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One Clear Voice
Chapters 7 and 8

By Blackfox

Chapter seven

Gabrielle inhaled nervously as she glanced around at the faces of the warriors surrounding her, some wore expectant looks on their faces, others looked bored, and others looked like they were getting ready to kill another bard. 'Talk about pressure!' Gabrielle thought to herself.

She noticed Xena and Minos, in fact, she couldn't help but notice them. Minos was sprawled out in his kinglike chair on top of a podium, Xena spread out of him was watching Gabrielle with disinterested eyes, while feeding Minos grapes.

Gabrielle gulped, uncertainty suddenly filling her. If she failed this was the end of her. Gabrielle had no doubt in her mind that Xena would allow her death, just like she had allowed the deaths of the other bards. The blue eyes caught her attention, she felt herself drowning in them. 'Talk to me Gabrielle. Tell me what I need to know.' Gabrielle shuddered as she felt the voice in her mind. Was that her imagination? Or was Xena actually talking to her? Xena's face was as blank as ever, not showing a flicker. 'It must have been my imagination.' Gabrielle thought morosely to herself, then noticed that the warriors were getting restless. She'd better start or she wouldn't have the chance to.

"I have heard a story, told to me once by a bard passing through my town. It is a story about two women, but more than that, it is the story of a warrior and a bard. the warrior was battle hardened and weary when she first came into the young bard's life. The warrior had given up, and had gone to the bard's town, to bury the past and hide away from prying eyes. As for the bard, she had seen little of what lay beyond the outskirts of her village, but she had a strong urging to see what lay beyond the village life.

One day slavers came to the bard's village, planning to capture the villagers and sell them into slavery. The warrior couldn't stand to see the people abused that way, so she fought the slavers off, alone, and bare handed. The young girl was enthralled by this warrior, how had she done what she had? She very much wanted to travel with this warrior woman, but she was rebuffed by the warrior and left there." Gabrielle began the story carefully, hoping that no one had seen the truth, that she herself was the bard, and their 'mistress' was the warrior.

'Don't even think about it. What? Following me. You don't want to make me mad now do you?' Xena shook her head in confusion as the words flooded her head. 'Where had that come from?'

Gabrielle continued with her story, telling of how the young bard had snuck out of her house that night, following the warrior on her journey to her hometown. She told of the adventure she had gotten into with the cyclops, which had many of the warriors laughing. She conveniently left out the part where she said she was going to track and kill the warrior, placing some fictional way of escape into the story.

When she told about the warrior's return home, and the greeting she received, the warriors were silent, maybe thinking of the receiving most of them would get if they tried to go back home. She told of how the bard had stepped in front of the villagers stopping them from throwing stones at her new friend. And how the warrior had stopped a warlord from taking her homeland, in hand to hand combat. The warriors cheered when they found the victor had been the warrior.

As Gabrielle wrapped up her story, she looked into the faces of the warriors again. They were each in a world of their own, a world she, as the bard, had taken them to. They stayed silent for several minutes when Gabrielle was finished, then erupted in a loud round of applause. In fact, Gabrielle noticed that only two people didn't cheer for this bard, Minos and Xena.

"Well, did I pass the test?" Gabrielle asked when the cheering had ended. Minos looked at Xena waiting for her answer. Xena looked at the bard. 'There was something...' Xena started and then lost the feeling that there was something about this bard that seemed familiar. As soon as the feeling had come however, it had flown, leaving the feeling of blankness behind.

Chapter eight

"I guess you will do, for now." Xena's voice sounded in the still air. The warriors cheered, if the bard told many stories like this one, she would be a welcomed addition indeed. Minos just shrugged, not really caring which way the decision had gone, and started walking towards his tent. "Somebody show this bard to her tent!" Xena commanded and went after Minos.

Gabrielle watched them go, blinking back tears. It was hard watching Xena like this. It was even harder being treated as indifferently as Xena was treating her. She had to keep reminding herself that this Xena was not 'her' Xena, and that this Xena had no memory of the friendship that she shared with the bard.

A warrior offered to show Gabrielle where her tent was and she nodded,

allowing herself to be led away from the others.

Gabrielle supposed that this tent was just like any other she had seen. The blankets hanging around her helping to keep the tent sheltered, also made it very dark. She lit the candle that was standing on one table, and looked around at her surroundings, finding the key place for an escape route, in case she needed one.

Gabrielle flopped on the pallet she had for a bed, and lay staring at the ceiling. Ever since this little adventure had begun she had to fight with herself to remain upbeat, she sensed that the only way that she and Xena were going to get out of this, was for Gabrielle to keep her hope, and to stubbornly work away at the Warrior Princess until the flood gates opened up and Xena's memory returned.

But still, this was so hard. She longed for a reasurring touch, or a friendly smile from her best friend, and all she was getting was hard stares. She felt a great loneliness unlike she had ever felt before. Gabrielle found it ironic that in a camp full of men, she was as lonely as if she was the only person in Greece.

Finally, unable to stand it anymore, her loneliness drove her back to the stable, to Argo. Wrapping her arms around the mare's head, she buried her head in Argo's neck. "I miss her Argo. I miss her so much." Argo listened in silence as the bard poured out her heart to the mare.

"May I ask what you are doing in here? Again, I may add." Came the familiar voice from the door.

Gabrielle swallowed in sudden fright. It must look strange, her being caught hugging a strange horse and all. She reached up and wiped the tears she had been crying out of her eyes before turning around to face the mighty warrior by the door.

"I told you I had an affinity for horses." Gabrielle said sheepishly, already sweeping into the role of the young innocent bard.

"You've been crying." Xena's voice said accusingly. "Homesick?" She said, the familiar eyebrow arching.

'More like friendsick.' Gabrielle thought, but merely shook her head. "I'm just glad I was accepted. You know, not being killed and all." Gabrielle said, smiling slightly.

Xena remained stone faced. "You knew the risk." Xena said, not apologetic in the least.

"And I took it." the bard said raising her head in a gesture Xena almost found familiar. 'I won't stay home Xena. I don't fit in.' The ghost voice floated through her head again, making Xena wince. "Are you all right?" the bard asked in concern.

"Fine." Xena said wall back in place. "I'll leave you to the horses then." Xena said, remembering the bard had said she had an affinity for them. "Just don't hurt them." she added, her voice a warning, before, she left.

"I wouldn't hurt the horses Xena, or you." Gabrielle whispered to herself, before putting a comforting hand on Argo's nose and stroking.

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