin, and created chills in its wake.
"Warriors, who came to your aid and you decided it right to treat them as chattel. Please explain this to me, so I will be able to understand. I find myself with an uncontrollable need to teach a severe lesson here. Explain to me why I should not?"
The leader was a seasoned warrior. This marked his twenty-fifth campaign. He had faced Romans, Barbarians and none had caused the fear this small woman did. An air about her left no doubt that she could and would do what she said.
"When the fighting was over there were only a few hundred of us left. It took everything we had to pay for this war, and we lost nearly all our women. The few women still alive were Amazons. We decided to capture them and start again far from here. My men meant to take them as wives; they were to be honored not abused."
A harsh bark of laughter erupted from Elissa's mouth. The leader visibly flinched at the eerie sound.
"You think capturing them to become your wives an honor. Did they not beg you to allow them to bury our dead? I know they explained that in order to find peace in our fields of rest a proper ceremony was needed."
The man at the end of her sword gave a small nod, hoping not to cause her to cut his throat. "But, you in all your manly wisdom never considered they had families waiting for them at home. You spit on our beliefs with your actions. Give me one reason not send you to join your fallen men?"
"I…I can tell you what the others planned to do for the other women," he gasped out when the point shallowly pierced his skin.
"You will tell me no matter what fate I decide for you. If you do not, I promise to kill you slowly but not before, I kill your men. The one who looks like you, a son perhaps? He'll go first. Now, start talking."
Her anger came off her in waves that blasted those in close proximity. Phoebe looked at the other two Amazons with a spark of fear deep in her eyes. They admired and respected their new queen, but her famous temper had never burned this hot. Each knew Elissa would lay down her life for them. They had grown used to Queen Lysippe's calming influence to help temper the young princess' volatility.
The leader's words spilled over one another, but Elissa didn't miss a single syllable. The other men didn't want to have to take the time to 'tame' a wild Amazon. They decided to sell them to slave traders with the hope that they would make enough money to start over again. She burned each man's name and description into her mind, while she decided her current captives fate. She looked at her sisters, and knew they needed to return to the tribe.
She moved her sword back a mere inch, allowing him to get to his feet.
"My sisters will pass judgment, since they are the ones you wronged."
Phoebe looked at Celaneo and Eurybe then stepped forward to speak.
"There has been enough killing, my queen. Let them go, so we may find our missing sisters as quickly as possible."
Elissa nodded to her second-in-command. Phoebe's decision didn't surprise her. They had grown up together and her sister Amazon had always put her family first. Elissa knew she wanted nothing more than to return home to her young daughter. Elissa shared a soft smile with Phoebe as their thoughts both settled on little Calistra. Her eyes turned glacial as she addressed the men.
"You have found pardon from those you would have separated from their tribe and families. Be glad they were responsible for your sentence; I wouldn't have shown such leniency. Go before I change my mind."
She didn't have to tell them twice. The men rushed for their horses not even bothering to break camp. Soon the four women were the only ones in sight for miles. Elissa walked over to her big black horse, easily mounting it in one smooth movement.
Phoebe rushed to her side and laid a hand on her thigh. "Where are you going my queen? We need a few moments to gather our things and dismantle the camp."
Elissa looked down at her friend. "You aren't coming with me, Phoebe. I need you to return to our home. Let the others know about our sister's fate. You need to stand in my place until I can return the ones taken from us. You each have someone waiting for you, and they need to know you still alive. I can't return until I know my sisters are free."
Elissa's shoulders heaved in a heavy sigh. This was much harder than she had ever imagined.
"My last promise to my mother weighs heavy on my heart. Those responsible for her death must pay and I can't return home until I do. When I find those taken from us, I need to know you will be there to welcome them home."
Sadly, the Amazons understood they had no choice but to obey the orders of their new queen. They watched her ride off in the opposite direction the men fled.
Phoebe turned back to quietly begin the task of breaking down the camp. Celaneo and Eurybe joined her, and ignored the silent tears that dripped down their faces.