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A Past Remembered

By Anita Louise

Copyright 1997

Chapter Eighteen

Xena hunched down on an overhanging tree branch as she heard the sound of an approaching rider. The sound was becoming louder as she prepared herself. The second the horse passed, Xena jumped onto the back of the rider sending him plummeting to the ground. As the man fell on his back the Warrior straddled him, her fist raised in anger as the two stared at one another. Xena's mouth fell open as she gazed at this man. His mustache had fallen and was now dangling from his chin. She exclaimed, "Eponin!"

Eponin looked at her and cried, "Xena!"

Xena jumped to her feet as she reached down and grasped Eponin's right hand pulling her to her feet and said, "Where is Gabrielle?"

Eponin reached up and pulled what was left of the mustache from her chin throwing it to the ground. The woman's eyes darted around as she asked, "Where is Ephiny?"

"I'm right here." The woman stepped out from behind some foliage as she walked toward Eponin. Eponin rushed to her, flinging open her arms as she met the woman in a warm embrace.

Xena watched the two, as she nervously shifted from one foot to the other. Her eyes rolled as she said, "I hate to break up this warm reunion, but I need to know where Gabrielle is?"

Eponin turned to look at the woman, her right arm around Ephiny's waist and said, "I don't know where she is?"

Xena seemed to seethe as she said, "Don't know! You two were together!"

Eponin looked soulful as she said, "She was shanghaied."

She had barely gotten the last word out before Xena had grabbed the woman by her neck raising her off the ground. Her usually calm blue eyes were seaming with rage as she glared, "Shanghaied! How did this happen? If anything bad has befallen her, you will be sorry!"

Eponin was attempting to breath as Ephiny grabbed Xena's arm, pulling it down as she said, "Xena, let her go!"

Xena released her grip as Eponin fell to the ground coughing. She turned and walked away from the two woman as she said, "Think your answer carefully Eponin, it may be your last."

Ephiny had helped the woman to her feet as they both stared at the Warrior. Eponin replied, "I know how fast you can kill, I'm not afraid to die. After I tell you what happened, and you feel it's my fault, kill me."

Ephiny ran to Xena's side as her eyes searched Xena's for some glimpse of sympathy. She reached out and touched the woman's right arm and said, "At least hear what Ep has to say. I know in my heart she would not have done anything that would have endangered Gabrielle purposely."

Xena stared at Ephiny then turned and faced Eponin, All right, tell me."

Eponin related what had happened and when she finished, Xena had pursed her lips as she said, "By the Gods, Gabrielle has been shanghaied on the Pirate ship, The Bounty. If anything happens to her, people will know what it's like to feel the wrath of Xena!" She turned and walked into the forest.

Ephiny and Eponin stared after the woman. As they heard the shrill sounds of an animal in pain. Ephiny reached out and held Eponin's left hand as she said, "I know you have done all you could."

The sound grew louder and the two women shivered, they both knew it was Xena, the woman was venting her anger and sorrow. They looked at one another as tears formed in their eyes. Xena did not return to the campsite that night and Ephiny and Eponin held a warm reunion.

The next morning the two were wakened by the sounds of a horse nickering. They sat up and could see Xena petting the horse. Ephiny got to her feet and walked over to the woman and asked, "Are you ok?"

Xena replied, "I will never be ok again until I find Gabrielle. I was telling Savior good-bye. You two go back to the village, take care of the horse. If I can, I will bring the others back. I will not stop searching until I find Gabrielle." She threw a leather backpack over her shoulder, turned and ran from the camp, leaving the two women to stare after her.

The Warrior had been pacing herself as she approached the Olein Plateau. Xena stopped as she leaned over and began to take in deep breaths of air. Feeling lightheaded, she sat down on the green grass. Removing the pack from her shoulder she laid it down, and began to rummage through it. She pulled out a small skin of water sipping the liquid that flowed. Her long legs and powerful muscles had carried her to this Plateau. She slowly got to her feet and walked over to the edge.

Below her was the city of Olympia and as far as the eye could see the Sea Green waters of the Ocean. She inhaled as the smell of the Ocean penetrated her nostrils. Xena softly said, "I know you are somewhere out there Gabrielle. If the Gods are kind, you are ok."

The woman walked over to the pack. Reaching down she removed a piece of material and as she opened it, she stared at the mustache Eponin had been wearing. Xena walked until she came to the stream she had passed. She walked over to the edge and stared down at her reflection. Set crossing her legs and removed a small dagger from between her breasts. Reaching back, she grabbed a handful of her beautiful long black hair and said, "Only for you would I do this Gabrielle." She was meticulous and when she was finished most of the hair laid on the ground. She gazed at the reflection of the person staring back at her while running her hands through the short locks that were left. "If I don't know you, I don't think anyone else will." The woman placed the mustache in her right hand as she gently fixed it above her upper lip. The man that gazed at her was a stranger as she said, "Xena is gone, Zandar has been born."

By the time she had arrived in the city, she had acquired the swagger she had seen so many of the men use. Her first stop was to go down to the dock. She needed information and anything she could pickup might help her in her quest.

The man looked up from his parchment, he watched the well built man talking to some of the men on the loading dock. He scratched his head as he tried to recognize this good-looking man. He seemed to know the Dock area well and was now heading in his direction. He looked up at the man and asked, "Looking for something?"

The low voice that came from this man caught him of guard, "Yeah, looking for work on a ship, one heading for Gaul."

He eyed the man and said, "Gaul? That is far away, not many ships going that far..."

Xena could sense something as she said, "But?"

He continued, "The Raven, Captain Raven Blackird's, ship, could be sailing that way."

"How do I find this Captain Blackird?"

He set the parchment down on a barrel and said, "I wouldn't want to be hooking up with him, young man, The Raven, is a Pirate ship. It's only second to The Bounty. Not the kind of fare you might be wanting."

Xena stared coldly at the man and said, "I believe that's my call, now tell me where I can find this Blackird."

He replied, "A young one like you, with your build and muscles, could make good money, working right here on the Dock. If it's a job you want, I have one."

Xena quickly answered, "I need passage to Gaul, now, tell me where I can find this Captain?"

He shook his head and said, "What's your name?"

Xena replied, "Zandar."

"Well, Zandar, you will more than likely find him and his first mate at the Crows Inn. It's at the end of the city. Now you be careful going to a place like that, it is full of riffraff and some would soon kill you for taking up the air they breath."

Xena thanked the man, turned and walked away. It didn't take her long to travel the distance to the Crows Inn. Approaching the door, she stared up at the weather-beaten sign. Her right hand reached up to press the mustache and make sure it was still in the right place as she walked into the building.

Xena had frequented many taverns and Inns but this was a disgrace, The smell of the place almost took her breath away. She stared around the room looking for this Captain. Her eyes surveyed each table taking in the men that were occupying them. Most looked like men who had been at Sea and were now enjoying their leave.. She could tell by their dress and the weapons they carried, they were cutthroats. The man at the Dock was right, she had better be careful.

She walked around the room, heading for the bar. Through the smoke that lay in the room she caught her first sight of the man they called, Captain Raven. He was a tall man, muscular in build with silver hair and a ruddy complexion. His eyes appeared to be dark, shaded by dark bushy eyebrows. He was in a robust conversation with a stout man. His arms long, he seemed to speak with his hands, as they constantly moved. A scraggy beard adorned the man's face.

Xena walked up to them and said, "Are you Captain Raven?"

The two men stopped talking and turned their attention to the man that was standing in front of them. The stout man drew his sword and said, "Want me to send this one to Hades, Captain?"

The man reached out and grabbed his hand as he said, "Let's see what the young man wants first." His eyes were cold and gray as he asked, "Who wants to know? And why?"

Xena answered, "Name's Zandar, I am looking for passage to Gaul, I heard you might be headed that way."

The two men laughed as he answered, "I'm feeling good so let me do you a favor, turn around and go back where you just came from, there is no passage on my ship for the likes of you."

He turned and started to talk to the man again as Xena coldly said, "About that passage." He nodded at the man standing by him and he lunged at her. She easily sidestepped his advance, turned and kicked him in the back sending him plummeting to the wooden floor. The others had began to watch what was happening and they all laughed. Xena leaned against the bar and said, "Like I said, "I need passage to Gaul."

Before the man could answer, the one she sent to the floor had gotten back on his feet and was charging for her again. Xena never took her eyes off of Captain Raven as she struck her right arm out sending her fist into the man's face. He stumbled and crashed to the floor. Captain Raven looked at this man in awe as he said, "Have a drink with me, we'll talk."

The man poured a Goblet of Port and handed it to Xena and she pushed it back as she said, "If it's just the same to you, I'll get my own."

His voice boomed, "You keep that up and you will not be long for this world."

Xena motioned for the man behind the bar to bring her another then turned to stare at Captain Raven and said, ""I've heard stories about drugs and being shanghaied."

The man threw his head back and laughed, "If you didn't interest me so much, I'd have you slaughtered where you stand."

Xena picked up her new Goblet took a drink and said, "You could try." She raised her Goblet to the man and said, "An old custom, you drink from mine and I'll finish yours."

The man smiled as he handed his Goblet to her. They clinked them together as he said, "To a refreshing face among this rabble."

She followed him to a table and sat down, the man gazed across the table as his eyes met hers he said, "Why is it so important you go to Gaul?"

Xena maintained her stare and said, "A woman, I hear she is in that area."

He bellowed for the man behind the bar to bring more drinks as he said, "I know what you mean, but is any woman worth such a long and dangerous trip?"

She had a self assured smile as she answered, "This one is."

Captain Raven replied, "Travel on a Pirate Ship will not be easy, there are many dangers as well as confrontations. Chances are we may run into The Bounty. It was bad enough before."

Xena asked, "Before? What do you mean?"

He continued, "The Seas are alive with stories about the power and rage these two women have dealt the unfortunate ship that sails into their sights."

"Two women? I thought The Bounty was Captained by a lone woman."

He scowled and replied, "Seems the Captain has taken a shine to one of her prisoners. From all I have been told the two are inseparable and both have been seen boarding and killing. I hear they stand side by side. So this voyage could be a hard one."

"Do you know what the other woman's name is?"

He replied, "I think they call her Gabrielle, but the Captain calls her something else. Do not make a mistake, Sea is a force to be reckoned with."

Xena's eyes shot fire as she said, "Sounds like this Captain needs to be taken down a peg. This does not scare me. In fact I look forward to facing them!"

Their new drinks arrived as the man scurried off, Raven said, "Tell you what, if you are so determined to do this, I'll arm wrestle you for the trip. You win, you travel in style. I win, you do my bidding."

Xena answered, "Ok, best two out of three."

He nodded as they cleared the table and set their elbows on the wood. Clasping hands and holding firmly to one another he said, "Now!" The two battled back and forth, each was strong but before the evening was finished, Xena had beat him and he grasped her arm with his right hand and said, "We sail at Sunrise, either be on or you don't go." He stood up and walked to the bar. Xena's arm ached as she stood up and started to the door. This man was strong, he had come close to winning. She only hoped he meant what he had said about the passage.

She walked back through the city, ignoring the looks she was receiving. She raised her right arm and took a whiff as she pulled her head back and said, "Disgusting, I smell just like that place."

She searched until she found a Tavern and entered, walking up to a table she pulled out a chair and sat down. A kindly woman approached her and said, "What will be your liking tonight?"

Xena smiled and said, "Just bring me some stew, bread and a Goblet of Port."

The meal was tasty and she enjoyed it as she hadn't eaten a good meal in a long time. When she had finished she walked over to the counter and said, "I'd like a room for the night." After she paid for it the woman showed her to the room, turned and left. Xena opened the door and walked inside. She felt uneasy as she entered it, the room seemed to focus in and out. She shut the door as her eyes surveyed it. It was then she knew why she was feeling the way she was. The room looked in every way like the room she had laid Gabrielle to rest in. The things that happened on that day began flashing through her mind.

There was a knock at the door as she took a deep breath and opened it. Several woman were standing holding buckets of water as the one in front said, "We have brought water for your bath." Xena moved so they could enter the room. When they were through pouring the water she thanked them and said she was just going to soak for a while. They left and she walked over tested the water and began to remove her clothes. It took her longer to remove the wrappings she had around her breasts. She had bound them close to try to divert suspicion.

She heaved a sigh of relief as her ample breasts sought freedom. Stepping into the warm water she slowly lowered her body as the warmth enveloped her aching form. Xena laid back letting the water creep into her pores. It had been such a long time, she had forgotten how really good it felt. After she bathed she stayed in the water for sometime. Xena knew this probably would be the last time she would be able to bathe like this for awhile. She closed her eyes as her thoughts traveled back to the young woman she missed so much. Although Gabrielle was not with her at that moment, she was in her thoughts and in her heart. The words of Captain Raven were echoing in her mind, 'The two are inseparable and both have been seen boarding and killing.' She knew the man had to be mistaken, Gabrielle would never do that, she would never join a Pirate, the bard hated the Ocean. If everything went according to her plan, she would board The Raven and she knew somewhere along the way she would meet up with The Bounty and a glorious reunion with the Bard.

Continued in Chapter Nineteen