The cold night was filled with desperate screams of warriors fighting in the camp. Corinthian hills lit up in the light of burning tents and supply wagons, illuminating former allays, women and men, now lost in combat. In chaos nobody cared for the fallen ones, stepping on the wounds and broken limbs, crushing bones and skulls under hastily set barricades. The cries of pain and battle screams mixed together, impossible to distinguish in the darkness of night and smoke surrounding the fighters.
In turmoil nobody noticed one more scream of pain coming from a bigger tent near the centre of the camp. The fire and battle didn’t reach it yet.
- You must lie down.
Dark skinned woman to no avail tried to convince the warrior huddled up on a low stool to move to the more comfortable bed placed in the middle of the pavilion. The warlord hissed and pushed her away to stand up with effort. Disturbed with this sudden movement, a warm cloak fallen down to the ground revealing a young woman. Her blue eyes were unfocused with pain, dark brown hair stuck to her forehead with sweat.
- He attacked… I need to lead the battle - protecting her pregnant stomach she took few steps towards the tent entrance, but another contraction send her straight to the ground.
The servant waved at two men standing at the entrance. They quickly lifted their commander and put her in bed. She wasn’t by any means a small woman, in height she almost matched her men, but nonetheless she sunk in between warm furs and expensive blankets stolen from distant lands. She growled, not known whether in pain or in fury, as both men pinned her down.
Another woman run into the pavilion. She was much older than the other two. Oil lamps illuminated her wrinkled face and grey hair fluttering behind her. Pulling up her dress’ sleeves she shouted to the man following her:
- Thio, bring me hot water!
He looked at her for a moment, probably not sure how he was supposed to get the water in the middle of a battle, but after a moment of hesitation he turned away and run off.
The midwife sighed and hurried to the bed to fix the blankets and pillows surrounding the warlord. Between the cries of pain and death threats old woman managed to get the guards to help the brunette out of her armor. Under the influence of her soft and calm voice the warrior finally stopped her attempts at getting up and reluctantly allowed the midwife to gently lie her on the blankets and shift them around as the old woman tried to make her as comfortable as it was possible.
- Are you ready, Satrina? - asked the midwife and moved to the side to let a dark skinned woman pass with a pain relief potion.
The woman in question moved to the bed, but before she was able to give the potion to the warrior her cold, piercing eyes stopped her in her tracks.
- No… - another contraction jerked the young warlord up - He’s coming… You’re not gonna dumb me down.
- But, Xena, it’ll remove the pain of labour - Satrina moved closer in an attempt to make the warrior drink the liquid.
- I said… NO! - the Warrior Princess burst out.
With a wild fury in her eyes she thrust her arm up and buried a dagger in her servants’ chest. The woman yelped in surprise as blood dripped out from her lips. The cup she was holding slipped from her fingers and rolled down the bed, spilling the potion over blankets to finally fall to the ground with a soft thud. Satrina tried to exhale, but she only managed to cough up more of bloody foam, which sprayed around covering Xena’s face and torso with deep red sprinkles. Warlord looked at her servant with disgust and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. With deadly fury in her eyes she pulled the dagger back and let the woman sank to the ground with a gurgling sound of her lungs filling with blood. Xena spat on her body and threw the dagger away.
- Now get this baby out of me!
Brunette warlord was half lying on the bed. It was now pulled right beside the tent’s wall to create more space inside. Beside her stood Dagnine and four guards at the bedside. She was still weak, pillows pushed under her back to help maintain sitting position. Her legs were covered with fur of a white reindeer to keep her from shivering in the cold of an early spring morning. Xena’s face still wore signs of recent pain – covered in sweat, with hair stuck to the forehead. But her eyes, although marked with dark circles underneath, were clear and as penetrating as silver spears. She took a deep breath and supported her weight on left elbow.
- So… it seems your plan failed, Borias - she hissed through her teeth to the man kneeling on the ground a few steps from her - I’ve beaten your silly army, and your new friends didn’t seem too eager to help you.
She looked expectantly at her former ally, now guarded by two men and forced to surrender to her. After a lost battle he was covered in dirt and blood. Deep cut above his eyebrow was still bleeding, almost certainly requiring to be stitched. Finally Borias lifted his head and his one good eye met Xena’s.
- I did it for our son…
- There’s no us! - Xena spat out rising herself to a sit - You betrayed me!
The sudden movement exhausted her and she fell back on the pillows. Old midwife hurried to her from the corner of the tent, but the warlord quickly regained her posture and waved her hand to dismiss the servant. She wouldn’t show weakness in front of her men.
- But do not think I’m not benevolent - Xena continued in a calmer voice - For the sake of old times… You’ll bow to me and accept your defeat. Then you’ll leave, Borias. You’ll gather the rest of your filthy scums and you’ll never attack me again… because if you do I will destroy you.
- Really? - Hungarian warrior once again looked in the eyes of the woman he used to love - And you? Won’t you attack me?
Dagnine stepped forward and hit the defeated warlord on the face sending him to the ground and slitting his lip.
- Don’t you dare talk like that to her! - he yelled.
Borias rose painfully from the ground, faltered, and finally spat the blood and one of his teeth on the fur lying under his knees. He ignored Dagnine, looking right past him and turned to Xena.
- I see you still can’t keep your dogs on a leash - he mocked.
The Warrior Princess gritted her teeth. He was right and they both knew it. She once wanted to make Dagnine the second in command, but his recent actions made her realise that the traits she used to value in him – his recklessness and disrespectful behaviour, made him useless to her after assuming the position of the commander. She wouldn’t make the same mistake as Borias did, when he let her question, and later blatantly ignore, most of his decisions.
- Leave us, Dagnine - she hissed - I’ll deal with you later.
The warrior looked at her with anger, ready to fight her command, but her steel glance made him turn around and leave the tent. He angrily jerked the curtain behind him. Xena sent two guards after him and finally turned back to Borias.
- Suspicious as always… - she smiled ominously - But don’t worry, I’ll make the same promise to you, to never violate your territory. We can go our separate ways. And if you ever want to see my son, you can come. But alone and unarmed.
- Very clever, Xena - Borias chuckled under his breath - But who who’ll guarantee you’re not going to kill me when I come?
- No one, of course - brunette bit on her nail which partially deformed her laughter - But then… If you won’t – you’ll never see the kid again…