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Chapter 11 - 13

by Enginerd

Author's Notes:

This Xena: Warrior Princess story takes place immediately after "On Uncertain Ground." While not absolutely necessary, it is HIGHLY recommended that this story be read before "The Gift of Gab."

This story is dedicated to my fellow recreational writers who are possessed by an urge to touch others through their words and endure the constant struggle to find the right wons.

Enginerd (April 1997)


1. Content: While not sexually explicit, the story involves mature themes and a romantic relationship between two woman. This story also depicts violent acts.

2. This story exemplifies how the author is unable to write a short story. Unless you have taught yourself to read very quickly or you are related to Evelyn Wood, be prepared for a long haul.

3. Avoiding operation of heavy equipment after having read this story in one sitting continues to be sage advice.

4. For those who are impatient, the story may really bother you.


With explicit instructions from the Warrior Princess, Joxer went back to the soldier's barracks that evening. Upon his arrival, he was immediately questioned by the soldiers about Gabrielle's condition. "She's strong but..." Joxer signed to them. "We have been told no one survives after losing the Gift." Joxer added sadly, carefully eyeing the soldiers for a man with a scratched face.

Liberus woke from a sound sleep, refreshed and ready for the glorious future. He stretched as he yawned, eyeing the room and the other Attendants. Soon he would not have to live in such cramped surroundings, he mused. Soon his brother would gather the Verbinians ready for change and they would finally break the chains of the Elders' rule. Soon he would lead his people. He looked out the window at the glorious weather, nice day for a take over, he laughed to himself.

Drawing his attention away from the window, he heard the name Gabrielle. "What are you all talking about?" He asked nonchalantly, joining the other Attendants.

"Liberus, I'm surprised you were able to sleep with all the commotion last night." An Attendant noted. "Commotion?" He asked innocently.

"The Gift of Gabrielle was stolen last night..." Talea spoke numbly, worn out from a sleepless night.

"Gods NO!" Liberus feigned concern. "How is she?" He asked, expecting a sad answer.

"It's too soon to tell." Talea noted, tears welling up in her eyes again.

"WHAT!?!...uh...She's still alive?" He asked, surprised by the news.

"Yes, but I think it is wishful thinking to believe she'll recover." Talea sighed, wiping the tears she thought she had under control.

"Oh...Yet, she IS strong" He said distractedly, patting Talea on the back. "What are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be preparing for a Ceremony?" He asked, still pondering the disturbing news about the bard.

"Loquus has postponed it...thank the Gods." Talea relayed.

Gabrielle woke, cringing at the blinding beam of light peaking through the curtains. Xena quickly closed the curtains, stopping the offensive beam. "Is that better?" She asked, turning to the bard, hoping for a response. Yet, the bard remained quiet.

Gabrielle watched the Warrior Princess approach and sit down on the bed. Soft sounds came from her lips as she took the bard's hand in hers. Gabrielle's eyebrows furrowed as she listened, as if she believed she could understand if she just concentrated more. The effort encouraged the Warrior Princess, who spoke slower and more deliberately.

"Gabrielle...can you say your name?" Xena asked. "Gab...brie...elle." Xena broke the name down. "Gab...brie....elle," she repeated, slowly.

"Uhh," the bard responded.

"No...Ga..Ga..." Xena corrected her.

"Uhh," the bard repeated.

"NO!..GA..GA..." Xena snapped with frustration, causing the bard to cringe at the harsh sound. "Oh Gods Gabrielle.... I'm sorry." Xena immediately blurted, her heart dropped realizing what she had just done. "I'm so sorry...."

With the desire to erase that look of panic in the warrior's eyes, the bard reached up and caressed the warrior's cheek.

Verbis and Texius searched the scrolls in the Ceremonial Hall. "Any luck?" Verbis asked. "No. I have not ready ANYTHING that would help us." Texius blurted with frustration, rubbing his sore neck.

"Help you with what?" Liberus asked the two tired men.

"Liberus, another set of eyes...come and start reading!" Texius ordered, handing him a scroll.

"I am honored but...what am I looking for?" He asked.

"A way to return the Gift." Verbis relayed.

"Wha..Why would we want to do that?" He asked, growing nervous.

"Xena says she will find the thief who stole the Gift of Gabrielle. When she does, I don't want to be the one to tell her we can't give it back." Texius' hope the situation could be reversed unnerved Liberus.

"But our laws... they don't allow such things. Returning a Gift is unheard of." Liberus argued nervously. Verbis shook his head no.

"Technically our laws don't cover Gifts of Outsiders. We are treading new ground here. I suspect anything is possible." Verbis interjected, holding out a scroll and eyed the Attendant. "Well?"

Taking the scroll, Liberus felt ill. "A Gift wouldn't be returned to someone who's not healthy right?" Liberus asked weakly. "All this depends on Gabrielle's recovery doesn't it?... How is she?" Liberus asked.

"She's alive, I don't know how...but she's alive." Verbis shook his head as he reached for another scroll.

"I'm sorry Xena. I haven't seen anybody with a scratch on their face. They are probably laying low." Joxer relayed sadly.

"Just keep looking." She said gazing upon Gabrielle, who was asleep. "He will show up. When he does..." Xena's voice trailed off.

For hours the Verbinians searched through the thousands of scrolls for some instructions on how to return the Gift. "HEY!" Texius blurted with excitement, causing everyone, except Liberus, to look up with hope. "Oh..." Texius sighed and shook his head. Another false alarm.

"You keep DOING that...STOP IT!" Verbis blurted at the Lead Attendant.

"Sorry." Texius winced at the Elder's admonition.

"Let's take a break for dinner and start fresh afterwards." Talea suggested to the group.

"We shouldn't ..." Verbis started to decline.

"You need a break, as we all do. And don't argue with me Verbis! You know I'm right!" She scolded him. Texius and Liberus looked at her with shock.

"I'm sorry Verbis an Attendant should never..." Texius started to apologize for the rude behavior.

"Don't be sorry...she's right." Verbis got up and stretched. "It's about time someone wasn't afraid to speak their mind..." He added. Liberus could not believe his ears, the change was happening before his eyes....and without him.

When Xena answered the knock at the door, she was surprised to find Verbis. "Did you find anything?" She asked cautiously, not to get her hopes up.

"No, but we are still looking." He relayed, genuinely hopeful. "Here's some food for her...there's enough for both of you." He handed her a tray. He watched her silently stare at the food.

"Don't worry, it's not poisoned Warrior Princess." He added.

"I..." She looked up, speechless at the unexpected kindness.

"Just make sure she gets some." He added and turned to leave.

"Verbis." Xena called to him.

"I hope she likes nutbread." Verbis responded with a grin, making the warrior nod.

Gabrielle stretched as she woke to the voices. Closing the door behind her, Xena came over to the bed with a tray of food, confident the bard must be hungry after a day of only tea. Xena sat on the bed and with a slight smile, uncovered the plate to reveal healthy portions of nutbread. Gabrielle closed her eyes and exhaled as she shook her head no.

"We've got to act and we've go to act now!" Liberus blurted nervously to his brother, who was packing his bags. "You can't be serious." Darmas responded, still feeling the ache in his face.

"What do you mean? You have the Gift of Literas and I have the Gift of Gabrielle...we are all set! We just need to gather..." He responded with confusion.

"Gather whom? Who will follow YOU?" Darmas shook his head at his gullible brother.

"The Verbinians ready for change! The soldiers...the Attendants," Liberus responded with confusion.

"You are so naive." Darmas shook his head with amazement. "Do you actually think anyone will follow a murderer and a thief, a thief of the Gift of an OUTSIDER?" Darmas shook his head as he tied together his sparse belongings.

"But...we have the Gifts! You said..." Liberus was in shock at this betrayal.

"I said what I NEEDED to, to get myself a Gift brother. That is all I wanted from you and these Gods' forsaken people. Now I can leave this Tartarus Hole and have a chance to live like a normal person." Darmas spoke the blunt truth.

"What are you saying? Why didn't you leave then, after you got the Gift?" Liberus asked, his rage building.

"I was SO tempted, but I OWED you and the idea of taking another Gift from an Elder was...incredibly appealing." Darmas looked at his brother and shook his head. "But you just had to take that poor girl's Gift. That is something I will always regret...but I don't OWE you anymore brother...good bye." He lifted his pack over his shoulder.

Xena sat quietly on the edge of Gabrielle's bed looking at the bard stir, waiting for the next round of nightmares to wake her. Throughout the night she would jolt awake with violent gasps, remembering the attack, Xena guessed. Each time the Warrior Princess would cradle her and rock her back to sleep, wishing she could take away the pain and fear.

As Xena had come to expect from this weary cycle, the bard once again jolted awake with an unnerving gasp. Though Xena knew to expect the look of terror in the bard's eyes, it didn't make it any easier to witness. Xena took the bard in her arms once again. "Shhhhh." Xena responded to sooth the bard as she gently stroked her red head and kissed her forehead. Tears welled up in the bard's eyes as she clung to the Warrior Princess, seeking strength and finding sleep.

Joxer barged in the room. "Xena! Oh...sorry...we found the guy with the scratch on his face!" He said out of breath. The bard woke to the noise and felt Xena tense up in her arms.

"When I get my hands on him..." She said cooly. "He's dead Xena." Joxer informed her, making her stomach drop. There were still four others, she reminded herself....four others.

Xena gently removed the bard's arms from her waist and looked in Gabrielle's eyes. Xena pointed to herself and then the door. Gabrielle nodded and started to get out of bed.

"No" Xena spoke softly, gently pushing her back down. Xena pointed to herself then the door, then pointed to Gabrielle then the bed.

Gabrielle looked at her with a furrowed brow, shook her head no then pointed to herself, to Xena, then the door.

"NO" Xena responded firmly, shaking her head no as she pointed to Gabrielle then the bed. Gabrielle firmly shook her head no. Xena's eyes rolled, not believing the bard was successfully arguing without words.

No about to loose this argument, Xena sighed and sat on the bed, staring at the bard....patiently. Gabrielle's eyes rolled as she shook her head. With a thin smile, the Amazon pointed to Xena and the bed, then herself and the door and started to get out of bed again.

"NO," Xena repeated firmly, pulling the bard back. Gabrielle let out a perturbed grunt. Noticed the ever-present Joxer watching the argument, another option crossed Gabrielle's mind. Gabrielle returned her gaze to Xena and lifted her hands up in what looked like surrender to the hopeful warrior.

She pointed to herself then the bed. "Finally," Xena blurted with relief.

Gabrielle pointed to Joxer then the door. Xena eyed her curiously as she cautiously nodded yes. Gabrielle then pointed to Xena, raised an eyebrow and pointed to the bed. Joxer's eyes widened.

Staring at the knife sticking out of Darmas' back, Bass guarded over the body of Darmas. When she entered the storeroom, Xena's heart sunk seeing the lifeless form There were still four others, she reminded herself....four others.

"Did any of the soldiers see ANYTHING?" Xena blurted with annoyance.

"No Xena. Bass found the body this morning," Joxer informed her. Bass signed something to him. Xena looked sharply at them.

"WHAT did he say?" She snapped with frustration.

"Liberus hasn't been told of his brother's death yet." He relayed.


"Darmas is Liberus' brother," Joxer informed her.

All of the Warrior Princess' senses screamed out to her. They told her he was the one with Gabrielle's Gift. "I'll do it," She responded coldly, slowly standing up. "But I suspect he already knows."

Her eyes scanned every inch of the Attendant's chambers as she walked in. "Xena!?!" Talea called to the warrior. "What are you ...What's wrong?" She asked, seeing a hardened look on the warrior's face.

"Where is Liberus?" Xena hissed, her cold stare making Talea uncomfortable.

"I don't know... he hasn't been here all night. Why are you looking for him?" Talea asked.

Liberus shook with fear as he hid in the alley, his world crumbling around him. Darmas ruined everything, he thought, staring at his bloody hands. "Oh Darmas, why," he asked silently. His eyes focused on the gates, the barriers to the outside....his freedom and a fresh start. Patience, he told himself, patience.

"Where is his bunk?" Xena asked bluntly, ignoring Talea's questions.

"Right there," Talea immediately responded, knowing better than to impede this warrior.

"Xena why are you looking for Liberus?" She asked again, fearing the answer. Xena knelt down to inspect the box of belongings under his bed. "Xena??" Talea asked again.

"He did it." Xena spoke matter-of-factly.

A claxon sounded, bringing a slight smile to the Warrior Princess' lips. "Gods. What's going on?" Talea blurted.

"He's running," Xena stood up slowly "as he should be."


Dismounting Argo to more closely inspect the tracks, Xena noted that Liberus may have stolen the bard's Gift, but he certainly did not take her intelligence. Gabrielle would never have left such a careless trail of broken branches and poorly hidden footsteps, she considered as she assessed Liberus' performance.

"Tsk...Tsk...Tsk...and you had SUCH a good head start too." The Warrior Princess smirked. Her smirk melted into a cold, hard gaze as she eyed the trail This was his second mistake, she noted. His second and last, she promised.

Remounting her horse, Xena noticed Argo was a bit skittish.

"Come on girl." Xena coaxed Argo, surprised when the horse wouldn't budge. "We've been on worse trails before" Xena noted with mild amusement, eyeing the varying terrain and narrow trail that made navigation with the large animal difficult.

Argo snorted.

"Come ON girl." Xena repeated with growing annoyance. Argo snorted again.

"COME ON!" Xena snapped. "What is WRONG with you??" She yelled, beside herself with anger.

Not about to waste any more time dealing with Argo's bizarre temperament, Xena angrily dismounted and headed down the trail, alone.

The foot prints left the rocky trail and headed through the dense forest. The softer dirt of the forest floor easily captured his footprints, which were now deeper and further apart. He was finally in an all out sprint, she concluded with satisfaction. Some signs of intelligence after all, she mused. She picked up her pace, feeling she was very close to the thief. A shift in the wind confirmed that feeling. She could now hear him.

The frantic sounds of gasping and breaking branches, made her heart race with the thrilling anticipation of a hunter, closing in on the kill. She paused, almost overwhelmed with that powerful feeling. Her eyes closed as thoughts of Gabrielle filled her mind. The terror in her eyes. A terror he caused. But she had to take this thief back to Verbinia, ALIVE, she reminded herself.

Taking a slow and deep breath, Xena continued the pursuit.

Gabrielle looked out the window, waiting for Xena. Her morning headache, which unfortunately caused Xena her victory in the morning argument, was finally gone. Gabrielle was ready to comb the streets to look for the attackers. She just needed Xena to be there when she did. She sighed, waiting for Xena.

With each passing moment, Gabrielle's concern grew. Soon, that concern grew into fear. A fear not for herself, but for the Warrior Princess. Unable to bear it any longer, Gabrielle's instincts took over. She reached for her staff.

The Warrior Princess caught up to her prey and somersaulted over his head letting out her war cry. She landed in front of him, blocking his path. Liberus skidded to a stop and tried to run the other way, but tripped and stumbled to the ground.

Xena eyed the thief coldly. "I'm taking her Gift back." She spoke evenly as the fearful man scrambled to get up.

"NO! It is MINE! I'm NOT going back!" He responded vehemently.

"I'm taking" Xena repeated slowly and deliberately, struggling to maintain control of her rage.

Back on his feet, he proved her wrong by making a third mistake - pulling out a dagger.

The Attendant lunged and swung his dagger wildly at the Warrior Princess, who easily stepped out of the way of this untrained fighter. He didn't immediately catch on that after each wild swipe of his blade, the Warrior Princess would respond with a powerful punch.

She knew there was only one way to ease the rage within her, but she had to bring him back... ALIVE, she reminded herself.

Growing tired of this skirmish, she easily grabbed his wrist after his final brutal attack of the air. Her crushing squeeze caused him to drop both his dagger and jaw.

She hurled him against an unsuspecting tree. He made a pleasing thud when he hit, and a more pleasing moan when he collapsed to the ground. She watched the thief get up with difficulty. Apparently she broke his wrist, she noted unsympathetically.

Physical punishment of this man gave her no second thoughts. Liberus had stolen something very precious and hurt Gabrielle. It was not a matter of whether she would hurt him. It was only a matter of how badly.

When he finally stood up, he leaned against the tree and looked over to her defiantly. "I'm taking HER gift back," Xena repeated. Her icy blue eyes sent shivers through him.

"No," he answered. Expending every last ounce of energy he had, he made a mad dash for the forest. A thin smile formed on her lips.

Within three strides, she once again stopped his attempt at escape. Her fists seemed to have a mind of their own. She didn't think as her fists repeatedly found their target. With each strike, she felt a satisfying release of her anger. Nowhere near complete satisfaction, she watched as the bloodied body could no longer support his own weight and crumble to the ground.

She towered over him, trembling. She wanted to hurt him more. Hurt him for the pain he caused Gabrielle. Hurt him for stealing a part of Gabrielle, such a special part of her, that she may never get back. Hurt him for making the Warrior Princess feel helpless.

Almost collapsing from running so hard, Gabrielle thought she was delirious when she found Argo alone in the road. The horse lifted her head and neighed hearing the familiar woman approach. Gabrielle wondered why Xena would have left Argo behind. She stared a moment at the horse, then at the trail that left the main road. There was something about Argo's neigh that gave Gabrielle a bad feeling.

When Gabrielle finally caught her breath, she headed towards the narrow trail. Argo neighed again with a different sound, stopping her in her tracks. Gabrielle turned slowly and eyed the animal. She could have sworn Argo was inviting her to ride.

Gabrielle shook her head no, concluding the trail was better traveled by foot. Argo shook her head yes and neighed louder, surprising the woman of no words. Gabrielle shook her head no and gestured that she would be walking the trail. Argo shook her head no, neighed, and this time, stomped her foot.

Gabrielle couldn't believe she was having an argument with a horse.

"Xena! Xena!" A familiar voice called out to the Warrior Princess. Out of nowhere, Joxer came to her side.

"He has her Gift.." Xena spoke hollowly, still staring at the thief.

"The have searched the scrolls Xena, they haven't found any on how to return the Gift. Xena...without that, none of the Attendants can help you... poor Gabrielle." Joxer's news hurt more than any physical pain she ever endured.

"There must be a way..." She turned to him with a weak voice.

"I'm so sorry Xena. If only the price wasn't so high..." He added.

"What PRICE...what are you talking about??" Xena blurted with confusion, starting to get angry with her friend.

"Talea told me there is only one way to return her Gift to her and I know you can't do it...I just wish.." Joxer spoke sadly.

Hope filled her eyes. "I can return it to her??? I thought only an Attendant...." Xena's heart pounded. GODS let it be possible, she prayed.

"Tell me what I have to do...I'll do anything...ANYTHING!" She grabbed Joxer with her bloody hands, utter desperation in her eyes.

He shook his head. "Xena can' would have to kill him, it would be cold blooded murder." Joxer mildly protested.

Without another word, the Warrior Princess unsheathed her sword and stood over to the bloody heap named Liberus.

She understood what she had to do to return Gabrielle's Gift. Without her Gift, the bard would slowly die inside. He caused Gabrielle unimaginable physical and emotional pain. For that, Xena would never forgive this worthless flesh. For that, Xena could not allow him to live.

Gabrielle clung to the reigns tightly as she let Argo follow Xena's trail. Despite her fear of riding this treacherous path, she was actually glad for Argo's company. Seeming to sense her need, Argo responded with comforting neighs.

Gabrielle stared down at the ground where there were still traces of a trail. The footprints were further apart, she noted uneasily. Another neigh caused the woman of no words to look up from the trail, just in time to see the low hanging branch wack her in the face.

Liberus' confused eyes had no affect on the Warrior Princess except to give her the satisfaction that he would be awake to see his death approaching. Without reservation, Xena slowly raised her sword. Clenching the hilt with both hands, she pointed the tip of her weapon towards his heart.

Her only wish was he would taste true terror. A Terror like she saw in her bard's eyes. That wish was granted, for gazing up at her were wide eyes of terror. Savoring this look, like a fine wine by a discriminating connoisseur, a slow and satisfied smile crossed the Warrior Princess' face. Her appreciation of this situation served to make his fear grow and, in turn, her smile.

"No, please," he whimpered before fainting. She couldn't help but laugh at this pathetic sight as a magnificent feeling of power washed over the Warrior Princess, an incredible aphrodisiac.

This ironic twist of having to kill this pile of worthless flesh to help the love of her life was not lost on the Warrior Princess. She was doing the right thing AND enjoying it. Such incredible control. Such exquisite power, she mused. Such familiar power. Poetic justice that a bard...would appreciate.

The amusement in Xena's face rapidly drained away. She thrust her sword downward with incredible strength, letting out a primal scream. She collapsed to her knees, her hands still fused to her sword hilt.

Joxer grinned until he realized the sword was stuck in the ground between the Attendant's arm and body. "You missed???" He questioned with annoyance.

Xena lifted her head and stared across the unconscious body at Joxer. "YOU BASTARD!" Xena cried out with incredible rage.

Joxer shook his head and smiled. "I really thought you'd do it Xena," He relayed casually. Xena's anger made her speechless. "You were SO could taste it couldn't you? That sweet taste of revenge."


Before her eyes, Joxer transformed into another familiar face. The God of War looked at his hands and body. "MUCH better," he relayed with relief. "You just don't appreciate what I will DO for you." He added with a shudder. He smiled and cautiously approached her, sensing her vulnerability.

"You hurt her." She spoke evenly, yet her eyes betrayed weakness with moisture.

"Oh Xena, I wish I could take all the credit...but I can't. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," He spoke nonchalantly, easing closer.

"I have to admit, an opportunity like THIS doesn't come twice! Even for a GOD" Ares laughed. "I don't even think I could have conjured up a plan so Those wonderfully twisted Verbinians." He smiled, looking down at the Attendant.

"I'll have to find a way to thank them." He added thoughtfully stroking his goatee. A grin suddenly crossed his face. He knelt down on the ground across from the Warrior Princess. Showing his appreciation, he patted the unconscious man lying between them on the head. Ares took a deep breath as his hand lingered on Liberus' forehead. " Liberus!" Ares laughed with great amusement. Now he had everything...well, almost, he considered, eyeing the Warrior Princess.

"GO. You DISGUST me." Xena blurted, her weary eyes staring through the God of War.

"If you really want me to," he sighed, not budging. "But I thought you would have wanted to help that bard..oh," he blurted with feigned sympathy, and leaned towards her. "...I guess she can't be called that anymore, can she?" He relayed softly, his words emotional daggers.

"Such a shame. Despite her...unflattering portrayals of me, I was actually fond of her story telling. She could really CAPTURE an audience. Her voice was... well...beautiful."

Ares relayed his strategic compliments.

"Yes...beautiful." Xena whispered.

"Such a shame..." Ares purred. "To never again hear her soothing words of encouragement when you need to hear them," He sighed sadly, observing the Warrior Princess' strength crumble before his eyes.

"To never again hear her say 'Xena, I love you.'...after it took you two SO long to realize you loved each other." Ares was enjoying this torment, though careful not to enjoy it too much.

A tear escaped from the Warrior Princess' eyes. Then another.

"To never again hear her call out your name during the height of passion....oh..." Ares almost laughed. "I'm sorry've never HAD that pleasure, have you?" Ares feigned sympathy. Her head dropped against her forearms, her hands still clutching her sword hilt.

"Such a shame." Ares purred. "She'll probably feel she's a burden to you now." The words rang of truth to Xena. "Unable to help you out of a jam with her clever words. I wouldn't be surprised if she decided it was best for you if she left you." He sighed again, shaking his head with feigned sadness.

Xena winced.

"She would be doing it for YOU....because she loves you." He offered. "If only you loved HER as much." He whispered.

Xena lifted her head from her arms and looked him squarely in the eyes. "I love her with all my heart." Xena declared with such strength, it surprised the God of War.

"Sure you SAY that, but Xena... what are you willing to DO for her?" He challenged her. "I love her." Xena repeated weakly, desperately holding on to that source of strength.

"Of course you do Xena," Ares responded condescendingly. "But how much?" He softly challenged. "What if I asked you to ... kill yourself, to get her Gift back." He asked, knowing the answer.

"Would you do that for her?" Xena asked with a glimmer of interest.

"Would YOU??" Ares eyed her.

"Yes." Xena softly admitted.

"Hmmm." Ares responded, stroking his chin. "But Xena, you would die for many just causes now....wouldn't you?" Ares asked.

"Yes." Xena admitted wearily.

"So that really wouldn't show how much you loved her... would it?" He questioned her, not expecting an answer.

"" She responded, barely audible. Tears freely flowing from the Warrior Princess' eyes.

He paused, considering that right now, he could be called the God of Bards. The Gift was very powerful indeed, he mused. But she looked so weak, Ares noted with disappointment. Not the Warrior Princess of old, he thought sadly. However, with a little practice in raiding and pillaging villages, Ares was confident he would rekindle that good ol' Warrior Princess spirit in her. She was, after all, Xena.

Surprising the God Of War, Xena looked into his eyes. "Can you give Gabrielle her Gift back?" She asked with her remaining strength.

"Of course I can." He said softly. "But what will you give ME for returning her gift?" The God of War asked, struggling to contain his joy of this sweet and certain victory. Xena looked at him, knowing what he wanted, knowing the price.

A sound of hoof beats and an Amazon yell interrupted her answer. The God of War turned his head towards the commotion to find, the woman of no words charging him with her staff. Before the shocked God of War could act, he felt a powerful wack under his chin, toppling him on his backside.

"NO!" The woman of no words barked to the God of War, becoming a woman of one word.

Xena bolted to her feet, not sure which surprised her more, Gabrielle attacking the God of War or her utterance of a word. "Gabrielle..." Xena called out in amazement.

Busy with a God at the moment, Gabrielle kept her attention towards Ares. "No." Gabrielle repeated her word, angrily eyeing Ares. She gripped her staff firmly, ready to use it again. "No," she repeated slowly, with conviction.

The attack greatly improved Ares' opinion of the former bard. "Impressive," Ares responded, rubbing where she hit him. He stood up and sighed. Slowly brushing himself off, he felt not angry but rather, put upon by the inconvenience.

"Trust me Xena, you will get tired of hearing NO all the time." He informed Xena smugly.

"You should know." Xena responded dryly.

Ares looked up with surprise at the Warrior Princess, who found new strength. The bard did it again, he realized, growing concerned. "You still can get her Gift back Xena, her Gift for your allegiance...just say the word." He offered.

"NO." The woman of one word repeated, having a feeling it was still an appropriate response to this particular God.

"That's the word....NO." Xena responded, drawing a look of relief from the woman of one word. Seeing the smile the former bard, and her word, put on the Warrior Princess' face, Ares realized this battle was lost. The God of War groaned angrily and raised his hand to the former bard, who did not cower from Ares' imposing presence or the impending blow.

"Ares!" Xena called out, drawing his gaze from the bard.

"Yes Xena?" He asked in a pleasant voice, knowing he still had some control.

"Don't...please," Xena asked sincerely. Ares knew Xena was not bargaining, she was simply making a request. Ares paused a few moments as he debated with himself. Sighing heavily, the God of War lowered his hand.

"Don't you DARE tell anyone I showed mercy to someone who it me in the face....You just don't appreciate what I will DO for you." Ares shook his head.

"Thank you." Xena responded sincerely. Ares sighed, shaking his head.

"You know Xena, she's your greatest weakness," he relayed, eyeing the former bard.

"Your wrong Ares, she's my greatest strength."

Continued - Chapter 14 - End

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