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A Past Remembered
By Anita Louise
Ephiny walked over to Xena, stared at the woman and said, "I always wondered what it would be like to be able to keep you in one place for awhile. This was definitely not the way it was supposed to happen. Xena, your face is swollen and I don't have any way of helping you."
The woman managed a smile grimacing as she said, "Bet you never thought you'd find me hanging around huh?"
Ephiny reached out to touch the side of her face and the woman pulled her head back saying, "I'm sure it looks worse than it feels. It's enough, to know you care. Now, the window . . . "
Ephiny walked over to the window and gazed out saying, "All right, I'm here what am I supposed to be looking for?"
Xena replied, "First, tell me what you can see." Ephiny stood on the tips of her toes trying to get a good look. Then she walked back over to Xena and said, "A street, a few people walking around. Nothing out of the ordinary."
Xena thought for a second and said, "It's like I thought, we are not in an Athenian jail. This has to be Santos and Krispies' doing."
Ephiny answered, "He died, the guard you put the pinch on at the Tavern. When you were unconscious there wasn't anyone to undo it. I guess Krispies and Santos saw their chance and took you."
Shifting her weight Xena stared at Ephiny and said, "I don't know which is worse, being tried as a horse thief or dealing with whatever Krispies and Santos have in mind for me. If I can distract them long enough for you to escape, will you do it?"
Ephiny's face showed no emotion but she answered, "No, either we both go or I don't."
Xena grumbled, "By the Gods, you are just as hard headed as Gabrielle. You must escape, bring back help it may be the only chance." Try as hard as she could, the woman was unable to talk Ephiny into leaving. She grabbed the chains above her wrists and said, "In case you haven't taken a good look at the situation, it's not good. Chances of your getting away far surpass staying and having to watch what may happen."
Ephiny's eyes met Xena's in a deliberate stare as she said, "I told you, no. I left once and have regretted it. Besides, they need you alive. Krispies realizes he has full control over you as long as he has Argo and the others. Forget it Xena, I will not leave."
Xena cursed under her breath, at the same time remembering how strong this woman could be. She didn't want to scare Ephiny but the situation they were in could become volatile at any minute and she worried the Amazon could get hurt. Ephiny had been pacing the room and Xena said, "Stop, you're making me dizzy, sit down and rest. Pacing isn't helping and it's making me very nervous."
Ephiny walked over to the wall leaned against it and slid down saying, "Happy? I'm still now."
Xena closed her eyes and said, "Just try to rest, my plan will work."
Krispies had been gone for some time and Ephiny was getting apprehensive, she found herself pacing the room again, ignoring the looks Xena was giving her. The sound of a large door closing, stopped her in her tracks and she said, "Someone is coming, Xena, promise me you won't try anything." Before she could answer, the door to the room they were in swung open. Krispies stepped in glanced around and said, "Well, I see you have been good Xena, you're still there."
The woman replied, "Like I have a choice in the matter."
He stepped closer and she could see he was holding a whip in his right hand. The man approached her and said, "My, your face is a sight, thought I would tell you that I just purchased you from Santos. Since he bought you from Callisto, it was an easy buy. The man is terrified of you Xena, but I'm not."
Xena replied, "Maybe you should be."
He laughed and replied, "Amazing, you are bound, not going anywhere and you still threaten. Maybe you need to be taught a lesson in manners." Slowly he walked around her, Xena swallowed and closed her eyes. The crack of the whip ricocheting through the air as it found its mark on the woman's back, brought terror to Ephiny's eyes. Xena tightened her hands around the chains above her and said, "That the best you can do Krispies?"
He lashed out at her again then said, "Did you feel that one Xena? If not I have more."
Ephiny had been watching in revulsion as she yelled, "Stop it! Haven't you done enough to her." Xena glared at Ephiny hoping she would be quiet but the woman continued, "Let her alone!"
He reached out curling up the leather and walked over to her, she stared at him as he said, "Do I detect a hint of compassion for this she devil? I take it you don't want me to hurt her, tell me, would you take her place?"
Ephiny glanced at Xena and said, "Yes, if it will stop you from injuring her."
Xena cried, "No, Ephiny, I can take anything he hands me."
He laughed and replied, "Seems we have an admiration society here, this gets better by the minute. You two show such caring for one another, I believe I'll take you up on your offer Amazon." He called for some of his men and when they entered the room he said, "Chain the Amazon to the wall, this is going to be more fun than I thought."
Xena scowled at him and said, "Don't do it Krispies, I'm asking you not to harm her. It's me you hate, come and get me."
He glanced in her direction and said, "You're right but I think I can hurt you a lot more this way. Some friend you have, wanting to take the beating for you."
Xena loudly said, "She doesn't know what she said, leave her alone."
Ephiny's hands were now manacled to the wall, she turned her head, glanced at the woman and said, "Don't, Xena, I know what I said." At that moment the two women's eyes seemed to reach into their very being. Xena grabbed the chains and began to pull as the man said, "Don't even try, the others will die and your friend will be cold before you even get to me. My men have their orders.
The snap of the whip and the sound it made as it cut through the woman's flesh, caused Ephiny's body to jerk with each lash. Xena felt hopelessly lost. She stood in horror as it ripped into her friend's back. Her crystal blue eyes filled with tears, tears that were now overflowing and running down her cheeks. Xena softly said, "Ephiny . . . " The Amazon had passed out and was now hanging limp as Krispies turned to look at Xena and said, "You must be proud of her Xena, she took a lot more than I thought she would."
Xena answered, "If she dies, so do you. You've had your little fun, now take these chains off. "
He walked up to her and said, "Of course, someone has to tend to her. Can't let her die now can I, especially, after I have found out just how much she means to you." As he unlocked the manacles, she glared at him and said, "See I get some water, cloths and ointment."
Curling the whip up he said, "I'll send a man down with some. Do take care of her won't you." He turned and left the room, followed by his men. Xena ran over to the hanging form of her friend, reached out grabbing the chains she easily pulled them from the wall. She held Ephiny against her own body and slowly let her fall to the floor. The woman cried in pain and Xena whispered, "Don't move, you've been cut up bad. Why? You didn't have to do this."
Ephiny, seeming to stir, looked up into Xena's face and said, "It hurts . . . Xena . . . " Staring down at this amazing Amazon was not unlike the last time she found herself in the same position.
Xena fell to her knees beside the form of the fallen women. She stared at the shaft on the arrow that had penetrated the woman's back. She asked, "Can you hear me?"
The woman grimaced in pain and answered, "Yes, what happened?"
Xena said, "You have been shot with an arrow, it didn't go through and it's lodged in the upper part of your back close to your shoulder, I'll go get help."
The woman cried, "No, please don't go. I can't be seen by anyone."
Xena thought for a second then replied, "From your dress, you look like an Amazon, if you are, what are you doing so far away from your home?"
Ephiny cried, "I'd really like to talk but I'm in pain here, please help me."
Xena answered, "The only thing I have ever done is work with the cattle and the sheep, but a person, it's not the same. I don't know if I can."
Ephiny gazed into the women's eyes and said, "Anyone that can throw a rock like you can and fell a rabbit on the run, can do it. Besides, do you see anyone else?"
Xena answered, "Ok, but don't get upset at me if I fail." She reached down and removed the woman's dagger from its sheath and said, "I've got to get you onto your left side, I'm going to try to cut the shaft, it's going to hurt like Hades."
Ephiny gasped, "A stick, piece of wood, get a small piece and put it between my teeth. Then by the Gods, do it." Xena glanced around, found a piece of wood and placed it between the woman's teeth. She grasped the shaft in one hand and began to cut away at it with the other. The dagger was sharp and it didn't take long before she was almost through. The woman had been clamping down on the piece of wood trying to hold back the cries. Xena grasped the shaft and broke it with her hands. Ephiny had clamped down on the wood so hard, she bit right through it as her cries of pain echoed through out the meadow. Xena looked at her hands, they were covered with blood, she reached down, tore some material from her skirt and held it against the wound
"I've got to get you out of here, I'm going to pick you up." She waited for a reply but there wasn't one and she knew the woman had passed out. Xena reached down, gently picked the woman up in her arms and carried her from the field. This wasn't an easy task as the two women were close to the same size. Xena carried her to the horse she had tied up by the stream. She draped the women over the saddle and jumped on behind, guiding the animal toward the forest. It didn't take long to find the cave entrance, stopping the horse she slid off the back. Xena walked over and began to remove the branches she had placed in front of the opening. When she had finished she led the horse into the large chamber. Reaching up she pulled the Amazon down from the saddle, carefully laying her down on the makeshift bed she had previously put there.
Xena had placed her on her stomach, then walked over and picked up the water skin she had left several days ago. She walked over to the woman and examined the injury. It was swollen and very red, she knew she was going to have to do something, but for the first time in her life she didn't know if she could. Saturating a piece of cloth she bathed the area, then went outside to gather firewood. It was cool in the cave and she didn't want this women to get worse than she was.
The crackling of the fire caused Ephiny to stir and she started to move, crying out in pain she fell back down on the bed. Xena raced over to her and said, "Don't move, you still have the arrow in you. I cut the staff off but it's still lodged.
Ephiny cried, "Eponin, get Eponin!"
Xena stared at her and said, "I don't know anyone named Eponin, I can't get her." Ephiny replied, "Take the arrow out. The longer it stays in the worse it will be." Xena got to her feet and walked over to the horse, she glanced down at her hands, they were covered in blood. Her heart was beating so loudly she felt at any minute it was going to jump out of her body. She leaned against the saddle trying to calm down, then took the saddle bag down from the horse and proceeded to go through it. She was looking for anything she might be able to use. There was food, she always made sure to bring food because she never knew how long she would remain in the meadow. It was the only time she had to get away and enjoy the serene beauty of these marvelous fields. A cry of pain brought her back to the present, and she walked over to the woman and said, "I've helped my mother deliver a few babies, I've helped around the farm, but I have never removed an arrow from a person. There are many vital parts and if I should accidentally hit one you could die."
Ephiny's face was covered with perspiration and her body was so wracked in pain, that the thought of crossing over was comforting as she said, "Just do it, I can't do anything like this, and I promise, I won't come back and haunt you." There was something in the woman's voice that struck a cord in Xena, she knelt down by the bed and said, "I'm going to have to tie you down. I can't have you moving too much while I am doing this."
Ephiny groaned, "Whatever, just do it." Xena had found some hemp and proceeded to tie the woman's wrists down, then her legs. She reached around and felt her forehead and said, "The pain will be unbearable." She waited for the woman to speak, there was no sound, realizing she had passed out once more.
After the woman had been restrained, Xena walked over to the horse and led it from the cave. She jumped on and headed the animal toward home. Xena knew she had to get some things. A needle and sewing material, a small knife and a lot of cloth as well as ointment. She just hoped she would be able to retrieve these things and not have to answer any questions. Xena watched her brothers leave the house and when her mother followed, she saw her chance and crept in the back door. It didn't take long to get what she wanted. As she turned and left she knew her mother would be mad and probably send her brothers out to look for her. She only hoped it would be much later.
It didn't take long to make it back to the cave. She climbed down from the horse and led it back inside. The fire had died down and there were a lot of embers. Xena walked over picked up the dagger and placed it in the hot coals. She grabbed the saddle bag and walked over to the still form laying on the bed. Spreading out a cloth, Xena took out the materials that she would need and laid them out. She reached down checking the woman's heart beat, it was faint but it was there. "How are you feeling?" She waited for an answer then realized the woman was still unconscious and thanked the Gods for this. Xena walked over to a wall, took down a torch and carried it over to the bed, where she set it in a holder near by. Reaching down she removed the bloody cloth she had applied earlier. The wound began to seep, as she took a cloth and began to clean it.
Xena reached down, picked up the knife she had brought from home. Her hands were shaking and she felt as if she would faint. The realization of what she was about to do was hitting her full force, her body was wracked with doubts. She paused for a moment then she reached down and began to cut back the skin. The woman cried out in her unconscious state, but Xena continued.
Before long she could see the arrow and with her slender fingers she reached in and grasped it. Drawing it back slowly, then cutting the flesh around it she was able to pull the arrow out. The wound was oozing and she grabbed a cloth putting pressure on it. Dropping the arrow on the floor, she walked over and picked up the dagger. In several quick steps she now found herself staring down at the injury. Xena had helped her brothers many times with the livestock, she only hoped the same thing would work on a person. She reached down and removed the cloth and put the dagger carefully into the wound. Xena turned her head to the side trying to avoid the smell of burning flesh. The Amazon, writhing in pain, cried out in agony.
Taking a deep breath the woman laid the dagger down and picked up the needle and sewing material. It took her a few tries to get it threaded, then she began to pull the skin together and methodically stitch up the area. When she was finished Xena spread ointment around the wound and bandaged the area. She untied the woman's wrists and feet, then walked over to the horse and removed a blanket, walking back she placed it over the woman.
Sitting close to the fire she drew her knees to her chest, wrapped her arms around them and rocked back and forth. Her eyes never leaving the Amazon. Xena had done all she could, it would now be up to the woman to regain her strength.
Who was this woman? Why had she found her way to the Meadow land? Were there any others nearby? Her mind was full of questions that only the Amazon could answer. The smell of blood filling her nostrils, caused her to glance down, and she could see her clothes were covered with it. The hands she held out also showed the telltale signs of the woman's blood. How was she ever going to explain this to her mother. There was going to be Hades to pay and when faced with her mother's wrath, would she turn over this woman.
Gathering her things she led the horse from the cave. Once outside she placed the branches over the cave opening, mounted the horse and headed for home. Xena left the horse in the corral and walked toward the Tavern, she was hoping to be able to make it around the back, entering quietly hoping no one would see her. Things never work out like one hopes and as she neared the back of the building, Toris stepped out and she ran into him.
He gazed down at her and said, "You should watch where you are going Sister. Where have you been? Mother is beside herself with worry."
Xena frowned and answered, "Had work to do, course I'm sure that concept is new to you." She brushed past him as he called, "Xena, wait." She had made it by him and entered the building. The sounds of the people in the Tavern were drifting toward the back. She could tell her mother probably was very busy as she hurried up the stairs to her room. Once inside Xena began to remove her clothes, she found a basin and poured some water into it. Working as fast as she could to remove the signs of the blood from her hands. Before long she had cleaned up and changed clothes. Reaching down to pick up the ones she had worn the woman muttered, "Now what do I do with these? Can't have mother see them." Wrapping them into a ball she tossed them under her bed and replied, "They will do under there for now." She was hungry and went back down to the Tavern to get something to eat.
When she entered the room, she could see her mother busily pouring drinks at the counter. She walked over to a table and sat down. Lena walked over to her and said, "Xena, your mother has been frantic, she will be glad to see you are back." Xena looked up at the woman and said, "Don't know about that, I'm hungry can you get me something to eat and drink?"
Before long the woman had returned, placing a bowl of stew in front of her and a large piece of bread. As she set the goblet down she said, "It's water, your mother would not be happy if I gave you anything else." Xena thanked her and dove into the meal, she was famished. She had just pushed the bowl away and leaned back in the chair when she heard the words, "It's good to see you come home for something!"
Xena looked up into the sea green eyes of her mother and said, "Mother, what do you mean?"
The woman pulled out a chair and sat down. The stern look she was giving her daughter meant to Xena tread softly as she said, "Where have you been young lady? I was worried sick, Lycius is out looking for you as we speak. Have you no concern for others?" Xena never could stare into her mother's eyes for long as she glanced down and answered, "I'm sorry, time just got away from me."
The woman said, "Well, there is a lot of work to be done here and I suggest you start by helping Lena."
Xena sighed and said, "I'm so tired, can't I do that tomorrow?" Her mother stood up glaring down at the woman, then she reached out and grabbed Xena by her right ear and pulled her from the chair, leading her to the kitchen.
Xena had yelled, "You're hurting me mother." The woman ignored her daughter and seemed to relish in the Tavern clientele calling out, "That's the way Cyrene, you show her who's boss. Can't let these young ones get the best of us."
If she was trying to humiliate Xena it worked. When her mother released her, she said, "Now ask Lena how you can help and when I close this evening, it will be your job to put things up and sweep and mop before you go to bed, is that clear?" Xena nodded as her mother turned and left the room. Lena had followed them into the kitchen, walking over to Xena she said, "I hope it was worth it."
Xena shrugged her shoulders and replied, "What do you want me to do?" She was exhausted way before her mother had bestowed the punishment on her and when she was finished mopping the room that evening she didn't think she could take another step. Xena walked up the stairs to her room and approaching her door she saw her mother waiting for her. "I did what you said, what is wrong?" Xena looked at her mother as she waited for the woman to answer.
Cyrene replied, "You have done well, but we are not through. In the morning I want to know what kept you." She turned and walked away. Xena watched the woman until she was out of sight then opened the door to her room, walked over to the bed and collapsed on it.
Continued in Chapter Seven