Armageddon Vengeance of the Destroyer Part II

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“All this,” Sevastain took in the space he had been assigned, “for me.”

“It would appear as such.” Siri replied cynically. Sevastian eyed her for a moment, leveling a devastating glare which had no effect whatsoever on the titan sized Amazon.

The quarters granted him by the Empress were the most lavish he had yet known, a sitting room with balcony, dining room, a private bath with garter robe, and a bedroom the size of a village.

“Please accept my apologies,” Sevastian began haltingly while dipping his head down to look at his boots, “for your having been ordered to guard me. I tell you honestly, I cannot think of a worse assignment for a warrior.” He finished looking back up to meet Siri’s gaze.

A long silence ensued from his newly appointed captain of the guard. Any hope he might have had to see what she thought of his words was thwarted by the indifference of her features and the blank impassiveness of her eyes.

“I do not see the assignment in the same light as you do.” She stated flatly.

“You don’t?” Sevastain questioned when it became clear nothing more would be forthcoming.

“It is an honor to serve you.”

Sevastain was stunned. Of all the possible things she could say, this was the last he expected to hear.

“You may not recall it lord Commander, but many cycles ago something you did greatly changed my perception of you.”

Siri’s stoic facade broke and she smiled just a little upon seeing Sevastian’s brows crease in confusion.

“In my experience,” she continued, “many show kindness for others only when they see some advantage for themselves. You showed hospitality to one far beneath your station, and made sure to give her the respect due an elder. There was no advantage in you doing so, yet you still chose to extend some small measure of care to one who could never return the gesture. ”

“I do not recall any such action.”

“Agathe.” Siri said the name in a beautifully loving way.

He thought for a long moment cursing fatigue for robbing him of clear thought.

“The seamstress you brought before the Conqueror at Marathon.” Siri prodded.

A smile and a slight nod of his head told Siri he recalled the old woman. “She was given the task of creating the banners for the Empress, the ones now hanging from the Parthenon.”

“And none too pleased about It.” he added.

“You could not have known, but she was one of many tribal elders sent into the world of men to avoid capture by the Conqueror.”

“An Amazon…” He whispered in shock. Never would he have suspected Agathe to be an elder of the Amazon tribe.

“Agathe took me in when I was just a girl, after my village was destroyed. She, along with others in my tribe, taught me the ways of the Amazon nation. To my thinking, she was my mother. So you see Lord Commander, Your actions cause me pride in serving you, even if you are a man.”

Sevastian, had to smile at the deft way she wrapped a compliment and slight together in the same breath.

No longer able to hold back his exhaustion, he teetered upon his feet, the events of last few days having robbed him of strength. “I tell you captain,” Sevastain looked up, his gaze meeting hers once more, “I do not know how the Empress maintains such energy.” He swayed again, embarrassed at being forced to grab her arm to keep from toppling over.

“Perhaps, you should have broken your fast this morning.

“Too wound up to eat,” He replied. The sudden befuddled look upon his face caused her to smile again.

“How do you know I didn’t eat?”

“You are the Lord Commander,” Siri explained, “like the Empress; people take note of your every action.”

“More a simple soldier, than a lofty lord.” he replied pensively.

Her strong grip steadied him while her fingers untied the cords of his armor and began removing each piece.

“I am capable of removing my armor!” Sevastian protested firmly.

“Sit!” she commanded, kneeling to remove his boots. He did as bid; it was either sit or fall over.

“Hold on a moment.” He griped petulantly while grabbing the chair to avoid being pulled out of it as she removed his boots. “I am the one in charge here, you know.”

“Absolutely, you are very much in charge Lord Commander.” the tone along with the smirk upon her lips did not go unnoticed by him.

His boots thus removed, she then pulled his leg armor away, leaving him only in the padded silk vestments worn under his armor. Finding a press in the bedroom, she moved to put each piece neatly upon it.

“I shall have the servants draw you a—“Her words abruptly ended as she walked back into the room.

Morpheus had already taken him.

With a sigh, Siri walked back to the chair he was in. Leaning down, she slipped long arms under him. Lifting him from the chair, she carried his small form into the next room, rolling her eyes as he mumbled something unintelligible. Siri let out another pained sigh as his head shifted slightly to land soft upon her shoulder.

Depositing him on the bed, she placed pillows under his head, and then quickly wrapped him with the soft feather stuffed coverlet. Straitening, she looked down upon him, allowing herself a gentle smile, surprised at the budding protectiveness she felt for the little fellow.

“May Morpheus choose to give you good dreams Lord Commander.” She whispered.

Pacing soft, she crossed the room, gently closing the door behind her. Turning to place her back to the door, Siri placed one hand upon the hilt of her sword; the other grasped the leather belt round her waist.

She thus commenced the first watch.


The pig bristle brush held firmly in his hand, scuffed over the stones. A sudden movement caught his eye just before a deluge of sudsy water splashed the floor in front of him, rushing over his hands and pooling about his knees.

Looking up he glared at Hai who grinned at him before sticking out his tongue.

Reaching out, he slapped his friend against the leg with the wooden handhold of his brush causing the boy to yelp and jump back.

“Now is not the time for play! Now is the time for work!” Words spoken in the language of Chin, a language both boys knew well as pupils of the temple school. The monk stuck, Hai square across the butt with a bamboo rod causing another louder yelp from the boy. Sevastian snickered quietly at Hai’s plight while scrubbing the floor furiously with the brush to avoid being hit.

Opening his eyes, Sevastian blinked several times disoriented for a moment, until he remembered his surroundings.

In the corner of the room lit by a solitary candle, Kodi was ensconced in a chair, brushing out his armor, the bristles scuffing along, polishing the black lamellar to a shine.

“You don’t have to do that.” Sevastain stated gruffly, voice rough from sleep.

“Good, you’re finally awake.” His half-brother stood, walking across the darkened space to abruptly throw open nearby shutters, bathing the room in light.

“Sevastian groaned at his eyes adjusted, instinctively raising a hand to shield himself from Apollo’s rays. “Damnit Kodi! I should make you eat wood for that!”

“Oh brother please, I beg you, don’t paddle me.” The kid’s tone was mocking, “Since being forced into Xena’s service I’ve seen men hanged, and whipped, but the paddle, oh no!”

His eyes having adjusted to the light, Sevastian found Kodi seated once more, the kid having resumed his work on the armor. The boy’s choler was quickly turning Sevastain’s mood sour.

“I said you don’t—“

“I don’t mind.” Kodi cut him off.

“No, you don’t mind.” Sevastain stated with a groan as he rose from the bed. “You haven’t minded one word our mother or I have ever said to you.”

“I meant I don’t mind cleaning your armor brother. Actually, I have much practice in doing so as I am required to clean every bit of Xena’s armor. Of course, that would be in addition to keeping her quarters immaculate, running errands, serving her at table, and putting up with her volatile moods.”

“You’re not overly burdened!” Sevastian retorted with raised voice.

A long silence ensued between the two.

“Had to convince that tree sized woman outside to let me in, for a moment I didn’t know if she was going to step on me or let me in to see you.”

“She is an Amazon, and well given Kodi, treat her with due respect.”

“I must treat everyone with respect yet, I am afforded none.”

“Respect—“

“Must be earned, I know.” The kid griped. “While we are on the subject, brother do you think many would respect me if I murdered innocents as you do?”

Immediately Sevastian’s demeanor took on a hard edge, “This conversation is not safe.” He threatened while glaring at the boy.”

“Did I not warn you brother?” Kodi pressed on despite the threat, “Did I not say your heart would become black as hers?”

“It is best to be silent; you speak to matters you know little about.”

“I know, as all know in Athens what evil you perpetrated this day.”

“I said be silent!”

“So I should fear my own brother?” The kids eyes widened in mocking fear. Why? Would you have me thrown in the dungeon? Whipped publicly? Perhaps use your sword to run me though like you did those in the Assemb—“

“Enough!” Sevastian yelled. “What was done had to be done and I want no more discussion of the matter!”

“Am I required to indulge your anger? The boy countered, “I who toil every day in the presence of evil incarnate am not scared in the slightest when you froth at the mouth like some rabid dog and stare at me like a madman! I will say my peace and you will listen!”

“Lords on Olympus, why must I endure this!?” Sevastian strode across the room, to look out the window.

“All this and more, rage until your proud heart breaks brother!” Go yell at your soldiers or at the palace slaves and make them tremble, but you forget I know you, and as such refuse to cower before you.”

“It is not enough that you cheerfully commit murder in her service, or that you tie my life to the Bitch of Greece –“

“You will not use such words!” Sevastian whirled about advancing on the boy.”

“Now you take it a step further,” the boy continued undaunted “now you move to tie the rest of our family to that evil witch!”

Sevastian knew the subject Kodi was speaking to. “The Empress has been most kind to give mother an estate within Athens, she and your father will no longer have to toil the earth to scrape a living. I’d have thought such news would please you Kodi as you know full well her labors were dedicated toward giving you a better life.”

“A fine thing it is for you to voice your concern now for our mother o’ gracious Lord Commander, especially after having deserted your family!”

“I am a grown man, and as such must find my way in the world.”

“You meandered from town to town accomplishing nothing!”

“And you are but a boy who should have stayed at home! Instead you ran away forcing me to rescue you!”

“Back to that are we?” Kodi huffed indignant, “Well, you didn’t rescue me as you call it, Auto did.”

“The Empress gave the order Kodi!” Sevastain poked the kid square in the chest. “And you show her precious little gratitude for saving you.”

Kodi slipped round him to walk to the open window. It took all of Sevastain’s willpower not to grab the boy and force him to stand and listen.

“Come look brother.” Kodi gestured to happenings below in the courtyard. “Come see for yourself how benevolent your Empress is?”

Sevastain walked to the window, looking down to see the survivors from the Assembly.

“She orders these to do hard labor.” Kodi stated bluntly referring to the men trudging through the courtyard, “for their avid support of the attempts to stop her from controlling all Greece. Families she allows to stay together, a small mercy, provided they leave Athens to begin new lives in the many villages scattered about Greece.”

“And… my dark Lord Commander, what of those unfortunates left orphaned by your sword this day?”

Sevastian glowered at Kodi.

“Female orphans, being sent to learn the ways of the Amazons, young boys sent to learn a trade, or pressed into service in her navy or army. I hear talk of more citizens having been arrested, crucified for crimes which are unknown.”

“They pay the price for their decision to encourage plots against her.” Sevastian replied. “Many of our men died on the battlefield because Athens lent its support to Draco. “These here,” Sevastain pointed briefly at the prisoners. “These did not suffer, no; they sat in their fine homes while encouraging others to do their dirty work. It is fitting that now they be made to suffer the consequences of their decisions.”

“It makes no difference! They are in chains and you! You murdered people! I no longer recognize you brother,” Kodi shook his head, “the Witch of Amphipolis has succeeded in burning all compassion from you.”

The slap across Kodi’s face knocked the boy’s head to one side.

“I told you not to use such words.”

His step-brother looked up while rubbing his cheek, a mix of anger and defiance upon his face.

“You told me long ago that everything that had transpired was due to my decision to run away from home.” Kodi stated soft, while backing away. “Well, now I tell you if any harm befalls mother, it is because of your decision to become Xena’s lapdog.”

“Is it nice to live in that high tower Kodi? Sevastain asked scornfully “To never have to make decisions of consequence like the rest of us?” As he posed the questions, Sevastian strode forward as the kid retreated. “To feel smug as you look down at us mere mortals fumbling in the dark, attempting to do what is right?”

The boy reached behind him to work the latch of the door, never taking his eyes from his elder brother. “I don’t know who I hate more, Xena, or you. The words shocked Sevastian right to his very core. “I no longer know you brother; the good which once filled you has gone.”

“I hereby absolve you of any and all responsibility you feel toward me.” Before he slipped through the door Kodi paused a moment more “I wish you happiness in the life you’ve chosen.”

“I will continue to watch over you Kodi, despite your thoughts on the matter.”

“It makes no difference brother; I have made my feelings clear.”

Sevastian allowed him to leave, letting out pained sigh when he heard the click of the door as Siri closed it behind the boy.


She stood and those in the hall stood with her.

The Empress, Sevastain reflected, was larger than life itself, the aura about her person necessitating respect.

“With me.” Her cape of royal purple, attached to her talon shaped shoulder guards billowed out slightly as she strode forward. The silver designs on her black leathers were well known to Sevastain, being that they were from Chin. The flaud leather which draped from her waist was also of unique design, black leather strips interspersed with other lengths made from pure gold. Upon her arms were upper and lower bracers of thick black leather. High boots capped by knee protectors, barely made a sound upon the marble floor as she gracefully glided forward.

Xena led and her officers followed, walking silently across the great hall as those within bowed low as she passed. As they entered the antechamber, the music resumed, those within the great hall continuing the festivities.

As the group approached the carved wooden doors, Xena’s Amazon guard came to attention, and then both moved to work the latches, opening the double doors. Glancing back, Sevastian noted Siri take up position along a side wall in the outer hall before the doors closed behind the group cutting his view of her.

Already in the room, was Autolycus, who stood at Xena’s entrance. Next to him at his right, another man, whom Sevastain did not know, slowly got to his feet. He was dressed in polished brown leathers, was dark haired, dark eyed, with a neatly trimmed goatee. At the side of the room, stood servants, to include Kodi waiting to attend to the Empress and her commanders.

“Be seated.”

At the order the men arranged themselves, Auto at Xena’s left, Sevastian at her right. A snap of her fingers and servants moved to pour wine. As Sevastain watched, Kodi moved to personally serve the Empress, the boy steadfastly refusing to meet his gaze. Once all were served, Sevastian stood, as custom dictated and raised his cobalt tinted glass filled with wine. As he stood all-round the table, did as well, save the Empress.

“Commanders,” Sevastian made eye contact with those standing with him round the table “To Her Imperial Majesty.”

“Her Imperial Majesty.” all at table repeated with vigor.

The libation duly performed, her officers seated themselves once more.

“I can always count on you to leave no ceremony out.” Xena chided gently while touching her glass to Sevastian’s before taking a sip. Another snap of her fingers, and the servants departed the chamber.

“First we must speak to our deportment. Tell me of our numbers Sevastain.”

“At last count 90,000 new recruits have joined your Army Empress. “Since--”

“Here, within this room,” Xena instructed while one hand gestured to those at the table, “you are free to call me by my given name. Continue Sevastain.”

Since your defeat of Draco, the number of men joining your army has become a flood. Our current strength is just over some 135,000 men. I expect the trend to continue as word of your speech before the Parthenon reaches the masses outside Athens.

“These men volunteer to fight, which gives us a distinct advantage on the battle field.” All watched as she reached for her wine glass, raising it to dark lips to take another casual sip of the burgundy liquid. Her commanders momentarily entranced by her dangerous beauty. “They will be motivated to win, unlike the conscripted fodder the empires surrounding us use.”

“Xena,” Meleager spoke. “I must tell you such great numbers eat away at our resources, rations, weaponry, battle armor, all are in short supply or nonexistent.”

“All will be supplied Meleager, I now have the resources of Greece at my disposal. The issues we faced when I was one warlord among many no longer trouble us. The regional Governors are already making preparations to send what we require to Athens, until those supplies reach us. Talmadeus, you will confiscate what you need from the people of Athens.”

“Xena that will not be well received by the populace,” Mercer countered.

“Greece is under threat, and all must bear the burden of defending her. These… are… tough… times.” Silence in the room as she paused to take another sip of wine while eying her commanders. “Tomorrow I send you to Corinth Meleager.”

“Corinth?” the old commander asked with bewilderment.

“Yes.” She drawled while setting the glass upon the table. “Corinth has surrendered and will become the new capital of the Greek Empire. “Another wave of shock rolled across the faces of her commanders. “I have sent out edicts to all cities and villages in the realm commanding all craftsmen in the armor, weapon, and sewing trades to relocate to the Corinth. You will go to find adequate facilities for them to begin producing what my growing army requires. Not only do I require weaponry, but the army must have every necessity, to include winter and summer wear. Take a garrison with you to secure the city. Also the Major-domo Vidalus will travel with you to oversee the building of a new palace I intend to govern from

“As you command Xena,” Meleager let out a small sigh; all too aware of the ponderous amount of work he had been assigned.

Tomorrow when the first rays of Apollo light the land, I expect all to begin training our new troops. These greenhorns will be mixed within every army group; you will see to it that the best of our veteran troops work closely with them to help them learn the ways of war. Let me be very clear on this point, Talmadeus is charged with training these men. With my approval, he has prepared a regimen to ensure they learn to fight my way. In the matter of training, he is in charge. All of you, from my Second on down, follow his orders on the subject as if they came directly from me.”

“Understood?” she asked firmly.

“Understood,” the reply from all.

“To other business then, I present to you Autolycus, my Chief of Security for the Empire. I have placed him in charge of every local magistrate, as well as my many intelligence services. “The organizations Autolycus commands in my name have but one goal, to destroy all enemies of the Empire both within and without. Even now, his agents act in my name, their long knives reaching out to kill enemies of the state, wherever they are throughout Greece.”

Her officers remained silent, understanding a full purge was underway.

“You recall Zetes, Mercer? Do you Menticles? Xena asked, “The man who planned to burn you at the stake for daring to swear loyalty to me after I saved you and your men from the barbarian Horde.”

“We do Empress” answered Mercer for both men” The look upon their faces told Sevastian all he needed to know about the hatred they felt for this Zetes.”

“Zetes dies this night Mercer.” She stated direct, “Burning at the stake as we speak.” Xena smiled most feral at seeing how both commanders brightened at the news.

“And you Virgilius,” her gaze fell upon the man, “defeated by me, on the run, sentenced to hang for the petty crime of simply begging in the street for bread.”

“You saved me Emp-- Xena” Virgilius corrected himself, “pulling me off that scaffold moments before Pallas’ executioner could complete his task.

“Pallas hangs this night.”

“Xena, I am in your debt for killing that odious man.” Virgilius dipped his head.

“Athens Assembly was only the beginning, now others face my justice. Zetes, Pallas, and many like them made a tragic mistake. They believed me to be like them. They expected me to not remember their actions against my cause before I came to power, then expected me play by their rules once I gained dominion over Greece. Now the whole of the rotten political class feels the consequences of their stupidity.”

“It was the political class who encouraged our fights against each other, dividing us for their own benefit, but leaving Greece weak. They betrayed us in signing over Greek land in an attempt to placate Roman lust for conquest. They allowed bribery to corrupt the body politic within every city-state. No Longer!” Her fist hit the tabletop. “From North, to South, East to West, in every corner of Greece, enemies of the state meet their end tonight. When Apollo’s rays light the firmament tomorrow, the slate will have been wiped clean and Greece shall have a new beginning, one people, one government, one ruler.”

“Adamis, you know well of what I speak,” her gaze and those at table fell upon the warlord. “After all, your attempt to depose the corrupt King of Laconia was thwarted by Hercules and ended with you being exiled to Tarsus.” All attention turned to this man, Adamis, who sat beside Auto.

“That worthless do-gooder and his little friend Iolaus,” The warlord gritted his teeth, his face twisting into a sneer. I would have been killed by Braxus had you not intervened.

“A lesson Adamis,” Xena instructed sagely, “never lie to a dragon, especially about what you did to its mother.”

“Friends, pardon my leaving out a proper introduction. Adamis having sworn allegiance to me now offers his services to my cause. Any man who can gain the trust of a dragon, is worthy of being one of my commanders.” She chucked at the amazed looks of those round the table. “Shame I had to kill Braxus. However, all in all, it worked out well as I was able to dispose of Hercules in the process.

“What of his friend?” Adamis inquired.

“Iolaus? I do not know.” Xena answered truthfully.

“Braxus was…you killed a dragon!” Sebastian was amazed, “Truly, you do have many skills!”

Those seated round the table laughed “To Xena!” Mercer toasted, “We shall add Slayer of Dragons to your many titles!”

“Adamis, allow me to formally introduce you to my second, Sevastain.”

“Xena, allow me to challenge him for the honor of being your second.”

All merriment abruptly ceased.

Xena took a long sip of wine, watching the two men eye each other. Finally she set her chalice down and chuckled.

“Adamis, you are ambitious, a good quality in a commander provided it is moderated by common sense. I’d hate to see the same night you joined my army be the night you were killed.”

Those seated round the table laughed heartily. Adamis color reminded Sevastian of Darphus’ face. The man had a temper, a weakness in a fight.

“I beg of you empress, allow the challenge. This little man--”

“You make the mistake of many, in equating size with skill.” Xena purred. “The two are not related.

Leaning back in her chair, she thought a moment.

“I allow the challenge.”

Sevastian was irritated by Adamis’ smug smile.”

“Sometimes, there is only one way to learn and that is by experience. It will be a good lesson for our newest officers to see the martial abilities of my top commander.”

Sevastian remained stoic, but grinned internally when Adamis smile faltered at Xena’s words.

Let us get this over with.”

Abrupty Xena stood, causing her commanders to stumble to their feet. Gliding round her table, she walked to the heavy wooden doors. Opening one, she spoke muted words to her Amazon guard, before flinging both doors open.

“Come.” she commanded.

Conversation within the massive hall halted upon the Empress’ sudden reappearance.

Her Governors nearest the dais stood as did the rest, some 1,600 in all.

“A challenge has been issued.” her voice rang out in the silence.

Stepping alone to the dais upon which the throne sat she gracefully mounted the first step, turning she surveyed those in the hall for a long a moment.

“Station, Lord Commander.”

“Good luck.” Sevastain paused for an instant, looking back to see Auto leaning casually against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. “Better win because I just placed a substantial wager on you.”

“How did you have the time to…?” Sevastian decided he didn’t want to know any more about the wager, or who accepted it.

Stepping forward, he was glad to have worn his armor this night rather than court dress. All watched as he fell to one knee before the throne, his head dipping till his brow touched his other raised knee.

“Station Adamis.”

Low murmurs rolled throughout the crowd as the unknown man walked forward, to confidently stand in front of Xena.

Her arm lashed out so quickly Adamis had little time to react, being bowled over by the force of Xena’s fist striking him squarely in the face.

“You will learn proper respect.” she snarled.

Dazedly, he managed to take a knee next to Sevastain.

With a gesture from the throne, the Amazon Solari walked forward, in her hands a collection of weapons, a staff tucked under one arm. Taking a knee, she simultaneously released the weapons she held, the sound of them striking the marble floor loud in the silence.

“You shall only choose from the weapons here,” Xena instructed as Solari backed away, “forfeiting the use of your personal weapon.

“Rise and chose.”

Adamis moved first releasing the sheathed short sword as his hip and throwing it aside. Picking a most fearsome looking two handed long sword, the only such blade within the weapons cache. Stepping away he began to swipe it about, testing the weight and balance of the weapon.

Markedly unimpressed with the way Adamis treated his personal blade. Sevastain carefully untied the cords holding his Katana to his hip. He was surprised by the Amazon Siri, who appeared out of the crowd, respectfully holding out both her hands palm up. Once he recovered from seeing her thus, he realized she meant to take his weapon. He placed the sheathed blade within her hands, her fingers closed over it. Bowing respectfully, she backed away.

Turning to the task at hand, Sevastain was more deliberative as he scanned the weaponry, eyes flicking over the staff, then to a pike, a halberd, throwing daggers, mace, sais, He then spotted an innocuous looking weapon of eastern origin, the mankiki-kasuri – The ten thousand power chain. Made of forged iron, with heavy palm sized square weights attached to both ends. Picking it up he then turned to face the Empress.

“You are a fool, a chain against a long sword.” Adamis mocked. “I shall defeat you with ease.”

“To obtain victory one can use any means necessary,” Sevastian countered, “and any weapon.”

“Let us make all the more interesting, shall we?” Xena brushed past both to step up upon the top of one of the long wooden tables within the hall. (The table occupants wisely choose to vacate their chairs at her approach.)

Turning she faced the two men, while extending her arms slightly outward to either side. Her hands opened palms toward them, indicating she wished them to stand on either side of her. As the men walked forward, she took the opportunity to instruct. “There is only one rule; first to touch the ground loses. Be it dead or alive.” She paused a moment. “Try not to kill him Sevastian, he may yet prove to be of some use.” Leaving the men standing atop the table she stepped down, walking to the dais, sitting gracefully upon her throne.

“Never a dull moment with you Xena,” A muted flash and Ares stood behind her throne in his usual black attire, arms crossed over his chest, wholly unseen by those in the hall. “Looks like the end for your little boot-licker. Adamis is the better warrior by all appearances.”

There is an opportunity here, thought Xena.

“Perhaps, are you confident enough to make a wager Ares?” She asked the question discreetly; glad the attention of the hall was still focused upon the two combatants. She frowned slightly at hearing Ares smug laugh. “I’m a god, what could a mortal such as you possibly give me?” The haughty mirth within his tone chafed her.

“A night of unrestrained passion,” she replied.

“Had that Xena,” He chortled.

“No, you experienced the freeing of battle lust; I offer you a new experience entirely.”

Silence from the deity standing behind caused her to smile, He may be a god, but he was first a man, and as such was prone to have moments where he thought only with his...

“What do you wish me to grant, Xena.” he asked. She couldn’t help but smile at the sudden seriousness in his tone.

“Convince Zeus to allow Hades to keep Persephone a bit longer than normal.”

“For what purpose?” The deity asked, clearly confused by her request. “Not that it matters,” Ares spouted with typical bravado, “as your pocket-sized toy will die this night.”

“I need a long, harsh winter Ares, my army must have time to train and prepare.”

“Easily done, daddy dearest owes me one for taking care of certain... problems...

“Then the wager is made, provided you give your consent Ares, and… agree that it will be a fair fight. By that I mean there will be no interference from you.”

“Xena, I would never--”

“Yes you would.” she stated tersely. “Do I have your consent to the wager?”

“Very well, I give consent.”

“Prepare!”

At the command from the Empress both men faced each other. Adamis taking a ready stance, while Sevastian respectfully bowed to his opponent in the custom of the Far East.

“Begin!”

Unleashing the chain, Sevastain used years of training to deftly flare it out from his hand, one heavily weighted end striking Adamis square in the face. The man stumbled back, blood gushing out from a broken nose. Temporarily stunned by the blow, he teetered, feet sliding upon the various plates and leftover portions of the feast scattered about the table. As flatware crashed upon the floor, Sevastain sought to capitalize on his opponent being momentarily off balance. Before he could, Adamis lunged, long blade arching down, attempting to split Sevastain’s head. Grabbing the chain with both hands he stretched it taught, using it to blunt the strike while simultaneously, kicking Adamis back hard with a boot placed square in the chest.

Knocked off balance, Adamis landed upon his back but used the inertia from the blow to tip his feet over his head and somersault back to his feet. Perilously close to the table edge, he was compelled to jump to the next table top.

“Judging solely by the amount of food smeared all over your champion Ares, I’d say he’s being bested in this fight.” She just couldn’t resist riling him knowing, like her, how he hated loosing.

“Fights not over Chosen,” He responded snippily.

Sevastian used the moment to raise his right hand, curling his fingers tight round the end of the chain he begin to whip the weapon in a wide circular arc, the end of the weapon passing by his boot, then near his head. As the monks had taught, he kept his hand still, only using the subtle rocking of his body back and forth to give the chain a deadly momentum.

Adamis stepped to the edge of the table, sword raised in defense. “Come and get me,” he taunted, “Your fancy tricks won’t keep me from gutting you.”

Stepping forward Sevastian timed the upswing of the chain perfectly as he flared his arm out slightly. The heavy square weight on the far end bashed the hand Adamis was using to hold the hilt of the sword, breaking bone. Adamis screamed out in pain, the sword dropping to the floor, well out of reach.

Allowing the chain to gain momentum once more Sevastain flipped it under his arm, the inertia carrying the weapon round his elbow changing its direction, now the weighted end slammed directly against Adamis skull. With practiced skill, Sevastian allowed the chain the whip about his torso, it wrapped around him, causing it to change direction. Flaring it out once more it stuck Adamis, this time on the other side of his head.

“Ouch!” Xena stated in mocking concern upon the second quick strike.

“Beaten by a boot licker,” Ares lamented, knowing Adamis’ end was not far off.

“Some warriors look fierce, but are mild. Some seem timid, but are vicious. Look beyond appearances; position yourself for the advantage.”

“And whose astute advice is that?” Asked the deity while watching Adamis stagger backward as Sevastian gracefully leapt to the table the man was standing on intent on finishing him off.

“Yours Ares, much as it pains me to do so, I must confess you taught me well and I, an apt pupil, listened to your advice.” She could feel the pride radiating from the god at her words. How she hated speaking such flattery in order to placate his ego.

“I shall hold my end of the bargain chosen, prepare for a long, cold winter.”

With that he disappeared, unwilling to watch the end of the fight.

“You despise losing Ares.” muttered Xena amusedly as she watched the final act of this duel.

A bleary eyed Adamis, dazed by the repeated blows to the head, attempted to jump to the next table. An ill placed boot, slid upon a piece of flat ware. Adamis did make it to the next table, or at least part of him did--his head. The force of his skull slamming against the wood knocked him unconscious. As his body fell to the floor, the hall erupted in raucous cheers for Sevastian.

He however paid little attention to those in the hall, his focus on the Empress. Only when she smiled, giving her approval to his actions, did Sevastian relax.

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