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by Bard Buchanan
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state, province or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.
This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.
Xena: Warrior Princess and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, and titles are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices.
The prelude of this story takes place on a summer's night in the village of Amphipolis. There is a full moon. Xena has just been born. Her mother Cyrene has had an easy birth. She's happy that it's a girl this time. The goddesses Artemis and Athena stand beside the mother and baby observing. Cyrene and her midwife are oblivious to their presence.
"This is the one?" asked Athena leaning over for a closer look.
"Yes," replied Artemis, "the one I want for Arcadia."
Athena's eyes narrowed, "Thrace first Artemis, you agreed!"
"Yes of course," sighed Artemis. "You keep Ares busy, I'll do
Part one takes place in Amphipolis and the surrounding countryside. The story opens with Xena and two other children running full tilt down a steep hill screaming at the top of their lungs. They are being pursued by a swarm of bees who's hive they've struck down. They escape by jumping into a pond, Xena in the lead. Xena and her two best friends Darius and Ariadne are ten and inseparable. They're like the three musketeers-the source of much mischief and mayhem in the village as well as much pleasure and pride.
Xena lives with her mother Cyrene, her paternal grandmother Zandra, and her brothers Toris and Lyceus. Zandra, we learn, is an Amazon. She came to live in Amphipolis when Xena was five, upon learning that her son Atrius, an adventurer, had disappeared. Cyrene is proprietress of the village tavern, which she inherited from her parents, recently deceased. Xena adores her older brother Toris and tolerates her younger brother Lyceus who unsuccessfully tries to keep up with the older, faster, stronger and inseparable ten year old trio.
One day Zandra has a serious conversation with her rambunctious grandaughter. She insists that Xena `stop this ceaseless running' with her friends so she can learn something useful. Xena reluctantly agrees to some set times for lessons.
"Grandmother, if you have to teach me the skills of an Amazon, why don't you just take me home to Themiscyra?
Aren't you homesick?" asked Xena. Here arms were aching.
The buckets were growing very heavy.
"The Goddess wants you here," replied Zandra. "I miss my sisters, but I'd rather be with you. Keep those arms straight!"
Xena learns fast, learns well. Zandra is amazed at the proficiency of the child who displays extraordinary abilities. She teaches Xena the arts of tumbling and acrobatics as well as how to wield a staff. Xena learns all about the history and religious practices of the Amazons and the secret mysteries of Amazon embroidery.
Darius and Ariadne are saddened when Xena's time with them is reduced. They miss their playmate's company; and they really hate getting left behind in the skills department. Darius asks his bachelor uncle Menoetius, jack of all trades sometimes mercenary adventurer, to teach him the art of combat. Menoetius has been instructing Toris. Ariadne, not to be left out, weedles and cajoles Zandra to teach her `something.' Zandra refuses at first but Ariadne makes such a nuisance of herself that finally Zandra agrees to teach her bow and arrow, `just to put an end to your ceaseless begging!'
Many things happen during the year that Xena is ten.
Throughout these events she becomes aware that she is occasionally watched by a wood nymph. Unbeknownst to her the nymph, a Dryad named Nephele, belongs to Artemis. She shrugs it off as coincidence. It is not.
One day as Xena, Darius and Ariadne are searching the hillsides for Ariadne's father's lost sheep they spy a beautiful soaring bird in the next valley. Being of the same mind they rush off to investigate. They find the bird nesting atop a tall tree. The bird's plummage is so magnificent that Darius decides he's got to have one of its tail feathers. Ariadne's not so sure it's a good idea since `the spread of the birds wings must be fifteen arm spans!'
Suffice to say, Darius climbs the tree, hops in the nest, plucks a feather and gets attacked by the bird. He's knocked out of the nest. As he falls he's seized mid-air by the bird's mate. His weight causes the bird to swoop low to the ground which allows Xena to lasso the bird with the rope they brought along for the sheep. Xena's and Darius' combined weight brings the bird to the ground. As Ariadne pelts the bird with rocks Darius is released and it flys away. Much to Ariadne's disgust, Xena and Darius are exhilarated by the whole episode even though `someone could have been killed!'
One day Darius' uncle Menoetius tells him about a special day of athetic competition being hosted by Dropoff, a town by the sea shore. There will be foot races, wrestling, targets and weapons combat. There are age categories so Darius can enter. Of course Xena and Ariadne want to go too. When Zandra learns about her grandaughter's determination to enter the competitions she is proud but apprehensive. Artemis wants Xena `prepared' but Artemis does not want Ares to `notice' Xena. Yet competition is an important aspect of Amazon training, so Zandra tells Xena she may enter the foot races for her age group, but not the weapons target and combat events. Xena is outraged and throws the mother of all temper tantrums.
Menoetius, Zandra and Toris escort the trio to Dropoff. It takes a day and a half on foot to reach the coast. Suffice to say, Xena wins the foot race for her age category beating Darius and Ariadne easily. It is fairly close though-a boy from Poteidaia is right on her heels. For Xena the victory is bittersweet. Watching her brother and Darius move on from event after event, she is forced by Zandra to watch from the sidelines. The tears begin to flow. Ariadne forgoes the archery competition and comforts Xena under the spreading boughs of an old oak tree.
Xena took the handkerchief Ariadne offered and blew her nose.
"I could've won everything! It *wouldn't* be showing off-why does she say that!"
She turned to the trunk and started beating it with her fist over and over and over again. In time the frenzied tree battering ceased. She slumped against the massive arbour, her shoulders heaving. Ariadne knelt to the ground placing her hand on Xena's shoulder. Eventually Xena relinquished her hold on the tree allowing Ariadne to draw her into a consoling hug.
On one of the days that the mischievous trio are making a nuisances of themselves in Cyrene's tavern, they are ordered out of doors and told to fetch water from the village well, a primitive natural shaft of limestoney kind of well. On the way to the well Darius is called away by his uncle to help him fix the wheel of his cart. Xena and Ariadne walk on making a game of synchronized water pot throwing. Ten feet from the well, a hole in the ground, Ariadne fumbles her catch. As her amphora rolls toward the opening she makes a lunge for it. Losing her footing she stumbles and slides headfirst into the well. Xena watches in horror as Ariadne's foot disappears over the edge. After a moment she hears two splashes then nothing. She screams for help but noone can hear at this distance.
Xena starts to climb down the rope which hangs from the well's tripod. The well rope, used to lighter loads, breaks. Xena plunges down into the deep water narrowly missing her friend. Surfacing she pulls an unconcious Ariadne's head above water and breathes air into her lungs. Zandra has taught Xena this little known healing technique of the Amazons. In no time, much to Xena's relief, Ariadne sputters back to life. Holding Ariadne and clinging to the sides of the well Xena discovers a crevice big enough for an adult to crawl through. Crawling into the crevice she discovers a little cave with a tunnel running out the other side. After a long, most of the time dark, crawl through the tunnel, during which time Xena has to constantly reassure a very frightened Ariadne, the two emerge through a hole in the hillside outside the village.
At the sight of the sunshine and green grass, Ariadne dances around Xena shrieking with pleasure. She throws her arms aroundher and kisses her in appreciation. Arm in arm the two return to the tavern where Ariadne relates the tale of Xena's heroics. Much to Xena's embarrassment she is hoisted into the air and paraded about. Praise flies at her from all directions. Secretly she loves the adulation.
Part two also takes place in Amphipolis and the surrounding countryside. In the intervening years since we last saw them, Xena and Ariadne have shot up in height leaving poor Darius a good foot shorter; (but what Darius lacks in height he makes up for in bravado). The three still spend a great deal of time together but with more time devoted to the tasks of the village.
Part two of the story opens with Xena receiving her first lesson in the art of throwing the chakram. She listens very carefully while Zandra explains how it's thrown. Zandra launches it with a mighty thrust. It looks so easy. But when Xena sends it off spinning it follows a straight line instead of an arc and lands with a loud squish in the pig pen. In embarrassment Xena expresses her distain for the chakram, `a zany weapon that noone else uses anyway!' She much prefers the sword which she wields incredibly well for someone so young.
Zandra smiled at Xena knowingly remembering her own first time.
"The chakram is a special weapon Xena. I'm going to teach it to you if it's the last thing I do. You have the talent for weapons like noone else I have known."
Xena looked to the sky in exasperation. Heaving a big sigh she walked toward the pigs.
Xena and Ariadne are horse crazy. Darius' uncle Menoetius has decided to try his hand at trading horses even though Amphipolis is better known as sheep country. Xena and Ariadne are allowed free access to the horses. They quickly learn to ride and drag Darius in on the fun. Having a horse trader in the village increases the flow of people to and from the village bringing lots of strangers to Cyrene's tavern.
One day Menoetius returns from a buying trip with twelve fine horses. They are the most magnificent creatures Xena has ever seen, `daunting yet delicate, their features like chiselled perfection'. They are from a faraway land, a land of sand, which lies far to the south.
Xena and Ariadne admire the stallion the most. He is broken to saddle but allows few men to ride him. Xena, of course, rides him easily. Sometimes Ariadne rides behind her. They love to gallop at break-neck speeds across the west ridge which runs the length of the entire valley. Xena and Ariadne dread the day that a buyer should arrive who can afford to buy `Sand'.
Before that day can arrive, Sand is stolen in broad daylight by Belus, a horse thief who sells horses to the unscrupulous Cortese, a new warlord in Thrace whose reputation is slowly growing. Xena, Ariadne, Darius and Xena's younger brother Lyceus give chase. By nightfall they catch up to Belus who is camped in a ravine with two of his men and Sand. The men are armed while Xena and her friends are not. The teenagers peer down at the campsite in frustration. Before long Xena comes up with a plan. After the men are asleep she creeps down into the camp. Zandra has trained Xena in the Amazon art of stealth. She can come and go in the dark without a sound, pass right by a person without their knowledge. (Ariadne knows this is true because many times while sewing by candlelight at home she's looked up to find Xena casually seated next to her, a big teasing grin on her face).
As Xena approaches the campfire Sand nickers a greeting. One of Belus' men sits up and looks around. Xena freezes. As he settles back down she hurries forward and deftly delivers a blow to the back of his head. The only sound he makes is a heavy exhale. Crouching over the next sleeping figure she delivers a similar blow then turns toward Belus to finish the job. Belus is standing with dagger drawn a huge scowl upon his face. He charges Xena and combat ensues. Suffice to say, Xena prevails in the hand to hand combat. It ends when Belus trips over the campfire and dies by accidently falling on his own dagger. Xena looks down at him in disbelief. She is shocked yet exhilarated. She feels so alive! Ariadne and the others rush down to congratulate her. They quickly take Sand and depart leaving two unconcious men to wonder what hit them. Henceforth Xena's friends and family regard her in a different light. She is Amazon.
During the course of the year Xena at fourteen finds a new level of confidence. She finally makes headway with the chakram. Zandra increases the level of difficulty of her combat training. Zandra is a skilled fighter, and an excellent teacher. There's not a man in the village who'd want to take on the strapping Amazon who stands six feet tall. During training time Xena often sees the Dryad Nephele watching her. When she asks Zandra about it Zandra will only say that she feels that the Goddess Artemis must be watching over her. Zandra shows Xena how to honour the goddess at a small shrine they build by a spring in a glade in the woods. Xena asks many questions of her grandmother. Foremost in her mind is the question of her destiny.
"What shall I do with all of this training?" asked Xena staring into the spring. "I'm different now." She did not look altogether happy.
Zandra looked at her beautiful granddaughter's reflection in the water. She did not have an answer for her.
"What *is* your plan for Xena Artemis? " asked Zandra in silent query.
One day Xena and the crew accompany Cyrene and Zandra to the coastal town of Dropoff to purchase goods for the tavern. Upon arriving in the town they purchase the goods then make camp at the edge of the town which is built down the side of a magnificent cliff overlooking the Aegean. The moon has waned and that night it is exceptionally dark. The horses are skittish and there is an odd stillness to the air. Xena realizes that the incessant whrrrring sound of grasshoppers has stopped. Cyrene, Zandra, Ariadne, Darius and Lyceus gather close around the fire. Xena can see uneasiness reflected in their faces. She feels fear in the horses and tries to soothe them while checking their tethers. Something is coming, they all feel it.
Suddenly in the distance the sky flares bright orange casting a fierce glow for miles in all directions. Volcanoe! Luckily it is miles away. Suddenly the earth begins to shake beneath their feet. Four horses rear in unison breaking away from Xena's grasp. She runs to the huddled group. They are shouting. Everyone including Xena falls down as the ground continues to pitch. Xena looks fearfully towards the cliff's edge to see if it is breaking away. Where they are camped it is holding. Suddenly the bucking earth stills. Terrible sounds emanate from the town. People are screaming, shouting, wailing. Grim-faced Xena and the crew light torches and run to help the survivors.
Xena, Ariadne and the boys start pulling people out of collapsed buildings while Cyrene and Zandra tend the injured. Helping is difficult. Some of the buildings have toppled down the cliff where the cliff itself has broken off. The jagged pieces of broken limestone and the lack of light make conditions very dangerous for the searchers. After several hours Ariadne becomes separated from the rest. She is following the sound of a child crying. In order to reach it she must crawl beneath some slabs of stone balanced precariously against a huge rock fragment. She hears Xena calling her and yells a response before entering the darkness. The toddler is unhurt but trapped by its own tunic in the splintered timbers of a shattered house. Ariadne frees the little girl by ripping her tunic from the timber then turns to leave. Suddenly the slab of stone begins to slide. Ariadne hurls the child out of the opening to safety but becomes trapped as the slab continues to slide coming to rest on her back pushing her face to the ground. She is certain she will be crushed but the slab stops leaving her pinned with barely enough room to breathe.
By dawn Xena and the rest are frantic. Xena scours the area where she thinks she last heard Ariadne. Suddenly deep down in a hole she sees a child. When they make eye contact it begins to wail. Darius, Lyceus and Zandra lower Xena into the hole by her ankles. When they are hauling her up Xena hears the faint cry of Ariadne calling for help. Suffice to say, with the help of her grandmother, the boys and the horses, Xena rescues Ariadne when they lever the stone slab up enough to slide her out.
It turns out that only a small handful of people have survived the earthquake. The town of Dropoff is dead. It will never be rebuilt. Xena and the group shudder to think of the people they were unable to help. They are glad to leave the coast behind them and return to Amphipolis.
That night, home safe in her own bed, Ariadne awoke to a light touch on her arm.
"Xena, what is it?" she asked.
"I had a bad dream. You were trapped again. I had to see that you're really alright," whispered Xena.
She lay down beside Ariadne resting her head on her shoulder. Tears glistened on her cheeks.
"Thanks to you," said Ariadne gently cradling her.
She bent her head down to kiss a teary cheek but Xena tilted her head up and their mouths met instead. Each held the other's lips lingeringly before finally parting.
"I couldn't bear it if something bad happened to you Ari," said Xena returning her head to Ariadne's shoulder.
"Go to sleep Xena. I'm fine."
Part two ends with the two best friends falling asleep. Through the narrow window moonlight shines down upon them. Artemis appears from the shadows, walks to the bedside and smiles down at the sleeping pair.
Part three takes place in Amphipolis, the surrounding countryside and a small portion of the Aegean Sea. In the intervening years since we last saw them, Xena and Ariadne have grown into beautiful women; and in Xena's case, a beautiful woman with muscles. Darius and Lyceus have at last caught up to the girls in height. Darius divides his time between working for his uncle in the horse business and trying to win Xena's heart. He is completely smitten. His persistence in this so far one-sided love affair is matched only by Toris' dogged pursuit of Ariadne, which has had similar disappointing results. Much to their disgust the younger Lyceus happily enjoys the steady company of a pretty girl named Flora.
Xena's Amazon training is virtually complete now. We learn that sometime during the past four years she took a long trip with Zandra to the land of the Amazons. During her six months stay she learned the secret arts of pressure point and arrow catching. The main purpose of the visit was to attend initiation ceremonies with the other girls her age at the temple of Brauron. Xena enjoyed life among the Amazons but was happy to return to her family and friendsafter six months.
Part three of the story opens with Xena steathily following the Dryad Nephele through a rain soaked misty forest. She has spotted the nymph following her while she follows the track of a wild boar. Her Amazon skill of elusion is no match for Nephele. High in the branches of the oaks and ash she watches the nymph searching for her. Suddenly there is a great commotion on the forest floor. A giant boar roars out of the undergrowth into the clearing followed by four great hounds who surround it blocking all escape.
Calling off her dogs, Artemis the huntress dropped the giant boar with a silver tipped arrow to the heart.
It fell to its knees with a mighty grunt before rolling to the ground.
"This one led me on a merry chase," said the goddess as Nephele approached.
"What of Xena?"
"She is within these woods hunting as well Goddess," answered Nephele, "But I have lost her." Artemis chuckled.
"She is nearby. I will leave her though. It's not time yet."
After Artemis and her entourage have gone Xena descends to the ground. She feels dizzy and unfocused as though she's just awakened from a deep sleep. She can hardly believe what she's just seen and heard. There are no tracks, no sign that anyone but a single boar has passed by here; but there's a single drop of blood congealing on a blade of grass. It glistens in the glare of a sunbeam that burns through the mist and the ceiling of the forest. For the first time Xena makes the full realization that her future is somehow inextricably tied to the Goddess Artemis.
One fair night in the light of a full moon the village celebrates the festival of Dionysius. Everyone feasts upon roast vegetables and mutton until they are nearly bursting. The food is accompanied by tremendous amounts of wine. There is much banging of the drums and ecstatic dancing in the pathways. Xena, Darius, Toris, Ariadne, Lyceus and Flora head to the tavern to sample some of Cyrene's latest stock. The tavern is closed for the festival so they have it to themselves. The group of friends dance and carry on as if there will be no tomorrow. Their laughter and singing carries across the still night air long after the drums have stopped beating and the rest of the village has collapsed in their beds.
After awhile Darius and Xena find themselves alone, the others having drifted away. As they stand arm in arm watching the setting moon, Darius draws Xena to him. He kisses her tenderly, first on the cheek then on the mouth whispering in her ear his declaration of love. He is very unsteady on his feet, they both are; and he slurs his declaration terribly. For a time Xena returns Darius' kisses; but suddenly she grabs him by the arm and effortlessly flips him over her shoulder. Darius lands unceremoniously in a heap on the ground. Wobbling unsteadily Xena announces that she loves him as a comrade not as a lover. Darius vaguely acknowledges this announcement made by two wavering Xenas before passing out.
Xena's Amazon training is virtually complete now. With less time spent training with Zandra, she has little choice but to help Cyrene and Toris in the the tavern. She despises working indoors but takes great pleasure in keeping drunken patrons in line; and she loves to demonstrate her skills in the endless targets competititions that take place in the courtyard. There are more and more strangers passing through Amphipolis these days, strangers that seem perfectly willing to part with their purses when it comes to a friendly little game of dagger throwing.
Stories start trickling into Amphipolis about the warlord Cortese. He's terrorizing to the north. He's terrorizing to the south. His forces have grown tremendously. There are stories of how he arrives in towns and villages seizing whatever he wants, killing anyone who stands in his way. The villagers of Amphipolis wonder how long their village will continue to escape his notice.
One day five rough looking men ride into Amphipolis and head straight to the tavern. They're all heavily armed with the weapons of war. Despite their intimidating appearance they behave themselves, causing no trouble. No trouble that is until Ariadne and Xena walk into the tavern, thirsty after a long ride in the hills with Darius and Lyceus who are putting the horses away. Xena leads the way towards the bar warily eyeing the strangers seated at the table to her right. Suddenly a man rises from a table behind her and smashes her over the head with the flat of his sword. The world goes black.
When Xena regains consciousness Ariadne and the five men are gone. (They are slavers who decided to take advantage of an opportunity that walked right in the door. Xena would have been taken too but they think they've damaged her too badly). Xena staggers out the door just in time to see Zandra plunge her sword into one of the slavers. Darius and Lyceus stand over the body of another. They are gasping for air, each one holding up the other. They're both wounded. As Xena frantically scans the courtyard her vision blurs and she faints. Zandra catches her as she falls.
When Xena awakens a half-day later she learns that the slavers were last seen heading for the coast. She saddles her horse and takes off in pursuit.
For two days and two nights Xena follows the track of the slavers, having to backtrack from time to time; but always recovering their trail, which eventually leads east along the coast. She doesn't stop to eat or sleep; but neither do the slavers. Finally she spots them far below her on a sandy beach. They are forcing a struggling Ariadne to wade out into the waves where they climb into a fishing vessel and set sail to the south. Xena rushes to the beach and commandeers a small fishing boat from a nearby village. She pursues Ariadne and her captors to a small island just barely visable on the horizon.
Suffice to say, that at great personal risk and fighting tremendous odds, Xena saves Ariadne. The fighting is fierce and Xena is forced to kill. She employs her chakram, and single-handedly conquers a whole slavers' village, all to save her best friend. When Ariadne is freed from her bonds Xena clasps her to her chest and the two weep in happy relief. When they depart, they leave behind twelve dead men.
The fisherman takes Xena and Ariadne back to the mainland.
After a night's much needed rest they start the long ride home. The path they travel is isolated but the view of the sea is beautiful. For long hours the horse carries them along the narrow track high atop towering cliffs. Ariadne rides behind Xena snuggling closely. She kisses Xena's muscled back, across her shoulders and down her spine, drinking in the scent of her sun-drenched skin. As she traces the path of kisses back and forth Xena `mmmmm's in appreciation. In the late afternoon they stop to make camp. Xena begins to gather wood for a fire.
"You can do that later, there's something else I want to do first," said Ariadne.
Xena turned to look and stopped short. Ariadne was naked. Her clothing lay pooled at her feet. Butterflies fluttered across Xena's abdomen as the blood shot to her head. She was short of breath in an instant. Heart pounding and frozen to the spot she watched as Ariadne slowly came toward her. Their eyes were locked. A wave of profound happiness washed over Xena with the realization that she wanted Ari more than anything else in this world. Wordlessly Ariadne took Xena's hands into hers, kissed them, then placed them on her hips.
Immediately Xena drew Ariadne to her. Lowering her head she pressed her parted lips over Ari's mouth kissing her deeply, urgently, as though her life depended on it.
For hours the two lovers explore their newfound passion. The sun sets and the moon rises as they delight in the pleasures of one anothers bodies. At last, passion temporarily spent, they stop long enough to eat, then descend the cliff to the ocean, by a narrow path, to take a swim. At the ocean's edge they discover a grotto in the cliff and swim inside. The cave is brightly lit by the reflections of the low hanging moon. At the rear of the grotto they discover a gravel beach of smooth stone and make love again upon it.
Eventually Xena and Ariadne reach Amphipolis. Their families rejoice at their return. Thanks to Zandra, Darius and Lyceus are recovering nicely from their wounds. There've been no signs of any more slavers. Toris is so overjoyed to see Ariadne safely returned he's fit to burst. With his emotions running high he takes it upon himself to ask for her hand in marriage in front of everyone gathered outside the tavern. As he speaks Ariadne slowly shakes her head `no' while looking him in the eye sympathetically. Toris is bewildered. Xena steps forward and puts her arm around Ariadne protectively. Drawing her close she tell him, `She is mine, I am hers'. Toris looks askance to Ariadne who says, `I love her'. Without missing a beat Toris offers Xena his hand saying, `I understand, please excuse my exhuberence'. Then he walks quickly away. Darius stares at Xena and Ariadne with a hurt expression then strides after Toris.
Riding high on the wave of new love Xena and Ariadne spend many happy hours together by the spring in the woods where Zandra and Xena built Artemis' shrine. They make love time and again in the quiet glade wrapped up in their own little world.
Their days of uninterrupted bliss are numbered though as the army of the warlord
Cortese advances through Thrace. It is only a matter of time before it will
reach the peaceful valley of Amphipolis. It is only a matter of time before
fate will follow its relentless path through the lives of helpless mortals.
Despite Athena's best intentions to keep Ares' attention turned away from Xena, she failed at the most crucial moment. Just as Xena released her chakram against the the slavers on the little island in the Aegean, Ares spotted her, his attention drawn to her by the rage she let loose upon them.
"A new warrior," he marvelled. "How is it I could have missed her?" He chuckled as he listened to her attack cry.
Artemis raced to the scene at once to confront him.
"Leave her she is mine!" she demanded with as much authority as she could muster."
"You've got to be joking," laughed Ares dismissively. "She has all the potential I could hope for. She's mine little sister!"
Artemis had but a fraction of Ares' power, and Athena was nowhere to be found. She knew she was beat. Casting a look of hatred in his direction she turned to leave.
Just then Ares snatched a silver tipped arrow from the quiver on her back.
"I'll take one of those if you don't mind," he said tauntingly.
Artemis was horrified. She lunged for the arrow but Ares eluded her. After a couple more fruitless attempts she finally left the scene full of shame and anguish.
One sunny afternoon Xena and Ariadne are lounging around the spring in their wooded glade. Slanting shafts of light penetrate the branches overhead. One shaft of light shines directly upon Ariadne illuminating her in the green forest glow. Xena gazes at her lovingly thanking the gods for the thousandth time for the gift that they share. Ariadne returns her gaze.
Upon eating the last of the grapes they've been sharing Xena turns round to get more from a sack. Behind her Ariadne suddenly makes a funny little sound. Xena turns back and starts screaming. Ariadne has an arrow sticking through the centre of her throat, the blood covered silver tip is stopped just above her breast. Ariadne's eyes meet Xena's and she dies. In that split second a part of Xena dies. Frantically she takes Ariadne into her arms. Screaming hysterically she rocks her back and forth, back and forth. Time stands still.
Back at the village the army of Cortese finally arrives. The villagers do their best to fight off the marauders. Darius, Toris, Menoetius, Lyceus and Zandra are at the forefront of the defence. For what seems like endless hours, but is really a much shorter time, they fight Cortese's men. Slowly they are beaten back through the village to the yard outside the tavern. Lyceus gasps for air as he desperately wards off the blows of his attacker. His attention is momentarily drawn to a figure emerging from the woods on the hill above. It is Xena carrying the limp body of Ariadne. He cries out in horror. In that moment of inattention his attacker penetrates his defences and plunges a sword into his side.
Xena watches the battle below in a dreamlike state as though in a trance. Unconciously her eyes are drawn to her grandmother who fends off attacker after attacker using her chakram, her sword, and finally her bare hands. Zandra's calls to Xena fall upon deaf ears. Zandra sees Ariadne and understands. The old Amazon is finally slain when she takes an arrow in the back. The fact barely registers in Xena's brain. She stands rooted to the spot, unable to move.
Darius sees her and shouts at her to `go to the well!' Just then he takes a vicious blow to the head and drops in his tracks. Menoetius and Toris take the last stand at the doorway to the tavern. Toris sees Darius fall, then he sees Xena with Ariadne. Losing all heart he flees into the tavern leaving Menoetius to fight alone. Menoetius is the last man to fall and the battle suddenly comes to an end.
Cortese sits on his horse watching his men take the village.
This one was a lot harder to take than most. He is incensed by the villagers' resistence. The old Amazon woman and the others have cost him many valuable men. He is angry that there is no sign of the young warrior woman reported to have quashed the slavers' village. He orders his men to round up the remaining villagers and place them in a makeshift stockade outside the village. After the village is stripped of everything of value he orders his men to burn it to the ground as retribution.
Xena is rounded up off the hillside and led to the stockade with the others. Ariadne's body is unceremoniously torn from her arms and dragged into the village to be burnt with the other bodies. Xena offers no resistance; but she moans and clasps her empty arms to her breasts. Suddenly Cyrene is at her daughter's side. She leads her to the stockade's edge and sits her down. Protectively she covers Xena's face from the soldiers' view.
As the fire begins to roar through the village, one of the bodies in the square suddenly comes to life. It is Darius. He's recovered conciousness just in time to escape the inferno. By the cover of billowing smoke he flees the flames and takes refuge in the cave in the passage to the well. Later when it is dark he creeps out. He finds Xena and Cyrene at the edge of the stockade. Xena is sleeping in her mother's arms. Cyrene informs Darius that Cortese has been looking for Xena. He wants revenge for the men she cost him when she rescued Ariadne from the slavers' village.
Suffice to say, Darius gets Xena out of the stockade without anyone noticing and leads her to the cave. Xena has finally come back to her senses after her sleep. She and Darius cling together in the flickering torch light weeping for Ariadne and all that has been taken from them. Darius' head wound is bleeding. Xena binds it as best she can. She can tell his skull is cracked and worries about the uncontrollable swelling. Water from the well does little to stop it. Her thoughts are consumed by visions of Ariadne impaled by the arrow. Nothing will make them go away. Nothing, that is, until her thoughts begin to focus on vengeance.
Xena begins to talk of revenge for what Cortese has done to Ariadne and the rest of the village. A deep anger begins to burn within her. She resolves to confront Cortese and his men in the morning to `kill them all for what they have done!' Desperately Darius begs Xena to stay hidden in the well until Cortese is gone. He insists that she must not face him until she is ready. She `must not try and face a whole army alone!' Xena promises Darius that she will wait until the time is right. She will gather others for the fight and `together' they `will revenge Ariadne's death!' Darius smiles at these optimistic words. They both know he's not going to make it. Xena kisses her dear friend and holds him close. Leaning against the wall with Darius cradled in her lap they fall asleep. Hours later when Xena awakens, Darius is dead.
Two days later when Xena finally emerges from the cave she is a changed woman. The last vestiges of the innocence of youth have disappeared. She strides forth with a purpose.
Xena surveyed the gutted village and its few dejected survivors. The rage which had begun to burn within her in the cave had multiplied ten fold. She quivered at its intensity.
"They will pay for this!" she said through gritted teeth. Her blue eyes narrowed.
"I swear it in the names of Ariadne and Darius!"
Artemis and Athena watched the young warrior princess emerge from the cave. They heard her thoughts, understood her wishes.
"Her heart has turned to stone," gasped Artemis in alarm. "Ares has turned her! We've lost her!"
"No," smiled Athena. "She will love again. And through that
love we will beat Ares at his own game!"
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