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Part 3 of The War of Silence

Chapter 11 "Remember The Warlord"

No Night So Dark
by Wishes

No night can be so dark
As midnight of the soul,
A darkness unrelieved
By stars or hope,
No blackness quite so deep
As blame and guilt
That turn hearts ebony
And hard as stone.
No cavern is as bleak
As the spirit's cave,
Wherein lie beasts of prey
our own thoughts make.
With stars behind the clouds
And moon in smallest phase,
No Night can be so dark
As what our souls create.

The dark haired warrior quickly looked over her shoulder at the red haired figure who slept peacefully a short distance away on a course blanket. Xena felt as anxious inside as her companion looked peaceful. "Stop the stalling, Xena," she told herself as she peered into the darkened cave for the first time in five years. The sun's descent created a bright beam of light that seemed to spotlight the cave's interior eliminating the need for a torch. Her feet refused to move as reminders of her warlord past suddenly heaped weights upon her shoulders heavier than that of Atlas as he carried the world. "Gabrielle will need the shelter when that storm cloud moves this way," she told herself again. Her eyes traced the outline of the cave wall as her mind remembered the variety of weaponry, medical supplies and dry goods she had placed here. Over to her left still stood a medium sized table with two straight chairs and a trunk full of blankets of various weights. Against the back wall sat several straw mattresses stacked high in the air. Xena's brow furrowed as she saw the large variety and amount of weapons that had been placed against the right hand wall of the cave.

The Warrior Princess had planned this facility well and its multi-purposes as a command-center, safe house for recovering wounded men, and as a cache of weapons. The Princess blinked her eyes, surprised. All was as she had left it. The large bushes she had planted as a hedge to camouflage the entrance were now overgrown, but that had only served to hide the two large wooden doors she had built into the entrance to protect the supplies from the elements. Her careful planning of several of these sites across the Grecian countryside had come in handy more times than she cared to remember. Only she knew the locations of all the sites . Each of her lieutenants knew of one particular site that he was responsible for keeping it well stocked and hidden. This particular one had been Darphus's responsibility. "The traitor , he would have been back months ago had be not died" she thought quickly. Memories of the Gauntlet and loosing her army to Darphus were still all to fresh in her mind.

The sound of thunder announcing the upcoming arrival of a storm sent the repentant warlord into quicker activity as she carried in their supplies off of Argo and laid out a straw mattress for the bard . Xena grew increasingly irritated and irritable as she moved around in her old surroundings.

"How many people died so Gabrielle could use this pillow and blanket?" she thought aloud as she finished making the silent red-head's bed. A flash of lightning sent the warrior jogging outside to get a pile of firewood before all the wood got too wet to use. "Damn, like I really need this storm. It really tops the day off beautifully. First Gabrielle freaked in the village, and then we have to come to this place that stands against everything I am now," the warrior argued as she headed into the tree-line . She already had acquired a moderate pile of wood when the first drop of rain hit her nose. Her legs took bigger strides back to camp as the wind blew her dark hair into her face. Her eyebrow raised in amazement as she spied Gabrielle lying on her side and snoring lightly. "I always said that the girl could sleep through anything," she grumbled affectionately as she hurried to deposit her pile of wood and begin the task of building a warming blaze. After a sharp snap of the flint, the crackle of a fire echoed in the cave.

Gabrielle never stirred as she was deposited on the mattress and covered with a blanket. The warrior's eyes softened momentarily as her companion breathed deeply. Her blue eyes quickly re-masked themselves with her usual stoic demeanor. "Stay busy, Xena.. don't think about this wretched place," she told herself as she walked to the table and opened the saddle bags filled with maps given to her by Phillipos. She pulled out the map found on the archer's corpse and sat in the straight back chair to begin her search to identify the mysterious map.

The warrior's stomach let out a loud growl as she pulled yet another parchment from the saddle bag in what had turned out to be a headache causing effort. "It's been many awhile since I had to study a series of maps," she grumbled as she pushed a stray lock of hair from her face and scooted back in the chair restlessly. "I am hungry...gods it is full dark...Gabrielle is still asleep?...well she is recovering from being beaten nearly to death, you know." The warrior's thoughts seemed to run in her mind almost as a conversation. "Time to eat," she whispered as her stomach made another loud protest, " and the bard there needs to eat too."

"Gabrielle," the warrior called in her deep voice. After putting all the maps in the saddle bags, she reached for the food she had gotten in the village earlier. "Gabrielle," she called a little louder to the form which lay on her side with her back to the warrior. Green eyes popped open at the second beckoning to stare into the large arsenal of shields, spears, arrows and swords lying only a few feet away. With a gasp, the injured woman was on her feet and stumbling weakly to the mouth of the cave oblivious to the drenching she would receive if she exited the cave.

"Wake up Sleepy.." Xena's words died on her lips as she turned around from unpacking their utensils to see her companion stumble out into the storm . "What in Tartarus are you doing?' Xena snapped as her irritating day claimed victory over her patience, and she slammed the wooden plates on the table. She could only watch on as the young woman wobbled weak in the knees and fell head first into the mud.

"Mmmmmmmmph" Gabrielle uttered as she fell and her pain-sensitive body reacted with quiet whimpers. The Warrior Princess took long strides to her friend's side. Ignoring the rain drops, she stretched her muscular arms around the huddled form and easily lifted her and cradled her gently. "'s okay Gabrielle...I got you" the woman warrior whispered to the tense form in her arms as she walked back into the shelter of the cave. Only her warrior reflexes caught the girl as she instantly began to thrash in her arms. Xena temper flared as she gripped her tighter . "Now stop it, Gabrielle!" she yelled loudly as she struggled against the fighting bard. "Gods!...a person can only take so much of this." She cursed and fought the increasingly growing urge to strike her friend. "Stop..." Her voice droned out as she remembered the earlier incident when she had practiced with her weapons on the morning she had killed the archer. Gabrielle had run off in fright then too.

"Dumb, Xena! Dumb!' she berated herself as her mind connected the fact that Gabrielle was afraid to be in this cave with the arsenal of weapons. She quickly placed her hand over her companion's eyes and began to talk softly in her ear as she had done before. "I am with you, and you are safe," she reassured the young woman as she slowly calmed down and quit her struggles. "That's right , be still. I won't let anything hurt you, Gabrielle." she whispered as she lifted her hand from her companion's eyes and slid down the back of the cave wall. "Nooo, Nooo," she gently chided Gabrielle's half-hearted struggles to wrench herself free. She gathered her companion into her chest and held her there firmly. Xena's own demons glared at her from around the cave wall's as she stroked Gabrielle's hair and made comforting sounds. "Shhhhhh...its okay now...I got you." The woman warrior whispered to the tense form in her arms as she pushed wet hair out of her eyes. "I should not have snapped at you... I am sorry..." she apologized and began to wipe the mud from her face with a nearby cloth. "Open your eyes, Gabrielle.. there is nothing to be afraid of here," Xena whispered her voice tender .

"MMMMMMMMM." The younger woman gesticulated with a pointed finger to the pile of weapons as she turned her face into the wet warrior's shoulder. "I know, I know now that you are scared," Xena whispered as she bent her head over the girl's ear. With a look around the room, her past reared its ugly head. Her ears now could hear her men chant her name over and over. And in her arms was a girl who had always been her rock. Yet now, things were reversed, and Xena felt a pressure unlike anything she had ever faced.

"Those things won't harm you, Gabrielle....bad things happened in the past to make you afraid ...but the things in here are not bad in was how they were you understand me?" Xena whispered as the realization hit her that she was talking to herself as well as to her strawberry blond companion. Xena felt the bard's chin nod on her shoulder. Gabrielle raised her head to meet the warrior's eyes with a look of such complete trust and love that it drew the ex-warlord to tears of gratitude for her dearest bard. "Who is comforting who?" her heart whispered

Chapter 12 "Look into My Eyes"

by Wishes

One heart, two souls?
How else explain
The battlefield within,
This bloody landscape
Of my heart.
Half dark and harshly bitter,
Brittle as the clear black ice,
Formed in a night
On the highest mountain lakes;
The other half so tender,
Your smallest smile
Can make it swell with pride
That I'm your friend,
Or just a breath, your sweet sad sigh

Can wither it and make it die.
One heart, two souls.

The warrior used her long nimble fingers and unlaced the cotton shift letting it ease lightly over the younger woman's head. The breakdown of communication between the two women had made Xena even more sensitive than usual to the body language of the younger bard. Xena had just begun the task of unwrapping the bandages from the welt-covered back when she felt the younger woman's muscles tighten and her breathing shorten. "What's wrong?" she asked hoping deep down inside herself that this time her companion would open up and talk to her. Xena finished unwrapping the dirty bandages and hoped her disappointment did not show as she walked to stand in front of her dearest friend.

"You know, I noticed that when I said it was time to get cleaned up, you suddenly had to go to the bushes. Then it was that you couldn't find your towel and then it was that you wanted a drink of water from the waterskin first...." The warrior peered into the green eyes with a look of tenderness mixed with irritation at Gabrielle's deliberate stall when she was so obviously dirty. Gabrielle's hard stare at the rippling waters caused the very practical warrior to rack her brain at what the source of this timidity was this time. "Hades, it doesn't matter right now ....daylight is fading," she told herself as she gently took the younger woman's hand and lead her through the buttercup laced grasses to the edge of the water.

"Look at me, Gabrielle...."she commanded with a voice echoing like a magic incantation that penetrated the soul . The blond's green eyes timidly obeyed, and she allowed herself to be led ankle deep into the swallow clear water. Her boots already on shore , Xena pulled off her chakram and sword letting them fall with a thud in the wildflowers. Gabrielle gasped as the weapons landed nearby and jumped skittishly right into the warrior's hard frame. "Easy there, I am here," the warrior reassured , quietly happy that the bard had reached out for her in her fear . "Trust me?" Xena asked as she threw her leathers and shift on the shore. Moving slowly, she pulled the bard with her till Gabrielle stood waist deep in the water.

With attention like that of a watchful parent, Xena carefully bathed the bard's body and hair. She avoided wetting the bad neck wound and only lightly touched the newly crusted over criss-cross of welts. Distress evaporated form the girl's face as she lightly brushed her finger through the water to splash an unaware Warrior Princess. "Hey you," she teased as she spirited her in her arms and deposited her on their dirty tunics among the buttercups before she bathed herself. For the first time in days, Xena allowed herself to turn her back to her more relaxed companion while she washed her hair and even swam into the waterfall and back. She swam till she was tired and then climbed out of the water .

"Got you a surprise when we went through the last village today," Xena said, breaking the friendly silence. She donned a clean shift and moved to sit by her friend. Gabrielle broke her stare away from the rainbow made as the sun's ending rays connected with the spilling waterfall. Her eye's danced in curiosity, her first positive expression in several days. Xena smiled as she spoke again. "Patience, you...I got to tend your wounds first, okay?... then the surprise." Xena picked up her prepared paste and dabbed it on all the cuts and welts and re-wrapped the neck wound and still tender back.

"Lift your arms, and close your eyes," the warrior commanded lightly as she reached behind her back and pulled out a new soft linen shift which was sure to be a perfect fit. She slid it easily over her young friend's head . "Hey, wait there," she said to herself as she spied something on her friend's body that she had not noticed before. Picking up the girl's arm to put through the arm holes, she lifted the right arm higher than necessary to get a better look.

"Gabrielle...does this place hurt when I touch it?" the healer asked as her finger lightly traced a burned area in under the armpit . Gabrielle jumped back as Xena pressed harder. Xena's hand began to shake as she recognized the symbol. From a childhood memory, her father had a buckle with the same symbol. "By the god's, it cannot be..." she whispered aloud. Growing confused and her anger were returning. The bard put her other arm in the shift and turned around and gave her companion a giant bear hug. The girl's loving gesture and innocence broke the dark warrior from her contemplation. "Gabrielle, you are my rock," she said as she put her arms around her friend and looked down to see a smile. The gesture sent a shock-wave to Xena's whole system; her Gabrielle was coming back to her. "But to what am I bringing her back?" Xena thought as she returned the smile her blue eyes glassed over with emotions unspoken. Father?

The warrior's sharp blade made another cut into the small wooden piece in her left hand. She held it closer to the firelight so she could get a better look at her progress. Xena had a very bad feeling about what the immediate future might hold for her and the silent bard. They always could not be in each other's sight and she might not know if Gabrielle was in danger. Xena looked around the cave walls again and sighed. None of these supplies had been gained honestly . "How many died and were hurt when I stole them?" she thought as she blew the wood shavings off of her project.

"I told you to sit back a little from me didn't I?" Xena spoke in a parental sort of way as the silent bard let out a sneeze as wood flakes went into her face.

The warrior inspected the piece of work closely, her brow furrowed in concentration. Mesmerized, the younger woman moved closer once again as Xena brought out the dagger and made a quick small cut. She held the piece to the fire again and raised her eyebrow in satisfaction, letting out a quiet grunt.

"Come here Gabrielle." Xena spoke as she motioned for the girl to sit in front of her. "Come on...I won't bite." Xena smiled as she took her friend's hand and encouraged her to be seated. "Here." the warrior spoke as she placed the object in Gabrielle's bandaged hand. "Blow into it... try it's a whistle ...go on's for you." The silent Bard looked at the object with curiosity before she brought it to her lips and blew hard. Outside the cave, Argo protested loudly by stomping her hooves and snorting. Xena could not help but laugh as her companion jumped backward at the noise. "Hey, it's okay." Xena spoke as she placed an arm on her friend's shoulder. "It's supposed to sound like that." She took the object back again and picked up a piece of leather tie and looped it in the wood tying the two ends together. Thoughts of a battle yet to come danced in her mind as she lowered the cord around Gabrielle's neck. A great feeling of possessiveness enveloped her as she drew the bard into her lap . "By the god's I will not let ANYONE hurt you again," she promised as she turned the bard so their faces could meet.

"Gabrielle...I have something very important to ask you to do..." Xena's rich voice resonated as she stroked the blond-red hair tenderly. "I want you to wear the whistle all the time ...if you ever need me or you are in danger, I want you to blow it as loud as you can." Gabrielle fumbled with the whistle as Xena spoke . "Gabrielle, there are people out there who still want to hurt us...with you not speaking, I want you to be able to call to me if you need me and I am not right nearby."

Gabrielle opened her mouth to speak as green eyes looked into blue ones. Her green eyes clouded over as once again her attempt at speech produced only silence. Through her tears, she nodded up to the warrior. Her eyes told the warrior that she would do as asked of her.

"Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Gabrielle..." Xena reassured the bard as she brought her hand to pull the crying bard to her chest. "Stop the tears are not alone in this ...I need you so much myself right now." The bard sniffed and looked up into the stoic warrior's face.

"Gabrielle...I really don't understand what's going on here, and I feel so angry at everything and everybody sometimes." With these confessions, the warrior burst into loud sobs as the weight of her burdens came rolling down her face. Tentative hands pulled the warrior into her smaller frame as each women reached to the other for comfort.

Chapter 13 "Desperate Measures"

"This is a waste of time . . . .let's go"

"Nikkos said he would be here so he will be here," said Stephen as he and Talus sat on a fallen log under the half-crested moon.

"I don't like it, I tell you"

"You don't have to like it...anyway, you are not a fool; you don't want to go back to Arcas with excuses ... this guy, Zenobious, was one of best men .. supposed to know her hideouts"

"So what does he want?... orders were to kill only the girl."

"Nikkos said he wants a share of the loot...he thinks Xena will show at one of her old supply caves."

"Gabrielle ...let me see that place under your arm again."

Embarrassed, the young bard shook her head. She locked her arms in front of her small frame and began to back away from the warrior's reach. A callused hand snaked around the bard's wrist and pulled her forward into leather and armor with an angry jerk. "I have had it, Gabrielle!" the warrior exploded. "You won't listen, you won't talk to me and answer my questions, you jump at the slightest sound or touch ....and you expect me to give you my attention all the time!" The warrior wrenched the girl's arm up exposing the ugly red burn with its foreboding symbol . Her eyes glared ice as she tried to connect all of the strange pieces of this manipulated puzzle.

"You will listen to me when I speak, and you will do as I tell you to do or you will you understand me?...Damn, look at me....I am tired of speaking to your lowered head." The warrior vented her frustration as she firmly pushed the girl's chin to meet her stormy eyes. "Now talk, damn you, talk!" she screamed out as her voice reverberated against the cave walls over and over. "Who did this to you? .... where is he? .... what does the symbol on your arm mean? .... why did he leave the bloody note?" Xena's questions flowed so quickly from her mouth she stammered as she tried to ask more. She clutched the bards shoulders in a vice like grip, her mind and soul in desperation and angry fear. Her arms dropped quickly as she saw the bard's lip begin to quiver. Relishing the anger, she pushed the bard aside. "Stay here... I want to be alone for awhile," the warrior commanded. She stormed out of the cave, and she and Argo disappeared in a dark of night.

The crescent moon shone brightly as it began its rise for the evening. The quieter waters away from the water fall seemed to ripple with its bright reflection. Crickets and frogs began their evening song growing seemingly louder as the dying embers grew fainter from inside the cave's interior. Hurt wet tears still streamed down the face of the silent figure huddled in the tall grasses by the edge of the churning waterfall.

Xena dropped Argo's rein's and stared at her forlorn friend. "Gods" was the only word Xena could seem to form. Horse and rider had flown out of camp like they were possessed by Ares himself and had traveled careless and reckless. She had only stopped when she realized Argo was frothing at the mouth in exhaustion. A thunderbolt as mighty as those thrown by Zeus had hit her heart as she was pierced with new guilt. The words uttered earlier had been so ugly and painful. But Argo was too tired to be ridden, so she had to walk back in quiet contemplation.

Xena forced her reluctant feet to move toward the object of love and guilt. Gabrielle's blondish red hair shone bright as a beacon in the moonlight. Xena rolled her shoulders trying to calm her fluttering stomach. Not since Mother had she really felt like her anger had hurt someone she loved . Gabrielle was hunched forward in the bushes as she retched in between quiet sobs. "Good going, Xena" she told herself, "probably has not quit crying since you left, and now she's cried herself sick." The warrior quietly slipped behind the younger woman and put a gentle hand on the girl's sweaty forehead to support her as she retched . "Forgive me please" Xena begged, not sure she was being heard by the bard against the vomiting. But Gabrielle swayed in exhaustion and leaned into the warriors supportive arm as Xena again repeated her plea. The warrior reached her other arm firmly around her friend's waist and slid her own body against the smaller one.

"Take a deep breath, Gabrielle," she commanded softly as she dipped her hand into the water and dripped it on the girl's flushed face . "Take another... that's it," she spoke as she re-dipped her fingers in the cool water, this time letting it flow down the back on the girl's neck.

"I really messed up this time Gabrielle," she said, her voice emotionless "I think it's time I talked to my best friend instead are still my best friend aren't you?" Xena spoke on, her insecurity showing more in her inflections now. As green eyes pierced her blue, Xena exhaled deeply and blinked back tears of her own. "Gabrielle, you talk to me just as well with your eyes as your mouth...I just have been so wrapped up in things, I haven't taken time to listen." She smiled tearfully as she effortlessly took the girl in her arms and started back for the cave.

Chapter 14 "Talk to Me"

The Lap
by Tammy

Its comfort is quiet and gentle as your touch.
Its protection is strong and certain as your sword
Its meaning is silent, maybe misunderstood by others
And its security is dependable and so is your love.

Its steadiness is firm and shakes away the storms.
Its presence is undemanding and warm as your lifeblood.
Its memories I cherish and carry through my days.
And its foundation is trust-built and so is our love.

Its junction melds us, my head on your thigh
Its power astounds us, as it makes us meekly strong.
Its need almost innate to the child heart we hide
And I imagine your heartbeat, from my place on your lap..

"I meant what I said earlier... I mean.. it is so important for you to listen to me and do what I say right now....things are not going to be easy for awhile...I worry about you and whether I am going to be able to protect us right " From her place across the campfire, Gabrielle matched Xena's serious gaze with one of anxious interest. With great effort, she struggled to remove her vomit stained shift. "Let me help you Gabrielle, I can clean your back and neck as I talk." Xena offered as she got her medicine bag, a cloth and a waterskin . She removed the shift and bandages and gave the shy bard a through sponge bath as she spoke.

"I bet you remember all I spouted off earlier ... I mean about the note and all." Xena watched the back of the girl's head move up and down slightly as she sponged the girl's right arm and stomach. "Well Gabrielle, I found a note on your body when I found you...It upset me just like that burn of yours under your arm." Xena paused as she carefully thought out her next words and how they would be interpreted by her friend. She began to apply her medicinal paste before she spoke again.

"Each one of these cuts and bruises makes me so very, no, not at you...." Xena turned Gabrielle's face to meet her own as she continued, "This is NOT your fault were captured and hurt to get to me , upset me....and it has worked...I didn't really realize just how much till I blew up at you earlier." Xena reached for a blanket to put around the girl's arms after she tied off the bandage on the small of the girl's back.

"What do you mean no? can't sit there nude. It will be cold tonight." Xena noted the frustrated look on the bard's face and blurted "Gabrielle, I can tell you want to talk to me why don't are safe...I will protect you" she tried to reassure and encourage.

"Hey, Hey, no more tears, okay?" the warrior soothed as she wiped away a tear as it rolled down the bard's cheek. "What do you want to wear?.. show me.." The bard pointed to Xena's freshly cleaned shift in the corner by the saddlebags. It was the same one that Gabrielle had worn when she first was hurt. "Why this thing doesn't even fit her, and I got her new clothes back in the last village." The warrior then remembered how she never liked being far from her sword and chakrum. "This is a comfort issue for her," Xena told herself as she placed the overly large piece of clothing over the bard's body.

"Gabrielle ..this is very important attention please." Xena spoke almost as a big sister would as she leaned both of her arms around the bard's back and gently hugged her smaller body into her large frame. "I can wait till you feel comfortable enough to talk ...if I could, I would make you forget the threats I gave you earlier to talk. I am was my frustration coming out.. though it would help if you would tell me what you remember and know...we will get through this either way.."

"Gabrielle, nod yes or no....remind me you remember much about what happened before I found you in the fog?" Xena rolled her eyes as minutes without a response passed by. Damn them! her anger yelled in her heart. Gabrielle had giant walls built around her now and only the gods knew if they would all be broken down again. Xena flinched when the bard touched on her leg shook her out of her own thoughts. Gabrielle's finger moved in the earth and traced .

"S, o, m, e...some...." Xena 's eyes clouded in joy ...the bard had made her first efforts at communication in several days and even after the afternoon blow-up. Unsure whether to praise her verbally, Xena merely stroked her blond hair and began to hum softly. "Enough had been said for one night and Gabrielle needed her rest," she thought as Gabrielle yawned.

"No more bad thoughts tonight," she whispered, "for either of us."

Gabrielle quietly turned her body... her eyes, blinking as she looked into blue ones, seemed to ask a question.

"Its okay, Gabrielle.. its just me...I don't mind holding helps me to actually....Relax..." Xena whispered as she encouraged her companion to lay her head right above her heart "That's it now relax ..I am here for you .." She felt the bard's muscle's loosen.

"Want to know a secret Gabrielle?" Xena whispered as she lowered the bards head to her lap and extended her legs out straight . As the bard nodded, Xena pulled a blanket lightly over the reclining form.

"When I was home in Amphipolis visiting Mother this time...we sat like head in her lap. I want you to know we will get through this ..its okay for you and me to sit like this ..and you never will need a special invitation."

Strangely calm and refreshed, Xena sat quietly and stroked the younger woman's hair as she fell asleep. It was only then that she lifted the younger woman's arm to look at the burn. I have to get to Amphipolis and talk to Mother about that reminds me of Father, but why?" Xena thought as she dabbed some paste on the burnt place. Content to sleep this way this night, Xena rested her head against the hard cave wall. As she drifted into sleep, her thoughts were of those she loved, of Gabrielle, Mother and Solon.

Chapter 15 "Hunter, Hunted"

Xena slid off of the palomino quietly and knelt on the ground to look and looked at freshly made tracks she had just found. "Someone is looking for us, huh Argo?" she spoke quietly to her four-legged companion as she fingered the soft earth. " Three horses, war horses I would say from the looks of these hoof prints," she added as she stood up again and swung into the saddle. The morning dew was just beginning to melt away, and the chirps of crickets were being replaced by songbirds' melodies. She coerced Argo into a trot as she turned back towards her haven for the past few days. "Best be heading back, girl, before Gabrielle misses us," she whispered as she scratched her mare's ear . Necessity had sent her out this morning to scout to see if they were still being followed. Up until this morning , Xena had dismissed the idea of leaving camp because Gabrielle was still very weak and dependent on her. But upon awakening this morning, still cradling the bard's head in her lap, she had seen out on the horizon smoke from a campfire. Xena shuddered at the thought of those soldiers getting a hold of Gabrielle once again.

They are out here I know...there is only one way they would know to come to this area so far off the road. Someone from my army is involved here .. she thought as she and Argo entered a small creek bed to mask her trail. No, those tracks were a day old ..if they knew the exact location of the cave they would have been there yesterday. .has to be a minor sergeant ... someone who knows the general location of the caves.. Xena continued to ponder as she splashed through the water. "Let's get a move on girl." Xena encouraged Argo as she dug her boots into the horse's side. "Gabrielle might have drunk the herbs I gave her this morning but I did not give her as much, and she won't sleep forever."

"Can you believe this guy" Talus remarked to his companion while their guide and scout entered the woods from their campsite to see to his personal needs.

"Shut up, Talus ...he told us it might take a day or so yesterday ..just keep thinking about what you are finally going to do to that red-head when you get to kill her." Stephen smirked as he cinched his horses saddle and kicked out last nights embers. "Arcas told me what she did to you the first night we kidnapped her. Are her teeth marks still there?" Stephen grinned

"By the gods, just give me a reason not to slash your throat right now" Talus growled as he pulled out a large dagger and held it to Stephen's throat.

"Talus, Talus you are so rash .look behind you, my friend." Talus turned his eyes giving Stephen the moment he was waiting for . He wrenched himself out of the man's grasp and kneed him in the groin. Soft laughter could be heard from the woods as Talus doubled over in pain.

"The bitch paid for those teeth marks," he gasped as he struggled to sit up and coughed.

"Just go get your horse, Talus," Stephen growled as he picked up the forgotten dagger and let it fall at Talus's throat. "and if you ever threaten me again I will kill you!"

War of Silence - Part 4